Blog Tour: The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell #BookReview

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As the age of the photograph dawns in Victorian Bath, silhouette artist Agnes is struggling to keep her business afloat. Still recovering from a serious illness herself, making enough money to support her elderly mother and her orphaned nephew Cedric has never been easy, but then one of her clients is murdered shortly after sitting for Agnes, and then another, and another… Why is the killer seemingly targeting her business?

Desperately seeking an answer, Agnes approaches Pearl, a child spirit medium lodging in Bath with her older half-sister and her ailing father, hoping that if Pearl can make contact with those who died, they might reveal who killed them.

But Agnes and Pearl quickly discover that instead they may have opened the door to something that they can never put back…

My second blog tour today is for The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell and I am delighted to have been invited to take part by Anne Cater of Random Things Tours. My thanks also to the publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Well, Laura Purcell, you owe me a tube of expensive eye cream to try and undo the ravages to my face inflicted by sitting up late into the night finishing your fantastic book. I inhaled the whole thing in a single day. It would have been one sitting if pesky things like having to feed my family hadn’t got in the way. Talk about compulsive reading, I couldn’t tear my eyes or mind away from this immersive story you have woven.

Life in Victorian Bath is alive on the page here, in all its grimy glory. Because this isn’t the world of the gentry, will dances and dinners and pretty dresses. This is the world of the impoverished, who are scratching around for the next pennies that will save them from the arms of the workhouse, walking a fine line that will keep them out of both there and the jail, because neither of those places are anywhere that a person wants to be in Victorian England, and Laura makes this quite clear in her writing. The prose is so evocative, it is alive with sights and sounds and scents, tastes and textures, and it is a pretty dark place she paints on the page. Not here the golden stone and gilded society of Jane Austen’s Bath. This is the perfect setting for a gothic tale that will keep you saucer-eyed into the wee small hours, as I was.

Our protagonist is Agnes, a feeble women of advancing middle-age, trying to scratch a living from her profession of cutting ‘shades’ or silhouette portraits for sitters who are becoming fewer and fewer as the silhouettes fall out of fashion, replaced by advances in technology. To make matter worse, tragedy seems to be striking her few recent clients, making her fear for her reputation and even her safety. This fear makes her seek answers from a spiritualist child, Pearl. But is Pearl’s gift real? And who is really haunting Agnes?

This is such a clever book. From beginning to end, nothing is what it seems. It is impossible to tell what is real and what isn’t, who is honest and who is a charlatan, who is the villain and who we can really trust. My thoughts and conclusions changed from page to page, I had so many wild theories but I never came near to the truth and, oh my god, the ending completely blew me away and left my mind reeling. This is one of those books where everything you think you know gets completely flipped on its head by the end and you end up wondering how the author managed to fool you so completely all the way through. One of the most satisfying books I have read for a long while.

This book has everything you could possibly want in a gothic novel. Darkness, danger, mystery and misdirection. Parts of it are quite vividly disturbing, because the author does not shy away from the real life horrors of this period of history for those who were not wealthy, as well as filling the book with supernatural thrills, but if you are a fan of this type of book, and of Laura’s previous books, you will absolutely love this.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. There aren’t that many books that I can afford to give up my beauty sleep for at my age, but this one was definitely worth it.

The Shape of Darkness is out now in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats and you can buy a copy here.

There are lots of other great reviews and contents being hosted on the other blogs taking part in the tour so make sure you pay them a visit:

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About the Author

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Laura Purcell is a former bookseller and lives in Colchester with her husband and pet guinea pigs. Her first novel for Raven Books, The Silent Companions, was a Radio 2 and Zoe Ball ITV Book Club pick and was the winner of the WHSmith Thumping Good Read Award, while her subsequent books – The Corset and Bone China – established Laura as the queen of the sophisticated, and spooky, page-turner.

Connect with Laura:

Website: https://www.laurapurcell.com/

Facebook: Laura Purcell

Twitter: @spookypurcell

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Blog Tour: The Hurting by R. J. Mitchell #BookReview

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THE HURTING finds DS Angus Thoroughgood recovering from injuries from his most recent adventures in Parallel Lines and questioning his career with the Glasgow police force. After handing in his resignation, Thoroughgood is pulled back into the line of duty once his recovery at the police convalescence home, Castlebrae, is complete.

Terrorist attacks in and around Glasgow see Thoroughgood, alongside his partner DC Hardie, return to action. As their world as they know it and the city they love falls apart, the pair work alongside MI5 in a race to discover the source of these attacks.

The second instalment in the DS Thoroughgood series of novels by RJ Mitchell, The Hurting picks up right where Parallel Lines left off and sends Thoroughgood and Hardie on a rollercoaster ride through Glasgow’s seedy underworld and that of international terrorism.

The Hurting sees author RJ Mitchell drawing from his 12 years of experience as a Glasgow police officer to provide an accurate portrayal of real life police work whilst guiding the reader through an intricate plot filled with lies and subterfuge.

Today I am reviewing the second book in the DS Thoroughgood series by R. J. Mitchell as part of the blog tour. You can read my review of the first book, Parallel Lines, here. Thanks again to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This book carries on straight after the ending of the last book. In a lot of ways it is similar, same frenetic pace, same rollercoaster excitement and vivid portrayal of the seedy underside of Glasgow, but in other ways it is different, different enemy, different dangers and a changed DS Thoroughgood.

At the beginning of the book, a heartbroken Gus Thoroughgood cannot see any point in going on without the love of his life and considers quitting the force. But, he is a policeman through and through and we see his instincts kick in as he and Hardie encounter some familiar criminal faces on their way back to Glasgow from his month’s recuperation in Perthshire. What starts out as a simple car chase soon gives way to a much bigger and more terrifying prospect as the policemen find themselves embroiled in an international terror plot, which eventually turns personal.

