The Six Loves of Billy Binns by Richard Lumsden #BlogTour #Extract (@lumsdenrich) @TinderPress @annecater @Bookywookydooda #RandomThingsTours #TheSixLovesOfBillyBinns

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At well over a hundred years old, Billy Binns believes he’s the oldest man in Europe and knows his days are numbered. But Billy has a final wish: he wants to remember what love feels like one last time.

As he looks back at the relationships that have coloured his life – and the events that shaped the century – he recalls a lifetime of hope and heartbreak.

This is the story of an ordinary man’s life, an enchanting novel which takes you on an epic yet intimate journey that will make you laugh, cry, and reflect on the universal turmoil of love.

I am delighted to be taking my turn today on the blog tour for The Six Loves of Billy Binns by Richard Lumsden. My thanks to Anne Cater for offering me a place on the tour and to Tinder Press for allowing me to publish an extract from the book for you today.

Extract

One

I have to get this out.
I have to get it down before it’s gone for good.
While it’s still clear in my head.
While they’re all sat beside me, as alive now as they were then, these people I once loved.

Mary.
Hello, Mary. Do you remember me?
You were my first, though there may have been others before you; slips of things, stolen moments behind a mar- ket stall or in the straw of a cattle barn, but nothing to match the time we shared together. That first eruption of love when the world shifts and everything glows orange.

You died much too young, of a broken heart if I remem- ber right. Not sure if it was me or someone else who broke your heart, but we were never meant to last, you and me. Too many complications along the way, what with one thing and another.

Still, I loved you, Mary old girl.

Then Evie.
I loved you, Evelyn Ellis. For a lifetime, if I’m honest.

 

We were the right age for love when we started out. You were my forever girl.

A love that should have lasted to the end, but the world doesn’t work that way.

I loved you from the first moment I saw you. You might say that isn’t true, but you’d be wrong. I loved you then as I love you now.

These dry embers, buried deep, set alight once again at your memory. A fire that burned quiet for the rest of my life.

Archie.
My little boy.
I loved you, son, as soon as I knew you’d sparked into life. Knew you were a boy. I felt you kicking, your tiny feet.

Knew it would be you, Archie Binns. With your scruffy knees poking out of your shorts. Your pockets full of mar- bles; the catseye and the oxblood, the jasper, the aggie and the ruby. Your little hands.

Do you remember how we climbed trees together?
You know how much I loved you.
I’m not sure if I ever said it to you, not out loud anyway.

Not in words so you could hear. But you knew it, didn’t you, son?

Vera.
I was unhappy when I first met you, Vera. Forty-something, was I? Life was on a downward spiral, then you showed up out of the blue. You were so beautiful and you made me very happy.

 

page5image5766720page5image5756736page5image5757120page5image5763264You caused me trouble, too. I paid a price for loving you, that’s for sure. For a while I was lost in the wreckage, but isn’t that what we hope for when it comes to the end: to know we didn’t just pass by but lived through some- thing real along the way?

Everyone should be lucky enough to have a Vera once in their lives. Despite the trouble. Despite the price you end up paying.

To be taken to the edge and made to jump. To love until it hurts.

Mrs Jackson.
Black Betty.
Didn’t think I’d ever get those feelings again, much later on in life. After Evie and Vera and the rest of them. But suddenly there you were. You brought me out of retire- ment, you might say.

We were old when we met. Not proper old like I am now, of course. I was still able to do something about it back when you showed up, and we made it good, the two of us, when there wasn’t much pickings around.

Some lovely years together, me and Mrs Jackson. Funny, still calling you Mrs Jackson after all this time.

Mary, Evie, Archie, Vera, Mrs Jackson.
Five of them in all.
Five loves? Is that it?
It doesn’t sound much after all this time.
I recall the names, but the faces come and go.
When you first meet someone, you don’t know how

page6image5638976page6image5639168page6image5639360long they’ll be in your life for. It could be minutes or it could be forever.

You don’t know when it starts.
And you don’t know when it stops.
Some endings are final, others take you by surprise. Their last goodbye.
The world drags them away and all that’s left is a fading memory, turning to dust like the flesh on these old bones.

I want to remember what love feels like, one last time. To remember each of the people I loved, to see them all clearly again.

