The Meet Cute Series by Katey Lovell


Katey Lovell is the author of ‘The Meet Cute series’.  ‘The Boy in the Bookshop’, the first short story in the series was released on October 29th to be followed by ‘The Boy at the Beach’ on November 5th and ‘The Boy at the Bakery’ on November 12th.

I’m delighted to host Katey on the blog today, explaining how she came to write ‘The Meet Cute’ series. Here’s what she said:

I started writing The Meet Cute Series back in Spring 2014 when I wrote a short story about a couple who meet at a surf class in California for a competition.  The story didn’t win, but it did plant a seed somewhere deep in my brain that there was scope for this idea to go further.  When a friend said she loved stories with a romantic ‘meet cute’ everything fell into place and I started writing the next story, then the next, then the next.  Soon I had seven stories which I submitted to publishers as a collection, but although I received positive feedback most said they weren’t looking for short stories and encouraged me to submit something longer.  It was disheartening as I knew there were readers out there waiting for bite-size romantic tales.

The Boy at the Beach

I’d read Brigid Coady’s Kiss stories which were aimed at a similar market and knew Harper Impulse were a forward-thinking digital publisher looking for fresh ways to tell a story, but it was still a (very lovely!) shock when I received the phone call saying they wanted to publish the Meet Cute stories as individual reads.  I hadn’t even thought about that possibility, but with the surge in people reading on tablets and mobile phones it seems the time is right for short stories to nudge their way back into the limelight.

Boy_atthe_Bakery_Meet_Cute_2 (2)

I’m very excited to think ‘The Meet Cute series’ could bring romantic fiction to readers that might not otherwise read it, as well as meeting the needs of those who are loyal to the genre but short of time to read full-length novels.

About Katey Lovell

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Katey Lovell is fanatical about words. An avid reader, writer and poet, she once auditioned for Countdown and still tapes the show every night. Getting the conundrum before the contestants is her ultimate thrill.

She loves love and strives to write feel-good romance that’ll make you laugh and cry in equal measure.

Originally from South Wales, Katey now lives in Yorkshire with her husband and their seven year old son.

Find Katey on Twitter, Facebook and her author blog

You can buy Katey’s Meet Cute Series here:

Amazon UK

Amazon US



The Other Half Of My Heart by Stephanie Butland

Other half cover

I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Stephanie Butland’s The Other Half of My Heart. It was published by Black Swan on 22nd October 2015.

I’ve just begun reading ‘The Other Half Of My Heart’ and it is wonderful.

Here Stephanie tells us what it’s like to be a writer and how her writing practices have evolved:

When I asked for suggestions for this blog post, Linda’s idea immediately caught my eye. She asked: Are your routines and techniques the same now as in the early days or have your personal experiences impacted on the how and when you write?

And I thought: I don’t think I’ve ever thought about that. How interesting. So, here I go.


I often remind writing students is that if you can write, you can write. It’s not as though we have a limit of words meted out to us and we mustn’t spill or waste them. So deleting a paragraph – even a sub-plot – that isn’t working doesn’t matter, in the long term. It took me a while to learn this. Now I have a sort of ‘dumping ground’ document for every book, where I cut and paste the things I’ve deleted from the main manuscript. It hurts less because I’m saving them for later. Not that I’ve ever used any of them….. 


Something else I am less precious about now is when I write. I used to be an ‘up at 6, write for an hour and a half before breakfast’ person. There’s an extent to which I still am – it’s certainly my preference – but I’ve got a lot more relaxed. If I’m trying to get something finished, but I overslept, I work after breakfast. If I’m travelling, I plug in in an airport lounge and write, even though it’s noisy and I usually have no idea what time of day it is. Certainly the words flow more easily in my quiet little studio – but it isn’t the only place I can work any more. 


Letters to my husband

As far as techniques go – I think I research earlier these days. When I wrote ‘Letters To My Husband’, Andy the doctor was much more involved in earlier drafts. But having a coffee with a GP and asking her about her job made me realise that there were a whole lot of things I’d had my doctor do that a real-life GP simply wouldn’t. That was a pain of a rewrite and it was entirely my own fault. So I’m better at working out what I don’t know and not making assumptions. Of course there’s a down side to this – I read books on strokes and interviewed people who’d had strokes, and stroke nurses – before I realised that was a sub-plot that had to go, and all that research time (mine and others’) was wasted. Maybe I’ll use it in another book..!


