Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Regency Romance

Scandalous Alchemy Katy Moran 5*#Review #KatyMoran @HoZ_Books #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance #AlternativeHistory #NineteenthCentury #BookReview #ScandalousAlchemy #PublicationDay @RichardsonHelen

In a Bridgerton-style Regency world, three people are caught in a web of passion and deceit.

Fontainebleau in 1825 is a glittering international court, rich with intrigue, passion and simmering violence. Lieutenant Colonel Kit Helford must navigate these treacherous waters to deliver the beautiful, self-destructive Princess Royal to her prospective husband. Kit’s childhood friend, Clemency Arwenack, is tasked with safeguarding her royal mistress’s reputation as the princess awaits a marriage she is dreading.

But both have secrets they will hide at all costs. Kit is on the run—from a man shot and left for dead back in London and a lifetime of scandal that includes a liaison with the princess herself. He will do anything to salvage his family’s reputation. Clemency, meanwhile, conducts a perilous trade in lies and blackmail as she seeks to destroy the princess, not protect her.

With the princess’s life under threat, Kit and Clemency are pitted against each other, even as a dangerous attraction grows between them. The past hunts them both, remorselessly, relentlessly, and neither can escape it for long.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via Helen Richardson PR in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

The third book in the Hester and Crow series set in an alternative Regency world. Written with vivid imagery, astute political insight, and scandalous romance, this book is an addictive delight for historical romance fans.

The characters are pure, romantic Regency, the female protagonist, is independent, intelligent and intriguing. Kit, the male protagonist, is scandalous, sexy and searching, for his happiness in a climate of betrayal and political intrigue.

There’s engaging romance, fascinating political manoeuvring and vibrant characters that befit the glamour of the Regency period.

Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Regency Romance

Wicked By Design Katy Moran 5*#Review #KatyMoran @HoZ_Books #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance #AlternativeHistory #NineteenthCentury #Cornwall #Russia #BookReview

1819.

CORNWALL.
Four women sit in the candlelit drawing-room at Nansmornow, an ancient Cornish manor house. The air is thick with unspoken suspicion and secret malice. As Hester Lamorna pours tea for her three guests, she has no idea one of them is about to rock her new marriage to its very foundations.

ST PETERSBURG.
Half a world away, Hester’s impossible and charmismatic husband, Jack ‘Crow’ Crowlas, will be caught up in a chess game of sexual manipulation, played out across the sumptuous ballrooms of St Petersburg. All Hester and Crow hold most dear will be tested to the limit and beyond: their love for each other and their child, and for Crow, the loyalty of his only brother.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Set in the early nineteenth century in an alternative historical world where Napolean, not Wellington triumphed at Waterloo. This story is an engaging mix of betrayal, intrigue, passion and politics.

Jack Crow is Lord Lamorna of Cornwall, a man who flaunts convention and lives close to the wire. Haunted by his past actions, his fight for justice and his passions, he is reminiscent of Poldark. Hester, Lady Lamorna is independently minded but loyal and in love with her husband. Her spirit and vulnerability make her a similar character to Poldark’s Demelza.

Engaging and easy to empathise the main protagonists’ complexity and flaws make them relatable. Vivid Cornish and Russian settings with an alternative historical twist give this story its uniqueness. Well-written believable characters and cleverly plotted intrigue and passion, all make this story an addictive, exciting read.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Friendship, Humour, Romance

The Weekender Fay Keenan 4*#Review @faykeenan @boldwoodbooks #Familydrama #Romance #humour #Somerset #politics #smalltown #BoldwoodBloggers #Willowbury #Extract #BookBloggers #BookReview #BlogTour

#TheWeekender

When Charlie Thorpe met Holly Renton, they were not a match made in heaven…

Holly lives and works in the beautiful town of Willowbury in Somerset. An incorrigible optimist, she is determined to change the world for the better.

Charlie Thorpe, on the other hand, is the ultimate pragmatist. As Willowbury’s new member of parliament, he has to be. While he’s determined to prove himself to the town, as far as Holly’s concerned, he’s just another politician on the make.

But when their paths cross again, it’s clear they’ve got more in common than they think. Can Holly and Charlie overcome their differences and work together, or are they destined to be forever on opposite sides? And why does Holly have a funny feeling she has met Charlie before…

Let Fay Keenan whisk you away to a world of glorious country views, unforgettable characters and once-in-a-lifetime love. 

