Monday, 19 February 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Last Day by Clare Dyer

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be part of the Blog Tour for The Last Day

And to welcome the author

Hi Claire, welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thank you for spending time with us today. Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started as an author?

Firstly, thank you so much for inviting me to take part in this Q&A. It’s a real treat! 

I guess I’ve always written (or had aspirations to). I remember sitting at my grandmother’s bureau when I was a girl and writing shockingly bad poems and short stories. I studied English at Birmingham University in the early 80s but then got sucked into the world of work and bringing up my family, so it was only when my kids were in their teens that I finally lifted my head above the parapet and thought, ‘Hey, why not give writing a try again?’ 

I went on a Cornerstones course and met Julie Cohen who introduced me to Reading Writers, the longest-running writing group in Reading and, on joining I began to work with some wonderfully supportive people who weren’t afraid to tell me when I was getting it wrong but who also celebrated with me when I got things right!

From there it was mainly because of the people I met on the way who gave me the encouragement and context to push myself to completing whole novels and then, when I thought I was ready – which I obviously wasn’t – I started the whole submission thing. There have been many rejections along the way, but what’s been fantastic is the whole learning process I’ve been on and the characters who have peopled that journey. I wouldn’t have been without any of them for all the world!

Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for The Last Day?

The idea came to me when I was sitting at my desk and I hastily started writing down some notes for it. I wanted the book to be about an older woman and her ex’s new young partner. Originally, it was to be based around four portraits which would represent the changing relationship between the two women. It’s altered a bit along the way, obviously, but I what I wanted to explore was a different paradigm to the norm: one where the women actually liked one another!

Will you explain to us a little more about the plot without giving too much away?

The novel is told from three viewpoints: Boyd’s, his ex-wife Vita’s and his girlfriend Honey’s. 

When Boyd finds himself in financial straits he asks Vita if he can move back into the home they used to share and bring Honey with him. Vita says yes because she’s over him and it doesn’t bother her either way whether he’s there or not. 

However, living together is unsettling for all of them. Each has their own secrets and desires and the past has the tendency of bumping up against them and knocking them off course. I can’t say too much without giving the game away, but needless to say they each end up in completely different place than the one in which they started!

How do you plan your writing, are you a plotter, or a see where it goes kind of writer?

I’m more of a see-where-it-goes sort of writer. I have a basic plot outline but find that the characters tend to dictate where and how it develops. For example, in The Last Day, Vita’s POV was originally in the third person, but on the second rewrite, she pushed herself centre and forward and started waving her paintbrush at me and telling me what she should say next and so I had to put her in the first person after that!

Also, whilst I knew how the book was to end, I tried not to tell myself so that I would keep the same element of surprise in the writing that I hope the reader will experience when they read it!

Do you have a special place to write and where do you do your best thinking?

I’m very lucky in that I have a writing room at home. It faces my garden and since my kids have left home at least one, if not all, of my three cats tend to spend their days with me. Ideally, I like it to be quiet but living in Reading that’s not always possible, especially because each of my neighbours have had or are having major extensions done to their houses!

However, I also like to write in other places. I relish going on writing retreats to, for example, Retreats for You in Devon or Tŷ Newydd in North Wales but my absolute favourite writing place is Kalkan in Turkey. I think we’re on our 16th and 17th holidays there this year and there’s nothing better than sitting on the terrace of the villa where we stay with my laptop in front of me and gazing out over the bay as the sun sparkles the water.

Having said all this, my best thinking I suppose happens either at night in bed when I can’t sleep or in the swimming pool where I go for my thrice-weekly swim. The dark and silence of the night and/or the focus of thinking of nothing but counting lengths does, I find, free up my mind to sort plot problems or character dilemmas.

Are you your worst critic and why?

Oh yes, certainly! I think it’s a writer’s natural state to be in a constant state of doubt and despair. Whenever I write I have the good fairy on one shoulder telling me I can do it, and the bad fairy on the other, telling me what I’m doing is rubbish and doesn’t make sense. Even reading the proof copy of The Last Day was a rollercoaster: one minute I’d be telling myself, ‘This is OK, you know,’ and the next, I’d be wracked with uncertainty. The only way to counter this, I believe, is to put your trust in your characters. It’s their story, after all!

And finally ...If your life was book what would be the title?

My family have said that, due to my fashion choices, they are considering putting the words, ‘Here lies Claire Dyer, she wore beige’ on my headstone, so maybe the book of my life could be called ‘The Woman Who Wore Beige’!!!

Thank you again for featuring me on your site. It’s been a huge pleasure!