And the final thing that I’d say has changed is that, having been through publication four times now, I know there’s no place for slacking or gliding over tricky bits! When I was at school my English teachers sometimes told me off for ‘resting on my laurels’ and, my goodness, editors will do that too. So now instead of submitting a draft that I think is 80% there and waiting for an editor to point out all the places where I need to explain more and fix my timings (a pregnancy in ‘Letters To My Husband’ was found to be 11 months long by a copy editor) – I try to do it myself. I’m doing that now, with my fourth novel, which is good enough for submission – but I’m giving it another edit and polish now, instead of later. 


So, what’s changed? I’m more ruthless with words, more flexible with when and where I write, more inclined to research, less lazy. But then again I’m writing this blog post at 9.30am in my pyjamas, so I still have a way to go!



You can follow Stephanie on Twitter and her Web Site

You can buy Stephanie’s books here in the UK and here in the US.

There are lots of other interesting blog posts you may have missed

BlogTour the other half of my heart (2)

A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary by Donna Fletcher Crow

A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary

I was very pleased to receive a copy of ‘A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary’ from its author Donna Fletcher Crow in return for an honest review. It was published in paperback by the Greenbrier Book Company on 5th February 2015 and is also available as an ebook. You can buy ‘A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary’ here in the UK and here or here in the US.

When Felicity arrives in Oxford to translate an ancient document, she isn’t expecting that a trail of dismembered body parts will set her off on another murder adventure with her fiance Antony.

Although this is the fourth in Donna Fletcher Crow’s Monastery Murders series starring Felicity and Antony, I hadn’t read the others and found the book stood alone as an entertaining read in its own right.

The plot is not as visceral and aggressive as some murder stories and I think those who like the British TV series of ‘Morse’ or ‘Midsummer Murders’ would particularly enjoy ‘A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary’.

The research that has gone in to the book is incredibly impressive and the reader feels reassured that every element is accurate. Donna Fletcher Crow also creates a highly effective sense of place in her descriptions of Oxford so that it is easy to picture them in the mind’s eye. Her attention to detail is meticulous.

This might sound slightly odd or prejudiced, but I found the dialogue and writing very ‘English’ despite the fact the the author is American and enjoyed the story all the more because of this. I also particularly enjoyed the romantic aspect of the relationship between Felicity and Antony, although I’d have liked Felicity to have been more independent of Antony’s influence and more of her own person at times.

One aspect that I enjoyed less was the religious detail. I felt that, whilst intelligent, well researched and accurate, it sometimes interfered with the flow of the narrative because there was too much information provided.

‘A Newly Crimsoned Reliquary’ put me in mind of a modern day Agatha Christie and I think readers who like Christie’s books will also thoroughly enjoy Donna Fletcher Crow’s writing too.

You can find out more about Donna Fletcher Crow on Amazon, on her website and on Facebook. You can also follow her on Twitter

Forget Me Not by Luana Lewis

forget me not

My very grateful thanks to Naomi Mantin at Transworld Publishers for a copy of Luana Lewis’s ‘Forget Me Not’ in return for an honest review. It is published by Corgi on 5th November 2015.

When Vivien is found dead in her bathroom with a head injury, the initial suspicion is that she has killed herself, but appearances are not always as they seem. With so many lies and so much guilt the truth is hard to find. Did Vivien kill herself? Was she murdered? And will anyone ever know?

I thought ‘Forget Me Not’ was utterly brilliant. It made me feel quite tense the whole way through and my heart rate was genuinely elevated at times – especially when there is a particular jolt towards the end of the novel. The use of the present tense contributes to this breathless feeling. ‘Forget Me Not’ has a taut, almost claustrophobic, atmosphere and each chapter ends with such an effective hook it is difficult to put the book down.

As I read, I had no idea what the outcome would be and kept formulating different scenarios for how Vivien died. I genuinely suspected every character of having murdered her at some point.

I found the writing almost Shakespearean at times with universal themes of family, identity, belonging and guilt all adding layer upon layer of depth and interest. Luana Lewis really writes with consummate skill. Her prose manages to be intelligent, atmospheric and accessible. It is the attention to detail that constructs such an impressive novel.

