book review · crime · series · thriller

Book Review – Little Girl Taken

Little Girl Taken – Wendy Dranfield

Rain rattles through the trees as she leans into the car, careful not to touch anything. Two pretty blue eyes stare back through the dark, wide with relief, or maybe fear. A baby girl, wrapped up in a pink snowsuit, reaches out a tiny hand. Her mother is nowhere to be found…

An abandoned baby is the last thing Detective Madison Harper expects to find as she drives to her first day back at work since the case that ripped her life apart. But as she cradles the shivering child close, all her instincts tell her there’s something more sinister at play. Then she finds a lone sneaker down a muddy trail nearby, the laces spattered with blood…

In a town as small as Lost Creek, Colorado, the baby and the shoe are quickly identified as belonging to Kacie Larson, a waitress at the local diner who quietly stashed away her tips to make a better life for her daughter. A mother herself, Madison can’t believe that Kacie would just abandon her child, but she also can’t convince her new team. Not for the first time, Madison feels she must go it alone to get the job done.

But when a body is pulled from a nearby lake, and it’s not Kacie, the case takes an agonizing turn. Is this missing mother really who she says she is? Is there a chance she’s still alive? Madison barely has time to think before the sweet little girl she rescued is snatched on a crowded street. Gone, in the blink of an eye.

To break this case and earn her place back on the force, Madison must learn to trust her team, and herself again—and fast. If she doesn’t find this twisted individual in time, a little girl could die…

A pulse-pounding, absolutely gripping and totally addictive page-turner that will have you racing through the pages and reeling at the twists. Perfect for fans of Melinda Leigh, Lisa Regan and Kendra Elliot, you’ll be sleeping with the lights on!

Add to Goodreads

My Review

From the first book in the Detective Madison Harper series, I was hooked on both the original backstory of the main characters and the obstacles they faced in getting some degree of normality back into their lives. Last we met, Madison had found out who was behind her wrongful incarceration which saw her spend six years in prison, six years away from the job she loved and six long years away from her beloved son, Owen. In Little Girl Taken, Madison is about to start her first day back at Lost Creek Police Department as a detective. She’s nervous and excited, knowing it won’t be easy for her to trust her fellow officers immediately and expecting some backlash from the community. Luckily for her (if I can call it lucky) she doesn’t have time to let those thoughts fester as she finds a car in a ditch, inside which a baby girl lies, alone and crying.

So begins the case to find out who the child is and where the driver of the vehicle is, assuming said driver is the child’s mother. Reports of a missing waitress lead her to believe the missing woman is a waitress at a local diner.

Meanwhile, Nate, the other main character, returns from visiting his good friend, Rex, not really knowing why he has gone back to Lost Creek now that Madison has her life sorted, her son is back with her and she has her job to keep her busy. Nate, however, knows he cannot settle until Father Connor has been caught, and disturbing messages from the priest who set him up for the murder of his fiancée, torment him regularly. Progress has been made in that he’s stopped his drug use since visiting Rex, but the temptation is still there to drag him down into that dark spiral of depression.

Madison has her hands full: she and Owen are struggling to communicate well, he’s not the young boy she was forced to leave behind anymore; also, at the police department, she has been partnered with the very officer who put her away. Now that he is struggling himself, she finds herself bearing the brunt of their work and the two of them still have both different approaches to the job and very different views on getting the job done. She’s also worried about Nate. She wants to help him, but is so busy, and she’s concerned he might leave Lost Creek and hunt for Father Connor by himself.

Little Girl Taken sees Madison take on her first major case with gusto and empathy, digging deep in the the missing mother’s life to reveal a tragic and heartbreaking tale of untreated trauma. The path Madison takes to learn these facts is deliciously convoluted as the author drops clues like confetti. The way the story twists and turns makes it an absolute page-turner. Added to Madison’s complicated life, poor Nate isn’t having a great time either when yet more tragedy befalls him, putting him back on the police’s radar for another murder. He knows Father Connor is behind matters, and can delay no longer in hunting him down. It’s dramatic, tense and excrutiatingly difficult to watch Nate break down. He will need to rely on Madison to get him through this latest episode.

This is a very clever crime thriller that had me second guessing everyone in Lost Creek at some point. Brody, the K9-trained dog is a star, as always, his training as a cadaver dog being used widely throughout the investigation. A new character – Vince Rader – is established as one to watch. He’s runs a crime podcast and is keen to interview Madison and Nate, but he also employed the missing woman. On top of that, he is grieving the loss of his wife and grandson and trying to ignore the aspersions cast his way that he was responsible in some way. He manages to appear to be both a bad guy and a good guy at times before his true self is laid bare, and he really is as genuine as he makes out. Hopefully, he’ll be part of Nate’s decision as to whether his future is in Lost Creek or not. I’m pretty convinced Madison and Owen want him to stick around.

I’ll be keeping an eye for the next instalment; Wendy Dranfield has becomes one of of must-read authors. Thanks go to Netgalley, Wendy and the publishers for my copy of this book which I’ve reviewed voluntarily and with the greatest of pleasure. My only query is regarding the book cover which didn’t seem to relate to the story at all, although it does match the style of others in the series and also the market for crime thrillers. Does it matter that it doesn’t go with the story, IMHO? Probably not, but if we’re led to believe that covers sell books, then this wouldn’t have done so for me. Luckily, the author’s name alone is enough for me to choose this one.

As always,

book review · France · historical fiction

Book Review – Blood Rose Angel (No Woman is an Island)

No Woman is an Island (Pandora’s Boxed Set #1) includes books by Liza PerratLinda GillardLorna FergussonClare Flynn and Helena Halme 

I’ll be reviewing each book in turn, starting with Blood Rose Angel by Liza Perrat

Blood Rose Angel

Book description:

1348. A bone-sculpted angel and the woman who wears it––heretic, Devil’s servant, saint.

Midwife Héloïse has always known that her bastard status threatens her standing in the French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne. Yet her midwifery and healing skills have gained the people’s respect, and she has won the heart of the handsome Raoul Stonemason. The future looks hopeful. Until the Black Death sweeps into France.

Terrified that Héloïse will bring the pestilence into their cottage, Raoul forbids her to treat its victims. Amidst the grief and hysteria, the villagers searching for a scapegoat, Héloïse must choose: preserve her marriage, or honour the oath she swore on her dead mother’s soul? And even as she places her faith in the protective powers of her angel talisman, she must prove she’s no Devil’s servant, her talisman no evil charm.

Héloïse, with all her tragedies and triumphs, celebrates the birth of modern medicine, midwifery and thinking in late medieval times.

Amazon UK purchase link

My Review

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and have to admit to being one lucky reader to get my hands on this gem of a boxed set, and I’m basing that on simply having read just one of the five books in the collection. If the others are half as good, then I am in for a treat.

