Friday 31 July 2020

Blog Tour ~ Miss Graham's Cold War Cookbook by Celia Rees ☼

☼ So excited to host today's Blog Tour ☼

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Harper Collins

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

An ordinary woman. A book of recipes. The perfect cover for spying...

Sent to Germany in the chaotic aftermath of World War II, Edith Graham is finally getting the chance to do her bit. Having taught at a girls’ school during the conflict, she leaps at the opportunity to escape an ordinary life – but Edith is not everything she seems to be.

Under the guise of her innocent cover story, Edith has been recruited to root out Nazis who are trying to escape prosecution. Secretly, she is sending coding messages back to the UK, hidden inside innocuous recipes sent to a friend – after all, who would expect notes on sauerkraut to contain the clues that would crack a criminal underground network?

But the closer she gets to the truth, the muddier the line becomes between good and evil. In a dangerous world of shifting loyalties, when the enemy wears the face of a friend, who do you trust?

What did I think about it..

In the aftermath of World War Two Germany is a place of many secrets, as so many of those individuals who perpetrated heinous war crimes are at liberty to make good their escape, and yet there are those who would see them brought to justice. Edith Graham has been a languages teacher in an English girls' school for the duration of the war but she strives to leave behind her mundane life caring for her mother and do more to help the post-war effort. With her ability to speak fluent German she is recruited to work for the British Control Commission in Germany ostensibly to help maintain the education of children, however, Edith gets drawn deeper into far more dangerous espionage territory.

There is a tremendous feeling of unease throughout the story and the author has succeeded in bringing the rather dark and dangerous atmosphere alive. There is certainly danger all round Edith as she tries to do whatever it takes to succeed in her mission and whether she is actually going to succeed in the clandestine world of espionage forms the crux of the story. The characters who support Edith are an fascinating bunch, I was especially intrigued by Aveline, the American journalist, and also Dori, whose glamour and lively personality brought such comfort to Edith. I also loved the inclusion of all the different recipes at the start of each chapter which fit so comfortably with the title of the book as cookery recipes play quite a vital role in the story.

The author writes very well and with extensive research brings such a wonderful authentic feel to the story. I recall my mother reminiscing about 1940s L'Heure Bleu perfume and Marcel Rochas lipstick, but it's not just the fashion of the time which feels so beautifully realistic,  it's also in the description of all those German towns which suffered so badly from allied bombardment during the war. 

Setting the story in 1946 brings a real sense of desperation and the utter despair of a country who seem to have very little hope for the future. And as Edith gets drawn further and further into a dangerous  investigation, so the story starts to gain momentum and becomes a really engrossing read.

Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook is a beautifully written WW2 espionage saga which is made all the more poignant by being set in post war Germany.

About the  Author

Celia Rees was born in Solihull, West Midlands, UK. She studied History and Politics at Warwick University and has a master’s degree from Birmingham University. She taught English in city comprehensive schools for seventeen years before beginning her writing career. She is the author of over twenty acclaimed books for young adults and has won various prizes both in Britain and abroad. Her work has been translated into twenty-eight languages. Celia lives in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, with her husband. Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook is her first adult novel.

Twitter @CeliaRees #MissGrahamsCookBook




Thursday 30 July 2020

Book Review ~ The Servant by Maggie Richell-Davies

Sharpe Books
April 2020
My thanks to the author for providing a copy of her book


Young Hannah Hubert may be the granddaughter of a French merchant and the daughter of a Spitalfields silk weaver, but she has come down in the world.

Sent one spring day as maidservant to a disgraced aristocrat, she finds herself in a house full of mysteries - with a locked room and strange auctions being held behind closed doors.

As a servant, she has little power but - unknown to her employers - she can read. And it is only when she uses her education to uncover the secrets of the house, that she realises the peril she is in.

Hannah is unable to turn to the other servant, Peg, who is clearly terrified of their employers and keeps warning her to find alternative work.

But help might come from Thomas, the taciturn farmer delivering milk to the neighbourhood, or from Jack Twyford, a friendly young man apprenticed to his uncle’s bookselling business. Yet Thomas is still grieving for his late wife – and can she trust Jack, since his uncle is one of her master’s associates?

Hannah soon discovers damning evidence she cannot ignore.

She must act alone, but at what price?

What did I think about it..

Hannah Hubert’s arrival at her new place of work doesn’t bode well. The place is dreary, dirty and dark and fifteen year-old Hannah, employed as cook, housekeeper and kitchen maid, senses that something odd lurks behind the locked door of the upstairs room she is forbidden to enter. With only Peg, the other downtrodden, servant for company, Hannah is determined to make good their escape from this fearsome household especially when she discovers just what is taking place within the locked room.

