Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Author Guest Post ~ Leigh Russell


I am delighted to welcome Leigh Russell to the blog to share her guest post

about writing her latest novel, Rachel's Story


What on earth could prompt a crime writer to turn her hand to dystopian fiction? That’s the question readers have been asking me since the publication of RACHEL’S STORY, my twenty-fourth book and my first dystopian novel. It’s a question I struggle to answer. After my debut crime novel CUT SHORT was published, I recall being asked why I had written a crime novel, and I struggled to explain my motivation for writing about a murderer.

For me, ‘wanting to write’ was never an issue. The stories just worked themselves into my imagination and I wrote them down, with no idea where they came from. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch tells Scout that the only way to understand another person is to ‘climb into his skin and walk around in it’. As authors we do this all the time with our characters, but I prefer not to try and analyse my ability to ‘climb into the skin’ of so many killers. All I can say is that my debut crime novel must have been written when I was feeling angry.

Whatever drove me to start writing, like many writers I didn’t set out to look for a story to write; our stories find us. So I never intended to write a dystopian novel, just as I never planned to be a crime writer. In fact, I had no serious ambitions to be a published author until I started to write. And it all began with a story.

My detective, Geraldine Steel, continues investigating murder cases in the fictional world she inhabits, just as my life has continued in the real world. But a little over a year ago all of our lives changed as we were struck down by covid. There was some discussion among writers and readers about how much the real world situation would impact on our stories. Many authors felt unable to dismiss what was happening, but I made a decision straight away to ignore the pandemic in my books. For me, fiction offers an escape from the anxieties, the challenges, and the chores of real life. Not only did I decide not to focus on the pandemic, I didn’t even want to think about it while I was writing. So Geraldine Steel continues to conduct her murder investigations in the world we once knew as normal. Hopefully we will return to that normality very soon.

But our experiences and our inner lives creep into our writing in unexpected ways, and while I continued ignoring the pandemic in my crime novels, I found myself writing a dystopian novel. The darkness in the world where Rachel lives is perhaps a reflection of our communal experience, as we struggled to adapt and survive through lockdown with our lives more or less intact. Many people lost loved ones, many lost their livelihoods. We will come through this global crisis battle scarred and bereft.

One effect of lockdown on my own life was that it gave me more time to read. Genre has never defined my reading. I read widely, irrespective of genre or period, through romance to fantasy, crime to saga, historical novels and those books which defy categorisation. I’ve never considered myself a fan of dystopian fiction. Yet many books which have made a lasting impression on me fall into that category. Authors who spring to mind include George Orwell, Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro, Aldous Huxley, Nevil Shute, John Wyndham, Ray Bradbury, PD James, Anthony Burgess, HG Wells, RC Sheriff... I could go on.

Dystopian fiction is, above all, fiction of ideas. In creating dystopian worlds, writers invite us to speculate about ourselves and our own world. So in 1984 Orwell is not just creating a fantasy about the future, and in his novel On the Beach, Nevil Shute is not merely speculating about a world after a nuclear holocaust. The best dystopian fiction writers

explore where dangers inherent in society in the real world could lead us. They might have been writing at almost any point during the past hundred years, but many of the dangers they foresaw continue to threaten us today. Some, have even explored the effects of a pandemic.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that I wrote my first dystopian novel as we were living in lockdown. I never planned to become a crime writer. Now, thanks to Rachel, I am also a dystopian novelist.

Bloodhound Books
6 April 2021

In a world where food is scarce, the government rules and ordinary people only exist to serve, can there ever be happiness?

As a child, living in a post-apocalyptic world, Rachel is initiated into The Programme where selected young girls are medicated to make them fertile.

Fearing for her future, Rachel escapes. But freedom comes at a price, as she learns when she joins the outcasts struggling to survive beyond the city walls.

The Geraldine Steel series is published by No Exit Press.

More about Leigh 

Leigh Russell has written twenty-four novels so far, and her Geraldine Steel crime series has sold over a million copies. In addition to her crime series featuring detective Geraldine Steel, Leigh has written two trilogies and two stand alone psychological thrillers. Rachel’s Story is her first dystopian novel. Leigh chairs the judging panel for the Crime Writers Association’s prestigious Debut Dagger Award, and is a Consultant Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund.

Twitter @LeighRussell

Monday, 19 April 2021

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Cornish Midwife by Jo Bartlett


πŸ“– Delighted to host today's blog tour stop πŸ“– 

Boldwood Books
April 2021

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

A fresh start...

Midwife Ella Mehenick left the small Cornish town of Port Agnes for London and never looked back.

