Blog Tour: The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club by Faith Hogan #BookReview

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Three women. Three different stages of life. United by one thing: the chance to start again.

When Elizabeth’s husband dies, leaving her with crippling debt, the only person she can turn to is her friend, Jo. Soon Jo has called in her daughter, Lucy, to help save Elizabeth from bankruptcy. Leaving her old life behind, Lucy is determined to make the most of her fresh start.

As life slowly begins to return to normal, these three women, thrown together by circumstance, become fast friends. But then Jo’s world is turned upside down when she receives some shocking news.

In search of solace, Jo and Elizabeth find themselves enjoying midnight dips in the freezing Irish Sea. Here they can laugh, cry and wash away all their fears. As well as conjure a fundraising plan for the local hospice that will bring the whole community together…

Today, I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour for The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club by Faith Hogan. Huge thanks to Vicky Joss of Head of Zeus for inviting me to take part and for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Sometimes you read a book that just makes you want to call all of your girlfriends, get together for a soul-baring evening of gossip, laughter, tears, big hugs all round, and sharing with them a book that has really moved you because it captures everything that is magical, wonderful and life-affirming about female friendship. There has been far too little of that over the past 18 months and it is one of the things I have missed the most throughout the pandemic restrictions. The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club is one of those books. Faith Hogan has managed to distil the essence of all that is wonderful about female friendship within its pages.

There is a character in this book for everyone to relate to. Elizabeth, recently widowed, whose life has always looked polished and perfect to the residents of Ballycove, but who is struggling behind closed doors with secrets that blighted her marriage, and more than have come to light since her husband’s death. She is supported throughout, as she always has been, by her generous friend, Jo, but Jo is now bearing a huge burden of her own. Jo’s daughter, Lucy, has come to Ballycove to work out a new path in life after her divorce, but will she be able to find a happy ever after that works for both herself and her unhappy son, Niall? Then there is Dan, who has come to Ballycove searching for a ghost from his past and a new way forward. Somehow, these people find amongst themselves a community and a peace that will see them all through on their different journeys.

This book is soul-warmingly, heart-squeezingly wonderful from beginning to end. From the very start, the stories of each of these women moved me because they were so real and authentic. I absolutely believed every single thing they were going through and all of their responses. The issues that the author addresses in this book – which may not be easy ones for some people to read about because they are so relatable – are something that will have touched each and every one of us in some way or another over the course of our lives, whether directly or through someone we know and we will recognise some of the joy, fear, pain, anguish, love and happiness portrayed here. Faith has really got under the skins of these characters and portrayed what they are going through in a way that communicates every nuance to the reader, so the book carries you along on its tide.

The notion of the Midnight Swimming Club is what will attract a lot of readers to this book, and it plays out exactly the way you hope it would. I adored the scenes involving the women taking to the sea, the feelings the wild swimming evokes in them, the way they talk and share and heal in the water, I believed all of it and was slightly jealous of their experience, even though I know it is fictional. Being able to draw a reader so completely into a world in this way is the skill of a great writer, and the reason we read in the first place. These are the reasons I love Faith’s books.

This is a truly fantastic read for any fans of intelligent and believable women’s fiction. It really moved me, but also left me feeling hopeful and uplifted. If you are a fan of Calendar Girls or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, this book will give you the same warm feelings that you get from those movies, whilst still feeling that you have read something containing real emotional truth and an insight into the challenges women can overcome in their lives with support, love, friendship and hope. A gorgeous book.

The Ladies’ Midnight Swimming Club is out now as an ebook and will be published in paperback on 13 May, and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure to visit some of the other fabulous blogs taking part in the tour for this book:

About the Author

Faith Hogan portrait for inside cover of her book

Faith Hogan is an Irish award-winning and bestselling author of five contemporary fiction novels. Her books have featured as Book Club Favorites, Net Galley Hot Reads and Summer Must Reads. She writes grown up women’s fiction which is unashamedly uplifting, feel good and inspiring.

She is currently working on her next novel. She lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children and a very busy Labrador named Penny. She’s a writer, reader, enthusiastic dog walker and reluctant jogger – except of course when it is raining!

Connect with Faith:

Website: https://faithhogan.com

Facebook: Faith Hogan Author

Twitter: @GerHogan

Instagram: @faithhoganauthor

Blog Tour: The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday by Kiley Dunbar #BookReview

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I am always delighted to be on a blog tour for Kiley Dunbar, who has fast become one of my favourite romance authors over the past couple of years, so I’m thrilled to be reviewing her new book, The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday, today. Huge 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 the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

FINAL COVER AW Bookshop on the Beach

The Fully Booked Bookshop Café invites literature lovers to run their very own bookshop … for a fortnight.

Spend your days talking books with customers in your own charming bookshop and serving up delicious cream teas in the cosy café.

Bookworms, what are you waiting for? Your holiday is going to be LIT(erary).

Apply to: The Fully Booked Bookshop, Down-a-long, Clove Lore, Devon.

Jude Crawley should be on top of the world. She’s just graduated as a mature student, so can finally go public about her relationship with Philosophy professor, Mack.

