Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, New Books, Suspense

Pandora Susan Stokes-Chapman – An Extract… 4*Review #HistoricalFiction #histfic #LiteraryFiction #Georgian #London #Mystery #Legend #Greek #Intrigue #Pandora #Extract #Review

An exclusive sample of Pandora by Susan Stokes-Chapman, featuring the first thirteen chapters.

A pure pleasure of a novel set in Georgian London, where the discovery of a mysterious ancient Greek vase sets in motion conspiracies, revelations and romance.

There is a fine line between coincidence and fate…

London, 1799. Dora Blake is an aspiring jewellery artist who lives with her uncle in what used to be her parents’ famed shop of antiquities. When a mysterious Greek vase is delivered, Dora is intrigued by her uncle’s suspicious behaviour and enlists the help of Edward Lawrence, a young man seeking acceptance into the Society of Antiquaries. Edward sees the ancient vase as key to unlocking his academic future. Dora sees it as a chance to restore her parents’ shop to its former glory, and to escape her uncle.

But what Edward discovers about the vase has Dora questioning everything she has ever known about her life, her family, and the world as she knows it. As Dora uncovers the truth she starts to realise that some mysteries are buried, and some doors are locked, for a reason.

Gorgeously atmospheric and deliciously page-turning, Pandora deals with themes of secrets and deception, love and fulfilment, fate and hope.

Out on 27 January 2022

Pre-order now. Amazon UK

I received an extract of this book from Random House UK Vintage via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I have read an extract of this book, thirteen chapters, and I am intrigued to read what follows.

Set in Georgian England, the story weaves a mystical ethos as it introduces the main players of this Greek-inspired story. It centres on a recovered vase taken from a shipwreck. Pandora has aspirations to be a jewellery designer but is thwarted by misogyny. Her parents died mysteriously, leaving her in the care of her uncle Hezekiah who hasn’t respected her parents’ legacy. Edward is a young man with ambition. He wants to study antiquities and be accepted by the professional society, but his class stimies him despite being sponsored by a young aristocrat who appears emotionally attached.

The scene is set for Pandora and Edward to meet as her interest in her uncle’s latest acquisition intensifies. The extract ends as Pandora finds the vase…

This is atmospheric, with complex characters and an intriguing mystery. The legend suggests the reader can envisage what come next but can they. The historical detail and lyrical prose make this an absorbing and immersive reading experience that I would like to continue.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Extract, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance

Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow Jessica Redland 5* #Review @JessicaRedland @BoldwoodBooks #BlogTour @rararesources#Friendship #UpLit #Secrets #FamilyDrama #MentalHealth #Relationships #BookReview #boldwoodbloggers

Every family has its secrets, and at Hedgehog Hollow there is no exception…


It was always Samantha’s dream to run her beautiful rescue centre, Hedgehog Hollow, full-time. But just as her wish comes true, she becomes a victim of her own kindness when she finds herself with a house full of guests – all with their own problems and secrets – looking to her for support.

When her self-absorbed cousin, Chloe, unexpectedly turns up at the farm – swiftly handing over her baby to Samantha to care for – trouble is definitely brewing. Especially as Chloe won’t tell anyone why she’s left her husband, James…

As Samantha juggles new hedgehog arrivals, family dramas and her own health challenges, it soon becomes clear that she needs to start putting herself first for once. Little does she know that life-changing secrets from the past are about to unravel and turn their lives upside down…

Return to glorious Hedgehog Hollow with top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland for a heartwarming, emotional but uplifting story of family, friendship and moving on from the past.

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

My Thoughts…

This story has a serious focus and is full of family drama, which has emotional and physical consequences for lovely Samantha. Hedgehog Hollow is full of hedgehog residents, and Samantha’s house is full of humans who need emotional support from her. The story is a dual viewpoint of Samantha and her cousin Chloe. If you’ve read previous books in this series, you’ll know Chloe is not particularly likeable. This book explores her story and past secrets, which shed light on her attitude and motivations.

This is an emotional story, and it immerses the reader in the characters’ lives. Chloe’s insights make her more understandable, but she is still not my favourite person. Samantha is everyone’s friend, and whilst this is admirable, you want her to take care of herself too.

This is another absorbing instalment of life at Hedgehog Hollow with characters you are invested in and an enticing mix of humour, poignancy and romance.

Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland writes uplifting stories of love, friendship, family and community set in Yorkshire where she lives. Her Whitsborough Bay books transport readers to the stunning North Yorkshire Coast and her Hedgehog Hollow series takes them into beautiful countryside of the Yorkshire Wolds.

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Extract from Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – Jessica Redland

Chapter 1 

Samantha 

I sat on Thomas’s bench with a mug of tea in one hand, the other hand stroking Misty-Blue’s warm belly as she lay sprawled across my lap. 

‘Listen to that,’ I said to her, cocking my head to one side. ‘Isn’t it so peaceful?’ The only sounds were the chirp of birds, the buzz of insects and Misty-Blue’s gentle purrs. 

‘No babies crying for once,’ I added, not that I really minded. Archie and Lottie were adorable. Their parents, Paul and Beth, were also great house guests. They couldn’t have done more to help with the cooking and cleaning despite Beth still recovering from a near-fatal fall down the stairs at her flat and Paul, Josh’s dad, having Hodgkin lymphoma – a type of blood cancer. 

Closing my eyes, I tilted my head back towards the sun. It was a bright, warm Sunday in the middle of June, so Paul and Beth had taken advantage of the gorgeous weather and driven Archie and Lottie to the coast. Josh – owner of Alderson & Son Veterinary Practice – had been called out to a goat emergency an hour ago so I was on my own at Hedgehog Hollow, enjoying a rare and precious moment of tranquillity. 

After a few minutes, I opened my eyes and sipped contentedly on my tea. My heart fluttered as the diamonds on my engagement ring sparkled in the sun. We hadn’t made any plans for when we’d marry yet. It didn’t feel right to set the date until Paul had been through the next round of chemotherapy later this month and we were, of course, still hoping a stem cell donor would be found. 