But when her seemingly perfect life crashes down around her, there’s only one place she can heal

her battered heart the place she once called home.

A new arrival...

Ella is quickly welcomed into the small community midwife team and loves her new job caring for mums and their precious babiest’s what she does best! But being back also means facing ex-flame Dan Ferguson...the first man to break her heart.

A second chance at love?

Dan is still as gorgeous as ever, but he’s never forgiven Ella for leaving. And now she’s back it’s clear that there is unfinished business between them. As Ella settles into her new/old life, she can’t stop the memories of how she once loved Dan so completely and maybe never stopped.

Maybe coming home to Cornwall is Ella’s chance to love again...

Meet The Cornish Midwives of Port Agnes where community, friendship and love are always delivered.

An uplifting and escapist read, perfect for fans of Christie Barlow, Jessica Redland and Holly Martin!

This book was previously published as Return to Port Agnes.

πŸ“– My thoughts..

The Cornish Midwife is the first in a proposed series of novels which are set in beautiful Cornwall. In this first book we meet Ella Mehenick who has recently returned to St Agnes to live with her parents who run the local bakery. Moving back to St Agnes was never high on Ella's agenda but after a disastrous event which changed the course of her life, Ella is determined to make a fresh start. Using her midwifery skills, Ella finds a temporary job working as a midwife in the local community team and it is there were she starts to put her life back together again.

The author writes with such warmth, and a touch of light humour, about this small corner of Cornwall and brings the charming village of St Agnes, and the people who live there, to gentle life. It was especially lovely to get to know the other inhabitants of the village, especially Ella's parents, who only have her best interests at heart, but who, it must be said, can seem a bit overpowering, and there's also the lovely Brae, a school friend of Ella's who runs the local fish and chip shop. However, it is in the 'will they, won't they' relationship between Ella and Dan Ferguson, her first true love, where the story starts to get romantically interesting.

The Cornish Midwife gets the series off to a good start and sets the scene really well for other characters to have their turn in the spotlight. I'm really looking forward to seeing where this lovely series heads to next and can't wait to return to the charming village of St Agnes.

About the Author

Jo Bartlett is the bestselling author of nineteen women’s fiction titles. She fits her writing in between her two day jobs as an educational consultant and university lecturer and live with her family and three dogs on the Kent coast. Boldwood is publishing the first title in The Cornish Midwife Series part of a twelve book deal in April 2021.

Twitter @J_B_Writer

@BoldwoodBooks #boldwoodbloggers


Sunday, 18 April 2021

🍴Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Jan Mazzoni


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 am so pleased to welcome Jan Mazzoni to Sunday Brunch🍴

🍴Welcome to Sunday Brunch, Jan. What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch?

I’m vegan, and a few years ago this would have meant toast, margarine, black coffee. But the range of foods available these days is amazing. I don’t usually eat much in the morning, so OK if we keep it simple? Like, a fresh fruit salad – something exotic such as mango with raspberries and blueberries served with cinnamon crΓ¨me fraiche (vegan). Or for something savoury, a chickpea pancake topped with avocado slices and tomatoes. We must have croissants of course, warm from the oven and spread with creamy butter (vegan). Or would you prefer Banana Muesli Muffins? Let’s have both. Plus plenty of strong coffee made with barista oat milk.

Jan has very kindly given us a delicious recipe


 Set your oven too 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.. Either line 12 muffin tins with paper cases, or oil them well.

Mix together 100g muesli and 50g light brown sugar. Add 160g plain flour mixed with 1 teaspoon baking powder.

In a separate bowl combine 1 mashed ripe banana with 2 tablespoons light vegetable oil. Then stir in 3 tablespoons of nut butter – your choice, whatever you have in the cupboard.

Combine the dry ingredients and wet and stir briefly – don’t overmix them.

Drop spoonsful of the mixture into the tins. Top the muffins with a sprinkling of brown sugar and of your favourite nuts, coarsely chopped (I like walnuts best).

 Bake 20 minutes or until golden. Test with a sharp knife to make sure the inside is cooked. Delicious eaten warm.

 Note: you could use apple puree or even freshly grated raw apple instead of the banana. 

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

I always prefer to be outdoors. So can we sit out on the patio, with a wisteria draped trellis overhead so we’re in dappled shade? (Love the word dappled, don’t you?) No music, just the natural twitters and rustles you get when surrounded by an untamed garden. Oh and every now and again, could we have a fly past of screaming wheeling swifts? Nothing says hot summer days like swifts.


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

Dylan Thomas. Lionel Shriver. Ray Bradbury. Paula McLain. Ragnar Jonasson (Icelandic writer of the most chilling scandi-noir). Jodi Picoult. All very different, but I admire the way every one of them writes and would give anything to be able to pick their brains! Gently, of course.