Each of the characters is so well developed and the first person viewpoint for both Rose and Vivien makes the writing vibrant and compelling. There is a reduced character cast so that all their human frailty is explored fully, making them all, even the most minor characters, completely human and scarily accurate.

In a way, ‘Forget Me Not’ acts as a precise commentary on the human condition and the way modern society operates. Reading it made me question just how well we know ourselves, let alone other people. I thought the title was sheer genius. When readers get to the end of the story they will appreciate why it has been chosen (and I’m not going to spoil the book by saying more), but ‘Forget Me Not’ has so many layers of interpretation from the memento mori facet of Vivien’s death to each of the characters’ past lives and actions. Reading this book raised so many questions for me about how the author constructed her text and what her intentions were and I am delighted to be able to ask Luana Lewis some of them to be posted on this blog on 11th November.

I think ‘Forget Me Not’ can be read and enjoyed on so many levels. However, what ‘Forget Me Not’ is, above all else, is a fantastic psychological thriller and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Online Dating by Clutch Author Lisa Becker


‘Clutch’ is the brand new novel by Lisa Becker, published on 15rh October 2015.

Here Lisa tells us how online dating has inspired her writing in the past.

Online Dating Inspired Click: An Online Love Story, Double Click and Right Click

Click cover photo

By Lisa Becker

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I first met my husband while wearing my pajamas.  Really!  No, we weren’t at some kinky singles party.  I was sitting comfortably in my apartment and he was hanging out in his.  But, I will never forget his email introduction via an online dating service, which invited me to check out his profile.  It was sweet, endearing and intriguing enough for me to log on to learn more about him.  After a week of emails, followed by a week of phone calls, we met for our first date – a traditional dinner and movie outing.  Even before I opened the door to greet him, I knew he was “the one.”  Considering he lived 30 miles away, I’m not certain our paths would have typically crossed.  But after nearly 13 years together – including 10 years of marriage (which in Los Angeles is apparently no small feat!) and two beautiful daughters, I have no doubt he is my soul mate.

After my now-husband and I met online, I was recalling some of the hilarious experiences that I had during the whole online dating experience.  How could I forget the guy who started every story (no joke!) with “My buddies and I were out drinking one night.”   I decided to capture some of them in writing and, from there and based loosely on my own experiences, my novel Click: An Online Love Story emerged.  The entire story is told in emails between our heroine, Renee Greene, her three best friends and the gentlemen suitors she meets online.  The format felt like a modern way to tell the story that fit the topic, and allowed readers to develop an intimate relationship with the characters.

cover double click   front cover final copy

Clearly, I’m a big fan of online dating and find it to be a useful tool for young professionals who are busy working and finding it difficult to make the right connection at the gym, bar, coffee shop or grocery aisle.  I say, people today are “married” to their cell phones and laptops, so why not use that technology to really get married, right?

While Click doesn’t end with a wedding (sorry for the spoiler!), during Renee’s road to happiness, we find many advantages to online dating.  My five favorite are:

  • On Your Own Terms – Online dating provides a relaxed, anytime and on your own terms experience. Share as little or as much information as you want.  Avoid people you are not interested in.  Communicate at your convenience.   But, don’t send a message at 2:30 am.  Nothing smacks more of desperation than an email from someone trolling the Internet for a date in the wee hours of the morning.
  • Multi-Tasking Enabled – Flirt while filing your taxes. Chat and trim your nails.  Meet a mate while making breakfast.  It’s a well-known fact that women are great multi-taskers.  Take full advantage of that skill.  As Shelley, the over-sexed character in Click says to the about-to-try-online-dating Renee, “A whole host of hot and horny single men that I can review, chat with, judge and mock – all while sitting in my office looking very busy.  Maybe I should give it a try myself.”
  • Trade the “Meat Market” for the “Meet Market” – Now you can avoid the “meat market” scene of bars and clubs and instead enjoy a “meet market” – an international bazaar (but let’s hope not too bizarre) of prospective mates. The Internet allows you to make an online introduction to thousands if not millions of people around the world.  So, if you want to meet someone in Katmandu, well then, can do!
  • Save Time, Money and Energy – Let’s face it. Dating isn’t cheap.   It takes time, money and, likely your most valuable and scarce resource, energy.   With the “try before you buy” environment of online dating, you don’t have to meet for a drink, grab a coffee or sit through a long dinner only to discover there’s no physical attraction, you have nothing in common, conversation is lacking, etc.
  • Rejection Made Easy – In Click, Renee gets an email from someone halfway across the world looking to meet someone willing to move for him. After sending a polite and diplomatic “thanks but no thanks” email message, she proclaims to her friend, “It’s so much easier to reject someone over that Internet than in real life.  Score one for online dating!”   While rejection is easier for both parties when done online, it’s important to remember that people still have feelings.

