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Excerpt from ‘Dead in Tune: A Christmas cosy mystery’ by Stephanie Dagg

Chapter 1

“That was fun,” smiled Martha, climbing into the passenger seat of the bright red BMW X4.

“Wasn’t it just,” agreed driver Lottie, starting the engine. “Not keen on the French carols, though.”

Martha shot her an astonished glance. “But, apart from ‘Nouvel Né’, which is absolutely lovely with that haunting tune, the only other carols we sang in French were ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Angels from the Realms of Glory’. And they’re just France’s versions of traditional British carols.”

“But that’s what I mean,” explained Lottie, reversing rapidly out of her tight slot, without looking, which made Martha cringe. “They’re simply not the same in a foreign language.”

“We can hardly expect the French contingent of our Worldwide Friendship Club to make all the concessions, now can we,” said Martha reasonably.

‘Worldwide Friendship Club’ was a bit of a misnomer. The vast majority of members were either British or French, with just a handful of other Europeans and one South African. But Martha supposed it didn’t hurt to be ambitious.

“As it is,” Martha continued, “six of the nine carols we’re singing are English.”

Lottie gave one of her characteristic snorts in response to Martha’s reasonable remark. Snorts were her vocal version of the French shrug in that they came with a practical endless variety of meanings. This latest one clearly implied ‘that’s six too many’.

Martha knew it was pointless trying to argue further when Lottie was being so very Lottie, so she sat back in her luxuriously soft seat and reflected on the last hour and a half. The Worldwide Friendship Club, under the capable if relentless leadership of chairperson Belinda Parsons, was organising a carol service in Boussiex for Friday in the modest but beautiful St Claire’s church. The Club had decided that a couple of rehearsals – today and Thursday – would be a good idea so that at least some of the French attendees at the service would be familiar with the English carols, and vice versa. Lottie had joined the WFC back in March, and had badgered Martha into doing likewise until she finally relented a week ago.

Martha wasn’t really a club sort of person, but Lottie seemed to enjoy herself at WFC functions so that was a good recommendation. However, Martha’s main motivation was mercenary. She was about to submit her demand for French nationality, given all the unnecessary uncertainty and mess that Brexit was creating, and membership of a society or two would look good on her application. For the same reason she’d also signed up to a handicrafts club in a nearby village and had started turning up to listen in at municipal council meetings. She had initially felt very guilty about doing so for such selfish reasons, but she had since soothed her conscience by assuring herself that her membership fees were doing the organisations involved good, and her mayor and councillors had been delighted to actually have an audience for once. Plus she was benefitting. She’d met some lovely people in the two associations, and was picking up a lot of fascinating village gossip from the council meetings.

She was roused from her musings by Lottie’s sudden outburst of, “But I really don’t see why we need to have a Scottish piper at the carol service.”

“I think it’ll be rather fun,” countered Martha.

“There’s nothing Christmassy about bagpipes,” snapped Lottie. “It’ll ruin the atmosphere.”

“But he’s only going to be playing outside, near the Christmas tree in the square, until the service starts,” Martha reminded Lottie of the arrangements. “And I dare say he’ll play carols.”

“He’s not even a member of the WFC,” protested Lottie. “And I thought the Scots were more about New Year anyway.”

Martha was of the opinion that people of any nation were surely allowed to indulge in more than one festive celebration, but she chose not to voice it for the time being.

“And they have that haggis festival in January as well,” Lottie ploughed on.

“You mean Burns Night,” Martha corrected her mildly.

“That’s the one, with that poem about mice and men and plans going googly, or whatever.”

“You’re muddling up ‘Address to a Haggis’ with ‘To a Mouse’. And it’s ‘schemes o’ Mice an’ men
gang aft agley’, not plans going googly,” Martha persisted patiently.

Lottie, of course, snorted. “Both versions are daft. And what sort of person writes poems about meat and vermin anyway?”

“Just the national poet of Scotland,” murmured Martha.

“You’re very knowledgeable about Scotland all of a sudden.” Lottie shot her an annoyed sideways glance.

“My grandmother was Scottish,” Martha informed her.

“Huh. So that’s why you like the bagpipes so much,” concluded Lottie. “Mind you, the French members didn’t seem that impressed. They seemed to be saying something quite rude about them. Sounded a bit like ‘unicorn mucus’.”

Martha sighed and wondered, as she frequently did, how her friend could have lived in France for so long but picked up so little of its vocabulary.

“They were saying ‘cornemuse’. That’s French for bagpipes.”

“That’s a silly name,” declared Lottie. “In English it says exactly what the thing is – a bag with some pipes stuck into it. It ought to be ‘sac… sac’ something in French.”

