Carlo Gesualdo, prince, composer and murderer has his wife and her lover killed in Naples in 1590. The wife’s maidservant,Laura Scala, witnesses the events and vowes to avenge her mistress.
The princess, Donna Maria d’Avalos, rescued Laura in Sicily after she had been raped at the age of thirteen. Laura devotes her life to her saviour and after the murders she spends years of her life trying to be revenged on the musical prince.
The scene moves from Sicily to Naples and Venice, back to Naples and finally to the New World. Laura believes she is carrying a curse. Everyone she becomes involved with appears to suffers misfortune and death.
A Jewish girl in the Venetian ghetto is kidnapped and sold into the Sultan’s harem, Laura’s daughter is placed in an orphanage without her knowledge, the artist Caravaggio uses Laura as a model and meets a tragic end.
Three beautiful pearls given to Laura by her mistress play a part in the story. Is Laura really cursed – or is it her connection with the murderous prince who dabbles in the occult?
A gypsy woman is burned at the stake, a Venetian gondolier meets a mysterious fate and Laura becomes a skilled herbalist and poisoner by default before the story ends in the New World. The background to these events is the strange and compelling music of Gesualdo.
Frances Kempton is a reclusive writer fleeing from the clutches of Jane Austen.
She has an obsession with Italy.
This is the first book in an Italian trilogy.
The Devil’s Tune is narrated by Laura Scala, the maidservant and confidante of Donna Maria, Prince Carlo Gesualdo’s wife. When her mistress is brutally murdered alongside her lover and child, Laura is so overwhelmed and abhorred by the act that she swears to exact vengeance on behalf of her mistress no matter how long it takes. As such, her own life is tainted by her hatred of Gesualdo and the promise she has made.
The author has created a vivid picture of how Laura might carry out her revenge, taking the readers through Naples and Venice as she keeps track of her prey. Gesualdo is obsessed by his music creations, seemingly oblivious to the effect of his decisions upon others. Laura is not the only person to dislike him, and understandably so. It was easy to root for Laura, even though she had murder in mind, especially given the impact her promise had on her own life. She’d experienced rape as a young girl and was wary of any romantic encounter, though she did eventually marry and have her own child. Sadly, her husband died and the mother-in-law from hell inflicted yet more tragedy on poor Laura. While Gesualdo seemed invincible, Laura lost everything and had to start over yet again. Nonetheless, her promise to her mistress was never far from her mind, despite the constant and never-ending obstacles that came her way.
Did she keep her promise? Did she find happiness again? The Devil’s Tune answers all of those questions while taking the reader on an indulgent, albeit vivid and brutal, tour of Renaissance Italy. An enthralling and captivating story with a resilient leading lady and a lot of heartbreak. As this is the first in a trilogy, I look forward to reading the next in the series.
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)!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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? ♥
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!
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.
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!
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.
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?”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
When Ali, Blake, Charlotte, and Grant sign contracts to star in a Back to School reality TV show, LOVE is the very last thing on their minds:
Ali flies to the UK from New Zealand, intrigued by the golden opportunity to advance her amateur social media influencer career.
Blake carpe diems the moment with both hands after a constant flurry of bad luck.
Charlotte jumps at the chance to relive her sporting glories of the past – and take a hiatus from her humdrum marriage.
And Grant is just relieved to get away from his failing second-hand music shop.
But once the advances hit their bank accounts, it soon becomes apparent that producer Jock’s Pied Piper-style offer to change their lives is distinctly lacking in sherbet fizz!
In fact, the only sweet thing about this gig for the former students and the rest of their Bubblegum and Blazers competitors, may just be the packet of candy in their pockets.
Re-enacting their past is a rollercoaster of revelations, retaliation, and unlikely romance in a gold-fish bowl of mayhem where Raphael (Agony Uncle of the school sweet shop) and his rhubarb and custards reign supreme…
Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalusia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the mountains and the sea. Having grown up on Glastonbury’s ley lines however, she’s unable to completely shake off her spiritual inner child, and is a Law of Attraction fanatic, as well as a Pranic Healer.
After a degree in Modern Languages and European Studies at UWE, Bristol (and a year working abroad in Bordeaux and Stuttgart), Isabella bagged an extremely jammy and fascinating job in children’s publishing… selling foreign rights for novelty, board, pop-up and non-fiction books all over the world; in every language from Icelandic to Korean, Bahasa Indonesian to Papiamento!
