The Fiction Cafe Book Club Reading Challenge 2021: The Little Shop on Floral Street by Jane Lacey-Crane #BookReview

51j61WWaKHL

In the wake of tragedy, two sisters have to piece their family back together…

Grace never thought she’d have to return home to Floral Street. Having spent most of her life building a successful career in London, she’s done everything she possibly can to avoid the flower stall that’s been in her family for generations. But when tragedy hits, she’s got no choice. It’s time to face the demons of the past and support her family.

Faith has returned home after years travelling the world. The baby of the family, she always struggled to find her place. She thought that her life would be different after a trip across the globe, but as she settles back into life in her childhood room she has to come to terms with the fact her life isn’t quite what she expected. And she has no way of getting out of the rut she finds herself in.

Faith and Grace have never seen eye-to-eye, always clashing, never forgiving. But they might just find a way to understand one another, to fight their way through their grief and come out stronger. By opening up, they’ll discover they aren’t so different at all. And family will always be there for you.

Category six of The Fiction Cafe Book Club Reading Challenge was ‘Read a book by an author with the same name as your best friend.’ Now, this caused me a bit of a dilemma as I have a number of close friends and didn’t want to offend the others by naming any one of them ‘best.’ So I chose the name of my first best friend at senior school who moved to Cornwall after a year and who I haven’t seen since 1984! It also allowed me to tick a book off my NetGalley list, so it was win-win. The book I picked was The Little Shop on Floral Street by Jane Lacey-Crane.

I am ashamed that this book has been languishing on my TBR for so long, because I have loved Jane’s previous two books. This one was another great piece of women’s fiction, that spoke to me on a personal level, dealing as it does with the relationship between three sisters. As someone who is the eldest of four girls, and who counts her sisters as her closest friends as well as siblings, the dynamics of relationships between sisters is always something I am interested in seeing explored in a novel.

In this book, two of the sisters have remained close, despite the fact that the eldest left home at a young age after become largely estranged from their father. The youngest sister has been away travelling and her return to the family home marks a period of upheaval for them all, that culminates in a family tragedy that changes them all forever, and has the power to push them all apart or pull them back together.

In this novel, Jane has drawn a truly authentic and believable family dynamic that plays out honestly on the page. I felt that each of the characters, and their relationship to one another, were beautifully realised and explored and I could really relate to all of them. Despite my own closeness to my sisters, the tensions and rivalries between the three girls were very recognisable to me; with the best will in the world every family has difficulties and areas of friction, and the way each of the sisters interpreted events differently depending on their position and role within the family was all too familiar!

As the eldest, Grace was the one to whom I most related. I recognise that feeling of responsibility and having the weight of sorting out the family’s issues and taking on its burdens, whilst the younger sisters have a much more carefree existence. I am sure my sisters would argue that the younger girls have their own crosses to bear, and would recognise themselves more in Hope or Faith, which is the genius of Jane’s drawing of the characters!

The story centres around the family’s flower stall business, and its future in the wake of the tragedy and the shockwaves of its aftermath and, in this regard, it is a tight, small story that could be happening to any family up and down the country today and, in fact, in the wake of so many losses suffered by so many families in the last twelve months, many of the issues explored will be painful and relevant to a lot of people at the moment. In this regard, the book will speak to a lot of people and touch many of us with its message. This is a book that takes a step beyond a typical women’s fiction novel.

I really enjoyed this book. It is a novel with a big heart and a gentle exploration of issues that will have touched most of us in some way at some point in our lives. I would be surprised if there is anyone who can’t find some recognisable experience or emotion in its pages. Well worth reading.

The Little Shop on Floral Street is out now in ebook and paperback formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

59tt1QT8_400x400

Jane has reached the age now where she no longer tells people her age! She’s old enough to legally be able to do everything and that’s all that matters. Secrets & Tea at Rosie Lee’s is Jane’s debut novel. Born and brought up in London’s East End, she now lives in Lincolnshire with her family. Thankfully she recently discovered the joys of mail order pie, mash & liquor, so she can relive her youth anytime she feels like it!

Although writing stories was something that Jane had always done, she never thought anyone would pay her to do it so she focused on learning to act instead, figuring that this was a much more reliable way to earn a living. Sadly, her career as an actress was shortlived, actually it was non-existent, so she turned her attention to another reliable line of work – Cable Television! This was where Jane managed to finally get paid (badly!) doing something she enjoyed – writing. She began with scripts for a series all about Serial Killers (imaginatively entitled ‘Serial Killers’) and then moved on to a series of history documentaries. This series never saw the light of day in the UK but Jane has been informed that it used be very popular with insomniacs staying in hotels in the Far East. This may or may not be true.

Jane’s latest book, The Little Shop on Floral Street, is out now and returns to the familiar East London streets where the author grew up.

Connect with Jane:

Facebook: Jane Lacey-Crane

Twitter: @JaneLaceyCrane

Instagram: @janelaceycrane

A Little Book Problem banner

Blog Tour: The Drowned City by K. J. Maitland #BookReview

The Drowned City Graphic 5

I am absolutely thrilled to be taking part today in the blog tour for a book I have been looking forward to reading so much, The Drowned City by K. J. Maitland. My thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

The Drowned City Cover

Gunpowder and treason changed England forever. But the tides are turning and revenge runs deep…

1606. A year to the day that men were executed for conspiring to blow up Parliament, a towering wave devastates the Bristol Channel. Some proclaim God’s vengeance. Others seek to take advantage.

In London, Daniel Pursglove lies in prison waiting to die. But Charles FitzAlan, close adviser to King James I, has a job in mind that will free a man of Daniel’s skill from the horrors of Newgate. If he succeeds.

For Bristol is a hotbed of Catholic spies, and where better for the lone conspirator who evaded arrest, one Spero Pettingar, to gather allies than in the chaos of a drowned city? Daniel journeys there to investigate FitzAlan’s lead, but soon finds himself at the heart of a dark Jesuit conspiracy – and in pursuit of a killer.

I’ve just spent 24 hours of my life immersed in life in the flood-ravaged Bristol of 1606, caught up in the intrigues of the post-Gunpowder Plot Jacobean court and cutting through a web of spies, lies, superstition and religious rivalry to try and solve a murder mystery and I didn’t really want to come back to reality.

The Drowned City is a fantastic mix of historical novel and murder mystery set against the backdrop of a startling but little known event of Jacobean times – the flooding of Bristol by a freak tsunami or storm surge – that was believed by many to be a sign from God at a time when there was still friction between the Catholic church and the Protestant faith in the fairly-new reign of James I. This is not a period of history that I am very familiar with, being more of a Wars of the Roses obsessive, but I was completely gripped by this fascinating blend of fact and fiction to the extent that I had to keep breaking off to find out which bits of the book were based on actual events and characters and which bits the author had invented; the story-telling is completely seamless.

