Blog Tour: The Conspiracy by Jack Probyn #BookReview

The Conspiracy Cover

Candice Strachan can’t breathe. 

A small jewellers is raided in Guildford High Street and leaves police chasing their tails. Reports suggest that it’s The Crimsons, an organised crime group the police have been hunting for years.

The device wrapped around her neck is suffocating her, crushing her chest.

But for rookie detective, Jake Tanner, something doesn’t seem right. The heist doesn’t fit any of their previous patterns. And the last time Jake met them, he was staring down the barrel of their gun, bargaining for his life.

The men who put it there have left her to die.

When the shop owner is kidnapped and a collar bomb is attached to her neck, Jake learns one of his own is involved – a police officer.

Her life now rests in Jake Tanner’s hands. 

As Jake follows the group on a wild goose chase, he questions everything he knows about his team. Who can he trust? And is he prepared to find out?

(Warning: This book is intended for mature audiences and contains disturbing and potentially offensive material.)

I’m delighted to be kicking off the blog tour today for The Conspiracy by Jack Probyn, Book One in the Jake Tanner Crime Thriller series. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part, and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

The Conspiracy starts off really promisingly with a violent heist at a jewellery shop in Guildford. It seems to have been perpetrated by a gang who have not been seen for a long while, so why have they resurfaced, and why have they suddenly got more violent? It’s Jake Tanner’s first day with Guildford’s major crimes team and he can’t believe his old enemies have chosen today to rear their ugly heads again.

I was drawn in to the story quite quickly with the surfeit of action happening on the page and the enthralling premise of the plot. The police have to solve a puzzle to release a hostage from a horrifying, fatal device that is the stuff of nightmares in a race against time, while the criminals make their getaway. it all was really promising from the beginning and I was eager to know what was going to happen. The prose is quite quick and easy to read, although quite graphic in its violence, and the time was passing very quickly.

I also enjoyed the dynamic between the gang and finding out what was driving them, their personal relationships and human frailties feed quite well into the plot to drive the narrative. I could understand and recognise their relationship as being quite authentic and see why things played out as they did.

However, this book has some problems. The main one being that the role that the main protagonist, Jake Tanner, takes in the investigation is just totally unbelievable. It started off seemingly well, so for the first third of the book I bought into the premise and was enjoying the narrative but, after a while, the role that Jake was taking got more and more outlandish. This is a very young man in his first day in a new police force, he is only a trainee detective, and yet the most senior officers are directing the whole investigation on his gut feelings. he’s telling them what to do, communicating behind their backs with a fellow junior officer who is also feeding into his behaviour, going off on his own track, visiting prisoners to interrogate them alone and generally just behaving in a way that it is too hard a stretch of the imagination to accept as in any way authentic. His actions get more outlandish as the book progresses, to the point where he pretty much solves the crime and saves the day single-handedly. Unfortunately, it makes the book almost cartoonish in its denouement.

I think there is a lot of potential in this author. There was a lot to enjoy about the book. He obviously has a great imagination and a good eye for story structure. The writing just lacks some maturity, it reads a bit like a grown up version of a teenage boy’s book, with not enough character development or authenticity of procedure, but plenty of action. I’m sure over time these things will develop and the author could be one to watch. I also accept that I may not be the target audience for this book and maybe it is aimed more to appeal to young, male readers. For the time being, this is a book for anyone who is prepared to suspend their disbelief further than I could manage in return for high action and an imaginative plot.

The Conspiracy is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour for alternative reviews:

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About the Author

Jack Probyn

Jack Probyn is the author of the DC Jake Tanner series. He hasn’t spent much time on the planet, but he knows what he wants: to entertain and enthral readers across the globe with his stories. Growing up as an only child and never owning a pet – something he reminds his parents of constantly – Jack spent a lot of time reading and writing.

After just about completing an English degree, he decided to turn his passion from a hobby into a career. When he’s not writing, he’s usually enjoying a sudoku or a true crime drama on Netflix. He lives in Surrey with his partner – who also one day dreams of owning a pet. Preferably a dog.

Connect with Jack:

Website: https://www.jackprobynbooks.com/

Facebook: Jack Probyn Author

Twitter: @jackprobynbooks

Instagram: @jackprobynauthor

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Blog Tour: The Hurting by R. J. Mitchell #BookReview

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THE HURTING finds DS Angus Thoroughgood recovering from injuries from his most recent adventures in Parallel Lines and questioning his career with the Glasgow police force. After handing in his resignation, Thoroughgood is pulled back into the line of duty once his recovery at the police convalescence home, Castlebrae, is complete.

Terrorist attacks in and around Glasgow see Thoroughgood, alongside his partner DC Hardie, return to action. As their world as they know it and the city they love falls apart, the pair work alongside MI5 in a race to discover the source of these attacks.

The second instalment in the DS Thoroughgood series of novels by RJ Mitchell, The Hurting picks up right where Parallel Lines left off and sends Thoroughgood and Hardie on a rollercoaster ride through Glasgow’s seedy underworld and that of international terrorism.

The Hurting sees author RJ Mitchell drawing from his 12 years of experience as a Glasgow police officer to provide an accurate portrayal of real life police work whilst guiding the reader through an intricate plot filled with lies and subterfuge.

