What starts with the gruesome discovery of a severed head on the Tube soon becomes personal for former DI Cal Drake.
After one betrayal too many, Drake has abandoned the police force to become a private detective.
He’s teamed up with enigmatic forensic pathologist Dr Rayhana Crane and it’s not long before the case leads them to the darkest corners of the nation’s capital and in dangerously close contact with an international crime circuit, a brutal local rivalry and a very personal quest for retribution.
With the murder victim tied to Drake’s past, his new future is about to come under threat.
I received a copy of this book from Severn House Publishing in return for an honest review.
The second book of the Crane and Drake series set in London. This is an urban thriller with an enigmatic team of investigators who work in the private sector as they both have issues with the establishment. Cal Drake is an ex-detective inspector, who after a stint in undercover left the police force disillusioned. Ray Crane is a forensic pathologist estranged from her family.
The menacing atmosphere is established from the first page, as is the vibrant urban setting. The observations and characters in the early chapters give the novel a good sense of place. The plot pulls together elements from the first book in the series, and a current, seemingly unrelated case for the new investigative team. Ray’s background is exposed in this second story and the team dynamic becomes stronger.
The characters are authentic and diverse, and it’s easy to empathise with the two protagonists. The plot is intricate and cleverly layered to produce a relevant gritty thriller that exposes the crime in the city and beyond.
Parker Bilal is the pseudonym of Jamal Mahjoub, the critically acclaimed literary novelist. He is the author of the Makana Investigations series, the third of which, The Ghost Runner, was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award.
The Divinities, the first in his Crane and Drake London crime series, was published in 2019. Born in London, he has lived in a number of places, including the UK, Denmark, Spain and, currently, the Netherlands.
Alfie doesn’t forget… and he certainly doesn’t forgive. Can Nathan and Gemma’s marriage survive the mob boss’s return?
Nathan has tried to be a changed man for Gemma after they escaped gangster Alfie’s clutches, but it doesn’t take long for him to give into temptation… and now Alfie’s back to get what’s his.
Alfie doesn’t like losing. The gangster has been biding his time ever since Nathan and Gemma escaped his clutches, but he’s determined to collect his debt now. It helps that he knows about Gemma’s big secret…
Gemma’s been hiding something life-changing from her husband while they’ve been on the run. But now Alfie’s back in town, her lies could cost her Nathan… and her son.
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction in return for an honest review.
The second book in the Risking it All series concentrates on a gangland family vendetta, Gemma and Nathan have escaped, but he continues to put them in danger. Told from a multiperson viewpoint the reader understands all the main characters actions, emotions and motivations.
Gemma’s secret threatens her family and gives Alfie leverage. Nathan remains weak and self-centred and the least likeable of the three main characters. The action is swift and not graphic, and the characters are flawed and relatable.
The plot is well written and the characters vibrant making this an addictive ganglit read.
Stephanie Hart is a debut author writing in the ganglit genre. She lives in London with her family. Twitter
Sarah Parsons has a choice ahead of her. After the trip of a lifetime she’s somehow returned home with TWO handsome men wanting to whisk her away into the sunset.
Pulled in two directions across the globe, it’s making life trickier than it sounds. Her gorgeous American, Josh, wants to meet Sarah in Hawaii for a holiday to remember. Meanwhile silver fox, James, plans to wine and dine her in London.
It’s a lot to handle for this Aussie girl, who had totally sworn off men!
Join Sarah after her adventure in One Summer in Santorini, for the heart-warming and uplifting third novel in The Holiday Romance series.
I received a copy of this book from One More Chapter and the Author in return for an honest review.
The love triangle that left us guessing at the end of One Summer in Santorini is back, and it’s decision time for Sarah. You need to read book one to find out how she meets James and Josh, but there is enough backstory to clue you into her dilemma.
The story takes place in London with James, Hawaii with Josh and then New Zealand and Australia. The travel is descriptive and gives this romantic comedy its edge. Sarah is a little like a child in a sweet shop wanting both, having both and then not sure which she likes best. However, her emotional journey is insightful. She decides, but is it who you thought? I confess to being slightly disappointed with her choice, but it’s the right one for her.
