Tuesday 29 May 2018

Guilt - Amanda Robson

Your sister. Her secret. The betrayal.

There is no bond greater than blood . . .

When the body of a woman is found stabbed to death, the blame falls to her twin sister. But who killed who? And which one is now the woman behind bars?

Zara and Miranda have always supported each other. But then Zara meets Seb, and everything changes. Handsome, charismatic and dangerous, Seb threatens to tear the sisters’ lives apart – but is he really the one to blame? Or are deeper resentments simmering beneath the surface that the sisters must face up to?

As the sisters’ relationship is stretched to the brink, a traumatic incident in Seb’s past begins to rear its head and soon all three are locked in a psychological battle that will leave someone dead. The question is, who?

What did I think?

Short, punchy chapters make Guilt a rocket-fuelled read.  One sister is dead and one is in jail, but which is which?  I changed my mind SO many times, so I can either say I was right or wrong, but one thing I'm sure about is that I was thoroughly entertained whilst reading Guilt.

The bright cover caught my eye and, having seen lots of chat on social media, I snapped up a copy when I saw an ebook in my local library.  This is the sort of book you would pick up on a weekend and never put down, however, I chose this as my 'day' book so I read it over the course of 3 days.  It is so cleverly written that you don't know whose voice you are listening to in the present as you investigate the past.  

Zara and Miranda are two sisters who were so close that they lived together.  Miranda has always felt as if she had to look after Zara, for reasons that become clear when you start reading the book, but now Zara has found Seb she doesn't need Miranda so much.  Seb seems to be the perfect boyfriend for Zara on the outside but inside he is dark and twisted and is determined to tear the sisters apart forever.  Why would he do this?  How would he even manage to come between two very close sisters?  All this and more are answered in Guilt.

I absolutely loved Guilt; it is just the sort of book you need now and again to reinvigorate your reading mojo; the type of book to get your heart racing and your eyes greedily devouring every last word.  I do have a copy of Amanda Robson's debut, Obsession, in my own library so I definitely plan to read that soon.

Guilt is a fast-paced, thrilling and compulsive read that had my heart pounding and my brain twisting; Amanda Robson has definitely secured a top spot in the psychological thriller genre with Guilt.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Monday 28 May 2018

BLOG TOUR: Rubicon - Ian Patrick

Two cops, both on different sides of the law – both with the same gangland boss in their sights.

Sam Batford is an undercover officer with the Metropolitan Police who will stop at nothing to get his hands on fearsome crime-lord Vincenzo Guardino’s drug supply.

DCI Klara Winter runs a team on the National Crime Agency, she’s also chasing down Guardino, but unlike Sam Batford she’s determined to bring the gangster to justice and get his drugs off the streets.

Set in a time of austerity and police cuts where opportunities for corruption are rife, Rubicon is a tense, dark thriller that is definitely not for the faint hearted.

What did I think?

Filled to the brim with tension and gangland-style danger, I read Rubicon far too quickly; it is so fast-paced that I found it virtually impossible to put down but wished I'd read a bit slower to savour every perfectly written detail.  

I really liked Sam Batford; he reminded me of Harry Bosch, doing whatever is necessary to bring the criminal to justice.  Batford is ex-army and has a much darker side than Bosch, so much so that I often questioned his motivation; I wondered whether he had gone so far undercover that he didn't know which side he was on.  Batford is such a wonderful character in this way as he is so unpredictable and even though his character is very well developed in Rubicon, I don't think we've even scratched the surface of him yet.

DCI Klara Winter has the delight of trying to control Sam Batford.  Her frustration and exasperation was evident in the log she is keeping of her thought processes and decision making.  It is clear from the start that she doesn't want to work with Batford so her log entries are a brilliant insight into how her working relationship with Batford is panning out.  I laughed out loud at her candid thoughts on first meeting Batford and found myself growing to like her for her honesty.

I was going to say that this would make an excellent TV adaptation, as I could easily visualise somebody like Tom Hardy as Sam Batford and Rosamund Pike playing Klara Winter, but when I popped over to Amazon for the buy link I noticed that it has already been optioned by the BBC.  I will definitely be watching the series and recommending it to all my friends and family.  I think it'll be like mixing Bosch with the Sopranos, adding a dash of British flavour and seeing it all play out in London.  I can't wait to see it so I think I will read the book again while I'm waiting.

