Blog Tour: I Am Dust by Louise Beech #BookReview

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When iconic musical Dust is revived twenty years after the leading actress was murdered in her dressing room, a series of eerie events haunts the new cast…

The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for her killer…

Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room?

Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her imagination? Is someone playing games?

Not all the drama takes place onstage. Sometimes murder, magic, obsession and the biggest of betrayals are real life. When you’re in the theatre shadows, you see everything.

And Chloe has been watching…

A new book by Louise Beech is always something to get excited about so I feel very privileged to be taking part in the blog tour for her latest novel, I Am Dust today. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for including me on the tour and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

“a moment when darkness falls, and the stage is lit; a moment when they might wonder if they even exist any more; when they forget everything for two hours.”

This is a quote from early on in I Am Dust, the new book by Louise Beech, when we first meet the protagonist, Chloe, in the modern day setting of the Dean Wilson Theatre where she is an usher. Chloe is talking about the moment just before the curtain rises on a show, where the audience hang in anticipation of being swept away to a new world, taken out of their mundane lives and transported and immersed in someone else’s for a while. Everyone who loves the theatre, and I certainly count myself amongst that number, recognises this feeling.

I have picked this quote out and included it here because this is also exactly how opening the first page of a new book by this author makes me feel. Breathless with anticipation and ready to be transported to somewhere completely different and, I have to say, that I Am Dust delivered on this sense of promise on every level. I read this book pretty much in a single sitting over the course of one day, ignoring everything around me because I was so captivated and consumed by the story that Louise placed between these pages that I could not bear to break the spell before it was over. A bit like when you emerge from a virtuoso performance, slightly disoriented and blinking in the alien light of the real world, I came out of this reading experience, preoccupied and slightly bereft, but with the horde of emotions the tale had stirred up in me still buzzing through my veins.

One of the things that makes Louise’s writing so unique is that it defies genre pigeon-holeing. Everyone is different and unique, and you never know quite what to expect, except that you know it is never going to be straight-forward and that it will touch you in a million different ways. Here we have a mystery, a ghost story, a tale of love and rivalry and an exploration of teenage angst, ambition, and sacrifice. It has so many levels of complexity that it takes a while to sort out how you feel about the book once you have finished it, and it made me immediately want to go back to the beginning and start again so I could savour the tiny details I missed on my first impatient read-through where I both couldn’t wait to get to the end and could not bear to be finished either. These dichotomies will be familiar to anyone who has read Louise’s work before, and feed through to many aspects of her stories, a case in point here being the theme that it is possible to both love and hate someone at the same time.

This is a dual timeline story, set in the present day Dean Wilson Theatre where a revival of the controversial musical, Dust, is imminent; a musical which has profound meaning for our main character, Chloe, and its return stirs up painful feelings and memories from the past for her. We also then have flashbacks to one intense summer during Chloe’s teenage years, the events of which are now bleeding through in to the present. The narrative construct works really well to reveal pertinent facts to the reader at the same time as they are recalled by Chloe and impact the present day events, and it delivers a level of tension and urgency that it one of the main reasons I was unable to set this book aside during the first reading.

This page-turning quality is only one small part of what makes this book so compelling, though. The character development and exploration is also exquisite. Chloe is so well drawn, so sympathetic and recognisable a person to carry this book that the reader cannot help but be taken along on her journey and feel all that she feels along the way. The pain of her teenage years, of intense, unrequited love and those instant, fierce, emotional swings are so vivid and familiar, the story feels absolutely real, even when exploring the supernatural elements. There have been many books and movies that have  used the link between unchecked teenage emotion and psychic happenings, but here Louise draws Chloe’s angst so honestly and believably that the occurrences seem almost inevitable, as does her reaction to them, and to the pain of just being as a teenager. The book explores some difficult topics, but always sensitively, and my heart was just beating along with Chloe’s, feeling deeply what she is feeling throughout the story.