As I’ve said many times before, if it happened for me, there’s hope for you.  So log on and take a chance.

To purchase Click, Double Click or Right Click, please click here in the US and here in the UK.  You can also check out my recent release, clutch: a novel (and here for the UK) about a young handbag designer who compares her different relationships to different styles of handbags.

To follow updates on the Click saga and share your stories about online dating, visit the Click Facebook fan page or follow Lisa on twitter @lisawbecker.

Author S D Sykes Introduces Oswald de Lacy

Butcher bird

I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for S D Sykes’s new novel ‘The Butcher Bird’ which was published in hardback by Hodder and Stoughton on 22nd October 2015.

The story:

Oswald de Lacy is growing up fast in his new position as Lord of Somershill Manor. The Black Death changed many things, and just as it took away his father and elder brothers, leaving Oswald to be recalled from the monastery where he expected to spend his life, so it has taken many of his villagers and servants. However, there is still the same amount of work to be done in the farms and fields, and the few people left to do it think they should be paid more – something the King himself has forbidden.

Just as anger begins to spread, the story of the Butcher Bird takes flight. People claim to have witnessed a huge creature in the skies. A new-born baby is found impaled on a thorn bush. And then more children disappear.

Convinced the bird is just a superstitious rumour, Oswald must discover what is really happening. He can expect no help from his snobbish mother and his scheming sister Clemence, who is determined to protect her own child, but happy to neglect her step-daughters.

From the plague-ruined villages of Kent to the thief-infested streets of London and the luxurious bedchamber of a bewitching lady, Oswald’s journey is full of danger, dark intrigue and shocking revelations.

Medieval Investigations

Here S D Sykes tells us about her central character Oswald de Lacy and his adventures as a medieval ‘investigator.’

The Butcher Bird is my second book, written in a frenzied year after the publication of Plague Land. It’s a historical crime thriller, set in the aftermath of the Black Death of 1348-50 and is the second book to feature Oswald de Lacy as a medieval ‘investigator.’ I use the word ‘investigator’, rather than ‘detective’ since the concept of crime detection was pretty much unheard of in this age.  If a crime were committed, then it was up to the local constable to raise a ‘hue and cry’ and track down the supposed criminal. It was often no more sophisticated than that.

Plague land

In Plague Land, Oswald has been called back from the Benedictine monastery, where he was due to take his vows, and has become Lord of the Somershill estate, following the death of his father and brothers. He’s a very young and very inexperienced lord, who finds it difficult to command respect from his servants and workers. His job is only made the harder when he is called upon to find the killer of two girls from the village. At first he needs to solve the murder because of the disturbance it’s causing in the village. Soon he wants to find the murderer because he cares.

In The Butcher Bird, Oswald has become stronger and more battle-scarred, but still struggles to quell a mob when they attempt to hang a local mad man. They claim this man has released a monstrous bird upon their village – a bird that has killed a child and then impaled the body upon a bush of thorns, just as the real butcher bird, the Red-backed Shrike, deals with its prey. Oswald rails against such superstition and ignorance, and steps in to give their victim sanctuary. But is Oswald’s judgment clouded by his experience the previous year, when these same villagers set upon a young boy whose only crime was to be disfigured?  Should he pay more attention to the evidence, and listen to advice? His investigation leads him into the dark heart of medieval London, and then back to Kent, where Oswald finally unravels the mystery and discovers the identity of the true murderer.

The book is written against a backdrop of the enormous change in 14th century society. The Black Death is estimated to have killed half the population, but left those who were lucky enough to survive with a power they had not enjoyed before. The poorest in society demanded higher wages for their labour and an end to their status as bonded/unfree villeins. All of a sudden, feudalism was under attack, and the King himself created laws in an attempt at wage control, and to keep the peasants in their place! Whilst feudalism persisted, this was the beginning of its end.

