Book Review: The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper #BookReview

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Sold by her mother. Enslaved in Pompeii’s brothel. Determined to survive. Her name is Amara. Welcome to the Wolf Den…

Amara was once a beloved daughter, until her father’s death plunged her family into penury. Now, she is owned by a man she despises and lives as a slave in Pompeii’s infamous brothel, her only value the desire she can stir in others.

But Amara’s spirit is far from broken. Sharp, resourceful and surrounded by women whose humour and dreams she shares, Amara comes to realise that everything in this city has its price. But how much will her freedom cost?

I had heard marvellous things about this book, but hadn’t really grasped what to expect before I picked it up. Whatever it was I thought I was going to read, it wasn’t this but, wow, what an incredible, accomplished and entertaining piece of work this is, I absolutely adored every page of it.

Set in the brothels of Pompeii, this book explores in colourful, vivid and violent detail the day to day realities of life in these establishments for the women forced to work and live there. The brutality of what they were subjected to on a daily basis, the degradations suffered, the indignities they had to go through to survive… but also the bravery, the friendship, the humour and the hope that kept them going, held them together and made those lives a little less bleak.

Elodie Harper endows these characters that are so distant in history from ourselves with a humanity to which we can all relate and makes them come to brilliant life. Every sense is awakened by her writing, until the reader is living and breathing life in Pompeii along with the characters. I was absolutely blown away with how vital her writing about the period is; if you didn’t know better, you might assume she had been there at the time.

I was mesmerised by this book. Once I picked it up, I could not put it down. It was one of the most compelling novels I have picked up these year. It made me wince, it made me outraged, it moved me, it made me laugh, it made me cry and it gave me hope. This book is the first of a trilogy, with the new book due next year and, as soon as I had finished, I went out and bought a copy in hardback in anticipation of collecting the full set. I absolutely cannot wait for Amara’s story to continue and The Wolf Den is undoubtedly going to be one of my top books of the year.

The Wolf Den is available now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Elodie Harper is a journalist and prize winning short story writer. Her story ‘Wild Swimming’ won the 2016 Bazaar of Bad Dreams short story competition, run by The Guardian and Hodder & Stoughton and judged by Stephen King. She is currently a reporter and presenter at ITV News Anglia, and before that worked as a producer for Channel 4 News.

Connect with Elodie:

Website: https://www.elodieharper.com/

Twitter: @ElodieITV

Instagram: @elodielharper

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Book Review: Deadheading and Other Stories by Beth Gilstrap #BookReview

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Irrevocably tied to the Carolinas, these stories tell tales of the woebegone, their obsessions with decay, and the haunting ache of the region itself—the land of the dwindling pines, the isolation inherent in the mountains and foothills, and the loneliness of boomtowns. Predominantly working-class women challenge the status quo by rejecting any lingering expectations or romantic notions of Southern femininity. Small businesses are failing. Factories are closing. Money is tight. The threat of violence lingers for women and girls. Through their collective grief, heartache, and unsettling circumstances, many of these characters become feral and hell-bent on survival. Gilstrap’s prose teems with wildness and lyricism, showing the Southern gothic tradition of storytelling is alive and feverishly unwell in the twenty-first century.

I was provided with a digital copy of this book for the purposes of review by Lori Hettler of TNBBC Publicity, who has my grateful thanks. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

A collection of short stories, some a mere page, some a little longer, all tied together by their setting in the Carolinas and all exploring the intricacies of life and womanhood. I was stunned by the depth and breadth of experience that the author has managed to weave into even the briefest of tales in this extraordinary collection.

I didn’t really know what to expect from this book, and I have never read anything quite like it before. On the surface, some might argue that these tales are about nothing in particular. They aren’t identifiable crime stories, or romances, or horrors, but a collection of related and yet unrelated tableaux of ordinary yet extraordinary lives. Tinged with anger, passion, despair, melancholy, love, fear, joy and tragedy, they span the range of human emotion that can infuse even the simplest of everyday endeavours. The writer makes every life a miracle and quest for meaning, illustrated by even the smallest and most innocuous of happenings. Nobody in this world is nobody.

This is a great book to dip in and out of when you only have a few minutes to spare, or is equally a book that could transport you away for hours as you lose track of time. Each story is engrossing and moving, provoking a range of emotions in the reader that can take time to be fully realised. These are stories that you carry with you long after you have finished them and, I am sure, will be even richer on a second reading. Something out of the mainstream to relish.

You can buy a copy of Deadheading and Other Stories here.

About the Author

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Beth Gilstrap is the author of Deadheading & Other Stories, Winner of the 2019 Red Hen Press Women’s Prose Prize due out October 5, 2021 and available for preorder now. She is also the author of I Am Barbarella: Stories (2015) from Twelve Winters Press and No Man’s Wild Laura (2016) from Hyacinth Girl Press. Born and raised in the Charlotte area, she recently relocated to Louisville where she lives and writes in an ornery old shotgun house. She also lives with C-PTSD and is quite vocal about ending the stigma surrounding mental illness. Bruce and Bonnie (pictured) are terrible editorial assistants.

Connect with Beth:

Website: https://bethgilstrap.com

Facebook: Beth Gilstrap

Twitter: @BettySueBlue

Instagram: @bettysueblue

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Blog Tour: A Match Made in Venice by Leonie Mack

A Match Made In Venice

My turn on the blog tour today for A Match Made in Venice by Leonie Mack. I cannot tell you how much I have been looking forward to reading this book. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher and author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Escape to the breath-taking beauty of Venice – The City of Love.

When pragmatic, sensible and resolutely single Deirdre York (Didi to her friends) is sent to Venice for work she is determined not to be taken in by the romantic clichés. Winter in the floating city may be breathtakingly beautiful, but she’s here with a clear purpose and will not let the magic of Venice distract her.

Piero Zanetti is the epitome of the handsome yet tortured artist. Heart-broken by the end of his love affair with a glamorous opera singer, he has lost his ability to work, and his inspiration has drained away, along with his zest for life.

But Didi needs Piero working – she has been tasked with commissioning him to do a glass centrepiece for a luxury department store Christmas display – some how Didi has to cheer Piero up or at least find him a new muse…

As Didi and Piero slowly become friends, and as Venice starts to melt Didi’s heart and gently nudge Piero out of the blues, something special begins to happen. Can Venice – the City of Love – work a Christmas miracle and help Didi and Piero to find their happiness at last…

My first festive read of the year!

Or so I thought, but the cover of the book and the blurb are a little bit deceptive in this regard, because this isn’t really a Christmas book in the traditional sense of being set at, or revolving entirely around, Christmas. It begins shortly before the festive season and briefly touches on Christmas, and the design of Christmas window display is the hook that unites the male and female protagonists, but Christmas is not the main theme. This didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book, but don’t go into this book thinking you are settling down for a Christmas read.

