The Ghostly Father by Sue Barnard #BookReview #BlogBlitz (@AuthorSusanB) @ocelotpress @RaRaResources #BookBirthday #TheGhostlyFather

The Ghostly Father Red

Delighted to be taking part today in the blog blitz to celebrate the book birthday of The Ghostly Father by Sue Barnard. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part and to the author and publisher of the book for my  gifted copy, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially. Make sure you check out the details of how you can enter the giveaway to win a signed copy of the book further down the page.

The Ghostly Father

Was this what really happened to Romeo & Juliet?

Think you know the world’s most famous love story? Think again.What if the story of Romeo & Juliet really happened – but not quite in the way we’ve all been told?

This part-prequel, part-sequel to the original tale, told from the point of view of the Friar, tells how an ancient Italian manuscript reveals secrets and lies which have remained hidden for hundreds of years, and casts new doubts on the official story of Shakespeare’s famous star-crossed lovers.

If you love the Romeo & Juliet story but are disappointed with the way it ended, this is the book for you.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about sequels and prequels and retellings of my favourite stories when they aren’t done by the original author and I tend to avoid them. I’m always slightly worried that they won’t be quite as good and might spoil the story or the characters from my most beloved books for me. This happened to me when I saw the film version of Staying On by Paul Scott, a book I adore but could not read for years afterwards and, as they say, once bitten, twice shy. As a result I haven’t watched the film versions of My Sister’s Keeper or The Time Traveller’s Wife, the recent TV adaptation of Anne of Green Gables or read any other versions of Pride & Prejudice, Rebecca or Wuthering Heights.

You must be wondering by now what possessed me to pick up a book that is both a sequel and a prequel to one of the most beloved and enduring stories of all time, Romeo & Juliet. I can only assume it was a lapse in concentration. Or maybe it was fate because, despite any reservations I might have, I absolutely LOVED this book.

200.gif

I know, I’m as shocked as you are. After all I have said, I could not be happier that I picked this book up. I was gripped on the story from start to finish, I adored everything about it and it left me with a really happy feeling that this story exists in tandem with Shakespeare’s version. It has enhanced, rather than tainted, my love of the story and I am in awe of the author’s imagination.

It always fascinates me the way people’s minds work and what different individuals take from different stories and it was interesting to see what Sue has chosen to focus on from the original tale. This book is written almost wholly from the perspective of the friar, who is a secondary, though important, character in the original story. She has given him and rich, full and pivotal story all of his own which is fully realised and detailed in this book beautifully.

The setting of historical Venice and Verona is perfectly captured, and the author spares no detail of the societal hierarchy, clothing, manners, social norms, speech – it all feels authentic and roots the reader deeply in the setting and brings it to life. I loved the way she interwove quotes from Shakespeare’s play in to the text, together with quotes from the Franciscan Orders services and prayers. Being prose rather than dialogue and scene directions, Sue is able to give the characters more depth and personality perhaps than is possible in a play and can flesh out their inner thoughts, actions and motivations so we get a deeper understanding of what might be driving them (not to diss the Bard in any way, of course!) Like I said, this is a great spin on the original tale that enhanced my enjoyment of it and made me look at it from another perspective. It’s one of my favourite books of the year so far.

If you are a fan of Romeo & Juliet, I’m sure you will enjoy this book very much and I recommend you give it a whirl. This is the second prequel/sequel that I have read recently and loved, the other being Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye & Becca Mascull. It might be time for me to address my prejudices in this regard.

The Ghostly Father is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Giveaway

If you would like to be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of the book, please click on the Rafflecopter link below:

Rafflecopter

*Terms and Conditions –UK 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 Rachel’s Random Resources reserves 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 Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

About the Author

Sue Barnard Author

Sue Barnard is a British novelist, editor and award-winning poet.  She was born in North Wales some time during the last millennium, but has spent most of her life in and around Manchester.  After graduating from Durham University she had a variety of office jobs before becoming a full-time parent.  If she had her way, the phrase “Non-Working Mother” would be banned from the English language.

Her mind is so warped that she has appeared on BBC TV’s Only Connect quiz show, and she has also compiled questions for BBC Radio 4’s fiendishly difficult Round Britain Quiz. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as “professionally weird.” The label has stuck. 