The Dome Press
15 February 2018

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

Claire Dyer’s novels, The Moment and The Perfect Affair and her short story, Falling For Gatsby are published by Quercus. Her poetry collections, Interference Effects and Eleven Rooms, are published by Two Rivers Press. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London and teaches creative writing for Bracknell & Wokingham College. She also runs Fresh Eyes, an editorial and critiquing service.

In 2016, Claire penned and performed a poem for National Poetry Day, called The Oracle, for BBC Radio Berkshire.

Visit the author's Website

Follow on Twitter @ClaireDyer1 #The Last Day

And do visit the other blog tour stops for more exciting content.


Sunday, 18 February 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

WW1 War Tourism

During the war military authorities had occasionally allowed grieving relatives to visit the graves of their family members but this was only possible if the fighting was sufficiently far away for there to be no danger.

At the end of the war it became obvious that people would wish to visit the battlefields, and not just those tourists who had a burning desire to see the places where the action took place, but also for those families who had lost relatives in the mud of Flanders and who wanted to pay their respects.

The first tourists started to visit the battlefields as early as 1917. Michelin, the road map and tyre manufacturers, published its first Illustrated Michelin Guide to the Battlefields about the Marne (6-13 September 1914). Even with the war raging not very far away tourists wanted to see first hand the devastation and destruction.

In 1919, the travel company Thomas Cook started organised trips to the Western Front but travel was expensive and the areas around the battle sites were often impassable. Those visitors who wanted to visit the graves of loved ones had to first obtain a special pass from the Directorate of Graves Registration/Imperial War Graves Commission. By 1918, some 587,000 graves had been identified and a further 559,000 casualties were registered as having no known grave.

Church groups and charitable organisations also became involved in helping poorer families, particularly women, to visit the Western Front. The Church Army and the St Barnabas Society would arrange itineraries, meet people at Boulogne and even offer hostel accommodation in disused army huts.

Tourists in Ypres, Whit Monday, 1919.
Q 100481 © Jeremy Gordon-Smith
Imperial War Museum

Whit Monday tourists outside the Cloth Hall, Ypres, 1919.
Q 100486 © Jeremy Gordon-Smith
Imperial War Museum

The tourist trips were at first thought to be distasteful and disrespectful however, the pilgrimages continued and grew in popularity. They offered a valuable service and brought a much needed boost to the economy as the visitors needed places to stay and they bought food and drink and also souvenirs and mementos to take back home. 

On the blog yesterday I featured a historical fiction novel, In Love and War by Liz Trenow which focuses on the individual stories of three women who visited the battlefields of Flanders looking for clues about their loved ones.


Saturday, 17 February 2018

Hist Fic Saturday ~ In Love and War by Liz Trenow

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back in time to ... Flanders, 1919

Pan Macmillan
January 25th

My thanks to the publishers for the copy of the book

It was understandable that once the First World War was over grieving relatives would want to visit the towns and villages of Flanders to see the places where the lives of their loved ones had ended so violently. Within a few short months of the Armistice in 1918 travel operators, like Thomas Cook, were organising tours to the battlefields, which although a comfort for some, were also seen by others to be in poor taste and disrespectful to the war dead.

In July, 1919 Ruby, Alice and Martha have their own reasons for visiting the small Flemish village of Hoppestadt. Each of them have lost someone important to them and whilst their backgrounds are very different, their shared loss binds them together in ways they could never have imagined. The women find out, to their cost, that searching for loved ones is fraught with worry and whilst they each have a different story to share, it is the rawness of their grief and their need to understand what happened which eventually unites them.

The repercussions of The First World War are still profoundly real in 1919 and this story highlights the struggle of those small communities who were trying so desperately to bring some semblance of order to areas which had been devastated by war. The descriptions of the remnants of the battlefields and trenches and the huge expanse of grave markers particularly at the Tyne Cot cemetery are so vividly described that I felt like I was seeing them at first hand.

Impeccably researched and beautifully written In Love and War is a gentle story with a powerful message. Its quiet realism doesn’t seek to sensationalise what happened during the momentous years of WW1 but rather focuses on the emotional impact of loss and of the eventual hope of reconciliation.

Twitter @LizTrenow #InLoveAndWar

Friday, 16 February 2018

Review ~ Final Girls by Riley Sager

Ebury Press
Penguin Random House

My thanks to the publishers for my review copy of this book

After an enigmatic introduction to something dreadful which happened at a remote cottage in the woods, we are introduced to Quincy Carpenter who is a successful baking blogger with a swanky New York apartment and a loving partner. All would be perfect except that Quincy is one of those interesting characters who has survived a horrific massacre. Dubbed by the media as a Final Girl, Quincy is only one of three such massacre survivors who, in recent memory, walked away from violent bloodshed. When news reaches Quincy that one of the other survivors has taken her own life, it opens up a whole series of memories which she has long since buried.

