Blog Tour: The Hidden Child by Louise Fein

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London, 1929.

Eleanor Hamilton is a dutiful mother, a caring sister and an adoring wife to a celebrated war hero. Her husband, Edward, is a pioneer in the eugenics movement. The Hamiltons are on the social rise, and it looks as though their future is bright.

When Mabel, their young daughter, begins to develop debilitating seizures, they have to face an uncomfortable truth: Mabel has epilepsy – one of the ‘undesirable’ conditions that Edward campaigns against.

Forced to hide their daughter away so as to not jeopardise Edward’s life’s work, the couple must confront the truth of their past – and the secrets that have been buried.

Will Eleanor and Edward be able to fight for their family? Or will the truth destroy them?

I am delighted to be joining the blog tour today for The Hidden Child by Louise Fein. Louise has written a fabulous piece for me to share with you about how she went about researching the book. My thanks to Graeme Williams for inviting me on to the tour and to Louise for preparing the piece for me.

Now over to Louise:

Researching The Hidden Child

Writing historical fiction means I need to do a good deal of research for each book I write. Fortunately, I love research as I spend as much time researching as I do writing. As with all my books, research for The Hidden Child began with reading generally as much as I could about not only the time-period in which the book is set, namely the late 1920’s, but also about the setting (chiefly London, Surrey, and an epilepsy colony), and the social and political events of the time. I also researched the background for my characters who were partly based on, or inspired by, real people. Wherever possible I like to travel to locations for settings to get a real sense of the place. Once I began writing, more specific details needed to be researched in depth. This often slowed the writing process, as it might take me a whole morning to research something which ended up being just one sentence on the page. 

To gain a deeper understanding, I read a wide variety of non-fiction and fiction written at the time as well as historical commentaries and academic papers. I also needed to do a lot of research about eugenics, and the condition of epilepsy and its perception and treatment at the time. I researched the position of women across the classes, the rise of feminism after the first world war, birth control and the reason why it was encouraged for the lower classes rather than the professional and upper classes. I also carried out research into class and politics, the American eugenics movement, French and American research into epilepsy treatments, and legislation in the UK and the USA which led to the incarceration and mistreatment of those regarded as ‘the unwanted’ in society. 

One of my main characters, Edward, is very loosely based on a real person, Sir Cyril Burt, who was a psychologist and educationalist, instrumental in setting education policy for the nation. He was also a prominent eugenicist and much of the policy for setting up the nationwide grammar school system in England during the first half of the twentieth century was based on his eugenicist principles and now somewhat discredited research into intelligence. I read about him, as well as books written by him. I have included other real people in the book, such as Marie Stopes, Leonard Darwin, ‘Junior’ Rockefeller and other well-known names who might not be associated with eugenics. Much information could be found on-line through resources such as The Wiley library and The Wellcome Library. 

I was lucky to complete most of the research for this book just prior to lockdown in 2020. I was able to visit a school for children with severe epilepsy which was once an epilepsy colony. They were kind enough to open their archives for me. I also, through a local history organisation, was able to look at the archives of other colonies and asylums in the area, so my fictional colony is based on a combination of all of these institutions. 

Once all the research is done, it is important to be able to set it aside and focus on the story. This is after all fiction, and whilst I always try to write with authenticity, the majority of my research never makes it into the book. Instead, I aim to infuse the writing with it, so the reader is immersed into another world.   

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A lovely insight into a writer’s way of working. The Hidden Child is out in paperback today and in all other formats and you can buy a copy here.

Do please visit the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for reviews of the book and other great content:

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About the Author

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Louise Fein was born and brought up in London. She harboured a secret love of writing from a young age, preferring to live in her imagination than the real world. After a law degree, Louise worked in Hong Kong and Australia, travelling for a while through Asia and North America before settling back to a working life in London. She finally gave in to the urge to write, taking an MA in creative writing, and embarking on her first novel, Daughter of the Reich (named People Like Us in the UK and Commonwealth edition). The novel was inspired by the experience of her father’s family, who escaped from the Nazis and arrived in England as refugees in the 1930’s. Daughter of the Reich/People Like Us is being translated into 11 foreign languages, has been shortlisted for the 2021 RSL Christopher Bland Prize, the RNA Historical Novel of the year Award 2021 and long listed for the Not The Booker Prize 2020.

Louise’s second novel, The Hidden Child, was published in the Autumn of 2021. Louise lives in the beautiful English countryside with her husband, three children, two cats, small dog and the local wildlife who like to make an occasional appearance in the house. Louise is currently working on her third novel.

Connect with Louise:

Website: https://www.louisefein.com

Facebook: Louise Fein

Twitter: @FeinLouise

Instagram: @louisefeinauthor

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Twelve Days in May by Niamh Hargan

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I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour today for Twelve Days in May by Niamh Hargan. Thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my physical copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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For Lizzy Munro, working at the Cannes Film Festival doesn’t just mean cafes, champagne and celebrities. It also means the reappearance of Ciaran Flynn, a man she hasn’t spoken to in 12 years. While Lizzie works for the Scottish Film Board, Ciaran is the man everyone is talking about: heartthrob of the moment and director of the hottest film of the year.

