Monday, 22 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ Nucleus by Rory Clements

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the Nucleus Blog Tour

Bonnier Zaffre
25 January 2018
My thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book and the invitation to be part of the blog tour
What's it all about...

England is partying like there is no tomorrow, gas masks at the ready. In Cambridge the May Balls are played out with a frantic intensity - but the good times won't last... In Europe, the Nazis have invaded Czechoslovakia, and in Germany the persecution of the Jews is now so widespread that desperate Jewish parents send their children to safety in Britain aboard the Kindertransport. Closer to home, the IRA's S-Plan bombing campaign has resulted in more than 100 terrorist outrages around England.

But perhaps the most far-reaching event of all goes largely unreported: in Germany, Otto Hahn has produced the first man-made fission and an atomic device is now a very real possibility. The Nazis set up the Uranverein group of physicists: its task is to build a superbomb. The German High Command is aware that British and US scientists are working on similar line. Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory is where the atom was split in 1932. Might the Cambridge men now win the race for a nuclear bomb? Hitler's generals need to be sure they know all the Cavendish's secrets. Only then will it be safe for Germany to wage war.

When one of the Cavendish's finest brains is murdered, Professor Tom Wilde is once more drawn into an intrigue from which there seems no escape. In a conspiracy that stretches from Cambridge to Berlin and from Washington DC to the west coast of Ireland, he faces deadly forces that threaten the fate of the world.

What did I think about it...

This new historical thriller takes us right back into the complicated world of Professor Tom Wilde, the Cambridge historian and amateur detective, who we first met in Corpus. In Nucleus, we have an altogether darker mystery which sees Tom, and his companions, pushed to the limit of even their considerable endurance. 

It's 1939 and England is on the cusp of war and the brilliant scientists at the Cavendish laboratory in Cambridge are working frantically to complete their research into nuclear fission which could lead to the production of the first nuclear bomb. However, Germany also has its eye on this considerable prize, and there are some unscrupulous individuals who will stop at nothing to get the information they need in order to gain superiority as Europe races towards conflict. 

Nucleus is a fascinating historical thriller which is totally convincing in its authenticity, alive with menace and teeming with characters that stay with you long after the last page is turned. I always enjoy being in Tom Wilde's company, he is fast becoming one of my favourite amateur sleuths, and it's really interesting to see, in this novel,  how his troubled relationship with his girlfriend, Lydia, develops, particularly as Lydia is also about to be tested to her limits when she embarks on her own dangerous mission. 

From sleepy Cambridge, to the dark days of pre-war Berlin, and even to the inner sanctum of the White house and a meeting with President Roosevelt, Nucleus is filled with the plots and schemes of some unscrupulous individuals who will stop at nothing to get what they want. The story moves along at a rollicking pace and the multiple twists and turns in the plot certainly kept me guessing right until the end. The historical aspect of the story is, as ever, impeccably researched and everything feels so authentic that it really is, at times, like being a fly on the wall with a privileged view of everything as it happens. The central plot is all consuming and the multiple strands of the story with all their elements of danger and intrigue make for an exciting historical thriller. 

I hope that it won't be too long before Tom Wilde comes back with another fascinating historical adventure

RORY CLEMENTS won the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award in 2010 for his second novel, Revenger. He is the author of the John Shakespeare series of novels which are currently in development for TV by the team behind POLDARK and ENDEAVOUR. Since 2007, Rory has been writing full-time in a quiet corner of Norfolk, England, where he lives with his family.

Twitter #Nucleus

Do visit the other stops on the Blog Tour


Sunday, 21 January 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

Ordinary Lives of the First World War

It is possible to walk in any of our cemeteries  to discover a CWGC headstone from WW1. 

On a visit to Mellor, a small village in Lancashire, I discovered this Commonwealth War Grave in a quiet part of the graveyard of St Mary the Virgin church. The solitary headstone caught my eye and on further inspection I discovered that it was the grave of  a young nurse, something I have not seen before.

Mary Jennette Robins

Mary Jennette Robins, was an officer in the Royal Navy, in the Queen Alexandra Royal Naval Nursing Service (QARNN ). When I searched online at the Imperial War Museum, Lives of the First World War website, I discovered that Mary was born in 1890 in Blackburn, Lancashire and that she sadly died of pneumonia on the 4th November 1918.

I discovered that Mary features on the Women of the Empire memorial in York Minster where the names of 1,400 women are commemorated and their names are inscribed on oak screens.

