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The Merest Loss by Steven Neil: bringing the past back to vibrant life

Synopsis
A story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris.

When Harriet Howard becomes Louis Napoleon’s mistress and financial backer and appears at his side in Paris in 1848, it is as if she has emerged from nowhere. How did the English daughter of a Norfolk boot-maker meet the future Emperor? Who is the mysterious Nicholas Sly and what is his hold over Harriet?

Can Harriet meet her obligations and return to her former life and the man she left behind? What is her involvement with British Government secret services? Can Harriet’s friend, jockey Tom Olliver, help her son Martin solve his own mystery: the identity of his father?

The central character is Harriet Howard and the action takes place between 1836 and 1873. The plot centres on Harriet’s relationships with Louis Napoleon and famous Grand National winning jockey, Jem Mason. The backdrop to the action includes significant characters from the age, including Lord Palmerston, Queen Victoria and the Duke of Grafton, as well as Emperor Napoleon III. The worlds of horse racing, hunting and government provide the scope for rural settings to contrast with the city scenes of London and Paris and for racing skulduggery to vie with political chicanery.

The Merest Loss is historical fiction with a twist. It’s pacy and exciting with captivating characters and a distinctive narrative voice.

My review
The very detailed synopsis above gives you an excellent taster of what the books action about, so it only really remains for me to tell you how beautifully written this book is. The author has an easy, flowing style. He writes in the third person present tense, which is unusual for historical fiction but works extremely well by making everything so immediate. History is repeating itself now for us.

I have to confess I was a little daunted when I saw the long list of dramatis personae that opens the book. Would I ever remember who this earl was or how that lady fits in? You don’t have to worry as the action lays out who’s who and you easily work out the roles they play in the rich tapestry of this book. The wide circle of people we meet gives a broad portrayal of society at the time.

The author has chosen a fascinating period and a particularly fascinating historical figure to write about. He has clearly done painstaking research and added plenty of imagination. I especially enjoyed the insight into horseracing in the book. That’s something that our author has a lot of interest in and it really comes alive on the pages. Letter-writing, a characteristic of the era in question, is used to great effect.

Eminently readable and very enjoyable, this lively novel brings the past back to vibrant life.

Purchase links
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Merest-Loss-Steven-Neil-ebook/dp/B077D9SHB5/
https://www.amazon.com/Merest-Loss-Steven-Neil-ebook/dp/B077D9SHB5
https://www.independentauthornetwork.com/steven-neil.html

Author bio
Steven Neil has a BSc in Economics from the London School of Economics, a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the Open University and an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University. In his working life he has been a bookmaker’s clerk, management tutor, management consultant, bloodstock agent and racehorse breeder. He is married and lives in rural Northamptonshire.

Social media links

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100016617465298 and https://twitter.com/stevenneil12

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The Fourth Victim by John Mead: police procedural with a strong sense of place

The Fourth Victim

Whitechapel is being gentrified. The many green spaces of the area, which typify London as a capital city, give the illusion of peace, tranquillity and clean air but are also places to find drug dealers, sexual encounters and murder.

Detective Sergeant Julie Lukula doesn’t dislike Inspector Matthew Merry, but he has hardly set the world of the Murder Investigation Team East alight. And, it looks as if the inspector is already putting the death of the young female jogger, found in the park with head injuries, down to a mugging gone wrong. The victim deserves more. However, the inspector isn’t ruling anything out – the evidence will, eventually, lead him to an answer.

 

My review

This is a carefully written police procedural with a strong sense of place. London oozes out of every sentence and is created in detailed imagery. It’s not always pleasant but cities have their blemishes. There’s also the added dimension of mental health issues in the form of Dissociative Identity Disorder, which is dealt with sensitively although we see the devastating consequences it can have in this novel.

The author gets inside his characters’ skins. We see how and why they annoy each other, why they’re attracted to people they know they shouldn’t be, how they’re crippled by grief, driven by the desire for justice, as the case may be. The human interest level is always there, which sometimes isn’t the case in procedurals where it’s all about unmasking the villain. The author admits to being a ‘people watcher’ and that comes through very clearly. He creates real people, warts and all.

The plot’s an interesting one, particularly with the element of DID as part of its complexity, and it’s particularly clever how we have three dead bodies, yet indisputably four victims. A nice touch.

The Fourth Victim is an absorbing novel that will appeal to readers who enjoy solving crimes alongside fascinating protagonists.

Purchase Links

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fourth-Victim-John-Mead/dp/1912575361/

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-fourth-victim/john-mead/9781912575367

Author bio

Born in the mid-fifties in East London, on part of the largest council estates ever built, I was the first pupil from my local secondary modern school to attend university.

I have travelled extensively during my life from America to Tibet. I enjoy going to the theatre, reading and going to the pub. It is, perhaps, no surprise that I am an avid ‘people watcher’ and love to find out about people, their lives, culture and history.

Many of the occurrences recounted and the characters found in my novels are based on real incidents and people I have come across. However, I have allowed myself a wide degree of poetic licence in writing about the main characters, their motivations and the killings that are depicted.

