book review · historical fiction · novella · series · WWII

Book Review – Operation Sherlock (Eve’s War: The Heroines of SOE, Book 5)

“Arthur is concerned about the Nazis’ latest terror weapon,” Guy said. “Rockets; they have the potential to cause death, destruction and chaos in Britain. He wants us to locate the launch site so that the RAF can bomb it.”

“How do we achieve that?” I asked.

“The Resistance in Paris think that they have identified the site,” Guy said. “Arthur wants us to confirm their suspicions.”

“Why doesn’t the local Sherlock network deal with this?” Mimi asked.

“Recently,” Guy said, “the Gestapo captured their wireless operator. Their network is in chaos. Trust is at a low ebb.”

I glanced at Mimi and noticed her pale, drawn features. As our wireless operator, she lived under constant stress; each transmission represented a moment of potential capture.

A trip to Paris sounded sublime. However, Mimi’s troubled expression reminded me that we were travelling into danger, potentially to our deaths.

My thoughts

Whoa! This book ratchets up the tension yet another notch.
The SOE are concerned about the Nazis’ latest terror weapon – a ‘silent’ rocket that could cause mass destruction and deaths if launched. The trio are informed that the weapon is being developed on the outskirts of Paris, and the Resistance think they have identified the site.
Guy, Eve and Mimi head for Paris. Mimi is already struggling so when she is challenged over the contents of her case (the wireless) she has to rely on her cover story to avoid raising further suspicion. Eve steps in to help and distracts the guard so they are able to board the train. But that is not the first time Mimi’s case will come under scrutiny …and the lengths to which Eve goes to avoid that scrutiny is shocking and yet to be applauded.

Unfortunately, sending messages in Paris is fraught with danger, the Gestapo are very active. When it appears they may be caught in the act, the idea of a traitor in their ranks comes to mind. Finding out who betrayed them is paramount. Guy and Eve have their suspicions … and are forced to confront the traitor. Working so close together in such dangerous circumstances forces the two of them to admit their feelings for each other.

So, you see, the tension is not just putting their lives at risk, it now involves risking their heart too.
Another fabulous tale that was over too quickly.

About the Author

Hannah Howe is the author of the Sam Smith Mystery Series, the Ann’s War Mystery Series, The Olive Tree: A Spanish Civil War Saga, Eve’s War: Heroines of SOE and Saving Grace. Hannah’s books are published by Goylake Publishing and distributed through Gardners Books to over 300 outlets worldwide. Her books are available in print, as eBooks and audiobooks, and are being translated into numerous languages.

Currently, Hannah is writing Stormy Weather, book eighteen in the Sam Smith Mystery Series. She is also researching material for future Sam Smith books along with material for a Victorian novel set in 1888, a novel set in 1948, a novel set in Bulgaria during the Second World War and A Schoolteacher’s War, a story about the French Resistance and the preparations for D-Day. Along with these projects, Hannah is also writing The Olive Tree: A Spanish Civil War Saga and Eve’s War: Heroines of SOE.

As always,

Audiobook · Giveaways · psychological suspense · thriller

Book Tour – Future Skinny (plus giveaway)

Today is my stop on the Future Skinny tour! Check out this gripping psychological thriller and enter the giveaway for a chance to win one of five audio editions of the book!

Future_Skinny_Cover

Future Skinny Publication Date: May 24th, 2022

Genre: Psychological Thriller/ Suspense

TW: Body Dysmorphia/ Addiction

Casey Banks is a devoutly anorexic man who discovers he can see the future by binge-eating. His new plan? Perform visions for cash while staying thin by any means necessary. Reading futures proves to be lucrative, but when he ignores a vision of his girlfriend committing a grisly murder, it sets Casey on a dangerous path toward a destiny he’ll do anything to avoid.

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Excerpt

There he is.

The hotel room is dim, but Casey isn’t hard to find.

His body is a beacon of desperate protest underneath a forgiving silk tee. Bone thin. Skin bagging from every corner of his six-foot frame. A good guess would be one-hundred and twenty pounds. He has more hair, just not on his head. Fuzzy wisps of keratin on his arms and thick on the nape of his neck. Inky around the eyes, a dire pigmentation that frames the focus he is straining to hold on the stranger at the other end of the makeshift dining table.

Casey is binge-reading still, and by the look of him, he has been binge-reading far too often.

The spread between the two men is huge, was huge, most of the food has already been eaten.

