Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Revenge Fiction, Friendship, Suspense, Thriller

#Repost Ruthless Women Melanie Blake 5*#Review @MelanieBlakeUK @HoZ_Books #BlogTour #BookReview @MidasPR #SoapOpera #Thriller #Relationships #Friendship #Revenge #suspense #RuthlessWomen #Paperback

RUTHLESS WOMEN Melanie Blake

Published by Head of Zeus
8th July 2021 | Paperback Currently £7.19

Ambition can be deadly…

Ruthless Women takes readers on a wild ride behind the scenes of beloved TV drama Falcon Bay, beamed globally to millions three days a week from its picturesque location in the Channel Islands. But even in this beautiful coastal spot, tensions swirl. Once one of the world’s most popular soap operas, but now with ratings and syndication at an all-time low, the production has been sold to an American business woman, beautiful and malevolent Madeline Kane, the new network owner who arrives on the tiny island just off Jersey, determined to do whatever it takes to get the show back to number one.  

Writer Farrah, star Catherine and producer Amanda are the driven, ambitious women who keep the show on the road. But Farrah is losing episodes to the network’s lead male rival, Catherine is terrified of the public falling out of love with her and Amanda’s evil husband Jake, vice president of the network, is plotting to get his own wife kicked off the show.

As the dawn of a new era begins, cast and crew turn against each other with loyalty, decency, and trust, replaced by scandal, betrayal, and an outrageous ambition to survive.

In a true battle of the sexes, these women will do anything to stay on top. But can they team up to bring down their male rivals? Or will jealousy, betrayal and revenge tear their long held friendships apart?

As the story reaches a climax so shocking readers will be talking about it for decades, one thing is certain: only the most ruthless woman will survive… 

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The Genre…

Over 25 million people in the UK watch soaps a week and now they’ll get a true glimpse of what really goes on behind the scenes of TV’s most  popular shows, and examples of the desperate trade off’s their beloved leading ladies go through to survive the very game they are in. Ruthless Women shows that what takes place behind the cameras is way more juicy than on….

Even the actresses, who Melanie was worried would be angry about what she’s written, are raving about Ruthless Women too.  Well, some of them are….

I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via Midas PR in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Scandalous, sexy thrillers based on real experiences and personalities are always addictive. Ruthless Women’s vibrant characters and vivid scenarios make guessing the inspiration behind them a must. The abuse of authority and prejudice are relatable, and the intelligent way the women fight against them believable. The female characters are flawed but easy to empathise. Hidden agendas and twists make this an intriguing read.

Scandal, secrets and sex underpin the story of a ruthless boss determined to make a once top-rated show great again. The dynamic between Farrah, Catherine, Amanda and Sheena is insightful and the force behind the story. It is both their strength and weakness, which Madeline exploits to her advantage.

This story has a poignant side which gives it depth and immerses the reader into the characters lives. The noir world simmering below the surface of television’s glamorous facade is the perfect setting for this story of ambition, friendship, revenge and scandal.

The suspense builds coupled with striking sensory imagery, as the story develops and the final chapters are full of twists, with a climactic ending.

I can’t wait for the next book.

Melanie Blake

At 15 Melanie Blake dreamed of being a writer, but was told by her English teacher that the only thing she’d ever write were labels for factory boxes. Severely dyslexic, and desperate to escape a childhood of poverty and religious extremism in Stockport, she left school with no qualifications and ran away
from home.

Against all odds, Melanie managed to blag her way onto the lowest rung of the showbiz ladders, working as an extra on Emmerdale, Coronation Street and Eastenders and a camera assistant on Top Of The Pops. It was during this time that she got her first big break aged 21, when soap icon Claire King chose Melanie to be her agent. Her agency was an immediate success, and she would go on to represent the likes of Patsy Kensit, Michelle Collins, Stephanie Beacham, Emily Lloyd, Denise Welch, Jennie McAlpine, Laila Morse, Daniella Westbrook, Amanda Barrie, Gillian Taylforth and Nadia
Sawalha; earning herself the tag ‘Queen of Soaps’.

Melanie wrote her first book The Thunder Girls when she was working in the music industry as a young woman. She was told no one wanted to read a book about middle aged female singers on a comeback tour and so it wasn’t until 2019, twenty years after she first put pen to paper, that The Thunder Girls was finally published by Pan Macmillan, becoming an Amazon number one bestseller. She adapted it for the stage herself and it went on to break box office records for a new work at the prestigious Lowry Theatre.

Her second novel, Ruthless Women has been an even bigger success, going straight into the Sunday Times hardback fiction chart at number four, staying in the top ten for a month, and also charting in Australia, Canada and New Zealand, as well as foreign language translation rights being picked up by Russia, Romania and Hungary; meaning Melanie Blake is going global. Ruthless Women is inspired by Melanie’s behind-the-scenes knowledge of British soap operas. In the UK alone, over 25 million people a week currently tune in to watch the very stars Melanie represents in their globally syndicated shows. They say write about what you know, and in Ruthless Women, Melanie certainly has.

