Tuesday 28 March 2017

False Prophet (Saul Marshall Thriller Book 1) - Richard Davis

When a rogue cult turns deadly, the authorities call on former conman Agent Saul Marshall. Drawn into a cat and mouse chase with the leader of the cult Ivan Drexler, news arrives that he has taken Marshall’s son hostage. Removed from the line of duty, Marshall must work alone, off-grid.

As the attacks intensify, Saul will stop at nothing to defeat Drexler. But people are questioning Saul’s own part in the carnage. He must work fast to save both his country and his son. 

As wave after wave of attacks break, the clock is ticking...

What did I think?

I took far too long to get around to reading False Prophet but once I started to read it, I really couldn't put it down and it turned out to be a very quick, riveting read.  Saul Marshall is such a multi-faceted character; he's a con-man turned FBI agent so he knows more than most how the criminal mind works, basically because he has a criminal mind himself. 

The prologue will not fail to hook every single reader that turns the first page of False Prophet.  Imagine sitting down to breakfast with your morning newspaper and seeing your obituary in the paper.  That's what happened to Aaron Woolf, who then received a phone call from his missing son rapidly followed by masked men entering his apartment to stage his apparent suicide.  Saul Marshall has something in common with Aaron Woolf; his son, Samuel, has gone missing too.  As Saul races to save his son, he uncovers something bigger than he could ever have imagined.

False Prophet is an absolutely stonking first thriller from Richard Davis and a fast-paced rollercoaster of a read; I think I held my breath several times during the book and almost forgot to breathe at the heart-stopping finale.  It certainly gets you thinking as the story links to the 20th anniversary of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and the 40th anniversary of the 1973 failed bomb plot codenamed Tribomb.  It's a brilliant idea, and one probably very true to life, to have a false prophet using religion to 'cash in' on the jihadi mentality of willing suicide bombers.  Are these islamic militants really any different to religious cult leaders?

With a character as strong and flawed as Saul Marshall, Richard Davis is definitely on to a winner here.  I was so eager to read more of Saul's story that I immediately went on to read the next book in the series, Never Forget.

I chose to read to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Monday 27 March 2017

Bully Boy Blue - John Nicholl

Every aspect of Kathy’s life is dominated by her abusive bully boy husband. Now she’s pregnant and in fear for her life. Can she ever escape him?

What did I think?

I don't usually read short stories but made an exception for this one and bully boy am I glad that I did.  It's a very short story, no more than an hour's worth of reading, but it packs a HUGE punch, if you will excuse the pun.

Kathy is an abused wife but nobody believes her and she can't inform the police as her husband is a police inspector.  Everyone loves Mike Connor, he has a lot to put up with as his wife, Kathy, is struggling with her mental health after her miscarriage.  Little do people know that he brought on the miscarriage.  When Kathy finds out that she is pregnant again she will do ANYTHING to protect her unborn child.  So watch out Mike, Kathy's coming to get you!

Wow!  What an amazing novella.  I defy anyone to tear their eyes away from the page whilst reading this.  Kathy's plight is one that is sadly experienced by many women (and men) and John Nicholl has really raised awareness of domestic violence by showing us that appearances can be VERY deceptive.  Of course, I was ultimately rooting for Kathy and showing her to be a strong character in the end, gives hope and a voice to so many women suffering the same fate.

Don't be put off by this being a novella, it's short but certainly not sweet, and will leave you with your eyes wide open and a compulsion to look at the signs, however subtle, being given by the people around you.  Bully Boy Blue is such a brave and impressive book - don't miss it!

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Sunday 26 March 2017

BLOG TOUR: Blood and Destiny (The Shadow of the Raven Book 1) - Chris Bishop

As many people know, I am a fan of historical fiction so I was more than a little intrigued by the clash of Saxons and Vikings in 9th Century Blood and Destiny.  Having devoured the book and been left thirsty for more, I am absolutely thrilled to kick off the blog tour for this truly magnificent book.

It is 878 and Wessex stands alone against Guthrum's Viking hordes as all England cowers beneath their raven banner.

