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

Beyond The Yew Tree Rachel Walkley 4*#Review #timeslip #Lincoln #Victorian #Romance #family #drama #HistoricalFiction #Gothic #ghosts #Legal #BlogTour #BookReview #FridayReads

Whispers in the courtroom.

Only one juror hears them.

Can Laura unravel the truth by the end of the trial?

In an old courtroom, a hissing voice distracts shy juror, Laura, and at night recurring nightmares transport her to a Victorian gaol and the company of a wretched woman.

Although burdened by her own secret guilt, and struggling to form meaningful relationships, Laura isn’t one to give up easily when faced with an extraordinary situation.

The child-like whispers lead Laura to an old prison graveyard, where she teams up with enthusiastic museum curator, Sean. He believes a missing manuscript is the key to understanding her haunting dreams. But nobody knows if it actually exists.

Laura is confronted with the fate of two people – the man in the dock accused of defrauding a charity for the blind, and the restless spirit of a woman hanged over a century ago for murder. If Sean is the companion she needs in her life, will he believe her when she realises that the two mysteries are converging around a long-forgotten child who only Laura can hear?

Ordinary women.

Extraordinary experiences.

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I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This story perfectly captures the atmosphere and the dark vibrations that haunt ancient buildings, especially those where terrible events took place. I know the setting for this story, and it’s well-described.

Laura is on jury service and the story follows the case she is hearing, day by day. The other characters on the jury, add to the story’s authenticity. When Laura realises, only she can hear the noises in the jury room and court, she sets out to find out why. A chance meeting with Sean gives her an ally in more ways than she first expected.

The gentle pacing and the increasing timeslips into the past reveal a poignant and terrible story.

The final chapters show that Laura’s slips into the past reveal an unknown truth. There is a twist you may not expect and a positive romantic ending.

Rachel Walkley

Aspiring writer who pens Women’s Fiction and magical tales about family secrets.

What else?

An East Anglian turned Northerner – almost.

Information professional, always.

Biologist, in my memories.

Archivist, when required.

Amateur pianist and flautist.

Reluctant gardener.

Scribbler of pictures.

And forever…. a mother and wife.

Oh, not forgetting, cat lover!

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Giveaway to Win One copy of The Last Thing She Said or The Woman of Heachley Hall (Open INT)

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Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Giveaway Link above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for the fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Saga

Home to the Hills Dee Yates 5* #Review @HoZ_Books @Aria_Fiction #DeeYates #HistoricalFiction #Saga #PostWar #WW2 #BlogTour #BookReview #guestpost

1945.

After the Second World War, Ellen and her daughter Netta make the journey from Germany back to Scotland. Nestled in the hills of the Southern Uplands is the farm where Ellen grew up – the home she left to be with the only man she’s ever loved. She is still haunted by her memories… and the secrets she dare not share with anyone.

Having grown up in Freiburg, farm life is new and exciting to Netta. Determined to be useful, she offers to help new shepherd, Andrew Cameron. But doing so might put her bruised heart at risk…

The war took so much from Ellen and Netta. But maybe now the sanctuary of the hills can offer them the hope of a new beginning.

A heartwrenching Scottish saga.

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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…

At the end of ‘A Last Goodbye’, Ellen decides, after the death of her husband Tom, to follow her love, an ex-prisoner of war in WW1, to his native Germany. I looked back to my review and noted I thought Ellen’s new life deserved a sequel, and this is it.

‘Home to the Hills’ is set predominately at the end of WW2. Ellen and her daughter return to the place of her birth to a make a new life, after suffering the atrocities of the war. Like with the first book, a different minor storyline, is also explored in this book, which adds depth and enriches the story.

The characters in this story are authentic and complex, damaged from what has gone before, but strong and resolute to carry on with their lives. The emotion and hardship faced by the characters, make them realistic, and they draw you into their story. The plot is nicely paced and has enough historical references to allow the reader to appreciate the post WW2 period.

This is addictive reading for anyone who enjoys a beautifully written, immersive and well researched, historical family saga.