Blood Rose Angel is the third book in Liza Perrat’s series: The Bone Angel. And, yes, it’s very typical of me to come late to the party, but all three books can be read as standalones. So, phew! On the plus side, I now have two more books to add to my TBR list.

Set in Lucie-sur-Vionne, France in the year of our Lord, 1348, it follows the life of midwife Héloïse, whose mother died giving birth to her and so she was raised by her aunt, Isa (her mother’s twin sister). The nature of her difficult birth and the identity of her father unknown led to superstitions running amok labelling her as “unborn” and subjecting her to taunts from child- to adulthood.

Since her mother was also a midwife, Héloïse picked up the mantle determined to be the best healer and midwife she could be. Given her lowly birth, she was not expected to be “worthy” of marriage, but nonetheless fell in love with stonemason Raoul and gave birth to their first child, a daughter, Morgane, before suffering two stillbirths – sons – in the years that followed.

For two years, Raoul worked away in Italy, returning to Lucie as the pestilence took root, spreading like wildfire and killing many, including one of his apprentices, Toubie. His return is welcomed by Héloïse and his family, but the arrival of the pestilence is not.

Over the years, Héloïse has fallen foul of many locals, some who – for reasons known only to them and their faith – blame her for the death of their father, mother, child, dog, rat and fleas – in fact, anything they can blame her for, they will. Fortunately, more see her as the competent, respectful and caring person that she is.

However, when things take a turn for the worse, it is the naysayers who seem to have the power to control her fate, and she must use all her strength and faith in her mother’s talisman to fend them off. But it’s not easy, and her life is endangered by these suspicious and vengeful folk.

Without spilling any of the beans – plotwise – let me just say that I defy you not to be transported back in time by this book, and to feel immersed in the daily life of villagers in Lucie. Héloïse is a woman to root for, as injustices pile upon her, yet on she goes. It’s evident the author has researched the era with precision; her words conjured up images in my mind so vivid in sight, sound and smell (many of the latter are far from pleasant too). While the author admits to fictionalising her characters, what she puts them through is drenched in fact and very believable for that era. I did feel the ending lost some of the earlier momentum, but I imagine that’s often the nature of things as loose ends are tied up.

Having read this whilst we are still living through a pandemic ourselves, it didn’t pass me by that there existed then – as now – the same division between those who believed in masks and distancing. Humans, eh, we’re creatures of habit, aren’t we? Anyhow, pandemic or plague aside, this is a great read and fans of historical fiction will relish in the detail of the scenes portrayed and the lives of the characters within those scenes. As for me, I’m adding Liza’s earlier books to my reading list.

See you next time with my review of Hidden, by Linda Gillard (not sure when that will happen, but it will happen) If you’re interested in the other books in this collection, please take a look for yourself … and, enjoy!



Pandora’s Boxed Set #1

Together for the first time: award-winners and trail-blazers. 5 international women authors showcase 5 unforgettable novels.

Blood Rose Angel, by Liza Perrat
1348, France. A bone-sculpted angel and the woman who wears it—heretic, Devil’s servant, saint.
Despite her bastardy, Héloïse has earned respect in the French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne for her midwifery and healing skills. Then the Black Death sweeps into France.

Hidden, by Linda Gillard
A birth. A death. Hidden for a hundred years.
1917.“Lady, fiancé killed, will gladly marry officer totally blinded or otherwise incapacitated by the war.” When Miranda Norton inherits Myddleton Mote and its art collection she is haunted by the dark secrets of a woman imprisoned in a reckless marriage.

The Chase, by Lorna Fergusson
The past will hunt you down.
Gerald Feldwick tells his wife Netty that in France they can put the past behind them. Alone in an old house, deep in the woods of the Dordogne, Netty is not so sure. Netty is right.

The Chalky Sea, by Clare Flynn
July 1940. When bombs fall, the world changes for two troubled people.
Gwen knows her husband might die in the field but thought her sleepy English seaside town was safe. Amid horror and loss, she meets Jim Armstrong, a soldier far from the cosy life of his Ontario farm. Can war also bring salvation?

Coffee and Vodka, by Helena Halme
Eeva doesn’t want to remember, but in Finland she must face her past.
‘In Stockholm, everything is bigger and better.’ Her Pappa’s hopes for a better life in another country adjust to the harsh reality but one night, Eeva’s world falls apart. Thirty years later, Eeva needs to know what happened.


As always,

blog tour · book excerpt · book review · Giveaways · suspense · thriller

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Safekeeping (with an amazing giveaway)

SafeKeeping

Welcome to the tour for highly anticipated release, Safekeeping by Eva Mackenzie! Read on for more details and a chance to win a brand-new Kindle Paperwhite 32GB (Value 249.99)!

Mackenzie_Safekeeping_Ebook

Safekeeping

Publication Date: July 20th, 2021

Genre: Thriller/ Suspense Thriller

No one ever thinks they’ll get caught…

Moments before police arrive on the scene of a car accident in rural Montana, Sonia has time to make one phone call. With one word whispered, she sets off an unstoppable chain of events. Once police arrive, she confesses to the brutal murder of her stepsister, Emma.

After, she’s sentenced to life in prison where she learns her stepfather’s ruthless reach. It’s a game of cat and mouse– a game she has already lost. She only needs to hold on long enough to be sure her secret is kept safe.

Until one day, news of an unidentified man’s death confirms her worst fear, and Sonia must get out of prison, at all cost. What did the dead man say, and who heard him say it?

Because everyone is guilty of something…

Add to Goodreads

Excerpt

She winced and sucked air through her mouth as she pressed on the bridge of her nose. Murmuring could be heard outside her cell from women nearby. A whisper began, low at first, but climbing to reach her ears: “Green light go, on 216. Green light go, on 216.”

It was soft and almost childlike, and its echo sent a shiver through her. Green light was code for a hit, and 216 was her cell number. It was like note-passing among the inmates, only she was meant to hear it. Someone had decided it was time for her to die.

The morning light caught the edge of one of her paintings and she stared back at a likeness only she could see.

“I miss you,” she whispered. “I’m not done yet.

Available on Amazon

About the Author

eva-fav-alley.jpg

Eva Mackenzie is an author who enjoys twisty, emotionally engrossing tales. Her debut novel has been a work in progress for over a decade. Under the urging of a loved one, it’s finally finished.

She is a wife and mother living on the east coast. When she isn’t writing, she is spending time with her family, training for her next marathon or reading stacks of suspense novels. Some of her favorite authors are Minka Kent, Dean Koontz, Tami Hoag, and Lisa Jackson.

Eva Mackenzie | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads| Newsletter

Who wants to win a brand new Kindle??? This giveaway is open to everyone and will run all week (ending July 24th)!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My Review

This story starts off with a bang or rather a car crash as the protagonist, Sonia Rossi, is hurled into a ditch by an oncoming vehicle. Before the emergency services arrive, and too injured to run, she makes a phone call in which the word “safekeeping” triggers a series of events for the recipient. When the police arrive, she tells them her name … and that she is wanted for murder.

