Saturday, 27 November 2021

πŸ“– Hist Fic Saturday ~ The Surplus Girls' Orphans by Polly Heron


On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's Go back to Manchester...1922


Book #2 

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book

Manchester, 1922

Molly Watson has had enough. Engaged for the last three years to a penny-pinching pedant, she finally decides she'd rather be a surplus girl than marry a man she doesn't truly love. Aware of the need to support herself if she is to remain single all her life, she joins a secretarial class to learn new skills, and a whole world opens up to her.

When she gets a job at St Anthony's Orphanage, she befriends caretaker Aaron Abrams. But a misunderstanding leaves them at loggerheads, and damages her in the eyes of the children she has come to care so deeply about. Can she recover her reputation, her livelihood, and her budding friendship, before it's too late?

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

Those who have read the first book in The Surplus Girls' series will be entirely familiar with the notion of those women who, after the loss of so many young men during WW1 now find, in the 1920s, that there is, quite simply, not enough eligible men to go around, and faced with the prospect of life as single women they need to find a way to support themselves.

As with the first book, this second story brings alive the impact of living through times of social inequality, especially for women who were still very much seen to be of value only if they were wives and mothers. Independent women were classed as something of an oddity, however, this stalwart group of women certainly lead the way for change, but, that doesn't mean that these changes came about easily, or without high personal cost.

From the very start of the novel I hoped that Molly Watson wouldn't just settle for second best and that she would strike out for independence. I needn't have worried as Molly decides that life as a Surplus Girl is infinitely preferable to spending the rest of her life with her penny pinching fiancΓ©. Leaving behind her sheltered life and taking up employment with the newly formed Board of Health opens up new horizons and leads Molly into a job at St Anthony's Orphanage.

There's a definite sense of social deprivation in this novel, especially for the orphans at St Anthony's who, although, by the standards of the day, are reasonably well cared for, they do lack emotional warmth from some of the care givers. However, children are very much at the heart of the story, not just about what happens for those at the orphanage but also for those who linger in the shadows.

The Surplus Girls' Orphans is both heart breaking and heart warming in equal measure and was everything I wanted in a continuation of this excellent historical series. I raced through the story hoping that everything would eventually come right for those characters I had quickly come to love. Beautifully written and imaginatively described The Surplus Girls' Orphans once again brings the northern spirit alive so in many different ways. The early part of the twentieth century, with its multifaceted shades of light and dark, infuses the story with so much character that following Molly Watson's journey through this time in history has been such a joy to read.  

For those who are interested the next book in the series is available Christmas with the Surplus Girls is published by Corvus and is out now. And just to remind you that they are all perfectly readable as standalone stories.

October 2021

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 #TheSurplusGirlsOrphans #SagaSaturday


Friday, 26 November 2021

πŸ“– Poppy Denby's Literary Footsteps Blog Tour ~ The Crystal Crypt by Fiona Veitch Smith


Jaffareadstoo is delighted to take part in this literary footsteps blog tour of Oxford. 

We can be found at the Cherwell Hotel.

Lion Hudson
19 November 2021

PoppyDenby #6

My thanks to the publishers and Fern Lindsey-Tolley for my copy of the book
and the invitation to the blog tour

The 1920s most stylish sleuth returns this autumn in THE CRYSTAL CRYPT for another thrilling murder mystery!

In the city of dreaming spires, Poppy Denby is asked to investigate the mysterious death of an up-and-coming female scientist. But was it an accident or is something more sinister lurking in the shadows? And is Poppy the next target?

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

London journalist, and amateur sleuth, Poppy Denby is intrigued when she hears of the demise of an exceptionally talented female scientist. That the death occurred in Oxford and not in London presents something of a problem for Poppy but when her editor, Rollo Rolandson, agrees to fund an overnight stay at the Cherwell Hotel in Oxford, Poppy is determined to discover the secrets which surround Dr June Leighton's mysterious death.

Poppy's investigation leads her into the chauvinistic world of male scientists who seem to tolerate women on a superficial level but who really consider their female colleagues less than equal to the task of scientific advancement. I thought this part of the novel was exceptionally well done, the burgeoning world of crystallography and the tentative steps which were being made in scientific discovery is explained in an easy to understand way and doesn't detract from Poppy's convoluted investigation into Dr Leighton's death.

I've become rather fond of Poppy Denby and with each successive novel this cosy crime series just seems to get better and better. Poppy is, as ever, caught up right in the centre of the excitement, and as she goes about her investigation, she discovers something rather unsavoury about the work of the scientists who work in the Crystal Crypt. There were the usual fascinating tumble of twists and turns with Poppy forever having to keep one step ahead of the action, which is rather daring for this amateur sleuth who has the knack of getting right to the heart of the problem, but not without ruffling several inflated male egos along the way.

