Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Golden Samovar by Olga Wojtas..

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be part of the blog tour 

Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Golden Samovar 

(An imprint of Saraband Books)
25 January 2018

What's it all about ...

Fifty-something Shona is a proud former pupil of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, but has a deep loathing for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which she thinks gives her alma mater a bad name.

Impeccably educated and an accomplished martial artist, linguist and musician, Shona is thrilled when selected by Marcia Blaine herself to travel back in time for a one-week mission in 19th-century Moscow: to pair up the beautiful, shy, orphaned heiress Lidia Ivanovna with Sasha, a gorgeous young man of unexplained origins.

But, despite all her accomplishments and good intentions, Shona might well have got the wrong end of the stick about her mission. As the body count rises, will she discover in time just who the real villain is?

My thoughts...

Shona McMonagle is employed as a librarian at the Morningside Library in Edinburgh, where she is proud to consider herself as one of the crème de la crème girls from Marcia Blaine's esteemed establishment. When Shona is approached by none other than the revered, Marcia Blaine herself, she is amazed to find that not only does Marcia Blaine know her name but also that she has an important time travelling mission for her.

I don't quite know where to begin trying to explain Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Golden Samovar as nothing I can say would do justice to this lively romp into the nineteenth century aristocratic world of Counts and Countesses, Prince and Princesses, and of afternoon tea served from a giant eagle embossed Samovar. And yet, however, bizarre this seems, the aptly named, time traveller,Shona Fergusovna, is even more unusual as she completely turns the ordered life of the Russian aristocracy upside down in her quest to discover a deadly secret.

Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Golden Samovar is one of those stories which shouldn’t be taken too seriously. It’s laugh out loud funny in places and so convoluted that I gave up trying to figure out where the story was going and just let the story evolve, which it does at a cracking pace. The characters are beautifully caricatured, especially the moneyed countesses who vie for Shona’s attention, and the beautiful, Lidia Ivanovna’s wonderful Nanny, who spends her time knitting colourful, Fichus to cover her young lady’s décolletage.

Original, funny and with a deliciously quirky edge, Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Golden Samovar is delightful from beginning to end and I can't wait to see where Shona's time travelling adventures take her to next. In the hands of this talented new author, the possibilities are endless.

About the Author

Olga Wojtas was born and brought up in Edinburgh where she attended James Gillespie’s High School – the model for Marcia Blaine School for Girls, which appears in Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. She was encouraged to write by an inspirational English teacher there, Iona M. Cameron. Olga won a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award in 2015 and has had more than 30 short stories published in magazines and anthologies.

Twitter @OlgaWojtas

Amazon UK

The launch of this book is part of the Muriel Spark 100 centenary programme. More information on 

Twitter @murielspark100

Do visit the other Blog Tour stops

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Review ~ The Walls Came Down by Ewa Dodd

Aurora Metro
1 February 2018

The Walls Came Down follows the lives of three adults, Joanna, a journalist in Poland, Matty, a London financier, and Tom, an elderly man living out his last days in a Chicago hospice. It's only as the story progresses that we discover the reason why these three people are interlinked. And the reason why they are linked forms the basis for a truly fascinating story, which looks at the concept of family, and of the complicated bond that, regardless of circumstances, link them together.

Moving seamlessly between three distinct locations, Poland, London and Chicago, the three main characters allow us a glimpse into each of their lives and reveal, ever so slowly, the secrets which they have carried within them for such a long time. All three stories are especially poignant, and as the story progresses, it becomes really difficult to single out which story is the most affecting as there is something uniquely special about all of them. And yet, as you read on, you start to understand where the story is heading, and of how profoundly affected Joanna, Matty and Tom have been by the past events of their lives. 

Thoughtfully written and profoundly affecting, the story captured my imagination from the very beginning. With delicate sensitivity, the author brings a wealth of cultural understanding, particularly Joanna’s life, both past and present, in Poland. Everything feels completely authentic, especially Tom’s story as he faces his own mortality burdened by a lifetime of regrets. But it is Matty’s story which is perhaps the most challenging and I felt huge compassion for him and he searches to uncover the truth about his life, which has been buried so deep it almost seems like a bottomless chasm. 

The Walls Came Down is a story about a stolen childhood; it’s about the continual search to expose the truth, and it’s about the vulnerability of lives which have been ruined by deceit and lies.

Ewa Dodd has been writing since she was young - starting small with short self-illustrated books for children. More recently, she has delved into novel-writing, and is particularly interested in literature based in Poland, where her family are from. The Walls Came Down is her first published novel, for which she was shortlisted for the Virginia Prize for Fiction.

Twitter @EwaDodd


Monday, 29 January 2018

Review ~ Angelica Stone by Susi Osborne

The Book Guild

My thanks to the author for my review copy of this book

What's it all about...

Following years of sexual abuse and resulting psychological trauma, Angelica Stone has learnt to rely solely on herself. Unwilling to allow anyone to get close to her, Angelica is reluctant to allow her work colleague Lola into her life. Lola, in contrast to the damaged Angelica, is from what appears to be a happy middle-class family. But all is not what it seems…

An unlikely bond is formed between the two as they learn more about each other. As they become closer, a series of life-changing events leave Lola on the verge of ruin. Will the friends be able to better themselves and have the lives they so desperately want? Or will they succumb to the expectations and the path already laid out for them?

