Thursday 30 April 2020

Publication Day Review ~ The Secrets of Ironbridge by Mollie Walton

 ๐ŸŒ ๐ŸŒ  Happy Publication Day ๐ŸŒ ๐ŸŒ  

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30 April 2020

My thanks to the publishers for my ecopy of this novel

1850s Shropshire.

Returning to her mother's birthplace at the age of eighteen, Beatrice Ashford encounters a complex family she barely knows. Her great-grandmother Queenie adores her, but the privileged social position of Beatrice's family as masters of the local brickworks begins to make her uncomfortable.

And then she meets Owen Malone: handsome, different, refreshing - and from a class beneath her own. They fall for each other fast, but an old family feud and growing industrial unrest threatens to drive them apart.

Can they overcome their different backgrounds? And can Beatrice make amends for her family's past?

What did I think about it..

Beatrice Ashford returns to the small town of Ironbridge in Shropshire which is her mother's birthplace. Meeting her grandmother Queenie for the first time, Beatrice is initially impressed with her grandmother's ability to control the family's industrial empire. However, Beatrice is more idealistic than any of her family and her discomfort at the way the family run the local brick works means that there is soon an air of unease between them. Beatrice's growing friendship with local lad, Owen Malone, only highlights the social divide.

The Secrets of Ironbridge continues the story of this industrial area in Ironbridge which we were first introduced to in The Daughters of Ironbridge. I enjoyed meeting up with the characters, who are now several years older and with rather more worries than before, especially Queenie, the stoic matriarch of the King family who is deeply troubled by a secret from her past. Beatrice is a lovely addition to the story, she is a delightful character, who you warm to from the very start. I have enjoyed watching her character progress from a rather unsure young girl, into a determined young woman.

Beautifully written as ever, the author does a great job of bringing the industrial age to life and  the town of Ironbridge is just as much a character in the novel as any of the people. The dreadful working conditions of those who toiled in the brick making industry is brought to life in vivid detail and I learned much about the process of making bricks, and the horrible deprivation of those who earned such low wages for such back breaking work.

The Secrets of Ironbridge is the second book in this series and I hope that we will see more of Ironbridge, and the King family, in future historical sagas.

About the Author

Mollie Walton

Mollie Walton has always been fascinated by history and on a trip to Shropshire, while gazing down from the iron bridge, found the inspiration for what has become her Ironbridge series of historical sagas.

Twitter @rebeccamascull #TheSecretsofIronbridge


Sunday 26 April 2020

Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Maggie Craig

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

I'd delighted to welcome writer, Maggie Craig

☼ Good Morning, Maggie. Happy Sunday !

What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch?

Since this is a special occasion, I’m bringing a special brunch dish, eggs royale. Poached eggs on toast overlaid with strips of smoked salmon, topped with hollandaise sauce and a sprinkling of paprika. Food of the gods!

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

Strong English Breakfast tea please, Twining’s 1706 blend.

Which of your literary heroes are joining us today?

I thought we might invite Lord Peter Wimsey. Perhaps Harriet (nรฉe Vane) would come along too. If I could have an author as well, it would be Daphne du Maurier.

What’s the title of the book nearest to you?

There are two of them: my own latest non-fiction, One Week in April: The Scottish Radical Rising of 1820 and A Scottish Nurse at Work by Henrietta Tayler. This is her memoir of nursing friend and foe alike across Europe throughout World War I as a Red Cross VAD. She went on to live a long and productive life as a researcher into and chronicler of Jacobite history, working with her beloved brother Alistair. 

What’s the oldest book on your book shelf?

I have quite a number of antiquarian books, some of my most precious possessions. I think the oldest is a bound volume of The Gentleman’s Magazine for 1746, published in January 1747. I also have a political pamphlet from 1746, printed by Mary Cooper at the Globe in Paternoster Row, London. Such a thrill to read words first penned so long ago. 

Which book do you really want to read but haven’t had time for …yet!

Don Quixote by Cervantes. 

Don Quixote: Penguin Classics by [Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra, John Rutherford]
Penguin Classics

Do you have a guilty reading pleasure, and if so will you tell us about it?