The book is set in Venice mainly in the winter months either side of Christmas and, for me, exploring Venice at this time of year was one of the big positives of the book. Venice is a place I have only visited and read about and seen in movies in the summer time, so to read the descriptions of how it is in winter, when the streets are not rammed with tourists and the city takes on a completely different mantle, was fascinating. Also, we are guided around the city by Piero, a native Venetian, and we get to see the city as Didi does, through the eyes of an English girl exploring with a local guide. Leonie really brings the city to life, and the book is filled with evocative detail that immediately transports you to Italy, Venice and all the romance it promises. This is a place I am hoping myself to revisit soon (I have been dropping more than enough hints to The Irishman about where I’d like to go for my 50th birthday this year) so having this sneak, better-be-a-preview-or-someone-will-be-in-trouble was a real pleasure.

The characters in this book were easy to warm to immediately. Piero does sterling work as the handsome-but-tortured Italian artist that you would be disappointed not to have as the romantic interest. However, I found Didi, unconventional and down-to-earth, a refreshing protagonist. She did not come across as the typical heroine and I found her all the more charming for it. Both of them have troubled family dynamics that are played out in the book and which draw them together, and I found their relationship completely believable and utterly charming. I was carried along by their growing closeness from beginning to end and was left with a warm glow by the end of the novel, as much as I could possibly wish for in such a novel.

A Match Made in Venice is the perfect book to snuggle up with in these autumn months when the nights are drawing in and the temperature is dropping. You will be transported to Venice, with all its romance and beauty, and be warmed by the developing romance between Didi and Piero amongst its shimmering lights. Totally delightful in every respect, just not a Christmas book.

A Match Made in Venice is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Please make sure you check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for more great reviews and features:

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About the Author

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Leonie Mack is an author of romantic comedies with great international locations. Having lived in London for many years her home is now in Germany with her husband and three children. Leonie loves train travel, medieval towns, hiking and happy endings!

Connect with Leonie:

Website: https://leoniemack.com/

Facebook: Leonie Mack

Twitter: @LeonieMAuthor

Instagram: @leoniejmack

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Friday Night Drinks with… Carolyn Mandache

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It’s Friday Night Drinks time again and this week I am joined by Author… Carolyn Mendache.

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Welcome to the blog, and thence you for joining me for a drink this week. First things first, what are you drinking?

Hi Julie, my Friday night tipple is a gin cocktail from Eden Mill. They do all different kinds, but I’m partial to the Gin and Rose Lemonade one.

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If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

Aside from my writing, my husband and I also run a business called time2dine, working closely with local restaurants, so I’d be taking you to one of the fantastic restaurants on offer in Glasgow. Chatting over great food in an attractive setting always seems a good option to me, and we’ve all missed out on this for so long it’s even more enjoyable now!

Great food is always a winner with me! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

This question I’m finding really tough! Ok, I’ll go with my gut instinct and say Michael McIntyre for the male, as he is one of the funniest people on the planet in my view and would be sure to entertain us. The female would be Sarah Rafferty in character as Donna from Suits, as she’s funny, smart, has terrific one-liners and wonderful dress sense.

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

My current writing is a follow up to my debut novel, title still to be decided! To go back to the start, my inspiration for Behind the Curtain was to try and make people re-think Romania and attitudes towards immigrants. 

My husband was born in Romania, and the media is often very negative in portraying Eastern Europe, so I hope to try change that. The book is a fictional account of his life in Romania before meeting me and moving to Scotland. 

Our four children are another reason for writing the book, I want them to grow up to be proud of both their Scottish and Romanian roots. I found researching absolutely fascinating, there is only one year in age difference between Florin and I, but our childhood experiences were so different and I learned a lot about the country’s history, culture and customs. Florin’s childhood in a communist country was not an easy one, but it wasn’t unhappy either, so it was important to me to fully show this.

Now that I’ve caught the writing bug, I’m well underway with the next book which starts where Behind the Curtain finishes off, with Florin meeting me. This book is written from my own perspective, rather than Florin’s, and it is a lot of fun reminiscing about all of our experiences as a multi-cultural family, both in Scotland and Romania. My aim for my books is to encourage people to be more open-minded, not fall into the trap of believing stereotypes and to form opinions of people based on who they are, not where they are from.

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing/blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?

My proudest moment is yet to occur, as I have been invited to my local Waterstones branch to sign my book once it arrives in stock! This really will be a dream come true moment for me as it’s great selling online, but to see my own physical copy of my book sitting signed in Waterstones will be something truly special.

My biggest challenge was to go for it, and actually publish Behind the Curtain. For quite a while I worried I did not have the right to publish a book based on someone else’s life, in a country I had only visited. In the end, my motivation was strong enough to help me overcome those worries, and I am proud of the book with very positive feedback so far. Another challenge was deciding how many Romanian phrases to include without putting off or confusing British readers, but I think I got the right balance.

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

If I’m brave enough for the next book I’d love to do a pre-order campaign as pre-release sales would feel fantastic! Other than that, media coverage or being noticed and critiqued by an author I admire would also be of huge value.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

During lockdown, I joined an online creative writing group with Indie Authors World, who helped me publish my book. We produced a collaborative book of novellas, each one of us taking on a different writing prompt, and the book will be published soon. I really enjoyed this project, and tackled a romance story, something I normally would have shied away from. The book will be called Allsorts due to the variety of writing, and profits will go to Calum’s Legacy, a meningitis charity. 

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

I would have to say Cocoa Beach, Florida. I have so many happy family memories from there as we’ve visited a few times. It’s next to the Kennedy space centre, and the excitement of our kids watching a real life rocket launch was pretty amazing. Dolphins jumping in the sea, and of course, a magical trip to Disney World, not to mention the fantastic outlet shopping. Perfect holiday destination all in all. It does rain quite a lot there in July, but it’s warm rain that’s over fast, not like the Glasgow downpours I’m used to!

The place I’ve always wanted to visit is Hawaii, I love the idea of enjoying a Luau, experiencing the food, music and culture. The scenery, colourful flowers, and general laid back feel it seems to have would be things I’d really enjoy. Definitely on my bucket list!

I absolutely love Florida! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I met my husband Florin, the main character in my novel, at a foam party in Spain! I’m guessing not many people can say that’s how they met their other half. 

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Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things, but I’d have to buy you a copy as I wouldn’t part with my signed one! Picoult is one of my very favourite authors and I always enjoy her thought provoking books with topical themes and moral dilemmas. This particular book I received at a talk by the author herself at Kelvingrove art galleries in Glasgow. The spectacular setting, as well as her insights into how she tackled writing the book made for a very entertaining evening, and I loved meeting her. Tackling racism, the storyline centres around a black nurse accused of causing the death of a newborn baby, I won’t say any more, but it’s a powerful read and one that I would class as a “must read”.

