Book Review: A Convenient Marriage by Jeevani Charika #BookReview

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It was the perfect marriage… until they fell in love.

Chaya is a young woman torn between her duty to family and her life in the UK. While her traditional Sri Lankan parents want her to settle down into marriage, what they don’t know is that Chaya has turned away the one true love of her life, Noah, terrified of their disapproval.

Gimhana is hiding his sexuality from his family. It’s easy enough to pretend he’s straight when he lives half a world away in the UK. But it’s getting harder and harder to turn down the potential brides his parents keep finding for him.

When Chaya and Gimhana meet, a marriage of convenience seems like the perfect solution to their problems. Together they have everything – friendship, stability and their parents’ approval. But when both Chaya and Gimhana find themselves falling in love outside of their marriage, they’re left with an impossible decision – risk everything they’ve built together, or finally follow their heart?

Will they choose love, or carry on living a lie?

This is a really engrossing and moving story about the many different kinds of love that exist outside of romantic love and how, despite ourselves, many of us make choices which are more about pleasing other people and deciding not to rock the boat, than being true to ourselves, but whichever path we take, pitfalls lie ahead.

Both Chaya and Gimhana are Sri Lankans living in the UK. They come from traditional families and are torn between loyalty to their parents back in Sri Lanka and alternative futures that they are building for themselves in the West. Both Chaya and Gimhana are hiding parts of themselves from their families and find they cannot be truly themselves until they meet each other. Because they are both keeping secrets, and being torn between loyalty and love, they find in each other the only other person who really understands them.

I felt very deeply for both Gimhana and Chaya and the necessity they felt in being what people expected of them, rather than just being themselves. To a lesser degree, this is something many of us can relate to because many of us are subject of family pressures and expectations. However, this is heightened when it comes to the demands of very strict traditional families and the society in which they live in Sri Lanka, which can be extremely judgmental.

Jeevani builds the image of the Sri Lankan family in great detail and extremely vividly and I completely understood where Chaya and Gimhana were coming from and why they were so torn. Their love and respect for their families forces them to deny the other loves that come into their lives, but it is impossible to maintain a facade indefinitely. I could feel the pain and the yearning coming from both of them, and it was incredibly affecting.

There are some beautiful characters and relationships in this book, as well as intimate portrayals of struggles with mental health and homosexuality in a society which is not accepting of this identity. Parts of the books were very painful to read, and the author really takes the reader under the characters’ skins and lets us live their experiences with them. The book had a slow beginning but it go more engrossing as it went along and by the end I could not put it down.

The book really moved me and made me think deeply about how much some of us take for granted and how little we know of the struggles other people face but how, if we look closely enough, we have enough shared experience to allow us to empathise with and support those who may seem different initially. In the end, all of these experiences are human experiences. A really fantastic love story with a difference. I highly recommend it.

A Convenient Marriage is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Jeevani Charika writes women’s fiction and contemporary romances with a hint of British cynicism.  (In case you were wondering, it’s pronounced Jeev-uh-nee.)

There’s a whole lot of other stuff she could tell you – but mainly: she’s a former scientist, an adult fan of Lego, an embarrassing mum, a part time geek (see ’embarrassing mum’) and a Very Short Person.

She also writes romantic comedy under the pen name Rhoda Baxter. So why the two names? Well… Jeevani writes about British-Sri Lankan main characters. Rhoda, not so much.

Connect with Jeevani:

Website: https://jeevanicharika.com/home/

Facebook: Jeevani Charika

Twitter: @RhodaBaxter

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Friday Night Drinks with… Annette Hannah

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Tonight’s guest on Friday Night Drinks is someone I have been lucky enough to actually drink with in person, an event which has ever embedded me in her mind as ‘the woman who fell off an office chair.. twice.’ Tonight, with my seat firmly positioned beneath my derriere, I am delighted to welcome to the blog, author… Annette Hannah.

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

Thank you so much for having me on your lovely blog. As it’s Friday night I think it has to be my favourite cocktail, a cosmopolitan, gloriously pink with a swirl of orange peel in it. Clink cheers.

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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?

