The Daughter of River Valley: Blog Tour

The Daughter of River Valley by Victoria Cornwall

TDORV_FRONT_RGB150dpi (1)

Beth Jago appears to have the idyllic life, she has a trade to earn a living and a cottage of her own in Cornwall’s beautiful River Valley. Yet appearances can be deceptive …

Beth has a secret. Since inheriting her isolated cottage she has been receiving threats, so when she finds a man in her home she acts on her instincts. One frying pan to the head and she has robbed the handsome stranger of his memory and almost killed him.

Brought together by unknown circumstances, and fearful he may die, she reluctantly nurses the intruder back to health. Yet can she trust the man with no name who has entered her life, or is he as dangerous as his nightmares suggest? As they learn to trust one another, the outside threats worsen. Are they linked to the man with no past? Or is the real danger still outside waiting … and watching them both?


Reading historical romance can be a bit of a minefield for an historian. My research spans the 17th to 19th centuries, but I spend my time predominantly in the 19th century. With novels there must be a level of give and take; I’m not one to insistent on stringent historical accuracy, but there is a line in the sand however, that when crossed makes reading some historical novels impossible. Daughter of River Valley has such an intriguing plot that I couldn’t resist, and it was with hope and a little trepidation that I started to read. I wasn’t disappointed. This is a thoroughly enjoyable, slow-burning romance, with enough twists and turns to make it a bit of a roller-coaster ride – albeit of the gentle sort.

In general terms, while the 19th century was one of innovation, industrialisation, and progress on many fronts, a great many rural and cottage industries were lost or mechanised. Cornish mining was at once point a leading, cutting edge industry, but copper mining was petering out by the 1840s, and while tin mining boomed, it too was dying by the 1870s. It was a case of bust following boom. Cornish mining was also at the mercy of globalisation as other countries started mining tin and copper less expensively, and we started importing it.  (Sound like our recent history?) Arguably, the greatest exports Cornwall gave the world were its miners and their expertise. Our tale is set against this sad background.

Beth is an amazing young woman, proud and self-reliant. Having found an intruder in her cottage and rendered him unconscious, she hilariously tries to move him out before he comes around. Her worry about being arrested is all too real, as is her concern over being watched, and her ownership of the cottage. She wants this man gone, but her guilt coupled with a compassionate nature, makes her get help and nurse him back to health. Unfortunately, he has no idea who he is, and no clues about his person. Although strong and independent, Beth has insecurities from her childhood that make trusting new people difficult, and a vulnerability that has her questioning herself. She has suspicions she can’t prove, and a stubborn self-reliance that won’t let her take things at face value.

Luke/Joss is equally proud and equally vulnerable, and not just because of his loss of memory. His nightmares allude to a dark period of his life; demons that he is half convinced make him either a criminal or a ‘bad man’. At the same time there is a gentleness that hovers beneath his scowling, sullen demeanour. Like Beth, he is stubborn as a mule, and just as fiercely independent, even though he needs her help. He displays skills that belie Beth’s original notion of his social class. Joss is an honourable man, as keen to protect her as well as her reputation. As he works at repairing the shed, Beth can say he is a labourer in her employment.

As soon as you think you have a handle on where the author is taking you, she takes a quick turn, and you head off in a different direction. She does this all through the book, and readers will be wondering by the last few chapters, what on earth is happening with Beth and Joss. It’s a bit nerve-wracking. Both have the shadow of their pasts hanging over them. It informs their behaviour, their reactions to people, and to events. It can be a chain to hamper them, as well as an armour to protect them. Beth does not want to make the same mistake as her mother for example.

All the while we are travelling with these two characters, we are given glorious and vibrant descriptions that bring the Cornish coast and countryside beautifully to life. Altogether Victoria Cornwall has given us an atmospheric and fascinating novel. The captivating romance combined with elements of Cornish history, both fascinating and heart-breaking, raises this from a standard historical novel, to excellent.

Full five stars. Go, read, and enjoy.


Purchase Link

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Daughter-River-Valley-Cornish-Tales-ebook/dp/B07DHWTH5T

The Daughter of River Valley


Author

Victoria Cornwall. Profile Picture JPGVictoria Cornwall can trace her Cornish roots as far back as the 18th century and it is this background and heritage which is the inspiration for her Cornish based novels.

Victoria’s writing has been shortlisted for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romantic Fiction and her debut novel reached the final for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Joan Hessayon Award.

Victoria likes to read and write historical fiction with a strong background story, but at its heart is the unmistakable emotion, even pain, of loving someone.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Social Media Links –

Website: http://victoriacornwall.com/

Blog: http://victoriacornwall.com/news-blog-2/

Facebook (Author Page if you have one): https://www.facebook.com/victoriacornwall.author/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VickieCornwall

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16069968.Victoria_Cornwall

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/vickiecornwall/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/victoria_cornwallx/


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Oh, Crumbs : Blog Tour

Oh, Crumbs by Kathryn Freeman

OC_FRONT-150dpiRGB copySometimes life just takes the biscuit …
Abby Spencer knows she can come across as an airhead – she talks too much and is a bit of a klutz – but there’s more to her than that. Though she sacrificed her career to help raise her sisters, a job interview at biscuit company Crumbs could finally be her chance to shine. That’s until she hurries in late wearing a shirt covered in rusk crumbs, courtesy of her baby nephew, and trips over her handbag. 
Managing director Douglas Faulkner isn’t sure what to make of Abby Spencer with her Bambi eyes, tousled hair and ability to say more in the half-hour interview than he manages in a day. All he knows is she’s a breath of fresh air and could bring a new lease of life to the stale corporate world of Crumbs. To his life too, if he’d let her. 
But Doug’s harbouring a secret. He’s not the man she thinks he is. 


I expected this to be a usual, run-of-the-mill romance, but Kathryn Freeman has given us a considered and insightful study of human nature, relationships, and moral integrity. I could write a dissertation on this book, its characters, themes and motifs, and indeed have had several attempts at writing a review that doesn’t run on for pages.  Equally, it is not often that a book has me running through the entire A to Z of emotions, but Oh Crumbs did. I was angry, laughing, anxious, happy, sad, joyful, and wished to throw a well-aimed punch or two.

It’s also been a while since an author has rendered me conflicted in my opinion of some of the people in their book. Freeman’s depiction of her characters is an exercise in creating real and believable individuals, complete with the strengths and weaknesses, accomplishments and failings that you expect in real life. They are very definitely not cardboard cut-outs.  If the best place for the family is framed on the shelf, then in very many ways that is true of the families in this book.

Be assured, while some of this review makes the novel sound dark and miserable, nothing could be further from the truth. I’m saying now, before going any further, this is another book that will make it onto my Books of the Year list. I relished it. Get yourself a copy, grab drinks and snacks, then settle down for a great read with wonderful and horrible characters!

On the surface, Abby and Doug come from different worlds, one privileged, titled, and rich, the other ordinary, struggling, and disadvantaged. Yet we have two people suffering from the same trials and tribulations. Freeman’s skill in bringing us this story, is that she writes the sadder, darker elements with a light-hand. You feel sorrow but not misery, sadness but not depression, balanced with hilarious banter, cheeky teenagers, and moments of great comedy.