With most of his army destroyed following a surprise attack at Chippenham, Alfred King of Wessex, retreats to the desolate marshes at Athelney. Whilst few believe he can ever restore the kingdom, he remains determined – no matter the cost.

Among the small band of weary survivors is Matthew, a novice monk who must learn to fight like a warrior if he, along with his brother and fellow Saxons, are to have any chance of defeating the Vikings. As the impending battle looms, Matthew is charged with a vital role that means he must face danger and betrayal, and undertake a hazardous journey during which his faith will face the ultimate test.

What did I think?

What an amazing start to, not only a book, but a series; I get goosebumps just thinking about it as the skeleton of Edward, the third son of Edwulf, is uncovered in a lonely grave.  It is not the discoverer talking but Edward himself and it is Edward's story that we follow in The Shadow of the Raven series.

We are introduced to Edward and his brother Edwin in 878 as the Vikings continue their invasion of Britain.  Edwin is a warrior and Edward is a novice monk, going by the name of Matthew.  The brothers are together when they discover a burning settlement and Edwin fears for their king, Lord Alfred of Wessex residing in Chippenham.  Edwin hatches a plan to make his way to Chippenham to warn King Alfred of the imminent Viking invasion and to fight alongside the few men based there.

On their travels they discover a young boy who appears to be mute and they name him Edmund after their late elder brother.  When the party of three arrive at Chippenham they find that they are too late to warn King Alfred, indeed they find themselves in the midst of battle.  Edwin rushes off to lend his sword to the battle, leaving Matthew with the boy Edmund and soon Matthew finds his calling tested when he is drawn into the battle and must kill or be killed.

With the Viking leader, Guthrum, having captured Chippenham, the Saxon troops take King Alfred into hiding.  They make the dangerous journey to Athelney, encountering a number of possible traitors on the road, where they make their plans to take back Chippenham.  What starts with a battle must surely end with a battle, and Blood and Destiny does not disappoint.

I feel like I read this book in no time at all, I positively whizzed through it.  The writing was so vivid that I could almost hear the clash of shields and smell the metallic tang of blood.  I loved Matthew's struggle with his calling; it would appear that he has warrior blood in his veins after all and having his head turned by a woman more than helped him to make his decision.  I couldn't help but remember the opening lines as I was reading Blood and Destiny: this monk turned warrior, seemingly so full of life and close to the King of Wessex, ends up in such a lonely grave.  What is his story?  I'll just have to look out for the next book in the series to find out, as Blood and Destiny ends with a tantalising 'To be continued...'

Fans of historical fiction and the TV series 'Vikings' will absolutely love Blood and Destiny.  I half expected to see Ragnar Lothbrok appear in the story, although he would fight to the death and never contemplate surrender.  Fast-paced, brutal and sword-clashingly vivid this is a stunning first novel and the most amazing start to what I am sure will be a fantastic series.  I'm certainly on tenterhooks for book 2.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

About the author

Chris Bishop was born in London in 1951. After a successful career as a chartered surveyor, he retired to concentrate on writing, combining this with his lifelong interest in history. Blood and Destiny is his first novel and is part of a series entitled The Shadow of the Raven.

Saturday 25 March 2017

The Idea of You - Amanda Prowse

With her fortieth birthday approaching, Lucy Carpenter thinks she finally has it all: a wonderful new husband, Jonah, a successful career and the chance of a precious baby of her own. Life couldn’t be more perfect.

But becoming parents proves much harder to achieve than Lucy and Jonah imagined, and when Jonah’s teenage daughter Camille comes to stay with them, she becomes a constant reminder of what Lucy doesn’t have. Jonah’s love and support are unquestioning, but Lucy’s struggles with work and her own failing dreams begin to take their toll. With Camille’s presence straining the bonds of Lucy’s marriage even further, Lucy suddenly feels herself close to losing everything…

This heart-wrenchingly poignant family drama from bestselling author Amanda Prowse asks the question: in today’s hectic world, what does it mean to be a mother?

What did I think?