Until she sees Mack kissing another girl, and her dreams crumble. And worse, their dream holiday – running a tiny bookshop in the harbour village of Clove Lore for two weeks – is non-refundable.

Throwing caution to the winds, Jude heads down to Devon, eager to immerse herself in literature and heal her broken heart.

But there’s one problem – six foot tall, brooding (but gorgeous) Elliot, who’s also reserved the bookshop holiday for two weeks…

As Jude and Elliot put their differences aside to run the bookshop, it seems that Jude might be falling in love with more than just words. Until she discovers what Elliot is running from – and why he’s hiding out in Clove Lore.

Can Jude find her own happy ending in a tiny, tumbledown bookshop? Or is she about to find out that her bookish holiday might have an unexpected twist in the tale…

Do you ever get the impression that an author has written their book just for you? That, as they have sat writing at their desk, they are thinking, ‘I wonder what Julie would like to read next? I know!’ and then they immediately start banging away on their laptop, summoning up the words for your perfect book. That’s how I feel when I read Kiley Dunbar’s books – it’s like she has been rummaging around in my brain, picking through all the things I like the most and then pulling out a bunch of stuff and piecing it together to make the perfect novel for me. This is definitely what has happened with The Borrow A Bookshop Holiday. Let’s examine the evidence, shall we?

Well firstly, the main character is called Jude. That’s almost my name, she’s just cleverly tweaked a couple of letters to avoid any pesky libel problems, clearly. Kiley’s description of Jude – short, curvy, unconcerned with her appearance – makes me think she has been stalking Facebook pictures of me from the early nineties. She’s got my love of books down to a tee (I am absolutely a person who would take a bagful of their own favourite books to a holiday in a bookshop), and my ideal holiday would be running a bookshop by the sea. I would absolutely love to own a bookshop, it is my dream job, the minute I win the lottery I am going to open one. I have its name, logo, colour of the bags… everything already picked out for when it happens. I can’t think of anything I’d love more than having a practice run (sadly, I don’t have a man who shares the same passion to take with me.)

And whilst we are on the subject of men, let’s talk about Elliot for a minute. Earlier this year I did a Facebook Live with a couple of other bloggers for the RNA (an organisation to which Kiley belongs), during which I clearly described my ideal romantic hero as someone who sounds ALMOST EXACTLY LIKE ELLIOT, right down to the tattoos. Coincidence? I think not. She’s flung everything into this book to tailor it precisely to my tastes, the crafty minx.

Joking aside, whatever your tastes in romantic fiction and literary heroes, you’d be quite hard pushed not to enjoy this gorgeous book. It’s got everything you could possibly want in a summery romance. Relatable heroine? Check. Gorgeous location? Absolutely. I so want Clove Lore to be real and to pay it a visit immediately. It made me think a little bit of St. Ives, one of my favourite places to visit in the UK and the real life location that Kiley has used as a basis for the village is now firmly on my radar for my next visit to that part of the world. Great plot hook? Definitely, let’s refer back to the dream of running your own little bookshop for a couple of weeks, what book lover could resist? Fun and engaging supporting cast? There is a matchmaking ice cream seller, pub-owning double act, twin fishermen, supportive best friend and a cute dog, what more can you ask. And then there is the love interest, who is going to give any hot-blooded soul palpitations.

On top of this, Kiley just has such a warm and engaging writing style, that I always feel like her books are embracing me in a warm hug of love and happiness. She clearly loves her characters and is fully invested in their story and giving them the best outcome. On top of this, I can just tell that she is having a ball writing the story, and this shines through in the finished article. The best writing comes from passion, and Kiley’s passion for this book beams from every page to wash over the reader and include them in the joy. If you don’t come away from this book happy and with a big smile on your face, I’ll eat Aldous’ ratty old jumper.

The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday is out now as an ebook and will be published in paperback on 22 July (I already have my pre-order in!) and you can buy a copy here.

(This seems an opportune place to repeat the plea from my last review for one of Kiley’s books. Dear Hera, can you please bring out a paperback copy of Summer at the Highland Coral Beach, it is the only one missing from my shelf!)

If you would like to read some other reviews, or find more great content relating to the book, please do visit some of the other blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

Kiley Dunbar author portrait

Kiley Dunbar writes heart-warming, escapist, romantic fiction set in beautiful places.

Kiley also works as a senior lecturer, teaching creative writing at the Manchester Writing School. One Winter’s Night is shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Comedy Novel Award 2021.

Connect with Kiley:

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

Facebook: Kiley Dunbar Author

Twitter: @KileyDunbar

Instagram: @kileydunbarromance

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Book Review: Rescued by Her Highland Soldier by Sarah Mallory #BookReview

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Her rugged Highlander

Is the gallant son of a laird!

Travelling alone through the treacherous Scottish Highlands, Madeleine d’Evremont is saved by rough-looking soldier, Grant Rathmore. Attraction flares between them as he escorts Madeline on her perilous escape to France, until she discovers he’s the heir of a respected Laird! Madeline knows she must let him go – surely the daughter of a humble adventurer could never be a suitable match for him now?

