Staying in with Clare Rhoden

Stars in the Night(1)

When I saw the utterly beautiful cover to Clare Rhoden’s latest novel I simply had to ask her to stay in with me on Linda’s Book Bag to tell me a bit more about the book.

Staying in with Clare Rhoden

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

Thank you so much for being such a generous host, Linda!

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

Stars in the Night(1)

Tonight I’d like to introduce you to my latest book, The Stars in the Night. I hope you love this cover as much as I do. Isn’t it grand?

(It really is. I think this may be the most attractive cover to me as a reader that I have ever seen. I love it Clare.)

I’m so pleased we managed to have this published in the Centenary Year of the WWI Armistice.

(Very timely indeed I think.)

What can we expect from an evening in with The Stars in the Night?

Stars is historical fiction, with the story beginning in 1915 and continuing until the 1970s. You can expect quite a few smiles and a dash of tears as the Fletchers and the MacTierneys navigate the Great War and the years after it. I trust it’s a perfect book for staying in with.

(It sounds as if it is to me Clare. I know my TBR is out of control but I really don’t think I can resist The Stars in the Night.)

What else have you brought along and why?


I’ve brought some Brown Brothers Orange Muscat &Flora – it’s a sweet, syrupy dessert wine from Milawa in north-eastern Victoria (Australia), just a few hours from where I live.

(I don’t drink wine often as it makes me ill, but I could be persuaded with this one.)


I’ve also brought some Fennel-almond biscotti from my favourite bakers, Phillippa’s of Melbourne. A match made in heaven. No driving after the second glass of orange muscat, mind you!

(Ha! You’re the one having to drive. I’m staying put. Mind you, I don’t drink anything if I’m driving. My driving is quite poor enough without alcohol in the mix!)

This combination is just the sort of thing you want to celebrate finishing a book draft – or even better, to enjoy while staying in with a good book.

(Or a cup of tea and a biscuit. It’s always time for a cup of tea…)


One more thing I’ve brought to show you is this photo of my dad and his family, taken in Port Adelaide in 1933. It was researching my father’s parents, who both died quite young, that eventually led me to a PhD in Australian WWI literature and my novel The Stars in the Night. My grandparents emigrated to Australia in January 1914 and were declared enemy aliens because of their German connections (he was from Pomerania and she was from Alsace). Yet they instilled in their sons a love of all things Australian and a strong desire for peace, not war. My father is that sweet little boy on the right.

Without the people in this photo, I would not be the writer I am.

What a moving and lovely stimulus for The Stars in the Night Clare. It has been wonderful finding out more about it as it is definitely my kind of read. Thanks so much for staying in with me.

The Stars in the Night

Harry Fletcher is a confident young man. He’s sure that he will marry Nora MacTiernan, no matter what their families say. He’s certain that he will always be there to protect Eddie, the boy his father saved from the gutters of Port Adelaide.

Only the War to End All Wars might get in the way of Harry’s plans.

From the beaches of Semaphore to the shores of Gallipoli, the mud of Flanders to the red dust of inland South Australia, this is a story of love, brotherhood, and resilience.

The Stars in the Night is available for purchase here.

About Clare Rhoden


Clare Rhoden completed her PhD in Australian WWI literature at the University of Melbourne in 2011, and a Masters of Creative Writing in 2008, in which she investigated the history of her grandparents who emigrated for Europe to Port Adelaide in January 1914. The Stars in the Night is the result of her research. Clare also writes sci-fi and fantasy (check her titles at Odyssey Books). She lives in Melbourne Australia with her husband Bill, their super-intelligent poodle-cross Aeryn, a huge and charming parliament of visiting magpies, and a very demanding/addictive garden space.

For more information you can visit Clare’s website, find her on Facebook, Goodreads and Instagram and follow Clare on Twitter @ClareER.

