Posted in Blog Blitz, Book Review, Book Spotlight, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Travel

The Inheritance Anne Allen @AnneAllen21 @lovebooksgroup #LoveBooksTours #TheGuernseyNovels #AnneAllen #TheInheritance #historical #contemporary #intrigue #mystery #timeslip #BookBirthday #BookReviews #BookSpotlight #MondayBlogs

The Inheritance by Anne Allen is one year old. To celebrate all the seven books in The Guernsey Novel series will only be £1.99 on Kindle for a limited time. Each of the books can be read as a standalone too. 

The Inheritance – Book 7  Amazon UK

How close were Victor Hugo and his copyist?

1862 Young widow Eugénie faces an uncertain future in Guernsey. A further tragedy brings her to the attention of Monsieur Victor Hugo, living in exile on the island only yards away from Eugénie’s home. Their meeting changes her life and she becomes his copyist, forming a strong friendship with both Hugo and his mistress, Juliette Drouet.

2012 Dr Tess Le Prevost, Guernsey-born but living in England, is shocked to inherit her Great-Aunt’s house on the island. As a child, she was entranced by Doris’s tales of their ancestor, Eugénie, whose house this once was, and her close relationship with Hugo. Was he the real father of her child? Returning to the island gives Tess a fresh start and a chance to unlock family secrets.

Will she discover the truth about Eugénie and Hugo? A surprise find may hold the answer as Tess embraces new challenges which test her strength – and her heart.

My Thoughts…

A delightful mix of contemporary and Victorian life on Guernsey, with colourfully described historical details, and an engaging contemporary story full of romance, friendship and family drama.

Tess unexpectedly inherits an old house on Guernsey where she spent her childhood, Visiting her inheritance, she is drawn to the rundown house and being at a crossroads in her life decides to renovate and make Guernsey her home again.

Characters from previous stories make cameo appearances, but the story is standalone. The story slips between 2012 and Victorian times, told from Tess and Eugenie’s points of view. Both stories are complex and interesting, and there is a historical mystery for Tess to solve.

The story features a real historical figure, although the story is fictional, his presence as a character adds authenticity and depth.

Domestic abuse is a primary theme in this book, and it serves to highlight, its prevalence, and the differences and similarities between contemporary and Victorian women, in abusive relationships.

The storytelling is enthralling, the setting vividly described and the connections between the past and present meaningful. A lovely mix of believable characters and a realistic but hopeful ending make reading ‘The Inheritance’, a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

The Betrayal –  Book Six Amazon UK

Book Six of The Guernsey Novels is another dual-time story set during the German Occupation and present-day Guernsey and is likely to appeal particularly to fans of the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Treachery and theft lead to death – and love

1940. Teresa Bichard and her baby are sent by her beloved husband, Leo, to England as the Germans draw closer to Guernsey. Days later they invade…

1942. Leo, of Jewish descent, is betrayed to the Germans and is sent to a concentration camp, never to return. 

1945. Teresa returns to find Leo did not survive and the family’s valuable art collection, including a Renoir, is missing. Heartbroken, she returns to England.

2011. Nigel and his twin Fiona, buy a long-established antique shop in Guernsey and during a refit, find a hidden stash of paintings, including what appears to be a Renoir. Days later, Fiona finds Nigel dead, an apparent suicide. Refusing to accept the verdict, a distraught Fiona employs a detective to help her discover the truth…

Searching for the rightful owner of the painting brings Fiona close to someone who opens a chink in her broken heart. Can she answer some crucial questions before laying her brother’s ghost to rest?

Who betrayed Leo? 

Who knew about the stolen Renoir?

And are they prepared to kill – again?

My Thoughts…

 I love this series, it has all the best qualities of a cosy mystery in a breathtaking setting, with just a hint of the supernatural and historical flashbacks that illuminate the present mystery.

Believable, interesting characters are easy to empathise with and draw you into present-day Guernsey and it’s WW2 legacy, most notably the German occupation of the island. The gentle romance and supernatural elements enhance the storyline. The writing is clever as present-day events are determined by their historical roots. 

Whilst they are standalone read; characters and situations from previous novels inform this story. If you haven’t read the other books in the series check out my reviews and read them for yourself.

This story is a pleasing, page-turning read, that makes me want to reacquaint myself with the mystical island of Guernsey.

Echoes of Time – Book Five Amazon UK

The fifth of The Guernsey Novels, Echoes of Time is a dual-time story set in the German Occupation and present-day Guernsey and is likely to appeal to fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Betrayal, injustice and revenge echo down the years…

1940. Olive marries farmer Bill Falla. The Germans occupy Guernsey.

All too soon Olive realises she has made a mistake. Her life changes when she meets Wolfgang, a German officer-however there’s a price to pay. . .

2010. Natalie Ogier returns to Guernsey to escape an abusive relationship – only to be plagued by odd happenings in her beautiful cottage on the site of a derelict and secluded farm. Disturbing dreams, disembodied voices and uncanny visions from the past. She becomes increasingly ill at ease as someone else’s past catches up with her own…

Her only immediate neighbour, Stuart, is the grandson of the original owners, Bill and Olive.

Thrown together in a bid to find out what happened to Olive, can they each survive the repercussions of the past and move on? 

My Thoughts…

All the ‘Guernsey Novels’ are defined by their memorable characters, vivid setting and intriguing plots, ‘Echoes of Time’, has all of these qualities and something extra that makes it a gripping and worthwhile read.

The cross over and parallels between Guernsey’s past and present are explored in greater detail in this story and Natalie, who returns to the island after a traumatic incident, experiences life in war torn Guernsey, in a most disturbing way.

Escaping her past Natalie witnesses a woman’s life with a startling similarity to her own, is her subconscious playing tricks on her or is what she dreams and experiences real?

The mystery enfolds in 2010 with flashbacks and time slip to occupied Guernsey in World War Two. The historical element is well researched and often anecdotal and blends with the present in a believable, easy to read way.

Characters’ flaws make them authentic and human. Natalie finds friendship when she most needs it but will become something more and is she brave enough to let it?

A poignant, well written tale, set on a beautiful island, perfect for holiday reading and anytime you want to escape.