I’ll start with Mary.

Get it down on paper, all the details, before it’s gone for good.

While it’s still clear in my head.

If you enjoyed this short extract from the book and would like to read it in full, you can buy a copy of The Six Loves of Billy Binns here.

If you would like to read some reviews and see more content relating to the book, please do follow the blog tour as set out on the tour poster below:

six lives of billy binns blog tour poster

About the Author

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Richard Lumsden has worked as an actor, writer and composer in television, film and theatre for 30 years. As an actor his films include Downhill, Sightseers, Sense & Sensibility and The Darkest Hour, as well as numerous television shows and theatre productions. THE SIX LOVES OF BILLY BINNS is his first novel.

Connect with Richard:

Website: http://richardlumsden.com

Twitter: @lumsdenrich

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Spare Room by Dreda Say Mitchell #BookReview #BlogBlitz (@DredaMitchell) @Bloodhoundbook #SpareRoom #BloodhoundBooks

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Beautiful double room to let to single person

Lisa, a troubled young woman with a past, can’t believe her luck when she finds a beautiful room to rent in a large house. The live-in owners are a kind and welcoming couple. Everything is fine until she finds a suicide note hidden in her room. But when the couple insist this man didn’t exist and that Lisa is their first tenant, Lisa begins to doubt herself.

Compelled to undercover the secrets of the man who lived in the room before her, Lisa is alarmed when increasingly disturbing incidents start to happen. Someone doesn’t want Lisa to find out the truth.

As the four walls of this house and its secrets begin to close in on Lisa, she descends into a hellish hall of mirrors where she’s not sure what’s real and what’s not as she claws her way towards the truth…

Did this room already claim one victim?

Is it about to take another?

I am delighted to be taking part on day one of the blog blitz for Spare Room by Dreda Say Mitchell. My thanks to Emma Welton at Bloodhound Books for inviting me on to the tour and for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I have wondered from time to time recently whether the trend of the ‘domestic noir’ psychological thriller might have run its course and there can’t possibly be anything fresh and new to come out of this genre – it has all been done to death (pun entirely intended!). Then you come across a book like this one and an awakened interest in this type of book is ignited by a novel with fantastic writing, breath-taking suspense and twists so devious that you couldn’t possibly have seen them coming.

This book is deeply creepy, from the extremely disturbing prologue until the unforeseeable denouement where the truth of everything is finally revealed. The main character is Lisa, a confused and tormented girl who finds herself renting a room in a house which hides a multitude of secrets and pain behind its innocent facade, and her already tenuous grasp on sanity is stretched to its limits by her search for the truth about the house’s past, and her own.

I found Lisa a believable and very sympathetic character who easily draws the reader into the heart of the story and carries them breathlessly along with her as she digs into the mystery. All of the characters are well drawn and individual, but absolutely none of them are what they seem to be. The author very deftly completes tiny pieces of the puzzle throughout the book to keep you guessing and then, every so often, throws in a bombshell that explodes every theory you thought you had and leaves you gasping and confused as you search for a new explanation for what is going on. This book has so many twists that you will meet yourself coming back and it will leave you in a complete spin.

The writing is fantastic, the author really creates an oppressive and dangerous atmosphere throughout the book; I found myself actually holding my breath in places and it is one of those books that had my racing to the end to get the puzzle finished. It did, perhaps, get a little crazy and outlandish towards the end, but it was all in the spirit and enjoyment of the story, and enjoy it I did. A huge thumbs up from me for this book, the first I have read by this author, and I will definitely be seeking out more of her writing.

Spare Room is out now and you can buy a copy here.

To read the rest of the reviews on the blitz, you can find the rest of the blogs taking part detailed on the poster below:

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About the Author

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Dreda Say Mitchell is an award-winning, bestselling crime writer, broadcaster, campaigner, and journalist. Since her sixth book she has been co-writing with Tony Mason. She is the author of eleven novels, with her debut awarded The CWA’s John Creasey Dagger. She has been a frequent guest on television and radio including Question Time, BBC Breakfast, Newsnight, Victoria Derbyshire, The Stephen Nolan Show, Front Row and Woman’s Hour and numerous others. She has presented Radio 4’s Open Book. Dreda was named one of Britain’s 50 Remarkable Women by Lady Geek in association with Nokia. She was the 2011 chair of the Harrogate Crime Fiction Festival. Dreda and Tony’s work is currently in development for TV. She was born and raised in the East End of London where she continues to live.