From here on, the story moves to Flint Hill Corrections Centre where Sonia has been incarcerated. We soon learn that her life in there is fraught with danger, and that she is constantly in danger. Assaulted time and again, Sonia tries to keep a low profile but it’s clear there are forces working against her. That force, primarily, being her step-father Saul D’Luca who is out for revenge after she “confessed” to killing his daughter, Emma, her step-sister.

However, when her ex is killed, Sonia knows she has to get out of prison and begins the appeal process with the help of Ali, a high-powered criminal defence attorney. It’s not longer before the warden at Flint Hill shows his true colours in refusing to give Sonia protection, and later in limiting her visitors. But when Sonia’s mum visits and then goes missing, as well as Ali the lawyer, it’s clear someone (Saul) does not want Sonia to be freed or even retried.

As Sonia battles for justice, the story also includes the actions of the person who received her phone call before she was locked up. Making the connections between Sonia, Saul and this third person, Jenna helps to unlock the reason Saul wants to keep Sonia quiet – preferably dead.

The suspense element is strong and there are several secrets to uncover before the story concludes which kept my attention, and despite there being multiple POV characters with their own chapters, the links between them all tie up by the end. For me, there are still a couple of loose ends that I’d like to see resolved – maybe there’ll be another book to do that.

A good and well-paced story with plenty of upsets along the ways that mean you just have to read one more chapter.


SafeKeeping

Book Tour Schedule

July 19th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

Books Rambling & Tea (Spotlight) https://booksramblingsandtea.com/

@books_n_yogapants (Review) https://www.instagram.com/books_n_yogapants/

@addictedtobooks86 (Review) https://www.instagram.com/addictedtobooks86/

Nessie’s Place (Spotlight) https://nesiesplace.wordpress.com

Rambling Mads (Review) http://ramblingmads.com

July 20th

Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.com/

Kam’s Place (Review) https://www.superkambrook.com/

Just 4 My Books (Review) http://www.just4mybooks.wordpress.com

The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

July 21st

@gin_books_crochethooks (Review) https://www.instagram.com/gin_books_crochethooks/

@esmeralda_lagiggles18 (Review) https://www.instagram.com/esmeralda_lagiggles18/

@jypsylynn (Review) https://www.instagram.com/jypsylynn

Cocktails & Fairy Tales (Review) https://www.facebook.com/CocktailsFairytales

Phantom of the Library (Review) https://phantomofthelibrary.com/

July 22nd

@amysbooknook8 (Review) https://www.instagram.com/amysbooknook8/

@geauxgetlit (Review) https://www.instagram.com/geauxgetlit/

@isbn_reading (Review) https://www.instagram.com/isbn_reading/

@booklymatters (Review) https://www.instagram.com/booklymatters/

July 23rd

@greeneyedgirl0704 (Review) https://www.instagram.com/greeneyedgirl0704/

Misty’s Book Space (Review) http://mistysbookspace.wordpress.com

@theliterateleprechaun (Review) https://www.instagram.com/theliterateleprechaun/

Stine Writing (Review) https://christinebialczak.com/

@dreaminginpages (Review) https://www.instagram.com/dreaminginpages/

Book Tour Organized By:

R&R Button

R&R Book Tours

blog tour · book review · Contemporary Romance · holidays · travel

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Clueless in Croatia

Clueless in Croatia

D.I. Fierce always gets his man, but can he get his woman?

Actor Leonard Lupine is sick of his life, both on and off-screen, so when his agent suggests a luxury villa holiday in Croatia he leaps at the opportunity to escape. What he doesn’t realise is that his greatest mystery of all is waiting to be solved on the tiny island of Brač.

Does he have what it takes to follow the clues to love? ♥

Purchase Links

Amazon.com – https://www.amazon.com/Clueless-Croatia-feel-good-romantic-Retreats-ebook/dp/B08X1QC7B7

Amazon.co.uk – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Clueless-Croatia-Joy-Skye/dp/B08X6DRPLC

Apple – https://books.apple.com/us/book/clueless-in-croatia/id1554657700

Nook – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/clueless-in-croatia-joy-skye/1138863706

Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/gr/en/ebook/clueless-in-croatia

Universal Link – https://books2read.com/Clueless-in-Croatia

Author Bio

Joy lives on the seductive island of Corfu with her four dogs and an embarrassing number of cats.

Her many years working in the tourist industry on this sunny isle and her love of all things literary inspired her first novel Corfu Capers which recently hit the #1 spot in Parenting and Family humour much to her delight.

She loves to cook, dance and drink wine, usually at the same time, and is currently working on book number three, due to be released later this year.

She also loves to travel, absolutely anywhere, and is looking forward to jumping on a plane!

Social Media Links

Website – https://joyskye.com/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/JoySkye4

FB – https://www.facebook.com/JoySkyeAuthor

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/joys.kye/

My Review

I’ve never been to Croatia, but after reading this it’s definitely on my list, and the sooner, the better. The author paints a wonderful picture of the island of Brac, showing how community-minded and family-oriented the people are. Sounds like the perfect place for a fabulous holiday.

As a successful TV actor with a gruff personality that he has been encouraged to adopt off screen as well as on, Leonard has become disenchanted by the industry and the demands it makes on his life. He never gets to see his two sons, his ex-wife being a major obstacle to that also. When the chance crops up of a week away from it all with his boys, he can’t wait to get away from it all and cast off the shackles of DI Fierce. It’s time to be a dad again, and his sons are so looking forward to it as well.

Isabella manages the villa where Leonard and his boys will be staying, and goes to great lengths to make sure everything is perfect for them. She has no idea who Leonard / DI Fierce is, but a quick google search shows her that the man might be best left to his own devices once she has done her job, especially since she has her own son to look after.

Of course, as romantic tropes go, they don’t hit it off immediately. Isy almost begrudges having to rescue Leonard from a few scrapes because he simply has ignored her advice, but for the sake of his adorable boys she is always on hand to put things right. Things can only get better, right?

Until they get dramatically worse and the romance that could have been looks like an impossible dream.

For me, Leonard’s two sons are the stars of this story. They’d love to spend more time with their dad; their mum is too caught up in her own life to really bother about them. When they meet Isy and her son, they see a chance for their dad to be happy again … and the little minxes go all out to encourage a romance for the adults. and who can blame them?

Well, the paparazzi for one, who can’t resist snapping photos of Leonard with Isy and splashing the news all across the papers and internet.

Is there a way back for them or will the holiday in Croatia forever be just a happy memory?

Clueless in Croatia makes for the perfect summer read, a stunning location with charming traditions, fabulous characters (the taxi driver is a star in the making), appetizing food, and the ups and downs of an unexpected romance.