Paperback eBook Amazon UK

#BoldwoodBlogTour

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

My Thoughts…

A family drama with a gentle romance between two unlikely individuals, who find they share more common beliefs than they thought. The setting in a small Somerset town is charming and realistic, and the political and social issues raised are integral to the story but resonate. This story has important messages but still manages to remain entertaining.

The pacing is slow, which takes a little getting used to but you do warm to the characters, once you get to know them. Similarly, the romance is realistically delivered in tantalising snippets, but they get there in the end.

Contemporary causes, family drama, and sweet romance are all found in this originally crafted story, with a relatable small town ethos.

The Weekender – Fay Keenan – Extract

1

White sage is all very well,’ Holly Renton reflected, ‘but the ashes are a bugger to get out of the carpet.’ Earlier that morning, before the shop had opened, Holly had carried out a ritual called smudging, which was meant to purify the energy in a building, promote positivity and remove negative energies. Picking up the dustpan and brush, she emptied the pungent remains of the dried herb bundle she’d ignited and then wafted around the windows and doors of the shop into the bin.

‘I know you recommend this all the time for other people’s houses, but why are you so bloody obsessed with doing it in the shop?’ Rachel, Holly’s sister, glanced down at where Holly was still brushing the rug under the mullioned front window of ComIncense, the shop specialising in herbal remedies and well-being aids that Holly ran in the sleepy but nonetheless New Age small town of Willowbury and smiled. Just beyond the shop’s counter, the door that led to Holly’s small back yard was open and Harry, Rachel’s three-year-old son and Holly’s nephew, was playing happily with a set of wooden animal-shaped blocks in their own lorry, which had come from a box of assorted toys that Holly kept specifically for the younger customers. Holly didn’t believe, unlike some of her business-owning neighbours, that children should be banned from places like hers, and since the early-spring weather was warm and pleasant, Harry had trundled out into the sunlight to play.

‘You’ve got to refresh places from time to time,’ Holly replied. ‘Especially when there’s been a lot of negative energy about, and since all of the scandal with Hugo Fitzgerald, I really felt like this place needed a spiritual cleanse!’

‘You can say that again,’ Rachel reached under the wooden apothecary’s dresser that displayed countless jars and pots of dried herbs and flowers, all purporting to be of some spiritual or physical benefit, to retrieve one of the toy llamas that Harry had thrown under it. ‘What a way to go…’

‘Oh, I don’t know,’ Holly replied, still sweeping. ‘At least, having had a massive coronary, he wouldn’t have known much about it.’

‘But what a waste of a good plate of scones and jam!’ Rachel grinned. ‘Mum told me that his constituency agent found him face down in them at his desk.’

‘I wouldn’t have fancied digging him out of them,’ Holly said. ‘But from the size of him, the heart attack was an accident waiting to happen. And gossip has it, he had his finger in a lot of pies, not just the odd plate of scones.’

‘Oh, you know how the rumour mill goes into overdrive when something like this happens.’ Rachel, who had more of a tendency to see the good in people than her sister did, dismissed Holly’s comments with a wave of her hand. ‘I mean, I’m not saying he wasn’t a prat, but nothing was ever proven about his financial misdemeanours. Although I have to admit, since he couldn’t have given a stuff about Harry’s condition, and getting access to these new drugs, I’m hoping the new guy will be more receptive to the cause.’

‘It’s still bloody unfair that he gets to swan in here and take the seat after only the quietest by-election,’ Holly grumbled as she replaced the dustpan and brush on the shelf behind the counter. ‘I mean, the guy’s only a year older than me and he’s been parachuted into one of the safest seats in the country. Even if we have a change of government, he’s unlikely ever to lose his seat. What if he’s just as crap as Fitzgerald and couldn’t care less about us here in his constituency? We’re stuck with him until he chooses to retire.’

‘Give him a chance,’ Rachel said reasonably. ‘He might be good for this place.’

‘Have you made an appointment to see him yet?’ Holly asked, glancing down to where Harry was now building a tower of exotic wooden animals that was getting more and more precarious the higher it got.

