Friday 31 May 2019

The Sewing Room Girl
Susanna Bavin

I am so pleased to be a part of the blog tour for Susanna Bavin's new novel, The Sewing Room Girl. I am taking this one on holiday with me to Turkey next month as her first novel, The Deserter's Daughter was fabulous and I am hearing nothing but great reviews about this one! I want to thank Lesley at Allison & Busby for thinking of me and sending a copy for review.

Excerpt from Chapter One of The Sewing Room Girl
Saturday morning, not long after six and already the dew had burnt off. The sky was the soft blue of harebells and there was a brightness in the air, though it would be hot again before long. Just like last Saturday morning – and not in the slightest bit like it, because back then, when Juliet set off for the Dancys’ cottage, Pop had headed in the opposite direction to work on the drystone walls at the home farm. How could they not have known? Last Saturday, how could they not have known that by this Saturday . . . ?
She let herself into the Dancys’ cottage, where Mr Dancy sat in the rocking chair, pulling his boots on. Ella popped her head round the kitchen door.
‘Morning, chick.’ She didn’t ask impossible questions like ‘How are you?’ but her soft eyes and rueful upside-down smile revealed her concern. It was a shame she would never be free to marry because of looking after her father and grandmother – not that she looked after old Mrs Dancy much. That was Juliet’s job and had been since the morning after she left school.
She went upstairs, the soles of her ankle boots tapping on the wooden treads. The instant she opened the bedroom door, the stench slapped her. Old Mrs Dancy might be no bigger than a corn dolly but, by crikey, she produced enough motions to fertilise the top field and still have some left for her ladyship’s rose beds.
‘There you are, girl.’
Some folk said ‘Good morning’. Some said ‘How are you today?’ Old Mrs Dancy said ‘There you are, girl.’ Every morning for the past three years.
‘Morning, Mrs Dancy.’
Holding her breath, Juliet dug out the chamber pot from under the bed. Her scalp prickled as the tang swarmed round her. She hurried downstairs – but not too fast: it would be infinitely worse if she spilt it – and out the back door to the earth closet, chucking the pungent contents through the hole in the seat. For one head-spinning moment, it seemed the contents of her stomach might follow, but she retreated into the patch of garden and her nausea settled.
Dumping the chamber pot on the grass, she returned to lug the wooden pail downstairs. The pail into which old Mrs Dancy evacuated her bowels had a worse smell, but at least today it was just stools inside. Sometimes she peed in it as well and the pee seeped through a tiny crack, then Juliet would have to mop the floor.
She rinsed the chamber pot and pail under the water pump, then carried them back in.
Ella was about to put on the straw hat she wore in summer. She was lucky because she could dress her hat with flowers without the village busybodies calling it inappropriate, because her job was with flowers. She stopped with the hat halfway to her head.
‘Thank you.’
She always said thank you, unlike her grandmother, who was more likely to say ‘Now rub ointment into me bunions.’
Upstairs, Juliet slid the chamber pot under the bed and positioned the pail so that old Mrs Dancy would be able to slither off the mattress and hang onto her bedside table while Juliet helped her wriggle her nightdress up her scrawny thighs, before she plonked herself down on the pail for one of her noisy bowel movements.
Hearing the door shut downstairs, Juliet went to the window to watch Ella on her way. When she had started here, she had been happy to help the beautiful Ella. Now her ribs tightened in envy of Ella’s job down the hill. Ella worked for a florist and came home smelling of petals and greenery. Oh, for a proper job! But, as Mother, Mrs Grove, the vicar and Uncle Tom Cobley were fond of pointing out: ‘We all help one another in Clough’ – so there was no hope of it. Juliet spent long days filing toenails as thick as piano keys, removing earwax with a funnel of oil, applying pennies to warts and feeling the back of old Mrs Dancy’s hairbrush across her knuckles when the old lady’s wisps of hair refused to stay put in a meagre bun. Every hour, she read verses from the Bible because, as old Mrs Dancy said, ‘You never know when you’ll gasp your last.’
But it was Pop who had gasped his last. After his fall, he had been carried home on a door and put to bed, where he had lain motionless. The women who trooped in and out, providing cups of tea and unwanted food and much-needed company, said he looked like he was fast asleep. To start with, Juliet had taken comfort from it, then she realised that you moved in your sleep, even if it was just a little wriggle. Pop lay flat on his back, the way they had arranged him.
‘I’ll fetch your breakfast.’
She ran downstairs to make the thin grey gruel the old lady swore by.
‘Keeps me regular. You’ve got to be regular when you’re bedfast.’
It was the start of another interminable day, made heavier by grief and shock. Anxiety too. What was to become of them without Pop? Juliet balled her fist around the saucepan handle. It wasn’t right that they should have that worry. They should be allowed to concentrate on their loss.
And on top of all that, there was the boredom. No matter how often she swore to be cheerful, the irksome routine ground her down, leaving her brain sticky with tedium and her skin caked in stale air. Thank heaven Ella came home more or less when the children were let out of school.
Often, when Ella returned and set her free, Juliet would stride off along the tops to fill her lungs with clean air, but today she went straight home. Heat bounced up from the path. Her feet were hot and tight inside her boots. Doors and windows stood open, not that there was any breeze to be caught that way.
In the cottage, Mother and Mrs Grove were huddled together looking inside the tall cupboard in the alcove beside the fireplace.
‘That’s heavy, so it’ll need to go at the bottom,’ said Mrs Grove.
‘I don’t need telling how to pack, Beatrice,’ said Mother.
‘Pack?’ Fear streamed through Juliet, which was daft, because she knew the rules about tied cottages.
Mother turned round. Her face, which had been drawn all week, was brighter. ‘It’s good news. Mrs Whicker wanted to see me because her ladyship has heard of my reputation with a needle and wants me to be her personal seamstress.’ She laughed and a couple of tears spurted from her eyes. ‘It’s a live-in position. Imagine that. There’s never been a resident seamstress at Moorside before.’
If Mother went to Moorside . . . ‘Will I have to move in with old Mrs Dancy?’
‘You’re coming with me. It’s a sign of how much they want me that they’re prepared to take you as well.’
Mrs Grove snorted. ‘It’s a sign of what a sensible body Mrs Whicker is, more like. Say what you like about her being a slave-driver, but she guards those housemaids more closely than their own mothers. She wouldn’t dream of setting you adrift, Juliet, not at your age.’
‘So I’m not going to work at Moorside?’
‘No, you’ll stop with old Mrs Dancy.’ Mrs Grove sounded as knowledgeable as if the whole thing was her idea. She talked about everything that way. ‘Nowt will change for you, except for living in a different place.’
Nowt will change? It had already changed. Pop was dead, and she and Mother were to move out of the cottage Mother had moved into as a bride on the day Pop planted the climbing rose.
‘We have to pack and give the cottage a thorough spring clean,’ said Mother.
‘It’ll keep you busy,’ said Mrs Grove, ‘and that’s no bad thing.’
Whether it was good or bad was beside the point. There was no choice.

