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Children of Fire by Paul CW Beatty

I’m delighted to be taking part today in the book birthday blitz for ‘Children of Fire’ by Paul CW Beatty. I have an extract from this gripping novel to share with you, so please read on!

Synopsis

Can Josiah solve the puzzle before more people die, or is he out of his depth?

In 1841, at the height of the industrial revolution in the North West of England, Josiah Ainscough returns from his travels and surprises everyone by joining the Stockport Police Force, rather than following his adopted father’s footsteps into the Methodist ministry.

While Josiah was abroad, five men died in an explosion at the Furness Vale Powder Mill. Was this an accident or did the Children of Fire, a local religious community, have a hand in it. As Josiah struggles to find his vocation, his investigation into the Children of Fire begins. But his enquiries are derailed by the horrific crucifixion of the community’s leader.

Now Josiah must race against time to solve the puzzle of the violence loose in the Furness Vale before more people die. This is complicated by his affections for Rachael, a leading member of the Children of Fire, and the vivacious Aideen Hayes, a visitor from Ireland.

Can Josiah put together the pieces of the puzzle, or is he out of his depth? Children of Fire won the Writing Magazine’s Best Novel Prize for 2017.

 

Extract

There are vicious and violent forces abroad in Furness Vale. This time they have visited the religious community the Children of Fire at the least expected time. They have expressed themselves in a sacrilegious and apparently senseless murder. A murder that is designed to be seen as a matter of revenge. How will Josiah Ainscough, undercover for Stockport Police Force, cope with this outrage.

Here he comes, climbing the path towards your hiding place, his lantern swinging as he strides forward. You laugh inside yourself as you consider how appropriate darkness is for treachery and how easily this trap has been sprung. All it took was a simply worded note:

Information about Powder Mill. Come to Pulpit Rock two hours after sunset.

You step out in front of him and level your pistol at his head. He sees your face in the lamplight and gasps before he is struck down from behind.

You drag him to the base of the cross. There is a large wooden beam waiting on the ground. You lay him on it and bind his wrists so that he is stretched, open armed, along its length.

Slowly, he wakes up as you are finishing. You step back and watch as he becomes conscious. He looks around in a daze and tries to get up but the weight of the beam pins him to the earth. He wrenches at the ropes on his arms, twisting and struggling. He sees you and stops.

‘Do you remember me?’ you ask.

‘It cannot be you. You are dead.’

‘It is simply by chance that I bear a likeness of a face of someone you destroyed. Oh, I’m sorry, not chance, you don’t believe in that do you? Providence would, in any case, be a more appropriate term.’

‘Perhaps you are right,’ he says. ‘Either way I know who you must be.’

‘And by your own creed you are duty bound to do what you can to confess and prove that confession by trying to put right, the wrong you have done.’

‘And I do confess. I did your family a terrible wrong but I cannot amend it. All I can do is ask your forgiveness.’

‘Oh I think you can do something more practical than that and it will be a significant confirmation of the depth of your repentance, for it will take you the rest of your life. It’s just that the rest of your life is going to be much shorter than you might have thought.’

You cut off his shirt so that he is naked to the waist. You pick up a hammer and a nail and, stooping next to his left-hand, you push the nail into the soft flesh of the upturned palm and the hammer it into the wood behind. It takes several blows. One goes astray and breaks two of his fingers but he does not give you the satisfaction of crying out in what must be excruciating pain. Blood wells up round the shaft of the nail and pools in the palm.

You move round to the right-hand. You twist the nail repeatedly into the palm until it goes through to the back. Then you take up the hammer. Still he is silent before you.

You stand up and put your foot across his throat. Then gradually you throw your weight forward so that he starts to choke. After a few seconds he is not simply gasping for breath but uttering strange guttural sounds. Only then do you release the pressure; he is wracked by coughing.

Eyebolts have been fixed through the beam and rigged to block and tackle attached to the cross. He is heaved up so that his arms take much of his weight, but his feet are still just touching the ground. There is a terrible involuntary groan of exhaled air as his lungs are forced forward and downwards. More fierce, deep coughing.