My thoughts...

This rather unusual book took me by surprise as I wasn't, from reading the first pages, expecting to read such a dark and, at times, quite disturbing story about two very different young women, who first meet as co-workers, and then whose lives intertwine in a fascinating, fly on the wall, sort of way.

Lola and Angelica's backgrounds couldn't be more different and yet, they form a bond of friendship which will prove to be their salvation when things in their lives start to change. That they form this bond is to their credit and makes for interesting reading.

The story moves from some laugh out loud funny moments, to times when I didn't quite believe what I was reading, but through it all the author maintains a light and easy style of writing, which despite the darker elements, draws you in so that you are compelled to read on just to see how the story eventually plays out.

It's rather difficult to say too much about Angelica Stone as it would give far too much away, but my main thoughts on finishing the book was just how well written it was, and how much I liked the author's natural ability to make this unusual story into a very readable account of the power of friendship and the strength of self discovery.

Susi Osborne worked within the library service and now runs Northwick LitFest in Cheshire, where she lives. Susi also worked as a classroom assistant in a junior school and, in addition, has had first hand experience of social workers and the adoption system.


Twitter @susiosborne

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

Ordinary Lives of the First World War

I am honoured to feature this very special family story from the author, Kirsty Ferry

Watch for me at Twilight is the third book in my new Hartsford Mysteries series. I’ve just finished the edits on it, and was asked to think about my dedication before it goes through to the final proofing stage. As the book has a WW2 thread running through it, and my historical hero is an RAF pilot, who is also a poet, the person I chose to dedicate the story to was a relative of mine, who died in WW1.

James Edwin Brown was born in 1894 and died on Monday November 26th 1917. James was a Bombardier in 113th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, and his service number was 376175. He lies in Potijze Chateau Grounds Cemetery and is commemorated on the war memorial in Swalwell, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear. He was 23 years old, and died alongside Gunner WJ Callow, who was 36. James left a young wife, May Blanche, who was 22 years old. Their son, James Richard John, had been born earlier that year, and they had only been married since the summer of 1916. Before he became a soldier, James worked in the Tyneside shipyards. May was my Gran’s aunt, and my Gran was named after her, which I think is rather lovely.

My son is also called James, and part of that is to do with the fact it’s a family name on both sides – and obviously James Edwin Brown was a big hero of my son’s when he was younger. He was so excited when we showed him the war memorial commemorating James Edwin, and took a family tree into school for show and tell, although we could never quite work out how many “Greats” it involved!

I, personally, first came across James Edwin when I was researching my family tree, and started digging around archives and records. I knew my Gran had been named after an Aunt, so the original May Blanche was really my starting point; and from there I discovered James Edwin.

I recall as well, that it was coming up to the Millennium, and as a special part of their exhibits, the DLI (Durham Light Infantry) Museum had a computer set up where you could access war records. Back then, I had a ridiculous dial-up internet connection at home, so grabbed a paper napkin and a pen and took the opportunity to discover what I could from this wonderful internet resource! I wasn’t disappointed, and have always, somehow, felt a connection to this chap.

I wonder what he would have been like as a person, what he would have looked like. How he and May met – and was she pregnant when they married, because the dates aren’t clear! May married again, a few years later, but I suspect she never forgot her first love. Almost more tragically, James Edwin appears, of course, in earlier censuses as a little boy – a “scholar”. And as I read about where he lived, and what his family did, and see his name on a list with other children, I think how sad it was that he ended up dead at 23 years old, and that it’s probably best that we can’t predict what our future holds.

I do wonder why James Edwin joined up, as I always thought the shipyards were a reserved occupation, but perhaps he was conscripted after all, or perhaps he simply joined out of choice. I don’t suppose we’ll ever know. I don’t suppose I’ll ever find a picture of him, either, but I live in hope. And now, at least, there’s something else to remember him by in my dedication. 

Warmest thanks to Kirsty for spending time with us today

 And for sharing this very special story about James Edwin Brown. I feel honoured to share his story.

You can find out more about Kirsty and her writing


Twitter @kirsty_ferry

Choc Lit

Amazon UK


Saturday, 27 January 2018

Hist Fic Saturday ~ Anne Belfrage

On Hist Fic Saturday I am delighted to welcome back to the blog one of my favourite authors

Anna Belfrage

I asked Anna why she writes historical fiction and this is what she told me...

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the past. The past is a vast and varied universe, all the way from those extremely distant ancestors of ours who decorated their caves with pictures of bison and mammoths, horses and hands – an ancient form of “Kilroy was here”, palm prints in red, black and yellow confirming that once these long-dead artists breathed and lived. I suppose they dreamt of a better world just like we do, a world where the fire in their hearths never went out, where their men returned unscathed from the hunt, where the babies survived and grew strong and healthy.

