Posted in Author Guest Post, Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Festive Read, Friendship, Parenting and Famlies

One Day In Winter Shari Low 5*#Review @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @sharilow #festive #relationships #serendipity #marriage #parents #children #secrets #lies #Paperback

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I received a copy of this book from Aria – Head of Zeus Books in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I love stories that have an element of serendipity, and this story of four people, seemingly unconnected, is an engaging read. It follows Caro, Cammy, Lila and Bernadette through 24 hours just before Christmas. Some of the characters feature in other books, so if you are a fan of this author, like me, you may recognise them.

The day is divided into time slots, and each of the four main protagonists has a chapter within. As the story progresses, the reader realises they are connected, and eventually so do they. All of the main characters are complex and realistic. Some have more flaws than others, but they are all relatable, and most are easy to empathise.

The plot is cleverly written, it all fits together and the coincidences are realistic. Coupled with the beautifully written characters, the emotion and poignancy of the story make this is a page-turner that you won’t easily, put down.

The ending is satisfying, it fits, and everyone gets the outcome they deserve.

Guest Post – Christmas Blog Shari Low – One Day In Winter

Confession time! I’m one of those people who has a Countdown To Christmas clock and I check it regularly. Please don’t judge me. I know that I’m supposed to harrumph in disapproval at the frivolity and commercialisation of the festive season, but the truth is I love every flashing-elf-hat, neon-reindeer-on-my-roof, pass-me-a-red-hankie-because-I’m-going-to-watch-It’s-A-Wonderful-Life moment of it.

I embrace the tat and naffness of the season because I absolutely believe that there is no day that isn’t made better by a Santa snow globe.

On the first of December, I break out my favourite Christmas sweatshirt – the one that announces in large letters that I’m a Gangsta Wrapper.

I know the names of all the reindeers: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, Rudolph, Argos, Visa and Mastercard.

And now that my two little yuletide thespians have flown the nest (one who delivered a memorable performance as the third sheep from the left, and the other who had a starring role as that well known Biblical character, Humph the Camel), the younger members of my extended family know that I’m a shoo-in for a ticket and some enthusiastic audience participation if they invite me to their nativity play.

But my very favourite pastime during the season of goodwill? Deck the halls with big blooming piles of Christmas novels.

When I decided to write my first December-time book, One Day In Winter, I knew that I wanted to write stories that came together like a big pile of surprises under a tree. 

The novel follows four characters over the course of a 24 hour period on the Friday before Christmas. Caro sets off on a quest to find out if her relationship with her father has been based on a lifetime of lies. Lila decides to tell her lover’s wife of their secret affair. Cammy is on the way to pick up the ring for a proposal to the woman he loves. And Bernadette vows to walk away from her controlling husband of 30 years. As the hours’ pass, their lives intertwine and connections are revealed, with lots of shocks, twists and dramas along the way.

When it first came out in ebook, One Day In Winter was a number one bestseller, so I’m thrilled that it’s now being released in a glossy, shiny, gorgeous paperback.

I hope readers will love it because it makes them laugh, cry and captivates them from beginning to end.

And the extra little gift that the book delivers?

After the last page is turned, it makes the perfect stand for that Santa snow globe.

One Day In Winter is published by Aria in ebook and paperback.

Extract From One Day In Winter – Shari Low

When Gran and Granda passed away, their house had been left jointly to Mum and her sister, Auntie Pearl. When Auntie Pearl married and moved out, they’d worked out a rental agreement and Mum had stayed behind, living on her own until she’d met Jack Anderson at college, got pregnant, married him and he’d carried her over the threshold into the home she’d already lived in for twenty-two years.

Not that Caro could ever remember him being there full-time. He probably was for the first few years, but then he’d capitalised on the oil boom, and ever since then he’d been gone more than he’d been home. Some months he’d be home for a few days, sometimes two weeks, rarely more. She’d never felt neglected or that she was losing out in any way. It was what she’d always been used to and, as Mum always said, just one of the sacrifices they had to make because Dad had a Very Important Job.