Ooh I think one of the best nights in London I had was a Christmas cocktail night in Drake and Morgan. It was hosted by Sara-Jade Virtue and the Books and the City team over at Simon and Schuster. They had custom made cocktails and I remember a gin fizz one which was delicious So I think we would go there. Its handy for St Pancras station too.

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?

It would have to be Jackie Collins as she was my all-time favourite author. I met her a couple of weeks before she passed and what struck me was that she was so genuinely interested in her readers. She wished me luck with my writing too as I’d confided in her that I’d been dabbling. I think for the man it would be Adam Levine from Maroon 5 because I just love their songs and we could ask him to sing for us.

I’m very jealous of you meeting Jackie! Did you see the documentary about her recently, it was fascinating. So, 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?

Well Poppy’s Christmas Wishes is my third published book but it was actually the first book I ever wrote. I’d been wanting to write forever and after a brief stint when my three children were tiny I realized I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. About six years ago I became part of a promotional team for my favourite author Milly Johnson, just by answering a call out on facebook. I was then invited to a blogger evening by Simon and Schuster and from then on I became a blogger. This helped me to find my voice and when authors started using my quotes in their books I actually couldn’t believe it. I made lots of blogging and writing friends and the lovely Vicki Bowles told me about the Romantic Novelists’ Association which I joined on their New Writers’ Scheme. Simon and Schuster hold a one-day submission event for non-agented writers every year, so I plucked up the courage to write the first three chapters of Poppy’s Christmas Wishes and submitted it. Then I panicked, what if they asked for the rest? This prompted me to finish the book in a month, and that was it my dream of writing a book had come true. It was rejected by S&S and I sent it out to a couple of other places but I realise now how naive I was then as it was a first draft and I hadn’t edited it at all. After writing my other books I decided to edit it and send it to through the New Writers’ Scheme for a second time and then my editor at Orion Dash offered me another two-book deal.

The idea for the book came about ten years ago when I was on a Christmas night out and my friends and I met a man who was playing a genie in his local pantomime. I thought it would be a perfect theme for a book and so along came Poppy’s Christmas Wishes. I would love to see it on telly as a cosy Christmas movie, snuggled up on the couch with my daughter with a hot chocolate in hand and snow falling outside the window.

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

My proudest moment has to be when the lovely and amazing Milly Johnson said she would provide a quote for my debut novel Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Café

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I think the biggest challenge so far has to be trying to get your book published as I’d tried for a few years but I didn’t hang around waiting I just kept writing more books as after the first one it felt as though a tap had been turned on and my head is constantly filled with story ideas.

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 would love to have a film or a telly deal, because I see my writing in my head as though it’s a film playing before me so I think it would be fascinating to actually sit and watch it with my family and friends.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

I’m currently working on a book at the moment which is really exciting and quite different to the others. The whole story has formed in my head so I just need to get it down, I also have a dual timeline book that I wrote a few years ago which I think is my favourite out of all the books I’ve written. I’m hoping to edit that again soon and get it out there.

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?

I also love to travel, just before the dreaded lockdown my husband and I recreated a holiday we had years ago but this time with our children. We went to Australia and Singapore and I think Singapore has to be one of my favourite places ever, the Zoo is just wonderful. We all loved it. I also loved Venice and Monte Carlo and San Francisco. So many places. Santorini is a place I’d like to visit one day.

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

As well as being a blogger and an author I’m also Press Officer for the RNA and on the committee

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’?

Oooh that’s a hard one as I’ve read so many fantastic books in my life but there are two that have stayed with me from my teenage days, Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews and Chances by Jackie Collins. I don’t know if it’s because they featured young people like I was at the time but I think for Flowers in the Attic, the wickedness was so shocking in it and I fell in love with Christopher, I also fell in love with Gino actually from Chances so maybe that’s why they meant so much to me, they were my first book boyfriend crushes.

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The book that made Jackie Collins one of Britain’s favourite authors sweeps you from the sophisticated playgrounds of Europe to the glittering gambling palaces of Las Vegas. It plunges you into the reckless, dangerous world of the Santangelo crime family. It introduces you to Gino Santangelo, the street kid who makes it all the way to the top. And then it brings you Lucky – his sensual, stunningly beautiful, and passionate daughter; a woman who dares to win her father’s empire for herself; a woman unafraid of taking … CHANCES.

