Wednesday, 7 December 2022

๐Ÿ“– Blog Tour ~ The Contraband Killings by Lucienne Boyce

September 2022
Dan Foster #4

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

Principal Officer Dan Foster of the Bow Street Runners is sent to collect smuggler Watcyn Jones from Beaumaris Gaol on Anglesey, and bring him back to London for trial at the Old Bailey. As if having to travel to the wilds of North Wales isn’t bad enough, Dan is saddled with an inexperienced constable as his interpreter and assistant. At least it’s a routine assignment and shouldn’t take more than a few days.

But when the prison escort is ambushed and Watcyn Jones escapes, a straightforward transfer turns into a desperate manhunt. And as Jones’s enemies start to die, the chase becomes more urgent than ever. Dan’s search for the killer brings him up against a ruthless smuggling gang – and his chances of getting off the island alive begin to look far from promising.

๐Ÿ“– My Review...

Having read the previous three books in the Dan Foster series of historical crime novels, it is with a real sense of enjoyment that I join Bow Street Officer Foster and his companion Constable Evans as they journey into North Wales to escort a dangerous prisoner from Beaumaris gaol on the Isle of Angelsey to his trial at the Old Bailey in London. This task is not without its challenges especially when they are ambushed on their return journey and the prisoner escapes.

What then follows is a very well plotted historical adventure which was every bit as exciting as I hoped it would be as I really enjoy observing Dan Foster in action. He is a stalwart protagonist, calm, methodical and usually unruffled but this particular case sees him tested to the limit of his endurance. Throughout the story there is an authentic sense of time and place and the late eighteenth century is described well. I particularly enjoyed the setting of the book on the isle of Anglesey as it is a place I know very well so, for me, this added an extra level of enjoyment.

The author has certainly found her niche with this sort of historical adventure as each story seems to just get stronger and stronger and The Contraband Killings is no exception. Running alongside a strong sense of history comes the added excitement of intrigue and mystery and with several twists and turns I didn’t see coming I can safely say that, for me, this is Dan Foster’s most exciting challenge yet. 

๐ŸดBest read with...Alamode beef and a glass of rich red wine

About the Author

Lucienne Boyce writes historical fiction, non-fiction and biography. After gaining an MA in English Literature, specialising in eighteenth-century fiction, she published her first historical novel, To The Fair Land (2012, reissued 2021), an eighteenth-century thriller set in Bristol and the South Seas.

Her second historical novel, Bloodie Bones: A Dan Foster Mystery (2015, reissued 2022) is the first of the Dan Foster Mysteries and follows the fortunes of a Bow Street Runner who is also an amateur pugilist. Bloodie Bones was joint winner of the Historical Novel Society Indie Award 2016, and was also a semi-finalist for the M M Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction 2016. The second Dan Foster Mystery, The Butcher’s Block (2017, reissued 2022), was awarded an IndieBrag Medallion in 2018. The third in the series, Death Makes No Distinction (2019, reissued 2022), is also an IndieBrag Medallion honoree, recipient of Chill With a Book Premium Readers’ Award, and a joint Discovering Diamonds book of the month. In 2017 an e-book Dan Foster novella, The Fatal Coin, was published by S-Books. The Fatal Coin is now available in paperback.

The Bristol Suffragettes, a history of the suffragette campaign in Bristol and the South West of England, was published in 2013. In 2017 Lucienne published a collection of short essays, The Road to Representation: Essays on the Women’s Suffrage Campaign.

Other Publications

‘Not So Militant Browne’ in Suffrage Stories: Tales from Knebworth, Stevenage, Hitchin and Letchworth (Stevenage Museum, 2019)

‘Victoria Lidiard’ in The Women Who Built Bristol, Jane Duffus (Tangent Books, 2018)

‘Tramgirls, Tommies and the Vote’ in Bristol and the First World War: The Great Reading Adventure 2014 (Bristol Cultural Development Partnership/Bristol Festival of Ideas, 2014)

Twitter @LucienneWrite #TheContrabandKillings

Tuesday, 6 December 2022

๐ŸŽ„Festive Read ~ The Christmas Spirit by Debbie Macomber


18 October 2022

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

Will they find their happy-ever-after this Christmas?

Peter and Hank are lifelong friends, but when it comes to their jobs they couldn't be more different. Peter is a small-town pastor and is devoted to helping the community, while Hank runs the local pub and is never too far from a party. But this Christmas, everything is about to change . . .

