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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#BlogTour

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!

Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Crime, Family Drama, Friendship, Literary Fiction

Boy Swallows Universe Trent Dalton 4* #Review @TrentDalton @BoroughPress @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK #LiteraryFiction #Comingof Age #FamilyDrama #Friendship #Romance #Magic #Crime #UrbanFiction #Australia #Brisbane

Brisbane, 1983: A lost father, a mute brother, a mum in jail, a heroin dealer for a stepfather and a notorious criminal for a babysitter. It’s not as if Eli’s life isn’t complicated enough already.

But Eli’s life is about to get a whole lot more serious. He’s about to fall in love. And he has to break into prison on Christmas Day, to save his mum.

A story of brotherhood, true love and the most unlikely of friendships, Boy Swallows Universe will be the most heartbreaking, joyous and exhilarating novel you will read all year.

Amazon UK

Waterstones

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

My Thoughts…

I’m always a little wary of critically acclaimed, and over-hyped books, often they are not as good as they are reputed to be. So I started this one with trepidation. Initial impressions are that is honest, raw, and full of experiences of urban life in Brisbane that do not make easy reading.

Eli and August, are brothers, their carers’ lives are driven by drugs, and the boys have to constantly battle adversity to keep the family together. Despite the family’s dysfunctionality, the love the boys feel for their mother and each other dominates this story and puts into perspective many of the bizarre and often frightening experiences they endure.

At the end of this lengthy book, there is a note from the author, about how the story came into being, what it means to him and the story’s themes. It is, on reading this that you appreciate, it is more of a memoir than fiction, although seen through a young child’s and then young boys eyes. I wish I’d read this note first because it grounds this complex story, and makes it more relatable.

There is a great deal of imagination in this story, magic if you like, which I attributed to a young boy’s need to escape from the harshness of his life, and give himself the power to overcome some its more sordid aspects.

I’m still not sure if I liked it, but the writing is engaging and authentic, the story moves forward in an understandable way, and it gives an insider view of Australian life, particularly life in Brisbane and Queensland, through a young person’s viewpoint.

The characters are the lifeblood of this story, and the author indicates that they are based on people he knows or a medley of them, in his personal and journalistic life. Many are not likeable, and the danger the children are exposed to is disturbing, but they are real, and the reality of this story is what stays with you.

An unusual tale of growing up and surviving life in a gritty urban setting. With a cast of characters, covering the spectrum of humanity, and the humour, love and magic required to reach adulthood.

Posted in Book Review, Romance

5* Review – Maisey Yates – The Spaniard’s Stolen Bride @maiseyyates @MillsandBoon

Stolen for the Spaniard’s inheritance…

Will her innocence be his undoing?

To notoriously ruthless Diego Navarro, kidnapping and marrying his brother’s shy fiancée seems a perfectly sensible way to secure his inheritance! Yet when Liliana Hart willingly goes with him Diego’s reluctantly intrigued… Though the heat of their marriage bed is scorching, it’s the intensity of their connection that pushes Diego to the edge. But is it powerful enough to redeem this dark-hearted billionaire?

Amazon UK

Read Cam and Matius’ romance in The Spaniard’s Untouched Bride.

My Thoughts…

I enjoyed reading Cam and Matius’ story in ‘The Spaniard’s Untouched Bride’, and I was interested to see what happens to Liliana, Matius’ Fiancee when she is kidnapped by his dark and dangerous brother Diego. Definitely an anti-hero Diego damaged by his father’s abuse, and haunted by the loss of his mother and pregnant first wife seeks only to cause destruction and hurt.

It seems he will stop at nothing to gain his Grandfather’s legacy, especially if it hurts his brother Matius, ‘the good one’. Kidnapping Liliana, Matius’ fiancee appears to be one more destructive act but his reasons are deeper than to gain his inheritance and hurt his brother, but is he prepared to explore what these reasons really mean?

