Wednesday 30 September 2020

Blog Tour ~ Green Hands by Barbara Whitton


Delighted to host today's Blog Tour stop

Imperial War Museum
10 September 2020

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

It is 1943, and a month into their service as Land Girls, Bee, Anne and Pauline are dispatched to a remote farm in rural Scotland. Here they are introduced to the realities of 'lending a hand on the land', as back-breaking work and inhospitable weather mean they struggle to keep their spirits high. Soon one of the girls falters, and Bee and Pauline receive a new posting to a Northumberland dairy farm. Detailing their friendship, daily struggles and romantic intrigues with a lightness of touch, Barbara Whitton's autobiographical novel paints a sometimes funny, sometimes bleak picture of time spent in the Women's Land Army during the Second World War.

What did I think about it..

I had an aunt who spent time during WW2 as a Land Girl, she was stationed on a farm in Castle Cary, in Somerset, and always said that, although the work was physically challenging, she had a great time. One of the best things she learned was how to French braid a horse's mane which was really useful whenever I needed my hair plaited.

In Green Hands we follow the fortunes of  the Land Girls, Bee, Anne and Pauline, and from their awful back breaking challenge of picking mangold wurzels on a truly inhospitable farm in rural Scotland, to their more pleasant experience of working on a Northumberland dairy farm, there was never a dull moment. That the work was physically challenging was never in doubt but I think what truly comes across is the sheer bravado and solid determination of the land girls to succeed in a world which was very different. Keeping their femininity intact, whilst knee deep in muck, was a real challenge but the added touch of  a bright scarf or a dash of red lipstick helped to keep their morale high, and good food, especially cake, lifted their spirits.

Based on the author's own experiences of being in the Women's Land Army, reading Green Hands has been like stepping back in time, and the experiences of Bee, Anne and Pauline are brought to life in a way that modern writers of historical fiction don't always succeed. There's nothing like writing about what you know, and Green Hands was written by Barbara Whitton in 1943. In the introduction to the book, we are told that she wrote the first draft of the story in a week, it would seem that the author's Land Army experiences were so vivid that she couldn't wait to put pen to paper!

I'm so glad that the author wrote this fictional account her time in the Women's Land Army,  I've enjoyed every well written word.

About the Author

MARGARET HAZEL WATSON (writing under the pseudonym Barbara Whitton) was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1921. She was educated at the Church High Girls School in Newcastle, and later sent to St Leonards School in St Andrews. Due to study Art in Paris, her training was curtailed by the outbreak of the Second World War. Having volunteered for the Women's Land Army (WLA) in 1939, she worked as a Land Girl for around a year before moving to the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) and later joining the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) as a driver, where she remained for the duration of the war. Her novel Green Hands is a fictionalised account of her time spent as a Land Girl, detailing the back-breaking hard work and intensity of her experience with good humour and an enchanting lightness of touch. 

During her time with the ATS she met her husband Pat Chitty and they were married in 1941. After the war, she wrote a number of accounts of her wartime experience and retained an interest in art, literature and horticulture throughout her life. She died in 2016.

Twitter @I_W_M #wartimeclassics



Tuesday 29 September 2020

Blog Tour ~ The Italian Girls by Debbie Rix

Thrilled to host today's Blog Tour stop

28 September 2020

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

The sun hung low in the sky, casting pink light all over the city. A faint breeze blew over the rooftops, as flocks of starlings swirled above her, swooping and diving in unison. It seemed unimaginable that, even now, German soldiers were marching along the streets below. It was time, she decided, for direct action. It was time to fight back.

Each morning Livia Moretti makes her way from an apartment overlooking Florence’s famous Duomo to a nearby café, where she drinks espresso and reads the newspaper. To the crowds of tourists who pass by, snapping selfies, nothing about Livia will be memorable. She is simply an old lady. They walk on without knowing the part she played in ensuring the future of this beautiful city. And to Livia now, those dark days feel very far away too.

But today, when she opens the paper, she sees a name she has not heard for a long time. A name that will bring memories flooding back of Nazi troops marching through the city and the dangers she faced as a young woman, carrying out secret missions for the resistance.

Isabella Bellucci.

A siren of the silver screen, Isabella cultivated all the right connections to ensure her rise to stardom. But when Rome falls to the Nazis, Isabella is suddenly faced with the choice between protecting herself, and all she has worked for, or sacrificing everything to save the man she loves.

As the war rages across Europe, a terrible misunderstanding causes the fates of Isabella and Livia to become forever intertwined. And each woman must decide what they’re willing to risk, to protect the ones they hold dear from a brutal enemy.