As a child, I wasn’t much into cave art. Instead, my historical interest spanned a period of six centuries or so, from the times of Alfred the Great to the death of Henry IV. I never liked Henry V. I still don’t… Geographically, the landscape of the past I most wanted to explore was England with the odd detour into Wales and Scotland. Rarely was I sufficiently intrigued by the history of my own country to want to spend too much time in medieval Sweden—I found the land of my birth tragically lacking when it came to heroic kings, colourful women and derring-do. Since then, I’ve discovered this is not the case, but you know what they say about first love: it never quite dies.

I was twelve or so when I discovered there was a fundamental difference between my friends and me: they were always looking to the future, longing for the moment when they were old enough to carve their own path through life. I did that too, but I spent a substantially larger chunk of my time wishing I could go back in time. I wanted to save Richard Lionheart from the crossbow bolt that took his life. I wanted to stop Llewelyn the Last from rising in his fated rebellion against Edward I.  Effectively, I wanted to rewrite history—well, some of it at least.

As we all know, History cannot be rewritten. Nor can we travel back in time to experience the past in all its (dubious) glory. But as a writer, I can allow myself the luxury of carving windows to the past by setting my stories in whatever period takes my fancy. It is an addiction, this travelling through time via pen—or laptop. It is a joy and delight, allowing me to spend numerous hours researching my various periods. Many, many hours. Some things are best experienced which is why I’ve made lye and done laundry the old-fashioned way. I’ve also castrated piglets, milked cows, helped foals into the world, butchered a pig, used a flail and scythed a hayfield. And no, it was neither as easy nor picturesque as when Aidan Turner walks about bare-chested against a gorgeous backdrop of sunny skies. Reality involved much more sweat and flies.

However, historical research does not a novel make. For a story to come alive, it requires characters that are vibrant and complex, real enough to step out of the pages, no matter if they ever existed or not. Through my characters, I experience the sights and sounds, tactile sensations and smells of a distant time. For a while, I can escape the uncertainties of the present & future for the certainties of the past.  Not that those certainties always apply to my characters. They tend to take on a life of their own, interacting with the known historical events in a way that quite often leaves me with my heart in my mouth.

Developing historical characters is probably no different than developing contemporary characters. After all, people have not changed all that much through the centuries and human emotions and reactions are probably relatively constant throughout the ages. Someone betrays you, the visceral rage you feel is probably identical to the one your 12th century ancestor felt when he realised he’d been set up. Loving someone probably feels the same, jealousy is as consuming an emotion in the 14th century as it is now. Anger, hatred, determination, greed, lust—they likely feel the same now as they did back in the Mesolithic age.

While on the subject of characters, I must come clean and admit that they are the main reason why I write historical fiction. I fall in love with them. All of them, but primarily my male leads, upright men of conviction, firm believers in that some things are worth dying for. We don’t see eye to eye on this, as I prefer them alive. In some cases, of course, my leads have to die. Historical fact calls for their death and no matter how much I wring my hands and beg them not to die they do so anyway and leave me emotionally exhausted.

I am still holding on to the hope that someday someone will invent a time machine. But the more I learn about the past, the more I submerge myself in the lives of those that went before, the more I realise that while I would very much want to visit the past, I would never want to live there. It is far safer and more comfortable to write about the past, preferably with a nice cup of tea at hand. Now that is, IMO, the best thing about writing Historical Fiction: I can still have tea and cake while considering just how it would feel to be disembowelled. Or hanged. Or die of the plague. 

Here's more about Anna and her writing

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. 

Presently, Anna is hard at work with The King’s Greatest Enemy, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The fourth book in the series, The Cold Light of Dawn, will be published in February 2018.

Timelight Press
16 February 2018

When Anna is not stuck in the 14th century, chances are she’ll be visiting in the 17th century, more specifically with Alex and Matthew Graham, the protagonists of the acclaimed The Graham Saga. This series is the story of two people who should never have met – not when she was born three centuries after him. A ninth instalment has recently been published, despite Anna having thought eight books were enough. Turns out her 17th century dreamboat and his time travelling wife didn’t agree…

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Follow on Twitter @abelfrageauthor

Huge thanks to Anna for being my Hist Fic author in the spotlight today and for sharing her love of historical fiction with us.


Friday, 26 January 2018

Review ~ Baby Boom! by Helen Wallen

25 January 2018
My thanks to the publishers for the review copy of this book

What's it all about...

Increased face-girth, back acne and gagging every time she's in the presence of vegetables isn't quite the beautiful start Emily had planned for her unborn baby...
Molly's unexpected pregnancy somehow turns her boyfriend into the poncy-vegan-nut-milk-enforcer, but she breezes it, as she breezes everything. (Including still being able to eat avocados much to Emily's annoyance.)
Liz quickly realises if she's to move her life on, she needs to get rid of the married man she's in love with - especially now she's realised he's been hiding more than his wedding ring...

What did I think about it ...

When I first started to read Baby Boom! I was afraid that I wasn't in the right demographic as both my babies were born a long time ago, long before the arrival of mobile phones, internet access and social media, but I needn't have worried because despite this the story drew me in from the beginning, and I enjoyed getting to know Emily, Molly and Liz as they all embarked upon a new time in their lives.