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When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.

What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.

I have copy of this, I must get round to reading it some day! So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

With 4 kids it’s safe to say I avoid hangovers at all costs! A big glass of water at bedtime is a must and if I’m not feeling too great the next day, strong coffee and lots of fresh air always helps.

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

Well, a weekend for me has to have a lie in since it’s a break from the early morning school runs. Saturday afternoons I like to spend as a family, a walk around the Kelpies then coffee and cake is always a good option, followed by either dinner out, or someone else cooking for a change! Sundays I like to find some time to read, meet up with friends, watch some TV (currently bingewatching The Rookie) and catch up on washing and ironing…although you said perfect weekend, so in that case my magic wand would have taken care of that.

Sounds wonderful. may I borrow your washing up wand, please? Thank you for joining me, I’ve really enjoyed our chat.

Carolyn’s book, Behind The Curtain, is available now in ebook and paperback formats and you can buy a copy here.

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Florin was born in Iasi, Romania. As a young boy, he lived through rationing and the harsh conditions of the Ceaucescu regime, but always with the love of family and friends to balance out the hardships and mask the struggles.

As he gets older, he tries to untangle his own beliefs from those forced upon him… was a Communist way of life a bad thing? Were the stories about the Roma people true? Was life in the west really as depraved as his country would have him believe? 

Aged 11, on Christmas Day, Florin witnessed the exalted Ceaucescus shot to death on TV, the true feelings of the Romanian people finally stripped bare. From that historic moment, he knew his life in Romania would be a changed one. 

This is a story of the strength of people in the face of dictatorship, how love can sustain people in even the worst of circumstances. Florin’s story and that of his family allow you to see behind the curtain.

Carolyn Mandache is an author and business owner living in Scotland. “Behind the Curtain” was inspired by her interest in Romania, where her husband Florin was born; a country she has come to think of as a second home. Carolyn’s aim with her book is to provide an insight into what life was like “behind the Iron curtain” not as historical fact, but as fiction. She has a BA in English Literature from the University of Strathclyde, and can speak Romanian at conversational level. The author enjoys travelling with her husband and children, with a particular soft spot for Spain…where she met Florin on holiday.
 
You can find out more about Carolyn and her work on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
 
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Blog Tour: The Forgotten Maid by Jane Cable

The Forgotten Maid

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for the latest book by one of my favourite RNA authors, Jane Cable. The book is The Forgotten Maid, a dual timeline novel set in picturesque Cornwall. 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 digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Two centuries apart, two lonely women seek a place to call home…

Cornwall, England, 2015

Nomadic project manager Anna Pritchard has arrived in the village of Porthnevek to oversee the construction of a trendy new glamping site. But with many members of the local community strongly opposed to the development, she quickly finds herself ostracised and isolated.

Seeking to ease her loneliness, Anna begins volunteering at a nearby National Trust house in Trelissick, once owned by the aristocratic Daniell family. In her new role, Anna soon feels her attachment to both Porthnevek and Trelissick deepening. And as she spends more and more time steeped in local history, it seems that the past and the present are beginning to collide…

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After losing her brother in the Battle of Waterloo, French army seamstress Thérèse Ruguel is taken to London by war artist Thomas Chalmers, becoming his reluctant muse. But with Thomas’s mother unhappy with the arrangement, Thérèse is soon sent to Cornwall as a lady’s maid to Elizabeth Daniell, a kindly relative of the Chalmers family.

Able to speak only a little English — and with the other servants suspicious of her — Thérèse feels lost and alienated. And when she discovers her brother may still be alive, she must decide whether to continue with her new life in England, or brave the dangerous journey back to her homeland…

What became of Thérèse? Can Anna unearth the ghosts of the past?

And has Anna finally found where she belongs…?

This book promises everything I love in a book. Gorgeous Cornish setting? Check. Dual timeline? Check. Exploring a fascinating period of history? Check. I went into it full of anticipation and I can tell you, the book fulfilled its promise in every respect.

The main protagonist is Anna, a rootless young woman who moves from project site to project site around the country with nowhere to call home and some unspecified trouble in her recent past that she can’t quite shake. When she arrives in Porthnevek, she is drawn to the wild beauty of the place, as well as its rich history, but is shocked at the hostility of the locals. She manages to carve out a little community for herself nevertheless, but becomes intrigued by one historical figure in particular.

Back in the Regency period, another young woman is feeling displaced, this time by war and loss, and is equally foreign and friendless in Cornwall. However, she has a saviour in her kind mistress and begins to settle into a new life, until her past also comes back to haunt her.

The parallels in the lives of Anna and Therese are subtly drawn but compelling, and I was equally entranced by the lives of these very different but connected women, separated by two hundred years of history. I had never really given any thought to what might happen to women affected by war in the 1800s, so Therese’s plight but an interesting and fresh spin on the Regency aspect of the story. We still get to read about all of the fabulous balls and social events that form the backbone of Regency novels, but the focus here in more on what happens below stairs and behind closed doors for women who have even fewer options than the monied classes. It is a sobering lesson in how far feminism has come in 200 years.

The detail of the effects of industrialisation on Cornwall, and the vast differences in benefits for the owners and the workers was also woven into the story beautifully and was enlightening. I personally love a book that I feel is teaching me something I didn’t know whilst I am reading it, and Jane has clearly done a lot of research for this book so it feels historically accurate. At the same time, you are not bombarded with historical fact, the balance the author has achieved is perfect.

This is also true in the division of the story between Anna and Therese. I liked the fact that the story switched between the timeline in chunks, rather than chapter to chapter. It allows the reader to develop and maintain a connection to each woman, rather than flitting between the two constantly, which can sometimes interrupt the establishment of relationship between the reader and the characters. I really felt immersed in each story and time period when I was reading those chapters. This was a book in which I did feel like I completely lost myself, and the read flew by very quickly, always the sign that I am engrossed in the tale the author is telling.

If I had any minor complaints they would be, firstly, that Anna is way too fickle with her affections, despite the fact that Jane was trying to persuade us she was exercising caution, and I wasn’t 100% buying it, particularly the first time. Also, I felt the storyline involving her family was not really committed to fully and should either have been developed more fully, or omitted altogether. These are me looking for things to criticise though, they did not detract in any meaningful way from my enjoyment of this book.

If you enjoy a dual timeline novel, and would be interested in a novel exploring the Regency period with a different spin, this is the book for you. It whisked me away and kept me entertained throughout, and I was left very satisfied with the whole reading experience. That’s a pretty good investment of 99p, if you ask me,

The Forgotten Maid is a beautiful time-shift romance set in Cornwall between the Regency era and the modern day. It is the first book in the Cornish Echoes Dual Timeline Mystery series and for a limited time is only 99p. You can buy a copy here.