Having never settled down, Peter and Hank believe their demanding jobs are keeping them from finding love. Convinced that the other has it easier, they hatch a plan to swap places the week before Christmas to put their theories to the test and find time for themselves.

But as Hank quickly becomes overwhelmed by nativity plans, and Peter struggles to control the rowdy festive pub-goers, they each begin to worry they're in over their heads. Luckily, church assistant Grace is on hand to help Hank navigate a church/life balance, and a young woman seeking shelter at the pub might be exactly what Peter needs to realise there's more than one way to help his community . . .

This Christmas, will Peter and Hank's stunt fall flat, or will it open their eyes to the possibility of love at last?

๐ŸŽ„My Review

One thing that is always guaranteed when reading one of Debbie Macomber’s Christmas stories is that you will be taken right into the heart of the festive spirit with an array of characters who come springing into life from the very beginning. The Christmas Spirit is no exception and the story comes across with all the warmth and humour we have come to associate with this lovely writer.

When life long friends Peter Armstrong and Hank Colfax swap roles in the lead up to Christmas it makes for interesting reading especially as Peter’s normal role is that of pastor in a small town, whilst Hank’s clientele are usually the ones who spend time in his bar. Each man is at a particular crossroads in life and each think that it is their lifestyle which is preventing them from finding a special someone to share their life with however, this lovely story shows that sometimes love is waiting when you least expect to find it.

The Christmas Spirit is a lovely, warm-hearted festive story which has all the right ingredients for a gentle escapist sort of read and is just a perfect pick-me-up in the run up to Christmas when life can get a little bit too hectic.

๐ŸŽ„Best Read with..a peanut butter and jelly sandwich 

Debbie Macomber is a No. 1 New York Times bestselling author of over 100 books, and one of today’s most popular writers. In addition to fiction, Debbie has also published two bestselling cookbooks; numerous inspirational and nonfiction works; and two acclaimed children’s books. The beloved and bestselling Cedar Cove series became Hallmark Channel’s first dramatic scripted television series, and was ranked as the top program on US cable TV when it debuted in summer 2013. Debbie also owns her own tearoom and a yarn store, A Good Yarn, named after the shop featured in her popular Blossom Street novels. A devoted grandmother, Debbie and her husband Wayne live in Port Orchard, Washington (the town on which her Cedar Cove novels are based) and winter in Florida.

Twitter @debbiemacomber #AWalkAlongTheBeach


Monday, 5 December 2022

๐ŸŽ„Festive Read ~ A Christmas Miracle for the Railway Girls by Maisie Thomas


13 October 2022

Railway Girls #6

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book

Manchester, 1942. There are surprises in store for the railway girls this festive season...

When Cordelia's daughter Emily falls for a young chap who doesn't meet the approval of her father, Cordelia is reminded of her own first love - a love that she has never forgotten.

Mabel is determined to get to the bottom of a spate of local burglaries. Her heart is in the right place as she sets out on a quest to clear her friend's name, but there will be unforeseen consequences.

It's nothing short of a miracle when Colette returns to Manchester. But it's not going to be easy for her to keep living the life she once knew, and an impossible situation lies ahead.

There will be more than one storm for the railway girls to weather but with the friendship and support of one another, there's hope that all will be well by Christmas...

๐Ÿ“– My review..

It’s always such a treat to be back in Manchester with The Railways Girls and this latest story, set in 1942,  is particularly poignant as it sees the return of a much loved character with a storyline which really tugs away at the heart strings. As we have discovered in previous stories, the railway girls are a very close knit bunch and whilst they are all from very different social backgrounds when the going gets tough they all pull together. There is a true sense of camaraderie amongst the women who, in their various roles, do so much to keep the northern rail network functioning, and even with the threat of bombs dropping around them they still maintain the stoic war time spirit of making do, and carrying on regardless.

I’ve spent a few delightful afternoons in the company of this strong set of women who refuse to be beaten by whatever life throws at them, be be it sheltering from falling bombs, organising a Christmas Eve children’s party or the rescue of a much loved friend. Within any of the books in this series there is a real sense of how the Second World War impacted on daily life and it’s all so beautifully recreated by a skilful author who has developed this delightful series into something rather special. 

