Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Blog Tour ~ Christmas at Conwenna Cove by Darcie Boleyn

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be part of the Christmas at Conwenna Cove Blog Tour

I'm delighted to be able to share this tantalising extract from  Christmas at Conwenna Cove

E-book only
9 October 2017

When Grace​ ​Phillips​ travels to Conwenna Cove to help her parents move there 30 years after their honeymoon in the village, she sees why they fell in love with the place. The festive decorations, carols in the air and constant supply of delicious mince pies certainly make it hard to leave. As Grace meets local vet​ ​Oli​ ​Davenport​ she initially finds him rude, but learning more about his passion for animals and how much he cares for his two kids helps Grace to see a softer side to Oli.

It’s been three years since Oli lost his wife to cancer. Though he loves eleven-year-old Amy and five-year-old Tom​ more than anything it’s hard to be mum and dad, as well as hold down a busy job. He has no interest in romance until he crosses paths with beautiful and kind-hearted Grace. The sparks fly but both Oli and Grace are holding onto fear about letting someone into their heart.

Extract from Chapter 1...

Grace loved how her parents still made time for each other, even after thirty-four years of marriage. They cooked together, exercised together and even did the crossword together. She knew that they had a special bond, and sometimes wondered whether it was so strong because of what they’d been through. Would they have stayed so close if things hadn’t happened the way they had? She just couldn’t imagine them being any other way, and the idea of one having to cope without the other was too awful to contemplate.

Conwenna Cove was a new start for them and they deserved to be happy. Her mother had always told her that life had its ups and downs, but it was important to grab happiness whenever one had the chance. Grace tried to follow that advice, although sometimes her head overruled her heart. Which was one reason why she was probably still single, having turned down a marriage proposal just last year – much to her parents’ dismay. They’d told her that they just wanted to see her happy and she’d insisted that she was; as happy as she expected to be anyway. She didn’t need a man, especially one like Marcus, to make her feel fulfilled. 

She’d known Marcus since school but not had much to do with him at all, then she’d bumped into him in a café the summer before last and he’d been all over her. She’d thought it strange at the time but also been flattered by his attention, although when she thought about it now, his interest had increased when he’d stopped talking about himself and his woes for five minutes to ask what she did. When she admitted that she was a successful author, he’d wanted to know more and insisted they trade numbers. He’d taken her out about six times after that, and come to her flat for dinner and coffee, but for Grace there had been no spark. That was why, when he’d proposed, she’d been completely shocked. She’d let him down as gently as she could, but he’d been quite rude and left her reeling with a barrage of insults and a few unpleasant text messages. Then two weeks later, as she’d been queuing in Costa, he walked past with another woman, his arm wrapped possessively around her shoulders, and Grace had known that she’d had a very lucky escape.

Before Marcus, she’d had lovers: men she’d met through acquaintances and a few through dating apps, but none of the love affairs had developed into anything more serious. Grace had always found a reason not to commit, and sometimes the men had too, thereby, saving her the trouble of ending their flings.

She poured boiling water onto tea bags, then went to get the milk from the rickety old fridge that stood in the corner of the kitchen. Her parents’ own fridge was currently in the hallway, left to settle after the long journey in the removal van. As Grace bent over to open the fridge, something shot out from underneath, causing her to yelp.

‘Grace?’ Her father rushed to her side. ‘What’s wrong?’

‘Something just ran across the floor.’ She pointed in the direction of the hallway that led off the kitchen.

‘What was it?’

‘I don’t know. A mouse, maybe? Not big enough to be a rat. At least, I don’t think so anyway.’

Simon shook his head. ‘Think we might need to consider getting a cat. What with the woods and all those fields behind, I bet there’ll be plenty more where that came from.’

‘Dad, you don’t want your house littered with dead rodents.’

‘I didn’t mean I want a cat to kill them, Grace. Just as a deterrent.’

Grace smiled. Her father had such a big heart that he wouldn’t even kill a fly, just usher it rather politely out of the house. 

‘Although I have to admit that your mother and I still hope to have a dog now that she’s retired. We were just holding off until we’d moved, but I can’t see what’s stopping us now.’

‘Well, if you do get one, go to a rescue centre. There are so many dogs needing homes.’

‘Of course. Adopt don’t shop, right?’

‘I’ll just see if that mouse, or whatever it was, is lurking in the hallway.’

They both peered into the cool darkness of the hallway, but with the large boxes, the fridge and a pile of books that belonged to Grace’s parents in the way, it was highly likely that the small rodent had already found itself a new hideaway.

‘I guess we’ll have to look for it later.’ Simon shivered. ‘Hope the poor thing isn’t too scared.’

Darcie Boleyn has a huge heart and is a real softy. She never fails to cry at books and movies, whether the ending is happy or not. Darcie is in possession of an overactive imagination that often keeps her awake at night. Her childhood dream was to become a Jedi but she hasn’t yet found suitable transport to take her to a galaxy far, far away. She also has reservations about how she’d look in a gold bikini, as she rather enjoys red wine, cheese and loves anything with ginger or cherries in it – especially chocolate. Darcie fell in love in New York, got married in the snow, rescues uncoordinated greyhounds and can usually be found reading or typing away on her laptop.

My thanks to Darcie and also to Ellie at Canelo for their kind invitation to be part of this blog tour and also for the permission to share this extract from Christmas at Conwenna Cove.