The Servant feels beautifully authentic and the dingy world of the underbelly of society in 1765 is brought vividly to life. The author describes Hannah’s life in detail and as such allows a glimpse into the sordid life of servitude when women were at the mercy of unscrupulous employers. Whilst the  story is rather bleak in places what shines through is Hannah’s strength of character and the author has succeeded in making her into a strong and fascinating narrator. Her voice feels very real, you easily sense her despair, and share her utter devastation when her life begins to unravel. The other characters who flip into and out of Hannah’s story are an interesting bunch, I especially enjoyed getting to know,Peg, Thomas and Nellie, characters who play such an important part in Hannah’s story.

I always have the impression that Georgian London was a dark and dangerous place for women and this comes across in the vivid descriptions of life for those who didn’t have money and who were so often the victims of abject poverty, used and abused, by those who had little regard for them. The author writes very well, bringing time and place alive in the fine attention to even the smallest detail. The strong emotional core of the story and Hannah’s vibrant personality holds everything together so beautifully.

The Servant is a cracking good read and a very good historical debut. I look forward to seeing what this talented author comes up with next.More of the same, I hope.

Born in Newcastle, Maggie has a first class honours degree from the Open University. She has an interest in social history, as can be seen from her debut novel The Servant, but considers herself more a storyteller than a historian. She is also a founder member of writing group

The Servant, won the Historical Writers' Association 2020 Unpublished Novel Award in spring 2020.

Twitter @maggiedavieswr1


Wednesday 29 July 2020

Blog Tour ~ A Good Match for the Major by Josie Bonham ☼

 ☼ Thrilled to host a stop on today's Blog Tour 

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Pitcheroak Press

Reluctant Bride Series #1

Mt thanks to the author and to Rachel's Random Resources for my ecopy of this book
and the invitation to this blog tour

Pride meets prejudice – can love blossom.

Beautiful young widow, Lady Eliza Wyndham, is determined never to remarry after a disastrous first marriage. The undeniable attraction that fizzes between her and Major Nathaniel Overton terrifies her. She rejects his advances.

With his pride badly dented, Nat vows to forget Eliza until he finds her in danger from an old adversary of his army days. His protective instincts are stirred and he steps back into her life, but will Eliza be prepared to accept his help?

What did I think about it...

I do love a good Regency Romance and A Good Match for the Major has all the right ingredients for  a lovely story and it doesn't disappoint. 

Lady Eliza Wyndham, recently widowed, has been badly hurt by marriage and is determined not to be enticed into sharing her life with a man again. That is until her disastrous first meeting with the handsome Major who disturbs Eliza's equilibrium in more ways than one. The story has all the excitement of a 'will they, won't they' romance but there is also danger and intrigue as Eliza's beauty and poise attracts the attention of some very unworthy suitors.

The story is nicely told and I found that I warmed to Lady Eliza immediately, she is feisty and determined, and yet, there is also a vulnerable side to her which is made all the more poignant when placed alongside her burgeoning relationship with Major Nathaniel Overton. All Regency romances need a dashing hero and Nat Overton is a wonderful leading man. He has the charismatic good looks and stern good humour needed to take on this starring role, but there is also a softer side to his personality which the author shows very well.

I always feel a bit guilty when I say I read the book in one sitting considering the many months it has taken the author to write it, but the story held my attention from start to finish and I really didn't want to put the story away until I saw just how everything would work out for Lady Eliza Wyndham and Major Nathaniel Overton.

A Good Match for the Major is a lovely story which feels beautifully authentic, and all credit to the author for making this, her debut novel, into such a cracking good read. I'm already looking forward to the other novels in The Reluctant Bride series of historical novels.

Josie lives in the English midlands, surrounded by towns full of history such as Evesham, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwick and Worcester. Which is perhaps why her favourite reads are historical. Out of all the periods to choose from the Regency Era stirs her imagination the most. The true Regency lasted from 1811 until 1820 but dates as wide as 1789 to 1837 have been included in the extended Regency period. For Josie the true flavour of this period emerges after the iniquitous hair powder tax of 1795, unsurprisingly, scuppered the fashion for hair powder almost overnight. Josie has always dabbled in stories but it took the combined efforts of her sister and eldest niece to set her on the path to writing novels. her Regency romances, with a dash of adventure and intrigue, are the result.

