Coffee, Tea, the Caribbean and Me by Caroline James

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It gives me great pleasure to be part of the launch celebrations for Coffee, Tea, the Caribbean and Me by Caroline James in association with Brook Cottage Books. Coffee, Tea, the Caribbean and Me was published by Ramjam Publishing Company on February 12th 2016. It can be bought here in the UK and here in the US.

Caroline James shares her Top 10 Writing Tips too and I think there might be hope for me yet as an aspiring novelist after reading them!

There’s also a super competition, open internationally, to enter to win a copy of Coffee, Tea, the Caribbean and Me at the bottom of this blog post.

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Coffee, Tea, the Caribbean and Me is a romantic comedy – the sequel to Coffee, Tea, The Gypsy & Me, which shot to number 3 on Amazon and was E-book of the Week in the Sun.

Continuing the Coffee, Tea… series, join Jo and Hattie as they romp into their middle years and prove that anything is possible!

Coffee Tea The Caribbean & Me was a top ten finalist at The Write Stuff – London Book Fair 2015. The judge’s comments included, “Caroline is a natural story-teller with a gift for humour in her writing.”

Coffee Tea The Caribbean & Me, is a a story about friendship and that there is hope in middle years, romance can happen and life really does begin again.

Set in Cumbria, London and beautiful Barbados.

‘The time to be happy is now…’

Jo remembers her late husband’s words but is struggling to face the lonely future that lies ahead. A heartbroken widow, the love of her life, husband Romany John, has died suddenly and Jo finds herself alone with ghostly memories at Kirkton House – a Cumbrian Manor that until recently, she ran as a thriving hotel. Her two sons have moved away; Jimmy to run a bar in Barbados and Zach, to London to pursue a career as a celebrity chef. Middle-age and widowhood loom frighteningly and Jo determines to sell up and start again, despite protestations from colourful friend, Hattie and erstwhile admirer Pete Parks. Hattie convinces Jo to postpone any life-changing decisions by enjoying a Caribbean holiday in Barbados and their holiday sets off a course of events that brings mayhem and madness to Jo and her family.

Confused and anxious for her future, can life really begin again for Jo? Is there hope in middle years and can romance happen?

Caroline James Shares Her Top 10 Writing Tips

It’s never too late to write. Frank McCourt was 66 when Angela’s Ashes was published. James A Michener wrote 40 books after the age of 40.

Make your own space for writing – a place where you feel totally comfortable.

Stop procrastinating – just turn up at the page and write

Use note pad and voice recording apps when you are out and about – or the traditional note pad

Develop your own style and don’t try to emulate others

Allow yourself to write badly – the main thing is to keep writing

Start a blog – a great way to get your writing flowing

Start or join a writer’s group and get support from fellow writers

Don’t proof or edit until the end – let your writing flow

Believe in yourself – don’t die wondering


Caroline James Profile 4

Caroline James was born in Cheshire and wanted to be a writer from an early age. She trained, however, in the catering trade and worked and travelled both at home and abroad. Caroline’s debut novel, Coffee Tea The Gypsy & Me shot to #3 on Amazon and was E-book of the Week in The Sun newspaper. Her second novel, So, You Think You’re A Celebrity… Chef? has been described as wickedly funny: ‘AbFab meets MasterChef in a Soap…’ The manuscript for Coffee Tea The Caribbean & Me was a Top Ten Finalist at The Write Stuff, London Book Fair 2015 and the judge’s comments included: “Caroline is a natural story-teller with a gift for humour in her writing.” Her next novel, Coffee Tea The Boomers & Me will be published autumn 2016.

Caroline has owned and run many catering related businesses and cookery is a passion alongside her writing, combining the two with her love of the hospitality industry and romantic fiction. As a media agent, Caroline represented many well-known celebrity chefs and is currently writing a TV script and accompanying book about the life of a well-known chef. She has published short stories and is a member of the RNA and The Society of Authors. Caroline writes articles on food and celebrity based interviews and is Feature Editor for an online lifestyle magazine. When she’s not running her hospitality business and writing, Caroline can generally be found with her nose in a book and her hand in a box of chocolates, she also likes to climb mountains and contemplate life.

Find out more about Caroline on her website, follow her on Twitter and email here via



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1st Prize – A copy of the book – UK winner (paperback) / Outside UK (ecopy)

Click here for a chance to enter and win!



You Sent Me A Letter by Lucy Dawson

you sent me a letter

I am indebted to Alison Davies for my advanced reader copy of You Sent Me A Letter by Lucy Dawson in return for an honest review. You Sent Me A Letter is published by Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books, on 3rd March 2016 and is available in e-book and paperback from Amazon UKAmazon US, from all good bookstores and through the publisher.

At 2 o’clock in the morning of her 40th birthday Sophie wakes to find a man in her bedroom. He hands her a letter telling her she must open it at 8 PM that night at what she thinks is to be her birthday party or she will be putting her family in danger. So begins a catalogue of events that impact on many lives. Just who has sent her the letter and why?

You Sent Me A Letter opens with a dramatic scene and hurtles from there to the very last sentence. The plot snakes and coils so that it’s a real roller coaster of a read. I kept changing my mind about who exactly had sent Sophie a letter and I think I was suspicious of every character at some point, so clever is Lucy Dawson’s writing. I even suspected Sophie of sending herself the letter, wondering if she was mentally unstable and psychotic enough to be duping the reader.

I found all of the characters totally realistic which is what I think makes You Sent Me A Letter so chilling and psychologically disturbing – they all could have sent the letter and many might have had reason to do so. I thought the way character emerged out of dialogue was deftly handled, making the story all the more realistic.

One element that I felt worked incredibly well is the brevity of setting descriptions. There is a sparsity to the prose that makes it more compelling and thrilling to read. You Sent Me A Letter certainly raised my heartbeat.

It’s difficult to say more about You Sent Me A Letter without spoiling the plot, but if you like psychological thrillers, this is certainly a book to add to your book list.