Today I am reviewing the second book in the DS Thoroughgood series by R. J. Mitchell as part of the blog tour. You can read my review of the first book, Parallel Lines, here. Thanks again to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This book carries on straight after the ending of the last book. In a lot of ways it is similar, same frenetic pace, same rollercoaster excitement and vivid portrayal of the seedy underside of Glasgow, but in other ways it is different, different enemy, different dangers and a changed DS Thoroughgood.

At the beginning of the book, a heartbroken Gus Thoroughgood cannot see any point in going on without the love of his life and considers quitting the force. But, he is a policeman through and through and we see his instincts kick in as he and Hardie encounter some familiar criminal faces on their way back to Glasgow from his month’s recuperation in Perthshire. What starts out as a simple car chase soon gives way to a much bigger and more terrifying prospect as the policemen find themselves embroiled in an international terror plot, which eventually turns personal.

Look, I’m going to be honest here, I wasn’t 100% convinced about the authenticity of some events in this book. Given the scale and threat of what is happening in Glasgow, I find it hard to believe that two policemen of the lowly ranks of Thoroughgood and Hardie would allowed to be embroiled in the investigation to the level they are, or that a lot of their maverick behaviour would be tolerated, never mind celebrated (Although my experience of policing is nil, so I could be wrong.) However, once you set aside any demands for realism in the plot, this is a rip-roaring story that is gripping and eminently readable. After all, the plots of most action movies are complete bunkum but that doesn’t stop many of us enjoying them as a piece of entertainment and, if you approach this book in the same way, it is a heart-stopping read. The story fairly races along, rarely stopping to allow the reader to catch their breath, with action from first page to last, and a huge body count along the way. Be prepared for George R. R. Martin levels of character disposal. It’s best not to get too attached to anyone in this book.

Another thing that struck, and amused me, was that this book is pretty much a middle-aged man’s fantasy. DS Thoroughgood, who I have pictured in my mind’s eye as a fairly ordinary bloke, spends quite a lot of the book seducing, or being seduced, by a succession of attractive, lithe young women who all happily fling themselves into bed with him with enthusiasm and nary a pause for consideration. Again, maybe this is reflective of the every day experience of your average Glaswegian detective (if so, the Irishman is considering a change of job and location), but I suspect not, Again, there is nothing wrong with this but, I would request that in future novels the author consider that a large proportion of his readership are likely to be women and he might like to throw in some eye candy for us girls too! (Also, he got over Celine pretty quickly, given how devastated he was supposed to be by her loss. We women take a dim view of such fickleness, Mr Mitchell!)

Overall, Gus Thoroughgood is a roguish, charming and gung ho copper (maybe this is what the women see in him and I’ve just grown out of this type of machismo as a sexual lure) who is a fun person to read about. The author is skilled at providing us with an action-packed and gripping plot, and bringing the streets of Glasgow to life, albeit it mostly peopled with villains and rotters. As close to escapism as you can get in violent crime thriller form, which is not a sentence I have contemplated typing before. I am really looking forward to reading the third book in this series for review next week.

The Hurting is out now and you can buy a copy here.

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

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About the Author

RJ Mitchell
Pictured Author RJ Mitchell , crime writer , former Herald & Evening Times sports writer and ex cop. He is pictured at the old firing range within the the former Strathclyde Police college in Oxford Street ,next to the Sheriff Court. He has just announced that he has signed a four book deal with McNidder & Grace . His next crime novel The Shift is due out in the spring. It is based on his experiences as a rookie cop in Glasgow. As a cop he had spent many hours in this building over 20 years ago. It was the kind permission of Alistair Brand of Stallan-Brand architects who took over the building earlier this year and found out about the authors history with the place. Photograph by Martin Shields Tel 07572 457000 http://www.martinshields.com FEE PAYABLE FOR REPRO USE NB -This image is not to be distributed without the prior consent of the copyright holder. in using this image you agree to abide by terms and conditions as stated in this caption. All monies payable to Martin Shields (PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE THIS CAPTION) This image is intended for Editorial use (e.g. news). Any commercial or promotional use requires additional clearance. Copyright 2015 All rights protected. first use only.

Robert James Mitchell was brought up in Stirling. Mitchell was initially detailed beat duties out of the former Blackhill Police Office and then Baird Street Police Office in the former ‘D’ Division, or the North, as it was known to all the men who served in the division. In January, 2007, while recovering from an appendicitis, Mitchell decided to write the first draft of ‘Parallel Lines: The Glasgow Supremacy‘, drawing heavily on his own experiences and featuring the characters of Detective Sergeant Gus Thoroughgood and DC Kenny Hardie.

Connect with Robert:

Website: https://rjmitchellauthor.co.uk/

Facebook: R J Mitchell Crime Writer

Twitter: @spitfiremedia

Instagram: @spitfire_07

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Blog Tour: The Little Swiss Ski Chalet by Julie Caplin #BookReview

The Little Swiss Ski Chalet

I’m delighted to be one of the blogs opening the tour for the latest book in one of my favourite series by one of my favourite authors today. The Little Swiss Ski Chalet is the seventh book in the Romantic Escapes series by Julie Caplin. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on to the tour and to the publisher, One More Chapter, for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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It’s time to pack your bags and head to the breathtaking, snow-covered peaks of the Swiss Alps for velvety hot chocolates, delicious cheeses and a gorgeous love story…

Food technician Mina has always believed that chocolate will solve everything – and it’s just what she needs when her latest relationship mishap goes viral!