When his film hits a huge snag, Lizzy is the only person who can save it. And it’s a film that bears a striking resemblance to their relationship all those years ago…

But fairytale endings only happen in the movies. Is this one love story that’s just too good to be true?

There was nothing about the blurb for this book that didn’t appeal to me when I read it. Set in an exotic location that I’ve never read a book about before? (Check, never read a book set against the back drop of the Cannes Film Festival). Interesting dilemma? (Check, deciding the fate of a Hollywood film is a new one on me and sounds exciting). Appealing romantic lead? (Everyone knows I love an Irishman!). But did the book live up to my expectations?

Absolutely. I really enjoyed this book, I found everything about it enticing. Lizzie is a genuinely relatable and sympathetic character. To begin with, she is a little prickly and defensive when she comes face to face with a… well a face, from her past and it takes us a while to find out why. The history between Ciaran and Lizzie is gradually revealed through small flashbacks to their time in Bordeaux, interspersed with their interactions in the present at Cannes. We slowly realise why there is such tension between them and understand Lizzie’s attitude, just as it is being shifted in the present day as they get to know each other again. It is really nicely done. Watching Lizzie’s barriers being broken down as she spends more time with Ciaran and they address the past is a pleasure to read.

Similarly Ciaran works really well as the romantic foil. For starters, he is typically Irish without being too much of a cliche. There are reasons that Irishmen are seen as being an attractive proposition as a race, and I can attest that, in my experience, they are largely true. There is nothing so charming as a man from the Emerald Isle when he wants to be and Ciaran has this in spades. However, it’s clear that there are hidden depths and vulnerabilities behind his relaxed and confident facade and he becomes more and more interesting to the reader as the book progresses. The chemistry between he and Lizzie is also palpable on the page and it is easy to buy into it as a reader and enjoy the development of their relationship for a second time.

The setting is everything I hoped it would be. The author knows what she is talking about when it comes to Cannes and this comes through on the page and the setting really comes to life. I loved all the madness, hubbub and glamour of the festival and it made a fantastic back drop to the love story. I love reading about new experiences, so this really made the book something special for me. I’ll probably never go to Cannes for the festival myself, but at least I feel like I have been there vicariously now!

This book is a great addition to the romance canon and I would highly recommend it for anyone looking for a fresh new voice in the genre. Looking forward to more from this author.

Twelve Days in May is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour:

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About the Author

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Niamh Hargan was born and raised in Derry, Northern Ireland. An entertainment lawyer by profession, she first attended the Cannes Film Festival several years ago and found the experience to be both exactly like, and nothing at all like, what she had expected. When it became impossible to travel to Cannes in May 2020, she began to write about it instead.

Connect with Niamh:

Twitter: @EveWithAnN

Instagram: @niamh_hargan_author

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Blog Tour: An Island of Secrets by Eva Glyn

An Island of Secrets

I am thrilled to be one of the bloggers kicking off the tour for An Island of Secrets by Eva Glyn today. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting 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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That was then…

Seventy-five years ago, British SOE spy Guy Barclay was forced to leave behind the woman he loved in war-ravaged Yugoslavia.

…This is now

As ninety-three-year-old Guy’s days draw to a close, he asks his granddaughter, Leo Holmes, to go looking for answers. Given that her marriage has imploded and her City job is on the verge of killing her, Leo agrees and rents a house on the island of Vis, where her grandfather was stationed in the Second World War.

But as Leo’s search takes her down unexpected roads – and into the path of a gorgeous local, Andrej Pintaric – she begins to wonder if this journey down memory lane might yield unexpected results for more than just her beloved grandfather…

I’ll make an admission here. I signed up for the blog tour for this book without reading the book’s blurb because I have loved Eva Glyn’s previous work. I was kind of dismayed when I did get round to looking at what the book was about because, as a general rule, I don’t read novels set in times of modern warfare. It is just a genre I don’t particularly enjoy. However, a promise is a promise, so I decided to give it a go.

Lo and behold, I actually really enjoyed this book. It is set at a time and place during the Second World War that I am not familiar with at all and I found it absolutely fascinating from a historical perspective. I’d never heard anything about wartime activities of the British in, what was then, Yugoslavia and the precursor to the rise of Tito and communism in that country. Despite my lack of enthusiasm about modern conflict-set books, I do love to learn new information, so this previously unfamiliar aspect of the Second World War pulled me in and piqued my interest. It is clear that the author has done a lot of research about the location and what went on there during this period and this really brought the history to life.

Another reason that the book held my interest was that the focus was not primarily on the conflict, but on the relationship between Guy and Ivka and the war was the backdrop for that. Don’t get me wrong, the war is central to the story because their love story only unfolds the way it does because of the situation they find themselves in, but the focus on these intimate, personal experiences of war and how they affected the lives of those involved forever, changing the course of their futures, is what made it absorbing for me. The author has drawn beautiful, sympathetic characters in this book and their story was intensely moving and emotional. It would be a stunted heart that couldn’t feel the pain that war has caused these people by the end.