Twitter @BonhamJosie

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Blog Tour ~ Sisters by Michelle Frances ☼

☼ Excited to host today's Blog Tour stop ☼

23 July 2020

My thanks to the publishers for my ecopy of this book
an the invitation to the blog tour

Sisters by Michelle Frances is a dark, domestic suspense that explores the fallout of when sibling rivalry turns into adult envy. 

Is blood really thicker than water? Abby and Ellie were never close as children. Now in their thirties, they each harbour deep-rooted resentment for the other - Abby for her sister's looks and her status as their mother's favourite. Ellie meanwhile is envious of Abby's perfect husband and picturesque home, a villa on the sun-soaked Italian island of Elba.

When Abby invites Ellie to stay, both sisters see the break as a chance to relax and put aside their differences. But with their mother Susanna there too, all the simmering tensions of the past quickly rise to the surface. And Ellie suspects that Abby and their mother are keeping a dangerous secret . . . But after a shocking act, the sisters have only each other to rely on. Vulnerable and scared, trusting each other will be the biggest risk of all...

What did I think about it..

Abby and Ellie have never had that close sisterly bond as each of them felt a massive resentment towards the other. Now they are adults, Abby seems to have everything, a good job and enough money, whilst Ellie struggles to make ends meet and never feels that she is succeeding, especially when compared to Abby's lifestyle. When Abby invites Ellie to her new home on the Italian island of Elba, both sisters feel that this could be the start of a new relationship, however, that's when things start to go badly wrong.

What then follows is a lively adventure which sees both sisters become involved in something which takes them far out of their comfort zone and leads them into revealing things about themselves which will have far reaching consequences for everyone around them. The relationship between the sisters is an interesting one, and as the complicated reasons for their differences starts to be revealed, so you begin to understand just why they both feel aggrieved with the other. When their mother, Suzanne, enters the story the whole thing takes off in  a very lively sort of way. 

The story is told in both past and present with enough crazy action to keep you guessing particularly as the present day scenario takes Abby and Ellie on a lively adventure which I can't say too much about other than it certainly kept me on the edge of my seat. The author writes well and keeps the momentum of the story alive as both sisters are unreliable narrators so it's difficult to believe which of them is being truthful. One thing for certain though is that it's great fun finding out what's going to happen next.
Sisters is a fast paced and lively family drama which makes it perfect escapism in an exciting 'getaway from it all' sort of way.

Michelle Frances has worked in television drama as a producer and script editor for fifteen years, both for the independent sector and the BBC.

Twitter #Sisters


Monday 27 July 2020

Blog Tour ~ The Weekend Away by Sarah Alderson ☼

  ☼ Excited to be hosting a stop on this Blog Tour today ☼

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23 July 2020

Mt thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
and the invitation to the blog tour

Two friends go on holiday. Only one comes back.

Orla and Kate have been best friends forever. Together they’ve faced it all – be it Orla’s struggles as a new mother or Kate’s messy divorce. And whatever else happens in their lives, they can always look forward to their annual weekend away.

This year, they’re off to Lisbon: the perfect flat, the perfect view, the perfect itinerary. And what better way to kick things off in style than with the perfect night out?

But when Orla wakes up the next morning, Kate is gone. Brushed off by the police and with only a fuzzy memory of the night’s events, Orla is her friend’s only hope. As she frantically retraces their steps, Orla makes a series of shattering discoveries that threaten everything she holds dear. Because while Lisbon holds the secret of what happened that night, the truth may lie closer to home…

What did I think about it..

The Weekend Away is a real roller-coaster of a ride as from the very start of the novel we are thrown right into the very centre of the action when Kate goes missing on the first night of weekend away in Portugal with her best friend, Orla. The two girls have enjoyed a rather lively night out in the bars of Lisbon but when Orla wakes the following morning, with a hangover from hell, Kate is nowhere to be found. Orla only has a sketchy memory of what actually happened and from her frightening recollections it doesn't bode well.

What then follows is a tight and dramatic thriller in which Orla, with the help of an unexpected ally, sets out, despite police indifference, to discover just what has happened to her friend.

This story is the stuff of nightmares and as Orla gets drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery so the danger starts to escalate for her too. I must admit that I read the story with bated breath desperate to find out more and yet, scared of the outcome. With the tension cranked up to high I found the story difficult to put down and have to admit that I read the whole thing through in one sitting. The ending left me reeling.

If you like a tense and drama filled holiday read than The Weekend Away is great escapism but perhaps not one to read if you are heading to Portugal with your best friend, nevertheless it's definitely an exciting, edge of your seat sort of read for a lock down summer.