The other quality that makes this book extra special is the one I pointed out at the beginning, how the author has managed to encapsulate absolutely perfectly the dream-like feeling of a theatre production and bring it to life in the pages of this novel. That sense of being held in a bubble, separate from the real world, disconnected from time for a while and completely captive to the story. This ethereal, surreal quality to the reading experience is something I am not sure I have experienced before and I am not sure how she has managed to do it, I could not pinpoint what it is about the text that makes this so, but it is so magical that it left me almost breathless. It is a quality that makes this ghost story believable, because the whole story seems illusory, both past and present, as if there is a gauzy curtain between what is happening here and reality. It is very hard to describe, I think you need to read the book yourself to experience it, but it is quite startling in its originality and something very special.

My love for this book is unbounded. It is deeply moving in parts, it almost brought me to tears at the end, because the emotions bleed off the page. I could wax lyrical about what makes this book special all day and still fail to really convey what makes it outstanding, but you are probably already bored. So I’ll just finish by saying, you will never have had a reading experience quite like this and Louise’s chameleon-like abilities as a writer continue to amaze me with every new book. I was blown away by I Am Dust and it has flown into my top ten books of the year, please, please read it for yourself.

I Am Dust is out now as am ebook and will be published in paperback on 16 April, and you can get a copy here.

To follow the rest of the I Am Dust blog tour, check out the details on the poster below:

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About the Author

Louise Beech Author pic

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. Her second book, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

Connect with Louise:

Website: https://louisebeech.co.uk

Facebook: Louise Beech

Twitter: @LouiseWriter

Instagram: @louisebeech13

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The Devil’s Bride by Emma S. Jackson #BookReview #BlogTour (@ESJackson1) @darkstrokedark @crookedcatbooks @RNATweets #PNR #paranormalromance #romance #TheDevilsBride

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England, 1670

No one goes near Edburton Manor – not since the night in 1668, when demons rose from the ground to drag Lord Bookham’s new bride to a fiery death. Or so the locals say.

That’s what makes it the perfect hideout for the gang of highwaymen Jamie Lorde runs with.

Ghost stories have never frightened her. The living are a far more dangerous prospect, particularly to a woman in disguise as a man. A woman who can see spirits in a time when witches are hanged and who is working hard to gain the trust of the most ruthless, vicious man she has ever known because she intends to ruin and kill him.

But when the gang discovers Matthew, Lord Bookham’s illegitimate brother, who has been trapped by a curse at the Manor ever since the doomed wedding, all Jamie’s carefully laid plans are sent spiralling out of control.

I am over the moon today to be celebrating the publication of my fellow RNA New Writers’ Scheme member, Emma Jackson’s new paranormal romance, The Devil’s Bride. My thanks to Emma 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.

Look, I’m going to admit that this book is in a genre I wouldn’t normally read. I’m not someone you will find wandering the aisles of the paranormal romance section of my local bookstore, eagerly sniffing out my next read. But when someone you know writes a book and is kind enough to mention you in the acknowledgements (thank you, Emma, that was a lovely surprise!), the least you can do is check it out.

I made the mistake of starting this very late at night, straight after I had finished another book, and I was way too tired at that point to give the opening chapters the attention they deserved , so it took my a little while to get into the story. This is entirely down to the fact that this book steps outside my normal genre choices and is so rich in detail and atmosphere that it required some concentration from me to get into the groove of the writing style. This is absolutely no reflection on the author at all, because when I came back to it fresh the next morning and started again, I was absolutely hooked and devoured it in a single sitting. I was so completely absorbed in the book that my OH was complaining that I wasn’t listening to him while he was trying to talk to me (he was right, I wasn’t, the book was way more interesting!)