From the outside, Harry looked like any other energetic three-year-old, but on the inside, it was a different story. Weeks after he’d been born, Rachel had been launched into a perpetually revolving carousel of physiotherapy, medications and experimental trials in an attempt to alleviate the chronic condition, cystic fibrosis, that would, in all likelihood, limit Harry’s life. The latest medication, which might make a huge difference to Harry’s life expectancy, was currently being held up because the government was still negotiating with the pharmaceutical company involved over a reasonable price to supply it to the National Health Service. How it was possible to put a cost on a life such as Harry’s was a source of increasing frustration and heartbreak for Rachel and the family.

‘Not yet,’ Rachel sighed. ‘If Hugo Fitzgerald couldn’t be arsed to do anything other than toe the party line, then why should this new guy be any better? Especially if he is a total rookie. I doubt he’ll stick his neck out for Harry.’

Noticing Rachel was, unusually for her, close to tears, Holly hurried around from behind the counter and gave her sister a hug. ‘Don’t let it get you down,’ she murmured. ‘I’ll always be right there with you, campaigning to get this little munchkin the treatment he deserves.’

‘I know,’ Rachel replied, giving Holly a shaky smile. ‘I’m fine, really. It’s just when he has a bad day, it reminds me of the challenges he’s facing, which will only get worse as he gets older. And knowing that the new medications could potentially make those challenges so much easier to face…’

‘We’ll get there,’ Holly said. ‘I’ll be with you every step of the way, like I always have been. And I still think it’s worth a punt with this new guy, you never know.’

‘I’ll try and get in to see him over the summer,’ Rachel replied, breaking the embrace from her sister and grabbing the last of the wooden animals to add to Harry’s tower of jungle wildlife. ‘Can I make a drink?’

‘Of course,’ Holly said. ‘I’ve got some organic fair-trade matcha tea in the kitchen.’

‘Is that the super-energising stuff?’ Rachel asked. ‘After being up with Harry last night, I could certainly do with a lift.’

‘Honestly, it’ll keep you going until midnight!’ Holly said. ‘Go on… you know you want to.’

‘All right,’ Rachel replied. ‘But if I end up buzzing around Willowbury like a wasp for the rest of the day, I’m blaming you.’

‘Fair enough. And make me a cup, too,’ Holly called as Rachel disappeared up the stairs to Holly’s flat above the shop. Popping the dustpan and brush behind the counter again, she continued the conversation, since Rachel had left the door to the flat open. ‘Perhaps I should give this new guy the benefit of the doubt,’ she said, adjusting the labels on the jars of dried herbs and plants on the dresser so they all pointed uniformly outwards. ‘After all, new blood could be a good thing.’

‘Perhaps we should be fair and reserve judgement until he’s been in the job a few months,’ Rachel said over the bubble of the kettle. ‘You never know, he could be just the tonic this place needs, politically.’

‘You always try to look on the bright side, don’t you?’

#FayKeenan

Fay Keenan is the author of the bestselling Little Somerby series of novels. She has led writing workshops with Bristol University and has been a visiting speaker in schools. She is a full-time teacher and lives in Somerset. Fay’s new series for Boldwood will begin with The Weekender.

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Posted in Book Review, Espionage - Spy - Thriller, International Thriller, New Books, Political Thriller, Suspense, Thriller

Secret Service – Tom Bradby – 5* #Review @TransworldBooks @tombradby #NewBook #Espionage #SpyThriller #International #Suspense #politicalthriller 30 May 19

The world is on the brink of crisis.
The Cold War is playing out once more on the global stage.
And governments will do whatever it takes to stay at the top . . .

To those who don’t really know her, Kate Henderson’s life must seem perfectly ordinary. But she is, in fact, a senior MI6 officer, who right now is nursing the political equivalent of a nuclear bomb.

Kate’s most recent mission has yielded the startling intelligence that the British Prime Minister has cancer – and that one of the leading candidates to replace him may be a Russian agent of influence.

Up against the clock to uncover the Russian mole, Kate risks everything to get to the truth. But with her reputation to uphold, her family hanging by a thread and a leadership election looming, she is quickly running out of options, and out of time.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Random House UK – Transworld Publishers via NetGalley in return for an honest review,

My Thoughts…

They say if you live long enough, everything returns, or at least reinvents itself in a contemporary format. The ‘Cold War’ returns in ‘Secret Service’, set in the present day. This is less about checkpoints and walls, and more about social media exploitation, and global corporations influencing domestic economies and the political agenda and players.