Connect with Dreda:

Website: https://dredamitchell.com

Facebook: Dreda Say Mitchell

Twitter: @DredaMitchell

Tempted by….Novel Gossip: Dreams of Falling by Karen White @novelgossip1 @KarenWhiteWrite @BerkleyPub #DreamsOfFalling #bookbloggers #amreading #readingrecommendations

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On the banks of the North Santee River stands a moss-draped oak that was once entrusted with the dreams of three young girls. Into the tree’s trunk, they placed their greatest hopes, written on ribbons, for safekeeping–including the most important one: Friends forever, come what may.

But life can waylay the best of intentions….

Nine years ago, a humiliated Larkin Lanier fled Georgetown, South Carolina, knowing she could never go back. But when she finds out that her mother has disappeared, she realizes she has no choice but to return to the place she both loves and dreads–and to the family and friends who never stopped wishing for her to come home.

Ivy, Larkin’s mother, is discovered badly injured and unconscious in the burned-out wreckage of her ancestral plantation home. No one knows why Ivy was there, but as Larkin digs for answers, she uncovers secrets kept for nearly fifty years–whispers of love, sacrifice, and betrayal–that lead back to three girls on the brink of womanhood who found their friendship tested in the most heartbreaking ways.

This week on my Tempted by…. feature, in which I showcase books I have bought after being lured into desiring them by the honeyed words of my beguiling fellow book bloggers, I have Dreams of Falling by Karen White, as reviewed here by Amy on her blog, Novel Gossip.

You will all know by now that I love any book set in the USA, particularly the Southern states with the Carolinas being particular favourites, so this book was always going to be appealing. Then the story, with its mixture of relationships and a hint of mystery sounded like exactly the type of story that I love. Amy’s description and praise of the book made me sure it was one that I should be adding to my TBR, and I decided to but a physical copy because I just love the cover too, and those can only truly be appreciated on a physical book.

Do make sure you visit Amy’s blog and have a look around. It is one of my favourites because, firstly, it is just so pretty and I’m a sucker for a pleasing aesthetic. Hers is the blog where, oddly, the physical appearance of her blog echoes most strongly her personality as I have come to understand it from her posts and interactions on social media, if that makes any sense at all (I’m not sure it even makes sense to me to be honest, but I know what I’m trying to say!) Secondly, she similarly has a very individual way of expressing herself, and I always enjoy her reviews, especially her three word summaries at the end. Thirdly, she is just a lovely and very supportive member of the book blogging community, which is something I greatly appreciate.

If you are tempted, as I was, to buy a copy of Dreams of Falling,  you can get a copy here.

The Lock by Andrew Barrett #BookReview #BlogTour (@AndrewBarrettUK) @BOTBSPublicity #TheLock #BookOnTheBrightSidePublicity

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I’m Eddie Collins, a CSI. I was finishing up at a sudden death in an old house, waiting for the body snatchers to arrive, when I heard a noise from the cellar.

I had time to kill, so I went to investigate.

Turns out I wasn’t the only one with killing on his mind.

I’m delighted to be taking part today in the blog tour for The Lock by Andrew Barrett, a crime novella with a forensic twist. My thanks to Sarah Hardy of Book On The Bright Side Publicity for asking me to take part in the tour and to the author for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly.

I haven’t read any of the other Eddie Collins books, so this was a short, sharp introduction to the character and the writing of Andrew Barrett, and I have to say it was a bit like getting a fast punch in the face that gave me the shock of my life and took my breath away.

This is only a short novella which took me around an hour to read, so perfect if you are wanting a quick, satisfying fix. However, I would not advise reading this if you are at all faint of heart. I made the mistake of reading it late at night just before going to sleep and it scared the pants off me.

