Tuesday 29 January 2019

The Escape
Clare Harvey

I am absolutely delighted to be hosting a turn on the blog tour for Clare Harvey's new novel The Escape. Wow, what an absolute corker of a cover this is and I can't wait to get stuck in and read this one. Today, I have a guest post from the author for you and you can read it below on how she is going to channel her Jackie Collins. Enjoy...

With thanks to photographer Eric Boman, writer John Heilpern, and Vanity Fair for using.

“I am going to channel my inner Jackie Collins!” were my actual words, after hearing a publisher was interested in my debut novel. I imagined cultivating a leonine mane, glossy lips, perfect nails and a developing lifestyle that involved frequent jaunts to London to appear on chat shows to talk about my latest bestseller. I thought life would take on a Technicolor hue as I wafted into the glamorous life of a novelist. 
The glamorous life?
As if.
So, here’s the reality, four years and four books later: 
Today my alarm goes off at 6.30am and I finally push myself out of bed at 7am and scrabble to clean teeth, run a brush through my hair, slather on some make up, and slurp a cup of tea (My inner Jackie Collins asks why there is no stylist on hand to choose a suitable outfit, and no freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice to drink? But I don’t have time to answer her as I am rushing to get out of the front door in time.) 
My 13-year old twins always insist on walking to school at 7.30am, even though this means they are there ridiculously early – they like to have time to chat with their friends before the start of the day. I walk half way with them, partly because the younger twin has cerebral palsy and still needs support crossing roads, etc. and partly because the dog needs a walk in any case. On the way home the dog and I bump into my 16-year-old son, who leaves for school at a more reasonable time. Back home by 8.30am, I feed the dog, have a coffee and breakfast biscuit in front of Frasier on Channel 4 – easier to cope with than the news, in the mornings (Inner Jackie says shouldn’t I be having berry compote and a green tea? She also tells me that I did the school run with a smudge of mascara under my left eye. I choose to ignore her.). 
I am sort-of at my desk by 9am, although I can’t help checking social media feeds and procrastinating a bit. I run through a practice speech I’m giving at my local Toastmasters this evening. By 9.30am I have started to write this blog post to you, but the back of my mind is buzzing with scenes I need to write for my new work-in-progress, and some PR stuff I need to organise for the launch of The Escape. My desk faces the window. Outside, the frost is starting to melt off the camper van bonnet, and lorries chug past on the main road (where are the palm trees, the sunshine, and the swimming pool, my inner Jackie Collins asks? I tell her to shut up and put on another jumper). 
Today is the day the cleaner comes. Inner Jackie finally cracks a smile, but is less happy about having to tidy up the kids’ shizl before the cleaner arrives, and do the weekly supermarket shop whilst the cleaning’s going on (If you must vacate the premises for the domestic staff, surely you could spend the time having a facial or some Botox, she suggests? I remind her that the family has to eat, and someone has to buy the food and lug it home).
Inner Jackie admires my fingernails as I put away the shopping. She says that whilst I have failed her on so many levels, at least my acrylics give a good impression. I remind her that unless I get cracking with another book, then the cleaner and the shiny nails will have to go. Inner Jackie frowns and says she had no idea that being an author would be like this, and that I’d better hurry up with the shopping and get back to creating scenes for my work-in-progress. I tell her we have to walk the dog, pick up the twins, make supper, check up on Granddad, who lives in the annexe, shove some washing through the machine, and stack the
dishwasher first. Oh, and it’s my practice speech at Toastmasters tonight, I remind her, so I won’t be able to get back to my writing life until after 9pm.
Inner Jackie pouts. I say I’m sorry I couldn’t give her stylists, sunshine and chat shows, that ‘living the dream’ isn’t quite what she expected. We go through to the living room, which doubles up as my office. 
“You’re right, your author’s life isn’t at all glamorous,” Inner Jackie says, taking in the ordinary suburban home, with the cold winter sunshine slanting in through the bay window, sofa cushions that were nibbled by the dog as a puppy and still haven’t been fixed, the family photos and school trophies on the mantelpiece, the discarded PE bags and pencil cases spilling onto the floor. She looks round at the fireplace, the pot plants, my cluttered desk, and finally at my new book, just slotted into the bookshelf nearby. “But, after all, it’s not a bad life, is it?”
“No, it’s not a bad life at all,” I say, to my Inner Jackie. “In fact, I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Clare’s fourth compelling wartime drama, The Escape (Simon & Schuster) is published on 24th January.
You can catch up with Clare, and find out more about her and her books here:  
Facebook: @clareharvey13
Twitter: @ClareHarveyauth
Instagram: @clareharvey13
Website: clareharvey.net

