Staying in with A.J.Waines

Don't-you-Dare Medium

It’s a genuine pleasure to welcome back A.J. Waines to Linda’s Book Bag today. I’ve met Alison in real life (she’s absolutely lovely) and have featured her before, having thoroughly enjoyed and reviewed both No Longer Safe here and Inside the Whispers here where you can also read an extract from the book. I also have an extract from another of Alison’s books, Lost in the Lake here.

Today I’m lucky enough to be staying in with Alison as she tells me about another of her books.

Staying in with A.J. Waines

Welcome back to Linda’s Book Bag Alison. Thanks so much for staying in with me today.

Thank you for hosting me, Linda, I know that tickets for your sofa are at a premium, so I’m delighted to be here!

(Ha! I’ve been lucky enough to stay in with well over 100 authors since I introduced this feature in 1st January! I’d love to have an actual party with you all.)

Tell me, Alison, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

Don't-you-Dare Medium

I’ve brought along Don’t you Dare, my latest psychological thriller. It’s my seventh novel, but the first one to be published by Bloodhound Books, who I’m thrilled to say, offered me a two-book deal last year.

(How brilliant. Congratulations on both Don’t You Dare and the new publishing deal.)

What can we expect from an evening in with Don’t you Dare?

Don’t you Dare is unusual for a crime novel, in that someone is killed right at the start and we know who did it. What we don’t know is why and more importantly, what’s going to happen next. The book opens with a misunderstanding that leaves a mother and daughter trapped in a terrible dilemma. Neither of them plans to commit a crime, but something awful takes place that sends their lives spiralling out of control. The tension in the book comes from the different ways in which they handle what they’ve done. Who is going to keep their nerve? Who’ll be the first to crack? It’s a nail-biting ride and perfect (I hope) for fans of Ruth Ware, C.L Taylor and Clare Mackintosh!

(This sounds perfect!)

If it’s okay, I’d love to share the opening with you.

(Oh yes – please do.)

Chapter One

Rachel

Wednesday evening, March 8

I knew something was wrong the moment I slipped the key into the lock.

A light was visible through the keyhole. I teased the door open a fraction and stopped dead. The fluorescent strip light wasn’t the source, instead there was a dim glow at the far end of the cellar. I edged the door open another couple of inches with my foot, holding it firm against the self-closing spring. The beam was coming from behind the empty stainless-steel kegs stacked on the floor under the trap door. Was there a cleaner here with a mop? The landlord fixing a leak? It couldn’t be. The landlord was in Marbella and the pub had been shut for nearly two weeks for refurbishments. No one had keys but me. There was only one explanation. An intruder must have got in and was snooping around with a torch.

I stood frozen on the top step, torn about what to do. If I backed out now I’d attract attention – the door always made a juddering sound when it closed. If I called the police from where I stood, I might be overheard. I had my eyes fixed on the light the whole time, hardly daring to blink, waiting for the beam to bob around to see which direction the burglar was moving in. Except the light didn’t move.

A man groaned, then came a scuffle, then a woman whimpering.

‘No. Let me go…get your filthy hands off me!’

Beth.

I didn’t need to hear anymore. I knew my daughter’s voice anywhere and could tell instantly what was going on. In that split second, my mind was on one thing and one thing alone.

(Argh! You can’t leave us there. I’m now desperate to know what happens next!)

Whilst I recover from that opening, tell me, what else have you brought along and why?

I’ve got some photos I’d like to spread out on your coffee table, if I may?

(Oh yes you may. I love a good snoop over other people’s photos.)

They are of the house where the book is set and also some local panoramas which inspired a number of scenes. Let me explain a little. Recently, my husband and I were house-hunting and we looked at properties in Winchester. One of them was very run down with damp and mould. This was the back garden. I was hoping for a cottage garden with trees and sumptuous borders, so this would have needed a lot of work.

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(Looks a bit like my own garden sadly Alison – take a look out of the conservatory window!)

What struck me most, however, was the odd arrangement in the bathroom.

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It’s called a ‘Jack and Jill’ bathroom and I’d never come across one before. In order to save space, it sits between two bedrooms and has equal access from both sides. What you need to remember when you use it, is to lock the door to the room which isn’t yours! If you’re a guest, you must lock both, of course. Otherwise your privacy is compromised. I was fascinated by this and the layout plays a part in the story.

(That just shows you’re a writer. They always manage to magpie away details from what appears to be a mundane event to use as inspiration for writing.)

In the final stages of writing the book, I changed the ending. The last scenes were originally going to be set on a farm, with a character in the story being trapped in a horse-box that was about to go over the edge of the cliff. I had second thoughts about that, because it didn’t quite fit with what I wanted to have happen.

Hamblemarina

In real life, we’d moved house to a village on the south coast called Hamble-Le-Rice, in the end (not Winchester) and these photos show some of the magnificent views I can see only five minutes from the house. As a result, one of my favourite themes in all my novels – water (lakes, the sea, rivers) – plays a part. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I can’t say any more than that…

(You’re doing it again! I know I won’t rest until I’ve read Don’t You Dare now.)