Flowers in the Attic is one of the creepiest books I’ve ever read, although not as creepy as My Sweet Audrina by the same author! 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 like to try and drink water between sips of alcoholic drinks and recently started drinking J20 apple and raspberry which is quite cocktail like. If I do have one which is very rare thankfully, then I like a glass of fresh orange with my daughter’s specialty of bacon done in the air fryer on a toasted bagel with avocado in it. It is so delicious and perfect for non-hangover days too.

I had bacon on a toasted bagel for lunch today, although I like mine with roasted cherry tomatoes. It’s even nicer if you spread the bagel with Boursin instead of butter! After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

A little bit of shopping and a gorgeous afternoon tea in a posh hotel.

Sounds perfect! Annette, thanks for chatting to me this evening, I’ve had a blast and managed to stay on the chair! Good luck with the new book.

Annette’s new book, Poppy’s Christmas Wishes, is out as an ebook on 2 December and you can pre-order it here.

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What would you wish for if you were granted three wishes?

For the first time she can remember, Poppy is dreading Christmas. Unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend after moving across the country for him, there’s nothing cheery about the festive season this year.

Dragged to a Christmas ball by best friend Layla, Poppy meets gorgeous actor Gabe, who stars as a genie in a play. When he asks her what three wishes she would make, she realises it’s quite simple: love, a job she’s happy in and, just once in her life, to do something extraordinary.

Gabe and Poppy make a pact to help each other make their dreams come true. As they tick off their wishes, their friendship blossoms… But, as they discover, sometimes, what you want for Christmas isn’t necessarily what you need…

Annette Hannah is a Liver Bird who relocated to leafy Hertfordshire in the 80’s and now lives near a river with her husband, two of their three grown up children and a crazy black cocker spaniel. She writes Romantic comedies in settings inspired by the beautiful countryside around her and always with a nod to her hometown.

She worked in Marketing for many years as a qualified Marketeer which she loved as it tapped into her creative side.

As an avid reader, she began to review the books she read, became a book blogger and eventually plucked up the courage to fulfil her life long dream of writing a book.

For four years she was a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s new writers’ scheme, during which time she wrote a book a year

After signing a two book deal with Orion Dash in 2020 she graduated to full member of the organisation and is also their Press Officer.

She loves long walks along the river, travelling to far flung places and spending time with her friends and family.

Connect further with Annette via her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 

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Book Review: Deadheading and Other Stories by Beth Gilstrap #BookReview

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Irrevocably tied to the Carolinas, these stories tell tales of the woebegone, their obsessions with decay, and the haunting ache of the region itself—the land of the dwindling pines, the isolation inherent in the mountains and foothills, and the loneliness of boomtowns. Predominantly working-class women challenge the status quo by rejecting any lingering expectations or romantic notions of Southern femininity. Small businesses are failing. Factories are closing. Money is tight. The threat of violence lingers for women and girls. Through their collective grief, heartache, and unsettling circumstances, many of these characters become feral and hell-bent on survival. Gilstrap’s prose teems with wildness and lyricism, showing the Southern gothic tradition of storytelling is alive and feverishly unwell in the twenty-first century.

I was provided with a digital copy of this book for the purposes of review by Lori Hettler of TNBBC Publicity, who has my grateful thanks. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

A collection of short stories, some a mere page, some a little longer, all tied together by their setting in the Carolinas and all exploring the intricacies of life and womanhood. I was stunned by the depth and breadth of experience that the author has managed to weave into even the briefest of tales in this extraordinary collection.

I didn’t really know what to expect from this book, and I have never read anything quite like it before. On the surface, some might argue that these tales are about nothing in particular. They aren’t identifiable crime stories, or romances, or horrors, but a collection of related and yet unrelated tableaux of ordinary yet extraordinary lives. Tinged with anger, passion, despair, melancholy, love, fear, joy and tragedy, they span the range of human emotion that can infuse even the simplest of everyday endeavours. The writer makes every life a miracle and quest for meaning, illustrated by even the smallest and most innocuous of happenings. Nobody in this world is nobody.

This is a great book to dip in and out of when you only have a few minutes to spare, or is equally a book that could transport you away for hours as you lose track of time. Each story is engrossing and moving, provoking a range of emotions in the reader that can take time to be fully realised. These are stories that you carry with you long after you have finished them and, I am sure, will be even richer on a second reading. Something out of the mainstream to relish.