Twitter @sarahalderson #TheWeekendAway

Sunday 26 July 2020

Summer Picnic with Jaffareadstoo ~Tracey Scott-Townsend ☼

☼ Jaffareadstoo is delighted to welcome you all to our Summer Picnic ☼ 

Pull up a deck chair, tie knots in your hanky and roll up your trouser legs!

☼ Summer time is here ☼ 

☼ I'm delighted to welcome writer, Tracey Scott-Townsend to our picnic ☼

What favourite foods are you bringing to our summer picnic?

Hi Jo, thanks for inviting me. I’m looking forward to this picnic already! I’ll bring hummus, olives, Pitta bread, and strawberries. I’ll also ring a bowl of roasted Mediterranean vegetables, goats cheese, lovely, leafy greens including an enormous amount of fresh Basil, along with some fresh, succulent, strong-tasting tomatoes.

Would you like chilled white wine, a flute of Prosecco, a tumbler of Pimms, or a tall glass of sparkling elderflower cordial?

I’ll have a glass of chilled white, please. Just this once, I don’t drink very much these days so if I’m allowed, I’ll follow that with the sparkling elderflower.

Where shall we sit, by the pool, in the garden, in the countryside, at the seaside? 

Oh, how about at the edge of woodlands, on the slope down to a deserted beach?

Do we have a wicker hamper, tablecloth and cutlery, or is everything in a supermarket carrier bag ?

 I think a wicker hamper would be lovely.

Do you have favourite place to have a summer picnic?

Yes, There’s a promontory on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides, surrounded by ruined black-houses, looking out on the sparkling sea…

Which of your literary heroes are joining us on the picnic today?

I’d love it if Emily Bronte would join us. I think she’d like my location, too.

Which summer read are you bringing with you today?

I think I’ll bring an old book, an Alice Hoffman novel called White Horses. I read it during a hot summer when I was 21, and the feeling of the book is of sleepy summer heat as well.

What is your earliest summer memory?

Maybe of having been lost on the beach at Skegness when I was very small. I remember being returned to my family on my dad’s shoulders, and everybody in the vicinity cheering and clapping.

Do you have a favourite summer hideaway?

One of the East Yorkshire beaches near where I live. Kilnsea, on the edge of Spurn Point. The estuary of the River Humber. I lived there for a year when I was 21 (I seem to keep returning to that age!) and I always feel such a sense of peace there.

Do you have a summer music playlist for reading / writing? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you feel summery?

It’ll have to be a Genesis song. ‘Heatwave’ seems appropriate, and will always remind me of my youthful summers. (Our picnic is making me feel nostalgic!)

Do you find that your reading tastes differ between winter and summer?

Now there’s a question. I hadn’t really thought of that, but perhaps they do. For summer, I’ll go with Claire Fuller’s Our Endless Numbered Days and Rowan Coleman’s The Summer of Impossible Things. In winter I’d curl up and read Diane Setterfield’s Once Upon a River and The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea.

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Do you find it easier to write in the summer months or during the winter?

Either. Until a couple of years ago I wrote in a shed in my garden, and so summer was a better time for that writing location. Now I have a dedicated writing space in my bedroom, as opposed to my ‘work’ desk in an office downstairs that I share with my husband (we run a small press). So all that really matters to me is to have a dedicated space to write in, whether in summer or winter.

Would you like to tell us a little about your latest novel, or your current work in progress?

My most recently-published novel is The Vagabond Mother, about a woman who takes off around the world in search of her missing son, and discovers she really loves the vagabond lifestyle. I have another novel out on submission which is about an honest politician, an ageing hippie and a recently-divorced gardener, whose lives were all altered by what happened at a music festival in 1972. My work in progress is about a woman who lives on a bench, and what happened to put her there.

Wild pressed Books

Tracey,where can we follow you on social media?

Twitter @authortrace

Tracey-Scott-Townsend is the author of six novels — the most recent The Vagabond Mother (January 2020) and Sea Babies (May 2019) — all published by Wild Pressed Books and Inspired Quill Publishing. Reviews often describe her novels as poetic or painterly.

She is also a poet and a visual artist. 

Tracey is co-director of an up-and-coming small independent publisher, Wild Pressed Books, which has a growing roster of authors and poets. She works with them as editor and cover-designer.

She is the mother of four grown-up children, and spends as much time as possible travelling the UK and Europe in a camper van with her husband and two dogs, writing and editing while on the road. At home she’s very busy on her allotment or in her garden.

