The 2021 Romantic Novel Award Winners Interviews… with Louise Douglas

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In this week’s instalment of my interviews with the winners of the 2021 Romantic Novel Awards, I am chatting with the winner of the Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award, author Louise Douglas.

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Louise, congratulations on winning the Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award in the Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards 2021 with your novel The House By The Sea and thank you very much for agreeing to talk to me for the blog.

Thank you so much. I’m thrilled to be here.

The Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award was a new category for the awards in 2020. I remember hearing the new category announced at the 2019 awards and it caused much excitement. How does it feel to be one of the first winners of the award, and to be following in the footsteps of such a titan of the industry?

It feels amazing, something that I shall treasure for the rest of my life. I’m still buzzing! It’s fantastic that the RNA is helping bring the work of wonderful Jackie Collins to new generations of readers and I couldn’t be more proud. #BeMoreJackie

How did you feel on the night when you heard your name announced? You seemed to be stunned that you had won. 

I was stunned! Before the announcement, I was in a virtual ‘green room’ with the other shortlisted authors and it was such a strong line-up; wonderful authors and fabulous books. I still can’t quite believe what happened.

I loved the fact that you thanked bloggers in your acceptance speech, and name-checked a few who obviously had an impact on you. What do you feel that bloggers can bring to the table for authors?

I’m so grateful to the blogging community and have made some treasured friends. Social media is a major part of most people’s lives now and the work bloggers do to champion books, and reading, is so important for us. It’s brilliant for an author when a blogger writes a fantastic review, or, like you’re doing here, makes a bridge between writers and readers. And, as a voracious reader, bloggers often help me decide which book to pick up next. 

Your winning novel, The House By The Sea, is set in an abandoned villa in Sicily. what inspired you to set a book in that particular location? What research did you do to make the setting so authentic?

We went to the south-eastern region of Sicily to explore the World Heritage baroque towns and cities of the Val di Noto made famous in the TV adaptations of the Montalbano novels. I fell head over heels in love with the region; it is one of my top three favourite places on earth and I would recommend it to everyone. It was during this holiday that we found the villa that was the inspiration for the house in the book.

The success of the novel clearly lies in the strong relationship between setting, characters and plot. Which came first for you when you first conceived this novel? Is that the way is usually works in your writing, that one aspect of the novel draws the rest of it together or is it different every time?

That’s an interesting question. I usually start with a location. If a plot idea comes first, I never use it until I find the right location. With the House by the Sea, I’d wanted to write about people who had been badly hurt by life, and Sicily, a beautiful, deeply interesting island that has itself endured much trauma and that has its dark side, was the perfect setting. 

Your award was in the category for a ‘romantic novel with thriller, mystery, crime or suspense elements.’ Which aspect of this are you drawn to most, the romance or the thriller, or do they always have to work together for you? Can you see yourself ever being pulled in the direction of purely one or the other?

I love writing romance but all my books have a Gothic element to them so I can’t imagine writing a love story without suspense or mystery of some kind. I have written mystery/suspense stories with no traditional romance – although there is always love in some guise. 

Much as we all like to celebrate past successes, our focus soon has to turn forwards and on to the next project. What do you have in the pipeline and what influence do you see winning this award having on your writing and future career?

The biggest boost that winning this award has given me, is to my confidence. It’s made a massive difference and because I wasn’t plagued with as many of the usual insecurities, I finished my next novel in record time. It’s being published in October, is called The Room in the Attic and is set in an old Victorian asylum now used as a boarding school. The main characters are an ageing nurse, the child in her care, and two 13-year-old school pupils. I don’t want to jinx the book but these characters are probably my favourites of all those I’ve ever written. Fingers crossed that other people like them too. 

Thank you so much for the interview and for inviting me onto your blog Julie, it’s lovely to be here and I really enjoyed answering the questions. 

Good luck to all the RNA 2022 entrants!

Louise, thank you so much for answering my questions today, I have loved hearing about your experiences.

The 2022 Romantic Novel Awards are now open for entry until 30 September 2021.

Louise’s award-winning book, The House By The Sea, can be purchased here in all formats. Watch out for my review of the book coming soon.

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The new chilling and captivating novel from the bestselling author of Richard & Judy pick The Secrets Between Us.

When Edie’s mother-in-law, Anna DeLuca, dies, she is relieved. Edie blames Anna for the accident that destroyed her family. So, when her will lures Edie to Sicily and the long-abandoned Villa della Madonna del Mare, she sees through Anna’s games.

Suspecting Anna is meddling from beyond the grave to try to reunite her and her ex-husband Joe, Edie is determined to leave Italy as soon as possible. But before she can, the villa starts to shed its mysterious secrets.

Who are the girls beside Anna in her childhood photos, and why has the face of one of them been scratched out? Why does someone, or something, want them to leave the past untouched? The villa is a place where old ghosts feel at home, but does their legacy need to be laid to rest before Edie and Joe can move on…

Bestselling author Louise Douglas returns with a captivating, chilling and unforgettable tale of betrayal, jealousy and the mysteries hidden in every family history.