The Family Divided – Book Four Amazon UK

The fourth of The Guernsey Novels, covering both contemporary Guernsey and the time of the Occupation. Likely to appeal to fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

One family, divided by death – and money

Andy Batiste, at loggerheads with his degenerate cousin, seeks to discover the truth of his family history. Why was his pregnant grandmother forced to flee to France? What really happened to her husband during the German Occupation, sixty years ago? Who accused Edmund, the elder son and Batiste heir, of being an informer? Was he really a traitor – and who murdered him?

With Edmund’s brother Harold now head of the family, enjoying the wealth which ought to have come to Andy’s father, the family is forever divided. Andy yearns to clear Edmund’s name and restore his father to his rightful inheritance.

Andy is introduced to Charlotte Townsend, newly divorced, lonely and struggling with writer’s block and the consuming threat of impending loss. They meet when she returns for healing at Guernsey’s natural health centre, La Folie, and Charlotte becomes involved in Andy’s family history.

Together they embark on a hunt for the truth…

My Thoughts…

The catalyst for this story is an incident in World War 2. A death accompanied by malicious rumour divides a family. Charlotte, who we met in ‘Guernsey Retreat’, makes a welcome return.

‘The Family Divided’ maintains the mystery and gentle romance, characteristic of this series. This story casts Charlotte in the role of detective as she unravels the secrets and rumour buried in the Batiste’s family’s past, to help and stay close to her new friend Andy Batiste.

Well paced, this story explores the growing relationship between Charlotte and Andy, and lets us glimpse the lives of previously introduced characters, Jeanne, Louise and Malcolm.

I liked the disparity between Andy’s family and Charlotte’s and how it allows both characters to grow and develop. Charlotte’s investigation is believable and what she discovers builds to a tense and well resolved ending.

If you like your mystery with vivid imagery and sweet romance you will definitely enjoy The Guernsey Novels series.

Guernsey Retreat – Book Three Amazon UK

The third in The Guernsey Novels series, likely to appeal to fans of the best-selling book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Two violent deaths. Separated by time, but with a fatal connection…

A man loses his father. A young woman loses her mother. Both in tragic circumstances that lead, when they meet, to surprising revelations from the past. 

Louisa needs to find the father she has never known, to warn him of possible danger – for them both. Her search takes her from England to Guernsey. Malcolm’s journey is more complicated: conceived in Guernsey, his bereaved mother emigrates with him to Canada. Many years later he arrives in India, and from here he is led back to Guernsey to open a health centre at La Folie. This was his father’s home and where he was killed at the start of the Second World War. 

At the heart of the two deaths lie stolen jewels. Valuable enough to kill for. Twice. 

Finding her father brings Louisa more than she bargains for, and her life is transformed, while Malcolm learns that life is, after all, for sharing… 

My Thoughts…

This third book in ‘The Guernsey Novels series is as atmospheric, as the previous two stories. There are two deaths; one historical and one present-day, which force a meeting between Louisa and Malcolm, altering both their lives. The characters are interesting and believable, the setting a delight.

The author’s knowledge of Guernsey and the other Channel Islands gives the story another compelling dimension. This is a must read.

The historical events and their significance are weaved seamlessly into the contemporary plot. There is a welcome return of some characters from ‘Dangerous Waters’ and Finding Mother in cameo roles, which enrich the story.

The plot is easy to follow and provides a perfect foil for the characters to develop, grow and interact. There is intrigue and menace and a myriad of emotions as Louisa balances what she has lost and found and Malcolm tries to make amends for a youthful, foolish mistake. A sweet romance lightens the angst.

I liked the friendship between Louisa and Charlotte and look forward to reading Charlotte’s tale next.

Finding  Mother – Book Two Amazon UK

Three women. Three generations. Sacrifices for love…

Who is she really? Nicole is about to find out as she searches for her real mother; the woman who gave her away at birth. With her marriage in tatters, she sets out from England: travelling to Spain, Jersey and Guernsey before the extraordinary story of her real family is finally revealed.

Nicole becomes an unwitting catalyst for change in that family. Two women are forced to reveal long-buried secrets. One going back as far as the Second World War. Lives are transformed as choices have to be made and the past laid to rest…

My Thoughts…

A marriage damaged, possibly beyond repair prompts investigative journalist Nicole to search for her birth mother. Her decision threatens those who love her, leads to long buried secrets and romantic surprises on the beautiful island of Guernsey.

The setting for the second in ‘The Guernsey Novels series’ is vivid and tangible. The insight into island life makes Guernsey, an important secondary character that informs the actions of Nicole and her birth family.

‘Finding Mother’ is a gently paced story, with nostalgic echoes of magazine serials in the sixties. The characters are outwardly ordinary but their normality cloaks resentment, fear, missed chances and unwavering courage. The emotional tension is realistic and poignant and shrouded in long suppressed mystery.

Addictive and so easy to read; ‘Finding Mother’ builds to a tense crescendo before the secrets are revealed. The characters are complex and believable and make a story of everyday life, memorable.

This story will appeal to lovers of romantic sagas and quality women’s fiction.

Dangerous Waters – Book One Amazon UK

Dangerous Waters is the first of The Guernsey Novels, linked but standalone stories, which will appeal to fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Tragedy seems to follow Jeanne Le Page around . . .

Can she really go through it again and survive?

She is lucky to be alive … at sixteen Jeanne was almost killed in a boating accident which brought heart-breaking family tragedy. Now, fifteen years later, Jeanne returns reluctantly to the island of Guernsey following the death of her beloved grandmother. Struggling for breath as the ferry nears the island; she is overwhelmed by a dark foreboding as hazy memories of that terrible day resurface…

Only returning to sell her inheritance – her grandmother’s old cottage – Jeanne has no intention of picking up her old life. But the cottage holds a secret, dating back to World War II and the German Occupation, and Jeanne becomes drawn into discovering more. Then, soon after her arrival, a chance meeting with an old teenage crush leads her to thoughts of love.

Jeanne is forced to face her demons, reliving the tragedy as her lost memory returns.

