Nova is 32 years old and she is about to see the world for the very first time.
Jillian Safinova, Nova to her friends, can do many things. She can speak five languages. She can always find a silver lining. And she can even tell when someone is lying just from the sound of their voice.
But there’s one thing Nova can’t do. She can’t see.
When her brother convinces her to have an operation that will restore her sight, Nova wakes up to a world she no longer understands. Until she meets Kate.
As Kate comes into focus, her past threatens to throw them into a different kind of darkness. Can they each learn to see the world in a different … and open their eyes to the lives they could have been living all along?
An original plot with authentic characters provides the essential ingredients for an excellent, poignant and thought-provoking story.
The book’s two main characters, the enigmatic Nova and long-suffering Kate lead separate lives. Two unconnected events lead to a serendipitous, life-altering meeting between the two women.
There is a chance of a bright future or a tragic end for the women, depending on how they interpret what is possible. The multi-layered plot explores the ‘rules of seeing’ as Nova learns to accept her new sight. Kate’s injury, also makes her look at things differently but is she brave enough to make a change?
A tender love story, the horror of domestic abuse and a menacing evil that threatens their new life are all experienced by Nova and Kate, which makes their story absorbing and courageous and definitely worth seeing through to the end.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Cassie Montgomery can remember a time where her life seemed pretty perfect. By day she was setting up her own little business in her sleek penthouse apartment, and by night sleeping on gazillion-count Egyptian cotton sheets next to her fiancée, once reputed to be Glasgow’s most eligible bachelor.
And yet one ordinary, fateful day, Cassie uncovers a secret that shatters her heart into tiny pieces and changes her life forever….
Escaping to a rural and idyllic coastal village, Cassie finds a cottage that, from the moment she steps through the rose-surrounded door, feels instantly like home.
And then there’s Mac, the cool surf teacher, who makes her question what really makes her happy – and makes her wonder if maybe, she might already have found the answer….
Guest Blog Post – Lisa Hobman
What Become of the Broken Hearted – The Inspiration Behind the Book
Since relocating to the Scottish Borders over six years ago my family and I have spent as much time as possible familiarising ourselves with the beautiful area we now call home. After all this time there are still places we have yet to visit, but we’re on a mission!
I had heard of this little seaside cove called Coldingham and was advised by local friends that it was well worth a visit. So off we set, one summer day, not long after we’d moved intent on exploring what all the fuss was about. When we arrived, I remember there was a collective gasp of delight as we wandered down the little hill that led to the sand. The beach was wide and deep with cute, multi-coloured beach huts skirting the edges and some breath-taking homes built into the hillside sloping up and away from the bay. Even though the beach was busy with families enjoying their own visit there was still so much space available to us, so we laid down our picnic blanket and sat, gazing out to sea and taking in the atmosphere and views before us.
It’s safe to say that Coldingham stole a little piece of my heart on that very first visit and continues to do so every time we go—which is quite frequently thanks to how close it is to home. Sometimes we pack a picnic and go after the school day, and work has ended. We each take whatever books we’re reading and simply spend the early evening relaxing in the picturesque surroundings.
It’s a popular beach for surfers, and it was while watching a talented bunch of people riding the waves that I was inspired to write What Becomes of the Broken Hearted. The story began to unfold in my mind, and it seemed only natural that I should write a book located in the setting that I love dearly—as I have with all of my books. The little café that I mention in the story is the place where we buy our take-out coffees, and it seemed fitting that such an integral part of the beach should be included. So, with some artistic licence, I weaved the place into the fabric of the story.
The cottage in the book isn’t actually based on one particular building in the village; instead, it’s a kind of culmination of several of the stone cottages that dot the streets before you arrive at the sand. I like to imagine who lives in those pretty houses and what their lives are like and I mixed these imaginary people into the tale. The characters in the story, such as shopkeepers, doctor and neighbours are all purely fictional, but I thoroughly enjoyed letting my imagination run as I invented their back-stories. I have to say I’m a little envious of the place they live!
The Scottish Borders is such a beautiful location, rich in history, houses, castles and museums and I wish more people would discover it and fall in love with it too. I know I’m totally biased, but Coldingham is one of the most stunning beaches I have visited. It was a true inspiration for my Scottish seaside romance novel.
This is the dark side of romance, Cassie thinks she has everything and is prepared to ignore her lover’s controlling personality. When he lets her down, she runs and tries to rebuild her life in a coastal village on the Scottish borders, but he hasn’t finished with her yet.
