Staying in with Robertson Tait

Kyle Harrison

I don’t know about you, but as soon as the clocks go back in the UK I start to feel slightly depressed. I hate the winter and much prefer the summer. With that in mind I’m delighted to welcome Robertson Tait to stay in with me to tell me about one of his books as I think it could be just the pick-me-up we all need!

Staying in with Robertson Tait

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

Thank you, Linda, and I appreciate the opportunity to ‘Stay In’ with you and discuss my books.

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

Kyle Harrison

I’ve brought along Kyle Harrison Movie Star – the first in my series Kyle In Hollywood which I suppose one could call a romantic comedy in the Richard Curtis vein of Notting Hill and Four Weddings. In fact I think one reviewer actually called my book a mix of Bridget Jones and Notting Hill, but then he rethought that and decided it was just ‘Kyle’.

(Whatever the comparison, Robertson, I like the sound of the Kyle series!)

The reason I’ve chosen it is I think right now we’re all suffering through some fairly stressful times, politically, and some darker than that globally, so my series may, for those who would find it so, be a bit of an escape from those concerns.

(I couldn’t agree more!)

I am a great fan of Wodehouse, and probably my favourite playwright would be Oscar Wilde. I think the movie version of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest‘ with Colin Firth and Rupert Everett is just terrific.

Now, I’m not equating myself with either of these illustrious iconic authors, but I do try for some humour, and I hope my stories might give a smile, and these days those seem harder to come by.

(I certainly think I’ll have to give Kyle a go as I’m all for a bit of humour and smiling!)

What can we expect from an evening in with Kyle Harrison Movie Star?

Well, Kyle is a young Scot sitting brooding about life at an outdoor cafe in Rome, Italy, when a Hollywood director notices him and thinks he’s found his next star. From that point on, we follow Kyle as he finds his feet and learns to hold his own against the soulless Hollywood machinery. Through his unexpected ascendancy and his innate good nature, Kyle tries to help all around him, although he’s no saint. But, if you have a moment, let me offer a passage here that might better give a flavour of Kyle’s world. Ronnie Bruce, the director, has charged his assistant Loretta with getting Kyle a tux for a premiere, and she has gone over to her sister Sally’s formal rental store. Sally thinks little of her sister’s position with the director’s production company, and Kyle notices the disdain in her manner towards Loretta:

Excerpt from the “Measuring Up” chapter

(Kyle Harrison Movie Star)

“So a tux, and we’ll need the shirt to go with it. You know the stuff, Sally, the full première bit.”

“Yes, yes, I get you,” Sally was thinking out loud, “I’d say a slim forty should do the trick. Let me see.” She walked just behind a decorative ornamental screen and pressed a button to rotate her hanging wardrobe. The device whirred smoothly, and she located the unit she was searching for.

She unhooked the ensemble and held it out towards Kyle with a triumphant assuredness.

“Don’t think so.” Kyle had sensed the subtle tension in the air between the sisters, and he was turning terse.

Sally shot Loretta an enquiring look as she asked, “What do you mean by don’t think so?”

“Not my size.” Kyle was slouching into a large, plush velvet Louis XIV chair, looking about him with barely concealed boredom.

“Yes, it is.” Sally was holding her business guard up to stop her annoyance showing as she expanded, “I’ve been measuring clients for over twenty years. If I say you’re a slim forty … you’re a slim forty!” Her eyes were charged with indignation, and she knew it might show, but she was trying very hard to temper her anger with professional poise.

“You’re sure?” Kyle caught her eye with his determined gaze. Sally could feel the challenge.

“Yes, I’m sure.” Her mind was set, and she was starting to feel offended.

Loretta felt the chill of daggers in the proceedings and tried to mediate. “Why don’t you give it a try, Kyle? Easiest way to find out is to try it on.” She was thinking maybe this had not been the best idea, to come to her sister’s place. They always had this underlying rivalry, and Sally was always just that bit superior and supercilious.

“Okay … up to you, but I’m not a forty, slim or otherwise.” Kyle took the hanger and headed for the changing room while he heard Sally squeezing out her frustration with a suppressed murmur, “Yes, you are,” as she looked down at her counter and needlessly shuffled some papers.

In the changing room Kyle squeezed into the shirt and suit and found it quite amusing to see himself in the mirror for the first time in a black-tie get-up. It wasn’t bad, and he turned around, immodestly appreciating that, if he didn’t know who he was, he could pass for a movie star on the red carpet.

It was a fun thought, but the jacket was not fun and, if he needed to move, he could tell something would have to give, and he knew that realistically what was going to give was the stitching.

He stepped back into the main display area to meet the critical assessment of Loretta and Sally.

“So what do you think, Kyle? Does it fit?” Loretta knew Ronnie didn’t want any mistakes.

“Not really.” Kyle turned to show the area of his discontent. “It’s too tight on the chest and across the back and the sleeves, too. I’m squeezed in like a sausage.”

Sally was not going to back down. She’d made her claim, and she was damned if she’d concede.

“You’re just not used to formal wear. I think it’s fine and, just like I said, a perfect forty … here, try the tie.” She proffered the black silk bow tie towards him and, as he extended an arm to reach for it, they all heard the softly destructive sound of the seam splitting up the back of the jacket. It was a painfully submissive sound that Sally felt was punishing her into accepting that Kyle was, after all, NOT a size forty.

“Okay, what is your damn size then?” Regrettably, Sally’s annoyance had robbed her voice of its usual polished professionalism. “What is your chest measurement … just give it to me in inches, okay?”

“I’m a forty-three-inch chest.” Kyle was employing his most soothing calm and cool voice which he knew, in the circumstances, was all the more annoying.

Loretta and Kyle eventually departed with a ‘made-up’ suit set: the trousers from a forty long and the jacket from a slim-fitting forty-four. As they opened the glass door to step back out onto the pavement, Loretta could hear Sally inside muttering to herself a begrudging reasoning of her miscalculation, “Deceptive … very deceptive.”

(I loved that! Made me want to find out more!)

Sorry if that was a bit too long.

(Not at all – it gave us a real flavour of your writing.)