Everyone had been thrilled at the announcement of our engagement. We’d invited our closest family for afternoon tea last Sunday so we could share the news. After that I’d called my best friend Hannah, who excitedly squealed down the phone. 

I tried my cousin Chloe next but she didn’t answer. Loyalty towards her after years of close friendship meant it didn’t feel right for her mum – my Auntie Louise – to hear first so I held off phoning her, trying Chloe repeatedly over the next few days but without success. On Thursday, fed up that messages to get in touch urgently had seemingly been ignored, I phoned Auntie Louise, who was also delighted. Then I texted Chloe: 

* To Chloe 

Josh asked me to marry him! I’m so excited. I’ve been trying to get hold of you all week as I ideally didn’t want to tell you my big news by text but you haven’t responded to my messages and I’m worried. I hope you’re okay. HOT TIP! There’s a woman on a farm in Huggleswick who is always here for you. You know where she is if you ever need her xxx 

So far, she hadn’t responded and I was determined not to let it dampen my excitement. If Chloe had decided to have an epic strop, I wasn’t going to bend over backwards this time. I’d waved the white flag plenty of times and now it was her move. 

I’d also sent a quick text to Mum: 

* To Mum 

I hope all’s well with you. Just letting you know that Josh asked me to marry him and I said yes. Not planning to set a date yet. Sam x 

She hadn’t responded but I hadn’t expected her to, although I had hoped she might, even if it was just one word: ‘congratulations’. I wasn’t going to let her dampen my excitement, either. 

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Extract, Gangland Crime, ganglit, Suspense

Amber Heather Burnside 5* #Review #WorkingGirls #Extract @heatherbwriter @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #ganglit #CrimeFiction #Amber #BlogTour #BookReview

NOBODY TO CALL

With a mother unfit for purpose and a brother who despises her, working girl Amber can rely on no one but herself – until the meanest pimp in Manchester, Kevin Pike, offers her his protection. Unfortunately, this attracts the fury of Cora, a prostitute no one wants to get on the wrong side of…

NOWHERE TO HIDE

When Cora is found strangled to death, the late-night city streets feel increasingly exposed with a killer on the loose. And as Amber grows closer to Kevin, she realises his security comes at a price she might not be willing to pay…

NOTHING TO LOSE

Amber is frozen in fear, knowing one wrong move will risk her life. But then she discovers a horrifying secret that forces her to choose: stay or run?

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

My Thoughts…

Book four in The Working Girls series is a haunting and tragic story.

All the books in this series are a unique mix of gritty and poignant, but as Amber is a victim of child abuse and child sexual abuse, this is difficult to read and hard to forget. Sensitively written with a focus on the emotional damage abuse causes, this book focuses on the victims.

The dual timeline story moves from the early 1990s when Amy is a little girl through to her teenage years and closer to the present day when Amber is a working girl. The plot is fast-paced as Amy’s life gradually becomes Amber’s. The characters, some new, and a few familiar faces are relatable, and after a climactic conclusion, there is a positive ending.

This is an edgy and poignant series that explores urban crime in Manchester.

Heather Burnside spent her teenage years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester and she draws heavily on this background as the setting for many of her novels.

After taking a career break to raise two children Heather enrolled on a creative writing course. Heather now works full-time on her novels from her home in Manchester, which she shares with her two grown-up children.

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Read my reviews of The Mark, Ruby and Crystal

Extract from Amber – Heather Burnside

APRIL 1993

Amy wanted to run through the rooms just one more time. She loved their home in Cheadle. It was big and cosy with a garden that went all the way round. Her grandparents said that was because it was detached, and it was in a good area too. She’d spent many happy hours in the playroom with her friends or in the sprawling back garden on the swing, slide and climbing frame.

She was going to miss it, but her mother had promised her that the house they were moving to was also very nice. It wasn’t as big as this one and they would only have room for the swing in the garden but nevertheless her mother was going to make sure that it was just as cosy.

She had also told Amy and Nathan that their friends could come and visit them in the new house, and that they’d probably make new friends too. Amy enjoyed playing with her friends and knew that she was going to miss them, but she felt better knowing that they would be welcome anytime.

At the top of the stairs she turned and walked into her old bedroom, clutching her favourite teddy bear, Barney. Her bedroom was at the back of the house and overlooked the garden with its neat lawns and pretty flowers. Amy caught a glimpse of the slide and the climbing frame that would be left behind, and she felt sad. But she tried not to cry, knowing she had promised her mother she would be a brave girl when they had to leave their nice home.

‘Come on, Barney,’ she said, addressing her teddy bear. ‘Don’t cry. We’ve got to be brave for Mummy. The men have put my bed in the van, and I’ll tuck you up nice and warm in it when we get to the new house.’

The garden was now devoid of the picturesque planters that her mother had lovingly nurtured. They were inside the big van that was parked outside the front of their house. Many of their belongings were also inside and as Amy walked through the empty bedrooms, she could hear the echo of her footsteps.

Next, she walked into her mother’s bedroom and looked out of the window at the men who were busy carrying boxes from the kitchen. She spotted her friend, Maisie, with her mother, hovering at the edge of the garden, and Amy let out an excited squeal. She ran down the stairs, eager to see Maisie one last time before she had to leave.

‘Maisie,’ she shouted enthusiastically as she sped out of the front door, dodging one of the men who was carrying a box full of kitchen utensils. ‘We’re going to our new house today.’

Maisie smiled. ‘I know. My mummy told me. She said we can come to see you off.’

Amy held up her teddy bear. ‘Barney’s coming too. He’s really happy.’ She held up her teddy bear and addressed him. ‘Aren’t you, Barney?’ She moved his head to indicate a nod.

‘What other toys are you taking?’ asked Maisie and for a few minutes they chatted animatedly until Amy’s mother, Loretta, drew their attention. ‘Come on, Amy. It’s time to go.’