This is the story of Daniel Pursglove, a proponent of sleight of hand tricks, who has found himself in Newgate Prison awaiting trial on suspicion of witchcraft during the reign of a paranoid and superstitious monarch. He is given the chance of earning a pardon by a man claiming to be a close advisor of the King; all he has to do is go to a flood-blighted Bristol to investigate rumours that a priest who had a hand in the Gunpowder Plot is in hiding there, planning sedition. Faced with the prospect of losing his hands, if not his life, Daniel agrees and sets off, but finds himself investigating a string of murders in a city that is beset by suspicion against outsiders and religious superstition, making it a dangerous place for him and his mission.

To say that the author brings the setting of the book to life would be a massive understatement. I can’t remember the last time that I read a book which presents such a vivid portrayal of a different time and a different life. I felt like Harry Potter when his nose touches the surface of the Pensieve and he is pulled in to Dumbledore’s memory. I literally *fell* right in to the heart of Bristol, surrounded by the clamour and the squalor of the blighted metropolis. The author’s writing is vivid and textured and absolutely perfect. The descriptions she uses to evoke the pictures just filled my heart with delight (‘shave the beard from a herring’ was a particular favourite), I could mentally roll around in her language and revel in the feel of it for hours. To take such delight in not just a story but the very way in which it is told is a rare and particular joy to me.

The murder mystery itself is fiendish and full of suspense and tension; enough by itself to carry the story if the book offered nothing else to the reader and it will appeal to lovers of that genre as well as fans of the historical novel. But the setting of the mystery against the historical backdrop adds another layer of interest to anyone who enjoys that genre, and if you are a fan of both as I am, you will be in hogs’ heaven with this novel. It gave me the same joy as I felt when I first discovered the Cadfael novels by Ellis Peters which has a similar style of murder mystery peppered with actual historical fact.

On every level, The Drowned City worked perfectly for me. The writing, the story, the characterisation were all faultless, and I enjoyed this book as much as any I have read in a long time. This is one of the best books I have read so far this year, and I confident it will feature in my top ten books of 2021. Definitely one for the ‘forever’ shelf and I have bought myself a copy in hardback (which has the most beautiful cover too!). I can’t wait for the next in the series, and have no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone and everyone. Reading bliss, I want to do it all over again.

The Drowned City is out now in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats and will be published in paperback in November. You can buy a copy here.

Make sure you go back and visit some of the other blogs taking part in the tour for alternative reviews and other content:

The Drowned City BT Poster

About the Author

KJ Maitland Author pic

Karen Maitland is an historical novelist, lecturer and teacher of Creative Writing, with over twenty books to her name. She grew up in Malta, which inspired her passion for history, and travelled and worked all over the world before settling in the United Kingdom. She has a doctorate in psycholinguistics, and now lives on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon.

Connect with Karen:

Website: https://karenmaitland.com/

Facebook: Karen Maitland

random-thingstours-fb-header

Book Review: Whisper of the Lotus by Gabrielle Yetter #BookReview

Front cover

Sometimes you have to go a long way from home to come full circle back to discover what was right in front of you..

Charlotte’s mundane, dead-end life lacked excitement. She never imagined that sitting on a plane to Cambodia, struggling with her fear of flying, would lead to her being befriended by Rashid, an old man whose tragic secret would take her on a mystery tour of discovery.

In a land of golden temples, orange-clad monks, and smiling people, Charlotte discovers nothing is as she’d expected. She also never imagined the journey would take her back to the night when her father walked out on the family.

And who was Rashid? Was he just a kindly old man, or was there something deeper sewn into the exquisite fabric of his life?

I received a digital copy of this book from the author for the purpose of review, for which she has my thanks. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

I am partial to a book that takes me to another country, especially one that I have never visited in person. Cambodia is a place that is at the top of my bucket list so, until I can get there in reality, I was really looking forward to being transported there between the pages of this book. The author certainly managed to do that in Whisper of the Lotus. The book is filled with the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and people of Cambodia and really brought the place to life in a way that only someone who is very familiar with the country really could.

Charlotte is a person who doesn’t really have a life of her own. After her parents split up, she has been left at home looking after her mother – a woman consumed by bitterness and self-pity – by a mixture of guilt and fear. Her best friend Roxy went off travelling and found a new life in Cambodia, so Charlotte decides to take a long-desired holiday to visit her out there. Charlotte is afraid of flying, afraid of travelling alone, afraid of anything different, so this is a big deal for her. She is befriended on the flight by an elderly man who calms her down with words of wisdom, and that encounter sets her the path of a mystery when she lands in Cambodia that will change everything for her.

This is a really unusual book which crosses a number of genres. Part travel novel, part mystery, part supernatural, part exploration of Buddhism, part family saga, there is a lot that will appeal to many different people here, and it will probably be like nothing you have read before. The author explores the relationship between Charlotte and her mother and how that has impacted her life, and between Charlotte and her friend Roxy and how the differences between the two illuminate the changes that Charlotte needs to make to her life to make her happy. The book takes us on an exploration of Cambodia that is enriching and delightful for anyone who is interested in life in other parts of the world, and her writing here is rich and detailed and full of affection and admiration for the country and its people. 

I found the discussion of Buddhist principles through Charlotte’s learning of them particularly fascinating, as it something I have always had a mild interest in but never particularly pursued beyond that, so learning a little more was enlightening and made me think I might look into it a bit further. Charlotte begins down the path of seeing how it could help her move on in her life, although it is clearly not an easy path because she seems to forget what has been taught as soon as she gets into a difficult situation! I think this indicates it is something that takes a lot of time and dedication to explore and cannot turn things around overnight.

I did have a couple of issues with the book, which came mainly from the character of Charlotte. I did find her a hard person to warm to at times. She is quite whiny and addicted to her victimhood (as Roxy points out!) and very quick to fly of the handle if she thinks anyone is telling her something she doesn’t want to hear. I appreciate that her character needs to be like that at the beginning so she can move on from it through the book as she learns and grows, but I didn’t feel like she had got there by the end; she still seemed to be quite self-centred at the conclusion. Normally this might be quite fatal for my enjoyment of a book, but the rest of it was written so beautifully and was so entertaining that I was able to get past it. She is not a character I could ever love though.

The supernatural element of the book created some moments of beauty and interest, and I enjoyed it, although I think some people might find it too unbelievable and coincidental to swallow. It is definitely a book that requires the reader to suspend their disbelief. The book is a languid and leisurely feast for all the senses, that doesn’t rush but takes a slow and circuitous route to its conclusion. It is not without flaw, and won’t appeal to everyone, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it for anyone looking for something that little bit out of the ordinary.