I never feel guilty about reading for pleasure! Now that I don’t have to get up to see anyone off to school or work, I do enjoy reading in bed in the morning before I get up.

If the house was on fire which book would you rescue?

That’s a really difficult one. Probably Henrietta Tayler’s memoir, as it’s now a rare book and doesn’t seem to have made it onto the Internet yet. 

Do you have a reading/writing playlist on Spotify, or a favourite CD to listen to when reading/writing? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you feel happy?

I have masses of CDs and I love accessing music on YouTube. If it’s been a difficult day, I chill out to James Taylor singing On the Roof.

Do you have a favourite place to settle down to read/write?

I like to read in bed or on my comfy couch in the living room, lifting my head now and then to look at the garden. I write in my dining room, so there’s a massive tidy-up required each year before Christmas dinner or when friends are visiting!

Give us four essential items that a writer absolutely needs?

Curiosity, empathy, imagination and something to write with, whether this be a state-of-the-art computer or pencil and paper.

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

My latest novel is Dance to the Storm, being the second instalment of the adventures of Miss Christian Rankeillor and Captain Robert Catto of the Edinburgh Town Guard. It’s currently available as an ebook and will shortly be available as an audiobook. The paperback has been delayed until after lockdown is lifted.

I’m working now on the third book in the series, Storm Tossed Moon. I’m trying to give Kirsty and Robert a HEA but they don’t make it easy for themselves.

Where can we follow you on social media?

Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Jules Hayes

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

I'd delighted to welcome writer,  Jules Hayes

☼Good Morning, Jules. Happy Sunday !

Hi Jo, thanks for inviting me to Sunday brunch. It’s lovely to be here. 

What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch? 

Bruschetta. I’m a big fan of tomatoes, olive oil, onion and garlic! But I don’t like the bread too crusty, I like it when the oil has made it a little soggy! And for brunch time, I’d wash it down with a pint glass of Fentimans dandelion and burdock.

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

Oh, what a choice! If I’m not working this Sunday, it’s definitely the Bucks Fizz, but obviously if a working Sunday (after brunch), then it’ll have to be a large pot of English breakfast, with full-fat milk and two sugars, please!

Which of your literary heroes are joining us today? 

DH Thomas of The White Hotel fame – a book that changed the way I looked at the world, and which gave me inspiration for a novel I wrote before The Walls We Build. 

Margaret Atwood, because her writing and books pull me in, always, from page one. Such a clever woman. Donna Tartt (another woman with a fabulous mind and so much knowledge.) The Goldfinch and The Secret History were so utterly brilliant. Kate Atkinson because she is such a wonderful storyteller and character sculptor. And John Irving because he is original, and within the darkness of his stories exists a great satirical humour.

What’s the title of the book nearest to you? 

Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks.


What’s the oldest book on your bookshelf? 

A signed copy of Federico Garcรญa Lorca’s Blood Wedding.

Which book do you really want to read but haven’t had time for…yet! 

Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread. I don’t know why I haven’t read it yet … Oh, also Edward St Aubyn’s Lost for Words, which I have heard from another writer/reader friend, is wonderful, and very funny. 

Do you have a guilty reading pleasure, and if so will you tell us about it?

Hello magazine! I don’t very often buy it, but devour this mag when I’m at the dentist or hairdresser!

If the house was on fire which book would you rescue? 

The Hobbit – the edition my favourite primary school teacher gave to me, years ago now, obviously! Also, a box-set of the Narnia series, which my mum and dad bought for me when I was about seven.

Do you have a reading/writing playlist on Spotify, or a favourite CD to listen to when reading/writing? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you feel happy? 

I don’t listen to music when I’m writing, but always put music on in the evening when I’m cooking dinner! These days, I ask my daughter to compile a playlist, so I can be introduced to new artists (and keep up a bit.) I’ve recently discovered Gomez, and love!

I’m addicted to the Buddha Bar series of CDs too. XIV is my favourite, off the top of my head. I love Queen and Freddie Mercury, and always have done. I dance as if no one is watching to most of their tracks, although These Are The Days Of My Life makes me sad, and is a track I listen too when I want to get in the mood when I’m writing a sad/tragic chapter. 

