Posted in Cover Reveal, Historical Crime Fiction, Saga

Rivals – Sam Michaels #CoverReveal #GeorginaGarrettSeries @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @SamMichaelsGG #HistoricalCrime #Saga

Georgina Garrett is back and more daring than ever!

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

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

3 October 2019

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

Dreaming of Rome -T.A. Williams – 5* #Review @canelo_co @TAWilliamsBooks #Rome #Romance #Blog Tour #AuthorInterview

Rome is where the heart is… The heartwarming read of the summer

Jo has had enough of handsome men. After a painful break-up, she’s decided she doesn’t believe in love.

Then, while on a professional trip to the magical city of Rome, she meets Corrado, a scientist and her brother-in-law to be, who doesn’t believe in love either. To him, it’s just a biochemical reaction. So what’s the problem?

Well, he’s gorgeous for a start, as well as charming, generous, intelligent and attentive, and she feels herself immediately falling for him, despite her new outlook.

The majesty of the Eternal City brings them ever closer together. But is their relationship doomed, or will love, conquer all?

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

My Thoughts…

Like all T.A. Williams books, this story is atmospheric, authentic and absorbing. You quickly become immersed in the sights and sounds of Rome, the excitement of new possibilities and romance and the chance to escape for a little while.

The theme of this story is contemporary, climate change and both the main protagonists are scientists. both attribute their undeniable attraction to hormones and neural impulses, Jo, because she has been damaged by a previous relationship, ending badly and Corrado because he believes love is merely an illusion.

The reader experiences Rome with the protagonist and that alone makes it a wonderful read, but add in complex characters, a lovely balance of heartbreak and humour and it is the perfect beach read.

I’ve read lots or romantic comedy, many are set in far-flung places, but this series stands out and is always a pleasure to read. If you’re looking for a romantic, escapist read, this series is for you.

Author Interview – T. A. Williams – Dreaming of Rome

What inspired you to write this story? Are all your stories set in holiday destinations?

What I’m trying to offer in my books is escapism; the chance for the reader to forget everyday worries and lose herself (or himself) in a magical world of luxury, beauty and happiness. I make no excuses for writing easy-reading, feel-good books with a happy ending. We all need a bit of happiness from time to time, not least with the world in the mess it’s in at present (please don’t mention Brexit). In consequence, I try to set all my books in gorgeous locations. Not least as I insist upon doing a “research trip” to each in advance of starting to write (J).

The inspiration for “Dreaming of Rome” was to revisit a city I have loved all my life. After university, I lived in Italy for 8 years and the head office of my employers was in central Rome. I love it. As for the main thrust of the story – what happens when a girl who’s lost her belief in love meets a scientist who believes he can prove it doesn’t exist apart from as a biochemical reaction – who knows? It just came to me one day when I was out for a walk.

There are lots of similar stories in this genre, currently, what makes yours different?

I don’t really know. I have to confess that I hardly read any romance. I write it, but I don’t read it, so I don’t really know what else is out there. I suppose one thing maybe that makes me stand out from the crowd a little is the fact that I’m a man. Most romance these days is written by women, so maybe I can give a slightly different perspective. Of course, it wasn’t always so – take “Romeo and Juliet” for example.

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

Probably the setting, but this is as much down to the title as anything. So far I have written “Dreaming of…” books set in Venice, Florence, St-Tropez, the Austrian Alps, Tuscany and now Rome. Each time we are looking for a name on the cover that will appeal to a prospective reader. I’m afraid that “Dreaming of Huddersfield” (apologies to Huddersfield – no doubt a charming city) is unlikely to appear. After that it’s the main character. This tends to be a bright, competent woman, and readers have commented on how they like my girls because they are decisive and organised and know their own minds. If that is so, that probably comes from me – I’m a fairly well-organised character when I get going.

 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’ve never consciously set out to draw upon somebody I know. Inevitably there will be elements of real people in my characters, but they are pretty much an amalgam. As for making them realistic, I always make sure they aren’t perfect. At the moment I’m writing “Dreaming of Verona” and my heroine wears glasses and is chronically shy. Even the obligatory Labrador I slip into all my books isn’t ever perfect. They fart, they disobey and they insist upon shaking themselves dry right beside the main characters.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I don’t read enough. Also, I almost never read romance. Normally I tend to go for historical novels or non-fiction. My all time favourite is probably “Wolf Hall” for fiction and “Saints and Sinners – A History of the Papacy” for non-fiction. By the way, if you want sex, violence and intrigue, you can’t beat the history of the popes.

 When did you start writing? What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?

I still have a 44 page (handwritten in pencil) story that I wrote when I was 14. I wrote my first full-length novel at 25 (never published) and then carried on ever since. It’s a drug. I can’t seem to be able to stop. The best thing about being a writer is that you are your own boss (unless you are unlucky enough to have a bossy editor – I have a wonderful editor) and you get to visit and write about places that most people can only dream of. The worst thing: sitting at the computer for hours on end had caused me all kinds of back problems. I have now invested in a sitting/standing desk that makes things easier. Mind you, this might just be because I’m very, very old.

What are you currently writing?

“Dreaming of Verona”. A Shakespeare scholar visits the city that was the setting of “Romeo and Juliet” and falls in love, but the course of true love is anything but easy for her.

I hope these answers are of interest to you. Thanks a lot for your support.

Trevor

T.A. Williams lives in Devon with his Italian wife. He was born in England of a Scottish mother and Welsh father. After a degree in modern languages at Nottingham University, he lived and worked in Switzerland, France and Italy, before returning to run one of the best-known language schools in the UK. He’s taught Arab princes, Brazilian beauty queens and Italian billionaires. He speaks a number of languages and has travelled extensively. He has eaten snake, still-alive fish, and alligator. A Spanish dog, a Russian bug and a Korean parasite have done their best to eat him in return. His hobby is long-distance cycling, but his passion is writing. Twitter: @TAWilliamsBooks

Posted in Cover Reveal

Silent Night -Geraldine Hogan #CoverReveal @bookouture #GerHogan #Crime #Thriller #DetectiveIrisLocke1 #SilentNight

A baby is snatched from her pram in the garden. She’s never found. Thirty years later her sister, now a mother herself, is brutally killed.

When Anna Crowe is killed in her sleep alongside her children, the quiet local community of Corbally is shocked. It’s also a chilling reminder of when her sister, Janey, disappeared as a baby, twenty-nine years ago, never to be seen again.

Detective Iris Locke is assigned to the case and, after a year undercover which ended in failure when her cover got blown, she’s desperate to make her mark – and to live up to the reputation of her ex-cop father, the former head of the Limerick Murder Squad.

Jack Locke ran the investigation into the disappearance of baby Janey. But by reopening the old case, Iris is also reopening old wounds for the team. Can she untangle the dark secrets that lead to one sister vanishing and the other’s death – even if it means digging into the past of someone very close to her?

Fans of Patricia Gibney, Angela Marsons and L.J. Ross won’t want to miss this – the first book in a gripping and unputdownable new crime series.

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August 23rd 2019

Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Family Drama, Mystery, Thriller

The Body in the Mist #BlogTour – Nick Louth @canelo_co @NickLouthAuthor #AuthorInterview #DCICraigGillard #crime

A brutal murder hints at a terrifying mystery, and this time it’s personal.

