Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Excerpt, Psychological Thriller, Thriller

She’s Mine – Claire S.Lewis – #BlogTour- 4*#Review- #Author #Interview- #Extract @Aria_Fiction @CSLewisWrites

She was never mine to lose…

When Scarlett falls asleep on a Caribbean beach she awakes to her worst nightmare – Katie is gone. With all fingers pointed to her Scarlett must risk everything to clear her name.

As Scarlett begins to unravel the complicated past of Katie’s mother she begins to think there’s more to Katie’s disappearance than meets the eye. But who would want to steal a child? And how did no-one see anything on the small island?

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

My Thoughts…

This is not what I expected. The first few chapters make you think certain events have occurred, and following on from this, the list of suspects is few, but then you are transported back to 1997, and what you discover there changes your perception of what happened on the beach.

The flashbacks are in a series of photographs which trigger a specific set of memories of the unknown narrator. The introduction of new characters seemingly unrelated to the event on the Carribean island, and initially cause confusion for the reader, but gradually the connections can be made and the puzzle starts to form a coherent picture.

Scarlett is an unreliable protagonist, she has past secrets, which reinforce her unreliability. She is also immature and easily swayed by the stronger, more mature personalities she comes into contact with. Costa is an unconventional investigator, they make an unusual but effective investigating team.

The characters are complex and all are flawed, keeping secrets, behaving instinctively, rather than with caution. Can the reader trust any of them for a truthful account?

The plot is intriguing, there are plenty of clues but these are countered by misinformation, so when you think you know what happened you don’t.

Surprisingly, I did work out the ending but this didn’t detract from the story.

A compulsive, psychological thriller, with well-crafted suspense and some clever twists, and an overriding poignant ethos, worth reading.

Claire S. Lewis – Author Interview

What inspired you to write this story?

She’s Mine started as a little exercise that I wrote on ‘setting’ for a beginner’s online creative writing course.  I chose a beach setting because I thought that would be a good way of using all the five senses – sight, sound, taste, touch and smell – in the description.  You’re usually very engaged with your senses when lying on a beach!  To make it more interesting, I added the plot element of a nanny falling asleep on the sand and waking up to find that the little girl she was supposed to be looking after had disappeared. When I later took the Faber Academy course on writing a novel, I used this piece as the opening chapter for my novel draft which became She’s Mine.

What is the first thing you decide when writing a story, the setting, the plot or characters? Why do you think this is?

When starting a story, the first thing that gets me writing is the plot. Sometimes a conversation or a news item or something I hear on the radio makes me think, ‘that would be a great starting point for a novel’, or ‘if you put that into a novel nobody would believe it’, and from that scene or idea, I develop a plot.  Next, I imagine which characters would act out that plot and how they would interact with each other. And then I think about what would be an interesting or enticing setting or stage for those characters – usually, I like to pick locations that I know well and that I know I would love bringing to life in descriptions. So, in She’s Mine, much of the backstory is set in Oxford because I was a student there and it is a beautiful and atmospheric city that is still very vivid in my memory. I can easily wind back the clock and put myself in the place of my characters and imagine myself there, seeing and feeling it from inside their heads.

I think the plot interests me the most because I like the idea of setting up a puzzle and then gradually letting the readers into the mystery. The characters are there to act out the plot. I am also really interested in exploring devices such as the ‘unreliable narrator’ – like the nanny,  Scarlett, in She’s Mine. In addition, I enjoy playing around with changing narrative viewpoints so that the reader sees parts of the puzzle or mystery through one character’s eyes but has to read between the lines to work out the ‘truth’ that is eventually revealed when the narrative perspective changes to another character. I use this device a lot in my second novel. The plot is the starting point for all this.

Do you draw your characters from real life or are they purely a product of your imagination?