Rescued by Her Highland Soldier is the second book in the Lairds of Ardvarrick series by Sarah Mallory, published by Harlequin Mills and Boon in their Historical line. Many thanks to Sarah for offering me a copy of the book for the purposes of review. I have reviewed it honestly and impartially as always.

It’s been many a year since I picked up a Mills and Boon novel. Probably not since my Grandma stopped reading them in the 1990s, because it was hers I used to pinch and read as a teenager. I’m not sure why they aren’t a line I ever think of buying, I just never have. However, having read Rescued by Her Highland Soldier, I will definitely be looking for more.

I have a particular soft spot for books featuring Scottish history. When I was a child, we never went abroad on holiday, we always used to go to Scotland where my mum dragged me around every stately home and battlefield in the vicinity of where we were staying (I remember one particularly underwhelming trek to Flodden Field that my sisters and I still talk about to this day). A fascination with the subject was imbued in my bones from a young age and I have devoured books on the subject since, particularly on the Jacobite rebellion and the Highland Clearances. I defy anyone to visit Glencoe on a dark, misty day and not have a shiver travel down their spine. So I was very keen to see how Sarah Mallory had approached the subject.

I have to say, I was not remotely disappointed. The story of Madeleine, a young French woman trying to make her way to safety across the Highlands at a time of extreme peril for her countrymen, and being rescued by the chivalrous Grant Rathmore is not only romantic to its very core, it really brought home the impact that the putting down of the Jacobite Rebellion at Culloden had on people who were supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Sarah manages to imbue the book with the real sense of peril that all Jacobite supporters must have felt at the time, fearing discovery at any minute but still risking everything to help people they could see were in trouble.

The book truly transported me to the Scottish Highlands, a place I am very familiar with, and I was trekking across those treacherous hills with Madeleine and Grant, fully aware of the danger they were bringing to one another and trying to resist their growing attraction. The romantic tension was palpable on the page, and she really captured the language, manners and customs of the age – at least it certainly felt authentic to me.

Rescued by Her Highland Soldier kept me glued to the page from start to finish and I immediately wanted to pick up the first book in the Lairds of Ardvarrick series. Sarah has not only managed to turn me on to her writing, but has also encouraged me to return to Mills and Boon as a publisher, who are obviously putting out high quality, immersive and intriguing romance novels. What could you not love about that? I’m sorry I’ve been missing out all these years. No wonder they were recently voted Publisher of the Year 2020 in the RNA Industry Awards.

Rescued by Her Highland Soldier is out now as an ebook and in paperback and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

Sarah Mallory Rona Rose 2012

Sarah Mallory is an award-winning author who has published more than 30 historical romances with Harlequin Mills & Boon. She loves history, especially the Georgian and Regency. She won the prestigious RoNA Rose Award from the Romantic Novelists Association in 2012 and 2013. Sarah also writes romantic historical adventures as Melinda Hammond.

After living for many years high on the Yorkshire Pennines, Sarah moved to the Scottish Highlands in 2018 and now lives by the sea, enjoying a whole new adventure.

Connect with Sarah:

Website: http://www.sarahmallory.com/

Facebook: Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory

Twitter: @SarahMRomance

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Blog Tour: The Bone Code by Kathy Reichs #BookReview

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Huge thrill to be on the blog tour today for the latest Temperance Brennan thriller by Kathy Reichs, The Bone Code. My thanks to 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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A storm has hit South Carolina, dredging up crimes of the past.

En route to Isle of Palms, a barrier island off the South Carolina coast, forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan receives a call from the Charleston coroner. During the storm, a medical waste container has washed up on the beach. Inside are two decomposed bodies wrapped in plastic sheeting and bound with electrical wire. Chillingly, Tempe recognises many details as identical to those of an unsolved case she handled in Quebec fifteen years earlier. With a growing sense of foreboding, she flies to Montreal to gather evidence and convince her boss Pierre LaManche to reopen the cold case. She also seeks the advice—and comfort—of her longtime beau Andrew Ryan.

Meanwhile, a storm of a different type gathers force in South Carolina. The citizens of Charleston are struck by capnocytophaga, a bacterium that, at its worst, can eat human flesh. Thousands panic and test themselves for a rare genetic mutation that may have rendered them vulnerable.

Shockingly, Tempe eventually deduces not only that the victims in both grisly murder cases are related, but that the murders and the disease outbreak also have a common cause . . .

I think I have to hold my hands up from the off and state that I am a massive fan of Kathy Reichs. A copy of every Temperance Brennan novel sits on my bookshelves and I am always eagerly awaiting the next in the series. Whether that makes me predisposed to enjoy one of her books or have higher expectations of her writing that someone who hasn’t been invested in Temperance’s story since the beginning, I don’t know, but I’ve tried my hardest to be as dispassionate in this review as possible.