Whilst this one definitely has a festive feel to it, it is perfectly possible to read the story at any time of year. However, as this is book number six in the series I would advise that you start right the beginning with the first book as that way you will find so much to enjoy in this popular series and will grow to love the railway girls as much as I do.

A Christmas Miracle for the Railway Girls is every bit as wonderful as I hoped it would be and is the perfect escape from the stress of a hectic Christmas.  

๐ŸดBest read with..Colette’s potato floddies and a strong cup of tea.

About the Author

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

Twitter @MaisieThomas99 #AChristmasMiraclefortheRailwayGirls


Sunday, 4 December 2022

๐Ÿด Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Julie Shackman

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 Julie Shackman to Sunday Brunch

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

Oh, something tasty like Eggs Benedict.

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

Definitely a good old pot of English breakfast tea. I am rather a tea fiend!

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

I suggest either at the kitchen table or out on the patio if the weather is good. I love getting lots of fresh air.

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

I am really into my music. I usually listen to music when I’m writing. My favourite band is Fleetwood Mac.

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

What a great question! It would have to be Trisha Ashley, Sophie Kinsella, Jenny Colgan and William Shakespeare. All of these ladies are superb at creating such loveable (and not so loveable) characters and world building. As for Shakespeare, my all-time favourite play of his is Twelfth Night and I just think he must have been such a fascinating character and the first real romcom writer.

Which favourite book will you bring to Sunday Brunch? 

Oh dear! I have a few. It would either have to be Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe by Hazel Osmond or The Giver of Stars by Jo-Jo Moyes. They are both so beautiful and captivating.


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

I read somewhere a long time ago, that you can’t be a good writer if you’re not a good reader and I think that is so true. I read every day and always have a book on the go. I have rather a large TBR pile and am determined to read them all!

Where do you find the inspiration for your novels?

 It is often from a piece of music, or overhearing a piece of conversation. I find I often come up with ideas when I’m out walking Cooper, our two-year-old little rescue dog.

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

Before Covid struck, I used to go and sit in a local tea shop every day, but since then, I have had to adapt. Usually, I write sitting looking out of the sitting room window or in my office. I think overall, I maybe find it a little easier to write in winter, especially if its cold and snowy outside!

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

 If I have a deadline, then I’m usually ok, but if there isn’t a deadline hanging over me, I find it easy to procrastinate and spend too much time on social media! I find that sitting reading a good book, will often make me refocus and remind myself that I should be getting on with it!

Give us four essential items that a writer needs? 

Perseverance – You never, ever, ever give up. If somebody had told me three years ago, that I would be published by HarperCollins, I would never have believed them. 

Secondly, optimism – Keep writing, keep reading and keep going. Don’t be despondent. A published writer is an unpublished writer who never gave up. 

Next, I would say, a desire to read. As I said before, you learn so much from reading and see from other authors what works and what doesn’t. 

Lastly, imagination. Write the sort of book you would want to read. If you do that, your enthusiasm will shine through and if you enjoyed writing it, then the reader will have enjoyed reading it.

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

My latest novel is called The Cottage in the Highlands and is book three in the Scottish Escapes feel-good romance series from the HarperCollins imprint One More Chapter.

Harper Collins
1 December 2022

When Leonie Baxter finds herself out of a job and out of a relationship, she’s at her wits end. Her life has just been turned upside down and she needs a plan, fast.

By chance, on a walk with her rescue puppy, Leonie stumbles across a striking house in the woods; fully furnished but unoccupied. As a journalist, she is determined to find out more, after all, reporting is in her nature.

But her attempts are thwarted by Lily Cruickshank who lives in the cottage next door. Why won’t Lily help Leonie? And who is the mysterious Flynn Talbot, whose letter Leonie finds inside the house?

And in uncovering the secrets of the abandoned house, will Leonie open her own heart and let love back into her life?

More about Julie

Julie Shackman is a former journalist from Scotland, who has always wanted to write feel-good romance. As well as being an author, Julie also writes verses and captions for greetings card companies. Julie admits to having an obsession with stationery and handbags. She is married, has two sons and a Romanian rescue pup, Cooper. The Cottage in the Highlands is Julie's seventh novel.

Julie where can wee follow you on Social Media ?

Twitter @G13Julie

Thank you for taking part in Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo.

Follow us on Twitter @jaffareadstoo #SundayBrunchwithJaffareadstoo

Friday, 2 December 2022

๐Ÿ“– Blog Tour ~ The Family at No 12 by Anita Waller

Boldwood Books
29 November 2022

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

When Janette answers the door to a potential customer looking to board his dog, she never imagines he has nefarious plans.