What then follows is a taut psychological suspense story which focuses on Quincy's life in the here and now whilst at the same time giving us flashbacks to what actually went on at Pine Cottage.  The story is an interesting observation into how people go into survivor mode and how the brain locks down painful memories in order to protect itself. Whilst Quincy thinks she is coping reasonably well, the terror of her past traumatic experience is never very far away.

Throughout the story the author does a really good job of cranking up the tension, particularly when the other final girl makes an appearance. This really shakes things up and takes the story in a whole different direction. Final Girls is a cleverly thought out psychological thriller with more than enough twists and turns to keep you guessing and although I did sort of work out where the story was heading, I certainly enjoyed getting to understand Quincy's complex character and of seeing just how the story would eventually play out.

A native of Pennsylvania, Riley Sager is a writer,editor,movie lover and aspiring baker
Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey

Twitter @riley_sager #FinalGirls

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Review ~ The Homecoming by Rosie Howard

Allison & Busby
15 February 2018

My thanks to Emma Finnigan PR and also to the publishers for my copy of this book

The Homecoming is the first book in the Havenbury series and introduces us to Maddy who has returned to the pretty market town of Havenbury Magna. Hearing the devastating news that her godfather Patrick has had a heart attack, Maddy knows that, until Patrick recovers, she must take over the running of the Havenbury Arms, a place she once called home.

What then follows is a delightful depiction of English village life. Maddy finds that running the pub is fraught with difficulties and that being back in Havenbury opens up a whole set of emotions which Maddy has buried for a long time.

The story flows really well and the author has done a really good job of setting the scene and introducing us to an array of characters who I hope will feature in future stories about Havenbury. I particularly enjoyed the village atmosphere and of how everybody seemed to pull together. There are some lovely light moments which made me smile, and yet there are also some quite dark elements, especially as we find out that Maddy is coping with something traumatic in her past.

As with all first books in a series there is a sense of 'getting to know' everyone and this is done in  a light and easy style and with a lovely contemporary feel. 

Overall the story is an enjoyable read and I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

With a father in the forces and the diplomatic corps, Rosie Howard spent much of her childhood in UK boarding schools, joining her parents in exotic destinations during holidays. After obtaining a degree in music she pursued a career in public relations, campaigning, political lobbying and freelance journalism but realized her preference for making things up and switched to writing novels instead. She lives in a West Sussex village with her husband and two children in a cottage with roses around the door.

Twitter @RosieHowardBook

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Valentine's day ~ Ten Sexy Poems from Candlestick Press

Candlestick press
February 2018

This intoxicating selection of poems – a mini-anthology to complement our ever-popular Ten Poems about Love – is published especially for Valentine’s Day.  The poems capture the extraordinary power of desire, from Neil Rollinson’s tenement building stirred by the passion of loving couples on St Valentine’s night, to DH Lawrence’s painterly celebration of a beautiful woman as she washes in early morning sunshine.

Elsewhere, beds become roiling vessels for lovers with “persistent hands”:

We are bare. We are stripped to the bone
and we swim in tandem and go up and up
the river…”

from ‘December 11th’ by Anne Sexton

There are poems that evoke passion’s intensity, alongside others in which the sensuality is more obliquely expressed – an apple bitten to expose surprising pink flesh or a shipwright rhapsodising over the alluring curves of his ship.

 Roses, oysters, chocolate – even a pungent cheese – stir the senses and capture the heady urgency of erotic love. These poems are seductive, and irresistible.

Poems by Kim Addonizio, Jo Bell, Wayne Burrows, Hilary Davies, DH Lawrence, MR Peacocke, Shazea Quraishi, Neil Rollinson, Anne Sexton and James Sheard.

My thoughts about the poems...

I've really enjoyed reading through this diverse collection of love poetry and was pleased to discover some excellent new poems alongside one of my favourite authors. 

D H Lawrence's poem, Gloire de Dijon is every bit as good as I remember it..

"In the window full of sunlight
Concentrates her golden shadow
Fold on fold, until it glows as
Mellow as the glory roses"

and the poem A Kiss Remembered by MR Peacock is really rather beautiful.

"a kiss searching for itself, neither looked for
nor expected, but like the rapt coupling of dragonflies..."

From the erotic to the sentimental, there is something for everyone in this beautifully presented pamphlet of ten sexy poems. A perfect gift for Valentine's Day.

About the Publishers

Candlestick Press is a small, independent press publishing sumptuously produced poetry pamphlets that serve as a wonderful alternative to a greetings card, with matching envelopes and bookmarks left blank for your message. Their subjects include Cricket, London, Lesbian and Gay, Birds, Clouds, Puddings and Fathers. Candlestick Press pamphlets are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, galleries and garden centres nationwide and available to order online.