About the Author

Louise Douglas is the bestselling and brilliantly reviewed author of 6 novels including The Love of my Life and Missing You – a RNA award winner. The Secrets Between Us was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick. She lives in the West Country.

Connect with Louise:

Facebook: Louise Douglas Author

Twitter: @LouiseDouglas3

Instagram: @louisedouglas3

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Blog Tour: Dead Secret by Noelle Holten #BookReview

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Psycopaths can take root in the unlikeliest soil…

DC Maggie Jamieson crosses paths once again with Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood when a domestic violence survivor stumbles into her new refuge, unable to speak, desperate for help.

Then another case hits Maggie’s desk. A young man has been murdered, and a curious constellation of black dots has been inked onto his cheek.

That’s when DCI Hastings goes missing and Maggie uncovers a shocking connection that turns the case on its head.

Every family may hide secrets, but not every family buries them…

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the paperback release of Dead Secret, Book 4 in the maggie Jamieson thriller series by Noelle Holten. It is no secret that I LOVE this series ( you can read my previous reviews here, here and here.) My thanks to Sarah Hardy of Books on the Bright Side Publicity for giving me a place on the tour, and to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Maggie Jamieson has become one of my favourite characters in detective fiction over recent years, so I was very keen to get back to finding out what was going on in her world. This time, one of their own is caught up in some trouble, just to ramp up the drama.

This book has two distinct storylines to follow. Firstly, Lucy has found an unidentifiable beaten woman at the gates of her as-yet-to-be-opened refuge and feels obliged to take her in. The woman is scared and reluctant to reveal her story; as a survivor herself Lucy sympathises and doesn’t pressure her, but is curious about what she has gone through. Then there is the body of the young man, killed in the woods by a blow to the head. Whilst the investigation into this is going on, it becomes apparent that Maggie’s DCI and his family are missing and may be in terrible danger. Is this enough chaos to keep you entertained?

It definitely was for me as, along with the police, I tried to follow the threads of the different investigations they were juggling. There seemed to be so many loose ends to follow and red herrings to eliminate, and the small team were pulled in all directions trying to follow the different leads, none of which made much sense to begin with. Quite how the author managed to plot all this out and keep it straight I have no idea, in my imagination the plot looks like an impossibly tangled ball of wool with just a few loose ends trailing out which, eventually and with great skill, Noelle manages to gently pull until it all unravels neatly and beautifully into a straight line. So clever.

I was honestly flummoxed through most of the book. I even had a suspicion about someone close to Maggie that has always been one of my favourite characters and now I feel quite guilty about that! Although I did guess one tiny aspect of the outcome, the big reveal I had no idea about and it came as a complete shock, which only happens in the best type of thriller.

Alongside the mystery, we delve further into Maggie’s complex love life and her own tussles with her relationship status and how she feels about it. The portrayal of Maggie as a confused and vulnerable person in her love life contrasts sharply with her confident, maverick work persona and lends her a depth that makes her a more likeable and relatable character. She is someone I become more and more fond of as the books progress, and it parts of what makes me so eager to come back to them each time a new one is released.

All in all, this is an entertaining thriller that makes for compulsive reading. If you are already a fan of the Maggie Jamieson thrillers, this new one will not disappoint. If not, what are you waiting for? Dive one now, you won’t regret it.

Dead Secret is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour and visit some other fab blogs:

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About the Author

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Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of risk cases as well as working in a multi agency setting. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, attending as many book festivals as she can afford and sharing the booklove via her blog. Dead Inside – her debut novel with One More Chapter/Harper Collins UK is an international kindle bestseller and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.

Connect with Noelle:

Website: https://crimebookjunkie.co.uk

Facebook: Noelle Holten Author

Twitter: @nholten40

Instagram: @crimebookjunkie

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Book Review: No Place Like Home by Lynda Stacey #BookReview

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He knows where you are…

Sisters Molly and Beth Winters thought the remote clifftop house would be the perfect place to hide away after their mother’s brutal murder. They were wrong….

He wants revenge…

Because someone from the girls’ past has already found their safe house and he is watching and waiting in the shadows ready to make them pay.

He won’t stop until you’re dead…

Their new home should have been the place the sisters were safe.

But no place is safe forever.

I love supporting authors local to me, and Lynda Stacey is one of my favourites, so I just had to grab a copy of her new book. It is set on a stretch of the North Yorkshire coast that I am very familiar with, which is always a point of interest in a book. Add to this a cracker of a plot, and you have a winning psychological thriller.

The main protagonists are a pair of sisters, Molly and Beth, who have been through a very traumatic experience. Molly has taken them away to a deserted clifftop house where she hopes they will be safe from whoever it was who killed their mother. Beth is less keen on being cut off from the rest of the world, as you would as a teenager, and she isn’t afraid of letting Molly know exactly what she thinks. I thought the relationship between the two sisters was very honest and well drawn. I am sure there are many parents of teenage girls out there who are familiar with the door slamming and histrionics!