Whisper of the Lotus is out now in ebook and paperback and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

kqiljdkmrets4b7hivecns96sp._US230_

Gabrielle Yetter has lived in India, Bahrain, South Africa, Cambodia, England and the USA. She worked as a journalist in South Africa, owned a dining guide in San Diego, wrote a cookbook about traditional Cambodian desserts and freelanced for publications and online sites in the US, The Netherlands, South Africa, and Southeast Asia.

In 2010, she and her husband, Skip, sold their home in the US, quit their jobs, gave away most of their possessions, and bought a one-way ticket to Cambodia.

In June 2015, she co-authored Just Go! Leave the Treadmill for a World of Adventure, with Skip. In May 2016, she published her first children’s picture book, Ogden, The Fish Who Couldn’t Swim Straight followed by Martha The Blue Sheep in 2017.

She lives in Eastbourne, England and her first novel, Whisper of the Lotus, was released in November 2020.

Connect with Gabrielle:

Website: http://www.gabrielleyetter.com/

Facebook: Gabrielle Yetter

Twitter: @gabster2

A Little Book Problem banner

Blog Tour: Abberton House by Debbie Ioanna #BookReview

Abberton House Cover

Two families. 100 years apart. A sinister haunting…

It was supposed to be the dream house for Adam, Catherine, and their daughter, Bella. But dream houses can hold secrets. Settling in to their new home, the family realise they are not the only inhabitants of Abberton House.

A dark past continues to haunt the idyllic Yorkshire home, and those who remain want Adam and Catherine to know the truth. Frightened, Adam and Catherine begin to piece together what really happened at this once perfect abode.

A missing family, an elderly man searching for the truth, and secrets waiting to be revealed, moving in to Abberton House could be the worst decision the family made.

Today I am taking my turn on the blog tour for Abberton House by Debbie Ioanna. Thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for asking me to take part in the tour and to the publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is a traditional haunted house story, rather than a spine-chilling horror, which is much more to my tastes as I am a bit of a scaredy cat and don’t like anything too terrifying or gory. It might be too tame for the out and out horror fan, but I thought it was a fun read with a pleasantly chilling frisson that will have you on the edge of your seat, but not having to sleep with the light on!

A family move in to an old, remote house in Yorkshire, only to find over time that they are not living alone. As the spooky happenings increase in frequency and ferocity, the family realise that they need to solve a hundred-year-old mystery to settle the spirits. In this regard, the story isn’t particularly original or startling, and I think a lot of readers might guess the outcome, but the way the story is told is entertaining enough to keep the reader interested to the end nonetheless.

The story bobs backwards and forwards between the lives of the family in the present day, and Elizabeth and her children living in the house in 1916 while the man of the house, Henry, is away on the frontline in the First World War. I really enjoyed the historical aspects of the book, the way the author portrayed the struggles of Elizabeth at that time and the dynamics of the close knit community, and how they judged people. This is mirrored to a degree in the modern day with Catherine and her family trying to fit into a new community in North Yorkshire and worrying what people will think if they find out they are seeing ghosts.

The manifestations of the ghostly goings on in the house are not too terrifying, partly because the young daughter of the house did not seem especially scared. To be honest, I think I would have reacted much more strongly to supernatural happenings than Catherine, especially left alone at night in a remote house with a young child, but maybe she is just made of sterner stuff than I, and I suppose it made sense in the terms of the plot, making them want to help the spirits settle rather than just running screaming far, far away, but they could perhaps have been a little more terrified. I also felt there were aspects of the story that were a little under-developed (why did Mary take such a dislike to Michael, for example). The writing also felt quite formal in places, which was especially apparent in the speech, which didn’t feel entirely natural. These were all minor niggles though.

All in all, this is a well-constructed, entertaining supernatural thriller that will appeal to people who want to be chilled, but not scared witless.

Abberton House is out now in paperback and ebook formats and you can buy a copy here.

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

Abberton House banner

About the Author

Debbie Ioanna

Debbie is a multi-genre indie author and blogger who was born in Bradford and lives there with her husband, two-year-old daughter and anti-social cat Cleo. When she isn’t busy being a Mum, working for her local council or studying towards her Open University degree, she is busy focusing on her writing career.

Debbie doesn’t write to just one genre as she likes to write about anything. She is currently working on a romantic-comedy series but who knows what she will be working on in the future. As well as writing novels, short stories and blogs for her website, she is also reviewing other works by indie authors. She is passionate about helping other indie authors as she knows it is a hard world to master and getting reviews is a challenge on its own.

Debbie has been a regular attending author at the UK Indie Lit Fest in Bradford for the last few years and will be returning in 2020, as well as attending events in Shipley and Liverpool for the first time.

Debbie began studying with the Open University in 2015, aiming towards a BA Honours in Humanities, focusing on History and Creative Writing which are her two greatest passions. It is a part-time course, due to end in 2021 which Debbie is hoping means she will have more time to write.

Connect with Debbie:

Website: https://debbie-ioanna-author.blog/

Facebook: Debbie Ioanna Author

Twitter: @Debbie_Cleo

Instagram: @debbieioannaauthor

dpbt 2

Blog Tour: Chasing The Italian Dream by Jo Thomas #BookReview

Chasing The Italian Dream Graphic 3

I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour today for the latest book by one of my favourite authors, Chasing The Italian Dream by Jo Thomas. It’s also ebook publication day today, so happy publication day, Jo! My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

FINAL Chasing The Italian Dream Cover

A summer escape she’ll never forget . . .

Lucia has worked hard as a lawyer in Wales, aiming for a big promotion she hopes will shortly come her way. Finally taking a well-earned break at her grandparents’ house in southern Italy, the sunshine, lemon trees and her nonna’s mouth-watering cooking make her instantly feel at home.

But she’s shocked to learn that her grandfather is retiring from the beloved family pizzeria and will need to sell. Lucia can’t bear the thought of the place changing hands – especially when she discovers her not-quite-ex-husband Giacomo wants to take it over!

Then bad news from home forces Lucia to re-evaluate what she wants from life. Is this her chance to carry on the family tradition and finally follow her dreams?

Jo Thomas is queen of the travel novel, and this time she effectively whisked me from my armchair and straight to the heart of an Italian village near Naples where the air is fragrant with the scent of flowers, lemons…. and pizza! Workaholic Lucia is taking her annual holiday with her grandparents in Italy, while she waits to hear about a big promotion at her law firm back in Wales. However, she finds that her stable world in Italy is about to change when her Nonno retires from the family’s generations-old pizza restaurant, and passes it on to her estranged ex-husband of all people. Lucia begins to wonder is her future lies in law, and in Wales, at all.

