Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Fantasy, Mystery, Noir, Political Thriller

Million Eyes C.R.Berry 4 * #Review @CRBerry1 @elsewhenpress #BlogTour #SFF @rararesources #SpeculativeFiction #Conspiracy #thriller #BookReview

How do you fight an enemy who has a million eyes?

What if we’re living in an alternate timeline? What if the car crash that killed Princess Diana, the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, and the shooting of King William II weren’t supposed to happen?

Ex-history teacher Gregory Ferro finds evidence that a cabal of time travellers is responsible for several key events in our history. These events all seem to hinge on a dry textbook published in 1995, referenced in a history book written in 1977 and mentioned in a letter to Edward III in 1348.

Ferro teams up with down-on-her-luck graduate Jennifer Larson to get to the truth and discover the relevance of a book that seems to defy the arrow of time. But the time travellers are watching closely. Soon the duo is targeted by assassins willing to rewrite history to bury them.

Million Eyes is a fast-paced conspiracy thriller about power, corruption and destiny.

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

My Thoughts…

A delicious fusion of conspiracy, crime, history and time-travel science fiction.

Science fiction is not a genre I read, but this story focuses on an intriguing conspiracy theory. It is easy to understand, and if you open your mind to the fantasy, plausible enough to hold your interest. A quirky duo of historical detectives takes on a menacing ominous power that is at war with human history.

The historical connections and flashbacks, give the story its depth and kept me reading. The dynamic between the history teacher and the history graduate is believable. They are complex and flawed, and very much the underdogs. You want them to find out the truth, and as the story progresses you want them to survive.

Engaging, intelligently written and page-turning.

C.R. Berry

C.R. Berry caught the writing bug at the tender age of four and has never recovered. His earliest stories were filled with witches, monsters, evil headteachers, Disney characters and the occasional Dalek. He realised pretty quickly that his favourite characters were usually the villains. He wonders if that’s what led him to become a criminal lawyer. It’s certainly why he’s taken to writing conspiracy thrillers, where the baddies are numerous and everywhere.

After a few years getting a more rounded view of human nature’s darker side, he quit lawyering and turned to writing full-time. He now works as a freelance copywriter and novelist and blogs about conspiracy theories, time travel and otherworldly weirdness.

He was shortlisted in the 2018 Grindstone Literary International Novel Competition and has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Storgy, Dark Tales, Theme of Absence and Suspense Magazine. He was also shortlisted in the Aeon Award Contest, highly commended by Writers’ Forum, and won second prize in the inaugural To Hull and Back Humorous Short Story Competition.

He grew up in Farnborough, Hampshire, a town he says has as much character as a broccoli. He’s since moved to the “much more interesting and charming” Haslemere in Surrey.

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Posted in Book Spotlight, Guest post, Mystery, Romantic Comedy

The Cornish Secret of Summer's Promise Laura Briggs #GuestPost @PaperDollWrites @rararesources #ALittleHotelinCornwall #RomCom #Cornwall #PublicationDay

As spring slips away from the hotel Penmarrow, excitement builds for an exclusive auction hosted at the hotel, featuring priceless possessions from a Hollywood actress turned lady of the manor, including her famous diamonds. Celebrities and collectors form a crowd that is keeping Maisie and the rest of staff busy, even as Maisie faces a crossroads for her manuscript.

But when the diamonds are stolen and Sidney is accused by the authorities, Maisie’s dilemma as a writer is pushed aside out of fear that his future in Port Hewer is in jeopardy. Desperation to prove that someone else is behind the theft will lead Maisie to uncover a very different secret outside of jewel thieves and village rumours… one that could change her life and her future forever.

Can Maisie deal with the latest secrets exposed — including those that paint Sidney’s past in a questionable light? And as summer’s dawn alters her idyllic life in Cornwall, will Maisie’s feelings for Sidney change as well?