“It is. A ‘musette’ is a type of bag, and ‘corne’ is a musical horn, amongst other things.”

Lottie muttered something about know-it-alls. Martha smiled to herself.

“You’re on the committee,” Martha reminded her friend after a few moments. “Couldn’t you have voted against the idea?”

“I can never make it to the committee meetings. They’re on Saturdays,” explained Lottie, “so I can’t go because of work.”

Martha frowned. “But I thought you didn’t work on Saturdays.”

“Of course I don’t!” Lottie sounded appalled at the very idea. “But I’ve been slaving away from Monday to Friday so I’m not going to give up my precious weekend for silly meetings.”

There wasn’t an answer to that, only questions such as “Well, why did you put yourself up for the committee in the first place?” and “So why don’t you resign your position and let someone who can spare an hour or two one Saturday a month take your place?” Martha, however, knew better than to give voice to those. She made do with rolling her eyes and pulled the conversation back from such dangerous territory.

“You’re not the only anti-bagpiper, by the looks of things,” she mused. “Did you see old Matisse’s face when Belinda made her announcement about the Christmas bagpipes? A perfect balance of shock, horror and fury!” She chuckled at the memory.

Lottie laughed out loud. “He always looks like that! He strikes me as a sour, mean-spirited old git, but I may be warming to him a little now that we have a shared hatred of Scottish musical instruments.”

Lottie swerved to avoid a hedgehog that had suddenly launched itself at full trot into their path, meaning they rounded a blind bend on the wrong side of the road, but fortunately the road was deserted, other than themselves.

“Actually, the bagpipes might not be the worst thing about the carol service,” she confided, once she was driving on the correct side again.

“Oh come on, our singing wasn’t that bad!” protested Martha with a forced laugh, which she hoped would cover the sound of her heart thudding.

“I don’t mean our singing. That was really rather good, apart from Horace, the growler. And as you obviously heard, Matisse has an amazing voice. I do love a nice, deep bass. No, what I mean is that Belinda told me earlier that that she’s just booked a Spanish couple to do a flamenco dance the service. Really lovely young people, apparently, only been here a month or so and want to get involved in community things. But seriously, flamenco dancing? In a church?” Lottie couldn’t summon up a snort that could convey precisely how appalled she was, so she made do with dramatic and dismissive hand gestures, making the car swerve and Martha’s heartbeat temporarily soar again.

Belinda had made the decision unilaterally, something she did rather a lot, and something which other members of the WFC grumbled about when their chairperson wasn’t around. But Belinda was in charge, and had been for four years now, and frankly no one else wanted to take on the significant workload that went with the post. So they left her to rule the roost. Belinda’s husband, Horace, had held the equally unpopular position of treasurer for the same length of time.

“I love flamenco.” Martha actually wasn’t a particular fan but she couldn’t resist winding Lottie up, just a little bit. “It’s associated with religious festivals and rituals, so I dare say there’s a Christmassy version of it. And did you know that UNESCO recognises it as a cultural heritage?”

“Well, I do now,” snipped Lottie. “I suppose you’re also going to tell me that Dutch clog dancing is a UNESCO wotsit too so we should ask dour old Gerrit to do a number between ‘Hark the Herald Angels’ and ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’. And while we’re at it, why don’t me and you do a quick Morris dance before the final blessing?”

Martha knew she should but she couldn’t stop herself from laughing. Lottie in full-on grump mode could be very funny.

“Bagsy be the one with the hobby horse,” she chuckled.

Lottie’s annoyed expression resisted for a moment then morphed into a smile. “No way, I’m having that. You can make do with bells on your knees and hankies to wave.”

“I’d rather have sticks than hankies,” said Martha.

“Tough,” riposted Lottie. “You could do too much damage in the church with them. You might behead one of the crumbly old statues or take out a stained glass window! It’s hankies or nothing.”

“Big hankies then,” bartered Martha.

Both women laughed.

“You know, I think I might actually suggest a Morris dancing session as an activity for next year,” said Lottie.

“It would be fun,” acknowledged Martha, “but it would confirm the French in their view that the English are crazy.”

“They already know we are,” smiled Lottie.

“Excuse me,” riposted Martha. “Philippe doesn’t think I’m crazy.”

Philippe, a senior officer in the local gendarmerie, was her French beau. A family friend for years, he’d always carried a candle for Martha but it was only recently, more than three years after she’d been widowed, that he’d plucked up the courage to act on his feelings. A series of brutal murders that had appeared to centre around Martha had brought the two firmly together in the summer.

“Of course he does,” teased Lottie, “but he still loves you. How’s he getting on in Norway? I still can’t believe you didn’t go on that ski-ing holiday with him.”