Thanks so much for staying in with me Alison, to tell me all about Don’t You Dare. Apart from the frustration of not having read the book yet, I’ve really enjoyed our evening in.

Thanks Linda.

Don’t You Dare

Don't-you-Dare Medium

What if your daughter becomes your enemy?

When barmaid, Rachel, discovers her soon-to-be-married daughter, Beth,​ pinned down by a stranger in the pub cellar, Rachel lashes out in panic and the intruder ends up dead. In desperation, Rachel convinces Beth they should cover up the crime and go ahead with the planned wedding in one month’s time.

Rachel, however, has her own reasons for not involving the police.

Hiding their dreadful secret is harder than they both imagined and as the big day approaches and the lies multiply, Beth becomes a liability. Rachel looks on in dismay at the hen party​ ​when, after too many drinks, Beth declares she’s about to make a special announcement. But before Beth can say a word, she disappears…

When two people share a chilling secret, can both hold their nerve?

This book explores the dark side of a mother-daughter relationship when pushed to the limit.

It will appeal to fans of authors like Ruth Ware, Clare Mackintosh and C.L. Taylor.

Don’t you Dare is available to buy from your local Amazon site, here in the UK and here in the US.

About A.J. Waines

AJW3

AJ Waines has sold over 450,000 books worldwide and topped the UK and Australian Kindle Charts in two consecutive years with her number one bestseller, Girl on a Train. Following fifteen years as a psychotherapist, she is now a full-time novelist with publishing deals in UK, France, Germany, Norway, Hungary and USA (audiobooks).

Her fourth psychological thriller, No Longer Safe, sold over 30,000 copies in the first month, in thirteen countries. AJ Waines has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and has been ranked a Top 10 UK author on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). She lives in Hampshire, UK, with her husband.

Find AJ Waines’ books here, visit her website and blog, follow her on Twitter @AJWAines, Facebook or subscribe to her Newsletter.

Discussing One Summer in Italy with Sue Moorcroft

One Summer in Italy

Regular Linda’s Book Bag readers might be forgiven for thinking I’ve become a Sue Moorcroft stalker as she seems to be featured on the blog nearly as often as me, but actually I’m one of a privileged street team who get to meet up with Sue regularly in real life and have early copies of her books. It’s such a treat to be part of that team.

I’m delighted to be hosting Sue again today as we stay in together to chat all about her latest book, One Summer in Italy.

You can see other Linda’s Book Bag posts with Sue in the following links:

An interview with Sue Moorcroft

A guest post from Sue on over-sharing and my review of The Christmas Promise

A guest post from Sue on her fantasy holiday companions

My review of Just For The Holidays

A guest post from Sue on loving a village book

My Review of The Little Village Christmas

Staying in with Sue Moorcroft

Hi Sue and welcome back to Linda’s Book Bag.

Hi Linda!

Thanks so much for staying in with me tonight.

Thanks for inviting me over this evening. It’s a while since we got together – the last Team Sue Moorcroft Christmas lunch, I think – so it’s lovely to see you.

(You’re right – a mad Christmas lunch I think. I was sorry I couldn’t make the recent one on Saturday too as they are always good fun – and include chocolate – usually chocolate brownies!)

I think I know the answer to this, but which of your books have you brought along this evening? Why have you chosen it?

One Summer in Italy

I’ve brought my latest: One Summer in Italy. It’s set in the Apennine Mountains in the region of Umbria. I love Italy and have been lucky enough to spend a week or two there each summer for the last five years. Knowing how much you like to travel yourself, I thought you might like it.

(I do indeed like to travel and one of these years I’m going to come with you to Italy on a writing retreat and get my own novel finished!)

What can we expect from One Summer in Italy?

It’s a story set around a series of promises Sofia makes to her father, Aldo. Poor Aldo has had heart trouble for many years and Sofia has spent half of her life as his carer. Before he dies, he asks her to do all the things she hasn’t been able to do: to be free as a young independent woman should be, to travel, and visit Aldo’s hometown, Montelibertà, and say sorry to his brother Gianni. As he’s always been vague about his family and why he never goes home, Sofia’s intrigued.

After years of her main companion being her dad, she speaks Italian well enough to get herself a job as a waitress in the garden café at the front of a hotel, Casa Felice in Montelibertà. She doesn’t want responsibility, or to care for anyone, or to be inside. Unfortunately, she’s almost embroiled with poor Amy, who’s left her home in Germany after discovering a secret that has blown her family apart. She ends up taking responsibility for Amy, who really does need a friend, especially as mercurial hotel owner Benedetta is apt to sack seasonal workers for the least thing. Happily, Sofia and Amy are befriended by English tourist Levi Gunn who’s in Montelibertà to paint watercolours and roar around on his motorbike. He helps calm Benedetta down … at least at first. Then he becomes part of the problem.