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Guest Post Laura Briggs Fun Facts about My Romance Series ‘A Little Hotel in Cornwall’

Thank you so much to Jane for letting me stop by and share with her lovely readers today. It’s publication day for Book Four in my Cornish romance series about aspiring author Maisie who finds herself working at a historic hotel by the sea. This latest instalment is filled with romance, secrets, and even a bit of mystery—and I thought it might be rather exciting to share with you some of the fun facts behind the story’s creation. So here goes:

  • The concept for a plucky young American woman entangled with a daring theft on foreign shores was inspired partly by the 1989 TV movie adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The Man in the Brown Suit. It, too, features a ‘fish out of water’ scenario for a daring young heroine, a grand and mysterious foreign adventure, and a rugged, British love interest with a little bit of mystery in his past! Blake Edwards’ 1960’s comedy The Pink Panther was another influence, especially for Maisie’s latest brush with jewel thieves, along with the Road to Avonlea season four episode “The Disappearance” guest starring Diana Rigg and Robby Benson. I really love daring adventure stories with romantic settings and a touch of mystery, as you can see!
  • References to Doctor Who abound in my Cornish series, since both Maisie and her would-be love interest Sidney are huge fans of the classic science fiction show.  But there’s a more subtle nod to the franchise in this book, with the choice of ‘Eccleston’ as a surname for the silent film star whose possessions are being auctioned at the hotel—the same last name as that of the actor who portrayed the 9th incarnation of the Doctor in the 2005 series revival (the very first series of Doctor Who that I ever watched, in fact!).
  • The jewelled dragon mentioned among the famous actresses’ collection in the story was inspired by the one featured in the 1991 Disney television movie Bejewelled, while the theft of a diamond necklace harkens back to the 1981 classic The Great Muppet Caper. Both of them are films that remind us that a little bit of mystery can pop up in any kind of story.
  • The character of Detective Anson is a nod to such classic literary investigators as Lord Peter Wimsey, Maigret, and Hercule Poirot. Every classic genre mystery has a distinctive, inscrutable investigator at its heart, after all.
  •   The Lady Marverly novel that pops up in the hands of various characters throughout the story is meant to be a (rather obvious) reference to the ‘bodice ripper’ type paperbacks one used to see for sale in supermarkets, often featuring the male model Fabio on the cover. I thought it would be nice to pay subtle tribute to the original ‘standard’ in romance literature that everybody has seen, with its memorable and oh-so unmistakable hunky male models on its covers!

So hopefully these fun facts will make you curious enough to check out Maisie’s newest adventure, as well as the rest of the series. The first four stories are available in eBook format, with book five currently on pre-order!

#LauraBriggs

Laura Briggs is the author of several feel-good romance reads, including the Top 100 Amazon UK seller ‘A Wedding in Cornwall’. She has a fondness for vintage style dresses (especially ones with polka dots), and reads everything from Jane Austen to modern day mysteries. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, caring for her pets, gardening, and seeing the occasional movie or play.

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#GiveawayPrize
Giveaway  – 3 Winners to win a ‘surprise’ three-dimensional pop-up card & receive a digital copy of Book One, A Little Hotel in Cornwall. (Open INT)

Each winner will receive a ‘surprise’ three-dimensional pop-up card handcrafted by an Etsy artist and bearing a clue about the next book in Laura Briggs’ Cornish romance series. The winners will also receive a digital copy of Book One, A Little Hotel in Cornwall.

Click on Giveaway Link to enter

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Giveaway Link above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for the fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Saga

A Home From Home Veronica Henry 5* #Review @veronica_henry @orionbooks #Lifestyle #Relationships #Secrets #ContemporaryFiction #FamilyDrama #Saga #BookReview

#AHomeFromHome

Curl up with a heartwarming family drama of love, cider and family secrets…

Dragonfly Farm has been a home and a haven for generations of Melchiors – arch-rivals to the Culbones, the wealthy family who live on the other side of the river. Life there is dictated by the seasons and cider-making, and everyone falls under its spell.

For cousins Tabitha and Georgia, it has always been a home from home. When a tragedy befalls their beloved Great-Uncle Matthew, it seems the place where they’ve always belonged might now belong to them…

But the will reveals that a third of the farm has also been left to a Culbone. Gabriel has no idea why he’s been included, or what his connection to the farm – or the Melchiors – can be.

As the first apples start to fall for the cider harvest, will Dragonfly Farm begin to give up its secrets?

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

My Thoughts…

You can almost smell the apples in the orchard, the descriptions are so real, in this lovely family saga set in Somerset.