The author has an easy style of writing, and the story with its with sharp and sassy chapters, which are interspersed with Whatsapp conversations between the three friends, all help to bring the narrative right up to date. Following the highs and lows of this feisty trio with their witty observations about life, relationships and pregnancy made me smile.

I found much to like in Baby Boom! and I was pleased to discover that despite the advent of social media, pretty much everything about what its like being pregnant is just as I remembered it from 30 years ago.

I am sure that those who follow the author's successful blog "Just A Normal Mummy" will be excited to see what she has done with this, her debut novel.

About the Author

Helen Wallen is a blogger, funny lady, mother of two, and all round gin, wine and cake enthusiast. Formerly a copywriter/PR-type person, she is now dedicated to growing human-beings in her uterus and blogging about life with babies, toddlers and beyond.

Helen's award winning 'Just a Normal Mummy' blog is the inspiration and basis for her first witty, and hilariously honest, debut fiction title BABY BOOM!

Twitter @wallymummy #BabyBoom

Amazon UK

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ Believe In Me by Susan Lewis

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the 

Believe In Me Blog Tour

25 January 2018
My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book and for the invitation to be part of this blog tour

What's it all about...

Believe in me follows Leanne as she tries to mend the wounds her family has suffered after the death of her husband. When the opportunity arises to foster a child, Leanne is quick to open her doors. But her generosity is about to be put to the ultimate test...

Daniel Marks is a ten year old boy whose father is in prison for a gruesome murder.

Everyone deserves a place to call home, and a family to care for them, but will Leanne and her family still be safe once Daniel enters their lives?

With the help of friend and familiar ex detective Andee Lawrence, Leanne sets out to right the wrongs of the past.

What did I think about it ...

This warm hearted story really caught my imagination and by the end of the first chapter I was completely immersed in the lives of those who live at Morley Farm. It's quite an unusual set up with different generations and different nationalities all living in close proximity but it allows them to be supportive of each other and to share in each other's sadness and successes.

However, the story is about more than just friendship and family as it covers some quite deep and emotional issues, particularly about fostering and how children cope with loss, and also how tragedy and trauma can have lasting repercussions. The story also touches on people's attitudes towards racism and certainly gets its point across in a way which is both meaningful and heartfelt.

To counteract the darker elements of the story, there are some lovely light moments which made me smile, I especially liked how all the residents and friends all came together at Morley Farm for entertaining evenings. So descriptive was the idea of all these lovely people spending time together, I really felt like I was sitting with them sipping wine on a bright summer evening.

The author clearly writes about what she knows and this comes across in the ease of storytelling which combines a blend of family drama, with  a story about love and loss, and the healing power of friendship.

About the Author

Susan Lewis is the bestselling author of thirty-eight novels. She is also the author of Just One More Day and One Day at a Time, the moving memoirs of her childhood in Bristol. She lives in Gloucestershire.

Twitter @susandlewis #BelieveInMe


Do visit the other Blog Tour stops

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ Aphrodite's Tears by Hannah Fielding

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the 

Aphrodite's Tears Blog Tour

London Wall Publishers
25th January 2018

My thanks to the author and publisher for the invitation to be part of this blog tour and for my copy of the book

I am delighted to welcome back to the blog one of my favourite authors.

I asked Hannah where she got the inspirations for Aphrodite's Tears...

Inspirations for my new novel, Aphrodite’s Tears

The seeds for Aphrodite’s Tears were sewn in my childhood. Firstly, through the Greek people I met who told me all about their country and its traditions (I grew up in Alexandria, Egypt, at a time when it was a very cosmopolitan place, and many of my parents’ friends and my school friends were Greek). Secondly, and importantly, through my family’s love of storytelling, which introduced me to Greek mythology.

It was a children’s book that first opened my eyes to these fantastic stories. I remember it as well-thumbed, with a cracking spine, and falling open on certain stories I loved: Persephone and Hades, King Midas and the golden touch, Theseus and the Minotaur (although the Minotaur illustration would frighten me). My governess read this book over and over to me, as did my parents, and I lived the stories in my imagination.

The stories of Greek mythology stayed with me over the years, and when I had my own children, I was able to rediscover them all over again; and then, more recently, once more with my grandchildren. The more I read these stories, all different versions of them, the more they ignited sparks in my imagination – I wanted to write something infused with these ancient tales.

Beyond my love of legends, though, Greece had become a natural choice for the setting for a novel because of my history with the country. Where better to situate a romance than where I have experienced some of my own most romantic moments? I bought my wedding dress in Greece, and I honeymooned there, on the Greek islands. The stunning sunset that Damian and Oriel watch together on Santorini in Aphrodite’s Tears… I have seen that myself, many times, and each time it has taken my breath away.

As well as the romance of Greece, the values of the Greek people struck a chord with me. In Aphrodite’s Tears, I conceived a story that focuses on a tight-knit community, isolated from others, in which tradition and family are very important. From my travels in Greece, I knew that the Greek island setting would be a good fit. Helios is the kind of island I think many of us would love to escape to, where traditional values are still important and family is at the heart of everything. I remember learning that according to Greek customs a man should still ask a father for his daughter’s hand in marriage, and thinking: ‘This is the place for a love story.’