Follow on Twitter @DarcieBoleyn @Canelo_co



Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Review ~ The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths

July 2017


Boiled human bones have been found in Norwich's web of underground tunnels. When Dr Ruth Galloway discovers they are recent - the boiling not the medieval curiosity she thought - DCI Nelson has a murder enquiry on his hands.

Meanwhile, DS Judy Johnson is investigating the disappearance of a local rough sleeper. The only trace of her is the rumour that she's gone 'underground'. This might be a figure of speech, but with the discovery of the bones and the rumours both Ruth and the police have heard of a vast network of old chalk-mining tunnels under King's Lynn, home to a vast community of rough sleepers, the clues point in only one direction. Local academic Martin Kellerman knows all about the tunnels and their history - but can his assertions of cannibalism and ritual killing possibly be true?

As the weather gets hotter, tensions rise. A local woman goes missing and the police are under attack. Ruth and Nelson must unravel the dark secrets of The Underground and discover just what gruesome secrets lurk at its heart - before it claims another victim.

My thoughts...

There is always a sense of real excitement when I open a new Ruth Galloway book and having followed the series from the very beginning , I have never been disappointed by the way each new mystery unfolds.

In The Chalk Pit, Ruth is confronted by another dark and perplexing mystery which involves the discovery of a set of human bones which have been found in one of Norwich's underground tunnels. When homeless people start to be targeted by a ruthless killer both the police investigation and Ruth's interest in the underground tunnels start to coalesce.

As always the plot is controlled meticulously by an author who really brings her characters to life. Those readers who have followed the series from the start will be aware of the subtle nuance of the relationship between Ruth and DCI Nelson and I am pleased to say that this continues to develop, lending more of a 'will they', won't they' element back into their complicated relationship. I enjoy seeing the other detectives get a chance to shine and am always pleased when DS Johnson makes an appearance, she lends a different sort of dynamic to the detective grouping which is always very welcome. The mystery at the heart of the novel is dark and complicated and the many twists and turns in the plot kept me guessing right to the end.

As one book finishes I immediately look forward to the next one and hope that it won't be too long in coming. As always, I would recommend that new readers start at the beginning of this excellent series, that way the faults and foibles of the characters who make up the major players can be fully appreciated.

More about the author can be found on her website by clicking here 

Follow on Twitter @ellygriffiths

My thanks to the publishers and Bookbridgr for my review copy of The Chalk Pit


Monday, 16 October 2017

Review ~ Hades by Candice Fox

Arrow Books
21 September 2017


Homicide detective Frank Bennett feels like the luckiest man on the force when he meets his new partner, the dark and beautiful Eden Archer. But there’s something strange about Eden and her brother, Eric. Something he can’t quite put his finger on.

At first, as they race to catch a very different kind of serial killer, his partner’s sharp instincts come in handy. But soon Frank’s wondering if she’s as dangerous as the man they hunt.

My thoughts...

This is the first book in a detective crime series which focuses on the newly developed partnership between homicide detective Frank Bennett and Eden Archer. Set in Australia, Hades is the dark and twisted story of a criminal underworld, a deeply troubled world which is inhabited by evil. And as evil stalks, so the net grows ever tighter,but the game of hunter and prey is filled with complex and complicated motives.

That the story is not not the faint hearted must be stated but if you are not put off by gritty realism then this book will work for you. The writing is good and the plot is clever but it is in the characterisation where the story really comes alive. Eden Archer, and her brother Eric are quite something, their unique and very different upbringing has made them into people who have more secrets about them than they do answers, and when combined with Eden's partnership with Frank Bennett, the whole trio start to come alive in the imagination.

As with all new series there is that element of getting to know the people and the places and I think that the author has done a great job of bringing everything together. I am sure that the series will go from strength to strength as the stories and the relationship between the key characters continues.

About the Author

Candice Fox is an award-winning author and commercial success in her native Australia. Her first novel, Hades, won the 2014 Ned Kelly Award for best debut crime novel, with the sequel, Eden, winning the 2015 Ned Kelly Award for best crime novel. Candice is also the author of the critically acclaimed Fall, and co-writer of the James Patterson blockbuster Never Never.

Twitter @candicefoxbooks

@arrowpublishing @DeadGoodBooks

My thanks to Clare at Penguin Random House for my review copy of Hades.


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered..

Ellis Humphrey Evans

13 January 1887 - 31 July 1917

Trawsfynydd, Meirionnydd

North Wales

In 1917, the Welsh poet Ellis Humphrey Evans, 'Hedd Wyn' died at the third Battle of Ypres.  He was one of 25,000 British casualties on the first day of the battle to take Pilckem Ridge.

The thirty year old  shepherd poet had enlisted into the Royal Welch Fusilers at Blaenau Ffestiniog and was initially sent to Liverpool for basic training. He was there at the same time as another WW1 poet, Siegfried Sassoon. In July, Hedd Wynn joined his battalion at Nord-Pas-de-Calais and on the 31st July he went 'over the top'. He was fatally wounded by shell fire and died later that same day.

This is one of his poems.


Why must I live in this grim age,
When, to a far horizon, God
Has ebbed away, and man, with rage,
Now wields the sceptre and the rod?

Man raised his sword, once God had gone,
To slay his brother, and the roar
Of battlefields now casts upon
Our homes the shadow of the war.