Sue speaks French like a Belgian, German like a schoolgirl, and Italian and Portuguese like an Englishwoman abroad.  She is also very interested in family history.  Her own background is far stranger than any work of fiction; she would write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.

Sue now lives in Cheshire, UK, with her extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.  

Connect with Sue:

Website: http://broad-thoughts-from-a-home.blogspot.com

Facebook: Sue Barnard Author

Twitter: @AuthorSusanB

Instagram: @suebarnardauthor

 

The Six Loves of Billy Binns by Richard Lumsden #BlogTour #Extract (@lumsdenrich) @TinderPress @annecater @Bookywookydooda #RandomThingsTours #TheSixLovesOfBillyBinns

unknown

At well over a hundred years old, Billy Binns believes he’s the oldest man in Europe and knows his days are numbered. But Billy has a final wish: he wants to remember what love feels like one last time.

As he looks back at the relationships that have coloured his life – and the events that shaped the century – he recalls a lifetime of hope and heartbreak.

This is the story of an ordinary man’s life, an enchanting novel which takes you on an epic yet intimate journey that will make you laugh, cry, and reflect on the universal turmoil of love.

I am delighted to be taking my turn today on the blog tour for The Six Loves of Billy Binns by Richard Lumsden. My thanks to Anne Cater for offering me a place on the tour and to Tinder Press for allowing me to publish an extract from the book for you today.

Extract

One

I have to get this out.
I have to get it down before it’s gone for good.
While it’s still clear in my head.
While they’re all sat beside me, as alive now as they were then, these people I once loved.

Mary.
Hello, Mary. Do you remember me?
You were my first, though there may have been others before you; slips of things, stolen moments behind a mar- ket stall or in the straw of a cattle barn, but nothing to match the time we shared together. That first eruption of love when the world shifts and everything glows orange.

You died much too young, of a broken heart if I remem- ber right. Not sure if it was me or someone else who broke your heart, but we were never meant to last, you and me. Too many complications along the way, what with one thing and another.

Still, I loved you, Mary old girl.

Then Evie.
I loved you, Evelyn Ellis. For a lifetime, if I’m honest.

 

We were the right age for love when we started out. You were my forever girl.

A love that should have lasted to the end, but the world doesn’t work that way.

I loved you from the first moment I saw you. You might say that isn’t true, but you’d be wrong. I loved you then as I love you now.

These dry embers, buried deep, set alight once again at your memory. A fire that burned quiet for the rest of my life.

Archie.
My little boy.
I loved you, son, as soon as I knew you’d sparked into life. Knew you were a boy. I felt you kicking, your tiny feet.

Knew it would be you, Archie Binns. With your scruffy knees poking out of your shorts. Your pockets full of mar- bles; the catseye and the oxblood, the jasper, the aggie and the ruby. Your little hands.

Do you remember how we climbed trees together?
You know how much I loved you.
I’m not sure if I ever said it to you, not out loud anyway.

Not in words so you could hear. But you knew it, didn’t you, son?

Vera.
I was unhappy when I first met you, Vera. Forty-something, was I? Life was on a downward spiral, then you showed up out of the blue. You were so beautiful and you made me very happy.

 

page5image5766720page5image5756736page5image5757120page5image5763264You caused me trouble, too. I paid a price for loving you, that’s for sure. For a while I was lost in the wreckage, but isn’t that what we hope for when it comes to the end: to know we didn’t just pass by but lived through some- thing real along the way?

Everyone should be lucky enough to have a Vera once in their lives. Despite the trouble. Despite the price you end up paying.

To be taken to the edge and made to jump. To love until it hurts.

Mrs Jackson.
Black Betty.
Didn’t think I’d ever get those feelings again, much later on in life. After Evie and Vera and the rest of them. But suddenly there you were. You brought me out of retire- ment, you might say.

We were old when we met. Not proper old like I am now, of course. I was still able to do something about it back when you showed up, and we made it good, the two of us, when there wasn’t much pickings around.

Some lovely years together, me and Mrs Jackson. Funny, still calling you Mrs Jackson after all this time.