As with every Kathy Reichs novel, we are thrown straight into the action with Tempe in Carolina, facing the imminent arrival of Hurricane Inara, when she is sought out by a woman wanting help establishing if a death mask features the face of her long-missing great aunt. Soon after, the storm washes up a medical waste container on the Carolina shore containing two decomposed bodies. When Tempe is asked to examine them, the details of the case ring alarming bells with bodies discovered in Canada years before. On top of all this, a flesh-eating virus has broken out…

If this all sounds like a lot to contend with, remember that we also have to factor in the fact that Tempe’s time and career is divided between South Carolina and Montreal, and there is her ever-complicated relationship with Andrew Ryan to contend with to. This book has the potential to become extremely complicated, but the genius of Kathy Reichs writing is that she manages to convey a lot of detailed plots and information in a way that is vey easy to follow and pull together complex and diverse storylines to form a coherent and nail-biting plot without seemingly breaking a sweat. This is why die-hard fans such as myself keep returning to her books and these characters after two decades, and why I have never yet been disappointed.

I couldn’t wait to get started on The Bone Code and, as soon as I dove in, I was back in Tempe’s world like I had never left, greeting all the characters like old friends (How have you been, Birdcat? I’ve missed you and your foibles) and desperate to catch up on what they have all been doing. How is the shift in dynamics between Ryan and Tempe working out since the last book? How is his new career going? Where is Katy now? These are all things I want to know, as well as what is going on in the latest cases. I love the fact that Tempe’s personal life is so inextricably wound into the narrative of these stories, as well as her work, since both make her fundamentally who she is and why we love her so much.

As for the plot, I keep waiting for one of these books to fall short – Kathy must be running out of ideas by now surely? – but I am delighted to say this doesn’t happen in this book. Quite how she manages to join together such diverse topics into a seamless, related narrative always amazes me, and I was hooked from start to finish. I was a little dubious about reading about a flesh-eating virus whilst we are still dealing with the Covid pandemic but Kathy’s writing is so engrossing that I soon forgot all about what was happening in the real world and was completely immersed in this one. I was on the edge of my seat all the way through, the pacy narrative and excellent writing carrying me along, even the complex medical and legal jargon not causing a stumble, reading it in record time, and I was sad when it was over and I have to wait another whole year for the next one.

Kathy has knocked it out of the park again with The Bone Code. Fans of her books will de delighted with the latest instalment. If you have never read a Temperance Brennan book, be warned, this book will get you hooked.

The Bone Code is out now in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats, and will be published in paperback in October. You can buy a copy here.

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

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About the Author

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Kathy Reichs’s first novel Déjà Dead was a number one bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis Award for Best First Novel. The Bone Code is Kathy’s twentieth entry in her series featuring forensic anthropologist Temper- ance Brennan. Kathy was also a producer of the hit Fox TV series, Bones, which is based on her work and her novels.

Dr. Reichs is one of very few forensic anthropologists certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. She served on the Board of Directors and as Vice President of both the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, and as a member of the National Police Services Advisory Council in Canada.

Connect with Kathy:

Website: https://kathyreichs.com/

Facebook: Kathy Reichs Books

Twitter: @KathyReichs

Instagram: @kathyreichs

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Book Review: The Wild Girls by Phoebe Morgan #BookReview

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Four friends. A luxury retreat. It’s going to be murder.

In a luxury lodge on Botswana’s sun-soaked plains, four friends reunite for a birthday celebration…

THE BIRTHDAY GIRL
Has it all, but chose love over her friends…

THE TEACHER
Feels the walls of her flat and classroom closing in…

THE MOTHER
Loves her baby, but desperately needs a break…

THE INTROVERT
Yearns for adventure after suffering for too long…

Arriving at the safari lodge, a feeling of unease settles over them. There’s no sign of the party that was promised. There’s no phone signal. They’re alone, in the wild.

THE HUNT IS ON.

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of this book via NetGalley for the purposes of review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

Blimey, what a rollercoaster of a book this is! I sat down and started it one morning and I kept sneaking back to read it throughout that day, resenting the chores that took me away from the story, and by that night I had finished it. This is one of those books that you want to completely immerse yourself in and stay gripped by until you get to the end, it is absolutely blooming fabulous.

I was really excited by the whole premise of the book – four friends holidaying in a luxury lodge in Botswana – as I love a book that takes me armchair travelling and I’ve always wanted to go on a safari holiday. Hmmm, not sure I do any more. Phoebe has managed to imbue the pages with this book with a creeping, suffocating sense of menace and jeopardy that would have anyone running screaming from the situation, if it was possible to escape.

The dynamics of female relationships always make for a fascinating read for me, and the author has constructed a friendship group here that is clearly dysfunctional, for reasons that she very cleverly hints at throughout to keep reader enthralled but doesn’t fully explain until the end, so you spend plenty of time trying to work out what is going on from the sneaky clues she drops in to the story at cunning intervals. All of the girls have secrets, and problems in their private lives which they aren’t sharing with one another, and the whole lot comes together in a beautiful explosion when they meet up. The book is very cleverly plotted and was one of the main things that kept me reading.

