#TheGoodGirlsGuidetoRakes #EvaLeigh @MillsandBoon #MillsandBoonInsiders #HistoricalRomance #BookReview

Thank you to the publisher for the gifted copy and the chance to read something a little different. Keep scrolling for some bookish chat about ‘A Good Girl’s Guide to Rakes’.

A society darling
A rake never far from scandal
A deal that will change everything…

‘Pure romantic delight’ TESSA DARE

Blurb

When Kieran Ransome’s latest antics result in scandal, his father issues an ultimatum: find a respectable wife or inherit nothing. But as one of London’s most notorious scoundrels, Kieran doesn’t know any ladies who fit the bill…or does he?

Celeste Kilburn is a society darling, beloved by influential members of the ton. But keeping a spotless reputation leaves little room for adventure and she longs to escape her gilded cage. When Kieran, her brother’s best friend, begs for her help Celeste makes a deal: she will introduce him to the right social circles if he’ll show her the scandalous side of London!

Amongst ‘proper’ garden parties and, equally enthralling, wild fêtes and sensual art salons an initial attraction builds to a more tempting desire. But when their midnight exploits are discovered, Celeste’s freedom and reputation are at risk and Kieran must save the woman he loves…respectable or not.

My thoughts…

Firstly, the title didn’t seem to match up with my expectations of the story. The good girl, was actually far from a good girl – she was a feisty, highly sexed, independent woman, thinking far ahead of her time. Being matched with a typical wild rake turned this book into a very hot adventure – for me a little too much! Eva Leigh doesn’t hold back with her erotic language and descriptions of secret liaisons – and this became the dominant plot for a large proportion of the novel.

Celeste and Kieran are well matched in their thirst for adventure and pleasure; the reader is taken on a journey into the hedonistic secret worlds behind the stiff formalities of the upper classes and what begins as a thrilling adventure soon changes into something more serious and dangerous.

Readers who enjoy an historical romance that doesn’t hold back, then do try ‘The Good Girl’s Guide to Rakes’ by Eva Leigh.

#BlogTour for ‘The Physician’s Daughter’ by @marthamconway @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n

I’m delighted to be a part of the Blog Tour for ‘The Physician’s Daughter’ by Martha Conway. What an eye-catching cover design, evoking the time period of the novel and the central relationship inside. My thanks to Zaffre for the gifted review copy and to Tracy for the tour invite. Do keep scrolling for some bookish chat.

In a world made for men, can one woman break free from tradition and walk a new path?

The Blurb

It is 1865, the American Civil War has just ended, and 18-year old Vita Tenney is determined to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a country doctor like her father. But when her father tells her she must get married instead, Vita explores every means of escape – and finds one in the person of war veteran Jacob Culhane. Damaged by what he’s seen in battle and with all his family gone, Jacob is seeking investors for a fledgling business. Then he meets Vita – and together they hatch a plan that should satisfy both their desires. Months later, Vita seemingly has everything she ever wanted. But alone in a big city and haunted by the mistakes of her past, she wonders if the life she always thought she wanted was too good to be true. When love starts to compete with ambition, what will come out on top?

From the author of The Floating Theatre, The Physician’s Daughter is the story of two people trying to make their way in a world that is struggling to escape its past.

My thoughts…

Each chapter of ‘The Physician’s Daughter’ is headed with a quotation which highlights the irony and ridiculousness of male thinking during the 19th Century, for example, the opening chapter begins with:

‘Hysteria is often excited in women by indigestion’ (On Diseases Peculiar to Women)

Dr Hugh Lenox, 1860

I looked forward to these chapter quotations and found them, quite frankly, gob smacking! From findings that ‘flat-chested females were unable to produce a well-developed infant’, to ‘the majority of women (happily for them) are not much troubled by sexual feeling of any kind’ Dr William Acton, 1888. Certainly, highlighting the view of the patriarchy and the medical profession of the period. Conway sets the scene nicely and introduces our protagonist Vita Tenney who is determined for the world to change as she seeks a position as a trainee doctor. The novel is set at the end of the American Civil War and the aftereffect of war is a consistent theme running through the story; this is also told through the perspective of Jacob Culhane, a previous soldier and prisoner of war. Vita’s father completely rejects the idea of his daughter becoming a doctor and following in his footsteps; the complex nature of grief is explored through her father and despite his harshness, there was a real sense of sadness at how loss affected him and by default the entire family. He states that Vita must marry instead, however Vita has other plans she’s determined to follow.

Vita and Jacob’s lives converge as they both attempt to control their futures despite hardships and adversary. I liked both characters, although at times Vita needed to open her eyes a little where Jacob was concerned; I did feel he forgave far too readily for her ‘betrayal’. I really felt for Jacob as he battled his ‘shakes’ from the war in a time where post-traumatic stress was not understood or treated well.

