Saturday, 24 August 2019

Blog Tour ~ The Outrageous Fortune of Abel Morgan by Cynthia Jefferies

On Hist Fic Saturday

I'm delighted to be on the blog tour and go back in time to ...1660 

Allison and Busby
22 august 2019

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

1660, England. War is at an end but for Christopher Morgan, his personalconflict rages on. Haunted by the tragic death of his wife, Christopher is desperate to escape the pain her memory brings, although looking into the eyes of his young son, Abel, he cannot help but be reminded of what he has lost.

Over time, father and son develop a strong bond until they are callously torn apart when Abel is snatched by smugglers and sold overseas.

From the shores of Constantinople to the coast of Jamaica, time and tide keep them apart. Christopher will sail across oceans to find Abel, never losing faith that one day they will be reunited, and, as the years pass, Abel will learn that fortune favours the brave.

What did I think about it..

When Christopher Morgan arrives at the Rumfustian Inn his life is in complete disarray but over time he settles into the running of the tavern and learns the hard way that he can't always rely on his neighbours to act in his best interest. The West Country in the 17th century is alive with intrigue, and when Christopher's young son, Abel, goes missing, the finger of blame seems to point at someone who bears a grudge towards Christopher.

Abel Morgan is only a child when his life takes an altogether different turn, and with a life of hardship ahead of him the story becomes a real swashbuckling adventure with tales of piracy on the high seas and of the dangers of life in the exotic port of Jamaica. Reading like a classic boys own adventure there is never a moment when the story doesn't lend itself to enterprise and intrigue and even though Abel's adventures take him into some dangerous situations, there is always a sense that, with his wits about him, Abel will survive whatever life throws at him. Christopher Morgan's desperate search for his lost boy will take him from meetings in London with Charles II, to dangerous assignations in Constantinople, where despite many setbacks and twists and turns, Christopher never stops hoping that his son will, one day, be returned to him.

The author brings alive both time and place, and allows the alternate narratives to give an exciting insight into both Christopher's and Abel's version of events. There's a great supporting cast of characters, I especially liked William and Jane at the Inn, and also, Turlough whose special role in the story made me quite emotional.

The Outrageous Fortune of Abel Morgan is an enjoyable 17th century historical romp which will appeal to those readers who like adventurous historical fiction.

AUTHOR: Cynthia Jefferies is a long-established writer for children, whose work has been translated into more than a dozen languages. She was born in Gloucestershire and her love of history was encouraged by regular family outings to anything of interest, from great cathedrals to small museums. Having moved to Scotland and back to Stroud, she has always made time to write and her abiding interest in Restoration England has never left her. The Outrageous Fortune of Abel Morgan is her first historical novel for adults.

Twitter #CynthiaJefferies #The OutrageousFortuneOfAbelMorgan



Friday, 23 August 2019

Blog Tour ~ The Light Keeper by Cole Moreton

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Marylebone Books
15 August 2019

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

Sarah stands on the brink, arms open wide as if to let the wind carry her away. 

Her partner Jack is desperate to find her before it is too late. But Sarah doesn’t want to be found. She’s run away to be alone, to face a moment of truth that will mean life or death. 

And someone else is seeking answers up here on the high cliffs near Beachy Head, where the seabirds soar – a man known only as the Keeper, living in an old lighthouse without a light, right on the cusp of a four-hundred-foot drop. 

He is also discovering that sometimes love takes you to the edge…

What did I think about it..

Sarah Bramer is desperate for a child but with her marriage struggling with the strain of infertility, and in a sense of hopelessness, she has run away from her husband, Jack. Jack starts a desperate search to find Sarah before her fractured mind causes her to do something dreadful.

Near to Beachy Head, a man known as the Keeper tends an unused lighthouse, where high above the cliffs he guards his own battered soul, searching for answers he can never find, about a loss so great his mind is numbed by it. And then the Keeper meets Sarah, and life is irrevocably changed for both of these troubled souls.

With strong themes about love, loss, infertility and suicide, this is sometimes a difficult book to 'enjoy' in the widest sense, however, the author's ability to get right into the heart of these characters turns this story into something quite special. Each word is carefully placed, and with never an emotion wasted, the author's passion for imaginative storytelling shines through.

The Light Keeper is an insightful and carefully constructed story around the power of loss and of the torment of struggling in a world where all hope of understanding seems to have disappeared. Emotional and tense the story runs through a myriad of emotions which are beautifully expressed, often quite stark in places, but always reminiscent of those individual hurts which can so easily threaten to overpower everything.