The characters are flawed and relatable there are lots of humorous moments which are easy to visualise and then there’s the romance what more do you need? Lovely.
I’m a writer and traveller with a lengthy bucket list and cheeky sense of humour, and many of my travel adventures have found their way into my books. I’m also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover, and a coffee snob, though my writing is mostly fuelled by copious mugs of strong, milky tea (no sugar).
Before Roxy found herself “Single in Buenos Aires,” she was a single girl in London in search of true love. The third instalment of The Polo Diaries series takes us back to that time, and we follow Roxy as she hires a love coach to help her navigate the dating scene. But the love coach comes up with an unexpected assignment: reconnect to a long-forgotten passion. For Roxy this means horses. Within weeks, she finds herself playing polo, thanks to a series of unforeseen events.
Torn between her desire to become the best polo player she can be and the dream of falling in love, Roxy steps fully into the exciting and demanding world of polo, where injury and recovery mix with hard training, and where celebrating the victory of a tournament comes at a high price. Will Roxy eventually become the polo player she dreams to be? And with polo being such a demanding sport, can there be any space left for love?
Roxana Valea -Find your passions or they’ll find you!
When I was ten, I had a dream. I wanted to ride horses. I didn’t own a horse and didn’t know anyone who did. I had no idea where this wish came from but it was there, coming to visit my dreams at night. I dreamed of riding horses.
My parents were not very open to the idea and it took a couple of years of convincing before they eventually took me to a club where I could learn how to ride. I met Samurai there, the first horse I ever rode. He was a black gelding, old and slow. Perfect for children, my trainer told my parents.
Samurai and I spend that summer together. I came to ride three times a week and felt my heart bubbling with excitement every time I met him. I saved apples and carrots for him but he couldn’t care less. For him, I was just another twelve-year-old learning to ride. I took a fall or two and made sure I concealed all evidence from my parents. I didn’t want to endanger my newly found passion and I was afraid if my parents found out about my falls, they would put a stop to all this.
But, in the end, it was I who put a stop. Winter came and we didn’t ride in the winter and by the following spring I had to focus on my exams and I somehow forgot about Samurai andthe riding club. He came into my mind a few times but every time I was pushing the thought further and further away and other things became more important. A new school, dresses, music. Friends. Going to university. More friends. More dresses. Holidays. And later, work. Career. Money. No time. Very little time, actually. No time for this type of things, anyway.
How often do we treat our passions that way? They come to us in childhood and draw us in with inexplicable force. They make us feel alive, whole, excited. We try them on and love every minute of the experience. But then, other things get in the way and we learn to live life as defined by others. We go on following a path that has been prescribed for us, leaving behind the passion we had found and sometimes a piece of our own soul with it.
But passions discovered in childhood don’t go away. They wait patiently in the dark corners of our mind, the places we have pushed them into. They wait and germinate and every now and then send a signal from down there. “Are you ready?” they ask. “Are you ready to come back to me?”
If we’re not, they don’t get angry. They keep on waiting. They’re patient, these passions. They know something we haven’t learned yet: they know they are part of our soul and there’s no way we can cut them out for good.
And year after year we keep them locked down there. Until one day. Because there’s always one day when things change. One day when we come face to face with this long-forgotten passion.
For me it happened in an office, in my mid-thirties, while I was working for a large multinational company. I had a meeting with a colleague to discuss the upcoming launch of a new technology. She worked in the legal department. I was a project manager. I headed over to that meeting carrying my laptop in one hand and the printed launch schedule in the other. My mind was busy recapping all the points we needed to cover during the meeting. The launch was near and I wasn’t going to let anything get in its way.
But something did. As I entered the meeting room she wasn’t there. I waited for a few minutes, feeling irritation bubbling up. I didn’t have any time to waste. And then, just as I wanted to leave, she came in walking slowly.
