Posted in Book Review, Espionage - Spy - Thriller, International Thriller, Political Thriller

The Beijing Conspiracy – Shamini Flint -5* #Review @severnhouse @ShaminiFlint @LoveBooksGroup #PoliticalThriller #Espionage #Asia #China #US #BlogTour #LoveBooksTours

#TheBeijingConspiracy

“I need your support. There is no one else I can trust. Please help her. Please help our daughter.” When ex-Marine Jack Ford receives a letter containing news of a daughter he never knew he had, he feels compelled to return to China, a country he hasn’t visited since 1989 when, as a young American spy, he fell in love with a beautiful student activist and found himself caught up in the horrors of the Tiananmen Square massacre. But why has Xia got in touch now, after a thirty-year silence? On arrival in Beijing, Jack finds himself accidentally in possession of an explosive piece of information both the Chinese and American governments are desperate to get their hands on. Alone in a strange city, suspected of being a traitor by his own side, not knowing whom to trust, Jack is faced with an impossible dilemma: should he save his new-found daughter or prevent a new world war from breaking out?  

Amazon UK

#LoveBooksTours

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

My Thoughts…

A perfect balance of adrenaline-led action and careful suspense building makes this political thriller, exploring the 21st-century cold war between China and the US, a gripping read. The contemporary placing of the action and the undoubted knowledge of the current political climate makes this a believable story. Reinforced with a complex, troubled protagonist, and a cast of realistically flawed antagonists and allies. The line between friend and foe is hard to draw in this novel, adding to the stories authenticity.

Jack Ford’s life changed in 1989 with the Tiananmen Square massacre, his subsequent military service has left him with PTSD, and a life that is an emotional wasteland. An unexpected plea for help from someone he once loved, has him travelling back to Asia, where he is embroiled in a battle between China and the US, with him as the fall guy.

This is a story of factions, misinformation, conspiracy, espionage and political wrangling. Jack is the lynchpin, to maintaining the status quo, and avoiding world war, but is the greater good worth the personal cost, for Jack?

There are some thinly veiled characters in this story, which add to its realism, the problems exposed are realistic, disturbing, and as you read on, you are invested in the outcome, because it feels so close to the world’s present-day crisis.

An easy to read, and fast-paced international thriller, with a strong espionage theme and astute political commentary.

#ShaminiFlint

Shamini Flint lives in Singapore with her husband and two children. She began her career in law in Malaysia and also worked at an international law firm in Singapore. She travelled extensively around Asia for her work, before resigning to be a stay-at-home mum, writer, part-time lecturer and environmental activist, all in an effort to make up for her ‘evil’ past as a corporate lawyer!

Shamini writes children’s books with cultural and environmental themes including Jungle Blues and Turtle takes a Trip as well as the ‘Sasha’ series of children’s books. She also writes crime fiction featuring the rotund Singaporean policeman, Inspector Singh. Singh travels around Asia stumbling over corpses and sampling the food …

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Posted in Book Review, Friendship, Romance, Romantic Comedy

The Cornish Cream Tea Bus – Cressida McLaughlin – 5* #Review @HarperFiction @fictionpubteam @CressMcLaughlin @HarperCollinsUK #Romance #Coastal #Cake #Cornwall#TheCornishCreamTeaBus #Friendship #Paperback #PublicationDay

Baking fanatic, Charlie Quilter, is surprised when her late uncle bequeaths his vintage bus to her in his will. Keen to give the bus a new lease of life, Charlie thinks it will be the perfect mobile café for afternoon tea, and when her friend, Juliette, suggests Charlie comes to stay with her in the picturesque Cornish village of Porthgolow, she’s thrilled at the chance of a new start.
Charlie and her cute dog, Marmite, make new friends wherever their bus stops – except for the sexy but reclusive owner of the posh spa up on the hill, Daniel Harper, who isn’t very pleased that her bus is parked outside his lovely hotel.
Has Charlie’s Cornish dream developed a soggy bottom? Or can she convince Daniel that her bus could be the start of something wonderful for the little village – and for them?

