blog tour · book review · historical fiction · WWII

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

A Child for the Reich

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

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

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

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

They wanted our children to raise as their own

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

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

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Author Bio

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

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

You can find book club discussion questions on

Social Media Links

Twitter: @AndieNewton

FB: Andie Newton Author Page

Instagram: andienewtonauthor

Publisher Socials:

Twitter: @OneMoreChapter_ @Harper360

Instagram: @onemorechapterhc @harpercollins360


My Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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art · cover reveal · historical fiction · Italy · preorder

Cover Reveal – The Venice Secret

The Venice Secret

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

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

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

Pre-order Link: 

Publication Date: 7th March 2023

Author Bio

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

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

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

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

Social Media Links


Twitter: @neetschapman 

Facebook Page: Anita Chapman Author 

Instagram: @neetschapman 

Tik Tok: @neetschapman 

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

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book review · historical fiction · medieval · series

Book Review – Squire’s Hazard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the author

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

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

Facebook: CarolynHughesAuthor

Twitter: @writingcalliope

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Audiobook · blog blitz · book review · historical fiction · murder mystery · mystery

Book Birthday Blitz ‘n’ Review – The Automobile Assassination (Audiobook)

The Automobile Assassination

A 1940s mystery

Erdington, September 1944

As events in Europe begin to turn in favour of the Allies, Chief Inspector Mason of Erdington Police Station is once more prevailed upon to solve a seemingly impossible case.

Called to the local mortuary where a man’s body lies, shockingly bent double and lacking any form of identification, Mason and O’Rourke find themselves at Castle Bromwich aerodrome seeking answers that seem out of reach to them. The men and women of the royal air force stationed there are their prime suspects. Or are they? Was the man a spy, killed on the orders of some higher authority, or is the place his body was found irrelevant? And why do none of the men and women at the aerodrome recognise the dead man?

Mason, fearing a repeat of the cold case that dogged his career for two decades and that he’s only just solved, is determined to do all he can to uncover the identity of the dead man, and to find out why he was killed and abandoned in such a bizarre way, even as Smythe demands he spends his time solving the counterfeiting case that is leaving local shopkeepers out of pocket.

Join Mason and O’Rourke as they once more attempt to solve the impossible in 1940s Erdington.

Purchase Link –

Author Bio

MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh to Eleventh-Century England, as well as three twentieth-century mysteries. Raised in the shadow of a building that was believed to house the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia, meant that the author’s writing destiny was set.

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Amazon Author Page:


My Review

As a Brummie and avid fan of historical fiction, I couldn’t turn down the audiobook version of The Automobile Assassination, if only to see how the local dialect was conveyed. Well, the narration was excellent – such a soothing yet perfect-for-the era voice – and the dialect, pretty good taking into account that Erdington at that time was a more rural area. So, it was off to a flying start for me.

Chief Inspector Sam Mason is in need of a challenge, but the latest case assigned to him does not appeal – that of counterfeit coupons infiltrating the area and causing much angst amongst businesses. The government has refused to accept the fake ration coupons, leaving the butcher, baker etc out of pocket. Besides, Mason thinks the sergeant running the case is making sufficient progress to not require his input.
Meanwhile, there’s a to do with the AA (The Automobile Association) who seem to be helping their members avoid speed traps, which is just not on! 😉
Mason is finding things a little dull, so when a body is found near Castle Bromwich aerodrome, this case is more to his liking. With no identification on the victim, Mason begins his investigation with the help of Sergeant Clara O’Rourke. But at the nearby air base, they say the man is not one of theirs and rumours abound that the victim might be a spy who’s come a deadly cropper. On top of that, there is no vehicle and the body is bent double at the most awkward angle. Questions, questions!
However the investigation seems to hit a dead end, and it is only when they follow up with the AA that potential clues appear that might solve the matter of who the victim was … but they’re still no further forward with finding out how, or indeed why the man died, let alone if there is a killer at large.

Mason and O’Rourke make a great team, in fact the police officers are a capable (if plodding along nicely) bunch apart from Mason’s boss – Superintendent Smythe whose passive-aggressive stance sees Mason once more diverted away from the case of the dead body in favour of the counterfeiting case that is gathering steam locally.
Nonetheless, Mason will not give up and he and O’Rourke follow up their enquiries up to a point where things really take off. There’s some undisclosed shenanigans at the AA headquarters, and even criminals with guns… suddenly Erdington is no longer the quiet rural place is used to be. Add in the intrigue of the AA shelters where members can call for assistance and fill up (from a jerry can) if they’re out of petrol, the mysterious locked shelter and several maps hidden in dark recesses of said shelters (that fuel the idea of spies being at large) and you have a compelling mystery on your hands.

