Thursday 30 September 2021

πŸ“– Publication Day, Book Review ~ In the Shadow of Queens by Alison Weir

Headline Review
30 September 2021

My thanks to Caitlin at Headline Review for my copy of this book

Behind every great king stands a queen. And behind every queen, the whole court watches on...

Over the years of his reign, six different women took their place beside King Henry VIII of England as his wife and queen.

But the real stories of the six Tudor queens belong to those who lived among them. Played out in glittering palaces and whispering courts, these are tales of the people who loved and served these women, and those who lied and betrayed them.

Collected together for the first time, In the Shadow of Queens reveals thirteen startling stories from the Tudor court, told by those at the very heart of that world.

πŸ“– My Thoughts...

Behind every ill-fated Tudor Queen is a plethora of fascinating stories about the shadowy people who lingered on the periphery of court life but whose connection, with the women who had the misfortune to be married to Henry VIII, is as fascinating as the lives of the Tudor Queens themselves.

Beautifully presented with its colourful Tudoresque endpapers we are treated to a potted history of the six wives of Henry VIII before starting on a series of fascinating short stories which take us from the golden possibility of the short life of Arthur, Prince of the Roses, right through to the sad, and rather tragic, end to the life of Henry's last Queen, Katharine Parr.

For any lovers of Tudor fiction In the Shadow of Queens is an absolute gem and if you have followed the author's comprehensive series of novels about the Six Tudor Queens then I am sure you will find much to enjoy in this addition to the Tudor series. This compilation of short stories, and novellas, enhance the series and bring the Tudor court alive in fascinating detail, adding little extra snippets of information you never knew you needed to know about  those who hovered on the edge of Tudor court life.

In the Shadow of Queens now completes the mammoth task the author set of completing six Tudor Queen novels in six years. There is no doubt that Alison Weir's passion, determination and undeniable expertise has given a new voice to the six women whose lives were dominated by a King, whose irascible moods swung, from peevish belligerence, to violent malevolence, and whose lives, little they knew it, were in danger from the moment they accepted the title of Tudor Queen.

In the Shadow of Queens is published by Headline in both hardback and ebook on the 30 September 2021 and is available from all good book stores.

Alison Weir is the best selling female historian ( and the fifth-bestselling historian overall) in the United Kingdom and has sold over 3 million books worldwide.

She has published twenty history books including her most recent non-fiction book, Queens of the Crusades, the second in her England's Medieval Queen's quartet. Alison is also the author of twelve historical novels including the highly acclaimed Six Tudor Queens series about the wives of Henry VIII, all of which were Sunday Times bestsellers.

Alison is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and an honorary life patron of Historic Royal Palaces.

Twitter @AlisonWeirBooks #InTheShadowOfQueens


My thanks to the publishers, and Caitlin Raynor, Publicity Director, for allowing me the privilege of reading this stunning series from the very beginning.

Tuesday 28 September 2021

Book Review ~ The Hidden Girls by Rebecca Whitney

10 June 2021

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

How does the saying go? Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you . . . ?

For Ruth, a new mother recovering from postpartum psychosis, every day is difficult and, after months spent hearing voices in the walls and trusting no one, she’s no longer confident in her own judgement. Neither, it seems, is anyone else.

So, when she hears a scream from the local petrol station one night, she initially decides it must be her mind playing tricks again. The police, too, are polite but firm: she must stop calling them every time she thinks she hears something. And her husband is frustrated: he’d hoped Ruth was getting better at last.

Ruth can’t quite let it go . . . What if there was a scream? What if it was someone in trouble? Someone who needs Ruth’s help?

My thoughts...

After being diagnosed with postpartum psychosis Ruth is closely watched by her husband Giles and although Ruth appears to be getting better, there are still occasions when her behaviour is cause for concern, especially when Ruth places her baby daughter, Bess, in dangerous situations. Motherhood is a dark and isolating experience for Ruth who sees and hears danger constantly, and so when she reports hearing a scream coming from the direction of the local petrol station, no-one, not even the police, believe that Ruth can be relied upon to tell the truth.

Ruth's desperate battle with her mental health is powerful and even when those around seem to have her best interests at heart, Ruth struggles to connect with both her husband, and her neighbour, Sandra, who is charged with keeping an eye on Ruth whilst Giles is at work. As the story progresses Ruth's relationship with Giles and Sandra is called into question and though for a large part of the novel Ruth is the classic unstable narrator there are moments when she seems to be the only decent person in the story. The story captures the darkly isolating nature of Ruth's illness, and the author carefully brings the added mystery at the heart of the novel into the story, both enhancing and highlighting Ruth's constant battle with herself.

The Hidden Girls looks at a severe mental health issue from a different perspective, and has woven a deeply troubling psychological suspense story about Ruth's fight to be heard in a sea of doubt.

