I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for this truly intriguing novel.

Synopsis
Laura is happy and content, she has a new boyfriend and loves her job teaching primary school pupils in London. But when she inherits a rundown house from a stranger on her 30th birthday, memories of her prom night come flooding back, memories of a scary encounter and an antique mirror in the very same house.

Laura visits the house with all its secrets and as she unravels the clues she reveals the biggest secret of all: her own destiny. But how can you change the future if it’s already written in the past?

My review
At some time or other in our lives, we’ve all wanted to travel back in time and give a message to our younger selves in order to save ourselves considerable heartache in the future. In real life we can’t do that, but thankfully in novels anything is possible!
Reflected Destinies has an ingenious plot involving moving through time, thanks to a mysterious and ornate mirror in the property, Hampton Cottage, Laura inexplicably inherits on her thirtieth birthday. She’s baffled and somewhat alarmed when she finds out the house is hers, as she had an unnerving experience there when she was a teenager. She thought she’d seen a ghost, and it took her a long time to get over the fright. Now the ‘ghost’ is back, with protestations of love, but also dire warnings…
Florence Keeling is excellent at creating atmosphere. Initially we find Laura, now thirty, in a positive, happy, calm place. It’s easy to like Laura as she’s friendly, genuine and the sort of friend we’d all be happy to have. Her life in London is ordered and her boyfriend Jack seems t be just what she needed. However, when she goes to the Hampton Cottage to take possession of it and start renovations, the sense of menace begins to steadily grow in the background. Laura begins to doubt herself, and those around here. Objects take on great significance, not just the mirror but an antique cameo brooch and, although he’s not really an object, a well-fed ginger cat!
The paranormal element is subtly handled and, given Florence Keeling’s easy style of writing, seems perfectly normal in this novel, which has very realistic settings and convincing, modern characters and language. The plot is fabulous, and really does keep you on edge, but in a tingly excited way, right to the end.
In summary: an intriguing and immensely enjoyable read.

 

About the author

Florence Keeling adopted for her pen-name her Great Grandmother’s name, chosen because of the shared birthday of April Fool’s Day.  She is married with two teenage chidren.  Born and raised in Coventry, England she now lives just outside in Nuneaton.  Reflected Destinies is her first novel.

Florence Keeling also writes for children under the name of Lily Mae Walters.

 

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/florence.keeling.7

Twitter – https://twitter.com/KeelingFlorence

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/florence.keeling/

Follow the rest of the tour:

Maddy feels unfulfilled. The kids have left home, her husband is obsessed with golf and life has become rather boring. She’s a teacher and one of her colleagues and a good friend is Leanne, a bit of an oddball character but with a good heart. She’s looking after her mother, and boy, does she need a break. Both of them do, so when they scoop a Lottery win, they’re decide to go on a road trip to the south of France. Maddy’s husband Tom disapproves, as does her mother-in-law, but she disapproves of everything. And anyway, Tom is planning a trip of his own to play in a golf tournament.

Both women have lurking ulterior motives – Leanne wants to track down her father, Erik, and Maddy desperately needs some thinking time and wouldn’t mind looking up Ludovic, her first real boyfriend.

They have some very amusing  adventures and encounters, including one with Bridget the poodle with royal connections, as they try to rediscover their real selves and get out of the rut that life has somehow shunted them into without their fully realising. They do seem to have found their goal when they reach Nice, only they discover there are goats in it. Their happy endings aren’t quite there for them yet. So it’s onwards with their travels and, you have to hope, they’ll have plenty more adventures for us to share. ‘The Boat Trip’ is the next book in this series.

This is sharply and beautifully written. Maddy and Leanne are wonderful, colourful, imperfect characters trying to do their best and make the most of their lives. We feel they fully deserve this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity their win has given them, and share their enthusiasm and optimism for the future. There are many clever, comical touches, but there’s tension, insecurity and doubt there too. Our characters have responsibilities and have tough decisions to make. But the background is a feel-good one of hope and expectation. Readers’ expectations won’t be disappointed by this lively, touching novel.  

Synopsis

It is May 1968. Students are rioting, civil rights are being fought and died for, nuclear bombs are being tested, and war is raging in Vietnam. For three ordinary women in Lisbon, London and Washington life must go on as usual. For them, just to survive is an act of courage. How much has really changed in fift years?