You take the crown you have prepared from green twigs of sloe gathered in the wood. Its thorns are long and when you ram it down on his head, trickles of blood flow start down his face like red water tracks on a wet windowpane, as they merge with beads of sweat on his skin.

His shoes are pulled off and the stockings cut away. You bind his ankles and come up close to him, so your mouth is by his ear. You say something only you and he can hear and when he reacts and convulses his body in rejection, you laugh. You slip a blade in between his ribs and guide it towards his heart. You are careful not to kill him outright.

Around his neck you place a placard on a cord. You dip a finger in blood from his face and write across it. Then he is lifted clear of the ground until the extra crossbeam is at the same height as the original.

There are only two things left to be done. His legs are pulled back and two nails are driven between his tendons and the ankle bones, to pull the feet onto the upright. In a final touch, you take a sledgehammer and break his thighs.

He will die sometime before dawn, drowned slowly in his own blood from the chest wound. When is unimportant.

 

Purchase Links

 

Author bio

Paul CW Beatty is an unusual combination of a novelist and a research scientist. Having worked for many years in medical research in the UK NHS and Universities, a few years ago he took an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University emerging with a distinction.

His latest novel, Children of Fire, is a Victorian murder mystery set in 1841 at the height of the industrial revolution. It won the Writing Magazine’s Best Novel Award in November 2017 and is published by The Book Guild Ltd.

Paul lives near Manchester in the northwest of England. Children of Fire is set against the hills of the Peak District as well as the canals and other industrial infrastructure of the Cottonopolis know as the City of Manchester.

 

Social Media Links – Twitter @cw_beatty

 

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Christmas at Ladywell by Nicola Slade: charming and mysterious

 

A time for spilling secrets…

Having refurbished her inherited house and upcycled her whole life in the process, Freya – now happily married to Patrick, and with a small child – has to transform her tiny stone barn into a romantic hideaway for a mystery guest who is also looking for change. With Christmas only a week away, things don’t go according to plan…

In the past old uncertainties are resolved when an elderly woman seeks the truth of a legend on Christmas Eve and confesses to a deception; a Tudor wife listens to a story that must never be repeated and is given a precious relic that must never be displayed; and in the early nineteenth century an old woman tells a younger one the story of the hares at Ladywell.

Past and present are only a whisper apart when Freya learns of an astonishing discovery that will make Ladywell famous, but meanwhile her house is full of unexpected visitors, she has a turkey to cook – and a very special secret of her own that must be told.

 

My review

Christmas at Ladywell is a quick and charming read. It’s part of a series but you don’t need to have read the preceding books to be able to fully enjoy this one.

It’s a dual-timeline story that focuses on the past and the present at Ladywell. In having to do some rather quick renovations, Freya, who inherited the house, makes some interesting discoveries about former residents and royal connections. We get to travel back in time to witness events and meet some of these people. There’s a wonderful atmosphere of mystery woven into the historical element of the story.

There’s mystery in the present day too. Just what is Patrick’s surprise for Freya, and Freya’s own secret?

This is an uplifting, comforting sort of story, perfect for Christmas.

 

Purchase Links

US – https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-at-Ladywell-Nicola-Slade-ebook/dp/B07YNKPCJW

Author bio

Nicola Slade is an award-winning, bestselling author of historical and contemporary mysteries and romantic fiction, all set in and around Winchester and Romsey in Hampshire – which is where she lives. The House at Ladywell – a contemporary romantic novel with historical echoes – won the Chatelaine Grand Prize for Romantic Fiction at the CIBA awards in April 2019.

She is the author of the mid-Victorian Charlotte Richmond mysteries and the contemporary Harriet Quigley mysteries and The Convalescent Corpse, published November 2018, is the first in a new series, The Fyttleton Mysteries, set in 1918.