But minutes later he’s dead and in her cellar.

Weeks later she realises she’s pregnant.

And so she becomes Mother and the baby Child, and a hidden life begins.

But all secrets come out eventually...

๐Ÿ“– My Review..

At the start of the story we meet Janette Gregson. She’s bit of a loner, wary of people, but comfortable with animals especially the dogs she looks after in her dog caring business. When a stranger arrives at her door enquiring about possible boarding for his dog, Janette doesn’t suspect anything until the man viciously attacks her with devastating consequences for both of them.

This compelling psychological thriller had me hooked from the opening chapter and whilst it’s impossible to say what happens without giving much of the plot away, I thought the story was well done and entirely plausible, capturing the horror of the truly terrifying situation in which Janette finds herself. The story is quite chilling in places especially in the early part of the novel and even though I felt sympathy for Janette I didn’t like her at all, and was quite glad to move into the second, equally complex, part of the story as we get to know another character who is known, initially, as Child.

The Family at No 12 is a rather disturbing story, and with several twists I didn’t see coming, the plot kept me fully engaged from start to finish.

Best read with...a slice of toast and a glass of orange juice

About the Author

Anita Waller is the author of many bestselling psychological thrillers and the Kat and Mouse crime series. She lives in Sheffield, which continues to be the setting of many of her thrillers, and was first published by Bloodhound at the age of sixty-nine. Her first book for Boldwood will be published in August 2022.

Twitter @anitamayw #TheFamilyatNo12

@BoldwoodBooks #BoldwoodBloggers @BookandTonic


Thursday, 1 December 2022

๐Ÿ“– Featured Book of the Month ~ Waypoints: My Scottish Journey by Sam Heughan


25 October 2022

Journey deep into the Scottish Highlands in the first memoir by #1 New York Times bestselling author and star of Outlander, Sam Heughan—exploring his life and reflecting on the waypoints that define him

"I had to believe, because frankly, I had come so far there could be no turning back."

In this intimate journey of self-discovery, Sam sets out along Scotland's rugged ninety-six-mile West Highland Way to map out the moments that shaped his views on dreams and ambition, family, friendship, love, and life. The result is a love letter to the wild landscape that means so much to him, full of charming, funny, wise, and searching insights into the world through his eyes.

Waypoints is a deeply personal journey that reveals as much about Sam to himself as it does to his readers.

 ๐Ÿ“– My Review..

I don't read many celebrity memoirs however, this look into the life of the charismatic leading man of the Outlander series was too much to resist, and even better when it was gifted to me by my lovely daughter for my recent birthday.

There is no doubt, whatsoever, that Sam Heughan has charm, every interview on television shows him to be intelligent, articulate, filled with a refreshing joie de vivre and with a social conscience which has seen him use his considerable online profile to raise a substantial amount of money for the charities he supports so tirelessly. Add into the mix his handsome good looks and his capacity for mischief and you have all the winning ingredients for an engrossing read. 

Mostly, I think of Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser personified, however, Waypoints gives us a very different man to the one we have come to know on our TV screens and we discover that underneath the tough Scottish exterior is a man riven by doubt and sometimes challenged by what life has thrown at him. This introspective, and very personal, journey along the ninety-six-mile West Highland Way allows Sam the luxury of time out of his busy schedule in order to take stock of his life and it shows, not just in his abiding love for his beloved Scotland, but also his aching vulnerability. As we discover over the course of the book the West Highland Way is not for the faint hearted and even Sam’s endurance is tested as he meets all manner of Scottish weather but his determination not to give up is what makes this such a fascinating read. 

Some memoirs can get a bit lost in the detail but this is nicely divided into Sam’s thoughts and feelings as he takes in the splendour of the place he calls home and yet we are also given a canid account of Sam’s struggle to make it as a actor and of his commitment to never giving up on his dream. I've really enjoyed spending time with Sam, he is a good raconteur, a gifted actor and an all round wonderful human being. I wish him every success both on and off screen.

I am delighted to make Waypoints:My Scottish Journey my Featured Book of the Month for December. 