You can buy a copy of Deadheading and Other Stories here.

About the Author

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Beth Gilstrap is the author of Deadheading & Other Stories, Winner of the 2019 Red Hen Press Women’s Prose Prize due out October 5, 2021 and available for preorder now. She is also the author of I Am Barbarella: Stories (2015) from Twelve Winters Press and No Man’s Wild Laura (2016) from Hyacinth Girl Press. Born and raised in the Charlotte area, she recently relocated to Louisville where she lives and writes in an ornery old shotgun house. She also lives with C-PTSD and is quite vocal about ending the stigma surrounding mental illness. Bruce and Bonnie (pictured) are terrible editorial assistants.

Connect with Beth:

Website: https://bethgilstrap.com

Facebook: Beth Gilstrap

Twitter: @BettySueBlue

Instagram: @bettysueblue

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Blog Tour: A Match Made in Venice by Leonie Mack

A Match Made In Venice

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

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

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

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

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

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

My first festive read of the year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About the Author

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

Connect with Leonie:

Website: https://leoniemack.com/

Facebook: Leonie Mack

Twitter: @LeonieMAuthor

Instagram: @leoniejmack

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Blog Tour: The Forgotten Maid by Jane Cable

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I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for the latest book by one of my favourite RNA authors, Jane Cable. The book is The Forgotten Maid, a dual timeline novel set in picturesque Cornwall. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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

Cornwall, England, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

And has Anna finally found where she belongs…?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make sure you check out the rest of the tour:

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About the Author

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

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

Connect with Jane:

Website: http://janecable.com

Facebook: Jane Cable

Twitter: @JaneCable

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Friday Night Drinks with… Joan Schweighardt

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Welcome to November! It’s Friday again and I’m away at the moment, so I am fully relaxed and in a sociable mood. the perfect time to have Friday Night Drinks with another fabulous author. Tonight I am delighted to welcome to the blog… Joan Schweighardt.

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

Caipirinha! It’s a Brazilian drink, consisting of Cachaça (a spirit made from sugarcane juice), lots of fresh lime, and sugar. I generally stay away from sugar, but this is a special occasion.

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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?

Since I’m starting off with a Brazilian drink and hoping you’ll join me and try one too, let’s go to Brazil. I know a great river/rainforest guide down there. He calls himself Carlos the Jaguar: He has a small boat and he takes tourists up and down the river, or he did, in the days I want to remember (pre COVID and pre all the mining and drilling that’s been going on forever but has really picked up in the last few years). Anyway, it’s a lovely night and the river will be as smooth as glass and the banks will be alive with the songs of insects and frogs, and, every now and then, curious screeches we can’t identify. 

Our river boat

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?

How about two Scots? I’m thinking Anne Donovan and Thomas Lipton. I’ve only read one of Anne Donovan’s novels, and but it was wonderful and I intend to read more. The one I read, Buddha Da, begins with this line: is “My da’s a nutter.” It’s a coming of age about a girl (the narrator) whose happy-go-lucky but none-too-spiritual father comes home one night and announces he’s going to take up meditation at the local Buddhist center. 

As for Thomas Lipton, he was actually born in Ireland but moved to Scotland very shortly thereafter. Here in the U.S., we really know him these days for his tea, but he was a very famous man back in the 1920s, here as well as in the UK, a large-hearted man who quit school at the age of 13 to help his parents run their Glasgow grocery shop and whose marketing genius made all of them fabulously wealthy. He didn’t sit on his money either; Lipton was a renowned philanthropist, always giving to the poor, and he made sure his employees at the various businesses he came to start (some in the U.S.) were fairly paid. (One of my fictional characters in my recent trilogy worked for him, so I have this firsthand.) He loved the sea, Lipton did, and he participated in the American Cup year after year—and never won. But he won the hearts of sea lovers everywhere with his personality and generous nature. 

So, 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 writing; I’m always writing. I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. I’ve always worked on my own projects, but I also made a career writing for other people. I’ve written for newspapers, PR companies, corporate clients and several private clients who had stories to tell but neither the time nor inclination to do so themselves. I’ve recently finished the trilogy I referred to above, and now I’m putting together an anthology with several other writers and completing a non-fiction about my younger sister, who died almost four years ago.

