Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Crime, Murder Mystery, Mystery

The Castle Mystery – 4* #Review -Faith Martin @JoffeBooks @FaithMartin_Nov

Jenny Starling has her dream job cooking for Lord and Lady Avonsleigh in a genuine castle. Then one of the castle’s treasures, a fabulously jewelled dagger, is used to murder one of the staff members. The victim is found stabbed through the heart in the conservatory. Lady Avonsleigh insists that Jenny help the police find the murderer. But how can Jenny solve this case when the murder was committed in front of several reliable witnesses, none of whom saw a thing? This is the fourth in a series of enjoyable murder mysteries with a great cast of characters and baffling crimes which will keep you in suspense to the final page.

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

My Thoughts…

Jenny Starling, travelling cook and reluctant sleuth, has found a job where she might like to stay. Life as a cook in a castle full of historic artefacts, for people who appreciate her skilled cookery, seems like a dream come true. Unfortunately, Jenny’s penchant for attracting murder means that someone dies in mysterious circumstances and Jenny finds her detective skills are needed once again.

This is a murder mystery reliant on detective skills, which Jenny has in abundance and the police detectives, less so. Set apart from the world of forensics and psychological profiling, this story will appeal to those who like a cozy mystery, concentrating on knowledge of people and what motivates them and a dazzling array of suspects, clues, red herrings in an atmospheric, vivid setting.

This is an enjoyable read, with an enigmatic main character reminiscent of Miss Marple with Mary Berry’s cookery skills.

This is the fourth in the Jenny Starling series but reads well as a standalone. A perfect escapist read.

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Posted in Festive Read

Festive Read -4* Review – A Dad of His Own- Minna Howard-Extract

 

House-sitting in a castle over Christmas is a dream come true for Anna and her seven-year-old son Freddie. But there’s one Christmas present Freddie wants more than anything, and it’s the one thing Anna can’t give him – his very own dad.

As Anna settles into her new surroundings and a much slower pace of life, she is soon befriended by the local villagers and the castle workforce who provide a welcome distraction. Before even a Christmas cracker is pulled, Freddie shows an eager interest in the castle workforce; green-fingered Simon, salt of the earth Luke and charming castle manager Julius. Could one of them make Freddies Christmas wish come true and repair Anna’s, broken heart?

At the most magical time of the year, everyone needs a Christmas miracle if they’re to make it to Christmas Day . . .

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Extract

‘Six

Lucy’s husband Colin arrived at the shop with their young son, Benny. He’d had to leave the car further away from the shop to keep clear of the flood. Benny kept complaining about having water in his boots.

‘I told you not to splash in the puddles,’ Colin said mildly. ‘I’ve brought him with me as the girls have gone out,’ he explained to Lucy and then, seeing Anna and Freddie, said, ‘Hello, sorry to meet you in such tragic conditions.’

‘I can’t believe it’s flooded so badly.’ Anna didn’t know how to deal with this disaster. It was so hard to take in the sudden change in the village. Yesterday it had been so charming with its pretty cottages painted in soft colours and the spotless little shops. ‘I know it’s rained a lot, but I never thought there would be so much damage.’

‘The river wasn’t managed properly,’ Colin sounded exasperated. ‘I won’t go into it now. The emergency services are doing what they can, but it’s a bit like shutting the door after the horse has bolted. But we who live here must do all we can to see people are warm and dry for Christmas.’ He turned to Lucy; ‘I suppose we could put Benny on a camp bed in with us and free up his room for someone.’

‘We could,’ Lucy said slightly doubtfully, looking at Benny.

Freddie and Benny were eyeing each other up. Anna remembered Lucy telling her both boys were the same age.

‘Now what else has to go to the house? I thought we should put a notice in the shop window to let everyone know that all the cakes are at our house. Of course, they’ll know about the flood, and if they feel their cakes have been contaminated, you’ll have to give them their money back.’ Colin said, ‘but they were well away from the water and in a tin, so I’d say they are all right.’ He smiled at her, ‘Oh, and will you have the Gateau des Rois ready for the Twelfth Night, some people like them earlier, remember?’ Colin reminded her.

