Blog Tour: The Lost Sister by Kathleen McGurl #BookReview

The Lost Sister

I am delighted to be hosting a stop on the blog tour for The Lost Sister by Kathleen McGurl today with my review of the book. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on to the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Three sisters. Three ships. One heartbreaking story.

1911. As Emma packs her trunk to join the ocean liner Olympic as a stewardess, she dreams of earning enough to provide a better life for both her sisters. With their photograph tucked away in her luggage, she promises to be back soon – hoping that sickly Lily will keep healthy, and wild Ruby will behave. But neither life at sea nor on land is predictable, and soon the three sisters’ lives are all changed irrevocably…

Now. When Harriet finds her late grandmother’s travelling trunk in the attic, she’s shocked to discover a photo of three sisters inside – her grandmother only ever mentioned one sister, who died tragically young. Who is the other sister, and what happened to her? Harriet’s questions lead her to the story of three sister ships, Olympic, Titanic and Britannic, and a shattering revelation about three sisters torn apart…

This is a dual timeline novel, telling the story of different generations of the same family in 1911 and the present day. Harriet has just lost her husband and, as she clears out her home in preparation for downsizing, she comes across a trunk that used to belong to her grandmother who worked on cruise ships at the turn of the century. As she goes through the trunk, Harriet finds a photo of her grandmother and her sisters, which leads her to start investigating her family history and uncovering some long buried secrets.

At the same time as looking at her family tree, Harriet is compelled to revaluate her current family relationships. Things are strained with her younger daughter after a terrible mistake years before, and she has lost touch with her brother. There are also concerns with her elder daughter and grandson. As we go through the story, it is clear to see parallels between the story of the three sisters at the turn of the century, and Harriet’s fractured family in the present and Harriet’s growing understanding of her family’s past can help heal wounds going forward.

This is a really beautiful and moving book to read. The author has created some sympathetic and engaging characters in both timelines and I was completely drawn into their lives and fates from the beginning of the book. The narrative switches from chapter to chapter between Harriet in the present day and Emma back in 1911, and it is done effortlessly and seamlessly, whilst still giving each of the women a very clear and distinct voice.

It is clear that Kathleen has done a lot of research for this book. She managed to bring life in 1911 to life and include a lot of small, authentic detail that made me feel like I was really living through those experiences along with Emma. I am a tiny bit obsessed with the story of the Titanic, so I loved reading about it here and Kathleen has done an amazing job of bringing the horror of its sinking to the fore from the perspective of someone who was there. I felt that she had captured what Emma would have been feeling brilliantly, it was really upsetting to read, which is wholly appropriate for the story. It immersed me completely in the era, which is exactly what I am looking for in a historical novel.

Similarly, in the modern day, what Harriet is going through is totally believable and made me very emotional. I shed a few tears as I was going through the book, all too able to relate to her feelings. This is a really great story of love, family and the ties that bind us together in life. It will make you want to gather round everyone you love and give them a massive hug (not until Monday, mind you!) and tell them exactly how you feel because life is short and precarious and family means everything.

A fantastic dual timeline novel with real heart, I highly recommend it.

The Lost Sister is out now as an ebook and will be published in paperback in July and you can buy a copy here.

Please do visit some of the other marvellous blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Kathleen McGurl lives in Christchurch, UK, with her husband. She has two sons who have both now left home. She always wanted to write, and for many years was waiting until she had the time. Eventually she came to the bitter realisation that no one would pay her for a year off work to write a book, so she sat down and started to write one anyway. Since then she has published several novels with HQ and self-published another. She has also sold dozens of short stories to women’s magazines, and written three How To books for writers. After a long career in the IT industry she became a full time writer in 2019. When she’s not writing, she’s often out running, slowly.

Connect with Kathleen:

Website: https://kathleenmcgurl.com/

Facebook: Kathleen McGurl

Twitter: @KathMcGurl

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Desert Island Books with… Lynda Stacey

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Oh, it’s freezing and blowing a gale here today, I wish I could be whisked away to a warm, tropical island with nothing to do but read! However, it is not me but author, Lynda Stacey, who is taking a trip to my tropical hideaway today, with her five books and one luxury item for company. Let’s see what she is taking.

