A sparkling festive romance that will warm your heart this Christmas.
The week before Christmas, GP Zander Gillespie finds his festive plans in tatters. He’s supposed to be flying out to his parents’ chateau in Carcassonne with his high-maintenance girlfriend, Melissa. But she has other ideas. She wants to spend Christmas in London with her party friends – and he’s not invited. The prospect of facing his family, with their questions and their sympathy – not to mention the ‘I told you so-s’ – just isn’t an option. Instead, Zander decides to head to his holiday cottage in the quaint moorland village of Lytell Stangdale, where he intends to hide away with his faithful rescue Labrador Alf.
Eighty miles away, Livvie’s world has come crashing down. With plans to cook a romantic meal for her boyfriend, she heads home early and walks in on him in a compromising position with their neighbour. Fed-up of his lies and philandering ways, this is the final straw. With her Christmas plans up in smoke, the thought of spending it with her parents and her smug, married sister with her pompous husband in tow, is enough to bring Livvie out in hives. So, when she fires up her laptop and finds the perfect little holiday cottage in Lytell Stangdale available to rent over the festive period, it seems the perfect solution. Or is it…?
Zander didn’t believe in love at first sight until he set eyes on Livvie. Livvie had sworn off men until she met Zander. The pair may be reluctant to give in to temptation, but fate seems to have other ideas…
Join Livvie and Zander – and all the usual characters – for a magical Christmas in Lytell Stangdale.
This is a joyful, festive romcom but there’s a little bit of edge to it too. Both our main protagonists are in damaging relationships which they seek to escape over Christmas. As fate would have it they turn up under the same roof, each thinking they’ve got the rental cottage to themselves.
The plot is clever and interesting, and all the characters we meet are fascinating. Lytell Strangdale, the setting, is a place of warmth and friendship, and it weaves its magic spell over the troubled Livvie and Zander. The atmosphere is tense at times, but mainly festive and uplifting, like the book itself.
This novel is no. 4 in a series but it works perfectly as a standalone. I shall definitely be reading the rest in the series, and I’m sure you’ll want to as well. The author has such an enjoyable and readable style, and creates the most wonderful imagery and relationships.
This is the perfect read for the run-up to Christmas when you’re looking for cosiness and happy endings.
Author Bio – Eliza lives in a 17th-century cottage on the edge of a village in the North Yorkshire Moors with her husband, their two daughters and two mischievous black Labradors. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found with her nose in a book/glued to her Kindle or working in her garden. Eliza also enjoys bracing walks in the countryside, rounded off by a visit to a teashop where she can indulge in another two of her favourite things: tea and cake.
Eliza is inspired by her beautiful surroundings and loves to write heart-warming stories with happy endings.
It’s an absolute delight to be taking part in the blog tour for this fascinating book.
The Vanished Child will tug at your heartstrings. It’s very powerful, extremely moving and unputdownable.
Jayne, a genealogist, takes on a job for her new step-mother, Vera. On her death bed, Vera’s mother, Freda, revealed to her that she has an older brother who was illegitimate. The boy, Harry, was sent to a home and then foster parents. Freda hoped to claim him again, but when she was ready to do so she discovered he’d been shipped, as did an obscene number of children over many years, out to the old ‘colonies’ purportedly for new, rich lives with loving families, but that was frequently far from the truth. Freda is filled with regret for what happened.
There are two storylines in The Vanished Child – one in the 1950s where we follow the events surrounding Harry and the other in the present day. This second one revolves around Jayne and her meticulous genealogical research. We move between the two which makes the book so alive and tantalising. Each period is depicted in detail, and the settings in both the UK and Australia are convincing and enveloping.
Jayne is an interesting character with family mysteries of her own to discover. She’s very likeable, and also admirable as she’s conscientious, pleasant and determined. Her life comes over as familiar and cosy to us with her Nespresso machine, cat, and other homely details. This creates a very convincing character, one we care about. It’s fascinating to follow her research, and very interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes in this sort of investigation.
Harry’s life is far less cosy, and we cringe as we see what happens to him, but take heart from his strength and determination, especially in one so young. But so much time has passed and there are difficulties for Jayne and her work colleague Duncan to overcome in their search for the vanished child. Has it all been left too late? Can you really trace someone who’s half a world away after more than sixty years? You’ll have to read this poignant book for yourself to find out if there can be a happy ending for this fractured family. It’s absolutely to be recommended.