A fab mystery, great characters, lovely historical touches and knowledge, and the most excellent narrator. I so enjoyed this that I am off to check out the case that boosted Mason’s reputation – The Custard Corpses – and I’ll add author, MJ Porter to my list of those to follow.

As always,

Amazon Reviewer Name

blog tour · book review · historical fiction · social history · truth · WWII

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Orphans of Berlin

The Orphans of Berlin

A heartbreaking World War 2 novel that tells the story of two women’s fight for love, family and hope, as the world crumbles around them. Based on the true story of the Kindertransport rescue from Nazi-occupied Europe.

Berlin, 1936. The Landau family are at the heart of their community, running a music shop in Berlin and just trying to survive. But their lives are unravelling as Hitler’s power increases and the treatment of Jewish families deteriorates. Eldest daughter, Rachel, fears for her sisters’ future and will do anything she can to keep them safe. Will she find hope in the darkness?

Paris, 1936. As whispers of war travel over from Europe, American debutante Kay escapes her mother’s grasp and travels as a reluctant spy from Paris to Berlin. But a chance meeting with the Landau family will change her life forever. Kay is determined to give Rachel and her sisters a fighting chance in a society where the youngest are paying the ultimate price, even if it means making dangerous enemies along the way…

As the world marches toward war, these brave women will find strength in joining forces to save the ones they love. But they will need the support of one another more than they will ever realise in order to survive…

A gripping and heart-wrenching historical novel about hope, tragedy and two women’s limitless courage. Perfect for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, The Nightingale and My Name is Eva.

Purchase Link –

Author Bio

Jina Bacarr is a US-based historical romance author of over 10 previous books.

She has been a screenwriter, journalist and news reporter, but now writes full-time and lives in LA.

Jina’s novels have been sold in 9 territories. Her first novel with Boldwood is called Her Lost Love.

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My Review

Wow, what an emotional read that was.
The story starts with Kay Alexander, an American heiress being arrested by the Gestapo in Paris. A young German girl, Rachel, has come to warn her, but is also traumatised by the fact her little sisters have been taken into custody as well.
From there, the story is principally a long flashback to how Kay and Rachel met, and how their lives became permanently entangled.
A light-hearted beginning sees Kay as a reluctant debutante in Philadelphia who rebels against her mother’s wishes to “come out” and find a husband. Sneaking off to dances with her instructor, Kay falls in love… but it doesn’t end well (I’m not going to spoil things here, you’ll have to read it for yourself 😉 Sorry, not sorry!) Unable to face returning home with her mother after what she has put her through, Kay moves on to Paris before war breaks out, asked by her uncle to keep an eye on things “over there” and report back.

On a trip to Berlin at her uncle’s behest to see how the German citizens are coping, in particular the Jews, Kay takes refuge from the rain in a glorious music shop, not realising that purchasing from Jewish businesses is forbidden. What follows is an enlightenment for Kay, especially on seeing how Rachel stands up for her deaf mother. Kay wishes she had that kind of lovingly loyal relationship with her own mother. Ever the rebel, she buys sheet music and a music box from Rachel’s family shop, asking for the goods to be shipped to The Ritz in Paris. It is this connection that gives rise to the heart of the story.

Expect romance for Kay with a quirky British artist/pilot, a deep friendship with the amazing powerhouse that is Gertrude, and a heart-warming and heart-breaking relationship with Rachel and her sisters, whose life in Berlin is getting worse and more dangerous by the day.

The Orphans of Berlin tells the tale of despair turning to hope, casual encounters leading to the strongest of “family” ties, and the difficulty of keeping secrets from those you love. Told from Kay’s and Rachel’s perspectives, the story is based on the Kindertransport scheme that saw 10,000 children be taken to the UK during the war. What seemed to be a rebellious streak in Kay turns out to be a determination to help others, to use her wealth for the greater good.
Beautifully told, with an ending as perfect as one can be given the atrocities experienced, it brought a tear to my eye. Highly recommended!

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blog tour · book review · historical fiction · revenge · romance · social history · The Midlands · women's fiction

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Hat Girl’s Heartbreak

The Hat Girl’s Heartbreak

Will it be tears or triumph for the Hat Girl from Silver Street?

It’s been five years since Ella Bancroft lost the love of her life, Harper Fortescue, and despite her friends’ encouragement, she’s still not been able to move on. The one thing keeping Ella smiling is the success of her hat shop, Ivella.  Her beautiful designs and fabulous creations are the first choice for the fashionable Edwardian ladies of Walsall, and her fame is spreading far and wide.

