Posted in Author Guest Post, Blog Tour, Character Interview, Giveaway, Novella, Romance

Heart and the City Cecilia Fyre #BlogTour #GuestPost #CharacterInterview #Giveaway #LoveMedicine #Romance @CeciliaFyre @rararesources #RachelsRandomResources #HeartandtheCity

British doctor Lea Holm has come to New York to work in her chosen field of emergency medicine. She loves her new life in this exciting city and can’t wait to get started with her research project. The last thing she needs are distractions.

But then she meets famous actor Ricco Como in her building – a distraction if ever there was one. He’s gorgeous and sweet, and there’s an immediate connection between them. Lea tries to resist temptation, but when he comes to her for help dealing with his steadily worsening migraine she can’t turn away from his plight.

As Ricco’s health takes a turn for the worse, their lives become more and more entwined. But can their growing attraction withstand the strain of his ill health, and can he let Lea be more than just his doctor?

**This novella series contains detailed descriptions of long-term health conditions, cheating and a bereavement.**

The series is set in New York City and was written before COVID-19. It makes no reference to recent events.

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Character Interview with Dr Lea Holm By Cecilia Fyre

We had the rare opportunity to catch up with Dr Lea Holm, the new girlfriend of actor Ricco Como. Lea is a doctor at Bellevue Hospital. She’s originally from London, England.

Hi Lea, thanks for agreeing to talk to us. I don’t think you’ve given many interviews like this so far?

No, this is my first, actually. I’m quite nervous.

No need, we won’t ask you anything incriminating. [Lea laughs nervously.] Now, do you want to tell us a little about yourself?

Let’s see. There isn’t much to tell. I recently moved to New York, from London. I work in an ER in the city, and as a researcher on a pain study. That’s why I came to Bellevue Hospital in the first place, to work on that study.

Is this your first time living in Manhattan?

I don’t actually live in Manhattan now, I moved to Queens. This city is insanely expensive, even worse than London! [laughs] My little flat is cute, but even out there it’s expensive. But yes, to answer your question. I’ve never lived in the States before.

So, let’s get to the juicy details, the questions our readers are eagerly awaiting: How did you and Ricco meet?

Well, when I first moved to New York I did live in Manhattan. I knew someone who knew someone who wanted a lodger for a few months. That guy lives in Ricco’s building, and I met Ricco in the hall one day.

Was it love at first sight?

Not really. We had coffee soon afterwards, though. So I guess we at least liked each other.

What is it like being with someone famous? Is it harder than dating normal people?

Oh yeah! [laughs again] It’s a lot harder, because so many people are interested in Ricco’s private life. So we kind of try to stay out of the spotlight, you know? But it’s also hard for other reasons. He works really long hours, and is often away for work. And I work long hours too. So we don’t always see each other as much as we’d like.

I bet that sucks especially. Being with a guy like Ricco and not being able to see him much?

I’m used to people who are passionate about their work. Doctors are like that as well, so we have that in common, which helps, I think. And when we do get to spend time together it’s really special. We try and make the most of it.

Okay, let’s do a few quick-fire questions to close off the interview. One word answers only!

Fire away!

Is Ricco a good kisser?

Yes!

Who does the dishes, he or you?

The dishwasher! [she claps her hand to her mouth] Sorry that’s two words.

Are you messy or neat?

Ricco – neat. Me – not!

Who gets to choose the TV station, or the Netflix show to watch?

Me! Always, always me! [laughs]

And that’s the end of the interview. Thank you so much for taking the time for us, and all the best to you two!

Thank you! And it was my pleasure!

Here’s an extract from Heart and the City

Heart and the City (Love Medicine Book 1)

© 2020, Cecilia Fyre

Chapter 1

Lea stepped out of the elevator and heard a weird, humming sound. No, not humming. Purring. Looking around her she spotted a black cat in the crevice under a nearby radiator.

“Hey, who’re you?” she murmured.

Big, green cat eyes stared at her out of the gloom, the jet-black body obscured in the shadows.

“Are you running away?” She crouched down and held out a hand. For a moment the cat looked like it was going to hiss at her. But then it slunk over, belly close to the marble floor. It was still purring.

Truth be told, Lea wasn’t really a cat person. She preferred dogs. Or maybe, in the tiny New York apartments, a cockatiel would be nice. Though this kitty was pretty cute. Its coat was fluffy, and it was a little on the chubby side. Well cared for, certainly. Of course, it would be, in this swanky Little Italy apartment building where the cheapest unit cost well over three million dollars. And whoever the cat belonged to was probably looking for it. So Lea braced herself and picked it up.

The elevator servicing the apartments on this floor was hidden away in a nook at the end of the hallway. As Lea stepped out from that little space now, the cat hanging relaxed in her arms, the door at the opposite end of the hallway opened. A man peered through it. “Carl? Man, if you slipped out, I’ll…sh*t…oh.”

He spotted Lea and opened the door wider. She felt foolish asking since he had pretty much confirmed it. “He yours?” She nodded at the cat in her arms, who had wriggled onto his back, head lolling, looking at her with those weird, slitted eyes.

“Yeah, he is,” the man said. “Little f**ker… sorry.”

She hid her smile as the color rose in his face. “Did he give you the slip?”

He nodded. Lea walked the length of the hallway, taking the opportunity to study him. Brown hair to just over his ears, tousled and standing up in places like he’d just woken up. His eyes were very blue, slightly slanted, and returning her gaze openly. Nice cheekbones that gave his features a certain finesse. He had boyish good looks that could only be helpful in his line of work. He wore a black T-shirt and grey sweatpants, and despite his handsome face, his smile was a little shy and very ordinary. Lea already knew who he was.

Despite what she might have said to Carmine about not caring for the famous people living in his building, now that she found herself face to face with one her heart jumped in her chest and her hands that were still clasping the cat began to sweat.

When she reached him, she held out her arms, uncertain of what to do. He smiled again, then disentangled the furry creature from his cozy spot.

“Thanks a lot.”

Lea returned his smile. “No problem.”

He wrestled for a moment with the cat, who was trying to crawl onto his shoulder. Once the cat had settled, looking very much at home, he extended his hand. “I’m Ricco.”

Lea was about to say, I know, but then decided against it. She shook his hand. “I’m Lea. Nice to meet you.”

Ricco gestured behind himself. “D’you wanna come in for a coffee? Thanks to you my afternoon won’t be wasted looking for this monster now.” He patted the animal, who purred.

Lea shook her head. She could’ve kicked herself. “I’m sorry, I can’t. My shift starts in less than an hour.” She glanced at her watch. She’d rushed out to run some errands she’d forgotten about all week and was running late now.