Jo has created a wonderful mix of characters here. Lucia is a modern woman to whom we can all relate. Independent, feisty and not prepared to take no for an answer when she wants something, but at the same time generous and caring in the way she deals with other people. The relationship between Lucia and her grandparents is heart-warming and honest and I really loved watching it being explored on the page. The friendships she has in Italy, and the way the women all help each other out, is a fabulous dynamic to explore and I absolutely loved the theme of women’s lib playing out in a small, Italian pizzeria. I was cheering them on all the way!

At the same time, what is a holiday novel without a holiday romance, although in this story it is with a bit of a twist because Lucia and Giacomo have a long and tangled history, so they are not just getting to know each other. I found this a refreshing twist on the overseas romance novel, and enjoyed the way their past played into the story and caused the tension in the events unfolding on the page. There was definitely heat between the two of them coming off the page, and it wasn’t just from the hot Italian sun or the forno!

The star of the show, and the reason we all pick up a Jo Thomas novel, is, of course, the setting. It is a holiday in book form. Jo is the mistress of actually bringing her settings to life on the page so you are actually THERE as you read. Her books are a feast for every sense, with all of the sights, sounds, scents, textures, and particularly tastes, described in detail. You can feel the sun warming your shoulders, hear the waiter singing, feel the stone of the piazza under your flip flops, smell the earthy tomatoes and the zesty lemons, and taste the food.

Oh the food, the food, the food. Anyone who has read her books or follows Jo on Twitter will know how much she loves to describe food, and she does so in such a way that you can actually taste it. It instantly makes you want to eat whatever she is describing, and here it is one of my favourite cuisines… Italian. You can virtually enjoy the soft dough, the tangy tomato sauce, the melting mozzarella and the earthy basil. The gelato. The pasta, the vegetables. I’ve made myself hungry again just thinking about it, just as Jo did all the way through the book. If you love to read about food, you have to read this book.

The book was everything I wanted in a travel romance. I spent a day (which is all the time it took me to read this, I couldn’t put it down) in the sun-drenched Italian countryside with some lovely people eating pizza, drinking wine and enjoying the family drama. What more do you want? Can’t wait to get the paperback to slide on to my bookshelf next to Jo’s other books, ready for the next time I want to be whisked away to Italy.

Chasing The Italian Dream is out today in ebook format and will be published in paperback on 10 June. You can order your copy here.

Make sure to follow the rest of the tour for more reviews and other great content from my fellow bloggers:

FINAL - Chasing Italian Dream - BT Poster

About the Author

Jo Thomas Author pic

Jo Thomas worked for many years as a reporter and producer, first for BBC Radio 5, before moving on to Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and Radio 2’s The Steve Wright Show. In 2013 Jo won the RNA Katie Fforde Bursary. Her debut novel, The Oyster Catcher, was a runaway bestseller in ebook and was awarded the 2014 RNA Joan Hessayon Award and the 2014 Festival of Romance Best Ebook Award. Jo lives in the Vale of Glamorgan with her husband and three children.

Connect with Jo:

Website: https://jothomasauthor.com/

Facebook: Jo Thomas Author

Twitter: @jo_thomas01

Instagram: jothomasauthor

random-thingstours-fb-header

Friday Night Drinks with … Kim ten Tusscher

friday-night-drinks

Happy Good Friday, everyone! A lovely long holiday weekend -not that this means quite the same in these restricted pandemic times – but hopefully you will all enjoy some rest and relaxation, and hopefully a bit of sunshine if we are lucky! I am happy to be kicking off Easter with some Friday Night Drinks with author… Kim ten Tusscher.

NeraK180411-27

Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

I’ll drink a fresh, tropical mocktail. Something with a coconut flavour is always nice. I don’t drink alcohol myself, because I don’t like the taste, but don’t let that stop you from ordering whatever you like.

download

If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

Somewhere calm and quiet. Most times when I’m in a café, there is so much noise that I can’t follow the conversations and that would be such a shame being in this amazing company. So preferable a nice and quiet pub or an outside terrace.

Sounds great. The older I get, the less noise I can stand! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

I would love it if Robin Hobb could join us. I’m a big fan of her stories and she’s a huge inspiration. I have so many questions about how she writes, her characters, and her world. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to her at a few Worldcons and I recognized so much of what she told. I always wonder if we have a lot in common. But that might be wishful thinking. 😉

I would also invite Peter Jackson. The movie adaptations of “The Lord of the Rings” had a huge impact on my life. They inspired me to make costumes, which resulted in being part of several movie projects myself (for example “Born of Hope”, “Ren: The Girl with the Mark”, and “Hunter’s Prey”). The films introduced me to Tolkien’s vast world and I devoured the stories. When I started writing myself, the stories naturally had to be fantasy. And of course, I’d hope I would end this night out with plans to film one of my stories. One can dream, right?

I would absolutely love to meet Peter Jackson. The Lord of the Rings films are some of my favourites, and one of the greatest achievements in cinematic history, IMHO, he has so perfectly brought Tolkein’s world to life. The scene at the end of the Battle of Helmsdeep in The Two Towers where Theoden rides out with Aragorn to face the Uruk-Hai and the Rohirrim pour down the valley is my all-time favourite. I must have seen it thirty times and it makes me want to cry every time still! Bernard Hill is also a genius. And what an amazing score by Howard Shore!

Anyway, enough of my LOTR fangirling! Now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I’m very busy finishing a new book. “Storm” is the final installment of the “Tales of the Downfall”. This is an epic fantasy series about a world that is almost coming to an end. Lilith (a dragon shapeshifter you might already know from “The Lilith trilogy”) is one of the main characters, but I love to write from multiple angles, so you meet many new characters. Like Nighram, a young refugee, and Kiril, a general who is struggling with choosing the right side in the war and the fact he is losing his sight.

I write in Dutch, but I’m getting my stories translated into English. So as well as finishing Storm, we are also working on the English edition of the first part of this series: “Blood“.

How I started this series is a great story. Lilith was also the main character in “The Lilith trilogy”. When I ended that series I actually wanted to leave her alone (she really deserved a quiet life, you know) and never write about her again. But fans kept asking what would happen next. For years I told them I would never write a new series about her. I didn’t even have the time, because I was already working on something else.

But the readers kept asking and eventually I started wondering about Lilith myself. And thus this new story emerged. I’m so happy my readers kept begging because the Tales of the Downfall turned out an amazing story to write. High stakes, emotional events, and challenging to write… I’m really proud of how it turned out.

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

I have had so many proud moments. Finding a publisher, the English translations, doing interviews, or being part of panels at Worldcons and festivals… But I am most proud of my latest book Blind. I have been through a tough period where I doubted everything I did. Blind was the first book I’ve finished after regaining my confidence.