Greece is a very special setting for me, and it is one I know well. ‘Write about what you know’ is an old adage, but an apt one – my novels are always set in places that have meaning for me. I would add, however, that is just as important to write about what inspires you. Greece – its people, its customs and traditions, its history, its legends, its landscapes – this place inspires me. For as the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley put it: ‘We are all Greeks. Our laws, our literature, our religion, our arts have their root in Greece.’

Huge thanks to Hannah for this fabulous guest post.

Twitter @fieldinghannah # AphroditesTears

Aphrodite’s Tears is out in paperback on 25th January for £7.99

Do visit the other blog tour stops

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Review ~ The Confession by Jo Spain

11th January 2018
My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for my ecopy of this book

Harry McNamara and his wife Julie are watching television, at home, when a man calmly walks into their house and brutally murders Harry, as Julie paralysed with fear, watches in horror. A little later the same man walks into a police station and admits to killing Harry in an unpremeditated attack claiming that he didn't know his victim. 

Knowing 'whodunnit' at the very start of the novel is an interesting premise as it allows not just a unique glimpse into the mind of the killer but it also lays bare the imperfections and cracks in the marriage of Harry and Julie. What then follows is a clever and twisted psychological thriller which puts under the microscope, not just the lives of Harry McNamara and his wife, but also the life and background of JP Carney, the man who is responsible for Harry's murder. And as the complex reasons for the killing start to unfold, so a story of lies, deceit and deadly secrets starts to emerge. 

Of course, there is more to the story than at first appears and the lead detective on the case, Alice Moody, is determined to pick holes in JP’s story. She will leave no stone unturned and no suspicion unchallenged in her quest to find out just what motivated JP to commit such a seemingly random act of appalling violence. 

The story abounds with a real sense of foreboding, and, as it skips around in time, so it exposes the complexities of the central characters and these are highlighted with clever precision, and a real sense of style. No one is beyond reproach, indeed not many of the characters are even remotely likeable, and yet, there is such a clever sophistication to the story that you can't help but find yourself taking sides, first with one character, and then another,  until you don’t really know where your loyalties lie or who is telling the truth . 

Rather unusually for me, I didn’t see the direction the story was heading and there were many times I thought I had it all sussed out only for the plot to veer off in a completely different direction, so the dénouement when it comes was , for me, a real eye opener. 

Without doubt The Confession is a really clever psychological thriller with one of the best opening lines I have read in a long, long time. Shall I tell you what it is ….er no, read it for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.

Jo Spain is the author of the Inspector Tom Reynolds series. Her first book, top ten bestseller With Our Blessing, was a finalist in the 2015 Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller. The Confession is her first standalone thriller.

Twitter @SpainJoanne #TheConfession

Monday, 22 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ Nucleus by Rory Clements

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the Nucleus Blog Tour

Bonnier Zaffre
25 January 2018
My thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book and the invitation to be part of the blog tour
What's it all about...

England is partying like there is no tomorrow, gas masks at the ready. In Cambridge the May Balls are played out with a frantic intensity - but the good times won't last... In Europe, the Nazis have invaded Czechoslovakia, and in Germany the persecution of the Jews is now so widespread that desperate Jewish parents send their children to safety in Britain aboard the Kindertransport. Closer to home, the IRA's S-Plan bombing campaign has resulted in more than 100 terrorist outrages around England.

But perhaps the most far-reaching event of all goes largely unreported: in Germany, Otto Hahn has produced the first man-made fission and an atomic device is now a very real possibility. The Nazis set up the Uranverein group of physicists: its task is to build a superbomb. The German High Command is aware that British and US scientists are working on similar line. Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory is where the atom was split in 1932. Might the Cambridge men now win the race for a nuclear bomb? Hitler's generals need to be sure they know all the Cavendish's secrets. Only then will it be safe for Germany to wage war.

When one of the Cavendish's finest brains is murdered, Professor Tom Wilde is once more drawn into an intrigue from which there seems no escape. In a conspiracy that stretches from Cambridge to Berlin and from Washington DC to the west coast of Ireland, he faces deadly forces that threaten the fate of the world.

What did I think about it...

This new historical thriller takes us right back into the complicated world of Professor Tom Wilde, the Cambridge historian and amateur detective, who we first met in Corpus. In Nucleus, we have an altogether darker mystery which sees Tom, and his companions, pushed to the limit of even their considerable endurance. 

It's 1939 and England is on the cusp of war and the brilliant scientists at the Cavendish laboratory in Cambridge are working frantically to complete their research into nuclear fission which could lead to the production of the first nuclear bomb. However, Germany also has its eye on this considerable prize, and there are some unscrupulous individuals who will stop at nothing to get the information they need in order to gain superiority as Europe races towards conflict. 

Nucleus is a fascinating historical thriller which is totally convincing in its authenticity, alive with menace and teeming with characters that stay with you long after the last page is turned. I always enjoy being in Tom Wilde's company, he is fast becoming one of my favourite amateur sleuths, and it's really interesting to see, in this novel,  how his troubled relationship with his girlfriend, Lydia, develops, particularly as Lydia is also about to be tested to her limits when she embarks on her own dangerous mission. 