Writing as Therapy: A Guest Post by Christine Webber, Author of In Honour Bound


Many of you know that I have lost some people very close to me over the last couple of years and I frequently disappear into reading as a way of escape or amelioration. When I heard about the sad loss of Christine Webber’s husband earlier this year it got me wondering if writing can provide a similar kind of therapy. Christine is the author of In Honour Bound and I’m delighted she has agreed to provide a blog post for Linda’s Book Bag on the very subject of writing as therapy.

It's Who We are Cover

I have been lucky enough to feature Christine here on the blog with another guest post about reality and fiction which was in celebration of her book It’s Who We Are which is available for purchase here.

In Honour Bound is available for purchase here.

In Honour Bound


A searing and sensual novel set in London in the 1980s – a decade where we believed that anything was possible, and past traditions could be abandoned if unwanted.

But, as the popular TV presenter and her cardiac surgeon lover discover, debts of honour in other cultures are not so readily forgotten.

Writing as Therapy

A Guest Post by Christine Webber

My latest novel, In Honour Bound, came out recently. This book is a re-write of my first attempt at fiction, which was published in 1987. And Linda has very kindly asked me to mark the re-issue by contributing to her wonderful blog on the theme of writing as therapy.

Vast numbers of individuals who never write a book use writing to get facts into their brains, or to prioritise what they have to do, or to assist them with problem-solving. And they recognise that putting pen to paper helps them in sorting their heads out.

During my years as a Harley Street psychotherapist, I saw at first-hand how noting down thoughts and feelings is really therapeutic for most people.

My particular interest was happiness, and how to increase levels of it in my patients. And I came to realise that the best way of doing it, was to encourage them to see that happiness can become a habit, just as exercising your body can. And I also learned that the habit can be strengthened by people actually noticing when they’re happy and focusing on that, rather than allowing themselves to be bogged down with aspects of their lives that are going wrong.

So, I used to ask my clients to write down five positive points, every evening, that had happened to them that day. These could be concerned with their own achievements, or being on the receiving end of someone else’s kindness, or something that evoked a laugh-out loud moment, or even just finding a seat on a crowded train. Anything really, that caused an uplift in mood.

This simple strategy was surprisingly effective. Obviously, some people are born more sunny-natured than others, but everyone can increase their own levels of happiness, to some extent, if they work at it.

Don’t take my word for it though. You’ll find that other clinicians and researchers have realised that writing down our intentions or actions can be a useful vehicle for change – because the act of writing seems to reinforce appropriate messages in our brains.

By the way, no one appears to be clear yet about whether listing this kind of stuff on your PC or other electronic device is as beneficial. So, my advice would be to go with the handwritten option if you want to be sure of maximising the good effect on your brain.

Writing In Honour Bound was a rather different form of therapy for me. As many of you know, my husband of thirty years died in March 2018. I’d begun the novel before his death. But it was afterwards that it became a real crutch. The story is quite heart-rending in places, and writing it while processing my own grief, loss and emptiness definitely made it very poignant for me and was the catalyst for many tearful moments. I didn’t cry much when not writing – partly because David and I’d discussed how we wanted to focus on what joy we’d experienced in our lives together rather than on what we were losing– but writing about my heroine’s pain enabled me to accept my own. Also, I felt her joy in her new love very keenly too. And that reminded me how – despite indifferent weather during our first few months as a couple – we always used to say that we’d look back on them as a ‘golden summer’. And we did.

I think that my own emotions as I wrote this new version of In Honour Bound enhanced the book in some ways and it very definitely released something in me that was better out than in!

So, has it helped me? Yes. Is it a better book than the one with the same title that appeared thirty-one years ago? I believe and hope that it is. But the reader, as ever, will be the judge.

(I’m so looking forward to reading In Honour Bound Christine. Your guest post has touched me deeply and I’d like to thank you for being prepared to write it so honestly for my blog.)