My biggest challenge was trusting my own voice. Since I started writing people gave me advice on how I should do things to be successful. I’m positive that most of these people meant well, but looking back at their suggestions, they gave the signal I should change myself to meet the reader’s expectations. One of the things they told me was getting a pen name. Reasons were: women can’t write fantasy… Dutch people can’t write fantasy. In different words: I had to hide who I am to succeed. Fantasy is a genre that is not taken as seriously as it should in the Netherlands, so I always felt the need to defend my decision to write it. I am a very chaotic writer and I thought I had to change that to become better at it.

It took me more than 10 years to realise that I am really good at this craft and that I don’t have to change a thing about myself or the way I write.

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

I already hinted at my biggest dream. *gives Peter Jackson a shy look.* I would love, love, love to see my stories being adapted to a movie or series. I love working together with people who are artists in other fields besides writing and see how they visualise my characters and world. And of course, a movie adaptation goes hand in hand with a bestseller, guest appearances all around the world, getting in contact with readers, and hopefully having an impact on others in the same way my favourite stories impacted me.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Of course the release of Blood. I believe this story can catapult my international career to the next level.

But the publication of Storm is even more exciting. Finishing a series is a huge thing. I’m thrilled to craft an end to the story and I can promise you: it’s going to be epic. Writing often is magic. All these clever solutions and how everything ties together… Even I am surprised by how this story is going to be. I can’t wait to share it with the readers.

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

Traveling is something I love to do, too! My husband and I went on a camping trip to the Southwest of the USA some years ago. The most amazing place we visited was Bryce Canyon. That scenery is just out of this world. We arrived late in the day, so we drove to a look-out point to take a quick look at the view. But we decided to do a short hike straight away. It was just too gorgeous to go back to the tent without exploring a bit more.

We are planning a vacation to West Canada at the moment. But on top of my bucket list is a multiple-day dog sledding trip in Finland or Norway. Camping in the wild, building fires at night, and seeing the Northern Lights. That would be so awesome!

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I’ll tell you something really weird about me. So weird, I haven’t met anyone who experiences this too. I have this – how shall I describe it? – it is almost a phobia for old, used metals, especially silver, copper, and gold. I’m so engrossed when I have to touch such an item. So you don’t have to be afraid I will take something out of your jewelry box ;-). And I love cake, but if I have to eat it with a fancy decorated, antique, silver fork, the cake will taste not as good as when you give me a plain stainless steel one.

Have you read Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson? It’s an amazing series with a very creative magic system that uses metals. They drink potions with flakes of metals in them to be stronger and faster and manipulate their surroundings. I could handle that. But when Vin swallowed an earring from one of the other characters… Yikes!

Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

How can I say anything else but the books by Robin Hobb? She is a master in creating amazing characters who feel so incredibly real. They are lovable (although you might scream at them sometimes out of frustration 😉 ), flawed, and intriguing. Most fantasy worlds I read about I wouldn’t want to live in, but I would book a trip to the Six Duchies or take a cruise up the Rain Wild River any day.

Start with Assassin’s Apprentice and keep reading until you’ve read all 16 books. They are definitely worth it.

51SCGUY1N-L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

The kingdom of the Six Duchies is on the brink of civil war when news breaks that the crown prince has fathered a bastard son and is shamed into abdication. The child’s name is Fitz, and he is despised.

Raised in the castle stables, only the company of the king’s fool, the ragged children of the lower city, and his unusual affinity with animals provide Fitz with any comfort.

To be useful to the crown, Fitz is trained as an assassin; and to use the traditional magic of the Farseer family. But his tutor, allied to another political faction, is determined to discredit, even kill him. Fitz must survive: for he may be destined to save the kingdom.

I am not a massive reader of fantasy but I do like to dabble from time to time and chatting with you tonight has made me fancy a bit of fantasy, so I will give it a go. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one? 

I’m sorry, I’m of no help here.

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Sleep until late tomorrow. Then go on a hike and enjoy a picnic. And if there are no limitations to what I can wish: find a natural hot spring or warm stream to take a swim. Are you in? When I get home I’ll probably do some writing. I can get really grumpy if a few days pass without working on my stories.

Always in for a swim in a hot spring! Thank you so much for joining me this evening, I have really enjoyed our chat and feel inspired to dip in to some fantasy books and movies again now!

Kim ten Tusscher is the author of the Lilith Trilogy, which has been translated into English and can be purchased here.

Lilith trilogy EN

Inferno at her breath. War under her wings. With two men whispering mayhem in her ear, which way will she turn the bloody tide?

Lilith has only ever lived with anger and destruction. The sole dragon shifter known to humankind, she despises her life as an instrument of terror at the hands of a prophetic sorcerer. Finally fleeing years of abuse, she’s distraught when she’s captured for stealing food and forced to answer to a bitter king for her crimes.

Her former abductor Kasimirh believes fervently in his righteous calling. And though he’s lost his dragon, the sorcerer’s relentless quest to convert the heathens must go on unopposed. And if the king does not yield to his army, he’s prepared to sacrifice all the royal subjects like lambs to the slaughter.

Desperate to finally break her bond to the determined prophet, Lilith vows to stand against her merciless master and stop his savage quest with equally relentless brutality.

Can she extinguish his tyrannical reign before the realm falls to his bloodshed?

This bundle contains Bound in DarknessBroken in Twilight and Born in Light.

You can read a preview of Bound in Darkness on Kim’s website: http://kimtentusscher.com/english/ If you subscribe to her reader’s tribe, you’ll receive a preview for Blood very soon and you’ll get a free e-copy of City of Illusions.

blood

You can watch the book trailer for Lilith here.

Kim ten Tusscher (1979) started her professional career as a documentary photographer. In all her projects, she looked for similarities between people and tried to invalidate prejudice.

Writing proved a better way to express herself. In her stories, she combines well-written worlds and characters with great emotional depth. She doesn’t avoid intense subjects. Her stories became her window to the real world.

Kim is also an avid reader. Her taste in books ranges from epic stories like the Riyria Chronicles to the more grim A Song of Ice and Fire. Her favourite reads are the stories by Robin Hobb. What these books all have in common are morally grey and thus convincing characters.

You can connect further with Kim via her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

A Little Book Problem banner

Blog Tour: Staying Out for the Summer by Mandy Baggot #BookReview

Staying-out-for-summer

I am delighted to be one of the blogs kicking off the tour today for Staying Out for the Summer by Mandy Baggot. Happy Publication Day, Mandy! My thanks to Victoria Joss at Head of Zeus for inviting me to take part and for providing me with a digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

ARIA_Baggot_STAYING OUT FOR SUMMER

After a summer of staying in, it’s time to let your hair down and escape to Greece!