“Oh, okay… maybe another time.” He seemed disappointed, but Lea found that hard to believe. Why’d he care one way or another?

She banished the cynicism. “Definitely.”

Ricco was still looking at her, and the intensity of his gaze made Lea feel uneasy. He seemed to notice and lowered his eyes, retreating into his doorway. Lea turned to retrace her steps to the door furthest from his.

“See you later,” he said. Lea glanced around and he gave her a one-handed wave. She waved back and began to dig in her bag for the house keys. His door fell shut. Lea inserted her key into her own door, then stopped and glanced back down the corridor. Her heartbeat rather fast and her hands shook. She couldn’t understand why that should be so. She’d never cared a fig about celebrities.

Cecilia Fyre is the pen name of a romance author trying out something new.

She likes sunny, crisp autumn days. Cups of hot cocoa with little marshmallows floating on top. The roaring of the sea. Laughing until your face hurts. The silence when you curl up with a good book. 

Her stories are about people. Some of them are strange, some think they’re boring. They all have secrets, they’re all scared sometimes. Cecilia writes about life, about love. About how hard it is to do it right. Usually, there’s a happy ending, or at least there might be one, someday.

​But life’s not all sunshine and roses, and that’s why Cecilia tells her stories.

In the real world, Cecilia lives in England.

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Giveaway – (Open INT)

Win 2 x A Complete set of all 5 novellas in the

Love Medicine series, in an ebook format.

The five novellas are: Book 1 – Heart and the City Book 2 – Unexpected Truth Book 3 – Been There Before Book 4 – Wish The Pain Away Book 5 – A Thousand Little Pieces

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

Posted in Author Guest Post, Blog Blitz, Guest post, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Travel

Through Dust and Dreams. An African Adventure Roxana Valea ​#GuestPost @roxana_valea @rararesources #Travel #memoir #Africa #ThroughDustandDreams #BlogBlitz #SundayThoughts #RachelsRandomResources

At a crossroads in her life, Roxana decides to take a ten-day safari trip to Africa. In Namibia, she meets a local guide who talks about “the courage to become who you are” and tells her that “the world belongs to those who dream”.

Her holiday over, Roxana still carries the spell of his words within her soul. Six months later she quits her job and searches for a way to fulfil an old dream: crossing Africa from north to south. Teaming up with Richard and Peter, two total strangers she meets over the Internet, Roxana starts a journey that will take her and her companions from Morocco to Namibia, crossing deserts and war-torn countries and surviving threats from corrupt officials and tensions within their own group.

Through Dust and Dreams is the story of their journey: a story of courage and friendship, of daring to ask questions and search for answers, and of self-discovery on a long, dusty road south.

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Guest Post – Roxana Valea

Through Dust and Dreams.

Follow your dreams

“The world belongs to those who dreams.” he told me looking deep into my eyes.

I was a tourist on a ten day safari trip in Namibia. He was the tour guide. We were finishing our drinks late at night under the full moon. The rest of the tourists were already asleep but I didn’t want to go to sleep. It was my last night in Africa and I didn’t feel ready to go back and face my job, my life, my flat, and all the emptiness I left behind.

I thought it was only a big statement called in by too much alcohol. I pretended I didn’t hear it. But somewhere deep down, it touched me. What are my dreams? I asked myself. I didn’t know. I hadn’t asked myself the question.

I went back the next day and returned to a life that was a far cry from what I really wanted. Not that I actually knew what was it that I really wanted. But then, something magic happened. I started to dream again. New things came into my mind, at the beginning like a shy day dreaming thought that would quickly disappear. Slowly, these thoughts turned into constant companions. Thoughts  like “I want to go back to Africa. I want to travel. I want to find a job that has meaning. I want to explore where I really want to live and what type of job I really want to do.” And then another though hit me with the power of a hammer: these were more than wishes.

These were my dreams.

And then, six month later, when I was offered a moment of choice, I took it. I chose to get up and go follow these dreams and turn them into reality. I left my job and went back to Africa.

Dreams are not wishes. They are not frustrations about things that should have happened in a certain way and didn’t. They are also not the product of imagination, some bubble that comes and stays with us for a while and then departs as unexpectedly and suddenly as it came. Dreams come from somewhere deep down, from the bottom of our soul. Dreams originate from the very fabric of who we really are and come to tell us a story about why we were born and what we are meant to do here, on earth. Dreams are the way your soul talks to us.

In the high Andes, the shamans, the medicine men and women of the descendants of the Incas, say that we dream the world into being. What they mean is that the reality that surrounds us – where we live, who we marry, what type of job we do – all this is a product of a dream that we have dreamed at some point. We might have done this unconsciously and didn’t fully understand what reality we had called into our life. But we may choose to do this consciously, select the dreams that we dream and then watch how this unfolds in reality.

Because, you see, in order to dream your world into being, it’s enough to hold your dreams in your consciousness. Be aware of them. Let them live in you. Let them inspire you.

So I kept these dreams alive and  six months after my return from the ten day safari in Namibia, I found a once in a life time opportunity to cross Africa from North to South, in a Land Rover, in the company of two others.

And here’s the last catch. Things come to us because we dreamed them. But then we need to take the decision to follow them. The opportunity could have come and gone and I could have stayed in my  meaningless job and carried on with my  empty life in my small flat. But I decided differently.

And with this, a whole new world opened up. Because my African guide was right, the world does belong to those who dream.

If you want to know the whole story, read my travel memoir, “Through Dust and Dreams – The Story of an African Adventure”

Roxana Valea

Roxana Valea was born in Romania and lived in Italy, Switzerland, England and Argentina before settling in Spain. She has a BA in journalism and an MBA degree. She spent more than twenty years in the business world as an entrepreneur, manager and management consultant working for top companies like Apple, eBay, and Sony. She is also a Reiki Master and shamanic energy medicine practitioner.

As an author, Roxana writes books inspired by real events. Her memoir Through Dust and Dreams is a faithful account of a trip she took at the age of twenty-eight across Africa by car in the company of two strangers she met over the internet. Her following book, Personal Power: Mindfulness Techniques for the Corporate World is a nonfiction book filled with personal anecdotes from her consulting years. The Polo Diaries series is inspired by her experiences as a female polo player–travelling to Argentina, falling in love, and surviving the highs and lows of this dangerous sport.

Roxana lives with her husband in Mallorca, Spain, where she writes, coaches, and does energy therapies, but her first passion remains writing.

