blog tour · book review · historical fiction · Renaissance Italy · series

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Devil’s Tune

The Devil’s Tune

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.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Devils-Tune-Italian-trilogy-ebook/dp/B07CQ8FDP3

US – https://www.amazon.com/Devils-Tune-Italian-trilogy-ebook/dp/B07CQ8FDP3

Author Bio

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.

My Review

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.

As always,

Reviewed as Meandthemutts on Amazon UK
book review · crime · series · thriller

Book Review – Little Girl Taken

Little Girl Taken – Wendy Dranfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add to Goodreads

My Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always,

book review · France · historical fiction

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

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

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

Blood Rose Angel

Book description:

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

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

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

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

Amazon UK purchase link

My Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Pandora’s Boxed Set #1

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

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

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

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

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

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


As always,

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

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

SafeKeeping

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

Mackenzie_Safekeeping_Ebook

Safekeeping

Publication Date: July 20th, 2021

Genre: Thriller/ Suspense Thriller

No one ever thinks they’ll get caught…

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

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

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

Because everyone is guilty of something…

Add to Goodreads

Excerpt

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

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

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

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

Available on Amazon

About the Author

eva-fav-alley.jpg

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

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

Eva Mackenzie | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads| Newsletter

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My Review

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

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

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

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

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

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


SafeKeeping

Book Tour Schedule

July 19th

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 20th

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

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

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

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

July 21st

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

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

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

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

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

July 22nd

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

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

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

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

July 23rd

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

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

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

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

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

Book Tour Organized By:

R&R Button

R&R Book Tours

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

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Clueless in Croatia

Clueless in Croatia

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

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

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

Purchase Links

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Bio

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

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

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

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

Social Media Links

Website – https://joyskye.com/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/JoySkye4

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

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

My Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more news and reviews

As always,

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

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Games We Played

GameswePlayed

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

Games We Played

Publication Date: October 17th, 2020

Genre: Literary Fiction/ Women’s Fiction/ Thriller

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

Note: Possible Triggers

Add to Goodreads

Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon | B&N | Google | Kobo | iTunes

About the Author

head shot

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

Shawne Steiger | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | BookBub

My Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Tour Organized By:

R&R Button

blog tour · book review · Italy

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

Publication Day Push – 8th July 2021

Escape to Tuscany

Secrets on the Italian Island

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase Link mybook.to/SecretsIsland

Author Bio

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

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

Social Media Links

Website: www.tawilliamsbooks.com

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

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

My Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always


blog tour · book review · nostalgia

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Bubblegum and Blazers

School’s been out for 20 years. now it’s time to go back.

Bubblegum and Blazers

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…

Purchase Link – mybook.to/bubblegumandblazers

Author Bio

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.

Social Media Links

www.isabellamayauthor.com

Twitter – @IsabellaMayBks

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaMayAuthor/

Instagram – @isabella_may_author

My Review

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.

For more news and reviews

As always,

blog tour · book review · drama · family · psychological suspense

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Between You and Me

Between You and Me

Is her new husband really who she thinks he is?

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?

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/2Pu9BCM

Author Bio

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.

Social Media Links

https://www.facebook.com/CarolMasonAuthor

https://twitter.com/CarolMasonBooks

https://www.instagram.com/carolmasonauthor

My Review

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.

For more news and reviews:

As always,

Amazon Reviewer Name
Reviews on Amazon UK as MeandtheMutts

book review · drama · family · historical · historical fiction · political · social history

Book Review – The Girl Behind The Wall

My favourite Historical Fiction book this year!

A city divided.
When the Berlin Wall goes up, Karin is on the wrong side of the city. Overnight, she’s trapped under Soviet rule in unforgiving East Berlin and separated from her twin sister, Jutta.
Two sisters torn apart.
Karin and Jutta lead parallel lives for years, cut off by the Wall. But Karin finds one reason to keep going: Otto, the man who gives her hope, even amidst the brutal East German regime.
One impossible choice…
When Jutta finds a hidden way through the wall, the twins are reunited. But the Stasi have eyes everywhere, and soon Karin is faced with a terrible decision: to flee to the West and be with her sister, or sacrifice it all to follow her heart?

