Sunday 28 February 2021

🍴 Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Martine Bailey


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 Martine Bailey to our Sunday Brunch today🍴

Martine and a Taffety Cake

🍴Welcome, Martine, what favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch?

I always think it’s good to bring some home baking. So I’m bringing one of my Taffety cakes which includes apples, quince and spices based on a recipe in my first novel, An Appetite for Violets. It also features in a lovely recipe book, A Year of Cake by Lynn Hill.

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

Ooh, I think I’ll celebrate a trip into the open air with a glass of Bucks Fizz, thank you very much!

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

Let’s imagine it’s a gorgeous summer day and sit outside on the patio.

🍴Which favourite book will you bring to Sunday Brunch?

I am a huge fan of Ruth Rendell who also wrote as Barbara VineA Fatal Inversion is set in the idyllic hot summer of 1976, around a group of young people who experiment with moral boundaries in a manor house deep in the English countryside. Rendell’s plotting is masterly, and the twists are utterly surprising to the very last page.

🍴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 do read constantly, for research and pleasure. Or I should say, I partly listen as I’m addicted to audio books. I can then move around while I listen, usually cooking or some sort of exercise.

There are a few of Thomas Hardy’s, Trollope’s and Eliot’s novels I’ve not read but I think the big gap is not having read Mansfield Park. I studied Jane Austen at O and A-level so it’s taken me a few years to appreciate her again. I’m sure I have a treat in store.

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

It’s an almanack which has become the basis of my most recent novels. Almanacks were calendars, diaries and astrological charts and partly due to their yearly prophecies, were once bestsellers. It’s dated 1778 and was given to me by my very good friend, the writer Alison Layland.

🍴Where do you find the inspiration for your novels?

In old books, initially books of recipes. I first got the idea for An Appetite for Violets at the National Trust’s Erddig Hall when I imagined a young cook taking her book of recipes away on a sinister journey to Europe. The Penny Heart is darker, written when I lived in New Zealand, and is about a more shadowy recipe book drawn together by a revengeful criminal.

The idea of sleeping prophets who foretold the future while seeming to be fast asleep really captured my imagination and inspired The Prophet. I also loved looking into superstitions around childbirth, women’s lives and the old seasonal year.

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

I have trained myself to go to my little upstairs office every morning. It’s a box room with a desk, computer, books and files. I feel privileged that I have a window with a view of wild birds, sheep and the Welsh Hills. I do prefer writing in the winter because a weird sense of guilt overcomes me when I see the sun shining outside but know I have to stay inside to write.

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

Persistence is important for a would-be writer. It took me a long time to get my first novel published even though I’d written non-fiction before. I had to be patient and chip away at every small success.

Mental space to write is a real challenge for many of us. To make steady progress you need to learn to say no to time-wasting and put your work first.

Notebooks – I use numbered notebooks to randomly sketch out ideas, bits of dialogue, mind maps of scenes, plot ideas, and even rough sketches of rooms or houses. Then I use coloured post-its to follow the thread of the story in my notebooks. It’s all very complicated!

Trusted helpers are priceless. For years I looked around for other writers to help me learn and give feedback. I now have two much appreciated writer friends to swap work with and meet for lunch and mutual support.

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

The Prophet is a standalone novel but also picks up from events at the end of The Almanack. Here’s what is says on the cover:

Canongate Books

26 February in the UK
4 May in the US

Destiny, prophecy and murder weave an intricate web in this beguiling historical mystery. Could a dark prophecy spell danger for Tabitha De Vallory and her unborn child?

Cheshire. May Day, 1753. Tabitha De Vallory's perfect life is shaken when a girl is slaughtered beneath the Mondrem Oak on her family's forest estate. Nearby, enigmatic Baptist Gunn is convinced that a second messiah will be born, amid blood and strife, close to the oak on Midsummer's Day. Could the murder be linked to Gunn's cryptic prophecy?

