The Promise by Michelle Vernal #BlogTour #BookReview (@MichelleVernal) @RaRaResources #ThePromise

The Promise

Delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for The Promise by Michelle Vernal. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on to the tour.

The Promise Cover

“Two women from different generations brought together by another’s wrongdoing.

When British backpacker, Isabel Stark happens across a car accident on a lonely stretch of road in the South Island of New Zealand her life changes forever. The sole passenger, Ginny Havelock asks her to make a promise before she passes away—to find Constance and to say she’s sorry. 

Isabel’s a lost soul who’s been drifting through life unsure of where she fits, and the promise she made in New Zealand haunts her upon her return to the United Kingdom. Her only clue as to finding Constance lies within a conversation held at Ginny’s funeral. It takes her to the Isle of Wight. 

In the 1940’s sixteen-year-old Constance’s life on her island is sheltered until the death of her brother; Ted brings the reality of war crashing down around her. He leaves behind his pregnant young widow Ginny. When Constance meets a handsome Canadian Airforce man, she’s eager to escape her grief and be swept up by first love. It’s a love which has ramifications she could never envisage.  

When Isabel and Constance’s paths finally cross will Ginny’s last words be enough for Constance to make peace with her past? And in fulfilling her promise will Isabel find a place she can call home?”

Can I just say to begin with how much I love the cover of this book? I can’t tell you why, particularly – maybe it is the water or the colour of the dress – but I find it really appealing for some reason. Maybe because it is so simple? Anyway.

This is my first book by Michelle Vernal and I have to admit that it is one that slipped under the radar a bit. I signed up for the tour and then promptly forgot all about it until my date was approaching and I finally got round to reading it without remembering much about the blurb I had read quite cold so when I did get into it, it was a lovely surprise, a bit like finding a ten pound note you had forgotten about in the back pocket of a pair of jeans you are just about to wash.

I wasn’t 100% sure about this book through the first few chapters. This moved extremely fast from Isabel being in New Zealand to her coming back to the UK and ending up on the Isle of Wight and the clues to Constance’s whereabouts seemed to land in her lap slightly too conveniently. However, I was captivated by the character of Isabel so I persevered and, as soon as Isabel and Constance met, I was completely engaged in the story and the characters and could not read the book fast enough, wanting to find out what happened and how it all ended for them. Once you get beyond the first few chapters, the book is so good that you forget the slightly convenient opening.

I don’t often pick up books about World War II because I find the whole subject very upsetting so I’m not sure why I volunteered to read this particular one but I am very glad I did. This book is a beautiful, heart-breaking but ultimately uplifting story that really moved me. It is a book that will stay with me for a long time and that I am sure I will come back to again.

The author has peopled this book with some great characters, but the main two are my favourites. Isabel, sensitive, introverted, betrayed and slightly lost who is looking for her place in the world and Constance, slightly cantankerous but deeply kind who is nursing a secret heartache from years before. Two complete strangers who meet by an odd twist of fate but turn out to be exactly what the other needs in their life at this exact moment in time. Their relationship is really beautifully developed throughout the book and carries the story in a way that compels you to keep reading, it is very skilfully done.

The dual timeline is handled well and I was drawn in to the world of wartime on the Isle of Wight, despite my general aversion to books on this topic. Michelle manages to bring it to life completely and I was totally sucked in, horrified by the events but warmed by the growing relationship between Constance and Henry at the same time. To imagine going through those things and having to live with the consequences for the rest of your life is heart-breaking. The author handles everything with a very light but sympathetic touch which I found particularly appealing.

There are some gorgeous scenes in this book – the shopping trip was my favourite – and she does a great job of bringing to life the Isle of Wight which is not a place I am familiar with at all but would now love to visit. Ultimately, the ending left me happy and satisfied despite everything that had gone before. This book is a real gem and I will definitely look for more from this author in the future. It will pay off in spades anyone who invests their time in reading it.

The Promise is out now and you can purchase a copy here.

Please do check out the rest of the reviews on the tour as set out below:

The Promise Full Tour Banner

About the Author


Michelle Vernal is a Harper Collins author who loves a happy ending. She lives with her husband, their two boys and a needy three-legged black cat in Christchurch, New Zealand. She’s partial to a glass of wine, loves a cheese scone and has recently taken up yoga—a sight to behold indeed. She is a freelance writer for a Canterbury lifestyle magazine who is currently working on her seventh novel. Michelle’s a firm believer in happy endings, and all of her stories are written with humour and warmth. 

