Saturday, 23 October 2021

πŸ“– Book Review ~ The Road from Cromer Pier by Martin Gore


July 2021
Cromer Pier Theatre Series #2

My thanks to the author and Ben Cameron for my signed  copy of this book

It’s ten years on from The Road to Cromer Pier, and Summertime Special Show Director Karen Wells has two potential headliners, but both have issues. Dare she take the risk? And Karen herself is at a crossroads. Will her mother Janet ever retire and allow her to run the pier theatre?

Meanwhile Janet’s nemesis, businessman Lionel Pemrose still has designs on the pier theatre, but he is facing growing financial problems. Bank manager Peter Hodson is haunted by a past indiscretion, and calls in recently widowed turnaround expert Tom Stanley. Can he keep the indiscretion a secret?

Tom is bereaved and has recently been made redundant from his own firm. He is too young to retire, and after years of long hours, suddenly finds himself unemployed. He pours his energies into the assignment, which could be his last hurrah.

Old enmities, loyalties and past mistakes surface as the future of the pier theatre is once again under threat, and those involved must deal with unresolved issues in their lives.

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

We pick up The Road from Cromer Pier some ten years after The Road to Cromer Pier and and even though I hadn't read the first book I've had no difficulty in engaging with the characters or feeling at home in the lovely Norfolk setting. 

Preparing for the Summertime Special Show at the theatre at the end of Cromer Pier presents its own set of challenges for theatre director, Karen, not just because her potential headline acts are both a little bit vulnerable but also Karen herself is desperate to move out of her mother's shadow in order to take over the running of the theatre. 

Once I was used to the place, and the people, I settled comfortably into the story. The author writes well and describes the atmosphere of life at the end of the pier with flair and imagination. I found myself warming to the characters, well, perhaps to some more than others, Lionel Pemrose, in particular, springs to mind, as a dastardly villain, but overall, the story of jobbing entertainers who do what they do for the love of their chosen profession comes nicely to life. However, as you would expect nothing in Cromer is straightforward and there are several challenges to be faced, with the ever present threat of financial troubles for one character who seems to have his finger in far too many dodgy enterprises and a dangerous domestic problem for another character which adds a sense of tension to the story.

The Road from Cromer Pier is a light, enjoyable read about the vagaries of life at the little theatre at the end of Cromer Pier.

About the Author

When he was nine years old, Martin Gore told his mother he wanted to be a writer. She told him to get a proper job. Now after a successful business career he is semi-retired and living his dream. Nine pantomimes, three plays and his third novel, The Road from Cromer Pier, now published.

So how did his creative side find its niche?

“I had the opportunity to resume writing in 2009 when I wrote my first pantomime for Walkington Pantomime Players. Since then, I’ve written eight pantomimes and three plays.”

He published his first novel, Pen Pals, in 2016. A family saga based in a Yorkshire mill town it is set mainly in the strike torn seventies, building on his experiences during his career in manufacturing.

His second book was based on a play he had written called The Road to Cromer Pier, which draws on childhood holiday experiences.

“It was Cromer every year. The nearest beach to Coventry. Seven hours on a bus with my brothers. No car. Fish and chips, football and cricket on the beach, and big copper pennies clunking into one-armed bandits. Then at night seeing the bright lights of the Pier Theatre from our holiday flat.”

The book was written with the help of Cromer Pier Theatre, who arranged interviews with the management and cast.

“Writing a work of fiction about a real place is a real challenge. The Cromer Pier Show is an iconic piece of British theatre, and is a West End standard show, so my story needed to reflect that too. The theatre couldn’t have been more supportive.”

“I’ve always loved theatre, particularly musical theatre, and have been involved in a lot of Amdram over the years, so writing about the theatre appealed, especially having seen the show as a child.”

“It’s a busy and happy retirement. I still enjoy my work as a Non-Executive Director, but I’m thoroughly enjoying fulfilling my statement to my mother all those years ago. Both of my parents loved the theatre and reading, so I think they’d be proud.

