Say, wouldn’t it be a gas if all of us here are pretending to be something we’re not?’
1957: Iris Bailey is bored to death of working in the typing pool and living with her parents in Hemel Hampstead. A gifted portraitist with a talent for sketching guests at parties, she dreams of becoming an artist. So she can’t believe her luck when wealthy socialite Nell Hardman invites her to Havana to draw at the glittering wedding of her Hollywood director father.
Iris is thrilled to escape to a faraway city by the sea. But she soon realizes that the cocktails, tropical scents and azure skies mask a darker reality. As Cuba teeters on the edge of revolution and Iris’s heart melts for troubled photographer Joe, she discovers that someone in the charismatic Hardman family is hiding a terrible secret. Can she uncover the ugly truth behind the glamour and the dazzle before all their lives are torn apart?
I received a copy of this book from Random House UK, Transworld Publishers – Black Swan in return for an honest review.
This story captures the thirst for glamour and the diminished role of women that epitomises the 1950s. Intelligent but naive Iris inwardly rails against her life but feels ill-equipped to alter its path. A talented portraitist who works in a typing pool marriage is the only way out. Meeting socialite Nell is unexpected. Nell’s surprise invitation means Iris can escape for a while.
Clever use of visual imagery brings pre-revolution Cuba to life. Lies, mystery, politics and secrets are interweaved into this glitzy yet tawdry story. Some characters have more depth than others, but all make up a cast of players that give insight into the final months of Havana before the revolution.
Iris’ character development is significant as she experiences the facets of humanity and the turmoil of a country on the precipes of political change.
Rachel Rhys is the pen-name of a much-loved psychological suspense author. She is the author of the Richard and Judy bookclub pick, Dangerous Crossing and the bestselling A Fatal Inheritance. Rachel Rhys lives in North London with her family.
1789.Pierre and Catherine Aubert, the Comte and Comtesse de Verais, have fled the palace of Versailles for their château, deep in the French Alps. But as revolution spreads through the country, even hidden away the Auberts will not be safe forever. Soon they must make a terrible decision in order to protect themselves, and their children, from harm.
Present day. When Lu’s mother dies leaving her heartbroken, the chance to move to a château in the south of France with her husband and best friends seems an opportunity for a new beginning. But Lu can’t resist digging into their new home’s history, and when she stumbles across the unexplained disappearance of Catherine Aubert, the château begins to reveal its secrets – and a mystery unsolved for centuries is uncovered…
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Exciting historical fiction fuses with a making a new start contemporary story in an absorbing page-turning read.
The contemporary story seen from Lu ‘s point of view follows the adventures of five friends in their late fifties who decide to sell up and move to France. Believably crafted easy to like characters and a vividly described setting make this contemporary French adventure full of humour and poignancy.
Full of vivid imagery and colourful characters the historical story set in the late eighteenth century has a menacing atmosphere. The dangers faced by the count and his family realistic.
The past and present merge when Lu investigates what happened to the Chateau’s previous aristocratic inhabitants.
Both stories are engaging and their connections easy to follow in this historical timeslip mystery.
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. When she’s not writing, she’s often out running, slowly.
Three women. One family curse. The summer of a lifetime.
For generations, no second-born daughter in the Fontana family has married. Lucy desperately wants to find love, but for her cousin Emilia, their family curse is a blessing in disguise.
But then their Great Aunt Poppy declares she’ll reunite with her long-lost love on her eightieth birthday – and break the curse once and for all.
And so the three women embark on a journey to Tuscany to fulfil Poppy’s last wish. But the secrets they uncover there could change their family forever…
A gorgeous story about love, family, and finding yourself in the unlikeliest of places
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
An engaging romantic story that spans familial generations from post-war Italy to North America.The Fontana family curse still prevails. Aunt Poppy is determined to end it with the help of her great-nieces Emilia and Lucy on a life-changing trip to Italy.
The story reveals family secrets told from Emilia’s and Poppy’s points of view. The family dynamics and individual characters are authentic and relatable. The settings are vivid and bring the story to life.
This is a charming, poignant romantic story. Full of humour, misunderstandings and self-sacrifice.
I received a copy of this book from Hodder and Stoughton via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Told entirely from Sam’s point of view this a psychological suspense novel that focuses on the darkness that hides within a person ready to strike given the right set of circumstances. Sam should be happy with life, but she isn’t. Her husband has let her down with his business failures. Sam’s worn out from fertility treatments, both financially and physically, even though it gave her Caleb, her much-cherished son. Now she’s the victim of a stalker too. A successful crime writer, she dismisses the letters at first, until they drag her back to her teenage and the darkness she left behind.
Sam is an unreliable protagonist. She is hard to empathise never seeing the best in anyone. As the stalker threats increase, so do the flashbacks to her last summer in Ilfracombe, and what happened. Is she losing her mind? Is someone manipulating her? It’s hard to tell despite the clues along the way.
This story gives a new interpretation of the teenage dare and danger theme. There are surprising plot twists with a dark and twisty ending that is chillingly believable.
Lucy V Hay is a script editor for film and an author of fiction and non-fiction. Publishing as LV Hay, Lucy’s debut crime novel, The Other Twin, is out now and has been featured in The Sun and Sunday Express Newspaper, plus Heatworld and Closer Magazine. Her second crime novel, Do No Harm, is an ebook bestseller. Her current title is Never Have I Ever, for Hodder Books.
Everyone remembers the day the girls went missing.
