blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Beneath a Starless Sky – Tessa Harris*

The smoke tingled in her nostrils. Acrid. Harsh. Lilli Sternberg’s quickening heart sounded an alarm as she rounded the corner of the street. Lifting her gaze to the rooftops, she saw a roaring blaze of thick flames engulf the side of the building and join the stars to fill the black sky. Her father’s shop was no more.

Munich 1930

Lilli Sternberg longs to be a ballet dancer. But outside the sanctuary of the theatre, her beloved city is in chaos and Munich is no longer a place for dreams.

The Nazi party are gaining in popularity and the threats to those who deviate from the party line are increasing. Jewish families are being targeted and their businesses raided, even her father’s shop was torched.

When Lilli meets Captain Marco Zeiller during a chance encounter, her heart soars. He is the perfect gentleman and her love for him feels like a bright hope under a bleak sky.

But battle lines are being drawn, and Marco has been spotted by the Reich as an officer with great potential. A relationship with Lilli would compromise them both.

Will Lilli be able to escape the threats facing her family, and how much is she willing to risk for the man she loves?

My thoughts:

This is a beautiful and moving love story, full of danger and intrigue, as Lilli risks everything to become a star and then to save her family.

Lilli is a Jew in a Germany that is rapidly changing as a new political power takes shape, but her ballet talent whisks her all the way to Hollywood and into high society, including the circle of the Prince of Wales and a certain Wallis Simpson.

But her family are still in Munich and as Hitler’s grip tightens and war looms, Lilli must risk everything to save them and herself.

This was at times very sad, as indeed anything set during WWII often is, terrible things were done and the horrors contrast starkly with the glamorous whirl of London society and parties that Lilli becomes a part of.

The ending was fairly uplifting and redemptive, thankfully, as before that there was a shocking moment that I thought might turn out very differently.

The romance between Lilli and Marco was touching and tragic but again ultimately redemptive.

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

blog tour, books

Blog Tour: Portrait of a Man – Vicky Adin

PortraitofaMan

We’re celebrating the release of Vicky Adin’s latest historical fiction, Portrait of a Man! Read on for an exclusive excerpt and a chance to win a print copy of the book!

518bD0tN5FLPortrait of a Man

Publication Date: October 23rd, 2020

Genre: Historical Fiction

Will the secrets of the past destroy an artist’s legacy?

Matteo Borgoni is a desperate man. He must succeed if he is to free his beloved wife, held captive by her father in Melbourne. His picture framing skills establish him with the artists of Dunedin in 1863, but he has many doubts, and many more obstacles to overcome.

Fifty years on, Luciano, a rakish Italian portrait artist on the run from his past, turns up at the Invercargill branch of Borgoni Picture Framers seeking refuge. As the ravages of World War One escalate, fear is constant, but compassion brings unexpected consequences. A terrifying pandemic is the last thing they need.

Over a century later, a man recognises a portrait in an Auckland gallery, and demands it back. Amid another global pandemic, a marriage on the brink of failure, and a life and death struggle, the portrait exposes generations of family secrets and deceptions with life-changing results.

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Excerpt

January 1863

The Arrival

Matteo Borgoni walked off the ship like a man reprieved. He closed his eyes and inhaled the early morning air, detecting the usual animal dung and the grease and tar of a busy harbour, but also something fresher, more life- giving. Seagulls squawked overhead, searching for tiny fish among the seaweed rippling against the wharf piles for their breakfast. “This,” he sighed with a lighter heart than he’d had in a long time, “this is where life begins again.”

At first glance, Port Chalmers was more makeshift and primitive than he’d expected after Melbourne. Wooden buildings stood haphazardly along the main street and scattered over the hillside. The port hummed with activity, which pleased him. A busy port was good for business, but he hoped the city of Dunedin – some eight miles south-west – would be more prosperous. He heaved his bag onto his shoulder and, dodging horses, carts, trolleys and people laden with goods and baggage, he followed the steady stream moving along the wharf to where the authorities were waiting.

He’d seen the likes of many of his fellow passengers before. Poor miners and prospectors coming from the gold rushes of Victoria hoping for better luck. Most would move on again, empty-handed and defeated. A few had families, dragging them from one rough-and- ready tent town to another in the hope of striking the big one. He’d met a handful of Italians among them. Crazy people, in his opinion.