This is only going to be a short review to give you a flavour of the book, as it is jam-packed with action from start to finish but I don’t want to include any spoilers in my review. What I will say is that it is a clever combination of forensic crime novel and an interesting dash of horror to go with it, which is quite different to my usual fare. I really liked the main character of Eddie Collins, who is a CSI rather than a policeman, so he brings a fresh and fascinating eye to a crime scene. Although this is a short book, the author does a great job of injecting a lot of Eddie’s personality in to the writing quickly and seamlessly. He does it very cleverly through his actions, thoughts and language, rather than telling us about him, which makes it an easy way to pick it up without slowing the pace of the story.

Eddie gets himself into a pickle by being a nosy parker, to be honest, and as the book goes through the tension becomes almost unbearable and you will feel ready to jump out of your skin. I liked the fact that the author is quite tongue in cheek about the horror aspect, as he has Eddie making references to the various slasher movies throughout which made me laugh a little, but didn’t lighten the tension.

It’s hard to say much more about the book without giving the plot away so I won’t. If you fancy a quick read with a gripping plot and a touch of horror thrown in that will make you jump out of your skin, this is a good choice.

The Lock is available now as an ebook and you can get your copy here.

Check out the rest of the stops on the tour as detailed on the tour poster below:

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About the Author

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Andrew Barrett has enjoyed variety in his professional life, from engine-builder to farmer, from Oilfield Service Technician in Kuwait, to his current role of Senior CSI in Yorkshire. 

He’s been a CSI since 1996, and has worked on all scene types from terrorism to murder, suicide to rape, drugs manufacture to bomb scenes. One way or another, Andrew’s life revolves around crime.

In 1997 he finished his first crime thriller, A Long Time Dead, and it’s still a readers’ favourite today, some 120,000 copies later, topping the Amazon charts several times. Two more books featuring SOCO Roger Conniston completed the trilogy.

Today, Andrew is still producing high-quality, authentic crime thrillers with a forensic flavour that attract attention from readers worldwide. He’s also attracted attention from the Yorkshire media, having been featured in the Yorkshire Post, and twice interviewed on BBC Radio Leeds.

He’s best known for his lead character, CSI Eddie Collins, and the acerbic way in which he roots out criminals and administers justice. Eddie’s series is four books and two short stories in length, and there’s still more to come.

Andrew is a proud Yorkshireman and sets all of his novels there, using his home city of Leeds as another major, and complementary, character in each of the stories.

You can find out more about him and his writing at http://www.andrew-barrett.co.uk

Connect with Andrew:

Website: https://www.andrewbarrett.co.uk

Facebook: Andrew Barrett Author

Twitter: @AndrewBarrettUK

Instagram: @andrewbarrettauthor

Exclusive Readers’ Group: Barrett ERG

The Monsoon Ghost Image #BookReview #BlogTour (@tomvater) @crimewavepress @rararesources #RachelsRandomResources #crimewavepress #MonsoonGhostImage

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Delighted to be on the tour today for The Monsoon Ghost Image by Tom Vater. Huge thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on to the tour and to the author and publisher for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Dirty Pictures, Secret Wars And Human Beasts – Detective Maier Is Back To Investigate The Politics Of Murder

The third Detective Maier mystery is a taut and crazy spy thriller for our disturbing times.

When award-winning German conflict photographer Martin Ritter disappears in a boating accident in Thailand, the nation mourns the loss of a cultural icon. But a few weeks later, Detective Maier’s agency in Hamburg gets a call from Ritter’s wife. Her husband has been seen alive on the streets of Bangkok. Maier decides to travel to Thailand to find Ritter. But all he finds is trouble and a photograph.

As soon as Maier puts his hands on the Monsoon Ghost Image, the detective turns from hunter to hunted – the CIA, international business interests, a doctor with a penchant for mutilation and a woman who calls herself the Wicked Witch of the East all want to get their fingers on Martin Ritter’s most important piece of work – visual proof of a post 9/11 CIA rendition and the torture of a suspected Muslim terrorist on Thai soil. From the concrete canyons of the Thai capital to the savage jungles and hedonist party islands of southern Thailand, Maier and his sidekick Mikhail race against formidable foes to discover some of our darkest truths and to save their lives into the bargain.

This is the third book in a series featuring private detective Maier. I haven’t read books one and two but this did not hinder my enjoyment of this book which can easily be read as a standalone. However, reading books one and two first would fill in some back story and give a deeper understanding of some of the characters in the book, so if you intend to read them all it would probably be a good idea to read them in order.

