Guest Post: Starting Over At The Vineyard in Alsace by Julie Stock

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She’s proud, independent and about to be a single mum. Since his wife died, he’s become fiercely protective. Can they take another chance on love?

After being abandoned by her partner when she falls pregnant, Lottie Schell goes home to live on The Vineyard in Alsace determined to raise her child and to provide for them both without having to depend on anyone else.

Thierry Bernard is still dealing with his grief and guilt following the death of his wife two years earlier. He needs to move on from the tragedy of his past and to accept the truth of what happened.

When circumstances force Lottie and Thierry closer together and their attraction deepens, they both find it hard to compromise – and they’re both wary about trusting someone new with their heart.

Can Lottie and Thierry move on from their pasts, find a new beginning together and start over?

I am delighted to be joined on the blog today by Julie Stock, with a guest post about her latest book, Starting Over in the Vineyard in Alsace. I’ve not had chance to read the book myself yet, but I am very much looking forward to it, as I love a novel that whisks me away to foreign climes and Julie has kindly written me a post to explain how the settings of her books influence her writing.

How settings inspire my contemporary romance stories

I describe my writing as contemporary romance from around the world because it is always a setting that gets me started with the idea for a story. I have written books set in Nashville and Dorset, in Cornwall and Paris, in London and Devon. My latest book, Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace, is the second in a series of books set in Alsace in France, a place I know very well. 

It isn’t always the case when I have an idea that I know the place I’m going to write about very well though. When I wrote From Here to Nashville, I’d never been to Nashville and had to do all my research about it online. I don’t think authors should be held back by this though. As long as you’re prepared to do your research, it is possible to write about places you’ve never been to. As it turned out, I visited Nashville shortly after my book was published anyway, and was able to check that my research was accurate.

Since writing that first series, I’ve set my other books in real-life places but with a fictional location. So The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge doesn’t really exist but the village it’s located in is based on Lynton and Lynmouth in Devon, which I have visited and know pretty well. Just basing the village on a real place gives you a lot more freedom as an author to make the setting what you want it to be. It does mean that you can include details about local landmarks though, which makes it fun for readers who do know the area.

Similarly, The Vineyard in Alsace and Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace, books 1 and 2 in my Domaine des Montagnes series, are set on a fictional vineyard in a fictional village in Alsace. I write about lots of real-life places in Alsace but I don’t get bogged down in too many specific details, which allows me to make the vineyard and the village nearby exactly how I want them to be. In the end, the vineyard in my books is an amalgam of lots of vineyards I’ve visited together with their visitors’ centres and their neighbouring villages.

However, one thing in these books that does have to be absolutely accurate, is the detail about the work done in the vineyard. As I worked for a mail-order wine merchant for a few years, and studied for my wine exams while I was there, I am confident enough to write about that so that readers get a true sense of what life on a working vineyard would be like. It is possible to research that if you haven’t had the same background I have, of course, but it comes naturally to me with the benefit of my experience.

I was lucky enough to visit California earlier this year and we stayed in a lovely inn facing on to the Pacific Ocean for one of our stops. The name of the inn got me thinking about setting a future book in a bed and breakfast or a hotel. Apart from staying in lots of them over the years, I have no experience of what running a B&B involves, so there would have to be a lot of research for that book. But I think that could be a lot of fun! I’d just have to remember that at some point the fun would have to stop so that I could get on with writing the book! 

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Thanks for that insight into the writing process, Julie, it is fascinating to see how other writers work and I look forward to reading the book soon.

Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace is out now in paperback and ebook, and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Julie Stock writes contemporary feel-good romance from around the world: novels, novellas and short stories. She published her debut novel, From Here to Nashville, in 2015, after starting to write as an escape from the demands of her day job as a teacher. Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace is her latest book, and the second in the Domaine des Montagnes series set on a vineyard.

Julie is now a full-time author, and loves every minute of her writing life. When not writing, she can be found reading, her favourite past-time, running, a new hobby, or cooking up a storm in the kitchen, glass of wine in hand.

Julie is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.

She is married and lives with her family in Bedfordshire in the UK.

Connect with Julie:

Website: https://julie-stock.co.uk

Facebook: Julie Stock Author

Twitter: @wood_beez48

Instagram: @julie.stockauthor

Book Review: The Catch by T. M. Logan; Narrated by Philip Stevens #AudiobookReview

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She says he’s perfect. I know he’s lying….

He caught me watching and our eyes met. That was when it hit me. 

