Blog Tour: Dead Secret by Noelle Holten #BookReview

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Psycopaths can take root in the unlikeliest soil…

DC Maggie Jamieson crosses paths once again with Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood when a domestic violence survivor stumbles into her new refuge, unable to speak, desperate for help.

Then another case hits Maggie’s desk. A young man has been murdered, and a curious constellation of black dots has been inked onto his cheek.

That’s when DCI Hastings goes missing and Maggie uncovers a shocking connection that turns the case on its head.

Every family may hide secrets, but not every family buries them…

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the paperback release of Dead Secret, Book 4 in the maggie Jamieson thriller series by Noelle Holten. It is no secret that I LOVE this series ( you can read my previous reviews here, here and here.) My thanks to Sarah Hardy of Books on the Bright Side Publicity for giving me a place on the tour, and to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Maggie Jamieson has become one of my favourite characters in detective fiction over recent years, so I was very keen to get back to finding out what was going on in her world. This time, one of their own is caught up in some trouble, just to ramp up the drama.

This book has two distinct storylines to follow. Firstly, Lucy has found an unidentifiable beaten woman at the gates of her as-yet-to-be-opened refuge and feels obliged to take her in. The woman is scared and reluctant to reveal her story; as a survivor herself Lucy sympathises and doesn’t pressure her, but is curious about what she has gone through. Then there is the body of the young man, killed in the woods by a blow to the head. Whilst the investigation into this is going on, it becomes apparent that Maggie’s DCI and his family are missing and may be in terrible danger. Is this enough chaos to keep you entertained?

It definitely was for me as, along with the police, I tried to follow the threads of the different investigations they were juggling. There seemed to be so many loose ends to follow and red herrings to eliminate, and the small team were pulled in all directions trying to follow the different leads, none of which made much sense to begin with. Quite how the author managed to plot all this out and keep it straight I have no idea, in my imagination the plot looks like an impossibly tangled ball of wool with just a few loose ends trailing out which, eventually and with great skill, Noelle manages to gently pull until it all unravels neatly and beautifully into a straight line. So clever.

I was honestly flummoxed through most of the book. I even had a suspicion about someone close to Maggie that has always been one of my favourite characters and now I feel quite guilty about that! Although I did guess one tiny aspect of the outcome, the big reveal I had no idea about and it came as a complete shock, which only happens in the best type of thriller.

Alongside the mystery, we delve further into Maggie’s complex love life and her own tussles with her relationship status and how she feels about it. The portrayal of Maggie as a confused and vulnerable person in her love life contrasts sharply with her confident, maverick work persona and lends her a depth that makes her a more likeable and relatable character. She is someone I become more and more fond of as the books progress, and it parts of what makes me so eager to come back to them each time a new one is released.

All in all, this is an entertaining thriller that makes for compulsive reading. If you are already a fan of the Maggie Jamieson thrillers, this new one will not disappoint. If not, what are you waiting for? Dive one now, you won’t regret it.

Dead Secret is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour and visit some other fab blogs:

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About the Author

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Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of risk cases as well as working in a multi agency setting. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, attending as many book festivals as she can afford and sharing the booklove via her blog. Dead Inside – her debut novel with One More Chapter/Harper Collins UK is an international kindle bestseller and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.

Connect with Noelle:

Website: https://crimebookjunkie.co.uk

Facebook: Noelle Holten Author

Twitter: @nholten40

Instagram: @crimebookjunkie

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Blog Tour: Under A Greek Moon by Carol Kirkwood #BookReview

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It’s my turn on the blog tour today for Under A Greek Moon by Carol Kirkwood and I want to thank Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Hollywood actress Shauna Jackson left the Greek island of Ithos twenty years ago and thought she would never return. Reeling from a scandal that has tarnished her success, she is drawn back to the beautiful olive groves and endless azure skies – and to the secrets she has tried hard to forget.

Looking down from his hilltop villa, enigmatic tycoon Demetrios Theodosis knows he can’t change the past, and looks to the future through his tempestuous daughter Ariana, but in trying to tame her free spirit, is he driving her further away?

Set against bleached white houses bounded by a sapphire sea, a yearning for the truth will compel them both to confront their shared past, and take them back to a distant summer that seemed to hold so much promise …

When I started reading this book, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The blurb makes it sound like a standard summer romance set on foreign shores. However, it starts out with a young girl being drawn into a glamorous world of money, fast cars and yachts where she is out of her depth and at the mercy of a playboy tycoon, so it initially read more like the start of a bonkbuster from the 1980s. In fact, the author even pays homage to Jackie Collins and Colleen McCullough early in the novel. Whichever of these genres the book was going to fall into was not going to be a problem for me, I love them both.