About the author
Susanna Bavin lives on the beautiful North Wales coast. Moving there five years ago was a childhood dream come true. She lives with her husband and their two rescue cats. Susanna is originally from Chorlton-cum-Hardy in Manchester, where her family has lived for several generations and which provides the setting for her family sagas.

Susanna started writing as a child and has been writing all her life, but for most of that time she didn’t submit anything to literary agents. Instead, she got rather hooked on getting feedback and worked with a writers' advisory service for some years. Then she decided to aim for publication and wrote three novels so as to have a body of work to offer a literary agent.

She is represented by MBA, who introduced her to the publishing world in their pre-Frankfurt Book Fair newsletter. Allison & Busby immediately asked if they could read The Deserter’s Daughter when it was ready. They bought The Deserter's Daughter and also bought a second, unwritten, 1920s saga on the strength of a synopsis - A Respectable Woman. They subsequently bought her next two books - The Sewing Room Girl and The Poor Relation.


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Thursday 30 May 2019

Girls on the Home Front
Annie Clarke

Today, it's my turn on the Blog Tour for Girls on the Home Front by Annie Clarke. I'm afraid that I couldn't get a review done in time, but to compensate, I have an extract for you.

August 1941, North East England
Arrival at the factory…
One, a woman of about thirty, whose frown was deep, stepped forward. She smiled, and her face was transformed. ‘Welcome, ladies,’ she said. ‘Mrs Raydon and I are security officers. Some of you are new, so will the others forgive me as I go through the usual pep talk, or perhaps that’s too optimistic a description. You see, new girls, I have to tell you what it is you’ve signed up for.’ She held up her hand, only it wasn’t a hand, it was an arm that ended at the wrist. ‘I made a mistake. I became careless and had a mishap with a detonator, and you may well find yourself working with these, so be careful.’
Fran gasped, along with several others. Miss Ellington continued to smile. ‘This is a filling factory, and it is work which is simple, but needs total concentration and steady hands for you will be filling armament cases of varying descriptions with explosive powders. These cases include detonators, shells, bullets, rockets, bombs. You are not only handling these powders, you are breathing them in and they can cause rashes, changes in skin and hair colouring and so on. Not always, but they can. We do our best to transfer you to the sewing shop or somesuch if this becomes a problem to you. Sometimes you feel sick, sometimes you get a bit emotional, sometimes . . . Well, let’s not dwell on it, but we do what we can to give your bodies a change of scene.’
She pointed to Mr Swinton’s overall. ‘Yes, made by a “resting team”. Not Mr Swinton, just his overall. We had no pattern for Mr Swinton so he created himself, indeed he did.’ As the others laughed, Mrs Oborne whispered, ‘Miss Ellington’s a devil for riling the old bugger. Gets right up Swinton’s nose.’ Fran could see Swinton glowering beneath his bushy, grey-tinged eyebrows as he moved his weight from foot to foot, and then rose on his toes, before subsiding and repeating the pattern.
Mrs Raydon took over. ‘Now, ladies, a few crucial rules. You must not – ever – say where you work, not to your mam or da, not to the lady in the corner shop. Do remember we have to assume that even walls have ears, or so the posters tell us. Also remember that if our troops have no weapons capable of firing, they are in mortal danger, and what’s more, we will lose the war. If you do your work efficiently, diligently, you will be part of the process that allows them to survive and crush the enemy.
‘You need to know very little except your own particular task. The less you know, the less you can inadvertently discuss. Here, in this sector, you are likely to be working with one of the following: a fuse pellet – which helps the detonator to spark the explosive in a shell, or the detonator itself, and not forgetting the explosive, which we call The Yellow. You will come to understand why. All of these are badtempered little beggars and need careful handling.’