Amazon UK

Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley

My Thoughts…

I love this story.

I read it as a four-part serial, and it’s something special. Full of cakes, courage, fun and romance, with laugh out loud moments, and a few tears, it captures the good and bad in the Cornish coastal village of Porthgolow.

Charlie had a special connection with her uncle when he dies and leaves her, his bus, she knows she has to keep it, but can she do something with it? Her first attempt is gutsy but fraught with difficulty, but with the help of some positive comments from her mysterious stranger, she tries again in Cornwall.

The characters are warm and real, and even though baking, tea shops and coastal Cornish settings are well used in literature, the bus adds a different dimension that gives the story, the promise of originality. There is a conflict with the upmarket spa and a delicate balancing act to win the approval of the locals. This has humour, romance and a lovely holiday setting.

Charlie soon settles into her Cornish life, The cream tea bus proves to be a popular attraction, and Charlie wants the village to realise its full potential Her latest foody idea is received with mixed emotions, but does introduce the prospect of romance into her life, but is she ready for it?

The characters are complex and realistic, the possibility of a love triangle is suggested, and Charlie meets another of Porthgolow’s residents, who has a surprising if reticent insight into Daniel’s motivations. There is also the hint of someone messing with Charlie’s plans, but who, and the motivation behind this, are still a mystery.

Halfway through and this story is addictive. Charlie is embroiled in a tentative love triangle with her two admirers, one seems open and honest, just what she needs, but the chemistry is lacking. Her other admirer is not so easy to read, but the air crackles between them, whenever they are together. Can she take a chance, or will he let her down, and destroy her fledgeling business?

Charlie’s is still recovering from her boyfriend’s duplicity and has trust issues. Her head says one thing, her heart something different, who if either of them will she choose?

The Cornish Cream Tea Bus venture expands and seems to be going from strength to strength, as the community finally seems to accept her and her bus.

The final part of this lovely, coastal series, ties up all the loose ends, and just when you think everything is going to work out for Charlie, because of her hard work and willingness to learn to trust again, there is a final breathtaking twist.

Will ‘The Cornish Cream Tea Bus’, survive, and who wants it to fail? At the start of the story, there are lots of people who might want Charlie to fail, but at this point, the perpetrators are much fewer in number, thanks to Charlie’s kindness and tenacity. When the guilty party is revealed it isn’t a surprise, but it’s good to have your suspicions confirmed.

Charlie’ s romantic future seems brighter, but what happens after the Summer? The final twist is heartstopping and the resolution is perfect.

I enjoyed my time in Porthgolow and I hope the author may take us back there again? A lovely coastal romantic story, with some good unique elements, and complex, relatable characters, the perfect beach read.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Guest post, Romance, Travel

The Postcard – Zoe Folbigg – 5* #Review @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @zolington #ThePostcard #Romance #Relationships #Travel #Backpacking #Paperback #PublicationDay #GuestPost #TheNote #Mystery#BlogTour

#Paperback 8 August 19

The sequel to the bestselling phenomenon The Note – based on the true story of one girl and her ‘Train Man’…

A year after the kiss that brought them together in a snowy train-station doorway, Maya and James are embarking on another journey – this time around the world.

The trip starts promisingly, with an opulent and romantic Indian wedding. But as their travels continue, Maya fears that ‘love at first sight’ might not survive trains, planes and tuk-tuks, especially when she realises that what she really wants is a baby, and James doesn’t feel the same. 

Can Maya and James navigate their different hopes and dreams to stay together? Or is love at first sight just a myth after all…

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

My Thoughts…

I must be the only person in the UK who didn’t read ‘The Note’, but fortunately ‘The Postcard’ whilst being a sequel, is also a separate adventure for Maya and James and reads well as a standalone.

There is a curious diversion from Maya’s story as she prepares to go on around the world trip with #TheTrainMan. A different character, confused, lost and vulnerable, is introduced, the menace and mystery of this encounter are on your mind as Maya and James start their journey, and then the person’s identity and the situation is revealed, and you wonder if, where and when, Maya will meet her?

