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

The Mark – Heather Burnside – #BlogTour – @Aria_Fiction @heatherbwriter @HoZ_Books #GuestPost #Crime #Thriller #Extract TheWorkingGirls 4*#Review

A TRIP TO THE DARK SIDE

When respected journalist, Maddy, goes to interview prostitutes in a rundown Manchester pub, she doesn’t reckon on attracting the attention of their ruthless pimp, Gilly. He quickly decides to use Maddy for his own gains; he just needs to work out how.

A TOXIC AFFAIR

In the weeks that follow, Maddy is oblivious to Gilly’s growing obsession with her, particularly when she begins a romance with a successful businessman, Aaron. Their passionate love affair starts to dominate her life, and she finds herself losing control and alienating the people around her.

A TARGET ON HER BACK

As Maddy’s safe and successful life starts to crumble around her, she must quickly work out who has it in for her, before it’s too late…

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2GRkfgj

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2BKxbBw

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2NiphE4

iBooks: https://apple.co/2W52h28

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

My Thoughts…

Journalist Maddy’s latest assignment takes her to interview working girls. Their pimp sees something in Maddy, a lifestyle that used to be his, and could be again. Maddy lives with her young daughter, she has a good life, all of which her pursuit by the pimp and her new man could jeopardise.

This story is dark and menacing. Maddy, despite her professionalism, is naive and this makes her vulnerable to manipulation. All the girls have a story, why they ended up as working girls, as Maddy’s life unravels she realises how fine the line between safety and danger is.

The story is slow paced, to begin with, as the characters are introduced, and the ease with which different worlds can collide is explored. As the book progresses the adrenaline increases. An interesting start to this new series, with a contemporary, realistic edge.

How ‘The Mark’ Developed – Heather Burnside

I first found my inspiration for The Mark when watching a TV detective series many years ago. I tend to jot down ideas as they occur to me then revisit them years later when I’m deciding which novel I should write next. This particular TV scene featured a senior female detective who was sitting in a rundown pub talking to prostitutes and trying to get information from them.

She was refined, well-dressed and well-spoken and looked totally out of place surrounded by street girls with their provocative clothing and garish makeup. I remember thinking how brave she was to venture into the pub alone and that she was leaving herself open to all sorts of risks.

That gave me the seed of an idea. The police detective became my protagonist, Maddy, who is followed home from the pub by a seedy pimp, Gilly. She appeals to him because she is so different from the women he is used to dealing with and initially he sees her as a challenge. Gilly is attracted not only to Maddy but to her lifestyle too.

During the course of the novel, we find out that Gilly’s background is far different from the life he now leads. As a young man he came from an affluent middle-class home but he was thrown out of university for dealing in drugs and his parents subsequently disowned him and left him to find his own way in the world. In Maddy he sees the life he should have had and he soon becomes obsessed with her. I won’t tell you any more than that as I don’t want to give the story away.

Once I decided to write ‘The Mark’, I carried out a lot of research by reading books about the life of a prostitute and watching online videos. The videos, in particular, were a real eye-opener. They featured several street girls who discussed what they did and what led them to a life of prostitution. Most of the girls were hooked on drugs and were prostituting themselves to feed their drug habit. Many had difficult upbringings or had spent time in care and living on the streets.

Watching the videos made me think that each of the girls had their own story to tell, which made me decide to expand ‘The Mark’, into a series of books with each subsequent book featuring the story of one of the girls. So, that initial idea many years ago has led to a series of possibly four or more books.

One of the girls, in particular, stuck in my mind when I was watching the videos. She was an ageing prostitute with a bad chest problem who couldn’t afford to take time off work because she needed the money for drugs. She was therefore still plying her trade in all weathers despite her considerable health problems. That particular girl provided the inspiration for a character that appears in a later book in the series.

It’s interesting how one small idea can take root in an author’s mind and develop into the basis for a whole series of books. I suppose that’s why authors do what we do because we have such active imaginations.

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

Facebook Twitter Website

Extract from ‘The Mark’ – Heather Burnside.

Maddy was behind the wheel of her Audi. Sapphire blue and polished until it was gleaming, the vehicle was just as easy on the eye as its driver. She turned into the tree-lined road in Flixton where she lived. She owned a three-bedroomed detached house, which she shared with her eight-year-old daughter, Rebecca.

As Maddy sped into the drive, she glanced again at the clock on the dashboard. 19:58. She’d just made it. Maddy was surprised that her first interview with the prostitutes had taken so long but at least she’d gleaned some good information from them and had managed to arrange another meeting before the girls had all become nervous of someone at the bar.