You can't help but be moved by the beautiful writing of Amanda Prowse, I thought I had got away with it this time as I bragged half way through the book that there were 'no tears yet'.  I did indeed speak too soon; Amanda Prowse could write a shopping list and I'd cry reading it.

Lucy put her career above her personal life but there was a very good reason why she threw herself into her work and avoided relationships.  Relationships only end in hurt, after all, but then she met Jonah and the earth really did move.  The two are perfect together, both have successful careers and they even got married in their lunchbreak.  That's probably something I would do, if I ever had a lunchbreak of course!

Jonah has a daughter from a previous relationship, but as they broke up before the baby (Camille) was born he didn't experience everything that a baby can bring.  Lucy and Jonah are therefore overjoyed when Lucy finds out that she is pregnant and Lucy starts knitting baby clothes, however, the pregnancy was not meant to be and Lucy suffers the devastating effects of a miscarriage.  With more positive pregnancy tests, more miscarriages and a visit from an unruly step-daughter in store, can Lucy and Jonah survive the future?

The Idea of You is such a beautiful book by Amanda Prowse, giving a voice to so many women who have suffered in silence.  It's only a bunch of cells after all.  These women are mothers without a baby and they carry them within their heart if not in their womb.  I have read a few books with miscarriage or infertility as a topic, and I find one thing to be a common denominator: childless women being asked the seemingly innocent question - when are you going to have children?  Perhaps we should think twice before asking such a question as it may seem innocent to the asker but so very hurtful to the askee.  It's almost as if miscarriage is a taboo subject; it was never born so it wasn't a baby.  Wrong, so very wrong...it was a baby from the first positive pregnancy test and don't let anybody tell you otherwise.

So very real, poignant and moving The Idea of You is another fabulous book from Amanda Prowse.  As a bit of a knitter, I loved the inclusion of the almost lost art of knitting and the reverence with which the garments were placed in the trunk for safekeeping.  So many women think a baby will complete them, which results in a blinkered life.  Open your eyes and see how blessed you are...Amanda Prowse reminded me of that.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Sunday 19 March 2017

BLOG TOUR: Foxes Unearthed - Lucy Jones

As one of the largest predators left in Britain, the fox is captivating: a comfortably familiar figure in our country landscapes; an intriguing flash of bright-eyed wildness in our towns.

Yet no other animal attracts such controversy, has provoked more column inches or been so ambiguously woven into our culture over centuries, perceived variously as a beautiful animal, a cunning rogue, a vicious pest and a worthy foe. As well as being the most ubiquitous of wild animals, it is also the least understood.

In Foxes Unearthed Lucy Jones investigates the truth about foxes in a media landscape that often carries complex agendas. Delving into fact, fiction, folklore and her own family history, Lucy travels the length of Britain to find out first-hand why these animals incite such passionate emotions, revealing our rich and complex relationship with one of our most loved - and most vilified - wild animals. This compelling narrative adds much-needed depth to the debate on foxes, asking what our attitudes towards the red fox say about us and, ultimately, about our relationship with the natural world.

What did I think?

Well I know us booklovers aren't supposed to judge a book by its cover, but how Fantastic Mr Fox is this cover?  The hypnotic amber eyes of the beautiful fox stare out from the front cover, almost daring you to have a peek inside...and I, for one, was completely powerless to resist.

A few months ago I wouldn't have been terribly interested in reading a book about foxes, but then a rumour started to spread in my street: a fox had been seen early in the morning walking down the middle of our street.  A real live fox?  In a housing estate in Gateshead, surely not!  Possibly yes, having read Foxes Unearthed and found out some of the quite unbelievable places a fox has been spotted.  City fox, Romeo, wins the award for the most unconventional place for a fox to live.

Without writing as if it is a textbook, Lucy Jones has introduced us to many fascinating facts about foxes.  Foxes have been part of the British landscape for many years, we even use fox and foxy in our language.  Aside from somebody saying they've been foxed or describing a lady as foxy or a vixen, there's also the eye-opening root of the word 'shenanigans'. 