Rebecca Whitney

Rebecca Whitney completed a BA in Creative Arts at Nottingham Trent University and found much of her art and performance work inspired by the written word. Her other loves are music and film, and on graduating she moved to london where she worked form a record company before switching to TV and film production, moving up from tea-girl to production co-coordinator, producer and executive producer on music videos , commercials and documentaries, After returning to Sussex where she'd grown up, she completed the creative writing course at Sussex University. Rebecca loves in Brighton and The Hidden Girls is her second novel.

Twitter @RebeccaJWhitney


Monday 27 September 2021

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Shanghai Wife by Emma Harcourt


Delighted to host a stop on this blog tour today

Harper 360
16 September 2021

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

Forbidden friendship, political conspiracy and incendiary passion draw Australian woman Annie Brand deep into the glamour and turmoil of 1920s Shanghai. Leaving behind the loneliness and trauma of her past in country Australia, Annie Brand arrives to the political upheaval and glittering international society of Shanghai in the 1920s. 

Journeying up the Yangtze with her new husband, the ship's captain, Annie revels in the sense of adventure but when her husband sends her back to Shanghai, her freedom is quickly curtailed. Against her will, Annie finds herself living alone in the International Settlement, increasingly suffocated by the judgemental Club ladies and their exclusive social scene: one even more restrictive than that she came from. Sick of salacious gossip and foreign condescension, and desperate to shake off the restrictions of her position in the world, Annie is slowly drawn into the bustling life and otherness of the real Shanghai, and begins to see the world from the perspective of the local people, including the servants who work at her husband's Club. 

But this world is far more complex and dangerous than the curious Annie understands and, unknowingly, she becomes caught in a web of intrigue and conspiracy as well as a passionate forbidden love affair she could not have predicted: one with far–reaching consequences...

πŸ“– My Thoughts...

When The Shanghai Wife opens, Annie Brand, and her new husband, Alec, are on board a river boat travelling along the Yangtze river but following the news of significant unrest, Annie is advised to get off the boat, leaving her husband, as the boat’s captain, to continue with the dangerous journey alone with his crew. 

However, returning to Shanghai isn’t what Annie had in mind but with no choice other than to do what’s expected of her, she soon finds that waiting for Alec's return, and living her life alone, in Shanghai, isn’t going to be easy. Annie soon finds that rather than be part of the gossipy nature of her fellow expats, she is drawn ore sympathetically towards the lives of the local people. However, as she gets drawn deeper into the real Shanghai, so Annie finds herself caught up in intrigue, danger and forbidden friendships.

The story flows well and the author brings everything to life with imaginative flair and a sympathetic look at the vagaries of history.  I particularly enjoyed discovering what life was like in Shanghai in 1925, and there is much to discover about the political implications of this particular time in China’s troubled past. I enjoyed how the author based the story of The Shanghai Wife on her grandmother’s experiences and so, with her authentic descriptions, 1920s Shanghai comes alive in this interesting historical novel.

About the Author

Emma Harcourt has worked as a journalist for over 25 years, in Australia, the UK and Hong Kong. In 2011, she completed the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course and The Shanghai Wife was borne. Emma lives in Sydney with her two daughters. She is currently working on her second novel.

Twitter @emma_harcourt #TheShanghaiWife



Saturday 25 September 2021

πŸ“– Book Review ~ On A Distant Ridgeline by Sam Reese


Platypus Press
14 September

My thanks to the publishers and Isabelle Kenyon for my copy of this book

In his second collection, on a distant ridgeline, Sam Reese creates twelve vivid and tenderly drawn tales with moments and memories that linger just out of reach. Between the past and present and potential reconciliations —and with a keen eye on the subtle balance of human connection—relationships and their fractured qualities are central to this new gathering of stories.

πŸ“– My thoughts...

On A Distant Ridgeline is an interesting collection of twelve short stories which are easy to dip into and out of at whim. I enjoyed the finely balanced style of writing and the creative use of language which the author offers in each of these creatively written short stories. There is much to consider and reveal but I won't spoil any of them by recounting their content except to say that I found something to enjoy and consider in each of the individual stories.

Sometimes, in my experience, short stories can be a little disappointing, containing just one or two good ones, with the rest making up the word count, but not so with On A Distant Ridgeline as all the stories deserve equal recognition and show the author's skill in making each story flow so beautifully. The author has an interesting way of saying much in a few words and blends and controls everything with fine skill.

I think the concept of small, considerate connections is what I will take away from this finely written anthology of short stories.

About the Author

Hailing from Aotearoa, Sam Reese is an awardwinning writer, critic, and teacher. Currently a lecturer in creative writing at York St John University, he is the author of the short story collection Come the Tide and non-fiction books on jazz, literature and loneliness, American short fiction, and Cold War politics.

Twitter @Svhreese #onadistantridgeline



Friday 24 September 2021

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ I have Something to Tell You by Susan Lewis


Thrilled to host one of today's blog tour stops

Harper Collins
16 September 2021

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

High-flying lawyer Jessica Wells has it all. A successful career, loving husband Tom and a family she adores. But one case – and one client – will put all that at risk.