A body is found on a quiet lane in Exmoor, the victim of a hit and run. He has no ID, no wallet, no phone, and – after being dragged along the road – no recognisable face.

Meanwhile, fresh from his last case, DCI Craig Gillard is unexpectedly called away to Devon on family business.

Gillard is soon embroiled when the car in question is traced to his aunt. As he delves deeper, a dark mystery reveals itself, haunted by family secrets, with repercussions Gillard could never have imagined. 

The past has never been deadlier.

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Q&A with Nick Louth – #DCICraigGillard series

What are the inspirations behind this series, and this story in particular?

The DCI Gillard book series started as these things so often do, almost by accident. I had an idea for a detective story, which was quite different from the suspense thrillers I had been writing previously. It was a particular plot involving an extremely clever female murderer, who managed to conceal her crimes. I wanted to show in the book how each and every step that she took was actually possible, which is something that very few crime writers actually do. My publishers, Canelo, then thought that this should make the start of a good series. The inspiration for the Body in the Mist, number three in the series, was to make the story very close to home for the protagonist. Two aunts, by turns endearing, eccentric and later chilling, cause huge conflicts between his role as a detective and as a nephew. I also wanted to have a wild and stormy setting for this particular book and chose Exmoor in Devon. It becomes a very dark tale indeed.

Do you think creating a likeable and memorable detective is important in books of this genre? Why do think this is?

In crime fiction, everything hinges on your protagonist: DCI Craig Gillard doesn’t suffer the alcoholism or marital difficulties which have become such a cliche in the genre, but he has his weaknesses. He is, of course, rugged and capable; I suppose one could create a male detective who isn’t – like TVs Ironside or  Columbo – but then you get different kinds of difficulties, much harder to solve on the page unless you want to pursue a purely cerebral enquiry. Likeability is an interesting one – your protagonist must be reliable, someone that can be trusted, even if they are perhaps a little cold or distant, in the mould of Jack Reacher for example. They can even be love rats, but if so they must be lovable rogues. It’s a hard balancing act to get right. The crux of this is that the reader will be looking over the detective’s shoulder at scenes often too grisly to experience in a first-person narrative. That’s where the trust and reliability come in.

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 a mixture, often with particular minor traits that I have observed, but overall they are led by my imagination. Making them realistic is often done by show-don’t- tell. The male foot, resting territorially on the edge of the airport baggage carousel – we’ve all seen it – or the imposing black car driven by a short but aggressive man, all hint at something we have seen and understood. Quite often I use third per person viewpoints to hold a mirror to a particular character. In the Body in the Mist, Gillard’s wife Sam plays a major role in giving us a perspective on her husband’s internal conflicts.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I read a selection of current bestsellers in my own genres, just to see what the competition is like, but I don’t get as much time as I would like to read for pleasure.

 What are you currently writing?

The Body in the Snow, my current project, is the story of the murder of an Indian businesswoman, bludgeoned to death on a snowy March morning in an English park. She is a celebrity chef, as well as the matriarch of £1 billion business called the Empire of Spice Ltd. There is a seething undercurrent of rivalry and hostility within her family, driven by money, envy, and hate. My deadline is the end of October!

What are the best and the worst things about being a writer?

The best thing about being a writer is that each and every part of my work is enjoyable. I just love it! The worst part is an element of isolation. I used to be a foreign correspondent for Reuters, which was far more stressful of course but had an enjoyable camaraderie which I sometimes miss.  

Nick Louth is a best-selling thriller writer, award-winning financial journalist and an investment commentator. A 1979 graduate of the London School of Economics, he went on to become a Reuters foreign correspondent in 1987. It was an experience at a medical conference in Amsterdam in 1992 while working for Reuters, that gave him the inspiration for Bite, which was self-published in 2007 and went on to become the UK No. 1 Kindle best-seller for several weeks in 2014 before being snapped up by Sphere. It has sold a third of a million copies and been translated into six languages.

The terrorism thriller Heartbreaker was published in June 2014 and received critical acclaim from Amazon readers, with a 4.6 out of 5 stars on over 100 reviews. Mirror Mirror, subtitled  ‘When evil and beauty collide’ was published in June 2016. The Body in the Marsh, a crime thriller, is being published by Canelo in September 2017. 

Freelance since 1998, he has been a regular contributor to the Financial Times, Investors Chronicle and Money Observer, and has published seven other books. Nick Louth is married and lives in Lincolnshire.

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

My Thoughts…

There is a very dark start to this crime thriller, a body is found on a road in Exmoor, seemingly the victim of a hit and run, but the injuries make identification tortuous. DCI Gillard finds that a family member may have connections to the incident. What follows is an in-depth look at Gillard’s family and the revelation of long-hidden family secrets that put him in an unenviable position.

This chapter in his life, we meet part of his family, they are not what they first appear to be, and the hidden personality traits that are eventually exposed are written convincingly.

His wife is an important character in this story, and her trust and support, despite her own fears and misgivings, help him to keep a perspective on the situation, as he faces up to, and accepts the dark side of his family.

The plot is varied, with a murder, a cold case to solve and a court case that makes compelling reading. ‘A Body in the Mist’, is a dark, driven, dramatic crime thriller, which puts the protagonist through the mill but demonstrates his strength and integrity.

Posted in Author Interview, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Mystery

Author Q&A – Merryn Allingham- A Tale of Two Sisters- 5*#Review @canelo_co @MerrynWrites #historicalfiction #historicalromance #Author #Interview

Separated by time and distance, two sisters seek answers for all they’ve lost

When Alice Verinder’s beloved sister Lydia goes missing, Alice boards the Orient Express bound for Topkapi Palace in Constantinople, determined to find her.

Lydia was governess to the Sultan’s young children and though her letters spoke of exotic delights and welcoming hosts, the reception Alice receives is decidedly cold and answers unforthcoming.

Now, as Alice digs deeper into the secrets of a land foreign to her she has only Englishman Harry Frome to help her. But as their search uncovers unforeseen dangers and exposes an unexpected ardour, is Alice ready for the truths they’ll uncover?

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Merryn Allingham Q&A

What inspired you to write this story

It was a journey I made a few years ago. I was lucky enough to travel to Venice on the Orient Express (a special occasion trip) and fell in love with the train. The compartments, dining carriages, even the mosaic bathrooms, are almost unchanged since the train’s heyday. And whereas nowadays the journey to Istanbul is a special once a year event, in 1907 there was a regular service from London to Constantinople. I wondered what it must have felt like for a young woman travelling alone for the first time in her life and on such a train.

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

They aren’t drawn from real life in the sense of my actually knowing people just like them. But as a writer, you imbue your characters with what you’ve gained from life and what you’ve seen of relationships and the way they work. I don’t have a sister myself, but it wasn’t too difficult to tune into the feelings of Alice and Lydia, given the period in which they live and their very different personalities.

Lydia Verinder has been working as a governess at Topkapi Palace in Constantinople, while her elder sister, Alice, has been forced to take responsibility for their ailing parents. Alice hasn’t heard from her sister for months and suspects thoughtlessness – Lydia has always been indulged. She loves her and admires Lydia’s courage and passion, but feels resentful that she has been left caring for the household. Though her feelings are decidedly mixed, Alice becomes increasingly worried by her sister’s silence. Bravely, she decides to go to Constantinople herself and search for Lydia, and once there she meets a whole lot of other characters – but not all of them are benevolent!

