Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Guest post, Romance

Secrets of the Mist Kate Ryder 5*#Review @Aria_Fiction @KateRyder_Books #BlogTour #GuestPost #Extract #Timeslip #Romance #EnglishCivilWar #HistoricalRomance #Supernatural #Love #Relationships #Dorset #VillageLife #BookReview

#SecretsoftheMist

A gorgeous timeslip romance.

Maddie is restless in London. She has friends, a job and a sort-of boyfriend, but something in her life is missing. Then she visits the ancient village of Walditch, deep in the Dorset countryside. Something stirs in her, and on a whim she buys a centuries-old cottage and moves there three months later. Her friends think she’s crazy, but for Maddie it feels like coming home.

Late at night in the cottage, Maddie hears strange noises and sees mist gathering indoors and out. When she starts investigating the cottage’s history, she becomes drawn into the tragic story of a family who lived here 400 years ago. Meanwhile, Maddie starts to fall in love with a local carpenter – but he has a relationship already…

Can Maddie solve the riddle of the past? What is her connection with the family that lived there so many years ago? And can she and her true love ever be together?

Previously published as The Forgotten Promise.

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#AriaBlogTour

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

My Thoughts…

I live in a sixteenth-century converted barn, and just standing in it, thinking how long it has stood over looking the Exmoor landscape is awe inspiring. So, I can fully appreciate the inspiration behind, this lovely timeslip romance set in Dorset.

Serendipity plays an important part in this book. I was drawn to Maddie’s story, as soon as I read about her unexplained, and out of character attraction to the old cottage, formerly a blacksmith’s, when she visited the village as part of her work. The story is cleverly written, so that Maddie’s experiences at the cottage are believable. Set in the present, as she brings her new home up to date, there are many slips into the past as historic events and a time defying love unfolds.

Maddie’s leaves a well-paid career and a glamorous life in London behind her. At a crossroads in her life she is not sure why, but as the story progresses, things start to fall into place. Her meeting and attraction to Nick is powerful but fraught with conflict. Their chance of something developing seems remote.

The characters are complex and realistic, the situations they find themselves in believable. The pacing and the timeslip element make this an absorbing read. I couldn’t put it down, literally I read it into the night.

The poignant ending is perfect, and the epilogue draws everything together in this gentle, timeslip, romantic story.

Guest Post – Kate Ryder – Secrets of the Mist

Hello Jane,

I’m so thrilled to be invited on your guest post.  Thank you!

Do you ever wish you had a second chance to meet someone again for the first time?  I have explored this theme in Secrets of the Mist, a time slip romance that encompasses self-discovery and a great love resonating across the ages.  With supernatural, historical and geographical overtones, it should appeal to fans of Kate Mosse, Diana Gabaldon and Barbara Erskine.

A few years ago, my husband and I moved to Cornwall and bought a derelict, 200 year old cottage.  Whilst carrying out extensive renovations and taking the cottage back to its shell, we discovered a time capsule left by a previous owner.  The contents were fascinating, if not that old (circa 1980), and made me consider previous occupants during the past two centuries, the lives they led and the dramas that may have taken place within the four walls of our cottage.

Apart from spending days mixing cement, procuring building materials and helping to install the plumbing and electrics (must remember to add these to my CV!) I was also selling complementary health products at country fairs throughout Devon and Cornwall.  One day, a chance conversation with a fellow trader set my creative juices flowing as she described a Dartmoor cottage she once owned, which had an unusual, internal stained-glass window and unaccountable cold corners.  Well… that was all the encouragement I needed!

At the time I was a member of a local writers group and, suitably fired up, I penned a short story.  The room fell silent as I read it out to my fellow writers and all wanted to know what happened next.  During this period I had to travel up to the South East on a fairly regular basis.  On one particular trip I took a detour to Dorset and discovered the villages of Walditch and Shipton Gorge, which became the setting for the tale.  Furthermore, whilst researching the villages and surrounding area, I uncovered historic events on which to pin the story.  Three months – I mentioned I was fired up, didn’t I? – and 85,000 words later, I had a novel!

I self-published the book as The Forgotten Promise, and this version achieved one of the first Chill with a Book “Book of the Month” awards.  I am very fortunate that Aria agreed to publish the novel and, with further time-slip development, it is now Secrets of the Mist.  Lastly, but by no means least, I must mention the lovely cover, which has a softly haunting feel and is totally appropriate to the story.

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Kate Ryder writes romantic suspense with a true-to-life narrative. Her passion is writing (a period during which she studied acting only confirmed her preference for writing rather than performing!). Since then she has worked in the publishing, tour operating and property industries, and has travelled widely. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors. Kate lives in Cornwall with her husband and a newly acquired rescue cat.

