Blog Tour: Heartcross Castle by Christie Barlow

Heartcross Castle

Apologies to everyone for the late posting of this review but I am delighted to finally be sharing my review of Heartcross Castle, the latest book in the Love Heart Lane series by Christie Barlow. Thank you to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on to the tour and her patience in waiting for this review, and to the author and the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially. Apologies again for the delay in posting and thanks for your understanding.

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Love Heart Lane – where friends are there for you no matter what

A second chance…

When her grandfather Marley passes away Grace Power discovers she’s been left the beautiful but crumbling estate of Heartcross Castle. As a single mum of three, Grace has no idea what she’s going to do with it – but who can say no to a roof over their kids’ heads and a chance to get away from past hurts?

And a forever home

Heartcross Castle is full of secrets – especially a lost security deposit box that holds the truth to everything… But when celebrity chef Andrew Glossop sets his eyes on the castle and, to make matters worse, mistakes Grace as the new housekeeper, Grace tells him there is absolutely NO CHANCE he is getting his hands on her home.

Devastated to have got it so wrong, Andrew will do anything to make it up to her – but is she willing to listen?

I am a huge fan of Christie’s Love Heart Lane series and I think this might be my favourite book in the series so far. It has the perfect combination of escapist setting, romantic tension, relatable characters and touching, emotional moments that make the ideal romantic read.

From the minute the book starts, Grace was a character that captured my heart and my sympathy, and I was with her on her journey throughout the book. As the mother of three young boys struggling with relationship issues, she feels so alone and I could relate to the sense of responsibility she felt for her kids, getting them out of the terrible situation they are in and building a better life for all of them. Christie really captures the agonies of being a single parent of young children, the heartbreak of not being able to give them everything you want them to have and having to deal with every crisis and problem by yourself, often not knowing how you are going to get through. You can really feel Grace’s pain through the pages.

Fans of the series will know that this is where the amazing community that Christie has built in Heartcross will come to the rescue. Honestly, it has now got to the stage that I have to remind myself that these are fictional characters and not a real set of people I am catching up with. I am so invested in this series and all the goings on in Heartcross that reading one of the books is like sitting down for a coy catch up with those old pals you having seen in a while but you know so well. The community welcomes Grace back with open arms and starts to help her rebuild, and it is nothing less than we expect.

The relationships in this book are what make it, and they are all beautiful. Grace and her boys, her old friends, and particularly that between Grace and Hector. Their interactions brought me to the verge of tears several times because the way they interacted was just so lovely. I love a book which explores relationships of all kinds, not just romantic ones, and this is where the people who are dismissive of romance novels are mistaken. There is always so much more going on in these books than a love story, and this book is a prime example of the complexity of issues that can be explored.

That’s not to say that the romance isn’t important. Andrew is a great love interest for Grace, but the romance is secondary to the other bonds Grace rediscovers in this book, and that is the way it should be. Romantic relationships are not the be all and end all of life, all our relationships support and nurture us in different and equally important ways.

Of course the setting is always a big draw in the Love Heart Lane books and, getting to explore inside the walls of Heartcross Castle was great fun. Christie has let her imagination run wild in the novel and has added all the fun quirks and secrets you would wish for in a Scottish castle. When I read things like this, it reminds me of the aspect of writing which most appeals to me, being able to create the world as you wish it existed, just because it makes you and your readers happy. This is what true escapism is, and escapist reading is sometimes just what we all need. 

Heartcross Castle is out now in ebook and audiobook formats, and will be available in paperback in March. You can buy a copy here.

Make sure you check out the rest of the blog tour:

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About the Author

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Christie Barlow is the number one international bestselling author of fifteen romantic comedies including the iconic Love Heart Lane Series, A Home at Honeysuckle Farm and Kitty’s Countryside Dream. 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 international bestseller in the UK, USA, Canada and Australia.

When Christie isn’t writing she co-presents The Book Show on Radio Northwich, 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.

Connect with Christie:

Facebook: Christie Barlow

Twitter: @ChristieJBarlow

Instagram: @christie_barlow

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Blog Tour: The Woman Who Came Back To Life by Beth Miller

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Pearl Flowers has been hiding away for so long that she has forgotten what real life is like. Her quiet routine in a woodland cottage in France is a sanctuary, far away from her past life running a beauty salon. But even when she is sitting at the foot of a beech tree with her drawing pad, surrounded by birdsong, her mind is never still. If she keeps herself distracted and far away, her past can’t hurt her… can it?

