Deadly Prospects by Clio Gray (The Scottish Mysteries Book One) #BookReview #BlogBlitz (@ClioGray) @urbanebooks @LoveBooksGroup #LoveBooksTours #DeadlyProspects #TheScottishMysteries

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1869, Sutherland, Scotland. For years the people of this remote area of the Highlands have lived a hard life. Now a local Gold Rush has attracted the Pan-European Mining Company to the area, and Solveig McCleery is determined to re-open the Brora mines and give the population the riches they deserve.

But when work starts on re-opening the mines, the body of a prospector is discovered, and odd inscriptions found on stones near the corpse. Before the meaning of these strange marks can be deciphered another body is discovered.

Are these attacks connected to the re-opening of the mines? Will Solveig’s plan succeed in bringing peace and prosperity back to the area? Or has she put in motion something far more sinister?  

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog blitz for Deadly Prospects by Clio Gray, first book in the Scottish Mysteries series. My thanks to Kelly Lacey at Love Books Group for offering me a place on the tour, and to the publisher for my ecopy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I found this book very different and refreshing, combining as it did very detailed, historical issues and a gripping mystery. I’m not sure I have read a book that felt quite so like a  fascinating history lesson and an intriguing crime puzzle at the same time.

The author chose a time period and location in which to set the book that I have never come across used in a fictional mystery before, the Highlands of Scotland around the time of the Clearances. I have always been fascinated by Scottish history and the plot really intrigued me, which is why I applied for the blog tour in the first place, but I got far more than I was expecting with this book. The level of historical detail was impressive, I learnt a huge amount about emigration between Scotland and Scandanavia that I had never known before, but it was woven into the book so cleverly that it did not feel like it was detracting from the plot in any way, but only enhancing it.

The book really captured the hardship and bleakness of the period and location, remote as it was, and barren, and the struggles that the people had to try and hang on to their homes and scratch out a living in the face of adversity, both natural and man-made. The characters were well drawn and compelling and I was completely pulled in to the story and held captive while it played out. I found it sinister and disturbing, and I did not see the twists it was going to take coming at all.

The author is clearly passionate about the topic she is writing about and has taken a great deal of time and care in researching this book before writing it. The depth and breadth of the research that has gone into it can only be a labour of love and I think this shines through in the writing. The book affected me more than I expected, and was one of those happy surprises that come along rarely, an un-hyped book that exceeds expectations and takes you places you never saw coming but swept you away. I highly recommend this for lovers of great historical fiction.

Deadly Prospects is available now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Clio was born in Yorkshire, spent her later childhood in Devon before returning to Yorkshire to go to university. For the last twenty five years she has lived in the Scottish Highlands where she intends to remain. She eschewed the usual route of marriage, mortgage, children, and instead spent her working life in libraries, filling her home with books and sharing that home with dogs. She began writing for personal amusement in the late nineties, then began entering short story competitions, getting short listed and then winning, which led directly to a publication deal with Headline. Her book, The Anatomist’s Dream, was nominated for the Man Booker 2015 and long listed for the Bailey’s Prize in 2016.

Connect with Clio:

Website: https://www.cliogray.com

Twitter: @ClioGray

Love Books Group Tours (1)

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

Ten Things I Learned From The Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme by Helena Fairfax (@HelenaFairfax) #GuestPost #RNA #NewWritersScheme @RNATweets #amwriting #amwritingromance

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Tonight I have a slight departure from my usual Friday Night Drinks post. Instead, I am delighted to welcome fellow RNA author and New Writers’ Scheme alumni, Helena Fairfax, to the blog with a guest post on ten things she learned from participation in the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme.

So, let me hand over now to Helena:

Every year the Romantic Novelists’ Association offers an opportunity to 300 unpublished writers to have their work critiqued by an experienced romance author. I joined the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme ten years ago. I look back now on how much I’ve learned since posting off my first manuscript (yes, it was all done by post then!) and I continue to feel an enormous debt to my RNA reader for giving me a grounding in what makes a great romance novel.

I passed through the New Writers’ Scheme twice.  The first year I sent off just the first three chapters and a synopsis of my novel.  I knew the story was going astray, and I was right to have reservations.  I received a four-page, detailed report highlighting where the reader felt the manuscript wasn’t quite right, along with some constructive suggestions on how to improve it.