The story is episodic in nature, so it’s hard to isolate a representative passage that’s not too long. Throughout the books, Kyle has many adventures with a large cast of supporting characters, but perhaps one of the strongest of those is Randy Riley, an aging veteran of cowboy/western movies whom Kyle befriends and, in so doing, he changes Randy’s direction away from the rabble-rousing heavy drinker whose career is almost over into a reborn star with a whole new lease on life and career.

(It really does sound a lot of fun.)

What else have you brought along and why?

Ah yes, speaking of Randy, the other thing I’ve brought along is a song Randy composes for a movie he’s in with Kyle. He writes the song at a low point in his life as his contract is coming to an end and he’s being let go. However, that is before the Kyle effect kicks in and his career reblooms big-time. You can listen to it here.

(What a smashing song. I love the way Randy sings about doing his best but not always succeeding!)

And I suppose as my only real comment on my writing process, I’m going to have to confess that I don’t set up, or map out, or story-board anything. I just watch the movie in my head and write down the lines as I hear them. Quite often my characters surprise me!

(Ha! Many authors tell me their characters don’t always do what is expected Robertson!)

Thanks so much for staying in with me. I’ve really enjoyed our evening.

Kyle Harrison Movie Star

Kyle Harrison

Dry humour and a good dose of romance. He’s tall, he’s handsome and he doesn’t fit any mould. Kyle Harrison is a young Scottish actor blundering his way to the top of the Hollywood tree. Discovered on the Via Veneto in Rome, Kyle takes Hollywood by storm with his irreverent charisma. With his trademark slouch and deadly mixture of boyish charm and athletic good looks, Kyle is beguiling to the ladies but frequently misunderstood.

Kyle’s photo is all over the tabloids, the day after he lands in Hollywood. He’s a movie star who hasn’t done a single screen test yet. A top director is sure he’s discovered his next action hero, but Kyle is clueless about the business, although he certainly looks the part.

Can he handle instant fame and stand up to Hollywood’s ruthless star-making machinery?

Kyle Harrison Movie Star is available for purchase here.

About Robertson Tait

Robertson Tait

Born in the Scottish Highlands, Robertson Tait writes romantic comedy and optimistic contemporary stories featuring imperfect but sensitive heroes and gorgeous, confident heroines, lovingly described locations, and some dry Scottish humour.

The Kyle in Hollywood series draws upon his experiences as a British Actors’ Equity member, his extensive travels, and twenty years of competitive horse riding.
Also a singer songwriter, Robertson lives in the country with his wife and two demanding cats.

To find out more, visit Robertson’s website where you can subscribe to his newsletter and find information on new releases and free content, short stories and some of his own songs that are often worked into the narrative.

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris

grace atherton

It seems a while ago now when I was privileged to meet Anstey Harris, author of  The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton, at a wonderful evening hosted by Books and the City @TeamBATC for Simon and Schuster. I wrote about that evening in a post you can read here.

Today I’m thrilled to share my review of this lovely book.

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton will be published by Simon and Schuster on 10th January 2018 and is available for pre-order through the links here.

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton

grace atherton

Between the simple melody of running her violin shop and the full-blown orchestra of her romantic interludes in Paris with David, her devoted partner of eight years, Grace Atherton has always set her life to music.

Her world revolves entirely around David, for Grace’s own secrets have kept everyone else at bay. Until, suddenly and shockingly, one act tips Grace’s life upside down, and the music seems to stop.

It takes a vivacious old man and a straight-talking teenager to kickstart a new chapter for Grace. In the process, she learns that she is not as alone in the world as she had once thought, that no mistake is insurmountable, and that the quiet moments in life can be something to shout about …

My review of The Truth and Triumphs of Grace Atherton

Madly in love with David, Grace hasn’t played her ‘cello in public for years.

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton is a beautiful, beautiful book.

I am a complete ignoramus about classical music and have no idea how reading about someone playing a ‘cello can reduce me to tears, but the quality of Anstey Harris’s writing is so magical in The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton that I found myself transported by her words. Reading this book opened up a whole world of music and instrument making I had never before appreciated. The writing is so convincing I had to go online and find out more about some of the aspects, but I won’t reveal which in case I spoil any part of the story for other readers.

The characters are wonderful. With most of the action revolving around Grace, David, Mr Williams and Nadia there is an intensity that touches the very soul of the reader. I felt I knew Grace intimately – much better than she knows herself and at one point, mid way into the story I felt as broken by what was happening as is Grace because she was so real to me. I was genuinely terrified by what I thought might happen to these people and found myself shouting ‘Oh no!’ and cheering as I read so that my husband thought I had gone completely insane. It felt to me as if this wasn’t just Grace’s story, but that she was a universal figure whom we all can relate to.

Nadia is the perfect foil to Grace. Her expletives and dynamism give a perfect counterpoint to Grace’s constrained life. I so loved Mr Williams too because his wisdom is pure and unselfish, contrasting brilliantly with the emotional David.

But it is not just the characters who are so well written. Anstey Harris captures Paris so evocatively that I was there walking the streets with Grace. Reading The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton made me want to return to Paris as soon as I can.

Although I have alluded a little bit to the plot and I can’t say too much as I really don’t want to spoil the read for others, let me just say it is absolutely right for the cast of characters. The themes of identity, failure, how the past shapes us in our present, relationships, music, and being true to ourselves are so magically oven together that this was not just a cracking read of a book, but a timeless message for the reader too.

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton is as warm and vibrating with life, love and emotion as a perfectly tuned ‘cello. It is a sparkling diamond of a book and I adored it.

About Anstey Harris


Anstey Harris is based by the seaside in south-east England where she lives with her violinmaker husband and two dogs. She teaches creative writing in the community, local schools, and as an associate lecturer for Christchurch University in Canterbury.

Anstey writes about the things that make people tick, the things that bind us and the things that can rip us apart. In 2015, she won the H G Wells Short Story Prize for her story, Ruby. In novels, Anstey tries to celebrate uplifting ideas and prove that life is good and that happiness is available to everyone once we work out where to look (usually inside ourselves). Her short stories tend not to end quite so well…

Things that interest Anstey include her children and granddaughter, green issues and conservation, adoption and adoption reunion (she is an adopted child, born in an unmarried mothers’ home in Liverpool in 1965), stepfamilies, dogs, and food. Always food. She would love to be on Masterchef but would never recover from the humiliation if she got sent home in the first round.