Melanie still represents some of the best-known faces on British television but is also now enjoying success in her own right as a columnist, producer, author and playwright. She lives in London and is available for interview and to write features, and this woman has got a lot of stories!

Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Regency Romance

Scandalous Alchemy Katy Moran 5*#Review #KatyMoran @HoZ_Books #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance #AlternativeHistory #NineteenthCentury #BookReview #ScandalousAlchemy #PublicationDay @RichardsonHelen

In a Bridgerton-style Regency world, three people are caught in a web of passion and deceit.

Fontainebleau in 1825 is a glittering international court, rich with intrigue, passion and simmering violence. Lieutenant Colonel Kit Helford must navigate these treacherous waters to deliver the beautiful, self-destructive Princess Royal to her prospective husband. Kit’s childhood friend, Clemency Arwenack, is tasked with safeguarding her royal mistress’s reputation as the princess awaits a marriage she is dreading.

But both have secrets they will hide at all costs. Kit is on the run—from a man shot and left for dead back in London and a lifetime of scandal that includes a liaison with the princess herself. He will do anything to salvage his family’s reputation. Clemency, meanwhile, conducts a perilous trade in lies and blackmail as she seeks to destroy the princess, not protect her.

With the princess’s life under threat, Kit and Clemency are pitted against each other, even as a dangerous attraction grows between them. The past hunts them both, remorselessly, relentlessly, and neither can escape it for long.

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I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via Helen Richardson PR in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

The third book in the Hester and Crow series set in an alternative Regency world. Written with vivid imagery, astute political insight, and scandalous romance, this book is an addictive delight for historical romance fans.

The characters are pure, romantic Regency, the female protagonist, is independent, intelligent and intriguing. Kit, the male protagonist, is scandalous, sexy and searching, for his happiness in a climate of betrayal and political intrigue.

There’s engaging romance, fascinating political manoeuvring and vibrant characters that befit the glamour of the Regency period.

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

A Family Affair Julie Houston 5* #Review @JulieHouston2 @Hoz_Books @Aria_Fiction #Family #Friendship #Romance #SecondChance

Joining the family business was never going to be easy…

Frankie Piccione is done running away from her responsibilities, well for now anyway. Having escaped Westenbury after suffering a shattered heart, it’s time to take up her place on the family board. Piccione’s Pickles and Preserves needs Frankie. Frankie knows she can make the business work. But with her brother Luca and the new, rather attractive, Cameron Mancini watching her every move, she’s going to have to come up with something special to get them off her back and recognising she belongs on the board just as much as they do.

With the help of her Aunt Pam and best friend, Daisy, Frankie is thriving with her new sense of purpose. Until someone from her past walks right back into it…

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

My Thoughts…

This story took me a little longer to get into than the previous books about Westenbury, but it’s emotional, insightful and wonderfully romantic. When I finished, it was one of my favourite books in the series.

Frankie returns to the family business after two years away. Her motivations for leaving are understandable and easy to empathise with. Pam sees Frankie as her second daughter. Pam’s story takes place in the 1970s. The seventies are well-described, especially the differences in attitudes and prejudices in comparison with the present day.

The characters are relatable, and the pacing keeps the reader engaged. This is a family centred story with pertinent social history and two believable and satisfying love stories.

Julie Houston

Julie lives in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire where her novels are set, and her only claims to fame are that she teaches part-time at ‘Bridget Jones’ author Helen Fielding’s old junior school and her neighbour is ‘Chocolat’ author, Joanne Harris. After University, where she studied Education and English Literature, she taught for many years as a junior school teacher. As a newly qualified teacher, broke and paying off her first mortgage, she would spend every long summer holiday working on different Kibbutzim in Israel. After teaching for a few years she decided to go to New Zealand to work and taught in Auckland for a year before coming back to this country. She now teaches just two days a week, and still loves the buzz of teaching junior-aged children. She has been a magistrate for the past nineteen years, and, when not distracted by Ebay, Twitter and Ancestry, spends much of her time writing. Julie is married, has a twenty-four-year-old son and twenty-one-year-old daughter and a ridiculous Cockerpoo called Lincoln. She runs and swims because she’s been told it’s good for her, but would really prefer a glass of wine, a sun lounger and a jolly good book – preferably with Matthew Mcconaughay in attendance.