I’m new to Lucy Dawson’s writing, but You Sent Me A Letter has confirmed that she’s a writer I’ll be reading again as soon as I can.

You can follow Lucy Dawson on Twitter, find her on Facebook and visit her web site.

An Interview with Faith Mortimer

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I was lucky enough to meet Faith Mortimer at an event organised through The Book Club on Facebook and have long wanted to feature her on Linda’s Book Bag so it gives me enormous pleasure to host an interview with Faith today.

Faith Mortimer is a British author dividing her time between Hampshire, UK and Cyprus. Since 2005 she turned her hobby of writing into a career. During childhood, she dreamt of writing novels which readers would love, and spent many hours writing short stories which she read to her sisters.

Faith Mortimer is regularly in Amazon’s Top 100 paid lists and is best known for mystery, adventure, thriller and suspense as well as women’s fiction. You can find all Faith’s books on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

An Interview with Faith Mortimer


Hi Faith. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing.

Hello Linda,

Firstly, before I answer your questions, may I just say how nice it is to be featured on your blog today? I am indeed honoured and appreciate it immensely. Thank you.

Crikey, thanks – not as honoured as I am to have you!

Firstly, please could you tell readers a little about yourself?

I was born in Manchester, England. I had an exciting childhood spent on Royal Air Force camps around the Globe. I think this first kindled my lifelong enthusiasm for seeing new places and people. After returning home from school in Singapore, I attended Purbrook Grammar School in Hampshire and left full time education with a handful of ‘O’ levels but a wealth of interests.

I qualified as a Registered nurse before starting a family, and much later changed careers and ran a number of sport related holiday companies. Hence my passion for sailing and snow skiing. During this time, I became a qualified Yacht Master and when my husband took early retirement we upped sticks and set sail for foreign lands. I studied for a Science degree on board our sailing yacht and being fortunate enough to gain my degree I then felt confident to write my first full length novel, The Crossing (The Seeds of Time and Harvest).

The crossing

There’s a strong sense of place in your writing. How do you achieve that and to what extent has your life in the Air Force in bases around the world influenced you as a writer?

You’re absolutely right, Linda. I do set high importance in the setting of my books as I believe it adds to the richness of a story. My childhood was spent dotted around the world in some exotic countries, including Malaya (as it was then), Singapore, Malta plus some UK camps. I firmly believe that living in foreign climes and meeting other races, broadens and kindles the mind of both writer and reader.

Your Diana Rivers novels feature some very harrowing topics that are highly relevant to today’s society. What draws you to such subjects?

I have a favourite yet cynical phrase, ‘The World’s a Sewer’, and I’m not talking about poop although that is a major problem in itself!  No, every day we read and hear horror stories about rape, murder, drugs, human trafficking and the illegal sale of body parts. These problems are so vast that many countries are completely out of control socially. Although the subject matter is shocking and disheartening I believe we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the suffering of millions. By writing about these topics it is my small way of opening people’s eyes. Knowledge is power after all.

Family seems very important to you. How far does it impact on you as a writer as well as an ‘ordinary’ person?

The older I get, the more I realise how mortal we are. My family are supremely important and I endeavour to give them all the love and support I can. But I tend to get lost in my work, and sometimes have to be jolted out of my own world. But I do my best, and I’ve found that families are often great bearers of inspiration and anecdotes which often somehow find their way into my novels!

You haven’t always done things the easy way in life – studying science as a mature student when you intended to study English for example, so how far did this influence your creation of the Diana Rivers character?

I had to think about this. I’m often asked whether Diana Rivers’ character is mine and although we have similar ideas and habits we are not the same. She’s younger for one thing…but we do both like a challenge and this is probably where my determined nature comes in, as seen when I decided to read for a degree in my forties. When I’m passionate about something, I am also focused and single-minded on that subject. Diana just seemed to flow into someone similar but probably even more dogmatic!

If one of your novels became a film, who would you like to play Diana Rivers?  

Now there’s a question! Diana is essentially English and as well as having a sense of humour, she has been brought up properly with good manners and strong ideals. She doesn’t suffer fools at all and often feels tempted to thump the bad guys. So, my actress would have to play a strong character role as Diana. I’d choose someone like Kate Winslet who enjoys ‘ballsy’ parts, or Emily Blount or even Helena Bonham-Carter. Diana is in her forties, so some of the younger actresses of today would be too immature – as yet.

As well as the Diana Rivers series, you write psychological thrillers under the Dark Minds banner. How do the two series differ from one another?

The Diana Rivers series always has the same main cast in each book as well as others who pop up from time to time throughout the series. The Dark Minds series always has a completely new set of characters for each novel. I tend to be a bit more graphic with the Dark Mind series and play heavily on the mind of the protagonist, hence the psychological effect.

When you write your Affair romances, how easy or difficult is it to move into a different genre from thrillers and crime and what writing processes do you have to do differently?

At first it is difficult to slip into this new genre and generally takes me a week or so to adjust. Once I’ve realised that I don’t have to kill off my main characters (lol) then I settle into my writing groove. I write at the same time and place, and use much the same writing processes, hopefully creating empathetic characters who readily engages with my readers. I tackle topics which occur in everyday life: death, illness, infidelity for example as well as good old fashioned love, babies and marriage.

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Faith Mortimer should be their next read, what would you say?

Thank you for looking me up – now – please try me for your next read!

You had a word left over so I think I’d rewrite your sentence to say ‘Thank you for looking Faith up. You definitely must try her for your next read!’

Faith, thank you so much for such interesting answers. 

You can find Faith on FacebookTwitter, her website/blog, on Goodreads and on Amazon US and Amazon UK Author Pages.


The Art of Wearing Hats by Helena Sheffield


As someone for whom wearing a hat is akin to being asked to dance naked in Trafalgar Square, I was fascinated when one of my favourite book publicists, Helena Sheffield, brought out a book all about hats and I asked Helena if she would be kind enough to write a guest post about how a publicist became an author. Luckily she agreed.