My characters are mostly imaginary – which is lucky because they tend to be quite dark and complicated! Of course, in some cases, I draw on certain personality traits of people I know in real life, or perhaps not so much personality traits but ways of speaking and interacting with other people. After reading the first draft of She’s Mine, my teenage daughter said to me, ‘So Scarlett’s basically me!’ I wasn’t conscious of writing this (and they certainly don’t have the same characters!), but she recognised herself in Scarlett’s narrative voice! So far all of my male characters have been flawed – weak, vain, untrustworthy, and the like. I wouldn’t say this is a reflection of the men in my life! In She’s Mine, my anti-hero Damien was in part inspired by a particularly unpleasant man I spoke to very briefly at an event some years ago! Sometimes it doesn’t take much to light the spark of a character…

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I love reading all sorts of fiction books as long as they are not too heavy or slow moving! Particular authors/books that I have loved since I was a teenager include Evelyn Waugh (Brideshead Revisited), Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby/Tender is the Night), Graham Greene (The Confidential Agent/The Power and The Glory), Nancy Mitford (Love in a Cold Climate) and Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr Ripley). I think these books are brilliant because they are so beautifully written with such intriguing stories, charismatic characters and entrancing settings. I also love modern psychological thrillers such as Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, The Cry and You. My all-time favourite novel is Gone With The Wind which I devoured when I was growing up.

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

Before I had children, I was an aviation lawyer for Virgin Atlantic, but I’ve always loved reading and books, and always dreamt of writing a novel.  So after having been at home with the children for a few years, I finally took the plunge and signed up for some creative writing courses – both novel and screenwriting – to see if I could do it – then I got hooked. I love writing fiction because of the freedom it gives you to escape and get lost in other worlds. And I love psychological suspense because I find the psychological part fascinating – imagining what’s going on in other people’s minds – and the suspense part is so much fun to create because it’s what keeps us reading – the ‘what if?’ and ‘what next’ that makes us want to keep turning the page!

What are you currently writing?

I’m currently writing another story in the genre of psychological suspense about a beautiful young florist with a tragedy in her past. It’s wonderful to write because I’m researching the world of floristry and flowers (as well as getting to grips with the workings of dating apps such as Tinder which I’ve never looked at before!). The plot revolves around stalking (no pun intended!) but it’s not clear who is the predator and who is the victim…

Thank you so much, Jane, for giving me the opportunity to write for your lovely blog, Jane Hunt Writer!

Extract

That’s the truth, but not the whole truth. What I don’t reveal to her is an incident that took place in Christina’s bedroom the week before we flew out to the British Leeward Isles. I don’t disclose it because the incident doesn’t put me in a good light either! On Tuesdays, Katie does a full day at kindergarten so I have a little time to myself. I’ve got into the habit of using Christina’s en-suite, luxurious, walk-in power shower and expensive beauty products following the weekly hot yoga class that I go to after dropping off Katie. So last Tuesday, I had just finished my shower and wrapped myself in Christina’s bathrobe when I heard her bedroom door opening and then the sound of her antique roll top desk being unlocked.

I thought she must have come back early from work for some reason. There was nothing else for it but to come clean (literally!) and apologise for taking the liberty of using her bathroom without asking first. So I took off her bathrobe, draped a towel around me and opened the door. But it wasn’t Christina. It was Damien with his back to me, checking the contents of the desk. Caught in the act. Hearing the catch he started and turned in alarm. He reddened but quickly composed himself and went on the offensive.

‘What a vision of beauty!’ he sneered as I stood there, my wet hair dripping onto the carpet. ‘I didn’t realise you and Christina were so intimate.’

‘And I didn’t realise you made a habit of going through her private papers!’ I snapped back. I know very well that the desk, an old family heirloom shipped over from the UK, is a strictly no-go area that she keeps locked at all times. He just laughed and then cool as a cucumber, he slipped some documents into a green cardboard file under his arm, locked the desk, pocketed the key and marched out of the room.

‘Just mind your own business and keep out of our affairs. Or you’ll be going the same way as the previous nanny,’ was his parting shot.

I understood this was no idle threat. Christina’s so possessive and distrustful that I knew if she got wind of this brush with Damien, she would imagine the worst and I’d be out of a job. So I said nothing to Christina in New York and I say nothing to the police officer now as she converses with me in the hotel bedroom.

I decide to keep my suspicions about Damien to myself – for now.

*

For something that was supposed to have been a ‘friendly chat’ the questioning is intense. After asking about my relations with Christina and Damien she embarks on a list of questions clearly aimed at working out a timeline for my movements this afternoon. What time did I arrive at the beach with Katie? Did I speak to anyone? Did anyone approach me or Katie? Did I notice anyone watching her? What time did I fall asleep? What time did I wake up? When did I become aware Katie was missing? What did I do next? Did I see anyone on the beach when I was looking for her? How long did I spend searching the beach before raising the alarm? What time did I tell Christina her little girl was missing?

