blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Memory Keeper of Kyiv – Erin Litteken

In the 1930s, Stalin’s activists marched through the Soviet Union, espousing the greatness of collective farming. It was the first step in creating a man-made famine that, in Ukraine, stole almost 4 million lives. Inspired by the history the world forgot, and the Russian government denies, Erin Litteken reimagines their story.
In 1929, Katya is 16 years old, surrounded by family and in love with the boy next door. When Stalin’s activists arrive in her village, it’s just a few, a little pressure to join the collective. But soon neighbors
disappear, those who speak out are never seen again and every new day is uncertain.
Resistance has a price, and as desperate hunger grips the countryside, survival seems more a dream than a possibility. But, even in the darkest times, love beckons.
Seventy years later, a young widow discovers her grandmother’s journal, one that will reveal the long-buried secrets of her family’s haunted past.
This is a story of the resilience of the human spirit, the love that sees us through our darkest hours and the true horror of what happened during the Holodomor.
May we never forget, lest history repeat itself.
A share of proceeds will be donated to DEC’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.
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Erin Litteken is a debut novelist with a degree in history and a passion for research. At a young age, she was enthralled by stories of her family’s harrowing experiences in Ukraine before, during and after World War II. Her first historical fiction title, drawing on those experiences, will be published by Boldwood in June 2022. She lives in Illinois, USA with her husband and children.

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My thoughts: when I studied Russian history we briefly looked at the Holodomor, the horrific policy Stalin inflicted on the people of Ukraine. But we didn’t look at it in detail, I’m glad in a way because it is genuinely harrowing. Erin Litteken is of Ukrainian descent and her family members lived through those terrible years. She weaves their experiences into this moving and powerful novel.

As her Bobby develops dementia and slips back in time in her mind, grieving widow Cassie moves back in to her grandmother’s house to take care of her and her young daughter Birdie, who hasn’t spoken since a terrible accident killed her father. She’s given Bobby’s journals to translate and transcribe from Ukrainian, with the help of neighbour Nick, revealing the terrible things Bobby and her family went through under Soviet rule.

Parts of the book are heartbreakingly sad, Katya loses so many of her family and friends to hunger and gulags in Siberia. She has to do so much to survive, despite her own pain. As Cassie and Nick read the journal they discover a story of hope amid the terror and of love amid so much loss.

As Ukraine endures another Russian reign of terror in 2022, this book feels incredibly timely and serves as a reminder of the strength of the human spirit. Some of the proceeds from the purchase are to go to the DEC’s Ukraine appeal to help the descendants of those who survived the Holodomor survive once more.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: One Moonlit Night – Rachel Hore

Loyalty and betrayal, hope and despair, One Moonlit Night tells the captivating story of a husband and wife separated by secrets as well as by war.

Accept it, he is dead.
No, it’s not true.
It is. Everyone thinks so except you.

Forced to leave their family home in London after it is bombed, Maddie and her two young daughters take refuge at Knyghton, the beautiful country house in Norfolk where Maddie’s husband Philip spent the summers of his childhood.

But Philip is gone, believed to have been killed in action in northern France. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Maddie refuses to give up hope that she and Philip will some day be reunited.

Arriving at Knyghton, Maddie feels closer to her missing husband, but she soon realises that there’s a reason Philip has never spoken to her about his past. Something happened at Knyghton one summer years before. Something that involved Philip, his cousin Lyle and a mysterious young woman named Flora.

Maddie’s curiosity turns to desperation as she tries to discover the truth, but no one will speak about what happened all those years ago, and no one will reassure her that Philip will ever return to Knyghton.

My thoughts: I really liked Maddie and found her story at Knyghton far more interesting than Philip’s escape through France, the mystery of what happened to Flora and the wedge driven between the men years ago was very intriguing.

Maddie herself was an interesting figure, with her sad and remote family history – seeking family and connection in Philip’s childhood home. His strange aunt Gussie, who lives in the past, and his angry cousin Lyle.