The plot is layered and stretches across the generations, as the loves, losses, relationships and secrets of two warring families are revealed. Complex, relatable characters bring this story to life. The setting is rural and vividly described, and is interwoven with the history and the lives of the characters, it’s a character in itself.

The perfect read for a cold winter’s afternoon.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Mystery, Paranormal, Young Adult

Monkey Arkwright Rob Campbell 4*#Review @monkeyarkwright @rararesources #BookReview #BlogTour #mystery #ComingofAge #Teen #YoungAdult #WardensoftheBlackHeart#1

#MonkeyArkwright

Budding writer Lorna Bryson is struggling to come to terms with the recent death of her father when she meets Monkey Arkwright, the boy who loves to climb. The two strike up an immediate rapport and Monkey challenges her to write about him, claiming that he can show her things that are worth writing about.

True to his word, Lorna is catapulted into Monkey’s world of climbing and other adventures in the churches, woodlands and abandoned places in and around their home town of Culverton Beck.

When the two teenagers find an ancient coin in the woods, claims from potential owners soon flood in, including the mysterious Charles Gooch, who is adamant that the coin is his. But this is only the opening act in a much larger mystery that has its roots in some dark deeds that took place more than a century earlier.

Combining their talents, Lorna and Monkey set about fitting the pieces together in a tale of budding friendship, train-obsessed simpletons, the shadow of Napoleon and falling pianos.

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

My Thoughts…

A curious couple of youngsters are drawn together and into a strange and rather dark mystery, with supernatural elements. The characters in this book are complex and quirky, adding to their appeal, and allowing them to view events in a different light from the norm. The plot is detailed and fits together nicely, it is layered without appearing convoluted and is resolved well.

Both teenagers have sadness in their lives, and perhaps they see this similarity in each other and that’s what makes them friends. They both have strengths and weaknesses, but like all successful partnerships, together they are strong and successful.

An engaging, original mystery with wonderfully individual characters and interesting potential for further stories.

#RobCampbell

Rob Campbell was born in the blue half of Manchester.

He studied Electrical & Electronic Engineering at Manchester Polytechnic, gaining an honours degree, but the fact that he got a U in his Chemistry O-Level helps to keep him grounded.

Having had a belly full of capacitors and banana plugs, on graduation he transferred his skills to software engineering. He still writes code by day, but now he writes novels by night. Listing his pastimes in no particular order, he loves music, reading and holidays, but he is partial to the words and music of Bruce Springsteen.

His favourite authors are David Morrell, Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch & Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

He lives in Manchester with his wife and two daughters.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Mystery, Noir, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Thriller

#Payback Gemma Rogers 5* #Review @BoldwoodBooks @GemmaRogers79 #BoldwoodBloggers #CrimeFiction #thriller #PsychologicalThriller #Suspense #Revenge #Secrets #Lies #noir #BlogTour #BookReview #PublicationDay

#Payback

A dark secret and a deadly score to settle…
In 1997 teenager Sophie White and her three girlfriends decide they want to lose their innocence before summer is over.
Roping in her childhood buddy Gareth and his mates, Sophie holds a party to get ‘the deed’ over and done with, but the night doesn’t end as planned.
Twenty years later, the group are brought back together when Gareth is killed in a car accident and Sophie begins receiving threatening messages. It seems the party wasn’t as innocent as everyone thought and now someone wants payback.

A gripping, highly addictive game of cat and mouse where the past comes back with vengeance. 

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

My Thoughts…

A teenage party starts to have repercussions, over twenty years later, with fatal, and sinister results. There is a steady build-up of drama, plenty of psychological suspense and an underlying ethos of menace, as Sophie’s life disintegrates, even though she tries to carry on as normal.

A dark. pacy thriller, with complex characters, who harbour lies and secrets, from their past. The seemingly innocent event that happened in their teenage life, has sinister echoes. Someone wants revenge, but for what?

The story is told from Sophie’s point of view, as a teenager in the past, and a present-day adult. A plot, full of twists reveals just enough clues, to the mystery and antagonist, as it progresses. The characters are authentic and relatable, and the ending packs a punch and doesn’t disappoint.