‘Oh, heavens, I’d forgotten those,’ Lucy was shocked; she bit back tears of exhaustion. ‘I can see all this mess, but I haven’t processed the fact that I won’t be able to bake here for some time and we’ve got all the Christmas cooking to do,’ she wailed.

‘I can help with the gateaux,’ Anna said. ‘I was an au pair in France before uni just after Christmas. It’s a French custom for the Epiphany.’

‘What kind of cake is that?’ Freddie asked.

‘It celebrates the three kings reaching the manger after baby Jesus was born. I think it had a paper crown and whoever gets the little figures inside is king or queen for the day,’ Anna explained.

‘That’s right, in France you buy them in the boulangerie, but we started doing them a couple of years ago, and it’s become very popular,’ Lucy went on. ‘I just don’t know how…’ Her voice tailed off in despair.

Colin put his arm round her, holding her close. ‘This won’t defeat us, love, we’ll carry on, but we’ll have to bake at home, and people can come and collect their cakes there. No one will lose out.’

‘If you give me the recipe I can make some too.’ Anna didn’t bake often but she enjoyed it when she did, and she hadn’t as much to do here, as she would have at home, so she could easily do it. ‘People could even collect them from the flat in the castle if that would help.’

Lucy threw her a wobbly smile. ‘Thanks, Anna; I might well take you up on that. We’ll work it out somehow; I just feel gutted, we were woken at five this morning, and it’s been hell ever since, and it’s not even teatime. But at least our house is safe, warm and dry not like some of the poor people like Mattie who must have lost so much.’

‘It’s a lot to take in,’ Anna said. She thought of Mattie’s cosy cottage where they’d had coffee with her. Whatever was that like now? ‘Somehow being Christmas makes it even worse,’ she said.

Simon came into the shop then and looked round in horror. ‘Oh, Lucy, I’m so sorry,’ he seemed stricken as if he’d stumbled into a war zone, which in a way he had, a war produced by nature, which, in the end, was more powerful than human beings.

‘Don’t be kind or I’ll burst into tears and probably won’t be able to stop,’ Lucy said, making Benny run to her side and cling to her as though her tears might wash her away.

‘We’ll all work together,’ Simon said with determination. ‘Support each other. Now I’m going to take Anna up to the castle, as Marian is meeting us there and we’re going to see what we can do for those who have nowhere to spend Christmas.’

‘What has Julius said about it?’ Colin asked.

‘Haven’t managed to track him down, he’s somewhere on a mountain, nor can I get hold of Nell and Tessa, so I’ll have to make the decisions myself. If there weren’t so many valuable things in those main rooms, I’d have no hesitation letting our friends and neighbours into the castle. But Julius isn’t back until tomorrow, Christmas Eve, and by then it will be too late to find somewhere for the people in the village to spend Christmas. It seems unfair that anyone has to doss down on the floor of the church hall when there are empty beds up at the castle.’

While the adults had been talking, Benny and Freddie thought it rather fun to go out into the water and splash each other by seeing who could stamp the hardest and become the wettest – Benny had seemingly forgotten about his wet socks.

Lucy quickly put an end to this game and, turning to Anna, said, ‘If Freddie would like to come home with us we’d love it. We’re only down the road in a large white house, Wildwood House. The wildwood’s long gone unless you see the garden sometimes, just the house remains,’ she joked. ‘You can’t miss it. If you’d like to, Freddie, that is?’ She smiled at him.

‘I’ve got a new computer game. It’s best with two people playing, but Dad and Mum don’t understand it, and my two sisters don’t like it, anyway they’re not there,’ Benny said eagerly.

‘Can I go with them, please, Mum?’ Freddie looked hopefully at Anna.’

My Thoughts…

There’s something delightfully old-fashioned about this story, which may not appeal to everyone at other times of the year but at Christmas and New Year, its unashamed sentimentality hits the mark.

Its a simple story of a widow and her young son, house-sitting at a castle over the festive period with a charming cast of villagers and plenty of adventures. It took me a while to get into this story, but once I did, I liked it.

Freddie’s wish for a father is transparent and leads to a few embarrassing incidents and tears for his mother, Annie. In the spirit of the season, Freddie’s gets his Christmas wish, even if it happens a little later than expected.