The story jumps around in time a little, between Shauna’s youth and the present day, so you need to pay attention to what is going on to keep up, but then the story is entertaining. Shauna is one of the luckiest people in the world, I have to say, with all the breaks she gets in her life. I wish just one of these things had ever happened to me, so be prepared to suspend your belief just a little. If you can do this, you will find a fun and intriguing story that will whisk you from Ireland to Monaco to Greece to LA, and from the student halls of Manchester to the Grimaldi palace. If you are looking for some pure escapism in you summer reading, this book will hit the spot.

Shauna is a sympathetic character to carry the story, and the author does a great job of getting the reader on side early in the book (despite her great dose of the luck of the Irish following her about). Demetrios is also a great character to play off against her. He is suitably ambiguous to begin with for the reader to wonder about his motives and worry about Shauna, but redeemable as we see things from his perspective as the book progresses. Carol also gives us some great minor characters to flesh out the story, Roxy and Nikos being my particular favourites.

I did enjoy this book, reading it over the course of only 24 hours. I loved the globe-trotting aspect particularly, and the glimpse into some of the sparkling worlds of monied Europe and Hollywood. However, I did feel that this book hadn’t quite decided what it wanted to be. Packaged as romance, but with bonkbuster undertones, I wish it had planted itself firmly in one camp or the other.

Under a Greek Moon is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats and will be published in paperback in November. You can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour for this book and see the opinions of some other great bloggers:

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About the Author

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 Carol Kirkwood is one of the BBC’s most loved TV presenters, best known for presenting the weather. She lights up viewers’ homes every day, appearing on programmes such as BBC Breakfast, Strictly Come Dancing, Wimbledon Tennis Fortnight, and Zoe Ball’s Radio 2 Breakfast Show.

She is hugely popular with fans and Carol frequently trends on Twitter. Beyond the television screen, she can often be found ensconced in a book, singing, dancing, and driving fast cars.

Connect with Carol:

Twitter: @carolkirkwood

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Blog Tour: Grown Ups by Marie Aubert; Translated by Rosie Hedger #BookReview

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Ida is a forty-year-old architect, single and starting to panic. She’s navigating Tinder and contemplating freezing her eggs, but forces these worries to the back of her mind as she sets off to the family cabin for her mother’s sixty-fifth birthday.

But family ties old and new begin to wear thin, out in the idyllic Norwegian countryside. Ida is fighting with her sister Marthe, flirting with Marthe’s husband and winning the favour of Marthe’s stepdaughter. Some supposedly wonderful news from her sister sets tensions simmering even further, building to an almighty clash between Ida and her sister, her mother, her whole family.

Exhilarating, funny and unexpectedly devastating, Grown Ups asks what kind of adult you are without a family of your own.

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour for Grown Ups by Marie Aubert. My thanks to Tara McEvoy of Pushkin Press for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, provided via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This was such a melancholic book to read, I wasn’t expecting it at all. We are following the story of Ida, as she goes out to her family’s holiday cabin on the edge of a fjord to celebrate her mother’s birthday, along with her stepfather, her sister and her sister’s family. Ida’s life isn’t going to plan at all. She is forty, alone and contemplating freezing her eggs before time runs out.

Ida is quite a hard character to like, to be honest. She seems pathologically jealous of her sister, to the point where she is actively destructive. I understand where she is coming from. Her sister is hugely annoying – demanding and self-centred – and everyone seems to pander to her. At least this is how it looks to Ida, and she feels side-lined by the rest of the family. I have three sisters, and sometimes they can wind me up because we are all very different people, but I would never behave to them the way Ida does. She seems quite sly, which is hard to warm to.

In fact, most of the people in this story, and it is a small cast, are quite dysfunctional. The one person who isn’t, probably because he is so peripheral, Ida hates, probably because he observations on her behaviour are so acute and she doesn’t like having her faults mirrored back at her. In fact, I am sure the author meant Stein to act a little as Ida’s conscience, not that she takes much notice of him.

This is an excoriating treatise on family relationships, and how some people’s are so transactional. If you don’t behave a certain way, affection can be withheld. It is a diatribe against the expectations society has, with the family acting as a microcosm of society here, on women and how women feel when they can’t meet those expectations. How it undermines their own opinion of themselves. I didn’t get the impression that Ida liked herself very much, she certainly isn’t happy, but I also wasn’t convinced she wanted the things she was pursuing particularly for herself, but because that is what society expects her to do.

The book is beautifully written, with very detailed and well-developed characters who were very realistic on the page. Perhaps too realistic. I fully believed in the relationships that were playing out on the page, and they made me deeply sad. It is astounding to me that this book was written by someone young, as it has such a world-weary air. It is a sorry reflection of modern society that this is how it still makes women feel when they do not conform to an outdated stereotype.