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Posted in Author Guest Post, Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Guest post, Historical Fiction, Mystery

The Lost Girls Jennifer Wells 4*#Review @jenwellswriter @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #HistFic #HistoricalFiction #Secrets #Lies #FamilyDrama #BlogTour #BookReview

The Lost Girls – Jennifer Wells

Everyone remembers the day the girls went missing.

May Day 1912, a day that haunts Missensham. The day two girls disappeared. The day the girls were murdered.
Iris Caldwell and Nell Ryland were never meant to be friends. From two very different backgrounds, one the heir to the Caldwell estate, the other a humble vicar’s daughter. Both have their secrets, both have their pasts, but they each find solace with one another and soon their futures become irrevocably intertwined.
Now, many years later, old footage has emerged which shows that Iris Caldwell may not have died on that spring morning. The village must work out what happened the day the girls went missing…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

The Lost Girls is a surprisingly poignant story of two girls, from different social classes, who dared to defy society’s norms. An old home movie, showing a girl who went missing, believed abducted and murdered, is the catalyst for a surprising chain of events.

The characters are complex and flawed, and their story is full of dark secrets, and desperate emotion. An absorbing, engaging story, with a uniqueness that keeps you reading.

Guest Post- Jennifer Wells-The Lost Girls

The little moments which bring the past back to life

There is something quite eerie about old films. I don’t mean cinematic classics or even the first Hollywood movies. I’m talking about the old cine films that survive from the early twentieth century. Such films were shot using cumbersome machines, where filming depended on an operator who could doggedly turn a crank handle for minutes on end. These machines produced images that are little more than light and shadow – grainy outlines and stuttering movements – yet there is something about them that is very alluring.

Among these films are some of the very first home movies. They show horse-drawn trams battling through busy shopping streets, exuberant workers spilling from factory gates, football matches, political marches and family events. The women wear shawls or gloves, their skirts swishing around their ankles as they walk. The men strut boldly, their hands thrust into the pockets of their suits. But whether young, old, rich or poor – everyone wears a hat.

The films I am describing are now over a hundred years old. The Edwardian era is a time that has become unfamiliar to us. When you watch such films, the horse-drawn trams and long skirts seem like things that only ever existed in the pages of history books, and the people appear, not as busy shoppers or factory workers, but ghosts.

It is the ghost-like quality of such films that gave me the inspiration for the opening scene of my latest novel, THE LOST GIRLS. The novel opens in 1937 with a public screening of an old film – a lost home movie that had been shot 25 years earlier on May Day 1912. As the audience watch entranced, the image of a girl in a white dress flashes on to the screen. Her face is one that they all recognise – Iris Caldwell, a girl who was thought to be dead by that May Day morning. A girl presumed murdered.

When I first started writing THE LOST GIRLS, Iris Caldwell was little more than a ghost to me. She was no more than one of those old cine film images, her face in shadow and her movements slow and stuttering. But I wanted to give life to a character who might have appeared in one of these old films, and soon the girl in the white dress became flesh and blood to me. Iris Caldwell became a girl who, like many others, loved to read novels and longed for friendships. She also became a girl with terrible secrets and forbidden desires. We live in a time that is very different from 1912. The horse-drawn trams, long skirts and a multitude of hats belong to a world that seems very strange to us. Yet, among the grainy faces that peer out from the past, we can sometimes spot a smile or a wink – something that reminds us that the people who lived back then were not so different to us after all. It is these little moments which bring the past so much closer again.

Jennifer Wells

Jennifer is the author of THE LIAR, THE MURDERESS, THE SECRET and THE LOST GIRLS published by Aria Fiction. Her novels involve the themes of family, betrayal and love and are set in the home counties in the early 20th century. Jennifer lives in Devon with her young family and cats.

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Posted in Author Guest Post, Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Gangland Crime, ganglit, Guest post, Historical Crime Fiction, saga

Vixen Sam Michaels 5*#Review @SamMichaelsGG @Aria_Fiction #BlogTour #GuestPost #WW2 #GeorginaGarrett #Vixen #HistoricalCrimeFiction #Saga #CrimeFiction #BlogTour #BookReview @HoZ_Books

While World War Two rages on around them, the gangs of London are fighting for their turf…

There might be a war on, but that doesn’t stop Georgina Garrett running her business with an iron fist. No one said running the Battersea gang was going to be easy, but her unflinchable nature makes Georgina unstoppable.

With a role that requires a ruthless ability to seek revenge and pay out crippling punishments, Georgina’s enemies are growing in number. With a target on her back, Georgina knows she must do everything to protect her family. But, with the loss of someone closest to her, can Georgina rise up from the ashes or allow a usurper take her crown?

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

My Thoughts…

Like many books set in WW2, this story is atmospheric and full of historical detail. Georgina Garrett and her gang adapt to wartime Battersea. Georgina engenders mixed feelings in the reader. Her loyalty and willingness to provide for those she takes under her wing is admirable. Conversely, she isn’t afraid of using violence and committing crimes to ensure she protects her own and continues their way of life.

Georgina faces resentment and threats. Her love of her family make her vulnerable, yet this love is what makes her easy to empathise. Authentic, multifaceted characters drive an action and conflict rich plot.

The surprising ending leaves you wondering what next?

Guest post- Sam Michaels -Vixen

Hello, I’m Sam Michaels, author of the Georgina Garrett series of books.

Firstly, I’d like to say a big thank you to Jane for featuring me on her wonderful blog site. I was thrilled when she invited me to write a guest post about my latest book, Vixen.

As many readers will know, Vixen is the third book in the Georgina Garrett series. It follows Trickster and Rivals. Way back when WW1 broke in Britain, Trickster began with Georgina being born into a life of poverty, living in the slums of Battersea in south west London. Throughout the book, we watched Georgina, or George as she was known then, overcome adversity to grow into a beautiful young woman. But a woman with a fierce and ruthless streak that would bode well for her life in the criminal underworld. She proved herself a force to be reckoned with but it wasn’t easy, especially facing her biggest enemy, the twisted Billy Wilcox.

In Rivals, during the pre-war years of WW2, Georgina really comes into her own as she heads up the criminal gang running Battersea. But as you’d expect, there are many who think they can do a better job than a woman and are ready to bring her down.  

Vixen picks up the story at the outbreak of WW2. Georgina exploits any opportunities that come along when a country is at war, but she also has a kind heart and fair morals, offering help when she can to those in need. But in Vixen, there’s more than just London under attack – so is Georgina and she also faces unimaginable heartbreak.