Thank you to the author for an advanced copy of this book.

For more news and reviews

As always,

blog tour · book blitz · historical fiction · Publication Day · romance

Book Release Blitz – The Girl in the Triangle

TheGirlintheTriangle

Congratulations to author Joyana Peters on the release of her romantic historical fiction, The Girl in the Triangle!

Read on for details and a chance to win a signed copy of the book!

Triangle-CoverPick

The Girl in the Triangle

Publication Date: July 12th, 2021

Genre: Historical Fiction

When your dreams finally seem to be coming true, it’s hard to trust them.

It’s been four years since seventeen-year-old Ruth set eyes on her fiance. After surviving near-starvation, revolution and a long trip across the stormy ocean, she can’t help but wonder: Will Abraham still love her? Or has America changed him?

Nowhere’s as full of change as 1909 New York. From moving pictures to daring clothes to the ultra-modern Triangle Shirtwaist Factory where she gets a job, everything exhilarates Ruth. When the New World even seems to rejuvenate her bond with Abraham, she is filled with hope for their prospects and the future of their war-torn families.

But when she makes friends and joins the labor movement—fighting for rights of the mostly female workers against the powerful factory owners—something happens she never expected. She realizes she might be the one America is changing. And she just might be leaving Abraham behind.

The Girl in the Triangle is an immigration story that will appeal to fans of Brooklyn by Colm Toibin and The Queen of the Big Time by Adriana Trigiani. It questions what it means to be an American, and what is the true meaning of strength.

Add to Goodreads

Excerpt

He stood outside the dressing room with his arms crossed. “I was starting to fear I’d need to send in a search party.”

“I’m sorry,” Ruth said. “I met the sister of one of your friends.”

“Chayele,” Abraham chuckled. “That explains it. That girl could talk the hind legs off a donkey.”

He steered her to the line for the stairs and gestured for her to open her bag to be examined. “They fear people stealing scraps for sewing at home.”

Ruth held her bag open wide as the guard poked through. Eventually he nodded, and they exited through the door to the stairs.

“Chayele seemed really nice. She introduced me to her friends as well. She said you were good friends with her brother?”

“Yankel,” Abraham nodded. “He’s good folk. He took me under his wing when I got here. Makes me get out and have some fun from time to time.”

Ruth pondered that for a moment and considered Chayele’s painted face. “She’s not a—what do you call it? Floopsy, is she?”

Abraham laughed. “No, Chayele’s not a floozy, though she might be the center of any party. She’s just been here awhile and has embraced America.”

“America encourages painted faces?”

Abraham tilted his head and thought before answering. “America encourages fun, at least in your free time. Not like in Russia where you just go to work and come home.”

“How do you spend your free time?”

Abraham turned to face her with a twinkle in his eye. “All kinds of ways. Seeing performers singing in shows, going to the circus, heading out to Luna Park.”

“What’s Luna Park?”

“An amusement park in West Brighton Beach. You can ride a roller coaster and see recreations of villages from all over the world—it’s amazing. I’ll take you one weekend.”

Ruth mulled over this new word, weekend. She had no clue what a roller coaster was, but it sounded exciting. Everything Abraham mentioned was foreign and strange. They’d sung as a family around the piano or even in the street with neighbors on holidays. But shows? Performers? These were novel ideas.

Abraham glanced over at her with a mischievous smile. “Still love running?”

Ruth smiled.

“Race you home!” he shouted and took off ahead.

“You gonif! You still cheat!” she shouted and took off after him.

His laughter floated back to her as she ran. The cityscape flew by as she weaved in and out of people on the sidewalk, some shouting insults in response. They rolled right off Ruth. Her exhaustion evaporated, the caress of cool air on her face sweeping away her lethargy. She dug deep to run faster, her competitive instincts kicking in. She’d never felt so happy and free.

Available on Amazon

International Giveaway: Click the link below for a chance to win a signed copy of the book. Giveaway will be open until July 16th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author

6W9A6939-RT

Growing up in New York, she always loved exploring the city, particularly the Lower East Side. This led to her discovery of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and the stories it holds.

She currently lives in Northern Virginia where she takes in the sights of DC with her two kids and husband.

Joyana Peters | Facebook | Instagram

Book Release Blitz Organized By:

R&R Button

R&R Book Tours

British · cosy · fun · mystery

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book review – Blooming Murder

Blooming Murder

MURDER IS BLOSSOMING IN THE WELSH BORDERS.

Aldermaston’s having a bad day. A falling hanging-basket has killed the town’s mayor, and a second narrowly missed him. His wife wants him to build her new greenhouse in three days, and some nutter is sending him death threats.

This isn’t the quiet life he expected as the new Marquess of Mortiforde.

It’s the annual Borders in Blossom competition, and Mortiforde is battling with Portley Ridge in the final. But this is no parochial flower competition. The mayor’s mishap looks like murder, and there’s another body in the river. Someone desperately wants Portley Ridge to win for the fifteenth successive year.

So when a mysterious group of guerrilla gardeners suddenly carpet bomb Mortiforde with a series of stunning floral delights one night, a chain reaction of floral retaliation ensues.

Can Aldermaston survive long enough to uncover who is trying to kill him, and why? And can he get his wife’s greenhouse built in time?

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blooming-Murder-Marquess-Mortiforde-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B094DCYK9Q/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Blooming-Murder-Marquess-Mortiforde-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B094DCYK9Q/

Author Bio

Simon Whaley is an author, writer and photographer who lives in the hilly bit of Shropshire. Blooming Murder is the first in his Marquess of Mortiforde Mysteries, set in the idyllic Welsh Borders – a place many people struggle to locate on a map (including by some of those who live here). He’s written several non-fiction books, many if which contain his humorous take on the world, including the bestselling One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human and two editions in the hugely popular Bluffer’s Guide series (The Bluffer’s Guide to Dogs and The Bluffer’s Guide to Hiking). His short stories have appeared in Take A Break, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special, The Weekly News and The People’s Friend. Meanwhile his magazine articles have delighted readers in a variety of publications including BBC Countryfile, The People’s Friend, Coast, The Simple Things and Country Walking.

Simon lives in Shropshire (which just happens to be a Welsh Border county) and, when he gets stuck with his writing, he tramps the Shropshire hills looking for inspiration and something to photograph. Some of his photographs appear on the national and regional BBC weather broadcasts under his BBC WeatherWatcher nickname of Snapper Simon. (For those of you who don’t know, they get a lot of weather in Shropshire.)

Social Media Links

Twitter: https://twitter.com/simonwhaley

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SimonWhaleyAuthor

My Review

If you’re looking for a funny, cosy mystery with a cracking pace, you’ve come to the right place. Quintessentially British humour is in abundance here, as are the blooms … and the dead bodies.