When the truth is finally revealed, her life is endangered for the second time…

My Thoughts…

This delightful story reflects the island life it depicts; atmospheric, gently paced and full of mystery and romance. The characters are crafted realistically and easy to visualise. This is not an action packed read but the laid back writing style draws the reader into island society and culture. The cast of secondary characters give the story its depth and variety and bring the island community to life for me.

Contemporary favourites cookery and gardening widen the scope of this novel and prevent it from becoming too self absorbed and dark. The descriptions of the cosmopolitan restaurants, food and the cottage garden are vibrant and knowledgeable; as is the insight into the publishing industry.

Jeanne the vulnerable but talented heroine of ‘Dangerous Waters’ is a writer who returns to her childhood home many years after a traumatic incident drove her back to the mainland. Her chosen career has a dramatic boost when she discovers her grandmother’s hidden secrets and much treasured ancestral recipes.

Coupled with reconnecting with friends from her school days and deciding what to do with her legacy, Jeanne’s day to day life is an absorbing read. Jeanne’s poignant flashbacks reveal her traumatic past. Mystery and dangerous undercurrents threaten Jeanne’s emotional recovery until she isn’t sure who she can trust.

‘Dangerous Waters’ is definitely worth reading and I look forward to the rest of the Guernsey Novels.

I received copies of these book from the author in return for an honest review.

Anne Allen

Anne was born in Rugby to a Welsh father and an English mother. As a result, she spent many summers with her Welsh grandparents in Anglesey and learned to love the sea. Now she is based in Devon to be near her daughter and two small grandchildren. Her restless spirit has meant many moves, the longest stay being in Guernsey for nearly fourteen years after falling in love with the island and the people. She contrived to leave one son behind to ensure a valid reason for frequent returns. Her younger son is based in London – ideal for city breaks.

By profession, Anne was a psychotherapist who long had a desire to write and Dangerous Waters, her first novel, was published in 2012. It was awarded Silver(Adult Fiction) in TheWishingShelfAwards 2012. Since then she has published six more books in The Guernsey Novels series; Finding Mother, Guernsey Retreat, The Family Divided, Echoes of Time- winner of The Diamond Book Award 2017, a finalist in Readersfavorite awards and granted a ChillWithABookAward, The Betrayal, and The Inheritance, published April 2019.

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Posted in Book Review, Bookstagram, New Adult Romance, Romance, Romantic Suspense

Trust In You Julia Firlotte 4* #Review @juliafirlotte @LoveBooksGroup #LoveBooksTours #Intrigue #Summer #Love #comingofage #FallingForYou #Secrets #RomanticSuspense #NewAdultRomance #Kansas #TrustinYou #Bookstagram #BookstagramTour #Instagramjolliffe01

From the moment she met him, Ella Peterson had questions. As always, though, she’s too shy to ask.

Older and sexy as hell, mysterious Adam Brook soon sweeps sheltered Ella off her feet; but is he as perfect as he appears to be, or is there more to him than he’s telling her?

When events spiral out of Ella’s control, she learns the person she needs to rely on most is herself and her instincts on who to trust in the future.

It’s just that her instincts are screaming at her to trust Adam; it’s what he tells her that makes that a problem.

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This is the first book in the Falling for You series and ends with a ‘happy for now’ conclusion.

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

My Thoughts…

Ella is eighteen and naive. Life’s not been easy for her, bullied at school, losing her father and uncle, and then emigrating with her sisters to Kansas to live on her deceased uncles farm, has left her hurting and vulnerable.

Being teased by some local young men reminds her of past bullying and makes her shy and withdrawn. An instant connection with one of group unsettles her. Told entirely from Ella point of view in the first person, the reader feels everything she does, and it makes the story immersive and intense. From a slow start, the story soon becomes addictive reading. Ella is an engaging character, easy to empathise and like.

Her emotions and motivations are well described and portray a young woman on the brink of falling in love perfectly. The precarious financial situation Ella and her sisters are in, draws them into a world they are both unfamiliar with and unprepared for.

The explosive chemistry between Adam and Ella make the love scenes, hot and passionate. Adam’s secrets lead to conflict and danger for Ella. Ella’s vulnerability is an underlying theme, and some of the situations she faces, are disturbing. Her character development is notable and makes her character believable and relatable.

The plot is intriguing and makes reading the next book in the series a must.

Julia Firlotte

Julia is an avid reader of all things romance, and she has read hundreds of books across a variety of sub-genres and began writing her own novels in 2018. Four books are currently in various stages of editing and completion, the first of which is finished and will be on sale in spring 2020.

Julia has always been passionate about languages and fiction and has a degree in Languages And Trade and an A-Level in English Literature. When Julia is not writing or editing her own novels, she usually has her nose in books by other authors and is otherwise kept busy caring for her family, going to the gym and carrying out her day job. Julia lives on the South Coast of England with her two children, husband and cats.

Website Facebook Twitter Goodreads Instagram Facebook Group:Romance Chit Chat 

Check out my Bookstagram Post on jolliffe01 on #Instagram

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, New Adult Romance, Romance, Suspense

Trust In You Julia Firlotte 4* #Review #Author #Interview @juliafirlotte @rararesources #RachelsRandomResources #Romance #Suspense #Intrigue #Summer #Love #comingofage #FallingForYou #Secrets #NewAdultRomance #Kansas

From the moment she met him, Ella Peterson had questions. As always, though, she’s too shy to ask.

Older and sexy as hell, mysterious Adam Brook soon sweeps sheltered Ella off her feet; but is he as perfect as he appears to be, or is there more to him than he’s telling her?

When events spiral out of Ella’s control, she learns the person she needs to rely on most is herself and her instincts on who to trust in the future.

It’s just that her instincts are screaming at her to trust Adam; it’s what he tells her that makes that a problem.

Amazon Kindle Amazon UK Amazon

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

My Thoughts…

Ella is eighteen and naive. Life’s not been easy for her, bullied at school, losing her father and uncle, and then emigrating with her sisters to Kansas to live on her deceased uncles farm, has left her hurting and vulnerable.

Being teased by some local young men reminds her of past bullying and makes her shy and withdrawn. An instant connection with one of group unsettles her. Told entirely from Ella point of view in the first person, the reader feels everything she does, and it makes the story immersive and intense. From a slow start, the story soon becomes addictive reading. Ella is an engaging character, easy to empathise and like.