There are some quite disturbing events described in the book and the author does not shy away from telling the reader the truth about the horror of war, and not just the atrocities committed by the enemy. I was very shocked at one of the story threads running through the book, never having heard anything about such things happening before, and I think one of the best things about novels such as this is keeping the memories of these atrocities alive and trying to make sure they never happen again. Given the threats that women are still facing every single day across the world at the moment, even in supposedly progressive nations, these things are important. I am feeling especially sensitive to media around these topics at the moment, so I found reading this book quite painful and anger-inducing, but these are emotions that are necessary to overcome complacency and apathy and remind ourselves that we need to keep fighting against these things.

This sounds like the book might be a heavy read, but it really isn’t. The writing is engaging, the location setting vivid and immersive and the historical detail fascinating. If a book like this can engage and impress a war-phobic reader like me, fans of the genre are going to love it.

An Island of Secrets is out now in ebook and will be published in paperback on 26 May and you can buy a copy here.

Please do make sure you follow this magnificent tour:

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About the Author

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Eva Glyn writes escapist relationship-driven fiction with a kernel of truth at its heart. She loves to travel and finds inspiration in beautiful places and the stories they hide.

Her last holiday before lockdown was a trip to Croatia, and the country’s haunting histories and gorgeous scenery have proved fertile ground, driven by her friendship with a tour guide she met there. His wartime story provided the inspiration for The Olive Grove and his help in creating a realistic portrayal of Croatian life had proved invaluable. Her second novel set in the country, a dual timeline looking back to World War 2, will be published in the spring of 2022, also by One More Chapter.

Eva lives in Cornwall, although she considers herself Welsh, and has been lucky enough to have been married to the love of her life for twenty-five years. She also writes as Jane Cable.

Connect with Eva:

Facebook: Eva Glyn

Twitter: @JaneCable

Instagram: @janecable

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Blog Tour: The Meet Cute Method by Portia MacIntosh

The Meet Cute Method

I am delighted to be one of the blogs opening the tour for The Meet Cute Method, the new book by Portia MacIntosh, and on publication day to boot! Happy publication day, Portia. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for asking 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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Do movie romances ever happen in real life…?

Frankie doesn’t believe in true love. As relationships expert at popular magazine Stylife, she has learnt that dating disasters are far more common than happy ever afters.

So when she is tasked to find out if meet cutes can work in real life she is up for the challenge – but whether it’s being a damsel in distress with a flat tyre, or spilling coffee over a stranger, she isn’t convinced this can really lead to love.

But little does Frankie know that the ultimate meet cute opportunity is just around the corner. As she is whisked off her feet (all in the name of her work project of course…) perhaps true love isn’t just for the movies after all…?

What a fabulous, fun, fast read this was! I fairly flew through this book, laughing all the way, so enjoyable was it. A really fresh, funny, frenetic book.

Okay, I’ve run out of adjectives beginning with the letter ‘f’ to describe this story now, so I better get in to the meat of the review. This is a really joyous, light-hearted romantic comedy that will whisk you from London to the sandy shores of Hawaii and the bright lights of LA, following the romantic catastrophes of Frankie George. Frankie is the dating columnist on a women’s magazine and her new boss is demanding fresh ideas from Frankie for her column, or the threat of unemployment dangles over her. But Frankie has exhausted all the tired dating routines, so what can she do. Explore some tired movie dating tropes instead, of course.

Frankie is a disaster area when it comes to love, so none of the things she tries run smoothly, which leads to much hilarity for the reader. Portia has a wicked imagination when it comes to awkward scenarios to drop Frankie into. The dog in the park and the date with Tom had me snorting into my tea. Snorting with laughter was a mainstay of this book, which is always a point in a novel’s favour. But alongside this runs the serious issue of why Frankie’s love life is so tragic, and the sweet relationship which builds between herself and Max.

The author does a really fab job of muddying the waters in the book as to who Frankie will end up with, in the middle I was convinced it might go a different way, but the ending made me very happy. There is nothing not to enjoy here, it contains all the perfect ingredients for the ideal romcom – high jinks, beautiful settings, relatable characters and an ending to melt the stoniest of hearts. Fabulous from start to finish. 

The Meet Cute Method is out in both ebook and paperback format today, and you can buy a copy here.

You can also read my recent interview with Portia here.

Many more great blogs coming up on the tour, make sure you visit a few:

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About the Author

Life Author

 

Portia MacIntosh is the bestselling author of over 20 romantic comedy novels.

From disastrous dates to destination weddings, Portia’s romcoms are the perfect way to escape from day to day life, visiting sunny beaches in the summer and snowy villages at Christmas time. Whether it’s southern Italy or the Yorkshire coast, Portia’s stories are the holiday you’re craving, conveniently packed in between the pages.

Formerly a journalist, Portia has left the city, swapping the music biz for the moors, to live the (not so) quiet life with her husband and her dog in Yorkshire.

Connect with Portia:

Connect with Portia:

Website: www.portiamacintosh.com

Twitter: @PortiaMacIntosh 

Instagram: @portiamacintoshauthor

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Blog Tour: The Secret Voices by M. J. White

The Secret Voices

So excited today to be taking my turn on the blog tour for the first crime thriller by Miranda Dickinson writing as M. J. White. I love Miranda’s romance novels, so I was excited to see what she would do in this new genre with The Secret Voices.  My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources 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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They said they’d keep me safe.

