‘Promise me? If you hear any secrets, never tell me. That would make you a most treasured friend. More than a friend really. You’re almost like a sister to me…’
Your best friend….
From the moment they met as children, Sasha knew that beautiful, wealthy, and confident Caitlin would always be her absolute best friend. Sasha would do anything to make Caitlin happy.
Even keep her darkest secrets…
The years have passed, but their friendship remains. And when Caitlin announces she’s getting married there is only one choice for the role of bridesmaid.
Sasha will make sure Caitlin’s wedding is as beautiful and perfect as she is. Won’t she?
Your worst nightmare?
But Sasha is growing tired of always being in Caitlin’s shadow – always the bridesmaid, never the bride. And as the big day approaches, cracks begin to appear between the two woman. Secrets and lies swirl between the two friends like confetti. Both of them are hiding dark secrets, both of them are lying.
Could the secrets that once bound these two friends, rip them apart for good?
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Toxic friendships, dysfunctional families and class divide are all explored in this psychological suspense. Three timelines are woven together to deliver an absorbing story that has many noir elements. Sasha’s friendship with Caitlin is unequal at best. The two girls are divided by class and familial expectations. Sasha’s family works at the house, Caitlin is the owner’s treasured granddaughter. The story of how the girls meet and grow up together is merged with a fateful birthday party where everything changes and the wedding where revenge is sought and revelations abound.
The characterisation is good, but Caitlin and Sasha still manage to keep their secrets until the end. There are many disturbing themes explored believably in this story. Poignant and shocking with a surprising ending.
Nina Manning studied psychology and was a restaurant-owner and private chef (including to members of the royal family). She is the founder and co-host of Sniffing The Pages, a book review podcast. Her debut psychological thriller, The Daughter in Law, was a bestseller in the UK, US, Australia and Canada. She lives in Dorset.
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK in return for an honest review.
The intensity of this twisty psychological suspense builds with every page turn. Then the secrets begin to unfold, and you can’t stop reading. You have to know, what next?
Told mainly from Beth and Tom’s viewpoints, this story gives the reader insight into the main players, but you’re never sure if they are truthful, and the mystery deepens. A well-written plot makes it easy to read. Beth is so shocked by the police investigation into her husband it’s hard not to empathise with her.
The suspense builds believably and relentlessly. With each revelation, another question is raised. The ending draws all the plot strands together with some notable twists that resonate.
The perfect family. The perfect chance. The perfect lie.
A stunning novel about motherhood and betrayal
When Kate moves to London after the disappearance of her sister, she’s in need of a friend. A chance meeting leads Kate to Della, a life coach who runs support groups for young women, dubbed by Kate as ‘the Janes.’
Della takes a special interest in Kate, and Kate soon finds herself entangled in Della’s life – her house, her family, and her husband. It’s only when she realises that she’s in too deep that Della’s veneer begins to crumble, and the warnings from ‘the Janes’ begin to come true.
Why is Della so keen to keep Kate by her side? What does Kate have that Della might want? And what really lies beneath the surface of their friendship?
Kate trusts Della, and Della trusts Kate. Their downfall is each other.
I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Relatable characters and a well thought out plot make this psychological suspense an absorbing, chilling and sometimes poignant story.
Kate’s sister left home when she was ten, and she never saw her again. She spent her subsequent years making up for her sister’s disappearance whilst never recovering emotionally from her loss. As an adult, Kate is in London pursuing a lead about her missing sister. She is vulnerable when she meets life coach Della, who draws her into her life like a spider capturing prey into their web.
The story takes many unexpected twists seen from Kate’s viewpoints but remains believable because of unreliable protagonist Kate’s sense of abandonment and susceptibility to manipulation. Themes of societal expectation of women, social class, family relationships, obsession and loss are recurrent. As the story progresses, the noir elements dominate, making it both addictive and disturbing to read.
The ending is impactful and offers hope and a sense of closure for both Kate and Della.
Today is publication day for The Wolf Mile by C.F.Barrington by Aries Fiction, the adventure fiction imprint of Head of Zeus Books. The first in a series of five books this promises something different for the adventure fiction market.