☕Best read with.. a dram of good Scottish whisky.  Slaintรฉ

About the Author

Sam Heughan was born April 30, 1980 in New Galloway, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. An accomplished stage and screen actor best known for Outlander (2014), A Princess for Christmas (2011), and A Very British Sex Scandal (2007). He is an active patron of Youth Theatre Arts Scotland and Leukemia and Lymphoma Research. He attended the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) located in Glasgow, Scotland.

Twitter @SamHeughan #Waypoints


Tuesday, 29 November 2022

๐Ÿ“– Blog Tour ~ Disobedient Women by Sangeeta Mulay

Fly on the Wall Press
25 November 2022

My thanks to Isabelle Kenyon for my copy of the book
and the invitation to the blog tour

Set in contemporary India, Sangeeta Mulay's unforgettable debut novel is a compelling story of four unforgettable characters:

Aparna - a courageous campaigner of rationality and freedom of expression. Will the patriarchal grip of a religious society manage to silence her? 

Hari – the passionate founder of a religious organisation. As Hari becomes a rising star for the local Hindu right-wing, will he lose himself? 

Naseem - Aparna's wise daughter who is discovering her sexuality. Will she have the strength to stand up for her mother against societal stigma? 

Kashi - Hari's daughter who is in love with science and…girls? Confused about her sexuality, will she be able to lead life on her own terms? 

Confronting issues of religion, bigotry, sex and politics, DISOBEDIENT WOMEN tells the interwoven stories of two families and their battle of ideologies. A novel of the choices women make under pressure, where to be disobedient is the only option that offers change.

๐Ÿ“– My Review..

This powerful novel grips from the opening chapter with a chilling incident which really sets the scene for what is to come. Deftly moving back in time we learn just what has brought Aparna Soman to this point in her life. Aparna is an vociferous advocate of freedom of expression and vehemently defends women's rights and it is these outspoken passions which rile those who seek to keep women in their place.

Gradually over the space of the story we learn about the other three main characters who add such an interesting dimension to the story, and in particular that of Hari Sabnis who has a fervent mission to set up his own spiritual organisation in order to bring back the glory of the Hindu religion which he thinks is being irreparably damaged. 

Disobedient Women brings contemporary India to life in a very vibrant and thought provoking way and with each strand of the story we are pulled into a dangerous world of discord and bigotry. Interspersed within the story are snippets from social media accounts and excerpts from newspaper entries. The author writes well, bringing this powerful story to life with intricate detail and with a powerful message about the absolute strength of women which is greater than any perceived weakness.

☕ Best Read with..Potato fritters and hot tea

About the Author

Sangeeta Mulay was born in Pune in India and now currently works in London as a UX writer. She received an honourable mention in the 2021 NYC midnight micro-fiction challenge. Her book for young adults, ‘Savitribai Phule and I’ was a notable book of 2020 for The Bombay Review. She has also had a short story highly commended in the Sydney Hammond short story competition. Another of Mulay’s short stories will be published in a 2022 Fox and Windmill anthology.

Twitter @Groggy_Eyes



Monday, 28 November 2022

๐ŸŽ„Blog Tour ~ Christmas on the Riviera by Jennifer Bohnet


Boldwood Books
31 August 2022

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

As a toddler Elodie Jacques was abandoned by her mother and left in the care of her French grandmother, Gabriella in Dartmouth, Devon.

Now 24 years old, Elodie struggles to reconcile the deep anger for the mother she has never since seen.

When Gabriella unexpectedly announces she wants the two of them to spend Christmas and her 70th birthday in her home town of Juan-les-Pins in the South of France Elodie is thrilled.

Gabriella meanwhile has her own ulterior motives for wanting to return after 40 years, a daunting homecoming potentially filled with memories, secrets and recriminations.

With Juan-les-Pins pulsing with lights, decorations and the festive spirit, Christmas promises to be filled with fun. But when Elodie learns there is the possibility that her long absent mother may join them she hides her feelings behind a show of indifference and animosity.

Will there be the reconciliation that Gabriella longs for - or will the spirit of Christmas fail to work its magic?

๐ŸŽ„ My Review...

Over the last couple of dull autumn days I've thoroughly enjoyed spending time in the warmth and sunshine of the South of France with this lovely story and becoming acquainted with Gabriella Jacques, and her granddaughter, Elodie, as they both seek to lay the ghosts of their past.