They said, ‘It’s okay, Hannah. You know you can trust me.’

They lied.

When eight-year-old Hannah Perry goes missing in the small Suffolk village of St Just, the community is rocked. Heading up the investigation is Acting DS Rob Minshull, but he’s out of his depth in a case that seems to mirror the disappearance of a young boy, seven years ago. That search ended in unimaginable tragedy…and Minshull is praying that history won’t be repeated.

But with an investigation full of dead ends, and a kidnapper taunting the police with sinister deliveries of Hannah’s belongings and cryptic notes, the young girl’s life hangs perilously in danger.

Until Dr Cora Lael enters the picture. A psychologist with a unique ability, Cora’s rare gift allows her to sense emotions attached to discarded objects. When she is shown the first of Hannah’s belongings, she hears the child’s piercing scream.

With few leads on the case, could Cora prove Hannah’s only hope? And as time runs out, can they find Hannah before history repeats itself…?

Every parent’s worst nightmare, your child going missing, is the basis for this story. The hectic scramble to find them as soon as possible, the fading of hope, the suspicion pointed at family and friends. Inside the police investigation, the officers trawl for leads, trying to get one step ahead of whoever is responsible before tragedy occurs. Pressure piling on from all sides – the press, the public, the family, your superiors. What toll does this take on the detectives charged with finding the missing child, especially if the case has echoes of a similar investigation that failed years before? You might think these are all ideas that have been explored in crime fiction before, what new territory does this book explore? Plenty, I assure you.

Sure, all of these standard elements are present but I have to tell you that Miranda really explores the emotional aspects of this to a degree that I’m not sure I’ve experienced in a crime novel before. I don’t know whether this is some of her experience as a romance novelist making her come at this from a slightly different angle but I really felt the emotional toll of this investigation all the parties involved oozing off the page. Told from the perspectives of the different people involved in the story, including the abducted child herself, the reader is really drawn in to the horror and stress of the story from a full colour, 360 degree perspective. It is totally immersive.

Add to this a completely unique idea for a different dimension to bring to the investigation, and you have a cracker of a story. Cora is a psychologist blessed, or cursed depending on your perspective, with emotional synaesthesia – the ability to detect people’s emotions from their discarded objects. Persuaded to use her ability to help the hunt for Hannah, Cora hopes to find acceptance and purpose for the ability which has made her feel apart and alone most of her life. But is she prepared for the emotional toll the experience will take and will openly revealing her abilities achieve the exact opposite of what she hopes? Following Cora’s journey through the novel was a fascinating and thought provoking process for me and really adds a fresh dimension to the crime thriller genre.

I would say that Miranda’s detour into the world of crime fiction has been a resounding success based on this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, found it to be fresh, complex and accomplished and I can’t wait to read more featuring these characters. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves Miranda’s writing, because all the skill evident in her romance novels is at play here too, and anyone looking for an interesting new voice in the crime thriller genre. Outstanding stuff.

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

Please check out some of the other blogs taking part in the tour for alternative reviews of the book:

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About the Author

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MJ White is the crime pen name of the internationally bestselling author Miranda Dickinson. To date she has sold over one million books worldwide and has been translated into sixteen languages. Miranda has always been a huge fan of crime fiction and The Secret Voices marks the start of a new and exciting departure for her writing.

Connect with M J White:

Twitter: @MJWhite13

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Blog Tour: We’ll Always Have Venice by Leonie Mack

Well Always Have Venice

I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour today for We’ll Always Have Venice by Leonie Mack. I loved the first book in the series, A Match Made in Venice when I read it at the end of last year (you can read my review here), so I was eager to get back to Italy and catch up with what was going on with the York girls. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources 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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Who can resist the romance of Venice… 

When Norah arrives in Venice for a ten-week internship she is surprised to discover that her guide for her work trips around the lagoon is the undeniably gorgeous and kind Gianluca. She can’t help thinking he might be too good to be true, with his endless fascinating local stories, and his infectious laugh.

Norah is still bitter after an accident left her with a serious injury and also meant the end of her long-term relationship. And besides, she’s serious about her career and that means leaving Venice at the end of the summer. 

Gianluca has had a summer fling before that led to heartache for him and he won’t do it again. He enjoys the long hours out on the lagoon with Norah, but after a storm strands them on a picture-perfect island for a night, they agree they should just be good friends for the summer. 

But life doesn’t always go to plan, and when it’s time for Norah to go, they have to decide whether what they have between them is really just a friendship, and not something more… 

I was desperate to be whisked back to the romance of Venice when I picked up the new book by Leonie Mack, having enjoyed my last trip there with her so much. Last time it was winter in The Floating City, so it was fun to anticipate how different it might look when we take a trip there in summer with Norah, as she embarks on her summer internship studying the algae that grows in its famous lagoon. (Bear with me, this is way more interesting than it sounds!)