The book is told from the perspective of each of the characters, and it jumps around in time from present to past, as the events leading up to the Botswana trip are revealed, but you will barely notice the changes and it is very easy to follow. the author has constructed it in a way that flows easily, with each character having a distinctive voice, and I felt we got to know them all really well. They aren’t all particularly likeable, but that didn’t impact my enjoyment of the book at all.

There are some difficult issues touched upon in this book, which might be triggering for some people, but they all serve the plot and Phoebe has dealt with them delicately. I have to say, the ending gets a bit mad, but I was fully invested in the book by this point so I just went with it and, if I did find the ending a bit far-fetched, I still came away from the book feeling that I had had a really enjoyable and satisfying reading experience. I think you can tell when a writer has had a really good time writing a book, it usually translates to a great time for the reader, and this was certainly true of The Wild Girls. I had been greatly looking forward to reading it, and it completely fulfilled my expectations and then some. A really entertaining, gripping, immersive read.

The Wild Girls is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Phoebe Morgan is a bestselling author and editor. She studied English at Leeds University after growing up in the Suffolk countryside. She has previously worked as a journalist and now edits commercial fiction for a publishing house during the day, and writes her own books in the evenings. She lives in London.

Her books have sold over 150,000 copies and been translated into 10 languages including French, Italian, Norwegian, Polish and Croatian. Her new thriller The Wild Girls will be published by William Morrow in the US. Her books are also on sale in Canada and Australia. Phoebe has also contributed short stories to Afraid of the Light, a 2020 crime writing anthology with proceeds going to the Samaritans, Noir from the Bar, a crime collection with proceeds going to the NHS, and Afraid of the Christmas Lights, with all profits going to domestic abuse charities. Her four thrillers can be read in any order:

The Doll House (2017)
The Girl Next Door (2019)
The Babysitter (2020)
The Wild Girls (2021)

Connect with Phoebe:

Website: https://phoebemorganauthor.com/

Facebook: Phoebe Morgan Author

Twitter: @Phoebe_A_Morgan

Instagram: @phoebeannmorgan

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Book Review: The Dinner Guest by B. P. Walter

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Four people walked into the dining room that night. One would never leave.

Matthew: the perfect husband.

Titus: the perfect son.

Charlie: the perfect illusion.

Rachel: the perfect stranger.

Charlie didn’t want her at the book club. Matthew wouldn’t listen.

And that’s how Charlie finds himself slumped beside his husband’s body, their son sitting silently at the dinner table, while Rachel calls 999, the bloody knife still gripped in her hand.

I am delighted to be posting my review of The Dinner Guest by B. P. Walter today. I received an advance digital copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley for the purpose of review, and I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Have you ever read a book in which none of the characters were likeable? This is one of those books. Honestly, all of the characters are fairly awful, selfish people with a litany of faults and you’ll spend half the book wanting them to get their comeuppance. Especially the main two characters who takes turns in voicing the story, Charlie and Rachel. I didn’t like either of them from the beginning.

You’d think this would be the death knell for a novel, wouldn’t you, but you’d be wrong. The Dinner Guest had me hooked from first page to last in a way that I meant I could not look away and I raced through the pages. To achieve this with characters for whom I had practically no sympathy was nothing short of bare genius by the author.

The book thrusts us into the perfect world of Charlie, a man who has never known a day of hardship in his life and who seems to have everything anyone could wish for. Perfect home, great job, perfect husband, perfect stepson, no financial worries. Then he bumps into Rachel whose life is the exact opposite. For some reason, Charlie’s husband decides to take Rachel under their wing and, from then on, the perfect facade starts to crack and disintegrate, as if Rachel’s appearance has infected it with rot.

The book jumps around in time, beginning with the aftermath of the murder of Charlie’s husband and then going back to the introduction of Rachel into their lives, and exploring all the characters back stories until we understand what has happened and why. The author has been extremely clever with the plotting of this novel, building the tension as facts are revealed piece by piece, but taking us off in different directions, so it is impossible to guess what is the truth and who is responsible for what until the very end. Many times I thought I had worked it out, only to be proven wrong and sent off down another path, so I had to keep reading and reading to construct another theory.

This book is a great psychological thriller, whose very ending completely chilled me and the whole thing left me shaken and excited for what I had just read. This writer is clearly very talented and I will be looking out for more of his work to pick up in the future. A great addition to the genre that I would highly recommend to its fans.

The Dinner Guest is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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B P Walter was born and raised in Essex, England. After spending his childhood and teenage years reading compulsively, he worked in bookshops then went to the University of Southampton to study Film and English followed by an MA in Film & Cultural Management. He is an alumni of the Faber Academy and works in social media coordination. His debut novel, A Version of the Truth, was published in 2019, followed by Hold Your Breath in 2020, and The Dinner Guest, which was chosen as a Waterstones Book of the Month, in April 2021.

Connect with Barnaby:

Twitter: @BarnabyWalter

Instagram: @bpwalterauthor

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Helen Buckley

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Time to chat all things romance and the writing thereof with another RNA member, and this week I am delighted to be quizzing author… Helen Buckley.