Beautifully crafted and alluring, full of dark deception, intrigue and terrifying foreboding, THE PROPHET is perfect for fans of THE MINIATURIST by JESSIE BURTON and SARAH DUNANT.

Martine,where can we follow you on social media?

Twitter: @MartineBailey

(The latter features a weekly riddle each #FolkloreThursday)

More about Martine

Martine Bailey is the author of four historical crime mysteries. She studied cookery with TV food historian Ivan Day and was a former UK Dessert Champion cooking at Le Meurice in Paris. This year she was longlisted for the Mogford Prize for Food and Drink Writing. She lives in a small village in Cheshire and is married with one son.

Thank you for this lovely opportunity, Jo. It’s been a real pleasure.

Martine, thank you for taking part in Sunday Brunch

Follow us on Twitter @Jaffareadstoo #SundayBrunchwithJaffareadstoo

Saturday 27 February 2021

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ Yield by Claire Dyer


πŸ“– Thrilled to be part of this Blog Tour πŸ“– 

Two Rivers Press
21 February 2021

My thanks to the publisher and author for my copy of this poetry collection

Yield is a mother’s story told in poems.

Three definitions of the word Yield give meaning to the odyssey undergone in Claire Dyer’s third collection: a journey which sees a son become a daughter, and a mother a poet for both of them. Charting these transitions, the poems take us through territories known and familiar – landscapes of childhood, family and home – into further regions where inner lives alter, outer ones are reimagined. Whether evoking clinic visits, throwing away old boyhood clothes, grieving over what’s lost, these honest and unashamed poems build to celebrate that place at the heart of motherhood where gender is no differentiator and love the gain.

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

Motherhood is a complex business, from the moment you meet your child, you only ever want what’s best for them. You absorb their hurts and disappointments, revel in their triumphs and walk with them, albeit silently, through every aspect of their lives, giving them space when they need it, curling them into you when the hurts are too great, and being there like a silent shield when they need a protective bubble.

In this eloquent collection of poetry, Claire Dyer has, with great insight, and empathy, charted her myriad thoughts, and at times, quite raw feelings, as her son makes the brave transition to become her daughter. Beautiful and incredibly complex, Yield took me on an emotional journey, sometimes wonderfully expansive, whilst at other times so viscerally raw that the sheer breadth of emotion took me to places I could only ever imagine.

My first read through took me by surprise, not just at the wealth and richness of the language, I've read this author's work before and I know how good a wordsmith she is, but I was astonished at just how quickly the accumulated power of the words consumed me. The comparisons with nature, with animals and with colour, is particularly strong and brought to mind, quite vividly, an emotional first aid box, the kind I used to, once upon a time, encourage the newly bereaved put together in order to help them make sense of a difficult emotional journey.

Yield is a powerful and emotive collection of poetry which can stand several read throughs, in fact, for me, the poems became stronger the more I read into them and I think that's where the strength of this incredibly personal collection lies, in that the more you read, the more you discover. The verses speak on a profound level which is so personal it hurts, and yet there's a beautiful lyricism which will stay with me for a long time, particularly from Yield III, which I share here with kind permission of the publisher:

"I'm looking up to count the fearless stars,
Choosing you once more,
a thousand times again, Yield"

As well as being a successful published poet and novelist, Claire Dyer teaches creative writing and curates Poets’ CafΓ©, Reading’s longest-running poetry platform on behalf of The Poetry Society’s Reading Stanza. She is also a regular Radio Reads contributor on BBC Radio Berkshire. Yield is Claire's thord collection of poems.

Twitter @clairedyer1 #Yieldpoetry#LGBTQ

Instagram @clairedyerwriter


Friday 26 February 2021

Publication Day Book Review ~ The Prophet by Martine Bailey


Severn House Publishers
26 February 2021

Tabitha Hart Mystery #2

My thanks to the author and publisher for my copy of this book

Cheshire. May Day, 1753. Tabitha De Vallory believes her life is perfect: she has an imposing home with all the comforts she has ever desired, and is expecting her first child with doting husband Nathaniel De Vallory. But Tabitha's happiness is shaken when a girl is slaughtered beneath the Mondrem Oak on the family's forest estate. Recognizing the victim from her former scandalous life, Tabitha vows to find the killer.