Norah is the younger sister of Didi, who found love with a Ventian glassmaker in the first book in this series. You don’t need to have read, A Match Made in Venice, to enjoy We’ll Always Have Venice, but I highly recommend picking it up anyway because it is a fantastic read. Norah is determined not to follow in her sister’s footsteps though – she has a career to focus on which requires her to leave Venice at the end of summer and, anyway, she’s been let down by people before, best keep herself aloof. It’s going to be hard, though, when she is in such close proximity to Gianluca all summer…

We all know what comes at the end of romance novels, it’s how we get there that is important, and the journey that Leonie takes us on in this book is full of charm, tenderness and truth. She really draws a portrait of two damaged souls who have been hurt so badly in the past that fear is preventing them admitting their feelings for one another in a way that feels very realistic and honest. Watching their relationship grow despite their best efforts in engrossing and immensely touching, and I was completely captivated by their story.

Aside from the romance aspect of the story, what draws me to Leonie’s books is the setting, and the very different and fascinating approach she always takes to showcasing it. Here, Norah’s profession takes us to areas of Venice that are well off the tourist track and ones we would never expect to see normally in this type of book. She has obviously put in a huge amount of research to make this career for Norah sound convincing, there was so much detail woven in to the writing, I was really impressed with how it was done. The way she has used this so integrally to the plot, as opposed to just a mechanism to get her to Venice and in to the arms of Gianluca, is brilliant and I think it makes this book stand out from the herd of travel romance novels.

I continue to be excited by Leonie’s writing and, early in her career as she is, I’m eager to see what she does next. To be so bold and confident at this stage bodes well for her future, and is promising for us as reader that there is more and better to come. Aren’t we lucky?

We’ll Always Have Venice is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here. It is also included in your Kindle Unlimited subscription if you have one.

Please make sure to follow the rest of the tour for more reviews and other great content:

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About the Author

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

Connect with Leonie:

Website: https://leoniemack.com/

Facebook: Leonie Mack

Twitter: @LeonieMAuthor

Instagram: @leoniejmack

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Book Review: Elektra by Jennifer Saint

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The House of Atreus is cursed. A bloodline tainted by a generational cycle of violence and vengeance. This is the story of three women, their fates inextricably tied to this curse, and the fickle nature of men and gods.

Clytemnestra
The sister of Helen, wife of Agamemnon – her hopes of averting the curse are dashed when her sister is taken to Troy by the feckless Paris. Her husband raises a great army against them and determines to win, whatever the cost.

Cassandra
Princess of Troy, and cursed by Apollo to see the future but never to be believed when she speaks of it. She is powerless in her knowledge that the city will fall.

Elektra
The youngest daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, Elektra is horrified by the bloodletting of her kin. But can she escape the curse, or is her own destiny also bound by violence?

Today is publication day for Elektra by Jennifer Saint and so I am delighted to be sharing my review of the book with you all. Huge thanks to Caitlin Raynor at Headline for sending me an advance copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Jennifer Saint’s last book, Ariadne, was one of my top books of 2021 (you can read my review here) so I really was looking forward to reading Elektra but wondering if she could pull off the same transformation of a seemingly well known story again. The answer is yes, with bells on.

In fact, I could almost life my review of Ariadne and paste it, word for word, into the review for Elektra, because Jennifer Saint has taken the same principle, taking well known Greek myths and telling them from the perspective of the women involved, and applied it to the story of the siege of Troy. Interestingly, though, she has chosen not to focus on the main female figure in the tale – Helen, whose beauty brought down an entire nation – but three other women, seemingly on the periphery but actually central to the whole story, Clytemnestra, Cassandra and Elektra.

If you are familiar with the written history of the Trojan War, I am sure there are bits of the book you might take issue with. This is a reimagining of events which, after all have many different versions woven around them by different writers, in an attempt to bring events from centuries ago to life for modern audiences, and it is very effective in this regard. These women could be any of us, living, breathing, loving and losing on the page, and the emotions they feel will be recognisable to us all. Frustration at being held back because of our sex, jealousy when the attention of our partner is focused elsewhere, fear of abandonment, grief at the loss of a loved one – these are things that women are still facing today, challenges that ring down through the ages and you will soon find yourselves pulled in to the story and living along with the characters.

Let me just tell you, most of the characters in this story are not pleasant. They are largely selfish, ambitious, hubristic and cruel. They do some horrific things to each other, seemingly for small slights that are not commensurate with the price paid in blood as a result. However, the author does a great job of trying to show why they took the actions they did and making the women at least somewhat sympathetic. For example, if you read the story of Clytemnestra baldly on Google, she sounds like a monster. However, as a woman who has been through the loss of a child,  I can feel her pain, anguish and fury and understand what motivates her, even if I don’t think I would have done the same, I hasten to add. The scenes involving the captured women on the beach after the sack of Troy are heart-breaking, and give you food for thought when you see the news about what is currently happening in Eastern Europe today. You might ask yourselves how far civilisation has actually progressed in 4,000 years and whether base human nature remains the same down the millennia.

This is a fantastic historical retelling of a story that has enthralled Greek mythology fanatics for years, a terrifying morality tale and an exploration of the strength and resilience of women in a world in which they have no actual power. The author blends all of these aspects together into an entertaining, gripping and moving book that I was glued to from beginning to end and could not wait to recommend to my friends afterwards. My only question now is whether to buy a gorgeous hardback to match my copy of Ariadne, or just hang on to the personalised proof that I was so thrilled to be asked to review. I cannot wait to see what this author is going to tackle next; whatever it is, I’m sure it will be exciting.