A forbidden contest. An international game.
Bankrolled by the world’s wealthy elite and followed by thousands online, two teams of warriors vie for dominance … and the streets of Edinburgh run with blood.
Into this secret struggle steps Tyler Maitland, seeking his lost sister, and Lana Cameron, grieving her dead child. When they are accosted by figures in black hoodies and each handed a silver amulet, they recognise the Triple Horn of Odin – the talisman of the Valhalla Horde.
They are being recruited into the great game known as The Pantheon. And one day they will change everything.
Now they must risk their lives and join the ranks of seven ancient warrior teams which inhabit this illicit world. Their journey will be more wondrous and horrifying than anything they could have dreamed, taking each of them to the depths of their souls … and testing them to breaking point as they search for loved ones and for the meaning in their lives.
I thought your readers might like to hear about my debut novel – The Wolf Mile – which is being launched by Head of Zeus adventure imprint, Aries Fiction, on 6 May (digital) and 8 August (paperback). It is the first in a five-book saga about The Pantheon, with Book 2 (The Blood Isles) launching in October 2021 and Book 3 (The Hastening Storm) coming in spring 2022.
I’ve chosen it because the story – and indeed the genre – has sparked much discussion amongst my early readers, because it is hard to pin into a single category and defies my many attempts to condense it into a snappy teaser. The most concise description came from one of my advance readers, who said it was ‘Fight Club with swords’. I’ll take that! And my agent (Laura Macdougall at United Agents) said it had ‘elements of The Hunger Games’ when she first read it.
What inspired you to write The Wolf Mile?
It is a story which is first and foremost inspired by a sense of place. Apart from a sojourn into the forests of the Highlands, the book’s action all takes place in the closes, tunnels and rooftops which flow from the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Indeed, it was Edinburgh’s Old Town which really allowed the story to manifest. The dark, malevolent history of the Old Town and its stunning architecture and rumours of tunnels and secret passages, set my mind ticking. I am sure that the whole concept of The Pantheon could not have come together if it had not been for my life in and around Edinburgh.
The story was also prompted by two other factors: Firstly, I had always wanted to take my love of historical fiction and coax it into a modern thriller – without going down the well-trodden route of some sort of time-travel. Secondly, after a career spent in major gift fundraising for charities and universities, I had communicated with many very wealthy individuals and I got to wondering what makes someone excited when they can buy everything? As the book asks….. Imagine riches beyond your wildest dreams. What would you do with them? Travel the world? Buy a yacht? Now times it by ten. A hundred. We’re talking mega-wealth – the kind that buys governments, shapes economies, enervates security forces and makes a mockery of justice systems. NOW what would you do with it? Less certain?
In ancient times, the wealthy of Rome spent their money and energies on forsaking human life in the gladiatorial stadia – and that’s where the concept of The Pantheon grew from in my head.
The Wolf Mile charts the rise of Tyler Maitland and Lana Cameron as they are plucked from their normal lives to become players in The Pantheon, a secret game bankrolled by the world’s wealthy elite and watched online by thousands. Warriors from seven ancient civilisations are trained, sworn to allegiance, then pitted against each other in battles amongst the claustrophobic alleys which flow from Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and filmed in real-time.
Set in today’s city, this is very much a modern thriller, but it mixes elements of historical fiction, as well as a sweeping romance over the five-book series, which takes the protagonists from friends, to sworn enemies and finally to lovers. So when Aries came along and declared it was, above all, adventure fiction, it was perfect – because this is exactly what the saga is: A twisting, turning, relentless adventure with a big cast of characters, which propels the protagonists on a journey more horrifying and wondrous than they could ever have dreamed, into a world which perhaps we all secretly wish we experience.
Comments so far include:
‘The Wolf Mile is a thrilling ride and a heck of a debut. C F Barrington knocks it out the park.’
‘Featuring two compelling yet flawed lead characters, an intriguing mystery and unrelenting action, I can’t wait to see where Mr Barrington takes us in the future.’
‘It is a very cool idea and I think if done right will become one of my favourite secret societies.’
