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An Island Christmas by Helena Halme

On the windswept Scandinavian Åland Islands, the festive season is snowy and chilly—yet breathtakingly beautiful.

It’s time for Alicia to enjoy her first Christmas back on her beloved Islands with her family. There’ll be traditional dancing around the tree and sipping mulled wine in front of a cozy fire. But peace is broken by Alicia’s estranged husband, Liam, who springs an unwelcome and devastating surprise, while her ex-lover, Patrick, temps her with an altogether different kind of future. Alicia faces impossible choices to keep her family together.

With her world crashing around her, can Alicia create the idyllic Island Christmas she’s always dreamt about?

Meanwhile, Brit, Alicia’s best friend, returns to the Islands to lick her wounds after a particularly bloody break-up with an Italian chef. When she meets her new boss, the Captain of a Baltic cruise liner, sparks fly. Brit can’t help but fall quickly in love with Jukka, but when she discovers his murky past, she fears her heart is about to be broken yet again. Are the rumors about Jukka true, or just typical small island gossip?

Join this quirky Scandinavian island community for a Christmas you’ll never forget!

An Island Christmas is a sequel to Helena’s first novel set on Åland, The Island Affair, but it can also be read as a standalone book.

 

My review

I do enjoy this author’s atmospheric and complex novels. Always so much more to them that meets the eye at first glance.

‘An Island Christmas’ is the second in a series – you definitely hope it’s not the last! – but works perfectly well as a standalone.

The story centres on three strong women – Alicia, Brita and Frida. They all have some tough decisions to make concerning their futures. They can make changes and help themselves, or they can just drift on in less than ideal circumstances. They are all very likeable people, all flawed, all very convincing and ‘real’. You can’t help getting drawn into their lives.

The traditional Scandinavian setting is about as festive as it gets with snow, ice and wonderful food. But this isn’t a slushy, over-sentimentalised Christmas story, thank goodness. Just like no-one’s Christmas is ever completely perfect, unlike those we see in films or TV series, this seasonal novel has its gritty, rough-edged, messy side. That makes it all the more believable. There’s even a hint of menace.

Incredibly well written and enjoyable, do add this one to your Christmas reading list.

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Publisher: Newhurst Press (28 Nov. 2019)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A prize-winning author, Helena Halme writes contemporary fiction with a hint of both Nordic Noir and romance. She’s a former BBC journalist, bookseller and magazine editor. Originally from Finland where she gained an MSc in Marketing, she also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University and writes in English.
Helena acts as Nordic Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors and helps other writers publish and market their books.
Helena has published seven fiction titles, including The English Heart, a best-selling Nordic romance, which won an Awesome Indies badge on publication. The bittersweet 1980s love story between a Finnish student and a British Navy officer is now a series, including a prequel novella, The Young Heart, the sequels The Faithful HeartThe Good Heart and Helena’s latest title, The True Heart, book four in The Nordic Heart Series. Helena has also published a non-fiction title, Write Your Story: Turn Your Life into Fiction in 10 Easy Steps.

Helena is addicted to Nordic Noir and dances to Abba songs when nobody’s watching.

Website: http://www.helenahalme.com/
Twitter :
@helenahalme
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Instagram
@helenahalme

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Eve’s Christmas by Julie Butterfield: festive franticness and fun!

 

Synopsis

Working for a department store where Christmas arrives in August, Eve prefers her own festivities to be low key with nothing more complicated than an oven ready turkey and frozen peas while she spends the day in her pyjamas. Unfortunately, this year her husband has invited his best friend to visit, the glamorous and sophisticated Abby, and Eve reluctantly decides that she needs to inject a little sparkle into their laid back and slightly shabby Christmas. So the celebrations are upgraded to include champagne and canapes along with homemade gravy and organic turkey and plans are made for a Christmas that looks as though it has emerged from the pages of a glossy magazine.
But even the best laid plans can go wrong and as Eve struggles with her mini Yorkshire puddings and an interfering cat, she is suddenly faced with an unexpected guest and an explosive secret that threatens to put her vision of a perfect Christmas in jeopardy.

My review

This is a delightful, funny novel but also acts as a cautionary tale about getting too would up about Christmas, and also the dangers of keeping up with the Joneses. It’s far better to be true to yourself and not put on an act. But that’s hard to stick to when the pressure’s on.

Eve is a fabulous character – warm, loving and loyal. Her daughter Alice is a lovely reminder that not all teens are moody and unhelpful!

