Tuesday, 20 November 2018

One New York Christmas
Mandy Baggot

It's my turn on the Blog Tour for One New York Christmas by Mandy Baggot. This is the first book I have read by this author (I know, I can only apologise!), but I will certainly be reading more as there are some witty one liners in this one! Having been to New York a couple of times and once just before Christmas, I can relate to this book and the places that Lara visited and can thoroughly recommend New York as a romantic, feel good place to visit.

Lara Weeks is heading to New York with best friend Susie for the Christmas trip of a lifetime.

A festive break in the snowy Big Apple visiting the tourist hotspots, not to mention the shopping, seems like the perfect way for Lara to get over her ex-boyfriend. Or maybe make him so jealous he begs for a second chance.

Enlisting the help of gorgeous actor, Seth Hunt, doesn't quite go to plan, but there's something about him that has Lara wishing for a different kind of happy ever after...

It's December 1st and Lara is getting excited about all the upcoming Christmas festivities that are planned in her little village of Appleshaw and who else would she plan to spend the festive season with, other than her boyfriend Dan, but when Dan delivers a bombshell all of his own, Lara's whole world is turned upside down, until her friend Susie comes up with the ridiculous idea of dropping everything and jetting off to New York, or is it

Susie has her own reason for going to the Big Apple in that she wants to see her boyfriend David as she is getting fed up of having a long distance relationship!

Apart from seeing her boyfriend, Susie is trying to make Dan jealous and tweets an American actor (who Lara loves), but little does she realise the repercussions this will cause...

Actor Seth is "between jobs" and his friend Trent decides to become his agent with mixed consequences!

The situations that Lara, Susie, Seth and Trent get into when the girls arrive in New York is hilarious and what happens with a lemur in Central Park will leave you in stitches!

This is a very funny, sometimes emotional read and it is a lovely feel good book for the Christmas season. I will definitely be reading more from this author as I do love anything to do with Christmas!

Sunday, 18 November 2018

The Merest Loss
Steven Neil

The Merest Loss
A story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris. When Harriet Howard becomes Louis Napoleon’s mistress and financial backer and appears at his side in Paris in 1848, it is as if she has emerged from nowhere. How did the English daughter of a Norfolk boot-maker meet the future Emperor? Who is the mysterious Nicholas Sly and what is his hold over Harriet? Can Harriet meet her obligations and return to her former life and the man she left behind? What is her involvement with British Government secret services? Can Harriet’s friend, jockey Tom Olliver, help her son Martin solve his own mystery: the identity of his father? The central character is Harriet Howard and the action takes place between 1836 and 1873. The plot centres on Harriet’s relationships with Louis Napoleon and famous Grand National winning jockey, Jem Mason. The backdrop to the action includes significant characters from the age, including Lord Palmerston, Queen Victoria and the Duke of Grafton, as well as Emperor Napoleon III. The worlds of horse racing, hunting and government provide the scope for rural settings to contrast with the city scenes of London and Paris and for racing skulduggery to vie with political chicanery. The Merest Loss is historical fiction with a twist. It’s pacy and exciting with captivating characters and a distinctive narrative voice.

Purchase Links  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Merest-Loss-Steven-Neil-ebook/dp/B077D9SHB5/ https://www.amazon.com/Merest-Loss-Steven-Neil-ebook/dp/B077D9SHB5 https://www.independentauthornetwork.com/steven-neil.html

Author Bio

 Steven Neil has a BSc in Economics from the London School of Economics, a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the Open University and an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University. In his working life he has been a bookmaker’s clerk, management tutor, management consultant, bloodstock agent and racehorse breeder. He is married and lives in rural Northamptonshire.

Social Media Links:


From Steven Neil, the author of THE MEREST LOSS 
A story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris. 

Using witness testimony

I like the idea of using different points of view to provide variety for the reader. The most obvious way to do this is by switching the narrator from, say, an omniscient third person narrator to a character narrator, in the first person. It is also possible to change the tense from past to present and back again. The challenge for the writer is to generate interest and variety rather than confusion. Sometimes it works well, but care needs to be taken. Another way to vary point of view is to use a device like a newspaper article, a review or an exchange of letters or notes to provide additional perspective. In chapter three of The Merest Loss I used a report from one character to another on the progress at school of Elizabeth Harryet. This is sometimes called ‘witness testimony’ and provides a third party perspective on a leading character. It also has the benefit of suspending the normal rules of ‘show versus tell’ for the writer and can ‘fast track’ an understanding of the subject’s personality or temperament.

