Every Monday, 49-year-old Ellie looks after her grandson Josh. She loves him more than anyone else in the world. The only thing that can mar her happiness is her husband’s affair. But he swears it’s over now, and Ellie has decided to be thankful for what she’s got.
Then one day, while she’s looking after Josh, her husband gets a call from that woman. And just for a moment, Ellie takes her eyes off her grandson. The accident that happens will change her life forever.
Because Ellie is hiding something in her past.
And what looks like an accident could start to look like murder.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is a psychological thriller that resonates. Whilst, it has all the expected qualities of the genre, it contains so much more. A domestic thriller and a family drama, with secrets and tragedy. Mental Health issues and homelessness are major themes woven into the hard-hitting emotional story. The unreliable protagonist Ellie is a grandmother, which affords her a certain uniqueness in this genre, but her life is riddled with neglect, trauma and self-loathing. She is someone you empathise with, as each terrible injustice and secret are revealed. The ending seems just, but there is a twist that leaves you wondering.
The plot is complex and pacy, it keeps you guessing, whilst you are reeling from the horror and injustice of the women’s lives that are explored. It confuses, it’s meant to. The story is addictive, coherent, and full of relevant examples of mental health issues, and the largely overlooked plight of homelessness. It makes you think, and worry about the society we live in.
The thriller aspect is clever and calculating, the emotion is genuine and heartbreaking, the moral issues raised are thought-provoking and worrying. You will carry this story with you, and not many books in this genre can say that.
If you think photos aren’t important… wait until they’re all you have left of your child.
Your life isn’t perfect, but you’re still happy. Your husband has stuck by you and he’s a good dad. Your daughter Becca makes your heart explode with love. And then, in the time it takes to say ‘bad mother’, there’s no longer a place for you in your own family. Your right to see your child has disappeared.
Life goes on in your house – family dinners, missing socks and evening baths – but you aren’t there anymore. Becca may be tucked up in bed in Rose Cottage, but she is as lost to you as if she had been snatched from under your nose.
Everyone knows you deserve this, for what you did. Except you’re starting to realise that things maybe aren’t how you thought they were, and your husband isn’t who you thought he was either. That the truths you’ve been so diligently punishing yourself for are built on sand, and the daughter you have lost has been unfairly taken from you. Wouldn’t that be more than any mother could bear?
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Losing your child is every parents’ nightmare, losing your child because of something you did, leaves you with a lethal cocktail of grief and guilt, and makes you wonder if you can carry on.
‘Lost Daughter’, follows Rachel’s tragic tale of being cut out of her teenage daughter’s life, because of one lapse of judgement. Written in a multi-point of view format, with flashbacks to the past, and more recent past, the story follows Rachel, and later Leona and Viv, as they try to live with themselves after being estranged from their children.
All three stories are unique, the women are from different generations, but they share a bond of guilt and loss. Two of the three main female characters in this story, Rachel and Viv are easy to empathise, they do have flaws, but that makes them believable. Leona is the hardest character of the three to empathise, but she does have redeeming features. The story has some surprising twists as the women’s lives’ become woven together.
Complex and poignant the plot engages you.This story is an emotional rollercoaster, you feel anger at the women’s acceptance of their fate, frustrated that they seem in a cycle of despair and guilt, and hopeful that through sheer determination, they are able to move forward and live rather than exist.
As a footnote, the only thing I found hard to believe is Rachel’s forgiving attitude to her self-absorbed, judgemental husband, but clearly, he is an authentic character because I disliked him so much.
Behind the hospital curtain, someone is waiting . . .
Lauren is alone on the maternity ward with her new-born twins when a terrifying encounter in the middle of the night leaves her convinced someone is trying to steal her children. Lauren, desperate with fear, locks herself and her sons in the bathroom until the police arrive to investigate.
When DS Joanna Harper picks up the list of overnight incidents that have been reported, she expects the usual calls from drunks and wrong numbers. But then a report of an attempted abduction catches her eye. The only thing is that it was flagged as a false alarm just fifteen minutes later.
Harper’s superior officer tells her there’s no case here, but Harper can’t let it go so she visits the hospital anyway. There’s nothing on the CCTV. No one believes this woman was ever there. And yet, Lauren claims that she keeps seeing the woman and that her babies are in danger, and soon Harper is sucked into Lauren’s spiral of fear. But how far will they go to save children who may not even be in danger?
Little Darlings – Blog Tour – Interview Questions – Melanie
What inspired you to write this story?
I began with a re-telling of an obscure folktale which features in the book, A Brewery of Eggshells. After a while, I started thinking about who thought it up in the first place and why. I thought maybe it was actually about postpartum depression and psychosis. Either that or fairies were real….
Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?
Characters begin as amalgamations of people I know; maybe they have one or two opinions in common with someone in real life. After a while, they become real people that live in my head, with no connection to anyone outside of it apart from the few seeds I might have used to create them. Often they are or contain aspects of myself, extrapolated.
When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?
The story comes first, and the characters are part of that; the story wouldn’t be happening to anyone else, it’s always because of something the characters are or are involved in. The setting is very important, but it tends to grow up around the story.
What made you decide to become a writer and why does this genre appeal to you?
I think writing for many people is unavoidable. However, I did make a conscious choice to switch from writing lyrics and music to writing novels, as performing never seemed to fit around my personal life. I’m so glad I did because it turns out I’m a lot more successful, for whatever reason, at writing novels than being a singer/songwriter.
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
All books! I will read anything, everything, always. If there is text in front of my eyes it gets read. In the shower, I have to turn the shampoo bottle away or I’ll keep reading the back of it, over and over.
What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?
Best thing: solitude
Worst thing: loneliness
I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review
Where to start with this unusual thriller. It is a curious mix of folklore and medicine, seen from Lauren’s point of view, she is acting sanely to ensure her babies are safe. Seen from a medical perspective she has mental health issues, most likely puerperal psychosis. The question is what do you believe, and even at the end of the story, I’m not sure.
This story resonates. In Victorian times any non-conformist behaviour was considered a mental aberration, many young women incarcerated in mental institutions, just because they had children out of wedlock, So perhaps, in this case, the truth lies somewhere in between the folklore and the medicine?
Intense and suspenseful, you are torn between Lauren’s anxiety and need to find her children, and the prospect that if she isn’t stopped innocents will suffer. It’s an intelligent thriller, with many layers and possibilities and a poignant ending that makes you wonder what if.
Lauren is an unreliable protagonist, but she is easy to empathise, even though part of you believes she may be dangerous. Harper is a complex character, a police detective, who is drawn to the case by her own history, and even though she finds answers she is still not sure she’s discovered the truth. The cast of supporting characters are essential and give the story depth and diversion.
Prefacing each chapter with folklore concerning Changelings, .the reader compare them with what is happening in the story, adding to its complexity.
This is a creepy, unsettling thriller, exploring the grey areas of mental health and the power of folklore, why did it originate, was it to explain why some mothers seemed to endanger their children, or is there a twisted truth, we don’t understand?
Brother and sister Peter and Adele Robinson never stood a chance. Dragged up by an alcoholic, violent father, and a weak, beaten mother, their childhood in Manchester only prepared them for a life of crime and struggle. But Adele is determined to break the mould. She studies hard at school and, inspired by her beloved grandmother Joyce, she finally makes a successful life for herself on her own.
Peter is not so lucky. Getting more and more immersed in the murky world of crime and gangs, his close bonds with Adele gradually loosen until they look set to break altogether.
But old habits die hard, and one devastating night, Adele is forced to confront her violent past. Dragged back into her worst nightmares, there’s only one person she can turn to when her life is on the line – her brother Peter. After all, blood is thicker than water…
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus – Aria in return for an honest review.
‘Born Bad’ is the first book in the ‘Manchester Trilogy’ series, a gritty gangland crime story set in Manchester. I have read this book after reading the other two later books, and so I knew what to expect. It was good to meet Adele and Peter in the early stages of their life, the abuse and lack of care they receive make the people they become in later life.
It’s interesting that different personalities react in diverse ways to their nurturing, or lack of it and the events in this book pave the way for the further books in the series with some surprising twists.
This is a harrowing story. Domestic abuse, neglect and violence are prominent, this is hard to read, but an essential component of this genre. The story is good and well-paced. The characters are complex, flawed and realistic.
If you are looking for a British based, organised crime series, focused on the family, this is a book and series worth reading.
Guest Post – Heather Burnside
One of the themes that feature in Born Bad is mental health. The topic of nature vs nurture interests me and I, therefore, decided to reflect this in the book. Currently, there is a lot of focus in the media on looking after our mental health so I thought it would be an opportune time to explore this issue in Born Bad.
My protagonist, Adele, is affected by mental health in many
ways. To start with we hear Adele’s grandmother, Joyce, talking about Adele’s
father, Tommy’s, side of the family and their mental health issues. She tells
Adele’s mother that Tommy comes from bad blood (hence the title Born Bad) and that he had a mad great-uncle
who was always fighting and who ended up in an asylum.