“Sorry for being late.” she said. “I can’t walk properly. I’ve got muscle pain. I had a riding lesson yesterday.”
And so, with no notice, no time to prepare and no possibility of denial, my old passion walked slowly back into my life. And the following week I went riding with my colleague.
And if you want to know more about what happens when you reconnect to an old childhood passion, read The Polo Diaries Series!
Roxana Valea was born in Romania and lived in Italy, Switzerland, England and Argentina before settling in Spain. She has a BA in journalism and an MBA degree. She spent more than twenty years in the business world as an entrepreneur, manager and management consultant working for top companies like Apple, eBay, and Sony. She is also a Reiki Master and shamanic energy medicine practitioner. As an author, Roxana writes books inspired by real events. Her memoir Through Dust and Dreams is a faithful account of a trip she took at the age of twenty-eight across Africa by car in the company of two strangers she met over the internet. Her following book, Personal Power: Mindfulness Techniques for the Corporate World is a nonfiction book filled with personal anecdotes from her consulting years. The Polo Diaries series is inspired by her experiences as a female polo player–travelling to Argentina, falling in love, and surviving the highs and lows of this dangerous sport.
Roxana lives with her husband in Mallorca, Spain, where she writes, coaches, and does energy therapies, but her first passion remains writing.
Natasha Mayston wasn’t expecting anyone to knock on her door so late at night. And she has no idea that the face staring back at her is the last one she’ll ever see…
As Detective Dan Lockhart is called to a wealthy London street to investigate Natasha’s death, he’s startled by the similarity to a previous case. Noticing the cable-tie restraints and the tiny scratches on Natasha’s wedding finger, Dan already knows what he will find if he looks in her mouth – the metal ball which choked her to death. He knows Natasha isn’t the killer’s first victim and is certain that he will strike again.
Months earlier, Kim Hardy was found in the same position in a run-down hotel across the city – an identical silver ball in her throat. But Kim’s murderer was caught and sent to prison – did they arrest the wrong man? And what connects the two victims? Fearing that he’s dealing with a psychopathic serial killer, Dan calls in psychologist Dr Lexi Green to help him to get into the perpetrator’s mind. Tough and smart, Lexi will stop at nothing to hunt down the man responsible for the deaths.
Then, another body is discovered, just as Lexi finds a clue online leading to the killer. Dan’s team aren’t convinced, but in pushing Lexi away from the investigation, they force her to dig further into the case on her own. Convinced that she’s on to something, she puts herself in unthinkable danger… but can Dan piece together the clues and identify the killer before it’s too late?
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A powerful fusion of police procedural and psychological suspense underpins this story to good effect. The beginning draws the reader into an unknown killer’s world. The killer’s on a crusade against women determined to impress their protector. The sense of menace felt from the start builds with the suspense, as the investigation continues and the deaths escalate.
Lockhart is a complex protagonist with emotional and mental health issues which he tries to address through therapy where he meets psychologist Lexi Green. The two characters make a connection that draws them together, on a professional level, and given the right circumstances, personally too.
Calculated grisly crimes make detection difficult. The impactful ending resonates.
Because in thedarkest days of the Blitz, love is more important than ever.
It’s February 1942 and the Americans have finally joined Britain and its allies. Meanwhile, twenty-three-year-old Francesca Fabrino, like thousands of other women, is doing her bit for the war effort in a factory in East London. But her thoughts are constantly occupied by her unrequited love for Charlie Brogan, who has recently married a woman of questionable reputation, before being shipped out to North Africa with the Eighth Army.
When Francesca starts a new job as an Italian translator for the BBC Overseas Department, she meets handsome Count Leonardo D’Angelo. Just as Francesca has begun to put her hopeless love for Charlie to one side and embrace the affections of this charming and impressive man, Charlie returns from the front, his marriage in ruins and his heart burning for Francesca at last. Could she, a good Catholic girl, countenance an illicit affair with the man she has always longed for? Or should she choose a different, less dangerous path?
