Book Review: Rescued by Her Highland Soldier by Sarah Mallory #BookReview

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Her rugged Highlander

Is the gallant son of a laird!

Travelling alone through the treacherous Scottish Highlands, Madeleine d’Evremont is saved by rough-looking soldier, Grant Rathmore. Attraction flares between them as he escorts Madeline on her perilous escape to France, until she discovers he’s the heir of a respected Laird! Madeline knows she must let him go – surely the daughter of a humble adventurer could never be a suitable match for him now?

Rescued by Her Highland Soldier is the second book in the Lairds of Ardvarrick series by Sarah Mallory, published by Harlequin Mills and Boon in their Historical line. Many thanks to Sarah for offering me a copy of the book for the purposes of review. I have reviewed it honestly and impartially as always.

It’s been many a year since I picked up a Mills and Boon novel. Probably not since my Grandma stopped reading them in the 1990s, because it was hers I used to pinch and read as a teenager. I’m not sure why they aren’t a line I ever think of buying, I just never have. However, having read Rescued by Her Highland Soldier, I will definitely be looking for more.

I have a particular soft spot for books featuring Scottish history. When I was a child, we never went abroad on holiday, we always used to go to Scotland where my mum dragged me around every stately home and battlefield in the vicinity of where we were staying (I remember one particularly underwhelming trek to Flodden Field that my sisters and I still talk about to this day). A fascination with the subject was imbued in my bones from a young age and I have devoured books on the subject since, particularly on the Jacobite rebellion and the Highland Clearances. I defy anyone to visit Glencoe on a dark, misty day and not have a shiver travel down their spine. So I was very keen to see how Sarah Mallory had approached the subject.

I have to say, I was not remotely disappointed. The story of Madeleine, a young French woman trying to make her way to safety across the Highlands at a time of extreme peril for her countrymen, and being rescued by the chivalrous Grant Rathmore is not only romantic to its very core, it really brought home the impact that the putting down of the Jacobite Rebellion at Culloden had on people who were supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Sarah manages to imbue the book with the real sense of peril that all Jacobite supporters must have felt at the time, fearing discovery at any minute but still risking everything to help people they could see were in trouble.

The book truly transported me to the Scottish Highlands, a place I am very familiar with, and I was trekking across those treacherous hills with Madeleine and Grant, fully aware of the danger they were bringing to one another and trying to resist their growing attraction. The romantic tension was palpable on the page, and she really captured the language, manners and customs of the age – at least it certainly felt authentic to me.

Rescued by Her Highland Soldier kept me glued to the page from start to finish and I immediately wanted to pick up the first book in the Lairds of Ardvarrick series. Sarah has not only managed to turn me on to her writing, but has also encouraged me to return to Mills and Boon as a publisher, who are obviously putting out high quality, immersive and intriguing romance novels. What could you not love about that? I’m sorry I’ve been missing out all these years. No wonder they were recently voted Publisher of the Year 2020 in the RNA Industry Awards.

Rescued by Her Highland Soldier is out now as an ebook and in paperback and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

Sarah Mallory Rona Rose 2012

Sarah Mallory is an award-winning author who has published more than 30 historical romances with Harlequin Mills & Boon. She loves history, especially the Georgian and Regency. She won the prestigious RoNA Rose Award from the Romantic Novelists Association in 2012 and 2013. Sarah also writes romantic historical adventures as Melinda Hammond.

After living for many years high on the Yorkshire Pennines, Sarah moved to the Scottish Highlands in 2018 and now lives by the sea, enjoying a whole new adventure.

Connect with Sarah:

Website: http://www.sarahmallory.com/

Facebook: Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory

Twitter: @SarahMRomance

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Blog Tour: Ariadne by Jennifer Saint #BookReview

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Today, I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Ariadne by Jennifer Saint. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for allowing me to take part and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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‘My story would not be one of death and suffering and sacrifice, I would take my place in the songs that would be sung about Theseus; the princess who saved him and ended the monstrosity that blighted Crete’

As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’s greatest shame and Ariadne’s brother – demands blood every year.

When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods – drawing their attention can cost you everything.

In a world where women are nothing more than the pawns of powerful men, will Ariadne’s decision to betray Crete for Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover’s ambition?

Ariadne gives a voice to the forgotten women of one of the most famous Greek myths, and speaks to their strength in the face of angry, petulant Gods. Beautifully written and completely immersive, this is an exceptional debut novel.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Greek myths and legends, a love which I seem to have passed on to my eldest daughter who reads every book of Greek mythology she can get her hands on and will, no doubt, pinch this now I have finished it. But most of the accounts I read when I was younger were all about the heroic feats of Greek heroes, and the temptations and misdoings of women, trying to impede the men, lead them astray, or were there simply to be rescued. How refreshing it has been to see the recent spate of books telling these stories from the female perspective, and Ariadne is the latest book to be added to this canon.

