Thursday 18 August 2022

 Every Shade of Happy 


Phyllida Shrimpton

I am beyond happy to say that the lovely Phyllida Shrimpton has a new book out today called Every Shade of Happy. I am hoping to read and review this one as soon as I can, but I just wanted to make you aware of this fabulous author. Her first book Sunflowers in February was reviewed by me back in April 2018 on my blog and to this day, it is one of my favourite books and a story that will stay with me always....

Today I have an extract for you and it is the prologue to the book. I hope to review as soon as I can, so in the meantime enjoy the beginning of Every Shade of Happy by Phyllida Shrimpton.

Algernon is at the end of his life.
His granddaughter is at the start of hers.
But they have more in common than they think...

Every day of Algernon's 97 years has been broken up into an ordered routine. That's how it's been since the war, and he's not about to change now.

Until his 15-year-old granddaughter arrives on his doorstep, turning Algernon's black-and-white life upside down. Everything from Anna's clothes to the way she sits glued to her phone is strange to Algernon, and he's not sure he likes it.

But as the weeks pass, Algernon is surprised to discover they have something in common after all – Anna is lonely, just like him. Can Algernon change the habits of a lifetime to bring the colour back into Anna's world?




Algernon’s feet, constricted by brand-new leather shoes, dangled a good two inches above a bare wooden floor where he sat. The narrow bed, metal-framed and identical in every way to all the others in the dormitory, sagged wearily beneath him, and a coarse woollen over-blanket made the back of his legs itch. A single pillow, where he was to lay his head that night, whispered to him of other schoolboy’s nightmares still caught inside its cotton slip.

Algernon’s bony knees, poking out from black flannel shorts, sported ruddy brown grazes which peppered their way over the bulge of his kneecaps before disappearing into the carefully folded cuffs of his new grey socks. Dragging a nail along the skin of his right leg he gathered a line of pinprick scabby crusts which, when bringing his finger up close to his face, he was able to examine closely. Each one, he thought, was a beautiful relic of the life he’d left behind. He flicked the debris from his nail onto the floor and watched how a single tear of blood trickled down his shin before rather satisfyingly staining the cuff of his new grey socks. His knees told of a very recent and daringly triumphant act of bravery and for a brief, liberating moment Algernon indulged himself in the memory of it.

His fingers curled tightly around the railings of his village school and his face pressed against the cold, black iron. He was on the outside looking in. A ball, accidentally kicked onto the roof of the school, had wedged itself in the dip between the gables and the chimney and his friends were all looking up at it, defeated by the problem. Being the most adventurous of boys Algernon had, quick as a flash, climbed over the railings and scaled the side wall knowing every inch of it as he did. Having officially left the little school only the day before, he was trespassing now of course but finding himself back on the right side of the railings once again a delicious sense of familiar belonging lifted his heavy heart. In his mind he was shinning up

the drainpipe, the rough brick catching his hands until he reached the chimney stack and clung to it.

Two boys staged a fight to distract the schoolmaster while a gathering of upturned faces waited for the ball. He tossed it down to them. Still clinging to the chimney stack he tilted his face until he could feel the fresh wind against his cheeks. From his vantage point he could see past the village and out across an expanse of glorious fields, each patch-working their way towards the shores of the River Fal and an overwhelming need to fly gripped his soul.

Algernon stared at his knees, at the evidence of his ungraceful dismount from the roof into a surprisingly deep puddle where he was treated like a hero by his friends. The story they told belonged to yesterday. Yesterday he had said goodbye. Yesterday he was free to run wild in the green fields of Cornwall. Yesterday he was a child. Today, according to his parents and the sign above the entrance to his new private boarding school, Algernon Edward Maybury, aged seven years, was now a young Catholic gentleman.

God, Algernon had noticed, was in the very architecture of his new school, resplendent in arches and glorious through stained glass windows and His only son hung flogged and bleeding from a cross on seemingly every wall. God, however, felt entirely different in this place where his heart now quivered inside his skinny chest. Algernon’s God was in his church back in Cornwall where every Sunday a congregation of familiar faces coughed and rustled through hymns and the Divine Liturgy. Algernon’s God asked that everyone wore their best clothes to church and greeted each other with a smile on the way in. At Algernon’s church the priest always had a precarious dew drop on the end of his nose and Mrs Dyer, the organist, had an enormous bottom that always made him and his friends laugh behind their hymn books when they weren’t having their wrists slapped for being more interested in the contents of their nose than the word of Our Lord. Crying babies were jiggled in their mother’s arms and the air smelt of incense and the promise of Sunday luncheon.