Abby is the obvious mainstay of her family; a family that doesn’t appear to appreciate all that she has sacrificed for them. The Prologue covers two periods, first 12 years before our tale starts, and then 6 years before. The Spencer’s wife and mother has been ill for a while and dies; Abby is expected to step up and care for her younger sisters. She is just 13 years old and, at their mother’s funeral, she is the one in charge of Mandy 9, Sally 5, Holly 3, and baby Ellie just 1. As each of the three youngest have a problem that day, it is Abby who sorts them out, and it was the first time I questioned what their father was doing. At the wake, when she refuses to help, Mandy gives us an insight into what life has been like for Abby in recent months, ‘No way. You’re the oldest. That’s your job.’ Later their father apologises to Abby for not being much help over the previous months, and I wanted to give the man a damned good slap.

At the 6-year part of the Prologue, Abby is 18 and just finished school, but while her friends are all going off to university she is not. She must look after the family. Again, it is Mandy who challenges Abby about responsibility, ‘You’re always banging on at me to help you. Why don’t you tell him to come home earlier instead? He’s the parent.’  Abby points out his ineptitude, but my mind screamed that he needed to learn how to use the washing machine, cook, and so forth. Abby misses her mother very much, and we must ask the question – when did she get the time to grieve? Now, instead of breaking out into the world, she is going to find a job so she can stay at home and look after her sisters and supplement the family income. It’s heart-breaking.

Doug employs Abby and gradually realises what a clever and misplaced young woman she is. While she’s an excellent and efficient PA, he recognises that she is woman with a head for business. He is drawn to her but is emotionally closed and withdrawn. Lord Faulkner, his father, is a cruel and vindictive bully who humiliates Doug at every opportunity, and it is clear that something is festering under the surface of their toxic relationship.

Both sets of parents represent the light and dark side of the other. One mother is dead but still a presence in her daughter’s life, the other mother is alive, but has chosen to withdraw emotionally from her son. One father is a tyrant, selfish and unloving, the other is inept and while allowing Abby to make sacrifices, he loves his children and works hard to help provide for them. The actions of both fathers, combined with the absence of the mother figures, have serious consequences for Doug and Abby, though the unquestionable detrimental effect emotionally is on Doug. His sacrifice is treated with cold contempt by his mother.

Both Abby and Doug have hidden talents that neither is able to pursue as they have sacrificed their independence for the sake of their families. Abby has a great business mind but is working as a secretary and PA. Doug is an artist but was forbidden to pursue his talent as a child and young man. In sharp contrast are Mandy and Thea, sisters to Abby and Doug.  They have seized a form of independence albeit in different ways and encourage their sibling to make their own lives. Thea has left home, escaped to university, so isn’t around much, leaving the youngest sister, Margaret, at home under the strict thumb of their parents. Mandy may be living at home, but she doesn’t take on any of the parental responsibilities Abby has, not because she can’t but because she doesn’t accept that it is her duty. When the time comes, we find she faces the consequences of her actions and shoulders her own responsibility without hesitation.

Abby is a delightful. A warm-hearted and loving young woman yet simmering quietly beneath the surface is an unhappiness. She is bright and intelligent, has taken an Open University degree in between balancing job, sisters, and domestic life. The only relationships she has managed to have were with her two bosses, and at best were mediocre.  Whilst her father clearly loves his children, it is Abby who is the strong centre. Rituals build a family and hold it together, and throughout the book Abby is the one who has built the rituals that stop them from falling apart. She is open, direct, and honest. It is this strength of character and lively personality that Doug is drawn to.

At first Doug appears to be aloof and cold. He is a man very much in control of his behaviour, his emotions, and his thinking. He’s hasn’t so much built a wall around himself, as he has taken all romantic ideas and notions of a loving relationship and buried them so unfathomably deep. Yet bit by bit we find that he has a warm and passionate nature. No matter how hard he fights, Abby confronts and provokes him in small and surprising ways. Her guileless and unsophisticated nature has Doug questioning everything he thinks he believes in. His friend Luke is the only person with whom he behaves anything like his true self, and even then, he is guarded. Abby doesn’t understand why Doug lets his father treat him so badly, and challenges Doug on why he doesn’t defend himself.

Freeman has written a book that is funny and romantic, bright and cheerful. She cleverly and subtly weaves the pain and heartache into the narrative of the burgeoning romance in such a way that it doesn’t detract from the relationship building between Doug and Abby. Here are two people who have sacrificed their lives and independence for their families and who in finding each other may stand a chance of a life for themselves. Will they break free? Can they? Will they get the life they deserve? Or will the pull of family be too strong to overcome?

Will we find out?

The full 5 stars, and then some.

Buy the book.


Purchase Links

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Crumbs-Choc-Lit-Kathryn-Freeman-ebook/dp/B07BYDG51M

Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/Crumbs-Choc-Lit-Kathryn-Freeman-ebook/dp/B07BYDG51M


Giveaway

Giveaway Prize - Too Damn NiceWin a paperback copy of Too Damn Nice by Kathryn Freeman (Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494111/?


Author

5707-2A former pharmacist, I’m now a medical writer who also writes romance. Some days a racing heart is a medical condition, others it’s the reaction to a hunky hero.

With two teenage boys and a husband who asks every Valentine’s Day whether he has to buy a card (yes, he does), any romance is all in my head. Then again, his unstinting support of my career change proves love isn’t always about hearts and flowers – and heroes come in many disguises.

Social Media Links –

Website:  http://kathrynfreeman.co.uk

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

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/KathrynFreeman1


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Barnabas Tew: Blog Tour

Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab by Columbkill Noonan

Barnabas Tew - CoverBarnabas Tew, a detective in Victorian London, is having a hard time making a name for himself, probably because most of his clients end up dead before he can solve their cases. His luck is about to change, though, for better or worse: Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead, notices him and calls him to the Egyptian underworld. A terrible kidnapping has occurred; one that promises to put an end to the status quo and could perhaps even put an end to the entire world. It is up to Barnabas (along with his trusty assistant, Wilfred) to discover the culprit and set things to right. Can he turn his luck around and solve the most important case of his life?


As a huge Sherlock fan, I thought it would be fun to give this a go. The book wasn’t quite what I anticipated, and to be honest, once I started reading and realised the direction the plot was taking, I was expecting to dislike intensely. You see, since childhood when it comes to history, I’ve always been very firmly in the Roman and Norse camp, Greeks are ‘meh’, and Egypt has never held any interest or fascination for me. Quite the opposite, I’m bored by it, so I was rather taken aback at how much I liked this novel, and whilst we are never supposed to judge a book by its cover….I really like this one.

The author has attempted to write in a way that befits the Sherlockian period and style, and most of the time she succeeds. While some odd phraseology jarred a little, and led me to read it in stages, the fabulous cast of characters and their interactions with each other, makes this book a real delight.  It has levels of absurdity which draw you in, and a degree of farcicality that leaves you shaking your head and laughing. Yet the whole preposterousness nature of the story is so well drawn that, whatever madness the writer throws at you, the reader blithely accepts it and carries on with their enjoyment.

Since reading his first Sherlock story as a child, Barnabas Tew has wanted to emulate his hero, and worked towards it ever since. Complete with caped coat and deer-stalker, an assistant called Wilfred, and a decade of calamitous cases, Barnabas has not had the meteoric rise to detective stardom that he had hoped for. Indeed, more often than not, someone has ended up dead, and this is the fate that Barnabas and Wilfred meet.