There’s everything you expect from a family Christmas, that will never go as smoothly as hoped, and that’s even less likely when there’s an unexpected and generally unwelcome guest. This adds tension, misunderstandings and posturing. It becomes an emotional maelstrom!

The writing is deft and clever, and the novel is wonderfully entertaining and festive.

 Purchase Links

Amazon UK


Amazon US

Giveaway

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

a Rafflecopter Giveaway

About the author

Julie Butterfield belongs to the rather large group of ‘always wanted to write’ authors who finally found the time to sit down and put pen to paper – or rather fingers to keyboard.
She wrote her first book purely for pleasure and was very surprised to discover that so many people enjoyed the story and wanted more, so she decided to carry on writing.
It has to be pointed out that her first novel, ‘Did I Mention I Won The Lottery’ is a complete work of fiction and she did not, in fact, receive millions in her bank account and forget to mention it to her husband – even though he still asks her every day if she has anything to tell him!

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Christmas in Chamonix by Sasha Wagstaff

Synopsis
When life goes downhill… head to the snow-capped Alps for roaring fires, apres-ski and festive romance.
Lily Jackson loves Christmas. She also loves her childhood friend Jamie, but when her plan to kick-start their romance goes drastically wrong and her job gets her down, Lily decides it’s time to make changes. A job opens up in snowy Chamonix and egged on by her best friend Imogen, Lily decides to go for it.
As Lily settles in with the eccentric Devereux family at their gorgeous boutique ski hotel, she starts to confront her past. But when she meets handsome ski instructor Luc, who hates Christmas, Lily might have taken on more than she can handle.
Can Lily make a new life – with or without skis? And can she get Luc to see how truly romantic Christmas can be?
A heart-warming, feel-good romantic comedy, perfect for fans of Holly Martin, Carole Matthews and Tilly Tennant.

My review
This is a fabulously festive story with skiing, snowy mountains and delicious food. We have two strong, interesting and attractive lead characters in Lily and Luc. The setting in Chamonix is beautifully described. You can feel the chill in the air and smell the scents and hear the sounds of a busy resort.
There’s added depth to the novel with the fact that it’s more than romance. Lily faces real fears and learns to overcome them, something that is never easy. She has to deal with a huge disappointment too, but she’s courageous, resourceful and determined. She develops before our eyes as the story progresses.
There’s lots that fun in the novel. Lily loves Christmas, but Luc doesn’t so there’s some interesting tension there. Luc is another very rounded and deep character. He’s charming, patient and he too develops along the way.
The pace is steady and the plot captivating, tantalising and ultimately very satisfying.
This is a super Christmassy, uplifting and romantic book to while away the hours until Father Christmas comes down your chimney.

Purchase link

Author bio
Sasha Wagstaff learned foreign languages, and imagined she might eventually get a glamorous job speaking French. After climbing her way up the banking ladder, Sasha started idly mapping out the beginnings of a novel on an old laptop. When she realised her characters were more real to her than dividends and corporate actions ever could be, she left her job to become a writer. She also writes under the pseudonym of Ella Harper.

Social media links
twitter @canelo_co
@Ella__Harper
facebook.com/canelobooks/

 

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Snowflakes over Moondance Cottage by Rosie Green

When Jess Thornton’s dad was lost at sea, the family coped in different ways, alone in their grief. Now, her mum seems to be going off the rails and her sister, Isla, who moved to France, is now back and determined to get their old family home on the market. But the last thing Jess wants this Christmas is for renovations to start on the house. It’s sure to stir up all sorts of memories she’s desperate to avoid. And to make things worse, Isla appears to have hired the most obnoxious builder in the world to do the work. Jess could ignore the fact that women seem to be putty in his hands. But what she finds harder to ignore is the frisson she gets every time she squeezes past him in the mess that is now their beloved old home! Can the family finally start talking and find a way to move on from the past this Christmas?

My review

I am such a fan of this author! Her books are always beautifully written and uplifting, but not always plain sailing. There’s lots of emotional ups and downs – Rosie Green knows how to tug on our heartstrings!

This novel sees love, loss, friendship, family loyalty and tensions, and that’s just for starters, so combined with a versatile and interesting plot you never know what the next page will bring.

Jess and Isla are wonderful characters, very different and neither of them perfect, but they muddle through. Isla perhaps takes a little time to warm to, whereas Jess, with her heart on her sleeve, is someone we would like as a friend as soon as we meet her.

This book is easy and totally delightful to read. It has a festive background and setting and makes for a perfect read in the run-up to Christmas.