The payback for the sacrifice? A couple of years ago, just as her parents should have been starting to contemplate cruises and bucket lists for their early retirement, Jack Anderson had walked out of the door to go to his Very Important Job and he’d never come back.

Caro felt the familiar inner rage start to build now and she squashed it back down. He’d left them a week before her thirtieth birthday, so she was old enough to process her parents splitting up by some mutual consent. Yet she couldn’t. Because it wasn’t mutual and he’d bolted when her mother had needed him most, walked out to a new life and he hadn’t looked back.

For a long time, Caro didn’t understand why.

Only now, did she realise that on the Importance scale, the job was up there with his Very Important Secret.

Maybe.

She still didn’t believe it to be true.

She must be wrong.

Mistaken identity.

Surely?

Yet, here she was, sitting on a train, on a cold December morning, on her way to Glasgow.

She pulled her iPad out of her satchel, logged on to the train’s Wi-Fi, then flicked on to the Facebook page she’d looked at a thousand times in the last few weeks.

It was one of those coincidental flukes that had taken her to it in the first place.

It had been late at night, and she’d been sitting beside her mum’s bed in the hospital, feeling like she’d been battered by the storm that was raging outside. She shouldn’t even have been there because it was outside of visiting time, but the nurses overlooked her presence because her mum was in a private room at the end of a corridor, and they made exceptions when it came to patients at this stage in their lives. Yvonne’s eyes were closed, her body still, but Caro wanted to stay, whether Yvonne knew she was there or not. It was the first night of the October school holiday, so she didn’t have to get up early to be the responsible Miss Anderson for a class of eleven-year-olds the next morning.

Instead, she could just be Caro, sitting there passing the time catching up with Facebook. She only dipped in and out of it every few weeks, caught up with a Carpool Karaoke, the launch of a new book, or maybe a movie trailer.

A promotional link appeared for the new Simple Minds tour, twenty dates around the country, yet another band riding the nostalgic affection for the eighties and nineties.

Before she could stop it, the opening bars of Jim Kerr’s voice belting out ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ flooded her head and she felt the bite of a sharp-toothed memory. Her dad had been a big fan, their music playing alongside Oasis and Blur on his CD player when he was home or in the car on the few mornings he was around to take her to school, and that had been his favourite song.

The irony in the title didn’t escape her. Don’t You Forget About Me. If only she could forget he ever existed, then she wouldn’t have to deal with the soul-sucking fury that he wasn’t here.

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Shari Low is the No1 best-selling author of over 20 novels, including One Day In Winter, A Life Without You, The Story Of Our Life, With Or Without You, Another Day In Winter and her latest release, This Is Me

And because she likes to over-share toe-curling moments and hapless disasters, she is also the shameless mother behind a collection of parenthood memories called Because Mummy Said So. 
Once upon a time she met a guy, got engaged after a week, and twenty-something years later she lives near Glasgow with her husband, a labradoodle, and two teenagers who think she’s fairly embarrassing except when they need a lift.

Posted in Book Review, Friendship, Romance, Romantic Comedy

The Cornish Cream Tea Bus – Cressida McLaughlin – 5* #Review @HarperFiction @fictionpubteam @CressMcLaughlin @HarperCollinsUK #Romance #Coastal #Cake #Cornwall#TheCornishCreamTeaBus #Friendship #Paperback #PublicationDay

Baking fanatic, Charlie Quilter, is surprised when her late uncle bequeaths his vintage bus to her in his will. Keen to give the bus a new lease of life, Charlie thinks it will be the perfect mobile café for afternoon tea, and when her friend, Juliette, suggests Charlie comes to stay with her in the picturesque Cornish village of Porthgolow, she’s thrilled at the chance of a new start.
Charlie and her cute dog, Marmite, make new friends wherever their bus stops – except for the sexy but reclusive owner of the posh spa up on the hill, Daniel Harper, who isn’t very pleased that her bus is parked outside his lovely hotel.
Has Charlie’s Cornish dream developed a soggy bottom? Or can she convince Daniel that her bus could be the start of something wonderful for the little village – and for them?

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I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley

My Thoughts…

I love this story.