Now, the characters’ names might be tongue-twisters, but they perfectly sum up the vibe of this story – think of it as a mash-up of Carry On films, The Darling Buds of May and an Agatha Christie mystery and you’ll be primed for the Borders in Blossom competition where innuendo and double entendres are in full bloom.

So, to the story: When his older brother proves not to be the legitimate heir to the Marquess of Mortiforde title, Aldermaston and his wife are obliged to take up the position, bringing a halt to their previous lives to serve the community as his family always has. Part of his role includes being Chair of the Borderer’s Guild on behalf of the people of Mortiforde. As is the norm, the village has entered the Borders in Bloom competition, reaching the final two along with the winners for the past fourteen years, Portley Ridge. The prize is to host the horticultural TV show in the village, which is guaranteed to boost the village coffers in tourism alone.

Members of the County Council, or rather one member, the Chief Exec, takes advantage of Aldermaston’s absence at a meeting to take a vote on the Marquess’s position as Chair, convincing many (through nefarious means) to call for Aldermaston’s resignation if Mortiforde loses once again to their rivals at Portley Ridge.

Meanwhile, as the competition is launched, a hanging basket falls and knocks out the Mayor, who later dies of her injuries. A second hanging basket, placed above Aldermaston’s head has also been sabotaged. But why would anyone want to kill them? Aldermaston determines to find out.

Aldermaston has a battle on his hands both to find the Mayor’s killer and to win the competition, but unbeknownst to him, the villagers of Mortiforde (the allotment group, in particular) are also fed up of losing and launch a plan of their own to win the competition.

When the Mayor’s belongings are investigated, a file with Aldermaston’s name on it suggests she has discovered some dodgy undertakings going on that may explain how Portley Ridge has won so consistently over the years. Has the competition been fixed? There is very good reason to suspect so, and threats upon Aldermaston’s life plus the “unfortunate” drowning of a second councillor seems to imply that somebody wants to stop Aldermaston from digging further into the case.

Putting all thoughts of the other jobs on his to-do list (building his wife’s new greenhouse, and winning the competition) he and Lisa, the new Democracy Support Officer, pick up the case where the Mayor left off, but it’s not without its complications.

While they investigate, the “guerrilla gardeners” of Mortiforde spring into action and the roundabouts of the village burst into bloom with dazzling displays of floral fancy that surely must earn them the title this year. The villagers are delighted with the overnight transformations, and hopes are high, much to the annoyance of the person(s) behind the death threats for whom Portley Ridge must win and Aldermaston’s involvement has to end.

Naturally, it’s less straightforward with yet more sabotage to come, hidden tunnels, dark dealings (I mean, where HAVE all the gardening guys from the TV show gone?) and some very un-village-like shenanigans going on, and let’s not even mention the cottage cheese incident.

Chock-a-block with over the top characters, oodles of humour and some plain old silliness, Blooming Murder is a breath of fresh air in the cosy mystery genre, combining olde-worlde village charm with modern day crimes. A chuckle-worthy read. Bring on book 2.

For more news and reviews

As always

blog tour · book review · literary fiction · thriller · women's fiction

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Games We Played

GameswePlayed

Welcome to the tour for Games We Played, a gripping novel by Shawne Steiger! Read on for details and don’t forget to enter the giveaway!Games-We-Played-500x800-Cover-Reveal-and-Promotional

Games We Played

Publication Date: October 17th, 2020

Genre: Literary Fiction/ Women’s Fiction/ Thriller

When actress Rachel Goldberg shares her personal views on a local radio show, she becomes a target for online harassment. Things go too far when someone paints a swastika on her front door, not only terrifying her but also dredging up some painful childhood memories. Rachel escapes to her hometown of Carlsbad. To avoid upsetting her parents, she tells them she’s there to visit her Orthodox Jewish grandmother, even though that’s the last thing she wants to do. But trouble may have followed her. Stephen Drescher is home from Iraq, but his dishonorable discharge contaminates his transition back to civilian life. His old skinhead friends, the ones who urged him to enlist so he could learn to make better bombs, have disappeared, and he can’t even afford to adopt a dog. Thinking to reconnect with his childhood friend, he googles Rachel’s name and is stunned to see the comments on her Facebook page. He summons the courage to contact her, Rachel and Stephen, who have vastly different feelings about the games they played and what might come of their reunion, must come to terms with their pasts before they can work toward their futures.

Note: Possible Triggers

Add to Goodreads

Excerpt

Stevie and his mother were evicted from their apartment after his mother’s big fight with the landlord at two in the morning. They left with only his mother’s purse and went to his grandpa’s house to sleep. Stevie had seen his grandpa just once before, and he barely remembered the visit. For the whole taxi ride, his mother kept saying, “Just until I get a job. We won’t stay long. Don’t worry, Stevie.”

He dozed, lulled by a spicy cigar smell and the erratic crackle of the radio from the front of the car. The driver let them out at a two-story stucco house that loomed like a yellow castle in the shadows of streetlight and moon. Stephen followed his mother through a wrought-iron gate that opened to a sidewalk made of pink stone

slabs. He lurked behind her when she knocked, looking around at the rock garden, a few lemon trees, and a big white wall that surrounded the front yard, blocking any view except for bits of road.

Nobody answered, so his mother dropped her purse and slammed the heel of her hand into the doorbell over and over. Then she turned away from the door, picked up her purse, grabbed Stephen’s arm, and dragged him toward the gate and the street, and the door finally opened. His grandpa stood on the threshold, silhouetted by a glow from the living room. Stephen would always remember that glimpse of his grandpa, the faded gray robe held closed at the chest, the gnarled toenails and bushy white hair, how big he was. He wasn’t fat, just big and as shaggy as the mountains he could see from Carlsbad, even though it took eight hours to reach them.

His grandpa stared at Stephen’s mother with bloodshot eyes. Then he looked down at Stephen and twisted his mouth into a closed-lipped grimace. Later, Stephen learned that his grandpa didn’t like to show his mouth when he wasn’t wearing his dentures, but at the time, the vampire smile frightened Stevie.

“Well, you might as well come in, then.”

His grandpa’s voice was harsh and phlegmy. After he finished talking, he coughed until his face turned red, and he lit up a cigarette. Stevie’s mother propelled him through the front door and into the house, where they stayed much longer than she had promised.

Two weeks later, they were still there. Stevie’s mother stayed in her room nearly all the time, leaving Stevie to eat Hungry-Man frozen dinners and watch The Price is Right with his grandpa. When she did come downstairs, she pulled a kitchen chair into the living room and sat on that, far away from Stevie and Grandpa on the sofa.

When Stevie had his sixth birthday, his mother didn’t come down to sing “Happy Birthday,” buy him a cake at the grocery store, or tell him she was sorry she couldn’t afford a present but that she loved him. But his grandpa made sure he had a special day.