Read my review of A Last Goodbye

Dee Yates

Born and brought up in the south of England, the eldest girl of nine children, Dee moved north to Yorkshire to study medicine. She rem

ained there, working in well-woman medicine and general practice and bringing up her three daughters. She retired slightly early at the end of 2003, in order to start writing, and wrote two books in the next three years. In 2007 she moved further north, to the beautiful Southern Uplands of Scotland. Here she fills her time with her three grandsons, helping in the local museum, the church and the school library, walking, gardening and reading. She writes historical fiction, poetry and more recently non-fiction. Occasionally she gets to compare notes with her youngest sister Sarah Flint who writes crime with blood-curdling descriptions which make Dee want to hide behind the settee.

HOME TO THE HILLS – Guest Post – Dee Yates

A remote valley of the Southern Uplands of Scotland was my home for a year when I first moved over The Border. The beautiful Southern Uplands is little known and under-explored, visitors to Scotland usually passing straight through on their way to Glasgow, Edinburgh and The Highlands.

My cats and I made the move from Yorkshire in 2007, eager to be near growing family. I had decided to rent a property, so I could look at leisure for a cottage to buy. On a farm sitting on the valley side was a shepherd’s cottage waiting for an occupant. It was ideal. For miles in each direction I could see nothing but hills and sheep. I knew nothing about farming but that year, with the help of the farmer, I learned a lot.

I also learned some of the history of the valley. A couple of miles east of where I was staying is a large reservoir, planned before the start of WW1, to supply water to the growing industrial towns further north. Building of the reservoir was being hampered because labourers were enlisting in the army and going off to The Front. Many did not return. To ease the shortage of labour, German POWs were brought into the valley.

I learned all this from the farmer. He showed me where the prisoners had camped, across from the farm, in the autumn of 1916, until the weather became too bad and they had to build accommodation further into the valley. I walked east to where the peaceful reservoir lies cupped in the hills and reflects in its water the coniferous forests that clothe  the valley sides.

This was the background for my first book, ‘A Last Goodbye’. Its sequel, ‘Home to the Hills’, continues the story of a mother and her daughter, returning home after many years away from the valley. For the mother it holds many memories, both good and bad; for the daughter it is a place she can barely remember and she now has to make a new life for herself in this beautiful but remote part of a strange country. What can she do? Will she be accepted or will she be forever an outsider? And will she and her mother be able to put behind them the horrors of the recent years? Part of this horror was the treatment of Jews in Germany, something that has been the subject of a number of recent books. It is something that should never be forgotten. It is up to succeeding generations to build relationships and learn to live together with all people. I am proud of the way my daughters have become Europeans, one of my daughters studying German and French, living in both and teaching in the south of Germany for a year. To my mind this is the way to prevent the horrors of the World Wars from ever happening again. My family has been immensely saddened at the decision to pull out of the European Economic Community. Togetherness brings a widening of vision and depth of understanding of humans and human nature.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Excerpt, Extract, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance

The Runaway Girl Jina Bacarr 5* #Review @JinaBacarr @BoldwoodBooks #BoldwoodBloggers #BlogTour #BookReview #Extract #HistoricalRomance #HistoricalFiction #Titanic

TWO WOMEN HOLD THE KEYS TO HIS HEART. ONLY ONE WILL SURVIVE THAT FATEFUL NIGHT…

When Ava O’Reilly is wrongly accused of stealing from her employer, she has no option but to flee Ireland. The law is after her, and she has only one chance at escape – the Titanic.

Aboard the ship of dreams, she runs straight into the arms of Captain ‘Buck’ Blackthorn, a dashing gentleman gambler who promises to be her protector. He is intrigued by her Irish beauty and manages to disguise her as the maid of his good friend, the lovely Countess of Marbury. Little does he realise, that the Countess is also in love with him.

As the fateful night approaches, tragedy strikes further when Ava is separated from Buck, and must make a daring choice that will change her life forever…

A sweeping, emotional historical romance set aboard the Titanic.

This is a revised and fully updated edition of a novel previously published as Titanic Rhapsody.

Amazon UK

#TheRunawayGirl

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

My Thoughts…

Ava, wrongly accused of theft by her employer, has no alternative but to run. She is an independent spirit, who knows there is more to life than being a servant. However, her religious upbringing, makes her constantly question her wilder impulses.

The Titanic, on its maiden voyage, calls at Queenstown, she buys a steerage ticket and heads towards what she hopes is a better future. Losing her ticket and being pursued by the authorities before the ship docks set the tone of the journey.