Do you have a favourite place to settle down to read/write? 

My study to write, always. Our front room is where I read. I try and keep the two places separate.

Give us four essential items that a writer absolutely needs? 

A room of one’s own! 

A laptop. 

Lots of bookshelves. 

A cleaner (I don’t have one. One day…) 

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

I’m near to completing another dual timeline historical, set in the Spanish Civil War, 1970s Spain, England, and scenes in Cuba. It’s a love story but a thriller too, I think. My novels are always difficult to place in one particular genre, which can be a problem *worried expression*

I did a lot of research for this novel, but I have a love for Spain and its recent history, and so it wasn’t a hardship!

I’ve also, tentatively, begun work on a speculative/thriller fiction novel, but it’s early days. I think this one is definitely inspired by Margaret Atwood’s work, and I do believe writing in this genre is helped immensely by experience in writing historical fiction – simply because both genres demand lateral thinking, forethought and the skill of weaving fact and fiction seamlessly.

Current Work ~ The Walls We Build

Jukebox Publishing
March 2020
Reverberating through three generations and nine decades, and set against the stunning backdrop of Chartwell, Winston Churchill's country home, comes a tragic story of misguided honour, thwarted love and redemption.

Growing up around Churchill’s estate, Frank, Florence and Hilda are inseparable, but as WW2 casts its menacing shadow their friendships become more complex and strained. Following Frank's death in 2002, Florence writes to his grandson, Richard, hinting at a dark past.

On investigation, disturbing secrets come to light that have not only haunted his grandfather’s life but will now impact on his too. When a pivotal encounter between Frank and Churchill is revealed and a mystery relative in a psychiatric hospital discovered, just how much more does Florence dare disclose, and is Richard ready to hear?

Where can we follow you on social media?  

Saturday 25 April 2020

Hist Fic Revisited ~ Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

On the last Saturday of the month I have decided to feature the historical fiction I have enjoyed over the last forty or so years. 

Starting with a classic from 1992.

Let's do a bit of time travelling..

New English Library

For Kivrin, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the fourteenth century and inventing an alibi for a woman traveling alone. For her instructors in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be received.

But a crisis strangely linking past and future strands Kivrin in a bygone age as her fellows try desperately to rescue her. In a time of superstition and fear, Kivrin -- barely of age herself -- finds she has become an unlikely angel of hope during one of history's darkest hours.

What did I think about it..

I have enjoyed some great historical fiction over the last forty or so years of my adult reading. I first came across Doomsday Book in 1992 and it has remained one of my favourite time travel stories.

During this difficult time in which we find ourselves in I thought that Doomsday Book would be a good place to start this series of Hist Fic Revisited. This time around I have listened to the Audible version expertly narrated by English actress, Jenny Sterlin. Listening to someone read the story has given everything a new dimension and brought the story to life in quite a different way. 

As I have mentioned, Doomsday Book is a very timely read as it uses as it's focus the effect of an epidemic caused by an unknown virus which hits the town of Oxford in 2054, a town which, despite being placed under strict quarantine, suffers catastrophic losses from this new and deadly virus which has no known vaccine. At the same time as the fight against the epidemic, there is also a race against time as an Oxford tutor strives to bring back his student who is lost in fourteenth century Oxford.

The medieval strand of the story looks at the journey made by Kivrin, a history student at Oxford University, who despite the misgivings of her tutor, Mr Dunworthy, travels back in time to Oxfordshire in 1320. There she hopes to undertake a study of ordinary medieval life before making the journey back to her own time. However, all does not bode well for Kivrin, as when she arrives in the past it's not quite what she imagined and her time there is fraught with danger, disease and despair. 

Is the story as good as I remember? 

There's a certain amount of repetition which I don't remember, particularly in 2054 Oxford which seems, as we are now nearer to 2054 than we were in 1992, more than a little dated.  And the story meanders rather more than I recall with most of the action happening during the last third of the novel but that part is just as tense as I remember, particularly for Kivrin. The medieval part of the story remains the stronger of the two strands and it is the part of the story which I find the most interesting.