So, back to the keyboard I went, to do what all successful writers do – rewrite. And this was the first lesson I learned:

  1. Writing is rewriting. Writers need to be able to look at their work dispassionately and not take a critique personally.
  2. My fictional characters are real. I take this for granted now, but I found it exciting and strangely alarming to have someone else talk about them as though they were actually living beings and not just creatures in my head.
  3. Because the characters are living and breathing people, they MUST have a clear motivation for their behaviour. What is it in a character’s past that has made her this way? As my reader advised, ‘Keep asking yourself why/why not?’ If you give your characters a solid past, they become well-rounded people your readers can believe in.
  4. A romance story revolves around conflict. My reader said, ‘It’s about why the hero and heroine, so obviously attracted to each other, not only won’t admit they have fallen in love, but feel that they can’t…Your hero and heroine should have goals that are in direct opposition to each other.’ The greater the emotional tension, the more the reader will want to keep turning the pages, desperate to know how these two will ever get together.
  5. There must be a situation which FORCES the hero and heroine together. If not, then why not just part on page four, if they are in opposition to one another?
  6. Romance novels are all about character. ‘When you’re structuring a romance, you should be thinking about the plot not so much as moving your characters from A to B, but as a series of situations that test their fears and bring their goals into conflict.’ Take it from me, this focus on character rather than plot makes it very difficult to sustain the tension necessary for a page-turning read. Anyone who thinks writing a romance is easy should try it for themselves!
  7. Romance novels aren’t about the perfect heroine. Readers don’t take to the heroine who is beautiful, successful, has lots of friends, and always does the right thing. We can relate to someone who has flaws. Lizzie Bennett, one of the most famous romantic heroines of all time, spends almost the entire book being prejudiced, but we all love her. (On the other hand, don’t make the heroine too silly, or readers will put the book down. Again, romance writing is a tricky business.)
  8. The synopsis needs to encompass all the above points: the characterisation, motivation, goals, source of conflict, how the hero and heroine are forced together, and how they overcome the demons that are keeping them apart.
  9. Handling rejection. Of course I was disappointed the story needed more work, but the letter that accompanied my critique stated: ‘Always bear in mind that most published authors have experience of rejection. All writers, published and unpublished, need to be tenacious and determined…Have faith in yourself!
  10. And so back to the dreaded rewrite. I resubmitted the entire novel the next year. This taught me another valuable lesson – that if you want to write a book, the only way to get it done is to put your bum in the chair and type. I had a deadline, and I stuck to it.

Since receiving my first ever developmental edit, I’ve written a further four novels, contributed to and edited a best-selling anthology , and written a non-fiction history of women’s lives in Yorkshire. My first critique helped me to focus on the craft of writing. Two years ago I joined the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. I’m now an intermediate member of the SfEP and an associate editor at the Betterwrite Literary Agency.

Nowadays I work with both new and established authors, and I find it a great pleasure passing on the lessons I learned from my own first critique from the RNA.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the New Writers’ Scheme with us, Helena. Despite not yet being published, I have already found it invaluable to my writing and would urge any aspiring author whose novel has a touch of romance to consider applying to the Scheme. Details of how to do it can be found here.

Applications for the Scheme in 2020 will open on 2 January.

About the Author

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Helena Fairfax is a freelance editor and author. She was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. She’s grown used to the cold now, and these days she lives in an old Victorian mill town in the north of England, right next door to the windswept Yorkshire moors and the home of the Brontë sisters. She walks this romantic landscape every day with her rescue dog, finding it the perfect place to dream up her heroes and her happy endings.

Helena’s latest release is a non-fiction historical work called Struggle and Suffrage in Halifax: Women’s Lives and the Fight for Equality. Women’s voices are all too often missing from the history books. This book looks at some of the key events in the fascinating history of the mill town of Halifax, West Yorkshire, from the point of view of the women who shaped the town. It’s available on now from bookshops and retailers and from Pen & Sword Publishing and you can buy a copy here.