This is a fantastically crafted novel, with some beautiful imagery, impressive characterisation and thought-provoking themes. It reminded me of how I felt after reading Sarah Moss’s exceptional Summerwater last year. Moved but profoundly sad. If you are looking for something meaningful to read, look no further.

Grown Ups is out now in paperback and ebook formats, and you can buy a copy here.

Please make sure to visit some of the other blogs taking part in the tour for this book as detailed below:

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About the Author

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Marie Aubert made her debut in 2016 with the short story collection Can I Come Home With You, which sold more than 10,000 copies in Norway. Grown Ups is her first novel, and won the Young People’s Critics’ Prize (Norway’s equivalent to the Goncourt des lyceens) and was nominated for the Booksellers’ Prize. Rights have already been sold in ten other countries.

Connect with Marie:

Twitter: @marieau

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Blog Tour: Blooming Murder by Simon Whaley #BookReview

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I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for Blooming Murder by Simon Whaley. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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MURDER IS BLOSSOMING IN THE WELSH BORDERS.

Aldermaston’s having a bad day. A falling hanging-basket has killed the town’s mayor, and a second narrowly missed him. His wife wants him to build her new greenhouse in three days, and some nutter is sending him death threats.

This isn’t the quiet life he expected as the new Marquess of Mortiforde.

It’s the annual Borders in Blossom competition, and Mortiforde is battling with Portley Ridge in the final. But this is no parochial flower competition. The mayor’s mishap looks like murder, and there’s another body in the river. Someone desperately wants Portley Ridge to win for the fifteenth successive year.

So when a mysterious group of guerrilla gardeners suddenly carpet bomb Mortiforde with a series of stunning floral delights one night, a chain reaction of floral retaliation ensues.

Can Aldermaston survive long enough to uncover who is trying to kill him, and why? And can he get his wife’s greenhouse built in time?

This is the first book in a new cosy mystery series featuring, Aldermaston, the Marquess of Mortiforde. Mortiforde is a small market town on the Welsh borders and, at the start of the book they are taking part in the annual border towns flower competition, which they have lost the past fourteen years in a row. This year, they are desperate to break their duck, but someone in their rival town of Portley Bridge seems equally determined to stop them, even to the extent of murdering prominent citizens involved in the campaign. There is something very fishy going on, and Aldermaston is determined to get to the bottom of it.

This book is very, very funny. It is the literary equivalent of slapstick, where one ridiculous thing happens after another in the quest to win the accolade of most blooming market town. I mean, the whole premise if ludicrous, that people would be prepared to murder over a gardening competition, which makes it funny from the off. Of course, there is much more to the story than that, involving dark deeds and money, so the plot goes on convoluted twists and turns that make the story more and more ludicrous, which is all part of the fun. We do get to the bottom of who has been carrying out the murders and why at the end, but by this time we barely care, because we’ve had so much fun along the way. 

The best thing about the book are the characters. The author has created a cast of the most unusual and entertaining characters you can think of in this book. Aldermaston, newly made Marchioness of Mortiforde, is a reluctant inhabitor of the title and seems a little out of his depth through much of the book. His wife, Felicity, has been taken unexpectedly from her old life and thrust into society, where she is uncomfortable and unfulfilled. She makes a new friend in Letitia, who is my favourite character in the book and has set some old lady goals for my life for sure. Lisa and Mark are a great couple of supporting characters who I look forward to seeing more of, Lisa playing a kind of Watson to Aldermaston’s rural Sherlock. The villains are suitably ruthless, there are some other great cameos (‘Hortie’ being a particular highlight), and they all get up to some fabulous shenanigans.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it is a piece of ridiculous, riotous fun. If you are a fan of Midsomer Murders, with it pretty settings, eccentric characters and bizarre and convoluted murders, you will absolutely love this novel. I am really looking forward to the next in the series and can recommend this as a great few hours’ entertainment.

Blooming Murder is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please visit the other blogs taking part in the tour for this book for alternative opinions:

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About the Author

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Simon Whaley is an author, writer and photographer who lives in the hilly bit of Shropshire. Blooming Murder is the first in his Marquess of Mortiforde Mysteries, set in the idyllic Welsh Borders – a place many people struggle to locate on a map (including by some of those who live here). He’s written several non-fiction books, many if which contain his humorous take on the world, including the bestselling One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human and two editions in the hugely popular Bluffer’s Guide series (The Bluffer’s Guide to Dogs and The Bluffer’s Guide to Hiking). His short stories have appeared in Take A Break, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special, The Weekly News and The People’s Friend. Meanwhile his magazine articles have delighted readers in a variety of publications including BBC Countryfile, The People’s Friend, Coast, The Simple Things and Country Walking.