This is an interesting combination of detective story and spy thriller which is constructed in a way that is very different to the mainstream. The book is extremely fast-paced, sometimes moving so quickly that events pass by in a blur and it is quite hard to keep up with what is going on; the writing a dizzying kaleidoscope of happenings that have the reader and the characters spinning to get there head around it, which is a good reflection of the situation in which the characters find themselves. On the downside, I did find the narrative jumped around quite a bit and there seemed to be linking events missing which made it confusing to follow in places and I found it quite disjointed. This may be that it is just a very different way of writing that I am unused to, but it was definitely disconcerting the way people appeared and disappear rapidly with minimal connecting narrative.

There is a rapid and varied set of locations to match the events happening. From Berlin to Bangkok to Kho Pha Ngan, the case takes Maier and his cohorts across Asia to track down the significance of The Monsoon Ghost Image and why so many people are prepared to kill to keep it from seeing the light of day. There is a high level of very graphics violence in the plot and some extremely sick and unpleasant people involved and the writer doesn’t pull any punches so readers of a sensitive disposition may not enjoy this aspect of the novel but it certainly makes for excitement and high levels of tension for those who do. Bring a healthy dose of credulity to the book, there are parts that need it. At times it reminded me of some of the wilder aspects of a James Bond plot, but there is never a dull moment. Whether or not you are convinced by every aspect will be for you to judge.

The great plus for me of the book is the vividness of Vater’s writing. The scenes are brilliantly and viscerally brought to life through his prose and descriptions and the book has more of a literary leaning than I was expecting, given the plot, as Maier ruminates on the state of the world and the nature of man and the struggle against terrorism. Sometimes the forms of writing and speech are very formal. It was a really unique and interesting mix of elements that make it stand out in a sea of thrillers. Vater’s writing is definitely worth a peek if you are looking for some thing out of the mundane.

The Monsoon Ghost Image is out now and you can buy a copy here.

To follow the rest of the tour, check out the poster below:

the monsoon ghost image full tour banner

About the Author

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Tom Vater has published four crime novels and is the co-owner of Crime Wave Press, a Hong Kong based crime fiction imprint. He writes for many publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Daily Telegraph, CNN and The Nikkei Asian Review. He is a best-selling non-fiction writer and co-author of the highly acclaimed Sacred Skin (www.sacredskinthailand.com).

Connect with Tom:

Website: http://www.tomvater.com

Facebook: Tom Vater

Twitter: @tomvater

Friday Night Drinks with….Wendy Clarke from The Fiction Cafe @TheFictionCafe #FridayNightDrinks #GuestPost #MadisonWard #TheFictionCafeBookClub #BookClub #amwriting #FictionCafeWriters

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I know I have been promising this guest for quite a while now but finally, at last, I am delighted to welcome to Friday Night Drinks, the founder of The Fiction Cafe Book Club, my favourite corner of the internet, my online writing group, The Fiction Cafe – Writers Group and a host of other brilliant related Facebook groups we will talk about later….. drumroll…….Wendy Clarke!

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Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening, Wendy, glad you finally made it! First things first, what are you drinking?

Had you asked me that this time last year it would have been anything from a pink gin and ginger ale to a Bailey’s but in April last year I gave up alchol and started drinking water! 

Now though, it’s coffee. I’m a little bit of a coffee addict!

At last, I’m not the only non-drinker at the table (if only for another six days anyway). If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

I rarely go out as I prefer the quiet, warm of my home around my family, but if we were going ‘out out’, I’d take you to my daughter Bethany’s work place, which is a Cocktail Bar, restaurant. The Oat Hill which is in Market Harborough. She is training to be a chef. I’d treat you to a three-course meal from the A La Carte menu, cooked by my beautiful daughter. 

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I would really enjoy that. You must be very proud. If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

Ooh, I have no idea on this one. I’m not that wowed by celebrities. I’d probably rather spend the time talking together. If I had to choose someone, maybe the character’s Joey Tribiani and Phoebe Buffet, from Friends I think they would be pretty funny to spend time with. Plus Joey doesn’t share food so no sharing would be needed!