Barnabas is a lovely character, quite modest, and often admits his shortcomings. He makes detailed descriptions, minute observations, and works through them with meticulous good intentions, sadly to little or no avail. He is a bit of a bumbler, and his assistant, the well-intentioned Wilfred, is the perfect foil to Barnabas. It is the eminently patient Wilfred who takes the pair of them off to the Egyptian exhibition at the museum, to distract his employer from their lack of success and failure to acquire more clients. The interaction between Barnabas and Wilfred is at times hilarious, and the more you read, the more you realise how Wilfred is NOT like Dr Holmes, and Barnabas is no Sherlock.

I loved the humour, and the well-developed characters. The author plays with mythological Gods; through the use of anthropomorphism she makes them more accessible as personalities, hence more 3-dimensional and so less distant from our understanding.  You can’t help but laugh at the odd statements that pop up. Like the Ferryman stating that Barnabas’ demise was definitely ‘in the top ten of strange deaths’ he’d ever seen, or when Anubis was exasperated with Barnabas rambling and interrupting, put his head in his hands and muttered, ‘Oh sweet baby Horus why me?’

This strange, humourous, Victorian, supernatural detective novel, with its mythological afterlife (or afterlives….)  is a real peach. I want to say lots more, but there are two more books coming and I’d rather you read and enjoy this one now, so we can go deeper and discuss more next time.

A happy 4 stars so, Go, Read, Enjoy!


Purchase Link

mybook.to/Barnabas

Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab


Author

Barnabas Tew - ColumbkillNoonanPhotoColumbkill Noonan lives in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, where she teaches yoga and Anatomy and Physiology.  Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines. Her first novel, “Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab” by Crooked Cat Books, was released in 2017, and her latest work, “Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Nine Worlds”, is set to be released in September 2018.

In her spare time, Columbkill enjoys hiking, paddle boarding, aerial yoga, and riding her rescue horse, Mittens. To learn more about Columbkill please feel free to visit her website (www.columbkill.weebly.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ColumbkillNoonan) or on Twitter (@ColumbkillNoon1).

Social Media Links –  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ColumbkillNoonan/

                                       Twitter: https://twitter.com/columbkillnoon1?lang=en


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The Secrets of Villa Rosso: Blog Tour

The Secrets of Villa Rosso by Linn B Halton

The Secrets of Villa Rosso lrgSome places stay with you forever…

When Ellie Maddison is sent on a business trip to Southern Italy, she’s reminded why she loves her job – set amongst rolling vineyards and rich olive groves, the beautiful Villa Rosso is the perfect escape from her life back home. But what Ellie isn’t prepared for is the instant connection she feels to the estate’s director Max Jackson, or the secrets they share that are as intertwined as the rambling vines that cover Villa Rosso.

It’s not long before Ellie finds herself entangled in the history of the place, trying to understand the undeniable effect Max is having on her. As their relationship grows, what will Ellie discover about this idyllic villa and those who have walked through its doors?

What started as a simple work trip will change Ellie’s life forever.


Let me say up front that this is a lovely story about soul mates. relationships, and the eternity of love.

The author’s loquacious style, combined with the restating at various junctures of the soul-mate status of Ellie and Josh’s relationship, made this book difficult for me to settle into.  I’ve never suffered from homesickness, and I’m married to a (now retired) military man, so the sort of wobbling and faintheartedness about being separated that Ellie and Josh display, had no room in our lives. I was irritated by Ellie’s bleating about leaving home, nervous I can understand but she was more fearful than that. I get that she had never travelled alone before, but she was about to make some major business decisions, so these two aspects did not balance for me.

Equally, Josh is a lovely man, but telling her on the one hand that she was more than capable of the task in hand, and then fussing about her being gone, missing her, and wanting her home, undermined that. And don’t get me going about the daughters, and who would take them to wherever they needed to be. At various stages I was given to growling ‘your bloody husband’, ‘get a grip’, and other remarks I shan’t publish.

We start with Ellie and Josh’s 19th wedding anniversary, hosted by Ellie’s friend and boss Livvie. At a certain point in the party, Ellie picks up a crystal ball and an image appears to her. We are told by Livvie that since she bought it no-one has ever seen anything in it, although it was supposed to belong to a famous medium. She declares it broken. Ellie says nothing. This is the first hint of the paranormal.  We walk through the courtship and 19 year marriage, the arrival of children, and Ellie as homemaker. They have a lovely life, and it all sounds so delightful, domestic, and happy. The unexpected turn comes when Ellie has to take Livvie’s place on an important business trip to Italy. Here she meets Max, and they have an instant rapport.

What this book does encompass and handles beautifully, is how relationships mould and shape us, how we make relationships, and how the situations they create impact on everyone involved; husband and wife, mother and daughter, man and woman. It embraces that strange phenomena of deja-vu, of the sensation that we know someone we’re meeting for the first time, of familiarity, of connection.  It’s a very interesting subject, and these feelings can be negative as well as positive.  The mystical element that twists and curves its way from the beginning,  directs the latter half of the book and gives the tale an appealing and edgy fascination.

Ellie is a lovable character with the ability to charm and irritate in equal measure. Yet as the story progresses, she gains in confidence and strength, and Josh senses this. As she struggles with her emotions, her character deepens, and she emerges from that ‘little housewife’ shell, into a more self-assured woman. This is when we see what I believe is the real Ellie, the one that was hiding under the surface all along. She is only going to be gone a few days, but Josh reminds her often that the family isn’t the same without her. He clearly loves and cherishes his wife and family, and on the surface Ellie leans on him for love, support, and friendship. With other people, even her friend Livvie, she holds something back, yet underneath that veneer is the very strong impression that within their relationship, even if they are soul-mates, Josh is the less emotionally robust of the two. Sub-consciously, I believe Ellie has known this all along, has bolstered his ego, and happily fits everything into the comfortable world they have created for themselves. This is not a negative quality; Ellie is very much the glue that holds them all together, including Livvie, and Josh and their daughters recognise this.

Max is a charming man that life has dealt with unevenly. He and Ellie are deeply and mystically coupled, yet like Ellie, he is bound by the commitments he has made, as well as his love and affection for the people in his life. He deserves so much, yet the heartbreak is that no matter what you deserve, it means nothing.

Whilst this wasn’t a book for me, I can heartily recommend it to others. It’s a great story, and if you don’t mind a verbose style, you’ll love it.

Hovering around the 3.5+ star mark. Read and enjoy.


Purchase

HERE


Giveaway to Win a signed copy of The Secrets of Villa Rosso

(Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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The Rosso daisies


Author

The Secrets of Villa Rosso - LinnFrom interior designer to author, Linn – who also writes under theThe Secrets of Villa Rosso Full Tour Banner pen name of Lucy Coleman – says ‘it’s been a fantastic journey!’

Linn is the bestselling author of more than a dozen novels and is excited to be writing for both Harper Impulse (Harper Collins) and Aria Fiction (Head of Zeus); she’s represented by Sara Keane of the Keane Kataria Literary Agency.

When she’s not writing, or spending time with the family, she’s either upcycling furniture or working in the garden.

Linn won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award; her novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards.

Living in Coed Duon in the Welsh Valleys with her ‘rock’, Lawrence, and gorgeous Bengal cat Ziggy, she freely admits she’s an eternal romantic.

Linn is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and writes feel-good, uplifting novels about life, love and relationships.