Simon lives in Shropshire (which just happens to be a Welsh Border county) and, when he gets stuck with his writing, he tramps the Shropshire hills looking for inspiration and something to photograph. Some of his photographs appear on the national and regional BBC weather broadcasts under his BBC WeatherWatcher nickname of Snapper Simon. (For those of you who don’t know, they get a lot of weather in Shropshire.)

Connect with Simon:

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

Facebook: Simon Whaley Author

Twitter: @simonwhaley

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Blog Tour: A Cut For A Cut by Carol Wyer #BookReview

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DI Kate Young can’t trust anybody. Not even herself.

In the bleak countryside around Blithfield Reservoir, a serial murderer and rapist is leaving a trail of bloodshed. His savage calling card: the word ‘MINE’ carved into each of his victims.

DI Kate Young struggles to get the case moving—even when one of the team’s own investigators is found dead in a dumpster. But Kate is battling her own demons. Obsessed with exposing Superintendent John Dickson and convinced there’s a conspiracy running deep in the force, she no longer knows who to trust. Kate’s crusade has already cost her dearly. What will she lose next?

When her stepsister spills a long-buried secret, Kate realises she’s found the missing link—now she must prove it before the killer strikes again. With enemies closing in on all sides, she’s prepared to do whatever it takes to bring them down. But time is running out, and Kate’s past has pushed her to the very edge. Can she stop herself from falling?

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for A Cut For a Cut by Carol Wyer, the second book in the Detective Kate Young series. I loved the first book, An Eye For An Eye (you can read my review of that book here) so I was really looking forward to reading this one. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me on to the tour and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Having stormed my way through this book, I am in awe of the fact that Kate Young is still functioning. She has so many different things to juggle in her life that the mere thought of them all has left me exhausted, but it sure makes for exciting reading.

Having solved the strange and brutal murders in the first book of this series, Kate is now faced with a series of equally violent and disturbing rapes scattered across her patch. With nothing more to link the victims than a physical similarity, and clues thin on the ground, the investigation is an uphill struggle, and she can do without the added pressure being placed upon her by her superiors. Particularly as there seems to be some blocking of her investigation going on from within the service. Is someone trying to make her fail?

As well as giving us a new tense investigation to follow, Carol cleverly weaves in the unsolved mystery from the previous book dealing with possible police corruption. Those of us who have been left hanging at the end of book one eagerly pounced on the fresh threads of the investigation into some of Kate’s colleagues, started by Kate’s deceased journalist husband, Chris. We know the stakes are high, and probing too deep could cost Kate her job, and possibly more, so the tension throughout the book is on a knife edge. The internal battles she has with herself, and her wavering mental state, are also gripping to read, and make for an interesting twist on the detective crime novel. Fans of Line of Duty will love this series!

An additional storyline features Kate’s estranged step-sister returning from Australia with her delightful nephew in tow. The girls have a complicated history, and there are bridges to be built, so it makes for an interesting personal perspective on Kate and her past, and a further difficult incursion on her work to read of. There is nothing better in a detective story than to be able to see the investigators as fully rounded and complex people, rather than just tools of investigation, it really makes the reader invest in the person and their success in solving the mystery. I defy any of you to read the book and not become personally involved in Kate’s life, both professionally and personally.

Carol has pulled off the great achievement again of giving this book a satisfactory conclusion, but leaving the door open for the next book and the reader needing  to know what happens next. She’s a crafty minx, that one. I also loved the fact that the books are set around the areas of Staffordshire & Derbyshire I know well – my partner currently living in Alrewas and myself having previously lived in Ashbourne- it is always interesting to see someone else’s perspective on familiar places (I had never heard of the Horn Dance though, I need to check this out!)

A fully satisfying read in a great series, when can I get the next one, please?

A Cut For A Cut is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

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USA Today bestselling author and winner of The People’s Book Prize Award, Carol Wyer writes feel-good comedies and gripping crime fiction.

A move from humour to the ‘dark side’ in 2017, saw the introduction of popular DI Robyn Carter in LITTLE GIRL LOST and demonstrated that stand-up comedian Carol had found her true niche.

To date, her crime novels have sold over 750,000 copies and been translated for various overseas markets.

Carol has been interviewed on numerous radio shows discussing ”Irritable Male Syndrome’ and ‘Ageing Disgracefully’ and on BBC Breakfast television. She has had articles published in national magazines ‘Woman’s Weekly’, featured in ‘Take A Break’, ‘Choice’, ‘Yours’ and ‘Woman’s Own’ magazines and the Huffington Post.

She currently lives on a windy hill in rural Staffordshire with her husband Mr Grumpy… who is very, very grumpy.

When she is not plotting devious murders, she can be found performing her comedy routine, Smile While You Still Have Teeth.

