Sunday 25 August 2019

The Runaway Daughter
Joanna Rees

I must apologise for getting my dates mixed up with this blog tour, so a few days later than planned, I have an extract for you from The Runaway Daughter by Joanna Rees. I am currently reading this and will review as soon as I have finished.

1) Inventing Miss Casey
The shrill whistle woke her. For a second she didn’t move, feeling the rattle of the steam train jolting her as she remembered her midnight flight across the moonlit field. How she’d spotted the stationary train impatiently puffing silvery clouds into the night air, how she’d managed to prize open the wooden carriage door with her shaking fingers and how she’d curled up in a tiny space behind the industrial cargo and packing boxes from the mill. How the exhaustion and terror had transported her to blackness.
Now her legs were stiff and her cheek was sore from where she’d been leaning against the cold metal machinery. And she was cold. So very cold. Her teeth chattered as she shivered in the icy air. She had that same fluttering feeling she’d had when she’d fallen asleep, as if the fear were darting around inside her, like the birds in her mother’s aviary.
How long since they’d last stopped? How far till she was far enough away?
Would she ever be far enough away?
She thought of the drama that was bound to be unfolding by now. She imagined her parents’ drawn faces when they discovered Clement’s body in the stable . . . her mother’s muffled scream.
Would they even be thinking of their daughter? Would they have noticed her absence yet? Probably not, she thought bitterly. Her mother had always been a muddled, ethereal presence – prone to lengthy bouts of illness, and concerned only with her birds and her absolute insistence on quiet. Her father, on the other hand, had always been as tempestuous as her mother had been timid, and he’d made it perfectly clear that Anna, like her mother, had always been an irritation to him. Lower down on his pecking order than the dogs. 
Perhaps, though, her parents had drawn the correct conclusion straight away. Helped, no doubt, by Mark, the stablehand. He’d never liked her and she had no doubt that he’d readily describe how he’d seen her running for her life. And if he had, then the police were bound to have been called. Perhaps they were already chasing her . . . 
Again, she fought down the fluttering fear. She’d got away, hadn’t she? She’d escaped.

Friday 23 August 2019

A Respectable Woman
Susanna Bavin
This is the second book I have read by this fabulous author, the first one being The Deserter's Daughter and what a fabulous book that was! I am ploughing my way through Susanna's books and A Respectable Woman is another great read and here is my review:-

Nell is married to Stan and has a beautiful little boy. Life is hard, but she is trying to make the best of being a wife and mother and trying to keep the wolf from the door. A midwife knocks on her door asking for Mrs Hibbert, she first thinks there is some kind of mistake, or maybe it is an omen that she will have another baby soon! Nell can't stop thinking that this is some kind of mistake and then finds out about Stan's double life and that he is married to someone else as well and she is having a baby!

Nell wastes no time in picking up her son and gathering up the few belongings she has and runs away to start a new life. She lodges with a lovely husband and wife (Mr & Mrs Brent) who end up looking after her and her children (the midwife must have been an omen after all!) while she goes to work in a factory as a machinist.

Just as things start to tick along nicely, Nell is given the news that she is to be made homeless as Leonie Brents' husband has died and her daughter Hilda and her son in law Edmund are moving in.

Meanwhile Jim Franks has come back from the war and rather than go back to his life as a proper gent and his job as a  Solicitor, much to the embarrassment of his family, he starts a window cleaning business and aims to help people in distress. Along comes Nell looking for somewhere to live and Jim finds any excuse to be near her and to help her in any way he can.

Of course, things do not run smoothly and Nell finds herself in all sorts of bother with Stan and the conniving Edmund, but Nell has to look out for her children and she will do what she has to do to make sure they have a decent upbringing.

Another fabulous read by this author and I really cannot wait to read more from her. I have the next one waiting to come with me on my next holiday!