Darcie Newland won’t ever forgive Ella for stealing her fiancé and ruining her life, even though Harper was never really hers in his heart.  After being exiled by her parents to Scotland after yet another scandal, Darcie is now back in Birmingham and set on revenge.

As her hat shop flourishes, and the possibility of a new love appears when she least expects it, Ella finally dares to hope for a happy future. But storm clouds are gathering over the Black Country, and life might have other plans for the hat girl from Silver Street.

The Queen of the Black Country sagas is back with this page-turning story of friendship and fun, love and second chances. Perfect for fans of Val Wood and Lyn Andrews.

Purchase Link –

Purchase Link –

Author Bio

Lindsey Hutchinson is a bestselling saga author whose novels include The Workhouse Children.

She was born and raised in Wednesbury, and was always destined to follow in the footsteps of her mother, the multi-million selling Meg Hutchinson.

Social Media Links

Facebook: Lindsey Hutchinson | Facebook

Twitter: Lindsey Hutchinson (@LHutchAuthor) / Twitter

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Bookbub profile: Lindsey Hutchinson Books – BookBub

My Review

This is a wonderful story, and while it can easily be read as a standalone book, I really want to read the first in the series too, just to catch up with the early years of Ella Bancroft.
As a Midlander, I revel in books set in my neck of the woods, and those using the local dialect hold a special place on my bookshelf. Clearly, I wasn’t around during the period of this story but references to places I’m familiar with – like the Rag Market – take me back so effectively to my hometown.
Now, the story …well, where to begin? It’s jam-packed with drama and yet is so full of heart and warmth that you can’t help but be drawn in. Ella and Ivy are co-owners of the hat shop Ivella, yet theirs is a trying relationship. Once rivals, they’ve now joined forces and their business has grown exponentially. It’s mainly down to Ella’s creativity, since Ivy’s designs are still stuck in bygone times, but nonetheless the two of them are enjoying a boom in business, and Ella is fast becoming known as the only place to buy a hat. Trouble is, this creates a little friction, and Ivy is a tad jealous. Ella manages to ignore the curt responses from Ivy and is hugely generous towards the older woman. Such is Ella’s character that she treats others well, but even she has noticed a change in Ivy, and when others in their workforce voice similar concerns, Ella seeks out advice to help Ivy. What follows is a heart-warming yet tragic foray into Ivy’s degenerating health as dementia sets in and causes her to forget things and get very frustrated with herself and others. The outcome is heartbreaking and so beautifully and sensitively handled by the author.
With all this on her plate (increased fame, rampant sales, and caring for Ivy) you might think romance would take a back seat. After all, Ella has suffered her fair share of loss already, and fear of being hurt again has prevented her from risking her heart. The romance subplot fully respects her fears and concerns yet sweetly blossoms towards the inevitable. Ella is apprehensive about moving on, and her visits to a “medium” to get permission from her dearly departed love to do so brings her back into contact with an old face, someone who bears Ella a grudge like no other. The desire for revenge is strong and action is imminent to threaten Ella’s livelihood.

It was so refreshing to read about women succeeding in their own businesses during those years when they were often treated like second-class citizens. I loved the mash-up of conflicts facing Ella, and how she handled them. There’s a lot of tension in the revenge subplot in particular and that had me racing through the book to see how it unfolded. However, I did feel that specific storyline fell a bit flat in its resolution and was a little too perfect / convenient an outcome. Nonetheless, I was totally pulled into Ella’s world, and once I’ve caught up with the first book in the series I hope there will be more to discover about The Hat Girl 🙂

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blog tour · book launch · historical fiction · medieval · series

Mini Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Launch – Squire’s Hazard

I’m delighted to be part of this mini blog tour and book launch for the next Meonbridge Chronicle. Book Five – Squire’s Hazard – is the latest offering from Carolyn Hughes, and I’ll be posting my review later in the year. I just know it’s going to be fabulous. So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look.

Squire’s Hazard, the Fifth Meonbridge Chronicle

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secrets, hatred and betrayal, but also love and courage –
Squire’s Hazard, the fifth MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLE

The Meonbridge Chronicles are published by Riverdown Books.

Squire’s Hazard is out in eBook for Kindle on 10th October, and will be available in paperback in late October.