The story splits for a time and follows Vita and Jacob’s separate journeys until they find each other again; I thought the pace and engagement really picked up at this stage and I found it hard to put the book down.

With themes of grief, trauma, love, war, and the quest to follow your heart despite the odds, this book comes highly recommended from me. For readers seeking an engaging historical relationship drama with heart, then do pick up Conway’s ‘The Physician’s Daughter’.

THE BLOG TOUR

The Author

Martha Conway has been nominated for an Edgar Award and won the North American Book Award for Best Historical Fiction. She teaches creative writing for Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, she is one of seven sisters. She now lives in San Francisco with her family.

Delighted to be on the #BlogTour for #babyitscoldoutside by Emily Bell and published by @michaeljbooks

‘The perfect festive treat’

THE BLURB

FATE PULLED THEM APART BUT NOT BEFORE THEY MADE A PROMISE.

TEN CHRISTMASES LATER, WILL THEIR WISH COME TRUE? . . .

As Norah battles through the bustling December crowds, she hears the notes of a song that transports her back to the most romantic week of her life.

After meeting on a blissful holiday, but knowing they had to part, a boy named Andrew made her a promise:

If they are both single on Christmas Eve in ten years’ time, they will meet under the clock on Grafton Street, Dublin.

Norah has no idea if he will remember, but she has nothing to lose.

So, hoping for a Christmas miracle, she heads to Dublin. To that clock. And, maybe, to Andrew.

But it wouldn’t be Christmas without a few surprises . . .

Baby It's Cold Outside Kindle lifestyle image
Two hearts. Ten years. Once last chance for love…

MY THOUGHTS

Ah, what a charming Winter read for all those romantics out there. ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ is a heartwarming little book that comforts and entertains delightfully; a perfect light-hearted seasonal read. It’s a story of timings, Fate, friendships, family relationships and music.

The book jumps about from place to place as our characters live and grow, from Italy to Dublin, America and London. I enjoyed following the character of Noah, who stood out for me. I loved how the story was transported to the reader via music and the memories unraveled the past relationship for the reader.

It’s a book that utilises the romance and seasonal pleasures of Christmas time and I really have a yearning to visit Dublin now and experience the hustle, bustle and sounds of the streets, music and communities.

I would recommend this book for readers looking for a romantic, light Christmas read.

Baby It's Cold Outside: The heartwarming and uplifting love story you need this Christmas by [Emily Bell]

#BlogTour #Extract #DarkThingsIAdore by @KatieLattari and published by @TitanBooks with thanks to @Sarah_Mather_15 for the tour invite #readers #newbook

A debut thriller for fans of Lucy Foley and Liz Moore, Dark Things I Adore is a stunning Gone Girl-esque tale of atonement that proves that in the grasp of manipulative men, women may momentarily fall. But in the hands of fierce women, men will be brought to their knees.

THE BLURB

Three campfire secrets. Two witnesses. One dead in the trees. And the woman, thirty years later, bent on making the guilty finally pay.

1988. A group of outcasts gather at a small, prestigious arts camp nestled in the Maine woods. They’re the painters: bright, hopeful, teeming with potential. But secrets and dark ambitions rise like smoke from a campfire, and the truths they tell will come back to haunt them in ways more deadly than they dreamed.

2018. Esteemed art professor Max Durant arrives at his protégé’s remote home to view her graduate thesis collection. He knows Audra is beautiful and brilliant. He knows being invited into her private world is a rare gift. But he doesn’t know that Audra has engineered every aspect of their weekend together. Every detail, every conversation. Audra has woven the perfect web.

Only Audra knows what happened that summer in 1988. Max’s secret, and the dark things that followed. And even though it won’t be easy, Audra knows someone must pay.

A searing psychological thriller of trauma, dark academia, complicity, and revenge, Dark Things I Adore unravels the realities behind campfire legends―the horrors that happen in the dark, the girls who become cautionary tales, and the guilty who go unpunished. Until now.

THE EXTRACT

Max

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2018

Audra’s voice floats to me like the scent of roses across a dark, abandoned garden; first sensed, then followed. “We’re stopping just up here.” It takes me a moment to come to the words, to apprehend their meaning. I’ve been very far away, fallen into the deep crevasses of my own thoughts and memories and preoccupations, clouded things, and now she is throwing a bright, silken rope down, beckoning me to climb back up to her out of the murk.

     I blink a few times out at the blur of scenery going by my window—it is so terribly vibrant. We are moving so very fast. The farther into Maine we’ve gotten, the tenser my muscles have become. I feel their gentle protests as I come back to myself in the passenger seat of her little Volvo wagon; she’s driving us onward and onward, farther north, further wild.