(This sounds such a great read. I’m so glad I have One Summer in Italy on my TBR.)

One Summer in Italy is about new beginnings, old wounds, and what you give up for those you love. The most important promise Aldo extracts from Sofia is to be happy. It’s tricky, sometimes. Will she get there in the end?

(I think if we can be happy, that’s the most wonderful thing in life Sue.)

What else have you brought along – and why?

 Chocolate.

(Ha! I knew it!)

tobe

You didn’t really think I wouldn’t, did you? I’ve brought plenty for you too – a Toblerone bar and chocolate brownies with chocolate ice cream. (May I stick that in your freezer? Thanks.)

brownie

(You may – though you’ll notice I had to do a quality control on the Toblerone…)

I’ve also brought white wine: Orvieto Classico. I had to buy it in the UK, not in Umbria, though Aldo tells Sofia to drink it in Montelibertà, as it should be drunk, fermented for the Italian palate. I’m really pleased that Aldo recommended it to Sofia, though, because it’s my new favourite.

wine

You can have all the wine Sue and I’ll stick to the chocolate. Thanks so much for staying in with me and telling us all about One Summer In Italy. I can’t wait to read it.

Thanks for inviting me over! See you again soon. x

Definitely!

One Summer in Italy

One Summer in Italy

When Sofia Bianchi’s father Aldo dies, it makes her stop and look at things afresh. Having been his carer for so many years, she knows it’s time for her to live her own life – and to fulfil some promises she made to Aldo in his final days.

So there’s nothing for it but to escape to Italy’s Umbrian mountains where, tucked away in a sleepy Italian village, lie plenty of family secrets waiting to be discovered. There, Sofia also finds Amy who is desperately trying to find her way in life after discovering her dad isn’t her biological father.

Sofia sets about helping Amy through this difficult time, but it’s the handsome Levi who proves to be the biggest distraction for Sofia, as her new life starts to take off…

Published by Harper Collins’ imprint Avon Books, One Summer in Italy is available for purchase through these links.

About Sue Moorcroft

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Award winning author Sue Moorcroft writes contemporary women’s fiction with occasionally unexpected themes. The Wedding ProposalDream a Little Dream and Is This Love? were all nominated for Readers’ Best Romantic Read Awards. Love & Freedom won the Best Romantic Read Award 2011 and Dream a Little Dream was nominated for a RoNA in 2013. Sue’s a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner, a past vice chair of the RNA and editor of its two anthologies.

The Christmas Promise was a Kindle No.1 Best Seller and held the No.1 slot at Christmas!

Sue also writes short stories, serials, articles, writing ‘how to’ and is a creative writing tutor.

You can follow Sue on Twitter @SueMoorcroft, find her on Facebook and visit her website.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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Juliet and Romeo by David Hewson

juliet and Romeo cover

As an ex-English teacher who has taught Shakespeare’s version of Romeo and Juliet I am delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for a brand new retelling of the story, Juliet and Romeo, by David Hewson. Not only do I have my review of Juliet and Romeo today, but I am thrilled to have been able to ask David Hewson a little bit about the book.

Published by The Dome Press, Juliet and Romeo is available for purchase here.

Juliet and Romeo

juliet and Romeo cover

Two young people meet: Romeo, desperate for love before being sent away to study, and Juliet facing a forced marriage to a nobleman she doesn’t know. Fate and circumstance bring them together in a desperate attempt to thwart their parents with a secret marriage.

But in a single fateful week, their intricate scheming falls terribly apart.

Shakespeare’s most well-known and well-loved play has been turned in to a gripping romantic thriller with a modern twist.

Rich with the sights and sounds of medieval Italy, peopled with a vibrant cast of characters who spring from the page, this is Shakespeare as you’ve never read it before.

An Interview with David Hewson

Thanks so much for agreeing to answer my questions about Juliet and Romeo David. Firstly, why did you choose Romeo and Juliet as opposed to any other Shakespeare play as a stimulus for your writing?

Partly because it’s so very well known – and so very misunderstood. It’s far from being a simple love story. There’s a lot more going on underneath the surface there to do with identity, personal freedom, the gulfs between the ages and issues of class…. I felt there was a lot to work with.

I totally agree – and I loved the way you explored the character of the nurse further.

How important do you think reimaginings are to engaging a modern audience in established stories?

To be honest I don’t know. I didn’t set out to modernise Shakespeare here. I wanted to offer a new perspective on a classic story – one that isn’t Shakespeare’s in truth since it had been knocking round as a folk myth for a good century before he picked it up. My aim was to try to produce a modern, easy-to-read and imaginative reworking of that original tale, but still set in historic Verona.

Yes, I think it’s easy to forget that Shakespeare wasn’t ‘original’ in his stories but used sources from all over the place.

That said, what techniques did you employ in order to retain an authentic feel without becoming a pastiche of Shakespeare’s writing?

