Saturday 31 October 2020

His Fic Saturday ~ Blog Tour ~ When I Come Home Again by Caroline Scott


Thrilled to host one of today's Blog Tour stops 

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to ...1918

29 October 2020

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

They need him to remember. He wants to forget. 1918. In the last week of the First World War, a uniformed soldier is arrested in Durham Cathedral. When questioned, it becomes clear he has no memory of who he is or how he came to be there. The soldier is given the name Adam and transferred to a rehabilitation home where his doctor James is determined to recover who this man once was. But Adam doesn’t want to remember. Unwilling to relive the trauma of war, Adam has locked his memory away, seemingly for good. When a newspaper publishes a feature about Adam, three women come forward, each claiming that he is someone she lost in the war. But does he believe any of these women? Or is there another family out there waiting for him to come home? 

Based on true events, When I Come Home Again is a deeply moving and powerful story of a nation’s outpouring of grief, and the search for hope in the aftermath of war.

What did I think about it..

As first hand memories of the Great War fade into the shadows of history so does our perception of what it was like for families up and down the country to receive that deadly telegram with the devastating words " Missing, presumed, killed" and just how much hope clung to the belief that their loved ones would eventually return, hale, hearty and none the worse for their adventure.

When a uniformed soldier is found cowering in Durham Cathedral in the last few days of WW1, the authorities have no clue as to his identity as the soldier remembers nothing of either his time in the army, or of his previous life with family and friends. Seemingly traumatised, the man, known only by a made up name of Adam Galilee, is taken to Fellside House, a rehabilitation hospital in the English Lake District where kindly doctors attempt to put the jigsaw pieces of Adam's life back together. However, in a desperate attempt to discover Adam's identity, a newspaper publishes a feature along with grainy photograph of him which brings several women to the hospital, each convinced that Adam is someone precious to them.

What then follows is a deeply, emotional story which looks at the trauma of loss and grief, not just of those who are desperately searching for a lost loved one, but also from the fragmented pieces of men who had lost so much of what was precious about themselves. Horrors of trauma and the inglorious nature of war haunts their dreams, and colours their world with nightmare scenes of death and destruction on a scale never before witnessed.

When I Come Home Again is a beautifully written story by an author who doesn't shy away from those stories which have a strong emotional impact. She gives us a really special lyrical quality to the story especially in the describing the area around Fellside House, the natural glory of gardens, the surprises revealed by nature but alongside is the uncompromising effect of the nightmare visions conjured by men who only ever wanted to forget what they had witnessed.

When I Come Home Again is a compelling and heart-wrenching story by a talented author who brings this traumatic period in history alive in a very special way.

About the Author

Caroline completed a PhD in History at the University of Durham. She developed a particular interest in the impact of the First World War on the landscape of Belgium and France, and in the experience of women during the conflict – fascinations that she was able to pursue while she spent several years working as a researcher for a Belgian company. Caroline is originally from Lancashire, but now lives in southwest France. The Photographer of the Lost was a BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick.

Twitter @CScottBooks #WhenIComeHomeAgain



Halloween Read ~ The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson

Windmill Books
Reissued : October 2020

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

The Forest of Pendle used to be a hunting ground, but some say that the hill is the hunter - alive in its black-and-green coat cropped like an animal pelt.

Good Friday, 1612. Two notorious witches await trial and certain death in Lancaster Castle, whilst a small group gathers in secret protest. Into this group the self-made Alice Nutter stakes her claim and swears to fight against the rule of fear. But what is Alice's connection to these witches? What is magic if not power, and what will happen to the women who possess it?

This is Lancashire. This is Pendle. This is witch country.

What did I think about it..

The Daylight Gate brings to life the troubling story of the Lancashire Witches. Dark and dirty, the seamier side of life in the shadow of Pendle Hill, and the lives of the unfortunate women, and men, who were ostracised for witchcraft is explored in graphic and torturous detail.