Enter this giveaway to win a copy of Ten Sexy Poems 

Good Luck

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Blog Tour ~ Our Little Secret by Claudia Carroll

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on 

Our Little Secret Blog Tour

A sparkling story about what happens when you let someone into your life… but they turn out to want more than you’d bargained for!

Sarah Keyes has the perfect life. A high-flying job in a law firm, a beautiful daughter and a house to die for. So how does she find herself looking in through the kitchen window while another woman enjoys it all?

When Sarah takes pity on a struggling young graduate who can’t get a job, she thinks she’s doing the right thing. She’s being kind, generous and helpful to others, as she always is. But as Sarah allows the younger woman into her home, her law firm and even her family, is there more to this pretty youngster than meets the eye? And could this be a good deed that goes further than expected?

Claudia Carroll does it again with an incredible new novel about what happens when your life becomes up for grabs…

My thoughts about it...

Sarah is inexplicably drawn to the young beauty therapist who is doing her manicure and shellac nail varnish in a slightly rundown nail bar. When she finds out that Lauren is a young law graduate who is struggling to find a decent job, Sarah decides to do something to help her. Using her influence at her own law firm, Sarah decides to take Lauren under her wing, and even introduces Lauren to her friends and family.

Told from the differing points of view of Sarah, her teenage daughter, Darcy, and Sarah's best friend, Liz, what gradually unfolds is a suspenseful story which looks at the way people can be used and manipulated, and of how even the kindest of intentions can go disastrously wrong. The multiple story strands are well developed and I especially enjoyed trying to work out more about Lauren and the reasons why she acted in the way she did. 

Our Little Secret is my first novel by this author. I liked her contemporary writing style and will look forward to reading more of her books.

About the Author

Claudia Carroll is a top ten best selling author in the UK and a number one bestselling author in Ireland, selling over 700,00 copies of her paperback alone. Three of her novels have been optioned for movies and one for  a TV series on Fox TV. 
In 2013 , her tenth novel Me and You was shortlisted for the Bord Gais Energy Popular Choice Irish Book Award.
Her latest novel, Our Little Secret ( All She Ever Wished For) spent ten weeks in the Irish Top Ten
Claudia was born in Dublin where she still lives.

Twitter @carrollclaudia # OurLittleSecret


Do visit the other stops on the Blog Tour


Monday, 12 February 2018

Review ~ Aphrodite's Tears by Hannah Fielding

London Wall Publishing
25th January 2018

In the summer of 1977, Oriel Anderson is nursing a broken heart and goes to the Greek island of Helios where she hopes to fulfil her lifelong dream of joining an archaeological diving team. However, making her way in this male dominated activity is going to test Oriel's considerable resolve to the limit. When she finds that the island's enigmatic owner, Damian Lekkas, is attracted to her, Oriel has some difficult decisions to make. Will Oriel be guided by her head or her heart?

At its heart, Aphrodite's Tears is a passionate and romantic love story with a fascinating and complex mystery. Combining passionate romance and Greek legends, a story emerges which has its roots in ancient mythology but which also has a place very firmly in the 1970s. What then follows is a beautifully written romantic saga which has all the trademarks of this talented author's ability to weave together a magical tale.

What I love about this author's writing is her ability to take the reader on a journey of discovery whilst at the same time giving us a wonderfully passionate story. The romantic connection between Oriel and Damian is strong and passionate and yet, the darker elements of the story are equally as compelling and add depth and richness to the narrative. 

As always, with this author’s stories, time and place come beautifully alive. The stunning Greek setting acts as a glorious backdrop to a story which is rich in romance and alive with all the sunshine and culture of this beautiful country.

Twitter @fieldinghannah 

Aphrodite’s Tears is out now in ebook and in paperback 

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered..

This week, on the 6th February, it was a 100 years since The Representation of the People Act which gave women over thirty and men over 21 the vote.

 And whilst it didn't go very far, it did, however, allow a glimmer of hope to those brave women who had long been campaigning for Votes for Women.

And so I started to think about all those women who kept the country functioning during the long years of WW1, and this 1917 poem by war poet, Jessie Pope speaks eloquently about their public service contribution.

War Girls

There's the girl who clips your ticket for the train,
  And the girl who speeds the lift from floor to floor,
There's the girl who does a milk-round in the rain,
  And the girl who calls for orders at your door.
      Strong, sensible, and fit,
      They're out to show their grit,
    And tackle jobs with energy and knack.
      No longer caged and penned up,
      They're going to keep their end up
    Till the khaki soldier boys come marching back.