Kate is a senior MI6 officer, part of the Russian desk, but also a mother, wife and daughter, she is the new breed of secret service personnel and faces the 21st-century battle familiar to every professional woman of balancing their work and home life. The inherent danger in Kate’s profession is something she tries to minimise, but when she discovers a political time bomb, the danger to her family seems inevitable.

Believable and complex characters, particularly Kate, her partner and her immediate team, spearhead this action-packed, suspenseful story, which visits the political hot spots, as Kate tries to discover which politician is the probable Russian asset, and who in her own organisation is the double agent…

The suspects are few, but the propensity for misinformation is vast, and as the conspiracy deepens, Kate realises she is vulnerable and may lose everything she holds dear.

Authentically detailed with a contemporary political agenda and background, you can see this being a realistic scenario. The ending is menacing and will be unexpected for most.

Adrenaline-fueled, atmospheric and authentic, this is a riveting read, for anyone who enjoys political thrillers and the secret world of spies.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Family Drama, Guest post

The Bells of Little Woodford – Catherine Jones – 4* #Review #BlogTour @lacekate @HoZ_Books #GuestPost #Extract

The town of Little Woodford seems peaceful and picture-postcard beautiful, with its marketplace, ancient church and immaculate allotments. But behind the tranquil facade, troubles are brewing.

Olivia Lewthwaite, a former town councillor, a pillar of the WI and all-around busybody, has been forced by her husband’s gambling debts to sell their house – her pride and joy. She hates the new estate they’ve moved to and knows she needs to humble herself to apply for a job.

To make matters worse, a thoroughly disagreeable woman has bought Olivia’s beloved Grange and sets about objecting to everything she can, from the ringing of the church bells to the market stall selling organic local meat.

It isn’t long before the town is in turmoil.

Amazon

Kobo

iBooks

Google Play

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

My Thoughts…

If you love small town values and interactions, ‘The Bells of Little Woodford’, will appeal. The second book in the series, it reads well as a standalone, but it’s such a lovely series, read my review of ‘Little Woodford – The Secrets of a Small Town’ and enjoy this too.

Olivia, is coming to terms with her fall from grace, too involved in everyone else’s business and the town’s many organisations, her own family took second place, and now she has to pick up the pieces.

Losing her home is part of the price she has to pay, but the new owners seem determined to disrupt and dismantle everything important to the town unless someone stops them.

This story has a comforting, realistic ethos, the characters, values and peccadillos of the town, and it’s residents are recognisable and make this an enjoyable book to read. The plot is simple, but it reflects ordinary life in a small town. Coupled with the complex, easy to like or dislike characters this story is a wonderful escape.

Grab yourself a cup of tea, a slice of homemade cake and wallow in the camaraderie, gossip and ordinariness of Little Woodford.

Guest Post – Catherine Jones – The inspiration behind Little Woodford

‘Write what you know’ is the advice people give to authors. That suits me fine as I’m not a fan of doing research – I’d rather just get on with telling the story. Which is why many of my previous books have an army theme as I was in the army myself, I married a soldier and I am the mother of one.  Twenty-five years ago my husband left the forces and we moved to a little middle-England market town, not far from Oxford and where we have lived ever since. I love this town with a passion: it has everything a town could want; three supermarkets, several churches, a weekly market, cricket, tennis and rugby clubs, a bustling high street, a nature reserve, a theatre and seven – yes, seven – pubs! In fact, I love this place so much I’m on the town council. When it was suggested to me I ought to write about the lives of ordinary people and the kind of stuff that goes on behind their front doors – the stuff you might not want your neighbours to know about – I instantly knew exactly where I would set my story. If you know my town, it is pretty recognisable as all the elements are there – with the exception that Little Woodford only has one pub.  Of course, as an author, I have to be immensely careful to make sure that everyone in the book is completely fictitious but that hasn’t stopped many of the locals asking me if this or that character isn’t actually based on X or Y.  The one character that I haven’t been asked about is Olivia Laithwaite, one of the main protagonists; she’s a councillor, rides a bike, is a bit of a busy-body, likes to know what’s going on and has several children. I’m not saying Olivia and I are clones, but there are a lot of people in the town who are!