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

I write thrilling, dramatic contemporary romances about people in the public eye. There are lots of twists and turns, shock revelations, slow-burn romance, and of course, happy ever afters! I currently have a three-book contract with ChocLit and my next novel is due out in July.

Why romance?

I daydream in romance, so I am simply writing down the stories that are in my head. I’m an old-fashioned romantic who loves nothing more than two characters who come together after lots of challenges.

What inspires your stories?

All sorts of things! Strictly on Ice, for example, was inspired by the TV show Dancing on Ice. As my current series involves people in the public eye, I get a lot of inspiration from popular culture and news stories.

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

I used to love reading Catherine Cookson when I was younger, but now I tend to read contemporary romances, by the likes of Lucy Keeling, Marie Laval, Jojo Moyes, Amanda Prowse, and Dani Atkins, for example.

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

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. That book broke me. It is one of the best books I have ever read.

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Will needed Lou as much as she needed him, but will her love be enough to save his life?

Lou Clark
 knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun teashop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

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

My husband is my real-life romantic hero and I’d choose him above anyone else. We’d go to Rome and eat mountains of gelato.

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

I’m a fairly new member but it’s a great way to meet fellow romance authors, find out what they are working on, and there are lots of learning opportunities too which I am looking forward to taking part in!

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

I would say read a lot of romance to help you understand the genre, and try to work on a series of books rather than just one – it’s more marketable.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

A former Olympic skating champion takes part in a new TV show to earn some cash, but she gets more than she bargained for when she’s partnered with a love-rat rugby player, and finds that her ex-boyfriend is on the judging panel! Strictly on Ice is a dramatic, romantic, thrilling read about the world of ice skating and reality TV. It’s available in ebook and paperback formats and you can buy a copy here.

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When falling in love comes with the risk of falling flat on your face …

Former Olympic skating champion Katie Saunders is well known for her ‘ice queen’ persona in the press. On the face of it, perhaps Katie should have forgiven her former skating partner and ex-boyfriend, Alex Michaelson, for the accident that shattered both her ankle and their Olympic dreams – but she just can’t seem to let it go.

When Katie reluctantly agrees to take part in a new TV skating show, it’s only because she’s desperate for cash. What she didn’t count on is the drama – not only is she partnered up with infamous love rat rugby player Jamie Welsh, but one of the judges is none other than Alex Michaelson himself.

As the show progresses, will Katie be shown the hard way, once again, that romance on the ice should remain strictly off-limits?

About the Author

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Ever since Helen was little she wanted to be a writer, to turn daydreams into books. She’s fascinated by fame, in love with Happy Ever Afters, and enthralled by slow-burn romances. She squeezes in time to write around looking after her two sons.

Sign up to her newsletter to receive a FREE download of her novella, The Wrong One, a sweet contemporary romance about being true to yourself. https://BookHip.com/RZSDFSW

Connect with Helen:

Website: www.buckleybooks.org

Facebook: Helen Buckley author

Twitter: @HelenCBuckley

Instagram: @helencatherinebuckley

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Blog Tour: The Lynmouth Stories by Lucy V Hay #BookReview

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Beautiful places hide dark secrets … 

Devon’s very own crime writer L.V Hay (The Other Twin, Do No Harm) brings forth three new short stories from her dark mind and poison pen:

– For kidnapped Meg and her young son Danny, In Plain Sight, the remote headland above Lynmouth is not a haven, but hell.

– A summer of fun for Catherine in Killing Me Softly becomes a winter of discontent … and death.

– In Hell And High Water, a last minute holiday for Naomi and baby Tommy  becomes a survival situation … But that’s before the village floods.

All taking place out of season when the majority of tourists have gone home, L.V Hay uses her local knowledge to bring forth dark and claustrophic noir she has come to be known for.

Did You Know …?

Known as England’s ‘Little Switzerland’, the Devon village of Lynmouth is famous for its Victorian cliff railway, fish n’ chips and of course, RD Blackmore’s Lorna Doone.

Located on the doorstep of the dramatic Valley of The Rocks and the South West Cliff Path, the twin villages of Lynton and Lynmouth have inspired many writers, including 19th Century romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who honeymooned there in 1812.

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Lynmouth Stories, a short story collection by Lucy V Hay. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is a very brief book containing just three short stories but it packs a punch that greatly belies its length. Tightly woven with impressively realised characterisation in such a small word count, Lucy V Hay has produced here a masterclass in the art of the short story.

All three stories are set in the tiny, coastal village of Lynmouth, popular with tourists. However, we visit during the low season, when the village shuts down and empties out, giving it a deserted and melancholy air, which provides the perfect backdrop for this collection  of dark and brooding stories. Focusing on the kind of threats that lurk behind closed doors, they remind us that appearances can be deceptive and we never know what dangers are lurking unseen in the most ordinary of settings.

