Time Travel: A Guest Post by Jennifer Macaire, Author of The Time For Alexander Series

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I’m really interested in ancient history, collect Roman coins, love travel and have been on an archaeological dig so I’m delighted to welcome Jennifer Macaire, author of The Road to Alexander and Legends of Persia in the Time For Alexander series, to Linda’s Book Bag today. Jennifer has kindly agreed to write about time travel and is taking us back to Ancient Greece. You can also read an extract from the series.

Published by Accent Press, The Road to Alexander is available for purchase through the publisher links here. Legends of Persia is available here.

The Road to Alexander

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Sex, love, war, & quite a bit of vino – it’s a Greek myth come to life…

Ashley is a time-travel journalist who has fought to prove herself in a world that that believes her road in life was paved by her parents’ fortune. After winning a prestigious award, she is selected to travel through time and interview a historical figure. Choosing her childhood hero, Alexander the Great, she voyages back in time for less than a day to interview a man whose legend has survived to the present day. He mistakes her for Persephone, goddess of the dead, and kidnaps her.

Stranded in the past, cold and aloof Ashley has to learn to befriend, to trust…and to love.

Legends of Persia

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Legends of Persia is the second book in the Time for Alexander series. Ashley continues her incredible adventure in 333 BC as she follows Alexander the Great’s army on his journey across Persia. As a presumed goddess, Ashley is expected to bless crops, make sure battles are won, and somehow keep out of the daily journals sent back to Athens, while all the time searching for her son and keeping history on course.

Alexander’s campaign against the mountain tribes in the Hindu Kush is given a new life, told from the viewpoint of a time traveling reporter.

Ashley knows he’s on the most dangerous part of his fantastic voyage, but she has to walk the knife edge of history, keeping Alexander alive and not bringing the wrath of the Institute of Time upon her.

Time Travel

A Guest Post by Jennifer Macaire

If I had a superpower, it would be the ability to travel through time. It’s no coincidence my favourite show is Dr. Who… I’d love to be able to have a TARDIS!

My passion for time travel started with a Kodak Brownie camera and a roll of 127 film.  I got my first camera when I was 7 years old, and my father would buy me a roll of film every month. The first batch of pictures came back with everyone’s heads cut off. My Brownie camera had a primitive viewfinder that exaggerated the lens’s reach – but after the “attack of the headless monsters”, as my dad jokingly called my first photo attempts, I was more careful. I continued to take pictures, buying my first reflex camera with my first paycheck (if I couldn’t afford a horse, at least I could get a camera). I continued to freeze time on shiny paper, fixing everything in place in chunky albums. I love to take photographs. It’s a way to stop time.

When I started writing the Time for Alexander series, it was obvious I was going to have to do a lot of research in order to make the history believable. I wished for a time machine to send me back to the past so I could meet the enigmatic conqueror, and I wished for a tradi-scope that would enable me to understand and speak in any language, (my Christmas list is getting longer…) but instead I had the library and the Internet. I haunted the Louvre – I’m lucky, I live near Paris, and there is an amazing section in the Louvre devoted to ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Mesopotamian art and daily life. Little things like combs, mirrors, chairs, beds, mattresses, lamps helped make my book come alive. In one part, Ashley looks at herself in a mirror, and thanks to the Louvre, I knew just what the mirror looked like, what it was made from, and even what the perfume bottle and makeup was like back then. Museums are like time machines.

Ancient Greek mirror

While researching ancient Greece, I was also reading fiction and biographies about Alexander the Great. I’d read Mary Renault’s books as a teen and had loved them. Alexander’s biographies were fascinating too, but frustrating. Hardly anything contemporary to him remained. On the other hand, it made writing fiction easier. Books are like time machines; they take us anywhere we can imagine. My journey took me back to ancient Greece, and I hope you’ll join me!

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An Extract from the Series

Alexander was never cold. He thought I was strange, covering up in so many layers of wool and silk. I thought he was crazy, walking around half naked. The Macedonians, tough mountain people, were resistant to cold and wet. They strode through the snow barefoot, or as a slight concession wore sandals. The boots had worn out after only a couple of weeks, yet they had continued to put them on long after the soles had fallen off. To make me feel better, they said.

The Greeks were used to warmer weather. They huddled in their cloaks and wore boots and mittens. Most of them thought that the Macedonians, besides being barbarians, had some loose screws. The folk the Macedonians referred to as “barbarians” were Artabazus’s tribesmen from the Zagros Mountains. They were a massive group, usually tawny or red-haired, with blue or green eyes, and standing roughly seven feet tall. They were impervious to cold, or heat, or just about anything. They even survived the crazy football games Alexander organized in the snowy fields of Samarkand.

The games became a fixture that winter. A goat, hollowed out and stuffed with enough straw to make it resemble a football (well, in your nightmares maybe), was carried from one end of the field to the other. And there were roughly fifty people in the way who wanted to take it from you and run in the opposite direction. And you could never be quite sure who was playing on your team. The teams seemed variable things; one played for one team and then when the mood struck, one changed sides. There were no uniforms; if anyone tried to wear anything it was ripped off within seconds. So approximately eighty naked men and a stuffed goatskin hashed it out on a large, flat, snow covered field.

The snow was soon cleared away, and the farmer lucky enough to own the field didn’t have to worry about plowing or fertilizer for the next season. Enough blood and guts were spilled to insure a heavy crop. The villagers and the soldiers not playing lined the field and cheered. Sometimes the players spilled over into the spectators, and sometimes it was the other way around. There were people standing, sitting, eating picnic lunches, sitting in trees or on walls, and riding horses up and down the sidelines to watch. After the game, there was a big barbecue nearby. Goats and cows were grilled, and everyone ate, drank, and insulted the losers. The losers usually drank the most, bled the most, and made the most noise when they were drunk.