Nearby, enigmatic Baptist Gunn and his followers are convinced that a second messiah will be born, amid blood and strife, close to the oak on Midsummer's Day. Could the girl's murder be linked to Gunn's cryptic prophecy? Do his wild claims of a second saviour spell danger for Tabitha and her unborn child?

As Midsummer's Day draws closer, Tabitha soon learns the destiny that threatens her and those she holds most dear..

My Thoughts..

Married for just three months, Tabitha De Vallory and her husband, Nathaniel are expecting their first child and are slowly becoming accustomed to their new life as landed gentry living at Bold Hall in Cheshire. On Old May Day in 1753 Tabitha and Nat take an innocent trip into the forest around Bold Hall to view the Modrem Oak, the oldest tree in the forest, and come across the mutilated body of a young woman. This macabre death upsets the equilibrium of the woodland and inadvertently leads Tabitha and Nat into the clutches of Baptist Gunn, an enigmatic preacher who seems to have an uncanny gift for prophecy. Tabitha is sorely troubled by the death of this young woman and her robust investigation to discover the truth opens up many dark secrets.

The Cheshire countryside comes alive with myths and folklore and the unravelling of The Prophet plays into local superstition with hints at dark magic and predictions of the future. Tabitha and Nat are beautifully drawn characters,they have still much to learn, not just about about impending parenthood but also about gaining more of a standing in society, which doesn't always welcome them with enthusiasm. The mystery at the heart of the novel builds steadily which allows the tension to be stretched to breaking point and as we get to know more about the enigmatic preacher, and his plans for the future, so we realise just what danger abounds in the dense woods around Bold Hall.

I have great admiration for any author who can write history with such conviction that you feel as if you travel back in time with them and that is most surely the case with The Prophet. Beautifully written and impeccably researched, The Prophet continues the story of Tabitha and Nathaniel which began in The Almanack and whilst it is perfectly possible to read The Prophet without having read the first book, it does make sense to start at the beginning and follow this intriguing couple as they introduce us to their life at Bold Hall, and give us the pleasure of being involved in their adventurous life together.

About the Author

Martine Bailey is the author of four historical crime mysteries. She studied cookery with TV food historian Ivan Day and was a former UK Dessert Champion cooking at Le Meurice in Paris. This year she was longlisted for the Mogford Prize for Food and Drink Writing. She lives in a small village in Cheshire and is married with one son.

Twitter @MartineBailey #TheProphet


Thursday 25 February 2021

πŸ“– Publication Day Book Review ~ Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker


25 February 2021

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book


Glamorous, beautiful Mummy has everything a woman could want... except for a daughter of her very own. So when she sees Kim - heavily pregnant, glued to her phone and ignoring her eldest child in a busy shop - she does what anyone would do. She takes her. But little foul-mouthed Tonya is not the daughter that Mummy was hoping for.

Meanwhile Kim is demonised by the media as a 'scummy mummy', who deserved to lose Tonya and ought to have her other children taken too. Haunted by memories of her own childhood and refusing to play by the media's rules, she begins to spiral, turning on those who love her.

Though they are worlds apart, Mummy and Kim have more in common than they could possibly imagine. But it is five-year-old Tonya who is caught in the middle...


πŸ“– My Thoughts..

I was so excited when, just before Christmas, I won a copy of this book in a Twitter competition. I couldn't wait to start reading it and then once I started reading I couldn't stop, devouring the story in the space of an afternoon and evening, and as the winter shadows lengthened so the story got darker and darker.

Losing your child in a crowded store is every parents worst nightmare, in fact losing anyone's child is definitely not good for the blood pressure. With realisation comes a terrible sinking feeling of panic which makes you want to stop breathing and there's an overwhelming sense of this can’t be happening, and yet for heavily pregnant Kim, misplacing her five-year old daughter, Tonya, is about to become a desperate reality and the starkness of the situation is tempered only by the kidnapper's cool, calm and deadly focus.