Whilst the story pulls no punches, and isn't for the faint hearted, I found that I was gripped from the beginning. Starting from the momentous meeting between Alison Devices, and the pedlar, John Law, as he takes his fateful short cut through that part of Pendle Forest, known locally as Bogart's Hole, the story takes us into that dark spring, and summer, of 1612, when the raggle-taggle women of Pendle were rounded up and persecuted for witchcraft.

The Daylight Gate puts an altogether different slant on the story with more of a hint towards the supernatural, but is none the worse for that, in fact, I found the imagining of the story around Alice Nutter, always something of a shadowy and rather enigmatic figure, quite fascinating.  Succinctly written, with never a word wasted, there is a chilling menace which makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. And perhaps, if there were, once upon a time, any witches who claimed Pendle Hill as their own, then this story more than does them justice.

The story of the Pendle witches is particularly relevant to those who live in the Pendle region of Lancashire. The story still lingers in the remote countryside around Pendle Hill, and locals haven't forgotten the injustice of the witch trials in the August assizes of 1612, when the twelve suspects were taken from the forests and hills of the North Lancashire moors, places that were as cold, dark and inhospitable, as the bleak, northern landscape.

We dress as witches for fancy dress on Halloween, ostensibly as a bit of lighthearted fun but for this unfortunate group who were made to walk the 46 miles from their ragged homes in Pendle, to the castle gaol, in Lancaster, and their subsequent horrific deaths, being accused of witchcraft was no frivolous matter. 

I visited the Assizes courtroom at Lancaster Castle just a couple of years ago. Sitting on one of the hard wooden seats and trying to imagine the stark reality of facing a trial by a biased jury, who had already decided the accused were guilty, was a sobering experience. The  atmosphere in the dark and gloomy courtroom has a definite menacing chill as the ghosts of these unfortunate women, I think, still linger in the shadowy corners of the room.

Lancaster Castle

About the Author

Jeanette Winterson CBE was born in Manchester,She has written eleven novels for adults, as well as children's books, and non-fiction and screenplays. She is a Professor of New Writing a the University of Manchester. She lives in the Cotswolds in a wood and in Spitalfields, London.

Twitter @Wintersonworld

@Windmill Books

Friday 30 October 2020

Blog Tour ~ The Art Fiasco by Fiona Veitch Smith


Delighted to take part in this Blog Tour today

Lion Hudson Ltd
October 2020

#Poppy Denby

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

It’s 1924 and Poppy Denby is heading up to Northumberland to celebrate her father’s sixtieth birthday. She stops off in Newcastle en route to visit her Aunt Dot, who has temporarily relocated from London to renovate a house she’s inherited. One of Aunt Dot’s guests is the world-renowned artist, Agnes Robson, who is staging an exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery. Reluctantly, Poppy is roped in to help when the artist’s press liaison man falls ill. She soon discovers that the local press has dug up some dirt on Agnes relating to the tragic death of a young art teacher in Ashington Colliery, twenty-seven years earlier. As she tries to suppress the story, Poppy begins to suspect that the teacher might have been murdered and that the killer may still be on the loose…

What did I think about it..

Journalist, and amateur sleuth, Poppy Denby is staying with her Aunt Dot in Newcastle, and whilst there she meets with renowned artist, Agnes Robson, who is back in the North East, to celebrate her artistic success by showing some of her art collection in an exhibition at the prestigious Laing Art Gallery. When Agnes’s press assistant is taken ill, Poppy steps in to help out, with devastating consequences when secrets from Agnes’s past threaten to be exposed.

Poppy Denby is a likeable amateur crime investigator as she has the right amount of tenacity to get to grips with a situation and yet she is also a little bit ditzy which I rather liked as all sleuths should have some flaws. There’s no doubt, though, that Poppy also has sound common sense and even when the investigation goes off in an unexpected direction, Poppy is there to pull everything together. 