Usse spent hours binding, splinting and fixing up the players. He shook his head. “They get more wounds from goatball than against the opposing forces,” he told Alexander.

“Well, they keep out of trouble,” he answered, picking up a handful of snow and eating it.

I picked up some snow, too, and carefully fashioned it into a snowball. He caught me watching him, and I tried to look innocent.

“What’s behind your back?” he asked me.

“Nothing,” I said, smiling sweetly.

“Let me see?”

Well, he asked for it. Afterwards, he held me down in the snow and stuffed handfuls of it down my back. I thought that was horribly unfair and told him he was a brute.

Then we went to see what the fuss was about on the playing field. Alexander was considered an unofficial referee. Whenever there was a discussion (i.e., a huge, bloody fight), he would be called on to mediate.

This time, we arrived to find a large heap of Macedonians sitting on a small pile of Egyptians with several Greeks thrown in. The barbarians had taken the goatskin and were fighting among themselves; a lone, slightly mad Spartan was in the middle of that fray. The Bactrians and Madrians, still new to the army, were trotting around the fringes of the fight, unsure of whom they were going to help at this point, and the Persians, who prided themselves on just about everything, were jumping up and down screaming that nothing was going right. I remarked to Alexander that this was a fairly typical epitome of his army, and he nodded thoughtfully.

The players were separated, the wounded sent to the infirmary, one on a stretcher. Alexander listened as they all shouted at him at once, the words most used being, “they cheated,” and “it wasn’t fair”. After pretending to listen for five or six minutes, Alexander tilted his head to one side and in a very wise voice asked, “Who has the ball?”

There was a brief silence as everyone looked down at their hands, checked out his neighbor, then saw that the barbarians had crossed the line and were piled up on the far side of the field having a great fight over who should carry the ball back to the middle to start again. Faint cries of “you did it last time” and “it’s my turn now” floated over the frosty air.

“I rule that they won,” said Alexander, pointing towards the barbarians, “and the game is over for today.” He held up his hands to forestall any groans. “Everyone is invited to eat ox tonight.  I shall provide the wine!”

“Hurrah for Iskander, Oh, Mighty King!” bellowed all the players, and they rushed off to wash for dinner. Except for the Spartan, face down and unconscious on the field.

Alexander and I linked arms and strolled through the crowd. The townspeople were in awe of him, and they stood back a respectful distance. The sun was going down, in a few hours the oxen would be cooked, and fragrant smoke from cooking fires tickled my nose. Someone offered us a cup of hard cider. It was steaming hot, spiced with cinnamon and sweetened with honey.

We thanked the man, whom I vaguely recognized as one of the cooks working in the army. Alexander knew his name, though, and the man turned bright red with pleasure when Alexander handed the cup back to him saying, “My thanks, Khrysbaz, your cider is better than any I’ve ever had.”

The hot drink had warmed my belly. I leaned my head on Alexander’s shoulder. “What are you thinking about?” I asked him, hearing a large sigh.

“Barsine. I’m worried. It was the sports that put her to mind. She always was one for organizing games.” He shook his head ruefully. “She alone nearly wiped out half my army when we camped near Persepolis.”

I smiled, remembering the very large, red-haired princess throwing her javelin straight through Plexis’s tent one afternoon. Plexis had been standing behind her. She’d done it on a dare. She’d also done it to drive home a point. She was telling Plexis to stay away from her husband. Plexis had turned a rather sickly shade of green and had gone to sit beneath a fig tree for a while.

Alexander turned to me and cupped my face in his hands. “Why is it you aren’t jealous of my other wives?” he asked me.

“Because I am the one with you,” I answered. “I would be jealous of anyone who took you away from me. Why ask me that now?”

He looked over my head towards the far mountains. “I don’t know. I was wondering, that’s all. I’m terribly jealous. I would kill anyone who tried to take you away from me.”

“Don’t say that,” I said, strangely affected by his words. “We love each other. For me, that’s all that matters.”

He brushed his thumbs across my lips. “I think that’s why I can’t do without you,” he said. “You don’t care about my conquests, my kingdom, or my power. You care about me, only about me. If I were a beggar you would still feel the same about me.”

“Because you would still be yourself,” I said gravely. “In your case, it’s not the crown that makes the man. You wouldn’t change if you were a king, or if you were a beggar. You are completely Alexander, no matter what.”

He kissed me, bringing a rush of heat to my belly. “I am Alexander, no matter what,” he agreed, and he laughed.

The people around us turned at his laughter and smiled. He had a contagious, rich laugh, that overflowed like a child’s. I saw wonder in many faces. Alexander tossed his purple cape jauntily over my shoulders, covering us both in its purple swathe. “I want to ravish you here, in front of everyone, as we did at the ceremony of the fields.” He felt me stiffen and laughed louder. “You’re as pink as a carnation! Just look at you blush!” And he leaned closer and whispered a few things that turned my cheeks absolutely crimson.

We barely made it into the tent, and Axiom just had time to clear out before Alexander had my winter clothes strewn all over the floor.

“What’s this?” he’d cry, as another layer was uncovered. “You have more protection than my cavalry! What? Another shift? By the gods, woman, it’s like peeling an onion!”

After making love, we lay in a comfortable tangle on his bed. I was warm; Alexander’s body radiated more heat than the brazier standing nearby. Outside, the snow had begun to fall again. The farmers were overjoyed. To them, snow was a precious gift from the gods, and hardly a day went by that I didn’t find a present of some sort left  outside the tent. The people still thought I had something to do with the harvest goddess. Not that I minded. I loved finding a small wicker basket full of crisp red apples, with a light layer of snow like frosting on them, or a jug of hard cider, or a knit shawl.

