Everything will change, my love, she whispers to her only baby. I will make sure you are protected, looked after, loved. She commits his smell, the feel of him, to memory and fastens the gold St Christopher’s medal around his neck, tucking it into the blanket. Kissing him one last time, she lets him go. And with him go the pieces of her shattered heart.
London, 1940. Clara Knight grew up an orphan in the first world war and now is fighting to win the second. Nursing brave soldiers, she falls in love with one of her patients, whose warm brown eyes give her hope for a brighter future. But then he is sent to the front, leaving her alone with their child amidst the bombs raining down on the city… When she is offered the chance to give her son a better life, Clara makes the impossible choice to let him go. She leaves her mother’s precious St Christopher pendant with him, vowing to find him again when the war is over, so they can be a family once more.
Years later. Indira’s life has taken an unexpected turn and her only solace is caring for her grandfather. As he lies in bed, weak and confused, he calls her ‘Clara’, begging forgiveness for an unknown terrible act, tears rolling down his face. Indira goes looking for the truth… and discovers a tattered box of unsent letters, a gold St Christopher’s medal and a photograph of a baby swaddled in a blanket. Who was Clara Knight? And who is the baby in the photo? Her quest will reveal a devastating secret spanning decades, and change everything Indira thought she knew about her family…
An unforgettable and heart-breaking novel set in World War Two about the powerful bond between a mother and her child and a betrayal that echoes across generations.
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Set across two continents and two world wars, this is an epic, and at times heartbreaking family saga full of betrayal, prejudice and sacrifice tempered with the power of love. This author writes from the heart with a myriad of emotions. Her writing is insightful and lyrical, riven with sensory imagery that transports the reader to the place and time. The two women face similar issues years apart determined, and driven they find a way through them.
White Dog is a literary thriller set against the backdrop of the contemporary art world. It follows the fortunes of Ryder, a cynical art deal who aspires to the heights, yet despises the people who populate those realms.
On his way to the top, back down, and back up again, Ryder encounters a picaresque collection of characters and gets drawn into a web of intrigue that involves murder, money-laundering, and materialism. But can his new-found fame and fortune ever make up for the loss of the one thing he ever really valued in life?
White Dog will take you on a rollercoaster ride of sex, drugs, and art – of violence, blackmail, hedonism, and dark politics. Are you ready to face the wolves?
RUPERT WHEWELL was born in Buckinghamshire in 1969. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from Downing College, Cambridge, before working in advertising in Hong Kong and later as a recruitment consultant. He established his own firm, Bateman Gray – named after the respected protagonists of his two favourite novels – in London, specialising in placing bankers. A keen adventurer, Rupert loved hillwalking, climbing and skiing, counting skiing down Mont Blanc as one of his greatest triumphs.
With his fiftieth birthday looming, he joined a group setting out to climb peaks in the Nanda Devi area of India in May 2019. An avalanche brought about his early death in the Himalayas, together with the loss of his seven climbing companions. He is survived by his mother Elaine, brother Andrew and sister Lisa, having no children of his own.
White Dog is his first novel, published posthumously.
The only novel from budding author Rupert Whewell, who sadly lost his life in a tragic climbing accident in the Nanda Devi region of the Himalayas. At the time of his death, the manuscript of White Dog was left incomplete, with Rupert’s plans for the book’s ending remaining a mystery.
As a tribute to her brother and his love of words, Rupert’s sister Lisa Anson worked closely with renowned author John McDonald to complete White Dog, which allowed her to come to terms with his unexpected passing.
”This book has been a long time in the making. Rupert always loved writing and talked often about his desire to write a book. Distracted by a full life and being present with his friends and family, it remained in the background, referenced, and variously started without real progress. In his late forties, he started to put pen to paper in earnest and White Dog was born. Rupert was a very special person; not just to me – as a lifelong presence – but to his many friends. His tragic death is something I will never get over and will never forget.