It's a bit of a marmite book, love it or loathe it it remains one of my all time historical favourites ๐Ÿ˜Š

The audio narration has been available since 2008 and is quite an investment with a listening time over 26 hours, but it's been an enjoyable way to while away the hours of this lock down period.

Constance Elaine Trimmer Willis is an American science fiction writer. She is one of the most honored science fiction writers of the 1980s and 1990s.

Wednesday 22 April 2020

Book Review ~ The Wheelwright's Daughter by Eleanor Porter

Boldwood Books
21 April  2020

My thanks to the publishers for my ecopy of this book

Martha is a feisty and articulate young woman, the daughter of a wheelwright, living in a Herefordshire village in Elizabethan England. With no mother Martha's life is spent running her father's meagre household and helping out at the local school whilst longing to escape the confines and small-mindedness of a community driven by religious bigotry and poverty.

As she is able to read and is well-versed in herbal remedies she is suspected of being a witch. When a landslip occurs - opening up a huge chasm in the centre of the village - she is blamed for it and pursued remorselessly by the villagers.

But can her own wits and the love of local stable hand Jacob save her from a witch's persecution and death...

What did I think about it..

Martha Dynely is the eponymous Wheelwright's daughter living in a small Herefordshire village in the middle years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1. Martha is feisty and spiky, given to bouts of unpredictability, speaks her mind with a cutting edge and doesn't suffer fools, and because of this she is treated with suspicion, not just by the villagers, but also by the minister who suspects evil around every corner and finds more than enough devilment in Martha to cause him sleepless nights.

Martha's knowledge of herb lore and her ability to read and write sets her apart from the rest of the village and when some unusual things start to happen, the mistrust which has always festered under the surface threatens to destroy Martha. The characters who inhabit the village below Marcle Ridge have their own petty jealousies, their peevishness towards others, and an ingrained fear of authority casts a shadow which is difficult to expunge, and even their esteemed lord in his manor is not without his own dangerous secrets.

This fascinating story, written with an interesting turn of phrase, gives an authenticity to Martha's words and brings a sense of darkness to this shadowy corner of Elizabethan England. Brooding with an underlying menace and as with all stories which look at the persecution of women for witchcraft, The Wheelwright's Daughter gives us an imagined glimpse into our dark and dangerous past.

Eleanor Porter has lectured at Universities in England and Hong Kong and her poetry and short fiction has been published in magazines. The Wheelwright's Daughter, her historical fiction debut is set in Elizabethan England.

Twitter @elporterauthor #TheWheelwrightsDaughter


Tuesday 21 April 2020

Publication Day Review ~ The Book of Longing by Sue Monk Kidd

๐ŸŒ ๐ŸŒ  Happy Publication Day ๐ŸŒ ๐ŸŒ 

Tinder Press
21 April 2020

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

In her mesmerizing new novel, Sue Monk Kidd brings her acclaimed narrative gifts to imagine the story of a young woman called Ana.

Ana is a rebellious young woman, a gifted writer with a curious, brilliant mind, who writes secret narratives about the neglected and silenced women around her. Raised in a wealthy family in Galilee, she is sheltered from the brutality of Rome's occupation of Israel. Ana is expected to marry an elderly widower to further her father's ambitions, a prospect that horrifies her. A chance encounter with the eighteen-year-old Jesus changes everything: his ideas and his passion are intoxicating.

Taking Ana on a journey she could never have imagined, The Book of Longings is a glorious evocation of a time and a place where astounding events unfolded, and of one woman's fate when she fights to make her voice heard.

What did I think about it..

When I discovered that one of my favourite author's had taken an altogether different turn in her latest novel, I must admit that I was filled with more than a little trepidation, whilst at the same time eagerly waiting until I could read the Book of Longings for myself.

Imaging the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth is never going to be easy, or without contention, influenced as we are by the bible stories we have come to accept as the definitive version, but who's to say that Jesus didn't meet a young woman and decide to make her his wife? Brought up in a wealthy family in Galilee, Ana, is a rather interesting young woman who refuses to conform to what society expects of her.  Whether this is how young noble Galilean women would have behaved is an interesting conundrum as Ana's feisty personality certainly makes for lively reading. Ana's arranged marriage to a much older man horrifies her but then an opportunistic meeting in the market place with a charismatic young man, called Jesus, steers Ana's life in a very different direction.