Here, Jennifer Saint has retold the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, but switching the perspective to that of the other central character in the story, Ariadne, whose contribution to the legend is essential but usually downplayed. In addition, this story goes beyond the simple story of Theseus slaying the Minotaur and takes us from Ariadne’s childhood in Crete, all the way to her marriage and motherhood, and encompasses the parallel story of her sister, Phaedra.

The author has placed herself firmly into the shoes of the two women featured in this book and imagined their lives in a way that translates quite startlingly on to the page in a way that will drag you back to the era and the palace of Knossos, to become totally immersed in what was happening. Imagine being brought up in the court of a stern and ruthless king, granddaughter of a god, sister to a monster, waiting to be used as a bargaining chip in the endless struggle for power. This is where this book takes us, and it doesn’t take much of a leap for the reader to feel what these girls must have been going through.

For this is a book that examines and laments the lot of women in Ancient Greece. Devoid of power, useful only insofar as men wanted them for their beauty and graces, at the mercy of those same virtues when some capricious god’s eye landed on them and decided to use them for their sport, and then to bear the brunt of the fallout of that sport. This is the underlying theme of the novel, how the women suffered and were punished for the misbehaviour and misdeeds, ambition and cruelty of the men – be they mortal or immortal – and what little ability they had to protect themselves.

Ariadne is a woman brought up under the shadow of a curse brought upon her family because of the behaviour of men – her father Minos and the god, Poseidon – but laid upon her mother who ended up birthing the monstrous Minotaur. She is aware from a young age how vulnerable women are, and how little agency they have, but she internally rails against this powerlessness, becoming slightly obsessed with Medusa, how she was treated, and the way she refused to take her punishment calmly. It ends up being no surprise when she rebels against the tyranny of her father and helps Theseus, only to be betrayed by Theseus soon after. Ariadne tries throughout her life to look out for herself, ever aware, ever reminding herself that all men, whether god or mortal, are the same and cannot be trusted.

The writing here is stunning, beautiful, rich, evocative and immersive. The book really brings Ancient Greece to life and gives us the characters we know from the myths as 3D, fully rounded people to whom it is very easy to relate. Such is the power of the writing that the book left me distraught and enraged on behalf of these women, so abused and mistreated and so unable to do anything about it, despite the internal strength they have, their intelligence and their awareness of their fragile situations. If this book doesn’t stir your internal feminist to roar, nothing will. A fabulous piece of work.

Ariadne is out now in hardback and ebook formats and will be out as an audiobook on 10 May and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour by visiting the blogs detailed below:

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About the Author

Jennifer Saint Author pic

Due to a lifelong fascination with Ancient Greek mythology, Jennifer Saint read Classical Studies at King’s College, London. She spent the next thirteen years as an English teacher, sharing a love of literature and creative writing with her students. ARIADNE is her first novel and she is working on another retelling of ancient myth for her second.

Connect with Jennifer:

Website: https://www.jennifersaint.com/

Facebook: Jennifer Saint Author

Twitter: @jennysaint

Instagram: @jennifer.saint.author

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About the Author

KJ Maitland Author pic

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

Connect with Karen:

Website: https://karenmaitland.com/

Facebook: Karen Maitland

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

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2004

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

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

1955

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

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

Connect with Jack:

Website: https://jackbyrne.home.blog/

Facebook: Jack Byrne

Twitter: @Jackbyrnewriter

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Extract: A Comfortable Alliance by Catherine Kullmann

A Comfortable Alliance eBook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter One

London, 19 July 1821

“A hit!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Catherine Kullmann 2021

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

About the Author

Catherine Kullmann 4 MB (2)

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

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

Connect with Catherine:

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

Facebook: Catherine Kullmann Author

Twitter: @CKullmannAuthor

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Desert Island Books with… Angela Petch

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Welcome to another instalment of Desert Island Books, where I transport some poor soul to a remote atoll with nothing for company except one luxury item and five books of their choosing, so they had better choose wisely – who knows how long they will be marooned! Today’s strandee is author, Angela Petch.

What fun to choose the books I’d have on a desert island… but I’m not brilliant at being totally alone, so I need to inject fun on this island.

Book One – Just William by Richmal Crompton

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Meet everyone’s favourite troublemaker!

In Richmal Compton’s Just William, the Outlaws plan a day of non-stop adventure. The only problem is that William is meant to be babysitting. But William won’t let that stop him having fun with his gang – he’ll just bring the baby along!

There is only one William. This tousle-headed, snub-nosed, hearty, loveable imp of mischief has been harassing his unfortunate family and delighting his hundreds of thousands of admirers since 1922. 