Twitter @AuthorGore


Friday, 22 October 2021

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Girl in the Maze by Cathy Hayward


Delighted to take part in this blog tour today

Agora Books

ebook 28 October 2021
paperback 25 November 2021

My thanks to Agora Books for my copy of this book
and to Peyton for the invitation to the blog tour

‘I would caution you against delving into the past. The past is often best left exactly where it is.’ 

Emma Bowen has never had a close relationship with her mother, barely speaking with her in the last years of her life. But after her mother’s death, Emma finds something that might just explain the distance between them. Discovering letters between her mother and grandmother, it seems to Emma that her mother has always been difficult. As she searches for answers about her own childhood, Emma is drawn into the mystery of her mother’s enigmatic life. The more she finds, the more lost she feels, but Emma is determined to uncover her mother’s past, and the secrets held within it, whatever the cost. An enthralling story of three women, generations apart, linked by one terrible tragedy.

πŸ“– My thoughts..

After her mother's death Emma Bowen discovers rather more about her mother than she could ever have imagined. In the last years of Margaret's life Emma's relationship with her was pretty much non-existent, which makes clearing the debris of her mother's life all the more difficult. Moving forwards and backwards in time we get a picture of the family events which shaped Margaret's personality and which altered the course of her life forever.

The story opens with a harrowing first chapter which I thought was exceptionally well written and which placed me distinctly in the moment, experiencing all the shock and confusion, so lost in the moment, that I found myself wincing in one particular spot. I think that sets the scene perfectly for the rest of the story which is sometimes quite shocking in nature, whilst at other times it is so delicately observational that it quite moved me to tears.

The eponymous girl in the maze is an intriguing premise for the story and as the plot starts to dance and twirl so the meaning behind the title becomes clearer. It's very much a story about motherhood, particularly the complicated relationship between mothers and daughters, a process which is in itself so complex that all the twists and turns in the story only adds to the perception that we never really know someone until we look deep inside their soul.

I read The Girl in the Maze until my eyes ached with tiredness as I couldn't bear to not know what happened to both Margaret and Emma and hoped that there would be some sort of resolution for both of them. There is a further complicated dimension when an intriguing third person enters into the story which only adds a delicious twist to what is an already complex family drama.

Beautifully characterised, and wonderfully descriptive, The Girl in the Maze is an exceptionally accomplished debut novel from an exciting new talent. I can't wait to see what Cathy Hayward comes up with next time.

Cathy Hayward trained as a journalist and edited a variety of trade publications, several of which were so niche they were featured on Have I Got News for You. She then moved into the world of PR and set up an award-winning communications agency. Devastated and inspired in equal measure by the death of her parents in quick succession, Cathy completed The Creative Writing Programme with New Writing South, out of which emerged her debut novel, The Girl in the Maze, about the experience of mothering and being mothered. It won Agora Books’ Lost the Plot Work in Progress Prize 2020 and was long listed for the Grindstone Literary Prize 2020. When she’s not writing (or reading) in her local library, Cathy loves pottering in second-hand bookshops, hiking, and wild camping. She lives in Brighton – sandwiched between the Downs and the sea – with her husband, three children, and two rescue cats – one of whom thinks he’s a dog.

Twitter @CathyHayward7 #TheGirlInTheMaze


Thursday, 21 October 2021

πŸ“– Book Review ~ The Black Dress by Deborah Moggach


July 2021

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

Pru's husband has walked out, leaving her alone to contemplate her future. She's missing not so much him, but the life they once had - picnicking on the beach with small children, laughing together, nestling up like spoons in the cutlery drawer as they sleep. Now there's just a dip on one side of the bed and no-one to fill it.

In a daze, Pru goes off to a friend's funeral. Usual old hymns, words of praise and a eulogy doesn't sound like the friend Pru knew. And it isn't. She's gone to the wrong service. Everyone was very welcoming, it was - oddly - a laugh, and more excitement than she's had for ages. So she buys a little black dress in a charity shop and thinks, now I'm all set, why not go to another? I mean, people don't want to make a scene at a funeral, do they? No-one will challenge her - and what harm can it do?

