Book Review: A Favor for a Favor by Nat Chelloni

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“Forget favors given; remember those received.” – John Wooden

A time for love can’t be more deadly…

Julia Leonardi thought she put her past behind her. The widow of a mobster, all she wants is to steer clear of the criminal elements. Then she meets Domenico Bonacci…

Dom is handsome, charming, and intense. The world knows him as a prominent businessman, but Julia sees him as everything she fought to escape.

Once the scion of a powerful Mafia family Dom left the world of organized crime after his father’s death. And he swore he would never go back.

No matter how hard she tries, Julia can’t seem to ignore the powerful spark of attraction between them and her growing feelings for him. But when Dom’s shady past catches up with him, the two forbidden lovers find themselves trapped in a deadly game.

Will Dom renege on his vow and lose the woman he loves, or he will manage to break free of his past for once and for all?

This wouldn’t be the kind of book I would normally read, romantic suspense is not a genre I read much, but it is good to go out of your comfort zone every now and again and I do like to support debut authors, so I thought I would give it a try.

The main protagonist is Julia, the daughter of a Mafia boss who was married and widowed young due to a feud between underworld gangs and has since turned her back on that world, determined never to suffer that heartbreak again. However, when all your family are connected, it is hard to escape that world completely. Then she meets Dom, the son of a murdered don who also claims to have left that world, but Julia isn’t sure and is resisting her undeniable attraction to him.

The book starts off in dramatic form with their first meeting, and the initial impressions I formed of Dom weren’t great. In fact, if I hadn’t been mindful of the genre I was reading and determined to keep an open mind, I might have walked away quite early because he is everything I hate in a man and the thought of him being a love interest to anyone was off-putting. The author does include a trigger warning for this part, and I can see why it is needed, but I ploughed on and it turned out that first impressions can be deceptive. Dom did grow on me, although I’m not sure I ever got completely past his initial behaviour.

There are lots of great characters in this book, and lots of action. It was interesting to read a book set in an alien world, and see all the tensions and relationships that are involved, see how matters are negotiated and resolved. I could sympathise with Julia’s dilemma of being attracted to a man but resisting because she isn’t sure of his lifestyle, and I think this played out well. There is a lot of sexual heat in the book between the two main characters, which is well written and believable. If you enjoy this type of book, and this type of relationship, I think this book will work well for you.

The book has a few problems. Some of the pacing was a little uneven, and it did plough some of the same issues repeatedly, but overall I enjoyed it as a step outside my comfort zone. After my initial baulking at Dom, I was gripped by the story and wanted to know how it ended. I can’t tell you it has been the book that converted me to a romantic suspense groupie, but then I’m not sure that book exists, because it is just not my bag. However, it is a really excellent debut, I would not have known this was a first book if I hadn’t been told, and I’m sure fans of the genre would be delighted with it.

A Favor for a Favor is out now and you can buy it in paperbook or ebook here.

About the Author

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Nat Chelloni is a TV personality, a screenwriter, a film critic, an avid book reader across all genres, and now a published author of a debut novel A Favor For a Favor. Nat’s overactive imagination and a passion for storytelling have finally found an outlet.

Connect with Nat:

Facebook: Nat Chelloni

Twitter: @natchelloni

Instagram: @nat.chelloni

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Blog Tour: The Longest Shadow by R. J. Mitchell #Spotlight

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THE LONGEST SHADOW begins atop Scotland’s Wallace Monument where a skeleton from DS Thoroughgood’s past threatens to put a stop to his future.

The third installment in the DS Thoroughgood series of Scottish crime thrillers sees Angus Thoroughgood in pursuit of a suspect he believes to be the psychotic leader of a vicious gang wanted for abduction and murder. Taking to the streets of Glasgow’s West End, these famous streets are the stage for a high octane pursuit that will leave the reader gasping for breath — but does Thoroughgood have the right man?

With the case still wide open, Thorughgood’s complicated love life drags him into the battle for the control of the Roxburgh Whisky dynasty. Tensions build towards a nail-biting crescendo as Thoroughgood works to identify the killer intent of wiping out Scotland’s most famous whisky family. With the finger of guilt pointed at a powerful Triad leader, clues from a 70-year-old war-time diary lead Thoroughgood to realise nothing as it seems. However, with the charms of Victoria Roxburgh clouding his judgement, Thoroughgood is dragged into a fight to the end with a ruthless foe whose identity shocks them both.

I’m delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour for The Longest Shadow by R. J. Mitchell, the third book in his DS Thoroughgood thriller series. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours again for inviting me to take part.

Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, I have been unable to read this book in time to review it today but I am sure, if the previous two books are anything to go by, it will be a thrilling, action-packed ride and I look forward to reading it soon. You can read my reviews of the previous two books in the series, Parallel Lines and The Hurting here and here.

The Longest Shadow is out now and you can buy a copy here.

To reads some reviews of the book, please make sure you visit the other blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Pictured Author RJ Mitchell , crime writer , former Herald & Evening Times sports writer and ex cop. He is pictured at the old firing range within the the former Strathclyde Police college in Oxford Street ,next to the Sheriff Court. He has just announced that he has signed a four book deal with McNidder & Grace . His next crime novel The Shift is due out in the spring. It is based on his experiences as a rookie cop in Glasgow. As a cop he had spent many hours in this building over 20 years ago. It was the kind permission of Alistair Brand of Stallan-Brand architects who took over the building earlier this year and found out about the authors history with the place. Photograph by Martin Shields Tel 07572 457000 http://www.martinshields.com FEE PAYABLE FOR REPRO USE NB -This image is not to be distributed without the prior consent of the copyright holder. in using this image you agree to abide by terms and conditions as stated in this caption. All monies payable to Martin Shields (PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE THIS CAPTION) This image is intended for Editorial use (e.g. news). Any commercial or promotional use requires additional clearance. Copyright 2015 All rights protected. first use only.