Elektra is out today in hardback, audio and ebook formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Jennifer Saint grew up reading Greek mythology and was always drawn to the untold stories hidden within the myths. After thirteen years as a high school English teacher, she wrote ARIADNE which tells the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur from the perspective of Ariadne – the woman who made it happen. Her second novel, ELEKTRA, explores the curse upon the House of Atreus, giving voice to three women who are caught up in its shadows: Clytemnestra, Cassandra and Elektra whose lives are shattered by the Trojan War and who seek to find justice at any cost. Jennifer Saint is now a full-time author, living in Yorkshire, England, with her husband and two children.

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 Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen; Translated by David Hackston

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Today I am thrilled to be taking my turn on the blog tour for the paperback release of The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen. Thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of the book for the purposes of review, although I had already purchased a physical copy. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

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What makes life perfect? Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen knows the answer because he calculates everything down to the very last decimal.

And then, for the first time, Henri is faced with the incalculable. After suddenly losing his job, Henri inherits an adventure park from his brother – its peculiar employees and troubling financial problems included. The worst of the financial issues appear to originate from big loans taken from criminal quarters … and some dangerous men are very keen to get their money back.

But what Henri really can’t compute is love. In the adventure park, Henri crosses paths with Laura, an artist with a chequered past, and a joie de vivre and erratic lifestyle that bewilders him. As the criminals go to extreme lengths to collect their debts and as Henri’s relationship with Laura deepens, he finds himself faced with situations and emotions that simply cannot be pinned down on his spreadsheets…

Sometimes you come across a book and everything about it makes your heart sing. I know my fellow bookworms recognise that feeling, know that it is rare but, when it does occur, it’s joyous. My friends, The Rabbit Factor is one of those books.

This is the story of Henri, a very uptight man who likes everything in his life to be ordered and logical. He is an actuary, and he makes all of his life decisions (and I do mean ALL of them) based on logic and probability and he doesn’t like anything which disrupts this system or seems to him not to make sense when viewed from this perspective. This is itself makes reading about his life a ludicrous business, and I’d give you some examples from the book which made me laugh out loud but I don’t want to include any spoilers in this review. I’ll just say that this is one of those books that makes people look at you oddly on a train if you decide to read it in public.

So, the premise of this book is a classic ‘fish-out-of-water’ story. What happens when this man is accosted by a set of circumstances that don’t make any sense, can’t be dealt with on a purely logical basis, involve people who made illogical decisions or don’t behave in a predictable way and force him to think things and feel things that he has never had to think or feel before. This is what confronts Henri when his wild, reckless and unpredictable brother dies and leaves Henri his adventure park, responsibility for its employees and all the difficulties that go with it.

Seeing uptight Henri the loner actuary in charge of a children’s adventure park would in itself be hilarious enough for a story. However, this is also a crime caper, because the adventure park is in financial difficulty and his brother seems to have been caught up in some dodgy dealings which Henri has also inherited. How do you logically calculate your way out of criminal enterprise involving people who use violence instead of reason? Read this book to find out. However, this implausible story is not the biggest delight at the heart of this novel, it is merely the ingenious skeleton on which the flesh of this fantastic novel hangs.

There are two things which makes this book a standout for me. The first is the writing. Antti Tuomainen has the most delicious way with language, a gift for finding the hilarious in the mundane and a wicked turn of phrase that is music to the visual ear (if that is even a thing… you know what I mean anyway!) As I said before, this book is funny, laugh out loud so in parts, but it is also clever. Beyond this, he also knows how to write tenderly when tenderness is required, with tension when that is appropriate and with insight and consideration when this is needed to bring the plot to life. This book, as well as making me laugh, also really touched me in places, with a beautiful exploration of human nature, what speaks to our hearts, how relationships can change us, and how even the most cut-off and stringent of souls can be reached and touched by the right people. This book contains so many facets that there is something here for everyone – comedy, crime, love – the layers open up throughout like an unfurling flower to reveal its full beauty by the end.

The second, and most important aspect that brings this book alive are the characters. Everyone is individual, well-developed and integral to the plot. Even the one that doesn’t appear until right at the end, because there is a reason for this that adds to it. You can tell that no one is there for any reason other than they are essential, and every one has been given the same care and consideration in their development. Henri, of course, is the star and I could read a book featuring him every day of the week. For someone so alien to most of us, he is relatable and completely lovable and I am so glad to hear that this is the start of a series in which he will feature. Henri aside, I love everyone else. Laura, Kristian, Johanna, the security guard – the way they all interact and play their part. Even Henri’s old boss who he has written off proves to have a use in Henri’s life after all, they are all brilliantly interconnected in his awakening to a future he never knew existed, or that he had craved. It’s beautifully done, heart-warming and uplifting. The reason this book made me so happy.