Connect with Helena:

Website: https://helenafairfax.com

Twitter: @HelenaFairfax

Facebook: Helena Fairfax

 

 

The Hotel Where We Met by Belinda Jones #BookReview (@belindatravels) @NottingHillPR @delcoronado #TheHotelWhereWeMet #california #travel

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There’s a very particular reason why Chloe Sinclair has not met her Mr Right – he doesn’t exist. And he doesn’t exist because he was never born. And the reason he was never born is because the right couples in history did not get together. It now falls to Chloe to travel back in time to matchmake like her love-life depended on it…

Each of Chloe’s trips revolves around the iconic Hotel Del Coronado – part historic landmark, part Californian fairytale. Here she experiences the Victorian era when the doors first opened, the Roaring Twenties, the Fifties during the filming of Some Like It Hot and the Eighties karaoke party of your dreams!

A very special friendship has guided her to this point but the adventures go way beyond Chloe’s expectations and she soon learns that, when it comes to love, it’s all in the timing…

About flipping time! It has been waaaaaaay too long since I had a new Belinda Jones book to read, so I was absolutely delighted when I found out that Belinda had a new book coming out and that she was looking for bloggers to give it some early reviews. I have been a huge fan since I read her first book (Divas Las Vegasstill one of my favourites) so I jumped at the chance to get my hands on an early copy of her latest book, The Hotel Where We Met. Huge thanks to Belinda for sending my an e-copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

For anyone who has never read a book by Belinda before (and why not, I ask?), she writes fabulous, fun romance stories set in exotic locations, and this is no exception. The story revolves around the famous Hotel Del Coronado set on Coranado Island, just off the coast of California near San Diego. Many of you will recognise it as the setting for the movie Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis, and this fact does not escape comment in the book, but you’ll have to read it to find out the significance. Disney lovers will also recognise the hotel as the inspiration for the Grand Floridian Resort at Walt Disney World.

The main reason that I love Belinda’s books so much is that she is a genius at bringing the settings of her book to life in the mind of her reader. She whisks you away from whatever mundane location you happen to be reading the book in and straight into the heart of the book, so they are perfect for armchair travellers such as myself. There is not a book of hers that I have read without wanting to jump on a plane and head off to its setting immediately. The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo has been on my bucket list for years after it featured in The California Club (my one chance to go was thwarted by heavy rain washing the road into the sea just before our Highway 1 trip was due to happen. One day I’ll try again!) and Quebec City jumped straight to the top of my dream destination list after I read Winter WonderlandNow I am busy Googling holiday packages to California so I can visit the Del. (I think I’ve got a good chance on this one as The Irishman is desperate to do a California trip.) This book sells the destination and lifestyle better than any glossy travel brochure or expensive commercial could do. I could picture the hotel clearly in my minds eye and was right there with Chloe. Now I want to be right there for real.

Aside from the exotic setting, this book has a great romance story and fantastic characters that you will absolutely fall head over heels for, but what sets this book apart is the time travel twist. I don’t want to say much and include any spoilers in my review, what I will say is that Belinda is a genius and has really pulled the plot of all plots out of the bag for this book. I absolutely loved it, and loved how it enabled her to twist lots of fun time periods and historical detail together. It is like she has taken everything I ever loved about my all-time favourite romantic fiction books and crammed them all in to this story. I feel like she wrote it just to make me happy, it warmed every cockle of my heart. I raced through it, but didn’t want it to end. It was summer reading perfection, especially for a week that has been damp and dreary here in Yorkshire. Escapism, in every sense of the word, at its best.

Belinda Jones fans will not be disappointed in this book, and those of you who haven’t read any of her books before will get a great introduction to what makes her books so special. As for me, I have a question and a suggestion for Belinda. Firstly, when is the paperback coming out, because I need it for my ‘Belinda Jones’ shelf? Secondly, please don’t leave it so long before you write another book, I have really missed you.

The Hotel Where We Met is out now in ebook format and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Belinda Jones is the bestselling author of 12 travelicious novels set in dream locations from Tahiti to Capri. Her latest novel – THE HOTEL WHERE WE MET – takes the travel theme a step further with time travel to the Victorian era, Roaring Twenties, Fifties and Eighties for the best music party – all set on a dreamy Californian beach!