☼ Thank you for coming to our picnic ☼

Thank you very much for having me, I really enjoyed it.

Follow on Twitter


Summer Picnic with Jaffareadstoo ~ Celia Micklefield ☼

☼ Jaffareadstoo is delighted to welcome you all to our Summer Picnic ☼ 

Pull up a deck chair, tie knots in your hanky and roll up your trouser legs!

☼ Summer time is here ☼ 

 I'm delighted to welcome author,  Celia Micklefield to our picnic 

What favourite foods are you bringing to our summer picnic?

I love a good, old-fashioned British picnic. I wish it was happening for real. I enjoy all kinds of food but for a summer picnic with friends I like to go traditional. I’ll bring what we Yorkshire folk used to call a stand pie and to go with it there has to be a jar of Grandma Molly’s World Famous Green Tomato Chutney. It’s my late mother’s recipe and I make some every year. It’s fruity and spicy and just thinking about it makes my mouth water. There’ll be cheeses and grapes, crusty bread, fresh green salad and homemade slaws. There’ll be eggy sandwiches and other child-friendly pastries as well as traditional trifle for afters. 

Would you like chilled white wine, a flute of Prosecco, a tumbler of Pimms, or a tall glass of sparkling elderflower cordial?

You have to drink beer with stand pie and chutney so I’d choose a real ale from a local brewery. None of your gassy, canned stuff, thank you. I prefer something out of a cask with proper body and a creamy froth on top. I’ll ask parents of children to bring their own drinks for the kids to avoid arguments about carbonates. 

Where shall we sit, by the pool, in the garden, in the countryside, at the seaside? 

We’ll go out into the country and sit near water. It could be by one of the Broads in Norfolk where I live now or beside one of the many rivers that link the waterways. The river Ant would be a good choice as not many visitors know about a certain quiet backwater near my home. I know the ideal spot to set up our picnic table and I’ll bring a bright red and white checked cloth so it looks like we mean business. The stand of nearby trees and shrubs will make the ideal play area for the kids who can make Hobbit dens and pretend they’re in Middle Earth. 

River Ant

Do we have a wicker hamper, tablecloth and cutlery, or is everything in a supermarket carrier bag?

A wicker hamper would be nowhere near big enough to hold everything we’ll need so we’ll use cool boxes - a must-have for the beer! Comfort is paramount so we’ll have those fold-up chairs with glass holders in the arm so guests don’t feel the need for a third hand. 

Which of your literary heroes are joining us on the picnic today?

Charlotte Bronte will be present as guest of honour and I’ll tell her of my last visit to Haworth in January 2020 and how I’m writing a scene set there in my latest novel. I’ll introduce her to J.R.R. Tolkein who is here to judge the children’s Hobbit Hole competition and I’ll enjoy listening to both of them compare their invented languages. 

Which summer read are you bringing with you today?

I won’t bring a book. There won’t be time to read. I’ll be too busy ear-wigging and brain-picking my celebrity guests. I’ll have a notebook with me, though. I won’t want to forget any choice phrases or top tips from my illustrious companions. 

What is your earliest summer memory?

When everybody has eaten their fill we’ll have photographs and reminisce about picnics when we were young. I must make a point of telling my new best friend Charlotte about the time when I was a child and my mother thought it would be a good idea to hike all the way to High Withens to see where Emily had set Wuthering Heights and have our picnic there. My little legs wouldn’t carry me all the way back and I had to be piggy-backed. I can still remember how we all collapsed with exhaustion back at home. 

Do you have a favourite summer hideaway?

I’d find it difficult to choose just one favourite summer hideaway. Maybe it would be one of the Greek islands where there’s no airport, like Paxos where I spent three weeks last September. I like uncrowded places and beautiful scenery. I’m happiest of all where there’s turquoise water to swim in and mountains to look at.

Do you have a summer music playlist for reading / writing? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you feel summery?

My taste in music is also quiet. Examples of pieces that give me a summery feeling are Fauré Pavane, Débussy Clair de Lune and the Flower Duet from Lakmë. This last brings memories of when I sang Malika (the mezzo part) in the choir I was part of when I lived in southern France. And, of course, there’s nothing more summery than traditional Greek music. There’s sunshine in every note. Generally, though, I don’t listen to music when I’m writing. I find it too much of a distraction.

Do you find that your reading tastes differ between winter and summer?

My reading tastes are wide, much wider than they used to be. When I lived abroad we had a lot of visitors who all brought books and left them behind. So I read them. I read books I’d never have dreamed I’d enjoy. Now I choose to read whatever takes my fancy at the time. 