Chapter Three 

Aylesbury and the Isle of Wight, England

Eliza’s end of term report, from the deputy principal, Mr Dalziel, to Mr Ridley, marked For Your Eyes Only, reads thus:
     Miss Harryet has fully lived up to her reputation as “difficult”. Whilst we pride ourselves on our ability to deal with girls of all types of character, this young lady is of a different order altogether. She has been in detention more times than any of the other girls in her year put together. On the academic front, she has managed to fail all of her exams, in two cases omitting to write a single word on the answer sheet. I think if we continue with her, we will have to go back to basics. She seems rather unclear about the essential difference between right and wrong.
     Whilst there are some positives, they have unfortunately been coupled, in every case, by an equal and opposite, negative facet.
     Even her sternest critics on the staff agree that she is possessed of an extraordinary energy. One might say she is boisterous, but I think the adjective does not quite convey her behaviour accurately enough. Nevertheless, if it could be bottled and channelled into her studies, that would give us some hope for the future. She is intelligent - there is no question about that -
but whether we will ever be able to persuade her to match her ability with discipline and application, is a moot point.
     She has a great gift for mimicry. Whilst this can, on occasion, be tolerably amusing, it also has a rather cruel side to it and such is the effect on some of her fellow pupils, not to mention members of staff,  that we have had to place a ban on this activity, although this is proving quite difficult to police. Miss Harryet’s uncanny impersonation of Mr Rogers, was attributed by her to a ‘very bad touch of tonsillitis.’
     She can, when the mood takes her, be quite engaging, but it must be admitted that this mood comes upon her infrequently. She seems to have made few friends, although she is on good terms with Miss Melliora Findon and Miss Lavinia Lampard. Unfortunately, their own record of bad behaviour, though not in the same league as Miss Harryet, means we have had to separate them. The fire in their dormitory may well have been an accident, but it is not a risk we can take.
     She has a tremendous talent as a horse rider, however, we have also had to curtail this activity. Whilst she is the only one to have mastered some of the more complex equitation techniques, taught by Monsieur Macaire, her habit of jumping out of the ménage and galloping off round the grounds at the end of her lessons, has had disastrous consequences. Once she rides our horses, none of the other girls can hold them, even in a gag bit. Poor Miss Strabally was run away with so badly that she was found in a ditch six miles away in Newbridge. The horse was found swimming off Yarmouth towards the mainland and had to be recovered by the lifeboat, put out from Cowes, as the Yarmouth boat was already in service.
     You have asked me to consider whether we can, in the interests of retaining our staff and our other pupils, continue to persevere with Miss Harryet. Whilst all the evidence points against it, I am inclined to see if we can make some progress over the summer break and look again at the situation at the beginning of next term. I am suggesting, therefore, that we do not send her home for the summer, but keep her here under my supervision and put together a programme aimed specifically at her.
     I am sure the Harryets will readily accept this idea and provided her benefactor, the duke, is prepared to meet the additional costs, I think it is worth trying. We have never failed with a pupil yet in our short history and I don’t want to give up on our record and reputation.

© Steven Neil

THE MEREST LOSS is available in paperback and eBook in the UK, US, France, Canada and Australia.





Follow Steven Neil on https://twitter.com/stevenneil12 for information on how to purchase the paperback through an independent bookseller in the UK.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

The Long Shadow
Celia Fremlin

It's my turn on the Blog Tour for The Long Shadow and today I have an extract for you. I love the cover on this one and having read some of this book already, I can see the similarities to Susan Hill's The Woman in Black. Enjoy the extract from this seasonal ghost story...

It was the grandfather clock striking midnight that roused her. She should be writing answers to these letters, not crying over them. In two whole months, she and Dot between them had answered barely a third; and they were still coming in.
‘Ten a day,’ Dot had proposed, in the heavy-handed, no-non-sense style that had kept her husband working late for years. ‘If we each answer ten a day, Imogen, then they’ll be done in— let’s see. Twenty a day is a hundred and forty a week . . . that’s a month, then. Just over a month . . . .’
Soon, though, it began to appear that five a day might have been a more realistic target . . . then three . . . and then two; and at this point the actuarial calculations became so depressing— the whole thing extending, it seemed, over the best part of both their lifetimes—that Dot decided that what was needed was a System. Hence the in-trays, and the cardboard boxes, and the slips of paper saying things like ‘To be answered before Dec. 7th’; or ‘Friends, current’; ‘Friends, Miscellaneous’; ‘Publishers etc., except for Charlie’; and ‘The Australian Lot’. Imogen found the principle of classification beyond her; but she could see that it was easier than actually writing the letters.