The client’s eyes are wide but unmoved by the brittle hands Casey is using in lieu of utensils. The fingers clutching each next bite are topped with nail beds of blue. The knuckles on his index and middle are callused to the point of deformity. This client’s indifference is nothing new. Like all customers, he is there to hear his future. It has never mattered how the pig is slaughtered so long as the bacon tastes good.

Lylian is there too. She hasn’t left Casey yet, though their age difference looks as if it’s somehow doubled. Longer hair now, green eyes still bright, the only authentic shines in the room. Her arms are firmly folded atop a roadblock stance halfway between the client and the front door. At her size, her posture is hardly intimidating, but for someone so small, she can explode big.

The air stinks. It isn’t just the food. Beyond cooling grease and the chemically crafted scents of take-out littered about the table, the odors turn human quick. Inhale like you mean it and you can smell the sin. A half-century’s worth of intimacy baking in the manufactured heat of the room’s lone window unit.

The repugnant bouquet is married to the chomp, smack, and slurp of Casey’s consumption. He is eating hard. He is swallowing fast. Wet. In fact, everything feels wet. Rooms like this one have a squish to them that is everlasting. Stray spit won’t make much difference.

The bathroom door behind Casey is open. For now, the smell of upchuck is faint, maybe imagined. There is a beige sink, a matching toilet, and a poky little tub with a basin too small for anyone un-elfin. Any of the three are good for vomit. If Casey were to make sick prematurely, the carpet underfoot would hide it well: it’s a synthetic jumble of colors expertly designed to disappear manmade soils. Casey has a twenty-three-gallon Rubbermaid imitation at his side, just in case. Its corner-store price tag hasn’t been removed. Accidents happen. The only thing closer to Casey than this emergency bin are his and Lylian’s bug-out bags.

The client begins to fidget, he can’t keep his focus on the spectacle in front of him. He looks to the television, then to the table lamp, then back to the black screen of the TV. He actively works at fixating on anything that isn’t the redundancy of Casey eating and eating. There isn’t much to distract a person in this by-the-hour room. Perhaps inadvertently, he lands his gaze on the open black duffle at the end of the bed. The stacks of money define the bag’s canvas. The stranger’s attention sits on the opportunity, hanging there just long enough to visibly concern Lylian.

It starts with a twitch. Her arms uncross and she takes one step forward. Her eyes reach for Casey, but he is lost in his gorge, oblivious to Lylian’s subtle just-in-case preparations.

This client could be one of David’s thugs. Then again, any human being could: all ethnicities, a child, a senior citizen, religious or agnostic. David is an equal opportunity criminal, a true champion of diversity in the workplace.

Lylian puts a hand on the table lamp, wraps her fingers around its base. If this stranger decides to go rogue, she has all she needs to bash the back of his skull.

There is a mumble. It’s enough to break the client’s fixation on the bag of cash. He looks back to Casey, but Lylian remains committed.

“Did you say something’?” the client asks, the words passing through what is left of his jagged, flaxen teeth.

Casey struggles to form a comprehensible answer. His response works its way around the saliva-soaked mass he hasn’t stopped chewing. “How will the world know you?” he repeats.

“Are you askin’ me? You should be telling me.”

The loss of confidence in the client’s voice doesn’t go unnoticed by Lylian. Her grip tightens on the lamp’s base.

With his eyes shut tight, Casey goes adrift on his own question. He silently mouths it a few more times. Then, through quivering lips, he repeats it aloud, changing just the last word.

“How will the world know me?”

Available on Amazon

About the Author

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Peter Rosch is what happens when a Polish drag-racing varsity bowler and a beautiful, but über paranoid, French Canadian Air Force brat get together on a disco dance floor in glorious Albuquerque, NM. An award-winning writer whose decades in advertising, music, and film introduced him to more than a few bad habits. He hopes it wasn’t for naught. Kirkus called his first novel, My Dead Friend Sarah, “a gripping story” in which “Rosch skillfully renders a unique story of a missing woman.”

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book review · historical fiction · novella · series · WWII

Book Review – Operation Treasure (Eve’s War: The Heroines of SOE, Book 4)

“A message from Arthur,” Mimi said. “He wants us to steal a set of plans from a factory and blow up the building.”

“Who owns the factory?” Guy asked.

“Auguste Maingard,” Mimi said.

“And what does the factory produce?” I asked.

“It’s a scientific establishment,” Mimi said. “It’s developing a frequency-hopping guided missile system. Naturally, the Nazis are aware of this work and intend to exploit the invention.”

“So,” I said, “we steal the guidance system from Maingard and the Nazis.”

“That’s right,” Mimi said.

“And if we fail?” I frowned.