Make sure you check out the rest of the tour:

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About the Author

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Jane Cable writes romance with a twist for Sapere Books, and The Forgotten Maid her first novel set in her adopted county of Cornwall. She is lucky enough to have been married to the love of her life for more than twenty-five years, and loves spending time outdoors, preferably close to the sea on the wild and rugged north Cornwall coast.

She also writes emotional women’s fiction as Eva Glyn, published by One More Chapter.

Connect with Jane:

Website: http://janecable.com

Facebook: Jane Cable

Twitter: @JaneCable

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Blog Tour: I’ll Be Home For Christmas by M W Arnold

Ill Be Home For Christmas

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for the release of book three in The Air Transport Auxiliary Mystery Club series by M W Arnold, I’ll Be Home For Christmas. Thanks to Mick and Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be part of the tour and to Mick for providing me with this great character interview for me to share with you today.

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A mysterious key left by her murdered sister, leads Air Transport Auxiliary pilot Betty Palmer on a journey of discovery and danger. Given up to an orphanage upon birth, the parents she’s long thought had no part in her life force themselves back in, purely out of greed and self-preservation.

Penny’s life is unexpectedly turned upside down by a potentially life-changing situation, which causes her wounded husband to question their marriage. No-one seems safe in this year of turmoil in the middle years of the war, as some relationships face breaking point whilst others become stronger.

Kidnap, crashes and dogfights, the girls of the Air Transport Auxiliary Mystery have never faced such dangers. To survive may not be enough as they must find the strength to rise above the most trying times yet of their lives.

Let’s go over now to one of the main characters in the novel, Betty Palmer, and have a chat to her, shall we?

So Betty, a little bird tells me you’re a colourful character. Would you care to comment?

That depends. Will everything I tell you in this interview be kept confidential? Specifically, from the police? Well, if that’s the best you can promise, I’ll just have to trust you. Yes, I suppose you could say I’ve dallied with my fair share of lively enterprises, but I’m really not sure how much I should tell you. I had an unusual childhood, something more akin to Oliver Twist, though a little more structured.

Now you really have my attention. You’ve got to elaborate.

Must I? Oh, very well. My twin sister and I were put into an orphanage because our parents only wanted a boy. You tend to grow up tough and quickly in those places and we quickly learned the only people we could totally trust and depend upon, were each other. Remember I mentioned Oliver Twist? We learned certain, skills as we grew older, which influenced what we did for a living once we were able to escape. That probably doesn’t sound as if were were…honest. Very true, but we did have our own code and only ever dealt with those who could afford to lose things or, who were evil. I know that sounds like some kind of thing you’d read in the legends of Robin Hood, but that’s where the similarities end; we didn’t give to the poor.

That’s quite a story. You mentioned a twin sister.

Yes, Eleanor. I’m very sad to tell you she was…murdered in January of 1942, so you’ll never be able to meet her. I know I didn’t go into details about what we did to make ends meet – sorry, but no promises are worth going to jail for – so I shall only say, she was a girl of undoubted skill in her chosen profession. Indeed, in certain circles, she was quite famous. You could even say that the corridors of power were lined with her pictures.

Perhaps we should move on. Are there any of your colleagues to which you are particularly drawn?

Really? You wish to put me on the spot. To be honest, after I lost my sister, I never expected to become close to anyone again. Certainly, I never intended to allow myself to. Then fate foisted three girls upon me to which I’ve grown inordinately fond, even though one is a Yank! They are all capable of causing me equal amounts of grief and joy so no, I don’t believe there is a single one of which I am fond over any other. I know that isn’t the answer you wanted but would it help if I also told you, I now believe I have the family I never believed I would ever get.

Do you remember where you were when this terrible war broke out? And what you were doing?

You really are determined to get me to say what I was doing, aren’t you? Well, sorry, I’m still going to keep that to myself, though I’m certain you have already made your own assumptions, those will have to do. Let me just say, I was busy valuing certain items my sister may have acquired in the course of her business. However, the very next day, I began to look into what I could do for my country. I didn’t think I was patriotic until I heard the wireless and then saw the headlines in the newspapers. I eventually joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. Unfortunately, this was not a very good experience for me and I was very happy and also relieved when I found out about the formation of the Air Transport Auxiliary. I’ve found my freedom and true happiness amongst its members.

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I am sure this has whetted your appetite to find out more about Betty and her past and her experiences in the Air Transport Auxiliary. Well, I guess you had better buy a copy of I’ll Be Home For Christmas! You can find it here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour for reviews of the book and other great content:

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About the Author

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Mick spent fifteen-odd years roaming around the world, courtesy of HM Queen Elizabeth II – gawd bless her – before becoming a civilian and realizing what working for a living really was.

He loves traveling, and the music of the Beach Boys, Queen, Muse, and Bon Jovi. Books play a large part in his life, not only writing, but also reading and reviewing, as well as supporting his many author friends.

He’s the proud keeper of two Romanian Were-Cats bent on world domination, and enjoys the theatre and humoring his Manchester United-supporting wife. Finally, and most importantly, Mick is a full member of the Romantic Novelists Association. I’ll be Home for Christmas will be his third novel with The Wild Rose Press.

Connect with Mick:

Facebook: M W Arnold Author

Twitter: @mick859

Instagram: @mick859

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5BTjvD9Jp–rLfjB9hcd9g

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Kathy Strobos

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I am delighted to be chatting today to another romance author about why she loves and writes in the genre. Please welcome to the blog, author… Kathy Strobos.

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

I’ve written three books so far, all of which have been through the RNA New Writer’s Scheme. I’ve also taken a lot of classes. My first writing course was the Penguin UK Writer’s Academy “Constructing a Novel” course, and my teacher said the exchange between Audrey and Eve (two characters in Partner Pursuit) was “sparky.” That made my month. I realized I could write commercial fiction—and not just legal briefs. I took some more courses and finished the novel. I submitted it to the RNA New Writer’s Scheme. I received very positive feedback that encouraged me to keep writing. I think I floated on air for several weeks as a result of this final line of my first report: “In this rollercoaster narrative, the plot is deftly handled, and the conclusion is fun. Partner Pursuit has plenty of the feel-good factor that makes this romantic comedy such an enjoyable and satisfactory read.” 

I published Partner Pursuit in October. It was briefly in the Amazon Top 50 Best Sellers for City Life and Humorous American Literature in paperback. I will publish Is This for Real? in January and then publish Caper Crush in May 2022. And then write some more. 

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An opposites attract, friends-to-lovers, slow burn, fake dating romantic comedy

Love is all fun and games until somebody gets hurt. Usually me. I admit it, I’m a relationship-recluse. Ironic, given that I write romantic comedies. So, I’m on a sabbatical from dating.