There's the motor girl who drives a heavy van,
  There's the butcher girl who brings your joint of meat,
There's the girl who cries 'All fares, please!' like a man,
  And the girl who whistles taxis up the street.
      Beneath each uniform
      Beats a heart that's soft and warm,
    Though of canny mother-wit they show no lack;
      But a solemn statement this is,
      They've no time for love and kisses
    Till the khaki soldier-boys come marching back.


The Women's Work in the War Production 1914-1918

A female switchboard cleaner of the tramways department of the Corporation of Glasgow (now Glasgow City Council). Two such women were employed by the department, starting in November 1915. They worked forty-five hours per week and earned 25 shillings per week, including a bonus.

Women taking up the challenge of public service work during 1914-1918 allowed more men to go to war.

© IWM (Q 110155)

A female worker operating a slugging machine at the boot manufacture of J. Rawson and Sons Limited in Leicester.

© IWM (Q 109965)

Source IWM  archive collection.


Saturday, 10 February 2018

Hist Fic Saturday ~ The Good Doctor of Warsaw by Elisabeth Gifford

On Hist Fic Saturday 

Let's go back to...Warsaw, 1937-1945

Atlantic Books
1 February 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

' You do not leave a sick child alone to face the dark 

and you do not leave a child at a time like this'

Janusz Korcsak

Those poignant words sum up the work of Doctor Janusz Korcsak, a Polish paediatrician, who was an early pioneer of child welfare, and who cared for more than two hundred children in the notorious Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi occupation in WW2.

And even as the eponymous doctor strives for good, so the world turns towards the evil that men do, and this novel shows, with absolute startling precision, just what happened to those Jews who were forcibly removed from their lives, and who were made to live in appalling conditions, where their daily struggle to survive was filled with fear and horror on an inhuman scale.

Misha and Sophia are two young students who meet and fall in love and whose urge to survive the ghetto forms the basis for this harrowing and emotional story. Living alongside, Doctor Korcsak, they see at first hand just how the doctor cares for the children in his care, and share his philosophy that life is precious and that every child should be encouraged and cherished. That events conspire against them makes for disturbing reading.

The Good Doctor of Warsaw is a truly exceptional story, and such is the strength of the characterisation that, despite the horror unfolding, the need to read on becomes paramount, and is a tribute to the author’s skill in bringing such an important story to life. Based on fact and with meticulous research, Janusz Korcsak’s story deserves to be told. His compassion and brilliance shine with every well written word, and in using testimonies of the surviving family members of Misha and Sophia, and in the documented evidence of Korcsak’s enlightened philosophy, a deeply emotional story of dreadful persecution is revealed.

It's a long time since I read a story which moved me to tears and which left me with such a feeling of utter sadness for what had been allowed to happen during this horrific time in Poland's history. And yet, underneath the degradation that went on and the suffering that the ghetto people endured, there is also a real sense of heroism, courage and absolute bravery. 

Out of a population of over half a million people, only one percent survived the Warsaw Ghetto. We should never be allowed to forget them.

Elisabeth Gifford's debut novel, Secrets of the Sea House, was shortlisted for the historical writers' Association Debut Crown. She is married with three children and lives in Kingston Upon Thames.

Twitter @elisabeth04liz

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Review ~ The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements

Headline Review
8 February 2018
My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

There is nothing I like better than an atmospheric ghost story which is set high above the hills of Northern England. 

Mercy Booth, her father, Bartram and servant, Agnes eke out a bleak existence amongst the lost and lonely crags of the Yorkshire Dales. The old coffin path that links Mercy's home at Scarcross Hall to the village below is a path not often travelled as folk say that evil lingers on its dark and lonely trail.

Mercy isn't frightened, after all, this is the only life she has ever known, and she is content to tend to her flock of sheep in isolated loneliness. But so attuned is she to her solitary environment that when strange things start to happen, and when a shadowy figure is seen near the Hall, Mercy’s peace of mind is greatly disturbed.

With a strong sense of time and place, The Coffin Path is a deliciously creepy story and so icily chilling in places that it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. And whilst, it’s about the realities of living in a harsh and unforgiving time when ignorant superstition could ruin innocent lives, it’s also about gossip and sly innuendo; it’s about blood and fear and of the daily struggle of survival.

Set in the latter half of the seventeenth century, The Coffin Path is that wonderful mixture of Gothic gloom and ancient superstition which is so reminiscent of Northern England. Beautifully written, and filled with a sense of evil and a brooding loneliness, it’s one of those stories which is just perfect for a cold, wintery evening, and when the light dims and the evening gloom settles you will find yourself peering into dark, like Mercy, you never know what waits for you there.

