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:

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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.

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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:

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About the Author

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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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Blog Tour: Fall by West Camel

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My final blog tour of 2022, where did that year go? And what a wonderful book to be rounding off the year, it’s Fall by West Camel. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for offering me a spot and to Orenda Books for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Fall proof cover

Twins Aaron and Clive have been estranged for forty years. Aaron still lives in the empty, crumbling tower block on the riverside in Deptford where they grew up. Clive is a successful property developer, determined to turn the tower into luxury flats.

But Aaron is blocking the plan and their petty squabble becomes something much greater when two ghosts from the past – twins Annette and Christine – appear in the tower. At once, the desolate estate becomes a stage on which the events of one scorching summer are relived – a summer that changed their lives forever.

Evocative, thought-provoking and exquisitely written, Fall is an unforgettable story of friendship and family – of perception, fear and prejudice, the events that punctuate our journeys into adulthood, and the indelible scars they leave…

I’ve had an absolutely horrible couple of weeks for various reasons and, as a result, have been subsisting on a literary diet of only Christmas books in an effort to cheer myself up and force a festive mood. Stepping outside of this groove and into the world of Fall was a jolt to the system, one which has left me profoundly moved, unsettled and with a lingering questioning about the story I have just read. I’ve left part of my soul in the world of Fall, and replaced it with a piece of the book.

There are so many ideas and issues explored in this book, that it’s hard to take in all in in the first reading, I know it is a book that needs to be returned to to squeeze all of the nuance out of it. However, the overriding theme that drew my focus and attention on the first reading was family. Familial relationships, how those bonds are forged, what makes them strong and what can break them. How much can you ever really know and understand another person, even one with whom you shared a womb, and how much do you trust them, when the bonds of trust are stretched to their limits?

The main characters in this book, twins Aaron and Clive, and their forceful mother, Zoe, are some of the most perfectly drawn characters I have read in a very long time, and it is the beauty and strength and believability of these characters that carried this book and makes it so compelling. The relationships just feel so truthful and honest. As the step-mother of a pair of twins who are currently of the age that Aaron and Clive are in 1976, when the catalytic event of the book takes place, I can see how honest the portrayal of the relationship between them is. Two people, whose lives have been completely entwined since birth, beginning to pull away and forge different paths, and then a dramatic turn of events forces a fracture. I totally bought in to the story and it slightly cracked my heart, because I can see how harmful the situation is. The actions of their mother were astounding to me, it was so obvious how damaging they could prove, and she immediately became a different, and more complex and interesting character in my eyes. The whole story left me with an aching heart and, what more can you ask from a novel, than it really makes you feel something?

West’s writing is beautiful and lyrical and illuminating. He brought not only the people but also the setting to vivid life. I have such a clear picture of the housing estate, the people that live there and the dynamic between all of the characters. This is a book that is living and breathing and vital, and reading it is an immersive and active activity, not a passive experience. I practically inhaled the novel in one sitting, not wanting to break the spell that the author wove around me, not wanting to extricate myself from the world into which he had drawn me so completely.

This is a dark, gritty and painful story of mistrust and abandonment, of broken relationships and painful experiences but, at the same time, I completely loved it. Because it was such an emotive reading experience, because it has left me with a lingering disquiet but a perverse desire to go back and draw more from the story. Because it profoundly affected me in so many different ways. A masterclass in how to write a novel. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Fall is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Do make sure you check out some of the other fabulous blogs that have taken part in the epic tour for this book, as detailed below:

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About the Author

West Camel

Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in higher education and business before turning his attention to the arts and publishing. He has worked as a book and arts journalist, and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press Orenda Books just after its launch. He currently combines his work as editorial director at Orenda with editing The Riveter magazine and #RivetingReviews for the European Literature Network.

He has also written several short scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres, and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. His debut novel, Attend was published in 2018, and was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize and longlisted for the Waverton Good Read Award. His second novel, Fall will be published in December 2021.

Connect with West:

Website: https://www.westcamel.net

Twitter: @west_camel

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Blog Tour: Blue Running by Lori Ann Stephens

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Fourteen-year-old Bluebonnet Andrews is on the run across the Republic of Texas. An accident with a gun killed her best friend but everyone in the town of Blessing thinks it was murder. Even her father – the town’s drunken deputy – believes she did it. Now, she has no choice but to run. In Texas, murder is punishable by death.