Edward Blake. An ordinary life turned upside down – or a man who quietly watched television while his wife was murdered upstairs? With more questions than answers and a case too knotted to unravel, Jay suspects he’s protecting someone…

Then she comes home one day and her husband utters the words no-one ever wants to hear. Sit down… because I've got something to tell you….

Now Jay must fight not only for the man she defends, but for the man she thought she trusted with her life – her husband.

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

Jessica Wells is a successful lawyer who is called upon to take the criminal defense case of Edward Blake who has been accused of murdering his wife. From the beginning Jessica (Jay) firmly believes in Edward's innocence and is going to do all she can to to prove it. However, with her mind firmly fixed on the murder case Jay is then little prepared when a devastating revelation from her husband sends her own family life into free fall.

Oh, what a tangled web is revealed in this fascinating story as not only do we get an intimate sense of what really happened to Edward's wife but we also get a fly on the wall view of Jay's family dynamics and watch how this personal family drama impacts on her professional life. 

In terms of murder plot and whodunit there is much to take in, and the story overall has some clever twists and turns which I really didn't see coming. However, I have Something to Tell You is not just a murder mystery as digging deeper into the narrative an emotional story starts to emerge about Jay's fractured relationship with her husband, Tom.

In I have Something to Tell You this talented author brings to life a set of believable characters, and places them very carefully into the heart of a complicated, and emotionally, fraught story about shattered lives, which are irrevocably changed by secrets, bad decisions, deception and lies.

About the Author

Susan Lewis is the internationally bestselling author of over forty books across the genres of family drama, thriller, suspense and crime, including One Minute Later, My Lies, Your Lies and Forgive Me. Susan’s novels have sold nearly three million copies in the UK alone. She is also the author of Just One More Day and One Day at a Time, the moving memoirs of her childhood in Bristol during the 1960s.

Susan has previously worked as a secretary in news and current affairs before training as a production assistant working on light entertainment and drama. She’s lived in Hollywood and the South of France, but now resides in Gloucestershire with husband James, two stepsons and dogs.

Twitter @susanlewisbooks #IHaveSomethingToTellYou



Wednesday 22 September 2021

πŸ“– Book Review ~ The Kinship of Djinns by Ambreen Hameed and Uzma Hameed


Fired Umber Books
Undying Book #1

My thanks to Cameron Publicity for my copy of this book

It is 1998 in South London and the Malik sisters – in their thirties and still not married – are black sheep among the local British Pakistani community. However, they are about to be reunited with their long-lost childhood playmate, Heathrow – so named for the Terminal 3 concourse on which he was discovered as an abandoned toddler. Heathrow’s heroic return is causing great anticipation in the Malik family. After all, he’s still single, and he’s even a Muslim.

As far as their long-suffering parents are concerned, it is biologist Sufya, the elder sister - the one who in Zarina’s eyes always gets first pick– who is the logical betrothed for Heathrow. But as she (to her own surprise) finds herself falling for a man approved by her family, Sufya is unaware that her younger sister has secretly loved Heathrow for years, and is no longer willing to settle for leftovers. In fact, Zarina is determined to overturn her destiny, even if it means resorting to dubious occult practices to get her man.

But there is more to their enigmatic hero than either sister knows, and when Heathrow disappears in mysterious circumstances, both sisters will have to unravel the mystery in a world where everything has changed.

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

Undying:The Kinship of Djinns is set during the latter part of the twentieth century when the Malik sisters, both in their thirties are still unmarried which is, according to their family, quite shameful. The only problem is that both Sufya and Zarina both love the same childhood sweetheart who they haven't seen for years.  When, Heathrow, their first love, returns to the UK after a thirteen year absence, it causes emotional turmoil for both sisters and that's when the story starts to get interesting.

To be honest it took me a while to gel with the story but overall I thought this was a refreshing read with all sorts of complicated sibling and family dynamics which is told by the two very different personalities of Sufya and Zarina. Their shared experience in a British Pakistani family comes to life in alternating chapters, some of which are quite short and snappy, whilst others are more complex. And as their individual stories continue some important family, and political issues, are highlighted.

Undying: The Kinship of Djinns is the first of two books, the story continues in Undying:My Uncle's Son.

About the Authors

AMBREEN HAMEED is a television producer and journalist. Ambreen’s career in television began at the BBC on the Asian programme, Network East, after which she worked for London Weekend Television, on its flagship current affairs show, The London Programme. She was series producer of the award-winning Channel 4 series Devil’s Advocate presented by Darcus Howe. Three of her London Programmes were nominated for Royal Television Society awards including an hour-long Special on the experiences of Black and Asian officers in the Metropolitan Police Service. Other career highlights include the award-winning series Second Chance for Channel 4, and Dispatches. She has also written for New Statesman and a short story for Radio 4’s Pier Shorts.

