Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Christmas Read, Festive Read, Friendship, Guest post, Romance

The Christmas Calendar Girls Samantha Tonge 5* #Review @Aria_Fiction @SamTongeWriter #BlogTour #BookReview #GuestPost #Festive #Christmas #Heartwarming #Monday Blogs #TrueMeaningofChristmas #Friendship #Community

This Christmas fall in love with the town of Chesterwood…

Christmas is meant to be a time of giving, so with Chesterwood food bank under risk of closure Fern knows just what to do to save it. She’s going to get the town to create a living advent calendar.

Fern and her best friends call for help from the local community to bring this calendar to life. When Kit, the new man in town, offers his assistance Fern’s heart can’t help but skip a beat (or two).

As they grow ever closer, Fern must admit that Kit’s breaking down the barriers she built after the death of her husband. But his past is holding him back and Fern doesn’t know how to reach him. No matter how hard she tries.

In this town, Kit’s not the only one with secrets. Domestic goddess Cara is behaving oddly, burning meals in the oven and clothes whilst ironing, and Davina’s perfect children are causing trouble at school leaving her son, Jasper, desperately unhappy.

Can the Christmas Calendar Girls find a way to bring the community together in time to save the food bank, while still supporting their families and each other? Can Fern find love again with Kit?

This is a story about kindness and letting go of the past. It’s about looking out for your neighbours and about making every day feel like Christmas.

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#BlogTour

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

My Thoughts…

I love Christmas. December 1st, out come the Christmas decorations, and all the lovely memories of Christmases gone by. I always appreciate how lovely it is to have my family around me, but realise for many, this time is particularly devastating.

This story highlights many contemporary social issues, families in poverty, homelessness and addiction. Whilst these are prevalent at all times of the year, they are more noticeable during the festive period when the divide between the have and the have nots is more acute.

The ethos of this story is emotional and heartwarming, and it shows how communities coming together can embody the true meaning of Christmas. It is a story of friendship, women supporting each other and gives hope that with the right support, even the hardest problems can be overcome.

Fern, Davina and Cara are complex characters, bound together by the friendship, through their children. Each has a story, and sometimes things are not what they first appear, but their friendship is what motivates them through the difficult times.

Kit is an enigma, kind, generous with his time, but closed off, with high emotional boundary walls. He helps Fern, start to live again, but is she asking for something he cannot give?

This is wonderfully festive, full of community spirit, but also realistic, not everyone wants to help, some would rather look the other way. The women’s friendship is believable and uplifting, and the conflicted romance between Fern and Kit is heartwarming. There are also lots of lighter moments, which balance out the angst, making this a lovely book to read to get you in the festive mood.

Guest Post- Samantha Tonge – The Christmas Calendar Girls
                                      What is the inspiration behind the character of Kit?

Jason Momoa. If I was feeling lazy, those two words alone could answer that question. However, it’s not quite that simple. Relatable and realistic character-building is a complex process. I’ve had 12 books published now and people from my real life, celebrities, or themes have inspired the creation of my leading men…. but there is one aspect they all have in common: there is a lot more to them than being handsome.

I first came across Jason Momoa whilst watching Game of Thrones. He didn’t catch my eye. I found the character he played, unappealing. As a woman and writer, that’s one thing I find fascinating about sexual attraction. Time after time personality wins the day, despite society’s current obsession with perfect looks and selfies. A six-pack can swiftly seem less hot if it belongs to a man who is unkind or full of ego. Vice versa, a person who initially looks less sexy on the surface can become irresistible if they have a cheeky sense of humour or generous, caring nature.

As time passed, I saw real-life clips of Jason Momoa online. He revealed a hilarious side, wearing girls’ hair bobbles for example (look out for one scene in my story!). He appears to be a very loving father and husband and doesn’t care what other people think – despite his professional macho reputation, he wore a dusty-pink suit and matching hair scrunchie to the 2019 Oscars. Plus he’s a man of principle and heart and recently announced he might have to delay filming Aquaman 2 until he has finished taking part in ongoing protests in his birth country, Hawaii, against a construction site on a sacred mountain.