So with her bags packed and a new determination to sort her life out, Mina decides to drown her sorrows with the best hot chocolate in the world at her godmother’s cosy Swiss chalet. Chocolate: yes. Romance: no. Until she has a run in on an Alpine train with a mysterious but oh-so-gorgeous stranger…

I don’t know about you but normally at this time of year I would be planning my travels for the upcoming months. Since lockdown has put the kibosh on booking any jaunts to foreign climes for the foreseeable future, the only travel I can currently do is from the comfort of my armchair via the pages of a book, and there is no better series than Julie Caplin’s Romantic Escapes to take you away for a short while.

So far I have travelled with Julie to Denmark, New York, Paris, Iceland, Croatia and Tokyo, and I have enjoyed every trip, so I was really looking forward to visiting Switzerland through Julie’s eyes. What would she make of the land of chocolate and cuckoo clocks? I can assure you I was not disappointed.

The book got off to a great start as the heroine, Mina’s life explodes in spectacular style as a romantic mishap goes viral and forces her to re-evaluate where she is and where she is heading. Mina is a spontaneous kind of girl who doesn’t really plan, but takes every day as it comes and often acts on a whim. Given the reaction to her latest spur-of-the-moment feat, she starts to wonder if this is the best approach to her future. She decides to head off to her godmother’s ski chalet in Switzerland for a holiday and a chance to take stock and decide what she wants to do with her life. No pressure there! I really loved Mina as a character from the start. She is so totally different to me in every respect that I adored living vicariously through her. If only I had had her gumption at that age!

A chance meeting with a handsome stranger threatens to derail Mina’s new level-headed approach before it really gets off the ground. But she is determined to get serious about her future, however tempting the alternative might be. The author does a great job of setting up sexual chemistry between Mina and the mystery man right from the start that it fizzes off the page and reminded me of how it feels when you first meet someone and there is instant electricity between you. It is perfectly captured here, and you will be wondering how Mina can resist! What willpower.

So, we follow Mina as she discovers her aunt’s cosy ski chalet and explores all the delights that surround it. Amelie has created a homely, welcoming guesthouse where her visitors are like family and return time after time. The lure of sampling delicious Swiss recipes and learning how to cook them, exploring the glorious alps on skis and snowshoes and taking a unique food-tasting trip soon draw Mina in to life in Switzerland, until she doesn’t want to leave, and who can blame her. I was totally in love with the setting and the characters by the time I had finished the book.

Julie Caplin is a genius at bringing the locations of her book to life using every sense available until you are absolutely there, experiencing it all, and this book is no exception. If you walk away from this book without a craving for fondue and hot chocolate, I’ll eat my hat. I could smell the pine and the minty fresh mountain air, feel the heat from the log fires and the crunch of snow under skis and hear the chatter of happy guests as they munched Amelie’s cakes. A 3D reading experience. To top it all off is the promise of a quirky love story at its heart to bring an extra glow to your cheeks.

This is a gorgeous hug of a book that will transport you to the Swiss Alps and then cheer you with food, friends and a happy ending. I can’t think of a more perfect way to while away a lockdown weekend, can you?

The Little Swiss Ski Chalet is out now as and ebook and will be published in paperback on 18 February. You can buy your copy here.

Please do make sure you visit the rest of the wonderful blogs taking part in the tour for more reviews:

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About the Author

Julie Caplin

Julie Caplin, formerly a PR director, swanned around Europe for many years taking top food and drink writers on press trips (junkets) sampling the gastronomic delights of various cities in Italy, France, Belgium, Spain, Copenhagen and Switzerland. It was a tough job but someone had to do it. 

These trips have provided the inspiration and settings for her Romantic Escapes series which have been translated into fifteen different languages.

The first book in the seven strong series, The Little Café in Copenhagen, was shortlisted for a Romantic Novel of the Year Award.

Connect with Julie:

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

Facebook: Julie Caplin Author

Twitter: @JulieCaplin

Instagram: @juliecaplinauthor

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Blog Tour: The Darkness Within by Graeme Hampton #BookReview

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You can run… but death will always find you

A man is discovered on a leafy North London street, fighting for life after a brutal beating. DI Matthew Denning and his team are quickly called in to to track down the monster responsible.

Except the victim is hiding secrets of his own. His name shows that he was reported missing two decades ago – but it’s clear that the missing person is not the same man lying broken in a hospital bed.

A visit to a squalid East London flat unearths a victim with his throat slit, his body left to decompose. A sad end to any life – but when it is identified as former DCI Frank Buckfield, star of the Met police, the case takes on a new significance.

Two seemingly unrelated cases – but as Denning, along with DS Molly Fisher, investigates further, they uncover links between the two victims that lead back to a ring of silence cloaking the blackest of crimes.

But as Denning and Fisher try to track down a killer with revenge on their mind, they find themselves pitted against a psychopath who will kill to keep their secrets hidden. Can they uncover the truth, before they end up the latest victims?

I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for The Darkness Within by Graeme Hampton. Huge thanks to Sarah Hardy of Books On The Bright Side Publicity for my place on the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is the first book I have read by this author and, if I hadn’t been told it was part of a series, I would not have known simply from reading it. The fact I hadn’t read the previous books did not detract from my understanding or enjoyment of this book at all, it works perfectly as a standalone.