Mary Jennette Robins has no connection to me or my family and the only thing we have in common is that we were both nurses.

For every one of these quiet resting places, in graveyards up and down the country, there are so many stories to be told of ordinary lives lost and of families who forever mourned their loss.

It does no harm, if you come across any of these headstones, to stop and, in a moment of quiet reflection, acknowledge the sacrifices that were made over a hundred years ago. The least we can do is to remember what they did, and say thank you.

In this final year of my commemoration of the First World War, I am hoping to feature more stories of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.


Saturday, 20 January 2018

Hit Fic Saturday ~ The Good Sister by Maggie Christensen

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to..1938

Two Isobels. A lifetime of regret. A love that spans the years

Cala Publishing
November 2017
My thanks to the author for providing an ecopy of this book to review

What's it all about ...

In 1938, as the world hurtled towards war, twenty-year-old Isobel MacDonald fell madly in love. But fate and her own actions conspired to deny her the happiness she yearned for. Many years later, plagued with regrets and with a shrill voice from the past ringing in her ears, she documents the events that shaped her life.

In 2015, sixty-five-year-old Bel Davison returns from Australia to her native Scotland to visit her terminally ill aunt. Reading Isobel’s memoir, she is beset with memories of her own childhood and overcome with guilt. When she meets her aunt’s solicitor, events seem to spiral out of control and, almost against her will, she finds herself drawn to this enigmatic Scotsman.

What is it that links these two women across the generations? Can the past influence the future? 

My thoughts...

There's always something fascinating about reading a dual time story which intertwines the stories of two very different characters, whose shared connection to the past encroaches on the future. In The Good Sister, the author has once again brought us two memorable female characters and, as we discover, both of the Isobel's, one in the 1940s, and the other in 2015, are joined by something which happened decades ago, in the past.

The story splits its time between past and present and the author does a good job of allowing both women to have their voice. Time and place are represented well, and, over the course of the story,  I enjoyed getting to know both of the characters and enjoyed seeing just where the events of the story would take them.

The author writes this type of fiction, featuring more mature heroines, really well and it is to her credit that she allows the story to unfold in a rather gentle manner, which makes for very pleasant reading. 

The Good Sister is a lovely, family saga for a cold and wintery afternoon and is the author's first foray into writing historical fiction. I hope it won't be her last. 

Maggie Christensen

Twitter @MaggieChriste33

Amazon UK

Friday, 19 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ In Love and War by Liz Trenow

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the 

In Love and War Blog Tour

Pan Macmillan
January 25th
My thanks to the publishers for the copy of the book and for the invitation to be part of this blog tour

I am delighted to have the author, Liz Trenow, as my guest on the blog today.

Welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Liz, tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing? 

I spent most of my working life as a journalist (starting on local newspapers then moving to the BBC) and had tinkered with writing fiction but with a demanding job and a husband and two daughters at home never found time to write a novel. In my late fifties I managed to get early retirement and decided that it was now of never! I was incredibly fortunate to find an agent, and then a publisher – something I’d never even dreamed of.

What can you tell us about In Love and War without giving too much away?

The bodies of one in four who died in the First World War were never found – all their families were told was that they were ‘missing, presumed dead’. My husband’s uncle is one of these, and his name is inscribed with the many thousands of others on the Menin Gate at Ypres. 

When I was researching an earlier book, The Poppy Factory, I discovered that almost immediately after the end of the war several thousands of people made the difficult journey to the devastated battlefield areas of Flanders and the Somme, desperate for news of their lost loved ones. 

It must have been horrifying to witness the chaos that war had left behind: the mud, the trenches, the make-shift cemeteries, and I wanted to try to imagine how these early battlefield ‘pilgrims’ might feel, through my three characters: a young English widow, an American woman whose brother was lost, and a German mother whose son died.

In researching the story, did you discover anything which surprised you?

So many things! I’d intended to set the story in Ypres but when we visited there on a battlefield tour we discovered that the place had been completely rebuilt after being almost levelled to the ground by the war: hardly a building had been left standing and in 1919 there were no hotels or facilities for tourists there. 

Then we visited a little village called Poperinghe, which had never been captured, and it was there we went to Talbot House, the ‘home from home’ for soldiers of all ranks created by a charismatic army chaplain called Tubby Clayton. He and the house play an important part in my story. 

Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. How do you feel about them when the book is finished? Are they what you expected them to be?