ISBNs: eBook 978-1-9160598-9-4  Paperback 978-1-9160598-8-7

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

About the author

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

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

Facebook: CarolynHughesAuthor

Twitter: @writingcalliope

What I love about historical fiction is the attention to detail; those quirky little facts that draw you into the period, and what better way than through food? (Works for me!) Carolyn has provided a (food) glorious (food) article on the delights of Meonbridge cuisine. Pour yourself a cuppa and grab some biscuits, because this will make you feel hungry 😉

Meonbridge cuisine…

In the Meonbridge Chronicles, my novels of fourteenth century England, I include a good deal of description of medieval daily life. Clothing, housing, furniture and furnishings, artefacts and tools, working practices, medical matters and, of course, food, all help to place characters in context, differentiate the life styles of people of diverse stations, and bring a sense of authenticity to the historical world I am creating.

In Squire’s Hazard, as in the other Chronicles, food is of course important in the characters’ daily lives, but also plays a significant role in some aspects of the story. So, with reference to a few extracts from the novel, this article explains just a little about the eating habits of my Meonbridge folk.

I’ve read that, in the Middle Ages, breakfast was a meal few folk ate, but maybe that applied mostly to the better-off, who might rise late and weren’t required to expend much energy during their day. In Squire’s Hazard, however, Lady Margaret de Bohun (the “lord” of Meonbridge) might be a lady but is most definitely not one to lie abed then fritter her mornings away in idleness, so I imagine her always taking a little breakfast. In Chapter 1, her grandson Dickon finds her

“sipping from a cup of what he supposed was small ale, and nibbling at some soft wheaten bread”.

And, for the peasant, who spent his or her entire day in the fields, rising at dawn and setting off to work soon after, waiting four or five hours for a first bite to eat would make for an inefficient, ineffective and disgruntled worker! Surely most labouring people would have broken their fast before they went to work, albeit if all they had was a hunk of dry coarse bread and a cup of weak ale.

Dinner was the main meal of the day for all. In religious houses, the time for the meal was originally “nones”, the ninth hour after sunrise, which, depending on the time of year, might be the middle of the afternoon (i.e. the equivalent of 3pm). But, again, working people couldn’t wait that long, so “noon”, and dinner, generally happened around midday (12pm).

Peasants breaking bread. Public Domain,

For most people, this would be the (possibly only) hot meal of the day. For working people (if they ate at home), it would usually entail a pottage of some sort – essentially a stew or thickened soup – with vegetables, a little meat if available, and maybe some “extras” gathered (perhaps illegally) from the fields and woods. It would be eaten with a lot of bread and ale.

Peasants did not eat meat every day but, if they had the space to rear them, they might have the occasional chicken, and more certainly pork, including the bacon they smoked by hanging a flitch where it would absorb the fumes from the fire. Eggs of course would be available, fish less so in an inland place like Meonbridge, for fish in the manor’s rivers or ponds in principle belonged to the lord and were not necessarily available to common folk.

Wealthier people had pottage too, though the finest pottages might contain almond milk, or spices such as ginger and saffron. They’d also have some roasted meat, or a meaty stew – a brewet – which might be rich and spicy.

A brewet plays a significant role in Squire’s Hazard. Dickon, the eponymous squire, is required to serve his lord at table. At an important dinner, he’s faced with serving a particularly tricky dish. As he steps forward to be handed a dish to serve, he reaches for the nearest plate:

It was a dish of small pies, filled with chicken he presumed, for tiny pastry hens decorated the crisp, golden lids. Simple to serve. His fingers were already gripping the edge of the platter when the kitchen boy whipped around.

‘Not that one,’ he cried and, lunging forward, slapped Dickon’s hand away. ‘This is yours.’ He pointed to another platter, which contained what Dickon recognised as a Sarcenes brewet, a spicy meat stew, its sauce coloured red with root of alkanet. The pieces of meat were almost awash with the garish sauce.

‘Why that one?’ Dickon said. ‘This one’s next.’ He pointed to the pies.

But the boy shook his head. ‘Got swapped by mistake. This one’s for you, young master.’ He took hold of the dish of brewet. It rocked slightly and sauce sloshed a little from side to side.

Dickon gulped. ‘But there’s too much sauce.’

 ‘Nay,’ said the boy. ‘His lordship likes lots o’ gravy.’ He thrust the platter into Dickon’s hands.

His stomach lurched. This was what he’d feared. From Chapter 8

Why Dickon was forced to serve the bright red brewet, and what happened when he did, can of course be discovered by reading Squire’s Hazard!

My character Margery works as a dairymaid for a relatively wealthy family, who have cows, and one of Margery’s tasks is to make cheese. I suspect less well-off housewives made cheese too, if they had access to the milk.