I read it as a four-part serial, and it’s something special. Full of cakes, courage, fun and romance, with laugh out loud moments, and a few tears, it captures the good and bad in the Cornish coastal village of Porthgolow.

Charlie had a special connection with her uncle when he dies and leaves her, his bus, she knows she has to keep it, but can she do something with it? Her first attempt is gutsy but fraught with difficulty, but with the help of some positive comments from her mysterious stranger, she tries again in Cornwall.

The characters are warm and real, and even though baking, tea shops and coastal Cornish settings are well used in literature, the bus adds a different dimension that gives the story, the promise of originality. There is a conflict with the upmarket spa and a delicate balancing act to win the approval of the locals. This has humour, romance and a lovely holiday setting.

Charlie soon settles into her Cornish life, The cream tea bus proves to be a popular attraction, and Charlie wants the village to realise its full potential Her latest foody idea is received with mixed emotions, but does introduce the prospect of romance into her life, but is she ready for it?

The characters are complex and realistic, the possibility of a love triangle is suggested, and Charlie meets another of Porthgolow’s residents, who has a surprising if reticent insight into Daniel’s motivations. There is also the hint of someone messing with Charlie’s plans, but who, and the motivation behind this, are still a mystery.

Halfway through and this story is addictive. Charlie is embroiled in a tentative love triangle with her two admirers, one seems open and honest, just what she needs, but the chemistry is lacking. Her other admirer is not so easy to read, but the air crackles between them, whenever they are together. Can she take a chance, or will he let her down, and destroy her fledgeling business?

Charlie’s is still recovering from her boyfriend’s duplicity and has trust issues. Her head says one thing, her heart something different, who if either of them will she choose?

The Cornish Cream Tea Bus venture expands and seems to be going from strength to strength, as the community finally seems to accept her and her bus.

The final part of this lovely, coastal series, ties up all the loose ends, and just when you think everything is going to work out for Charlie, because of her hard work and willingness to learn to trust again, there is a final breathtaking twist.

Will ‘The Cornish Cream Tea Bus’, survive, and who wants it to fail? At the start of the story, there are lots of people who might want Charlie to fail, but at this point, the perpetrators are much fewer in number, thanks to Charlie’s kindness and tenacity. When the guilty party is revealed it isn’t a surprise, but it’s good to have your suspicions confirmed.

Charlie’ s romantic future seems brighter, but what happens after the Summer? The final twist is heartstopping and the resolution is perfect.

I enjoyed my time in Porthgolow and I hope the author may take us back there again? A lovely coastal romantic story, with some good unique elements, and complex, relatable characters, the perfect beach read.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Guest post, Romance, Travel

The Postcard – Zoe Folbigg – 5* #Review @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @zolington #ThePostcard #Romance #Relationships #Travel #Backpacking #Paperback #PublicationDay #GuestPost #TheNote #Mystery#BlogTour

#Paperback 8 August 19

The sequel to the bestselling phenomenon The Note – based on the true story of one girl and her ‘Train Man’…

A year after the kiss that brought them together in a snowy train-station doorway, Maya and James are embarking on another journey – this time around the world.

The trip starts promisingly, with an opulent and romantic Indian wedding. But as their travels continue, Maya fears that ‘love at first sight’ might not survive trains, planes and tuk-tuks, especially when she realises that what she really wants is a baby, and James doesn’t feel the same. 

Can Maya and James navigate their different hopes and dreams to stay together? Or is love at first sight just a myth after all…

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I received a copy of this book from Aria – Head of Zeus Books in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I must be the only person in the UK who didn’t read ‘The Note’, but fortunately ‘The Postcard’ whilst being a sequel, is also a separate adventure for Maya and James and reads well as a standalone.

There is a curious diversion from Maya’s story as she prepares to go on around the world trip with #TheTrainMan. A different character, confused, lost and vulnerable, is introduced, the menace and mystery of this encounter are on your mind as Maya and James start their journey, and then the person’s identity and the situation is revealed, and you wonder if, where and when, Maya will meet her?

The characters and relationships you explore in this story are complex and realistic, whether they be from Maya’s past, present or on the trip of a lifetime. Her best friend’s story is so far removed from Maya’s at this time, and yet both think they want what the other is experiencing.