This talented writer brings the world of the 1920's to life in a very believable way and whilst there is a distinct feeling that things are beginning to change for women, alas it's not quickly enough, for although women are able to get their degrees, they are still very much under the supervision of men and not considered equal either by gender or ability.

Beautifully written, with both a sense of fun, and pathos, the glorious city of Oxford comes to life and thanks to the cleverly designed map, I was able to, quite literally, follow in Poppy's footsteps as she moves through the city on her hired bicycle. I enjoyed spending time with her at the Cherwell Hotel along with all the other destinations which help bring the city into clear focus.

The Crystal Crypt is a fast moving cosy crime mystery which has all the trademarks we have come to expect from this wonderful series. Poppy Denby is, by far, my favourite amateur sleuth, and I look forward to meeting her again soon.

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 ten years. She lives with her husband, daughter and dog in Newcastle upon Tyne. On her non-writing days, she works part-time as a freelance editor and writing tutor, as well as being the Assistant Secretary of the Crime Writers’ Association.

Twitter @FionaVeitchSmit #TheCrystalCrypt #PoppyDenby #Oxford

Instagram @FionaveitchSmit


Wednesday, 24 November 2021

πŸ“– Book Tour ~ The Quiet People by Paul Cleave


Orenda Books
25 November 2021

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

Cameron and Lisa Murdoch are successful New Zealand crime writers, happily married and topping bestseller lists worldwide. They have been on the promotional circuit for years, joking that no one knows how to get away with crime like they do. After all, they write about it for a living. So when their challenging seven-year-old son Zach disappears, the police and the public naturally wonder if they have finally decided to prove what they have been saying all this time… Are they trying to show how they can commit the perfect crime? Multi-award winning bestseller Paul Cleave returns with an electrifying and chilling thriller about family, public outrage and what a person might be capable of under pressure, that will keep you guessing until the final page...


πŸ“– My thoughts..

They do say, apparently, that if anyone can plot a perfect crime it's a crime writer, and for husband and wife writing duo, this nightmare is about to come true when their seven year old son, Zach, disappears from their family home. With the finger of blame very firmly pointing in the direction of Cameron and Lisa Murdoch what evolves is an exceptionally clever crime thriller which has the added bonus of allowing the reader a particular insight into the story with a prologue which, quite literary, had me jumping out of my skin.

The Quiet People is one of those quickly immersive stories which you say to yourself I'll just read one more chapter and before you know it you are flashing through the story at the speed of light reeling in disbelief as the story throws up so many twists and turns that you need your wits about you to keep up with what's unfolding on the page in front of you. I do love a story where you never quite know who is telling the truth, first, I was on the side of Cameron and Lisa whose ordered life is thrown into absolute chaos, only to then feel quite sorry for the police investigation team, who,  it must be said, don't exactly do themselves any favours by their incompetent handling of this sensitive case.

Very cleverly put together, thrillingly sophisticated, and with a definite twist in the tale, which I didn't see coming, The Quiet People, is a roller coaster of a crime thriller. It grabs your imagination from the start and doesn't let go of your emotions until this absolutely chilling story is finished.

About the Author

Paul is an award-winning author who divides his time between his home city of Christchurch, New Zealand, where most of his novels are set, and Europe. He has won the New Zealand Ngaio Marsh Award three times, the Saint-Maur book festival’s crime novel of the year award in France, and has been shortlisted for the Edgar and the Barry in the US and the Ned Kelly in Australia. His books have been translated into over twenty languages. He’s thrown his frisbee in over forty countries, plays tennis badly, golf even worse, and has two cats – which is often two too many.

Twitter@paulcleave #TheQuietPeople #PerfectCrimeClub #YeahNoir



Tuesday, 23 November 2021

πŸ“– Publication Day ~ Go Tell the Bees that I am Gone by Diana Gabaldon


*Happy Publication Day*

23 November 2021

The past may seem the safest place to be . . . but it is the most dangerous time to be alive. . . .

Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall were torn apart by the Jacobite Rising in 1743, and it took them twenty years to find each other again. Now the American Revolution threatens to do the same.

It is 1779 and Claire and Jamie are at last reunited with their daughter, Brianna, her husband, Roger, and their children on Fraser’s Ridge. Having the family together is a dream the Frasers had thought impossible.

Yet even in the North Carolina backcountry, the effects of war are being felt. Tensions in the Colonies are great and local feelings run hot enough to boil Hell’s tea-kettle. Jamie knows loyalties among his tenants are split and it won’t be long until the war is on his doorstep.