But then an unexpected phone call throws her calm world into chaos. Back in the UK, her estranged father Francis is dying. She hasn’t seen him for decades since he pushed her away and destroyed their family. And on his death-bed, Francis leaves her a gift – a diary, written in a code that only Pearl can understand.

As she begins to read her father’s diary, Pearl discovers that for forty years he had been thinking of her almost every day. And as she reads on, secrets begin to emerge from the pages causing her to question everything she thought she knew.

Reeling from the diary’s revelations, Pearl realises that the only way to heal and find true happiness is to face the past. But is she ready to confront her deepest secret, the one she’s been running from all this time?

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour for The Woman Who Came Back To Life by Beth Miller today. My thanks to Jess Readett at Bookouture for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I never start reading a Beth Miller novel without making sure that I have a supply of tissues close at hand, and I’m really glad I took that precaution on this occasion as I needed them. This author has a real knack of getting to the heart of human emotions and displaying them vividly on the page in a way that will pierce even the stoniest of hearts. Since I am basically an emotionally susceptible ball of mush at the best of times, her writing always reduces me to a sobbing puddle.

In this book we meet Pearl, a woman in the middle of her life who is forced against her will to confront the problems that have been stalking her dysfunctional family for the past forty years when they are drawn back together by the death of her estranged father. Gradually, over the course of the novel, all of the families long buried secrets are exposed, faces and events from the past come back to haunt Pearl, and everyone is forced to deal with issues they were hoping could stay buried but which, now they are in the open, could provide opportunities for everyone to move on.

The exploration of human relationships, be those romantic, familial or between friends, are the foundations of all Beth Miller’s writing and she has a really acute eye for what makes people tick and how these bonds are forged, broken and what effect this has on people. Her characters are strong, rounded and always authentic and anyone who picks up one of her books will recognise themselves, other people they know, relationship dynamics they have experienced or life events they have gone through in her writing. This book in particular resonated very deeply with me because one of the events affecting Pearl is something that has also impacted greatly on my life and the reactions of herself and those around her were so familiar to me that it brought all the emotion relating to that event rushing back. In this way, reading can be a cathartic experience and is one of the things I most appreciate about authors writing authentically about difficult issues.

I love the fact that the protagonist in this book is a woman of a similar age to myself. As I get older, I love to see books featuring more mature characters and exploring all the wealth of life experience we have amassed by this age. When you are young, you think adults have everything sussed out and nothing exciting ever happens because life is sorted out. Once you get here, you know that this isn’t the case and all that has happened is that we have accrued a lot more baggage to sort through, which makes for fascinating reading.

This is the most fantastic, emotional, moving and mature novel and it really touched me. It is a beautiful illustration of how life and families work, it feels very real and honest without being maudlin and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys this type of novel.

The Woman Who Came Back To Life is available now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure to check out some of the reviews by my fellow bloggers taking part in the tour:

The Woman Who Came back to Life - BT Poster

About the Author

Beth Miller for website

I have been told that I write like a tall blonde, so that’s how I’d like you to picture me.

I’ve published five novels. The most recent, ‘Starstruck’, came out in August 2021. The previous one, ‘The Missing Letters of Mrs Bright’, was a top twenty Kindle bestseller. I’ve also published two non-fiction books. I work as a book coach and creative writing tutor.

Before writing books, I did a lot of different jobs. I worked in schools, shops, offices, hospitals, students’ unions, basements, from home, in my car, and up a tree. OK, not up a tree. I’ve been a sexual health trainer, a journalist, a psychology lecturer, a PhD student, a lousy alcohol counsellor, and an inept audio-typist. I sold pens, bread, and condoms. Not in the same shop. I taught parents how to tell if their teenagers are taking drugs (clue: they act like teenagers), and taught teenagers how to put on condoms (clue: there won’t really be a cucumber). I taught rabbis how to tell if their teenagers are druggedly putting condoms on cucumbers.

Throughout this, I always wrote, and always drank a lot of tea. I’m now pretty much unbeatable at drinking tea.