 

Social media links
Website:
www.nicolaslade.com

Blog: www.nicolaslade.wordpress.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/nicolasladeuk/

Twitter: @nicolasladeuk

Pinterest: www.pinterest.co.uk/nicola8703

 

Giveaway to Win a .mobi or PDF of The Convalescent Corpse by Nicola Slade (Open INT)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494301/

 

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More Than A Game by Ralph Robb: energetic and engrossing

More Than A Game

Sabina Park Rangers is the first team of black players to reach the final of the Watney’s Challenge Cup. But coach Horace McIntosh has more selection problems than most. The First Division champions want to sign one of his best players – and right up until the day of the match he is uncertain that he will have a team for the biggest game in the club’s history because of arrests, a scam and an atmosphere of impending violence.

My review

This is a very energetic novel with a clever title, and the liveliness isn’t just confined to the football matches. The characters are full of life and the plot is fast-paced, clever and engrossing. It’s upbeat, even though there’s tension and difficulties to be faced in the novel and it deals with harsh realities of the period the book is set in, such as racism, hostile politics and heavy-handed policing. Life could be uncertain and dangerous for British people of West Indian descent.

There’s much that’s positive, as I hinted at with the ‘upbeat’ remark. Horace, the team coach and our main character, is a generous, encouraging person. He wants to contribute all he can to his community, despite this being made difficult for him by intolerance.  This community is caring and tight-knit. It’s reflected in the real camaraderie amongst Sabina Park Rangers’ players. There are some rogues amongst them and rules are there for the bending, but you see and sympathise the motives behind any slightly dodgy behaviour. What really comes over is the genuine wish and need to integrate and be accepted in their adopted country.

The book is set in The Midlands in the 1980s, both a place and a period I’ve experienced first-hand so I can honestly say that the atmosphere of that time and setting are convincing and atmospheric. There’s added pertinence in that the UK is sadly showing a worrying swing to the right at the current time and undervaluing certain members of society for shallow reasons. However, despite the more serious overtones this is an enjoyable and eye-opening slice of 1980s life, politics and people.

Oh, and about that clever title. There’s a reflection in it of the well known saying by Bill Shankly that football is more important than ‘life and death’ so it’s definitely more than a game. Also, given the extra challenges posed by discrimination that Sabina Park Rangers face, football is more than a game for them. It’s about self-worth and acceptance as well as demonstrating talent and scoring goals.

Author bio

Ralph Robb was born and raised in the industrial town of Wolverhampton, England, and now lives in Ontario, Canada with his wife, two cats and a dog. A proud father of four, Robb works as an engineering technician and loves rugby, martial arts and of course a good book. His world is balanced by his obsession with comic books, quality TV, global events and the great outdoors.

 

Social Media Links

Facebook: www.facebook.com/RalphRobbBooks

Twitter: @RalphSRobb

Webpage: www.ralphrobb.com

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Feed Thy Enemy by Sue Parritt: a privilege to read

Synopsis
In this heart-warming narrative based on a true story, a British airman embarks on a plan that risks it all to feed a starving, war-stricken family.
Thirty years after serving in World War II, middle-aged Rob’s holiday plans see an unforeseen change that leads him on a coach tour of Italy. Struggling with post-war PTSD and depression, he reluctantly agrees to the journey – and sparks a dream that plunges him into long-stifled memories.
Set in Europe, Sue Parritt’s Feed Thy Enemy is an account of courage and compassion in the face of trauma. When Rob’s flashback delves into his attempts to save a famished family with a series of increasingly daring raids on his army’s supply stores, will he trigger suppressed remembrances of past war, love, and sacrifice – and find the strength to confront them in the present?

My review
Dual timeline novels really do seem to on the up and up. They’re all I seem to be reading at the moment! Well, here’s one that is more narrative fiction than anything, and which is a real privilege to read. The main character, Rob, is the author’s father. This brave man fought for his country but suffered disastrous after-effects.
Which enemy is the title referring to? The wartime enemy who scarred his life so badly? The PTSD he suffered? Maybe even his wife who tries to get him to face his past and finally conquer the bad memories it brings? I love when there are layers like this to a story that make you have to think and consider.
There are good memories too. In the wartime thread of the story we also get to see Rob’s lighter escapades. We get a real sense of who he is as a person. Wife Ivy too is lovingly portrayed in great detail. There are even portraits which add an extra element.
This is a moving, challenging, beautiful story. The author very sensitively handles mental health issues and makes them meaningful and immediate. It’s a book that will stay with you for a long time.