Cheese making. Public Domain,

Desserts, of fruit, sweet pastry or some sort of milk-based pudding, might be a feature of the wealthy person’s table. I imagine peasants ate such things rarely, though they might have access to fruit – apples, pears, cherries and strawberries – which they could grow in their gardens (though only the more prosperous would give space to growing fruit rather than the staples of onions, turnips and cabbage), together with what they could forage from the hedgerows.

In Squire’s Hazard, sweetmeats play an important role in the story. The main ingredients were nuts – especially almonds, I think – fruits, honey and spices, perhaps moulded into little shapes with the addition of eggs or cream. I imagine them something like marzipan sweets. It’s Lady Margaret’s fondness for them that’s significant – she eats them often, with a cup of wine. 

[Libby]’d come back from the kitchen with a plate of sweetmeats, and placed them on the table. ‘Cook asked if you’d care to taste these, milady. It’s a new recipe he’s trying, for the Christmas feast. He said he’d value your opinion.’

Lady Margaret gazed at the plate of almond delicacies. ‘How delightful.’ She picked one up between two fingers and popped it into her mouth. She savoured it a little. ‘Delicious. Why don’t you try one, Libby dear? Chapter 2

Of course, not all meals were taken at home. If dinner was eaten at midday, for workers out in the fields, returning home would take too long, so they’d take a “packed lunch”. In Squire’s Hazard, Dickon is out with his uncle (and bailiff), John. 

His uncle took a linen-wrapped bundle from his saddlebag. ‘Ma’s made us both some dinner. Meat pies, and bread and cheese.’ He held up a flask. ‘As well as some of her best ale.’ He shared out the food and they ate in silence for a while. Chapter 16

During harvest-time, tenants were entitled to their lord providing them with dinner in the fields. 

As always when tenants were harvesting her ladyship’s crops, she provided them with a dinner of bread and cheese and ale. …

…as the workers shuffled forward to take a hunk of bread and portion of cheese, they handed each one a cup of ale. Libby noticed how the men and women served by Lady Margaret tipped their hats or curtseyed. Chapter 28 

In this extract, the meal is modest enough. But, sometimes, if the lord was feeling especially generous, it could be something of a mini-feast.

There was also the concept of “street food” in medieval times, ready-cooked food to buy in a shop or market. Most people didn’t have ovens in their homes but, if they fancied a pie, they could buy it from a vendor. Though they weren’t necessarily available at certain times of year:

…[Margery] saw at once that food supplies seemed scant: there was bread, certainly, and baskets of onions, and heaps of porray vegetables, turnips, kale, cabbage and colewort. But no eggs, no butter, no salted meat. Moreover, the man who used to wander around the market selling meat pies was nowhere to be seen. How disappointing. She had come out with a little money, hoping to buy something nourishing to eat, but there was nothing much to be had. For a while she was confused, but soon enough it came to her: it must be Lent. Chapter 36

If you’re interested in reading a fuller article about medieval food, and how it features in my novels, do have a look at my blog post, Medieval food, feast and famine.

Thanks for reading, and here’s wishing Carolyn great success with Squire’s Hazard,

1920s · blog tour · book excerpt · book review · crime · historical fiction

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Safe Game

TheSafeGame copy

Welcome to the book tour for The Safe Game by Wes Verde. Read on for more details!

the safe game - large

The Safe Game

Publication Date: July 22nd, 2022

Genre: Historical Fiction/ Crime Thriller

New Jersey, 1928.

The Cons – Roy, Urbane, and Victoria – made a living by separating fools from their money and rarely stayed in one place for too long. Keeping food in their bellies and a roof over their heads often meant hopping from one game to the next, barely staying ahead of the law or poverty and sometimes both. That was until the day Roy – the Idea Man – thought he found a big score; one that would put the Cons on Easy Street. No more scraping by. No more hungry nights in the cold or picking pockets in desperation. Maybe even enough to get them out of this life for good. But things were never that simple. When a tragic death brings the law snooping around, the Cons find themselves running afoul of cops, gangsters, and other powerful people – ones with secrets. The Cons have gotten out of scrapes before, but their luck may soon run out and this particular game may end in luxury, a jail cell, or an early grave.

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Today she was on fire. Heads started to bob and the group pressed closer, trying to get a better look at the device.

With her work done, Victoria fell quiet. The excitement of the crowd was properly kindled now. A contended grin curled up her full lips. To Urbane’s surprise, her sharp eyes suddenly found his. At first, he thought it might be a fluke. Or perhaps his supposedly concealed location had been somehow compromised. Before he could stress himself over the matter, she winked. Then, all other thoughts fled. Just as his face started to heat up, she returned her attention to Roy. It was his turn to bring it home.