Her emotions and motivations are well described and portray a young woman on the brink of falling in love perfectly. The precarious financial situation Ella and her sisters are in, draws them into a world they are both unfamiliar with and unprepared for.

The explosive chemistry between Adam and Ella make the love scenes, hot and passionate. Adam’s secrets lead to conflict and danger for Ella. Ella’s vulnerability is an underlying theme, and some of the situations she faces, are disturbing. Her character development is notable and makes her character believable and relatable.

The plot is intriguing and makes reading the next book in the series a must.

Author interview: Julia Firlotte – Trust In You Blog Tour

What inspired you to write ‘Trust in You’?

My husband had a business trip to Kansas and commented that many American’s had found his accent attractive, this lead me to imagining the opening scene of my novel of an innocent British girl who had moved there and was teased by a group of locals, the novel grew from there.

How do you create your characters?

I usually visualise the scenes in the book first, and then as my characters develop personalities, the scenes usually get re-written several times to fit. I also use the Myers Briggs Personality Types to aid my character development in a realistic way.

How do write authentic dialogue?

As my characters develop, the dialogue usually flows very easily from what ever scene it is in my mind at the time. Of course, Beta readers and my editor also have input in this process.

What comes first when you write a story, characters, plot or setting? Is this the same for every story?

I come up with the opening scenes of novels and scenarios of how my characters meet extremely easily, it’s the main plot of the stories I often need to spend more time developing.

What made you want to write romantic suspense? Is this a genre you enjoy reading?

I enjoy reading all types of romance novel, usually verging on the darker side of life rather than romantic comedies and chick lit. The first draft of Trust In You was therefore much darker and more of a bully-romance, but after feedback from Beta readers, the story kept changing as I listened to the characters. Parts of this changing the story process is what made the novel a romantic suspense, at various stages I also didn’t know what was going to happen next, I let the characters guide me. I also had so much content, this is why the novel turned into a trilogy.

Would like to write in any other genres? If so, which ones appeal to you?

Aside from romance, I also love historical fiction authors such as Phillipa Gregory, Alison Wier and Colleen McCullough and have read a lot of young adult vampire sci fi – quite a mix! If I were to write a novel in a different genre, it would be a Tudor and Stuarts drama, but even then, I’d have to squeeze in a love story somewhere, that’s just who I am.

‘Trust in You’, is the first book in the ‘Falling For You’, series, can you tell us a little about the other books in the series?

Trust In You is written from Ella’s perspective based on her experience of moving to America and getting sucked into a criminal underworld which she suspects her wealthy boyfriend Adam is involved in. Many aspects of Adam’s life are intriguing and he gives very little away, leaving both my heroine and readers with many questions.

The next novel is Faith In Him number 1.5 , because it is all about Adam and not told from Ella’s perspective. The timeline of the novel starts just before Trust In You is set and then continues on moving the story forward. It is not simply the same story told from the Hero’s perspective, there is far more to the novel than that, but I can’t say more to avoid spoilers.

The final novel in the series is called Believe In Me, it is referred to as novel two because it continues from Ella’s perspective and the first chapter is included at the end of Trust In You. Ella and Adam’s friend Dan become closer as Adam tries to keep his distance from Ella to keep her safe, but this throws a spanner in the works as is usual in Ella’s world and the tables turn. Ella develops into a confident young woman and the series concludes in a confrontation with the criminal underworld that will have readers gripped.

I’m also playing with the idea of a further novel in a new series all about Dan.

You can see all of the book covers on my website.

Julia Firlotte

Julia is an avid reader of all things romance, and she has read hundreds of books across a variety of sub-genres and began writing her own novels in 2018. Four books are currently in various stages of editing and completion, the first of which is finished and will be on sale in spring 2020.

Julia has always been passionate about languages and fiction and has a degree in Languages And Trade and an A-Level in English Literature. When Julia is not writing or editing her own novels, she usually has her nose in books by other authors and is otherwise kept busy caring for her family, going to the gym and carrying out her day job. Julia lives on the South Coast of England with her two children, husband and cats.

Website Facebook Facebook Group:Romance Chit Chat  Twitter Goodreads Instagram

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Fantasy, Magic

The Violinist’s Apprentice Isabella Mancini 3 *#Review @darkstrokedark @crookedcatbooks @AuthorMancini @IsabellaManci10 #TimeSlip #historical #fantasy #Italy #17thCentury #BlogTour #BookReview #MondayBlogs @rararesources


#TheViolinistsApprentice

A dark journey through time.

It’s on a group trip to Rome that something terrifying and mysterious happens, whirling musical Clementina back in time to 17th century Italy. Amidst court intrigue and creaking carriages, Rome becomes a chiaroscuro backdrop to her growing feelings for young violin-maker Antonio Stradivari. But soon he discovers that Clementina is not all she appears. She must surely be a witch.  How can she return to the 21st century again? Meanwhile, in an icy corner of the Arctic, a professor plots.

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

#TheViolinistsApprentice Image Credit Isabella Mancini

My Thoughts…

An original plot that involves timeslip from the 21st-century present day to 17th century Italy. The story centres around Clementina, a young girl who is naive and impressionable. A fusion between timeslip and fantasy in a contemporary and historical setting, it does require you to open your mind, to magic, time travel.

It takes a while, to set the scene, as the book is mainly told from Clementina’s point of view. Some chapters introduce a strange mystical woman. In Clementina’s contemporary school there is a rather creepy man, who is instigating the quest for objects, from the seven wonders of the world. There is a tenuous connection with twenty-first-century environmental problems.

I like the story’s themes, and the timeslip into 17th century Italy, but the plot seems overly complex and it’s hard to follow all the elements, as written, even though you understand the reason for them. The writing is vivid and descriptive, but the author’s vision and fantasy world need to be clearer to the reader.

#IsabellaMancini

Isabella Mancini is the nom de plume of prolific author Olga Swan, published by Crooked Cat Books.  She has a BA Hons (Open) in English Language and Literature and a lifelong love for writing and language. For 12 years she lived in SW France but returned to the UK in 2017, where she now lives in the West Midlands with her husband and elderly French rescue dog Bruno.