Diego and Liliana’s romance is a learning curve for both of them. There is a strong sexual attraction, but this is underscored with emotional need, as they both discover through much angst and pain what love really is.  Liliana and Diego’s characters are flawed and realistic and their emotional journey fraught with conflict and self-realisation.,

Fast-paced and passionate this romantic story is an absorbing read, with a particularly poignant ending. 

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

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review, Romance

4* Review – Maisey Yates – The Spaniard’s Untouched Bride – @maiseyyates @MillsandBoon #Romance

To save her inheritance…

His price is marriage!

Camilla Alvarez refuses to abandon her beloved horses when formidable tycoon Matias Navarro acquires her family’s renowned rancho. Instead, she disguises herself as his stable-boy! But when Camilla’s charade is discovered Matias offers her an even more shocking role—as his wife! Innocent Camilla is transformed into a bride deserving of his diamonds, but their convenient marriage is transformed by the scalding heat of their wedding night…

Amazon UK

Mills & Boon

My Thoughts…

What if you lost everything you loved, you’d fight to get it back, wouldn’t you? 

That’s exactly what Cam does, even if it means pretending to be a boy to get to be with her beloved horses. An unfortunate event brings her into close proximity with the owner Matias and then she’s really in trouble. Matias is used to being pursued but he is completely floored when he finds out Cam’s secret. He offers a marriage of convenience but their bodies and emotions have other ideas.

This is an emotional romance using well-loved tropes of mistaken identity and marriage of convenience. The characters are believable and likeable. The story has plenty of heat, fun and a rollercoaster of conflicts and emotions, which threaten the chance of a happy ever after.

I enjoyed this romance but felt it should have been more detailed, lots of issues are alluded to but not fully explored, despite their importance to the characters’ emotional development. 

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

 

Now you can read Diego and Liliana’s story too – The Spaniard’s Stolen Bride

Romance

Posted in Book Review

Touched to the Soul – Elsa Winckler 5* Review

Here’s my second book review for Elsa Winckler’s Touched series ‘Touched to the Soul,’

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Blurb 2016- 2

A passion that runs soul deep… 

Zoe Sutherland can’t stand the pushy, arrogant architect Dale Cavallo. He was just too damn sure of himself, too handsome, too…everything. Maneuvered into working as the interior decorator on his latest project, a glamorous new hotel, Zoe can’t keep her mind on the job. And worse, the strange man won’t give her access to the hotel’s floor plans. How is she supposed to finish the design when she doesn’t have the plans? And when the obnoxious man distracts her with every smoldering look, every touch… 

Dale has one goal: get rid of the pesky interior designer. Since he’s been forced into close proximity with the beautiful Zoe, everything’s gone downhill. And to make matters worse, she’s only out to further her own career—and he’s not about to give her the hotel’s plans so she can steal his ideas. He needs to get her out of his system, and sleeping with her seems like the best way to do that. When it comes to women, he’s found the best way to handle them is to love ’em and leave ’em. But something strange is happening…because after a night of loving Zoe, he’s finding it harder than ever to leave… 

Buy Links 2016 -2

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Review

Touched to the Soul

Reading ‘Touched to the Heart’ the first book in this series got me hooked on the sexy Cavallo brothers and the feisty Sutherland sisters. ‘Touched to the Soul’ is Zoe and Dale’s story, who met in book one where they seemed to repel more than attract. However, neither is being honest and when they are thrown together the sensual tension is off the scale.
If you enjoy watching love grow between glamorous couples, this is for you. The worlds of interior design and boutique hotels collide. The exchanges between Zoe and Dale are full of amusing dialogue, sizzling interaction and serious conflict that makes a happy ever for the couple seems unlikely. However, fairy godmothers in the form of Zoe’s mum and Rosa, Dale’s mum have other ideas.
Glimpses of the other Sutherland sister and their best friend’s lives enhance this passionate love story, making reading the next book in the series mandatory.
The other star of this book and the series is the setting. The descriptions are not extensive but you get wonderful glimpses of life in South Africa, which makes these stories distinctive.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Touched to the Soul by Elsa Winckler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Touched to the Heart by Elsa Winckler

Elsa Winckler

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