The first thing I did was go to Verona and wander the streets to try make sure the story would fit using that as a canvas. Fortunately it does – the city hasn’t changed much at all and you can still see some of the key locations used, from the Piazza Erbe to San Zeno and the Arena. The second thing was to mesh in the history of 1499 into the story. This is the birth of the Renaissance which is key because I see Juliet as someone who very much identifies with the new mood of the times. Finally I wanted the language to be plain and modern, not fake Shakespeare. I wouldn’t use anachronisms – having someone say OK for example. But I don’t want people to be foxed by the prose.

And I think you got it spot on. 

In your version of the story, the balance of power is weighted more towards Juliet than Romeo (as suggested by your title). Why did you choose this approach?

Because for me Juliet is the focus of the story. She’s the one truly in jeopardy, facing a forced marriage that’s as good as a death sentence. Romeo is much less taxed – he simply wants to be in love with a beautiful girl. Of course it was hard for Shakespeare to focus so much on Juliet because he couldn’t use a female actor in the part – it would be a boy since women weren’t allowed on the stage back then.

I found Juliet and Romeo appealed to all the reader’s senses. How far was this deliberate in order to create an authentic sense of the era and how far did it arise naturally out of your writing?

Drama demands locations and sets; books require worlds. You don’t just need to see the Verona of 1499. You must hear it, smell it, taste it, know what it’s like to walk those cobbled streets. Research, imagination and lots and lots of notes and photos go to make the world in my head before I start writing.

Well they certainly worked for me!

The events in Juliet and Romeo’s Verona are well known. Who do you think is to blame for them?

Ultimately Romeo’s to blame for the way the story pans out I’m afraid. He thinks he’s a child of the Renaissance too, because that’s what Juliet wants him to be. But when push comes to shove he can’t stop himself chasing Tybalt and killing him in the street. It’s stupid since Escalus, the boss of Verona, has already said that anyone breaking the peace would be hanged. Worse, Romeo in the heat of the moment blames Juliet because ‘love has made him weak’. If he really were the Renaissance soul he thought he would have realised it was arrogance, pride and the old violent ways that made him weak, and love would have made him strong enough to resist those.

Yes. He hardly embodies a cunning Machiavellian Renaissance insight does he?

Without wishing to spoil the book for those who have yet to read it, you have made significant changes to some events and have developed many of the minor characters. How did you make those changes and what did you think a reader reaction might be?

My job’s to produce a compelling story not pay homage to Shakespeare or the writers of the story who came before. Shakespeare used other material for so many of his plays – and wasn’t afraid to change the story there. It’s what writers do when we adapt material. We look for creative change not simple photocopying. How readers will react… I guess I’ll know very soon. But the audio version on which this was based is up from an audio Oscar in New York this month, nominated as best original audio of 2017, so I’m hopeful I’ll escape with my life!

Oh I think you will – and congratulations on that nomination!

Which other Shakespeare play might you use as a stimulus in future and why?

Tough one that – would depend on who would be available for the performance. If I could get Richard Armitage back into the studio again one day then…. Well we’ll have to see.

If you could make it King Lear I’d be very grateful!

Thanks so much David, for telling us a bit about the background to Juliet and Romeo. I’ve found your responses to my questions very interesting.

My Review of Juliet and Romeo

I’ve always been wary of reading modern adaptations of Shakespeare and approached Juliet and Romeo with some trepidation.

However, I found David Hewson’s version of this classic tale totally interesting and engaging. I felt considerable research had gone into creating an historically and geographically convincing story whilst adding in greater depth and detail of the times so that there is a pleasing and entertaining story that didn’t need any knowledge of Shakespeare and yet managed to retain a feeling of authenticity. There is still enough of the original well known story to satisfy purists completely and I liked the iterative image of death throughout and the way Queen Mab’s influence is given greater status. The links with contemporary figures of the era such as Machiavelli added multiple layers of extra interest.

Most though provoking and fascinating for me was the shift in the balance of the relationship between Juliet and Romeo, flagged from the initial reversal of their names in the presentation of the title. Whilst Juliet is always shown as feisty, I felt she had even greater power and was surprised that Romeo still retained my empathy even when he appeared fairly emasculated. Similarly, I found the depth of violence in Lord Capulet emphasised by David Henson was totally plausible so that the full range of characters actually felt more rounded than in Shakespeare’s play.

I thoroughly enjoyed the overall quality of the writing too. David Hewson makes highly effective use of the senses so that there is a vibrancy and authenticity to the story. There’s evocative and brilliantly researched food, music, politics and geographical detail woven effortlessly into the narrative so that Juliet and Romeo is a hugely satisfying read.

Whilst I think some curmudgeonly readers might struggle to appreciate David Hewson’s narrative as being different from Shakespeare’s version of the story, this would be an erroneous approach as a reader. As David Hewson himself points out, Juliet and Romeo is not a ‘translation’ of Shakespeare, but rather that Shakespeare is used as a resource and stimulus for an entertaining thriller. Whilst it’s great fun to spot the direct links with Shakespeare’s version of the story, a reader doesn’t need any prior knowledge to enjoy Juliet and Romeo as an engaging narrative in its own right. Great fun to read.