Despite the fact I am not a connoisseur of Gothic romance, I can appreciate good writing in any genre when I come across it, and this book is just fabulous. From the opening chapters, we are whisked to a sumptuously drawn, all-enveloping world which you can feel, hear, touch, taste and smell from the very first page. Honestly, I felt like I was putting on a period costume and wearing it for the duration of the book; it was so vivid, I was living it. Imagine  yourself in a dense, dark forest surrounding a crumbling and sinister house, haunted by heaven knows what or who. Imagine you are approaching this house in the company of some bloodthirsty and merciless highwaymen, and at the same time, you are pretending to be something you are not and are desperate not to be found out. Can you feel the suspense and the tension? Well, you don’t have to imagine it if you pick this book up because the author will take you right there and plonk you in the middle of the action, then keep you there, straining every nerve from first page to last.

I loved the premise of this book, and inhabited fully the character of Jamie throughout. I was with her through every tense moment, every risky decision, every moment of strain between her and the other characters. Jamie is a brilliant protagonist to carry this book, a strong, independent woman of the day, fighting against the circumstances she finds herself in and determined to carry through with her plans. She is headstrong and passionate and, to a degree, ruthless, but with a seam of compassion that allows her to be  likeable. In short, she is my kind of woman and I absolutely adored her.

Matthew was also a great character, and Fielding, and Emma has built a beautiful, detailed and complete world here. In fact, it gave me a whiff of one of my favourite books of all time, Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier, with a strong woman falling in amongst rogues and having to hold her own, and I can’t really think of a better compliment to pay than that. We’ve got pistols and punches and curses and ghosts and romance and the supernatural, all described in exquisite detail. What could there possibly be not to love about this book?

I was left at the end exhilarated, breathless and totally shocked by the turn the plot had taken, and with a million questions that need answering. The author has very cleverly written a satisfying book on its own, but with the door left open for a sequel and a desperate compulsion in the reader to know WHAT COMES NEXT, which will mean the success of a sequel is already guaranteed. Where is the next book, I need it! I am in awe, Emma, truly, you have done the most magnificent job on this book, I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it.

The Devil’s Bride is out now in paperback and ebook and you can buy a copy here.

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

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About the Author

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Emma Jackson is the best-selling author of A MISTLETOE MIRACLE, published by Orion Dash. A devoted bookworm and secret-story-scribbler since she was 6 years old, she joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association on their New Writers’ Scheme at the beginning of 2019, determined to focus on her writing. Her debut novel was published in November 2019.

When she’s not running around after her two daughters and trying to complete her current work-in-progress, Emma loves to read, bake, catch up on binge-watching TV programmes with her partner and plan lots of craft projects that will inevitably end up unfinished. THE DEVIL’S BRIDE is her second novel, published by DarkStroke as Emma S Jackson. She hopes to continue working across sub-genres of romance, as she believes variety is the spice of life. 

Connect with Emma:

Website: https://esjackson.co.uk

Facebook: Emma Jackson Author

Twitter: @ESJackson1

Instagram: @emma_s_jackson

 

The Ghosts of Curmudgeon Avenue by Samantha Henthorn #Spotlight #BlogTour (@SamanthaHfinds) @annecater #RandomThingsTours #CurmudgeonAvenue

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The house on Curmudgeon Avenue should be happy now, the nincompoop residents have all met their sorry ends. But they haven’t quite left… now that a new family move in can the house find peace? Or are the ghosts of Curmudgeon Avenue going to interfere with the goings-on, romance and dramas that new residents bring?

Gordon and Zandra Bennett – along with their lovelorn daughter Krystina move all the way from London to Curmudgeon Avenue. Zandra has her heart set on renovating the four-storey Victorian terrace and hires Harry to rip out the old and bring in the new. Wonder how that will go down with the grumpy, yet proud house? Not to mention Harold, Edna and Edith who are trapped in their previous home with no choice but to haunt Krystina, moan about the new layout and get up to mischief.

Delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for The Ghosts of Curmudgeon Avenue by Samantha Henthorn. Many thanks to Anne Cater for my place on the tour.

I’m shining the spotlight today on a fun and witty book which is the fourth in a series set in the same house, this time with added ghosts!

The Curmudgeon Avenue books are a series in which the house in which they are set is the narrator of the books, a unique twist on the narrative style which allows us to see all the goings on from an omniscient viewpoint. And what goings on they are! In this book, the former residents of the house have all been killed off in a series of freak accidents, but have returned to haunt the house and cause havoc for the new residents.