I don’t know him personally. Who knows what any celebrity is like in real life? But I’ve built a picture of the Jason Momoa I’ve seen through the media and it’s a seductive one, muscles and bedroom hair aside.

From a physical point of view, it was his bare-chested, marine character in Aquaman that first caught my attention – after all, I am a red-blooded woman! He’s tall, with wild chestnut hair and eyes full of humour… just like Kit. But those appealing traits are transient. They don’t have staying power. Not unless there is something more meaningful to make a man stand out.

It was the softer side I’d seen of the actor, online, that really inspired the character of gorgeous six foot five, bearded Kit who has overcome personal challenges; who is a loyal friend who’ll step out of his comfort zone to help those less fortunate than himself. He’s sensitive and empathetic and has a great sense of humour. He’s different from the crowd and also oblivious to the many crushes he inspires in the school playground.

I’m very fond of Kit, as I am of The Christmas Calendar Girls Fern, Cara and Davina. I hope readers enjoy their story as much as I’ve loved writing it.

#SamanthaTonge

Samantha Tonge lives in Manchester UK with her husband and children. She studied German and French at university and has worked abroad, including a stint at Disneyland Paris. She has travelled widely.
When not writing she passes her days cycling, baking and drinking coffee. Samantha has sold many dozens of short stories to women’s magazines. 
She is represented by the Darley Anderson literary agency. In 2013, she landed a publishing deal for romantic comedy fiction with HQDigital at HarperCollins and in 2014, her bestselling debut, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award. In 2015 her summer novel, Game of Scones, hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart and won the Love Stories Awards Best Romantic Ebook category. In 2018 Forgive Me Not, heralded a new direction into darker women’s fiction with publisher Canelo. In 2019 she was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association romantic comedy award

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Posted in Blog Tour, Guest post, Literary Fiction

The Umbrella Men Keith Carter #GuestPost @keithcarter88 @NeemTreePress #BlogTour #RandomThingsTours #LiteraryFiction #TheUmbrellaMen @AnneCater

#TheUmbrellaMen

A witty and acerbic novel for our times about corporate greed, the hubris of bankers, contradictions of the clean energy economy and their unintended consequences on everyday people. Finance, environmentalism, rare-earth mining and human frailties collide in a complex of flawed motives. We follow Peter Mount, the self-made Chief Executive of a London-based rare-earth mining company as he and his business are buffeted by crisis-torn Royal Bank of Scotland and by his own actions, real and imagined. Meanwhile, in Oregon, Amy Tate and her group of local environmental activists do their contradictory part to undermine a component of the green economy, unwittingly super-charged by the Chinese state. The repercussions of events in pristine Oregon are felt in the corporate and financial corridors of New York and London with drastic consequences. This is a deeply involving novel about the current workings of capitalism, miscommunication, causes and unexpected effects, love and survival.

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#RandomThingsTours #TheUmbrellaMen

Another book, I would love to have read and reviewed, but sadly I did not have time, so sharing an amusing guest post from the author here instead:

Guest Post- Keith Carter-The Umbrella Men
How I came to publish my first novel – aged 60

I’m terrible at parties; I can’t ‘circulate’.  It just seems so rude to change conversational groups: you must either slope off hoping no-one will notice, which is unlikely, or make an excuse – and mine always come out sounding like ‘I’ve just seen someone more interesting than you, so am off to talk with them instead’.  So I normally end up stuck, talking to the dullest person at the party, the socially abler people (which is everyone else) having successfully ‘circulated’ away.

Oh, hang on – maybe that means I am the dullest person at the party…

So I’m going to let you in on a secret of mine. Call it Carter’s First Law of Social Awkwardness. It’s got me through many potentially disastrous situations of this sort, and states that: Everyone, including the dullest person in the room, knows something that you don’t.  Make it your task is to find out what it is, and you won’t be bored. This works because

  1. You might learn something, always a good thing and
  2. You will end up talking with someone about the one topic on which they are an expert: themselves.