There was something not quite right about my daughter’s new boyfriend….

The doting father.

Ed finally meets his daughter’s boyfriend for the first time. Smart, successful and handsome, Ryan appears to be a real catch. Then Abbie announces their plan to get married.

The perfect fiancé.

There’s just one problem. Ed thinks Ryan is lying to them.

Who would you believe?

All of Ed’s instincts tell him his daughter is in terrible danger – but no one else can see it. With the wedding date approaching fast, Ed sets out to uncover Ryan’s secrets, before it’s too late….

I really enjoyed listening to T. M. Logan’s book, The Holiday last year as an audiobook, so I thought I would give his latest title a try the same way, and I had an equally enjoyable experience.

The book is told mainly in the voice of Ed, a seemingly over-protective father who is not happy when his only daughter brings home a new boyfriend, whom Ed does not trust from the beginning. The situation immediately worsens as Abbie announces they are going to get married, and in a very short space of time, and Ed goes into overdrive, trying to get dirt on Ryan to stop the wedding. But is he paranoid, or is there something in his suspicions?

Other voices chime in throughout the book, Ed’s wife Claire, his daughter Abbie, but we are mainly in Ed’s head. The author’s writing is very clever because, even though we can hear every thought process behind Ed’s suspicions of Ryan and his consequential, erratic behaviour, we still can’t be sure if he is right or if he is just prey to underlying, unresolved issues he has that are making him so protective of Abbie and so determined to get rid of Ryan. I honestly was not sure who to believe until very near the end.

The opening teaser chapter was genius, because we know something bad is coming and this keeps the reader on edge throughout, but we don’t know who is responsible until right at the end. I was on the edge of my seat all the way through this, taking my dog for extra long walks to give me more time to listen and get through the book!

This book really put my emotions through the ringer. Some of Ed’s behaviour is cringe-inducing and, although you can kind of understand why he feels compelled to do it, you can also see the car crash consequences that are approaching as a result and are mentally shouting at him to stop and look at what he is risking. This book is not a relaxing read in the slightest!

The last few chapters actually did have me shouting, because the final actions of the book are unbelievable, even though they have been coming throughout, and the author ramps up the action right at the end until my nerves were stretched to breaking point. Even though I had suspected what the outcome of chapter one might be, I still couldn’t actually believe it until it happened. I was wrung out like a wet dishcloth by the end of the book, and my poor dog was exhausted. A fantastic, tense and thrilling read. The audio narration was absolutely brilliant, and I can highly recommend that as a medium, if you have the patience to listen through it to find out what happens!

The Catch is out now in paperback, audiobook and ebook and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Bestselling author TM Logan was a national newspaper journalist before turning to novel-writing full time. His thrillers have sold more than 750,000 copies in the UK and are published in 19 countries around the world including the USA, South Korea, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Greece, Romania and the Netherlands.

His debut thriller LIES was one of Amazon UK’s biggest ebooks of 2017 – winning a Silver Award at the Nielsen Bestseller Awards – and was followed by his second standalone, 29 SECONDS. THE HOLIDAY was a Richard & Judy Book Club pick and spent ten weeks in the Sunday Times paperback Top 10, as well as hitting the #1 spots on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks and Kobo.

His brand new thriller for 2020, THE CATCH, is about a father who becomes convinced his daughter is about to marry a man with terrible secrets. THE CATCH is out now in paperback, ebook and audio, published in the UK by Bonnier Books.

Tim lives in Nottinghamshire with his wife and two children, and writes in a cabin at the bottom of his garden.

Connect with T. M. Logan:

Website: https://www.tmlogan.com

Facebook: T M Logan Author

Twitter: @TMLoganAuthor

Instagram: @tmloganauthor

Tempted By… Emma’s Biblio Treasures: The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd

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Elijah has lived in the Memory Wood for as long as he can remember. It’s the only home he’s ever known.

Elissa has only just arrived. And she’ll do everything she can to escape.

When Elijah stumbles across thirteen-year-old Elissa, in the woods where her abductor is hiding her, he refuses to alert the police. Because in his twelve years, Elijah has never had a proper friend. And he doesn’t want Elissa to leave.

Not only that, Elijah knows how this can end. After all, Elissa isn’t the first girl he’s found inside the Memory Wood.

As her abductor’s behaviour grows more erratic, Elissa realises that outwitting strange, lonely Elijah is her only hope of survival. Their cat-and-mouse game of deception and betrayal will determine both their fates, and whether either of them will ever leave the Memory Wood . . .