This new God was different. The air in this building, this school where Algernon now sat on the narrow bed, was heavy with a thousand secrets all spiralling silently among the dust motes and hiding behind the eyes of the Brothers who held the futures of all one hundred and sixteen schoolboys in their care. Algernon knew that despite God or because of God, he wasn’t sure which, this place was not a happy place.

He also understood that from now on he could no longer expect to be called Algernon. He would, as his father informed him in the brief minutes between decanting his son from his Austin motorcar and hauling his huge school trunk from the boot of the car onto the drive, now be addressed by his surname ‘Maybury’. His father also informed him that he would excel in

class, be victorious in the sports field, and take it on the chin when a likely drubbing were to come his way. Algernon had nodded sombrely and wordlessly while his mother had simply smiled encouragingly, her earlobes stretched and wobbling from the huge pearls that hung heavily from them. His parents then climbed back inside their car offering final stiff-upper-lipped farewells and casting promises through the open window to see him in a few weeks’ time.

Algernon clenched his fingers tightly until his knuckles turned white and he craned his head towards the open leaded windows of the dormitory. If he willed them hard enough his parents might change their minds and return for him. The long drive outside, which led all the way to the huge iron gates, remained heartbreakingly empty. The overwhelming desire to fly away filled him to the brim and he wished with all his heart that he could climb onto the windowsill, grow wings and soar high into the clouds.

Echoes of the voices of other boys bounced across the dorm, along cold corridors and out from shadows. They told of pecking orders and alarming rites of passage that made Algernon… rather Maybury feel so terribly small. He didn’t cry, not then at least, but cast his gaze down towards his own, unpacked trunk and breathed in air that smelt of fear. When at last he understood that his parents most definitely would not be returning for him, he squeezed his small hands tightly together and prayed to his God back home that the school holidays would come quickly so that he could leave this place and return to the fields, the rivers and the beautiful craggy coastline of Cornwall where he belonged.

About the Author

Phyllida Shrimpton is a full time UK author who first wanted to write a novel after having a vivid dream at the age of 15 which she thought might make a good plot for a book. Finally in 2015 she finally stopped procrastinating about it and turned this dream into the plot for a YA novel, Sunflowers in February, published in 2018. This novel won the Red Book Award in Falkirk, Scotland and was shortlisted for the Centurion Book Awards for Bath and North East Somerset schools. The Colour of Shadows was published in 2019 and was shortlisted for the Amazing Book Awards.

Deciding to make the move to writing adult novels, Phyllida’s latest novel Every Shade of Happy will be published in August 2022 by Aria Fiction.

Phyllida’s books are centred around uplifting fiction and with the firm belief that there are two sides to every story.

The Manhattan Girls

 The Manhattan Girls


Gill Paul

Blog Tour

It's always a delight to host Gill's books on my blog as I have loved all of her previous ones and it’s a pleasure to be kicking off the blog tour for the Manhattan Girls. You can read my review below.

New York City, 1921

An impossible dream. The war is over, the twenties are roaring, but in the depths of the city that never sleeps, Dorothy Parker is struggling to make her mark in a man’s world. A broken woman. She’s penniless, she’s unemployed and her marriage is on the rocks when she starts a bridge group with three extraordinary women – but will they be able to save her from herself? A fight for survival. When tragedy strikes, and everything Dorothy holds dear is threatened, it’s up to Peggy, Winifred and Jane to help her confront the truth before it’s too late. Because the stakes may be life or death… 


This story centres around four women by the names of Dorothy Parker (Dottie), Jane Grant, Winifred Lenihan (Winnie) and Peggy Leech and their different lives, but how they become friends.