There is a lovely balance of humour and poignancy in this, the romance is still there, but tempered with reality and therefore authentic. Maya and James find out who they are as a couple as a series of conflicts, try to break them.

The final conflict is adrenaline-fueled, suspenseful and unexpectedly poignant. These scenes are full of vivid imagery that really lets you experience the tension, terror and tumultuousness of the events. Romance and love prevail, and the final scenes provide a heartwarming and believable ending.

#ThePostcard
Guest Post – Zoe Folbigg – The Postcard

Welcome back, Maya and James!

If you enjoyed my debut book The Note then I hope you love the sequel, The Postcard, even more. At first, I was nervy about revisiting Maya and James and writing about what happens after the happy ever after. The Note was based on my own story of how I fell for a stranger on a train on my daily commute and then married him. It was a story I had told a thousand times even before I’d fictionalised it; before Aria offered me a book deal; before it became a bestseller.

When I wrote my second novel, The Distance, a story about long-distance love, based (almost) entirely on characters plucked from my imagination and nothing to do with me or my husband, I enjoyed the liberating feeling of writing about something totally different, telling a new story.

So when Aria suggested a sequel, I was worried. How could I move Maya and James’ story on? In reality, Train Man and I got married and had kids. We settled down to school runs, sports clubs and Friday-night fajitas. Nowadays the most drama in our lives tends to be Sainsbury’s selling out of coriander (those fajitas matter), or me falling over in the mums’ race on Sports Day. Embarrassing, yes, but none of my current life felt like novel material.

Then I remembered the “in-between”.  Those years in a relationship when you’re out of the early throes of glorious newness, when you’re still self-conscious about morning breath and think each other’s bad outfit choices are adorable, but you’re not quite ready for his ‘n’ hers Mahabis or actually saying, “This is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with!”, even if you think it. A period when family and friends ask about marriage and babies in hushed tones and want to move your relationship on to the next stage, even if you haven’t discussed it yet.

Our “in-between” coincided with some amazing travels: a holiday to Argentina with friends, Costa Rica for my 30th (double income no kids = nice holidays) and then a year-long round-the-world trip (redundancy = a “sod-it, it’s now or never” attitude).

Before these trips, friends would gush about the proposal opportunities, how we would definitely come back engaged, that surely Train Man had something up his sleeve, and I felt a mixture of hope and pressure, excitement and resentment.

So while pondering a sequel I remembered that phase. The round-the-world trip was chock full of vibrant places, crazy characters, beautiful scenery, and weirdly that in-between issue that I realised would be as pertinent to Maya and James as it is to many people.

Once I started writing The Postcard and I took Maya and James on their own travels, I fell in love with their new chapter: I could almost smell the coriander and coconut of dinner on the Mekong; hear the beat of a drum at a Hindu wedding; see the mossy limestone karsts looking down on them at a beach in Thailand. And I could hear the ring of that lingering question: “Do you think he’ll ask you to marry him?!” “Do you think you’d ask him?” All from my kitchen table.

So welcome back Maya and James! It’s been an honour to pick up their story and revisit all these amazing places for The Postcard – and I hope you enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

Zoë Folbigg is a magazine journalist and digital editor, starting at Cosmopolitan in 2001 and since freelancing for titles including Glamour, Fabulous, Daily Mail, Healthy, LOOK, Top Santé, Mother & Baby, ELLE, Sunday Times Style and Style.com. In 2008 she had a weekly column in Fabulous magazine documenting her year-long round-the-world trip with ‘Train Man’ – a man she had met on her daily commute. She since married Train Man and lives in Hertfordshire with him and their two young sons. Twitter Facebook Instagram Website

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Guest post

The Girl I Used to Know -Faith Hogan 4* #Review @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @GerHogan #Paperback #BlogTour #Friends #Relationships #SecondChances #GuestPost #SelfDiscovery

Amanda King and Tess Cuffe are strangers who share the same Georgian house, but their lives couldn’t be more different.

Amanda seems to have it all, absolute perfection. She projects all the accoutrements of a lady who lunches. Sadly, the reality is a soulless home, an unfaithful husband and a very lonely heart.