You can follow Anstey on Twitter @Anstey_Harris and visit her website.

What Christmas Means to Me: A Guest Post by Heidi Swain, Author of Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland


It’s an absolute joy to be part of the launch celebrations for Heidi Swain’s Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland, as she’s one of the friendliest authors I’ve met. I haven’t caught up with Heidi in person since a lovely blogger evening that you can read about here, so I’m thrilled to welcome her back to the blog today.

Before you read Heidi’s super guest post today, you might like to see what happened when we ‘stayed in’ together to discuss Sunshine and Sweet Peas in Nightingale Square here, and to read my review of Heidi’s Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market here.

Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland will be published tomorrow, 1st November 2018 by Simon and Schuster and is available through these links.

Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland


After calling off her engagement, Hayley, the Wynthorpe Hall housekeeper, wants nothing more than to return to her no-strings fun-loving self, avoiding any chance of future heartbreak. Little does she know, Wynbridge’s latest arrival is about to throw her plan entirely off course . . .

Moving into Wynthorpe Hall to escape the town’s gossip, Hayley finds herself immersed in the eccentric Connelly family’s festive activities as they plan to host their first ever Winter Wonderland. But Hayley isn’t the only new resident at the hall. Gabe, a friend of the Connelly’s son Jamie, has also taken up residence, moving into Gatekeeper’s Cottage, and he quickly makes an impression on Wynbridge’s reformed good-girl…

What Christmas Means To Me…

A Guest Post by Heidi Swain

Christmas Tree

Merry Christmas Linda, and thank you so much for inviting me tell you all about what Christmas means to me on this leg of the Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls blog tour. I thought long and hard before writing this post and I have to admit I’m still a little concerned that I won’t be able to cover everything in just a few hundred words!

I know not everyone is a festive fan, but for me, Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year – cliché intended.

Christmas, in my head, begins long before I hang my much loved and somewhat worn around the edges Matthew Rice advent calendar up in the kitchen. I guess it’s around mid-October, as the leaves begin to turn and the morning air turns crisp, that my thoughts first flicker to all things festive. The shops of course will have already been stocked with confectionery and cards for weeks by then, but I will be avoiding the supermarket and the city for as long as I can. Not because I have an aversion to present buying (far from it), but rather that I want to soak up the atmosphere in a more measured way.

Planning eats, events, parties and reading Christmas books can all happen from early autumn but the big guns – carols, Slade, late night shopping and mince pies – are all jam packed rather than dragged out. When December the first dawns that’s when I’ll be batch baking, wrapping and tuning into Classic FM because in Heidi Swain world the perfect Christmas is all down to pacing. Start too early and by mid-November you can’t face another tin of Quality Street, leave it too late and you turn into a screaming banshee gripped by the tinsel- toting panic and buying all manner of tat.

I like to be fully locked and loaded by the twenty first as the winter Solstice is a big deal in our house. As the wheel of the year turns that’s when I’ll really start to wind down, feeling ever so slightly smug that I can just sit back and enjoy the frost enhanced ride. I can never understand how folk can get in such a muddle in the run up to Christmas. It’s been happening on the same day for quite a while now and year on year our lives are becoming busier so don’t pull down the blinkers of denial and kid yourself it isn’t coming. Rather, embrace the season, write those lists, put those orders in and be prepared.

Tiara me

(Photo courtesy of Fay Esme)

Christmas has always meant a lot to me and now, with a festive title hitting the shelves in the winter as well as the summer, it means even more. Popping out to the supermarkets on publication day for those much loved #shelfies with Elton blasting out in the background and the scent of cinnamon wafting down the aisles from the in-store bakery is the best present ever.

May I take this opportunity to send you all lots of love and wish you a very merry Christmas! I hope you enjoy the celebrations every bit as much as I do and that Christmas means as much to you as it does to me!

H x

Thanks so much Heidi. Have a wonderful publication day tomorrow and I look forward to reading Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland and catching up with you in person very soon! Merry Christmas!

About Heidi Swain


Heidi Swain is the Sunday Times bestselling author of five novels: The Cherry Tree CafeSummer at Skylark FarmMince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas MarketComing Home to Cuckoo Cottage and most recently, Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair. She lives in Norfolk with her husband and two teenage children.

You can follow Heidi on Twitter @Heidi_Swain and visit her blog or website. You’ll also find Heidi on Facebook and there’s more with these other bloggers:

Heidi Swain Blog Tour Banner - Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls

Staying in with Todd R. Thomas

new cover

I’m going off piste for Linda’s Book Bag today and featuring a topic about which I know absolutely nothing as Todd R. Thomas stays in with me to tell me about his book.

Staying in with Todd R. Thomas

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

Thank you for having me! You seem to be exponentially more popular than I am.

(That made me laugh! I very much doubt it!)

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

new cover

It was an easy choice, since I have only written one. I brought Racing With “The Doctor”: Recollections from a Member of Jerry Crabb’s Sprint Car Pit Crew. It is the result of a 12 year project, which includes a 10 year hiatus in the middle.

What can we expect from an evening in with Racing With “The Doctor”: Recollections from a Member of Jerry Crabb’s Sprint Car Pit Crew?

I was a snot-nosed 18-year-old in 1985 when I attended my first sprint car race at Knoxville Raceway in Knoxville, Iowa, and fell in love with the sport. As luck would have it, six years later I found myself, with zero experience, as a member of Jerry’s pit crew. I was an outsider and it was all new and shiny and interesting to me, so I would sometimes write things down as a way to keep memories from fading. After Jerry retired from racing I attempted to put my notes in a book-like format – then let it sit on my computer for 10 years. But it was always in the back of my mind, kept nagging at me, and wouldn’t shut up until I did something about it. I came across it again last year, continued working on it, and self-published in March.

(You’d be surprised how many authors tell me how long it has taken to get their book completed Todd.)