Carter’s First Law of Social Awkwardness is based on the commonly-held belief that ‘everyone has a book in them’. Fortunately, perhaps, most of these books will never be written. People have neither the skills nor the time. The Umbrella Men, my first novel, was written because suddenly I did have the time.

I made myself redundant.  No, that sounds like I had more say in the matter than was the case; I was forced to make myself redundant. And the circumstances of it made me angry, which – with an associated need for catharsis – gave me the motivation as well as the opportunity to write the book.

My enforced self-redundancy was the consequence of a corporate loan taken out with a major bank in 2007, just before all the Lehman Brothers stuff kicked off. The long story is fictionalised The Umbrella Men; to cut it short, the bank was going rapidly and spectacularly bust and turned on its small business clients in a vain attempt at repairing its balance sheet. In the resulting chaos, companies went bust, people lost their livelihoods, marriages failed, suicides were contemplated. As CEO of one of these small bullied borrowers the buck stopped with me, so the solution involved my asking myself to leave the company.

That I, as a taxpayer, was then forced to play my part in saving that same bank, and that not a single senior banker faced criminal charges anywhere for this trillion-dollar global banker bail-out – only heightened my need to get this story out of me and onto the page.

Maybe I have your sympathy now; if so, here’s how to lose it: I was a banker myself once. It was a long time ago and I was a lot younger… The reason I am ’fessing up in this way is that this part of my history gives me an unusual (for an author) perspective on the banking scandal and the motivations – business and otherwise – that caused it. In other words, The Umbrella Men is informative as well as entertaining.

The job I was forced out of was a full-on 12-hours-a-day affair, so it left quite a hole.  Like many people, I spent most of my working time in front of a computer screen. Diverting a good few of those newly-available 12 screen hours to writing was a good way of getting out from under my wife’s feet, and splendidly cathartic.  I wrote in the basement at home, in cafés and bars, on a boat, on trains – wherever I was and could take my laptop. All the things I would dearly have loved to do to various bankers were suddenly in my power – albeit via a keyboard, not a baseball bat.

I’d like to say that I quickly hammered The Umbrella Men out in a few weeks, then, as a man with a burden lifted from his shoulders, skipped off to another project with a song on my lips. Far from it. It took years. There were loads of ‘excellent’ drafting and style ideas along the way, few of which survived the scrutiny of the morning-after reread.  The fact that I am a slow and inaccurate typist doesn’t help; it does, however, fit perfectly with my inability to form a coherent sentence or find, for want of a better word, le mot juste first time around.

So, to those of you convinced that you have a book in you I say this: Carter’s First Law of Social Awkwardness says that you almost certainly have. Write it! All you need is the time and a whole load of pent-up emotion.

#KeithCarter

Keith Carter was born in Scotland to a Dutch mother and British father. He read Economics at Cambridge, taking a First in 1981 when he was elected a Scholar – too late to enjoy the privilege of walking on the grass. He worked as an investment banker before going straight and running a small pharmaceutical company. He is now a writer and business consultant and lives in East London with his daughters. He enjoys travel, politics and economics, reading and writing, languages, music, the English Lake District, sailing of all kinds and meals with family and friends. Keith suffered a spinal cord injury in March 2018 and since rides a wheelchair.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Gangland Crime, Guest post, Historical Crime Fiction, saga, Thriller

Rivals Sam Michaels 4*#Review @Aria_Fiction @SamMichaelsGG #BlogTour #CrimeFiction #HistoricalCrimeFiction #OrganisedCrime #GeorginaGarrett #BookReview #GuestPost

#Rivals

Georgina Garrett is back and more daring than ever!

Follow Georgina as she builds up her own empire in the second thrilling instalment of the Georgina Garrett series.

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

My Thoughts…

What appeals about this story is its commitment and honesty. Georgina is a relatable, remarkable, yet ruthless character, who you would want on your side. Her love for her family and friends shines through, even though she commits and sanctions unspeakable acts as the head of a south London crime gang in the 1930s.

