Family means everything to Lily and Zinnia Cortez and, growing up in their non-conventional family unit, they and their two mums couldn’t have been closer.
So it’s a bolt out of the blue when Lily finds her father wasn’t the anonymous one-night stand she’s always believed. She is, in fact, the result of her mum’s reckless affair with a married man.
Confused, but determined to discover her true roots, Lily sets out to find the family she’s never known – an adventure that takes her from the frosted, thatched cottages of Middledip to the snow-capped mountains of Switzerland, via a Christmas market or two along the way…
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I’m starting to get in the festive vibe now, well it is the last day of September, and this story is a festive gem. The conflicted romance between two likeable protagonists, Lily and Issac, is at the heart of this story. Rather like a festive ‘pass the parcel’, it has so many layers, with a surprise every time you peel one-off.
There is a family drama, as Lily’s search for the other half of her family, raises hidden secrets in the other half. There tumultuous consequences. for Lily, Zinnia and their mothers. This story is wonderfully contemporary, internet dating and same-sex relationships are interwoven into the complex plot, which adds to the story’s authenticity.
A significant part of the story takes place in Switzerland, where Lily and some of the villagers, take their choir to deliver some quintessentially British Christmas cheer. This is where the title really comes into its own, The ambience, food and scenery are beautifully vivid.
The darker themes explored in this story are a good contrast to the festive frivolity and fun, It reads perfectly as a standalone, even though it features characters from the Middledip series.
The perfect book to get you in the festive mood. With family, friends and sparkling romance wrapped beautifully in a snow covered world.
Award-winning author Sue Moorcroft writes contemporary women’s fiction with occasionally unexpected themes. She’s won a Readers’ Best Romantic Read Award and been nominated for others, including a ‘RoNA’ (Romantic Novel Award). Sue’s a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner, a past vice-chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and editor of its two anthologies.
She also writes short stories, serials, articles, writing ‘how to’ and is a creative writing tutor.
The daughter of two soldiers, Sue was born in Germany and went on to spend much of her childhood in Malta and Cyprus. She likes reading, Zumba, FitStep, yoga, and watching Formula 1.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
The blurb for this book attracted me, even though I don’t usually read new adult romance, anymore. I need to think back thirty-nine years, to recognise how I would react in these circumstances, and whether I would risk everything for love, on the strength of an internet acquaintance.
There wasn’t internet in the 1980s, but I still changed the course of my life for love, after a short acquaintance, and so, the main character Lisa’s motivations are something I can relate to.
This contemporary romance is well-written, with an easy to read, style. The youth of the characters and the initial decisions they make are often immature, reading this now, but perfectly in keeping with their age group and intended audience.
Honest and relatable, this story does present our internet lovers with plenty of conflicts, which test their feelings and motivations. The twisty plot tells an engaging story, and the characters are authentic.
The first in the Lisa Millar series, it will be interesting to see what happens next.
Lasairiona McMaster grew up dreaming of an exciting life abroad, and, after graduating from Queens University, Belfast, that is exactly what she did – with her then-boyfriend, now husband of almost ten years. Having recently repatriated to Northern Ireland after a decade abroad spanned over two countries (seven and a half years in America and eighteen months in India), she now finds herself ‘home’, with itchy feet and dreams of her next expatriation. With a penchant for both travelling, and writing, she started a blog during her first relocation to Houston, Texas and, since repatriating to Northern Ireland, has decided to do as everyone has been telling her to do for years, and finally pen a book (or two) and get published while she tries to adjust to the people and place she left ten years ago, where nothing looks the same as it did when she left.
Maddie is restless in London. She
has friends, a job and a sort-of boyfriend, but something in her life is
missing. Then she visits the ancient village of Walditch, deep in the Dorset
countryside. Something stirs in her, and on a whim she buys a centuries-old cottage
and moves there three months later. Her friends think she’s crazy, but for
Maddie it feels like coming home.
Late at night in the cottage,
Maddie hears strange noises and sees mist gathering indoors and out. When she
starts investigating the cottage’s history, she becomes drawn into the tragic
story of a family who lived here 400 years ago. Meanwhile, Maddie starts to
fall in love with a local carpenter – but he has a relationship already…
Can Maddie solve the riddle of
the past? What is her connection with the family that lived there so many years
ago? And can she and her true love ever be together?
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I live in a sixteenth-century converted barn, and just standing in it, thinking how long it has stood over looking the Exmoor landscape is awe inspiring. So, I can fully appreciate the inspiration behind, this lovely timeslip romance set in Dorset.