The characters and relationships you explore in this story are complex and realistic, whether they be from Maya’s past, present or on the trip of a lifetime. Her best friend’s story is so far removed from Maya’s at this time, and yet both think they want what the other is experiencing.

There is a lovely balance of humour and poignancy in this, the romance is still there, but tempered with reality and therefore authentic. Maya and James find out who they are as a couple as a series of conflicts, try to break them.

The final conflict is adrenaline-fueled, suspenseful and unexpectedly poignant. These scenes are full of vivid imagery that really lets you experience the tension, terror and tumultuousness of the events. Romance and love prevail, and the final scenes provide a heartwarming and believable ending.

#ThePostcard
Guest Post – Zoe Folbigg – The Postcard

Welcome back, Maya and James!

If you enjoyed my debut book The Note then I hope you love the sequel, The Postcard, even more. At first, I was nervy about revisiting Maya and James and writing about what happens after the happy ever after. The Note was based on my own story of how I fell for a stranger on a train on my daily commute and then married him. It was a story I had told a thousand times even before I’d fictionalised it; before Aria offered me a book deal; before it became a bestseller.

When I wrote my second novel, The Distance, a story about long-distance love, based (almost) entirely on characters plucked from my imagination and nothing to do with me or my husband, I enjoyed the liberating feeling of writing about something totally different, telling a new story.

So when Aria suggested a sequel, I was worried. How could I move Maya and James’ story on? In reality, Train Man and I got married and had kids. We settled down to school runs, sports clubs and Friday-night fajitas. Nowadays the most drama in our lives tends to be Sainsbury’s selling out of coriander (those fajitas matter), or me falling over in the mums’ race on Sports Day. Embarrassing, yes, but none of my current life felt like novel material.

Then I remembered the “in-between”.  Those years in a relationship when you’re out of the early throes of glorious newness, when you’re still self-conscious about morning breath and think each other’s bad outfit choices are adorable, but you’re not quite ready for his ‘n’ hers Mahabis or actually saying, “This is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with!”, even if you think it. A period when family and friends ask about marriage and babies in hushed tones and want to move your relationship on to the next stage, even if you haven’t discussed it yet.

Our “in-between” coincided with some amazing travels: a holiday to Argentina with friends, Costa Rica for my 30th (double income no kids = nice holidays) and then a year-long round-the-world trip (redundancy = a “sod-it, it’s now or never” attitude).

Before these trips, friends would gush about the proposal opportunities, how we would definitely come back engaged, that surely Train Man had something up his sleeve, and I felt a mixture of hope and pressure, excitement and resentment.

So while pondering a sequel I remembered that phase. The round-the-world trip was chock full of vibrant places, crazy characters, beautiful scenery, and weirdly that in-between issue that I realised would be as pertinent to Maya and James as it is to many people.

Once I started writing The Postcard and I took Maya and James on their own travels, I fell in love with their new chapter: I could almost smell the coriander and coconut of dinner on the Mekong; hear the beat of a drum at a Hindu wedding; see the mossy limestone karsts looking down on them at a beach in Thailand. And I could hear the ring of that lingering question: “Do you think he’ll ask you to marry him?!” “Do you think you’d ask him?” All from my kitchen table.

So welcome back Maya and James! It’s been an honour to pick up their story and revisit all these amazing places for The Postcard – and I hope you enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

Zoë Folbigg is a magazine journalist and digital editor, starting at Cosmopolitan in 2001 and since freelancing for titles including Glamour, Fabulous, Daily Mail, Healthy, LOOK, Top Santé, Mother & Baby, ELLE, Sunday Times Style and Style.com. In 2008 she had a weekly column in Fabulous magazine documenting her year-long round-the-world trip with ‘Train Man’ – a man she had met on her daily commute. She since married Train Man and lives in Hertfordshire with him and their two young sons. Twitter Facebook Instagram Website

Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Romance, Romantic Comedy

Honeymoon for One – Frankie Collins 5* #Review @BoldwoodBooks @frankiecollins @PortiaMacIntosh #RomCom #Italy #honeymoonforone #BlogTour #AuthorInterview

When disaster strikes, paradise calls…

As a published novelist, Lila Rose has been writing about fictional weddings all her life. But disaster strikes on her own big day when she hears her philandering fiancé, Daniel whispering sweet nothings to someone else.