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

Looking back at the novels I’ve written, it’s setting that seems pre-eminent. Maybe it’s because  I write historical fiction, but when I respond especially to a setting – it could be a house, a city, a garden, or in this case a train – I begin to imagine what it must once have looked like, who might have lived there, who travelled there etc. Once I start to people the setting, the questions come and I uncover the problems the characters are facing – then my plot is on its way!

What made you decide to become a writer, and why does this genre appeal to you?

I’m not sure you actually decide to be a writer. For as long as I can remember, I’ve needed to put pen to paper. As a small child, I wrote poems, at grammar school, there were short stories that I never dared mention – creative writing was definitely not encouraged. And I kept on writing through the years, but between family, pets and my job as a lecturer, there was little time to do more than dabble. However, when the pressures eased, I grabbed the chance to do something I’d always promised myself – to write a novel. The nineteenth-century novel was a favourite to teach so it’s no wonder I ended up writing historical fiction.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I read fairly widely. Naturally enough, I love historical fiction, particularly when there’s suspense,  a mystery, maybe a death or two. And I like crime a lot, but not when it’s unduly violent and gory – psychological crime is a favourite. I love the unwrapping of a personality. The occasional literary fiction – some of Colm Toibin’s books, for example – hit the mark,  and I’m a huge fan of Kate Atkinson and the way she combines the popular and the literary so well.

What are you currently writing?

This year I’ve embarked on a crime series, and changing genre has proved quite a challenge. But though I’m planning on one or more deaths in each book, there’s a focus, too, on relationships, including some romantic temptation. The series is set in the 1950s, a period when women were pushed back into the kitchen after the Second World War and generally lacked independent careers or their own money, and where marriage and children were seen as a woman’s only goal. My heroine, needless to say, kicks against that. She’s married but not entirely happily. However, her husband’s profession allows her to travel to different countries, where she’s certain to face a crime that needs solving. The first in the series, The Venice Atonement,  will be published in July and I’m currently deep in the Caribbean, writing volume two!

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

My Thoughts…

A beautifully told story of sisterly love, impetus youth,
and evil. The Tale of Two Sisters is set in the vibrant historical background of early twentieth century Turkey. Full of vivid imagery and intricate historical details, you can imagine the opulence and the culture the two sisters experience.

The plot is believable and well thought out, the twists and turns, which keep the reader guessing are plentiful and the mystery keeps its terrible secrets to the end.

Lydia is a woman before her time, driven by political equality, yet naive and ill-equipped for what she becomes embroiled in. She is selfish and flawed, but her exuberance and zest for life’s experiences make this forgivable, Ultimately she becomes a heroine.

Alice is the antithesis of her sister, dependable, selfless and resigned to subjugating her needs for the good of her parents and sibling. She is easy to empathise. Her courage is notable and as the story progresses her adventurous and impulse qualities come to the fore, making her share more with her sister than you would first imagine.

Gentle pacing reflects the many obstacles Alice faces as she tries to discover her sister’s whereabouts. Told from both sisters’ points of view, the story is full of emotion, historical interest and suspense, as the mystery surrounding Lydia’s disapperance is solved. There is also a tender, unexpected romance, which adds extra depth to the story and allows its ending to be hopeful.

If like me, you love historical fiction with a mystery to solve, and just a touch of gentle romance, this lovely tale will draw you in.

Merryn Allingham was born into an army family and spent her childhood moving around the UK and abroad. Unsurprisingly it gave her itchy feet and in her twenties, she escaped from an unloved secretarial career to work as cabin crew and see the world.

Merryn still loves to travel and visit new places, especially those with an interesting history, but the arrival of marriage, children and cats meant a more settled life in the south of England, where she has lived ever since. It also gave her the opportunity to go back to ‘school’ and eventually teach at university.

She has written seven historical novels, all mysteries with a helping of suspense and a dash of romance – sometimes set in exotic locations and often against a background of stirring world events.

For the latest news of Merryn’s writing, visit her website or join her on Facebook or Twitter

Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Revenge Fiction, Extract, Psychological Thriller

The Liars – Naomi Joy – 4* #Review @Aria_Fiction @naomijoyauthor #BlogTour #PsychologicalThriller #Office #Politics #Extract #AuthorInterview

Two women. One deadly secret. A rivalry that could destroy them.

 Ava Wells is perfect. She has the boyfriend, the career, the looks. One night changes everything and her life isn’t so seamless anymore.

Jade Fernleigh is ambitious. She’s worked hard to get where she is. And she’s not about to let Ava take the job she rightly deserves.

Both women share a secret that could destroy them, but who will crumble first?

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

My Thoughts…

I’ve worked in offices for a significant part of my working life and whilst I never experienced or witnessed anything as extreme as explored in ‘ The Liars’. There are elements which I recognise, albeit in a less extreme form.

This story has an ordinary setting, but the plot is dark exploring the themes of betrayal and revenge. The characters are driven and verging on immoral, their ambition and the need to succeed and claim what they believe is there due, push out any empathy, kindness and compassion, leaving only the baser human emotions. They are ruthless, revengeful and relentless, willing to sacrifice anything or anyone to achieve their chosen goal.

Even though the protagonists are not likeable, they are interesting and you wonder what they will do next. They have no filters and whilst you wouldn’t want them as friends or work colleagues, they are believable and fascinating characters and make this an enthralling story to read.

If you like your book to tell a story this style of writing may disappoint. If you prefer a contemporary writing style that makes the reader spend most of their time in the uncomfortable reality of the protagonists’ heads rather like watching reality TV, this will be a satisfying read.

Q&A: Naomi Joy – The Liars Blog Tour

Your novel ‘The Liars’ is based around a dangerous secret between two rivals. What inspired you to write this story?

I started writing The Liars in the run-up to Christmas 2016. I was seeking a new challenge having worked in PR for six years, ready to move on from working full-time in the industry that had been equal parts glamorous (think red carpet world-premieres) and not-so-glamorous (think behind-the-scenes tours of cheese factories, hair stuffed in a net). I’d been vaguely cataloguing the various incidents I’d experienced over the years but in 2016 I finally put pen to paper.

The Liars was most keenly inspired by the phenomenon known as the Sisterhood Ceiling: the idea that women in competitive environments hold one another back from progressing. I experienced, and witnessed, it in PR and believe it has to do with the following facts: the industry is dominated by women—66% to 34%—but, at the top end, this figure flips. Of the women in the industry, just 20% hold senior roles. Add to this a brutal gender pay-gap of 23.5% (the U.K. average is 18%) meaning that a woman in PR earns, on average, £12,000+ a year less than her male counterpart, and you can start to see why such a ruthless and competitive environment exists, and why it’s a rich breeding-ground for fiction!

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

For’The Liars’ the main plot of the story came first. Two women are competing for a promotion at work, their relationship pulled to breaking point as they one-up each other to get ahead. But they share a deadly secret, one they know will ruin them both if it gets out. With so much at stake, can either trust the other not to talk? That was my initial idea and, though the book has been through a number of edits and rewrites, the core idea remained.

Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? Is there any of you in your characters?