There’s no one to help her. Her father is incapable and her mother left the state on the last flight to America before the secession. Blue doesn’t know where she is but she’s determined to track her down. First she has to get across the lawless Republic and over the wall that keeps everyone in.

On the road she meets Jet, a pregnant young woman of Latin American heritage. Jet is secretive about her past but she’s just as determined as Blue to get out of Texas before she’s caught and arrested. Together, the two form an unlikely kinship as they make their way past marauding motorcycle gangs, the ever watchful Texas Rangers, and armed strangers intent on abducting them – or worse. When Blue and Jet finally reach the wall, will they be able to cross the border, or will they be shot down in cold blood like the thousands who have gone before them?

Some things are worth dying for.

I am delighted to be one of the blogs opening the tour for the first UK-published title by author, Lori Ann Stephens. Blue Running is a book for both adults and young adults, addressing issues of feminism, nationalism, women’s rights, racial injustice, immigration and gun ownership. My thanks to Midas PR for inviting me to take part and to the author and publisher for providing me with a copy of the book for the purposes of review. As always, I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

This is a really compelling and engaging book with a fascinating premise. Set in a slightly dystopian future, the state of Texas has ceded from the United States and now operates as an autonomous Republic, separated from the rest of America by a wall, no one is allowed in or out. The wall is guarded, not only by official Border Guards but also by trigger-happy vigilantes eager to bag illegal immigrants or emigrants. And in this Texas, everyone is required to carry a gun by law. The Republic is very right wing and very religious, and rights are suitably restricted, especially for women. The scariest thing about this book is how entirely plausible the story is.

The protagonist, Blue, comes from a family riven by the cession so, when she suddenly and unfairly finds herself on the wrong side of the law, she feels like she has no option but to go on the run. Over the course of her flight, she is forced to question everything she has been brought up to believe, and learns to stand on her own two feet and discover her own version of right and wrong.

Blue is such a fantastic character to carry this book. At the beginning she is a little naive in the ways of the wider world, but also old beyond her years because of what she has had to deal with due to her absent mother and alcoholic father. She is an endearing mix of toughness and vulnerability and this makes her a person who quickly gets under your skin and makes you want the best for her. The unfairness of the situation she finds herself in, combined with the danger of the outside world that she is thrust into will have you on the edge of your seat throughout and willing her on to get to safety. You will be shouting at her who to trust and who to avoid, wanting to avenge the wrongs done to her and protect the people she cares for. This book is really affecting, and I raced though it to find out what happened.

Blue desperately wants things to be fair, to be able to trust and believe in the people and the ideals that she has been raised to respect, but the world is corrupt and those in charge are the worst of all. Things are not as black and white as she has always thought, and she is struggling to navigate this new world whilst rapidly maturing herself. This is a book of self-discovery, which also explores such important and topical issues of feminism, human rights, gun control, immigration and social injustice. There is so much going on, it will really make you think whilst keeping you entertained from beginning to end. This is a book that will appeal to adults and young adults, and would actually provide a great kicking off point for discussions on some of these topics with teenagers who are just starting to explore these ideas.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the writing, characterisation and the plotting are all excellent and it is a really great read. I highly recommend it, and look forward to seeing what comes next from this author.

Blue Running will be published on 2 December in ebook, audiobook and hardback formats and you can pre-order a copy here.

Please make sure you check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for alternative reviews:

About the Author

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Lori Ann Stephens is the award-winning author of novels for adults and children, including 2018’s Middle Grade novels NOVALEE AND THE SPIDER SECRET (Dragonfeather Books) and PIERRE FRANÇOIS: 5TH GRADE MISHAPS. SOME ACT OF VISION (ASD Press) was the 2013 YA novel winner of the National Readers’ Choice Award, hosted by the Romance Writers of America, OK. She’s also the author of SONG OF THE ORANGE MOONS (Blooming Tree Press, Nov 2010) and several short stories, poems, and opera libretti. When she’s not writing or teaching writing, she reads, takes on DIY home remodeling adventures, and eats the best gourmet, home-cooked meals. She is usually not the cook. She lives in Texas with her family.