Thursday 22 August 2019

The Liberty Girls
Fiona Ford

I read Christmas at Liberty's at the end of last year and I loved it so much that I couldn't wait until the next instalment came out so that I could find out more about the girls who work on the shop floor of one of London's most famous department stores during the second world war.
This is one of my holiday reads from last month and I loved it so much, it only took me a couple of days to read it!


This book mainly focuses on Alice Milwood who is married to a soldier but he is missing in action and she  has no idea whether he is dead or alive. Alice is left to bring up her young son on her own whilst trying to hold down her job at Liberty's.

Of course, things don't run smoothly when Alice goes back to work and she has a new supervisor by the name of Beatrice Claremount, who is certainly not going to give her an easy ride.

Alice has the help of her dearest friends Rose, who is still coming to terms with being blinded after drinking illegal hooch, Mary and landlady Dot, who are all around to help her bring up her little boy, whilst Alice is hoping against hope that her dear husband will be brought back to her safe and sound.

These characters are certainly getting under my skin and I really cannot wait until the next book arrives as I am enjoying reading this series so much and would encourage anyone who is remotely interested in WWII/family sagas, to give these books a read.

The author certainly did her research as the attention to detail in this book is second to none.

Thank you to the lovely author Fiona Ford, who has been so very supportive to me over the past six months, often sending lovely messages of comfort and support during a very difficult time for me and for that, I am truly grateful.

To order a copy of The Liberty Girls on Amazon click here


Wednesday 21 August 2019

Ike and Kay
James MacManus

As soon as I read the blurb about this book, I knew I had to read it. I do love a WWII book, but as this one is based on true events that to be honest, I didn't know much about, I wanted to give it a go to broaden my horizons so to speak! You can read my review below, but as soon as I finished this book, I had a "google" about Dwight (Ike)Eisenhower and Kay Summersby!

When war breaks out, Kay "does her bit" and becomes a driver. Little did she know that the next person she will be responsible for looking after behind the wheel is none other than American General Dwight (Ike) Eisenhower.

Something immediately clicks between the couple, but they keep things strictly professional for as long as they can, but Ike is drawing her closer and closer and as much as Kay tries to keep things strictly business like, when she gets Ike a puppy for his birthday, she draws all sorts of unwanted attention to herself!

Ike also has a wife, Mamie,  back home in Washington and word gets back to her that things are not strictly platonic between the two and she is desperate for her husband to go back home, the sooner the better.

When Ike is posted to Africa, Kay is one of the first members of staff he wants by his side, but as she has to travel separately, she is sent on a ship and is nearly sunk by the Germans. This nearly tips Ike over the edge and he cannot hide his feelings from Kay any longer.

I'm not going to go too much into detail about their relationship as I feel you really need to read the book to find out about their feelings for one another and all the obstacles that were put in their way, but I can honestly say, that whilst reading this novel, I could see it on the big screen. It was a fabulous read, thoroughly researched and so interesting.

As with all love stories, things don't run smoothly, but I'm not going to tell you if there was a happy ending or not. You will just have to get a copy and read it yourself!

Thank you so much to Duckworth (Prelude Books) for getting in touch and asking me to be a part of the tour. I am so glad to have read this book and it has really left an impression on me. So much so, that I have googled both Ike and Kay and tried to find out more about them!

A thoroughly enjoyable read that I would not hesitate to recommend to historical/saga readers and true romantics!

Author Bio

James MacManus is the managing director of The Times Literary Supplement. After studying at St Andrews University he began his career in journalism at the Daily Express in Manchester. Joining The Guardian in 1972, he later became Paris, and then Africa and Middle East Correspondent. He is the author of several novels including On the Broken Shore, Black Venus, Sleep in Peace Tonight and Midnight in Berlin. James MacManus has three children and lives in Dulwich, London.

To order a copy of the book on Amazon click here 

Tuesday 20 August 2019

Home Truths
Susan Lewis

Guest Review
Julie Williams
Thank you so much to Harper Fiction for asking me to be on another blog tour for Susan Lewis and also a huge thank you to Julie Williams who very happily reviewed this book for me!