I loved the historical aspect of the book.  I really enjoyed reading about foxes in Tudor times where they were thought to cure all manner of ills, although I wouldn't fancy using particular bits of foxes to cure a migraine or toothache.  It certainly made for entertaining reading though.

Whichever side of the fence you sit on, be it foxes are vermin and should be destroyed or foxes are part of our landscape and should be cherished, there is something for everyone in Foxes Unearthed.  Lucy Jones has done an amazing job of getting behind the scenes of both hunters and saboteurs to investigate the controversial subject of fox hunting, just don't ask Ricky Gervais what he thinks unless you have a spare few hours!

You don't have to be a nature or wildlife lover to enjoy Foxes Unearthed; it contains such a variety of information relating to foxes that some chapters will naturally resonate more than others.  In Foxes Unearthed, Lucy Jones encapsulates such a range of information from fictional foxes and hidden homage in TV shows to the controversy of fox hunts and foxes being kept as pets.  I certainly know a lot more about foxes now and it's really made me think about how foxes are rooted in our very history, both through our culture and our language.  Surely something so incredibly priceless deserves to be preserved.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Follow the tour:

Saturday 18 March 2017

The Fourth Monkey - J.D. Barker

See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil…Do No Evil

Se7en meets The Silence of the Lambs in this dark and twisting novel from the author Jeffery Deaver called, “A talented writer with a delightfully devious mind.”

For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorised the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realise he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.

As the lead investigator Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own.

With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.

What did I think?

This is seriously going to be the most talked about books of the year!  We've all heard of the 3 wise monkeys: see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil, but how many people know about The Fourth Monkey: do no evil?  I think my love of the TV show Dexter set me up nicely for The Fourth Monkey.  If you have watched Dexter, imagine reading his diaries in glorious technicolor and you will be close to my experience of The Fourth Monkey.  Even one of the detectives, Clair, reminds me of Dexter's foul-mouthed sister, Deb.

The Fourth Monkey is one of those books that is hard to review without giving anything away, so the least said, the better.  Suffice to say it positively glues your eyes to the page as you clamour for every detail.  Nothing is quite what it seems, so welcome to the Brain-bender Olympics!  I loved the flashbacks to the past which flowed effortlessly within the story, again I go back to the Dexter element as seeing the killer as a young boy, you can't help but feel empathetic towards him.  

It's probably the police's best dream and worst nightmare when the body of such a high profile serial killer is found but he takes with him the secret of the whereabouts of his last victim who is possibly still alive.  Cue the ticking timer as the police race against time to find out who the killer was and where he could have kept his latest victim before she runs out of food and water.  This sets the fast pace of the book and I was torn between wanting to find the latest 4MK victim and finding out the 4MK killer's story.  Where there is a past and present element to a book I always tend to favour one above the other but in this case I couldn't get back to each one fast enough.

Superbly written, The Fourth Monkey is one hell of a ride.  I read it so fast I think I need to read it again to fully appreciate the brilliance of the story.  If this isn't made into a film, Hollywood needs its head examined.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Friday 17 March 2017

BLOG TOUR: The Mercury Travel Club - Helen Bridgett

Meet Angie Shepherd who, after 24 years and 11 months of marriage, finds herself divorced and driven by friends and family to move on. From hangover to makeover, Angie steps firmly away from the sensible knitwear, and launches into every adventure on offer – from baking classes and book groups, to speed dating, and even 'The Granny-Okes', a 1980s tribute act and YouTube sensation.

But Angie needs more than a bar of galaxy and a night in with Murder She Wrote... what she dreams of is entrepreneurial success. Channelling her inner Richard Branson, the light bulb moment happens: it's time to take the plunge and invest her divorce settlement into The Mercury Travel Club, an exciting new business venture. But as the Travel Club gets going, things never go according to plan, and in this digital age a little chaos brings the fame she's been looking for.

Set in present-day Manchester, this classic mid-life journey features the 1980s soundtrack from Angie's youth, and sees her travel the world whilst coping with life after the Ex.  Angie's journey is the catalyst her friends need to examine their own lives; as they start to find their true callings, will Angie find hers? Witty, entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny, this feel-good debut novel shows it's never too late for a second chance.