Maddy’s ex-husband, Andy, was bringing Rebecca back at eight o’clock and, although he was fairly easy-going, Maddy always liked to be on time. Thank God his working hours were flexible. It meant he could pick Rebecca up from school whenever Maddy had to work late. As she parked the car, Maddy put thoughts of her working day out of her mind. It was time to concentrate on family now and, in her line of business, it wasn’t always a good idea to mix the two.

As soon as Maddy stepped inside her hallway she had that familiar comforting feeling she always got when she returned home. Like everything else surrounding Maddy, her home was immaculate and tastefully furnished. But it was more than that; it was a cosy home that felt lived in. She quickly switched on the hall lamp, which bathed the interior with a subtle amber glow, highlighting the polished wooden flooring, expensive rug, and stunning artwork that hung on the walls.

Maddy walked through the house, switching on the lights in the main rooms and plumping up cushions before flicking the switch on the kettle. She had no sooner pulled a mug from the cupboard than she heard the doorbell ring. Maddy dashed to answer the door, delighted to find her daughter Rebecca standing there with Andy by her side.

Rebecca gave her mother an affectionate hug. ‘I scored a goal, Mum,’ she gushed before rushing indoors.

‘Everything OK?’ Maddy asked once Rebecca was inside.

‘Yeah, she’s fine,’ said Andy. ‘She’s been to netball club after school. They had a practice match and apparently, she was the hero of the hour.’

Maddy smiled. ‘Great,’ she said. ‘I must go and congratulate her.’

‘OK. See you next weekend,’ he said.

‘Yeah, see you then,’ said Maddy.

Then she shut the front door straight away and went through to the lounge to find Rebecca. That was how it was with Andy now. After being divorced for four years, emotion didn’t come into it as far as she was concerned. They were just two adults sharing joint responsibility for their daughter.

Maddy was well over those early days when their separation had torn at her heart. It had been difficult to walk away but Andy’s infidelity had left her with no choice. She was too proud to carry on with the marriage after that and knew that she’d never be able to trust him again.

Nowadays they maintained a united front when it came to anything involving Rebecca whilst getting on with their own lives. Maddy preferred it that way and she knew that it was the best way to deal with the situation.

Rebecca had already switched on the TV and Maddy sat down beside her, stroking Rebecca’s hair as she held her close.

‘So, you scored a goal, did you?’

‘Yes, and all the girls were cheering. And Jade Coulson said after the match that I’d saved our side from getting beat. Jade Coulson doesn’t normally bother with me much. She’s, like, so-o-o cool. I can’t believe she likes me now.’

Advertisements
Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Extract, Guest post, Historical Crime Fiction, Mystery, Suspense

The Playground Murders – Lesley Thomson -5* #Review @HoZ_Books @LesleyjmThomson #CrimeFiction #ThePlayGroundMurders #TheDetectivesDaughter #BlogTour

Forty years ago, in the dark of the playground, two children’s lives were changed forever.

Stella Darnell is a cleaner. But when she isn’t tackling dust and dirt and restoring order to chaos, Stella solves murders. Her latest case concerns a man convicted of killing his mistress. His daughter thinks he’s innocent and needs Stella to prove it.

As Stella sifts through piles of evidence and interview suspects, she discovers a link between the recent murder and a famous case from forty years ago: the shocking death of six-year-old Sarah Ferris, killed in the shadows of an empty playground.

Stella knows that dredging up the past can be dangerous. But as she pieces together the tragedy of what happened to Sarah, she is drawn into a story of jealousy, betrayal and the end of innocence. A story that has not yet reached its end…

Amazon

Kobo

iBooks

Google Play

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

My Thoughts…

I didn’t discover,’The Detective’s Daughter Series, until Book 6 The Death Chamber. That story, and this one, ‘The Playground Murders’, reads well as a standalone. There is sufficient background, especially about Stella’s enigmatic father to let you understand what motivates the main protagonists. However, for the full experience read the older books too.

Original characters and complex cold cases to solve are the hallmarks of this detective series. The characters are quirky and realistic, they all have believable flaws, neuroses and aspiration.

Stella, the detective’s daughter, has two main focuses, cleaning and solving previously unsolved crimes. She runs a cleaning company and a detective agency, with her partner Jack and a cast of unique individuals. They are a family, look out for each other, criticise each other, and share a bond that resists any outside interference.

