Thursday 31 May 2018

Blog Tour ~ Breaking the Foals by Maximilian Hawker

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be part of the blog tour for Breaking the Foals

My thanks to the author for his guest post and also to Random Things Tours for the invitation to be part of this blog tour.

It is with great pleasure that I introduce the author, Maximilian Hawker,
to the blog today with this lovely guest post, featuring a rather special, Bronze-Age Jaffa

Jaffa, though a 21st-century cat, would find plenty to enjoy in Bronze-Age Wilusa. Of course, he’s a brilliant ginger in colour, but the Aegean sun would lighten his fur and his perpetual hunt for food should keep him lean and agile. By day, he would have wandered Wilusa’s lower town, ears twitching at the myriad tongues bartering through marketplace trade. But Jaffa is, first and foremost, a cat, which means he shelters somewhere shady – perhaps in a mud-brick house – and sleeps. 

By night, Jaffa would have been in his element. Here he’d finds the bawling of intoxicated men; epic conflicts between stray dogs for fly-licked chunks of meat; other cats chanting poetry, simmering for love; and lung-rattling babies plundering the night for its natural peace. Beneath his paws, the dusty roads are finally cool and, above him, a perfectly starlit sky is incomprehensible. Further on, Jaffa goes, into the shadowed streets, where he cannot comprehend the girls, strolling in twos or threes, anticipating sales of intimacy to whichever drunk stumbles upon them first. His nose twitches as he finds balding men with grating voices selling skewered chunks of hissing meat, fresh from outdoor grills, to passing strangers who, having spent the evening drinking and smoking, have an overwhelming urge to feed. 

Moving up from the depths of the lower town, he passes men holding large trays, upon which are scores of luck charms: poorly devised items of thin metal with – so the traders promise – the miraculous ability to protect the bearer from muggers, hangovers and the inevitable verbal assault of a wife angered by her husband’s late-night drinking sessions. 

Jaffa slips past several guards – one shooing him along – and he saunters through a gate into the upper town, domain of the rich and royal. From the heights of the upper town, which inclines steeply, the view of the lower is comprehensive and, come sunrise, the streets will be visibly speckled with shards of clay pots, forgotten items of clothing and estuaries of urine. The Hittites did not worship cats in the same way as the Egyptians, but this doesn’t prevent a temple servant from bringing a bowl of water and some excess sardines out to Jaffa, stroking him briefly, before being yelled at by a priest to get back to work – ‘You think I keep you so you can play with animals, eh!?’ Jaffa enjoys his little treat but is not deterred from pressing on towards his ultimate destination. 

The palace looms white and impressive on the crest of the hill and it is there that a form of luxury awaits Jaffa befitting only of cats and royalty. He doesn’t attempt to make an entrance through the main doors – he’s a cat after all, not a foolish dog – and shadows into the manicured gardens where olive trees and wild flowers abound. The smell wafting out from the kitchen windows is tempting, but Jaffa has an altogether different destination in mind. He springs silently up to a window that leads into a sconce-lit corridor, walls stucco-covered and ruddy with images of gods, festivals and all manner of beasts that would be far more perturbing to Jaffa were they there in the flesh. 

Jaffa slinks out of the sight of servants, guards and dignitaries alike, their voices echoing around the palace – so much louder in his feline ears than in the weak ears of a human. He comes to a small chamber in which a boy sleeps, clinging on to a little ragdoll cat of his own. Jaffa jumps up onto the bed and settles into the quilt, licking at his paws as the pressure is relieved. He rests here awhile, soothed into sleep by the steady breath of the boy whose bed he has claimed for himself. When the sun-god, Appaliunas, draws up into a ruby sky in several hours, Jaffa will not have to hurry into the fields to start a day’s labour, nor sail out into an Aegean bay to net for fish – he is a cat, and cats have sat idly, contentedly, as human civilisation has flourished and fallen over the course of thousands of years. All he need worry about is fleas. 

Huge thanks to the author for this guest post,

Jaffa is thrilled to have featured in this extra-special and very exclusive story ๐Ÿ˜ป

Unbound Digital
April 2018

What's it all about ..

The Troy of myth was a real city and it was called Wilusa. This is its story... Hektor's life of privilege is forever changed when a man, allegedly possessed by the sun god, inspires revolution among the oppressed people of Wilusa. For Hektor, son of the city's despotic ruler, social equality contradicts every principle he has been taught. And his obsession with duty is alienating him from his own young son, Hapi, with whom he has a fractured relationship. But when Hapi's life is threatened, Hektor is compelled to question his every belief as he rebuilds his relationship with his child through the breaking of a foal. As Wilusa collapses into political violence and the commoners rise up, Hektor must finally decide whether to defend the people and lose his identity, or remain loyal to his irrational, dangerous father.