The Art of Wearing Hats

The Art of Wearing Hats was published on 11th February 2016 by Harper Collins and is available from WaterstonesWH SmithFoyles and Amazon.


The perfect and practical pocket guide to being a hat wearer for novices and aficionados alike, complete with tips on where to buy them, how to wear them, who wears them best and tricks of the trade (yes hat hair, we’re looking at you).

Hats have been a mainstay of fashion for centuries, but now they’re back with a bang – overtaking the accessories departments of Topshop et al and gracing the celebrated heads of Taylor Swift, Cara Delevigne, Johnny Depp and the like day in and day out. But which one should you wear? Which will suit you best, how should you wear them and when?

The Art of Wearing Hats answers all these questions and more. Broken down into chapters covering everyday, outdoor and special occasion hats, you’ll soon discover the full range to choose from, alongside who in the Googlable world you can turn to for styling tips, and fun facts about where each originated from.

Complete with illustrations and tips on how to grow your hat-wearing confidence, it might be an idea to start making room in your wardrobe.

Publicist Turned Author

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Guest Post by Helena Sheffield

It’s not every day someone turns to you in the pub one evening and says you should write a book called Who Wants to Be a Milliner. But that’s what happened almost exactly a year ago during some post-work drinks. I’d been at HarperCollins for a year and a half and was working in Sales, comfortable in the knowledge that the thing I was most known for was wearing hats. A lot.

It was one of the Directors who turned to me and suggested this brilliantly punny title (which, as you may have guessed, did not last long), but that was all he had – the rest, he suggested jokingly, was up to me. We laughed about it, but then an email fell into my inbox the following morning:

Think you can come up with a proper concept and proposal for the hat book? It might actually work…

When I was growing up I avoided risks at all costs – more than that, I avoided attention and dreaded doing anything different. But something changed when I was at University, and I started saying yes. Yes, I’ll set up a Creative Writing Society; yes, I’ll compete in Ballroom and Latin competitions; yes, I’ll apply to that publishing job even though I probably won’t get it… So how could I say no now?

It took months to pull together a proposal I and the publishing team were happy would actually work, but I was aware the entire time of just how absurdly lucky this whole situation was. I can’t deny it’s something I’ve always wanted, and here it was happening (sorry, hattening) right in front of me! Definitely still doesn’t feel real…

I finally got the go-ahead in July 2015 and had just over a month to write it. We wanted it to be illustrated in black and white, and I happen to have an aunt who’s an artist so I worked with her throughout the process as I wrote and she drew (yes, there are pictures of my entire family in that book. Yes, I remain embarrassed about the one of me in a turban…).

The Editorial process was eye-opening and fascinating – I’d only just started working at Avon as Digital Marketing Manager, so I hadn’t previously seen much of how Editors and authors work together. Emily my Editor had truly spectacular insight, and when I look at the finished product now I can’t believe it’s a proper book!

I finished writing and editing in early September 2015, and from there it was a case of getting it designed and printed. But the next bit is the good bit. I’d spent almost two years working for various divisions of the HarperCollins Sales team, so I got all the Top Secret Sales info that no author would normally get. I threatened to be their absolute worst nightmare if they didn’t sell the book, but for some reason I don’t think they’re very scared of me…

Because of their tireless efforts, the book has managed to be taken by a huge amount of independent bookshops, libraries, museums and even hat shops across the country (and a few more beyond – I hear Sweden has 4 copies). Discovering it was selected by Waterstones was pretty much the dream, but the dramatic point was when my old boss came up to my desk to tell me that Waitrose were going to be taking it for their Mother’s Day promotion.

I definitely didn’t cry. In public. (I still can’t live that one down…).

It’s been a frankly unbelievable experience, taking almost a year from pitch to publication. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive team throughout HarperCollins (plus there’s less awkward ‘toilet small talk’ now, as people just ask me about the book instead). It’s been the epitome of wish fulfilment.

Next up: I’ve been approached to go to the Epsom Derby to blog about hats, so stay tuned for a ridiculous amount of excitement from me. And then, who knows, I’m open to ideas for Book Two…

Helena Sheffield

You can follow Helena on Twitter

Dulwich Books Events in March

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Following hugely successful events in January and February, the programme continues throughout March, taking place in both Dulwich Books in West Dulwich and the legendary The Bedford in Balham and featuring some of the biggest names in crime writing, exciting new debut authors and bold voices of non-fiction.


Dulwich Books, 6 Croxted Road, SE21 8SW

New Voices: Tinder Press party


Rebecca Mackenzie, Sarah Duguid and Sarah Leipciger

Thursday 3rd March, 7.00pm. Tickets cost £5.00 and include a glass of wine.

Join Tinder Press, publisher of some of the most exciting new fiction, to celebrate three phenomenal debuts.

Look at me

Sarah Duguid is the author of Look At Me, a deft exploration of family, grief, and the delicate balance between moving forward and not quite being able to leave someone behind. It is an acute portrayal of how familial upheaval can cause misunderstanding and madness, damaging those you love most.

You can read my review of Look At Me here.

in a land of paper gods

Rebecca MacKenzie is the author of In A Land Of Paper Gods, a story of a child far from home and caught between two cultures. In A Land of Paper Gods marries exuberant imagination with sharp pathos, and introduces Rebecca Mackenzie as a striking and original new voice.

You can read my review of In A Land of Paper Gods here.

The Mountain Can Wait PB

Sarah Leipciger is the author of The Mountain Can Wait, a story of fathers and sons and the heartache they cause each other, in the tradition of Annie Proulx. Set in a stunning but scarred Canadian landscape, this is a sweeping, stunning debut novel that is a joy to read.

You can read my review of The Mountain Can Wait here.

 Deadly in Dulwich


Alex Marwood, Erin Kelly and Jane Casey

Wednesday 9th March, 7.00pm. Tickets are £10 and include drinks.