About Christine Webber

Christine webber

After a break of 29 years to write over a dozen non-fiction titles, Christine Webber returned to writing fiction in 2016. The result was a novel called Who’d Have Thought It? which is a romantic comedy about the change and challenges we encounter in mid-life.

whod have thought it

Christine is a former singer, TV presenter, agony aunt, columnist and Harley Street psychotherapist.

Nowadays she is focusing on fiction – though she still pops up on the radio from time to time.

You can follow Christine on Twitter @1chriswebber, visit her website and find her on Facebook.

Staying in with Ted Krever

Swindler & Son cover

When Ted Krever got in touch about one of his books I so loved the sound of it that, although I couldn’t in all honesty accept it onto my out of control TBR, I simply had to invite Ted onto Linda’s Book Bag to tell me more about it.

Staying in with Ted Krever

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Ted. 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?

Swindler & Son cover

I’ve brought Swindler & Son, which just published December 16th on Amazon in paperback and ebook. I’ve chosen it because it just published on Amazon in paperback and ebook (did I just say that?…oh yeah…) and because it’s a Christmas story, great reading for the holidays!

(I love the cover of Swindler & Son Ted. It makes me smile. A slightly belated Happy Publication Day too.)

Maybe a slightly demented Christmas story, I have to admit. Nicky Sandler and his mentor Harry provide fabled one-of-a-kind luxury items to well-heeled clients from their Paris office. For example: the first Birkin bag, the one offered to Jane Birkin by Hermes in exchange for the use of her name; the first Porsche racing car to win the LeMans 24-Hour race in 1970; the Mona Lisa – not the one in the Louvre, the one stolen from the Louvre in 1911.

(I didn’t think the Mona Lisa I saw in the Louvre was quite like your cover!)

But when Nicky finds the anti-terrorism task force keeping watch on his bedroom window, he’s forced into an international chase to find out what went wrong and fix it – or at least find someone else to take the blame.

(Swindler & Son sounds completely wacky to me!)

What can we expect from an evening in with Swindler & Son?

Hopefully, a few surprises and, like any decent book, a mirror on our bizarre, absurd world. I’ve written a book about fraud, kidnapping, money laundering, video-blogging on the Arabian Peninsula, the looting of ancient treasures and nuclear terrorism – naturally, it’s a comedy. I call it a screwball-comedy thriller. It’s also a romantic book, in a way – about love after marriage, grown-up love and also the love of a mentor. And also, the location of Napoleon’s penis, tips on the best way to smuggle art across a border and how to travel internationally without ever showing your passport. So you should expect to laugh but also to think a bit. Not too much – it is, after all, a Christmas comedy.

(I am actually speechless at that description Ted. I think I’m going to have to read Swindler & Son and find out more for myself.)

What else have you brought along and why?


Well, I’m bringing along some croissants from this wonderful hipster bakery my wife and I discovered right near the Canal Saint-Martin.  And a picture of our cat Goldie because every writer has to have a cat!


(It’s not just every writer who needs a cat Ted. I’d say every blogger needs one too and a house isn’t a home without one. I certainly miss my four and thing Goldie looks a real star.)

Thanks Ted, for staying in with me and telling me all about Swindler & Son. I’m not sure I’ve featured a book quite like it before and I think it sounds hugely entertaining. Good luck with it!

Swindler & Son

Swindler & Son cover

What happens to a confidence man once he’s lost his confidence? Nothing good.

After years of selling legendary fakes to well-heeled clients in Paris, Nicky Sandler’s luck has run dry. His new wife wants out, his partner is collapsing from dementia—a fatal flaw in a conman—and the anti-terrorism squad is camped outside his window.

Swindler & Son is the story of a man with a gift for larceny, forced against his will to try to do the right thing.

Swindler & Son is available for purchase here.

About Ted Krever

Ted Portugal squared

Ted Krever watched the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, went to Woodstock (the good one), and graduated Sarah Lawrence College with a useless degree in creative writing.

He spent several decades creating programs for ABC News, CBS, CNN, A&E, Court TV, MTV News, Discovery People and CBS/48 Hours, and as VP/Production of a short-lived dotcom.