For Lucie Burrows, it’s time to embrace Greek life and put the past behind her! Having spent the summer of 2020 battling a global health crisis, Lucie Burrows is looking forward to a summer out of lockdown.

When best friend, Gavin, finds them the perfect Greek escape Lucie finally starts to think this summer might just go without a hitch.But after a landslide puts the village into a local lockdown, Lucie is thrown together with Michalis Andino, the super sexy village doctor. It’s not quite the holiday she had planned, but things could certainly be worse.

As Lucie relaxes into the Greek way of life, she begins to wonder whether this lockdown might just end in a new life, a new love…

Like me, you’ve probably been wondering how authors are going to deal with the pandemic crisis that has gripped the world for the last twelve months in their writing. I think there are going to be three ways of going about it. Firstly, people can set there books in some kind of world, either pre- or post-pandemic, where the crisis is not mentioned at all and life carries on as if it never happened, secondly it could be mentioned just in passing but largely ignored, or thirdly the author can deal with the issue head on and fully incorporate it into their writing. I have seem some discussion about what readers are going to be looking for in this regard, and I have seen mixed responses with some saying they are not ready to read about the pandemic in fiction yet because they turn to books to escape it, and some saying they would be happy to see books reflecting the reality of what we have been through. Horses for courses.

In her latest book, Mandy Baggot has firmly taken the third route and put a nurse and a doctor in the aftermath of the pandemic firmly at the heart of the story and has not shied away from exploring what these people have been put through over the past twelve months and how they are dealing with it. I think this is a very brave move, because there are people who are just not going to be ready for books that contain any reference to the difficulties the world has faced recently, especially those that are otherwise a light-hearted romance, but personally, I really enjoyed this book and felt that Mandy dealt with what could be a tricky subject with grace and compassion and honesty, whilst still retaining her trademark warmth and humour in a way that demonstrated great skill in her craft.

I love Mandy’s books for the escapism they provide, and this one is no different. Here she transports nurses Lucie and Gavin to the sun-drenched shores of Corfu, where they are taking a well-earned break from the stresses they have been under working in the NHS throughout 2020. But it is not that easy to relax whilst the after effects of the pandemic are still washing around the world. Doctor Michaelis has returned from the Greek mainland to his small home village in Corfu for similar reasons, not expecting to find romance with someone who really understands what he has been through, but fate always has other plans in romance novels!

Michaelis and Lucie are both great characters with lots of heart and some issues to work through, and they had fabulous chemistry. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them, as they got to know each other. I also absolutely adored Gavin and Michaelis’s sister, Nyx, who were larger than life and great fun to read. Mandy has also provided a fantastic cast of supporting characters, worthy of any greek tragedy or an instalment of the ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ franchise, and the whole book is a performance a maximum drama, whilst still exploring some difficult issues sympathetically. I think the author has struck a great balance here between humour and pathos.

We all need a bit of escapism at the moment, and many of us long for those warm beaches and blue seas. Unfortunately, the world has not moved on maybe as far as Mandy imagined when she was writing this book, and foreign travel is going to be merely a memory for a bit longer I fear. So, this kind of armchair travel might be our only option for a while, and I for one will take it as the alternative for now. I know some people may feel like they don’t want to read about a world that is currently only wishful thinking, but I welcome the change of scene, even if it is only imaginary.

I admire Mandy for writing about the world as it actually is, rather than how we might wish it could be. I know not everyone will agree but, if you are a fan of Mandy’s books and are looking for that armchair escape, without shying away from our new reality, this is the book for you. A light, romantic, honest novel with a bittersweet kick.

Staying Out for the Summer is out in ebook format today, and will be published in paperback on 10 June and you can get a copy here.

Make sure you check out some more reviews on the rest of the blog tour:

Staying out for Summer Blog Tour 1

Staying out for Summer Blog Tour 2

About the Author

Mandy Baggot

Mandy Baggot is an international bestselling and award-winning romance writer. The winner of the Innovation in Romantic Fiction award at the UK’s Festival of Romance, her romantic comedy novel, One Wish in Manhattan, was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year award in 2016. Mandy’s books have so far been translated into German, Italian, Czech and Hungarian. Mandy loves the Greek island of Corfu, white wine, country music and handbags. Also a singer, she has taken part in ITV1’s Who Dares Sings and The X-Factor. Mandy is a member of the Society of Authors and lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK with her husband and two daughters.

Connect with Mandy:

Website: http://mandybaggot.com

Facebook: Mandy Baggot Author

Twitter: @mandybaggot

Instagram: @mandybaggot

A Little Book Problem banner

Blog Tour: A Beautiful Breed of Evil by Andy Maslen #BookReview

BookBrushImage-2021-1-22-18-1111

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for A Beautiful Breed of Evil by Andy Maslen. 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.

ABBOEfront1-1

He’ll never speak of the evil they did…

A former Swedish ambassador lies dead in his swanky Mayfair flat. With his tongue torn out and placed on a Bible. Competing theories swirl. A religious maniac? A psychopath? The truth is far darker than either. DCI Stella Cole’s search for the killer takes her to Sweden. There, she discovers a horrific chapter in the country’s history that throws the case into turmoil. And then more people start dying.


Teaming up with Swedish cops Oskar Norgrim and Johanna Carlsson, Stella pieces together Ambassador Brömly’s shocking past. And discovers the killer’s motive.

Meanwhile, Stella’s personal life is about to take a significant turn as her boyfriend, Jamie, suggests a change in their relationship. But as Stella tries to process what it means, she makes a fateful decision.

Why won’t the dead stay buried?

On the other side of the Atlantic, a kid practising BMX stunts over water finds a skeleton on a lake bed. When the victim is revealed to be a British cop, the FBI ask for assistance. Stella’s arch-enemy from her own department gets the case. She flies to Chicago and soon discovers the murderer’s identity.

The scene is set for a showdown in Sweden as DI Roisin Griffin pursues her vendetta against Stella all the way to the north of Sweden during the annual festival of Midsommar.

Although this is the fifth book in the series by Andy Maslen featuring DCI Stella Cole, it is the first one that I have read and it is obvious from reading this book that Stella has had quite an eventful career already and there have been some explosive goings on in her past that I really need to go back and read about. However, the fact that I haven’t read the previous books did not detract from my enjoyment of this book at all, it just made me want to go back and catch up! The author fills you in on everything you need to know to keep up with the plot here but, events from previous books feed quite heavily into parts of the story here so, if you are going to dive into the series, it would probably make sense to start from the beginning with Hit and Runwhich I have just downloaded to my Kindle.

