Tuesday 30 April 2013

Author Spotlight ~ J Carmen Smith

I am delighted to welcome

By kind permission of the author


Chasing Shadows is published by Corazon Books exclusively as an ebook
20th February 2013

A journey into the past and the secrets it holds

Chasing Shadows is Micaela's story, from her birth in Santiago de Compostela in the late 1870s, to her death in Liverpool in 1950. The story unfolds as tragic events alter the course of Micaela's life, taking her from a comfortable life in nineteenth century Spain to a poor,working class environment in early twentieth century Liverpool. In Liverpool, she meets the Spanish seaman whom she marries in 1907. Chasing Shadows tells of their life together, the difficulties they face in a foreign land, their hopes and disappointments.

It tells of Micaela's failure to fully adapt to her new environment and how this affects her
eldest daughter's life as Pilar is torn between two cultures, two languages and two religions after making a hasty marriage.

Micaela was my grandmother and Chasing Shadows is also my story. It tells of my travels through northern Spain in search of my lost heritage as I explore the culture and the landscape that Micaela left behind. Seemingly chance meetings influence my search, helping me, after many false leads and dead ends, to unearth the secrets of past generations.

What inspired you to tell your grandmother's story? 

I was only ten when my grandmother died and although I saw her at least once a week, she didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Spanish, so the research which led to Chasing Shadows was, I suppose, my way of getting closer to her. Also, I feel her story, about emigration and the difficulties encountered in settling into a new life, separated from family and friends, your language and your culture, is as relevant today as it was over a hundred years ago.

What was the writing process like?

The writing process was difficult at first. I lacked confidence in my ability to do justice to the story, which is why I enrolled on a series of creative writing courses. The encouragement and feedback I received on these helped enormously. Once I started travelling to Spain to do the research, I kept journals which I filled in every night so that I was recording my immediate impressions and reactions to people and places. These journals were the basis for the travel sections of the book. The fictionalised, biographical chapters of my grandmother’s early days in Spain were based on anecdotes told to me by my mother and it was thrilling when my research confirmed these, with only a couple of discrepancies in dates and names. These were understandable given that oral history is rarely one hundred per cent accurate and my mother, having been born in England, was passing on stories that she had heard as a child.

What kind of research did you have to do for Chasing Shadows?

My first step was to contact a cousin to see if she had any documents relating to my grandparents. I’d been told my grandmother’s maiden name and that she came to Liverpool from ‘near’ Santiago de Compostela. I also knew the name of the church where she married my grandfather, but not the date. For various family reasons, I hadn't seen my cousin since she was two, fifty years previously, but fortunately she’d inherited photographs and documents from my uncle. She also had a copy of our grandparents’ marriage certificate; alien registration documents from both world wars, and photographs of my grandmother’s siblings – with their names. It was on the strength of these that I set out on my first trip to Spain.

How long did it take you to write Chasing Shadows?

Because the research was so important to me, from that first journey to completion of Chasing Shadows, took eight years! As I made subsequent journeys and uncovered more facts then I would write the next chapters. Sometimes when I discovered a new piece of information I would have to go back and rewrite a chapter.

Are you inspired by any particular era, author or book? 

I find the period from the 1880s to the 1960s particularly interesting because of the huge social changes that were taking place. Also, I like to feel part of the chain that links my great-grandparents’ marriage in Santiago de Compostela in 1880, to my marriage in Liverpool in 1960. I’m an avid reader, both of contemporary novels and the Victorian classics. I love Dickens’ novels, especially David Copperfield. Had I met him, I may not have liked Dickens the man, but however many times I read it, I can still weep for David.

About the author

J Carmen Smith was brought up in the Liverpool suburbs, the youngest child in a working class family. She went to grammar school but left at the age of fifteen to start work as a typist in a Law Stationer's Office in the city centre. At the time, she promised her English teacher that one day she would take her English Language and Literature 'O' levels. She eventually kept her promise, gaining '0' and 'A' levels while her children were young, then a BA (Hons) in English and History when they had all flown the nest. At the age of 59 she graduated from The University of Liverpool with an MA in Victorian Literature. Chasing Shadows is her first full length work.

Find out more about the author  http://www.jcarmensmith.com/

My Review of Chasing Shadows

Chasing Shadows is a beautifully written and thought provoking story, which not only charts the author's progress as she seeks to discover more about the life of her grandmother, but also works as a rather lovely travelogue, as her research takes her deeper into the culture and hidden secrets of rural Spain. Unearthing the secrets of lost generations is often hampered by lack of information, it’s all too easy for forgotten generations to slip into the mists of time, but this novel shows that with skill and determination, long buried hopes and dreams can be made to live on again in the hearts and minds of others.

Thank you so much for taking the time to give us such a lovely insight into your book. 
Jaffa and enjoyed reading it very much, and I'm sure that your grandmother would have been delighted with this story.

Monday 29 April 2013

Review - Like This For Ever by S J Bolton

Like This, For Ever
Published 11 April 2013

Do you not know that tonight, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway.