I have taken on the task of finishing and publishing his book, which he left 80 percent complete. It was important to me to see his story through and share his writing. It brought me closer to Rupert, and I hope it will keep his memory alive for those that knew him and will entertain others who did not.”
Meeting author Callum Wilde is the catalyst that turns Marianne Fairchild’s fragile sense of identity on its head, evoking demons that will haunt two families.
She is seventeen and has spent her life fighting off disturbing memories that can’t possibly belong to her.
His twin sister Marion died seventeen years ago.
When Cal and his older sister Sarah spot Marianne in the audience of a TV show that Cal is recording, they are stunned by her uncanny resemblance to Marion. They have to find out who she is, but they both soon come to regret the decision to draw her into their lives. Events spiral out of control for all of them, but whilst Cal and Sarah each manage to find a way to move on, Marianne is forced to relinquish the one precious thing that could have given her life some meaning.
The book is set in a haunting estuary landscape of mudflats, marshes and the constant resonance of the sea.
The Last Time We Saw Marion is the story of two families – but the horribletruth is that two into one won’t go…
I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher in return for an honest review.
This author explores the nuances of relationships with insight and sensitivity. They investigate the lives of two families drawn together by appearance, death and something unexplainable in human terms. Sarah and Cal see a woman who is the image of their sister just before she died. Without considering the consequences, they draw her into their lives with tragic results.
A harrowing and hauntingly poignant tale that takes place in the present and past from different viewpoints. Cal and Marianne are unreliable protagonists. Does emotional instability affect their connection or something supernatural?
The setting is evocative and reflects the tumultuous family drama, Flawed and relatable characters, and the inevitableness of the journey’s tragic conclusion makes this addictive and emotional reading.
She is also a poet and a visual artist. She has a Fine Art MA and a BA (Hons) Visual Studies. She has exhibited paintings throughout the UK (as Tracey Scott). She has a long career as a workshop facilitator with community groups and in schools.
Tracey is co-director of an up-and-coming small independent publisher, Wild Pressed Books, which has a growing roster of authors and poets.
Mother of four grown-up children, Tracey spends as much time as possible travelling the UK and Europe in a camper van with her husband and two dogs, writing and editing while on the road.
A burnt-out writer is visited by the characters he is researching while writing a book about the mysterious assassination of US President James Garfield.
Richard Todd, an award-winning writer, is outwardly successful but inwardly plagued by uncertainties. Worst of all, he can’t seem to write any more. When a bright young editor, Jenny Lambe, arrives on his doorstep to work with him on his latest book, about the assassination of US president James Garfield, his life is sent spinning off in a new direction.
President Garfield was killed by Charles Guiteau, who was tried and hanged for the murder. But was he acting alone, in July 1881, or was there a more sinister force at work? Richard hears Guiteau’s voice in his head, and as his relationship with Jenny deepens, he is visited by other characters from the assassination drama – including Garfield himself, his Secretary of State James Blaine, Republican senator Roscoe Conkling, Conkling’s mistress Kate Chase Sprague, and the investigating police officer, Detective McElfresh. Are they helping Richard to solve the mystery surrounding Garfield’s murder – or pushing him further towards the edge?
A remarkable, disturbing portrait of a middle-aged man torn between his carefully constructed life and new adventures which may beckon, in the present and the past, from one of Ireland’s most exciting emerging authors, and based on original research into a little-known period in US history.
I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher via Midas PR in return for an honest review.
An engaging medley of historical and literary fiction, this original story is a satisfying read. It begins with a once-successful author being confronted with his failings by a young historical researcher at the behest of his publisher. Richard is a little stereotypical, as is Jenny, but this is intentional, and the reasoning becomes clear as the story progresses.
The author explores contemporary issues in a thought-provoking way. The story’s historical aspect is refreshing and well-researched. The appearance of the salient characters in the story brings it to vibrant life. The twist is unexpected and completes this unique story perfectly.