πŸ“– My thoughts..

When Pru's husband leaves her so he can start a new life, her comfortable world falls apart. Rattling around in the family home in Muswell Hill, in a house which is far to big for her, and with her children living their own lives in far off places, Pru feels as if her life has ended. With her mind in a daze Pru inadvertently attends a wrong funeral but she receives such a warm welcome from people she doesn’t know that she is comforted by their grief. With the fickleness of fate very much on her side, Pru then finds the most perfect black dress in a charity shop and the seed of an idea is sown.

Pru is absolutely fabulous at seventy, and although we see her through some pretty dark and dreary times, we also get a glimpse of her glorious personality beneath the sadness of her life. When she embraces life, Pru does so with a sharp determination which had me cheering at some of her escapades. Her romantic adventures had me giggling but under the irreverent look at dating there is also an undercurrent of real loneliness and a deep sadness that life is racing away with her.

Beautifully observed, with a wry look at life, and several twists I didn't see coming, The Black Dress is a refreshing story. There is a nod to the early days of the pandemic which very firmly places the story in the here and now, but which doesn’t intrude on the overall detail of this wonderful story.

About the Author

Deborah Moggach, OBE, is a British novelist and an award winning screenwriter.She has written twenty novels, including Tulip Fever and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Her most novel, The Carer, was a Sunday Times best seller. She live in London.

Twitter  #TheBlackDress #DeborahMoggach


Wednesday, 20 October 2021

πŸ“– Book Review ~ I know You by Claire McGowan


Thomas & Mercer
Amazon Publishing
19 October 2021

My thanks to the publisher and FMcM Associates for my copy of this book

When Rachel stumbles upon a body in the woods, she knows what she has to do: run. Get away. Do not be found at the scene. Last time, she didn’t know, and she ended up accused of murder. But when this victim is identified as her boyfriend’s estranged wife, Rachel realises she’s already the prime suspect.

With mounting evidence against her, Rachel’s only hope is to keep the truth about herself well hidden. Because twenty years ago she was someone else—Casey, a young nanny trying to make it as an actress in Los Angeles. When the family she worked for were brutally murdered, all the evidence pointed to her and she went to prison. Back then, she narrowly escaped the death penalty and managed to free herself on appeal. Now she’s fighting to save the life she’s spent years piecing back together.

But with her behaviour raising suspicion and the police closing in, Rachel can’t help wondering: Was her discovery in the woods really just an awful coincidence, or is someone framing her for murder? Someone who knows who she is, and wants revenge.

πŸ“–My thoughts...

When Rachel finds a body in the woods she instinctively runs away, however, her actions that morning will have long lasting repercussions. For Rachel is no stranger to tragedy and it's only when the story gets underway that we start to learn just what has brought Rachel to this particular moment in time. 

Without giving away any spoilers I can say that the story is divided into two distinct time frames where we follow the story of Rachel in the here and now, and twenty years ago when she was known as Casey who finds herself working, as a nanny, in Los Angeles, with an interesting, and rather dysfunctional, family. It's not clear, at first, just what these two sides of one character have in common but as this clever thriller continues, all will be revealed.

I flew through I know You in almost one sittingas it is very easy to get into the story and both time elements are done cleverly so that you get drawn into two quite separate tragedies. The author writes this genre well and she certainly builds the tension to a high level with neither story seeking to outshine the other. As the plot progresses, I did sort of guess where it was heading but that didn't spoil my overall enjoyment of the story and there were some twists which I didn't see coming at all.

I know You is a cleverly put together murder/mystery written with a interesting plot and a great set of characters.

About the Author

Claire McGowan grew up in a small village in Northern Ireland. After a degree in English and French from Oxford University she moved to London and worked in the charity sector. She also writes as Eva Woods.