By comparison, in the basement flat, unwanted tenant Tess has spent a lifetime hiding and shutting her heart to love.

It takes a bossy doctor, a handsome gardener, a pushy teenager and an abandoned cat to show these two women that sometimes letting go is the first step to moving forward and new friendships can come from the most unlikely situations.

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I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus Books in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Two women are uneasy neighbours. On the surface, they have very little in common except for the hostility between them. New Year’s Eve starts a chain of events that draws their paths together in ways they would never imagine.
This is classic Irish storytelling, which spans three time periods. Each foray into the past builds a picture of why Amanda and Tess are the people they are.
Neither character is immediately likeable but they are believable and as the story unfolds, so do their true personalities. The revelations make their past choices and present situations easier to understand and Amanda and Tessa easier to empathise.

Amanda’s life is cosmetically perfect but underneath the surface, there are too many cracks, and she realises she is existing not living.

Tess’ accidents make her take stock of her life and vow to make something of the time she has left. It is this realisation, coupled with a teenage girl who wants to help and a cat who wants a warm welcome that makes her start to trust again and value herself.

The story is well-paced, and the ending ties up everything and gives hope for a happier future.

A poignant, sometimes comical, enjoyable story.

Guest Post – The Magic of Friendship- Faith Hogan

The Girl I Used To Know has been described as Uplit, feel good, grown-up, women’s fiction. It certainly falls into all of those brackets, but in writing it, I wanted it to be a manifesto for women’s friendship. Friends are the lifelong anchor for many of us to keep us who we are and what we’re striving to become. Friends are the common denominator that we can choose and if we’re wise, we choose them carefully.

The reality is, that we can make friends at any stage in life, often the best of friends are found the last place you expect and sometimes, they are right under your nose if you just take the time to really look at the person before you. The Girl I Used To Know is about seeing past the façade that we so often build up around ourselves and looking at the person underneath. Very often, it’s surprising to find that ultimately, we are all the same – we all want the same things, to be happy – to be loved.

Tess Cuffe, a curmudgeonly woman (who is not nearly as old as she imagines herself to be) has long since given up any desire to make friends, certainly not with the snooty Amanda King. The thing about Tess is that above anyone, she probably needs a good friend the most, but of course, like so often in life, she’s the only one who can’t see this. Her ability to get along with others has long since been buried in her own bitterness and regret.

Once, Tess had been full of promise, life had stretched out before her, she had been happy; she had been loved.

A simple act of kindness opens things up for Tess and like a complicated set of dominoes, opening her heart to one small creature is enough to create a fissure to allow a sliver of something better through.

Tess has spent twenty years living her life to spite her neighbours, but it’s a funny thing when she realises that Amanda King’s life is not so perfect as she imagined she doesn’t get quite the same pleasure out of it that she might have imagined. It is too late to luxuriate in the misery of her nemesis – it seems to Tess that somewhere, somehow, she is forced to chose a side and going against all that has propelled her for so long, she chooses Amanda.

Amanda King has lived a life of her own choosing, or at least that’s what she believes, but when her world comes crashing down, she’s forced to admit that she’s become someone that she hardly recognises anymore.

Once, Amanda had been full of promise, life had stretched out before her, she had been happy; she had been loved.

This is a story of two women who realise that in spite of the fact that on the outside, they appear to be very different, it turns out they have more in common than they realised. Friendship may not be the answer to their problems, but it certainly makes life better in ways they could never have imagined, if only they can meet halfway.

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Faith lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and two very fussy cats. She has an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology, has worked as a fashion model and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector.

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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Domestic Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Suspense

Forget My Name – J.S. Monroe – #BlogTour – 5* #Review @HoZ_Books @Aria_Fiction @JSThrillers #Paperback #PsychologicalThriller #Author #Interview

You are outside your front door. There are strangers in your house. Then you realise… You can’t remember your name.

She arrived at the train station after a difficult week at work. Her bag had been stolen, and with it, her identity. Her whole life was in there – passport, wallet, house key. When she tried to report the theft, she couldn’t remember her own name. All she knew was her own address.

