blog tour · book review · cosy · Italy · mystery · series

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Murder in Chianti

Banner for blog tour of Murder in Chianti

Murder in Chianti

Murder in broad daylight…

When millionaire magnate, Rex Hunter is found with his head bashed in on the eighth hole of his prestigious golf and country club in beautiful Chianti, it’s a clear case of murder. Hunter was rich and successful and the envy of many, so retired DCI Dan Armstrong thinks the case will be a hole in one to solve….

A despised victim…

But as Dan and his trusty sidekick Oscar begin to dig deeper into Hunter’s lifestyle, they discover a man despised by many. A renown womaniser, ruthless boss and heartless family man, it seems no one is particularly sorry to see Hunter dead. And the list of possible suspects is endless…

A murderer covering their tracks.

Dan is determined to catch this clever killer, but it seems every new lead brings another dead end. Will this be one case Dan and his canine companion won’t solve?

Purchase Link –

Author Bio

T A Williams is the author of over twenty bestselling romances for HQ and Canelo and is now turning his hand to cosy crime, set in his beloved Italy, for Boldwood. The series will introduce us to retired DCI Armstrong and his labrador Oscar and the first book, entitled Murder in Tuscany, will be published in October 2022. Trevor lives in Devon with his Italian wife.

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My Review

I’ve read a few books by this author before and love how easy he makes it to get engrossed in the story. Obviously, the Italian setting helps with the escapism, but it’s more than a travel guide – though who wouldn’t want to escape to Tuscany after reading this, I do not know – the story is packed with truly great characters. From the wily locals who see and hear everything (and love to share over good food and grappa-fuelled coffee) to those who have made their life in the area and come with baggage (usually ex-wives and numerous affairs that would test any Casanova worthy of the title).
Former (but for how long?) DCI Dan Armstrong doesn’t seem able to give up on his old life at the Yard, despite being in a new country, and despite having second thoughts over the breakdown of his marriage and subsequent divorce. Together with his dog, Oscar, Dan has become part of the community, and so when Australian millionaire and owner of the country club, Rex Hunter is murdered, it’s no wonder his good friend and local police inspector calls on him to help with “translations”. And if he wants to ask a few questions of his own, or follow up on some leads when “walking” Oscar, then why not?
The victim is not well-liked and the suspects mount up, but when further murders occur it’s clear this will be no easy case to solve. I loved how the author gives insight as to how Dan is thinking, who he suspects, and what he thinks has happened. However, even Dan has to admit feeling blind-sided by this mystery, and there are red herrings galore that misdirect the reader with great skill until the truth becomes apparent.
Peppered with glimpses of life in Tuscany, amusing antics with Oscar, and an array of fascinating encounters with locals, it’s easy to see why Dan is enamoured of the area. However, in this book, he starts to wonder how he might fill his time in the years to come. Dan can’t live by tennis matches and Chianti alone, so where does his future lie: as an author (his first book has been accepted by a London publisher) or as an investigator? Will he ever be able to put that part of his life behind him? I can’t wait to find out.
PS – I was gutted to find this is the second book in the series, but will be making up for it by grabbing a copy of book one – Murder in Tuscany – before the next in the series is ready.

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Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Wicked Bleu


A 103-year-old murder mystery.

An amateur sleuth.

Can a wrong be rectified in death?

Eight months ago, Simone experienced her first spectral encounter. It awakened a dormant second sight and opened a chasm to the afterlife. Now, another spirit from 1917 New Orleans has wandered through that passage, haunting her with an intoxicating jasmine fragrance and wicked antics.

To escape this mysterious ghost, Simone jumps at a seven-day complimentary Mardi Gras hotel package, unaware there might be an ancestral power behind her decision, an identity she grapples with. Is the ghost’s name Bleu?

She’s a lady of the night who lived a dangerous life in the infamous Storyville. A place lined with mansion-like brothels on the edge of the French Quarter run by unscrupulous madams and frequented by dangerous criminals. WWI is on the horizon, jazz music is burgeoning, and Bleu’s life unravels.

Visions of her past and horrific death beset Simone as she explores present-day New Orleans with her three roommates.

But why are the images fragmented? Has Bleu forgotten what happened the stormy night she died? Can Simone uncover Bleu’s murderer and reunite her with her loved ones before it’s too late?