Hopefully the topic does not turn those away who are not familiar or interested in racing, because I’ve received positive feedback from readers who know little about the sport. I believe the below review received on Amazon describes it best:

Wonderful racing memoir! My brother recommended this book to me as a great read and he was right. I’m not a die-hard race fan by any means, but Thomas’ recollections of working his way up in a sprint car race crew are perfect for those with lots of knowledge about the sport, or very little like I have. We get to ride along with him as he learns the ropes as he works pit crew for racer Jerry Crabb, and I’m not going to spoil anything, but the climax race for Thomas’ team is one of the best I’ve read in a sports book. Great read. Great coming of age story. I can totally see this one as a movie someday. Thomas makes you feel like you’re in the pits with him as the engines roar. Definitely going to give it a second read!

(What a wonderful review. And actually, Todd, I think books are the perfect way to discover something new.)

What else have you brought along and why? 


I brought the cowl from Jerry’s sprint car, which normally hangs on the wall in my man cave. It is a little amazing that it survived, because Sometimes Bad Things Happen (also a chapter title in the book) in sprint car racing. Note the name “Mr. Cool” refers to me. For some reason that was my nickname, likely given sarcastically.

Thanks so much for staying in with me Todd. I’ve learnt an awful lot about a topic I knew nothing about. Good luck with Racing With “The Doctor”.

Racing With “The Doctor”:

Recollections from a Member of Jerry Crabb’s Sprint Car Pit Crew

new cover

Jerry Crabb raced motorcycles, 3-wheelers, and 4-wheelers from the 1960’s into the 2010’s. At the age of 47, in 1990 he made his first start in a 410 cubic inch sprint car at Knoxville Raceway. In 1991 he built his own 360 cubic inch sprint car, and raced at Knoxville and several Iowa tracks until 2006. He was the winner of the 1998 Masters Classic at Knoxville Raceway. This book contains recollections from a fifteen year member of Jerry’s sprint car pit crew.

Racing With “The Doctor”: Recollections from a Member of Jerry Crabb’s Sprint Car Pit Crew is available for purchase here.

About Todd. R. Thomas


At the age of 18 in 1985, Todd Thomas attended his first sprint car race at the famed Knoxville Raceway in Knoxville, Iowa, and fell in love with the sport. As fate would have it, six years later the avid fan found himself as a pit crew member on Jerry Crabb’s sprint car pit crew, and he served in that capacity for 15 years. After Jerry retired from sprint car racing in 2006, Todd compiled the notes he took over the years and attempted to put them in a book-like format. It sat on his computer for 10 years until he came across it again in 2017. He continued working on the project and eventually published this book in March of 2018. Todd is a life-long Marion County Iowa resident.

Top Three Things I’d Tell My 18 Year Old Self: A Guest Post by Jay Mullings, Author of The Thought Book 2

Front (1)

I often wonder what my 18 year old self would have thought if they knew then what I know now about how life was going to pan out. Today I’m delighted to welcome Jay Mullings, author of The Thought Book 2 to Linda’s Book Bag to share some advice with his 18 year old self in a smashing guest post.

The Thought Book 2 is available for purchase here.

The Thought Book 2

Front (1)

The Thought Book II is a companion that builds the self esteem and confidence of its readers. TTB2 helps you to sustain your drive and quieten the voice of anxiety in your thoughts. No matter your career path or choice of goals, The Thought Book II contains what you need to strengthen your edge.

Top Three Things I’d Tell My 18 Year Old Self

A Guest Post by Jay Mullings

 It’s the year 2018 and finally we have a working time travel device (disguised as a smart watch). I am lucky enough to be chosen for its maiden trial. Seeing as time travel is risky, I am only allowed to have one interaction and that’s with my 18-year-old self. No one would ever believe 18-year-old spoke with a future version of themself.

Now I don’t have long before they find me. I’ve decided not too much good comes from going back in time but in the name of science here are the top three things I said to 18-year-old Jay.

Follow Your Passion

I spent the majority of my youth acquiring knowledge that is of little consequence to me now. Learning the inner workings of computers was a true waste of my talent. Studying for qualifications I have no use for was almost sinful.

Jay your true calling is (I didn’t spoil it for him) in your heart. Be passionate and don’t be scared to dream as big as possible with that crazy imagination you have! You know what it is and you should definitely pursue it. We smile at each other; I know myself all too well.

Be Formless

Growing up it was accepted as true wisdom to be a master of only one thing. “Well, in our future world you need multiple strings to your bow.” I tell myself this and I can see it causing an internal struggle. We go back and forth about a Jack-of-all-trades being a master of none. I retort, “Jack has multiple revenue streams and creative outlets for his skills. Jack is doing just fine. Do you really want to waste precious time debating this with the one person who has seen this movie already?” Stop hiding your secondary talents in pursuit of one. Try to sharpen them all or use them in service of each other.

Amplify Your Voice

I wrap things up by giving probably the best advice of all (I am well aware self praise is no recommendation). Speak up about the things you see and feel. You have really specific insight, be sure to share it. Most of all speak up about all the times you’ve been mistreated or singled out for being young, gifted and black. Don’t keep it all bottled up inside.

Share your bold, silly and funny views with the world. Don’t let the cruel people of the world silence you or wipe that broad smile from your face. Share your unique voice with the world. It might be a good idea to exempt this conversation between us though…

Okay, let me not leave you high and dry, I’ll answer a few of your questions quickly. No Arsene Wenger will never deliver the champions league for Arsenal. Thierry Henry leaves for Barcelona, wins the champions league and then plays in the MLS before coming back on loan for us. He has a statue outside the new ground as our record goal scorer. Chelsea wins the Champions League before we do, Leicester City wins the premier league, Spurs finish above us more than once, Manchester City becomes a force in World Football and America gets its 1st Black President. He does two terms and there are no assassination attempts. No Hilary Clinton does not succeed him; Donald Trump becomes President of The United States immediately after…

Why don’t you believe me?

(Ha! I have to agree that last fact is rather unbelievable Jay! Great advice to your former self though.)

About Jay Mullings

Jay 3

Jay Mullings, who is part of the ‘Sleepless Elite’, has thrived on just 3 hours a night for the past 6 years. Rather than limited sleep being a hindrance, Jay maximises these twilight hours by writing and developing his business Written Mirror Ltd.