Another powerful heart-wrenching story from Susan Lewis which I found very thought provoking.

In this book the plight of homelessness, vulnerable people and county lines are forefront and many characters in this story suffer while experiencing these awful situations they find themselves in. 

Angie, the central character, shows through her story just how the lives of families are destroyed and no one is spared young or old. Circumstances that arise in this book can affect anyone and at times made for a sad read but although Angie has plenty of her own problems, she struggled through offering hope and support to others.

I enjoyed this story with its current topics and was shocked how those most vulnerable are often let down by our Government and the system who we think are put in place to help them.

My thanks to Net Galley for the ARC these are my own views of Home Truths by Susan Lewis and to Julie for allowing me to guest review on her blog.

About the Author

Susan Lewis is the bestselling author of over forty books across the genres of family drama, thriller, suspense and crime. She is also the author of Just One More Day and One Day at a Time, the moving memoirs of her childhood in Bristol during the 1960s. Following periods of living in Los Angeles and the South of France, she currently lives in Gloucestershire with her husband James, stepsons Michael and Luke, and mischievous dogs Coco and Lulu.
To find out more about Susan Lewis:

Thursday 8 August 2019

Three days in Florence
Chrissie Manby

I'm delighted to be a part of the Blog Tour for the new novel by Chrissie Manby and I have chapter one for you to have a read of. This sounds like a fab summer read whilst lying on a sunbed with a cocktail in one hand a copy of this in the other! Enjoy...

Chapter One
Italy was a place of legend for Kathy Courage. Her middle name was Florence: her mother had fallen in love with the Renaissance city, which she had visited with Kathy’s father on their honeymoon, and insisted on naming their daughter in its honour.

As a child, Kathy had loved to hear her mother Clare’s stories about that long-ago romantic holiday. Not so much about the fabulous architecture, the frescoes and statues back then, but about the ice creams as big as a baby’s head – ‘and so many flavours’ – the endless spaghetti, and the glamorous Italian ladies who carried small fluffy dogs in their Ferragamo handbags. Often Kathy’s mother would get out the honeymoon photograph album and together they would marvel at the joys of la dolce vita. So different from life in the Essex suburbs where Kathy had grown up.

Kathy’s favourite photograph was one of her parents standing together beneath the giant replica statue of Michelangelo’s David in the piazza della Signoria. Her mother, with her flicked-up hair-do – ‘very fashionable then’ – was wearing a red dress with white spots that showed off her tiny waist. Kathy’s father, Eddie, sported a hat – a sharp-looking Panama that he’d bought from a street vendor. It was the only time Kathy had ever seen him in a hat other than the grey knitted beanie he sometimes wore for the office commute in winter.

Her parents looked so young and so happy that Kathy became convinced of the power of sunshine and good ice cream.

Kathy’s mother always promised that one day she would take her to Italy – ‘when you’re old enough to appreciate it’. For various reasons that moment had never come and, somehow, Kathy had never found her way to Italy on her own. As an adult she could in theory have gone anywhere any time she wanted, but over the years Florence had grown to occupy such a special place in the Courage family mythology that it would not have seemed right for Kathy to go there for the first time alone. It was a city she wanted to share with someone special, just as her mum and dad had shared it on their honeymoon all those years ago.

So, when David, younger brother of Kathy’s long-term boyfriend Neil, had announced that he and his fiancée Shelley were getting married in Tuscany, Kathy was over the moon. She might get to see Florence at last.

Shelley and Dave outlined the plan over Sunday lunch with his and Neil’s mother, Margaret.

‘We went for a destination wedding,’ said Shelley, ‘so that people can combine it with a holiday.’

‘If they’ve got time for a holiday,’ said Neil, who worked as a corporate lawyer.