Although the books are in a series, I should say that it’s perfectly possible to read them out of order. I’m currently writing the third, as yet unnamed novel, where Oswald is delayed in Venice whilst on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Whilst there he becomes involved in that leads him into the dangerous and secretive world of political intrigue in the Venetian republic. I hope you enjoy them!

I’m sure we’ll all love reading both ‘The Butcher Bird’ and ‘Plague Land’.

Author Image

SD Sykes lives in Kent with her family and various animals. She has done everything from professional dog-walking to co-founding her own successful business. She is a graduate from Manchester University and has an MA in Writing from Sheffield Hallam. She attended the novel writing course at literary agents Curtis Brown where she was inspired to finish her first novel. She has also written for radio and has developed screenplays with Arts Council funding.

You can follow S D Sykes on Twitter and on her web site.

Praise for PLAGUE LAND

‘There’s a nice, cliché-free sharpness to Sykes’ writing . . . that suggests a medieval Raymond Chandler at work, and there are no phony celebrations of the peasantry or earth-mothers thrusting herbal concoctions down grateful throats. Plenty of action and interesting characters, without intervention of the libertarian modern conscience that so often wrecks the medieval historical novel’ – Independent

‘PLAGUE LAND is a fascinating historical crime novel about a world turned upside down, inhabited by a rich cast of characters. A terrific debut and a wonderful start to a brand-new series’ Antonia Hodgson, author of THE DEVIL IN THE MARSHALSEA

‘Sykes has really reset the bar for medieval mysteries . . . every clue brings with it unexpected twists and turns. When you think you know who the killer is, you’re slapped with yet another surprise’ Medievalists

‘Sykes’s debut provides everything a reader would want in a historical mystery: a gripping plot, vivid language, living and breathing characters, and an immersive depiction of the past’ Publisher’s Weekly

You can follow the other ‘Butcher Bird’ posts with these bloggers:


The Dead Dog Day by Jackie Kabler

The Dead Dog Day by Jackie Kabler Cover

I’m delighted to be able to introduce to you a thrilling crime novel from top TV broadcaster Jackie Kabler. It was published by Accent Press on 22nd October 2015.

‘The Dead Dog Day’ is the debut novel from successful broadcaster and former GMTV reporter Jackie Kabler

It follows the story of breakfast TV journalist Cora Baxter, and a race against time to stop a killer from striking again.

“Jackie has real insider knowledge and it shows. A proper page-turning thriller. I couldn’t put it down.” Lorraine Kelly

The Novel

When your Monday morning begins with a dead dog at 4 a.m. and a dead boss by ten, you know it’s going to be one of those days. And breakfast TV reporter Cora Baxter has already had the weekend from hell, after the man she was planning a fabulous future with unceremoniously dumped her.

Now Cora’s much-hated boss has been murdered, and Cora is assigned to cover the story for the breakfast show – but as the murder enquiry continues, the trail of suspects leads frighteningly close to home. Why is Cora’s arch-rival, glamorous, bitchy newsreader Alice Lomas, so devastated by their boss’s death? What dark secret is one of her camera crew hiding? And why has her now-ex-boyfriend vanished? The race to stop the killer striking again is on…

Jackie Kabler author image

Jackie’s novel is the first book in a new series, and she draws on her experiences of the glamorous world of television, as well as her long-standing love for crime fiction.  A popular broadcaster turned author, Jackie is now a presenter on QVC, and as well as a decade on GMTV, has also worked for BBC News, ITV News and Setanta Sports News.

“A twenty-year career in news during which I covered hundreds of major crime stories has given me a wealth of material to draw on for my novels. Aside from the actual murders, everything else that happens in this book actually happened to me as a breakfast TV reporter – with minor details changed to protect identities, of course…”, says Jackie Kabler.

You can buy the book via Amazon UK by clicking here.

Follow Jackie on Twitter

Like Jackie on Facebook

Every Time A Bell Rings by Carmel Harrington


Every Time A Bell Rings … an angel gets its wings…!

I’m delighted to be supporting the launch of ‘Every Time A Bell Rings’ by Carmel Harrington published by HarperCollinsUK in eBook on 15th October 2015 and paperback on 19th November 2015 (UK ISBN: 978-0008156565)

Inspired by the timeless tale of beloved Christmas movie, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, Carmel Harrington’s next book tells the story of Belle, a young woman and foster carer from Dublin who faces the hardest decision of her life this Christmas, on The Ha’Penny Bridge, Dublin.