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Guest Post: The inspiration behind the Family Affair – Julie Houston

It was the evening before the very first lockdown back in March last year and I was getting desperate. I’d stared at a blank screen for several days but nothing was forthcoming. I knew I had a good eight months to write this novel – my ninth for Aria Head of Zeus – but to be absolutely honest I really didn’t have a clue what direction this new story would take.
And then, a seed, a little germ of hope and inspiration was planted: why wasn’t I using my own Italian heritage as a basis for the story? I knew then that I was going to write Frankie Piccione’s story.
My own grandmother was born Madeleine Scaramuzza and was the daughter of Antonio who’d left Naples to find work in the woollen mills here in Yorkshire. In my home town there are many Italian and Sicilian families and those I’m friendly with are wonderfully warm and extremely sociable as well as great cooks and hosts! I immediately headed down to my Sicilian friends, Joe and Luanda and, armed with notebook and pen, almost drafted the first plan there and then. They told me of wonderful Sicilian food, but especially the crema limon (lemon curd) that Frankie would eventually take on in the quest for manufacturing the best preserve at her Nonno Angelo’s factory. They gave me insights into Italian families and sayings, including the lyrical “bedda mia” – my beautiful one – that Joe’s mum uses all the time when greeting her family.

I’ve loved writing this story. I wanted to embrace the idea of economic migrants coming from different parts of the world – India and Italy – and how they worked hard to establish themselves in the north of England: Frankie’s grandfather, Nonno Angelo, with his pickles and preserves company and Daler’s Indian grandfather with his sandal factory. Both had to overcome prejudice, but fought against the odds to do exceptionally well in their chosen industries. I wanted to show how Pam, introducing a bit of seventies nostalgia, found herself part of the Piccione family at the age of just sixteen, and the prejudices she also had to fight against from her stand as a woman in a company dominated by men at the top.

But mainly, I just loved writing two parallel love stories – Frankie’s and Pam’s – one starting in the seventies and one just two years earlier, but both coming together and bang up to date by the end of the book. I fell a little bit in love with both Rob and Daler. I hope the reader will too!

Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Historical Crime Fiction, Murder Mystery, Mystery, New Books, Suspense

The Distant Dead Lesley Thomson 5*#Review @LesleyJmThomson @HoZ_Books #TheDetectivesDaughter @Aria_Fiction #BlogTour #BookReview #TheDistantDead #MurderMystery #Mystery #Blitz1940 Q&A

A woman lies dead in a bombed-out house. A tragic casualty of the Blitz? Or something more sinister?

Cleaner-turned-detective Stella Darnell connects a murder in Tewkesbury Abbey to a decades-old mystery in wartime London. From the number 1 bestselling author of The Detective’s Daughter.

LONDON, 1940

Several neighbours heard the scream of the woman in the bombed-out house. One told the detective she thought the lady had seen a mouse. Another said it wasn’t his business what went on behind closed doors. None of them imagined that a trusting young woman was being strangled by her lover.

TEWKESBURY, 2020

Beneath the vast stone arches of Tewkesbury Abbey, a man lies bleeding, close to death. He is the creator of a true-crime podcast which now will never air. He was investigating the murder of a 1940s police pathologist – had he come closer to the truth than he realised?

Stella Darnell has moved to Tewkesbury to escape from death, not to court it. But when this man dies in her arms, Stella, impelled to root out evil when she finds it, becomes determined to hunt down his killer and to bring the secrets he was searching for into the light…

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

My Thoughts…

The Detective Daughter series delivers an original twist on the classic murder mystery genre. Stella, the detective’s daughter, has a cleaning business and a detective agency with an eclectic mix of employees. The main protagonists are believably eccentric and flawed. This story reads well as a standalone, but the series is addictive and engaging and worth reading in its entirety.

This dual timeline story explores a wartime murder during the London blitz and murder in Tewkesbury in 2019. The connections between the two stories are revealed in a suspenseful way and involve Stella, Jack and the other team members across London and Tewkesbury.

The recent murders are catalysed by The Death Cafe, a group that discusses death that Stella is drawn to. The story has important character development for the main protagonists in addition to the well-plotted murder mystery.

Evocative with vivid sensory imagery, the reader is drawn into a world of deceit and murder that is chilling and disturbing. The historical and contemporary are interwoven convincingly and give the story its classic murder mystery ethos.

This story’s atmospheric settings and vibrant characters elevate the simple murder mystery into something that resonates.

Q&A : Lesley Thomson

What inspired you to write about a blitz murder?

I spent first part of 2020 clearing and sorting stuff in the attic in preparation of moving. I unearthed a photocopy of a message that Jose Wahlberg, a convicted Nazi spy, wrote to my grandfather – who I never knew – the night before Wahlberg was hanged Pentonville Prison in 1940. My mum had showed me the cigarette packet on the back of which Jose Wahlberg had thanked my grandfather for his kindness. Mum would reflect on how hard it must have been for her dad ,  prison officer, to comfort the young man hours before his death. On the  internet I found newspaper articles about Wahlberg’s capture and how the British were treating spies and, as often happens point of inspiration takes me somewhere else.

