A boisterous, big-hearted, thoroughly modern family sagaset in Texas, in which marriages struggle, rivalries flare andsecrets explode.
When March Briscoe returns to East Texas two years after he was caught having an affair with his brother’s wife, the Briscoe family becomes once again the talk of the small town of Olympus. His mother, June, hardly welcomes him back with open arms. Her husband’s own past affairs have made her tired of being the long-suffering spouse. Is it, perhaps, time for a change?
But within days of March’s arrival, someone is dead, marriages are upended, and even the strongest of alliances are shattered. In the end, the ties that hold them together might be exactly what drag them all down.
Olympus, Texas combines the archetypes of Greek and Roman mythology with the psychological complexity of a messy family. After all, at some point, we all wonder: what good is this destructive force we call love?
A big-hearted debut with technicolour characters, plenty of Texas swagger, a powder keg of a plot, Olympus, Texas is filled with all the ingredients of a great American novel: big family, dark secrets, adultery, betrayal, messy relationships, rage, grace, shocking revelations, addiction, pain and redemption. Perfect for fans of Meg Wolitzer’s The Uncoupling, Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible andClaire Lombardo’s The Most Fun We Ever Had.
I received a copy of this book from W&N Books in return for an honest review.
The story draws the reader into the Briscoe family’s life and the surrounding community, of Olympus Texas, with the first few pages of vivid description and vibrant characterisation. From the outset, it’s clear they are not a happy family, but despite this bound by powerfulemotions.
The parallels with mythological characters give the story added depth and interest. The family members are driven, and in most cases, unbending. Their behaviour mirrors the attitudes of the gods they represent.
The quotes, and chapters that explore the event that define the characters, are particularly illuminating. Whilst many of the characters are unlikeable, the story is addictive and compelling. The relatively fast pacing holds the reader’s interest.
This is an original blend of family drama and ancient mythology in a setting that complements both.
Stacey Swann holds an MFA from Texas State University and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. She is a native Texan. Olympus, Texas is her first novel and will be published in the USA by Doubleday Books in May 2021.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus -Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is an addictive historical ganglit with the indomitable Georgina Garrett desperate for release from Holloway Prison to reclaim her children and get revenge on her enemies. With WW2 still raging when Georgina returns to Battersea, she has to regroup and diversify to achieve her aims with grit and tenacity, meeting violence with violence.
This is a well-written story with vivid characters and a menacing ethos. It captures the gangland era dynamic and personalities in an intricate plot with unexpected twists.
Guest post- Sam Michaels – Siren
Thanks for taking the time to read my post and thank you to Jane for inviting to me contribute to her fabulous website.
I’m thrilled that Siren is now out in the big wide world and I can’t wait for you to read it! This is the fourth book in the Georgina Garrett series. The first, Trickster, begins on the day that WW1 is declared. And then Rivals is next which is set just before the outbreak of WW2. Vixen and Siren follow Georgina’s life through the turbulent and challenging times of worn-torn Britain.
Although my gangland sagas are fictional, I like the facts to be historically correct so I’ve spent many hours researching the history of these times and read hundreds of personal memories of the Blitz. The things that I’ve learned have been both fascinating and heart-wrenching. Tales of rations, shortages and the blackouts are bad enough but the stories of bombs raining down on cities across the country are horrendous. The Blitz began in September 1940 and for fifty-seven consecutive nights, London was bombarded by the Luftwaffe’s bombs. Over three hundred planes would fly across the city, destroying a third of London and killing and injuring thousands. The accounts of the people whose memories I read makes me wish that I’d asked my grandparents more about their personal experiences of being Londoners living through the war.
But it wasn’t all fear and gloom. One of the overwhelming feelings that I got from my research was the sense of community and coming together that the war seemed to bring. I loved reading about the impressive strength of the British resolve and I found the make do and mend attitude admirable. Also, with the men away fighting the enemy, women found a place in the workforce doing the jobs that men once did. This was a huge shift from the traditional role of the stay-at-home housewife and mother though in most jobs, women weren’t paid the same rate as the men had been. Mothers had to quickly adapt a new way of life. For many, their children had been evacuated to safer homes in the countryside away from the nightly air raid sirens, explosions and fires. Food shortages meant that they had to be inventive with new recipes. Even stockings were hard to come by so ladies might use gravy browning to colour their legs and draw a line up the back to imitate a seam. With homes being destroyed all around them, lives being lost, their husbands and sons in foreign, treacherous lands and sleepless nights in air raid shelters, it does make me wonder how people today would cope if we were thrown into the same situation.