I also liked the two children – Sarah and Grace, rare for me as I’m not usually bothered but they seemed rather sweet and a little sad. Like Gussie with her collection of tiny dogs and growing forgetfulness. A rather sweet, melancholic book with a line of hope like a stick of rock.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Book Review: A Taste for Killing – Sarah Hawkswood

Godfrey Bowyer, the best but least likeable bow maker in Worcester, dies of poisoning, though his wife Blanche survives. The number of people who could have administered the poison should mean a very short investigation for Bradecote and Catchpoll, but perhaps some was pulling the strings, and that widens the net considerably. Could it be the cast-out younger brother or perhaps Orderic the Bailiff, whose wife has been pressured into a relationship with Godfrey? Could it even be the wife herself?  With Bradecote eager to return to his manor and worried about his wife’s impending confinement, and Walkelin trying to get his mother to accept his choice of bride, there are distractions aplenty, though Serjeant Catchpoll will not let them get in the way of solving this case.

My thoughts: Bradecote & Catchpoll are back investigating another medieval murder in Worcester. But in some ways this is Walkelin’s book, he does a lot of the investigating and putting it all together and we get to learn a bit more about his home life – with his overprotective mother and the young woman he hopes to marry.

The murders are pretty grim and the motive as old as time. Catchpoll puts his long earned knowledge of people to use and Bradecote is distracted by Christina being about to give birth. They get there in the end as always, putting the little bits of information together as confidently as any modern detective, only with no technology to help them or speedy police cars to get them to the scene – just foot leather and horses. It’s very enjoyable and I liked the way Walkelin gathers his information with politeness and a genial air, unlike grumpy Catchpoll who mostly seems to intimidate it out of people with a look.

Thank you to Allison & Busby for my review copy via Netgalley. The book is out this week so get ordering, available at all the usual places.

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Blog Tour: Take My Hand – Dolen Perkins-Valdez

HISTORY REPEATS WHAT WE DON’T REMEMBER . . .

Montgomery, Alabama. 1973. Fresh out of nursing school, Civil Townsend has big plans to make a difference in her community. At the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, she intends to help women make their own choices for their lives and bodies.

But when her first week on the job takes her down a dusty country road to a tumbledown cabin, she’s surprised to find that her new patients are just eleven and thirteen years old. Neither of the Williams sisters has even kissed a boy, but they are poor and Black, and for those handling their welfare benefits, that’s reason enough to have the girls on birth control. As Civil grapples with her new responsibilities, she takes India and Erica into her heart and comes to care for their family as though they were her own. But one day she arrives at their door to discover the unthinkable has happened, and nothing will ever be the same.

Inspired by true events and a shocking chapter of American history, Take My Hand is a novel that will open your eyes and break your heart. An unforgettable story about love and courage, sisterhood and solidarity, it is also a timely and hopeful reminder that it only takes one person to change the world.

My thoughts: this is a very timely book, set in the year Roe v. Wade entered the statute books, it covers issues around reproductive rights, and especially the forced sterilisation of young African American girls – something that really happened. Indeed it’s inspired by the real case of two young sisters who were permanently sterilised without consent.

Newly qualified as a nurse, Civil Townsend is the middle class daughter of a doctor and an artist, raised in a well to do neighbourhood. She isn’t fully prepared for the shocking depths of poverty poor Black people are living in when she meets the Williams family. In a leaking shack with a dirt floor the family live in one room full of squalor. She wants to help them, but struggles against Mace Williams’ pride to do so.

Sent out to do a single job – give Erica and India their birth control injections, she is stunned by their young ages and the fact that India isn’t even menstruating yet. Neither are sexually active, or even know any boys, but that doesn’t matter to the clinic or its manager. Civil becomes deeply involved with the family, helping them find a new home, a job for Mace, schools for the girls. Far beyond the scope of her role.

What unfolds is a terrible tale of government abuse of poor and vulnerable people. With forms thrust at people who can’t read, women manipulated into agreeing to sterilisation during labour and other heinous miscarriages of medical justice. As the case goes to court, Civil worries that the Williams girls will be lost in amongst the growing horrors.