In The Distant Dead, I mention the incident in passing, I was inspired to explore 1940 London in which my mum and her family had lived. Blackouts, the deafening roar of planes, the massive thuds as bombs fell and the constant smell of burning. The murder rate went up and, with a depleted police force, fewer were solved. You could pass off a murder victim as a bombing casualty. Stuck in Lockdown, I found key similarities between 1940 and our own restricted lives.  Even the slogan – We’re all in it together – was the same.  This was enough for me to find a bridge to the past.

Did you undertake any research with this novel?

I read books on the Home-front including a doorstop-sized biography of Churchill by Andrew Roberts, I devoured published diaries by women living through the Blitz. Newspapers of the time were fascinating as were the propaganda films made by British Government agencies such as Fires Were Started and Britain Can Take it.’ Tewkesbury Abbey was my other inspiration and long before I started The Distant Dead, I had spent many hours there. I was sorry not to be able to visit in 2020.

Out of the entire Detective Daughter’s series, which one was your favourite to write and why?

For me, I think it’s up to the reader to have a favourite novel.  Were you to have asked me this question each year, starting when Ghost Girl came out, I’d tell you the same. This novel. I relish steeping myself in the world of my story, honing my writing ability and creating new characters and ideas. I want each novel to be my best yet. Therefore, The Distant Dead is my current favourite and I loved every minute of working on it right to proof stage.  

If you could have any job in the world (other than an author), what would it be and why?

I’d want something that involves long drives in a nice car, preferably a Jeep, with music playing. I used imagine being a taxi driver, but these days I’d rather be alone in the car to think or sing raucously and out of tune to, for instance Robbie Williams’s Angels or say, True along with Spandau Ballet. So if there were a job, which involves delivering Jeeps to far-flung corners of the country and back, I would apply.

What are you currently working on at the moment?

I’m writing The Companion, a standalone set in Sussex, featuring a disparate bunch of oddballs who live in a stately home converted into luxury apartments. There’s a serial killer at large – dubbed the media, The Family Man  – due to the victim profile. This means that an ever watchful fear and suspicion pervades the mood of the community. Is it him, is it her? Who can you trust? As ever with my novels, I hope The Companion will offer the reader frissons of dread and unease laced with laugh out loud moments.

What can we expect to see from Stella next?

In 2023, I hope. She’s already knocking at my door with another mystery…

Lesley Thomson

Lesley Thomson is the author of the Detective’s Daughter series of West London-set mysteries featuring private investigators Stella, a cleaner, and Jack, a tube driver. The first novel, The Detective’s Daughter, became an ebook phenomenon in 2013, staying at number 1 in the digital charts for 3 months. Since then, the series has gone on to sell 800,000 copies worldwide. Lesley is an active member of the UK crimewriting community, and appeared at several crime festivals in 2019, including CrimeFest, Harrogate, Morecambe & Vice and Capital Crime. She lives in Lewes with her partner and her dog

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Guest post, Inspiration, Motivational, New Books

The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club Faith Hogan 5* #Review @GerHogan @Aria_Fiction @Hoz_Books #BlogTour #BookReview #GuestPost #SecondChance #Friendship #Life #Motivational #uplit #IrishFiction #TheLadiesMidnightSwimmingClub #MondayBlogs

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Easons (Ireland only)

I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This is a lovely heartwarming story set on the west coast of Ireland. It explores female relationships and the importance of living life to the full. The setting is an immense part of this story giving the women space to breathe and think. The relationship dynamics are relatable, and the author explores topical issues in an enlightened way.

Character-driven, it immerses the reader in the main protagonists’ lives, which is an emotional experience. Family drama, heartbreaking decisions and romance are interwoven into this literary puzzle, and despite the shocks and tears, it leaves you feeling uplifted.

Guest Post: The Ladies Midnight Swimming Club – Inspiration- Faith Hogan

It’s been a funny old year, I mean to quote those wonderful words, it’s been the best of times, it’s been the worst of times, certainly, it’s been an extraordinary fifteen months on this side of the pond and although I haven’t travelled to the UK since 2019 – that sounds much too long ago – this has been a year like no other in every part of the world.

Apart from the terrible tragedies that have moved each of us, even if they did not touch our lives directly, there has been such a complete upheaval of life as we’ve known it and sometimes, it feels as if we may never fully return to what went before as normal.

At the end of it all, I’ve found a much renewed love of the book that uplift my spirits. It’s been an essential part of my lockdown armoury. Losing myself in the words of favourite writers who can help me escape the worries that might otherwise have dragged me down further and let-s face it, the nightly news was as much as any of us needed to drift into the tragedies of life.