Rubicon is a highly entertaining, full-throttle gangland thriller.  With such an unpredictable protagonist, Ian Patrick tied my brain in knots and had me on the edge of my seat; I needed to stop and catch my breath when I finished it.  An outstanding debut and hopefully there are plenty more Sam Batford stories to follow.

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

My rating:

Buy Rubicon direct from Fahrenheit Press: http://www.fahrenheit-press.com/books_rubicon.html

Buy it from Amazon

About the author:

Educated in Nottingham, Ian left school at sixteen. After three years in the Civil Service he moved to London for a career in the Metropolitan Police.

He spent twenty-seven years as a police officer, the majority as a detective within the Specialist Operations Command. A career in policing is a career in writing. Ian has been used to carrying a book and pen and making notes.

Now retired, the need to write didn’t leave and evolved into fiction.

Ian’s Social Media:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/IPatrick_Author
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ian-Patrick/e/B075VB1MP4/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

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Sunday 27 May 2018

A Woman Scorned - Jack Jordan

Are you afraid? 
You should be.

The husband: in over his head with no way of knowing the truth.
The mistress: blinded by love, betrayed by her family...
The neighbour: will stop at nothing to protect the life he has fought to create.
The wife: a woman bent on revenge, but how far is she willing to go...?

What did I think?

Jack Jordan is one of my favourite authors so it was like having a trip to 'excitement city' when he released a novella as I waited patiently for his next novel.  The writing as usual is superb but this book is SO good that the pages flick by so quickly and, being a novella, the whole experience is over far too quickly.  Yes, I'm a greedy reader and I want more Jack Jordan books!  I can almost hear Jack's fingers whooshing over the keyboard...as my wishes do sometimes come true!

So...A Woman Scorned...wow!  What a book, it is absolutely gripping and full of surprises.  I certainly wouldn't want to cross this scorned woman!  I positively whizzed through the book and although I wanted to savour every single word, I just couldn't read it fast enough.  Jack Jordan has that knack of giving you just enough Hansel and Gretel crumbs to follow whilst also releasing the handbrake on the runaway train so you can't read it fast enough before the breathtaking conclusion.  

Amber is one of those women that I would love to have as a friend but at the same time I would be frightened of saying the wrong thing to her.  At the flick of a switch she can go from being the perfect wife to a cold calculating woman bent on revenge.  I loved that about her though, how she gave the illusion that everything was fine when behind the scenes she was like 'I'll get you, you cheating b*stard'.

Having read as many books as I have, I did guess a little of the big reveal but I still enjoyed every single second of it.  Nobody can write with as much drama and unbridled tension as Jack Jordan and if you haven't discovered him yet, I urge you to pick up, not one but, all of his books right now!

A Woman Scorned is an absolute belter; thrilling, gripping and completely riveting, you won't be able to put it down!

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Saturday 26 May 2018

The House That Jack Built - Michael J. Hallowell

The House That Jack Built is one of the strangest tales in British history, and begins with an old lead miner and his wife who took up residence in a remote cave on a windswept beach in South Shields. A pub was built within the cave and a concerted search initiated to find buried Roman treasure hidden in a complex network of underground caves and tunnels.

Before long, a desperate battle took place between Peter Allan -South Shields' real-life Indiana Jones -and a coterie of politicians who were determined to find the treasure hoard before he did. Their goal? To bring about a revolution in Italy. 

Told for the first time, The House That Jack Built reveals the shocking truth behind one of history's greatest untold stories.

What did I think?

Although I'm a Jarrovian (my family are from Jarrow and I spent my childhood there), I am officially a Sanddancer as I was born in South Shields.  I spent many a Sunday afternoon exploring Marsden Rock and the surrounding caves with my cousins but had no idea of the history of the area...until now.

It is quite true that you never really appreciate places that are on your own doorstep; to me, Marsden Grotto has always been just a pub cut into the cliff face.  It has always been there and didn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary to the young me visiting Marsden beach every weekend.  Now that I am older, I realise what a spectacular setting it is and having read The House That Jack Built, I am gobsmacked that people have been visiting this cave dwelling for around 250 years.

