Joseph Barnaby by Susan Roebuck #BookReview #BlogTour (@sueroebuck) @crookedcatbooks @RaRaResources #Giveaway #JosephBarnaby #Blogtober18

Joseph Barnaby

Taking my turn on the blog tour today for Joseph Barnaby by Susan Roebuck. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for having me on the tour and to the author for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially. Make sure you scroll down for a great giveaway after the review.

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“Stand by your beliefs – even if it means going to the end of the Earth

By standing up for his principles to save the life of a prize racehorse, farrier Joseph Barnaby loses everything. Now, a personal vendetta has become too deep to fight and he escapes to the island of Madeira where he finds work on a small farm at the foot of a cliff, only accessible by boat. The balmy climate and never-ending supply of exotic fruit, vegetables and honey make it sound like paradise but, for Joseph, it’s the ideal place to hide from the world. Can the inhabitants of Quinta da Esperança, who have more grit in them than the pebbled beach that fronts the property, help Joseph find his self-worth again? And can he escape the danger that draws ever nearer?”

This is a very interesting book that confounded my expectations in a number of ways and made me feel very different than I anticipated.

It is quite a difficult book to judge by its cover and blurb, as neither really give a huge amount away in terms of the plot or feel of the book so I went in to it with a fairly open mind. Even a few chapters in, I was finding it hard to gauge exactly what kind of book it was, as it started off when way, then jumped to a different perspective and then worked its way back through the plot, gradually revealing what had happened, so it worked very well as a mystery from that perspective and the author did a wonderful job of building the tension throughout as we are drip fed details about Joseph’s story.

Equally, the second strand of the story is a romance, and watching things develop between Sofia and Joseph was a delightful and welcome contrast to the tension of the thriller aspect of the book. I thought the dimension added by Sofia’s disability and the fact that Joseph is an outsider and how they come to understand one another was deftly and beautifully done and really enhanced the story.

All the characters were fascinating and beautifully drawn, particularly Sofia, whom I was really drawn to, and the mysterious Lua. Great characterisation  is always the make or break for me in a book – you can have the best plot in the world but if the characters aren’t alive, it will leave me cold – and Susan absolutely nails this aspect of the writing. In addition, I loved the setting which was the island of Madeira, but not the touristy parts that many people will recognise, but a quiet town and a remote faja where a family are ekeing out a living on a small farm. I thought this gave a enticing insight into an aspect of Madeiran life about which I knew nothing and would probably have never become aware of otherwise. I love it when a book, along with giving me a great story, teaches me something new. This is the way books enrich your life.

One thing I did find curious about my experience of reading this book was how it seemed oddly set out of time. To begin with, I could not place the setting at all, as there did not seem to be anything to anchor it in a particular period. I did start off thinking it was a historical novel, until certain things happened later which gave it a periodical context, and it was oddly disorienting. I am not sure if this was deliberate by the author to illustrate how backward and unchanging life on the faja was, but I’ve never read anything quite like it, it gave the book a slightly surreal feel, although this was just my perception, of course.

I really enjoyed this book, it gave me a lot more than I expected and I came away feeling enriched by the experience of reading it, which is all one can ask.

Joseph Barnaby is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Giveaway

1st prize an Amazon book token (£10) ,

2nd prize – 2 x signed paperbacks of Joseph Barnaby

3rd prize – 2 x ebooks of Joseph Barnaby

To enter, click on the Rafflecopter link below:

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

To follow the rest of the tour, check out the dates here:

Joseph Barnaby Full Tour Banner

About the Author

I was born and educated in the UK (I am British!) but now live in Portugal. I’ve been an English teacher for many years with the British Council and also the Portuguese civil service where I developed e-learning courses.

My first love is, of course, my husband, my second writing, and my third painting. And now I have time to be able to indulge in all three.

My debut novel, “Perfect Score” was published by Mundania Press on Sept 21, 2010 and the paperback launched on May 11 2011. It was a finalist in the 2012 EPIC e-book Awards in the Mainstream Category.