What did I think about it..

The two Italian girls who feature so strongly in this WW2 novel couldn't be more different in both lifestyle and personality, and yet in the throes of war these two brave young women will see their lives overlap in a way which neither of them could ever have imagined.

Livia Moretti is a university student in Florence when the disastrous events of Italy's involvement in WW2 start to have dreadful repercussions for those who are trying their best to live a normal sort of existence, but life is incredibly hard, with food shortages and constant bombardment, plus Livia's knowledge that her beloved father is caught up in some clandestine activity makes it extremely dangerous for the whole family. Isabella Bellucci is the darling of the silver screen, a feted young actress, blessed with beauty and adored by her public but her connection with powerful men will lead her into grave danger.

I've really enjoyed stepping back in time with this story, learning about life under a fascist regime and observing, through the lives of these fascinating young women, just what it was like to go about life in constant fear. Beautifully written, with such an authentic historical feel to the novel that I felt as if I was walking alongside both Livia and Isabella, and found both their, very different, stories equally fascinating. The rich, and often decadent, lifestyle of Isabella's movie star contacts is juxtaposed against Livia's worry for her family and friends, particularly as food shortages hit them hard and the war encroaches on everything they once held dear.

Empathic, emotional and filled with wonderful historical detail, The Italian Girls is a beautifully written WW2 novel of danger, bravery, betrayal and eventually, hope against adversity.

About the Author

Debbie Rix has had a long career in journalism, including working as a presenter for the BBC. Her first novel, The Girl with Emerald Eyes was set around the building of the tower of Pisa and she has since released Daughters of the Silk Road and The Silk Weaver’s Wife. Debbie writes heartbreaking historical novels about love, tragedy and secrets.


Twitter @debbierix #TheItalianGirls


Amazon UK

Monday 28 September 2020

Book Review ~ The Lost Blackbird by Liza Perrat


London 1962. A strict and loveless English children’s home, or the promise of Australian sunshine, sandy beaches and eating fruit straight from the tree. Which would you choose?

Ten-year-old Lucy Rivers and her five-year-old sister Charly are thrilled when a child migrant scheme offers them the chance to escape their miserable past. But on arrival in Sydney, the girls discover their fantasy future is more nightmare than dream. Lucy’s lot is near-slavery at Seabreeze Farm where living conditions are inhuman, the flies and heat unbearable and the owner a sadistic bully. What must she do to survive? Meanwhile Charly, adopted by the nurturing and privileged Ashwood family, gradually senses that her new parents are hiding something. When the truth emerges, the whole family crumbles. Can Charly recover from this bittersweet deception?

Will the sisters, stranded miles apart in a strange country, ever find each other again?

A poignant testament to child migrants who suffered unforgivable evil, The Lost Blackbird explores the power of family bonds and our desire to know who we are.

What did I think about it..

The Lost Blackbird is about a lost generation and the shameful story of children, often without permission, being transported to Australia. This is not the same as the convict transportation which took place in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but was the rather ambiguous promise of a better future for those children who were often the innocent victims of the British care system of the 1960s.  With the promise of better prospects, hundreds of child migrants left England bound for new homes, new families and, even, new parents.

In The Lost Blackbird we follow the story of two such children, Lucy and Charly Rivers who are placed in care when their home situation alters dramatically. With no say whatsoever in their future, both girls find that their life, as they know it, in England, is over, and whilst the six week sea voyage to Australia on board, The Star of New South Wales, is filled with excitement, the reality of their arrival in this strange country is far from perfect.

This is is a fascinating look at two very different lives, the younger child, Charly, given in adoption to new parents who only want what's best for themselves, whilst the older girl, Lucy, is treated abominably on a remote farm with other migrant children and is subjected to a life which amounts to little more than slavery.

The author writes well about this shameful period in British and Australian history and whilst I had heard a little about the child migrant scheme I didn't know the full extent of the horror some of the children faced when they arrived in this new land of promise. Part of the story broke my heart to learn that children could be treated so badly and whilst The Lost Blackbird shows both sides of the 'adoption' process there was little doubt as to the psychological damage that was being inflicted on children who only needed love and care, and yet were forcibly removed from everything that was familiar to them.

Beautifully written by an author who knows how to get right into the heart of a story, I read The Lost Blackbird, often with tears in my eyes, appalled at the wanton cruelty, and so often, hoping against hope that something would help to change the circumstances, not just for Lucy and Charly Rivers, but also for all those other innocent young lives who were being so cruelly exploited.