UZMA HAMEED is a writer, director and dramaturg, working in theatre and dance. In 2015 she was dramaturg to choreographer Wayne McGregor on the Royal Ballet’s multi award-winning production of Woolf Works. She has since collaborated with him on Obsidian Tear (2016), Multiverse (2016) and The Dante Project - Inferno (2019) for the Royal Ballet, and on Company Wayne McGregor’s Autobiography (2017). She has also worked with choreographer Cathy Marston on Northern Ballet’s Victoria (2019), which won the Sky Arts/South Bank Show award for dance.

In 1997 she founded The Big Picture Company, a theatre company which quickly gained a reputation for its innovative visual style, combing new writing with choreography and film. For Big Picture, she wrote and directed plays which toured extensively around the UK and enjoyed London seasons at The Young Vic, BAC and Riverside Studios. From 2002-2005 Uzma was Associate Director at Derby Playhouse.

Uzma has directed for Kali Theatre, led projects at the National Theatre Studio and given talks and workshops for a variety of organisations including The Royal College of Art, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Edinburgh International Festival and Playwrights Studio Scotland.

Both Ambreen and Uzma Hameed live in the London area.

Twitter @AmbreenHameed @UzmaHameedRexha #Undying


Tuesday 21 September 2021

πŸ“– Book Review ~ Whisper Cottage by Anne Wyn Clark

Avon Books UK
2 September 2021

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

When Stina and Jack move to an old rural cottage, they’re hoping for a fresh start. Their new home is run-down compared to their neighbour’s, but generous Mrs Barley quickly becomes a friend.

Until Stina sees a mysterious figure in the widow’s garden, and her happy new life begins to unravel. And when she hears strange noises in the night, she is forced to question if Mrs Barley is what she seems.

Why do the other villagers whisper about her? Why is she so eager to help the couple? And what is she hiding in her picture-perfect home?

πŸ“– My Thoughts...

Stina and Jack move into Wisteria Cottage in an idyllic rural village where they are hoping to make a new start and with a baby on the way their life appears complete. Living next door to them is Mrs Barley, an elderly widow, who is something of an enigma but who is really very kind to her new neighbours. For a while Stina and Jack disregard the rumours which abound in the village that Mrs Barley is something of an oddity, however, when strange things start to happen, the atmosphere in Wisteria Cottage starts to become very tense indeed.

Whisper Cottage has a nice sense of mystery and there is a creepiness to the narrative which edges along quite slowly which I think only adds to the tension. The author maintains this air of suspicion throughout the story and there’s a creepy sense of unease which lasts until the end which pulls quite a punch. Mrs Barley is an interesting character and she definitely makes an impact whenever she appears in the story, however, she keeps her secrets close and as Stina and Jack discover, some secrets are better left hidden.

Whisper Cottage is an interesting debut novel with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing.

About the Author

Anne Wyn Clark was born and raised in the Midlands where she continues to live with her husband and son, plus a chinchilla with attitude. She has three now grown up children and six grandchildren. Much 0f her formative existence was spent with her head in a book, and from an early age, she grew to relish the sheer escapism afforded by reading and writing fiction. 

Twitter @EAClarkAuthor #WhisperCottage


Monday 20 September 2021

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ A Country Village Christmas by Suzanne Snow


Delighted to be hosting the final day this blog tour today

2 September 2021

Thorndale #4

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of the book
and to Katrina Powers for the invitation to the blog tour

Can the magic of Christmas and the community of Thorndale bring two lost souls together in love?

Olivia doesn't have time for Christmas or for romance - she's got a demanding career and has been burned before when it comes to love. This year, she's spending the festive season in her dad's old house, packing it up now that he's moved out. Her dad failed to mention she wouldn't be spending her time there alone ...

The last thing Olivia expects is for her surprise guest to be the very man who literally ran from her after an evening of mutual flirtation. But Tom has nowhere else to go and Olivia is determined to forget the disappointment she felt at his abandonment and instead help him find his way again.

As heavy snow keeps them inside the cottage, will their enforced confinement spark romance once again - or will it push them further apart?

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

Olivia and Tom are thrown together in the most unlikeliest of circumstances and although the attraction between them is there neither of them have the energy to pursue something in which they may both get hurt. Both these lovely characters have to work out what they want from life, Tom is at a particularly difficult period in his life and workaholic Olivia, with her grown up daughter making her own way in life and Olivia's father downsizing, Olivia is left to clear out her childhood home with all the associated memories. However, fate has a funny way of intervening, and with Christmas approaching Olivia and Tom find that being thrown together, in Thorndale, isn't quite so bad after all. 

In this fourth book in the series the lovely village of Thorndale comes to life and as always the little quirks of village life are there as the community comes together for a festive Christmas. The author has certainly made this series into a lovely set of stories and whilst each can be enjoyed as a standalone read it makes sense to follow the series from the start and so get to know just what makes Thorndale such an enchanting place live.