Good choice! So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

Well, 2018 was a really busy year and I didn’t get a lot done due to illness and busy groups. I have totally failed at getting my book edited, which I had planned to finish by end of last year. I need to knuckle down and get that done. The debut is a thriller but may be leaning a little more toward crime. I have several ideas for further novels all floating around in my head. Two of which will be books two and three with similar themes. They are both themed with something I’m really passionate about and feel will help people connect.

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Aside from my writing, the Fiction Café groups have been my most valued achievement. I started off by creating a little book group which would be a welcoming, friendly environment for people to talk about books. What I’ve managed to create, with the help of several admins, past and present, and of course the wonderful Tera Tidwell who was co-founder of the Café, is a group where people want to spend their time. We have also expanded in the last two years and now have a ‘franchise’ of additional groups, I’m not sure if franchise is the correct word, but sister groups doesn’t quite feel right either. With our other groups we also offer a unique element of respect and kindness which isn’t found in many book clubs. I do feel very proud of what I have achieved and although it is one hell of lot of work behind the scenes ensuring the group runs smoothly, I couldn’t do it without my wonderful admins. The last few months have been really tough but they have all supported me in a way you wouldn’t believe and I think the team we have currently, together will achieve great things. I can’t thank them enough for what they do for me and the groups and for their friendship. 

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You have truly created something remarkable in The Fiction Cafe. It is a friendly, fun, respectful group where there is never any nastiness, just a love and joy of books. It is totally my favourite place online and I have made some great friends there, so thank you! What has been your proudest moment since you started writing/blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?

Oh most definitely the Fiction Café groups. I probably should have read ahead and added that here! 

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, it’s just us talking after all!

My dream is to publish and hold my paperback in my hand and sell one signed book! It’s a very simple dream, I’m not bothered about being successful, although obviously that would be nice, I just want to write, publish and sell my novel to show people I can. It isn’t a pipe dream, it will be my future. Ideally, I’d like to be a writer full time. I’d love to write a crime series with many books in it but I am very far off from that at the moment. 

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We share the same dream there, along with a lot of other members of The Fiction Cafe – Writers Group. What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

My debut. It is my first novel that has taken a different turn from the original storyline that I had but I think it will be a shocker. People who know me will be surprised at my dark side. I write under a pen name of Madison Ward.

I also have another project for an anthology that nobody knows about so this is exclusive news! It wont be out until after my debut novel so unfortunately you will have a little wait yet. 

Wow, a scoop! How exciting! You heard it here first, folks. Thank you for sharing that with me. I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

I have a funny story about bucket lists actually. When I first started dating Phil, we used to talk about all the things we would do together and we did create a bucket list of things to do. The first one though was funny because I didn’t know the name for it so I said I wanted to roll down a hill like a hamster. It was actually zorbing but we still laugh about it today because I didn’t know the name for it! Generally, bucket lists are full of cray things people want to do but mine is mainly countries I want to travel to. My favourite place that I’ve been to was Italy. I absolutely love the culture and food. I also loved Corfu. Once day I would like to live the dream of writing books while by the side of the pool in the Greek sunshine… Ah, we can all dream! 

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Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

I don’t know that there is anything, I was very briefly in a stunt team before I had my daughter but that isn’t anything new to group members of The Fiction Café.  

It will be news to some of my readers though! Stunt woman, amazing. Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

This is a very personal thing as everyone has different preferences of genre. I recently read the Chris Carter series of Robert Hunter which was really good. They were very gruesome so not for the squeamish but I like that kind of theme. I started those after reading the most gruesome and sick book called Lines of Justice: Azdaja by Lee Sherred. This was truly shocking but the best book I’ve read for a while. You should definitely read it if you like dark crime thrillers.

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I’m not sure this might not be too gruesome for me. It’s funny, isn’t it, because you’d never imagine Lee would write that kind of thing when you talk to him in the Cafe! So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

If I drink alcohol, the trick is not to mix spirits and lager! That is the rule to not getting a hangover! But if you do go a little crazy, a pint of water before bed and a banana always ensures I wake up with a smug smile on my face.

Never tried a banana, I’ll have to give that a go. After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

I’m happy at home, so after spending time with my family, curled up watching Netflix with a blanket and a cup of coffee. I like an easy life and don’t feel the need to go out all the time. A nice field to park up the caravan where we can take the dogs for a walk on a nearby beach and stop off at the local pub for a cider (Obviously local Cornish cider is a must and the only time I generally make an exception to break the no alcohol rule).