I received a copy of this book from Atlantic Books -Corvus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
London in 1942 and the nightly bombings continue. Life goes on for the Brogans in the East End, but it is never easy. There’s a web of deceit, lies and secrets as the family try to get through the war. The complex characters and authentic historical setting make this an engaging read.
The story portrays the sense of community and the effects of rationing believably. Getting ready for a family wedding has its problems. Francesa, a close family friend, is torn between new love and requiting a long-held desire.
This is an easy book to like. It’s another excellent chapter in a relevant relatable wartime saga.
Jean Fullerton is the author of twelve novels all set in East London where she was born. She also a retired district nurse and university lecturer. She won the Harry Bowling Prize in 2006 and after initially signing for two East London historical series with Orion she moved to Corvus, part of Atlantic Publishing and is halfway through her WW2 East London series featuring the Brogan family.
When Mia inherits her beloved grandmother’s summer cottage, Birch Thorpe, in Sweden, she faces a dilemma. Her fiance Charles urges her to sell and buy a swanky London home, but Mia cannot let it go easily. The request to carry out an archaeological dig for more Viking artefacts like the gold ring Mia’s grandmother also left her, offers her a reprieve from a decision – and from Charles.
Whilst Mia becomes absorbed in the dig’s discoveries, she finds herself drawn to archaeologist Haakon Berger. Like her, he can sense the past inhabitants whose lives are becoming more vivid every day. Trying to resist the growing attraction between them, Mia and Haakon begin to piece together the story of a Welsh noblewoman, Ceri, and the mysterious Viking, known as the ‘White Hawk’, who stole her away from her people in 869 AD.
As the present begins to echo the past, and enemies threaten Birch Thorpe’s inhabitants, they will all have to fight to protect what has become most precious to each of them…
I received a copy of this book from Headline Books in return for an honest review.
Atmospheric and romantic this is timeslip romantic novel covers the time spectrum from the days of Vikings to the present day. Mia inherits a Swedish cottage from her grandmother, she wants to keep it, but her partner wants her to sell so he can maintain his social-climbing lifestyle in London. The cottage is of archaeological significance and Mia agrees to the dig, to give her time to reach her decision.
Meeting archaeologist Haakon proves to be a meeting of minds and inevitably the chemistry between Mia and Haakon sizzles. As the dig progresses echoes of the past emerge, and the forbidden love of Ceri and Viking, White Hawk flows across time. Both stories are engaging and focus on the impossibility of the romances.
Rich in historical detail, these stories have a believable sense of place and time. The characters are complex and coupled with the vivid imagery, this story is a sensual delight. Echoes of danger, intrigue, and timeless love, make this timeslip romance an addictive absorbing read.
Christina Courtenay lives in Herefordshire and is married with two children. Although born in England, she is half Swedish and was brought up in Sweden. In her teens, the family moved to Japan and she had the opportunity to travel extensively in the Far East and other parts of the world.
Christina is a former Chairman of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and has won several of their prizes – the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy for a historical short story in 2001, the Katie Fforde Bursary in 2006 and the RoNA for Best Historical in 2012 and 2014 (see below).
Her debut novel Trade Winds, a historical romance and adventure story, was short-listed for the Pure Passion Award for Best Historical Fiction 2011. Her second novel, The Scarlet Kimono, received the Best Historical Fiction prize for the Big Red Read 2011. Her novels Highland Storms and The Gilded Fan both won the RoNA (Romantic Novelists Association Award) for Best Historical Romantic Novel (Highland Storms in 2012 and The Gilded Fan in 2014), while The Silent Touch of Shadows (time slip) won the Festival of Romance award for Best Historical in 2013.
Christina also writes contemporary YA and New England Rocks was shortlisted for the RoNAs in the YA category in 2014. (The second book in the series, New England Crush, was published under a different name – Pia Fenton.)
As well as her novels, Christina has had four Regency novellas published, all available in Large Print and as ebooks.
Her hobbies include genealogy, archaeology (the armchair variety), listening to loud rock music and collecting things. She loves dogs, reading and chocolate.