Brianna and Roger have their own worry: that the dangers that provoked their escape from the twentieth century might catch up to them. Sometimes they question whether risking the perils of the 1700s—among them disease, starvation, and an impending war—was indeed the safer choice for their family.

Not so far away, young William Ransom is still coming to terms with the discovery of his true father’s identity—and thus his own—and Lord John Grey has reconciliations to make, and dangers to meet . . . on his son’s behalf, and his own.

Meanwhile, the Revolutionary War creeps ever closer to Fraser’s Ridge. And with the family finally together, Jamie and Claire have more at stake than ever before.

πŸ“– My thoughts..

This is not a book review as my pre-ordered copy of Go Tell the Bees That I am Gone is on its way! However, it is with great excitement that I look forward to continuing this epic series which started thirty years ago and which, with each successive story, has involved me in the complex world which this skilled author has created. Her ability to recreate history is without doubt and her millions of fans around the world will be just as eager as I am to get started on this ninth book in the Outlander series. It's been a long wait - Book #8 was published way back in 2014. I am sure it will be worth the wait..

These are whopping big books and not ones to rush , so I'll be back, in a while, with my they say watch this space...

Diana Gabaldon is the internationally bestselling author of the Outlander series of novels. She lives with her family in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Twitter @Writer_DG #GoTellTheBeesThatIAmGone #Outlander


Monday, 22 November 2021

πŸ“– Book Tour ~ A Simple Wish by Rosie Goodwin (#Giveaway)


28 October 2021

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


Ruby Carter works hard in her parents' bakery. Whilst life isn't easy, she's happy enough - her gentle mother protects young Ruby from her cruel father and loves her unconditionally. So, when her mother falls seriously ill, Ruby is heartbroken. Then, from her deathbed, her mother reveals that Ruby was adopted.

Stricken by grief and alone with the violent man she called her father, Ruby feels she has no choice but to flee. At just fifteen, homeless and alone she is relieved when a kindly stranger named Mrs Bamber takes pity on poor Ruby and welcomes her into her home.

But soon, Ruby learns Mrs Bamber is not as generous as she first seemed - she forces Ruby into a life of crime as a jewel thief in Birmingham's jewellery quarter. With nothing to her name and nowhere to go Ruby has no choice but to go along with it, despite the guilt and shame she feels. But Ruby is determined that she will atone for what she's done, and be reunited with her birth parents.

Ruby's only wish is to find her family.

 πŸ“– My thoughts..

Ruby Carter's young life hasn't got off to the best of starts and when her mother dies a devastating secret is revealed which spirals Ruby's life out of control. Rescued by a woman who, on the surface, seems to have a good heart, it soon becomes obvious that the enigmatic Mrs Bamber wants Ruby for something quite sinister.

What then follows is a lovely rags-to-riches story in which we see young Ruby battle against everything life threw at her and even though her good nature and enthusiasm will be tested to the absolute limit of her endurance what shines throughout is Ruby's simple wish to discover more about her origins.

Beautifully written with all the trademark characteristics which are so reminiscent of this author's popular writing we once again have a story which wrings out every last drop of emotion to leave us wanting only good things for Ruby and also for those who care for her. Bringing the dark side of Victorian Birmingham to life, from the wealthy drawing rooms of the rich, to downright creepy asylums, there is never a moment when the story doesn't draw you into Ruby's world. I especially enjoyed the references to jewellery making and wished I could have seen some of Ruby's clever designs for myself.

I've now read several of this author's heartwarming historical sagas and I think A Simple Wish is one of my favourites.

A Simple Wish is published by Zaffre, in hardback, ebook and audio and is available to buy from all good book retailers.

Rosie Goodwin is the million copy bestselling author of more than thirty novels. She is the first author in the world to be allowed to follow three of Catherine Cookson's trilogies with her own sequels. Having worked in the social services sector for many years, then fostered a number of children, she is now a full-time novelist. She is one of the top 50 most borrowed authors from UK libraries. Rosie lives in Nuneaton, the setting for many of her books, with her husband and their beloved dogs.

Twitter @RosieGoodwin #ASimpleWish


To enter the special Christmas giveaway visit 

The Memory Lane Book Group on 26th November on Facebook

Sunday, 21 November 2021

Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Tracy Rees

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 Tracy Rees to our Sunday Brunch today

Welcome, Tracy. What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch?

It’s either Greek yoghurt with berries, nuts and honey… or banana pancakes with Nutella depending if I’m having an angelic or a devilish kind of a day!