Twitter @inkstainsclaire #IKnowYou



Tuesday, 19 October 2021

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop by Jessica Redland

Delighted to host one of the stops on today's blog today

Boldwood Books
3 August 2021

My thanks to Boldwood books for my copy of this book
and to Rachel's Random Resources for my invitation to the blog tour

Sometimes you just need a little Christmas magic to make your wishes come true...

When master chocolatier, Charlee, takes the leap to move to the picturesque seaside town of Whitsborough Bay, she is determined to follow in her grandfather's footsteps and set up a chocolate shop.

Luckily, she finds the perfect location for Charlee's Chocolates on beautiful Castle Street... Now she just has to refurbish it in time for Christmas!

With a useless boyfriend and countless DIY disasters, Charlee doesn't know if she'll make it in time. With no 'traditional' family to support her, she feels lost in her new surroundings and the secrets of the past are weighing her down.

But the warmth and festive spirit of the Whitsborough Bay community will surprise her, and when plumber, Matt, comes to the rescue, it might be that all of Charlee's dreams could come true this Christmas, and she could learn what family really means...


Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop was originally released as Charlee and the Chocolate Shop. Now re-released with a new title and new cover, this version has been freshly edited and features several new chapters.

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

I’ve just spent a delightful few days, not just ensconced in the wonderful, and rather delicious world of chocolate making, but I’ve also got to know a delightful set of characters who call the charming Whitsborough Bay, in Yorkshire, their home.

Charlee Chambers has to make some pretty tough life choices when she leaves everything she has known to set up her chocolate shop in Whitsborough Bay. Moving in with her boyfriend soon presents it’s own set of challenges but Charlee is nothing if not resilient, and it soon becomes apparent that if she is to get anywhere in life she must do so  thanks to her own steely determination and sheer strength of will.

Charlee is such a likeable heroine that I was rooting for her all the way through and wanted her to succeed despite all the setbacks which seem to come at her from all angles. However, there are lovely characters who support Charlee through all of her challenges, but it is her special relationship with a certain, charismatic plumber who comes to her rescue in more ways than just fixing her faulty plumbing, that made me smile the most.

I raced through the story, at ease with the characters, the setting, and especially during the Christmas part of the story, which is quite magical, but I think it’s the warmth of the characterisation which makes this lovely, warm-hearted story, about love, life and friendship really quite special.

Beautifully written, with a joyous set of characters, not all likeable but all very memorable, Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop is every bit as scrumptious as the chocolate which Charlee moulds with such loving care at her little shop on Castle Street.

Jessica Redland writes uplifting stories of love, friendship, family and community set in Yorkshire where she lives. Her Whitsborough Bay books transport readers to the stunning North Yorkshire Coast and her Hedgehog Hollow series takes them into beautiful countryside of the Yorkshire Wolds.

Twitter @JessicaRedland #ChristmasWishesattheChocolateShop

@BoldwoodBooks #Boldwoodbloggers @bookandtonic


Monday, 18 October 2021

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ A Woman Made of Snow by Elisabeth Gifford


Thrilled to be hosting today's stop on this blog tour

7 October 2021

My thanks to Kirsty Doole at the publishers for my copy of this book
and to Random Things Tours for the invitation to be part of this blog tour

Scotland, 1949: Caroline Gillan and her new husband Alasdair have moved back to Kelly Castle, his dilapidated family estate in the middle of nowhere. Stuck caring for their tiny baby, and trying to find her way with an opinionated mother-in-law, Caroline feels adrift, alone and unwelcome.

But when she is tasked with sorting out the family archives, Caroline discovers a century-old mystery that sparks her back to life. There is one Gillan bride who is completely unknown - no photos exist, no records have been kept - the only thing that is certain is that she had a legitimate child. Alasdair's grandmother.

As Caroline uncovers a strange story that stretches as far as the Arctic circle, her desire to find the truth turns obsessive. And when a body is found in the grounds of the castle, her hunt becomes more than just a case of curiosity. What happened all those years ago? Who was the bride? And who is the body...?