Do you find it easier to write in the summer months or during the winter?

There's no seasonal difference. If the writing draws me in so I don’t feel as if I’m reading I’m happy to go with it. There’s no difference between summer/winter in my writing plans either. Because I have a painful neurological condition called CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) I write on good days whenever they arrive throughout the year. The CRPS slows me down though. I can’t sit at a keyboard overlong without taking regular breaks. The problem began after I was knocked down by a careless driver. I spent four months at a French clinic recovering from injuries. My bones mended but my nervous system didn’t. It still sends messages that I’m broken. Against doctor’s orders I stopped all the medication prescribed as I couldn’t cope with the side effects on top of the pain. Now I use cannabis oil which I buy online. 

Would you like to tell us a little about your latest novel, or your current work in progress?

My work in progress, my seventh book, A Measured Man is half written. It’s an unsentimental, not-in-the-least romantic comedy whose main characters are over fifty. The relationship between them is not so much a slow burner, rather a slow realisation of what they both want from life. Aubrey Tennant is looking for the perfect woman to share the autumn of his life. He doesn’t know that Lisa Miller has already buried two husbands. The book’s emphasis is on comedy but with pathos. I want readers to feel some sympathy for Aubrey even though he has some very annoying habits. 

I can’t show a picture of the cover as it isn’t designed yet so I’ll use my most recent book, The Sandman and Mrs Carter. It’s a psychological mystery where the main character never speaks for herself. Five other characters tell her story and there’s a mystery narrator who seems to know everything about everybody. It’ll keep you guessing right till the end. 

I write in my maiden name Celia Micklefield and I’ve a Celia Micklefield Author page on Facebook. My website is I’m @CMicklefield on Twitter but I have to admit I haven’t done much with Instagram. I can’t keep up with everything! All my work is on Amazon where you can use the ‘Look Inside’ feature to get a taste of each book’s theme. I enjoy writing in different genres but always with the emotional experiences of my characters at the heart of the plot. 

I’m looking forward to connecting with more readers/writers. Writing can be a lonely affliction, can’t it?

☼ Thank you for coming to our picnic ☼ 

Follow on Twitter


Saturday 25 July 2020

Blog Tour ~ The Puritan Princess by Miranda Malins ☼

☼ On Hist Fic Saturday ☼ 

Let's go back to ...1659

Jaffareadstoo is excited to host today's stop on this blog tour 

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April 2020

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

London, 1657

The youngest daughter of Oliver Cromwell, eighteen-year-old Frances is finding her place at England's new centre of power.

Following the turmoil of Civil War, a fragile sense of stability has returned to the country. Her father has risen to the unprecedented position of Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, and Frances has found herself transported from her humble childhood home to the sumptuous palaces of Hampton Court and Whitehall, where she dreams of a love match that must surely be found at court.

But after an assassination attempt on the Cromwell family, Frances realises the precarious danger of her position - and when her father is officially offered the crown, Frances's fate suddenly assumes diplomatic and dynastic importance.

Will she become a political pawn, or can Frances use her new status to seize control and further her own ambitions?

What did I think about it..

I've a vague notion of Oliver Cromwell as a stern and rather bluff figure who accepted his role as Protectorate with a rather grumpy sort of grace and who, with Puritanical zeal, cancelled Christmas, closed down theatres and forced everyone to wear monochrome.  

Reading The Puritan Princess, fiction based on fact, brought the Cromwells into sharp focus and showed a family who were taken out of their rural comfort zone and transplanted into the opulent trappings of, to all intents and purposes, undeniable monarchy, even to being addressed by their Whitehall courtiers as 'your highness'. I discovered such a lot about life at the Cromwellian Court and not just that Cromwell wasn't really grumpy but rather that he was a considered and pragmatic statesman, who, regardless of his grisly fate, left England in a better state than when he found it. 

However, whilst Cromwell as a ruler is fascinating, this interesting historical account focuses on eighteen-year old Frances Cromwell, the youngest of Cromwell's brood of children. Frances, the eponymous puritan princess, is an interesting character and watching how she progresses, from ingénue to accomplished young woman, is made all the more interesting by the author's skill in bringing both Frances and court life alive in the imagination. Throughout the story there is both danger and intrigue, in fact, everything you would expect from living life at court and yet, there is also an aching vulnerability, as Frances and the family learn to cope with complicated politics and the ever present threat of danger.