The House That Jack Built takes us from the first inhabitant in the 18th Century, Blaster Jack and his wife Jessie, right up to present day in the 21st Century.  Chapters are reasonably short and concise, concentrating on one particular period of time, so I found it it a good book to dip in and out of.  Although in reality, I was so engrossed in the story of 'The Grotto' that I read several chapters at a time.

A good deal of the book is about the legend that Roman treasure is hidden within the caves and tunnels of our beautiful limestone cliffs.  I had never heard of this before, but it makes complete sense as the Roman fort of Arbeia is within a stones throw of Marsden Bay.  As the Roman Empire began to crumble, I could just imagine the soldiers and their families heading home from our cold and wet island leaving their heavy bags of gold coins behind to collect at a later date.  Only it wasn't the Romans that came to collect their treasure, it was the residents of The Grotto, namely Peter Allan and his family, who occupied The Grotto after Blaster Jack.

It was Peter Allan who turned the cave into a tourist attraction and often came under the scrutiny of the Excise men as they attempted to catch him selling illegal alcohol.  This period of time is particularly interesting as smugglers frequented the cove resulting in stories of fighting and plunder.  This also led onto the history behind the reputed ghost in The Grotto; it was one Jibber John who 'jibbed' on his mates to the Excise men causing his ex-friends to string him up and spend the rest of his days in a wooden barrel within the cliff tunnels.  Legend says that Jibber John never left The Grotto and he haunts the pub to this day.

Absolutely fascinating from cover to cover, I found The House That Jack Built to be a riveting history of Marsden and the surrounding coastline.  I learnt so much from this amazing book that I am planning to buy a copy when I return it to the library.  Anyone interested in history will find this book entertaining and local history lovers from my native North-East should definitely make sure that they pick up a copy of this fabulous book.

Undoubtedly a 5 star read; it's so good I want to read it again! 

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Thursday 24 May 2018

BLOG BLITZ: The TV Detective - Simon Hall

Dan Groves is a television reporter newly assigned to the crime beat and not at all happy about it.

Dan knows next nothing about police work or how to report on it so when he persuades Detective Chief Inspector Adam Breen to allow him to shadow a high-profile murder inquiry it seems like the perfect solution though it soon becomes clear some members of the police force have no intention of playing nice with the new boy.

With his first case Dan is dropped in at the deep-end. A man is killed in a lay-by with a blast through the heart from a shotgun. The victim is a notorious local businessman, Edward Bray, a man with so many enemies there are almost too many suspects for the police to eliminate.

As tensions rise between Dan and the police he comes close to being thrown off the case until the detectives realise that far from being a liability, Dan might actually be the key to tempting the murderer into a trap.

The TV Detective is the first book in a classic crime series from Simon Hall, who until recently was the BBC Crime Correspondent for the Devon and Cornwall area.

What did I think?

As an introduction to a series, I think The TV Detective laid some good foundations for what is to follow.  It took me a little while to get into the book but, once I did, the story whizzed along at a fairly good pace and had a very satisfying conclusion.  Although it didn't quite have the 'wow-factor' for me, I found it very entertaining and something a bit different from a run-of-the-mill police investigation.

I really liked the character of journalist Dan; his best friend is his dog, Rutherford, and he's completely clueless where women are concerned.  Dan is partnered with DCI Adam Breen who wants the reporter tagging along like he wants a hole in the head.  I love prickly characters like Breen; he's a proper old-school detective with a spiky outer shell and a slightly soft middle if you burrow deep enough to find it.

Dan has quite the skill for getting people to talk, which makes him very useful to the investigation; people are more willing to speak to Dan than the police which makes Breen's feelings towards Dan start to thaw.  It's a very complex case as it's really hard to find the murderer when so many people wanted the victim, Edward Bray, dead.  With so many people under scrutiny, I was just waiting for the first person to crack...but there was still more to uncover about the events surrounding the murder of Edward Bray.

I'd definitely read more in the series as I think, with a bit more polishing, The TV Detective could become a highly entertaining series in the crime fiction genre.