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

I’m normally a green-tea-in-the-morning kind of person, but for a special brunch like this one, definitely a glass (or 3) of Buck’s Fizz!

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

Outside on the patio! If it’s cold, we can wrap up warm, if it’s wet, we can huddle under the canopy (is there a canopy?) and if it’s sunny – perfection!

Shall we have music playing in the background, and if so do you have a favourite piece of music?

It had better not be Tchaikovsky or I’ll end up twirling round the garden – especially after the Buck’s Fizz! How about Una Mattina by Ludovico Einaudi? Or else just the birdsong…

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

Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte and Taylor Jenkins Reid.

Which favourite book will you bring to Sunday Brunch?

I’ll bring Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid so that we can just have it on the table nearby to admire the beautiful cover. Oh and from time to time I might open the covers and sigh over the endpapers. You can too if you like.



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 always have to have a novel on the go, no matter how busy I am. Even if the only time I have for reading is ten minutes before bed, I need that brief storytime to help me unwind. Escapism is really important for the human psyche I think, especially when life is so full and pressured. I can’t think of one specific book – my tbr list usually hovers around 60 books or so and there are always more that I want. As fast as I read I replace… I suppose it’ll always be that way.

Where do you find the inspiration for your novels?

I’m very fortunate – ideas tumble into my head all the time from I don’t know where – that magical realm of story that hovers around us I think! They can be triggered by films, other books, music, conversations with friends, a shift in the weather, a beautiful piece of clothing or any number of things but often they really do seem to come out of nowhere. It’s a blessing (for obvious reasons) and a curse, because I can’t keep up with them. I can only write one at a time so they have to queue up!

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

I write all year round. I love every season and am inspired by every season. It’s definitely easier to write on dark rainy days, however. When the sun’s shining I really find it hard to be deskbound – I love to be lazing in the garden in summer or out walking on crisp winter days. As for a favourite place… I love my study because it’s all set up for writing. I light a candle, settle down with a mug of tea and let the magic happen. I have a large desk and a stunning view of the estuary and hills… If I’m at the research stage of a project I have a favourite cafΓ© by the sea that I go to for a couple of hours with the history books!

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

I don’t get easily distracted. I tend to have tunnel vision when I work, especially when a deadline looms. Then I tend to work and work to the exclusion of all else and end up feeling a bit weird – wobbly and light-headed – for a while afterwards!

Give us four essential items that a writer needs?

Kettle, teabag, water, mug!

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

My current wip is a historical novel set in the late nineteenth century. It's about a very wealthy, spoiled society beauty who is thoughtless and bored. She falls in love with an utterly unsuitable man and it sets off a chain of events that change her forever. Those who have read my latest historical book The Rose Garden, which was published in the UK in September this year, will recognise the setting and some of the characters, but it's a complete, standalone story so readers don't need to have read The Rose Garden to enjoy it.

Pan Macmillan

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.

Tracy where can we follow you on social media?

Twitter @AuthorTracyRees

More about Tracy

Tracy Rees was born and grew up in Swansea, South Wales. An only child, she spent a great deal of time lost in books and always dreamed of being a writer. A graduate of Jesus College, Cambridge, she moved to London and worked in medical publishing for many years, before training and then working as a counsellor for people with cancer and their families. She has also been a waitress, bartender, shop assistant, estate agent, classroom assistant, university lecturer and workshop leader.

In 2014 her first novel, Amy Snow, won the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition and the Love Stories Best Historical Read award. She has published six historical novels and two contemporary novels. Her books have been published in twenty countries around the world.

She lives on the Gower Peninsula of South Wales where she enjoys walking, yoga, line dancing and endless cups of tea with friends.

Tracy, thank you for taking part in Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo.

My pleasure!

Follow us on Twitter @jaffareadstoo #SundayBrunchwithJaffareadstoo

Saturday, 20 November 2021

πŸŽ„Festive Read~ The Country Village Winter Wedding by Cathy Lake


28 October 2021

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Clare Greene and Sam Wilson are getting married and everyone in Little Bramble is excited for the event of the year. But Clare and Sam are busy people and have left organising their wedding to the last minute.

Luckily, wedding planner Hazel Campbell has recently moved to the village. She had what she thought was a wonderful life in Edinburgh with a successful business, a loving fiance and her own wedding coming up. But when she caught her groom-to-be in bed with her best friend she fled, leaving everyone and everything behind.

Little Bramble seems like the ideal place for Hazel to start over. As she throws herself into planning the perfect country village winter wedding, she starts to find herself again. And soon she realises that a second chance at happiness might just be on the cards.

πŸŽ„ My thoughts..