Returning to Juan-les-Pain after a forty year absence isn't easy for Gabby however, Elodie and the lovely new friends Gabby meets on her arrival to the resort certainly help to make the transition easier. Elodie also has to face the trauma of her own past and the conducive atmosphere of Juan-les-Pain certainly seems to help mend some bridges. Juan-les-Pain becomes another character in the story and I enjoyed exploring the resort and stopping off at the boulangerie for early morning croissants with Elodie, or sharing memories with Gabby as she remembers working in the resort as a young woman.

Christmas on the Riviera is a lovely warm-hearted festive read and although it covers some deep topics it's all done with this author's customary light touch and fine attention to detail. Whilst there is an undoubtedly festive atmosphere, who could fail to want to spend Christmas on the Riviera, it isn't overly done, and I think is easily one of those lovely, light stories you could read at any time of the year.

๐ŸดBest read with...Coquilles St Jacques and a glass of pink champagne

​About the Author

Jennifer Bohnet is the bestselling author of over 12 women’s fiction titles, including Villa of Sun and Secrets and A Riviera Retreat. She is originally from the West Country but now lives in the wilds of rural Brittany, France.

Twitter @jenniewriter #ChristmasOnTheRiviera

@BoldwoodBooks #BoldwoodBloggers @BookandTonic


Wednesday, 23 November 2022

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ The Drums of War by Michael Ward


Sharpe Books
August 2022

Thomas Tallant #3

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book

London 1642.

The King has fled London with the drums of war ringing in his ears. Across the country, lines are being drawn and armies raised.

Influential royalist Lady Carlisle switches sides and presses spice trader Thomas Tallant and his partner Elizabeth Seymour into Parliament's service.

Soon Thomas faces double-dealing in his hunt for a lethal hoard of gunpowder hidden on the river, while Elizabeth engages in a race against time to locate a hidden sniper picking off Parliamentary officers at will in the city.

The capital also witnesses a vicious gang of jewel thieves take advantage of the city’s chaos to go on the rampage, smashing homes and shops, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. They hand pick their targets but refrain from selling any of their loot. There are more questions than answers.

When war finally erupts, Elizabeth is caught in the brutalising carnage of Edgehill while Thomas joins the Trained Bands in their defence of the city. As he mans the barricades at Brentford, in a desperate rearguard action to repel Prince Rupert’s surprise attack, he realises the future of London rests in the hands of him and a few hundred troopers.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth believes she has identified the jewel thief and goes underground to trace his hoard.

But all is not as it seems..

๐Ÿ“– My Review ..

In this third book in the Thomas Tallant series of historical adventures we meet again with Tallant and his friend, Elizabeth Seymour, just as England is on the brink of civil war. It’s 1642, King Charles I has been forced out of London and there is much unrest in this changing world as people decide whether to support the Divine Right of the King or the will of Parliament. With the country in disarray and the echoes of civil war getting ever closer Tallant must keep his considerable wits about him as he is thrown headlong into chaos. Elizabeth also faces danger as she investigates a spate of jewel thefts and uses her skill and cunning to keep ahead of her enemies.

The author has developed this series really well and with such a strong sense of history it’s obvious that a great deal of research has gone into making both time and place come vividly to life. Mixing fact with fiction is never easy but Tallant fits comfortably with real historical figures and his first pitched battle at Edgehill in October 1642, and later at Brentford in November is described with a rich awareness of historical detail and with no scrimping on the effects of battle. There’s a definite sense of unease, after all the country was at war with itself, and this comes across in the confusion and disarray as both sides were ill prepared and badly equipped for war.

Whilst it’s possible to read each of the books in this series as standalone adventures there is much to be gained in getting to know Thomas Tallant and Elizabeth Seymour from the start of their friendship as that way their character progression becomes more meaningful and you appreciate just how much historical detail goes into each well written story.

๐ŸทBest read with…a goblet of warmed wine

About the Author

Writing has been central to Mike Ward’s professional life. On graduating from university he became a journalist, working in newspapers and for the BBC. He then went into journalism education, teaching and researching journalism practice before becoming head of the UK’s prestigious Journalism School at UCLan. For the last eight years he has run his own content creation company.

Twitter @mikewardmedia 


Tuesday, 22 November 2022

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ Gallows Wake by Helen Hollick

Taw River Press
28 September

Sea Witch Voyages #6

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book

Where the past haunts the future...