Book Information

  • Purchase link:
  • Goodreads link:
  • Genre:  Paranormal Suspense
  • Print length: 290 pages
  • Age range: This is an adult book, but would be suitable for mature teens age 16+
  • Trigger warnings: Rape of a minor; racism reflecting a historical time period
  • Amazon Rating: 5*
  • (This is the second in the Simone Doucet series, but reads well as a standalone novel)


⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  Billups always packs a punch when the other worldly visitations appear, and I found myself eagerly switching back and forth from past to present day, learning of the connections between everyone involved. Watching Simone’s friendships and love interest evolve is a lovely side story, and the author’s depth of research about early 20th century American lifestyles is apparent and pays off in dividends. Toss in the early stages of COVID appearing in America, and there’s a realistic touch that grips readers until the end. What’s causing Simone’s friends to get ill, and is the ghost responsible for all the drama or an unknown illness beginning to spread around the world? I can’t wait to see what happens in a possible third installment. Thanks for making some magic happen, Ms. Billups. Amazon review

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ This is an intoxicating novel, one that you will not be able to set down. The novel is well written, and the world building is extensive and right in shape with the story. A story line of ghosts and paranormal adventures, a girl who goes on a trip with who roommates to New Orleans. She expects to have a wild weekend, only to find it complicated by witches and ghosts and all kinds of various paranormal events. This author is able to captivate you from page one. You find yourself hanging onto the edge of your seat, never being able to set the novel down. This is a complicated, nerve racking and wonderful all at the same time. I can’t wait to read the next one. I know it will be even better. Amazon review


E. Denise Billups was born in Monroeville, Alabama, and raised in New York City, where she currently resides. She’s a former Financial Analyst turned writer. A multi-genre fiction author, she’s published six novels and several supernatural short stories. A skilled artist, she trained as a dancer (ballet, modern, and jazz dance) in her younger years and dabbled in writing, which she would not pursue until much later.

As an avid reader of many genres, she was greatly influenced by magical realism, mystery, suspense, and supernatural novels. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s running miles in the park, finding her inner calm with yoga, experimenting with vegan dishes, and enjoying time with family and friends.

Presently, she is working on book two of her trilogy, Twilight Ends, a paranormal historical fiction, and book three of the Simone Doucet Series.

Follow Her At:


Now I’m really not a typical reader of ghost stories, and the paranormal and I aren’t regular bedfellows, in fact we’re rarely on the same page, but WICKED BLEU still drew me in, pushed me out of my cosy, comfort zone and totally captivated me. Granted it was the opening line of the description that got my attention. As an avid mystery fan, who was I to turn down a 103-year-old murder mystery? It’s the ultimate cold case… but with a difference, and that difference is the magical quality of the author’s writing, teamed with the history and mystique of New Orleans during Mardi Gras, and topped off with a fascinating, bone-chilling, heart-wrenching and tragic plot. I loved it and have recommended it to all my reader friends. Are you interested in knowing more? You are, aren’t you?

With a dual timeline of the present day and a little over a century ago, the key players in this story are Simone Doucet (a successful writer) and two females named Bleu – mother and daughter – who lived in New Orleans in the notorious red light district. And their connection to Simone is one of blood… and an unsolved mystery that prevents them – and others – from fully leaving this world.

You see, Simone Doucet has second sight – more fully explained in the first book in the series – and, initially, Orphan Bleu makes the connection in order to get justice for her mother’s death – a murder by any other name. In New Orleans with her buddies to take advantage of a thank-you gift from a previous client, Simone and her three friends are looking forward to enjoying Mardi Gras. That is until Bleu (the mother) decides to tell Simone her story by adopting Simone’s friend’s body. The others realise Stacy is acting oddly, but eventually Simone “sees” what’s going on and is transported back in time to witness life back then. There, amidst the sights, smells and sounds of the dangerous streets of the red light district, she comes to understand Bleu’s character, sees her falling in love and being loved back by her artist lover whose paintings of her went on to earn him great acclaim. Simone sees the evil misogyny of the clients of the brothel who care only for themselves, who cannot bear to be mocked by a woman, who think nothing of taking a life to save themselves. It’s a brutal existence, made all the more raw by the viewpoint of Bleu’s daughter, the Orphan Bleu who feels abandoned and unloved by her mother, yet who cannot “rest” until her mother gets justice.

While trying to enjoy the Mardi Gras with her friends, Simone cannot relax, she feels obliged to know the full story but can she put right a century-old wrong and let the spirits finally rest? Billups writes beautifully, not just with words but with the images she creates, the characters she brings to life and the injustices she conveys of those times. I was drawn in completely by the setting (the cathedral, the Creole dialect, the jazz music – bliss!) and the story, but more to the point to understanding the past and how we should (but rarely do) learn from it.

A suspenseful tale, crafted with care, told with heart and which left me wanting more. Check out this video to feel the mystery for yourself.

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Amazon Reviewer Name
blog tour · book review · British · cosy · mystery · series

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Not Mushroom for Death

Not Mushroom For Death

TV Chef Luca Mazza Dies After Collapse at Food Show on the King’s Private Estate

Luca Mazza (38), who was taken ill during a food demonstration at the Fenn House Food and Wine Festival two days ago, is now known to have ingested poison. Lady Beatrice (36), the king’s niece, who is working on a refurbishment project at Fenn House with her business partner Perry Juke (34), is believed to be comforting Luca’s boss and close friend Sebastiano Marchetti (38), who she began dating last month.