‘We chose the Thursday before the bank-holiday weekend for the wedding day itself so you wouldn’t have to take many days off to make a whole week of it,’ Shelley continued.

‘It sounds wonderful,’ said Kathy, who was very fond of Shelley and Dave.

‘I’ll have to see what’s in my schedule,’ Neil muttered.

‘Neil,’ Dave looked upset, ‘you’re my brother. You’ve got to be there. And so have the children. Shelley wants both my nieces as bridesmaids.’

Sophie and Amelie, Neil’s teenage daughters, shared a not very subtle look of horror at the thought.

‘And Oscar can be ring-bearer if he likes,’ Shelley joked.

Oscar, Amelie’s twin, did not look up from his phone.

Margaret said, to no one in particular, ‘I don’t know if Italian food agrees with me.’

‘Italian food agrees with everyone,’ Shelley insisted, by now on the verge of tears.

Kathy said what she knew Shelley needed to hear. ‘It’s going to be lovely. I’ve always dreamed of going to Italy – and for a wedding? How perfect.’

Shelley gave her a grateful smile.

On the way home, Neil and the children continued to come up with reasons why the wedding could only be a disaster.

‘It’s selfish,’ Neil announced. ‘And pretentious. Typical of my brother to expect people to fly out to Italy. To stay in a palazzo, for Heaven’s sake. It’s going to cost a fortune.’

He said this, though Dave had already assured him that he and Shelley would be paying for the whole family’s accommodation.

‘And it’s the same weekend as the Jolly Farmer Festival,’ Sophie complained. ‘All my friends are going to that.’

Kathy didn’t think that would sway Neil. The Jolly Farmer Festival was not, as it sounded, a weekend of agriculture-based activities but a music festival that should have been banned after three drug-taking teenagers had ended up in hospital the previous year.
Seventeen-year-old Amelie groaned. ‘I can’t believe she wants us to be bridesmaids. I’m not doing it unless I can choose my own dress.’

Oscar didn’t look up from his phone.

Did Kathy really want to go to the wedding? Neil asked, as they got ready for bed that night. Of course she wanted to go. While Neil complained that flying out on the Tuesday to attend the pre-wedding festivities would mean four days away from the office and a lot of inconvenience and catching up for him, Kathy was already planning her mini-break wardrobe and imagining herself standing on the terrace of a Tuscan palazzo, overlooking a splendid garden scented with jasmine and roses.

‘Ridiculous to choose a date right before the bank-holiday weekend,’ Neil continued. ‘The airports are bound to be chaos.’

‘But it’s perfect timing,’ Kathy jumped in. ‘If the wedding party officially ends on the Friday morning, we can have three more nights in Italy without you having to take any extra holiday. We could hire a car and go to Siena. Or Montepulciano. Or Pienza. Even better, if you don’t feel like driving, we could just spend three days exploring Florence.’

As Kathy said the words, the city shimmered in her mind. At last, at last, she would be visiting her namesake. She and Neil could even recreate the photograph of her mum and dad in front of the statue of David. Neil would look good in a hat.

‘I’m sure the children would enjoy it,’ she added hopefully.

In her imagination, Kathy glossed over the fact that Sophie, Amelie and Oscar would be scowling on the sidelines of any photo. Whenever a camera was brandished in their direction, Neil’s children conspired to look like three ghosts come to deliver terrible news.

‘Oh, Chicken Licken,’ Neil sighed, ‘it all sounds like way too much bother to me.’

Kathy bristled.

The one downside about having Florence as a middle name was that it rendered Kathy’s initials ‘KFC’. It was Sophie who had first made the connection with the fried chicken chain and christened her ‘Chicken Licken’. Kathy didn’t like it – the insinuation that she was cowardly or flat-out stupid stung – but Neil and the three children thought it was all great fun and, alas, the nickname stuck.

‘I’ll have had four really tough days at the wedding,’ Neil continued. ‘It isn’t going to be a holiday for me. You know what my family’s like. My brother. My mother . . . Shelley’s lot are even worse.’