The logistics of living though a time of political upheaval is captured in stern detail which contrasts beautifully against the daily domesticity of life in Nazareth with Jesus and his family. And whilst the character of Jesus is fairly central, he is not the focus of this novel, this is, most definitely, Ana's story, her determined bravery, her undisputed strength of will are all so pivotal to the way in which her imagined role in the drama eventually unfolds.

I think what's so captivating about this story is the utter believability of it. The historical setting feels authentic to the point of making you feel feel like you are actually there alongside the characters as they go about their lives, feeling the heat, brushing away the dust, and experiencing the sheer unpredictability of living in a time, which we feel we know well, and yet, really, we know nothing at all of the intimacy of daily life in Nazareth in 17-27 AD.

Beautifully written historical fiction takes us into a past that we can only imagine in our dreams. The Book of Longings has an intimacy and a delicate strength which I found quite captivating.

The Book of Longings is published in hardback by Tinder Press on the 21 April 2020

Sue Monk Kidd’s first novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES, spent 2.5 years on the New York Times bestseller list, and has sold over 8 million copies worldwide. THE MERMAID CHAIR and THE INVENTION OF WINGS each went to No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and stayed on the list for many months. THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES was long-listed for the Orange Prize (now the Women’s Prize for Fiction), and was turned into an award-winning film. Sue is also the author of several acclaimed non-fiction books including the New York Times bestseller TRAVELLING WITH POMEGRANATES, co-written with her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor. Sue lives in North Carolina with her husband Sandy.

Twitter @suemonkkidd #TheBookofLongingg


Monday 20 April 2020

Blog Tour ~ The Perfect Couple by Jackie Kabler

Delighted to host today's stop on this blog tour

One More Chapter
17 April 2020

My thanks to the author, publisher and Rachel's random Resources for my ecopy of this book
and the invitation to be part of the blog tour

The perfect couple…or the perfect lie?

A year and a half ago, Gemma met the love of her life, Danny. Since then, their relationship has been like something out of a dream. But one Friday evening, Gemma returns home to find Danny is nowhere to be seen.

After two days with no word from her husband, Gemma turns to the police. She is horrified with what she discovers – a serial killer is on the loose in Bristol. When she sees the photos of the victims she is even more stunned…the victims all look just like Danny.

But, the detectives aren’t convinced by Gemma’s story. Why has no one apart from Gemma seen or heard from Danny in weeks? Why is there barely a trace of him in their flat? Is she telling them the truth, or are there more secrets and lies in this marriage than meets the eye.

What did I think about it..

Gemma and Danny seem to be the perfect couple, recently married and moved to a new area in Bristol everything should be working out well for them, that is until Gemma returns home from a journalistic assignment to find that Danny has disappeared. With no clues as to Danny's whereabouts Gemma has no choice but to report her husband as a missing person, and that's when the story takes off in a whole new direction.

I must admit that this story had me hooked from the beginning and there are so many twists and turns that it's been great fun trying to keep up with where the story is heading to next. There are some interesting characters, who whilst not always very likeable, certainly make their presence felt throughout the story. Gemma was a bit of an enigma to me and I enjoyed trying to get into her mindset which the author controlled cleverly so that you never really knew whether to believe her version of events. Part psychological thriller and part police procedural the strands of the story reveal not only the complicated story of Danny's mysterious disappearance but also the police find that a recent spate of violent murders in the city all bear a striking resemblance to Danny, which makes the investigation all the more fascinating.

The Perfect Couple is a cleverly plotted psychological thriller which has more than enough pacy action to keep you guessing from beginning to end.

Jackie Kabler is a television presenter, reporter and crime writer.

Twitter @jackiekabler

@HarperCollinsUk @OneMoreChapter

Sunday 19 April 2020

Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Kathryn Freeman

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

I'd delighted to welcome author,  Kathryn Freeman

☼Good Morning, Kathryn. Happy Sunday !

It’s lovely to be joining you for Sunday Brunch Jo (and Jaffa!) - thank you so much for the invitation. 

What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch?