You can follow Jay on Twitter @WrittenMirror.

Keep Your Friends Close by June Taylor

Keep Your Friends Close

My enormous thanks to Emma Welton of Damp Pebbles Blog Tours for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for Keep Your Friends Close by June Taylor and to Finn Cotton for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

It’s almost two years since June Taylor was last on Linda’s Book Bag when her first psychological thriller Losing Juliet had just been published by Harper Collins Killer Reads.  You can read that interview here. and I’m delighted to welcome June back again to introduce her latest book. I also have my review to share with you too.

Staying in with June Taylor

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

Thank you for inviting me.  Lovely to be here again.

As if I couldn’t guess, tell me June, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

 Keep Your Friends Close

I’m bringing Keep Your Friends Close, my second psychological thriller published by HarperCollins Killer Reads.  It came out in ebook on 26th October 2018.  (Paperback 10th January 2019).

(Oo. Belated Keep Your Friends Close happy ebook publication day June.)

It’s another standalone so you don’t need to have read the first one (but by all means do!)  I think Keep Your Friends Close is perfect for the darker winter nights.  So just make sure the front door is locked, curl up by the fire and get comfortable.  Expect to stay up late though as you may want to keep going until the last page is turned.

(I can agree whole heartedly. I thoroughly enjoyed Keep Your Friends Close and have my review to share in a little while. I’ll definitely be keeping my door locked!)

So what can we expect from an evening with Keep Your Friends Close?

Well I like thrillers that delve deep into characters’ minds, so it does get quite claustrophobic and tense at times. I wouldn’t say it’s scary, but it’s an uncomfortable and unsettling read for sure, with a few surprises along the way.  The main character is Karin, a young woman with a turbulent past who’s beginning to put her life back together.  But on her twenty-second birthday, everything changes.  The past won’t let go and if her ex catches up with her she knows that things could start to unravel pretty quickly.  Only it’s worse than she ever imagined when one of her friends is murdered.

(I know those who’ve yet to read Keep Your Friends Close will find this intriguing June.)

It’s hard to say a great deal without giving away spoilers!

(I agree – I struggled not to give anything away in my review! Everyone will just have to read it for themselves!)

Yes. But you know the saying: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”.  Well hopefully this book will keep you second guessing.

(It will indeed!)

What else have you brought along and why?


I made a big bowl of popcorn because I think reading a good thriller should be like watching a movie.  Only better in a way.  If the writer has done a good job then there’s no better place than your own imagination.

You’ve certainly done a good job with Keep Your Friends Close June. Thanks so much for staying in and explaining a little bit more about it. I’ll share the book details and then you can read my review!

Keep Your Friends Close

Keep Your Friends Close

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer…

An addictive and shocking psychological thriller, full of twists you won’t see coming.

A friend who won’t let you escape.

When Karin is taken on a romantic break by her loving partner Aaron, she can’t wait for him to propose. But her surprise weekend quickly becomes a nightmare from which she may never escape.

Who wants everything you have.

They are staying by the beach at the Midland – a grand hotel where Karin used to work. And where Karin’s dangerous and obsessive ex, whom she has been trying to leave behind for years, is waiting patiently for her to return.

Who won’t stop until your life is in ruins.

Now all of Karin’s darkest secrets are being dragged into the light and her friends are turning against her. When one of them is murdered, Karin begins to realise just how treacherous relationships can be…

Keep Your Friends Close is available for purchase on Amazon, BookDepository, from Waterstones and Foyles.

My Review of Keep Your Friends Close

Life is vastly improved for Karin – but will it stay that way?

Crikey! Keep Your Friends Close is a twisty, keep the reader guessing until the final full stop kind of thriller. I found it exciting and compelling so that I didn’t want to leave it when ordinary life got in the way.

I can’t say too much about the plot as it relies on perfectly plausible though still shocking surprises, but I will say it is brilliantly thought through and skilfully delivered making for a very entertaining read.

I thought the characterisation was excellent. Because of the title I had my suspicions about every one of the people in this story, some of which were realised and some of which weren’t (but again I can’t say more). I found my reader response to Karin fascinating because I vacillated in my opinion of her throughout. At times I admired her, hated her, thought she was strong, pathetic (in the true sense of the word), self-centered, generous, intelligent and stupid and by the end of Keep Your Friends Close I still hadn’t made up my mind about her. She’s certainly a complex individual. I think it says something about the skill of a writer when the reader continues to contemplate the people they have created long after reading the book in the way June Taylor has here.

I thought the themes and issues underpinning the fast paced plot were so good. There’s an intelligent exploration of how our past can affect us, and of how we can manipulate and affect others and in turn allow ourselves to be manipulated and affected by them. Guilt, betrayal, obsession, identity, and trust are all woven throughout and I really appreciated the sympathetic presentation of the homeless who are an important aspect of Keep Your Friends Close. June Taylor exemplifies just how easy it is to spiral into difficult circumstances.

I’m not sure what I was expecting from Keep Your Friends Close, but what I found was a hugely rewarding read that kept me gripped from the first page to the last. It’s a super read.

About June Taylor

Version 2

June Taylor is a UK psychological thriller writer. For many years she was a TV promos writer/producer before turning to writing plays and fiction.  She was runner-up in the 2011Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction competition with her YA novel.  Her debut Adult psychological thriller Losing Juliet was nominated for the Not the Booker Prize 2017.

Keep Your Friends Close is June’s second psychological thriller for the Harper Collins Killer Reads imprint.

June is active in her local writing scene, including serving on the Board of Script Yorkshire and taking part in Leeds Big bookend.

You can follow June on Twitter @joonLT and visit her website. You’ll find June on and Facebook and occasionally on Instagram too.

There’s more with these other bloggers:


Staying in with Janet MacLeod Trotter

Far Pashmina Mountains

As you probably know, I love to travel and this year, amongst other places I went to India for the first time. With that in mind I had to ask Janet MacLeod Trotter to stay in with me to tell me about one of her books (all of which look exactly my kind of read).