Now she’s outside Tony and Laura’s front door. She says she lives in their home. They say they have never met her before.

One of them is lying.

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Interview Questions – J S Monroe

What inspired you to write this story?

Two things, really: the fear of forgetting, and how identity is bound up with our memories. Forget My Name begins with a woman who arrives off the train in a Wiltshire village not dissimilar to where I live. She is unable to remember her own name and is without any form of identification, having lost her bag at the airport. Passport, bank cards, mobile phone – all gone. The only thing she has is a train ticket and a vague sense that she lives in the village. How did she get there? And who is she? When she approaches the house that she thinks is hers, she peers in through the window and sees a young couple preparing dinner. I was haunted by such an image when I was commuting from my own village in Wiltshire to London. It was a stressful time in my life. I had a young family and the trains were always delayed. When I returned late, I often wondered what it would be like if I glanced through the window of my own house, only to see another family preparing for bed.

What makes your story different in this popular genre?

A character suffering from amnesia is a popular trope in psychological thrillers. S.J.Watson explored it brilliantly in Before I Go to Sleep. I have tried to push it even further, taking the genre into what I hope is new territory. By its very nature, amnesia has a lot in common with unreliability, another popular theme in psychological thrillers, and I’ve explored this too in a dark and unexpected way.

Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?

I think any author who says they don’t base their characters on people they know is lying! That’s not to say that they are transposed from life to page without any changes. I tend to be a bit of a magpie, picking traits from different people and merging them into a new character. Friends are always asking me, ‘Am I in it?’ and it’s a difficult question to answer. “Bits of you might be’ isn’t quite the answer they’re looking for.

When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?

Place plays a very important part in my books and I knew that I wanted to write about a Wiltshire village in Forget My Name. I also wanted to write about a woman who has survived a hideous trauma of some sort but is definitely not a passive victim. So place and the lead character were uppermost in my mind when I started to work out what that trauma might have been and the effects it’s had on her life. I was also keen to explore popular neuroscience, in this case, the role that the hippocampus – a seahorse-shaped part of the brain – plays in human memory.

What made you decide to become a writer, and why does this genre appeal to you?

I was asked this question the other day by a close friend and I couldn’t really answer it. I’m not sure you actively choose to become a writer – it’s just something that happens. I’d read English at university and was a freelance journalist for ten years before I wrote my first novel, The Riot Act, in 1997, so I clearly enjoyed working with words. Writing at greater length than a magazine article was a natural progression. As for psychological thrillers, I used to write spy novels – I’ve had five espionage thrillers and a novella published under my own name, Jon Stock – until I switched names and genres in 2017. I had done all I wanted to do with the world of spies and had become increasingly interested in popular neuroscience. In Find Me, my first psychological thriller, and now Forget My Name, I’ve been able to explore themes of memory and identity through a new and exciting lens.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

In terms of fiction, I tend to read anything but thrillers when I’m writing, usually more literary fiction by authors such as Eimear McBride. I don’t want to be distracted or envious! I read a lot of non-fiction books when I’m writing, most recently Into the Grey Zone, by Dr Adrian Owen, who explores the relationship between brain, mind and consciousness and the penumbral world between life and death. I re-read John Fowles’s The Magus on holiday in Greece last summer, which remains a mind-blowing piece of storytelling, and I’m looking forward to reading Ian McEwan’s new one, Machines Like Me.

 What are you currently writing?

I’m just putting the finishing touches on the first draft of my new novel, which gives a modern, high-tech spin on the Gothic trope of doppelgängers. In this digital age of social media and selfies, it’s surprisingly easy to find – or be found by – someone who looks identical to you…

Forget My Name – Back Cover

I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus Books in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Losing your identity and turning up in a place that you vaguely recognise, the house you think is yours, but someone else is living there, and they don’t know you are, is the idea behind #ForgetMyName, a classy, well researched psychological thriller.

This thriller works, because this type of crisis is a fear for many people. We are grounded by familiarity, we feel safe, and not being able to fall back on things we recognise, is a shattering concept, for most people.