For anyone enjoying this series, you’ll be pleased to know there is more on the way, five books in total. I’m currently writing book 4 and without giving too much away, I can tell you this book is going to see Georgina facing a whole new set of challenges, including fighting for her children. She’ll meet some colourful characters along the way who will take her into a whole new world of criminality, one with bigger gains but bigger risks to boot. And what will become of Georgina’s relationship with David Maynard? You’ll have to wait and see.

Whilst writing this series, I’ve grown ever so fond of Georgina and I think her audience has too. I even had a comment from a chap who said he’d love to work for her! I believe it’s because we can all relate to aspects of her personality. Granted, she’s a killer, but somehow, the murders she commits or orders feel justified. She’s intensely protective of her loved ones, a worthy trait, and though she has a tough exterior, there’s a vulnerability about her that we see glimpses of now and again. At the end of the day, everything Georgina does is driven by a desire to make life better for those around her. And like many other women, she feels the need to be loved, albeit on her terms.

With book 5 in the pipeline, time will move forward and you’ll discover more about Georgina’s children. As someone recently said to me, ‘Strong women have strong women.’ And that is very true for Georgina Garrett!

Catch up with the series. Read my reviews of Trickster and Rivals

Sam Michaels

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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Posted in Author Guest Post, Guest post, Historical Fiction

The Gossips Choice Sara Read #GuestPost @Wildpressed @saralread @LoveBooksGroup #Lovebookstours #HistoricalFiction #17thCentury #TheGossipsChoice

“Call The Midwife for the 17th Century”


Lucie Smith is a respected midwife who is married to Jacob, the town apothecary. They live happily together at the shop with the sign of the Three Doves. But sixteen-sixty-five proves a troublesome year for the couple. Lucie is called to a birth at the local Manor House and Jacob objects to her involvement with their former opponents in the English Civil Wars. Their only-surviving son Simon flees plague-ridden London for his country hometown, only to argue with his father. Lucie also has to manage her husband’s fury at the news of their loyal housemaid’s unplanned pregnancy and its repercussions.
 
The year draws to a close with the first-ever accusation of malpractice against Lucie, which could see her lose her midwifery licence, or even face ex-communication.

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Guest Post : The Gossips Choice- Sara Read 

What’s in a name?

The Gossips’ Choice takes its name from the ‘gossips’ or female attendants who a supported a mother in her labour. These women were an important part of the mother’s birth experience and they were there to physically support her by sitting behind her as she sat on the edge of her bed or on a birthing stool to help support her, and to stroke her belly to encourage the baby to move down, and to help the mother to comply with all her midwife’s instructions. But they had another important aspect of their role which was to keep up the mother’s spirits, to encourage her with kind words, to be cheery and to offer her such food and drink as the midwife might recommend. Lucie Smith, my protagonist, is the gossips’ choice because she is the most experienced and trusted midwife in the area. She is the one that the majority of local women trust to safely deliver their babies.

There is a second reason for my choosing this title for my novel. Lucie becomes the subject of town gossip when people start talking about a case where one of the births she attended had an unhappy outcome. As the rumour mill ramps up, Lucie faces a lot of unwelcome attention as townsfolk speculate about what went wrong. As an ageing midwife who has been practising for over thirty years, is it time for her to admit she is no longer up to the job and to think of retiring? The novel explores what it feels like to suddenly find yourself the subject of gossip and to have those families you have served for so long doubt you. Lucie faces a choice between fighting to clear her good name and stepping back from her lifelong vocation.

This title means a lot to me as the author. I had the outline of the story in my head for a long time, but it was not until the title came to me that the story would flow. And then it poured out!

Sara Read

Dr Sara Read is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University. Her research is in the cultural representations of women, bodies and health in the early modern era.

She has published widely in this area with her first book Menstruation and the Female Body in Early Modern England being published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2013.
She is a member of the organising committee of the Women’s Studies Group, 1558-1837 and recently co-edited a special collection produced to celebrate the group’s 30th anniversary.

She is also the co-editor of the popular Early Modern Medicine blog. With founding editor Dr Jennifer Evans, Sara wrote a book about health and disease in this era Maladies and Medicine: Exploring Health and Healing, 1540-1740 (Pen and Sword 2017).

Sara regularly writes for history magazines such as Discover Your Ancestors and History Today. In 2017 she published an article ‘My Ancestor was a Midwife’ tracing the history of the midwifery profession for Who Do You Think You Are? magazine in 2017. She has appeared on BBC Radio 3’s Freethinking programme and is often to be heard on BBC Radio Leicester and BBC Radio WM.

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Posted in Author Guest Post, Blog Tour, Book Review, Guest post, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Travel

A Shop Girl At Sea Rachel Brimble 5*#Review @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @RachelBrimble #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance #Saga #BlogTour #BookReview #Titanic #GuestPost #Penningtons

Bath, 1912.

Amelia Wakefield loves working at Pennington’s, Bath’s finest department store. An escape from her traumatic past, it saved her life. So when Miss Pennington sets her a task to set sail on the Titanic and study the department stores of New York, she couldn’t be more excited – or determined!

Frustrated with his life at home, Samuel Murphy longs for a few weeks of freedom and adventure. Meeting Amelia on board the Titanic, Samuel can’t help wonder what painful history has made the beauty so reserved. But he already has too many responsibilities for love.

Ruby Taylor has always kept her Pennington co-workers at a distance. Making sure her little brother is safe has always been her priority. But when that means accepting Victoria Lark’s offer of sanctuary, more than one of Ruby’s secrets is under threat of being revealed…

A riveting and uplifting saga.

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Guest Post – Rachel Brimble – A Shop Girl At Sea.

Thank you so much for having me here today and being part of my latest tour!

For many years, I have wanted to set a book on the Titanic having been fascinated and humbled by the catastrophe of the fated ship. It wasn’t until I was writing book 2 of the Shop Girl series (A Shop Girl Gets The Vote) that I realised I had found the perfect character to send aboard the ship to America.

The heroine of A Shop Girl At Sea, Amelia Wakefield, is the head window dresser at Pennington’s department store. She is ambitious yet kind, curious yet lacking in self-confidence… or at least she is until Pennington’s owner, Elizabeth, sees something in Amelia that she believes makes her the perfect candidate to send on a scouting expedition of the department stores in New York.

Also aboard the ship is seaman Jacob Murphy who lives in Bath but spends most of his life stationed at Southampton’s docks. Having lost his father at a young age, Jacob stepped into the role of protector and provider for his mother and two younger sisters. His life has rarely been his own his entire adulthood so when he secures a place on the Titanic’s maiden voyage, Jacob sees this as his opportunity to thrive. Isn’t there every possibility his destiny lies in America?