The harps to which we sang are hung,
On willow boughs, and their refrain
Drowned by the anguish of the young
Whose blood is mingled with the rain

Ellis Humphrey Evans is buried at the Artillery Wood Cemetery, near Boezingeat, Belgium. 

He was posthumously awarded the bard's chair at the 1917 National Eisteddfod.


Saturday, 14 October 2017

Hist Fic Saturday ~ Blood's Game by Angus Donald

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to .....Restoration England and London 1670

September 2017

I think most of us have heard the story, and marveled at the audacity of Captain Thomas Blood, the man, who in 1671, stole the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London. And whilst I knew the vague details of the story, I wasn't aware that Thomas Blood had in fact been captured, imprisoned and then by some sheer twist of fate, had not only been freed without trial, but had been granted a generous gift of lands by the gracious permission of King Charles II. This novel explains , perhaps, just how this all came about...

Blood's Game is a real romp into Restoration England. All of its glorious bawdiness comes alive with descriptions of the King's court, his amorous exploits, and the schemes and machinations of unscrupulous individuals. Into this scheming hotchpotch comes Holcroft Blood, Thomas Blood's youngest son, who has real flair for doing things in a quite unusual way. Holcroft becomes enmeshed in the plots and schemes of the notorious, Duke of Buckingham, and learns of information which will ultimately make or break those dearest to him.

The author writes with skill and understanding, and brings to life his characters, both real and imaginary with such  a fine eye for detail, that I felt like I was a fly on the wall and observing events first hand. Even the notorious criminal, Thomas Blood comes across as a rather likeable rogue and I couldn't help but be drawn into his story, which is regaled with great gusto. Holcroft Blood is rather the hero of the story and I thought that his character, and his rather special personality, was handled with sensitivity, and yet totally in keeping with the time in which he lived.

Blood's Game is the start of  a new series for this talented writer, who in his previous novels gave us the excellent series about Robin Hood. Moving forward by several hundred years now gives the author scope to take his historical fiction into a new direction. I can't wait to see where the next book takes us.

You can read a guest post by the author explaining the background to Blood's Game by clicking here.

Follow on Twitter @angus_donald #BloodsGame

Visit on Facebook

Huge thanks to the author for sharing his work with me and also to Emily at Bonnier Zaffre for sending a copy of Blood's Game to me .


Friday, 13 October 2017

#OneInAMillion Competition...

#OneInAMillion Competition Launches on Bookshop Day

Celebrate 1 Millionth Books Are My Bag Supporter

One Lucky Book Lover Will Win:

A one-off Orla Kiely bag | £250 in National Book Tokens | A Golden Ticket to Hay Festival |A rare print signed by Quentin Blake | Special edition Handmaid’s Tale | Lots of new books expected to be bestsellers this Christmas | West End Tickets

And much more!

London. 9 October 2017. Book lovers in the UK & Ireland have the chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime competition with an incredible bundle of prizes on offer to celebrate Books Are My Bag (BAMB) – the annual bookshop campaign – reaching one million supporters this year.

One lucky book lover is in with the chance of winning a host of extraordinary prizes donated from across the book industry and beyond, including a beautiful, totally one-off Orla Kiely luxury leather bag, in the style of this year’s Books Are My Bag tote bag.

To enter, book lovers just need to Tweet #OneInAMillion saying what their favourite bookshop is and why.

The #OneInAMillion Prize winner will take home:

· An exclusive, one-off Orla Kiely leather bag

· £250 in National Book Tokens

· A golden ticket to Hay Festival

· Afternoon Tea for Two at Claridges (Hachette)

· London Zoo tickets and a copy of Zoo Quest (Hachette)

· A limited-edition copy of Alan Bennett’s Keeping on Keeping On, RRP £200 (Faber)

· A limited-edition print from Billy and the Minpins, signed by Quentin Blake (Puffin)

· A special edition Handmaid’s Tale (Vintage)

· A set of Vintage Classics Dickens (Vintage)

· A signed Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World print by Kate Pankhurst (Bloomsbury)

· A signed first-edition copy of Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst (Pan Macmillan)

· A set of PanMacmillan70th Anniversary edition books (Pan Macmillan)

· A pair of tickets to The Christmasaurus Live on Stage at the London Apollo (Penguin Random House) – any date between 20 – 28th December

wo runners up will also be in with the chance of winning the following fantastic prizes:

Second Prize

· A signed copy of Hurrah for Gin by Katie Kirby, together with a bottle of Sipsmith gin (Hachette)

· A copy of Nigella Lawson’s new cookbook, At My Table (Vintage)

· A signed copy of The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein (Bloomsbury)

· A signed copy of My Name is Victoria by Lucy Worsley (Bloomsbury)

· A signed copy of Moonrise by Sarah Crossan (Bloomsbury)

· Subscription to the New Scientist magazine (Hachette)

· Haunted House tour and a signed copy of Devil’s Day by Andrew Hurley (Hachette)

· A mounted Emily Sutton print (Bloomsbury)

Third Prize

· A copy of Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and a box set of Stephen King DVD’s (Hachette)

· A signed copy of Down to Earth: Gardening Wisdom by Monty Don (DK)

· A copy of The Creakers by Tom Fletcher (Puffin)

· A signed print of Oliver Jeffers’ new book Here We Are (Penguin Random House)

· A Perfectly Norman print by Tom Percival (Bloomsbury)

The competition marks the 1 millionth Books Are My Bag tote bag to be worn by the public, showing their support for bookshops in the UK & Ireland.