‘Aw, Mummy,’ complained Amy. ‘Can I stay for a bit longer? Can Maisie come and play in the garden for a bit? The slide and climbing frame are still there.’

‘No, Amy,’ said her mother. ‘The men are finished now. We need to go.

Posted in Blog Blitz, Contemporary Fiction, Extract, Family Drama, Friendship, Holiday Romance, Romance, Travel

Corfu Capers Joy Skye #Extract #BookPromo #Corfu #GreekIslands @JoySkye4 @rararesources #CorfuCapers

Five people, three secrets, one planned proposal. What could possibly go wrong?

A holiday in a luxury villa on Corfu sounds like the answer to all their prayers but it will change their lives forever. A week in paradise might not be long enough…

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Extract from Corfu Caper – Joy Skye

As the week progresses, tensions mount and not even a perfect day at sea can hold back the inevitable:

‘This is bliss’ Linda said to her friend as they dozed contentedly on the sun deck at the front of the boat, reddening in the strong July sun despite the layers of sun cream. Her eyes were closed and she was feeling drowsy, the sound of the water gently licking the side of the boat making her completely relaxed and unable to move to apply some more factor 50 even though she knew she should.

‘I could do this every day, that’s for sure’ Charlotte replied, smiling up at the sky and adjusting her hat to provide more shade to her face which was beaded with perspiration.

She sat up to accept yet another glass of cold white wine from Manolis, her elbow knocking the book she’d carelessly abandoned on the side, into the water in the process. Without a word the boy dived in after it, retrieving it before it had time to start sinking and held it aloft for her to take and then agilely clambered, dripping, back on board.

‘Thank you so much, I was getting to the good bit!’ Charlotte said, laying the book out in the sun to dry and rewarding him with a brilliant smile.  The young man flushed and was thinking about how to respond when Marc walked up to call them for lunch. Charlotte’s attention was at once laser-focused on Marc and she leapt up to follow him, brushing past Manolis without another thought.

They all seated themselves around the table after collecting plates and cutlery, eagerly anticipating the feast that, by the smells they’d been enduring for the last hour, was going to be incredible.

The food started coming thick and fast, huge slabs of fresh bread, Greek salad with salty feta and juicy tomatoes from the captains garden, spicy tzatziki with enough garlic to blow your head off and grilled Saganaki drenched in fresh lemon juice. They all greedily started to load up their plates, exclaiming in delight with every mouthful, each new taste a revelation.

The captain walked through bearing a large platter and, with a flourish, placed it on the table in front of them. ‘Here you are, the best-mixed seafood plate you will find in Greece’ he announced proudly.

Five pairs of eyes looked down at the magnificent platter, two of which were horrified.

Laden with octopus, shrimps, oysters and small fish and decorated with lemon slices and fresh parsley, it was splendid, so it was unfortunate that it was due to become the cause of an almighty explosion.

‘What the hell is this?!’ demanded Linda, glaring at Kate, her face infused with anger. Scott jumped up holding out his hands, trying to calm her down.

‘I’m sure Ma has ordered something else for you’ he said, glancing at Kate and hoping for reassurance.

Kate paled. ‘I’m sorry, Linda, I didn’t think. I’m sure the lovely Captain can fix you something else up.’

Captain Yiannis, who didn’t understand what the problem was but realised he was expected to produce something else said, ‘I am sorry madam Kate, I have onboard only what you ordered.’

‘I can’t believe that you’ve done this again’ spluttered Linda, slamming a fist on the table. ‘Three years on and you’re still pulling this shit, treating me as if I don’t exist!’

With that she pushed the platter away from her, causing a deluge of food-laden plates and cutlery on the other side of the table to hit the deck with a resounding crash, stood up and stormed off back to the front of the boat.

‘Well,’ Charlotte said, whilst wiping at the debris that had landed on her lap, managing to smear more of it than clean it. ‘That’s not good’. Manolis instantly ran up with a roll of kitchen paper for her, standing by, unsure of what else to do while she tried to clean herself up, dabbing at the oily salad dressing running down her legs and picking bits of tomato and cucumber off her shorts.

Kate looked at Scott in trepidation, ‘I’m sorry, Scotty, I didn’t mean to upset her, I only wanted you to have your favourite foods and make today perfect for you’. Scott shook his head in despair, his face a picture of wretchedness as his eyes darted between the catastrophe that had been lunch and the direction Linda had gone.

‘Ma, I know you always have my best interests at the forefront of everything that you do, but you know what would make this day perfect for me? Linda being happy. That’s all I want, the girl I love with me and both of us having a perfect day. The sooner you get that into your head and start paying attention to her needs the better.’ And with that, he valiantly followed in Linda’s angry footsteps. Charlotte, looking up from where she was knelt, helping Manolis clean up the ruins of the meal on the floor said to Kate,

‘Ms D, you really have put your foot in it this time. Once she has calmed her down I think you’d better go and apologise to her big time. She’s madder than a wet hen!’

‘I’m sure she will be fine’ said Kate, smiling and pushing her chin out. ‘After tomorrow everything will be perfect’. Kate felt bad for upsetting the girl yet again, but she knew Linda would be ecstatic tomorrow when Scott asked her to be his wife – why wouldn’t she? – And then all this nonsense would be forgotten.

Joy Skye

Joy lives on the seductive island of Corfu with her four dogs and an embarrassing number of cats.

Her many years working in the tourist industry on this sunny isle and her love of all things literary inspired her first novel Corfu Capers which recently hit the #1 spot in Parenting and Family humour much to her delight.

She loves to cook, dance and drink wine, usually at the same time, and is currently working on book number two, due to be released later this year.

She also loves to travel, absolutely anywhere, and is looking forward to jumping on a plane!