Connect with Michelle:


Facebook: Michelle Vernal Novelist

Twitter: @MichelleVernal

Instagram: @vernalmichelle

Goodreads: Michelle Vernal

The Little Cornish Kitchen by Jane Linfoot #BlogTour #BookReview (@JaneLinfoot) @HarperImpulse @RaRaResources #Giveaway #TheLittleCornishKitchen #NetGalley

The Little Cornish Kitchen

Hurrah! It’s finally my turn on the blog tour for The Little Cornish Kitchen by one of my favourite authors and fellow RNA member, Jane Linfoot. I was so excited to be invited on to the blog tour for this gorgeous looking summer book so my thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel Random’s Resources for the opportunity. There is a fabulous giveaway further down the post to enter to win unicorns – yes, really! – so make sure you scroll down to that.

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“It’s time to come home to Cornwall

With an exciting new life in Paris, Clemmie Hamilton isn’t looking forward to heading home to the picturesque but sleepy village of St Aidan, Cornwall. However, when she discovers that the cosy apartment by the sea, which her grandmother left to her, is under threat from neighbour and property developer, Charlie Hobson, Clemmie realises she can’t abandon her home in its time of need.

With her childhood friends encouraging her, Clemmie decides to turn the apartment into ‘The Little Cornish Kitchen’ – a boutique pop up pudding club raising money for the repairs to the building in an effort to stop Charlie once and for all. But when Charlie and his easy charm won’t seem to go away, everything soon becomes even messier than the state of Clemmie’s Cornish kitchen…”

I just love the cover of this book, it looks like the perfect summery beach read and anyone who picks up this book because of the cover will not be disappointed by the contents, which are equally sweet and sunny.

I am a huge fan of Jane’s Little Wedding Shop books and anyone who has read those will be delighted to find themselves back in the quaint Cornish seaside town of St. Aidan. More delighted than Clemmie, who comes back to St. Aidan reluctantly to sort out a legacy from her grandmother as quickly as she can so she can return to her nomadic, rootless lifestyle that currently has her working as a PA in Paris. Unfortunately for Clemmie, things do not go as smoothly as planned and she finds herself drawn back into a life in St. Aidan in a way she had never envisaged.

Clemmie is the perfect heroine to carry the book. She is very likeable, being warm and friendly but also hapless and disorganised in a way that makes her very human, and with enough hang ups and baggage from her past that prevents her settling down in one place and with one man to make an interesting plot for a book of this sort. However, before you start to think ‘same old, same old’, let me tell you that this book has a really interesting twist on the laboured, seaside cafe trope as well as having a real charm that elevates it above the herd for me, and that is down to the beauty of the writing.

The setting of Cornwall is not new but Jane manages to imbue this book with a real feeling of community and warmth that brings the setting alive. Her descriptions of the views and the beach and the Surf Shack took me right back to the very happy trips I have taken to Newquay, right down to the smells and sounds of the coast that made me fall in love with the place, and I was suddenly desperate to get back there. The enchantment of Laura’s flat in Seaspray Cottage played a huge part in this and I think the author did a great job of portraying the setting and how it reflected Laura’s personality; I could really see it in my mind’s eye.

The idea of using a pop up restaurant as the theme to put a spin on the oft-used setting of a cafe was inspired and gave scope for some great, humourous set pieces as Clemmie tries to cram a lot of people into her tiny flat without letting the neighbour know what she is doing. Throw in a cat, a large dog and a wobbly balcony and you are all set for some laugh out loud moments.

The real heart of this book, through, is the characters and they are all superbly drawn and appealing as well as being interesting and believable. I loved all of Clemmie’s friends and felt real affection for the little group of ‘mermaids’ (especially Sophie who, I am afraid to say really reminded me of … me!). I felt they were a good representation of what female friendship can be and they brought the book to life and in to my heart. The male characters are also well drawn but it is the women that make this book what it is, a very bewitching, warm and feel good summer read. I highly recommend it.

The Little Cornish Kitchen is out now and you can buy a copy here.