Sunday 27 January 2019

Miss Marley
Vanessa Lafaye
Rebecca Mascull

Every Christmas, without fail, I have to either watch or read A Christmas Carol and when I saw this book was being published, I just had to buy a copy. I managed to read the book in one day which is amazing for me, but I just couldn't put it down! You can read my review below about Jacob Marley and the reasons why he was to carry the chains around his neck for eternity, as in the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and A Christmas Carol...

Jacob and Clara Belle Marley were brought up in a huge house in London, but when their parents died, their Uncle sent them to the workhouse and sold the house to pay their father's debt and rather than stay, they ran away and took their chances on the streets of London.

They both struggle with finding food and warmth and Jacob never gives up hope of finding money to get themselves back on their feet.

Living on the streets takes it's toll on Clara and she gets a hacking cough that she never fully gets rid of and leaves a lasting effect on her lungs, which makes her weak throughout the rest of her life.

Clara finds work in the local toy shop and meets up with Tom who runs a tea stall. He has high ambitions of owning a chain of tea shops and asks the new company formed by Jacob and his friend  Ebenezer Scrooge for collateral to realise his dreams and then of marrying his beloved Clara.

This is a beautifully written tale and so believable as the beginning of the Scrooge & Marley story that I can really see it being a film as I could picture the scenes in my mind.

This story was written mostly by Vanessa Lafaye, but sadly passed away before she could complete her work and therefore the lovely Rebecca Mascull finished it and what a delight it is. I would thoroughly recommend this book to anybody who loves Christmas and the story of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

Friday 11 January 2019

Whistle in the Dark
Emma Healey

I'm delighted to be a part of the Blog Tour for Whistle in the Dark, which is the second book by Emma Healey. You will probably know the author's first book Elizabeth is Missing, which was a huge smash. Today I have an extract for you.