When her newly acquired gangland empire is under threat from men who think she should know her place, she only has one response; be better than them, and fight back. She symbolises the female fight for equality. The crimes are gritty, but the story is one of family, and this is why the protagonists are likeable.

A clever plot with plenty of depth and hidden twists complements the complex characters well and makes this a page-turning chapter of a compelling crime series.

Guest Post – Sam Michaels- The Birth of a Ruthless Woman

I was born and bred in London and then lived in Surrey, Kent and Hampshire before moving to Spain four years ago. It was here that I found I had the time to take up writing. So, after lots of encouragement from my husband and mum, I sat on my sofa and penned my first novel, Trickster.

You probably imagine that living in a sunny climate is inspirational and blissful for a writer but I doubt it’s anything like you might picture. There’s no sitting in the sun, sipping sangria and dipping in the pool. It’s impossible to use my laptop outside because I can’t see the screen. So instead, I sit at my new desk in my spare bedroom with a ceiling fan on and the shutters closed. It’s so peaceful and this is where I wrote my second novel, Rivals, the follow up to Trickster.

Writing a series of five books has been such an interesting journey. Normally, after a novel is completed and published, the author will leave the characters behind and move on to the next story. But with mine, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to delve deep into Georgina’s Garrett’s life from birth, growing up and into adulthood. When I’d finished Trickster and started writing Rivals, I was so excited to meet Georgina again and couldn’t wait to move her character on through her complex life.

Georgina came about as I was driving with my hubby. I remember turning to him and saying, ‘Georgina Garrett, the birth of a ruthless woman.’ She started off as just a short single scene in my head – A young woman, beautiful, tough and on the wrong side of the law. I could see her eyes, hair and the shape of her body. I knew when she was born and that she’d had many struggles to overcome. In the scene, Georgina was dressed as a boy and was thieving with her father. For the rest of the drive with hubby, I blurted out the whole story, from the day WW1 was declared and the birth of Georgina until she came to rule the streets of Battersea.

My hubby was flabbergasted and so was I – Trickster just needed to be written now.

As I began typing, I found Georgina’s character changed slightly. I gave her more of a heart and made her more caring. After all, I wanted my potential readers to love her as much as I did! And I found that once the book was finished, I missed her. So I was keen to get on with writing Rivals and now I’m almost finished writing the third in the series.

There’s so much more for Georgina to yet experience – and I can’t wait to share it with you in the coming books!

#SamMichaels

Sam Michaels lives in Spain with her family and a plethora of animals. Having been writing for years Trickster is her debut novel. Facebook Twitter

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Christmas Read, Festive Read, Friendship, Guest post, Romance

One Christmas Star Mandy Baggot 5*#Review @Aria_Fiction @mandybaggot #festiveread #Christmas #Romance #Friendship #BlogTour #GuestPost #BookReview

#OneChirstmasStar

Emily Parker is set to have the worst Christmas ever!

Her flatmate’s moved out, she’s closed her heart to love and she’s been put in charge of the school original Christmas show – with zero musical ability.

Disgraced superstar, Ray Stone is in desperate need of a quick PR turnaround. Waking up from a drunken stupor to a class of ten-year-olds snapping pics and Emily looking at him was not what he had in mind.

Ray needs Emily’s help to delete the photos, and she needs his with the show. As they learn to work together they may just open their hearts to more than a second chance…

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#OneChristmasStar #BlogTour

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

My Thoughts…

Children at Christmas are what make it special, and this lovely feelgood, festive romance has thirty-three children in its cast of characters. Don’t panic you haven’t got to remember all their names, only a few are introduced in-depth, but their enthusiasm, sense of wonder, and innocence as they embark on their festive show gives this story authenticity and a lovely Christmassy ethos.

Another positive theme in this story is its diversity. Many cultures and family groupings and beliefs are in evidence, reflecting contemporary life well.