Join us for the second installation of our new series of crime writing events Deadly in Dulwich to meet Alex Marwood, Erin Kelly and Jane Casey to talk about crime writing, their latest novels, and how they keep the reader gripped until the last page. The conversation will be chaired by Claire McGowan.

Darkest Secret

Alex Marwood’s latest thriller The Darkest Secret is already creating quite a buzz among lovers of crime fiction. The book opens with the line ‘Apologies for the general email, but I desperately need your help. My goddaughter, Coco Jackson, disappeared from her family’s holiday home in Bournemouth on the night of Sunday/Monday August 29/30th, the bank holiday weekend just gone. Coco is three years old…

the ties that bind

Erin Kelly is the author of critically acclaimed psychological thrillers The Poison TreeThe Sick Rose, The Burning Air and The Ties That Bind. Erin has been longlisted for the 2011 CWA John Creasy (New Blood) Dagger Award and is also famous as the author of the book inspired by the Broadchurch series.

after the fire

Jane Casey is an Irish-born crime writer famous for her series featuring detective Maeve Kerrigan. Her novel The Stranger You Know won the Mary Higgins Clark Award and she has also been shortlisted for the Irish Crime Novel of the Year Award four times as well as the CWA Dagger in the Library Award. Her latest book is After the Fire.

 A savage hunger

Claire McGowan is a writer and writing teacher who has been acclaimed as ‘Ireland’s answer to Ruth Rendell’ by Ken Bruen. The fourth in her Paula Maguire series, A Savage Hunger will be published in March.


The Bedford, 77 Bedford Hill, Balham, SW12 9HD



Ben Rawlence, Olumide Popoola and Annie Holmes

Thursday 10th March, 7.30pm. Tickets are £6 and are fully redeemable against a purchase of City of Thorns. 10% of profits from the event will be donated to CalAid (

city of thorns

Over the course of four years, Ben Rawlence became a first-hand witness to a strange and desperate limbo-land. To the charity workers, Dadaab refugee camp is a humanitarian crisis; to the Kenyan government, it is a ‘nursery for terrorists’; to the western media, it is a dangerous no-go area; but to its half a million residents, it is their last resort. Among those seeking sanctuary there are Guled, a former child soldier who lives for football; Nisho, who scrapes an existence by pushing a wheelbarrow and dreaming of riches; Tawane, the indomitable youth leader; and schoolgirl Kheyro, whose future hangs upon her education. In City of Thorns, described as ‘timely, disturbing and compelling’ by The Guardian, Ben interweaves the stories of nine individuals to show what life is like in the camp and to sketch the wider political forces that keep the refugees trapped there.

 Olumide Popoola is a writer, lecturer, poet and performer. In the last year she has made a number of visits to the ‘Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais. Unlike Dadaab, which is administered by the UN, the Jungle is a settlement established by the people who live there, most of whom are trying to reach the UK. Olumide’s experiences will be recorded in Breach, to be published by Peirene Press in August 2016, and will tell the story of the crisis through the voices of refugees stuck in Calais. It documents an illusion disrupted: ‘that of a neatly ordered world, with those deserving safety and comfort separated from those who need to be kept out’.


Annie Holmes is the co-writer of Breach. Originally from Zimbabwe, she is a distinguished filmmaker, writer and lecturer. She has worked extensively on tackling the structural causes of HIV at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Christina Lamb OBE, foreign correspondent of the Sunday Times, and bestselling author of books including I Am Malala, will be chairing the event.

What are the root causes of current displacements? What are the long-term prospects for refugee camps and the people who live in them? And of course, what can the UK and the wider international community do to help? Join us to discuss the past, present and future of refugee camps. With an unprecedented refugee crisis in Europe, and the continued displacement of peoples on other continents, there has hardly been a more important time to reflect on the status of these precarious communities.

For press enquiries and author interview requests please contact Sophie Goodfellow and Hayley Steed at ed public relations on / or call on 020 7732 4796

For more information about the events including ticket prices, patron tickets and venue details please visit or call 020 8670 1920

Follow on Twitter: @DulwichBooks/@TheBedfordPub


The Nora Tierney English Mysteries by Marni Graff

As an aspiring writer I’m fascinated by authors who manage to develop a character and write a series of books so I’m delighted that Marni Graff, author of The Nora Tierney Mysteries which are published by Bridle Path Press, agreed to discuss how she does this.

The Nora Tierney Mysteries can be found on Amazon UK and Amazon US:
Blue virgin

The Blue Virgin: A Nora Tierney Mystery (Oxford) – WINNER: Mystery and Mayhem Award for Classic British Cozy, Chanticleer Book Media

Green remains
The Green RemainsBook 2 (Lake District) – WINNER: Classic British Cozy, Mystery and Mayhem Awards


The Scarlet Wench: Book 3 (Lake District) – Shortlisted, Best Mystery, Chanticleer Book Media

Developing Nora Tierney

A Guest Post by Marni Graff

I’m a voracious reader, and once I find a writer whose work I’ve enjoyed, I’ll read his other books. I try to read those books in the order their written to see the development of his or her continuing characters.

When I decided to write mysteries, I knew a series would allow me to stretch and grow my characters in the same way I’ve enjoyed the growth and development of those readers whose books I reach for again and again.

I developed the character of Nora Tierney, an American writer living in the UK, and made her reasonably young to allow for years of growth as I decided on what I call her “bible” the history of her life that may or may not make it to the page. This background helps me know Nora better, so I have a feeling for how she would react in certain situations. I do these for all the main characters in each book, especially the returning characters in a series. The two most important things I have to decide for any character are: what they want the most, and what they fear the most.

As a writer, Nora loves research of any kind and is an information gatherer. I also gave her an insatiable curiosity, which leads to her snooping, and a strong sense of fairness and justice, both of which contribute to her tendency to become involved in murder investigations. Nora has been known to lie at the drop of a hat if it will further her gathering of what she considers important or necessary information. She sees these fabrications as harmless. The detectives she runs across don’t necessarily agree.