Robert James Mitchell was brought up in Stirling. Mitchell was initially detailed beat duties out of the former Blackhill Police Office and then Baird Street Police Office in the former ‘D’ Division, or the North, as it was known to all the men who served in the division. In January, 2007, while recovering from an appendicitis, Mitchell decided to write the first draft of ‘Parallel Lines: The Glasgow Supremacy‘, drawing heavily on his own experiences and featuring the characters of Detective Sergeant Gus Thoroughgood and DC Kenny Hardie.

Connect with Robert:

Website: https://rjmitchellauthor.co.uk/

Facebook: R J Mitchell Crime Writer

Twitter: @spitfiremedia

Instagram: @spitfire_07

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Friday Night Drinks with… Kate Ryder

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It’s the final Friday of the month and January is almost over, thank goodness! Is it me or has this been a really long month? Anyway, that feels like something to celebrate, so I am delighted to be joined on the blog by tonight’s virtual drinking companion, author… Kate Ryder.

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Kate, glad you finally made it to my virtual bar! Thank you for joining me. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thank you for inviting me to your Friday Night Drinks.  I have a penchant for gin, so I’ll have a glass of the curiously distilled, award-winning Wild Coast Gin from Curio Spirits; the small family business that creates craft spirits in their distillery on the Lizard peninsula, in Cornwall.  Made with Cornish spring water and quadruple-distilled with natural botanicals, including hand-foraged rock samphire from the Cornish cliffs, this tantalising spirit is smooth enough to drink neat, although I’ll have it with flavoured tonic water, please – possibly rhubarb or elderflower.

Sounds delicious. Gin is also my tipple of choice. I sadly failed at Dry January halfway through this year, which I only feel a tiny bit guilty about given current circumstances!  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?

Having spent the day giving you a guided tour around the dramatically beautiful coastline of North Cornwall – the location for my latest book, Beneath Cornish Skies – I’d take you to the boutique hotel, The Beach at Bude.  Overlooking Summerleaze Beach, which is featured in the novel, the hotel enjoys striking views from its terraces.  Its buzzing Beach Bar, designed with industrial chic in mind, has a chrome-topped bar and a number of orange leather chairs with metal backing.  I have to warn you, though, there are often live performances on Fridays, so we’d have to speak up or find a secluded corner.  And we’d definitely have to try out the bar’s selection of decadent cocktails.  I’ll start with their Cornish mojito, which includes cider, brandy, mint, lime and a shot of Gabriel Boudier Crème de Cassis de Dijon!

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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?

We’d be drinking with the late actor, Alan Rickman, who had me from his performance in ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’.  I’m sure he would have many a fascinating and interesting tale to tell.  From humble beginnings, despite becoming a household name as a successful, award-winning film and stage actor, he never seemed to lose his sense of perspective.  On my wish list is a copy of his collection of diary entries due to be published in 2022, which apparently give a fresh insight into his art and reveal the real Alan Rickman; funny, passionate and occasionally provocative.

The second person we’d be drinking with is the multi-award winning actress, Dame Helen Mirren.  I love that feisty woman.  Not only is she a hugely talented actress but also she doesn’t suffer fools and is not frightened of having strong opinions and speaking her mind.  She and Alan worked together on several occasions and, no doubt, they would provide us with an entertainingly lively and humorous evening.  Also, she was the inspiration for a character in my 2-part Romantic Suspense, Summer in a Cornish Cove, and its standalone sequel, Cottage on a Cornish Cliff.  I think she’d be highly amused to learn that!

Great choices, I adore Alan Rickman. He played some of the best characters ever seen on screen, and always nailed those one-liners! So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I’m currently wearing my marketing hat for Beneath Cornish Skies.  People assume that writing a novel is the difficult part, but marketing and self-promotion rank way up there!  To date, my novels published with Aria are available as eBooks and POD.  However, the company has committed to printing my latest book as a traditional paperback, which will be available from April in major bookshops, including Waterstones, W H Smith and Foyles.  I plan to encourage local, independent bookshops to climb on board and, so, come early spring – if Covid rules allow – I will travel the full length and breadth of Cornwall and pay them all a visit.

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

My proudest moment was when I first received a physical copy of my debut novel, The Forgotten Promise.  Becoming a novelist has been a long-held dream, and one that took a significant milestone birthday to stir me into action and do something about it, otherwise it ran the risk of remaining simply “a dream”.  My editor accepted this novel as the third in my four-book contract.  With further editorial development, the book was retitled Secrets of the Mist.  I’m proud to say that not only did it reach #49 on Amazon Kindle but also it achieved #1 bestseller in Time Travel Romance in the UK, Canada and Australia.

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My biggest challenge has been finding the time to write.  Until late 2019 I worked full-time and, what with other commitments, this meant I had to snatch any spare moment to write.  Often, I was at the computer for a couple of hours at 2am!  Deadlines always make me feel panicky… but I discovered that by taking a deep breath, keeping my nerve and maintaining focus, I am able to meet them.

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!

Several reviewers have stated my words conjure up vivid images and it’s as if they’re watching a film rather than reading a book.  Now, if my novels were discovered and turned into films… that would be really cool!

When I wrote my 2-part romantic suspense mini-series, I already knew which actor I would want in the lead role – Aidan Turner.  He was well-known to only a relatively few ardent fans at the time, but since then a well-received British historical drama television series, set on the windswept Cornish cliffs and based on Winston Graham’s recklessly heroic mine owner, Ross Poldark, has gained the tri-corn wearing star many more ardent supporters.