About Jennifer Macaire

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Jennifer grew up in NY, Samoa and the USVI. She met her husband at the polo club in Paris. All that is true. But mostly she likes to make up stories.

You can follow Jennifer on Twitter and visit her blog, visit her Facebook page or find her on Instagram.

Social Media Don’ts for Authors, A Guest Post by Angela Clarke, Author of Trust Me

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I’m thrilled to be part of the launch celebrations for Trust Me, the third book in Angela Clarke’s social media thriller series.

Angela was kind enough to provide a guest blog earlier this year all about growing characters that you can read here. Today, in line with the social media theme of her books, Angela has some advice for authors.

Trust Me,  was released by Avon Books on 15th June 2017 and is available for purchase here.

Trust Me

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YOU SAW IT HAPPEN. DIDN’T YOU?

What do you do if you witness a crime…but no-one believes you?

When Kate sees a horrific attack streamed live on her laptop, she calls the police in a state of shock. But when they arrive, the video has disappeared – and she can’t prove anything. Desperate to be believed, Kate tries to find out who the girl in the video could be – and who attacked her.

Freddie and Nas are working on a missing persons case, but the trail has gone cold. When Kate contacts them, they are the only ones to listen and they start to wonder – are the two cases connected?

Dark, gripping, and flawlessly paced, Trust Me is the brilliant third novel in the hugely popular social media murderer series.

Social Media Don’ts for Authors

A Guest Post by Angela Clarke

  1. Don’t Sell, Sell, Sell.

We all know those authors, some of whom we may love between the pages, who only ever post about their book on social media. How disappointing when we wanted to get to know the person behind the work. Every status is an Amazon link. Every post is trying to sell you something. It’s like trying to have a conversation with a friend who will only respond by shouting: ‘BUY MY NOVEL!’ It’s boring. It’s embarrassing. It’s the quickest way to get unfollowed.

  1. Don’t Auto-Message.

I meet a lot of people in this industry, and when someone sends me a friend request, and we have upwards of twenty people in common, I err on the side of caution and presume I’ve met them (I was probably drunk, you’ve been to a book event, right? They have a lot of wine). Plus, their profile photo is a cat, I’ve definitely met lots of cats. But, then, that person, my proto-pal, fouls my inbox. They send me a private message in the form of a blanket pitch telling me to buy their book. I don’t know this person. It’s a trick. I’ve basically just made mates with a spam lord. Eject, eject, eject!

  1. Don’t Immediately Ask Me to Like Your Fan Page

Look, I geddit, I’ve only got 600 followers on my Facebook Author Page too (please like me!). It’s so tempting just to send out a few cheeky ‘like’ requests. And that’s fine, once in a while. But not as soon as we’ve met. At least retain the illusion we’re fun friends who have loads in common for a few days, before you start trying to pimp your product.

  1. Don’t Post Links to Your Book on my Page Uninvited

You’re basically flyposting. On the internet. You’re graffiti-ing other people’s walls. Seriously, that’s not cool. No one is going to buy your book that way. No one.

  1. Don’t Be Rude.

I may reject your friend request because my accounts are just for family and friends. I may not want to like your page because I’m not into that. I may not reply to your direct message asking me to retweet you. All of these responses from me are fine. It is my social media account. I make the rules. And regardless of whether you think I should do something else, never, ever, ever mouth off, either at me or about me. Never become aggressive, or post anything rude. That doesn’t make you an honest author just trying to shift enough books to pay the rent, it makes you a massive jerk.

About Angela Clarke

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Angela Clarke is an author, columnist and playwright. Her debut crime novel Follow Me was the first in the Social Media Murders Series.

Her memoir Confessions of a Fashionista (Ebury) is an Amazon Fashion Chart bestseller. Her debut play The Legacy received rave reviews after it’s first run at The Hope Theatre in June 2015. Angela’s journalist contributions include: The Guardian, The Independent Magazine, The Daily Mail, and Cosmopolitan. Now magazine described her as a ‘glitzy outsider’. Angela read English and European Literature at Essex University, and Advances in Scriptwriting at RADA. In 2015 Angela was awarded the Young Stationers’ Prize for achievement and promise in writing and publishing.

She is almost always late or lost, or both.

You can follow Angela on Twitter, visit her website and find her on Facebook.

Secrets of the Italian Gardener by Andrew Crofts

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I’m so pleased to be starting the launch celebrations for Secrets Of The Italian Gardener by Andrew Crofts.

Secrets Of The Italian Gardener was published by Red Door on 11th June 2017 and is available for purchase here.

Secrets of the Italian Gardener

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Mo, the wealthy dictator of a volatile Middle Eastern country, enlists a ghostwriter to tell his story to the world and enshrine him in history as a glorious ruler. Inside Mo’s besieged palace the ghost forms an unlikely friendship with a wise and seemingly innocent Italian gardener who slowly reveals that the regime isn’t all it appears to be. As a violent rebellion threatens all their lives the ghost struggles to cope with a personal secret too painful to bear.

Secrets Of The Italian Gardener takes the reader on a heart-pounding journey through the bloody downfall of a doomed tyrant in the company of a young couple struggling to cope with the greatest private tragedy imaginable.

My Review of Secrets Of The Italian Gardener

A ghost writer attempts to find time to speak with dictator Mo to gather materials for Mo’s ‘autobiography’, but not all the information will sit comfortably.