Then, there’s the romance, which starts to grow between school teacher Emily and famous musician Ray, they meet serendipitously, at a low point in both their lives. They find something in each other that helps them to accept, heal, and move on from their emotional baggage, some of which is severe.

This is gently paced and detailed. You find out a lot about the characters, main and subsidiary. Whilst this doesn’t necessarily move the story forward, it does build the world, and make the reader believe in the characters, their stories and their motivations.

Music is an important element in this story and this celebrated throughout.

If you enjoy a book that absorbs you, and takes you on a journey, with a positive hopeful conclusion, this one is perfect.

Guest Post- Mandy Baggot – One Christmas Star
Never work with children or animals…

Animals will poop everywhere! Children will say the most embarrassing things! In One Christmas Star, I have children and animals, all being brought together in one festive extravaganza!

So, how do you go about writing children in novels? How do you make your ten-year-olds authentic and leap off the page? Well, I have to say, it does help if you have children yourself.

I am the mum of two daughters (12 and 14 now) and they absolutely provide me with inspiration for my books every single day. We can be talking randomly on the school run and then when I’m sat at my desk ready to start writing, this conversation will come back to me and end up slap-bang in the middle of my novel. And those chapters are always much richer for it.

One Christmas Star stars thirty-three Year Six’s under the care of teacher, Emily Parker. Here’s how I handled them as a writer and some top tips for making your characters authentic: –

The first thing I would say is, if you’re writing about a group of children, you are not going to make characters out of all thirty-three of them and nor should you. A) The reader is never going to remember all their names, B) neither are you and C) you aren’t going to be able to make thirty-three characters stand out. If you have children yourself, listen up! Take in what they talk about, what’s important to them and how they express this. What are their quirks and their individualism? If you don’t have children yourself, talk to people who do. Facebook is a great place to ask questions like this and you will find you will get loads of interaction and friends eager to give you their thoughts on this kind of topic.

Mix it up. You need girls and boys and you need to reflect society as it is today. Emily works at a Church of England funded school, but she has pupils from all faiths, of all colours and with many different home-life situations – working parents, unemployed parents, two dads, guardians, step-parents. Not just with children, make all your characters real, bring modern-day living to life. We don’t all speak the same. We don’t all look the same. Embrace all those qualities in your writing. Diversity is so exciting!

Keep it real. Make sure your child characters are absolutely true to their age range. Make their dialogue fit. They are not always going to talk in full, grammatically correct sentences. For me, dialogue always has to be true to the character, not to the grammar. I’ve altered many things after a proofreader has said it isn’t grammatically correct. It has to read the way your character would actually say it if he/she was standing in front of you. Read it aloud! How does it sound then? Like the child, it’s supposed to reflect? Or not?

I hope these tips have been useful and I really hope you love meeting the children from Stretton Park Primary School because they are ready to give you a Christmas to remember!

#MandyBaggot

Mandy Baggot is an internationally bestselling and award-winning romance writer. The winner of the Innovation in Romantic Fiction award at the UK’s Festival of Romance, her romantic comedy novel, One Wish in Manhattan, was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year award in 2016. Mandy’s books have so far been translated into German, Italian, Czech and Hungarian. Mandy loves the Greek island of Corfu, white wine, country music and handbags. Also a singer, she has taken part in ITV1’s Who Dares Sings and The X-Factor. Mandy is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors and lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK with her husband and two daughters.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Christmas Read, Family Drama, Festive Read, Friendship, Guest post, Holiday Romance, Romance

Magic Under the Mistletoe Lucy Coleman 5* #Review @Aria_Fiction @LucyColemanAuth #FestiveRead #Christmas #FakeDate #FamilyDrama #Relationships #Fate #Friendship #BlogTour #GuestPost #BookReview

#MagicUndertheMistletoe

It’s December 23rd and while everyone else is rushing home for the holidays, workaholic Leesa Oliver is dreading switching on her out-of-office for the festive season. And it seems her equally driven boss, Cary Anderson, isn’t relishing spending Christmas at his family’s country estate either.