Maximilian Hawker is a 30-year-old writer who lives in Croydon, South London, with his wife and two daughters. He is author of the novel Breaking the Foals, due to be published with Unbound in March 2018. An alumnus of Kingston University, he has a postgraduate degree in English Literature and has worked in education, editorial and design. Currently, he works in frontline children's social care for Croydon Council, providing a service for care leavers and also runs a YouTube channel for looked after children and care leavers called formeR Relevant, which he aims to eventually promote at a national level. He has had poetry and short stories - occasionally nominated for awards - appear in publications run by Dog Horn Publishing, Kingston University Press, Arachne Press and Rebel Poetry, among others. He also aims to see the word 'asparagi' added to the English Dictionary, as its absence troubles him

Twitter @MaxHawker #BreakingTheFoals

Wednesday 30 May 2018

Blog Tour~ The Tudor Trilogy by Tony Riches

I'm delighted to be part of this historical fiction blog tour and to share my review of 

Book One of the Tudor Trilogy

Preseli Press
Thanks to the author and HF Virtual Book Tours for my copy of Owen and my invitation to this blog tour

Based on the true story of a forgotten hero, OWEN is the epic tale of one young man’s incredible courage and resilience as he changes the course of English history. 

England 1422: Owen Tudor, a Welsh servant, waits in Windsor Castle to meet his new mistress, the beautiful and lonely Queen Catherine of Valois, widow of the warrior king, Henry V. Her infant son is crowned King of England and France, and while the country simmers on the brink of civil war, Owen becomes her protector. 

They fall in love, risking Owen’s life and Queen Catherine’s reputation—but how do they found the dynasty which changes British history – the Tudors? 

This is the first historical novel to fully explore the amazing life of Owen Tudor, grandfather of King Henry VII and the great-grandfather of King Henry VIII. Set against a background of the conflict between the Houses of Lancaster and York, which develops into what have become known as the Wars of the Roses, Owen’s story deserves to be told.

My thoughts about it...

OWEN, is the first book in the Tudor trilogy, which focuses on the story of Owen Tudor, the enigmatic Welshman who, by his intimate relationship with the widowed Catherine de Valois, founded the Tudor dynasty.

In this fictional account of Owen Tudor’s life, and times, the author has brought to vibrant life the story of a man who struggled to find his place in a society which didn’t allow recognition of his strong Welsh heritage, and whose complex relationship with the young Queen would undoubtedly place him in grave danger. When we first meet Owen Tudor, in 1422, all this was well into the future, as he is newly introduced into the Queen’s household as her Keeper of the Wardrobe, a position which will give him some degree of permanence, something which has been sadly lacking since his days as a soldier, having fought in the army of the Queen’s late husband, Henry V, in the French campaigns. 

Throughout the whole of the novel, time and place is captured perfectly, and the author has done a commendable job of bringing Owen Tudor alive in the imagination. Most certainly, in this novel, Owen comes across as a fascinating individual, a fine-looking man by all accounts and there’s no doubt that the ladies liked him. I think that he was a certainly a risk taker but he also seems to have been very much a product of his Welsh upbringing, calm and controlled when needed and yet, filled with a passionate zeal for those whom he supported. However, as Owen’s intimate relationship with the widowed Queen develops, so he discovers, to his cost, that being closely involved with someone so near to the English throne brings its own heightened level of danger and conspiracy.

With impeccable research, the author brings the early part of the fifteenth century alive in a very believable and authenic way. The multi-layered conspiracies of Plantagenet rule under the protectorate of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, paints a rich and intense picture of a troubled time, alive with intrigue and filled with a level of danger that we would have difficulty living through today. And yet, there is a wonderful strength of character to Owen Tudor that I felt such a rapport with him, and by the end of the novel, in 1460, I wished that life had, perhaps, been a little kinder to him.

OWEN is a very good account of the origins of the Tudor dynasty and the author has done justice to Owen Tudor, bringing his story and his contribution to history alive in a significant and fascinating way.

**During the Blog Tour there is a give away of an eBook & Signed Paperback of each book!**

Please enter via the Gleam Link here 

This giveaway is organised by the Blog Tour operator and Jaffareadstoo is not responsible for its organisation or of the distribution of prizes.

Historical Fiction Virtual Tours

Tony Riches is a full-time writer and lives with his wife in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. After several successful non-fiction books, Tony turned to novel writing and wrote ‘Queen Sacrifice’, set in 10th century Wales, followed by ‘The Shell’, a thriller set in present day Kenya. A specialist in the history of the early Tudors, he is best known for his Tudor Trilogy. Tony’s other international best sellers include ‘Warwick ~ The Man Behind the Wars of the Roses’ and ‘The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham’.

Twitter @tonyriches #TudorTrilogyBlogTour


Tuesday 29 May 2018

Blog Tour ~ Should You Ask Me by Marianne Kavanagh

31 May 2018

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

What's it all about...

I've come about the bodies. I know who they are.'