In Siren, the book opens with Georgina behind bars in Holloway prison. During my research, I was shocked and horrified to discover some of the facts about prison life for women at this time. And not just women. Holloway Prison also held German-Jewish refugee children incarcerated with their mothers. It was a time of deep suspicion of anyone German which was transposed onto the German-Jews who came to Britain when fleeing death from Hitler. I was equally shocked to find out that Sir Oswald Mosely, the leader of the British Union of Fascists, was also held prisoner at Holloway. Under Winston Churchill’s orders, Mosely was detained with his wife, Diana, in a house within the grounds of the prison. They even had women prisoners to wait on them and they were allowed to order deliveries from Harrods!
So when you read my books, you’ll find bits of background information weaved throughout which are fact, not fiction. For instance, the meagre breakfasts in the prison, the continual bombing of London, the firewomen on motorbikes… all these things and many more are true stories.
I really hope that you enjoy reading my books as much as I enjoyed writing them! And, by the way, this isn’t the last that you’ll hear of Georgina… I’m halfway through writing the fifth book in the series.
ON A WILD AND WINDSWEPT ISLAND, THE SECRETS OF THE PAST UNRAVEL…
When she hears the news of the death of her ex-husband, Binnie feels like her tranquil life in the West Country is over.
To her surprise, she discovers that he has left her the island in the beautiful archipelago off the coast of Cornwall and the dilapidated house where he spent his childhood, and Binnie has to take her family to the island – revisiting it for the first time in years – and work out what to do.
As she becomes involved in the life of the island, and its inhabitants, she has to embark upon a whole new life and discovers many things about her husband – and her own past – that will change everything forever…
I received a copy of this book from Random House UK, Transworld Publishers- via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This story’s setting and ethos are slightly dated. If you accept its retro quality, the characters are delightfully eccentric, and the setting is a dramatic backdrop for this story of life, love and secrets. The pacing is gentle, and you get to know the characters well. It is an engaging blend of drama, friendship, mystery and romance.
If you are looking for an insight into a time and way of life gone by, this book will take you there.
While World War Two rages on around them, the gangs of London are fighting for their turf…
There might be a war on, but that doesn’t stop Georgina Garrett running her business with an iron fist. No one said running the Battersea gang was going to be easy, but her unflinchable nature makes Georgina unstoppable.
With a role that requires a ruthless ability to seek revenge and pay out crippling punishments, Georgina’s enemies are growing in number. With a target on her back, Georgina knows she must do everything to protect her family. But, with the loss of someone closest to her, can Georgina rise up from the ashes or allow a usurper take her crown?
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus -Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Like many books set in WW2, this story is atmospheric and full of historical detail. Georgina Garrett and her gang adapt to wartime Battersea. Georgina engenders mixed feelings in the reader. Her loyalty and willingness to provide for those she takes under her wing is admirable. Conversely, she isn’t afraid of using violence and committing crimes to ensure she protects her own and continues their way of life.
Georgina faces resentment and threats. Her love of her family make her vulnerable, yet this love is what makes her easy to empathise. Authentic, multifaceted characters drive an action and conflict rich plot.
The surprising ending leaves you wondering what next?
Guest post- Sam Michaels -Vixen
Hello, I’m Sam Michaels, author of the Georgina Garrett series of books.
Firstly, I’d like to say a big thank you to Jane for featuring me on her wonderful blog site. I was thrilled when she invited me to write a guest post about my latest book, Vixen.
As many readers will know, Vixen is the third book in the Georgina Garrett series. It follows Trickster and Rivals. Way back when WW1 broke in Britain, Trickster began with Georgina being born into a life of poverty, living in the slums of Battersea in south west London. Throughout the book, we watched Georgina, or George as she was known then, overcome adversity to grow into a beautiful young woman. But a woman with a fierce and ruthless streak that would bode well for her life in the criminal underworld. She proved herself a force to be reckoned with but it wasn’t easy, especially facing her biggest enemy, the twisted Billy Wilcox.
