blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: In Her Sights – John Kimbrey*

Set at the outbreak of the Great War, the story depicts a young woman from a Gloucestershire village, tired with the constraints of her life in Edwardian Britain.

In 1916, her brother, a weak and introverted man is called up for military service. She sees an opportunity to finally compete with men in their own world and formulates a plan to go to war in his place.

In this unique and compelling tale of sibling love and extraordinary bravery, they learn to swap lives completely and she quickly adapts to her life as a man, seeking to fight alongside her male peers in war- torn France.

With many twists and turns, it demonstrates the very best and worst of soldiers of the time and brings a new perspective to the many aspects of war. With unbelievable conditions, great loyalty and unrivalled friendships, her world is then shattered as the military machine closes in. With her life now in danger, she battles to survive, bringing a conclusion the reader won’t see coming.

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John Kimbrey served in the Royal Marines for twenty-five years and has travelled the world extensively. He visited Antarctica three times on exploratory and scientific expeditions and was awarded the Polar medal. He lived in New Zealand for seven years, and now lives in Lincolnshire.

In Her Sights, his first novel, depicts the heroism of soldiers in the great war, demonstrates the very best and worst of soldiers of the time. It is the first book of a trilogy that focuses on this period, and, unexpectedly, its main protagonist is a woman. She thrives on many challenges the war offers her, and ultimately becomes a cool and calculated killer.

The sequel to In Her Sights is finished and John has several months of editing and fine tuning ahead of him before it is published.

John has enjoyed reading since childhood, and always felt he had a book in him, but now feels there are many more to come. His writing style is open and reactionary, and whether it’s a gift or luck, his creative mind always develops a variety of plotlines. He gets so absorbed sometimes that ideas flow quicker than he can write them down.

John loves the great outdoors and enjoys exercise. He cycles every week and makes regular visits to his local gym. He was widowed in 2014 and has two married children and three grandchildren.

Today I have an extract from this nov for you.

No words were spoken, and as they had done many times, they followed their wits. Staying low they headed south, taking advantage of any cover available to them, to run in a crouch. They made good speed, but after only fifteen minutes they reached a line of wire right across their line of withdrawal. They dropped to the ground as Frank sought a way forward, Ed turning to cover their rear. Just a minute later, he tapped Ed on the shoulder then headed to his right and scrambled over a small rise, before disappearing into a shell hole beyond. Ed waited until the noise of his movement had ceased before she made her move. In seconds, she was at the top of the rise and was just dropping down when a sudden burst of machine gun fire opened up behind them. Frank heard the bullets fly overhead and ducked instinctively. Then he heard Ed groan. He swung round but could see nothing, so quickly reversed back to where she was, knowing she was in trouble.

Ed lay quite still, face down in the dirt, breathing rapidly. She turned her head to spit gravel from her lips and brought her hand up to feel inside her ghillie suit. It was wet, and she felt quite sick. She began to sweat and then the pain hit her!

Her breathing became shallow and quite harsh as her body went into shock. She heard a noise in front of her but stayed still in the darkness. Her best friend, she knew, would come for her. Then Frank’s hand reached for her, pulling her by the collar as he dragged her along the ground, staying low until they slid down into a shell hole. He sat up and ripped his hood from his head, speaking softly to her, but with urgency, his heart racing as he sought answers.

‘Where have you been hit?’ he whispered. She didn’t answer and so he repeated her name over and over, but she still made no sound. God, he thought, is she dead? Then he heard a murmur and sighed with relief, asking her again where she was hit. Unable to see her too well, he put his ear to her mouth.

‘On my back, at the top of my back,’ she said hoarsely. ‘But I think it’s gone right through as my chest is agony.’

Frank rolled her gently on her back, knowing the exit point would be the worst injury. He opened the buttons of her ghillie suit and pulled it down, reaching inside her tunic until he felt a large hole in her chest. It was pouring blood! He quickly reached inside his own tunic for a field dressing before opening her tunic fully. He unravelled the dressing, placing it firmly over the exit wound and pressed down to stop the bleeding, making her whimper softly. He struggled to wrap the bandages attached to the dressing around her body, but finally tied them off at the side. She arched her back in acute pain, but never uttered a sound. She bit her lip until the pain was under control. He then spoke to her softly.

‘I am going to have to turn you.’

‘Just get on with it,’ she said, groaning.