Reviewers have described this series, and the new book in particular, as amusing and highly entertaining, and the writer’s style as quirky, frenetic and endearing. If this sounds like something that is up your street (please excuse the pun!), then why not grab a copy of this book or, better yet start at the beginning of the series.

The Ghosts of Curmudgeon Avenue is out now and you can buy a copy here, along with the preceding books in the Curmudgeon Avenue series.

Make sure you check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for reviews and other content:

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About the Author

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Samantha Henthorn was born in 1970-something in Bury, England. She has had short stories and poetry published in magazines. Her books include the Curmudgeon Avenue series (The Terraced House Diaries and The Harold and Edith adventures). ‘1962’, ‘Quirky Tales to Make Your Day’ and ‘Piccalilly’

She has two cats, one dog, one gorgeous grown up daughter and one husband. When not reading or writing, she is listening to heavy metal and would be thrilled to bits if someone read her books.

Connect with Samantha:

Website: https://samanthahenthornfindstherightwords.blog

Facebook: Samantha Henthorn Author

Twitter: @SamanthaHfinds

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Oranges and Lemons by Paula F. Andrews #GuestPost (@PaulaAAuthor) @matadorbooks #OrangesAndLemons

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Gregarious teenager, Jessifer Jordan, has always been loyal and open, and her love of acting has made her an expert in pretence. So, when six-year old Victorian ghost, Adeline, appears in her life and Jess’s best friend won’t believe her, deceit becomes Jess’s natural ally. Previously fun-loving and sociable, she becomes serious and isolated in her quest to discover what Adeline really wants. Always curious, she finds herself whisked back in time to 1863 and into the clutches of a volatile doctor with an obsession for morphine.

As she journeys back and forth into the past, she realises that Adeline reminds her of her dead sister and her submerged grief resurfaces. Will her great aunt Ruby’s counsel help her? Can she outwit the deranged medic? And whose is that smoky cat which keeps turning up out of the blue?

I am delighted to be featuring Oranges and Lemons by Paula F. Andrews on the blog today with a fabulous guest post from the author. My thanks to Sophie Morgan at Troubador for inviting me to do the feature.

Author interview with Paula F. Andrews

What is your book about?

Oranges and Lemons is a light ghost story, set in York, and involving time-slip episodes between the modern day and 1863. The main character is a fourteen-year-old contemporary teenage girl called Jessifer. She answers the call of a six-year-old ghost called Adeline. Her quest leads to conflict with her best friends and wonderful, beloved Aunt Ruby but underlines her deep empathy, love and loyalty. 

When did you know you wanted to write a book, and why this one? What was your inspiration?

I had an idea for a children’s picture book about ten years ago which led me to begin a course in writing for children. I then created a teenage girl character and felt I could write a story that would bring her together with a little ghostly character from local legend. I’d been interested in the little ghost since my teenage years and felt her fun, vibrant personality would be perfect for a book for young teenagers. The picture book is still at the idea stage!

How did you research the story? What was the most fascinating thing you learned?

I spent a long time looking into the development of morphine analgesia and the development of the hypodermic syringe. I did most of my research online but I also spent time in the Library and Archives in York, examining texts about the city, its streets and buildings, disease and medical care in the 1860s. I discovered that The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley was published in the year my story is set and also that the American Civil War was happening at the same time as the little ghost’s father was doing his own research into using the hypodermic syringe.

How long do you write each day?

I try to spend part of each day writing, whether it’s a blog, letters, social media posts, novel, short story or poetry writing. Now that my book has been published and I am working on the marketing and sales side of things as well, I’ve set aside three days for mainly writing and editing with the remainder of the working week allocated to  planning and doing events, signings and launches. Inevitably, I spend part of my weekend doing admin and also some writing.

Where do you like to write?