This week’s Tempted By…. is The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd, which I was practically coerced into buying having read this review by Emma on her blog, Emma’s Biblio Treasures.

Every single thing about this review screams this is a book you must buy! “exciting, compelling, daring and clever debut,” “without a doubt my book of the month,” atmospheric and creepy,” “a modern-day Grimm’s fairytale,” “jaw-dropping twists,” and that is just the first paragraph!

As I carried on reading, everything about Emma’s description of the book made me want to pick it up. Her précis of the characters, descriptions of the prose style and the plot construction and her praise for the atmosphere and the tension – it was all so irresistible that there was absolutely no way I could scroll past without adding this book to my purchase list. This is the way a great blog review sells a book!

Emma’s blog is another of the newer blogs that I follow, but I really like her fresh, approachable writing style and her absolute enthusiasm for the books she reviews. She is also very friendly and a great, supportive member of the blogging community. Make sure you swing by her blog and check it out, if you haven’t already. You can find it here.

And if you absolutely need your own copy of The Memory Wood now (and I know you do!), you can get it here.

Spotlight: 200 Foot Game by Kathy Obuszewski

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Fate threw them together, the world is trying its best to tear them apart.

A car accident isn’t a great place to meet a woman, right?
Right. I knew that. Besides, she’s older than me.
But when we met again at my star player’s party, who am I to say no to destiny?
She’s the fire to my ice and I want to hold onto her forever.
Cancer is trying to tell me I can’t.

I’m shining the spotlight today on the latest release in the Cleveland Sound series by Kathy Obuszewski, 200 Foot Game. Perfect for any fans of a sports-centred romance, it is a book that you might need a box of tissues at hand for as you read!

The book is available to read for free on Kindle Unlimited, along with the first book in the series, Deking The PuckKathy is also the author of The Sound of Christmas, also available on Kindle Unlimited, and will be releasing another book in early October.

If you would like to get hold of a copy of 200 Foot Game, you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Kathy is a passionate hockey fan. She plays, she watches and dreams of it, so she decided to start writing hockey romances.

You can find out more about Kathy by following her social media:

Website: https://kathyobuszewski.com

Facebook: Kathy Obuszewski

Instagram: @kathyobuszewski

Saturday Night Drinks with…. Nicola Pryce

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Well, folks, I can tell you that I am really ready for tonight’s Saturday Night Drinks (a day late due to technical problems yesterday, apologies), and I am delighted to be joined in my end-of-the-week wind down chat by author…. Nicola Pryce.

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Nicola, welcome to my humble blog and thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thank you, Julie. It’s very kind of you to invite me. I’d like a Sottish malt whiskey – a double please. Actually, could you put it in a hipflask as we’ll be taking it in our rucksacks? No, better still, let’s bring the bottle.

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If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

Grab your walking boots and waterproofs, Julie. We’re going to watch basking sharks as the sun sets from a beach in the Outer Hebrides – we’re off to the Isle of Barra.

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That looks beautiful, let’s go right now! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

We’ll be sitting on a beautiful stretch of white sand watching the sun dip below the horizon – one of those balmy nights with not a single midge – and I’d like to invite Dorothy Kathleen Broster, author of some of my favourite books set in Scotland, to join us. Among many other fabulous books she wrote the incredibly romantic Jacobite trilogy, The Flight of the Heron, The Gleam in the North, and The Dark Mile which I absolutely adored as a teenager. 

They helped shape my love of history and literature and now that I write historical fiction, I’d love the chance to talk to her about her role as a Red Cross nurse during World War 1, her historical research, and her life as an author.

And as her books are about the Jacobite uprising of 1745, I’d like to invite Bonnie Prince Charlie so we can hear his side of the story. With Scottish ancestors, I was always rooting for the Jacobites and I have Bonnie Prince Charlie down as a romantic, rather dashing figure. 

So, let’s hope we’re in for a treat! Either way, I think it should make for a very lively evening and have us talking and drinking into the early hours.

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So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I’m going to whisk you to another coast now – to Cornwall, 1793. 

For the past six years I’ve been writing a series of historical novels based among the ship builders and sea-faring communities on the south coast of Cornwall. It’s such a fascinating period of history; England is at war with France, an invasion is highly possible, and wheat shortages and food riots are causing disorder. China clay has just been discovered, naval ships await orders in Falmouth, and French prisoners cram into the already full prisons. 