Call Me Mummy plunges us headlong into a terrifying roller coaster of unnatural obsession and the character, known only as mummy, is quite possibly the most singularly evil piece of work I have met in fiction for a long time. She made my flesh creep and my pulse race and every time mummy appeared on the page I wondered just what this clever author would have her do next.

Five year old Tonya, mouth like a sewer, made my arms ache to hold her tight. She's a feisty wee baggage that's for sure, but gradually as this sinister story unfolds we see changes in her which make you want to weep. I didn't expect to have as much sympathy for Kim as I did, after all, it was her indifferent carelessness which lost Tonya in the first place, and yet for all her faults, and she has more than a few, Kim is just trying her shabby best to survive in a world which is often as harsh and uncaring as the trolls who lambaste her on social media. 

There's a clever ease to the writing, which probably takes an age to get right, but when it's done so beautifully, as in Call Me Mummy, it feels like you are just sitting having a natter with the author as she recounts a newsworthy story she's seen on TV that day.  Whichever way you look at it though this is a harsh story, its content is visceral and edgy, with clever dialogue and wonderfully flawed characters, and even though the story scared me half to death I just wanted it to go on until it reached its inevitable conclusion.

I read so many books in this genre that sometimes I've worked out the plot long before the wrapping up process starts and yet I really didn't see where Call Me Mummy was heading. I hung onto every well written word, clung to every bit of light relief which the author scatters like gems and throughout the whole of this dark and dangerously addictive story I had the distinct and clever voice of this talented author telling me a story I won't forget for a very long time.

About the Author

Tina Baker, the daughter of a window cleaner and fairground traveller, worked as a journalist and broadcaster for thirty years and is probably best known as a television critic for the BBC and GMTV. After so many hours watching soaps gave her a widescreen bum, she got off it and won Celebrity Fit Club. She now avoids writing-induced DVT by working as a Fitness Instructor.

Call Me Mummy is Tina's first novel, inspired by her own unsuccessful attempts to become a mother. Despite the grief of that, she's not stolen a child - so far. But she does rescue cats, whether they want to be rescued or not.

Twitter @tinabakerbooks #CallMeMummy


Tuesday 23 February 2021

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Mother's Day Club by Rosie Hendry


πŸ“– I’m thrilled to host a stop on this blog tour πŸ“– 

18 February 2021

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
and to Rachel's Random Resources for the invitation to the blog tour

Meet the women on the home front . . .1939. When the residents of Great Plumstead offer to open up their homes to evacuees from London, they’re preparing to care for children. So when a train carrying expectant mothers pulls into the station, the town must come together to accommodate their unexpected new arrivals...

Sisters Prue and Thea welcome the mothers with open arms, while others fear their peaceful community will be disrupted. But all pregnant Marianne seeks is a fresh start for herself and her unborn child. Though she knows that is only possible as long as her new neighbours don’t discover the truth about her situation.The women of Great Plumstead, old and new, are fighting their own battles on the home front.

Can the community come together in a time of need to do their bit for the war effort?

πŸ“–  My thoughts...

A group of pregnant women are evacuated from the East End of London to the Norfolk village of Great Plumstead at the outbreak of WW2. Some of them land on their feet with billets in really comfortable accommodation whilst others are met with resentment from villagers who do their duty only under threat of being fined, or imprisoned. Expectant mum, Marianne Archer is guarding her own set of secrets but throws herself into the community and thanks to her exceptional dressmaking skills she soon becomes integrated into village life. Marianne's new friend, Sally Parker, who she met on the train to Great Plumstead, is a typical East Ender, quick witted, exuberant and  quick to make friends.

What then follows is a lovely, heartwarming story which looks at the events of the early part of WW2 through the eyes of a group of strong women who are doing their best to survive against all odds. There's a strong, authentic feel to village life, from making jam with the Women's Institute, to the emotional pull of motherhood, not just from the expectant mothers to be, but also for those mothers who are having to give up their sons to the war effort.