Purchase Links

UK –

US – https://www.amazon.com/Snowflakes-over-Moondance-Cottage-sparkling-ebook/dp/B07XGDZ4Z2

Author bio

Rosie has been scribbling stories ever since she was little.

Back then, they were rip-roaring adventure tales with a young heroine in perilous danger of falling off a cliff or being tied up by ‘the baddies’.

Thankfully, Rosie has moved on somewhat, and now much prefers to write romantic comedies that melt your heart and make you smile, with really not much perilous danger involved at all – unless you count the heroine losing her heart in love.

Rosie’s brand new series of novellas is centred around life in a village cafe. The latest, ‘Bonfires & Hot Chocolate at the Little Duck Pond Cafe’, is out now.

Watch out for ‘A Winter Wedding at the Little Duck Pond Cafe’, which will be published Christmas 2019.

Follow Rosie on Twitter – https://twitter.com/Rosie_Green1988

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The Case of the Reincarnated Client by Tarquin Hall

When a young woman comes forward saying she’s the reincarnation of Riya Kaur, a wife and mother who vanished during the bloody 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Vish Puri is dismissive. He’s busy enough dealing with an irate matrimonial client whose daughter is complaining about her groom’s thunderous snoring. Puri’s indomitable Mummy-ji however is adamant the client is genuine. How else could she so accurately describe under hypnosis Riya Kaur’s life and final hours?

Driven by a sense of duty – the original case was his late father’s – Puri manages to acquire the police file only to find that someone powerful has orchestrated a cover-up. Forced into an alliance with his mother that tests his beliefs and high blood pressure as never before, it’s only by delving into the past the help of his reincarnated client that Puri can hope to unlock the truth.

 

My review

I’m kicking myself that I’ve only now discovered this fabulous series. But better late than never!

The Case of the Reincarnated Client is the fifth novel featuring Vish Puri as its hero. Or rather anti-hero, since he’s an unassuming, kind man who much prefers the quiet life and really doesn’t want to be called on to do heroic acts. He is very much at the beck and call of Mummy-ji, who is actually the driving force behind this novel in that she insists that Vish takes this case on. Poor man, he has no choice!

The setting is modern-day Mumbai and the atmosphere is one of endless noise, colour and activity. The pace of life is frenetic, yet somehow it doesn’t sweep Vish along with it. He takes his time, especially over meals, and remains sedate, almost ponderous, but resolute.

Not only are we thoroughly entertained in this book but we learn some Indian history and get a revealing glimpse of its modern culture too.

All the characters we come across are fascinating, most of them borderline eccentric if not beyond, and they are all a joy to encounter. There’s lots of humour and quirkiness in the novel and it’s one that really gets under your skin and won’t give you any rest until you’ve finished it. You just have to know what unexpected thing is going to happen next!

An excellent book that I wholeheartedly recommend.

 

Purchase Links

UK –


US – https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0727888781

About the author

Tarquin Hall is a British author and journalist who has previously lived in the USA, Pakistan, India, Kenya and Turkey. He now divides his time between the UK and India and is married to BBC reporter and presenter Anu Anand. He is the author of four previous Vish Puri mysteries and The Delhi Detective’s Handbook.

Social Media Links:

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Happy Christmas Eve by Jackie Ladbury

Happy Christmas Eve

A heart-warming Christmas story to put you in the mood for the festive season.

All I want for Christmas is you … or you?
Eve Halligan is back in her hometown for Christmas after a whirlwind few years touring with her band, the Molotovs. A lot has changed since she left, but two things have stayed the same. One: Eve is head-over-heels in love with Lucien Malikov, the Molotovs’ bad boy lead singer. Two: Lucien is completely indifferent to her.
Still, Eve dreams that this could be the Christmas where she convinces Lucien that they’re made for each other. But when childhood friend and local caterer Theo Wright comes back into her life bringing with him festive cupcake and sausage roll conundrums, Eve begins to question whether her Christmas dreams have been wasted on the wrong man …

 

My review

This is an energetic and uplifting romcom, peopled by interesting and rounded characters, although one of them really isn’t very nice!

The atmosphere is very festive with seasonally icy and snowy weather and sledges. We’re surrounded by all things Christmas with lots of delicious food and beautiful decorations, a lovely nativity play and a general, palpable excitement reflecting the build up to the big day.

There’s another build-up going on – Eve is starting to realise she needs to make a very important decision… Amongst all the fun there’s a more serious element in the story.

It’s one of those books that reads itself because the writing is so beautifully done and the story so entertaining. Absolutely one to read in the run-up to Christmas.