Previous books by Olga Swan:

An Englishwoman in America, From Paradis to Perdition, Pensioners in Paradis, The Mazurek Express, Lamplight, Vichyssoise, 3rd Degree Murder.

Twitter Facebook Facebook Group: Books, Music and the Past Amazon page for Isabella Mancini Amazon page for Olga Swan

Giveaway to Win a signed paperback of An Englishwoman in America (Open INT)

*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, Extract, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Murder Mystery, Victorian Romance

The Princess Plan Julia London 5*#Review @JuliaFLondon @MillsandBoon #BlogTour #ARoyalWedding #Victorian #Romance #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance #BookReview #Extract #TuesdayBookBlog #MurderMystery #Intrigue

#ThePrincessPLan

London’s high society loves nothing more than a scandal. And when the personal secretary of the visiting Prince Sebastian of Alucia is found murdered, it’s all anyone can talk about, including Eliza Tricklebank. Her unapologetic gossip gazette has benefited from an anonymous tip-off about the crime, forcing Sebastian to ask for her help in his quest to find his friend’s killer.

With a trade deal on the line and mounting pressure to secure a noble bride, there’s nothing more dangerous than a prince socialising with a commoner. Sebastian finds Eliza’s contrary manner as frustrating as it is seductive, but they’ll have to work together if they’re going to catch the culprit. And soon, as temptation becomes harder to ignore, it’s the prince who’ll have to decide what comes first—his country or his heart. 

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

My Thoughts…

Such an absorbing, intriguing romantic read. Eliza is a delight, independent, intelligent and indelibly imprinted on your mind, as her unusual romance with a sexy, troubled Prince plays out. The ethos of Victorian society is captured well. Eliza, her sister and friend are a redoubtable trio who enliven every page of this Victorian romance.

Danger and intrigue fuse effortlessly with passion and romance. Whilst, there are elements of ‘Cinderella’ in this story, the reality of what is expected of royal princes and women in society, tempers the fun and glamour. Full of witty dialogue, a murder mystery, political intrigue and romantic passion, this tale has something for everyone. The first in the series, I look forward to the next book.

Extract From The Princess Plan – Julia London

CHAPTER ONE

London 1845

All of London has been on tenterhooks, desperate for a glimpse of Crown Prince Sebastian of Alucia during his highly anticipated visit. Windsor Castle was the scene of Her Majesty’s banquet to welcome him. Sixty-and-one-hundred guests were on hand, feted in St. George’s Hall beneath the various crests of the Order of the Garter. Two thousand pieces of silver cutlery were used, one thousand crystal glasses and goblets. The first course and main dish of lamb and potatoes were served on silver-gilded plates, followed by delicate fruits on French porcelain.

Prince Sebastian presented a large urn fashioned of green Alucian malachite to our Queen Victoria as a gift from his father the King of Alucia. The urn was festooned with delicate ropes of gold around the mouth and the neck.

The Alucian women were attired in dresses of heavy silk worn close to the body, the trains quite long and brought up and fastened with buttons to facilitate walking. Their hair was fashioned into elaborate knots worn at the nape. The Alucian gentlemen wore formal frock coats of black superfine wool that came to midcalf, as well as heavily embroidered waistcoats worn to the hip. It was reported that Crown Prince Sebastian is “rather tall and broad, with a square face and neatly trimmed beard, a full head of hair the colour of tea, and eyes the colour of moss,” which the discerning reader might think of as a softer shade of green. It is said he possesses a regal air owing chiefly to the many medallions and ribbons he wore befitting his rank.

Honeycutt’s Gazette of Fashion and Domesticity for Ladies

The Right Honorable Justice William Tricklebank, a widower and justice of the Queen’s Bench in Her Majesty’s service, was very nearly blind, his eyesight having steadily eroded into varying and fuzzy shades of grey with age. He could no longer see so much as his hand, which was why his eldest daughter, Miss Eliza Tricklebank, read his papers to him.

Eliza had enlisted the help of Poppy, their housemaid, who was more family than servant, having come to them as an orphaned girl more than twenty years ago. Together, the two of them had anchored strings and ribbons halfway up the walls of his London townhome, and all the judge had to do was follow them with his hand to move from room to room. Among the hazards he faced was a pair of dogs that were far too enthusiastic in their wish to be of some use to him, and a cat who apparently wished him dead, judging by the number of times he put himself in the judge’s path or leapt into his lap as he sat, or walked across the knitting the judge liked to do while his daughter read to him, or unravelled his ball of yarn without the judge’s notice.

The only other potential impediments to his health were his daughters—Eliza, a spinster, and her younger sister, Hollis, otherwise known as the Widow Honeycutt. They were often together in his home, and when they were, it seemed to him there was quite a lot of laughing at this and shrieking at that. His daughters disputed that they shrieked, and accused him of being old and easily startled. But the judge’s hearing, unlike his eyesight, was quite acute, and those two shrieked with laughter. Often.

At eight-and-twenty, Eliza was unmarried, a fact that had long baffled the judge. There had been an unfortunate and rather infamous misunderstanding with one Mr Asher Daughton-Cress, who the judge believed was despicable, but that had been ten years ago. Eliza had once been demure and a politely deferential young lady, but she’d shed any pretence of deference when her heart was broken. In the last few years, she had emerged vibrant and carefree. He would think such demeanour would recommend her to gentlemen far and wide, but apparently, it did not. She’d had only one suitor since her very public scandal, a gentleman some fifteen years older than Eliza. Mr Norris had faithfully called every day until one day he did not. When the judge had inquired, Eliza had said, “It was not love that compelled him, Pappa. I prefer my life here with you—the work is more agreeable, and I suspect not as many hours as marriage to him would require.”

His youngest, Hollis, had been tragically widowed after only two years of a marriage without issue. While she maintained her own home, she and her delightful wit were a faithful caller to his house at least once a day without fail, and sometimes as much as two or three times per day. He should like to see her remarried, but Hollis insisted she was in no rush to do so. The judge thought she rather preferred her sister’s company to that of a man.

His daughters were thick as thieves, as the saying went, and were co-conspirators in something that the judge did not altogether approve of. But he was blind, and they were determined to do what they pleased no matter what he said, so he’d given up trying to talk any practical sense into them.