     “Ground control to Major Tom—are you there, Major Tom?” Her voice is supple: deep as a river bend, scratchy as an alto sax, able to convey everything or nothing at all depending on her mood.

“Yes, reporting for duty. And stopping for a moment sounds good,” I say, adjusting myself in my seat.

“You can even stay in the car,” she says quickly, as if not wanting to inconvenience me. “I really just have to use the bathroom.”

“No problem. Might get out to stretch.” I rub my hands on the thighs of my jeans and yawn, looking back out the window.

Towering balsams, firs, and pines in varying depths of green all shimmy like ‘20s flappers in the stiff breeze, birches wrapped like mummies in what looks to be peeling papyrus lean this way and that, grand oaks, maples, and chestnuts muscle in on one another, flared in their autumn robes; a motley conflagration under the dazzling mid-October sun. We are in the middle of a beautiful nowhere, digging into sprawling hinterlands, into territories of wild earth.

     The rolling, winding roads away from Bangor took us through towns with names like Charleston, Dover-Foxcroft, Monson, and Shirley, all with their own quaint, beautifully cinematic set dressing. It was like each was curated from grange hall flea markets and movie sets rife with small-town Americana. Stoic stone war memorials. American flags. Whitewashed, chipping town hall buildings from other centuries. Church bell towers in the actual process of tolling, gonging, calling. To me, the sound was ominous in a remote sort of way, unnameable.

     I glance over at Audra again, consider her, and wonder if my other students have found out about this little trip. They’ll be upset to hear I’ve undertaken this effort to work with and see Audra. They know I would never do the same for them. The admirers and the sycophants hate Audra. They deride her, mock her, belittle her and her work behind her back. But they’re mediocre, deluded self consolers. She is better than them in almost every way. And they know it.

     But I understand her. Because I am her. Or was. Twentyplus years ago, just starting out, full of ideas and energy and hunger and pure, unbridled talent. Dedicated to the work. I can cultivate her. I can make her greater than she ever could have been on her own. None of the others afford me that; not a one.

     When Audra first proposed this one-on-one visit, I’d been pleasantly surprised, even a little triumphant. But things couldn’t help but flicker back into memory like sunlight breaking through clouds. Images. Emotions. Colors: cadmium yellow, alizarin crimson, prism violet, cerulean blue. Just snippets, catches of history. I’d lived in Maine for two years, as a matter of fact—but as a much younger man. Barely more than a boy. It was decades ago; many bottles of wine and lovers and lines of cocaine and gallery showings and awards and lectures and semesters ago. So much has happened. So much has grown in the space between me and that capricious boy so far down the tunnel of time that he feels almost entirely obscured from me, insignificant to the man and artist I’ve become. I didn’t tell Audra any of that because my experience here all those years ago holds realities she might consider a little ugly. I didn’t want to ruin our fun. I didn’t want to ruin the potential such a trip might hold for us. I still don’t. So I’m treating this adventure like a clean slate, made just for me and her.

     “It’s another mile or two until we stop,” Audra tells me as her eyes track a big pickup roaring by. We pass the mouth of a private dirt driveway. Posted: NO TRESPASSING NO HUNTING, a sign at its edge says. The dirt drive cuts a winding path up a steep embankment, through trees and gone, a scar in the hillside. Halfway up the densely forested slope, I see whorls of gray smoke lifting into the crystalline sapphire sky. I gaze over at Audra again, thinking of the desolation, the beauty, the shocking potential of pure color.

     “I can see you here,” I tell her, nodding. “I see you in this place.”

     “You do?”

     “Yes. I thought you were mad to not go abroad to complete your thesis. Absolutely mad. Every young artist—every good artist—needs difference. It pushes you forward, opens up the imagination to go out there and see the world!” She smiles faintly, sagely as she listens to me, to the bite-size version of this speech of mine she’s heard many times before.

     “I know what my paintings need. They don’t need Istanbul. They need”—she takes a deep breath and then gestures around us, breathing out a sigh of pleasure—“this. And all of the money from those departmental awards will keep me comfortable right here.”

“Seeing it now, like this, my guess is you’re right. It suits you. It suits your work.”

“And wait until you see what I’ve been up to since my last update. Any doubts will be cleared away.” There is a devilish little twinkle in her eye. Reminds me of myself right before unveiling a masterwork to a hungry audience. The anticipation. The excitement.

“You sound confident.”

“I am confident,” she replies, sure as granite, light as a summer breeze. As ever, I think, not without some prickliness. But the sudden, joyful flash of her teeth and the uptick of her lips into a smile, the way her hair flares in the sun plunges me into wild, raw infatuation, that just-born kind of infatuation you feel at the beginning of every one of your own very best love stories. The sensation is of a rose reblooming, an egg re-cracking, a sweet, delicious pressure released. It has been this way with me since I met her. This inability to look away from her and what she creates. Even her sheer, bald confidence—I admit I’m the same way. Unwavering about my art. But where I am hotheaded, Audra is all coolness, steady and withholding.