The Lost Blackbird takes us on a journey of false promises, danger, degradation and loss and yet, there's also a glimmer of hope which I clung to throughout the whole of this powerful story.

About the Author

Liza grew up in Australia, working as a general nurse and midwife. She has now been living in France for twenty-seven years, where she works as a part-time medical translator and a novelist. 

She is the author of the French historical The Bone Angel series. The first book in Liza’s Australian series, The Silent Kookaburra is a domestic noir, psychological suspense set in 1970s Australia.  The second in the series, The Swooping Magpie is currently under revision. 

Sunday 27 September 2020

🍴 Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Malcolm Hollingdrake

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'm delighted to welcome, author, Malcolm Hollingdrake to our Sunday Brunch today🍴

🍴Good morning, Malcolm , What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch?

Manx kippers or scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. Not everybody will be partial to kippers! 

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

A strong Americano, please. 

🍴Where shall we eat brunch – around the kitchen table, in the formal dining room, or outside on the patio?

Outside on the patio would be lovely. 

🍴Shall we have music playing in the background? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you happy?

Considering the time of day, I think ‘The Lark Ascending’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams might be suitable – there’s a strong link to DCI Bennett there too. 

🍴Which of your literary heroes (dead or alive) are joining us for Sunday Brunch today? 

Ranulph Fiennes, Angie Marsons, Robert Ryan, Alan Bennett. 

🍴Which favourite book will you bring to Sunday Brunch?

‘The Feathermen’ by Ranulph Fiennes. 


🍴When you are writing do you still find time to read for pleasure? And is there a book you would like to read but haven’t had time for …yet! 

I find little time to read. To be truthful, I have never been a reader. The only full collection of an author’s work I have read has been that of Robert Ryan. I would eagerly await his next publication. 

🍴What’s the oldest book on your book shelf? 

‘Enemy Coast Ahead’ by Guy Gibson published in 1946. 

🍴Where do you find the inspiration for your novels?

A chance conversation, a news article or something I see can spark an idea. For ‘Treble Clef’ it was the conversation with the owner of The Bay Tree B&B whilst attending the Harrogate Crime Festival. She now proudly displays the book in the breakfast room. 

🍴Have you a favourite place to settle down to write and do you find it easier to write in winter or summer?

I find I can write at any time. Even when I’m on holiday I will try to commit to one thousand words a day. At home, it’s at the dining room table. One day I’ll get a desk! 

🍴When writing to a deadline are you easily distracted and if so how do you bring back focus on your writing?

I refuse now to write to deadlines. When I was published with Bloodhound Books, I was asked to write one of the seven books to a date. I wrote the 70,000 words in a very short time which meant eight-hour days. I understood why it was necessary and I was asked and accepted the challenge. Fortunately, I knew the subject matter so well it required little in the way of research. 

🍴Give us four essential items that a writer absolutely needs?

Patience, diligence, confidence and a pachydermic skin. A patient partner is probably the most vital key too! 

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

My latest published novel is ‘Threadbare’. I am pleased to say that it has been very positively received. Again, this could be read as a standalone. However, it does include a major change to two main characters within the series. I was thrilled to receive these two reviews – reviews can make or break your day! 

'I was drawn into this book almost immediately and completely immersed within the first chapter.' 

'Wonderfully written, giving the reader everything they might expect in a crime novel.' 

'Once again, the author shows his meticulous research and his amazing ability to keep the reader hooked to the end. Malcolm Hollingdrake weaves the seemingly unconnected strands of this story into one final brilliant tapestry. Highly recommended as are all his previous books.'

It's a tale of revenge, one where the most unusual weapons are used in the process … I’m saying no more. 

I have also now finished two further books for a new series set in Merseyside but the action is predominantly set in the northern part – the Ainsdale to Southport area. The main DS lives in Roby Mill, just outside Wigan and is a catch as catch can wrestler in her spare time! Please meet DS Skeeter Warlock! It has been a change to write this new series but with Covid, I have had to wait to check the locations. 

I’ll add an image of a location used in the first book entitled ‘Catch as Catch Can’. The second book is entitled ‘Syn’. 

If any reader of this blog post can tell me the location of the photograph I will send them a signed copy of ‘Threadbare’.

🍴Malcolm, where can we follow you on social media? 🍴


You could say that the writing was clearly on the wall for someone born in a library that they might aspire to be an author, but to get to that point Malcolm Hollingdrake has travelled a circuitous route. 

Malcolm worked in education for many years, even teaching for a period in Cairo before he started writing, a challenge he had longed to tackle for more years than he cares to remember. 