Social Media Links –

Read chapter one from each of Linn & Lucy’s novels: Website: http://linnbhalton.co.uk/

Twitter: @LinnBHalton and @LucyColemanAuth

Facebook: LinnBHaltonAuthor

Amazon author pages: Linn B. Halton and Lucy Coleman


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Undeclared – Jen Frederick : Review

Undeclared by Jen Frederick

Undeclared-coverFor four years, Grace Sullivan wrote to a Marine she never met, and fell in love. But when his deployment ended, so did the letters. Ever since that day, Grace has been coasting, academically and emotionally. The one thing she’s decided? No way is Noah Jackson — or any man — ever going to break her heart again.

Noah has always known exactly what he wants out of life. Success. Stability. Control. That’s why he joined the Marines and that’s why he’s fighting his way — literally — through college. Now that he’s got the rest of his life on track, he has one last conquest: Grace Sullivan. But since he was the one who stopped writing, he knows that winning her back will be his biggest battle yet.


I was confused by the time-line on this and had to do a bit of research. I understood the notion of having to ‘declare’, but the timescale seemed skewed. As it turns out, American undergraduate degrees take four years, and students do not start with a single or double main subject as we do in British universities. American students study a wide range of topics and subjects for two years before declaring their ‘major’. Simply put by Prajwal Ciryam, a former Fulbright scholar, Americans champion a breadth of knowledge, the British a depth…You can see it in the way the undergraduates identify themselves. In America, a student ‘majors in biology’  implying she does other things as well,  while in Britain, she ‘is a biologist,’ (The Independent, August 2013)

I still think the timescale is skewed, either that or Grace started writing to Noah when she was in Freshman Year (or 9th Grade) in order for 4 years writing and 2 years not writing to take her to the second year of university. And yes it matters, perhaps Jen could let me know?

Jen Frederick had me torn in three. The long-time feminist in me wanted to rant about possessive and over-protective men, then the socially just me said everyone deserves a second chance and we shouldn’t judge, finally the romantic in me shouted just shut up and kiss already!!

Reconciling these three has been hilariously difficult. I read some reviewers comments about Noah’s behviour, and I had to think long and hard about my own attitude towards it. Yes, there are some ‘feminist flaws’ in this tale, but it’s a love story. There are ‘feminist flaws’ in most romances, it is the nature of the genre. Readers who don’t like how Noah behaved should read something else. If we can only read politically correct books, then the entire romantic fiction business will collapse in a heartbeat. (Or is heartbeat too romantic a word? Should I say in one beat of the blood pumping cardiac muscle?) Men won’t be able to read their spy, special forces, action adventure thrillers, and girls and boys can’t have Disney. We can’t live without Disney, so sod that!

The point is that none of these books are real life, and they’re not meant to be. They reflect an idealised or romantic view of real life, so I don’t understand why reviewers whinged about Grace and Noah’s behaviour. Can’t they use their imagination? Einstein said that it was more important than knowledge, and that it could take you anywhere and everywhere.  I don’t always want to read or be educated about the real-world issues when what I need is escape from them, and I know an huge number of readers feel the same..

Noah – there must be some leeway given to this character. He is a young marine who has been deployed in one of the most dangerous areas of the world and who comes back damaged and dysfunctional. Let me also say that on the whole, military men are not necessarily possessive as such, but they can be protective when it comes to the females of the species. While it raises our feminist hackles, we need to understand the world they have been trained and programmed into. They experience the awful depths that humanity can sink to. They see the world at its cruellest, its deadliest, its bloodiest, and its most violent. Noah saw the place Grace came from, her spacious, gated home and beautful surrounding, and felt inadequate and unworthy of her. He had to sort himself out before he could feel able to present himself to her. Maybe he goes about it the wrong way, but nevertheless, Noah does get the help he needs, works, trains, and studies hard, and gets himself to university.

Grace – what Grace hasn’t had is that overused word ‘closure’. Four years of letter writing, and getting closer to Noah, each sharing confidences and dreams, and then nothing. No real explanation, just a brush off. She’s not coasting, she lost, and has had a massive dent to her ego and her confidence. Let’s also put this into perspective. She’s hasn’t been ‘coasting’ for many years;  she is not Miss Haversham in the 21st century. It’s more like a grieving process. The fact this was a relationship by letter is irrelevant, they’ve both invested four years of their time, sentiments, and emotions. So how long does it take to get over any kind of meaningful relationship?

They each know what they had and lost, they each know what they want. I found some of the scenes around other men hilarious; Noah might as well have pee’d on her leg and marked his territory. Excellent writing that momentarily had my feminist hackles standing upright, but at the same time it’s just bloody funny! Grace is not a pushover; she knows what is happening and in her own way calls Noah on his behaviour. He has a tense, uneasy quality that shows itself most around other men and his MMA bouts, but Grace is the one that softens his hard edges and he knows it.

The dilemma over the Vegas meet is a tricky one. I know others have called the character out over her actions, but to be fair to Grace, the opportunity was impossible to turn down.

Writing from a dual point of view is interesting and engaging, though I would have liked some more depth to both Grace and Noah’s thinking.

The characters around them are funny, annoying, and all points in-between. They are generally well-drawn, but Bo could have had more character development. Then again, he’s in the next book, so perhaps the author was holding back a little.

I really enjoyed reading Undeclared; it is sweet, funny, and heart-warmingly romantic, but with a slightly edgy quality. Any criticism is because I liked it so much and wanted it to be ‘more’. I look forward to reading the next one, but in the meantime, I’ll check some of the author’s other books, and you should too.

Go read and enjoy.


Purchase

Amazon UK

Amazon USA

 


Author

Jen Frederick is the USA Today bestselling author of Unspoken, part of the Woodlands series, and Sacked, part of the Gridiron series. She is also the author of the Charlotte Chronicles and has had several books on the Kindle Top 100 list. She lives in the Midwest with a husband who keeps track of life’s details while she’s writing, a daughter who understands when Mom disappears into her office for hours at a time, and a rambunctious dog who does neither

She also writes under the name Erin Watt

Here Comes the Best Man : Blog Tour

Here Comes the Best Man by Angela Britnell

HCTBM Cover

Being the best man is a lot to live up to …

When troubled army veteran and musician Josh Robertson returns home to Nashville to be the best man at his younger brother Chad’s wedding he’s just sure that he’s going to mess it all up somehow, but when it becomes clear that the wedding might not be going to plan, it’s up to Josh and fellow guest Louise Giles to make sure that Chad and his wife-to-be Maggie get their perfect day.
Can Josh be the best man his brother needs? And is there somebody else who is beginning to realise that Josh could be her ‘best man’ too?


Josh is the ‘black sheep’ of the family. He is a military veteran with twenty odd years’ service behind him, that combined with issues from his past have kept him away from home. We discover that he and his father have always had a turbulent relationship, but he promised his brother Chad to be at his wedding.

Louise works for Audrey, an elderly but feisty art collector who is also god-mother to the bride. Louise has her own issues with family, as well as relationships. Like Josh, she guards her emotions and keeps them securely trapped behind a high wall.

Several chapters after I started to read this book, I wondered if I’d missed something. I couldn’t immediately put my finger on the problem, so I put it away for a couple of days, and then started at the beginning again. I quickly realised what had tripped me the first time. With most romances we are used to things happening in a certain order, and that has been true of most of the books I’ve read recently. The order may have variety, but its there nevertheless. What the author has done here is move almost immediately in to an area I had expected to come later.