If you like Red Velvet Cake, Whoopie Pie or pink cupcakes, join four generations of women on a cake-themed odyssey around New England with THE TRAVELLING TEA SHOP

If you’re a Dog-lover or USA-lover you’ll enjoy Belinda’s real life memoir BODIE ON THE ROAD – The Dogged Pursuit of Happiness. (Think EAT PRAY LOVE meet MARLEY & ME!) There’s also a matching website with lots of fun dog travel tips & guides: http://www.bodieontheroad.com

Belinda’s first real-life road trip memoir – ON THE ROAD TO MR RIGHT: The Search For The American Dream Guy – made the Sunday Times Top 10 alongside her hero Bill Bryson.

The Romantic Novelists’ Association nominated her one snowy story – WINTER WONDERLAND – for Best Romantic Comedy of the Year. The action takes place during the magical Quebec Winter Carnival and features husky puppies (hence the pic!)

For everyone who wishes life could be one long holiday but has a short attention span, Belinda has teamed up with some of the hottest writers in women’s fiction to take you Around the World in 80+ Stories with the bumper SUNLOUNGER & SUNLOUNGER 2 short story anthologies! Visit http://www.sunloungerstories.com to discover more about the talent involved, including Milly Johnson, Alexandra Potter, Ruth Saberton, Talli Roland and Victoria Fox.

Belinda’s dream home is the paradise island of Coronado (the setting for THE HOTEL WHERE WE MET) but she and Bodie are currently spending the summer in Devon, UK doing intensive Cream Tea research.

Connect with Belinda:

Website: https://www.bodieontheroad.com

Facebook: Belinda Jones Travel Club

Twitter: @belindatravels

Instagram: @bodieontheroad

Pinterest: @belindatravels

Friday Night Drinks with…. Lorna Cook @LornaCookAuthor @AvonBooksUK @RNATweets @Becky_Ritchie1 #FridayNightDrinks #TheForgottenVillage

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I am so thrilled to be joined for Friday Night Drinks this evening by fellow RNA member and soon-to-be debut author…Lorna Cook.

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Welcome to the blog, Lorna, I am so happy you are joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Wine! Pinot Grigio Blush (if we’re being specific!)

One of my favourites, let’s get a bottle. 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?

Great question! Somewhere cosy. A gastro pub, roaring fire, good wine and piles of comfort food. There’s a great place relatively near me in the antiques-haven of Battlesbridge. It’s called The Hawk. I’d take you there. 

That does look lovely, just my kind of place. 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?

Jane Austen. It would be great to explore whether or not she’d have a dirty sense of humour. I suspect she would. Stephen Fry. He’d keep the conversation going if there was a dry spell.

That is a first appearance for Jane Austen, which is quite surprising but Mr Fry is a very popular nominee. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

At the moment I’m staring into the abyss of launching my debut novel The Forgotten Village. It’s exciting but mainly it’s just plain frightening. 

I can quite understand the mixed feelings but I am sure it will be a fabulous day. I already have my copy on pre-order! What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

My proudest moment was all down to my lovely agent Becky Ritchie. She worked her agent magic and rustled up a two-book paperback deal with a UK publisher (Avon) and a few translation deals all in the space of a few weeks. 

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!

Hmmm, we’re British so we aren’t very good at being ambitious! I’d love to just keep writing but to keep learning and bettering my craft as I go. As long as I can keep writing novels and people want to read them that’s as ambitious as I’d ever dare to be!

What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I’m writing book three at the moment, which is set in Scotland during World War 2. I’m VERY excited about it because I’m currently planning the twists and turns and am itching to write all the revelatory scenes before I write the rest of the book. 

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?

When writing The Forgotten Village, I discovered the beauty that is Dorset. The novel is set in the requisitioned village of Tyneham and so I went on a ‘research trip,’ ahem, holiday. It was my first time in the county. I’ll confess to having always been a Cornwall girl at heart and I still love Cornwall but discovering Dorset, and the almost Caribbean beauty of the water at Lulworth Cove was a game changer. On my bucket list is the Northern Lights, but hardly anyone I know whose been has actually seen the lights so I’ve not risked it yet. 