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

My rating:

Buy The TV Detective direct from Fahrenheit Press: http://www.fahrenheit-press.com/books_the_tv_detective.html

Buy it from Amazon

About the author:

Simon Hall is an author and journalist.

He has been a broadcaster for twenty five years, mostly as a BBC Television and Radio News Correspondent, covering some of the biggest stories Britain has seen.

His books - the tvdetective series - are about a television reporter who covers crimes and gets so involved in the cases he helps the police to solve them. Seven have been published.

Simon has also contributed articles and short stories to a range of newspapers and magazines, written plays, and even a pantomime.

Alongside his novels and stories, Simon is a tutor in media skills and creative writing, teaching at popular Writers’ Summer Schools such as Swanwick and Winchester, on cruise ships and overseas.

Simon has also become sought after as a speaker, appearing at a variety of prestigious literary festivals. His talks combine an insight into his writing work, along with some extraordinary anecdotes from the life of a television reporter, including the now notorious story of What to do when you really need a dead otter.

Now 49 years old, he began a broadcasting career as a DJ on the radio and in nightclubs, then moved into radio and TV news. He worked in Europe, London, Ireland, and the south west of England, before settling in Cambridge.

Simon is married to Jess, Director of Libraries at the University of Cambridge, and has an adopted daughter, Niamh. She’s an army officer, which makes her father both very proud and very nervous.

Simon lectures on careers in the media at Cambridge University, and in schools and colleges. Amongst his proudest achievements, he includes the number of young people he has helped into jobs in broadcasting, and aspiring writers into publication.

As for his likes, Simon lists beer – he judges at real ale festivals – cycling the countryside, solving cryptic crosswords, composing curious Tweets (find him @thetvdetective ) and studying pop lyrics.

For more on Simon, see his website – www.thetvdetective.com

Simon’s Social Media:

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Tuesday 22 May 2018

BLOG TOUR: Underwater Breathing - Cassandra Parkin

On Yorkshire’s gradually-crumbling mud cliffs sits an Edwardian seaside house. In the bathroom, Jacob and Ella hide from their parents’ passionate arguments by playing the ‘Underwater Breathing’ game – until the day Jacob wakes to find his mother and sister gone. 

Years later, the sea’s creeping closer, his father is losing touch with reality and Jacob is trapped in his past. Then, Ella’s sudden reappearance forces him to confront his fractured childhood. As the truth about their parents emerges, it’s clear that Jacob’s time hiding beneath the water is coming to an end.

What did I think?

Anything can happen, and often does, in a Cassandra Parkin book.  What I find unique about Cassandra Parkin's writing is her ability to turn a normal everyday story into something special and unforgettable with her inimitable hint of ethereal darkness.  

Cassandra Parking completely nailed it in Chapter One, in my opinion, as Jacob and Ella are playing their Underwater Breathing game.  Jacob is holding his breath underwater in the old bathroom trying to listen only to the steady counting of his sister, Ella, but being interrupted by the disturbing sounds of his parents arguing in the room below.  This is not a happy family and the parents are so intent on destroying each other that they don't even notice the effects it is having on their children.  I was terrified that something would go wrong during this 'game' that the parents didn't even know their children were playing.  It is no surprise therefore that Ella and her Mum run away one night, leaving Jacob with his abusive, alcoholic father.

Jacob never recovered from the loss of his sister; it was like losing half of his heart and it felt as if his life was pointless without Ella.  Jacob is sleep deprived and often attacked by his father whose mind is gradually fading to dementia, so Jacob easily conjures the presence of his missing sister but one day she really does appear before him.  The joy when Ella returned was immense but I was worried what secrets she would reveal and how she would cope with their father not knowing who she was.  At least one constant remains for Ella: strange Mrs Armitage still lives in the house overlooking the sea.  The same North Sea that Ella was so frightened of as a child, as the cliffs crumbled and threatened to take theirs and Mrs Armitage's house to a watery grave.