#GemmaRogers

Gemma Rogers was inspired to write gritty thrillers by a traumatic event in her own life nearly twenty years ago. Stalker is her debut novel which Boldwood will publish in September 2019 and marks the beginning of a new writing career.  Gemma lives in West Sussex with her husband, two daughters and bulldog Buster.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Friendship, Guest post, Saga

The Place We Call Home Faith Hogan 5*#Review @GerHogan @Aria_Fiction #FamilyDrama #Secrets #SmallTown #BlogTour #GuestPost #Lies #Irish #Fiction #Rural #saga #coastal #Ireland #Friendship #PublicationDay

#APlaceWeCallHome

Welcome to Ballycove, the home of Corrigan Mills…

Set against the backdrop of the beautiful Irish countryside the famed mills have created the finest wool in all of Ireland. Run by the seemingly perfect Corrigan family, but every family has its secrets, and how the mills came to be the Corrigan’s is one of them…

Miranda and her husband were never meant to own the mills until one fateful day catapults them into a life they never thought they’d lead.

Ada has forever lived her life in her sister’s shadow. Wanting only to please her mother and take her place as the new leader of the mill, Ada might just have to take a look at what her heart really wants.

Callie has a flourishing international career as a top designer and a man who loves her dearly, she appears to have it all. When a secret is revealed and she’s unceremoniously turfed out of the design world, Callie might just get what’s she’s been yearning for. The chance to go home.

Simon has always wanted more. More money, more fame, more notoriety. The problem child. Simon has made more enemies than friends over the years, and when one of his latest schemes falls foul he’ll have to return to the people who always believe in him.

Ballycove isn’t just a town in the Irish countryside. It isn’t just the base of the famous mills. It’s a place to call home.

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

My Thoughts…

A family saga set in Western Ireland. The setting is vivid and provides the perfect ethos for this story. Family secrets, love, lies, hardship, loss, and after much angst and drama, the light at the end of the tunnel, make this a poignant but ultimately satisfying story. This immersive read draws the reader into a quintessentially Irish way of life, with a solid plot, that showcases the spectrum of human emotions. Authentic, complex characters and a chance to escape into another world.

This is a story to be savoured, the pace is gentle and you get to know the characters well, both in the past and present. Not all of them are likeable, but this is a reflection of life, so you wouldn’t expect them to be.

The mill is the lifeblood of the community, a character on its own. It witnesses so much, over the years, and is the source of happiness, sadness, poverty and riches. The details of its running and historical significance give the book depth and make the story more believable.

A flowing family saga of life, love and lies, beautifully told.

Guest Post – Faith Hogan

Welcome to Ballycove….

I’m so delighted to visit Jane’s lovely blog today and to tell you about my new book – THE PLACE WE CALL HOME. If you’ve read my other books, you’ll know by now that I write uplifting stories, about friendship, family, secrets, lies and sometimes, there’s a little romance thrown in!

This time we visit Ballycove – it’s a village that appeared fleetingly in an earlier book – The Girl I Used To Know. I wanted to create a place that represented the best of the place I call home. I live in the west of Ireland – in a little town that sits on one of the richest salmon rivers in Europe. Just over half a dozen miles away, the Atlantic Ocean breathes up its icy air on flawless beaches and you can walk for miles without meeting a soul. On the other hand, if you’re feeling more social you can ramble with the dog through the nearby Beleek woods where everyone has time to say hello.

Ten miles in the opposite direction, there’s a small town called Foxford. It is a fairly typical little town in the west of Ireland, with the River Moy flowing through it, plenty of hills to walk across and local shops and restaurants that serve great food and offer Irish hospitality at its best. At the bottom of the town, sits the Foxford Wollen Mills. The Corrigan Mills are loosely based around these world-famous mills.

Image Credit Geraldine Hogan

There are a number of differences, however – unlike the Foxford Mills which were built by a pioneering nun in response to the poverty she saw at the time; the Ballycove mills are a family-owned business.

And it is from this family business that the tension in the novel arises…

Still a young woman, Miranda Corrigan has found herself at the helm of the biggest employer in her locality – except that it looks like the mills will have to close. She must juggle raising her three children alone and saving the mills – it’s no wonder then that when the time approaches to hand them on she does so reluctantly since there appear to be no safe hands available to pass them onto.