With her dream day shattered, all Lila wants to do is run and hide, so she decides to fly solo on her own honeymoon.

When Daniel arrives in the resort with his new squeeze, Lila strikes up a ‘showmance’ with hot new movie star, Freddie Bianchi. Freddie is perfect for the part and Lila soon relaxes into her leading lady role.

But as truth starts to merge with fiction, could real love be in the air?

Amazon UK

Waterstones

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

My Thoughts…

This story has me smiling from the beginning. Lila is funny, self-critical and a planner, she likes to be in control, believing that things will only go to plan if she organises it. I can relate to her, and that makes her realistic. The overheard conversation, is not in the plan for an ideal wedding, neither is going on a honeymoon alone, but if you’re running, might as well make it somewhere hot and luxurious?

The honeymoon setting is vividly described and lovely, but it’s the characters that make this romantic comedy an enchanting, hilarious, and sometimes poignant read. Lila is brave but vulnerable, I love her first meeting with Freddie, full of dramatic irony and so visual you can see the scenes playing in your mind as you read.

There are so many comic moments in this story, and also some, where you want to protect Lila, especially from Daniel. The conflicts are real, but the chance for real romance is always there.

I love the ending, very ‘Hollywood’, and the perfect completion for this charmingly humorous, romantic story.

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Interview Questions – Frankie Collins – Honeymoon for One

What inspired you to write ‘Honeymoon for One’? 

I love writing about weddings. They have so much potential to be absolutely incredible or a complete disaster. As a rom-com writer, I feel like I’ve written the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to weddings. I wondered if that might make a person especially good at planning a real one – they might even be able to pre-empt the drama. I wanted to write about a wedding expert who plans for everything… apart from the thing that ends up going wrong. How would she cope with it, when all the clichés she writes about come to life?

How did you decide on the holiday destination for your story? 

I’ve spent a lot of time in southern Italy and I absolutely adore it. The weather, the scenery, the food. Italian food is my absolute favourite. 

When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is? 

I get an idea first – usually in the form of a question. ‘What would happen if…?’ So I’ll think of an interesting scenario and question how it could play out. The answer to the question is the plot. ‘What would happen if you called off your wedding and went on your honeymoon alone?’ The answer is Honeymoon For One.

Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?

I think it’s impossible for writers not to take from real life in some way, no matter what genre they write. I’ll usually take a real type, or sometimes a real person from a real encounter, before creating an almost caricature of them. It’s a bit of real-life with a lot of imagination. 

How do you ensure that your dialogue is natural, and your humorous scenes are funny? 

With dialogue, I think it helps to imagine the person who is speaking and think about how they might say something. I’ll sometimes say things out loud, or make the face I imagine my character are making when they say particular things. As for the humour… you just see if you can make yourself laugh and hope other people find you funny too.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I’ve always read a lot of romcoms – I would race through a few a week growing up. These days, the more I’ve written, the more I tend to keep clear of my own genre. If I want a break, I’ll read a thriller.

What are you currently writing? 

I am editing my next Portia MacIntosh book, Make or Break at the Lighthouse B&B, as well as writing my next Boldwood release. I’ll keep you posted.

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Frankie Collins – Honeymoon for One

Frankie Collins is the pseudonym of Portia MacIntosh, bestselling romantic comedy author of 12 novels, including It’s Not You, It’s Them and The Accidental Honeymoon. Previously a music journalist, Frankie writes hilarious stories, drawing on her real-life experiences.