‘Get ready for a rip-roaring adventure through the streets of Edinburgh – The Wolf Mile is the perfect escapist read!’
I’ve included some photos of the Old Town which have helped inspire me. One evening before the pandemic, a friend and I toured the Old Town cameras in hand. We ended up climbing onto buildings and lying in the middle of roads, getting carried away discovering the dark, brooding essence of The Pantheon. It was great fun and hopefully the images provide a taste of what to expect in The Wolf Mile.
C F Barrington spent twenty years intending to write a novel, but found life kept getting in the way. Instead, his career took him into major gift fundraising, leading teams in organisations as varied as the RSPB, Oxford University and the National Trust.
When his role as Head of Communications at Edinburgh Zoo meant a third year of fielding endless media enquiries about the possible birth of a baby panda, he finally retreated to a quiet desk beside the sea and discovered the inspiration for the Pantheon saga.
Raised in Hertfordshire and educated at Oxford, he now divides his time between running over the hills of the Lake District and dog walking on the beaches of Fife.
My website is www.cfbarrington.com – and provides lots of visuals and backstory about Edinburgh’s Old Town.
Cathy was a happy, blushing bride when Britain went to war with Germany three years ago. But her youthful dreams were crushed by her violent husband Stanley’s involvement with the fascist black-shirts, and even when he’s conscripted to fight she knows it’s only a brief respite – divorce is not an option. Cathy, a true Brogan daughter, stays strong for her beloved little son Peter.
When a telegram arrives declaring that her husband is missing in action, Cathy can finally allow herself to hope – she only has to wait 6 months before she is legally a widow and can move on with her life. In the meantime, she has to keep Peter safe and fed. So she advertises for a lodger, and Sergeant Archie McIntosh of the Royal Engineers’ Bomb Disposal Squad turns up. He is kind, clever and thoughtful; their mutual attraction is instant. But with Stanley’s fate still unclear, and the Blitz raging on over London’s East End, will Cathy ever have the love she deserves?
I received a copy of this book from Atlantic Books -Corvus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I always enjoy reading books in the Ration Book series because of the authentic settings, historical detail and believable characters. The simple plot allows this character-driven story to draw the reader into London during World War two, making it an immersive reading experience.
This story follows Cathy, a young mother, married to an abusive and bigoted man currently fighting in North Africa. The story reads fine as a standalone, but the series is engaging, and it’s best to read all the books in the series.
This is a story of forbidden love and making the best of your life. Cathy is a courageous and likeable character, as is Archie, her new lodger, and the reader empathises with them. Realistically paced and well-researched. It’s easy to visualise the setting. It incorporates serious issues but manages to keep the story entertaining.
Born and bred in East London Jean is a District Nurse by trade and has worked as a NHS manager and as a senior lecture in Health and Nursing Studies. She left her day job to become a full-time writer in 2015 and has never looked back.
In 2006 she won the Harry Bowling Prize and now has seventeen sagas published over three series with both Orion and Atlantic all of which are set in East London.
She is an experienced public speaker with hundreds of WI and women’s club talks under her belt, plus for the past fifteen years she has sailed all over the world as an enrichment speaker and writing workshop leader on cruise ships.
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When Meddy Chan accidentally kills her blind date, she turns to her aunties for help. Their meddling set her up on the date so they kind of owe her.
Although hiding this goddamn dead body is going to be harder than they thought, especially when her family’s wedding business has THE biggest wedding of the year happening right now.
It turns out the wedding venue just happens to be managed by Meddy’s ex, aka the one who got away. It’s the worst time to see him again, or…is it? Can Meddy finally find love and make her overbearing family happy?
I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This story is a multigenerational delight, full of humorous incidents and vibrant characters. It has a little of everything culture, drama, fun, murder mystery and romance. The family curse means Meddy feels she can’t leave her mother and aunties, as their husbands and sons have, but this has consequences for Meddy, which become clear as the story progresses.
This story is a journey of self-realisation for Meddy, who has changed the course of life for her female relatives. It also explores the concept of family and the willingness to do anything for a loved one. The visual writing style makes the comic and dramatic events easy to visualise and therefore more engaging. The dialogue is key to the enjoyment in a novel that is the perfect escape.