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What do you have planned that you are really excited about?

I’ve now fulfilled my contract with Aria and who knows what the future will bring!  I’ve always loved the unknown and its myriad of possibilities, and although a little scary it’s also exciting not knowing where my writing career will go.  I’m creative by nature and really enjoy the artistic control that comes with being an indie writer.  However, I realise the worth of having a publishing company behind you and the industry expertise that it brings to the table.  Hmmm… as they say, watch this space!

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?

During my late twenties I worked for a long-haul tour operator and I’ve been fortunate to have travelled to many exotic places.  However, I have a sister who lives in Australia and that country has a special place in my heart, and I’ve visited a handful of times.  She lives in Sydney, which I found vibrant and buzzing, filled with art galleries and museums, and, of course, the famous Opera House.  But, also, the wider country appeals to my love of the natural world and there are still many areas to discover on that continent.

On one visit we stayed on Brampton Island, which lies at the southern end of the world famous Whitsunday Passage.  Boasting a unique ecosystem and a diverse range of unexplored flora, fauna and birds, Brampton Island is part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and considered a national park.  The island offered numerous nature walking tracks and a dozen world-renowned sun-drenched beaches with crystal clear blue waters covering coral reefs, home to an amazing array of marine life.  One memorable experience was, whilst snorkelling, a large and curious turtle kept us company for a good hour!  Since that visit, I understand the island has been sold and is currently closed; caught up in limbo and paperwork with talk of redevelopment to a 7-star world-class resort in the coming years.

So, Tasmania and New Zealand beckon…

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I’ve flown on Concorde and the captain invited me to the cockpit!

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’?

Not knowing your preferred genre, that’s a tricky one.  Nevertheless, sticking with the mystical, slightly otherworldly theme that runs through Beneath Cornish Skies, I would recommend a writer that I’ve only recently discovered.  The front cover of Carol Lovekin’s Wild Spinning Girls captured my imagination with its potent imagery that so accurately depicts the novel.  It’s a gift of a story, wildly atmospheric and the incredible prose is poetry itself.  Carol has the gossamer touch, spinning words into magic, and I’m so looking forward to reading her other works.

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Ida Llewellyn loses her job and her parents in the space of a few weeks and, thrown completely off course, she sets off to Wales to the house her father has left her. But Heather, the young woman still in her teens whose home it was, keeps the house as a shrine to her late mother and is determined to scare Ida away. The two girls battle with suspicion and fear before discovering that the secrets harboured by their thoughtless parents have grown rotten with time, and that any ghosts Ty’r Cwmwl harbours are of their own making. Their broken hearts will only mend once they cast off the house and its history, and let go of the keepsakes that they treasure like childhood dreams.

I have a copy of this book waiting patiently on my TBR. So many bloggers raved about it on publication last year. 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?

I’ll force myself to drink loads of water before going to bed, and again in the morning to rehydrate.  If that doesn’t clear my head, I’ll have a cup of herbal ginger tea and then spend time outdoors in nature with my gorgeous Arab horse to blow away any lingering cobwebs.

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Your horse is beautiful! Mine is a bit stockier and less pretty, but I love him anyway! After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Walking the cliffs with my husband and exploring secluded coves, followed by a quiet evening in, sharing the stories I’d heard during my night out with you, Alan and Helen!

Thank you for joining me tonight, Kate, I’ve had a really great evening and I wish you great success with your current book and future projects.

Kate’s latest book, Beneath Cornish Skies is a heart-warming love story about taking a chance on a new beginning.  Published as an eBook on 7 January 2021, available here, the paperback is scheduled for publication on 1 April and is available for pre-order now.

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To an outsider, Cassandra Shaw‘s life looks perfect. She lives in a beautiful, luxurious house in the English countryside with a handsome, wealthy boyfriend who insists she needn’t do a day’s work in her life. But Cassie knows that something is not right. Her boyfriend has grown colder, treating her more like a housekeeper than a future wife. And her time feels empty and purposeless.

Cassandra has always been riddled with insecurities and self-doubt, but, just for once, she decides to take a chance on a new beginning. She answers an advert for a live-in nanny, horse trainer, cook and all-round ‘Superhuman’ for a family living in a rambling manor house on the rugged North Cornish coast. The work is hard and tiring, but Cassie has never felt so fulfilled.

As Cassie learns to connect with the natural beauty unfolding around her, Cornwall starts to offer up its secrets. Soon, Cassie starts wondering if she was drawn to this isolated part of the coast for a reason. Why was she guided to Foxcombe Manor? What are the flashes of light she sees in the valley? Is it her imagination or does someone brush past her? And who is the mysterious man living deep in the woods?

A beautiful romance with a hint of ghostliness, Beneath Cornish Skies is for anyone who has ever longed to start their lives again.

Kate Ryder is an Amazon Kindle international best seller who writes timeslip and romantic suspense with a ‘true to life’ narrative.  On leaving school she studied drama but soon discovered her preference for writing rather than performing.  Since then, she has worked in the publishing, tour operating and property industries, and has travelled widely.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors, in 2017 Kate signed a 4-book contract with Aria (digital imprint of award-winning independent publisher, Head of Zeus).

Summer in a Cornish Cove, a contemporary romantic suspense set on the Lizard Peninsula, saw her nominated for the RNA’s 2018 Joan Hessayon award, while its standalone sequel, Cottage on a Cornish Cliff, reached the heady heights of #2 in Kindle Literary Sagas.

Secrets of the Mist, a mysterious timeslip romance, was not only rated in the #top 50 on Amazon UK Paid Kindle but also achieved #1 Kindle best-selling status in the UK, Canada and Australia.  In its original, self-published version as The Forgotten Promise, it was awarded the very first Chill with a Book “Book of the Month”.

