Posted in Book Review, Crime, Thriller

4*#Review: The Taken Girls – G.D. Sanders @AvonBooksUK @GDSandersAuthor

Someone is watching them…

When a missing teenage girl reappears unharmed but pregnant, the case falls to DI Edina Ogborne, the newest recruit of Canterbury Police. But Ed’s already got her hands full with a team who don’t want her, an ex who won’t quit, and terrible guilt over a secret from her past.

As Ed investigates the case, she discovers Canterbury has seen this crime not once, but several times before. And when Ed and her detectives encounter missing historic police files, falsified school records, and Ed’s new lover as a prime suspect, it becomes clear that the system has been corrupted.

Can Ed find the kidnapper behind these depraved crimes before he strikes again? Or has time already run out?

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

A fast-paced police procedural, with an ambitious female detective. Ed Ogborne, whose impulsive behaviour in private, often creates problems in her professional life. The new girl in Canterbury, she has to gain the trust of her team and solve an abduction of a teenage girl.

The characters are complex and work well together. The antagonist is not what you first assume, but is a serious threat to the girl taken. There lots of suspects and historic connections. The detective team has a good dynamic, with each detective having their own story and emotional trauma.

This has the potential for making a good police procedural series.

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

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Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Thriller

4* Review – Sue Fortin- Schoolgirl Missing @HarperFiction @suefortin1 @HarperCollinsUK

HAVE YOU SEEN THIS GIRL?

When fourteen-year-old Poppy vanishes on a family boating trip, suspicion soon turns close to home – to the two people who should do everything to keep her safe, her parents, Kit and Neve.

Neve has a secret. Kit is lying.
Everyone is watching.
Who do you believe? 

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

I usually avoid reading stories on this subject, but I made an exception because I always enjoy reading Sue Fortin’s thrillers which inevitably have a strong family drama theme and unexpected twists.

School Girl Missing is not what the title suggests although a young girl does disappear, but has she run away, or been abducted? Neve and Kit’s marriage is not what it first appears, Neve is hiding secrets and Kit is blinded by emotional fear. When the marriage starts to crumble, how will they react and who will be the collateral damage?

Neve is an unreliable protagonist, you want to empathise with her but there’s something about her that makes this difficult. Kit’s fear of loss distances him from his family until he realises they mean everything to him and has to fight to keep them.

This story explores the extremes of human emotions and makes the reader wonder what if they were in these circumstances, how would they react?

Fast-paced, with a seemingly ordinary domestic setting, this story has sinister undertones and a disturbing ending.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Indie, Murder Mystery

Next Victim – 4*#Review – Helen H. Durrant – @JoffeBooks @hhdurrant

A young man’s body is found burnt and tortured by a Manchester canal. Detective Rachel King investigates. But she has a secret, the love of her life is a well-known villain. He has recently come back on the scene. But what does he really want?

A brutal serial killer with a taste for good-looking young blonde men.

A student who believes she has a lost brother. But even her own father doesn’t believe her. She was involved with the first victim.

As the murders continue, can Rachel keep her family together and stop the killer?

THE DETECTIVE DCI Rachel King. Thirty-nine-year-old mother of two teenage daughters. Divorced from Alan. She lives in the Cheshire village of Poynton – about ten miles from central Manchester. She is good at her job, gets results but does make mistakes. One of them was getting involved with a budding villain in her teens. No one, family, friends or colleagues know anything about this.

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

A killer with a grudge and a taste for punishment, a detective with a secret and a girl searching for a missing sibling all intertwine to make ‘Next Victim’, an absorbing murder mystery.

Detective Chief Inspector Rachel King is good at her job but is this at the expense of her family life? A particularly grisly murder takes all her concentration, but someone from her past could damage everything. Rachel is a complex, realistic character. She’s flawed and dedicated to her job. Her ex-husband seems to want to be more than the father to her kids, but she has a secret she cannot share.

This is a well-written murder mystery/police procedural. All the characters are authentic and vividly portrayed and the crimes though terrible are not too graphic. The fast- pacing keeps the reader’s interest and this promises to be the start of a good series as Rachel’s past collides with her present

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

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Historical Romance, Regency Romance

#BlogTour: Eva Leigh – Counting on a Countess @MillsandBoon #romance #Insiders #romancebloggers @EvaLeighAuthor

Image credit-Megan-Seek My Scribbles 

For a shameless libertine and a wily smuggler in the London Underground, marriage is more than convenience—it’s the strategy . . .