Just before D-Day in 1944, on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, an elderly woman walks into a police station. She has information, she says, about human remains recently discovered nearby.

The bodies could have stayed buried for ever - like the pain and passion that put them there. But Mary Holmes is finally ready to tell the truth.

The young constable sent to take her statement is still suffering from the injuries that ended his army career. As he tries to make sense of her tale, William finds himself increasingly distracted. Mary's confession forces his own violent memories to the surface - betrayals and regrets as badly healed as his war wounds.

Over six days, as pressure builds for the final push in Europe, two lives reveal their secrets. Should You Ask Me is a captivating story about people at their worst and best: raw, rich, and utterly compelling.

My thoughts about it..

Mary Holmes has carried a deadly secret for the last sixty-two years and now, in 1944, with the country on the cusp of great change, she is ready to tell her story. In the local police station, William, is the young constable who is charged with listening to Mary's story, to discover, by Mary's own admission, what she knows about the discovery of human remains which have been found near to a local quarry. Over the course of the next six days, Mary tells her story, whilst at the same time allowing William, a deeply troubled young man, to reveal his own, deeply personal secrets.

Should You Ask Me is an absolute master class in story-telling, and whilst it is really two stories in one, both are beautifully reminiscent of the time in which they are set. Mary's life certainly hasn't been easy but she has emerged, in her eighty-sixth year, as a lively and determined woman, filled with the common sense that comes with great age, and with a unique ability to tell a good story, whilst at the same allowing the listener the luxury of their own emotional response. William’s personal problems are palpable, and as the sad fragments of his life are gradually revealed, so his sad story of loss, heartbreak and overwhelming guilt starts to emerge.

I read Should You Ask Me in one sitting as it’s one of those novels which, once started, is difficult to put down, and that’s not because it’s an action packed adventure, but because it’s a beautifully written story about two characters who each have a challenging and worthwhile story to tell.

Marianne Kavanagh has worked for Woman, the Tatler, the Sunday Telegraph magazine and British Marie Claire, and has contributed features to a wide variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, including the Telegraph, the Guardian, the Daily Mail, Woman & Home, Good Housekeeping, Easy Living, Red and My Daily. She lives in London.

Twitter @MarianneKav #ShouldYouAskMe

@HodderBooks @HodderPublicity

Monday 28 May 2018

Review ~ False Rumours by Danae Penn

Nichol Press
A Belina Lansac Murder Mystery #1
My thanks to the author for my copy of this book

There's something endlessly fascinating about the disappearance of the two young Plantagenet princes in the tower and there continues to be much speculation surrounding this mystery. The question of just who was responsible has been the subject of rumour, gossip and innuendo for the last 500 years.

False Rumours gives us a refreshingly different look at the mystery and offers a credible explanation for the disappearance of the two young boys. 

In the summer of 1483, twenty-two year old Belina Lansac is living in the small French town of Condom, selling medallions and statues in the Cathedral shop to the pilgrims who stop there en route to the shrine of St. James the Apostle at Santiago de Compostela. When Belina’s detective husband is called away on a secret mission, Belina gets involved in a mystery surrounding the death of an unusual pilgrim. Using considerable skill as an investigator, Belina tries to piece together the clues, all of which seems further complicated by the arrival of Phillipe Barvaux, an ambitious and unscrupulous lawyer, who has his own furtive reasons for being in Condom. 

Belina is a feisty and determined heroine, filled with a great sense of purpose, and as she gets pulled further and further into the mystery surrounding the death of the pilgrim, so a story starts to emerge which will have far reaching repercussions. The complexity of the investigation is a real challenge for Belina, however, she is more than a match for those unscrupulous individuals who try to thwart her at every opportunity and as she starts to uncover the many layers of the case, so the medieval world of Condom starts to come alive. Every part of story feels wonderfully authentic, from the pilgrims who arrive footsore and weary, to the townsfolk who go about their lives in the shadow of the great Cathedral. 

The author writes with skilful observation, bringing all the vibrant atmosphere of the medieval world to glorious life, whilst at the same time keeping the complexities of the mystery right at the heart of the story. I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Belina Lansac in the lovely old town of Condom and hope to meet up with her again soon in further murder mystery investigations.

More about the Author and Belina Lansac can be found by clicking here 

Sunday 27 May 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered..

The Centenary of The Battle of Cantigny, May 28th 1918 

This was the first major American offensive of the American Expeditionary Force during WW1 when over 4000 American troops liberated the small town of of Cantigny, near the Somme river in Northern France. Situated on high ground, the town was surrounded by woods, making it an ideal observation post for German artillery. With French artillery help, the Americans advanced, and in just 30 minutes, the town, although destroyed, was liberated.

The successful result boosted morale and demonstrated the ability of the American troops in further deployments.