The Vanished Child
What would you do if you discovered you had a brother you never knew existed?
On her deathbed, Freda Duckworth confesses to giving birth to an illegitimate child in 1944 and temporarily placing him in a children’s home. She returned later but he had vanished.
What happened to the child? Why did he disappear? Where did he go?
Jayne Sinclair, genealogical investigator, is faced with lies, secrets, and one of the most shameful episodes in recent history as she attempts to uncover the truth.
Can she find the vanished child?
This book is the fourth in the Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mystery series, but can be read as a standalone novel.
Every childhood lasts a lifetime.
Purchase Link – myBook.to/vanishedchild
Author Bio – Martin has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a University researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, tv commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.
He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the North of England. In London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and London Festivals, and the United Nations.
When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, researching his family history, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake and wishing he were George Clooney.
This is a light and easy-to-read novel with plenty of humour as we join three very different couples in the run-up to their weddings. This is such an exciting time for the future brides and grooms, but also something of a minefield. So many things can go wrong…
Charlie and Sienna have plenty of money, but this bride-to-be intends to set her standards very high. Can Charlie meet her expectations? Is she putting too much store on appearances and forgetting what a wedding is really about?
Thomas and Bryony are our next couple. Bryony is nothing like as demanding as Sienna, but there are problems bubbling under the surface that may spoil her big day.
And then there’s Agnes and Simon. Surely the wedding of these two unassuming people, although with parental pressure in the background, will go without a hitch?
We encounter a lovely variety of characters and situations in the novel, which makes for an enjoyable summery read.
About the author
Bettina Hunt lives in England with her husband and two sons. Without A Hitch is her second novel. She blogs about beauty, afternoon tea, spas and travel, as well as sharing poems and short stories at www.beautyswot.com. She can be found on Twitter most days – join in the chat @BeautySwot.
‘The Goat Parva Murders’ is a very entertaining and quirky cozy mystery. It’s populated with many very colourful characters who are a delight,even if some of them are a touch creepy. Our investigative heroes are Inspector Knowles and his sidekick Barnes. They have their hands full trying to make sense of things in Goat Parva, that’s for sure.
Julian Worker is a wonderful writer. There’s sharp observation of detail, loads of tongue-in-cheek humour, and an ingenious and imaginative plot. The story bounds along and drags you with it, with lots of action and excitement.
This is a super piece of writing, one of those indie gems that make you so grateful for the ebook revolution.
Daniel Beazley is a favourite author of mine. He’s so versatile, you never know what he will come up with next! He’s written science fiction fantasy very successfully (Goblins Know Best and Sepherene: The Complete Chronicles), and in this book, Ragg, he turns his hand to a period thriller.
The scene is mid-nineteenth-century London. Samuel Finch is a down-at-heel journalist with too great a liking for whiskey to ever be really successful. However, he stumbles across a truly sensational story within the walls of St Luke’s hospital for lunatics. One of the inmates, accused of several murders, has more secrets to share. These are passed on to Samuel by the enigmatic Tobias Ragg, an orderly at the hospital, who gradually becomes a friend. But as Samuel soon discovers, there is more to Tobias than meets the eye, and this will leave a lasting legacy.
The author portrays Victorian London in wonderful, atmospheric detail, and presents us with some superb characters. All are rounded and charismatic, and make for interesting company in this punchy, original novella. There is menace and intrigue, also touches of wit and humour, and you don’t see the ending coming at all. ‘Ragg’ is entertaining and well written, and thoroughly enjoyable.
Available as a Kindle ebook at all the Amazon stores for 90p (99 cents).
Other genres, such as mismem and griplit, come and go in popularity, but cosy mysteries remain constantly popular. These require creativity, ingenuity and humour on the part of the author, which make for a winning formula for readings. You find some really excellent writing.
Dying for Dinner Rolls by Lois Lavrisa is no exception. This is a short, delightful read. Our heroine Cat works in the family organic food store. She’s recovering from the recent violent death of her father, but her supportive husband and lively children have kept her going. Also she’s making an effort to be there for her Korean mother, Yunni. When Lucy is found dead after nipping home to fetch dinner rolls for Cat and the other members of the Chubby Chicks Club, a group of friends who get together for pot luck suppers and chats, a chilling clue seems to link her death with Cat’s father’s. The police consider it to be a suicide but Cat is convinced otherwise. Annie Mae, the chubbiest of the chicks, joins Cat for a day’s eventful sleuthing which threatens to land them both in jail. Handsome cop José keeps a nervous eye on proceedings and rushes in to rescue the crimebusting pair when the difficult situations they get themselves into threaten to get out of control. They do get a little carried away at times! However, they also get the murderer, but Cat is still determined to track down her father’s killer, whatever the cost.