This story connects a recent murder, with a past child killing, investigated by Terry, Stella’s father. Present day action is complemented by flashback chapters in 1980 when Terry was involved in the child-killing case. The ethos of the historical part of the story is chilling, the contrast of innocence and evil disturbing.

Aside from the detective case, there are snapshots of Stella and Jack’s lives outside work. Stella and her mother Suzie, have the usual mother-daughter issues and Jack a father of twins, has to come to terms with only seeing them periodically, and the spectre of a new father figure in their lives.

This story has a clever, twisty plot, and a menacing undertone. Slow-paced it lets you absorb the action, and atmosphere, as you try to solve the crime. Another exciting chapter in ‘The Detective’s Daughter’, series.

Guest Post – Lesley Thomson – The Playground Murders

With the exception of The Death Chamber (#6), there are children in my stories. As victims of crime or adults who go on to commit a crime. I hope that meeting them as a child gives readers insight into their later actions. Until The Playground Murders, I’d never created a child killer who is a child. No surprise, it’s a disturbing subject. Traditionally childhood is a time of happy innocence. If, for whatever reason, it’s not this is usually down to the transgressions of adults. That a child might deliberately end the life of another child is terrible to contemplate. That photo of James Bulger being led away from his mother by two ten-year-old boys shattered our life-view.

Can a child be evil? Can we forgive the adult a child becomes for a crime they committed long ago? As children did we do bad stuff? Do we write off those misdemeanours because, hey, we were kids? What if punching a kid in the dinner queue caused their death? Do children even understand what death is? The Playground Murders explores these questions.

The playground setting was a no-brainer. Archetypal, it’s in the bones of many of us as kids and as parents. Typically a locus of excitement and fun, joyful shouts, urgent cries and the gales of laughter of children deep in their game carries over municipal lawns, rotundas where Sunday brass bands are long gone. Playgrounds were developed from observing children playing on bombsites after the war. Bounded by railings within a landscaped park or in a school, they offer the change for kids’ imaginations to be free. Girls and boys are heroes of their make-believe. Or villains.  

These days playgrounds are populated with jolly coloured climbing walls, slides, swings and roped walkways but when I was young, and until the nineteen-eighties, the playground was a relatively dangerous place. Heavy iron equipment, the witch’s hat and juggernaut roundabout trapped limbs and crushed fingers and feet. Swings without restraining bars could fly high until chains twisted or snapped propelling occupants onto unforgiving concrete.

There were fatalities. It’s not plot spoiling to tell you that in The Playground Murders one child falls from a tower slide (equivalent to plummeting from a first-floor window), the death ruled an accident because it wasn’t unusual. I feel lucky to have got away with only breaking my arm by crashing pell-mell into my friend Tina when we were eight. Actually, I recently read that kids colliding with each other is a thing. Not just us then.

The Playground Murders, a tale of mired ambitions, of deceit and betrayal and ruined childhoods is also about hope and regeneration. Here’s hoping you enjoy it.

Lesley Thomson grew up in west London. Her first novel, A Kind of Vanishing, won the People’s Book Prize in 2010. Her second novel, The Detective’s Daughter, was a number 1 bestseller and sold over 500,000 copies.

Website Twitter Facebook

Extract From The Playground Murders – Lesley Thomson

The group considered the furry mass. The cat was large with a collapsed tummy.

‘I think it’s old,’ Sarah decided. ‘Is it dead like Robbie’s dead?’

‘Yes,’ Nicola snapped at her.

‘Robbie didn’t get runned down,’ Sarah said.

‘No one said he did, darlin’.’ Danielle imitated her older sister Maxine being nice to Jason. ‘Best you go to bed. No nightmares.’ She yanked Sarah to her.

‘You can’t chop it up,’ Jason said. ‘It’s not yours.’

‘I’m a detective,’ Danielle repeated.

‘Can we play Doctors and Nurses with it?’ Sarah enquired.

‘It’s dead so it doesn’t need nursing or… doctoring.’ Danielle forgot to be nice.

‘Let’s pretend it’s alive. Like you did with Robbie,’ Sarah said.

‘Sarah!’ Lee snatched her hand. ‘We’re going. And don’t tell your Dad about this, OK?’

‘Ouch.’ Sarah squirmed crossly. ‘I want to stay for the chopping.’

‘We should tell the owner. They’ll be waiting to give it its tea,’ Nicola said. ‘When Spiderman didn’t come back, Robbie cried. I did too. He’d got stuck in next door’s shed. He was starving. Robbie was allowed to give him Whiskas with a fork.’