Cassie’s lack of self-esteem is symptomatic of someone in an abusive relationship and makes her story believable. Even though she leaves Seth, her life is plagued by his influence making even friendships difficult. Mac’s caring personality, lets Cassie believe in a future again but she still doesn’t believe in herself.
This is a realistic love story, which highlights abuse and how difficult it is to escape from. The community in the coastal village provides a source of hope and support in this story and finally helps Cassie live her life again.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Lisa Hobman is a British author, living in Scotland with her family and two dogs. Her debut novel was shortlisted in the 2014 RoNA awards. When she’s not writing, Lisa can be found singing in a local band or out enjoying the beautiful Scottish countryside.
Besides, if you were one-half evil, wouldn’t you want to know about the other half?
In the scorching summer of 1976, Robyn spends her days swimming at the Lido and tagging after her brother. It’s the perfect holiday – except for the crying women her mum keeps bringing home.
As the heatwave boils on, tensions in the town begin to simmer. Everyone is gossiping about her mum, a strange man is following her around, and worst of all, no one will tell Robyn the truth. But this town isn’t good at keeping secrets…
Twelve years later, Robyn returns home, to a house that has stood empty for years and a town that hasn’t moved on, forced to confront the mystery that haunted her that summer.
And atone for the part she played in it.
Told from Robyn’s point of view as a child and a young woman this mystery of family secrets, relationships, friendships and violence plays out in the historic heatwave of 1976 and reprises twelve years later when Robyn and her brother Kit return to the town where that life-changing Summer took place.
The characters and setting are realistic and vivid if you lived through the 70s and 80s the ethos and events will be recognisable. The childhood characters make this story memorable. Significant events are glossed over, and smaller ones assume prominence through Robyn’s eyes, adding to the mystery and suspense of this family drama.
Parts of the story is slow and confusing, but this is intentional, to reflect the child who is living through and observing adult behaviour that she doesn’t fully understand. The mystery once revealed is tragic if not entirely unexpected, and there is a good resolution of most of the questions this story raises.
Perfect for those who appreciate literary fiction and enjoy authentic characters and settings.
I received a copy of this book from Agora books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Her name was Rose. You watched her die. And her death has created a vacancy.
When Emily lets a stranger step out in front of her, she never imagines that split second will change her life. But after Emily watches a car plough into the young mother – killing her instantly – she finds herself unable to move on.
And then she makes a decision she can never take back.
Because Rose had everything, Emily had ever dreamed of. A beautiful, loving family, a great job and a stunning home. And now Rose’s husband misses his wife, and their son needs a mother. Why couldn’t Emily fill that space?
But as Emily is about to discover, no one’s life is perfect … and not everything is as it seems.
Imagine you see someone die right in front of you.
It could be you.
What if you feel hunted, are always full of anxiety.
How would you react?
Emily, the protagonist in ‘Her Name, Was Rose’, is already labelled as a troublemaker, unstable even though she is the victim, is her Ex taking revenge, or is it all in her imagination? Emily wants someone to love, someone to care for, to be part of a family, that’s why she tries to step into Rose’s old life. She feels connected to Rose and longs to have the perfect life she enjoyed.
Emily is an unreliable protagonist, reliant on prescription medication and alcohol to keep her anxiety in check. Told from Emily’s point of view, the reader can’t be sure if Emily’s experiences are real or imagined.
Well-paced the plot adds additional characters and twists, throwing doubt on Rose’s life and the manner of her death. Cleverly built tension among the cast of characters, particularly at Rose’s former workplace increases the suspense. Emily’s vulnerability and lack of insight increase the story’s menace until the reader doesn’t know who to trust and realises appearances can be deceptive.
The ending is adrenaline-fuelled and has a surprising twist or two.
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Who would you choose if you had to – your daughter or your husband?
Eve lives in the beautiful Cumbrian town of Tarnside with her husband, Neil. After years of trying, and failing, to become parents, they are in the final stages of adopting four-year-old Milly. Though she already feels like their daughter, they just have to get through the ‘settling in’ period: three months of living as a family before they can make it official.
But then Eve’s mother, Joan, comes to stay. Joan has never liked her son-in-law. He isn’t right for Eve; too controlling, too opinionated. She knows Eve has always wanted a family but is Neil the best man to build one with?
Then Joan uncovers something that could smash Eve’s family to pieces…
‘Why don’t we see what Milly does?’
What Milly does is admirable. She asks the girl politely if she can have the swing. The girl shakes her head, but she doesn’t get on the swing herself. She stands, holding it away from Milly.