🍴Which favourite book will you bring to Sunday brunch?

With you and the cats, and all these writers to chat to, how could I even think about bringing a book with me?

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

Absolutely. Don’t usually indulge during the day (except for research), but I’ve started taking a quick dip into a book at lunchtime, usually non fiction. Right now I’m reading Notes from Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin which is very beautiful and thought-provoking, but wouldn’t be right at night. I read escapist novels in bed. If they’re really gripping I’ll carry on reading way into the early hours. I’m going to have to ban Louise Candlish books from the house - her plots are so convoluted with twists and shocks on every few pages they’re impossible to put down. The bags under my eyes are entirely her fault!

Hamish Hamiliton

🍴What’s the oldest book on your bookshelf?

Many years back I had an obsession with Colette. I have a number of her books still, yellowed and dusty. Haven’t read one for ages. Would I still enjoy them as much as I did, I wonder?

🍴Where do you find the inspiration for your novels?

Everywhere. I make notes: overheard conversations, stories in the news, radio programmes on obscure topics, photos and videos I come across online. Being half Italian (my dad came from Avellino) it’s probably not surprising that I’ve used Italy as a backdrop for two of my books (and am working on another which takes place there for at least part of the action.) And what better excuse to keep popping over there than looking for ideas or checking details? Sadly, of course, going anywhere at all seems to be off the menu for a while.

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

Recently we’ve had a tiny summerhouse erected up in the woods at the top of our garden. It’s very basic, but easy to keep warm in winter, and the doors concertina back so it’s nice and airy in summer. I also do a bit of wildlife rescue so sometimes have to share it with some orphaned hedgehogs, or maybe an injured bird. And our Romanian rescue dogs like to pop up and check what I’m doing, though they rarely stay long. They prefer to be close to the kitchen, for some reason. Or the fire.

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

I like writing to a deadline. I like the discipline. I create my own if there isn’t one. Probably goes back to when I was an advertising copywriter and we always had to get our campaigns done by yesterday.

🍴Give us four essential items that a writer absolutely needs?

A willing Other Half (to walk the dogs, cook dinner, make phone calls on your behalf).

A big desk – the more space the better.

A yoga routine (to unkink the kinks after a day at the desk).


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

I’ve just revised and relaunched my novel, The Snow Fox Diaries, which – I now discover – fits perfectly into the recently created genre of ecofiction. It tells the story of Katie who has reluctantly moved into a dilapidated house on Exmoor to – as husband Ben puts it – find herself. So far she’s only learnt things she’d sooner not know. But then one misty morning she comes across a rare, precious and very vulnerable albino fox. From that moment her life changes completely, the fate of her faltering marriage becoming entwined with that of the fox as both struggle to survive. It’s a must-read for anyone who loves wildlife.

Other projects I’m working on are a podcast of a radio drama, a book of short stories, and another novel which follows three young friends whose lives take them far away from each other, but can never break the bonds.


When I was hardly more than a toddler I knew I wanted to write, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. And that’s a long while! I started out as a journalist then went on to writing adverting copy in agencies in London and New York. Next I turned my hand to cookery books – over 20 of them, all vegetarian or vegan. Short stories for women’s magazines were something completely different, and I’ve always loved a challenge. My stories appeared in UK magazines for a number of years. And of course, writing a novel was the obvious next step.

Though I started my life in London and have travelled widely, I’ve finally settled down. My home is a little house hidden in a large, rambling garden on the edge of Exmoor which I share with my husband George, four Romanian rescue dogs, and assorted wildlife.

Jan, where can we follow you on social media?

Facebook: Jan Mazzoni/writer

Books by Jan Mazzoni

Stones of the Madonna


The Snow Fox Diaries

All available as paperbacks and on kindle from Amazon

Thank you for taking part in Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo.

Follow us on Twitter @jaffreadstoo #SundayBrunchwith Jaffareadstoo

Saturday, 17 April 2021

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Damask Rose by Carol McGrath


On Hist Fic Saturday

I am delighted to host a stop on this blog tour today

Let's go back to...Thirteenth Century, England

Headline Accent
15 April 2021

She Wolves Trilogy #2

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

1266. Eleanor of Castile, adored wife of the Crown Prince of England, is still only a princess when she is held hostage in the brutal Baron's Rebellion, and her baby daughter dies. Scarred by privation, a bitter Eleanor swears revenge on those who would harm her family - and vows never to let herself be vulnerable again.