Katherine Clements is a critically acclaimed novelist, self-confessed costume drama addict and current Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Manchester.

She is editor of Historia, the online magazine of the Historical Writers' Association, and is a member of the HWA committee and The Prime Writers. The Coffin Path is her third novel.

Twitter @KL_Clements



Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Blog Tour ~ Ivy and Abe by Elizabeth Enfield

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be involved in the blog tour for Ivy and Abe

Michael Joseph
February 2018

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

Childhood friends in the Sixties, Ivy and Abe were inseparable until a chance event tore them apart. Now in their early seventies, fate once again bring them together - both grey-haired, Ivy hand in hand with her grandson - to fill in the gaps of one another's lives. Each has experienced great passions as well as heart-breaking tragedies, but the time is finally right for them.

Their love story seems, in the end, meant to be. But what if…

In a parallel universe, chance had intervened and they'd met sooner?
They'd met in their forties, both married to other people and began an affair?
They'd met before then and married, but the daunting question mark over
Ivy's health had suffocated Abe's love for her?
As lovestruck teenagers, one small moment had sealed their fate?

I am delighted to welcome the author, Elizabeth Enfield to the blog

Hi Elizabeth, thank you for spending time with us today. Tell us a little about yourself and what got you started as an author? 

I was working as a freelance journalist, with various ideas for novels, when I went into Sainsbury's and found that the book of the month was by Matt Rudd, a colleague who is now deputy editor of the Sunday Times magazine. I was so jealous I went home and moaned to my husband who pointed out that if I never got down to writing a book it would never be in Sainsbury's or anywhere else. Ivy is going to be. I'm so happy!

Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for Ivy and Abe? 

I can't quite pinpoint the first flash as there were many. I hoard stories, things people have told me or that I've read. At some point I realized I had collected a lot of 'right person wrong time' accounts of people who had met and fallen for each other but whose relationships had floundered due to circumstances rather than lack of emotion. So, in Ivy and Abe, I decided to create a parallel series of worlds in which I might play with the idea 'is there a right person or just a right time?’

Will you explain to us a little more about the plot without giving too much away? 

Ivy and Abe are always destined to meet but depending on the circumstances not always destined to be. There are other factors in their lives, over which they have no control, events which run through the novel that play out in different ways each time we meet them. Because the story is told across both their lifetimes, the reader discovers, not just how each alternate relationship pans out but what has happened throughout their lives. 

When you started writing did you have a writing plan, or did you plot out the story as you went along? 

I had a plan. It changed a lot. Right up to the very final edits. I threw in a whole new story line quite late in the day and reversed the chronology at the eleventh hour too!

Do you have a special place to write and where do you do your best thinking?

No. I wish I did. My desk at home is in the middle of our living room, next to the piano, which my son likes to hammer away on. I can write when everyone is out but that's not that often so I tend to flit between the local library and various cafes. I live in Brighton, which is full of writers, tapping away over turmeric lattes - I'm a tea drinker. I've a favorite cafe, which has Wi-Fi, pots of Sussex breakfast tea and an atmosphere, which I find conducive to writing. I do my best thinking in the bath or walking on the Downs nearby. 

How can readers find out more about you and your writing? 

or follow me on twitter @lizzieenfield #IvyandAbe

Elizabeth Enfield worked as a journalist and producer for BBC radio before going freelance. She now contributes to various national newspapers and magazines. Hershort stories have been broadcast on Radio 4 and published in magazines including Woman's Own and the Sunday Express.

Huge thanks to Elizabeth for sharing her thoughts about Ivy and Abe.

Ivy and Abe is published by Michael Joseph and is available to buy from the 8th February 2018

Amazon UK


Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Review ~ The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd

January 2018

The Innocent Wife introduces us to Samantha, a Bristol schoolteacher, who becomes obsessed with Dennis Danson, a thirty-something man who is currently twenty years into his Death Row sentence in an American prison. A recent true-crime documentary suggests that Dennis may not be the one responsible for the brutal murder of a young girl in Florida's Red River County and Samantha is so convinced Dennis's of innocence that she starts a progressively more intimate correspondence with him.

From the opening chapter you get a sense that this story does not bode well and yet, Samantha with dogged determination and little regard for her own safety travels to America to be closer to Dennis.
What then follows is a fascinating, and at times deeply disturbing, story of dark obsession and cruel manipulation. Interspersed with witness transcripts from the original investigation, the story gives a unique insight into the facts behind the case and gives voice to those characters who knew Dennis when he was younger and also gets into the mind-set of those people who are determined to try to prove his innocence.