 

My review

The title quotation comes from something Amalia observes about her son, Ricardo – how he sleeps so soundly, how he can “sleep through war”. Our three lead characters, Amalia, Rose and Mrs Johnson, all experiences ‘wars’ of one sort or another, whether it’s war between cultures, races or actual military conflict. It seems that the whole world is at war in 1968 in one way or another with so much turbulence, social unrest and hostility as well as battles between soldiers. This is what unites these three disparate women.

It’s fascinating to have three such different characters woven together: we have a young Portuguese mother who is doing whatever it takes to earn money to educate her father less son and give him the best start in life she can. Then there is a West Indian nurse who has come to England to work, but isn’t always appreciated. And we have a mother whose son is fighting in Vietnam. She writes newsy, chatty letters to her son, but you can see she’s racked with worry about him.

News reports are interspersed throughout the women’s narrations which give the wider, factual background to their stories.

This is a gentle, poignant read, but that’s not to say that shocking things and cruel twists of fate don’t happen. However, our heroines take events in their stride. Each woman is brave, although each considers themselves to be perfectly ordinary, in the difficult circumstances they find themselves in and cope in what ways they can. It’s the contrast between their apparent normalness and the upheavals they tackle without fuss in their daily lives that is so powerful.

The author has a deft way with words and a sharp eye for detail. It’s the little touches, the smallest o brushstrokes, to the broad canvas of this book that make it so convincing. If you enjoy a book that is rich with imagery, touching, thoughtful, firmly rooted in reality yet imaginative and innovative, then this is one for you.

Just one negative comment, which concerns the book’s presentation and most definitely not its creative content. The narrations of two of the women are delivered in italic text, which I didn’t feel was necessary but which accounts for about two thirds of the book. Personally I don’t find italic text the easiest thing to read and it is a little off-putting when used for long passages.

 

Purchase links

https://wordery.com/sleeping-through-war-jackie-carreira-9781788038539?cTrk=OTI4NjYyNTF8NWIzNGE4OGEyMTcwNzoxOjE6NWIzNGE4ODE5OTMzZjQuMDY5MzQ4MzE6NTNkMGNjYzU%3D

https://www.waterstones.com/book/sleeping-through-war/jackie-carreira/9781788038539

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleeping-Through-War-Jackie-Carreira-ebook/dp/B078XF7351/

About the author
Jackie Carreira is a writer, musician, designer, co-founder of QuirkHouse Theatre Company, and award-winning playwright. She mostly grew up and went to school in Hackney, East London, but spent part of her early childhood with grandparents in Lisbon’s Old Quarter. Her colourful early life has greatly influenced this novel. Jackie now lives in leafy Suffolk with her actor husband, AJ Deane, two cats and too many books.

Social Media Links –  FACEBOOK: @SleepingThroughWar
WEBSITE:
jackiecarreira.co.uk

 

Dating Down

Suddenly single and unexpectedly poor, it’s definitely safe to say that Alexis Harland is not living the life of her dreams.

Although she’s determined that nothing, not one little thing, will stop her return from poverty. Well, almost nothing. Her pride might get in the way a little. And possibly her family. And maybe the fact that she hasn’t got a clue where to start.

Many years ago, Alexis was swept away from life on a caravan park and introduced to a world of riches and glamour. All thanks to a wealthy man who married her, reinvented her… and then dumped her for a younger model at the first sign of cellulite.

Now Alexis is stranded, struggling to keep her head above water and her history a secret from her highbrow friends.

As if that isn’t enough for a woman to deal with, one night she comes home to find a sexy man has landed, quite literally, on her doorstep. A man hell-bent on testing everything Alexis thinks she knows about true happiness.

Caught between the life she knows and her blossoming love, can Alexis afford to let go of her unwavering pride, kiss her social status goodbye and accept that stepping back to square one is sometimes a huge leap forward?

My Review

I’d planned to read this book over  few evenings, but once I’d started I couldn’t put it down. It’s such a wonderfully funny and clever book. Alexis is a truly engaging heroine. She’s the narrator of this story so we see things from her point of view, which adds a layer of irony. She’s not aware there’s anything wrong with her view of the world – where looking unfashionable or being poor are totally unacceptable.  She’s dismissive, opinionated and blinkered.

But not entirely. Her feckless, irresponsible sister might frustrate her, and they bicker with and make digs at each other all the time, but there is affection there too. Both stick up for their sibling when they need to.  They’re chalk and cheese in most ways though. Candy sees their upbringing in the caravan park as one of love, of their parents always being there for them. Alexis sees it as deprived and Spartan. She’d have rather had the latest fashion item than a mother cheering her on at sports day. Appearances have always mattered far too much to her.