When Josh and Louise meet for the first time there is a clear and obvious spark between them.  Rather than spend chapters on navel-gazing angst or regurgitating all the reasons why they must avoid each other, we go straight away to the building of their relationship. This was where I stumbled, but it is artfully done by the author, and in fact quite realistic. I’ve known several couples who met and married in less than a year.

Josh being the type of guy that doesn’t play games, decides what he wants, and goes for it. He may hesitate occasionally, he may doubt himself from time to time, but his hope and longing for what his younger brother has, beats it all away.

Louise cannot help but be captivated by Josh. She too sees the radiant love between Chad and Maggie, and wishes she could experience the same for herself. The reaction she has every time Josh is near, starts to jolt her out of her trepidation regarding romantic entanglements. By helping Maggie achieve the wedding she really wants, Louise finds her emotional barriers breaking down, and slowly lets Josh woo her.

Considering the time-scale, their relationship moves fast. They both believe in having to be honest, and not having secrets, and the scenes where they share their romantic ordeals are heartfelt. The come-uppance toward the end is an air-punch moment. I’m pleased the sex scenes stayed behind closed doors. Louise’s feeling and fears made it necessary, otherwise I might have felt a little voyeuristic.

While Josh and Louise are fabulous characters, the others in this book are equally wonderful. Audrey, Grandma, Josh and Chad’s parents, Chad and Maggie – they all give sterling performances. I laughed at the honkytonk trip; cheered at Louise stepping up to claim her man; and loved the ‘southern charm’ feel of it all, though I think the author could have done a bit more to bring both Cornwall and Nashville alive for readers like me. I don’t really know Cornwall I prefer other places much further north, and I’ve never been to the USA, let alone Nashville.

This, I have discovered since reading it, is part of a series, but to be honest you can read it as a stand-alone. I enjoyed the story immensely and will certainly acquire some of the author’s other books, (heaven alone know when I’ll find time to read everything). In the mean time, its great and certainly worth the four stars I give it.

Read and enjoy.


Purchase Links

Amazon UK

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07DCDQK6T/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1527549375&sr=8-1&keywords=here+comes+the+best+man+angela+britnell

Amazon US:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DCDQK6T/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1527533459&sr=8-1&keywords=here+comes+the+best+man+angela+britnell

 


Author Here Comes The Best Man Full Tour Banner

Angela RONA Award Pub PhotoAngela grew up in Cornwall, England and returns frequently from her new home in Nashville, Tennessee. A lifelong love of reading turned into a passion for writing contemporary romance and her novels are usually set in the many places she’s visited or lived on her extensive travels. After more than three decades of marriage to her American husband she’s a huge fan of transatlantic romance and always makes sure her characters get their own happy-ever-after. Over the last twelve years she’s published over 20 novels and several short stories for women’s magazines. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Romance Writers of America and the Music City Romance Writers.

Social Media Links –

www.angelabritnellromance.com

www.facebook.com/angelabritnell

www.twitter.com/angelabritnell

https://www.instagram.com/angelagolleybritnell/


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An Artisan Lovestyle : Blog Tour

An Artisan Lovestyle – Kiltie Jackson

An Artisan Lovestyle - Hi-resAre you ‘living’ your life or just living your life?

Elsa Clairmont was widowed barely five years after marrying her childhood sweetheart. She has struggled to come to terms with the loss and, six years later, has almost ceased to live herself. She does just enough to get by.
Danny Delaney is the ultimate ‘Mr Nice Guy’. He’s kind, caring and sweet. A talented artist in his teens, his abusive mother ruined his career in art and he turned his back on his exceptional gift. Now, he does just enough to get by.
On New Year’s Eve, both Danny and Elsa die in unrelated accidents.
Thanks to some poker playing shenanigans, Elsa’s husband Harry, and Danny’s old Art teacher, William, manage to orchestrate a deal with Death that allows Danny and Elsa to live for one more year on the condition they both agree to complete three tasks. They have until the last chime of Big Ben on the 31st December to fulfil their quests.
If they succeed, they stay in the world of the living.
If they should fail however…
An Artisan Lovestyle’ is a story of personal growth and self-discovery as two people find themselves forced to make overdue changes in their lives, changes in other people’s lives, and all with the added challenge of  finding true love before their time runs out.
Will they do it?
Can they do it?
After all, it’s a matter of Life or Death…


One of the things I love about the growth in romance publishing is not only the very broad scope of sub-genres, but also the books that bring an occasional ‘wow’ factor. No, I don’t mean sizzling sex scenes, or super-hot heroes, welcome though they may be. I’m talking about writers who come up with a plot that is way beyond the standard and slightly formulaic, albeit thoroughly enjoyable, romances. This book is one that has that ‘wow’ factor. Who in their right mind would contemplate writing a romance that includes Death, two dead men, and Purgatory/Hades’ Waiting Rooms? Not only that, but make Death such an insanely funny and completely bonkers character that you practically wet yourself laughing?

Well, Kiltie Jackson has.

Kiltie writes with passion and enthusiasm, and clearly loves to toy with her audience. Romance in this book is multi-faceted, and not  in any way, shape, or form clear-cut, nor is the road to achieving it conventional or straightforward. It crosses age, genders, and subjects. Both Elsa and Danny are in love with art, for example. It’s hard to write this review, not because I can’t think of what to say, quite the opposite, but because I don’t want to give anything away. I want readers expectations to be as teased, thwarted, and challenged as mine were.

Elsa is stuck. Stuck in habitual grief, stuck in life, stuck in a job she detests. Her only joy is her dog, and her love for him is what brings about her demise. Danny is stuck too. Stuck in a life forced upon him through deception, stuck with a job he has little enthusiasm for, stuck with the girlfriend from hell. Neither has the energy or strength to make changes, neither can see a way to move forward to better things. It’s easier to just accept the life you have, not rock the boat, and to forget foolish dreams. Their respective ruts are as deep as the Mariana Trench!

Sitting in Hades or Purgatory (call it what you will) Elsa and Danny meet briefly while waiting to be told what to do. They are each offered a second chance at life but with conditions attached. Who wouldn’t want that? Even if you fail to complete the tasks, wouldn’t you grab the opportunity to say and do the things you should have but didn’t? To strike out for those dreams long suppressed and locked away? Second chances don’t come around often and grabbing them with both hands is exactly what Elsa and Danny do.

I adored the twists and turns, the edge-of-the-seat guessing game that went on right to the very end. I started to read thinking I knew the outcome. Then I wasn’t sure. Next, I was trying to second guess the author, trying to figure out how she’d turn readers’ expectations on their head. Finally, I told my brain to shut up and get on with reading and enjoying it.

I did. And then some.

The characters in this book are so well-defined that I recognised them instantly. Some you want to hug, others you want to hang out with, and quite possibly two you want to kill, on a dark night, out at sea…! Some relationships within the book are beautifully written and portrayed, exhibiting love in all its infinite variety. Others are clearly cut with a scalpel, sharp-edged and lethal.

Kiltie has a talent for using humour to put across an otherwise complicated issue. She distils it to its essence and feeds it through her characters in such a way that you don’t realise it’s happening. For example, Sukie and Charles carry enormous emotional burdens. Death, grief, fear; it’s not just Elsa and Danny who experience these things and suffer the consequences of them. Some cope, but some fall at the first hurdle and it takes a special person to pick them up. Sometimes its just doing the right thing at the right time and giving a helping hand. This is where Elsa and Danny are at their best.