“Well, you should because I’ve given you my reasons enough times. One, he booked the holiday with a group of friends, all male, a year ago. Two,  it’s cross-country ski-ing, which is a well-known form of torture. The appeal of ski-ing downhill is obvious, but ski-ing on the flat has nothing going for it whatsover. Three, my leg isn’t up to any sort of ski-ing at all.” She’d been hit and injured by a car driven by the man behind the summer’s murders.

“You didn’t have to ski,” Lottie ploughed on. “Just gone for gentle strolls in the snow and sipped hot chocolate by the glowing fireside of your log cabin.”

“Yes,  I know I could. Philippe tried to persuade me to come along, which was sweet of him, but I didn’t want to intrude into a guys-only thing. He’d have felt obliged to spend time with me when he’d have much rather been snow-yomping with his mates, and I’d have ended up feeling guilty.”

“I wonder what this ‘feeling guilty’ thing is like,” remarked Lottie with a smile, but she was only half joking. It was a sentiment that featured only rarely on her emotional compass.

They turned into the drive that led down to Martha’s farm.

“Thanks for the lift, Lottie. I hope to get the Renault back before the Thursday rehearsal so I can get there under my own steam.” Martha’s ancient but usually ever-reliable car had decided not to start that morning. The garage had collected it for, allegedly, urgently dealing with, but Martha had had no further news of it since watching it disappear on the back of the breakdown truck. She knew better than to waste time and phone calls on chasing it up too soon. It would be ready when it was ready.

“Not a problem. Just shout if you’re still without wheels on Thursday.”

They pulled up outside the house, sending two of the half dozen farm cats skittering into the shadows, away from the rude and intrusive flood of brightness from the headlights.

“I won’t come in,” said Lottie, as Martha opened her mouth to invite her in for hot chocolate. “Got a bit of paperwork to finish up before tomorrow’s mammoth acte de vente.”

Lottie was never normally one to use a French word or term when there was an alternative in her mother tongue. However, there was no direct UK equivalent to the acte de vente, which was the final stage of the cumbersome but watertight house-selling process in France. All the parties concerned met at the Notaire’s office, where the lengthy contract was read through, word by word, and everyone got up in turn and initialled every page of the document. Even a straightforward one could go on for hours. But of course, things were rarely straightforward in France.

“How mammoth exactly?” probed Martha.

“Think herd of mammoths. No, more than that. Massive herd of humungous mammoths,” sighed Lottie.

“How come?” asked Martha.

“For a start, there are six vendors. Old Papa Champolivier was a widower so the property passed to his four sons and two daughters. They’d hardly spoken to each other for years, so naturally the bickering continued for a few more until they eventually agreed on selling price, solicitor and salesperson. Moi, obviously.” She flashed a proud smile. “One or other of them has rejected all the previous decent offers I got for them on the place, but I think finally common sense but most likely greed prevailed and they all accepted this latest one straight away. I hoped at least some of them might grant power of attorney to the notaire to sign the contract on their behalf, but no, they all wanted to come along in person. So, with me and the notaire, that brings tomorrow’s attendance up to eight.”

“Quite a crowd,” nodded Martha.

“Ah, but that’s not all. Whilst all the bickering about selling was going on, the place was let out to a pair of brothers for farming. So they’ll be there too, tomorrow, and their wives, to relinquish their rental rights.”

Martha nodded again. The same thing had happened when she and Mark had bought their farm, only in their case it was just the confirmed bachelor Monseiur Josset.

“And now enter the buyers. Four of them as well in the shape of two sets of Monsieur and Madame Dupont.”

“The men are brothers?” hazarded Martha.

“Correct. And, what’s more,” Lottie went on with a twinkle in her eye, “their wives are sisters.”

“Goodness!” gasped Martha. “That’s unusual, surely.”

“But what’s even more, the brothers and the sisters are both sets of identical twins.” Lottie beamed triumphantly at the bizarreness of her news. “You couldn’t make it up, could you!”

“Nope,” agreed Martha, impressed. “That’s definitely material for a gossip magazine.”

“So that’s sixteen of us all crammed into Maître Cognac’s stuffy office, and having to take turns to sign every page of the contract. Given how doddery half of them are likely to be, it’ll take ages. They’ll be diddling around with spectacles, having to take a rest halfway between their seat and the desk, then dropping the pen, then needing the loo between pages three and four and again between eleven and twelve… aargh! That’s why I need to get on with the paperwork I won’t have time to do tomorrow. Half the day will be spent at the office.” She groaned.

“Yes, but think of your fee,” Martha consoled her.

“True.” Lottie brightened. “I got a good price for the property. A very good one.”