Extract From The Bells of Little Woodford – Catherine Jones

She waved goodbye to the boys – both engrossed in chatting to their mates in their lines and both oblivious of her farewell – before she made her way out of the playground and began to head down the hill towards the centre of the town and her house. As she turned onto the main road she glanced across it to her friend Olivia’s vast barn conversion. The estate agent’s shingle, hammered into the front lawn, announced that it was ‘sold subject to contract’. Olivia must be moving out soon. Bex paused and thought for a second about the mess her house was in and how she ought to be dealing with that… sod it, the mess could wait. Checking for traffic, she crossed the road then scrunched up the gravel drive. She hadn’t seen Olivia for weeks and she might well want a hand if she was in the middle of packing up. To offer some help was the least Bex could do for her friend – after all, when Bex had been swamped by her own unpacking, and Olivia had been a complete stranger, she’d come to introduce herself to the new arrival in town and ended up spending the evening with Bex, helping to unpack and organise the kitchen. When Bex had first met Olivia she hadn’t been sure she was going to like her. It had been obvious from the start that she was somewhat bossy and opinionated and, with her blonde bob and skirt-blouse-and-court-shoe apparel, she looked every inch the town busybody she so obviously was. But she was a doer and grafter and, even more than that, she was kind. And when Olivia had discovered that her public-school son had a drug habit and her husband had gambled away their life savings, her dignity in the face of such a crisis had been admirable. She was even making the best of having to sell up her ‘forever’ home to stop the family from going bankrupt. Bex was very fond of her.

She rang the doorbell and waited patiently for it to be answered. She was slightly taken aback when it was opened by Olivia’s son, Zac.

‘Hi, Zac – no school?’

‘St Anselm’s doesn’t go back till next week,’ he told her.

Hello, Bex,’ called Olivia from the other side of the monstrous sitting room. She was busy wrapping up an ornament in newspaper. ‘Long time no see. How are you?’ She pushed a stray lock of hair off her face. ‘Zac, be a love and put the kettle on.’

Zac loped off into the kitchen area on the far side of the room, skirting piles of cardboard boxes and a massive roll of bubble wrap.

‘St Anselm’s always gets a bonkers amount of holidays,’ said Olivia. ‘It seems to me that the more you pay for a child’s education, the less time he spends in the classroom.’

‘Quality not quantity,’ contradicted Zac over the gush of the tap as he filled the kettle.

Olivia raised an eyebrow. ‘I don’t think your last year’s exam results back up that argument.’

‘No… well…’ The back of Zac’s neck glowed pink. He flicked the kettle on. ‘I’ll take Oscar out for a walk if you two are going to talk.’ He grabbed his dog’s lead and whistled. Oscar, a black and white border collie, bounded out of his basket and headed for the front door.

When they’d left, Olivia crossed the room herself and got a couple of mugs out of the cupboard.

‘How’s it all going?’ asked Bex, following her.

‘What? The move, paying off Nigel’s debts or Zac’s recovery from drugs?’ Olivia sounded weary.

‘Oh, sweetie…’ Bex gave Olivia a hug. ‘I’m sorry.’

Olivia gave her a thin smile. ‘Don’t be. Honestly, we’re getting there. Zac’s fine – still clean – and I think I should be grateful he’s sowed his wild oats in a safe little place like this and that the guy who supplied him with all the drugs is doing time in nick and out of the picture. Without him around I think the chances of Zac backsliding are pretty slim although I don’t think he will anyway – he’s learned his lesson. I dread to think what would have happened if he’d got addicted at uni where he’d have been just another anonymous junkie student.’

‘True,’ murmured Bex. That’s one way to look at things, she supposed.

‘And Nigel’s debts will be cleared once we’ve got the money for this place and move into our new home.’

‘And that’ll be…?’

‘In a fortnight if all goes according to plan.’

‘Do you know who’s bought this?’

Olivia shook her head. ‘Not a clue – to be honest, I don’t want to know. The estate agent handled all the viewings and Nigel’s dealt with the paperwork. I… I…’ She stopped. ‘I found it all a bit upsetting.’

Bex reached out and squeezed her friend’s arm.

Catherine Jones lives in Thame, where she is an independent Councillor. She is the author of eighteen novels, including the Soldiers’ Wives series, which she wrote under the pseudonym Fiona Field.

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