Despite different themes for each novel, where the mystery is solved and resolution achieved, the underlying theme of all the books is how the choices we make affect our lives. Nora’s background had to have some kind of kink in it that has ramifications for her now that follows that theme, and Nora still suffers guilt from her father’s death in a sailing accident. A teenager at the time, she’d turned down his offer for an evening sail in favour of a date, a reasonable thing for anyone of that age, until a squall capsized his boat. She carries the unreasonable idea that if she’d gone with him, he would have survived. This also has an impact on her relationships with men. She’s often confused about her feelings for the men she cares about and has difficulty becoming too attached.

Then I threw in a real kicker in the first book, The Blue Virgin: her backstory had her unhappily engaged to a workaholic scientist. Nora was on the verge of calling it off when he was killed in a plane accident. Fast forward to the current action weeks later, and she finds out she’s pregnant and has to decide whether to keep the baby as a single parent. This is in the midst of trying to prove her best friend, artist Val Rogan, is innocent of a murder charge in the death of Val’s partner, Bryn Wallace. The book is set in Oxford, where Nora is packing up to move to Cumbria. But first, she is determined to clear Val.

Saddling Nora with a child to raise alone gave her many challenges and responsibilities that thwart her natural desires. During the second book, The Green Remains, Nora is living in the Lake District at Ramsey Lodge, home of her children’s books illustrator, and is heavily pregnant. I had to keep in mind Nora’s physical condition and how that would impact and interfere with her ability to snoop actively when she stumbles across a body at the edge of Lake Windermere. She couldn’t rush around Bowness sleuthing due to not being able to see her feet at this point!

In book three, The Scarlet Wench, Nora’s son is six months old when a theatre troup arrives to stage Noel Coward’s farce, Blithe Spirit, at Ramsey Lodge. She’s also developing a relationship with Oxford detective DI Declan Barnes, whom she met in book one. This overarching storyline is one I devised for Nora at the outset. Now when a series of accidents and pranks lead to murder right on the premises, Nora’s son must be protected and cared for as she helps Declan unmask the killer amongst them.

There will be more challenges for Nora down the road. I’ve already planted seeds in these first three books that will grow into plot lines in the planned six books, at a minimym. The next book is The Golden Hour, and Nora has decided to return to Oxford, but the majority of the action takes place in Bath, where she’s staying with friends for a week. She’s there for a reading and signing of her books at a real Bath bookstore that has given me permission to use their setting, Mr. B’s Reading Emporium.

Unfortunately, there will be more deaths and this time the threat becomes very real for Nora and her son. I just can’t seem to keep that gal out of trouble!


About Marni Graff


Marni Graff is the author of the award-winning Nora Tierney English Mysteries, and the new series, The Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries, which recently debuted with Death Unscripted. The Managing Editor of Bridle Path Press, Marni Graff also writes a crime review blog at and is a member of Sisters in Crime.

You can follow Marni on Twitter and you’ll also find her on Facebook.



The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North

Sophie Stark

I am indebted to Sam Eades for a review copy of The Life and Death of Sophie Stark in return for an honest review. The Life and Death of Sophie Stark was published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, an imprint of Orion books. It is available for purchase in e-book, hardback and paperback from Amazon UKAmazon US.

Sophie Stark makes films, but she makes them at enormous personal and emotional cost to all involved, including herself.

I’m really struggling to formulate a review of this incredible book as I’m not sure what I’ve just read. I’m feeling quite unsettled and disturbed!

Elements of The Life and Death of Sophie Stark are psychological, sexual, familial, so that there is layer upon layer of depth and frequent obfuscation from Sophie, despite her blunt approach, leaving me reeling. Anna North’s skill is such that I felt tense the whole time I was reading.

Told from the first person perspective of those who encounter and love Sophie, we never really know who Sophie is or what she really thinks and feels. It is as if the reader is viewing Sophie through a prism of others’ perspectives in the same way Sophie views life through her camera lens; one step removed from reality.

Even though I couldn’t decide if Sophie was a needy, lost soul or a manipulative, emotional bankrupt at times, she held me in as much thrall as she did Allison, Robbie et al. There is a rawness of emotion to her and a self-destructive desperation that somehow touches the soul. We all construct our own identities to some extent and have our own stories to tell so that, even when I wanted to hate Sophie, it was more because Anna North is holding a mirror up for readers to view ourselves than because Sophie is a morally corrupt individual.

Each time a different character told their Sophie story I felt I understood her less. I found this level of plotting skilful and compelling and I loved the cohesion of the reviews by Ben Martin so that it seemed fitting to have his final essay included. In a way, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark reminded me of Frankenstein with its layers of meaning and narrative and its monstrous yet pathetic (in the truest sense of the word) central character.

I ended the read with a profound sense of sadness and, simultaneously, a sense of relief that Sophie Stark hadn’t been in my life.

I think The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is a book that will divide opinion, but what it will do, is force readers to have that opinion. As for me – I thought it was amazing.


You can find out more about Anna North on her web site, her Sophie Stark web site, by following her on Twitter and finding her on Facebook

An Interview with Ross Greenwood, Author of Lazy Blood

Lazy Blood 2

Today I’m returning to an interview I conducted with Ross Greenwood as his novel Lazy Blood is rebranded by Bloodhound Books with a fabulous new cover. Lazy Blood is available for purchase in e-book here.

It’s always a pleasure when I encounter a local author and when I discovered that Ross Greenwood lives less than 15 miles away from me I had to invite him on to Linda’s Book Bag to tell me a little bit about his debut novel Lazy Blood. Luckily Ross agreed to be interviewed.

Lazy Blood

Lazy Blood

Drifting through Life? Beware.

Coasting through life, Will paid little attention to the decisions he made or the consequences of his actions. From his prison cell, after a casual descent into serious crime threatens to destroy everything, he finally understands. He had it all, he just didn’t know it.