Mr Swinton now stepped forward. ‘Don’t be fooled. There are those within our own population, our own community, who would do us harm, so if you are vulnerable to flattery, to blabbing, you might be drawn into certain actions, or into explaining how the site is protected. If you do reveal what you are not supposed to, if it is discovered that you have spoken of your work, or helped the enemy in any way at all, you will be arrested and imprisoned.’
Fran thought of how she’d told Davey she had signed up for war work in a factory, and swallowed. She had told him nothing about what it was, or where it was, because she didn’t know. All she’d known was that it was secret and this is what she’d said. It was then that Davey, Sarah’s brother, had come up with the idea of calling it Spark Lane between themselves because the canny lad had guessed. Now, listening to Swinton, she felt it better to just call it ‘the Factory’.
Miss Ellington was speaking again. ‘Of course, there are rumours of our existence as we have so many employees – we Geordies aren’t daft – but no details have been leaked. So make up your own fibs if you have to say anything.’
Miss Ellington then explained that the Factory complex covered hundreds of acres, and that it was none of their business to know how many workers were required, or their tasks. ‘When you arrive at the start of each shift you will come to this room, or one similar, for every section has its own facilities. Once here you will divest yourselves of anything metallic, including wedding rings, and put them in the envelopes provided, and these will be kept safe until you leave at the end of your shift.’
Mrs Raydon took up the thread. ‘You will also leave matches in the envelope provided. You will wear only cotton for fear of static. We canna say any of this too often, and you will hear it often, believe me.’ Mrs Raydon explained that all the buildings were well spaced out so an explosion would cause minimum damage to any of the other sectors. Each wall had a strong skeleton structure, but with a centre constructed to give way easily in order to minimise the effect of an explosion. ‘In order for work to continue, in other words.’ There was a pause. Mrs Raydon finished, ‘That’s what’s important, pets. The work must continue, whatever happens.’
Beth muttered, ‘And bugger the workers.’
Fran sighed, but Miss Ellington had heard. ‘Exactly, young lady. An explosion is usually your own mistake, but it might be something worse. If, for instance, you take a hairgrip into a work area, it will in all likelihood be considered sabotage. Therefore, if that grip is discovered upon your person once you are clear of the changing rooms, you will be removed from the premises and will, probably, face serious criminal charges. Throughout the shift, we, or others concerned with security, will float around keeping an eye out for lack of concentration or carelessness. That is our job. We do it well.’
Mr Swinton waved his hand around. ‘While you’re in this sector, this is where you’ll change into the overalls provided, wearing them over your day clothes which should be cotton. Checks will be made. You will don turbans and felt boots, if required, since we can’t have any sparks from shoes. Over there, along that bench against the wall, are the envelopes for your dangerous articles. Place your shoes beneath if you are required to change them. Mebbe in time we’ll get a separate security room for your articles. Miracles happen.’
He coughed. ‘Today the trainees will start in the sewing shop, the others will follow me. Trainees, there’s no need for you to know any more than that they are following me.’
Miss Ellington took over. ‘A hint. If anyone asks, you are working in a factory making thingummybobs, and then change the subject.’ Miss Ellington waved her hand to Mr Swinton, Mrs Raydon and herself, and then encompassed the room – ‘At the start of every week you will be reminded of all that’s been said today. Remember, you know nowt. You say nowt about nowt. You work eight-hour shifts, or longer if needed. These shifts rotate weekly – mornings, afternoons or nights. You do not complain if we have to work a seven-day week. We have a war to win.’
Mrs Raydon stepped forward. ‘Any questions?’
Valerie, from Sledgeford, where Beth now lived, put up her hand. ‘We get fed, I ’ope, otherwise it’s a bliddy long day. The bus takes near on two hours.’
Miss Ellington grinned. ‘Don’t you worry, you won’t fade away. There’s a canteen.’ Mr Swinton pointed to the clock. Miss Ellington nodded, serious now. ‘Time to get on and take the place of the night shift. Remember: “Be like Dad, keep Mum”, “Walls have ears” and . . . Well, bear in mind every other poster you’ve seen. And end the war with two hands, I beg you.’