Elsa is lovely, and I whooped with delight at the office scene. Once she starts to break out from her self-imposed prison, she bursts into her new life. I can best describe it as a beige woman unexpectedly reflecting the all the colours of the rainbow. As she finds her way, she is surrounded by family and friends who love and support her. Danny is the ultimate genuinely kind and caring guy. He is honourable to the point of self-destruction, but he is also a hero. While he had the misfortune to be the talented child in a family that cares little for anything and was brow-beaten down by a mother who uses him, he has great friends. Nigel and Guy are wonderful; warm, funny, and compassionate. Their relationship is delightful.

I was on tenterhooks hoping that perhaps what I thought was going to happen, wouldn’t. It isn’t a roller-coaster ride, but it is a bit of an edge-of-the-seat tale. The outcome, after a series of tantalising near-misses and teasing ‘sliding door’ scenarios, left me exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.

This is a beautiful emotional and moving story, but utterly hilarious too. Highly recommended – yes – the full five stars again. Read and enjoy!


Purchase Link – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07D23TM38


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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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An Artisan Lovestyle Blog Tour


 

Author

An Artisan Lovestyle Head Shot Piccie

Kiltie grew up in Glasgow in Scotland,
This is a very unique city with a very unique way of looking at life.

When she was old enough to do so, she moved to London and then,
after several years of obtaining interesting experiences -which are
finding their way into her writing – she moved up to the Midlands.

Kiltie currently lives in Staffordshire with five cats and one grumpy husband.
Her little home is known as Moggy Towers, even though despite having
plenty of moggies, there are no towers!

The cats kindly allow her and Mr Mogs to share their house on the
condition they keep paying the mortgage!

She loves reading, watching movies, and visiting old castles.
She really dislikes going to the gym!

Her biggest desire is that one day she can give up the day job
and write her stories for a living.

Kiltie’s debut novel, ‘A Rock ‘n’ Roll Lovestyle’, was released in September 2017 and won a “Chill With A Book – Reader Award” in December 2017.

She first began writing her debut novel eleven years before it was released but shelved
it as she didn’t think it was very good.

In November 2016 when, having read more on a best-selling author who had begun
her own career as a self-published author, she was inspired to revisit the unfinished

manuscript and finally finish what she had started.

Since beginning to write again, the ideas have not stopped flowing.
‘An Artisan Lovestyle’ is the second book in the Lovestyle Series.

Work is due to begin on book three (not yet titled but also part of the Lovestyle Series)
in the Summer of 2018.

She currently has a further ten plots and ideas stored in her file (it’s costing a
fortune in USB drives as each story has its own memory stick!) and
the ideas still keep on coming.

Kiltie now lives her life around the following three quotes:
“I love having weird dreams, they’re great fodder for book plots!”
“Why wait for your ship to come in when you can swim out to meet it?”
“Old enough to know better, young enough not to care!”

Website www.kiltiejackson.com

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

Twitter – https://twitter.com/KiltieJackson


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If You Love Me, I’m Yours : Blog Tour

If You Love Me, I’m Yours by Lizzie Chantree

IYLMIY book cover small

Maud didn’t mind being boring, not really. She had a sensible job, clothes, and love life… if you counted an overbearing ex who had thanked her, rolled over and was snoring before she even realised he’d begun! She could tolerate not fulfilling her dreams, if her parents would pay her one compliment about the only thing she was passionate about in life: her art.

Dot should have fitted in with her flamboyant and slightly eccentric family of talented artists, but somehow, she was an anomaly who couldn’t paint. She tried hard to be part of their world by becoming an art agent extraordinaire, but she dreamed of finding her own voice.

Dot’s brother Nate, a smoulderingly sexy and famous artist, was adored by everyone. His creative talent left them in awe of his ability to capture such passion on canvas. Women worshipped him, and even Dot’s friend Maud flushed and bumped into things when he walked into a room, but a tragic event in his past had left him emotionally and physically scarred, and reluctant to face the world again.

Someone was leaving exquisite little paintings on park benches, with a tag saying, ‘If you love me, I’m yours’. The art was so fresh and cutting-edge, that it generated a media frenzy and a scramble to discover where the mystery artist could be hiding. The revelation of who the prodigious artist was interlinked Maud, Dot and Nate’s lives forever, but their worlds came crashing down. 

Were bonds of friendship, love and loyalty strong enough to withstand fame, success and scandal?


So what adjectives can I find to describe If You Love Me, I’m Yours?

Romantic, certainly; charming and heart-warming, definitely; it is also unexpectedly moving, and fist-clenchingly provocative, with hidden depths and multiple layers. The romance is not just between people, but also with art which obviously plays a central role in Maud’s story.

For the reader, the brilliance of this narrative is that its rather like a game of snakes and ladders, just as you think you have the hook on a character or situation, something happens to make you reassess your judgement. Sometimes climbing up the ladder, sometimes sliding down the snake. Good, bad, misunderstood, or fully comprehended, some characters will have you changing your mind again and again over many chapters.

Maud is a lovely character, whose personality and spirit has in many ways been crushed by her narrow-minded, dictatorial mother and inept father. Her parents have a star-shaped daughter that they have tried hard to hammer into their very square life. Years of criticism and complaints have left her doing ‘everything in her power to please her parents’. Painting is the exception, and it’s the one thing her mother cannot and will not allow. ‘I am not a monster’ Rosemary declares, but she is, endlessly chipping away at Maud, who only wants one thing – a single word of praise or thanks.

Whatever Maud’s uncertainties and fears, she is a tender yet feisty young woman, finally fighting her way out from under an overbearing mother to reach for her dreams. Maud’s best friend Daisy encourages her in all aspects of her life and is generally a force for good. It is Daisy who submits one of Maud’s artworks into the competition that finally ignites the life-changing touch-paper, but it is Dot who adds oxygen to the flame.

Maud and Dot are fantastic foils for each other. The author has written them so subtly, and in such a way that it is probably only on reflection that the reader realises that each illuminates the other, that each has seemingly opposite, but in fact similar problems. Maud is quiet, reserved, and neutrally dressed; Dot is outgoing, flamboyant, and an explosion of colour. Both dress the way they do for good reasons. Maud has an obvious talent that is demeaned and oppressed by her parents; Dot claims no artistic talent but has a family who believe she just hasn’t found her forte yet. The pressure from family is immense for both.

Underneath these artificial exteriors created over the years by Maud and Dot for their respective families, and behind which they hide, the truth is very different. The common ground is in the spaces between. These characteristics and behaviours hide a fear of failure and a lack of confidence in their abilities outside their current careers.  Both have jobs they are good at, but not what they really want to do with the rest of their lives, and their meeting eventually ignites an explosion of creativity, transformation, and change.

Lizzie Chantree brings us a tale that is also about fame and celebrity, and not always in the way you’d expect. Think how we refer to people in the workplace for example, as being ‘a bit of a celebrity around here’. It highlights how people use that status to manipulate and deceive even at the most innocuous level when we tell ourselves we are doing it to help our friend/child/sibling. Lizzie also shows us how rash decisions can destroy something we love and cherish, and how bad behaviour can come back around and bite you in the rear!