 

Social Media Links 

Amazon author profile: https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B07B8SQ2ZH

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JohnMeadAuthor

Goodreads profile: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17891273.John_Mead

Follow the tour:

 

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Homicide at Herne Hill by Alice Castle: polished to a high shine

Homicide in Herne Hill

Beth Haldane, SE21’s premier – and only – single mum amateur sleuth, is really pleased to find a new friend at the school gates, in the shape of irrepressibly bouncy Nina. As well as a way with words, Nina has a puzzle she wants Beth to solve, centred on the solicitor’s office where Nina works in Herne Hill.

But as the mystery thickens, threatening to drag in not just Nina and her boss, but the yummy mummies of Dulwich, too, Beth is about to find out just how far some people will go to keep up appearances.

Join Beth in this fourth instalment in the London Murder Mystery series for her toughest case yet.

 

My review

I have to admit that I’d expected a rather darker mystery from the cover, but this is a very lively and subtly amusing novel. It’s one in a series but you don’t need to have read the preceding books, although that would be the ideal scenario. You get enough info to work out who’s who and what’s what, and can pick up on the running themes.

The writing in this cosy is wonderful. You’re riveted from the word go by the author’s light, engaging style, her sense of comedy and her ability to tell a really good story with excitement, tension, gung-honess, what-am-I-doingness, and plenty of other emotional highs and lows.

There’s a lot of wry humour and merciless character portrayals. Author Alice Castle has a sharp and unforgiving eye when it comes to people’s foibles and idiosyncrasies. We thus meet a fabulous cast of complex characters, many of them remarkably like people we’ve probably come across – the snob, the bubbly person, the stand-offish one, and so one.

Beth is quite a whirlwind, even though she feels that the irrepressible Nina leaves her standing. Beth is energetic and tenacious (although not in her official job), and courageous. She knows she’ll get into trouble from her policeman boyfriend Harry, but she can’t help rushing in where angels fear to dread. This isn’t always sensible, but Beth is impetuous once she’s got her teeth into a mystery.

So in summary, a novel that’s polished to a high shine with a sympathetic, very human heroine and which will keep you totally entertained from start to finish.

 

Purchase Link  – myBook.to/homicideinhernehill

Amazon UKhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07GPGBSC6

Author Bio

Before turning to crime, Alice Castle had a long career as a feature writer on national newspapers including the Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. Alice grew up in south London and, after a brief stint in Brussels (where her first novel, Hot Chocolate, is set) she is back where she belongs, dreaming up adventures for her heroine, amateur detective and single mum Beth Haldane. Alice is married with two children, two stepchildren and two cats. Find out more about her London Murder Mystery series on her website, www.alicecastleauthor.com. Death in Dulwich was published in September 2017 by Crooked Cat Books and was #1 in the Amazon Satire/Detective charts in the UK, US, Canada, France, Spain and Germany. The Girl in the Gallery came out in December 2017 and the third in the series, Calamity in Camberwell, was published on 13th August 2018. Revenge on the Rye will follow in 2019, with more books in the pipeline.

Social Media Links – http://www.alicecastleauthor.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DDsDiary?lang=en

Links to buy books: http://www.MyBook.to/GirlintheGallery.

myBook.to/1DeathinDulwich, myBook.to/GirlintheGallery, myBook.to/CiC myBook.to/homicideinhernehill

 

 Giveaway – Win a signed copy of Homicide in Herne Hill (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/33c69494158/

 

 

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‘Daisy Belle: Swimming Champion of the World’ by Caitlin Davies – definitely a novel to immerse yourself in!

Daisy Belle : Swimming Champion of the World by Caitlin Davies

I’m so pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for this captivating novel featuring such a resilient heroine.

 

Synopsis

Summer 1867: four-year-old Daisy Belle is about to make her debut at the Lambeth Baths in London. Her father, swimming professor Jeffrey Belle, is introducing his Family of Frogs – and Daisy is the star attraction. By the end of that day, she has only one ambition in life: she will be the greatest female swimmer in the world.   She will race down the Thames, float in a whale tank, and challenge a man to a 70-foot high dive. And then she will set sail for America to swim across New York Harbour. But Victorian women weren’t supposed to swim, and Daisy Belle will have to fight every stroke of the way if she wants her dreams to come true.   Inspired by the careers of Victorian champions Agnes Beckwith and Annie Luker, Daisy Belle is a story of courage and survival and a tribute to the swimmers of yesteryear.

 

My review

I think the word that best sums up this beautiful novel is understated, and this is precisely what makes it so powerful. Daisy Mae Belle calmly and modestly recounts to us the story of her eventful life. She never sensationalises things, and she could on many, many occasions. As a young child she breaks moulds by swimming, and her father takes full advantage of her courage and determination to line his pockets. She’s upset by this at times but restrains her emotions. She remains low-key concerning her incredible feats of endurance and the tolls they take on her. When her little sister becomes her mother’s pet and Daisy is all but ignored, she accepts it and doesn’t dwell on how much it must hurt. This taking things in her stride makes us respect and admire Daisy all the more. And love her, I think. She’s a wonderful character – so honest and unassuming, a charming and unpretentious heroine.