When I start I usually have quite a clear idea of what they are like and what will happen to them during the course of the novel. But characters do evolve as you write them, sometimes in interesting ways. I can get quite attached to them, and they do go on living in my head long after I’ve finished the book. 

Your style of writing is very much ‘from the heart’. Does this take its toll on you emotionally, and if so, how do you overcome it?

Yes I do get emotionally involved in my characters although I wouldn’t say it ‘takes its toll’ to any great extent. All I know is that if I feel genuine sadness, or joy, for them, they have come alive in my mind and will hopefully do the same for my readers. 

Where do your ideas for stories come from, and as one book finishes do you already know where the next book will take you? 

Ideas come from lots of sources – many of my books have been inspired by my family’s 300 year history of silk weaving (they’re still weaving today in Sudbury, Suffolk). Others come from something I have read, perhaps doing research for a previous book, as was the case for In Love and War. I usually know what book I am going to write next – the one I’m currently working on was inspired by a rather minor character from a previous novel, The Silk Weaver.

What's it all about...

July, 1919. The First World War is over. The war-torn area of Flanders near Ypres is no longer home to trenches or troops, but groups of tourists. Controversial battlefield tourism now drives bus-loads of people to witness first-hand where loved ones fell and died. 

At the Hotel de la Paix in the small village of Poperinghe, three women have come to the battlefields to find a trace of men they have loved and lost. Ruby is just 21, a shy Englishwoman looking for the grave of her husband. Alice is only a little older but brimming with confidence; she has travelled all the way from America, convinced her brother is in fact still alive and still in France. Then there’s Martha and her son Otto, who are not all they seem to be…

The three women may have very different backgrounds, but they are united in their search for reconciliation: to reconcile themselves to what the war took from them, but also to what life might still promise for the future,

Liz Trenow is a former journalist who spent fifteen years on regional and national newspapers, and on BBC radio and television news, before turning her hand to fiction. In Love and War is her fifth novel. The Forgotten Seamstress reached the top twenty in the New York Times best seller list and The Last Telegram nominated for a national award. Her books have been translated into a number of languages.

She lives in Colchester in Essex with her artist husband, and they have two grown up daughters and two grandchildren.

Twitter @LizTrenow #InLoveAndWar

Amazon UK

My thanks to Liz for answering my questions so thoughtfully and for her invitation to be part of the blog tour.

Do visit the other Blog Tour stops 


Thursday, 18 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Last Mrs Parrish by Liv Constantine

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's very last stop on 

The Last Mrs Parrish Blog Tour

My thanks to the publishers for my review copy of this book and for the invitation to be part of the blog tour.

Harper Collins
January 11th
What's it all about...

Amber Patterson is tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who melts into the background. She deserves more. She deserves a life of wealth, luxury and leisure.

Daphne Parrish is the golden girl of the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut. With her modelesque looks, her picture-perfect mansion and her millionaire husband, Jackson, she has everything Amber has ever wanted.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive—if she didn't have a plan. Gradually, Amber insinuates herself into the Parrish family’s life. Before long, she has become Daphne’s closest confidante, and is catching the eye of Jackson. But a skeleton from her past could undermine everything Amber has worked for, and if discovered, her well-laid plan may end in disaster…

What did I think about it...

Amber Patterson is every woman's worst nightmare, she's manipulative, unscrupulous, and yet, is insignificant enough to blend into the background. However, as she starts to infiltrate into the perfect life of the rich and beautiful, Daphne Parrish, you can't help but wonder if that little niggle of doubt that you have about Amber Patterson is going to be significant.

I’m not going to tell you any part of the story because that would be to really spoil everything, but as the plot progresses, and as Amber starts to ingratiate herself into Daphne's life and family, so more and more deadly secrets start to be revealed.

That the story takes the reader on a rocky, roller coaster of journey is without question and whilst, in many ways, it is an uncomfortable novel to read, as there are some really dark sexual references, I think these only add strength and purpose to, what is, in effect, a stunningly, clever psychological thriller.

It is to the author’s joint credit that they have created in The Last Mrs Parrish such a compelling read. It is eerily addictive, expertly managed and so succinctly plotted, that there were times when I read with my mind stunned in disbelief, scrabbling the pages so that I could read quicker and quicker, and, even then, not quite believing what was being revealed.

So great was the need to discover how the story would eventually play out, that I read the whole lot in a matter of hours, and I closed the book with a real sense of having read something which was truly unputdownable.