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Portia MacIntosh website Twitter @Portia MacIntosh

Posted in Book Review, Friendship, Holiday Romance, Romance, Romantic Comedy

One Summer in Santorini Sandy Barker 4* #Review @AvonBooksUK @0neMoreChapter @sandybarker #greece #greekislands #santorini #sailing #holiday #romance #romcom

There was something in the air that night. . .

Sarah has had enough of men. It’s time to rekindle her first true love – travel – so she books a sailing trip around the Greek islands with a group of strangers.

The very last thing Sarah wants is to meet someone new… But then a gorgeous American man boards her yacht and she knows she’s in trouble. And when she also encounters a handsome silver fox who promises her the world, she realises that trouble really does come in twos.
 

Will Sarah dive into a holiday fling, embark on a relationship, or stick to her plan – steer clear of men, continue her love affair with feta, and find her own way after all?

Amazon UK

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


 

My Thoughts…

What I enjoyed most about this story is its uniqueness. I expected a holiday romance, but whilst there is romance, this more about self-discovery, living life to the full, friendships and exploring the Greek Islands. The setting is well described focusing on the people, animals, scenery and food, which is described in a mouthwatering way.

Sarah is a character that grows on you, initially, I found her a little brash, but she has a sharp sense of humour and an innate honesty, which is endearing. The other element I like is that, even though she meets two possible lovers, the final chapters pose more questions than answers, which are both believable and intriguing.

The story engages on many levels; emotionally, humorously and visually. The characters are relatable. This isn’t a story that requires in-depth characterisation, Sarah only spends ten days with her sailing family, and even less with the ‘silver fox’, so she doesn’t know everything about them.

Her emotional journey is deep and eventful, and you finish the story believing she understands herself better, and her future will be more rewarding, which is a more than satisfying ending.

Posted in Blog Blitz, Book Review, Literary Fiction, Thriller

One of Us Rachel Mclean 4* #Review @rachelmcwrites #Thriller #LiteraryFiction #TheVillage #BlogBlitz @rararesources #psychologicalthriller #Revenge #dystopian #NorthYorkshire #NearFuture

‘Leave, or die.’

Jess Dyer has won safety for her sister-in-law Ruth and proved her worth as the leader of her refugee community.

Sarah Evans has stood up to her parents and discovered who she can trust.

But the villagers still aren’t welcome. When the local population expresses its anger, can Jess keep everyone safe? And can she hold it together as Steward when someone she loves dies?

And how will Sarah react when her new fiancee Martin receives death threats, telling him he must leave her, and their village?

One Of Us is a gripping thriller about belonging and acceptance. It’s the third book in the Village trilogy and the sequel to Sea Of Lies.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Book 3 in ‘The Village’ series set in near-future North Yorkshire, is fast-paced, suspenseful with an undercurrent of menace.

Character empathy is easier, if you read the first two books in the series, ‘Thicker Than Water’ and ‘Sea of Lies’. Dystopian, it is set in a village founded after traumatic floods, and rising sea levels caused devastation, necessitating people to leave their homes and become refugees.

The final book is set in the aftermath of traumatic events involving outsiders and the villagers. There is a culture of mistrust and isolation between the indigenous population, authorities, and the villagers (refugees). There is sufficient backstory included to let you read as a standalone story, but it is a series that should be read chronically for maximum reader impact and understanding.

The characters are complex, vividly drawn, and realistic, their interactions among themselves and with outsiders are believable. The suspense building is good, the setting authentic and disturbing. Exploring the extremes of human emotions, once the status quo is upset.

A perfect series, if you enjoy suspenseful thrillers with a dystopian setting.

My name’s Rachel McLean and I write thrillers that make you think.

What does that mean?

In short, I want my stories to make your pulse race and your brain tick.

Do you often get through a thriller at a breakneck pace but are left with little sense of what the book was really about? Do you sometimes read literary fiction but just wish something would damn well happen?

My books aim to fill that gap.

If you’d like to know more about my books and receive extra bonus content, please join my book club at rachelmclean.com/bookclub. I’ll send you a weekly email with news about my writing research and progress, stories and bonus content for each book. And I’ll let you know when my books are on offer.

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