It’s a period I love and a place I love. I came late to writing after a career as a nurse. I had always wanted to write, and five books down the line I’m still pinching myself that it’s happened! Never say never is now my motto.

My historical novels are standalone books, but they do follow in sequence. My debut novel, Pengelly’s Daughter, was published in 2016 and there are now five in the series, including the one to be published this November.

image1What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

It’s difficult to choose between when I was picked up by my agent, when I was offered a publishing contract, and when I first saw my book in print. But really, I think my proudest moment was when a lady wrote to me saying she took my book out from the library and really loved it. To have my books in libraries is such a privilege.

My biggest challenge I think must be the same as with everyone – how to juggle the work/life balance. I’m a slow writer and I’m also a wife, mother, and doting grandmother so it’s always going to be a bit of a balance. 

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

With such a wealth of books being published, I’d love it if my books were still being read in fifty years’ time. 

What a great ambition! What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

Book 5, A Cornish Betrothal is out soon and I’m really excited about that. Each novel follows a different heroine and I’ve loved telling Amelia Carew’s story. 

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

There are just too many to mention, but I think you may have guessed that the Outer Hebrides are on my mind at the moment, mainly because next year is our 40th wedding anniversary and we’re thinking of retracing our first holiday together. We had such an amazing time driving our little open-top red sportscar down the islands and camping on the white beaches with their delicate shells and turquoise sea. 

This time, I think we’ll take bikes and stay in bed and breakfasts along the way. The scenery is breathtaking, and I can’t wait to go back – with both rainproofs and sun cream in our backpacks! 

This isn’t my photo, but it’s what we have in mind to do.

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

I was born in Denver, Colorado, and spent my childhood in Baghdad.

Wow, if we ever meet in person, I would love to hear about your Baghdad childhood. Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

I’m going to go for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. So many books have been influential in my life and though it affected me greatly as a teenager, I recently re-read it after a visit to Brooklyn and it seemed even more powerful the second time round. It’s a profoundly moving novel which charts the childhood of Irish immigrant Francie Nolan and her family in the slums of Brooklyn from 1902 until 1919. The women have nothing, but their words of wisdom are priceless. Do read it if you have not already done so.

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The Nolan family are first-generation immigrants to the United States. Originating in Ireland and Austria, their life in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn is poor and deprived, but their sacrifices make it possible for their children to grow up in a land of boundless opportunity.

Francie Nolan is the eldest daughter of the family. Alert, imaginative and resourceful, her journey through the first years of a century of profound change is difficult – and transformative. But amid the poverty and suffering among the poor of Brooklyn, there is hope, and the prospect of a brighter future.

So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Ah, well, when you get to my age you know to make one drink last the whole evening! But my cure for hangovers was always pints of water before I went to bed and a small hair of the dog at about 11 o’clock the next morning!

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

I think you might have guessed this … We’ll be up bright and early and on our bikes heading along the coast road for a pub lunch. It’s alright, I’ve checked the weather forecast and it’s going to be glorious sunshine. We’ll have a swim, then head back to our bed and breakfast and have freshly caught fish grilled on a BBQ for supper. 

Then another ride on Sunday morning, followed by another dip, a yummy lunch, and then we’ll spend the afternoon reading D. K. Broster’s The Flight of the Heron.

That sounds perfect. Nicola, thank you so much for joining me, it has been absolutely delightful.

Nicola Pryce is author of five books of historical fiction set in Cornwall, including the latest book A Cornish Betrothal, which will be published on 5 November. You can buy copies of all of Nicola’s books here.

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Cornwall, 1798.

Eighteen months have passed since Midshipman Edmund Melville was declared missing, presumed dead, and Amelia Carew has mended her heart and fallen in love with a young physician, Luke Bohenna. But, on her twenty-fifth birthday, Amelia suddenly receives a letter from Edmund announcing his imminent return. In a state of shock, devastated that she now loves Luke so passionately, she is torn between the two.

When Edmund returns, it is clear that his time away has changed him – he wears scars both mental and physical. Amelia, however, is determined to nurse him back to health and honour his heroic actions in the Navy by renouncing Luke.

But soon, Amelia begins to question what really happened to Edmund while he was missing. As the threads of truth slip through her fingers, she doesn’t know who to turn to: Edmund, or Luke?