The problem is that her children don’t agree and the divisions that are setting in between them all look as if they may never heal.

Until David Blair arrives in town and reader, I will not say she married him, but he proves to be the wild card that may just blow the whole family apart – or could he be the person who manages to bring them all together?

You’ll have to read it to find out for yourself…

#Faith Hogan

Faith lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and two very fussy cats. She has a Hons Degree in English Literature and Psychology, has worked as a fashion model and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Murder Mystery, Victorian Romance

The Princess Plan Julia London 5*#Review @JuliaFLondon @MillsandBoon #BlogTour #ARoyalWedding #Victorian #Romance #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance #BookReview #Extract #TuesdayBookBlog #MurderMystery #Intrigue

#ThePrincessPLan

London’s high society loves nothing more than a scandal. And when the personal secretary of the visiting Prince Sebastian of Alucia is found murdered, it’s all anyone can talk about, including Eliza Tricklebank. Her unapologetic gossip gazette has benefited from an anonymous tip-off about the crime, forcing Sebastian to ask for her help in his quest to find his friend’s killer.

With a trade deal on the line and mounting pressure to secure a noble bride, there’s nothing more dangerous than a prince socialising with a commoner. Sebastian finds Eliza’s contrary manner as frustrating as it is seductive, but they’ll have to work together if they’re going to catch the culprit. And soon, as temptation becomes harder to ignore, it’s the prince who’ll have to decide what comes first—his country or his heart. 

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

My Thoughts…

Such an absorbing, intriguing romantic read. Eliza is a delight, independent, intelligent and indelibly imprinted on your mind, as her unusual romance with a sexy, troubled Prince plays out. The ethos of Victorian society is captured well. Eliza, her sister and friend are a redoubtable trio who enliven every page of this Victorian romance.

Danger and intrigue fuse effortlessly with passion and romance. Whilst, there are elements of ‘Cinderella’ in this story, the reality of what is expected of royal princes and women in society, tempers the fun and glamour. Full of witty dialogue, a murder mystery, political intrigue and romantic passion, this tale has something for everyone. The first in the series, I look forward to the next book.

Extract From The Princess Plan – Julia London

CHAPTER ONE

London 1845

All of London has been on tenterhooks, desperate for a glimpse of Crown Prince Sebastian of Alucia during his highly anticipated visit. Windsor Castle was the scene of Her Majesty’s banquet to welcome him. Sixty-and-one-hundred guests were on hand, feted in St. George’s Hall beneath the various crests of the Order of the Garter. Two thousand pieces of silver cutlery were used, one thousand crystal glasses and goblets. The first course and main dish of lamb and potatoes were served on silver-gilded plates, followed by delicate fruits on French porcelain.

Prince Sebastian presented a large urn fashioned of green Alucian malachite to our Queen Victoria as a gift from his father the King of Alucia. The urn was festooned with delicate ropes of gold around the mouth and the neck.

The Alucian women were attired in dresses of heavy silk worn close to the body, the trains quite long and brought up and fastened with buttons to facilitate walking. Their hair was fashioned into elaborate knots worn at the nape. The Alucian gentlemen wore formal frock coats of black superfine wool that came to midcalf, as well as heavily embroidered waistcoats worn to the hip. It was reported that Crown Prince Sebastian is “rather tall and broad, with a square face and neatly trimmed beard, a full head of hair the colour of tea, and eyes the colour of moss,” which the discerning reader might think of as a softer shade of green. It is said he possesses a regal air owing chiefly to the many medallions and ribbons he wore befitting his rank.

Honeycutt’s Gazette of Fashion and Domesticity for Ladies

The Right Honorable Justice William Tricklebank, a widower and justice of the Queen’s Bench in Her Majesty’s service, was very nearly blind, his eyesight having steadily eroded into varying and fuzzy shades of grey with age. He could no longer see so much as his hand, which was why his eldest daughter, Miss Eliza Tricklebank, read his papers to him.