Which is why fake dating my best friend Rory is fool-proof. Rory suggested it because he needed a date for work functions. And I can use our experiences as fodder for my romcom novel. Plus, my sister doesn’t know it’s not real and she is thrilled that I’m not walling myself off emotionally. Her words, not mine. But I do wish she would stop saying that she always suspected there was something more between me and Rory. She should realize that we’ve been friends forever so I’m immune to his appeal. 

We would never work. Rory is such a romantic; he still believes in that perfect love similar to his parents’ marriage. My parents fought bitterly. So, we are better off as friends. I can’t risk losing our friendship, even if this might be my chance—before his ex-girlfriend wins him back.  

Those flickers of attraction? Easily extinguished by cold water reality—like a two-mile hike in drenching rain over sand with wheelie luggage. 

But our relationship is not sticking to the plot—or is it?

I think that they are all a mix of women’s fiction with romance/romantic comedy/chicklit. Partner Pursuit focuses a lot on Audrey’s journey and her legal career. Is This for Real? is more focused on the romance. And Caper Crush is more focused on the romantic comedy.

Why romance?

I read romance, probably because I like to read stories with a HEA. And it took me awhile to find my husband, so I had a lot of dating stories (good and bad) while I was single. Audrey’s bad date in Partner Pursuit was based on one of my dates, although I made it much worse in the book. 

What inspires your stories?

I initially started drafting Partner Pursuit because I watched a really bad romcom, and I thought, I could write a better one. I really miss the brilliant romcoms like When Harry Met Sally, Bridget Jones, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and The Proposal. So, I started writing scenes of Partner Pursuit. Partner Pursuit was also inspired by my having a hard time finding work/life balance while working as a corporate lawyer. But I also did make a lot of great friendships at the office, so I also wanted to convey those friendships. 

I love fake dating stories and friends-to-lovers so that inspired Is This For Real?

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

Jane Austen, Sophie Kinsella, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Giulia Skye, Jill Mansell, Helen Fielding, Hester Browne, Judith McNaught

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

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. Kinsella is brilliant at comedy. 

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Samantha thrives under pressure. A high-powered London lawyer, all she can concentrate on is taking the next step in her career; eating, sleeping, seeing friends – even taking a breath – will have to wait.

But just when she’s about to get everything she has ever wanted, Samantha makes a mistake. A fifty-million-pound, career-destroying mistake. Unable to face the consequences, she does the unimaginable and runs away…

Catching the first train she can, she finds herself in the countryside, outside a beautiful grand house. Mistaken for another woman, she falls into a new job as the family’s housekeeper.

Disaster ensues. In a blink, her life has shifted from writing briefs to washing them – and she has no idea how to work the washing machine. Let alone the oven. A former master of the takeaway menu, she’s now expected to whip up fine cuisine.

But gradually, she falls in love with her new life in a wholly unexpected way. Will her employers ever discover the truth? Will Samantha’s old life ever catch up with her? And if it does…will she want it back?

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

That is super difficult. After much consideration, I’ve picked Nelson of the Hester Browne Little Lady Agency series. For my perfect romantic weekend, we would fly to Costa Rica. We could go sailing there (Nelson can sail), do a little easy hiking, have romantic dinners with beach breezes etc., and spend some time at the beach. 

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

I have gained so much. First, my favorite thing is the friendships I have made. I made so many friends when I was at the RNA Conference in Leeds. That was an amazing experience. Everybody was so friendly. I went not knowing anybody.

I met my now-critique partner Giulia Skye on the train to Leeds, and we immediately clicked as we discussed The Hating Game and the novels of Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Now we email each other weekly, and she is the one who encouraged me to indie-publish. But I’ve made a lot of friends at the RNA (also online via the Facebook groups). It is great being friends with other writers.

Second, I think the critiques in the NWS are invaluable. 

Third, I also enjoy the camaraderie, friendships and mentoring in the Facebook groups. 

Also, the RNA Conference, the online classes and the magazine articles are really helpful. I had a 1-to-1 consultation for my Partner Pursuit blurb at the RNA conference this past summer.

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

Join the RNA New Writer’s Scheme. (If I am only allowed one piece of advice). Second, just write. You can fix a rough draft. For me, I get better ideas when I re-read what I’ve written. 

Tell us about your most recent novel.

Audrey is a workaholic lawyer. She is trying to make partner—with only six months until the decision. She’s torn because she’s stressed by working so much, but she also loves being a lawyer and the analytical thrills. And then she meets Jake.

Jake is a fun-loving music marketing executive. He definitely doesn’t want to date a workaholic lawyer—because his dad was one, and his dad often put work before family. I made him a music marketing executive because when I became in-house counsel, I worked for the parent company of a music company, among other things. When I would ride up in the elevator in the morning, other people would talk about how they’d been up all night at a concert. I thought, “wow, that’s so different than my life writing a brief or compliance policy until late at night.” You can buy a copy of Partner Pursuit in ebook and paperback here.

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When a workaholic lawyer meets a fun-loving music marketing executive for opposites attract, friends-to-lovers adventures, which partnership will she choose?

Workaholic lawyer Audrey Willems is not going to take any chances with her bid to become a partner at her New York law firm—especially with only six months until the decision. 

Until she bumps into Jake—her new neighbor. Jake is a fun-loving music marketing executive who might just be The One.

He’s funny, caring, supportive—and able to kill water bugs in the bathroom.

But Jake will never date a woman married to her job. His father was a workaholic lawyer who never had time for family. 

And she’s just got the case of a lifetime—the one she needs to win to make partner.  Working 24/7 at the office may not even be enough hours to pull off a victory.

If only she had not met him now.

Audrey is determined to prove that she can juggle work and romance—even if managing court cases, candlelit dinners, and bike rides around Manhattan is a lot harder than it looks.  She keeps canceling dates for yet another case crisis.

But when making partner is like a game of musical chairs and the last seat is a business-class alone, which partnership will she choose?

About the Author

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Kathy Strobos is a writer living in New York City with her husband and two children, amid a growing collection of books, toys and dollhouses. She grew up in New York City and graduated from Stuyvesant High School, Harvard-Radcliffe University magna cum laude, and Columbia Law School. She spent two semesters abroad at the Universiteit van Amsterdam. She previously worked as a lawyer. She left law to pursue her dream of writing fiction full-time and getting in shape. She is still working on getting in shape.

Connect with Kathy:

Website: https://kathystrobos.com

Facebook: Kathy Strobos Rewrites

Twitter: @KathyStrobos

Instagram: @kathystroboswriter

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Friday Night Drinks with… Joan Schweighardt

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Welcome to November! It’s Friday again and I’m away at the moment, so I am fully relaxed and in a sociable mood. the perfect time to have Friday Night Drinks with another fabulous author. Tonight I am delighted to welcome to the blog… Joan Schweighardt.