But that changes when Bob arrives in her life. He’s quiet, unassuming and deliciously handsome, and through him Alexis begins to see that you can live well on a much smaller budget. In fact, probably better. But can she really give up on her old life? Especially when the wealthy Vincent turns up. Just as she finds it incredibly hard to part with her unnecessary possessions, parts of her prior self are tough to remove. They’re externalised in the form of the three witches, her one-time best friends: Cordelia, Gio and Margot. They embody all that is false and pretentious. Can Alexis get out of their shadow?

There is oodles of humour in this book. For example, the Crave Cave, an utterly tasteless painting, which Alexis doesn’t mean to buy at an auction but does, keeps cropping up throughout the story. There’s comedy in the situations Alexis finds herself in and in her interactions with others, in her sharp and biting observations of ‘inferior’ people around her, in her initial obliviousness to who and what she is and where she herself ranks on the ghastly scale. But will she ever learn to laugh at herself?

Brilliant writing. I can’t wait to read the promised novel that stars Candy, who is an equally absorbing character as her big sister. I hope Alexis will figure large in that too.

Purchase Links (I totally recommend that you hit the ‘buy’ button now!)

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dating-Down-Diane-Louise/dp/1719883521

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Dating-Down-Diane-Louise/dp/1719883521

Author Bio

Diane Louise is a dairy farmer’s wife from the UK who doesn’t know a Holstein from a Hereford.

But what she does know is how to write a funny story. Three years ago she tried to write steamy romance and sucked at it. Honestly, her stiff upper lip made her heroes more wet blankets than wet dreams. With a steely determination to avoid milking the cows, she turned her hand to Romantic Comedy and a star was born. Well, in her mind at least.

Fancy getting to know the woman behind the words?

She hangs around Facebook daily, desperately avoiding housework, and loves nothing more than chatting to fellow lovers of Romantic Comedy over at Di’s Romantic Comedy Club. Or, if you don’t do Facebook, that’s cool, because she also sends a monthly email to her readers, making sure they never miss a new release and sharing behind the scene info about her books. You can join The Monthly Club here.

Social Media Links

Facebook Group – Di’s Romantic Comedy Club – https://www.facebook.com/groups/954521864707822/

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16873120.Diane_Louise

Mailerlite Newsletter Sign Up – https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/r9i1b8

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/DianeLouise12

 

 

 

 

 

Synopsis

Newly minted lawyer Corrie Locke has taken a vow of abstinence. From PI work, that is. Until her best friend Michael finds his bully of a boss stabbed in the back after confronting him earlier that day. Michael panics, accidentally tampering with the crime scene…which could lead the cops to Michael instead of the real culprit. He turns to Corrie to track down the killer. She doesn’t need much coaxing. Her late great PI dad taught her the ropes…and left her his cache of illegal weaponry.

They return to the scene of the crime, but the body’s gone missing. Racing against time, Corrie dredges a prestigious Los Angeles college in pursuit of clues. All she finds are false leads. Armed with attitude and romantic feelings toward Michael, Corrie dives into a school of suspects to find the slippery fugitive. Will she clear Michael’s name before he’s arrested for murder?

My review

This is book 2 in the Corrie Locke series, but you don’t have to have read the first book to be able to enjoy this one. You quickly work out who’s who.

This is an enjoyable, fast-paced cosy mystery. Corrie makes for a very likeable heroine in that she’s not perfect at what she does, but she always gives things her best shot and, above all, she’s a loyal friend. Her friend Michael finds himself in a tricky situation, and so Corrie does what she can to prove his innocence.

The author is very good at creating atmosphere. When Corrie was investigating the crime scene, I was on tenterhooks, thinking she’d be discovered at any moment! There’s lot more tension in the novel, but also plenty of humour and ingenuity. You’re kept guessing right to the end, thanks to clever red herrings and false trails that the author throws in.

The characters we meet are interesting and rounded. All in all this is a very entertaining and fun read. If you enjoy quick-witted heroines and lively cosies, then you must put this on your TBR list.  