I wait for Milly to turn to us for help, already rehearsing the scenario in my head. I will walk over, smiling. I will introduce myself and Milly to the girl and ask her name. I’ll suggest they sit on the swing together.
But Milly doesn’t turn around. What Milly does is to drop her head down and charge at the girl, knocking her backwards onto the loose wood chippings that form a protective layer over the tree roots and hard ground. Neil is the one to run forward, leaving me standing, gaping and useless. It’s Neil who dusts the girl down and leads her, sobbing, back to her grandmother, with Milly dragging along beside him protesting. ‘She maked me do it! She’s nasty!’ It’s Neil who insists Milly apologise.
‘Say sorry, Milly, or we will get straight back on the ferry and go home.’ His voice is firm and carries on the breeze. And he insists she repeat her apology, sincerely, before it is accepted.
I watch all this in horror. I do not know how to do this.
What would my mother have done? I try to imagine her here. She would be confident. She wouldn’t hesitate. She wouldn’t stand here like a lemon unable to move.
I watch the grandmother reassure Neil that it isn’t a problem. I watch her question her granddaughter. She’s quite stern. Is she asking her why she stopped Milly having the swing? Is she suggesting Milly isn’t the only one who needs to apologise? I can see she’s addressing both girls and they seem to be listening. As I watch, the older girl holds out her hand, and Milly takes it. They turn and skip back towards the playground together. For them, it’s all over. Neil says something to the grandmother, and she laughs.
I stand in the playground, watching Milly on the swing with her new friend, and I feel utterly alone. The ache is sudden and fierce. A need to see my mother. To be with her. I need to talk to her about Milly, to tell her everything that’s been going on, to share these feelings, these waves of emotion I hadn’t anticipated: love, joy, gratitude, delight, but also my fear.
Loving someone, needing them so desperately, makes you vulnerable. You could lose them suddenly, brutally. When Neil’s away, I try not to imagine car crashes, random accidents. I’m not paranoid, I don’t sit fretting the moment he’s out of my sight, but sometimes the possibility that my happiness might end crashes in front of me. He feels it too; a call out of the blue, a need to hold tight for a moment.
It’s the price of love, that fear.
But loss comes in different shapes. It isn’t always solid and sudden; sometimes it trickles in. I’ve become a mother and now, more than ever, I need to talk to my own mother. And Milly needs her. Milly needs a grandmother. But I haven’t seen my mother for more than two years. She no longer speaks to me.
Neil swings back through the gate. ‘All sorted.’
‘I didn’t know what to do.’
He laughs but stops when he sees I’m serious and takes my hand. ‘Come on.’ He points to a small coffee van parked just the other side of the low playground fence. ‘He’s got a proper espresso machine.’ The van is within clear view. I follow him through the gate, glancing back to check on Milly. She waves from the swing as her new friend pushes her towards the sky.
As I warm my hands on the hot cup and sip the froth, watching Milly swing, I ask, ‘What if I was here on my own with her?’
Chillingly authentic, this story of adoption and family conflict shows that domestic abuse manifests in many ways and sometimes so subtly the victim is unaware of it until they have lost themselves completely.
Eve describes herself as a ‘glass half full’ person but she is always waiting for her happiness to be destroyed, something has made her this insecure and being under the spotlight as the adoption process draws to a close makes her seek support from an unlikely source. Neil loves Eve and their new daughter Milly, but he has secrets and areas of his life he can’t share this makes him vulnerable. Joan appears harmless, but she is manipulative and dangerous, blinkered she only sees one version of events, hers and makes a complex, sinister antagonist, a wolf in sheep’s clothing perhaps? The social workers Shona and Helen and the extended family and friends are all believable characters that enhance the story.
Eve is a strong, decisive person in her work life, but in her personal life, she feels inadequate, leaning first on her mother and then her husband for emotional support. Her weakness is a crucial flaw and one she cannot escape until she has someone to fight for. Her character shows the most development in this story told from her point of view. She is frustrating, many times during the story I wanted her to be stronger and assert herself but she is a wholly convincing character who grows with each setback and becomes even stronger as she fights for her daughter and her family’s happiness.
An absorbing, realistic story, which sends chills down your spine because this could happen. If you enjoy domestic thrillers with a sinister twist, this is one to read.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Wand_Zosia_credit Mark Harrison, courtesy of the Westmorland Gazette
Zosia Wand is an author and playwright. She was born in London and lives in Cumbria with her family. She is passionate about good coffee, cake and her adopted landscape on the edge of the Lake District. Her first novel, Trust Me, was published by Head of Zeus in 2017.