Nicola Pryce trained as a nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. She loves literature and history and has an Open University degree in Humanities. After a fulfilling career as a nurse she qualified as an adult literacy support volunteer and lives with her husband in the Blackdown Hills in Somerset. She and her husband love sailing and together they sail the south coast of Cornwall in search of adventure and it is there where she sets her books. If she is not writing or gardening, you will find her scrubbing the decks.

Nicola is published by Atlantic Books. Pengelly’s Daughter is her first novel, then The Captain’s Girl, The Cornish Dressmaker, and The Cornish Lady. A Cornish Betrothal will be published in November.

Nicola is a member of the Historical Writers’ Association and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

You can find out more about Nicola and her writing on her website and via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Next week I will be joined for Friday Night Drinks by PR, Helen Lewis, so please do join us then.

Blog Tour: Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald #BookReview

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Fran hates her hometown, and she thought she’d escaped. But her father is ill, and needs care. Her relationship is over, and she hates her dead-end job in the city, anyway.

She returns home to nurse her dying father, her distant teenage daughter in tow for the weekends. There, in the sleepy town of Ash Mountain, childhood memories prick at her fragile self-esteem, she falls in love for the first time, and her demanding dad tests her patience, all in the unbearable heat of an Australian summer.

As past friendships and rivalries are renewed, and new ones forged, Fran’s tumultuous home life is the least of her worries, when old crimes rear their heads and a devastating bushfire ravages the town and all of its inhabitants…

I am happy to be taking my part in the blog tour today to mark the paperback publication of Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald. Thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part, and to Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books for my digital copy, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is quite a difficult review to write, because I want to give a true reflection of how I felt about the book, whilst balancing that with external factors that I believe affected my reading of it. I have really struggled this last week emotionally for a variety of reasons and, unfortunately, I think this bled through to my reactions to this book. In fact, if I hadn’t been reading it for a blog tour, I probably would have set it to one side to come back to at another time, when I was in a different frame of mind. As it was, I ploughed on, but probably had a different feeling about the book than I would have if I’d come to it in a more upbeat frame of mind.

I’ve had a difficult week, and I think I really needed some escapist fiction, and this isn’t it. This is a dark, noir exploration of the dark undercurrents running through a small town, which are brought in to sharp focus when Fran returns to the place she hates to nurse her seriously ill father, just at a time where the town is threatened by a deadly bush fire. A lot of the topics explored in this book are extremely harrowing, and the author addresses them head on, without flinching and with huge emotional impact. This is something I normally love in a book, and I know it will be what draws a lot of readers to the novel. Rightly so, the novel deserves a wide readership because the writing is stunning, unfortunately I was emotionally unequipped to deal with it this week and it felt extremely bleak to me.

There is no doubt that the character development in this book is expertly done and works perfectly to draw the reader in and make the reader love or hate them. Again, this was part of the problem. I was TOO emotionally invested in the characters to deal with their struggles at the moment, and could feel their pain and distress. The book is a real rollercoaster of a ride emotionally, and the reader needs to be prepared for it. It packs a powerful emotional punch that I am sure would leave me fairly breathless at any time but completely floored me on this occasion.

The timeline jumps about between the day of the fire, the ten days or so leading up to it, and events that happened thirty years before when the main protagonist, Fran, was a teenager. At times I did find it a little hard to follow the timelines, because they were so disjointed, but this I know is deliberate and was done to add to the feeling of tension and anxiety which permeated the book. It just needs a level of concentration that was just a little of a strain for me at the moment, but I know I would take in my stride and truly appreciate for what it adds to the story at any other time.

This is a book that is powerful, emotional, challenging and full of tension from first page to last. The author is skilled at manipulating all of these elements and this is clear throughout. Unfortunately for me, she does this a little too well and I was just mentally in the wrong place for this book when I read it. I could see glimpses of the humour that I have seen other bloggers refer to within it, but just couldn’t appreciate it fully. Fabulous book, wrong time for me. I know it is one I will put aside and reread when I am in the right mindset for it. I would not want anyone else to be put off reading it though, because this is a wonderful book, and I know the issue was me and my emotional state at time of reading. More emotionally robust readers will love it, I have no doubt.

Ash Mountain is out as an ebook and audiobook, and will be published in paperback on 20 August and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Helen FitzGerald is the bestselling author of ten adult and young adult thrillers, including The Donor (2011) and The Cry (2013), which was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and is now a major drama for BBC1. Her 2019 dark comedy thriller Worst Case Scenario was a Book of the Year in both The Guardian and Daily Telegraph. Helen worked as a criminal justice social worker for over fifteen years. She grew up in Victoria, Australia, and now lives in Glasgow with her husband.