A Country Village Christmas is a delightfully, festive story, with a thoughtful romance at its heart, which is just perfect escapism for a wintery afternoon by the fireside. 

About the Author

Suzanne Snow writes romantic, uplifting fiction with a strong sense of setting and community connecting the lives of her characters, finding inspiration in beautiful views, old houses and abundant gardens. A Country Village Christmas is Suzanne’s fourth novel in The Welcome to Thorndale series, joining The Cottage of New Beginnings, The Garden of Little Rose, and A Summer of Second Chances, all published by Canelo.

After working in financial services and then spending several years as a stay-at-home mum, Suzanne was ready for a change. Her interest in horticulture led her to study for RHS qualifications at agricultural college in Yorkshire, enabling her to pursue a new career planting redesigned gardens.

Suzanne has sung in a choir, trained as a worship leader and raised money for charity by making huge volumes of soup for anyone she can persuade to buy it. She is an infrequent horse rider after years competing in dressage, and a ranch holiday in Montana is top of her bucket list.

She lives in Lancashire with her family and loves to read, particularly historical crime and biographies of writers. She also enjoys walking, cooking for family and friends, and watching movies, especially if they have a happy ending.

Suzanne is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors.

Twitter @SnowProse




Saturday 18 September 2021

πŸ“– Book Review ~ The Khan by Saima Mir


Point Blank
1 April 2021

My thanks to Point Blank Publishing, One World Publications
and Sofia at Midas PR for my review copy of this book

Be twice as good as men and four times as good as white men.

Jia Khan has always lived like this.

A successful lawyer, her London life is a long way from the grubby Northern streets she knew as a child, where her father headed up the Pakistani community and ran the local organised crime syndicate. Often his Jirga rule - the old way - was violent and bloody, but it was always justice of a kind.

But now her father, Akbar Khan, has been murdered and Jia must return to take his place. In the past, the police relied on him to maintain the fragile order of the streets. But a power struggle has broken out amongst the various communities and now, nobody is safe.

Justice needs to be restored, and Jia is about to discover that justice always comes at a cost.

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

Saima Mir came to my attention when I was invited to feature the details of the Desiblitz Festival on my blog and this author's crime novel piqued my interest. She is appearing at the Desiblitz Festival on the 25th September and tickets for the event may be obtained here.

The Festival opens today and runs until the 1st October. Saima Mir's event at the festival is on the 25th September.

Jia Khan leaves her well paid job in London and returns to her home town of Bradford for a family wedding. Jia hasn't been home for fifteen years since a tragedy forced her to leave and even though there are difficult reasons for her estrangement from her family, Jia's loyalty to them is unparalleled.

Jia's wealthy family have quite a reputation, as her father, Akbar Khan is the leader of an organised crime syndicate which he rules with his own special brand of rough justice. That the Khan's are people to be reckoned with comes across loud and clear and Jia's involvement in her family's complicated politics is heightened when her father is brutally murdered. Jia, as the eldest daughter, takes over ruling the syndicate in her father's place however, being a woman in this male dominated and very dangerous world is never going to be an easy ride.

Always respectful of the Pakistani community, their beliefs and culture, The Khan moves forward in a dramatic story which brings into question politics, prejudices and power and which highlights the uncompromising nature of the criminal underworld where neither the fainthearted, nor the weak are allowed to flourish. Old resentments fester, and with Akbar Khan gone, new criminal gangs do their best to force their way into the Khan's territory.

This intelligently written debut brings a really interesting interpretation of the gangland crime genre. The mean and moody streets of Bradford, a city in turmoil, comes vividly to life  and the author's distinctive way of creating atmosphere gives the story an authentic feel. The narrative is beautifully written and so evocative of time and place I felt as if I was in the middle of the action, with a ring side seat, watching as the dramatic events unfolded.

The Khan is a tense and pacy crime novel which has at its heart the concept of loyalty. Loyalty to family, loyalty to beliefs and loyalty to culture and it is this strong code of conduct which makes The Khan such an exciting crime drama. 

About the Author

Saima has written for The Times,Guardian and Independent. Her essay for It's Not About the Burqa (Picador) appeared in Guardian Weekend and received over 250,000 hits online in two days. She has also contributed to the anthology The Best, Most Awful Job: Twenty Mothers Talk Honestly About Motherhood. Saima grew up in Bradford and now lives in London.

Twitter @SaimaMir #TheKhan





Saima Mir's event at the festival is on the 25th September

For more information click here

For tickets to the event click  DESIblitz

Thursday 16 September 2021

πŸ“– Book Nostalgia ~ Love Story by Erich Segal


I'm really privileged to read so many latest release books which are so current they haven't even hit the book store shelves that I forget about the books which have influenced my reading over the years.