Looking back over thirty years Lazy Blood is a laugh-out-loud story of the drama of love, the endurance of friendship, the frailty of life and how they can all be ruined by broken people, random events and idle choices.

An Interview with Ross Greenwood

Hi Ross. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your book  ‘Lazy Blood’.

Firstly, please could you imagine we are on a one minute speed date and tell me a little about yourself?

I’m a 42 year old that has taken a year or so out to write a couple of books and share the child care. I did 4 years in the prison service recently and before that had a large variety of jobs for a short time before getting a travel bug in my late twenties and kept flitting about. So I came to fatherhood quite late and have two children under 6. I sometimes dream about sleep.

When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?

I started this 5 years ago but it wasn’t until I got started again last March that I decided ‘Right I’m going to see this through.’ I had some great help from friends and colleagues who read the book as I went along and helped with the never-ending search for typos. It was them who encouraged me to publish it as they had never read a book quite like it.

If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?

I’ve always wanted to be a travel writer, but I suspect my partner might have something to say about me skipping off on free holidays!

How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?

I have mostly written about themes I know; travelling, the prison, school life etc. so it should be very realistic. Prison is very different to how people think it is. My last job in the prison was in resettlement so I had hundreds of 1-2-1’s with prisoners (residents as we are now supposed to call them!!) and got a real feel for their fears and motivations. I also knew I was leaving 6 months before I did so I questioned many on their issues with addiction. All were happy to do it, and their drives and causes are fascinating but will be shocking to many. The lack in value some have of their own lives is astounding. There is also a strong sense of helplessness in that they want to change but don’t know where to look for help and don’t have the skillset to do it themselves. We often lock up the most vulnerable and just the mere process of being taken out of your life leaves you an enormous hill to climb upon release. I have quite a diverse range of friends too, so anything I was not confident about I ran past them.

There are only a few chapters in the prison setting, it is really a book about growing up and how people face the challenges they are presented with. There are some great reviews on amazon for people to read which can give them a bit more insight.

(Blog readers can see those reviews here)

I know you have first-hand experience of the prison service (not as a prisoner I hasten to add). How did this influence your setting for ‘Lazy Blood’?

I had the idea of the book for a long time but I was struggling for a dramatic start and finish. One of the main aspects of working in that environment is that you are exposed to complete extremes. Some people live lives that are so chaotic and crazy it is sometimes hard to believe. Ideas galore!

How far do you think the travel you’ve done has influenced your writing?

That’s probably how I started. When Hotmail first became popular I was travelling in South East Asia and started to do a group email to keep friends and family up to date. They all loved it, and some of them said I should write a book. I was a founder-blogger, I just didn’t realise it!

Again with travelling you are exposed to a lot of people, very quickly and in some strange environments. Meeting different, interesting people is one of the best aspects of travelling.

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?

When writing from personal experience I found it just rolled out of me. I could do 5000 words a day. Sitting down and getting on with it is the hardest now. Facebook is a deadly invention for the stay-at-home author.

(Facebook and twitter are pretty deadly for bloggers too actually Ross!)

I know you wrote ‘Lazy Blood’ in the early hours of the morning while nursing a baby.  What are your writing routines now and where do you do most of your writing?

I finished the book between March and September and found I was really productive before 7 a.m. Everyone is asleep and I really got into the zone. I haven’t found it as easy in the winter as it is cold and dark, so I have taken to sitting in the dining room between 8.30 a.m. and 1 p.m. My productivity has definitely dipped so maybe I will get back to those 4 a.m. starts, although I do get complaints then as I’m not very lively after about 8 p.m. and liable to nod off!

When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?

I will literally read anything. I used to read the breakfast cereal boxes when I was little. I love sitting down with a good book and some sweets or a plate of sandwiches. It’s nasty for my waistline. Recently I’ve read some Nick Alexander, Nick Spalding, Jimmy Boyle and I still have Anna Karenina on the go. It’s been about a year and I’m about 400 pages in. The first few chapters were excellent and  began to see what all the fuss was about but I’m finding it incredibly gruelling now.

(Oh you have to continue with Anna Karenina – I loved it!)

Why did you set the book ‘Lazy Blood’ in Peterborough?

A big theme of the book is that the friends you meet at school tend to stay with you throughout your life. Also the fact that even if you move away; uni, job, travelling etc you tend to get drawn back to your home town, often when things have gone wrong. So this is a story of four friends and how they keep coming back to Peterborough and each other. Peterborough is not perfect but it gets a lot of bad press, so I wanted to help put our City on the map and write a cracking story which also shows Peterborough as a good place to live.

If you could chose to be a character from ‘ Lazy Blood’, who would you be and why?

I would have to be Will as there are some semi-autobiographical parts in it. Obviously I haven’t been as mischievous as Will.

If ‘Lazy Blood’ became a film, who would you like to play the characters?

Tom Hardy would play the character Darren. That would be a good fit. Will is a bit trickier. Perhaps Andrew Garfield who played Spiderman – a man with strength but also a little vulnerable. Carl would definitely be one of the In-Betweeners. Aiden would be the brother from Everybody Loves Raymond as I can’t think of another actor like that. You would have to hope he could do a good English accent.

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that ‘Lazy Blood’ should be their next read, what would you say?

Funny, shocking, sad. This book will blow you away. The eBook is just £1.99 too!

Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions Ross.


Readers can find out more about Ross and Lazy Blood on Ross’s Facebook page and his web site where you’ll find more about the setting and places featured in Lazy Blood. You can also follow Ross on Twitter.


The Silk Merchant’s Daughter by Dinah Jefferies

Silk merchants daughter

Having so loved Dinah Jefferies’ novel The Tea Planter’s Wife which spent several weeks as a Sunday Times number one best seller, I am thrilled to be part of the launch celebrations for The Silk Merchant’s Daughter which is published in hardback and e-book by Penguin Random House on 25th February 2016. The Silk Merchant’s Daughter is available on Amazon UK.