That questionable activity was the publication of a ladies’ gazette. Tricklebank didn’t think ladies needed a gazette, much less one having to do with frivolous subjects such as fashion, gossip and beauty. But say what he might, his daughters turned a deaf ear to him. They were unfettered in their enthusiasm for this endeavour, and if the two of them could be believed, so was all of London.

The gazette had been established by Hollis’s husband, Sir Percival Honeycutt. Except that Sir Percival had published an entirely different sort of gazette, obviously— one devoted to the latest political and financial news. Now that was a useful publication to the judge’s way of thinking.

Sir Percival’s death was the most tragic of accidents, the result of his carriage sliding off the road into a swollen river during rain, which also saw the loss of a fine pair of greys. It was a great shock to them all, and the judge had worried about Hollis and her ability to cope with such a loss. But Hollis proved herself an indomitable spirit, and she had turned her grief into efforts to preserve her husband’s name. But as she was a young woman without a man’s education, and could not possibly comprehend the intricacies of politics or financial matters, she had turned the gazette on its head and dedicated it solely to topics that interested women, which naturally would be limited to the latest fashions and the most tantalizing on dits swirling about London’s high society. It was the judge’s impression that women had very little interest in the important matters of the world.

And yet, interestingly, the judge could not deny that Hollis’s version of the gazette was more actively sought than her husband’s had ever been. So much so that Eliza had been pressed into the service of helping her sister prepare her gazette each week. It was curious to Tricklebank that so many members of the Quality were rather desperate to be mentioned among the gazette’s pages.

Today, his daughters were in an unusually high state of excitement, for they had secured the highly sought-after invitations to the Duke of Marlborough’s masquerade ball in honour of the crown prince of Alucia. One would think the world had stopped spinning on its axis and that the heavens had parted and the seas had re-ceded and this veritable God of All Royal Princes had shined his countenance upon London and blessed them all with his presence.

Hogwash.

Everyone knew the prince was here to strike an important trade deal with the English government in the name of King Karl. Alucia was a small European nation with impressive wealth for her size. It was perhaps best known for an ongoing dispute with the neighbouring country of Wesloria—the two had a history of war and distrust as fraught as that between England and France. The judge had read that it was the crown prince who was pushing for modernization in Alucia, and who was the impetus behind the proposed trade agreement. Prince Sebastian envisioned increasing the prosperity of Alucia by trading cotton and iron ore for manufactured goods. But according to the judge’s daughters, that was not the most important part of the trade negotiations. The important part was that the prince was also in search of a marriage bargain.

“It’s what everyone says,” Hollis had insisted to her father over supper recently.

“And how is it, my dear, that everyone knows what the prince intends?” the judge asked as he stroked the cat, Pris, on his lap. The cat had been named Princess when the family believed it a female. When the house-man Ben discovered that Princess was, in fact, a male, Eliza said it was too late to change the name. So they’d shortened it to Pris. “Did the prince send a letter? Announce it in the Times?”

Caro says,” Hollis countered as if that were quite obvious to anyone with half a brain where she got her information. “She knows everything about everyone, Pappa.”

“Aha. If Caro says it, then, by all means, it must be true.”

“You must yourself admit she is rarely wrong,” Hollis had said with an indignant sniff.

Caro, or Lady Caroline Hawke, had been a lifelong friend to his daughters and had been so often underfoot in the Tricklebank house that for many years, it seemed to the judge that he had three daughters.

Caroline was the only sibling of Lord Beckett Hawke and was also his ward. Long ago, a cholera outbreak had swept through London, and both Caro’s mother and his children’s mother had succumbed. Amelia, his wife, and Lady Hawke had been dear friends. They’d sent their children to the Hawke summer estate when Amelia had taken ill. Lady Hawke had insisted on caring for her friend and, well, in the end, they were both lost.

Lord Hawke was an up-and-coming young lord and politician, known for his progressive ideas in the House of Lords. He was rather handsome, Hollis said, a popular figure, and socially in high demand. Which meant that, by association, so was his sister. She, too, was quite comely, which made her presence all the easier to her brother’s many friends, the judge suspected.

But Caroline did seem to know everyone in London and was constantly calling on the Tricklebank house-hold to spout the gossip she’d gleaned in homes across Mayfair. Here was an industrious young lady—she called on three salons a day if she called on one. The judge supposed her brother scarcely need worry about putting food in their cupboards, for the two of them were dining with this four-and-twenty or that ten-and-six almost every night. It was a wonder Caroline wasn’t a plump little peach.

Perhaps she was. In truth, she was merely another shadow to the judge these days.

“And she was at Windsor and dined with the queen,” Hollis added with superiority.

“You mean Caro was in the same room but one hundred persons away from the queen,” the judge suggested. He knew how these fancy suppers went.

“Well, she was there, Pappa, and she met the Alucians, and she knows a great deal about them now. I am quite determined to discover who the prince intends to offer for and announce it in the gazette before anyone else. Can you imagine? I shall be the talk of London!” This was precisely what Mr. Tricklebank didn’t like about the gazette. He did not want his daughters to be the talk of London.

But it was not the day for him to make this point, for his daughters were restless, moving about the house with an urgency he was not accustomed to. Today was the day of the Royal Masquerade Ball, and the sound of crisp petticoats and silk rustled around him, and the scent of perfume wafted into his nose when they passed. His daughters were waiting impatiently for Lord Hawke’s brougham to come round and fetch them. Their masks, he was given to understand, had already arrived at the Hawke House, commissioned, Eliza had breathlessly reported, from “Mrs Cubison herself.”

He did not know who Mrs Cubison was.

And frankly, he didn’t know how Caro had managed to finagle the invitations to a ball at Kensington Palace for his two daughters—for the good Lord knew the Tricklebanks did not have the necessary connections to achieve such a feat.

He could feel their eagerness, their anxiety in the nervous pitch of their giggling when they spoke to each other. Even Poppy seemed nervous. He supposed this was to be the ball by which all other balls in the history of mankind would forever be judged, but he was quite thankful he was too blind to attend.

When the knock at the door came, he was startled by such squealing and furious activity rushing by him that he could only surmise that the brougham had arrived and the time had come to go to the ball.