What did I think?

Well this little gem of a book was just what I needed when I was feeling a bit low, not unlike Angie Shepherd at the start of The Mercury Travel Club.  I think I read this whole book with a smile on my face and certainly struggled to contain my laughter, indeed many laughs did escape whilst reading this book.

Angie was looking forward to her silver wedding anniversary when her husband, Alan, left her for a younger woman.  Forced to sell their family home and start a new life, Angie may feel like curling up and feeling sorry for herself but her friends and family have other ideas.  Her hilarious friend, Patty, is instrumental in keeping Angie on her feet as she takes a few tentative baby steps on the road to singledom.  Patty gives the impression that she's a bit of a man-eater but she's more words than actions and has an absolutely enormous heart of gold.  I couldn't get enough of Angie's hilarious mother; I really looked forward to her appearances and couldn't wait to see what imperfect pearl of wisdom she would come out with next.

Angie works in a travel agency and has a lovely boss, Charlie.  When Angie decides to make her dreams a reality, Charlie offers her a business partnership where they offer themed holidays and The Mercury Travel Club is born.  Like all best laid plans, things often go wrong but that is the charm of the club.  Angie keeps a cool head and is calm under pressure, making her trips much sought after, despite some attempted bad press.  As the Entrepreneur of the Year awards approach, Angie sets her sights on the award.  Will she win it?  Whatever the outcome, you'll be sure they'll have a good time!

I loved the quirky chapter names, each one giving a little hint as to what was in store next.  I almost clapped with glee (I would have if I could have put the book down) when I saw a chapter with the title 'The Kids Wanna Rock'.  As I involuntarily started singing, "Turned on the radio, sounded like a disco...", I was delighted to see my absolute favourite singer Bryan Adams getting some well deserved column inches.  Maybe not the real man but a tribute band, but still, any book that gives Bryan a mention gets a big thumbs up from me.  "I got my first real six string, bought it at the five and dime..."  (Admit it, it's in your head now 😃)

With such an impressive debut and a fabulously witty writing style, I am overjoyed to see that Helen Bridgett plans more books in The Mercury Travel Club series.  The Mercury Travel Club is hilariously funny and a perfect pick me up.  If I had a passport, I'd certainly sign up!

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest an unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Follow the tour:

About the Author

Helen Bridgett was born in North-East England and now lives in Manchester having stopped off at a few places in between. Having failed miserably with every New Year's resolution that involved giving up food or drink, one year, she set herself a completely different goal - to write a novel and give it as a Christmas present. The Mercury Travel Club was born and the characters took on a life of their own. Outside of writing, Helen loves hiking and wine - not usually at the same time.

Helen is currently developing the next novels in The Mercury Travel Club series.

Monday 13 March 2017

Jeopardy Surface - Sheri Leigh Horn

It’s the witching hour and Special Agent Regan Ross is having a WTF kind of night. Morning? How the hell did she get from her bed to her front yard? And why is she holding a loaded firearm? Sleepwalking doesn’t bode well for the rising star in the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, but whatever is causing her recent weight loss and bizarre nocturnal activities will have to wait. The phone is ringing. It’s probably her sister Erin, the surgeon who knows best, demanding to know her plans for the holidays. Why would this year be any different? They’ll spend the somber anniversary and Christmas like always—drinking too much, watching Turner Classic Movies, and not talking about their dead parents. Caller ID provides yet another surprise.

Hearing Special Agent Robert Haskins’ voice for the first time in six months has Regan reeling. The mention of Maryland’s Eastern Shore conjures images of Jennifer Abbott, the student-athlete whose disappearance from a small campus is national news. There are complications. For starters, her areas of expertise—geographic profiling and predictive analysis—require a lot of information from a series of crimes. Single murders typically aren’t her purview and involving herself in an investigation to which she has not been officially assigned would cause her supervisor’s head to spin off. She should say no, but there’s too much residual guilt where Rob Haskins is concerned.