The story flows well and the setting in 1924 gives something of a ‘flapper’ feel about it with the idea of fashionable young women enjoying themselves and yet, they're also making their mark in a typically male society. However, it's not all about froth and trips to the theatre and games of tennis, there’s also quite a dark element at play concerning something tragic which happened long ago in Agnes Robson's past which is explained well and gives an interesting dimension to the story.

This is the fifth book in this cosy crime series and even though I haven’t read any of the four books which had gone before, I was soon able to pick up some pointers about Poppy’s past and didn’t feel that I struggled too much in not knowing much about some of the characters. The Art Fiasco is a lively, cosy crime mystery which has interesting characters, and enough excitement, to keep you entertained from start to finish.

About the Author

Fiona Veitch Smith is the author of the Poppy Denby Investigates novels, Golden Age-style murder mysteries set in the 1920s, about a reporter sleuth who works for a London tabloid. The first book in the series, The Jazz Files, was shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger, while subsequent books have been shortlisted for the Foreword Review Mystery Novel of the Year and the People’s Book Prize. She is formerly a journalist, having worked on the arts and crime beats of a Cape Town newspaper, and lectured in journalism in the UK for over a decade. She is currently the Deputy Editor of the CWA’s Red Herrings Magazine.

Twitter @FionaVeitchSmit #TheArtFiasco


Thursday 29 October 2020

🎄Blog Tour ~ Christmas at the Farmhouse by Rebecca Boxall


Thrilled to host one of  today's stops on this Blog Tour

Wild Fox Press
24 October 2020

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
and to Rachel's random Resources for my invitation to be part of this blog tour today

Can peace be made with the past this Christmas?

As the anticipation of Christmas builds in the Nielsen family’s cosy farmhouse, Jo, Magnus and their grown-up children begin to congregate for a hybrid Danish-Jersey festive season, each with a surprise of their own – though the surprise that arrives on Christmas Day is something nobody could have predicted.

Fifty years earlier, in 1969, Susan finds herself being pursued by Mr Jenners, her former English teacher, and at the age of seventeen is packed off to a Home for Unmarried Mothers in London by her uncompromising father. As Christmas approaches, all she can do is desperately hope to be rescued, but will anyone be able to reach her in time,

The two timelines of this festive story gradually weave together in a tale that examines whether love and hope can eventually triumph over even the deepest sadness.

🎄What did I think about it..

This story is so Christmassy that you can almost smell the chestnuts roasting and Christmas lunch gently steaming in the Aga. Throughout this gentle drama there is a lovely feel of family, true, this is definitely a family with secrets, but when it counts they all pull together, with parents, Jo and Magnus, doing their best to keep their Jersey-Danish family traditions alive.

It's not all about the here and now as there's also an intriguing story arc which features teenage  mother, Susan, who on discovering that she is pregnant in 1969 is sent off to have the baby at a home for unmarried mothers, a story which is both poignant and heartbreaking in equal measure. The author does a wonderful job of bringing these two stories into sharp focus, I was equally interested in joining in with Christmas at the Farmhouse with Jo, Magnus and the family as I was in travelling with Susan on her rather sad story in the 1960s.

The author writes well and builds up towards the Christmas surprise with a lovely light touch, making Christmas at the Farmhouse such a cosy, warmhearted, festive read.

About the Author

Rebecca Boxall was born in 1977 in East Sussex, where she grew up in a vicarage always filled with family, friends and parishioners. She now lives by the sea in Jersey with her husband, three children and Rodney the cat. She read English at the University of Warwick before training as a lawyer and also studied Creative Writing with The Writer’s Bureau. She is the bestselling author of Christmas at the Vicarage, Home for Winter, Christmas on the Coast, The Christmas Forest and Christmas by the Lighthouse and was nominated for the Romantic Novelist Association Awards in 2020.