Until recently, I wrote in my lounge, which meant tidying all my papers, storyboards, etc, away, at the end of the day. So, now, I have converted our spare room into a writing-cum-guest-cum-sitting room where I can have all my things spread out! (Until someone comes to stay!)

I also love to write in cafes! And people watch at the same time!

What was the most valuable piece of advice you’ve had about being a writer that you’d like to share with others?

To write every day, even if it’s only a short letter or a social media post. Using the ‘writing muscles’ is important for maintaining skill but to achieve real growth, daily writing is vital.

What was the hardest part of writing this book? What was the best? 

The hardest: agonising over cutting out characters and chunks I really liked.

The best: seeing each of my unique characters take shape and giving them different voices.

What has been your favourite part of the publishing process?

Getting the final cover design!

Do you have plans for another book?

I have a completed fantasy novel for middle grade readers which requires editing. I also have ideas about another story involving some of the characters from Oranges and Lemons but with a different setting. And I have begun planning a second novel for middle grade readers.

Paula, thank you for answering my questions, it has been fascinating to hear about your writing process.

Oranges and Lemons is out now and you can get a copy here.

About the Author

Paula Andrews Headshot

Paula F. Andrews has been a nurse, midwife and craftsperson. She grew up in North Yorkshire and now lives in Glasgow with her husband and grown-up children. Writing seriously since 2012, she has won numerous prizes including Strathkelvin Writers’ Group overall prize for 2019 and the Scottish Association of Writers prize for YA fiction in 2017. She has also been published in Aquila and Scottish Memories magazine.
Connect with Paula:

Website: http://paulaandrews.co.uk

Twitter: @PaulaAAuthor

Facebook: Paula Andrews

Instagram: @paulaandrewsauthor

The Girl at the Window by Rowan Coleman #BookReview (@rowancoleman) @eburypublishing @penguinrandom @ecrisp1 @BleuViola #PublicationDay #TheGirlAtTheWindow

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Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from…

Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…

Today is publication day for The Girl at the Window by Rowan Coleman. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book and am delighted to share my review today. My thanks to Penguin Random House and the author for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially and a happy publication day to Rowan!

What can I say, this book has absolutely everything an avid reader could wish for when they pick up a new tome. I knew this book was going to be something special because the author has set it in a place that means a great deal to her and she has obviously poured her heart and soul into it. The passion and emotion bursts off the page and straight into the heart of the reader and carries them along on an immersive emotional journey through the story. I was completely drawn in to the world of the characters and the setting of the book and held in such an iron grip by the narrative that I could barely bear (Kate Baker – take note!) to put it down and interact with my family. I raced through it in record time and felt bereft when it was done.

The story is set in the wilds of Yorkshire, in the house that is rumoured to have inspired parts of Wuthering Heights and it is uncanny how the author has managed to evoke the atmosphere of that great novel with her story. Rowan really does the beauty and atmosphere of my home county great justice in the setting and the reader is immediately transported to the isolated Yorkshire Moors that so inspired Emily Bronte and gave Wuthering Heights the dark and wild atmosphere that characterises it.

Anyone who follows Rowan on Twitter and knows anything about her will not be able to read the book and fail to feel that the main character of Trudy has, to a degree, been inspired by Rowan’s own famed obsession with the Brontes. Returning to her childhood home at Ponden Hall after a great personal tragedy, Trudy becomes embroiled in a treasure hunt involving lost Bronte artefacts and a story that she believes intrigued her heroine, Emily, centuries before. I absolutely loved the character of Trudy and was completely engrossed in her life and emotions from the very first page. Her relationships with her young son, husband and estranged mother were beautifully portrayed in the story and felt completely authentic. The emotional journey experienced by the characters was extremely affecting and I felt myself experiencing a vast range of emotions myself as I read – sorrow, terror, intrigue being just a few of them – it was very skilfully done. These are characters and stories of the best kind, the kind that make you feel like you have made new friends, that you care about them and feel sad when you have to let them go. The great thing about novels, of course, is that they will still be there when you want to return to them, and this is definitely a book that the reader will want to treasure and return to and experience again.