A voice from behind announced the presence of a toffee-nosed Englishman.

“This way, my dears, follow me.” He pushed his way forward as he escorted his wife and daughters to wherever they were going. “Make way, I say. Make way for the ladies. Coming through.”

Eventually, the queue moved along, and Matteo’s turn came.

“Name!” barked the official, who ticked him off the passenger list and waved him on.

At thirty-five, Matteo had seen a lot of living. He was barely twenty-one when he left his home near Lake Garda in Northern Italy – a tiny hamlet surrounded by snow-capped mountains in the Dolomites, where life was measured from one festival to another filling the square with customs and chatter. On the odd occasion, he’d returned when money allowed. When he didn’t have the funds, he wrote to his sister, Gabriella, who understood him; understood why he needed to leave the traditions and shackles of the small village behind and find a new life; why he had no freedom in their tiny three-storey brick home living the peasant lifestyle. His dreams were too ambitious to be confined.

As he walked towards the village, the sun pleasantly warm on his back, he let his dreams fly free again.

“Hey, Matteo,” a fellow Italian called in heavily accented English. “You come?”

“Si, I come.”

Over the years living in Melbourne, Matteo had learnt to speak English. Now it was his everyday language, even with other Italians. There were too many regional differences to speak his mother tongue to passing strangers.

The younger man clapped him on the back and together they made their way along the dirt road. Trees covered the hillside, and the lush, green countryside appealed to Matteo.

He’d arranged for his packing crates to be transferred directly to Dunedin, but the new paddle steamer, designed for the shallow waters of Otago Harbour, wouldn’t be leaving for a while yet – and he needed a drink.

“Let’s go.”

With a beer in hand, they sat in a crowded barroom of the Royal Hotel, taking in their new surroundings.

“So, tell me, what brings you here?” asked Stefano, his accent far stronger than Matteo’s.

“A new adventure.” Matteo shrugged away thoughts of his past failures.

“Gold. You look for gold. I go look.” The young man’s eyes gleamed at the thought of making his fortune, as many others had yearned to do in the goldfields of Australia and New Zealand.

“No, I’m a businessman; a craftsman. I set up shop here.”

Matteo had soon learnt that life was a case of ‘each man for himself’ when the madness of gold took hold. He’d seen too many fools work themselves to death for a few ounces of the shiny metal hidden in veins in the rock, and had far bigger plans than living the filthy, harsh life of a miner.

“What, no gold? Then why you leave if you have business?”

“Leave where? Home, or Melbourne?” He didn’t want to talk about why he’d left Melbourne. No one here needed to know.

Stefano pulled a face. “I think I know why you left home. My papa say things not the same since Risorgimento. Si? Unification. Phht! He asks how can the north be like the south when our food and our words are different? People fight to keep what is theirs of right; they don’t want change. They don’t need one nation. They want to be Trentino men like you, or Tuscan like me. Friends, but not the same.”

“Si, infatti,” Matteo agreed, wondering how much Stefano had experienced first-hand, given his youth, and how much was his father’s opinion. Nothing was as simple as he made it out to be. “I left during the ’48 revolution – it was that, or fight, and I did not want to fight. Detesto politica. Generation after generation, many revolutions. One side say this; the other that. I don’t want to know.” But if what his cousin Alessandro had written was true, there was much infighting and disagreement still going on. “But it is better to be one people – Italian people – than be ruled by foreigners, si?” He sipped his beer and curled his lip at the bitter taste.

The men continued to chat about the strife still going on at home as the states fought to become a kingdom, or not – depending on which reports came from where – resolving nothing, and agreeing life was better away from it all.

 “Which way you go to Dunedin?” asked Stefano. “By paddle steamer, why?”
“I’m told there’s a new road now, over the hills.” “So I heard, but by all accounts it’s no more than

a bridle path and not suitable for wagons. And I need to transport some goods – belongings I brought from Melbourne. Do you have a horse?”

Stefano shook his head. “No. I use all my money on the ship here and on a licence and tools for mining. I walk.”

“There are many seagoing craft between here and Dunedin; perhaps you could work your way …” Matteo paused before he came to a decision. “But come with me. I could do with some company on our first night. I buy a ticket.”