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Extract, Family Drama, Friendship, Holiday Romance, Mystery, Romance

Summer Kisses at Mermaid Point Sarah Bennett 5*#Review @BoldwoodBooks @Sarahlou_writes @rararesources #mystery #romance #family #coastal #community #boldwoodbloggers #MondayBlogs #BlogTour #BookReview #Extract

Laurie Morgan runs a café in the small seaside community of Mermaids Point, named after the beauties rumoured to live in the waters a few miles off the top of the point. When a hazy image is posted online of what appears to be a mermaid, the café and the village are soon full to bursting with curious sightseers. 

The most eye-catching of the new arrivals is handsome author, Jake Smith, who has rented a cottage for the summer while he works on his new book. Or so he says. In fact, he is a journalist, burned out and disillusioned with life, whose editor has sent him on a crack-pot hunt for mermaids…

Jake quickly finds himself drawn to village life, and to the gorgeous woman who runs the local café. But he soon suspects there’s trouble lurking beneath the idyllic façade, and when it looks like Laurie’s family might be involved, Jake faces a difficult choice. Pursue the truth, or protect the woman he’s beginning to fall in love with…

Warm, escapist, feel-good and altogether brilliant story-telling from bestselling author Sarah Bennett.

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

My Thoughts…

This first book in the Mermaid Point trilogy focuses on Laurie and Jake. It explores family, community and the power of social media. The romance is gentle but conflicted, both have emotional issues, and Jake is not what he seems.

The family drama element is pivotal, and it’s interesting to meet Laurie’s family. There is humour, much of it self-deprecating but also poignancy. The problems faced by the coastal town are pertinent and add to the story’s authenticity.

Believable characters, humour, mystery, and romance make this an enjoyable read.

Sarah Bennett

Sarah Bennett is the bestselling author of several romantic fiction trilogies including those set in Butterfly Cove and Lavender Bay. Born and raised in a military family she is happily married to her own Officer and when not reading or writing enjoys sailing the high seas. The first book in her new Mermaids Point trilogy for Boldwood will be published in Spring 2021.

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Extract from Summer Kisses at Mermaids Point – Sarah Bennett.

Laurie Morgan surveyed the mostly empty tables on the opposite side of the counter. Barbara Mitchell and her best friend, Kitty Duke, were at their usual spot in the corner, knitting tiny hats for a charity which donated them to premature baby units around the country, but other than them she’d had nobody in since the breakfast rush. Turning her gaze to the raindrops streaking the plate-glass window of her café, Laurie squinted through the rivulets of water. She could just about make out the view beyond the window. With the clouds so thick and low, it was all but impossible to distinguish where the sky met the sea turning everything into a wall of miserable grey. What a difference a day makes

This time yesterday she’d barely been able to hear herself think over the hubbub of conversation, teacups rattling on saucers and forks scraping on plates, thanks to a visiting WI coach trip. They’d all but eaten her out of that day’s baking, and she’d had to hastily defrost a couple of emergency Victoria sponges to make sure her lunchtime regulars had something to go with their sandwiches. It wasn’t only her cake stock which had taken a beating; one look at the queue snaking halfway around the café from the visitors’ bathroom had her scrambling for her phone to send an SOS text to her brother, Nick, begging him to do an emergency run to the corner shop to replenish her dwindling supply of toilet paper. Of course, he’d found the whole thing hilarious and insisted on making a big entrance through the front door like some white knight come to save the day, rather than sneaking in through the back entrance and leaving them in the stock room, which also served the gift shop their parents ran next door. 

A ripple of laughter from the corner table drew Laurie’s attention from the gloomy weather. She watched Barbara and Kitty for a few minutes, full of admiration for the way their needles flashed back and forth without hesitation. Neither woman spared much more than the odd glance to their knitting as they chatted. Her nan had tried to teach Laurie to knit as a child but, as with all the other crafty type activities she’d tried over the years, she’d found it impossible to get to grips with. Being the only left-hander in the family hadn’t helped as everything they tried to show her felt awkward and clumsy. Even now, at just shy of twenty-three, she had to concentrate when using her knife and fork or she would find herself pulling things apart with the fork in her naturally dominant left hand. Thankfully, when it came to cooking and baking it didn’t matter which hand she held a knife with and she’d spent many happy hours at her nan’s knee learning the basics and discovering a true passion. It had been a gamble on her parents’ part when she’d come to them with the idea of converting one end of their sprawling seafront shop into a café, but they’d decided it was one worth taking. If they hadn’t, it would’ve left Laurie facing the prospect of leaving Mermaids Point to seek employment in one of the bigger towns and cities. Having grown up a stone’s throw from the ever-changing tides of the Atlantic Ocean, the prospect of moving in land had filled her with dread. 

She’d always been drawn to the sea. Whatever the season, there was beauty to be found. From the balmy summer days when the shiny white triangles of pleasure boat sails dotted the gentle waves, to the roiling majesty of a winter storm in full tumult when even the hardiest of the local fishermen kept their boats secured in the sheltered bay. Even on a filthy day like today she’d rather be out than in. Her eyes roamed the café once more. If business didn’t pick up after lunch, maybe she’d flick the closed sign over, tug on a hat, turn up her collar and snatch a few moments of peace on the wet sands of the beach. 

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Extract, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance

All You Need Is Love Jessica Redland 5* #Review #Extract @JessicaRedland @BoldwoodBooks #BlogTour @rararesources #Romance #Friendship #Heartwarming #UpLit #Family #Relationships #Loss #Love #BookReview #boldwoodbloggers #WhitsboroughBay #AllYouNeedIsLove

When you’ve loved and lost, how do you find the strength to let love in again?


Jemma thinks she’s found the love of her life. Scott is everything she ever dreamed of and she can’t wait to begin the next stage of their life together. But just as she is heading for her happy ever after, a shock revelation shatters Jemma’s life as she knows it. Left to pick up the pieces, Jemma’s friends and family rally round to help her find the courage to move on.

Sam think he has his future all worked out. A thriving career, lovely home and an amazing fiancée. But when tragedy strikes, he finds himself alone, far from everyone he cares about. Did he do the right thing by running away and trying to rebuild the tatters of his life alone?