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

By 2000 I had three novels published, and I had a friend who had written a brilliant novel, better than anything I’d ever written, but hadn’t been able to find a publisher for it, even with an agent. It bothered me so much that I decided that I would start a small publishing company and publish not only her novel but books for other people who were being passed over too. I told my friend I was going to publish her, and she was thrilled. And then I woke up a few mornings later and thought, What have I got myself into? What do I know about publishing, other than that I’ve had stuff published myself and I’ve done a bit of freelance for publishers? And how could I have forgotten that I’m really shy and suffer from imposter syndrome and seldom step out of my comfort zone?

Long story short, I did it, because I’d made a commitment. I’m proud of that, and I’m proud that I actually became a pretty good small publisher. The authors I published got interviews and book reviews and won awards. At some point the distributor I was working with went bankrupt (this is the challenging part), owing me and several other client publishers a lot of money. I found another distributor, but I could never get back on my feet, and so I shut down my little publishing company five years after I’d started it. Publishing was a roller coaster of an experience, especially since I freelanced for clients the whole time I was publishing. I learned so much—about myself, about the industry, even about unique ways to recover from a relatively big financial loss. I never regret doing it.

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

I’d like to see my recently completed trilogy become a Netflix or Amazon Prime or whatever series. I wrote a story bible based on the three books and offering my vision of how they would work in a series, and I sent it to the one person in the film world that I have indirect access to. He liked it enough to ask me (indirectly) to send the three books, which I did. I’ve got my fingers crossed, though I know my chances are slim to non-existent.

What have you planned that you are really excited about?

I’m excited to see what my next big fiction project will be. I’m always happiest when I’m writing fiction. I’m waiting for the universe to point me toward it, so I don’t have much to say about it at this moment in time… which is fine, since, as mentioned above, I’ve got some nonfiction projects to keep myself busy.

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?

My favorite place is the South American rainforest. That’s why we’re sitting here, with Carlos the Jaguar making our caipirinhas and Thomas Lipton and Anne Donovan chatting away about the highlands. Another favorite place is Ocracoke Island, which is one of the barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, and the only one that isn’t connected to the others by road. You have to take a ferry to get there. I’ve been to Ocracoke many times, in many seasons, with many different people. On my bucket list is the chance to stay there for a full month, in a big rental house from which friends and family can come and go, during the off season when it’s not so crowded.

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

When I was a kid we were poor and my father could never make ends meet with his machinist job alone. So he did work on weekends for the supermarket we lived near, retrieving grocery carts people walked off with and picking up trash in the supermarket parking lot with a long stick that had a nail at the end of it. Oh was I embarrassed to see him out there, in his big army coat when it was cold, picking up other people’s trash and shoving it into a cloth bag he carried on his shoulder. I didn’t want anyone to know I was related to him. 

We live near an arroyo that has a bike path on one side and a dirt trail on the other. We walk our dog on the dirt trail, and it is always filthy, everything from candy wrappers to burger bags and soda cups to the tiny liquor bottles the night hawks leave behind. Once a week I take my trash grabber and a paper bag and pick up all the trash. My father is no longer among the living, but I always imagine he’s watching me, amused because I tried so hard not to be like him. And I always say something corny like, “Turns out I’m my father’s daughter after all,” in case he’s listening from the great wherever, to let him know I miss him and I don’t mind being like him one bit. 

That’s such a lovely sentiment! 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’?

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst is a wonderful story about a linguistics professor who tries to teach his dog to talk because the dog was the only witness to his wife’s death. Parkhurst never tells the reader what the poor professor is feeling; she only tells us what he is doing—and that has more power to make us feel his emotion than if she had spelled it out.

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A poignant and beautiful debut novel explores a man’s quest to unravel the mystery of his wife’s death with the help of the only witness — their Rhodesian ridgeback, Lorelei.

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 can drink as much as the next woman, so I don’t anticipate a hangover. But if I get one, I’ll take an aspirin and spend the day on the sofa with a book.

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

Maybe a nice hike in the mornings, and then back to the sofa with a good book, whether I’m hung over or not, in the afternoons. 