He turned her over, freeing her arm so he could access her shoulder. He yanked the back of her tunic down, reaching inside her shirt and following the sticky blood trail until he located a tiny indent, a hole. Keeping one finger over it, he reached for her own field dressing with his other hand and ripped it open with his teeth, quickly covering the small indentation that was still bleeding, and tying the dressing off as before. He pulled her tunic back up and pushed her arm into the sleeve, buttoning up her ghillie suit, and laid her flat. He knew he had to move rapidly now, or see his friend die in front of him!

He looked ahead into the darkness, hoping they were not too far from their own trenches, and quickly slung both rifles over his shoulder. He then grabbed a handful of Ed’s ghillie suit behind her head and began to drag her up out of the shell hole and along the ground. It was clear to him within a few seconds that even though she was relatively light, this could easily kill her. He decided there was no point in taking her back carefully if she died on the way! He knew what he had to do was risky, but he clearly had no choice.

‘Ed, I am going to have to carry you, it’s going to hurt,’ he whispered. He bent down, gathering her up across his body so her head lay on his shoulder, clasped his hands and taking a deep breath started to lift her up. He hoped that as he couldn’t see anything, the Germans certainly wouldn’t be able to either. He looked down at the friend he treasured most in his life, and as he set off in the darkness, he heard a volley of shells suddenly whistle overhead, landing seconds later deep into the British lines. The morning barrage had begun!

He wasted no time and set off at a fast walking pace over the undulating ground before him. Progress was swift, and he made a hundred yards before stumbling into more wire, where he dropped to a crouch, pausing for a few seconds to rest. As he rose up, a barb snagged Ed’s ghillie suit and even though he pulled on it several times, he was forced to lay her down to free her, wasting valuable time. Sweat from his exertion ran into his eyes as his fingers fumbled, but quickly he bundled her up once again and set off through the gap, all the while the shells exploding ahead. He was the most frightened he had ever been, and as his arms started to ache once more, he found himself shouting to himself to finish the job! He yelled to Ed over the increasing noise of the shells, her head just inches away from his, but she remained silent, her eyes closed. He kept telling himself they would make it and shouted to her over and over; ‘It will be OK Ed, it will be OK,’ as he maintained his pace forward towards safety, flinching each time a shell landed. He was convinced that they could not be far away now and worked his way through the wire, the bombs shattering the ground all around him. He was sweating heavily, his eyes stinging as it washed into them, his breathing rapid, and then suddenly, the ground disappeared beneath him! It was a second later and he landed in a heap in the mud, Ed now lying across him, groaning.

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

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Blog Tour: The Lady of the Ravens – Joanna Hickson*

My baptismal name may be Giovanna but here in my mother’s adopted country I have become plain Joan; I am not pink-cheeked and golden-haired like the beauties they admire.

I have olive skin and dark features – black brows over ebony eyes and hair the colour of a raven’s wing…

When Joan Vaux is sent to live in the shadow of the Tower of London, she must learn to navigate the treacherous waters of this new England under the Tudors. Like the ravens, Joan must use her eyes and her senses, if Henry and his new dynasty are to prosper and thrive …

Joanna Hickson spent twenty-five years presenting and producing News and Arts programmes for the BBC. Her first published book was a children’s historical novel Rebellion at Orford Castle but more recently she has turned to adult fiction, concentrating on bringing fifteenth century English history and some of its fascinating principal characters to life. She is married with a large family and gets inspiration from her Wiltshire farmhouse home, which dates back to her chosen period.

My thoughts:

I love reading about women in periods of history where they’re often erased or only listed as “wife of” and I also love the Plantagenet/Tudor period, aka The War of the Roses.

So this, set during the reign of Henry VII was perfect for me.

Telling the tale of a very minor character of the period, lady-in-waiting Joan Vaux, who lives in the Tower of London, as did quite a lot of people (some still do) when it was a working fortress and garrison.

The ravens at the Tower are world famous and of the current flock I know 2 facts – there’s one called Matilda who likes to play dead to freak out her keepers, and another pair who team up to raid dustbins. I used to work with the former Keeper of the Crown Jewels who was married to a Beefeater and they lived in the Tower, which has it’s own pub!

When Joan lived there it was very different, there were soldiers stationed there (as opposed to today’s retired forces personnel who serve as the Tower’s guards) and the ravens were not well loved.

Fiercely intelligent birds, the legend says that should they ever leave the Tower England will fall.

Joan becomes the protector of these funny birds, and develops a relationship with them that displeases her husband and various other Tower dwellers.

While political intrigue roils around her and the first Tudor monarch fights to retain his throne, Joan takes on her own battle, to keep the ravens in the Tower.

I loved Joan, smart, independent, and quietly powerful. Most of the men around her are stuffy and ignorant. Which feels pretty apt, considering clever women were frowned on for much of history.