“If we fail,” Mimi said, “Arthur will send in the bombers and raze the factory to the ground.”

“That would mean the loss of many innocent lives,” Guy said. He stared into the middle-distance, grim-faced. “We can’t allow that. We can’t afford to fail.”

There was a determination on Guy’s face, a passion in his voice that demanded success. Obviously, a new missile guidance system was important, but Guy’s look and tone suggested that this operation went beyond the machinations of war. For some reason, it was personal.

My thoughts

Eve, Guy and Mimi have assumed their new identities in France and are going about the business of obtaining information, sending coded messages, and training up the Maquis for future acts of sabotage against the Nazi regime.
Guy is revelling in his findings as an archaeologist and Mimi is proving very adept as a nurse, while Eve – aka Genevieve – is playing the mourning widow with a penchant for sketching all too well. The trio’s bond is even tighter now, and there are hints of further closeness to come between Eve and Guy. Unfortunately, this time Eve has to contend with an amorous and immensely arrogant German Officer on a date she cannot turn down. Can she handle him? Of course she can – for now, at least.

Mimi celebrates her 21st birthday and is overwhelmed by gifts and a party, although she is seriously missing – and worried about – her fiancé, Henri.

Relations with the Maquis are fraught as they are keen to show their “muscle” against the Nazis, but their leader does not like “taking orders” from a woman; patience is waning and they want to strike quickly. However, the risk of moving too fast, or being disunited, comes with consequences. In the heat of war, success relies on keeping a cool head. The tension is mounting and the team have to think on their feet when things take a wrong turn regarding a mission to sabotage Nazi plans. They’re forced to act, and Mimi has to come to Eve’s rescue. In doing so, she carries out her first kill, but is the pressure getting to her now?
This story sees both Mimi and Eve hanker after happier times; Mimi longs to be with Henri and Eve thinks about her family in Wales, sending a letter to her brother before challenging Guy on his motives for joining the SOE.

This story is short in length but goes a great way in grounding the reader in the French countryside, understanding the dangers faced by the civilians who are helping them, and in showing the arrogance of the German officers who still believe they can and will win this war.
As always, elements of the story are based on real events as experienced by female SOE operatives, and the author includes snippets about them at the end.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be rushing to read Operation Sherlock, the next in the series. I can’t wait!

About the Author

Hannah Howe is the author of the Sam Smith Mystery Series, the Ann’s War Mystery Series, The Olive Tree: A Spanish Civil War Saga, Eve’s War: Heroines of SOE and Saving Grace. Hannah’s books are published by Goylake Publishing and distributed through Gardners Books to over 300 outlets worldwide. Her books are available in print, as eBooks and audiobooks, and are being translated into numerous languages.

Currently, Hannah is writing Stormy Weather, book eighteen in the Sam Smith Mystery Series. She is also researching material for future Sam Smith books along with material for a Victorian novel set in 1888, a novel set in 1948, a novel set in Bulgaria during the Second World War and A Schoolteacher’s War, a story about the French Resistance and the preparations for D-Day. Along with these projects, Hannah is also writing The Olive Tree: A Spanish Civil War Saga and Eve’s War: Heroines of SOE.

As always,

book review · historical fiction · novella · series · WWII

Book Review – Operation Broadsword (Eve’s War: The Heroines of SOE, Book 3)

As Mimi examined her wireless, a figure emerged through the darkness. In his mid-thirties, he possessed broad shoulders and a muscular frame while a proud nose and a neatly trimmed moustache dominated his handsome features.

“The owls are loud tonight,” the man said revealing a voice blessed with a deep baritone.

“You’re allowed to make a loud noise when you’re the wisest of birds,” I replied.

With our code words established, the man stepped forward and shook my hand. His handshake was firm while his pumping action threatened to remove my arm from my shoulder.

“I am Jean-Claude,” he smiled. “Jean-Claude Quiniou. I will escort you to the safe house and introduce you to the Le Roux family.”

“I’m Genevieve,” I said, “and this is Lise.” Of course, I used our aliases, for Eve and Mimi belonged to another life.

My thoughts

As you can tell by my weekly blog posts, I’m loving this series. It’s taking all my strength to not post daily about them, but that’s only because half of the series is, as yet, unpublished. What will I do when I get to the end of the current publications? Well, funny you should say … I have a plan in mind. Stay tuned!

Now, where was I?