‘Robbie’s dead,’ Danielle said.

‘He wasn’t then. Spiderman is alive,’ Nicola mumbled.

‘Has this cat got a collar?’ Danielle wished Nicky would shove off. She folded her arms.

Kevin felt under the cat’s chin. Revolted, Jason sniggered. In his doctor’s voice, Kevin reported, ‘She doesn’t have no collar.’

‘A collar. Not no collar,’ Danielle barked. ‘You don’t know it’s a lady.’

‘It’s had babies, that’s why it’s all flabby like that.’ Kevin did sound like a doctor.

‘I know.’ Danielle tapped her front tooth. Her notion of a detective was derived mainly from Scooby-Doo. ‘We’ll call on everyone in the street and detect the owner. Kevin, you’re my sergeant.’

Kevin scrambled to his feet and stood next to Danielle, hands behind his back like a policeman.

‘There’s hundreds of houses in this street,’ Sarah said.

Everyone went quiet as they digested this.

‘Spiderman crosses the road as soon as he comes out,’ Nicola said at last. ‘He goes in a straight line. If this cat does that, it lives there.’ She waved a hand at the house behind them. A decorated Christmas tree sparkled in the window.

‘No. It’s down there,’ Danielle stated firmly.

‘How can you be sure?’ Nicola asked.

‘I keep saying because I’m a detective. I’ll sling it behind there and people can work it out for themselves.’ Tiring of the operation, Danielle pointed at the memorial for the three dead policemen. She hauled up the cat in both hands. More blood spewed from its mouth. The children scattered like birds.

‘Dead! Dead! Dead!’ Jason did a war dance.

‘We should tell the owner since you know it’s them in that house,’ Lee stepped in.

‘I’ll do it.’ Nicola went along the pavement to the house where Danielle had said that the cat had lived.

Sarah dragged on her brother’s Harrington jacket. ‘Lee, I got to tell you a secret.’

‘Not now,’ Lee hissed.

‘There’s no one in,’ Nicola said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon

iBooks

Google Play

 Kobo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jo Allen was born in Wolverhampton and is a graduate of Edinburgh, Strathclyde and the Open University. After a career in economic consultancy, she took up writing and was first published under the name Jennifer Young in genres of short stories, romance and romantic suspense. In 2017 she took the plunge and began writing the genre she most likes to read – crime. Now living in Edinburgh, she spends as much time as possible in the English Lakes. In common with all her favourite characters, she loves football (she’s a season ticket holder with her beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers) and cats. Twitter Facebook

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


My Thoughts…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is… Denise.

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

This is… Claire.

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

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

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

Amazon

Kobo

iBooks

Google Play

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what happens next?

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

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

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

And as for the woman who wrote this book?

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

This Is Me published by Aria May 2nd.

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

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

My Thoughts…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon

Kobo

Google Play

iBooks

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


My Thoughts…

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

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

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

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

Guest Post – Heather Burnside

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extract From Born Bad – Heather Burnside

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

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

But did she have to kick her?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Next!’ shouted Miss Marchant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adele, by now very tearful, nodded in response.

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

‘Yes,’ Adele replied.

‘Yes, what?’

‘Yes, Miss Marchant.’

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

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

‘Yes Miss,’ answered Adele.

‘You may go.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In wartime, it takes courage to follow your heart.

Manchester, 1939.

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

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

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

Amazon

Kobo

iBooks

Google Play

Guest Post – WHY I WRITE WWII NOVELS – Alrene Hughes

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARC – Paperback- Back Cover

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

My Thoughts…

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

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

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

ARC- Paperback

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

Twitter

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

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

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

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

‘Farewell to Manchester we’re leaving today,

We need a safe place where we can stay,

Away from the bombs that fall on our heads,

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

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Guest post, Holiday Romance, Romantic Comedy

Wedding Bells at Villa Limoncello – Daisy James @canelo_co @daisyjamesbooks #BlogTour #4*#Review #GuestPost #RomCom #MondayBlogs#TuscanTrilogy

When Isabella Jenkins is unceremoniously fired from her fancy London job, she escapes to Tuscany. A few weeks hiding amongst rolling hills and grape vines at Villa Limoncello sounds exactly like the distraction she needs.

But Italy holds emotional memories for Izzy and with a hapless handyman, a matchmaking village matriarch and a gorgeous – if infuriating – local chef named Luca Castelotti, her quiet Italian getaway turns into an unending cacophony of chaos.