Her fourth book with Aria, Beneath Cornish Skies, is set on the wildly rugged north Cornish coast and tells the story of one woman’s journey in finding her true self.

Originally from the South East of England, today Kate lives on the Cornish side of the beautiful Tamar Valley with her husband and a collection of animals.

You can find out more about Kate and her writing on her website, and via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Spotlight: The Primary Objective by Martin Venning

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For some, the primary objective is to stop a conflict, for others, the primary objective is to exercise power, but for most, the primary objective is to make money.

Peace International is a New York based global reconciliation and mediation charity that seeks to prevent wars, regional disputes and rebuild civil societies. When a tip comes in thatIran is building a chemical and biological weapons research and production centre, it soon becomes clear that where they’re considering building – close to the border with Azerbaijan- could destabilise the Gulf region and beyond.

Selecting a small team of volunteers, they form a task force to collect evidence, entering through a dangerous semi-lawless area in southern Azerbaijan. What they discover is a farmore complicated web of challenges than a weapons facility. For PI Operations Director, Edwin Wilson, the mission is his most perilous yet, threatening the lives of his team and theinternational reputation of his organisation. But for two Iranian men, Fawaz and Jamshid, the stakes are even higher.

Driven by contrasting personal circumstances and life chances, they face difficult choices as they seek different paths to prosperity in a controlling, repressive society that takes noprisoners…alive.
 
One of my objectives on the blog is to highlight new books coming out that might slip under the radar and help promote authors that don’t get the attention of the mainstream press. So, over the next week, I am going to be shining the blog spotlight on a few of the new titles from Matador that have been published recently.
 
First up we have The Primary Objective by Martin Venning, which is a geo-political thriller featuring a detailed and rewarding plot for those who enjoy a complex and well-researched story.
 
The Primary Objective is out now in ebook and paperback formats, and you can buy a copy here.
 
About the Author
 
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Martin Venning is a project communications and strategic investment adviser working in the property and construction sector with 20 years’ experience engaging with businesses in the UK, continental Europe and Asia. He trained as a journalist as part of his undergraduate studies and writes for pleasure.

Connect with Martin:

Website: https://www.mvenning.net/

Twitter: @MartinVenning_

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Desert Island Books with… Christina Courtenay

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It’s time for me to send another unsuspecting character off to my lovely but deserted island, with only five books and one luxury item to keep them company. This week I have packed off author Christina Courtenay, let’s see what she has chosen to take with her.

Thank you so much for inviting me, Julie! I have to say that it’s incredibly difficult to choose just five books to take with me, but I have gone with my absolute all-time favourites and they should keep me going for a long time on that desert island!  I’m rather hoping the island is in the Outer Hebrides or somewhere equally chilly, as I’m not a huge fan of hot weather, although I suppose if I’m surrounded by a tropical ocean I can always cool off easily enough 😊

Book One – Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

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Kitty Charing’s life-changing inheritance comes with a catch.

Her eccentric and childless guardian, Mr. Penicuik, is leaving Kitty all of his vast fortune – but with one condition. She must marry one of his five grand-nephews.

However, Kitty’s clear favourite – the rakish Jack Westruther – doesn’t appear at all interested in the arrangement. To make Jack jealous, Kitty impulsively convinces his cousin, the kind-hearted and chivalrous Freddy Standen, to enter into a pretend engagement.

But the more time she spends with Freddy, the more Kitty wonders whether Jack is the right choice after all…

This is my ultimate comfort read and my absolute favourite Heyer book. I honestly don’t know how many times I’ve read it, but I enjoy it just as much each time. In this story she turns her usual alpha male hero plot on its head and instead it’s the unlikely Freddy Standen who gets to be the true hero. At first, the reader can’t possibly imagine it, but as the story progresses, he proves to have hidden strengths. The humour in this book is also second to none – definitely Heyer at her very best! I’ll never tire of reading this and it will cheer me up if I’m feeling down.

Book Two – Midnight is a Lonely Place by Barbara Erskine

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After a broken love affair, biographer Kate Kennedy retires to a remote cottage on the wild Essex coast to work on her new book, until her landlord’s daughter uncovers a Roman site nearby and long-buried passions are unleashed…

In her lonely cottage, Kate is terrorized by mysterious forces. What do these ghosts want? Should the truth about the violent events of long ago be exposed or remain concealed? Kate must struggle for her life against earthbound spirits and ancient curses as hate, jealousy, revenge and passion do battle across the centuries…

I might have to read this one in broad daylight, even if I’m totally alone on that island, as it scares me half to death each time, but it’s one of the most perfect timeslip stories I’ve ever read. The ghostly phenomena are chilling and feel incredibly real – I always imagine myself in that remote place being haunted by a long-dead Roman hellbent on revenge. The romance is poignant and there is something so satisfying in finding that good triumphs over evil – I love that!

Book Three – The Winter Sea (aka Sophia’s Secret) by Susanna Kearsley

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A hauntingly beautiful tale of love that transcends time: an American writer travels to Scotland to craft a novel about the Jacobite Rebellion, only to discover her own ancestral memories of that torrid moment in Scottish history…

In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown. When young Sophia Paterson travels to Slains Castle by the sea, she finds herself in the midst of the dangerous intrigue.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of that historic Scottish castle, she starts to write. But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be the only living person who knows the truth–the ultimate betrayal–that happened all those years ago.