Thank you so much, Wendy, for chatting with me this evening, it’s been delightful. And thank you for creating some of my favourite Facebook groups, you have definitely enriched my life!

If you are interested in exploring the marvellous groups Wendy has created on Facebook (and you should), please follow her social media links below:

https://fictioncafe.net

The Fiction Cafe Book Club

The Fiction Cafe – Writers Group

The Picturehouse Cafe – Movie Club

The Jukebox Cafe- Music Club

Facebook: Madison Ward

Twitter: @TheFictionCafe

Next week I will have novelist and stalwart of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Elaine Everest, joining me for the evening, so please call back then.

Love Heart Lane by Christie Barlow #BookReview #BlogTour (@ChristieJBarlow) @HarperImpulse @RaRaResources #RachelsRandomResources #LoveHeartLane #NetGalley

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Taking my turn today on the blog tour for Love Heart Lane by Christie Barlow, so if you’re in the mood for a cosy, feel good novel with a healthy dash of romance, settle down for this review. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Randon Resources for my place on the tour and to HarperImpulse for my copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Welcome to Love Heart Lane…

When Flick Simons returns to the small village of Heartcross she only expected to stay for a few days. The white-washed cottages of Love Heart Lane might be her home, but the place holds too many painful memories, and of one man in particular – Fergus Campbell.

When a winter storm sweeps in, the only bridge connecting the village to the main land is swept away! As the villagers pull together, Flick finds herself welcomed back by the friends she once left behind. And as the snow begins to melt, maybe there is a chance that Fergus’s heart will thaw too…

There are some occasions when writing a review for a blog tour can be really hard. It’s not those times when I really don’t like a book, because it is my policy not to post negative reviews on the blog. It’s not the times I really, really love a book because then I can wax lyrical for pages (as regular readers will be only too aware) about why you should read it immediately. The tough ones are the ones that fall in between, where you have to write a balanced review for a book about which you have mixed feelings. Finding that balance can be hard – between honesty and fairness to the author. Frankly, sometimes I’d like to duck out, because I blog for fun and writing these reviews sometimes isn’t fun. But I know how disappointing it is for blog tour organisers and authors to be let down, and it is a matter of personal importance to me to deliver on commitments that I have made and produce the reviews I have promised, so all I can do is give it my best shot.

But…I hate January. And I’ve got PMT. And my toilet is broken and taking ages to fix. I think my fridge is on the blink, even though it is only a year old. I’m waiting for the results of Little Miss Sunshine’s 11+ entrance exam. Mini Me has the fingers of her dominant strapped up after a netball injury and it looks like her vision may have worsened again. It’s cold. I hate driving on icy roads. I think one of my cats is becoming a bit incontinent. My WIP is currently in a difficult phase. I’m on a diet. I hate the gym. The finale of Game of Thrones is still three months away. Brexit. I’ve just done my tax return. A project I’m working on has hit a bumpy patch. I’m almost 47 and I’ve found a grey eyebrow hair. I’m doing Dry January.

What is the relevance of this litany of complaints, you ask? I thought you were trying to look on the bright side this year? All that ‘Be Happy’ guff from your New Year’s Resolutions? You are right, of course, and if I try, I can sit down and write a list of all the things in life that I am grateful for and that make me happy. My point is, sometimes we all have a bad day, or week, and that can affect our mood, what we enjoy reading and how we react to the things that we do read. I think that has happened to me this week because this is a book that has received rave reviews from all my fellow bloggers and would ordinarily be the kind of thing that would lift my heart at this time of year, but for some reason it just didn’t. Add to this the fact that this is the second romance book I have had problems loving this week and I feel the need to caveat this review with the idea that it might be me, rather than the book, that is the issue and you should bear that in mind and read all the reviews on the tour to get a balanced view.

(One kindly well-wisher has suggested that the problem may not be the books but resentment at the lack of romance in my own life. Are you listening, Irishman? Your position as my own, real life romantic hero is being brought into question. Better pull your finger out for Valentine’s Day!)