Mary, Evie, Archie, Vera, Mrs Jackson.
Five of them in all.
Five loves? Is that it?
It doesn’t sound much after all this time.
I recall the names, but the faces come and go.
When you first meet someone, you don’t know how

page6image5638976page6image5639168page6image5639360long they’ll be in your life for. It could be minutes or it could be forever.

You don’t know when it starts.
And you don’t know when it stops.
Some endings are final, others take you by surprise. Their last goodbye.
The world drags them away and all that’s left is a fading memory, turning to dust like the flesh on these old bones.

I want to remember what love feels like, one last time. To remember each of the people I loved, to see them all clearly again.

I’ll start with Mary.

Get it down on paper, all the details, before it’s gone for good.

While it’s still clear in my head.

If you enjoyed this short extract from the book and would like to read it in full, you can buy a copy of The Six Loves of Billy Binns here.

If you would like to read some reviews and see more content relating to the book, please do follow the blog tour as set out on the tour poster below:

six lives of billy binns blog tour poster

About the Author

richard lumsden author picture

Richard Lumsden has worked as an actor, writer and composer in television, film and theatre for 30 years. As an actor his films include Downhill, Sightseers, Sense & Sensibility and The Darkest Hour, as well as numerous television shows and theatre productions. THE SIX LOVES OF BILLY BINNS is his first novel.

Connect with Richard:

Website: http://richardlumsden.com

Twitter: @lumsdenrich

Random ThingsTours FB Header

 

Mary Kate by Nadine Dorries #BlogTour #Spotlight @HoZ_Books @annecater #RandomThingsTours

mary kate cover image

Liverpool, 1963.
Mary Kate Malone is seventeen and bitterly unhappy that her father has married again after the death of her mother. On her last day at school, she decides to leave home in Tarabeg on the west coast of Ireland and head for Liverpool to find her mother’s sister.
But absolutely nothing goes to plan. Within hours of disembarking, she finds herself penniless and alone, with no place to stay and no idea how she will survive.
Meanwhile, back in Ireland, where old sins cast long shadows, a long-buried secret is about to come to light and a day of reckoning, in the shape of a stranger from America, will set an unstoppable chain of events in motion.
I am happy to be shining the spotlight today on Mary Kate, the new book by Nadine Dorries, which is currently on tour with Random Things Tours. My thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be involved. As you can see, it has an appealing cover and intriguing blurb, don’t you think?
Mary Kate is currently available in hardback and ebook and the paperback will be available in July. If you would like to get a copy, you can buy it here.
To read some reviews of the book, please do follow the blog tour:
mary kate blog tour poster
About the Author
nadine dorries author pic

 Nadine Dorries grew up in a working-class family in Liverpool. She spent part of her childhood living on a farm with her grandmother, and attended school in a small remote village in the west of Ireland. She trained as a nurse, then followed with a successful career in which she established and then sold her own business. She has been the MP for Mid-Bedfordshire since 2005 and has three daughters.

Random ThingsTours FB Header

The Convalescent Corpse by Nicola Slade #BookReview #BlogBlitz (@nicolasladeuk) @crookedcatbooks @rararesources @RNATweets #Giveaway #RachelsRandomResources #TheConvalescentCorpse

the convalescent corpse

A delightful blog blitz to be taking part in today for an original and quirky book, The Convalescent Corpse by Nicola Slade. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author and publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly.

Please scroll down beneath the review to enter a lovely giveaway.

the convalescent corpsecover3plusshout

A story of Family, Rationing and Inconvenient Corpses.

Life in 1918 has brought loss and grief and hardship to the three Fyttleton sisters. Helped only by their grandmother (a failed society belle and expert poacher) and hindered by a difficult suffragette mother, as well as an unruly chicken-stealing dog and a house full of paying-guests, they now have to deal with the worrying news that their late – and unlamented – father may not be dead after all. And on top of that, there’s a body in the ha-ha.