It's been such a treat to read this story about the Cromwells and whilst there's an inevitability about what happens, as we know the outcome for the country after Cromwell's death, it has been really lovely to find out more about the family, and in particular Frances and Mary, two siblings who had such a strong bond. The author writes well and using her extensive knowledge of this period brings together a novel which is both authentic and beautifully researched. A little bit slow at the beginning but once the place, people and history start to become settled in the imagination so the whole story starts to comes alive.

The Puritan Princess is a fascinating fictional account of court and family life during one of the more turbulent periods in our history. I look forward to seeing what this talented author does next.

Miranda Malins

Miranda is a writer and historian specialising in the history of Oliver Cromwell, his family and the politics of the Interregnum period following the Civil Wars. She studied at Cambridge University, leaving with a PhD, and continues to speak at conferences and publish journal articles and book reviews. She is also a Trustee of the Cromwell Association. Alongside this, Miranda works as a commercial solicitor in the City and began writing historical novels on maternity leave. She lives in Hampshire with her husband, young son and cat, Keats. The Puritan Princess is her debut novel.

Twitter@mirandamalins #ThePuritanPrincess

@OrionBooks @midaspr

Friday 24 July 2020

Blog Tour ~ The Tuscan Contessa by Dinah Jefferies ☼

☼ Excited to be part of this Blog Tour ☼

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23 July 2020

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

A sweeping new novel from the number one Sunday Times bestselling author of The Tea Planter's Wife, available for pre-order now

In 1940s Tuscany, Contessa Sofia de' Corsi's peaceful home in a medieval villa among the olive groves has been upturned by the arrival of German soldiers. She is desperate to help her friends in the village fight back in any way she can, all while keeping her efforts secret from her husband Lorenzo, who fears for their safety. When Maxine, a no-nonsense Italian-American, arrives in Tuscany to help the resistance, the two women forge an uneasy alliance. Before long they find themselves entangled in a dangerous game with the Nazis, each trying to save the ones they love...

What did I think about it..

The eponymous Tuscan Contessa makes her home in an idyllic medieval villa which has belonged to her husband's family for generations. Whilst to all intents and purposes Sofia de' Corsi is the indomitable lady of the manor, under her elegant facade is a woman who has nerves of steel and who is determined to fight back against the control of a regime which brings nothing but trouble, sadness and despair. What then follows is a dramatic wartime adventure which has both high excitement and desperate sadness, and as always this talented author brings both with a fine eye for detail and a compassionate way with words. 

In the latter days WW2 Italy was a fearsome place with many secrets and much danger. The heightened sense of doom overshadowed the natural beauty of the Tuscan landscape and so much distrust flourished in dark corners that no-one ever really felt at ease. Peace of mind was overshadowed by dangerous intrigue and the sense of distrust between neighbours or friends who, if they suspected your motives, would quickly betray your interests to the authorities.

The story flows well and the sense of impending danger is never far away. There is always some incident, or some character, to worry over and I think that's where this author's strength lies, in that she makes you really care about the people, so that when times get tough, as they do in this novel, you read with bated breath hoping that events will work out well for them. I especially loved Contessa Sofia, she is loyal and brave, and putting her alongside Maxine, an American with Italian origins, who is determined to do her bit for the war effort, is inspired, as each of these brave and bold young woman demonstrate fierce determination against all odds. 

I know from reading the author notes at the end of this novel that Dinah Jefferies has a natural love for Tuscany and has researched the area well. This comes across in her beautiful descriptions of the place and its people.  

The Tuscan Contessa is a thought-provoking WW2 story about loyalty, love and friendship, and what happens when pitted against danger, intrigue and despair.

About the Author

Dinah Jefferies was born in Malaysia and moved to England at the age of nine. Her idyllic childhood always held a special place in her imagination, and when she began writing novels in her 60s, she was able to return there - first in her fiction and then on annual research trips for each new novel. Dinah Jefferies is the author of four novels, The Separation, The Tea Planter's Wife - a Number One Sunday Times bestseller, The Silk Merchant's Daughter and Before the Rains. She lives in Gloucestershire.

Twitter @DinahJefferies #TheTuscanContessa


Thursday 23 July 2020

Blog Tour ~ The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually by Helen Cullen ☼

☼ Thrilled to host today's Blog Tour Stop ☼

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Michael Joseph
20 August 2020

My thanks to the publishers for my e-copy of this book
and the invitation to the blog tour

On an island off the west coast of Ireland, the Moone family gather, only to be shattered by tragedy. Murtagh Moone met Maeve Morelli twenty-seven years ago outside Trinity College in Dublin, and the rest was history. Murtagh is a potter by trade and Maeve an actor from Williamsburg, whose days divide starkly into darkness and light. As they raise their four children in the tight-knit community on the island of Inis Og, her illness casts a long shadow over their happiness. Until Christmas Eve, 2005, when the darkest day comes. As the Moones piece themselves imperfectly back together, they begin to learn surprising truths about each other and about themselves – truths that only Maeve understood.