I felt as if the whole essence of the North Sea is written into this book: it's cold, dark, dangerous and cruel, yet beautiful in its tempestuousness.  The depth of the characters is outstanding as layer upon layer is peeled away to reveal surprisingly flawed, raw people.  I loved the character of Mrs Armitage - she is so mysterious and although she doesn't like people, she really took a shine to young Ella.  Mrs Armitage tells it like it is; she was trying to help young Ella overcome her fear of the sea by telling her that her house would crash into the sea before theirs but it must have given Ella nightmares.  For me, Mrs Armitage stole the show and I wouldn't have had it any other way; every time I look out over the North Sea I shall be reminded of this fearless, strong, independent woman.

Underwater Breathing is another exceptional, hauntingly beautiful book by Cassandra Parkin, who is fast becoming a firm favourite author of mine.  A highly recommended read.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

About the author:

Cassandra Parkin grew up in Hull, and now lives in East Yorkshire. Her short story collection, New World Fairy Tales (Salt Publishing, 2011) won the Scott Prize for Short Stories. Cassandra's writing has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies. 

Follow Cassandra on Twitter @ cassandrajaneuk

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Sunday 20 May 2018

BLOG TOUR: Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling - Emer McLysaght & Sarah Breen

Twenty-something Aisling - that's pronounced Ashling - is the sensible sort.
She wears kitten heels for the sake of her arches.
And a great night out is knowing the immersion heater at home is securely switched off.
In other words, country girl Aisling likes to play it safe in the big city.
But that hasn't helped get her man John to hurry up and pop the question.
Throwing caution to the wind an impatient Aisling tries to encourage him, only for her whole life to come crashing down.
Now no umbrella, electric blanket, nor sensibly sized heel can save her.
What's a complete Aisling to do?

What did I think?

Beware: you will laugh out loud whilst reading Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling.  I tittered, chortled and guffawed all of the way through it but there are some serious notes which makes it scarily true to life.  So (to quote Monty Python) even though this book makes you look on the bright side of life, it reminds us that sometimes life is a piece of shit, when you look at it...

Aisling is the friend we all wish we had; she's the sensible one when we go out and always makes sure that we get back home safely and she's the one to go to for money saving tips and best deals.  You might think everything is rosy for Aisling: she is in a long term relationship with her boyfriend, John, but even Aisling is starting to wonder when one of the weddings she goes to will be her own.  John seems happy to coast along but Aisling wouldn't be Aisling if she didn't question John's intentions, only for it to backfire and she finds herself single again after 7 years.  The dating game is a minefield for any normal person, imagine what it's like for a complete Aisling!

This book is written with such a huge amount of warm, Irish wit that it is so easy to immerse yourself in Aisling's life and you quickly feel like you have become one of the family.  I loved visiting Mammy and Daddy and almost choked with laughter when Mammy got her words wrong - I'll never be able to look at a butternut squash again without tears of laughter running down my face.

I think we have a little bit of Aisling in all of us so it's really easy to identify with her.  I found myself getting quite emotional in some of the lifelike, sobering scenes but it wasn't long before I found myself laughing again.  Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen need to bottle Aisling and prescribe her in place of anti-depressants; I can't imagine anyone reading it without a smile on their face.

Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling is an enchanting and vibrant laugh out loud book and I hope that there are many more Aisling novels to follow.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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Saturday 19 May 2018

BLOG TOUR: My Husband's Lies - Caroline England

Do you really know your friends?

On the afternoon of Nick and Lisa’s wedding, their close friend is found poised on a hotel window ledge, ready to jump.

As the shock hits their friendship group, they soon realise that none of them are being as honest with themselves – or with each other – as they think.

And there are secrets lurking that could destroy everything.

Tense, disturbing and clever, My Husband’s Lies is a breath-taking read, perfect for fans of Lucy Clarke and Erin Kelly.

What did I think?

Wow!  This book is SO good.  It's my first Caroline England book but I did buy a copy of her debut, Beneath the Skin, a little while ago; I just haven't had the chance to read it yet.  I will be remedying that shortly if My Husband's Lies is anything to go by.  One thing I would say before reading it is to write down the names of the characters as the four couples are introduced in quick succession so it would be easy to forget who was who.

There is a 'blip' on Nick and Lisa's wedding day in the form of one of their guests balanced precariously on a window ledge.  I felt like I was in a cartoon as my eyes popped out of my head - what a cracking start.  As we find out more about this group of friends, we can perhaps make sense of the window ledge scene but there is more to this story than first meets the eye.