Operation Broadsword is the third in the series, and the pace is accelerating. The trio of SOE operatives, Eve, Guy and Mimi, are waiting for the go ahead to see them parachute into France. With their training complete, it’s only a matter of time before they can leave within the window of opportunity granted them by the night’s sky. Eve will not let the minor inconvenience of a fever stop her from going and lands in France to be escorted to the Le Roux farmhouse where she will be staying. Her first few days are spent recuperating, and we get to know the Le Roux family a little. Guy and Mimi take up their positions and become acquainted with the Résistance leaders and Maquis who will work alongside them.
As she is becoming accustomed to life there, Eve still wonders what has become of her husband. Is she a widow for real or is this just a cover?
Another intriguing and engrossing novella in what is proving to be a gripping series.

About the Author

Hannah Howe is the author of the Sam Smith Mystery Series, the Ann’s War Mystery Series, The Olive Tree: A Spanish Civil War Saga, Eve’s War: Heroines of SOE and Saving Grace. Hannah’s books are published by Goylake Publishing and distributed through Gardners Books to over 300 outlets worldwide. Her books are available in print, as eBooks and audiobooks, and are being translated into numerous languages.

Currently, Hannah is writing Stormy Weather, book eighteen in the Sam Smith Mystery Series. She is also researching material for future Sam Smith books along with material for a Victorian novel set in 1888, a novel set in 1948, a novel set in Bulgaria during the Second World War and A Schoolteacher’s War, a story about the French Resistance and the preparations for D-Day. Along with these projects, Hannah is also writing The Olive Tree: A Spanish Civil War Saga and Eve’s War: Heroines of SOE.

As always,

contemporary fiction · cover reveal · romantic comedy

Cover Reveal – The Only Exception

The Only Exception (Love in the Comptons 2)

Lucinda Green knows something is missing from her life. But what? Her catering business is enjoying modest success and she loves her cosy house, even if she does have to share it with her irritating ex-fiancé.
Whatever’s making her unsettled and edgy, Lucinda’s certain that a lack of romance isn’t the problem. How could it be when she doesn’t believe in true love?
But Lucinda’s beliefs are shaken by a series of electric encounters with Alex Fraser, a newly-notorious actor who gradually proves himself to be infuriatingly funny and smart, as well as handsome.
Not that any of that matters. Because Lucinda doesn’t believe in all that ‘The One’ nonsense. That’s the rule.
But doesn’t every rule have an exception?

This uplifting grumpy-meets-sunshine romance is perfect for fans of Katie Fforde, Phillipa Ashley and Milly Johnson.

Pre-order Link – getbook.at/TheOnlyException
Publication Date: 7th June

Author Bio

Claire Huston lives in Warwickshire with her husband and two children.

She writes uplifting modern love stories about characters who are meant for each other but sometimes need a little help to realise it.

A keen amateur baker, she enjoys making cakes, biscuits and brownies almost as much as eating them. You can find recipes for over a hundred sweet treats at clairehuston.co.uk. This is also where she talks about and reviews books.

Social Media Links: https://linktr.ee/clairehuston_author

As always,

book review · historical fiction · novella · series · WWII

Book Review – Operation Locksmith (Eve’s War: The Heroines of SOE, Book 2)

“I understand that you wish to return to France,” the man behind the mahogany desk said.

“That’s correct,” I said.

“Your motivation?” he asked, smoothing the corners of his moustache.

“To do my bit for the war effort,” I said, “to defeat the Nazis and to discover what’s happened to my husband.”

“It would be extremely risky,” the officious-looking man said, “suicidal even, for a lone woman to undertake such a venture. However, there is an alternative.”

“Alternative?” I frowned.

“Yes. We’ll parachute you in, as one of our people. Of course, you’d have to undertake training first. Rigorous training. Top secret training. If you fail, I’m afraid it will mean a spell in the cooler, possibly until the war is over.”

“The cooler?”

“But I trust it won’t come to that,” he said, ignoring my question. “When can you start?”

I began immediately. And during my training I met two people who would radically reshape my life – Guy Samson and Mimi Duchamp. I also discovered secrets about myself, abilities beyond my imagination. However, as the training heated up so the situations became all too real, until they reached a point where I had to kill, or be killed.

My thoughts

Having returned to Britain from France, Eve meets Vera Penrose who arranges for her to take a job at the Air Ministry. It’s dull work in comparison to her former life in France, leading airmen to safety across the border into Spain and beyond.
When Eve is offered something more suiting her skills, she can’t wait. But first she has to endure a brutal training camp, from the physical to the psychological. It’s not all plain sailing, Eve is a skilled lockbreaker and a superb shot but struggles with some of the more physical challenges. She’s also very observant and when she suspects foul play, she is not one to sit back and ignore it.
The training programme is extensive, and she builds a great bond with fellow trainees, Mimi and Guy. She’s also cutting back on the cigarettes, which makes the usual feisty Eve way more feisty when tested.
I raced through this book, it’s fast-paced and entertaining and nicely sets the scene for her next adventure.