Purchase links
AUS – www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07R6SXZ84
UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07R6SXZ84
US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07R6SXZ84

Author bio

Originally from England, Sue worked in university libraries until taking early retirement in 2008 to concentrate on creative writing. Since then she has written short stories, articles, poetry, a short TV drama script and six novels:
Sannah and the Pilgrim, first in a trilogy of a future dystopian Australia focusing on climate change and the harsh treatment of refugees from drowned Pacific islands. Odyssey Books, 2014. Commended in the FAW Christina Stead Award, 2014.
Pia and the Skyman, Odyssey Books, 2016. Commended in the FAW Christina Stead Award, 2016.
The Sky Lines Alliance, Odyssey Books, 2016.
Chrysalis, the story of a perceptive girl growing up in a Quaker family in swinging sixties’ Britain. Morning Star Press, 2017
Re-Navigation recounts a life turned upside down when forty-year old Julia journeys from the sanctuary of middle-class Australian suburbia to undertake a retreat at a college located on an isolated Welsh island. Creativia Publishing, 2019.
Feed Thy Enemy, based on her father’s experiences, is an account of courage and compassion in the face of trauma as a British airman embarks on a plan that risks all to feed a starving, war-stricken family. Creativia Publishing, 2019.
Sue’s current project, A Question of Country, is a novel exploring the migrant experience through the protagonist’s lifelong search for meaningful identity.

Passionate about peace and social justice issues, Sue’s goal as a fiction writer is to continue writing novels that address topics such as climate change, the effects of war, the treatment of refugees, feminism and racism. Sue intends to keep on writing for as long as possible, believing the extensive life experiences of older writers can be employed to engage readers of all ages.
Social Media Links – www.facebook.com/SueParrittAuthor/ Website: www.sueparritt.com

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The Unlikely Occultist by Isobel Blackthorn: the life of a fascinating woman portrayed in an accessible, persuasive manner

The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey

Librarian Heather Brown discovers the fascinating life of Alice Bailey – a long forgotten occultist.
Back in 1931, Alice is preparing to give a speech at a Swiss summer school. But how can she stave the tide of hatred and greed set to bring the world to its knees?
Soon after, Alice is put on Hitler’s blacklist. What she doesn’t realize is the enormity of her influence to the world, and the real enemies who are much closer than she thinks.
A dynamic and complex figure, Alice Bailey’s reach was huge. She was influential among people and organizations of global power, especially the United Nations, and is widely regarded as the Mother of the New Age.
Yet today she is maligned by fundamentalist Christians, Theosophists, Jews, academics and above all, by conspiracy theorists. Are any of these groups justified in rejecting the unlikely occultist?
“Blackthorn’s exploration of Alice Bailey’s life and work provides a unique and intimate insight into Bailey’s life and the times in which she lived. For anyone seeking to explore the roots of Bailey’s influence on the New Age movement as well as her unsought role as the bête noire of the conspiracy scene, there’s no better place to begin.” – Aaron John Gulyas, associate professor and author of Conspiracy Theories

My review
This makes for truly fascinating reading. It’s also a timely read for anyone with UK connections. Alice Bailey worked ceaselessly to unite her fellow citizens who were hell-bent on destroying each other and their countries. Currently we see the peaceful Europe for which she strove under dire threat by a group of people with the same sort of populist tendencies that reared their ugly heads in the 1930s.
We have two time-lines: the modern one concerning Heather who is intrigued by Alice Bailey’s life and works, and then move back in time to see Alice herself. Both Heather and Alice fulfil the role of unlikely occultists, as too does Heather’s Aunt Hilary, so that’s a nice extra touch of complexity.
The author has a very readable, engaging style. She writes clearly and conversationally. We learn a lot, an awful lot, from the book but there’s never info-dumping or a loss of pace and interest.
Even if you’re someone who might be tempted to dismiss spiritualism in all its various guises as ‘bunkum’, do at least give this book a chance. It’s so intelligently written that I’m sure you’ll at least see if not understand why so many people give it credence.