The book pulled me in to the story immediately, opening as it does with the rather gory discovery of the dead body of a retired police officer. From the very beginning, the author does not hold back from giving us a graphic insight in to the way a police investigation works, the pleasant and very unpleasant together. This was the most appealing part of the book to me, looking at how investigations are really happen and how the police have to juggle demands on their time, decide what to prioritise, and how those decisions can be political rather than in the best interests of the victims. It’s very sobering, to be honest.

At the beginning there seem to be two separate crimes to be investigated, one of which is more important to the top brass than the other. Luckily, the two voices we hear from throughout the book, DI Denning and DS Fisher, are not above ignoring orders from above if it goes against their instincts, and they seem to each have  a good nose for something fishy, as well as a tenacity in getting to the bottom of a crime. They are the kind of police you would want on your case if you ever needed them.

I found the book very compelling. It was extremely easy to read, and gripping enough to make me race through the pages, so that several hours flew by like minutes. I absolutely love it when a book draws you so far in to the world the author has created between the pages that you are fully living it and don’t want to be pulled out. Honestly, this is one of the best examples of the genre I have read for a while and I look forward to going back and reading the preceding books in the series. I thought the two main characters were well developed and interesting enough to easily carry the story and I really enjoyed getting to know them personally as well as professionally.

An all-round great story which will keep you engrossed and entertained for however long it takes you to read it. Highly recommended as a great distraction in these lockdown days.

The Darkness Within is out now as an ebook and you can buy a copy here.

Please check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour for alternative views on the book:

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About the Author

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Graeme Hampton was born in Paisley, and grew up in Stirling. After leaving school, he trained as a stage manager and worked in London for a number of years. He returned to Scotland in his late twenties to study for a BA in English Literature at Stirling University.

His first novel, Know No Evil – featuring Met detectives DI Matt Denning and DS Molly Fisher – was published in 2019 by Hera Books. This was followed by Blood Family in January 2020. The Darkness Within is the third novel in the series.

Graeme lives in Hastings, East Sussex.

Connect with Graeme:

Website: https://www.graemehampton.com/

Twitter: @Gham001

Instagram: @graeme_hampton

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Blog Tour: Parallel Lines by R. J. Mitchell #BookReview

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PARALLEL LINES is the story of a deadly rivalry on both sides of the law.

With criminal rival and would be underworld kingpin Declan Meehan on the verge of controlling Glasgow’s lucrative illegal drug trade, Detective Sergeant Angus Thoroughgood vows to bring him down. An edgy and fast-paced crime thriller set in the seedy criminal underworld of Glasgow, Scotland, Parallel Lines is the first book in the long-running Thoroughgood series.

With Meechan bludgeoning his competition into submission, seizing the city piece by piece, his conflict with Thoroughgood gets all too personal when Celine Lynott, the woman who broke Angus’ heart ten-years earlier, falls for his nemesis.

Parallel Lines sees author RJ Mitchell drawing from his 12 years of experience as a Glasgow police officer to drag readers into the city’s sleazy underbelly to encounter the violent and lawless stories that can be found there.

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for Parallel Lines by R. J. Mitchell, the first in the DS Thoroughgood series. I will be reviewing the next two books over the coming weeks. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Welcome to the seamy criminal underworld of Glasgow in all its gory glory. This book will take you on a rollercoaster ride through the dark side of life in Glasgow and introduce to some of the people trying to battle it. These are real people, both the criminals and police, and the author doesn’t pull an punches showing us their true faces, warts and all.

The main protagonists in the book are DS Gus Thoroughgood and underworld kingpin Declan Meechan. The two have a history of butting heads from their opposing sides of the good/evil divide, to the extent that you wonder whether their enmity is purely professional, especially when we find out there is a woman involved in the mix. So far, everything is set up for a rip-roaring thriller with plenty of tension, and this is eactly what you get.

The author pulls no punches with the action on the page here. The book opens with the police being called to the scene of an armed robbery in progress and only gets hotter from there on. Be warned, this book is full of authentic violence that is described in great detail. There are fights, shootings, stabbings, murder, arson, all of it in full colour, so if you are remotely squeamish, this may not be the book for you. However, it feels completely authentic and necessary for the book, for the feel of what it is really like to have to live and work in this world.

There are some great characters in this book and both sides, and I love that the author has given them lives and personalities that you may not expect but feel very real. Thoroughgood goes speed dating, his sidekick Hardie is over-weight and henpecked. Even the vicious gangsters have feelings and problems in their romantic lives. You get the impression that the author is pulling these people from real life and setting them down on the page, which makes for an interesting read.

The book has its flaws. The characters use a lot of Glaswegian dialect which I am sure is authentic but can occasionally be hard for the non-native to read. There is a lot of description, particularly of street names and locations in Glasgow that sometimes slowed down the action and could maybe do with a little trimming in places. The book is incredibly male in tone, which I fear may be a little off-putting for some female readers. I did wonder whether the behaviour of the officers was entirely authentic throughout – there were a couple of parts where their action seemed a little cartoonish, which jarred a bit with the violent authenticity of most of it. However, these were minor niggles in what was, overall, a refreshing and entertaining read.

This book felt like something a bit different in the genre, a truthful peak into the criminal world of Glasgow. I enjoyed the change of beat from some of the books I have read recently. I am looking forward to reviewing the next two books in the series over the coming weeks and seeing what is next for DS Thoroughgood. I had become quite fond of both him and Hardie during the course of the book. Hopefully you will join me.