Damage to her mast means Sea Witch has to be repaired, but the nearest shipyard is at Gibraltar. Unfortunately for Captain Jesamiah Acorne, several men he does not want to meet are also there, among them, Captain Edward Vernon of the Royal Navy, who would rather see Jesamiah hang.

Then there is the spy, Richie Tearle, and manipulative Ascham Doone who has dubious plans of his own. Plans that involve Jesamiah, who, beyond unravelling the puzzle of a dead person who may not be dead, has a priority concern regarding the wellbeing of his pregnant wife, the white witch, Tiola.

Forced to sail to England without Jesamiah, Tiola must keep herself and others close to her safe, but memories of the past, and the shadow of the gallows haunt her. Dreams disturb her, like a discordant lament at a wake.

But is this the past calling, or the future?

๐Ÿ“– My Review ...

It's been a while since I shared a sailing vessel with Captain Jesamiah Acorne but absence, they say, makes the heart grow fonder and I am certainly just as enamoured with this swashbuckling captain as I was right at the beginning of this series of historical adventures.

Gallows Wake sees Jesamiah in something of a difficult situation and even as he sends his wife Tiola away for safety you know that there is trouble brewing especially when Jesamiah finds himself aboard a ship, which is not his own, and bound for a destination not of his choosing. As Jesamiah gets drawn deeper and deeper into a melting pot  of intrigue and danger, so his wife, the mystical Tiola, must also find her own way of coping when deadly danger beckons.

Beautifully written with such a wonderful historical authenticity, the atmosphere crackles and jumps with excitement. Everything just feels spot on, whether it be the mysticism, and magic, of white witch Tiola, or maybe drinking strong coffee in a Gibraltan tavern with Jesamiah and the slimy Ascham Doone, or even better, sniffing the salty tang of the sea as the waves roll on by on board the Bonne Chance with Captain Vernon's crew.  One thing is definitely guaranteed, there is never a dull moment for this intrepid couple. 

I won't do the author a disservice by giving away any details of the plot but it's safe to say that Gallows Wake was every bit as daring and exciting as I hoped it would be and certainly being back in the company of  Jesamiah Acorne and his lovely wife, Tiola has been an absolute joy. Gallows Wake is easy to read as a standalone story as the author gives details of some of the back story, however, as with any long running series, it is best to start at the beginning to watch the progression of the characters as they continue to go from strength to strength

๐ŸดBest Read with...a slice of salty gammon and a few mugs of yeasty ale

About the Author

Helen and her family moved from north-east London in January 2013 after finding an eighteenth-century North Devon farmhouse through BBC TV’s popular Escape To The Country show.

First accepted for publication by William Heinemann in 1993 – a week after her fortieth birthday – Helen then became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she also writes a pirate-based nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages.

Monday, 21 November 2022

๐Ÿ“– Review ~ Christmas Stories from Candlestick Press


We all have our own Christmas stories – things that may have happened years ago and that in the telling and retelling have become part of our festive traditions as much as the school nativity play or Rudolph’s red nose.

These entertaining and touching poems encompass all manner of tales. There’s a tipsy step-grandad struggling to carve the turkey, a rediscovered collection of Christmas stamps and a doughty mother leading a troupe of children to cut down a pine tree under cover of dusk:

“I tell my sons these stories in the dark of winter:
our origin myths, borrowed and stolen, a forest
of rootless, ungovernable evergreen trees.”

from ‘Arboreal’ by Linda France

Of course, stories are also where we keep our memories safe, which is why you’ll find moving poems in which times past and departed loved ones are beautifully conjured back into being.

Included is a special edition postcard of the beautiful poem ‘Christmas Present’ by Stephanie Norgate, who was one of the two winners in our ‘Christmas Stories’ competition.

Poems by Abeer Ameer, Panya Banjoko, Kathryn Bevis, Jim Carruth, Linda France, John Freeman, Arjunan Manuelpillai, Helen Mort, Victoria Punch, Kostya Tsolakis, Rory Waterman and Tamar Yoseloff.

Cover illustration by Sarah Young.

๐Ÿ“– My review..

I always look forward to the Christmas poetry publication from Candlestick Press and this year’s collection of Twelve Poems to Tell and Share is particularly beautiful, with a lovely cover, which encapsulates all the wonder of the festive period. This collection contains a bonus postcard with the lovely Christmas Present by Stephanie Norgate who was one of the winners of the Christmas stories competition.

