Romancing The Romance Authors with… Leonie Mack

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This week on Romancing The Romance Authors, I am delighted to be quizzing author, Leonie Mack, on writing romance and what romantic fiction means to her.

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

I write romantic comedies with big feelings and international locations. My second book, Italy Ever After came out on 11 May. My debut, My Christmas Number One was picked up by Boldwood Books in 2020 and released for Christmas 2020.

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Why romance?

The simple answer is: romance is what I most like to read. I love a story that focuses on a character’s internal journey to a place where they can commit to someone they love.

What inspires your stories?

All sorts of different sparks of inspiration go into each story. For Italy Ever After, for instance, the character of Nick Romano was inspired by a time I walked past a primary school and heard a violin ensemble rehearsing. I imagined the teacher and there was Nick. I wanted to write a real getaway, an escape from daily life, so I chose a place that had made a real impression on me and then I had Lake Garda. The rest of the story fell into place, when you have a teacher and a lake – perfect for a music camp.

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

I used to read every Nora Roberts book I could get my hands on and her writing style greatly influenced mine. I also lapped up the Bridgerton books (back in the 2000s, when they were only books!) and others by Julia Quinn. I love that romantic comedies are so popular at the moment and some of my favourites have been by Mia Sosa and Sally Thorne and I love Lucy Keeling’s romcoms set in Manchester.

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

Ooh, that’s a really difficult question for an author. I deal in complexity! But I’d probably recommend The Hating Game. It’s a very popular book, but I think that’s because everyone can enjoy it!

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Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome. 2) A person’s undoing. 3) Joshua Templeman.

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman sit across from each other every day . . . and they hate each other.

Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. HATE. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight approach to his job and refusal to smile. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and desire to be liked.

Now they’re up for the same promotion and Lucy, usually a determined people-pleaser, has had enough: it’s time to take him down. But as the tension between Lucy and Joshua reaches its boiling point, it’s clear that the real battle has only just begun . . .

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

Ha! I’m personally not all that romantic in the traditional way. I think that’s why I like romcoms. You can make the relationship progress in all sorts of funny ways that are often misadventures that show love can win in the end. But right now, after the year we’ve had, I’d love to have a weekend in the mountains with my husband to just hike. But if we’re talking a romance hero, I’d say snowed in with a bad-boy rockstar (LOL).

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

Accessing the network at the RNA is so important, even though I only became a member in 2020 and haven’t managed to attend a conference, yet. There’s always someone who has experience of whatever you’re going through and we will always support each other’s books because we all love love stories.

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

Stick with it! The publishing industry has changed so much over the past ten years that if you just keep writing and submitting your work, you’re fairly likely to find someone who loves it eventually. It’s definitely slow and may take years of writing books that never see the light of day, but celebrate those books as part of the learning experience and you’ll get there eventually.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

Divorced mum Lou accompanies her daughter Edie on a music camp by Lake Garda, determined to discover her own talents while Edie develops hers. In a series of misadventures, she finally gets to know Edie’s seriously hot but very reserved violin teacher, Nick Romano, and she learns she doesn’t need a special talent to be loved for who she is. Italy Ever After is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

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TV journalist Lou feels battered and bruised after her divorce from Phil, the father of her daughter Edie. Her confidence and sense of fun have steadily been drained away, and she isn’t sure who she is any more.

When the opportunity arises to accompany Edie on a music camp in Italy for a month in the summer, Lou jumps at the chance for new adventures, new horizons and new friends. The hazy warmth of the summer sun, shining brightly over the stunning Lake Garda, slowly brings Lou back to life.

Nick Romano, Edie’s music teacher, loves being home in Italy, but coaching his students for their concert in Milan, is bringing back difficult memories. His blossoming friendship with Lou is the perfect distraction, although a summer fling would be easier to conduct without the scrutiny of his mother Greta, not to mention the interference of his extended Italian family.

As the summer passes, full of sunshine and breath-taking scenery, gelato and delicious feasts, Lou and Nick get ever closer. But as the time for farewell creeps up on them, will they be able to say goodbye and leave their memories behind in the Italian sun, or can a summer romance last a lifetime?