Hi Julie, thank you so much for inviting me to your lovely desert island.

Book One – The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor

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Ireland, 1912. Fourteen members of a small village set sail on RMS Titanic, hoping to find a better life in America. For seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy, the journey is bittersweet. Though her future lies in an unknown new place, her heart remains in Ireland with Séamus, the sweetheart she left behind. When disaster strikes, Maggie is one of the lucky few passengers in steerage who survives. Waking up alone in a New York hospital, she vows never to speak of the terror and panic of that terrible night ever again.

Chicago, 1982. Adrift after the death of her father, Grace Butler struggles to decide what comes next. When her Great Nana Maggie shares the painful secret she harbored for almost a lifetime about the Titanic, the revelation gives Grace new direction—and leads her and Maggie to unexpected reunions with those they thought lost long ago.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Titanic, about the glitz and glamour. But this book was a little different, it centered around the life of a young girl, one of 14 passengers all from a little village in Ireland. All were travelling in steerage. A journey very different to the passengers in first class.

Book Two – A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

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A world of witches, daemons and vampires.

A manuscript which holds the secrets of their past and the key to their future.

Diana and Matthew – the forbidden love at the heart of it.

When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it’s an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft. Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she’s kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires.

Sensing the significance of Diana’s discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire geneticist.

Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels…

I’ve always loved a great vampire and witch story, who doesn’t. I found this one particularly well written and the love between the hero and heroine quite a battle of wills. Especially as in the beginning, Diana Bishop, the heroine doesn’t realise quite what powers she has.

Book Three – The Island By Victoria Hislop

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On the brink of a life-changing decision, Alexis Fielding longs to find out about her mother’s past. But Sofia has never spoken of it. All she admits to is growing up in a small Cretan village before moving to London. When Alexis decides to visit Crete, however, Sofia gives her daughter a letter to take to an old friend, and promises that through her she will learn more.

Arriving in Plaka, Alexis is astonished to see that it lies a stone’s throw from the tiny, deserted island of Spinalonga – Greece’s former leper colony. Then she finds Fotini, and at last hears the story that Sofia has buried all her life: the tale of her great-grandmother Eleni and her daughters and a family rent by tragedy, war and passion. She discovers how intimately she is connected with the island, and how secrecy holds them all in its powerful grip…

I loved everything about this book, the setting of Spinalonga, a former leper colony brought back so many memories as I’d visited it many years ago and while reading the book I could imagine how it must have been to be shipped over there, left there to ‘literally’ rot. I also love books that are based on truth.

Book Four – Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine

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A story spanning centuries. A long awaited revenge.

In London, journalist Jo Clifford plans to debunk the belief in past-lives in a hard-hitting magazine piece. But her scepticism is shaken when a hypnotist forces her to relive the experiences of Matilda, Lady of Hay, a noblewoman during the reign of King John.

She learns of Matilda’s unhappy marriage, her love for the handsome Richard de Clare, and the brutal death threats handed out by King John, before it becomes clear that Jo’s past and present are inevitably entwined. She realises that eight hundred years on, Matilda’s story of secret passion and unspeakable treachery is about to repeat itself…

This book was gripping. I loved that the author combined past and present day, the way it was seeped with history and the book seamlessly switches from Joanna Clifford to Matilda (who are essentially the same person).

Book Five – SUMO by Paul McGee

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Paul McGee’s international bestselling personal development heavyweight S.U.M.O. has helped hundreds of thousands of people around the world fulfil their potential, seize opportunities, succeed at work, and respond to adverse situations with a positive attitude. Weighing in with humour, insight, practical tips, and personal anecdotes, it’s a thought provoking—and possibly life-changing—read. Now newly updated to celebrate 10 years since its first publication and including up-to-date case studies and examples, as well brand new exercises to test yourself, S.U.M.O: 10th Anniversary Edition will help SUMO fans, as well as SUMO amateurs, get more out of this bestselling, self-help classic.