Serendipity means she finds a protector, in Buck, the second son of Duke and an irreverent gambler. He hides her in plain sight as a lady’s maid for his good friend Fiona, The Countess of Mayberry. She is travelling to New York to marry his friend Trey. The chemistry between Buck and Ava is instant and intense, but there are many conflicts to their relationship.

The plot twists dramatically when The Titanic meets its fate, and Ava makes a decision that affects the rest of her life. The setting is glamorous and, because you know what happens to the ship, there are undertones of suspense, wondering what will happen to the protagonists in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The romance is sizzling and forbidden and the characters are complex and relatable.

The last part of the book is full of conflict and romance, against the judgemental setting of New York society. The ending is romantic and shines a little light on such a tragic event.

Extract from The Runaway Girl Jina Bacarr

Cameron Bally Manor House

Ireland

9 April 1912

‘Ava O’Reilly, you’re nothing but a common thief who brings shame upon this fine house,’ spewed Lord Emsy, wagging his fat finger in her face. ‘What have you to say for yourself, girl?’

‘A thief, am I, milord?’ Ava shot back, refusing to cower before a man so pompous and full of himself, even if he was her employer. With his wing tip collar and fancy silk ascot, he reminded her of a leg of lamb gussied up for Sunday dinner. ‘Says who? Your daughter?’ She narrowed her eyes, staring her accuser down. Lady Olivia greeted her angry look with a swift turning of the head, her nose in the air, but Ava wasn’t finished. ‘I’d rather dance with the devil than believe her.’

His lordship growled. ‘Then you deny stealing the bracelet?’

‘Aye, that I do.’ Ava smoothed down her shiny, black cotton uniform with her hands, making fists and fighting to keep her composure. Him with the glow of damnation in his eyes, accusing her like he was the Almighty Himself. She refused to back down. With the afternoon sun spilling an arc as bright as a pot o’ gold at her feet, she wondered how she, the daughter of a fine Irish mum and da, could be so unlucky. But here she was, accused of thievery because she was caught reading a book in a place where a housemaid had no right to be. The library. Now she was paying the price for her thirst for knowledge.

‘Well, how do you plead?’ asked his lordship.

‘I plead guilty to nothing more than reading your fine books.’

Ignoring her, Lord Emsy bellowed, ‘Then how do you explain this?’

He dangled a slender rope of sparkling diamonds in front of her nose, taking her breath away.

Ava swallowed hard. Each stone was a knot on the noose tightening around her neck.

‘I swear on me sainted mother’s grave, I never seen the likes of that till this morning.’

‘She’s lying, Papa,’ Lady Olivia decried. ‘She stole it from my jewel case and was trying to hide it when I caught her.’

Ava gritted her teeth. They both knew it was a lie.

Aye, what was a lass to do? His lordship’s daughter had hated her since Ava had first crossed paths with her, when she’d used the grand main staircase instead of scuttling down the backstairs. The breach of protocol had not only embarrassed the family, Lady Olivia scolded her, but Ava had attracted the eye of the young gentleman at her side. Lord Holm made no secret of his interest in the servant girl with the glorious red hair spilling down her back. Mary Dolores had warned her about him when Ava joined her sister to work as a housemaid in the grand manor.

A dandy, she had said, always ready to pat the bum of any servant girl he could get into a dark corner.

Did Ava listen to her? No. She was obstinate and bull-headed. A family trait, Mary Dolores admitted, shaking her head. Going through life casting her spell on every man caught looking at her. Ava paid them no mind, going about her way and insisting she didn’t need a man to better herself.

Unfortunately, Ava couldn’t control the wily fates determined to get in her way.

Her relationship with Lady Olivia became even more strained when Lord Holm saw her wearing a discarded dress belonging to her ladyship. Silk with delicate appliqué around the collar and cap sleeves, the vibrant emerald green set off her red hair.

And what was the crime in that, Ava wanted to know, since it was customary for servant girls to lay claim to their mistress’s tossed-away garments.

Her ears burned when she overheard her ladyship say to Lord Holm, ‘You never noticed when I wore that dress,’ to which he replied, ‘You never looked like that.’

His comment sealed her fate.