Amelia and Jacob are thrown together in a world where the wealthy and the poor are sailing across the Atlantic for different reasons, but when the mammoth vessel strikes an iceberg, they soon realise no one is better than anyone else or more unprepared for the future…

Through my reading of reference books, survivors accounts and letters, I became more and more immersed in the people aboard the Titanic while writing this book, yet still unable to say I can imagine what those terrified passengers endured in those final hours. I hope, through the writing of this book, I have paid homage to those who died and survived by touching on the tragedy and writing a story that provides love, romance and hope for all that read A Shop Girl At Sea.

Happy Reading,

Rachel x

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

My Thoughts…

Amelia’s American adventure takes the reader away from Pennington’s glamourous ethos. A popular subject for historical fiction, the Titanic tragedy gets a new perspective in this story.
Amelia and Samuel’s lives are irrevocably changed when they get to opportunity to visit America on the luxury liner. Amelia is damaged, by a terrible past crime. Sam is drowning in unwanted responsibility. The chance to escape even for a short time is too good to miss. The romance is gentle but full of angst. Well researched and sensitive writing emphasises the terrible loss, and courage of those on board the ship.

Ruby’ story highlights domestic abuse and society’s prejudice to single-sex couples.

This is an engaging romantic saga. It has a perfect balance of vivid characters, historical detail and poignant events. The complex protagonists are easy to empathise, the historical setting vibrantly brought to life by the easy to read writing style.

Rachel Brimble lives in Wiltshire with her husband of twenty years, two teenage daughters and her beloved chocolate Labrador, Tyler. Multi-published in the US, she is thrilled to have a new beginning writing for Aria in the UK. When Rachel isn’t writing, she enjoys reading across the genres, knitting and walking the English countryside with her family…often stopping off at a country pub for lunch and a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

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Posted in Author Guest Post, Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Guest post, Holiday Romance, Romance, Romantic Comedy, Travel

My Greek Island Summer Mandy Baggot 5*#Review @Aria_Fiction @mandybaggot @HoZ_Books #Romance #HolidayRomance #RomCom #Greece Friendship #Relationships #GreekIslands #Corfu #Travel #BlogTour #BookReview #GuestPost #MandyBaggot20

Becky Rose has just landed her dream job house-sitting at a top-end villa on the island of Corfu. What could be better than six weeks laying by an infinity pool overlooking the gorgeous Ionian waters while mending her broken heart.

Elias Mardas is travelling back to Corfu on business whilst dealing with his own personal demons. Late arriving in Athens, Becky and Elias have to spend a night in the Greek capital. When they have to emergency land in Kefalonia, Becky’s got to decide whether to suck up the adventure and this gorgeous companion she seems to have been thrown together with or panic about when she’s going to arrive at Corfu…

Finally reaching the beautiful island, Becky is happy to put Elias behind her and get on with her adventure. Until he turns up at the villa…

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

My Thoughts…

Becky wants more than working in a sandwich business. She’s creative and clever but is gradually losing her sense of self, by keeping quiet and hiding her talents. The chance to housesit in Corfu, is too good an opportunity, to miss, even though it strains her sibling relationship. This is a gently paced book. You get to know Becky before she sets off on her adventure. Unexpected events make the flights more adventurous than expected, and Becky meets two fellow travellers, full of emotional angst and secrets.

With lovingly described settings, the story has an authentic sense of place. The emotional plot combines friendship, humour, poignancy and romance, in a relatable way. Complex, flawed and unique characters, complement a gently paced, detailed plot. Unexpected twists keep you turning the pages, as the main characters discover what’s important to them.

This story is an escapist read, letting the reader experience love and life in an engaging holiday setting.

#MandyBaggot20 – A tale of many books

I’ve written 20 books! No matter how many times I say this to myself I still can’t quite believe it. How DID that happen? Yes, this year, fittingly in 2020, my 20th novel is published – My Greek Island Summer! So, where did my writing journey begin and what exactly has happened in the last twelve years from Book 1 to Book 20?

Book 1 – Excess All Areas (self-published)

Picture the scene, a new mother crying out for some respite from nappy changes and piles of washing carrying a birth injury no one could fix… what does she do? She escapes into another world and writes about her last sunshine holiday to Corfu creating characters who can do anything! Readers still tell me how much they love Freya Johnson!

Book 2 – One Night on Ice – Aria Fiction (first self-published as Breaking the Ice)

My love of Dancing on Ice spurred me into writing this story. Again, I was escaping into fiction any time I could and writing about other characters’ issues took me away from my own.

Book 3 – Knowing Me Knowing You (self-published)

I have no idea where the idea for this book came from. It’s based around a relationship gameshow where single mum Kate has to compete for a prize alongside the gorgeous Joel, the date she has paid to be there who she knows nothing about. Think The Generation Game meets Take Me Out

Book 4 – Strings Attached (self-published)

This is my real rock star romance spawned from all those delicious tortured bad boys we love to think we could change if they were in our orbit. I think bringing out this book was the time I thought I might be able to take my writing seriously and maybe, just maybe, I could get a publisher.

Book 5 – Taking Charge (Sapphire Star Publishing)* This book is being re-released by Aria Fiction in 2020 under a new title

This was my first traditionally published novel! All the titles I self-published before had been rejected by every publisher imaginable but I refused to give up hope. Call me Little Miss Persistent! Two publishers offered on this book and I decided to go for new small press, Sapphire Star Publishing. I wrote this book after I visited my dad in Michigan and fell in love with the area and the ice hockey…

Book 6 – Public Property (self-published)

This was the 2nd book I ever wrote because it has the same characters as Excess All Areas. I think, when you start off writing, comfortable is good and these characters were comfortable to me so I wrote about them again.

Book 7 – Security (Sapphire Star Publishing)* This book is being re-released by Aria Fiction in 2020 under a new title

This was my first attempt at romantic suspense. I didn’t set out to write a suspense novel, it just happened that the characters and ideas made it that way. It’s always about the romance and the connection, first and foremost, with my writing and this book is no different. Autumn and Nathan are still two of my favourite characters and I can’t wait for this book to be released again!

Book 8 – Do You Remember? – (HarperImpulse)* This book is being re-released by Aria Fiction in 2020 under a new title

I was invited to go to HarperCollins to talk about their idea for a new digital imprint, HarperImpulse. After the meeting I decided I’d submit my next book to them myself! And I got my first UK traditional publishing deal! This book features a dual timeline with the story being present day and ten years before. I think this is probably my most heart-wrenching romance and I can’t wait for it to meet new readers when it releases again!