“Truly? You let me travel with you?”

Matteo nodded, glad to have someone to talk to for a while until he got settled.

They ordered some food and more beer while they waited for the ship’s whistle to alert them to its departure. Within the hour, they were boarding The Golden Age.

“A good omen for me, si?” laughed Stefano on seeing the name.

“Maybe it is,” agreed Matteo as they made their way up the gangplank.

“Welcome aboard this magnificent vessel during her first week of operation in this wonderful harbour,” said the captain. “It is my pleasure to transport you to Dunedin, and I personally guarantee your safety.”

Matteo leant against the rail admiring the new paintwork and studying the intricate construction of the paddle wheels and saloon facilities.

“I hope he’s right,” he said to Stefano in a soft voice. “From what I hear, all is not well. They left one of their owners behind. He was supposed to captain it on its maiden voyage over here. And then they struck a big storm and the ship was damaged.” Matteo wondered how unusual a rough crossing was, given his own less- than-comfortable passage. “They left the cook behind, too. Locked up, they say, for stealing the engineer’s watch. Not a good start.”

“How you know all this?”

Matteo lifted his shoulder. “I ask questions.” He looked around to make sure no one could overhear him. “I heard another story. About a Signor Alexander Leys, the engineer, who disappeared overboard a few days ago. I wonder how the captain can say everyone is safe when he lose someone.”

“Incredible!” said Stefano, agog at Matteo’s words.

“Not so much. Pays to be careful, that’s all,” said Matteo in warning. “But I’ve got better things to worry about. First task, find good vino – if such a thing is possible. I cannot survive on that beer.”

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About the Author

Picture1

Award winning historical fiction author, Vicky Adin is a genealogist in love with history and words.

After decades of research Vicky has combined her skills to write poignant novels that weave family and history together in a way that makes the past come alive.

Fascinated by the 19th Century women who undertook hazardous journeys to find a better life, Vicky draws her characters from real life stories – characters such as Brigid The Girl from County Clare and Gwenna The Welsh Confectioner, or Megan who discovers much about herself when she traces her family tree in The Cornish Knot.

Her 2019 release, The Costumier’s Gift, is the dual-timeline sequel to the family sagas of Brigid The Girl from County Clare and Gwenna The Welsh Confectioner.

In 2020, Vicky released Portrait of a Man, the soul-searching and heart-warming conclusion to The Cornish Knot.

Vicky Adin holds a MA(Hons) in English and Education. When not writing you will find her reading – she is an avid reader of historical novels, family sagas and contemporary women’s stories; travelling – especially caravanning, and cruising with her husband and biggest fan; and spending time with her family.

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For a chance to win a print copy of the book, please click the link below!

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PortraitofaMan

Blog Tour Schedule

November 30th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

Read & Rated (Spotlight) https://readandrated.com/

Tsarina Press (Spotlight) https://www.tsarinapress.com

December 1st

B is for Book Review (Spotlight) https://bforbookreview.wordpress.com

Misty’s Book Space (Spotlight) http://mistysbookspace.wordpress.com

The Wor(l)d of Magic (Spotlight) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

December 2nd

I’m into Books (Spotlight) https://www.imintobooks.com/

Rambling Mads (Spotlight) http://ramblingmads.com

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December 3rd

 @BrendaJeanCombs (Review) https://www.instagram.com/brendajeancombs/

Cocktails & Fairy Tales (Spotlight) https://www.facebook.com/CocktailsFairytales

December 4th

@esmeralda_lagiggles18 (Review) https://www.instagram.com/esmeralda_lagiggles18/

The Faerie Review (Spotlight) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

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Blog Tour: Imperfect Alchemist – Naomi Miller*

In Tudor England, two women dare to be different …

Two women. One bond that will unite them across years and social divides.

England, 1575. Mary Sidney, who will go on to claim a spot at the heart of Elizabethan court life and culture, is a fourteen-year-old navigating grief and her first awareness of love and desire. Her sharp mind is less interested in the dynastic alliances and marriages that concern her father, but will she be able to forge a place for herself and her writing in the years to come?

Rose Commin, a young country girl with a surprising talent for drawing, is desperate to shrug off the slurs of witchcraft which have tarnished life at home. The opportunity to work at Wilton House, the Earl of Pembroke’s Wiltshire residence, is her chance.