Wednesday 28 October 2020

Blog Tour ~ The Exiles by Christine Baker Kline


Delighted to host today's blog tour stop

Allison& Busby
22 October 2020

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

London, 1840. Evangeline, pregnant and falsely accused of stealing, has languished in Newgate prison for months. Ahead lies the journey to Australia on a prison ship. On board, Evangeline befriends Hazel, sentenced to seven years’ transport for theft. Soon Hazel’s path will cross with an orphaned indigenous girl. Mathinna is ‘adopted’ by the new governor of Tasmania where the family treat her more like a curiosity than a child. Amid hardships and cruelties, new life will take root in stolen soil, friendships will define lives, and some will find their place in a new society in the land beyond the seas.

What did I think about it..

Evangeline Stokes is falsely accused of theft, and after a sojourn in the hideous depths of Newgate Prison, she is found guilty and sentenced to transportation to Australia. Whilst on board the convict ship, Medea, Evangeline is befriended by Hazel Ferguson, a young woman who is also on her way to start a new life in Australia. These two lives interweave in the most tragic of circumstances in an event which left me reeling.

We also follow the story of Mathinna, a young Aboriginal girl, who is taken to live with the governor, Sir John Franklin, and his wife, on the island of Van Diemen's Land where she is treated as something of a curiosity, more pet, than human. Mathinna is a fascinating young woman and I enjoyed how the elements of her story came together but was saddened by her treatment and the  despicable way her rich heritage was disregarded as unimportant by those who purported to be better than her.

The absolute strength of the story comes from the tragedy of the circumstances in which these characters find themselves in, all of them exiles from the place of their birth, but even as they are used, abused and disregarded, their story is a valuable insight into how, given the right circumstances, some people were able to rise above the circumstances of tragedy.

Beautifully written and extensively researched, The Exiles took me back to a cruel time in history when for the meagre crime of stealing a silver spoon, or being wrongly accused of stealing a ruby ring, the whole pivotal importance of life was changed forever. 

The Exiles is heartrendingly sad in places but nevertheless is a wonderful, insightful read about a largely forgotten and cruel period in history.

About the Author

CHRISTINA BAKER KLINE is the author of seven novels, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Orphan Train. Her essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Money, More, and Psychology Today, among other publications. She lives in New York City and on the coast of Maine.

Twitter @bakerkline #TheExiles



Book Blitz ~ The Last Blast of the Trumpet by Marie Macpherson


Delighted to be part of this Book Blitz today

Penmore Press

My thanks to the author for my copy of the book
and Love Books Group for my invitation to this Book Blitz

Conflict, Chaos and Corruption in Reformation Scotland

He wants to reform Scotland, but his enemies will stop at nothing to prevent him.

Scotland 1559: Fiery reformer John Knox returns to a Scotland on the brink of civil war. Victorious, he feels confident of his place leading the reform until the charismatic young widow, Mary Queen of Scots returns to claim her throne. She challenges his position and initiates a ferocious battle of wills as they strive to win the hearts and minds of the Scots. But the treachery and jealousy that surrounds them both as they make critical choices in their public and private lives has dangerous consequences that neither of them can imagine,

In this final instalment of the trilogy of the fiery reformer John Knox, Macpherson tells the story of a man and a queen at one of the most critical phases of Scottish history.

What did I think about it..

I have followed this fascinating trilogy from the very first blast of the trumpet which I reviewed back in 2013 when I was just starting out as a book reviewer. The thrill of being trusted with an author's work remains just as exciting today as it did back then and to have followed a series from its beginning, to its completion, has been a real treat.

In The Last Blast of the Trumpet we return to the complicated world of Scottish history and religious politics. We meet again with the fiery preacher, John Knox, as he enters Perth ready to lay the foundations of what will become a violent, and bloody, civil war. With the ailing, Regent of Scotland, Marie de Guise, doing all she can to protect the kingdom for her daughter, it is soon obvious that Knox's quest to scourge Popish idolatry out of Scotland will not be gainstayed. That this war of Reformation is fought between the Scottish people makes the unrest all the more disturbing, especially as there are no winners, only losers in this battle against God.