In 1923, the Americans erected a monument in the village:

Erected by The United States of America To Commemorate the first attack by an American Division in the World War. On the side of the memorial appears the inscription: The First Division United States Army  operating under the X French Corps captured the town Cantigny on May 28 1918 and held it against numerous counterattacks.

Over this weekend there are centenary commemorations taking place in the area round Cantigny.

More information can be found here


Saturday 26 May 2018

Hist Fic Saturday ~ Anne O'Brien

On Hist Fic Saturday I am excited to welcome back to the blog 

best-selling historical fiction writer

Anne O'Brien

Anne's latest book Queen of the North is due to be published on the 31st of May by HQ and I am thrilled that she has taken the time out of her busy pre-publication schedule to talk to me about why she writes historical fiction.

Why I write historical novels by Anne O'Brien

My most vivid  memories of childhood are those when I visited historical monuments.  My father was a keen historian so holidays were spent in ruined abbeys and castles, iron age hill forts, roman villas and stately homes.  His enthusiasm was contagious.  I loved the atmosphere, the sense of stepping back into the past.  Sometimes the vibes were so strong that they remain with me to this day.  The floodlit plainsong shivering through the ruins of Fountains Abbey.  A cold wind-swept day on Hadrian's Wall, the rain beating down.  The winding staircases in Caernarvon Castle, leading up to dramatic views. 

But what about the people who lived there?

I am now privileged to write about the lives of these people from the past, to recreate as far as it is possible their lifestyle, their relationships and the influences that made them into dynamic characters.  I have chosen to write about medieval women, because it seemed to me that they were given so little time and space in most history books.  Mostly they are a brief paragraph, or sometimes simply a footnote.  It pleases me to bring them from the shadows into the spotlight, to clothe their skeletons and make them rounded individuals with emotions and opinions.  History does not often open this door for us.  It is my pleasure to do so.

Even more enjoyable is to put them into  their place in history.  What is happening in the world around these women of the medieval court, and how does it affect the lives they lead?   While their menfolk are negotiating, fighting, killing and being killed, manipulating for political gain, what are the women doing?  These were intelligent women, often well educated, from powerful families   History might not give us their thoughts and words, except for the few women who were writing, but I am certain that they had them, as I am certain that they were not silent when their families were torn apart by uprising and treachery.  We should be able to enjoy these women in all their complexity.  That is why I write historical novels.

So why did I choose to write about Elizabeth Mortimer?  Her husband played a far more important role than she did.  Here's the reason why she has joined the panoply of my historical heroines.
Some of my favourite scenes in Shakespeare are those in Henry IV Part One between the magnificent Hotspur and Lady Kate (Elizabeth).  It is a relationship full of politics and power, one of conflict of personality and also of flirtation, of love and affection.  As a couple they are very appealing and dominate the scenes in which they appear.

Hotspur, Sir Henry Percy and heir to the Earl of Northumberland, was such a vivid, mercurial, glamorous figure in our history.  The perfect hero.  Brave and courageous, winning glory on the battlefield, he was also flawed, bringing his own downfall.  He was more than tempting to write about.  But what about Lady Kate?  If I continued to follow my passion to write about medieval women, looking at history from a woman's viewpoint, who was she?  Had she anything of importance to add to the medieval scene?  Would she be a suitable heroine to give depth to a novel?

Historically Lady Kate was not Kate at all, but was Elizabeth Mortimer, one of the powerful Mortimer family that ruled over the Welsh Marches where I now live.  I am surrounded by Mortimer castles, so immediately Elizabeth was of interest to me.  Great-grand-daughter of King Edward III, Elizabeth inherited royal Plantagenet blood through her mother Philippa, daughter of Lionel Duke of Clarence, King Edward III's second surviving son.  This placed Elizabeth in the very centre of the struggle for power from the Mortimer claimants to the English throne, after the death of Richard II and the usurpation by King Henry IV.  All royal cousins, this would be another compelling family saga of power and treason, of betrayal and death.  The Mortimer Earls of March had a strong claim to the throne even if it was through the female line.

Even better, Elizabeth's story would also draw in a whole spectrum of exciting characters.  Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, cunning and ambitious, determined to keep Percy hands on the reins of power in the north of England.  Owain Glyn Dwr, the great Welsh Prince, driven to take up arms in his struggle for Welsh hegemony.  King Henry IV, the Lancaster king, fighting hard to stabilize a dangerously uneasy country after the death of Richard II.  And then Thomas de Camoys, a most sympathetic character who played a large part in The Queens Choice.  What a marvellous set of characters to engage with, not to mention Hotspur himself.

So why was I compelled to write about Elizabeth?  Because of her Mortimer blood, she was a woman who deliberately took on the role of traitor in support of her nephew Edmund, Earl of March.  She would know at first hand the resulting struggle between family loyalty and a desire to pursue what she saw as the rightful claim to the crown of England, despite all the pain it would bring her.  She would also learn the constraints on her freedom,  common to all medieval women.  It is a story of loss and acceptance, of love and tragedy.  How could I resist such a marvellous tale?