Defying the conventions of their time, these two women, mistress and maid, will find themselves facing the triumphs, revelations and dangers that lie ahead together.

Naomi Miller is professor of English at Smith College, Massachusetts. She is author or editor of nine books in early modern studies and Imperfect Alchemist is her first novel.

My thoughts:

This was very good, I enjoyed it a lot. One of my favourite types of historical fiction is bringing back to public consciousness amazing women about whom we know very little, as they weren’t the ones writing the records or histories.

Duchess Mary Sidney Herbert was a pioneering writer and alchemist, a woman way ahead of her time. She knew many of the notable figures of her time, including Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare. As well as her interest in alchemy, she wrote a play about Cleopatra and gathered a Circle of engaging minds around her, both men and women to discuss art, literature, science and other topics.

Naomi Miller adds flesh to the bones of Mary’s life, illuminating this fascinating woman and bringing her brilliantly to life. By adding in the fictional Rose, her maid and companion, she adds heart and friendship to what may well have been a quiet household under the Duke, who is uncomfortable with his younger wife’s friendships with men like Walter Raleigh.

Rose is another interesting figure, despite being fictional, she bridges the gap between the herbal remedies of many a midwife or wise woman and the “alchemy” of the upper classes, where science met wishful thinking (the Philosopher’s Stone, the Elixir of Life).

Rose is all too aware that for a woman of her class to dabble in healing can bring a charge of witchcraft, while women like Mary were encouraged to keep a still room and make home remedies.

Looking at class through these two women is interesting too, Rose’s father was a cloth merchant, albeit not a very successful one, but she’s not of the mercantile class, and can’t read and write to begin with.

I found this intriguing, that while Mary dreams of being a literary sensation and taken seriously by the male dominated world she lives in, all Rose wants is a cottage of her own and to maybe make and sell her herbal cures. Rose is more of a realist, enforcing the sense of Mary as a woman far ahead of her time.

Overall this is an incredibly engaging and intelligent book, it brought the late Elizabethan age vividly to life, with its Enlightenment ideals, but deeply ingrained misogyny, despite the gender of the monarch. I would love to learn more about Mary and the other women she encouraged to write and think for themselves. These women have too long been footnotes in history and deserve books of their own.

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

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Last Blast of the Trumpet – Marie Macpherson*

Conflict, Chaos and Corruption in Reformation Scotland

He wants to reform Scotland, but his enemies will stop at nothing to prevent him.

Scotland 1559: Fiery reformer John Knox returns to a Scotland on the brink of civil war. Victorious, he feels confident of his place leading the reform until the charismatic young widow, Mary Queen of Scots returns to claim her throne. She challenges his position and initiates a ferocious battle of wills as they strive to win the hearts and minds of the Scots. But the treachery and jealousy that surrounds them both as they make critical choices in their public and private lives has dangerous consequences that neither of them can imagine.

In this final instalment of the trilogy of the fiery reformer John Knox, Macpherson tells the story of a man and a queen at one of the most critical phases of Scottish history.

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Scottish writer Marie Macpherson grew up in Musselburgh on the site of the Battle of Pinkie and within sight of Fa’side Castle where tales and legends haunted her imagination. She left the Honest Toun to study Russian at Strathclyde University and spent a year in the former Soviet Union to research her PhD thesis on the 19th century Russian writer Mikhail Lermontov, said to be descended from the Scottish poet and seer, Thomas the Rhymer. Though travelled widely, teaching languages and literature from Madrid to Moscow, she has never lost her enthusiasm for the rich history and culture of her native Scotland.

Writing historical fiction combines her academic’s love of research with a passion for storytelling. Exploring the personal relationships and often hidden motivations of historical characters drives her curiosity.

The Knox Trilogy is a fictional biography of the fiery reformer, John Knox, set during the 16th century Scottish Reformation. Prizes and awards include the Martha Hamilton Prize for Creative Writing from Edinburgh University and Writer of the Year 2011 awarded by Tyne & Esk Writers. She is a member of the Historical Writers’ Association (HWA), the Historical Novel Society (HNS) and the Society of Authors (SoA).