Look, I’m going to be honest here, I wasn’t 100% convinced about the authenticity of some events in this book. Given the scale and threat of what is happening in Glasgow, I find it hard to believe that two policemen of the lowly ranks of Thoroughgood and Hardie would allowed to be embroiled in the investigation to the level they are, or that a lot of their maverick behaviour would be tolerated, never mind celebrated (Although my experience of policing is nil, so I could be wrong.) However, once you set aside any demands for realism in the plot, this is a rip-roaring story that is gripping and eminently readable. After all, the plots of most action movies are complete bunkum but that doesn’t stop many of us enjoying them as a piece of entertainment and, if you approach this book in the same way, it is a heart-stopping read. The story fairly races along, rarely stopping to allow the reader to catch their breath, with action from first page to last, and a huge body count along the way. Be prepared for George R. R. Martin levels of character disposal. It’s best not to get too attached to anyone in this book.

Another thing that struck, and amused me, was that this book is pretty much a middle-aged man’s fantasy. DS Thoroughgood, who I have pictured in my mind’s eye as a fairly ordinary bloke, spends quite a lot of the book seducing, or being seduced, by a succession of attractive, lithe young women who all happily fling themselves into bed with him with enthusiasm and nary a pause for consideration. Again, maybe this is reflective of the every day experience of your average Glaswegian detective (if so, the Irishman is considering a change of job and location), but I suspect not, Again, there is nothing wrong with this but, I would request that in future novels the author consider that a large proportion of his readership are likely to be women and he might like to throw in some eye candy for us girls too! (Also, he got over Celine pretty quickly, given how devastated he was supposed to be by her loss. We women take a dim view of such fickleness, Mr Mitchell!)

Overall, Gus Thoroughgood is a roguish, charming and gung ho copper (maybe this is what the women see in him and I’ve just grown out of this type of machismo as a sexual lure) who is a fun person to read about. The author is skilled at providing us with an action-packed and gripping plot, and bringing the streets of Glasgow to life, albeit it mostly peopled with villains and rotters. As close to escapism as you can get in violent crime thriller form, which is not a sentence I have contemplated typing before. I am really looking forward to reading the third book in this series for review next week.

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

Please do follow the rest of the tour for alternative reviews:

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About the Author

RJ Mitchell
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… Stefania Hartley

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Another weekend rolls around. Is it me or is this month going really, really slowly? At least it’s time for another Friday Night Drinks feature to cheer me up. Tonight I am delighted to be joined by author… Stefania Hartley.

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Welcome back to the blog, Stefania. Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what is your tipple tonight?

Hi Julie, thanks for inviting me again. It’s lovely to be back with you and to be out for a drink, even if only virtually. I’m having my favourite drink:  elderflower pressé.

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?

We’d be off to Verona to watch the opera, as per your bucket list, but first we would have a nice meal in a local restaurant and I would order the delicious, super-fatty burrata (an enormous mozzarella-like ball with a creamy center)

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Perfect! I’m still hoping I’ll get there for my 50th next year. 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?

I’d love to meet Andrea Camilleri, a fellow Sicilian and author of the Commissario Montalbano detective crime series. Unfortunately, he passed away last year. And, for a thoroughly book-ish night out, I’d invite Elena Ferrante, the author of the Neapolitan novels.

There’s only a little problem. Nobody know who she is. I take my hat off to her for managing to keep her identity secret for so long, in this day and age!

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 always have many projects on the go because I get easily bored and I love changing. So when I need a break the work-in-progress novel, I write short stories for The People’s Friend. The novel I’m working on now is different from my previous ones, and I need to keep reminding myself of the proverb ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. I started it as a non-fiction project years ago, the whole thing stalled and I left it in the drawer until now, when I’ve turned it into a fiction project.

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

My proudest moment was seeing my name in print for the first time. My biggest challenge is always to keep working on projects that I’ve been commissioned to do (I retell fairy tales for an Italian publisher) even when I feel like having a break and do something else. When you have a deadline, you just have to stick with the work and keep ploughing through it until it’s done. Typically, this is when your mind comes up with all sorts of exciting new ideas that you’re desperate to start working on immediately!

I know that feeling! 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!

I’d like to make a living out of my writing. Maybe it doesn’t sound very ambitious, but all the surveys of authors’ income suggest that it’s very hard for an author to make a living out of writing alone. I’ll stick with this dream for now.

I’m sure you will get there. What are have planned that you are really excited about?

I am really looking forward to visiting my parents in Sicily and, perhaps, do a bit of sightseeing in Sicily or other parts of Italy. And call it ‘research’, of course!

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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?

My absolute favourite place is the Marine Nature Reserve of the Zingaro. Some of the settings of my new novel, Plenty of Fish in the Sicilian Sea, are inspired by this place. As a child, I spent all my summers there. We stayed nearby and my grandfather would take us all on a rubber dinghy to one of the beautiful white shingles beaches. Memories of turquoise sea, family happiness and Grandma’s biscuits (much sweeter after tasting seawater!) are all intertwined.

Top of my bucket list is a hiking tour of the Sicilian hinterland. I’ve always been a sea girl, but I’ve heard that the mountainous hinterland of Sicily is very beautiful too.

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

I’m quite a boring person (to me, at least) so I can’t think of anything other than perhaps the fact that I spoke hardly any English when I came over, as an Erasmus exchange student, in my early twenties. During one of my first dates with my future husband, I thought that I said, “Rain makes me curly”. Apparently, I said instead, “Rain makes me cuddly”.

Rain also makes me cuddly! 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’?

I’m a very slow reader, and I’ve only recently managed to catch up on some of the English language books that I had missed growing up in Sicily, like the wonderful Bridget Jones’ Diary and Adrian Moles’ diaries. So I’m sure that you have read everything that I could recommend, and much more!

Looking at more recent books, if you like to smile, I recommend The Trouble With Goats and Sheep, by Joanna Cannon. If you like serious books, perhaps my must-read is Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. I listened to the audiobook and it was beautifully narrated too.   

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England,1976.

Mrs Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly decide to take matters into their own hands.

And as the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives will find much more than they imagined…

I have read Hamnet, it was one of my Top Twelve Books of 2020 so I agree with you on that. I have a copy of Joanna Cannon’s book on my TBR. 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?

Very good question for a teetotal like me! I don’t like the taste of alcohol so I’ve never been even a little tipsy and anything stupid I’ve ever done, I’ve done it while completely sober! Well, if this isn’t a…sobering thought.