Eliza had enlisted the help of Poppy, their housemaid, who was more family than servant, having come to them as an orphaned girl more than twenty years ago. Together, the two of them had anchored strings and ribbons halfway up the walls of his London townhome, and all the judge had to do was follow them with his hand to move from room to room. Among the hazards he faced was a pair of dogs that were far too enthusiastic in their wish to be of some use to him, and a cat who apparently wished him dead, judging by the number of times he put himself in the judge’s path or leapt into his lap as he sat, or walked across the knitting the judge liked to do while his daughter read to him, or unravelled his ball of yarn without the judge’s notice.

The only other potential impediments to his health were his daughters—Eliza, a spinster, and her younger sister, Hollis, otherwise known as the Widow Honeycutt. They were often together in his home, and when they were, it seemed to him there was quite a lot of laughing at this and shrieking at that. His daughters disputed that they shrieked, and accused him of being old and easily startled. But the judge’s hearing, unlike his eyesight, was quite acute, and those two shrieked with laughter. Often.

At eight-and-twenty, Eliza was unmarried, a fact that had long baffled the judge. There had been an unfortunate and rather infamous misunderstanding with one Mr Asher Daughton-Cress, who the judge believed was despicable, but that had been ten years ago. Eliza had once been demure and a politely deferential young lady, but she’d shed any pretence of deference when her heart was broken. In the last few years, she had emerged vibrant and carefree. He would think such demeanour would recommend her to gentlemen far and wide, but apparently, it did not. She’d had only one suitor since her very public scandal, a gentleman some fifteen years older than Eliza. Mr Norris had faithfully called every day until one day he did not. When the judge had inquired, Eliza had said, “It was not love that compelled him, Pappa. I prefer my life here with you—the work is more agreeable, and I suspect not as many hours as marriage to him would require.”

His youngest, Hollis, had been tragically widowed after only two years of a marriage without issue. While she maintained her own home, she and her delightful wit were a faithful caller to his house at least once a day without fail, and sometimes as much as two or three times per day. He should like to see her remarried, but Hollis insisted she was in no rush to do so. The judge thought she rather preferred her sister’s company to that of a man.

His daughters were thick as thieves, as the saying went, and were co-conspirators in something that the judge did not altogether approve of. But he was blind, and they were determined to do what they pleased no matter what he said, so he’d given up trying to talk any practical sense into them.

That questionable activity was the publication of a ladies’ gazette. Tricklebank didn’t think ladies needed a gazette, much less one having to do with frivolous subjects such as fashion, gossip and beauty. But say what he might, his daughters turned a deaf ear to him. They were unfettered in their enthusiasm for this endeavour, and if the two of them could be believed, so was all of London.

The gazette had been established by Hollis’s husband, Sir Percival Honeycutt. Except that Sir Percival had published an entirely different sort of gazette, obviously— one devoted to the latest political and financial news. Now that was a useful publication to the judge’s way of thinking.

Sir Percival’s death was the most tragic of accidents, the result of his carriage sliding off the road into a swollen river during rain, which also saw the loss of a fine pair of greys. It was a great shock to them all, and the judge had worried about Hollis and her ability to cope with such a loss. But Hollis proved herself an indomitable spirit, and she had turned her grief into efforts to preserve her husband’s name. But as she was a young woman without a man’s education, and could not possibly comprehend the intricacies of politics or financial matters, she had turned the gazette on its head and dedicated it solely to topics that interested women, which naturally would be limited to the latest fashions and the most tantalizing on dits swirling about London’s high society. It was the judge’s impression that women had very little interest in the important matters of the world.

And yet, interestingly, the judge could not deny that Hollis’s version of the gazette was more actively sought than her husband’s had ever been. So much so that Eliza had been pressed into the service of helping her sister prepare her gazette each week. It was curious to Tricklebank that so many members of the Quality were rather desperate to be mentioned among the gazette’s pages.

Today, his daughters were in an unusually high state of excitement, for they had secured the highly sought-after invitations to the Duke of Marlborough’s masquerade ball in honour of the crown prince of Alucia. One would think the world had stopped spinning on its axis and that the heavens had parted and the seas had re-ceded and this veritable God of All Royal Princes had shined his countenance upon London and blessed them all with his presence.

Hogwash.