Such is history, and why I write it.  The stories are better than any I could make up, not least the one that is unfolded in Queen of the North.

31 May 2018

A year of great upheaval in England.

England’s crown is under threat.

King Richard II's hold on power is undermined when exiled Henry, Duke of Lancaster, returns to reclaim his inheritance and ultimately the throne.

For Elizabeth Mortimer the succession is clouded with doubt.  With King Richard dead in Pontefract Castle, there is only one rightful King by the law of inheritance – her eight-year-old nephew Edmund, Earl of March.

But many, including Elizabeth’s husband, the mercurial Sir Henry Percy known as Hotspur, heir to the Earl of Northumberland, do not want another child-King.

Questioning her loyalty to the new King Henry, Elizabeth places herself in conflict with Hotspur and the powerful Percy family, but to concede to Henry's claim challenges all her Mortimer principles.

This is one woman’s quest to turn history on its head.

A tale of love and loyalty, of tragedy and betrayal.

Will Elizabeth be prepared to pay the cost of personal and family ambition?

Huge thanks to Anne for being such a lovely guest and for sharing her love of historical fiction with us.

Queen of the North will be available to buy from all good book stores on the 31st May 2018

You can read my book review here

Find out more about Anne on her website and Facebook

Follow on Twitter @anne_obrien #QueenoftheNorth

Friday 25 May 2018

Review ~ Beyond the Arch by David Evered

Troubadour Publishing
January 2018

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book
When we first encounter, Peter Bowman he seems to have a well ordered, middle class life in London. He has a comfortable marriage to his wife, Ann, and an uneventful career as a solicitor. However, when Ann is unexpectedly called back to the North East to be with her father, who is very ill, Peter spends time, away from Ann, exploring the North East on his own. He meets, Sally, an attractive young woman with whom he feels an instant connection, and it is this attraction, along with a personal tragedy, which acts as the much needed catalyst for Peter to take charge of his life.

The story is set in the late 1960s, the age of permissiveness and liberalism, and yet this freedom of thought and action seems to have bypassed Peter who is approaching middle-age with something of a heavy heart. He feels unsatisfied, and in order to discover what he wants from his life, he needs to makes some drastic changes.

The author writes well, with an understanding of time and place, and both the writing and the dialogue, compliment this period in history. However, it took me a little time to feel an affinity with the characters, I wasn't even sure I liked Peter very much at first, but as the story progresses, especially when the action moves to France, I felt like I understood him a little more, and became interested in just how Peter and Sally's story would eventually play out.

In Beyond the Arch there are some interesting, and astute, observations about the vagaries of life, the perils of relationships, and of how fate can, so often, take our lives in an entirely unexpected direction.

David Evered’s professional career was in academic medicine and research. He has been a consultant physician in Newcastle Upon Tyne, the Deputy Head of the UK Medical Research Council, a Special Adviser to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (WHO – Lyon) and a Trustee of Macmillan Cancer Support. He has lived in Newcastle, London and France and is now retired. He and his wife live in rural West Berkshire. This is his first work of fiction.

Twitter @david_evered

Thursday 24 May 2018

Review ~ The Feather Thief by Kirk W Johnson

26 April 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

This book really took me by surprise as I had no idea that bird feathers were such a valuable commodity, and, as such, are open to thievery on really a grand scale. That's just what happened in the summer of 2009 when twenty year old musician, Edward Rist broke into the Natural History Museum at Tring in Hertfordshire and stole a huge assortment of wild bird specimens which had been collected centuries before by some of the very first naturalists.

I expected the book to mainly concentrate on this audacious theft, which of course it does in some detail, however, the early part of the book concentrates on the obsession with collecting natural specimens, initially for curiosity and then for scientific research purposes, but also in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for use by the fashion industry. I was shocked to learn that by 1900 some two hundred million North American birds were killed every year in order to satisfy the need for bird feathers for use in the millinery trade, and, as bird numbers depleted so the net worth of their precious feathers increased.

By the time Edward Rist had his fascination for bird feathers, their usage had become consistent with  the world of salmon fishing, where intricate flies, made from original and highly prized rare bird feathers, exchanged hands for large sums of money. The chapters which detail the Tring Heist are absolutely fascinating, and as the reasons for Rist's theft becomes apparent, so the strange and very secret subculture that exists around fly fishing comes vividly to life. I was astonished to learn of the lengths that some people are prepared to go in order to obtain the feathers they crave, and I was equally disturbed to find out that large sums are paid for extremely rare bird feathers. 

The book is an absolute page turner, beautifully written by a man who was determined to see this story told, and he does so with real flair, and fine attention to detail, so that even if you know absolutely nothing about birds, like me, or indeed fly fishing, like me, you can't help but be drawn into this fascinating true crime story. There are also a number of very interesting photographs and illustrations which help to put the subject into context.