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Welcome, Joan. Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Caipirinha! It’s a Brazilian drink, consisting of Cachaça (a spirit made from sugarcane juice), lots of fresh lime, and sugar. I generally stay away from sugar, but this is a special occasion.

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If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

Since I’m starting off with a Brazilian drink and hoping you’ll join me and try one too, let’s go to Brazil. I know a great river/rainforest guide down there. He calls himself Carlos the Jaguar: He has a small boat and he takes tourists up and down the river, or he did, in the days I want to remember (pre COVID and pre all the mining and drilling that’s been going on forever but has really picked up in the last few years). Anyway, it’s a lovely night and the river will be as smooth as glass and the banks will be alive with the songs of insects and frogs, and, every now and then, curious screeches we can’t identify. 

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If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

How about two Scots? I’m thinking Anne Donovan and Thomas Lipton. I’ve only read one of Anne Donovan’s novels, and but it was wonderful and I intend to read more. The one I read, Buddha Da, begins with this line: is “My da’s a nutter.” It’s a coming of age about a girl (the narrator) whose happy-go-lucky but none-too-spiritual father comes home one night and announces he’s going to take up meditation at the local Buddhist center. 

As for Thomas Lipton, he was actually born in Ireland but moved to Scotland very shortly thereafter. Here in the U.S., we really know him these days for his tea, but he was a very famous man back in the 1920s, here as well as in the UK, a large-hearted man who quit school at the age of 13 to help his parents run their Glasgow grocery shop and whose marketing genius made all of them fabulously wealthy. He didn’t sit on his money either; Lipton was a renowned philanthropist, always giving to the poor, and he made sure his employees at the various businesses he came to start (some in the U.S.) were fairly paid. (One of my fictional characters in my recent trilogy worked for him, so I have this firsthand.) He loved the sea, Lipton did, and he participated in the American Cup year after year—and never won. But he won the hearts of sea lovers everywhere with his personality and generous nature. 

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

I’m writing; I’m always writing. I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. I’ve always worked on my own projects, but I also made a career writing for other people. I’ve written for newspapers, PR companies, corporate clients and several private clients who had stories to tell but neither the time nor inclination to do so themselves. I’ve recently finished the trilogy I referred to above, and now I’m putting together an anthology with several other writers and completing a non-fiction about my younger sister, who died almost four years ago.

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

By 2000 I had three novels published, and I had a friend who had written a brilliant novel, better than anything I’d ever written, but hadn’t been able to find a publisher for it, even with an agent. It bothered me so much that I decided that I would start a small publishing company and publish not only her novel but books for other people who were being passed over too. I told my friend I was going to publish her, and she was thrilled. And then I woke up a few mornings later and thought, What have I got myself into? What do I know about publishing, other than that I’ve had stuff published myself and I’ve done a bit of freelance for publishers? And how could I have forgotten that I’m really shy and suffer from imposter syndrome and seldom step out of my comfort zone?

Long story short, I did it, because I’d made a commitment. I’m proud of that, and I’m proud that I actually became a pretty good small publisher. The authors I published got interviews and book reviews and won awards. At some point the distributor I was working with went bankrupt (this is the challenging part), owing me and several other client publishers a lot of money. I found another distributor, but I could never get back on my feet, and so I shut down my little publishing company five years after I’d started it. Publishing was a roller coaster of an experience, especially since I freelanced for clients the whole time I was publishing. I learned so much—about myself, about the industry, even about unique ways to recover from a relatively big financial loss. I never regret doing it.

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, it’s just us talking after all!

I’d like to see my recently completed trilogy become a Netflix or Amazon Prime or whatever series. I wrote a story bible based on the three books and offering my vision of how they would work in a series, and I sent it to the one person in the film world that I have indirect access to. He liked it enough to ask me (indirectly) to send the three books, which I did. I’ve got my fingers crossed, though I know my chances are slim to non-existent.

What have you planned that you are really excited about?

I’m excited to see what my next big fiction project will be. I’m always happiest when I’m writing fiction. I’m waiting for the universe to point me toward it, so I don’t have much to say about it at this moment in time… which is fine, since, as mentioned above, I’ve got some nonfiction projects to keep myself busy.

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

My favorite place is the South American rainforest. That’s why we’re sitting here, with Carlos the Jaguar making our caipirinhas and Thomas Lipton and Anne Donovan chatting away about the highlands. Another favorite place is Ocracoke Island, which is one of the barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, and the only one that isn’t connected to the others by road. You have to take a ferry to get there. I’ve been to Ocracoke many times, in many seasons, with many different people. On my bucket list is the chance to stay there for a full month, in a big rental house from which friends and family can come and go, during the off season when it’s not so crowded.

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

When I was a kid we were poor and my father could never make ends meet with his machinist job alone. So he did work on weekends for the supermarket we lived near, retrieving grocery carts people walked off with and picking up trash in the supermarket parking lot with a long stick that had a nail at the end of it. Oh was I embarrassed to see him out there, in his big army coat when it was cold, picking up other people’s trash and shoving it into a cloth bag he carried on his shoulder. I didn’t want anyone to know I was related to him. 

We live near an arroyo that has a bike path on one side and a dirt trail on the other. We walk our dog on the dirt trail, and it is always filthy, everything from candy wrappers to burger bags and soda cups to the tiny liquor bottles the night hawks leave behind. Once a week I take my trash grabber and a paper bag and pick up all the trash. My father is no longer among the living, but I always imagine he’s watching me, amused because I tried so hard not to be like him. And I always say something corny like, “Turns out I’m my father’s daughter after all,” in case he’s listening from the great wherever, to let him know I miss him and I don’t mind being like him one bit. 

That’s such a lovely sentiment! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst is a wonderful story about a linguistics professor who tries to teach his dog to talk because the dog was the only witness to his wife’s death. Parkhurst never tells the reader what the poor professor is feeling; she only tells us what he is doing—and that has more power to make us feel his emotion than if she had spelled it out.

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A poignant and beautiful debut novel explores a man’s quest to unravel the mystery of his wife’s death with the help of the only witness — their Rhodesian ridgeback, Lorelei.

So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

I can drink as much as the next woman, so I don’t anticipate a hangover. But if I get one, I’ll take an aspirin and spend the day on the sofa with a book.

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

Maybe a nice hike in the mornings, and then back to the sofa with a good book, whether I’m hung over or not, in the afternoons. 

Sounds perfect. Joan, thank you so much for taking the time to chat to me this evening, I have thoroughly enjoyed myself.

The latest books by Joan Schweighardt, The Rivers Trilogy includes the novels Before We Died, Gifts for the Dead and River Aria. You can buy the book as a Kindle boxset here. All three books work as standalone novels, but to sum them up collectively:

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In 1908, two Irish American brothers leave their jobs on the Hudson River docks of Hoboken, New Jersey, to seek their fortunes tapping rubber trees in the Brazilian rainforest. They expect to encounter floods, snakes, and unfriendly competitors, but nothing prepares them for the fact that the Amazonian jungle will take most of their crew and that saving the life of one brother will require leaving the other behind.