I’m sure that there will be times when I need to laugh, so please may I have Just William by Richmal Crompton? I’ve loved these stories about an eleven-year old lovable rogue since I was very little and they still appeal. The first story was written in 1919 and intended for an adult audience. Crompton was a teacher for a while and I can imagine her observing her pupils in the classroom and jotting notes for later. I love Martin Jarvis’s narrations of her stories, but my battered 1930 edition, with its thick pages and wonderful pen and ink illustrations by Thomas Henry will comfort me.

Book Two – The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency by John Seymour

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John Seymour has inspired thousands to make more responsible, enriching, and eco-friendly choices with his advice on living sustainably. The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency offers step-by-step instructions on everything from chopping trees to harnessing solar power; from growing your own vegetables and fruit and vegetables, and preserving and pickling your harvest, to baking bread, brewing beer, and making cheese. Seymour shows you how to live off the land, running your own smallholding or homestead, keeping chickens, and raising (and butchering) livestock.

While we aren’t all be able to move to the countryside, we can appreciate the importance of Seymour’s message, as he shows us the value of living within our means and making the most of what we have to hand using skills that have been handed down through generations.

With refreshed, retro-style illustrations and a brand-new foreword by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, this new edition of Seymour’s classic title is a balm for anyone who has ever sought solace away from the madness of modern life.

I’ll need practical advice to help me survive and fill my time with projects. When I was twenty-five and two weeks married, we worked in Tanzania for three years. I knew nothing about running a house and in those days (the 70s), there was very little in the shops. I had to learn to make cheese, chop up a whole pig that I bought at the local prison, make curtains… umpteen things. A great help was my copy of The Complete book of Self-Sufficiency: The classic Guide for Realists and Dreamers by John Seymour. I think there is a newer edition out. Maybe I could harness natural energy and learn how to make paper out of leaves, so that I could write.

Book Three – The Dress by Sophie Nicholls

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Meet Ella and her mother Fabia Moreno who arrive in York, one cold January day, to set up their vintage dress shop.

The flamboyant Fabia wants to sell beautiful dresses to nice people and move on from her difficult past. Ella just wants to fit in. But not everyone is on their side.

Will Fabia overcome the prejudices she encounters? What’s the dark secret she’s hiding? And do the silk linings and concealed seams of her dresses contain real spells or is this all just ‘everyday magic’?

Among the leopard-print shoes, tea-gowns and costume jewellery in Fabia’s shop are many different stories – and the story of one particular dress.

The last book that I read and fell in love with is The Dress by Sophie Nicholls and this would be an ideal escapist book. I love vintage shops and old clothes, like Fabia the owner of a dress shop. The story is feel-good and full of magic. Fabia sews mindfulness messages within the linings of the clothes she sells and I have copied a couple and pinned them on my noticeboard. This charming book would help lift my spirits.

Book Four – Poem For The Day: Volume One; Edited by Nicholas Albery and Peter Ratcliffe

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366 poems, one for each day of the year (including leap years). Chosen for their narrative, resonance and rhythm, these are poems to learn by heart or treasure and enjoy. Poets included range from Yeats, Shakespeare, Housman and Kipling, to contemporary poets such as Wendy Cope, Carol Ann Duffy, Maya Angelou and Thom Gunn.

I love poetry. Favourite lines are a comfort but there are so many poems still to discover. Please could I have Poem for the Day, Volume One with a foreword by Wendy Cope? There are 366 poems in here to delight. I could learn a poem every now and again and stand on a rock and recite the words to the wind and the waves. That would help keep my brain busy after the physical activity of foraging and building my log cabin. “Happy the man, and happy he alone, He who can call today his own…” John Dryden (17th century). I’d have to learn how to be happy with myself on a desert island, wouldn’t I?

Book Five – A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman

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Marvellous Ways is eighty-nine years old and has lived alone in a remote Cornish creek for nearly all her life. Lately she’s taken to spending her days sitting on a mooring stone by the river with a telescope. She’s waiting for something – she’s not sure what, but she’ll know it when she sees it.

Drake is a young soldier left reeling by the Second World War. When his promise to fulfil a dying man’s last wish sees him wash up in Marvellous’ creek, broken in body and spirit, the old woman comes to his aid.

A Year of Marvellous Ways is a glorious, life-affirming story about the magic in everyday life and the pull of the sea, the healing powers of storytelling and sloe gin, love and death and how we carry on when grief comes snapping at our heels.