All of which has fuelled her curiosity and love of international food and travel – both feature extensively in her cross-genre novels, fused with a dollop of romcom, and a sprinkle of magical realism.
This was a “blast from the past” nostalgia read for me, blending delicious and never-to-be-forgotten childhood sweets with a reality TV show. An ingenious premise that promised to be entertaining and lots of fun.
I thought the story got off to a slow start as the many characters were introduced, but once we got down to the nitty gritty of the show, that was when the real fun began. And while some of the “activities” were a bit hard to visualise, the thought processes of the participants were chuckle-worthy, though at times the introspection blurred the action. Nonetheless it was a joy to reminisce over parma violets and flying saucers as the competition progressed and the true nature of the characters came out.
A particular highlight for me was the Spaghetti Eis, something which I had almost forgotten about but which reminded me of my own student days in Germany. Thank you, Isabella!
The pace picked up in the second half as a wrongdoing from the past finally caught up with the wrongdoer and consequences were doled out. A harsh reminder that karma has a way of putting things right even when you think you’ve got away with something.
Getting to know all of the main characters in their current lives at the start of the story revealed why each of them had signed up for the show, and their reasons were varied. I began to appreciate the time the author had put into showing us their lives as adults before we delved back into their school years and old habits resurfaced. As we learnt more about the characters, their personalities unravelled and the element of competition only intensified that reaction. It was apparent that not all had lived up to expectations, and while some applied heavy filters to appear more successful than they were, it was the down-to-earth characters who ultimately shone through.
This was a story with many layers: there’s the fun aspect of a school reunion and the tuck shop nostalgia, but the reality TV aspect laid bare that all was not as it seemed. Injustices were put right as some revealed their darker side only for it to be sent packing. In the end, the winner of the competition could only be one person, despite the shenanigans and twists thrown in to derail the outcome.
Bubblegum and Blazers lived up to its premise in providing an entertaining and enlightening read, and made me realise that while schooldays are meant to be the best days of your life, returning to those times as an adult could just as easily be a disaster waiting to happen.
When young doctor Lauren Matheson meets Joe, an older divorced businessman, at a glittering poolside in California, it’s a chance encounter that seems life-changing for them both. Back home in London, their feelings only strengthen. But Lauren soon discovers that building a happy future with Joe is going to be an uphill struggle…
She’s determined to be a good stepmother to his children, four-year-old Toby and complicated teen Grace. But under the watchful eye of Meredith, Joe’s intimidating ex-wife, Lauren can’t seem to do a thing right. Why won’t Joe ever take her side against Grace? And what really happened between him and Meredith?
As her husband retreats into a cold, secretive version of the dashing man she met in California, Lauren starts to wonder if she’s made a costly mistake. Was Joe ever the man she thought she married?
Carol Mason is the Amazon Charts and Kindle #1 bestselling author After You Left (more than 300,000 copies sold), The Secrets of Married Women, The Last Time We Met, The Shadow Between Us, Send Me A Lover and Little White Secrets which hit the Bookstat digital bestsellers list top 3 in the week of its launch. She was born in the North East of England where most of her novels are set. She now lives in Canada with her Canadian husband, a rescue dog from Kuwait and a three-legged cat. When not writing, Carol loves to read, cook and binge watch Netflix.
The last thing junior doctor, Lauren expected when she returned to London was to meet up again with Joe, an older guy she met on vacation in America. Their holiday fling didn’t go anywhere once he told her things were “complicated” for him at that moment. But now things have changed and the couple are free to pursue a relationship.
Within a short space of time, they marry and Lauren becomes step-mother to his two children – teenager Grace and four-year-old Toby. As you might expect, Lauren gets no easy ride from Grace, but does bond with Toby. That is until Joe’s ex-wife, and mother to the two kids, sticks her nose in. OK, so as their mother, Meredith obviously has rights and wants the best for her offspring, but treating Lauren like some unpaid help is not the way to go, especially when Meredith takes every chance to belittle and even mock Lauren’s attempts to build a rapport with the children. And where is Joe in all this? You might well ask! Mr Holiday-romance-turned-hubby is not exactly on his new wife’s side when things begin to go wrong. It seems Lauren can do nothing right, not even treat young Toby after an accident, despite being a medical professional
Frustrated and desperate for some support, Lauren’s checks out a forum for step-parents only to find a lot of hostility and animosity from many in her situation towards their step-kids. She does make one friend, though, but even then things aren’t as straightforward as they might seem.