Purchase link (publication date July 8th 2021)

My Review

Historical Fiction is one of my most favourite genres to read, and I’m a sucker for a WWII story. The Girl Behind The Wall, whilst set in Berlin, is not a war story since it takes place in the 1960s. However, the events of that day in 1961 when the Berlin Wall went up overnight has its roots very firmly set in the aftermath of WWII and the division of Berlin.

Identical twin sisters, Jutta and Karin, share an enviable thread that is about to be tested to its limits when Karin insists on travelling to the Eastern part of Berlin, despite not feeling so great. Normally, Jutta would have gone with her, but this time Karin can’t wait for her sister.

That night, their cousin, Hugo, an upcoming news reporter for the radio, hears rumblings of a story. He drags Jutta out with him to see what is going on, riding on his motorbike past all the checkpoints that mark the dividing line between East and West Berlin. Except the checkpoints are all closed and frenetic activity sees the making of a more permanent division, concrete and barbed wire split the city in two as the Berlin Wall goes up with Karin still in the East, after a ruptured appendix sees her hospitalised.

Jutta and the family in the West aren’t able to visit her but they can see no reason why she wouldn’t be allowed to return home once she recovers. Well, no reason other than the German Democratic Republic not granting her permission to leave – but they wouldn’t be so inflexible, would they? Hell, yeah.

When Karin recovers, her path to the West has been blocked and she has to accept the offer of her kind doctor to move in with him and his wife for the time being. Every step is considered temporary at first … until it not longer is.

Jutta is refused access to visit and Karin is refused permission to leave. The two young women who have never been apart are suddenly plunged into a new reality, never really understanding why their applications consistently fail. (The reason does become known eventually, but all too late for them)

Karin gets a job as a cleaner in the hospital, thanks again to the doctor, and has to come to terms with the fact that her life is now in East Berlin. Initially, she wants to leave, to go home to her family until she meets and falls in love with Otto, whose ambition is to rebuild East Germany from within as an architect. He has no real attachment to the West and only sees a future for him and his family – and Karin – in the East.

Jutta, from the other side of the Wall, is desperate to get her sister home, especially when letters aren’t getting through and telephone lines are down permanently. Her One day, when she is walking the length of the Wall, she hears the mewing of a cat and follows the sound to find a mother cat and her kittens in a deserted building that flanks the Wall. She gives the cat her lunch and explores a labyrinth of doors and rooms and ultimately a window that looks out into East Berlin.

She risks going over the window, checking carefully for any onlookers and lands with dusty knees in East Berlin, whereupon she heads for the hospital in the hope they know where Karin might now be. From here, the pace picks up as there is danger around every corner and Jutta’s paranoia reaches new heights. Even so, she continues, her desire to find her sister worth the risk.

A connection is made … but the reunion is a far cry from what Jutta expects. Karin is more alert to the dangers, but she also aware that her escape from the East could put those who looked out for her in danger too. And, of course, she has grown fond of Otto, too fond to consider a life without him.

Jutta, forlorn and disappointed, begs Karin to convince Otto to leave the East too and the two women meet up more often from then on. Jutta’s determination to bring Karin home knows no bounds, and she cannot understand why her sister might choose to stay with Otto than to return to her family.

It is not until Jutta finds love herself that she begins to understand, and while the two of them continue their very different lives, each time they meet up Jutta still hopes that Karin can persuade Otto to leave too.

The danger intensifies as Jutta is mistaken for Karin, and a familiar face keeps popping up which sets them both on edge. Have they been found out? Are they under surveillance? The mood is tense, and grows more unnerving with each visit. What began as two sisters divided by the Wall has now evolved into them having others in their lives that mean as much – if not more – to them than they do to each other. And for twins who have only really ever relied upon each other, it’s hard to accept, and even harder to admit to the other that other people are important to them too.

The Girl Behind The Wall is a story of decisions and sacrifices that threaten to tear a family apart. It’s emotional, tense, and highly addictive. So many families were broken up at this time, so many lives were lost as people attempted to flee, and so much mistrust and division was sown among communities as neighbours spied on neighbours. Thankfully, the Wall did come down eventually, but for so many it was too late. For Jutta and Karin, however, there was always hope and a thread between them that nothing could destroy.

Many thanks to Netgalley, Avon books and HarperCollins for my advanced copy of this book which I have reviewed voluntarily.