My second novel is a dark thriller/fantasy called “Hewhay Hall”. It won an EPPIE award in the 2013 EPIC (Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition) e-Book Awards in the Horror Category.

Next comes “Rising Tide”, published in 2015. Set in Portugal, published by Mundania Press. It is set in a tiny fishing village that the world, and most of Portugal, has forgotten. Read about the wonders of the ocean and see if Piper from Norfolk UK and Leo from Alaska, USA, can find what they’re searching for in the little village of Luminosa.

“Forest Dancer” was published on 20th February 2018 by CrookedCat Books. This is novel number 2 set in Portugal but this time in the forests outside Lisbon, Portugal. Instead of the sea (as in Rising Tide), now find out about the wonders of the forest and whether classical ballerina, Flora, can find what she’s searching for in the small village of Aurora.

On 5th October 2018 CrookedCat Books published my newest novel, “Joseph Barnaby”, another romance/suspense which is set on the island of Madeira.

Connect with Susan:

Website: http://www.susanroebuck.com/p/main-page.html

Facebook: Susan Roebuck Author

Twitter: @sueroebuck

The Barefoot Road by Vivienne Vermes #BookReview #BlogTour (@VivienneVermes) @matadorbooks @RaRaResources #TheBarefootRoad #RachelsRandomResources

The Barefoot Road

This seems to have taken ages to come round but it is finally my turn on the blog tour for The Barefoot Road by Vivienne Vermes. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the tour and to the author and the publisher for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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‘A young woman is found, emaciated and unconscious, in the mountains surrounding a village in Transylvania. When the villagers discover that she is of the same ethnic group that was violently driven out of the region many years before, they are reminded of their part in the bloodshed, and old wounds are reopen.

An uneasy peace is maintained until a young married man falls in love with her, and tensions rise within the community. 

When a child disappears in mysterious circumstances, the tension mounts in to hysteria.

While the story unfolds in the microcosm of a small village in the past, its themes are as universal as they are timeless: the fear of the outside, the supernatural versus the rational, and the force of desire between man and woman.”

I really love the cover of this book. The naivete style of the drawing completely complements the story of a small, remote village deep in Transylvania with unworldly and unsophisticated people trying to address issues that they cannot name or begin to know how to deal with.

This is an adult fairy tale in the very best tradition of the originals, which were written as morality tales for children, but told in a modern style (although set in an earlier time) and dealing with very modern and relevant issues for our current society.

The book’s prologue tells of a previous violent purge by the village of an unwelcome minority group living on its outskirts. A generation later, this bloody past comes back to haunt them when a young woman of the same race comes back to the village and stirs up all their ancient fears and prejudices until history threatens to repeat itself.

This book is deeply affecting in its darkness and violence because, despite it being set in a remote place and time, the parallels with current tensions in our own society cannot be ignored and serve to stoke up the fear of the reader as they contemplate how the prejudice, ignorance and fear of the villagers, confronted by an alien in their midst, turn them ugly and their mob mentality is stoked by the rhetoric of a bigoted leader intent on ousting the people in the village with more understanding and liberal views who oppose him. Anything sounding worryingly familiar here?

This book is not a comfortable read. It is quite graphic and earthy in its portrayal of life in this small village and does not flinch from descriptions of sex and violence. However, this is not done gratuitously but is necessary in the context of the story to understand how and why these people act and react as they do. Life here is hard and poor and on the extremes of society, so the actions and behaviour and beliefs of the people are similarly extreme. There is no middle ground for them, just black and white, good and evil, known and unknown and their lives are governed in equal parts by religion and superstition. Their society is rigidly structured and the structure maintained by social standing and peer pressure and societal judgement and anything that threatens this order is regarded with suspicion and dealt with harshly. It is a gut instinct of pack survival – human beings at their basic, primeval reaction to perceived danger. The reader wonders how much more civilised we have actually become ourselves when we feel threatened.