It's been interesting to get this vivid interpretation of Scottish history particularly in the years following Marie de Guise's death and the arrival of the young Mary Stewart, taking her rightful place as Queen of Scots. Knox's vitriol against the fair, young Queen is well documented and the author succeeds admirably in bringing their encounters alive with all the venom that this Scottish Presbyterian minister possesses.

Beautifully written, extensively researched and with a wonderful historical authenticity, The Last Blast of the Trumpet, is complete in itself and it is perfectly possible to read it as standalone historical fiction, especially if your interest in Scottish history takes in the tumultuous reign of Mary Queen of Scots. However, as the conclusion to the trilogy there is no doubt that the author has done herself proud with this final blast. The history comes alive in the imagination, as does the rather dour, Knox,  but what's also interesting is to see the people from history take their place in the spotlight, standing comfortably alongside those fictional characters who have been such stalwarts since the first book.

The author has concluded the Knox trilogy with all the passionate zeal and intensity as the man himself. She has infused such life and personality into the man that, although I am still nowhere near liking him, I do have more of an understanding into his life and times, and all credit to the author for bringing the life of this belligerent, political and religious reformist to life in a remarkable and fascinating way.

My review of The First Blast of the Trumpet is here  (2013)
My review of The Second Blast of the Trumpet is here (2017)

About the Author

Scottish writer Marie Macpherson grew up in Musselburgh on the site of the Battle of Pinkie and within sight of Fa’side Castle where tales and legends haunted her imagination. She left the Honest Toun to study Russian at Strathclyde University and spent a year in the former Soviet Union to research her PhD thesis on the 19th century Russian writer Mikhail Lermontov, said to be descended from the Scottish poet and seer, Thomas the Rhymer. Though travelled widely, teaching languages and literature from Madrid to Moscow, she has never lost her enthusiasm for the rich history and culture of her native Scotland.

Writing historical fiction combines her academic’s love of research with a passion for storytelling. Exploring the personal relationships and often hidden motivations of historical characters drives her curiosity.

The Knox Trilogy is a fictional biography of the fiery reformer, John Knox, set during the 16th century Scottish Reformation. Prizes and awards include the Martha Hamilton Prize for Creative Writing from Edinburgh University and Writer of the Year 2011 awarded by Tyne & Esk Writers. She is a member of the Historical Writers’ Association (HWA), the Historical Novel Society (HNS) and the Society of Authors (SoA).

Twitter @scotscriever



Tuesday 27 October 2020

Blog Tour ~ The Nesting by C J Cooke


Thrilled to host today's blog tour stop

Harper Collins
15 October 2020

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

The grieving widower. The motherless daughters. A beautiful house in the woods. And a nanny come to save the day…

So what if Lexi isn’t telling the truth about who she is? Escaping to the remote snows of Norway was her lifeline. And all she wanted was to be a part of their lives. But soon, isolated in that cold, creaking house in the middle of ancient, whispering woods, Lexi's fairytale starts to turn into a nightmare. With darkness creeping in from the outside, Lexi’s fears are deepening. Lexi knows she needs to protect the children in her care.

But protect them from what?

What did I think about it..

Much of  The Nesting takes place in Norway, in an isolated setting, complete with a vulnerable nanny, a mysterious family, two tiny children who have recently lost their mother in tragic circumstances, a grieving widower and a housekeeper straight out of a Hitchcock movie, put it all together, and you have all the right ingredients for a truly, unsettling read.