Staying in with Janet MacLeod Trotter

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

Which book have you brought along to share this evening and why have you brought it?

Far Pashmina Mountains

I’ve chosen In The Far Pashmina Mountains, my latest historical novel because I think it’s ideal for a cosy autumn night in, where we can escape to hot, tropical India and adventure!

(Never mind cosy autumn nights. I think In The Far Pashmina Mountains looks perfect for any time Janet.)

What can we expect from an evening in with In The Far Pashmina Mountains?

This is history and romance on a sweeping ‘canvas’ from the Scottish Hebrides to the Himalayas. Although my story and main characters are fictional, much of it is based on historical fact. It depicts the adventure and endeavour of the British in the early 19th century who needed to make a living by going overseas. The hero – like my own MacLeod ancestor – has to leave the Isle of Skye for economic reasons and secures a position in the East India Company Army, seeking his fortune in India.

(You’ve got me hooked already!)

My heroine grows up in a Northumbrian lighthouse and this early tough life makes her the resilient and resourceful woman that she becomes.

A major part of the book is set in Bengal and in the mountains of northern India. It depicts life in colonial Calcutta in the precarious days before modern medicine or the comfort of electric fans – wine was cooled by wrapping bottles in wet cloths and hanging them between the trees!

When the action moves into the mountains, we get a glimpse of early hill station life in Simla (now Shimla) – a place dear to my heart as, nearly a century later, my grandparents and mother would live there in the 1920s. My granddad was a forester and from his diaries and old cine films I discovered that my plucky granny also went with him into camp and on long arduous treks into the Himalayas. They even took my mother as a baby, in her pram which was strapped onto poles and carried up the mountain paths!

(Wow! What a trip for them.)

Four years ago, on a fact-finding trip to India, I discovered the old house in Shimla where they had lodged when my mum was two years old – but that’s another story!

(You’ll have to come back another time as I want to know more now!)

The novel finally takes the reader to Afghanistan where the fate of the British and their families hangs by a thread.

In The Far Pashmina Mountains was chosen as a Kindle First book for September and has had some lovely reviews, such as: ‘Totally absorbing – were it not for tired eyes I would have read this book from cover to cover without a break!’

(You know I have no control over this and I am going to HAVE to read In The Far Pashmina Mountains don’t you?)

What else have you brought along and why?

Four things:

EIC register for Lt Donald MacLeod

I have with me a copy of the register for the East India Company Army which shows my ancestor, Donald MacLeod, being promoted from Ensign to Lieutenant – his name is fourth from the bottom and incorrectly spelt!

(What a wonderful document to find.)


I also have a photo of the house on Skye where he lived until he was nineteen and went off to seek his fortune in India – sadly he never made it back.

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

I’ve brought along my Afghan jacket! When I was 18 I travelled overland to India on a bus and visited Afghanistan in November, so I know how cold it can get in the mountains in winter and have some inkling of the hardships my characters must have suffered.

(Having only just discovered what a wonderful country India is, I’m so jealous of that experience Janet. That’s a gorgeous jacket by the way too!)


When visiting Shimla on our recent trip, one of the tastiest meals we had was simple street food – spicy potatoes and dahl served with piping hotpuri (a small, round piece of bread made of unleavened wheat flour and deep-fried). So like my hero, we’ll sit around eating this – delicious!

Now, I have to say Janet, that you have been an ideal guest because In The Far Pashmina Mountains sounds like the perfect book for me, you’ve taken on a journey to an area I’d love to visit again and brought the kind of food I love to eat. Thank you so much for staying in with me and making it such an entertaining evening.

In The Far Pashmina Mountains

Far Pashmina Mountains

From shipwreck and heartbreak to treachery and war: can their love survive?

Abandoned as a baby and raised in a remote lighthouse off the wild Northumberland coast, Alice Fairchild has always dreamed of adventure. When a fierce storm wrecks a ship nearby, she risks everything in an act of bravery that alters the course of her life.

Aboard the doomed vessel is the handsome John Sinclair, a Scottish soldier on his way to India. The connection between them is instant, but soon fate intervenes and leaves Alice heartbroken and alone. Determined to take charge of her destiny but secretly hoping her path will cross again with John’s, she too makes a new start in colonial India.

Life there is colourful and exotic, but beneath the bright facade is an undercurrent of violence, and when the British invade Afghanistan, Alice is caught up in the dangerous campaign. When at last she hears news of John, she is torn between two very different lives. But will she follow her head or her heart?

In The Far Pashmina Mountains is available for purchase here.

About Janet MacLeod Trotter


Janet MacLeod Trotter is the author of numerous bestselling and acclaimed novels, including The Hungry Hills, which was nominated for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, and The Tea Planter’s Daughter, which was nominated for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Novel of the Year Award. Much informed by her own experiences, MacLeod Trotter was raised in the north-east of England by Scottish parents and travelled in India as a young woman. She recently discovered diaries and letters belonging to her grandparents, who married in Lahore and lived and worked in the Punjab for nearly thirty years, which served as her inspiration for the India Tea Series. She now divides her time between Northumberland and the Isle of Skye.

You can find out more about Janet and her novels on her website and by following her on Twitter @MacLeodTrotter. You can also find her on Facebook.

Persona Non Grata Edited by Isabelle Kenyon


It gives me great pleasure to be returning to poetry here on Linda’s Book Bag today, especially as all the profits from Persona Non Grata edited by Isabelle Kenyon will go to Shelter and Crisis Aid UK.

Isabelle has featured here on the blog before when I reviewed her own poetry collection This Is Not A Spectacle here, and another charity collection supporting Mind from Fly on the Wall, Please Hear What I’m Not Saying, here.

Persona Non Grata is available for purchase here.

Person Non Grata


With the global refugee crises being very much in the media at present, it is timely that a collection of poems should be published, which goes to the heart of how it feels to be displaced from society. Inspired by the concept of social exclusion, the collection, Persona Non Grata, which features exceptional poets across the globe, explores themes including homelessness, loneliness and mental health.

All profits from the book will be donated to Shelter and Crisis Aid UK. Isabelle, who is the editor of small press, Fly on the Wall Poetry, hopes that with the support of her readers, and the 45 poets involved in the anthology, she will raise an incredible amount for charity, providing support and advice for anyone who finds themselves homeless.