So many novels are described as unputdownable when they are clearly not, but, believe me,  The Last Mrs Parrish really is unputdownable and is a stunning debut from two talented writers.

Liv Constantine is the pen name of bestselling authors and sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine. Separated by three states, they spend hours plotting via FaceTime and email. They attribute their ability to concoct dark story lines to the hours they spent listening to tales handed down by their Greek grandmother. THE LAST MRS. PARRISH is their debut thriller. 

Twitter @livconstantine2 #TheLastMrsParrish




Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ Stand By Me by S D Robertson

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the 

Stand By Me Blog Tour

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of the book and also for the invitation to be part of this tour
 and for permission to share this extract with you.

I am delighted to be able to share with you this extract from Stand By Me

Johnny and Carl were the ones who actually stripped him, who jeered at how he looked in his underwear, joking that he needed a bra for his ‘boobies’. Peter stood to one side, looking awkward. But he didn’t do anything to stop them. He didn’t say a word. Then Johnny turned to him and asked why he wasn’t getting involved, suggesting it was because he and Elliot used to be ‘bum chums’. That was when Peter stepped forward and pulled Elliot’s glasses off his face.

‘Don’t, Peter,’ he pleaded. ‘Please. They’re new. You know I can’t see a thing without them.’

But his former friend didn’t listen. Instead he dropped the glasses on the floor, stamped on them countless times and then threw them into the distance. In his semi-blinded state, Elliot didn’t have a clue where they ended up. What would be the point in looking, anyway? Peter had wrecked them.

Johnny and Carl seemed as impressed by Peter’s actions as Elliot was aggrieved. The three of them left together, as thick as thieves, which was exactly what they were, since they took Elliot’s clothes and shoes with them.

Once he was sure they’d gone, Elliot allowed himself to cry. He wept big fat tears. And then he pulled himself together, hid behind a bush and waited for help to come, as it eventually did in the form of Lisa. His one small consolation was that he hadn’t broken down in front of the boys. He’d come close, but the shock of Peter’s betrayal had actually hardened his resolve not to give them the satisfaction.

Extract Five: Chapter 6, pp.57-58

11 January 2018

Lisa and Elliot have been best friends ever since the day they met as children. Popular, bright and sporty, Lisa was Elliot’s biggest supporter when the school bullies made his life a misery, and for that, he will always be grateful.

Twenty years later, life has pulled the pair apart and Lisa is struggling. Her marriage is floundering, her teenage kids are being secretive, and she’s so tired she can’t think straight. So when Elliot knocks on the door, looking much better than she remembers, she can’t help but be delighted to see her old friend again.

With Elliot back in their lives, Lisa’s family problems begin to improve – he’s like the fairy godmother she never had. As their bond deepens, she realises how much she’s missed him, and prays that this is one friendship that will last a lifetime. But sometimes, life has other ideas…

My thoughts about it...

Stand By Me is a thoughtful story about the power of friendship and of the importance of keeping those we love always in our hearts. Lisa and Elliot were friends as children but as adults, time and circumstance have caused them to live very separate lives. Now twenty years later, Lisa is facing a difficult time, as her marriage to her husband, Mike, has hit rock bottom. With her personal life in disarray, the last person Lisa expects to see standing on her doorstep is her friend, Elliot. And as Elliot slowly starts to infiltrate into her life again, so things start to improve for Lisa and her family.

This is one of those stories which gives you a lovely warm feeling inside. The characters are so realistic that you feel as if you could have met them at the local shops and called for a coffee with them. Lisa and Mike's problems are so reminiscent of modern day life that you can't help but feel sorry for them as they try to work out their problems in their own inimitable style. In places, the story moves back, in time, to Lisa and Elliot's shared childhood and it was great to see the references of their life as teenagers in the 1990s.

Stand By Me gets right into the heart of a family which have been fractured by circumstances and yet, with love and understanding, it shows that they can come through their troubles with new hope.

Former journalist S.D. Robertson quit his role as a local newspaper editor to pursue a lifelong ambition of becoming a novelist. An English language and literature graduate from the University of Manchester, he has spent time living in France, Holland and Australia, working in roles as diverse as a holiday rep, door-to-door salesman, train cleaner and mobile phone network engineer.

Stuart’s love of writing and inquisitive nature led him back to university to study journalism. He went on to work at various newspapers in Lancashire and Greater Manchester. He lives in a village near Manchester with his wife and daughter. There’s also his cat, Bernard, who likes to distract him from writing – usually by breaking things.