I quite like to take characters from real life then bend and twist them out of shape so that they are completely unrecognisable. I think there’s always a bit of ‘you’ in the characters too, simply by virtue of the fact that it’s you behind them! But no one character I’ve written has been based on a realistic version of me, or anyone I’ve known. Even in The Liars, which was inspired by something I experienced, the characters and situations are pure fiction: amalgamations of people I’ve known, people I’ve heard about, people on TV, and entirely imagined traits and quirks the characters developed as I wrote them.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I adore psychological thrillers. They’re what I love to write and what I love to read. I also enjoy crime fiction, and will always read books out of my usual tastes if they come highly recommended.

When did you start writing? What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?

I started writing seriously in 2016 but, prior to that, I’d always written in some form. I studied English at Durham University and there’s a lot of writing involved in PR.

The best thing about being a writer is creating a world that’s completely your own. There’s nothing quite like it.

The worst is the uncertainty, not knowing how your work will be received and hoping that people will like it!

What are you currently writing?

I’ll be editing my second psychological thriller shortly, and I’ve just started work on the third.

Thank you so much for having me; I hope you enjoy The Liars!

Extract from ‘The Liars’ – Naomi Joy

‘What’s David Stein want with Ava?’ George whispered, turning towards me for just a moment. ‘You think this is ‘cos of the inquest?’

I shrugged, lost for words, and watched as Ava motioned for him to come in, then greeted him with a kiss on the cheek. Well, well, well. Although we were all reeling, Ava didn’t look surprised to see him at all. Had they arranged a meeting? Without me?

My green eyes flashed for the second time in as many minutes – first Josh and now David. My body felt like one of those lightning receptors on top of the Shard or the Empire State Building, just after one billion angry God-like volts had struck. Except I couldn’t survive it. Strike after strike of jealousy coursed through my veins, splitting them open until I was nothing but a heap of clothes on the floor, smoke pouring out of them. ‘Where did she go?’ they’d ask. Would anyone care?

In that moment I made a rash decision: I had to act, I couldn’t just stand on the outside looking in. Ava didn’t own the rights to Olivia’s death, and it wasn’t fair she was using Olivia’s passing to get ahead. Not if I couldn’t use it, too.

I got up from my desk, ignoring Georgette’s bleats – Jade, no, Jade, what are you doing, Jade, come back here! – and pushed forward to her office.

 I hated that she had an office. I’d been at the company for eight years and all David Stein had rewarded me with was an area a few metres apart from the communal bullpen, opposite a woman who dressed like a toddler and painted her face like a clown.

I knocked twice at Ava’s closed door, my angry breath forming furious bullseyes of condensation against the glass, and watched as her face fell when she saw it was me. In that moment, the resentment I had for her swelled and I could scarcely believe what I once saw in her as a friend. We used to have lunch together, talk about the ways we could change the company for the better. We’d been a sisterhood at one point. A unit. A team. But ever since Olivia had died and David had taken Ava under his bony wing, favouring her over me in almost every conceivable way despite her vastly inferior experience, the barriers between us had started to stack up and, rather than help me, she relished in every opportunity to kick me back. To make matters worse, David had put us both up for the same job, a glittering promotion which I deserved tenfold over her: Team Head.

So, here I was. Fighting for my career.

I didn’t wait for her to beckon me in.

‘Is everything OK?’ I asked, pushing my way into their clandestine one-to-one. ‘The news about the inquest was pretty tough reading yesterday,’ I said matter-of-factly, closing the door behind me. ‘Olivia would have hated everything being so public.’

‘Jade, could you give us a moment?’ Ava asked curtly, brushing me off.

There she went again, acting as if there was no way I could possibly have been affected by Olivia’s death. It was like she didn’t even remember what we went through together.

‘It’s just—’

‘We’re fine, thank you Jade,’ she repeated, raising her voice.

Before I could speak again, David spat out a rhetorical question aimed at me.

‘Jade – do you mind?’

His words hit like a punch to the gut and my cheeks blazed. Embarrassment opened its mouth and swallowed me whole. I hadn’t expected David to be so rude. Had Ava been busy poisoning him against me? Nevertheless, I didn’t need telling twice and I left in a hurry, floored once again by how Ava had managed to turn an inquest into a way to get ahead at work. I skulked, defeated, back to my desk.

‘Jade, what were you thinki—’

I cut Georgette off. ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’

I sat down, staring straight ahead at nothing in particular, unblinking, thinking. I was supposed to be Team Head this year. That was the plan. That had always been the plan. But since Ava had turned up it was as though my years of loyal servitude to this company had all been for nothing: not now a blonde-haired damsel-in-distress with less experience than a toilet brush and the constitution of a ferret had entered the fray. No, I couldn’t let it happen. I had to do something, I had to stop this situation running away from me, I had to reverse the trend, put myself back into the ring. Play dirty, just the way Ava was with me.

Naomi Joy is a pen name of a young PR professional who was formerly an account director at prestigious Storm Communications. Writing from experience, she draws the reader in the darker side of the uptown and glamorous, presenting realism that is life or death, unreliable and thrilling to page-turn.

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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Excerpt, Family Drama, Gangland Crime, Historical Crime Fiction, saga

Trickster -Sam Michaels – 4* #Review #Author #Interview @Aria_Fiction @SamMichaelsGG #BlogTour #Extract #Historical #Crime #Fiction #Saga

To be 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…

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

My Thoughts…

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.

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

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Extract from Trickster – Book 1 – Georgina Garrett series – Sam Michaels

‘I 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.’

Dulcie 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.

Fifteen 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.

This 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.

The 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.

With an evil sneer, he licked his lips, nodded towards the baby and then asked, ‘How much?’

‘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.

She 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.

Dulcie 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.

Dulcie 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.

Less 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.

Ruby 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.

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

Rachel’s Pudding Pantry – Caroline Roberts – #BlogTour 5* #Review – #AuthorQ&A @_caroroberts@HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam #Puddings #Northumberland #Farming #Sheep #PuddingPantry

Primrose Farm is Rachel’s very own slice of heaven. Come rain or shine there’s always a pot of tea brewing by the Aga, the delicious aroma of freshly baked puddings, and a chorus of happy memories drifting through the kitchen.

But the farm is in a spot of trouble. As the daffodils spring, Rachel must plant the seeds of change if she wants to keep the farm afloat, and it’s all resting on a crazy plan. She’ll need one family cookbook, her Mum Jill’s baking magic – and a reason to avoid her distractingly gorgeous neighbour, Tom . . .

Swapping their wellies for aprons, can Rachel and Jill bake their way into a brighter future? The proof will be in the pudding!

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

My Thoughts…

‘Rachel’s Pudding Pantry’, is a lovely mix of family drama, friendship, romance and humour, with a sprinkling of poignant life experiences that may have you reaching for the tissues.

Not surprisingly, it is full of delicious puddings, as Rachel and her mother strive to find a way of keeping the family farm. There is an empowering, female family dynamic, spanning four generations, which withstands the heartache and tragedy the Swinton women have to face.

The story’s romance grows from an interesting take on the ‘boy next door’ trope. Tom, the attractive farmer at the neighbouring farm is always there to help out, Rachel grew up with him, so he can only ever be a friend, can’t he? The romance is sweet but embroiled in conflict. Is it worth losing their longstanding friendship for a chance of something deeper but riskier?

The Swinton women are easy to like, and all have a strength of character born out of adversity and familial love. They are believable and are written so that you can visualise them and become invested in their future happiness.