There are six S.U.M.O. principles that are designed to help you create and enjoy a brilliant life:

  • Change Your T-Shirt— take responsibility for your own life and don’t be a victim.
  • Develop Fruity Thinking— change your thinking and change your results.
  • Hippo Time is OK— understand how setbacks affect you and how to recover from them.
  • Remember the Beachball— increase your understanding and awareness of other people’s world.
  • Learn Latin— change comes through action not intention.
  • Overcome the tendency to put things off.
  • Ditch Doris Day— create your own future rather than leave it to chance. Forget the attitude ‘que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be.’

This is a motivational book. SUMO stands for Shut Up, Move On. And has some really great ideas on self-motivation. For example, the author talks about ‘hippo time’ about how everyone is allow to wallow in the mud… but also about how it isn’t healthy or good to wallow there for too long.

My luxury item

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Oh gosh, I’d have to have a blanket. I’m always cold…

About the Author

Me x

Lynda grew up in the mining village of Bentley, Doncaster, in South Yorkshire,

Her own chaotic life story, along with varied career choices helps Lynda to create stories of romantic suspense, with challenging and unpredictable plots, along with (as in all romances) very happy endings.

Lynda joined the Romantic Novelist Association in 2014 under the umbrella of the New Writers Scheme and in 2015, her debut novel House of Secrets won the Choc Lit Search for a Star competition.

She lives in a small rural hamlet near Doncaster, with her husband, Haydn, whom she’s been happily married to for almost 30 years.

Lynda’s latest book, Keeper of Secrets came out in paperback recently and is currently available on Amazon for just £2! You can buy a copy here, and read my review of this excellent read here.

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For as long as Cassie Hunt can remember her Aunt Aggie has spoken about the forgotten world that exists just below her feet, the tunnels and catacombs of the Sand House.

When excavation work begins on the site, shocking secrets are uncovered and danger is never far away, both above and below the ground.

Connect with Lynda:

Website: http://www.lyndastacey.co.uk

Facebook: Lynda Stacey Author

Twitter: @LyndaStacey

Instagram: @lynda.stacey

 

Romancing The Romance Authors with… Mary B. Moore

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Today I have another edition of Romancing The Romance Authors, where I chat all things romance and romance writing with an author in the genre and this week I am grilling Mary B. Moore.

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

I mainly write romantic suspense and romantic comedy books, but there have been some exceptions to the rule. April 5 will be my fifth anniversary since I published my first books, and I’m trying to remember how many books I’ve published?! I think it’s 27 or 28 now. There are so many more planned, too.

Why romance?

I grew up with romance books around me, whether it was the Sweet Valley Twins/High series’ or Mum’s Harlequin novels. There’s something soothing about reading them, even when the drama and tensions are high in them, and closing it after the last page and the characters having a happily ever after together. Being able to create my own characters, giving them their own books and worlds, is the most amazing feeling for me.

What inspires your stories?

A variety of things. I’m the daughter of retired diplomats, but I grew up in places like Damascus, Angola (during the civil war), Indonesia, Jamaica and Panama, so a lot of that does come into it. My family and friends also tend to inspire my characters (I swear I have zero sanity around me). Sometimes it can even be a news story that I’ve read. I come from an “eclectic” family who tends to have more laughter than tears, so I decided to approach serious subjects in my plots by adding humour to them. Life’s serious as it is, sometimes having something that makes you laugh or smile makes it a bit easier.

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

Oh, there are a lot of them. Sylvia Day is a big one. I still haven’t read book 5 in the Crossfire Series because I don’t want to accept it’s over. Kristen Ashley is another one. I have friends who are romance authors and their books are my go to books for when I need to unwind: CP Smith, Elena M. Reyes and C.M. Steele. I’m familiar with their styles and their plots are always what I need. Aurora Rose Reynolds, Kristen Ashley, K. Bromberg, Terri Anne Browning, Melody Anne… there’s so many.