Dracula, Bram Stoker

This is the third novel from author, S J Bolton, which features the damaged detective Lacey Flint. The story opens as London detective, Dana Tulloch and her team are searching against time for a serial killer who seems to focus on the murder of prepubescent boys. Lacey is home on sick leave, still traumatised by the events of her past, but unable to shake off her interest in the ongoing police investigation. And yet, unlike books one and two in this series, Lacey is more of a peripheral figure, drawn into the story only because she lives next door to Barney, a young boy troubled by the violent murders, and who is damaged by his own personal demons.

As always the book is intricately plotted, and yet despite the convoluted nature of the narrative, the story flows well; the intertwining of multi perspectives heightens the terror, and the on-trend inclusion of the craziness of social media adds a new dimension to the traditional chiller thriller. The story moves along at a cracking pace, so much so, it is difficult to find a natural place to take a break and the temptation is so great to find out what happens next, that all 400 pages flash by in the blink of an eye.

There is no doubt that the author has complete control of this genre, her manipulation of plot, character and motive is exemplary, and with her innate ability to engage with readers, this series seems to go from strength to strength.

Whilst Like This, For Ever, can be read and enjoyed as a standalone thriller, I feel that the hidden references to previous stories and certain character analysis are better appreciated if you have read this series from the beginning.


My thanks to NetGalley and Random House Transworld Publishers for my copy of this book to review.

Saturday 27 April 2013

Review ~ The Innocents by Francesca Segal

The Innocents
Vintage (10 Jan 2013)
Written as a debut book, and awarded the Costa First Novel Award in 2012, The Innocents takes its inspiration from the 1920 book, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, which, in 1921, was the first book to win the prestigious Pulitzer Prize by a female writer.

What if everything you'd ever wanted was no longer enough?

The Innocents is a well written first novel. It is set in London, rather than the original New York, and focuses on Adam and Rachel as they plan their wedding. They have been childhood sweethearts for years, and their own romantic history intertwines both of their families. All appears to be going to plan, the wedding is eagerly anticipated, and then into the mix comes Rachel’s cousin Ellie, who has something of a scandalous past, and before long Adam is tempted by Ellie’s provocative allure.

Having read the original book by Wharton, it is difficult not to make side by side comparisons between the two books, but overall this homage works well in a contemporary setting. Regardless of the passage of time, this age old story of temptation, recrimination, and retribution has universal appeal. The writing style is fluid and maintains interest; I was particularly engrossed in the Jewish background, which is a community of which I know very little, but whose values are explained in sympathetic detail.

Overall, I found book interesting and entertaining, its present-day location in London, gives it an informality which is refreshing, and the age-old premise of being thankful for what you already have, certainly rings true.


My thanks to Random House UK, Vintage Publishing for my galley of The Innocents

Francesca Segal

Winner of the 2012 Costa Prize for First Fiction.
Winner of the 2012 National Jewish Book Award for Fiction
Winner of the 2013 Sami Rohr Prize
Long-listed for the 2013 Women's Prize for Fiction

Friday 26 April 2013

Friday Recommends ~ The Ambassador's Daughter by Pam Jenoff

The Ambassador's Daughter
Mira Books (1 Feb 2013)


Out of the wreckage of war comes the beauty of love

In the aftermath of the First World War, Margot Rosenthal, is taken to Paris in 1919, whilst her father is part of a delegation attending a peace conference. Initially, Margot resents being thought of as the enemy and is reluctant to stay in a place where she is looked upon with mistrust. And yet, however difficult life in Paris appears, Margot is reluctant to return to Berlin, and her seriously injured fiancé, Stefan.

What then follows is a realistic depiction of the profound effect that life in post war Europe had on personal relationships, and illustrates how the luxury of trust was something that had to be earned in the most difficult of circumstances. It is in these portrayals of ordinary life where Jenoff excels, and in this story she has attempted to bring together pieces of her previous book The Kommandant’s Girl, and whilst readers of this novel will notice some continuity, it is not essential to have read The Kommandant’s Girl, as The Ambassador’s Daughter can more than stand alone.

As usual the attention to historical detail is meticulously researched; the narrative is sharp and crisp, with clever characterisation which reflects the time and place. Overall, the atmosphere of post war Europe is beautifully presented, and there is just the right balance between historical intrigue and romance.

 My thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin UK Ltd for a digital review copy of this book

Thursday 25 April 2013

Guest Author ~ David Ebsworth

Jaffa and I are delighted to welcome 

David Ebsworth

Photo by kind permission of the author

David Ebsworth is the pen name of writer, Dave McCall, a former negotiator and Regional Secretary for the Transport & General Workers’ Union. He was born in Liverpool but has lived for the past thirty years in Wrexham with his wife, Ann. Since their retirement in 2008, the couple have spent about six months of each year in southern Spain. Dave began to write seriously in the following year, 2009. His debut novel, The Jacobites' Apprentice, was critically acclaimed by the Historical Novel Society who deemed it "worthy of a place on every historical fiction bookshelf."

But he's here today to talk about his new novel

The Assassin's Mark.

The Assassin's Mark
Published March 20th 2013 by Silverwood Books

Anyway, over to you, David.