Once you start this novella it’s hard to put it down. The characters are quirky, diverse and fascinating. Cat is a lively, likeable heroine with strengths and flaws that make her so utterly identifiable with. Annie Mae, twenty years her senior and, by the sounds of it, twenty times her weight, makes for the perfect sidekick for her. The plot twists and turns, just as it should, and the result is a clever, original cosy that has you gasping in horror and chuckling in delight in equal measure. I highly recommend it, and I’m now off to read the next two books in the series.
Just a couple of tiny nitpicks – well, I am an editor! There were just a couple of typos, but that’s quite acceptable as the error-free book has yet to be published, and the cover is a little too cluttered. The image is clean and classy but the quote and the Chubby Chicks logo rather spoiled the overall effect for me.
Formidable! I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish.
Joe, his French wife and bilingual son leave California for Paris. Joe seems well-prepared for what French life will throw at him on the whole, but the quest for a French driving license leads him a merry dance and becomes all-consuming. It’s from this point of view that we follow Joe’s adventures in the land of shrugs and snails.
He has a sharp eye for detail and a lovely, lively style. He clearly relishes the foreignness and frequent inexplicability of France. The result is a very readable and entertaining book that will have you chuckling every few pages. For example, he hilariously describes the frustrating vagaries of French road signage, details delicious but interminable meals (with helpful ‘how to survive them’ tips), and gives wonderful accounts of nervous-tic inducing encounters with bureaucrats. He throws in lots of fascinating facts along way, for example about car ownership and vehicle-related revenues, and about the Strange French Names Club aka Asso des communes de France aux noms burlesques. He teaches us some slang and swear words and weaves in plenty of helpful information too, such as about the dreaded priorité à droite rule. All excellent stuff.
For me the book was also a look at ‘how the other half lives’, the other half being employed people in France whereas I’m from the self-employed sector. All those paid days off and holiday vouchers, I’m green with envy!
The only thing I took issue with was where Joe says that if a car fails its contrôle technique it has to be repaired immediately before it goes back on the road. You actually have two months to do the necessary work. Only a minor quibble but worth mentioning in case it causes panic to would-be expats!
A splendid book, well presented and written, and most definitely a must-read.
I’m delighted to be hosting Will Bashor today as he sets out on his virtual book tour with this truly absorbing and meticulously researched book.
Marie Antoinette’s Darkest Days: Prisoner No. 280 in the Conciergerie by Will Bashor
This compelling book begins on the 2nd of August 1793, the day Marie Antoinette was torn from her family’s arms and escorted from the Temple to the Conciergerie, a thick-walled fortress turned prison. It was also known as the waiting room for the guillotine because prisoners only spent a day or two here before their conviction and subsequent execution. The ex-queen surely knew her days were numbered, but she could never have known that two and a half months would pass before she would finally stand trial and be convicted of the most ungodly charges.
Will Bashor traces the final days of the prisoner registered only as Widow Capet, No. 280, a time that was a cruel mixture of grandeur, humiliation, and terror. Marie Antoinette’s reign amidst the splendors of the court of Versailles is a familiar story, but her final imprisonment in a fetid, dank dungeon is a little-known coda to a once-charmed life. Her seventy-six days in this terrifying prison can only be described as the darkest and most horrific of the fallen queen’s life, vividly recaptured in this richly researched history.
I was riveted by this book from start to tragic finish.
Marie Antoinette must be one of the best known-about historical figures of all time, but not the best known. We’ve all heard the famous statement, “Let them eat cake,” Qu’ils mangent de la brioche, although it’s not certain she ever actually did give this tactless response to the claim that the poor people had no bread, and we also know that she was executed by guillotine during the aftermath of the French Revolution. And for most of us that’s just about it.
But there was so much more to her than that. In Marie Antoinette’s Darkest Days, historian and author Will Bashor recounts the dreadful experiences she went through between the beginning of August 1793 until her death in mid-October. Her husband already dead, separated from her sister-in-law and children she languished in a filthy prison. Yet she showed resilience and dignity in the face of hatred and enemies baying for her blood.