‘Then all the better reason to tag on three days of pure fun at the end,’ said Kathy. ‘We’ll be in Tuscany anyway. All we have to do is find a nice hotel for three days of chilling out and doing some very gentle sightseeing but mostly eating pasta and gelato and drinking Aperol Spritzes in sunny piazzas . . .’

Neil patted his flat-as-an-ironing-board stomach. ‘Pasta and gelato
? I’m watching my weight.’ Kathy was sure she caught his eyes flickering to her stomach, which was more waterbed than ironing board, as he said it. Though, technically, Neil had only commented on his

own weight, the implication for hers was there in every syllable.

‘Well, no pasta or gelato, then. Though that would be a pity. We could rack up plenty of steps exploring the city.’

There was nothing Neil liked more than busting through his daily target of twelve thousand steps on the Fitbit. Sometimes, if he was short of steps when he got home from work, he did circuits of the kitchen-diner, pumping his arms as he went. He was wearing a groove in the tiles.

But Neil didn’t respond to the enticement of breaking a record. By this point, he was rearranging things in the dishwasher – nobody else in the house ever stacked it to his exacting standards – and Kathy sensed she was losing the argument. She needed to change tack. If she could just get Neil to an ‘I’ll think about it’ rather than a flat ‘No’, she could do some proper research, find the perfect hotel and persuade him that three extra days in Italy would be a treat rather than a chore.

‘You know I’ve always wanted to go to Florence.’ Kathy tried one last time. ‘Perhaps if we considered it an early birthday present for me . . .’

She thought that might swing it, offering Neil the chance not to have to think about what to do for her big birthday – she would be forty in a year. Surely that was a win-win. But no.

‘I’ve already been to Florence,’ Neil reminded her.

Twenty-five years ago. He’d spent a week in Italy as part of a month-long Interrailing tour of Europe in his gap year.

‘And I really wasn’t impressed. I don’t know why people go on about it,’ he continued. ‘A few boring old

buildings, some dull statues and a lot of overpriced ice cream. Plus, it’s full of pickpockets.’

‘Oh,’ said Kathy.

‘So I really don’t need to go back. Especially after four stressful days doing Shelley’s bidding. Why they can’t just get married in Guildford like I did, I do not know.’

Possibly because that wedding in Guildford was an unmitigated disaster. The thought crossed Kathy’s mind but she didn’t say it out loud. Neil’s defunct marriage was a minefield.

‘All I’ll want to do when this wedding is over is come home and get some decent rest in my own bed. I’ll have Melanie book us all onto the last possible flight out and the first possible flight back, on Friday so I can minimise the time I have to spend out of the office and catching up afterwards. I’m dreading it already,’ Neil added, as he closed the newly tidied dishwasher with a nod of satisfaction. And that was the end of the conversation.

Kathy didn’t give up hope that Neil might be swayed, but the very next day he announced that his über-efficient PA Melanie had already executed his orders and got them on the last possible flight out to the wedding and the first flight home. They’d have to get up at six the day after the wedding to get to the airport. Kathy knew that Sophie in particular would not be happy about that.

Kathy was disappointed, of course, but she focused on the good news. She was still going to get three nights in Italy – her first ever trip to the country of her dreams. She would be staying in a grand palazzo with a view

of the Tuscan hills – the photographs on the Palazzo Boldrini website were pure Instagrammable perfection.

There would be great food, music and dancing. There would be excursions to Tuscan villages to taste wine and watch artisans decorating ceramics. Kathy had always wanted one of those big painted fruit bowls. There would be lazy hours by the pool and aperitivi on a terrace overlooking an olive grove. There would be glorious sunshine. There would also be a whole bunch of Neil’s relatives with whom to make painful small-talk but, in Kathy’s fantasy, they were firmly out of the picture.