About the Author

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Leonie Mack is an author of romantic comedies with great locations and big feelings. She loves a happy ending and shares that love in every book she writes! Leonie is a journalism graduate, a language nut and loves to travel, particularly on foot, by bike and by train. After growing up in Australia and living most of her adult life in London, she now lives in Germany, among the vineyards on the Main river.

Connect with Leonie:

Website: https://leoniemack.com/

Facebook: Leonie Mack

Twitter: @LeonieMAuthor

Instagram: @leoniejmack

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

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

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Every end has a new beginning…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About the Author

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

Connect with Jennifer:

Facebook: Jennifer Bohnet

Twitter: @jenniewriter

Instagram: @jenniewriter

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Blog Tour: All My Lies by Sophie Flynn #BookReview

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I am thrilled to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for All My Lies, the debut novel by Sophie Flynn. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours 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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Anna wants to escape.

She doesn’t know when her marriage to James began to feel like a trap or when he became so controlling. All she knows is that she needs to leave before it’s too late.

And she has a plan.

When Anna reconnects with her childhood sweetheart, Sam, she sees it as the answer to her problems. Finally, they’ll have a life together, like they’d always planned – the life she was meant to have.

But the lies are catching up with her . . .

On the morning of their escape, Sam goes missing. Anna knows he wouldn’t leave her, that something must have happened to him.

Her search for answers will force her to confront her past, something that she has been running from for a very long time . . .

Well, I’m not sure if this is the effect that Sophie Flynn was going for when she wrote the book but I was on edge all the way through this book. And I don’t mean on the edge of my seat, but on the edge of my nerves, every sinew strained with worry for Anna and what was going to happen to her before the book ended. This is good, books should make the reader uncomfortable sometimes.

Right from the beginning, the author has created a sense of peril for the main character that it is absolutely impossible to shake throughout, and every action the protagonist takes intensifies the feeling because she is making unwise decisions that ramp up the risk for herself. For most of the book I wanted to take her by the shoulders and give her a good shake, because she handles absolutely everything so badly that I couldn’t understand why she was so foolish, especially at the end. I’ve obviously never been in love with someone the way she was with Sam!

Sophie has also constructed a book here in which you have no idea who you can trust. Clearly, Anna doesn’t know throughout who is being honest and who is lying to her, and what about, but I also had extreme doubts about Anna herself and whether she was telling us, the reader, the truth or whether some of what she says is lies or fantasy. She has been dishonest in situations in both past and present, so having an unreliable narrator on top of all her suspicions about everyone else will have your brain twisted into a frenzy of doubt and confusion by the end of the novel, which only adds to the tension.

The book isn’t quite perfect, I did have a couple of niggles about it. There were parts where I found it a little unevenly paced. Rosie was an unbelievably accepting and forgiving character, I think I would have been much more annoyed with and questioning of Anna’s behaviour myself. In fact, I was, I found her quite spineless and a little too much of a willing and passive victim in the story until she does finally find some gumption. I am sure this is how the author intended her to be, its a huge plot driver that she is this way, but it did make it difficult for me to get behind her 100% personally because I just don’t relate to this type of character. These are the things that pulled the book down slightly from a five star read for me.

However, I do think these might be niggles that are very specific to me and what I like to read, so I would not allow them to put you off from the reading the book because, all in all, this is a gripping and different thriller with a huge amount to offer. I read it in only two (very busy) days, so it clearly held my interest for me to keep glued to it over that time frame and I was fully invested in knowing the outcome of who was lying and who was telling the truth. One thing I thought was really great about the book was how the author chose to end it – it wasn’t obvious and neat and I really loved that about it, it felt more authentic. Overall, this is a solid and rewarding psychological thriller with plenty of plot twists and misdirection, huge amounts of tension that will gnaw on your nerves and keep you gripped to the end and a satisfyingly believable ending. I would highly recommend it and look forward to seeing what comes next from this exciting debut author.

All My Lies is out now as an ebook and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure to check out some other reviews on the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Sophie Flynn is a Cotswolds based psychological thriller author with an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes. Alongside writing, Sophie is the Head of Marketing at Jericho Writers. After being awarded a place at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School on the TopWrite scheme for young writers in 2017, Sophie began writing short fiction. She has since had many stories published and placed in competitions with organisations such as Writing Magazine and The Cheltenham Literature Festival.