Parallel Lines is out now in paperback and ebook formats and you can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour for more reviews and other great content:

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About the Author

RJ Mitchell
(Pictured Author RJ Mitchell , crime writer , former Herald & Evening Times sports writer and ex cop. He is pictured at the old firing range within the the former Strathclyde Police college in Oxford Street ,next to the Sheriff Court. He has just announced that he has signed a four book deal with McNidder & Grace . His next crime novel The Shift is due out in the spring. It is based on his experiences as a rookie cop in Glasgow. As a cop he had spent many hours in this building over 20 years ago. It was the kind permission of Alistair Brand of Stallan-Brand architects who took over the building earlier this year and found out about the authors history with the place. Photograph by Martin Shields Tel 07572 457000 http://www.martinshields.com FEE PAYABLE FOR REPRO USE NB -This image is not to be distributed without the prior consent of the copyright holder. in using this image you agree to abide by terms and conditions as stated in this caption. All monies payable to Martin Shields (PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE THIS CAPTION) This image is intended for Editorial use (e.g. news). Any commercial or promotional use requires additional clearance. Copyright 2015 All rights protected. first use only.)

Robert James Mitchell was brought up in Stirling. Mitchell was initially detailed beat duties out of the former Blackhill Police Office and then Baird Street Police Office in the former ‘D’ Division, or the North, as it was known to all the men who served in the division. In January, 2007, while recovering from an appendicitis, Mitchell decided to write the first draft of ‘Parallel Lines: The Glasgow Supremacy‘, drawing heavily on his own experiences and featuring the characters of Detective Sergeant Gus Thoroughgood and DC Kenny Hardie.

Connect with Robert:

Website: https://rjmitchellauthor.co.uk/

Facebook: R J Mitchell Crime Writer

Twitter: @spitfiremedia

Instagram: @spitfire_07

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Blog Tour: The Lake House by Christie Barlow #BookReview

The Lake House

I’m delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Lake House, Book 5 in the popular Love Heart Lane series by Christie Barlow. 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.

The Lake House cover

There’s a newcomer to the village of Heartcross and she’s never been more in need of a friend.

Ella is ready to start afresh ––and that could mean there’s love on the horizon in the form of the gorgeous Roman, the local water taxi driver. Every day Roman is there to ferry Ella to the restaurant on the other side of the lake and every night he makes sure she gets home safe. But Roman has secrets of his own…

Can the Love Heart Lane community offer Ella a chance of a new life? Or will the ghosts of her past catch up with her?

Although this is the fifth book in this series, you don’t need to have read any of the previous books in the series to be able to enjoy this one, it works perfectly well as a standalone. Although, I have to warn you that you will probably want to go back and read all the previous ones once you have finished this, so it could be dangerous for your bank balance!

At the beginning of the book, we meet Ella at the lowest ebb of her life. She has been betrayed and loses everything that is important to her, and has no idea what she is going to do with her life, until her best friend Callie swoops in and carries her off to the tiny village of Heartcross where Callie plans to help Ella get back on her feet. After all, Heartcross is a magical place.

This probably sounds very saccharine, especially if you are off a cynical disposition, but if you are a fan of light romances, I promise you that this book is heartwarming and absolutely full of charm, thanks to the skill of Christie’s writing. You won’t be able to help getting invested in Ella’s fate, and the goings on in Heartcross, especially once you get to know the other characters in the book.

Particularly Dolores. I absolutely loved Dolores. Christie has created someone so vivid and alive that she jumps off the page of the book and straight in to your imagination fully formed, and she is a total firecracker. She is one of those women that you hope you will turn in to when you get old, still full of life and joy and hope. I loved the way she is there to show Ella that there is so much for her to live for, even though she has been hurt and let down, and the end to her personal story really moved me. I had a tear in my eye at the culmination of her plot line.

Despite the fact that this is a light romance, Christie managed to create a lot of tension in the novel, because there were several ways that the story could have gone, although the main catalyst that began the book was actually the least fascinating mystery in the end. The story of Dolores, of how Ella integrates into the Heartcross community, the way she works to help them, whilst healing herself at the same time, and her friendship with Roman were all so wonderful and compelling that, by the time Ella’s old life rears it ugly head again, we barely care. We know Ella is better off where she is now, and we care more about her new life and her old. This is a joy of the book, we all develop and recover and move on just as Ella does, Christie really carries the reader along with the story.

This book was just the tonic that I needed to read after two very heavy, dark reads, dismal January weather and more tragic news. The real world is a bit of a crappy place to be at the moment, Heartcross is a much happier and warmer place to exist for a few hours. It is a place that really crawls under your skin and cheers you from the inside out. Pure escapism, which we all need a bit of at the moment. I have just downloaded Starcross Manor to my Kindle, I’m sure once you visit Heartcross, you’ll want to return too.

The Lake House is out now in ebook format and will be published as a paperback in April. You can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour for alternative reviews and other content:

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About the Author

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Christie Barlow is the author of ten bestselling romantic comedies including A Home at Honeysuckle Farm, Love Heart Lane and Clover Cottage. She lives in a ramshackle cottage in a quaint village in the heart of Staffordshire with her four children and two dogs.