Intricately plotted, The Innocent Wife caught my attention from the start and compelled me to turn the pages so quickly that I had finished the book in just a few short hours. The author does a great job of bringing Samantha with all of her complex vulnerability to life, whilst at the same time getting into the mentality of a young man whose life has been twisted by the tragic circumstances of his dysfunctional bringing. The action is well paced throughout and there are more than enough twists and turns to keep you guessing until the story's unexpected ending.

The Innocent Wife was chosen as The Daily Mail's First Novel Competition winner in 2016 and introduces us a remarkable new talent in crime thriller writing.

About the Author

Amy Lloyd studied English and Creative Writing at Cardiff Metropolitan University Her writing combines her fascination for true crime and her passion for fiction. She lives in Cardiff with her partner and two cats.

Twitter @AmyLloydWrites #TheInnocentWife

Monday, 5 February 2018

Review ~ Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions by Amy Stewart

 11 January 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

When Deputy Sheriff, Constance Kopp is called upon to imprison eighteen year old, Edna Heustis on charge of waywardness, she is determined to discover why young girls, like Edna, are being wrongfully accused and incarcerated for nothing more wayward than leaving home without their parents permission. Constance, with all her customary zeal, sets out on a crusade to defend these unfortunate young women who don't seem to have anyone to act as their champion. Once on a  mission to help, Constance never lets anyone, man or woman, stand in her way.

As with the previous books in the series, the author has drawn upon documented historical evidence about the real Constance Kopp, and has used this to great effect to give us a rather dark story about the plight of young women in the early part of the twentieth century. On a lighter note, I especially enjoyed the interaction between Constance and her sister, Norma and their dilemma when their younger sister, Fleurette runs away from home to join a vaudeville dance act.

The stories are beautifully reminiscent of a bygone time and the author's ability to give life to such strong female characters whilst still keeping the historical integrity of the story is to her credit. Even though this is the third book in the series, it can be read entirely as a standalone and yet, the two previous books paint such a glorious picture of Constance and her sisters that it would be a real shame not to read those first.

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About the Author

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Sunday, 4 February 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

Ordinary Lives of the First World War

I am honoured to feature this very special family story from the author, Rachel Sargeant

Sister Muriel Wakeford – a nurse at Gallipoli

Australian-born Muriel Wakeford, trained as a nurse and became matron at two hospitals in New South Wales.  At the outbreak of war, she volunteered to serve in the Australian Army Nursing Service. She set off on the Kyarra in November 1914, arriving in Egypt the following January.
During her time as a war nurse, she kept a diary. Here is the first entry:

“Wednesday 24th of November

A momentous day indeed. At 4pm we pushed off from Circular quay amidst wild enthusiasm and also a terrific storm. The ferry boats all saluted, the crowd cheered and I felt pretty miserable. My first experience at sea. The night was wild indeed – three sea men were knocked over by the elements and one had to be operated on next morning. I was fortunate enough to be able to assist at the operation. Unique experience at sea.”

In April 1915 she was sent aboard the hospital ship Gascon bound for the island of Lemnos, thirty miles from the Dardanelles Straits. For the next few months, she and her colleagues cared for thousands of injured, dying and diseased men.

Muriel wrote:

“Sun 25 Apr 1915

Bombardment of the Dardanelles commenced 5 am. Moved off at 1am. Reached Gaba Tepe at 5. Shells were bursting everywhere. At 9 the first lot of wounded came on board. At midday the place was a fiery inferno. The London was lying almost touching us. Shells from the enemy frequently burst quite close to us. The first landing party cut to pieces by the Turks who fired shrapnel before the lighters even touched the beach.

At 6.30 left for Lemnos with 600 on board.”

A later diary entry read:

“Mon 9 Aug

By daylight the whole coast presents a very different aspect to what it did when we departed here (Anzac) nearly a month ago. Troops have landed and are holding the whole length of coastline from Anzac beach to Cape Suvla (new landing place). Several cruisers and transports are anchored there in Suvla Bay. 3 cruisers and several monitors are shelling Turkish positions. Heavy fighting proceeds all day. Wounded arriving continually.”

In early September 1915 she travelled back to Australia on the Beltana, nursing invalided soldiers. She returned to sea on 17th December aboard the Karoola, presumably heading for the Western Front but we don’t have her diary for 1916 to confirm this.
Serving with Muriel on the Gascon had been third mate Raymond Sargeant, a British-Belgian man. They married in June 1916 in London.  As was the norm for the time, Muriel gave up her career when she married.

The couple made their home in Mombasa, Kenya where Raymond was Port Captain. They had one son, Harry, who became an army officer and saw action in the Second World War. Raymond and Muriel later moved to South Africa.