There are several different people in the girls lives upon whom suspicion is cast regarding the murder of their mother. Is this the same person who is watching them? What are their motives? What is their plan? There are plenty of red herrings in the plot to throw you off scent and I guarantee that your gaze will flit from one suspect to another over the course of the book, but I doubt you will guess what is really behind the whole thing. I certainly didn’t see the ending coming and was shocked by what unfolded in the final chapters.

I did really feel sorry for poor Molly, alone and trying to make ends meet whilst looking after an ungrateful sister, working through some complicated emotions and worrying about the strange things going on in the house. However, despite this, she does make some odd and unwise decisions. I’m not sure I’d be dragging myself to a remote house whilst there is a murderer on the loose!

I really enjoyed this book by Lynda Stacey. It took me no time at all to whizz through it, as I was thoroughly entertained by the plot and the characters. The only slight niggle I had was the amount of chin cupping that went on in the book, which I am not sure actually happens that regularly in real life. If this is the only fault you can find to point out in a book when you are looking for something to balance a review, it’s probably safe to say that it is a great read! I highly recommend adding it to you TBR this summer.

No Place Like Home is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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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.

Connect with Lynda:

Website: http://www.lyndastacey.co.uk

Facebook: Lynda Stacey Author

Twitter: @LyndaStacey

Instagram: @lynda.stacey

Blog Tour: A Cut For A Cut by Carol Wyer #BookReview

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DI Kate Young can’t trust anybody. Not even herself.

In the bleak countryside around Blithfield Reservoir, a serial murderer and rapist is leaving a trail of bloodshed. His savage calling card: the word ‘MINE’ carved into each of his victims.

DI Kate Young struggles to get the case moving—even when one of the team’s own investigators is found dead in a dumpster. But Kate is battling her own demons. Obsessed with exposing Superintendent John Dickson and convinced there’s a conspiracy running deep in the force, she no longer knows who to trust. Kate’s crusade has already cost her dearly. What will she lose next?

When her stepsister spills a long-buried secret, Kate realises she’s found the missing link—now she must prove it before the killer strikes again. With enemies closing in on all sides, she’s prepared to do whatever it takes to bring them down. But time is running out, and Kate’s past has pushed her to the very edge. Can she stop herself from falling?

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for A Cut For a Cut by Carol Wyer, the second book in the Detective Kate Young series. I loved the first book, An Eye For An Eye (you can read my review of that book here) so I was really looking forward to reading this one. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me on to the tour and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Having stormed my way through this book, I am in awe of the fact that Kate Young is still functioning. She has so many different things to juggle in her life that the mere thought of them all has left me exhausted, but it sure makes for exciting reading.

Having solved the strange and brutal murders in the first book of this series, Kate is now faced with a series of equally violent and disturbing rapes scattered across her patch. With nothing more to link the victims than a physical similarity, and clues thin on the ground, the investigation is an uphill struggle, and she can do without the added pressure being placed upon her by her superiors. Particularly as there seems to be some blocking of her investigation going on from within the service. Is someone trying to make her fail?

As well as giving us a new tense investigation to follow, Carol cleverly weaves in the unsolved mystery from the previous book dealing with possible police corruption. Those of us who have been left hanging at the end of book one eagerly pounced on the fresh threads of the investigation into some of Kate’s colleagues, started by Kate’s deceased journalist husband, Chris. We know the stakes are high, and probing too deep could cost Kate her job, and possibly more, so the tension throughout the book is on a knife edge. The internal battles she has with herself, and her wavering mental state, are also gripping to read, and make for an interesting twist on the detective crime novel. Fans of Line of Duty will love this series!

An additional storyline features Kate’s estranged step-sister returning from Australia with her delightful nephew in tow. The girls have a complicated history, and there are bridges to be built, so it makes for an interesting personal perspective on Kate and her past, and a further difficult incursion on her work to read of. There is nothing better in a detective story than to be able to see the investigators as fully rounded and complex people, rather than just tools of investigation, it really makes the reader invest in the person and their success in solving the mystery. I defy any of you to read the book and not become personally involved in Kate’s life, both professionally and personally.

Carol has pulled off the great achievement again of giving this book a satisfactory conclusion, but leaving the door open for the next book and the reader needing  to know what happens next. She’s a crafty minx, that one. I also loved the fact that the books are set around the areas of Staffordshire & Derbyshire I know well – my partner currently living in Alrewas and myself having previously lived in Ashbourne- it is always interesting to see someone else’s perspective on familiar places (I had never heard of the Horn Dance though, I need to check this out!)

A fully satisfying read in a great series, when can I get the next one, please?

A Cut For A Cut is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

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USA Today bestselling author and winner of The People’s Book Prize Award, Carol Wyer writes feel-good comedies and gripping crime fiction.