Owen Dwyer is a prize-winning short-story writer who has won the Hennessy Emerging Fiction Prize, the Silver Quill (twice), the Smiling Politely Very Very Short Story competition, the South Tipperary County Council Short Story competition and the Biscuit Fiction Prize, and has had stories published in Whispers and Shouts magazine. His previous novel, Number Games, was published to glowing reviews by Liberties Press in 2019, and follows The Cherry-picker (2012) and The Agitator (2004). Owen lives in Dublin with his wife and their three children.
A boisterous, big-hearted, thoroughly modern family sagaset in Texas, in which marriages struggle, rivalries flare andsecrets explode.
When March Briscoe returns to East Texas two years after he was caught having an affair with his brother’s wife, the Briscoe family becomes once again the talk of the small town of Olympus. His mother, June, hardly welcomes him back with open arms. Her husband’s own past affairs have made her tired of being the long-suffering spouse. Is it, perhaps, time for a change?
But within days of March’s arrival, someone is dead, marriages are upended, and even the strongest of alliances are shattered. In the end, the ties that hold them together might be exactly what drag them all down.
Olympus, Texas combines the archetypes of Greek and Roman mythology with the psychological complexity of a messy family. After all, at some point, we all wonder: what good is this destructive force we call love?
A big-hearted debut with technicolour characters, plenty of Texas swagger, a powder keg of a plot, Olympus, Texas is filled with all the ingredients of a great American novel: big family, dark secrets, adultery, betrayal, messy relationships, rage, grace, shocking revelations, addiction, pain and redemption. Perfect for fans of Meg Wolitzer’s The Uncoupling, Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible andClaire Lombardo’s The Most Fun We Ever Had.
I received a copy of this book from W&N Books in return for an honest review.
The story draws the reader into the Briscoe family’s life and the surrounding community, of Olympus Texas, with the first few pages of vivid description and vibrant characterisation. From the outset, it’s clear they are not a happy family, but despite this bound by powerfulemotions.
The parallels with mythological characters give the story added depth and interest. The family members are driven, and in most cases, unbending. Their behaviour mirrors the attitudes of the gods they represent.
The quotes, and chapters that explore the event that define the characters, are particularly illuminating. Whilst many of the characters are unlikeable, the story is addictive and compelling. The relatively fast pacing holds the reader’s interest.
This is an original blend of family drama and ancient mythology in a setting that complements both.
Stacey Swann holds an MFA from Texas State University and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. She is a native Texan. Olympus, Texas is her first novel and will be published in the USA by Doubleday Books in May 2021.
An exclusive sample of Pandora by Susan Stokes-Chapman, featuring the first thirteen chapters.
A pure pleasure of a novel set in Georgian London, where the discovery of a mysterious ancient Greek vase sets in motion conspiracies, revelations and romance.
There is a fine line between coincidence and fate…
London, 1799. Dora Blake is an aspiring jewellery artist who lives with her uncle in what used to be her parents’ famed shop of antiquities. When a mysterious Greek vase is delivered, Dora is intrigued by her uncle’s suspicious behaviour and enlists the help of Edward Lawrence, a young man seeking acceptance into the Society of Antiquaries. Edward sees the ancient vase as key to unlocking his academic future. Dora sees it as a chance to restore her parents’ shop to its former glory, and to escape her uncle.
But what Edward discovers about the vase has Dora questioning everything she has ever known about her life, her family, and the world as she knows it. As Dora uncovers the truth she starts to realise that some mysteries are buried, and some doors are locked, for a reason.
Gorgeously atmospheric and deliciously page-turning, Pandora deals with themes of secrets and deception, love and fulfilment, fate and hope.
I received an extract of this book from Random House UK Vintage via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I have read an extract of this book, thirteen chapters, and I am intrigued to read what follows.