This is the story of Jemma and Sam. Two lost souls, desperately trying to find closure and happiness. When a chance meeting brings them together a friendship is formed, but the guards are up. 

Will it finally be their turn for a happy ever after? Or will the secrets from their pasts prevent them from moving on?

Escape to Whitsborough Bay for an emotional, uplifting story of love and friendship from top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland. 

This book was previously published as Bear With Me.

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

My Thoughts…

This is an emotional story full of angst and loss but mitigated by the strong community ties and friendship at times of need. Jemma and Sam are the main protagonists, and the story unfolds from their perspectives. Initially, separate their stories intertwine as their lives implode.

The character-driven, insightful and immersive writing draws the reader into the characters’ lives. The world-building creates an authentic setting that is easy to imagine from the sensory imagery used.

Relatable characters and contemporary issues are interwoven into a story of friendship, loss and starting over.

Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland is the author of ten novels, including The Secret to Happiness, which are all set around the fictional location of Whitsborough Bay. Inspired by her hometown of Scarborough she writes uplifting women’s fiction which has garnered many devoted fans.

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Extract from All You Need Is Love – Jessica Redland

Jemma 

Three years ago – 21st May 

‘Mum!’ I called up the stairs. ‘Mum! The hearse is here.’ I cocked my head to one side, listening for her reply. Nothing. What was she doing up there? She’d told me forty minutes ago that she was ‘almost ready’ and, as she isn’t one of those women who spends hours teasing one strand of hair into place, there was no reason to disbelieve her. Of all the mornings to take forever, why choose today? Shaking my head, I opened the front door to Mum’s cottage, Bear’s Pad, before Mr Golding, the funeral director, had a chance to lift the grizzly-bear knocker. 

‘Good morning, Ms Browne.’ He gave a reverential bow of his head. ‘We’re ready when you are.’ 

‘Thank you. We’ll be out in five minutes.’ I glanced back towards the stairs. ‘Actually, it could be ten. Do we have time?’ 

‘Ten minutes is no problem.’ 

My throat tightened as I glanced past him to the black limousine parked on the sloped driveway and the hearse parked on the road. It was still hard to take in. This wasn’t a day I’d expected to experience for several decades. 

I tried not to curl my lip up at the orange and yellow floral lettering arrangement resting against the side of the coffin. I hated it but Logan, my seven-year-old brother, had requested it because his best friend Billy Thomas had apparently told him that people who didn’t have one were mean and that the dead would come back to haunt them. I could have throttled Billy Thomas. Logan also wanted a floral teddy bear to thoroughly protect him against any risk of ghosts but Mum and I had managed to talk him out of that. The deceased would not have been impressed with a bear. He probably would have haunted us for that. 

‘Mum!’ I called again after I’d closed the door. Still no answer. Just a lot of clattering and banging. 

‘What’s Mum doing?’ Logan looked up from where he was playing with his Lego on the lounge rug. ‘She’s being very noisy.’ 

‘I’ve no idea, but I’m about to find out. Have you been to the toilet?’ 

‘Not yet.’ 

‘Can you do that while I check on Mum? And make sure you wash your hands.’ 

He put down his Lego and pouted. ‘I always do.’ 

‘Logan! What have we discussed about telling fibs?’ 

‘Okay. I promise I’ll wash them. You can smell them if you want.’ 

I smiled at him. ‘Tempting, but I might pass on that.’ 

Logan headed past me and through the kitchen, giggling as he made a big show of sniffing at his hands. Happy that he was doing as asked, I kicked off my stilettos and ran up the stairs. I paused for a moment outside Mum’s bedroom listening to the racket, punctuated with the occasional expletive, then pushed open the door and gasped. 

‘Oh my God! What’s going on? Mum! Why aren’t you ready?’ 

Wrapped in a fluffy cream towel, Mum turned to face me and blew a wisp of dark hair out of her face. 

‘I only bought them on Saturday,’ she said, as if that explained why half the contents of her drawers were strewn all over the floor. 

‘Bought what on Saturday?’ 

‘Black knickers. An M&S three-pack. But I can’t find them, Jemma.’ 

‘Where did you last have them?’ 

She planted her hands on her hips and rolled her eyes at me. ‘Why do people always say that? If I knew the answer, then this wouldn’t have happened, would it?’ She waved her arm across the carnage. 

‘The hearse is here,’ I said, equally unhelpfully. 

Mum frowned. ‘I thought they weren’t due till 10.15.’ 

‘It is 10.15. Well, near enough.’ 

She twisted round to look at her bedside clock. ‘Crap! Why didn’t you call me sooner?’ 

‘Because you told me you were nearly ready forty minutes ago and because I was busy with Logan.’ 

‘Logan? Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry, Jemma. Is he ready?’ 

‘Yes. He’s downstairs waiting. We need to go in about seven minutes. Can you manage without the knickers?’ 

Her eyes widened. ‘Jemma-bear! Are you suggesting that I go commando to your father’s funeral? I’m not sure that’s appropriate.’ 

I laughed loudly – also not appropriate for a funeral. ‘I didn’t mean go without any knickers. I just meant without the new black ones.’ 

Posted in Blog Tour, Extract, Historical Fiction, Saga

The Hat Girl From Silver Street Lindsey Hutchinson #Extract @LHutchAuthor @BoldwoodBooks #TheHatGirlFromSilverStreet #boldwoodbloggers @rararesources #Saga #historicalfiction #HistFic #BlogTour

Let bestselling author Lindsey Hutchinson take you back in time to the Victorian Black Country, for a tale of love, hardship and fighting against the odds to succeed.

Life is tough for Ella Bancroft. After her father, Thomas, is wheelchair-bound by an accident at the tube works, the responsibility for keeping a roof over their head falls to Ella. Ella’s mother died when she was ten, and her sister Sally lives with her no-good, work-shy husband Eddy, so is no help at all.  If she and her father are to keep the bailiffs from the door, then Ella must earn a living.