A move from humour to the ‘dark side’ in 2017, saw the introduction of popular DI Robyn Carter in LITTLE GIRL LOST and demonstrated that stand-up comedian Carol had found her true niche.

To date, her crime novels have sold over 750,000 copies and been translated for various overseas markets.

Carol has been interviewed on numerous radio shows discussing ”Irritable Male Syndrome’ and ‘Ageing Disgracefully’ and on BBC Breakfast television. She has had articles published in national magazines ‘Woman’s Weekly’, featured in ‘Take A Break’, ‘Choice’, ‘Yours’ and ‘Woman’s Own’ magazines and the Huffington Post.

She currently lives on a windy hill in rural Staffordshire with her husband Mr Grumpy… who is very, very grumpy.

When she is not plotting devious murders, she can be found performing her comedy routine, Smile While You Still Have Teeth.

Connect with Carol:

Website: https://www.carolwyer.co.uk/

Facebook: Carol E. Wyer

Twitter: @carolewyer

Instagram: @carolwyer

Pinterest: carolewyer

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Introducing The Romantic Novel Awards Interview Series

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For fans of romantic novels and industry insiders, The Romantic Novel Awards are the highlight of the year, where the best writing in the genre is celebrated and rewarded. The entry period for the 2022 awards is now open, closing on 30 September 2021.

To celebrate the awards, and in anticipation of next year’s ceremony, I am delighted to be bringing you a series of interviews with the winners of The Romantic Novel Awards 2021, where we will be discussing their writing, their careers, their views on what makes for an award-winning romance novel, and what winning this award meant to them.

The interviews will be running weekly every Thursday, beginning Thursday, 8 July and going right through until the beginning of September. The interviewees are:

The Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel Award Winner – Clare Pooley for The Authenticity ProjectBantam Press

The Libertà Books Shorter Romantic Novel Award – Kate Hardy for A Will, a Wish and a Wedding, Mills & Boon True Love

The Romantic Saga Award – Shirley Mann for Bobby’s War, Zaffre, Bonnier Books UK

The Romantic Comedy Novel Award – Carole Matthews for Sunny Days and Sea Breezes, Sphere, Little, Brown

The Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award – Louise Douglas forThe House by the Sea, Boldwood Books

The Fantasy Romantic Novel Award – Christina Courtenay for Echoes of the Runes, Headline Review

The Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award – Milly Johnson for My One True North, Simon & Schuster

The Goldsboro Books Historical Romantic Novel Award – Catherine Tinley for Rags-to-Riches Wife, Mills & Boon Historical

The Sapere Books Popular Romantic Fiction Award – Julie Houston for Sing Me a Secret, Aria, Head of Zeus

I’m really excited to share these interviews with you, I know you will enjoy reading them as much I have enjoyed doing them, so I hope you will join me and my guests over the coming weeks in this celebration of romantic fiction.

For more information about the awards, please visit the Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards page.

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Friday Night Drinks with… Brian Stewart

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Welcome to the end of another week and it’s time to unwind with drinks and chat with another fabulous literary guest. Tonight I am joined for Friday Night Drinks by author… Brian Stewart.

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Brian, thank you so much for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Friday evenings are usually beers. I subscribe to a beer club so I’ll be sampling one or two of them. (They’re almost all delicious, though I’m not a fan of the fruity sour ones.) I may sample the odd glass of rum later!

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?

There are so many options in Dundee these days for food, drink and entertainment. The Dundee Rep is always interesting and quirky, the DCA great for food, and the rum cocktails at the King of Islington are amazing! In Broughty Ferry itself, we love Sol Y Sombra for tapas, and the Fisherman’s Tavern has a great range of beers. The Fort Hotel’s beer garden has been a godsend during lockdown, especially on a sunny evening.

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Sounds like Dundee is the place to be! 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?

Stephen Fry for sure. He has such a breadth of knowledge and has made it cool for an arts/media person to be knowledgeable about science. Previously people in the media were totally ignorant about anything scientific and treated it as a jokey item at the end of the news. I’m sure he would be fantastic company, though I’d struggle to get a word in.

US politics both fascinates and appalls me – the Trump years were unbelievable – so I’d like Kamala Harris to be there so that she can explain both it and her place in the whole thing. Has she any real hope for the future of that country?

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

The most recent novel that I (self-)published was quite dark, involving fake news and online abuse. Around October 2020, when we were heading back into lockdown after a month or so of hope, I was quite depressed by the whole situation and also by the world I was writing about. 

I decided that the only thing to do was to write something a bit lighter! So I started a novel which is almost a comedy-crime caper story, and I’m firing on with that now. I’m a pantster when I write, so I’ve written several chapters and thrown loads of odd characters into the mix. I now need to clarify the crime so that I can get it all done. (The hero is writing a novel and has exactly the same issues!)