Meryl Halls, Head of Membership Services at the Booksellers Association, said: “Reaching our one millionth supporter is a hugely exciting milestone, and we’re delighted to be able to show our thanks to bookshop lovers across the UK & Ireland with this fabulous prize. It is wonderful to see the book industry coming together to support bookshops with the amazing prizes they have donated. We wish everyone the best of luck, and look forward to hearing all about our supporters’ favourite bookshops!”

Bookshop lovers will have until 7th November to enter the competition, with the lucky winners being revealed on 25th November, when bookshops across the country will offer a Saturday Sanctuary as respite from the business of daily life.

Orla Kiely, said: “I am so happy to have collaborated with the Bookseller’s Association. As a great lover of books and bookshops, nothing gives me more pleasure than discovering a new book, whether it’s a beautiful edition on a new favourite photographer, a great novel or a rare out of print edition. There is nothing more relaxing, inspiring or stimulating than reading and losing oneself in another world. We should all take time to read and importantly, to encourage our children to love books.”

Now in its fifth year, the Books Are My Bag campaign highlights and celebrates the vital role of high street and campus bookshops. Over the last four years, a million people have worn a Books Are My Bag canvas bag in support of the campaign.

More details on Books Are My Bag 2017 will be unveiled in the coming weeks; keep an eye on for updates.

For more information on events, visit


Thursday, 12 October 2017

Review ~ A Whiff of Cyanide by Guy Fraser-Sampson

Urbane Publications
June 2017

The third volume of the bestselling Hampstead Murders sees the team become involved with a suspicious death at a crime writers' convention. Is this the result of a bitterly contested election for the Chair of the Crime Writers' Association or are even darker forces at work? 

Peter Collins, who is attending the convention as the author of a new book on poisoning in Golden Age fiction, worries that the key clue to unlock this puzzle may be buried within his own memories. A character called Miss Marple offers her advice, but how should the police receive this? 

Meanwhile an act of sudden, shocking violence and a dramatic revelation threaten tragic consequences.

My thoughts...

Returning to this series of Hampstead Murder mysteries, and this is now book number three, is rather like becoming reacquainted with group of cherished friends and from the very start of this latest novel there is a comfortable feel to the story which, even though it covers a rather dark subject, it is such a delight to read.

A Whiff of Cyanide is set, it would seem, in the rather murky world of literary malcontent and focuses on the petty jealousies of those authors who are attending a crime writer's convention and who feel that they are not getting the attention that their work deserves.

The mystery at the heart of the novel is complex and convoluted and there is a real sense of unease which starts to infiltrate almost from the beginning of the story. I especially like the pervading sense of nostalgia and that subtle hint of bygone days when police investigations were conducted with good manners and old fashioned sleuthing.

The author has most certainly created his own special literary niche with this wonderful collection of crime stories which seem to go from strength to strength. As with all series it is usually better to read from the beginning and I think this is especially important in this instance as to see the progression of the characters as they settle into their individuals roles is one of the unique strengths of the Hampstead Murders series. There is a real surprise in this book which I didn't see coming but which now adds a really interesting dynamic to a couple of relationships and I am sure that these will be expanded upon in future novels.

A Whiff of Cyanide is a strong story with a tantalising beginning, a complex middle and a satisfying conclusion and is written with all the fine attention to detail which is so beautifully reminiscent of the glorious age of crime writing.

Guy Fraser Sampson is an established writer best known for his Mapp and Lucia novels which have been featured on BBC radio and optioned by BBC television. 

Follow on Twitter @GuyFSAuthor

Urbane Publications

28446513  33841333

My thanks to the author for sharing his book with me and also to Matthew at Urbane Publications for my review copy of A Whiff of Cyanide.


Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Guest Author ...Victoria Cornwall

I am delighted to welcome Choc Lit author

What Makes the Perfect Heroine?

I was once asked, “What is your perfect heroine?” It was a simple question and the answer was easy … or so I thought. I stirred my cappuccino as I considered my reply and eventually answered, “She has to be nice.” It was a lame answer and one that my English teacher would have scolded me for. The word “nice” didn’t quite sum up what I meant. The word was just too ... well … nice.

The topic moved on to something else quite unrelated to writing, so it was much later when I thought about the question again. I realised the heroine had to be someone I, as a reader, wanted to spend time with as I accompanied her on her fictional journey.

I realise that there are many unlikeable heroines who have propelled their authors to the bestseller list. Amber in Forever Amber and Scarlet in Gone with the Wind are manipulative and shallow women. They are not the type of woman I would want to befriend, yet these heroines are some of the most successful in the literary world. Readers identified with their inner strength and determination to succeed. These unique women were not the “perfect” heroine.

However, the perfect heroine can be just as annoying to read about. She has beauty, education, cares for wounded animals, the homeless … even the rat in the pantry. She has medical knowledge to heal every wound, can shoot, ride, dance and play the minuet with her eyes closed. In her spare time she teaches orphans three languages and men fall at her feet. No, she is not my perfect heroine. A little too much perfect is like too much sugar, too nauseatingly sweet and makes me prone to feelings of inadequacy.

A writer has to strike the right balance. If she doesn’t, the heroine risks being thrown in the bin or deleted into hyperspace, along with the rest of the characters in the book!