My favourite food is fish and chips, but even I can see there are better options for a Sunday brunch. How about I bring a black pudding, in the hope you’ll have the bacon, eggs, sausages and beans ๐Ÿ˜Š

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

My staple drink while writing is a cup of tea, but as this is a special occasion, bring on the Bucks Fizz please (and easy on the orange juice).

Which of your literary heroes are joining us today?

If we’re talking writers, I’d love to bring Nora Roberts and Jilly Cooper, authors I’ve been reading for decades. But please can I be greedy and bring Jules Wake and Sue Moorcroft, too? Not only do I love their writing, they are both heroes because of the help, support and encouragement they give other writers (incuding me!). If we’re talking book heroes, I’ve got Ross Poldark on speed dial (in my fictional world).

What’s the title of the book nearest to you?

Oh dear, now you’re going to catch me out, because on the shelf behind me are my paperbacks…! When I’m in a writing slump, they help remind me I can do this. The nearest book to me aside from those are the ones on my kindle. I’m currently reading If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane. Just started it, but I enjoyed Don’t You Forget About Me so I have high hopes 

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Harper Collins

What’s the oldest book on your book shelf?

That would probably be Bentley’s Textbook of Pharmaceutics, which I bought second hand for my pharmacy degree…okay, it’s also old because the degree was a loooooong time ago! I’ve never referred to it since (because it also qualifies for most boring book on my shelf), but somehow can’t part with it.

Which book do you really want to read but haven’t had time for …yet!

Before I go to bed, I always read because helps turn my brain off. That’s what I love romantic fiction for – it’s easy to get lost in this fabulous other world, yet at the same time it’s also relaxing and uplifting. I have Jenson Button’s autobiography sitting waiting for me to read, but that needs a bit more focus - a holiday, or a day when I can just devote myself to reading. I haven’t had that chance, yet.

Do you have a guilty reading pleasure, and if so will you tell us about it?

I absolutely adored the Christina Lauren Beautiful series – and the follow on Wicked series. It’s only guilty in the sense they’re a bit raunchy, but boy are they addictive; beautifully written, funny, yet with plenty of tugs on the heartstrings.

If the house was on fire which book would you rescue?

I have to confess I would grab a handful of my own, just because I’m so proud to have finally got my name on the front. So many years went by when I didn’t think it would ever happen.

Do you have a reading/writing playlist on Spotify, or a favourite CD to listen to when reading/writing? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you feel happy?

I like to write in silence – no music, just the sound of the birds if I have my window open (okay, that’s now, while I’m writing in lockdown. Before that, it would be the sound of the aeroplanes!). Music that makes me feel happy – Queen and Don’t Stop Me Now. Come to think of it, maybe I should play that when I’m writing…

Do you have a favourite place to settle down to read/write?

I can write anywhere. I have an office in the top floor of the house and that’s where I usually work, but if there is sun on the patio I’ll take my laptop outside (and squint!). For reading, my favourite place would be on a sunlounger, by the Indian ocean…

Give us four essential items that a writer absolutely needs?

A passion for writing, a clear view of who the characters are, dogged determination to put words onto paper even when it seems easier to pull teeth. And a mug of tea (but maybe that’s just me).

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

My latest novel, The New Guy, is an office based romance with a twist – she’s the CEO. He was the one night stand who finds himself working for her.

One More Chapter

Following that, published in June, is Up Close and Personal. This features British actor Zac Edwards and his new bodyguard - close protection officer, Kat Parker. She has one job: to protect Zac from the stalker that seems to be dogging his every move. Zac might get her hot under her very starched collar, but Kat’s a professional and sleeping with Zac is no way part of her remit…

I’m currently working on Strictly Dating, a romance set (loosely!) in the world of ballroom dancing ๐Ÿ˜Š

Kathryn where can we follow you on social media?

Twitter @kathrynfreeman1

Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Libby Ashworth

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

I'd delighted to welcome author,  Libby Ashworth

☼Good Morning, Libby. Happy Sunday !

What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch? 

I have some warm croissants and apricot jam. 

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

I’ll have a pot of Darjeeling, please. 

Which of your literary heroes are joining us today? 

I’ve invited Mr Thornton from Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. 