πŸ“– My Thoughts...

Home to the Gillan family, Kelly Castle in Scotland has been in their family for generations. A sinister discovery there, in 1949, opens up a family secret which has been hidden for over a hundred years. Charged with the task of searching through the family archives, Caroline Gillan discovers far more about Kelly Castle, and its Victorian occupants, than could ever have been imagined.

The story moves seamlessly between learning more about the Victorian owners of the castle and what's happening to the Gillan family in 1949, especially that of Caroline who has married into the family and is finding life with her mother-in-law, Martha, a little overpowering. The Victorian mystery of Kelly castle is gradually uncovered in a fascinating dual time story which takes us deep into the biting cold of an arctic winter when Oliver Gillan finds himself on board a whaling vessel bound for the Artic. Discovering more about the eponymous woman made of snow adds a tantalising mystery and as we gradually discover just who she was, so we discover why her secret has lain hidden for so long.

The story is one of stark contrasts, harshly beautiful in places, whilst gently beguiling in others, and yet is also wonderfully descriptive of a bygone age. The oppressive restrictions of the social morals of Victorian England runs alongside that of the harsh beauty of the Arctic tundra, as the proud nature of the Inuit people, their legends and customs, come gloriously to life. Atmospheric, imaginative and beautifully written, A Woman Made of Snow, combines multi-generational history with a mesmerising family drama which was every bit as good as I knew it would be from this talented author who, since her very first book, in terms of story content, has never let me down. 

A Woman Made of Snow takes its well earned place on my Books of the Year List...

About the Author

Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. She studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. She has a Diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford OUDCE and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway. She is married with three children, and lives in Kingston upon Thames. A Woman Made of Snow is her fifth novel.

Twitter @elisabeth04liz #AWoman Made of Snow



Sunday, 17 October 2021

🍴Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Angela Jackson

 On this quiet Sunday morning why don't you put the kettle on, make your favourite breakfast and settle down for Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo

I'm delighted to welcome Angela Jackson to our Sunday Brunch today

Welcome, Angela. What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch?

I’m bringing boiled eggs and toast from Merci, an incredible book-lined cafe in Paris. They manage to get their yolks golden and runny, yet the white is lovely and firm, and the toast is cut into gorgeous delicate fingers. And, most importantly, they don’t stint on the butter and salt.

Would you like a pot of English breakfast tea, a strong Americano, or a glass of Bucks Fizz?

Oh, tea, please! I love anyone who makes me a cup of tea.

Where shall we eat brunch – around the kitchen table, in the formal dining room, or outside on the patio?

Around the kitchen table, laden as it is with all the other stuff I brought with me: sourdough bread, a rack of more toast, salted butter, apricot jam, honey, mini pastries, stoned cherries, ripe peaches, and endless tea. We’re in for the day! It’s Sunday! Let’s push the boat out!

Shall we have music playing in the background, and if so do you have a favourite piece of music?

The back door and the windows are open, so we’d have birdsong, but let’s have a bit of Miles Davis on, too, shall we? Kind of Blue.

Which of your literary heroes (dead or alive) are joining us for Sunday Brunch today?

Right, I have to say that I’m not good at gatherings. (Dinner parties are my absolute worst nightmare.) But if Nora Ephron, Dorothy Whipple and Alan Bennett could come over separately, each for an hour or so, that’d be great. Could I request that Nora brings her signature key lime pie?

Which favourite book will you bring to Sunday Brunch?

The Most of Nora Ephron. It’s huge and we could dip in and out of it all day, reading passages aloud. Then, when Nora comes over (Nora is still very much alive in this scenario) we can get her to give us the inside track on some of the stories.

When you are writing do you still find time to read for pleasure?

I suppose I’m always writing, in that my brain’s on permanent alert for new ideas. But I do try to make time to read for pleasure, even if it’s an audio book as I’m doing the dishes. I just finished Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers and kept carving out pockets of ten minutes or so to get back to it; I love to be able to dip into a sharply drawn fictional world. I’m a creative writing tutor, and I’m always harping onto my students about the importance of reading.