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

Definitely the first book in Sylvia Day’s Crossfire Series, Bared To You. It’s impossible to put down and you’ll jump straight into the next book. It’s just so perfectly done. I swear no man will ever be able to live up to the awesomeness of Gideon Cross.

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Our journey began in fire . . .

Gideon Cross came into my life like lightning in the darkness – beautiful and brilliant, jagged and white hot. I was drawn to him as I’d never been to anything or anyone in my life. I craved his touch like a drug, even knowing it would weaken me. I was flawed and damaged, and he opened those cracks in me so easily . . .

Gideon knew. He had demons of his own. And we would become the mirrors that reflected each other’s most private wounds . . . and desires.

The bonds of his love transformed me, even as I prayed that the torment of our pasts didn’t tear us apart . . .

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

I’m sure it’ll be no surprise when I say Gideon Cross from the Crossfire Series. I’d probably take him to a beach in Indonesia and just enjoy being back there with him and showing him around. Maybe we could go to Port Royal in Jamaica? Either or, I’m not fussy. If I got to spend a weekend with Gideon, I’d let him choose where and just enjoy the heck out of it.

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

I love being a member. I love the diversity that I’ve come across in the organisation, including the DISCO chapter for disabled authors. With a huge percentage of authors and the market being in the USA, it’s been great to meet other British authors and have the support, advice and information from the organisation that we get.

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

Do it. It’s easy to get disheartened or to be scared, but your words are just as good as someone with fifty books under their name. Just do it! Obviously do it properly, but don’t be put off from letting your words out into the world.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My most recent novel is called Eat Crow, and it’s Book 6 in my Cheap Thrills series. I’ve got three series that are based in Texas (I come from a large American family even though we’re Brits) and I have a huge amount of love for the state. Granted my family are from New Jersey, but I have fond memories of Texas and places like Gonzales County.

Anyway, the Cheap Thrills Series is predominantly about the police department that I started outlining in 2016, and the latest book is about a deputy called Logan and his childhood best friend called Bexley (Bexley Heath—it has a nice London link in it). He said something when they were younger that split the friendship up, but when she comes back for her grandad’s funeral, he’s the one who helps her through the loss.

I love second chance, small town romances, and the connection the two characters have has been fabulous to write.

Eat Crow will be released on Kindle on 26 February and you can pre-order it here.

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Logan

I made a mistake seven years ago and opened my mouth, letting words fly out of it that I didn’t mean. I said something about the one person I never wanted to hurt and lost my best friend. Now she’s back and needs help her with her loss, and I’m going to be the best rock in the history of rocks and make it right between us again.

I’d do anything to get Bexley Heath back in my life, even if it means helping out with her dog, who hates me and loves to destroy everything around him.

Time doesn’t kill love. Neither does a giant Irish Wolfhound eating my favorite chair.

Bexley

I’d successfully avoided Logan Richards for seven years, but somehow losing my grandpa brought him back into my life. Perhaps Papa was right when he said in his last letter that it was time to get over it and just let it go. Life’s too short, and forgiveness is divine, right?

He’s my anchor when I need it and my tissues when I cry. But that doesn’t mean I can’t reward my dog for causing him grief and destroying some of his furniture, though, does it? To heck with it, good Doyle.

About the Author

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I’m a British author who grew up all over the world. My parents were diplomats, so we were posted to all of the corners of the earth and it was a blast. Some wouldn’t seem so awesome if you heard about them, but my parents always made it a fun experience and it moulded my brother and I into who we are today.

I live in Wiltshire in the west country of the UK. At random times of the day, I’ll hear a moo from the fields around me, or get a whiff of that…uhhh…’country air’, and I love it! I might not have grown up in the UK, but I’m a British girl to the bone (regardless of the suspicious whiffs coming in from the fields).

I’m a single mother with a son who is nearing his teenage phase. Maybe he’s reached it early? Who knows. But he’s awesome and has a personality and sense of humour that I can only attribute to my family. We’re slightly bonkers, we have a wicked sense of humour and we find the positives in every situation. I’m so proud to be his mum and to watch him grow and mature.