What’s the title of the book nearest to you? 

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel. 

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Fourth Estate

What’s the oldest book on your book shelf? 

Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales – a Christmas gift from 1962. 

Which book do you really want to read but haven’t had time for …yet! 

War and Peace by Tolstoy. 

Do you have a guilty reading pleasure, and if so will you tell us about it? 

When I was a child I wouldn’t read a book unless there were horses in it, and I’m still quite fond of a horse story. 

If the house was on fire which book would you rescue? 

Pony Annual 1971. It has my first published story in it and it was years before I managed to track down a copy of my own. 

Do you have a reading/writing playlist on Spotify, or a favourite CD to listen to when reading/writing? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you feel happy? 

I need silence to write and to read. But a piece of music that makes me feel happy is Polotsvian Dances by Borodin. You may know it better as ‘Stranger in Paradise’. 

Do you have a favourite place to settle down to read/write? 

I like to read tucked up in bed. I mostly write at my desk in the little back room. 

Give us four essential items that a writer absolutely needs? 

Tea. Coffee. More coffee. Chocolate biscuits. 

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

I’m currently working on The Mill Town Lasses series for Arrow. The first book in the series, The Cotton Spinner, was published on 16th April

.Set at the start of the Industrial Revolution, it’s the story of Jennet and Titus Eastwood, who are forced to move from their idyllic cottage in the countryside to find work in the mill town of Blackburn. It’s a move that brings changes they could never have imagined, especially when Titus is arrested after attending a Reform meeting and Jennet finds herself pregnant, and alone, with another man’s child! The idea for a story about a family who moved from the countryside to the town was inspired by research into my family history. I could see from the census returns that my ancestors had moved into Blackburn to find work in the mills. It must have been difficult for them to adjust to being employees after being self-employed spinners and weavers. I don’t know that any of them ended up in prison but they seemed to be involved in politics and one became a mayor of the town. I just hope my ancestor Jennet isn’t too annoyed by the story I’ve told about her. I wouldn’t like her to come back and haunt me! 

Libby, where here can we follow you on social media? 

Twitter @elizashworth 

Instagram libbyashworthauthor 

Saturday 18 April 2020

Hist Fic Saturday ~ Echoes of the Runes by Christina Courteney

On Hist fic Saturday

Let's go back to ...the age of the Vikings

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Headline Review
5 March 2020

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Their love was forbidden. But echoed in eternity.

When Mia inherits her beloved grandmother's summer cottage, Birch Thorpe, in Sweden, she faces a dilemma. Her fiance Charles urges her to sell and buy a swanky London home, but Mia cannot let it go easily. The request to carry out an archaeological dig for more Viking artefacts like the gold ring Mia's grandmother also left her, offers her a reprieve from a decision - and from Charles.

Whilst Mia becomes absorbed in the dig's discoveries, she finds herself drawn to archaeologist Haakon Berger. Like her, he can sense the past inhabitants whose lives are becoming more vivid every day. Trying to resist the growing attraction between them, Mia and Haakon begin to piece together the story of a Welsh noblewoman, Ceri, and the mysterious Viking, known as the 'White Hawk', who stole her away from her people in 869 AD.

As the present begins to echo the past, and enemies threaten Birch Thorpe's inhabitants, they will all have to fight to protect what has become most precious to each of them.

What did I think about it..

This dual time historical romance flits effortlessly between Mia in the here and now, and Ceridwen in 869 AD, both woman have their share of troubles, and they each must overcome difficulties before they can find true happiness.

We meet Mia in the present day as she helps out with an archaeological dig at Birch Thorpe, her newly inherited cottage in Sweden. Mia's work as a Viking specialist for the British Museum sees her well qualified to help with identifying any discoveries, however, her testy relationship with the lead archaeologist, Haakon Berger, makes for interesting reading. Gradually, as Haakon and Mia start to learn more about the Viking inhabitants who lived at this spot in the 9th Century, so the story of Ceridwen, a welsh noblewoman, and a mysterious Viking known as White Hawk starts to be revealed.