This book is all about the magic of everyday life. A book to be read slowly, digesting the pages little by little: something I could dip in and taste every now and again, like rich chocolate. The heroine’s name is Marvellous Ways (how cool is that?). She’s eighty-nine and has lived on her own in a remote Cornish creek all her life. I reckon I could learn patience and resourcefulness from reading this book over and over and remind myself of how beautiful words can be when they are woven together so brilliantly.

My luxury item

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For my luxury item: I hope you won’t think I’m being greedy, but you would save my life if I could have a wind-up radio cranked by the sun. I know of one that comes with a flashlight and cell phone for emergency and outdoor use. I love listening to the radio more than watching television and it would be a comfort to hear voices and music. I could sing and dance and pretend I was at the theatre while listening to plays (eating home made sweets made from dates that I discovered on one of my explorations on the island).

Thank you so much for inviting me and now I must get back to my WIP. I wonder if a desert island is going to creep into one of my chapters 😉

About Angela Petch

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Published by Bookouture, Angela Petch is an award winning writer of fiction – and the occasional poem.

Every summer she moves to Tuscany for six months where she and her husband own a renovated watermill which they let out. When not exploring their unspoilt corner of the Apennines, she disappears to her writing desk at the top of a converted stable. In her Italian handbag or hiking rucksack she always makes sure to store notebook and pen to jot down ideas.

The winter months are spent in Sussex where most of her family live. When Angela’s not helping out with grandchildren, she catches up with writer friends.

Angela’s gripping, WWII, Tuscan novels are published by Bookouture. While her novel, Mavis and Dot, was self-published and tells of the frolics and foibles of two best-friends who live by the seaside. Angela also writes short stories published in Prima and People’s Friend.

Angela’s latest book, The Tuscan House, will be published on 7 April and you can buy a copy here.

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Corbello, Italy, 1947. A woman and a little boy stagger into the ruins of an old house deep in the forest, wild roses overwhelming the crumbling terracotta walls. Since the war, nowhere has been safe. But they both freeze in shock when a voice calls out from the shadows…

For young mother Fosca Sentino, accepting refuge from ex-British soldier Richard – in Tuscany to escape his tragic past – is the only way to keep her little family safe. She once risked everything to spy on Nazi commanders and pass secret information to the resistenza. But after a heartbreaking betrayal, Fosca’s best friend Simonetta disappeared without trace. The whole community was torn apart, and now Fosca and her son are outcasts.

Wary of this handsome stranger at first, Fosca slowly starts to feel safe as she watches him play with her son in the overgrown orchard. But her fragile peace is shattered the moment a silver brooch is found in the garden, and she recognises it as Simonetta’s…

Fosca has always suspected that another member of the resistenza betrayed her. With Richard by her side, she must find out if Simonetta is still alive, and clear her own name. But how did the brooch end up at the house? And with a traitor hiding in the village, willing to do anything to keep this secret buried, has Fosca put herself and her young son in terrible danger?

Connect with Angela:

Blog: https://angelapetchsblogsite.wordpress.com

Facebook: Angela Petch Author

Twitter: @Angela_Petch

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Ella Matthews

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It’s Tuesday, and it is time to welcome another romance author to the blog to talk about reading, writing and loving romantic fiction. This week I am delighted to be chatting to.. Ella Matthews.

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

I write historical medieval romances for Mills and Boon. My third one will be published on the 18th March and is the end of a trilogy, following the fortunes of the Leofric siblings. I’ve just submitted my fourth title to M&B, which is the first book in a new series about Edward III’s knights. It’ll be my ninth book as I’ve also had five Pocket Novels published by DC Thompson. I worked in publishing for many years and so I feel like my publishing journey has been going for decades.

Why romance?

When I first started out writing I imagined that I would write serious, soul-searching books. The problem is I’m terrible at writing those. I think the main reason for this, is that I read a lot of romance and very few soul-searching books. Romance is my favourite genre to read and I think you have to write what you enjoy.

What inspires your stories?

This really depends on the novel I’m writing. Sometimes, the characters stride into my head bringing their stories with them and I really couldn’t say where they’ve sprung from. Other times, it will be a picture of a castle or a line from a novel that inspires me.

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

When I was growing up, I loved Georgette Heyer and Mary Stewart. I’ve read Heyer’s, Arabella so many times I can quote passages from it and yet I still haven’t lost my enjoyment of reading it again and again. There are so many talented authors who are writing right now it’s hard to narrow it down, but I do love to read anything by Katie Fforde, Mhairi McFarlane, Christina Lauren, Jo Watson, Kathryn Freeman and Tessa Dare.

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

Gosh, there are so many to choose from, I would have a very hard time selecting one. I’ve recently discovered the writing duo, Christina Lauren and I absolutely adore their books. My favourite is Beautiful Bastard and I would highly recommend that to everyone.