Life imitates art! Sounds like fun. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

After I self-published my first novel, friends told me they really liked it – and I mean, really liked it, even though they said they’d been prepared to lie and tell me they liked it. That was great. My daughter-in-law’s uncles have read my books and raved about them. Every positive review gives me a glow of pleasure. These are the best moments.

The biggest challenge has been trying to get a break in a very crowded field. I’ve seen other authors manage it but I’ve never quite done it myself. There is always hope though.

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!

I’d like recognition as being a good writer and someone who produces something a bit different, with a bit of an edge and serious social/political commentary underlying it. Almost all the reviews of my books acknowledge this, but I’d like it to be more widely known. And my sister reckons there’s a great TV series ready to be made out of my books!

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Getting this novel finished, getting the two manuscripts that are almost ready out there, then re-edit the new novel and get it out to agents and publishers (I’ll tell them it’s the first in a planned series, and if it gets picked up I’ll quickly do some planning!). Also excited about travel – see the next question!

I like your style (although your secret is out now, you do realise?). 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?

So many places we’ve been to and loved! We adore Canada (and Canadians); Australia was just so wondrous; China was really interesting. I’ve an ongoing love affair with the Algarve and Lanzarote – I could happily spend several weeks of the year in each of those places.

But if pushed I’d go for New Zealand. We were there in 2020, getting home just as COVID struck. The scenery is amazing – like a bigger version of Scotland – and the people are lovely. There’s so much space. Great beer, wine and food too! We know people who made the move there, and others who wished they had, and I can see why – despite that huge distance.

Bucket list? At present we have plans to do an Antarctic trip, and also a tour of Japan, though these are currently pending due to COVID. I still have a fantasy about driving an open-top Thunderbird down the Florida Keys or the Pacific Highway…

I can highly recommend driving the Overseas Highway in an open-top car, finishing with a strawberry daiquiri in Sloppy Joe’s – one of my favourite trips ever! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I generally like to know what’s going on! I could never do a trip where the next two nights’ accommodation wasn’t booked. And when we have a settled, agreed plan for something, I do freak out a little if the plan changes. I have an issue with spontaneity, I suppose, but I’m getting better (though my wife would probability disagree).

You and I sound like birds of a feather; I am a mega-planner and have to be in charge of all our holidays. It is part of the reason I used to plan holidays for other people! 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’?

This is just so difficult! Most of the books I’ve read have their own merits, and many are unique in so many ways. Some authors – Terry Pratchett and Jasper Fforde amongst them – have broken completely new ground and need to be read. Others who have written long series of novels have hit moments of absolute brilliance – Chris Brookmyre with Black Widow, Ian Rankin with In a House of Lies.

If pushed, I would say that His Bloody Project by Graeme MacRae Burnet was a must-read: different and just perfect.

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The year is 1869. A brutal triple murder in a remote community in the Scottish Highlands leads to the arrest of a young man by the name of Roderick Macrae. A memoir written by the accused makes it clear that he is guilty, but it falls to the country’s finest legal and psychiatric minds to uncover what drove him to commit such merciless acts of violence. Was he mad? Only the persuasive powers of his advocate stand between Macrae and the gallows.

I loved this book, it is a stunningly original piece of writing. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

I wish! Too much red wine kills me, especially if I don’t take on enough water, so I watch that – I only drink it with a meal, with maybe a final glass afterwards. Too much strong beer is bad. I can only handle one or two whiskies of an evening. Generally I’m OK with rum and coke (or gin and tonic) so if I’m in it for the long haul, I stick to that. 

The only hangover cure is time: have a slow, easy day afterwards with lots of fluid, lots of sugar, several naps, and a couple of beers in the evening before an early night.

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

If I was somewhere warm then a day on the beach would be ideal. But in Scotland it would be a walk or a cycle to enjoy the peace and the space. A good film in the evening is always nice.

Brian, thank you for chatting with me this evening, it has been great fun.

Brian’s latest book, The CalDat Investigation, is a techno thriller set in Scotland. It is available in ebook format and you can buy a copy here. The book formats part of a three book series, but they can be read in any order.

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Glasgow PI Grant Cairns is asked to investigate a company called Caledonia Data (CalDat) which is suspected of being a conduit for dark money and fake news. As he follows a lead, he finds himself linking with an old colleague, ex-DS Amanda Pitt, who has become obsessed with explaining a murder at a Glasgow hotel, where the murderer could not possibly have known the victim and who died at the scene.

The two of them find their investigations are linked, and that an online hate campaign against an MSP could have fatal consequences for her.

Meanwhile, Martin McGregor’s past life comes back to haunt him, and the world of online abuse becomes very personal for him.

Brian Stewart was born in Rutherglen (near Glasgow) and brought up in Grangemouth. He went to Glasgow University and Jordanhill Teacher Training College, and taught in Edinburgh before moving north to the Highlands. He lived and worked there for many years in education in various roles, including as an OU maths tutor. In 2017 he and his wife moved to Broughty Ferry to be nearer their families.

Having retired from education, he is focused on my writing.