The book reads, I think, more like a novel rather than a history book, in that while the authors shares a tremendous amount of painstaking research with us, we’re never overwhelmed and the pace is crisp. Our tragic heroine develops before our eyes and we feel empathy for her in her wretched circumstances. She stops being a figurehead and becomes a very real person to us. Yes, she had been one of the royal family who knew no restraint in flaunting their wealth and acting insensitively and unsympathetically towards their subjects, but that was how life was then. There was a chasm between the haves and have-nots. You can understand why the people wanted to redress the balance somewhat, or at least attempt to. With the forthcoming elections here in France, it is somewhat ironic to realise that once again there is a widening gap between the people and those that govern them – there are many millionaires in the government these days. Did poor Marie Antoinette die in vain?
If you’re interested in French history then this without doubt is the book for you. It is completely absorbing and absolutely fascinating.
Security tightened in the Conciergerie as the public uproar increased. The guards searched through the queen’s laundry, and she was only allowed a change of clothing every ten days. At the same time, the queen’s health was faltering. She complained of pain in one of her legs, covering it with her cushion to keep it warm. The queen also suffered from insomnia, anxiety, dizziness, weakness, and frequent bouts of vaginal bleeding. Rosalie attributed the hemorrhaging to the “crushing sorrows, the foul air in her cell, and lack of exercise.”
These miseries were perhaps every bit as disturbing as the presence of the guards, who violated her modesty as they watched her change clothes. When the queen discretely removed the bloody dressings, Rosalie disposed of them secretly but with great difficulty; the inspections were multiplying at all hours of the day and night. And the noise became unbearable, with the locks continuously clanking and the door of the queen’s dungeon screeching as deputies entered and exited.
On October 3, Deputy Jean-Baptiste-André Amar of the Committee of General Security decreed that 129 deputies of the Gironde party be denounced as outlaws, arrested, and brought to trial. The Girondins had campaigned for the end of the monarchy but came into conflict with the more radical Jacobins. On the same day, a large number of the Girondins were imprisoned in the Conciergerie, the same prison that housed the fallen queen of France. That these Girondins would be tried and most likely face the guillotine before the queen sparked another public controversy.
They argued that the queen was the “guiltiest of all” and “her head should be the first to fall.” The committees, clubs, and cafés of Paris were all calling for a speedy trial of the Agrippina, a reference to the ruthless, domineering, and violent mother of Nero.
“I rang my alarm bell to all French ears on the infamous Antoinette,” wrote lawyer and politician Armand-Joseph Guffroy in his journal. “Keep Marie Antoinette in prison to make peace, you say drearily, and I say to you, ‘Make her jump like a carp with its hands tied behind its back.’”
“We aim to judge the Austrian tigress from twelve until two o’clock in the afternoon,” the deputy Louis Marie Prudhomme wrote, “and we demand the offenses to condemn her; if justice is served, she will be hacked up like mincemeat in a pâté.”
About the Author
earned his M.A. degree in French literature
from Ohio University
and his Ph.D. in International Studies
from the American Graduate School in Paris
where he gathered letters, newspapers, and journals
during his research for the award-winning Marie Antoinette’s Head: The Royal Hairdresser, the Queen, and the Revolution.
Now living in Albi, France,
and a member of the Society for French Historical Studies,
his latest work, Marie Antoinette’s Darkest Days: Prisoner No. 280 in the Conciergerie,
was released in December 2016.
He is currently working on the final part of his historical trilogy, Marie Antoinette’s World: The Labyrinth to the Queen’s Psyche.
Talking about sad episodes, it’s time to mention our polytunnel. Our earnings were a little healthier now that we were with Angling Lines, but there still wasn’t a lot of spare cash. Now, we’d been mulling over the idea of getting a greenhouse or polytunnel for several months. We ate a lot of tomatoes and lettuces but these didn’t thrive outdoors. Despite digging lots of poop from assorted animals into the area of ground we designated as the vegetable patch, the soil remained poor. The only things that did grow were courgettes and pumpkins, and you can definitely have too many of those. Hence, the desire to grow a wider variety of veggies. After a lot of pondering, we opted for a low budget polytunnel off eBay. Stop laughing and bear with me. It looked good in the advert, and was the right sort of size so we paid up and eagerly awaited its arrival. It wasn’t too long coming and we got it up in one afternoon. Given the number of bits of framework and the unhelpfulness of the instructions, that was surprisingly fast. We chose a south-facing spot behind the barn. It was in the female llamas’ field and they were delighted. They had a very interesting time watching us grapple with poles and plastic. Llamas are so wonderfully inquisitive. Once it was finished they seemed very pleased with the new addition to their field and inspected it every now and again. We’d have to make sure to keep it closed, or they’d be in like a shot.