The plot of the novel covers so much. Personal tragedy, family relationships, mystery, history, literature and a thrilling ghost story, all at the same time. There is so much packed in to the book, I was hugely impressed that it all flows so naturally and blended seamlessly. As someone who is making attempts to write herself, I could not help being awed by the skill that this complex book has taken to produce and, aside from being a marvellous read, it is something I will be studying to see how Rowan managed to pull it off. In fact, I would love to hear from the horse’s mouth what process Rowan used to put this book together. There was so much fascinating information and detail about the Brontes woven in to the story, but it never felt that it was included in anything other than a natural way that enhanced the narrative. The ghostly aspects were suitably creepy and disturbing. The book actually managed to produce in me the same deeply troubling sensations I felt when I first read the opening chapters of Wuthering Heights where the narrator is being haunted by Cathy’s ghost. It gives me the shivers thinking about it to this day. Ghost stories are very hard to do well, but Rowan achieves this, and goes beyond.

This book is complex, emotional, fascinating, gripping, troubling, affecting, beautiful and moving, all at the same time. It is a masterpiece, and a masterclass in writing. I absolutely loved every word, every page and know I will return to it again and again. One of my favourite books of the eighty I have read so far this year. I have bought a copy to cherish, you should too.

The Girl at the Window is out today and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Rowan Coleman’s first novel Growing Up Twice was a WHS Fresh Talent Winner. Since then, Rowan has written fifteen novels, including The Memory Book which was a Sunday Times bestseller. It was selected for the Richard and Judy Bookclub and awarded Love Reading Novel of the Year, as voted for by readers.

Her latest novel, The Summer of Impossible Things, is a Zoe Ball TV Book Club selection.

Rowan lives with her husband and their five children in a very full house in Hertfordshire, juggling writing novels with raising her family. She really wishes someone would invent time travel.

Connect with Rowan:

Facebook: Rowan Coleman

Twitter: @rowancoleman

Instagram: @rowanmcoleman

Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye with Rebecca Mascull #BookReview (@rebeccamascull) @HQstories #Christmas #MissMarley #VanessaLafaye

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Before A Christmas Carol there was… Miss Marley

A seasonal tale of kindness and goodwill

Orphans Clara and Jacob Marley live by their wits, scavenging for scraps in the poorest alleyways of London, in the shadow of the workhouse. Every night, Jake promises his little sister ‘tomorrow will be better’ and when the chance to escape poverty comes their way, he seizes it despite the terrible price.

And so Jacob Marley is set on a path that leads to his infamous partnership with Ebenezer Scrooge. As Jacob builds a fortress of wealth to keep the world out, only Clara can warn him of the hideous fate that awaits him if he refuses to let love and kindness into his heart…

In Miss Marley, Vanessa Lafaye weaves a spellbinding Dickensian tale of ghosts, goodwill and hope – a perfect prequel to A Christmas Carol.

Any of you who follow me on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook will have seen the picture of me finishing this book over a cup of tea in Sainsbury’s cafe on the morning of Christmas Eve, after I’d finished my shopping and at that point I was filled with Christmas spirit, due in no small part to this book.

For any of you who have not heard the story behind the publication of this book, it was the creation of author Vanessa Lafaye, who unfortunately passed away in February of this year after a long battle with cancer, before she was able to finish it. At the request of Vanessa’s publisher and her husband, the book was completed by Vanessa’s good friend and fellow author, Becca Mascull. This tragic and moving story meant there was a lot of buzz about this book on social media and in the blogging community and I was desperate to read it. I am a huge fan of A Christmas Carol, so the premise behind the book was enticing, and it sounded like the perfect Christmas read.

Oh, but this book is even more beautiful and moving than I expected. It is the story of how Jacob Marley becomes the person who ends up as the tormented spirit that haunts Scrooge at the beginning of A Christmas Carol. To tell his story, Vanessa has given him a sister, Clara, who is witness to the circumstances that shape him. This device is so clever, and executed so beautifully that it immediately pulls you heart and soul into their story and transports you back to Dickens’ London and the world inhabited by Scrooge and Marley. Both authors have perfectly captured the essence of Dickens’ story telling in this book so that it is very easy to believe that this is exactly how Marley and Scrooge end up as the mean-spirited, uncharitable old misers that we have come to know.