But Italian remedies for a hangover are drinking plenty of water, avoiding coffee and tea, which are diuretic and make you more dehydrated. Artichoke and milk thistle are good against a hangover. Milk, antacid and olive oil and honey are good too. I’d definitely go for milk and honey, yummy!

Great, useful advice. After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

On a good weather weekend, I would love to go on a walk in the woods somewhere beautiful and wild, but not so wild that I can’t find a nice pub or restaurant for a hearty brunch.

On a rainy weekend, I’d curl up with a good book and read until I was called for lunch and then dinner. In this ideal parallel world, the children would serve me and my husband all the meals and clear up too. And nobody would try to talk to me until I’ve finished the story!

Sounds marvellous! Stefania, thank you for joining me, it is always a great pleasure to chat to you.

Stefania’s latest book is called Plenty of Fish in the Sicilian Sea and you can buy a copy here.

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Sicilian marine biologist Serena Ingotta has never understood men, but when she uncovers a mafia factory polluting the sea, it only adds to the things that confuse her.

Twenty-four-year-old Sicilian scientist Serena Ingotta has always misunderstood men, from her workaholic anti-mafia judge father to the Catholic seminarian she’s hopelessly in love with. Interning in a marine biology lab alongside her irritating colleague Enrico, she discovers an illegal polluting factory that is possibly connected with the mafia.

When it turns out that their boss is going to cover up the story, she publicly denounces him at a science conference and gets expelled from the lab. Alone and ostracized, Serena’s attempts to find love and expose the factory seem to be failing epically until she finally realizes that everything she has been searching for was just under her nose.

Stefania Hartley, also known as The Sicilian Mama, was born in Sicily and immediately started growing, but not very much. She left her sunny island after falling head over heels in love with an Englishman, and she’s lived all over the world with him and their three children.

Having finally learnt English, she enjoyed it so much that she started writing stories and nobody has been able to stop her since. She loves to write about hot and sunny places like her native Sicily, and she especially likes it when people fall in love.

Her short stories have been longlisted, commended and won prizes. Plenty of Fish in the Sicilian Sea is her second novel, after Sun, Stars and Limoncello.

You can find out more about Stefania on her website, Facebook, Twitter, blog and her podcast

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Blog Tour: The Little Swiss Ski Chalet by Julie Caplin #BookReview

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I’m delighted to be one of the blogs opening the tour for the latest book in one of my favourite series by one of my favourite authors today. The Little Swiss Ski Chalet is the seventh book in the Romantic Escapes series by Julie Caplin. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on to the tour and to the publisher, One More Chapter, for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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It’s time to pack your bags and head to the breathtaking, snow-covered peaks of the Swiss Alps for velvety hot chocolates, delicious cheeses and a gorgeous love story…

Food technician Mina has always believed that chocolate will solve everything – and it’s just what she needs when her latest relationship mishap goes viral!

So with her bags packed and a new determination to sort her life out, Mina decides to drown her sorrows with the best hot chocolate in the world at her godmother’s cosy Swiss chalet. Chocolate: yes. Romance: no. Until she has a run in on an Alpine train with a mysterious but oh-so-gorgeous stranger…

I don’t know about you but normally at this time of year I would be planning my travels for the upcoming months. Since lockdown has put the kibosh on booking any jaunts to foreign climes for the foreseeable future, the only travel I can currently do is from the comfort of my armchair via the pages of a book, and there is no better series than Julie Caplin’s Romantic Escapes to take you away for a short while.

So far I have travelled with Julie to Denmark, New York, Paris, Iceland, Croatia and Tokyo, and I have enjoyed every trip, so I was really looking forward to visiting Switzerland through Julie’s eyes. What would she make of the land of chocolate and cuckoo clocks? I can assure you I was not disappointed.

The book got off to a great start as the heroine, Mina’s life explodes in spectacular style as a romantic mishap goes viral and forces her to re-evaluate where she is and where she is heading. Mina is a spontaneous kind of girl who doesn’t really plan, but takes every day as it comes and often acts on a whim. Given the reaction to her latest spur-of-the-moment feat, she starts to wonder if this is the best approach to her future. She decides to head off to her godmother’s ski chalet in Switzerland for a holiday and a chance to take stock and decide what she wants to do with her life. No pressure there! I really loved Mina as a character from the start. She is so totally different to me in every respect that I adored living vicariously through her. If only I had had her gumption at that age!

A chance meeting with a handsome stranger threatens to derail Mina’s new level-headed approach before it really gets off the ground. But she is determined to get serious about her future, however tempting the alternative might be. The author does a great job of setting up sexual chemistry between Mina and the mystery man right from the start that it fizzes off the page and reminded me of how it feels when you first meet someone and there is instant electricity between you. It is perfectly captured here, and you will be wondering how Mina can resist! What willpower.

So, we follow Mina as she discovers her aunt’s cosy ski chalet and explores all the delights that surround it. Amelie has created a homely, welcoming guesthouse where her visitors are like family and return time after time. The lure of sampling delicious Swiss recipes and learning how to cook them, exploring the glorious alps on skis and snowshoes and taking a unique food-tasting trip soon draw Mina in to life in Switzerland, until she doesn’t want to leave, and who can blame her. I was totally in love with the setting and the characters by the time I had finished the book.

Julie Caplin is a genius at bringing the locations of her book to life using every sense available until you are absolutely there, experiencing it all, and this book is no exception. If you walk away from this book without a craving for fondue and hot chocolate, I’ll eat my hat. I could smell the pine and the minty fresh mountain air, feel the heat from the log fires and the crunch of snow under skis and hear the chatter of happy guests as they munched Amelie’s cakes. A 3D reading experience. To top it all off is the promise of a quirky love story at its heart to bring an extra glow to your cheeks.

This is a gorgeous hug of a book that will transport you to the Swiss Alps and then cheer you with food, friends and a happy ending. I can’t think of a more perfect way to while away a lockdown weekend, can you?

The Little Swiss Ski Chalet is out now as and ebook and will be published in paperback on 18 February. You can buy your copy here.