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Chloe Mills is intelligent, hardworking, moments away from her MBA and starting a successful career. The only thing standing in her way is her boss, Bennett Ryan. He’s exacting, blunt, inconsiderate and…completely gorgeous – a beautiful bastard. She’s determined to ignore him, do the best job she can, and move on to her bright future.

Bennett has been trying to ignore his gorgeous, infuriating assistant for months. He’s never been one for a workplace dalliance, especially not with one of his employees. But Chloe is so tempting he’s willing to bend the rules – or smash them, if it means he can have her… all over the office.

What starts as just a hot hate hook-up becomes something much deeper, as both Chloe and Bennett must confront exactly what they’re willing to lose to find love with each other.

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

My very first hero crush was Raoul from Nine Coaches Waiting. I can remember trying to concentrate in school and completely failing because all I wanted to do was get back to the book to see what he would do next. I’d love for him to take me to his chateau in the eastern France where I imagine we would drink fabulous wine and eat some delicious French cuisine.

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

I’ve gained so much from being a member of the RNA. I’ve made some fabulous writing friends and learned so much from the conference and other members. I absolutely love being the editor of Romance Matters because it allows me to talk to lots of different authors about such a wide range of topics. The best thing I have gained from my RNA membership is my contract with Mills and Boon. I had a 1-2-1 meeting with my editor, Vic at a conference eighteen months ago and I was so lucky because she loved the book. I would not have had such an amazing opportunity, if it hadn’t been for the RNA.

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

Keep going, even in the face of rejection, even when it seems too hard. You can do it!

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My latest novel is the last in the House of Leofric series. It centres on innocent Linota who has lived her whole life in seclusion and is more than ready for her first taste of freedom. She begins on a journey to her brother’s home, full of excitement. She hasn’t gone far when she’s abducted. She’s saved by the hero, Erik but there is more to him than meets the eye. Erik has been put in an impossible position, to save his young niece he may have to betray his half-brother and the woman he is coming to love.

Erik was the anti-hero in Under the Warrior’s Protection and I’m really thrilled he’s had his own novel, so that he can tell us his side of the story.

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An impossible choice:

His family or love

As steward to the Earl of Borwyn, Erik Ward had only admired sheltered noblewoman Linota Leofric from afar – until he has to escort her on a dangerous journey. When she’s kidnapped, he rescues the courageous beauty, revelling in finally having her in his arms. But Erik has a secret plan to reunite his family – now he’s forced to choose between that and his growing feelings for Linota…

You can buy a copy of The Warrior’s Innocent Captive here.

About the Author

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Ella Matthews lives and works in beautiful South Wales. When not thinking about handsome heroes she can be found walking along the coast with her husband and their two children (probably still thinking about heroes but at least pretending to be interested in everyone else).

Connect with Ella:

Website: www.ellamatthews.co.uk

Facebook: Ella Matthews Author

Twitter: @ellamattauthor

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Kindle Deal: The Secret Agent by Elisabeth Hobbes

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My name is Sylvie Duchene and I am a dancer. There is no network. I am just a dancer. I know nothing. Please…I swear it…

An unknown location, occupied France, 1944

Dropping silently behind enemy lines, Sylvia Crichton, codename Monique, is determined to fight for the country of her birth and save it from its Nazi stranglehold.

As one of the dancers at the nightclub Mirabelle, Sylvie’s mission is to entertain the club’s German clientele and learn their secrets. In a world of deception and lies, she can trust no one. Not even Mirabelle’s enigmatic piano player Felix… a part of the resistance or a collaborator?

But despite her SOE training, nothing can prepare Sylvie for the horrors she is about to face – or the pain of losing those she grows closer to undercover…

I am really looking forward to having Elisabeth on my Romancing The Romance Authors later in the spring but, as Elisabeth’s book, The Secret Agent, is currently available in both the UK and the US for a special low price of 99p/99c for the ebook, I thought I would just let you know about the deal today. 

You can buy a copy of The Secret Agent here.

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About the Author

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Elisabeth’s writing career began when she entered Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest in 2013 where she finished in third place and was offered a two-book contract.  Since then she has published historical romances with Harlequin Mills & Boon covering the Medieval period to Victorian England and a Second World War romantic historical with One More Chapter.

Elisabeth teaches Reception four days a week but she’d rather be writing full time because unlike five-year-olds, her characters generally do what she tells them.  When she isn’t writing, she spends most of her spare time reading and is a pro at cooking one-handed while holding a book.  She loves historical fiction, mysteries, thrillers and romance, and has a fondness for dark haired, bearded heroes.

Elisabeth enjoys skiing, singing, and exploring tourist attractions with her family.  Her children are resigned to spending their weekends visiting the past while she leans too far over battlements to get photos.  She loves hot and sour soup and ginger mojitos – but not at the same time!