She relates this story to her adopted daughter while undertaking a return to Alabama, ostensibly to visit the grown Erica and India, but more like a farewell tour, revisiting her memories and the people she once knew. She wants to pass on all that she learnt, explain how her guilt and culpability influenced her later decisions – to adopt and to become a doctor.

The book is powerful and shocking, thousands of women, mainly from poor and ethnic minority backgrounds were mistreated and forcibly sterilised. Sadly there is evidence that this cruel policy hasn’t stopped. Many of the victims didn’t even know what was really being done to them. This book brings the reality of medical abuse to light. And as Roe v. Wade is under threat once again in the US, it feels like a book everyone should.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own

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Blog Tour: The Carnival of Ash – Tom Beckerlegge

An extravagant, lyrical fantasy about a city of poets and librarians. A city that never was.

Cadenza is the City of Words, a city run by poets, its skyline dominated by the steepled towers of its libraries, its heart beating to the stamp and thrum of the printing presses in the Printing Quarter.

Carlo Mazzoni, a young wordsmith arrives at the city gates intent on making his name as the bells ring out with the news of the death of the city’s poet-leader. Instead, he finds himself embroiled with the intrigues of a city in turmoil, the looming prospect of war with their rival Venice ever-present. A war that threatens not only to destroy Cadenza but remove it from history altogether…

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Tom Beckerlegge grew up in the northwest of England in a house filled with books. Writing as Tom Becker, he won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize with his debut novel; The Carnival of Ash is his first adult book. He lives in Enfield with his wife and young son.

My thoughts: this was an interesting collection of tales set in my mysterious city of words Cadenza, rival of Venice, home of poets. Building into an over-arcing story of the destruction of the city by its inhabitants.

From poet turned gravedigger’s apprentice Carlo, to the Duelling Counts, a murder in the monastery, dungeons beneath the ruler’s palace, Cadenza’s secrets and hidden terrors are revealed as the city slowly heads towards its end.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: The Secrets of Summer House – Rachel Burton

An emotional, atmospheric summer read about family secrets and loyalty from the author of Kindle bestseller A Bookshop Christmas.
The secrets of Summer House are about to come out at last…

Rushing out of the University Library, undergraduate Alice Kenzie bumps straight into PhD student Tristan Somers. There begins a whirlwind romance, and Alice falls pregnant and gives birth to a baby girl. Then Tristan is killed in a car accident. Unable to cope, Alice takes her baby to Summer House, Tristan’s family home in Suffolk, leaves her there and disappears.

Olivia Somers has always been told that her mother died in the same accident as her father.
But when she finds a bundle of old letters in Summer House, everything she ever believed about her mother is called into question. Can she find her – and even more importantly, forgive her?

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Rachel has a degree in Classics and another in English Literature, and fell into a career in law by mistake. She has spent most of her life between Cambridge and London but now lives in Yorkshire
with her husband and their three cats. She loves yoga, ice hockey, tea, The Beatles, dresses with pockets and very tall romantic heroes. Find her on Twitter & Instagram as @RachelBWriter or follow
her blog at rachelburtonwrites.com

Twitter: @RachelBWriter
Facebook: @Rachelburton74
Instagram: @RachelBWriter

My thoughts: families are complicated, messy beasts, often people do things that they feel are “for the best” even when that’s not necessarily the case. When Olivia’s grandmother, who raised her, dies, things once best thought hidden surface. An envelope of photos, a drunken comment from her father-in-law and Olivia is convinced the story about her parents’ deaths was a lie. Her mother is still alive, but where is she and why did she leave?

Moving back and forth from Olivia’s present and the 1970s love story of her parents, Tristan and Alice, this is a bittersweet, moving and evocative story of love, secrets and truth. The author also includes a playlist (on Spotify) to help you get into the characters story and personalities too, a lovely touch.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: Miss Aldridge Regrets – Louise Hare

The glittering RMS Queen Mary. A nightclub singer on the run. An aristocratic family with secrets worth killing for.