Our ‘heroes’ Tom and Nate are foils in a similar way as Maud and Dot. Both handsome and attractive, both with their issues, they hide themselves behind an exterior that masks their true characters. As the story progresses, each man meets and deals with almost as much change and adjustment in their lives, as the two young women. Each must come to terms with and face up to their present lives and situations. Equally, each treat their relationship with Maud differently; from the careful manipulation by one to the slow-burn romance of the other. Another ‘snakes and ladders’ scenario skilfully crafted by a very adept writer.

It is a wonderful book, its full of humour and laughter, love and friendship, and an altogether fantastic read. As I haven’t read any of Lizzie Chantree’s other books, I shall have to add a couple to my library. Her writing is lovely and if this book is a good example, then I have some great reading ahead of me – when I can fit it all in.

A full five-star recommendation. Read and enjoy!


Purchase Link – viewbook.at/IfYouLoveMe-ImYours


 

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Win signed copies of If You Love Me,  I’m Yours and Ninja School Mum

(Open Internationally)

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.


Author

Lizzie Chantree. Author photo small

Award-winning inventor and author, Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now runs networking hours on social media, where creative businesses, writers, photographers and designers can offer advice and support to each other. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex.

Website: www.lizziechantree.com

Author page: viewAuthor.at/LizzieChantree

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lizzie_Chantree

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lizzie.chantree.3

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lizzie_chantree/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/LizzieChantree/pins/


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The Guilt of a Sparrow : Blog tour

The Guilt of a Sparrow by Jess B Moore

Guilt of a SparrowMagnolia Porter has spent the entirety of her twenty-four years satisfying her mother’s guilt.  She was the good girl to her trouble making brother, Lucian.  She was the one left behind to hold her mother together after her brother died.  She is an invisible girl in a small town carrying the burden of her family’s loss and pain.  She was nobody trying desperately to be somebody.

Cotton MacKenna is the one with the temper.  Of the five MacKenna boys, he’s the one most likely to throw the first punch.  Never mind all those fights were a decade prior, all in an attempt to save a sweet girl from her bullying older brother.  Cotton has grown up, has his own photography business, is the fourth in the line of McKenna’s, and would only ever be known for his past.

Maggie and Cotton are more than the labels placed on them.  Put there by their families, the town, and themselves.

Time for a change.

A meddling best friend.  Bluegrass jams.  Small town gossip.  Love, loss, and family ties.  Learning how to be who you are outside of who you were told to be.  With humor and plenty of romance, of course.


Whatever else I may read before 2019, this book is already on my 2018 Books of the Year list. I was gripped from page one, couldn’t put it down, and yes, I stayed up all night to read it in one sitting.

I was drawn to Maggie and Cotton, and flooded with compassion for two characters struggling to break free from behind the walls they have built to protect themselves. It is a beautifully nuanced journey about personality and character, dealing with the past, and overcoming the perceptions of family and community regarding who and what you are, as well as love, romance, and overwhelming emotions.

Families are supposed to be the rock-solid foundation from which a child grows into a confident and well-adjusted adult, and communities are supposed to protect and help its citizens as they do this. The reality is far from the ideal. Incidents from childhood and adolescence can lead to us being ‘stuck’ in patterns of behaviour which can vary depending on the people whose company we are in, or the circumstances within which we find ourselves. The psychological aspects of how families and communities function and behave influences all members, and particularly so in small communities. The need to conform to societal ‘norms’ within a given family or community is strong, as is the reaction to any deviancy from those ‘norms’. Living and growing up in a place where other people’s opinions colour who and what you are, without ever knowing the reality, can mean years of raising barriers and building walls, or being unable to escape the behaviour patterns. Irrespective of how invisible you try to make yourself, or how you behave today. You are ‘stuck’.

What if, as you grow up, you are pigeon-holed as violent and aggressive? What if over the years you come to believe it?

And what if the behaviour of your family tars you with the same brush? What if you have spent a decade hiding from that?

How can anyone escape from beneath those burdens?

Maggie tells us that, ‘we all had our reasons for becoming who we were; for staying that way.’ The author takes us behind the barriers that Maggie and Cotton have built, to uncover the reality unseen by almost everyone else. Whilst these two people have so much in common, their respective families are poles apart. Maggie’s brother Lucien was a badly behaved child who grew into a bullying violent, teenager and young man.  When the book opens Lucien is dead, but his legacy hangs around Maggie like an albatross. Her mother is controlling and unpleasant, monitors and comments negatively on Maggie’s behaviour, yet we find out later that her own behaviour leaves much to be desired. She blames others for her son’s behaviour and death, including the MacKenna family, particularly Cotton.

Maggie is sweet and unassuming. At first I thought she was going to be a loveable but pathetic creature however, as her story unfolded, I was overjoyed to find I was wrong. Cotton was also a surprise. Seemingly moody and rude, any reader could be forgiven for wondering how he could be our ‘hero’ as he is described by Maggie as ‘all hard lines and no excuses. He was the scary one‘. She corrects herself , ‘no not scary. Intense. Which is sometimes the same thing.‘ As brick by brick, the author gradually knocks down the walls that each character has built around themselves, like butterflies emerging from the chrysalis, we are presented with an amazing young woman who is stronger and braver than she realises, and a young man who is honourable and principled.

Maggie’s friend Alyssa is a real tour de force and I loved her. She manages to persuade Maggie to get out and about, and it is through her that Maggie goes to the weekly Bluegrass jam. Dominic is a delight, and his plotting and manoeuvring is amusing. I could go on at length about the story and the characters, the scene setting and the overwhelming sense that I know these people, but this is a novel that requires the reader to experience each gradual move, step, and challenge that both Maggie and Cotton encounter. To meet for themselves the truly wonderful characters who entertain and amuse us, annoy and irritate. To give any detail would be to deprive you of a great reading experience, and I can’t do that. I skipped no pages, every age was read in full, and from me that’s says a great deal about this book.

The romance is gripping and powerful as Maggie and Cotton struggle to overcome the labels that have been stamped upon them and the consequences those labels have produced.. There is nothing salacious in the overwhelming emotions that envelope Maggie and Cotton.  Jess’ use of language and her descriptive prowess range from the hilarious to the downright beautiful. She has written passages that make every nerve quiver with anticipation, and others that will have you laughing out loud. She has created characters riven with flaws and a complexity of issues, yet they are warm, compassionate, and true to life. There are no cardboard cut-outs in this romance. No-one is dialling in their part.

The Guilt of a Sparrow is a wonderful book, full of hilarious moments and heartbreaking ones, great victories and small defeats. For this to be a debut novel is outstanding. It is compelling and uplifting, and while I couldn’t wait to get to the ‘grand finale’, I didn’t want the story to end either. I know I will read it again, and I rarely read books a second time.

Bravo Jess!

The scene has been set for the other characters to have their own books — potentially. I want to know what happens with Dominic. What about Denver? And Beau? What happens with Alyssa? After that, can we revisit Maggie and Cotton further down the line? I hope so.

This has the full five-star treatment with a cherry on top! Read it. Enjoy it. Love it.


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UPDATE:

Fierce Grace by Jess B Moore

In Fierce Grace you will revisit the town of Fox River, NC and a few of the characters from The Guilt of a Sparrow – but this is a stand alone novel with all new characters introduced as well.

Release date:  November 3, 2018.