Book 9 – One Summer in Nashville – Aria Fiction (first published by HarperImpulse as ‘Made in Nashville’)

This was all about my love of country music and the stories Honor and Jared had to tell were a true gift from my imagination. This was one of the easiest books to write because these characters knew exactly what they wanted to do! I’m so glad new readers are discovering this story this year!

Book 10 – Truly Madly Greekly (Bookouture)

This book literally changed my life. My first visit to Corfu since 2004 and I fell in love with our hotel (Mareblue Beach) and all its people. It inspired the backdrop for Ellen and Yan’s romance and this book – to date as I’m writing this – has sold almost 50,000 copies. This novel made me realise that romantic comedy was where my heart was.

Book 11 – One Wish in Manhattan (Bookouture)

I adored writing this book. Hayley, Angel and Oliver were a dream to create and the New York setting just added to the magic. This book is special because it was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy of the Year and it was the first book I had translated into a foreign language. Thank you Germany! I’m lucky to have books translated into German, Hungarian, Czech and Italian now, with the map growing soon I hope!

Book 12 – Those Summer Nights (Bookouture)

My love of Corfu was growing with each trip back, so it made sense to continue to show the love in my next novel. The restaurant in this book was based on a real taverna on the beach in Acharavi called ‘Lavender’. Lavender has since sadly closed but a new restaurant is in its place, Corfu Grill. Definitely worth a visit!

Book 13 – One Christmas in Paris (Bookouture)

How do you follow up a Christmas book set in NYC? You write about the most romantic city in the world – Paris. It had been a long time since I visited Paris so I had to read a lot of guidebooks and watch a lot of You Tube videos to get this one right. Readers tell me I brought the magic of Paris alive so, job done!

Book 14 – Single for the Summer (Ebury)

I moved to join Penguin! This was my first deal that saw copies of my book in Tesco, W H Smith Travel and Asda! It’s always a dream come true to see your books in the supermarkets and at airports! Signing copies at London Luton on my way to Corfu with my family was a particular highlight!

Book 15 – One Christmas Kiss in Notting Hill (Ebury)

Again, copies of this book were in supermarkets and this one was my first book with a gorgeous glittery cover! We love a bit of glitter! Think Love, Actually meets Notting Hill with bulldozers…

Book 16 – Desperately Seeking Summer (Ebury)

I do like to have some of my characters coming from places close to me. In this book Abby Dolan comes from Romsey in Hampshire which is just down the road from me here in Wiltshire. I never forget my roots… but she does get to travel to Corfu in this book too!

Book 17 – One New York Christmas (Ebury)

My tomboy heroine in this novel is Lara and she’s from Wiltshire and drives a lorry. The idea for this book involves connecting with celebrities on social media and what would happen if one of them actually replied…

Book 18 – One Last Greek Summer (Aria Fiction)

I joined the incredible Aria Fiction after deciding that I really needed to get back to driving digital sales. The paperback market is so competitive and fewer and fewer books are getting picked for the shelves. This book has done brilliantly and I couldn’t be happier working with Team Aria. Beth and Heidi head to Corfu to be 21 all over again but will their past be waiting for them?

Book 19 – One Christmas Star (Aria Fiction)

Without any doubt, this is my favourite book I’ve ever written. It’s funny and heart-warming but also sad and thought-provoking. Emily and Ray drove their stories for me and the children of Stretton Park really are the stars of the book. I’ve never been prouder of a book and, in my completely biased opinion, it really deserves all the awards/accolades/film deals there are!

Book 20 – My Greek Island Summer (Aria Fiction)

And here we are! Bang up to date! My Greek Island Summer is a worthy 20th novel that seems to encompass everything I love about writing rom com with a little nod to all the books that have come before. It’s sunshine and good times with life hurdles to get over and crazy Greekness all the way through. Some say it’s my best yet… but why don’t you decide!

My Greek Island Summer on Amazonhttps://amzn.to/2TIuSXN

Mandy Baggot is an internationally bestselling and award-winning romance writer. The winner of the Innovation in Romantic Fiction award at the UK’s Festival of Romance, her romantic comedy novel, One Wish in Manhattan, was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year award in 2016. Mandy’s books have so far been translated into German, Italian, Czech and Hungarian. Mandy loves the Greek island of Corfu, white wine, country music and handbags. Also a singer, she has taken part in ITV1’s Who Dares Sings and The X-Factor. Mandy is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors and lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK with her husband and two daughters.

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Posted in Author Guest Post, Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Family Drama, Friendship, Mystery, Noir

When The Time Comes Adele O’Neill 4*#Review @Aria_Fiction @adelesbooks #family #crime #friendship #noir #mystery #BlogTour #BookReview #GuestPost #Author

Her husband says it’s suicide. The police say it’s murder.

Liam Buckley was a married man with two teenage children when he moved out of the family home to start a new life with his lover. His wife Jennifer never forgave him, but now she needs him to come back: she’s been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and the kids can’t cope alone.

One day after Liam moves home, Jennifer is found dead. Liam thinks it’s suicide. But the police, led by DS Louise Kennedy, are convinced it’s murder.

Liam hires a retired detective to help prove his innocence, but it’s no easy task. The children are distraught, and Jennifer’s best friend, Sarah, is waging a campaign against Liam, determined to expose him for a liar and a cheat.

As secrets surface from the complex web of Buckley family life, DS Kennedy must decide. Did Jennifer Buckley end her own life, or did Liam take it from her? The answer, when it comes, will shock them all…

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

My Thoughts…

Emotive, intense, thought-provoking family drama, draws Detective Kennedy and Private Investigator Kelly into another dark investigation. Jenny, a terminally ill patient dies suddenly. Was it assisted suicide? Murder? Or suicide? How far is her estranged husband Liam, just returned to the family home, implicated?

Told from multi-points of view, in the past and present, the story unfolds, revealing clues and unexpected events. Sharing the emotional journey of the children, ex-husband, and others connected to Jenny. The emotional damage terminal illness causes to the family, friends and wider network is explored.

The sense of confusion is reiterated by the differing viewpoints and the dual time perspectives. The investigation is not the main focus of the story, but Kennedy and Kelly are intrinsic to the mystery’s resolution.

The ending is realistic, and the epilogue demonstrates human resilience and optimism.

Guest Post – Adele o’Neill -Bringing Emotion to the Page

For me, the measure of a good story is how much it makes me feel and as most writers will agree, a character that evokes an empathetic response is a character that a reader will invest in. As a writer of issue-based fiction, it’s heart-warming to hear that a reader was crying at a scene that made you cry when you wrote it and while scene-setting and plot progression are important it’s in finding the correct balance of emotion in a sub-text that can make all the difference in an authentic character and how they carry the story to a satisfying conclusion.