Despite this, the book is also beautiful in the way it is constructed. The writing is poetic, even in its brutality, and the author really brings to life the people and the settings and the whole story in time and place. The prose is alive with description of landscape and flora and fauna to the point that you can feel the oppressive mountains, breathe the thick vegetative smells, hear the running river and the setting completely mirrors the people and the story being told. It is expertly done and it draws you in to the story and holds you tight, even in the throws of the most uncomfortable, uncompromising scenes. I was in the writer’s thrall from beginning to end and left unsettled and stirred and moved, saddened and enraged and altered by the experience of reading. I cannot say I loved the book, because it was too uncomfortable a reading experience for that, but it is a book I am glad I read and is one I won’t forget in a hurry.

The Barefoot Road is out now and you can order a copy here.

The details of the rest of the tour can be found below:

The Barefoot Road Full Tour Banner

About the Author

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Vivienne Vermes is a writer and actress of Irish and Hungarian descent who divides her time between Paris and London. She has published four collections of poetry: Sand Woman, Metamorphoses, Passages and When the World Stops Spinning, and has performed her work in festivals throughout Europe. She is winner of the Piccadilly Poets’ award, the Mail on Sunday’s Best Opening of a Novel competition, as well as Flash 500s prize for short prose and the Paragram national competition for best poem and “petite prose”. She has taught creative writing in universities in Transylvania, and runs a writers’ workshop in Paris. 

As an actress, she has played roles in a number of French films, including Les Trois Frères, Le Retour and in Les Profs 2 in which she portrayed Queen Elizabeth II.  Her voice also warns passengers on the Paris metro to “Mind the gap”.

The Barefoot Road is her first novel.

Connect with Vivienne:

Twitter: @VivienneVermes

The Craft Room by Dave Holwill #BookReview #BlogTour (@daveholwill) @RaRaResources #TheCraftRoom

The Craft Room

Delighted to be one of the blogs kicking off the tour for this original new book by Dave Holwill, The Craft Room. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachels’ Random Resources for my spot on the tour and to the author for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Sylvia Blackwell is tired. Her grandchildren are being kept away from her, and the expected inheritance that might finally get her middle-aged son to move out has failed to materialise – thanks to her mother’s cat. It is becoming increasingly difficult to remain composed. On a romantic clifftop walk for her 47th Wedding Anniversary, an unexpected opportunity leads to a momentous decision that will irretrievably change the course of her life. The Craft Room is a darkly comic tale of sex, crepe paper, murder and knitting in a sleepy Devon town, with a ‘truly original’ premise and genuinely jaw-dropping moments. What would you do if unexpectedly freed from bondage you never knew you were in? How would your children cope? How far would you go to protect them from an uncomfortable truth? You can only push a grandmother so far…”

This book is a real breath of fresh air. It has a totally original premise which is carried through with black humour and an entertaining, conversational voice that is a real joy to read.

The book centres around the character of Sylvia, a 66-year-old grandmother who is stuck in a rut without even realising it. Her son, Robert, divorced from his unsuitable (in the eyes of his mother at least) wife, Alexa is proving a drain on his parents’ finances, despite being in his forties and Sylvia is banking on an inheritance from her dying mother to help them out. And her husband has moved his golf clubs into the spare bedroom recently vacated by their son. She’s not happy.

Then her mother dies, and things get much, much worse.

This book reminded me a lot of Nigel William’s The Wimbledon Poisoner with its darkly comic tone and premise of a seemly mild-mannered middle-class suburban anti-hero being pushed to breaking point by the strains of social etiquette in the modern world. A person who might be familiar to you as a neighbour, family member or even yourself turning out to be a quiet psychopath.