Serendipity plays an important part in this book. I was drawn to Maddie’s story, as soon as I read about her unexplained, and out of character attraction to the old cottage, formerly a blacksmith’s, when she visited the village as part of her work. The story is cleverly written, so that Maddie’s experiences at the cottage are believable. Set in the present, as she brings her new home up to date, there are many slips into the past as historic events and a time defying love unfolds.
Maddie’s leaves a well-paid career and a glamorous life in London behind her. At a crossroads in her life she is not sure why, but as the story progresses, things start to fall into place. Her meeting and attraction to Nick is powerful but fraught with conflict. Their chance of something developing seems remote.
The characters are complex and realistic, the situations they find themselves in believable. The pacing and the timeslip element make this an absorbing read. I couldn’t put it down, literally I read it into the night.
The poignant ending is perfect, and the epilogue draws everything together in this gentle, timeslip, romantic story.
Guest Post – Kate Ryder – Secrets of the Mist
I’m so thrilled to be invited on your
guest post. Thank you!
Do you ever wish you had a second chance to
meet someone again for the first time? I have explored
this theme in Secrets of the Mist, a time slip romance that encompasses self-discovery and a great
love resonating across the ages. With
supernatural, historical and geographical overtones, it should appeal to fans
of Kate Mosse, Diana Gabaldon and Barbara Erskine.
few years ago, my husband and I moved to Cornwall and bought a derelict, 200
year old cottage. Whilst carrying out extensive
renovations and taking the cottage back to its shell, we discovered a time
capsule left by a previous owner. The
contents were fascinating, if not that old (circa 1980), and made me consider previous
occupants during the past two centuries, the lives they led and the dramas that
may have taken place within the four walls of our cottage.
Apart from spending days mixing cement,
procuring building materials and helping to install the plumbing and electrics
(must remember to add these to my CV!) I was also selling complementary health
products at country fairs throughout Devon and Cornwall. One day, a chance conversation with a fellow
trader set my creative juices flowing as she described a Dartmoor cottage she once
owned, which had an unusual, internal stained-glass window and unaccountable
cold corners. Well… that was all the
encouragement I needed!
At the time I was a member of a local
writers group and, suitably fired up, I penned a short story. The room fell silent as I read it out to my fellow
writers and all wanted to know what happened next. During this period I had to travel up to the
South East on a fairly regular basis. On
one particular trip I took a detour to Dorset and discovered the villages of
Walditch and Shipton Gorge, which became the setting for the tale. Furthermore, whilst researching the villages
and surrounding area, I uncovered historic events on which to pin the story. Three months – I mentioned I was fired up,
didn’t I? – and 85,000 words later, I had a novel!
I self-published the book as The Forgotten Promise, and this version achieved
one of the first Chill with a Book “Book of the Month” awards. I am very fortunate that Aria agreed to
publish the novel and, with further time-slip development, it is now Secrets of the Mist. Lastly, but by no means least, I must mention
the lovely cover, which has a softly haunting feel and is totally appropriate
to the story.
Kate Ryder writes
romantic suspense with a true-to-life narrative. Her passion is writing (a
period during which she studied acting only confirmed her preference for
writing rather than performing!). Since then she has worked in the publishing,
tour operating and property industries, and has travelled widely.
She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’
Association and the Society of Authors. Kate lives in Cornwall with her husband
and a newly acquired rescue cat.
In 2017 Kate signed a 4-book publishing contract
with Aria (digital imprint of award-winning independent publisher, Head of
Zeus). Her first novel, ‘Summer in a Cornish Cove’, saw her nominated for the
RNA’s 2018 Joan Hessayon award. Under its original self-published title, ‘The
Forgotten Promise’, ‘Secrets of the Mist’, was shortlisted for Choc Lit’s
“Search for a Star” and awarded a Chill with a Book “Book of the
Extract From: Secrets of the Mists – Kate Ryder
We arrived in Walditch late
morning, having first visited the Bridport estate agents, Randall & Mather,
to pick up the keys for The Olde Smithy. As we pulled up alongside Walditch
village green I noticed a few people already sitting outside the Blacksmith’s
Arms. Casually, I wondered if there might be an opportunity of work in that
Clambering down from the van, I stretched and rubbed
my hands together. ‘OK, let’s get cracking.’