My head is pounding and I feel like a criminal by the time the family liaison officer finally puts her notepad away.

‘These questions are nothing to worry about,’ she assures me. ‘We just need to establish the timeline for the disappearance of the little girl.’ She ends the conversation by encouraging me to contact her ‘any time, any place’ if I need support or if I ‘remember’ anything else that may be relevant to the investigation. I half expect her to clap me in handcuffs and announce that she’s putting me under arrest when at last she says that I’m at liberty to go.

*

In a waking nightmare, we struggle on through the grief-stricken hours of the day making calls, badgering the search team for any new scrap of information and giving interviews to reporters in the belief that getting Katie’s story out there might somehow help in her rescue.

The worst moment comes just after midnight when the operation is called to a halt. I collapse onto a chair in a quivering heap. All the strength has gone from my legs. Christina appears distraught, begging members of the police and emergency services to go on searching.

‘There’s nothing more we can do tonight. We’ll resume at dawn. You should get some sleep,’ says the commander sternly. Holding our despair at bay and unable to contemplate the thought of sleep, we pace the beaches and the rocky headland for the next two hours, tripping over stones in the darkness, our steps lit only by the moon and stars in the cloudless black sky and the light from our mobile phones.

I am lightheaded with exhaustion by the time I accompany Christina to her room in the early hours of the morning. We sit out on the balcony mesmerised by the sound of waves rolling on to sand. We are too tired to speak. I make tea and give her three sleeping tablets from a packet I find in her wash bag. Once the tablets take effect, I steer her to bed, her expression vacant and confused, as she lets me pull the covers over her. It’s not until I shut Christina’s door and go down the corridor to the room I’m sharing with Katie that it strikes me again. Where the fuck is Damien? I haven’t seen him all day, not since he handed me the cocktail at the pool.

When I open the door, there is Katie’s blue bunny, propped up on her newly-made bed. The tears stream down my face. The bedtime story I was reading to her last night is still open at the page we got to when her eyes finally closed. It’s a beautifully illustrated copy of Peter Pan that Christina discovered in a quaint little bookshop called the Book Cellar, one of her favourite haunts for second-hand books. I glance down at the page. ‘The Mermaids’ Lagoon’ – Katie’s favourite chapter. She loves the colour illustrations of the mermaids diving in the waves. The doors to the balcony are open. I shiver in the sea breeze and step out through billowing curtains.

I stand there for a few moments still clutching Katie’s bucket.

Lost. Drowned.

Claire Simone Lewis studied philosophy, French literature and international relations at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge before starting her career in aviation law with a City law firm and later as an in-house lawyer at Virgin Atlantic Airways.  More recently, she turned to writing psychological suspense, taking courses at the Faber Academy. She’s Mine is her first novel. Born in Paris, she’s bilingual and lives in Surrey with her family. 
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Posted in Book Review, Romance, Holiday Romance, Friendship, Romantic Comedy

A Wedding at the Comfort Food Cafe – 5* #Review – Debbie Johnson @Harper Impulse @debbiemjohnson

Wedding bells ring out in Budbury as the Comfort Food Café and its cosy community of regulars are gearing up for a big celebration…

But Auburn Longville doesn’t have time for that! Between caring for her poorly mum, moving in with her sister and running the local pharmacy, life is busy enough – and it’s about to get busier. Chaos arrives in the form of a figure from her past putting her quaint village life and new relationship with gorgeous Finn Jensen in jeopardy. It’s time for Auburn to face up to some life-changing decisions.

Settle in for a slice of wedding cake at the Comfort Food Café – a place where friendships are made for life and nobody ever wants to leave.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

The Comfort Food Cafe has been a favourite read, since its inception. There is so much to love, with its quirky characters looking for someone to love them and give them a second chance. Cake to die for, and a wonderful sense of community and friendship that symbolises the ethos of these heartwarming, humorous and ultimately happy stories.

The final book in the series has a very special wedding. Laura was our first introduction to the cafe and her story is still one of my favourites. It made me cry, laugh out loud and empathise will her trials and tribulations. Auburn is our narrator for this final book in the series, and even though she fits right into the Budbury and the cafe community, she is keeping secrets and somehow feels she doesn’t deserve the friends, lover and life she currently enjoys.