Connect with Carol:

Website: https://www.carolwyer.co.uk/

Facebook: Carol E. Wyer

Twitter: @carolewyer

Instagram: @carolwyer

Pinterest: carolewyer

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Blog Tour: This Much Huxley Knows by Gail Aldwin #BookReview

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I’m seven years old and I’ve never had a best mate. Trouble is, no one gets my jokes. And Breaks-it isn’t helping. Ha! You get it, don’t you? Brexit means everyone’s falling out and breaking up.

Huxley is growing up in the suburbs of London at a time of community tensions. To make matters worse, a gang of youths is targeting isolated residents. When Leonard, an elderly newcomer chats with Huxley, his parents are suspicious. But Huxley is lonely and thinks Leonard is too. Can they become friends?

Funny and compassionate, this contemporary novel for adults explores issues of belonging, friendship and what it means to trust.

I’m delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for This Much Huxley Knows by Gail Aldwin. My thanks to Gail for asking me to take part in the tour and for providing me with a digital copy of the book for the purposes of review. As always, I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This Much Huxley Knows is a very unusual but brilliantly crafted novel of observation on life, society and relationships, as seen through the eyes of a seven-year-old boy, which lends it refreshing honesty on the subject. Huxley experiences things without filter and, whilst he can’t always interpret everything he sees or hears, his bluntness in describing his experiences gives a brutal candour to events that enlightens and delights the adult reader that this book is aimed at.

Huxley is an awkward child, slightly out of kilter with his peers and starting to understand that he is not quite in sync with everyone around him, leading to a sense of loneliness and isolation that is quite heart-breaking to read. He longs to have a best friend, and his keen understanding that his closest friend might only be friends with him because their mums are close, is painful to read of. Whilst being noisy, disruptive and sometimes disobedient, Huxley has a good heart, and recognises his own feelings of isolation reflected in others – his neighbour Mrs Vartan, classmate Samira and neighbourhood outcast, Leonard. This sense of comradeship leads Huxley to reach out in friendship in ways that the adults surrounding him don’t understand and thus, causes alarm, but we wonder in the end who is most accurate in their assessment of others, the cynical adults or the open-minded and open- hearted little boy.

The author has done a quite astounding job of placing herself firmly in the shoes of this small child. Written in the first person entirely from Huxley’s perspective, I completely believed in Huxley’s voice throughout, and it felt totally authentic. The way he hears things but can’t quite interpret them, his natural curiosity, his obsession with crafting his trademark brand of ‘joke’ in every sentence and with Thomas the Tank Engine, were all immediately recognisable as the way children behave. The adults’ lack of awareness of how much Huxley is taking in and processing to begin with, and how he gradually makes them see him and take him seriously I recognised from my own parenting experience – children are like tiny sponges made up of big ears and nosiness – and Gail just brought the real experience of childhood to the page and used it to shine a light on human behaviour in a way that is frighteningly illuminating.

Huxley is a totally lovable character that I defy anyone not to adore by the end and the story is both painful and uplifting at the same time. Full of the genuine confusion, pain, joy and wonder of growing up, and an excoriating insight into the mistakes and follies of adults, this book is really unlike anything you have read before and I absolutely loved it. It has left me with a really warm glow and a feeling of satisfaction and I can’t recommend it highly enough for something quite out of the norm but hugely rewarding.

This Much Huxley Knows will be published in ebook and paperback formats on 8 July and you can preorder a copy here.

Please make sure you check out the upcoming stops on the tour for alternative reviews:

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About the Author

1. Gail Aldwin H&S

Novelist, poet and scriptwriter, Gail Aldwin’s debut coming-of-age novel The String Games was a finalist in The People’s Book Prize and the DLF Writing Prize 2020. Following a stint as a university lecturer, Gail’s children’s picture book Pandemonium was published. Gail loves to appear at national and international literary and fringe festivals. Prior to Covid-19, she volunteered at Bidibidi in Uganda, the second largest refugee settlement in the world. When she’s not gallivanting around, Gail writes at her home overlooking water meadows in Dorset.

Connect with Gail:

Website: https://gailaldwin.com/

Facebook: Gail Aldwin

Twitter: @gailaldwin

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Blog Tour: A Racing Murder by Frances Evesham #BookReview

A Racing Murder

Delighted to be taking my turn on the tour today for A Racing Murder by Frances Evesham. 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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A winning horse. A fierce rivalry. A sudden death. 

Belinda Sandford thrills to the cheers of the crowd as her beautiful grey racehorse, ‘Butterfly Charm’, thunders past the finishing post first at Wincanton Racecourse. She feels like the luckiest girl in the world.

But joy soon turns to despair as a stewards’ enquiry overturns the result and awards the race to her long-time rival, Alexandra Deacon.

When Alex is found dead in suspicious circumstances, a host of accusing eyes turn to Belinda and her distraught mother begs Adam Hennessy, her neighbour, retired police officer and publican, to help clear her daughter’s name.