About David Hewson

david hewson

David Hewson is the author of more than 20 published novels including the Pieter Vos series set in Amsterdam and the Nic Costa books set in Rome. His acclaimed book adaptations of The Killing television series were published around the world. His audio adaptations of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Hamlet with A.J. Hartley, narrated by Alan Cumming and Richard Armitage respectively, were both shortlisted for Audie Awards.

A former journalist with the Sunday Times, Independent and The Times he lives in Kent.

You can follow David on Twitter @david_hewson and visit his website. There’s more with these other bloggers too.

Juliet and Romeo blog tour

A Garden in Cornwall by Laura Briggs

A Garden In Cornwall

I am very pleased to welcome back lovely Laura Briggs to Linda’s Book Bag as part of the A Garden in Cornwall publication day push with Rachel’s Random Resources. Laura previously wrote a super guest post for the blog about the influence of Jane Austen that you can read here.  Today I have my review of Laura’s latest book A Garden in Cornwall and she is staying in with me to tell me more about it too. Not only that, but you have a chance to win your own copy of A Garden in Cornwall at the bottom of this blog post.

A Garden in Cornwall is available for purchase here.

A Garden in Cornwall

A Garden in Cornwall

With their lives exactly what they’ve always dreamed, Matt and Julianne await the arrival of the third member of their family — but their happiness is threatened when their landlady Mathilda announces her intention to sell their beloved Rosemoor Cottage for an impossible value. Devastated, Julianne struggles to accept the cold reality of her and Matt making their home elsewhere.

Matt’s life has taken a new turn as he finally puts aside his academic work to pursue his gardening hobby as a career: his first new job as a landscape designer involves neglected Penwill Hall’s ‘lost’ garden — one with a truly romantic Cornish past. But the task of restoring its legendary beauty from nearly seventy years ago proves difficult among the ruins lost in weeds and wilderness.

With notions of secret gardens and wartime stories echoing in her thoughts, Julianne is determined to help Matt and the estate’s new owner after the discovery of a hidden mural in the hall itself, depicting a breathtaking garden that may well be the lost one. Her efforts to uncover the past lead her to a curmudgeonly local gardener who just may hold the knowledge that would restore the ‘lost garden’ to its former glory. Will Julianne’s quest help her find a way to deal with losing the home she loves?

Hellos and farewells abound as Dinah returns to lend a helping hand at Cliffs House and Julianne relives her favorite memories of her and Matt’s beloved cottage in Book Twelve — the final installment in the bestselling series A Wedding In Cornwall.

Staying in With Laura Briggs

It’s lovely to have you back on the blog Laura. Thanks so much for staying in with me to tell us all about A Garden in Cornwall.

A Garden in Cornwall

Thank you so much, Linda, for inviting me to share my book with your readers!

A Garden in Cornwall is actually the final book in my series of romantic novellas known as A Wedding in Cornwall. It concludes the adventures of American event planner Julianne who came ‘across the Pond’ in book one in search of a new job and ended up finding more than she ever dreamed of—including a romance with Matthew, a gardener and scientist with Ross Poldark-esque looks!

Writing this series has been wonderfully fun, and after 12 books with the same characters, it would be hard not to feel a little emotional as Julianne’s story draws to a close. I love researching the beautiful and unique county of Cornwall in my efforts to bring my fictional village to life, and the pictures alone tell me it’s a place I would definitely love to visit. It’s always great to hear from readers who say that my novellas truly evoke the Cornish countryside for them, since that was certainly a big part of my goal when fashioning the stories.

I’m going to have to start at the beginning with these as I really enjoyed A Garden in Cornwall!

What can we expect from an evening in with A Garden in Cornwall?

Expect to be swept away to a fictional part of Cornwall, where the ruins of a lost garden lead to forgotten pieces of the past. If you’re a fan of The Secret Garden, either the classic novel or the film adaptations, I hope you’ll find a little of that story’s magic in the descriptions of flora and fauna and the notion of restoring a long neglected garden to its former beauty.

(I thought the descriptions were very vivid Laura.)

What else have you brought along and why? 

oggie

I’ve brought along the traditional Cornish meat pie known as an ‘oggie’—my heroine, Julianne, enjoys eating these at Charlotte’s bakery in the village where she lives, and though I’ve never tried one myself, I have to say they sound quite scrumptious! For something to drink, I thought a nice ‘cuppa’ might hit the spot (I would love to experience an authentic English teatime meal someday—maybe even in a Cornish village, who knows!).

As you’ve brought something I love eating – an oggie – you’re welcome back any time for a traditional English teatime meal Laura. Thanks so much for telling us more about A Garden in Cornwall.