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

I have signed the Official Secrets Act. 

Oh, come on, that is too much of a teaser! If I ever track you down at an RNA event, you will have to elaborate! 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’?

Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey. It’s beautiful and gut-wrenchingly sad but still the most wonderful read. I recommend this to everyone. I should be on commission. 

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1943, in the ruins of Blitzed London…
Stella Thorne and Dan Rosinski meet by chance and fall in love by accident. Theirs is a reluctant, unstoppable affair in which all the odds are stacked against them: she is newly married, and he is an American bomber pilot whose chance of survival is just one in five.
… He promised to love her forever
Seventy years later Dan makes one final attempt to find the girl he has never forgotten, and sends a letter to the house where they shared a brief yet perfect happiness. But Stella has gone, and the letter is opened by Jess, a young girl hiding from problems of her own. And as Jess reads Dan’s words, she is captivated by the story of a love affair that burned so bright and dimmed too soon. Can she help Dan find Stella before it is too late?
Now forever is finally running out.

That does sound good, I will add it to the teetering TBR. 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 don’t have a failsafe plan to avoid a hangover (unless stopping drinking early is allowed). If anyone knows a magical method for hangover avoidance that doesn’t involve stopping drinking early then tell me immediately. 

The next day, however, the only thing that works for me is sleep. The mother of all lay-ins means avoiding the issue.

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

I have two small children so I’m often running around, laundering school uniform, planning dinners or running children to playdates. But my dream weekend would involve none of that. I would curl up in front of the TV and read trashy magazines and the Sunday supplements. Someone would cook me a roast dinner and then I’d get my PJs on early, head to bed and read a fabulous novel!

Lorna, it has been an absolute delight to have you on the blog, thank you so much for taking the time. I wish you huge success with the novel, I cannot wait to read it.

Lorna’s debut novel, The Forgotten Village is out on Thursday 4 April and you can pre-order your copy here. I will be reviewing it at a future date on the blog, so watch out for that.

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1943: The world is at war, and the villagers of Tyneham are being asked to make one more sacrifice: to give their homes over to the British army. But on the eve of their departure, a terrible act will cause three of them to disappear forever.

2018: Melissa had hoped a break on the coast of Dorset would rekindle her stagnant relationship, but despite the idyllic scenery, it’s pushing her and Liam to the brink. When Melissa discovers a strange photograph of a woman who once lived in the forgotten local village of Tyneham, she becomes determined to find out more about her story. But Tyneham hides a terrible secret, and Melissa’s search for the truth will change her life in ways she never imagined possible.

Lorna Cook writes dual-timeline stories that blend secrets of the past with the present.

Her first novel, The Forgotten Village, is set in the real village of Tyneham in Dorset, requisitioned in entirety in World War Two and never returned. The story moves between 1943 and present day as secrets about what happened on requisition day are finally revealed.

Lorna lives by the sea with her husband, two small daughters and a demanding dog called Socks.

To find out more about Lorna and her writing, you can visit her website or find her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Next week I will be joined on for Friday Night Drinks by another RNA member and one of my favourite authors, Kate Field, as we celebrate the paperback publication of her latest book, so please come and join us.

Tempted by….Swirl And Thread: Honeysuckle and Custard Creams by Deirdre Foley @swirlandthread #HoneysuckleAndCustardCreams #bookbloggers #amreading #readingrecommendations

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It’s 1978 and Sinead Reilly, a university student across the water, has mixed feelings about returning to Northern Ireland. Called home by her family, she must confront the past she thought she’d escaped. It’s a trip back in more ways than one.

We meet the ten-year-old Sinead who just wants to play with her friends and look out for her brothers and sisters, but she finds herself caught in an undercurrent of distrust and political unrest that she doesn’t understand. Her parents, Mairead and Paddy, tell their sides of the story too, as they navigate the difficulties of raising a large family in an increasingly divided society.

Set in the early years of the Troubles, Honeysuckle and Custard Creams explores the enduring nature of familial ties, and the challenges of escaping a shared history in which shame and remorse are never far from the surface.