Connect with Lori:

Website: https://www.loriannstephens.com/

Facebook: Lori Ann Stephens Writes

Twitter: @lorifromtexas

Instagram: @jolietexas

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Blog Tour: Christmas Carols and a Cornish Cream Tea by Cressida McLaughlin

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All Meredith Verren has ever wanted is to escape the holiday season without having to wear a Christmas jumper. Her new job at the cosy gift shop in a picturesque Cornish tourist spot is making it impossible for her to maintain her scrooge-like manner.

With their seasonal hampers on everyone’s wish list, Meredith must paste on a smile and fake some holiday cheer. Then she meets handsome new arrival, Finn, who wishes it could be Christmas every day and wants her to feel the same way too.

Can she embrace the holly and the ivy before the decorations are packed away for another year?

What could be more perfect for my first Christmas book of the season than the lastest book in one of my favourite series by one of my favourite authors? Nothing is the answer, which is why I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Christmas Carols and a Cornish Cream Tea by Cressida McLaughlin, which was published yesterday. Huge thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publicity team at HarperCollins for providing me with a copy of the book for purposes of review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially as always.

This is the latest book in the Cornish Cream Tea series but the action moves in this book from Porthgolow to the nearby town of Port Karadow, where we meet a new character, Meredith, who is not a big fan of Christmas. This is a bit of a disadvantage when she works in a gift shop and is in charge of pushing and promoting products for the Christmas season. When her neighbour has her house decorated like the outside of the Rockefeller Centre and her best friend is planning the Christmas light display for the town. Christmas is everywhere, and there is no avoiding it, however much she might try.

There is nothing more delightful than a Christmas book set in Cornwall, and Cressida has milked the opportunities presented by this premise to the max. This book is bedecked with as much glitter, cosiness and festive cheer as you could possibly hope for, it is the knobbliest, fullest Christmas stocking of a book that you could possibly pick up and will get you perfectly in the mood for the Christmas season. There are lights, parades, carolling, parties and celebrations galore and you’ll wish you were spending Christmas at Port Karadow by the end of it.

On top of this, Meredith meets a man who charms, thrills and infuriates her all at the same time. Finn has come into Meredith’s life to teach her the real meaning of Christmas and show her that she can enjoy this time of year if she just starts to look at it differently. But Finn has issues of his own, can Meredith help him in return? I absolutely loved the way the relationship developed between Finn and Meredith. I was completely in love with both of them by the end of the book, to the point where I had a real lump in my throat and a tear in my eye at the denouement of the book.

This was only very loosely connected to the Cornish Cream Tea series, and for me this book had a different feel from the previous ones, but this isn’t a negative thing, it is nice to see Cressida taking the books in a fresh direction and I really enjoyed the new characters and setting introduced here. I am really looking forward to seeing what comes next since, in a recent interview, Cressida has confirmed that there are more stories to come in this series. Who wouldn’t want to pay more visits to the beautiful Cornish coast for more romantic encounters?

Christmas Carols and a Cornish Cream Tea is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Please do check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for alternative reviews and other great content:

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About the Author

Cressida Author pic

Cressy was born in South East London surrounded by books and with a cat named after Lawrence of Arabia. She studied English at the University of East Anglia and now lives in Norwich with her husband David. When she isn’t writing, Cressy spends her spare time reading, returning to London or exploring the beautiful Norfolk coastline.

Connect with Cressida:

Website: https://www.cressidamclaughlin.com/

Facebook: Cressida McLaughlin Author

Twitter: @CressMcLaughlin

Instagram: @cressmclaughlin

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Blog Tour: A Match Made in Venice by Leonie Mack

A Match Made In Venice

My turn on the blog tour today for A Match Made in Venice by Leonie Mack. I cannot tell you how much I have been looking forward to reading this book. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher and author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Escape to the breath-taking beauty of Venice – The City of Love.

When pragmatic, sensible and resolutely single Deirdre York (Didi to her friends) is sent to Venice for work she is determined not to be taken in by the romantic clichés. Winter in the floating city may be breathtakingly beautiful, but she’s here with a clear purpose and will not let the magic of Venice distract her.

Piero Zanetti is the epitome of the handsome yet tortured artist. Heart-broken by the end of his love affair with a glamorous opera singer, he has lost his ability to work, and his inspiration has drained away, along with his zest for life.