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

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Cover Reveal: Bella – R.M Francis

A spectre has haunted Netherton for generations.

Everyone has a theory, no one has an answer.

The woods that frame the housing estate uncover a series of heinous acts, drawing onlookers in to a space of clandestine, queer sexuality: a liminal space of abject and uncanny experience.

A question echoes in the odd borderlands of being, of fear-fascination, attraction-repulsion, of sex and death…

Who put Bella down the Wych-Elm?

R. M. Francis is a writer from Dudley. He completed his PhD at the University of Wolverhampton for a project titled Queering the Black Country and graduated from Teesside University for his Creative Writing MA.

He’s the author of four poetry chapbooks, Transitions (The Black Light Engine Room Press, 2015), Orpheus (Lapwing Publications, 2016), Corvus’ Burnt-Wing Love Balm and Cure-All (The Black Light Engine Room Press, 2018) and Lamella, (Original Plus, 2019)

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blog tour, books, reviews

12 Days of Clink Street: The Watcher – Monika Jephcott Thomas*

The Watcher by [Jephcott Thomas, Monika]

It’s 1949 when Netta’s father Max is released from a Siberian POW camp and returns to his home in occupied Germany. But he is not the man the little girl is expecting – the brave, handsome doctor her mother Erika told her stories of. Erika too struggles to reconcile this withdrawn, volatile figure with the husband she knew and loved before, and, as she strives to break through the wall Max has built around himself, Netta is both frightened and jealous of this interloper in the previously cosy household she shared with her mother and doting grandparents. Now, if family life isn’t tough enough, it is about to get even tougher, when a murder sparks a police investigation, which begins to unearth dark secrets they all hoped had been forgotten.

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My thoughts:

This started slowly but once things began to happen and you learnt about the characters it picked up. It was really interesting to see the German side of the post-conflict history I learnt about at school. As well as the trauma of his experience, there is also a national period of reconciliation going on around Max after he returns from the Siberian POW camp, and attempts to readjust to his life, family and role.

Max was a non-combatant, being a doctor, but was still treated incredibly poorly by the Russian soldiers who haunt his nightmares. His family, including his wife and the daughter who has never met him before, also have to adjust to their new family dynamic, and Max’s PTSD, which leaves him with horrific night terrors and cut off from his loved ones.

I know a little about Allied soldiers returning from WWII but very little is said about life in occupied West Germany, and what support, or lack thereof, there was for the men returning to their lives.

Tragedy strikes the family, first with the murder and then in more intimate ways, even closer to home. The police detective is not a pleasant man and makes the family afraid.

It was also interesting to have Netta’s perspective as the children are often forgotten in stories like these, how strange it is to have someone you’re told is your father, but who is actually a total stranger, come to live with you and disrupt your life.

This book is well written and moving, capturing a picture of the period and the characters with a compassion and understanding that is often lacking in historical recollections of post-war Germany.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for helping Clink Street publishers to celebrate their authors and books.

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Book Review: Sea of Lost Love – Santa Montefiore

1958. Celestria, the charismatic daughter of an aristocratic family, lives in Pendrift Hall, a pale stone mansion with gardens that tumble down to the Cornish sea. It is summer and the weeks ahead hold the promise of self-discovery and the thrilling possibility of elicit love affairs.
Yet tragedy erupts in paradise when one of the family vanishes. A mysterious note is left behind with the words: ‘Forgive Me’.  Soon Celestria is pulled along a trail of deception, masquerades and mirrors. It will lead her from her idyllic life on the English coast to the orange groves of Southern Italy. It will also lead her to love…

My thoughts:

I won this book on Twitter, and it would make a wonderful holiday read, but I read it under a blanket on my sofa, transported instead to the beautiful Cornish coast and then a sundrenched Southern Italy, which made me long for summer.

Celestria’s journey, both physical and emotional, is one of self-discovery and a lot of growing up, there is humour among the tragedy and heartache though, and then there is love.

The author is well known for her romantic fiction, with glamorous locations and beautiful protagonists and this is a classic of the genre, dripping with fading grandeur and simple Italian food, the sun pours out of every page and you find characters that are more than they appear.

If you’re looking for a good read, you could do a lot worse than this one.

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Blog Tour: Blood’s Campaign – Angus Donald*

TWO KINGS, TWO FAITHS, TWO ARMIES – AND THE BATTLE FOR IRELAND

THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE VICTOR . . .

August 25, 1689

The English Army is besieging Carrickfergus in Ireland. Brilliant but unusual gunner Holcroft Blood of the Royal Train of Artillery (son of Col. Thomas Blood), is ready to unleash his cannons on the rebellious forces of deposed Catholic monarch James II. But this is more than war for Captain Blood, a lust for private vengeance burns within him.