 

Purchase Links:

US – https://www.amazon.com/Happy-Christmas-Eve-Jackie-Ladbury-ebook/dp/B07WF8PK88/

 

Author bio

Jackie Ladbury writes heart-warming contemporary and historical women’s fiction that is always guaranteed a happy ever after. From spending many years as an air-stewardess and seeing that it really is love that makes the world go around, she determined to put the same sparkle and emotion into her stories. Her life is no longer as exotic (or chaotic) as it was in those heady days of flying as she now lives a quiet life in Hertfordshire with her family and two cats, spending her days making up stories and finding excuses not to go to the gym.
To find out more about Jackie Ladbury, check out these pages:

https://www.facebook.com/jackie.ladbury
https://jackieladbury.com
https://twitter.com/JackieLadbury
https://thewriteromantics.com/

 

 

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My Christmas Fake Fiancé by Linda West: wonderfully uplifting!

Synopsis

Snowflakes are falling on Kissing Bridge Mountain, and Devlin is going home at last. But he can’t go home without a fiancé, even if it has to be a fake one! When he meets small-town girl, Allie, who has a Christmas crisis of her own, they strike up a deal. Soon, the fickle snow flurries of fate send them down a destined road they never expected…

 

My review

This is a bubbly, festive, witty romance, which gives you lots to laugh and groan about on the way through!

The theme of needing to supply evidence of a stable relationship to critical slash despairing relatives at Christmas time is a popular one, but never becomes old, especially when in the hands of this author.

Allie and Devlin spar with each other to begin with, being, surely, far too different to ever be compatible. Allie is the sparkiest of the two lead characters, and she’s immensely likeable even if she leaves you breathless with her endless energy and activism. But that’s not to say Devlin is bland – far from it. He’s every bit as developed and fascinating as is Allie.

This is a short, sharp read that rivets your attention from start to finish. As well as the great characters, the setting and action really grip you.

Wonderfully uplifting!

Purchase Links



Author Bio

Linda West is the best selling author of the adorable and enchanting “Christmas Kisses and Cookies.” It is a delightful series of holiday romances based around the town of Kissing Bridge and the magical Landers sisters who are the reigning blue ribbon cookie queens thanks to their mothers’ ‘special’ recipe book.

Linda was the owner of Mayberry – a celebrity-filled restaurant in Malibu where many of her recipes enchanted the regulars such as Tom Hanks and Anthony Hopkins to name a few. Her recipes are sprinkled throughout her fiction books much to the delight of her fans.

Her newest venture is in the cosy mystery and humour genre. With – Death by Crockpot – the first in her newest series -Linda takes her favourite known characters from Kissing Bridge and throws them into some side-splitting funny adventures.

Social Media Links –

https://twitter.com/Morningmayan

http://www.morningmayan.com/

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Magic Under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman

Christmas and romance are in the air…

It’s December 23rd and while everyone else is rushing home for the holidays, workaholic Leesa Oliver is dreading switching on her out-of-office for the festive season. And it seems her equally driven boss, Cary Anderson, isn’t relishing spending Christmas at his family’s country estate either.

So together, they draft an unexpected Christmas contract: They’ll spend half of the holidays with each other’s families, pretending to be a couple. Leesa knows the insufferably good-looking Cary will make her Christmas more bearable, but what happens after the last of the mince pies have been eaten…?

Leesa signed off on a sensible business agreement, but somewhere, amongst the fairy lights and carols something seems to have changed… It seems there might just be some magic under the mistletoe this Christmas!

 

My review

I had a feeling I was going to enjoy this Christmassy treat from Lucy Coleman’s as I’ve loved all the other books by her that I’ve read. And I was right!

This is a charming and uplifting story that will get you feeling very festive. The theme of co-workers or friends pretending to relatives encountered over the holiday period to be in a relationship is one we’re familiar with but this author handles it in a very fresh and original way.

Cary and Leesa are both workaholics with emotional baggage that has made them close themselves off to an extent. They’ve poured their energy into their careers, but perhaps its time they gave priority to themselves.

The background of familiar, familial bickering and tension mixed in with the love that we get in the scenes with the relatives is very enjoyable, also warming and a wonderful reminded that although our families frequently drive us up the wall, we wouldn’t want to be without them. Not really!

Highly entertaining, this feel-good festive romcom will leave you with a smile on your face and a glow in your heart.

 

Purchase Link –


Author bio 

From interior designer to author, Linn B. Halton – who also writes under the pen name of Lucy Coleman – says ‘it’s been a fantastic journey!’