Synopsis

One long summer changes Faith forever…

Faith Coombes should be over the moon when her long-term boyfriend proposes to her. But instead, she breaks up with him. Rob is safe, reliable, nice and … boring. Nothing like the only person who has ever broken her heart…

Unable to afford the rent on another flat and desperate for a new start, Faith takes the plunge and moves back to the village she grew up in, returning to the house that holds so many memories for her. Hollyhock House, the family home of her best-friend Minel, also belongs to the boy who meant so much to her all those years ago…

As Faith falls back in love with the sprawling surroundings at Hollyhock she also finds herself falling all over again for the only person who has truly hurt her.

Can Faith come to terms with her past? Did she make the wrong decision in breaking up with Rob? Or does her heart really lie at Hollyhock House?

 

My review

There’s been a mass blooming recently of romcoms in settings with flower names – bluebell hills, rose cottages, primrose bays and so on. And why not! Everyone loves flowers, and who doesn’t love a romcom. And flowers and romance go hand in hand. But this book, Summer at Hollyhock House, for me is the cream of the crop, the brightest bloom in the meadow.

Two things make it stand out: the flowing writing that’s just so easy to read and filled with marvellous descriptions and imagery, and the courage of many of the characters we meet. Several of them are in unsatisfactory relationships or positions but they have the resolve and strength to break out of the rut they find themselves in. As many of us might know from experience, that is a difficult and frightening thing to do. There’s an atmosphere of positivity and self-belief in the novel which is very uplifting.

Faith is a wonderful heroine. She’s down to earth, genuine and very empathetic. She knows the now Rob-free path ahead won’t be easy, at least initially, but she grits her teeth and gets on with it, ignoring the disapproval from her mother. Fortunately she has supportive friends, and the chance to sink those gritted teeth into an exciting new project: redesigning the garden at Hollyhock House. This brings her into contact with her ex, Rik, and his flighty new girlfriend Lucinda. However, Faith copes well, on the whole, but her heart is heavy.

We get the ending we want, which is de rigueur in romcoms, of course, but the twisting path we have to follow we get there is clever and tantalising. A truly enjoyable,  rewarding and, appropriately, heartening novel.

 

Author Cathy Bussey is a novelist, non-fiction author, journalist for The Telegraph, cycle commentator and editorial consultant. She has a website at www.cathybussey.com.

Summer at Hollyhock House is published by Sapere Books and is available at all Amazon stores.

 

 

See what other book reviewers think of Summer at Hollyhock House by visiting their blogs too.

 

 

Synopsis

1910 – A compelling tale of female empowerment in Bath’s leading department store. Perfect for the fans of the TV series Mr Selfridge and The Paradise.

Elizabeth Pennington should be the rightful heir of Bath’s premier department store through her enterprising schemes and dogged hard work. Her father, Edward Pennington, believes his daughter lacks the business acumen to run his empire and is resolute a man will succeed him.

Determined to break from her father’s iron-clad hold and prove she is worthy of inheriting the store, Elizabeth forms an unlikely alliance with ambitious and charismatic master glove-maker Joseph Carter. United they forge forward to bring Pennington’s into a new decade, embracing woman’s equality and progression whilst trying not to mix business and pleasure.

Can this dream team thwart Edward Pennington’s plans for the store? Or will Edward prove himself an unshakeable force who will ultimately ruin both Elizabeth and Joseph?

My review

Elizabeth, our heroine, is ahead of her time in her ambition for the family department store, but her father doesn’t share her plans. He’s the sort of domineering, intolerant and narrow-minded man we associate with the Victorian era. In contrast, Joseph, the glove-maker, is far more modern in his views and is prepared to listen to and consider what women have to say. His wife Lillian, tragically murdered, was a proactive woman, like Elizabeth, and so he values women for their intelligence and insight, and not just their looks. He shares Elizabeth’s vision for catering to women customers considerably more. The two work well together, and inevitably attraction follows. But there are other impediments besides Edward Pennington: class conventions, political issues and personal agendas are there too.  As well as struggling to be mistress of Pennington’s store, Elizabeth also struggles to be mistress of her own fate.

Elizabeth has built a shell around herself to protect herself from her father’s constant belittlement. She thus appears somewhat stiff and distant at first, but as we get to know her better as the book progresses we see her hidden side. She’s sensitive and motivated, very much her lively mother’s daughter. Or at least her mother was lively until Edward finally stifled her joie de vivre. Elizabeth fortunately seems to be made of sterner stuff and we have faith that she’ll escape from her father’s shadow.

I especially liked the atmosphere created in the book. In scenes with Edward there’s oppressiveness and stuffiness, but Elizabeth always seems to bring light and hope. Joseph carries sadness with him, but a growing air of optimism. Pennington’s, brightly lit, shines out like a beacon beckoning to the future, like Elizabeth herself.