But Didi needs Piero working – she has been tasked with commissioning him to do a glass centrepiece for a luxury department store Christmas display – some how Didi has to cheer Piero up or at least find him a new muse…

As Didi and Piero slowly become friends, and as Venice starts to melt Didi’s heart and gently nudge Piero out of the blues, something special begins to happen. Can Venice – the City of Love – work a Christmas miracle and help Didi and Piero to find their happiness at last…

My first festive read of the year!

Or so I thought, but the cover of the book and the blurb are a little bit deceptive in this regard, because this isn’t really a Christmas book in the traditional sense of being set at, or revolving entirely around, Christmas. It begins shortly before the festive season and briefly touches on Christmas, and the design of Christmas window display is the hook that unites the male and female protagonists, but Christmas is not the main theme. This didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book, but don’t go into this book thinking you are settling down for a Christmas read.

The book is set in Venice mainly in the winter months either side of Christmas and, for me, exploring Venice at this time of year was one of the big positives of the book. Venice is a place I have only visited and read about and seen in movies in the summer time, so to read the descriptions of how it is in winter, when the streets are not rammed with tourists and the city takes on a completely different mantle, was fascinating. Also, we are guided around the city by Piero, a native Venetian, and we get to see the city as Didi does, through the eyes of an English girl exploring with a local guide. Leonie really brings the city to life, and the book is filled with evocative detail that immediately transports you to Italy, Venice and all the romance it promises. This is a place I am hoping myself to revisit soon (I have been dropping more than enough hints to The Irishman about where I’d like to go for my 50th birthday this year) so having this sneak, better-be-a-preview-or-someone-will-be-in-trouble was a real pleasure.

The characters in this book were easy to warm to immediately. Piero does sterling work as the handsome-but-tortured Italian artist that you would be disappointed not to have as the romantic interest. However, I found Didi, unconventional and down-to-earth, a refreshing protagonist. She did not come across as the typical heroine and I found her all the more charming for it. Both of them have troubled family dynamics that are played out in the book and which draw them together, and I found their relationship completely believable and utterly charming. I was carried along by their growing closeness from beginning to end and was left with a warm glow by the end of the novel, as much as I could possibly wish for in such a novel.

A Match Made in Venice is the perfect book to snuggle up with in these autumn months when the nights are drawing in and the temperature is dropping. You will be transported to Venice, with all its romance and beauty, and be warmed by the developing romance between Didi and Piero amongst its shimmering lights. Totally delightful in every respect, just not a Christmas book.

A Match Made in Venice is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Please make sure you check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for more great reviews and features:

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About the Author

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Leonie Mack is an author of romantic comedies with great international locations. Having lived in London for many years her home is now in Germany with her husband and three children. Leonie loves train travel, medieval towns, hiking and happy endings!

Connect with Leonie:

Website: https://leoniemack.com/

Facebook: Leonie Mack

Twitter: @LeonieMAuthor

Instagram: @leoniejmack

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Blog Tour: The Forgotten Maid by Jane Cable

The Forgotten Maid

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for the latest book by one of my favourite RNA authors, Jane Cable. The book is The Forgotten Maid, a dual timeline novel set in picturesque Cornwall. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources 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.

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Two centuries apart, two lonely women seek a place to call home…

Cornwall, England, 2015

Nomadic project manager Anna Pritchard has arrived in the village of Porthnevek to oversee the construction of a trendy new glamping site. But with many members of the local community strongly opposed to the development, she quickly finds herself ostracised and isolated.

Seeking to ease her loneliness, Anna begins volunteering at a nearby National Trust house in Trelissick, once owned by the aristocratic Daniell family. In her new role, Anna soon feels her attachment to both Porthnevek and Trelissick deepening. And as she spends more and more time steeped in local history, it seems that the past and the present are beginning to collide…

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After losing her brother in the Battle of Waterloo, French army seamstress Thérèse Ruguel is taken to London by war artist Thomas Chalmers, becoming his reluctant muse. But with Thomas’s mother unhappy with the arrangement, Thérèse is soon sent to Cornwall as a lady’s maid to Elizabeth Daniell, a kindly relative of the Chalmers family.

Able to speak only a little English — and with the other servants suspicious of her — Thérèse feels lost and alienated. And when she discovers her brother may still be alive, she must decide whether to continue with her new life in England, or brave the dangerous journey back to her homeland…

What became of Thérèse? Can Anna unearth the ghosts of the past?