He has driven a 16-wheeler across the Rockies, shot overnight news in NY City, managed a revival-house movie theater and married twice, in a triumph of optimism.

He was once accused of attempting to blow up Ethel Kennedy with a Super-8 projector.

You can find out more by visiting Ted’s website and finding him on Facebook. You can also follow Ted on Twitter @tedkrever.

Introducing Madge: A Guest Post by A.E. Walnofer, Author of With Face Aflame

With Face aflame

I’m so pleased to welcome A. E. Walnofer to Linda’s Book Bag today. I love historical fiction and when I saw the fabulous cover of With Face Aflame, I simply had to ask A.E. Walnofer to explain a little more about her protagonist.

With Face Aflame is available for purchase here.

With Face Aflame

With Face aflame

Born with a red mark emblazoned across her face, seventeen-year-old Madge is lonely as she spends her days serving guests and cleaning rooms in the inn her father keeps.

One day, she meets an unusual minstrel in the marketplace. Moved by the beauty of his song and the odd shape of his body, she realizes she has made her first friend. But he must go on to the next town, leaving her behind. Soon after, while she herself is singing in the woods, she is startled by a chance meeting with a stranger there. Though the encounter leaves her horribly embarrassed, it proves she need not remain unnoticed and alone forever.

However, this new hope is shattered when she overhears a few quiet words that weren’t intended for her ears. Heartbroken and confused, she flees her home to join the minstrel and his companion, a crass juggler. As they travel earning their daily bread, Madge secretly seeks to rid herself of the mark upon her cheek, convinced that nothing else can heal her heart.

Set in England in 1681, With Face Aflame is the tale of a girl who risks everything in hopes of becoming the person she desperately wants to be.

Introducing Madge

A Guest Post by A. E. Walnofer

With Face aflame

Because Madge’s birthmark is central to her story, I felt it was important to portray it on the book’s cover. After deciding on the above image, I showed it to a number of friends, seeking their opinion. It surprised me how many people expressed that they were made uncomfortable by it. Perhaps discomforting is not what authors ought to strive for when deciding on their book’s cover, but I was actually quite glad about the reaction it was getting. We are constantly bombarded by images that are superficially perfected, to the point that very normal sights strike us as abnormal, and atypical yet healthy sights disconcert us. This negatively affects the way we see others and ourselves, causing dissatisfaction and alienation.

The body positive movement which has truly blossomed in the past decade or so is vital to the health of our society. With the development of technology, whether medical or digital, that can erase or at least alter every physical ‘imperfection’, it is easy for us to embrace and extol unrealistic standards and norms.

Pondering this, got me thinking about people in the past who had no chance to effectively modify their appearance. Thus, Madge was born. Her entire identity and self-perception are tied up in her facial complexion, but there is so much more to Madge than her birthmark! She knows this and desperately wants others to know it as well. Unfortunately, she thinks they never will until she rids herself of the mark. On her quest to accomplish this, she meets a number of people, all with their own valuable stories that affect her deeply.

Often unusual-looking main characters in books are accused of witchcraft or clandestine sin. At no point in With Face Aflame is Madge dunked in a proving pond or tried by jury for stirring eyes of newt into a bubbling stew of dragon’s blood. Madge’s story resonates with the people of her day, as she discovers when she begins to allow herself to interact with them. Also, people today can relate to her in spite of the makeup, laser therapy and photoshop available to us.

It is my hope that anyone who reads the tale of Madge’s healing will be assured of their own worth and abilities. No matter what time period we were born in and regardless of how we look, we are all individuals, uniquely beautiful, intriguing and important.

(What wise words. I think Madge sounds a wonderful creation. Thank you for telling us more about her.)

About A.E. Walnofer


A.E. Walnofer is the author of With Face Aflame, as well as another historical novel, A Girl Called Foote. She spends weekdays mobilizing the soft tissue and synovial joints of patients, and weekends typing out stories that are incessantly brewing inside her head. There are lots of these tales and she hopes to share many more of them with you in the future.