As Adam, and local hotelier Imogen Bishop, dig deep into the murky and powerful undercurrents of the horse racing world, they lay bare the lives and loves of local jockeys, grooms, trainers and owners. 

They soon uncover a web of secrets hidden within the spectacular Somerset countryside as they strive to find the killer in time to prevent more murders.

I absolutely love a mystery set in the world of racing – Dick Francis is one of my all-time favourite authors – so I jumped at the chance to read and review this book, despite the fact that I had not read the first Ham Hill mystery book. The fact that I was new to the series did not matter at all, this book works perfectly well as a standalone, but it did make me want to go back and read A Village Murder, which is the first book.

The book is set in a quaint, rural village in Somerset, as you would expect for a cosy, murder mystery, with picturesque houses, a lovely hotel and snug pub… and all the usual bickering, rivalry and intrigue that seems to abound in such backwaters. I live in a small village in Yorkshire and we never have any murders, but the rest of the plot rings very true as to the goings on in a rural setting. They are always gossip central, and no one can ever keep anything quiet, so the idea that a group of locals could solve a murder through wagging tongues and their personal contacts I find entirely feasible!

I really love the gang of characters that the author has created here, especially Imogen and Adam and the friendship between them. They are very authentic, well-rounded and likeable characters, and I love the way Frances has included intrigue and tension in their personal lives, as well as the murder mystery, to push the plot along. In fact, it is the characterisation in particular that has made me want to go back and read the first book in the series and find out more of their back stories, although there is enough information contained in this book to enable the reader to enjoy this storyline without making that necessary.

The murder plot is gentle, not especially gory, but entertaining and diverting and kept me guessing throughout. I loved the peek inside the world of racing and thought Frances had captured that world very well compared to other books I have read written by people actually involved in it (as I said, I am a fan of the genre, and I come from a town where horse-racing is one of our biggest industries). Frances’s writing is very engaging and extremely easy to read, so the pages just slip by. This is a book you can easily devour in one indulgent afternoon without any strain, and you will probably want to as you race to find out whodunnit.

A great book for fans of M.C. Beaton, Betty Rowlands and other cosy mystery writers. Lovely setting, attractive characters and an enticing and gripping plot, what more can you ask for from a book? Thoroughly enjoyable.

A Racing Murder is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Please do visit some of the other blogs taking part in the tour for this book:

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About the Author

IMG_1626 frances evesham

Frances Evesham is the bestelling author of the hugely successful Exham-on-Sea murder mysteries set in her home county of Somerset, and the Ham-Hill cosy crime series set in South Somerset.

Connect with Frances:

Facebook: Frances Evesham Writer

Twitter: @FrancesEvesham

Instagram: @francesevesham

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Blog Tour: Blue Hawaiian by Carla Luna #BookReview

Blue Hawaiian

Today is my turn on the blog tour for Blue Hawaiian by Carla Luna. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part, and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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The first rule of serving as the maid of honor at your perfect sister’s destination wedding?

No mistakes. The second rule? No drama.

For Jess Chavez, a week in Maui is hardly a dream vacation—not when her sister expects her to be the perfect maid of honor. Not only does Jess have to fake perfection, but she can’t let anyone know she’s unemployed and barely scraping by. Above all, she needs to steer clear of Connor Blackwood, the sexy groomsman who broke her heart five years ago.

A family wedding offers Connor the ideal opportunity to convince everyone he’s no longer an irresponsible playboy. If they see he’s changed, they might support his decision to leave the family winery and strike out on his own. With so much at stake, the last thing he needs is an alluring distraction like Jess.

When Jess and Connor end up together, exploring the island’s lush, tropical beauty, the sparks between them become impossible to ignore. Throwing caution to the wind, they decide to make their own rules.

Five days of passion. No strings. No tears. No promises.

What could possibly go wrong?

I don’t read a lot of romance focused on the American market. Their tastes in love stories tend to towards the saccharine, which doesn’t always appeal to the more cynical British sensibilities, and I normally prefer something a little more realistic (I know some people will argue that UK-focused romance books are also unrealistic, that’s a debate for a different post!). However, Blue Hawaiian, is a different type of book, and one I enjoyed much more than the sugar-sweet options.

The story is told from the perspectives of two protagonists, Jess and Connor, who have known each other since they were children. The couple have a chequered romantic history, so being thrown together at a tense family wedding was always going to be stressful, never mind that they are both the black sheep of their respective families who have the burden of trying to show they are being responsible to their relatives for different reasons.

So far, so great. We have troubled romantic history, a wedding, family tensions and the beautiful setting of Hawaii to satisfy the armchair traveller in me. Jess and Connor are both young and attractive, and the sexual tension between them crackles off the page, so all the elements for a great romance are there.