Praise for Every Time A Bell Rings!

“Beautiful, uplifting, magical – a rare gem of a book”  – Claudia Carroll, bestselling author & Fair City Actress!

“A compelling, magical, festive cracker of a book that took me on an emotional rollercoaster that will stay with me for a very long time ….” – Alexandra Brown, bestselling author!

The story

Belle has taken all the Christmas decorations down. This year they won’t be celebrating. As foster parents, Belle and Jim have given many children the chance of a happier start in life. They’ve loved them as if they were their own. They shouldn’t have favourites but little Lauren has touched their hearts. And now her mother is well enough to take her back and Belle can’t bear the loss. Hence, Christmas is cancelled. So when Jim crashes his car one icy December night, after an argument about Lauren, Belle can only blame herself. Everything she loves is lost.

And Belle finds herself standing on The Ha’Penny Bridge wishing she had never been born.

But what happens to a Christmas wish when an angel is listening… Will Belle realise, before it’s too late, that her life is the most wonderful life of all?

Full of Irish charm, magic, and the warmth of the festive season this is an emotional, heartwarming story that will stay with you long after you’ve reached ‘The End’.

‘Every Time A Bell Rings’ is perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Cecelia Ahern, Maeve Binchy and Jojo Moyes.

Carmel Harrington says, ‘The story of Belle Bailey and Jim Looney is inspired by one of my all time favourite movies, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’. It never fails to reduce me to happy, joyful tears by its conclusion. My Christmas wish is that readers love ‘Every Time a Bell Rings’ even a fraction as much as I do the movie that inspired it.’

Charlotte Ledger, Editor Harper Collins says, ‘I have no doubt Carmel’s wonderful storytelling charm will resonate with the readers once again. She’s put her heart and soul into this story and it’s truly wonderful.’

About Carmel Harrington

Carmel Harrington is the bestselling author of ‘The Life You Left’ and ‘Beyond Grace’s Rainbow’, voted Romantic eBook of the Year 2013.

The Life you leftBetond Grace's Rainbow


Carmel lives with her husband Roger and children Amelia and Nate in a small coastal village in Wexford. She credits the idyllic setting as a constant source of inspiration to her. Her first book, ‘Beyond Grace’s Rainbow’ was originally self-published in August 2012. Grace’s story quickly became a bestseller – fast forward 12 months and Carmel joined the prestigious HarperCollins publishing house, represented by Trace Literary Agency.


Beyond Grace’s Rainbow was voted Romantic eBook of 2013 and Kindle Book of Year 2013. Her second novel ‘The Life You Left’, was published in June 2013, was also an eBook bestseller and earned Carmel the nickname, ‘Queen of Emotional Writing’.

Carmel writes emotional family dramas that share one common theme – strong characters who find themselves in extraordinary situations. She loves to dig deep and see how they cope, as they grapple with life-changing moments.

She is a regular on Irish TV as one of the panelists on TV3’s Midday Show, as well as being interviewed on RTE1’s Today Show, TV3’s IrelandAM and TV3’s The Morning Show. She has also been interviewed on US TV – Indiana’s WNDU. A a regular guest on radio stations and a popular freelance writer. Carmel is also a popular motivational keynote speaker, at events in Ireland, UK and US.

You can follow Carmel on TwitterFacebook and her website.

The Letter by Kathryn Hughes

The letter

I am very grateful to Katie Bradburn, Headline and Bookbridgr for a copy of Kathryn Hughes’ ‘The Letter’ in return for an honest review. It was published on 8th October 2015.

Tina Craig is in an abusive marriage and when she finally finds the courage to walk out, her life is changed by a letter she finds in an old suit handed in to the charity shop where she volunteers.

It’s difficult to say more about the plot of ‘The Letter’ without spoiling the read for others, but I enjoyed the way it traveled between the 1970s and the Second World War with the prologue and epilogue giving a satisfying cohesion to the novel. I don’t always like books with different times but l appreciated the skill with which the different time frames were blended throughout. Kathryn Hughes pays such attention to details that it is easy to place yourself with the characters in their settings and eras.