All three stories have female protagonists, who are all very different. Some strong and determined, some finding strength they never knew they had and some crumbling under pressure, the stories explore different reactions under stress and what women can do in protection of themselves and those they love. Probing the darkest aspects of the human psyche, the author manages to convey an awful lot about these women in a very compact word count so you can feel exactly what they are going through in that moment. I really enjoyed the fact that the focus here was entirely on the women and their experiences, with the men largely remaining nameless, shadowy figures whose feelings and motives exist only in relation to the women’s.

This book left me feeling very unsettled. The author has produced an oppressive atmosphere throughout the stories, asking the reader to put themselves in the far from comfortable shoes of the protagonists and walk a little way in them. The stories will shake you out of your complacency and ask you to think about what other women may be dealing with in places we don’t see, even in the cosy seaside towns that the rest of us visit on happy family holidays for reasons of pleasure. It’s easy to sail along, forgetting that our fellow women may be struggling and fighting against enemies we can’t envisage. Maybe we should be more alert for the signs that may be laying in plain sight. The stories are asking us to look and ask, to think about what we are actually seeing. 

A short, uncomfortable but enthralling read.

The Lynmouth Stories is out now as an ebook 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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Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. She is the associate producer of Brit Thrillers Deviation (2012) and Assassin(2015), both starring Danny Dyer. Lucy is also head reader for the London Screenwriters’ Festival and has written two non-fiction books, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays, plus its follow-up Drama Screenplays. Her critically acclaimed debut thriller The Other Twin was published in 2017.

Connect with Lucy:

Website: https://linktr.ee/lucyvhayauthor

Facebook: Lucy V Hay Author

Twitter: @LucyVHayAuthor

Instagram: Lucy V Hay Author

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Blog Tour: The Dig Street Festival by Chris Walsh #BookReview

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It’s 2006 in the fictional East London borough of Leytonstow. The UK’s pub smoking ban is about to happen, and thirty-eight-and-a-half year old John Torrington, a mopper and trolley collector at his local DIY store, is secretly in love with the stylish, beautiful, and middle-class barmaid Lois. John and his hapless, strange, and down-on-their-luck friends, Gabby Longfeather and Glyn Hopkins, live in Clements Markham House – a semi-derelict Edwardian villa divided into unsanitary bedsits, and (mis)managed by the shrewd, Dickensian business man, Mr Kapoor.

When Mr Kapoor, in a bizarre and criminal fluke, makes him fabulously credit-worthy, John surprises his friends and colleagues alike by announcing he will organise an amazing ‘urban love revolution’, aka the Dig Street Festival. But when he discovers dark secrets at the DIY store, and Mr Kapoor’s ruthless gentrification scheme for Clements Markham House, John’s plans take several unexpected and worrisome turns…

Funny, original, philosophical, and unexpectedly moving, The Dig Street Festival takes a long, hard, satirical look at modern British life, and asks of us all, how can we be better people?

It is my turn on the blog tour today for The Dig Street Festival, the debut novel by Chris Walsh. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for giving me a place on the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Let’s get this out in the open right from the off. This book is bonkers. Totally off the wall, a crazy ride, bizarre characters and a series of increasingly unlikely and out of control events might make you think this book is not the one for you. Do not be fooled. In the midst of all the mayhem and madness, at the very heart of this book, is a core of charm and delight that runs through it like words through a stick of Blackpool Rock and it makes this book one of the warmest, funniest and sweetest reads I have picked up this year so far.

At the centre of the book is John Torrington, a man who has found himself on the fringes of life, largely ignored by almost everyone and scratching away an existence on the margins of society. By day he collects trolleys and mops floors at his local DIY superstore, at night he lives in a rundown building full of sad bedsits, inhabited by other lonely, forgotten men, mooning after the bright, young barmaid in his local pub, reading secondhand stories about Scott of the Antarctic and scratching away at his poetry (mainly haikus) and his unfinished novel. A less prepossessing character to carry a book it would be hard to imagine, but John has hidden depths, or so he likes to believe. Almost everyone, except his equally strange friends, Gabby and Glyn, disagree.

I absolutely adored every single character in this book. This author had created some of the most memorable people you will every meet in a novel, and then placed them in equally memorable situations and watched what they do. (I say watched, because it is very clear to me from reading this that each of the people in this book have very individual minds of their own and have done their own, quite bizarre things on the page which I am sure the author had little if any control over in the end.) There are some really memorable scenes in the novel – the one involving the journey to the DIY store on Gabby’s first day at work is a particular standout (parts of which made my slightly gyp to be honest) – and many real laugh-out-loud moments. You can’t imagine a group of people who get into so many mad scrapes as this trio, but in the context of this novel you can completely believe they are happening, and it is quite a ride to take with them.

At the same time, there is so much tenderness within this book. The relationship between the three men is oddly touching. They all look out for each other and clearly care for one another in a way that most of us would be lucky to find in this life. This care extends from their small trio to the other hopeless residents of Clements Markham House, despite the fact they are largely unpleasant, ungrateful and undeserving. John Torrington has a big, soft heart, and lavishes his care around, even to his bullying, sadistic boss, OCD-impaired supervisor and any other waif and stray he comes across in life. But his own vulnerability is really thrown into sharp relief in his relationship with Lois, much younger than him and way out of his league both in terms of social status and intellect. Despite this fact, we long for her to see the qualities he has lurking beneath us outwardly awkward facade and give him a chance.