When not writing, Sophie can mostly be found on muddy walks with her husband and rescue dog or disappearing to Cornwall whenever possible. She is represented by Kate Nash of Kate Nash Literary Agency.

Connect with Sophie:

Website: https://sophieflynn.com/

Twitter: @sophielflynn

Instagram: @sophieflynnauthor

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Lizzie Chantree

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Time for another heart to heart about all things romance with an author in the genre, and this week I am delighted to welcome back to the blog… Lizzie Chantree.

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

Hello everyone. I write contemporary women’s fiction about love, romance and feisty entrepreneurs with some pretty unusual businesses. I have eight books published so far and have two more ready to publish. I have both French and American publishers, but I also self-publish in between, so that my readers don’t have to wait too long for another story. I really enjoy both elements of publishing and I now run seminars, where I talk about networking and how authors can broaden their readership and keep isolation at bay.

Why romance?

I love romance! I grew up reading Mills and Boon books from the local library and I adore a mischievous heroine and a swoon-worthy lead man. Romance books are full of laughter and real life issues and they are a wonderful way to connect with readers. I have met so many amazing book lovers since I began writing. Romance stories give us time to step away from any worries for a while and jump into some fun and excitement.

What inspires your stories?

I can be inspired from anything from the way someone holds another person’s hand, to a look that might pass between them. One of my books, the little ice cream shop by the sea, was inspired by seeing an elderly lady who was visibly upset in a café and a young waitress who tried to help her. After the first woman had stopped crying and left the café, I asked the waitress if her friend was ok. The waitress said she’d never met her before and from that grew a story about the kindness of strangers. 

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

I have so many! Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, Jackie Collins, Marian Keyes, Freya North, Lisa Jewell, Katie Fforde, Heidi Swain, Liz Fielding… I could think of so many more.

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

If I could only pick one, I’d always go back and read Pride and Prejudice, time and time again.

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Elizabeth Bennett has a keen mind, a sharp wit, and no desire to marry for convenience. When she meets Mr Darcy, her first impressions are far from favourable, and he shows little interest in her. Nor do their opinions improve with further acquaintance. There seems to be little hope of romance; indeed, it might be impossible unless they can confront the flaws in their own natures. Perhaps their first impressions were mistaken?

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

I’d choose Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, as he’s gorgeous, but also because he has principles and is adventurous at the same time. He’s a bit of a contradiction, which makes him mysterious. I’d love to explore his estate and find out more about his family history. It would be fun to see him being more relaxed and enjoying himself, like he is at the end of the book. I’d be quite happy sitting on his front lawn and writing for a few hours, with him beside me!

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

I wish I had found the RNA sooner! It’s such a welcoming group to be part of and the support for new writers is second to none. If you are starting out, the RNA offer so much guidance, from courses to mentoring. For a more experienced writer, the RNA gives encouragement, room to learn and a feeling of being part of a huge and fun-filled team. 

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

I’d steer them towards the RNA for advice and guidance, then I’d tell them about networking and how to build up a readership through mutual support and the love of books. Author branding is also very important for customers to be able to see at a glance which genre you write in.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My most recent novel is called Shh… It’s Our Secret. Shh… It’s Our Secret, is about a shy woman called Violet, who is trying to silence her inner critic and step out of the shadows.  Her best friends and sister support her, but she feels like they don’t see the real her, or understand that she has ambitions of her own and skills that could help them all escape from poverty.

To them, she is reliable, slightly dull and not very talented, but she is hiding a secret that could blow this theory sky high. Violet will have to eliminate old demons, learn to stand up for herself and show the world who she really is. The book is out now and you can buy it here in your preferred format.

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Violet has a secret that could change the lives of everyone she knows and loves, especially the regulars at the run-down café bar where she works. After losing her parents at a young age, they are the closest thing she has to a family and she feels responsible for them.

Kai is a jaded music producer who has just moved outside of town. Seeking solitude from the stress of his job, he’s looking for seclusion. The only problem is he can’t seem to escape the band members and songwriters who keep showing up at his house.