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My thoughts:

I initially struggled to get into this, I think it might have been the language but once I did it was fascinating stuff. The 16th century was one of extreme changes and violence, including in Scotland, where the same rows about religion raged as they did in England (somehow the only thing we learnt about Scotland at this time in school was that Mary, Queen of Scots, was Elizabeth I’s cousin).

John Knox wanted reformation – to put the Bible into a language the ordinary person could understand and take power away from priests and bishops of the Catholic faith.

Cue a battle of wills and faith that still has implications today. Of course we know what happened next to Mary, and how her son became James I and VI, uniting England and Scotland, but reading about what happened before then, within Scotland, was really interesting.

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

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Mine – Alison Knight*

“What’s mine, I keep.”

London, 1968.
Lily’s dreams of a better life for her family are shattered when her teenage daughter refuses to give
up her illegitimate child. It doesn’t help that Lily’s husband, Jack, takes their daughter’s side.

Taking refuge in her work at a law firm in the City, Lily’s growing feelings for her married boss soon
provides a dangerous distraction.

Will Lily be able to resist temptation? Or will the decisions made by these ordinary people lead them
down an extraordinary path thatcould destroy them all?

Mine – a powerful story of class, ambition and sexual politics.

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INVITATION TO AN ONLINE BOOK LAUNCH: On Saturday 28th November 2020, Alison will be joining
four other authors for a joint event via Zoom called Darkstroke Defined: The five writers will talk about their new books, read extracts and answer questions. For your free ticket, click here.

Alison has been a legal executive, a registered childminder, a professional fund-raiser and a teacher.

She has travelled the world – from spending a year as an exchange student in the US in the 1970s
and trekking the Great Wall of China to celebrate her fortieth year and lots of other interesting places in between.

In her mid-forties Alison went to university part-time and gained a first-class degree in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and an MA in the same subject from Oxford Brookes University, both while still working full-time. Her first book was published a year after she completed her master’s degree.

Mine is a domestic drama set in 1960s London based on real events in her family. She is the only person who can tell this particular story. Exploring themes of class, ambition and sexual
politics, Mine shows how ordinary people can make choices that lead them into extraordinary situations.

Alison teaches creative and life-writing, runs workshops and retreats with Imagine Creative Writing Workshops as well as working as a freelance editor. She is a
member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

She lives in Somerset, within sight of Glastonbury Tor.

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My thoughts:

This was a shocking and gripping story, made even more so by being based on the author’s own family.

The story of Jack, Lily and Leo is tragic and painful – not exactly how you imagine a love story to go but it does happen. Lily and Leo want to spare others from pain but love is hard to ignore.

Written with love and the characters are brought vividly to life, as is 60s London, I could picture the houses and businesses perfectly.


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

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Turncoat – Anthony J Quinn*

The sole survivor of a murderous ambush, a Belfast police detective is forced into a desperate search for a mysterious informer that takes him to a holy islandon Lough Derg, a place shrouded in strange mists and hazy rain, where nothing is as it first appears to be.

A keeper of secrets and a purveyor of lies, the detective finds himself surrounded by enemies disguised as pilgrims, and is drawn deeper into the mysteries of the purgatorial island, where he is forced to confront a series of disturbing secrets and ghosts in his own life.

Haunting and unsettling, Turncoat probes the legacy of the Troubles, the loss of collective memories and the moral consequences for the individual.

It is a story of guilt, survival and the terrible price of self-knowledge, told through the voice of a detective with a double life. Descending into paranoia, he uncovers a sinister panorama of cover-ups and conspiracies.

The closer he edges to the truth, the deeper he is drawn into the currents of power, violence and guilt engulfing his country…

Anthony J Quinn’s nine novels have received critical acclaim from The Sunday Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Financial Times, The Daily Mail, TheDaily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, The Sunday Express, The Sunday Herald,The Literary Review, The Good Book Guide, The Sydney Morning Herald, Books Ireland, Der Spiegel, The Irish Times, the Irish Independent and other newspapers.

His debut Disappeared was picked as one of the Best Books of the Year by theSunday Times and was a Daily Mail Crime Novel of the Year. It was shortlisted by thebook critics of the Washington Post, the LA Times, and the San Francisco Chroniclefor a Strand Literary Award in the US. It was also selected as one of the top ten thrillers of 2012 by Kirkus Reviews and long listed for the Theakstons Crime Novel ofthe Year.