This book is a really different read, but all the more appealing for that. My favourite thing about blogging is coming across these hidden gems of books that are outside the mainstream and outside your reading comfort zone. It is within these novels that we find something new and exciting, that speaks to us of things we may never have considered before and takes us places we have never been. Loved it, loved it, loved it. Funny and moving.

The Dig Street Festival is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you check out the rest of the tour:

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About the Author

Chris Walsh

Chris Walsh grew up in Middlesbrough and now lives in Kent. He writes both fiction and non-fiction, an example of which you can read here in May 2020’s Moxy Magazine.

​Chris’s debut novel The Dig Street Festival will be published by Louise Walters Books in April 2021.

​Chris’s favourite novel is Stoner by John Williams and his favourite novella is The Death of Ivan Illyich by Leo Tolstoy. His top poet is Philip Larkin. He is also a fan of Spike Milligan.

Connect with Chris:

Twitter: @WalshWrites

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Blog Tour: Finding Home by Kate Field #BookReview

Finding Home

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog blitz for the new book by Kate Field, Finding Home, as Kate is one of my favourite authors. 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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She might not have much in this world, but it cost nothing to be kind… 

Meet Miranda Brown: you can call her Mim. She’s jobless, homeless and living in her car… but with a history like hers she knows she has a huge amount to be grateful for.

Meet Beatrice and William Howard: Bill and Bea to you. The heads of the Howard family and owners of Venhallow Hall, a sprawling seaside Devonshire estate… stranded in a layby five hours from home the night before their niece’s wedding.

When fate brings the trio together, Mim doesn’t think twice before offering to drive the affable older couple home. It’s not like she has anywhere else to be. But as the car pulls into the picturesque village of Littlemead, Mim has no idea how her life is about to change…

I loved the premise of this book as soon as I read the  blurb and I think I would have picked it up, even if I’d never heard of the author before. I’ve never made any bones about my immense love for the writing of Kate Field so, this coupled with the promise of the story meant I was really looking forward to reading it.

This is a story about how a chance encounter can change the course of your life entirely, about the kindness of strangers, how family can mean more than just those people you are related to by blood, and what it really means to find a home. When we meet the main character, Mim, she is about as down on her luck as it is possible to get. She has lost her home, her job and the only person in the world who cared about her and is sleeping in her car. When she meets Bill and Bea and agrees to do them a favour, she has no idea how completely it will change her life and how her kindness will be repaid a hundredfold.

When I first encountered Min, I thought she was an old lady – I think because of her name which is quite old-fashioned – but it soon becomes clear that she is only in her thirties but has had a very difficult life that has lead to her current circumstances. This has made her quite hard-shelled and suspicious in some ways, but we can see from the beginning a softer underside peeking out, which makes her a much more likeable and relatable character than she might have been otherwise. This is one of Kate’s specialities, and the reason I adore her writing, she is extremely skilled as creating complex, difficult characters who have interesting stories and redeeming features that mean you can’t help falling in love with them and wanting the best for them.

The Howard family are very different. They seem to lead gilded lives and have every advantage that anyone could wish for. What could they possibly have in common with Mim? More than she could expect in the end. The book explores the idea that we are all too quick to judge other people according to superficial information in this life and, if we only just give people a chance and put aside our preconceptions, we might be pleasantly surprised. Although Mim hates to be judged by her past herself, she is particularly prone to make snap judgements about people – a lesson she learns during the course of the novel.

The story here is beautifully crafted and realised. I loved everything about it. Aside from the characters, the setting in Devon is a tempting place to visit. The life that Mim begins to build is heartwarming and uplifting, and the people she meets are all gorgeous. I fell in love with all of it, and I know you will too. But the real genius here is the way that the author tugs at your heartstrings. I’ve yet to come away from one of this author’s novels without having shed a tear at some point, and this was no different. Here is an author who really understands human emotion and relationships and knows exactly how to mine and manipulate them to cause maximum reaction in her reader. I always come away from her books feeling like I’ve made new friends and fallen in love.

If I have one complaint about this book it is about the cover. It doesn’t do the book justice, relate to the story, or really communicate to me what the heart of the book is and is too generic. I would probably skim past this on a shelf and that would be a crying shame. The book deserves better and this publisher normally wows me with its covers, which is probably why I am disappointed. This is definitely one book you should not judge by its cover, it is absolutely wonderful.

Finding Home is out now as an ebook and will be published in paperback on 8 July. You can buy a copy here.

Please check out some of the other blogs taking part in the blitz:

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About the Author

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Kate writes contemporary women’s fiction, mainly set in her favourite county of Lancashire, where she lives with her husband, daughter and mischievous cat.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Kate’s debut novel, The Magic of Ramblings, won the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers.

Connect with Kate:

Facebook: Kate Field

Twitter: @katehaswords

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