In summary, this is a persuasively written novel that cleverly combines fact with a little fiction in order to thoroughly entertain as well as enlighten.

Purchase Link – viewbook.at/Occultist

Author bio

Isobel Blackthorn is a prolific novelist of unique and engaging fiction. She writes across a range of genres, including psychological thrillers, gripping mysteries, captivating travel fiction and hilarious dark satire.

Isobel holds a PhD in Western Esotericism for her ground-breaking study of the texts of Theosophist Alice A. Bailey. Her engagement with Alice Bailey’s life and works has culminated in the biographical novel, The Unlikely Occultist.

Social media links
http://isobelblackthorn.com
https://www.facebook.com/Lovesick.Isobel.Blackthorn/
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5768657.Isobel_Blackthorn
Twitter @IBlackthorn
https://www.instagram.com/isobelblackthorn/

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A Right Royal Face-Off by Simon Edge: a masterpiece!

A Right Royal Face-Off

It is 1777, and England’s second-greatest portrait artist, Thomas Gainsborough, has a thriving practice a stone’s thrown from London’s royal palaces, while the press talks up his rivalry with Sir Joshua Reynolds, the pedantic theoretician who is the top dog of British portraiture.

Fonder of the low life than high society, Gainsborough loathes pandering to grand sitters, but he changes his tune when he is commissioned to paint King George III and his large family. In their final, most bitter competition, who will be chosen as court painter, Tom or Sir Joshua?

Meanwhile, two and a half centuries later, a badly damaged painting turns up on a downmarket antiques TV show being filmed in Suffolk. Could the monstrosity really be, as its eccentric owner claims, a Gainsborough? If so, who is the sitter? And why does he have donkey’s ears?

Mixing ancient and modern as he did in his acclaimed debut The Hopkins Conundrum, Simon Edge takes aim at fakery and pretension in this highly original celebration of one of our greatest artists.

 

My review

This is a tremendously enjoyable dual-timeline story centred on a painting by Thomas Gainsborough. We jump from Georgian times where the artist is undertaking a particular commission, and the present day where we meet Gemma who’s working, not to her delight, on Britain’s Got Treasures. A painting turns up on the programme that causes quite a stir.

There’s plenty of action and humour in both time periods. The historical elements come over as well researched and clearly depicted, and also imaginatively embroidered. There’s no doubt the author’s writing puts life and relevancy into  the historical period and events he portrays. He’s equally good at contemporary settings and has a sharp, satiric eye for detail. He introduces us to a fine array of characters, modern and less so, and each one is fascinating.

Fact and fiction rub along very happily in this spirited novel. The whole book is energetic and lively, and it’s one you can’t put down. Absolutely to recommend.

 

Purchase Links

Readers can order the book from the Lightning Books website at 50% off (with free UK p&p) if you enter this code at checkout – BLOGTOURFACE

http://eye-books.com/books/a-right-royal-face-off

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Right-Royal-Face-Off-Entertainment-Gainsborough-ebook/dp/B07SZ1GXT4

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Right-Royal-Face-Off-Entertainment-Gainsborough-ebook/dp/B07SZ1GXT4

Author bio 

Simon Edge was born in Chester and read philosophy at Cambridge University.

He was editor of the pioneering London paper Capital Gay before becoming a gossip columnist on the Evening Standard and then a feature writer on the Daily Express, where he was also a theatre critic for many years.

He has an MA in Creative Writing from City University, London. His first novel, The Hopkins Conundrum, was longlisted for the Waverton Good Read Award. He lives in Suffolk.

Read more about Simon and his work at www.simon-edge.com.

Social Media Links –

Twitter: @simonjedge

Instagram: @simonjedge

 

Giveaway to Win 5 x PB copies of A Right Royal Face-Off (UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494259/

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Testament by Alis Hawkins

Synopsis

What secrets lie hidden in the Medieval college of Kineton and Dacre…?