#JinaBacarr

Jina Bacarr is a US-based historical romance author of over 10 previous books. She has been a screenwriter, journalist and news reporter, but now writes full-time and lives in LA. Jina’s novels have been sold in 9 territories.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Historical Fiction, Memoir

All The Beautiful Liars Sylvia Petter 4*#Review @SylviaAPetter @EyeandLightning @rararesources #Fictional #Memoir #HistoricalFiction #ContemporaryFiction #BookReview #BlogTour

How true are the family histories that tell us who we are and where we come from? Who knows how much all the beautiful liars have embargoed or embellished the truth?

During a long flight from Europe to Sydney to bury her mother, Australian ex-pat Katrina Klain reviews the fading narrative of her family and her long quest to understand her true origins. This has already taken her to Vienna, where she met her Uncle Harald who embezzled the Austrian government out of millions, as well as Carl Sokorny, the godson of one of Hitler’s most notorious generals, and then on to Geneva and Berlin. Not only were her family caught up with the Nazis, but they also turn out to have been involved with the Stasi in post-war East Germany.

It’s a lot to come to terms with, but there are more revelations in store. After the funeral, she finds letters that reveal a dramatic twist which means her own identity must take a radical shift. Will these discoveries enable her to complete the puzzle of her family’s past?

Inspired by her own life story, Sylvia Petter’s enthralling fictional memoir set between the new world and the old is a powerful tale about making peace with the past and finding closure for the future.

Amazon UK

For a limited time, All the Beautiful Liars will be available for only 99p.

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I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

An absorbing, addictive ancestry, which takes the reader across Europe, in troubled times, following Katrina’s quest to discover her roots. The writing style is engaging, as each player, in the life drama, tells their side of the story, the atmosphere, characters and events of the time come to life.

The historical detail is fascinating, the visual imagery compelling, and the characters are complex. The structure of the story maintains its momentum and the ending has some final twists.

Sylvia Petter

Sylvia Petter was born in Vienna but grew up in Australia, which makes her Austr(al)ian.

She started writing fiction in 1993 and has published three story collections, The Past Present, Back Burning and Mercury Blobs. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of New South Wales.

After living for 25 years in Switzerland, where she was a founding member of the Geneva Writers’ Group, she now lives in Vienna once more.

Social Media Links – @EyeAndLightning  @SylviaAPetter

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Historical Crime Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Unreliable Death of Lady Grange 4*#Review Sue Lawrence @SueHLawrence @SarabandBooks @LoveBooksGroup #LoveBooksTours #HistoricalFiction #crime #historicalevent

Edinburgh, January 1732: It’s Lady Grange’s funeral. Her death is a shock: still young, she’d shown no signs of ill health. But Rachel is, in fact, alive. She’s been brutally kidnapped by the man who has falsified her death – her husband of 25 years, a pillar of society with whom she has raised a family. Her punishment, perhaps, for railing against his infidelity – or for uncovering evidence of his treasonable plottings against the government. Whether to conceal his Jacobite leanings or simply to `replace’ a wife with a long-time mistress, Lord Grange banishes Rachel to the remote Hebridean Monach Isles, until she’s removed again to distant St Kilda, far into the Atlantic – to an isolated life of primitive conditions, with no shared language – somewhere she can never be found. This is the incredible and gripping story of a woman who has until now been remembered mostly by her husband’s unflattering account. Sue Lawrence reconstructs a remarkable tale of how the real Lady Grange may have coped with such a dramatic fate, with courage and grace.

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#LoveBooksTours

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Lady Grange was an actual historical figure, and what happened to her is a matter of record. Nothing is known from Lady Grange’s point of view. This fictional story is an interpretation of, what her feelings may have been, and how those closest to her perceived her, and what happened to her.

The position of women in the eighteenth century is explored. Women’s rights were non-existent and they were effectively invisible. History reports Lady Grange as unbalanced, alcoholic and violent. The story doesn’t shy away from this but does put it into a believable perspective. Importantly, it attempts to switch the emphasis onto the actions of her husband, his abuse of her and his power.

The story is character-driven and told from key points of view. The strength of Lady Grange comes across in this story, and her willingness to share skills with the people she is left with, even with language barriers. The story focuses on a little known historical event, from a human point of view and delivers a great story with well researched historic detail and vibrant characters.

As well as writing popular historical thrillers, including Down to the Sea, Sue Lawrence is a leading cookery writer. After winning BBC’s MasterChef in 1991, she became a regular contributor to the Sunday Times, Scotland on Sunday and other leading magazines. Raised in Dundee, she now lives in Edinburgh. She has won two Guild of Food Writers Awards.