“Now, I’ve been given strict instructions by Treasury Department officials to accept no less than two thousand dollars for this device,” he intoned formally.

This was met with groans of disapproval and one or two boos and justifiably so; one could buy a small house for that amount of money. It was a far higher bid than in previous towns.

Feigning surprise, the Idea Man continued. “You understand, surely, that such a sum would be recovered in a matter of weeks if the prescribed regiment is followed?”

Urbane wondered if that was right. Knowing the scam – game – he had not previously given much thought to its premise. Having lost sight of Victoria for the moment, he quickly did the math in his head and came up with about fifty days. This was with the assumption that the machine was operated every five hours… and that it was not a scam.

As one who dealt in numbers and concrete reality, this world of deception was foreign to him. How people could believe such an outlandish proposition boggled his mind. A naturally curious sort, Urb simply could not fathom the lack of such in others.

Outside, Roy let the groans begin to subside before he extended the olive branch.

“Hang on, now. Hang on. Well… it will mean some hard questions from my superiors. Maybe even some shady bookkeeping on my part. But if that is asking too much, perhaps a discount might be considered. Just for the hard working folks of Lawrence, mind you.” In a quieter voice, he added, “But I must implore you to please keep this just between us. I could go as low as twelve hundred dollars.”

Again, boos. Though, fewer than before. In the end, Roy was obliged to drop the bid twice more before a collection hat started passing around. Urb shook his head, astonished. Roy and Victoria could steer a crowd the same way he could tickle a lock or build a mechanism. For the price of a decent used car, these people had accepted this deal that should have been too good to be true – of course it was. The crowd soon divided into two factions, apparently debating how the forthcoming riches would be allocated.

One man emerged as the representative of the group, holding the collection hat. Urbane’s eyes went wide. It was more cash and coin than they had made in the past three towns put together. If properly budgeted, it could well be enough to carry them into summer. The crowd shifted and he caught sight of Victoria again. She had also glimpsed the considerable sum. Like Urb, she bit her lower lip in anticipation. Seeing the curve of her face and the swell of her hips, he nearly forgot about their windfall and most everything else for that matter.

And he was not the only one to take notice. Would-be suitors were not an uncommon issue. As a professional hazard, Victoria tended to attract male attention like iron filings to a lodestone and today was no exception.

It was a young fella. The excessively confident ones often were and Urbane frowned as this one fixed Madame Charmer in his sights. She inspired many emotions: infatuation, longing, lust. Urb was a thinking man, but after six months of living and working in close proximity, even he could not fully resist her allure. Watching others make the attempt for her affection, even knowing they were doomed to fail was not good for his heart.

Though entirely capable of rebuffing such attempts, it seemed Vic had not yet detected her latest admirer. As the young man drew closer, Urb realized too late that something was off. This fellow had none of the telltale signs of one about to ask for a date.

At the same time, another speaker fired a bombshell question directly at Roy.

“How is this not counterfeiting?”

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About the Author


Wes is an engineer by trade, a busybody by habit, and a lifelong Jersey boy. Writing has been a hobby in one form or another since 2006 when he started drawing 3-panel comics. When he is not putting words down, he is picking them up; the “to-read” pile only seems to grow larger. A fan of nature, he spends as much time outside as possible. Wes Verde

My Review

The cover of this book really drew me in, and the author did a fabulous job in recreating the 1920s, both in setting and societal expectations. The main characters – Roy, Victoria, and Urbane – are three people you wouldn’t imagine ever joining forces. With such diverse backgrounds, the unifying factor is the hustle. Each, in their own way, is skilled at separating fools from their money, and as a combined force, their success should only improve. And yet, their lifestyle is a daily struggle, moving on constantly, never setting down roots, and always but always looking over their shoulders.
When it looks like a con might backfire badly, Roy has had enough. As the Idea Man, he reckons he has the perfect job for them, one which will reap the rewards they dream of and allow them to enjoy the high life of their victims for a while.
But is going back to the place where his ex-wife and children still live such a good idea? And can he really expect to keep that fact from Urb and Vic?
As their plan develops, there are side hustles to keep them going, and when one of these ends badly for Victoria, it brings the cops into the neighbourhood. Can they pull it off in time?