So together, they draft an unexpected Christmas contract: They’ll spend half of the holidays with each other’s families, pretending to be a couple. Leesa knows the insufferably good-looking Cary will make her Christmas more bearable, but what happens after the last of the mince pies have been eaten…?

Leesa signed off on a sensible business agreement, but somewhere, amongst the fairy lights and carols, something seems to have changed… It seems there might just be some magic under the mistletoe this Christmas!

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

My Thoughts…

Mistletoe historically conjures up images of the festive season, and romance for me, and this story beginning and ending with Christmas has plenty of magical mistletoe and romantic kisses.

Leesa and Cary are returning to the UK from a business trip in Australia. Both are career-driven, but whilst Cary reels off his criticisms in the comfort of first-class, Leesa is struggling to survive amidst a boisterous toddler and a lady determined to sort out her cavernous handbag. Battered and a little bruised both mentally and physically she plots her revenge. Then he takes the wind out of her sails, by offering her much needed sustenance, and a surprisingly pleasant insight, into his closely guarded personality. Stranded by uncharacteristically festive weather, Leesa accepts an invitation that leads to something unexpected.

I always find Lucy’s books heartwarming, insightful and romantic, and this one is all of these, with a festive twist. There are lots of characters, and sub-plots, which add depth to the story, and provide clever insight into the emotional baggage Leesa and Cary carry around. There is a good use of the fake date trope and slow-burning passion building between the couple, who are so successful in their professional lives to the exclusion of their personal happiness.

Fate and festive magic play their part in this complex romance, which begins and ends at a magical time of year.

Guest Post – Inspiration for my stories – Lucy coleman

It’s so lovely to be back again, Jane – thank you so much for the invite! As an author yourself, I’m sure this topic is one you experience all the time, too!

One of the first questions people ask when they are introduced to an author is ‘where do you find the inspiration for your stories?’

Mine usually come as a one-liner thought and I always carry a notebook and pen as things will spring into my head when I’m in the car, queuing in the supermarket and especially when out walking.

I have a folder full of jottings because that one-liner is just the initial spark. What usually happens, is that by the time I’m ready to pick it up and develop it, there will be a pile of little notes clipped together.

One such spark was triggered by a photograph I saw of Lisbon. This time it was the setting that was going to inspire the story and as my husband and I headed off for a four-day research trip, the two main characters were already introducing themselves to me.

Now I’m not a plotter, so the story reveals itself to me as I get to know the characters. It’s a fun way to write. But sitting on the plane that day, I didn’t really know what this story was going to be about.

We dumped our suitcases with barely a glance at our gorgeous hotel room and off we went to explore. We chose a hotel that was only a ten-minute walk from Cristo Rei – the majestic statue of Christ, similar to the ones in Brazil and Bolivia. Even though it was on the opposite side of the river to the town and in a quieter setting, it was top of my must-see list.

That afternoon as we did the uphill climb, I was buzzing and as I stood looking up at the statue the story was there, in my head. As my husband went exploring, I sat in the little café making copious notes. We went there every day after other sight-seeing trips, and it was the last place we visited before it was time to leave for the airport.

For the first time ever, I have pages of conversation between the characters. On each visit, I saw my characters walking around as if they were really there and I took hundreds of photos so I will be able to spirit myself back to that time and place.

When I returned home, I simply wanted to sit down and write the story, but other work in the pipeline had to be completed and two other books edited, first. I’m currently writing my 2020 Christmas book, then one more little project and Lisbon here I come.

I usually write about locations I know well from previous travels and it’s rare for a location to grab me as Lisbon did, simply from a shot, I saw on TV. Having said that… maybe there’s a pattern developing. In October I’m off to a monastery in Spain after a random idea popped into my head.

That’s the trouble with listening to your imagination – it knows no bounds!

Lucy lives in the Forest of Dean in the UK with her lovely husband and Bengal cat, Ziggy. Her novels have been shortlisted in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards. Lucy won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Guest post, Romance

Secrets of the Mist Kate Ryder 5*#Review @Aria_Fiction @KateRyder_Books #BlogTour #GuestPost #Extract #Timeslip #Romance #EnglishCivilWar #HistoricalRomance #Supernatural #Love #Relationships #Dorset #VillageLife #BookReview

#SecretsoftheMist

A gorgeous timeslip romance.