He teaches creative writing at Queen’s University Belfast and is currently writer-in-residence for County Cavan in Ireland.

My thoughts:

Set during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, following a police detective, who as the sole survivor of a shootout becomes the focus of suspicion and investigation.

Hiding out on an island sacred to pilgrims, he wrestles with his conscience and the events that led him to this point. His fear and paranoia have him believing that many of the pilgrims are spying on him for various factions.

This is a fascinating and involving book, exploring ideas of collective guilt, memory and conspiracy in those supposed to serve and protect the people.

You’re drawn into the web of secrets and lies within the agencies watching as well as the claustrophobic atmosphere of the holy Isle, where pilgrims walk the stations of the cross in prayer all day long, barefoot and fasting.

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

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus – Jaime Jo Wright*

1928

The Bonaventure Circus is a refuge for many, but Pippa Ripley was rejected from its inner circle as a baby. When she receives mysterious messages from someone called the “Watchman,” she is determined to find him and the connection to her birth. As Pippa’s search leads her to a man seeking justice for his murdered sister and evidence that a serial killer has been haunting the circus train, she must decide if uncovering her roots is worth putting herself directly in the path of the killer.

Present Day

The old circus train depot will either be torn down or preserved for historical importance, and its future rests on real estate project manager Chandler Faulk’s shoulders. As she dives deep into the depot’s history, she’s also balancing a newly diagnosed autoimmune disease and the pressures of single motherhood. When she discovers clues to the unsolved murders of the past, Chandler is pulled into a story far darker and more haunting than even an abandoned train depot could portend.

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Jaime Jo Wright is the author of five novels, including Christy Award winner The House on Foster Hill and Carol Award winner The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond. She’s also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of two novellas. Jaime lives in Wisconsin with her cat named Foo, her husband Cap’n Hook, and their littles, Peter Pan, and CoCo. Website

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My thoughts:

This was an interesting and thought provoking thriller, linking events at the home ground of Bonaventure Circus in 1928 and the present day – proving that the past is never as far away as we think.

A serial killer stalked the travelling circus and now haunts its winter home, where a newborn elephant fights for life and the adopted daughter of the circus’ owner delves into the secrets of her own past.

In the present day, Chandler has plans to develop the abandoned circus depot into a trendy mix of shops and apartments, but strange goings on and rumours of ghosts dog her efforts. When her young son is kidnapped, she’s thrust into the swirling mysteries that still linger around the empty buildings.

Powerful and shocking, moving and heartwarming by turn, this is an engaging and evocative thriller about the secrets in families and the people who will do anything to keep them.

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

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Poleaxed – Peter Tyrer*

It is 1967. A mysterious disease appears in an English town. People fall down suddenly, poleaxed, and many die. Is it caused by a bacterium, a virus, a poison? Nobody knows, and top doctors squabble over its cause. But then two junior doctors and a young anthropology student, who has recovered from the disease, join together.

The three investigators continue their work to find out the cause of the disease, a virus whose worst effects are only shown in those who are very anxious. They think they have found the cause and the solution. But will they be in time?

This is a gripping dystopian tale, very much relevant to events unfolding today and written by Emeritus Professor of Community Psychiatry at Imperial College, London, Peter Tyrer whose long-standing interest in the connections between mental and physical health informed the novel.

My thoughts:

I seem to have read a lot of books recently about pandemics and diseases, real and imaginary, which considering this year’s stellar performance of These Are The End Times, seems to make some sense.

This book, written in 2018/19, is very interesting in that the infection is highly localised and the town takes the decision to close its borders and see if they can wait out the virus, while also continuing to look for both the origin and a treatment. This isn’t a new idea, famously a village in Derbyshire, Eyam, chose to completely cut itself off during an outbreak of plague in 1665, rather than risk spreading the Black Death beyond its borders.

What’s most interesting, and for me somewhat unnerving, is the idea that this virus, Poleaxe, affects people with underlying anxiety disorders far more seriously than anyone else. I have anxiety disorder and panic disorder, as well as depression, so were Poleaxe a real disease I’d be struck down very quickly and struggle to recover.