What did I think about it..

When ceramic artist, Murtgah Moone meets American actress, Maeve Morelli in 1978, outside Trinity College in Dublin, life for both of them is changed forever. Maeve, quirky and bold, and filled with a zest for life seems the perfect compliment to stoical and placid, Murtagh and yet, behind the facade, Maeve is battling her own dark demons. 

Fated to be together, Murtagh and Maeve settle into family life on the beautiful, but remote, Irish island of Inis Óg where Maeve raises their four children and Murtagh makes his living as a talented potter. Life seems perfect until one Christmas Eve in 2005, when life for the Moone family is changed forever.

The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually is one of those slow moving but beautifully succinct novels which takes you into the very fabric of family life, revealing cracks which even the Moone's didn't realise were appearing in Maeve's life. Such huge divisions will tear the family apart and make them question everything they thought they knew about Maeve, both as a lover and life companion to Murtagh, and devoted mother to Nollaig, Dillon,Tomás and Sive.

The author picks up the slow pace of island life quite perfectly, nothing much seems to happen and yet, the story is all the more mesmerising because of its slowness. It's beautifully introspective concentrating on thoughts and feelings whilst at the same time bringing snippets of everyday life into sharp focus and touching on mental health issues with compassion and sensitivity.

The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually is a thoughtful family drama which captures your heart and lingers in your mind long after the last page is turned.

Helen Cullen

Helen Cullen is an Irish writer living in London. Helen’s debut novel The Lost Letters of William Woolf (2018) was shortlisted for Newcomer of the Year at the Irish Book Awards, and has been optioned for television. Helen freelances for the Sunday Times Magazine and is a regular features writer and book reviewer for the Irish Times.

Twitter @wordsofhelen

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Blog Tour ~ The Heatwave by Katerina Diamond ☼

☼ Delighted to host one of today's Blog Tour stops ☼

25 June 2020

My thanks to the publishers for my ecopy of this book
and the invitation to this blog tour

Two bad things happened that summer:
A stranger arrived. And the first girl disappeared.
In the wake of the crime that rocked her community, Felicity fled, knowing more than she let on.
But sixteen years later, her new life is shattered by the news that a second girl has gone missing in her hometown.
Now Felicity must go back, to face the truth about what happened all those years ago.
Only she holds the answers – and they’re more shocking than anyone could imagine.
The heatwave is back. And so is the killer.

What did I think about it..

When a teenage girl goes missing in a Devon seaside resort there are some similarities with a missing person case from years ago. On hearing this news Felicity Musgrave feels compelled to leave her family in the Lake District to go back to the seaside town of her teenage years and to a whole heap of secrets she thought she had left behind. I wasn’t sure about Felicity at first or of the reason why she felt compelled to return to a place she had left some sixteen years before, but hey, this is fiction, and the complicated reasons for her return soon form an integral part of the story. 

The story is a bit slow to get going but once the tensions start to mount, the many twists and turns start to become more intriguing and I couldn’t help but be drawn into this mystery which Felicity is determined to uncover. The tension seems to simmer and dance like the eponymous heatwave and just when I thought I had the whole thing worked out the plot would veer off in another unexpected direction. I enjoyed how the story flipped between two time frames and discovering more about the younger, Felicity when her life was far from simple gave the story its necessary edginess.

One thing is always guaranteed with this author and that is that no matter how you think the story will work out she always surprises you, and The Heatwave is no exception. Clever and sophisticated this is one of those psychological thrillers which is better enjoyed in one sitting with no distractions, which, along with its title, makes this an ideal summer read.

It’s interesting to note that The Heatwave is a stand-alone thriller which make an interesting departure from the author’s DS Imogen Grey series of police procedural novels.

About the Author

Katerina Diamond was born in Weston in the seventies. She moved to Thessaloniki in Greece and attended Greek school where she learnt Greek in just 6 months. After her parents’ divorce, they relocated to Devon. After school, and working in her uncle’s fish and chip shop, she went (briefly) to university at Derby, where she met her husband and had two children. Katerina now lives in the East Kent Coast with her husband and children.

Twitter @TheVenomousPen #The Heatwave #SurviveTheHeatwave