Lexie Ellis is desperate to escape her life in England, and so takes up, under false pretenses, the position of nanny, in an isolated house on the edge of a dark, dark wood. Her new home, and family, are full of mysterious secrets and pretty soon into the story I was jumping as much at shadows as Lexie, especially when she starts to hear unexpected noises, and senses unusual activity, in the house which holds so many hidden secrets. Deeply flawed, and vulnerable, Lexi has the difficult task of leading us by the hand through this complex and darkly, mysterious gothic story, which looks at the burden of responsibility, the heartbreak of tragic and unexplained death, and the overwhelming power of culpability. 

Setting the story in Norway is inspired as not only do you feel the absolute chill of the icy outdoors but you are also plunged into a world of supernatural folklore which has a darkening relevance as the story progresses. Beautifully atmospheric, with a genuine chill factor, The Nesting grips from the very beginning, with a prologue which was both terrifying, and intriguing, in equal measure, and, as I continued reading I found that this shadowy tension never relaxes, not even for a minute, throughout the whole of the story. 

The Nesting is a creepy, chilling story which is the perfect read for Halloween and a cold, autumnal night. 

About the Author

C.J. Cooke is an acclaimed, award-winning poet, novelist and academic with numerous other publications under the name of Carolyn Jess-Cooke. Born in Belfast, she has a PhD in Literature from Queen’s University, Belfast, and is currently Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, where she researches creative writing interventions for mental health. She also founded the Stay-At-Home Festival.

Twitter @CJessCooke #TheNesting



Monday 26 October 2020

Blog Tour ~ Mango Bay by Serena Fairfax


  Thrilled to host today's Blog Tour stop

Ironberry Books
16 September 2020

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

Jazz clubs, yacht clubs, aunty bars and a Bollywood beauty shadowed by her pet panther. 

This is glamorous Bombay in the late 1950s. 

Love has blossomed in London between vivacious Scottish Presbyterian, Audrey, and clever Indian lawyer, Nat Zachariah. 

When the happy newlyweds move to Nat’s exotic homeland and the striking family villa, Audrey must deftly navigate the rituals, secrets, intrigues and desires of his Bene Israel Jewish community, and adjust to perplexing new relatives. 

In time, the past unlocks, old family ties unravel, lies are exposed and passions run high as different generations fall out. Then something shocking happens that undoes everything. 

Will this marriage that has crossed boundaries survive? 

What did I think about it..

When Audrey Cuthbertson and Nathaniel Zacheriah meet in 1956 at the London Palais de Danse, they are immediately attracted to each other but their lives and cultures are very different, Audrey comes from a strict Presbyterian background in the north of England, whilst Nathaniel's Indian/ Jewish heritage couldn't be more different. However, after a whirlwind romance, the newly weds make the momentous decision to move to Nat's home to live with his family in Bombay, where Audrey must adjust to the sights, sounds and very different way of life in the Bene Israel Jewish community.

The author has written a vibrant and complex story, which brings the Bombay of the 1950s alive in all of its colourful splendour. Audrey and Nat's married life together isn't without its problems as Audrey discovers that living in Bombay with Nat's family takes some getting used to, and especially as Nat now seems to be an altogether different person to the man she met, and married, in London. As the story progresses, it's fascinating to learn that the family who call Mango Bay their home are a complicated bunch and yet the author does a great job in bringing them all alive in the imagination. The multi cultural divisions are well explored as are the many intrigues and differences which the Zachariah family get drawn into over the span of the novel. At the start of the novel is a glossary of Indian words and phrases which I found especially useful and referred back to it from time to time.

It's always interesting to escape into a culture which is not your own and the author has succeeded in describing a wonderfully exotic world complete with intrigue, mystery, and family secrets. 

About the Author

Serena spent her childhood in India, qualified as a Lawyer in England, and worked in a London law firm.

Some of her novels have a strong romantic arc although she burst the romance bubble with one quirky departure. Other novels pull the reader into the dark corners of family life and relationships. She enjoys the challenge of experimenting and writing in different genres.

Her short stories and a medley of articles, including her reviews of thrillers and crime fiction, feature on her blog.