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

 

Minna has had an exciting career in fashion journalism and now writes full time while enjoying time with her grandsons and working as an occasional film and TV extra. She lives in London. 

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Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

The Cosy Christmas Tea Shop – Caroline Roberts – 5* Review

 

blurb-winter

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my-review-winter

Festive angst and cheer at the castle tea shop. Easy to read with believable characters and events, definitely my favourite book in this series. Romance, friendship and sparkling humour. Lovely down to earth characters, a perfect slice of cafe life at the castle for Christmas. I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review, New Books

4* Review: The Cosy Tea shop in the Castle- Caroline Roberts

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Blurb - Coastal

When Ellie Hall lands her dream job running the little teashop in the beautiful but crumbling Claverham Castle, it’s the perfect escape from her humdrum job in the city. Life is definitely on the rise as Ellie replaces spreadsheets for scones, and continues her Nanna’s brilliant baking legacy.

When Lord Henry, the stick-in-the-mud owner, threatens to burst her baking bubble with his old-fashioned ways, Ellie wonders if she might have bitten off more than she can chew. But cupcake by cupcake she wins the locals over, including teashop stalwart, Doris, and Ellie’s showstopping bakes look set to go down in castle history!

Now all that’s missing in Ellie’s life is a slice of romance – can Joe, the brooding estate manager, be the one to put the cherry on the top of Ellie’s dream?

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My Review - Coastal

The Cosy Teashop in the Castle

The storyline for this book really appealed to me; I love Northumberland and my guilty secret is that I would love to run my own teashop. So it was easy to understand Ellie’s dreams and aspirations for the teashop in the castle. Ellie’s enthusiasm, courage to try something new and to stick at it, even when there are problems makes her easy to like, you want her to succeed.
Joe’s affable exterior hides a multitude of secrets.
The teashop is a lovely setting and I would have liked to have got to know more about the ‘regular’s that visited it.
The romance between Ellie and Joe is lovely, with lots of easy to relate to funny moments. There is plenty of heat, perhaps a little too much for such a gentle storyline?
This is a nice cosy read for a cold winter’s afternoon.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

The Cosy Teashop in the Castle by Caroline Roberts

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The Cosy Teashop in the Castle by Caroline Roberts

Caroline Roberts

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Posted in Book Review, New Books

4* Review: The Secrets of Castle Du Reve – Hannah Emery

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Historical Blurb

In the quaint, seaside town of Silenshore a legacy of secrets is about to be revealed…

Growing up in the imposing Castle du Rêve during 1940s wartime, young Evelyn longs for a life outside the castle walls. She dreams of attending glamorous parties, gracing the silver screen and being swept off her feet by a dashing, debonair beau. But innocent Evelyn is unaware that her bid for freedom from the oppressive castle will change the course of more than just her life…

In the early Sixties, sweet, intelligent Victoria meets the man of her dreams! Yet the expression of their love comes with consequences. In the shadow of the mysterious castle, is their relationship doomed from the start?

In the present day, Isobel has just learned she’s pregnant. An unexpected challenge she can only hope she’s up to. Except living in the father of her child’s family home, beneath the eyes of the castle, all is not as it seems… Soon secrets that have been hidden for decades threaten to change the lives of Isobel’s new family irrevocably.

Three women’s lives tangled together in a web of secrets, scandal and deceit, as the legacy of Castle du Rêve is finally discovered…

 

Historical Buy Links

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Historical My Review

 

This book has three stories carefully interwoven; revealing the secrets and legacy of The CASTLE DU RÊVE. Each of the women introduced have unique, poignant and often sad lives. The Castle and the life it once represented, connects them all. What make this story intriguing are the subtle, less obvious similarities in their lives, which resonate with the reader and make the characters believable and memorable.

Evelyn’s story starts in 1939, when the castle becomes home to evacuees from London. New friendships and an unlikely discovery change the course of her life. The aftermath of WW2 and a fatalistic meeting seal Evelyn’s fate. Evelyn’s life is vivid and tragic, especially when seen through the eyes of Victoria the second woman in this saga.

Victoria’s story is particularly poignant; she is a victim of circumstance and the suffocating moral code the‘Swinging Sixties’ rebelled against. Her innocence and misplaced trust make Victoria’s the saddest story. Although a victim of circumstance her optimistic outlook remains.