August 1941: As war sweeps across Britain and millions of men enlist to serve their country, it’s up to the women to fight the battle on the home front.

Fran always thought she would marry her childhood sweetheart and lead a simple life in Massingham, the beloved pit village she has always called home.

But with war taking so many men to the front line, the opening of a new factory in the north-east of England presents an opportunity for Fran to forge a new path.

Against her father’s wishes and with best friends Sarah and Beth by her side, Fran signs up to join the ranks of women at the factory. It’s dangerous work but as the three friends risk life and limb for their country, they will discover that their lives are only just beginning…

Monday 20 May 2019

I Know Who You Are
Alice Feeney

Guest Review
Julie Williams

Today, it's my turn on the Blog Tour for I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney and I am delighted that my lovely friend, Julie Williams, offered to review this one as I know this is an author she really likes.

Having read this Author’s debut Sometimes I Lie last year and thoroughly enjoyed it, I had great expectations for her new novel and I can say it didn’t disappoint.

It is a book with two time lines and stories which slowly emerge, unravelling so many disturbing things along the way. 

Aimee Sinclair is an up and coming actress, who, to an outsider, comes across as having the perfect life, but looks can be deceiving as we find out when she arrives home one day to find her husband Ben missing, her acting talent really does come into its own.

Aimee has so many hidden secrets, but the one thing she yearns for is a child of her own, this is something that controlling Ben is adamant is not going to happen. 