Christopher “Kit” Ellingsworth, war veteran and newly minted Earl of Blakemere, buries his demons under every sort of pleasure and vice. His scandalous ways have all but emptied his coffers . . . until a wealthy mentor leaves him a sizeable fortune. The only stipulation? He must marry within one month to inherit the money. Kit needs a bride and the bold, mysterious Miss Tamsyn Pearce seems perfect.

Husband hunting isn’t Tamsyn’s top priority—she’s in London to sell her new shipment of illicit goods—but she’s desperate for funds. When a handsome earl offers to wed her and send her back to Cornwall with a hefty allowance, Tamsyn agrees.

But when an unexpected proviso in the will grants Tamsyn control of the inheritance, their arrangement becomes anything but convenient. Now, Kit’s counting on his countess to make his wildest dreams a reality and he plans to convince her, one pleasurable seduction at a time…

Amazon UK

My 4* Review of ‘Counting on a Countess’…

An enticing medley of Regency London Society and Cornish smugglers provides an exciting setting for this ‘Marriage of Convenience’ historical romance with a strong feminist theme.

Kit, the Earl of Blakemere is a veteran of Waterloo, he is a consummate rake, who has to marry. Tamsyn is forced to earn money in an unorthodox way when her parents die, and her uncle refuses to support the estate’s villagers. She needs a rich husband to buy back the estate.

Kit and Tamsyn meet at a society ball and the physical attraction is strong, but will a ‘Marriage of Convenience’ succeed when they are both keeping secrets and their emotions are starting to mirror their passion for each other?

This is an exciting story, with complex characters and contemporary exploration of historical themes. Kit has lasting effects from his war service, recognised in today’s society as Post Traumatic Stress. Tamsyn is a society lady, with feminist views and actions, not accepted in Regency society.

The attraction is passionate, the story well-paced and varied, the characters multi-layered and believable, with an adrenaline-fueled satisfying ending.

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

Q&A Eva Leigh #CountingOnACountess #BlogTour #MillsandBoon

What do you find inspirational about Regency England?

I love that there was a mix of different classes, genders, races, and sexualities—particularly in London—and we as readers and authors get to explore the dynamics of shifting borders. The social constructs were more fluid than I believe we realize, and I love playing with that.

Would you have liked to have lived in this era? Why?

Nope! I don’t fancy being considered a man’s property. I’d rather write about hidden pockets of resistance in that world.

How do your stories differ from other Regency romance novels?

Honestly, I don’t like to compare myself or my books to other authors or their works. I like that we each provide different stories, different facets, different characters. My books often consider people who don’t quite conform to societal expectations, and I have a very strong feminist sensibility which plays out in the pages of my work.

Do you draw your characters from real life or are they purely a product of your imagination?

I take inspiration from history and do a substantial amount of research to learn about people such as confidence artists or smugglers. The characters are born from what I learn and my own imagination.

Can you tell us a little about the ‘Scandalous Ladies of London’ series?

Regency London existed beyond the ballrooms and private clubs of the elite. As the television series “Taboo” explores, there were thousands of liminal figures in this world, and I wanted to explore it. In particular, women were a major part of this in-between world, and I thought, Wouldn’t it be fascinating to make my heroines shady? Also, I love an across-the-tracks romance.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

Naturally, I love romance, so that constitutes a considerable amount of my reading. Historical, contemporary, erotic, and the occasional paranormal. I’m getting into reading more Young Adult fiction because of the breadth of characters, settings, and topics. It’s really amazing to see marginalized voices finally getting heard—though we have a long way to go as far as representation and #ownvoices are concerned.

 What are you currently writing?

It’s very exciting because I’m currently working on the first book in a new series inspired by classic American ‘80s movies. The heroes all meet during “detention” at Eton—which, yes, is loosely based on The Breakfast Club! I’m really loving writing the first book in the series because I get to be a little silly, a little funny, and also discuss important topics like gender roles, biases in the sciences, and the need for ecological conservation. The usual Eva Leigh book! 😉

Image credit – Megan- Seek My Scribbles

Also in ‘The Scandalous Ladies of London’ series is From Duke Till Dawn.

‘It’s not my habit to seduce impoverished widows…’

The Duke of Greyland lost his heart – and a princely sum – to a charming, beautiful and destitute widow who, after one passionate night, vanished without a trace. Cassandra Blair grew up on the city streets, picking pockets to survive. Greyland was a rich mark – to be fleeced and forgotten – only she’d never forgotten him.