Twitter @SDRauthor #StandByMe



Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ Traitor by David Hingley

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on 

the Traitor Blog Tour

Allison and Busby
18th January 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my coy of this book and for the invitation to be part of this blog tour 

What's it all about ...

May 1665. With winter passed, Mercia Blakewood is at last headed back to England from America, hoping to leave behind the shadow cast by death and heartache. She expects a welcome from the King considering her earlier mission on his behalf, but the reception she receives after her long voyage home could hardly be called warm. With the country now at war with the Dutch, more manipulation lies ahead as Mercia must accept a clandestine role at the heart of the glittering and debauched royal court to unmask a spy and traitor.

My thoughts about it...

This is now the third book in the historical series which features the female adventurer, Mercia Blakewood, and we meet her as she arrives back in England from America where she has been on a secret mission for King Charles II. Her arrival into the country is met with suspicion and doubt, that is, until she is taken to London and a clandestine meeting with the King's notorious mistress, Barbara Castlemaine.  Given the task of exposing a potential spy ring, Mercia must adopt an entirely new role and one which will place her and those she holds dear in grave danger.

This is a fascinating look at the profligate court of King Charles II and of the dangers which so often lingered in shadows. For Mercia, the task she is assigned is dangerous and filled with many obstacles, and yet, her strength of character sees her though the difficulties, and her ready wit and charm endear her to the reader. That she is also brave and quite fearless is also to her credit as Mercia is no simpering courtesan and is more than a match for any of the men and women who try to thwart her. 

The mystery, at the centre of the story is well thought out, and there are more than enough twists and turns to keep the adventure alive in the imagination. I found it quite refreshing to have a female lead protagonist who didn’t conform to the usual rigid protocols which were so evident at this time in history.

Traitor is an intriguing journey into the political arena of the mid-seventeenth century. The wars with the Dutch and the fast growing slave trade form the backdrop to an interesting and lively historical adventure.

Those readers who have followed this series from the beginning will find much to enjoy in this latest story, and for new readers, well, my advice would be to start the series from the beginning with, Birthright, as even though it is entirely possible to read Traitor as a standalone story, there are references to back events which may seem a little confusing without prior knowledge.

33786038 33862421

Originally from the West Midlands, David Hingley worked in the Civil Service for eleven years before leaving to fulfill his long term ambition to write. He spent three years living in New York'close to the action in Birthright and Puritan, before returning to the UK in 2016.

Twitter @dhingley_author #Traitor


Do visit the other tops on the BlogTour


Monday, 15 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ An Argument of Blood by Matthew Willis and J A Ironside

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host the first stop on 

An Argument of Blood Blog Tour

Oath and Crown Book 1
Penmore Press

My thanks to the publishers and  HF Virtual Book Tours for my invitation to be part of this tour
and for my review copy of the book.

What's it all about ...

William, the nineteen-year-old duke of Normandy, is enjoying the full fruits of his station. Life is a succession of hunts, feasts, and revels, with little attention paid to the welfare of his vassals. Tired of the young duke’s dissolute behaviour and ashamed of his illegitimate birth, a group of traitorous barons force their way into his castle. While William survives their assassination attempt, his days of leisure are over. He’ll need help from the king of France to secure his dukedom from the rebels. 

On the other side of the English Channel lives ten-year-old Ælfgifa, the malformed and unwanted youngest sister to the Anglo-Saxon Jarl, Harold Godwinson. Ælfgifa discovers powerful rivalries in the heart of the state when her sister Ealdgyth is given in a political marriage to King Edward, and she finds herself caught up in intrigues and political manoeuvring as powerful men vie for influence. Her path will collide with William’s, and both must fight to shape the future. 

An Argument of Blood is the first of two sweeping historical novels on the life and battles of William the Conqueror.

What did I think about it...

In An Argument of Blood, we first meet William, Duke of Normandy, when he is a headstrong and impetuous youth of nineteen, quick to anger and rather slow to take advice from those who think that they know better. That William comes across as spoiled and selfish young man makes for interesting reading, I appreciated getting to learn more of his character and of what focused his drive and ambition as he grew to maturity.