Well first, thanks very much for welcoming me to the blog. It's a great privilege to be here. And especially, as you say, to tell you about my second novel, The Assassin’s Mark. It's set in 1938, towards the end of the Spanish Civil War, and follows the trials and tribulations of left-wing reporter Jack Telford, stuck on a tour bus with a very strange mixture of other travellers as he tries to uncover the hidden truths beneath the conflict. But, in the words of the synopsis, "Jack must contend first with his own gullibility, the tragic death of a fellow-passenger, capture by Republican guerrilleros, a final showdown at Spain's most holy shrine and the possibility that he has been badly betrayed. Betrayed and in serious danger."

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was researching a novel about the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War and came across a paper on the Battlefield Tours that Franco launched – mainly for British tourists – before the war was even finished. It was too good a story to ignore.

What genre does your book fall under?

Historical thriller with a generous amount Agatha Christie and a splash of Rick Stein, seasoned with a pinch of the picaresque.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I always picture actors in my main character roles anyway so, in this case, British actor Christopher Eccleston as Jack Telford and Rachel Weisz as Valerie Carter-Holt.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A Christie-esque thriller set on a battlefield tour bus towards the end of the Spanish Civil War.

Is your book self-published or represented by an agency

I spent a long time looking for agents and "traditional publishers" when I wrote Jacobites. A lot of people that I respect were very supportive about it but the agents I contacted were either too rude to even acknowledge me, or told me it wouldn't fit their lists, or liked it but weren't taking on any more new authors. Also, in meeting many other wordsmiths, I realised that there's a huge mythology about "traditional publishers". It's generally thought that, first, they pay their authors a generous advance; second, that they get your work automatically onto bookstore shelves; and, third, that they do all the marketing for you. It's a load of nonsense for all but a tiny minority. So, being passionate about my writing, and having market-tested a bit, I decided to go "independent", publishing with the help of SilverWood Books (www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk) and using their high quality professional backing (registrations, typesetting, design, proofing, etc.) but using my own editor (the inimitable Jo Field) and jacket cover graphic designer (the indefatigable and innovative Cathy Helms). I’ve found it a fantastic way for a new writer to get published and I love the buzz of doing my own marketing.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript

I started to write in February 2011 and finished the first draft (180,000 words) in October that year – then travelled with it through all its locations in Northern Spain to check the “feel” and complete the first re-write (168,000 words). The final version is 152,000 words.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

C J Sansom’s Winter in Madrid; Dave Boling’s Guernica; Rebecca Pawel’s Death of a Nationalist; Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Long list, I'm afraid. Old colleagues from the trade unions like Jack Jones and Frank Deagan from whom I first learned about the “real” experience of the Spanish Civil War. Spanish family friends who lived through the war and Franco’s repression that followed it. Wonderful historians like Antony Beevor and Paul Preston who've never lost sight of the Spanish Civil War’s significance for all of us. Professor Sandie Holguín who introduced me to the bus tours that feature centrally in the story.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

The Spanish Civil War is badly neglected by English-language fiction writers so, at one level, I wanted the novel to be informative as well as entertaining. I’d like it to be a “must” for all those who already have an affection for Spain and maybe want to learn a bit more about the country’s history and culture – while still being able to sit on a beach with a good pot-boiler and need to keep “turning the pages.”

For more about David's previous novel, The Jacobites’ Apprentice, and other relevant information, you can visit his main website... www.davidebsworth.com

Published March 12th 2012 by SilverWood Books

Jaffareadstoo Review of The Assassin's Mark by David Ebsworth

When Jack Telford, a maverick news reporter, decides to take a tour of the Spanish battlefields in September of 1938, the Spanish Civil War has been raging for two years. His fellow travellers on the war route are a disparate group of individuals, who each have their own reasons for making this perilous journey, and yet Jack with his passion for peacekeeping, finds himself drawn into a maelstrom of political conflict.

General Franco’s mission to open up the Spanish battlefields, whilst war was still raging, is based on fact, and whilst keeping the historical integrity intact, what then follows is a Christie-esque thriller which abounds with deception, dishonesty and political skulduggery. At the core of The Assassin’s Mark is a murder mystery, with more than enough twists and turns in the plot to keep you turning the pages, and yet, it is in the fine attention to historical detail and in the clever characterisation where the story really comes alive. Such is the imagery and descriptive talent, I felt like I was transported back in time to the Spain of the 1930’s, to a country which was divided by war and political dishonesty.

This exciting story is flawlessly presented; most certainly there are noticeable shades of Agatha Christie, and even, I think,  generous helpings of Graeme Green, but there is also the undeniable talent of an author who not only loves his craft, but whose own distinct writing skill is evident in every word.

I have no hesitation in recommending this book to my blog readers who enjoy well written and decisive historical fiction.


Thank you very much David for taking the time to visit our blog and for such an insightful look into the writing of your novel, The Assassin's Mark.

Jaffa and I wish you continued success with your writing career.

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Wishlist Wednesday..

I am delighted to be part of wishlist Wednesday which is hosted by Dani at pen to paper

The idea is to post about one book each week that has been on your wishlist for some time, or maybe just added.