My Review of A Garden in Cornwall

With a baby on the way, Matt and Julianne have some big challenges and decisions to make.

Not having read any of the previous books in the A Wedding in Cornwall series, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I found that I didn’t need any previous knowledge of plots or characters to enjoy A Garden in Cornwall.

There’s a delightful story here as the mystery behind the lost gardens at Penwill Hall unfolds so that whilst this is a cosy chick-lit style read, A Garden In Cornwall has other layers too. As a keen gardener I loved the attention to detail in naming the plants and describing the planting. I felt Laura Briggs had really researched her topic well.

I enjoyed meeting the cast of characters. I have no idea whether some or all have been in previous books and it simply didn’t matter. There was sufficient detail to bring them all to life for a new reader. I especially liked Old Bill and the values he stands for. I thought Laura Briggs used him beautifully to show how life can impact on us and how we can still live in the present whilst remaining true to our past. It also made a real change to see how the established relationship between Juli and Matt develops as they rise to the challenges of life.

In fact, it was the handling of the different themes that I appreciated the most. Juli and Matt have some difficult choices to make but I thought their attitude and approach to life was a great lesson for us all. I felt that Laura Briggs illustrated how we can change and adapt and how we never really know quite what goes on underneath other people’s personas really well.

A Garden in Cornwall is a charming read.

About Laura Briggs

A Garden in Cornwalll - Author photo Laura Briggs

Laura Briggs is the author of several lighthearted romance novels and novellas, including the bestselling Amazon UK series A Wedding in Cornwall. She has a fondness for vintage-style dresses (especially ones with polka dots), and reads everything from Jane Austen to modern day mysteries. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family, caring for her pets, going to movies and plays, and trying new restaurants.

You can follow Laura on Twitter @PaperDollWrites, find her on Facebook, visit her blog and see all her lovely books here.

Giveaway

A Garden in Cornwall

For your chance to win* an e-copy of A Garden in Cornwall click here.

Please note – this giveaway is independent of Linda’s Book Bag.

*The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then the organiser reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time the organiser will delete the data.

Death on the Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay

Death on the Cherwell

As I was off in India before last month’s U3A Reading Group and I forgot to download our book before I went I simply didn’t read it so this month I’m making sure I have read our book for discussion in plenty of time; Death on The Cherwell by Mavis Doriel Hay.

Death on the Cherwell was originally published in 1935 and was re-released by British Library Crime Classics in 2014 with an introduction by Stephen Booth. It is available for purchase here.

Death on the Cherwell

Death on the Cherwell

For Miss Cordell, principal of Persephone College, there are two great evils to be feared: unladylike behaviour among her students, and bad publicity for the college. So her prim and cosy world is turned upside down when a secret society of undergraduates meets by the river on a gloomy January afternoon, only to find the drowned body of the college bursar floating in her canoe.

The police assume that a student prank got out of hand, but the resourceful Persephone girls suspect foul play, and take the investigation into their own hands. Soon they uncover the tangled secrets that led to the bursar’s death – and the clues that point to a fellow student.

This classic mystery novel, with its evocative setting in an Oxford women’s college, is now republished for the first time since the 1930s. Includes an introduction by Stephen Booth, award-winning crime writer.

My Review of Death on the Cherwell

Persephone Ladies College in Oxford is plunged into scandal when their bursar is found floating down the river in her own canoe – murdered.

My, my. I don’t think I’ve ever been so flummoxed by writing a book review before. I honestly have no real idea what I think to Death on the Cherwell. At times I found it less of a crime thriller and more of a social commentary of a rather elitist society.

Whilst there is a crystal clear description of the college setting, I wasn’t really able to distinguish between the undergraduates especially well, except perhaps for Draga because she is ‘foreign’. And this is my difficulty. I found many aspects of Death on the Cherwell so vividly evocative of 1930s privileged England that they are almost offensive to a modern reader. The comments about Draga being odd because she’s foreign, the rather sexist, and sometimes downright misogynistic, attitudes to women felt uncomfortable and yet I did enjoy the book.

Reading Death on the Cherwell made me think of the Famous Five and Secret Seven books by Enid Blyton in my childhood so that it evoked happy memories of reading as a child. I enjoyed that fact that there was a mystery to be solved in finding out how Bursar Denning came to have drowned but was in the canoe and I found the era fascinating. The rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge, the choosing of the correct hotel to be seen in, the references to ‘lekkers’, the correct positioning of hats and having crumpets toasted on fires in rooms all provided a vivid sense of the 1930s. The concept of propriety comes roaring through the writing so that I really don’t think I’d have survived living in the era.

I think in a way, the actual plot is subsidiary for me as a reader. I enjoyed the story, I didn’t have to think too hard and I was entertained. However, more compelling was the insight into the society of the time when Death on the Cherwell was written. Reading Death on the Cherwell as a fast-paced crime thriller of the kind with which we are now familiar might leave readers disappointed. Reading it as an intellectual exercise in looking at how crime writing has changed or as an historical snapshot of a particular decade makes it engaging and fascinating. I think it’s a book that will polarise readers. When I’ve finally made up my mind what I think I’ll let you know, but I would say, read Death on the Cherwell for yourself and make your own judgement.