How do you do that, you say when you couldn’t possibly have experienced everything that your characters have experienced, or have you?

The short answer is no… but like any short answer, it doesn’t really reflect the reality. I have and I haven’t. Let me explain…

The first idea for a novel or the story concept begins very simply for me. Its usually with an issue that piques my curiosity, either professionally or personally, and has potential for layers and layers of complexity to be added in at a later date. In ‘When the Time Comes’, it was the issue of assisted suicide that pulled me into exploring the impossible choices that someone with a terminal illness is faced with. It is another character-driven story of survival, dark secrets and love, just like life and the consequences of that complexity posed many more questions than I could answer and presented an inherent sense of conflict that I wanted to explore and that’s where the concept for the story came from.

Having written three novels, I’d come to understand that simple plot mechanics are important but not nearly enough to truly engage readers and I’m a firm believer that the best stories, the stories that stay with you long after the last page is turned, are not just about the issue that they say they’re about. They are about so much more; the character’s inner conflict, the human experience, the inherent dilemma, the psychological and emotional fallout of choices and the way in which the characters’ circumstances resonate with the reader.  So the question still stands, can I, if I haven’t experienced the situation in real life, write my character’s emotions authentically?

The short answer is, yes, because I do know what it feels like. We all do. Let me explain…

I know what pain feels like, what it looks like, what it smells like.  I can tell you how emotion overwhelms you when you stand in triumph, conversely too when you cower in fear. I can describe the temperature of tears on my face or the blush of my cheeks and I can tell you the depth of lines around my eyes. Some of them carved from happiness some etched from worry, the deep ones excavated through a deep sorrow that will never leave me. I know what it feels like to laugh contentedly but equally, I know what it feels like to cry in desperation. I can recall all my moments of grace and wisdom and likewise, I can remember what it feels like to be ridiculous (these occasions are more frequent than I would like).

This is what life is for all of us, a series of emotional responses to human experiences that are riddled with happiness, joy, grief, sorrow and fear. And while everyone experiences emotions in their own inimitable way, this collection of personal life experiences and human stories allow me as a writer, to inform the emotional reaction of a character in an authentic way to the set of circumstances that has been written into the scene. Without this realness, the reader wouldn’t engage emotionally so, the next time you come across that common assumption that writers write from personal experience, it’s not the circumstances of the scene or the event that has a biographical element but the emotions and empathy that are represented in our characters. (Otherwise I think a few writers in the crime writing ranks have a few questions to answer!)

Adele O’Neill

Adele is a writer from Co. Wicklow who lives with her husband Alan and her two teenage daughters. Influenced by writers across all genres she has a particular fondness for fiction that is relatable and realistic. Her debut novel was awarded The Annie McHale Debut Novel Award for 2017 and is a character driven story of survival, dark family secrets and sibling loyalty, just like life. Her second novel Behind A Closed Door is another emotionally harrowing tale of impossible choices, loyalty and friendship. Adele writes overlooking the Irish Sea, which she credits for the tumultuous dynamics in the relationships and lives of her unsuspecting characters in her third novel, When The Time Comes, another dark tale that tests the lengths we go to protect the ones we love.

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Posted in Author Guest Post, Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Mystery, Romance

The Girl Who Came Home to Cornwall Emma Burstall 4* #Review @HoZ_Books @Aria_Fiction @EmmaBurstall #FamilyDrama #Cornwall #VillageLife #Secrets #Tremarnock #BlogTour #GuestPost #BookReview

#Tremarnock

In the quaint Cornish village of Tremarnock, Chabela Penhallow arrives for a holiday and to discover more about her Cornish ancestors. But, as always with newcomers to the small seaside town, rumours start to fly about this beautiful stranger. Is there more to her than meets the eye?

Meanwhile, Rob and Liz Hart’s marriage is on the rocks, but only one of them knows the real reason. Once the secret is out, will they be able to handle the repercussions or will it destroy their life together?

For the residents of Tremarnock, the revelations will either bond or break them – forever.

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#TheGirlWhoCameHometoCornwall

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

My Thoughts…

This is a further instalment of the Tremarnock series, I read book 4, ‘A Cornish Secret’, and this one has the same wonderful description of characters and setting. The plot is full of secrets, which threaten to disturb the tranquillity of the Cornish coastal haven.

The arrival of a beautiful Mexican woman causes a predictable stir in the coastal village, the initial impact of her arrival on one resident Rick, makes you realise she will ruffle some feathers, and make some inhabitants wish for younger days.

The writing style invites you to curl up and enjoy the escape into another world, full of diverse characters and picturesque scenery. The reception Chabela receives is typical of a small community, some friendly, others inquisitive and some wary. Her reasons for visiting seem genuine, but she is hiding unhappiness and seems to be seeking something that will only be found in Tremarnock.

An engaging, emotional tale, with detailed knowledge of Cornish village life and interesting snippets of life in Mexico. A lovely mix of humour and sadness, which makes you reluctant to leave when the story comes to its satisfying conclusion.

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Guest post – Emma Burstall – FROM LITTLE ACORNS, OAK TREES GROW

Readers often ask where I get my ideas for novels from, and I usually give the same answer: a seed from somewhere or someone somehow plants itself in my brain. The seed starts to germinate and if I’m fortunate and tend to it carefully and lovingly, it may eventually grow into a lusty plot.

I remember quite clearly the day that the seed for my latest book, THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME TO CORNWALL, took root. It was during a walk in my local park one morning with my Mexican friend, Yael, who lives with her English husband, Jonathan, and their children in London.

Yael happened to mention that when she and Jonathan first started dating, she told him about a little town about two and a half hours out of Mexico City where she said they sold the most delicious, rare delicacies that you couldn’t find anywhere else in the country. These were snacks called ‘pastes’, available on almost every street corner, and the couple set off on a romantic mini-break, partly to try out the unusual food.

When they arrived, however, Jonathan was most surprised and even a little put-out. On biting into one of the snacks, encased in pastry, he exclaimed: ‘It’s a Cornish pasty!’

The only difference was that the Mexican version included ingredients such as chilli and avocado, as well as beef, onion and potato.

It soon transpired that the pasty was brought to the town by Cornish tin miners, who travelled there in their droves in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Back then, Cornish miners were considered among the finest in the world and were employed to work in the silver mines. Many eventually went home, much richer than when they arrived, while others married local girls and stayed.