 It is set during the roaring 20's in New York City  where women are dominated by men and so these determined bunch of women set up their own bridge club. This is during the prohibition period, so no alcohol was supposed to be consumed and the girls also find a way of getting contraband alcohol for their bridge club sessions!

Dottie is married to Eddie, but all is not well within the marriage and when things deteriorate, Dottie struggles with life and even though she has her friends at the bridge club, she feels alone and helpless.

Jane is a reporter and is married to Howard.

Winifred is an actress and is constantly fighting off the lecherous men who tell her they can make her a star, but just want to use her.

Peggy works for a magazine and dreams of writing a novel. 

This is a story of how women in the 20's had to watch their backs, but these were determined women who wanted to make a difference and what I loved about the book was the way it was brilliantly researched and I loved the wording that was used, especially words like gumption and speakeasy! such great words of the era.

I must admit, when I see a book with a list of characters at the front, it always fills me with fear that I will forget who the characters are, but this book wasn't like that at all and was easy to get in to. 

Again, the author has written a book about people that I find myself googling to find out more about and also leaves me eagerly awaiting the next one!

Thank you Gill for always writing such amazing books about people that we wouldn't necessarily know much about.

About the Author

Gill Paul is an author of historical fiction, specialising in the twentieth century and often writing about the lives of real women. Her novels have topped bestseller lists in the US and Canada as well as the UK and have been translated into twenty languages. The Secret Wife has sold over half a million copies and is a bookclub favourite worldwide. This is her twelfth novel. She is also the author of several non-fiction books on historical subjects. She lives in London and swims year-round in a wild pond.

Wednesday 17 August 2022

 Daughters of Paris


Elisabeth Hobbes

Blog Tour

It's my turn on the blog tour for Daughters of Paris by Elisabeth Hobbes and I can bring you an extract today. The cover looks absolutely fabulous and from reading the blurb and extract, I will have to get a copy of this one! Enjoy the extract.


This scene takes place in the autumn of 1938. Colette has been away visiting friends in England for a few months and Fleur has begun working in a bookshop in the Montparnasse area of Paris. Encouraged by Monsieur Ramper, her employer, she has gone out to explore the area on her way home one evening and a café has cought her eye.


‘Mademoiselle?’ A waiter dressed in black with a ruby-coloured apron around his waist approached her. He stared at her through a pair of very thick, round glasses. His light brown hair made Fleur think of an owl.

‘A table for one, or are you meeting somebody?’

‘For one, please,’ she replied. ‘But not too near the band.’

The waiter grinned. ‘Of course. This way, please.’

He escorted Fleur to a small table with two chairs set against the back wall and handed her a menu. He returned a few moments later with a carafe of water and Fleur ordered a café crème, thinking how disapproving Monsieur Ramper would be. One or two of the other patrons looked at Fleur and she smiled back self-consciously. She took a book out of her bag and began reading it, referring occasionally to her English dictionary.

‘What are you reading?’ the waiter asked when he brought the coffee. She showed him the front cover.

‘Jane Eyerer?’

‘Eyre,’ she corrected. ‘It’s an English book.’

The waiter pulled up a chair and sat without asking. ‘You speak English?’

‘A little,’ she admitted with pride. ‘Not enough to read this without a dictionary.’

‘You’re a student?’

Fleur took a sip of coffee to delay answering and give herself a chance to observe him. He had a searching face and was probably not much older than she was, though his glasses and a line between his eyebrows – which Fleur was later to discover was the result of a childhood spent squinting at the world without glasses – made him appear older.

‘No, but I enjoy reading and I’m trying to teach myself. I work in the bookshop a few streets away.’

This obviously met with his approval because the waiter held out his hand. ‘I am Sébastien.’

Fleur shook it and told him her name.

‘I am very pleased to meet you, Fleur. I am a student,’ he said proudly. ‘Of art and literature.’

‘And a waiter?’ Fleur asked.

Sébastien’s jaw tightened. ‘I need to eat. The café is owned by my second cousin, Bernard, and he gives me as many shifts as I can manage. I don’t have rich parents like some of them.’

He waved a hand around the room. Fleur looked around. Thanks to living with Delphine, she could tell many of the patrons were wearing quality garments.

‘Forgive me for saying so, but this doesn’t seem like the sort of place where wealthy Parisians would gather.’