This talented author has made this genre her specialty especially with the success of her previous WW2 historical saga series which featured the London Axillary Ambulance Service. In The Mother's Day Club she has once again brought the tumultuous events of WW2 to life, however, in focusing on the more gentle environment of rural Norfolk she gives us an altogether different view of living life during wartime  which is no less engrossing for being set in the English countryside.

About the Author

Rosie Hendry lives by the sea in Norfolk with her husband and children. A former teacher and research scientist, she's always loving reading and writing. She started off writing short stories for magazines, her stories gradually becoming longer as her children grew bigger.Listening to her father's tales of life during the Second World War sparked Rosie's interest in this period and she's especially intrigued by how women's lives changed during the war years. She loves researching further, searching out gems of real life events which inspire her writing. When she's not working, Rosie enjoys walking along the beach, reading and is grateful for the fact that her husband is a much better cook than her.

Purchase links Amazon UK Amazon US Kobo Apple

Social Media Twitter @hendry_Rosie Facebook  Website Instagram

Follow on Twitter #TheMothersDayClub


Sunday 21 February 2021

🍴Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Marie Laval

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 am so pleased to welcome, Marie Laval to Sunday Brunch

Good morning, Jo, and thank you so much for welcoming me on your blog once again. Last time we had brunch together it was still summer and I remember that we had a picnic with lots of fresh summer food. Today however it’s absolutely freezing here in Lancashire and we still have snow on the ground, so we will definitely not venture outside!

🍴Welcome back, Marie. What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch?

This winter has been so cold, and let’s face it, rather depressing, and I have craved solid, stodgy foods and plenty of carbs. So today I will bring scones – cheese and fruit - scrambled eggs, bacon and baked beans, which I absolutely love. We don’t have them in France and I remember eating them almost every day when I came to England as student to do a three month placement in Wigan. I will also have tomato and basil soup to eat with the cheese scones. For the sake of a balanced diet, I will also have some fruit – some grape and a few clementines, and let’s not forget the strawberry jam for my sweet scone!

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

Americano, but not very strong. I don’t drink milk but I have two sugars, even if I know it’s not very good for me.

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

The kitchen table. It’s the best place in the house, as far as I’m concerned.

🍴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 will have Ella Fitzgerald, my all time favourite singer, singing ‘I’m Just a Lucky So and So’ in the background. I love that song! I would follow with some jazz and Jimmy Hodges’ fantastic sax…

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

Maurice Druon, who wrote the epic historical novels ‘The Accursed Kings’ in the Seventies, which some people have claimed were the ‘original Game of Thrones.’ The novels are the story of the French monarchy in the 14th century and start when Philip the Fair is cursed by the last Great Master of the Knights Templar. I devoured them all as a teenager, and they greatly influenced me when it came to writing ANGEL OF THE LOST TREASURE, especially the subplot about the Knights Templar treasure.

🍴Which favourite book will you bring to Sunday Brunch?

I am not sure I will have time to read as there is so much delicious food to eat, but I will bring a book I got for my birthday last year about living and travelling on a canal boat… which is research for a short story I am working on…

🍴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!

Unfortunately I have a full list of them, but THE BLUE MANUSCRIPT by Sabiha al Khemir is definitely my next read. It is the story of an archaeological dig in a remote part of Egypt that my eldest son gave me for Christmas, knowing my interest in the history of North Africa. First, however, I have to finish Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, which a work colleague recommended ages ago and which I have finally started this week!

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

A 1923 Guide Bleu of Algeria and Tunisia published by Hachette. It was a present a few years ago and I cherish it.

🍴Where do you find the inspiration for your novels?

My inspiration could come from anywhere and everywhere! A song, a road sign, a conversation, a television programme or just a childhood memory….I am currently working on a contemporary romance set on Skye, and the inspiration came from the photo of a yellow Scottish mobile library a friend posted on Facebook.