Sounds perfect. Joan, thank you so much for taking the time to chat to me this evening, I have thoroughly enjoyed myself.

The latest books by Joan Schweighardt, The Rivers Trilogy includes the novels Before We Died, Gifts for the Dead and River Aria. You can buy the book as a Kindle boxset here. All three books work as standalone novels, but to sum them up collectively:

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In 1908, two Irish American brothers leave their jobs on the Hudson River docks of Hoboken, New Jersey, to seek their fortunes tapping rubber trees in the Brazilian rainforest. They expect to encounter floods, snakes, and unfriendly competitors, but nothing prepares them for the fact that the Amazonian jungle will take most of their crew and that saving the life of one brother will require leaving the other behind.

The trilogy follows Henry Ford’s plot to desecrate the rainforests and own the rubber trade, the impacts of World War I and prohibition on daily American life, and, finally, the journey of a talented young soprano who travels in the latter part of the 1920s from her birthplace in Brazil to New York City, where she struggles to make peace with her Irish American father, while establishing herself in the world of metropolitan opera.

Joan Schweighardt is the author of nine novels, two memoirs, two children’s books and various magazine articles, including work in Parabola Magazine. She is a regular contributor to Occhi Magazine, for which she interviews writers, artists and filmmakers. In addition to her own projects, she has worked as an editor and ghostwriter for private and corporate clients for more than 25 years. She also had her own independent publishing company from 1999 to 2005. Several of her titles won awards, including a Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers,” a ForeWord Magazine “Best Fiction of the Year,” and a Borders “Top Ten Read to Me.” And she has agented books for other writers, with sales to St. Martin’s, Red Hen, Wesleyan University Press and more.

Her most recent work is the Rivers Trilogy—Before We Died, Gifts for the Dead and River Aria—which moves back and forth between the New York metro area and the South American rainforests from the years 1908 through 1929.

You can connect further with Joan via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Book Promo: Love Heart Lane Boxset by Christie Barlow #PromoPost

Love Heart Lane Boxset

I am delighted to be taking part in the book promo for the release of the first three volumes in Christie Barlow’s Love Heart Lane series as a box set. Thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for offering me the chance to take part.

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Don’t miss this gorgeous eBook boxset of the first three novels in Christie Barlow’s bestselling Love Heart Lane series – also including a bonus Christmas short story!

Love Heart Lane – where friends are there for you no matter what

Love Heart Lane

When Flick Simons returns to the cosy village of Heartcross she only expected to stay for a few days. The white-washed cottages of Love Heart Lane might be her home, but the place holds too many painful memories, and of one man in particular – Fergus Campbell.

Foxglove Farm

Isla and Drew Allaway appear to have the perfect life – a strong marriage, two beautiful children and their picture-perfect home, Foxglove Farm.
But, new mum Isla is struggling. When she discovers that Drew has been keeping secrets from her, Isla has to face losing the home they all love.

Clover Cottage

When Vet Rory Scott inherits ramshackle Clover Cottage in the quaint village of Heartcross, Allie MacDonald just knows this is their happy ever after. A place to call home with the man she loves – it’s her dream come true!
Until Rory drops a bombshell. He loves Allie but he has dreams of his own to follow – to live and work in Africa. Clover Cottage will have to wait just a little longer…

Plus the exclusive short story –  Christmas at Heartcross Castle.

Celebrate Christmas with all your favourite residents from Love Heart Lane – a short Christmas story not to be missed! Merry Christmas! X

I am a huge fan of Christie Barlow’s Love Heart Lane series so I’m delighted to be able to help announce that the first three books in the series, Love Heart Lane, Foxglove Farm and Clover Cottage, are being released as a digital boxset today, along with an exclusive Christmas story. The price is a bargain £2.99 for all three books and the bonus Christmas story, so now is the ideal time to grab the books and introduce yourself to a wonderful series featuring a gorgeous location and a marvellous set of characters.

If you have been tempted, and I know you have, you can buy the boxset here.

About the Author

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Christie Barlow is the number one international bestselling author of fifteen romantic comedies including the iconic Love Heart Lane Series, A Home at Honeysuckle Farm and Kitty’s Countryside Dream. She lives in a ramshackle cottage in a quaint village in the heart of Staffordshire with her four children and two dogs.