It's been so lovely to return to Little Bramble in this story of a sparkly winter wedding. I've quite fallen in love with this quintessential English village where everyone seems so supportive of each other and for Hazel Campbell starting over in a safe place is just what is needed to mend her broken heart. Newly arrived from Scotland, Hazel is keen to get her fledgling wedding planning business off to a good start and what better way than to help villagers Clare Greene and Sam Wilson have their perfect Christmas wedding.

As always the village, and its inhabitants, come beautifully to life and by cleverly intertwining a couple of story threads we get to learn more not just about Hazel, and the joys and pitfalls of organising a last minute winter wedding, but also about another new arrival whose reasons for being in the village are just as poignant as Hazel's. The run up to Christmas is done really well and both the chaos, and the joy, of meeting deadlines, and getting involved in all the Christmas activities, is what makes this story so special.

The Country Village Winter Wedding is now the third book in the Country Village series of cosy romances and each one brings something quite special. I enjoy how the villagers we have grown to love make little appearances in each novel and whilst the main focus of the story is on someone new to the village, it's really great to catch up with those characters we have met before in previous novels.

Beautifully written, and charmingly romantic, there is no doubt that this cosy series has captured the hearts of its readers. I am certainly looking forward to reading book #4, The Country Village Allotment, which is planned for 2022.

About the Author

Cathy Lake is a women's fiction writer who lives with her family and three dogs in beautiful South Wales. She writes uplifting stories about strong women, family, friendship, love, community and overcoming obstacles.

Twitter @LakeAuthor #TheCountryVillageWinterWedding


Friday, 19 November 2021

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ Newport Writers ~ An anthology of poetry and prose



Welcome to our first anthology.

Since the group started, it has always been Tony’s vision to put together a collection of stories and poems penned by our members.

Please proceed with caution – these short stories and poems will introduce you to the alternative side of Newport: ghostly grandparents, a displaced porpoise, a little bit of Welshness, two philosophical security guards, a child whose food plays music, the awesome side of autism, a woman who made teddy bears in a concentration camp, and much more.

Take a whirlwind tour through bereavement, love, regret and parenthood. Laugh and defy fate as you run the gamut of life’s experiences – seen through the eyes of a bunch of writers who celebrate their individuality.

You will meet a diverse group of people who enjoy what they do and want to share it with you.

We invite you to sit back with a cuppa or maybe something stronger, relax and enjoy what promises to be a whirlwind ride.

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

I am always in awe of people who find time in their busy lives to put pen to paper and this collection of stories has been penned by folk who find the time to write for the pleasure it brings to them and despite doing other things, they find time to meet and share ideas.

Newport Writers brings together the work of a group of writers whose passion for writing comes across. Throughout the collection there is an interesting mix of styles and topics, some are funny and made me smile, whilst others are a little more thoughtful and made me stop to consider. As with any collection there were pieces which I felt worked better than others, some short stories left me wanting more whilst a couple could have been developed a little further but overall I think that the collection works well. 

I always like to have a mixed collection of short stories and poems in my arsenal of stuff to read in an emergency - namely those times when you find yourself whiling away the time in a coffee shop or waiting for an appointment and this collection would be a great distraction for just those moments. 

This eclectic mix of short stories, flash fiction and poetry have been penned with a great deal of enthusiasm for the simple joy of writing and for the pleasure of sharing their thoughts with a wider audience.

About the Writers

We are a diverse group from south Wales with over 20 members, covering a broad age range and a variety of styles within the sphere of writing. We include poets, novelists, writers of flash fiction and short stories, plays and film scripts.

We published an anthology in February 2020 entitled Newport Writers – An anthology of poetry and prose. Available from Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.

We met on Zoom during the pandemic, but have now found a venue in central Newport where we can get together with plenty of space for social distancing.

We hold an Open Mic night once a month at popular Newport coffee shop Horton’s, and in the summer of 2021 we participated in several spoken word events.

Some members of our group are available to read and offer critique, and we have a proofreader among our membership. 

Email us at

Facebook: Newportwritersgroup

Twitter: @NewportWriters


Thursday, 18 November 2021

πŸ“– Book Review ~ Holy Island by L J Ross

It's that time of year when I try to look back at some of the books which have lingered for far too long on my kindle and this excellent crime series has been around for so long, it's high time it had a mention.

Independently Published
DCI Ryan #1

Detective Chief Inspector Ryan retreats to Holy Island seeking sanctuary when he is forced to take sabbatical leave from his duties as a homicide detective. A few days before Christmas, his peace is shattered and he is thrust back into the murky world of murder when a young woman is found dead amongst the ancient ruins of the nearby Priory.