The wedding is a delight and colourful, typically amongst the fun, love and romance there is conflict, thankfully not for the bride, but Auburn has to face her past. Even in this last book, there’s more to learn about the characters, and they continue to baffle and delight in equal measure. The ending is romantic and rightfully quirky. Even though we have read the last line, you can imagine the antics, hear the laughter and tears and almost taste the cake as the cafe’s comfort lives on.

Posted in Book Review, Psychological Thriller

The Guilty Party – 4* #Review – Mel McGrath @HQstories @mcgrathmj

You did nothing. That doesn’t mean you’re innocent.

On a night out, four friends witness a stranger in trouble. They decide to do nothing to help.

Later, a body washes up on the banks of the Thames – and the group realises that ignoring the woman has left blood on their hands.

But why did each of them refuse to step in? Why did none of them want to be noticed that night? Who is really responsible? And is it possible that the victim was not really a stranger at all?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Four old friends witness a terrible crime, individually and finally, collectively, there are numerous opportunities where they can make a difference to the outcome, but they don’t.

The story moves forward to a different group gathering when they inadvertently find out the outcome of that night. Should they have acted differently? Are they guilty? Why did they react in the way they did?

Switching between timelines and different points of view the dilemma is revealed and painstakingly unravelled This complex story is suspenseful, intense and dark. Delving into the dark secrets people keep hidden from the world, their friends, and the way we lie, even to ourselves.

There are many plot twists and the ending maintains the story’s dark ethos. Don’t expect to like the characters, they have few redeeming features. Maybe they are a reflection of a contemporary society that focuses on self and the individual whilst promoting a blame culture? It makes you think, and the question posed is what would you do?

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship

5* #Review – The Newcomer – Fern Britton- @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK @Fern_Britton

Cornwall is only a page away…


She arrived in the village on the spring tide and hoped to be at the heart of it, knowing its secrets and weathering its storms.

It was to be a new beginning…

It’s springtime in the Cornish village of Pendruggan and as the community comes together to say a fond farewell to parish vicar, Simon, and his wife, Penny, a newcomer causes quite a stir…

Reverand Angela Whitehorn came to Cornwall to make a difference. With her husband, Robert, by her side, she sets about making changes – but it seems not everyone is happy for her to shake things up in the small parish, and soon Angela starts to receive anonymous poison pen letters.

Angela has always been one to fight back, and she has already brought a fresh wind into the village, supporting her female parishioners through good times and bad. But as the letters get increasingly more personal, Angela learns that the secrets are closer to home.

With faith and friends by your side, even the most unlikely of new beginnings is possible.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

There’s a certain addictive charm about all of Fern Britton’s stories. The description of Cornwall and village life are part of this, but the uniqueness stems from her characters. She explores everyday situations and leaves behind the mundane, teasing out the courage, fear, passion and secrets, which hide behind their public face,

This story draws you in with a tragic event, before taking you back six months to the arrival of a newcomer to Pendruggan. Angela is a newly ordained vicar, Pendruggan is her first, albeit temporary parish, and she wants to succeed. You meet the village characters, some of which are familiar, and Angela’s family. Her husband is a television political correspondent, on a temporary sabbatical from a career he loves, her daughter Faith, is much loved, but unhappy to be uprooted from her friends and the life she loves, Then there’s Aunt Mamie. A wildcard, she is an important influence in Angela’s life, and her maverick nature brings laughter and excitement to the village and its inhabitants.

The plot is fast-paced and easy reading, it has the ethos of a cozy mystery, with its cast of character and a mystery to solve, but it’s more than this. The complex characters are flawed and realistic and give the story emotional depth and interest. The plot is simple but believable, and its resolution authentic. There is a lovely medley of angst, faith, humour and poignancy. It’s an emotional journey for Angela and those who care about her and she leaves the village with memories that resonate.

A lovely book that is both entertaining and sincere.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Mystery, Romance

The Lost Letter from Morocco – 3*#Review Adrienne Chinn @AvonBooksUK @adriennechinn

A forbidden love affair. A long-buried secret. A journey that will change everything.