The story blends intrigue and romance, and a class divide that accentuates the haves from the have-nots. There are so many villains; when the cons are the good guys you know it’s a fun read.
From corrupt police to pretentious elitists, and a tribalist “union” – there’s an innocent woman killed, a slimeball killer to be unveiled, and a con to perfect.
Tension, excitement, mystery, and with the cons being such likeable characters, it’s not hard to stay invested in the story. This is a long book but the fun, risky and diverse ways of making money kept my interest. The arrival of a new cop – Willie Doyle – in the district, untainted by corruption, heightens the risks the cons must take, and it brings them closer together. I wanted them to succeed and to bring down the elitist establishment who’d had things their own way for too long.

The only downside – if it can be called such – is that I was so caught up in the cons’ lives that I forgot all about the details revealed in the prologue and so seeing those points referenced at the end came out of the blue. Nonetheless, those points are interesting in their own right and prove the research the author did to create such an evocative setting.

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blog tour · book review · Giveaways · historical fiction · prequel

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Girl from Saint Petersburg (with a giveaway & excerpt!)

Welcome the the book tour for Joyana Peters’ latest historical fiction novel, The Girl from Saint Petersburg. The prequel to award-winning novel, The Girl in the Triangle. Read on for more info and a fantastic giveaway!

Petersburg Cover

The Girl From Saint Petersburg (An Industrial Historical Fiction Series Book 1)

Publication Date: July 25th, 2022

Genre: Historical Fiction

Sacrifice, Starvation and Survival.

What will she do to stay alive? Russia, 1905: Thirteen-year-old Ruth dreams of growing up to marry the boy next door and living peacefully ever after. But when he and her father are forced to flee to America after the Bloody Sunday Massacre, Ruth and the other female members of the family are left behind amid the violence and chaos of revolutionary Russia. Overcoming violence and hunger with a strength she never knew she possessed, Ruth resolves to do what it takes to keep her mother and sister alive—whether it be work, beg or steal. Then she lands herself in a predicament that threatens to put her own neck in a noose. This time she may not be able to keep them all safe, at least not without sacrificing their love for her and all that makes life worth living. In this prequel to the award-winning novel, The Girl in the Triangle, author, Joyana Peters, portrays a tight-knit family fighting to endure at a precarious and crucial time in Jewish history. Join the countless readers who can’t get enough of Ruth and her story.

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Ruth woke to banging on the front door. Half-asleep, she blinked against the morning light. Ester shifted on the pillow next to her. “What’s happening?” “I don’t know, Bird.” Ruth patted her head. “Stay here. I’ll find out.” Ruth tiptoed out of the bedroom and toward the front door. Her mother was crouched on the floor and peering over the window sill. Her eyes were puffy and red. “What are you doing?” “Shh!” Momme tugged Ruth down beside her. “Don’t let them see you.” “Don’t let who see us? Where’s Tatty? Why were you crying?” Ruth glanced around. Momme clenched Ruth’s wrist. “I need you to listen. They’ll break in soon. And they will interrogate and hurt me. You need to be brave.” “Interrogate you? I don’t understand. Where are Tatty and Jeremiah?” “Tatty left for America last night, but we can’t tell them that.” Ruth shivered. Her father gone to America without saying good-bye? “Why? Did Jeremiah go too?” An odd blankness came over her mother’s eyes. She seemed about to answer when an axe crashed through the door. “Stay in the bed. Cover yourselves to hide and don’t leave Ester.” Momme pushed Ruth toward the bedroom. Ruth scrambled to her feet and ran. She looked over her shoulder to see her mother dusting herself off. As the door gave way and the czar’s soldiers invaded the house, her mother’s lips moved in silent prayer. Ruth found her sister hiding under the covers and held a finger to her lips as she crawled beside her. Ester nodded, suddenly appearing older than her ten years. As the men’s voices rose in the next room, Ruth wrapped her arms around Ester and they lay trembling. There was a slap followed by a muffled sob. Ester cried out. Ruth clapped her hand over Ester’s mouth, but heavy boots stomped toward them and the covers were soon ripped away. Two soldiers glared down from either side of the bed. They grabbed the girls with rough hands. “Ruth!” Ester screamed. “She’s a child!” Ruth begged. “Please, leave her be.” The soldiers ignored her and dragged the two girls from the house. The street was in chaos. There were more soldiers, and families shivering in their bed clothes. Why was this happening? The soldier flung her onto the ground, knocking the wind out of her. She scrambled toward Ester, but a soldier stepped between them. “Please, don’t hurt us, sir!” “That depends on your mother. If she tells us what we want to know, we won’t need to.” Ruth tried to squash her instinct to reach for her sister, and instead forced herself to look for her mother. And there she was—standing with her chin high, in the middle of four soldiers. Ruth could see a dark splotch on her face. Was it blood? But she remained straight and tall. She wasn’t even crying. Ruth was amazed by her mother’s control. How did she manage to appear so unaffected? A soldier with a drooping mustache stepped close to Momme. “Where are they?” he growled. “I told you, I don’t know,” she replied. “I don’t believe you.” He cracked her on the back of the head with the butt of his rifle and kicked her in the stomach. “Try again. Where are they?” Momme crumpled forward, coughing. “I don’t know.” “This is pointless. Grab the girl.” He gestured toward Ester. The soldier standing near Ester grabbed her. Ester thrashed in his arms. “No!” Momme lurched forward. “She doesn’t know anything and neither do I. They never returned home.” “But they were in the square yesterday?” the droopy mustache soldier asked. “Yes.” “What was that? I can’t hear you.” He cupped his ear. “Yes, they were there,” Momme’s voice rang out louder. Ruth closed her eyes at Momme’s words. This was about Abraham and Jeremiah and wherever they’d gone yesterday. What trouble had they gotten themselves into? The soldier leaned into Momme’s face. “And the meetings?” Momme turned away. He popped her in the forehead with his rifle butt so hard she flew backwards. “Answer me!” A shriek pierced the air. Ruth saw a man being pulled out of his house. His wife reached for him, but the soldiers held her back. They forced the man to his knees and a soldier held a pistol to the back of his head. A shot rang out. The man slumped forward. Ruth looked to her mother’s horror-stricken face. Droopy Mustache grabbed Momme by the hair. “Perhaps––now you see how serious we are, drabke?” Momme moved her head up and down. “They never came home. They must be among the dead.” “And the meetings?” “They attended them,” she croaked. “But if they’re dead, what does it matter?” He studied Momme. Finally, he turned to the other soldiers. “Search the house again.”