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

The Scandal of the Season Annie Burrows 4*#Review @MillsandBoon @NovelistaAnnie #MillsandBoonInsiders #MillsandBoonHistorical #Regency #Secrets #Lies #RegencyRomance #HistoricalFiction #BookReview

Having saved Cassandra Furnival from scandal once before, it shouldn’t have surprised Colonel Nathaniel Fairfax that she was now attempting to lay siege to the Ton’s eligible bachelors! Determined to thwart her plans, he’s as astounded by her defiance as by her beauty. But nothing shocks the jaded soldier more than discovering her innocence. Restoring her reputation is set to bring about the scandal of the season!

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Cassie’s life has not been easy after a youthful scandal ruined her in Regency society’s eyes. She lives with a distant relation and her partner and works as a seamstress. When a Dowager Duchess, her godmother wants to take her to London for the season. She is unsure, but the Dowager is manipulative, and so with the blessing of her surrogate aunts she agrees. The rumblings of her former scandal haunt her, brought to life with a threat of new scandal when Nathaniel Fairfax, storms into her life.

The story takes a while to set the scene, but the complex characters and relatable themes explored hold your interest until the passionate romance and dangerous misunderstanding explode in the story’s second half.

Full of conflicts both internal and external, Regency society at its most devastatingly cutting and a cast of vibrant Regency characters, this story is a lovely way to escape the present-day problems.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Guest post, Motivational, Travel

Away With The Penguins Hazel Prior 5*#Review @HazelPriorBooks #BantamPress #RandomThingsTours @TransworldBooks #Penguins #Multigenerational #Adventure #love #friendship #loss #Self-Discovery #Travel #Conservation #Secrets #BookReview #BlogTour #humour #HistoricalFiction #ContemporaryFiction @annecater #AwayWithThePenguins

Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick, although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.
She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’). Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.
But today . . . today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this. She is going on an intrepid journey – to save the penguins.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Transworld Publishers in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I was drawn to this book initially because my son has always loved penguins. This story has so much to recommend it.

The star of the show is, Veronica McCreedy, a virtual recluse, who feels at 85 years she still hasn’t made her mark on the world and has lots to offer. She dislikes how she looks because inside she is vibrant and young. Her life is steeped in tragedy, which has contributed to her current reclusive state.

Patrick is at a particularly low ebb in his life, and he becomes introverted and prickly with others. The story unfolds from Veronica and Patrick’s viewpoints, as they get to know each other. Through journals, we learn of Veronica’s past life and find it has some similarities with Patrick’s. Then there is a great adventure, which proves more significant than the geographical miles travelled.

The characters are believable and for the most part lovely. Everyone has their flaws but its this humanity that makes them relatable. Veronica’s relationship with Patrick and the people she encounters on her journey of self-discovery are humorous, poignant and uplifting.

The plot flows and the storytelling is engaging. The conservation message is implicit in Veronica’s quest for the penguins, Like so much in life, Veronica’s life is enriched as she works tirelessly in helping the penguins and Patrick. This is an original, story which entertains, informs and motivates, It gives hope to those of us, firmly on the wrong side of fifty, that we are still important, and can make a difference.

Hazel Prior

HAZEL PRIOR lives on Exmoor. . As well as writing, she works as a freelance harpist. 

AN INTERVIEW WITH HAZEL PRIOR 

VERONICA MCCREEDY, MY AGING HEROINE 

Veronica McCreedy is eighty-six when she has her adventure with the penguins. Why did I want an old woman for my main character? I have some way to go before I reach her age, but, as I gather wrinkles, I find myself often reflecting about the pros and cons of ageing. Our society still seems to lead us to believe that it’s better in every way to be young. It would have us think that at 30 the best part of your life is over, at 40 nobody notices you anymore and from 50 onwards you may as well not exist – particularly if you’re a woman. The vast majority of novels seem to echo this view, with the protagonists finding fulfilment/tragedy/ happy-ever-after while still in their twenties. This is so wrong. 