This is another absolutely perfect timeslip story, although a lot less terrifying. It’s a wonderful, gentle read that just sweeps you along and it’s the only book in the last twenty years to have made me cry (in a good way) when I read the ending. It is set during the beginning of the Jacobite rebellions, an era that fascinates me, and it’s so incredibly emotional and romantic. I could reread this forever and still never get enough of it!

Book Four – Brother Cadfael’s Penance by Ellis Peters

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The cloistered walls of Shrewsbury Abbey have always protected Brother Cadfael from the raging Civil War. But when fighting escalates between Empress Maud and King Stephen, the war takes a deadly step closer to him.

Taken prisoner in the battle for Maud’s land is Olivier de Bretagne, Brother Cadfael’s own son- born as a result of a brief encounter thirty years earlier. Now Brother Cadfael resolves to plead for his son’s release at a peace conference scheduled to take place in Coventry; but there is no sign of Olivier there.

After much soul searching, Cadfael makes the difficult decision to break his monastic vows, leaving Coventry without permission- because he knows he must do everything in his power to find his son.

The twentieth and final instalment in Ms Peters’ series about the clever thirteenth century monk was everything I had hoped it would be. Having followed him through the entire series, and knowing that he had loose ends to tie up, I’d hoped that would happen in this story and I wasn’t disappointed. There is something incredibly satisfying in taking a long journey with a character and then leaving them exactly at a point in their lives where you know they’ll be ok. Whenever I finish this, I give a happy sigh and the characters stay in my mind for a long time.

Book Five – Shadow of the Moon by M M Kaye

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Shadow of the Moon is the story of Winter de Ballesteros, a beautiful English heiress who has come to India to be married. It is also the tale of Captain Alex Randall, her escort and protector, who knows that Winter’s husband to be has become a debauched wreck of a man.

When India bursts into flaming hatreds and bitter bloodshed during the dark days of the Mutiny, Alex and Winter are thrown unwillingly together in the brutal and urgent struggle for survival.

I think this can only be described as an epic historical, set against the backdrop of colonial India during the Mutiny. It is thrilling, exciting and wonderfully romantic, and the heroine is one of the strongest I’ve ever encountered (plus I love her name – Winter). I love history and you certainly get to really live through it vicariously here. Although it’s a very long book, it keeps me spellbound every time I pick it up. It will definitely help to pass the time on my remote island!

My luxury item

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A Swiss Army knife (or other similar multi-purpose tool) – the largest one available – would probably come in very handy for building, cutting and cooking etc. They seem to contain just about every imaginable tool all cleverly tucked in.

About Christine Courtenay

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Christina Courtenay writes historical romance, time slip and time travel stories, and lives in Herefordshire (near the Welsh border) in the UK. Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden – hence her abiding interest in the Vikings. Christina is a former chairman of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association and has won several awards, including the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel twice with Highland Storms (2012) and The Gilded Fan (2014).  The Runes of Destiny (time travel published by Headline 10th December 2020) is her latest novel. Christina is a keen amateur genealogist and loves history and archaeology (the armchair variety).

Christina’s latest book is The Runes of Destiny, a Viking time travel story published by Headline Review which you can buy here.

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Separated by time. Brought together by fate.

‘Linnea felt a shiver travel the length of her spine. It hadn’t been a joke – the runes really had shown her destiny.’

Indulging her fascination for the Viking language and losing herself in an archaeological dig is just what Linnea Berger needs after her recent trauma. Uncovering an exquisite brooch, she blacks out reading the runic inscription, only to come to, surrounded by men in Viking costume, who seem to take re-enactment very seriously.

Lost and confused, Linnea finds herself in the power of Hrafn, a Viking warrior who claims her as his thrall and takes her on a treacherous journey across the seas to sell her for profit. Setting sail, she confronts the unthinkable: she has travelled back to the ninth century.

Linnea is determined to find a way back to her own time, but there’s a connection forming with Hrafn. Can she resist the call of the runes and accept her destiny lies here …

Connect with Christina:

Website: http://www.christinacourtenay.com

Facebook: Christina Courtenay Author

Twitter: @PiaCCourtenay

Instagram: @ChristinaCourtenayAuthor

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Book Review: The Last Thing To Burn by Will Dean

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He is her husband. She is his captive.

Her husband calls her Jane. That is not her name.

She lives in a small farm cottage, surrounded by vast, open fields. Everywhere she looks, there is space. But she is trapped. No one knows how she got to the UK: no one knows she is there. Visitors rarely come to the farm; if they do, she is never seen.

Her husband records her every movement during the day. If he doesn’t like what he sees, she is punished.

For a long time, escape seemed impossible. But now, something has changed. She has a reason to live and a reason to fight. Now, she is watching him, and waiting . . .

How do you write a review of a book like The Last Thing To Burn? It has been seeming like an impossible task to put down in words the feelings I have about this book and yet, review it I must because word of this book needs spreading far and wide so that as many people as possible read it. I’ve yet to come across anyone who has read this book who hasn’t been blown away by it, and I am no different. I am not exaggerating when I say that this is one of the most outstanding books I have ever read.

When I was thinking about writing this review, I was so overwhelmed by the idea of having to put down on the page my complex feelings about it, I joked with a fellow blogger that I was just going to try and sum up a reason for someone to read the book in a single line, and spare myself the pain of trying to communicate with my inadequate words anything more. I still think I could make you want to read this book with that single line, so here it is:

I have never hated anyone, in real life or in fiction, as much as I hate the antagonist in this book.

You see, you want to know why now, don’t you? Why is he the worst person I have ever come across? Well, pick up the book and find out and, by the time you have finished, I know you will agree with me. This person is stone cold evil in a way you will probably have never read about before, and the author will stun you throughout by peeling back more and more depths to his sadism as you go through the book and think you have already plumbed the depths to which a human can sink. The most terrifying part of it is, the plausibility of the scenario. This is no wild flight of fancy where Will is writing a really obvious piece of fiction for entertainment. This book is so horrifying because you know that this could absolutely happen, is likely happening somewhere in this country. That is what makes is so disturbing.