Please do make sure you visit the rest of the wonderful blogs taking part in the tour for more reviews:

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About the Author

Julie Caplin

Julie Caplin, formerly a PR director, swanned around Europe for many years taking top food and drink writers on press trips (junkets) sampling the gastronomic delights of various cities in Italy, France, Belgium, Spain, Copenhagen and Switzerland. It was a tough job but someone had to do it. 

These trips have provided the inspiration and settings for her Romantic Escapes series which have been translated into fifteen different languages.

The first book in the seven strong series, The Little Café in Copenhagen, was shortlisted for a Romantic Novel of the Year Award.

Connect with Julie:

Website: http://www.juleswake.co.uk/

Facebook: Julie Caplin Author

Twitter: @JulieCaplin

Instagram: @juliecaplinauthor

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Book Review: We Begin At The End by Chris Whitaker

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Thirty years ago, Vincent King became a killer.

Now, he’s been released from prison and is back in his hometown of Cape Haven, California. Not everyone is pleased to see him. Like Star Radley, his ex-girlfriend, and sister of the girl he killed.

Duchess Radley, Star’s thirteen-year-old daughter, is part-carer, part-protector to her younger brother, Robin – and to her deeply troubled mother. But in trying to protect Star, Duchess inadvertently sets off a chain of events that will have tragic consequences not only for her family, but also the whole town.

Murder, revenge, retribution.

How far can we run from the past, when the past seems doomed to repeat itself?

How to begin to review this book? I don’t know how I’m going to do it justice, to be honest. It was my first read of the year, and I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to write this review for almost three weeks. There is so much I want to convey about my feelings, and not the words to do it adequately. Still, I can put it off no longer, so here we go.

This book is ostensibly a thriller, spanning a period of decades, and it works extremely well purely on that level. Thirty years ago a murder shook a small town to its foundations and had lasting consequences for everyone closely connected with the case, and down into the next generation. It has robbed Duchess Radley and her brother of a stable family life, and of police chief, Walk, of his best friend and peace of mind. And now the man convicted of the crime is about to be released from prison and return to Cape Haven. This is the catalyst for massive upheaval in the community and a new spate of disturbances that affect all the main players all over again to devastating effect.

The plot of the thriller is complex and surprising, with twists and turns you will not see coming, but it offers more than a straight forward mystery. We are shown the wider consequences of crime, the cause and effect, the life-altering repercussions it has for so many people, not just the victim and perpetrator. How it changes people, rips apart families, ripples through a community as a whole, and is felt for many, many years after the events took place. It is such a considered approach to telling the story of crime that you have to admire the author’s skill, and it rewards the reader with a more cerebral experience than you might usually expect. It will provoke a lot of ruminating on the nature and consequences of both crime and the way we punish criminals in anyone who chooses to take a considered approach.

But this book is so much more than a simple thriller, and it is in the development and examination of the characters that the true beauty and appeal of this book lies. Chris Whitaker has created real people here who will not only get under your skin, but also into your heart and will haunt your thoughts for days, even weeks, after you have finished the novel.

The story is told by two people. The first is the police chief, Walk. As a boy, he was best friends with the person accused of killing Sissy Radley. Thirty years later, he is the chief of police in Cape Haven, faced with having to integrate a murderer back into the life of a town that doesn’t want him, look out for his great friend, Star Radley, when her sister’s killer is released, all the while not being able to reconcile the idea that his childhood friend is a murderer. This is a man at war with himself, torn between his job and firm sense of justice and responsibility to the town, and ingrained loyalty to his childhood companions. Walk’s struggle permeates every page of the book. We watch as the battling sides of his conscience inform his actions, and the impact that has on other players in the story. We ask ourselves constantly is he is doing the right thing. What would we do in his position? Is life always as black and white as we comfortably view it from a distance? Of course, it isn’t and we live that struggle through Walk’s eyes throughout the book. It is such a clever and impelling mechanism for conveying ideas and issues for the reader to grapple with.

The other narrator is Duchess Radley, niece of the murder victim and a girl whose life has been shaped entirely by events that pre-dated her birth and over which she has no control. The murder of her aunt has made her who she is, pre-ordained her circumstances and opportunities, even though she never knew her, and it is monstrously unfair.

Duchess Radley is the most extraordinary character I have ever come across in a novel. I can’t think of another who has affected me so profoundly as she has. She has completely wormed her way into my psyche to the point where I was feeling every single emotion she was going through. As a consequence, parts of this book almost cracked my heart in two. We get to see what has created this  bravado shell she puts up against a world that has been against her since the day she was born, but we also get to see the terrified child underneath, the beautiful love she has for the little brother she protects like a fierce momma bear, and her longing for someone to take her burdens from her shoulders, but her suspicion of a world, and people, who have failed her at every turn before. It is so beautiful and honest but totally soul-destroying at the same time. No child should be in this position, the world asks too much of her, and yet her resilience is amazing. We know there are children in the world suffering in similar ways, and it is shameful. The author has created in Duchess one of the most perfect and memorable and truly successful characters that has every really lived on the page and I know she will stay with me for a long, long time.

This is a book, ultimately, about love and loss and consequence. About family and friendship and the bonds we build with people throughout our lives in different ways, and how strong those bonds can be in the face of adversity. And about sacrifice. About what we are prepared to give up to protect the people we love most in the world and allow them to thrive, no matter what the personal cost to ourselves. It is the most extraordinary feat of novel-writing and I urge everyone to pick up a copy as soon as you can. You won’t find a much more rewarding and moving reading experience anywhere.

We Begin At The End is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Chris Whitaker is the award winning author of Tall Oaks and All The Wicked Girls. Both books were published to widespread critical acclaim, with Tall Oaks going on to win the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award.

His latest novel, We Begin At The End, is available now.

Chris lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two young sons.

Connect with Chris:

Website: https://chriswhitaker.com/

Twitter: @WhittyAuthor

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Melissa Oliver

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Today I am very excited to be discussing writing romance with the winner of the 2020 RNA Joan Hessayon Award… Melissa Oliver.

Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

Hi Julie, thank you for having me on your blog.

I write historical romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon, with the first series; the Notorious Knights set in early 13th century England.

So far, I have written three of the books, with my debut published last summer, the second out at the end of this month and the third coming in the summer of 2021. I was ecstatic that my debut- The Rebel Heiress and the Knight won the prestigious RNA Joan Hessayon Award for 2020. Honestly, getting that first publishing deal as a new writer was an incredible feat in itself but to win the award was really the cherry on top and something I will always treasure.

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Why romance?

Romance is a glorious genre that celebrates love in all its various forms, examining the connection between two people through the prism of time, or a contemporary back-drop. Whether it’s with comedy or tragedy, mystery & adventure- there’s always a great pay-off at the end in the happy ever after or happy for now- which can only be a balm in these troubled times.   

What inspires your stories?

Anything and everything! I’m attracted to the medieval era at the moment, as there’s a certain immediacy about real-life events from that time giving my books a sense of heightened intensity (I hope) blending romance, emotion, conflict, intrigue even a little humour and at times, mystery & adventure.

I really enjoy incorporating real historical events and people through the narrative at key moments. So, reading a lot and I mean a lot of factual books is key to getting a sense of the period in an attempt to capture the essence of the time. Having said that, my characters are the real driving force of my books. I need to know everything about them- who they are, what they are doing and where they want to go before I even start a book.

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

Ooh, that is such a difficult question and really does depend on my mood. My favourites’ include; Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Milly Johnson, Jilly Cooper, Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella, Mary Balogh, Meredith Duran, Mimi Matthews & Lisa Kleypas. I know I’ve probably missed out a few but this list can be quite flexible and ultimately changeable.

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

Katherine by Anya Seton. A vividly compelling historical romance. One of my absolute favourites.

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Katherine comes to the court of Edward III at the age of fifteen. The naïve convent-educated orphan of a penniless knight is dazzled by the jousts and the entertainments of court.

Nevertheless, Katherine is beautiful, and she turns the head of the King’s favourite son, John of Gaunt. But he is married, and she is soon to be betrothed.

A few years later their paths cross again and this time their passion for each other cannot be denied or suppressed. Katherine becomes the prince’s mistress, and discovers an extraordinary world of power, pleasure and passion.

Which romantic hero or heroine would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

We recently got a lovely cocker spaniel puppy named Mr. Darcy, so I am going to go with Lizzy’s other half. Mr. D would escort me on a whistle-stop tour through Regency London. From Gunter’s tea shop for an ice, to a horse ride down Rotten Row, then a hop and a skip to Almack for a dance and finally to Vauxhall Gardens which was pretty magical, by all accounts.

What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

A sense of community as well as the amazing support and friendships built over the last few years of being a member. Added to this are the fantastic events such as the Winter Party and the Summer Conference, where I met my lovely editor from Harlequin Mills and Boon at the industry one-to-one meetings in 2019. There’s still so much to learn for me, so it’s quite reassuring being a member of the RNA, knowing there’s a wealth of knowledge out there.

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

I would say not to give up, if you’re serious about becoming a writer. It can be tough and sometimes quite lonely dealing with rejection and keeping that self-doubt at bay. So, do your research, hone your craft, enjoy what you’re doing but above all, write the book you have always wanted to write.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

Her Banished Knight’s Redemption is the second book of the Notorious Knights series and is set in 1218. It features Sir William (Will) Geraint – the gorgeous best friend of Hugh de Villiers (the hero from The Rebel Heiress and the Knight– book 1 of the series.)

Will is quite embittered and different from the affable, easy going knight we first meet in the previous book and is now living in exile in France as a sword-for-hire. He goes on quite a journey in this book as he escorts the lost heiress, Isabel de Clancey back to England where they’re forced to work together to uncover the secrets of their past. There’s even a medieval treasure hunt to discover.

There was quite a bit of research to do on this book. From the history of the Knights Templar, to the Tour de la Lanterne in La Rochelle- the only tower that would have been erected at that time and not the one that stands there today, to the herbs and plants used to treat various maladies. I loved writing this book and wanted to give Will and the lovely Lady Isabel an exciting story filled with romance, passion mystery, and adventure.

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A lady’s need for protection
A knight’s chance for redemption

Exiled Knight William Geraint answers only to himself. Yet, a mission to reunite lost heiress Lady Isabel de Clancey with her family is Will’s chance to finally atone for the torment of his past.  With every rushed mile, their intense attraction becomes dangerously thrilling.  He swore to protect Isabel not seduce her, but their desire for each other could threaten the redemption he’s worked so hard to achieve…

Her Banished Knight’s Redemption is out 21 January 2021 in UK & Australia and 26 Jan in US and you can pre-order your copy here.

About the Author

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Melissa Oliver is from south-west London where she writes historical romance novels. She lives with her lovely husband and daughters, who share her passion for decrepit, old castles, palaces and all things historical.

Melissa is the WINNER of The Romantic Novelist Association’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers 2020 for her debut, The Rebel Heiress and the Knight.

When she’s not writing she loves to travel for inspiration, paint, and visit museums & art galleries.

Connect with Melissa:

Facebook: Melissa Oliver Author

Twitter: @melissaoauthor

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Blog Tour: The Darkness Within by Graeme Hampton #BookReview

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You can run… but death will always find you

A man is discovered on a leafy North London street, fighting for life after a brutal beating. DI Matthew Denning and his team are quickly called in to to track down the monster responsible.

Except the victim is hiding secrets of his own. His name shows that he was reported missing two decades ago – but it’s clear that the missing person is not the same man lying broken in a hospital bed.

A visit to a squalid East London flat unearths a victim with his throat slit, his body left to decompose. A sad end to any life – but when it is identified as former DCI Frank Buckfield, star of the Met police, the case takes on a new significance.

Two seemingly unrelated cases – but as Denning, along with DS Molly Fisher, investigates further, they uncover links between the two victims that lead back to a ring of silence cloaking the blackest of crimes.

But as Denning and Fisher try to track down a killer with revenge on their mind, they find themselves pitted against a psychopath who will kill to keep their secrets hidden. Can they uncover the truth, before they end up the latest victims?