Posted in Author Interview, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Noir

The Orange Grove Kate Murdoch #Author #Interview @KateMurdoch3 @RegalHouse1 #Lies #Secrets, #historicalfiction #18Century #France #historicalromance

#The Orange Grove

Blois, 1705. The chateau of Duc Hugo d’Amboise simmers with rivalry and intrigue. 

Henriette d’Augustin, one of five mistresses of the duc, lives at the chateau with her daughter. When the duc’s wife, Duchesse Charlotte, maliciously undermines a new mistress, Letitia, Henriette is forced to choose between position and morality. She fights to maintain her status whilst targeted by the Duchesse who will do anything to harm her enemies.

The arrival of charismatic tarot reader, Romain de Villiers, further escalates tensions as rivals in domestic politics and love strive for supremacy.

In a society where status is a matter of life and death, Henriette must stay true to herself, her daughter, and her heart, all the while hiding a painful secret of her own.

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Read my 5* Review of The Orange Grove

Author Interview – Kate Murdoch – The Orange Grove

What inspired you to write ‘The Orange Grove’?

Since my teens I’ve loved everything about French culture—I’ve studied the language and travelled to France numerous times. So, the idea of writing a French book felt like a natural step. I’m also fascinated by the period of Louis XIV’s rule, the extreme decadence of life at court and for nobles in general before the Revolution. This made researching the book a joy because I discovered many details about how people lived, their outlooks, and what their motivations were at different levels of society. 

When you begin a new story, what is the first thing you develop; characters, plot or setting? Why is this?

The setting, because I can’t have an understanding of what might happen in the story and who my characters might be if I don’t know the context of their immediate environment and the historical background.

What is the unique selling point of your story? What do you hope will make it stand out in the historical fiction genre?

A lot of historical fiction focuses on a key event and/or a particular historical figure. In The Orange Grove, I was interested in exploring how a fixation on status and position, prevalent in France in the early 18th century, might have impacted peoples’ behaviour and their relationships. How self-preservation can erode integrity and morality.

Do you find it easy or difficult to write dialogue? How do you make historical dialogue sound natural and believable?

I find it relatively easy once I work out who my characters are. It’s one of my techniques for understanding my characters—I figure out who they are as I write dialogue and watch them speak to one another. Perhaps that’s why I write a lot of dialogue! I would say I’m the most immersed in the act of writing during these ‘conversations.’

What is the best thing about being a writer? Are there any negatives?

The sense of community and understanding shared with other writers. I really enjoy the friendships and connections I’ve made since becoming a writer. I also feel so much joy when a reader understands and enjoys my words, is immersed in my stories. That’s very satisfying. A negative would be being so consumed that it’s sometimes hard to find a balance with other aspects of my life.

Do you enjoy reading? What are you reading at the moment?

I adore reading. At the moment I’m devouring The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt alongside research books for a new project.

What are you currently writing?

I’m writing a dual-timeline story set in World War Two Croatia and 1960’s Melbourne, through the perspectives of three generations of women.

Kate Murdoch is the author of Stone CircleShe exhibited widely as a painter both in Australia and internationally before turning her hand to writing.

Her short-form fiction has been published in various literary journals in Australia, UK, US and Canada.

Stone Circle is a historical fantasy novel set in Renaissance Italy. It was released by Fireship Press, December 1st 2017. Stone Circle was a First in Category winner in the Chaucer Awards 2018 for pre-1750’s historical fiction.

Kate was awarded a KSP Fellowship at the KSP Writers’ Centre in 2019 to develop her third novel,
The Glasshouse.

Her novel, The Orange Grove, about the passions and intrigues of court mistresses in 18th century France, will be published by Regal House Publishing in 2019.

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

The Orange Grove Kate Murdoch 5*#Review @KateMurdoch3 @RegalHouse1 #Lies #Secrets, #historicalfiction #18Century #France #historicalromance

#TheOrangeGrove

Blois, 1705. The chateau of Duc Hugo d’Amboise simmers with rivalry and intrigue. 

Henriette d’Augustin, one of five mistresses of the duc, lives at the chateau with her daughter. When the duc’s wife, Duchesse Charlotte, maliciously undermines a new mistress, Letitia, Henriette is forced to choose between position and morality. She fights to maintain her status whilst targeted by the Duchesse who will do anything to harm her enemies.

The arrival of charismatic tarot reader, Romain de Villiers, further escalates tensions as rivals in domestic politics and love strive for supremacy.

In a society where status is a matter of life and death, Henriette must stay true to herself, her daughter, and her heart, all the while hiding a painful secret of her own.

Waterstones Foyles Blackwells Regal House Publishing BookTopia Angus and Robertson Amazon Book Depository Kobo Barnes and Noble

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

My Thoughts...

The rich historical detail of France, at the beginning of the eighteenth-century, is brought to life, with the intrigues, passions and sacrifices of the five court mistresses, in the house of the Duc Hugo d’Amboise. All the women of varying ages and backgrounds have been drawn into the Duc’s household, his Duchess tolerates their presence until she realises, her husband is falling in love with the youngest, Letitia. Threatened and heartbroken she uses the rivalry and secrets, of her uneasy housemates to remain the household’s dominant female.

I was enthralled from the first pages, this story is a compelling read. The female characters are flawed and beautifully written, all victims of circumstances, they fall into an uneasy alliance, to survive, and make their lives, and that of their children bearable. The society they create is akin to the animal kingdom, one dominant male, a hierarchy of females, that is constantly under pressure. The reality this story portrays is shocking and hard to countenance in the 21st century. In eighteenth-century France, they were considered lucky by most, but the reality is less palatable.

The abuse of status and power is also explored, with the vulnerable at the mercy of the people who should be protecting not abusing them. Status is the lynchpin of eighteenth-century French society, and to maintain it, many were prepared to sacrifice, their beliefs, morality and family.

The plot is constantly twisting as more secrets are revealed and used by the desperate Duchess to maintain her status. Underneath, the courtly manner is something wild and dangerous. Innocents have to become streetwise to survive. All the characters are believable and fascinating, some are easy to empathise and like. The ending is shocking, but it is inevitable the story will not end well for all.