Luckily the protagonist of this novel, the very clever anthropology student Barbara, does recover and indeed identifies the origin of the virus and the link between anxiety and the more serious symptoms. This allows the health authorities to lift the quarantine and treat the afflicted.

Written by an expert psychiatrist lends a certain air of knowledge and expertise to the novel – if this was a real disease I know who I’d want working alongside the other doctors, someone who has a great understanding of the link between mental and physical health, a fact that has been thrown into sharp focus by the current pandemic and lockdown, but is often overlooked when treating medical conditions.

This book is both timely and also, thankfully, very much science fiction as opposed to fact, I hope.

*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 Forgotten Gift – Kathleen McGurl*

What would you do to protect the ones you love?

1861. George’s life changes forever the day he meets Lucy. She’s beautiful and charming, and he sees a future with her that his position as the second son in a wealthy family has never offered him. But when Lucy dies in a suspected poisoning days after rejecting George, he finds himself swept up into a murder investigation. George loved Lucy; he would never have harmed her. So who did?

Now. On the surface Cassie is happy with her life: a secure job, good friends, and a loving family. When a mysterious gift in long-forgotten will leads her to a dark secret in her family’s history she’s desperate to learn more. But the secrets in Cassie’s family aren’t all hidden in the past, and her research will soon lead her to a revelation much closer to home – and which will turn everything she
knows on its head…

Discover a family’s darkest secrets today. Perfect for fans of The Girl in the Letter, The Beekeeper’s Promise and The Forgotten Village!

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Kathleen McGurl lives in Bournemouth with her husband. She has two sons who have both now left
home. She always wanted to write, and for many years was waiting until she had the time.

Eventually she came to the bitter realisation that no one would pay her for a year off work to write a book, so she sat down and started to write one anyway. Since then she has published several novels with HQ and self-published another. She has also sold dozens of short stories to women’s magazines, and written three How To books for writers.

After a long career in the IT industry she became a full time writer in 2019.

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My thoughts:

Families are complicated creatures and this story of adoption and finding your family struck a real chord with me. My Grandad is not biologically related to me, he married my Nan and adopted my mum and aunt after her first husband, my biological grandfather, died of cancer really young. He is however absolutely my Grandad and my hero, regardless of blood.

Cassie has to wrestle with similar issues, after finding out a few things about her father and indeed about his ancestor, George. Her own biological daughter, who she gave up for adoption, gets in touch as well. Cassie and George both learn that what makes a family is a bit more complicated than it first appears.

This was moving and insightful, well written and I enjoyed the way it moved between Cassie’s life and that of George, 200 hundred years ago.

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

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Running Wolf – Helen Steadman*

When a Prussian smuggler is imprisoned in Morpeth Gaol in the winter of 1703, why does Queen Anne’s powerful right-hand man, The Earl of Nottingham, take such a keen interest?

At the end of the turbulent 17th century, the ties that bind men are fraying, turning neighbour against neighbour, friend against friend and brother against brother. Beneath a seething layer of religious intolerance, community suspicion and political intrigue, The Running Wolf takes us deep into the heart of rebel country in the run-up to the 1715 Jacobite uprising.
Hermann Mohll is a master sword maker from Solingen in Prussia who risks his life by breaking his guild oaths and settling in England. While trying to save his family and neighbours from poverty, he is caught smuggling swords and finds himself in Morpeth Gaol facing charges of High Treason.

Determined to hold his tongue and his nerve, Mohll finds himself at the mercy of the corrupt keeper, Robert Tipstaff. The keeper fancies he can persuade the truth out of Mohll and make him face the ultimate justice: hanging, drawing and quartering. But in this tangled web of secrets and lies, just who is telling the truth?

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About the Author

Helen Steadman lives in the foothills of the North Pennines, and she particularly enjoys researching and writing about the history of the north east of England. Following her MA in creative writing at Manchester Met, Helen is now completing a PhD in English at the University of Aberdeen to determine whether a writer can use psycho-physical techniques to create authentic fictional characters.

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My thoughts:

This was really interesting, I don’t know a huge amount about this period of history and this book, based on real people and events, was enjoyable and engaging.

The characters are well rounded and skillfully brought to life, Hermann in particular is vivid and realistic. His family felt like people you might know and their struggles are familiar to anyone who knows someone who has moved countries for work.

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