Morocco, 1984. High in the Atlas Mountains, Hanane’s love for Irishman Gus is forbidden. Forced to flee her home with the man she loves, Hanane is certain she’s running towards her destiny. But she has made a decision that will haunt her family for years to come.

London, 2009. When Addy discovers a mysterious letter in her late father’s belongings, she journeys to Morocco in search of answers. But instead, she finds secrets – and is quickly pulled into a world that she doesn’t understand.

And when history starts to repeat itself, it seems her journey might just change the person she is forever

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Addy has survived illness and when her estranged father dies, she finds old photographs, one of which contains a happy image of her father Gus, and a woman she doesn’t know, The back of the photo is dated 1984 Morocco.

She sets off on a journey of discovery, hoping to get to know her father better. She falls in love with Morocco but finds more questions than answers and risks repeating history.

The setting for this story is beautifully described. The vivid images immerse the reader, in the culture and ethos of Morocco. I like the timeslip story best, but unfortunately, the plot doesn’t allow this to be explored to its full potential. Whilst this faithfully represents what Addy discovers, from a reader’s point of view it would have been preferable to spend more time in 1984.

The characters whilst complex and interesting are hard to empathise in most cases. The pacing is a little slow and there is perhaps too much emphasis on the setting rather than the characterisation and plot.

An interesting read of forbidden love in a different culture.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Literary Fiction

The Frank Business – Olivia Glazebrook – 4* #Review – @JMP_Publicity @johnmurrays

After Frank drops down dead in Heathrow Arrivals on Christmas Eve, his estranged daughter Jem is called in to identify the body. When Jem travels back to Frank’s house in France – a house she hasn’t been in since she was a child – she realises that Frank had a son too.

Frank has died of a congenital heart defect, a defect he may have passed on to his daughter – or on to his son. Jem must warn her brother, but in finding herself a family she risks ripping another apart.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from John Murray Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This book has a great opening, it really catches your attention, and makes you feel sympathy for Frank who dies so painfully and abruptly. What follows reveals Frank as a destructive man who cared for no-one, and whose thoughtless actions had far-reaching effects on those he came into contact with.

The plot is not remarkable, although it is good, it’s the characters, the pertinent observations of what motivates people to react in certain ways, and most importantly how families work in a contemporary society that resonates with this story.

All the characters are authentically flawed and most are not particularly likeable, but they are understandable. Even though the family dynamics are magnified, the interactions between mother and son, father and daughter and husband and wife are recognisable.

The pacing suits this type of book and the characters and settings are full of vivid imagery, which makes this an easy but definitely intriguing read.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Guest post, Suspense, Thriller

#BlogTour #Trapped-Nick Louth- 5*#Review #GuestPost @canelo_co @NickLouthAuthor

Two desperate criminals. Something she never saw coming.

In Manchester, two hardened gang members on the run take Catherine Blake and her one-year-old son hostage at gunpoint. She is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Held in a Transit van, Catherine needs a plan fast. But it means diving into her captors’ risk-drenched world, and playing them at their own game.

Catherine has been through cancer, miscarriages and five draining years of IVF in order to have her son Ethan. He is the most precious thing in the world. She may be terrified out of her wits, but she’d do anything to protect him. Anything, no matter the cost…

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

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

My Thoughts…

From the first page, this suspenseful thriller is intriguing.

Primarily told from Catherine’s husband’s point of view. He assumes the role of the story’s narrator, a unique and unusual role in this type of thriller. His insight is uncanny and the reader has to accept this until the pieces of the puzzle start to reveal themselves. When it becomes clear why he has this unusual insight into her thoughts, it’s probably not what you think, and so becomes a more compelling viewpoint.

Catherine is in a nightmare scenario and as the story unfolds you can understand what motivates her behaviour. Like me, you may wonder what you would do in the same situation. Catherine’s husband’s admiration of her is apparent throughout. She is a clever, driven character, who has fought to bring her child into the world and will never relinquish him. You empathise with her strongly but then, as you think it’s all over, it isn’t.

Gangland crime is at the heart of this plot but there are no stereotypes, the antagonists are believable and have no redeeming features, you are very much on the side of Catherine and Ethan her innocent child.

The twist is masterful and unexpected and makes the final chapters of the story enthralling.

Contemporary crime, authentic police procedures, and an intense, original plot, make ‘Trapped’ one of my favourite thrillers this year.