And has Anna finally found where she belongs…?

This book promises everything I love in a book. Gorgeous Cornish setting? Check. Dual timeline? Check. Exploring a fascinating period of history? Check. I went into it full of anticipation and I can tell you, the book fulfilled its promise in every respect.

The main protagonist is Anna, a rootless young woman who moves from project site to project site around the country with nowhere to call home and some unspecified trouble in her recent past that she can’t quite shake. When she arrives in Porthnevek, she is drawn to the wild beauty of the place, as well as its rich history, but is shocked at the hostility of the locals. She manages to carve out a little community for herself nevertheless, but becomes intrigued by one historical figure in particular.

Back in the Regency period, another young woman is feeling displaced, this time by war and loss, and is equally foreign and friendless in Cornwall. However, she has a saviour in her kind mistress and begins to settle into a new life, until her past also comes back to haunt her.

The parallels in the lives of Anna and Therese are subtly drawn but compelling, and I was equally entranced by the lives of these very different but connected women, separated by two hundred years of history. I had never really given any thought to what might happen to women affected by war in the 1800s, so Therese’s plight but an interesting and fresh spin on the Regency aspect of the story. We still get to read about all of the fabulous balls and social events that form the backbone of Regency novels, but the focus here in more on what happens below stairs and behind closed doors for women who have even fewer options than the monied classes. It is a sobering lesson in how far feminism has come in 200 years.

The detail of the effects of industrialisation on Cornwall, and the vast differences in benefits for the owners and the workers was also woven into the story beautifully and was enlightening. I personally love a book that I feel is teaching me something I didn’t know whilst I am reading it, and Jane has clearly done a lot of research for this book so it feels historically accurate. At the same time, you are not bombarded with historical fact, the balance the author has achieved is perfect.

This is also true in the division of the story between Anna and Therese. I liked the fact that the story switched between the timeline in chunks, rather than chapter to chapter. It allows the reader to develop and maintain a connection to each woman, rather than flitting between the two constantly, which can sometimes interrupt the establishment of relationship between the reader and the characters. I really felt immersed in each story and time period when I was reading those chapters. This was a book in which I did feel like I completely lost myself, and the read flew by very quickly, always the sign that I am engrossed in the tale the author is telling.

If I had any minor complaints they would be, firstly, that Anna is way too fickle with her affections, despite the fact that Jane was trying to persuade us she was exercising caution, and I wasn’t 100% buying it, particularly the first time. Also, I felt the storyline involving her family was not really committed to fully and should either have been developed more fully, or omitted altogether. These are me looking for things to criticise though, they did not detract in any meaningful way from my enjoyment of this book.

If you enjoy a dual timeline novel, and would be interested in a novel exploring the Regency period with a different spin, this is the book for you. It whisked me away and kept me entertained throughout, and I was left very satisfied with the whole reading experience. That’s a pretty good investment of 99p, if you ask me,

The Forgotten Maid is a beautiful time-shift romance set in Cornwall between the Regency era and the modern day. It is the first book in the Cornish Echoes Dual Timeline Mystery series and for a limited time is only 99p. You can buy a copy here.

Make sure you check out the rest of the tour:

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About the Author

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Jane Cable writes romance with a twist for Sapere Books, and The Forgotten Maid her first novel set in her adopted county of Cornwall. She is lucky enough to have been married to the love of her life for more than twenty-five years, and loves spending time outdoors, preferably close to the sea on the wild and rugged north Cornwall coast.

She also writes emotional women’s fiction as Eva Glyn, published by One More Chapter.

Connect with Jane:

Website: http://janecable.com

Facebook: Jane Cable

Twitter: @JaneCable

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Blog Tour: I’ll Be Home For Christmas by M W Arnold

Ill Be Home For Christmas

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for the release of book three in The Air Transport Auxiliary Mystery Club series by M W Arnold, I’ll Be Home For Christmas. Thanks to Mick and Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be part of the tour and to Mick for providing me with this great character interview for me to share with you today.

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A mysterious key left by her murdered sister, leads Air Transport Auxiliary pilot Betty Palmer on a journey of discovery and danger. Given up to an orphanage upon birth, the parents she’s long thought had no part in her life force themselves back in, purely out of greed and self-preservation.