Isabelle said, “I am thrilled and proud to have edited and compiled this anthology to raise money for charity. This has been a brave, yet thrilling project which aims to give a voice to those who feel alienated from society for whatever reason. Reading the work of so many talented poets and being granted access to their inner thoughts, has been a great privilege. Knowing that the money we raise will be used to improve the lives of those who find themselves displaced, throughout the UK, is humbling.”

Shelter commented: “We are delighted that ‘Fly on the Wall Poetry Press publishes charitable anthologies – and anthology ‘Persona Non Grata’ is packed with poetry inspired by the concept of social exclusion. Without support such as this we would not be able to support the people who reach out to us for help with housing issues and homelessness. Thank you so much to everyone involved.” – Lindsay Tilston Jones, Regional Community Fundraiser: Manchester.

This book is the second anthology published by the press, which was awarded ‘Runner Up for Best Anthology’ at the prestigious Saboteur Awards this May. Both books are available to buy through in both in paperback and Kindle formats, worldwide.

To support Isabelle’s charity book release, please visit

My Review of Persona Non Grata

55 poems divided into seven sections on the theme of being ‘outside’ society.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the previous anthologies written and edited by Isabelle Kenyon that I have read, but I think Persona Non Grata is the best yet. There is such a wealth of literary talent in these poems, aside from the very strong messages the words contain.

And the messages and themes in Persona Non Grata are strong, deserving to be heard. There’s everything from sexuality to homelessness, immigration to abuse so that I was very moved by the writing and actually I felt very uncomfortable at times too. The contrast between the bright lights and consumerism against the empty wallet of the man in Forgotten Hero, for example, made me question whether I would have noticed such a man on the bus – or indeed, done anything to help him. I will return to Persona Non Grata many times as every time I read a poem again I find something new – a nuance, a carefully placed line break, a single syllable – that adds depth and emotion. There’s a perfect balance of important themes and excellent writing in this anthology.

As well as appreciating the quality and messages of the poems, I found the biographies at the end of the anthology fascinating. The poets are of all ages, ethnicities and geographical locations which added to the feeling of authenticity for me. Reading Persona Non Grata introduced me to new authors that I want to find out more about.

I can heartily recommend Persona Non Grata. It is moving and accessible, well written and important. Reading these poems made me glad to be me and encouraged me to count my blessings. In the words of the final poem in the anthology, when it comes to Persona Non Grata, ‘Let’s celebrate’!

About Isabelle Kenyon

isabelle kenyon

Isabelle Kenyon is a poet, blogger and book reviewer. Her poems have published online for Bewildering Stories and as a Micro Chapbook for Origami Poetry Press. Isabelle has also featured in poetry anthologies such as Anti Heroin ChicLiterary Yard, the Inkyneedles anthology, Poetry Rivals, and the Great British Write Off. Isabelle has won awards and commendations from The Wirral festival of Music, Speech and Drama,the Festival of Firsts, the Langwith Scott Award for Art and Drama and the Visit Newark Poetry competition.

You can follow Isabelle on Twitter @kenyon_isabelle and visit her website. You’ll also find her on Facebook.

Staying in with J. Gregory Smith

Quick fix

I am delighted to welcome J. Gregory Smith to Linda’s Book Bag today. Greg has written several books and has kindly agreed to stay in to tell me all about one I think sounds brilliant.

Staying in with J. Gregory Smith

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

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

 Quick fix

Thanks, Linda.  I brought my latest novel, Quick Fix, which is the first book in a new series called The Reluctant Hustler.  The series is written from the perspective of Kyle Logan, a truck driver who works for a military contractor and who has been injured over in Iraq by an IED.  When we meet him he’s recovered physically from the experience but the reverberations to his personal life have just begun. 

That sounds a very interesting read. Tell me, what can we expect from an evening in with Quick Fix?

The story is set in a colorful neighborhood in the city of Philadelphia called Fishtown.  It provides an ever changing background as the area transforms from blue collar to a more gentrified mix.  For Kyle, the changes reflect his own circumstance and we learn he left for the Middle East as much to escape his reality and growing distance from his wife as it was to seek adventure.

Once he finds more excitement than he bargained for, thanks to a bomb attack on his truck convoy, he returns home hoping to return to a normal life, even if it is too late to save his crumbling marriage. 

His plans collapse by his own hand, or rather his fist, when he caves to a moment of rage after being provoked by his wife’s new boyfriend.  Now suspended from work and facing certain termination, if not a criminal record, Kyle is open to temptation via his shady best friend who offers an easy lifeline to reverse his fortunes.  All Kyle has to do is drive for two nights work in what seems to be a victimless crime.

(Quick Fix sounds very exciting.)

What made the story setup so compelling for me is that I tried to create an imperfect protagonist and place him in a situation where we all know he should walk away, yet we understand why he might give in to the pressure.  Needless to say, all does not go as smoothly as promised and we see Kyle dragged into a world that lives by different rules with life and death stakes not just for himself but everyone he cares about.

(Which just goes to show that there is rarely a ‘quick fix’ to our problems!)

What else have you brought along and why?

 Fishtown in Philadelphia PA

The Philly neighborhood of Fishtown is a character all its own in Quick Fix, in some subtle (and not so subtle) ways.  The main character was shaped by it while growing up, tried to escape it by travelling around the world and now must rely on it for his survival.

Not only have you made me interested in Quick Fix Greg, you’ve made me want to travel to Fishtown too now! Thanks so much for staying in with me to tell me all about it.

Quick Fix

Quick fix

Military contractor Kyle Logan’s luck has gone from bad to worse ever since he returned home to Philadelphia following an injury by an IED in Iraq. First, his marriage crumbles, then his career after he’s pushed to the brink and assaults his wife’s lover, who is also her divorce attorney.

When Kyle’s shady best friend turns up and offers him a “once in a lifetime” chance to regain his job and his life, all for just a couple night’s work, Kyle figures he’s got nothing to lose. The police, Philly Irish Mob and a couple of drug cartels all think otherwise.

