1861. George’s life changes forever the day he meets Lucy. She’s beautiful and charming, and he sees a future with her that his position as the second son in a wealthy family has never offered him. But when Lucy dies in a suspected poisoning days after rejecting George, he finds himself swept up into a murder investigation. George loved Lucy; he would never have harmed her. So who did?
Now. On the surface Cassie is happy with her life: a secure job, good friends, and a loving family. When a mysterious gift in a long-forgotten will leads her to a dark secret in her family’s history she’s desperate to learn more. But the secrets in Cassie’s family aren’t all hidden in the past, and her research will soon lead her to a revelation much closer to home – and which will turn everything she knows on its head…
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
A dual timeline novel set in the Victorian era and the present day, this emotional story about love, family, and secrets is an engaging read. George and Cassie’s initial connection is through genealogy. George is a distant relative in Cassie’s family history. The story begins with an extract from George’s will noting a bequest to the wife of a prison chaplain. Moving to the twenty-first century, Cassie finds an unexpected connection in her family tree.
George is a naive man who seeks, but never finds, parental love, he needs. Cassie has parental love, but never recovered emotionally, from an early life experience. Cassie and George’s emotional vulnerability connects them. They are flawed and naive but easy to empathise. Both timelines give the reader a good sense of time and place. It’s easy to visualise the Victorian household and the differences in society’s expectation in the differing centuries.
The brutal contrasts of Victorian society are portrayed well in a story with many poignant moments. George, despite his lack of worldliness, is loyal, and you want him to find the happiness he deserves. Both stories have family and love at their heart. The plot reveals its secrets in a way that keeps you turning the pages.
Believable emotion, clever connections and historical detail make this an intriguing and satisfying story.
Kathleen McGurl lives in Bournemouth with her husband. She has two sons who have both now left home. She always wanted to write, and for many years was waiting until she had the time. Eventually she came to the bitter realisation that no one would pay her for a year off work to write a book, so she sat down and started to write one anyway. Since then she has published several novels with HQ and self-published another. She has also sold dozens of short stories to women’s magazines, and written three How To books for writers. After a long career in the IT industry she became a full time writer in 2019.
Two young men ski into a blizzard… but only one returns.
20 years later…
Four people connected to the missing man find themselves in that same resort. Each has a secret. Two may have blood on their hands. One is a killer-in-waiting.
Someone knows what really happened that day.And somebody will pay
I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Set in La Madiere France, this story evokes the ski resort ethos to create a believable setting with the author using sensory imagery well to create a claustrophobic atmosphere with a hint of menace. Multi-points of view highlight significant events and character motivations in this dual timeline story.
Set in 1998 and 2020 the story focuses on two groups of skiers’ stay in La Madiere. They have little in common in terms of age and financial status, but something sinister connects them. In 1998, a skiing trip ended tragedically for four young people. In 2020, The Chalet’s occupants lives unravel with the discovery of a body.
As dangerous secrets emerge, someone is seeking revenge creating a menacing ethos amongst the group of self-serving individuals in the Chalet. This an atmospheric story which makes a simple plot effective. The characters are hard to empathise, and whilst the outcome is guessable, it is relatable and resonates.
Catherine Cooper is a journalist specialising in travel, hotels, and skiing who writes regularly for the Telegraph and the Guardian among others. She lives near the Pyrenees in the South of France with her husband and two teenage children, and is a keen skier. The Chalet is her debut novel. www.catherinecooperauthor.com
Dr. Dom Di Rossi’s world literally crashes through the ER doors when his father, the King of Isola Verde, is involved in a car crash. Until now, Dom’s royal connection has been carefully guarded. But when Dr. Emilia Featherstone, his old medical school rival, recognizes a previously unseen vulnerability behind his delicious eyes, she unintentionally becomes the keeper of his secret – and his heart!
I received a copy of this book from Mills and Boon in return for an honest review.
This story will appeal to those who like lots of medical detail in their medical romance. A standalone book in the Royal Christmas at Seattle General series, Dr Dom Di Rossi is the chief ER consultant at Seattle General with a secret which allows him to pursue his medical vocation. An unexpected patient in his ER threatens his secret life. Dr Emilia Featherstone is a long time rival of the ER chief they have mutual respect, but nothing more until she senses he is hiding something.
The romance between Dom and Emilia is slow, built out of mutual respect which accepts the secrets they both have. The medical ethos is well written, but at times the medical moments obscure the romantic ones.
This is Grey’s Anatomy style romance with likeable characters and a positive ending. There are three other books in this series written by different authors.
FIVE STRANGERS IN FLORENCE, EACH WITH A DANGEROUS SECRET. AND AN APOCALYPTIC FLOOD THREATENING TO REVEAL EVERYTHING.