We got to work constructing some workbenches from recycled building materials and quickly covered them with seedlings in yoghurt pots. My inner gardener blossomed. I spent many happy hours pottering around potting things up in there, and Chris likewise. It started to look very impressive and productive. We took the precaution of wiring the framework to two very heavy iron bars that had come with the farm. We had no idea what their original purpose might have been, but we knew they’d come in handy one day and so we left them where they were, on the grass beyond the hangar, and regularly tripped over them. However, all those stubbed toes were worth it as the bits of iron now came into their own.
They, the bits of wire and a few bits of bent framework were all that were left after the first slightly windy night we experienced after erecting the polytunnel. A few moderate gusts of wind and the whole thing fell apart. The plastic ripped and fluttered off around the farm, sending our seedlings flying, only to be consumed or trampled on by the llamas. What a disaster. All that hard work wasted. Evidently the polytunnel was intended for indoor use only. We sighed and collected up any salvageable pieces of debris, and they weren’t many, ignoring the llamas’ giggling.
We learnt our lesson from that act of cheapskateness and decided we would have to invest in a real, proper, heavy-duty polytunnel with thick plastic and a weighty metal framework. It would be worth dipping into our savings if it meant we bought something that would last longer than a couple of weeks and withstand a gentle breeze. And so our new polytunnel duly arrived. This was more like it. It came on two pallets and weighed a ton. Never mind several hours, it took several weeks to erect. The main supporting framework needed concreting in place, wooden doorways had to be constructed and it took the whole family to help with fitting the rest of the frame together and fitting the plastic over, stretching it carefully to fit and cutting off the excess. Leaving a central walkway, Chris built a raised bed to each side which, over a few days, we filled with barrowfuls of llama and chicken poop. The ten-metre long and four-metre wide polytunnel accommodated an awful lot of poop, I can tell you. We were delighted, and, although a bit late, set to on a second splurge of growing seedlings. We hung up a thermometer and marvelled at the tropical temperatures reached in the polytunnel. On a cloudy day when it was 20 degrees outside, the tunnel clocked up 35 degrees. And when it was hot and sunny outside around the 30 degree mark, the thermometer showed upwards of 45 degrees. Surely our lettuces and tomatoes would flourish now.
Word must have got round about our polytunnel because out of the blue, a young man turned up. He explained he was a neighbour, relatively speaking – he lived a good few kilometres away but there weren’t many other habitations between us and him so I guess that did make us neighbours – and that he’d just taken over Les Chapotiers and planned to make a living growing bio (organic) fruit and veg. We’d detected a hint of hippie. He had a polytunnel on order and asked if we’d come and help him erect it when he arrived. We replied that so long as he wouldn’t object to a good bit of swearing going on during the process, then no problem, count us in. We’d found from our few years of heavy labour in France that swearwords are as crucial an ingredient in constructing something as the physical constituents. Cussing concentrates the mind. We weren’t the first to think so. I remember from my childhood Dad going round to help our neighbour, who I knew as Uncle Will, with a car problem. “Damn, I won’t be able to swear so it’ll take ages,” Dad grumbled as he set off. Uncle Will was indeed a gentle soul. We’d often call round as kids and be treated to a biscuit in the kitchen. I only saw the living room once, and the walls were festooned with beautiful embroidered pictures. All Uncle Will’s work.
The author describes this as a dozy mystery, rather than a cozy mystery, which right from the start gives you the idea that the book is likely to be quirky and fun. And it is. It’s a very enjoyable, well written and easy read.
Ron, our laid back hero, who only panics now and then such as when it looks like he’s been snugly stitched up as the perpetrator of the crime, leads us through the story. He’s determined to find out who did actually sink a machete into Old Pete’s head, and so he sets about the task, very unably assisted by Sam, his colleague at The Jolly Jester. He encounters various other shady but fascinating characters along the winding way. He discovers, as do we, that there’s a lot more going on in the village of Duckley than meets the eye.
Well worth a read, and many thanks to the author for keeping me thoroughly entertained.
Available from all the Amazons.
Don’t rush and publish with errors
It's so easy to spot other other people's mistakes but it's so hard to see your own! Get your book professionally edited.