Joyce also worries that Adele’s brother, Peter, might take after Tommy’s side of the family. Joyce is quite insensitive when she refers to the issue of mental health but, when you bear in mind that this was the seventies, her view was typical at that time. Fortunately, the perception of mental health issues has changed a lot since then.
Adele and Peter have a very traumatic childhood and, as the
novel progresses, they both behave in a way that wouldn’t be considered normal
or rational. Peter’s odd behaviour is first displayed when he is lining up
caterpillars and thrashing them with a whip, taking great delight in seeing
their damaged bodies.
As he gets older Peter becomes involved in criminal
activities in which he doesn’t appear to have a conscience where his victims
are concerned. Is this because of his troubled upbringing, because of genetic mental
health issues or perhaps a combination of the two?
Adele, on the other hand, does have a conscience and she tries
to do the right thing but she is affected by forces that seem to be beyond her
control. Again, she could have been driven by an inherent condition or she
could be so severely affected by her troubled childhood that she reaches
breaking point. Research has shown that both genetics and upbringing can affect
a person’s mental health.
Adele’s mother, Shirley, also has her own problems and
relies on a diet of pills to get her through each day. However, rather than
being seen as a hereditary illness, her mental health issues stem from the
stress of being married to a drunken, violent and unfeeling man. Adele sees her
as weak but, like her grandmother, her point of view could be the result of
poor awareness in the 1970s regarding mental health issues.
Mental health covers a wide spectrum of illnesses with
varying levels of severity. The UK mental health charity, Mind, estimates that
one in four people in the UK each year experiences a mental health problem. Anxiety
and depression are amongst the most common mental health conditions, and while
some of these conditions are manageable, they also vary in severity. There are
some very serious and debilitating mental health conditions too which can greatly
affect a person’s quality of life.
I think we have come a long way in highlighting mental health issues and breaking down the taboos which have previously surrounded the subject. However, we still have some way to go both in educating people about mental health and in providing greater levels of care to those affected.
Extract From Born Bad – Heather Burnside
to Deborah’s agonised screams, Adele continued to kick as rage overtook her. It
was only the sight of the dinner lady running towards her that brought her to
as she thought about the incident, she felt remorseful. If only Debby hadn’t
decided to do something so daft. If only she could have persuaded her to stop
without losing her temper. But Debby hadn’t stopped. She shouted at her a few
times, and she still didn’t stop. That’s what she would say in her defence. She
had to pull her legs away; it was her only chance.
did she have to kick her?
was feeling desperate. Oh God, it’s no good, she thought, I’m gonna be in trouble no matter
thought about what her father’s reaction would be if he found out. She dreaded
that even more than she dreaded being summoned to see the head teacher.
sound of the bell interrupted her thoughts. It was the end of the lunch period
and Adele entered the school building in a state of trepidation, to the sound
gonna be in trouble, Adele Robinson, for what you did to Debby.’
‘Yeah,’ added another girl, ‘Miss Goody Two Shoes is gonna get done, haha.’
Mr Parry announced that she and Debby were to see the head teacher
straightaway, Adele felt her stomach sink.
Mr Parry led the two girls down the long corridor towards the head teacher’s office and told them to wait outside while he knocked on the door. After he had been inside for a few minutes, he came back out and asked Debby to go inside. He then lowered his eyes towards Adele and told her to wait there until she was called for. She noticed the look of disappointment on his face and felt ashamed. Then, with nothing further to say, he left her standing outside the head teacher’s office, trembling with fear.
After what seemed like an endless wait, Debby came out of the office and looked away from Adele as she walked past her.
shouted Miss Marchant.
was already in tears by the time she entered the office and presented herself
at the other side of the head teacher’s large desk.
then, what have you been up to?’ asked Miss Marchant.
I didn’t mean it,’ muttered Adele.
mean what? And for heaven’s sake, speak up, young lady.’
didn’t mean to hurt Debby,’ Adele sobbed.
from what I’ve been told, you’ve got a bit of a temper, haven’t you young
by now very tearful, nodded in response.
can’t hear you!’ thundered Miss Marchant.
was so worked up that she thought she would vomit at any minute. To her
surprise, just when she reached the point where she felt she might faint, the
head teacher seemed to relent.
Miss Robinson, although I don’t condone your behaviour in the playground, I
have received glowing reports from your class teacher. So, I’m going to let the
matter rest on this occasion. However, I would suggest that in future you keep
that temper of yours well under wraps.’
Miss,’ answered Adele.
quickly made for the door, feeling a mixture of relief and shame, but before
she could get to the other side, she was stopped by Miss Marchant’s stern
if I ever hear of any repeat of this behaviour, you will be punished severely!’