Today’s Tempted by… is a book which hasn’t had a lot of publicity, but would appear to be a hidden gem from reading this review as featured on the blog  Swirl and Thread written by the lovely Mairead,. The book is Honeysuckle and Custard Creams by Deirdre Foley.

We follow the main character of Sinead, as she returns to her home in Northern Ireland after years spent away and hear about life for a family against the back drop of the Troubles in the early 1970’s. This is a period of history that fascinates me, and is particularly relevant given the political drama we are experiencing in Britain today, so this sounded like a book that would interest me.

In her review, Mairead describes it as a intimate and truthful portrait of a family that feels so real it could be a memoir, with an emotive and sensitive portrayal of what it felt like to live in the strained atmosphere of Belfast with tensions between factions at their highest and the pressure increased by the arrival of British troops. One of the main reasons I love to read is to try and put myself in to the shoes of people who have lived different lives to mine and learn through their experiences. If this book feels as authentic as Mairead describes, I look forward to getting a new perspective on the experience of living through the Troubles as a child.

I love to read Mairead’s reviews, which I always find very perceptive and thoughtful and clearly delivered. She obviously puts a lot of time and effort in to producing them, which is very rewarding for the reader and you will get a clear idea of whether the book she has reviewed is for you or not from her critique. She also features many interesting guest posts and author question and answer posts on the blog, so it is a great place to visit if you like to learn more about the drive and inspiration behind some great authors and novels. I really hope you will go and check her blog out, I’m sure you will be glad you did.

If you would like to get a copy of Honeysuckle and Custard Creams for yourself, you can buy it here.

About the Author

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Deirdre Foley was born in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. She studied and worked in London as a welfare officer before moving to Athens, where she lived for many years teaching English and bringing up her two daughters. Now she is a writer and a gestalt psychotherapist.

She has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, and in 2014 she was shortlisted for the Fish Short Memoir Competition.

She flits between her two homelands, Ireland and Greece, and is working on a second novel.

Inceptio by Alison Morton #BlogTour #GuestPost (@alison_morton) @PulcheriaPress @annecater #RandomThingsTours #RomaNovaSeries

Inceptio Cover

New Yorker Karen Brown is caught in a tangle of hot foreign agents, vicious maniacs and tough families. Running for her life, she flees into the alien culture of Roma Nova, the mysterious last outpost of the Roman Empire in Europe. Apart from kidnapping, heartache and a close encounter with Latin grammar, she must contend with a fascinating but arrogant Praetorian special forces captain.

Plus a crazy killer wants to terminate her for a very personal reason.

Roma Nova is Karen’s dead mother’s homeland. Founded sixteen hundred years ago by Roman exiles and now ruled by women, it gives her safety, a lover and a ready-made family – but at a price. And the enforcer is still pursing hers her. Desperate to find out why he is hunting her so viciously and unable to rely on anybody else, she undergoes intensive training, develops fighting skills and becomes an undercover cop. But crazy with bitterness at his past failures, the enforcer sets a trap for her, knowing she has no choice but to spring it.

I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour today for Inceptio by Alison Morton, book one in the Roma Nova series of thrillers featuring Carina Mitela. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author for featuring on the blog today with a fascinating guest post.

Now it’s over to Alison to tell us more about her writing process for Inceptio.

Writing ‘alternatively’

An avid reader of spy, thriller and crime stories from childhood and a life-long devotee of all things Roman, I yearned to write a Roman thriller with a true-hearted heroine imbued with Roman virtue but a tendency to go off-piste. But I wanted women to run this New Rome. There was only one solution:  I brought it up to the 21st century.

When I produced my first manuscript, I didn’t know I was writing in a genre called alternative history (“althist” for short). I was inspired by Robert Harris’s Fatherland, a tense, shocking and beautifully written thriller with a heart-wrenching ‘secret’. Twisting history was allowed and used by acclaimed writers! 

Of course, a thriller must be exciting, intriguing and full of emotional punch, but althist stories have their own ‘rules’. The most important are to identify the moment where history as we know it veers off onto a different path forever, and to weave into the story how the alternative timeline has developed since. 