Salster, 1385

Master mason Simon of Kineton is building his magnum opus: a great college to rival any in England.

But the Bishop of Salster, hostile to free education, is determined to sabotage Simon’s project.

When rumours spread that the mason’s son is cursed, the bishop sees an opportunity to undermine both Simon and the college.

And everything Simon has worked so hard for could end up crumbling down around him…

Salster, 2019

Damia Miller has been employed to promote penniless Kineton and Dacre college.

Delving into the college’s history, she becomes captivated by the vast grotesque painting that has recently been uncovered during renovations.

It soon becomes clear to Damia that the painting holds the key to the past – a past which could reveal exactly what she’s been searching for…

 

My review

This is a fresh, clever book. We have two timelines – 1385 and 2019. Although six and a half centuries separate them, there is so much that’s similar: rivalry, the importance of education, strong personalities, families that are a little different from normal, intolerance and commitment. These elements and the apparently separate plots link begin to entwine firmly as the story progresses and the mystery of that painting is slowly solved.

Simon and Damia are the lead characters, one in each timeline. It is they who hold the action together in their sections of the book, but Damia is the overall lynchpin. It’s she who brings everything to fulfilment. She’s a very interesting heroine. Like Simon she’s unconventional in her outlook, opinionated and dedicated. We become very interested in seeing her at work and watching how her character develops.

The background to the historical element of the book has clearly been very carefully researched and we get a convincing sense of the period and the beliefs and politics of the time. The modern era is just as vibrantly and realistically portrayed.

The author has a clear, direct style that is easy and enjoyable to read. The plot is interesting and well constructed. All in all this is an absorbing and satisfying book.     

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Overture by Vanessa Couchman: tightly-woven story and history

I’m delighted to be part of the book tour for this wonderful book by one of my favourite authors.

Synopsis

What if you had a unique talent, but everything conspired against your dreams?

France, 1897. Born to a modest farming family, Marie-Thérèse has a remarkable singing voice and wants to become a professional singer. But too many obstacles, including her parents’ opposition, stand in her way. And, through no fault of her own, she makes a dangerous enemy of the local landlord.

When the family circumstances change suddenly, Marie-Thérèse and her mother must move to Paris to work in her aunt’s restaurant. Her ambitions rekindle, but the road to success is paved with setbacks until a chance meeting gives her a precious opportunity.

She is close to achieving all her dreams, but the ghosts of the past come back to haunt her and threaten Marie-Thérèse’s life as well as her career.

 

My review

I so admire this author’s writing, and I’m delighted that there’s a new novel for us to enjoy. Even better, it’s the first in a trilogy so there are two more books to follow in this particular series.

Historical fiction presents a story set in the past. Some books in this genre tend to be more history than fiction, or vice versa, but with Vanessa Couchman the balance is perfect. The time period of the setting plays as essential a role as the characters and plot.

Marie-Thérèse is a fascinating heroine. She’s the only child of poor farmers and as such is fated to life as first their unpaid farmhand, and then that of a future husband who will move onto the farm. Her life appears to be mapped out for her: she’ll live in the same place until she dies. The feeling of oppression this brings her seeps from the pages of the book and is overwhelming. It makes the reader strongly realise that this was what women in the past had to endure. They were at someone else’s beck and call their entire lives. All they could do was grit their teeth and get on with it.

Marie-Thérèse has talents: she’s very bright, and she also sings beautifully, like a lark soaring into the sky. It’s no surprise the locals call her l’alouette, which is the French name for that bird. But it seems she must keep her light under a bushel. Her family think it’s wrong for her to show off.

Fate steps in and her father’s death gives Marie-Thérèse a little more clout. Her mother’s health deteriorates quickly so the daughter has to become the strong one of the family. But her mother is stubborn and unforgiving, and this complicates things no end. It’s only when things are at their darkest – when homelessness looms – that there’s a glimmer of light for Marie-Thérèse. Paris brings hope to Marie-Thérèse, and it’s where she must prove her mettle if she wants to live her dream. But it’s not going to be easy.