In Rivals, during the pre-war years of WW2, Georgina really comes into her own as she heads up the criminal gang running Battersea. But as you’d expect, there are many who think they can do a better job than a woman and are ready to bring her down.
Vixen picks up the story at the outbreak of WW2. Georgina exploits any opportunities that come along when a country is at war, but she also has a kind heart and fair morals, offering help when she can to those in need. But in Vixen, there’s more than just London under attack – so is Georgina and she also faces unimaginable heartbreak.
For anyone enjoying this series, you’ll be pleased to know there is more on the way, five books in total. I’m currently writing book 4 and without giving too much away, I can tell you this book is going to see Georgina facing a whole new set of challenges, including fighting for her children. She’ll meet some colourful characters along the way who will take her into a whole new world of criminality, one with bigger gains but bigger risks to boot. And what will become of Georgina’s relationship with David Maynard? You’ll have to wait and see.
Whilst writing this series, I’ve grown ever so fond of Georgina and I think her audience has too. I even had a comment from a chap who said he’d love to work for her! I believe it’s because we can all relate to aspects of her personality. Granted, she’s a killer, but somehow, the murders she commits or orders feel justified. She’s intensely protective of her loved ones, a worthy trait, and though she has a tough exterior, there’s a vulnerability about her that we see glimpses of now and again. At the end of the day, everything Georgina does is driven by a desire to make life better for those around her. And like many other women, she feels the need to be loved, albeit on her terms.
With book 5 in the pipeline, time will move forward and you’ll discover more about Georgina’s children. As someone recently said to me, ‘Strong women have strong women.’ And that is very true for Georgina Garrett!
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
‘The Final Trail’, is book five in ‘The Trail Series’ set predominately in Birmingham. I haven’t read the previous books in the series, but I enjoyed this one, as the characters are well written and there is sufficient back story.
The immersive, intense writing style makes it easy to connect with the characters and work out their motivations and relationships. The short chapters each from a main characters point of view, lets the reader see developments from several points of view.
Business, family and politics are the points of conflict. The suspense building is good, especially around the political aspects involving Erik. This story explores many areas of life. Business crime, family, love and politics, are all fused into an adrenaline-packed story.
Reading this book makes me want to read the whole series.
THE LAST EDITION OF TENSE CRIME THRILLERSERIES SET IN BIRMINGHAM
RECEIVES CITY CENTRE LAUNCH
Birmingham has well and truly been put on the crime thriller map with the success of the TV series Peaky Blinders but for bookworms amongst us, the popular Trail Series has long brought readers into the modern-day 21st century with its tense storylines, murder and intrigue set in and around the city.
The Trail series features a vodka business, a cancer cure and obsessive killers. Every book is a good read in its own right – each is a great crime story with terrific twists to keep the tension mounting – but together, they follow the same characters over several years.
The Trail series author AA Abbott also known as Helen Blenkinsop has been compared with the likes of Ruth Rendell, John Grisham and Jeffrey Archer. She lived and studied in Birmingham for nearly 20 years and her passion and love for the city became the inspiration for the Trail series.
Now, after four successful editions, the last storyline will be revealed in the publication of THE FINAL TRAIL which will be launched in Birmingham on 28th October.
In the last book …”Glamorous Kat White has built a successful craft vodka brand in Birmingham, but she has an uneasy relationship with her business partner, Marty Bridges. Her mother had previously supplied with poisonous vodka. Marty doesn’t trust Kat, resents having to depend on her for commercial success, and isn’t thrilled that his eldest son wants to marry her. That’s not his biggest problem, though. He’s trying to develop a cancer drug with Kat’s brother, Erik, and it’s draining money he doesn’t have. Just as he finds an investor with pockets deep enough to fund their research, Erik is lured to the former Soviet Union and thrown into jail. Meanwhile, Ben Halloran, who killed his father to save Kat’s life, is faced with the twin risks of a murder charge and his brother’s deep-seated desire for revenge. Can Ben escape with his life and liberty? And can Marty save both Erik and his business – and learn to trust Kat?”
Helen said“I’ve been writing about these amazing characters for over 5 years, so you can imagine, they have become a part of my life. It’s been a great journey and they have come through so many storylines that it feels right for them to achieve their dreams at last.”