We develop at different rates, but I suspect a person is never fully-formed. We are in a state of evolution throughout our lives. This evolution isn’t a steady process, but stagnates sometimes and then goes in spurts, depending on events and our reactions to them. I admire people who are hungry for life, who go out and seek new experiences regardless of their age. For example, a friend of mine started learning the harp at the age of ninety. And my neighbour’s father took up skydiving in his eighties. These are extreme examples, but we never stop dreaming, learning or having new adventures. Every year that passes adds to our rich bank of experiences, our store of stories. The logical conclusion is that the older you are, the more interesting you are – so wouldn’t an octogenarian be the perfect heroine? 

VERONICA PAST AND PRESENT 

I’m very aware that we all judge by appearances, and the first thing you’d notice about Veronica McCreedy if you met her might be her age. But I wanted to show her as a complete person; I wanted to make the reader review this initial impression. We get to see her as a young girl, too, and gradually some of the elements that have shaped her come to light. These days she has slipped into certain habits: tea-drinking, litter-picking and dishing out scorn, but there is much, much more to her than this. Look inside the dry old lady exterior and you will find a vitality and strength to rival that of many young people. And she cares deeply about things, much more than she’s prepared to let on. 

Veronica’s advanced years also gave me the opportunity to explore wartime Britain. That time interests me particularly because my parents were alive then. My father was in the RAF. My mother – who would have been contemporary with Veronica – was a teenager, and her entire school was relocated to a country mansion in the north of England. (That’s where the similarity ends though!) As I researched, I became drawn into this poignant time in our history. There is something very nostalgic about an era without computers, traffic and smartphones, but at the same time, the whole population was living on a knife-edge. It seems that life was lived with added intensity on every level, people grasping whatever joy they could because the future was always in question. The moral values were completely different as well (oh, the shame of having a baby when you weren’t married! The double-shame of sleeping with the enemy!). So much food for thought… 

The cruel side of getting old is, of course, the physical deterioration. Veronica is very conscious of this because as a girl she was exceptionally attractive. Her beauty brought her the benefits of (briefly) requited love and (eventually) a millionaire lifestyle, yet it also led her to shame and utter degradation. She misses her beauty, though. These days wealth has replaced it as her means of getting what she wants. It takes her a long time to realise that she doesn’t need to be so manipulative. There is another pathway to happiness if only she can learn to accept genuine human kindness. 

Although Veronica is now robust for her years she’s deeply frustrated by the ageing process. Her body has become an encumbrance that won’t work as well as she wants it to and she hates the fact that she now has to operate within this unreliable vehicle. In a way, however, her body’s failings also serve her because she is eager to contradict naysayers and prove what she can do. She pushes herself to her limits. When her body nearly gives out, her spirit fights on. I believe this is the stuff of true heroism. 

WHY PENGUINS? 

What Veronica’s experiences have given her – along with certain prejudices and a fear of forming close relationships – is resilience. This resilience is perhaps one of the reasons she’s so drawn to penguins. 

Like Veronica, penguins are feisty and stubborn. They defy harsh conditions and refuse to be beaten. But, unlike Veronica, they communicate and cooperate. They live in a vast community and do everything together. Ever since Veronica’s teenage tragedies, she has remained closed to human contact (reflected by her obsession with keeping doors closed). As she witnesses the penguins’ mutual support system, Veronica begins to realise what has been lacking in her own life. Penguins are the perfect teachers for her. 

I also wanted to write about penguins because: 

• They are funny. 

• They are very relatable. Let’s face it, they do look a bit like miniature humans and they act like us in many ways too. 

• Adélies live in Antarctica – pretty powerful for a setting. 

• I was inspired by my friend, Ursula, who made it her mission to tour the world taking photos of penguins after her husband died. 

PANIC ABOUT THE PLANET 

My job as a writer is to tell a good story and entertain people, not to preach. But I do like to deal with serious issues, wrap them up in a bit of fun and maybe provoke a thought or two. To the perceptive reader, my own values will doubtless show through. You can hardly miss the fact that I love wildlife and care deeply about it. So I’m bound to be worried… 

I’m not a fan of doom-mongering, but it strikes me that our current environmental crisis can’t be ignored. There are many strands of thought here, and powerful feelings, too. Even though I, with my carbon footprint, am partly to blame, I am dismayed that lots of my favourite animals are hurtling towards extinction. A world without tigers, polar bears, gorillas, elephants, snow leopards… and of course, penguins? I’m mentally screaming at the mere idea. I don’t have any children but to leave such a legacy is surely a terrible abuse, both of the animals themselves and the next generation of humans. 