He took Stevie up to the attic and showed him the guns gleaming on their racks inside a tall wooden case with a glass front. His grandpa opened a cardboard box next to the gun case and dug beneath a bunch of magazines until he produced a silver key. He inserted the key into the lock very precisely, as if opening that case was a more delicate task than shaving the whiskers around his throat. Then he removed the guns one by one and showed them to Stevie.

He had six guns in six different shapes and sizes—three thick-handled guns with narrow noses that his grandpa said were Lugers, a smaller-nosed pistol called a Walther, a rifle called a Mauser, and one MG 34 machine gun. Stevie liked the rifle best because its long brown nose seemed sleek and dangerous.

His grandpa cradled it. “With this Mauser, I killed a Jew resistance fighter who thought he could get away.

Amazon | B&N | Google | Kobo | iTunes

About the Author

head shot

Shawne Steiger wrote her first story when she was seven. Over the years, she has been a pizza maker, dressage teacher, house cleaner, and therapist. The one constant in her life has been her writing, which is why, after years working as a trauma therapist, she applied to Vermont College of Fine Arts and completed an MFA in Fiction writing. After learning that she’s happiest when writing, Shawne published short stories and essays in several literary journals. Supporting her writing habit with her social work degree, Shawne frequently incorporates her understanding of how trauma affects people into her fiction. When not writing or working, she enjoys going to the theater, reading and travel. Luckily her love of travel stops her from fully realizing her aspirations to enter the realm of mad cat woman, since she’s yet to find the perfect suitcase that will fit both her cats and still be light enough to carry.

Shawne Steiger | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | BookBub

My Review

I had great expectations for this story given that it touches on so many themes current to modern times: white supremacy, abortion, and being gay are topics charged with controversy when emotion takes the place of facts.

The stories hops about from different time periods usually from the main viewpoints of Rachel and Stephen who grew up together, and whose “war games” are those referred to in the book’s title. Innocent though those games seemed then, it set the scene for the type of adults they became.

Rachel’s life changes when her grandmother, Gladys, comes to live with her and her parents, a move not welcomed by Rachel’s mother at all, since Gladys is a devout Jewish women and insists on them living a kosher lifestyle from thereon. For Rachel, it means an end to her magic tricks and generally any freedoms she had before Gladys arrived. It’s no surprise she shuns that life at the earliest opportunity.

Now an actress, she has a difficult relationship with her girlfriend, since Liz is still living a “married” life with her husband, supposedly for the sake of the kids. When Liz lets her down once again, on her birthday, Rachel is forced to consider their future as a couple. Hooking up with Jo, a policewoman, that night only heightens her confusion.

Yet, her love life is not her only concern. Not when a group of white supremacists take offense to a comment she makes about the character she is currently playing in the theatre. When they track her down on social media, it’s scary to see the lengths they will go to in order to put the “Jew Girl” right.

Stephen’s life is pretty much a mess since he left the army, dishonourably discharged, and he reinvents himself as someone who is more impressive than he really is, at least to those he chooses to consort with (the white supremacists). Yet when his old friend comes under attack from that very group he is torn between how he feels towards Rachel and how much he wants to belong to that group.

Rachel visits her parents in California, planning to say goodbye to Gladys who is in hospital with dementia. Leaving her home will give her time to think about her relationship, and also put some space between her and her hunters.

Except they are persistent in their desire to find her. Going so far as to find her grandmother’s hospital as a place to wait for Rachel to arrive.

The tension ratchets up as the group get closer to Rachel, and her life and that of her family seems in danger all because of that one comment. Scary stuff!

I’m not going to spoil the ending here. The pace in the latter stages of the story was much faster than in early chapters, where if I hadn’t read the blurb, I would have been wondering where the story was heading. I must admit to not really liking any of the characters, even Rachel, but particularly not Stephen whose neediness and desire to impress left him looking weak and insignificant in my eyes.

Did I enjoy the book? “Enjoy” wouldn’t be the word to describe my feelings here; it’s not the sort of story that you read for enjoyment. It was, however, fascinating and intriguing. A warts and all look at the issues it addressed, of which there are many. I did feel for Rachel. From the moment Gladys arrived permanently in her home, her world was turned upside down, and I could understand how she felt towards the old lady in later life. It did become evident though, that there was another side to Gladys that Rachel didn’t see, and that struck me as sad. For me, the overriding sentiment was a realisation of the damage that racism, hostility and partisanship can create. Add to that other family traumas, and the combination is explosive and surprising.

Click the link below for a chance to win a $25 Amazon e-Gift Card! (Open to everyone)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Tour Organized By:

R&R Button

blog blitz · crime · police procedural · thriller

Mini Blog Blitz ‘n’ Guest Post – Coldharbour

Coldharbour

The Met Police’s Major Investigation Team East has its hands full: a rash of tit for tat gang related stabbings, a strangled housewife, the decomposed remains of a woman found in a ditch and more to come. Adding to their woes is their boss, Chief Inspector Matthew Merry, being distracted by his problems at home.

For Matthew’s wife, Kathy, her only concern is dealing with the aftermath of being drugged and raped by a co-worker. Will the trial of the man responsible be enough to give her the justice she demands. Or, as her therapist states, is it revenge she really desires. She doesn’t know. As her emotions see-saw from elation to depression, her only certainty is that her husband seems more concerned about his work than her.

And Matthew is only too aware of his failings both at home and work. But the police machine grinds on, seeking information and sifting evidence — justice is not their concern.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Coldharbour-John-Mead-ebook/dp/B08NF7VK8N

US – https://www.amazon.com/Coldharbour-John-Mead-ebook/dp/B08NF7VK8N

Author bio

John Mead

John was born in the mid-fifties in Dagenham, London, on part of the largest council estate ever built, and was the first pupil from his local secondary modern school to attend university. He has now taken early retirement to write, having spent the first part of his life working in education and the public sector. He was the director of a college, a senior school inspector for a local authority, and was head of a unit for young people with physical and mental health needs. When he is not travelling, going to the theatre or the pub, he writes.

John is currently working on a seies of novels set in modern day London. These police procedurals examine the darker side of modern life in the East End of the city

Amazon author profile: https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B07B8SQ2ZH

Goodreads profile: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17891273.John_Mead

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JohnMeadAuthor

Guest Post

Why do I write?

I can honestly say it isn’t for the money, nor the accolades, not even the celebrity lifestyle. If it were I’d be greatly unhappy because I have achieved none of the above. So, is it about the creative process? Weeelll… perhaps, if you consider the creative process to be about the technicalities of writing. In the same way you would expect a painter to be interested in brushes, paint and canvases, so I have an interest in things like grammar and punctuation. No, I couldn’t care less where you stick a comma but I do care about where I place it, usually after considerable thought.