You can find out more by visiting A.E. Walnofer’s website. A.E. Walnofer has just joined Twitter @aewalnofer and you’ll also find her on Facebook.

Off Island by Marlene Hauser


My enormous thanks to Sophie Morgan at Troubador Publishing for a copy of Off-Island by Marlene Hauser in return for an honest review.

Off-Island is available for purchase here.



Krista Bourne has always been surrounded by the strength, love and wealth of her family and their homes in New York City and Martha’s Vineyard. She has never had to think for herself. Living with boyfriend Michael and her elderly grandfather, she can also summon up the comforting ghosts of her beloved father and grandmother. In vivid dreams she flies with her pilot father, and when awake remembers idyllic childhood holidays spent with her bohemian grandmother.

When Krista impulsively walks out on her career as a professional dancer, it is the beginning of a new chapter in her life. She feels unsettled and excited by the sense of imminent change around her.

This feeling turns to panic, then fear when she realises that she is pregnant and is uncertain whether or not she wants to keep the baby, bringing her and Michael to a crossroads in their relationship. Adamant that she alone must deal with the situation, Krista rejects all offers of support from him, isolating her at a time when she most needs help.

Krista’s journey and emotional upheaval take her back to her summer home on Martha’s Vineyard, where she is surprised to find out that she does not know her family history quite as well as she imagined.

My Review of Off-Island

When Krista walks out of her dance class, this will be the beginning of a huge turning point in her life.

My goodness. Off-Island may be more novella than novel in length but it packs the most enormous punch. The quality of Marlene Hauser’s writing is so sophisticated and visual that the whole time I was reading I felt resonances with Andre Gide’s Isabelle. There’s an intensity of colour and an exploration of truth and identity that I thought was similar to this Gide’s classic. The poetic nature of some passages, especially those relating to Krista’s thoughts and dreams, was very affecting. I thought the descriptions of setting were utterly beautiful.

I confess I couldn’t stand Krista, but equally I couldn’t stop reading her story. I had to know how far her past had shaped her present and how she might deal with her future. Marlene Hauser has depicted such an intimate and compelling portrait of guilt, grief and self-knowledge that I read Off-Island in one sitting. I went from despising Krista to feeling compassion and empathy as a result of the skilful writing. The claustrophobic intensity of so few characters affords such depth of insight into Krista’s mind and character that it is impossible not to become involved as a reader.

Never having been pregnant, the events of Off-Island are totally unfamiliar to me and yet I felt the way in which they are presented depicted such universal themes that I could understand and appreciate them all. Marlene Hauser’s exploration of how we make choices and how we can be self-deceptive makes Off-Island almost compulsory reading for anyone in Krista’s, and indeed Michael’s, situation. I felt I learnt so much about myself, let alone the characters, from this small volume.

Off-Island is not an easy read. It may well take some readers on a journey they would rather not take, and I’m not sure it’s a book I can say I enjoyed because of the subject matter. At times I found it an uncomfortable read, but I also found it fascinating, thought-provoking, compelling and beautifully written. I think Off-Island by Marlene Hauser is a very important book.

About Marlene Hauser

marlene hauser

Marlene Hauser is a professional writer based in Oxford, UK, where she lives with her husband and teenage son. She served as editor of the Writer’s New York City Source Book and originated the television film Under the Influence, going on to serve as Associate Producer and Technical Consultant. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University and has received numerous awards, including a residency at the Millay Arts Colony in Upstate New York.

For more information you can visit Marlene’s website or follow her on Twitter @mhauser_author.

Staying in with Vicki Olsen

Sparrow Falls Final Kindle-edit

I’m delighted to welcome Vicki Olsen to Linda’s Book Bag today to stay in with me and tell me all about her debut novel – not least because her authorship story makes me think there’s hope for me yet as a potential writer.