From sleepy Cambridge, to the dark days of pre-war Berlin, and even to the inner sanctum of the White house and a meeting with President Roosevelt, Nucleus is filled with the plots and schemes of some unscrupulous individuals who will stop at nothing to get what they want. The story moves along at a rollicking pace and the multiple twists and turns in the plot certainly kept me guessing right until the end. The historical aspect of the story is, as ever, impeccably researched and everything feels so authentic that it really is, at times, like being a fly on the wall with a privileged view of everything as it happens. The central plot is all consuming and the multiple strands of the story with all their elements of danger and intrigue make for an exciting historical thriller. 

I hope that it won't be too long before Tom Wilde comes back with another fascinating historical adventure

RORY CLEMENTS won the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award in 2010 for his second novel, Revenger. He is the author of the John Shakespeare series of novels which are currently in development for TV by the team behind POLDARK and ENDEAVOUR. Since 2007, Rory has been writing full-time in a quiet corner of Norfolk, England, where he lives with his family.

Twitter #Nucleus

Do visit the other stops on the Blog Tour


Sunday, 21 January 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

Ordinary Lives of the First World War

It is possible to walk in any of our cemeteries  to discover a CWGC headstone from WW1. 

On a visit to Mellor, a small village in Lancashire, I discovered this Commonwealth War Grave in a quiet part of the graveyard of St Mary the Virgin church. The solitary headstone caught my eye and on further inspection I discovered that it was the grave of  a young nurse, something I have not seen before.

Mary Jennette Robins

Mary Jennette Robins, was an officer in the Royal Navy, in the Queen Alexandra Royal Naval Nursing Service (QARNN ). When I searched online at the Imperial War Museum, Lives of the First World War website, I discovered that Mary was born in 1890 in Blackburn, Lancashire and that she sadly died of pneumonia on the 4th November 1918.

I discovered that Mary features on the Women of the Empire memorial in York Minster where the names of 1,400 women are commemorated and their names are inscribed on oak screens.

Mary Jennette Robins has no connection to me or my family and the only thing we have in common is that we were both nurses.

For every one of these quiet resting places, in graveyards up and down the country, there are so many stories to be told of ordinary lives lost and of families who forever mourned their loss.

It does no harm, if you come across any of these headstones, to stop and, in a moment of quiet reflection, acknowledge the sacrifices that were made over a hundred years ago. The least we can do is to remember what they did, and say thank you.

In this final year of my commemoration of the First World War, I am hoping to feature more stories of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.


Saturday, 20 January 2018

Hit Fic Saturday ~ The Good Sister by Maggie Christensen

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to..1938

Two Isobels. A lifetime of regret. A love that spans the years

Cala Publishing
November 2017
My thanks to the author for providing an ecopy of this book to review

What's it all about ...

In 1938, as the world hurtled towards war, twenty-year-old Isobel MacDonald fell madly in love. But fate and her own actions conspired to deny her the happiness she yearned for. Many years later, plagued with regrets and with a shrill voice from the past ringing in her ears, she documents the events that shaped her life.

In 2015, sixty-five-year-old Bel Davison returns from Australia to her native Scotland to visit her terminally ill aunt. Reading Isobel’s memoir, she is beset with memories of her own childhood and overcome with guilt. When she meets her aunt’s solicitor, events seem to spiral out of control and, almost against her will, she finds herself drawn to this enigmatic Scotsman.

What is it that links these two women across the generations? Can the past influence the future? 

My thoughts...

There's always something fascinating about reading a dual time story which intertwines the stories of two very different characters, whose shared connection to the past encroaches on the future. In The Good Sister, the author has once again brought us two memorable female characters and, as we discover, both of the Isobel's, one in the 1940s, and the other in 2015, are joined by something which happened decades ago, in the past.

The story splits its time between past and present and the author does a good job of allowing both women to have their voice. Time and place are represented well, and, over the course of the story,  I enjoyed getting to know both of the characters and enjoyed seeing just where the events of the story would take them.

The author writes this type of fiction, featuring more mature heroines, really well and it is to her credit that she allows the story to unfold in a rather gentle manner, which makes for very pleasant reading. 

The Good Sister is a lovely, family saga for a cold and wintery afternoon and is the author's first foray into writing historical fiction. I hope it won't be her last. 

Maggie Christensen

Twitter @MaggieChriste33

Amazon UK

Friday, 19 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ In Love and War by Liz Trenow

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the 

In Love and War Blog Tour

Pan Macmillan
January 25th

My thanks to the publishers for the copy of the book and for the invitation to be part of this blog tour

I am delighted to have the author, Liz Trenow, as my guest on the blog today.

Welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Liz, tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing? 

I spent most of my working life as a journalist (starting on local newspapers then moving to the BBC) and had tinkered with writing fiction but with a demanding job and a husband and two daughters at home never found time to write a novel. In my late fifties I managed to get early retirement and decided that it was now of never! I was incredibly fortunate to find an agent, and then a publisher – something I’d never even dreamed of.

What can you tell us about In Love and War without giving too much away?