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

When Christie isn’t writing she co-presents The Book Show on Radio Northwich, enjoys playing the piano, is a keen gardener and loves to paint and upcycle furniture.

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

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

Connect with Christie:

Facebook: Christie Barlow

Twitter: @ChristieJBarlow

Instagram: @christie_barlow

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Victoria Walker

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Today I am delighted to be discussing the writing of romance and all things love-related with author… Victoria Walter.

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

I write contemporary romance novels and I’ve just self-published my first book. I have re-written it so many times and I love the hero, Jonas, so much I just had to get him out there! I’ve written another three books since and am querying with publishers for one of those at the moment. 

Why romance?

I grew up reading Enid Blyton, especially Malory Towers and the Famous Five. My year 6 teacher was pretty exasperated about my lack of author variety and tried to make me read Douglas Adams – which I did much later on and loved – but I knew that I could rely on Enid Blyton to tell me a story I wanted to read. That philosophy is probably why I like romance. It’s sometimes described as formulaic but you will never read the same book twice. I love the initial spark of attraction and the journey as it builds into a relationship between the main characters. There is always a will they/won’t they element to a romance that keeps me reading on, wondering if there will be a happy ever after even though I know there will be!

What inspires your stories?

So far my books have been inspired by places I’ve visited. Before I started writing my first novel, I’d been reading a lot of romances set in New York and for some reason thought that’s where my novel should be set, even though I’d never been there. So when I went to Reykjavik and fell in love with the place, I thought it was easily as romantic as New York and would be the perfect backdrop for a love story.

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

I love Jilly Cooper. She’s not perhaps a traditional romance author but some of her heroes are just knee-weakeningly gorgeous. I’m thinking of Luke Alderton in Polo when I say that. I also love anything by Sarah Morgan. I felt so lucky when I discovered her and could then plough through her back catalogue.

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

Oooh, it’s so hard to choose one but I’m going to go with Not Your Cinderella by Kate Johnson because I’ve read it at least three times and I love the chemistry between Jamie and Clodagh and Jamie is probably my perfect man and is strikingly similar to my husband now that I think about it. Apart from the royal element. I love the third book in the same series too, Not Your Knight in Shining Armour which has a fabulous heroine.

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The most eligible bachelor in the country? All Jamie wants to do is finish his PhD and live a quiet life, but since he’s actually Prince Jamie and he’s been famous since the minute he was born, that’s not likely to happen.

Clodagh doesn’t believe in fairytales, and no handsome prince is going to sweep her off her feet. She’s worked too hard to escape the wrong side of the tracks, and the last thing she needs is the world’s press finding out who she truly is.

But Jamie and Clodagh can’t fight the heat between them, and when the eyes of the world turn on them the pressure is only going to rise. Can true love conquer all? Can the fairytale come true? And what kind of girl wears a glass slipper anyway?

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

I’d head to Snow Crystal resort and spend the weekend with Jackson O’Neill from Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan. We’d take a sleigh ride through the forest, snuggled together underneath plenty of blankets, and end up at the chocolate shack for a Bailey’s hot chocolate. He’d take me onto the slopes and teach me how to ski. I’d be brilliant obviously but it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if I fell over and needed a hand to get up. We’d relax in a hot tub with a glass of rose before he’d cook an amazing dinner which we’d eat by candlelight in his cosy log cabin. And if we ended up in a nest of rugs and blankets on the floor in front of the roaring fire while the snow fell gently outside, that’d be the perfect end to the day and would probably see us through the rest of the weekend.

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

My favourite thing about the RNA are the people I’ve become friends with. Everyone is so willing to share their experience and are so supportive to new writers and have the unwavering belief that getting published is just a matter of perseverance. I’ve been on the New Writers’ Scheme for five years and I would never have managed to write a novel worthy of anyone reading it without the feedback from the reports or the access to the amazing conferences. 