Secrets Of The Italian Gardener is such a clever and disturbing book. Metaphorical (or maybe more accurately, metaphysical) and philosophical, Andrew Crofts makes the reader question every underlying principle in their life. Just how would they behave in the same circumstances as the ghost writer? The terrible sense of unease this book creates is enhanced by the fact we do not get the ghost writer’s name, just a first person account, so that he could be any one of us. I think I would do exactly the same as he and his wife Caroline and this worries me. The ghost writer sells his soul to the devil, but his reasons are fully understandable. It is for this reason that I finished reading Secrets Of The Italian Gardener feeling completely disturbed.

Alongside the metaphorical elements, there is an exciting plot as the compound in which the Italian gardener, Lou, is working and where the majority of the book is set comes under increasing threat as the people in the street become violent and rebellious. I was reminded of every similar scene I’ve witnessed vicariously on television and again I felt uncomfortable as Andrew Croft made me complicit in the action just by reading the story.

The gardening theme was an aspect that Andrew Croft handled with consummate skill. Gardening is seen as a benevolent activity, but the things planted in the pristine gardens of Mo’s compound are not what we might expect and there’s so much more to Lou, the gardener, than meets the eye. This aspect of Secrets Of The Italian Gardener left me feeling shocked and not a little naive.

Other themes of personal grief, loyalty, marriage and love mean that there is lightness to balance the shade in the prose so that, although this is a relatively short novella, there is much to ponder and contemplate. I found Secrets Of The Italian Gardener totally mesmerising as it took me on a journey about human nature and made me question who is innocent and who is guilty. Ultimately, however, it left me feeling hope. There is the chance for nature to heal.

Andrew Crofts

Andrew Crofts

Andrew Crofts is a ghostwriter and author who has published more than eighty books, a dozen of which were Sunday Times number one bestsellers. He has also guided a number of international clients successfully through the minefield of independent publishing.

Andrew’s name first became known amongst publishers for the stories he brought them by the otherwise disenfranchised. Travelling all over the world he worked with victims of enforced marriages in North Africa and the Middle East, sex workers in the Far East, orphans in war-torn areas like Croatia and dictatorships like Romania, victims of crimes and abused children everywhere. He also worked with members of the criminal fraternity.

As well as using traditional publishers to reach readers he has also experimented with e-books, publishing, Secrets of the Italian Gardener, a novella which draws on his experience amongst the powerful and wealthy, and The Fabulous Dreams of Maggie de Beer, (a prequel to his traditionally published The Overnight Fame of Steffi McBride, now filmed and appearing in episodes on YouTube’s This is Drama channel).

His books on writing include Ghostwriting, (A&C Black) and The Freelance Writer’s Handbook, (Piatkus), which has been reprinted eight times over twenty years.

You can follow Andrew on Twitter and visit his website. There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square by Lilly Bartlett

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My grateful thanks to Michele Gorman for an advanced reader copy of The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square in return for an honest review.

Having previously read and enjoyed The Big Little Wedding at Carlton Square by Lilly Bartlett, my review of which you can read here, I’m delighted to be reviewing the second in the series, The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square.

The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square is published today, 23rd June 2017, by Harper Impulse and is available for purchase here.

The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square

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One chance isn’t always enough…

Everyone expects great things from Emma Billings, but when her future gets derailed by an unexpected turn of events, she realizes that getting back on track means traveling in a different direction.

She finds that new path in the closed-down pub on Carlton Square. Summoning every ounce of ingenuity, and with the help of her friends and family, she opens the Second Chance Café. The charity training business is meant to keep vulnerable kids off the streets and (hopefully) away from the Metropolitan Police, and her new employees are full of ideas, enthusiasm … and trouble. They’ll need as much TLC as the customers they’re serving.

This ragtag group of chancers have to make a go of a business they know nothing about, and they do get some expert help from an Italian who’s in love with the espresso machine and a professional sandwich whisperer who reads auras, but not everyone is happy to see the café open. Their milk keeps disappearing and someone is canceling the cake orders, but it’s when someone commits bloomicide on all their window boxes that Emma realizes things are serious. Can the café survive when NIMBY neighbors and the rival café owner join forces to close them down? Or will Emma’s dreams fall as flat as the cakes they’re serving?

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My review of The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square

When Emma tries to juggle marriage, twins and a new cafe under attack from a rival, it appears something has got to give.

Although I’m so glad I had already met several of the characters in The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square because I have read The Big Little Wedding at Carlton Square which introduces them, and it felt like returning to old friends I haven’t seen for a while, it wouldn’t make any difference to new readers as Lilly Bartlett weaves in their back story so seamlessly that there’s enough information to give them depth and familiarity to all.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story of new enterprise, rivalry, marriage challenges and friendship and community. The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square provides a vivid sense of place. There’s mystery, sabotage, entrepreneurial growth and social conscience underpinning a fast paced plot. Reading The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square did prick my conscience slightly as I think I may have made similar judgements to those Emma initially makes about Lou for example and this is what elevates The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square above similar books in this genre. Lilly Bartlett has the ability to make her readers think as well as to entertain them.

What is also very skilled is the naturalistic dialogue and style. The prose is sassy, witty and appeals directly to the reader so that it is like being in Emma’s head rather than reading about her.

The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square is a smashing summer read that transports readers into another world for a while and I heartily recommend it.

About Lilly Bartlett

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Lilly Bartlett is a pen name of Michele Gorman. Michele writes books with heart and humour, full of best friends, girl power and, of course, love and romance. Call them beach books or summer reads, chick lit or romcom… readers and reviewers call them “feel good”, “relatable” and “thought-provoking”.