But Ella is resourceful as well as creative, and soon discovers she has a gift for millinery. Setting up shop in the front room of their two-up, two-down home in Silver Street, Walsall, Ella and Thomas work hard to establish a thriving business. Before long, the fashionable ladies of the Black Country are lining up to wear one of Ella’s beautiful creations, and finally Ella dares to hope for a life with love, friendship and family.

Meeting the man she longs to marry should be a turning point for Ella, but life’s twists and turns can be cruel. As the winter grows colder, events seem to conspire to test Ella’s spirit. And by the time spring is approaching, will the hat girl of Silver Street triumph, or will Ella have to admit defeat as all her dreams are tested.

The Queen of the Black Country sagas is back with a heart-breaking, unforgettable, page-turning story of love, life and battling against the odds.  

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Extract from The Hat Girl From Silver Street Lindsey Hutchinson

Ella Bancroft looked down at the tangled mess in her fingers and stifled a sob. She pulled at the ruined hat in an effort to rectify her error, but the steaming process had set the blunder in place. 

A tear slipped from her eye and rolled down her cheek. This was her second mistake in a week. Her first was sticking her finger with a pin and leaving a blood spot on a piece of white tulle. Ivy had ranted and raved as she had snipped off the offending piece of material to rescue the hat. 

Now Ella had spoilt the crown of a felt winter hat, having steamed it into the wrong shape entirely. Thinking quickly, she wondered whether, if she held it over the steamer again, she could re-form it. 

About to try, Ella caught her breath as she heard footsteps on the bare wooden staircase. It was too late, Ivy was on her way up. 

Ella had been employed at Ivy Gladwin’s shop for two years and yet suddenly she had begun making errors. Why? Was it because she was unhappy in her work? 

‘How are you getting on with that order?’ Ivy called as she entered the bedroom, which had been converted to a work room. 

‘Erm… I…’ Ella mumbled as she looked again at the floppy felt monstrosity. 

‘What the…?’ Ivy gasped. Snatching the article from Ella, she held it up between thumb and forefinger. ‘How on earth…? Good grief, girl, can’t you do anything right?’ 

The sob Ella was holding back escaped her lips. ‘I’m sorry, Miss Gladwin, I don’t know what happened.’ 

‘Neither do I!’ Ivy snapped, throwing the felt onto the table. ‘It’s completely ruined! An expensive piece of material at the outset and now it’s a – oh, do stop snivelling!’ 

The sharp slap to her cheek caused Ella to catch her breath and she raised a hand to cover the stinging skin. 

Ella sniffed and tried hard to halt the sobs racking her body. 

‘I… I’m really sorry,’ she managed at last. 

‘Well, you will have to pay for it out of your wages. Now, start again and for God’s sake mind what you’re doing!’ With that, Ivy strode from the room, her long bombazine skirt swishing against her side-button boots. 

Ella stared at the hat on the table and thought about the last two years of her life. She had seen the advert in the local newspaper for an apprentice hat-maker. Having applied and been interrogated by Miss Gladwin for over an hour, she was given the post on a month’s trial. The pay, she was told, would be one pound and ten shillings a week but she must work a week in hand first. Any damages would be taken out of her money before she received it. 

Now she was halfway through this week and already there would be two stoppages from her salary. Ella sighed as she worked out just how much she would have in her hand come Friday. 

The gold flecks in her hazel eyes were accentuated as more tears brimmed before falling. Pushing a stray dark curl from her forehead, Ella moved to the workbench. With a sniff and a sigh, she began her work again, this time selecting the correct block to steam the material over. 

Ella thought once more about her earnings – would there be enough to feed herself and her father? The food in the larder was running desperately low, and she knew if there was only enough for one of them to eat she would make sure it was her dad. 

Lindsey Hutchinson

Lindsey Hutchinson is a bestselling saga author whose novels include The Workhouse Children. She was born and raised in Wednesbury and was always destined to follow in the footsteps of her mother, the multi-million selling Meg Hutchinson.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Romance

The Forgotten Life of Arthur Pettinger Suzanne Fortin 5*#Review @suefortin1 @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #BlogTour #BookReview #Timeslip Dual Time #HistFic #WW2 #France #Extract #TheForgottenLifeofArthurPettinger

Sometimes the past won’t stay hidden, it demands to be uncovered…

Arthur Pettinger’s memory isn’t what it used to be. He can’t always remember the names of his grandchildren, where he lives or which way round his slippers go. He does remember Maryse though, a woman he hasn’t seen for decades, but whose face he will never forget.

When Arthur’s granddaughter, Maddy moves in along with her daughter Esther, it’s her first step towards pulling her life back together. But when Esther makes a video with Arthur, the hunt for the mysterious Maryse goes viral.

There’s only one person who can help Maddy track down this woman – the one that got away, Joe. Their quest takes them to France, and into the heart of the French Resistance.

When the only way to move forwards is to look back, will this family finally be able to?

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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…

Arthur is ninety-six, and his memory is failing. His granddaughter Maddy comes to live with him as he is unable to cope alone. Her young daughter bonds with Arthur, but he is troubled by something in his past. Maddy is lonely and is resistant when a past lover is drawn back into her life. She wants to stop Arthur from fretting about his past, and maybe Joe is the man to help her?

This dual timeline story follows Arthur back to WW2, where he worked with the French resistance and met the love of his life. This part of the story is atmospheric and full of courageous acts and danger. The other timeline shows Maddy and Esther’s compassion towards Arthur, and there a realistic mix of despair and humour coupled with frustration and patience. The author captures Arthur’s confusion and fear about his memory loss. Maddy and Joe get a second chance at happiness as they try to find the missing pieces of Arthur’s life.

Heartbreak, hope, loss and love define this engaging story. Although the ending made me cry, it left me feeling uplifted.