Lottie always did. She really knew how to turn on the charm with the buyers and put the fear of God into the vendors so pretty much dictated terms to her own advantage.

“Well, I hope it goes as swiftly as possible for you tomorrow,” smiled Martha, patting Lottie’s arm and then, reluctantly, opening the door of the luxuriously warm car to brave the freezing elements outside. Her house would be warm enough, since she’d stoked up the fire before leaving it this evening, but there was a cold trudge and a chilly hallway to brave before she got there. “See you Thursday.”

“Ciao.” Lottie blew her a kiss, then did a high-speed three-point turn, showering the waving Martha with gravel and hoar frost, before flooring it back up the drive.

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Cover reveal: The Mystery of Montague House by Emma Davies

When Summer meets Wynter…

With enough rooms to fill a Cluedo board several times over, Montague House has often been the subject of rumour and gossip. Tales of strange goings on, an owner who disappeared one day and was never seen again, not to mention the treasure that rumour has it lies at its heart… But now the present owner has died and the house is to be sold. It looks as if the opportunity has come to finally settle the stories once and for all.

Clodagh Wynter doesn’t believe in ghostly goings on and tall tales of secrets. She has her feet very firmly on the ground and, tasked with the job of valuing and cataloguing the house and all its contents, she’s simply looking forward to working in such a glorious setting. And if she happens across a priceless painting, well, that’s just icing on the cake.

Andie Summer is a Finder of Things and desperately needs this job; she’s down to her last few tins of baked beans. So looking for hidden treasure sounds right up her street, even if there was something very fishy about the mysterious Mr Mayfair who hired her. Because it’s just like she said to her faithful Basset Hound, Hamish; I saw something out of the corner of my eye as I was leaving, and you know what that means. It’s never good news when I see something out of the corner of my eye…

As the unlikely pair are thrown together, it soon becomes very clear however that they are not the only ones searching for the treasure. And they’re going to need all their ingenuity, resourcefulness, not to mention chocolate biscuits, if they’re ever going to untangle the web of secrets that surrounds Montague House. One that reaches even further than they ever thought possible…

 

Here’s the cover….

I think it’s great!

 

Purchase Link – https://smarturl.it/MontagueHouse

Author bio

After a varied career, Emma Davies once worked for a design studio where she was asked to provide a fun and humorous (and not necessarily true) anecdote for their website. She wrote the following: ‘I am a bestselling novelist currently masquerading as a thirty-something mother of three.’ Well the job in the design studio didn’t work out but she’s now a fifty-something mother of three and is happy to report the rest of her dream came true.

After many years as a finance manager she now writes full time, and is far happier playing with words than numbers. She lives with her husband and three children in rural Shropshire where she writes in all the gaps in between real life.

 

Social Media Links –

@EmDaviesAuthor

www.facebook.com/emmadaviesauthor

www.instagram.com/authoremmadavies

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Cover reveal: The Dream That Held Us by Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang

The Dream That Held Us

Another stunning Anglo-Indian love story from the author of The Last Vicereine, Penguin Random House 2017.

October 1985, Ash Misra leaves a blood-stained Delhi for Oxford University. Haunted by a terrible secret, he just wants to forget. Music and fresh violence bring him to fellow student and amateur violinist, Isabella Angus, but duty and the burden of history keep them apart. A quarter of a century later against the background of the global ­financial crisis, Sir Peter Roberts, former Master of Woodstock College, receives a letter from Ash for Isabella. They are no longer young but they had made a tryst with destiny; old terrors and suppressed desires return.

“Deeply imbued with a certain wistfulness and haunting sense of loss brought out by the end of a glorious summer… Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang’s latest novel is a sensitive and skilful exploration of love, longing, and whether life sometimes relents to give us second chances.” Osama Siddique – author of Snuffing Out the Moon

“This book carries a universal message about love and finding your way in the world. I loved it.” Angela Barton author of Arlette’s Story, Magnolia House and You’ve Got My Number

 

Pre-order Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dream-That-Held-Us/dp/1838150803

US  – https://www.amazon.com/Dream-That-Held-Us/dp/1838150803

 

Publication date – 21st January 2021

 

And here’s the cover…

 

Author bio

Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang is a British author whose work focuses on cultural and historical fault lines and has strong international themes.  Rhiannon was born and grew up in Yorkshire and has studied, lived and worked in Europe and Asia.  She read Oriental Studies (Chinese) at Oxford University and speaks Mandarin and Cantonese.  Rhiannon lives in a former farmhouse in rural England with her family.