As she rises to become Queen, Eleanor keeps Olwen - a trusted herbalist, who tried to save her daughter - by her side. But it is dangerous to be friendless in a royal household, and as the court sets out on crusade, Olwen and Eleanor discover that the true battle for Europe may not be a matter of swords and lances, but one fanned by whispers and spies.

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

In 1254, as a thirteen year old, Eleanor of Castile married the future Edward I and had to adjust to living in country far from her native Spain. Throughout her life time, Eleanor had a fearsome reputation and some would say that her later sobriquet of 'she-wolf' was well deserved, however, there was far more to this enigmatic queen than just her perceived delight in acquiring land and properties.

In The Damask Rose we pick up the story in 1264 when Eleanor, already a mother, is held hostage during the Baron’s Rebellion, and is forcibly removed from her sanctuary at Windsor Castle by the rebellious Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester. Eleanor is not an easy prisoner, and works tirelessly to support both her husband, Prince Edward, and father-in-law, King Henry III, this makes an enemy of de Clare which will last throughout Eleanor’s lifetime.

This rich tapestry of a novel is as intricately woven as any medieval fabric, and gives a fascinating insight into the, rather complicated, life of this Queen Consort of England. The story moves swiftly through Eleanor’s life, bringing the medieval world to life in glorious splendour and allowing an imagined glimpse into what life was like at a royal court in the thirteenth century.

That Eleanor had her share of troubles is well described, particularly in light of her frequent pregnancies, and the tremendous losses she suffered as some of her children didn’t survive infancy. However, with tenacity and determination, Eleanor thrives in a male dominated world and it is particularly interesting to see her accompanying Edward as he goes on his legendary crusade to Acre, where he learns, in 1272, of his father, Henry III’s death, and the start of his own Kingship. 

Introducing a fictional character into the story, namely that of Olwen, the herbalist, adds an interesting dimension to the story. Olwen becomes Eleanor’s confidante, and from this relationship we are able to put the historical detail of the story into a more domestic context. I enjoyed following Olwen’s story, she’s an interesting addition, as is the description of the herbs and plants which Olwen lovingly tends in the Queen’s many gardens.

The Damask Rose is a beautifully written, and intricately researched, novel by an author who knows how to bring history alive in the imagination. There is much to take in, so the book is not one to be read quickly, but rather to be enjoyed slowly in order to absorb the many facets of this enigmatic Queen’s complex life, who seems to have been a real tour de force in medieval England.

About the Author

Carol McGrath taught History and English for many years in both state and private sector. She left teaching to work on an MA in Creative Writing from Queens University Belfast, then an MPhil in English at Royal Holloway, London, where she developed her expertise on the Middle Ages.

As well as the She Wolves Trilogy she is the author of the acclaimed Daughters of Hastings Trilogy and a stand alone novel, Mistress Cromwell.

Twitter @carolmcgrath #SheWolfQueens

Friday, 16 April 2021

πŸ“•Cover Reveal ~ The Memory Box by Kathryn Hughes


Happy Friday

πŸ“• I'm delighted to be able to share the details of this fabulous cover reveal πŸ“•

Isn't this a beauty!

November 2021

A heartbreakingly beautiful novel, The Memory Box unlocks an unforgettable epic story of love and war, f rom the million-copy-selling author of The Letter , Kathryn Hughes. If you adored The Nightingale , The Tuscan Contessa or My Name is Eva, this is the book for you.

Some love stories can't be forgotten...

Available now to pre-order from

Amazon UK



Kathryn Hughes

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ Finding Home by Kate Field


  πŸ“– Delighted to host one of the publication day stops on this blog tour πŸ“–

One More Chapter
16 April 2021

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

She might not have much in this world, but it cost nothing to be kind…

Meet Miranda Brown: you can call her Mim. She’s jobless, homeless and living in her car… but with a history like hers she knows she has a huge amount to be grateful for.

Meet Beatrice and William Howard: Bill and Bea to you. The heads of the Howard family and owners of Venhallow Hall, a sprawling seaside Devonshire estate… stranded in a layby five hours from home the night before their niece's wedding.

When fate brings the trio together, Mim doesn’t think twice before offering to drive the affable older couple home. It’s not like she has anywhere else to be. But as the car pulls into the picturesque village of Littlemead, Mim has no idea how her life is about to change…

An uplifting story of found family and true love perfect for fans of Fern Britton and Veronica Henry.

My thoughts...

After being made homeless and jobless in one fell swoop, Miranda Brown is resigned to spending another cold December night in her car, that is, until she comes to the rescue of Bill and Bea Howard who are stranded in Lancashire. Without any thought, Miranda offers to drive the Howard’s back to their home in Devon but it’s only when they all arrive at Venhallow Hall that Miranda realises that the life of this wealthy couple couldn’t be any more different from hers.