Staying in with Vicki Olsen

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

I’m happy to be here!  Thank you for inviting me to sit on your couch, where so many talented writers have sat since you started this feature.

(I’m thrilled with how successful it’s been actually Vicki!)

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

Sparrow Falls Final Kindle-edit

I brought my debut novel, A Sparrow Falls.  I first started writing this in 2009, so it’s good to finally have it published.  The publication date for the paperback is December 4, 2018, which happens to be my 70th birthday.

(Oo. Happy slightly belated actual and book birthday for 4th December Vicki. I find the length of time it’s taken you to get to publication very inspiring.)

It’s the first book in a series which will be set in the fictional town of Tolerance, Arkansas. Yes, I am copying another writer from Arkansas. John Grisham set many of his books in the fictional Clanton, Mississippi in the equally fictional Ford County. But I’m not concerned about Mr. Grisham crying “foul” since William Faulkner had Yoknapatawpha County , Mississippi before either Mr. Grisham or I was born.  Both Mr. Grisham and Mr. Faulkner are fine southern gentlemen whose company I always enjoy.

(Sounds like perfect company to find yourself in!)

What can we expect from an evening in with A Sparrow Falls?

It isn’t an easy story to tell and some readers may shy away because of the subject matter. But it deals with an important subject, and I think I have managed to present it in a way that doesn’t make the reader uncomfortable, but at the same time does not mineralize a serious problem. It is the subject of child sexual abuse. There is a lot of heartbreak in this book. But there’s a lot of good too.

(I think that’s the beauty of books, Vicki, they enable us to confront difficult subjects in a non-threatening way.)

I hope readers will like the protagonist, Sarah, as much as I do. I actually fell in love with her before I even started to write this book. I have lived with her for nine years now.

(I love how characters refuse to go away…)

I first met Sarah as an adult minor character in different book. She had a different name then, but she spoke to me from the pages of a book I was helping a friend write. My friend was a 79 year old retired actor who was writing his first novel. When he finished writing the book, I suggested that Sarah was the most interesting character in his book and he should tell her story.  He suggested collaboration and I agreed.  As we began, he was writing her adult story and I was writing her childhood. I didn’t like who she was turning in to under his pen and he soon lost interest in the project.  Over time, I changed the title, changed her name and ditched the storyline. But Sarah was still there begging to tell her story her way. I stopped fighting her and let her do it.

 (Always best to do what your characters ask you I think!)

Sometimes a character just takes over the writers mind…I was writing a scene where she finds a puppy. I decided to name the dog Spot, like in the Dick and Jane books. So, I went back and changed the description of the dog, so that Spot would be a logical name. After all the changes, I started to write the line “I’m gonna name you Spot.” But when I started to type, I typed “I’m gonna name you Joy.” WOW!  Where did that come from? I never even considered that name. Sarah wanted her dog to be named Joy.

(That’s ever so slightly scary actually.)

What else have you brought along and why? 


I brought a tape of the songs from the book. Music plays a special role in the novel. It is set in the 50’s and 60’s. The music of this time is in the DNA of anyone who lived through it. I use the music to set the mood. It is evocative of the complexities of the times as our culture in America and in Europe as well moved from a time of innocence and began to evolve a political and social consciousness. This tape has The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Kinks and the Rolling Stones. It also has Johnny Cash and Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs and The Dave Clark Five.

(Now you’re talking my era – and a bit before – I bet there will be some earworms for readers with those artists.)


I also brought a few items mentioned in the Prologue: A gold gross on a chain, a Nancy Drew book, a high school ring and a picture of Jesus.

This is the Prologue:

Sarah is leaving this house; leaving the sagging porch, leaving the peeling paint, and leaving this town behind. Gone…gone forever.

She looks around her bedroom at what else she is leaving behind. Pressed and dried yellow rose corsage pinned to her bulletin board, fifteen Nancy Drew books—she’d given up on collecting the entire set, Dolly, one eye closed, the Bible she got the day of her baptism, and the picture of Jesus hanging on the nail she had hung it on the day she got it. I was mad at Him for so long.