The author has done a fantastic job in this book of drawing some wonderful characters. I absolutely loved Jess, who is ballsy and strong and independent, yet still riddled with flaws and doubts and behaves imperfectly. Connor is sexy and flawed, but fundamentally a good person, and they are obviously meant to be together, so watching them bumble about getting it wrong is frustrating and entertaining in the way all great romances are. I identified strongly with Jess’s stressed, perfectionist older sister Gabi, absolutely adored Brody, and thought the family relationships were drawn very honestly. The book had plenty of action and tension throughout, so it kept rolling along at an entertaining pace, with no flaccid periods.

The book is quite raunchy in places, so don’t be expecting a sweet romance and people who don’y like steamy scenes will need to avoid those. I personally enjoyed it and thought like it was an honest portrayal of how young people feel and behave. The whole book was a refreshing change for me, because it is obviously not a romance written by a British writer, but was not the overly-cute American love story that you often find. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Fresh, sparky and sexy, a very entertaining read.

Blue Hawaiian is out now in ebook and paperback formats, and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure to visit some of the other blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Carla Luna writes contemporary romance with a dollop of humor and a pinch of spice. A former archaeologist, she still dreams of traveling to far-off places and channels that wanderlust into the settings of her stories. When she’s not writing, she works in a spice emporium where she gets paid to discuss food and share her favorite recipes. Her passions include Broadway musicals, baking, whimsical office supplies, and pop culture podcasts. Though she has roots in Los Angeles and Victoria, B.C., she currently resides in Wisconsin with her family and her spoiled Siberian cat.

Connect with Carla:

Website: https://www.carlalunabooks.com/

Facebook: Carla Luna Author

Twitter: @casacullen

Instagram: @carlalunacullen

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Blog Tour: The Love Island Bookshop by Kate Frost #BookReview

The Love Island Bookshop

I am delighted to be one of the blogs kicking off the tour today for The Love Island Bookshop by Kate Frost. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for allowing me to take part in the tour and to the author for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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A dream job, two handsome men, one destructive act. Will Freya’s opportunity of a lifetime end in tears?

When Freya leaves her publishing job in London to be a barefoot bookseller in the Maldives, it’s the push she needs to move on from her sadness and reignite her passion for life.

While resort owner Zander is charming, it’s handsome dive instructor Aaron who befriends her when she needs it most. But all is not what it seems and there’s trouble brewing in paradise.

Taking a chance on happiness is harder than she imagined. Can Freya let go of her heartache and allow herself to fall in love again?

I am sure I am not the only book lover who saw the job advertisement for someone to run a book shop on a tropical island a few years ago and thought it was their dream job. I even thought seriously for a few moments about ditching my OH and the kids and applying anyway, then reality reasserted itself and I filed it away as a lovely daydream. Kate Frost took a different route and used it as inspiration for a book. A book through which I now get to live out my fantasy of running that bookshop in paradise.

Here we are whisked away to the Maldives, where Freya is the lucky person from thousands who has been hired by a handsome and wealthy resort owner to run a ‘barefoot bookshop’ at his luxurious couples-only hotel. It really is a dream come true, but Freya is also running away from problems in her life back home, and we all know how well that usually works! Of course, new friends, and attractive dive instructor, Aaron, may provide the distractions she needs.

Freya is very relatable as a character (aside from being the lucky one to get the job of a lifetime!) and I really felt for her and the pain she was in for various reasons. Of course, running away was never going to solve them, but it’s a glorious excuse to explore the idea of a bookshop in paradise, and her problems are very real nonetheless. The book was perhaps more serious in tone than I had been anticipating from the blurb and the cover, but this did not diminish my enjoyment of it.

The romance aspects play out quite quickly, and the book provides two very different, and enticing, love interests for Freya. There are surprising twists and turns along the way which kept me interested, and I didn’t see some of the events which happened coming. Again, there are some quite serious things that happen, that take this book out of the realm of the light and fluffy romcom. Having not read any of Kate’s previous Romantic Escape’s novels, I wasn’t aware of exactly where her books fell in the romance genre, I am sure her fans will know what to expect. For other readers, this book is a well-written romance novel, but not a romcom.

If I had a minor niggle, I probably would have liked more description of time spent in actually running the bookshop, as that concept was what attracted me to the book, but that would be a very minor niggle. What is done brilliantly is the descriptions of the resort in the Maldives, I had a really clear image of the whole island in my mind from what was written on the page and, if a trip to the Maldives doesn’t make it on to your bucket list after reading this, you are an odd fish!

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed The Love Island Bookshop, to the extent that, as soon as I finished it, I downloaded The Baobab Beach Retreat to my Kindle. (If you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, as I am, all of Kate’s Romantic Escapes books are currently included in your subscription.) I really enjoyed her plotting, her characterisation and her voice and am keen to read more.