‘This has been the worst week of my life,’ Jen said. Not what she had planned to say to her fifteen-year-old daughter after an ordeal that had actually covered four days.
‘Hi, Mum.’  Lana’s voice emerged from blue-tinged lips.
Jen could only snatch a hug, a press of her cheek against Lana’s ‒ soft and pale as a mushroom ‒ while the paramedics slammed the ambulance doors and wheeled Lana into the hospital. There was a gash on the ashen head, a scrape on the tender jaw, she was thin and cold and wrapped in tin foil, she smelled soggy and earthy and unclean, but it was okay: she was here, she was safe, she was alive. Nothing else mattered.
Cigarette smoke drifted over from the collection of dressing-gowned, IV‑attached witnesses huddled under the covered entrance, and a man’s voice came with it.
‘What’s going off? Is that the lass from London?’
‘Turned up, then,’ another voice answered. ‘Heard it said on the news.’
So the press had been told already. Jen supposed that was a good thing: they could cancel the search, stop asking the public to keep their eyes open, to report possible sightings, to contact the police if they had information. It was a happy ending to the story. Not the ending anyone had been expecting.
The call had come less than an hour ago, Hugh, wrapped in a hotel towel, just out of the shower (because it was important to keep going), Jen not dressed and unshowered (because she wasn’t convinced by Hugh’s argument). They had never given up hope, that’s what she would say in the weeks to come, talking to friends and relatives, but really her hope, that flimsy Meccano construction, had shaken its bolts loose and collapsed within minutes of finding Lana missing.
Even driving to the hospital, Jen had been full of doubt, assuming there’d been a mistake, imagining a different girl would meet them there, or a lifeless body. The liaison officer had tried to calm her with details: a farmer had spotted a teenager on sheep-grazing land, he’d identified her from the news and called the police, she was wearing the clothes Jen had guessed she’d be wearing, she’d been well enough to drink a cup of hot, sweet tea, well enough to speak, and had definitely answered to the name Lana.
And then there she was, recognizable and yet unfamiliar, a sketch of herself, being coloured in by the hospital: the black wheelchair rolling to the reception desk, the edges of Lana’s red blanket billowing, a nurse in blue sweeping by with a white-coated doctor and the green-uniformed paramedics turning to go out again with a wave. Jen felt too round, the lines of her body too thick and slow for the pace, and she hung back a moment, feeling Hugh’s hands on her shoulders.
He nudged her forward. Lana’s wheelchair was on the move and Jen felt woozy, the scent of disinfectant whistling through her as they got deeper into the hospital. She hadn’t anticipated this, hadn’t been rehearsing for doctors and a recovery, had pictured only police press conferences and a funeral, or an endless, agonizing wait. The relief was wonderful, the relief was ecstasy, the relief made her ticklish, it throbbed in her veins. The relief was exhausting.
‘How are you feeling?’ she asked Hugh, hoping his answer would show her how to react, how to behave.
‘I don’t know,’ Hugh said. ‘I don’t know yet.’
They spent several hours in A&E while Lana had skeletal surveys and urine tests and her head was cleaned and stitched and some of her hair was cut. Her clothes were exchanged for a gown, and her feet, pale and chalky, stuck out naked from the hem. Jen wanted to hold those feet to her chest, to kiss them, as she had when Lana was a baby, but just above each ankle was a purplish line, like the indentations left by socks, only thinner, darker. The kind of mark a fine rope might leave. They made Jen pause, they were a hint, a threat, and they signalled a beginning ‒ the beginning of a new doubt, a new fear, a new gap opening up between her and her daughter.
The police noticed the marks, too, and photographed them when they came to take Lana’s white fleece jacket, now brown and stiff with blood. There was so much blood on it that Jen found herself wondering again if her daughter was really still alive.

Thursday 3 January 2019

Christmas at Liberty's
Fiona Ford

When I first saw the cover of this book, I just knew I had to read it. What a fabulous, Christmassy feel it has!

This is the first book I have read by Fiona Ford and this one is the first in a series and after reading it, I honestly can't wait for the next instalment!

Mary thought she had an idyllic family life with her parents and sister, but when she is unceremoniously discharged from the Army and turns to her family to help her in her hour of need, they point blank refuse and  cut her off, without even listening to her side of the story.

We don't find out what really happened to Mary before until later in the book, but throughout, her past catches up with her present and threatens to destroy her future as well.

Mary comes to London to find new lodgings and a job and sees an advert for a room with a lady called Dot in Elephant & Castle.

Alice also lives with Dot, but is pregnant with her first child and is struggling to cope with working at Liberty's and accepting the news that her husband is missing in action and doesn't know whether he is dead or alive.

Dot and Alice take Mary at face value and Alice manages to get Mary an interview at Liberty's in the fabric department. The only drawback to this, is that Mary cannot sew and doesn't know one end of a needle from the other!

Mary is interviewed by Mabel Matravers, who is notorious for giving new girls at Liberty's a hard time, but even Mary is in for a shock when Mabel finds out that Mary was discharged from the Army and makes it her mission to find out why and to make Mary's life hell in the process.

When Mary is put on a months' trial and is put under Flo's wing in the fabric department, little did Mary know that the next four weeks were going to be the hardest of her life and that so much would happen, both good and bad, but with the help of Dot, Alice, Flo and another Liberty's worker, Rose, the ladies would come to depend on each other in more ways than they could possibly imagine.

All the characters in this book were fabulous in their own way. Mrs Matravers was a conniving, manipulative, yet lost soul, who in some ways, you couldn't help but feel sorry for.

Excellently written and researched and this book leads us into what I hope will be a saga that could go on for another few books and I certainly can't wait for the next one!

Thank you Fiona Ford for writing a wonderful saga of London during WWII and especially as some of it is based around my hometown, South East London!

Amazon UK: To order a copy of this book click here