I have always been a fan of Antti’s books but this may have just overtaken Palm Beach Finland as my favourite. I’ll have to go back and read the latter for comparison, which won’t be a hardship. While I’m here, just a word on the translation. If the name of the translator were not on the cover, you would never know this was a translated text, it is that seamless. This is no mean achievement and deserves recognition.

If you want a real treat, treat yourself to this, I promise you will close the back cover with a smile on your face and a warm, Ready Brek glow around your heart.

The Rabbit Factor is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Please check out the rest of the fantastic blogs taking part in the tour for more great reviews:

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About the Author

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Finnish Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author Iin 2013, the Finnish press crowned Tuomainen the ‘King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died became an international bestseller, shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards. Palm Beach Finland was an immense success, with Marcel Berlins (The Times) calling Tuomainen ‘the funniest writer in Europe’. His latest thriller, Little Siberia, was shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger, the Amazon Publishing/Capital Crime Awards and the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award, and won the Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year.

Connect with Antti:

Website: http://anttituomainen.com

Facebook: Antti Tuomainen Official

Twitter: @antti_tuomainen

Instagram: @anttituomainen

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Blog Tour: Bayou Cresting: The Wanting Women of Huet Pointe by Jodie Cain Smith

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In Huet Pointe, ambition is as dangerous as the brackish water that surrounds the sliver of land. But, the women of this antebellum hamlet yearn for more than society insists they be-devout, feminine, and content with living according to cultural norms. So, what’s a girl to do? She could employ poison, perhaps a bit of adultery, and drowning in alligator-infested waters is always a choice-whatever it takes to achieve her goal.

A novel-in-stories, Bayou Cresting: The Wanting Women of Huet Pointe, tells the stories of ten women brought together by proximity, forever entangled by the actions they take.

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for Bayou Cresting: The Wanting Women of Huet Pointe by Jodie Cain Smith. My thanks to Love Book Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of the book for the purpose of review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

An interconnected set of short stories, weaving together the lives of ten women who inhabit a small town in forgotten swampland, Bayou Cresting is a must-read for fans of Southern Gothic literature. Set in the mid-1800s, this book brings together everything that is appealing and emotive about this enticing genre. Earthiness, darkness, voodoo, magic, murder and mayhem, with a feminist spin, this is a deeply fascinating piece of work.

Firstly, the writing transports the reader directly to the heart of the humid, hidden bayous of the Deep South at an important point in history and this book has one of the strongest senses of place in a novel I have read for a long time. You can feels the steamy, oppressive heat rising from the page, feel the isolation of this forgotten place and experience the simmering tensions that undercut life in this town. Even those characters who seem genteel on the surface can be hiding black hearts and those who are looked down upon by the community can surprise you with their consideration and kindness. This is a book that questions every stereotype you have ever come across in Southern Gothic literature.

The book focuses solely on the women of the town. The men play bit parts, only relevant insofar as they affect and impact the lives and behaviour of those women, which is a fascinating way to portray a society where the women are secondary and subservient to the men in every way – or so it would seem. the abiding takeaway for me from reading this novel is that women’s strength will make itself felt, come what may, and there is little that men can do about it in the end.

Many of the characters in this book are not liable, but this does not make them any less interesting, possibly more so. Some of the characters, in fact, are downright appalling, but they are still fully realised, well-rounded and recognisable individuals, not caricatures. What makes this book such compelling reading is that the characters are realistic and believable, which makes their behaviour much more impactful. There are some terrible goings on in these stories, the tension will pull you in and hold you from story to story. Every facet of life in the town is covered, from the ladies in their antebellum mansions to the slaves in their quarters and the women in the local brothel, and the ones who are happiest are not necessarily the ones you would expect, if indeed anyone who is truly happy in this lost town.

A really unusual construction for a novel, where they are only loosely connected by location and character crossover, this nonetheless feels like a complete story, drawn together to the inevitable denouement, which left me with a deep sense of unease and disturbance at the lives of these women. Any book which evokes a strong reaction in the reader is an achievement in writing and, whilst not being what I expected, this book certainly left its mark on me. I hope it finds a wide readership, it is a fantastic piece of work.

Bayou Cresting: The Wanting Women of Huet Pointe is out now in ebook and paperback formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Jodie Cain Smith is the author of two Southern Gothic novels, The Woods at Barlow Bend (1st edition Deer Hawk Publications, Nov 2014; 2nd edition Kat Biggie Press, July 2021) and Bayou Cresting: The Wanting Women of Huet Pointe (Crowsnest Books, 2021). More than any other character, Jodie enjoys creating ambitious women who often fly across the line to dangerous women. She is the founder of the Mobile Literary Festival, proving her philosophy of “If it doesn’t exist, create it yourself.” When she is not creating southern fiction, Jodie can be found in the worlds of superheroes, Lego, and Mario Kart with her little boy and husband. Her Mario Kart driving needs work, the boy is awesome, and the husband puts up with all the crazy. Jodie Cain Smith’s short stories, feature articles, and columns have appeared in Pieces Anthology, the Pulpwood Queen’s Works in Progress, The Petigru Review, Chicken Soup for the Military Spouse’s Soul, The Savannah Morning News, and the Fort Hood Sentinel.