The book opens with a very dramatic murder scene, so you know from the beginning that this is not a series for the shy and retiring. A Swedish ex-diplomat has been murdered in a very brutal way, and it is clear from the beginning that this is a complicated case which involves investigation across international borders. I loved this aspect of the case, as we follow Stella on her trip to Sweden to track down the killer in the victim’s homeland. It leant a different slant to the standard crime novel to see how international police forces work together across borders to solve a case, and to see how policing differs across countries.

The motives behind the case gradually become clear and are very shocking, and they touch on a topic which is very relevant to modern discourse in some circles but horrifying to most of us. The case is based on real events that happened in Sweden, but which I had no idea about until I did some investigation after reading this book. I absolutely love it when books teach me something I didn’t know before, just in the course of reading a piece of fiction, and the author gets this story across extremely effectively in this novel, really making you think about the issue and how it is relevant today. Reading around the subject taught me lots of things about a practice I had no idea was so terrifyingly widespread and ideas that we need to make very sure never gain traction again.

At the same time as she is in Sweden investigating the murder, Stella’s colourful past threatens to catch up with her as an arch rival doggedly pursues a line of enquiry which she hopes will bring Stella down. This also involves travelling to another jurisdiction and co-operating with a police force in another country, so the book is filled with action and interest. There was a huge amount of tension and urgency and threat in this book which made it one of those novels that is absolutely impossible to put down. There is no real let up in the impetus, so the reader is compelled to keep turning the pages from beginning to end, until you are at the final page before you know it. The sign of a really great, gripping thriller.

Stella Cole is not your ordinary DCI in the Met police. She is, to paraphrase Liam Neeson, in possession of certain skills that make her a formidable opponent. She has a healthy regard for the law, but also for stretching it to its limits when called for, in the mould of all great maverick cops in literary history, and a joyous disregard for her own safety that means the reader never quite knows what she is going to do next. It keeps her superiors, her adversaries and the reader on their toes throughout, and makes her a delight as a protagonist. I definitely want to read more about her and what drives her, and am very glad that I have four previous novels in the series to go back and enjoy.

For me, this series is a great discovery and I am grateful that blogging has allowed me to come across this author and this series. I would highly recommend this book to lovers of detective thrillers who like a feisty protagonist and an author who isn’t afraid to push the envelope and deal with some hard issues. But I’d say start at the beginning, which is where I am will be going back to as soon as I can.

A Beautiful Breed of Evil is out now as an ebook and in paperback and you can buy a copy here.

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

A Beautiful Breed of Evil banner

About the Author

Sunfish_200203_AM_1108_F1_colour_low_res

Andy Maslen was born in Nottingham, in the UK, home of legendary bowman Robin Hood. Andy once won a medal for archery, although he has never been locked up by the sheriff.

He has worked in a record shop, as a barman, as a door-to-door DIY products salesman and a cook in an Italian restaurant.

He lives in Wiltshire with his wife, two sons and a whippet named Merlin.

Connect with Andy:

Website: www.andymaslen.com

Facebook: Andy Maslen

Twitter: @Andy_Maslen

dpbt 2

Book Review: Under The Bridge: Book 1 -Liverpool Mystery Series by Jack Byrne #BookReview

41cOhofppdL

2004

The discovery of a body in the Liverpool docklands unearths long forgotten secrets. Reporter Anne McCarthy is keen to prove herself and dives into the case with abandon. There she finds Michael, an old Irish caretaker who knows far more than he’s letting on and may have
a connection to the body.

Vinny Connolly is starting a postgrad degree, researching Liverpool’s migrant history and a burgeoning Scouse identity. But Vinny has been neglecting his own family history and stranger Michael might know about
his father’s disappearance in the 70s.

1955

Escaping poverty in Ireland and fresh off the boat, Michael falls in with Wicklow boys Jack Power and Paddy Connolly, who smuggle contraband through the docks, putting them at odds with the unions. While organisers rally the dockworkers against the strikebreakers and rackets. A story of corruption, secret police, and sectarianism slowly unravels.
But will the truth out?

As the conflict heightens, Michael questions the life sprawling out ahead of him, while in the present, Anne races to solve the mystery, but is she prepared for what she’ll find?

I was asked if I would review this book by the publisher and was provided with a digital copy of the book for this purpose. My thanks to the publisher, I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

This book is a interesting mix of social history and murder mystery that provided a fascinating insight into cultural and social tensions in the Garston and Speke areas of Liverpool in the 1970s. It is really obvious from the writing that the author is passionate about presenting an authentic portrayal of the period and the area, and has done a lot of research into the time period; this shines through in the writing.

The book is a dual timeline story. The first timeline involves reporter, Anne, who is chasing down a story on the identity of a skeleton uncovered on a building site in the docks area of Liverpool in 2004. Her investigation takes her into the world of union activity around the docklands in the 1970s and criminal gangs that were active at the time. Her ferreting around in this history leaves her up against some people who would rather the past stay buried. At the same time, her friend, Vinny, who is working on a social history of Irish immigration into Liverpool post-war, fears the skeleton may uncover secrets that are too close to his own family history.

The second timeline takes us back to the 1970s and the life of Michael, an Irish immigrant who is drawn into the criminal world when he first arrives in Liverpool, until a dramatic event at the time leads him to reconsider the path he is on. When Anne meets Michael in the present, he becomes the key to unlocking the skeleton’s identity.

The dual timeline works really well, and I found the accurately researched and portrayed history of this time and this area of Liverpool really interesting. For anyone interested in social history, and who enjoys books with real historical fact woven into a fictional narrative, this book will be really appealing. It made me go off and do some further reading about one particular event that is referred to in the book, which is always a sure sign that a book has grabbed my attention. The mystery aspect of the book is also really well done and kept me turning the pages from beginning to end.

The one thing that let this book down a little was the characterisation, particularly of Anne and Vinny in the modern day. They just didn’t feel completely developed, to the point that I didn’t really become invested in what was happening to them or in their relationship. This was not true of the characters back in the 1970s, they were much more alive and vibrant on the page, and may these sections of the book more appealing. It really felt like the author was much more enthralled by the historical aspects of the story than the modern day, which gave the book a little bit of an uneven feel. Richer, more honest development of the younger characters was needed for this book to be a standout.

Overall, this was a really engaging mystery novel, with a strong sense of time and place that would make an excellent read for anyone who is interested in social history and likes this kind of fact-based fictional telling of it.

Under The Bridge is out now in ebook and paperback formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

5vv6g4cjvuv9nffsne072ovtpc._US230_

Jack was born and raised in Speke Liverpool, (Paul McCartney lived in the street behind him for a while) although his parents first lived ‘Under The Bridge’ in Garston, and all his family goes back to Wicklow in Ireland.

The Liverpool Mystery Series will be four novels. Under The Bridge is the first. He is writing Fire Next Time now, and The Wicklow Boys will follow next year. You can find The One Road prequel a collection of short stories on Amazon.