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

Join the RNA New Writers’ Scheme and go to the annual conference! And read as much as you write in the genre you’re writing.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

Snug in Iceland is a winter romance which follows Rachel’s journey from London to Reykjavik as she is tasked with setting up a new retail store for the company she works for, Snug. Rachel relishes the opportunity to take a break from her everyday life, even her boyfriend Adam, to see if her absence might inject a spark into their staid relationship. Iceland captures Rachel’s imagination and she realises with the help of tour guide, Jonas, that there is more to life than the one she was living in London and she has to decide whether going back to the same life is what she really wants. There are lots of great Icelandic locations which readers have really loved so far with lots of reviewers saying they want to visit. Iceland is amazing. I can’t wait to go again myself. My husband is keen to go in the summer for a change but I think the magic is in the ice and snow.

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Rachel Richards is stuck in a rut. Her boyfriend Adam barely notices her most of the time and her life in London isn’t as exciting as it should be. When the company she works for, Snug, asks her to oversee the opening of a new store in Iceland, she jumps at the chance for a change of scenery.

Exploring Reykjavik with the help of Icelandic tour guide Jonas, Rachel discovers that life is out there waiting to be lived. As she falls in love with Iceland, she begins to see what is important to her and wonders whether the life she left behind is what she wants after all…

You can buy a copy of Snug in Iceland in paperback and ebook formats here.

About the Author

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Victoria Walker has been writing romantic fiction since a visit to Iceland in 2014 inspired her first novel. As well as writing, she spends her free time dressmaking, knitting and reading an inordinate amount of contemporary romance, occasionally punctuated by the odd psychological thriller and saga.
In the past she has worked as a cinema projectionist, a knitting and sewing tutor and has owned a yarn store, all things which will no doubt appear in her books if they haven’t already.
Victoria lives in the Malvern Hills with her husband and two teenage children. 

Connect with Victoria:

Website: https://www.victoriaauthor.co.uk

Facebook: Victoria Walker

Twitter: @4victoriawalker

Instagram @victoriamakes

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Promo Post: Kiss & Tell – An Amaryllis Media Anthology

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I’m happy to be bringing you news today of a new limited edition anthology of new adult college romance stories which is coming September 2022 and is currently  available to pre-order for the bargain price of only 99p!

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ᴡʜᴀᴛ ᴄᴏᴜʟᴅ ɢᴏ ᴡʀᴏɴɢ ᴡʜᴇɴ ᴛʜᴇ ɢᴏᴏᴅ ɢɪʀʟ ɢᴇᴛꜱ ꜱᴛᴜᴄᴋ ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴛʜᴇ ʙᴀᴅ ʙᴏʏ? ᴀꜰᴛᴇʀ ᴀʟʟ, ɪᴛ’ꜱ ᴊᴜꜱᴛ ᴄʜᴇᴍɪꜱᴛʀʏ…
 
This limited edition collection takes readers on a whirlwind through new adult college romances where the good girl is stuck with the bad boy and she’s not happy about it, until their chemistry together makes her question everything she thought she knew about him.
 
This collection will include stories by the authors listed below:
☆ Mandy Melanson & Colleen Key ☆ H.M Shander ☆ C.A King ☆ Sofia Aves ☆ Lizzi Stone ☆ Kari Shuey ☆ Kira Cunningham ☆ Amy Stephens ☆ Sienna Grant ☆ Ainsley Jaymes ☆ Corinne M Knight ☆ Lynn Stevens ☆ Sarah Peis ☆ Sunny Abernathy ☆ TB Mann ☆ Rachel A. Smith ☆ Krista Ames ☆ Danielle Jacks ☆ C.N. Marie & Lizzie James ☆ Samantha Baca ☆ Zepphora ☆ Maci Dillon ☆ Lissa Lynn Thomas ☆ Adina D. Grey ☆ Jennifer Sucevic ☆ LJC Fynn & Hope Sherrill ☆ Leanne Davis ☆ Kaye Kennedy ☆ Lexi Noir ☆ Rhylie Matthews ☆ Helena Novak ☆ Kevin Berry ☆ Kira Cunningham
 
If this sounds like your cup of tea, make sure you pre-order it now. You can do so by following this link.
 
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Blog Tour: The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas #BookReview

The Room in the Attic

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

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A child who does not know her name…

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

Two motherless boys banished to boarding school…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About the Author

Louise

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

Connect with Louise:

Facebook: Louise Douglas Author

Twitter: @LouiseDouglas3

Instagram: @louisedouglas3

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