A dramatic and often poignant story, that shows the depths humanity will sink to survive. The ultimate bloody end of this society is not surprising.

#KateMurdoch

Kate Murdoch is the author of Stone CircleShe exhibited widely as a painter both in Australia and internationally before turning her hand to writing.

Her short-form fiction has been published in various literary journals in Australia, UK, US and Canada.

Stone Circle is a historical fantasy novel set in Renaissance Italy. It was released by Fireship Press, December 1st 2017. Stone Circle was a First in Category winner in the Chaucer Awards 2018 for pre-1750’s historical fiction.

Kate was awarded a KSP Fellowship at the KSP Writers’ Centre in 2019 to develop her third novel,
The Glasshouse.

Her novel, The Orange Grove, about the passions and intrigues of court mistresses in 18th century France, will be published by Regal House Publishing in 2019.

 Website Blog Facebook Twitter Pinterest Instagram Goodreads

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Guest post, Historical Fiction, Mystery

The Inheritance – Anne Allen – 5* #Review – #TheGuernseyNovels #7 #Mystery #romance #historical #timeslip #intrigue @AnneAllen21

How close were Victor Hugo and his copyist?

1862 Young widow Eugénie is left bereft when her husband dies suddenly and faces an uncertain future in Guernsey. A further tragedy brings her to the attention of Monsieur Victor Hugo, living in exile on the island in his opulent house only yards away from Eugénie’s home. Their meeting changes her life and she becomes his copyist, forming a strong friendship with both Hugo and his mistress, Juliette Drouet.

2012 Doctor Tess Le Prevost, Guernsey-born though now living in Exeter, is shocked to inherit her Great-Aunt’s house on the island. As a child, she was entranced by Doris’s tales of their ancestor, Eugénie, whose house this once was, and who, according to family myth, was particularly close to Hugo. Was he the real father of her child? Tess is keen to find out and returning to the island presents her with the ideal opportunity.

Will she discover the truth about Eugénie and Hugo? A surprise find may hold the answer as Tess embraces new challenges which test her strength – and her heart.

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

My Thoughts…

A delightful mix of contemporary and Victorian life on Guernsey, with colourfully described historical details, and an engaging contemporary story full of romance, friendship and family drama.

Tess unexpectedly inherits an old house on Guernsey where she spent her childhood, Visiting her inheritance, she is drawn to the rundown house and being at a crossroads in her life decides to renovate and make Guernsey her home again.

Characters from previous stories make cameo appearances, but the story is standalone. The story slips between 2012 and Victorian times, told from Tess and Eugenie’s points of view. Both stories are complex and interesting, and there is a historical mystery for Tess to solve.

The story features a real historical figure, although the story is fictional, his presence as a character adds authenticity and depth.

Domestic abuse is a primary theme in this book, and it serves to highlight, its prevalence, and the differences and similarities between contemporary and Victorian women, in abusive relationships.

The storytelling is enthralling, the setting vividly described and the connections between the past and present meaningful. A lovely mix of believable characters and a realistic but hopeful ending make reading ‘The Inheritance’, a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

Guest Post – Anne Allen – The Inheritance
Image Credit – Anne Allen – Hauteville Crystal Room

I would like to start by thanking Jane for allowing me space on her lovely blog, to talk about my latest offering in The Guernsey Novels series.

This book marks a slight change of direction for me in that instead of referencing the German Occupation in Guernsey as in my previous books, I go further back in time to the late 19th C and we meet the famous writer, Victor Hugo. It may not be widely known, but he spent fifteen years in Guernsey while in exile from France, having fallen out with Emperor Napoleon III. He arrived, complete with his wife, children, mistress and various other exiles, in October 1855. Hugo had already been kicked out of Jersey, his port of call, for rude comments about Queen Victoria. The Guernsey view was that if Jersey didn’t want him, he must be worth having!

Image Credit – Anne Allen = Hauteville Red Salon

The inspiration behind my book was Hugo’s house, Hauteville House, in St Peter Port. It’s one of a kind – opulent, over the top, full of quirky features like oak panels carved by Hugo himself, and with a rooftop eerie made from steel and glass where he wrote his novels and poems. I have visited it a couple of times, both when I lived there and two years ago when the idea for this book first surfaced. It is exactly how it was in Hugo’s day and his descendants gifted it to France some years ago and a French flag flies outside to proclaim it as French territory. My last visit was just in time as the house has been closed for nearly two years for extensive renovation, re-opening on 7th April just before my book is published.

Hugo finished writing his most famous work here, Les Misérables, as well as several more novels and collections of poetry. In my book, my character, Eugénie, a young French woman living yards away from Hugo, has a life-changing encounter with him and becomes his copyist. No computers or typewriters around then! His mistress, Juliette Drouet, also helped with the copying and the two women became close. Eugénie, recently widowed, has inherited her husband’s family home but has no income and working for Hugo is her salvation. My story is dual-time and the in the modern part, my character, Tess, is a Guernsey-born doctor now living in Devon and she unexpectedly inherits what was Eugénie’s house from her great-aunt in 2012. There has long been a family myth that Hugo and Eugénie were particularly close and that he may have been the father of her child when she remarried. I had to be very careful about this aspect of the story as Hugo’s descendants still have an apartment in Hauteville House and do visit Guernsey regularly. How to avoid upsetting people! Although he was a known womanizer, as far as is known Hugo had no illegitimate children.

The Guernsey Novels – Anne Allen

Anne Allen lives in Devon, by her beloved sea. She has three children, and her daughter and two grandchildren live nearby.  Her restless spirit has meant a number of moves which included Spain for a couple of years. The longest stay was in Guernsey for nearly fourteen years after falling in love with the island and the people. She contrived to leave one son behind to ensure a valid reason for frequent returns.

By profession, Anne was a psychotherapist, but long had the itch to write. Now a full-time writer, she has written The Guernsey Novels, seven having been published. The books form a series, but each one is a standalone story with links to other books and characters. Although not originally planned, Anne is, in effect, writing a saga of Guernsey; featuring numerous characters and stories covering the German Occupation, Victorian Guernsey and the present day. A mix of family drama, mystery and love, the books have a wide appeal to readers of all ages.

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