Her writing career has come as a lovely surprise when Christie decided to write a book to teach her children a valuable life lesson and show them that they are capable of achieving their dreams. Christie’s dream was to become a writer and the book she wrote to prove a point went on to become a #1 bestseller in the UK, USA, Canada and Australia.

When Christie isn’t writing she enjoys playing the piano, is a keen gardener and loves to paint and upcycle furniture.

Christie is an ambassador for the @ZuriProject alongside Patron of the charity, Emmerdale’s Bhasker Patel. They raise money and awareness for communities in Uganda.

Christie loves to hear from her readers and you can get in touch via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Connect with Christie:

Website: https://christiebarlow.com/

Facebook: Christie Barlow Author

Twitter: @ChristieJBarlow

Instagram: @christie_barlow

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Blog Tour: Double Deceit by Julienne Brouwers #BookReview

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What if you were framed for a murder you didn’t commit? 

Jennifer Smits is a young mother, married to a hotshot lawyer and living in Amsterdam. Her world explodes when her husband is found dead at a holiday park during a weekend getaway. Convinced that the police have failed in their investigation, she embarks on a desperate quest for the truth – but the deeper she digs, the more she gets enmeshed in a tangled web of lies, spun by a ruthless law firm.

As Jennifer’s search for answers intensifies, her grip on reality weakens. Barely able to manage her patients at the health clinic, or take care of her young son, Jennifer is at risk of losing it all – even her closest friends begin to desert her. And then a chance encounter with a charming stranger sparks a new chain of events that plunges her deeper into a world of threats and corruption. Soon, she begins to fear for her life – but who can she trust, and how far will she go in pursuit of the truth?

I am delighted to be sharing my review today of Double Deceit by Julienne Brouwers. My thanks to Chris Nijs at JB Publishing for inviting me to take part and to Head of Zeus for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I was immediately drawn to the premise of the book as soon as I read the blurb. I am a sucker for a legal thriller and the prospect of a lone woman up against a nefarious group of lawyers is definitely something I want to read. I was hearing echoes of one of my favourite books, The Firm by John Grisham, and there were definite parallels between that book and this one as I read it, so if that is a book that is up your street, I know you will enjoy Double Deceit.

The book starts off with tension between the main character, Jennifer, and her husband Oliver whilst they are on a family break when their young son gets lost. I thought the story was going one way when Oliver later turns up dead, but it soon took a different turn and we are lead down a labyrinthine path, as more and more details of Oliver’s life before his death are revealed to an unsuspecting Jennifer and her faith in what she knew about her husband is shaken to the core. She begins to doubt his death is as straight forward as the police believe, and she becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth, to the point where she is alienating all around her.

The book is gripping, with numerous red herrings and dead ends thrown in to keep the reader guessing right until the end. Just when you think you know where it is going, there is a huge twist thrown in and, I have to say, I kept changing my mind between different theories as to what had happened, right up until the final chapter, so it was very cleverly done in that respect. There were numerous different endings that the book could have had, some that maybe would have been even more interesting than how it finally turned out, but overall I was satisfied with the way the plot turned out.

The author has developed some very interesting characters in the book. I thought the way she explored the emotional fallout for Jennifer of her husband’s death and being left alone with a small child to bring up alone was fascinating and realistic. How quickly her friends abandoned her when they thought she was going a bit crazy over the way her husband dies was very upsetting and makes you wonder what your friends would do in that situation. It was an interesting exploration of the dynamics of relationships and the robustness of the human spirit, how much we should trust our gut about people and how well we know them.

If I had any tiny niggles, one was that some of Jennifer’s actions required a bit of a stretch of credulity to accept, but this is often the case in a book of this sort, it isn’t supposed to be real life. Also, some of the writing, particularly in the speech patterns, sounded quite formal and not one hundred per cent natural. However, I put this down to English being the author’s second language and I think it is quite forgivable in that context.

I really enjoyed Double Deceit and would definitely read more books by this author in the future, it kept me  clenched in its grip for a good few hours. Highly recommended.

Double Deceit is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do check out the blogs listed below for more reviews of the book:

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About the Author

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Julienne Brouwers worked as a pharmaceutical scientist and medical physicist before becoming a writer. She lives in the Netherlands, with her husband and three children, where she has published two successful thrillers, and lived in the UK and US for a total of four years. 

Connect with Julienne:

Facebook: Julienne Brouwers

Twitter: @JulienneAuthor

Instagram: @juliennebrouwers

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Book Review: The Christmas Swap by Sandy Barker

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Will all three women have their Christmas wishes come true?

Christmas is coming and best friends ChloeJules, and Lucy are needing change… so swapping homes for the holidays could be the perfect present for all of them!

Australian Chloe spends her Christmas in a sleepy village in Oxfordshire, England. She is totally star-struck when she discovers who lives across the road.

Lucy, who has jetted off to snowy Colorado for her dream-come-true white Christmas, is taken into the fold of Jules’s loud and brash family, discovering more about herself in a few short days than she has in years.

And Jules leaves the cold climes of Colorado to spend her Christmas on a beach with Chloe’s friends in Melbourne, finding that time away is just what she needed.

The only thing better than one Christmas romance is three.