Penny’s life is unexpectedly turned upside down by a potentially life-changing situation, which causes her wounded husband to question their marriage. No-one seems safe in this year of turmoil in the middle years of the war, as some relationships face breaking point whilst others become stronger.

Kidnap, crashes and dogfights, the girls of the Air Transport Auxiliary Mystery have never faced such dangers. To survive may not be enough as they must find the strength to rise above the most trying times yet of their lives.

Let’s go over now to one of the main characters in the novel, Betty Palmer, and have a chat to her, shall we?

So Betty, a little bird tells me you’re a colourful character. Would you care to comment?

That depends. Will everything I tell you in this interview be kept confidential? Specifically, from the police? Well, if that’s the best you can promise, I’ll just have to trust you. Yes, I suppose you could say I’ve dallied with my fair share of lively enterprises, but I’m really not sure how much I should tell you. I had an unusual childhood, something more akin to Oliver Twist, though a little more structured.

Now you really have my attention. You’ve got to elaborate.

Must I? Oh, very well. My twin sister and I were put into an orphanage because our parents only wanted a boy. You tend to grow up tough and quickly in those places and we quickly learned the only people we could totally trust and depend upon, were each other. Remember I mentioned Oliver Twist? We learned certain, skills as we grew older, which influenced what we did for a living once we were able to escape. That probably doesn’t sound as if were were…honest. Very true, but we did have our own code and only ever dealt with those who could afford to lose things or, who were evil. I know that sounds like some kind of thing you’d read in the legends of Robin Hood, but that’s where the similarities end; we didn’t give to the poor.

That’s quite a story. You mentioned a twin sister.

Yes, Eleanor. I’m very sad to tell you she was…murdered in January of 1942, so you’ll never be able to meet her. I know I didn’t go into details about what we did to make ends meet – sorry, but no promises are worth going to jail for – so I shall only say, she was a girl of undoubted skill in her chosen profession. Indeed, in certain circles, she was quite famous. You could even say that the corridors of power were lined with her pictures.

Perhaps we should move on. Are there any of your colleagues to which you are particularly drawn?

Really? You wish to put me on the spot. To be honest, after I lost my sister, I never expected to become close to anyone again. Certainly, I never intended to allow myself to. Then fate foisted three girls upon me to which I’ve grown inordinately fond, even though one is a Yank! They are all capable of causing me equal amounts of grief and joy so no, I don’t believe there is a single one of which I am fond over any other. I know that isn’t the answer you wanted but would it help if I also told you, I now believe I have the family I never believed I would ever get.

Do you remember where you were when this terrible war broke out? And what you were doing?

You really are determined to get me to say what I was doing, aren’t you? Well, sorry, I’m still going to keep that to myself, though I’m certain you have already made your own assumptions, those will have to do. Let me just say, I was busy valuing certain items my sister may have acquired in the course of her business. However, the very next day, I began to look into what I could do for my country. I didn’t think I was patriotic until I heard the wireless and then saw the headlines in the newspapers. I eventually joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. Unfortunately, this was not a very good experience for me and I was very happy and also relieved when I found out about the formation of the Air Transport Auxiliary. I’ve found my freedom and true happiness amongst its members.

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I am sure this has whetted your appetite to find out more about Betty and her past and her experiences in the Air Transport Auxiliary. Well, I guess you had better buy a copy of I’ll Be Home For Christmas! You can find it here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour for reviews of the book and other great content:

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About the Author

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Mick spent fifteen-odd years roaming around the world, courtesy of HM Queen Elizabeth II – gawd bless her – before becoming a civilian and realizing what working for a living really was.

He loves traveling, and the music of the Beach Boys, Queen, Muse, and Bon Jovi. Books play a large part in his life, not only writing, but also reading and reviewing, as well as supporting his many author friends.

He’s the proud keeper of two Romanian Were-Cats bent on world domination, and enjoys the theatre and humoring his Manchester United-supporting wife. Finally, and most importantly, Mick is a full member of the Romantic Novelists Association. I’ll be Home for Christmas will be his third novel with The Wild Rose Press.

