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.

Amazon UK

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?

HarlequinAmazonBarnes & NobleMills & Boon

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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Posted in Cover Reveal, Historical Fiction

The Gossips Choice Sara Read #CoverReveal @Wildpressed @saralread @LoveBooksGroup #Lovebookstours #HistoricalFiction #17thCentury

“Call The Midwife for the 17th Century”


Lucie Smith is a respected midwife who is married to Jacob, the town apothecary. They live happily together at the shop with the sign of the Three Doves. But sixteen-sixty-five proves a troublesome year for the couple. Lucie is called to a birth at the local Manor House and Jacob objects to her involvement with their former opponents in the English Civil Wars. Their only-surviving son Simon flees plague-ridden London for his country hometown, only to argue with his father. Lucie also has to manage her husband’s fury at the news of their loyal housemaid’s unplanned pregnancy and its repercussions.
 
The year draws to a close with the first-ever accusation of malpractice against Lucie, which could see her lose her midwifery licence, or even face ex-communication.

Amazon UK
 

Sara Read

Dr Sara Read is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University. Her research is in the cultural representations of women, bodies and health in the early modern era.

She has published widely in this area with her first book Menstruation and the Female Body in Early Modern England being published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2013.
She is a member of the organising committee of the Women’s Studies Group, 1558-1837 and recently co-edited a special collection produced to celebrate the group’s 30th anniversary.

She is also the co-editor of the popular Early Modern Medicine blog. With founding editor Dr Jennifer Evans, Sara wrote a book about health and disease in this era Maladies and Medicine: Exploring Health and Healing, 1540-1740 (Pen and Sword 2017).

Sara regularly writes for history magazines such as Discover Your Ancestors and History Today. In 2017 she published an article ‘My Ancestor was a Midwife’ tracing the history of the midwifery profession for Who Do You Think You Are? magazine in 2017. She has appeared on BBC Radio 3’s Freethinking programme and is often to be heard on BBC Radio Leicester and BBC Radio WM.

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Posted in Book Spotlight, Historical Fiction

The Saracen Storm #JMNunez @LoveBooksGroup #Lovebookstours #BookPromo #Spotlight #HistoricalFiction #Spain #hisfic

Hispania, 704 AD. When young Pelayo, the rebellious illegitimate son of the Duke of Asturias, is tasked with hunting down a party of Saracens raiders, he seizes on the chance to escape the city and the scandals that have swirled around him for years. As he follows the trail of devastation left by the raiders, he learns that Valentina, the headstrong daughter of his father’s closest ally and his hated half-brother’s betrothed has been taken captive.

As Pelayo leads his cohort toward the eastern coast, the sudden death of the king in Toledo unravels old alliances and sparks a fierce competition for the throne. As the kingdom descends into civil war, the ambitious Saracen governor, Musa Ibn Nosseyr, sees the Iberian nation’s troubles as the perfect opportunity to expand the reach of the caliphate into the underbelly of Europe.

Based on historical figures and events, The Saracen Storm is the sweeping saga of one of Spain’s best-loved heroes and the role he played during the nation’s darkest period: the Moorish invasion of its lands in 711 AD.

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Jose Nunez

Jose Nunez resides in Montreal, Canada, with his wife and two daughters. After running a small, software development company for a few years, he turned his hand to freelance writing. A chance sighting of a bronze statue of an ancient warrior called Pelayo in the town of Cangas de Onis, Spain, gave rise to his first novel, The Saracen Storm.

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

Lady Edith’s Lonely Heart Audrey Harrison 4* #Review @AudreyHarrison2 @rararesources #BlogTour #BookReview #RegencyRomance #HistoricalFiction #LadyEdithsLonelyHeart

A dashing tale of romance from a bestselling author of Regency Romance.

She is under pressure to find a husband she doesn’t want.

He keeps to the fringes of society because of family constraints.

Will the written word be enough to bring two lost souls together?

Lady Edith Longdon is an heiress, in danger of being classed a spinster, and disillusioned with the fops, dandies, and fortune hunters surrounding her in society. Deciding it’s time to take her future into her own hands, she devises a foolproof way of finding someone she can love. She’s convinced nothing could go wrong…

Lord Ralph Pensby, overwhelmed by a sense of obligation, and with no one he can turn to, is adrift from those around him…

Two people drawn together, both on a journey which will affect them in ways they could never have foreseen. Secret correspondence, mistrust and confusion, not to mention cads of the highest order, make this novel a fast-paced, heart-warming story, with appealing characters and a strong sense of time and place.

Perfect for lovers of all things Regency.

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

My Thoughts…

There’s no doubt what historical period you’re in when you start reading this book, From the authentic Regency styled lady on the cover, to the quintessential Regency dialogue and setting, you are taken back to another time. This story flows well, the plot is simple but effective.

Ralph is the archetypal Regency hero, attractive, troubled, and unsuitable. He has a dark family secret, which keeps him withdrawn from society, but in reality, the fact he is afraid of sharing it is more an indictment on Regency society than anything else. His attraction to Edith grows, but he knows he can never marry.

Edith is fortunate, in that she is independently wealthy, but she wants a family, yet can find nobody she truly wants to marry. Whilst, marriage against her will, is unlikely, her mother is less than supportive and she relies on the counsel of her brother, Miles. Edith is an independent spirit, but she is drawn to Ralph, seeing something worth having beneath the grim exterior he lets the rest of the world see.

This is a conflicted romance, with deceit, secrets and strict Regency society rules, conspiring against Edith and Ralph’s happiness. Trust is also an issue. The chemistry simmers in a genteel way, rising, in keeping with this story’s traditional style. It’s nostalgic to read this style of Regency romance, and I enjoyed it.

Audrey Harrison

AMAZONUK KINDLE STORYTELLER COMPETITION FINALIST 2018!

Audrey was born about two hundred years too late. She wants to belong to a time when men were men and women were dressed in gowns and could float, simper and sigh.

In the real world she has always longed to write, writing a full manuscript when she was fourteen years old. Work, marriage and children got in the way as they do and it was only when an event at work landed her in hospital that she decided to take stock. One Voluntary Redundancy later, she found that the words and characters came to the forefront and the writing began in earnest.

So, although at home more these days, the housework is still neglected and meals are still late on the table, but she has an understanding family, who usually shake their heads at her and sigh. That is a sign of understanding, isn’t it?

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