The authentic setting in a North Northumberland farming community is another attractive aspect of this book, I love this area and the descriptions and ethos of the community recounted in this story, make it an even more enjoyable read.

Written in addictive, short chapters that get you hooked, each has a title that includes a pudding or cake, which gives the story an added appeal but also makes you reach for the cake tin.

There is a clever connection between the puddings and the emotion of the story. Warm, soft Brownies equating to a warm, empathic friend. Sweet Sticky Toffee Pudding, synonymous with a comforting, conversation with your family.

The perfect holiday read, ‘Rachel’s Pudding Pantry’, delivers a well-paced story about family, friends, loyalty and love, against a background of community, hard work, heartbreak, and heartwarming romance, as the Swinton women learn how to adapt to change, to secure their family legacy.

ARC
Q&A with Caroline Roberts – Rachel’s Pudding Pantry

Is there a specific place or moment that inspired you to create The Pudding Pantry?

I think the initial spark was when I saw an image in a magazine of a lovely stone barn that had been converted into beautiful cottages in Northumberland, and I also knew of tearooms and farm shops that have been created in old farm buildings in the area. I was interested in the idea of diversification in farming, and the need for Rachel and her family to take this step to give Primrose Farm a future. It was lovely to imagine how The Pudding Pantry would look once finished, and what a cosy, welcoming place it would become, full of scrumptious bakes and cakes.

What did you most enjoy about writing this novel (apart from sampling some delicious puddings of course!)?

The romance! How can I not mention the gorgeous next-door farmer, Tom? There is even a rather wonderful, Poldark-style chest-bearing moment that takes Rachel rather by surprise. We see the relationship grow between Rachel and Tom, despite age differences and being farming neighbours, and it’s lovely how that romance unfolds between them, I enjoyed writing that.

Image Credit – Caroline Roberts

And what were some of your absolute favourite puddings that you sampled along the way?

It’s been such hard research, hah, but somebody had to do it!! Sticky toffee pudding is up there as one of my all-time favourites, and I do love a pavlova with summer fruits, the raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake I adapted myself and was very pleased with the result, Susan Green’s Ginger Pudding is a delight, and you obviously can’t beat some gorgeous apple crumble – I like mine with a little warming spice and cream.

Image Credit – Caroline Roberts

We love seeing photos of your gorgeous dog Jarvis on twitter! Does he help or hinder your writing routine?

Hah, at the moment he is still only nine months old, so I have to admit when I need to settle quietly to write at home, he just wants to play and is a bit of hindrance, bless him. But when we are out and about on our walks together, I do get inspired by the landscapes and changing seasons around me. Both Jarvis and my last dog, Meg, who are cocker spaniels, inspire my doggie characters – being Alfie, the spaniel, in the Chocolate Shop books and now Moss, the wonderful border collie, in Rachel’s Pudding Pantry.

Image Credit – Caroline Roberts

And has your writing routine changed over the course of your career?

I’ve had to become more focussed with my writing; having written seven books in four years. So, I have my own writing room – in the small bedroom. I also have a proper chair and desk now, rather than writing in the conservatory or at the kitchen table as my back was beginning to feel it. But I can write anywhere if need be, as I still write my first draft of each scene longhand then type it up later. If inspiration strikes, I can often be found up at 3am jotting down notes or even whole lines of dialogue that just appear in my head in the middle of the night – strange but true!

What would you most like for readers to take away from Rachel’s Pudding Pantry?

I’d like my readers to be able to escape for a while into Rachel’s world, with a heart-warming read that feels like a hug in a book.

Rachel’s Pudding Pantry, like your previous novels, is so joyful and warm. However, it does still tackle some serious issues. How do you balance writing about things like grief without taking away from the uplifting nature of your stories?

I want my books to reflect real life with all its trials and tribulations, which I know can be so very hard at times, so I’m not afraid to explore the impact of grief and loss. However, I am a very optimistic person and I strongly believe in the power of love, family, and friendship, to help us heal and in being kind to ourselves too. That’s where the journey of the story and our lives take us, and I want readers to feel there is always hope.

Back Cover – ARC
Image Credit Caroline Roberts

Caroline Roberts lives in the wonderful Northumberland countryside with her husband and credits the sandy beaches, castles and rolling hills around her as inspiration for her writing. She enjoys writing about relationships; stories of love, loss and family, which explore how beautiful and sometimes complex love can be. A slice of cake, glass of bubbly and a cup of tea would make her day – preferably served with friends! She believes in striving for your dreams, which led her to a publishing deal after many years of writing.

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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Excerpt, Psychological Thriller, Thriller

She’s Mine – Claire S.Lewis – #BlogTour- 4*#Review- #Author #Interview- #Extract @Aria_Fiction @CSLewisWrites

She was never mine to lose…

When Scarlett falls asleep on a Caribbean beach she awakes to her worst nightmare – Katie is gone. With all fingers pointed to her Scarlett must risk everything to clear her name.

As Scarlett begins to unravel the complicated past of Katie’s mother she begins to think there’s more to Katie’s disappearance than meets the eye. But who would want to steal a child? And how did no-one see anything on the small island?

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

My Thoughts…

This is not what I expected. The first few chapters make you think certain events have occurred, and following on from this, the list of suspects is few, but then you are transported back to 1997, and what you discover there changes your perception of what happened on the beach.

The flashbacks are in a series of photographs which trigger a specific set of memories of the unknown narrator. The introduction of new characters seemingly unrelated to the event on the Carribean island, and initially cause confusion for the reader, but gradually the connections can be made and the puzzle starts to form a coherent picture.

Scarlett is an unreliable protagonist, she has past secrets, which reinforce her unreliability. She is also immature and easily swayed by the stronger, more mature personalities she comes into contact with. Costa is an unconventional investigator, they make an unusual but effective investigating team.

The characters are complex and all are flawed, keeping secrets, behaving instinctively, rather than with caution. Can the reader trust any of them for a truthful account?

The plot is intriguing, there are plenty of clues but these are countered by misinformation, so when you think you know what happened you don’t.

Surprisingly, I did work out the ending but this didn’t detract from the story.

A compulsive, psychological thriller, with well-crafted suspense and some clever twists, and an overriding poignant ethos, worth reading.

Claire S. Lewis – Author Interview

What inspired you to write this story?

She’s Mine started as a little exercise that I wrote on ‘setting’ for a beginner’s online creative writing course.  I chose a beach setting because I thought that would be a good way of using all the five senses – sight, sound, taste, touch and smell – in the description.  You’re usually very engaged with your senses when lying on a beach!  To make it more interesting, I added the plot element of a nanny falling asleep on the sand and waking up to find that the little girl she was supposed to be looking after had disappeared. When I later took the Faber Academy course on writing a novel, I used this piece as the opening chapter for my novel draft which became She’s Mine.

What is the first thing you decide when writing a story, the setting, the plot or characters? Why do you think this is?

When starting a story, the first thing that gets me writing is the plot. Sometimes a conversation or a news item or something I hear on the radio makes me think, ‘that would be a great starting point for a novel’, or ‘if you put that into a novel nobody would believe it’, and from that scene or idea, I develop a plot.  Next, I imagine which characters would act out that plot and how they would interact with each other. And then I think about what would be an interesting or enticing setting or stage for those characters – usually, I like to pick locations that I know well and that I know I would love bringing to life in descriptions. So, in She’s Mine, much of the backstory is set in Oxford because I was a student there and it is a beautiful and atmospheric city that is still very vivid in my memory. I can easily wind back the clock and put myself in the place of my characters and imagine myself there, seeing and feeling it from inside their heads.