When former local girl Dr Anna Taylor arrives back on the island as a police consultant, old memories swim to the surface making her confront her difficult past. She and Ryan struggle to work together to hunt a killer who hides in plain sight, while pagan ritual and small-town politics muddy the waters of their investigation.

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

Holy Island is the first book in the DCI Ryan series of crime novels which are set in the North East of England and which feature this enigmatic and, it must be said, rather compelling, Detective Chief Inspector. When the story opens we meet DCI Ryan as he is recovering from a traumatic investigation and the catastrophic events of the conclusion to this case still result in sleepless nights and moments of PTSD. Whilst his time on Holy Island is largely recuperative, it soon becomes obvious that rest and relaxation do not come gently to Ryan, so when a body is found, in mysterious circumstances, in the ruins of the nearby priory, Ryan's soon volunteers his expertise to find the perpetrator before events spiral out of control. Smart, savvy and totally immersive, I devoured this first book in a matter of hours.

Whilst I purchased a kindle copy of Holy Island back in 2019, I only discovered the sheer enjoyment of the audio books at the start of this year when we were still in that grey area of lockdown. I have found that each subsequent audio listen has taken me away from the worry of living through difficult times. Borrow Box is a fantastic lending facility which is part of the local library service run by local councils, and I was delighted to find that the whole series, all eighteen books, is available, to borrow, in both ebook and audio format. I enjoy listening to well narrated crime novels as a good speaker can bring the book alive and in Jonathan Keeble I have found Ryan's distinctive voice. The audio series is very popular, with a long waiting list, but this is one series I am more happy to wait for as the anticipation of the next story is just as enjoyable.

I'm now listening to Dark Skies which is book #7 in the series. I've still a long way to go before I catch up but that's the joy of these books, getting to know more about well loved characters who are now as familiar to me as friends. I delight in their company and in their dogged determination in catching the truly bad guys of this clever author's imagination.

LJ Ross is an internationally bestselling author, whose books have sold over 7 million copies worldwide. Her debut, Holy Island, was released in 2015 and became an instant, international bestseller. Since then, a further eighteen of her novels have gone on to take the coveted #1 spot, some even before general release and whilst only available to ‘pre-order’. The Bookseller magazine has reported on Louise having topped the ‘Most Read’ and ‘Most Sold’ fiction charts, and she has garnered an army of loyal fans who love her atmospheric and addictive storytelling.

Twitter @LJRossAuthor 

@BorrowBox @WiganCouncil

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

πŸ“– Book review ~ The Brothers York by Thomas Penn


My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book


It is 1461 and England is crippled by civil war. One freezing morning, a teenage boy wins a battle in the Welsh marches, and claims the crown. He is Edward IV, first king of the usurping house of York...

Thomas Penn's brilliant new telling of the wars of the roses takes us inside a conflict that fractured the nation for more than three decades. During this time, the house of York came to dominate England. At its heart were three charismatic brothers - Edward, George and Richard - who became the figureheads of a spectacular ruling dynasty. Together, they looked invincible..

But with Edward's ascendancy the brothers began to turn on one another, unleashing a catastrophic chain of rebellion, vendetta, fratricide, usurpation and regicide. The brutal end came at Bosworth Field in 1485, with the death of the youngest, then Richard III, at the hands of a new usurper, Henry Tudor.

The story of a warring family unable to sustain its influence and power, The Brothers York brings to life a dynasty that could have been as magnificent as the Tudors. Its tragedy was that, in the space of one generation, it destroyed itself.

πŸ“– My thoughts..

It's that time of year when I try to look back at some of the books which have lingered for far too long on my kindle and this non-fiction history book has been around for so long, it's high time it had a mention.

The Brothers York follows the fortunes of the three men who each had their eye on the crown of England. A real life Game of Thrones for three very different brothers who are inextricably linked through time and whose ambition would be their undoing. Edward IV, Clarence, Duke of York and Richard, Duke of Gloucester are expertly explored in this comprehensive look at what influenced their life, and times.

Beautifully detailed and alive with all the scheming and skulduggery we have come to expect from the War of the Roses this comprehensive work makes history accessible and whilst it seeks to give a detailed description it is also very readable and is something I have enjoyed dipping into and out of at whim.

I'm a Lancastrian by birth and had I been around in the fifteenth century I am sure I would have followed the red rose of Lancaster but I have long had a fascination for the white rose side of the Plantagenet dynasty and the Yorkists who did so much to shape the history of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. This book brings that history to life.

About the Author

Thomas Penn is publishing director at Penguin Books UK. He holds a PhD in medieval history from Clare College, Cambridge University, and writes for The Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, and the London Review of Books, among other publications. He is the author of The Brothers York and Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England.