She is both a Sunday Times and a USA Today bestselling author, raised in the US and living in London. She is very fond of naps, ice cream and Richard Curtis films but objects to spiders and the word “portion”.

You can find Michele on Instagram and on Facebook . You can follow her on Twitter and visit Michele’s blog and her website.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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Audio Book: The Silent Wife by Kerry Fisher

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I so loved The Island Escape by Kerry Fisher, my review of which you can read here, that I was thrilled to win an audio version of The Silent Wife on Facebook.

I have also been lucky enough to interview Kerry about The Silent Wife and you can read that interview here.

The Silent Wife was published on February 2017 by Bookouture and is available for purchase in e-book, audio and paperback here.

The Silent Wife

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Lara’s life looks perfect on the surface. Gorgeous doting husband Massimo, sweet little son Sandro and the perfect home. Lara knows something about Massimo. Something she can’t tell anyone else or everything Massimo has worked so hard for will be destroyed: his job, their reputation, their son. This secret is keeping Lara a prisoner in her marriage.

Maggie is married to Massimo’s brother Nico and lives with him and her troubled stepdaughter. She knows all of Nico’s darkest secrets – or so she thinks. The one day she discovers a letter in the attic which reveals a shocking secret about Nico’s first wife Caitlin. Will Maggie set the record straight or keep silent to protect those she loves?

For a family held together by lies, the truth will come at a devastating price…

My Review of The Silent Wife

In perfect families, there are secrets that can change all their lives.

Having so enjoyed reading The Island Escape I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy an audio book as much, but I needn’t have worried because the only aspect I didn’t much like was the Italian accent employed by the narrator for Anna. Kerry Fisher’s storytelling shone through so that it was impossible not to want to listen to the next bit. Having been ill over the period when I was listening to The Silent Wife, I listened to it in quite a fragmented way and I think it shows how brilliantly Kerry Fisher writes that as soon as I returned to the story it was as if I’d never been away.

The plot actually felt quite incidental to me even though it deals with issues that are shocking, because the real strength of Kerry Fisher’s writing in The Silent Wife is her wonderful characterisation. Every one of the cast in The Secret Wife felt like a real person so that I cared about what happened to them – even when I was hoping for the worst for them! I liked the way the narrative is told from the perspectives of Lara and Maggie, although my preference was for Maggie.

Although there are many details in The Secret Wife that seem quite everyday and fairly unimportant I felt they were crucial in conveying how life can impact on the ordinary person so that we never really know what happens in others’ lives. Reading this book might just help others in similar situations, although I don’t want to say too much as I don’t want to spoil the story. Kerry Fisher knows exactly how women think and feel and she manages to convey humour, sadness and real emotion so effortlessly. What I so enjoyed was the way I had to keep asking myself what I would do if I found myself in similar situations to Lara and Maggie.

I really enjoyed listening to The Silent Wife. I think it would be perfect for taking on holiday and immersing yourself into the close-knit world of a family with secrets.

About Kerry Fisher

Kerry Fisher Author image

Born in Peterborough, Kerry Fisher studied French and Italian at Bath University, followed by several years working as an English teacher in Corsica and Spain before topping the dizzying heights of holiday rep and grape picker in Tuscany. She eventually succumbed to ‘getting a proper job’ and returned to England to study Periodical Journalism at City University. After two years working in the features department at Essentials magazine in London, love carried her off to the wilds of the West Pennine moors near Bolton. She now lives in Surrey with her husband (of whisking off to Bolton fame), two teenagers and a very naughty lab/schnauzer called Poppy. Kerry can often be seen trailing across the Surrey Hills whistling and waving pieces of chicken while the dog practises her ‘talk to the tail’.

Kerry has spent half her life talking about writing a novel, then several years at Candis magazine reviewing other people’s but it wasn’t until she took some online courses with the UCLA (University of California) that the dream started to morph into reality, culminating in the publishing of The Class Ceiling. The Avon imprint of HarperCollins picked it up and retitled it The School Gate Survival Guide, published summer 2014. Her second book, The Island Escape, came out in May 2015. It won first prize at the York Festival of Writing for the opening line: ‘I was wearing the wrong bra for sitting in a police cell’.

There’s more about Kerry on her website or Facebook page. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Cover Reveal: A Taste of Death by H.V Coombs

a taste of death

I’m delighted to be helping to reveal the first book in the The Old Forge Cafe series, A Taste of Death by H.V.Coombs.

A Taste of Death will be published by Maze, a Harper Collins imprint, on 24th July 2017 and is available for pre-order here.

A Taste of Death

a taste of death

Midsomer Murders meets The Great British Bake-Off in this foodie delight with murder at its heart.

The first murder happened while I was making meringues…

When Ben Hunter moves to become head chef at the Old Forge Café in the quiet village of Hampden Green, a tricky recipe for egg-based desserts isn’t the only thing he gets embroiled in. As he struggles with a whisk in his first week , he gets an unexpected visit from DI Slattery – there’s been a murder and he’s a suspect. Ben resolves to get to the bottom of the mystery, and he soon discovers that this sleepy Chilterns village is covering up a whole lot more than an appetite for sweet treats…

An Act of Silence by Colette McBeth

An Act of Silence

I was extremely fortunate to meet Colette McBeth at a blogger and author event where An Act of Silence was a book in the goody bag so I am extremely grateful to the team at Carmelite House!

An Act of Silence will be published by Wildfire, an imprint of Headline, on 29th June 2017 and is available for purchase through the links here.

An Act of Silence

An Act of Silence

These are the facts I collect. My son Gabriel met a woman called Mariela in a bar. She went home with him. They next morning she was found in an allotment. Mariela is dead. Gabriel has been asked to report to Camden Police station in six hours for questioning.