The novel has not quite cycles, but definitely fore-shadowings. The Belles’ marriage isn’t a great one. Daisy’s father and mother are generally at loggerheads and there doesn’t seem to be much affection in the family, apart from between Daisy and her eldest brother Billy. Daisy’s own marriage to the handsome Dob doesn’t turn out to be quite what she hoped for either. Daisy’s once happy relationship with her mother as the adored and petted little girl of the family is replayed by Minnie who, like her big sister, eventually tires of her mother’s restrictions. Daisy sees how Captain Matthew Webb allows himself to be driven by the desire for more money into going too far, pushing himself beyond his limits, and she too finds herself tempted into taking on perhaps more than she should. Just as her father attempted to save someone who fell into the sea, so does Daisy, and ultimately neither rescue attempt ends well.

The novel is so eye-opening as regards the social norms of the time. Girls aren’t allowed to do boy things, like swim. Women are completely subservient to the men in their lives, although a few, including Daisy, make brave steps forward. However, they’re generally on some sort of rein. Poor Daisy has to make her epic swims in heavy, modesty-protecting outfits that must weigh a ton when wet!

There is so much fabulous imagery, particularly regarding water. After all, the whole novel is water-based, an water, as one character says, “makes you feel yourself”. The seaside, Margate, is depicted in vibrant blues with freshness and freedom in the air. The sea is alive. London, to which Daisy’s father drags them, has dead, dirty water. The baths seem oppressive, the Thames is menacing, the Aquarium is claustrophobic. Daisy is like the creatures there that are confined by their captivity.

Daisy travels to America, somewhere she’s long wanted to go, in an attempt to obtain fame and fortune – or at least the latter for Dob. This trip proves to be a key event in her life. Back home in England, her life begins to unravel and it’s heart-breaking, but remember, this is Daisy. And there is justice in the world, although it can take a while coming. Keep a tissue handy 😉

This novel is as buoyant as its heroine and will stay with you for a long time after you’ve read it. It’s marvellous.

About the author

Caitlin Davies was born in London in 1964. She spent 12 years in Botswana as a teacher and journalist and many of her books are set in the Okavango Delta, including a memoir Place of Reeds, described by Hilary Mantel as ‘candid and unsentimental’.
Her novels include The Ghost of Lily Painter, a fictional account of the arrest and execution of two Edwardian baby farmers, and Family Likeness about the fate of ‘war babies’ born to African American GI fathers in England during World War Two.
Her non-fiction books include Taking the Waters: A Swim Around Hampstead Heath, a celebration of 200 years of outdoor bathing, an illustrated history of the world famous Camden Lock Market, and Downstream: a history and celebration of swimming the River Thames.
Her latest non-fiction is Bad Girls, and her latest novel is Daisy Belle: Swimming Champion of the World, based on the lives of several Victorian aquatic stars, to be published by Unbound on September 1, 2018.
She is also a teacher and journalist, and was a regular feature writer for The Independent’s education and careers supplement. From 2014-17 she was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Westminster, Harrow, in the faculty of Media, Arts & Design.

 

Her website is http://www.caitlindavies.co.uk/

Twitter: @CaitlinDavies2

Daisy Belle Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/DaisyBelleSwimmingChampionoftheWorld/

 

Book details

  • Paperback:240 pages
  • Publisher:Unbound Digital (1 Sept. 2018)
  • ISBN-10:1911586483
  • ISBN-13:978-1911586487

 

Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Daisy-Belle-Swimming-Champion-World/dp/1911586483/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1532382917&sr=1-9&keywords=caitlin+davies

 

 

 

 

 

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The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay by Nicola May: original, touching and accomplished

‘The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay’ is a wonderful example of kick-lit – ‘chick-lit with a kick’, as the author likes to describe it. That kick comes from the strong heroine we have in this story. Rosa Larkin has had plenty of knocks in life and so she’s built up a tough shell around herself. She’s thus rather cynical about the mysterious inheritance she receives: the Corner Shop in a Devon seaside town. However, with the support of her friend Josh, and Hot the sausage dog, she heads down to see what the story is. She intends to sell it and get on with her life without this millstone round her neck.

However, that plan is soon scuppered but, out of work and with time on her hands, she decides to give running a shop a go. Of course, it’s not going to be easy and she faces obstacles and resistance, but unexpected friendships crop up along the way and Rosa’s soft centre starts to emerge from that hard shell. Rosa learns a lot about herself in this lively, uplifting story that’s original, touching and totally enjoyable.

The writing is wonderful and sweeps you along, much as events do Rosa. It may appear to be a quiet seaside town but there’s a lot going along under the surface. Cockleberry Bay comes alive for us in the detailed descriptions of the place and its residents as well in the exciting action we encounter.

This is an accomplished and heart-warming romcom from a talented author.

Follow Nicola as she goes on tour with this super novel.