When Kai wanders into the bar and Violet’s life, he accidentally discovers her closely guarded secret. Can Kai help her rediscover her self-confidence or should some secrets remain undiscovered?

About the Author

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International bestselling author and award-winning inventor, Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now works as a business mentor and runs a popular networking hour on social media, where creatives can support to each other. She writes books full of friendship and laughter, that are about women with unusual and adventurous businesses, who are far stronger than they realise. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex.

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Connect with Lizzie:

Website: https://lizziechantree.com/

Facebook: Lizzie Chantree Author

Twitter: @Lizzie_Chantree

Instagram: @lizzie_chantree

Pinterest: Lizzie Chantree

Goodreads: Lizzie Chantree

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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

A Borrow A Bookshop Holiday

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.

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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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Guest Post: Layers: A Collection of Short Stories by Zuzanne Belec

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Eight short stories on the power of the human spirit.

Layers is a debut collection of imaginative short stories celebrating life and the human spirit despite the ever-present spectre of melancholy in our lives today. With their distinctive blend of wit and humour, they light up any underlying darkness. From the Americas to India, from Africa to Europe, and through a range of genres, voices and styles, layers are unraveled, revealing the textures and contrasts of old and new in the environments and cultures of today’s fast-paced world. With vivid descriptions, we are drawn into enchanting worlds with characters that leap off the page, leaving the reader lingering long after the pages have been read.

  • In The Christmas Charge: Instead of enjoying their Christmas preparing eggnog cream pie and sipping sherry by the fireside, three batty grannies go on an African safari. At this stage of wisdom in their lives, nothing can go wrong. Right?
  • In Paths Taken: When her grandmother ‘kills’ a man on a busy town square, Hecate is forced to face her worst fears and use her own unsettling powers to help her. But where will these new paths take her?
  • In White Noise: All Earl needs to do is hand his work over to his successor. But is it that easy to let go? And where does one hide from one’s inner noise when things go wrong?
  • In The Old Man and the Donkey: Deep in northern Portugal, an old man and his donkey go about their lonely routine. When an unexpected visitor shows up, everyone is given a new chance of happiness. But have they all been stubbornly avoiding it for too long?
  • In The Arctic Haze: Since he was little, bad luck has stuck to George’s soles like clingy dog mess. Some of us are luckier. Or are we really?
  • In Penny’s Purple Robot: A loving father exceeds himself to make his daughter happy after her mother passes away. But can he force himself to face a brutal truth?
  • In Mothers: Deep in Africa, a desperate mother accepts her own fate, but refuses to face an even harsher reality. Mothers will do anything for their young. And things may not be as they seem.
  • In Yeehaw: Running from their regular lives, Sam and Patsy end up in an artificial town – Yeehaw Theme Park. Will they find their true selves in this synthetic world?

If you like a minimalist and dark, yet humorous look at the contrasts we face in the world today, you will enjoy this collection of mixed-genre stories. 

Today I am delighted to welcome to the blog, Zuzanne Belec, who has very kindly written a guest post for me on the writing process behind her debut collection of short stories, Layers.

Now, over to Zuzanne for her guest post:

My writing process by Zuzanne Belec

How I began writing

To keep a very long story short: mine is not one of wanting to write ever since I was little. I’d always thought that writing was a gift allocated only to the gods. Also, times were busy, so there was no room for any creativity whatsoever (nor even for reading, besides the obligatory academic material).

And now suddenly I am a published author of Layers: A Collection of Short Stories. How could that happen when I hardly knew what creativity was? I haven’t a clue. All I can determine is that the creative energy must’ve been accumulating somewhere within me all those years, only to let off a major creative blast once the tornado that’s life had settled down. And what a mess this blast left behind – I had the urge to delve deep into creativity of all sorts and I didn’t know why, I didn’t know how. But I took it slowly, step by step and patiently learned the craft of writing over the years. And gradually that mess transformed into what is a published book today (which is not doing too shabbily in the reviews department either). See? Anything’s possible!