Set in Georgian England, the story weaves a mystical ethos as it introduces the main players of this Greek-inspired story. It centres on a recovered vase taken from a shipwreck. Pandora has aspirations to be a jewellery designer but is thwarted by misogyny. Her parents died mysteriously, leaving her in the care of her uncle Hezekiah who hasn’t respected her parents’ legacy. Edward is a young man with ambition. He wants to study antiquities and be accepted by the professional society, but his class stimies him despite being sponsored by a young aristocrat who appears emotionally attached.
The scene is set for Pandora and Edward to meet as her interest in her uncle’s latest acquisition intensifies. The extract ends as Pandora finds the vase…
This is atmospheric, with complex characters and an intriguing mystery. The legend suggests the reader can envisage what come next but can they. The historical detail and lyrical prose make this an absorbing and immersive reading experience that I would like to continue.
It’s truffle season and in the hills around Bologna the hunt is on for the legendary Boscuri White, the golden nugget of Italian gastronomy. But when an American truffle ‘supertaster’ goes missing, English detective Daniel Leicester discovers not all truffles are created equal. Did the missing supertaster bite off more than he could chew?
As he goes on the hunt for Ryan Lee, Daniel discovers the secrets behind ‘Food City’, from the immigrant kitchen staff to the full scale of a multi-million Euro business. After a key witness is found dead at the foot of one of Bologna’s famous towers, the stakes could not be higher. Daniel teams up with a glamorous TV reporter, but the deeper he goes into the disappearance of the supertaster the darker things become. Murder is once again on the menu, but this time Daniel himself stands accused. And the only way he can clear his name is by finding Ryan Lee…
Discover Bologna through the eyes of English detective Daniel Leicester as he walks the shadowy porticoes in search of the truth and, perhaps, even gets a little nearer to solving the mystery of Italy itself.
I received a copy of this book from Little Brown Books – Constable and the author in return for an honest review.
This is best described as a literary mystery with its evocative settings and lyrical writing.
Private detective Daniel Leicester is hired to find a missing truffle taster by his parents. The story details the importance of the truffle economy to this area of Italy and explores the possibilities for crime with its unregulated nature. Investigations are hampered by the terrain and the lack of information about the missing man’s plans. An unexpected death intensifies the search and put Daniel in a precarious position.
The cast of characters are well-crafted, the detective team are diverse, and there is a believable team dynamic. Told from Daniel’s viewpoint, the reader gains insight into the Italian customs and settings and astute observations on possible suspects. Cultural and historical references and sensory imagery make this an inclusive reading experience.
The mystery is well-plotted with twists and satisfying conclusion, but it’s the atmospheric quality of this story that resonates.
Tom Benjamin grew up in London and began his working life as a reporter before becoming a spokesman for Scotland Yard. He went on to work in international aid and public health, developing Britain’s first national programme against alcohol abuse and heading up drugs awareness campaign FRANK. He now lives in Bologna, Italy
Dot’s life has become a bit stuck. The big dreams she once had are beginning to fade away as she works each day in the Baker Street Lost Property office. Until one day someone enters her life and unlocks a new determination inside her. After all, everything that’s lost belongs somewhere. Maybe now it’s Dot’s turn to be found…
Twelve years ago her life veered off course, and the guilt over what happened still haunts her. Before then she was living in Paris, forging an exciting career; now her time is spent visiting her mother’s care home, fielding interfering calls from her sister and working at the London Transport Lost Property office, diligently cataloguing items as misplaced as herself.
But when elderly Mr Appleby arrives in search of his late wife’s purse, his grief stirs something in Dot. Determined to help, she sets off on a mission – one that could start to heal Dot’s own loss and let her find where she belongs once more…
I received a copy of this book from Transworld Digital via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A poignant and ultimately uplifting exploration of family, forgiveness, loss and memories. This gently paced story focuses on Dot, a young woman seemingly sidelined by life, but why? She is easy to empathise with, as she stumbles through life, with her keen insight, self-deprecating humour and sense of guilt.