In direct contrast to William's rather angry personality we head across the English channel to learn more about what is happening in the Anglo-Saxon court of King Edward the Confessor, and first meet our narrator,  ten year old Ælfgifa, sister to the Jarl, Harold Godwinson, as she learns of the marriage between her older sister, Ealdgyth and the King. To see the Saxon court through the eyes of this insightful young girl is quite refreshing and I enjoyed reading of life at court and of the difficulties encountered, not just by Ælfgifa, but also of the faults and foibles of those who live alongside her.

An Argument of Blood is an interesting and vivid account of the events which will eventually lead to the invasion of England and this first book in the series sets the scene quite nicely, with the ending lending itself to a natural continuation in the story. Taken as a whole, the book is well written with good attention to detail and a nice sense of time and place. However, I found that I looked forward more to Ælfgifa’s side of the story rather more that William’s but that’s no disparagement of the writing, as both are equally descriptive.

Filled with political intrigue, danger and conspiracy, An Argument of Blood is an interesting interpretation of the events which will eventually lead to the Norman conquest.

About the Authors...

J.A. Ironside (Jules) grew up in rural Dorset, surrounded by books – which pretty much set he up for life as a complete bibliophile. She loves speculative fiction of all stripes, especially fantasy and science fiction, although when it comes to the written word, she’s not choosy and will read almost anything. Actually it would be fair to say she starts to go a bit peculiar if she doesn’t get through at least three books a week. She writes across various genres, both adult and YA fiction, and it’s a rare story if there isn’t a fantastical or speculative element in there somewhere. 

Jules has had several short stories published in magazines and anthologies, as well as recorded for literature podcasts. Books 1 and 2 of her popular Unveiled series are currently available with the 3rd and 4th books due for release Autumn/ Winter 2017. 

She also co-authored the sweeping epic historical Oath and Crown Duology with Matthew Willis, released June 2017 from Penmore Press. 

Jules now lives on the edge of the Cotswold way with her boyfriend creature and a small black and white cat, both of whom share a god-complex.

Website Facebook Twitter  Goodreads

Matthew Willis is an author of historical fiction, SF, fantasy and non-fiction. In June 2017 An Argument of Blood, the first of two historical novels about the Norman Conquest co-written with J.A. Ironside, was published. In 2015 his story Energy was shortlisted for the Bridport short story award. 

Matthew studied Literature and History of Science at the University of Kent, where he wrote an MA thesis on Joseph Conrad and sailed for the University in national competitions. He subsequently worked as a journalist for Autosport and F1 Racing magazines, before switching to a career with the National Health Service. 

His first non-fiction book, a history of the Blackburn Skua WW2 naval dive bomber, was published in 2007. He now has four non fiction books published with a fifth, a biography of test pilot Duncan Menzies, due later in 2017. He currently lives in Southampton and writes both fiction and non-fiction for a living.

During the Book Blast we will be giving away a signed copy of An Argument of Blood

To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

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Sunday, 14 January 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

Ordinary Lives of the First World War

One of my favourite WW1 poems is My Boy Jack by Rudyard Kipling and over Christmas I had the opportunity to watch the film version of My Boy Jack, starring David Haig and Daniel Radcliffe, which highlights Rudyard Kipling's search for his missing son - eighteen year old Jack Kipling was missing, presumed killed during the Battle of Loos in September, 1915.

John Kipling was born in Sussex 1897, the youngest of the three children born to Rudyard Kipling and his American wife, Caroline Starr Balestier. John, known as Jack, was educated at Wellington College, Berkshire.

Jack was sixteen when war broke out in 1914, and carried along by the fervour of his father who was a staunch supporter of the war, Jack, tried to enlist as soon as he was old enough, but he was unfortunately turned down by both the navy and the army due to his very poor eyesight.

However, Rudyard Kipling was keen for his son to see active service and using his considerable influence, he was able to persuade, Frederick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts, a former Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, and Colonel of the Irish Guards to bypass this disability and Jack was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the 2nd Battalion, Irish Guards on 15 August 1914, having just turned 17.

After his initial training. Jack Kipling was sent to France in August 1914 and was reported as missing in September 1915, during the Battle of Loos. His body was never found and although he is officially listed as buried in St Mary's ADS Cemetery in Haisnes, there is still doubt as to whether this is indeed his final resting place.

Rudyard Kipling never recovered from the lost of his son and following this devastating tragedy his attitude towards the war changed. This poem to his missing son was also a tribute to the many other young men lost during the war -

The Children 


("The Honours of War"—A Diversity of Creatures) 

These were our children who died for our lands: they were dear in our sight. 

We have only the memory left of their home-treasured sayings and laughter. 