May Day 1912, a day that haunts Missensham. The day two girls disappeared. The day the girls were murdered. Iris Caldwell and Nell Ryland were never meant to be friends. From two very different backgrounds, one the heir to the Caldwell estate, the other a humble vicar’s daughter. Both have their secrets, both have their pasts, but they each find solace with one another and soon their futures become irrevocably intertwined. Now, many years later, old footage has emerged which shows that Iris Caldwell may not have died on that spring morning. The village must work out what happened the day the girls went missing…
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus- Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The Lost Girls is a surprisingly poignant story of two girls, from different social classes, who dared to defy society’s norms. An old home movie, showing a girl who went missing, believed abducted and murdered, is the catalyst for a surprising chain of events.
The characters are complex and flawed, and their story is full of dark secrets, and desperate emotion. An absorbing, engaging story, with a uniqueness that keeps you reading.
Guest Post- Jennifer Wells-The Lost Girls
The little moments which bring the past back to life
There is something quite eerie about old films. I don’t mean cinematic classics or even the first Hollywood movies. I’m talking about the old cine films that survive from the early twentieth century. Such films were shot using cumbersome machines, where filming depended on an operator who could doggedly turn a crank handle for minutes on end. These machines produced images that are little more than light and shadow – grainy outlines and stuttering movements – yet there is something about them that is very alluring.
Among these films are some of the very first home movies. They show horse-drawn trams battling through busy shopping streets, exuberant workers spilling from factory gates, football matches, political marches and family events. The women wear shawls or gloves, their skirts swishing around their ankles as they walk. The men strut boldly, their hands thrust into the pockets of their suits. But whether young, old, rich or poor – everyone wears a hat.
The films I am describing are now over a hundred years old. The Edwardian era is a time that has become unfamiliar to us. When you watch such films, the horse-drawn trams and long skirts seem like things that only ever existed in the pages of history books, and the people appear, not as busy shoppers or factory workers, but ghosts.
It is the ghost-like quality of such films that gave me the inspiration for the opening scene of my latest novel, THE LOST GIRLS. The novel opens in 1937 with a public screening of an old film – a lost home movie that had been shot 25 years earlier on May Day 1912. As the audience watch entranced, the image of a girl in a white dress flashes on to the screen. Her face is one that they all recognise – Iris Caldwell, a girl who was thought to be dead by that May Day morning. A girl presumed murdered.
When I first started writing THE LOST GIRLS, Iris Caldwell was little more than a ghost to me. She was no more than one of those old cine film images, her face in shadow and her movements slow and stuttering. But I wanted to give life to a character who might have appeared in one of these old films, and soon the girl in the white dress became flesh and blood to me. Iris Caldwell became a girl who, like many others, loved to read novels and longed for friendships. She also became a girl with terrible secrets and forbidden desires. We live in a time that is very different from 1912. The horse-drawn trams, long skirts and a multitude of hats belong to a world that seems very strange to us. Yet, among the grainy faces that peer out from the past, we can sometimes spot a smile or a wink – something that reminds us that the people who lived back then were not so different to us after all. It is these little moments which bring the past so much closer again.
Jennifer is the author of THE LIAR, THE MURDERESS, THE SECRET and THE LOST GIRLS published by Aria Fiction. Her novels involve the themes of family, betrayal and love and are set in the home counties in the early 20th century. Jennifer lives in Devon with her young family and cats.
Johnny Casey, his two brothers Ed and Liam, their beautiful, talented wives and all their kids spend a lot of time together – birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weekends away. And they’re a happy family. Johnny’s wife, Jessie – who has the most money – insists on it.
Under the surface, though, conditions are murkier. While some people clash, other people like each other far too much . . .
Everything stays under control until Ed’s wife Cara gets concussion and can’t keep her thoughts to herself. One careless remark at Johnny’s birthday party, with the entire family present, starts Cara spilling out all their secrets.
In the subsequent unravelling, every one of the adults finds themselves wondering if it’s time – finally – to grow up?
I received a copy of this book from Penguin Books UK – Michael Joseph via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This book has many positive qualities. It’s cleverly plotted, with complex and relatable characters, and a good balance of humour and poignancy. It explores family and personal issues, with honesty and sensitivity.
The dramatic beginning draws the reader into the family drama. Delving into past family interactions and individual stories, an astute and insightful look at the family reveals deceit, infidelity and mental health issues. There are many characters, some hard to empathise, but they all play an integral part in the unfolding story.
Its slow pace and length, make it an ideal holiday read?
Who says you can’t choose your family? When Flora falls in love with Jack, suddenly she’s not only handling a very cranky teenager, but she’s also living in the shadow of Jack’s perfect, immortalised wife, Becca. Every summer, Becca and Jack would holiday with Becca’s oldest friends and Jack wants to continue the tradition, so now Flora must face a summer trying to live up to Becca’s memory, with not only Jack’s daughter looking on, but with Becca’s best friends judging her every move…
The more Flora tries to impress everyone, the more things go horribly wrong…but as the summer unfolds, Flora begins pushing her own boundaries, and finding herself in a way that she never thought she needed to.
And she soon learns that families come in all shapes and sizes.
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK in return for an honest review.
Character-driven, this story focuses on Flora’s emotional journey, as she tries to be part of Jack’s broken and damaged family. Multi-points of view, showcase the tense relationships, within the family.
Flora is lovely, but lives to please, probably due to the lack of nurture in her childhood. This proves a stumbling block with Izzy, Jack’s seventeen-year-old, who resents Flora as an outsider. The story revisits a popular theme, but because of the characters’ complexity and relatability, gives it a believable contemporary and original interpretation.
Family, friendship, grief, loss and love are all explored. The second part of the story, set in the English Lake District, draws the story together and reveals secrets. Flora’s emotional journey is both, challenging and poignant.