I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for The Darkness Within by Graeme Hampton. Huge thanks to Sarah Hardy of Books On The Bright Side Publicity for my place on the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is the first book I have read by this author and, if I hadn’t been told it was part of a series, I would not have known simply from reading it. The fact I hadn’t read the previous books did not detract from my understanding or enjoyment of this book at all, it works perfectly as a standalone.

The book pulled me in to the story immediately, opening as it does with the rather gory discovery of the dead body of a retired police officer. From the very beginning, the author does not hold back from giving us a graphic insight in to the way a police investigation works, the pleasant and very unpleasant together. This was the most appealing part of the book to me, looking at how investigations are really happen and how the police have to juggle demands on their time, decide what to prioritise, and how those decisions can be political rather than in the best interests of the victims. It’s very sobering, to be honest.

At the beginning there seem to be two separate crimes to be investigated, one of which is more important to the top brass than the other. Luckily, the two voices we hear from throughout the book, DI Denning and DS Fisher, are not above ignoring orders from above if it goes against their instincts, and they seem to each have  a good nose for something fishy, as well as a tenacity in getting to the bottom of a crime. They are the kind of police you would want on your case if you ever needed them.

I found the book very compelling. It was extremely easy to read, and gripping enough to make me race through the pages, so that several hours flew by like minutes. I absolutely love it when a book draws you so far in to the world the author has created between the pages that you are fully living it and don’t want to be pulled out. Honestly, this is one of the best examples of the genre I have read for a while and I look forward to going back and reading the preceding books in the series. I thought the two main characters were well developed and interesting enough to easily carry the story and I really enjoyed getting to know them personally as well as professionally.

An all-round great story which will keep you engrossed and entertained for however long it takes you to read it. Highly recommended as a great distraction in these lockdown days.

The Darkness Within is out now as an ebook and you can buy a copy here.

Please check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour for alternative views on the book:

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About the Author

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Graeme Hampton was born in Paisley, and grew up in Stirling. After leaving school, he trained as a stage manager and worked in London for a number of years. He returned to Scotland in his late twenties to study for a BA in English Literature at Stirling University.

His first novel, Know No Evil – featuring Met detectives DI Matt Denning and DS Molly Fisher – was published in 2019 by Hera Books. This was followed by Blood Family in January 2020. The Darkness Within is the third novel in the series.

Graeme lives in Hastings, East Sussex.

Connect with Graeme:

Website: https://www.graemehampton.com/

Twitter: @Gham001

Instagram: @graeme_hampton

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Blog Tour: Parallel Lines by R. J. Mitchell #BookReview

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PARALLEL LINES is the story of a deadly rivalry on both sides of the law.

With criminal rival and would be underworld kingpin Declan Meehan on the verge of controlling Glasgow’s lucrative illegal drug trade, Detective Sergeant Angus Thoroughgood vows to bring him down. An edgy and fast-paced crime thriller set in the seedy criminal underworld of Glasgow, Scotland, Parallel Lines is the first book in the long-running Thoroughgood series.

With Meechan bludgeoning his competition into submission, seizing the city piece by piece, his conflict with Thoroughgood gets all too personal when Celine Lynott, the woman who broke Angus’ heart ten-years earlier, falls for his nemesis.

Parallel Lines sees author RJ Mitchell drawing from his 12 years of experience as a Glasgow police officer to drag readers into the city’s sleazy underbelly to encounter the violent and lawless stories that can be found there.

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for Parallel Lines by R. J. Mitchell, the first in the DS Thoroughgood series. I will be reviewing the next two books over the coming weeks. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Welcome to the seamy criminal underworld of Glasgow in all its gory glory. This book will take you on a rollercoaster ride through the dark side of life in Glasgow and introduce to some of the people trying to battle it. These are real people, both the criminals and police, and the author doesn’t pull an punches showing us their true faces, warts and all.

The main protagonists in the book are DS Gus Thoroughgood and underworld kingpin Declan Meechan. The two have a history of butting heads from their opposing sides of the good/evil divide, to the extent that you wonder whether their enmity is purely professional, especially when we find out there is a woman involved in the mix. So far, everything is set up for a rip-roaring thriller with plenty of tension, and this is eactly what you get.

The author pulls no punches with the action on the page here. The book opens with the police being called to the scene of an armed robbery in progress and only gets hotter from there on. Be warned, this book is full of authentic violence that is described in great detail. There are fights, shootings, stabbings, murder, arson, all of it in full colour, so if you are remotely squeamish, this may not be the book for you. However, it feels completely authentic and necessary for the book, for the feel of what it is really like to have to live and work in this world.

There are some great characters in this book and both sides, and I love that the author has given them lives and personalities that you may not expect but feel very real. Thoroughgood goes speed dating, his sidekick Hardie is over-weight and henpecked. Even the vicious gangsters have feelings and problems in their romantic lives. You get the impression that the author is pulling these people from real life and setting them down on the page, which makes for an interesting read.

The book has its flaws. The characters use a lot of Glaswegian dialect which I am sure is authentic but can occasionally be hard for the non-native to read. There is a lot of description, particularly of street names and locations in Glasgow that sometimes slowed down the action and could maybe do with a little trimming in places. The book is incredibly male in tone, which I fear may be a little off-putting for some female readers. I did wonder whether the behaviour of the officers was entirely authentic throughout – there were a couple of parts where their action seemed a little cartoonish, which jarred a bit with the violent authenticity of most of it. However, these were minor niggles in what was, overall, a refreshing and entertaining read.

This book felt like something a bit different in the genre, a truthful peak into the criminal world of Glasgow. I enjoyed the change of beat from some of the books I have read recently. I am looking forward to reviewing the next two books in the series over the coming weeks and seeing what is next for DS Thoroughgood. I had become quite fond of both him and Hardie during the course of the book. Hopefully you will join me.

Parallel Lines is out now in paperback and ebook formats and you can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour for more reviews and other great content:

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About the Author

RJ Mitchell
(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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Blog Tour: The Lake House by Christie Barlow #BookReview

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I’m delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Lake House, Book 5 in the popular Love Heart Lane series by Christie Barlow. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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There’s a newcomer to the village of Heartcross and she’s never been more in need of a friend.