Regan Ross knows bad, and this one is BAD. The killer has left the mutilated body and a cache of troubling clues at a remote farm and posted the coordinates of the cache on a popular geocaching website. Is he taunting investigators? Expediting the discovery of his work? Both? The calculated modus operandi and uniquely sadistic signatures are not the work of a novice, and Regan is sure of one thing: he will kill again.

When visiting forensic psychologist Dr. Sheridan Rourke present a lecture at Quantico featuring closed cases from Northern Ireland, Regan makes a shocking connection between an older series of murders and the Maryland case. Despite the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s insistence to the contrary, Regan and Rourke are convinced the killer of five women in Belfast two years ago is hunting women on the Chesapeake Bay. As the two become unlikely partners, Regan learns the psychologist's past may be as haunted as her own.

What did I think?

You know when you lose track of time and end up drinking cold tea that you are reading a good book and boy does Jeopardy Surface fit that bill.  With a story that encompasses the Lockerbie disaster of 1988, the troubles in Northern Ireland and a seemingly unrelated serial killer on the east coast of America, I was a willing captive from the very first page and had no intention of escape until the final page had been turned.

Regan Ross is a tough cookie.  She survived the Lockerbie disaster and tours in Iraq but when it comes to her family she will fight to the death.  Regan specialises in geographic profiling, looking at locations of crimes and pinpointing red, amber and green areas of interest in what is known as a jeopardy surface.  When she is drawn into profiling a serial killer, I thought I knew where the story was going but I an happy to report that I was completely wrong.  Jeopardy Surface is anything but predictable so buckle up and prepare for the ride of your life.

I loved Regan's love for her family and her tough exterior.  She has an older sister Erin and niece Lanie and she really would walk over hot coals for them.  Regan even wants to protect Erin from knowing the horrors she suffered in Iraq but her family love her as much as she loves them and can help her get through it, if she will only let them.

Suffering night terrors, Regan takes extreme measures to stop her wandering during the night and it is in this state that we are introduced to her, waking in her front garden at the height of the witching hour.  Regan is a heroine so incredibly flawed that we can't help but warm to her immediately.  Coupled with an amazing sense of humour, I didn't know whether I wanted to meet her or be her. When Regan is drawn into investigating a serial killer, she is introduced to Dr Sheridan Rourke who encountered a similar case in Northern Ireland, only that killer was identified and put behind bars, or was he?  Could the Northern Ireland police have got it wrong? Dr Rourke certainly thinks so and this time it's personal.

Sheri Leigh Horn has written an AMAZING book, one that draws you in from the first page and, much like the wires wrapped round the victims' necks, refuses to let go.  Seriously, is this a debut?  It's full of action, adventure, intrigue and a humour as dry as the cookies that Regan tries to eat.  Jeopardy Surface is a stunning, action-packed debut that I will be recommending over and over again - I just hope that Sheri Leigh Horn writes in the same fast pace as her book as I can't wait to read more about Regan Ross.  

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Sunday 12 March 2017

Secrets of a Happy Marriage - Cathy Kelly

Bess is hoping to show everyone just how happy her recent marriage is, but behind all the party-planning the cracks are beginning to show. Why is joining a family so difficult?
Jojo, Bess's stepdaughter, has a point to make. Bess is not her mother, and she won't replace the one she's been missing every day for the last two years. And will she ever get the chance to become a mum herself?
Cousin Cari is a fierce career-woman who isn't unnerved by anything - apart from facing the man who left her at the altar, and he's on the guestlist. Her job has been a safe place to hide ever since - but is it time to let love into her life again?
Thanks to laughter, tears and one surprise appearance, the Brannigans might just discover the secrets of a happy marriage . . . But will they find out before it's too late?

What did I think?

I have only recently been introduced to Cathy Kelly's books and, although they deal with some difficult subjects, they are so heart-warming and never fail to draw me into the story.  It's a chunky book at just over 500 pages which resulted in my being completely invested in the Brannigan family story; I experienced laughter, anger, sadness and joy in this warm and engrossing family saga.