About the Author

Hannah Howe is the author of the Sam Smith Mystery Series, the Ann’s War Mystery Series, The Olive Tree: A Spanish Civil War Saga, Eve’s War: Heroines of SOE and Saving Grace. Hannah’s books are published by Goylake Publishing and distributed through Gardners Books to over 300 outlets worldwide. Her books are available in print, as eBooks and audiobooks, and are being translated into numerous languages.

Currently, Hannah is writing Stormy Weather, book eighteen in the Sam Smith Mystery Series. She is also researching material for future Sam Smith books along with material for a Victorian novel set in 1888, a novel set in 1948, a novel set in Bulgaria during the Second World War and A Schoolteacher’s War, a story about the French Resistance and the preparations for D-Day. Along with these projects, Hannah is also writing The Olive Tree: A Spanish Civil War Saga and Eve’s War: Heroines of SOE.

As always,

book review · historical fiction · novella · series · WWII

Book Review – Operation ZigZag (Eve’s War: The Heroines of SOE, Book 1)

Marseille, December 1942

“We’re in a fix,” Vincent said. “The Gestapo have captured a British agent, code name Zigzag. They picked him up through his false identity papers, only the thing is they haven’t discovered his true identity, yet. But they will. And he will talk. They all do in the end. And when he talks he will reveal secrets that will destroy the local resistance networks, including our own. But there’s a way out, through a guard. He’s open to bribes. We’d like you to meet the guard, bribe him, spring Zigzag from the Gestapo prison then escort him over the mountain pass into Spain.”

“Why me?” I asked.

“Because you helped to establish the escape network. And you know the mountain trails like the back of your hand. Furthermore, as the wife of respected industrialist Michel Beringar you are above suspicion.”

I glanced at Michel. From the stern look on his face, I could tell that he wasn’t pleased. Was this one risk too many? And as for me being above suspicion…the Gestapo were following me and they were tapping my phone.

As a child, I’d run away from home. As a teenager, I’d travelled the world, living on my wits. As a journalist, I’d witnessed atrocities inflicted in the name of fascism. As a member of the Resistance, I’d eyeballed fear and stared it down. For the past thirty years I’d lived a full life. I could do this. However, even as I voiced my agreement I knew that my life in Marseille, my life with Michel, would never be the same.

My thoughts

I can’t resist reading stories set in this period in history. It never fails to amaze me how much there is to the topic; you’d think we’d heard it all. But no, as we come to learn, these stories – especially those based on real people and events – tell the lived experiences of those caught up in the war. No two stories are ever the same just as no two people experience the same event in exactly the same way. Eve’s War is a series of twelve novellas, around 20,000 words in length, and each is a complete story. The stories follow Eve from her childhood in Wales right through to her days as an SOE operative, her story arc concluding in the final book. At the very affordable price of 99p, these episodes of Eve’s War quickly become addictive and each one is easily read in one sitting.

As the first in the series, this book – Operation ZigZag – provides the background to Eve’s life, from the Welsh mining town to her marriage to Michel and a privileged life in France. It’s well-paced and hones in on what Eve is all about, and how her desire to beat the fascists drives her on.
There’s a very real sense of danger when she falls into the hands of the Gestapo, but her strength and resilience never waver. By the end, however, she is presented with a very real dilemma and has to trust her own instincts to survive.
I’ve already started book 2 and can see myself motoring through these in no time at all.
Highly recommended for fans of wartime heroines and strong females who “take no prisoners”!

About the Author

Hannah Howe is the author of the Sam Smith Mystery Series, the Ann’s War Mystery Series, The Olive Tree: A Spanish Civil War Saga, Eve’s War: Heroines of SOE and Saving Grace. Hannah’s books are published by Goylake Publishing and distributed through Gardners Books to over 300 outlets worldwide. Her books are available in print, as eBooks and audiobooks, and are being translated into numerous languages.

Currently, Hannah is writing Stormy Weather, book eighteen in the Sam Smith Mystery Series. She is also researching material for future Sam Smith books along with material for a Victorian novel set in 1888, a novel set in 1948, a novel set in Bulgaria during the Second World War and A Schoolteacher’s War, a story about the French Resistance and the preparations for D-Day. Along with these projects, Hannah is also writing The Olive Tree: A Spanish Civil War Saga and Eve’s War: Heroines of SOE.

As always,