The coolness, the distancing ends this weekend, I’m sure. Why else invite me all the way the hell up here?

Please buy from independents if you can XX

Delighted to be a part of the #BlogTour for #TheWolfintheWoods by Dan Brotzel and published by @sandstonepress with thanks to @nikitorch and @cerisanne

Thank you to Sandstone Press for the blog tour invite for ‘The Wolf in the Woods’; this is my first read by Dan Brotzel and the superb cover design sealed the deal. For more information about the tour and author, please do keep scrolling.

“Oh God. Here you go again, hanging over me, invading my sleep with your morning breath. As my eyes flicker open, you hang over me for a long moment, nuzzling my neck and furtively assessing my reaction. I feel your arms tremble. When you get no response, you slide off with a disgusted grunt. Even though I’m half asleep, I sense the guilt seeking rays emanating from your half-turned back. I roll over and away.”

The Wolf in the Woods

THE BLURB

Colleen and Andrew haven’t had sex in eleven weeks and three days [not that anyone’s counting]. Their marriage is in crisis, they’re drinking too much and both have secrets they’re afraid to share.
A teetotal week in a remote cottage could solve all their problems. But with the promised beach nowhere in sight, a broken-down car and a sinister landlord, they may not find it so easy to rekindle their romance. In this dark and funny novel, tensions build and tempers fray.

“This fellow is wise enough to play the fool”
William Shakespeare
Twelfth Night

“But you just can’t let me be, can you? The pointed buzzing of an electric toothbrush, the pedantic click of a wardrobe door, a coat-hanger’s righteous jangle – your busy-busy faffing is just enough to break my spell. I am conscious, and there’s no escaping it. No escaping you.

Today I think. Let it be today that I find a way.

‘Come on!” you say. ‘We should have left by now!’

And I think: Next week.

The Wolf in the Woods

MY THOUGHTS

The story opens in the middle of a relationship, the mindset of both husband and wife being pealed back for the reader via their own narratives. The separate bedrooms, the routines, the secrets, desires and the predictabilities. There are several tonal shifts as the reader begins to build a picture of who Colleen and Andrew are, whilst being set off-kilter by the man ‘sat at the window’ reminiscent of ‘Mr Punch’ or ‘those creepy horror-film clowns’. There’s the shop assistant who avoids conversation about ‘Red Barn Cottage’ and the person who’s ‘still at it then’. The reader becomes aware that maybe there’s more to this book than a narrative of a marriage at odds.

What follows is certainly a story of a long term relationship, but Brotzel adds suspense using the fairytale in the woods setting and the irony of the welcome pack from the cottage owners saying ‘we’re watching out for you’ and ‘Just knock on the big red door!’ It’s not long until we meet Wolf, who pops by with advice and seems to know a few details about the couple that he shouldn’t; then we meet Mrs Wolf, or Hildy and it’s even more uncomfortable with her inappropriate references to the young children and the glimpse of her ‘flogging her spouse’ with a ‘leather strap’.

There’s some great hooks throughout, particularly why Andrew failed Colleen ‘when it mattered most’, the backdrop of reading books about serial killers, Nazi references, dangers, alcoholism and desires.

This is an unusual and creative book about problems within a marriage set upon a backdrop of perceived menace; I enjoyed its outlandish style and the dark humour.

THE BLOG TOUR

THE AUTHOR

Dan Brotzel’s short stories have won awards and been published widely, with Hotel Du Jack, his first full-length collection, published in 2019. He is also co-author of a comic novel-in-emails about an eccentric writers’ group, Work in Progress (Unbound). The Wolf in the Woods is his debut novel.
Dan lives in London with his partner Eve and their three children.

Super delighted to be chatting about #Mimic #BlogTour @orionbooks

It’s great to be a part of the blog tour for book MIMIC by Daniel Cole with thanks to Ellen at Orion Books for the invite. Cole’s latest is a standalone thriller read, unlike his previous (highly recommended) trilogy – the Ragdoll Books.

The Blurb

1989
DS Benjamin Chambers and DC Adam Winter are on the trail of a twisted serial killer with a passion for recreating the world’s greatest works of art through the bodies of his victims. But after Chambers almost loses his life, the case goes cold – their killer lying dormant, his collection unfinished.