He and his wife enjoy travelling. Highlights have included cycling in Alaska, swimming in the Blue Lagoon, and climbing Vesuvius. They’ve seen Uluru at dusk and at dawn, and swum in the Olympic pool under Sydney harbour bridge. Furthest north they’ve been was North Cape, west was the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island, and of course New Zealand took them furthest east and south. All of that background will seep into his writing in due course in some way or another.

When not writing, he tries to keep fit and to play the guitar and golf (not simultaneously). He is in Broughty Ferry Rotary and also supports his District in his role as Assistant Governor in District 1010. One of the great bonuses of being a Rotarian is the ability to visit other clubs – most recently in Hong Kong and in Blenheim (South Island). He keeps in contact with other writers through social media, writers’ events, and the Angus Writers’ Circle, whose members are a really supportive bunch.

He self-published Digital Circumstances and Digital Investigations. The next in the series, The Deaths on the Black Rock, was published by ThunderPoint on October 23rd 2018. For the follow-up he went back to self-publishing, and The CalDat Investigation came out in February 2021.

You can find out more about Brian and his writing via Twitter and Instagram.

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Book Review: Trust Me by T. M. Logan #BookReview

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TWO STRANGERS. A CHILD. AND A SPLIT SECOND CHOICE THAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING.

The chance encounter

Ellen was just trying to help a stranger. Giving a few minutes respite to a flustered young mother sitting opposite her on the train. A few minutes holding her baby while the woman makes an urgent call.

Five minutes pass.

Ten.

The twist

As the train pulls into a station, Ellen is stunned to see the woman step off the train and rush away down the platform, leaving her baby behind.

Then she discovers a note in the baby’s bag, three desperate lines scrawled hastily on a piece of paper:

Please protect Mia
Don’t trust the police
Don’t trust anyone

WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

Anyone who has read any of T. M. Logan’s previous novels will know what to expect when they come to his latest book, which is the unexpected. King of the unreliable narrator, prince of the unexpected twist, the only thing you can be sure of in a T. M Logan is that you can’t be sure of anything until you have turned the final page.

So, the title of his latest book, Trust Me, is very apt, because you never know who you can trust in this story including the main protagonist, Ellen. Everyone has hidden motives and deep-seated desires driving them on in certain directions, not all of which are obvious from the beginning. Good luck weaving your way through the maze of this novel.

The book starts off with a fascinating premise right from the beginning. A distraught mother asks you to hold her baby for a moment while she takes a call. Then she never comes back. What would you do? Would you do what Ellen does? Chances are you wouldn’t, because Ellen isn’t like you or I, and she has her own particular set of circumstances that are driving her on. The situation she finds herself in with the baby is the culmination of a perfect storm in her life, and puts her in a dangerous situation that she could never have anticipated. There were times when I was shouting at the book, open-mouthed at the decisions she was making, but still understanding why she did it. The author has created a character that is out of the ordinary but very sympathetic at the same time, I really enjoyed reading her.

Like all of this authors books, there is intrigue and secrets and double-dealing. What I found different from his previous books was the pacing. This book is absolutely full of action from start to finish which was very refreshing and made me turn the pages at double speed. Don’t get me wrong, I have thoroughly enjoyed the more internal, personality-based thrills of his previous stories, but it was really great to see something different from this writer, showcasing his versatility. Definitely not the case of resting on his laurels and repeating what had proved successful before. I love authors who are willing to take risks and chances in their work.

This is a thriller with a great premise and interesting protagonist which really delivers on its promise and kept me glued to it from start to finish. Perfect for devouring in a single sitting on a sunny afternoon, on a sun lounger or garden chair, it will whisk you away from the every day and take you on a rollercoaster ride.

A really great read that might be my favourite yet from T. M. Logan and has definitely cemented him as one of my favourite psychological thriller writers.

Trust Me is out now in hardback, audiobook and ebook formats and will be published in paperback on 5 August and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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TM Logan’s thrillers have sold more than a million copies in the UK and are published in 19 countries around the world including the USA, South Korea, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Romania, Greece and the Netherlands.

Tim’s brand new thriller, TRUST ME, begins when a woman is asked to look after a stranger’s baby on a train – only for the mother to vanish. When she looks in the baby’s things, she finds a note that says: ‘Please protect Mia. Don’t trust the police. Don’t trust anyone.’ TRUST ME is out now in hardback, e-book and audiobook.

His previous novel, THE CATCH, is about a father who becomes convinced his daughter is about to marry a man with terrible secrets. Terrified that his cherished only child is about to marry a man who is not what he seems, Ed sets out to uncover the truth – before it’s too late…

His thriller THE HOLIDAY was a Richard & Judy Book Club pick and spent ten weeks in the Sunday Times paperback top ten. THE HOLIDAY takes place over a sweltering summer week in the south of France, as four best friends see the holiday of a lifetime turn into a nightmare of suspicion, betrayal and murder. Tim’s debut LIES was one of Amazon’s biggest selling e-books of 2017 and was followed by 29 SECONDS in 2018.