The price of our loss shall be paid to our hands, not another’s hereafter. 

Neither the Alien nor Priest shall decide on it. That is our right. 

But who shall return us the children? 

At the hour the Barbarian chose to disclose his pretences, 

And raged against Man, they engaged, on the breasts that they bared for us, 

The first felon-stroke of the sword he had long-time prepared for us— 

Their bodies were all our defence while we wrought our defences. 

They bought us anew with their blood, forbearing to blame us, 

Those hours which we had not made good when the Judgment o’ercame us. 

They believed us and perished for it. Our statecraft, our learning 

Delivered them bound to the Pit and alive to the burning 

Whither they mirthfully hastened as jostling for honour— 

Nor since her birth has our Earth seen such worth loosed upon her. 

Nor was their agony brief, or once only imposed on them. 

The wounded, the war-spent, the sick received no exemption: 

Being cured they returned and endured and achieved our redemption, 

Hopeless themselves of relief, till Death, marveling, closed on them. 

That flesh we had nursed from the first in all cleanness was given 

To corruption unveiled and assailed by the malice of Heaven— 

By the heart-shaking jests of Decay where it lolled in the wires— 

To be blanched or gay-painted by fumes— to be cindered by fires— 

To be senselessly tossed and retossed in stale mutilation 

From crater to crater. For that we shall take expiation. 

But who shall return us our children? 

Kipling's poignant poem My Boy Jack was in fact written following the death of 16 year old sailor Jack Cornwell, but it is also a poignant reminder of the loss of his own boy, Jack.

"HAVE you news of my boy Jack? "
Not this tide.
"When d'you think that he'll come back?"
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

"Has any one else had word of him?"
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

"Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?"
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind---
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide.


Saturday, 13 January 2018

Hist Fic Saturday ~ Beautiful Star & Other Stories by Andrew Swanston

On Hist Fic Saturday

Lets's go back in time

This is a really fascinating book of seven historical fiction short stories which have their basis firmly in truth and the author has used his considerable skill with words to bring to life these events which have been completely overlooked.

  • Beautiful Star tells the story of a devastating disaster which befell a small Scottish fishing community in the winter of 1875
  • The Flying Monk gives the fascinating tale of Eilmer, a young Benedictine Monk, who was obsessed with the idea of flight and of the strange portents of a mysterious comet 
  • HMS Association is the story of  the marvelously named, Sir Cloudelly Shovell and his connection to the Longitude Act of 1714
  • The Tree is based on the well known story of the Boscobel Tree and the future King Charles II , but was there someone in the tree with him?
  • The Castle tells of the gallant defense of Corfe Castle which was led by Lady Mary Bankes, widow of Sir John Bankes, Privy Councillor and advisor to King Charles I
  • A Witch and a Bitch describes how a village, even as late as the eighteenth century could turn against a poor old woman 
  • The Button Seller and the Drummer Boy tells the story of an English button seller's encounter with the Duke of Wellington, and the bravery of a young French drummer boy during the Battle of Waterloo

All of the stories sit very comfortably together and are easy to read in one sitting. Beautifully reminiscent of the era in which they are set, each story gives a vibrant account of a forgotten time and gives weight to the argument that our connection to history is always with us.

I found some of the stories very moving, particularly the treatment given to Jane Wenham, an unfortunate old woman who is notoriously known as the Witch of Wenham.  I found the title story, Beautiful Star to be especially poignant and the whole shipbuilding and fishing industry was brought so vividly to life that I could almost taste the tang of sea salt and savoured the smell of wood smoke and timber. However, it's the story of The Button Seller and the Drummer Boy which I found to be the most interesting and couldn't help but be immersed in each of their stories and of the consequences of their actions.

I think this is a real hidden gem of a book which will appeal, not just to history lovers, but also to those interested in well written short stories.

You can read an interview by the author by clicking here

About the author

Andrew read a little law and a lot of sport at Cambridge University, and held various positions in the book trade, including being a director of Waterstone & Co, and Chairman of Methven’s plc, before turning to writing. Inspired by a lifelong interest in early modern history, his Thomas Hill novels are set during the English Civil Wars, and the early period of the Restoration. 

Andrew’s novel, Incendium, was published in February 2017 and is the first of two thrillers featuring Dr. Christopher Radcliff, an intelligencer for the Earl of Leicester, and is set in 1572 at the time of the massacre of the Huguenots in France. 