I read The Feather Thief constantly surprised, and more than a little upset at the thought that so many billions of beautiful birds have died to satisfy our whims and fancies. I will never look at displays of bird feathers in quite the same way ever again.

Kirk W. Johnson

Kirk Wallace Johnson is the author of To Be a Friend is Fatal and the founder of the List Project. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, among other publications. He is the recipient of fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the American Academy in Berlin, and the USC Annenberg Center. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, son, and daughter.

Twitter @KirkWJohnson #TheFeatherThief

Wednesday 23 May 2018

Review ~ Not Without Risk by Pete Trewin

Not Without Risk
AIA Publishing

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book

Martin Bennett works behind the scenes for a regeneration company which is working on new ideas to bring prosperity back to Merseyside. Liverpool seems to be a place which is crying out for redevelopment, but, as Martin discovers, to his cost, that not everyone is of the same opinion.

Not Without Risk is a complex thriller which takes us on a lively journey through the sinister underworld of the city of Liverpool. It’s a place where all manner of shady individuals ply their trade, and thanks to a few bent coppers who turn a blind eye, they always seem to succeed in keeping one step ahead of the law. When Martin witnesses the suspicious death of an old adversary, he inadvertently gets drawn into this criminal netherworld, a world which is inhabited by unethical lawyers and equally corrupt politicians.

Trying to put together all of the pieces of this complicated jigsaw puzzle is what makes Not Without Risk such an entertaining read. I enjoyed getting to know Martin, he’s a likeable chap, and even though when we first meet him he’s slightly down on his luck, he rises to the challenges that the story throws at him with great aplomb. His lively banter with his colleague, Lester, and their thwarted efforts at getting fit made me laugh out loud, especially at the descriptions of Lester’s somewhat dubious sport attire. 

I found much to enjoy in Not Without Risk, not just because I’m a northerner and could appreciate the dry wit and ready repartee which is so reminiscent of this part of the country, but also from the way the author really brings Merseyside, and in particular, Liverpool, to life in such a convincing and entertaining way. 

Pete Trewin is the author of three crime mystery novels – with a touch of noir – set in Merseyside and the north of England.

Pete Trewin

Twitter @PeterTrewin

21920582 24626718

Tuesday 22 May 2018

Spotlight on Miss Moonshine's Emporium of Happy Endings by Authors on the Edge..

Nine romantic novelists from Yorkshire and Lancashire, including best-selling and award-winning authors, have joined together to create this collection of uplifting stories guaranteed to warm your heart. This intriguing mix of historical and contemporary romances will make you laugh, cry, and believe in the happy-ever-after.

Authors on the Edge
18 May 2018

My thanks to the authors for my copy of this book

Miss Moonshine’s Emporium of Happy Endings

Sometimes what you need is right there waiting for you...

Miss Moonshine’s Wonderful Emporium has stood in the pretty Yorkshire town of Haven Bridge for as long as anyone can remember. With her ever-changing stock, Miss Moonshine has a rare gift for providing exactly what her customers need: a fire opal necklace that provides a glimpse of a different life; a novel whose phantom doodler casts a spell over the reader; a music box whose song links love affairs across the generations. One thing is for certain: after visiting Miss Moonshine’s quirky shop, life is never the same again...

I'm delighted to welcome back to Jaffareadstoo, Helena Fairfax to tell me all about 

Miss Moonshine’s Emporium of Happy Endings

How a Beautiful Building in Hebden Bridge Inspired 9 Northern Romance Authors

A few years ago a group of northern romance writers began to meet up regularly in Hebden Bridge for lunch and a chat. This old mill town is the perfect place for us to meet, as it lies on the border between Yorkshire and Lancashire - and we now call ourselves Authors on the Edge!

Hebden Bridge is also a lovely place for a day out, with little streets full of interesting shops, a canal towpath to wander down, lined with narrowboats, and stunning views of the hills and the moors all around. An article once called Hebden Bridge ‘a little rain-soakedparadise’, and even when it’s raining here (which it does a lot) there are lots of cafรฉs to keep dry in – which all happen to serve delicious varieties of home-made cake!

The nine of us romance authors – that is, Mary Jayne Baker, Sophie Claire, Jacqui Cooper, Helena Fairfax (me), Kate Field, Melinda Hammond, Marie Laval, Helen Pollard, and Angela Wren - have just released an anthology of stories, which are all linked together. When it came to the setting for our collection, the ‘rain-soaked paradise’ of Hebden Bridge was obviously the perfect place! Our central character, who appears in every story, is called Miss Moonshine, and she’s the eccentric owner of a quirky shop on Market Street. We based Miss Moonshine’s shop on a real building in the town. There are lots of lovely old buildings in Hebden Bridge, but the Heart Gallery in particular seemed absolutely just right. 