We tend to treat wildlife as if it exists solely to serve our own purposes. It doesn’t. As Jackie Morris, illustrator of The Lost Words, states ‘We are not ‘stewards’ of the natural world, we are not something that stands apart from it. We are a very small part of an amazing ecosystem. The Earth is our home, but it is also the home to so many forms of life, life that is so astonishing, intelligence that puts our arrogance to shame’. 

It’s not clever to destroy our own habitat. The effects of global warming have been well-documented. In addition to mass extinction, there are devastating consequences for humans: Floods, wildfires, malnutrition, disease… the list goes on and on. Scientists say we are horribly close to the point of no return, and if we don’t change our ways the planet will sooner or later become uninhabitable for us too. All this is now old news, but I just want to stress that this isn’t a bandwagon thing for me. In fact, I wrote my novel’s first draft before anyone had seen the David Attenborough programme or heard of Greta Thunberg. The publication of AWAY WITH THE PENGUINS is timely, though, and I’m glad that my quirky Antarctic story adds another small voice to the clamour for change. 

Action is need on a vast scale and movements across the world are pushing politicians and businesses to act more responsibly regarding the future of the planet. But I think the little things matter, too. In my novel, Veronica spends her energy-saving a single penguin chick. To me, that is valid. We experience life as individuals and each individual is important, whether animal or human. I recently saw a photo of a baby turtle next to a hundred pieces of plastic that were found in its stomach. The shocking image was a reminder that everything we do has its consequences. 

In my household we do our best in terms of everyday lifestyle. We grow our own beans, courgettes, potatoes etc; we spurn pesticides and slug pellets. We have a hybrid car and I can’t even remember the last time I got on a plane. I indulge in a rant whenever I see the words ‘packaging not currently recyclable’ and seek out some alternative on the supermarket shelves. I even use a bamboo toothbrush. Still, we often have that “If we’re doing it but nobody else bothers, what’s the point?” conversation. Then I think of the turtle. Yes, every little helps… And in fact more and more people are bothering. And if enough people bother, there’s hope. 

In AWAY WITH THE PENGUINS I’ve hinted at a parallel situation. Wartime forced people into drastic action. During a national emergency, they managed to cooperate on a heart-warmingly huge scale. Women suddenly started working in all sectors. People dug up their gardens to grow food, they re-used everything, they used their initiative as never before. They gathered all their strength and kept on trying despite the odds stacked against them. Now that we have an international crisis that threatens life itself, perhaps we can finally get our act together?”

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance

Songbird (A Novel of the Tudor Court) 4* #Review Karen Heenan @karen_heenan @A4APublishing @rararesources #HistoricalFiction #Tudor #HenryV111 #Musician #BlogTour #BookReview

Bess has the voice of an angel, or so Henry VIII declares when he buys her from her father as a member of the music, the Royal company of minstrels. Bess grows up within the decadent Tudor Court navigating the ever-changing tide of royals and courtiers. Friends come and go as cracked voices, politics, heartbreak, and death loom over even the lowliest of musicians. Tom, her first and dearest friend is her only constant but as Bess becomes too comfortable at court, she may find that constancy has its limits.

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I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

The court of Henry VIII, is a popular subject for historical fiction, the glamour, intrigue and romance of the era, warring with the disregard for life and treachery. ‘Songbird’, as the title suggests focuses on the court musicians, an essential part of the royal Tudor court. Bess’s voice, spotted by the King leads to her Father’s sale of her to the monarch. This abhorrent action, not uncommon in the sixteenth century, means that young Bess is left alone in a place unsuited to an innocent. This story charts her life, the alliance she forges and her friendship that blossoms into something more with Tom, a fellow musician, as they both try to survive the turbulent life at court. The dangerously decadent, political nature of the Royal court means no one is safe, not even the girl with the golden voice.

The historical detail enlivens the plot and the characters are authentically written. A clever mix of actual historical characters and events are interwoven with the author’s fictional creations. Against a vivid tapestry of Tudor life, Bess comes of age. Sadly, her life is angst-ridden, and her love life full of conflict.

The book flows well and is easy to read. Bess is portrayed in a believable way, her naivety and youth evident in the earlier parts of the story. Emotion and danger colour every action of the characters in the story.