The author recreates an exciting time in history in her novel and furnishes it with fascinating, contrasting characters and a clever plot. This makes for very enjoyable reading.

The book is beautifully presented with an eye-catching cover. However, my one criticism of this book is in relation to the cover. It would look even better without the ‘Welcome to Bath’s finest department store’ on the right hand side. To me it is a completely unnecessary addition, and it detracts from  the symmetry and perspective. But maybe that’s just me – I admit I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about slogans plastered on covers!

Super book, thoroughly enjoyable and one to add to your ‘to be read’ list.

Purchase Links

Amazon UK: http://amzn.eu/2SvRcqp

Amazon US: http://a.co/bYr2KHM

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-mistress-of-penningtons-rachel-brimble/1128920728?ean=9781788546508

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-mistress-of-pennington-s

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Rachel_Brimble_The_Mistress_of_Pennington_s?id=dIFSDwAAQBAJ

Author Bio

Rachel lives with her husband and two teenage daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. Since 2007, she has had several novels published by small US presses, eight books published by Harlequin Superromance (Templeton Cove Stories) and four Victorian romances with eKensington/Lyrical.

In January 2018, she signed a four-book deal with Aria Fiction for a brand new Edwardian series set in Bath’s finest department store. The first book, The Mistress of Pennington’s, released July 2018.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America, and was selected to mentor the Superromance finalist of So You Think You Can Write 2014 contest. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family. Her dream place to live is Bourton-on-the-Water in South West England.

Social Media Links

Website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Facebook Street Team – Rachel’s Readers

Amazon Author Page:

https://www.amazon.com/Rachel-Brimble/e/B007829ZRM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1490948101&sr=8-1

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1806411.Rachel_Brimble

Giveaway to win £20 / $20 Amazon Gift Card (Open Internationally)

*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 I reserve 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 I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494121/

Synopsis

It’s 1943 and young Leo tries to protect his disabled sister Ruby as the Nazis invade Italy.  After his mother is arrested, he turns to Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty to save them.  But he is no ordinary priest.  Known as ‘The Pimpernel of the Vatican’, the Monsignor is the legendary organizer of the Rome Escape Line.  Soon Leo is helping out with this secret network dedicated to saving the lives of escaped prisoners of war, partisans and Jews.  But as the sinister Nazi leader Kappler closes in on the network, can Leo and his sister stay out of his evil clutches?

My review

This is a beautifully written, lively, inspiring children’s story. The opening is wonderful, a quick summary of the events leading up to the Second World War from a twelve-year-old’s point of view. The key figures include Spitler and Muscle-weany. We later get a more official version of events which is very clearly explained, without bogging the young reader down in detail.

Leo is an Irish boy who’s caught in Italy at just the wrong time. His Anglo-American mother has travelled there to learn about educating young people from Maria Montessori. This is particularly important to her as Ruby, Leo’s young sister, suffers from cerebral palsy. As bright as a button, she’s restricted by her physical difficulties. The Nazis are advancing and the Leo’s mother is taken away. Fortunately the children had snuck off for a midnight feast in the barn and so escape capture. Then begins their perilous and arduous journey to Rome to find Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty. Leo’s Aunt Delia had told him what to do should he ever find himself in danger. Leo uses his sharp wits, engaging personality and resourcefulness to make the trip safely with his sister. But when he arrives, his work is far from over.

This story is perfect for children, but older readers can enjoy it too. We have two really likeable characters in Leo and Ruby. There’s excitement and humour, mystery and danger to thrill the audience, but not terrify them. Leo finds himself in sticky predicaments but he always finds a way out, and we know he will. It’s just a question of how.

The story is based on real events. Patricia Murphy weaves fact and fiction together in a marvellous way to bring the brave actions of Hugh O’Flaherty to life for us through the fictional Leo. However, as the author says, there were many children who were incredibly brave during the war and this novel is to celebrate them. War brings out the worst in people, but also the best. Loyal, lovable Leo embodies the latter.

 

Purchase Links

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Leos-War-1943-1944-Patricia-Murphy/dp/1781998159/

https://www.bookdepository.com/Leos-War-Patricia-Murphy/9781781998151

https://poolbeg.com/home/680-leo-s-war.html

https://www.easons.com/leos-diary-patricia-murphy-9781781998151

 

Author Bio

Patricia Murphy is the bestselling author of The Easter Rising 1916 – Molly’s Diary and Dan’s Diary – the War of Independence 1920-22 published by Poolbeg.