The situations that Sylvie finds herself in get more and more shocking as the book progresses and you will find yourself gasping out loud at the audacity of the predicaments the author puts her in and the courses of action he has her taking. This book’s humour pulls no punches and will appeal to readers who can see the humour in the really dark corners of the human soul. Anyone who enjoys the comedy of the likes of The League of Gentleman will be in sync with this book. Those of a squeamish or prudish nature should probably give it a pass, but they will be missing a treat of a read.

Despite her actions, you can’t help but have a certain amount of sympathy for Sylvia, as she is surrounded by some truly appalling characters early on in the book. However, this sympathy decreases in direct contrast to the increased craziness of her behaviour as she begins to get a taste for her new found freedom. The most sympathetic character of all has to be her hapless son, Robert, bullied and hen-pecked by all around him and never have made a good decision in his life, will he find his backbone by the end of the book? You’ll have to read it to find out.

The icing on the top of the comedy cake are the bumbling detective duo who are tasked with investigating certain nefarious goings on in a quiet corner of Devon where nothing more exciting happens than a old lady forgetting where she has put her jewellery. Suddenly up against a spate of gruesome events, one wonders if they are up to the challenge, or if they should just stick to honing their biscuit dunking skills.

I really, really loved this book. It completely appealed to my macabre sense of humour and my delight in any book that goes off at a bit of a tangent from well-worn literary tropes. There were a lot of little inside jokes and references which were fun to spot and the whole thing just made me feel fizzy with pleasure. Great stuff.

The Craft Room is out now and you can buy a copy here.

There are more great reviews to come on the tour, so make sure you check out the blog below on the relevant dates:

The Craft Room Full Banner

About the Author

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Dave Holwill was born in Guildford in 1977 and quickly decided that he preferred the Westcountry – moving to Devon in 1983 (with some input from his parents).
After an expensive (and possibly wasted) education there, he has worked variously as a postman, a framer, and a print department manager (though if you are the only person in the department then can you really be called a manager?) all whilst continuing to play in every kind of band imaginable on most instruments you can think of.
His debut novel, Weekend Rockstars, was published in August 2016 to favourable reviews and his second The Craft Room (a very dark comedy concerning death through misadventure) came out in August 2017. He is currently in editing hell with the third.

Connect with Dave:

Website: http://davedoesntwriteanythingever.blogspot.com

Facebook: Dave Holwill

Twitter: @daveholwill

Instagram: @dave_holwill

Goodreads: Dave Holwill

Bone Deep by Sandra Ireland #BookReview #BlogTour (@22_ireland) @PolygonBooks @LoveBooksGroup #BoneDeep #LoveBooksGroupTours

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“What happens when you fall in love with the wrong person? The consequences threaten to be far-reaching and potentially deadly.

Bone Deep is a contemporary novel of sibling rivalry, love, betrayal and murder. This is the story of two women: Mac, who is bent on keeping the secrets of the past from her only son, and the enigmatic Lucie, whose past is something of a closed book. Their story is underpinned by the creaking presence of an abandoned water mill, and haunted by the local legend of two long-dead sisters, themselves rivals in love, and ready to point an accusing finger from the pages of history.”

Delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for Bone Deep by Sandra Ireland. My thanks to Kelly Lacey of Love Books Group for the invitation and to the publisher for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This book is very different to anything I have read recently. A contemporary novel with a Gothic slant that is a slow burn but utterly compelling and powerful. It really took me buy surprise.

It is told in alternating chapters in the first person voices of Mac and Lucie, which gives us two very different perspectives on the narrative. Mac is a retired history lecturer writing her first fiction book based on local folk lore, who becomes increasingly obsessed with the local legend of two sisters and their fraught relationship. Lucie is a woman running from her own family problems who arrives on Mac’s doorstep hiding a secret of her own, to take up the position as Mac’s Girl Friday. As time passes, their relationship becomes increasingly fractured as the past and present narratives begin to take parallel turns, secrets are revealed and Mac’s mental health seems to unravel alarmingly.

This book has a very small cast of characters, a tight plot, limited scope of place and a slow pace, but it is completely engrossing. I was totally enthralled from page one and read the whole thing in a single day, as I simply could not put it down, and this is purely due to the consumate skill of the writing.