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?

Previously published as The Forgotten Promise.

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#AriaBlogTour

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

My Thoughts…

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

Hello Jane,

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.

A 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.

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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 Month”.

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 establishment.

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 neglected pond.

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 sitting room.

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 that happen?’

‘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 the door.

‘Now, there’s an offer I can’t possibly refuse, but won’t that be a tad messy?’

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Guest post, Murder Mystery, Travel

Palm Trees In The Pyrenees Elly Grant 4*#Review #Creativia #EllyGrant #Pyrenees #SouthofFrance #MurderMystery #Noir #Satire #BlogTour #GuestPost #BookReview @rararesources #DeathInThePyrenees

A rookie cop, a dash of mysterious death, and a heap of suspicion – as the heat rises, lethal tensions boil over in the Pyrenees.

Unappreciated, unnoticed, and passed over for promotion, thirty-year-old Danielle’s fledgling career in law enforcement is going nowhere – until the unexpected death of a hated Englishman turns her small town upside down.

Set in the idyllic south of France, Palm Trees in the Pyrenees is the first whodunit novel in Elly Grant’s thrilling murder mystery series. Against a background of prejudice, jealousy, and greed, Danielle pieces together the sparse clues of a fractured homicide. But will she find enough evidence to solve the case – and get the recognition she deserves?

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Creativia

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

My Thoughts…

Superficially, this story, the first book in the ‘Death In The Pyrenees’ series, seems like a cozy mystery, set in the South of France. It does have many of the attributes of a cozy read; multiple suspects, a dramatic murder, a small, close knit quirky community, but as the story progresses, the reader appreciates that the story is more than this.

The bullying, malicious gossip and prejudice, Danielle the town’s solitary police presence uncovers ,gives this story a strong noir element. Corruption, drugs and vice, are all themes alluded to, in this story, which is a hybrid between a murder mystery and a police procedural.

Written in the first person, from Danielle’s point of view, her compassion, dedication and naivety, help the reader to see what lies beneath, the friendly, safe ethos, the town projects. She is easy to like, and gives this story a unique perspective that engages the reader from the first page. There is a retro feeling to this story, where even though the problems are contemporary, the community and personal beliefs and motivations are not.

The plot is pacy, and the characters full of surprises. The mystery keeps most of its secrets until the final stages and the ending is well executed. An original murder mystery which keeps you reading happily until the last page.

Image Credit Elly Grant
Guest Post – Elly Grant – Palm Trees In The Pyrenees

When I first arrived in this region of the Eastern Pyrenees I was mesmerised. I had never seen an area that moved me so much. The mountains were magnificent, tree covered rocks with an impossible number of shades of green and dotted about them were luminous patches of bright yellow Mimosa giving the effect of a patchwork quilt. The sky was a deep turquoise and the lack of pollution meant everything seemed clean and fresh as if the scene had been newly painted. It was hard to believe that what I was seeing was real and not just some beautiful dream I would wake from. Indeed, I was so enthralled, I was frightened to leave the place, in case, ‘Brigadoon’ style, it would disappear, not to be seen again for 100 years. Consequently, together with my husband, Zach Abrams, and within a few days, we managed to locate and buy a small, low-priced property to enjoy as a holiday home. After that, it took only days before I had the idea of writing ‘Palm Trees in the Pyrenees’. As I walked through the small town or sat sipping wine in the sunshine outside one of the several cafes or bars, the story almost seemed to write itself. As I imagine is the case in any small town, there was much that was different from anything I’d experienced before. I observed the quirky way of life enjoyed by its inhabitants, and the many, sometimes unusual, local events. Who would have guessed that an artichoke festival would be so well attended? Not me, for sure. Then there were the family feuds, the jealousies, the prejudices, the slight mistrust of strangers. I sipped wine or drank coffee as my victims walked by, totally unaware that I was about to kill them on paper.