I also really liked the characters and the realism of their experiences, even though I found the direct speech a little stilted at times. I thought the characters developed well as they are gradually revealed to the reader.

Whilst this is, ultimately, a love story, there are larger themes at work too, with adoption, illegitimacy, abusive marriages and loyalty all explored beautifully. Tina’s self-delusion about Rick’s behaviour is sensitively portrayed so that, although I was as frustrated by her responses as are Linda and Graham, I could fully understand her actions. Similarly, the reactions of Chrissie’s parents and the church are totally evocative and convincing.

If there is a flaw to the book, I think it is that there are too many coincidences and I would have left out the final scene in the charity shop. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Letter’. I thought it was emotional, interesting and a cracking read and I’d highly recommend it all readers.

Guest post Death in Byzantium by Barbara Nadel

land of the blind

I love travel and Istanbul is one of the most interesting places I’ve been to so I am delighted to be hosting Barbara Nadel as she explains the jealousy, intrigue and mystery of her setting for ‘Land of the Blind’, published by Headline and available in hardback, paperback and ebook.

Death in Byzantium by Barbara Nadel

 Istanbul history is a bit of a chocolate box. By this I mean there’s so much to choose from it’s almost impossible to know where to start. Do you want 19th century Ottoman history? The early Republican history of the 1920s? Or would you opt for Byzantine history?

Much of my inspiration for ‘Land of the Blind’ came from the Byzantine period (approx 330AD – 1453) when Istanbul was ruled firstly by the Graeco-Roman ‘Empire of the East’ and then, after the Emperor Constantine by the ‘Christian Empire in the East’. A rival to Rome and ultimately of the Roman Catholic Church, the Byzantine Empire was an inheritor of traditions from Athens, Rome and later, the Holy Land.

One of the architectural features of early Byzantium that still survives today is the Hippodrome, which was built in 203AD before the city was actually designated a city. It was inaugurated by the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus and was the scene of great carnage at the many games that were held within its walls. Even when the empire became a Christian as opposed to a Pagan administration under Constantine the Great (272AD – 337AD), the Hippodrome was still used for the type of ‘games’ most people today would find a tad too bloody.

It is into what remains of the back of the Hippodrome that I have chosen to place a body in ‘Land of the Blind’. It’s that of a female archeologist – few other people can get actually inside the back of the Hippodrome these days – and she harbours a dangerous secret. You’ll have to read the book to find out what that is. The book will also introduce you to a palace you will never have seen.

The Great Palace of the Byzantine Emperors was located between the Hippodrome and the building  called the Aya Sofya in the part of Istanbul known today as the ‘Old City’. Aya Sofya, once a church, then a mosque, now a museum was where the Byzantine Emperors went to pray. So their palace was situated between the divine ‘greatest church in Christendom’ and the very earthly pleasures of the Hippodrome and the games.

The Great Palace was heavy on murder and intrigue. The emperors were very jealous of their power, their wives and mothers even more so. Constantine the Great in league with his mother Helena, had his own son Crispus and his wife Fausta murdered. During riots in 532 the Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora had all the former’s political opponents executed and the Empress Zoe not only had her first husband murdered but also had her sister forcibly confined to a convent. So what remains of the building that saw all this crazy Byzantine action?

Not much and a lot. When Byzantium, then called Constantinople, was conquered by the Turks in 1453 much of the city was destroyed, including the Great Palace. Over the years other structures were built on top of what had been the Palace of the Byzantines including the Ottoman Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque. But every so often something comes to light. For instance I know a carpet shop which has a Byzantine chapel in its cellar and a few years ago a room was unearthed which is thought to have been the Library of the Great Palace. It’s all still there, underneath the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi and other, more modern buildings too. It’s just inaccessible.

As well as the Hippodrome, the Great Palace plays a central part in ‘Land of the Blind’. Cetin Ikmen and his officers have to contend not only with modern property developers moving into the area and a possible lost baby, but also with a great historical mystery about the exact location of one particular room in the Great Palace of the Byzantines.

Which room and why? Read the book and you will find out. If, of course, that particular room even existed. Unfortunately for us the Byzantines, like so many empire builders of the past, didn’t always tell the truth.


You can follow Barbara on Twitter and find her books here in the UK and here in the US. You can also find out more about her on her web site.