The simple fact is I write because I enjoy it, I always have. As I learned to read as a child, so I learned to write, the two things seemed linked and I naturally fell into the habit of writing out the stories that formed in my head. Things were easy, at first, but as I became older I began to realise that I had a problem. Whatever I wrote, whether it was an essay or a short story, those who read it seemed to have problems understanding it. Perhaps it was a lack of understanding about the process, the technical side of writing – grammar, punctuation and spelling – or could it be dyslexia? I don’t honestly know because dyslexia did not exist when I was young, you were just “thick”.

I could memorise long lists of spellings and, therefore, do well in tests. I would quickly pick up on how each teacher used grammar and punctuation, and given that no two teachers seemed to follow the same rules, I could happily get an “A” without any real understanding about how those rules worked. In fact I spent the first half of my life being thought of as a “good writer” by keeping things simple and applying a few cheats that I had learned to cover up any deficiency. Which was fine for professional reports, and as I had a busy career I didn’t have time to write stories, so that aspect went by the wayside.

Of course there was the odd mishap, such as the embarrassing occasion when I had put something out using the word “roll” instead of “role”. People, jokingly pointed out the typo, I laughed and went along with it, and eventually got “roll” changed to “role”. The problem was I couldn’t, at the time, actually see the difference. I knew the different meanings and how to use them, I just couldn’t see the actual difference between R O L L and R O L E. Try telling someone who is colour blind that the light is red, not green. And, just don’t start me on words like affect and effect. Have you seen the definitions in some dictionaries?

Deciding that avoidance was not an answer to the problem is what got me back to writing stories again. I wanted to be able to write what I saw in my mind, to paint a written picture that others could also see and, hopefully, enjoy. As spellcheckers developed that helped, though auto-correct is a pain, but learning to proofread has made the most difference. Reading and re-reading is a must. Reading a book in reverse, from the end to the start, or reading chapters in a random order, tends to take the focus off of characters and plot lines and puts it onto meanings and the language used. And, of course, an absolute must for all authors is to have a good copy editor — they are your second pair of eyes and best friend rolled into one.

John Mead

For more news and reviews

blog tour · book review · Italy

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Secrets on the Italian Island

Publication Day Push – 8th July 2021

Escape to Tuscany

Secrets on the Italian Island

Her work has got in the way of relationships before – but never like this

Anna’s job as a geologist takes her all over the world, including to the beautiful island of Elba, where she’s sent to look for precious metals. And the island isn’t the only thing that’s gorgeous – she can’t believe her luck when she meets windsurfer Marco and sparks fly.

But Anna must keep her role on Elba a secret to avoid upsetting the locals, which means lying to Marco even as they grow closer. When her old friend Toby visits, Anna suddenly finds herself torn between the attentions of the two men. However, Anna’s not the only one keeping secrets.

Is Marco being entirely honest with her? And why did Toby really come to visit?

A fun and escapist romance, perfect for fans of Lucy Coleman and Alex Brown.

Purchase Link mybook.to/SecretsIsland

Author Bio

I’m a man. And a pretty old man as well. I did languages at university a long time ago and then lived and worked in France and Switzerland before going to Italy for seven years as a teacher of English. My Italian wife and I then came back to the UK with our little daughter (now long-since grown up) where I ran a big English language school for many years. We now live in a sleepy little village in Devonshire. I’ve been writing almost all my life but it was only seven years ago that I finally managed to find a publisher who liked my work enough to offer me my first contract.

The fact that I am now writing romantic comedy is something I still find hard to explain. My early books were thrillers and historical novels. Maybe it’s because there are so many horrible things happening in the world today that I feel I need to do my best to provide something to cheer my readers up. My books provide escapism to some gorgeous locations, even if travel to them is currently difficult.

Social Media Links

Website: www.tawilliamsbooks.com

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/tawilliamsbooks

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrevorWilliamsBooks/

My Review

After reading a lot of psychological suspense and tense historical fiction, I couldn’t have wished for a more beautiful contrast in this third book of the Escape to Tuscany series.

Anna is at a turning point; her job means she moves around a lot and so has trouble forming meaningful relationships that can stand the separation that her work demands. Even her mother is getting in on the search for a husband for her daughter, much to Anna’s dismay. After fixing Anna up with a date – Toby – the son of a friend, her mum is hopeful that he’s the one. But Anna still can’t see how she can reconcile the demands of her job with a relationship. Anna has to decide whether her current, single, career-focused lifestyle is the future she sees for herself, and she resolves to make that decision after her next job in Elba.

Enchanted by the beautiful island, she quickly becomes aware of how mining for minerals could ruin its natural beauty and impact the environment for many years to come. Yet she has a job to do, and so keeping quiet about her real reason for being on the island is paramount.

Especially when she encounters Marco at the beach on her first day. The Italian hunk causes stirrings within her that she hasn’t felt in a long time, and a battle between Sensible Anna and Naughty Anna ensues. It’s a close run thing, and Anna is so close to succumbing to Marco’s charms, despite warnings of his playboy lifestyle. However when she learns Marco is part of an environmental group, it’s clear the two of them are not compatible in any long term capacity. Though a summer fling couldn’t do any harm, could it? And, of course, there’s still Toby to consider after he makes a special effort to interrupt his own holiday to meet up with her in Elba.

It’s getting more difficult for Anna to keep her job a secret, especially when it seems the environmentalists have heard rumours of a mining company exploring the island.

When a man who collapses on the beach, only to be saved by Anna and her colleague when his dog alerts them to his owner’s distress, she further helps out by looking after the man’s dog, George, until he is released. Jack cannot thank her enough and insists she stay in a cabin on his land when her hotel stay comes to an end. Anna and Jack hit it off, and learning that he was in the same profession leads to some fascinating conversations – although Anna can not tell him about her role on the island. The enforced secrecy begins to take its toll and soon Anna is in a hurry to leave.

She’s going to miss Jack and George, and even Marco until she gets a rude awakening that confirms her poor judgement in even imagining any kind of relationship with him. Can she make a go of things with Toby though? Is her mum right about him? And what of her future career path? As the title suggests there are lots of secret of the Italian island of Elba, and eventually they all have to come out. How will everyone react? For that, you’ll have to read it yourself. Trust me, you’ll love the ending even if there’s a tear in your eyes as you finish.

I was enthralled by Anna’s profession and the geological viewpoint on which the story focused, especially the fascinating history that took its toll on similar areas that had been mined at the expense of the environment. I loved the relationship between Anna and Jack, aided and abetted by the delightful George. This was an absolute breath of fresh air, complimented by stunning scenery, delicious food, and the formation of genuine friendships.

Hope there’s a fourth book in the series! The story is as mesmorizing as its cover.