So, after all that, let’s get on to the review. There were parts of the book that I loved, and parts that were less successful for me, and I will try and explain why. Firstly, the general premise of this book and the setting are enchanting. Felicity fled the small town of Heartcross eight years previously under a cloud of heartbreak and has had little contact with its inhabitants since. However, circumstances force her back and she has to try and re-established the life and relationships she abandoned. So far, so fabulous. Heartcross is a picture-perfect Highland idyll and I fell in love with it immediately. Christie draws a very vivid picture of a charming village and peoples it with a cast of warm, real and delightful characters who form a close knit community that you can’t help wishing you could be a part of. Another blogger on the tour likened it to Brigadoon (one of my all time favourite musicals – Gene Kelly, mmmm) and I completely understand what she means, especially after the bridge falls. The plot driver of Felicity trying to rebuild the fractured friendships she left behind provides plenty of tension to keep the plot rolling along nicely from a personal angle, and then there are a number of practical problems thrown in for added impetus. All of this works perfectly. There is, of course, an emotional romantic relationship to be explored as well. Everything you could wish for seems to be present.

So why did it not quite work for me? Having given this a lot of careful thought, I had a couple of problems that prevented the book being a great read for me. Firstly, some parts of the plot were just two unlikely or problematic for me to buy in to. I know the author included them to move the story in a certain direction, but they were too much of a stretch for me to suspend my disbelief quite that far. This might not have been an issue normally – I’m often happy to swallow reality in favour of a romping read – but my overall current level of grumpiness comes with a large side order of pedantry that just made me annoyed at some of the more improbable or impractical aspects. You may fare better.

The second, and probably more damning problem was that there were fundamental things about the central character that I didn’t particularly like. At times she acted in a way that I perceived as monumentally selfish. She barged ahead with things she wanted to do, despite being asked repeatedly by more than one person not to behave that way, as if other people’s feelings were irrelevant, she absolutely knew best, and then seemed surprised when they were angry. Added to this, she was also a superwoman who saved the village pretty much single-handedly from every obstacle thrown at it. To be honest, it set my teeth on edge. Unfortunately, in this genre of novel, a failure to connect with the main character sounds the death knell of the book for me.

Christie’s writing is great, and on the surface this book works at every level. It certainly has wowed almost everyone else who has read and reviewed it. So, I will reiterate, I think the problem lies with me. I think it is just a case of wrong book, wrong time. This is one of the perils of blog tours. You commit to reading and reviewing a book, regardless of whether that book suits your mood or not, and are then faced with the stark choice of reneging on your promise to take part in the tour, which I hate to do because it is inconsiderate towards everyone else involved who has worked so hard to do their part, or writing a less than glowing review for a book that you may have enjoyed more at another time. It is a no win situation.

For this reason, I urge you to read the other reviews on the tour and use them to judge the suitability of this book for you, rather than the rather cross ramblings of a peri-menopausal woman having a bad week. Or better still, buy the book and read it and make your own judgments. Christie, I probably owe you a drink. I’m off to Google HRT and reliable plumbers and dig out the receipt for that dodgy fridge. And to choose something nice and murder-y for my next read that might better suit my current mood.

Love Heart Lane is out now as an ebook and will be available in paperback on 21 March and you can get your copy here.

To get a range of reviews and reactions to the book, please visit the other blogs on the tour as detailed below:

love heart lane full tour banner

About the Author

literary festival

Christie Barlow is the author of A Year in the Life of a Playground Mother, The Misadventures of a Playground Mother, Kitty’s Countryside Dream, Lizzie’s Christmas Escape, Evie’s Year of Taking Chances, The Cosy Canal Boat Dream, A Home at Honeysuckle Farm and Love Heart Lane. Her writing career came as somewhat a surprise when she decided to write a book to teach her children a valuable life lesson and show them that they are capable of achieving their dreams. The book she wrote to prove a point is now a #1 bestseller in the UK, USA & Australia.

Christie is an ambassador for @ZuriProject raising money/awareness and engaging with impoverished people in Uganda through organisations to improve their well-being as well as Literary Editor for http://www.mamalifemagazine.co.uk bringing you all the latest news and reviews from the book world.

Connect with Christie:

Website: http://christiebarlow.com

Facebook: Christie J Barlow

Twitter: @ChristieJBarlow