If you are now wondering why you should read a book that I have described as something horrifying and disturbing, I will tell you. On the flip side of cruelty and depravity, this book explores the power of love and the resilience and determination of the human spirit in its face. Brought as low as a human can go, subjected to inhumanity that is too horrible for most of us to think about on a daily basis, inside the protagonist is a spark that the antagonist has not managed to quell. There is life and there is fight and, where that exists, there is a glimmer of hope. This hope, and this evidence of humanity and dignity in the face of adversity that seems insurmountable, is what will keep you glued to the pages. It is what will make you invest in and care for the protagonist as much as you loathe the perpetrator of her misery and will her to prevail. And you will be desperate for it, desperate to know if the human spirit will triumph in the end. You won’t know, but you will hope, and hope and hope as you frantically turn the pages and read until your bath water is cold, and your daughter comes to check you haven’t drowned and all of your chores go undone until you know, one way or another, what will happen. Thank goodness that this book is only 250 pages long, because you will absolutely have to, as if YOUR life depended on it, start and finish this book in a single sitting.

This is a man who really understands women, and you can tell that from the way he writes ‘Jane.’ There are things in this book that this woman goes through that would make most men blush to talk about and yet Will writes about them, and her reaction to what happens to her, as if these are things he has experienced and understands intimately. Honestly, this was one of the things that really struck me, just how truthfully, compassionately and empathetically he writes the experience of this woman, so that she is totally real to the reader. If you really stand back and look at it, it is an astonishing accomplishment.

I still don’t think I’ve done this book justice, but I have done my best. Just read this book, it is an unbelievable piece of literature. One of my writer friends, who finished the book just last night, talked this morning about having to ‘pull herself out of his world,’ and I can relate completely to that statement. This is a completely immersive piece of work that takes you entirely out of your world and plonks you directly into the life of someone else, until that is all you can think about. And, even when you have finished, you still won’t be able to stop thinking about it entirely for weeks afterwards. I already knew, on 10 January when I finished this book, that it would be one of my Top Ten Books of 2021. Scrap that. it might be in my Top Ten books of all time. Just read it. Even the title is absolute genius.

We Begin At The End is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats and you can buy a copy here. It will be available in paperback in December 2021.

About the Author

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Will Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. After studying law at the LSE, and working many varied jobs in London, he settled in rural Sweden with his wife. He built a wooden house in a boggy forest clearing and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes.

DARK PINES, the first in the Tuva Moodyson series, was published to huge critical acclaim in 2018, was shortlisted for Not the Booker prize, selected for Zoe Ball’s TV Book Club and named as a Daily Telegraph Book of the Year. THE LAST THING TO BURN is his first standalone novel.

Connect with Will:

Twitter: @willrdean

Instagram: @willrdean

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Kindle Offer: Beneath Cornish Skies by Kate Ryder #KindleDeal

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To an outsider, Cassandra Shaw‘s life looks perfect. She lives in a beautiful, luxurious house in the English countryside, with a handsome, wealthy boyfriend who insists she needn’t do a day’s work in her life. But Cassie knows that something is not right. Her boyfriend has grown colder, treating her more like a housekeeper than a future wife. And her time feels empty and purposeless.

Cassandra has always been riddled with insecurities and self-doubt, but, just for once, she decides to take a chance on a new beginning. She answers an advert for a live-in nanny, dogwalker, cook and all-round ‘Superhuman’ for a family living in a rambling manor house on the rugged North Cornish coast. The work is hard and tiring, but Cassie has never felt so fulfilled.

As Cassie learns to connect with the natural beauty unfolding around her, Cornwall starts to offer up its secrets. Soon, Cassie starts wondering if she was drawn to this isolated part of the coast for a reason. Why was she guided to Foxcombe Manor? What are the flashes of light she sees in the valley? Is it her imagination or does someone brush past her? And who is the mysterious man living deep in the woods?

A beautiful romance with a hint of ghostliness, Beneath Cornish Skies is for anyone who has ever longed to start their lives again.

Kate Ryder is my guest on Friday Night Drinks this week but I thought I would give you all the heads up that her most recent book, Beneath Cornish Skies is currently on offer for 99p on Kindle until 28th February, so why not snap up a copy quickly before this bargain price disappears?

And make sure you come back on Friday to join Kate and I for our chat.

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Book Review: An Eligible Bachelor by Veronica Henry; Narrated by Jilly Bond

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Upstairs, downstairs… it’s all going on at the manor.

When Guy wakes up with a terrible hang-over and a new fiancée, he tries not to panic. After all, Richenda is beautiful, famous, successful… What reason could he have for doubts?

As news of the engagement between the heir of Eversleigh Manor and the darling of prime-time television spreads through the village, Guy wonders if he’s made a rash decision. Especially when he meets Honor, a new employee of the Manor who has a habit of getting under his skin…

But Honor has her own troubles – a son who’s missing a father, and an ex-boyfriend who has made an unexpected reappearance…

Being a massive fan of Veronica’s books, I thought I had read them all but – joy! – I discovered one I had overlooked and, feeling a bit down in the early, grey days of January, with post-Christmas blues and another lockdown taking force, I knew listening to it would be the perfect pick me up as I did my new year clean up.  (Is that the longest sentence I’ve ever written? Possibly.)