She lives in Cheshire because the car broke down there in 1999 and she never left.

Connect with Elisabeth:

Website: https://elisabethhobbes.co.uk/

Facebook: Elisabeth Hobbes

Twitter: @ElisabethHobbes

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Guest Post: The Quarry Girl – How I Build A Story by Tania Crosse #guestpost

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August 1883. The future for Ling Southcott, a quarryman’s daughter, seems to be already mapped. Marriage to her childhood sweetheart, Barney, a cluster of children, a life contained to the hamlet of Foggintor Quarry. For Ling, with her sharp, enquiring mind and love of books, it is an accepted, if unwelcome fate.

But then the new Princetown Railway opens across Dartmoor, connecting her remote hamlet to the neighbouring town of Tavistock, and even Plymouth.

SUDDENLY THE WORLD IS AT HER FINGERTIPS

Then Ling is rescued from a fatal blow. Her rescuer is handsome young medical student Elliott Franfield.

Elliott, man of education, is so different from her unambitious Barney. Almost against her will, Ling feels her eyes open to what life could have in store.

WILL LING CHANGE HER DESTINY? OR WILL SHE LET OPPORTUNITY SLIP THROUGH HER FINGERS?

(This book was originally published as A Dream Rides By.)

Today I am delighted to welcome to the blog, saga author Tania Crosse, to talk to me about her books and how she goes about building a story, with special reference to her book, The Quarry Girl. I’m going to hand over to Tania and her guest post now.

How I Build a Story by award winning author Tania Crosse

As an author, I’m often asked where I get my ideas from. Well, I suppose it comes down to being blessed with a naturally fertile imagination. A book always starts with inspiration of some sort, of course, but then the process of building the story kicks in. Being a writer of historical fiction/sagas, I like to put my characters in a specific historical situation and see how they cope with the difficulties that the era presents.

I’m particularly known for my Devonshire series, which covers from the Victorian period up to 1950s and is set on the western side of Dartmoor and the surrounding area. It’s a region I know well, and its fascinating history has provided me with a wealth of inspiration. Drive across Dartmoor today, and most visitors will appreciate the savage beauty of the windswept uplands and magnificent granite outcrops or tors. They will stop to take photographs of the few wild ponies that survive, smile at the scattering of hardy sheep and perhaps be wary of a herd of cows. All very picturesque on a summer’s day in the comfort of a modern car. But just think what it would have been like to scrape a living from the moor in the past and survive the depths of winter with no mod cons!

Dartmoor was far more intensely farmed in the past, but she also has a hidden history of industry. Particularly during the Nineteenth Century, the moor was dotted with mines and quarries, some larger concerns than others. There was even a gunpowder factory, and railways appeared. Not forgetting, of course, the infamous Dartmoor Prison. All fantastic inspiration for a novel.

Take, for instance, the gunpowder factory. What explosive situations that could lead to, if you’ll excuse the pun! I married that with the history of the prison in Victorian times for what has recently been republished as The Gunpowder Girl. (Also released in audio on 1st March.) However, to illustrate how I build a story, I’m going to use A Dream Rides By, recently re-released as The Quarry Girl.

Foggintor Quarry, a couple of miles west of Princetown, is a massive, mysterious and magical place. It’s also high up on the moor and utterly exposed to all the weather can throw at it. The workers didn’t travel in from cosy towns. They lived with their families in a little community at this remote spot in a square of one up, one down cottages, the ruins of which can be seen today. From one corner projects a small square, the remaining foundations of what was the chapel-cum-school.

Now, sagas are meant to be tough and gritty, so that box is already ticked. A strong, spirited, intelligent heroine is also a prerequisite, so she’s going to be the school assistant. The heroine always needs a foil of some sort, usually of a contrasting personality. This can often be a friend or an older person, but in this case, I decided to make this character her younger sister. Blighted by measles as a toddler, she is left hard of hearing and a little on the vulnerable side, shall we say, far too trusting and needing her elder sister’s protection.

Naturally, they live with their quarryman father and their mother. At a time when the only form of transport for the poor is shanks’s pony, they’re unlikely to have much contact with the outside world. As a consequence, the heroine is promised to her childhood sweetheart, also a young quarryman, of course. He is kind and hard-working, but unambitious. And herein lies the greatest element of any story but particularly of saga, inner conflict.

Though she loves him dearly, the heroine’s enquiring mind and knowledge gained through reading lead her to yearn to experience the outside world. Not necessarily to travel far, but at least to share an interest beyond the world of quarrying stone, an interest that’s beyond her intended’s intellectual sphere. So how will that come about?