This week I am taking part in the One More Chapter Readalong for The Christmas Swap by Sandy Barker and I’m delighted to be sharing my review with you today.. My thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I was just in the mood for an uplifting, festive read when I picked up this book, the news is quite depressing at the moment isn’t it, and what a perfect choice this is for anyone looking for something to warm their cockles and bring a sprinkling of Christmas cheer into their lives. It also addresses one of the burning questions of the age – is Die Hard a Christmas movie?

The book follows three friends who meet on holiday aged eleven and forge a bond that survives over the years, despite the fact they all live on different continents. Fast forward a couple of decades and all of the girls are at some kind of cusp in their lives with issues that need a shake up. Will swapping homes and Christmases for one year provide the catalysts they need to move to the next stage of their lives?

The premise of the book is charming and it works perfectly. Cue the opportunity for the author to transport us to three very different countries for three very different Christmases. In Oxford, Melbourne and Colorado, the three girls are taken in by their friend’s families and find out how the other half does Christmas. Warm beaches, snowy mountains and the English countryside provide the perfect backdrops against which the girls can explore unique Christmas traditions, and maybe make new friends, even of a romantic variety! The author does an absolutely fabulous job of drawing the different environments and transporting the reader there. This book is armchair travel at its most enticing and I felt like I had been transported to the locations in the novel. I defy anyone to come away from reading this book and not wish they could be snow-shoeing through a quiet, Colorado forest or doing a horseback tour of Australian wineries. My passport is itching just thinking about it, especially given my lack of travel this year.

For me, the most compelling thing about this book is the portrayal of the friendship between the three girls. Each of the characters was perfectly drawn and absolutely believable, and the dynamic between them realistic and charming to read. I have two very close groups of female friends who mean the world to me and are the first people I would turn to, in times of trouble and turmoil, but also in times of joy and success. I recognised immediately the workings of the friendship between these women, even went it was sent slightly off track, and it was such a joy to read. I so wanted everything to work out for them, shared their happiness and disappointment throughout and, by the end, I didn’t want to leave their company. I felt like they had become my friends, and I really want to know how things end up for them.

This is a really cheering read with the perfect flavour of Christmas to get you in the mood for the upcoming holiday. I would highly recommend it to all fans of romance looking for a bit of Yuletide cheer. And, as for that burning question at the beginning – is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Of course it is, and that is a hill I am prepared to die on.

The Christmas Swap is out now in ebook and paperback and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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I’m a writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list. I love exploring new places, outdoor adventures, and eating and drinking like a local when I travel, and many of my travel adventures have found homes in my novels. I’m also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover and a coffee snob.

My first novel, a romantic comedy set in Greece and inspired by my real-life love story, was published in June 2019 by One More Chapter (HarperCollins). In 2020, two follow-ups in the Holiday Romance series hit the shelves: That Night in Paris and A Sunset in Sydney. My novel, The Christmas Swap, is a stand-alone inspired by some of my own Christmas adventures, and I am currently writing my 5th book (the 4th in the Holiday Romance series) and 6th book (a stand-alone), with plans for 7 and 8!

Connect with Sandy:

Website: https://sandybarker.com/

Facebook: Sandy Barker Author

Twitter: @sandybarker

Instagram: @sandybarkerauthor

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Book Review: The Guilty Die Twice by Don Hartshorn

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Two attorney brothers. Two bullet-riddled corpses. Two sides to the story.

Ten years ago, a capital murder case in the heart of Texas split the Lynch family in two. Now, estranged lawyer brothers Travis and Jake Lynch find themselves on opposing sides of the courtroom in a high-profile, grisly double murder case—with another accused criminal’s life on the line. Conscience-stricken Travis left his high-powered law firm to become a public defender, while bullish Jake rose to become District Attorney. The case pits brother against brother in a contest of wits, wills, and legal savvy that will shake the justice system to its core: both Lynches are convinced they’re in the right, but the truth turns out to be more complicated—and deadly—than either could have possibly imagined.

A drug deal double-cross turns lethal, leaving two corpses and one victim paralyzed for life. The victim never saw the gunman, but he knows one name: Sam Park. Travis defended Sam’s brother years before, and his heart won’t let him turn down the case, even knowing it’ll bring him face-to-face with Jake after ten years of cold silence. Jake, meanwhile, runs afoul of the Austin political machine and needs a high-profile conviction to win a tough upcoming election. And Sam, the star witness and prime suspect, won’t talk—not to Travis, and certainly not to the high-and-mighty DA—and time is running out.

Can these feuding brothers put aside a decade of enmity in the name of true justice? Or will the truth of what really happened that bloody night go to the grave with Sam Park?

Today I have my second guest reviewer of the week. This time Sandra Forder has reviewed The Guilty Die Twice by Don Hartshorn and I am grateful to her for providing this fabulous review. My thanks also go to Maria Inot at TCK Publishing for inviting the review and for providing the digital copy of the book for that purpose. The book has been reviewed honestly and impartially.

This book follows the story of Travis and Jack Lynch, brothers working on the same side of the law but with opposing views on the death penalty. It is about so much more than the senseless murder of the ‘Rich Kids’ by Mark, Sam, and Roger.  Told with flashbacks to a previous case, it’s a tale about the decimation of a family bond when brothers Travis and Jack take different sides in a murder trial. Then the Rich Kids murder case leads them back to each other. I loved reading the unfolding dynamic within the family.