Now forced to fight for his life, and those around him, Kyle must turn to allies from his old neighborhood in a desperate effort to stay alive and out of prison.

Quick Fix is one man’s fall into a world of unintended consequences that seeks to tread the razor-thin lines between right and wrong, loyalty and treachery.

Published by Red Acre, Quick Fix is available for purchase here.

About J. Gregory Smith

greg smith

Greg Smith is the bestselling author of the thrillers, A Noble Cause and The Flamekeepers as well as the Paul Chang Mystery series including his breakthrough novel, Final Price and the sequels, Legacy of the Dragon and Send in the Clowns all published by Thomas & Mercer.

Prior to writing fiction full time, Greg worked in public relations in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware. He has an MBA from the College of William & Mary and a BA in English from Skidmore College.

His debut novel, Final Price, was first released as a self-published work before being signed to Thomas & Mercer and re-released. Greg is now working on new thrillers as well as a YA fantasy series.

Greg currently lives in Wilmington, Delaware with his wife and son.

You can follow Greg on Twitter @JGregorySmith3. You’ll also find him on Facebook.

London in the Swinging Sixties: Ode to an Era: A Guest Post by Sue Clark, Author of Note to Boy

NTB graphic image2

Since I began blogging I’ve featured quite a few books from Unbound and today I’m pleased to welcome Sue Clark to Linda’s Book Bag to tell us more about the 1960s background to her novel Note to Boy.

Note to Boy is still being crowd funded and you can participate here. There’s a super video message from Sue all about Note to Boy here.

Note to Boy

NTB graphic image2

A comic novel about what happens when the worlds of a 1960s fashion diva and a modern teenager collide: she wants revenge and her reputation back; he’d settle for a safe haven and a warm coat.

Outrageous former fashion celebrity Eloise Slaughter and introverted Kilburn council estate kid Bradley McCreedy are poles apart. She’s an extrovert, seventy-something, gin-soaked diva. He’s a seventeen-year old who’s learnt it’s safer to keep his eyes down and his mouth shut. She has a past she likes to boast about. He’s already given up on his future. Yet against the odds, as this comic novel describes, the two of them become a formidable team.

Bradley and Eloise’s relationship is volatile, not helped by her devotion to Bombay Sapphire gin and an increasing tendency to confuse the past with the present. While Eloise struggles with memories of long-ago betrayals and humiliations dating back to her days as a 1960s ‘shock frock’ fashion designer, Bradley grows in confidence and cunning. A locked room in Eloise’s chaotic London flat adds to the mystery.

Note to Boy is an entertaining romp that touches on universal truths: don’t write people off, just because they’re unimpressive or annoying; don’t let your past screw up your present; and value friendships, no matter where you find them. Oh, and it’s funny too.

London in the Swinging Sixties: Ode to an Era

A Guest Post by Sue Clark

Who doesn’t love the 1960s? Mary Quant. The moon landing. The Kinks. Georgy Girl. It was an exciting and vibrant time to be alive, especially if you were young – and makes for a great background to a novel. One of the main characters in my comic fiction, Note to Boy, spends much of her time reminiscing about her life in Swinging London, when skirts were short, morals flexible, and life was about having fun.

Why did I decide to focus on that era? How could I not? During the late 1960s and early 70s, when I was single and carefree, I was living in London. I worked for an American film company, shared a flat near Oxford Circus with three other girls, bought my clothes in Carnaby Street and went to the sort of parties where you might bump into a James Bond actor. Sounds glamorous, hey?

Not so glam when you’re living it. I was mere ‘office fodder’ at the film company, the occupant of the flat next door to ours advertised herself as a ‘model’ and the James Bond actor I met was the Australian whose name no-one can ever remember.

Ok, so real-life wasn’t quite so ‘fab’ and ‘trendy’. Nevertheless, those times have proved to be a rich source of material for meas a writer of humorous fiction. I wasn’t even particularly thinking of the 60s when I began the book. I wanted to write about celebrity, from the point of view of someone who’d had it and lost it.

The story concerns the unlikely friendship between elderly, former fashion guru Eloise Slaughter and downtrodden teenager Bradley McCreedy. Thrown together, they don’t get on. Why should they? They have nothing in common – except gradually they discover a common purpose. Then the fun starts.

Who, if anyone, did I base these characters on? Well, Eloise is a monster. Arrogant, demanding and deluded. So, of course, she couldn’t possibly be based on anyone I know. Most certainly she is not a self-portrait. I don’t hold court from my bed wearing a purple peignoir, knocking back gin. I prefer white wine and my dressing gown is pink.

Though I’ve never come across anyone as extreme as Eloise, thank goodness, I’ve hung around enough TV and radio studies and, as a journalist, interviewed enough well-known people to know there are some monstrous egos out there. No, I’m not revealing any names.

When are you likely to see Note to Boy in the bookshops? Soon I hope, although this could depend on you. It’s being published by Unbound and crowdfunded directly by readers. The more people support the book, the quicker it gets into print. As I write this, Note to Boy is 63% of the way to being fully funded. It’s all explained on the Unbound website.

If you like the sound of Unbound, please browse their titles. There are plenty of great ones. If you like the sound of Note to Boy, please click the ‘pledge’ button on those pages. Thank you.

(I have to endorse what Sue says; Unbound have some wonderful books and I have been privileged to feature many of them on Linda’s Book Bag.)

About Sue Clark


In a varied career Sue Clark has been a scriptwriter, journalist and PR copywriter. She’s worked for BBC radio and TV, local newspapers, and no end of corporates. Her TV and radio credits include: Alas Smith and Jones, Weekending, and The News Huddlines.

She’s interviewed John Humphreys and Ronnie Corbett and penned funny lines for Lenny Henry, June Whitfield, Tracy Ullman, Roy Hudd and David Jason, among others.

Although the comic fiction Note to Boy is billed as her debut novel, there are others lurking in desk drawers that may one day see the light. And there will be more to come!

She lives in an Oxfordshire market town much like the fictional setting of Midsomer Murders with her long-suffering husband. She has three children and one adorable grandchild.

You can follow Sue on Twitter @SueClarkAuthor.