What inspires me

Among the creative splotches to clean up from the ceiling after that blast was the question of ‘what to write.’ I had no clue either. This is the point, perhaps, when my upbringing in the African bush came to the fore: I used that survival instinct and put to work all the senses to really ‘see’ the details of my surroundings, I began listening to the noise outside, the noise inside of me, and also to my creative urges. That’s when all the people and places I’d visited really began to ‘speak’ to me.  They showed me their hearts – both their joys and their tribulations. That is what inspires me the most, and which forms the basis for most of my stories: the contrasts and dynamics between nature, cultures and societies today. I especially enjoy taking a minimalist and, where possible, a humorous look at some of these dark realities.

We have a lot to learn from one another still, no matter whether we’re educated/uneducated, rich/poor, male/female/other, black/white, animal/human…  So here’s a big thank you to the people and places that have inspired me, and will still inspire me!

What I write

I admit that I began writing short stories because they said it’s the quickest way to learn the craft. Specifically contemporary mixed-genre stories – the best way to learn the genres! As difficult as writing short stories has turned out to be though, I really enjoy writing them. And the upside: I can get a lot more stories written in the time I have left.

Either way though, I like to keep my stories short. And I like to keep my stories simple.

Short because life is short. Because when it’s our time to go, we won’t go remembering the entire duration of our life. We will remember the short bits.  So, in this light, that’s what I try to capture in my short stories: small, memorable bits of life lived.

And simple because when it’s our time to go, we won’t be pondering all the detailed complexities of our lives – we will remember the simple things. And so, in this light too, my short stories attempt to reflect just that: simple, wonderful bits of life lived.   

All in all, it is just as Ali Smith says, “short stories consume you faster...” I like that brevity and impact.

I am trying my hand at the long form too, but I’m pretty hopeless at that still. I’m finding it very difficult to stay focused when I reach the more ‘long-winded’ filler, sections. Maybe I have a short attention span, I don’t know. Perhaps one day I’ll manage it though.  I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, I still have some writing to do before I reach those 10 000 hours anyway…!

My writing process:

First thing every morning, after having my cup of tea, I do my morning pages (which I started doing about a decade ago after reading Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, and Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way). I owe a lot to them because I know that all those morning pages written over the years are what allowed me to connect with my creative side. Full stop. This ritual still yields surprises, with valuable ideas and insights still popping up every now and then. This is my favourite part of the day.

Once I have a story idea, this is how I develop it into a story: I determine the ‘why’ of the story using Jennie Nash’s excellent Author Accelerator method. Once I have this deep and solid foundation to build my story on, my next step is doing my character profiles. I use the OneStop writing tool for this. Then, with characters brought to life as deep as I can, I plot my story out using the GetPlottr visualization tool to make sure all my timelines, ages, dates, sequences, etc. correspond. Then I finally get down and write the actual story using that fabulous Scrivener.  See? Tools! Maybe one day, when I have more books behind me, I won’t need those tools to help me along my newbie path, but for now they’re a life saver!

Who are my favourite authors?

I still have many to catch up on, but a few of my favourites so far are George Saunders (mainly his excellent non-fiction), Theodor Seuss Geisel, Roald Dahl, Marina Lewycka, Niklos Kazantzakis, Terry Pratchett …. Oh, and Czech author Evzen Bocek, who is author of the hilarious Aristokratka series (unfortunately not translated into English yet).

Thank you for having me on, Julie, and giving me the opportunity to connect with your audience. And thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to check out this post. 

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On 3-5 May, 2021, Zuzanne’s highly rated collection of short stories, Layers, will be available to download for FREE on Amazon.  To get your eight short stories on the power of the human spirit during this period, please click here: https://books2read.com/u/4A77zd

To subscribe to her newsletter, get access to her members-only Zuu Zone, and receive a FREE download of her short story The UnAdorned – a warm, modern tale of ancient good, set in modern India – you can click here: https://zuzannebelec.com/books-and-signup/

About the Author

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Zuzanne is a writer, poet and translator who survived growing up with large critters in Africa.  She has two beautiful daughters, and now lives in the heart of Europe with her very patient partner.

Connect with Zuzanne:

Website: https://zuzannebelec.com

Twitter: @ZuzanneBelec  

Instagram: @zuzannebelec 

Pinterest: Zuzanne Belec

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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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