Writing was something that I’d always done. I had a teacher in the third grade who always set us the task of writing a story and making it into a book every weekend. After I left school, I kept this up and wrote as often as I could or just plotted out books. This evolved into me taking the plunge and publishing my first book in 2016 and I’ve been typing ever since.

I’m proud to be an Indie Author, and I absolutely love writing out my crazy Providence characters and the more complex ones in my other series’. It doesn’t matter if it’s romantic comedy or something with more suspense – so long as it has a HEA I’ll do it!

Connect with Mary:

Website: https://www.marybmoorebooks.com/

Facebook: Mary B Moore

Twitter: @mary_bmoore

Instagram: @mooremaryb

Facebook Readers’ Group: 50 Shades of Neigh

Newsletter: https://view.flodesk.com/pages/5f76283ae3a4a1ac190b037f

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Book Review: A Favor for a Favor by Nat Chelloni

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“Forget favors given; remember those received.” – John Wooden

A time for love can’t be more deadly…

Julia Leonardi thought she put her past behind her. The widow of a mobster, all she wants is to steer clear of the criminal elements. Then she meets Domenico Bonacci…

Dom is handsome, charming, and intense. The world knows him as a prominent businessman, but Julia sees him as everything she fought to escape.

Once the scion of a powerful Mafia family Dom left the world of organized crime after his father’s death. And he swore he would never go back.

No matter how hard she tries, Julia can’t seem to ignore the powerful spark of attraction between them and her growing feelings for him. But when Dom’s shady past catches up with him, the two forbidden lovers find themselves trapped in a deadly game.

Will Dom renege on his vow and lose the woman he loves, or he will manage to break free of his past for once and for all?

This wouldn’t be the kind of book I would normally read, romantic suspense is not a genre I read much, but it is good to go out of your comfort zone every now and again and I do like to support debut authors, so I thought I would give it a try.

The main protagonist is Julia, the daughter of a Mafia boss who was married and widowed young due to a feud between underworld gangs and has since turned her back on that world, determined never to suffer that heartbreak again. However, when all your family are connected, it is hard to escape that world completely. Then she meets Dom, the son of a murdered don who also claims to have left that world, but Julia isn’t sure and is resisting her undeniable attraction to him.

The book starts off in dramatic form with their first meeting, and the initial impressions I formed of Dom weren’t great. In fact, if I hadn’t been mindful of the genre I was reading and determined to keep an open mind, I might have walked away quite early because he is everything I hate in a man and the thought of him being a love interest to anyone was off-putting. The author does include a trigger warning for this part, and I can see why it is needed, but I ploughed on and it turned out that first impressions can be deceptive. Dom did grow on me, although I’m not sure I ever got completely past his initial behaviour.

There are lots of great characters in this book, and lots of action. It was interesting to read a book set in an alien world, and see all the tensions and relationships that are involved, see how matters are negotiated and resolved. I could sympathise with Julia’s dilemma of being attracted to a man but resisting because she isn’t sure of his lifestyle, and I think this played out well. There is a lot of sexual heat in the book between the two main characters, which is well written and believable. If you enjoy this type of book, and this type of relationship, I think this book will work well for you.

The book has a few problems. Some of the pacing was a little uneven, and it did plough some of the same issues repeatedly, but overall I enjoyed it as a step outside my comfort zone. After my initial baulking at Dom, I was gripped by the story and wanted to know how it ended. I can’t tell you it has been the book that converted me to a romantic suspense groupie, but then I’m not sure that book exists, because it is just not my bag. However, it is a really excellent debut, I would not have known this was a first book if I hadn’t been told, and I’m sure fans of the genre would be delighted with it.

A Favor for a Favor is out now and you can buy it in paperbook or ebook here.

About the Author

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Nat Chelloni is a TV personality, a screenwriter, a film critic, an avid book reader across all genres, and now a published author of a debut novel A Favor For a Favor. Nat’s overactive imagination and a passion for storytelling have finally found an outlet.

Connect with Nat:

Facebook: Nat Chelloni

Twitter: @natchelloni

Instagram: @nat.chelloni

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