In 2017 Kate signed a 4-book publishing contract with Aria (digital imprint of award-winning independent publisher, Head of Zeus). Her first novel, ‘Summer in a Cornish Cove’, saw her nominated for the RNA’s 2018 Joan Hessayon award. Under its original self-published title, ‘The Forgotten Promise’, ‘Secrets of the Mist’, was shortlisted for Choc Lit’s “Search for a Star” and awarded a Chill with a Book “Book of the Month”.

Extract From: Secrets of the Mists – Kate Ryder

We arrived in Walditch late morning, having first visited the Bridport estate agents, Randall & Mather, to pick up the keys for The Olde Smithy. As we pulled up alongside Walditch village green I noticed a few people already sitting outside the Blacksmith’s Arms. Casually, I wondered if there might be an opportunity of work in that establishment.

Clambering down from the van, I stretched and rubbed my hands together. ‘OK, let’s get cracking.’

Over the next couple of hours we unloaded the van, depositing bags and furniture in various rooms. Dan hit his head several times on the low beams of the downstairs rooms, but I had no such trouble. At five feet four inches I was a good ten inches shorter.

‘Must have been midgets in the seventeenth century!’ he muttered, ferociously rubbing his skull.

According to Randall & Mather, the cottage dated back to the mid-1600s, in part. The property details stated: A charming, two-bedroom period cottage situated in Walditch, a village set deep in hilly countryside yet only a mile from Bridport and West Bay. The Olde Smithy offers discerning buyers an opportunity to put their stamp on a property steeped in history but with all modern-day conveniences.

The sitting/dining room, kitchen and master bedroom were in the original part of the building, and all had heavily beamed ceilings and uneven floors, while a two-storey extension, built during the late 1980s, created a hallway, downstairs bathroom and first-floor guest bedroom. A small, overgrown, cottage-style garden to the front opened directly onto the village green and to the rear, immediately accessed from the kitchen, was a courtyard created by a collection of outhouses, one being an outside privy. A pathway led past the outbuildings to a further area of overgrown garden where there were three gnarled and twisted fruit trees, in desperate need of pruning, and the outline of a long-forgotten vegetable bed. To my delight, at the far end, was a neglected pond.

The day passed quickly and we busied ourselves unpacking boxes, stacking shelves and filling cupboards. I had energy to spare. Soon, the cottage soon took shape and by the time the elongating shadows of the oak tree encroached upon the front garden it felt homely. Only the last remaining packing boxes stacked in the hallway and the lack of curtains at the windows declared me a new occupant. I made a mental note to buy fabric during the next few days to remedy this, as I’d been unable to salvage any window dressings from the flat. Being a Victorian conversion, the apartment had tall sash windows to which the landlord had fitted vertical blinds.

As the day progressed, Dan regained a cheerful disposition and his earlier melancholy evaporated. He was busy cleaning the fireplace as I rummaged through a box in the kitchen, searching for elusive teabags. I paused and looked around appreciatively at the beams, the flagstone floor and the view of the courtyard through the small-paned windows. I could already see next spring’s hanging baskets on the outhouse walls. I smiled, instinctively knowing that all that had gone before was simply leading to this day.

‘Hey, Mads, take a look at this,’ Dan called from the sitting room.

I turned and walked to the doorway. A thick haze filled the room and I marvelled at how much dust he’d created. I was about to suggest he let in some fresh air when I noticed all the windows were open wide. I frowned. How strange… The room was full of fog and yet there was a strong breeze blowing outside.

It must have been a trick of the light because, as Dan turned, his blond hair appeared darker and longer and he seemed less tall and lean; an altogether rougher version. I blinked and shook my head, as if brushing away the image. As quickly as he had appeared altered, there he was, once again, the Dan I knew.

‘What have you found?’ I walked across the room and saw a small opening in the stonework to one side of the inglenook. ‘How did that happen?’

‘One of the stones was loose. It came away quite easily when I investigated. I think there’s something behind it.’

‘Clear away a bit more,’ I said, enthusiastically. ‘It might be a bread oven.’

Placing his long fingers into the gap, he teased away at the stones around the opening. For a moment nothing happened but then one suddenly shifted, coming away in his hand. There was a definite edge to the hole. I peered inside at a hidden void.

‘Wow, how exciting!’

Without hesitation, I inserted my hand and felt around, unsure what I expected to find, but apart from a thick layer of dust and rubble, the alcove was empty. Disappointment flooded through me.