His eyes grew hard, and she thought she’d offended him but the corner of his mouth jerked into a quick smile. ‘Very perceptive. Some of them like to pretend they are not rich. Some have rejected families but kept the trappings before they slammed out of the house.’ He leaned in close to Fleur and spoke in a low, drawling voice that made the skin on the back of her neck shiver. ‘See Sabrina over there with the black hair? She had a fight with her father and walked out of an apartment just off the Champs-Élysées but went back the next day to pack three suitcases of shoes, hats and bags.’

‘Naturally. How could anyone survive otherwise?’ Fleur laughed. ‘I should bring my friend Colette here. She would find it remarkable.’

She grew sober at the mention of Colette’s name. She had never replied to Fleur’s letters so she couldn’t really describe Colette as a friend any longer and on consideration, she liked the idea of having something of her own.

Sébastien frowned. ‘If she would view us as a circus or zoo exhibit, don’t bother. I’m afraid I had better get on with work now.’ Sébastien picked up her empty cup and gave the table a quick wipe. ‘I hope we will meet again, Fleur.’

She looked at his smile and her stomach did a slow flip. ‘So do I.’

‘If you come on a Wednesday evening, a few of us gather to discuss … the world. You’d be welcome to join us.’ He’d paused before completing the sentence, leaving Fleur to wonder what aspects of the world they discussed. Somehow, she could not imagine this young man or his friends listening to this discordant noise while they sat and nodded in agreement at government policies. Her scalp prickled with excitement.

‘Yes, I would like that, thank you.’

 About the Author

Elisabeth began writing in secret, but when she came third in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest in 2013, she was offered a two-book contract, and consequently had to admit why the house was such a tip. Elisabeth’s historical romances with Harlequin Mills & Boon and One More Chapter span the Middle Ages to the Second World War and have been Amazon bestsellers and award shortlisted.

Elisabeth is a primary school teacher but she’d rather be writing full time because unlike five-year-olds, her characters generally do what she tells them. When she isn’t writing, she spends most of her spare time reading and is a pro at cooking one-handed while holding a book.

She was born and raised in York but now lives in Cheshire because her car broke down there in 1999 and she never left.

Tuesday 2 August 2022

The Choice

The Choice


Penny Hancock


An estranged daughter. A missing grandson. A mother faced with an impossible choice.

Renee Gulliver appears to have it all: a beautiful house overlooking a scenic estuary on England’s East Coast, a successful career as a relationship therapist, three grown-up children, and a beloved grandson, Xavier. But then Xavier vanishes after Renee fails to pick him up from school, and the repercussions are manifold.

Renee is wracked with remorse; the local community question her priorities, clients abandon her; and, as long-held grievances surface, her daughter Mia offers her a heart breaking ultimatum. Amid recriminations, misunderstandings and lies, can Renee find a way to reunite her family?


Renee is a therapist and is used to giving people advice about their relationships, but what is she to do when her own relationship with her daughters means she has to choose between mending the six year estrangement between her and her middle daughter Irene, or seeing her eldest daughter Mia and her son Xavier. 

When Renee forgets to pick her Grandson Xavier up from school and he goes missing, the whole family are distraught and panic sets in as to who could have taken him and where could he be?

Irena is Renee’s daughter, but has not been in contact with them for 6 years, having fled to Paris to become an eco-warrior and feels so hurt by having been told by her father and sister that she’s “dead to them” because of not coming home when her father had a stroke. The only person who tried to keep in contact was Renee, but Irena wants nothing to do with them (or so her friend Hermione tells her).

This book has a mixture of love, loss, tension and has a great mix of characters, some you love and some you don’t! I loved it and would thoroughly recommend this one.

Thank you to Anne Cater/Tracy Fenton of Random Tours and PanMacmillan for asking me to be a part of the Blog Tour.

About the Author

Penny Hancock is the author of internationally bestselling novels including Tideline a Richard & Judy book club pick, The Darkening Hour and A Trick of the Mind and I Thought I Knew You. She writes articles and short stories on family psychology for the national press. Penny divides her time between a village outside Cambridge and her children and grandchildren in London. The Choice is her fifth novel.