There’s clearly more to Meredith’s story than we think. It comes to a head when she gets the bit between her teeth and sets out to destroy not only Lauren’s relationship with Joe and his kids, but also her career. Lauren is left fighting for her sanity, her career and her marriage in this twisty tale that makes for compulsive reading. A story of ordinary people living ordinary lives until someone throws a huge spanner in the works. The question is why … and can Lauren pick up the pieces? Will she even want to?
Highly recommended if you enjoy a solid family drama with a sinister edge.
From the bestselling author of The Girl in the Corner comes a story that asks: what would you risk for a shot at happiness?
1984. Bessie is a confident sixteen-year-old girl with the world at her feet, dreaming of what life will bring and what she’ll bring to this life. Then everything comes crashing down. Her bright and trusting smile is lost, banished by shame—and a secret she’ll carry with her for the rest of her life.
2021. The last thirty-seven years have not been easy for Bess. At fifty-three she is visibly weary, and her marriage to Mario is in tatters. Watching her son in newlywed bliss—the hope, the trust, the joy—Bess knows it is time to face her own demons, and try to save her relationship. But she’ll have to throw off the burden of shame if she is to honour that sixteen-year-old girl whose dreams lie frozen in time.
Can Bess face her past, finally come clean to Mario, and claim the love she has longed to fully experience all these years?
Amanda Prowse is an International Bestselling author whose twenty seven novels and seven novellas have been published in dozens of languages around the world. Published by Lake Union, Amanda is the most prolific writer of bestselling contemporary fiction in the UK today; her titles also consistently score the highest online review approval ratings across several genres. Her books, including the chart topping No.1 titles ‘What Have I Done?’, ‘Perfect Daughter’, ‘My Husband’s Wife’, ‘The Girl in the Corner’, ‘The Things I Know’ and ‘The Day She Came Back’ have sold millions of copies across the globe.
A popular TV and radio personality, Amanda is a regular panellist on Channel 5’s ‘The Jeremy Vine Show’ and numerous daytime ITV programmes. She also makes countless guest appearances on BBC national independent Radio stations including LBC and Talk FM, where she is well known for her insightful observations and her infectious humour. Described by the Daily Mail as ‘The queen of family drama’ Amanda’s novel, ‘A Mother’s Story’ won the coveted Sainsbury’s eBook of the year Award while ‘Perfect Daughter’ was selected as a World Book Night title in 2016.
Amanda’s ambition is to create stories that keep people from turning the bedside lamp off at night, great characters that ensure you take every step with them and tales that fill your head so you can’t possibly read another book until the memory fades… Praise for Amanda Prowse:
‘A powerful and emotional work of fiction’ – Piers Morgan ‘Deeply moving and emotional, Amanda Prowse handles her explosive subjects with delicate skill’ – Daily Mail ‘Uplifting and positive, but you will still need a box of tissues’ – Hello! ‘A gut-wrenching and absolutely brilliant read’ – The Irish Sun ‘You’ll fall in love with this…’ – Cosmopolitan ‘Deeply moving and eye opening. Powerful and emotional drama that packs a real punch.’ – Heat ‘Magical’ – Now magazine
As a 16-year-old, Bessie has high hopes of a future travelling the world as an air stewardess. On the day she goes to collect her exam results, her world falls apart. It’s made even worse when she discovers she’s pregnant too. That’s it – her future is over. Or is it?
Some 37 years later, Bess is a mother of two with a secret. And that secret is threatening to blow her world apart for a second time … unless she can come to terms with what she did.
Waiting to Begin focuses on family relationships and, if I’m honest, I didn’t really gel with Bess. She struck me as someone with a chip on her shoulder and a little bit snobbish, which given that everything that happened to her was of her own making, meant she came across as not hugely likeable.