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

I find it easier to write in winter. We have a lovely small garden, and in the summer I love spending time out there, but I can’t bring my laptop because it overheats very quickly and the glare of the light on the screen makes it impossible for me to type. My favourite pace to write is my small, messy study.

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

I am very easily distracted, mostly when I do research. It is so tempting to follow an interesting thread and hop from one fun or fascinating anecdote to another, none of them having anything to do with my story! I must also confess that I am easily distracted by online shopping. I bring my focus back by giving myself a good telling off!

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

A notebook and a good pen. Access to the internet for research. And coffee! If am allowed another item, I would add chocolate…

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

My latest novel, ANGEL OF THE LOST TREASURE, will be released by Choc Lit on February 23rd. It’s a historical novel, and a new and completely revised edition of a novel previously published about six years ago. I loved writing that story, not only because I completely fell in love with the hero Hugo Saintclair, but because it is set in and around Lyon, the beautiful city where I grew up. 

Vieux Lyon

The novel is full of mystery and action, secret societies and political intrigue, and of course romance! Researching and writing the story was pure pleasure from beginning to end.

Choc Lit
February 2021

Here is the blurb for the novel:

When young widow, Marie-Ange Norton is invited to Beauregard in France by the mysterious Monsieur Malleval to collect an inheritance, she has no choice but to accept.

But when she embarks on the voyage with her fiery-tempered travelling companion Capitaine Hugo Saintclair, little does she know what waits for her across the sea in turbulent nineteenth-century France on the eve of Napoleon’s return from exile. When she arrives, she is taken aback by Malleval’s fascination with her family – seemingly inspired by his belief they are connected to a sacred relic he’s read about in coded manuscripts by the Knights Templar.

As it becomes clear that Malleval’s obsession has driven him to madness, Marie-Ange is horrified to realise she is more the man’s prisoner than his guest. Not only that, but Hugo is the only person who might be able to help her, and he could represent a different kind of danger ...

Marie, where can we follow you on social media?

• Blog/web url: my sadly very neglected blog…

More about Marie

Originally from Lyon in France, Marie has lived in the Rossendale Valley in Lancashire for the past few years. She writes both contemporary and historical romance. Her novels are published by Choc Lit and include best selling contemporary romantic suspense novels LITTLE PINK TAXI and ESCAPE TO THE LITTLE CHATEAU, shortlisted for the Jackie Collins Romantic Suspense category of the 2021 RNA Awards, as well as A PARIS FAIRY TALE and BLUEBELL'S CHRISTMAS MAGIC.

Her latest novel, ANGEL OF THE LOST TREASURE, will be released in February 2021.

Marie also contributes to the best selling Miss Moonshine's Emporium anthologies together with eight author friends from Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Marie Laval’s latest novel, ANGEL OF THE LOST TREASURE, is released on February 23rd by Choc Lit. It is available from amazon and kobo.

🍴Thank you for taking part in Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo🍴

Follow us on Twitter @jaffareadstoo #SundayBrunchwithJaffareadstoo

Saturday 20 February 2021

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Heart Stone by Judith Barrow


  Thrilled to host today's blog tour stop on Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to ...1914

18 February 2021

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

1914 - and everything changes for Jessie on a day trip to Blackpool.

She realises her true feelings for her childhood friend, Arthur.Then just as they are travelling home from this rare treat, war is declared.

Arthur lies about his age to join his Pals' Regiment.

Jessie's widowed mother is so frightened of the future, she agrees to marry the vicious Amos Morgan, making Jessie's home an unsafe place for her. Before he leaves, Arthur and Jessie admit their feelings and promise to wait for each other.Arthur gives Jessie a heart-shaped stone to remember him. But with Arthur far away, their love leaves Jessie with a secret that will see her thrown from her home and terribly abused when she can hide the truth no longer.

Faced with a desperate choice between love and safety, Jessie must fight for survival, whatever the cost.

πŸ“– My thoughts..