Giveaway Prize

To win a signed copy of The Little Cornish Kitchen, Mermaid Notebook and Sugar Unicorns, please click on the Rafflecopter link below:

*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 blog tour for this lovely book, see the dates below:

The Little Cornish Kitchen Full Tour Banner

About the Author


Jane Linfoot is a best selling author, who lives in a muddy cottage, up a steep hill in Derbyshire, with her family, their pets, and an astonishing number of spiders. Although she loves seeing cow noses over the garden wall, she’s happy she can walk to a supermarket. 

Jane grew up in North Yorkshire where she spent a lot of her childhood avoiding horizontal gales blowing off the sea, and wrote her first book by accident, while working as an architect, and renovating country houses. While she loves to write feelgood books that let readers escape, she’s always surprised to hear her stories make people laugh, admits to (occasionally) crying as she writes, and credits her characters for creating their own story lines. 

Jane’s garden would be less brambly if she wasn’t on Facebook and Twitter so often. On days when she wants to be really scared, she rides a tandem.

Her latest books include a series of stand alone novels, based around a seaside wedding shop in Cornwall. Cupcakes and Confetti – The Little Wedding Shop by the Sea, Sequins and Snowflakes – Christmas at the Little Wedding Shop, and Bunting and Bouquets – Summer at the Little Wedding Shop, and most recently, The Little Cornish Kitchen. These are all published by Harper Impulse,  an imprint of Harper Collins.

Connect with Jane:

Facebook: Jane Linfoot

Twitter: @janelinfoot

Instagram: @janelinfoot

Pinterest: @janelinfoot

The Bespokist Society Guide To … London #BlogTour #BookReview (@TheBespokist) @RaRaResources #TheBespokist

The Bespokist Society Guide to…London

I am so excited to be on the blog tour for something very different today – The Bespokist Society Guide to … London, a new type of travel guide! My thanks to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on to the tour.

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“sparse… some glaring omissions” FoodPorn London

“only page 23 is of mild interest”

“Wow!!! A genuinely bespoke city guide!!!” Tommy Sponge, Chairman, The Bespokist Society

You have in your hands one of the most curated city guides ever created. As the first travel book produced by the hugely influential Bespokist Society, this handy guide takes you to a London you’ve never seen: a London of challenging Etruscan restaurants, edgy branding parlours, emoji hotels and hidden Icelandic communities; a London where 8-ply toilet paper is a thing.

On the way, meet an eclectic band of inspiring Londoners – from scriveners to socialites via urban wordsmiths and coffee preachers – and see why London is now the global epicentre of Bespokist consciousness, community and culture.”

I am sure that other globe-trotting book lovers will have the same affliction that I do, which is the compulsion to buy a guide book as soon as you have booked a break to a new destination. Even in these days of instant access to all the information you ever need at the click of a mouse, I still love to have a physical guide book in my hands when I travel. This is particularly true when I am taking a city break and trying to pack as much as possible into two or three days. I am especially fond of the ‘Eyewitness Top 10’ city guides but, having read this book I think I may have found a series to rival them.

I love London and visit regularly but this guide highlights a very specific side of London that is one I haven’t explored much – the hipster London. It contains details on a lot of quirky sights, restaurants, hotels and hotspots that will appeal to people who like everything artisanal, organic and bespoke and I think a visit to London focusing on these attractions which are off the usual beaten tourist track would be a refreshing change. As a mother of 5, I really love the idea of staying at The Enzo and having the kids whisked away for the weekend so we can relax, although I’m sure my partner would prefer a room at The Union with his own ‘pastry butler’. There were several restaurants I had earmarked as possible venue – The Gentle BBQ was one that particularly appealed, and I also half hope I can pass off The Irishman as a homeless man so he can sell the heinous beard he currently sports against my wishes to ‘The Beardy Boy Project’ and use the funds to buy me some artisan egg cups.

Before anyone who has read this book thinks I am either mad or stupid, I can confirm that I am joking and do realise that the book is a satirical take on the kind of pretentious guide book we have all read in the past, and is also taking a searingly accurate swipe at the affected preference for everything ‘bespoke’ by a certain section of society today. It is so cleverly done that you could almost believe this is a genuine travel guide for the achingly hip portion of thirty-somethings that roam the country looking for holidays is genuine shepherds’ huts in the Cotswolds with hand-milked honey from vegan bees and organic hemp four-poster bed curtains on tap.