The blurb of this book gives you a truly delicious taste of what is in store in this cosy crime novel with a difference. Set during World War I, it centres around the lives of the three Fyttleton sisters who are doing their best to cope with life on the home front after the disappearance of their father who went down with the Lusitania, and the recent loss of their brother on the Western Front. Their mother is a famous, reclusive author who is neither use nor ornament as a parent, so they can only rely on each other and their ageing but sprightly grandmother, who is a minor aristocrat.

The narrator is the middle sister, Christabel, who is the stalwart holding the family together whilst scribbling stories on the side to make a few pennies. Christabel is a girl after my own heart and I identified with her immediately. There was a particular line in the book which really touched me as she talks about feeling old beyond her years because she always has to be the sensible one, which exactly describes my role in our family of four girls. Anyway, the girls become heavily involved when a convalescent home for wounded soldiers opens nearby as they take in their families as lodgers whilst they visit their wounded relatives and find themselves in the middle of a mystery linked to the home.

The mystery aspect of the story is interesting, if not a little confusing at times, but it was not the main draw of this book for me. What I really loved was the insight into what life was like for the families left behind in England to make ends meet while all the menfolk went off to war in Europe, many to never come back. This is not a period of history I usually choose to read about, as I find it harrowing and immensely depressing, but this is a book that covers it in a light but still truthful and meaningful way which I found very appealing and illuminating. A wartime novel for people who don’t like to read about war.

The other attractive thing about this book are the characters. The three sisters are all individual and different, with their own motivations and desires, but present a tight knit unit which, as one of four girls, I found realistic and heartwarming. The remainder of the family are charmingly eccentric and riveting. Add in a range of pets with personality and it is a household full of appeal. The surrounding village, the lodgers and the servicemen up at the home add further layers of interest and intrigue. For a gentle mystery, there is a lot going on in this book!

This book was a charming and pleasing surprise. I thoroughly enjoyed the gentle hours I spent between its pages and, once I was finished, I found the characters and story had wormed their way into my heart. The book leaves the door open for more stories featuring these fascinating folk and I sincerely hope that I will be able to find out what happens next to Christabel, Henry and the rest of the Fyttleton family.

The Convalescent Corpse is out now and you can get your copy here.

Giveaway

the convalescent corpse - giveaway prize

To win a paperback copy of Nicola’s book, The House At Ladywell, please click on the Rafflecopter link below:

Rafflecopter

*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 see some alternative reviews from my fellow bloggers on the tour, please see the details of the stops below:

the convalescent corpse full tour banner

About the Author

the convalescent corpse nickydiamondphotocropped

Nicola Slade lives in Hampshire where she writes historical and contemporary mysteries and women’s fiction. While her three children were growing up she wrote stories for children and for women’s magazines before her first novel, Scuba Dancing, was published in 2005. Among other jobs, Nicola has been an antiques dealer and a Brown Owl! She loves travelling and at one time, lived in Egypt for a year. The Convalescent Corpse is Nicola’s 9th novel. Nicola is also a member of a crime writers’ panel, The Deadly Dames 

Connect with Nicola:

Website: http://www.nicolaslade.com

Blog: https://nicolaslade.wordpress.com

Facebook: Nicola Slade

Twitter: @nicolasladeuk

Pinterest: Nicola Slade

Tempted by….Jennifer – Tar Heel Reader: Boardwalk Summer by Meredith Jaeger @meredith_jaeger @tarheelreader @morrowpb @harpercollins #bookbloggers

img_0272

In this new novel from the USA Today bestselling author of The Dressmaker’s Dowry, two young women two generations apart discover the joy and heartbreak of following their dreams. Aspiring Hollywood actress Violet makes a shocking choice in 1940, and seventy years later, Mari sets out to discover what happened on that long ago summer.

Santa Cruz, Summer 1940: When auburn-haired Violet Harcourt is crowned Miss California on the boardwalk of her hometown, she knows she is one step closer to her cherished dream: a Hollywood screen test. But Violet’s victory comes with a price—discord in her seemingly perfect marriage—and she grapples with how much more she is willing to pay.

Summer 2007: Single mother Marisol Cruz lives with her parents in the charming beach cottage that belonged to her grandfather, Ricardo, once a famed performer on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Drawn to the town’s local history and the quaint gazebo where her grandparents danced beneath the stars, Mari sells raffle tickets at the Beach Boardwalk Centennial Celebration, and meets Jason, a California transplant from Chicago.