The trilogy follows Henry Ford’s plot to desecrate the rainforests and own the rubber trade, the impacts of World War I and prohibition on daily American life, and, finally, the journey of a talented young soprano who travels in the latter part of the 1920s from her birthplace in Brazil to New York City, where she struggles to make peace with her Irish American father, while establishing herself in the world of metropolitan opera.

Joan Schweighardt is the author of nine novels, two memoirs, two children’s books and various magazine articles, including work in Parabola Magazine. She is a regular contributor to Occhi Magazine, for which she interviews writers, artists and filmmakers. In addition to her own projects, she has worked as an editor and ghostwriter for private and corporate clients for more than 25 years. She also had her own independent publishing company from 1999 to 2005. Several of her titles won awards, including a Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers,” a ForeWord Magazine “Best Fiction of the Year,” and a Borders “Top Ten Read to Me.” And she has agented books for other writers, with sales to St. Martin’s, Red Hen, Wesleyan University Press and more.

Her most recent work is the Rivers Trilogy—Before We Died, Gifts for the Dead and River Aria—which moves back and forth between the New York metro area and the South American rainforests from the years 1908 through 1929.

You can connect further with Joan via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Desert Island Books with… Lucy Morris

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This week I have packed off author Lucy Morris to my virtual desert island to kick back, relax and indulge herself in reading five of her favourite books to her heart’s content. Let’s see which five titles she has snuck on to her raft, shall we?

Book One – Dune by Frank Herbert

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Melange, or ‘spice’, is the most valuable – and rarest – element in the universe; a drug that does everything from increasing a person’s life-span to making intersteller travel possible. And it can only be found on a single planet: the inhospitable desert world Arrakis.

Whoever controls Arrakis controls the spice. And whoever controls the spice controls the universe.

When the Emperor transfers stewardship of Arrakis from the noble House Harkonnen to House Atreides, the Harkonnens fight back, murdering Duke Leto Atreides. Paul, his son, and Lady Jessica, his concubine, flee into the desert. On the point of death, they are rescued by a band for Fremen, the native people of Arrakis, who control Arrakis’ second great resource: the giant worms that burrow beneath the burning desert sands.

In order to avenge his father and retake Arrakis from the Harkonnens, Paul must earn the trust of the Fremen and lead a tiny army against the innumerable forces aligned against them.

And his journey will change the universe.

I love this book, and I’m super excited for the new film. 

I first read it when I was fifteen. I’d stayed up late one night, and the David Lynch 1984 adaptation suddenly came on the telly. I was entranced! The beautifully earnest Kyle MacLachlan, not to mention the sweaty and incredibly sexy Sting emerging from a random tube of steam! Hello first villain movie crush!

So, I gave the book a go…and loved it, going on to read the whole series. Which only gets more bonkers with each book. However, the first book, Dune, will always be my favourite.

I was obsessed with the crazy mix of science fiction, epic saga, and the extensively detailed civilisations described. I love writing worldbuilding to this day, and I’m not happy unless there’s a bit of drama and magic in my stories.

Book Two – Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

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Reina seethes with rage over her fate: taken captive by the knight Ranulf — a golden giant of a man — who has pledged to deliver her to the nuptial bed of the despised Lord Rothwell. She will never accept such bondage — and Reina offers herself to her kidnapped instead, offering to make Ranulf a great lord…if he agrees to wed her.

But the brave knight desires much more than a marriage of convenience from this proud, headstrong lady who treats him with scorn yet makes his blood run hotter than liquid fire. She must come to him of her own free will — or Ranulf will take her. For the passion that consumes them both cannot long be denied — even though gravest peril surely awaits them on the heart’s trail to a destines and turbulent love.

This was the first romance I ever read, and it’s still my most treasured book. As well as the Fabio paperback from my mum’s collection, I also own it on my kindle for whenever I might need a comfort read. Honestly, I don’t tend to re-read books, but this one is my go to ‘warm hug’ of a book.

It’s a medieval romance with mercenary, Ranulf (a very viking-style hero), being paid to kidnap the heroine, Reina. She’s a small and pragmatic lady who knows she needs to marry soon to protect her kingdom from those who wish to steal it by force. My latest book ‘A Nun for the Viking Warrior’ is a nod to the ‘look’ of these two characters, as I have a giant softie hero and tiny bookish heroine.

Ranulf is welcomed into her castle when he fights off one such attack, only for him to steal her away in the middle of the night. Reina then convinces Ranulf to marry her —instead of delivering her to the old man who paid him to steal her away.

There’s so much I love about this book. The humour — the heroine’s gay best friend is hilarious, as is Ranulf’s ugly cat. There’s also so many delicious tropes thrown in that you can’t help but read it all in one sitting. Plus, there’s lots of lovely sweet romance, with the hero going from a big brute of a lover to taking the time to learn how to satisfy her properly.

I know Johanna Lindsey books are considered bodice rippers and aren’t very PC by today’s standards, but I love them, they’re pure fantasy and great fun.

Book Three – The Complete Poetry of Maya Angelou

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I absolutely love the poem ‘Still I rise’, it’s so beautiful and electric. 

‘You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.’

It’s like a call to arms for all the downtrodden people in the world, to rise up and be proud despite adversity. I think if I were shipwrecked on a desert island, I would sit and read aloud her poems to keep my spirits up, or commiserate my downfall depending on my mood.

Book Four – Wilderness Tips by Margaret Atwood

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A leathery bog-man transforms an old love affair; a sweet, gruesome gift is sent by the wife of an ex-lover; landscape paintings are haunted by the ghost of a young girl.

This dazzling collection of ten short stories takes us into familiar Atwood territory to reveal the logic of irrational behaviour and the many textures lying beneath ordinary life.

Margaret Atwood is a sensational writer, and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ should be required reading for every adult on the planet in my opinion. I find her ‘MaddAddam’ books fascinating to read and love the crazy ideas she comes up with.

But for a desert island, I would take her collection of short stories. Each one is bizarre and fascinating. However, one of her stories from this collection has always haunted me. The girl in the landscape painting, in ‘Death by Landscape’ it’s so poignant and eerie.

Book Five – The Poetic Edda: Stories of the Norse Gods and Heroes  by Jackson Crawford

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“The poems of the Poetic Edda have waited a long time for a Modern English translation that would do them justice. Here it is at last (Odin be praised!) and well worth the wait. These amazing texts from a 13th-century Icelandic manuscript are of huge historical, mythological and literary importance, containing the lion’s share of information that survives today about the gods and heroes of pre-Christian Scandinavians, their unique vision of the beginning and end of the world, etc.