The characters are brilliantly drawn, and their journey through the book and the way they develop from start to finish, starting off seemingly fairly ordinary but gradually revealing their secrets over the course of the book in a way that paints them in a totally different light to us by the end, is masterful. I started off with one set of opinions and had a totally different viewpoint by the end.

The plot is very cleverly drawn, interwoven with scenes from Mac’s book and the story of the two sisters, which may or may not be based on historical fact; the lines between fact and fiction, truth and lies, past and present become increasingly blurred until neither the reader nor the characters are entirely sure what real and what is imaginary and we are left trying to work out what really happened right until the end of the book. It makes the book seem to exist in a slightly other-worldly, dreamlike state which I really loved.

This impression is compounded by the setting which is so atmospheric and wonderfully captured in the author’s descriptions. The decrepit old mill, which starts up at odd times of day and night, the ramshackle Miller’s Cottage with its winding corridors and strange noises and Mac’s disorganised and chilly house which she is reduced to closing off in large part to preserve heat. It all adds up the menacing and increasingly creepy atmosphere and its remoteness increases the feeling of being cut off from reality. The setting is oppressive and this feeling ramps up as the events in the book grow increasingly dangerous. It was perfectly portrayed and an integral part of my enjoyment of the book.

The author’s use of language is beautiful. I revelled in phrases such as ‘The pond, blackberry-dark, glints juicily under the full moon.’ The book is studded with gorgeous and evocative language that I had to stop and just savour for a moment before moving on. However, the book also flows brilliantly, drawing you form chapter to chapter. It was a joy to read.

I loved this book. It is totally unique, original and gripping. It got under my skin and had me thinking about it for a long time afterwards. It really made an impression on me, which is the most one can ask for from a good read.

Bone Deep is out now and you can purchase a copy here.

If you would like to read other bloggers’ opinions of the book, you can follow the tour here:

Bone Deep

About the Author

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Sandra Ireland was born in England but lived for many years in Éire before returning ‘home’ to Scotland in the 1990s. She is the author of Beneath the Skin, a psychological thriller, which was shortlisted for a Saltire Literary Award in 2017. Her second novel, Bone Deep, a modern Gothic tale of sibling rivalry, inspired by an old Scottish folktale, will be published in the UK by Polygon in July, and in the US (Gallery) and Germany (Penguin) next year. She also writes poetry, often inspired by the seascapes of Scotland’s rugged east coast. Her poems have been widely published in anthologies, including Seagate III (Dundee), and New Writing Scotland. She won the Dorothy Dunbar Trophy for Poetry, awarded by the Scottish Association of Writers, in 2017 and 2018. Sandra is Secretary of Angus Writers’ Circle and one third of the Chasing Time Team, which runs writing retreats in a gloriously gothic rural setting.

Connect with Sandra:

Website: https://sandrairelandauthor.com

Facebook: Sandra Ireland Author

Twitter: @22_ireland

Instagram: @sireland22

Goodreads: Sandra Ireland

Ask Me To Dance by Sylvia Colley #BookReview #BlogTour (@SylviaColley) @MuswellPress @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours #AskMeToDance

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“Rose Gregory has suffered a devastating blow, a double bereavement from which months later she is still reeling. Sanctuary and rest are prescribed by her doctor. But when she arrives at her refuge, a dank and decaying Monastery, she finds it is not the haven promised. Despite the veneer of calm contemplation, the Monastery turns out to be a hotbed of intrigue and disharmony. Rose witnesses bullying and cruelty and ultimately in defence of the vulnerable turns to violence herself.

Sylvia Colley’s extraordinary understanding of a woman s struggle to deal with grief, the denial, the anger, the loneliness, is described without sentimentality. A beautifully written and moving story.”