An original perspective on a popular historical theme, which brings the Tudor times to life through the life of a young talented girl.

Karen Heenan

Karen Heenan was born and raised in Philadelphia. She fell in love with books and stories before she learned to read, and has wanted to write for nearly as long. After far too many years in a cubicle, she set herself free to follow her dreams – which include gardening, sewing, travelling and, of course, lots of writing. She lives in Lansdowne, PA, not far from Philadelphia, with two cats and a very patient husband.​

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Posted in Blog Blitz, Book Review, Historical Romance, Noir

Her Dark Knights Redemption Nicole Locke 5* #Review @NicoleLockeNews @HarlequinBooks @MillsandBoon #HistoricalRomance #LoversandLegends #13thCentury #France #BlogBlitz @rararesources #BookReview #histfic #Noir

“This man was shadow and night. He was Darkness.

Homeless Aliette is saved from punishment for stealing by a mysterious knight. To stay alive, she’s informed by this stranger that she must claim his child as her own. She should fear the dark knight’s power, yet it’s clear there’s more good to this man than he’s prepared to show. Can she break down the barriers of the tortured knight she calls Darkness?

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I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Atmospheric and undoubtedly noir, this historical romance is absorbing. The opening chapter sets the scene so well, the darkness, danger and depravity of the time displayed through the historical details, vivid imagery and authentic characters. Reynold, views death without fear, he appears invincible, yet whilst he shows no mercy to those who would take from him, he is drawn to the child brought before him.

His first meeting with Aliette is born out of necessity, he uses her because of what he knows about her. She is streetwise but has retained her humanity and it is this that saves her. She is alternatively gripped by fascination and fear in his presence. She knows he’s dangerous, holds her life in his hands, but she is intuitive and sees something more.

The chemistry between Reynold and Aliette is simmering but resisted, she fears what he may do to her, he fears he may hurt her. This conflict is strong and threatens their chance of happiness.

He is the original player, and yet she threatens his plans, just by her presence. The strength of the characters makes this a page-turning story. The darkness of the time suits the knight’s personality perfectly.

A story of dark and light and the power of love against a rich tapestry of 13th century France.

Nicole Locke

Nicole is the author of Harlequin’s Lovers and Legends and Co-Author of The Lochmore Legacy series. If she isn’t working on the next book, she can be reached at NicoleLocke.com, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

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Posted in Contemporary Fiction, Cover Reveal, Friendship, Historical Fiction

The Walls We Build Jules Hayes #CoverReveal @JulesHayes6 @rararesources #WW2 #HistoricalFiction #ContemporaryFiction #Timeslip #Secrets # Lies #Friendship #Preorder #23March20

Three friends … 

Growing up together around Winston Churchill’s estate in Westerham, Kent, Frank, Florence and Hilda are inseparable. But as WW2 casts its menacing shadow, friendships between the three grow complex, and Frank – now employed as Churchill’s bricklayer – makes choices that will haunt him beyond the grave, impacting his grandson’s life too.

Two Secrets …

Shortly after Frank’s death in 2002 Florence writes to Richard, Frank’s grandson, hinting at the darkness hidden within his family. On investigation, disturbing secrets come to light, including a pivotal encounter between Frank and Churchill during the war and the existence of a mysterious relative in a psychiatric hospital.

One Hidden Life … 

How much more does Florence dare reveal about Frank – and herself – and is Richard ready to hear?

Set against the stunning backdrop of Chartwell, Churchill’s country home, comes a tragic story of misguided honour, thwarted love and redemption, reverberating through three generations and nine decades.

For readers of Kate Morton, Rachel Hore, Katherine Webb, Lucinda Riley and Juliet West.

“Passion, intrigue and family secrets drive this complex wartime relationship drama. A page turner. I loved it.”  #1 bestselling author, Nicola May

Publication Date: 23rd March

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Jules Hayes

Jules Hayes lives in Berkshire with her husband, daughter and a dog. She has a degree in modern history and holds a particular interest in events and characters from the early 20th century. As a former physiotherapist and trainer – old habits die hard – when not writing Jules likes to run. She also loves to watch films, read good novels and is a voracious consumer of non-fiction too, particularly biographies.

Jules is currently working on her second historical novel, another dual timeline story.

Jules also writes contemporary thriller and speculative fiction as JA Corrigan.

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Writing as J.A.. Corrigan

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