‘I’ll make a feature of it,’ I said. ‘I’ll visit a reclamation yard and find a door that fits.’

‘This cottage will give up more of its secrets as time goes by.’

As Dan spoke the words I became aware of an expectant stillness in the air.

‘Why did you say that?’ I asked sharply.

‘Well, these old places always have secrets, don’t they? And this one’s had four hundred years to collect them.’

Suddenly I felt hot and short of breath. Feeling dizzy, I reached out for Dan, as if trying to hold on to something solid; something I could trust.

He caught hold of my arm. ‘Hey, steady, Mads!’

Beads of perspiration pricked my forehead and I struggled to hold back rising nausea.

‘You OK?’ Dan asked with concern.

‘I just need some fresh air,’ I gasped.

‘Tell you what – let’s abandon the tea thing and go to the pub instead.’ This was his answer to most things.

‘Yeah, I could do with a drink.’

He smiled at me.

‘And dinner’s on me,’ I said weakly, hurrying towards the door.

‘Now, there’s an offer I can’t possibly refuse, but won’t that be a tad messy?’

Posted in Book Review, Friendship, Holiday Romance, Romance, Romantic Comedy

A Wedding at the Comfort Food Cafe – 5* #Review – Debbie Johnson @Harper Impulse @debbiemjohnson

Wedding bells ring out in Budbury as the Comfort Food Café and its cosy community of regulars are gearing up for a big celebration…

But Auburn Longville doesn’t have time for that! Between caring for her poorly mum, moving in with her sister and running the local pharmacy, life is busy enough – and it’s about to get busier. Chaos arrives in the form of a figure from her past putting her quaint village life and new relationship with gorgeous Finn Jensen in jeopardy. It’s time for Auburn to face up to some life-changing decisions.

Settle in for a slice of wedding cake at the Comfort Food Café – a place where friendships are made for life and nobody ever wants to leave.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

The Comfort Food Cafe has been a favourite read, since its inception. There is so much to love, with its quirky characters looking for someone to love them and give them a second chance. Cake to die for, and a wonderful sense of community and friendship that symbolises the ethos of these heartwarming, humorous and ultimately happy stories.

The final book in the series has a very special wedding. Laura was our first introduction to the cafe and her story is still one of my favourites. It made me cry, laugh out loud and empathise will her trials and tribulations. Auburn is our narrator for this final book in the series, and even though she fits right into the Budbury and the cafe community, she is keeping secrets and somehow feels she doesn’t deserve the friends, lover and life she currently enjoys.

The wedding is a delight and colourful, typically amongst the fun, love and romance there is conflict, thankfully not for the bride, but Auburn has to face her past. Even in this last book, there’s more to learn about the characters, and they continue to baffle and delight in equal measure. The ending is romantic and rightfully quirky. Even though we have read the last line, you can imagine the antics, hear the laughter and tears and almost taste the cake as the cafe’s comfort lives on.

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

A Gift from the Comfort Food Cafe – Debbie Johnson – 5* Review @debbiemjohnson @HarperImpulse

Christmas has never been Katie Seddon’s favourite time of year. Whilst everyone else shares memories of families coming together and festive number ones, the soundtrack to Katie’s childhood wasn’t quite so merry.

But since she moved to the village of Budbury on the gorgeous Dorset coast, Katie and her baby son have found a new family. A family who have been brought together by life’s unexpected roads and the healing magic of a slice of cake and a cupful of kindness at the Comfort Food Café.

This year, Katie’s new friends are determined to give her a Christmas to remember, and with a gorgeous newcomer in town, Katie’s Christmas wish for a happy home for her son might just come true.

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

It’s always worth visiting the Comfort Food Cafe, whatever the season, but this one is extra special as it has a festive twist. The book reads perfectly as a complete story, but give yourself a treat with the rest of the series, if you haven’t already done so, they are worth reading.

This story will tug your heartstrings, Katie is a single mum who’s had a difficult life, Christmas was one of her worst times, but she values her friends at the cafe and is willing to let them make it special with a little persuasion.

Festive cheer, heartwarming friendship, with a little bit of poignancy make this the perfect Christmas read.

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

Posted in Book Review

Sunshine at the Comfort Food Cafe – Debbie Johnson 5* Review

My name is Willow Longville. I live in a village called Budbury on the stunning Dorset coast with my mum Lynnie, who sometimes forgets who I am. I’m a waitress at the Comfort Food Café, which is really so much more than a café … it’s my home.

For Willow, the ramshackle café overlooking the beach, together with its warm-hearted community, offers friendship as a daily special and always has a hearty welcome on the menu. But when a handsome stranger blows in on a warm spring breeze, Willow soon realises that her quiet country life will be changed forever.