So, welcome to my mid-month Book Nostalgia feature where I'm allowing myself the luxury of going back in time with some of my favourite reads.

Let's wallow in book memories...

1970 edition

Oliver Barrett IV went to Harvard and Jenny Cavilleri to Radcliffe. He was rich, she was poor. 

He was sporty, she played music.

But they fell in love

This is their story.

Love Story was originally adapted as a screen play and then picked up by Paramount Pictures. The author, Erich Segal was asked to write the play into a novel as a preview for the film, and so, Love Story, all 127 pages of it, was published to coincide with Valentine's Day in 1970. It became a publishing phenomenon spending 41 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list. 

This book came to my notice when the movie, starring Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw, became a box office sensation. After its general release in the UK, I went to see the film with friends from school and my lasting memory is of sitting in a darkened cinema on a summer afternoon watching this tragic tale unfold. It is the first film that made me cry and the only film that I have watched twice back to back on the same afternoon, in the same cinema! It's also the first grown up book I bought for myself.

I was already familiar with Ryan O'Neal having been a teen fan of the American daytime drama Peyton Place in which O'Neal had a starring role but it was Love Story which catapulted this charismatic young actor into the hearts of millions. Safe to say Love Story remains one of the highest grossing films of all time.

Segal's original idea, became THE film of the early seventies, and the book, despite it's small size, has become a publishing giant and is definitely a case of less is more. The story which is simplicity itself is a classic tale of boy meets girl. They meet at college, fall in love, marry against the odds and just when they have struggled through hardships and are facing a more settled future, tragedy strikes at the very heart of the novel. The book has remained in print since the day it was published, and sadly, after a couple of house moves, I lost my original, well-thumbed copy but I quickly replaced it with a new copy in 1987. I've lost count of the amount of times I've read it and it remains one of my favourite stories of all time.

Classic, beautiful, timeless Love Story is the novel which led me, by the hand, into a lifelong love of romantic fiction.

What can you say about a twenty-five year old girl who died? 

That she was beautiful. And brilliant. 

That she loved Mozart and Bach. 

And the Beatles.

And me.

Wednesday 15 September 2021

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Rose Garden by Tracy Rees


Thrilled to be one of the stops on the closing day of this blog tour 

Pan Macmillan
2 September 2021

Thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

and to Random Things Tours for the invitation to the blog tour

1895. Hampstead, London.

Olive Westallen lives a privileged, if rather lonely, life in her family’s grand Hampstead home. But she has radical plans for the future of her family – plans that will shock the high-society world she inhabits. For her new neighbour, twelve-year-old Ottilie Finch, London is an exciting playground to explore. Her family have recently arrived from Durham, under a cloud of scandal that Otty is blissfully unaware of. The only shadow over her days is her mother’s mysterious illness, which keeps her to her room. When Mabs is offered the chance to become Mrs Finch’s companion, it saves her from a desperate life on the canals. Little does she know that all is not as picture-perfect as it seems. Mabs is about to become tangled in the secrets that chased the Finches from their last home, and trapped in an impossible dilemma .

πŸ“– My thoughts..

Eighteen year old Mabs Daley finds working on the London Docks to be harsh but with her younger brothers and sisters to support Mabs has little choice but to continue with this back breaking work, that is, until her friend tells her of a job, in service, in the home of the Finch family who have newly arrived in London from Durham. Employed as a companion to the melancholic, Mrs Finch brings Mabs into contact with twelve year old Ottilie Finch, who, left to her own devices explores London with all the enthusiasm of a child breaking free of the restrictions placed upon her by society. Meanwhile, Olive Westallen, a rather unusual, twenty eight year old, uses her family wealth to do good deeds but in doing so shocks polite society.

What follows is a detailed novel which explores the boundaries that Victorian women had placed upon them, not just by a patriarchal society who viewed independent women as something of an anathema, but also even in families, sensibilities could so easily be troubled by the wrong actions. Social attitudes were often greatly offended by doing and saying the wrong things to the wrong people and yet all three of these quite unusual characters found that once their lives started to intertwine a connection between them was allowed to flourish in the most unlikeliest of circumstances. The three voices of Mabs, Ottilie and Olive come cross loud and clear, from the poverty and hardship of Mabs’s family, the opulence of Olive’s Hampstead mansion, to Ottilie, and her rather fractured family, especially her mother, coming somewhere in the middle.

Beautifully written, with an authentic feel for time and place, the late-Victorian era comes alive in The Rose Garden. The author does a great job of bringing everything together in a compelling story which cuts across the social divide and explores family secrets, social mobility and the tentative emergence of women battling to have their voices heard in a male dominated society.

About the Author

Tracy Rees was the first winner of the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition. She has also won the Love Stories Best Historical Read award and been shortlisted for the RNA Epic Romantic Novel of the Year. A Cambridge graduate, Tracy had a successful career in non-fiction publishing before retraining for a second career practising and teaching humanistic counselling. She has also been a waitress, bartender, shop assistant, estate agent, classroom assistant and workshop leader. Tracy divides her time between the Gower Peninsula of South Wales and London.