A new start cancome from the most unexpected places…
It’s been years since Lizzie Lockhart spoke to her parents. But she was safe in the knowledge she knew everything about them. Once upon a time, they were as close as could be. Until they weren’t.
After receiving the earth-shattering news of their passing, Lizzie decides it’s time to unearth some family secrets and find out just who her parents really were… starting with Streamside Cottage. A cottage Lizzie never knew existed, in a place she’s never heard of: the beautiful English village of Leafton.
Leaving behind London, and the tattoo parlour she called home, Lizzie finds herself moving to the countryside. Faced with a tight-lipped community, who have secrets of their own, Lizzie is at a loss for what to do, until her rather handsome neighbour, Ben, steps in to help.
As Lizzie finally begins to piece together the puzzle of her family history she realises she has to confront the truth of the past in order to face her future.
Do you love or hate tattoos? They can attract an extreme reaction and that’s the reason I wanted to write a story featuring a tattoo artist as the main character. Even though tattoos are mainstream these days, stigma still exists around them, along with set ideas about the *type of person* who would get one. It’s only in recent years, for example, that the Met Police have relaxed their policy on officers being banned from having visible ones on their hands or face. I wanted to show that they represent so much more than just a piece of art. It is the reasons behind why people put themselves under the needle that interest me most.
In 2016 I started my mental health recovery. Buddhism was a big part of this and I decided I wanted a tattoo of a lotus flower, on my wrist. It was my first and it’s very small – I now wish I’d had it drawn much bigger! It’s a daily reminder of how far I’ve come, and how I need to keep doing what I did in 2016 to stay well. Whilst she inked me I chatted to the artist, admiring her incredible skill. She talked about the many reasons people want tattoos. As part of her job she hears painful stories, about abuse for example, or bereavement. I chatted about my personal journey as the tracing paper version of my lotus flower became pink and vibrant on my skin.
Of course, you’re always going to get those tattoos that have been done whilst drunk on holiday and are misspelt, and they carry entirely different stories! But reputable artists won’t ink anyone under the influence and you have to be over eighteen. And, like Lizzie in my story, each artist has their own set of ethics, such as refusing to ink on the name of a short-term boyfriend or girlfriend in case the relationship breaks down, or saying no to doing them on a part of the body they’ll rub off easily, such as the fingers.
Tattoos have been around as long as the Ancient Egyptians, and to me are as much a part of human life as haircuts or make-up. Very often they represent a hard time that person has been through, yet some critics still only associate them with people of dubious character. They’d no doubt be surprised to learn that Winston Churchill had one! I understand why not everyone wants a tattoo – I’m not sure a Mohican haircut would suit me, for example – but that’s the beauty of being human, our individualism.
I thoroughly enjoyed doing research and each chapter begins with an interesting fact, such as how the Indian Apatani tribe used to tattoo young girls to make them unappealing to rival tribes who might abduct the most beautiful women. Or how some people get loved ones’ ashes put into the tattoo ink, as a permanent commemoration.
Lizzie’s job is a big reason she fell out with her parents – or is it? If you read this story I hope you enjoy her emotional journey to the village of Leafton, to find out why they cut her out of their life so completely. It’s a novel about confronting the past in order to face the future.
Samantha Tonge lives in Manchester UK with her husband and children. She studied German and French at university and has worked abroad, including a stint at Disneyland Paris. She has travelled widely. When not writing she passes her days cycling, baking and drinking coffee. Samantha has sold many dozens of short stories to women’s magazines. She is represented by the Darley Anderson literary agency. In 2013, she landed a publishing deal for romantic comedy fiction with HQDigital at HarperCollins and in 2014, her bestselling debut, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award. In 2015 her summer novel, Game of Scones, hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart and won the Love Stories Awards Best Romantic Ebook category. In 2018 Forgive Me Not, heralded a new direction into darker women’s fiction with publisher Canelo. In 2019 she was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association romantic comedy award.
I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review.