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

I read a lot of books, and most of them are good but the ‘Comfort Food Cafe series’, has a magic sparkle that makes it’s stories marvellously memorable, even when you read as much as I do.

It has a broad appeal; there’s romance, lots of laughs and heartwarming poignant moments. The whole age spectrum is covered, including various charismatic animal friends. Most readers will see a little of their own lives written into the pages of these realistic, yet wonderfully escapist stories, which means they are relevant, contemporary and worth reading.

‘Sunshine at the Comfort Food Cafe’, the fourth book in the series is Willow’s story. Willow is unique, definitely new age and the primary carer for her mother Lynnie who has dementia. The friends at the cafe support her in practical ways, which make her life easier and give her much-needed respite but she has put romance and having a family of her own out of her mind, her mother’s well being her only focus.

Willow’s meeting with Tom, echoes a vibrant childhood memory, he is intelligent, successful but a loner and quite probably Willow’s soulmate in another life. Exploring Willow’s life, the author illuminates some of the problems of living with Dementia and how it affects not only the sufferer but their carers. Willow is vibrant, eccentric and loyal and in a village full of lovely characters, she is my favourite. Her quirky sense of humour and positive outlook on life is refreshing. Willow is not a victim, she loves her mother and wants to care for her, but she deserves to have some lighter moments in such a dedicated life.

There are lots of humorous moments in this poignant story, learning to dance the ‘Strictly’ way is one of them, hilarious and the ‘ Mr Darcy scene in the pond is another. If you love animals, there is another delightful animal charmer to meet too.

It reads well as a standalone story; courtesy of Willow you get a handy ‘Game of Thrones’ style crib sheet introducing all the characters but if you get the chance read all the books because you’re in for a treat.

Perfect to read at any time, it’s as addictive as cake and coffee and just as yummy.

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

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe – Debbie Johnson- 5* Review

 

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Blurb 2016- 2

Becca Fletcher hates Christmas so much, she’s considering getting ‘Bah Humbug!’ tattooed on her forehead. She has her reasons for being Little Miss Grinch; Reasons that make this the very worst time of year for her.

Now, though, she can’t avoid her version of ho-ho-hell – because she’s travelling to the Comfort Food Cafe to spend the festive season with her sister Laura, and her family. She’s expecting mulled wine, 24-hour Christmas movie marathons and all kinds of very merry torture.

But little does Becca know that the Comfort Food Cafe is like no other place on earth. Perched on a snow-covered hill on a windswept bay, it’s a place full of friendship where broken hearts can heal, new love can blossom and where Becca’s Christmas miracle really could happen – if only she can let it…

Buy Links 2016 -2

Amazon UK
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Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe

I really enjoyed ‘Summer at the Comfort Food Café’ and as I’m a fan of festive books, I couldn’t wait to revisit the café at Christmas time. ‘Christmas at the Comfort Food Café’ is every bit as charming as the Summer but with snow. It is told in three parts: ‘Christmas Past, Present and Future’. It reads well as a standalone Christmas tale but if you haven’t read ’Summer at the Comfort Food Café’, don’t miss out.
This story reintroduces the reader to the delightful characters from the first book but concentrates on Laura’s sister Becca, who reluctantly visits Dorset for a month. Becca feels she is the antithesis of Laura. She is a loner, drawn to life’s vices, drink, drugs and one night stands. As Becca relives two life changing family Christmas days, we realise this is never going to be her favourite season.
Becca is soon charmed by Dorset and the regulars of the Comfort Food Café. The characters in this story are realistic and it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the forthcoming festive wedding. Becca has left her teenage vices behind but we don’t know why. Even when her sister tries to fix her up with Surfer Sam she resists. Men are off the menu but he is drop dead gorgeous and she’s only human. Becca’s choice of confidant is not who you’d expect but when she reveals her secrets, her teenage bad behaviour reflects more as a cry for help than anything else. Becca’s emotional baggage threatens what she has with Sam but despite this, she leaves Dorset a changed woman.
Christmas Future offer hope and the chance of a happy ever after, the perfect start to any new year.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnson

Debbie Johnson

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Posted in Author Blog Challenge

The Best Holiday I Ever Had… Author Blog Challenge – #LifeBooksWriting

This weeks Author Blog Challenge  is ‘The Best Holiday I Ever Had’. I’ve been thinking about this and it’s hard to narrow it down to just one holiday. So  I’ve decided to  highlight my favourite holidays and why, from childhood to my first holiday as a gran.