So when I became a writer, I made a list of attributes for my perfect heroine and the list went something like this:

- Feminine without being weak.
- Shows both strength and vulnerability.
- Shows kindness without being over indulgent or saintly.
- Shows wit without being prickly or sarcastic.
- Has fears, insecurities and imperfections, but finds the courage to overcome them.
- She can change her mind without appearing fickle.

It was a tall list, but one I kept in mind when I wrote the heroines in The Thief’s Daughter and The Captain’s Daughter.

Jenna, in The Thief’s Daughter, is loyal, resilient and brave, but these same admirable qualities lead her into trouble when she feels unable to refuse her brother’s request for help. Jenna also has weaknesses and insecurities which she has to learn to overcome. 

Janey, in The Captain’s Daughter, starts out naïve, but events beyond her control force her to become wiser and stronger until others look to her for her strength and courage. According to my list, they are my perfect heroines for the simple reason they are imperfect, but have a hidden strength … just like the rest of us.

The Thief’s Daughter is now available to purchase in paperback and eBook and The Captain’s Daughter is available to buy as an eBook. 

The Thief’s Daughter


Hide from the thief-taker, for if he finds you, he will take you away ...

Eighteenth-century Cornwall is crippled by debt and poverty, and the gibbet casts a shadow of fear over the land. Yet, when night falls, free traders swarm onto the beaches and smuggling prospers.

Terrified by a thief-taker's warning as a child, Jenna has resolved to be good. When her brother, Silas, asks for her help to pay his creditors, Jenna feels unable to refuse and finds herself entering the dangerous world of the smuggling trade.

Jack Penhale hunts down the smuggling gangs in revenge for his father's death. Drawn to Jenna at a hiring fayre, they discover their lives are entangled. But as Jenna struggles to decide where her allegiances lie, the worlds of justice and crime collide, leading to danger and heartache for all concerned ...

For buying options click HERE.

The Captain’s Daughter


Sometimes you need to discover your own strength in order to survive …

After a family tragedy, Janey Carhart was forced from her comfortable life as a captain’s daughter into domestic service. Determined to make something of herself, Janey eventually finds work as a lady’s maid at the imposing Bosvenna Manor on the edge of Bodmin Moor, but is soon caught between the two worlds of upstairs and downstairs, and accepted by neither, as she cares for her mistress.

Desperately lonely, Janey catches the attention of two men – James Brockenshaw and Daniel Kellow. James is heir to the Bosvenna estate, a man whose eloquent letters to his mother warm Janey’s heart. Daniel Kellow is a neighbouring farmer with a dark past and a brooding nature, yet with a magnetism that disturbs Janey. Two men. Who should she choose? Or will fate decide.

For buying options click HERE.

Author Bio

Cornish born author, Victoria Cornwall, can trace her Cornish roots as far back as the 18th century. This background and heritage has given her an understanding and knowledge of Cornish rural life which is the inspiration for her writing.

Following a fulfilling twenty-five year career as a nurse, a change in profession finally allowed her time to write. Her writing has been shortlisted for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romantic Fiction in 2014 and her debut novel, The Thief’s Daughter was a finalist in the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Joan Hessayon Award.

She likes her romance books to have a strong background story but at the centre is the unmistakable emotion, passion and even pain of loving someone.

She is married with two grown up children.

Twitter: @VickieCornwall



Huge thanks to Victoria for her wonderful guest post today and also to Lusana at Choc Lit for her continued support of Jaffareadstoo.


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Blog Tour ~ Invisible Women by Sarah Long

5 October 2017

Sharp, irreverent and very funny women's fiction for grown-ups. For fans of Dawn French, Sue Townsend and Veronica Henry.

Tessa, Sandra and Harriet have been best friends through first crushes, careers, marriage and the trials of motherhood. After twenty years of taking care of everyone else's every need, they've found themselves hitting the big 5-0 and suddenly asking themselves: 'what about me?!'

Sandra has a sordid secret, and Harriet is landed with her ailing mother-in-law. Tessa is looking for something to fill the gaping hole left by her youngest daughter's departure for uni, where it seems she's now engaged in all sorts of unsavoury activities, if Tessa's obsessive late-night Facebook stalking is anything to go by.

When Tessa impulsively responds to an online message from an old flame, she soon finds herself waiting at Heathrow Airport for The One That Got Away. 

But what will the plane from New York bring her? The man of her dreams, or a whole heap of trouble? 

And could this be the long-awaited moment for Tessa to seize her life, for herself, with both hands?

My thoughts...

Tessa, Sandra and Harriet have been friends forever, they've shared every event you can think of and now, as they all turn fifty, it's time to take stock of their lives and do things to suit themselves. However, as they find out to their cost, living the life they think they've earned often comes at a price.

I'm always interested in reading stories about the vagaries of female friendships and it's refreshing to have a group of women of a certain age who are facing a very different time in their lives. The empty nest syndrome as children leave home for university, the heartbreak and dilemma of looking after aged parents, and that last ditch attempt at trying to find happiness with an old flame. All manner of life is experienced and the author does a good job of showing the twists and turns of female relationships.

I think that the author writes well and even though it covers some serious issues there is a lovely light feel to the story. I enjoyed getting to know the women as individuals, and understanding their lives, marriages, and relationship issues goes a long way to discovering just what has made them into the people they are now.

Invisible Women is an engaging read with a set of likeable characters whose stories capture their personalities in an appealing way. I especially loved the little snippets from the book, Don'ts for Wives, Blanche Ebbutt 1913 which head each chapter.