A wife on the run, a student searching for stolen art, a cleaner who has lined more than his pockets, a policeman whose career is almost over, and a guest who should never have received a wedding invite. Five strangers, entangled in the forger’s wicked web, amidst Florence’s devastating flood of November 1966.
In a race against time, and desperate to save themselves and all they hold dear, will their secrets prove more treacherous than the ominous floodwaters swallowing the historic city?
Dive into a world of lies and deceit, where nothing is as it seems on the surface…
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
This is something a little different for readers weary of predictability.
Five seemingly unconnected individuals converge on Florence just before an epic flood in 1966. The river, given a complex character in this historical crime mystery, provides a dramatic and unpredictable ethos for this strange story to play out.
Each character has their own chapter, and the individual stories reveal their past and motivations for being in Florence. All have secrets and a sinister force is controlling their destiny like puppeteer manipulates marionettes.
This is a detailed story which has intrinsic interest and provides a tableau for the characters to fulfil their destiny whilst the impending doom of the flood hangs over them unnoticed but menacing.
If you are looking for something out of the ordinary which at times defies belief this is for you.
A full time author, Kirsten is a former customs officer and antiques dealer, and who has also dabbled in film and television.
Her historical time-slip series – The Old Curiosity Shop Series, has been described as ‘Time Travellers Wife meets Far Pavilions’, and ‘Antiques Roadshow gone viral’.
Kirsten released her bestselling gothic horror novel Painted in 2017, with her medical thriller – Doctor Perry, following in 2018.
Her latest thriller – The Forger and the Thief, is set in 1966 Florence, Italy, amidst the devastating floods. Kirsten lives in New Zealand with her husband, her daughters, two rescue cats.
A heart-warming, dramatic family saga. Unspoken is a tale of secrets, love, betrayal and revenge.
Unspoken means something that cannot be uttered aloud. Unspoken is the dark secret a woman must keep, for life.
Alice is fast approaching her one hundredth birthday and she is dying. Her strange, graphic dreams of ghostly figures trying to pull her into a tunnel of blinding light are becoming more and more vivid and terrifying. Alice knows she only has a short time left and is desperate to unburden herself of a dark secret, one she has lived with for eighty years.
Jessica, a journalist, is her great granddaughter and a mirror image of a young Alice. They share dreadful luck in the types of men that come into their lives.
Alice decides to share her terrible secret with Jessica and sends her to the attic to retrieve a set of handwritten notebooks detailing her young life during the late 1930s. Following the death of her invalid mother and her father’s decline into depression and alcoholism, she is forced, at 18 to take control of the farm. On her birthday, she meets Frank, a man with a drink problem and a violent temper.
When Frank’s abusive behaviour steps up a level. Alice seeks solace in the arms of her smooth, ‘gangster lawyer’ Godfrey, and when Frank discovers the couple together, he vows to get his revenge.
Unspoken. A tale that spans two eras and binds two women, born eighty years apart.
T A Belshaw is from Nottingham in the United Kingdom. Trevor writes for both children and adults. He is the author of Tracy’s Hot Mail, Tracy’s Celebrity Hot Mail and the noir, suspense novella, Out Of Control. His new novel, The family saga, Unspoken, was released in July, 2020
His short stories have been published in various anthologies including 100 Stories for Haiti, 50 Stories for Pakistan, Another Haircut, Shambelurkling and Other Stories, Deck The Halls, 100 Stories for Queensland and The Cafe Lit anthology 2011, 2012 and 2013. He also has two pieces in Shambelurklers Return. 2014
Trevor is also the author of 15 children’s books written under the name of Trevor Forest. The latest. Magic Molly The Curse of Cranberry Cottage was released in August 2015
His children’s poem, Clicking Gran, was long-listed for the Plough prize (children’s section ) in 2009 and his short poem, My Mistake, was rated Highly Commended and published in an anthology of the best entries in the Farringdon Poetry Competition.
Trevor’s articles have been published in magazines as diverse as Ireland’s Own, The Best of British and First Edition.
Trevor is currently working on the sequel to Unspoken and the third book in the Tracy series; Tracy’s Euro Hot Mail.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
This story is contemporary, glamorous and topical. The London setting is authentic, and the characters believably crafted and relatable. The plot is simple, in this character-driven story, but it works and makes this a great escapist read.
There are scandals, sex and strong female leads in this novel which is fast-paced and packed with romance. The settings are realistic and knowledgeably written and give the story depth. Told from multi-viewpoints, it’s addictive reading, as seemingly unconnected relationships interweave and untangle. The story has a great ending.
If you are a fan of the early Fiona Walker and Jilly Cooper novels, this will appeal.
Sara Madderson is an author, entrepreneur, wife and mother. She was born in Ireland and moved to the UK with her family when she was ten years old. She lives in London with her husband Chris, their two children, Paddy and Tilly, and their cocker spaniel Charlie.