Linda Moscow loves her son; it’s her biological instinct to keep him safe. But if she’s not sure of his innocence, how can she stand by him? Should she go against everything she believes in to protect him? She’s done it before, and the guilt nearly killed her.

Now, the past is catching up with them. As old secrets resurface, Lind is faced with another impossible choice. Only this time, it’s her life on the line…

My Review of An Act of Silence

With a highly troubled relationship between them, mother Linda and son Gabriel need each other more than they can know.

I thought An Act of Silence was utterly brilliant. I genuinely couldn’t tear myself away from it and resented every moment when I couldn’t read it. I had a real dilemma. I wanted to read quickly to see what happened next, whilst simultaneously wanting to read slowly to savour every word. I think it was the wonderful overall quality of the writing that so captivated me. The variety of sentence structure adds to the tension and the overall plotting is sublime. An Act of Silence is twisty, creepy and actually quite sad, with occasional humour that serves to enhance and underline the dramatic elements of the narrative. I have become quite bored of books with multiple viewpoints of late but An Act of Silence is multi-layered, fascinating and magnificent. It made me think of those coloured translucent shapes children have that slot together – the plot has different prisms of light and different shapes and perspectives but they all fit together into one hugely satisfying read that has fabulous resolution. I really enjoyed the contrast of first and third person perspectives too.

I found the relationship between Linda and Gabriel heart-breaking and became so enmeshed in their lives that I couldn’t avoid an emotional interest in what happened to them. Colette McBeth is so skilled in exploring relationships and why we behave as we do that I defy anyone reading An Act of Silence not to look at those around them and wonder what is really going on in their lives.

An Act of Silence reverberated with so much significance to today’s society. I kept thinking of Joseph Conrad’s ‘thin veneer of civilisation’ and how we often don’t know, or don’t care to know, the truth staring us in the face. Reading An Act of Silence made me feel almost as guilty as those who maintain an act of silence in the story. This is such clever writing that upends the reader’s morality and makes them ask, ‘What would I do?’. This was a very disturbing aspect so that I felt almost as tainted as some of the characters when I realised I would probably behave the same way as Linda.

If you want a book to thoroughly entertain you, then Colette McBeth’s An Act of Silence is for you. If, however, you want a book that is highly entertaining, skilfully plotted, interesting, beautifully written and completely compelling so that it really makes you think, then An Act of Silence is even more for you. It is brilliant and I loved it.

About Colette McBeth

Colette-McBeth

Colette McBeth is the critically acclaimed author of psychological thrillers Precious Thing and The Life I Left Behind.

Colette was a BBC TV News television correspondent for ten years, during which time she covered many major crime stories and worked out of Westminster as a political reporter.

She lives on the South Coast with her husband and three children.

You can follow Colette on Twitter, find her on Facebook and visit her website.

An Extract from Always In My Heart, by Pam Weaver

Always in my heart cover.jpg

I love historical fiction so I’m thrilled to be part of the launch celebrations for Always In My Heart by Pam Weaver. Not only do I have an extract to share, but I also have an answer to a question I posed to Pam!

Always In My Heart was published by Pan on 15th June and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback through the publisher links here.

Always In My Heart

Always in my heart cover.jpg

1939. When war is declared, twins Shirley and Tom are evacuated to the coastal town of Worthing. Almost fourteen, they are very close to their mother, but leaving London is the only way to keep them safe. Shirley is the bright one of the pair, whereas Tom is sometimes slow to understand the world around him. But Shirley helps him get by and is his best friend and ally.

The twins are taken in by a local farmer, but their new home quickly proves to be far from a rural dream. Tom is forced to do back-breaking work and sleep under the stairs each night. The farmer’s wife is heavily pregnant, and seems to live in fear of him. She’s refusing all midwives, so it will be up to Shirley, with no experience in the matter, to help her deliver her baby.

Their new teacher at the local school notices that something is not right with the children, but the farmer keeps the twins from seeing anyone, even their own mother. As the cold weather sets in and Tom falls ill, will Shirley be able to find a way out for them both?

An Extract from Always In My Heart

Shirley and her brother Tom are on a school trip

Before long, someone spotted the sea and the excitement in the coach reached its peak.

‘I wish we had time to go round the shops when we get there,’ Helen whispered. ‘I wanted to buy a lipstick.’

Ann’s eyes grew wide. ‘Will your mum let you wear lipstick?’

‘Of course not,’ said Helen. ‘I’d only put it on when she’s not around.’

‘They’re very expensive,’ Shirley remarked.

‘Well, I’ve seen them in Woolworths for one and eleven,’ said Helen with a defiant shrug of her shoulder. Shirley was suddenly tempted to buy one herself. Everybody said she looked more like seventeen than fifteen. If she wore lipstick, she might even get into the pictures to see an X-film on her own. They said Edward G. Robinson was very good. She’d always wanted to see him.

‘Why don’t we go to Woolworths?’ she said, feeling deliciously naughty. ‘If we get caught, we could always pretend we got lost trying to find the toilets.’ The three of them looked at each other with sparkling eyes as they savoured the idea of their own wickedness.

Ann took in a breath. ‘Go on, then. Let’s do it.’

‘Can I come too?’ Tom’s voice boomed through the coach and several people turned round. Shirley jumped. Her brother been so quiet since they’d all got back in the coach she’d almost forgotten he was there. Helen and Ann sat up straight and gazed out of their window, doing their best to pretend they didn’t know what he was talking about.

‘Shh,’ Shirley said, elbowing him as she looked around nervously. ‘And no, you can’t.’