When Mari discovers the obituary of Violet Harcourt, a beauty queen who died too young, she and Jason are sent on a journey together that will uncover her grandfather’s lifelong secret—his connection to Violet—a story of tragedy and courage that will forever transform them.

After a couple of weeks’ hiatus for the Christmas holidays, my traditional Monday feature Tempted by…is back. This is where I spotlight a book I have been enticed to buy for my own collection by a review written by one of my fellow bloggers.  This week I am showcasing Boardwalk Summer by Meredith Jaeger as featured in this post by Jennifer on her blog, Jennifer- Tar Heel Reader.

It was the summery and glamorous cover of this book that first caught my eye, with the girl in the old-fashioned bikini in the centre and the outline of Santa Monica Pier in the background. Regular readers will know that I can’t resist books set in the US, particularly by the coast. It is like travelling vicariously to my favourite destinations. Then I read on and was intrigued by the dual timeline story, which is always fun to read, and promise of a ‘light mystery’. I was intrigued enough to buy it, although I haven’t got round to reading it yet!

I first started reading Jennifer’s blog because of the tag line, ‘Reading under the light of a Carolina moon,’ which just threw up such an idyllic image for me and this is always how I imagine Jennifer reading, in a hammock (no idea why I imagine a hammock, she has never indicated that she even has such a thing) under the moon, caressed by a warm breeze. I love her chatty reviewing style, her book tastes are really interesting and she is very supportive of other bloggers. She also posts the most beautiful bookstagram images, of which I am very jealous! Please do check out her blog, I’m sure you’ll love it too.

If you would like to get your own copy of Boardwalk Summer, you can get a copy here.

 

 

The Illumination of Ursula Flight by Anna-Marie Crowhurst #BookReview #BlogTour (@writercrow) @AtlanticBooks @AllenAndUnwinUK @theotherkirsty #TheIlluminationOfUrsulaFlight

51jO66thY1L

‘ON THE 15TH DAY OF DECEMBER IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1664, A GREAT LIGHT BLOOMED IN THE DARK SKY…’

Born on the night of a bad-luck comet, Ursula Flight has a difficult destiny written in the stars. Growing up with her family in the country, she is educated by a forward-thinking father who enables her to discover a love of reading, writing and astrology. Ursula dreams of becoming a famous playwright, but is devastated to learn she must instead fulfil her family’s expectations and marry. Trapped and lost, Ursula plots her escape – but her freedom will come at a price.

As Ursula’s dangerous desires play out, both on and off the stage, she’s flung into a giddy world of actors, aristocrats and artistic endeavours which will change her life irrevocably.

A gutsy coming-of-age story about a spirited young woman struggling to lead a creative life, this uplifting tale vividly evokes the glittering world of Restoration-era theatre. For anyone who has ever tried to succeed against the odds, The Illumination of Ursula Flight is an inspiring journey of love and loss, heartbreak and all-consuming passion. This is a debut pulsating with life for readers of Jessie Burton, Sarah Waters and Sarah Perry.

Today I am delighted to be taking part in my first blog tour of 2019, and what a book to start with! The Illumination of Ursula Flight by Anne-Marie Crowhurst is my first blog tour book of the year and I want to say a massive thank you to Kirsty Doole at Atlantic Books for inviting me to take part in the tour, and for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I was really looking forward to writing my review of this book, because I loved it and thought writing the review might be almost as fun as reading the book was. Then I happened to read this review of the book by the wonderful Jo at My Chestnut Reading Tree, and realised that she said everything I wanted to say about the book, and in such a lucid and elegant way that any review I wrote would be somewhat redundant! So, if you would like to read a definitive review of this book, please visit Jo’s blog. If you are still interested in my take on it, please read on and I’ll do my best to tell you why I loved it so.

The first thing I want to say, and I think this is the first book that has ever given me cause to mention this, is that the quality of this book is lovely. It has a gorgeous cover as you can see, and it is made of a really nice card; the paper is great quality and the book is printed beautifully. It was a great physical pleasure to read; a lovely tactile experience. This may sound weird to some, but true book lovers will know what I mean! This is a book where getting the paperback is a worthwhile investment. I am even contemplating buying it in hardback.