Suzanne Fortin

Suzanne Fortin is a USA Today and Amazon UK & USA best selling author, with The Girl Who Lied and Sister Sister both reaching #1 in the Amazon UK Kindle chart in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Her books have sold over a million copies and translation rights for her novels have been sold worldwide. She was born in Hertfordshire but had a nomadic childhood, moving often with her family, before eventually settling in West Sussex where she now lives with her husband and family.

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Extract from The Forgotten Life of Arthur Pettinger

Well, that was a turn-up for the books. Moaning Minnie had gone and the smiley one was staying. Maddy, that was her name; he was sure of it. Maddy. Arthur repeated the name several times out loud. He wanted to remember her.

Maddy Pettinger. Of course, dear, sweet Maddy – his granddaughter. He could see her when she was a small child, maybe about five or six. She was wearing a blue pinafore dress and her hair was in bunches with blue ribbon. A warmth filled his heart as he could see the man holding Maddy’s hand. It’s his own son, Charles. Charles in his late twenties, a grown man, and he was so proud of Maddy and rightly so; she was such a delightful child.

There was a memory he couldn’t quite see clearly. It was all fuzzy, like the horizon on a road in the height of summer when the heat made everything blurry. The memory was there but it wasn’t clear. Arthur frowned as he tried to look through the heat waves. Slowly the mental image became sharper and Arthur’s heart hurt.

Charles, his dear son – he was no longer with him. He was with Joan. He shouldn’t be with Joan yet. Charles was too young. He was emerging from the blur, standing beyond Arthur’s reach.

Arthur could see himself, looking down, and Maddy was with him, standing at the end of that long road, looking at the man they both loved so dearly.

‘Hello.’

A voice from the doorway made Arthur look up. For a moment he thought it was Maddy, but then he realised it was the girl who came with her. Arthur smiled. ‘Hello, young lady.’

She gave an uncertain smile, which turned into a frown as she looked at his feet. ‘Your slippers are on the wrong feet.’

Wrong feet. Wrong feet. Arthur blew out a frustrated breath. Wrong feet? What was wrong with his feet? He looked down at them. Slippers? ‘Hmm,’ he said. ‘Wrong feet.’

The girl stepped into the room and crouched down in front of him. She reached for his foot and cupped the heel with her hand. She paused and looked up. Arthur wasn’t quite sure what she wanted him to do, but he lifted his foot and watched as she removed his slipper. She repeated the process with the other foot and then put the slippers back on his feet.

‘That’s better,’ she said, standing up.

Arthur nodded. ‘Thank you.’ He wasn’t quite sure what he was thanking her for, but it seemed the right thing to say. He remembered his sweets in the drawer and reaching out, he removed the tin and offered it to the child. ‘Would you like a sweet… err… young lady?’ He wished he could remember her name.

The child hesitated before poking around in the tin, examining the sweets, finally settling on a pink one. She unwrapped it and popped it into her mouth. ‘Esther. My name’s Esther.’

‘Esther. Esther, Esther, Esther.’ Arthur tapped his head as he repeated the name. He wanted it to stick. ‘Well then, Esther, what are you doing today?’

‘I’ve made a YouTube video.’

Arthur was baffled. He had no idea what one of them was, but she looked pleased about it. ‘Is that right? Good for you.’

‘I have one hundred and fifty subscribers.’

Again, she looked immensely proud of this but alas Arthur was clueless. He nodded and smiled all the same. ‘One hundred and fifty, eh? That sounds a lot.’

Her smile dropped and she gave a shrug. ‘Not really. Some people have thousands.’

‘Quality not quantity. Happiness should be measured in quality.’

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Extract, Family Drama, Noir, Suspense

The Silent Victims Alex Coombs 5*#Review @AlexHowardCrime @BoldwoodBooks #CrimeFiction #DIHanlon #TheSilentVictims #noircrime #BlogTour #BookReview #MondayBlogs @rararesources #Extract #boldwoodbloggers

DCI Hanlon faces the toughest decision of her career as a string of political murders lead to a deadly confrontation.
A controversial, right-wing German politician is due to speak at the Oxford Union. Following a series of murders linked to a violent anarchist group, the city is on high alert. DCI Hanlon has been partnered with DI Huss to ensure the speech goes smoothly and that there will be no more killing.

Meanwhile, as Hanlon traces the person behind the murders, she soon realises that the chilling truth has a terrible price. Is Hanlon willing to meet the cost?

The final gripping case for DCI Hanlon.

This book was previously published as An Incidental Death by Alex Howard.

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

My Thoughts…

The final book in the DCI Hanlon series moves firmly into the realm of politics. Hanlon is on protection duty for a controversial foreign politician. Unsurprisingly this means danger for the enigmatic detective.

The settings are numerous and vividly brought to life. The characters are believable, and some the personification of evil. The story has many twists which make it addictive reading.

This is a topical urban thriller with a memorable detective team, a unique leader and provides a suitably exciting and poignant end to this series.

Extract from The Silent Victims – Alex Coombs

Melinda Huss was dying. She wasn’t in any pain, the local anaesthetic in her side had taken care of that, all she could feel as the blood trickled out from her right side was a faint tickling sensation as it flowed down her skin and a spreading warmth as it pooled underneath her body. 

She was lying on her back on a massage table in the spa and treatment centre of the luxury hotel’s lodge. The room was small and clinical, its only decoration three severe black and white Robert Mapplethorpe photographs of flowers, their curled foliage like organs from a human body. They had an ethereal, fleshy, beauty all of their own. 

There was a table with a laptop on it and two charts on the wall – one featuring traditional Chinese medicine meridian lines where chi was said to flow, another, brightly coloured, indeed almost the only other colour in the room, showed the main chakra positions from Indian yoga. 

The other source of colour in the room was the enormous red stain that spread out across the white sheet covering Huss’s torso. 