Aimee soon becomes a suspect when a body is discovered and she is more determined than ever to conceal her past. 

The chapters of Aimee in the late 1980’s are spoken with her childlike honesty. When she is kidnapped away from her family and home in Ireland to a new life in Essex I found her words particularly disturbing as she describes the terrifying ordeal.  Aimee’s childhood is certainly not a happy one, but then neither is her adult one.

No one is who you think they are and with so many twists I could not predict what was coming next, which of course is perfect reading for this genre of book. 

My thanks to HQ for the copy of this book and to Julie Boon for sharing my review on her blog as part of the blog tour.

Friday 17 May 2019

The Liberty Girls
Fiona Ford
I am over the moon to be a part of the Blog Tour for The Liberty Girls by Fiona Ford. I was lucky enough to read Christmas at Liberty's and I must say, as sagas go, it was pretty fabulous and so I couldn't wait to read the next instalment. I have an extract for you today, but am taking this one on holiday with me in July and will review then for you. I would like to say a big thank you to Fiona Ford who has been a wonderful support over the last few months during what has been a truly sad time for me and my family. Thank you Fiona.

‘Please don’t leave, Dad, I’m begging you,’ she said, her voice full of fear.

Jimmy’s lined face hardened; he had always hated weakness and Alice cursed herself for showing him her true feelings. Drawing himself up to his full height he took a step forward and towered over his daughter.

‘Don’t start whining, girl. Dot here’s going to keep an eye on you. Besides, you’re old enough now to fend for yourselves. You’ll need to clear out the house by next month, the rent’ll be due.’ 

Alice turned to Dot, whose face was so contorted with anger, Alice could tell she was having difficulty speaking.

‘You’re really going away to America and leaving us without a penny or even a house?’ Alice said in disbelief. ‘Joy’s ten, she adores you, how do you think she’s going to feel? Her mum’s dead, you’re buggering off to the other side of the world and now we’re out on the streets?’
There was a pause then as Jimmy looked at his daughter and Alice could see him thinking it all through. Relief started to flood her. He was going to change his mind; it was going to be all right. 

‘Here you are,’ Jimmy said at last, pulling out a fistful of notes and a handful of change from his trouser pockets.
‘This ought to keep you going ’til you get a full-time job at least. Now, don’t say your old man ain’t generous. I know how to take care of me own.’ 
At the sight of the money in his hands Alice knew she was supposed to be grateful but all she really wanted to do was roar with laughter at the stupidity of it all. She also knew it wasn’t the time. Not if she wanted to avoid a black eye anyway. Instead she took a step back and surveyed the man who was her father. He looked old, she thought. His cauliflower ears, scarred cheeks and broken nose made him seem more advanced in years than he actually was.

Alice knew that he wasn’t running away because he was worried about retribution, or even about the police turning up at his door. He was going because he was worried about losing his position as leader of the Elephant Boys. The only thing that mattered to him was his stupid pride.  ‘Shove your bleedin’ money,’ she said, her eyes blazing angrily. 
‘We’ll be better off without you.’ 
‘Alice, love,’ Jimmy wheedled, reaching for her hand, palms still full of money, ‘there’s no need for that. I’ll write, course I will, when I can.’ As Dot snorted in disgust once more, Alice rounded on her father. ‘Don’t bother. We don’t need nothing off you, Jimmy Harris. You’re an ageing two-bob crook who’s always let me and Joy down. I hope I never see you again.’  At his daughter’s outburst Jimmy opened and closed his mouth. Then with an angry shrug, he shoved the money he had offered her back in his pocket, slammed the last of his suitcases shut and pushed past her without a backward glance. 

When Alice heard the front door slam, the tears started to flow. He really had gone. She might have hated him, but he was all she had. Her body heaving with sobs, Alice turned to Dot and whispered, ‘What do I do now?’
Extracted from The Liberty Girls by Fiona Ford (out now, published by Arrow)

Set around the iconic Carnaby Street department store at the height of the Blitz in London, this heart-warming story of friendship and courage in WWII was inspired by the real men and women who worked at Liberty during the 1940s.