Suddenly Izzie finds herself on a mission to pull off the wedding of the century and maybe get her life in order in the process. If only Luca’s gorgeous smile wasn’t such a powerful distraction…

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Guest Post -Daisy James-Wedding Bells at Villa Limoncello

First of all, a huge thank you for having me as a guest on your blog. It’s great to be here to tell you about my brand-new book Wedding Bells at Villa Limoncello.

Anyone who has read one of my books will know that I love writing stories with a strong sense of place and Villa Limoncello series is no exception. I spent an amazing few days in Tuscany last year and loved it so much I just knew I had to write a story that was set there.

I had a fabulous time researching the area around Florence; the art, the history, the culture, the traditions, the scenic towns and villages, the vineyards, but mainly the cuisine! Italy is famous for its fabulous pizzas and pasta dishes, and its amazing wine – think prosecco and Chianti – but it’s also well-known for its delicious desserts from tiramisu to cannoli, from panforte to the many flavours of gelato – blue cheese and walnut flavour anyone?

In Wedding bells at Villa Limoncello, Izzie is asked to organise a film shoot at a care-worn villa in the Tuscan hills where she meets Luca who is a chef at the local trattoria. This gave me the chance to investigate the recipes particular to the area, as well as the passion with which Italians approach every aspect of their food – after all, Italy is where the ‘slow-food’ movement started as a reaction to the creeping invasion of ‘fast food’. I even read about one family who hadn’t spoken to their neighbours for twenty years because they put parsley in their minestrone – there’s passion for you!

As Luca bakes up a storm in the story, I couldn’t include a culinary scene without having taste-tested the recipes myself, so I set about having a go at some of the many desserts that Italy, and especially Tuscany, is famous for. My attempt at ice cream – apricot and amaretto flavour with crushed biscotti went down very well even though it didn’t set properly. I then moved on the baking a batch of ricciarelli which are oval-shaped biscuits made with almonds and dusted in icing sugar – absolutely delicious.

Image Credit –
Daisy James

However, my favourite recipe has to be limoncello tiramisu. It was the perfect dessert for a summer barbeque and I’ve made it many times because it is so easy to make – no baking required!

Here’s Izzie’s recipe:

Izzie’s Limoncello Tiramisu

Ingredients

100g caster sugar

100ml limoncello

Zest & juice of 3 lemons

50ml water

500g mascarpone

500ml double cream

10g icing sugar

100g lemon curd

200g sponge fingers

Method

Place the caster sugar, water and the zest and juice of two lemons into a small pan and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add half the limoncello and simmer until syrupy. Set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the mascarpone until smooth, then add the double cream, the remaining limoncello, the zest and juice of the remaining lemon and the lemon curd and stir together.

Carefully soak the sponge fingers with the syrup and placed in the base of a ceramic dish, or individual glass dessert dishes, then spoon over a generous helping of the cream mixture and repeat, finishing off with a sprinkle of finely grated lemon zest and a dusting of finely grated milk chocolate. Refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours. Serve with home-made limoncello cocktails.

Buon Appetitio!

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

My Thoughts…

A lovely sad heroine, who is unable to come to terms with losing her twin, a cast of authentic Italians and a Summery, vivid setting, combine to make this romcom a must-read summer book.

Izzy is an interior designer, but after the untimely loss of her twin, she is full of guilt, grief and greyness. This reflects in all aspects of her life. When fate intervenes with an opportunity to stage a fake wedding in Tuscany, she decides to live a little and grasp the opportunity to put some colour and zest back in her drab life.

I loved that each chapter began with a little phrase and a colour, it set the scene and chartered Izzy’s moods perfectly. The plot is simple and the pacing gently, both fitting in with a lighthearted, but sometimes poignant romantic comedy, set in a place full of colour and visual imagery.

The balance of comedy and romance is perfect, and the setting is full of sunshine, it makes you feel warmer and happier with every chapter. With the added bonus of lovely food and more complications than you could ever imagine, this book would make a great film.
I look forward to the next in the series of the #TuscanTrilogy.

Daisy James is a Yorkshire girl transplanted to the northeast of England. She loves writing stories with strong heroines and swift-flowing plotlines. When not scribbling away in her summerhouse, she spends her time sifting flour and sprinkling sugar and edible glitter. She loves gossiping with friends over a glass of something pink and fizzy or indulging in a spot of afternoon tea – china plates and teacups are a must.

Twitter