Tom was puzzled. ‘Why not? I’d like to go to Woolworths. I could get a lipstick too. Mum said I should stay with you all the time.’

Listening to the stifled giggles all around her, Shirley felt her heart sink. Now she was torn. She desperately wanted to be with her friends, but it would be no fun at all with Tom tagging along, and besides, he was bound to give the game away.

‘Let me come, Shirl. Please. I want to go to Woolworths.’

‘All right, all right,’ said Shirley. ‘Just keep your voice down, will you?’ He stayed silent for about thirty seconds and then said in a voice just as loud as before, ‘Why do I have to keep my voice down? Is it a secret, Shirl?’

‘We’re not taking him, Shirley,’ Helen hissed when Shirley glanced at her, and rolled her eyes.

Shirley looked at them helplessly, but Helen and Ann just glared at her and she knew then that she wouldn’t be going to buy lipsticks with them. Now she was annoyed with Tom. His crass behaviour had spoiled something that promised to be a little bit exciting, but at the same time, she knew she wouldn’t be angry for long. Her brother couldn’t help the way he was.

‘I’m not going anywhere without you, Tom,’ she said. ‘All right?’ He nodded cheerfully.

‘All right, Shirl.’ When she turned her attention back to her friends.

Helen and Ann had their heads together and were whispering. Shirley felt her stomach tighten with disappointment. She loved her brother, but because of him, she was often left out of things. Helen and Ann were busy planning, and once again Shirley wasn’t included.

Home

A Guest Response by Pam Weaver

I’m thrilled that I was also able to ask Pam what home means to her and this is what she told me:

What is home?

Home is where I can undo my bra and relax in front of the telly. It’s where I can leave the messy kitchen until I’m ready to clear up. It’s where my husband is and the place where my kids and grandkids love to come for Sunday lunch. Home is where my friends have shared their joys and sorrows at my kitchen table over a cup of tea.

As Dorothy once said, ‘There’s no place like home.’

(You’re absolutely right Pam!)

About Pam Weaver

Pam Weaver

Pam Weaver is a bestselling author of saga novels set in Worthing, including There’s Always Tomorrow, Better Days Will Come, Pack Up Your Troubles, For Better For Worse, Blue Moon and Love Walked Right In. Pam’s inspiration comes from her love of people and their stories and her passion for the town where her novels are set. She is married with two grown-up daughters and lives in Worthing.

You can find Pam on Facebook and Twitter.

An Extract From The Beta Mum: Adventures in Alpha Land, by Isabella Davidson

beta mum

As someone who’s always been a bit of a Beta rather than an Alpha person, it gives me very great pleasure to host an extract from Isabella Davidson’s novel The Beta Mum: Adventures in Alpha Land.

The Beta Mum: Adventures in Alpha Land is out today from Silverwood and is available for purchase in paperback here.

The Beta Mum: Adventures in Alpha Land

beta mum

When Sophie Bennett moves from a quiet sleepy suburb of Toronto to glitzy west London, she doesn’t know where she has landed: Venus or Mars. Her three-year-old daughter Kaya attends Cherry Blossoms, the most exclusive nursery in London, where Sophie finds herself adrift in a sea of Alpha Mums. These mothers are glamorous, gorgeous, competitive and super rich, especially Kelly, the blonde, beautiful and bitchy class rep.

Struggling to fit in and feeling increasingly isolated, Sophie starts The Beta Mum, an anonymous blog describing her struggles with the Alpha Mums. But when her blog goes viral, she risks ruining everything for herself and her daughter. How long will it be until they discover her true identity? Is her marriage strong enough to survive one of her follower’s advances? And will she ever fit in with the Alpha Mums?

An Extract from The Beta Mum: Adventures in Alpha Land

From Chapter 11

A huge life-sized, plush, golden giraffe with scattered spots stared at me giving me the eye, as if to say ‘I know who you are, Sophie Bennett, you’re not one of them. You’re one of us. You’re an onlooker.’ The winding staircase of Serafina’s member’s club had led me down into Serafina’s nightclub where I had found myself face to face with the giant giraffe.

I had read up on (googled) Serafina’s before coming; it was an exclusive member’s club costing £3,000 a year for a membership and had welcomed everyone from Tom Cruise to Prince William through its doors with three bar areas, two restaurants, one nightclub and 16 hotel rooms. The restaurant had poached a chef from Nobu and served fusion-food classics including tuna tartare, lobster tempura and black miso cod. The bar areas channelled the Dolce Vita vibe, with white-uniformed barmen, serving Martinis to show off their mixology skills and drinks made with absinthe.

The nightclub had an upscale, louche, bordello-like feel to it, in keeping with its location, the old respectable (or rather unrespectable) red light district in Mayfair. It was dark and windowless, with its burgundy walls draped with red velvet curtains. On my left stood a glittering bar where late twenty-somethings with youthful aspirations were dressed to impress and stood drinking champagne and colourful cocktails adorned with edible flowers. On my right, I saw some familiar faces from the nursery pick-ups and drop-offs heading towards the direction of a private room.

I squeezed Michael’s hand as we walked in their direction. My heart pounded just a bit faster than I wanted it to and my social anxiety increased with every step I made towards the private room. I wanted to be anywhere but here, ideally sitting in front of our TV with my Roots sweatshirt/sweatpants combo or in front of my laptop, hiding behind a screen rather than exposing my vulnerabilities to the Alphas. This was not the usual parents’ evening in the school gym with soft-drinks-and-pizza-slices.