Sometime later, I was lucky enough to visit the little Mexican town and the cemetery just outside where many of the Cornish miners and their families were buried. The graves bore traditional Cornish names such as Pengelly, Skewes and Carew.

I was moved by the thought of these brave men, women and sometimes children, who travelled so many miles to such an unfamiliar and sometimes hostile land to make a new life for themselves.

Before long, a character sprang to mind – a vibrant, independent, beautiful but ultimately unhappy Mexican woman called Chabela Penhallow Maldonado, who is desperate to escape from heartbreak. After receiving a letter from a stranger, she decides to visit the seaside village, of Tremarnock, where my latest series of books is based, to take her mind off her troubles and discover more about her Cornish roots.

She soon causes quite a stir and not everyone is happy to have her there. Of course, there are lots of twists and turns, shocks, secrets and surprises along the way, but does our heroine finally find what she is looking for? You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens to her and all the other characters in the end!

I hope you enjoy reading The Girl Who Came Home To Cornwall as much as I enjoyed writing it. Do drop me a line at www.emmaburstall.com and let me know J.

#EmmaBurstall

Emma Burstall was a newspaper journalist in Devon and Cornwall before becoming a full- time author. Tremarnock, the first novel in her series set in a delightful Cornish village, was published in 2015 and became a top-10 bestseller.

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Posted in Author Guest Post, Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Family Drama, Guest post, Murder Mystery, Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Thriller

The Scorched Earth Rachael Blok 4* #Review #GuestPost @MsRachaelBlok @HoZ_Books @Aria_Fiction #CrimeFiction #Suspense #PsychologicalThriller #PoliceProcedural #DCIJansen #BlogTour

#TheScorchedEarth

Who really killed Leo Fenton?

Two years ago, Ben Fenton went camping with his brother Leo. It was the last time they ever saw each other. By the end of that fateful trip, Leo had disappeared, and Ben had been arrested for his murder.

Ben’s wife Ana has always protested his innocence. Now, on the hottest day of 2018’s sweltering heatwave, she receives a phone call from the police. Leo’s body has been found, in a freshly dug grave in her own local churchyard. How did it get there? Who really killed him?

St Albans police, led by DCI Jansen, are soon unpicking a web of lies that shimmers beneath the surface of Ana’s well-kept village. But as tensions mount, and the tight-knit community begins to unravel, Ana realises that if she wants to absolve her husband, she must unearth the truth alone.

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

My Thoughts…

The second book featuring Dutch detective DCI Jansen, who finds himself mystified by the close-knit English village community. It seems no one believes in plain-speaking, preferring closing ranks, and relying on innuendos.

The story is a sad one. Two brothers take a camping trip two years earlier. One is presumed dead, the other convicted of murder, but is it that simple. Ana, the accused brother’s partner. believes not. She has no chance of proving this until the missing brother’s body is found buried in the village. Now, his brother can’t be the murderer. DCI Jansen has to find the real killer, but although gossip is rife in the village, there is nothing of substance, and everyone is keeping secrets.

DCI Jansen suffers a personal tragedy, which he has to conquer, to stop his emotional state having a detrimental effect on the case. Ana wants to help her partner but doesn’t want to reveal what she knows. She feels threatened, and the suspense and menacing ethos surrounding her are well-written.

There is a strong psychological element to this story, particularly from Ana’s perspective, as events from her past invade her present situation. Events are revealed, from Leo’s point of view, in the past, and Ana, Ben and DCI Jansen’s points of view, in the present. The two timelines create dramatic irony, the reader knowing things the characters don’t at that time.

Scene setting and character dynamics form the first part of the book, this slows the pace, but the short chapters and active voice, keep the story moving satisfactorily, ensuring reader engagement. There are several viable suspects, and even though you may guess who did it, early on in the story, there are plenty of smoke and mirrors. to make you doubt it.

Clever twists and a final reveal, make this a good story, with its solid police procedural theme tempered with psychological suspense.

#RachelBlok

Rachael Blok grew up in Durham and studied Literature at Warwick University. She taught English at a London Comprehensive and is now a full-time writer living in Hertfordshire with her husband and children.

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Guest Post- Rachael Blok – ‘The Scorched Earth’, and Ana: where she came from.

The Scorched Earth has a number of different voices, but my protagonist is Ana, a woman struggling with grief as her partner is in jail, and then ghosts from her past emerge: she begins to hear footsteps behind her in a car park late and night; she begins to look over her shoulder…  Ana’s experiences are both ideas I’ve wanted to write about for a while. It was a pleasure to see her come to life on paper.

Women are told to shout ‘fire’ instead of ‘rape’ if they’re being attacked…

As a woman, I’ve felt on more than one occasion a burst of fear walking home in the dark, or walking into a car park late a night. My mum, my sister and I all took a self-defence course years ago, and we were told to shout ‘fire’ instead of ‘rape’ if we’re attacked – people respond more if their property is threatened! I have no answer for this, but I find it terrifying. This fear resonates in the novel and I think, it’s fear men and women should both be aware of. I always tell my husband that if he’s walking behind a woman on her own, late at night, he should drop back – make sure she doesn’t have to look over her shoulder or be concerned about a threat. And the very real issue of stalking is taken more seriously now than it has been in the past, but there is still some way to go. When relationships break down and men find it hard to let women go, it can be a very scary time, and women find it difficult to get concerns taken seriously, often until after an attack.

They locked him up, but they locked her up, too…

Whilst researching the novel, I spent some time in prison, which is not at all like I imagined! My main experience had been from movies and the TV. I found the reality much scarier. I saw homemade weapons; I heard stories of attacks on officers and other prisoners; I spoke to many different people from all aspects of prison life, and it was such an eye-opener. I think as a society we lock people away in all respects – there’s a sense of being forgotten, completely. Women whose partners are in jail spoke of the shame, and also the halted grief – they miss their partners, but can’t grieve for them, they can’t move on. This grief is something Ana wrestles with, and I hope I’ve done it justice.

The prison scenes almost wrote themselves after I’d visited. Even the smell is distinct. My prison officer guides me into the contraband room, where they keep the confiscated drugs. Spice is the drug they have the most problems with at the moment, which is synthetic cannabis. It’s smuggled into the prisons in all sorts of ways. One of the ways is through books and magazines. The pages are soaked in the spice, and so prisons have to scan all books now. So many ideas for plots!

It’s been a pleasure to write the guest blog and thanks to Jane Hunt for giving me the opportunity to mull over the ideas for the novel. I hope you enjoy The Scorched Earth!