Twitter @AuthorTracyRees #TheRoseGarden



Tuesday 14 September 2021

Publication Day Book Review ~ Dad by Steven Manchester


 The Story Plant
14 September 2021

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book

Three generations of dads, playing traditional roles in each other's lives, arrive simultaneously at significant crossroads. The decisions they make and the actions they take will directly - and eternally - affect each other. After a life of hard work and raising children, Robert is enjoying his well-deserved retirement when he discovers that he has an illness he might not be able to beat. 

At 19, Jonah is sprinting across the threshold of adulthood when he learns, stunningly, that he's going to become a father. And Oliver - Robert's son and Jonah's dad - has entered middle age and is paying its demanding price. While reconciling the time and effort it has taken him to reach an unfulfilling career and an even less satisfying marriage, he realizes that it's imperative that he keep it all together for the two men who mean everything to him. 

When different perspectives lead to misunderstandings that remain unspoken - sometimes for years - it takes great strength and even more love to travel beyond the resentment. Dad: A Novel chronicles the sacred legacy of fatherhood.

Manchester intended for the novel to “pull back the curtain and reveal the inner-workings of male relationships within the family unit.” Since many men have difficulty expressing their emotions, he wanted to change the narrative. Manchester has “endeavored to chronicle the sacred legacy of fatherhood, while capturing the why for many men.”

Raymond A. Levy, founder and director of the Fatherhood Project, said “Dad: A Novel demonstrates the psychological power and importance of fatherhood and a father’s love. This is a welcome addition to the culture’s growing interest in and appreciation for fathers’ emotional engagement with their family.” USA Today bestselling author Robert Dugoni called it, “A must read for men of all ages.” And Greg Bishop, founder of Daddy Boot Camp, said “Few fathers know how important they are to their kids and Steven Manchester's, Dad: A Novel has the potential to show them. Mothers may appreciate it even more.”

My Thoughts..

In Dad we meet three generations of the Earle family, all have different attitudes, hopes and expectations but what draws these three men irrevocably together is that they have a common bond of fatherhood. A grandfather, father and son, all take their specific place in this absorbing story of just what it means to be, quite simply, a dad, and as the old adage goes, any man be a father but it takes someone special to be a dad.

Each of them have their own specific worries which impacts on the story in a meaningful way. Patriarch, Robert, now retired, is facing some distressing health worries and is caught between looking back at his life, and his hopes for the future for his son and grandson. Caught in the middle is Oliver who is at a sort of crossroads and is left worrying about the meaning of his life as a father caught up in an unsatisfactory marriage, whilst his son, Jonah, at just nineteen, with his life drifting ahead of him, discovers that, unexpectedly, he is going to be a dad for the first time. As these three very different men face up to the challenges of their lives, they each learn something important about themselves, and each other, in the process.

As always this talented author gets right into the heart of family life and brings meaning and understanding to these important cross generational dilemmas and shows how, with love and kindness, one generation can help those who are following in their footsteps. If we are honest with ourselves all family relationships are complicated and perhaps none more so than for dads who wear so many different guises through the course of their lives, and I think this story shows their vulnerability, along with their strengths.

Dad is a heartwarming, and rather poignant, multi-generational story about the poignancy of ever changing family dynamics, the bonds of fatherhood and the choice of learning from mistakes and going forward into a new understanding of what it means to be , quite simply, a dad.

Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers Twelve Months, The Rockin’ Chair, Pressed Pennies and Gooseberry Island; the national bestsellers, Ashes, The Changing Season and Three Shoe boxes; 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 and BET’s Nightly News.

Twitter @authorSteveM


Monday 13 September 2021

Blog Tour ~ The Storyteller of Casablanca by Fiona Valpy


Delighted to open this blog tour today 

Amazon Publishing
#Lake Union

21 September 2021

My thanks to the publishers and FmcM Associates for my copy of the book
and the invitation to the blog tour

Morocco, 1941. With France having fallen to Nazi occupation, twelve-year-old Josie has fled with her family to Casablanca, where they await safe passage to America. Life here is as intense as the sun, every sight, smell and sound overwhelming to the senses in a city filled with extraordinary characters. It’s a world away from the trouble back home—and Josie loves it.

Seventy years later, another new arrival in the intoxicating port city, Zoe, is struggling—with her marriage, her baby daughter and her new life as an expat in an unfamiliar place. But when she discovers a small wooden box and a diary from the 1940s beneath the floorboards of her daughter’s bedroom, Zoe enters the inner world of young Josie, who once looked out on the same view of the Atlantic Ocean, but who knew a very different Casablanca.

It’s not long before Zoe begins to see her adopted city through Josie’s eyes. But can a new perspective help her turn tragedy into hope, and find the comfort she needs to heal her broken heart

My thoughts..