Most of the action in THE FINAL TRAIL takes place across the city and features the famous Rose Villa Tavern and 1,000 Trades in the Jewellery Quarter; The Mailbox, home to the BBC in Birmingham, Holloway Head by the famous Pagoda Island and locations in Harborne and Edgbaston.
Helen added, “It’s going to be very sad to launch the last book as the stories and characters have built up such a following but it will give me the opportunity to weave new and exciting tales – I have so many ideas buzzing in my head.”
THE FINAL TRAIL is a perfect read for those who like a fast-paced crime thriller combined with suspense, humour and plot twists. It’s ideal to take away on holiday and provides a great read during the autumn/winter nights.
THE FINAL TRAIL will be available to order from Amazon in e-book, paperback and dyslexia-friendly format from Monday 28th October 2019.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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 complexcharacters well and makes this a page-turning chapter of a compelling crime series.
Guest Post – Sam Michaels- The Birth of a Ruthless Woman
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.
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.
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.
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.
hubby was flabbergasted and so was I – Trickster just needed to be written now.
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.
so much more for Georgina to yet experience – and I can’t wait to share it with
you in the coming books!
Sam Michaels lives in Spain with her family and a plethora of animals. Having been writing for years Trickster is her debut novel. FacebookTwitter
ruthless is to be powerful, at least it is on the Battersea streets…
Georgina Garrett was
born to be ruthless and she’s about to earn her reputation.
As World War One is
announced a baby girl is born. Little do people know that she’s going to grow
up to rule the streets of Battersea. From a family steeped in poverty the only
way to survive is with street smarts.
With a father who steals
for a living, a grandmother who’s a woman of the night and a mother long dead,
Georgina was never in for an easy life. But after a tragic event left her
father shaken he makes a decision that will change the course of all their
lives – to raise Georgina as George, ensuring her safety but marking the start
of her life of crime…
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Set in the early 20th-century ‘Trickster’ follows the fortunes of Georgina Garrett from her birth in 1914 when England declared war on Germany. Georgina knows tragedy from her first breath, she is no stranger to loss and falls foul of the depravity she is born into, despite the love and protection of her family.
This historical crime saga is characterised by well-researched historical detail, which brings the story to life. It’s easy to imagine the poverty, depravity and violence of the London slums. The writing is full of vivid imagery and dialogue which gives it an authentic feel.
The characters are believable and even though many of them are criminals, they are easy to empathise. Many are victims of circumstance, they commit crimes and act violently to survive. The strong family bond essential for gangland crime fiction is evident in this story, and it is this that makes it such an absorbing read.
The abuse, language and violence are graphic, but not gratuitous. They make this story an authentic reading experience, but there will be times when you will cringe or want to look away.
The plot is well- written and has many twists, that shape Georgina Garrett and her future self. The underlying theme of the story is based on a misnomer, which gives this story a refreshing uniqueness. This is an accomplished debut story and I look forward to reading book two.
Q&A with Sam Michaels – TricksterI
Sagas are popular in romantic fiction, but your story is a crime-based saga, what inspired you to write this? Are all the stories historically based?
I’ve always enjoyed sagas, been interested in early 20th- century history and fascinated with the criminal underworld. So, it made sense for me to combine the three, hence, Trickster was born. It’s been a good outlet for my ghastly imagination!
The stories in the Georgina Garrett series of books are historically based, though as they progress, the last one will end in the ’60s and ’70s.
When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?
My main character always comes first, along with a small scenario which sets the scene for the rest of the book. I think the character comes first as I believe this is the most important part of the story. Good, strong characters make good stories!
Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?
My characters are mostly from my imagination although I do bring in aspects of real-life people I know. To make them realistic, I find myself acting out each character’s point of view – their voices, facial expressions and sometimes even their body movements. Obviously, I do all this in my head as I don’t want my husband to think I’m a lunatic!
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
I’m a fan of true stories, especially tales of triumph over hardship or really gory crime. I’ve recently discovered Bill Bryson books which are not my normal ilk but I’m finding them very amusing and interesting.
When did you start writing? What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?
I’ve been writing for the past few years since I moved from the UK to Spain. The best thing about being a writer is knowing that your work is bringing pleasure to someone, and that could be anywhere in the world. The worst thing is being sat indoors in front of my computer when the sun is shining outside.
What are you currently writing?
I’m nearing the end of writing the first draft of the next book in the Georgina Garrett series. It’s been wonderful to dip back into the first book and bring out some of the lesser characters and give them a more prominent role in this story.