Dan, Will, Nick and Jen are friends from school who have stuck together through the years as part of the renowned A Team.  Boy, do they have some secrets between them and we get to examine their lives through a microscope thanks to the fantastic story created by Caroline England.  Jen was always the honorary boy of the group but as they grew up and each of the boys fell in love with her, one of them captured her heart.  That's all over now that Jen is happily married, isn't it?  Dan is about to become a father but he feels an attraction that he can't resist and it isn't his partner, Geri, who is causing his heart to race.  After a throw away comment at his wedding, Nick uncovers a family secret that could become an obsession and destroy his marriage to Lisa before it even begins.  Will, in my opinion, is the linchpin of the group but a job offer could see him jetting off to the Caribbean and fracturing the A-Team as we know and love it...or is there a threat to the group from another source?  This is the point where you would hear the dramatic drum beats of the Eastenders theme tune.

My Husband's Lies is a soap opera in a book.  At first I thought it was like Friends but then it became apparent that so much drama likened it to Cold Feet with the almost 'who shot JR' tension of Dallas.  I was surprisingly emotional towards the end as I had come to think of the group as my own friends and I was quite tearful at the thought of the group being split by the Atlantic Ocean.  Then BOOM! Caroline England played her ace and I gasped out loud and sat open mouthed as I read the final scenes.  If this had been a play, I would have stood and applauded whilst exclaiming 'bravo'!

Dark, gripping and utterly, utterly compelling you will struggle to tear your eyes away from the pages of My Husband's Lies.  With a few husbands to choose from, which one is lying?  Or is it all of them?  An absolutely brilliant book; I was captivated from first page to last.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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Friday 18 May 2018

BLOG TOUR: A Family Recipe - Veronica Henry

I adore Veronica Henry books; they are filled with family drama but ultimately envelop the reader in such a huge hug that I always find a smile on my face at the end.  I was thrilled to get a spot on the blog tour for A Family Recipe and I am delighted to share an extract along with my review to bring the tour to a close.  Do make sure you visit the other blogs on this delicious tour.

Click here to read an extract from Chapter 2 where Laura is preparing to send her youngest daughter, Willow, off to university in York.  Then come back and read my review below.

What's the secret ingredient to your happiness?

Laura Griffin is preparing for an empty nest. The thought of Number 11 Lark Hill falling silent - a home usually bustling with noise, people and the fragrant smells of something cooking on the Aga - seems impossible. Laura hopes it will mean more time for herself, and more time with her husband, Dom.

But when an exposed secret shakes their marriage, Laura suddenly feels as though her family is shrinking around her. Feeling lost, she turns to her greatest comfort: her grandmother's recipe box, a treasured collection dating back to the Second World War. Everyone has always adored Laura's jams and chutneys, piled their sandwiches high with her pickles . . . Inspired by a bit of the old Blitz spirit, Laura has an idea that gives her a fresh sense of purpose.

Full of fierce determination, Laura starts carving her own path. But even the bravest woman needs the people who love her. And now, they need her in return . . .

What did I think?

I think this is the best Veronica Henry book I have read to date.  With a dual timeline of 2017 and 1942, it's like two books in one and as I discovered the history behind 11 Lark Hill, my heart was warmed by the heat from the Aga, sitting in pride of place in the busy kitchen.

Laura has always been overprotective of her youngest daughter as Willow suffers from chronic asthma.  The thought of Willow going off to university in York is absolutely terrifying for Laura as she won't be able to keep such a close eye on her anymore.  When Laura and her husband, Dom, are driving back from dropping Willow off in York, Laura discovers a secret that Dom has been keeping from her.  Not only is her marriage under threat but also the home that has been in her family for generations.

Number 11 Lark Hill was a very different place in 1942 as the bombs fell on Bath and everyone had to keep up a stiff upper lip.  Jilly fell in love the night the bombs fell but, with Harry off to fly in the airforce and suddenly finding herself alone in her home, the future isn't quite what she dreamed of as she takes in a family whose home was destroyed in the blitz.  With the help of her exuberant friend, Ivy, Jilly is the perfect embodiment of wartime spirit, especially when the household is set to get a new addition.