Connect with Helen:
Twitter: @FitxHelen
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Blog Tour: The Night Lawyer by Alex Churchill #BookReview

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Sophie Angel is the night lawyer. Once a week, she’s the one who decides what the papers can and can’t say.

During the day, she’s a barrister. She struggles for justice in a system that’s close to collapse, where she confronts the most dangerous aspects of humanity. 

Her life changes when a wealthy Russian offers her the biggest case of her career, a rape trial with a seemingly innocent client.

But is someone manipulating Sophie from the shadows? With her marriage under strain and haunted by nightmares from the past, Sophie must find the answer to these questions before it’s too late.

This is a story about betrayal, trust, guilt and innocence, played out from the courtrooms of London to the darkest corners of Soviet era Moscow.

Delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Night Lawyer by Alex Churchill today. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my paperback copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I absolutely love books set in a legal setting, largely for reasons of nostalgia, and this was one of the better examples of the genre that I have read recently. I am hoping this is the first book in an exciting new series, because Sophie Angel is a character I could really become invested in.

There is so much to love about this book. First and foremost, it gives a very fascinating and truthful look into the workings of the English legal system and the trials and tribulations that it is currently facing, and for me this is the most interesting part of the book. The criminal justice system is woefully under-funded, but this seems to be something that very few people care about, until they become embroiled in it themselves. You often see articles in the press lamenting ‘fat cat lawyers’ and criminals ‘abusing the legal aid system,’ but this is so far from the truth and it is something we should all be very worried about. One of the cornerstones of a liberal and truly free society is an impartial and accessible justice system that provides fair trial for everyone, regardless of your financial means. If people cannot access good legal representation, then they cannot navigate the system with equality to people of means, and this is grossly unfair and dangerous. There are so many things that are currently being suggested as changes to the legal system, that threaten its impartiality, that it makes me very frightened, and you all should be too. This book goes some way to demonstrating some of the challenges faced, particularly by the Criminal Bar, and is a fascinating read that anyone interested in this subject matter will enjoy.

If that sounds a little dry, I apologise, because that is far from the case. All of this is wrapped up in a really exciting thriller. There are several plot lines to follow in the book that all add to the tension – Sophie’s family and past in Russia which is shrouded in mystery, Sophie’s relationship with her husband, another powerful barrister, her work on the newspaper at The Night Lawyer, the major trial she is defending, and the terrifying behaviour of a previous client. All of these things keep the plot moving along at a terrific lick, and provide plenty of moments of tension and high drama to keep the reader engrossed throughout.

Sophie is a really appealing and attractive character who carries the book beautifully. I totally believed in her and her behaviour throughout. Her reactions seemed entirely authentic and, as a reader, I was sympathetic to her in each of the situations in which she finds herself. I feel like there is much more to discover about her, her dual English and Russian heritage provides tantalising scenarios to be explored going forward. I really enjoyed the portion of this book exploring her Russian background and look forward to more of this. Her work of a barrister provides endless fodder for drama, and her work on the newspaper is a unique and interesting angle. I have high hopes of the next instalment from Sophie Angel.

If you are interested in the seemingly archaic and unusual world of the English legal system, and the Bar in particular will really enjoy this author’s writing. She explores it very well, without making the material seem dry and boring, and I thought the book was marvellous. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a legal thriller.

The Night Lawyer is out now in paperback and digital formats, and you can buy a copy here.

Please do be sure to follow the rest of the tour for alternative reviews and other content:

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About the Author

Alex Churchill was a barrister, specialising in serious crime for over three decades, and a writer. 

Connect with Alex:

Twitter: @_AlexChurchill

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Tempted By… The Book Reviewing Mum: The Sea Glass Cottage by RaeAnne Thayne

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Opening up to a new future…

The life Olivia Harper always dreamed of isn’t so dreamy these days. The long work days are unfulfilling, as is her relationship with her on-again, off-again boyfriend. So when her estranged mother, Juliet, has an accident Olivia heads home to Sea Glass Cottage. Here she can clear her head and help her mother look after her orphaned niece Caitlin.

Cape Sanctuary is a beautiful town, but one that holds painful memories for Olivia, Juliet and Caitlin Harper. But as Olivia tries to balance her own needs with those of her injured mother and her resentful fifteen-year-old niece, it becomes clear that all three Harper women have been keeping heartbreaking secrets from one another.
Surrounded by her family and friends, including her best friend’s brother, and local fire chief, Cooper Vance, Olivia finds happiness can come at life’s most unexpected moments.