Childhood

Holidays weren’t a big  feature of my childhood but one that stands out is a holiday in Cornwall in the late sixties, when we stayed in St Agnes Bay and Penzance. I remember making a friend at the holiday camp we stayed at and eating butterscotch, we had a photo at Lands End and my parents bought me the cute cat ornament, which I still have today. Other holidays were in Bournemouth and there were always day trips to Mablethorpe on the east coast of England.

Teenage

Camping holidays with youth club are the standout memories from my teenage holidays. Camping is not really me, the ground is too hard and I always get cold and dislike sharing my tent with a variety of insects. Nevertheless I always enjoyed these trips, especially  the one where I got to know my future husband, we celebrate thirty three years of marriage today, so that was definitely a holiday worth going on.

Twenties

My honeymoon  should be my standout holiday of  my twenties and it was lovely. Cornwall again, we went to Newquay, sun sea and  lots of lovely memories. I visited a vintage kitchen shop in Penzance and bought some glass storage jars with cork lids and I still have them thirty three years later obviously a good buy!

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I was first introduced to The English Lake District in my mid twenties and the scenery and beautiful lakes are still a favourite holiday destination of mine. So much so there are the inspiration for my first book The Dragon Legacy.

The Dragon Legacy Cover
My first book inspired by the Lakes

Brighton was the destination of my last twenties holiday with my lovely daughter 8 months old – Such a lovely time .

Holidays with my children

These were certainly fun. Bournemouth  and Devon were favourite destinations. We even stayed in the prestigious Sandbanks. Woolacombe was another favourite, great for kids and dogs.

 We also had a few holidays in Europe during this time.  A camping trip to France’s Verdun region , turned out to be short-lived , after only four days we had to home  as my mother was seriously ill. Holidays in The Costa Dorada in Spain and Lake Garde in Italy were more successful, although we did manage to get lost both times driving from the airport, not the best start to a holiday but the rest of it was full of great memories, as you can see from the photos. My trip to Lake Garde inspired the setting for my second book ‘The Revenge Masquerade’.

The Revenge Masquerade Cover  October 26 14

 

Discovering Northumberland

Regular blog readers will know I love Northumberland, I first visited in 2014 and went again this year with my new grandson Arthur. The weather wasn’t fantastic but we still had a good time.

 

Next Holiday

I’m hoping my next holiday in Woolacombe in September will be  full of good memories too. I’m really looking forward to holidaying with my kids and little grandson and Jazz and Oby of course. We’re staying close to the wonderful child  and dog friendly beach so look out for more blogs on this in September.

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So that’s a whistle stop tour of my holiday memories. Share your holiday memories with me in the comments below or on #LifeBooksWriting

#HappyHolidays

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Posted in Book Review

The Daughters of Red Hill Hall – Kathleen McGurl -4* Review

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Historical Blurb

When Gemma discovers a pair of ancient duelling pistols encrusted with rubies in the basement of the local museum, she is immediately intrigued…

On a fateful night in 1838 two sisters were found shot in the cellars of Red Hill Hall. And when Gemma begins to delve deeper into their history she begins to realise that the secrets of that night are darker than anyone had ever imagined.

As the shocking events of the past begin to unravel, Gemma’s own life starts to fall apart. Loyalties are tested and suddenly it seems as if history is repeating itself, as Gemma learns that female friendships can be deadly…

Historical Buy Links

Amazon UK

Amazon

Historical My Review

The Daughters Of Red Hill Hall: A gripping novel of family, secrets and murderI enjoyed reading ‘The Pearl Locket’ and ‘The Emerald Comb’ and like those books, this story has both a historical and contemporary setting, which intertwine in an interesting way.
The historical story of Rebecca and Sarah, ‘The Daughters of Red Hill Hall’ is full of mystery, menace and is often poignant. The contemporary tale of Gemma and Nat curiously reflects the past, whilst revealing the secrets of ‘The Daughters of Red Hill Hall’.
The prologue of the story sets the scene for what is for the most part a tragedy but thankfully the ending of the historical tale is hopeful. There isn’t a fairytale happy ever after but definitely a realistic ‘let’s make the best of what we have.’
Weak male characters categorise both stories. I enjoyed the mystery and menace of the historical story, unfortunately not present in the contemporary tale. Overall it was an engaging read.
I received a copy of this book from Carina UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.


The Daughters Of Red Hill Hall: A gripping novel of family, secrets and murder
by Kathleen McGurl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The Daughters Of Red Hill Hall A gripping novel of family, secrets and murder by Kathleen McGurl

Kathleen McGurl

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