Fast forward to a sabbatical from the day job when Serena traded in bricks and mortar for a houseboat that, for a hardened land lubber like her, turned out to be a big adventure. A few of her favourite things are collecting old masks, singing and exploring off the beaten track.

Serena and her golden retriever, Inspector Morse, who can’t wait to unleash his own Facebook page, live in London.

Twitter @Sefairfax #Mango Bay


Sunday 25 October 2020

🍴Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Lesley Cookman

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, Lesley Cookman to our Sunday Brunch today🍴

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

An English bacon sandwich on white bread. 

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

English Breakfast tea, please!

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

Kitchen table, I think! 

🍴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?

Oh, yes. I have my favourite British Radio Station playing all day at home – which is light classical. But something that makes me happy would be a song written by my late husband and recorded by my younger daughter with backing vocals from the other offspring. A family affair. 

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

Ngaio Marsh, my favourite Golden Age detective author. She’s the reason I became a crime writer myself! 

🍴Which favourite book will you bring to Sunday Brunch?

Marsh’s “Light Thickens” the last of her series, set in a theatre (she received her “damery” for her work in theatre) during a production of Macbeth. I have read it more times than practically anything else. 

🍴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!

Lots! I’m working my way through the British detective golden age, which luckily are being reprinted. 

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

Jane Eyre. A Routledge edition by Currer Bell (!) Dated 1843. 

🍴Where do you find the inspiration for your novels?

The perennial question! All sort of places, but often from my eldest son, who will come up with something he’s come across in real life which he thinks will make a good plot. Currently working on one now!

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

Winter! It was always easiest in my office, but since suffering from ill health this year – not pandemic related! – it’s been on my sofa in my sitting room. 

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

Yes, easily distracted, but thoughts of the incoming bills focusses my mind! 

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

These days, a computer, or friend with a computer who will type up your work and doesn’t mind looking things up for you, access to a beverage of choice – tea, coffee etc, a dictionary and a thesaurus. (And a cat or two?) 

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

The 22nd full length Libby Sarjeant novel, which follows on from the 21st and is set just before the outbreak of the pandemic. 

Book #21

Super-sleuth Libby Sarjeant is back with her most puzzling case yet . . . a mysterious death at the local cliffs.

🍴More about Lesley🍴

Lesley Cookman is an English crime writer and former editor and journalist. She also wrote for and performed on the stage, and is the author of 21 Libby Sarjeant novels and three novelettes, the Alexandrian Edwardian Mystery series, two romance novels and a book on how to write a pantomime. She has four adult children, two grandchildren and two cats and lives at the British seaside.

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

🍴 Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Liz Harris

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, Liz Harris to our Sunday Brunch today🍴

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

Eggs Benedict on a genuine English muffin. Going out for brunch was very big in Los Angeles when I lived there, and this was my favourite dish. Just writing ‘Eggs Benedict’ brings back happy memories. 

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

A glass of Bucks Fizz, but hold the orange juice, please! 

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

On the patio would be my preference. But as we’re in England, if there’s a cloud in sight, which could put my hollandaise sauce at risk of being diluted, it might be wiser to sit around 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? 

🍴I love classical music, and also opera. A favourite piece of music is the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana, by Mascagni. It’s so emotionally stirring. My table companions are going to have to be very special or I’ll lose myself in the music and forget all about them. 

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

Not Mr Darcy as much as I adore him on paper, I think he’d be a bore to be stuck with at brunch, or at any other meal. I doubt that even my version of Bucks Fizz would help! I’d rather you invited rugged Australian soldier Joe Harman, from ‘A Town Like Alice’, by Nevil Shute, one of my all-time favourite books. I’d like you to invite also my character, Thomas Linford, who appears in both ‘The Dark Horizon’ and ‘The Flame Within’. I love his bluntness, and his dry sense of humour, which I think is really sexy. Bot Joe and Thomas would be entertaining company. 