1996
Jordan Marshall has excelled within the Metropolitan Police Service, fuelled by a loss that defined her teenage years. Obsessed, she manages to obtain new evidence, convincing both Chambers and Winter to revisit the case. However, their resurrected investigation brings about a fresh reign of terror, the team treading a fine line between police officers and vigilantes in their pursuit of a monster far more dangerous and intelligent than any of them had anticipated…

My Thoughts

I loved the RAGDOLL series, each book was contrasting in style and I really engaged with this variation and creativity. Daniel Coles books are always fun to read, despite taking you into dark places, minds and events. The thrillers are carefully plotted with both dramatic and creative deaths and crimes – so be warned, this isn’t for the faint of heart.

There’s a great and slightly unusual character driven team working on the central investigation: DS Ben Chambers, PC Adam Winters and the modern newbie DC Jordan Marshall. The crime investigation initially begins in 1989 shifting to the reopening in 2006 and I enjoyed the changes of both the investigation, the development and changes of the 1989 investigators.

A part of Cole’s books that add to their charm, even though it’s rather macabre at times, is the humour, which I’ve also really enjoyed in previous Cole books – so please expect a chuckle along the way, if dark humour works for you?

With the theme of art, specifically Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’ sculpture opening this crime mystery, Cole has created an intelligent cold case crime at the heart of this thriller. The reader follows the team as they hunt the perpetrator of the sick crimes that haunt them, to find closure on the case and to seek justice.

A gruesome crime thriller based on recreating famous works of art in the most macabre way.

An intelligent, absorbing and addictive read.

The Author – Daniel Cole

Born in 1983, Daniel Cole has worked as a paramedic, an RSPCA officer and most recently for the RNLI, driven by an intrinsic need to save people or perhaps just a guilty conscience about the number of characters he kills off in his writing. He currently lives in sunny Bournemouth and can usually be found down the beach when he ought to be writing. Daniel’s debut novel Ragdoll was a Sunday Times bestseller and has been published in over thirty-five countries.

Please buy from independents if you can XX

I’m delighted to share an extract from #GoodNeighbours by @SarahVLangan1 #BlogTour @TitanBooks with thanks to @Sarah_Mather_15 for the tour invite.

It’s lovely to be sharing an extract from GOOD NEIGHBOURS by Sarah Langan to celebrate its July publication. Please do scroll down to find out more about this brilliant new release…

THE BLURB

Named as Goodreads One of the Most Anticipated Mysteries and Thrillers of 2021
Welcome to Maple Street, a picture-perfect slice of suburban Long Island, its residents bound by their children, their work, and their illusion of safety in a rapidly changing world.
But when the Wilde family moves in, they trigger their neighbours’ worst fears. Arlo and Gertie and their weird kids don’t fit with the way Maple Street sees itself.
As tensions mount, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and neighbourhood Queen Bee Rhea’s daughter Shelly falls inside. The search for Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes. Suddenly, it is one mother’s word against the other’s in a court of public opinion that can end only in blood.

A RIVERTING AND RUTHLESS PORTRAYAL OF SUBURBIA, GOOD NEIGHBOURS EXCAVATES THE PERILS AND BETRAYALS OF MOTHERHOOD AND FRIENDSHIPS AND THE DANGEROUS CLASH BETWEEN SOCIAL HIERARCHY, CHILDHOOD TRAUMA, AND FEAR.

Published July 2021

AN EXTRACT

When her oldest left for Cornell University last year, she’d taken it hard. She’d been happy for Gretchen, but her brilliant future had made Rhea’s seem that much more dim. What was left, once all the kids were gone away, and she was left with a thirty-year-old dissertation and Fritz Sr., Captain Earwax Extraordinaire? She’d wanted to break her life, just to escape it. Drive her car into the Atlantic Ocean. Take a dump on her boss’s desk. Straddle her clueless husband, who’d never once taken her dancing, and shout: Who cleans their ears with a washcloth? It’s disgusting! She’d wanted to fashion a slingshot and make a target range of Maple Street, just to set herself free of these small, stupid people and their small, stupid worlds.

     It would have happened. She’d been close to breaking, to losing everything. But just like when Fritz moved into her apartment complex: fate intervened. The Wildes moved next door. Rhea couldn’t explain what happened the day she first saw Gertie, except that it was magic. Another outsider. A beautiful misfit. Gertie’d been so impressed by Rhea. You’re so smart and warm, she’d said the first day they’d met. You’re such a success. Rhea’d known then, that if there was anyone on Maple Street to whom she could reveal her true feelings, it was this na f. One way or another, Gertie Wilde would be her salvation.

     Rhea had courted Gertie with dinner invitations, park barbeques, and introductions to neighbors. Made their children play together, so that the Rat Pack accepted the new kids on the block. It wasn’t easy to turn local sentiment in Gertie’s favor. The woman’s house wasn’t ever clean or neat. A pinworm outbreak coincided with their arrival, which couldn’t have been a coincidence. The whole block was itching for weeks.