Twitter: @zosiawand Facebook: @zosiawand
Do we ever know what goes on behind closed doors?
Eve and Gregg were the perfect couple, with the perfect marriage…which has become the perfect lie. Gone is the charming, attentive Gregg – instead, Eve wakes up each morning beside a manipulative and sinister man who controls his wife’s every move.
So Eve flees her immaculate marital home to keep herself, and young son Jack safe. Yet no matter how careful she has been, she knows Gregg will be relentless in his pursuit of his missing family. And that one day, when she’s least expecting it, he will find them…
What was Eve’s greatest mistake?
Marrying Gregg? Leaving him? Or leaving him alive…?
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I creep nervously into my own home; listening. Silence. Keys clasped tightly in my hand. No obvious signs of an intruder, no kicked-down doors or shattered crockery strewn across the floor. My heart pounds in my ears like a damp drum as I slink through the kitchen towards the back door. Startled, as a dark shadow thuds at the window. I jump and drop my keys. The minute sound of my keys hitting hard floor fills the room. ‘Christ, Humphrey, why did you do that?’ He waits in total nonchalance at the foot of the door outside. I rattle the handle and breathe again. Thank God, I did lock the door.
But still, there is something alien dangling in the air. If I didn’t know better, if the door had been unlocked, I’d swear someone has been in my home.
I pull open the door to an appreciative ball of fluff; he wraps himself around my legs. Purring. I pick him up and snuggle my face into indulgent fur, allowing my heartbeat to return to baseline. ‘You’re coming upstairs with me, mister, keep me company whilst I get ready for work. Frightening me like that, how could you? Haven’t you realised you’re living with a neurotic woman?’
I survey the sitting room as I creep through, before gingerly taking the stairs, still half-expecting someone to jump out. ‘What’s wrong with me, Humph, eh? Why can’t you talk to me? Did you see anyone?’ I sneak along the landing towards my bedroom, stopping to check Jack’s room first, all the usual potential hiding places. The wardrobe, under the bed. Nothing but used crockery – Jack and his blinking late-night cereal cravings. Still, with Humphrey purring in my arms, I move on to my room.
I place him on my bed, where he immediately stretches out to fill the abstract shape of sun rays. ‘So tell me, Humph, to pull myself together. No one’s been in the house. The door was locked, and there’s no other way in.’ Big round eyes glare back at me before he begins his grooming process. ‘No useful words of wisdom, eh? Anything will do? Or have you been silenced? Coerced to the dark side?’ He gives me the look of disdain only cats can do. ‘I get it, you’re just refusing to humour me. Wise move.’
I convince myself it’s safe for the moment. I need to get a move on for work. An invigorating shower of soft florals, all the time with a watchful eye on the door. Only panicking when the shampoo temporarily obscures my vision, rinsing it through as quickly as if my life depends on it. Not long later, I leave the house, double-checking the locks. Not bad, a transformation from home-comfort clothes to a tailored azure dress. Softly applied make-up, coral lips. Elegant shoes with a sharp distinguishing echo. Finally, my files, mobile and diary. All in less than thirty minutes. Trepidation has its perverse benefits.
Ready for another borrowed day.
Choosing where to open my clinic was easy. I peered through sash windows before a toadying agent opened the door to the pretty, terraced, Cornish sandstone and slate building. Proudly nestled between its charming, unassuming neighbours. Two mottled slate steps lead the way to the solid wood door of 39b Lemon Street. Warm, humble and crammed with character. Inside, a large reception window films passing life, sweeping down to the heart of Truro. ‘Sometimes, things just feel right,’ I’d agreed with the toady agent.
Knowing Ruan, my fresh-faced, uncomplicated-by-life assistant, will always be there to open up first is a blessing. Despite his ungodly early morning jaunt to catch the sunrise waves. He’s then usually followed by Bea, the physiotherapist who sublets a room. Today, when I push through the door, characteristically late, the sunlight fills the reception area, elbowing through the leaded window. The cream slatted blinds are pulled back tight to allow shimmering beams to create a warming ambience. Thoughtful shadows grace the archetypal dense walls. Not all shadows are dark, I remind myself.
Thrillers based on domestic violence are a favourite psychological thriller theme, but this one makes an impact because of its professional language and authenticity. It’s not easy to read, the author jumps between timelines, the abuser and his victims but although it is sometimes difficult to follow, it makes it realistic and believable.