🍴Which favourite book will you bring to Sunday Brunch? 

‘The Glass Palace’, by Amitav Ghosh. It’s a fabulous novel that’s all about love, war and family. It spreads across several continents – Burma, Malaya and India - and spans three generations. I couldn’t put it down. 

Random House 

🍴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 won’t let myself read in the daytime, which I could easily do when I’m loving a novel. I read every night for pleasure, though, but not until I’m in bed. ‘The Goldfinch’, by Donna Tartt, is in hardback on my shelf. Every time I look at it, I think how thick it is, and how heavy it would be to hold, but one of these days … 

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

Can I cheat and say the complete works of Shakespeare in miniature? My late actress mother was given this set, and passed it on to me. The books – each a miniature of a single Shakespeare play - are housed a small wooden bookcase. Sadly, ‘Pericles’ was lost in my move from Cheshire back to Oxfordshire, but all of the other plays are there. 

Complete mini Shakespeare collection

Mini Julius Caesar

🍴Where do you find the inspiration for your novels? 

I tend to start with the setting. I love to travel so I enjoy writing books set in different parts of the world. I choose places where the location, history, and customs offer the potential for a gripping story. Once I have the setting, I research the history, and the book grows out of what I find. I believe that if you’re writing an historical novel, the history should lie at its heart – it should be more than a backcloth for a story that could have happened anywhere, at any time. 

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

It’s easier to write in winter as there’s no temptation for someone like me, who loves the sun, to sprawl on a sun lounger in the garden like a beached whale. However, I do manage to write in the summer, too - I get up early to do so. Once I’m writing the novel, I’m always longing to be in my fictional world, and not even the sun can stop me. In winter, I can stay in bed a little longer. I usually write in my study, and choose to do so in complete silence. Music is too distracting as it’s so emotional. At the same time, I can write very happily in a café – from the moment I hit the laptop key, I block out the surrounding noise. 

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

I’m interrupted, rather than distracted, by incoming emails and mentions on twitter or Facebook. I always go back to the writing, though, when I’ve dealt with them. As I get close to the end of the work in progress, I can feel my characters’ impatience to be given their resolution, and who am I, or any emails or tweets, to stand in the way of that? 

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

A dictionary – I use Chambers. 

Roget’s Thesaurus – a must for all writers who want to avoid the arch enemy of Repetition. 

If you’re writing historical novels, a dictionary of slang in order to check the origin of words & phrases to ensure that your characters don’t utter anachronisms, and that you don’t narrate in anachronistic language. 

A pad with pen attached. No, that’s one item only! You need to be able to jot down thoughts at any time in any place, things that have struck you, interesting words you might overhear and so on. 

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

‘The Flame Within’, Book 2 of The Linford Series, a saga set between the wars, was published this October. Book 1, ‘The Dark Horizon’, was published earlier this year. Each novel is a stand-alone and can be read on its own, as each focuses on a different member of the Linford family. I’m now working on ‘The Lengthening Shadow’, which will be Book 3 of the series. 

Thank you very much for inviting me to be your guest today, Jo and Jaffa. I’ve really enjoyed my brunch! 

🍴Liz, Where can we follow you on social media?🍴 

Twitter @lizharrisauthor 

More about Liz

Born in London, Liz Harris graduated from university with a Law degree, and then moved to California, where she led a varied life, from waitressing on Sunset Strip to working as secretary to the CEO of a large Japanese trading company. 

A few years later, she returned to London and completed a degree in English, after which she taught secondary school pupils, first in Berkshire, and then in Cheshire. 

In addition to the novels she’s had published, she’s had several short stories in anthologies and magazines. Her latest novel, The Flame Within, is the second in The Linford Series, a sweeping saga set between the wars. Each of the novels in the series is also a standalone. 

Liz now lives in Oxfordshire. An active member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Historical Novel Society, her interests are travel, the theatre, reading and cryptic crosswords.