Is he crazy? Why else would Detective Chief Inspector Richard Fitzwilliam suggest that Sebastiano poisoned Luca without any evidence? So now, with the help of her little dog Daisy and her best friends Perry and Simon, Lady Beatrice will have to prove to Mr Know-it-all Fitzwilliam that Seb is innocent. But with so many people having access to the food preparation area at the show how will she find out who did murder Luca before Fitzwilliam lets his personal dislike get the better of him and arrests Seb?

Purchase Links

Amazon – (UK)

and (US)

Author Bio

Hello. I’m Helen Golden. I write British contemporary cozy whodunnits with a hint of humour. I live in small village in Lincolnshire in the UK with my husband, my step-daughter, her two cats, our two dogs, sometimes my step-son, and our tortoise.

I used to work in senior management, but after my recent job came to a natural end I had the opportunity to follow my dreams and start writing. It’s very early in my life as an author, but so far I’m loving it.

It’s crazy busy at our house, so when I’m writing I retreat to our caravan (an impulsive lockdown purchase) which is mostly parked on our drive. When I really need total peace and quiet, I take it to a lovely site about 15 minutes away and hide there until my family runs out of food or clean clothes

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My Review

Who doesn’t love a punny title? It’s one of the best things about cosy mysteries, and it certainly caught my attention. I hadn’t read any of the others in the series but I am definitely planning to go back and check them out. By the way, the story works perfectly well as a standalone, I just want to know more about the key characters.
I’ll be honest, I did wonder if this would be a historical cosy given the main character is a proper Lady but I loved that it was a contemporary tale with a made-up Royal family of its own.
Lady Beatrice, together with her business partner, the fantastic Perry Juke, is working on a refurbishment project for the King while a cooking event is taking place starring Chef Seb – Lady Bea’s boyfriend – and a host of other chefs. When one of the main participants – Luca – takes ill and later dies, rumours of an unfortunate case of food poisoning run amok. And so begins the mystery. Had Luca been foraging and accidentally picked poisonous mushrooms? Did someone else plant the mushrooms in his dish?

So many questions, so many suspects, and so many secrets.
Let me just say that Lady Bea’s dog, Daisy knows the answer 😉

When it appears that Luca was murdered, Lady Bea’s nemesis in the form of DCI Fitzwilliam is brought in to investigate. Now, these two, I understand, have met before in other cases and he is not keen on her meddling. Which means, that’s the green light for her to “meddle” and solve the case before him. But will she? There’s a frisson of romantic tension bubbling away here which only adds to the fun.
Aided and abetted by the marvellous duo of Perry and Simon, not forgetting the instinctive reaction of her dog, Daisy, what follows is an entertaining mystery, and a tongue-in-cheek view of royal gossip. (Timely, indeed 😉 )

My only issue was the use of so many POVs which seemed to be used to reveal their inner thoughts and in so doing move the story forward. That said, each POV was presented with consistency and clarity. I loved the setting, the royal obligations to behave a certain way, and the inclusion of Lady Bea’s son brought a touch of youthful exuberance to the story (although Perry has his fair share of that too) I loved the characters, their relationship with each other, the behind-the-scenes details of the royal rooms being refurbished… in fact, it was a most amusing and engaging read with the promise of more to come. I’ll be back for more; I just need to catch up on the others in the series first.

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blog tour · book review · women's fiction

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Golden Oldies Book Club

The Golden Oldies Book Club

Deep in the Somerset countryside, the Combe Pomeroy village library hosts a monthly book club.

Ruth the librarian fears she’s too old to find love, but a discussion about Lady Chatterley’s Lover makes her think again.

Aurora doesn’t feel seventy-two and longs to relive the excitement of her youth, while Verity is getting increasingly tired of her husband Mark’s grumpiness and wonders if their son’s imminent flight from the nest might be just the moment for her to fly too. And Danielle is fed up with her cheating husband. Surely life has more in store for her than to settle for second best?

The glue that holds Combe Pomeroy together is Jeannie. Doyenne of the local cider farm and heartbeat of her family and community, no one has noticed that Jeannie needs some looking after too. Has the moment for her to retire finally arrived, and if so, what does her future hold?

From a book club French exchange trip, to many celebrations at the farm, this is the year that everything changes, that lifelong friendships are tested, and for some of the women, they finally get the love they deserve.

Purchase Link –

Author Bio

Judy Leigh is the USA Today bestselling author of The Old Girls’ Network and Five French Hens and the doyenne of the ‘it’s never too late’ genre of women’s fiction.

She has lived all over the UK from Liverpool to Cornwall, but currently resides in Somerset.