What then follows is a really lovely story about new beginnings, and of finding out that the love, and support, of good friends more than makes up for the loss of a family. And as Mim, as she is known, becomes closer to this rather special family, so she begins to develop in ways that she could never have imagined back on that cold December night, in Lancashire, when first she rescued, Bill and Bea Howard.

I’m a great believer that a book sometimes comes along at just the right time and such is the case with this lovely story. In this time of the easing of lockdown number three when it’s still something of a dream to travel, I have been thoroughly engrossed in Mim’s story as she discovers the beautiful Devon coast. The author definitely brings to life the rugged Jurassic coastline with its spectacular beaches and stunning hidden coves. However, I think that it is the joyful ease of just being able to let a story wash over you with the simple pleasure of reading a real treasure of a book, with gorgeous characters who slip comfortably into your heart.

Perfectly formed with everything you need for a gentle, romantic read, Finding Home is every bit as good as I knew it would be from this talented, and rather special, storyteller.

About the Author

Kate writes contemporary women’s fiction, mainly set in her favourite county of Lancashire,where she lives with her husband, daughter and mischievous cat. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Kate’s debut novel, The Magic of Ramblings, won the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers.

Twitter @katehaswords #FindingHome



Wednesday, 14 April 2021

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The House of Hidden Secrets by C E Rose


 πŸ“– Delighted to open this blog tour on Publication Day πŸ“–

Hera Books
14 April 3031

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book
and to Rachel's random Resources for the invitation to the blog tour

The imposing gates of Ramsay Hall yawned open. As Serena and 4-year-old Lana walked up the long driveway, little did they know the dark secrets that lay within.

When Serena Green accepted the role of housekeeper for wealthy widower Hayden Ramsay, she never imagined her new home would be Ramsay Hall, an ancient, sprawling mansion in Northern England.

Serena quickly becomes an integral part of the household, making friends with Hayden’s younger son Hugh, despite Jack, his older brother’s, coldness towards her and Lana.

But the hall’s beautiful exterior hides many ugly secrets. Though Serena and Jack begin to grow closer, she’s confused by his behaviour around Lana. What is he guilty of? And is there more to their mother’s death than the Ramsay men will admit, even to themselves?

As the harrowing past of Ramsay Hall unravels, Serena fresh start becomes a fresh horror. She fears for her and Lana’s safety, but what are the bleak secrets in Serena’s own past?

This house is built on a lifetime of lies… and the truth might just bring the walls crashing down.

A twisty, gripping and utterly unputdownable new thriller that fans of Lisa Jewell, C.L. Taylor and Mark Edwards will love.

My Thoughts..

Serena Green, and her young daughter, Lana arrive at the mysterious Ramsay Hall, in Cheshire, to take up the position of temporary housekeeper to Hayden Ramsay as he recuperates from recent surgery. From the start it is obvious that Ramsay Hall is a place of mystery, and as the story progresses, and the secrets start to emerge, so an unusual atmosphere starts to pervade.

The House of Hidden Secrets gets off to a considered start which gives us time to get to know the characters who are central to the story, and it also allows the tension to build at its own speed. And as the individual characters become more immersed in their own particular stories, so we, the reader, become more absorbed in discovering just what is being revealed in the house of secrets. 

In terms of plot there is much to take in with some complicated twists and turns which add another dimension to the story but there is also the opportunity to follow the complex lives of Hugh and Jack Ramsay, the two sons of Hayden, who each carry their own set of burdens and who are so integral to the story. The author writes this type of suspense story well and I have enjoyed reading the different character perspectives, and trying to piece together all the jigsaw pieces of the puzzle makes this an intriguing and thought-provoking read.

Take an imaginatively designed book cover, a mysterious house of secrets, a melancholic young woman and her fragile daughter, three intriguing male characters who each harbour resentments from the past. Stir everything into a mixing bowl, and out comes this multi-layered, psychological thriller, which definitely has all the right ingredients to keep you guessing from start to finish.

About the Author

Caroline England was born and brought up in Yorkshire and studied Law at the University of Manchester. She was a divorce and professional indemnity lawyer before leaving the law to bring up her three daughters and turning her hand to writing. Caroline is the author of The Wife's Secret, previously called Beneath the Skin, and the top-ten ebook bestseller My Husband's Lies. Betray Her is her third novel. She lives in Manchester with her family. The House of Hidden Secrets is the first title written under her pseudonym, CE Rose.

Twitter @CazEngland