Well, in 1883, the Princetown Steam Railway opened, passing by the end of the quarry. Constructed mainly to serve the prison and the local quarries, it was also to provide a passenger service. I saw this as the heroine’s path to the outside world. At the official opening of the railway, I invent a dramatic incident whereby she meets a young doctor, and he is to provide her inner conflict. I won’t give away any of the story, but you can see how she is going to be torn between her solid childhood sweetheart and the higher intellectual plane of this new acquaintance.

Quarrying is a dangerous occupation, especially so in a time when there were no health and safety regulations. I discovered that there was a particular way in which quarrymen buried their dead, so it was a must to have a fatal accident at the quarry, but it had to involve the heroine in some way, and add to her anguish and, in this case, her feelings of guilt.

So, I think you can see how I’m building up the story from historical fact. Something else that is integral to life at such a remote location is the weather. I had always planned to use the 1891 Great Blizzard in which the Princetown train famously got stuck in snowdrifts on the moor for five days. What a gift for a writer over a hundred years later! I turned it into a major turning point in the heroine’s life.

I remember my original agent, the late Dorothy Lumley, saying to me that I should always have someone working against the heroine in addition to the historical circumstances. While trying to dream up another storyline to fill this gap, the answer suddenly came to me when I was considering how I could work in the Great Flood of 1890. I decided to bring in the younger sister here, and link her with the black sheep of the community, another young quarryman who nobody likes. By giving the sister a story of her own and weaving it around the main action, it opened up a whole new prospect for the entire book, making everything gel together. That is something I always strive to do, have one or more sub plots that spiral around the principal thread, which gives a strength and richness to the novel.

When searching for inspiration for the personal stories of the characters, I sometimes draw on my own life experiences, and in some cases, those of my parents. The principal story in my 1945 London-set novel, The Street of Broken Dreams that won Saga of the Year in the 2020 Awards of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, was actually adapted from a wartime experience of my mother’s. Fortunately, what happened to her was nothing like what happens to my heroine, but there again, I built up layer upon layer to achieve all the necessary ingredients of a multi-faceted saga.

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Summer 1945. The nation rejoices as the Second World War comes to an end but Banbury Street matriarch, Eva Parker, foresees trouble ahead.

Whilst her daughter, Mildred, awaits the return of her fiancé from overseas duty, doubts begin to seep into her mind about how little she knows of the man she has promised to marry. Or are her affections being drawn elsewhere?

Meanwhile, new neighbour, dancer Cissie Cresswell, hides a terrible secret. The end of the conflict will bring her no release from the horrific night that destroyed her life. Can she ever find her way back?

Under Eva’s stalwart care, can the two young women unite to face the doubt and uncertainty of the future?

One thing I haven’t mentioned that you might find interesting is that I have a strange gift for seeing characters that appear to me in flash visions, usually quite unexpectedly. It first happened when I visited Morwellham Quay, the famous Victorian copper port in Devon that’s been a living history museum since 1970s. I saw a young cooper in Victorian workman’s clothes during a demonstration in the cooperage. I assumed he was a member of the costumed staff, but a second later, he’d disappeared and yet there was nowhere he could have disappeared to! This happened a few more times with other visions, and there I had the characters for a book on a plate. I built them up into a story in much the same way as I’ve described above, and it became my debut release, Morwellham’s Child, that’s soon to be re-released as The Harbour Master’s Daughter. The same sort of thing happened to me after a break from writing for personal reasons, when I really was going to call it a day. Winston Churchill no less spoke to me in a vision during a visit to Chartwell. It sparked such an interest in the Churchills’ private lives that it inspired what became Nobody’s Girl and its sequel, A Place to Call Home, and re-started my career.

Well, I hope the above has given you a little insight into how I build up my novels. I could go on about characterisation and all characters needing to be not black or white but somewhere in between, natural dialogue, avoiding long descriptions but picking out one or two relevant details to capture the essence of a scene, the list goes on. But I do hope I’ve managed to explain just some of the elements that go into the mix, and who knows, it might help you to build a story of your own!

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Thank you for giving us that fascinating peak into how your sagas are built up, Tania. I am not sure I would be quite as calm as you about having such vivid visions!

If hearing Tania talk about her work has piqued your interest in any of her books, I have included all the relevant purchase links in her piece above and her author bio below, so you can just click through.