At the age of fifty six, Raymond returned to active service during the Second World War as a Lieutenant-Commander with the South African Naval Forces. Muriel and Raymond spent their retirement in Worthing, on the English south coast. Raymond died in 1958 and Muriel in 1965.

Muriel’s grandsons, Mark and Nigel, have kept her 1915 diary. Nigel’s wife, Rachel Sargeant, is a writer who has written a novel loosely based on the diary. Gallipoli: Year of Love and Duty.

About Gallipoli: Year of Love and Duty

In 1915 Sara Winwood writes a diary. It begins as a grand adventure for Sara and best friend Bessie, two newly enlisted sisters in the Australian Army Nursing Service heading into the unknown to do their bit in a distant war.

At first they serve in Egypt where nursing duties slot in around camel rides to the Pyramids and coffee at Cairo’s Shepheard’s Hotel but then, together with four other nurses, they are sent on board the hospital ship Gascon, bound for the Dardanelles. Adventure turns to ordeal. The six women face an unrelenting barrage of blood, death and disease with only the fortitude and humour of their patients – shrapnel-filled men scraped off the hostile cliffs of the Gallipoli peninsula - to keep them going. They don’t just see war; they touch, taste and breathe it.

By the end of the year, one nurse will die, one will achieve greatness, one will mourn, two will deceive, and one will learn to love.

About Rachel Sargeant

Rachel Sargeant is an Amazon Kindle Top Ten bestselling author. She grew up in Lincolnshire. She has three published novels, Gallipoli: Year of Love and Duty being her second. Her stories have appeared in My Weekly and the Accent Press Saucy Shorts series. Rachel has a degree in German and Librarianship from Aberystwyth University and a Masters in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. She spent several years living in Germany where she taught English and she now lives in Gloucester with her husband and children.

Twitter @RachelSargeant3

Warmest thanks to Rachel for spending time with us today

 And for sharing Muriels's diary with us, I feel honoured to share this poignant reminder

of Gallipoli by a nurse who was actually there.


Saturday, 3 February 2018

Hist Fic Saturday ~ There is Always a Tomorrow by Anna Belfrage

Oh Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to 

Seventeenth Century, Maryland...

November 2017

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book

There is Always a Tomorrow is the ninth book in Anna Belfrage’s time slip series featuring time traveller, Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

I have to admit that I haven't read any of the previous eight books in The Graham Series, a fact that I hope to remedy very soon, as by reading this ninth book out of sequence, I realise just how much I have missed by not picking up the series when it first started back in 2012. The first novel, A Rip in the Veil, sees Alexandra Lind, a twentieth century woman, being whisked back in time to 1658.

And so, putting that admission to one side, I can now concentrate more fully on the merits of There is Always A Tomorrow, which despite my need to keep referring back to the family tree to remind myself who was who, I found this to be a fascinating story about a family who are firmly immersed in their life at Graham's Garden in Maryland, where they are very much part of the fabric of the close knit community they call home.

The relationship between Alex and Matthew is filled with love and passion and the way they act around each other after many years of marriage is testament to the strength of their relationship, which seems to be tested frequently by the behaviour of their numerous offspring.This novel seems to follow more closely the lives of just a few of their grown up children, although all the others are very much in evidence throughout the story. I was especially interested in the story of Samuel who, as White Bear, faces a dilemma about staying at home at Graham's Garden or of travelling with the indigenous people who have since become his adopted family. Also the arrival of a granddaughter, from London, causes great upset to the Grahams and threatens the equilibrium of the homestead, with catastrophic effect.

What becomes apparent when reading about the Grahams is the love and fine attention to detail which the author instills in all of her characters. Like a mother she understands them and allows the subtle differences in their personalities to really shine, so that they all appear totally authentic and completely of their time in history.

I think that the story works well as a standalone read, but, as a new reader to the series, I did find that I didn't always understand certain references to past events. However, the author does allow for new readers to the series and gives sufficient background information. The problem of not knowing enough about what had gone before is my fault and is no reflection on the standard of writing, which, as always, is excellent.

There is Always A Tomorrow is a fascinating family saga, filled with intrigue, danger, love and passion, and I am sure that fans of this series who have followed The Graham Saga from the beginning will enjoy this continuation, and will, I am sure, be urging the author to write more 😊

About the Author

When Anna is not stuck in the 14th century, chances are she’ll be visiting in the 17th century, more specifically with Alex and Matthew Graham, the protagonists of the acclaimed The Graham Saga. This series is the story of two people who should never have met – not when she was born three centuries after him. A ninth instalment has recently been published, despite Anna having thought eight books were enough. Turns out her 17th century dreamboat and his time travelling wife didn’t agree…

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