This book is extremely funny, if you like your satire sharp and observational. I laughed out loud, at the same time as thinking ‘ouch’ as parts of it cut very close to the bone. I can imagine some people thinking that parts of it sounded like quite a good idea – the aforementioned ‘Gentle BBQ’ being a case in point – and I am fairly sure that place like ‘Little Foodies’ probably exist. And, if anyone wants to open a branch of ‘Elevenses’ in my home town, I would definitely visit. I have been thinking about their Rich Tea biscuits ever since I read the description! Parts of it also made me cringe (The Whitlow?!!!)

This is a small book, cleverly made to look like a pocket travel guide, and is one you can dip in and out of if you feel like a few minutes of light relief. It bears careful reading so you don’t miss any of the tiny, clever little details that make this such a joy. The entry for The Fishy Finger is my particular favourite example of the writer slipping in a minute, seemingly irrelevant detail that you could miss if you blink but creates real joy in your heart is you catch it. The entry for Good Life made my heart sing and had me smiling every time I thought about it afterwards.

I really enjoyed this little, quirky, clever book and it will appeal to anyone who loves satirical humour. Should not be read by genuine tourists or easily-offended hipsters.

The Bespokist Society Guide to… London is out now and you can buy a copy here.

If you would like to follow the rest of the tour and find out what my fellow bloggers make of the unique book, find the dates below:

The Bespokist Society Guide to…London Full Tour Banner

About the Author

The Bespokist Society Guide to London is a work of fiction written by born and bred Londoner, Jeremy Liebster. Somewhat surprisingly, Jeremy is also a city lawyer – formerly at DLA Piper and now a General Counsel within a large private equity group. Jeremy is utterly obsessed with travel books and although he might poke fun at urban fads, hipster fried chicken is his guilty pleasure. He also has an unusual interest in clothes hangers.


Twitter: @TheBespokist

My Very Italian Holiday by Sue Roberts #BlogTour #BlogBlitz #BookReview (@SueRobertsautho) @Bookouture #MyVeryItalianHoliday @NetGalley


“A beautiful guesthouse, a fresh start and a hunky Italian. Does it sound too good to be true?

When Gina arrives in Lake Como, thousands of miles away from her life in the Lake District, she wonders if she’s bitten off more than she can chew. Working for Fabio, running his lakeside hotel, seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. After her world was tragically turned upside down, breaking her heart in the process, she was in desperate need of a fresh start. Plus, it didn’t hurt that Fabio was easy on the eyes…

But it’s not all picturesque mountains, pizza and prosecco. The crumbling guesthouse that Fabio has inherited from his family needs some serious TLC. Is she up to the challenge?

As Gina and Fabio work in close quarters, sparks start to fly. But Fabio has a secret he is scared to share, and Gina has her past to come to terms with. Does her heart belong back home or is a life in the sun – with a very handsome Italian – just the change of scenery she needs?”

When I picked this book up, from the cover I assumed it was going to be a light, summery read but actually, it is not the usual beach read. The first half of the book is set in the Lake District and it does not move to Italy until fifty percent of the way through. The sojourn in Italy is then very brief before the action moves back to the Lake District so, if you are looking for a book set mostly in Italy, this is not the one for you.

That being said, there is a lot to enjoy in this book. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the  Lake District, they really brought the place alive and took me back to holidays I have spent there. The main character, Gina, is a warm and likeable person with a sad past and it was easy to get drawn in to her story. I really liked the relationship that she has with her sister, Hannah. With three sisters of my own that I am very close to, I felt their relationship was very realistically portrayed. In fact, her whole family and friendship group were well drawn and interesting and gave a very warm and supportive back drop to Gina’s life. I really enjoyed the wonderful community set out in the book in Gina’s lakeside town.

When Fabio appears, I could see why Gina was drawn to him and the parts of the book set in Italy were beautifully described and make you want to travel there immediately. However, as pointed out in the opening paragraph, this is a short part of the book, and also the visit takes place in January rather than the summer so it might be a little different to what the reader is expecting from the cover and blurb, but I don’t think that matters too much. The premise behind the book is interesting, I really liked the idea of Gina travelling to Italy to help decorate Fabio’s hotel and the setting is wonderfully described. Gina’s trip with Fabio in to Milan was my favourite part of the book and the author does a wonderful job of portraying this beautiful city in the book.