The common theme for me is the strong women characters.  Cari is the strongest of all after being left at the altar 3 years earlier.  Cari never wants to see Barney again but that could prove a bit difficult as he jilted her for her second cousin, Traci.  Cari is an editor and through her story we get a wonderful glimpse into the publishing world; there's even a lovely mention about the voluntary work that bloggers do to promote books.  Cari's cousin, Jojo, will never accept her father's second wife after losing her mother, Lottie, so tragically 2 years ago.  Jojo has her own demons to deal with as she starts down the rocky tear-filled path of IVF.  Bess is Jojo's new step-mother.  She loves Jojo's Dad, Edward, but struggles with the animosity that Jojo directs towards her.  Bess is planning a 70th birthday party for Edward and as all the Brannigan women come together there are sure to be fireworks and tears.

Please do not be put off by the size of this book; I could easily have read another 500 pages about the Brannigan family.  I loved the quotes at the start of each chapter; some are tips for a happy marriage and others are thought-provoking, inspirational words of wisdom from, for example, the Dalai Lama, Oscar Wilde, Henry Kissinger, Galileo and my personal favourite, Gloria Steinem.

Secrets of a Happy Marriage is one of those books that reaches into your heart and gives you a virtual hug.  It's a curl up on your favourite chair with a hot chocolate/cup of tea/glass of wine kind of book.  Before you know it you will have whizzed through it and be left with the feeling that you were part of the Brannigan family yourself.  Filled with love, laughter, tears and hope - it's a completely captivating read.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Friday 10 March 2017

BLOG TOUR: Fortune's Wheel (The Meonbridge Chronicles Book 1) - Carolyn Hughes

I do love a Brooks Cottage tour and, as you would expect, there is some great content available for you today: not only my review, which I know is the pièce de résistance 😉, but there's also an extract and a giveaway.  If you're not successful in the giveaway, I really do urge you to pick up a copy of Fortune's Wheel - you won't regret it!

Plague-widow Alice atte Wode is desperate to find her missing daughter, but her neighbours are rebelling against their masters and their mutiny is hindering the search.

June 1349. In a Hampshire village, the worst plague in England’s history has wiped out half its population, including Alice atte Wode’s husband and eldest son. The plague arrived only days after Alice’s daughter Agnes mysteriously disappeared, and it prevented the search for her.

Now the plague is over, the village is trying to return to normal life, but it’s hard, with so much to do and so few left to do it. Conflict is growing between the manor and its tenants, as the workers realise their very scarceness means they’re more valuable than before: they can demand higher wages, take on spare land, and have a better life. This is the chance they’ve all been waiting for.

Although she understands their demands, Alice is disheartened that the search for Agnes is once more put on hold. When one of the rebels is killed, and then the lord's son is found murdered, it seems the two deaths may be connected, both to each other and to Agnes’s disappearance.

What did I think?

It's no secret that I enjoy reading historical fiction, but it's not often you come across a book set in the 14th Century.  The Black Death struck Britain between June 1348 and December 1349, and is referred to in Fortune's Wheel as the mortality.  No family was safe from this terrible plague, with many whole families being wiped out and others left starving after losing their main breadwinner.

There are some impressive strong female characters in Fortune's Wheel.  None more so that Alice atte Wode who not only lost her husband and son in the mortality, but her daughter, Agnes, went missing after a rumoured affair with Philip de Bohun, heir to the lord of the manor.  Alice is like the glue that binds the women of Meonbridge together, from her ladyship, Lady Margaret de Bohun to Eleanor Titherige, who inherited her father's farm after he succumbed to the plague.

Whilst Alice is there to lend an ear to everyone in the village, she is carrying around her own tragedy: the mystery surrounding her daughter's disappearance.  Alice's son John is determined to find out what happened to his sister and will go to any lengths to find out, even arguing with Sir Philip who may know more about Agnes than we realise.