The premise drew me in, and in many ways, it does fulfil its promise. The descriptions of Eve’s life with Gregg are detailed and vivid. There’s no doubt about his systematic destruction of her. For me, there is too much detail and too many examples of abuse. I don’t need to drown in detail to understand.
His pursuit of her after ten years is carried out with similar ruthless intent. Again this is overlong for me; the medical detail sometimes detracts from the story’s compelling suspense element. The characters are not easy to empathise. Mainly due to the writing style relying more on narration than showing how the characters feel through their actions and emotions.
Overall it is a promising debut, with explicit professional knowledge and experience, a little more storytelling and a little less professional speke would make this a real page-turner.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Sarah Simpson has a first-class honours degree in Psychology and has worked in a neuro-psychology department at a Brain Rehabilitation Hospital. When she first graduated she formed a mental health consultancy and worked as a psychologist within the family court system of Warwickshire and Oxfordshire. Three years ago she moved to Cornwall with her husband and three children and runs her own practice in Truro. Her Greatest Mistake is her first novel, and she is currently working on the second.
What if everything in your life was a lie? An emotionally tense story of love, loyalty, betrayal and revenge.
DUBLIN – For the past two years, Jill Ryan has tried to keep her darkest secrets deeply buried and remain relatively anonymous. Haunted by her tragic past and struggling to keep her life together, Jill soon realises that the last person she can trust is herself.
KILKENNY – Only Heather Martin knows the lengths her husband will go to teach her a lesson and Heather has had enough. Faced with the impossible choice of saving herself or staying to care for her ailing father, Heather has a choice to make. But does she have what it takes to survive?
When Detectives Louise Kennedy in Dublin and Tony Kelly in Kilkenny begin to investigate, their dark discoveries collide unravelling a complex web of secrets that stretch far and wide.
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‘Behind A Closed Door’, is an emotionally harrowing story of domestic abuse, family loyalty and friendship. Two female characters are the focus of the story, one in Kilkenny two years previously and one in present-day Dublin. Both are loyal women, who have suffered domestic abuse. Timeslip between the two time periods and locations is seamless and moves the story along at a readable pace.
Character-driven this story centres on a small number of individuals, and their respective lives, cleverly linked. However, it is numerous plot twists later that the full picture is apparent. Sinister intent underscores this story; the antagonist is hateful and your empathy for the victim without question. While the suspense is well-written the major plot twist is not hard to solve, but this doesn’t detract from the story’s menace and the believable dilemmas and conflicts the protagonists face.
‘Behind A Closed Door’ highlights in a sensitive way the horror of domestic abuse using realistic characters and situations.
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Having lived and worked in the UK and Dublin since college, Adele now lives in her hometown in Co. Wicklow with her husband and two teenage daughters. She writes overlooking the Irish Sea and is an active member of the Wexford Literary Festival committee.
Betrayal, injustice and revenge echo down the years…
1940. Olive marries farmer Bill Falla. The Germans occupy Guernsey.
All too soon Olive realises she’s made a mistake.
Her life changes when she meets Wolfgang, a German officer-
but there’s a price to pay. . .
2010. Natalie Ogier returns to Guernsey to escape an abusive relationship – only to be plagued by odd happenings in her beautiful cottage on the site of a derelict and secluded farm. Disturbing dreams, disembodied voices and uncanny visions from the past. She becomes increasingly ill at ease as someone else’s past catches up with her own…
Her only immediate neighbour, Stuart, is the grandson of the original owners, Bill and Olive.
Thrown together in a bid to find out what really happened to Olive, can they each survive the repercussions of the past and move on?
All the ‘Guernsey Novels’ are defined by their memorable characters, vivid setting and intriguing plots, ‘Echoes of Time’, has all of these qualities and something extra that makes it a gripping and worthwhile read.
The cross over and parallels between Guernsey’s past and present are explored in greater detail in this story and Natalie, who returns to the island after a traumatic incident, experiences life in war torn Guernsey, in a most disturbing way. Escaping her past Natalie witnesses a woman’s life with a startling similarity to her own, is her subconscious playing tricks on her or is what she dreams and experiences real? The mystery enfolds in 2010 with flashbacks and time slip to occupied Guernsey in World War Two. The historical element is well researched and often anecdotal and blends with the present in a believable, easy to read way.
Characters’ flaws make them authentic and human. Natalie finds friendship when she most needs it but will become something more and is she brave enough to let it?
A poignant, well written tale, set on a beautiful island, perfect for holiday reading and anytime you want to escape.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars