I’m happy to share the cover for a new #ganglit novel due out on 23 January 2020. Look out for my #review and a Q&A with Stephanie Harte on Publication Day, here when I kick off the blog tour in the new year.
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
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?
Book one of NOLA Knights, the heart-stoppingly sexy spin-off series by Men of Haven author Rhenna Morgan
His world. His rules. Her love.
Though his methods may be rough, when it comes to
protecting what’s his, Russian vor Sergei Petrovyh’s heart is always in the
right place. That’s never been more true than when the gorgeous Evette Labadie
asks him for a job. He knows enough to keep his hands off someone as beloved by
the locals as Evie, but there’s something about her that calls to him—no matter
how badly he burns to make her his.
Don’t think Evie hasn’t noticed the powerful Russian
mafia boss who makes her favorite diner a regular stop. How can she not? He’s
as hot as his reputation is dangerous. But everyone in her struggling New
Orleans neighborhood knows he’s the man to turn to. And right now she needs
money to get her son out of trouble.
Her other needs—needs she knows damn well Sergei can
more than satisfy—will have to wait.
Evie soon finds herself playing Cinderella to a man
who, despite what people believe, is definitely more prince than villain. She
can’t help falling deeper in love with each passing day. But when a turf war
between Sergei and a rival brings violence to her doorstep, Evie must come to
grips with loving a man who will do anything to defend her…or walk away from
her best chance at a happily-ever-after of her very own.
I received a copy of this book from Carina Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This story will draw lovers of contemporary fairytale romance in, like nectar to a bee.
Evie’s strength comes across in the first pages. She’s lost her job, but she has to find another immediately. Her son needs his schooling, and that costs. As the story progresses her character matures, her son is still the centre of her world, but now she realises her actions have consequences, what she has to decide is can she accept them?
Sergei, is an enigmatic man, physically commanding, this is a reflection of his inner strength. He protects those he values, but he is complex and not a good man, in the conventional sense. Organised crime and protection are his worlds, and whilst he would love Evie in his personal life, he keeps her to the fringes, not wanting to sully her.
This a ‘Cinderella’ type romance, but like all true fairytales, it isn’t all hearts and flowers. Crime, danger and violence are part of Sergei’s world. Evie struggles, but she is honest and law-abiding and has her son to think of. Can the chemistry they both feel ever be something more permanent?
The conflicts in this story are realistic and pose moral questions. Should Evie expose her son to a world of crime? Evie has made poor decisions in the past and is determined not to repeat them. So, the chances for a happy ever after for her and Sergei seems remote.
Despite the criminal ethos, the focus is on Evie’s struggle to find a better life for her son. Currently, they live in a poor, high crime area, where he is likely to be drawn into gangs and crime, simply because of where he lives.
Then there’s the romance…
The romance is gentle and courtly, in contrast to the sizzling chemistry. This makes it realistic, because Sergei, doesn’t want to hurt Evie in any way, and Evie has to decide if falling in love with a man like him, is worth the risk.
Compulsive chemistry, realistic contemporary issues and a gentle love story, make this an engaging modern fairytale romance.
A native Oklahoman, Rhenna Morgan is a certified
romance junkie. Whether it’s contemporary, paranormal, or fantasy you’re after,
Rhenna’s stories pack romantic escape full of new, exciting worlds, and strong,
intuitive men who fight to keep the women they want. For advance release news
and exclusive content, sign up for her newsletter at http://RhennaMorgan.com.
You’ll also find all of her social links there, along with her smoking hot
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
DI Kelly Porter is back, but so is an old foe and this time he won’t back down…
When a teenage girl flings herself off a cliff in pursuit of a gruesome death, DI Kelly Porter is left asking why. Ruled a suicide, there’s no official reason for Kelly to chase answers, but as several of her team’s cases converge on the girl’s school, a new, darker story emerges. One which will bring Kelly face-to-face with an old foe determined to take back what is rightfully his – no matter the cost.
Mired in her pursuit of justice for the growing list of victims, Kelly finds security in Johnny, her family and the father she has only just discovered. But just as she draws close to unearthing the dark truth at the heart of her investigation, a single moment on a cold winter’s night shatters the notion that anything in Kelly’s world can ever truly be safe.
Guest Post – Rachel Lynch Will DI Kelly Porter always stay in the Lake District?
With Kelly’s experience, it’s always possible that someone like her would be seconded or invited to join or help out elsewhere. Constabularies regularly share resources, and of course, crime is often national and even international (like in Dark Game). I can see Kelly going back to London, and I can also picture her further afield. Her reputation has grown over four books and continues to do so.
The settings so far have created a credible, dark and
mysterious world of crime that is different to that found in cities, but Kelly
will find herself in demand elsewhere in the future, that is certain. She is
eminently capable of helping other agencies too, such as government departments
and the military. Police procedural theory is always developing, as crime- and
criminals- become more daring and complex to evade ever tightening laws and
methods to catch them. Kelly loves catching criminals, who invariably think
themselves cleverer than the system. She also champions the families of the
victims, who suffer much longer after a crime has been solved.
The crime genre is a fluid one, and the illegal activity
contained within doesn’t have to always be the most shocking and depraved acts-
it can be about issues such as domestic abuse, school bullying, drug taking,
theft, embezzlement or arson. It’s the interplay between the protagonist and
the antagonists that is important to me. The criminal always sees themselves as
one step ahead of Kelly, but their confidence always quickly unravels as she
identifies even the smallest of mistakes. Like any human undertaking: crime
isn’t an exact science, and there are too many variables to go wrong:
technology, forensics, traitors, money trails, accidents and witnesses.
As long as Kelly Porter investigates serious crime, she’ll
take on cases large and small, because that’s what stokes the fire in her
belly. She’s seen too many devastated relatives, friends, brothers, mothers and
children to let any criminal get the better of her.
And she can do it anywhere!
Thank you for reading
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Starting with a tragic event, the reader is still reeling, when a young child faces danger at a fairground. This story deals with every parent’s worst nightmares.
The Lake District setting and weather is an important part of the story as three seemingly unconnected events, form part of the puzzle Kelly Porter has to solve.
The police and forensic procedure is an interesting part of the fast-paced plot, which is full of twists, clues, action, and emotional angst. The crime is contemporary and demonstrates the worrying infiltration of organised crime into rural areas.
Kelly Porter continues to be a great character, clever, and finally coming to terms with her personal demons. The police team and her family provide believable supporting roles and the antagonists are convincingly immoral and driven by money at the expense of human life.
I can’t wait to see where this series goes next.
Rachel Lynch grew up in Cumbria and the lakes and fells are never far away from her. London pulled her away to teach History and marry an Army Officer, whom she followed around the globe for thirteen years. A change of career after children led to personal training and sports therapy, but writing was always the overwhelming force driving the future. The human capacity for compassion as well as its descent into the brutal and murky world of crime are fundamental to her work. Twitter: @r_lynchcrime
An eye for an eye. Cabhan Morton wants to leave the Russo crime family for good and live in peace with his daughter, Alice Rose. But the Russos won’t let him walk away without a fight.
A tooth for a tooth. Franny Doyle would do anything for Cabhan and Alice, but helping them escape the vindictive Russo brothers won’t be easy. The only place they’ll be safe is back in Essex with Alfie Jennings.
A daughter for a daughter… Franny knows she won’t be welcomed by Alfie with open arms – but she doesn’t have a choice. The Russos are out for blood and they won’t stop until Alice is dead…
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I haven’t read any of the author’s previous books, and so this affects my review of Fatal. As a standalone, the story works, but the characters don’t, you need to know their stories before the events in Fatal, and so to fully appreciate this story read Toxic first.
The story is fast- paced, violent and focused on the seedier side of life. This gives it the necessary authenticity for a gangland novel. Believable characters and a realistic plot make this an adrenaline packed read.
If you are a fan of gritty, organised crime based thrillers this will excite you.
He knows the man is guilty. And he will do anything to prove it…
PC Gareth Bell watches the psychopath who stabbed Bell’s partner stroll out of court a free man. Somebody on the inside tampered with the evidence, and now one of Brighton’s most dangerous criminals is back on the streets again.
Bell’s personal mission for revenge takes him onto the other side of the law and into the dark, violent underworld of the glamorous seaside city. Soon he faces a horrifying choice: risk everything he holds dear, or let the man who tried to kill his partner walk free.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins- Killer Reads via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Brighton, popular holiday destination since the Regency times. Known for its cafes, bars and the fabulous shopping, but beneath the surface is a criminal world that preys on the vulnerable.
Gareth Bell is a policeman with a mission, to bring to justice the man who almost killed his partner, but how far will he go and what is he prepared to risk to achieve his aim?
One event leads Gareth Bell, the protagonist on a path that blurs the line between right and wrong. Gareth’s actions and motivations are realistic. Violent scenes are common in this novel and a little repetitive, probably as it is all seen from Gareth’s point of view.
This is a fast-paced, authentic police procedural. It is full of action but there are also details of police procedurals, which are an intrinsic part of the job and often hamper the capture of criminals, in the main protagonist’s opinion.
If you enjoy police procedurals this has lots of it, which should appeal. The dilemma and its fallout makes for an interesting plot and provides insight into PC Gareth Bell’s character, and I look forward to the next book in the series.
Best friends Tommy Boyle and Scratch always had each other’s backs. Dragged up in care, and cruelly betrayed by everyone they trusted, they made a pact to fight their way out of the gutter – together.
TWO SIDES OF THE LAW
Old loyalties die hard on the streets of London. Tommy throws his lot in with the notorious Darling family – even if it means leaving Scratch to the wolves. She’s destined for a different path, reinventing herself as copper Kim Regan.
ONE DEADLY SHOWDOWN
Now they’re on opposite sides of the law. Running Operation Sting, Kim will rip the heart out of the Darling’s empire – and only her old pal Tommy stands in her way.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction- Harper Collins via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
What I love about this story is the author lets you live your characters’ lives, and find out what made them the people they are, before launching into the present day story.
Set in the seventies and eighties, Tommy and Scratch’s lives are full of tragedy, finding each other is the only light in their dark, young lives. Then events take over and instead of them against the world, they find they’re pitted against each other.
The characters are believable but not always likeable. The motivation for their actions is always clear. This story does highlight the horror of child abuse, which is never an easy subject to read, but it is dealt with sensitively. The abuse the two main characters suffer is integral to their future character development and initially defines the adults they become.
‘The Sting’ is cleverly written, with a unique mix of poignancy and violence. Tommy is an anti-hero and a victim of abuse. The story doesn’t end well, it couldn’t with such a believable plot, but there is hope for some and a lovely twist at the end.
When Adele’s brother, Peter, gets banged up for GBH she reluctantly agrees to run his nightclub, The Golden Bell. Strong opposition from Peter’s thuggish number two, Glynn, who isn’t best pleased about answering to a woman, isn’t the only challenge she faces.
The Manchester club scene of the 1990s is a dangerous place, at the mercy of illicit protection rackets and rampaging gangs, and, despite Adele’s efforts to keep everything legal, the club is beginning to feel like a poisoned chalice.
Meanwhile, Glynn is playing his own ruthless game, and when a savage gang attack has devastating consequences, Adele is ready to walk away. But Peter has always stood by her, and she owes him big time. Besides, where else would an ex-con find work? And someone has to protect her brother’s empire from his enemies. Right now, Adele knows she is the only one that Peter can trust, but the stakes may soon get too high…
‘Adele was standing at the bar of the Golden Bell chatting with her bar manager, Paula, when she noticed the time.
‘It’s ten past. Is Cindy due in tonight?’ she asked.
‘Yeah and it’s the second time she’s been late this week,’ said Paula, rolling her eyes in exasperation.
Adele nodded, saying nothing, but her face showed the anger she felt as she pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes. Cindy’s tardiness wasn’t the only thing that was bothering her. Ever since Cindy had started seeing Glynn a few weeks ago, she had been taking more and more liberties. Adele was fed up with it, as were the bar staff, and she knew it was time to put a stop to Cindy’s impudent behaviour.
Another five minutes passed before Cindy drifted in amidst a haze of cheap, cloying perfume. She slowly undid her coat buttons in a tantalising fashion as she entered the bar area.
‘Can I have a word?’ asked Adele, the lines on her forehead forming a frown.
‘In a minute,’ said Cindy, unconcerned. ‘Let me just put my things in the back first.’
It was a while before Cindy emerged from the staff area behind the bar and Adele could see that her hair was newly teased and her lipstick had been reapplied. She tottered over to the bar on heels that were far too high, her short skirt clinging to her slim but shapely hips.
‘Yeah?’ she said, eyeing Adele through heavily made-up eyes and casually chewing gum with her mouth open.
Her blasé attitude irritated Adele. ‘What time do you call this?’ she asked.
Cindy glanced at the clock, seemingly unperturbed, then looked back at Adele. ‘It’s OK, I cleared it with Glynn,’ she said, looking down her nose at Adele before lifting her chin and walking away with her head held high. Paula tutted then looked at Adele for her reaction.
Adele could feel her temper rising at the girl’s insolence. ‘Hang on a minute!’ she shouted. ‘Don’t walk away when I’m speaking to you.’
Cindy swung round, her expression one of scorn. ‘What?’ she asked, with attitude.
Adele tried to remain calm as she addressed her, meeting her eyes and keeping her voice slow and even. ‘Firstly, I hadn’t finished speaking to you, and it’s bad manners to walk away when you’re being addressed.’
‘Soz, thought you’d finished,’ said Cindy, before flicking the gum to the other side of her mouth with her tongue protruding crudely.
‘Secondly,’ said Adele, raising her voice slightly, ‘I’d appreciate it if you didn’t come to work with a mouth full of gum. It doesn’t look very professional. Can you remove it, please?’
Cindy tutted then pulled the gum from her mouth and walked to the back of the bar where she dropped it into the bin. ‘It’s like being at bloody school,’ she muttered while her back was to Adele.
Adele waited for her to walk back towards her then continued. ‘Thirdly, if you’re going to be late you need to clear it with—’
But before she could complete the sentence, she felt a presence at her side. It was Glynn, who rudely cut in. ‘It’s OK, I gave her permission to come in late tonight,’ he said.
Adele turned to face him. ‘Then why weren’t either Paula or myself told about it?’ she asked, the question sounding more like an accusation.
‘Must have slipped my mind,’ he said. ‘No worries, it’s no biggie.’
Then he walked away without giving Adele a chance to respond and winked saucily at Cindy, who preened smugly. Adele was livid, and for a few moments, she stared at Glynn’s back then at Cindy, who was wearing a half-smirk. ‘In future, you ask either Paula or myself for permission to arrive late, not Glynn,’ she said.
Adele didn’t hang around to hear Cindy’s response; she was too intent on having words with Glynn. She dashed after him as he headed through the back door and towards the upstairs offices.
Catching a glimpse of his heel as he rounded the bend in the stairway, she shouted, ‘Oy, I want a word with you.’
She met him on the stair landing. ‘What’s your problem?’ he asked, his face scrunched up in irritation.
‘In future, when Cindy asks for permission to arrive late, can you send her to either myself or Paula?’ she snapped.
‘What’s the problem?’ he retaliated. ‘She was only a few minutes late, for Christ’s sake.’
‘The problem is that you’ve undermined me in front of the staff. She shouldn’t be led to believe that she can do whatever she pleases; it’s not good for the morale of the rest of the team.’
‘Have you heard yourself? They’re a bunch of fuckin’ barmaids, not the board of directors.’
‘It doesn’t matter what they are,’ she vented. ‘Discipline is very important for running a tight ship.’
‘Yeah, sure,’ he muttered, turning away from her as though her argument was insignificant.
‘Don’t you dare turn your back on me!’ she yelled. ‘That girl has been getting away with murder since she started seeing you.’
He turned back to face her and grinned. ‘Now we’re getting to the real problem, aren’t we, Adele? Good old-fashioned jealousy. The real reason you’re pissed off is because me and Cindy have got something good going on. And you can’t stand it.’
‘Pfffft,’ she hissed. ‘Don’t flatter yourself. She’s bloody welcome to you. I don’t give a shit who you’re shagging! But what I do care about is when staff think they can take the piss. And you’re helping her to do it.
‘We can’t be seen to be showing favouritism; it isn’t fair on the rest of the staff. So from now on, I think you need to remember who the boss is around here. You might be running my brother’s dodgy protection racket, but when it comes to running the Golden Bell, or any of Peter’s other businesses, for that matter, you have no authority whatsoever.’
By this time she was shaking with anger, the words spilling from her in a torrent of hatred.
‘Jesus, woman, what’s wrong with you?’ he mocked on noticing her shaking hands. ‘Do yourself a favour; go and take a look at the state of yourself in the mirror. Then see if you can pretend you’re not jealous.’
Then he barged past her and made his way back down the stairs, but as he passed her, he hissed, ‘Fuckin’ sexually frustrated if you ask me.’
Adele stared after him, speechless. Her cheeks reddened with anger and humiliation, and for a few moments, she stood transfixed. How dare he? Her anger was also directed at herself. Why did she let him get to her? He wasn’t worth it.
She marched up to her office, resisting the temptation to down a measure of brandy. Instead, she sat at her desk for a good while ruminating about what had just happened.
Adele was fuming, and it took her some time to calm down. She was sick to death of Glynn thinking he could walk all over her. It was about time he realised who was the boss. As she sat there raging about her confrontation with Glynn, she decided it was time for her to make a stand. She was going to introduce some changes that would really put him in his place and let him know who was in charge once and for all.
The last in ‘The Manchester Trilogy’ series ‘Vendetta’, follows Adele’s life running her brother’s club in Manchester and the events that follow his release from prison. The book reads well as a standalone, although I have read ‘Blood Ties’, the second book in the series.
The writing style, which is often in the passive tense, jars with the action-packed plot and pace. Some of the characters in this final novel, as with the previous book are stereotypical. Despite its weaknesses, the pacing is fast, and it’s absorbing and easy to read. As a crime novel, it contains violence, but nothing gratuitous and the often unlikeable characters fit with the gritty, edgy lifestyle it portrays. There are no real surprises, but the ending is positive. and one that Adele deserves.
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Heather Burnside is a Manchester-based author who formerly worked in credit control and is a qualified Member of the Institute of Credit Management. After taking a career break to raise a family, she swapped credit control for writing and decided to study for a writing diploma.
Heather had articles featured in several popular UK magazines before setting up a writing services business, offering copywriting and proofreading services to a range of clients. During that time she also wrote a number of non-fiction books on behalf of clients.
In 2014 Heather published her first Manchester based crime thriller, ‘Slur’, book 1 of the Riverhill Trilogy. She followed ‘Slur’ with book 2, ‘A Gangster’s Grip’, which focuses on the inter-gang rivalry of 90s Manchester, and the concluding book, ‘Danger by Association’.
Welcome to Rosie Lee’s cafe in the heart of the East End – where there’s not an avocado, slice of sourdough or double-shot no-foam soy milk caramel latte on the menu!
Rosie-Lee’s owner Abby is a woman without a plan….and her beloved little cafe is a business with a serious lack of customers. The Rosie Lee’s fry-up is legendary, but cooked breakfasts alone – however perfectly sizzled the bacon – aren’t going to pay the bills.
Fast approaching forty and fighting a serious case of empty nest syndrome, Abby realises it’s not just her menu that needs a makeover. And when Jack Chance, her The One That Got Away, saunters through the cafe doors and back into her life things definitely look set to change…
Abby has always believed a cup of strong builders tea makes everything better, but Jack’s reappearance is a complication even the trusty sausage sarnie can’t resolve…
Rosie Lee’s Café is a typical example of what a good café can be like – as long as it’s 1988. That’s probably the last time the décor or the menu was updated. This reviewer suspects that the owner may be waiting until its particular interior design style comes back into fashion. They may be in for a long wait.
‘Bollocks!’ I exclaimed. The positive review I’d been hoping for obviously wasn’t about to materialise. I forced myself to read on.
Despite it being located just a stone’s throw from Old Spitalfields Market, a newly regenerated hub of all things creative and on trend, the tide of urban regeneration seems to have passed Rosie Lee’s by. I ordered the traditional breakfast fry-up and, I will say, the food didn’t disappoint. The breakfast was cooked to perfection and my cup of good old ‘Rosie Lee’ (tea) was hot and freshly brewed. And the toast, although not sourdough, was crisp and very tasty. I should mention, though, that there is no gluten-free option.
I winced at the memory of the day this reviewer had visited us. He’d asked Flo for gluten-free bread and she’d told him that if he wanted anything fancy he could take his hipster beard and bugger off somewhere else.
All in all, Rosie Lee’s Café is fairly uninspiring, but it won’t give you food poisoning. Just for that, this reviewer is giving it one teapot out of a potential five. Now, on to more interesting territory. Bare Naked Coffee is an artisanal bakery and coffee house…
I closed the newspaper. I didn’t need to read about how fabulous their unleavened hemp bread was, or how their primo coffee blend ‘was to die for!’
‘Bollocks,’ I repeated.
‘Abby! The coffee machine’s not working! Come and do that thing you do with it, would you, love?’
‘What’s up with it now, Flo?’ Her cries for help brought me out of the kitchen and into the café. A frazzled and sweaty-looking Flo stood in front of the offending machine.
‘The steam’s not working. I’m not getting any froth!’
‘Brilliant,’ I said, reaching for the spanner under the counter. This was the fourth time in the last week that the bloody machine had died on us, so I’d taken to keeping tools handy. There was a small queue of people all waiting for their orders, and I brandished my spanner at them, like some demented warrior queen.
‘Sorry for the wait, folks, let me just try and get this sorted for you.’ They looked at me and then at the spanner, undoubtedly expecting me to do something highly technical with it. Instead, I lifted it up high and brought it down heavily onto the top of the machine. Once, twice, three times. It hissed and wheezed for a few seconds and I held my breath.
‘I think you might have killed it completely this time,’ said Flo from her new, safer position on the other side of the counter.
‘Just wait for a minute, hold on.’ Taking a metal jug full of milk from beside the machine, I dipped the end of the steam nozzle into it. With one eye closed, I turned the handle that forced the steam into the milk and prayed that it wouldn’t explode in my face. From somewhere inside I heard gurgling, then the machine let out a high-pitched whistle as the milk began to bubble. Problem solved. The little queue of customers gave me a small ripple of applause and I turned to take a modest bow.
Flo came back around the counter and took the jug out of my hands.
‘Here, give us that. That bloody thing needs replacing. One of these days you’re gonna take a swing at it and it’ll go off like a rocket.’
‘I can’t afford a new machine, Flo, you know that. I’m barely making enough to cover costs as it is, let alone have any spare.’
‘Maybe you’ll have a bit extra once you’ve finished this catering job?’ she asked, hopefully.
‘Making desserts for some random corporate event isn’t really going to help much,’ I said. ‘Besides, I really only did it as a favour to Liz.’
‘I did tell you to charge her more, didn’t I?’
‘Yes, Flo, you did. Several times actually.’
‘Well, she took the right piss, all that faffing about changing her mind, leaving it all to the last minute. I know she’s your friend, but she was a pain in the arse. Uppity little madam.’ I marvelled at how Flo managed to deliver this speech whilst simultaneously serving customers and wiping up spills on the counter. She was seventy years old, but she was still as feisty and energetic as ever; I couldn’t manage without her, despite her occasional bouts of rudeness towards anyone with too much facial hair.
‘Look, it’s done now. I’ve just got to drop off the last batch of tarts and then it’s over with. No more corporate catering for me.’ I draped my arm around her tiny shoulders and dropped a kiss on her head. I’d known Flo all my life. She was one of my mother’s oldest friends and although she might look tiny and fragile, she was formidable.
‘Well, bugger off, then, go and get rid of those cakes.’
‘I’ll be back as quick as I can,’ I said, pulling on my jacket. Now, where did I leave the van keys? I rifled through the pockets, pulling out old tissues and other assorted bits of crap until Flo jingled the missing keys in front of my face.
‘What would I do without you?’ I said, taking them from her and heading into the kitchen.
‘You’d manage. Look, there’s no need for you to rush back. I can take care of everything here. We’re not exactly rushed off our feet, are we?’
I looked back out to the café. It was true; business hadn’t been brisk. I had been hoping that a glowing review in the local paper might drum up a bit more trade, but there was no chance of that now. The development of the nearby market had been great for anyone in its immediate vicinity, but not for us. We were just that little bit too far outside the ‘development zone’. It wasn’t just my café either – all the shops in this little-forgotten corner of East London were struggling to stay afloat. I pushed those thoughts to the back of my mind. There’d be plenty of time to obsess about my failing business later, hopefully, whilst relaxing in a hot bath with a glass or three of wine.
‘Are you sure you’ll be all right on your own?’ I didn’t want to take liberties; Flo might be mighty, but she was still seventy years old after all.
‘Positive. You’ve worked hard on all this.’ She gestured at the last batch of boxes I’d wrestled into my arms. ‘You deserve a few hours off.’
‘Okay. I might go and see if I can find a nice going-away present for Lucy.’
‘Lovely. Off you go, then, and I’ll see you in the morning. And tell Liz I said she got you cheap.’
I took the boxes and pushed my way through the back door. Flo was right of course; Liz had got me cheap, but she was my best friend. What was I supposed to do? She’d begged me to help her out after her other caterers had let her down; I wasn’t going to say no, was I? Charging her more would have felt like taking advantage of her desperation. It would have come in handy though, there was no doubt about that. Between my daughter’s imminent departure for university, the temperamental coffee maker and, now as I stood there looking at it, a delivery van that was on its last legs, my finances were stretched to the limit. The van, with its faded green paintwork and peeling pink cupcake on the side, sat in the yard looking old and knackered. Fifteen years of trips to the cash and carry and school runs in London traffic had taken their toll on the old girl. I knew how she felt. I secured the last of the boxes into the back of the van and shut the doors.
If you’re expecting a story that revolves around a cafe, you’ll be disappointed; the cafe does feature in this tale of second chances, family secrets and organised crime but its more about the heroine’s emotional journey than hearty breakfasts and afternoon tea.