Before turning to writing, Sara worked in finance for a decade and then ran her own fashion brand, Madderson London, for eight years. She earned her MPhil in Early Modern History from the University of Birmingham.
Metamorphosis is Sara’s first book. Given that she spent most of her childhood writing and designing clothes, she’s now seen both of her childhood career dreams come true! She’s enjoyed the adventure of publishing independently as much as she’s enjoyed the writing process itself. She’s now completely hooked on writing!
Village Affair comes a laugh out loud new Westenbury tale…
As the Yorkshire village of Westenbury mourns the loss of one of their own, the women can’t help but contemplate who will fill the vacancy in one handsome widower’s life…
Grace Stevens has decided it’s time to move on without her husband. He’s off gallivanting around Devon in search of a new life, and good riddance. It’s time to go back to teaching, so Grace returns to Little Acorns and takes on an unruly class of pre-teens.
As she deals with disasters in – and out of – the classroom including an accidental dalliance with her most troublesome pupil’s dad, helping track down a drug ring and keeping up with her closest girlfriends, Grace begins to wonder more and more about the sparkle in David’s eyes and the sparking chemistry between them.
Could Grace be the one to fill this village vacancy?
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A Village Vacancy takes the reader back to the Westenbury for another tale of laughter, love and life. This is a standalone story, but many of the characters previously featured in other books about Westenbury, and you will be intrigued to see what has gone before.
The funeral of one of the village’s enigmatic women introduces the cast of characters. Amanda’s loss is felt both in the community and her personal life. A mystery surrounds her untimely death, which gives this tale of village life an added dimension.
Grace takes centre stage in this story as she copes with her dysfunctional family life and wonders if romantic happiness is within her grasp. Westenbury experiences city problems in this story which are topical and give the story its contemporary edge.
There’s humour, mystery, romance and poignancy in this insightful story which draws the reader into the village and the lives of its inhabitants. The characters are believable and relatable, which makes their stories engaging and memorable.
Julie Houston is the author of THE ONE SAVING GRACE, GOODNESS, GRACE AND ME and LOOKING FOR LUCY, a Kindle top 100 general bestseller and a Kindle #1 bestseller. She is married, with two teenage children and a mad cockerpoo and, like her heroine, lives in a West Yorkshire village. She is also a teacher and a magistrate.
To celebrate the publication of A Village Vacancy, I thought it might be a good idea – as well as helpful to readers who have never met her before – to write a little biography of Grace. While all the Midhope/Westenbury novels can be read as total and utter standalones, this, my eighth novel, gives Grace a leading role as well as showing a greater insight into her character, and I wanted to give a little background information to readers who may have never met her before.
So, while my first novel – Goodness, Grace and Me – has Grace playing a major role, the book is essentially Harriet’s story. In this first book, we learn that Grace and Harriet meet on their very first day at grammar school and both become infatuated with a fifth-former, one Amanda Goodners or Little Miss Goodness as Grace dubs her a couple of years later when Amanda is promoted to head girl. The three women meet up again as adults and Grace, staggering from husband Dan’s infidelity, falls for Mandy Henderson’s (as she now is) much younger son, Sebastian.
In the One Saving Grace, while again this is essentially Harriet’s story, Grace is suffering. Unable to conceive a much-longed for child with husband Dan, she is absolutely over the moon when she falls unexpectedly pregnant to Seb Henderson. Unfortunately, Grace suffers severe post-natal depression which renders her unable to look after her son, Jonty properly and destroys the already flimsy relationship with Seb. My intention was to show that Post-natal depression does not discriminate or care who it chooses and can – and does – affect even the most confident, intelligent and outgoing women such as Grace.
I’ve always wanted the reader to have an impression of Grace as a strong, confident and independent woman which she clearly is. While An Off Piste Christmas takes Grace onto the next stage of her life when she becomes the mother of Pietronella who has Down’s Syndrome, all my other Westenbury novels feature Grace only fleetingly where she, together with Harriet, take on much smaller cameo roles.
It was an email from a reader last year asking what was happening to Grace, and could I write a book with her as the main character, that brought about the idea for A Village Vacancy. In this book, published by Aria on October 22nd, I have allowed Grace centre stage. While she might have perhaps previously played a lesser role to Harriet, this one is certainly Grace’s story.
A couple of reviewers have referred to Grace as a maneater who appears happy to discard her husband, Dan when the marriage breaks down once more and Dan moves out. This certainly wasn’t my intention to have Grace viewed as such. Yes, she makes a huge mistake at the start of the book, but this, I want the reader to appreciate, is totally out of character. She tries to argue that she is a strong, independent woman who has the right, on occasion, to please herself as to how she behaves, but deep down she is embarrassed and ashamed as to what she got up to on that night out in Leeds, and I would hate the reader to think of her as naturally promiscuous; she isn’t. Foolhardy, yes, amoral, no.