Ella is ready to start afresh ––and that could mean there’s love on the horizon in the form of the gorgeous Roman, the local water taxi driver. Every day Roman is there to ferry Ella to the restaurant on the other side of the lake and every night he makes sure she gets home safe. But Roman has secrets of his own…

Can the Love Heart Lane community offer Ella a chance of a new life? Or will the ghosts of her past catch up with her?

Although this is the fifth book in this series, you don’t need to have read any of the previous books in the series to be able to enjoy this one, it works perfectly well as a standalone. Although, I have to warn you that you will probably want to go back and read all the previous ones once you have finished this, so it could be dangerous for your bank balance!

At the beginning of the book, we meet Ella at the lowest ebb of her life. She has been betrayed and loses everything that is important to her, and has no idea what she is going to do with her life, until her best friend Callie swoops in and carries her off to the tiny village of Heartcross where Callie plans to help Ella get back on her feet. After all, Heartcross is a magical place.

This probably sounds very saccharine, especially if you are off a cynical disposition, but if you are a fan of light romances, I promise you that this book is heartwarming and absolutely full of charm, thanks to the skill of Christie’s writing. You won’t be able to help getting invested in Ella’s fate, and the goings on in Heartcross, especially once you get to know the other characters in the book.

Particularly Dolores. I absolutely loved Dolores. Christie has created someone so vivid and alive that she jumps off the page of the book and straight in to your imagination fully formed, and she is a total firecracker. She is one of those women that you hope you will turn in to when you get old, still full of life and joy and hope. I loved the way she is there to show Ella that there is so much for her to live for, even though she has been hurt and let down, and the end to her personal story really moved me. I had a tear in my eye at the culmination of her plot line.

Despite the fact that this is a light romance, Christie managed to create a lot of tension in the novel, because there were several ways that the story could have gone, although the main catalyst that began the book was actually the least fascinating mystery in the end. The story of Dolores, of how Ella integrates into the Heartcross community, the way she works to help them, whilst healing herself at the same time, and her friendship with Roman were all so wonderful and compelling that, by the time Ella’s old life rears it ugly head again, we barely care. We know Ella is better off where she is now, and we care more about her new life and her old. This is a joy of the book, we all develop and recover and move on just as Ella does, Christie really carries the reader along with the story.

This book was just the tonic that I needed to read after two very heavy, dark reads, dismal January weather and more tragic news. The real world is a bit of a crappy place to be at the moment, Heartcross is a much happier and warmer place to exist for a few hours. It is a place that really crawls under your skin and cheers you from the inside out. Pure escapism, which we all need a bit of at the moment. I have just downloaded Starcross Manor to my Kindle, I’m sure once you visit Heartcross, you’ll want to return too.

The Lake House is out now in ebook format and will be published as a paperback in April. You can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour for alternative reviews and other content:

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About the Author

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Christie Barlow is the author of ten bestselling romantic comedies including A Home at Honeysuckle Farm, Love Heart Lane and Clover Cottage. She lives in a ramshackle cottage in a quaint village in the heart of Staffordshire with her four children and two dogs.

Her writing career has come as a lovely surprise when Christie decided to write a book to teach her children a valuable life lesson and show them that they are capable of achieving their dreams. Christie’s dream was to become a writer and the book she wrote to prove a point went on to become a #1 bestseller in the UK, USA, Canada and Australia.

When Christie isn’t writing she enjoys playing the piano, is a keen gardener and loves to paint and upcycle furniture.

Christie is an ambassador for the @ZuriProject alongside Patron of the charity, Emmerdale’s Bhasker Patel. They raise money and awareness for communities in Uganda.

Christie loves to hear from her readers and you can get in touch via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Connect with Christie:

Website: https://christiebarlow.com/

Facebook: Christie Barlow Author

Twitter: @ChristieJBarlow

Instagram: @christie_barlow

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Friday Night Drinks with… Linda Tyler

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Welcome to another weekend, although the days all kind of feel the same at the moment, don’t they? Except, there is no home schooling at the weekend, hurray! And it’s also time for my favourite feature of the week, Friday Night Drinks. This week I am delighted to be sharing a tipple with author… Linda Tyler.

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Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening, Linda. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thanks very much for inviting me. I’ll have a G&T, please. Could I also have some cheesy bits, as the G&T will make me peckish? Slainte mhath!

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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?

A walk with the dog on the beach of a tiny village I know by the sea, with a single street light on the sea wall to ensure we could see where we were going. The village inspired my debut novel, Revenge of the Spanish Princess, a swashbuckling adventure set in the late 1600s. Afterwards, we’d find a warm and welcoming café still open and drink hot chocolate.

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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?

Lord Emsworth – famous, if fictional. I refuse to think of him as dead. I’d like to meet up at his place, Blandings Castle, where I hope as many of the castle inhabitants and visitors would be able to join us and Lord Em. His feckless and amiable son Freddie, his bossy sister Constance and the efficient yet flowerpot throwing secretary Rupert Baxter come immediately to mind. Interestingly, Alex MacDonald, the Laird in my lattest novel, is also a fan of PG Wodehouse.

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My other choice would be Lady Hester Stanhope, aristocrat, adventurer, antiquarian and one of the most famous travellers of the early 1800s. Beautiful and clever, she lived with her unmarried uncle, the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, and acted as his society hostess and political private secretary. When he died, she embarked on her travels. In Athens, the poet Lord Byron dived into the sea to greet her, en route to Cairo she was shipwrecked off Rhodes and she crossed the Syrian desert dressed as a Turkish male, carrying a sword and riding an Arab stallion. What a woman.

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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 working on a time-slip novel, set in Scotland in the present day and in the 1950s. I’ve recently finished writing a medieval Highlander romance and my husband is having fun competing with the bare-chested, tattooed warrior. In March I have a My Weekly Pocket Novel, Summer Intrigue, coming out, with a very different type of hero – polite, charming and sensitive, but still decidedly masculine.