I can't even begin to tell you how much I loved A Family Recipe.  The female characters are so strong that you can't help but admire them and the whole family unit brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.  The friendship between Jilly and Ivy is so heartwarming as they have been inseparable for decades.  Despite it being 2017, I felt Laura showed her wartime spirit as she kept calm and carried on.  Family is so important to both main characters as we discover the tears and laughter both in their past and present.

Filled with family drama across several decades, A Family Recipe is so deliciously moreish that I could have quite easily devoured it in one day, but instead I savoured every single exquisite page that I read.  A Family Recipe is a mouth-watering feast for the eyes and there's even a yummy recipe for apple and date chutney that I just have to try for myself.  A highly recommended read from the delectable pen of Veronica Henry.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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Tuesday 15 May 2018

BLOG TOUR: Bluethroat Morning - Jacqui Lofthouse

Alison Bliss, celebrity model and critically acclaimed writer, walks into the sea one ‘bluethroat morning’. In death she becomes a greater icon than in life, and the Norfolk village where she lived is soon a place of pilgrimage. Six years later her husband Harry, a schoolteacher, is still haunted by her suicide and faithful to her memory. Until he meets Helen and they fall in love.

Harry and Helen’s relationship initiates a return to the scene of Alison’s death where they meet ninety-eight year old Ern Higham, and a tale is revealed that has been generations in the making. As Harry pieces together a tragic history and finally confronts his own pain, he discovers that to truly move forward, first he must understand the past ...

What did I think?

Blackbird Books don't publish a lot of books, compared to other publishers, but when they do it's sure to be a good one.  Quality is the word that springs to mind when I open a book published by Blackbird Books and Bluethroat Morning by Jacqui Lofthouse is of such an outstanding quality that I feel the need to shout it from the rooftops.

Harry Bliss has to deal with the awful after-effects of his wife's suicide.  A successful model then author, Alison Bliss walked into the sea at the height of her writing career leaving a burnt manuscript behind.  All fingers pointed at Harry for burning Alison's next novel but he professes his innocence.  Even after six years have passed since her death, Alison Bliss still intrigues young and old alike.

An old family photograph of Harry's was the inspiration for Alison's lost novel and the woman in the photograph bears an uncanny resemblance to Harry's friend's nineteen year old daughter, Helen.   Harry is drawn to Helen, albeit he doesn't resist very much, and the pair pick up Alison's trail which led to her death.  What secrets did Alison uncover when she stayed at Hope Cottage in Glaven?

There is so much to talk about in Bluethroat Morning; among other things there are Bliss family secrets, Alison's personal insecurities and Harry's mid-life crisis.  Although heartbreaking to read, it was quite eye-opening to read how insecure beautiful, successful Alison Oakley/Bliss was.  Beauty doesn't necessarily equal happiness and I so wish that impressionable young women read Bluethroat Morning to understand that.

I loved the almost treasure hunt style of unearthing family secrets.  Charles Bliss and his new bride, Arabella, along with Charles' son, George, are in the old photograph that intrigued Alison so much.  George is Harry's grandfather who died before he was born.  The mystery surrounds Arabella though, as she also mysteriously committed suicide in Glaven.

On to Harry's mid-life crisis.  As inappropriate as his relationship with Helen was, you can't help who you fall in love with.  The question is whether it was love at all; he used the word to keep Helen from running back to her parents but he knew exactly what he was doing and na├»ve Helen believed him.  Don't get me wrong, Helen wasn't as innocent as I perhaps make her sound but I certainly think that Harry manipulated her for his own ends.

One final thing I have to mention is Alison's reminiscence about a holiday in my native North East of England.  Although I'm a Jarrovian, I was born in South Shields and spent many a Sunday exploring Marsden Rock (before the collapse of the arch).  Jacqui Lofthouse's description of these beautiful limestone sea-stacks is absolutely sublime and I was effortlessly transported to Marsden beach through her stunning descriptions.

Bluethroat Morning is an impeccable piece of fiction that has the feel of a literary classic and I got the impression that Jacqui Lofthouse has carefully chosen each and every single word.  It's a book that will fit across many genres and definitely one I would recommend for discussion at book clubs.

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

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