She has also written the prize-winning “The Chingles” trilogy of children’s Celtic fantasy novels.   Patricia is also an award winning Producer/Director of documentaries including Children of Helen House, the BBC series on a children’s hospice and Born to Be Different Channel 4’s flagship series following children born with disabilities. Many of her groundbreaking programmes are about children’s rights and topics such as growing up in care, crime and the criminal justice system. She has also made a number of history programmes including Worst Jobs in History with Tony Robinson for Channel 4 and has produced and directed films for the Open University.

 

Patricia grew up in Dublin and is a graduate in English and History from Trinity College Dublin and of Journalism at Dublin City University. She now lives in Oxford with her husband and young daughter.

Social Media Links –

Website: https://www.patriciamurphyonline.com

Twitter: @_PatriciaMurphy

Facebook – h https://www.facebook.com/Leos-War-Irelands-Secret-World-War-2-Hero-714055598929732

Facebook  –  https://www.facebook.com/Mollys-Diary-The-1916-Rising-277254289106782/

 

Giveaway to win a £30 Amazon Gift Voucher (Open to UK Only)

*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 I reserve 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 I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494122/?

 

 

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for this very original and thought-provoking dystopian mystery.

The blurb
The year is 2039. The setting is the British Isles – but not the British Isles as we know them today.

The brutal economic impact of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, together with the ever-accelerating effects of global warming have led to a very different environment indeed, in almost every way. Politics, geography and technology are all in flux.

But some things remain the same – greed, murder, conspiracy and corruption among them. When Stephanie Flack, licensed private eye in the Royal Province of Anglia, is asked to track down some missing diamonds, she soon finds the trail leading her into some very unexpected and highly dangerous places, with dead bodies appearing with alarming regularity. Including, very nearly, her own.

R M Cartmel’s skilful characterisation, sharp observation and quiet irony provide a glimpse into a future which we can almost recognise. A brilliant, gentle, wry dystopian murder mystery.

My review
North Sea Rising is a gritty, imaginative political noir thriller – a potent combination! The author has used his imagination to create a bleak future for the UK, but one that is actually perfectly feasible given the chaos that a hard Brexit might easily result in. Mix in climate change resulting in rising sea levels swallowing chunks of the country, thus putting extra pressure on the remaining land and resources and adding to the existing considerable tension between the various provinces into which the nation is now divided, and things are bound to get pretty exciting. They certainly do in this novel.

Private detective Stephanie Flack is our main character. She is capable, lively and confident. She’s very likeable and makes for a great heroine. DCS Siobhan Flynn, aka Shove, shares a house with Stephanie, and also Mr and Mrs Grubbs, refugees from when The Wash was immersed by the rising sea level. There’s also Sabrina, Steph’s secretary, and Dwayne, her associate. There’s an assortment of other equally interesting people to come across, and their interactions are always enjoyable.

As described in the blurb, the main thrust of the story is Stephanie’s investigation of missing diamonds and their equally missing courier, and all the trouble this leads her into. There are other minor incidents too, such as a short thread of the story that involves disappearing e-books, something I particularly enjoyed. In the background the volcano in Yellowstone Park is erupting, humans are beginning to colonise Mars. References are made to the new technology of this time, such as pods for travelling, wristies (tiny wearable computers), 3D tablets and airships. What’s more, academics are governing things these days, a great improvement on the “half witted idiots” who facilitated Brexit. There are so many clever touches like this in the writing and so you’re constantly surprised and impressed.

It’s a very mobile book, in that’s there lots travelling around, lots of momentum and impetus. There are many different settings to the action, and most of them are somewhat desolate and ominous. For example, there’s snow in August at the start of the book, and later we encounter with Stephanie the roofs of houses sticking out of the water that is reclaiming the land. Because of the ‘busyness’ of this book, the pace is high and it’s a real page-turner with lots happening, and a little bit of romance too.

There’s an extra twist in the ingenious plot that gives us a cliff-hanger ending so we’ll be meeting Stephanie Flack again in another adventure, which is very good news.

So in conclusion, this is an unusual, thought provoking and intriguing novel. Absolutely one to read.

About the author
Following a highly successful career as a GP, RM Cartmel returned to his first love and took up writing again.
Well-known for his wine and crime series set in France, The Inspector Truchaud Mysteries, he also has a second, rather more offbeat series of North Sea Noir, which can be read as stand alone but connected novels, set in Peterborough. North Sea Rising is the second of these.