So, I’ve been reading lots of unashamedly uplifting, happy books. I think it’s helped me to see the positives of having been locked down in a way that has balanced out all the losses. And there have been many positives. While less air travel has meant travel is curbed, I’m also very aware that the environment has managed to get some much needed breathing space. It’s given us great family time – now we’re playing scrabble and regularly sitting down to watch TV programmes together that I’d never have watched otherwise. And it’s given us time to think; perhaps savouring the little things that we’d rushed about so much for before and missed out on the simple joy of them. Things like family meals, long phone calls with friends – when once a text flown off seemed to be as much as we could manage. And then, there have been so many who’ve had the opportunity to work from home and in some cases think of re-locating and maybe taking life off hold.

Yes, it’s been the best of times and the worst of times.

But the one thing I’m sure of, is that a good uplifting book is one of those things that has really come up trumps throughout, a little like scrabble and strangely, The Grand Tour – yep ,in the Hogan House we’re on a binge!

I wrote The Ladies Midnight Swimming Club the year before we’d even heard of Covid 19. I’d written it purely for the joy of telling a story that would uplift my own spirits and so far it seems to have had the same impact on readers who’ve picked it up.

It’s unashamedly feel good, gentle and ultimately heartening, you may cry at certain parts, but you will laugh much more and I hope, as you pick up the threads of Lucy, Jo and Elizabeth’s lives, you will feel you are on a journey with old friends – people you’ll root for, people you’ll be sad to say goodbye to at the end. Because, we all want a happy ending, don’t we and there’s nothing that we could want more than a happy ending for the people we love!

And, as we near the end of this extraordinary year, perhaps we’ve all learned something we hadn’t expected – happiness can be found in the most unexpected places and if we’re wise, we’ll grab it when we can. And happiness is the one thing that we can feel, no matter if we are living in the best of times or indeed, the worst of times…

So, go on, choose your own kind of happy today, jump in with the Ladies Midnight Swimming Club, I promise, you’ll feel better once you’ve dived in there….

Faith Hogan

Faith Hogan is an Irish award-winning and bestselling author of five contemporary fiction novels. Her books have featured as Book Club Favorites, Net Galley Hot Reads and Summer Must Reads. She writes grown up women’s fiction which is unashamedly uplifting, feel good and inspiring.

She is currently working on her next novel. She lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and a very busy Labrador named Penny. She’s a writer, reader, enthusiastic dog walker and reluctant jogger – except of course when it is raining!

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Posted in Adventure Fiction, Author Guest Post, Author Interview, Fantasy, Guest post, New Books, Release Day Spotlight

The Wolf Mile C.F.Barrington #GuestPost #Author #interview @barrington_cf @HoZ_Books @AriesFiction #Adventure #Fiction #Fantasy #publicationday #TheWolfMile

Today is publication day for The Wolf Mile by C.F.Barrington by Aries Fiction, the adventure fiction imprint of Head of Zeus Books. The first in a series of five books this promises something different for the adventure fiction market.

A forbidden contest. An international game.

Bankrolled by the world’s wealthy elite and followed by thousands online, two teams of warriors vie for dominance … and the streets of Edinburgh run with blood.

Into this secret struggle steps Tyler Maitland, seeking his lost sister, and Lana Cameron, grieving her dead child. When they are accosted by figures in black hoodies and each handed a silver amulet, they recognise the Triple Horn of Odin – the talisman of the Valhalla Horde.

They are being recruited into the great game known as The Pantheon. And one day they will change everything.

Now they must risk their lives and join the ranks of seven ancient warrior teams which inhabit this illicit world. Their journey will be more wondrous and horrifying than anything they could have dreamed, taking each of them to the depths of their souls … and testing them to breaking point as they search for loved ones and for the meaning in their lives.

Let the Season begin.

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An Interview with C.F.Barrington

Which of your books are we discussing and why?

I thought your readers might like to hear about my debut novel – The Wolf Mile – which is being launched by Head of Zeus adventure imprint, Aries Fiction, on 6 May (digital) and 8 August (paperback). It is the first in a five-book saga about The Pantheon, with Book 2 (The Blood Isles) launching in October 2021 and Book 3 (The Hastening Storm) coming in spring 2022.

I’ve chosen it because the story – and indeed the genre – has sparked much discussion amongst my early readers, because it is hard to pin into a single category and defies my many attempts to condense it into a snappy teaser. The most concise description came from one of my advance readers, who said it was ‘Fight Club with swords’. I’ll take that! And my agent (Laura Macdougall at United Agents) said it had ‘elements of The Hunger Games’ when she first read it.

What inspired you to write The Wolf Mile?

Photo Credit C.F.Barrington

It is a story which is first and foremost inspired by a sense of place. Apart from a sojourn into the forests of the Highlands, the book’s action all takes place in the closes, tunnels and rooftops which flow from the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Indeed, it was Edinburgh’s Old Town which really allowed the story to manifest. The dark, malevolent history of the Old Town and its stunning architecture and rumours of tunnels and secret passages, set my mind ticking. I am sure that the whole concept of The Pantheon could not have come together if it had not been for my life in and around Edinburgh.