The bodies of one in four who died in the First World War were never found – all their families were told was that they were ‘missing, presumed dead’. My husband’s uncle is one of these, and his name is inscribed with the many thousands of others on the Menin Gate at Ypres. 

When I was researching an earlier book, The Poppy Factory, I discovered that almost immediately after the end of the war several thousands of people made the difficult journey to the devastated battlefield areas of Flanders and the Somme, desperate for news of their lost loved ones. 

It must have been horrifying to witness the chaos that war had left behind: the mud, the trenches, the make-shift cemeteries, and I wanted to try to imagine how these early battlefield ‘pilgrims’ might feel, through my three characters: a young English widow, an American woman whose brother was lost, and a German mother whose son died.

In researching the story, did you discover anything which surprised you?

So many things! I’d intended to set the story in Ypres but when we visited there on a battlefield tour we discovered that the place had been completely rebuilt after being almost levelled to the ground by the war: hardly a building had been left standing and in 1919 there were no hotels or facilities for tourists there. 

Then we visited a little village called Poperinghe, which had never been captured, and it was there we went to Talbot House, the ‘home from home’ for soldiers of all ranks created by a charismatic army chaplain called Tubby Clayton. He and the house play an important part in my story. 

Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. How do you feel about them when the book is finished? Are they what you expected them to be?

When I start I usually have quite a clear idea of what they are like and what will happen to them during the course of the novel. But characters do evolve as you write them, sometimes in interesting ways. I can get quite attached to them, and they do go on living in my head long after I’ve finished the book. 

Your style of writing is very much ‘from the heart’. Does this take its toll on you emotionally, and if so, how do you overcome it?

Yes I do get emotionally involved in my characters although I wouldn’t say it ‘takes its toll’ to any great extent. All I know is that if I feel genuine sadness, or joy, for them, they have come alive in my mind and will hopefully do the same for my readers. 

Where do your ideas for stories come from, and as one book finishes do you already know where the next book will take you? 

Ideas come from lots of sources – many of my books have been inspired by my family’s 300 year history of silk weaving (they’re still weaving today in Sudbury, Suffolk). Others come from something I have read, perhaps doing research for a previous book, as was the case for In Love and War. I usually know what book I am going to write next – the one I’m currently working on was inspired by a rather minor character from a previous novel, The Silk Weaver.

What's it all about...

July, 1919. The First World War is over. The war-torn area of Flanders near Ypres is no longer home to trenches or troops, but groups of tourists. Controversial battlefield tourism now drives bus-loads of people to witness first-hand where loved ones fell and died. 

At the Hotel de la Paix in the small village of Poperinghe, three women have come to the battlefields to find a trace of men they have loved and lost. Ruby is just 21, a shy Englishwoman looking for the grave of her husband. Alice is only a little older but brimming with confidence; she has travelled all the way from America, convinced her brother is in fact still alive and still in France. Then there’s Martha and her son Otto, who are not all they seem to be…

The three women may have very different backgrounds, but they are united in their search for reconciliation: to reconcile themselves to what the war took from them, but also to what life might still promise for the future,

Liz Trenow is a former journalist who spent fifteen years on regional and national newspapers, and on BBC radio and television news, before turning her hand to fiction. In Love and War is her fifth novel. The Forgotten Seamstress reached the top twenty in the New York Times best seller list and The Last Telegram nominated for a national award. Her books have been translated into a number of languages.

She lives in Colchester in Essex with her artist husband, and they have two grown up daughters and two grandchildren.

Twitter @LizTrenow #InLoveAndWar

My thanks to Liz for answering my questions so thoughtfully and for her invitation to be part of the blog tour.

Do visit the other Blog Tour stops 


Thursday, 18 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Last Mrs Parrish by Liv Constantine

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's very last stop on 

The Last Mrs Parrish Blog Tour

My thanks to the publishers for my review copy of this book and for the invitation to be part of the blog tour.

Harper Collins
January 11th
What's it all about...

Amber Patterson is tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who melts into the background. She deserves more. She deserves a life of wealth, luxury and leisure.

Daphne Parrish is the golden girl of the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut. With her modelesque looks, her picture-perfect mansion and her millionaire husband, Jackson, she has everything Amber has ever wanted.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive—if she didn't have a plan. Gradually, Amber insinuates herself into the Parrish family’s life. Before long, she has become Daphne’s closest confidante, and is catching the eye of Jackson. But a skeleton from her past could undermine everything Amber has worked for, and if discovered, her well-laid plan may end in disaster…

What did I think about it...

Amber Patterson is every woman's worst nightmare, she's manipulative, unscrupulous, and yet, is insignificant enough to blend into the background. However, as she starts to infiltrate into the perfect life of the rich and beautiful, Daphne Parrish, you can't help but wonder if that little niggle of doubt that you have about Amber Patterson is going to be significant.

I’m not going to tell you any part of the story because that would be to really spoil everything, but as the plot progresses, and as Amber starts to ingratiate herself into Daphne's life and family, so more and more deadly secrets start to be revealed.