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My Review

I was looking forward to reading this story in which a group of older women shine, supporting each other and living life to its fullest. For some of those women – Ruth and Aurora – this proved to be true as both seem to come to life when they realised what they really wanted out of life. Jeannie, the main character, was more difficult to root for; it was as if she’d already resigned herself to a boring, safe existence, as if giving up running the cider business made her not only redundant in the orchards but in life as well. She had many opportunities come her way, but it felt like she was more reluctant to enjoy herself. For a woman who’d run a business for so long, she didn’t seem to want to choose her own destiny but rather let it simply happen.

What I did enjoy about this story was the seasonal element of the apple trees, from the wassailing in January, to the new growth of spring, the explosion of summer blossom and fruit, and finally the autumn harvest before winter set in once again. I felt this cycle was complimented by the multi-generational cast. The older characters are looking to wind down (some more than others) whilst the younger characters bring new ideas and enthusiasm to the business and the village.

For me, the story is heavy on description, and as beautiful as the subsequent village scenes are, I felt it had the effect of slowing the story down too much. The book club aspect of the plot formed a consistent backdrop to the changing fates of the characters, though I think it was the visit to France that finally made most of the women see the direction in which their lives were heading, and as such decided to control their future for themselves.

Aside from Jeannie, Ruth, Aurora, Verity and Danielle, stand-out characters for me were Violet (Jeannie’s mum) – but, oh, those jokes were soooooo bad, and Barney, whose down-to-earth, matter-of-fact honesty made me laugh out loud. The younger characters, too, were very real and pitched in to help. The French trip was a hoot – the sand-yachting hilarious – and the new arrivals to the village (primarily Anthony & his brother, Mikey) not only spiced up the village gossip but also helped inspire the younger members of the book club – Verity & Danielle – to take control of their lives and invest in themselves and their futures.

Overall, an engaging read about family, friends and community, and the realisation that life is for living, no matter your age.

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blog tour · book review · historical fiction · WWII

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – A Child for the Reich

A Child for the Reich

From the USA Today bestselling author comes a gripping new emotional WW2 historical novel. Inspired by a true story!

‘A moving story of a mother’s love battling against the determination of the Reich to create a pure Aryan race…A recommended read‘ Glynis Peters

‘An intensely moving, brilliantly researched novel about love, loss, and the lengths a mother will go to for her child…utterly compelling‘ Deborah Carr

Rumours of the Nazis coming for Czech children swept through the villages like a breeze through the trees, and the story was always the same…

They wanted our children to raise as their own

Since her husband, Josef, joined the Czech resistance three years ago, Anna Dankova has done everything possible to keep her daughter, Ema, safe. But when blonde haired, blue-eyed Ema is ripped from her mother’s arms in the local marketplace by the dreaded Brown Sisters, nurses who were dedicated to Hitler’s cause, Anna is forced to go to new extremes to take back what the Nazis have stolen from her.

Going undercover as a devoted German subject eager to prove her worth to the Reich, the former actress takes on a role of a lifetime to find and save her daughter. But getting close to Ema is one thing. Convincing her that the Germans are lying when they claim Anna stole her from her true parents is another…

Purchase Links

HarperCollins US:

HarperCollins UK:

UK retailers:




US retailers:




Barnes and Noble:



Author Bio

Andie Newton is the USA Today bestselling author of The Girls from the Beach, The Girl from Vichy, and The Girl I Left Behind.

She writes gritty and emotional war stories about strong women. Andie holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s in teaching. She lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her husband, her two boys, and one very lazy cat.

You can find book club discussion questions on

Social Media Links

Twitter: @AndieNewton

FB: Andie Newton Author Page

Instagram: andienewtonauthor

Publisher Socials:

Twitter: @OneMoreChapter_ @Harper360

Instagram: @onemorechapterhc @harpercollins360


My Review

Based on the real Lebensborn programme – a Nazi initiative to increase the number of children born who met the Nazi standards of “racially pure” and “healthy” Aryans – A Child for the Reich is an emotional tale that delivers on so many levels. The main protagonist, Anna Dankova, is struggling to make ends meet and is more than a little annoyed at her husband, Josef, who left to join the resistance forces some time ago. Having lived in beautiful Prague, it is something of a shock to move to the country where Josef – before leaving them along with Dasa’s husband – insists they will be safer. Now, with her daughter, Ema, her mother (Matka) and sister, Dasa and her children, they live without the use of their car (taken by the Germans), many of their livestock (also taken) and are left to support themselves on the little income they can earn at the market selling the vegetables they’ve grown.

And, as if life were not hard enough, rumours of the Brown Sisters being in their area leave them all fearful of their children being taken next. Given that their neighbours are not the kindliest of people, willing to sell gossip to the Germans in return for better treatment for themselves, who can they trust?