So what do you need to do to join in?

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.

Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.

Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.

Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of her post.

Put a link back to pen to paper (http://vogue-pentopaper.blogspot.com) somewhere in your post.

The Sea Sisters
9 May 2013
My Wishlist Wednesday book 


Two sisters, one life-changing journey…

There are some currents in the relationship between sisters that run so dark and so deep, it’s better for the people swimming on the surface never to know what’s beneath . . .

Katie’s carefully structured world is shattered by the news that her headstrong younger sister, Mia, has been found dead in Bali – and the police claim it was suicide.

With only the entries of Mia’s travel journal as her guide, Katie retraces the last few months of her sister’s life, and – page by page, country by country – begins to uncover the mystery surrounding her death.

What she discovers changes everything. But will her search for the truth push their sisterly bond – and Katie – to breaking point?

The Sea Sisters is a compelling story of the enduring connection between sisters.

Book blurb is from Goodreads

I love the book cover  and the book sounds intriguing. It is on my "pick it up when you see it at the library" wishlist!

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Happy Birthday ~ William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare


Whilst the actual date of Shakespeare's birth is not known, historians believe that he was born on or around April 23rd 1564,  we know from church records that he was baptised in the Holy Trinity Church on 26th April 1564. Born in Stratford-upon-Avon, William was the third child of John Shakespeare, a glove maker and leather merchant, and Mary Arden, a local heiress. Shakespeare's early life is shrouded in mystery but we know that he married Anne Hathaway in 1582 in Worcester - and what then follows are the "lost years" when little is known of  Shakespeare's whereabouts.  It is believed that he went to London in the late 1580's and was certainly part of the theatre scene. By the early 1590s, documents show William Shakespeare was a managing partner in the Lord Chamberlain's Men, an acting company in London.

Shakespeare's House





All's Well That Ends Well
As You Like It
The Comedy of Errors
Love's Labours Lost
Measure for Measure
The Merry Wives of Windsor
The Merchant of Venice
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Much Ado About Nothing
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Taming of the Shrew
The Tempest
Troilus and Cressida
Twelfth Night
Two Gentlemen of Verona
Winter's Tale
Henry IV, part 1
Henry IV, part 2
Henry V
Henry VI, part 1
Henry VI, part 2
Henry VI, part 3
Henry VIII
King John
Richard II
Richard III
Antony and Cleopatra
Julius Caesar
King Lear
Romeo and Juliet
Timon of Athens
Titus Andronicus
The Sonnets
A Lover's Complaint
The Rape of Lucrece
Venus and Adonis
Funeral Elegy by W.S.

My favourite Shakespeare

~ Antony and Cleopatra, Act 2, Scene II The House of Lepidus ~

The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne,
Burn'd on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were love-sick with them; the oars were silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water which they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
It beggar'd all description: she did lie
In her pavilion--cloth-of-gold of tissue--
O'er-picturing that Venus where we see
The fancy outwork nature: on each side her
Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
With divers-colour'd fans, whose wind did seem
To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
And what they undid did.


~ A Midsummer's Nights Dream, Act 2, Scene I ~

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight;


~ The Merchant of Venice, Act 2,  Scene VII ~

All that glisters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms enfold.
Had you been as wise as bold,
Young in limbs, in judgment old,
Your answer had not been inscroll'd:
Fare you well; your suit is cold.
Cold, indeed; and labour lost:
Then, farewell, heat, and welcome, frost!
Portia, adieu. I have too grieved a heart
To take a tedious leave: thus losers part.


Monday 22 April 2013

Thank you ~ The Little Reader Library

Dancing to the Flute
Published Alma Books
March 2013

Guest Reviewers

Jaffa and I were delighted to be asked to guest review this lovely book for Lindsay at The Little Reader Library

Lindsay keeps her wonderful book blog at

The Little Reader Library 

Sunday 21 April 2013

Literary Walk ~ The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell

The Road to Wigan Pier
First published March 8th 1937


Eric Arthur Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist. His work is marked by keen intelligence and wit, a profound awareness of social injustice, an intense opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language, and a belief in democratic socialism.

Considered perhaps the twentieth century's best chronicler of English culture, Orwell wrote fiction, polemical journalism, literary criticism and poetry. He is best known for the dystopian novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four" (published in 1949) and the satirical novella "Animal Farm" (1945)—they have together sold more copies than any two books by any other twentieth-century author.

From Goodreads

Although George Orwell grew up in the relative comfort of the English middle class, his socialist convictions and general sense of fairness led him to hate his country's deeply ingrained class structure. That perspective permeates this book, but the most striking elements are the quotidian details of life that Orwell observes in his first-person account of the lives of coal miners and others in the poor north of England.

Wigan Pier is almost too realistic at times, as Orwell brings his unparalleled powers of observation to portray the wretched conditions of the working class. That Orwell may have slanted his reporting to make things look worse than they were is a question that does not lessen the book's interest.