In the last resort, there is only one way of getting something done, and that is to do it. This was something you couldn’t really explain to Dot. She took after her mother, Ivor always used to say; which may or may not have been true. In all these years, Imogen had never actually met this earliest one of her predecessors, and so these paternal accusations were hard to assess.
Rubbing her eyes, still stiff and sore with crying, Imogen reached out blindly for the topmost letter of the nearest pile. ‘Take the one nearest you’, they always used to say when you were a child at the tea-table; and really it was good advice. Whatever this topmost letter was, important or unimportant, easy or difficult, urgent or otherwise, she would answer it—just simply answer it—here and now. Thus would be removed the awful burden of deciding where to start.
It would be this one! Well, wouldn’t it?—and no more than you deserve, my girl, leaving the thing to Fate like that. And you the wife of a Classics Professor, too—all those Greek plays. You, of all women, should know the kind of thing Fate gets up to when the Gods are no longer on your side . . . .
The widow of a Classics Professor, she corrected herself; and began to read. Twice, and then a third time, she read through the five closely-written pages; and then stared, for nearly a minute, at the heavy velvet curtains that shut out the night beyond the big windows.
At last, drawing the writing-pad towards her, she picked up her pen.

Monday, 12 November 2018

What's Left Unsaid
Deborah Stone

I would like to say thank you to the author for getting in touch with me and asking, very kindly, if I would like to review her book. I'm glad she did as I really enjoyed this one! Read my review of What's Left Unsaid below.

Sasha is just about managing to hold her life together. She is raising her teenage son Zac, coping with an absent husband and caring for her ageing, temperamental and alcoholic mother, as well as holding down her own job. But when Zac begins to suspect that he has a secret sibling, Sasha realises that she must relive the events of a devastating night which she has done her best to forget for the past nineteen years.

Sasha's mother, Annie, is old and finds it difficult to distinguish between past and present and between truth and lies. As Annie sinks deeper back into her past, she revisits the key events in her life which have shaped her emotionally. Through it all, she remains convinced that her dead husband Joe is watching and waiting for her. But there's one thing she never told him, and as painful as it is for her to admit the truth, Annie is determined to go to Joe with a guilt-free conscience.

As the plot unfurls, traumas are revealed and lies uncovered, revealing long-buried secrets which are at the root of Annie and Sasha's fractious relationship.


I was very kindly asked by the author if I would like to review this book and after reading the blurb, how could I refuse!

Sasha is married to Jeremy and they have a teenage son Zac. Sasha believes she has the typical "normal" marriage and family life, dealing with a husband who goes away for work much of the time, a teenage son who doesn’t know the meaning of the word Co-operation! The only one who seems to take any notice of her is Stanley, the dog.

Sasha’s Dad, Joe, died a few years previously, but tells part of the story in this book, which I felt was a really good touch and made a change!

Annie is Sasha’s Mum and Joe’s wife, who is sadly in the final stages of her life, but having spent much of it a heavy drinker, is paying the price and unfortunately this is affecting her memory as well.

When Zac comes home from school one day and confronts his mother about his feelings that he isn’t an only child, Sasha’s head starts to spin from this shock announcement. Where on earth did he get this information from and even more importantly, is it true?...

Zac isn’t convinced by his mother’s answer to his question and decides to get a film made where his family are interviewed about their lives. This idea goes down like a lead balloon but Zac is adamant he wants to find out about his family history. Surely this can only lead to skeletons coming well and truly out of the closet!

I really enjoyed this book and what I loved was the way the chapters involved Sasha’s Dad who had died, but still told some of the story. Very cleverly thought out.

A great mix of characters and when a character gets under your skin for all the wrong reasons, I do believe that is the work of a great writer! I found Sasha to be a bit weak at first, but she certainly came back fighting after events could have made her turn in a completely different direction!

I would certainly read work from this author again and would again like to thank her for asking me to review for her.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland
Heidi Swain

Guest Review
Julie Williams

Review by Julie Williams
It always seems odd when I pick up my first Christmas book to read in August with the sun shining and the heat warming my bones, but that doesn’t stop the festive cheer and Christmas magic that exists in Heidi Swains Christmas novels. 

Going back to Wynbridge is a treat as is catching up with old friends residing there, as well as the excitement of meeting new characters. 

When Hayley Hurren catches her Fiancé Gavin literally with his trousers down at their engagement party in the local pub, she promptly moves into Wynthorpe Hall where she works, determined to go back to her fun loving ways. Hayley has no future plans of any further long term relationships. She feels totally at home and comfortable until new arrival Gabe turns up and a spark between them is lit.

Getting over the past for both Hayley and Gabe is easier said than done and quite a battle to overcome.
Full of romance, sparkle and special friendships this is a gorgeous read, reminding us that Christmas is a magical time of the year and not too far away. 

Thanks to Julie for allowing me to share my review on her blog as part of the blog tour and to Net Galley for the ARC this is my own opinion of this book.