This book takes us back to the Cotswold countryside, location of Veronica’s earliest books, to the village of Eversleigh, where the young, handsome heir to the local manor house wakes up with a hangover and a fiancee he doesn’t really remember proposing too. Meanwhile, Honor is juggling life as a single mum down the road, pulled between spending time with her young son and trying to put food on the table. Their lives could not be more different, so we know that the author is going to find some way of bringing them together, and I settled back to enjoy seeing how Veronica was going to do it.

If you are thinking that this sounds a little ‘Jilly Cooper’ you’d be correct, and in absolutely the best way possible. This book would be absolutely perfect for anyone who loves Jilly’s books (as I do) but hasn’t got the time to listen to one of the massive Rutshire novels on audio (I listened to Riders and Rivals during the first lockdown on audio and they are 28 hours 17 minutes and 27 hours 41 minutes long respectively! Great value for an Audible credit if you have any going spare). This has the same light-hearted, romantic vibe, whilst still tackling some issues that will resonate with listeners; single parenthood, unhappy childhoods, being torn between personal desire and family duty. Plus, chuck in some fabulous descriptions of beautiful Gloucestershire countryside and you are on to a winner as far as I am concerned.

The thing I particularly loved about this book was that Veronica gives us a love triangle that is a real dilemma because there is a lot to admire about both the women involved. I love reading books featuring strong women who know their own minds and don’t need a man to solve their problems, these are the type of characters I relate to, not wilting flowers with no self-determination. There was no obvious right or wrong answer for Guy in his romantic conundrum and I had huge amounts of sympathy and affection for both Honor and Richenda. For most of the book I could not decide who I wanted him to end up with and I was going to be sad for whichever one of them was left in the cold. Within the main characters, they were all likeable and worthy of happiness, there was no obvious villain (although this is not true of the minor characters. We always need some baddies to direct our ire at, don’t we?) This is not always the case in romance novels, very often it is too easy to guess what the ending to be, and I found this book very refreshing and appealing in this approach.

This book is the perfect piece of escapism, full of warmth and humour and plenty of tension to keep the reader enthralled. The narration was excellent and complemented the book perfectly, really bringing the story to life, and the whole experience of listening to this book was a delight. I don’t often listen to romance novels on audio, I prefer thrillers in that format because the narrative is usually more pacy which works better for audio, which takes much longer to listen to than it would take me to read the book in text format. However, there are some romance authors that buck this trend, and Veronica is one of them. This book made my mucking out chores a lot more pleasurable than they normally are in a cold, wet January and I can highly recommend it to anyone looking to lift their spirits in these trying times.

An Eligible Bachelor is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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I’m Veronica – otherwise known as Ronnie – and I’m delighted you’ve found your way here!

People often ask me what kind of books I write and it’s a very difficult question to answer in one sentence. Primarily, I love to take my readers somewhere they might like to be, whether a gorgeous house in the countryside or on a seaside clifftop. There, my characters go through the trials and tribulation of everyday life, embroiled in situations and dilemmas we can all relate to. Love is at the heart of it, but all kinds of love, not just romantic: the love of friends and family, or a place, or a passion for what you enjoy (food, wine and books, in my case . . .)

I have a background in writing television drama (Heartbeat, Holby City) so that has been an influence – creating lots of characters whose lives impact on each other. Working on The Archers I was taught ‘Make ’em laugh; make ’em cry; but above all, make ’em wait’!

I hope my books are beautifully written, uplifting and a little bit escapist. I’d love to know what you think, so do leave a review.

A little bit about me: I live by the sea and head to the beach every day with my dog Zelda. I love cooking and discovering new restaurants on city breaks, with a bit of yoga to offset the calories – and I’ve just bought an e-bike. My biggest writing influences are HE Bates, Nancy Mitford, Jilly Cooper and any book that has a big rambling house and an eccentric family . . .

Connect with Veronica:

Website: www.veronicahenry.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/veronicahenryauthor/

Twitter: @veronica_henry

Instagram: @veronicahenryauthor

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Blog Tour: The Conspiracy by Jack Probyn #BookReview

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Candice Strachan can’t breathe. 

A small jewellers is raided in Guildford High Street and leaves police chasing their tails. Reports suggest that it’s The Crimsons, an organised crime group the police have been hunting for years.

The device wrapped around her neck is suffocating her, crushing her chest.

But for rookie detective, Jake Tanner, something doesn’t seem right. The heist doesn’t fit any of their previous patterns. And the last time Jake met them, he was staring down the barrel of their gun, bargaining for his life.

The men who put it there have left her to die.

When the shop owner is kidnapped and a collar bomb is attached to her neck, Jake learns one of his own is involved – a police officer.

Her life now rests in Jake Tanner’s hands. 

As Jake follows the group on a wild goose chase, he questions everything he knows about his team. Who can he trust? And is he prepared to find out?

(Warning: This book is intended for mature audiences and contains disturbing and potentially offensive material.)

I’m delighted to be kicking off the blog tour today for The Conspiracy by Jack Probyn, Book One in the Jake Tanner Crime Thriller series. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part, and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

The Conspiracy starts off really promisingly with a violent heist at a jewellery shop in Guildford. It seems to have been perpetrated by a gang who have not been seen for a long while, so why have they resurfaced, and why have they suddenly got more violent? It’s Jake Tanner’s first day with Guildford’s major crimes team and he can’t believe his old enemies have chosen today to rear their ugly heads again.

I was drawn in to the story quite quickly with the surfeit of action happening on the page and the enthralling premise of the plot. The police have to solve a puzzle to release a hostage from a horrifying, fatal device that is the stuff of nightmares in a race against time, while the criminals make their getaway. it all was really promising from the beginning and I was eager to know what was going to happen. The prose is quite quick and easy to read, although quite graphic in its violence, and the time was passing very quickly.