The period and setting of Victorian London is brought vividly and perfectly to life through the language and descriptions, and the whole book has a lovely, festive feeling to it, despite the melancholy story. I absolutely loved the character of Clara, she is warm and vibrant and extremely sympathetic, and she makes Jacob Marley’s story sympathetic too. You cannot help but care about her plight from the beginning, which makes the book enthralling and moving and kept me glued to the pages from beginning to end.

I have such admiration for the skill of both authors. I don’t know how Becca managed to complete this book whilst grieving for a beloved friend- it must have taken a strength of will and a huge amount of love to get through it. In the interview I have linked to below, Becca says she felt like she was almost channelling her friend as she completed the book, and I can believe it as it is impossible to tell where the two parts join. The voice and narrative are so consistent throughout; there is no jarring change of tone or pace and it ends perfectly. These were two friends so obviously in tune and their story has completely moved me to tears.

This book is a beautiful testament, both to the authors’ love of A Christmas Carol  and to their friendship and it will delight anyone who is a fan of this timeless Christmas tale. I believe that a festive read of this book will become a new Christmas tradition for me to cherish. I highly recommend you pick up a copy now.

Miss Marley is out now and you can get a copy here.

About the Authors

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Vanessa Lafaye

Vanessa Lafaye was born in Florida and studied in North Carolina. She moved to the UK in 1999 (having been deported once). She is the author of two previous novels, her first book Summertime, was chosen for Richard and Judy in 2015 and was shortlisted for the Historical Writers Award. Vanessa passed away in February 2018.

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Rebecca Mascull

Rebecca Mascull is the author of three historical novels and also writes saga fiction under the pen-name Mollie Walton.

If you would like to read more about the heart-breaking story of the writing of Miss Marley, you might like to read this article.

Tempted by….Ronnie Turner: A House of Ghosts by W. C. Ryan @WilliamRyan_ @Ronnie_Turner #bookbloggers #bloggerlove #readingrecommendations #booklove #AHouseOfGhosts

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Winter 1917. As the First World War enters its most brutal phase, back home in England, everyone is seeking answers to the darkness that has seeped into their lives.

At Blackwater Abbey, on an island off the Devon coast, Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering to contact his two sons who were lost in the conflict. But as his guests begin to arrive, it gradually becomes clear that each has something they would rather keep hidden. Then, when a storm descends on the island, the guests will find themselves trapped. Soon one of their number will die.

For Blackwater Abbey is haunted in more ways than one . . .

An unrelentingly gripping mystery packed with twists and turns, A House of Ghosts is the perfect chilling read this winter.

Today on my Tempted by…. feature I have A House of Ghosts by W. C. Ryan as featured by the lovely Ronnie Turner on her eponymously-named blog. Ronnie’s review, which you can find here, is short and sweet but totally enticing to the extent that I had to run out and grab a copy of the book straight after reading it.

If you go over and read the post, I put it to you that this is a masterclass of how to write a book review that teases out all of the salient points about the book without rambling on for hours (as my readers will know is something I am perpetually guilty of in my own reviews), all couched in beautiful language and delicious descriptions that can’t help but sell the book to you. This is what makes Ronnie one of my favourite bloggers to follow and I love reading her reviews and trust her recommendations.

If you have enjoyed reading this review, you’ll want to take a look at the rest of Ronnie’s blog where she has some lovely and unique features such as her book photography and cover designers talking about their work on book covers. You’ll also find links to her own writing and, I’m sure once you’ve seen what a way with words she has in her reviews, you’ll be keen to check out her novel Lies Between Us as well. If you would like to read my review of Ronnie’s book, you can find it here.

If you have been tempted, as I was, to buy a copy of his book, you can get it here.