I couldn’t put this book down. It’s engrossing, fascinating and beautifully written. It recreates early twentieth-century France in intricate detail and mood. This book hands us tightly-woven story and history on a silver platter.

Purchase Link

http://mybook.to/OvertureBook1

 

About the author – Vanessa Couchman is a novelist, short story author and freelance writer and has lived in an 18th-century farmhouse in southwest France since 1997. French and Corsican history and culture provide great inspiration for her fiction. She has written two novels set on the Mediterranean island of Corsica: The House at Zaronza and The Corsican Widow. Her third novel, Overture, is Book 1 of a trilogy set in France between 1897 and 1945. Vanessa’s short stories have won and been placed in creative writing competitions and published in anthologies.

Social Media Links –

Website: https://vanessacouchmanwriter.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vanessacouchman.author/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Vanessainfrance

Amazon Author Page: http://author.to/VanessaCouchman

 

Do follow the rest of the tour and find out what other reviewers have to say about ‘Overture’. But best of all, buy and read the book for yourself!

 

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Foul Deeds Will Rise by Elizabeth Ireland: an excellent and exciting mystery

Foul Deeds Will Rise

By 1875, Lillian Nolan believes she has successfully shut off any connection to the spirit world. That winter she is thrilled when she wins the role of Ophelia in a new production of Hamlet in her home town of Chicago. Everything changes when the body of the managing director is found sprawled across the steps of the dress circle and all the investors’ money is missing. Lillian fears, once again, her career is over before it begins.

After her dearest friend is arrested for murder, Lillian commits herself to discovering the truth. Her search is complicated by a strange man who is following her, the romantic overtures of her co-star, and a reunion with an old nemesis. But nothing is what it seems. What she does find puts a member of her own family at risk and leads to the unmasking of the killer with lethal consequences for herself.

 

My review

This book follows on from the outstanding ‘A Walking Shadow’ and shares all the excellent characteristics of that book – an original plot, atmospheric settings, fascinating dramatis personae and superb writing. However, it works well as a standalone, since all we need to know is communicated to us as and when we need such information.

Lillian Nolan is a unifying feature, as is the theatrical background, but this new adventure is fresh and lively, not simply a variation on a theme. We learn more about our heroine and we witness her maturing and developing. She no longer depends on a spirit to help her with her acting, but is very accomplished all on her own. Yet she learns that it’s all right to call on the assistance of others for help, whichever realm they happen to reside in. It’s a sign of strength to know your limitations, not a weakness.

The action runs alongside a production of Hamlet. In the first book the tragedy in question was MacBeth, and I like how this theme continues. Shakespeare’s tragedies often have ghosts and supernatural occurrences in them, which is mirrored in the ‘real’ life of this novel.

The action moves swiftly and throws up some interesting people and events for our consideration. There are convincing friendships and enmities, and definitely some twists and turns in the plot.

Thoroughly enjoyable and very clever.

 

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07NQM8NT4/

US – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07NQM8NT4/

THE BACKSTAGE MYSTERY SERIES

Tagline: Life upon the wicked stage can be deadly.

Set against the backdrop of the Gilded Age, the Backstage Mystery Series stars Lillian Nolan, an unconventional member of Chicago’s upper class who dreams of a career of fortune and fame in the theater. Talented and ambitious, she possesses a hidden skill which she is extremely reluctant to use—the ability to communicate with those who have died and now live in the world of “The Beyond.”

The series chronicles her adventures in which she continually becomes enmeshed in solving mysteries which often require her accessing the realm of the paranormal. Filled with an incredible cast of characters—factual, fictional, and sometimes non-physical—who either help or hinder her quest for the truth, the stories take place during a a period considered to be the golden age of both acting and spiritualism in America.

About the author

Elizabeth Ireland discovered her passion for theatre early. After receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees in Theatre, she accepted a teaching position in a vibrant performing arts department at a college in northern Illinois. For ten years, she taught, directed and ran front-of-house operations. American Theatre History—particularly that of the 19th century—has always been of particular interest to her.