Today I am delighted to be the first stop on the blog tour for Sylvia Colley’s beautiful new novel Ask Me To Dance. Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

Where to start describing this extraordinary book? It is a book that is impossible to categorise and very different to anything I have read recently, neither of which are negatives. I was drawn into the book from the beginning, held throughout and left thinking about it long after I finished it.

The protagonist is Rose, a woman in the grip of a grief that has driven her to the edge of madness. We meet her as she arrives at a monastery where her doctor has sent her to rest and recuperate but it soon becomes apparent that this may not be the right place for her to do that. The monastery is down at heel, on the verge of closing and populated by only a small group of Brothers who are struggling with their own internal and rather petty tensions which in turn infect Rose and disrupt her state of mind further.

The author does a fantastic job of describing the crumbling monastery and its wild and neglected grounds, complete with a graveyard full of deceased Brothers, and it gives the whole book an air of despair and, for me, a slight creeping menace which was the perfect backdrop to the mental disintegration within Rose and the decay of the relationships between the remaining Brothers. Rose has gone there for peace and seclusion and possibly spiritual guidance, but it is clear than none of these things are on offer for her here where the Brothers draw her into their issues rather than helping her with hers.

We learn about the events leading to Rose’s breakdown gradually through the course of the book, at the same time as more information is fed to us slowly about the different Brothers and the tensions between us. This approach for me, resulted in a slow build of tension and oppression with minimal actual action until the final explosive events – a very clever reflection of how the tensions and despair and feeling of unfairness and futility have built up in Rose. The book is written mostly in the first person through Rose’s eyes, which let us get further into her mindset and feel what she is feeling and seeing. I was infected with it and the feelings have lingered in me long after I closed the book.

If I had a small criticism, it was that I was left unsure of the relevance of one of the characters introduced, whom I had thought would play a more vital role but it is a small niggle in an otherwise startling book.

This book is clever, thought-provoking, evocative, surprising, difficult, menacing and insidious. It defies the trend towards shoehorning books into a genre, instead leaping outside the box. It is not a comfortable read but it is a true and worthwhile one.

Ask Me To Dance is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Thank you to Anne Cater and the publisher for supplying my copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Follow the rest of the tour and find out what other bloggers think of the novel:

Ask Me To Dance Blog Tour Poster

About the Author

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Sylvia Colley was born in Romsey, Hampshire. She became a teacher and spent many years as Head of English at the Purcell School in North London.
She has published a book of poetry, It’s Not What I Wanted Though, and a novel, Lights on Dark Water. Her work has been read on BBC Radio 4. She lives in Pinner, Middlesex.

Follow Sylvia on social media:

Twitter: @SylviaColley

Website: http://www.sylviacolley.co.uk

What We Did by Christobel Kent #BookReview @littlebrown #WhatWeDid #NetGalley

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“He stole her childhood. She’ll take his future

What would you do if you accidentally encountered the man who once abused you?

And how would you get away with it?

Bridget’s life is small and safe: she loves her husband, her son and works hard to keep her own business afloat. Then one day her world is changed forever. The music teacher who abused her walks into a shop with the teenager he’s clearly grooming. Bridget is sent spiralling back into her past.

Anthony begins to stalk Bridget, trying to ensure her silence – until suddenly, she snaps.

And now Bridget must find away to deal with the aftermath of her actions…”

Today is publication day for Christobel Kent’s new novel What We Did so I have completed reading it at the perfect time to post my review. Although, this is going to be a tough book to review without giving away any spoilers so I may be briefer than normal. (Was that a small sigh of relief I just heard?)

Let’s just take a moment to admire the cover, which was one of the things that drew my eye to it on NetGalley. I love the grey with the bright spots of orange and green. Would look fabulous on any book shelf, great cover design.

This is a psychological thriller with a tricky subject matter at its heart. Bridget is a survivor of abuse she suffered as a teenager at the hands of her violin teacher. She has built a small, safe life for herself in a provincial university city with a quiet husband and a well-balanced teenage son, running her own clothing shop and working hard to keep her demons at bay. Her husband and her son know nothing about her past and that is the way she would like to keep it so when her abuser casually walks into her store one day in the company of his latest pupil, Bridget believes her whole way of life is at risk.