The story was also prompted by two other factors: Firstly, I had always wanted to take my love of historical fiction and coax it into a modern thriller – without going down the well-trodden route of some sort of time-travel. Secondly, after a career spent in major gift fundraising for charities and universities, I had communicated with many very wealthy individuals and I got to wondering what makes someone excited when they can buy everything? As the book asks….. Imagine riches beyond your wildest dreams. What would you do with them? Travel the world? Buy a yacht? Now times it by ten.  A hundred. We’re talking mega-wealth – the kind that buys governments, shapes economies, enervates security forces and makes a mockery of justice systems. NOW what would you do with it? Less certain?

In ancient times, the wealthy of Rome spent their money and energies on forsaking human life in the gladiatorial stadia – and that’s where the concept of The Pantheon grew from in my head.

The Wolf Mile charts the rise of Tyler Maitland and Lana Cameron as they are plucked from their normal lives to become players in The Pantheon, a secret game bankrolled by the world’s wealthy elite and watched online by thousands. Warriors from seven ancient civilisations are trained, sworn to allegiance, then pitted against each other in battles amongst the claustrophobic alleys which flow from Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and filmed in real-time.

Set in today’s city, this is very much a modern thriller, but it mixes elements of historical fiction, as well as a sweeping romance over the five-book series, which takes the protagonists from friends, to sworn enemies and finally to lovers. So when Aries came along and declared it was, above all, adventure fiction, it was perfect – because this is exactly what the saga is: A twisting, turning, relentless adventure with a big cast of characters, which propels the protagonists on a journey more horrifying and wondrous than they could ever have dreamed, into a world which perhaps we all secretly wish we experience.  

Photo Credit C.F.Barrington

Comments so far include:

‘The Wolf Mile is a thrilling ride and a heck of a debut. C F Barrington knocks it out the park.’

‘Featuring two compelling yet flawed lead characters, an intriguing mystery and unrelenting action, I can’t wait to see where Mr Barrington takes us in the future.’

‘It is a very cool idea and I think if done right will become one of my favourite secret societies.’

‘Get ready for a rip-roaring adventure through the streets of Edinburgh – The Wolf Mile is the perfect escapist read!’

Photo Credit C.F.Barrington

I’ve included some photos of the Old Town which have helped inspire me. One evening before the pandemic, a friend and I toured the Old Town cameras in hand. We ended up climbing onto buildings and lying in the middle of roads, getting carried away discovering the dark, brooding essence of The Pantheon. It was great fun and hopefully the images provide a taste of what to expect in The Wolf Mile.

C.F. Barrington

C F Barrington spent twenty years intending to write a novel, but found life kept getting in the way. Instead, his career took him into major gift fundraising, leading teams in organisations as varied as the RSPB, Oxford University and the National Trust.

When his role as Head of Communications at Edinburgh Zoo meant a third year of fielding endless media enquiries about the possible birth of a baby panda, he finally retreated to a quiet desk beside the sea and discovered the inspiration for the Pantheon saga.

Raised in Hertfordshire and educated at Oxford, he now divides his time between running over the hills of the Lake District and dog walking on the beaches of Fife.

My website is www.cfbarrington.com –  and provides lots of visuals and backstory about Edinburgh’s Old Town.

I can also be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BarringtonCFAuthor ; Twitter at https://twitter.com/barrington_cf ; and Instagram (which shows lots of my hill-running adventures with my spaniel, Albie) at https://www.instagram.com/cfbarrington_notwriting

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Friendship, Guest post, Mystery, New Books, Romance

Summer Secrets at Streamside Cottage Samantha Tonge #GuestPost @SamTongeWriter @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #Family #Friends #Romance #Secrets #mystery #BlogTour #publicationday #SummerSecretsatStreamsideCottage

A new start can come from the most unexpected places…

It’s been years since Lizzie Lockhart spoke to her parents. But she was safe in the knowledge she knew everything about them. Once upon a time, they were as close as could be. Until they weren’t.

After receiving the earth-shattering news of their passing, Lizzie decides it’s time to unearth some family secrets and find out just who her parents really were… starting with Streamside Cottage. A cottage Lizzie never knew existed, in a place she’s never heard of: the beautiful English village of Leafton.

Leaving behind London, and the tattoo parlour she called home, Lizzie finds herself moving to the countryside. Faced with a tight-lipped community, who have secrets of their own, Lizzie is at a loss for what to do, until her rather handsome neighbour, Ben, steps in to help.

As Lizzie finally begins to piece together the puzzle of her family history she realises she has to confront the truth of the past in order to face her future.