I am honoured to have received an early reader copy of The Silk Merchant’s Daughter and you can read my review beneath the extract from the book.

The Silk Merchant’s Daughter

War, secrets and an unbearable choice: your sister or your lover?

1952, French Indochina. Since her mother’s death, eighteen-year-old half-French, half-Vietnamese Nicole has been living in the shadow of her beautiful older sister, Sylvie. When Sylvie is handed control of the family silk business, Nicole is given an abandoned silk shop in the Vietnamese quarter of Hanoi. But the area is teeming with militant rebels who want to end French rule, by any means possible. For the first time, Nicole is awakened to the corruption of colonial rule – and her own family’s involvement shocks her to the core…

Tran, a notorious Vietnamese insurgent, seems to offer the perfect escape from her troubles, while Mark, a charming American trader, is the man she’s always dreamed of. But who can she trust in this world where no one is what they seem?

The Silk Merchant’s Daughter is a captivating tale of dark secrets, sisterly rivalry and love against the odds, enchantingly set in colonial era Vietnam.

Silk merchants daughter

An extract from The Silk Merchant’s Daughter

Hanoi, Vietnam

Nicole sniffed air heady with the scent of wild gardenia, the shiny green leaves and fragrant white flowers of the shrub carpeting the partially shaded area of the garden. She glanced down from her bedroom window and spotted her father checking that everything was perfect outside. Still a handsome man, his well-cut dark hair, with just a scattering of silver, made him seem especially distinguished and, although it was irritating that he was using her eighteenth birthday party to show off the garden, she had to admit how pretty he’d made it. Incense burned at the French windows of their honey-coloured villa and the garden ponds reflected bright colours from strings of paper lanterns hanging from the branches of two enormous frangipani trees.

Nicole took one last look in the mirror and deliberated. Should she pin a single fuchsia at the side of her long black hair to match the Chinese-collared dress she’d had made for today? The bodice clung to her slim frame like a second skin and, as she moved, the skirt swirled and fell just short of the floor. She listened to Edith Piaf singing ‘Hymne à l’amour’ on the wireless, glanced out of the window again and, deciding against the flower, saw that her sister, Sylvie, was now walking at their father’s side, the two of them with their heads close together as they so often were. For a moment Nicole felt left out and swallowed a brief flash of envy. She ought to be used to it by now, but even before she’d combed her hair or brushed her teeth, her sister looked beautiful; wavy auburn hair, chiselled cheekbones and a perfectly tilted French nose saw to that. Tall, willowy Sylvie had inherited their French father’s looks, while Nicole resembled their long- dead Vietnamese mother and felt conscious of her amber complexion. She drew back her shoulders, shrugged the moment off and left the bedroom; she wasn’t going to let anything spoil her day.

As she strolled through the large, high-ceilinged room leading to the garden, two shining brass-bladed fans freshened the air. The room, like the rest of their home, was elegant and stuffed with exquisite antiques. From her spot in the open doorway she caught sight of a couple of old school friends, Helena and Francine, self-consciously fiddling with their hair in a corner of the garden. She went over to be kissed and hugged. As they chattered about boyfriends and the exams they’d passed, the garden was filling; by the time Nicole finally made her excuses, she saw the French guests had already arrived and were now smoking and drinking, while some of the wealthy Vietnamese had started to promenade in their silks. She noticed a tall, broad-shouldered man in a pale linen suit approach her sister and something about him made Nicole stare for a moment or two. Then she smoothed her hair, drew back her shoulders and went across.

Sylvie touched the man’s arm and smiled at him. ‘Let me introduce you to my sister, Nicole.’

He held out a hand. ‘I’m Mark Jenson. I’ve heard a lot about you.’

She took his hand and glanced up at his face, but the intense blue of his eyes startled her and she had to look away.

‘Mark’s from New York. We met while I was over there,’ Sylvie was saying. ‘He travels all over the world.’

‘It’s your birthday, right?’ he said, and smiled at Nicole.

Nicole swallowed and struggled to find her voice but luckily Sylvie interrupted. ‘There’s somebody I just need to have a word with.’ She waved at a dumpy woman on the other side of the garden, then turned to Mark and giggled as she touched his hand. ‘I won’t be long. Nicole will look after you.’

Mark smiled politely. For a moment the air seemed too thin and Nicole’s breath failed her. She shifted her weight from one leg to the other, then looked up at him properly and tried not to blink too much. His eyes were the colour of sapphires, made even brighter by the contrast with the deep tan of his skin.

‘So,’ she said eventually.

He didn’t speak but was still gazing at her.

Suddenly self-conscious, she touched her chin. Was there something on her face?

‘I didn’t expect you to be so pretty,’ he said.

‘Oh,’ she said and felt confused. ‘I’m sure I’m not.’ But what had he expected and why was he expecting anything at all?

‘Sylvie spoke of you when we were in the States.’

Her thoughts slowly untangled. Of course Sylvie had spoken about her. It was only natural to talk about your family, especially when away from home.

She smiled. ‘Then you know I’m the black sheep.’

He flicked away a lock of hair that kept falling over his right eye. ‘Fire and marquee do come to mind.’

At his gentle teasing, Nicole’s hand flew to her mouth. ‘Oh God, no! She didn’t tell you about that?’

He laughed.

‘I was only thirteen and it was an accident. But this isn’t fair, you’ve already heard stories about me yet I know nothing about you.’

An impulse passed through her. As if he too felt it, he reached out a hand, but she realized it was only to indicate the way. ‘Let’s pick up some champagne and then why don’t you show me round? I’ll tell you everything you want to know.’

As they moved on, a little of the inner tautness she’d felt since being introduced released its grip, though at just five foot two, she felt tiny beside him and wished she’d worn higher heels.

A waiter in a white suit approached with a tray. Mark accepted two glasses and handed them both to Nicole. ‘Do you mind me smoking?’