The greatest fear is for Dasa’s young baby, a child she will not name until the men come home, but who meets the requirements of the Lebensborn programme perfectly. Consequently, they try to keep him hidden.

None of them expected Ema, Anna’s daughter to be the target of the Brown Sisters’ next trip to the market. Devastated, Anna concocts a plan to get her daughter back, and using her acting skills (from her days in Prague) and her ability to speak German, she meets with the resistance group to a) locate her daughter, and b) to acquire papers for her to assume a new identity and infiltrate the orphanage where Ema is being kept prior to adoption with a “good German family.”

At this stage, I was reeling in shock at the extent to which the Lebensborn programme was being carried out, but at the orphanage itself, my shock levels intensified as the details of the programme became clearer. Anna is risking everything to get Ema back, and as the reality of her situation unfolds, the tension ratchets up, emotions are incredibly high, and the danger of being caught infers life-threatening consequences.

I found A Child for the Reich to be truly absorbing, a compelling read that had me racing through the chapters to the conclusion. The story does, however, tell of more than Anna’s courage and determination, it highlights the strength of family and friends (Matka is incredibly supportive and inspiring, witty and thoughtful), and the ability to conquer even the most monumental of challenges when the future of family is at stake. If you enjoy reading about strong female characters, particularly during one of the most difficult eras of modern times, then this is the book for you.

My thanks go to the author, and publisher, (Harper Collins One more Chapter) for my copy of this book which I have reviewed freely.

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art · cover reveal · historical fiction · Italy · preorder

Cover Reveal – The Venice Secret

The Venice Secret

One hidden painting. Two women born centuries apart. A secret uncovered.

In 2019, Rachel is stuck in a rut when she discovers what appears to be a Canaletto painting in her grandmother’s loft along with a note addressed to Philippa in 1782. With help from Jake at the local art gallery, Rachel endeavours to find out if the painting is an original and uncovers a secret from the past.

In 1780, governess at Chipford Hall, Philippa is offered the role of mistress by Earl Rupert. She escapes to Venice as companion to bluestocking, Lady Cordelia who reveals a secret that changes both their lives. They do their best to keep the secret from Lady Cordelia’s social circle, but their nemesis is determined to reveal all and ruin them.

Pre-order Link: 

Publication Date: 7th March 2023

Author Bio

Anita Chapman enjoyed writing stories from a young age, and won a local writing competition when she was nine years old. Encouraged by this, she typed up a series of stories about a mouse on her mum’s typewriter and sent them to Ladybird. She received a polite rejection letter, her first.

Many of Anita’s summers growing up were spent with her family driving to Italy, and she went on to study French and Italian at university. As part of her degree, Anita lived in Siena for several months where she studied and au paired, and she spent a lot of time travelling around Italy in her twenties. 

Anita likes to read journals and diaries from the past, and one of her favourite pastimes is visiting art galleries and country houses. Her first published novel, The Venice Secret is inspired by her mother taking her to see the Canalettos at The National Gallery in London as a child. 

Since 2015, Anita has worked as a social media manager, training authors on social media, and helping to promote their books. She’s run several courses in London and York, and has worked as a tutor at Richmond and Hillcroft Adult Community College.

Social Media Links


Twitter: @neetschapman 

Facebook Page: Anita Chapman Author 

Instagram: @neetschapman 

Tik Tok: @neetschapman 

I am so looking forward to this one. Not only is the cover beautiful, but the story combines two of my favourite genres – historical fiction and art. And, it has a dual timeline too, which makes me think the secret Rachel discovers is going to be fascinating. Can’t wait 😉

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book review · historical fiction · medieval · series

Book Review – Squire’s Hazard

I’m delighted to share my review (below) for Squire’s Hazard, the fifth Meonbridge Chronicle by Carolyn Hughes. This was my third trip to Meonbridge, and it was worth the wait. I mean, how often do you get the chance to return to the 14th century and, once there, not feel like an outsider?

But, first, take a look at the cover and the book description. Trust me, if you enjoy a great family saga, thoroughly researched and intricate details that pin you firmly to the era, then you’ll want to travel back in time, too.

How do you overcome the loathing, lust and bitterness threatening you and your family’s honour?

It’s 1363, and in Steyning Castle, Sussex, Dickon de Bohun is enjoying life as a squire in the household of Earl Raoul de Fougère. Or he would be, if it weren’t for Edwin de Courtenay, who’s making his life a misery with his bullying, threatening to expose the truth about Dickon’s birth.

At home in Meonbridge for Christmas, Dickon notices how grown-up his childhood playmate, Libby Fletcher, has become since he last saw her and feels the stirrings of desire. Libby, seeing how different he is too, falls instantly in love. But as a servant to Dickon’s grandmother, Lady Margaret de Bohun, she could surely never be his wife.