Over the next couple of hours we unloaded the van, depositing
bags and furniture in various rooms. Dan hit his head several times on the low
beams of the downstairs rooms, but I had no such trouble. At five feet four
inches I was a good ten inches shorter.
‘Must have been midgets in the seventeenth century!’
he muttered, ferociously rubbing his skull.
According to Randall & Mather, the cottage dated
back to the mid-1600s, in part. The property details stated: A charming, two-bedroom period cottage situated in Walditch, a
village set deep in hilly countryside yet only a mile from Bridport and West
Bay. The Olde Smithy offers discerning buyers an opportunity to put their stamp
on a property steeped in history but with all modern-day conveniences.
The sitting/dining room, kitchen and master bedroom
were in the original part of the building, and all had heavily beamed ceilings
and uneven floors, while a two-storey extension, built during the late 1980s,
created a hallway, downstairs bathroom and first-floor guest bedroom. A small,
overgrown, cottage-style garden to the front opened directly onto the village
green and to the rear, immediately accessed from the kitchen, was a courtyard
created by a collection of outhouses, one being an outside privy. A pathway led
past the outbuildings to a further area of overgrown garden where there were
three gnarled and twisted fruit trees, in desperate need of pruning, and the
outline of a long-forgotten vegetable bed. To my delight, at the far end, was a
The day passed quickly and we busied ourselves
unpacking boxes, stacking shelves and filling cupboards. I had energy to spare.
Soon, the cottage soon took shape and by the time the elongating shadows of the
oak tree encroached upon the front garden it felt homely. Only the last
remaining packing boxes stacked in the hallway and the lack of curtains at the
windows declared me a new occupant. I made a mental note to buy fabric during
the next few days to remedy this, as I’d been unable to salvage any window
dressings from the flat. Being a Victorian conversion, the apartment had tall
sash windows to which the landlord had fitted vertical blinds.
As the day progressed, Dan regained a cheerful
disposition and his earlier melancholy evaporated. He was busy cleaning the
fireplace as I rummaged through a box in the kitchen, searching for elusive
teabags. I paused and looked around appreciatively at the beams, the flagstone
floor and the view of the courtyard through the small-paned windows. I could
already see next spring’s hanging baskets on the outhouse walls. I smiled, instinctively
knowing that all that had gone before was simply leading to this day.
‘Hey, Mads, take a look at this,’ Dan called from the
I turned and walked to the doorway. A thick haze
filled the room and I marvelled at how much dust he’d created. I was about to
suggest he let in some fresh air when I noticed all the windows were open wide.
I frowned. How strange… The room was full of fog and yet there was a strong
breeze blowing outside.
It must have been a trick of the light because, as Dan
turned, his blond hair appeared darker and longer and he seemed less tall and
lean; an altogether rougher version. I blinked and shook my head, as if
brushing away the image. As quickly as he had appeared altered, there he was,
once again, the Dan I knew.
‘What have you found?’ I walked across the room and
saw a small opening in the stonework to one side of the inglenook. ‘How did
‘One of the stones was loose. It came away quite
easily when I investigated. I think there’s something behind it.’
‘Clear away a bit more,’ I said, enthusiastically.
‘It might be a bread oven.’
Placing his long fingers into the gap, he teased away
at the stones around the opening. For a moment nothing happened but then one
suddenly shifted, coming away in his hand. There was a definite edge to the
hole. I peered inside at a hidden void.
‘Wow, how exciting!’
Without hesitation, I inserted my hand and felt
around, unsure what I expected to find, but apart from a thick layer of dust
and rubble, the alcove was empty. Disappointment flooded through me.
‘I’ll make a feature of it,’ I said. ‘I’ll visit a
reclamation yard and find a door that fits.’
‘This cottage will give up more of its secrets as
time goes by.’
As Dan spoke the words I became aware of an expectant
stillness in the air.
‘Why did you say that?’ I asked sharply.
‘Well, these old places always have secrets, don’t
they? And this one’s had four hundred years to collect them.’
Suddenly I felt hot and short of breath. Feeling
dizzy, I reached out for Dan, as if trying to hold on to something solid;
something I could trust.
He caught hold of my arm. ‘Hey, steady, Mads!’
Beads of perspiration pricked my forehead and I
struggled to hold back rising nausea.
‘You OK?’ Dan asked with concern.
‘I just need some fresh air,’ I gasped.
‘Tell you what – let’s abandon the tea thing and go
to the pub instead.’ This was his answer to most things.