About the Author

Sarah Long is a London-based author of two previously published commercial fiction novels and one hilarious memoir about her ten years living in Paris. She is a married mother of three.

Follow the blog tour on Twitter #InvisibleWomen

My thanks to Imogen at Bonnier Zaffre for the invitation to be part of this blog tour and also for my review copy of Invisible Women.


Monday, 9 October 2017

Blog Tour ~ The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on 

The Book of Forgotten Authors Blog Tour

Like any bibliophile I am always thrilled to have  a book specifically about books and when offered the opportunity to take a look at The Book of Forgotten Authors, well, I couldn't resist...

An imprint of Quercus
October 2017

Why are good authors forgotten? So heads the introduction to this look at 99 authors, their forgotten work, the possible reasons why they have fallen out of favour and the jolly good reasons why some of them should or, quite possibly, shouldn't be back in favour again.

When I was a child I used to love lucky dip packages. That growing feeling of excitement as you tear open your lucky dip bag to see what's inside and for, grown up me, dipping into and out of The Book of Forgotten Authors was rather like a lucky dip into a forgotten world of writers and their art. 

I've been reading adult literature for a long time, and many of these authors I remembered reading  in my dim and distant past, so much so, that perusing the book became more like a long walk down memory lane. Some authors, may be justifiably forgotten, whilst others sparked such an air of nostalgia that, time allowing, I am sorely tempted to head back and re-read some of their work just to see if they will stand the test of time, or if they truly do deserve to languish in that dusty library of forgotten writers.

It's fascinating to see just how trends change and evolve. As a young teen, I devoured the historical fiction of Jean Plaidy and Victoria Holt, all, of course, written by the excellent author, Eleanor Hibbert, who makes an appearance in the book at number 46.  I'm not sure that these gentle stories would work for today's young readers, but for me the thrill of reading about the lives, and loves, of our Kings and Queens, gave me my first taster of historical romantic fiction. The decidedly creepy writer, Dennis Wheatley also makes an appearance at number 96. I remember, in the mid 1970s, his, rather controversial novel, To the Devil A Daughter, being passed surreptitiously around my all girls grammar school. A book which had many well thumbed pages and ear marked corners !

The Book of Forgotten Authors is set out in an easy to read way. The author writes well and captures interesting snippets of information which make the book all the more fascinating to read. I particularly enjoyed the short and concise biographies of each of the authors chosen and whilst the 99 authors are very much the author's own personal choice, I am sure there are many hundreds more forgotten authors who could quite easily have graced the pages. However, many of the forgotten resonated with me and sparked memories which I had long forgotten. 

If you're a bibliophile, or have one close to you, then I am sure that they would enjoy this book of forgotten authors as much as I did.

About the Author

A typical example of the late 20th century midlist author, Christopher Fowler was born in the less attractive part of Greenwich in 1953, the son of a scientist and a legal secretary. He went to a London Guild school, Colfe's, where, avoiding rugby by hiding in the school library, he was able to begin plagiarising in earnest. He published his first novel, Roofworld, described as 'unclassifiable', while working as an advertising copywriter. He left to form The Creative Partnership, a company that changed the face of film marketing, and spent many years working in film, creating movie posters, tag lines, trailers and documentaries, using his friendship with Jude Law to get into nightclubs.

During this time Fowler achieved several pathetic schoolboy fantasies, releasing an appalling Christmas pop single, becoming a male model, posing as the villain in a Batman comic, creating a stage show, writing rubbish in Hollywood, running a night club, appearing in the Pan Books of Horror and standing in for James Bond.

Now the author of over forty novels and short story collections, including his award-winning memoir Paperboy and its sequel Film Freak, he writes the Bryant & May mystery novels, recording the adventures of two Golden Age detectives in modern-day London.

In 2015 he won the CWA Dagger In The Library award for his detective series, once described by his former publisher as 'unsaleable'.

Fowler is still alive and one day plans to realise his ambition to become a Forgotten Author himself.


Twitter @Peculiar


Huge thanks to Anne Cater for her invitation to be part of this blog tour
 and also to the publishers, Riverrun for my review copy of The Book of Forgotten Authors


Sunday, 8 October 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

The Battle of Poelcappelle (Ypres)

The Battle of Poelcappelle was fought in Flanders, Belgium, on 9 October 1917 by the British and German armies, during the First World War and marked the end of the string of highly successful British attacks in late September and early October, during the Third Battle of Ypres.

Duck-board carrying party, near Langemarck (Langemark-Poelkapelle),
11th October 1917.

Brookes, Ernest (Lieutenant)
© IWM (Q 3005)

Ruined houses in Poelcappelle.

German Official Photographer
© IWM (Q 45462)

 Walking wounded coming down and reinforcements going up a duckboard trench near Langemarck (Langemark-Poelkapelle), 11 October 1917.

Brookes, Ernest (Lieutenant)
© IWM (Q 3006)

The weather and ground conditions put severe strain on all involved and led to many soldiers being killed or wounded.

Five miles North East of Ypres, there is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery in Poelcappelle, now spelled, Poelkapelle. It contains 7,500 burials, with over 6,000 of these being unknown. Many of the burials are from the later part of 1917.

As always, I am indebted to the Imperial War Museum for the opportunity to share these fascinating photographs taken at the time by WW1 photographers.