The Dome Press publish Beautiful Star, a collection of short stories documenting a journey through time, bringing a new perspective to the defense of Corfe Castle, the battle of Waterloo, the siege of Toulon and, in the title story, the devastating dangers of the life of the sea in 1875.

Twitter #BeautifiuStar

Beautiful Star & Other Stories is published by The Dome Press on the 11th January 2018

Friday, 12 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Secrets Between Us by Laura Madeleine

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on 

The Secrets Between Us Blog Tour 

Black Swan 
My thanks to the publisher for my ecopy of this book and the invitation to be part of this blog tour

First off, it must be said that this book cover is absolutely glorious and captures the setting of the novel to perfection.

In 1943, eighteen year old Ceci Corvin and her family struggle to survive in occupied France where, even, high up in the hills, in their small village of Saint-Antone, they are not immune to struggle and hardship. Working in the village bakery gives them a unique place to view what's going on but also places them in danger.

Fifty years later, Annie is unsatisfied with both her work and personal life and seems be searching for something which will give her life more meaning. When Annie's mother, on holiday in Australia, contacts Annie and expresses a wish to reunite with her estranged mother, Annie's grandmother, the search is on to find her. For Annie this is something of a journey of self-discovery, as not only does she make contact with her gran-mére, but also discovers a deeply buried family secret, which changes everything she once thought to be true.

What then follows is a beautifully written dual time story which looks at the turbulent latter years of the Second World War and of the discovery, many years later, of a family mystery which has been buried for far too long. The author writes really well and brings time, place and people to life with fine attention to detail. Of the two halves of the dual time narrative, I was perhaps more emotionally involved in the war time story and thought that the description of life in Saint Antoine was particularly well defined. I especially enjoyed reading of the bakery in Saint Antoine, and such were the delicious descriptions of the breads being produced that I could taste the pain aux noix and sip the  Acorn roasted café.

The Secrets Between Us is inspired by true events and is a fascinating story of forgotten friendship, lost family, forbidden love and, ultimately, of the healing power of reconciliation.

More about the Author can be found on her Website

Twitter @lauramadeleine #SecretsBetweenUs

The Secrets Between Us is a kindle monthly deal in January and will be on sale for just 99p until the end of the month.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ Close To Home by Cara Hunter

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the 

Close to Home Blog Tour

Penguin Viking
January 11 2018
My thanks to the publishers for my review copy of this book and the invitation to be part of the blog tour

When eight year old Daisy Mason  disappears from a family barbecue no-one notices that she is gone, and even her parents don't remember the last time they saw her. How such a popular child can disappear without trace is the puzzle that DI Adam Fawley and his team of investigative officers have to make sense of, and with very few clues to work with the groundwork proves frustratingly difficult.

Close to Home introduces us to a new crime series and to the lead protagonist, DI Adam Fawley, who is an interesting character, supremely flawed like so many of these clever detectives, and we do get to know the reason why he is so troubled, however, what is paramount is his drive and ambition to get the job done. That he is constantly thwarted by this complex case makes for fascinating reading, and the numerous twists and turns in the plot, not only had the investigative team guessing, but also kept me on the edge of my seat. So many times I thought that I had the case cracked only to have it veer off in an entirely new direction which I didn't see coming.

Complex and convoluted, this intricately plotted psychological drama examines the background to the case and looks at the events leading up to Daisy's disappearance, whilst at the same time keeping the investigation alive in the imagination. There is so much I want to say about this story but to do so would give away too many clues and, believe me, this is one of those roller-coaster crime thrillers which needs to be read, in its entirety, without any spoilers from me. 

The author certainly knows how to manipulate a complicated plot and the mystery at the heart of the novel makes for fascinating reading.  Daisy's family are such an integral part of the novel, and their faults and foibles are laid bare, so that, whilst they are largely an unlikable bunch, particularly Daisy's mother, Sharon, you can't help be drawn into the way they operate. I had an especial fondness for, Leo, Daisy's older sibling, who is fighting his own brand of demons.

Close to Home kept me in its grip from its poignant prologue, through to its dramatic and unexpected conclusion and is, without doubt, an exciting debut from a talented new author.

Do visit the other blog tour stops.

Cara Hunter is a writer who lives in Oxford, in a street not unlike those featured in her series of crime books. Close to Home is her debut featuring DI Adam Fawley, and her second, In the Dark, is coming soon.

Twitter @CaraHunterBooks #CloseToHome