 

The Letter – Kitty’s Story : Blog Tour

The Letter: Kitty’s Story by Eliza J Scott

THE LETTER_FRONT_RGB_150dpiThirty-four-year-old Kitty Bennett is trapped in a loveless marriage to criminal barrister, Dan, who’s gradually isolated her from her family and friends. Until the day she (literally) bumps into her first love, the handsome and easy-going Ollie Cartwright – someone she’s done her best to avoid for as long as she can remember. Looking into Ollie’s eyes awakens feelings for him she thought she’d buried deep years ago, and he clearly feels the spark, too. As she walks away, Kitty can’t help but wonder what might have been…
Dan senses that his marriage is on shaky ground and knows he needs to win his wife round. He turns on the charm, skilfully using their two children, Lucas and Lily, as bargaining tools. But Kitty’s older brother, Jimby, and her childhood best-friends, Molly and Violet, have decided enough is enough. For years they’ve had to watch from afar as Kitty’s been browbeaten into an unrecognisable version of herself. They vow to make her see Dan for what he really is, but their attempts are no match for his finely-honed courtroom skills and, against her better judgement, Kitty agrees to give her husband one last chance. But, all-too-soon, a series of heart-breaking events and a shocking secret throw her life into turmoil…
Will she  stand by Dan, or will Kitty be brave enough to take the leap and follow her heart to Ollie?

Life is anything but peaceful in the chocolate-box pretty village of Lytell Stangdale, where life unravels, and hearts are broken. Full of heart-warming moments, this book with have you crying tears of joy, laughter and sadness.

An amazing debut novel! I was blown away by its depth and perception. Yes its a romance, in fact several romances, but it is oh so much more!

Eliza J Scott has woven a colourful and complex tapestry that slowly reveals both its bright treasures and hidden demons. The author’s tale is about Kitty, her marriage to Dan, their children Lily and Lucas, and her wider family and friends. Eliza touches on what life is like in rural communities, where not everyone is friendly, and not everyone fits in. Within these communities, people find they have to rub along as best they can with as little friction as possible, and often fail. The mum’s at the school gate, rich incomers, poorer locals, mixing or not at the pub – the potential for disharmony can simmer ominously under the surface.

Whilst the central love interest is Kitty, her husband, and Oliver, this is not a single love story, nor are all the love stories about romantic love. For example, taking someone to your heart and into your family, irrespective of how and why they arrived in your life, is a great love story. (You’ll just have to read to know exactly what I mean). Sadly, whilst all the varying romantic entanglements weave and wind around the central relationships, the authors also deals with the very real and very abusive psychological manipulation known as ‘gaslighting’, but I will come to that later.

Eliza reveals her love of the wild, rugged, and wonderful North Yorkshire countryside, which she has made a character in this book whether she realises it or not. From the moors to the crags and dales, she evokes a place that has been moulded by time and nature, and its hardy people. I lived in Swaledale for several years, indeed my second child was born there, and Eliza’s evocative and stirring descriptions have given me a yearning to return. Her characters too, have been moulded by the history and environment of the dale. She cleverly delineates between the locals steeped in their community, the incomer who has taken on board the local culture and all that it means, and the incomer who remains aloof and distant from it. It is sometimes done subtly, and sometimes not, but that is merely a reflection of real life.

Swaledale

Kitty comes from a loving, decent local family which goes back many generations. As a teenager she had a budding romance with Oliver, until Daniel Bennett appeared on the scene. A handsome, educated young man full of confidence and his own self-importance, a belief instilled and fostered by his officious mother,  Dan doesn’t so much sweep Kitty of her feet as entice and manipulate the innocent and naive seventeen year old into a relationship and marriage. They have two children for whom Kitty works hard to be a good mother, and works hard for them to have a good relationship with their seemingly stressed, hardworking father. She also works hard to maintain their perfect life, but the surface gloss hides a dark reality.

Dan is gaslighting Kitty. He has done so since the start of their relationship. It is one of the most widespread, insidious forms of abuse, and do not be fooled, we are all susceptible to it. It is not the exclusive domain of romantic relationships; it also encompasses parent-child relationships and the workplace for example. The name comes from the 1938 play Gas Light, which was also made into a film in the 1940s, where a man manipulates his wife until she believes she is losing her mind. Elements of gaslighting are when they blatantly lie, use your loved ones, including your children against you, block and distract you from family and friends,  tell you that you are over-reacting, must  be confused, not remembering correctly, too sensitive, it never happened, you need to calm down, you’re crazy. They do this and more until you find that you make excuses for their behaviour, constantly question yourself, struggle to make even simple decisions and feel that you always make bad choices anyway, constantly apologise, believe you are not good enough, change your appearance for them, and more.

Dan is toxic. He has over the years become a leading barrister with a high profile career, which has fed his ego and arrogance. He is convinced that he can and is entitled to do what he wants, and can justify his behaviour, including his adultery. Dan is clever in a manipulative way, using his education, position, charm, and good looks to disarm and control. He is emotionally abusive to all but one of his mistresses, and it is she who controls their relationship. In all of this he is aided and abetted by his equally toxic mother. While you can find a modicum of sympathy for a man who is the product of a scheming controlling mother, by the end you really just want to frog-march them both to the nearest psychiatric hospital and have them committed!

Kitty’s brother Jimby and her friends Violet and Molly are loyal to Kitty, and each in their own way has been as supportive as they can, but have been distanced by Dan. For them it is a Catch 22 situation. They point out his behaviour, she addresses it, he claims its proof of what he has said all long, that they don’t like him and want to split them up, so she defends him to everyone.  Just seventeen when they meet,  Kitty is young, naive, and inexperienced, and she reacts like a typical teenager when any parent seems to intervene. So in the end, bit by slow encroaching bit, she is isolated, her self-confidence undermined, and the strain of the emotional balancing act takes its toll. As the book progresses and characters reveal their true natures, we are rooting for her to act; for herself and for her children.

STOP – let’s take a breath, because this sounds dire and depressing, but in fact the book is chock full of warmth, humour, and fun, which makes reading the darker scenes less painful. The author writes with a ‘light hand’, so the reader is not pulled into Dan’s toxicity along with Kitty and her children.

The different characters in Lytell Strangdale are engaging, annoying, humorous, and frightful in equal measure.

Violet is a full on force of nature. Molly is hilarious and recounts awful tales from her work as a District Nurse, to the amusement and dread of her friends and family. Jimby is a real country bloke, with a great sense of humour. Oliver is lovely, and the layers to his life and character are gradually peeled away for us. Just as I was starting to feel that he was a little too good to be true, just a little too perfect, he behaves likes an ass. It was great!

Anyone who has lived in some of the more rural parts of the country will happily recognise the cast of characters, all of whom are terrific. My favourites though are Reg, who is an absolute legend; Granny Aggie and her predictive text messages; Lucas who is a little hero in his own right.

This is a wonderful story about love in all its varying forms and dimensions. It is also about caring and compassion, acceptance and second chances, and yes, even forgiveness. It is romantic, heart-warming and heart-felt. Eliza J Scott is a great writer and I cannot wait to see what she brings us next.

I give this a full five stars and highly recommend you read it.

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If anything regarding ‘gaslighting’ has triggered a need to get help or speak to someone here are places to contact:

Samaritans  – call free any time, from any phone on 116 123

Refuge –  if you think you may be experiencing domestic violence  visit the website for support and information OR call 0808 2000 247 – the 24-Hour Freephone National Domestic Violence Helpline, run by Refuge and Women’s Aid.