The workings of a busy lost property office are vividly given life in this story, as every lost item has a history and is a cause of humour or sadness seen through Dot’s eyes. The structure and writing style are conducive to easy reading and immerse the reader in the characters and plot.
Contemporary issues concerning family, loss and mental health are woven into this lovely story, which follows Dot’s emotional journey of self-realisation to its positive conclusion and the realisation that some things are meant to be left behind.
Helen Paris worked in the performing arts for two decades, touring internationally with her London-based theatre company Curious. After several years living in San Francisco and working as a theatre professor at Stanford University, she returned to the UK to focus on writing fiction.
As part of her research for a performance called ‘Lost & Found’, Paris shadowed employees in the Baker Street Lost Property office for a week, an experience that sparked her imagination and inspired this novel.
Lost Property is her first novel.
A note from Helen:
“Although entirely a work of fiction Lost Property was influenced by the short time I spent in Lost Property, Baker Street shadowing different employees as research for a performance. Whether it’s a designer bag left in the back of a black cab or a woolly scarf forgotten on the number 44 bus, loss touches all of us. It is pervasive, and it never ends – as Dot Watson might say, ‘It’s reliable like that.’
I have always been fascinated by the memories that objects hold, how even the most every day object – a pipe, a bag, a small purse – can help us recall a place or a person or a particular time in life. Objects can be totemic, portals to the past. Tactile memory – the memories triggered by holding familiar objects – can be profound.Some objects almost let us time-travel back to the places we yearn to be, to the people no longer with us, and linger there, if only for a moment.”
“The Dream That Held US took me on an exquisite exploration if a love that crosses boundaries of time and culture.”
Angela Barton author of Arlette’s Story, Magnolia House and You’ve Got My Number
“Deeply imbued with a certain wistfulness and haunting sense of loss brought out by the end of a glorious summer… Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang’s latest novel is a sensitive and skilful exploration of love, longing, and whether life sometimes relents to give us second chances.” Osama Siddique – author of Snuffing Out the Moon
“This book carries a universal message about love and finding your way in the world. I loved it.” Angela Barton author of Arlette’s Story, Magnolia House and You’ve Got My Number
Another stunning Anglo-Indian love story from the author of The Last Vicereine, Penguin Random House 2017.
October 1985, Ash Misra leaves a blood-stained Delhi for Oxford University. Haunted by a terrible secret, he just wants to forget. Music and fresh violence bring him to fellow student and amateur violinist, Isabella Angus, but duty and the burden of history keep them apart. A quarter of a century later against the background of the global financial crisis, Sir Peter Roberts, former Master of Woodstock College, receives a letter from Ash for Isabella. They are no longer young but they had made a tryst with destiny; old terrors and suppressed desires return.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
This is an engaging story of first love betrayal and self-realisation. Isa and Ash fell in love at Oxford in the 1980s, but Ash left to return to India where his life was preordained.Reeling from his departure Isa becomes a successful artist but feels that she is going through the motions keeping her real self hidden from the world. She has boys she loves, but her marriage is distant and pedestrian and at odds with her true self. A reunion at the university forces her to think about her first love, and when they meet again the chemistry is there but can you go back, and would you want to?
The romance is gentle, but the self-realisation is deeply painful, yet ultimately positive. This is an interesting story with powerful characters and fascinating detail about different cultures and time periods.
Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang is a British author whose work focuses on cultural and historical fault lines and has strong international themes. Rhiannon was born and grew up in Yorkshire and has studied, lived and worked in Europe and Asia. She read Oriental Studies (Chinese) at Oxford University and speaks Mandarin and Cantonese. Rhiannon lives in a former farmhouse in rural England with her family.
Sometimes you have to stop trying to be like everyone else and just be yourself.
Bea Stevens and Ryan O Marley are in danger of falling through the cracks of their own lives; the only difference between them is that Bea doesn’t know it yet.