I also enjoyed the dynamic between the gang and finding out what was driving them, their personal relationships and human frailties feed quite well into the plot to drive the narrative. I could understand and recognise their relationship as being quite authentic and see why things played out as they did.

However, this book has some problems. The main one being that the role that the main protagonist, Jake Tanner, takes in the investigation is just totally unbelievable. It started off seemingly well, so for the first third of the book I bought into the premise and was enjoying the narrative but, after a while, the role that Jake was taking got more and more outlandish. This is a very young man in his first day in a new police force, he is only a trainee detective, and yet the most senior officers are directing the whole investigation on his gut feelings. he’s telling them what to do, communicating behind their backs with a fellow junior officer who is also feeding into his behaviour, going off on his own track, visiting prisoners to interrogate them alone and generally just behaving in a way that it is too hard a stretch of the imagination to accept as in any way authentic. His actions get more outlandish as the book progresses, to the point where he pretty much solves the crime and saves the day single-handedly. Unfortunately, it makes the book almost cartoonish in its denouement.

I think there is a lot of potential in this author. There was a lot to enjoy about the book. He obviously has a great imagination and a good eye for story structure. The writing just lacks some maturity, it reads a bit like a grown up version of a teenage boy’s book, with not enough character development or authenticity of procedure, but plenty of action. I’m sure over time these things will develop and the author could be one to watch. I also accept that I may not be the target audience for this book and maybe it is aimed more to appeal to young, male readers. For the time being, this is a book for anyone who is prepared to suspend their disbelief further than I could manage in return for high action and an imaginative plot.

The Conspiracy is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour for alternative reviews:

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About the Author

Jack Probyn

Jack Probyn is the author of the DC Jake Tanner series. He hasn’t spent much time on the planet, but he knows what he wants: to entertain and enthral readers across the globe with his stories. Growing up as an only child and never owning a pet – something he reminds his parents of constantly – Jack spent a lot of time reading and writing.

After just about completing an English degree, he decided to turn his passion from a hobby into a career. When he’s not writing, he’s usually enjoying a sudoku or a true crime drama on Netflix. He lives in Surrey with his partner – who also one day dreams of owning a pet. Preferably a dog.

Connect with Jack:

Website: https://www.jackprobynbooks.com/

Facebook: Jack Probyn Author

Twitter: @jackprobynbooks

Instagram: @jackprobynauthor

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Blog Tour: Coming Home To Brightwater Bay by Holly Hepburn #BookReview

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On paper, Merina Wilde has it all: a successful career writing the kind of romantic novels that make even the hardest hearts swoon, a perfect carousel of book launches and parties to keep her social life buzzing, and a childhood sweetheart who thinks she’s a goddess. But Merry has a secret: the magic has stopped flowing from her fingers. Try as she might, she can’t summon up the sparkle that makes her stories shine. And as her deadline whooshes by, her personal life falls apart too. Alex tells her he wants something other than the future she’d always imagined for them and Merry finds herself single for the first time since – well, ever.

Desperate to get her life back on track, Merry leaves London and escapes to the windswept Orkney Islands, locking herself away in a secluded clifftop cottage to try to heal her heart and rediscover her passion for writing. But can the beauty of the islands and the kindness of strangers help Merry to fool herself into believing in love again, if only long enough to finish her book? Or is it time for her to give up the career she’s always adored and find something new to set her soul alight?

Today, I am thrilled to be taking my turn on the blog tour for Coming Home To Brightwater Bay by Holly Hepburn. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to Simon and Schuster for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I’ll admit upfront that I am a massive fan of Holly Hepburn’s writing, I’ve read all of her previous books. Not sure whether that means I am pre-disposed to enjoy her books or have high expectations that are waiting to be dashed, either way, I loved this book just as much, if not more, than her previous novels.

Poor Merry. The opening scene of the book makes for agonising reading when you put yourself in her shoes, and meant I was firmly on her side from the very beginning, praying for things to work out for her. I was so glad she took the first, brave step to uproot herself from everything familiar and make the change that deep down she knows she needs to shake things loose. Because the main thing I love about this book is that, despite the fact this is a romance, Merry is someone who sorts out her own issues and doesn’t rely on a man or a relationship to do it for her. I really loved her as a character, she felt very relatable to me, which made it very easy for me to lose myself in her journey, both actual and emotional, in the pages of this book.

That’s not to say that men don’t play a part in the book, they obviously do. In fact, Merry has the choice of a Viking boatbuilder and a Clark-Kent-lookalike librarian to choose from, and I’m not sure which one I would pick if I were her. (Could I have one for weekdays and another for weekends perhaps?) And then of course, an old flame rears his ugly head for who knows what reason, so there is plenty of romantic tension to keep readers happy.

On top of all this, the book is alive with descriptions of the beautiful islands of Orkney and the close-knit community that Merry finds there. Holly brings all of the scenery and history and food of the islands to the pages of the book and allows us to discover them along with Merry, and fall in love with the place, just as she does. Like me, I am sure you will be wondering how soon you can jump on a tiny plane and fly off to explore them for yourselves (not soon enough is the answer.)

If you are looking for a wonderful piece of escapist reading, written with real warmth and charm and a keen eye for the detail that really brings a book to life, look no further, this is the book for you.

Coming Home to Brightwater Bay is out now in ebook and paperback formats and you can buy a copy here.

Please be sure to check out the rest of the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

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Holly Hepburn is the much-loved author of commercial women’s fiction. She lives near London with her grey tabby cat, Portia. They both have an unhealthy obsession with Marmite.

Connect with Holly:

Facebook: Holly Hepburn Books

Twitter: @HollyH_Author

Instagram: @hollyh_author

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