Saturday, 7 October 2017

Hist Fic Saturday ~ Bleak House by Charles Dickens

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to Victorian London 

A cloth bound classic
Penguin Classic

Over summer I have listened to Bleak House by Charles Dickens. Just listening to a snippet here and there it’s taken me a while to get through it. However, it's my favourite Dickens novel and so well worth taking my time over. Whilst I have read it and watched the excellent BBC TV adaptation I have never listened to the story before, luckily, thanks to Librivox, I was fortunate to find a recording of Bleak House, narrated by the excellent, Mil Nicholson, who reads the story with fine attention to detail, and such skill with character definition that it brings a whole new dimension to the story. 

I am sure that everyone knows what Bleak House is all about, but in a nutshell, it's complicated story about a legal dispute involving Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which has been prominent in the London court of Chancery for many years. Along with the story of Ada Clare and Richard Carson, who are the latest wards in Jarndyce, it is also the story of Esther Summerson and of her connection to the enigmatic, Lady Honoria Deadlock. All these characters are bound together in such a perverse and complicated way that it takes Dickens well over a thousand pages to untangle the plot.

That the plot is eventually untangled is tantamount to Dickens unique ability to weave together the most ambitious of story lines.The great and the good of Victorian London are laid bare; none escape Dickens vitriolic observation or his sardonic wit, and as always, he combines good and evil, happy and sad, and mingles all together with a good old dollop of wonderful storytelling. 

The dark and seedy world of London society comes gloriously to life with all the finely drawn characteristics which are so reminiscent of this author's very special way with words.

Charles DickensCharles John Huffam Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the twentieth century critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories enjoy lasting popularity.

Biography source : Goodreads

You can find out more about Charles Dickens by clicking here

Find out more about Librivox by clicking here

You can read Bleak House for free by going to Project Gutenberg by clicking here

“There were two classes of charitable people: one, the people who did a little and made a great deal of noise; the other, the people who did a great deal and made no noise at all.” 

― Charles Dickens, Bleak House


Friday, 6 October 2017

Blog Tour ~ Blood's Game by Angus Donald

 Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the Blood's Game Blog Tour

And to give a warm welcome to the author

Angus Donald

Donald, thank you for spending time with us today and for your guest post

Thomas Blood and the theft of the Crown Jewels

By Angus Donald

A little before 7am on a chilly morning in early May, 1671, a tall, middle-aged man calling himself Thomas Ayliffe, and dressed in the sober clothes of a parson, knocked at the door of the Irish Tower in the northeast corner of the Tower of London.

He had with him three companions, two tough-looking men of about the same age as the parson and a younger fellow, who claimed to be the nephew of this respectable man of God as well as a gentleman of private means worth £300 per annum. The four men were admitted to the Irish Tower – now called the Martin Tower – by Talbot Edwards, the Assistant Keeper of the Crown Jewels, who resided there. Edwards kept the Crown Jewels – worth an estimated £100,000 pounds, a vast sum in those days – on wooden shelves behind an iron cage in a locked, windowless room below his private chambers in the Irish Tower.

Edwards, an elderly man and former soldier in the service of the noble Talbot family, had invited “Parson Ayliffe” and his “nephew” to breakfast with his wife and daughter and, as a treat, had promised them a sight of the famous royal jewels. The Assistant Keeper desperately wished to curry favour with the parson and his family, particularly with his nephew, as an engagement had been proposed by Parson Ayliffe between that apparently wealthy young man and Edwards’s ugly daughter.

Once the visitors were inside the Jewel House, with the bars of the cage open, the gang attacked Talbot Edwards, knocking him down with a blow to the head from a wooden mallet and stabbing him with daggers. Having subdued the old soldier – indeed, leaving him lying in a spreading pool of his own blood – the four men began helping themselves to the Crown Jewels, filling their pockets with priceless objects, cramming their boot-tops with handfuls of precious gem stones . . .

For Parson Ayliffe was not some mild-mannered country cleric; he was in fact the notorious desperado Thomas Blood, an outlaw with a price on his head, and the wealthy nephew was his eldest son, also called Thomas, a well-known highwayman.

I was first told the story of Thomas Blood and his attempt to steal the Crown Jewels as a child of perhaps ten or eleven – and I found it thrilling, not least because my mother, whose maiden name was Blood, told me that we were descended the crown-stealer. So, naturally, when I grew up, I wanted to tell his extraordinary story. The result is Blood’s Game, the first novel in my new 17th-century series. 

In middle-age, while I am no longer sure that I’m directly descended from him, I still find Thomas Blood to be a compelling character. However, after a good deal of research, I have also discovered that he is by no means an easy man to admire: some of his acts were shockingly violent, even needlessly brutal; he was nakedly self-serving and often rather depressingly incompetent. But he did have a quality of fearless, can-do optimism that I do find inspiring. All too often our 21st-century existences can be tame, risk-averse, coddled. I’m not suggesting anyone should pop on a ski mask, and go out and pull a bank job – but I do sometimes ask myself: would you ever have the balls to risk it all for wealth, fame and glory, as old Thomas did?

Thomas Blood was born in County Clare, Ireland in 1618, the son of a successful iron-master and grandson of a member of the Irish Parliament. At the age of 20, he married an English girl called Mary Holcroft who came from a family of Lancashire gentry and with whom he had at least seven children. 