Echoes of the Runes is such a captivating story with both time frames having much appeal. I found that as one chapter ended I was eager to either return to the past, or to the future, and found much to enjoy in getting to know the modern day inhabitants of Birch Thorpe alongside those historical figures who felt so vibrant in the page. The author writes really well and brings her characters to life in such a believable way that I felt like I was part of the story, sitting comfortably in the Viking hall with the aroma of roasting meat, and the tang of wood smoke swirling in the air, and yet, I was also equally comfortable in the here and now, uncovering intriguing Viking artifacts that spoke of  a troubled and intriguing past.

Beautifully written and well researched, Echoes of the Runes took me by the hand and led me into a time of danger, passion, and ♡ 

Christina Courtenay is an award-winning author of historical romance and time slip (dual time) stories. She started writing so that she could be a stay-at-home mum to her two daughters, but didn’t get published until daughter number one left home aged twenty-one, so that didn’t quite go to plan! Since then, however, she’s made up for it by having eleven novels published and winning the RNA’s Romantic Novel of the Year Award for Best Historical Romantic Novel twice with Highland Storms (2012) and The Gilded Fan (2014), both published by Choc Lit. Christina is half Swedish and grew up in that country. She has also lived in Japan and Switzerland, but is now based in Herefordshire, close to the Welsh border. She’s a keen amateur genealogist and loves history and archaeology (the armchair variety).

Twitter @PiaCCourtney #EchoesoftheRunes

@HeadlineFiction @headlinepg

Friday 17 April 2020

Review ~ Ten Poems for Spring from Candlestick Press

Candlestick Press

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this poetry pamphlet

Sunshine and showers, cuckoos, frogs, daffodils and cherry blossom…. Poets writing about spring certainly have no shortage of material.

Our selection of poems takes in many of these yearly delights. There are contemporary voices – a poem in which a dog sniffs around a city park and enjoys the new smells, and another where an “immortal frog” seems to promise the speaker fresh hope and a return to good health. In a poem from the nineteenth century, spring is a time of renewal when the world is restored to its original beauty:

“What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the

from ‘Spring’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins

This delightful mini-anthology provides a taste of the countless ways in which this most uplifting of seasons has been celebrated in verse over the centuries.

Poems by Thomas Carew, John Clare, Nichola Deane, Emily Dickinson, Valerie Gillies, Gerard Manley Hopkins, AE Housman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Jessica Mookherjee and Alicia Ostriker.

Cover illustration by Alexandra Buckle.

What did I think about it...

There's something infinitely precious about spring. The surge of new life, glorious in its awakening, bringing the promise of hope and joy and never more more precious than in this troubled time.  In my brief spells of exercise outside I have taken in all the beauty of nature, watching golden daffodils gently sway and watching in wonder as cherry blossom, blackthorn and wild cherry burst into life.

Spring in all its glory is celebrated in this latest poetry pamphlet from Candlestick Press. The opening poem  A E Houseman's  "Loveliest of trees, the cherry now" is a perfect introduction:

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom, along the bough
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide..."

Frog Spring by Valerie Gillies reminded me of childhood springs many years ago, when I would head off, with a group of eager friends, to search the ponds and pools for tadpoles and tiny frogs ๐Ÿ˜Š

"Surprised by my tasting the spring, a golden frog
leaps to the bank. He flies to froggy places,
his ankle joints stretch the moment..."

It is wonderful to see Emily Dickinson included in this collection along with another of my favourite poets, Edna St Vincent Millay, both capturing the essence of springtime in their own inimitable fashion.

However of all the collection, and as always it really difficult to pick just one favourite. but I think I have to go for Home Pictures in May by John Clare and just seeing this wonderful poem included in this collection is worth the price of the pamphlet alone!

" The sparrows round their new nests chirp with glee
And sweet the robin springs young luxury shares
Tuteling its song in featherly Goosberry tree
While watching worms the Gardeners spade unbears..."

Ten Poems for Spring is such a lovely collection of poems which gladden the heart and make you appreciate all that is special about this wonderful time of year. And even though its a year like no other , we can still take a moment to look around and appreciate the new season in its glorious splendour.

The last word must go to the final poem, Spring by Gerard Manley Hopkins "Nothing is so beautiful as spring.."

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

Connect: /  Twitter @PoetryCandle