He has written a number of successful short stories, has ten books now available and is presently writing the tenth crime novel set in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. 

Born in Bradford and spending three years at Ripon College, Malcolm has never lost his love for his home county, a passion that is reflected in the settings for all the DCI Bennett novels However, as well as the Bennett series he is writing a new series set in Merseyside. 

Malcolm has enjoyed many hobbies including collecting works by Northern artists; the art auctions offer a degree of excitement when both buying and certainly when selling. It is a hobby he has bestowed upon DCI Cyril Bennett, the main character in his successful Bennett series. 


To help with the research for my latest novel I bought and learned how to fly a drone. Research is the key to ensuring the books are real as possible. I was then asked to film the gargoyles and the tower of my local church. I’ll include a link here. The music was composed by my good friend Ian Cleverdon of The Huers. We met by chance. He was a fan of my books and I of his music. 

Thanks so much, Malcolm, for joining us for Sunday Brunch 

It's been great fun

Thank you for the invitation and your warm hospitality. I have thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Follow us on Twitter @Jaffareadstoo


Saturday 26 September 2020

His Fic Saturday Blog Tour ~ People of Abandoned Character by Clare Whitfield


On Hist Fic Saturday I am pleased to host today's final stop on this Blog Tour

Let's go back to...1888

Head of Zeus
1 October 2020

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

He is my husband.
To honour and obey.
Until murder do us part.

London, 1888: Susannah rushes into marriage to a young and wealthy surgeon. After a passionate honeymoon, she returns home with her new husband wrapped around her little finger. But then everything changes. His behaviour becomes increasingly volatile and violent. He stays out all night, returning home bloodied and full of secrets.

Lonely and frustrated, Susannah starts following the gruesome reports of a spate of murders in Whitechapel. But as the killings continue, her mind takes her down the darkest path imaginable. Every time her husband stays out late, another victim is found dead.

Is it coincidence? Or is he the man they call Jack the Ripper?

What did I think about it..

'Oh, what a tangled web we weave' springs to mind in this engrossing novel which opens up the dark and rather moody streets of Victorian London in a story which had me, quite literally, on the edge of my seat.

Susannah Chapman is a respected nurse at the London Hospital but seeking an escape she accepts a proposal of marriage from, Thomas Lancaster, a handsome surgeon, five years her junior. At first, the marriage is passionate but on their return from honeymoon, the relationship takes on a very sinister edge, and Susannah finds, to her cost, that the charismatic young doctor she married, is a very different character in his home surroundings.

Beautifully written with a genuine sense of being at one with the characters, I couldn't help but follow in Susannah's footsteps as she tried to discover what type of life her husband was leading and just what caused him to return home in the early hours of the morning covered in blood that, most certainly, wasn't always his own.

So many fictional stories have been based round the nightmare time of Jack the Ripper, when the Whitechapel district of Victorian London lived in terror, and this novel certainly depicts the fear and shadowy darkness which shrouded the area like a malevolent fog. Susannah's fears that her husband lives in a shadowy twilight world is expertly explored, as is the downward spiral into madness which is so beautifully descried that the airs stood up on the back of my neck, filled with trepidation of what was going to happen next.

People of Abandoned Character is an exciting debut novel that you simply can't put down. I wanted to read it at every opportunity even though I was apprehensive of what the plot would throw up next. I enjoyed piecing together all the pieces of the puzzle, never quite knowing where the story would go next or what secrets would be revealed in both Susannah and Doctor Lancaster's eventful life together.

About the Author

Clare Whitfield is a UK-based writer living in a suburb where the main cultural landmark is a home store/Starbucks combo. Clare nurtures an obsession with female characters that are as much villain as hero, and enjoys lurking in the blurry landscape between perception and reality. She is the wife of a tattoo artist, mother of a small benign dictator and relies on her dog for emotional stability. Previously Clare has been a dancer, copywriter, amateur fire breather, buyer and a mediocre weightlifter. People of Abandoned Character is her first novel. 

Twitter (@whitfield_riley)

Instagram (@clarerileywhitfield



Friday 25 September 2020

Blog Tour ~ Valhalla by Alan Robert Clark


Delighted to host today's Blog Tour stop

39365597. sy475
Fairlight Books
24 September 2020

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

May of Teck, only daughter of a noble family fallen from grace, has been selected to marry the troublesome Prince Eddy, heir to the British throne. Submitting to the wishes of Queen Victoria and under pressure from her family, young May agrees. But just as a spark of love and devotion arises between the young couple, Prince Eddy dies of influenza. To her horror, May discovers she is to be married to the brother, Georgie, instead, a cold and domineering man. But what can she do? From the author of The Prince of Mirrors comes this gripping account of the life of Queen Mary, one of the most formidable queens of Britain.