French intelligence agent Henri d’Erloncourt has come across the seas to foment rebellion against William of Orange, the newly installed Dutch ruler of England, Scotland and Ireland. But Henri’s true mission is not to aid the suffering of the Irish but to serve the interests of his master, Louis le Grand.

Michael ‘Galloping’ Hogan, brigand, boozer and despoiler of Protestant farms, strives to defend his native land – and make a little profit on the side. But when he takes the Frenchman’s gold, he suspects deep in his freedom-loving heart, that he has merely swapped one foreign overlord for another.

July 1, 1690

On the banks of the River Boyne, on a fateful, scorching hot day, two armies clash in bloody battle – Protestant against Catholic – in an epic struggle for mastery of Ireland. And, when the slaughter is over and the smoke finally clears, for these three men, nothing will ever be the same again . . .

Holcroft must decide whether to join the conspirators, including his old friend Jack Churchill, now Lord Marlborough, and support Dutch William’s invasion – or remain loyal to his unpopular king.

Kent-based author Angus Donald was born in 1965 and educated at Marlborough College and Edinburgh University. He has worked as a fruit-picker in Greece, a waiter in New York and as an anthropologist studying magic and witchcraft in Indonesia. For 20 years he worked as a journalist in Hong Kong, India, Afghanistan and London. He is now married with children and writes full time from a medieval farmhouse in Tonbridge, Kent.

Angus is a distant relative of Col. Thomas Blood who is best known for his attempt to steal the Crown Jewels of England from the Tower of London in 1671.

Angus is also the author of the bestselling Outlaw Chronicles.

Website

My thoughts:

This isn’t the sort of book I’d normally pick up even though I enjoy historical fiction as I tend to avoid military history. But this is so well written and draws you in so well I actually quite enjoyed it.

The history of England and Ireland is shameful and blood stained and the period this book covers is the same. After James II was deposed from the throne he seized after Charles II’s death he fled to Ireland where he waged war with borrowed soldiers against William and Mary’s troops.

Using real names and places Angus Donald builds a realistic picture of life in the English army during the Irish campaign.

Holcroft Blood is a Captain in the Ordnance (what we call Artillery now) but he also has his own agenda.

The author is distantly related to the read Blood, which adds another interesting layer to the book.

All in all I found it interesting and thoroughly well written with a real sense of the time and place it’s set.

Blood's Campaign 3 Oct.png

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

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Blog Tour: The Lost Ones – Anita Frank*

Some houses are never at peace.

England, 1917

Reeling from the death of her fiancé, Stella Marcham welcomes the opportunity to stay with her pregnant sister, Madeleine, at her imposing country mansion, Greyswick – but she arrives to discover a house of unease and her sister gripped by fear and suspicion.

Before long, strange incidents begin to trouble Stella – sobbing in the night, little footsteps on the stairs – and as events escalate, she finds herself drawn to the tragic history of the house.

Aided by a wounded war veteran, Stella sets about uncovering Greyswick’s dark and terrible secrets – secrets the dead whisper from the other side…

My thoughts:

Something suitably spooky for All Hallows’ Eve today, this gorgeous ghost story is set in fine Gothic tradition, in an old house with a dark past. Pretty much every resident has secrets and one in particular will do anything to keep them.

I loved this book, Gothic style novels set in big houses is so very up my street. I grew up in a hundred year old house with absolutely nothing creepy about it, which was very disappointing and I think that might be why I love books about sinister houses so much.

What I liked about this story though was that the tragedy in its past wasn’t in the distant past, the people living there were part of it, it happened only about 20 or 30 years before.

So many creepy houses have an ancient mystery so to have one that’s fairly recent and the people who know the truth still living and not just an old diary is interesting.

The period it’s set is interesting itself, 1917, a year before the end of a war the likes no one had ever seen before, the age of a fascination with the supernatural that began in the Victorian era, but that intersects with new leaps in science and knowledge. It’s a very interesting time to set this story in.

I am interested in the people who believed in ghosts and the existence of spirits (I don’t believe in ghosts fyi) like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini, and the attempts to use things like cameras and recording devices (all new scientific inventions) to capture these mystery beings.

The protagonist, Stella, is a sceptic, but even she starts to be affected by the strange goings on in her sister’s new home, and bravely decides to try to resolve things and lay angry spirits to rest.

This is an excellent addition to the spooky house canon, and another piece of evidence that we’re living through an excellent revival of Gothic fiction.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book but all opinions remain my own.