My Literary 


As these images suggest Wigan Pier is still alive and well and
slightly more picturesque than in Orwell's time in
Wigan in 1936

The Real Wigan Pier
©Digital Images 2013 

Wigan Pier 2013
©Digital Images 2013 

Saturday 20 April 2013

Review ~ Roses Have Thorns by Sandra Byrd

Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I (Ladies in Waiting #3)

Roses Have Thorns


Sandra Byrd

Roses Have Thorns is the third book in the lady in waiting series of historical novels which are set during the turbulent Tudor era. This novel focuses on the relationship between Elizabeth I and her court. When seventeen year old Elin von Snakenborg arrives in England from Sweden, she is unsure of her place in the world, when she courted by the Duke of Northampton, she decides to settle in England and become a lady in waiting at the queen’s court. Her relationship with the Duke of Northampton elevates her into the higher echelons of English nobility, and also involves her in Tudor intrigue at the highest level.

This is a fine depiction of the glittering network of intrigue which surrounds Elizabeth, and those courtiers who flutter like moths to a flame. There is enough historical accuracy to maintain the integrity of the story, and as always Sandra Byrd infuses her characters with such charm and charisma that the book is very easy to read and enjoy. It is not necessary to have read all the books in chronological order as they work very well as standalone reads; however it is fascinating to see how the Tudor court has evolved over time.

I've now read all the books in this series and have enjoyed them all; however Roses have Thorns is my favourite.

My thanks to NetGalley and Howard books for my digital review copy of this book.

The author Sandra Byrd is currently offering a great giveaway opportunity. 

Friday 19 April 2013

Friday recommends...

The Shock of the Fall
Harper Collins
23 May 2013

The Shock of the Fall 


"I'm going to tell you why we came back from the caravan holiday without Simon and how I spent the next ten years living with him"

Perceptively written from the outset, The Shock of the Fall reveals a challenging journey through the minefield of mental illness, and encapsulates a story which begins with overwhelming tragedy. The heartbreak of the story is revealed slowly, and written in Matthew’s own indomitable style, we learn about his life, the burden of guilt and grief which he carries like a yoke, and the way in which both he and his parents tried to rationalise the responsibility of survival. The unpredictability of the narrative is endearing and the use of font changes and illustrations reveal how the thought processes evolve from those of a confused child, to those of a troubled, and sometimes irascible young man.

There is no doubt that this is a skilful debut novel. Nathan Filer has used his own experiences as a mental health professional to write a tragic, tender and beautifully depicted story, which illuminates love, loss and overwhelming grief in a powerful, yet poignant way.

My thanks to Anne at Random Things Online Book Group -  part of  readinggroups.org

and Harper Collins for my review copy

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Wishlist Wednesday..

I am delighted to be part of wishlist Wednesday which is hosted by Dani at pen to paper

The idea is to post about one book each week that has been on your wishlist for some time, or maybe just added.

So what do you need to do to join in?

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.

Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.

Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.

Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of her post.

Put a link back to pen to paper (http://vogue-pentopaper.blogspot.com) somewhere in your post.

My Wishlist Wednesday book 

The Summer Queen 


Elizabeth Chadwick

The Summer Queen

Book blurb from Goodreads

Eleanor of Aquitaine is a 12th century icon who has fascinated readers for 800 years. But the real Eleanor remains elusive.

This stunning novel introduces an Eleanor that all other writers have missed. Based on the most up-to-date research, it is the first novel to show Eleanor beginning her married life at 13. Barely out of childhood, this gives an entirely new slant to how Eleanor is treated bv those around her. She was often the victim and her first marriage was horribly abusive.

Overflowing with scandal, passion, triumph and tragedy, Eleanor's legendary story begins when her beloved father dies in the summer of 1137, and she is made to marry the young prince Louis of France. A week after the marriage she becomes a queen and her life will change beyond recognition.

Due to be published by in June 2013.

I have been an avid reader of Elizabeth Chadwick's books since the 1990s and her latest books are always firmly placed on my wishlist well in advance of their publication.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Guest Author ~ Tracey Sinclair

I am delighted to welcome back

Photo by kind permission of the author



After narrowly averting a supernatural war in London, Cassandra Bick just wants life to get back to normal. Or as normal as life can be when you run a dating agency for vampires, your best friend is a witch and the oldest, strongest and sexiest vampire in town is taking a very personal interest in your business. But when a vicious new supernatural enemy threatens her friends, Cass finds herself once again fighting for the fate of her city – and having to face some demons of her own.

Snarky, sexy and fast paced, Wolf Night will leave you breathless.

Wolf Night is Book 2 in the Dark Dates series, the Chronicles of Cassandra Bick.


I am delighted that Tracey could visit us again and she has very kindly answered a few questions about 

Wolf Night is the second of the Cassandra Bick chronicles – did you feel more of an obligation to make this book even better than the first?

Yes, definitely! I was really lucky that the overwhelming majority of the reviews I got for Dark Dates were great, and feedback was really positive, but that did make me worry that I would somehow let people down if the second one wasn't better. And by then I had fallen in love with the characters so I felt I had a responsibility to them, too, to tell the story well. Luckily so far most people have liked it!