This dual time story starts off with a real sense of time and place as all the heat and colourful atmosphere of modern day of Casablanca comes vibrantly to life. Zoe Harris is relatively new to Casablanca and we immediately start to see the city through her, rather uncertain, eyes as she tries to become accustomed to living in this strange new country. Whilst her husband is at work Zoe is left much to her own devices and she cuts something of a lost, and rather lonely, figure and with deepening cracks appearing in her already troubled marriage, she turns for comfort to the pages of an old journal that she found hidden beneath the floorboards of her baby's daughter's bedroom.

In 1941 during the momentous years of the Second World War, twelve-year old Josie Duval and her family have fled France and escaped to Casablanca to escape Nazi persecution. In Casablanca, they find a peace, of sorts, but although their diminishing wealth gives them a life of some comfort it is far from settled especially when Josie discovers that her family are being drawn into clandestine activity which places them all in grave danger.  In her journal, Josie shares her hopes and dreams, her love for books and storytelling, and her fears for her family's safety in a world which seems to be increasingly dangerous.

This is such a strong story which works perfectly well as a modern day look at a marriage which is going nowhere and where sadness is a barrier to future happiness, whilst at the same time bringing to life the fear, and confusion, of living through a time of great change, when danger lurked in hidden corners, and when deadly enemies were sometimes people who you knew well. I was equally absorbed in both time frames for although  Zoe and Josie are separated by age, time and circumstances reading Josie's journal gave Zoe the confidence to make changes to her own way of life. Josie found so much comfort in adding her private thoughts of what it was like to be in Casablanca during such a dangerous time. 

Meticulously researched, The Storyteller of Casablanca a heartwarming, and absorbing, story by an author who truly knows how brings the past alive. The story combines an authentic sense of time and place and brings to life two fascinating female characters whose individual stories will remain with you long after the last page is turned.

About the Author

Source: Goodreads

Fiona Valpy spent seven years living in France, having moved there from the UK in 2007 before returning to live in Scotland. Her love of both these countries, their people and their histories, has found its way into the books she has written. She draws inspiration from the stories of strong women especially during the years of the Second World War, and her meticulous historical research enriches her writing with a wonderful sense of time and place.


Twitter @FionaValpy #TheStorytellerOfCasablanca #BlogTour

@AmazonPub #LakeUnion


Saturday 11 September 2021

πŸ“– The Surplus Girls by Polly Heron


On Hist Fic Saturday

Lets go back to ....Manchester, 1922


My thanks to the author for the copy of this book

After the loss of war, can there be hope for the future?

Manchester, 1922.

Belinda Layton is a surplus girl. One of the many women whose dreams of marriage perished in the Great War, with the death of her beloved fiancΓ©, Ben. After four years of mourning, she's ready to face the future, even though Ben's family is not happy to see her move on, and her own only cares about getting hold of her meagre factory wages.

Then, Belinda joins a secretarial class and a whole new world opens up to her as she quickly finds herself drawn to beguiling bookshop owner Richard Carson. But after all the loss and devastation she has experienced, can she really trust him with her heart.

πŸ“– My Thoughts...

In the aftermath of the Great War when a generation of young men lost their lives there was a huge number of surplus girls who would never have the chance to marry, either because they had lost husbands, fiancΓ©s and boyfriends in the war, or quite simply that there just weren't enough eligible men to go around.

Belinda Layton is mourning the loss of her fiancΓ©, Ben, who died in France in 1918. Whilst living with Ben's mother, and grandmother, helps to keep Ben's memory very much alive, Belinda is still only a young woman who feels that there is more to life than wearing mourning clothes forever. Belinda's home background is one of constant hardship and struggle, and so she becomes determined to make life better for herself, and in doing so she hopes to pull her own family out of poverty. In the hope of improving her employment prospects, Belinda makes the controversial decision to enrol in a newly established secretarial college, however, this decision doesn't sit happily with either Ben's family, or her own hapless relatives who rely on Belinda wages from her job in the mill.

The Surplus Girls is set in the 1920s, when there was so much social and economic change, and I think that this story reminds us just how far women have come in the last hundred years, when in 1922, even for a woman to enroll in a secretarial college to learn typing, shorthand and book keeping was viewed with distaste by some parts of society.  Rich in historical detail, The Surplus Girls brings to vibrant life the strength of those people who made the suburbs of Manchester their home. The harsh background of mills and poverty, the snippets of northern humour, and the sheer grit and determination which is so characteristic of this area all help to make this into such an engaging historical saga. 

Beautifully written by an author who knows how to bring northern history alive in the imagination, The Surplus Girls is the first in a series of historical sagas about this forgotten generation of young women.


About the Author

Polly Heron is a historical saga writer living on the North Wales coast. She is originally from Manchester, which is where her books are set.

Twitter @Polly_Heron #TheSurplusGirls