The flashbacks which are spread throughout the book give a deeper insight into the divide between the brothers. They help you understand why they have progressed in their careers in the way they have. Coming from a well-known family of lawyers, Travis is like an outsider and is resistant to accepting any help, even though he is struggling with paying his own bills. Unbeknownst to him, more and more work starts coming his way which he doesn’t question as he is focused on helping the Parks with their son Sam’s case. He had previously represented the other brother. You can see his need to help those in need outweighing his need to pay the bills.

When I first started this book, I did wonder what year I was in, but the need to know soon waned as I delved further into the story. I really came to like and picture Travis as he worked to help those who couldn’t afford representation. The juxtaposition between his life and that of Jake was shown without overstating it.

It was great to see the way Jake acted in his role as DA. The way he had the measure of people without them realising he was onto them. This is shown with his interactions with those in his office but also at the club with his Dad.

The killing of the ‘Rich Kids’ was slightly confusing, it seemed like they were just shot with no real argument or causation. I understand the boys thought the ‘Rich Kids’ had $5000 to buy the drugs from Sam, but why did someone shoot? Later in the book Sam is in custody for the killings but was he actually the one who pulled the trigger?

The appearance, and reappearance, of Christine Morton is key to the story. She is a hard-nosed journalist, who not only helps Jack get information he needs, she is also passing important findings to Travis too.  When I was first reading her, she came across as hard, but she softens as the story progresses which I liked. It gave her a softness which she had been lacking but was realistic in its portrayal.

When the trial starts, Travis realises someone has been helping him with his case from behind the scenes.

This book is about finding justice in a sea of injustice. It also shows how bridges can be rebuilt after they are burnt.

There is a lot to like in this book, so much so it kept me reading to the end. There are few areas where I would have liked the author to take a little time to clarify things, but overall, I enjoyed reading it.

The Guilty Die Twice is out now as a paperback and ebook, and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Don Hartshorn is an author, freelance editor, volunteer mediator, and globetrotter. He draws inspiration for his stories both from man’s highest aspirations and from his petty, grimy motivations. After traveling the world for the US government and doing time as a prisoner of Corporate America’s well-oiled machine, this Texas native son has come home to roost in San Antonio. And there he’ll stay—until the next big adventure comes calling.

Don is the author of the legal thriller The Guilty Die Twice published by TCK Publishing.

Connect with Don:

Website: https://donhartshorn.com/

Twitter: @donhartshorn

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Book Review: My Dear Ellie by Aisha Urooj

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What will you do for your Best friend? Cassandra Grace will live through heartbreaks over a thousand lifetimes.

Ellie (Eleanor James) wants to be a superstar. She has natural beauty and talent, but is super impatient in achieving her goals. She drops out of High School to pursue acting. She achieves greater success, but it comes at a cost. She dwells deeper into darkness as fame becomes a dangerous drug to her.

Cassie (Cassandra Grace) is sweet and loving. She is terribly indecisive about what she wants to do in life, but will follow Ellie anywhere, including dropping out of High School. After a few years, she decides to go back to University and discovers her love for English literature. As her life gains purpose, she doesn’t realise how much her friend Ellie is drifting into despair. Can she save her? She vows to be there for Ellie and to get her the life she deserves to have, even if it means challenging Fate… and losing everything she loves to save her.

Today we have a first on A Little Book Problem, I have a guest reviewer providing the review for today’s book. So a huge thank you to Emma Wilson, who has read and reviewed My Dear Ellie by Aisha Urooj. A digital copy of the book was provided by the author for this purpose, and the book has been reviewed honestly and impartially.

We all remember our firsts, don’t we? Our first love, our first heartbreak, our first school, even our first home… but few firsts rival our first heartbreak in our memories quite like finding our first best friend.

Many of us make those first best friends at primary school but for some it can take a little longer to find that soul mate that can help you through the trials and tribulations of growing up; but you would be hard pressed to find someone reading this book that couldn’t relate to the emotions of truly loving (in the purest sense) a friend so deeply that you would want them in your lives forever.

If you could go back now, to the day you first met that first best friend, could you remember all the details? Would you change a single thing you had gone through together? What would you give up, or put on the line, for that friend that you promised to spend the rest of your life with?

My Dear Ellie by Aisha Urooj is a book that explores the depths of friendship and how mere moments can shape your life.

My Dear Ellie isn’t a book that I would normally rave about, it’s the kind of book that I would quietly consider. It’s quite a slow burn and at times feels more like a collection of diary entries of a young girls trying to make sense of the world. There are moments when I questioned if this was a work of fiction, or if indeed the author herself had tried to reimagine a friendship that meant so much to her as a child.

It feels real, as if you are reading the inner most thoughts of a child growing into herself as we follow Cassandra and her analysis of a friendship that is shaping her life in more ways than one.

If you are a fan of The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom, this book might tweak your interest. Although the story itself is a slow burn (and seems to end exactly where I hoped it would begin) it is a book that makes you look into your own world and think about the friendships that shaped you and why.

My Dear Ellie is the first part of a trilogy, at first I had no idea how the author would pull out this story into three parts, but the ending of book one makes it clear why this is not even close to being the end of the story for Ellie and Cassie.

The characters are drawn with heart, emotion and empathy. The sentences are wrapped in delicate cloaks of nostalgia and at only 166 pages, it is a quick read that leaves you waiting eagerly for more. A fabulous YA coming of age story that I look forward to reading more of.

My Dear Ellie is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author