Novels

The Woman Who Lost China, Open Books 2013

The Last Vicereine, Penguin Random House 2017

Short Story Anthology

Hong Kong Noir, Akashic Books 2019

 

Social media links

Twitter @rhiannonjtsang

Facebook Author page https://www.facebook.com/RhiannonJTauthor

LinkedIn Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang

You Tube –  Rhiannon Reviews. https://youtube.com/channel/UC3hPlIWofMRV1p1KVU5X94Q

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Cover reveal: Witholding the Key by T L Mahrt

Withholding the Key, Third and Final Book of With Emma Trilogy.

Will Emma unlock her heart and truly allow herself the happiness she deserves?

Emma Andrews finds herself and everyone she cares about within the walls of the penthouse. Only, this time, it was her who locked the door and threw away the key. Emma finds herself not only planning to take Jarret out for good, but trying to destroy his empire and all who are within it.

Jarret won’t know what hit him…

What Emma doesn’t expect is to see a face that before had only appeared in her dreams.

With Chance’s life holding on by a thread, Emma is pulled to him. Will he prove his love to her, allowing Emma to completely unlock her heart to him? Or, will the man that has taught her to accept her strength, be the man Emma finds her true-self in the bounds of his love…

There is one thing for certain, in order to take Jarret out, Emma will need to rely upon the bond formed from an unexpected friendship.

 

And here’s that cover…

Pre-order link – https://www.tlmahrt.com

Publication date – 31st January 2021

 

Author bio

L. Mahrt is a former business owner, where she utilized her education in cosmetology, barbering and massage therapy for several years. She was raised on and is currently living on a farm in Nebraska, where you can find her running barefoot in the country side with her loving husband and inspiring children and massive dogs.

After having her son, who was born with Cerebral Palsy and DYRK1A, she made the life altering decision to stay home to care for her two children and pursue her love for writing. She has a love for romance and poetry where, her overactive imagination, along with her adventures and up beat lifestyle drives her inspiration for her writing.

L. Mahrt has a thirst for knowledge, and is currently working on her Bachelor of Applied Science in Communication Studies degree.

 

Social media links

Social Media:

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/tlmahrt/

 

Twitter

https://mobile.twitter.com/tlmahrt

 

Instagram

https://www.instagram.com/tlmahrt/

 

Tumblr

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/tlmahrt

 

Goodreads

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19755994.T_L_Mahrt

 

Facebook readers Group

https://m.facebook.com/groups/527890547837793/?ref=share

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The Beach Party Mystery by Peter Bartram

Synopsis

Brighton is about to host its most exciting beach party ever – with the world’s biggest name in rock music headlining the show. It seems a world away from the work of Evening Chronicle crime reporter Colin Crampton. But that’s before fraudster Claude Winterbottom is beaten to death.

As Colin investigates the crime, he finds there are too many suspects. Like Manfred Crouchpenny, the fattest loan shark in the world. Or Jeremiah Clarke, leader of a band of purity campaigners. And who is the mystery woman who hides behind the pseudonym Astraea?

The climax explodes on a pirate radio ship moored off the British coast. There are laughs alongside the action as Colin and feisty girlfriend Shirley Goldsmith race against time to save countless lives at the beach party.

 

My review

This is a lively, thoroughly entertaining mystery set in the 1960s and centring on a pirate radio ship Seabreeze. That’s a unique setting that immediately adds an extra sparkle of interest. (I did a bit of research and discovered that, despite internet radio being such a thing these days, there are still a few pirate stations illegally hopping onto FM. Good to know!) The three characters most closely involved with the radio station – Perry, Charles and Zena – all appear to embrace the lifestyle of turning-your-back-on-mainstream that you’d associate with such people. And yet all is not as it seems.

The action gets going for amateur sleuth Colin with the discovery of a dead body. He’s also, and principally, a journalist so from the start his occupational skills are on display. He’s sharp, cunning (always wanting to be first on a scene ahead of the rival papers calls for that) and can see connections before others. His even temperament and general unassumingness make him a likeable and reliable hero for this story, and all the others in the series.

The era is wonderfully portrayed in every detail. For journalists it was a time of always knowing where the nearest phone box was, and hoping it worked. It’s good to revisit a time before mobile phones. There’s a definite feeling of people living on their wits and being more resourceful. Today that’s been swamped by instant access to everything.

There’s a host of fascinating characters, good and bad but mainly bad, to rub shoulders with along the way. Their lives entangle, and a compelling and enjoyable (for the reader) mystery emerges that I guarantee will keep you turning the pages, either physically or electronically.