How to do this

1. Make the point of divergence logical. It doesn’t have to be a single grand event like a battle or assassination; it can be a private incident, or a new law passed. My first four books are set in 21st century Roma Nova, but the country’s origins stretch back to AD 395 when the Christian Roman emperor Theodosius banned all pagan religions on pain of death. This sparked the trek north by twelve families to found Roma Nova.

2. Research the divergence point. You have to know your own timeline history before attempting to “alternate” it. Roman civilisation lasted over 1,200 years; things were significantly different in AD 395 from how they had been in 200BC. Serstertii, the classic silver Roman coin, had been replaced by AD 395 by the gold solidus as the standard unit, so my 21st century Roma Novans use solidi but as notes, debit cards and via internet banking as well as coins.

3. Reinforce the divergence point story. People often refer back to a significant event, e.g. “the war”, in their country’s history. Roma Novans are no different and often quote the courage of how their ancestors trekked north out of Italy sixteen centuries ago to find their new home.

4. Steal from the historic record. In my books, I reach back and pluck the Praetorian Guard forward into the 21st century. Not only does this build on the image of toughness, a dash of ruthlessness and a sense of duty and glamour that we may already have, but it also anchors them as Romans guarding the ruler and the state. Sadly, like their historical counterparts, modern Praetorians can become corrupt and plot against the state – a gift for a writer! 

5. Think through the setting that has formed your characters. How do people make their living? How are they educated? What kind of industry and transport are there? Is the government representative? Are laws authoritarian, permissive and strictly enforced? What’s the food like? Are there markets, little shops, big chains? What’s growing in the fields, does the countryside consist of plains, valleys or mountains? And what’s the weather like? And the big question – who holds the power? You don’t need to mention any of this unless it impacts on the story, but you should have it all worked out in your head. 

6. Make sure your characters live naturally within their world. Your characters know where they live; this is their normality, so writers need to remember to view things through their characters’ eyes rather than their own. As The temptation to explain what is everyday to your characters should be resisted!  

The keys are plausibility and consistency. 

Almost every story hinges upon implausibility – a set-up or a problem the writer has purposefully created. Readers will engage with it and follow as long as the writer keeps their trust. 

One way to do this is to infuse, but not flood, the story with corroborative detail so that it verifies and reinforces the setting. Honey cake is more common than digestive biscuits – honey was important for the ancient Romans. We might call law officers ‘fuzz’, ‘the Old Bill’, ‘filth’ or ‘rozzers’, but the Roma Novan public call their police, the custodes, ‘scarabs’ – hard-shelled dung beetles having to deal with a lot of nasty stuff. But the custodes wear a dark blue uniforms and clamp flashing blue lights on the car roof when chasing the bad guys.

A vital way to connect to readers is to make sure characters display normal behaviour. Human beings of all ages and cultures have similar emotional needs, hurts and joys, often expressed differently, sometimes in an alienating or peculiar way. But romantic relationships, (whether painful, instant or intense), grief, friendship, impatience, fear, frustration and triumph are emotions that connect us all, whether reader or writer.

Thank you for sharing insights into the process of writing ‘althist’ today, Alison, it is absolutely fascinating to get a peek into the work and research that went in to writing the book.

If your curiosity has been piqued by this post, the resulting book, Inceptio is out now and you can buy a copy here.

To follow the rest of the tour, make sure you visit the blogs listed on the poster below on the relevant date:

Inceptio Blog Tour Poster

About the Author

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Alison Morton writes the Roma Nova thriller series featuring modern Praetorian heroines. This springs from a deep love of Roman history, six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, adventure and thriller fiction.

All six full-length novels have received the BRAG Medallion. SUCCESSIO, AURELIA and INSURRECTIO were selected as Historical Novel Society’s Indie Editor’s Choices. AURELIA was a finalist in the 2016 HNS Indie Award. SUCCESSIO featured as Editor’s Choice in The Bookseller.

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison has misspent decades clambering over Roman sites throughout Europe. She holds an MA History, blogs about Romans, social media and writing. Oh, and she gives talks.

She continues writing, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine in France with her husband. To get the latest news, subscribe to her free newsletter https://alison-morton.com/newsletter/

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Connect with Alison:

Website: https://alison-morton.com

Facebook: Alison Morton Author

Twitter: @alison_morton

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