     Worse, her foulmouthed kids ran wild. Larry was a hypersensitive nutbar who carried a doll and walked in circles. Then there was Julia. When they first moved in, she stole a pack of Parliaments from her dad and showed the rest of the kids how to smoke. When her parents caught her, they made her go with them door to door, explaining what had happened to all the Rat Pack parents. Rhea had felt sorry for crying, confused Julia. Why make a kid go through all that? A simple e-mail authored by Gertie stating the facts of the event would have sufficed—if that!

     It’s never a good idea to admit guilt in the suburbs. It’s too concrete. You say the words I’m sorry, and people hold on to it and don’t let go. It’s far better to pave over with vagaries. Obfuscate guilt wherever it exists.

     The sight of all the Wildes in their doorways had added more melodrama than necessary. The neighbors, feeling the social pressure to react, to prove their fitness as parents, matched that melodrama. Dumb Linda took her twins to the doctor to check for lung damage. The Hestias wondered if they should report the Wildes to Child Protective Services. The Walshes enrolled Charlie in a health course called Our Bodies: Our Responsibility. Cat Hestia had stood in that doorway and cried, explaining that she wasn’t mad at Julia, just disappointed. Because she’d hoped this day would never come. Toxic cigarettes! They have arsenic!

     None of them seemed to understand that this had nothing to do with smoking. Julia had stolen those cigarettes to win the Rat Pack over. A bid toward friendship. She’d misjudged her audience. This wasn’t deep Brooklyn. Cool for these kids meant gifted programs and Suzuki lessons. The only people who smoked Parliaments anymore were ex-cons, hookers, and apparently, the new neighbors in 116. What she’d misapprehended, and what the Wilde parents had also missed, was that it wasn’t the health hazards that bothered the people of Maple Street. If that were the case, they wouldn’t be Slip ’N Sliding right now. It was the fact that smoking is so totally low class.

     Despite all that, Rhea had stuck by Gertie Wilde until, one by one, the rest of Maple Street capitulated. It was nice, doing something for someone else, especially someone as beautiful as Gertie. There’s a kind of reflective glow, when you have a friend like that. When you stand close, you can see yourself in their perfect eyes.

     At least once a month, they’d drunk wine on Rhea’s enclosed porch, cracking jokes about poop, the wacky stuff kids say!, and helpless husbands whose moods turn crabby unless they get their weekly blowies. This latter part, Rhea just pretended. She accepted Fritz’s infrequent appeals for missionary-style sex, but even in their dating days, their mouths had rarely played a part, not even to kiss.

     Rhea’s attentions were rewarded. Eventually, Gertie let down her guard. Tears in her eyes, voice low, she’d confessed the thing that haunted her most: The first, I was just thirteen. He ran the pageant and my stepmom said I had to, so I could win rent money. He told me he loved me after, but I knew it wasn’t true. After that, I never said no. I kept thinking every time was a new chance to make the first time right. I’d turn it around and make one of them love me. Be nice to me and take care of me. So I wouldn’t have to live with my stepmom. But that never happened. Not until Arlo. I’m so grateful to him.

     When she finished her confession, Gertie’d visibly deflated, her burden lightened. Rhea had understood then why people need friends. They need to be seen and known, and accepted nonetheless. Oh, how she’d craved that unburdening. How she’d feared it, too.

     They built so much trust between them that one night, amidst the distant catcalls of children gone savage, Rhea took a sloppy risk, and told her own truth: Fritz boom-booms me. It hurts and I’ve never once liked it … Do you like it? I never expected this to be my life. Did you expect this, Gertie? Do you like it? I can tell that you don’t. I wanted to be your friend from the second I saw you. I’m not beautiful like you, but I’m special on the inside. I know about black holes. I can tell you want to run away. I do, too. We can give each other courage … Shelly can’t keep her hair neat. It goads me. I’d like to talk about it with you, because I know you like Shelly. I know you like me. I know you won’t judge. Sometimes I imagine I’m a giant. I squeeze my whole family into pulp. I wish them dead just so I can be free. I can’t leave them. I’m their mother. I’m not allowed to leave them. So I hate them. Isn’t that awful? God, aren’t I a monster?

     She stopped talking once she’d noticed Gertie’s teary-eyed horror. “Don’t talk like that. You’ll break your own house.”

     There’d been more words after that. Pleasantries and a changed subject. Rhea didn’t remember. The event compressed into murk and sank down inside her, a smeared oblivion of rage.

     Soon after that night, Gertie announced her pregnancy. The doctor told her she had to stop drinking front-porch Malbec, so they hung out a lot less. She got busier with work and the kids and she’d played it off like coincidence, but Rhea had known the truth: she’d shown her true self, and Gertie wanted no part of it.

     Retaliation was necessary.