 

Book details

  • Paperback : 282 pages
  • ISBN-13 : 979-8689870687
  • Publisher : Independently published (28 Sept. 2020)
  • Product dimensions : 13.97 x 1.8 x 21.59 cm
  • Language: : English

 Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beach-Party-Mystery-Chronicle-adventure/dp/B08KBMLGKR

 

 About the author

Peter Bartram brings years of experience as a journalist to his Crampton of the Chronicle crime mystery series. His novels are fast-paced and humorous – the action is matched by the laughs. The books feature a host of colourful characters as befits stories set in Brighton, one of Britain’s most trend-setting towns.

You can download Murder in Capital Letters, a free book in the series, for your Kindle from www.colincrampton.com.

Peter began his career as a reporter on a local weekly newspaper before editing newspapers and magazines in London, England and, finally, becoming freelance. He has done most things in journalism from door-stepping for quotes to writing serious editorials. He’s pursued stories in locations as diverse as 700-feet down a coal mine and a courtier’s chambers at Buckingham Palace. Peter is a member of the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers’ Association.

Follow Peter on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/peterbartramauthor.

Twitter @PeterFBartram

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Christmas at Aunt Elsie’s by Emily Harvale: a festive tale of starting over

A distant relative. A blizzard. A Christmas of surprises.

Lottie Short isn’t looking forward to Christmas. Her boyfriend has dumped her and she’s also lost her job. Lottie and her beloved spaniel, Merry, are facing the festive season – and a bleak future, alone.

But a Christmas card and round-robin letter give Lottie hope. And as the first snowflakes fall, she’s on her way to the tiny seaside village of Seahorse Harbour to visit her distant aunt. She’ll stay in a cosy B&B and get some bracing, sea air. That might lift her spirits.

What she doesn’t plan for is a blizzard, her aunt taking a fall, or the dramas unfolding all around her. But at least there’s a warm welcome at Aunt Elsie’s cottage … and a roaring log fire in the village pub.

That’s not all that might bring a rosy glow to Lottie’s cheeks. Asher Bryant, the local vet is pretty hot, and Lottie also hits it off with another visitor to Seahorse Harbour. This festive season might be better than she hoped.

And when Lottie gets more than one surprise this Christmas, perhaps she and Merry won’t be spending the New Year on their own.

This is book 2 in my new series of standalone novels set in the tiny, seaside village of Seahorse Harbour.

 

My review

This is a festive, uplifting story of starting over.

Our heroine is Lottie, who has made a few mistakes but is ready for a new start. Where better to make it than charming Seahorse Harbour, and with Merry the dog at her side she surely can’t fail. Throw in a handsome man and lots of Christmas atmosphere and this is the perfect story in the run-up to what’s going to be a strange Christmas this year. However, fun, lively books like this give a lift and some sense of normalcy.

Emily Harvale is brilliant at creating memorable characters and clever plots. There’s always a fascinating secret to uncover, warm friendships and strong family relationships. On top of the lovely setting, these elements all make  for an enjoyable and absorbing read. As always.

 

 

Purchase Link – mybook.to/ChristmasatAuntElsies

 

Author bio

Emily writes novels, novellas and short stories about friendship, family and falling in love. She loves a happy ending but knows that life doesn’t always go to plan. Her stories are sure to bring a smile to your face and a warmth to your heart.

Emily loves to connect with her readers and has a readers’ group in which many have become good friends. To catch up with Emily, find out about the group, or connect with her on social media, go to her website at www.emilyharvale.com.

Having lived and worked in London for several years, Emily returned to her home town of Hastings where she now writes full-time. She’s a member of the SoA, an Amazon bestseller and a Kindle All Star. When not writing, she can be found enjoying the stunning East Sussex coast and countryside, or in a wine bar with friends, discussing life, love and the latest TV shows. Chocolate cake is often eaten. She dislikes housework almost as much as she dislikes anchovies – and will do anything to avoid both. Emily has two mischievous rescue cats that like to sprawl across her keyboard, regardless of whether Emily is typing on it, or not.

Social Media Links –  https://www.facebook.com/emilyharvalewriter

https://www.twitter.com/emilyharvale

https://www.instagram.com/emilyharvale

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One Kiss Before Christmas by Emma Jackson

Could it be the start of her happy ever after?

Ashleigh could use a little Christmas magic. She’s still living in Brighton with her Nan — who could give the Grinch lessons in how to be miserable — her acting career has been reduced to playing one of Santa’s elves, and not even the prospect of a friend’s winter wedding can cheer her up…

That is until Olivier, the gorgeous French chef, reappears in her life. Or more accurately, next door.

When they were teenagers, Olivier would spend every other Christmas with his mother, who just happens to be Ash’s neighbour and owner of the best chocolate shop in England.

If anyone can bring a little sparkle back to Ash’s life, it’s Olivier. All she needs is one kiss before Christmas…

My review

This is a lively, fun, uplifting festive novel that’ll get you in a lovely Christmassy mood. Just look at that super cover!