She was quite calm, tranquil almost, but she could feel herself becoming light-headed. She wondered how much blood she had actually lost. She felt another warm trickle down her body. It seemed to be leaving her body in irregular bursts. It wasn’t unpleasant. In fact, if you had to choose a way to die, bleeding out like this was not a bad way to go at all. 

She lifted her head and looked down at the Velcro straps that secured her arms and legs. She had tried before to break her bonds or wriggle free. She had been unsuccessful. She wasn’t going to try again. 

She could feel her will, and her strength, draining away. She thought of Enver Demirel, her fiancé. She thought of Hanlon. Her fierce, attractive face, and she thought of the long road that had led here. 

To this place. To this death. 

Kriminalkommissar Claudia Meyer of the Baden Württemberg Landeskriminalamt strode out of the foyer of the baroque building just off Karlplatz in the historic Alt centre of Heidelberg. 

It was incredibly noisy. Horns were beeping in the narrow mediaeval streets where traffic had backed up. Sirens wailed, police were shouting commands at a vociferous crowd that had gathered. 

The red sandstone castle on the hill above looked down on the small, picturesque town below. The scene that she had just witnessed in the first floor drawing room was as gruesome as any the castle had seen in its long history. There had been an eye-opening amount of blood. 

There were a couple of blue and silver VW squad cars from the cop shop on Eppelheimer Strasse parked on the narrow cobbled street outside, and the front door of the large, detached town house had been sealed off. The blue uniformed police on the door watched her as she passed. She nodded at the driver of the van that she recognized as belonging to Forensics which was pulled up on the pavement. 

The street where all this commotion was occurring was in one of Heidelberg’s most fashionable quarters. It was university land, but the house she had just left was startlingly expensive, even by Stuttgart standards. Prices had risen steeply in latter times. It was the kind of place that only fairly recently had become gentrified and was now increasingly being colonized by non-German investors. It lay in the heart of the city, near the exclusive Hauptstrasse. It wasn’t the kind of place you associated with violent death; more expensive shopping and a Kaffee and a slice of Sachertorte

Alex Coombs

Alex Coombs studied Arabic at Oxford and Edinburgh Universities and went on to work in adult education and then retrained to be a chef. He has written four well reviewed crime novels as Alex Howard.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Extract, Horror Fiction, Paranormal

The Lazarus Child Jay Raven #Extract @JayRavenAuthor #BloodRiders @rararesources #Paranormal #Horror #histfic #Vampires #BlogTour

To save his missing daughter a distraught slayer must venture deep into the heart of darkness

Legendary vampire hunter Anton Yoska is on the edge, tormented by the rumour that the precious child he once thought dead is still alive and lost in a world of monsters.

One creature alone knows for sure what happened to Gretchen, but Terek Modjeski won’t divulge his secret – revelling in the twisted power over his long-time foe.

Despairing and drinking heavily, Anton stumbles from near disaster to near disaster as he puts his team in jeopardy, testing their friendship and loyalty to snapping point.

Only one diabolical solution is possible – to confront Terek in his maximum security cell and force the bloodsucker to end his game of cat and mouse. But making the cunning infernal talk will mean employing brutal methods that go against every code Anton has ever lived by, forcing him to become as much of a demon as the leeches he hunts.

Face to face with the evil, taunting vampire, the desperate slayer takes a decision that will change his destiny forever – sending him hurtling into danger to confront a terrifying truth about his lost child that risks not only his sanity but the future of mankind.

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Extract from The Lazarus Child Jay Raven

In this extract vampire slayer Anton Yoska visits Transylvania’s most notorious maximum security prison to interrogate one of its most feared Undead captives. But to get there he has to cross an eerie, fog-shrouded lake.

The boat set off, paddles splashing in unison, gliding smoothly into the smog. Immediately, chill wisps of fog swirled around them in a ghostly dance and, pulling his heavy cape tighter around himself, Anton glimpsed back over his shoulder. The jetty had already evaporated, all sign of Quintz and the wagon swallowed up in the grey haze. Up ahead was just the same – an impenetrable blanket of vapour blocking any view of the boat’s destination.

Each stroke of the oars intensified the sense of peril, and it was difficult to resist a growing apprehension, as though they were voyaging through some haunted, ethereal realm.

It wasn’t just the eeriness that troubled him. A dark ultimatum made him brood – Leopold’s condemning words fresh in his memory even though it had been some weeks before: “I tire of this whole business, Yoska. I only kept the infernals alive at your insistence that Terek Modjeski could produce useful information about the Brethren’s numbers and intentions. But, so far, your attempts at interrogation have proved useless. Not one jot of intelligence. Nothing. How many times is it now that you’ve questioned the prisoner?”

“Three times.”

“And you’ve failed dismally to make him talk. Intolerable. Simply intolerable. I thought you were supposed to be the man whose very name made nosferatu tremble. Well, it’s obvious that this is one infernal who doesn’t share their trepidation.”

Trying to argue had been pointless. The Crown Prince was implacable, declaring: “Frankly, I am of a mind to hand it all over to Julius Gant. I can promise you he will get results, unfettered by your tedious morality or squeamishness.”

There was no mistaking the sincerity of the threat.

“But what about my daughter?” Anton had asked, aghast. “If I’m denied access to the creature how can I ever learn the truth of what happened? He’s my only hope.”

“Not my problem, Yoska. And very soon, it won’t be yours either. I suggest that if you really want to find out the fate of your girl, you stop treating Terek Modjeski as though he is a human. He is a thing, less than a thing. A parasite. His very existence is a blasphemy. Break the monster’s silence, before I have Gant do it.”

One of the musket men touched his shoulder jolting him from the recollection.

“There it is,” the guard pointed out, as the mist thinned and a forbidding structure loomed in the distance.

Jay Raven is the author of Gothic chillers and historical horror reminding readers that the past is a dangerous place to venture, full of monsters and murderous men. He blames his fascination with vampires, witches and werewolves on the Hammer Horror films he watched as a teenager, but living in a creepy old house on the edge of a 500-acre wood may have something to do with it.

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