Connect with Beth:

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

Facebook: Beth Miller Author

Twitter: @drbethmiller

Instagram: @beth_miller_author

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Blog Tour: Bitter Flowers by Gunnar Staalesen; Translated by Don Bartlett

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I’m delighted to be taking part in my first blog tour of the year for the new book in the Varg Veum series by Gunnar Staalesen, Bitter Flowers. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for offering me a place on the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially as always.

Bitter Flowers proof cover

PI Varg Veum has returned to duty following a stint in rehab, but his new composure and resolution are soon threatened when three complex crimes land on his desk.

A man is found dead in an elite swimming pool. A young woman has gone missing. Most chillingly, Veum is asked to investigate the ‘Camilla Case’: an eight-year-old cold case involving the disappearance of a little girl, who was never found.

As the threads of these three apparently unrelated cases come together, against the backdrop of a series of shocking environmental crimes, Veum faces the most challenging, traumatic investigation of his career.

What a fabulous way to start off the blogging year. This is my first Varg Veum novel, but it definitely won’t be the last one I read, as I was completely sucked in to his world.

Coming in to the series completely cold, it took me a little while to sort out what Varg’s situation was and who he was as a character, but that just made me more intrigued by the book. We are dropped straight into the action as there is the discovery of a corpse and a disappearance in the first couple of pages, and we are introduced to Varg’s fractious relationship with the local police in Bergen. In the best traditions of hard-boiled PIs, Varg can’t resist getting involved in situations that should really be left to the police and inveigles his way into the heart of the investigation, managing to get information that the police struggle to access, because he doesn’t have to do things by the book.

There were three particular aspects of this novel that particularly made this book stand out from a run-of-the-mill PI novel. The first was the intricacy and complexity of the plot. Taking the very topical issue of climate change and ecological protest as one of its central plot points, Gunnar weaves together two different crimes to make a story of such devious twistedness that I truly had no idea what was behind the crimes or who was the perpetrator at any point and I would never have got to the conclusion by myself in a million years. The author clearly has a mind like a fiendish labyrinth and how he managed to keep it all straight as he was writing is a skill I would like to learn. I think I need to go back and try and find all the clues I missed the first time now I know how it unravels.

The second aspect I loved was the writing. For a dark crime novel, the writing is utterly poetic. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book in this genre where the author manages to wax so lyrical about landscape, people and feelings and have it sit so naturally beside the darker aspects of the plot. It was a real pleasure to read, and made the book stand out for me as a literary cut above the herd.

Finally, and probably most appealing to me, was the beautiful evocation and exploration of the landscape of Norway. The book really brings it to life and it is fascinating to me as a country that is so vastly different to our own. A place of vast wilderness, where travel by ferry is as natural as taking a bus or train. Where being surrounded by nature is the norm and the populace really appreciate and revel in the natural landscape that surrounds them. It is a place that fascinates me and which features at the top of my bucket list, and I thoroughly enjoyed losing myself in the sense of place which this book evoked. A book that was transportative in so many different ways.

This book has set a high standard for the coming year and I highly recommend it to fans of Nordic Noir, who are looking for a novel that represents the pinnacle of the genre.

Bitter Flowers will be published on 21 January and you can pre-order your copy from all good bookshops or online here.

Please do check out the rest of the tour as detailed below:

BITTER FLOWERS BLOG TOUR 1 (1)

About the Author

Granite Noir Fest 2017
Granite Noir fest 2017. Gunnar Staalesen.

One of the fathers of Nordic Noir, Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway, in 1947. He made his debut at the age of twenty-two with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over twenty titles, which have been published in twenty-four countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Espen Seim. Staalesen has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour); Where Roses Never Die won the 2017 Petrona Award for Nordic Crime Fiction, and Big Sister was shortlisted in 2019. He lives with his wife in Bergen.

About the Translator

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Don Bartlett lives with his family in a village in Norfolk. He completed an MA in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia in 2000 and has since worked with a wide variety of Danish and Norwegian authors, including Jo Nesbø and Karl Ove Knausgaard. He has previously translated The Consort of DeathCold HeartWe Shall Inherit the WindWhere Roses Never Die and Wolves in the Dark in the Varg Veum series.

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