Ashleigh is a super character, down to earth and very aware that life is somewhat disappointing but still determined to make the best of things. Playing an elf is better than no job at all, and as challenging as her Nan is, she’s lucky to have family.

Olivier is equally genuine and likeable, and a bit more successful workwise, but perhaps not successful enough as far as his father is concerned. He’s much happier with his chocolatier mum.

We get Ashleigh and Olivier in the same place for this Christmas, and what follows is a thoroughly enjoyable will-they won’t-they with a super seasonal background, lots of fascinating secondary characters and some wonderful chocolatey goodness. It’s all very Christmassy and heart-warming.

 

Pre-order Link – http://bit.ly/OneKissBeforeXmas

Author bio

Author of the Best Selling A MISTLETOE MIRACLE and contender for the Joan Hessayon Award 2020, Emma has been a devoted bookworm and secret-story-scribbler since she was 6 years old. When she’s not running around after her two daughters and trying to complete her current work-in-progress, Emma loves to read, bake, catch up on binge-watching TV programmes with her partner and plan lots of craft projects that will inevitably end up unfinished. Her latest romantic comedy, SUMMER IN THE CITY, was released in June 2020.

Emma also writes historical and fantasy fiction as Emma S Jackson. THE DEVIL’S BRIDE was published by DarkStroke in February 2020.

You can find out news about Emma via her website, by signing up to her newsletter at www.esjackson.co.uk or on:
Twitter: @ESJackson1

Instagram: @emma_s_jackson

Facebook @EmmaJacksonAuthor

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Christmas Under Construction by Rylee Ridolfi

Synopsis

How does one go from socializing at the country club with the perfect family, living in a mansion and driving a Lexus—to wrestling salamanders and tutus with two feuding daughters, living in a rundown ski lodge and driving a demonic minivan?

Megan’s post-divorce life has proven more difficult than binge-eating fruitcake. With no particular skill set, and the dating pool thinner than a piece of tinsel, she considers giving in to sweatpants, carbs, and bottomless mugs of eggnog. However, when her sisters ask her to renovate the old Mistletoe Lodge, she optimistically accepts.

Stone Reynolds has sworn off work and women. However, upon hearing about a rustic ski lodge in desperate need of remodelling, the handsome, rugged handyman can’t help but want in.

Megan is modern luxe, white fur, and chandeliers. Stone is rustic elements, vintage accents, and weathered wood. Megan is modern luxe, white fur, and chandeliers. Stone is rustic elements, vintage accents, and weathered wood. The last thing Megan needs is a flannel-wearing, country music loving, know it all contractor. The one thing Stone can’t afford is a beautiful, complicated distraction. As sleigh rides and mistletoe swirl around them, an unexpected kiss nearly melts the snow off their boots. As the old lodge gets a fresh start, will they discover that second chances aren’t just for fixer-uppers?

 

My review

Well, I adored this book from start to finish! The synopsis above gives you a very good idea of the big problems we’ve got ahead of us: talk about two worlds colliding. Megan and Stone could hardly be  more different, and neither could Megan’s pre- and post-divorce existences. And while we’re into differences, Megan’s daughters Sophie and Olivia are chalk and cheese.

This book is full of energy – frequently chaotic. The sequel to this book – which, never fear, works absolutely perfectly as a standalone – has ‘mayhem’ in its title, and ‘Christmas Under Construction’ is fairly jam-packed with mayhem too. Physical mayhem, which is inevitable in any construction project; emotional mayhem in what passes as Megan’s social life, and domestic mayhem when a certain ex-husband reappears…

There’s lots of humour to be found in situations, interactions and witty writing. There’s a strong festive element with seasonal themes of family and new beginnings as well as Christmas looming large in the background. All this leaves you feeling very upbeat and happy. A real tonic in these trying times.

In summary, it’s a (Christmas) cracker of a book!

 

  • Publisher : Paisley Cottage Books (13 Aug. 2020)

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Christmas-Under-Construction-Heartwarming-Romance-ebook/dp/B08FXGXCDX

 

About the author

Hello friends,
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A bit about me. I have a mild addiction to shoes and secretly long to spend a day in Carrie Bradshaw’s closet. I have not only the heart of a romantic, but the soul as well. Yes, I cry at sappy movies and silently clap when true love shows up. The mere mention of Christmas makes my heart dance while summoning up visions of twinkling lights, a reminder of the magic that exists in everyday life.  I believe in the power of spreading positivity and the importance of kindness.
When I’m not writing you can find me enthralled in a  decorating project, snuggled by the fireplace with a good book, escaping to my happy place the beach, or hosting family gatherings. I live in New Jersey with my husband, three children, and a rotund Shih Tzu.
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My stories are meant to empower women to believe in themselves, to go for their dreams and above all recognize the beauty in their authentic self, all while delivering a smile to your heart.
Find your happy!

www.suzanneryleeridolfi.com

Twitter @RyleeRomance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Christmas at the Farmhouse by Rebecca Boxall

Christmas at the Farmhouse

As the anticipation of Christmas builds in the Nielsen family’s cosy farmhouse, Jo, Magnus and their grown-up children begin to congregate for a hybrid Danish-Jersey festive season, each with a surprise of their own – though the surprise that arrives over Christmas is the most life-changing of all.