Gemma is about to risk it all for the man she loves. Will she survive entering into a life of crime?
Gemma has always been there for Nathan. He’s the love of her life and she made a commitment to him, one she’d never consider breaking… until smooth-talking gangster Alfie Watson comes into their lives and changes everything.
Alfie doesn’t care about true love – he wants Gemma, and the gangster always gets what he wants. When Nathan ends up owing him money, Alfie gets payback by recruiting Gemma to carry out a jewellery heist. To everyone’s surprise, she’s a natural. Until Alfie forgives Nathan’s debt, she has no choice but to accompany the gangster on more and more daring heists – even though one slip-up could cost her everything.
Nathan might have fallen under Alfie’s spell, but it doesn’t take long for him to realise that he needs to save Gemma from his own mistakes if their marriage is to have any chance of surviving. But when that means taking on the East End’s most notorious gangster at his own game, will he find himself up to the challenge?
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Fast-paced and detailed, this ganglit novel follows Gemma and Nathan’s fall into crime. Is it because of Nathan’s mistake? Or does, gangland boss Alfie have a sinister agenda?
The violence is mostly implied, rather than implicit in this book, which is unusual for this genre. The underlying menace is always there, as the couple’s enforced stealing spree, takes in Europe’s most glamorous cities. Told, from the three main characters points of view, you gain insight into each characters’ motivations.
Gemma follows her heart, she gave up a lot for Nathan and continues to do so. She’s intelligent and you may wonder why she sticks with such a selfish man. Love makes fools of all of us, and Nathan is Gemma’s weakness.
Nathan is irritating. He says, he loves Gemma, but he continues to drag her down and lacks the insight, to see what he is doing. Seeing the events unfold from his point of view, you do understand why he behaves as he does, but he is weak, and hard to empathise.
Alfie is the archetypical hard guy. His agenda is the reason Gemma’s life is in turmoil, but she proves to be a challenge, which leads to some unexpected outcomes for him.
An interesting read, which opens the door for more stories of Gemma, Nathan and Alfie.
Author Interview: Stephanie Harte – Risking It All
What inspired you to write ‘Risking It All?
My inspiration for the novel came from an article I’d read about a man who lost everything, including his wife and children, when his gambling addiction took over his life. I love to travel and have a huge interest in gangland crime, so I wanted to create a story that incorporated those elements as well.
When you begin a new story, what is the first thing you develop; characters, plot or setting? Why is this?
I develop a rough plot first. I like to know where the story is going before I create my characters. But when I start to write, the plot occasionally changes course along the way as the characters sometimes take it on a path I hadn’t originally planned.
What is the unique selling point of your story? What do you hope will make it stand out in the gang-lit genre?
In Risking It All, my heroine is forced to become a jewel thief to clear her husband’s debt. I hope the fact that I’ve written the story from the viewpoint of the three main characters will make it stand out in the gang-lit genre.
Do you find it easy or difficult to write dialogue? How do you make it sound natural and believable?
I like writing dialogue. I try to give each character their own distinct voice, to match their personality, to make the dialogue sound natural and believable.
What is the best thing about being a writer? Are there any negatives?
I like being able to work from home. It’s a big bonus as I get to spend all day with my dog while I’m doing something that I love. I haven’t encountered any negatives so far. In my experience, the writing community have been very supportive.
Do you enjoy reading? What are you reading at the moment?
I love reading. I’m currently reading Queenie by Kimberley Chambers.
What are currently writing?
I’m currently writing the third book in the series.
Stephanie Hart is a debut author writing in the ganglit genre. She lives in London with her family. Twitter
Lena Szarka, a Hungarian cleaner working in London, is forced to brush up on her detective skills for a third time when her cousin Sarika is plunged into danger.
Sarika and her reality TV star boyfriend Terry both receive threatening notes. When Terry stops calling, Lena assumes he’s lost interest. Until he turns up. Dead. Lena knows she must act fast to keep her cousin from the same fate.