So, where do I start? Let’s go with the setting. This book is set in the Restoration period, which is not a historical period I particularly seek out as a genre, but I adored reading about it here and the author captured everything about it perfectly. The speech, the customs, the dress, the manners, the food – all so alien to us today but brought vividly to life between these pages so that the reader is totally immersed in it. As someone who is writing herself and, therefore, reading as a writer, I was very conscious of how skilfully the author has used every sense to bring the story and setting to life; reading purely as a reader, this is done subtly and seamlessly so the setting jumps off the page, grabs you and pulls you in without you realising it has done it. It is such a rich environment to mine, and Anne-Marie has dug every facet out with which to stud her book and gild the reading experience.

Next let’s talk about the structure, which is one of my favourite things about this book. It is told in the first person voice of the main character, Ursula Flight, and what a fantastic voice she has, but more about her later. However, rather than just straight prose, the author uses all manner of techniques to tell the story, including letters, diary entries, imaginary conversations and, most importantly, plays that she has written, based on real plays of the era which works brilliantly as a device to tie in with the crux of the story. It is so cleverly done and adds real variety and interest to the reading experience, and I found it worked to great effect to give Ursula a very clear and distinct voice. I’ve never seen a narrative done quite this way before, including very imaginative and fun use of fonts and typeface, and I really, really enjoyed it.

So, I’ve mentioned the character of Ursula above and what a clear voice she has. She was my favourite thing about this book for so many reasons. I defy anyone to read this book and not fall immediately in love with her and, I would even venture to suggest that, in Ursula, the author has created a truly memorable heroine in the best traditions of Becky Sharp and Moll Flanders. She is a woman ahead of her time; educated when women were not typically, intelligent, quick-witted, ambitious, adventurous, but bound by the fact of her gender and frustrated by the limitations it poses on her, particularly in the face of the stupidity of many of the men she meets. And, at the very heart of this book is its great joy. This is a novel about feminism; about the unfairness and futility of trying to keep women down and curtail their ambition, because talent will always out in the end and brave women will always fight for their own happiness. Despite the gap of years, the same issues are alive and well today; this book brings them in to sharp focus and holds them up as the fallacy they are and it is extremely relevant for women everywhere. You cannot read this book and fail to cheer Ursula on as she questions the status quo at every turn and highlights its absurdities as she pushes against it. However, this is not done in any kind of militant, man-hating way, but as a gentle and comedic showing of the nonsense of inequality through every age of man.

Yes, I did use the word comedic above because one of most delightfully unexpected things about this book is that it is very funny and extremely witty. The author has a great eye for the absurd, and uses it to great advantage here. I found myself laughing out loud more than once, and smiling inbetween at the quick-wittedness of Ursula, particularly in her exchanges with her husband and mother-in-law. I even photographed some of the pages so I could quickly read them again (dog-ear the pages? I could never!). My absolute favourites were the part where a character explains why reading is an unsuitable pastime for women, and when Ursula is discussing pre-marital sex with her new husband. These parts alone are worth buying the book for and have caused me to fall deeply in love with the author.

This is an intelligent, unique, topical, rich, rewarding and joyful book peopled with diverse and riveting characters, relevant issues and set in a fascinating and colourful period. I can’t remember when I last enjoyed a book so much and it has set a high bar for the rest of my reads for the year. You must buy it immediately.

The Illumination of Ursula Flight is available now and you can buy a copy here.

To follow the rest of the blog tour, check out the tour dates on the poster below:

img_1061

About the Author

img_1062

Anna-Marie Crowhurst has worked as a freelance journalist and columnist for more than 15 years, contributing to The Times, The Guardian, Time Out, Newsweek, Emerald Street and Stylist. In 2016 she studied for an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, where her debut novel The Illumination of Ursula Flight was born. She lives in London.