Award-winning interviewer, writer and broadcaster Cole Moreton has covered many of the major news stories of our time, from 9/11 to the Olympics and the death of Nelson Mandela. He writes, talks and tells stories about the arts, politics, cultural identity, faith, spirituality and life - and above all, about people. Cole’s previous book, The Boy Who Gave His Heart Away, told the moving true story of a modern medical miracle. His BBC Radio 4 series of the same name won Audio Moment of the Year at the Arias, and Best Writing at the World’s Best Radio awards. The Light Keeper is Cole’s first novel.

Twitter @ColeMoreton #TheLightKeeper


Thursday, 22 August 2019

Guest Author ~ Anne O'Brien

✨✨ Happy Publication Day ✨✨

Anne O'Brien celebrates 10 years of giving a voice to the forgotten women of history

It is with great pleasure that I introduce best selling historical writer, Anne O'Brien to talk to us today about Constance of York, who features in her latest novel, A Tapestry of Treason, which is published in hardback and ebook today by HQ.

Welcome back, Anne and congratulations of the publication of  A Tapestry of Treason

Constance of York

A Woman of Tarnished Reputation

Meet Constance of York, Lady Despenser, and her magnificently dysfunctional family in the reign of King Henry IV. Few families have come down through history with such a questionable reputation, and Constance not the least of them. Not averse to swapping allegiances with unnerving frequency, plotting murder and insurrection, they were a deviously cunning bunch, worthy of a soap opera. How could I not write about Constance and such a superb cast of characters?

- Her father Edmund, Duke of York , the most ineffectual and poorest of the five sons of King Edward III. 

- Her mother Isabella, a Castilian Princess, with a reputation for easy morals.

- Her elder brother Edward, on the surface indolent and pleasure loving, but driven by hot ambition and with a sly charm to match it. 

- Her younger brother Richard, penniless and lacking a title, damned with the taint of possible illegitimacy.

- Her husband, Thomas Despenser, as ambitious and self-seeking as the rest. 

And what of Constance? Tradition says that she equalled her family in ambition and treachery, involving herself in every twist and turn of their conspiracies. History has damned her as a 'thoroughly bad lot'. Enjoying recognition at the vivid Court of Richard II, Constance could not accept the fall from grace that came with his overthrow and death. Thus her life became vicious and unprincipled, devoted to revenge, to restore her family's influence.

But was Constance as black as history paints her? Here we peek behind the tapestries and spy into her life more closely. Product of an affectionless family, committed to a loveless marriage, Constance's life was emotionally barren. No victim, she chose to live in an man's world and involve herself in her family's quest for power. That is until she fell in love, with all the possibilities of change and happiness. Unless Constance threw away her chances of fulfilment. Unless her lover abandoned her. 

This is tale of treachery, that is true, but also of thwarted ambitions and betrayed love. It highlights the influence that a woman could use, but also the limits on that influence in the medieval world. Constance was a woman of misplaced loyalties but must be admired for her steadfast support of those who demanded her duty. The ultimate betrayal by Constance's lover brought her heartbreak and loneliness. 

How could I possibly resist writing about her, bringing her to life? Constance is not an easy heroine, but she presents a formidable protagonist in A Tapestry of Treason.

Huge thanks to Anne for  being our guest author today and for sharing her thoughts about Constance of York.

22 August 2019
Anne O'Brien was born in the West Riding of Yorkshire. After gaining a BA Honours degree in history at Manchester University and a Master's in Education at Hull, she lived in the East Riding for many years as a teacher of history.

She now lives with her husband in an eighteenth century timber framed cottage in the depths of the welsh marches in Hertfordshire the borders between England and Wales.

Twitter @anne_obrien #TapestryofTreason

You can read my book review of A Tapestry of Treason by clicking here 

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Blog Tour ~ Her Last Promise by Kathryn Hughes

Delighted to be part of this lovely Blog Tour

Headline Review
22 August 2019

My thanks to the publishers and Random Things Tours for my copy of this book
and the invitation to be part of the Blog Tour
✨✨ Winner Book of the Year in Prima magazine Big Book Awards 2019 ✨✨ 

Tara Richards was just a girl when she lost her mother. Years later when Tara receives a letter from a London solicitor its contents shake her to the core. Someone has left her a key to a safe deposit box. In the box lies an object that will change everything Tara thought she knew and lead her on a journey to deepest Spain in search of the answers that have haunted her for forty years.

Violet Skye regrets her decision to travel abroad leaving her young daughter behind. As the sun dips below the mountains, she reminds herself she is doing this for their future. Tonight, 4th June 1978, will be the start of a new life for them. This night will indeed change Violet's destiny, in the most unexpected of ways...

What did I think about it..

Back in the late 1970s, Tara, and her mum, Violet, don’t have an easy time but they're a close knit unit, and even though they live a precarious sort of life, there’s an abundance of love between them as they always look out for each other, that is until her mum goes on holiday with a new boyfriend and doesn’t return. Forty or so years later, Tara receives some unexpected news which opens up a whole batch of memories which have long been hidden.