Twitter @PenguinBooksUK #TheBrothersYork #ThomasPenn

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Forgotten Maid by Jane Cable


I am thrilled to host a stop on the concluding day of this blog tour 

Sapere Books
3 November 2021

Cornish Echoes Mystery #1

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

Two centuries apart, two lonely women seek a place to call home…

Cornwall, England, 2015

Nomadic project manager Anna Pritchard has arrived in the village of Porthnevek to oversee the construction of a trendy new glamping site. But with many members of the local community strongly opposed to the development, she quickly finds herself ostracised and isolated.

Seeking to ease her loneliness, Anna begins volunteering at a nearby National Trust house in Trelissick, once owned by the aristocratic Daniell family. In her new role, Anna soon feels her attachment to both Porthnevek and Trelissick deepening. And as she spends more and more time steeped in local history, it seems that the past and the present are beginning to collide…

Belgium, 1815

After losing her brother in the Battle of Waterloo, French army seamstress ThΓ©rΓ¨se Ruguel is taken to London by war artist Thomas Chalmers, becoming his reluctant muse. But with Thomas’s mother unhappy with the arrangement, ThΓ©rΓ¨se is soon sent to Cornwall as a lady’s maid to Elizabeth Daniell, a kindly relative of the Chalmers family.

Able to speak only a little English — and with the other servants suspicious of her — ThΓ©rΓ¨se feels lost and alienated. And when she discovers her brother may still be alive, she must decide whether to continue with her new life in England, or brave the dangerous journey back to her homeland…

What became of Thérèse? Can Anna unearth the ghosts of the past?

And has Anna finally found where she belongs…?

πŸ“– My thoughts..

From the very start of the novel I was engrossed in the story of Anna Pritchard who, newly arrived in Cornwall, has the task of supervising the construction of a development site which should bring growth and expansion to the area, but which only seems to have roused the wrath of the local people. In seeking a distraction, Anna volunteers, as a guide, at the nearby Trelissick House, a National trust property which still retains the echoes of its troubled past.

Moving seamlessly back and forwards in time, this imaginatively described dual time story also introduces us to, ThΓ©rΓ¨se Ruguel, a French refugee, who, in 1815, takes up the position of lady’s maid to Elizabeth Daniell. Living at Trelissick house with the Daniell family is something of an escape after the horrors of Waterloo, however, ThΓ©rΓ¨se brings her own troubles with her to England.

Dual timelines are notoriously tricky to get right but there's no such trouble with this beautifully written story. Both time elements blend seamlessly with neither one trying to outdo the other in terms of story content and impact. I was equally engrossed in Anna's struggle with the locals in the twenty-first century as I was I going back to experience ThΓ©rΓ¨se Ruguel's complicated life in the early part of the nineteenth century. 

The Forgotten Maid brings with it a true sense of history allowing the tiny streets of Cornwall to come to life in a very believable way and yet I was also equally at home in the present sipping a glass of local golden ale with Anna in The Tinners Arms. The story is intricately detailed, peopled with wonderful characters, some you'll grow to love, whilst there are definitely others you'll love to hate. However, what shines throughout the story is the natural rugged beauty of Cornwall and the way this talented author brings its evocative history to life.

The Forgotten Maid certainly gets this new Cornish Echoes Mysteries series off to wonderful start. 

About the Author

Jane Cable writes romance with a twist for Sapere Books, and The Forgotten Maid her first novel set in her adopted county of Cornwall. She is lucky enough to have been married to the love of her life for more than twenty-five years, and loves spending time outdoors, preferably close to the sea on the wild and rugged north Cornwall coast.

She also writes emotional women’s fiction as Eva Glyn, published by One More Chapter.

Twitter @JaneCable


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Monday, 15 November 2021

πŸ“– Book Review ~ The Return by Anita Frank


11 November 2021

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Jack Ellison’s war is over, but the battle for his family has just begun.

When Jack left for the war, he made a parting pledge to his pregnant bride, Gwen, that he would never return. It was, after all, best for everyone that he didn’t.

Now, as celebrations erupt for Victory in Europe, Gwen is terrified that Jack will renege on his promise, threatening the life she has built for herself and their son on the family farm.

But war has changed Jack, and he is coming home, determined to claim a place in Gwen’s life – and her heart.

As events of the past come back to haunt them, Jack and Gwen find themselves facing their greatest battle – and it is a fight neither of them can afford to lose.

In this sweeping historical story with huge heart, Anita Frank weaves a glorious tale of love and loss, secrets and promises.