London, 1936. Lena Aldridge wonders if life has passed her by. The dazzling theatre career she hoped for hasn’t worked out. Instead, she’s stuck singing in a sticky-floored basement club in Soho, and her married lover has just left her. But Lena has always had a complicated life, one shrouded in mystery as a mixed-race girl passing for white in a city unforgiving of her true racial heritage.

She’s feeling utterly hopeless until a stranger offers her the chance of a lifetime: a starring role on Broadway and a first-class ticket on the Queen Mary bound for New York. After a murder at the club, the timing couldn’t be better, and Lena jumps at the chance to escape England. But death follows her onboard when an obscenely wealthy family draws her into their fold just as one among them is killed in a chillingly familiar way. As Lena navigates the Abernathy’s increasingly bizarre family dynamic, she realizes that her greatest performance won’t be for an audience, but for her life.

My thoughts: This Lovely City was a great debut, but Miss Aldridge Regrets is even better. Such a great book, I was hooked from the get go. With its mix of Soho grime and first class ocean bound glamour, murder, music and family secrets, this is an assured classic in the making.

Lena is a bit naive, and clearly a sucker for a story, happy to jump on a ship with a virtual stranger to a supposed starring role in a show that doesn’t even have a title or a script. She’s also on the run, even though she’s not really done anything wrong, and caught up in something she doesn’t understand, trapped in all the luxury and glamour of an ocean liner.

Lena’s also battling with concepts of race and class, light skinned enough to pass among the Abernathy family as one of their own, but meeting musician Will (who reminds her of her father) brings her back down to reality – she has to pick a side. If they realise she’s not “one of them”, then she won’t be so welcome at the table. She can’t be both, not in America.

The Abernathy/Parker family and their attendants have a lot of secrets, bitterness, feuds, lies and a serious collective alcohol problem. Lena is thrown into their world and has no idea about any of them. She’s not at home in their world, despite being able to switch up her accent from East End to Mayfair, she is an actress after all. It’s only with Will, in the “pub” the crew hang out in that she’s able to be herself. Which should tell her something.

As things go from bad to worse onboard, she doesn’t know who to trust or what to do. Maybe she should have stayed in London after all. She has secrets too, and they’re at risk of spilling out the longer she’s mixing with first class and slipping below decks at night. Will she even make it to New York?

There’s suspense, terrible crimes at sea, but there’s also jazz under the moon and a little romance too. I want a sequel – a What Miss Aldridge Did Next.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own

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Blog Tour: The Discontent of Mary Wenger – Robert Tucker

TheDiscontent copy

Welcome to the book tour for The Discontent of Mary Wenger by Robert Tucker. Read on for more details!

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The Discontent of Mary Wenger (Paper Dolls #1)

Publication Date: February 3rd, 2022

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Tell-Tale Publishing

Emotionally torn between the conflicting historical social forces of feminism and the traditional roles of women in post-World War II society, Mary Wenger struggles with a deep sense of despair. Spanning the continent during the decades of the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s to the turn of the century, her compulsive lifelong odyssey in search of an acceptable house in which to realize her personal and economic goals throws her out of balance with her family.

A master wordsmith tells Mary’s story with a subtle touch of humor only an actual descendant could wield with success. Her fictional memoir is based on historical facts and bravely reveals Mary’s discovery and fear of separation from her children. The existential examination allows Mary to finally understand how her personal discontent, obsessions, internal demons, and depression affect her husband and children, as they mature and independently react to her attempts to mold them to her vision of how they all should be as a family. The life of every character is determined by his or her delusions and how they clash or compromise with one another.

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Excerpt

Since I was a young girl, I have always believed that death is stalking me. It lurks and hovers in the dark recesses of my mind like a virus waiting to strike and destroy when I least expect it.

When I was eight years old, I wrote a poem about myself and death.

My name is Mary

Sounds airy

Death is scary

It makes me wary

Being wary makes me carey

All my life, I have developed defenses and tried to be a protector of the people I love. They often didn’t see things the way I did and they didn’t agree with me. But I knew what was best for all of us.

I always have.