When I started this book, I had a slightly jaded feeling that I knew how the story would pan out. However, I was completely wrong. Things unfold in a very unexpected way and the story goes off then at a totally different tangent and really drags you with it.

The first quarter of the book was quite slow and I did start to worry that the whole story pacing was going to be too staid to carry me to the end – I have begun to expect more flourishes from a book in this genre – but once the first pivotal act occurs, things pick up and I was totally gripped from that moment on and I ended up staying up late to finish the book. Looking back at the book as a whole, the pacing was perfect for the storyline and the nature of the characters and it was actually a refreshing change from the constant bombardment of action and tension we sometimes get. The gentle start, followed by the sudden shocking change was the perfect reflection of how Bridget’s gentle life is so immediately disrupted when her abuser reappears on the scene.

The characters that need to be sympathetic are sympathetic, the criminal perpetrators are suitably loathsome. Bridget’s sister was my favourite character, and the most complex, I believe, and I also enjoyed the way her innocuous husband’s story arc developed. There was a side storyline involving her shop assistant that I think was meant to throw Bridget’s complicated feelings about her past into relief and give her some enlightenment, but it wasn’t really well-developed enough to end up as anything but a distraction which was a little disappointing.

The main storyline was psychologically twisty enough to keep me guessing about who was involved in what. I suspected people of things they hadn’t ended up doing and didn’t guess the ending so early in the novel that it was an anti-climax when it came. All in all, I enjoyed the book and it is well worth a read. However, it does not have the jaw-dropping twists that have become the norm, this is much more a character-based novel that isn’t relying on any schlock or shock for shock’s sake that some novels in this genre do. You will have to make your own decision about whether this is a positive or negative based on your own preferences for this type of novel.

What We Did is published today and you can purchase a copy here.

Thank you to NetGalley and Little Brown for the copy of this book which I have reviewed fairly and impartially.

About the Author

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Christobel Kent was born in London and educated at Cambridge. She has lived variously in Essex, London and Italy. Her childhood included several years spent on a Thames sailing barge in Maldon, Essex with her father, stepmother, three siblings and four step-siblings. She now lives in both Cambridge and Florence with her husband and five children.

The Wedding Date by Zara Stoneley #BookReview #BlogTour (@ZaraStoneley) @HarperCollinsUK @HarperFiction @fictionpubteam @rararesources #TheWeddingDate #bookbloggers

The Wedding Date

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Zara Stoneley’s new book The Wedding Date. a big thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part.

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One ex.
One wedding.
One little white lie.

When Samantha Jenkins is asked to be the maid of honour at her best friend’s wedding, she couldn’t be happier. There are just three problems…

1) Sam’s ex-boyfriend, Liam, will be the best man.
2) His new girlfriend is pregnant.
3) Sam might have told people she has a new man when she doesn’t (see points 1 and 2 above)

So, Sam does the only sensible thing available to her… and hires a professional to do the job.

Actor Jake Porter is perfect for the role: single, gorgeous and cheap! Sam is certain it’s the perfect solution: no strings, no heartbreak and hopefully no chance of being found out.

But spending a week in the Scottish Highlands with Jake is harder than she imagined. He is the perfect boyfriend, charming, sexy and the hottest thing in a kilt since Outlander! And his dog Harry is quite possibly the cutest things Sam has ever seen!

As the wedding draws closer, Jake plays his part to perfection and everyone believes he is madly in love with Sam. The problem is, Sam’s not sure if Jake is acting anymore…”

Before we start, is anyone else salivating over the delicious-looking cake on the cover of this book? Honestly, I can taste it. Congratulations to whoever designed the cover, it is definitely enticing!