I think the plot interests me the most because I like the idea of setting up a puzzle and then gradually letting the readers into the mystery. The characters are there to act out the plot. I am also really interested in exploring devices such as the ‘unreliable narrator’ – like the nanny,  Scarlett, in She’s Mine. In addition, I enjoy playing around with changing narrative viewpoints so that the reader sees parts of the puzzle or mystery through one character’s eyes but has to read between the lines to work out the ‘truth’ that is eventually revealed when the narrative perspective changes to another character. I use this device a lot in my second novel. The plot is the starting point for all this.

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

My characters are mostly imaginary – which is lucky because they tend to be quite dark and complicated! Of course, in some cases, I draw on certain personality traits of people I know in real life, or perhaps not so much personality traits but ways of speaking and interacting with other people. After reading the first draft of She’s Mine, my teenage daughter said to me, ‘So Scarlett’s basically me!’ I wasn’t conscious of writing this (and they certainly don’t have the same characters!), but she recognised herself in Scarlett’s narrative voice! So far all of my male characters have been flawed – weak, vain, untrustworthy, and the like. I wouldn’t say this is a reflection of the men in my life! In She’s Mine, my anti-hero Damien was in part inspired by a particularly unpleasant man I spoke to very briefly at an event some years ago! Sometimes it doesn’t take much to light the spark of a character…

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I love reading all sorts of fiction books as long as they are not too heavy or slow moving! Particular authors/books that I have loved since I was a teenager include Evelyn Waugh (Brideshead Revisited), Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby/Tender is the Night), Graham Greene (The Confidential Agent/The Power and The Glory), Nancy Mitford (Love in a Cold Climate) and Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr Ripley). I think these books are brilliant because they are so beautifully written with such intriguing stories, charismatic characters and entrancing settings. I also love modern psychological thrillers such as Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, The Cry and You. My all-time favourite novel is Gone With The Wind which I devoured when I was growing up.

What made you decide to become a writer and why does this genre appeal to you?

Before I had children, I was an aviation lawyer for Virgin Atlantic, but I’ve always loved reading and books, and always dreamt of writing a novel.  So after having been at home with the children for a few years, I finally took the plunge and signed up for some creative writing courses – both novel and screenwriting – to see if I could do it – then I got hooked. I love writing fiction because of the freedom it gives you to escape and get lost in other worlds. And I love psychological suspense because I find the psychological part fascinating – imagining what’s going on in other people’s minds – and the suspense part is so much fun to create because it’s what keeps us reading – the ‘what if?’ and ‘what next’ that makes us want to keep turning the page!

What are you currently writing?

I’m currently writing another story in the genre of psychological suspense about a beautiful young florist with a tragedy in her past. It’s wonderful to write because I’m researching the world of floristry and flowers (as well as getting to grips with the workings of dating apps such as Tinder which I’ve never looked at before!). The plot revolves around stalking (no pun intended!) but it’s not clear who is the predator and who is the victim…

Thank you so much, Jane, for giving me the opportunity to write for your lovely blog, Jane Hunt Writer!

Extract

That’s the truth, but not the whole truth. What I don’t reveal to her is an incident that took place in Christina’s bedroom the week before we flew out to the British Leeward Isles. I don’t disclose it because the incident doesn’t put me in a good light either! On Tuesdays, Katie does a full day at kindergarten so I have a little time to myself. I’ve got into the habit of using Christina’s en-suite, luxurious, walk-in power shower and expensive beauty products following the weekly hot yoga class that I go to after dropping off Katie. So last Tuesday, I had just finished my shower and wrapped myself in Christina’s bathrobe when I heard her bedroom door opening and then the sound of her antique roll top desk being unlocked.

I thought she must have come back early from work for some reason. There was nothing else for it but to come clean (literally!) and apologise for taking the liberty of using her bathroom without asking first. So I took off her bathrobe, draped a towel around me and opened the door. But it wasn’t Christina. It was Damien with his back to me, checking the contents of the desk. Caught in the act. Hearing the catch he started and turned in alarm. He reddened but quickly composed himself and went on the offensive.

‘What a vision of beauty!’ he sneered as I stood there, my wet hair dripping onto the carpet. ‘I didn’t realise you and Christina were so intimate.’

‘And I didn’t realise you made a habit of going through her private papers!’ I snapped back. I know very well that the desk, an old family heirloom shipped over from the UK, is a strictly no-go area that she keeps locked at all times. He just laughed and then cool as a cucumber, he slipped some documents into a green cardboard file under his arm, locked the desk, pocketed the key and marched out of the room.

‘Just mind your own business and keep out of our affairs. Or you’ll be going the same way as the previous nanny,’ was his parting shot.

I understood this was no idle threat. Christina’s so possessive and distrustful that I knew if she got wind of this brush with Damien, she would imagine the worst and I’d be out of a job. So I said nothing to Christina in New York and I say nothing to the police officer now as she converses with me in the hotel bedroom.

I decide to keep my suspicions about Damien to myself – for now.

*

For something that was supposed to have been a ‘friendly chat’ the questioning is intense. After asking about my relations with Christina and Damien she embarks on a list of questions clearly aimed at working out a timeline for my movements this afternoon. What time did I arrive at the beach with Katie? Did I speak to anyone? Did anyone approach me or Katie? Did I notice anyone watching her? What time did I fall asleep? What time did I wake up? When did I become aware Katie was missing? What did I do next? Did I see anyone on the beach when I was looking for her? How long did I spend searching the beach before raising the alarm? What time did I tell Christina her little girl was missing?

My head is pounding and I feel like a criminal by the time the family liaison officer finally puts her notepad away.

‘These questions are nothing to worry about,’ she assures me. ‘We just need to establish the timeline for the disappearance of the little girl.’ She ends the conversation by encouraging me to contact her ‘any time, any place’ if I need support or if I ‘remember’ anything else that may be relevant to the investigation. I half expect her to clap me in handcuffs and announce that she’s putting me under arrest when at last she says that I’m at liberty to go.

*

In a waking nightmare, we struggle on through the grief-stricken hours of the day making calls, badgering the search team for any new scrap of information and giving interviews to reporters in the belief that getting Katie’s story out there might somehow help in her rescue.

The worst moment comes just after midnight when the operation is called to a halt. I collapse onto a chair in a quivering heap. All the strength has gone from my legs. Christina appears distraught, begging members of the police and emergency services to go on searching.

‘There’s nothing more we can do tonight. We’ll resume at dawn. You should get some sleep,’ says the commander sternly. Holding our despair at bay and unable to contemplate the thought of sleep, we pace the beaches and the rocky headland for the next two hours, tripping over stones in the darkness, our steps lit only by the moon and stars in the cloudless black sky and the light from our mobile phones.

I am lightheaded with exhaustion by the time I accompany Christina to her room in the early hours of the morning. We sit out on the balcony mesmerised by the sound of waves rolling on to sand. We are too tired to speak. I make tea and give her three sleeping tablets from a packet I find in her wash bag. Once the tablets take effect, I steer her to bed, her expression vacant and confused, as she lets me pull the covers over her. It’s not until I shut Christina’s door and go down the corridor to the room I’m sharing with Katie that it strikes me again. Where the fuck is Damien? I haven’t seen him all day, not since he handed me the cocktail at the pool.