As always


book birthday · book blitz · book excerpt · family · historical

Book Birthday Blitz- The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus

Sometimes there are books that come along at a time when, as a book reviewer, I simply can’t squeeze them into my reading schedule. This was one of those, and so I had to get involved in the birthday book blitz in some way, if not as a reader. (I’ve added the book to my Kindle though, and will get to reviewing it just as soon as I can)

The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus

Brothers bound by blood but fated to be enemies. Can their Empire survive or will it crumble into myth?

Istanbul, 1903.


Since his younger brother usurped the Imperial throne, Sultan Murad V has been imprisoned with his family for nearly thirty years.

The new century heralds immense change. Anarchy and revolution threaten the established order. Powerful enemies plot the fall of the once mighty Ottoman Empire. Only death will bring freedom to the enlightened former sultan. But the waters of the Bosphorus run deep: assassins lurk in shadows, intrigue abounds, and scandal in the family threatens to bring destruction of all that he holds dear…

For over six hundred years the history of the Turks and their vast and powerful Empire has been inextricably linked to the Ottoman dynasty. Can this extraordinary family, and the Empire they built, survive into the new century?

Set against the magnificent backdrop of Imperial Istanbul,The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus is a spellbinding tale of love, duty and sacrifice.

Evocative and utterly beguiling,The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus is perfect for fans of Colin Falconer, Kate Morton and Philippa Gregory.

Purchase Links

Amazon

Payhip

Kobo

Barnes & Noble

Apple

Google Store

A message from the author

Lynne, thank you so much for inviting me to share an extract from my book on your Blog, and thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for organising my Virtual Book Tour to celebrate the 1st Birthday of The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus.

Extract

The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus is the book that I always dreamed of writing. Ever since I was a little girl… Initially I did not intend to publish – it was written to encourage my children’s interest and sense of pride in their heritage, and to teach them forgotten customs and traditions. I wanted to record stories and memories that my grandfather shared with me of his unique life before they are lost forever, and I also hoped to discover more about the characters and personalities hidden behind faded family photographs… Then one day my father persuaded me that others might enjoy this personal story set during the twilight years of the Ottoman Empire, so it was published and today celebrates its first birthday!

The inspiration for this scene comes from two beautiful photographs that I have of my Great Aunts. Both were strong, independent and modern young women, confined by the traditions and conventions of their time. Yet, their spirits were free:

Jean Pascal Bey now sought and received the permission of both princesses to set about creating a suitable photographic composition with the props available to him. First, he lifted the finely-gilded tête-à-tête chair that stood by the window and placed it against a wall at an angle so that one end projected into the room; then he unrolled the small Hereke carpet that he had brought with him and laid it under the back legs of the chair, ensuring that the fringe was arranged in a way that looked haphazard and informal. He was glad that he had decided to bring this carpet: he had been right in thinking that the opulent yalı would not have such a small rug to hand. After that, he picked up a three-legged pedestal table that he had previously spotted in a corner of the room and put it on the opposite side of the rug from the tête-à-tête chair, placing on it a vase full of heavy-headed blooms. Standing back to contemplate the scene, he rubbed his chin, moved forward to remove two or three of the flowers from the vase, and laid them on the table. During the entire process, the princesses had been watching him work with great interest. After a few final tweaks, he appeared to be satisfied with the scene he had created, and turned to address Hadice.

“If your Imperial Highness would be so kind,” he said, “I would ask you to please stand between the seat and the table, and place your right hand on the curved back of the seat … Oh, and maybe your left hand might be placed behind your back.” Hadice did exactly as she was bidden. “Hmm … there is something missing. I wonder …” he mused, scratching his head just above the right ear and making the hair stick out beneath his fez. “A fan! Princess Hadice, do you have a fan? I think it would complete the portrait most satisfactorily if you were to hold a closed fan in your right hand as it rests on the back of the seat.” This was an item that it had not occurred to Hadice to bring with her: she looked across the room at her sister, who opened a narrow rectangular box that was lying on a nearby table – it bore her initials in swirling gold letters – and took out an ivory fan with a beautifully-carved ebony handle. Fehime then handed it triumphantly to her sister, who smiled at her in gratitude. “Perfect!” exclaimed Jean Pascal. “Now we are ready for Aslan Bey.” He placed a richly-embroidered cushion on the seat of the tête-à-tête chair, which was upholstered in red velvet, and Hadice called Aslan to her. The dog obediently jumped up onto the seat and sat on the cushion facing the photographer just as if he knew precisely what was expected of him. Everyone laughed, and this served to lighten the atmosphere in the room even further.

Hadice looked magnificent. Her thick dark hair framed her face in a loose pompadour bun; the simple cream dress she was wearing had a high neck and ruffled sleeves that fell to the top of her white gloves, while its sweeping train lay pooled in front of her. She had decided not to wear much jewellery as she wanted the Imperial Order that hung around her neck, and the Mecidiye Order pinned to her left breast, to stand out. Fehime thought she had never seen her sister looking more lovely or more dignified.

Jean Pascal wheeled his camera forward on the small wheels attached to the tripod legs; noticing how badly they creaked, he made a mental note to have them oiled as soon as he returned to the studio. He then made a slight adjustment to the camera’s angle, tilted the lens, and disappeared for a moment beneath the dark cloth draped over the camera box in order to view the inverted image. He brought the image into focus by adjusting the distance between the lens and the film plate, moving the folding leather bellows as though he was playing an accordion. When he reappeared, he was utterly dumbfounded to see that Hadice was unveiled: during the few seconds it had taken him to re-emerge from under the dark cloth, she had unpinned her yashmak and allowed it to float to the floor. Zeynel Ağa moved forward to pick up the discarded veil, his smooth, finely-chiselled face betraying nothing of what he might be thinking. Jean Pascal, meanwhile, looked thunderstruck, having been thrown completely off guard. Unlike the old eunuch, he was incapable of hiding his mental confusion.

“Jean Pascal Bey, I think you will need to hurry before Aslan tires of the pose,” Hadice said. Fehime giggled behind her hand. How she loved her sister, and how she admired her ready wit!

Jean Pascal now disappeared under the dark cloth for a second time – more to settle his nerves than to double-check the focus. Then, standing to attention beside his camera box, he squeezed the small air-pump ball that operated the shutter system and took the photograph. Neither Hadice nor Aslan had moved even a millimetre. He knew instantly that he had captured a perfect image.

Author Bio

Ayşe Osmanoğlu is a member of the Imperial Ottoman family, being descended from Sultan Murad V through her grandfather and from Sultan Mehmed V (Mehmed Reşad) through her grandmother. After reading History and Politics at the University of Exeter, she then obtained an M.A. in Turkish Studies at SOAS, University of London, specialising in Ottoman History. She lives in the UK with her husband and five children.

Social Media Links

https://www.facebook.com/ayseosmanogluauthor

https://www.instagram.com/aysegulnevsultan/

https://twitter.com/AyseGulnev

As always