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

My proudest moment was when I wrote the dedication to my debut novel. It was to my first grandson, ‘who loves pirate stories’, even though he’s far too young to be able to read the book.

Getting published in the first place has to have been the biggest challenge. Most authors must send their work out countless times before receiving that wonderful email.

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

To write the most amazingly successful novel set in a hot climate, have it made into a film and be invited to watch the filming on location.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

A stay on the isle of Mull, postponed from last year because of lockdown. As well as looking forward to the unspoiled  scenery, I’m also hoping it will prompt an idea for another book. Clearly, the novel set in hot climate is a little way off yet.

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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’m so lucky that in my previous job as a lecturer I was able to visit some wonderful countries, including India (I’ll never forget emerging from the airport into the heat, noise, colour and chaos of a Delhi night) and Australia (a pillion ride on a motorbike round Port Phillip Bay in Melbourne was thrilling), but I have to say my favourite holiday was when my husband and I splashed out (excuse the pun) on a Caribbean cruise. I loved  every  minute of it, including the catamaran trip a few of us made off St Lucia and the exotic sea life seen when snorkelling.

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There are still so many countries on my bucket list, but top at present is to spend a month on a family-run vineyard in Tuscany. That’ll be the novel set in a hot climate…

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

I’ve been driven on a vintage bus by Prince Michael of Kent. My husband was presented with an award by HRH for the restoration of a railway carriage and afterwards Prince Michael drove us round Brooklands Museum. It’s on the site of the old race track in Surrey – but we travelled at a suitably stately pace.

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’?

There are far too many books I love! But if I must choose one, it would be Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. The novel is a parody of rural melodramas which were popular in the 1930s. It has erotically boiling porridge, an Aunt Ada who once saw ‘something nasty in the woodshed’ and the cheerfully efficient Flora who takes the Starkadder family in hand. Reading this attracted me to passionate pastorals!

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When sensible, sophisticated Flora Poste is orphaned at nineteen, she decides her only choice is to descend upon relatives in deepest Sussex.

At the aptly-named Cold Comfort Farm, she meets the doomed Starkadders: cousin Judith, heaving with remorse for unspoken wickedness; Amos, preaching fire and damnation; their sons, lustful Seth and despairing Reuben; child of nature Elfine; and crazed old Aunt Ada Doom, who has kept to her bedroom for the last twenty years. But Flora loves nothing better than to organise other people. Armed with common sense and a strong will, she resolves to take each of the family in hand.

A hilarious and ruthless parody of rural melodramas and purple prose, Cold Comfort Farm is one of the best-loved comic novels of all time.

You’ve picked my favourite novel of all time! Number one pick in my Desert Island Books feature 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 honestly don’t drink enough for this to happen. But Jeeves swears by whisked together raw egg, Worcester sauce and red pepper. I might try it if absolutely necessary.

That sounds suitably vile! A good enough reason not to over-indulge if that is what you’d be faced with drinking next day. After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

A long country walk with the dog and in the evening an open fire, a game of Pictionary or Articulate with friends and wine with an excellent dinner  – cooked by someone else, as I’m no cook.

Thanks for having me!

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Sounds fabulous. Thank you so much for taking the trouble to join me, Linda, I have had a delightful evening.

Linda particularly excited about her latest release, The Laird’s Secret, as it’s her first pure romance. Her debut novel and the book to be published in March are romantic adventures. The Laird’s Secret is based on her experiences when she moved to the north east of Scotland – although she stresses the novel isn’t autobiographical! She loves the wild beauty of the Aberdeenshire coastline and living in an old farmhouse. The book is set in 1953 and tells the story of Christina Camble who gives up her photographer’s job and her flat in London and moves to Scotland. Her expectation of a peaceful life is thrown to the wind when she meets handsome but reserved Alex MacDonald, the Laird of Craiglogie, a man physically scarred and emotionally wracked by his experiences in World War Two. As they cautiously get to know one another, Christina finds herself living in his house and involved in his life. She soon becomes friends with Alex’s sister, Fiona, but discovers she has made an enemy of glamorous Helen, who wants Alex for herself.

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When trust has been destroyed, could you learn to love again?

In 1953 life is getting back to normal after the war and Christina Camble is one of those looking to the future. But her trust in men is destroyed when she discovers her fiancé has a wife and child. She gives up her job and flat in a bid to escape London and moves to Scotland, where she hopes to get her life back on the right track. 

Christina’s expectation of a peaceful life is interrupted when she meets handsome but reserved Alex MacDonald, the Laird of Craiglogie, a man physically scarred and emotionally wrecked by his experiences in World War Two. As Christina and Alex cautiously get to know one another, she soon finds herself embroiled in his life and living in his house. 

Christina discovers she has made an enemy of family friend, Helen, who wants Alex for herself. As Helen sets her sights on Alex, she succeeds in driving a wedge between him and Christina. 

Will Alex and Christina find their happy ever after, and is it possible for two damaged people to ever learn to love and trust again?

The Laird’s Secret will be published by Bloodhound Books on 18 January as an ebook and a paperback and you can pre-order your copy here.

Linda Tyler’s debut novel, Revenge of the Spanish Princess, a swashbuckling romantic adventure set in the Mediterranean in the 1600s, won a Romance Writers of America competition and was published in April 2020 by DC Thomson as a My Weekly Pocket Novel. Her second novel, The Laird’s Secret, a romance set in rural Scotland in the 1950s, was commended in a Scottish Association of Writers’ competition and was released in January 2021 by Bloodhound Books. She has a further Pocket Novel coming out in March 2021, Summer Intrigue, a Regency romance in which the hero and heroine set out to unmask a spy for Napoleon Bonaparte at a country house party. Linda has also had short stories published in the UK, the USA and Australia. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

 Born in London, Linda moved progressively north until settling with her husband in a village on the edge of the Scottish Highlands.  She has a PhD and is a former university lecturer and a practitioner in child law. She has kept chickens, bred dogs and raised children. Linda now runs holiday accommodation, sings in a local choir and is walked daily by the family dog.

Find out more about Linda and her books on Facebook and Twitter.

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