Fifty years earlier, in 1969, Susan Jones finds herself being pursued by Mr Jenners, her former English teacher, and at the age of seventeen is packed off to a Home for Unmarried Mothers in London by her uncompromising father. As Christmas approaches, all she can do is desperately hope to be rescued, but will anyone be able to reach her in time?

The two timelines of this festive story gradually weave together in a tale that examines whether love and hope can eventually triumph over even the deepest sadness.

Rebecca Boxall is the award-nominated author of five bestselling novels – Christmas at the Vicarage, Home for Winter, Christmas on the Coast, The Christmas Forest and Christmas by the Lighthouse.

 

My review

This book isn’t as cosy as perhaps its title might suggest, but that’s not to say the Christmas spirit is not alive and well in it. It’s a challenging but enjoyable read, touching as it does on some major and serious issues.

There are two timelines, each with a Christmas, and the focus shifts onto different characters in each, so there’s quite a complex structure to the story. It’s very moving at times, but never mawkish, and generally there is optimism at its heart.

We meet a variety of likeable and unlikeable, mainly strong characters whose interactions can be constructive or deeply destructive.

Christmas at the Farmhouse is absorbing and thought-provoking, as well as festive and life-affirming.

 

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Christmas-Farmhouse-festive-author-Vicarage-ebook/dp/B08J7S6SZV

US – https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Farmhouse-festive-author-Vicarage-ebook/dp/B08J7S6SZV

 

Author bio

Rebecca Boxall was born in 1977 in East Sussex, where she grew up in a vicarage always filled with family, friends and parishioners. She now lives by the sea in Jersey with her husband, three children and Rodney the cat. She read English at the University of Warwick before training as a lawyer and also studied Creative Writing with The Writer’s Bureau. She is the bestselling author of Christmas at the Vicarage, Home for Winter, Christmas on the Coast, The Christmas Forest and Christmas by the Lighthouse and was nominated for the Romantic Novelist Association Awards in 2020.

 

Social media links

For more information please visit her website – www.rebeccaboxall.co.uk – or her Facebook page: www.facebook.com/christmasatthevicarage.

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Betrayal by Lilja Sigurdardóttir

Synopsis

Burned out and traumatised by her horrifying experiences around the world, aid worker Úrsula has returned to Iceland. Unable to settle, she accepts a high-profile government role in which she hopes to make a difference again.

But on her first day in the post, Úrsula promises to help a mother seeking justice for her daughter, who had been raped by a policeman, and life in high office soon becomes much more harrowing than Úrsula could ever have imagined. A homeless man is stalking her – but is he hounding her, or warning her of some danger? And the death of her father in police custody so many years ago rears its head once again.

As Úrsula is drawn into dirty politics, facing increasingly deadly threats, the lives of her stalker, her bodyguard and even a witchlike cleaning lady intertwine. Small betrayals become large ones, and the stakes are raised ever higher…

The award-winning internationally bestselling author Lilja Sigurðardóttir returns with Betrayal, a relevant, powerful, fast-paced thriller about the worlds of politics, police corruption and misogyny that feels just a little bit too real…

 

My review

This is another outstanding novel from a very talented author.

Úrsula is very much the lynchpin in the novel, not just because she’s our central character but because the various themes converge around her. We have crime, the search for justice, politics and domestic life all swirling around in the story, each one taking its turn to surface as it spins in ever-decreasing circles around Úrsula.

There’s a strong sense of motion in the novel as a whole with its short chapters and intense energy. Despite being damaged, Úrsula is a very strong character, restless in seeking to do what’s right.

She’s supported by an impressive cast of intriguing secondary characters, all with an important role to play. Like Úrsula herself, you get the sense the author is also someone who doesn’t want to waste time – who wants to get to the crux of the matter in the most efficient way possible.

The plot is very clever and cards are kept close to the chest until the denouement.

An enjoyable and enjoyably unsettling read.

 

About the author

Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, including Snare, Trap and Cage, making up the Reykjavik Noir trilogy, which have hit bestseller lists worldwide. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.