Linn is the bestselling author of more than a dozen novels and is excited to be writing for both Aria Fiction (Head of Zeus) and Harper Impulse (Harper Collins); she’s represented by Sara Keane of the Keane Kataria Literary Agency.

When she’s not writing, or spending time with the family, she’s either upcycling furniture or working in the garden.

Linn won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award; her novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards.

Living in Coed Duon in the Welsh Valleys with her ‘rock’, Lawrence, and gorgeous Bengal cat Ziggy, she freely admits she’s an eternal romantic.

Linn is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors. She writes feel-good, uplifting novels about life, love and relationships.

 

Social Media Links –

Website: https://linnbhalton.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LucyColemanAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LucyColemanAuth

 

Giveaway to Win a Signed paperback copy of Snowflakes over Holly Cove and Christmas Pamper Pack. (UK only)

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

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494305/

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A Forgiven Friend by Sue Featherstone and Susan Pape: fun amidst the chaos

A Forgiven Friend: Lies, Loss, and Love, But Always Friendship

Friendship will always come first.

There’s only one way out from rock bottom and that’s up, and Teri Meyer is finally crawling out from the worst time of her life – no thanks to her best friend Lee. But no matter, she’s finally found love – real love with a real man, a successful man, a man who accepts all her flaws. Teri’s never felt like this before, and yet it’s changing her in ways she doesn’t understand.

And there’s only one person who can help, one person who truly understands Teri.

It seems that no matter how hard Lee Harper tries, there’s a battle awaiting her at every turn these days, and she’s tired. And as if she needs the extra stress, Teri continues to create constant and unnecessary drama. But Lee’s the only one who really knows what’s going on under Teri’s hard, convoluted exterior, and that’s why she’s always been there for her.

But the question is: will Teri be there when Lee needs her most?

The brilliant and entertaining final book in the unique FRIENDS trilogy dishes out another dose of rib-tickling mayhem for our favourite thirty-something professional women.

 

My review

A Forgiven Friend is the third in a trilogy of novellas, but that said it works fine as a standalone. I suspect there may be added richness from knowing what’s come before, but I’m sure that after reading this book you’ll want to rush off and read the preceding two as quickly as possible. (These are A Falling Friend and A Forsaken Friend.)

The book is written by two lady authors who make a fantastic team. And we have two women as our heroines in the story, Lee and Teri. I hope that Sue and Susan get on better than their creations! Lee and Teri have a volatile relationship, at times almost childish in their vacillations from hate to love, blame and apologies, betrayal and loyalty. But as the title suggests, they truly love each other and will always forgive. There is also a deep maturity and sincerity to their friendship.

Lee and Teri are chalk and cheese. Teri is impulsive, frequently thoughtless and not the sort to think before she speaks. Lee is more considered, thoughtful and restrained. They are attracted and annoyed by the opposing qualities they see in their friend.

As mid-thirties heroines they have a bit of baggage and are embroiled in family dramas. Those of us of a similar vintage, or beyond, and situation will recognise so much of it! This aspect makes the characters very rounded and convincing.

There’s plenty of fun amidst the chaos in this novella, and so much to enjoy.

 

Purchase Links


Biographies: Sue Featherstone and Susan Pape

Sue Featherstone and Susan Pape are both former newspaper journalists with extensive experience of working for national and regional papers and magazines, and in public relations.

More recently they have worked in higher education, teaching journalism – Sue at Sheffield Hallam and Susan at Leeds Trinity University.

The pair, who have been friends for almost 30 years, wrote two successful journalism text books together – Newspaper Journalism: A Practical Introduction and Feature Writing: A Practical Introduction (both published by Sage), before deciding to turn their hands to fiction.

The first novel in their Friends series, A Falling Friend, was released in 2016. A Forsaken Friend followed two years later, and the final book in the trilogy, A Forgiven Friend, published on November 19.

Sue, who is married with two grown-up daughters, and the most ‘gorgeous granddaughter in the whole world’, loves reading, writing and Nordic walking in the beautiful countryside near her Yorkshire home.

Susan is married and lives in a village near Leeds, and, when not writing, loves walking and cycling in the Yorkshire Dales. She is also a member of a local ukulele orchestra.

They blog about books at https://bookloversbooklist.com/

Follow them on Twitter: @SueF_Writer and @wordfocus

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Children of Fire by Paul CW Beatty

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

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

 

Extract

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Do you remember me?’ you ask.

‘It cannot be you. You are dead.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Author bio

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

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

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

 

Social Media Links – Twitter @cw_beatty