The Therapist is an addictive blend of cleverly crafted characters, nail-biting psychological suspense and a puzzling plot. Alice and Leo move into the exclusive gated development in London to begin their lives together. Alice is unsure if London life will suit her, but Leo wants to live in London, and she wants to see more of him.
Told exclusively from Alice’s perspective, she soon reveals herself as an unreliable protagonist. A past family tragedy still defines her life, and she sees the change of lifestyle as a way of living again. Alice dislikes The Circle’s sinister ethos. A series of unexpected revelations intensify her emotional vulnerability to breaking point. Everyone has secrets, and Alice isn’t sure who she can trust. The house’s tragic history immerses Alice until her life starts to unravel, pushing her relentlessly towards danger.
Short passages from the past with undefinable characters intensify the sense of menace and suspense towards the climactic, twisted conclusion. The final shocking twist is well disguised. This is a book you won’t want to put down. It will have you checking you’ve locked the doors.
Alice thought her future was set in stone, until her past came knocking…
Alice Butler starred in a successful US sitcom until tensions in the cast and crew caused the show to be cancelled. Now, five years later and working towards her dream job in art history, she’s called back for a revival of the show. It can only end in disaster, surely?
Flown to a villa in Chianti to meet with the rest of the cast, Alice must decide where her future lies – with her boyfriend, David, who laps up the Hollywood company, or with the mysterious Matt, who shies away from public attention?
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Alice enjoyed her life as a TV star in a hit romantic comedy serial until there was more drama in real life than on the screen. When the series got cancelled, she returned to her university life and found academia suited her. The chance to rekindle the past is too good to ignore, so she accepts the invitation to Chianti, not sure what her decision will be.
Set in charismatic Chianti, this story allows you to escape to a place full of history. As always, this author writes using vivid imagery that brings the locations to vibrant life. This is a story where celebrity meets the past. The romance is full of conflicts but always gentle and real. It is a stark contrast to the superficial glitz and glamour of the celebrity world.
Believable characters, a location full of heat and history and a dog character who steals your heart, the perfect book to lift your mood.
I’m a man. And a pretty old man as well. I did languages at university a long time ago and then lived and worked in France and Switzerland before going to Italy for seven years as a teacher of English. My Italian wife and I then came back to the UK with our little daughter (now long-since grown up) where I ran a big English language school for many years. We now live in a sleepy little village in Devonshire. I’ve been writing almost all my life but it was only seven years ago that I finally managed to find a publisher who liked my work enough to offer me my first contract.
The fact that I am now writing romantic comedy is something I still find hard to explain. My early books were thrillers and historical novels. Maybe it’s because there are so many horrible things happening in the world today that I feel I need to do my best to provide something to cheer my readers up. My books provide escapism to some gorgeous locations, even if travel to them is currently difficult.
When Beatrix, Duchess of Howden, writes to her estranged husband offering a divorce, she’s stunned when he arrives on her doorstep with a different proposition: a six-week marriage trial! Quinton Roxbury seems cold and inscrutable, but Beatrix gradually realises his rough exterior hides a heavy burden. As their connection deepens, dare she trust him with her own scandalous past and risk the marriage she never knew she wanted?
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
This is the third book in the Regency Belles of Bath series but reads well as a standalone. Marred with scandal, the Duke of Howden’s life is difficult. Contacted by his runaway bride, he strikes a bargain that may lead to happiness or disaster.
Quin the Duke has a satirical sense of humour that endears him. Beatrix, surprised by his offer and her reaction to him, agrees to his proposal. First friends and then romantically involved, as they live together in the family home. Beatrix, damaged by her childhood, wants to help Quin’s family find some positives in their lives.
This is a lovely Regency romance with plenty of conflicts and relatable characters and a heroine and hero that deserve to find love.
Jenni Fletcher was born in Scotland and now lives in Yorkshire where she writes historical romance novels ranging from the Roman to late Victorian eras. She studied English at Cambridge and Hull and has been nominated for 4 RoNA awards, winning for Short Romantic Fiction in 2020. She teaches Creative Writing at a university in the north of England and her favourite hobbies are baking and, of course, reading.