On a day trip to Blackpool, in 1914, sixteen-year old Jessie realises that the feelings she has for her friend, Arthur, run far deeper than that of mere friendship. However, after this idyllic day trip to the coast is over, life for both Arthur and Jessie would change forever. 

As WW1 is declared Arthur is determined to fight for king and country and joins one of the PALS regiments leaving behind his sweetheart with only the promise of meeting up with her again once the war is over. Everyone expected the fighting to be done with by Christmas and for a very special reason the time can't go quickly enough for young Jessie.

What then follows is a heartbreaking family saga about the struggles of surviving, not just the hardships of wartime, but also during the personal tragedies which test Jessie's mettle time and time again. So visceral and raw is Jessie's suffering that it becomes unbearable at times to see just how much she had to endure in her personal life when all ever she wanted was to be happy with Arthur. 

With excellent research, and a fine eye for all those special little details, the author brings the history of the time to life, both on the brutal battlefields of Northern France, and in the steady camaraderie and stoicism of a small community which has been split apart by war, and where gossip and sly innuendo flourished on street corners and in back kitchens. The characterisation is excellent, some people you love, whilst others you love to hate but without doubt they all bring something vital and valuable to this rather special story of tragedy and heartbreak.

The Heart Stone is a beautifully written historical saga by an author who creates characters who not only come to life on the page but who also touch you emotionally as their complicated lives progress. 

Judith Barrow has lived in Pembrokeshire for nearly forty years.She is the author of six novels (five for Honno), and has published poetry and short fiction, winning several poetry competitions, and had a play performed at the Dylan Thomas Centre. Judith grew up in the Pennines, has degrees in literature and creative writing and makes regular appearances at literary festivals. She is the joint founder of the Narbeth Book Festival.

Twitter @judithbarrow77 #TheHeartStone



Friday 19 February 2021

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Scarlet Dress by Louise Douglas


πŸ“– Excited to be on today's blog tour πŸ“– 

Boldwood Book
18 February 2021

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

The past was like water. Once the tide turned, you couldn't hold it back.'

In the long, hot summer of 1995, twenty-two-year-old Alice Lang rents a caravan on a holiday park on the outskirts of the lively holiday resort of Severn Sands. She befriends Marnie, a shy, damaged little girl whose father is the park's caretaker and whose mother died a few months earlier. Will, whose mother runs the bar, falls in love with Alice, and is unbearably jealous of anyone else she sees. Tensions rise until one evening Alice disappears from her caravan. She's never seen again, and only her scarlet dress is found washed up on the shore.

A quarter of a century later, the town is run down and nobody comes there anymore. Mr and Mrs deVillars, former owners of the holiday park, have passed the failing business onto their son Guy, who promptly sells the land for development. Builders clearing the land to create an expanse of executive homes uncover human bones. It has to be Alice.

Will and Marnie’s lives were entirely shaped by what happened that summer, and now Alice has been found, they must struggle to pin down their memories, to escape the secrets of the past, the lies they told and the unbearable guilt they're both carrying.

They need to find out what happened to Alice. Who killed her? And why?

πŸ“– My thoughts..

The holiday resort at Severn Sands is once again the subject of scrutiny when human remains are found when the holiday camp is being demolished to make way for a housing development. Twenty five years earlier the mysterious disappearance of twenty two year old Alice Lang caused a similar upset when she left her caravan on the holiday park, never to be seen again. For those who lived and worked on the camp site this disappearance has lain heavy, particularly for Marnie who was then a withdrawn ten year old, and also for nineteen year old Will who had a crush on Alice.

The story then introduces us to the grown up versions of Will and Marnie, both have been damaged by what life has thrown at them and over the years they have each carried a burden of doubt and guilt. Both characters are extremely complex, I found Marnie quite fascinating, she's a gentle soul, far more comfortable with animals than she is with people, and yet there's a hidden depth to her which the author cleverly brings out as the story develops. It took me a while to warm to Will, he has sharp edges which hide his vulnerability, but the role he played in the mysterious events at Severn Sands a quarter of a century ago are crucial to the plot.

As the story progresses the author gradually reveals more about these two central characters and as the events of the summer of 1995 come sharply into focus so a fascinating story, with lots of twists and turns, is gradually revealed.  This clever author succeeds in building the tension quite slowly and there's an underlying edginess which at times gives the story quite a sinister feel. I especially enjoyed how the holiday resort became a character in the story, this quiet place, so down on its luck, has kept its secrets well hidden for far too long.

The Scarlet Dress is beautifully written as we have come to expect from this talented author. I flew through the story in the space of one sitting as I didn't want to give up until I knew the secrets of the scarlet dress and the role that both Marnie, Will and the other lead characters played in this compelling story.

About the Author

Louise Douglas is the bestselling and brilliantly reviewed author of novels including The House By The Sea and Missing You-a RNA award winner.The Secrets Between Us was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick. She lives in the West Country.

Twitter @louisedouglas3

Follow the blog tour  #TheScarletDress

@BoldwoodBooks #BoldwoodBloggers


Thursday 18 February 2021

πŸ“– Publication Day Book Review ~ Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

πŸ“– Happy Publication Day πŸ“–

Pan Macmillan
18 February 2021

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Murder awaits in the illuminated night of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens ...

London, 1782, Caro Corsham finds a woman mortally wounded in the bowers of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.

When the constables discover that the deceased woman was a high-society lady of the night, they stop searching for her killer - and it's up to Caro to seek justice.

But the hidden corners of Georgian society are filled with artifice, deception and secrets, and finding the killer will be harder, and more treacherous, than she can know ...

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

Daughters of Night takes us right into the hidden and, it must be said, rather unpleasant underbelly of Georgian society, for this is not the world of polite soirΓ©es and decorous salons, but rather its focus is more in the shadowy places of London where link-boys light your way to places where five guinea whores ply their trade under cover of darkness.

For Caro Corsham, the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens holds no interest for on this night in August 1782 she is meeting someone who she hopes will have a solution to a dilemma, however, Caro is little prepared for what awaits her in the discreet bower normally reserved for those clandestine meetings of a more intimate nature. Instead of the answer she seeks, Caro finds instead a fatally wounded young woman, and it is this macabre discovery which opens up a scandalous mystery and which leads Caro into a dark and dangerous world filled with treachery, duplicity and deceit.

Taking us firmly by the hand, Daughters of Night strides forcefully through the mean and moody streets of Georgian London and with gritty authenticity throws us headlong into the shady world of Peregrine Child, the thief-taker who, employed by Caro, seeks solutions to questions no-one wants to answer, and in the process opens up the secretive world of female sexploitation. 

Totally  authentic and gloriously described, Daughters of Night has all the necessary elements for a clever murder/mystery, and yet it is so much more than a simple whodunit. It’s more of a thrilling ride through the hotchpotch of Georgian society, from the violent underclass of prostitution, to the intriguing world of art and politics, from shady money-lenders, to the raucous cries of the prostitutes who frequent the Whore's Club, there is never a moment when the story doesn't draw you into its vast and murky depths.

Those who have read this author's debut book, Blood & Sugar, will already be aware of just how good she is at recreating the dark side of Georgian England. Daughters of Night continues this theme in a highly entertaining, meticulously researched, historical thriller by an author who is absolutely at the top of her game. 

About the Author

Laura Shepherd-Robinson worked in politics for nearly twenty years before re-entering normal life to complete an MA in Creative Writing at City University. Blood & Sugar, her first novel, won the Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown and the Specsavers/Crimefest Best Debut Novel prize; was a Waterstones Thriller of the Month; and a Guardian and Telegraph novel of the year. It was also shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger and the Sapere Historical Dagger; the Goldsboro Glass Bell; and the Amazon Publishing/Capital Crime Best Debut Novel, as well as being longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Daughters of Night is her second novel.

Twitter @LauraSRobinson #DaughterofNight