‘Yeah, I could do with a drink.’
He smiled at me.
‘And dinner’s on me,’ I said weakly, hurrying towards
‘Now, there’s an offer I can’t possibly refuse, but won’t that be a tad messy?’
A family ripped asunder. A terrible secret lurks in a thrilling novel of love, grief, and mystery.
Patrick thought his grandfather, John, died before he was born. In later life, he finds out that it wasn’t true. For the first five years of Patrick’s life, they stayed in the same small village. So why were they kept apart?
Patrick wishes to search the past to find the reason – but only if he can be united with his young daughter first. And that means bringing her home to Scotland. It means journeying to France to take her away from the care of her mother, Patrick’s ex-wife.
In 1915, with the war raging in Europe, John is a young man working on the family farm. Not yet old enough to enlist but aware of its looming threat, he meets Catherine. But his attempts at courtship end suddenly when an accident rips his life apart.
Told in alternate chapters, set, mainly, in South-West Scotland, this is the dramatic story of Patrick, interwoven with John’s traumatic life.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Two men, in two time periods, both battle against their demons and life’s injustices. Patrick and John are related, and Patrick is on a quest to explore the mystery surrounding his grandfather.
Patrick is confused and unhappy, his marriage to a younger woman ends badly, and he loses contact with his daughter. His plan to reunite with her is the focus of his story. His need to find out what happened to his Grandfather equates to his need to find parallels and assume some control in his own life.
John’ story is set in Scotland during the early twentieth century. The setting and historical details of this time period are interesting and bring John’s character to life. His story is poignant. The ominous presence of World War 1, is another claustrophobic element in this part of the story.
The stories are well written and the mystery is carefully revealed, in a plot that has many twists. The male characters are complex and realistic. The female characters are much more simply drawn, perhaps because they are seen from John and Patrick’s point of view, and they both lack an intrinsic understanding of what motivates them?
A deep, and sometimes dark story of two men’s lives, with a good mystery to solve and an overriding theme of sadness and loss.
Guest Post – RR Gall – Two Tides To Turn
How Stressed Are you?
The candle is wicked. The man is rugged.
The dignitary is present to present the present to the present champion. It is
the timekeeper’s job to record the latest record.
This has been bothering me for a while now
– the lack of guidance. And I take my hat off to anyone trying to come to grips
with the rather tricky, awkward language of English. It must be extremely
difficult when given no direction on where to stress certain words. In some
ways, it is amazing how this language has become so prevalent. At the moment, more
people speak it than any other – approximately 2 billion – with native speakers
by far in the minority.
A quick scan through other languages shows
that many have steady rules on where the emphasis should be. In Spanish, unless
indicated by an accent, the stress is on the penultimate syllable if the word
ends in a vowel, or if there is a vowel followed by the letter ‘s’ or ‘n’. If
not, the stress will be on the last syllable.
In Italian, again if there is no
direction, the stress tends to be on the penultimate syllable.
And in Greek, it appears they take no
chances, shovelling on more accents than coal on the Flying Scotsman, but with
the rule that only the last three syllables are ripe, and can be picked, for stressing.
In English, we are left to fend for
One bright aspect though, I hope I’m right
in saying, is that our lack of rules makes English ideally suited for cryptic
crosswords. Such crosswords do exist in other languages, but only in a handful
of them – German, Hebrew, Italian, Hindi, and a few others.
Back to the start then. How did you get on
with the sentences?
The candle has a wick. The candle is
wicked(1) (one syllable, pronounce like tricked).
The man has a rug (or toupee, hairpiece).
The man is rugged(1) (like hugged).
(Are there any rugged(2) men who are
rugged(1)? Perhaps not – or maybe is a matter of taste. I’ll leave you to come
to a conclusion on that.)
Is beloved always a (3) or can it go to (2)?
What about crooked and aged? You might be able to come up with a few of your
own. If you do, I wouldn’t mind hearing them as I am preparing a more extensive
Wait a minute! Oh, no. Just as I was about
to pat myself on the back with my new aid to indicate pronunciation, up steps the
next sentence, and my method falls flat on its face, no use to anyone. Why didn’t
I just write: the dignitary is here to hand over the gift to the current
champion? It would have saved any confusion. Never mind.
But don’t get me started on some other baffling
In 1875, the Punch Magazine highlighted the number of different ways the letters ‘ough’ could be said in English with this sentence: “A rough-coated, dough-faced ploughman strode, coughing and hiccoughing, thoughtfully through the streets of Scarborough.”