Abby is a likeable protagonist, despite having a difficult childhood and teenage, she has enough people around her that care to make a success of life but she finds it difficult to trust and when her first love returns, even though she feels the emotional and sensual pull she runs the other way.
Jack is a dreamy hero, but he finds despite his entrepreneurial success, true love alludes him. He too has an emotional journey to travel, and he struggles to understand Abby and her conflicting signs and what he has to do, to get her in his life again.
Family and indeed community secrets are the backbone of this story, and they come across as believable, organised crime threatens everything Abby holds dear and as the secrets unravel the danger increases.
A mix of romance and crime make this an absorbing read, even if it’s not the feel-good cafe story I expected.
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Born in London, Jane’s writing career began in cable TV, writing true crime documentaries. More recently, Jane has contributed to an anthology of short stories and written two weekly crime serials. When she’s not writing, Jane loves to read good books, binge watch TV boxsets and drink tea. And wine.
Paula Smith could have had it all. Hugely successful in her fashion business, she lives the kind of life she could never have imagined. Her world should have been an idyllic one if it weren’t for her husband Danny who is resentful of her success and increasingly prone to alcoholic rages. Paula knows she should leave him but she if she did, he would pick up the phone to the police and her life would come crashing down around her.
Sarah has found the kind of happiness with Martin she never thought possible. He is everything she could have wished for in a man. Caring, sensitive and loving, yet he has a secret that could threaten everything they share. But he is not the only one with a secret….
DI Annie Parker, mother, grandmother and widow, has plenty of baggage of her own, but she’s still determined to be the best police officer she can be. When she and her sergeant Nisha Patel hear about a 20-year-old murder that nobody knew about, nothing will stop them from tracking down the killer, even if it brings them up against one of the most dangerous crime families in the country.
Extract 1 Annie North Derbyshire I am so not in the mood for this! A silver Range Rover has slipped into the parking spot I am reversing into. The last space close enough to the supermarket entrance to avoid a long and slippery trudge over ice and snow. ‘You selfish bastard!’ I shout over my shoulder, as I hit the brakes – and the car horn. A dark-haired lad in his late teens springs out of the driver’s side of the 4×4. He’s an Adonis. Tall, broad and way beyond handsome. Despite it being minus three, he’s in a skin-tight white T-shirt that shows off muscled arms, bouldered shoulders and a broad chest. I roll down my window and shout, ‘Hey, I was going in there! You’ve taken my space.’ ‘Then you should’ve been quicker, grandma,’ quips Adonis with a cheeky smile. ‘It’s mine now, innit?’ I want to kill him. And that’s despite the fact that I am a grandma. A very proud one – though I do quickly tell people that I’m only forty-four, which I’m sure is exceptionally young to be a grandparent. And secondly, he’s right, the parking place certainly is his. Possession is nine-tenths of the law, as I certainly know, given my particular line of work. So, that should be the end of the matter. But no bloody way is it going to be. I get out and stomp towards him. ‘I’d like you to move your vehicle, please. You could see me backing in.’ He laughs in my reddened face. Not a slight snigger. Nor a cynical smirk. Oh no, this is a full-on chuckle. The 4×4’s passenger door opens. An older man, with sandy hair, eases himself out. ‘What’s going on?’ ‘Granny ’here is ’avin a laugh, i’n’t she?’ He nods in my direction. ‘Wants me to shift the motor coz she says she was ’ere first.’ ‘I’m picking up medicine for my sick granddaughter,’ I announce, defiantly. The passenger’s blue-grey eyes study me as he tugs on a brown leather jacket. ‘Do as she says,’ he tells his friend. ‘Get it moved.’ Adonis looks shocked. ‘What d’you mean?’ ‘You heard me, thick lad, get it shifted.’ He thinks better of arguing and instead tells me, ‘Back up, then, or I can’t get out, can I?’ ‘Thank you!’ I boom sarcastically. As I get back in my car and start reversing, I guess the older man knows who I am. Right now, he’s probably telling his young friend my full and awful story. ‘That’s Annie Parker,’ he’ll be saying. ‘A year ago, her husband and daughter-in-law died in a car crash, not far from here. A bus driver fell asleep. Ploughed right into them. It tore the family apart. Her son had a mental breakdown and tried to kill himself. Now that poor bitch is looking after him and his little kiddie.’ I am getting a parking space out of pity. It’s the last thing I want. But I’ll take it. Maybe it’s because we’ve just had Christmas and it’s close to the anniversary of their deaths, but right now everything seems to remind me of my husband, Jack, and daughter-in-law, Lily. I think the only reasons I don’t fall apart are the need to work for a living and to look after my son, Tom, and granddaughter, Polly. The Range Rover reverses out quickly. Adonis slams it into first and sprays icy slush everywhere. A stupid, final gesture of anger. And then a thought hits me. I might have got this all wrong. I hit a speed-dial number on my mobile and switch to hands-free as it connects. ‘Control, this is Detective Inspector Annie Parker. I need a PNC check on a licence plate. Registration Bravo, Mike, Zero, Two, Mike, Alpha, Mike.’ Before the reply comes, I’m forsaking the newly won space, slaloming around shoppers and heading for the exit. ‘DI Parker, the plates belong to a black Audi A6,’ says a male controller. ‘It’s registered to a Mark Andrew Mason and was reported stolen in Westminster.’ Stolen. ‘Then I need back up, please. I’m in my own car, a blue Golf, and in pursuit of a silver Range Rover bearing that registration.’ Pulling onto the main road, I catch a glimpse of the 4×4. It’s at a set of traffic lights, some five vehicles ahead. ‘DI Parker, this is Control. Please state your exact position so we can get officers to you. Over.’ The lights change, and traffic moves. ‘I’m at the crossroads of Vincent Street and Main Street, heading east, towards the A515. Over.’ There was something about the older man. What was it? Is he on a Wanted List? Have I seen his face on a recent police circular? I just can’t place him. We pass through another set of lights and turn onto a dual carriageway. The Range Rover shifts into the outside lane and glides away. I glance at the speedo. My little car’s doing seventy, meaning their disappearing 4×4 must be clocking ninety, maybe a hundred. ‘Control, this is Annie Parker, I’m on the A515 heading south. Suspects’ vehicle is now doing excessive speed, and I am unable to keep up.’ ‘DI Parker, this is Control. Two traffic vehicles are already dispatched.’ Colin Ronald Richardson. That’s who he is! Armed robber. It’s all coming back to me. The last time I saw Richardson, I was a new PC, and part of an early morning raid that saw him pulled out of the scraggy bed of a very scared young hooker called Sharon Croft. Poor girl made the mistake of running for the bathroom, and a police dog bit her ankle and brought her down face first on the landing. I call it in. ‘Control, I believe one of the suspects to be Colin Ronald Richardson, a known criminal who has in the past been armed. Please advise local CID and Tactical Firearms.’ ‘Will do. Over.’ There’s a roundabout ahead, and the traffic is slowing. I have a siren, but I don’t want to use it. It would clear a path for me but also blow any chance of a covert follow. I switch lanes as we slow to a halt, turn the wheel sharply and take the Golf up onto a grass verge, hoping to skip a good hundred metres of traffic. The back end bumps up along the frozen turf and for a second the tyres spin. It’s a long time since I did my skid pan course but I remember not to accelerate too viciously. The car gains traction, and I start to make progress. Stranded drivers, amazed and enraged by my manoeuvre, blare their horns. Up ahead, I see the end of the backed-up cars. And a problem. The banking is cut off by a crash barrier. I’m going to have to rejoin the traffic. And you can be absolutely certain no one is going to let me in. At the last moment, I spot a gap. A fanfare of horns accompanies my certifiably insane manoeuvre. But I get away with it and hit the roundabout traffic flow at about twenty miles an hour. There’s no sign of the Range Rover. It could have gone left, right or straight on. I have no idea which exit to take. I circle for the second time. Up on the brow of a hill, I catch a glimpse of a silver roof. I turn off and follow. The chase is still on.’
If you’re a crime thriller reader, it’s always exciting to find a new detective you like, and DI Annie Parker is such a character. Reminiscent of ITV’s ‘Vera’, but more conventional, she has a family albeit one fractured with grief but she has the same tenacity, kind heart and innate skill of finding the truth.
The plot is deliciously sophisticated but easy to read. The main characters tell their stories in headed chapters. There are many connections and just as many twists as the plot weaves and intertwines seemingly separate characters and events. Historic and real-time stories make this absorbing, and the final court case chapters are authentic and suspenseful.
DI Annie Parker’s personal life gives essential insight into the woman who gives herself tirelessly to her career, the final scenes are beautifully poignant and provide an extra dimension to this fast-paced crime thriller.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
D.L. Michaels is a former award-winning TV executive, who married in Tuscany, has one teenage son and lives on an old converted farm in the Peak District. Favourite writers include Harlan Coben, Patricia Cornwell and Nicci French.