Wolf Night appears darker in content and yet there is still lots of humour – is it easier write funny dialogue or scary scenes? 

It is darker, I think – it deals a lot more with bigotry and intolerance and I think that naturally makes it darker in tone, and I wanted to up the stakes somewhat after the first book, to add a sense of real danger and threat. But I don’t think one type of scene is easier than the other to write – it’s just a question of going where the story takes you, so I find things just flow in the direction they need to, and the action sets the tone. I do have a habit, though, of going back over scary or darker scenes with an eye for the pretentious and the ridiculous to puncture that, and lighten it up with some humour, to try and balance it out. One of the most enjoyable things about the book is that the characters – especially Cass – have such a snarky outlook, it’s great fun to write.

If Wolf Night was optioned as a movie, who would you like to see in the leading roles? 

Ooh, tough one! Although she’s very American, I love Kat Dennings from Thor and Two Broke Girls – she has the kind of snarkiness I like. When it comes to the male leads I always just think about men I find attractive – actors like Charlie Hunnam, Timothy Olyphant, Jensen Ackles – but that’s probably because I like to think as writer I’d get a visit to the set and would be able to drool over them… 

And finally are you Team Laclos, or Team Cain?

I started out totally Team Cain – I basically wrote him as my ideal man – but the more I see of Laclos, the more I like him. He has a real sense of humour about himself, he’s funny and, of course, his utter debauchery appeals to my naughtier side. So I think, like Cass, I would struggle to choose! 

BIO: Tracey Sinclair works as freelance copywriter, editor and legal directories consultant. A diverse and slightly wandering career has included writing factsheets for small businesses, creating web content for law firms, subtitling film and TV and editing one of the UK’s largest legal directories. A keen blogger, she regularly writes for online theatre site Exeunt and science fiction site Unleash the Fanboy and her blog Body of a Geek Goddess was shortlisted in the Cosmopolitan Blogger Awards 2011. Her work has been published in a number of magazines and anthologies and her short play Bystanders was premiered in 2011 as part of the CP Players New Writing Season at Baron’s Court Theatre, London. She has published two small press books (Doll and No Love is This, both Kennedy & Boyd) before publishing the Dark Dates series.

Buy links:


Thanks for visiting us again Tracey - we look forward to reading more of Cassandra Bick's urban adventures in future chronicles.

My review

Having been introduced to Cassandra Bick in Dark Dates, I couldn't wait to meet up with her again in the second of her adventures. I found Wolf Night to be an altogether darker story with some truly nasty characters, who from the outset seek to cause as much damage as they can. Yet, throughout the darkness of the story, there is a wonderful thread of humour, which is a delight to read and adds some necessary contrast.

Those who are familiar with Dark Dates will rejoice that their favourite characters have returned stronger than ever. There is just as much passion on the pages as before, but this time round the characters are well established, their supernatural skills are well honed, and whilst Cassandra, Medea and Katie remain the heart and soul of the story; it is in the interaction between the supernatural alpha males, Laclos and Cain, where the story really starts to zing off the scale, as love, hate, jealousy, and overwhelming lust, all spiral out of control.

I am sure that the author is onto a real winner with this series. The urban fantasy world in which these characters roam has the potential to run and run and run.....


Monday 15 April 2013

Review ~ The Bleeding Land by Giles Kristian

The Bleeding Land (Rivers Family, #1)
 Published April 26th 2012 by Bantam Press


1642 – A family torn apart – A war that will change England forever.

In The Bleeding Land, Giles Kristian has brought to vivid life the bloody effects of a war against its own people. The English Civil war was a battle of men against men; brother fighting against brother, and father pitched against son. Both sides thought that God was with them, but when the canons roared and the muskets fired, the only side that mattered under God, was the winning side.

Sir Francis Rivers knows that the King, Charles I, needs all the men he can muster, and as he and his eldest son, Edmund take up arms with the King, they both realise that their allegiance to the crown, will demand a high price. The violent and irascible younger son, Thomas, fleeing his own personal tragedy, takes up arms on the opposite side, where his need for bitter revenge sees brother pitched against brother, as King and Parliament fight for power.

The Bleeding Land is a skilful and graphically depicted account of the English civil war. In the gore and mire of the battlefield, the massacred English fell, and lay as if the very earth was bleeding. The author’s brutal depiction of a family tainted by treachery, allows a realistic glimpse into the doctrine and dogma that led to a nation being divided by the very principles which once governed its belief.

And in the loathing of its surrender, the anguished cry of those who were left behind, mourned the loss of a proud nation.

I was gripped by this story from start to finish, and when the last page was turned I was overwhelmed by what I had read. Very few authors can conjure time and place so perfectly, but without doubt The Bleeding Land makes you feel like you actually travelled back in time to a dark and dirty place, where the stink of battle and the wild cry of horses mingle with the sound of human despair.


My thanks to NetGalley and Bantam Press / Transworld
 for a digital copy of this book

Book Two ~ Brothers Fury is due to be published by Bantam on May 23rd 2013

It is already on my wishlist.