That the story takes the reader on a rocky, roller coaster of journey is without question and whilst, in many ways, it is an uncomfortable novel to read, as there are some really dark sexual references, I think these only add strength and purpose to, what is, in effect, a stunningly, clever psychological thriller.

It is to the author’s joint credit that they have created in The Last Mrs Parrish such a compelling read. It is eerily addictive, expertly managed and so succinctly plotted, that there were times when I read with my mind stunned in disbelief, scrabbling the pages so that I could read quicker and quicker, and, even then, not quite believing what was being revealed.

So great was the need to discover how the story would eventually play out, that I read the whole lot in a matter of hours, and I closed the book with a real sense of having read something which was truly unputdownable.

So many novels are described as unputdownable when they are clearly not, but, believe me,  The Last Mrs Parrish really is unputdownable and is a stunning debut from two talented writers.

Liv Constantine is the pen name of bestselling authors and sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine. Separated by three states, they spend hours plotting via FaceTime and email. They attribute their ability to concoct dark story lines to the hours they spent listening to tales handed down by their Greek grandmother. THE LAST MRS. PARRISH is their debut thriller. 

Twitter @livconstantine2 #TheLastMrsParrish




Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ Stand By Me by S D Robertson

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the 

Stand By Me Blog Tour

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of the book and also for the invitation to be part of this tour
 and for permission to share this extract with you.

I am delighted to be able to share with you this extract from Stand By Me

Johnny and Carl were the ones who actually stripped him, who jeered at how he looked in his underwear, joking that he needed a bra for his ‘boobies’. Peter stood to one side, looking awkward. But he didn’t do anything to stop them. He didn’t say a word. Then Johnny turned to him and asked why he wasn’t getting involved, suggesting it was because he and Elliot used to be ‘bum chums’. That was when Peter stepped forward and pulled Elliot’s glasses off his face.

‘Don’t, Peter,’ he pleaded. ‘Please. They’re new. You know I can’t see a thing without them.’

But his former friend didn’t listen. Instead he dropped the glasses on the floor, stamped on them countless times and then threw them into the distance. In his semi-blinded state, Elliot didn’t have a clue where they ended up. What would be the point in looking, anyway? Peter had wrecked them.

Johnny and Carl seemed as impressed by Peter’s actions as Elliot was aggrieved. The three of them left together, as thick as thieves, which was exactly what they were, since they took Elliot’s clothes and shoes with them.

Once he was sure they’d gone, Elliot allowed himself to cry. He wept big fat tears. And then he pulled himself together, hid behind a bush and waited for help to come, as it eventually did in the form of Lisa. His one small consolation was that he hadn’t broken down in front of the boys. He’d come close, but the shock of Peter’s betrayal had actually hardened his resolve not to give them the satisfaction.

Extract Five: Chapter 6, pp.57-58

11 January 2018

Lisa and Elliot have been best friends ever since the day they met as children. Popular, bright and sporty, Lisa was Elliot’s biggest supporter when the school bullies made his life a misery, and for that, he will always be grateful.

Twenty years later, life has pulled the pair apart and Lisa is struggling. Her marriage is floundering, her teenage kids are being secretive, and she’s so tired she can’t think straight. So when Elliot knocks on the door, looking much better than she remembers, she can’t help but be delighted to see her old friend again.

With Elliot back in their lives, Lisa’s family problems begin to improve – he’s like the fairy godmother she never had. As their bond deepens, she realises how much she’s missed him, and prays that this is one friendship that will last a lifetime. But sometimes, life has other ideas…

My thoughts about it...

Stand By Me is a thoughtful story about the power of friendship and of the importance of keeping those we love always in our hearts. Lisa and Elliot were friends as children but as adults, time and circumstance have caused them to live very separate lives. Now twenty years later, Lisa is facing a difficult time, as her marriage to her husband, Mike, has hit rock bottom. With her personal life in disarray, the last person Lisa expects to see standing on her doorstep is her friend, Elliot. And as Elliot slowly starts to infiltrate into her life again, so things start to improve for Lisa and her family.

This is one of those stories which gives you a lovely warm feeling inside. The characters are so realistic that you feel as if you could have met them at the local shops and called for a coffee with them. Lisa and Mike's problems are so reminiscent of modern day life that you can't help but feel sorry for them as they try to work out their problems in their own inimitable style. In places, the story moves back, in time, to Lisa and Elliot's shared childhood and it was great to see the references of their life as teenagers in the 1990s.

Stand By Me gets right into the heart of a family which have been fractured by circumstances and yet, with love and understanding, it shows that they can come through their troubles with new hope.

Former journalist S.D. Robertson quit his role as a local newspaper editor to pursue a lifelong ambition of becoming a novelist. An English language and literature graduate from the University of Manchester, he has spent time living in France, Holland and Australia, working in roles as diverse as a holiday rep, door-to-door salesman, train cleaner and mobile phone network engineer.

Stuart’s love of writing and inquisitive nature led him back to university to study journalism. He went on to work at various newspapers in Lancashire and Greater Manchester. He lives in a village near Manchester with his wife and daughter. There’s also his cat, Bernard, who likes to distract him from writing – usually by breaking things.

Twitter @SDRauthor #StandByMe