About Mavis Doriel Hay

Mavis Doriel Hay, also known as M. Doriel Hay, was a British author of detective fiction and of non-fiction works on handicrafts. M. Doriel Hay was born in Potters Bar in Middlesex, England in 1894 and attended St Hilda’s College, Oxford from 1913 to 1916.

Staying in with Ian Patrick

Rubicon Cover

So many wonderful bloggers are turning their hands to organising blog tours and I’m delighted to have been asked by lovely Emma of DampPebbles to take part in this one for Rubicon by Ian Patrick. I invited Ian to stay in with me to tell me all about Rubicon and luckily he agreed!

Staying in with Ian Patrick

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Ian. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

The pleasure’s all mine. Thanks so much for the invite, it’s a lovely place to chill out here.

Thanks! Though to be honest, a flick round with the duster before you arrived wouldn’t have gone amiss! I know you’ve brought Rubicon along to share this evening so why have you chosen it? 

Rubicon Cover

I only have one book published so thought that would be the best one to bring. Rubicon is my debut novel set in London. I’ve chosen this one, as it’s very special to me. Your readers may find it interesting.

(Congratulations on your debut Ian.)

What can we expect from an evening in with Rubicon?

Many questions! My book is fast, taught, suspenseful and compelling. I have a strong narrative and tend to do away with long sentences for word count sake and concentrate on the here and now. I let the reader fill in the gaps in their own way.

(It sounds as if Rubicon will be a breathless read!)

Rubicon is primarily concerned with austerity, corruption and objectives. It’s a book that explores two different officer’s values and goals. DS Sam Batford is a corrupt undercover officer seconded to the National Crime Agency to infiltrate an Organised Criminal Network run by a guy called Big H who’s importing cocaine. DCI Klara Winter is the Senior Investigating Officer on the investigation and wants the job done well and people locked up. DS Sam Batford wants the cocaine for his own gain. It’s a cat and mouse chase to the end where truth and lies collide.

Here’s one reader’s review:

It’s not hard to see why Ian Patrick’s pacey crime thriller, Rubicon, has been optioned for television. First of all, it oozes authenticity – hardly surprising given the author’s former incarnation as an undercover Met officer. Patrick is such a skilled writer that the detail is drawn lightly, with Batford’s backstory, complex chains of command and a multi-layered investigation seamlessly woven into the story.

It paints a deeply compelling portrait of corruption and moral ambiguity that’s reminiscent of Line of Duty, exploring a world in which villains and police officers are often two sides of the same coin. This is certainly true of the protagonist, Batford, a mesmerising central figure who more or less steers the entire novel in his confident first person voice.

Batford is a fascinating mix of the solitary, mindful and brutal. He’s tender one minute, dispatching raw justice the next. As for his motives, there’s a question mark hanging over him, even at the end. But for me, this is the most satisfying element. He’s human, pulled in different directions by his conflicted, troubled history, while operating in a world where doing the right thing is far from straightforward. Bring on the sequel!

(Wow! You must be thrilled – both with this review and also the optioning for television Ian. How wonderful.)

What else have you brought along and why? 

I’d like to bring and listen to The Revolution Will Not Be Televised by Gil Scott Heron as we sit back and chat. I’ve brought along my dog Fargo. He’s a thirty-kilo slouching Spinone who evokes rest and calm of an evening.

(Fargo does take up quite a bit of room on the sofa doesn’t he?)

medals

Also, my medals. They remind me of my police service as a Detective Sergeant with the Met Police. You probably wouldn’t be interested in those but if you got bored you may wish to pin them on and march around the room. You may as well take the dog with you too as he enjoys a walk.

(I am interested Ian – you’ll have to tell me more another time…)

TV 2

A Television! Why? The BBC has optioned Rubicon for a six part series! We could compare the book with the TV adaptation, if you’re still happy with my company by then!

(Wow! So exciting. You’ll definitely have to return so we can have that discussion Ian!)

wood

Finally I’d bring a Woodspirit as he reminds me of the trees, sea and air back home. It would fit with the porch we’re sat on while drinking, talking and enjoying the freedom.

(I love that Woodspirit Ian. I’m assuming it’ll be OK to hang on to him when you and Fargo leave?)

Thanks so much for staying in with me Ian and bringing along Fargo to chat all about Rubicon. It sounds like exciting times are ahead and I wish you every success.

Rubicon

Rubicon Cover

Two cops, both on different sides of the law – both with the same gangland boss in their sights.

Sam Batford is an undercover officer with the Metropolitan Police who will stop at nothing to get his hands on fearsome crime-lord Vincenzo Guardino’s drug supply.