Years later, chance brings them together again, in a London gaming hell. Grayland is desperate to have her… never suspecting everything about his lover was a lie. But finding herself in dire financial straits, at risk of losing everything, Cassandra has no choice but to beg the man she betrayed for help.

The proud Duke will assist her under one condition: she doesn’t leave his sight until her debts are paid! But can the real Cassandra – the smart, streetwise survivor – steal his heart all over again?

Book one in ‘The Scandalous Ladies of London’ series.

Amazon UK

 My 4* Review of ‘From Duke Till Dawn’…

A different trope from the usual Regency romance, this story has some originality, an anti-heroine character rather than an anti-hero. The story creates an interesting relationship between the Duke and the con- artist, but even though she fools him once, Cassandra ultimately needs his help and position to survive, which detracts from her independence.

The Duke of Greyland lacks the arrogance customarily associated with his rank in Regency romance. He has many appealing traits, not least his passionate nature and support of those less fortunate than he. However, he does lack authenticity.

This story scores highly for sensuality, the connection between the Duke and Cassandra is hot, and the love scene leaves little to the imagination. They explain why the Duke acts as he does and their deepening emotional attachment underlines every kiss.

Overall this is a lovely story, which superficially explores the seedier side of Regency England while delivering a passionate love story.

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

Image credit- Megan- Seek My Scribbles

 

#CountingOnACountess

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review, Friendship, Romance

The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker – 5* Review – Jenni Keer @AvonBooksUK @JenniKeer

Meet Lucy, aged 25, and Brenda, aged 79. Neighbours, and unlikely friends.

Lucy Baker is not your usual 25-year-old. She is more at home reading and knitting in her cluttered little flat than going out partying and socialising.

79-year-old Brenda is full of wise and wonderful advice, but when she’s diagnosed with dementia her life begins to change. Before her memories slip away forever, Brenda is desperate to fulfil one last wish – to see Lucy happy.

Gifting Lucy the locket that helped Brenda find her own true love, she hopes to push her reticent neighbour in the right direction. But is Lucy Baker ready for the opportunities and heartbreaks of the real world? It’s about time she put her knitting needles aside and found out…

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

I love that there are so many stories at the moment about cross-generational friendships, which portray older people in a positive light.

‘The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker’ is a lovely example of this type of story featuring Lucy aged 25 and Brenda aged 79 and their strong friendship, which provides the reader with humorous, magical and poignant moments.

Brenda has lived a full often glamorous life and is still a flamboyant character. However, it’s her kind nature that makes her stand out and what draws Lucy to her. Lucy is not typical of her generation, she finds everything in life difficult, lacks self-confidence for a variety of reasons and is still seeking that perfect someone, even though she pretends to everyone, including herself most of the time that she isn’t.

The plot see-saws between Lucy’s home and work life, with engaging characters in each, they are all very human; flawed and realistic, which makes the story believable too, even though it has a strong flavour of the extraordinary.

There’s romance for Lucy, family problems and work stresses. Brenda has to face some cruel realities, but helping Lucy onto her rightful life path makes her focus on the positives rather than the negatives, of her life.

Friendship, frailty and fun sum up this book, one that I would recommend to everyone.

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

Posted in Book Review, Romance

5* Review – Maisey Yates – The Spaniard’s Stolen Bride @maiseyyates @MillsandBoon

Stolen for the Spaniard’s inheritance…

Will her innocence be his undoing?

To notoriously ruthless Diego Navarro, kidnapping and marrying his brother’s shy fiancée seems a perfectly sensible way to secure his inheritance! Yet when Liliana Hart willingly goes with him Diego’s reluctantly intrigued… Though the heat of their marriage bed is scorching, it’s the intensity of their connection that pushes Diego to the edge. But is it powerful enough to redeem this dark-hearted billionaire?

Amazon UK

Read Cam and Matius’ romance in The Spaniard’s Untouched Bride.

My Thoughts…

I enjoyed reading Cam and Matius’ story in ‘The Spaniard’s Untouched Bride’, and I was interested to see what happens to Liliana, Matius’ Fiancee when she is kidnapped by his dark and dangerous brother Diego. Definitely an anti-hero Diego damaged by his father’s abuse, and haunted by the loss of his mother and pregnant first wife seeks only to cause destruction and hurt.

It seems he will stop at nothing to gain his Grandfather’s legacy, especially if it hurts his brother Matius, ‘the good one’. Kidnapping Liliana, Matius’ fiancee appears to be one more destructive act but his reasons are deeper than to gain his inheritance and hurt his brother, but is he prepared to explore what these reasons really mean?