Isobel is a contemporary woman and even though she succumbs to an age old condition, the way she and those around her deal with it makes her life full of hope and promise.
This is a well written women’s fiction story both contemporary and historical, with an interesting twist.

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

Secrets of Castle du ReveThe Secrets of Castle Du Rêve: A thrilling saga of three women’s lives tangled together in a web of secrets by Hannah Emery

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Hannah Emery

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Posted in Author Guest Post, New Books

Guest Post: The Secrets of CASTLE DU RÊVE – Hannah Emery

Today I have author Hannah Emery as a guest on my blog.

She reveals some of the secrets behind her exciting new story;

‘The Secrets of CASTLE DU RÊVE’, published by Harper Impulse.

Secrets of Castle du Reve

 

Historical Blurb

In the quaint, seaside town of Silenshore a legacy of secrets is about to be revealed…

Growing up in the imposing Castle du Rêve during 1940s wartime, young Evelyn longs for a life outside the castle walls. She dreams of attending glamorous parties, gracing the silver screen and being swept off her feet by a dashing, debonair beau. But innocent Evelyn is unaware that her bid for freedom from the oppressive castle will change the course of more than just her life…

In the early Sixties, sweet, intelligent Victoria meets the man of her dreams! Yet the expression of their love comes with consequences. In the shadow of the mysterious castle, is their relationship doomed from the start?

In the present day, Isobel has just learned she’s pregnant. An unexpected challenge she can only hope she’s up to. Except living in the father of her child’s family home, beneath the eyes of the castle, all is not as it seems… Soon secrets that have been hidden for decades threaten to change the lives of Isobel’s new family irrevocably.

Three women’s lives tangled together in a web of secrets, scandal and deceit, as the legacy of Castle du Rêve is finally discovered…

 

Historical Buy Links

Amazon UK

Amazon

Mother and Baby Homes

A few years ago, when I was starting to think about ideas for The Secrets of Castle du Reve, I came across an article on homes for unmarried mothers. I’d heard about the homes before that, but reading about individual women who’d been forced to go away to have their babies in secret, sometimes not even telling their families because of the scandal that it would cause, really touched me. Soon after I read the article, I saw an episode of Long Lost Family that outlined the case of a woman who had been sent to a mother and baby home in the 1960s when she was seventeen. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and about how different life is now.

Motherhood was particularly significant to me at that point because my first daughter was about two years old then and I was feeling stunned by how powerful and intense it all was. I already knew that motherhood would be an important part of my book. The idea of having to hide a pregnancy, and the different ways relationships have been seen throughout the last hundred years or so added a whole new dimension to my plot. It took ages to decide on how to include something about mother and baby homes. I wrote so many different scenes, and even had some poor characters that didn’t make it into the first draft.

I didn’t know much at all about the homes before I started writing the book, so I read a lot of accounts of women who’d been forced to go away to have their babies, and I stared quite endlessly at pictures of the places they’d stayed in, imagining what it must have been like for them. I read about the types of lives the women had before they’d become pregnant, and the stark contrast of their times in the homes. Once I’d done my research, I enjoyed placing Isobel in 2010 alongside Victoria in the 1960s. Both women fall in love quite quickly and have such different experiences, mainly because of how much things have changed for women in a relatively short amount of time.

The clichéd writing advice that people always seem to share is: write about what you know. But I like writing about things that I don’t know. I love learning about times that have passed and bringing them back to life. For me, that’s what curling up with a book is all about.

 Thanks for revealing some of the secrets behind your story Hannah. I certainly agree that its much more fun to write about things that are new to you because the research is such an  important part of the writing process. I am currently reading  this intriguing story and I’ll be reviewing it here later this week.

e176263a92251467e5ea7882edf4e3dcAuthor Bio -1

 I have written stories for as long as I can remember. I love writing about how fragile the present is and how so much of it depends on chance events that took place years ago. I studied English at the University of Chester, and I know work in a College where I mentor degree students. The most important things in my life are my family, my friends, books, baking on a Saturday afternoon, getting glammed up to go out for champagne and dinner and having cosy weekends away. I live in Blackpool with my husband and our two little girls

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