Available for Purchase Here!

About the Author

Joyana Peters Headshot 2

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

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

Joyana Peters | Facebook | Instagram

My Review

Atmospheric and evocative historic fiction.

Life in Saint Petersburg for Ruth is fairly ordinary – playing cards with her brother and betrothed, arguing amicably over their cheating – until one day, they’re no longer around. With her father, they have had to leave Russia since the czar’s rules have made life very difficult for Jews.
Waiting what seems like forever to hear of their arrival in New York is not easy, and soldiers seem more than willing to abuse the women to find out where the menfolk are. Things gets harder still especially when friends and neighbours also decide to leave before the very real possibility of being “relocated” to The Pale of Settlement.
For a few long, arduous years Ruth, her mother and sister muddle on with what little they have – selling what they can bear to part with and working for a meagre income to put food on the table.
But when Ester falls seriously ill, Ruth has to act quickly. and it is that act that subsequently obliges the three women to leave their homeland. How they do that is fraught with danger, but go they must.

I’m looking forward to following the rest of their journey in The Girl in the Triangle.


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book review · historical fiction · novella · series · WWII

Book Review – Betrayal: An Ann’s War Mystery (The Ann’s War Mystery Series Book 1)

Book description:

With her husband away on a top secret mission, Ann Morgan prepares for another secretarial day at Trevor Bowman’s detective agency.

However, this day will be unlike any other.

Over twenty-four hours, Ann will find her life turned upside-down as she discovers a murder, meets a handsome widower, Detective Inspector Max Deveraux, and confronts the murderer in a tale of temptation and duplicity

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My thoughts

Recently married, Ann Morgan says farewell to her husband as he undertakes a mission for the war effort. He should only be gone a couple of days, and Ann determines to carry on as normally as she can until his return. In his absence, she has the use of the car and takes to the quiet streets, passing a horse and cart on her way to work for Trevor Bowman, a private detective. No sooner has she arrived than her boss sends her to deliver a report. When she finally gets back to the office, a shadowy figure almost knocks her down and she enters the office to find her boss shot dead.
Had she just passed the killer? The thought runs through her mind when she tells Detective Inspector Max Deveraux what had happened.
Now, she is not only without her husband but also a job. With time on her hands, she wonders who would have wanted to kill Bowman, and can she possibly help to catch the killer?
With a pace and vibe reminiscent of the TV series Foyles War, Betrayal features a polite, softly-spoken detective in Max Deveraux and a young woman, modern in her actions and ambition in Ann. After deciding to question her boss’s last known client, Ann has unwittingly stumbled upon a scene of treachery, and the culprit does not wish her to be free to share her discovery with the police.
A short story, delicious in detail. Clearly well-researched, this first book in the series is engaging and invites me to want to read more … which, of course, I will. 😉

About the Author

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

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

As always,