Margery Tyler, Libby’s aunt, meeting her niece by chance, learns of her passion for young Dickon. Their conversation rekindles Margery’s long-held rancour against the de Bohuns, whom she blames for all the ills that befell her family, including her own servitude. For years she’s hidden her hunger for revenge, but she can no longer keep her hostility in check.

As the future Lord of Meonbridge, Dickon knows he must rise above de Courtenay’s loathing and intimidation, and get the better of him. And, surely, he must master his lust for Libby, so his own mother’s shocking history is not repeated? Of Margery’s bitterness, however, he has yet to learn… 

Beset by the hazards triggered by such powerful and dangerous emotions, can Dickon summon up the courage and resolve to overcome them?

Buy the Meonbridge Chronicles at Amazon UK, Amazon US or from other online bookstores, and don’t forget to add it to Goodreads as well.

My Review

In Squire’s Hazard, we catch up with Dickon De Bohun, the future Lord of Meonbridge, as he completes his training at Steyning Castle. Despite not having a traditional upbringing for life as a squire – and subsequent Lord – Dickon has mastered many elements of the training regime with aplomb, talented both on and off a horse. He’s a likeable young man and considered to be doing well until the truth of his birth becomes known by a fellow student who considers Dickon to be unworthy of such a noble position at the castle. Edwin de Courtenay’s jealous revenge begins with minor pranks to make Dickon look foolish and irresponsible, but soon his actions escalate into more dangerous territory.

Back at Meonbridge, his former playmate, Libby, is counting down the days until Dickon’s return for the Christmas holiday. She’s hopeful of more than friendship, but as she is effectively Dickon’s grandmother’s maidservant, anything more is simply wishful thinking. Yet, it’s obvious, upon his return, that Dickon has feelings for Libby too. Someone has to be the ‘grown-up’ here, and Dickon steps up to put some distance between them, although such a move seems a threat to their friendship.

Poor Dickon, troubled at the castle by Edwin the bully, and troubled at home in not wanting to upset Libby but knowing and accepting his duty as the future Lord. It’s fascinating to see these themes of bullying and young love in historical fiction, and only brings home the concept that little has changed over the centuries; the emotional rites of passage continue. Back then, Dickon didn’t want to tell on Edwin and accepted the consequences of his appalling pranks with the strength of someone older than his years, but would the truth come out? Would Dickon be absolved of blame? As for Libby, would she forgive him for spurning her? It’s an emotional time for the young squire, and yet the pressure upon him to succeed is only going to intensify.

Dickon’s life changes dramatically towards the end of this book, bestowing upon him greater responsibility. Be thankful, readers, that as much is not expected of fifteen-year-olds today as was expected and demanded of Dickon. That said, he is proving to be up to the challenge. He may have been considered to be of low birth since only his father was of nobility, but Dickon has qualities that neither breeding nor privilege can guarantee in a person. He’s honest, reliable, has a sense of duty and care, and he can see how hard those around him have to work to keep the estate going. Dickon can empathise, he can understand, and he can communicate. In having someone like Dickon as the main protagonist, Squire’s Hazard tells us of life in those times from a variety of viewpoints. He, by virtue of his birth and upbringing, crosses the boundaries to reveal how people, whether rich or poor, lived in those times. A fascinating subplot involving Libby’s family becomes integral to Dickon’s story, and highlights the other divide, that of how very different were the expectations of sons and daughters, men and women. The author excels at adding details to draw the reader into the era, without feeling bogged down by description or fact.

My visit to Meonbridge ends with a hankering for more, and yes, I keep asking myself why I haven’t read books one and two yet, too! I’ve convinced myself that I’ll read them before the next one is out as that’ll give me an excuse to re-read books three to five as well.

Thanks to Carolyn Hughes for the complimentary copy, I am posting this honest review voluntarily.

About the author

CAROLYN HUGHES has lived most of her life in Hampshire. With a first degree in Classics and English, she started working life as a computer programmer, then a very new profession. But it was technical authoring that later proved her vocation, as she wrote and edited material, some fascinating, some dull, for an array of different clients, including banks, an international hotel group and medical instruments manufacturers.

Having written creatively for most of her adult life, it was not until her children flew the nest several years ago that writing historical fiction took centre stage, alongside gaining a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.

Facebook: CarolynHughesAuthor

Twitter: @writingcalliope

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blog tour · book review · British · police procedural · series

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review of Death on the Crags

Death on the Crags

Everybody loves Thomas Davies. Don’t they?

When policeman Thomas Davies falls from a crag on a visit to the Lake District in full view of his partner, Mia, it looks for all the world like a terrible but unfortunate accident — until a second witness comes forward with a different story.

Alerted to the incident, DCI Jude Satterthwaite is inclined to take it seriously — not least because of Mia’s reluctance to speak to the police about the incident. As Jude and his colleagues, including his on-off partner DS Ashleigh O’Halloran, tackle the case, they’re astonished by how many people seem to have a reason to want all-round good guy Thomas out of the way.