When I open the door, there is Katie’s blue bunny, propped up on her newly-made bed. The tears stream down my face. The bedtime story I was reading to her last night is still open at the page we got to when her eyes finally closed. It’s a beautifully illustrated copy of Peter Pan that Christina discovered in a quaint little bookshop called the Book Cellar, one of her favourite haunts for second-hand books. I glance down at the page. ‘The Mermaids’ Lagoon’ – Katie’s favourite chapter. She loves the colour illustrations of the mermaids diving in the waves. The doors to the balcony are open. I shiver in the sea breeze and step out through billowing curtains.

I stand there for a few moments still clutching Katie’s bucket.

Lost. Drowned.

Claire Simone Lewis studied philosophy, French literature and international relations at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge before starting her career in aviation law with a City law firm and later as an in-house lawyer at Virgin Atlantic Airways.  More recently, she turned to writing psychological suspense, taking courses at the Faber Academy. She’s Mine is her first novel. Born in Paris, she’s bilingual and lives in Surrey with her family. 
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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Excerpt, Friendship, Romance, Romantic Comedy

A Summer of New Beginnings – Lisa Hobman #BlogTour – 5* #Review – #Author #Interview #Extract @Aria_Fiction @LisaJHobmanAuth

Meet Zara Bailey, a travel writer paid to cover some of the globe’s most luxurious locations. Jetting from wooden huts on stilts in turquoise seas to boutique hotels with roaring fires to 7* penthouse suites with panoramic views of the world’s most glamorous cities…

Zara knows hers is the definition of a dream job! So she is seriously shocked to receive her next assignment; Scotland’s Northcoast 500 route. By bicycle. Sleeping in a tent so basic it can’t remotely be dressed up glamping! But this could be just the distraction the recently heartbroken, Zara needs. No men, no romance, just the breathtakingly rugged Highland scenery.

Until she meets croft owner Lachlan Grant, and his black and white Border Collie Bess, that is….

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

My Thoughts…

Set mainly in the Scottish Highlands, travel journalist Zara takes on an assignment that puts her firmly out of her comfort zone. Her cycle ride in the Highlands makes her realise that living life for the moment, and being brave enough to follow her dreams may be worth the risk.

The beautifully described setting makes it easy to imagine Zara’s journey. Her love-hate relationship with her mountain bike provides many humorous moments. Zara’s complex personality makes her both likeable and often frustrating. I found myself shouting at her to see the truth of the situations she’s in. So, she is realistic and easy to empathise. Lachlan is more of a mystery. He hides his kind nature under a brusque outward manner.

The plot is full of conflict and dilemma for Zara, it’s exhausting to read at times but worth the emotional angst. The well-written ending concludes all plot twists and gives Zara the life she deserves and needs.

Interview Questions: Lisa Hobman – A Summer of New Beginnings Blog Tour

What inspired you to write this story? The descriptions are realistic, have you cycled all or part of this journey?

I have actually driven the majority of the route. We visit the Highlands annually and last summer we had the pleasure of stopping off at some of the points I visit in the story. I’m not sure I’m fit enough to cycle it but I would love to camp it for sure!

The Scottish Highlands is a popular setting for novelists, what makes your stories different? Why do you think this is?

The Scottish Highlands evoke so many emotions and the dramatic scenery really does lend itself to romance, in my opinion. Many authors have this same attraction to the perfect setting. I tend to write stories about places I’ve visited and which have affected me in some way emotionally. I find this way I can give real credence to the descriptions of the breath-taking locations.

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

My characters are fictional; however, there are certain traits observed in real people that find their way into the ones I invent. It may be a story that someone tells me that resonates or perhaps a general personality that sparks an idea. But overall I keep real people out of my stories. My dogs, on the other hand, do feature! Ruby from A Seaside Escape is based on my own little characterful Patterdale Terrier.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I tend to enjoy crime novels. Partly because I’m fascinated by how they’re constructed so cleverly—clues and situations all weaved together until a bewildering climax eventually occurs. I especially love Ann Cleeves Shetland books. The scenery she creates with her words really transports me and I can almost be present in the story myself. It’s a bit of a dream of mine to write something in this genre but I have yet to attempt it.

What made you decide to become a writer and why does this genre appeal to you?

Writing is something I’ve always loved since childhood. I used to love writing stories and even wrote a book when I was a teenager! Until recent years it’s always been a bit of a pipe dream but I’m so happy to be fulfilling it now. Romance is a genre that I absolutely love to write. I love to get lost in the passion of a relationship whether it’s friends to lovers or second chances. Romance is something I find flows from my fingertips and makes me happy.

What are you currently writing?

My current work in progress is a novel set at Christmas but that’s all I’m prepared to say just now! You’ll need to watch this space as they say!

Extract

Zara stared, open-mouthed, at Noah as if he had completely lost the plot. As if his marbles were literally falling out of his ears as he spoke. She tried to wrap her head around the words he had uttered but her mind was in some kind of baffled stupor. Did he really just say camping to the girl who was accustomed to reviewing five-star luxury resorts for a living?

She shook her head. ‘I’m sorry, Noah, but… is this a joke?’ she asked hesitantly, dreading his answer. ‘You seem to be getting me confused with someone who likes the outdoors. I mean… I like being outdoors on the beach or checking out historical places for my reports, obviously, but camping? And Scotland?’ Noah was known for being a prankster; she waited for him to burst into hysterical laughter and do the whole, ‘Ha ha! Your face when I said camping! Of course, it’s a joke!’ But she waited in vain.

He leaned forward and fixed her with a pitiful gaze. ‘Zara, I know this isn’t your usual bag. I get that. But the fact is that the whole thing is booked. Dillon knew this and he’s still betrayed me; well, all of us really.’ There was a sad yet bitter edge to his usually jovial voice. He huffed and ran his hands through his greying, floppy hair. ‘And I need you to help me out on this. Dillon’s intern simply isn’t ready – in fact I wouldn’t have employed him at all, truth be told, but that’s a story for another day. It’s not something I would normally ask of you, but I can’t let this slip just because Dillon thinks he has bigger fish to fry. We may be a relatively small publication in comparison to others, but we still need to be at the top of our game. I’m counting on you, Zara. You’re my best travel writer as it is. But now Dillon is going you’re my only travel writer.’

She sighed deeply and an image of her petite body being crushed by a giant rucksack manifested in her mind. ‘But, Noah…’

He held up his hands. ‘I know. I know. But here’s the thing. Travelarium have got wind of the fact that Dillon is leaving. I got a call from Joel at their head office today. He couldn’t wait to stick his knife in. Sarcastic bastard. Anyway, they’re going to try and get there first. You know they’re already trying to make a name for themselves, and taking a portion of our readership would be a big bloody boost for them. This article would be a perfect inroad, believe me. They’re doing the real nitty-gritty stuff; the Australian outback and the bloody camel rides in Egypt. They’re making us look like we only care about the fluffy, frilly shit. But that was never my intention with The Bohemian. Dillon’s trip was supposed to be a real nuts and bolts piece; a chance to show our readership that we take travel seriously. And that the UK is just as important to us as a publication as the luxury destinations are. We can’t let it go. I won’t, Zara.’ She had never seen him like this. Obviously, Dillon’s shock announcement had floored him. But she wondered if there was something behind it all. Was the magazine struggling? Why was he not telling her if that was the case?