Twelve story poems which all create a lovely Christmas atmosphere, perfectly poised to read one poem on each of the twelve days of festive activity. It’s impossible to single out my favourite as each of the poems have something wonderful to share. 

I found My Father’s Soil by Jim Carruth particularly poignant as it describes that empty chair at the Christmas table, missing the man who shared so much of his carefully tended home grown produce:

Tomorrow, he won’t be at our table
Surrounded by the fruits of all his labours 
To lay out his beloved mash and roast
Watching our sad longing devour it all
His love for us, his loss, his final crop.’

The poem which made me smile was The Homemakers Tale by Rory Waterman

‘God rest ye, merry gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay:
Your wife is making dinner just 
Like every other day -
Watch Gremlins then The Snowman the
The Best Man Holiday.
O tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy 
O tidings of comfort and joy’

There is so much to enjoy in this festive treat and it would make a lovely Christmas gift for anyone who enjoys the festive time and also to send to a poetry loving friend instead of a card at Christmas.

Candlestick Press is an independent publisher based in Nottingham, UK. We’ve been publishing poetry pamphlets since 2008 not only for people who already love poetry, but also for those who will love it but perhaps don’t know that yet. Our ‘instead of a card’ pamphlets make an ideal alternative to a mainstream greetings card and are a small gift in their own right. They have matching envelopes and bookmarks left blank for your message, and are excellent companions on journeys or for a bedtime read. By supporting us, you help an independent press and our supported charities at the same time as treating yourselves, your friends and family to some wonderful poems.

Twitter @poetrycandle

Saturday, 19 November 2022

๐Ÿ“– Book Review ~ Of All Faiths and None by Andrew Tweeddale

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let’s go back to …1910

15 September 2022

My thanks to Ben Cameron PR for my copy of the book

In the autumn of 1910 Edwin Lutyens, the renowned architect, receives a letter from Sir Julius Drewe for the commission of a castle on Dartmoor – Castle Drogo. Lutyens’ design for the castle focusses on both the past and the present and reflects Britain, which at that moment is in a state of flux. His daughter, Celia, becomes enamoured with the project dreaming of chivalry and heroism. The following year Edwin Lutyens and his family are invited to a stone laying ceremony at CastleDrogo. Celia meets Sir Julius’ children: Adrian, Christian and Basil.

The novel moves to 1914, and the start of the Great War. Christian Drewe is returning from Austria where he has been working as an artist. Adrian enlists on the day war is declared driven by his sense of duty. Chrisian has reservations as to joining up unconvinced that the war was either necessary or right.

The story moves from the battlefields of France and Flanders and back to London and to Castle Drogo, where the characters are reunited for brief periods. Faith and love are stretched to their limits as each character is affected by the relentless brutality of the war. Of All Faiths & None is the story of a lost generation. It is a novel that focuses on the relationships of the characters until those relationships are shattered. It is a coming-of-age tale and a social commentary on the tragedy of a needless war.

๐Ÿ“– My Review.. 

In 1910, Edward Lutyens is commissioned by Sir Julius Drewe to design a castle on Dartmoor and right from the start of the novel we are there with Lutyens as he creates his design for what will, eventually, become Castle Drogo. However, even as the ideas for Castle Drogo start to take shape war clouds in Europe loom on the horizon and the eventual devastating effects of the Great War will reverberate for both the Luytens and the Drewe families. 

The author writes with such passion and conviction that it is obvious that a great deal of research has gone into the creation of such a complex story. Of All Faiths and None is a wonderfully evocative piece of historical fiction and as time and place blend together perfectly so the story becomes charged with emotion and atmosphere. Written with huge compassion and spanning the momentous years between 1910 and 1918 this story will stay with me for a long time.

I have to admit to knowing nothing at all about Castle Drogo before the start of this well written and empathetic novel. I did, however, do a little bit of internet searching to discover more, and to see images, of the finished 20th century castle for myself.

๐Ÿฅ‚Best read with…Sole bonne femme and a bottle of Pouilly-Fuissรฉ

About the Author

ANDREW TWEEDDALE is a writer, lawyer and chef. He commenced writing Of All Faiths & None in 2004 as an anti-war novel, after visiting Castle Drogo for the first time. It took Andrew 18 years to complete the work. He is currently writing his second novel about the Mau Mau uprising. Andrew lived in Richmond and Kew Gardens for the last 30 years and now divides his time between the UK and Spain.