Connect with Anne-Marie:

Twitter: @writercrow

Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye with Rebecca Mascull #BookReview (@rebeccamascull) @HQstories #Christmas #MissMarley #VanessaLafaye

51m2PvNX4qL._SX290_BO1,204,203,200_

Before A Christmas Carol there was… Miss Marley

A seasonal tale of kindness and goodwill

Orphans Clara and Jacob Marley live by their wits, scavenging for scraps in the poorest alleyways of London, in the shadow of the workhouse. Every night, Jake promises his little sister ‘tomorrow will be better’ and when the chance to escape poverty comes their way, he seizes it despite the terrible price.

And so Jacob Marley is set on a path that leads to his infamous partnership with Ebenezer Scrooge. As Jacob builds a fortress of wealth to keep the world out, only Clara can warn him of the hideous fate that awaits him if he refuses to let love and kindness into his heart…

In Miss Marley, Vanessa Lafaye weaves a spellbinding Dickensian tale of ghosts, goodwill and hope – a perfect prequel to A Christmas Carol.

Any of you who follow me on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook will have seen the picture of me finishing this book over a cup of tea in Sainsbury’s cafe on the morning of Christmas Eve, after I’d finished my shopping and at that point I was filled with Christmas spirit, due in no small part to this book.

For any of you who have not heard the story behind the publication of this book, it was the creation of author Vanessa Lafaye, who unfortunately passed away in February of this year after a long battle with cancer, before she was able to finish it. At the request of Vanessa’s publisher and her husband, the book was completed by Vanessa’s good friend and fellow author, Becca Mascull. This tragic and moving story meant there was a lot of buzz about this book on social media and in the blogging community and I was desperate to read it. I am a huge fan of A Christmas Carol, so the premise behind the book was enticing, and it sounded like the perfect Christmas read.

Oh, but this book is even more beautiful and moving than I expected. It is the story of how Jacob Marley becomes the person who ends up as the tormented spirit that haunts Scrooge at the beginning of A Christmas Carol. To tell his story, Vanessa has given him a sister, Clara, who is witness to the circumstances that shape him. This device is so clever, and executed so beautifully that it immediately pulls you heart and soul into their story and transports you back to Dickens’ London and the world inhabited by Scrooge and Marley. Both authors have perfectly captured the essence of Dickens’ story telling in this book so that it is very easy to believe that this is exactly how Marley and Scrooge end up as the mean-spirited, uncharitable old misers that we have come to know.

The period and setting of Victorian London is brought vividly and perfectly to life through the language and descriptions, and the whole book has a lovely, festive feeling to it, despite the melancholy story. I absolutely loved the character of Clara, she is warm and vibrant and extremely sympathetic, and she makes Jacob Marley’s story sympathetic too. You cannot help but care about her plight from the beginning, which makes the book enthralling and moving and kept me glued to the pages from beginning to end.

I have such admiration for the skill of both authors. I don’t know how Becca managed to complete this book whilst grieving for a beloved friend- it must have taken a strength of will and a huge amount of love to get through it. In the interview I have linked to below, Becca says she felt like she was almost channelling her friend as she completed the book, and I can believe it as it is impossible to tell where the two parts join. The voice and narrative are so consistent throughout; there is no jarring change of tone or pace and it ends perfectly. These were two friends so obviously in tune and their story has completely moved me to tears.

This book is a beautiful testament, both to the authors’ love of A Christmas Carol  and to their friendship and it will delight anyone who is a fan of this timeless Christmas tale. I believe that a festive read of this book will become a new Christmas tradition for me to cherish. I highly recommend you pick up a copy now.

Miss Marley is out now and you can get a copy here.

About the Authors

Vanessa-Lafaye-2-Read-Only-e1545414281251

Vanessa Lafaye

Vanessa Lafaye was born in Florida and studied in North Carolina. She moved to the UK in 1999 (having been deported once). She is the author of two previous novels, her first book Summertime, was chosen for Richard and Judy in 2015 and was shortlisted for the Historical Writers Award. Vanessa passed away in February 2018.

Rebecca-Mascull-Read-Only-e1545414235943

Rebecca Mascull

Rebecca Mascull is the author of three historical novels and also writes saga fiction under the pen-name Mollie Walton.

If you would like to read more about the heart-breaking story of the writing of Miss Marley, you might like to read this article.