And anyway, what was wrong with fluff and frills? Life was too short to be so bothered about real life and all the crap that came with it. What was wrong with a bit of escapism?

She realised Noah was still on his rant about Travelarium and snapped her attention back to him. ‘… and the North Coast 500 route is so hot right now, Zara. It’s big news and we need to get in there first. Think of the team, eh?’

Good grief, next he’ll be telling me to think of the children. Talk about playing for my sympathy. She wasn’t quite ready to acquiesce. Not yet. ‘But surely there must be someone else better equipped and suited to doing the report. Surely there’s someone in the team, maybe a different department, for example, who loves camping and… and all that stuff.’

Noah closed his eyes briefly and when he opened them, he shook his head. ‘Zara, I’ve been let down by my best friend of God knows how many years. You currently have nothing assigned that can’t be put off for a while. I’m sorry but I can’t send anyone else. I need this to be done just right. I need your help on this. Please, Zara? You’re my only hope here.’

Suddenly the image of Noah dressed all in white with donuts for hair sprang to mind and she had to bite her lip so she didn’t laugh inappropriately at Noah’s Princess Leia-esque plea for help. She twisted her hands in her lap. She loved her job. And if the mag was in trouble she wanted to do all she could to help, obviously. Noah was an awesome boss and she wanted to be the reporter he needed her to be. But this was something above and beyond. She wouldn’t just be stepping out of her comfort zone. She’d be climbing in a spaceship and travelling until her comfort zone was a tiny speck on a distant planet. But she knew how much Noah had done for her. He’d taken a chance on her as a newly qualified journalist and she owed him so much.

She lifted her chin. ‘I need more information.’

Noah sat up straight once more, his wide-eyed expression filled with hope. ‘Anything. What do you need to know? Fire away.’

She cleared her throat, forcing the real question – i.e. Are you insane? – back from her tongue. ‘H-how will I be getting there?’

He nodded and took a slow, deep breath, which didn’t bode well. ‘Okay, so you’d be going north by train to Inverness. Then you’d pick up your bicycle and—’

‘Whoa! Hang on a darn-tooting-minute, here. Bicycle? You never mentioned anything about a bloody bicycle!’

Zara stared, open-mouthed, at Noah as if he had completely lost the plot. As if his marbles were literally falling out of his ears as he spoke. She tried to wrap her head around the words he had uttered but her mind was in some kind of baffled stupor. Did he really just say camping to the girl who was accustomed to reviewing five-star luxury resorts for a living?

She shook her head. ‘I’m sorry, Noah, but… is this a joke?’ she asked hesitantly, dreading his answer. ‘You seem to be getting me confused with someone who likes the outdoors. I mean… I like being outdoors on the beach or checking out historical places for my reports, obviously, but camping? And Scotland?’ Noah was known for being a prankster; she waited for him to burst into hysterical laughter and do the whole, ‘Ha ha! Your face when I said camping! Of course, it’s a joke!’ But she waited in vain.

He leaned forward and fixed her with a pitiful gaze. ‘Zara, I know this isn’t your usual bag. I get that. But the fact is that the whole thing is booked. Dillon knew this and he’s still betrayed me; well, all of us really.’ There was a sad yet bitter edge to his usually jovial voice. He huffed and ran his hands through his greying, floppy hair. ‘And I need you to help me out on this. Dillon’s intern simply isn’t ready – in fact, I wouldn’t have employed him at all, truth be told, but that’s a story for another day. It’s not something I would normally ask of you, but I can’t let this slip just because Dillon thinks he has bigger fish to fry. We may be a relatively small publication in comparison to others, but we still need to be at the top of our game. I’m counting on you, Zara. You’re my best travel writer as it is. But now Dillon is going you’re my only travel writer.’

She sighed deeply and an image of her petite body being crushed by a giant rucksack manifested in her mind. ‘But, Noah…’

He held up his hands. ‘I know. I know. But here’s the thing. Travelarium have got wind of the fact that Dillon is leaving. I got a call from Joel at their head office today. He couldn’t wait to stick his knife in. Sarcastic bastard. Anyway, they’re going to try and get there first. You know they’re already trying to make a name for themselves, and taking a portion of our readership would be a big bloody boost for them. This article would be a perfect inroad, believe me. They’re doing the real nitty-gritty stuff; the Australian outback and the bloody camel rides in Egypt. They’re making us look like we only care about the fluffy, frilly shit. But that was never my intention with The Bohemian. Dillon’s trip was supposed to be a real nuts and bolts piece; a chance to show our readership that we take travel seriously. And that the UK is just as important to us as a publication as the luxury destinations are. We can’t let it go. I won’t, Zara.’ She had never seen him like this. Obviously, Dillon’s shock announcement had floored him. But she wondered if there was something behind it all. Was the magazine struggling? Why was he not telling her if that was the case?

And anyway, what was wrong with fluff and frills? Life was too short to be so bothered about real life and all the crap that came with it. What was wrong with a bit of escapism?

She realised Noah was still on his rant about Travelarium and snapped her attention back to him. ‘… and the North Coast 500 route is so hot right now, Zara. It’s big news and we need to get in there first. Think of the team, eh?’

Good grief, next he’ll be telling me to think of the children. Talk about playing for my sympathy. She wasn’t quite ready to acquiesce. Not yet. ‘But surely there must be someone else better equipped and suited to doing the report. Surely there’s someone in the team, maybe a different department, for example, who loves camping and… and all that stuff.’

Noah closed his eyes briefly and when he opened them, he shook his head. ‘Zara, I’ve been let down by my best friend of God knows how many years. You currently have nothing assigned that can’t be put off for a while. I’m sorry but I can’t send anyone else. I need this to be done just right. I need your help on this. Please, Zara? You’re my only hope here.’

Suddenly the image of Noah dressed all in white with donuts for hair sprang to mind and she had to bite her lip so she didn’t laugh inappropriately at Noah’s Princess Leia-esque plea for help. She twisted her hands in her lap. She loved her job. And if the mag was in trouble she wanted to do all she could to help, obviously. Noah was an awesome boss and she wanted to be the reporter he needed her to be. But this was something above and beyond. She wouldn’t just be stepping out of her comfort zone. She’d be climbing in a spaceship and travelling until her comfort zone was a tiny speck on a distant planet. But she knew how much Noah had done for her. He’d taken a chance on her as a newly qualified journalist and she owed him so much.

She lifted her chin. ‘I need more information.’

Noah sat up straight once more, his wide-eyed expression filled with hope. ‘Anything. What do you need to know? Fire away.’

She cleared her throat, forcing the real question – i.e. Are you insane? – back from her tongue. ‘H-how will I be getting there?’

He nodded and took a slow, deep breath, which didn’t bode well. ‘Okay, so you’d be going north by train to Inverness. Then you’d pick up your bicycle and—’

‘Whoa! Hang on a darn-tooting-minute, here. Bicycle? You never mentioned anything about a bloody bicycle!’

Lisa’s debut novel was shortlisted in the 2014 RNA. Her stories centre around believable, yet down to earth characters and the places in Scotland she has visited and fallen in love with. She is a happily married mum of one with two energetic dogs.

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