About the Author

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Tania Crosse was born in London and lived in Banbury Street, Battersea, the setting of her two latest novels, The Candle Factory Girl and The Street of Broken Dreams. Later, the family moved to Surrey where her love of the countryside took root. She  wanted to be an author since she was a child, but having graduated with a degree in French Literature, she did not have time to indulge her passion for writing until her own family had grown up. She eventually began penning historical novels set on her beloved Dartmoor. After completing her Devonshire series, which is currently being re-published by Joffe Books, she took her writing career in a new direction with four Twentieth Century sagas set in London and the south east, which were published by Aria Fiction. She was thrilled when the last of these, The Street of Broken Dreams, won Best Saga of the Year in the Romantic Novelists’ Association 2020 Awards. Tania and her husband have lived in a small village on the Hampshire/Berkshire border since 1976. They have three grown-up children, two grandchildren and a variety of grand-dogs! Tania’s interests, apart from reading and writing, of course, are dance, gardening and rambling, especially on Dartmoor, naturally!

Connect with Tania:

Website: www.tania-crosse.co.uk

Facebook: Tania Crosse Author

Twitter: @TaniaCrosse

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Book Review: Legend of the Lost Ass by Karen Winters Schwartz #BookReview

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I think we should take it through Guatemala.

A random text from a stranger inspires agoraphobic Colin to leave New York. His first stop is Brownsville, Texas, where he meets the sender, half-Mayan Luci Bolon, her ancient but feisty great-uncle Ernesto, and Miss Mango, a bright-orange Kubota tractor. Ernesto’s dream is that Miss Mango be driven to Belize and given to the family he left behind nearly seventy years ago. Colin agrees to join Luci on the long journey through Central America.

In 1949, seventeen-year-old Belizean Ernesto falls painfully in love with Michaela, an American redhead nearly twice his age. Their brief but intense affair changes everything Ernesto has ever known. When she leaves, Ernesto is devastated. Determined to find her, he “borrows” a donkey from his uncle and starts off for Texas. He meets a flamboyant fellow traveler, and the three of them—two young men and the donkey they name Bee—make their way to America.

The past and present unfold through two journeys that traverse beautiful landscapes. Painful histories are soothed by new friendships and payments of old debts.

I have reviewed this book at the request of the author. My thanks to Karen for providing me with a digital copy of the book for this purpose. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

I owe Karen an apology. I should have reviewed this book back in the autumn when I finished reading it. Unfortunately, it fell into the black hole of the period where my blogging mojo just completely disappeared and I am only now just catching up. I am hoping it is better late than never.

A tale of two journeys, seventy years apart. In 1949, Ernesto makes the long and arduous journey from the jungles of Belize to a new life in the US. Seven decades later, his great-niece makes the journey in reverse. Each is accompanied by a human and a non-human companion, taking in the scenery along the way and contemplating their lives. The book has everything you could possibly want in a novel – great characters, travel, humour and examination of the human condition. A pretty great achievement.

All of the characters in the book are compelling, and the dynamics between them work brilliantly to enlighten and entertain. Awkward Colin who intercepts a text meant for someone else  embarks on an unlikely journey that changes his humdrum life. Luci, in search of her family heritage finds herself accompanied by a man she has never met. Both of them riding the lumbering, flamboyant and temperamental Miss Mango. Who would be crazy enough to try and navigate the route from the USA to Belize on an orange tractor? In the other direction, we see young Ernesto set off in pursuit of love, on foot, accompanied by a kind-of-stolen donkey and a brand new friend. In both tales, the non-human characters have as much personality and relevance to the story as the humans, and it is delightful to read.

The real stars of this story though are the journeys and the scenery along the route. The author does a fabulous job of describing what each group encounters along the way, bringing the landscape and the people of the countries to life and making the reader feel like they have actually been there. Belize is obviously a place for which the author feels great affection, and this seeps from between the pages until you will be wishing you could dash off there and experience it for yourself.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It was tender and beautiful and insightful and humorous. A love letter to Belize and the importance of our roots, no matter how far we travel from our homeland. Well worth a read.

Legend of the Lost Ass is out now as a paperback or ebook and you can buy a copy here.

Karen wrote a guest post for the blog last summer about Belize, the setting for this book, and you can read it here.

About the Author

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Karen Winters Schwartz wrote her first truly good story at age seven. Her second-grade teacher publicly and falsely accused her of plagiarism. She did not write again for forty years.

Her widely praised novels include WHERE ARE THE COCOA PUFFS?; REIS’S PIECES; and THE CHOCOLATE DEBACLE (Goodman Beck Publishing). Her new novel, LEGEND OF THE LOST ASS, was released by Red Adept Publishing on July 21, 2020. 

Educated at The Ohio State University, Karen and her husband moved to the Central New York Finger Lakes region where they raised two daughters and shared a career in optometry. She now splits her time between Arizona, a small village in Belize, and traveling the earth in search of the many creatures with whom she has the honor of sharing this world. This is her second year as a Rising Star judge. 

Connect with Karen:

Website: http://www.karenwintersschwartz.com

Facebook: Author Karen Winters Schwartz

Twitter: @authorKWS

Instagram: @_kaws_

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