During a visit to Liberty, author Fiona Ford discovered a plaque dedicated to the men and women who lost their lives during WWII. Intrigued by their potential stories, Fiona secured rare access to Liberty’s records and archives which served as inspiration for this exciting new saga series. 

March, 1942: new mother Alice Milward is itching to return to her job as a shop assistant at Liberty’s. Despite her husband still being missing in action, Alice is determined to give baby Arthur the best possible start. She soon settles back into the rhythm of life on the shop floor, and the Liberty Girls rally to help keep everything on an even keel. But when the American GIs start swarming into London, there are more complications to come. And each of the Liberty Girls has their own impossible storm to weather. As they each fight their battles on the home front, only their close friendship will give them the strength they need to carry on.

Praise for Fiona Ford‘A wonderful, uplifting story of friendship and courage. Characters that you can't help falling in love with! This new saga series will surely touch the hearts of saga readers everywhere’ Nancy Revell
‘A compelling first novel by Fiona Ford, which I promise you won't be able to put down’
Daisy Styles ‘A fabulous debut from an immensely talented author’ - Annie Groves‘Not often do books make me shed a tear, but this one did. *****’
‘Fiona transports you straight back in time to WWII and the attention to detail is fantastic.*****’’
Fiona Ford spent many years as a journalist writing for women’s weekly and monthly magazines before becoming a full time author. Fiona tirelessly combed the Westminster Archives and Liberty records for details about what life was really like working in London and Liberty during WWII, lending a true sense of authenticity to her writing. Fiona is also the author of the A Pug Like Percy books under the pseudonym, Fiona Harrison, as well as two sagas in her own name in the Spark Girls series. Fiona lives in Berkshire with her partner. Find out more about Fiona at

To read my review of the first book in the series, Christmas at Liberty's click here

Thursday 2 May 2019

Cold Blooded
Diane O'Toole


I was asked by the author a few months ago now to review this book which is a sequel to Rings of Smoke which I reviewed a couple of years ago now on the blog. I did read it at the beginning of the year, but sadly, life (and death) got in the way of things in my life and so Boon's Bookcase had to take a back seat.

I can only apologise to the lovely, patient author, but hope that my review was worth the wait!

Whilst carrying out research into murders across the pond, Harris’ partner, Detective Constable Jones, discovers several bizarre killings along the famous Route 66, which leads him to believe there may be a link with the believed-dead serial killer, Leonard Fitch.
What follows is a cat and mouse that will shock on a scale never imagined and horrify beyond your darkest dreams.
In the long-awaited sequel to Rings of Smoke, discover what happens when evil evolves.

Serial killer Leonard Fitch was dead. Killed by his own hands in a fire in his house. It was rather that than being caught by the police for a string of kidnappings and murders and that was the last thing Fitch wanted after all the trouble he went to with stalking his victims and mutilating them.

The police can't believe their luck that the notorious Fitch, who was a very well respected Consultant Neurologist, is dead, after putting all the pieces together to catch him.

Meanwhile, in the USA a woman is murdered in a very similar way to the Fitch killings and a cold chill goes down the back of DS Harris who has been brought in to see if there is a resemblance to the murders in the USA with the ones carried out by Fitch here in the UK.

DS Harris and his boss, DC Mike Jones, travel to America to see if the murders are in fact, copycat killings, or by some twist of fate, could Fitch have been resurrected from the flames of his house after all and be responsible for yet more murders?

All they know, is that Harris and Jones must get to the bottom of this case before the killer strikes again...or is it already too late?

This is a very well written sequel to Rings of Smoke and I must admit, when I finished the first book, I was wondering if there would be a sequel, but couldn't really predict how it would come about knowing that Fitch was dead, but this one has been very cleverly written and totally believable.

It doesn't make for comfortable reading at times, there are some gruesome scenes, but that makes it all the more readable!

Thank you once again to Diane O'Toole for her patience and support over the last few months and I would thoroughly recommend both of these books (as long as you have a strong stomach!).

To order Rings of Smoke from Amazon click here

To order Cold Blooded from Amazon click here