I wanted to show that the breakdown of two major relationships together with the terrible post-natal depression have combined to leave Grace both vulnerable and desperate for a serious, ‘proper’ relationship for both herself and her two children. If she comes a bit of a cropper in the attempt, I hope the reader will not condemn her but empathise, sympathise even, with what she’s going through. After all, life for many of us isn’t always that straightforward. We are human; we make mistakes.
Luckily, for Grace, there will be a happy ever after.
Zoe fainted on her wedding day, and she never knew why. She’s always felt sure something bad happened. Ten years later, she’s going to find out what…
It was supposed to be the happiest day of her life. Zoe was sitting in her hotel room, in her perfect white dress, looking forward to the moment when she would make kind, handsome Toby her husband.
Then, there was a blank.
They said she must have fainted, overcome with emotion. But nothing felt quite right afterwards. Did something happen in that missing time?
Now, Toby and Zoe have two beautiful children and a perfect life. They’re planning their ten-year anniversary party for their family and friends. The invitations have been sent, the food ordered. They’re going back to the grand hotel where they got married.
But as the anniversary gets closer, it becomes clear not everyone is looking forward to celebrating. She catches Toby lying about where he’s been. One of her best friends seems to be ignoring her. And someone is spreading stories that might stop the party from happening at all.
Zoe is increasingly sure that she doesn’t have the full story. But does she want to know the truth, if it will destroy everything?
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The Wife is another edge of your seat, intriguing read from this author.
Zoe cannot remember part of her wedding day, it’s not bothered her unduly, but as she organises her tenth wedding celebration, her life starts to unravel, and she’s not sure why.
This is a family drama with touches of noir, especially as the plot reveals the true events surrounding Zoe’s memory loss. The clues are there, and I did work out part of the mystery, but this increased my enjoyment of the story.
The pacing is perfect, the characters layered and hiding secrets and the final revelations breathtaking.
A new beginning. A house with a past. A man with secrets.
It was a dream come true…that turned into a nightmare.
Kate Wilson thinks moving back to Cornwall might be the answer to her prayers. But it isn’t long before she begins to have doubts. Is the house she inherited from her godmother haunted? Or is she going out of her mind? With a stalker, threats, and attempted break-ins, Kate’s troubles multiply.
Then there’s her enigmatic neighbour, the brooding Tom Carbis; a man with secrets he doesn’t wish to share. Can she trust him when he says he wants to help?
In her quest to unravel the mysteries surrounding her, will Kate uncover more than she bargains for?
Set in beautiful Cornwall, The Unquiet Spirit is a gripping suspense with paranormal and romantic elements.
I received a copy of this book from Darkstroke Books and the author in return for an honest review.
This is an atmospheric story that is full of historical detail that adds to its authenticity. Kate unexpectedly inherits an old house from her godmother in Cornwall. Eager for a new start, she travels to Cornwall to claim her inheritance. A house with secrets.
Mystery, paranormal, romance and suspense are weaved into the well-paced plot. Engaging characters and detailed imagery makes this an enjoyable reading experience. The suspense building and paranormal twists immerse the reader in Kate’s world with an interesting conflicted, but romantic relationship with Tom, a man with secrets.
This is an engaging read with a wide reader appeal because of its cross-genre approach.
Some time ago Penny Hampson decided to follow her passion for history by studying with the Open University. She graduated with honours and went on to complete a post-graduate degree.
Penny then landed her dream role, working in an environment where she was surrounded by rare books and historical manuscripts. Flash forward nineteen years, and the opportunity came along to indulge her other main passion – writing. Penny joined the New Writers’ Scheme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and three years later published her debut novel, A Gentleman’s Promise, a historical mystery/romance. Other books in the same genre soon followed.
But never happy in a rut, Penny also writes contemporary suspense with paranormal and romantic elements. Her first book in this genre is The Unquiet Spirit, published by Darkstroke.
Penny lives with her family in Oxfordshire, and when she is not writing, she enjoys reading, walking, swimming, and the odd gin and tonic (not all at the same time).
I received a an audiobook from Avon Books UK – Harper Collins Audio UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I listened to an audiobook copy of this story, which is absorbing and enjoyable.
The narrator is professional and brings each of the characters to life through her different voices. It’s easy to feel part of the dialogue with her narration.
The story begins on the precipice of something awful and then goes back in time to discover what events lead to this moment. Predominately told from three points of view it explores the women’s longstanding friendship and the secrets they hide with each other and alone.
The characters are diverse and relatable you are invested in their lives. You empathise with them because of their flaws and mistakes. The logical plot has many twists and features domestic abuse, rape, and murder. The crimes are heinous, but not overly graphic, but the emotional and physical damage is believable.
The conclusion ties up any loose ends and gives hope, and possible future dilemmas for Lily, Mackenzie and Robin.