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Guest Post – Samantha Tonge – Tattoos

Do you love or hate tattoos? They can attract an extreme reaction and that’s the reason I wanted to write a story featuring a tattoo artist as the main character. Even though tattoos are mainstream these days, stigma still exists around them, along with set ideas about the *type of person* who would get one. It’s only in recent years, for example, that the Met Police have relaxed their policy on officers being banned from having visible ones on their hands or face. I wanted to show that they represent so much more than just a piece of art. It is the reasons behind why people put themselves under the needle that interest me most.

In 2016 I started my mental health recovery. Buddhism was a big part of this and I decided I wanted a tattoo of a lotus flower, on my wrist. It was my first and it’s very small – I now wish I’d had it drawn much bigger! It’s a daily reminder of how far I’ve come, and how I need to keep doing what I did in 2016 to stay well. Whilst she inked me I chatted to the artist, admiring her incredible skill. She talked about the many reasons people want tattoos. As part of her job she hears painful stories, about abuse for example, or bereavement. I chatted about my personal journey as the tracing paper version of my lotus flower became pink and vibrant on my skin.

Of course, you’re always going to get those tattoos that have been done whilst drunk on holiday and are misspelt, and they carry entirely different stories! But reputable artists won’t ink anyone under the influence and you have to be over eighteen. And, like Lizzie in my story, each artist has their own set of ethics, such as refusing to ink on the name of a short-term boyfriend or girlfriend in case the relationship breaks down, or saying no to doing them on a part of the body they’ll rub off easily, such as the fingers.

Tattoos have been around as long as the Ancient Egyptians, and to me are as much a part of human life as haircuts or make-up. Very often they represent a hard time that person has been through, yet some critics still only associate them with people of dubious character. They’d no doubt be surprised to learn that Winston Churchill had one!  I understand why not everyone wants a tattoo – I’m not sure a Mohican haircut would suit me, for example – but that’s the beauty of being human, our individualism.

I thoroughly enjoyed doing  research and each chapter begins with an interesting fact, such as how the Indian Apatani tribe used to tattoo young girls to make them unappealing to rival tribes who might abduct the  most beautiful women.  Or how some people get loved ones’ ashes put into the tattoo ink, as a permanent commemoration.

Lizzie’s job is a big reason she fell out with her parents – or is it? If you read this story I hope you enjoy her emotional journey to the village of Leafton, to find out why they cut her out of their life so completely. It’s a novel about confronting the past in order to face the future.

Samantha Tonge

Samantha Tonge lives in Manchester UK with her husband and children. She studied German and French at university and has worked abroad, including a stint at Disneyland Paris. She has travelled widely. When not writing she passes her days cycling, baking and drinking coffee. Samantha has sold many dozens of short stories to women’s magazines. She is represented by the Darley Anderson literary agency. In 2013, she landed a publishing deal for romantic comedy fiction with HQDigital at HarperCollins and in 2014, her bestselling debut, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award. In 2015 her summer novel, Game of Scones, hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart and won the Love Stories Awards Best Romantic Ebook category. In 2018 Forgive Me Not, heralded a new direction into darker women’s fiction with publisher Canelo. In 2019 she was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association romantic comedy award.

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Read my review of The Winter We Met here

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Guest post, Holiday Romance, Medical Romance, New Books, Romance, Romantic Comedy, Travel

Staying Out For The Summer Mandy Baggot 4* #Review #GuestPost @mandybaggot @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #Corfu #Greece #Summer #StayingOutForTheSummer

After a summer of staying in, it’s time to let your hair down and escape to Greece!

For Lucie Burrows, it’s time to embrace Greek life and put the past behind her! Having spent the summer of 2020 battling a global health crisis, Lucie Burrows is looking forward to a summer out of lockdown.

When best friend, Gavin, finds them the perfect Greek escape Lucie finally starts to think this summer might just go without a hitch.But after a landslide puts the village into a local lockdown, Lucie is thrown together with Michalis Andino, the super sexy village doctor. It’s not quite the holiday she had planned, but things could certainly be worse.

As Lucie relaxes into the Greek way of life, she begins to wonder whether this lockdown might just end in a new life, a new love…

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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…

This is a lovely laugh out loud romantic comedy set mainly in Corfu. There are many humorous moments and countless romantic encounters. Set in a post-Covid19 world, it acknowledges the courage of key workers and the effect on our everyday lives of the pandemic.

There is so much to enjoy in this story. Passionate romance, vibrant characters and the vivid setting make this story full of drama, humour and poignancy, come alive, letting the reader escape to the sunshine. There was one aspect I didn’t enjoy, and that was the setting in the butcher’s shop and the associated humour. I have strong beliefs about animals, so this element was tough to read for me. Overall this is an engaging story.

Escaping it, but not ignoring it!