It’s really difficult to say too much about what happens over the course of Her Last Promise as that would spoil the effect of this complex family saga and a story which flits seamlessly between two different times frames. Either in the present day, or back in 1978, the story progresses with a fine eye for detail, and both Tara and her mum, both fascinating characters soon start to come alive in the imagination. There are also several other people who warm the heart, especially Alf at the hardware shop, Tom, Tara's first boyfriend, and Tara's nan, all of them bring their own special brand of magic to the story.

There are several strands to the story which initially takes some getting used to and there were times when I wondered how everything was going to join together, but I needn’t have worried as the author does a great job of tying up all the loose ends in a satisfying conclusion.

I’ve really enjoyed being on this journey of discovery with Tara, and as she delves further and further into the mystery surrounding her mother’s disappearance, so a fascinating story of love, loss and family secrets starts to emerge.

Her Last Promise is a well written family saga with all the right ingredients for an epic and enjoyable story.

Kathryn Hughes is the internationally best selling author of The Letter, The Secret and The Key. Her total sales exceed 1.4 million copies and her novels have been published into 29 languages.

Twitter @KHughesAuthor #HerLastPromise



Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Review ~ Never Tell by Lisa Gardner

21 February 2019
Detective DD Warren #10

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book 

One death might be an accident.
Two deaths looks like murder.

A man is shot dead in his own home, and his pregnant wife, Evie, is found with the gun in her hands.

Detective D.D. Warren instantly recognises her. Sixteen years ago, Evie also shot her own father. That killing was ruled an accident.

D.D. doesn’t believe in coincidences. But this case isn’t as open and shut as it first appears, and her job is to discover the truth.

Evie might be a victim.

Or she might be about to get away with murder again.

My thoughts..

Detective Warren and her team are called to investigate a shooting in which the perpetrator seems clear cut from the start but as the story progresses it becomes more obvious that all is not as it first appears, and the added complication that the alleged perpetrator has already been suspected of a previous killing only lends excitement to what is a rather tense plot line.

Since this is book number 10 in the Detective DD Warren series of crime stories, and I am new to the series, it took a little while for me to feel comfortable with the main character and the way that she goes about her investigations. However, once I started to feel more settled with the way the story was unfolding, I found Never Tell to be quite a gripping read. The many twists and turns certainly kept my attention and there were several investigative avenues which I didn't see coming.

Overall, I found Never Tell to be an exciting and action packed thriller, written by an author who has definitely streamlined this crime series into something rather special, and, I count this as a really good sign, that even as the story ended I found myself wondering if I had time to go back to the beginning and start reading this compelling series from the very start.

Lisa Gardner is a #1 New York Times bestselling crime novelist. A self-described research junkie, she has parlayed her interest in police procedure and twisted minds into a streak of twenty thrillers. Her latest, NEVER TELL features Detective D.D. Warren joining forces with vigilante Flora Dane to investigate the murder of known associate of Flora's infamous kidnapper.

Twitter @LisaGardnerBks #NeverTell


Saturday, 17 August 2019

Hist Fic Saturday ~ A Tapestry of Treason by Anne O'Brien

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to...1399

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22 August 2019

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

Her actions could make history – but at what price?

1399: Constance of York, Lady Despenser, proves herself more than a mere observer in the devious intrigues of her magnificently dysfunctional family, The House of York

Surrounded by power-hungry men, including her aggressively self-centred husband Thomas and ruthless siblings Edward and Richard, Constance places herself at the heart of two treasonous plots against King Henry IV. Will it be possible for this Plantagenet family to safeguard its own political power by restoring either King Richard II to the throne, or the precarious Mortimer claimant?

Although the execution of these conspiracies will place them all in jeopardy, Constance is not deterred, even when the cost of her ambition threatens to overwhelm her. Even when it endangers her new-found happiness.

With treason, tragedy, heartbreak and betrayal, this is the story of a woman ahead of her time, fighting for herself and what she believes to be right in a world of men.

What did I think about it..

The richness of A Tapestry of Treason is as sumptuous as anything that ever graced the walls of a medieval castle. Lovingly stitched by an author who continues to bring fascinating life to the forgotten women of our history. 

Constance of York was born into a vainglorious and deeply ambitious family whose familial connection to Edward III places them close enough to royalty to always be a threat. It is their unwavering allegiance to Richard II which will prove to be disastrous when in 1399 their cousin Henry IV usurps Richard’s crown inciting the York’s do all they can to restore Richard back to power.