Miss,’ Adele replied as she dashed from the office.
to be away from the head teacher’s office as soon as possible, Adele rushed
down the corridor and into her classroom.
Parry raised his eyes from the papers on his desk and abruptly ordered Adele to
sit down in the vacant seat next to Tony Lord, who had a reputation for being
the best fighter in the school.
Adele felt everyone’s eyes on her, a tear escaped from her eye. She was greeted
by a barrage of questions from the other children sitting at the table. Adele’s
feelings of guilt and shame made her shy away from their questions, even though
she could tell they were impressed that she’d beaten Debby up.
are you crying if you won the fight?’ asked Tony, puzzled.
‘Don’t know,’ muttered Adele, dipping her head.
Read my reviews of Blood Ties and Vendetta, the other books in the series.
Heather Burnside spent her teenage years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester and she draws heavily on this background as the setting for many of her novels. After taking a career break to raise two children Heather enrolled on a creative writing course. Heather now works full-time on her novels from her home in Manchester, which she shares with her two grown-up children. Twitter Facebook
When bestselling romance author Chloe Piper’s marriage implodes a week before Christmas, she flees her cheating ex and the village gossips for the solitude of the newly built Sunny Meadow Farm and the company of her hapless dog, Ronnie.
But Chloe is soon pushed out of her comfort zone. Because with a lively development building crew – headed up by charmingAlex – and a larger-than-life neighbour determined to make Chloe’s love life her pet project, Chloe finds herself in a whole new world of chaos…
Faith drained her glass and released a lengthy contented
sigh. The log burner was still glowing orange, and shadows danced across the
floor where Ronnie now lay asleep.
‘You made the right decision to
leave Appletree and start again,’ said Faith, holding onto the stem of her
glass and eyeing it as if it might magically refill itself. ‘This house is much
nicer than your old one and William’s a complete tosser.’
Chloe didn’t respond. She was mellow
thanks to the champagne and reality was replacing the excitement of moving. It
felt strange being in a house without the memorabilia she’d been used to having
around her – the funny animal sculptures she and William had bought together
from a local artist, the teapot collection she’d started, the paintings and photographs
on their walls she’d looked at every day for the last ten years. It was gone.
The smell of the old place, the familiar creaks she’d become accustomed to: the
birds that nested every year under their guttering, the crackle of the fire in
their large open fireplace and the way she’d sink into the cushions on their
old settee were now memories and she had yet to make new ones to replace them.
It would take time. William was also memory now – a bittersweet memory.
‘It won’t last,’ Faith continued,
referring to William’s relationship with Lilly, the Swedish bombshell who was
now part of her soon-to-be ex-husband’s life. Chloe knew her friend was trying
to be supportive but she didn’t want to discuss William’s latest girlfriend.
Whether it lasted or not was irrelevant – the fact was he’d cheated on her and
not just the once. Before Lilly, there’d been others and poor dumb Chloe had
been too stupid to realise. She threw Faith a smile and pushed herself into a
‘Wine?’ she said.
Faith waved her glass in response.
Chloe caught sight of her reflection
in the large windows as she walked through to the kitchen. She ought to draw
the curtains but there was no one to overlook the house, and by the door, she
halted. There was no light pollution at all. The sky was never as inky black as
this in Appletree. There’d always been pavements illuminated by street lights
or light from people’s homes leaking into the manicured front gardens, or car
headlights strobing up and down the road. This was darkness like she’d never
experienced before and yet it wasn’t dark. As her eyes grew accustomed to it,
she saw the sky was dotted with thousands… no, millions of pinpricks of lights
from stars, and the sudden realisation took her breath away. This was
magnificent. Faith shouted out. ‘Oy, where’s that wine? You haven’t gone in
search of the sexy carpenter, have you?’ She followed her comment with a hearty
She turned from the door, catching again a glimpse of her face – pale, heart-shaped and framed with long dark brown hair – a face that had aged ten years in the last ten months. She’d never been what anyone would call pretty but she’d looked well and now-now she just looked drained. William had sucked all the joy from her, little by little at first and then towards the end, in huge amounts. If it hadn’t been for the success of her novel and Faith’s friendship, she’d have gone under. She turned away and grabbed the chilled wine from the fridge door, reached for a corkscrew in the top drawer and smiled: she’d gone to the drawer automatically, instinctively as if she’d lived here far longer than a few hours. She took it as a sign that she’d be fine and yanking the cork from the bottle she raised it victoriously towards the lounge.
‘You want a fresh glass?’
‘Damn right I do… fetch those ones
that look like fish bowls.’
Chloe grinned. Faith was already semi-drunk and would soon be demanding they opened the karaoke app on her mobile and had a sing-along. And why not? The house would probably enjoy it.