THE AUTHOR

Sarah Langan got her MFA in creative writing from Columbia University, and also received her Master’s in Environmental Health Science/Toxicology from New York University. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughters.
She’s received three Bram Stoker awards, and her work has often been included in best-of-the year lists and anthologies. She’s a founding board member of the Shirley Jackson Awards, and works in both film and prose.

PRAISE FOR GOOD NEIGHBOURS:

“One of the creepiest, most unnerving deconstructions of American suburbia I’ve ever read. Langan cuts to the heart of upper middle class lives like a skilled surgeon.” – NPR

“A modern-day Crucible, Good Neighbours brilliantly explores the ease with which a careless word can wreak havoc and the terrifying power of mob mentality. Langan deftly unveils the psychology behind her character’s actions with blistering prose and spot-on descriptions. She is a writer to watch!” – Liv Constantine, bestselling author of ‘The Last Mrs Parrish’

PLEASE BUY FROM INDEPENDENTS IF YOU CAN XX

#ThisIsHowWeAreHuman #blogtour @OrendaBooks @LouiseWriter #BookReview

I’m delighted to be a part of Orenda Books blog tour for ‘this is how we are human’ by Louise Beech – thank you Anne, as always, for the invite. I’d previously read Beech’s ‘I am Dust’ and loved it, so couldn’t wait to read this new release. Do keep reading for the blurb and some bookish chat 🙂

THE BLURB

Sebastian James Murphy is twenty years, six months and two days old. He loves swimming, fried eggs and Billy Ocean. Sebastian is autistic. And lonely.

Veronica wants her son Sebastian to be happy … she wants the world to accept him for who he is. She is also thinking about paying a professional to give him what he desperately wants.

Violetta is a high-class escort, who steps out into the night thinking only of money. Of her nursing degree. Paying for her dad’s care. Getting through the dark.

When these three lives collide – intertwine in unexpected ways – everything changes. For everyone.

My thoughts…

‘THIS IS HOW WE ARE HUMAN’ caught my eye due to the subject matter of autism in early adulthood. We often hear about autism in much younger people, where there is a lot of support in place, however once a young person hits a certain age then this support can become much less visible, and the demands on the families much more complex. This book highlights the ongoing needs of a young autistic man called Sebastian, who loves ‘fried eggs’ and ‘swimming’ but is lonely. He’s also a young man who desperately wants to have sex.

At the heart of this book is struggle. The struggle to connect; the struggle to understand and the struggle to heal. Beech tells her story through three narrative perspectives, these fuse together with an emotive clarity as we follow the journeys of Sebastian, his mother Veronica and Isabelle AKA Violetta. The women’s stories for me added some really important depth to this story; I was fully immersed from the onset in the lives of this entwined trio.

Beech doesn’t hold back, and it’s right that the story is told openly, honestly and often brutally. This is difficult material but it’s successful because the characters are crafted with such care and openness you simply cannot fail to be ensnared by their stories. In particular, the voice of Sebastian dominants the novel and this turns the book into something special. Sebastian’s voice represents so many people with autism and reading this book provides a glimpse through his eyes: be prepared to laugh and cry as Beech juxtaposes beautifully so many aspects of the autistic world. This is a human story, with all its foibles. There’s devastation, adoration, deep love, brutal realities and harsh truths.

Insightful, thought-provoking and beautifully empathic writing from Louise Beech.

PS: Louise – this would make a great stage play!!!

BLOG TOUR

#blogtour #TheSpanishPrincess #BeaGreen @RandomTTours @TheConradPress

It’s a pleasure to be a part of the Blog Tour for Bea Green’s crime thriller novel, ‘Stealing the Spanish Princess’. Firstly, an apology, as my review is not ready to post. It’s the first time I’ve failed to get my review complete for blog tour day and for that I am awfully sorry. For now, please check out the blurb and some of the fabulous bloggers who have posted their reviews already; my review will be up very soon.

The Blurb

In this captivating and dazzling art crime mystery, eccentric detective Richard Langley hunts for a 16th-century masterpiece by the artist El Greco. The thief stole the priceless painting from an apartment in Kensington, London, and in the process knifed to death a Russian woman. 


DCI Richard Langley from Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiquities Unit joins colleagues from Homicide as they pursue a trail that leads them to St Petersburg and then to Madrid. Following closely in their footsteps is a maverick private investigator hired by the painting’s owner. Knowing how hard it is to sell on stolen artworks of that calibre, Richard wonders what the motive behind its theft might be. 


The answer, when it comes, takes everyone by surprise.

My thoughts

Coming shortly…

The Blog Tour

The Author

Bea Green

Bea Green has had a somewhat roving life as the daughter of a British diplomat. Her mother is Spanish and growing up Bea spent every summer at her grandfather’s olive tree farm in Andalusia. This olive tree farm was the inspiration for her contemporary romance book, La Finca.