Connect with Jodie:

Website: https://jodiecainsmith.com

Facebook: Jodie Cain Smith

Twitter: @JodieCainSmith

Instagram: @jodiecainsmithauthor

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The 2022 Romantic Novel Award Winners’ Interviews with…. Bella Osborne

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Today is my final post in my celebration of the 2022 Romantic Novel Awards and I am delighted to be joined by joint winner of the Jane Wenham-Jones Award for Romantic Comedy, author… Bella Osborne.

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Bella, congratulations on your award for The Promise of Summer and thank you very much for agreeing to appear on my blog again!

What does winning this award mean for you and what do you think it was about this book that spoke to the judges?

I was over the moon to win! It is particularly special because it was chosen by readers.

It’s very hard to guess what they particularly liked about it as we don’t get any specific feedback. I would hope it was the feisty heroine and unconventional hero who appealed to them.

What is it that draws you to writing romantic comedy rather than any other genre?

It’s naturally how my writing comes out. Like everyone I’ve had ups and downs in my life but even at the darkest moments I’ve still managed to find some humour and I think that’s what gets you through. I have also written two uplifting book club reads where there was no romance but there was still a sprinkling of humour.

How important is membership of the RNA to you, what does it give you and what is your favourite thing about it?

The RNA is my tribe. I love that it is an incredibly supportive group and everyone gets a kick out of each other achieving things – they are a very special bunch of people. They also have a fabulous conference and the best parties!

How did you get in to writing and how long did it take you to get published? What advice do you have for aspiring writers just starting out on this path?

I’ve always written but it was a life coach that suggested that I try to see if I could complete a whole novel. I was lucky enough to meet my first editor at an RNA conference and from there I signed a two book deal. So the answer to how long did it take to get published depends on your starting point – either 45 years or eighteen months!

My advice to aspiring authors is to find other writers either locally or through bigger organisations like the RNA – their support is so valuable.

Where did the inspiration for this story come from and how do you go about developing a book from that first spark to the finished novel?

I wish I knew! These characters just appeared when I was finishing off another story.

I am a big planner so that’s my first stage. I spend time just thinking about my characters and getting to know them. I make character bios, work out their backstory and what their goals and issues are. Almost simultaneously the plot will be developing. Once I know the story has legs I will get out the brown paper and post it notes and start making a plan. Once I’m happy I’ve nailed all the key points that’s when I start a first draft. I do a few rounds of self edits before it goes to my agent. I do her suggested changes before I submit it to my editor. We then go through structural, line and copy edits. The final stage is a proof read after that the next time I see it it’s an actual book.

What do you think awards like this do for the image of books in your genre, and the image of romance novels as whole, which sometimes are unfairly dismissed? What are readers who would not normally pick up a romance novel missing out on?

Anything that can shed a spotlight on romantic fiction is a positive thing. It baffles me that a high percentage of popular music has themes of love, romance and relationships and that is embraced by everyone but when the same thing is written down the attitude towards it changes. 

If you’re not reading romance you are missing out on well written, thought provoking reads with engaging characters, that tackle some difficult subjects and dilemmas before giving you an uplifting ending. 

What is coming next from you and when can we expect to see it?

My next romantic comedy is A Wedding At Sandy Cove which is out on 21st July. 

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Escape to Sandy Cove, where the scent of summer and the sound of wedding bells are in the air!

Ella makes brides’ dreams come true – there’s no dress she can’t make perfect with her sewing skills and some sparkle. But Ella’s own love life is no fairy tale. Recently dumped, surrounded by fussy brides and with the prospect of wearing a hideous brown bridesmaids dress to her friend’s wedding, Ella feels more alone than ever so agrees to go on a blind date.

A mix up on the night introduces her to Kit

Kit is definitely not the man she was supposed to meet, but he could end up changing her life in ways she never thought possible…

Bella, thanks for chatting to me today, it has been fascinating. Good luck with your new book.

Bella’s RONA short-listed novel, The Promise of Summer, is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

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Ruby’s life is about to change for ever…

After years of dating losers, cheats and one guy who did something unrepeatable to her kettle, Ruby has all but given up on romance. But then a stranger sits next to her on a train to London and explains his plan to propose to the woman of his dreams. Maybe true love does exist after all?

When the man accidentally leaves the engagement ring behind, Ruby is determined to save the day. But she hasn’t counted on fellow passenger Curtis stepping in and insisting he should be the one to track the stranger down.   
 
As summer closes in, the unlikely pair make a promise to reunite the ring with its owner. But can they find their own happy ever after along the way?

Bella Osborne has been jotting down stories as far back as she can remember but decided that 2013 would be the year that she finished a full length novel. Since then she’s written a number of best-selling romantic comedies and book club reads. She’s been shortlisted four times for the RNA Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year Award.

Bella’s stories are about friendship, love and coping with what life throws at you. She likes to find the humour in the darker moments of life and weaves these into her stories. She lives in Warwickshire, UK with her husband, daughter and a cat who thinks she’s a dog. When not writing Bella is usually eating custard creams and planning holidays.

Connect with Bella:

Website: http://www.bellaosborne.com

Facebook: Bella Osborne

Twitter: @osborne_bella

Instagram: @bellaosborneauthor

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