Guest Post – Nick Louth – Inspiration for Trapped

The original spark of inspiration for Trapped came after I read the brilliant novel Room by Emma Donoghue. I asked myself, could I write something that is even more claustrophobic than that? A story where the walls close in even tighter, where the threats are not mere confinement, but death. That’s when I came upon the idea of a woman and her child being imprisoned in the back of a squalid Transit van, inside a multi-storey car park surrounded by armed police. I wanted a dark, gritty setting, where the odds of survival were low. The next stage was to build a collision of temperament and outlook between prisoners and captors, to create a cauldron of conflict. Catherine Blake is the ultimate risk-averse mother, having finally given birth after years of trying, enduring miscarriages and IVF. Her protective nature involves shielding this precious child from even the most remote risks, by planning and foresight. Fretwell and Cousins, the gangsters who capture her and her child, are two men for whom long-term planning is a few minutes or at most a few hours. They get a kick from risk, a thrill from danger. Normally, these contrasting types of people do not run into each other. The power of the book comes from throwing them together in a believable way, under massive external pressure when the police arrive.

It’s not difficult to build scary gangsters, but what is hard is to steer away from the many cliches and stereotypes which infest the genre of crime fiction. In this case, I started with the names, courtesy of my own late father who used to tell me stories when I was a child of his national service in the 1950s. Amongst the many memorable characters, were the fearsome London hooligans Fretwell and Cousins, who intimidated even the sergeant major in my father’s regiment. The characters are completely different from those he described, but the names have a marvellous rhythm and are grafted onto two new characters. We spend very little time in the gangsters’ heads, but their actions reflect their impulsiveness. Our view into Catherine’s head is far more detailed and comes through her husband, who has a special all-seeing viewpoint that becomes ever clearer as the narrative progresses. His love for her and the ominous portents that he reveals are designed to create a shadow of foreboding right from the beginning. I’m very pleased with the reception that this unusual narrative voice has received from reviewers.

Nick Louth is a best-selling thriller writer, award-winning financial journalist and an investment commentator. A 1979 graduate of the London School of Economics, he went on to become a Reuters foreign correspondent in 1987. It was an experience at a medical conference in Amsterdam in 1992 while working for Reuters, that gave him the inspiration for Bite, which was self-published in 2007 and went on to become the UK No. 1 Kindle best-seller for several weeks in 2014 before being snapped up by Sphere. It has sold a third of a million copies and been translated into six languages.

The terrorism thriller Heartbreaker was published in June 2014 and received critical acclaim from Amazon readers, with a 4.6 out of 5 stars on over 100 reviews. Mirror Mirror, subtitled  ‘When evil and beauty collide’ was published in June 2016. The Body in the Marsh, a crime thriller, is being published by Canelo in September 2017.  Freelance since 1998, he has been a regular contributor to the Financial Times, Investors Chronicle and Money Observer, and has published seven other books. Nick Louth is married and lives in Lincolnshire.

Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction

5*#Review – Dinah Jefferies The Missing Sister @PenguinUKBooks@VikingBooksUK @DinahJefferies

A stolen sister. A daughter determined to uncover the truth.

Belle Hatton has embarked upon an exciting new life far from home: a glamorous job as a nightclub singer in 1930s Burma, with a host of sophisticated new friends and admirers. But Belle is haunted by a mystery from the past – a 25-year-old newspaper clipping found in her parents’ belongings after their death, saying that the Hattons were leaving Rangoon after the disappearance of their baby daughter, Elvira.

Belle is desperate to find out what happened to the sister she never knew she had – but when she starts asking questions, she is confronted with unsettling rumours, malicious gossip, and outright threats. Oliver, an attractive, easy-going American journalist, promises to help her, but an anonymous note tells her not to trust those closest to her. . .

Belle survives riots, intruders, and bomb attacks – but nothing will stop her in her mission to uncover the truth. Can she trust her growing feelings for Oliver? Is her sister really dead? And could there be a chance Belle might find her?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Such an evocative read, this story of loss, political unrest and a quest for the truth takes place in Burma during the 1930s, with slips back in time to 1911 and the 1920s.

Belle has left England, for a life as a singer in exotic Rangoon. She’s not the usual type of singer they have, but her talent and independent spirit bring her both admirers and adversaries.