That night, Kelly wore a tight, cerulean, asymmetrical, skin-tight dress, and Becky wore a wrap dress with what looked like a flowery red, pink and purple print. I sidled up to them, seeing no other familiar faces and since they were standing next to Michael.

‘Hi, it’s nice to see both of you again. I wanted to ask you about the winter fair and how I could volunteer,’ I said to both of them.

Kelly’s face looked blank, not registering who I was, despite having met numerous times.

‘Hi Sophie,’ Becky said. ‘We are planning on sending out an email about the winter fair in the next few days,’

‘Oh, I didn’t recognise you at all, Sophie darling.’ Kelly’s face now showed some recognition. ‘You look completely different in a dress and heels. You look … taller … and prettier. Don’t you usually always wear jeans and converse?’

‘Yes … but I thought I should try to “Keep up with the Cherry Blossoms Mums” tonight.’ I tried to crack a joke, which clearly went over their heads, as they continued to look at me as if I were commenting on the weather.

‘You should dress up more often, Sophie, you look so much better in a dress. And you should wear make-up. It really brings out your eyes,’ Kelly went on. ‘And it’s nice to see you wearing proper shoes. We’re a bit too old to be wearing Converse, don’t you think?’ She gave me her pursed, condescending smile.

What I really wanted to do was roll my eyes at her, but I decided that it was too early in the night to start making enemies. Instead, I gulped down my champagne and took another one from a passing waitress.

‘Kelly, I love your shoes!’ Becky exclaimed, looking down at Kelly’s shoes as if they were made of gold, diverting the conversation away from my apparently underachieving daily dress sense.

‘Oh, thanks, Becky,’ Kelly contently smiled. ‘They’re Zoe Phillips.

‘Who’s Zoe Phillips?’ I shyly asked, feeling ignorant.

‘You don’t know Zoe Phillips?’ Kelly looked at me incredulously and patronisingly, wide-eyed, with faint disdain as if I had admitted to never having heard of Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King. ‘They’re Jimmy Choos but better. And much more exclusive. She’s the hottest shoe designer right now. I had to wait four weeks for them to be made – bespoke – and to have my initials inscribed in the sole. Just in case I lose them.’ She laughed. ‘Do you know she’s going to be a Cherry Blossoms mum soon? She has a 1-year-old and lives in Notting Hill, so it’s really close to her.’

‘I live in Notting Hill.’ I said, trying to make up for my embarrassment.

‘Oh, I lived in Notting Hill once, but it was too dodgy. I realised that I am an Upper East Side girl at heart,’ Kelly said. ‘So now I live in Kensington and I feel much safer.’

Kelly couldn’t help herself but to criticise every word I uttered. I took another sip of my champagne and then moved on to a Martini to assuage Kelly’s criticisms…

About Isabella Davidson

beta mum

Isabella Davidson is the author of the popular blog, Notting Hill Yummy Mummy, which chronicles the entertaining lives of west London residents. Through the blog, she has written features for the Times, the Saturday Times Magazine, Corner Magazine, efinancial and has been interviewed by the Times, Financial Times, Harper’s Bazaar, Spectator magazine, the Saturday Times Magazine and many more.

She wrote The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land during a Faber Academy Novel Writing course. Prior to starting her writing career, she worked for a Nobel Prize winning humanitarian organization and as a doctor for the National Health Service in the UK. She grew up living in four different continents before settling down in London fifteen years ago. She currently lives in west London with her husband and her two small children.

You can follow Isabella on Twitter and visit her blog.

UK Giveaway: The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

the lying game

Having previously loved reading Ruth Ware (you can read my review of In a Dark, Dark Wood here), I’m thrilled to be part of the launch celebrations for her latest novel The Lying Game.

Published on 15th June 2017, by Vintage Books, an imprint of Penguin, The Lying Game is available for purchase in ebook and hardback, with paperback pre-order, here.

However, if you live in the UK you could win a signed copy of The Lying Game by taking part in the giveaway at the bottom of this blog post. It’s a little bit different to the usual ones!

The Lying Game

the lying game

Four friends. One promise. But someone isn’t telling the truth. The twisting new mystery from bestselling phenomenon Ruth Ware.

The text message arrives in the small hours of the night. It’s just three words: I need you.

Isa drops everything, takes her baby daughter and heads straight to Salten. She spent the most significant days of her life at boarding school on the marshes there, days which still cast their shadow over her.

At school Isa and her three best friends used to play the Lying Game. They competed to convince people of the most outrageous stories. Now, after seventeen years of secrets, something terrible has been found on the beach. Something which will force Isa to confront her past, together with the three women she hasn’t seen for years, but has never forgotten.

Theirs is no cosy reunion: Salten isn’t a safe place for them, not after what they did. It’s time for the women to get their story straight…

About Ruth Ware

ruth ware

Ruth Ware’s first two thrillers, In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10, were international smash-hits, and appeared on bestseller list around the world, including the Sunday Times and New York Times. The film rights to her debut were snapped up by New Line Cinema, and her books are published in more than 40 languages.

Ruth lives near Brighton with her family.

You can follow Ruth on Twitter @RuthWareWriter and visit her website.

Giveaway of The Lying Game

the lying game

To be added into the names pulled out of the hat, all you need to do is choose which of the following facts about me is a lie! UK only I’m afraid.

#TheLyingGame poster

The winner will receive a signed copy of The Lying Game. To enter simply leave a blog post comment and/or tweet your response using the #TheLyingGame to @Lindahill50Hill by UK midnight on Sunday 18th June 2017. If you include @RuthWareWriter, @vintagebooks or @DeadGoodBooks in your tweet you’ll be given an extra entry for each one! Good luck and don’t forget the hashtag #TheLyingGame!