However, there were a couple of points in the book that rankled slightly. I wasn’t 100% convinced by Gina’s reaction to her brief conversation with Fabio’s sister, or his sister’s motivations. I think this probably needed to be expanded more to be authentic but I understand this is a supposed to be a sweet summer read so that may not be too much of an issue for readers. The thing that really got my goat, although this may be the pedantic travel agent part of me, is the glaring geographical inaccuracies in the Italian section of the book which made me think no one who read this book before publication had looked at a map. I found them very distracting. So here is a plea to all authors, when you are setting a book in foreign climes, please check that the things you are having happen are geographically possible!

There is much to enjoy in this book. I like Sue Roberts voice, I think she is very good at building characters and relationships, and there is a real life and atmosphere in her descriptions of places. It’s a shame that there were a couple of points that let it down for me but I am sure that many readers will enjoy this book for what it is.

My Very Italian Holiday is out now and you can buy a copy here.

My thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

If you would like to see what other bloggers think of the book, check out the other blogs taking part in the blitz below:

My Very Italian Holiday – Blog Tour

About the Author


I live in Lancashire with my long term partner Derek and have had a lifelong love of writing, encouraged by winning a school writing competition at the age of 11.

I always assumed that ‘one day’ I would write a book, always having a busy household and a job, the idea remained firmly on the back burner but never forgotten.

The inspiration for my first novel came to me on a holiday to a Greek village. My daughters had left home and suddenly the time had come to write that book!

Connect with Sue:
Facebook: Sue Roberts

The Getaway Girls by Dee MacDonald #BlogTour #BlogBlitz #BookReview (@DMacDonaldAuth) @Bookouture #TheGetawayGirls #NetGalley


“One morning, Connie McColl wakes up and decides to swap her ordinary life, for an extraordinary adventure…

Connie McColl is finally free to make her own decisions for the first time in decades. And when she meets glamorous Gill and downtrodden Maggie, at a rather dull flower arranging class, it seems that she’s not the only one dreaming of adventure. The three very different women all agree it’s about time they had a holiday to remember.

So they make a pact for this summer to be their best yet – and drive off into the sunset together…

As they meander their way along the beautiful beaches of France and onto the glorious delights of Italy in their luxury campervan, the new friends have plenty of fun and frolics in the sunshine. But the vacation isn’t quite what they expected…

Gill will do anything to have one last holiday romance, Connie has a surprise inheritance awaiting her in Italy, and Maggie has a secret that is going to catch up with them all… 

In the end, all three women discover that the journey they thought would be their last really is just the beginning…”

I reviewed Dee MacDonald’s first book The Runaway Wife earlier in the year and absolutely loved it (you can read my review of that book here) so I jumped at the chance to read the follow up and catch up with what the fabulous Connie McColl is doing now.

What she’s doing is taking a fabulous road trip in a motorhome called Bella with two equally eccentric septuagenarians down through France and in to Italy in search of Connie’s long-lost Italian family, and the trip is quite as marvellous and action-packed as the one she took in the first book.

This novel is joyous, as the first one was. The idea of three women who society may have written off as past it grasping life by the proverbial and setting off with no real plan on a mad road trip through Europe, is just wonderful and the whole book is fun, moving and totally life-affirming. I loved every second of it and came away with a happy, warm feeling of contentment – which is all I ever ask from a book of this kind.

I fell in love with Connie in The Runaway Wife and she is just as likeable in this book. Now separated from dull husband Roger, she has discovered she had an Italian grandmother and is determined to go to Italy and find her missing branch of the family. She manages to find herself travelling with two equally dissatisfied women of a similar age, the downtrodden Maggie, who it turns out is not as mousy as first appears and is hiding a HUGE secret, and brassy Gill, who is really as soft as butter and just wants to be loved. These characters are just wonderful; larger than life but totally likeable and believable too, you can’t help but want them all to get a happy ending.

I was totally captivated by the journey, which Dee really brings to life through her descriptions of the scenery, sights, sounds and smells of France and Italy as they travel through. Just like the first book, the ladies end up in plenty of outlandish situations and mad scrapes along the way, but it is all very light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek and a delight to read.

There isn’t much else I can say. This book is a delight from start to finish. Uplifting, fun, satisfying, with enough going on to keep you turning the pages from start to finish. the author’s writing flows beautifully and is easy to read. I just loved everything about it and I am praying this is not the last we see of Connie MacColl.

And I have just realised how much I overuse the word ‘just’ (I deleted four examples and there are still lots left!) so I’ll try and watch that in future!