The everyday setting, makes the woman’s situation more frightening, she wants to fit in, remember, but she can’t. Is she running from something terrible? Something she’s done or been done to her? Do others know more about her situation than she does? Why are they keeping secrets? Do they really want to help her? All these questions make this a believable, twisty thriller. It has the ambience of a gothic style plot. Creepy, evil, lies, secrets and the main protagonist who doesn’t know who to trust, and whether she can even trust herself.

Chilling, compulsive reading, with realistic characters, hard to spot clues, and a relentless pace make this an addictive book that you read with the fervent hope you never forget who you are.

J.S. Monroe read English at Cambridge, worked as a foreign correspondent in Delhi, and was Weekend editor of the Daily Telegraph in London before becoming a full-time writer. Monroe is the author of six novels, including the international bestseller, Find Me.

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Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

The Botanist’s Daughter – Kayte Nunn – 4* #Review @orionbooks @KayteNunn #paperback #Botany #HistoricalFiction #Timeslip

A buried secret…

Present day: Anna is focused on growing her new gardening business and renovating her late grandmother’s house. But when she discovers a box hidden in a wall cavity, containing watercolours of exotic plants, an old diary and a handful of seeds, she finds herself thrust into a centuries-old mystery. One that will send her halfway across the world to Kew Gardens and then onto Cornwall in search of the truth.

A lady adventurer…

1886: Elizabeth Trebithick is determined to fulfil her father’s dying wish and continue his life’s work as an adventurer and plant-hunter. So when she embarks on a perilous journey to discover a rare and miraculous flower, she will discover that the ultimate betrayal can be found even across the seas…

Two women, separated by centuries. Can one mysterious flower bring them together?

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I received a copy of this book from Orion Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A lovely timeslip novel containing some unusual themes, which give it a uniqueness and quirky appeal.

An unexpected find when updating a house bequeathed to her by her beloved grandmother sets Anna on a mystery tour that reveals family secrets and takes her on a much-needed journey of self-discovery.

Elizabeth pushes against society’s conventions in Victorian England. When her much-loved father dies, she feels duty-bound to fulfil his dying wish This is not the selfless act it appears, as she has always wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps.

Both stories are engaging, and courageous in their own way. Elizabeth’s is perhaps the bravest and for me the most absorbing, because she sets out to visit Chile in South America, with only her maid, after living a sheltered, if unconventional life in Cornwall.

The story focuses on botany and botanical art and discoveries in great detail, this is fascinating and gives the story an authentic feel. The geographical descriptions likewise are well done and bring the settings to life. This is important in a story like this where the main protagonists are motivated out of their comfort zones to discover the truth. You have to experience what they do to believe it could happen.

The dual time perspectives are well- written and the links and crossover between past and present well grounded and believable. Neither of the female protagonists is perfect, they are flawed, but you are invested in their story’s and want it to end well.

Although easy to read, the pacing is slow in parts. The plot’s vivid imagery holds your interest, and the ending is worth waiting for.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Guest post, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Mystery, Saga

The Girl In The Pink Raincoat – Alrene Hughes -5* #Review @HoZ_Books @Aria_Fiction @alrenehughes #BlogTour #Paperback #Wartime #Romance #WW2 #Manchester #Mystery #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance

In wartime, it takes courage to follow your heart.

Manchester, 1939.

Everyone hated the heat and the deafening noise, but for Gracie, the worst thing was the smell of chemicals that turned her stomach every morning when she arrived at the Rosenberg Raincoats factory.

Gracie is a girl on the factory floor. Jacob is the boss’s charismatic nephew. When they fall in love, it seems as if the whole world is against them – especially Charlie Nuttall, who also works at the factory and has always wanted Gracie for himself.

But worse is to come when Jacob disappears and Gracie is devastated, vowing to find him. Can she solve the mystery of his whereabouts? Gracie will need all her strength and courage to find a happy ending.

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Guest Post – WHY I WRITE WWII NOVELS – Alrene Hughes

I think it was inevitable. If I was going to write a novel, then I would write about the second world war. For a start, my mother, aunts and grandmother had lived through the hardships and dangers of that time. The war had ended only seven years before I was born and, growing up, I somehow absorbed their memories second-hand.