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

Jack Ellison has a secret he is determined to keep hidden as he doesn't want to jeopardise his chances of employment at the Berkshire farm run by father and daughter, Jim and Gwen. Jack takes to farming really well and both Jim and Gwen come to rely on Jack's kind nature. However, from the outset we realise that Gwen is, herself, harbouring a secret and with the prospect of war looming, an agreement is made between Jack and Gwen which will have far reaching consequences.

The sheer backbreaking hardship of keeping the farm running with little or no help comes across as does Gwen's need to do what is best for herself. And whilst I felt an immediate rapport with Jack's character, he is difficult not to like, I struggled to like Gwen very much but understood the reasons why she comes across as heartless in places. I enjoyed how the story moved around in time, so that we get Jack's perspective in 1939,  alongside that of Gwen in 1945 when the war is coming to an end.

The Return is a nicely written historical saga which has, at its heart, an emotional story of heartbreaking secrets and lost promises.

About the Author

A farmer’s daughter from Shropshire, Anita Frank studied English and American History at the University of East Anglia before moving to London to work in media analysis and communications. She currently lives in Berkshire with her husband and three children.

Twitter @Ajes74 #TheReturn


Sunday, 14 November 2021

🍴Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Fiona Valpy

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  Fiona Valpy to our Sunday Brunch today

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

Since I’m celebrating my latest book – The Storyteller of Casablanca – I’ll be bringing a Moroccan flavour to our brunch: some msemmen (a sort of breakfast bread), topped with melted butter and honey and some ghoribas, which are little soft cookies flavoured with orange.

Lake Union Publishing 2021

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

A nice pot of tea. Although I wouldn’t say no to a glass of fizz too! And I’ll bring along some mint tea to accompany our Moroccan treats.

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

As it’s November, let’s sit at the kitchen table - preferably with a cat or two curled up in front of a cosy fire.

Shall we have music playing in the background, and if so do you have a favourite piece of music?

Yes, definitely. I love Thea Gilmore, Amy Wadge and Beth Nielsen Chapman because they write songs about grief and hope – two of the major themes I often explore in my writing. There is grace and strength in their music. At the moment, my favourite is probably Thea Gilmore’s Rise.

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

I’d love to invite Josephine Baker, who features as one of the real-life characters that I included in The Storyteller of Casablanca. She was a truly amazing woman and I think she had a wonderful sense of humour too. Could we also invite Mr Darcy, Colonel Brandon and Mr Knightley from Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility and Emma)? I’m sure Jane Austen wouldn’t mind lending them to us for the day.

Which favourite book will you bring to Sunday Brunch?

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. It’s one of the best things I’ve read in recent years, hilarious and heart-breaking at the same time.

Harper Collins

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 always find time to read, even if it’s just a couple of paragraphs before I fall asleep at night. I have a tottering pile of books on my bedside table and it never seems to get any smaller, no matter how many I read. I’m a patron of the Women’s Prize for Fiction and have been sent all the shortlisted books but I haven’t got round to reading them yet – The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones are at the top of my TBR pile.

Little Brown Books

Where do you find the inspiration for your novels?

Anywhere and everywhere! A big part of being an author is making connections: the smallest things can lodge themselves in your brain and become part of a story when transferred to a different context or setting. It sounds obvious, but getting out there and living life is the best way by far to collect characters and storylines.

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

I definitely find it easier in winter. Summer brings too many distractions and living in Scotland means I feel I have to make the most of every drop of sunshine. But when the days shorten, I curl up on the sofa beside the fire and escape the darkness through my writing.

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

I’m all too easily distracted! I definitely helps having a deadline in place, though, as that focuses the mind. I try to create a structure in the day, and I do most of my writing in the mornings. When that deadline starts looming large, I have to be quite ruthless about locking myself away and saying ‘no’ to other demands. A little bit of pressure can be a good thing, but too much is definitely bad: it’s all about trying to find the balance.

Give us four essential items that a writer needs?

A pen and paper (yes, I still write the old-fashioned way first and then type up what I’ve written!)

Internet access for research

Lots of time

The determination to keep going.

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

I’m working on a novel set in Italy during World War 2 at the moment, as well as revising my first three books (The French for… series of contemporary novels) which are to be re-issued in the coming year, so that’s all keeping me busy.

The Storyteller of Casablanca is out now

Lake Union Publishing 
September 2021

Morocco, 1941. With France having fallen to Nazi occupation, twelve-year-old Jewish girl 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?

Fiona, where can we follow you on social media?

Instagram: @valpyfiona

Fiona, thank you for taking part in Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo.

My pleasure – thanks for having me!

Follow us on Twitter @jaffareadstoo #SundayBrunchwithJaffareadstoo