Her family, however, are just the nicest people. Her dad, in particular, brought tears to my eyes with just how lovely and normal and down-to-earth … and embarrassing 🙂 … he was. I guess this is the author’s great skill to portray a warts and all view of family life from many viewpoints.
The story moves between 1984 and the present day, with an excited Bessie looking forward to life. Then in the present day, Bess is less enthusiastic about her lot, she is no longer close to her brother (who kept her secret) and nor is she in touch with her one-time best friend, Michelle. Fortunately, the ending is wonderfully positive, tying up those loose ends and restoring calm in those erst-troubled waters.
I did feel for young Bessie but I also felt, at times, that she accepted no responsibility for her actions. Unaware of what had happened to their daughter, her parents continued to be the goofy, loving people they’d always been. Yes, they were flawed, but those flaws came with warmth and unconditional love.
The story tugs at the heartstrings many a times, but is equally funny and heartwarming. It shows how everything we go through makes us who we are, and that from failure and rejection comes strength and growth.
A story that evokes the whole range of emotions. You’ll laugh, cry, cheer and despair … but you’ll close the book feeling satisfied that all is well with the world. Sort of 😉
Dr Harrison Lane is everything you wouldn’t expect from a man with a psychology doctorate. For victims, he’s everything they need.
They look, but they don’t see…
As Head of the Metropolitan Police’s Ritualistic Behavioural Crimes Unit, Dr Harrison Lane knows his Voodoo from his Aum Shinrikyo and a Satanist from a Shaman.
Harrison had an unusual childhood, raised by a bohemian mother and one of the native American Shadow Wolves – the elite tracking squad that works with US Drug enforcers. After his mother’s murder, he dedicated his life to tracking down those who hide behind spiritualism and religion to do evil.
Following the discovery of a missing boy’s body in what looks like a Satanic killing, Harrison is called in to help detectives. When a second boy is snatched, it becomes a race against time to save him, and sees Harrison come face-to-face with some dark secrets from his own childhood.
Preacher Boy is the first book in a gripping new crime mystery series from Amazon Top 20 bestselling author, Gwyn GB. Perfect for fans of LJ Ross, JD Kirk, J.R. Ellis, J M Dalgliesh, Rachel Abbott, Joy Ellis and David Blake.
Gwyn is an Amazon Top 20 bestselling author. She’s a former UK national TV newscaster and presenter, and journalist for national newspapers and magazines. Gwyn became a journalist because all she wanted to do was write and has finally realised her dream of being a full-time fiction author. Born in the UK, Gwyn now lives in the Channel Islands with her family, including a rescue dog and 17-year-old goldfish.
Gwyn launched her debut novel, Islands as Gwyn Garfield-Bennett in 2016, the romantic suspense book rose quickly into the Amazon top 20. Her first crime mystery series, featuring DI Falle, launched with Lonely Hearts in 2017.
Dr Harrison Lane is about to become one of my new favourite crime-solving heroes. As an avid viewer of Criminal Minds and the Behavior Analysis Unit of the FBI, it was a no-brainer that I wanted to read this book. And while the BAU team includes many a fabulous character, there’s no-one quite like Dr Lane. He is an enigma to his colleagues with his unusual skills (as learnt whilst growing up among the Shadow Wolves, a group of Native American trackers who work to prevent smuggling along the Mexico-USA border in Arizona.) Not to mention, he has a mystery of his own to solve (that of his mother’s killer). Combined, he stands out as different. But if your loved one has been the victim of a murder, then he’s the one you’d want to hunt down the murderer.
The story features a number of great characters, many with their own personal issues that affect how they handle their job. The plot is clever and interesting as it evolves from a single murder to a serial killer case, requiring the police team to trust Lane’s judgement regardless of whether they understand or even agree with it.
I found the writing to be unusual, varying from most books I read these days in that it was more omniscient in style than viewpoint-driven, often in more than one character’s head in a scene. When even a nameless woman “with pulled back hair” got to have “thoughts” about the situation unravelling at the police station, it threw me out a little. But despite being that little bit different in storytelling style, the strength of the story and the cast of characters more than kept me engaged. I’ll be checking out the next book in the series for sure.
Preacher Boy is an intriguing mystery, not least for its leading man, but also as a result of the dynamics between the characters which drive the story forward at a good pace, while still thrilling the reader with its originality.