Heart Gallery
Hebden Bridge

If you look at the photos, you’ll see the windows of the gallery building are quite high off the ground. This is because it was originally built for use as a Baptist Chapel. The lintel over the doorway shows the year 1777. There is a beautiful rowan tree outside the door, and an arch of roses at the entrance. There is so much about the outside of the building that makes you want to step inside. It was perfect for our stories.

Heart GalleryHebden Bridge

Melinda Hammond (who writes for Mill and Boon as Sarah Mallory) starts the anthology off with her Regency romance, and she reveals what Miss Moonshine’s shop was like two hundred years ago:
‘…a strange sort of shop, for the windows, though large, began at least four feet from the ground. A lamp burned in one of the windows, its golden light glinting on the objects displayed. A Malacca cane with a chased silver top was propped against the glass in one corner. In front of it was a metal birdcage and a bronze desk-set that appeared to be missing one of its inkwells. In the centre of the window was a small shepherdess figurine that could be French. 

Then comes my own story, set in 1908, when the heroine is amazed to see a gleaming motor car parked outside Miss Moonshine’s. The car belongs to the hero, and…well, I don’t want to give too much away! The stories go on to show Miss Moonshine’s Emporium as it is today –and it lives up to its name as a Wonderful Emporium! Miss Moonshine is the same mysterious, quirky and marvellous character throughout.

Working on this anthology, with this brilliant group of northern authors, has been really good fun from start to finish. We’ve even started to believe that Miss Moonshine is a real character, and that’s she’s worked her magic on all of us.

Available from Amazon in print and as an ebook. 

Follow on Twitter #authorsontheedge

Find out more about the Heart Gallery  in  Hebden Bridge

My thoughts about Miss Moonshine's Emporium of Happy Endings ..

This collection of nine romantic short stories, each with a theme in common, really lightened my heart and, as each story ended, I was left with a rosy, warm glow, and an eager anticipation of what was to come in the next magical story.

Each of the stories are a perfect length to be read over a cup of tea and a Jaffa Cake, and even though the stories differ in content and even in timescale, the fine attention to detail and the love of writing comes across with each author's delicate contribution.

The appeal of good short stories is that they showcase just what the author is capable of, and it gives the reader a chance to sample the author’s individual writing style. And even though in Miss Moonshine's Emporium of Happy Endings the nine authors have very different writing styles, the generosity they have to each other in their collaboration works really well, with none of them wanting to outshine the others, and all of them making a generous contribution to the anthology as a whole.

It would be unfair of me to choose a favourite amongst the nine as I found something equally enjoyable in all of them, so I won’t single any out, but what I will say, is that this team of best-selling northern writers have a real hit on their hands with Miss Moonshine and her Emporium, and I really hope that they go on to work in partnership again in future anthologies.

Monday 21 May 2018

Review ~ Queen of the North by Anne O'Brien

31 May 2018

My thanks to the author for sharing her book with me 

What's it all about ..

1399: England’s crown is under threat. King Richard II holds onto his power by an ever-weakening thread, with exiled Henry of Lancaster back to reclaim his place on the throne.

For Elizabeth Mortimer, there is only one rightful King – her eight-year-old nephew, Edmund. Only he can guarantee her fortunes, and protect her family’s rule over the precious Northern lands bordering Scotland.

But many, including Elizabeth’s husband, do not want another child-King. Elizabeth must hide her true ambitions in Court, and go against her husband’s wishes to help build a rebel army.

To question her loyalty to the King places Elizabeth in the shadow of the axe.

To concede would curdle her Plantagenet blood.

My thoughts about it..

When Henry of Lancaster usurped the throne from Richard II in 1399, it was a far from amicable take-over of power, as it opened the country to the possibility of counter claims to the English crown. Elizabeth Mortimer is married to Henry Percy, the heir to the earldom of Northumberland, better known in history as the volatile and impetuous 'Hotspur', and even though Percy's involvement in English politics results in danger and uncertainty, it is through Elizabeth’s Mortimer connection to royalty where the real challenge comes, as Elizabeth is determined to see that her young nephew, Edmund Mortimer, pursues his legitimate claim to the English throne.

What then follows is a gripping story of politics, ambition and thwarted power which has its foothold firmly established in the unsettled atmosphere of a country which has been divided, not just by the political ambitions of people who merely wanted power for the sake of power, but also from those game players who truly believed that right was on their side.

Into this incredibly masculine world of control and authority, Elizabeth tries to make her voice heard and it is thanks to the skill of this talented writer that she comes to life in such a realistic and positive way. All too often the important women of history are side-lined by their sexier and more powerful male counterparts, and yet, as is so often the case, the women who endured and who worked surreptitiously in the background often had huge influence on the way that events eventually played out.