What did I think about it...

I can't think that I have ever read a historical novel which had the enigmatic Queen Mary as its central character, she has always seemed to get rather lost as the quiet wife of the more dominant, King George V or as the bewildered mother of the abdicated, King Edward VIII. It's been a refreshing change to have more of an idea about the rather shy May of Teck, who married her dead fiancé's brother because it was convenient  and kept her in the family.

I've seen grainy black and white images of Queen Mary, who always seems such a sturdy upright figure, typically Edwardian in manner and dress, never without a string or two of pearls around her neck and her sensible and rather mundane choice of fashion. What this fictional account of her life does is give us an idea of how she was as a person and how her rather lonely upbringing with dissolute and indifferent parents had such a bearing on how she conducted herself in her royal life.

The author has written a lovely, fictional account of Queen Mary's life, from her time as a young girl, right through to her death in 1953 including some of the more well known moments in the tumultuous  reign of George V, along with the more personal thoughts and feelings of a young woman who was thrust into the royal spotlight. I feel like I really got to know Queen Mary, with all her hopes and fears she was always just trying to do the best she could for her family and her country.

I think that Valhalla is a much needed fictional account of the life of our current Queen's grandmother, which will be of interest, I am sure, to all those readers who enjoy novels about the royal family whilst at the same time appealing to those who just love good historical fiction.

Alan Robert Clark was born and educated in Scotland. He briefly attended King’s College in London, before opting instead for a career as a copywriter and creative director with a number of leading London advertising agencies. He has worked as a freelance journalist and, most recently, has ghost-written and coauthored a number of biographies. His novel The Prince of Mirrors (Fairlight Books, 2018) was included in the Walter Scott Prize Academy Recommends List.

Twitter @AlanRobClark #ValhallaNovel


Thursday 24 September 2020

Blog Tour ~ A Year of Living Simply by Kate Humble


Thrilled to be hosting today's stop on this Blog Tour

Octopus Publishing Group
17 September 2020

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

If there is one thing that most of us aspire to, it is, simply, to be happy. And yet attaining happiness has become, it appears, anything but simple. Having stuff - The Latest, The Newest, The Best Yet - is all too often peddled as the sure fire route to happiness. So why then, in our consumer-driven society, is depression, stress and anxiety ever more common, affecting every strata of society and every age, even, worryingly, the very young? Why is it, when we have so much, that many of us still feel we are missing something and the rush of pleasure when we buy something new turns so quickly into a feeling of emptiness, or purposelessness, or guilt? So what is the route to real, deep, long lasting happiness? Could it be that our lives have just become overly crowded, that we've lost sight of the things - the simple things - that give a sense of achievement, a feeling of joy or excitement? That make us happy. Do we need to take a step back, reprioritise? Do we need to make our lives more simple? Kate Humble's fresh and frank exploration of a stripped-back approach to life is uplifting, engaging and inspiring - and will help us all find balance and happiness every day.

What did I think about it..

I've always enjoyed watching Kate Humble on television, whether it be her knowledgeable country lore or her lively travelogues, there is always something really trustworthy about how she shares her genuine interest in whatever subject she is presenting. 

From its stunning cover, with the Kintsugi bowl as its centre piece, the book takes us through a myriad of thoughts and feelings which are so beautifully described by an author who leads you by the hand into the ways and means of a simpler life. There is much to enjoy, not just in terms of the writing, which is wonderfully informative, without being preachy, but also in the description of how Kate's own search for a simpler life led her to meet the most amazing people who were all trying, each in their own small corner of the world, to make a difference in the way in which they lived their lives.

What I gleaned from reading the book is that we can all make small differences, it's no use trying to leap in with no clear idea of what you want to achieve, but rather start with what's achievable and work your way from there. I particularly enjoyed the interspersed snippets entitled, Simple Pleasure, which act as a reminder to us that we can always find something to enjoy and take pleasure from which doesn't need to harm the planet or cost money. There's also some really great recipes in Growing and Cooking. I am definitely going to try the No-Sugar Banana Loaf, something I love to bake, but then always feel guilty about the amount of sugar needed to make it palatable. Having never known what to do with a celeriac, there's even a delicious sounding recipe for Celeriac Soup with Apple and Thyme, which is now definitely on my to-do list!

Quite simply, The Year of Living Simply is about valuing the life you have and making small but meaningful changes to help bring your world into focus, whilst at the same time enjoying the rather lovely conversational journey of this talented author as she sets about making her own life less complicated.

A Year of Living Simply is a really lovely look at the different ways in which we can all make our lives less frantic, and believe me, in this difficult year, anything that will make my life simpler is gratefully received.

About the Author

Kate Humble is a farmer, writer, activist, entrepreneur and one of the UK's best-known TV presenters. She started her television career as a researcher, later presenting programmes such as 'Animal Park', 'Springwatch & Autumnwatch', 'Lambing Live', 'Living with Nomads', 'Extreme Wives' and 'Back to the Land'. Her last book, Thinking On My Feet, was shortlisted for The Wainwright Prize and The Edward Stanford Travel Writing Award. 

Twitter  @katehumble #AYearofLivingSimply



Wednesday 23 September 2020

Blog Tour ~ Hermit by S R White


Thrilled to host today's final blog tour stop

17 September

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


After a puzzling death in the wild bushlands of Australia, detective Dana Russo has just hours to interrogate the prime suspect - a silent, inscrutable man found at the scene of the crime, who disappeared without trace 15 years earlier.

But where has he been? Why won't he talk? And exactly how dangerous is he? Without conclusive evidence to prove his guilt, Dana faces a desperate race against time to persuade him to speak. But as each interview spirals with fevered intensity, Dana must reckon with her own traumatic past to reveal the shocking truth...

What did I think about it...

Rural Australia is the setting for this slow and considered crime novel which focuses on the murder investigation of a local shopkeeper. The prime suspect is man who was found at the scene and who is considered to be something of a loner, a condition which seems to be replicated in the lead detective, Dana Russo, who is, herself, something of an enigma, especially after observing her behaviour in the opening scenes of the book.

At first the murder of shop owner, Lou Cassavette, seems like a burglary gone wrong but as we discover throughout the course of the novel, this case is far from simple.  Taking place over the day of the investigation Hermit is more of a slow burner of a novel, rather than an all guns blazing type, but I think that this is a deliberate skill employed by the author to enable the story to evolve entirely at its own pace.

The interaction between suspect and Russo is done in a thoughtful way with neither investigator nor perpetrator giving away too much of themselves. However, as soon as the suspect is brought into the interview room the clock is ticking and the race is on for Detective Russo to bring the case to a satisfactory conclusion. Reaching that satisfactory conclusion is where the real power of the story lies and I think the author has done a really good job of keeping everything tight and focused.

However, crime investigation is never that simple and in this case there are complexities, intrigue and horrors ahead. I don’t want to spoil anything by giving anything away as this complex character driven novel is best read with no preconceived notions of how the story will eventually play out. Hermit is an interesting police procedural novel with an unusual lead detective, it’s obvious that there is more to discover about Dana Russo and I hope we get to find out more in future crime novels.

S.R. White worked for a UK police force for twelve years, before returning to academic life and taking an MA in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University. He now lives in Queensland, Australia.

Twitter @headlinepg #Hermit

Tuesday 22 September 2020

Blog Tour ~ Secrets of the Railway Girls by Maisie Thomas


Delighted to host today's final blog tour stop

17 September 2020

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

This second instalment of this exciting new saga series shows just how important friendship and love is in a time of uncertainty and change. We pick back up with Dot, Joan and Mabel as the war continues and secrets threaten their budding friendships. Brought together by their work on Manchester’s railways and a duty to help the war effort and those they love fighting overseas, these three amazing women find that with the support and encouragement of each other, they can get through even the most challenging of times.

What did I think about it...

It's been such a treat to return to this group of women who we first encountered in The Railway Girls. Picking up the threads of the story again we follow, Dot, Joan and Mabel as they continue their valuable work on the Manchester railway network, keeping everything both at home, and at work, in lively focus.  

In this novel, the northern stoicism of the railway girls is sorely tested when Manchester becomes the target for some pretty fierce bombardment, but as always, they rise to the challenge of what lies before them. Trained in first aid some of the women find themselves in some tricky situations which they handle with bravery and compassion.

The individual stories are just as interesting, I love the brave, good humour of Dot, so reminiscent of the strong northern women in my family who, during WW2 kept, hearth and home together. The practical skills of Joan, and the seriousness of Mabel, and yet they all bring out the best in each other and their support is especially vital when times get tough.