Wednesday 7 August 2019

Fatal Harmony
Kate Rhodes

Adrian Stone believes he is a genius. A narcissist, with a psychotic desire to pursue his ambition to become the world’s most revered pianist, Stone joined London’s Royal College of Music as a child prodigy, believing his path to fame was secure. But when his parents decided to send him back to school, he slaughtered them and his older sister in their Richmond home, landing himself in Rampton’s high-security unit.

Nine years later Stone escapes with two goals in mind: to kill those who denied his destiny and pursue his musical ambitions.

As bodies start to appear around London Dr Alice Quentin is brought in from the Met’s Forensic Psychology Unit. But when she realises her name is on Stone’s list of potential victims, the case becomes personal.

Working alongside her boyfriend, DI Don Burns, London’s most successful murder investigator, Alice must stop Stone to save her own life.

Alice realises that there is logic to the music left at each murder scene, and thinks she’s cracked the case, but little does she know what Stone has in store for his grand finale…

This is book 6 in the Alice Quentin series and I really can't get enough of them!

Alice is brought in to try to catch serial killer Adrian Stone before he kills anymore people, but as he is leaving such intelligent clues in the form of sheet music and other clues, it is taking longer to work out where he will strike next, but Alice must work out the formula before anyone else is killed, but Adrian always seems to be one step ahead of her. Will Alice work out how to stop Adrian before his clues lead to her own demise as she is convinced he will come after her in revenge for when he was an inpatient in Rampton high security unit.

Alice's boyfriend, DI Don Burns, is also on the case, but he has other things on his mind and Alice's safety is paramount.

This is a fascinating novel that is so cleverly thought through and obviously a lot of detail has gone into the research of this book.

Thank you once again Kate for a wonderful book. I can't praise your Alice Quentin books enough and I really do hope that we are in for another instalment in the not too distant future because I start getting withdrawal symptoms after a while!

To order a copy of Fatal Harmony from Amazon click here

Tuesday 6 August 2019

One Last Summer
Victoria Connelly

I am so sorry for posting this late!

I'm delighted to be a part of the Blog Tour for Victoria's new book and I am pleased to be able to offer you a guest post from Victoria herself about Melbury Priory, where her new novel, One Last Summer is set.

Locations are really important when I’m writing. I always like to have a clear image of where my stories are set and they are very often inspired by real places. My last few novels have been set in old country houses in beautiful gardens. The house and gardens in Love in an English Garden were based on the National Trust property of Bateman’s in Sussex, and I love imagining my characters walking around the grounds there.
My latest novel, One Last Summer, is set in an ancient building – Melbury Priory which was inspired by Woodspring Priory in Somerset, owned by the Landmark Trust – an amazing charity which rescues and restores abandoned buildings and then let them out as holiday homes. I had the great privilege of booking Woodspring a few years ago to celebrate my husband’s birthday. I booked it in secret, arranging a party and inviting lots of artist and writer friends! It was so exciting and I’ll never forget the moment we arrived and found the old key which was the size of my hand, and exploring the priory for the first time, venturing up stone spiral staircases and entering centuries-old rooms. I knew it was a special place and that I had to set a novel there one day and, before we were even halfway through our stay there, I had started making notes for the story which was to become One Last Summer.
Of course a real place will only take you so far and, inevitably, imagination will play its part, so Melbury isn’t a replica of Woodspring. I invented much of the garden and added a swimming pool for my characters to enjoy, but that’s the fun of writing fiction. I love blending the real and imagined to make a special, unique world.
Another example of this is with my Book Lovers series which is set in the fictional town of Castle Clare in Suffolk. This is based on the real market town of Clare. There’s a beautiful independent bookshop in Clare but, in my fictional world, there are three bookshops run by the Nightingale family. We often visit Clare and, sometimes, my mind plays tricks on me and I half expect to see the three bookshops which I have invented and I’m a little bit disappointed when I realise that they don’t actually, exist!