Image Credit Elly Grant

Being a small town nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees, it came as no surprise to me that nobody seemed to speak English, and, having only a few words of French, meant that I had to learn the language quickly if I wanted to interact with local people. Consequently, the first people I had conversations with were the handful of ex-pats who lived in the area. But gradually, and with much effort on my part to integrate, I am now accepted as of the town, no longer merely a tourist, but not quite a local. Quite surprisingly, more and more of the locals will now speak to me in English if I have difficulty communicating in French. It seems that many of them do have the ability to converse in another language but choose not to do so with tourists. After all, they reason, it is the tourists who are the visitors and therefore it is they who should make the effort. The locals are not unfriendly, quite the reverse in fact; it is simply a matter of respect. And, as I’ve discovered, once you do gain their trust, they will go to great lengths to help or assist you.

Image Credit Elly Grant

After ‘Palm Trees in the Pyrenees’ was published, the subsequent books of the series seemed to pour out of me. I felt I couldn’t write them quickly enough. There was so much going on in my little town, so many things to observe that writing was a joy. I suppose that may seem rather strange considering I mostly write about crime, and not just any crime, but death and murder, in fact. But I do feel that this series is not all doom and gloom. My publisher calls these books ‘cosy crime’. I still kill people, but hopefully there is enough charm in the story telling so as not to cause my readers sleepless nights.

#EllyGrant

Hi, my name is Elly Grant and I like to kill people. I use a variety of methods. Some I drop from a great height, others I drown, but I’ve nothing against suffocation, poisoning or simply battering a person to death. As long as it grabs my reader’s attention, I’m satisfied.

I’ve written several novels and short stories. My first novel, ‘Palm Trees in the Pyrenees’ is set in a small town in France. It is the first book of my ‘Death in the Pyrenees series and they are all published by Creativia. The others in the series are, ‘Grass Grows in the Pyrenees’, ’Red Light in the Pyrenees’, ’Dead End in the Pyrenees’, ‘Deadly Degrees in the Pyrenees’ and ‘Hanging Around in the Pyrenees’. Creativia has also published my grittier crime novels set in Glasgow, ‘The Unravelling of Thomas Malone’ and ‘The Coming of the Lord’ as well as my thriller, ‘Death at Presley Park’.  Also published are my Romance ‘Never Ever Leave Me, as well as a collaboration on the quirky black comedy ‘But Billy Can’t Fly’ and short stories called ‘Twists and Turns’.


As I live much of the year in a small French town in the Eastern Pyrenees, I get inspiration from the way of life and the colourful characters I come across. I don’t have to search very hard to find things to write about and living in the most prolific wine producing region in France makes the task so much more delightful.

When I first arrived in this region I was lulled by the gentle pace of life, the friendliness of the people and the simple charm of the place. But dig below the surface and, like people and places the world over, the truth begins to emerge. Petty squabbles, prejudice, jealousy and greed are all there waiting to be discovered. Oh, and what joy in that discovery. So, as I sit in a café, or stroll by the riverside, or walk high into the mountains in the sunshine, I greet everyone I meet with a smile and a ‘Bonjour’ and, being a friendly place, they return the greeting. I people-watch as I sip my wine or when I go to buy my baguette. I discover quirkiness and quaintness around every corner. I try to imagine whether the subjects of my scrutiny are nice or nasty and, once I’ve decided, some of those unsuspecting people, a very select few, I kill.

Perhaps you will visit my town one day. Perhaps you will sit near me in a café or return my smile as I walk past you in the street. Perhaps you will hold my interest for a while, and maybe, just maybe, you will be my next victim. But don’t concern yourself too much, because, at least for the time being, I always manage to confine my murderous ways to paper.

Read books from the ‘Death in the Pyrenees’ series, enter my small French town and meet some of the people who live there —– and die there.

Alternatively read about life on some of the hardened streets of Glasgow or for something different try my other books and short stories.

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