Diego and Liliana’s romance is a learning curve for both of them. There is a strong sexual attraction, but this is underscored with emotional need, as they both discover through much angst and pain what love really is.  Liliana and Diego’s characters are flawed and realistic and their emotional journey fraught with conflict and self-realisation.,

Fast-paced and passionate this romantic story is an absorbing read, with a particularly poignant ending. 

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

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review, Horror Fiction, Indie

The Demon Seeds- 4*Review-Derek Muk

Taylor and Jan have an edgy, exhilarating and dangerous occupation: they’re monster hunters. While they’ve endured many strange adventures in their Southern California/Los Angeles area turf, their latest is as harrowing as it gets….for they are about to encounter the nefarious bubog, the demonic offspring of the cult leader Bubog, an entity carrying the seed of the Dark Prince himself, and he is trying to impregnate as many human women he could lay his hands on. While the intrepid monster hunters track the bubog down in an attempt to put an end to their evil scourge, Jan learns that her best friend, Carol, has been initiated into their cult and the two must save her before she too gives birth to one of these abominations. But can they save her? And can they rid our world forever of these diabolical Demon Seeds before it’s too late? 

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

This is a short read, it took me about half an hour to complete, and so it’s the perfect book for reading on your phone. I haven’t read any of ‘The Occult Files of Albert Taylor’ but it is easy to get into, so important for short stories.

There is an interesting relationship between Taylor and his graduate student Jan,  who is clever but full of youthful innocence. There is a sense of Taylor studying her because a couple of times he talks about capturing her actions or expression in a photograph.

The writing is atmospheric and image-driven. It reads, like a graphic novel without the pictures, and its fast pace builds tension and enhances the action sequences. The monster hunters are akin to the demon hunters in the ‘Supernatural’ series and will appeal to readers who enjoy this type of fiction. 

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

 

Derek Muk is a writer and social worker from California. His short stories have appeared in various online and small press magazines, including New Realm, Cheapjack Pulp, Ink Stains Anthology, Nebula Rift, 9 Tales, Story of the Month Club, Cranial Leakage, The Haunted Academy (Novella-Midnight Frost Books), Fiction On The Web, Whispers From The Past: Fright and Fear (anthology), Dark Eclipse, The Dead Walk (anthology), 13 Magazine, Diabolic Tales 3, Both Barrels of Legends of the Monster Hunter I and II, The Trigger Reflex: Legends of the Monster Hunter II (anthology), Suffer the Little Children (anthology), Splatter: An Anthology of Horror, Death Rattle, Dark Things II (Anthology), Anthology of Ichor: Hearts of Darkness, Twisted Tongue Magazine, Static Movement, Sex and Murder Magazine,  Sinister Tales, Night to Dawn, M-Brane SF, Sonar4 E-Zine, The Ethereal Gazette, 7th Dimension Magazine, Switchblade Magazine, ESC! Magazine, Scorched Wings Magazine, Hardboiled, Masque Noir, Detective Mystery Stories, Dawnsky, The Pinehurst Journal, Mystery Forum Magazine, The Green Queen, Kracked Mirror Mysteries, Golden Visions Magazine, Crossroads Magic, The Street Corner Magazine, Calliope Magazine, Unspoken Water, Space and Time Magazine, Infernal Ink Magazine, Tales of the Talisman Magazine, Aurora Wolf, The Horror Zine Magazine, Disturbed Digest, and Parabnormal Digest.
 
He has three chapbooks published: Three Parts, The Sacrifice and Other Stories, and Sin After Sin. In addition to writing, he enjoys reading, travelling, museums, art, dining out, and meeting new people. He has a bachelors and masters degree in social work. 
 
“The Occult Files of Albert Taylor” is his first full-length collection of short stories.

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Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Murder Mystery

Murder at Larkfield Barn – Betty Rowlands – 5*Review @bookouture @BettyRowlandsFP

Bright mornings and brisk walks… spring has arrived in the Cotswolds. But the atmosphere is positively wintery in Upper Benbury after a series of murders shake the close-knit community.

Since her move to the country, Melissa Craig has become firmly established in village life. So, when one of the older residents fails to show up for a drinks party, Melissa goes to check on her. What she finds chills her to the bone: her dear neighbour has been murdered, and the killer has painted a hideous smile onto her face…

Melissa soon realises that the death in her village bears the same trademark as a series of recent murders in the Cotswolds. When will The Smiler strike again?