Connect with Jack:

Website: https://jackbyrne.home.blog/

Facebook: Jack Byrne

Twitter: @Jackbyrnewriter

A Little Book Problem banner

 

Extract: A Comfortable Alliance by Catherine Kullmann

A Comfortable Alliance eBook

Can they open their hearts to something much deeper and passionate? Will their marriage only ever be a comfortable alliance?

Six years ago, Helena Swift’s fiancé was fatally wounded at Waterloo. Locking away all dreams of the heart, she retreated to a safe family haven. On the shelf and happy to be there, Helena has perfected the art of deterring would-be suitors.

Will, Earl of Rastleigh, is the only son of an only son: marriage is his duty. One of the great prizes of the marriage market, he shies away from a cold, society union. While he doesn’t expect love, he seeks something more comfortable. But how to find the woman who will welcome him into her life and her bed, and be a good mother to their children?

When Will meets Helena, he is intrigued by her composure, her kindness and her intelligence. As their friendship develops, he realises he has found his ideal wife, if only he can overcome her well-known aversion to matrimony

Will succeeds in slipping past Helena’s guard. Tempted by the thought of children of her own, and encouraged by her mother to leave the shallows where she has lingered so long, she accepts his offer of a marriage based not on dangerous love but affectionate companionship and mutual respect.

But is this enough? As Will gets to know his wife better, and the secrets of her past unfold, he realises that they have settled for second-best. Can he change the basis of their marriage? Will Helena risk her heart and dare to love again?

Congratulations to Catherine Kullmann on the publication of her new Regency novel, A Comfortable Alliance.  In it, her hero and heroine agree on a pragmatic marriage with benefits, only to find their comfortable alliance complicated by love.

In celebration, I’m delighted to be able to share with you this extract from A Comfortable Alliance.

Chapter One

London, 19 July 1821

“A hit!”

The Earl of Rastleigh stepped back, raised his foil to salute his opponent and then went forward to shake his hand. “A good bout, Stephen.”

“Have you been taking extra lessons from Angelo, Will?” his lordship’s oldest friend, Stephen Graham MP enquired. “That last was a neat trick.”

“Not directly. A visiting French master called here last week. He demonstrated some new moves.”

“Which you are going to share with me, I trust?”

Will laughed. “Only one at a time. I’ll not sacrifice my advantage so easily.”

“But you can at least demonstrate that last one.”

His lordship obliged, slowly going through the movement and then engaging with his friend as he tried it out. He stretched. “I needed that after so much sitting yesterday. Now for a beefsteak and a tankard of ale.”

Settled at a quiet table in The Blue Posts in Cork Street, Mr Graham raised his tankard of Burton Ale to his friend. “My parents desire me to convey their compliments to you. I went home briefly after Parliament was prorogued and they—and my sisters—were eager to hear how you went on. Do you plan to be at the Castle this summer?”

“I don’t know. I must stay in town until next week’s levée at Carlton House, but then I’m committed to my aunt Walton in Wiltshire. Perhaps I can spend some days at Rastleigh before I go to Ireland. My visit to my mother is late anyway this year; another week or two should not matter.”

“You have a summer of dissipation ahead of you, I see,” Mr Graham said solemnly. He grinned at Rastleigh’s raised eyebrow. “It might be better for you if you did, Will. You know what they say about all work and no play. If you ask me, you need to shake off the old Earl. He still seems to whisper in your ear. You have been Rastleigh for almost five years. It is time you set your own mark on the Earldom.”

“And set up as a rakehell, you mean? How unfortunate that Byron has never returned. He would be an entertaining guide to the various circles of hell.”

“No need to go that far!” Mr Graham protested, laughing. “Why, you might be refused entrance to Almack’s.”

“You have convinced me, Stephen. Dissipation it shall be, if it spares me that evil nest of husband-hunting minxes and their even more predatory Mammas.”

“Not so fast. For every young miss who is warned to avoid you, you’ll have a Caro Lamb seeking your attentions in the most importunate way.”

“Ah, the sirens of the ton! I shall continue to cling to the mast of duty.”

“Not too tightly, I trust,” his friend replied knowingly. “Is pretty Mrs Blake still in town?”

“No, alas. But let’s be honest, Stephen. You know that these little affairs run their course and in the end are not very satisfying.”

“I agree. I never thought to hear myself say this, Will, but maybe ’tis time we considered matrimony.”

“Perhaps you’re right. But I confess that that is where my grandfather’s voice rings loudest in my ear. He was never tired of preaching that, as the only son of an only son, it was my duty to marry and sire heirs.”

“Whatever about the second, you would have no problem in achieving the first. I cannot imagine any house refusing to entertain an offer from Rastleigh.”

“And that is why I have held off so long. I have no wish for a grand alliance with a dutiful bride who will go her own way once she has presented me with a son or two. I want something more comfortable.”

“Comfortable! You don’t choose a wife the way you engage a mistress.”

Will grinned. “Perhaps there would be fewer unhappy marriages if you did. I would want to be sure I was welcome in my wife’s bed and in her life. But enough of that. What news of your family and of Rastleigh?”

“All is well with the family. My father thinks of retiring in favour of Paul, if you are agreeable. The living is in your gift, is it not?”

“Yes, and I should be happy to have your brother returned to us. Your parents would remain with us, I hope?”

“I think they would like to if a suitable house may be found. They cannot remain at the Rectory if Paul is to establish his authority.”

“I agree. I shall consult with your father when I am next at the Castle.”

“Better talk to my mother too, if ’tis about where she will live,” Mr Graham recommended. “She’s by far the more practical of the two. And that reminds me—she feels all is not well at the Castle. Couldn’t put her finger on it—just a feeling you know, but time you went down again, she says.”

Will sighed. “It has never really felt right to me, either, Stephen. It is my principal seat, I know, but not my home. However, I shall try and spend some weeks there once I return from Ireland. I rarely last longer than a fortnight except over the Christmas period, and even then, I leave as soon as I am able.”

©Catherine Kullmann 2021

If you would like to read more, you can buy a copy of A Comfortable Alliance here. 

About the Author

Catherine Kullmann 4 MB (2)

Catherine Kullmann was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, she moved to Germany where she lived for twenty-five years before returning to Ireland. She has worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector.

Catherine has always been interested in the extended Regency period, a time when the foundations of our modern world were laid. Her books are set against a background of the offstage, Napoleonic wars and consider in particular the situation of women trapped in a patriarchal society. She also blogs about historical facts and trivia related to this era.

Connect with Catherine:

Website: https://www.catherinekullmann.com/

Facebook: Catherine Kullmann Author

Twitter: @CKullmannAuthor

A Little Book Problem banner