The Getaway Girls is out now and you can buy a copy here.

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

The Getaway Girls - Blog Tour

My thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially and to Kim Nash at Bookouture for my place on the tour.

About the Author


The Runaway Wife was Dee’s first (published) novel but in fact she wrote her very first book – at around seven years of age! This was a love story which she duly illustrated before sewing all the pages together up one side. Writing was what she ‘was good at’ in school and she won several essay competitions, but then life got in the way and she didn’t pick up a pen again until after retirement.

Dee left Scotland and headed for London at the beginning of the swinging sixties. After typing her way round the West End she became an air stewardess on long haul routes with BA (then BOAC) for eight years. After that she did market research at Heathrow for both the government statistics and for BA, she became a sales rep., and was the receptionist at the Thames Television Studios in Teddington when they had the franchise.

She then ran a small B&B for ten years in Cornwall, where she lives with her husband. Dee has one son and two grandsons who live locally.

Connect with Dee:

Facebook: Dee MacDonald

Twitter: @dmacdonaldauth

Murder on the Marshes by Clare Chase #BookReview #PublicationDay (@ClareChase) @bookouture #MurderOnTheMarshes #NetGalley


“As the sun rises, a wealthy young woman – Samantha Seabrook – is found drowned in the ornamental fountain of a deserted Cambridge courtyard, the only clue – an antique silver chain wound tightly around her throat. 

It’s Tara Thorpe’s job to discover what happened to Miss Seabrook – but the case becomes personal when she learns that Samantha had been receiving death threats… rather like the one that landed on Tara’s doorstep the night the woman died.

Together with Detective Inspector Garstin Blake, Tara tracks the killer to the dank and dangerous fens on the outskirts of the city. But there’s something Tara can’t quite admit to Blake about her past – and it could make all the difference to whether they live… or die.”

I have always been intrigued by books set in the exclusive university cities of Oxford and Cambridge, especially detective books, and especially ones that provide a glimpse into the exclusive and archaic world of the elite universities that most of us never get to see. My love was initially sparked by the brilliant novel Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers and prevailed through my abiding devotion to the great Inspector Morse novels by Colin Dexter. I think I have found another fabulous series to add to my favourites if this book is anything to go by.

Murder on the Marshes is the first in a new crime series set in Cambridge and I absolutely loved this book. I have read it cover to cover in less than a day and I cannot wait to get my sticky mitts on the second book.

The central character in the book is Tara Thorpe, a journalist working for a sensationalist online paper. When a successful, young, glamorous and attention-seeking professor from the university is found murdered on college grounds, Tara is tasked with getting the in-depth story. She has an added interest in finding out who might have killed Samantha Seabrook, as it seems the same killer may have Tara in his sights.

This book grabbed me by the throat from the opening chapter and refused to let go until the very end. It has absolutely everything connoisseurs of the classic crime novel could want and I am seriously excited to have discovered this great new writer. The story was a fantastic puzzle, filled with twists, turns, red herrings, esoteric clues, dubious characters, tensions, rivalries, all set against the beautiful backdrop of Cambridge and the menacing emptiness of the surrounding Cambridgeshire fens. The author uses the setting and landscape to great effect in the book and it really ramped up the atmosphere. I loved the way she made the flat emptiness of the fens feel claustrophobic, as this is something I have felt myself when visiting that area.

As well as having a great setting and plot, the characters in this book are most appealing and really make the book the compelling read it is. Tara Thorpe, who has a difficult and unresolved past, is very likeable and is a great character to carry the series. I was really involved in her family history and her moral dilemmas and personal struggles and enjoyed the way that the author has left certain issues open to be developed and resolved in future books while at the same time giving this novel a satisfying conclusion, it is very neatly balanced. DI Garstin Blake is also a complex and interesting character and a nice foil for Tara and I really hope that we see more of him in future books and that their relationship develops further.

I have nothing negative to say about this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was an accomplished crime novel and I really look forward to reading the next one.

Murder on the Marshes is published today and you can purchase a copy here. The second book in the series Death on the River will be published on 17 October and I will be reviewing it on the blog on October 19. You can preorder a copy here.

My thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author


Clare Chase writes mysteries set in her home city of Cambridge and is fascinated by the location’s contrasts and contradictions. She’s worked in diverse settings – from the 800-year-old University to one of the local prisons – and lived everywhere from the house of a Lord to a slug-infested flat. The terrace she now occupies presents a good happy medium.