Bea studied Art throughout school and then did Art History for two of her four years at St Andrews University, where she met her husband. She graduated with an MA in English Literature.

Her interest in art was fostered by her father and her Spanish grandmother. Her Spanish grandmother accompanied her to many of Madrid’s art galleries and several of El Prado’s paintings are fondly remembered in Bea’s art crime book, Stealing the Spanish Princess.

Stealing the Spanish Princess was inspired by a Spanish painting, Lady in a Fur Wrap, at Pollok House, Glasgow. When Bea wrote Stealing the Spanish Princess there was a huge debate among art experts about the painting, with some claiming it was painted by El Greco. Some experts thought the painting was of Princess Catalina Micaela, daughter of the Spanish King, Philip II.

Bea Green has lived in Edinburgh since leaving St Andrews University, with her Glaswegian husband and two daughters. She also maintains close links with her family in Spain.

#BlogTour #TheBoneCode by @KathyReichs @simonschusterUK @RandomTTours

I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour for ‘The Bone Code‘, the latest Temperance Brennan novel (book 20) by Kathy Reichs. With thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for the invite.

Number One bestselling author Kathy Reichs returns with her twentieth edge-of-your seat
thriller featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

The Blurb

A storm has hit South Carolina, dredging up crimes of the past. En route to Isle of Palms, a barrier island off the South Carolina coast, forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan receives a call from the Charleston coroner. During the storm, a medical waste container has washed up on the beach. Inside are two decomposed bodies wrapped in plastic sheeting and bound with electrical wire. Chillingly, Tempe recognises many details as identical to those of an unsolved case she handled in Quebec fifteen years earlier. With a growing sense of foreboding, she flies to Montreal to gather evidence and convince her boss Pierre LaManch to reopen the cold case. She also seeks the advice—and comfort—of her longtime beau Andrew Ryan.


Meanwhile, a storm of a different type gathers force in South Carolina. The citizens of Charleston are struck by capnocytophaga, a bacterium that, at its worst, can eat human flesh. Thousands panic and test themselves for a rare genetic mutation that may have rendered them vulnerable.


Shockingly, Tempe eventually deduces not only that the victims in both grisly murder cases are related, but that the murders and the disease outbreak also have a common cause . . .

A container with two bodies washes ashore…

My thoughts…

I remember first reading the first Temperance Brennan novel back in the late 1990s. It was called Déjà Dead and I can see it sitting on one of my bookcases as I type. Déjà Dead introduced a new star into the mystery thriller world, but there was a difference. The character of a passionate and dedicated forensic anthropologist was created by the pen of an actual forensic anthropologist – this became the key for complex detailed narratives, where the application of forensic science structured the layers of the mystery. Reich’s doesn’t seem to hold back on the expertise and language of forensic work and it makes for some truly complex, layered and addictive mysteries. Alongside this, are character driven investigations led by fully rounded and solidly built characters.

I must admit, I hadn’t picked up a Temperance Brennan novel in a while, so when I got the opportunity to read and review Reich’s latest book, I was thrilled. I’m probably about 8 books behind – blame the constant TBR pile of review reads! It actually didn’t matter at all. The book is neatly structured and there’s enough character background information to hardly notice this is the twentieth book in a series.

The Bone Code begins with a category three storm and Brennan, as always, is staring at bone x-rays to find the stories and truths than lie within them. Like most of the previous books, there’s always more than one investigation and an awareness of the backlog of work that comes with such a career. In this book, there’s a cold case to be reopened, a nasty disease on the move and a container washed ashore providing the central case for Brennan as she uncovers secrets hidden in the remains of the two bodies found inside.

As with all series, relationships have been developing for a long while, and this is very true for Brennan’s love interest Andrew Ryan, who is now a private investigator (not sure how he changed careers, so I might need to complete some back reading to fill in the gaps) and his life with Brennan is now at full swing and they share a home together. Again, if you’re a newbie to the series, I don’t think it’ll matter that you haven’t got all the back stories in place. The crime and subsequent investigation is fresh and pulls you in, as you try and tie all the threads together.

This is a book I’d definitely recommend for readers who enjoy a clever, intelligent thriller with the bonus of a back catalogue of 19 books to read through. Smart, layered and character driven right up to the thrilling climax!

THE BLOG TOUR

About the author – Kathy Reichs

Kathy Reichs

Kathy Reichs’s first novel Déjà Dead was a number one bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis Award for Best First Novel. The Bone Code is Kathy’s twentieth entry in her series featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. Kathy was also a producer of the hit Fox TV series, Bones, which is based on her work and her novels.

Dr. Reichs is one of very few forensic anthropologists certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. She served on the Board of Directors and as Vice President of both the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, and as a member of the National Police Services Advisory Council in Canada.