My mother told me the first night when she and Dad moved in, the wail of an infant floated up to their bedroom. Eyes wide open with fear, she lay listening as the weak cry faded to silence.

“Mike, did you hear that?” she whispered and poked Dad in the ribs. “It came from the cellar.”

“Just a cat. I’ll chase it out in the morning.”

Shaking his arm, she insisted. “It sounded like a baby. You must go down and look.”

“I’m tired. I look in the morning.”

“Please, Mike, I scared.”

“Aah! All right.” He touched a lighted match to their bedside candle. The electricity had not yet been connected. He went down the creaking stairs into the cellar.

Unseen by him, a woman’s bare foot and leg were pulled out through the window. The glow of the candle light was reflected by the wet shine of an object in one corner. Dad approached it and his blood chilled.

A newborn infant lay curled, the blood and mucous of the afterbirth still clinging to its blue body.

In horror, he fumbled his way back up the stairs to the bedroom where he blew out the candle and set it on the dresser.

Mother pulled the blankets close around herself. “What was it?”

Dad quickly climbed into bed. “Nothing but cat. I get rid of it in the morning.”

Before Mother awoke, Dad buried the infant in the back part of the yard farthest from the house in a corner of what would be a vegetable garden.

Many years later, when I was a young woman, Mother told me she knew Dad had lied to her to shield her from the grotesque reality of what he had found in the basement. She knew the difference between the wail of a newborn infant and the wail of a cat.  

She never asked him where he had buried the infant. She suspected she knew from the unusual growth and size of tomatoes she had planted in that section of the garden. The thought of the child as fertilizer sickened her. Believing the soul of the infant existed in the ripe red fruit, she buried the tomatoes in a field far from the house and dug up and destroyed the plants.

Refusing to explain why, she avoided planting any other vegetables in that part of the garden. The spot of untilled soil was a silent message to Dad that she knew what had lain buried there.

I was sitting between Ruth and Nina clinking ice in our glasses of lemonade. I slowly turned the pages of the latest Sears & Roebuck catalog while they chatted about the clothes and merchandise they would buy if they had the money. We all did a lot of wishing in those days. Wishing didn’t cost anything, but left us with an aching malaise and a shared emptiness that our imaginations could not fill.

Since we had little in the way of personal possessions, we shared everything. If one of us even bought a candy bar, we wouldn’t think of eating it all. We would divide it up so each of us had a taste.

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About the Author

IMG_0987TuckerTU

Author of 27 novels and a retired business and management consultant in a wide range of industries throughout the country, I reside with my wife in Southern California.

I’m a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles with Bachelor’s and Master Degrees.

A Pulitzer nominated author, I am a recipient of the Samuel Goldwyn and Donald Davis Literary Awards.

An affinity for family and generations pervades my novels. My works are literary and genre fiction that address the nature and importance of personal integrity.

As the grandson of immigrants who fled persecution in Germany and Austria-Hungary and came to America during the early 1900’s, the early history of our country and the rise of the middle-class have always held a fascination for me.  The dramatic depiction of fictional characters placed in actual events sharply and realistically bring alive the harsh times and adversity of the multitude of people who sought freedom and a better way of life and demonstrate that only a little over one-hundred years have passed to bring us to where we are as a struggling society today.

The chronology and events of history have captured and held my interest for many reasons, among them being stories that entertain, educate, and inform. Learning about the lives of my immigrant grandparents coming to America from Czechoslovakia during the early 1900s and the lives of my parents during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s provided the initial motivation. Researching and writing historical fiction is a way to learn more about myself and my origins and the social, political, and economic influences related to my generation.

Whether writing historical fiction or non-fiction or fantasy, I’m drawn into the societies and cultures of a particular period that inspire the creation of characters who bring that era to life. Not only do I experience this dynamic in books, but in films, plays, dance, music, and other art forms.

Researching history takes me into the exploration of new territory perhaps outside of my own life experience through reading other sources, interviews, travel, and films. Although a number of fine books are written from personal experience by authors who lived through those times, much of the historical writing by contemporary authors is dependent on secondary sources. Forays into the past for story material is a rewarding part of the creative process.