She shook her head. ‘You don’t sound as if you’re from New York.’

He took out a packet of Chesterfields, lit one and then held out his hand for a glass. Their fingers touched and Nicole felt a jolt run up the underside of her bare arm.

‘I’m not. My father has a small dairy farm in Maine. I grew up there.’

‘What took you away?’

He stood still. ‘Thirst for adventure, I suppose. After my mother died my father did his best but it was never the same.’

The tone of his voice had changed and she recognized the suppressed sadness in it. ‘My mother died too,’ she offered.

He nodded. ‘Sylvie told me.’

There was a moment’s silence.

He sighed again and smiled as if remembering. ‘I did all the usual country things – fishing, hunting – but my passion was motorbikes. Dirt-track racing. The more dangerous the track the more I loved it.’

‘Didn’t you get hurt?’

He laughed. ‘Frequently! But nothing too serious. It was mostly the odd broken ankle and a few cracked ribs.’

She was close enough to him to smell a warm spiciness on his skin. Something about him made her feel happy, but she twisted away slightly and looked up at a sky shot with stars, listening to the sound of cicadas and night birds shuffling in the trees. Mark had taken a step away and she saw that his height gave him that loose-limbed way of walking Americans had in movies; a nonchalant walk conveying ease and confidence.

‘People say May is the last month of spring in Hanoi, but it’s so warm tonight it feels like summer already. Would you prefer to go indoors?’ she said.

‘On a night like this?’

She felt exhilarated and laughed. His short light-brown hair had a curl to it and was now tinged with gold. Someone had lit the torches and the light from the flames flickered on his face and hair.

‘Where are you staying?’

‘At the Métropole, on the Boulevard Henri Rivière.’

At that moment Sylvie reappeared and drew him away. After he’d gone Nicole felt his absence and, despite all the people milling around, the garden seemed empty. She remembered one of their cook Lisa’s favourite sayings: Có công mài sa˘´t có ngày nên kim – if you polish a piece of iron long enough you can make a needle. Though Lisa was French she spoke enough Vietnamese to get by in the markets, and took pride in quoting Vietnamese sayings. Perhaps it was time to apply a little polish to herself, Nicole thought as the live music started up. Time, too, for dancing the night away.

My Review of The Silk Merchant’s Daughter

From the map before the Prologue, I was immediately captivated by The Silk Merchant’s Daughter as I recently visited all the places outlined in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

The Silk Merchant’s Daughter is another utterly captivating read. What Dinah Jefferies does so well is to create a sense of place. She weaves the senses effortlessly into her writing so that the reader can see the scene so vividly, smelling the aromas and feeling the silks beneath their hands. I think The Silk Merchant’s Daughter would transfer to the screen brilliantly.

The plot of The Silk Merchant’s Daughter is riveting. It brought to life an era of history I knew very little about, but through Nicole’s perspective, so I could understand the devastating impact on an individual level. The things that happen to Nicole left me reeling and at times I didn’t know if I could bear what was happening. Indeed, it became tricky to decide which characters were trustworthy and I think this is a strength of the book as the twists and turns kept my attention continuously so that I found myself wondering about the characters when I wasn’t reading about them. We don’t ourselves know how we might respond in similar circumstances. We certainly find out man’s inhumanity to man between these pages.

The story is meticulously researched and presented in a manner that enchants and beguiles as themes are skilfully explored. Nicole’s struggle to decide her identity and the difficulties faced by those of mixed race parentage are sensitively portrayed. So too are aspects of family, mental illness, friendship, coming of age and sensuality as well as the broader issues of colonialism, ideology and patriotism. Dinah Jefferies creates a narrative as beautifully woven as the silks in the story as she conveys the emotions of love and hate, fear and happiness in a sumptuous read.

I loved The Silk Merchant’s Daughter and it has confirmed to me that Dinah Jefferies is a superb wordsmith and a wonderful writer.

Tea Planter

You can also read my review of The Tea Planter’s Wife here.

You can follow Dinah Jefferies on Twitter and visit her web site. You’ll also find Dinah on Facebook.

Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Cate Woods

Just Havent Met You Yet

My grateful thanks to Alainna Hadjigeorgiou at Quercus Books for a review copy of Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Cate Woods. Just Haven’t Met You Yet was published on 11th February 2016 and is available from Quercus and in e-book and paperback from Amazon UK.

When Percy James receives a mysterious message from Eros Tech claiming to have matched her with her soul mate from the world’s population, curiosity gets the better of her and she agrees to meet the match. Little does she realise what far reaching consequences a simple meeting might have.

I loved Just Haven’t Met You Yet. It was such an engaging and fun read. It’s lighthearted but not lightweight and so well written the story races along.

I enjoyed the premise (which I won’t discuss too much here for fear of spoiling the read for others) and found the events totally plausible and frequently laugh out loud which is unusual for me. It was as if Percy was speaking directly to me with her first person narrative as if I were a close friend so that I was fully involved and cared about what happened to her. There’s a really conversational feel to the writing that is lively and interesting.

The characters are well developed making them thoroughly realistic. The naming of the lead female as Percy is a stroke of genius as readers will appreciate once they’ve read Just Haven’t Met You Yet.

Alongside the romantic comedy that Cate Woods writes so brilliantly, there are some serious issues that give depth and intensity to the story. Relationships obviously feature strongly, but there is also the consideration of how we meet the ‘right’ person for us, the difficulty in being seen as single, how parenthood affects us and what conventionality expects so that Just Haven’t Met You Yet is a truly satisfying read.

At the end, despite the fact that it was exactly as I expected, I found myself grinning from ear to ear. If you enjoy women’s fiction then Just Haven’t Met You Yet is perfect. I’d love to see it made into a film.

Cate Woods is a real talent in women’s fiction and I’m so pleased that she finally has a novel published under her own name. You can find out more about Cate on her web site and you can follow her on Twitter.