When her world is shaken like a snow-globe, Bea has to do what she does best; adapt. Homeless man Ryan is the key to unlocking the mystery of her friend Declan’s disappearance but can she and Ryan trust one another enough to work together?
As the pieces of her life settle in new and unexpected places, like the first fall of snow, Bea must make a choice: does she try to salvage who she was or embrace who she might become?
Just Bea takes the reader on a heart-warming journey from the glamour of a West End store to the harsh reality of life on the streets and reminds us all that home really is where the heart is.
I was inspired to write Just Bea as there were two occasions when women I knew said that they were tempted to offer a temporary home to a homeless man. The first was a single woman whose two children had left home for university. She came across a young man, a similar age to her absent son, who was living in a tent. It was winter and her heart went out to him. She seriously considered offering him a home rent free, until her children talked her out of it as they didn’t want their mother putting herself at risk.
Several years later a gentle, caring woman who lived in my village told me about a homeless man who had been sleeping rough in our neighbourhood. This was an unusual occurrence in our little community. This woman befriended the man, buying him food and giving him books to read. As she came to know him better, she was tempted to offer him a room in her house. Again, friends and family advised her not to do so as they felt it was unsafe.
I can understand how a compassionate woman might be persuaded to invite a homeless man into her home. Bea Stevens, the protagonist in my story has more reason than most: Ryan, the homeless man, is known and trusted by her friend Declan, Bea has had too much to drink at the office party and so her judgement is impaired, she spilt hot chocolate over Ryan’s sleeping bag, and it is snowing heavily.
‘Why don’t you sleep in my spare bedroom tonight?’ Bea blurted out and immediately regretted it. She didn’t know anything about him. But he was a close friend of Declan, and she owed it to Declan. It was too cold for Ryan to sleep outside.
Ryan looked as though he too was surprised by her suggestion. ‘Because you’re a single girl. A slightly inebriated single girl. I’ve got a little sister, about your age. I would be telling her not to let a strange man into her home on any account – no matter what the circumstances.’
But he’s not a stranger, Bea thought, and then she decided if Declan trusted him, then so could she. ‘Please. It would make me feel better about spilling hot chocolate on your sleeping bag. I could pop it in my washing machine and it’ll be dry by the morning.’
‘I’m not sure. This’ll be the booze a talking. You’ll wake up, forget you invited me in, and scream blue murder.’
They looked at each other, each weighing up the risks. The snow whirled in the light of a street lamp and Ryan pulled his jacket closer around him. ‘I’d better be off. This isn’t going to let up.’
‘That settles it,’ Bea said. ‘Come inside before we both freeze to death.’
One day when I was walking across London Bridge on my way to work, I noticed a young Mediterranean looking man huddled in a blanket. I looked closely at his face and imagined him as a tour guide, a gondolier on a Venice canal, anything but a homeless man. He could have been anything. Anyone. He mattered. At that time, I was too shy to talk to him. Further along the bridge I noticed a woman ask another homeless man whether he would like a tea or coffee. I chased after the woman and asked her whether her offer was welcomed by homeless people or refused. She assured me that it was always appreciated. From that day on, I have always offered to buy a drink and sometimes food for the people I meet who are living on the street. It has also helped me in my research. One man told me that by listening to him I had given him all that he needed.
Everyone who becomes homeless has a story. It is easy to fall through the gaps as Bea and Ryan discovered in Just Bea.
Deborah has worked as an occupational therapist, a health service manager, a freelance journalist, and management consultant in health and social care.
Her protagonists are often people who exist on the edges of society. Despite the very real, but dark, subject matter her stories are uplifting, combining pathos with humour. They are about self-discovery and the power of friendships and community.
Just Bea is her second novel. Her debut The Borrowed Boy was published last year.
Deborah lives on the Essex coast. When she is not writing she combines her love of baking with trying to burn off the extra calories.