 Why I wrote about the pandemic in my latest rom com…

Let me say this first, my brand-new book – Staying Out for the Summer – is all the summer escapist fiction you’ve come to expect from me! There’s a gorgeous Greek hero, a heroine and a best friend that you will be rooting for, plus all the sun, sea and sizzling flavours of Greece wrapped up in the pages too! But does it mention the worldwide pandemic we’re still going through? Yes, it does!

When I started writing this book it was July 2020, we were out of restrictions and I was in the middle of spending six weeks at my house in Corfu, Greece. I certainly thought, by the time this book was published, the pandemic would be completely behind us and if there were any restrictions still in place they would be minimal. How wrong was I? I don’t know how many times I had to make edits to what was happening in the book with regard to rules of six, all the tiers and Christmas arrangements. However, even after all that, I don’t feel I was wrong to write about Coronavirus and have it as the backdrop to this story.

I always write about topical subjects in my books with references to pop culture and I like to have a big touch of reality amid the fiction. My characters discuss things that are going on in the world, what TV shows they’re watching or music their listening to, it’s all very current and relatable. I chose to write about the pandemic because we have all been through it together. It has touched everyone. Yes, we might have had very different experiences of it, but we have all had to stay home and face limited lives and some of us have been ill with the virus or sadly lost people that we love to it. The hero in Staying Out for the Summer – Michalis – is a Greek doctor who specialises in the lungs and my heroine – Lucie – is an NHS nurse who has been working tirelessly trying to save as many lives as she can. This book and their stories is my tribute to the medical staff around the globe and all the keyworkers who have risked their lives doing all those things we take for granted to keep the world going.

I know a lot of other writers have decided to avoid writing about Covid-19 in their books because they feel readers are looking to get away from all that. I understand that completely and, as I said straight off, my book is going to take you to Greece for all the fun in the sun and so much more. But, for me, I felt if I didn’t acknowledge that this has happened in our lives it would be like sweeping under the carpet all the sacrifices people have made over the past year. Whatever we feel about it, no matter how dreadful it has been – and continues to be – I don’t think we should pretend it didn’t happen. I want people to read this book and feel. It’s really a salute to all the good that happened during the hardest times and a testament to our strength and resilience. It’s also a big nod to the fact that brighter times are coming. We just have to hang in there!

So, grab a cool drink, snuggle up and let me transport you to Corfu where the weather is beautiful, and the hot Greek doctor is ready to see you now…

Mandy Bagott

Mandy Baggot is an international bestselling and award-winning romance writer. The winner of the Innovation in Romantic Fiction award at the UK’s Festival of Romance, her romantic comedy novel, One Wish in Manhattan, was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year award in 2016. Mandy’s books have so far been translated into German, Italian, Czech and Hungarian. Mandy loves the Greek island of Corfu, white wine, country music and handbags. Also a singer, she has taken part in ITV1’s Who Dares Sings and The X-Factor. Mandy is a member of the Society of Authors and lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK with her husband and two daughters.

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Posted in Contemporary Fiction, Cover Reveal, Family Drama, Friendship, New Books, Romance

#CoverReveal A Family Affair Julie Houston @JulieHouston2 @Hoz_Books @Aria_Fiction #Family #Friendship #Romance #SecondChance

Publication date: 3rd June 2021

Joining the family business was never going to be easy…

Frankie Piccione is done running away from her responsibilities, well for now anyway. Having escaped Westenbury after suffering a shattered heart, it’s time to take up her place on the family board. Piccione’s Pickles and Preserves needs Frankie. Frankie knows she can make the business work. But with her brother Luca and the new, rather attractive, Cameron Mancini watching her every move, she’s going to have to come up with something special to get them off her back and recognising she belongs on the board just as much as they do.

With the help of her Aunt Pam and best friend, Daisy, Frankie is thriving with her new sense of purpose. Until someone from her past walks right back into it…

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Julie lives in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire where her novels are set, and her only claims to fame are that she teaches part-time at ‘Bridget Jones’ author Helen Fielding’s old junior school and her neighbour is ‘Chocolat’ author, Joanne Harris. After University, where she studied Education and English Literature, she taught for many years as a junior school teacher. As a newly qualified teacher, broke and paying off her first mortgage, she would spend every long summer holiday working on different Kibbutzim in Israel. After teaching for a few years she decided to go to New Zealand to work and taught in Auckland for a year before coming back to this country. She now teaches just two days a week, and still loves the buzz of teaching junior-aged children. She has been a magistrate for the past nineteen years, and, when not distracted by Ebay, Twitter and Ancestry, spends much of her time writing. Julie is married, has a twenty-four-year-old son and twenty-one-year-old daughter and a ridiculous Cockerpoo called Lincoln. She runs and swims because she’s been told it’s good for her, but would really prefer a glass of wine, a sun lounger and a jolly good book – preferably with Matthew Mcconaughay in attendance.

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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.’