With the arrival of one of Thomas’s colleagues to assist the local force, the investigation intensifies. As the team unpick the complicated lives of those who claim to care for Thomas but have good reasons to want him dead, they find themselves digging deeper and deeper into a web of blackmail and cruelty … and investigating a second death.

A traditional British police procedural mystery set in Cumbria.

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Author Bio

Jo Allen was born in Wolverhampton and is a graduate of Edinburgh, Strathclyde and the Open University, with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in geography and Earth science. She’s been writing for pleasure and publication for as long as she can remember. After a career in economic consultancy she took up writing and was first published under the name Jennifer Young, in genres of short stories, romance and romantic suspense. She wrote online articles on travel and on her favourite academic subject, Earth science. In 2017 she took the plunge and began writing the genre she most likes to read — crime.

Jo lives in the English Lakes, where the DCI Satterthwaite series is set. In common with all her favourite characters, she loves football (she’s a season ticket holder with her beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers) and cats.

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My Review

I haven’t read any of the previous books in this series and did worry that starting at book 9 might be a problem. It wasn’t, in fact it was relatively straightforward to follow the backstory of the main character – DCI Jude Satterthwaite – and, for the most part, I didn’t feel disadvantaged by not having read books 1-8. By the way, can I just add that Satterthwaite is the most delightful surname for a police officer, or anyone really, that I’ve encountered this year. It evokes a sense of tradition, of old school common sense and I felt the case of Thomas’s death was in safe hands.

As the opening line of the book description says – Everyone loves Thomas Davies. Don’t they? – Well, I certainly did. In a story with quite a few unlikeable characters, Thomas stood out as a decent man, a good friend and an honest police officer. So, surely his fall from the crags was an accident?
Apparently not, and as the story develops, there are many twists, turns and revelations, as well as some deliciously suspicious red herrings. All of which lead to a motley crew of suspects… but then the mother of all twists turns things on its head again.

The author’s writing style caused me a few issues and had me flicking back to see if I’d missed something when characters were talking about some of the events that occurred, but generally those issues were cleared up within the next few pages.
Overall, this is an interesting story with plenty of intrigue and all set amid the the backdrop of the lesser-explored parts of Cumbria. The police team worked well together, so I can see why there are so many books in this series, and I hope, many more to come.

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blog tour · book review · Christmas · Christmas treats · short reads · short story

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The No-Hopers’ Christmas Club and other festive stories

The No-Hopers Christmas Club

As warming as a mince pie and a glass of sherry, these eighteen festive-themed shorts are just waiting to be unwrapped.

  • A lonely dog shelter volunteer battles to find new homes for her long-time canine residents while realising her own future is just as uncertain. As the new year approaches, can a fellow animal lover give her the fresh start she so wants for her dogs.
  • A widowed grandmother prepares to reunite with her forbidden first love, only to discover the grand country pile from where he’s sent her a Christmas card isn’t quite what it seems.
  • A single woman finally meets a man to couple up with over the festive season, but will the eccentric mistress of her late father destroy her plans?
  • An ambitious 20-something attends a lavish Christmas party with only one aim – to bag a rich husband. But her plans are derailed when a troubling connection with the aristocrat she’s set her sights on is revealed.

Geraldine Ryan is a prolific short-story writer whose work has appeared in Woman’s Weekly and Take a Break’s Fiction Feast magazines. This yuletide collection follows hot on the heels of her first published anthology Riding Pillion with George Clooney. While Christmas comes but once a year, these moving and humorous tales will stay with you for a lifetime.

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Author Bio

Geraldine Ryan is a proud Northerner who has spent most of her life in Cambridge – the one with the punts. She holds a degree in Scandinavian Studies, but these days only puts it to use when identifying which language is being spoken among the characters of whatever Scandi drama is currently showing on TV. For many years, she worked as a teacher of English and of English as a second or foreign language, in combination with rearing her four children, all of whom are now grown-up, responsible citizens. Her first published story appeared in My Weekly in 1993. Since then, her stories have appeared in Take a Break, Fiction Feast and Woman’s Weekly, as well as in women’s magazines abroad. She has also written two young adult novels – Model Behaviour (published by Scholastic) and The Lies and Loves of Finn (Channel 4 Books.) She plans for Riding Pillion with George Clooney to be the first of several short story anthologies.

Keep up to date with Geraldine’s news, be the first to hear about her new releases and read exclusive content by signing up to her monthly newsletter Turning the Page. By adding your details, you’ll also receive a free short story. Use this link to subscribe:

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My Review

Festive stories as varied as your favourite box of chocolates!