Tim was a national newspaper journalist before turning to novel-writing full time. He 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

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Blog Tour: A Racing Murder by Frances Evesham #BookReview

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Delighted to be taking my turn on the tour today for A Racing Murder by Frances Evesham. 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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A winning horse. A fierce rivalry. A sudden death. 

Belinda Sandford thrills to the cheers of the crowd as her beautiful grey racehorse, ‘Butterfly Charm’, thunders past the finishing post first at Wincanton Racecourse. She feels like the luckiest girl in the world.

But joy soon turns to despair as a stewards’ enquiry overturns the result and awards the race to her long-time rival, Alexandra Deacon.

When Alex is found dead in suspicious circumstances, a host of accusing eyes turn to Belinda and her distraught mother begs Adam Hennessy, her neighbour, retired police officer and publican, to help clear her daughter’s name.

As Adam, and local hotelier Imogen Bishop, dig deep into the murky and powerful undercurrents of the horse racing world, they lay bare the lives and loves of local jockeys, grooms, trainers and owners. 

They soon uncover a web of secrets hidden within the spectacular Somerset countryside as they strive to find the killer in time to prevent more murders.

I absolutely love a mystery set in the world of racing – Dick Francis is one of my all-time favourite authors – so I jumped at the chance to read and review this book, despite the fact that I had not read the first Ham Hill mystery book. The fact that I was new to the series did not matter at all, this book works perfectly well as a standalone, but it did make me want to go back and read A Village Murder, which is the first book.

The book is set in a quaint, rural village in Somerset, as you would expect for a cosy, murder mystery, with picturesque houses, a lovely hotel and snug pub… and all the usual bickering, rivalry and intrigue that seems to abound in such backwaters. I live in a small village in Yorkshire and we never have any murders, but the rest of the plot rings very true as to the goings on in a rural setting. They are always gossip central, and no one can ever keep anything quiet, so the idea that a group of locals could solve a murder through wagging tongues and their personal contacts I find entirely feasible!

I really love the gang of characters that the author has created here, especially Imogen and Adam and the friendship between them. They are very authentic, well-rounded and likeable characters, and I love the way Frances has included intrigue and tension in their personal lives, as well as the murder mystery, to push the plot along. In fact, it is the characterisation in particular that has made me want to go back and read the first book in the series and find out more of their back stories, although there is enough information contained in this book to enable the reader to enjoy this storyline without making that necessary.

The murder plot is gentle, not especially gory, but entertaining and diverting and kept me guessing throughout. I loved the peek inside the world of racing and thought Frances had captured that world very well compared to other books I have read written by people actually involved in it (as I said, I am a fan of the genre, and I come from a town where horse-racing is one of our biggest industries). Frances’s writing is very engaging and extremely easy to read, so the pages just slip by. This is a book you can easily devour in one indulgent afternoon without any strain, and you will probably want to as you race to find out whodunnit.

A great book for fans of M.C. Beaton, Betty Rowlands and other cosy mystery writers. Lovely setting, attractive characters and an enticing and gripping plot, what more can you ask for from a book? Thoroughly enjoyable.

A Racing Murder is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Please do visit some of the other blogs taking part in the tour for this book:

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About the Author

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Frances Evesham is the bestelling author of the hugely successful Exham-on-Sea murder mysteries set in her home county of Somerset, and the Ham-Hill cosy crime series set in South Somerset.

Connect with Frances:

Facebook: Frances Evesham Writer

Twitter: @FrancesEvesham

Instagram: @francesevesham

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The Fiction Cafe Book Club Reading Challenge 2021: The Nesting by C. J. Cooke #BookReview

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A house stands alone in the woods.

Deep in the forests of Norway, Lexi finds a fresh start with Tom and his two young daughters, working as their new nanny.

The darkness creeps closer.

But Lexi is telling lies, and she’s not the only one. This family has a history – and this place has a past. Something was destroyed to build this house, and in the dark, dark woods, a menacing presence lurks.

Lexi must protect the children in her care – but protect them from what?

Challenge number 9 was ‘Read a book that is on the TBR of a Fiction Cafe Member.’ As The Nesting by C. J. Cooke was on the TBR of Charlene Mattson, and also on my NetGalley shelf, it seemed like the obvious choice. Two birds, one stone and all that. I actually listened to the audiobook, narrated by Aysha Kala, which is a great option if you are considering it. The narration was excellent.

This book is a really interesting mix of gothic fairytale, environmental parable and exploration of depression. It is dreamy and ethereal and dark and scary, and surreal all at the same time. The threads are so tightly and cleverly woven together by the author that, even by the end, you won’t be quite sure what is real and what has been a dream.