Her mother’s failing mental health blighted her childhood, but after her father’s death, she discovers her parents once lived in Rangoon and had and lost a child there. Can this terrible tragedy explain her mother’s illness and what happened to her missing sister?

Belle’s search for the fate of her missing sister reveals more questions and answers, Oliver an attractive journalist offers to help, but can she trust his motives, or should she rely on the establishment to help her?

The plot is engaging. The perfect pacing adds to the story’s sense of mystery and menace. The political climate is dangerous, and Belle shows her emotional strength as she witnesses unspeakable violence and prejudice.

Full of powerful imagery, both in terms of the geographical and historical setting and the vivid characterisation, this story enthrals the reader. There is a mystery to solve a family tragedy to witness and empathise, and a lovely romance.

A lovely escapist read, which will touch your emotions and inspire your imagination.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Literary Fiction

5* #Review – If Only I Could Tell You – Hannah Beckerman @orionbooks @hannahbeckerman

A twist that will break your heart . . . An ending that will put it back together

Audrey’s family has fallen apart. Her two grown-up daughters, Jess and Lily, are estranged, and her two teenage granddaughters have never been allowed to meet. A secret that echoes back thirty years has splintered the family in two but is also the one thing keeping them connected.

As tensions reach breaking point, the irrevocable choice that one of them made all those years ago is about to surface. After years of secrets and silence, how can one broken family find their way back to each other?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Audrey’s family appears irrevocably broken, and she doesn’t know why. Her greatest wish is to see her daughters talking again, but is it within her power to achieve this after thirty years?

Family drama is the main theme of this story but the tragic event that catalyses it is not what it seems.  Told from three points of view: Audrey(Mother) Lily(Daughter) and Jess(Daughter). The story slips from the present to the past and back again, highlighting the family’s tragic history that blights their current lives, and hints at the secrets, which are tearing it apart.

The early chapters of the book suggest an obvious secret, but as you read on, something just as devastating but different is suggested, and finally revealed. The characters are flawed, tragic but relatable. Most will empathise with their predicament and their reactions to it.

The story flows well and enthrals. The twist is cleverly concealed and makes the sense of loss and waste even greater. The ending is believable, and hopeful and demonstrates that forgiveness makes anything possible.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Literary Fiction, Romance

5* #Review – Susan Lewis – One Minute Later @HarperCollinsUK @HarperFiction @susandlewis@fictionpubteam

You think your life is perfect.

You think your secrets are safe.

You think it’ll always be this way.

But your life can change in a heartbeat.

Behind every secret lies a story.

With a high-flying job, a beautiful apartment and friends whose lives are as happy as her own, Vivienne Shager is living the dream. Then, on the afternoon of Vivi’s twenty-seventh birthday, one catastrophic minute changes everything.
 
Forced to move back to the small seaside town where she grew up, Vivi remembers the reasons she left. The secrets, lies and questions that now must be answered before it’s too late. But the answers lie in thirty years in the past…
 
Shelley Raynor’s family home, Deerwood Farm, has always been a special place until darkness strikes at its heart. When Vivi’s and Shelley’s worlds begin to entwine, it only takes a moment for the truth to unravel all of their lives.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Authentic, emotional, mysterious and romantic are the perfect words to describe this enthralling story. Told primarily from Vivi and Shelley’s points of view, you wonder what there can be to connect two women who are so different in all aspects of their lives. Both their stories are absorbing. Vivi’s story is at the present time, Shelley’s mainly retrospective but one unconnected incident puts their lives on a collision course.

This a story of family life, relationships and friendship but there is an underlying mystery, which is gradually solved as the story develops. The story is suspenseful, as in the midst of ordinary events you are metaphorically waiting for ‘the other shoe to drop’.

So many people’s lives turn on a moment in time and the main body of the story focuses on the fall out from this event, and its consequences. The characters are complex, flawed and so believable. Reading this story is like being a voyeur into the character’s lives, the events are realistic as are their emotional responses and motivations.

The romance is sweet yet passionate, and selfless, it is the basis of the two main protagonist’s lives and what binds the families in the face of adversity. There is a multitude of poignant moments in this book, which enrich it. The plot’s twists make solving the underlying mystery complex and satisfying.

The emotional ending is beautiful to read and surprisingly hopeful. The messages peppered throughout this story are important for the reader to take on board.