Brother's Fury (Rivers Family, #2)

Saturday 13 April 2013

Guest Author ~ Maureen Driscoll

I am delighted the welcome the author

Maureen Driscoll

 Hi Maureen ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo

First of all, thank you for having me here. I really appreciate it.  

Please pass that on to Jaffa. 

What inspired you to become an author?

My big dream was to be an actress, but my mother very wisely told me I could study whatever I wanted in college, as long as I could support myself afterward. I chose journalism, then took a job as a staffer in Congress right after graduation. I worked as a press aide for most of a decade, then when I went through a very painful divorce in 1996 I moved to Los Angeles, determined to pursue a career as a Hollywood writer. I've had my share of ups and downs. My biggest job to date was as a writer for Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show. My low point was right when the recession hit and I couldn't find any sort of job. And, oddly enough, I'm finally pursuing an acting career. I turned 50 in March and decided acting would be a better mid-life crisis that buying a sports car. So far, I've had one audition for a show called REVENGE. I don’t know if it airs in the UK, but it’s like a night time soap opera. It was for the role of a doctor and I didn't get it.

What makes you want to write romantic historical fiction?

Other than Gone With the Wind and Pride and Prejudice (my very favorite book), I’d never read a romance novel until the recession hit in 2008. I lost my job and suddenly found myself with lots of free time. I picked up a Catherine Coulter Regency romance and fell in love. I read voraciously for two years. And I picked Regency because that’s what my mom reads. My favorite authors are Sabrina Jeffries, Lisa Kleypas and Karen Hawkins.

I like writing it because there’s something very romantic about that time period. I find it difficult to read earlier eras because the lack of sanitation really, really bothers me. I can’t stop thinking about it. And while things were far from clean in the Regency era, it was getting there. As for modern, I don’t think it’s all that romantic, though I think I may try my hand at it next.

What comes first, the plot or the people?

I'm finishing up the sixth book about the Kellington family, based around the Duke of Lynwood, his three brothers, one sister and a family friend. The people definitely came first. They’re all named for Kings and one Queen of England. When I started, I thought that would enter into the plots, especially in Arthur’s book. Ironically, that one was the most difficult to write since there’s no definitive tale of King Arthur. And, after all, the guy basically gets cheated on. I was very depressed when I figured that one out. Hal’s book was a combination of the debauchery of Henry the VIII and the courage of Henry V.

Can you tell us what you are writing next?

I’m finishing the series with their friend, Joseph Stapleton’s, book. He’s an Inspector with Bow Street whom we met in the first book. His book is turning into kind of a gothic romance as he travels to a castle with an acquaintance of the duke’s to keep her safe from harm. After this series is done, I think I’m going to try some modern stories, but I’m not quite sure.

Do you have a special place to do your writing?

Just a couple months ago, I finally got wireless Internet, which has freed me up to write wherever I want in my apartment. Being online comes in handy when I have questions about things. But despite all the freedom, I'm always at my dining room table. I cannot write in coffee shops, though it certainly did wonders for J K Rowling.

What books are on your bedside table?

I’m currently reading Dangerous Angel by Sabrina Jeffries when she was writing under the Deborah Martin pen name. I love her writing. If you haven’t read her, please do. Everything she does is great.

I also have been re-reading Candace Camp’s Willowmere series. I’m obsessed with it. Her characters and stories are superb. It’s probably about time for me to re-read Mary Balogh’s Bedwyn series. I LOVE those books. Each is so different than the others. And that’s hard to do. I have some wonderfully nice readers who've had suggestions for more Kellington books. There are one or two more I may do, but I really don’t want to wear out my welcome with them. I think we've all read series where plots begin to repeat themselves and things get awfully familiar. I don’t want to do that and will (hopefully) quit while I'm ahead.

The Kellington Series


Never a Mistress, No Longer a Maid (Kellington #1)
Kellington 1
Never Miss a Chance (Kellington #2)
Kellington 2

Never Wager Against Love (Kellington #3)
Kellington 3
Never Run From Love (Kellington #4)
Kellington 4
Never Deny Your Heart (Kellington #5)
Kellington 5

Maureen - thanks so much for taking the time to visit us - Jaffa and I wish you much success with your writing !

My Review of Never A Mistress, No Longer A Maid is here

Friday 12 April 2013

Friday recommends..

Polygon An Imprint of Birlinn Limited (6 Jun 2013)


Rosemary Goring

Eighty miles south of Edinburgh in the devastated village of Flodden, the aftermath of battle can be seen in the ruins of despair. Patrick Paniter, the deceased king’s secretary is a troubled man, hounded by nightmares and memories he would rather forget. Louise Brenier is a feisty young heroine, whose family has been profoundly affected by the consequences of Flodden. Her search for her brother, Benoit, missing since the battle, will lead Louise into the very depths of political danger and will force her to re-evaluate everything she has ever known about love and loss.