 

 

Other books by R M Cartmel:
The Inspector Truchaud Mysteries:
The Charlemagne Connection
The Richebourg Affair
The Romanee Vintage
The German Crossing ( coming 2019)

The North Sea Noir Novels:
50 Miles from Anywhere
North sea Rising

My review

‘A Plague on Mr Pepys’ is a fascinating work of historical fiction. It’s based firmly on fact, but the author has used her imagination to bring real people from the past to vibrant life.

Our heroine is Bess Bagwell, a very determined and likeable woman. She’s the driving force in the household. Husband Will is a very talented carpenter but lacks ambition. His stern father destroyed his self-confidence when he was young. Will is also hampered by his cousin Jack Sutherland, a rogue who doesn’t hesitate to take advantage of anyone or any situation. He’s a millstone around the Bagwells’ necks.

Bess just wants to better herself and her situation, since, as she observes, there are only masters and servants in this world and she’s not going to be the latter, and this desire brings her into dramatic contact with Mr Pepys. The latter remains something of an enigmatic figure and secondary character in the book although he plays a crucial role. However, for various reasons, of which kindness is prominent, the Bagwells keep finding themselves in financial difficulties. This leads to Bess earning money in a decidedly controversial manner.

The plague has been bubbling in the background during the early action of the book, and then it comes destructively to the forefront throwing society into turmoil. Few households escape of it, the Bagwells’ included. This part of the story hammers home the horror this disease represented at that thime, and brings to life for us, or rather death, both its devastating impact and the helplessness of people when faced with it.

I must give a quick mention to Bess’s mother, Agatha. She’s made a mess of things in the past, falling prey to the evils of drink and Bess holds many grudges. However, Agatha is a changed person and family ties are strong, against all odds. She plays an important role in the story, and the difficult relationship between mother and daughter is both heartwrenching and warming.

The book is a delight to read. The author grabs our attention from the very start and keeps us riveted. She has clearly done much detailed research, and this all adds to the authenticity of the story. We learn what a farthing would buy, what people wore, how guilds were organised and so on, and this is all really interesting. There’s no info-dumping, these little snippets of information are dropped in when necessary and make the writing all the richer.

Definitely one to add to your shelves or Kindle. It’s the second in a series, but works perfectly well as a standalone. A wonderful read.

 

Details and synopsis

Series: Women of Pepys Diary Series #2
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: July 5th 2018
Publisher: Accent Press
The second novel in the series based on the different women in Samuel Pepys’s famous diary.

Sometimes the pursuit of money costs too much…

Ambitious Bess Bagwell is determined that her carpenter husband, Will, should make a name for himself in the Navy shipyards. To further his career, she schemes for him to meet Samuel Pepys, diarist, friend of the King and an important man in the Navy.

But Pepys has his own motive for cultivating the attractive Bess, and it’s certainly not to benefit her husband. Bess soon finds she is caught in a trap of her own making.

As the summer heat rises, the Great Plague has London in its grip. Red crosses mark the doors, wealthy citizens flee and only the poor remain to face the march of death.
With pestilence rife in the city, all trade ceases.

With no work as a carpenter, Will is forced to invest in his unscrupulous cousin Jack’s dubious ‘cure’ for the pestilence which horrifies Bess and leaves them deeper in debt.
Now they are desperate for money and the dreaded disease is moving ever closer. Will Mr Pepys honour his promises or break them? And will they be able to heal the divide that threatens to tear their marriage apart?