A clever blending of fact and fiction brings the mercurial medieval court of Henry IV to life. Filled with political intrigue and deadly ambition, Constance discovers that despite her cunning and formidable ability she is always at the mercy of men who would exploit and deceive her. Despite an uneasy marriage to Thomas, Lord Despenser, Constance is never far from political intrigue and her uncompromising personality and her capacity to be drawn into scandal is what makes this account of her life such a fascinating read. That Constance is a worthy heroine is in no doubt, her life reads like a modern day reality show, and yet, by the end of the novel I couldn't help but have enormous respect for the trials she endured during her life in which her undoubted charisma, tenacity and sheer strength of will are tested to the absolute limits.

Beautifully written and impeccably researched, A Tapestry of Treason is another absolute triumph of a novel from an author who allows us, with her clever words and vivid imagery, to experience life in medieval England. We stand shoulder to shoulder with those strong and decisive women who forged our history, not armed with crossbows on the battlefields of Europe, but who, in draughty anterooms and dusty solar, could be found cleverly plotting and deftly weaving together the tapestry threads of  conspiracy, intrigue and deadly danger.

 A Tapestry of Treason is published in hardback and ebook on the 22nd August by HQ and is available to pre-order

by kind permission of the author

In 2019 Anne O'Brien celebrates ten years of giving voice to the forgotten women of history

Anne O'Brien was born in the West Riding of Yorkshire. After gaining a BA Honours degree in history at Manchester University and a Master's in Education at Hull, she lived in the East Riding for many years as a teacher of history.

She now lives with her husband in an eighteenth century timber framed cottage in the depths of the welsh marches in Hertfordshire the borders between England and Wales.

Twitter @anne_obrien #ATapestryofTreason

Friday, 16 August 2019

Review ~ Ten Poems About Art From Candlestick Press

Candlestick Press
July 2019

Poems about art have a long and vivid history, and some of our greatest poets have tried to capture in verse the beguiling worlds of colour on canvas. Geoff Dyer’s remarkably wide-ranging selection encourages us to look at familiar and unfamiliar paintings and artists with fresh eyes.

We find ourselves in Vermeer’s studio next door to a rowdy alehouse and meet a Bonnard nude day-dreaming in her bathtub. There’s a contemplative poem capturing the calm of a Vuillard interior, and then there’s life as one of Miró’s dots:

“So here I am, on the edge of animation,
a dream, a dance, a fantastic construction,

A child’s adventure.”

from ‘I Would Like to be a Dot in a Painting by Miró’ by Moniza Alvi

These poems are sure to delight every art lover, reminding us that any painting worth its salt has a thousand different meanings. This title is the second co-publication by Candlestick Press in association with Pushkin Press.

Geoff Dyer is the award-winning author of numerous works of fiction and non-fiction. His books have been translated into 24 languages.

Poems by Fleur Adcock, Moniza Alvi, WH Auden, Sue Hubbard, Mark Doty, Linda France, Mimi Khalvati, RS Thomas, Tomas Tranströmer and William Carlos Williams.

Donation to Teapot Trust

What did I think about it..

There's a little bit of an artist in all of us, some can express this in beautiful paintings, whilst others are more inclined to paint pictures with their words and in this latest collection of Ten Poems about Art, Geoff Dyer has chosen a fascinating range of poetry which describes the colour, sensation and emotional appeal of artists, their models and their masterpieces.

I think opening poem sets the atmosphere really well:

From Musée des Beaux Arts by W H Auden(1907-1973)

"About suffering they were never wrong.
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;"

An artist's visionary colour palette is recreated in glorious detail in Four Cut Sunflowers, One Upside Down by Mark Doty.

"...They are a nocturne
in argent and gold, and they burn
with the ferocity
of dying..."

In the poem Cézanne The Card Players by RS Thomas the scene is captured perfectly and those who knows the painting will recognise the two enigmatic card players who sit intently staring at the cards in their hands, wine bottle between them..

"..The Pipe without 
smoke, the empty
bottle,the light
on the wall are the clock
they go by.."

Ten Poems about Art brings into focus diverse works of art which then give a tantalising glimpse into a world of sensation, colour and emotion. And for anyone who has ever gone into an art gallery and, like me, bought a bunch of postcards, this one will ring true:

Leaving the Tate by Fleur Adcock

"..Coming out with your clutch of postcards
in a Tate Gallery bag and another clutch
if images packed into your head you pause
on the steps to look across the river.."

Ten Poems about Art is a lovely collection of poetry made all the more special by a glorious cover and would make a perfect gift for any art lover.

Candlestick Press is a small, independent press publishing sumptuously produced poetry pamphlets that serve as a wonderful alternative to a greetings card, with matching envelopes and bookmarks left blank for your message. Their subjects include Clouds, Walking, Birds, Home and Kindness. Candlestick Press pamphlets are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, galleries and garden centres nationwide and available to order online.

Twitter @PoetryCandle