Everyone knew the prince was here to strike an important trade deal with the English government in the name of King Karl. Alucia was a small European nation with impressive wealth for her size. It was perhaps best known for an ongoing dispute with the neighbouring country of Wesloria—the two had a history of war and distrust as fraught as that between England and France. The judge had read that it was the crown prince who was pushing for modernization in Alucia, and who was the impetus behind the proposed trade agreement. Prince Sebastian envisioned increasing the prosperity of Alucia by trading cotton and iron ore for manufactured goods. But according to the judge’s daughters, that was not the most important part of the trade negotiations. The important part was that the prince was also in search of a marriage bargain.

“It’s what everyone says,” Hollis had insisted to her father over supper recently.

“And how is it, my dear, that everyone knows what the prince intends?” the judge asked as he stroked the cat, Pris, on his lap. The cat had been named Princess when the family believed it a female. When the house-man Ben discovered that Princess was, in fact, a male, Eliza said it was too late to change the name. So they’d shortened it to Pris. “Did the prince send a letter? Announce it in the Times?”

Caro says,” Hollis countered as if that were quite obvious to anyone with half a brain where she got her information. “She knows everything about everyone, Pappa.”

“Aha. If Caro says it, then, by all means, it must be true.”

“You must yourself admit she is rarely wrong,” Hollis had said with an indignant sniff.

Caro, or Lady Caroline Hawke, had been a lifelong friend to his daughters and had been so often underfoot in the Tricklebank house that for many years, it seemed to the judge that he had three daughters.

Caroline was the only sibling of Lord Beckett Hawke and was also his ward. Long ago, a cholera outbreak had swept through London, and both Caro’s mother and his children’s mother had succumbed. Amelia, his wife, and Lady Hawke had been dear friends. They’d sent their children to the Hawke summer estate when Amelia had taken ill. Lady Hawke had insisted on caring for her friend and, well, in the end, they were both lost.

Lord Hawke was an up-and-coming young lord and politician, known for his progressive ideas in the House of Lords. He was rather handsome, Hollis said, a popular figure, and socially in high demand. Which meant that, by association, so was his sister. She, too, was quite comely, which made her presence all the easier to her brother’s many friends, the judge suspected.

But Caroline did seem to know everyone in London and was constantly calling on the Tricklebank house-hold to spout the gossip she’d gleaned in homes across Mayfair. Here was an industrious young lady—she called on three salons a day if she called on one. The judge supposed her brother scarcely need worry about putting food in their cupboards, for the two of them were dining with this four-and-twenty or that ten-and-six almost every night. It was a wonder Caroline wasn’t a plump little peach.

Perhaps she was. In truth, she was merely another shadow to the judge these days.

“And she was at Windsor and dined with the queen,” Hollis added with superiority.

“You mean Caro was in the same room but one hundred persons away from the queen,” the judge suggested. He knew how these fancy suppers went.

“Well, she was there, Pappa, and she met the Alucians, and she knows a great deal about them now. I am quite determined to discover who the prince intends to offer for and announce it in the gazette before anyone else. Can you imagine? I shall be the talk of London!” This was precisely what Mr. Tricklebank didn’t like about the gazette. He did not want his daughters to be the talk of London.

But it was not the day for him to make this point, for his daughters were restless, moving about the house with an urgency he was not accustomed to. Today was the day of the Royal Masquerade Ball, and the sound of crisp petticoats and silk rustled around him, and the scent of perfume wafted into his nose when they passed. His daughters were waiting impatiently for Lord Hawke’s brougham to come round and fetch them. Their masks, he was given to understand, had already arrived at the Hawke House, commissioned, Eliza had breathlessly reported, from “Mrs Cubison herself.”

He did not know who Mrs Cubison was.

And frankly, he didn’t know how Caro had managed to finagle the invitations to a ball at Kensington Palace for his two daughters—for the good Lord knew the Tricklebanks did not have the necessary connections to achieve such a feat.

He could feel their eagerness, their anxiety in the nervous pitch of their giggling when they spoke to each other. Even Poppy seemed nervous. He supposed this was to be the ball by which all other balls in the history of mankind would forever be judged, but he was quite thankful he was too blind to attend.

When the knock at the door came, he was startled by such squealing and furious activity rushing by him that he could only surmise that the brougham had arrived and the time had come to go to the ball.