After Flodden is an epic adventure on a grand scale, and by combining fact with fiction, the author has skilfully merged the thrill of conspiracy, with a touch of romance. Rich in atmosphere, and alive with intrigue, the unfurling narrative sweeps effortlessly through three months during 1513, with vivid flashbacks to the Scottish preparations for battle, and describes in detail the traumatic consequences of a country in conflict. The utter desolation of the Scottish borderland and the warring factions of clan against clan are fearsomely described within a story of duplicitous deception. By accurately blending factual historical figures within a strong fictitious cast, the authenticity of the story is maintained, and the sights, sounds and smells of sixteenth century Scotland are impressively recreated.

I am reassured that the author is already planning to continue the story, as there is no doubt that the political consequences of the Scottish defeat at Flodden had a lasting legacy.

Huge thanks to newbooks for the opportunity to read this book in advance of its UK publication.

Thursday 11 April 2013

Review ~ One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis

One Step Too Far
Kirk Parolles; 1 edition (15 April 2013)

One Step Too Far


An apparently happy marriage. A beautiful son. A lovely home. So what makes Emily Coleman get up one morning and walk right out of her life – changing her name, holing up in a grotty house in North London, taking a dead-end job where she won’t be found. Has she had a breakdown? Was it to escape her dysfunctional family, especially her malevolent twin Caroline who always seemed to hate her? And what is the anniversary that looms, threatening to force her to confront her past? No-one has ever guessed her secret. Will you?

Emily Coleman's life is disintegrating and she sees no option but to leave her life behind and start again in London where no-one has any idea of her identity. When she abandons her husband and young son, all she takes with her are painful memories, not just of who she is, but also of the effect that her dangerous twin sister Caroline has on her.

What then follows is an intricately woven story which tells the story of abandonment - not just from family and friends but also from oneself, and even as Emily starts a new life in London, she finds that fragments of herself can never disappear entirely.

Intricately plotted, the book moves along at a cracking pace, which can be a little confusing and sometimes  I felt like I wanted to skip back a few pages to clarify something important I may have missed. However, the twists in the plot when they come, really take you by surprise and I must say I never saw them coming.

Originally written in  2010, this is a good debut book and well worth picking up when you see it in the book stores.

My thanks to NetGalley and Kirk Parolles for my review copy of One Step Too Far.

Published 15 April 2013

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Guest Author ~ Alison Morton ~ Blog Tour 2013

I am delighted to welcome the author

Alison Morton grew up in West Kent, served as a Territorial Army officer and owned a translation company. She completed a BA in French, German and Economics and thirty years later an MA in History. She now lives in France with her husband.

A ‘Roman nut’ and wordsmith since age 11, she has visited sites throughout Europe always wondered what a Roman society would be like if run by women…

Find out more about Alison’s writing life, Romans and alternate history at her blog.


The first in a series of exciting alternate history thrillers set in mysterious Roma Nova

Title Inceptio
Author Alison Morton

New York, present day. Karen Brown, angry and frightened after surviving a kidnap attempt, has a harsh choice – being eliminated by government enforcer Jeffery Renschman or fleeing to the mysterious Roma Nova, her dead mother’s homeland in Europe.

Founded sixteen centuries ago by Roman exiles and ruled by women, Roma Nova gives Karen safety and a ready-made family. But a shocking discovery about her new lover, the fascinating but arrogant Special Forces officer Conrad Tellus, who rescued her in America, isolates her. Renschman reaches into her new home and nearly kills her. Recovering, she is desperate to find out why he is hunting her so viciously. Unable to rely on anybody else, she undergoes intensive training, develops fighting skills and becomes an undercover cop. But crazy with bitterness at his past failures, Renschman sets a trap for her, knowing she has no choice but to spring it...

My review..

In present day New York, Karen Brown’s daily life is starting to unravel. When inexplicable events shake the very foundations of her world, she at first disbelieves what is happening around her. However, after a failed kidnap attempt, Karen is advised to flee to her dead mother’s homeland, but even as the mysterious Roma Nova offers a sanctuary, it also opens more questions than answers. The action is fast and furious, and soon Karen finds that she is drawn into a dangerous set of circumstances, which will test her endurance to limit and which will force her to question the structure of her belief.

What then follows is a well written and decidedly competent alternate history novel which draws you in from the very beginning and which offers an intriguing look at Roma Nova, a world which has been ruled by women for the past sixteen centuries, and whose secret anonymity comes alive on the page. Alternate history is a fascinating concept, and yet can so easily become a minefield of improbability, where the world within a world being created can become a mere parody of what is real. However, I had no such issues with Inceptio, which thanks to the author’s skill, Roma Nova and its role in the world, soon became a real and very authentic place.

I think that this is one of those books you could so easily miss, particularly if alternate history is not your genre, but you would be missing out on a real treat. It is ideal escapism, with the ingredients of history, mystery and romance expertly combined to form a well balanced and perfectly presented start to a promising series.

Book Details

ISBN Paperback 9781781320624/ ePub ebook 9781781320631
RRP Paperback £9.99 / eBook £2.99
SilverWood Books 30 Queen Charlotte Street Bristol BS1 4HJ

My thanks to Alison and Silverwood books for my review copy of this book
 and for inviting Jaffareadstoo to be part of Alison's Blog Tour.

Jaffa and I wish you continued success and look forward to your next book in the series.