As well as writing, Clare loves family time, art and architecture, cooking, and of course, reading other people’s books. She lives with her husband and teenage children, and currently works at the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Connect with Clare:


Facebook: Clare Chase Author

Twitter: @ClareChase_

Instagram: Clare Chase Author

Goodreads: Clare Chase

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena #BookReview (@sharilapena) @penguinrandom @TransworldBooks


“We can’t choose the strangers we meet.

As the guests arrive at beautiful, remote Mitchell’s Inn, they’re all looking forward to a relaxing weekend deep in the forest, miles from anywhere. They watch their fellow guests with interest, from a polite distance.

Usually we can avoid the people who make us nervous, make us afraid.

With a violent storm raging, the group finds itself completely cut off from the outside world. Nobody can get in – or out. And then the first body is found . . . and the horrifying truth comes to light. There’s a killer among them – and nowhere to run.

Until we find ourselves in a situation we can’t escape. Trapped.”

As soon as I plucked this book off the shelf in the supermarket and read the blurb, I knew I had to read it so I spirited it home and started it immediately. I read it in one sitting, as I simply could not put it down.

The ‘trapped in a remote house which you can’t leave with a killer on the loose’ is a favourite trope in suspense fiction but it’s popular for a reason, it is a really compelling premise. What would you do if you were stuck somewhere remote and could not escape from a rampaging killer? Until recently, I would have thought that it was all too convenient. Is there anywhere so remote that you can’t get a phone signal these days? However, having just spent a week on a writing retreat in a remote part of Shropshire where there was no phone signal, at the top of a hill that could easily be cut off in bad weather with 17 people I’d never met before, I can see this could actually happen. In fact, the first night we were all sat there in the lounge, introducing ourselves, it felt like it could be the start of an Agatha Christie novel. Later in the week as I was walking after dinner in the quiet woods around the house when there was rusting in the undergrowth. It turned out to be a fox but at the time I wondered, if someone jumped out of the bushes and strangled me, how long would it take the others to realise I was missing and what would they do? (The perennial ‘what if’ that is grist to the mill of the writer’s mind). This recent experience made the book all the more chilling.

The book is peopled with an interesting cast of characters. the first few chapters did feel a tiny bit contrived, as the author had to introduce all the people who were staying at the remote hotel before she could get to the meat of the story, but they were sufficiently interesting, and the set up was intriguing enough for me to not let this bother me too much and once this was past, I was totally engrossed. The pace then moves fast enough to keep you turning the pages to find out – what next, what next?

I thought she did a great job of switching the initially perfect-seeming setting of a charming and elegant old hotel high in the Catskills into something suddenly menacing and sinister (if you can get past the location of the Catskills which, for me, immediately conjures images of Kellermans and I suspect always will!). The abrupt switch of the cosy and welcoming to hostile and dangerous accentuates  the creepy horror of the story as the murders start to happen and I was on the edge of my seat for most of the book. The knowledge that one of these normal-seeming people is a killer is fascinating, and we start looking for clues as to who it could be in the individual personalities and behaviours.

Shari is very adept at slowly revealing aspects of the different personalities and drip feeding in tiny bits of information about them, small clues, gradually revealing the secrets they have all been keeping from each other in a way that is designed to keep you reading and it is completely effective. These people morph before our eyes from what they appeared to be at the start to what they truly are by the end of the book. As well as a great thriller, it is also a fascinating exploration of human nature and relationships, how we hide things about ourselves from even those closest to us. We are left with the question – can you ever really know another person?

The final reveal of the killer was a surprise and it felt a bit to me like the end of an episode of Midsomer Murders; the murderer is the person you least expect and the method and reasoning is so convoluted that you would never have guessed it in a million years and you wonder how you missed all the clues. Which is why I love Midsomer Murders so much. I need to read this book again, knowing whodunnit, to see if I can spot the clues the second time around. A re-read for me is the ultimate sign of a good book.

An Unwanted Guest is out now and you can buy a copy here.
About the Author


Shari Lapena worked as a lawyer and as an English teacher before writing fiction. Her debut thriller, The Couple Next Door, was a global bestseller. Her second thriller, A Stranger in the House, has been a Sunday Times and New York Timesbestseller. Her third book, An Unwanted Guest, is out in 2018.

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