Today’s Tempted By… is from a blog that I have only been following for a few months, but it has quickly become one of my favourites. I am so glad I found The Book Reviewing Mum and she has already enticed me to buy The Sea Glass Cottage by RaeAnne Thayne via this fabulous review.

I have to admit, that I was already captivated by this book as soon as I saw the title and the cover. I love sea glass and I absolutely love the cover of this book, it is so pretty, and I want to know what is going on inside that secluded little cottage, hidden in the wood, don’t you?

Once I got into reading the review, I was 100% sold. It sounds like it contains all the elements I love in a romance novel, and Lynne gave it a most definite five stars, which is a good enough endorsement for me. I have really enjoyed escaping into some heart-warming romance novels during the current situation, I think they are the perfect antidote to everything else that is going on outside, and this one sounds like an episode of The Gilmore Girls in a novel, so I am hoping that is the vibe I get once I dive in.

If you haven’t discovered Lynne’s blog yet, which you may not have as she’s only been blogging since March, make sure you go over there and give her some support and love. Although her blog is quite new, she has managed to pack an impressive amount into that short period, and her posts are fun and chatty, she always seem cheery and upbeat and enthusiastic, and will make you feel that way too. Look, she managed to reel in this jaded old blogger with one of her first reviews! You can find her lovely blog here.

And if you feel like grabbing your own copy of The Sea Glass Cottage after reading Lynne’s review, you can buy it here.

Blog Tour: The Pupil by Ros Carne #BookReview

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She wants to learn everything – about you.

Mel has practised law for twenty years. She is well-regarded by her peers. Her clients are happy. But behind the scenes her life is disordered. Her son grows increasingly distant from her. The married man she is sleeping with fails to give her what she needs.

When a trainee lawyer is allocated to Mel it is poor timing. The last thing she wants is a pupil watching her every move. And Natasha does watch. She sees each detail – and every mistake. Mel cannot shake the feeling that Natasha isn’t just learning the job. She is learning Mel.

Natasha is good at getting what she wants, and now Mel has the power to give her all she desires. But when Mel chooses not to, Natasha knows just what Mel’s vulnerabilities are – and how to turn them against her. Mel’s secrets could ruin her. But who will be believed?

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Pupil by Ros Carne. My thanks to Emma Welton at damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part, and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I love any book set in the legal world, so I was really looking forward to this and it did not disappoint. There was a great mix of detail about legal matters, and the personal stories of the two protagonists, Mel and Natasha, to give me everything I was looking for.

The story is told in the alternating voices of the two women, although slightly more weight is given to Mel’s voice, and it seems like we are supposed to sympathise more with her predicament than Natasha’s, but not everything is that straight forward, which makes for a gripping story. Although Natasha seems to be manipulative and a schemer, Mel is not a saint herself, as we soon find out.

Mel has a messy life, which I am sure many of us can relate to, trying to juggle a demanding job with relationships and motherhood, especially of a son in those difficult, mid-teen years where they are the cusp of adulthood but not quite there yet. On top of this, she is given charge of a pupil to teach, an added strain she doesn’t want or need, particularly when there is a personality clash.

I could feel the strain taking its toll on Mel throughout the book, and the author also develops Natasha as a menacing and noxious presence in Mel’s life. At the same time, Natasha has her own history and problems that have shaped her behaviour so, despite everything, I did manage to retain a small shred of sympathy for her. This clever balancing of light and shade in each character means that the readers feelings swing from side to side along with the plot and, like a jury, the verdict is out until the end of the book.

I enjoyed the final ‘showdown’ very much and, for me, the ending worked really well, although I think there may be some who would wish that it had ended differently and more dramatically. However, this seemed to be a more honest and likely ending than one that was engineered just for effect. All in all, I was very satisfied with this read and the way it all came out. Interesting premise and characters and enough tension and exciting events to keep the reader interested throughout. Highly recommended.

The Pupil is out now as an ebook and will be published in paperback on 13 August, and you can get your copy here.

Make sure to check out the rest of the fantastic blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Ros Carne was born in London, and following university she worked in magazine and newspaper journalism including as a theatre critic on the Guardian. She later retrained as a barrister, practising for 13 years before moving to a university teaching job. She has two adult sons and enjoys playing the violin. Ros now lives in Somerset where she writes full time.