Robert Tucker

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Blog Tour: A Moment of Faith – Martin Svaneborg

Copenhagen, 1840 – Fighting to reconcile his obligations with a quest for romance, the eccentric philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, rushes through the cobbled streets, thrusting himself into the arms

of Regine and a disastrous engagement.
Copenhagen, 1855 – Withering away in a hospital bed, Bitter and alone, Kierkegaard conjures up a preposterous scheme. A vendetta against the Bishop of Copenhagen, and a mission to save the
future of love.
Copenhagen, now – Introvert Christian Kardahl, meets devout and mysterious Emma for the first time. Two days later, Christian comes across an old letter aimed to destroy a famous, eccentric philosopher. When a sudden murder is added to the mystery, the past has caught up. Christian and Emma are drawn into an involuntary quest that will make them question their belief in history and, unless they can sort out the puzzle, their faith and love will be forever doomed.
‘Brilliantly written, a bridge between the present and Kierkegaard past’ – Book Reviewer

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With a background in musical theatre as both an actor, singer, and dancer, Martin
Svaneborg has spent his teenage and adult life as a storyteller. In 2018, driven mainly by his interest in the history of religion, Martin started studying theology at the University of Copenhagen while
exploring other ways of telling stories as a theatre director, speech coach, and speaker, hence the transition to novel writing felt natural, and his debut novel is a fusion of his growing interest for the
personal life of the philosophers he encountered during his studies and the desire to tell an adventurous love story. Also, he, like Kierkegaard, has a thing for nice, long sentences.

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My thoughts: I remember reading about Kierkegaard when I was studying theology and philosophy, although it was some time ago. So I was intrigued by this book, which moves between Kierkegaard’s life and a modern day mystery.

Christian has become fascinated by an unusual offshoot of Christianity and visits a church that follows this doctrine. There are not many congregants so he stands out as a stranger. He is drawn into a race against time to find the original deeds to the church building and save it from being sold and demolished. He and his new friend Emma need his knowledge of Kierkegaard and her knowledge of the church to solve the mystery.

Once this got going it was really enjoyable, I liked the glimpses into past Denmark and the adventure Christian and Emma find themselves on – hunting for hidden archives in the library and then being tracked to England, where they’re threatened in a church and chased to the airport. It’s all very exciting, gung-ho stuff.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my

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Blog Tour: The Book of Last Letters – Kerry Barrett

Inspired by an incredible true story, this is an unforgettable novel about love, loss and one impossible choice…

London, 1940
When nurse Elsie offers to send a reassuring letter to the family of a patient, she has an idea. She begins a book of last letters: messages to be sent on to wounded soldiers’ loved ones should the very worst come to pass, so that no one is left without a final goodbye.

But one message will change Elsie’s life forever. When a patient makes a devastating request, can Elsie find the strength to do the unthinkable?

London, present day
Stephanie has a lot of people she’d like to speak to: her estranged brother, to whom her last words were in anger; her nan, whose dementia means she is only occasionally lucid enough to talk.

When she discovers a book of wartime letters, Stephanie realises the importance of our final words – and uncovers the story of a secret love, a desperate choice, and the unimaginable courage of the woman behind it all…

A moving and compelling historical novel from the author of The Girl in the Picture, perfect for fans of The Nightingale and The Keeper of Happy Endings.

My thoughts: inspired by a real book of letters and other things, this is a lovely story, set partly in 1940/1 and now. Elsie is a nurse in a South London hospital during the Blitz, to cheer up her patients and provide some hope, she brings in a scrapbook and asks them to write letters to their loved ones, draw pictures, whatever they’d like.

Years later the book resurfaces after being thought lost and inspires Stevie to create a new book and a mural at the retirement home she works in. She wants to track Elsie down and find out what happened next.

Both Elsie and Stevie are dealing with complicated situations, struggling to stay afloat in their lives. The book connects them across the years and changes their lives forever. Heartwarming, bittersweet and rather lovely.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.