This is the first book I have read by Zara Stoneley, although I have a copy of Summer with the Country Village Vet sat on my TBR. Now that I have read this book by Zara, I will be moving that one up the pile to read soon.

The main character in this book is travel agent, Sam. Recently dumped by boyfriend, Liam, Sam is presented with an invitation from her best friend, Jess, to join her elaborate wedding party in Scotland. To Sam’s dismay, not only will she have to deal with celebrating romance whilst facing her own heartbreak, her ex, Liam will be the best man and Sam will come face to face with the physical evidence of his infidelity in the form of his very-pregnant girlfriend. Unable to face the ordeal alone and deal with the pity on the faces of her family and friends, Sam decides to hire actor Jake to pose as her handsome and charming new boyfriend for the week. As you do.

It was very easy to relate to Sam. She is a warm and slightly hapless character and we can all put ourselves in her shoes, feeling the humiliation of being cheated on and dumped and then having to face her ex in public. The ordeal has sapped her of all her self-confidence and she is at a very low ebb when she concocts the slightly crazy plan of hiring a fake boyfriend to take to her best friend’s wedding. I doubt most people would go that far but I could appreciate the impulse and Zara’s humorous and entertaining writing made the plan seem a lot more plausible than it probably would be in real life.

Jake, the impoverished actor that Sam manages to bag as her fake date is almost too good to be true. Handsome, charming and kind, he is the kind of man that every woman wishes to have on her arm, but Sam struggles at times to work out how much of his behaviour is an act and how much is genuine, which becomes a problem when she finds herself falling for him, despite her best efforts to keep him at arms length. Jake is no cardboard cut-out romantic lead though, he has a complicated past of his own which stops him being as one-dimensional as is sometimes the case with romantic leads of this ilk.

This book is written in the first person from Sam’s point of view and I really enjoyed being in her head and seeing everything from her slightly-neurotic point of view. Her inner monologue was completely authentic – somewhat reminiscent of Bridget Jones – as she worries about her weight, wanting to look amazing when she first sees her ex, whether anyone will find out that she and Jake are faking it. She is so likeable, it really carries the story along and had us rooting for her and a positive outcome.

The story is filled with humour, which made it a really easy read. There are some scenes that will have you howling with laughter and wondering how anyone can get themselves into such scrapes. I loved the character of Sam’s mother, who just added to the cringe-factor of some of the scenes, and there was a nicely rounded cast of friends and family to fill out the story. I did feel like the character of Ruby, who was set up to be a bit of a villainess, was slightly wasted and could have been used to throw a bit more of a spanner in the works and I wondered if that was a plot point that was in the original draft but then tailed off. It felt like a bit of an unfinished thread. However, it did not detract from my enjoyment of the book. The mystery of Jake’s past also went in a different direction than the one I had imagined, but it has given me an idea for a story twist that I might use in the future since it didn’t turn out to be the solution I had imagined in this book, so that was a bonus from my reading. Thanks, Zara, for sparking my imagination!

This was a lovely, light and funny read and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading romantic fiction. You won’t be disappointed. Now I’m off to track down that piece of chocolate cake.

The Wedding Date by Zara Stoneley is out now on Kindle and you can buy a copy here.  The paperback version will be published on the 28th of June and you can pre-order it here.

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About the Author

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Born in a small village in Staffordshire, Zara Stoneley wanted to be James Herriot, a spy, or an author when she grew up. Writing novels means she can imagine she is all these things, and more!

Zara’s bestselling novels include ‘The Holiday Swap’, ‘Summer with the Country Village Vet’, ‘Blackberry Picking at Jasmine Cottage’ and the popular Tippermere series – ‘Stable Mates’, ‘Country Affairs’ and ‘Country Rivals’.
She lives in a Cheshire village with her family, a naughty cockapoo, and a very bossy cat, and loves spending time in sunny Spain.

Connect with Zara:

Website: http://www.zarastoneley.com
Twitter: @ZaraStoneley
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ZaraStoneley

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/zarastoneley/