So am I stressed about all this? A little.
And I’ll say again, to anyone taking on my native language, I doff my hat to those
learning or learned – now is that ‘learned’ with a (1) or a (2)?
RR Gall lives in Scotland and is the author of: The Case of the Pig in the Evening Suit, The Case of Colourful Clothes and Kilts, The Case of the Hermit’s Guest Bedroom Two Tides To Turn, A Different Place to Die, Only the Living Can Die.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction – Borough Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I’m always a little wary of critically acclaimed, and over-hyped books, often they are not as good as they are reputed to be. So I started this one with trepidation. Initial impressions are that is honest, raw, and full of experiences of urban life in Brisbane that do not make easy reading.
Eli and August, are brothers, their carers’ lives are driven by drugs, and the boys have to constantly battle adversity to keep the family together. Despite the family’s dysfunctionality, the love the boys feel for their mother and each other dominates this story and puts into perspective many of the bizarre and often frightening experiences they endure.
At the end of this lengthy book, there is a note from the author, about how the story came into being, what it means to him and the story’s themes. It is, on reading this that you appreciate, it is more of a memoir than fiction, although seen through a young child’s and then young boys eyes. I wish I’d read this note first because it grounds this complex story, and makes it more relatable.
There is a great deal of imagination in this story, magic if you like, which I attributed to a young boy’s need to escape from the harshness of his life, and give himself the power to overcome some its more sordid aspects.
I’m still not sure if I liked it, but the writing is engaging and authentic, the story moves forward in an understandable way, and it gives an insider view of Australian life, particularly life in Brisbane and Queensland, through a young person’s viewpoint.
The characters are the lifeblood of this story, and the author indicates that they are based on people he knows or a medley of them, in his personal and journalistic life. Many are not likeable, and the danger the children are exposed to is disturbing, but they are real, and the reality of this story is what stays with you.
An unusual tale of growing up and surviving life in a gritty urban setting. With a cast of characters, covering the spectrum of humanity, and the humour, love and magic required to reach adulthood.
Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from…
Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.
While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…
I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House – Ebury Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Reading this story is rather like opening a Pandora’s box, there are surprises, light and dark. love and hate, purity and evil, all intertwined into an epic story that keeps on giving, as you turn the pages.
I love, the clever fusion of genres, family drama, romance, timeslip, historical fact and fiction, paranormal, gothic fiction, are all part of this novel’s embroidery. Whilst, this will not be for everyone, there are many timelines to negotiate, it is compelling and worth the effort, to move out of the ease of contemporary reading into the more elaborate historical details and subterfuge.
This story works for me because of Trudy’s state of mind, she is heartbroken, without hope, and open to any experience that lessens the pain. Her maternal instinct keeps her on track, making sure Will gets the emotional and practical support he needs, but she needs more than this and discovering hidden secrets that the house gives up is part of this. She is a sensitive woman, a loner, her childhood was full of imagination and literature, and it gave her purpose and solace. Now, in her pain, she seeks the familiar and is prepared to accept whatever the house reveals, even if it sometimes defies explanation and is frightening.
This is an escapist novel, something to enthral and capture your imagination, full of emotion and a clever medley of fact and fiction, it makes you want to visit Ponden Hall, and find out if it’s as magical and troubled as it seems.
I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This story may not appeal to everyone. You have to be willing to accept the concept of parallel lives that exist but only come to your notice, if you act in a certain way. Lauren Paling as a young girl, sees snapshots of her other possible lives, she learns not to share these insights with others who don’t understand, but then she dies and the emotional rollercoaster journey begins.
In each life she is different, and although surrounded by those who love her, they may relate to her, in different ways. The stories explore, love friendship, relationships loss and grief in a poignant way.
Lauren is searching for a mystery man in each life, without knowing his significance to her, if any. This is a story that can be read more than once, and perhaps needs to be, to fully grasp everything it is about, but that might just be me?
The historical scene-setting is well done, I grew up in this time frame, and I enjoyed the mid to late 20th Century references. Each life has subtle differences to authenticate it to Lauren, as part of her struggles to accept her new present and forget what has gone before.
The plot is detailed and the characters are likeable and believable, despite the extraordinariness of the storyline. This has a uniqueness, because of its emotional content and characterisation, even though the parallel lives concept is often used in science- fiction literature.
If you enjoy variety in your reading and enjoy a lovely, out worldly story this is for you.