I love the setting of the book in North West England, it all feels so familiar, there's even a shout out to the railway station in my home town in it! The war-time authenticity is without question as is the author's enthusiasm and skill in bringing place, people and historical context to life. With heartbreak, tragedy and upheaval as a constant threat the railway girls face some difficult challenges but with their brave good humour they do their absolute best to keep going even though life around them is really difficult.

Beautifully written, with a quiet charm, the author has most certainly got the balance just right with this historical saga. Her characters, with all of their problems and insecurities, come alive, we laugh, and cry, with them as they do their best to keep to keep morale alive in some pretty difficult circumstances.

I am sure that this isn't the last we have seen of The Railways Girls - I would hope that they have many more adventures before the war is over.

About the Author

Maisie Thomas was born and brought up in Manchester, which provides the location for her Railway Girls novels. She loves writing stories with strong female characters, set in times when women needed determination and vision to make their mark. The Railway Girls series is inspired by her great Aunt Jessie, who worked as a railway clerk during the First World War. Maisie now lives in beautiful North Wales with her railway enthusiast husband and their two rescue cats. They often enjoy holidays chugging up and down the UK’s heritage steam railways.

Twitter @MaisieThomas99 #SecretsOfTheRailwayGirls

Twitter @Arrowpublishing 

Monday 21 September 2020

Blog Tour ~ The Second Marriage by Gill Paul


 Delighted to host today's stop on this Blog Tour

17 September 2020

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

When her first marriage ends in tragedy, Jackie Kennedy fears she’ll never love again. But all that changes when she encounters…

Successful and charming, Ari Onassis is a man who promises her the world. Yet soon after they marry, Jackie learns that his heart also belongs to another…

A beautiful, famed singer, Maria Callas is in love with Jackie’s new husband – and she isn’t going to give up.

Little by little, Jackie and Maria’s lives begin to tangle in a dangerous web of secrets, scandal and lies. But with both women determined to make Ari theirs alone, the stakes are high. How far will they go for true love?

What did I think about it..

The glamorous lifestyle of the rich and famous is vividly portrayed in this fascinating novel which charts the complicated relationship between three very different people. The fabulously wealthy, Greek shipping tycoon, Aristotle Onassis, is caught between the two women who would play such a vital role in his complicated love life. 

Maria Callas is the world renowned soprano whose attraction to Aristotle is an all consuming passion. We learn of Maria's insecurities about her exceptional talent, her sham of a marriage, and her dangerous attraction for the Greek millionaire who promises her love and passion when she is a lost and lonely wife. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy is the world's most famous widow when she is beguiled by Aristotle and the safe haven from the world spotlight that he offers both her and her children. 

In beautifully layered chapters we go back to Jackie Kennedy's life with her charismatic but extremely ambitious first husband, we step into her shoes as First Lady of America, and we learn of her own personal heartbreak as she combines motherhood within the glare of the world's political stage.The author has done an excellent job of bringing together all the different strands of the story, I especially enjoyed how the alternate chapters shone the spotlight on both Maria and Jackie’s complex relationship with Onassis, a man whose personal magnetism proved to be both controlling and manipulative.

The story flows beautifully, weaving known facts with well placed fiction, and definitely bringing to life the absolutely fascinating story of both Maria Callas and Jackie Kennedy’s fated relationship with one of world's richest men.

About the Author

Twitter @GillPaulAUTHOR



Sunday 20 September 2020

🍴 Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Steven Manchester

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'm delighted to welcome author, Steven Manchester  to our Sunday Brunch today🍴

🍴Good morning, Steven ! What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch?

I’m bringing eggs benedict (if I can talk my wife into making her Hollandaise sauce). 

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

Strong Americano for me, although I’d be very happy with the English tea.

🍴Where shall we eat brunch – around the kitchen table, in the formal dining room, or outside on the patio?

Weather permitting, we’re going outside. If we have to stay in, I prefer an informal setting—so the kitchen table.

🍴Shall we have music playing in the background? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you happy?

Yes, we’ll be playing albums—at a low volume. Frank Sinatra’s ‘Summer Wind’ 

🍴Which of your literary heroes (dead or alive) are joining us for Sunday Brunch today?

Harper Lee, please. 

🍴Which favourite book will you bring to Sunday Brunch?

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ I want to discuss Ms. Lee’s writing process with her. 

Arrow Books

🍴When you are writing do you still find time to read for pleasure? And is there a book you would like to read but haven’t had time for …yet!

I love to read, and do so 4 months out of the year. The rest of the time I’m writing. There are many books I haven’t been able to get to; I especially enjoy reading new writers—some of which are unpublished. 

🍴What’s the oldest book on your book shelf?

The Bible

🍴Where do you find the inspiration for your novels?

Every day life, surrounded by family and friend. I write realty-based fiction. 

🍴Have you a favourite place to settle down to write and do you find it easier to write in winter or summer?

I’ve trained myself to write in chaos, if needed. Summer, winter—it doesn’t matter—my job is to put in the seat time and produce new work. 

🍴When writing to a deadline are you easily distracted and if so how do you bring back focus on your writing?

I’m not easily distracted at all; I’m probably too intense. When I do get stuck, I start writing a new scene (within the same novel). 

🍴Give us four essential items that a writer absolutely needs?

Passion, Self-Belief, Commitment & Perseverance 

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

I’m currently finishing up a novel entitled, Dad. It’s about three generations of dads; a legacy about fatherhood. A tearjerker! 

Steven, where can we follow you on social media? 

Twitter: @AuthorSteveM 

Steven Manchester is the author of the soul-awakening novel, The Menu; the #1 bestsellers Twelve Months, The Rockin' Chair, Pressed Pennies and Gooseberry Island; the national bestsellers, Ashes, The Changing Season and Three Shoeboxes; the multi-award winning novel, Goodnight Brian; and the beloved holiday podcast drama, The Thursday Night Club. His work has appeared on NBC's Today Show, CBS's The Early Show, CNN's American Morning and BET's Nightly News. Three of Steven's short stories were selected "101 Best" for Chicken Soup for the Soul series. He is a multi-produced playwright, as well as the winner of the 2017 Los Angeles Book Festival and the 2018 New York Book Festival. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or their children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing.

Blessed with a high emotional IQ, Phinn Reed enters the world with the promise of finding his soul mate. With heaven’s memories erased, his romantic quest teaches him that the heart often sees clearer than the eyes—and that not everyone has ordered the same items from The Menu. Evidence that love stories come in many different forms, The Menu is a spiritual journey involving more than just a man and a woman; it is a modern-day tale that reaches far beyond the boundaries of reason.

🍴Thanks so much, Steven, for joining us for Sunday Brunch today 🍴

It's been great fun!

Follow us on Twitter @Jaffareadstoo


Saturday 19 September 2020

Hist Fic Saturday Blog Tour ~ Our Yanks by Margaret Mayhew


On Hist Fic Saturday I am delighted to host today's Blog Tour stop

Let's go back to ...1943

Transworld Publishers
Published 2011 Reissue : 2020

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

August 1943. A fighter group of US airmen descends upon the quiet and sleepy village of King’s Thorpe in Northamptonshire. The village has never seen the like of them before: they are glamorous, rich, exciting and full of bravado.

While some of the older residents are dismayed, many of the younger ones cannot help but be won over by their charms.

And for many – including young Sally Barnet from the bakery, Agnes Dawe – the Rector’s daughter, and newly-widowed Lady Beauchamp, they will have a long lasting impact.

It will be a summer many will never forget…

What did I think about it..

I live about twelve miles or so from the site of a US WW2 airfield which over recent years has been changed to an industrial site, but thirty years ago the remnants of the camp were still pretty much visible, especially the large aircraft hangers and living quarters. I once had relatives who visited the camp for social evenings, and, in fact, my husband's two aunts met and later married their GI husbands.

Our Yanks is the lovely story of how a group of US airmen, drafted in to help maintain morale, took over the small fictional village of King's Thorpe, where with their swagger and general bon homie they had their work cut out in trying to persuade some of the villagers that they were in the war for the long haul. From the poorest villagers, to the more well to do,  it was fascinating to see how their prejudices and natural reticence were gradually overcome as general compassion and friendship for the airmen began to have an effect.

It was especially interesting to see tentative relationships become a little more personal, some would succeed, others not so fortunate but throughout the story the way the author brought everything to life in such a gentle and well respected way made the story all the more rewarding to read. I genuinely cared for the characters, some made me smile, especially the antics of young Tom and his brother Alfie, who filled their pockets with all the candies and chewing gum the airmen threw their way, and yet, there was such a poignant reason for Tom's lively entrepreneurial skills, that I always wanted him to win the day. 

I think that it is such a lovely idea of the publishers to reissue the historical fiction written by this author twenty or so years ago. Her books deserve to be read by a new audience and I am sure that Our Yanks will continue to delight fans of the WW2 saga genre.

Margaret Mayhew was born in London and her earliest childhood memories were of the London Blitz. She began writing in her mid-thirties and had her first novel published in 1976. She is married to American aviation author, Philip Kaplan, and lives in Gloucestershire.

Twitter #MargaretMayhew