The author writes with passion and authority deftly bringing medieval England alive in all of its convoluted glory. There are plots and counter plots, meetings with the Welsh Prince, Owain Glyn Dwr, and time spent at the spectacular Northumberland castles of Alnwick and Warkworth and through all of the political maneuverings, Elizabeth Mortimer comes across a determined and hugely intelligent woman who felt that she and her family had grievances aplenty against a king who was, quite simply, not listening. That it doesn't bode well for Henry Percy is enshrined in history but what Queen of the North gives us so vividly is Elizabeth's interpretation of events as they unfolded during the momentous years between 1399 and 1408.

Mixing historical fact with fiction is a difficult challenge especially as so little is documented historically about Elizabeth Mortimer and yet, the author has succeeded really well in bringing her entirely to life, and gives Elizabeth a clear voice which is as bright and distinctive as the woman herself.

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 where she taught history.

Leaving teaching-but not her love of history-Anne turned to writing and her passion for giving voice to the oft forgotten women of the medieval era was born. Today Anne lives in an eighteenth century cottage in Herefordshore, an area steeped in history and full of inspiration for her work.

Twitter @anne_obrien #QueenoftheNorth

Queen of the North will be published on the 31st May 2018 by HQ

Sunday 20 May 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered..

Morale Boosting Songs of WW1

Florrie Forde

Florrie Forde was a popular music hall entertainer who came to England, aged 21, from Australia. She made her first appearance on the London stage in 1897 and her powerful performances and charismatic stage presence meant that she was soon in demand. Her popularity, as a vaudeville act, made her one of the most sought after entertainers of the early twentieth century,

Her morale boosting songs during World War One were some of the most popular songs of the time.

These included songs which are still remembered today.

Down at the Old Bull and Bush
Pack Up Your Troubles in your old kit bag
It's a long way to Tipperary
Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty

Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty

Jack Dunn, son of a gun, somewhere in France today
Keeps fit doing his bit, up to his eyes in clay
Each night after a fight to pass the time along
He's got a little gramophone that plays this song

Take me back to dear old Blighty!
Put me on the train for London town
Take me over there
Drop me anywhere
Birmingham, Leeds, or Manchester, well, I don't care!
I should love to see my best girl
Cuddling up again we soon should be
Hurry me back to Blighty
Blighty is the place for me!

One day, Mickey O'Shea, out in a trench somewhere
So brave, having a shave, trying to part his hair
Mick yells, dodging the shells and lumps of dynamite:
"Talk of the Crystal Palace on a firework night!"

Take me back to dear old Blighty!
Put me on the train for London town
Take me over there
Drop me anywhere
Birmingham, Leeds, or Manchester, well, I don't care!
I should love to see my best girl
Cuddling up again we soon should be
Hurry me back to Blighty

Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty was written by Arthur J. Mills, Fred Godfrey and Bennett Scott in 1916. It was popular during the First World War and tells a story of fictional soldiers on the Western Front suffering from homesickness and their longing to return to "Blighty"..

During a recent visit to the IWM (North) I bought a set of WW1 memorabilia which contained a few replica WW1 morale boosting postcards and came across this image of a soldier in the trenches listening to this song and imagining himself back home with his folks and his sweetheart.

You can listen to Florrie Forde sing Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty 
by clicking on the You Tube link below.

Saturday 19 May 2018

Hist Fic Saturday ~ The Pharmacist's Wife by Vanessa Tait

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to ...Edinburgh,1869

12 April 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

The Pharmacist's Wife takes us back in time to the mean and moody streets of Victorian Edinburgh, back to a time when it was commonplace for women to be at the absolute mercy of the men who married them.

When Rebecca Palmer marries Edinburgh pharmacist,Alexander Palmer, she imagines that her life will be comfortable and even though the marriage is largely passionless, she doesn't question her husband's ability to know what's best for her. However, the controlling nature of her husband, and his experimental foray into the dark world of drug and drug addiction, leads Rebecca into some very dark places, especially when Alexander's experimentation of these new drugs threatens Rebecca's very sanity.

Whilst this is a dark and disturbing visit to Edinburgh, with all its shadowy and shady places, there is no doubt that everything comes alive beautifully, and so atmospheric is the narrative that you really feel as if you are living life alongside Rebecca, and watching in horror as her husband's controlling grip pulls ever tighter.

The author writes of Rebecca's struggle and manipulation so cleverly that the horror of what's unfolding makes you reel in disbelief and yet, it is Rebecca's strength of character and her determination to pull herself out of the darkness which gives the story its absolute strength.

The Pharmacist's Wife is a beautifully written Victorian melodrama which brings mid-nineteenth century, Edinburgh to life in all its dreadful detail and the story vividly highlights the plight of so many Victorian women who were never allowed to have their own voice.

Vanessa Tait grew up in Gloucestershire. She went to the University of Manchester and completed a Master's degree in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths College. The Pharmacist's Wife is her second novel.

Twitter @vanessa_tait