My home city of Belfast in Northern Ireland – an industrial city of shipbuilding, aircraft manufacture and heavy engineering – was crucial to the war effort. Needless to say, it was heavily bombed. Later, when the USA entered the war, it was to Northern Ireland that the GIs came to train before being deployed overseas.

As a child, I knew the gaps between the buildings were bomb sites. Once on a bus going into the city centre with my mother, she pointed out a street where she had seen the dead bodies laid out on the pavement on her way to work after an overnight bombing. But she had happy memories too of her time as a factory girl building Stirling bombers. As a housewife after the war, I remember she wore her factory clothes, trousers and a turban, to clean the house. But the biggest influence in my post-war childhood was the music. 

My mother and aunts had been popular singers, in the style of the Andrews Sisters, and throughout the war, they entertained in the concert and dance halls, as well as the military camps. After my mother died, I found an old scrapbook among her possessions. It contained many concert programmes listing the acts and the Golden Sisters, as they were known, often had the titles of songs they sang next to their billing: Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree; Chattanooga Choo Choo … And then there were all the photos.

I just had to tell their wartime story. The personalities of my mother, aunts and grandmother were etched in my brain, the snippets of wartime memories had been passed on to me and I had the scrapbook. Add to that my research of life in the city and the ideas that flooded my mind and it was enough to turn it into a novel. In the end, their story became a popular WWII family saga, the Martha’s Girls trilogy.

Now I’ve written WWII novels set in Manchester, the city where I’ve lived most of my adult life. It’s a lot like Belfast in some ways: the heavy bombings; the industry; the no-nonsense, resilient people. The women in my new novels The Girl in the Pink Raincoat and The Girl from the Corner Shop, face tragedy and danger, experience love and loss but, throughout, their courage shines through.  

ARC – Paperback- Back Cover

I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus Books in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Gracie is an endearing character, young, naive, but optimistic and full of life, with a smile never far from her face. It is this bubbliness that attracts Jacob, even though he realises that any relationship between them would be fraught with conflict.

The setting and era of this story are vividly portrayed, you can imagine the raincoat factory, the bombsites and the people, as they try to live their lives during wartime. Anyone who has listened to their grandparents and parents stories about ‘the war’, will recognise familiar concepts, and it is this relatability that makes the story so powerful.

The plot is well constructed, with a mystery and romance. The prejudice rife at the time is evident and is an important theme. Wartime romance with a twist. Family drama, strong friendships and a menacing undercurrent of betrayal and obsession, something for everyone in this wartime tale.

ARC- Paperback

Alrene Hughes grew up in Belfast and has lived in Manchester for most of her adult life. She worked for British Telecom and the BBC before training as an English teacher. After teaching for twenty years, she retired and now writes full-time. Facebook

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ARC -Paperbaack
Extract – The Girl In The Pink Raincoat – Alrene Hughes

Gracie awoke to the sound of crying, and it was a moment before she realised it was coming through the paper-thin walls of the house next door. Then she remembered it was Friday morning and still Doris had not come to terms with her children being evacuated. She lay for a while, watching a shaft of sunlight coming through the gap in the curtains, and when the crying was replaced by the squeals and laughter of excited children, she got up.

By the time the children were ready to walk to school, a crowd had gathered in the street to see them off. Gracie and Sarah stood next to Doris as she held back her tears, hugged her two little girls and told them to be good and to write every week. An older boy, John Harris, took charge and it was clear that the evacuees had been drilled for this moment. At his command, they left their mothers and lined up like little soldiers, with their gas masks and belongings, each with a brown luggage label fastened to their coat. Gracie scanned their faces: some were filled with excitement, others apprehensive; and little Gladys Clark, with no mother to see her off, was sobbing her heart out.

John raised his hand and all eyes turned to him. ‘One … two … three!’ he shouted, and what happened next made the hair stand up on the back of Gracie’s neck – the children began to sing.

‘Farewell to Manchester we’re leaving today,

We need a safe place where we can stay,

Away from the bombs that fall on our heads,

Where we’ll sleep soundly and safe in our beds.’