DCI Klara Winter runs a team on the National Crime Agency, she’s also chasing down Guardino, but unlike Sam Batford she’s determined to bring the gangster to justice and get his drugs off the streets.

Set in a time of austerity and police cuts where opportunities for corruption are rife, Rubicon is a tense, dark thriller that is definitely not for the faint hearted.

Rubicon is available for purchase from the publishers, Farenheit Press, here.

About Ian Patrick

ian patrick

Educated in Nottingham, Ian left school at sixteen. After three years in the Civil Service he moved to London for a career in the Metropolitan Police.

He spent twenty-seven years as a police officer, the majority as a detective within the Specialist Operations Command. A career in policing is a career in writing. Ian has been used to carrying a book and pen and making notes.

Now retired, the need to write didn’t leave and evolved into fiction.

You can follow Ian on Twitter @IPatrick_Author and there’s more with these other bloggers:

Rubicon banner

The Restless Sea by Vanessa de Haan

the restless sea

Now, with over 900 books on my TBR I have promised myself that I won’t accept any more for review until I have read some of the ones I already have – and indeed I’m not accepting new blog tours at the moment either. However, when lovely Emilie Chambeyron from Harper Collins got in touch to see if I would like a copy of The Restless Sea by Vanessa de Haan in return for an honest review I simply couldn’t resist!

Published by Harper Collins on 19th April 2018, The Restless Sea is available for purchase through the links here.

The Restless Sea

the restless sea

Absorbing and richly observed, The Restless Sea is a masterful story of the turbulent years of the Second World War.

Three lives collide in a way that only the war makes possible…

Jack, a child of the Blitz, has fled the law to become a seaman in the Merchant Navy. The frozen world of the Russian Arctic convoys may be harsh, but it opens his eyes to a new life.

While on leave in the Navy’s secret Scottish harbour, Jack meets Olivia, the cossetted daughter of an officer family. Free to roam, Olivia relishes the new freedom granted by war. But her family – and especially the well-connected Charlie, now a fast-rising pilot – don’t welcome these changes. Least of all the arrival of Jack, the boy who casts doubt on each of their futures.

The war inflicts danger and social upheaval like never before. But the most unlikely friendships are forged in times when people live like they don’t want tomorrow to come…

My Review of The Restless Sea

As 1939 Europe spirals into war, the lives of Olivia, Jack and Charlie will never be the same again.

The Restless Sea is an absolute epic of a read. Each time I thought Vanessa de Haan couldn’t possibly take the reader any further, the plot went hurtling off again so that reading The Restless Sea was akin to being on one of Jack’s convoy ships in the broiling ocean, sailing the highs and lows of every wave. Certainly there are coincidences that may stretch the reader’s belief at times but they had no detrimental effect on my absolute enjoyment of this novel and I loved the way it was plotted and resolved because it truly was a real roller coaster of a read.

What I so enjoyed was the gritty realism of Vanessa de Haan’s depiction of the war. I was thoroughly entertained by the narrative but incredibly educated too. In fact, at times, her presentation of the harshness Charlie and Jack endure was almost too great to bear. I had to give myself small breathers and breaks in my reading because it felt too intense a read simply to race through the fast paced story. Vanessa de Haan has the ability to transport a reader through her magnificent and frequently poetic descriptions – whether they want to go on the journey or not. I found some of the conditions, especially with regard to the weather and the Arctic runs, almost too hard to bear so that I was experiencing the same things as the characters. The descriptions of nature, the elements and living conditions were incredibly convincing and frequently quite disturbing. This is such powerful writing.

What I think works so well for The Restless Sea is the contrast between the sweeping historical aspects and the relatively small number of characters whom we get to know so well and intimately. I felt a profound sadness reading about Jack in particular so that I feel as if I understood his experiences, and therefore those of the real people of the era, far more acutely than perhaps I have before. Yes, there is romance and light amongst the shade in The Restless Sea, but this is no glamorised and sanitised version of events, making for a moving, captivating and fulfilling read that I think would suit many different readers.

I genuinely found myself thinking about the book when I wasn’t reading it, wondering how Olivia, Jack and Charlie were progressing without me. I thought The Restless Sea was an evocative and enthralling read and I know it’ll be lurking in my head for a very long time. I really recommend it.

About Vanessa de Haan

vanessa de haan

Vanessa de Haan is a historical fiction author, as well as a freelance journalist and editor. In 2005 she left an in-house job at The Spectator magazine in London and moved to Devon to concentrate on her own writing. She took the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and was a columnist on the Western Morning News for almost three years (writing under the name Zoë Kenyon).

Her first novel – The Restless Sea – is about the Merchant and Royal Navies during the Arctic convoys of the second world war, and was inspired by family stories as well as a love for the West Highlands of Scotland and the sea.

Vanessa still lives in Devon, and still proofreads and copy edits when not writing or tripping over small children, pouncing cats or a particularly enthusiastic flatcoated retriever.

You can find out more by following Vanessa on Twitter @vzdehaan, or visiting her website.