What a wonderful collection of short stories this is, and each one with its own clear plot and cast of characters. From the very beginning, I knew I’d enjoy these stories – yeah, the dog story got me. Go Lurch & Hopalong! But, from thereon, the stories tackled so many themes that tugged on my heartstrings and had me wishing for a happy ending.
To name a few favourites (aside from the opening story of The No-hopers Christmas Club), I’d go with:
A Rocking Horse Christmas – which tells the story of a vicar and his wife who are trying for a baby. He’s so excited, he buys a rocking horse for the nursery, but sadly the baby never comes as they suffer one miscarriage after another. Yet, this is a tale of hope and perseverance, and of choosing a different path towards a happy ending. Simply lovely.
Being Gerald’s Wife – is the story of a woman whose husband is controlling and coercive, robbing her of a life until the fuss over an unripe avocado turns into a moment of reflection, a chance to be free and to start over.
Gemma’s Night Out – is a modern take on A Christmas Carol that is both fun and thought-provoking. A story about starting afresh, learning lessons from the past and moving forward, stronger and with confidence.
My Stupid Lies – is about the only single woman at the bottle factory, fed up with hearing how wonderful her co-workers’ families are and what amazing plans they have for Christmas, so fed up that she fabricates a family of her own… until the lies take over. However, all is not lost, as a kindred spirit is ready to save her from herself, and also to encourage her to follow her heart – which is not at the bottle factory!
And, finally, (so many favourites 😉 ) Forbidden Feelings – a story that follows a woman from the kitchens of a wealthy family in South Africa to England where a chance reunion confirms that she was never “just a maidservant” in Patrick’s eyes, and that love knows no bounds.

As you can see, it’s an eclectic collection of stories that covers the amusing side of Christmas with the office Secret Santa to the more poignant and heart-wrenching tales of loss, loneliness and desperation, offset with new starts, friendships and a greater understanding of one’s self and others. Highly recommended, and perfect for a tea-break moment or two.

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blog tour · book review · Christmas · family · France · New start · starting over

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Christmas at the Riviera

Christmas on the Riviera

As a toddler Elodie Jacques was abandoned by her mother and left in the care of her French grandmother, Gabriella in Dartmouth, Devon.

Now 24 years old, Elodie struggles to reconcile the deep anger for the mother she has never since seen.

When Gabriella unexpectedly announces she wants the two of them to spend Christmas and her 70th birthday in her home town of Juan-les-Pins in the South of France Elodie is thrilled.

Gabriella meanwhile has her own ulterior motives for wanting to return after 40 years, a daunting homecoming potentially filled with memories, secrets and recriminations.

With Juan-les-Pins pulsing with lights, decorations and the festive spirit, Christmas promises to be filled with fun. But when Elodie learns there is the possibility that her long absent mother may join them she hides her feelings behind a show of indifference and animosity.

Will there be the reconciliation that Gabriella longs for – or will the spirit of Christmas fail to work its magic?

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Author Bio

Jennifer Bohnet is the bestselling author of over 12 women’s fiction titles, including Villa of Sun and Secrets and A Riviera Retreat.

She is originally from the West Country but now lives in the wilds of rural Brittany, France.

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My Review

It’s back to France I go, this time to Antibes (Juan-les-Pins) with grandmother Gabriella (Gabby) and granddaughter, Elodie Jacques.
Gabby has received a letter and now wants to spend Christmas and her 70th birthday in her hometown of Juan-les-Pins, a place she left (under a cloud) over 40 years ago.
Elodie has been raised by Gabby ever since he mother Harriet left the family some 20 years to remarry and settle in Australia. Elodie has long since given up on a relationship with her mother and sees Gabby as more than fulfilling that role. She is also stuck in a rut professionally, not achieving the goals she expected of herself, and as for romance… well, that’s a non-starter too.
Consequently, spending the holidays in sunny France seems like the perfect solution; besides, she has always been curious about her grandmother’s history, why she left France and never returned.

For Gabby, her hometown has changed a lot but there are glimpses of her former life that evoke plenty of memories for her, not all of them good. She also needs to reveal some news to Elodie, news that might drastically change her life and her future imminently and forever.

The setting, as expected, is glorious; the characters are real and their reactions relatable, but it is the secrets that Gabby has to share with Elodie that delight, allowing the reader to wonder how such news might affect them. The author takes us on a fantastic journey delving into Gabby’s past and her reason for leaving France while also offering us a taste of how their lives might change in the weeks that follow. New friendships and loves leave us hoping for a happy ending, although we know there are obstacles yet to be overcome as a family reunion becomes part of the equation.

This is a relatively quick read but one that transports us to another life, Christmas in the sun, with new friends and hopes to inspire and encourage both Gabby and Elodie to take the next steps.
I’d like to think there will be a sequel featuring more about these characters and not forgetting the mystery of Collette’s bicycle and the antiquities shop 😉

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