The book is told through the voices of a number of people. Troubled Lexi, running from her demons and her problems, finds herself hiding out in Norway, pretending to be someone she isn’t in an effort to find a life better than the one she has been living. Tom, battling the forces of nature in a remote Norwegian forest to balance building his beloved wife’s dream holiday home with protecting this unspoilt wilderness. And Aurelia, feeling isolated in the aftermath of her second daughter’s birth and haunted by the ghosts of the Norwegian forest. Each of them experiences supernatural events in the dark, Norwegian forest and the remote fjord, but which are real, and which are products of troubled minds.

The dive into Norwegian folklore and stories was the part that most drew me to this book, because anything along those lines fascinates me. I loved the way that the author wove them in to the narrative of the novel, and used them to make commentary on the impact of human beings on the planet and its non-human inhabitants without being preachy. It was also a clever way to explore why we are drawn to stories of darkness to explain things that we are afraid to confront inside ourselves.

Aside from these themes, this is just a cracking good story that is a compelling read. What is actually happening out there in the Norwegian forest? What is Aurelia really experiencing, and what is just a result of the problems that can afflict women after child birth that can go unnoticed and unrecognised by those around her? Is Lexi’s past going to come back to haunt her? Is Tom everything he seems to be? I was eager every time to get back to listening to the book, and it made some mundane chores seem a lot less arduous, I was so engrossed.

The Nesting is a great book for anyone who loves the gothic and the mythic, but also for anyone interested in the human brain and the things it can do for us when we are thrown off balance. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and will definitely be recommending it to a few friends.

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

About the Author

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C J Cooke (Carolyn Jess-Cooke) lives in Glasgow with her husband and four children. C J Cooke’s works have been published in 23 languages and have won many awards. She holds a PhD in Literature from the Queen’s University of Belfast and is currently Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, where she researches creative writing interventions for mental health. Two of her books are currently optioned for film.

Connect with Carolyn:

Website: https://carolynjesscooke.com/

Facebook: C J Cooke Books

Twitter: @CJessCooke

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Book Review: The Castaways by Lucy Clarke #BookReview

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A SECRET BEACH.
A HOLIDAY OF A LIFETIME.
WISH YOU WERE HERE?

THINK AGAIN…

It should be like any other holiday.

Beautiful beaches.
Golden sunsets.
Nothing for miles.

You’ll never want to leave.
Until you can’t…

This is one of those books you want to pick up when you have a delicious stretch of uninterrupted reading time ahead and you want to really lose yourself in a book that is going to transport you to another time and place and keep you glued to the page. Don’t pick this book up if you only have little snippets of reading time because, believe me, once you get into this book, you won’t want to put it down.

The book is told from the alternating viewpoints of two sisters, Lori and Erin, and two timelines. Lori, in the then, and Erin, in the now. The main driver of the book is the mystery of what happened to the plane and the people who were on it, but it also explores family dynamics, survivor guilt and what priorities in life drive us to do the things we do. This elevates it beyond a simple thriller to a much more interesting and thought-provoking read.

The author’s imagining of how it would be to be involved in a terrifying accident that leaves you stranded in a remote place with people who are strangers, the descent into barbarism and self-interest, how suspicion and paranoia develop, and what the removal of the comforts and trappings of society reveals about our basest needs and desires, feels real and frightening. You will find yourself stranded on that isolated island with them, going through all the things they are feeling. It really is an immersive read in this respect and it felt like the author had taken herself to that place while she was writing, it came across as authentic (as far as someone who has never been marooned can judge anyway!)

On the other hand, being inside the mind of family, back home in safety and a ‘normal’ life is not much more comfortable. The grappling with not knowing what has happened to your loved one, feelings of guilt at not having been with them and constantly tortured by the last things you said to each other before they disappeared. How the lives of survivors can be destroyed as much as the missing, despite the fact that they seems to be carrying on as normal on the surface. It is a fascinating delve into how the ripples of disasters spread far beyond the people involved and echo down the years, especially where there are no answers as to what happened.

The way the author slowly reveals the details of what happened to both the reader and the family members left behind keeps the tension elevated and the reader eager to turn the pages. The book did not end at all how I expected, and I was fully satisfied with how the book panned out by the time I closed the back cover on the story. I feel like the author has crafted a very taut, well-plotted, fully imagined thriller with characters that remain true to themselves to the end. An extremely rewarding read.

The Castaways is out now in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats and will be published in paperback on 8 July. You can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Lucy Clarke is the bestselling author of six psychological thrillers – THE SEA SISTERS, A SINGLE BREATH, THE BLUE/NO ESCAPE, LAST SEEN, YOU LET ME IN and THE CASTAWAYS. Her debut novel was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick, and her books have been sold in over 20 territories.

Lucy is a passionate traveller and fresh air enthusiast. She’s married to a professional windsurfer and, together with their two young children, they spend their winters travelling and their summers at home on the south coast of England. Lucy writes from a beach hut.

Connect with Lucy:

Website: http://www.lucy-clarke.com/

Facebook: Lucy Clarke Author

Twitter: @lucyclarkebooks

Instagram: @lucyclarke_author

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