Jackson Crawford’s modern versions of these poems are authoritative and fluent and often very gripping.  With their individual headnotes and complementary general introduction, they supply today’s readers with most of what they need to know in order to understand and appreciate the beliefs, motivations, and values of the Vikings.” –Dick Ringler, Professor Emeritus of English and Scandinavian Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison

This is a book/text I’ve only ever dipped in and out of. In my research I’ve read countless books on the Viking era, and read many translations of the old Norse myths. But I’ve never actually read the original text fully. So, as I’ve plenty of time to spare on my desert island, it’d be good to read it. To double check all the other books gave an accurate rendition!

I’ve always loved the old Norse myths and legends, and had a children’s version of them that I read over and over. I love how the Gods are portrayed as real people, with flaws and vices just like the rest of us. They can also die, and Ragnarok (the end of days) is as much of a threat to them as death is to us, and yet there’s a beautiful cycle to the stories. In the same way that the seasons come and go. Ragnarok will lead to everyone’s death, but then all the God’s will be reborn again to play out the same story once again, in an endless turning of the wheel of time.

I also really like how Old Norse myths seem to closely relate to Roman and Greek myths. There’s an interesting familiarity to myths and old religions. As if there’s a shared consciousness that brought them about, or, more likely, they stole pieces they liked and incorporated them into their own tales…much like how they lived raiding from other people, or settling in new lands.

My luxury item

Irn Bru. I love the Scottish pop and couldn’t live without it! Tea would come a close second. Maybe, I should have a tea bush…so I can always have tea? As I think my iron bru would run out very quickly, and I’d just be left with a load of empty cans!

About the Author

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Lucy Morris has always been obsessed with myths and legends. Her books blend sweeping romance with vivid worldbuilding to whisk you away to another time and place filled with adventure. Expect passion, drama, and vibrant characters.

Lucy lives in Essex, UK, with her husband, two children, and two cats. She has a massively sweet tooth and loves Terry’s chocolate oranges and Irn-Bru. In her spare time, she likes to explore castles with her family, or drink bubbly with her friends.

A member of the UK Romantic Novelists’ Association. In 2020 she was delighted to accept a two-book deal with Harlequin after submitting her story to the Warriors Wanted submission blitz for Viking, Medieval, and Highlander romances.

She hasn’t looked back since.

Lucy’s latest book for Harlequin Mills and Boon, A Nun for the Viking Warrior, is out now and you can buy a copy here.

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Forced to wed the warrior

Falling for the man…

Noblewoman Amée Évreux had pledged her life to God, until her father promised her in marriage to thundering Norseman Jorund Jötunnson. After escaping her overbearing father, Amée vows never to fall under another man’s thumb, but her resistance to being Jorund’s wife turns to desire as she gets to know her intriguing new husband. For beneath his fierce exterior she’s glimpsed an unexpectedly pure heart. If only she can penetrate the fortress that surrounds it…

Lucy is currently running a competition with some fabulous prizes, including signed books from an array of Historical Romance Authors. All you need to do to enter is sign up for her website newsletter.

Connect with Lucy:

Website: www.lucyMorrisRomance.com

Facebook: Lucy Morris Author

Twitter: @LMorris_Author

Instagram: @lucymorris.author

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Book Review: The Haunting of Lindy Pennyworth #BookReview

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Nobody believes Lindy when she says she doesn’t pull her hair out on purpose.

Nobody believes Lindy when she says she hears voices in the night.

Nobody believes Lindy when she says her dead ancestors are haunting her dreams.

Nobody believes Lindy …

After the death of her father, Lindy falls headlong into a state of grief and no longer understands her place in the world. Through paranormal rituals, Ouija boards and spiritualist churches, Lindy attempts to speak to her father beyond the grave – but to no avail. That is until she receives a ‘visit’ from Esme, her Victorian ancestor, who reveals that her family is under a curse that separates them in the afterlife.

Determined to break it, Lindy sacrifices her grip on reality. Not everyone wants her to succeed and there are secrets that fight to remain buried alongside the dead that she seeks . . .

I was provided with a copy of this book for the purposes of review by Graeme Williams of Graeme Williams Marketing, who has my grateful thanks. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

We first meet Lindy when she is residing in a psychiatric ward, writing down her story so she doesn’t forget it while others try and convince her it is all a figment of her imagination so, from the very beginning, we are unsure whether Lindy is a reliable narrator or not and this sets the tone for the whole book. No one believes Lindy’s story, but are they right not to?

This is a YA book and it is part ghost story, part psychological thriller and had me on the edge of my seat throughout. Lindy has suffered a terrible loss and she is trying to make sense of things. Her mother isn’t a lot of help as she is dealing with the loss herself in ways that don’t make sense to Lindy. She doesn’t have many friends, and behind to indulge in some unhealthy behaviours which make people suspicious of her stability from the beginning. When she begins to try and explore the path of spiritualism, she puts herself on a slippery path, and is opening some dangerous doors.

The book is spooky, but not terrifying, so would be good for someone who likes to feel the frisson of fright but doesn’t like full-blown horror, or is in a slightly younger audience. That being said, it is definitely chilling, and some of the things that happen to Lindy are terrifying, if you put yourself in her shoes. As a fan of the show, Supernatural, this book was right up my street.

Lindy is a character easy to identify to, lost and confused as she is by her loss and still on that childhood/adulthood cusp where her mind is quite open. However, I also related quite a lot to Lindy’s mother, Caroline, who is struggling with both the loss of her husband and her daughter’s bizarre behaviour that she has no idea how to resolve. I can imagine how worrying the whole thing must be from her, and it would have been fascinating to see the story from her perspective too. I loved all the slow revelations that came out throughout the book about Lindy’s father and their relationship which move the story along.

This is a very satisfying read, and perfect for this time of year, which will appeal to both adults and older teenagers. I thought the story moved along at a satisfying pace, with plenty of action, intrigue and revelation to hold the readers interest, and an intriguing ending. I would have no hesitation in recommending this book to readers who enjoy a bit of a scary read during the autumn months.

The Haunting of Lindy Pennyworth is out now as an ebook and in paperback and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

ME

S. M. Pope is a writer, editor, teacher and librarian based in Oxford, though she’s also lived in Canada (where she was born) and Spain. The Haunting of Lindy Pennyworth is her debut novel but she has had supernatural / horror short stories published before with Otranto House (Tales of the Supernatural), and one story, ‘La Tricoteuse’, won best ‘tale’ as part of a touring theatre production of A Tale of Two Cities. A more normal (ie not scary) story of hers was shortlisted by Trapeze Books and the single-parent-charity Gingerbread as part of their campaign to find a writer and story to represent single families. She enjoys spending time with her family, singing to her cats (should I admit that?), and laughing.

Connect with Sam:

Twitter: @childtastic

Instagram: @sampopewriter

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