Scrubbing her way through the grubby world of reality television, online dating and betrayed lovers, Lena finds it harder than she thought to discern what’s real – and what’s just for the cameras.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
‘A Messy affair’, is the third book in ‘The Lena Szarka Mysteries’, but reads well as a standalone. It is an enjoyable read, and now, I want to read the first two in the series.
Lena, an enterprising Hungarian woman living in Islington, London, has a talent for business, unwavering loyalty to family and friends and undoubted skill as an amateur sleuth. She has a sharp wit, and an intelligent mind, and reading the story through her eyes is a joy. All of the characters are believable, and fulfil their roles in the story well.
The plot follows a murder mystery style and has elements of a cozy mystery. The urban setting and contemporary themes, give it an edginess, which is original and will appeal to a younger audience.
Lena is not a reality TV fan but finds herself embroiled within it. Her thinking is astute, and I like how she theorised, in her bid to find the antagonist. There are numerous suspects and many twists, I did work it out but coupled with the drama, humour and final suspense, this was a satisfying experience, and I look forward to Lena’s next adventure.
Elizabeth Mundy’s grandmother was a Hungarian immigrant to America who raised five children on a chicken farm in Indiana. Elizabeth is a marketing director for an investment firm and lives in London with her messy husband and two young children. She writes the Lena Szarka Mysteries, featuring a Hungarian cleaner as a detective.
Ophelia Street, 1970. A street like any other, a community that lives and breathes together as people struggle with their commitments and pursue their dreams. It is a world we recognise, a world where class and gender divide, where set roles are acknowledged. But what happens when individuals step outside those roles, when they secretly covet, express desire, pursue ambitions even harm and destroy? An observer in the midst of Ophelia Street watches writes, imagines, remembers, charting the lives and loves of his neighbours over the course of four seasons. And we see the flimsily disguised underbelly of urban life revealed in all its challenging glory. As the leaves turn from vibrant green to vivid gold, so lives turn and change too, laying bare the truth of the community. Perhaps, ultimately, we all exist on Ophelia Street.
I received a copy of this book from Urbane Books in return for an honest review.
Set mainly in 1970, in London, on a typical cul-de-sac, of the time. The story’s narrator is a young reporter, who is new to Ophelia Street, and the story, divided into the four seasons of 1970 are his impressions of the people and households he shares the street with.The narrator is a shadowy character, you don’t think about him, as the story draws you into its urban tale.
The book is beautifully written, lyrical, but what it depicts and explores is often poignant, and sometimes horrifically violent. The tragedy and violence creep up. You are not prepared for something so terrible, in amongst live’s relentless ordinariness. The impact of these events resonates.
Many of the characters are not easy to like, but you do empathise with their situation. Some of the relationships are strange, and sometimes sinister, and gut-wrenchingly sad.
The time period is faithfully represented. The sexual discrimination, misogyny and social class divide are evident. The depth of despair this period represents, with its collapse of Britain’s industrialisation, strikes and mass unemployment, add to the sense of hopelessness and inevitability this London street represents.
The literary fiction lovers will appreciate the purity of this book, the characters are complex and real, the exploration of community and humanity under pressure is engaging. If you enjoy reading, to experience how others feel and live, this book will meet your needs.
John Simmons is an independent writer and consultant. He runs Writing for design workshops for D&AD and the School of Life as well as Dark Angels workshops. He has written a number of books on the relationship between language and identity, including The Writer’s Trilogy We, me, them & it, The invisible grail and Dark angels. He’s a founder director of 26, the not-for-profit group that champions the cause of better language in business, and has been writer-in-residence for Unilever and Kings Cross tube station. In 2011 he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the University of Falmouth in recognition of outstanding contribution to the creative sector. He initiated and participated in the writing of a Dark Angels collective novel Keeping Mum with fifteen writers. It was published by Unbound in 2014. He is on the Campaign Council for Writers Centre Norwich as Norwich becomes the first English City of Literature. John also wrote the compelling novel Leaves, which was published by Urbane in 2015
Spanish Crossings was published in March 2018 and The Good Messenger in September 2018.