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Book Review: Strangeways by Neil Samworth; Narrated by Jonathan Keeble #AudiobookReview

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A jaw-dropping account of life as a prison officer in one of the country’s most notorious jails. 

Neil ‘Sam’ Samworth spent 11 years working as a prison officer in HMP Manchester, aka Strangeways. A tough Yorkshireman with a soft heart, Sam had to deal with it all – gangsters and gangbangers, terrorists and psychopaths, addicts and the mentally ill. Men who should not be locked up and men who should never be let out. 

Strangeways is a shocking and at times darkly funny account of life in a high-security prison. Sam tackles cell fires and self-harmers and goes head to head with some of the most dangerous men in the country. He averts a Christmas Day riot after turkey is taken off the menu and replaced by fish curry and stands up to officers who abuse their position. He describes being attacked by prisoners and reveals the problems caused by radicalisation and the drugs flooding our prisons. 

As staffing cuts saw Britain’s prison system descend into crisis, the stress of the job – the suicides, the inhumanity of the system and one assault too many – left Sam suffering from PTSD. This raw, searingly honest memoir is a testament to the men and women of the prison service and the incredibly difficult job we ask them to do.

When I was in the final year of my law degree, I wrote a dissertation for my Criminology module on the treatment of prisoners with mental health issues by the criminal justice system. To help in my research, my boyfriend’s father (eventually to become my father-in-law), who was then Governor of HMP Lincoln, took me to the prison so I could interview their resident medical professionals and access material in the prison service library. He also gave me a tour. I never expected it to look like the set of Porridge, but it did, except a lot less fun. I have never been in such an intimidating place in my life, before or since, and the impressions it left on me are still with me 25+ years later.

I now have a couple of other friends and family members who work within the prison service, and hearing stories of their working lives brings back those impressions, and this audiobook did the same thing. Anyone who thinks that prison life is cushy, for either inmates or staff, needs to read or listen to this book, and their illusions will immediately be shattered.

Neil Samworth is a man after my own heart, a no nonsense Yorkshireman the like of whom anyone who spends any time in our beautiful county will have come across, and his writing is presented in the same fashion. The narrative is blunt and honest and pulls no punches and I found it absolutely fascinating, horrifying and upsetting in equal measure. He starts with some background into his life and career before he enters the prison service (which made me think our paths may have crossed during my visits to Hanrahan’s in Sheffield during my youth!) which is a useful grounding to get to know him and understand his perspective when he begins to talk about Strangeways.

Everyone has heard of this prison, it is notorious, particularly for the riots which occurred before the author’s time there. It is an old prison, one of those we imagine how prison is, if and when we ever think about it. Lincoln prison was the same, not one of the new, recently purpose built facilities and I think this is important, as it reflects the way they are run and the way the prisoners are managed and behave, and Samworth touches on this in his book. He is extremely honest about the conditions, the prisoners, the officers and management, and the Government management and funding of prisons over the years. I found his bluntness about every aspect of the service, criticisms of all sides where due, refreshing and believable. If you really want an insight into the Prison Service, here it is. It certainly chimed with everything I had already seen and heard from people I know who worked inside.

There are parts of this book that will break your heart, particularly for the people who have to work in this difficult environment, with some truly awful people and in terrible circumstances day after day. They, on the whole, deserve our attention, care, respect and thanks for what they do. You need to listen to books like this, and then ask yourself if you would be prepared to do this job, to deal with the things they have to deal with day after day and what it would cost to entice you to do it. Then ask if these people are suitably cared for and rewarded. You may well be surprised at how you feel afterwards.

The book isn’t a story as such, the narrative is a little disjointed and it is sometimes hard to see why it was ordered the way it was, but if you can get past that, it is definitely worthy of your attention. I have to warn you, there is quite a lot of slang and swearing in the book, violence, drug use and some extremely unpleasant episodes. That is the truth of life behind bars for everyone involved, unfortunately. I listened to this as an audiobook and the narrator was absolutely perfect for the text, I would highly recommend the audio version.

Strangeways is out now in all formats and you can buy it here.

About the Author

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Neil Samworth worked as a prison officer in Strangeways, now HM Prison Manchester, for eleven years between 2005 and 2016, before an unprovoked attack by a prisoner left him physically injured and suffering from PTSD. His book Strangeways: My Life as a Prison Officer consists of his diary from this period.

Connect with Neil:

Twitter: @SamworthNeil

Instagram: @samworthneil1