EXTRACT
London, March 1663
‘Here’s the address,’ Bess said, pressing the paper down on the table in front of her husband. She patted him on the shoulder, which released a puff of dust. Will was a fine figure of a man – tall and blond, with arms muscled from lifting timber, and the fine-boned hands of a craftsman, but his clothes were always full of sawdust and wood-shavings.
He turned and smiled, with an expression that said he was ready to humour her.
‘It’s on the other side of the Thames, close to one of the shipyards. Big houses all round. A nice neighbourhood. Quiet.’
‘Where?’ Will asked, standing to pick up the paper, and stooping from habit because their attic room was so low.
‘Deptford.’ She held her breath.
‘Deptford?’ he said, throwing it back down. ‘We’re not living in Deptford.’
‘Oh, Will, it has to stop sometime. He won’t even know we’re there.’
‘You don’t know my father, he gets to know everyone’s business.’
‘That’s no reason. That terrible brimstone preacher lives just round the corner, and we manage well enough to avoid him.’
‘Ho, ho.’
‘We need never see your father. The Deptford yard is enormous. More than a mile end to end. Just think, you could work there fitting out ships, and you’d never set eyes on him.’ She tugged at his sleeve. ‘The workshop’s so fine – you should see the workbench. More than eight foot long, and it runs right under the window. You can nearly see the whole shipyard from there.’ She paused; she knew his weak spot well. ‘And the house will be perfect for your new commission. You won’t have to hire a work place again.’
‘It’s more than we can afford, love, to buy a house.’
‘You’ll get better commissions though, once people see Hertford’s chairs. You should see it! There’s room for your lathes and there’s already a wall with hooks for hanging tools. Just come and look, Will. That’s all.’
Will sighed. ‘Suppose looking won’t hurt.’
*
In the panelled chambers of Thavie’s Inn, Holborn, Will Bagwell lifted the quill and dipped it in the ink. His heart was pounding beneath the buttons of his doublet. The paper before him was thick vellum, as if to emphasise the serious nature of the agreement. Ten years’ of his wages in a good year. An enormous loan. He wanted to read it again, for it was a lot of writing to take in, in a language that took some fathoming. But they were all waiting.
Behind him, he could hear Bess breathing; feel the heat of her hand on his shoulder. He tapped the nib on the edge of the bottle to shake off the excess droplets of ink; Bess’s hand tightened. He swallowed. Just shy of sixty pounds. If he signed this, there would be no going back.
He hesitated, and looked up. Opposite him, the turtle-faced goldsmith, Kite, nodded and narrowed his eyes in a tight smile of encouragement. The notary, an official from the Inn of Chancery in a blindingly white cravat, was impatient, shifting from foot to foot. No doubt he’d seen such an agreement many times.
A deep breath. Will felt the nib touch the paper and suddenly, there it was – his signature flowing across the page. He had no sooner lifted the pen from the document than it was swiped out from under his gaze, and Kite the money-lender was scribbling his name under Will’s. Immediately, a serving boy came with a stub of smoking sealing wax, and even before Kite had time to press the metal die into the red puddle on the paper, the notary was adding his witness signature.
It was over in a few seconds and Will’s damp palm was gripped momentarily in Kite’s wrinkled one, before the duplicate loan agreement and the house deeds were thrust into his hand for him to sign.
‘My man Bastable will collect the repayments on the last day of each month,’ Kite said.
Will felt dazed. He wanted to turn back time, give the agreement back. But they were all smiling, Bess most of all. Her face lit up the room. She had her fine house now, and he couldn’t let her down, could he? But all he could think of was the feeling of his empty purse, like a lung with the breath squeezed out of it.
BUY LINK
mybook.to/PlaguePepys
Check out book 1 in the series!

https://goo.gl/j3uaeU

PRAISE FOR PLEASING MR PEPYS

‘Swift is a consummate historical novelist, basing her books on immaculate research and then filling the gaps between real events and real people with eloquent storytelling, atmospheric scene setting and imaginative plot lines’ The Visitor

‘Pepys and his world spring to vibrant life…Gripping, revealing and stunningly imagined, Pleasing Mr Pepys is guaranteed to please’ Lancashire Evening Post

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

From Deborah Swift:
I write historical fiction, a genre I love. I loved the Victorian classics such as Jane Eyre, Lorna Doone and Wuthering Heights. As I child I loved to read and when I had read my own library books, I used to borrow my mother’s library copies of Anya Seton and Daphne du Maurier. I have loved reading historical novels ever since; though I’m a bookaholic and I read widely – contemporary and classic fiction as well as historicals.

In the past I used to work as a set and costume designer for theatre and TV, so I enjoy the research aspect of creating historical fiction, something I loved doing as a scenographer. Each book takes about six months of research before I am ready to begin writing. More details of my research and writing process can be found on my website. I like to write about extraordinary characters set against the background of real historical events.

I live in North Lancashire on the edge of the Lake District, an area made famous by the Romantic Poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge.

I took an MA in Creative Writing in 2007 and now teach classes and courses in writing, and offer editorial advice from my home. A Plague on Mr Pepys is my ninth published novel.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authordeborahswift/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/deborahswift1/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/swiftstory
Blog: www.deborahswift.com/blog
Website: www.deborahswift.com

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