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A charming romantic comedy, with a sensitive and serious look at social anxiety disorder and its disabling effects. Christmas looms dark and dangerous for Chloe, whose husband has recently left her. A successful debut author, who suffers from anxiety, Chloe is horrified when she is identified as the author CJ Knight, and can no longer find the anonymity she needs in her village. Moving to a new development in rural Staffordshire appeals but is it too remote? Will she master her writer’s block? Can she survive Christmas with only Ronnie the dog for company?
The characters in the new development and those she meets in the singles club are complex, with their own emotional baggage but believable, there are no stereotypes here, only reflections of the people you may encounter in your daily life. The story charts Chloe’s battle against her anxiety, her courage as she learns to trust others and her emotional journey to rebuild her self-esteem through writing her second book.
There are lots of conflicts, as the genre demands, both internal and external, and many hilarious moments, especially involving Ronnie the dog. The story is gently paced and as Chloe is a likeable character you want her to find true happiness, and learn to live her life fully. There are elements in this story that many readers will relate to, which make this more than just a lighthearted love story.
A clever balance of romance, laughs and poignancy make this an enjoyable read.
As a child, Carol Wyer was always moving and relied on humour to fit in at new schools. A funny short story won her popularity, planting the seed of becoming a writer. Her career spans dry cleaning, running a language teaching company, and boxercise coaching. Now writing full-time, Carol has several books published and journalism in many magazines.
Carol won The People’s Book Prize Award for non-fiction (2015), and can sometimes be found performing her stand-up comedy routine Laugh While You Still Have Teeth.
An abrupt change; a new friendship; a dark secret…
Kind-hearted Violet has never fitted in, but despite being bullied at school is now content. She is dating ambitious Lenny, has her dream job in publishing and runs a book club at the local retirement home.
However, when her relationship with Lenny begins to falter, Violet, hurt and alone, seeks the advice of her new flatmate, Bella. She changes her image and with her head held high aims to show that she doesn’t need Lenny in her life to be happy and successful.
Her long-term friends Kath and Farah worry about Bella’s influence and slowly Violet starts to distance herself from them. When she was a child, her closest confidant and companion was a boy called Flint. Her mother didn’t approve of their closeness and he suffered a terrible end. She won’t let the same thing happen to Bella, no matter what anyone says…
Knowing You is about friendship and knowing who to trust with your deepest secrets; it’s about taking control of your life and not being afraid to stand out.
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Violet has a career she loves, and a relationship that she is happy with, the first part of this story follows her life as a children’s book editor, which is interesting, she has lots of friends mostly older than her, but they value her friendship as she does theirs.
The present-day narrative is broken up with stories from Violet’s childhood, and a particularly momentous event that takes place and effects the young girl deeply.
It’s impossible not to feel empathy for Violet as a child, and to admire what she achieves as an adult. Then something happens to change her outlook on life and the secrets of her past resurface in a dangerous adult version.
This story is beautifully written. Violet is a lovely character and you want her to realise that beauty comes from within and that she doesn’t need the opinion of others to validate her. I loved the sincerity and the easy flow of this book, it’s easy to read but it makes you think. The characters are believable, as are their motivations and actions.
Even though you may guess what is happening, you are never sure until the end. The full impact of Violet’s story resonates, and it’s a poignant and powerful message.
A curious mix of revenge fiction and family drama, this story will hold your interest until the last page.
Francine Day is a high flying lawyer about to apply for silk, ambitious and brilliant. She just needs one headline-grabbing client to seal her place as queen’s counsel … Martin Joy. The attraction is instant. Obsessive.
They embark on a secret affair, and Francine thinks she can hold it together. But then Martin’s wife goes missing. And Martin is the prime suspect. Francine is now his lawyer, lover and the last person to see Donna Joy alive.
‘Mine’ is an enjoyable read. The legal setting is interesting. The professional trust between a lawyer and client broken by the protagonist pushes her into the unreliable protagonist territory. Her mental health issues may also make her observations and perceptions questionable from the reader’s point of view.
A well written psychological thriller, regarding mystery, menace, pacing and suspense. The themes are well tried in this type of novel as are the characters; the mentally unstable obsessive mistress, the ruthless businessman for whom reputation and money is everything, but if you enjoy psychological thrillers the polished presentation of this one will please.
The mental disintegration of the Fran, the main protagonist, is realistic as are her actions, many of the choices she makes are bad, but they are understandable and therefore believable. The final chapters are atmospheric and suspenseful, aided by a wonderfully gothic setting and inclement weather.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins- Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.