With a dangerous killer on the loose, Melissa realises she needs to solve this case quickly. But as she starts to look closely at the people around her, she realises the killer may be closer to home than she could ever have imagined. What dark secrets are the villagers of Upper Benbury hiding? And can Melissa crack this deadly case before another life is taken?

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

I read Book Seven in the series out of sequence by mistake, the perils of starting a book at four o’clock in the morning when you can’t sleep. The upside to this being I can vouch that it reads well as a standalone, but this series is so entertaining that you want to read all the books.

This story is darker and more personal to amateur sleuth, crime writer Melissa Craig. Discovering the body of a friend and neighbour has a believable, profound effect on Melissa, which means she is reticent to be at the forefront of the investigation. Aside from the murder mystery, this book marks a turning point for both Iris, her close friend and neighbour and Melissa.

The characters are numerous and varied and this is perhaps one of the most difficult mysteries to solve. It does have its lighthearted moments, but there is also an air of menace not present in earlier books coupled with an overriding sense of loss and poignancy.

Despite the change in ethos, this story is as enjoyable as previous books, just deeper and more personal for the main character. Left on an emotional cliffhanger, I eagerly await Book 8 ‘Murder in Langley Woods.’

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

 

 

Posted in Book Review, Holiday Romance, Romance, Travel Blogging

A Greek Affair- 5* Review – Linn B. Halton – @HarperImpulse @LinnBHalton

More than just a holiday romance?

Her daughter, her job and divorcing her untrustworthy ex are Leah’s main priorities. She isn’t really bothered that her life might be missing a few things. But after winning a prestigious travel blogger award, she’s inundated with offers to review glamorous holiday destinations. Lying around drinking exotic cocktails and being paid for it! What could be better? Perhaps a romantic trip to idyllic Greece to find the one man who might make Leah risk her heart again…

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

For Leah, the last seven years have been hard. After her ex betrayed her in the worst possible way. She ignored her pain and used her anger to make sure her daughter was emotionally and materially secure. Winning a prestigious travel blogger award means she now has choices, and a blogging trip to Greece shows her she is more than a mother, but can she risk her heart and her daughter’s emotional safety on another man?  I like the originality of this story, The settings are interesting and vibrant. Harrison is a surprising character but proves important in Leah’s rebuilding of her self esteem and emotional health.

Daniel and Leah feel an instant attraction when they meet, but their road to happiness is fraught with conflict and both need to find the courage to achieve the happy ever after they both long for. That’s not all, the conflicts keep on coming, just like real life, but Leah’s bravery and love help her make the right decisions for Rosie, her daughter, and ultimately herself.

I don’t see this as an escapist read, it’s too full of emotion, real-life conflict and experiences, but it is so worth reading. 

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

 

Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Murder Mystery

Murder in the Orchard -Betty Rowlands- 5* Review @bookouture @BettyRowlandsFP

A beautiful house nestles in an orchard, where a blackbird sings at dawn each morning from a branch laden with rosy fruit… but underneath the trees, a body lies too still to be asleep.

Melissa Craig is struggling with her new novel, so when the invitation arrives to visit a nearby country house for some writing time, she decides a bit of peace and quiet is just what she needs. The house is everything she could have hoped for, even if the staff do seem rather unsettled…

She has barely unpacked when the owner of the house persuades Melissa to investigate some threatening notes he has received. But before she can do any digging, he is found murdered in his own orchard.

As she starts to probe further, Melissa realises that the dead man was universally disliked. Controlling, tight with money and nasty, he certainly made some enemies. But who could have hated him enough to resort to murder? His seemingly timid wife, the secretary with whom he previously had an affair or perhaps the gardener with an old secret?

With the police looking for an outsider, Melissa is sure the murderer is close at hand. But can she prove it? And can she unmask the killer before they strike again?

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Another enjoyable instalment of the Melissa Craig Mysteries. I’ve read all of them so far and Melissa is an engaging sleuth and memorable character. There is a definite flavour of the early Nineties in this series, but it adds to the ambience and authenticity. 

Melissa is worried about her relationship with  Detective Chief Inspector Ken Harris, is she ready for the commitment he seeks? The chance to visit a writers’ retreat seems the perfect opportunity to take time out and decide what she wants.  Things, of course, do not go to plan and she finds her investigative skills are needed.

Conspiracy, lies, murder and secrets provide a difficult mystery for the intrepid crime writer to solve and bring her into close contact with the very person she was avoiding. The plot is particularly twisty, with several people having excellent motives for murdering the victim and it takes all her skill and strength of character to discover the truth.

An entertaining, retro story, for everyone who enjoys authentic English murder mystery.

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