When the English Civil War broke out in 1642, Blood initially joined the royalist side but when it became clear that the Cavaliers were losing the war, he switched sides and became a Roundhead. He rose to the rank of captain and was duly rewarded for turning his coat at the end of the wars with a gift of lands in Ireland. Thomas Blood then settled down to enjoy a gentlemanly life of moderate wealth and leisure with his growing family. 

All was well for the Bloods until the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, which was followed by the Act of Settlement of 1662, a piece of legislation that stripped lands from Cromwell’s supporters and handed them over to the resurgent royalists. 

Blood was ruined. His new estates were confiscated and he blamed the Irish government for his sudden destitution, and particularly the restored King’s personal representative, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, James Butler, Duke of Ormonde. 

Not the sort of man to take an injury without retaliation, Blood was part of a doomed scheme in 1663 to storm Dublin Castle and kidnap the Duke of Ormonde and hold him for ransom. Blood was forced to flee Ireland and find refuge in Holland, leaving his penniless wife and family behind to manage as best they could. 

By 1670, Blood was back in England, living in Romford Market, a few miles northeast of London, under the alias Doctor Thomas Allen. Despite having no medical qualifications at all, he made a decent living treating the people of Romford for their various ailments. On December 6 of that year, on a foul, rainy night, Blood and his confederates attacked the Duke of Ormonde’s coach in St James Street, as it was heading up the hill to Piccadilly where the Duke lived in the rented palace of Clarendon House. Blood and his gang pulled Ormonde from the vehicle but, instead of killing him immediately, they decided to take him to Tyburn, west along Piccadilly and approximately where Marble Arch now stands, and hang him there like a common criminal. Ormonde was tied to the back of a horse – but managed to wriggle free and he was rescued by footmen coming out with torches from Clarendon House.

After the failure of the Ormonde assassination attempt, Blood laid low, probably in Romford, planning his next move. Sometime in April 1671, Blood, disguised as a well-to-do country parson, calling himself Thomas Ayliffe, and accompanied by his beautiful “wife”, an actress called Jenny Blaine, paid a visit to the Tower of London and asked if he might be allowed to see the famous Crown Jewels of England. 

At that time, Talbot Edwards made a small income, on top of his salary as Assistant Keeper, by allowing visitors to view the King’s coronation regalia. He showed Blood and his charming companion the jewels and, when she feigned an illness and fainted, he kindly took them upstairs to his private apartments to recover under the care of his wife and daughter. A few days later Blood returned with a small gift – a thank-you for the Edwardses’ kindness. Over the next few weeks, Blood wormed his way into their affections and dangling a rich “nephew” as bait, he began negotiations with the Edwardses for the hand of their daughter Elizabeth. 

Early in the morning on May 9, 1671, Blood and three companions arrived at the Irish Tower, entered the Jewel House, overpowered Edwards and began helping themselves to the jewels. They believed the Assistant Keeper to be dead or dying – and certainly no longer a threat. But Edwards was made of stern stuff. While the thieves were filling their pockets with jewels, he revived and began to call for help. By sheer chance, Edwards’s son Wythe happened to be returning on leave from his regiment in Flanders that day and he arrived with a friend called Captain Beckman at the exact time that Edwards was screaming blue murder from inside the Jewel House. 

The thieves made a run for it, spilling treasures as they went, and were pursued by Wythe, Beckman and the Tower guards. There was a running fight, pistols, muskets and rapiers, as the gang tried to reach their horses which were tied up at the end of Tower Wharf at the Iron Gate. Blood was captured. As the soldiers seized him, he said: “It was a gallant attempt, however unsuccessful! ’Twas for a crown!”

Blood was imprisoned in the White Tower and questioned by the lieutenant of the Tower, Sir John Robinson, but the old outlaw refused to give away any details of the plot or the names of the other people involved. Quite outrageously, Blood insisted that he would only give an account of himself in a personal audience with the King.

After weeks of negotiations, with Blood still refusing to name names, he was granted a royal audience. I still find myself shocked by this: imagine Ronnie Biggs, the Great Train Robber, or a Kray twin or some other major criminal demanding to speak privately with Queen Elizabeth II. Nevertheless, a private audience was granted, Colonel Thomas Blood met Charles Stuart, and while nobody knows exactly what went on at that meeting, Blood emerged with a royal pardon for his crimes and a grant of lands in Ireland worth £500 a year.

Who says crime doesn’t pay?

In Blood’s Game I attempt to unravel exactly what went on during that meeting between the King and the most notorious outlaw of his age. 

Some historians have suggested that King Charles was so amused by this charming Irish rogue that he decided to pardon him. That doesn’t ring true for me. I think there was something darker going on. Blackmail, perhaps. The threat of a secret that would be revealed if Blood went to the gallows. And when I began to research the background for the novel, I did, in fact, discover a genuinely shocking secret, a royal secret of explosive proportions, something the British government kept hidden for more than a hundred years afterwards. This secret forms basis for my telling of this incredible tale about an extraordinary man . . . but I’m not going to say any more. If you want to find out, you’ll have to read Blood’s Game.

Angus Donald is the author of Blood's Game, published by Zaffre in hardback £12.99

Find out more on his website

Follow on Twitter  @angus_donald #BloodsGame

Visit on Facebook

5 October 2017

Huge thanks to the author for spending time with us today and for his fascinating insight into Thomas Blood and his audacious attempt to steal the Crown Jewels.

Thanks also to Emily at Bonnier Zaffre for her invitation to be part of this blog tour and for sending a copy of Blood's Game to me .