I don't know a great deal about medieval history, but I certainly learned a thing or two whilst reading Fortune's Wheel, without feeling as if I had been given a history lesson.  I had never heard of cottars and villeins and was fascinated by the hierarchy of peasants during these dark times.  It was almost like the beginning of the unions as they nominated somebody to stand up to the lord of the manor to argue for more pay.  Unfortunately, putting your head about the parapet could see it being chopped off and there are one or two dastardly deeds in Fortune's Wheel that succeed in keeping us guessing.  Let's just say that some people in Meonbridge are not exactly filled with community spirit.

Historical fiction can sometimes be dry and hard-going but the complete opposite is true of Fortune's Wheel.  I have to give a special shout out to the invaluable cast of characters listed at the beginning - many authors think readers have photographic memories and can cope with an abundance of characters being thrown at us all at once, so many thanks to Carolyn Hughes for the cheat sheet.  

I found Fortune's Wheel completely intriguing, fascinating and surprisingly emotional - I had become so emotionally invested in the characters that I was devastated for Thomas and Joan Miller, who struggled to cope after the loss of their five sons, and I admit to being close to tears at the end of the book when we learn of Agnes' fate.  I swiftly dried the tears from my eyes as, being book 1 in a series, I know that I can look forward to catching up with these colourful characters again in the future. 

Fortune's Wheel isn't just for historical fiction lovers, I'm absolutely positive that many readers will enjoy this medieval saga.  Riveting history homework that got top marks from me - more please, Carolyn!

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy Links

Silverwood Bookshop

Intrigued?  Here's a little extract to whet your appetite:


Alice atte Wode, the Millers’ closest neighbour, was feeding her hens when she heard Joan’s first terrible anguished cries. Dropping her basket of seed, she ran to the Millers’ cottage. She wanted to cry out too at what she found there: Thomas and Joan both on their knees, clasped together, with Peter’s twisted body between them, sobbing as if the dam of their long pent-up emotions had burst. Alice breathed deeply to steady her nerves, for she didn’t know how to offer any solace for the Millers’ loss.

Not this time.

It was common enough for parents to lose children. It didn’t mean you ever got used to their loss, or that you loved them any less than if they’d lived. Few lost five children in as many months. But the Millers had. The prosperous family Alice knew only six months ago, with its noisy brood of six happy, healthy children, had been swiftly and brutally slaughtered by the great mortality.

Every family in Meonbridge had lost someone to the plague’s vile grip – a father, a mother, a child – but no other family had lost five.

The great mortality, sent by God, it was said, to punish the world for its sins, had torn the village apart. It had struck at random, at the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the innocent and the guilty. Some of its victims died coughing up blood, some with suppurating boils under their arms or next to their privy parts, some covered in dark, blackish pustules. A few recovered, but most did not and, after two or three days of fear and suffering, died in agony and despair, often alone and unshriven for the lack of a priest, when their loved ones abandoned them. After five months of terror, half of Meonbridge’s people were dead.

When the foul sickness at last moved on, leaving the villagers to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives, Thomas and Joan Miller went to church daily, to pray for their five dead children’s souls, and give thanks to God for sparing Peter. Then the arrival of baby Maud just a few days ago had brought the Millers a bright ray of hope in the long-drawn-out darkness of their despair.

But Peter hadn’t been spared after all.

About the Author

Carolyn Hughes was born in London, but has lived most of her life in Hampshire. After a first degree in Classics and English, she started her working life as a computer programmer, in those days a very new profession. It was fun for a few years, but she left to become a school careers officer in Dorset. But it was when she discovered technical authoring that she knew she had found her vocation. She spent the next few decades writing and editing all sorts of material, some fascinating, some dull, for a wide variety of clients, including an international hotel group, medical instrument manufacturers and the Government. She has written creatively for most of her adult life, but it was not until her children grew up and flew the nest, several years ago, that creative writing and, especially, writing historical fiction, took centre stage in her life. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.

Fortunes Wheel is her first published novel, and a sequel is under way.

Facebook: CarolynHughesAuthor
Twitter: @writingcalliope
Goodreads Author Page: http://bit.ly/2hs2rrX

Giveaway time!

a Rafflecopter giveaway