A perfect read for anyone who wants to go armchair travelling this summer, in place of an actual overseas holiday (which looks like most of us at this stage!). Highly recommended.

The Love Island Bookshop is out now in paperback and ebook formats, and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you visit the other marvellous blogs taking part in the tour for this book for alternative reviews:

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About the Author

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Kate Frost is the author of best-selling romantic escape novels (The Baobab Beach Retreat, A Starlit Summer, The Greek Heart and The Amsterdam Affair), character-driven women’s fiction (The Butterfly Storm series and Beneath the Apple Blossom), and Time Shifters, a time travel adventure trilogy for children. She has a MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University, where she also taught lifewriting to creative writing undergraduates.

Kate lives in Bristol with her husband, young son, and their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Frodo. As well as writing novels, she’s also the Director of Storytale Festival, a new city-wide children’s book festival that she co-founded in Bristol in 2019 with the ethos of making books accessible to all and encouraging children and teens to read, write and be creative. Kate feels incredibly lucky to spend her days writing and being immersed in books. 

Connect with Kate:

Website: http://kate-frost.co.uk/

Facebook: Kate Frost

Twitter: @katefrostauthor

Instagram: @katefrostauthor

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Blog Tour: Summer at the Chateau by Jennifer Bohnet #BookReview

Summer at the Chateau

It is my turn on the blog tour today for Summer at the Chateau by Jennifer Bohnet and I’m thrilled to be sharing my review. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for giving me a place on the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Every end has a new beginning…

When Pixie Sampson’s husband tragically dies, she inherits the beautiful Château Quiltu in Brittany, Northern France.

But unbeknown to her, she also inherits a mysterious lodger, Justine Martin and her 4-year-old son Ferdie.

Heartbroken and with her adventurous Mum, Gwen, in tow, they travel to France to put the Château on the market but are soon drawn into a quest to seek the Château’s secrets.

Who is Justine? Why is she living at the Château? How did she know her husband?

Over the Summer months, the Château fills with family and laughter and secrets are discovered and old wounds begin to heal.

Sometimes you are just looking for a gentle read that doesn’t demand too much from you, but just transports you to a distant place for a relaxed, armchair holiday where you can take in the sights and sounds of a foreign land without any strain, and meander through a quiet family story without too much drama. If this is the case, you could do a lot worse than pick up this delightful book by Jennifer Bohnet, but watch out for the hidden riptides of surprise and emotion seething below the surface!

We start just after the tragic death of Pixie’s husband and the discovery that she is the full owner of a small chateau in France. With her feisty mother in tow, Pixie decides to travel to France and prepare the chateau for sale. Once she gets there, however, she discovers there is a lodger in situ and begins to wonder what secrets her laste husband may have been hiding from her.

The first half of this book is laid-back read, albeit tinged with tragedy as Pixie tries to come to terms with her husband’s death and the discovery of things he hadn’t told her. We travel to France, and the author beautifully brings the countryside of Brittany to life for the reader. One of the reasons I really love Jennifer Bohnet’s writing is that she always manages to perfectly evoke the sense of place of her book’s setting so that you can enjoy it with each of your senses, as if you are really there with the characters.

In the second half of the book, the pace quickens as more family members turn up in France to join Pixie and her mum, and the secrets are gradually revealed. The family relationships are at the heart of this book, and are what really appealed to me about the plot. I loved the relationship between Pixie and her mum, Gwen, and the fact that the story centres around two older protagonists is refreshing and appealing. The dynamics between all of the relatives are honest and realistic and, as someone who comes from a large, rowdy and ever-changing family myself, it felt very familiar. This is a story all about family, love and how we can hurt and heal one another together and I loved that about it.

The book deals with some very painful problems for this family, and I could sympathise with the characters being put through the wringer as facts come to light. Of course, this being the type of book it is, all gets resolved before the end in a very satisfying way, but this does not lessen the anguish of the characters before they get there. Don’t let the cover and the genre fool you, there is some real meat on the bones of this story, and it gives you plenty to chew over amongst the pretty French countryside and within the walls of the charming chateau. This is no bubblegum novel, it is a rewarding read that offers plenty of emotion to anyone who slips between its covers.

Highly recommended to fans of this genre, this is another hit from Jennifer Bohnet that I enjoyed a great deal.

Summer at the Chateau is out now in all formats, and you can buy your copy here.

Make sure you check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Jennifer Bohnet is the bestselling author of over 12 women’s fiction titles, including Villa of Sun and Secrets and A Riviera Retreat. She is originally from the West Country but now lives in the wilds of rural Brittany, France.

Connect with Jennifer:

Facebook: Jennifer Bohnet

Twitter: @jenniewriter

Instagram: @jenniewriter

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