Sam Michaels lives in Spain with her family and a plethora of animals. Having been writing for years Trickster is her debut novel.
Extract from Trickster – Book 1 – Georgina Garrett series – Sam Michaels
dunno what to do, Mum. She needs a feed…’
Dulcie chewed her lower lip as her mind turned but then struck by an idea she said, ‘Don’t worry, Jack, I know someone who might be able to help. There’s a jug of ale in the kitchen. Go and pour yourself a glass. I’ll be back as soon as I can.’
left her house and hurried along the narrow street with the wailing baby in her
arms. She could ill afford to feed Percy and herself, let alone this poor
little mite, and a wet nurse didn’t come cheap. However, if her idea panned
out, she wouldn’t have to part with a penny.
minutes later Dulcie was in the roughest part of town. This was an area where
no person of good virtue would dare to frequent. Women hung out of windows with
their bosoms on display, vying for business, while others were drunk, vomiting
openly in the filthy streets. In a dark corner behind a cart, Dulcie glimpsed a
woman bent over with her skirt up, a punter behind her, trousers round his
ankles as he pounded hard for his pleasure.
wasn’t the sort of place where Dulcie felt comfortable carrying a small baby.
She held her granddaughter protectively close to her and tried to muffle the
child’s screams in the hope of avoiding any unwanted attention.
sun was still high in the sky. Dulcie was grateful, as she would have been
worried if it had been dark. A short, skinny man with bare feet and a bent back
walked towards her. His leering eyes unnerved Dulcie and she could see he was
trying to peer at the child she held. He stood ominously in front of her,
blocking her path. If she hadn’t had been carrying Georgina, she wouldn’t have
given a second thought to kneeing him in the crotch.
an evil sneer, he licked his lips, nodded towards the baby and then asked, ‘How
‘This child is not for sale,’ Dulcie said firmly, then sidestepped the man and marched on. It was no secret that in these streets, any desire could be bought for the right price, but it turned Dulcie’s stomach. It wasn’t unusual for a prostitute to fall with an unwanted pregnancy, then sell the child on, no questions asked. Dulcie didn’t believe it was something any woman wanted to do, but the desperation of poverty forced them into it. Gawd knows where those helpless babies ended up, or what they went through, Dulcie thought and shuddered. She reckoned the women would be better off killing their babies – something she suspected her friend Ruby had recently resorted to.
had seen many young women turn to drugs or booze to numb the pain and block out
the memories of what they’d done. Some went out of their minds and ended up in
institutions, a fate worse than death, and it was something she didn’t want to
see happen to Ruby. The girl was only sixteen, with bright ginger hair and a
sprinkling of freckles across her nose. Her fair skin was the colour of
porcelain, so when she’d turned up on the streets one day her purple and yellow
bruises had really stood out.
had taken her under her wing and learned that Ruby was homeless after running
away from her abusive father. Her mother had died when Ruby was seven, and her
father had forced her into his bed to fulfil the role of his wife. When he’d
filled her belly with a child, he’d beaten her until she miscarried, then
thrown her out to fend for herself.
did her best to protect the girl and would steer her away from the customers
she knew had a liking for wanting to rough up the women, but it hadn’t been
long before she’d noticed that Ruby was trying to hide a growing bump in her
stomach. She’d had a quiet word with her and found that Ruby was distraught,
fearing her secret would be discovered and she’d be sent to the workhouse.
Dulcie felt sorry for the girl but, struggling herself to make enough money to
live on, she could only offer a shoulder to cry on.
than a week ago and well into her pregnancy, Ruby disappeared, but then she’d
turned up again two days ago, her stomach flat. She refused to discuss the fate
of the baby, but Dulcie noticed her demeanour had changed. Where once she’d
been a chatty young woman with a wicked sense of humour, she was now mostly
silent, her eyes veiled in a darkness that Dulcie couldn’t penetrate.
lived in the basement of a shared house at the end of the street. It was
decrepit, with the roof caved in and the stairs to the upper level broken.
Dulcie thought the whole house looked unsound and had never been inside, but
she had to speak to Ruby and hoped to find her in. She took a deep breath and
braced herself for what she may find, then slowly walked down the stairs that
led to the basement door. It was open, so with trepidation, she stepped inside.