And is there a book you would like to read but haven’t had time for …yet!

I would love to spend a whole day in Persephone Books, reading one fabulous silver tome after another.

Where do you find the inspiration for your novels?

It’s been a really weird summer where I live (Edinburgh) because I usually spend it at various festival events, but Covid restrictions have meant it’s not been possible, and I’ve really felt the lack. However, anything can trigger inspiration. My first novel, The Emergence of Judy Taylor, was inspired by my experience of going for tests after finding a lump in my breast. I was teaching psychology at that point in my life, and it made me think of what Freud said: that we only fully appreciate life once we’ve brushed up against our own mortality. I started writing fiction that day. My current novel, The Darlings, was inspired by Carl Rogers’ theory that, in order to thrive, we need to feel loved unconditionally for who we are.

Other writers can be such inspirational catalysts. I’m lucky that a chat with Melissa Bank, who is an amazingly deft and clever writer, and a great ally, can send me off into full-on creative and productive mode.

Have you a favourite place to settle down to write and do you find it easier to write in winter or summer?

I have to be on my own. I have no idea how people write in cafes — I’d be far too distracted! And a desk feels too formal. I’ll sit at the kitchen table if I’m planning to write for a while. Otherwise, I’m balancing my MacBook on my lap on the sofa. Terrible, terrible posture. A writer friend recently had a serious chat with me about the damage I’m doing to my back, so I’m thinking about making a change.

When writing to a deadline are you easily distracted and if so how do you bring back focus on your writing?

I am very easily distracted, but a deadline does have the power to focus me. I used to work for a local newspaper so I don’t miss deadlines.

Give us four essential items that a writer needs?

We’re all different, but for me it’s an endless supply of tea, my MacBook, a stack of books (fiction and non-fiction), and pen-and-paper (those hyphens are there to make the pen and paper count as one item).

What can you tell us about your latest novel or your current work in progress?

I have a couple of ideas bouncing around for my next novel, but when I discussed them with Melissa Bank she threw me a curveball by encouraging me to develop some autobiographical sketches I did a year ago. I think they’ll end up as the basis of my next one-woman show (I did my first at the Fringe in 2017).

Lightening Books

When Mark Darling is 15 years old, he is the golden boy, captain of the school soccer team, admired by all who know him. Until he kills his best friend in a freak accident. He spends the next decade drifting between the therapy couch and dead-end pursuits. Then along comes Sadie. A mender by nature, she tries her best to fix him and has enough energy to carry them both through the next few years. One evening, Mark bumps into an old schoolfriend, Ruby. She saw the accident first hand. He is pulled towards her by a force stronger than logic: the universal need to reconcile one’s childhood wounds. This is his chance to, once again, feel the enveloping warmth of unconditional love. But can he leave behind the woman who rescued him from the pit of despair, the wife he loves? His unborn child? This is a story about how childhood experiences can profoundly impact how we behave as adults. It’s a story about betrayal, infidelity, and how we often blinker ourselves to see a version of the truth that is more palatable to us

Angela,where can we follow you on social media?

It’s mainly blurry close-ups of our cats, food and flowers and fuzzy long shots of the beach, so if you’re up for that, I’m here…

Twitter: @angelaj

Instagram: @angelaedinburgh

More about Angela

Angela Jackson is a writer, a tutor in Creative Writing for Open College of the Arts, and a former psychology lecturer. Her first novel, The Emergence of Judy Taylor, won Edinburgh International Book Festival’s esteemed First Book Award, was Waterstones Scottish Book of the Year, and the novel reached number 2 on Amazon Kindle charts (number 1 in Comic Fiction). Her second book, The Darlings, was published worldwide by Lightning Books on 21st June 2021. Originally from the north of England, Angela now lives with her family in Edinburgh.

Thank you, Angela for taking part in Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo.

Follow us on Twitter @jaffareadstoo #SundayBrunchwithJaffareadstoo