Connect with Mick:

Facebook: M W Arnold Author

Twitter: @mick859

Instagram: @mick859

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5BTjvD9Jp–rLfjB9hcd9g

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Blog Tour: The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas #BookReview

The Room in the Attic

Delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour for The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas today. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part, and to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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A child who does not know her name…

In 1903 fishermen find a wrecked boat containing a woman, who has been badly beaten, and a young girl. An ambulance is sent for, and the two survivors are taken to All Hallows, the imposing asylum, hidden deep on Dartmoor. The woman remains in a coma, but the little girl, Harriet, awakens and is taken to an attic room, far away from the noise of the asylum, and is put in the care of Nurse Emma Everdeen.

Two motherless boys banished to boarding school…

In 1993, All Hallows is now a boarding school. Following his mother’s death and his father’s hasty remarriage, Lewis Tyler is banished to Dartmoor, stripped of his fashionable clothes, shorn of his long hair, and left feeling more alone than ever. There he meets Isak, another lost soul, and whilst refurbishment of the dormitories is taking place, the boys are marooned up in the attic, in an old wing of the school.

Cries and calls from the past that can no longer be ignored…

All Hallows is a building full of memories, whispers, cries from the past. As Lewis and Isak learn more about the fate of Harriet, and Nurse Emma’s desperate fight to keep the little girl safe, it soon becomes clear there are ghosts who are still restless.

Are they ghosts the boys hear at night in the room above, are they the unquiet souls from the asylum still caught between the walls? And can Lewis and Isak bring peace to All Hallows before the past breaks them first…

Goodness, what did I just read? From the very opening chapters of this new book by Louise Douglas, my heart was pounding, I was holding my breath, the hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end, and I was absolutely glued to the page.

I started reading this book very late one night just after I had gone to bed, which was a mistake because the book creeped me out right from the off. As soon as you crawl between the pages, you know you are reading something that is going to keep you on the edge of your nerves, so it may not be recommended for readers of a very nervous disposition. Set in an old asylum which then became a strict boarding school in the midst of the brooding expanse of Dartmoor, there could not be a creepier setting for a story. When I was young, I was addicted to the Famous Five books by Enid Blyton. The thirteenth (coincidence?) of these, Five Go To Mystery Moor, involved spooky goings on on a deserted moor and it scared the bejesus out of my as a kid, so any ghost story set on a moor is guaranteed to give me the wiggins. The author does an absolutely amazing job of bringing the very disturbing setting to vivid life, both in its incarnation as an asylum and a boarding school, a little too vividly for those with active imaginations perhaps!

The story line is divided between three timelines – modern day, 1993 when All Hallows was a boarding school, and the turn of the twentieth century when it was an asylum for those people deemed insane. The narrator in the first two timelines is Lewis Tyler, as a grown man and when he was a pupil at the school. Back in time, we are following the story of Emma Everdeen, a nurse at the asylum. The book switched between the stories with ease, never breaking the tension, and deftly entwining them to great effect. Each of the characters hooked me in, and I was truly feeling genuine fear for all of them by the end. The storytelling is so skilful that it is impossible not to become fully invested in the outcome for all involved.

The story is a clever and intriguing mix of thriller, mystery, ghost story, family drama and exploration of social issues affecting women in the early 1900s. There is something here to appeal to every type of reader, and I can’t imagine there are many people who would not enjoy it (other than those who really don’t enjoy being kept on the edge of their nerves throughout a book.) You can tell that the author did a lot of research into the historical aspects of the book, it is beautifully rich in detail, but this is only used to enhance and not detract from the story. I am honestly so impressed with the authors skill in balancing all the different aspects of this novel to deliver an engrossing, affecting and thrilling story. I think my heart has only just slowed back to its normal speed after finishing it.

I absolutely loved this book, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Perfect October reading, buy it immediately.

The Room in the Attic is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Award-winning author Louise Douglas was a recent guest on the blog, and you can read my fascinating interview with her here.

Make sure you check out some of the other reviews posted by the other marvellous bloggers taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

Louise

Louise Douglas is the bestselling and brilliantly reviewed author of 6 novels including The Love of my Life and Missing You – a RNA award winner. The Secrets Between Us was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick. She lives in the West Country. Louise’s first book for Boldwood, The House by the Sea was published in March 2020.

Connect with Louise:

Facebook: Louise Douglas Author

Twitter: @LouiseDouglas3

Instagram: @louisedouglas3

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