She has been a quarter-finalist and a semi-finalist for the Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowship in screenwriting sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Two of her screenplays have been optioned, but remain unproduced. Her nonfiction work, Women of Vision: Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives, was published in 2008. Her work has also been published in a collection of paranormal short stories, Paramourtal: Tales of Undying Love and Loving the Undead. She lives in metro Atlanta with her ever-patient husband, and two quirky dachshunds.

Social Media Links –

www.facebook.com/BackstageMystery/

www.BackstageMystery.com

https://twitter.com/EbethIreland

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The Catherine Howard Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh

Synopsis

What secrets were covered up at the court of Henry VIII …?

Whitehall Palace, England, 1539:

When Catherine Howard arrives at the court of King Henry VIII to be a maid of honour in the household of the new queen, Anne of Cleves, she has no idea of the fate that awaits her.

Catching the king’s fancy, she finds herself caught up in her uncle’s ambition to get a Howard heir to the throne.

Terrified by the ageing king after the fate that befell her cousin, Anne Boleyn, Catherine begins to fear for her life…

Pembrokeshire, Wales, 2018:

Dr Perdita Rivers receives news of the death of her estranged grandmother, renowned Tudor historian Mary Fitzroy.

Mary inexplicably cut all contact with Perdita and her twin sister, Piper, but she has left them Marquess House, her vast estate in Pembrokeshire.

Perdita sets out to unravel their grandmother’s motives for abandoning them, and is drawn into the mystery of an ancient document in the archives of Marquess House, a collection of letters and diaries claiming the records of Catherine Howard’s execution were falsified…

What truths are hiding in Marquess House? What really happened to Catherine Howard?

And how was Perdita’s grandmother connected to it all?

THE CATHERINE HOWARD CONSPIRACY is the first book in the Marquess House trilogy, a dual timeline conspiracy thriller with an ingenious twist on a well-known period of Tudor history.

 

My review

I’ve always felt sorry for all of Henry VIII’s wives, but especially for the two, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, whom he had beheaded for no legitimate reason. I was thus delighted to discover this book that gives an alternative ending to Catherine’s short and tragic story. Here she is not disposed of as a teenager, but… well, I don’t give too much away. This is a book you really must read for yourself.

There are two timelines in this story – 1539 and 2018. In the Tudor timeline we encounter well-known historical figures, and in the present-day portion of the novel a cast of intriguing fictional characters. Perdita, our heroine, is a strong, ambitious but likeable woman, echoing Catherine’s courage. There’s a clever shadowing of the way Catherine was manipulated in the way Perdita’s grandmother have pulled a few strings in the background to make things happen. Perdita crosses paths with a few interfering men too.

Settings are fabulous everywhere, from the palaces of London, to splendid Marquess House in Pembrokeshire, to the Welsh sea floor where a fascinating cup engraved with mermaids comes to light.

The mystery is well sustained and thoroughly captivating, and there’s some romance along the way as an added bonus. This is an extraordinarily engrossing book, and I look forward to reading the next two books in this series.

   

About the author

From tales spun for her teddies when she was a child (usually about mermaids) to film scripts, plays and novels, Alexandra Walsh has always been a storyteller. Words are her world. For over 25 years, she has been a journalist writing for a wide range of publications including national newspapers and glossy magazines. She spent some years working in the British film industry, as well as in television and radio: researching, advising, occasionally presenting and always writing.

Books dominate Alexandra’s life. She reads endlessly and tends to become a bit panicky if her next three books are not lined up and waiting. Characters, places, imagery all stay with her and even now she finds it difficult to pass an old wardrobe without checking it for a door to Narnia. As for her magical letter when she was 11, she can only assume her cat caught the owl!

Alexandra’s other passion is history, particularly the untold tales of women. Whether they were queens or paupers, their voices resonate with their stories, not only about their own lives but about ours, too. The women of the Tudor court have inspired her novels. Researching and writing The Marquess House Trilogy (Book One: The Catherine Howard Conspiracy) has brought together her love of history, mysteries and story telling.

Website: http://www.alexandrawalsh.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/purplemermaid25