She picks up the box, starts out the door and turns to take one last look. She goes back, takes the picture of Jesus off the wall and puts it in the box, with Charlie’s Bible. Around her neck are a small gold cross and two wedding bands tied to a pale yellow ribbon.

(That’s a really enticing snippet that makes me want to read the book straight away.)

I also brought a reader review:

I read A Sparrow Falls and it resonated deep in my soul. Sarah’s story really stayed with me. It has been a few weeks and a few books since I finished it and my mind still wanders to Sarah. I went through an emotional rollercoaster with Sarah but we came out the other side. I highly recommend this book and look forward to more from Ms.Olsen in the future!

(That’s a lovely endorsement. You must be very pleased to receive such a review.)

I start each chapter with scripture. The scripture foretells what will happen in the chapter.  But this is by no means a book about religion. I use it as a backdrop representative of southern culture of the period.

(Sounds interesting. I love trying to match these kind of aspects with what happens in the text as I read Vicky.)

The next book is also about Sarah and what happens to her after she leaves Tolerance. It‘s  a much happier story—and it has real Hippies.

(Oh, we all have a bit of hippy inside us I think!)

Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about A Sparrow Falls Vicki. You certainly have me intrigued. I wish you a happy birthday for 4th December and every success with the book.

A Sparrow Falls

Sparrow Falls Final Kindle-edit

Doors were never locked, in Tolerance, Arkansas in the 1950’s. Everyone went to church on Sunday and the corner grocer extended credit, never asking for a credit card. Things were good —the age of innocence in America that laid the foundation for the sexual and Cultural Revolution that was to explode onto the scene in the sixties.

But for Sarah Jones, a glimpse into the shadows snatched away her childhood innocence. Her way of dealing with the despicable acts committed against her threatened to destroy who she truly was.

Can she find the inner strength to overcome her past?

Can she see that letting go of the desire to punish oneself is often the hardest act of forgiveness?

Content Advisory: This book is intended for mature audiences and contains child sexual abuse and disturbing imagery.

A Sparrow Falls is available for purchase here.

About Vicki Olsen


Vicki describes herself as an Air Force brat who grew up in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Illinois, Idaho and Germany.

After earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and Economics from the University of Arkansas, she worked as an insurance adjuster, a corporate paralegal and owned an antiques and gifts shop in Dallas. Leaving her ex-husband and grown children in Texas, she now lives in Arkansas with ten goldfish and an array of African violets.

Vicki’s works explore themes of fate and man’s inhumanity to man. Her stories about common people are influenced by a tradition of southern storytelling.

You can find out more by visiting Vicki’s website, following her on Twitter @vickiolsen48 and finding her on Facebook.

Presumed Guilty by Jane Isaac

Presumed Guilty

My enormous thanks to Jane Isaac for a copy of Presumed Guilty in return for an honest review.

It’s almost exactly three years to the day that I first featured Jane Isaac here on Linda’s Book Bag when I helped reveal the cover to Jane’s novel An Unfamiliar Murder. I reviewed Jane’s Beneath the Ashes here and have been lucky enough to meet Jane on several occasions including as part of the Deepings Literary Festival 2017 where I live. You can find out about that here. Shortly after that post I was lucky enough to review The Lies Within here and since then I was privileged to share an extract here from the first of Jane’s DC Beth Chamberlain books, After He’s Gone.

Published on 10th December 2018 Presumed Guilty is available for purchase here.

Presumed Guilty

Presumed Guilty

Accident or murder?

The first victim – a prominent local councillor, killed in a hit and run ‒ could be either, but the next bodies leave no doubt. A twisted killer is at large. And he’s not finished yet.

DC Beth Chamberlain, Family Liaison Officer, has to support the victims’ families, but before she can solve the crimes in the present, Beth needs to uncover the secrets of the past.

Meanwhile, the killer has her in his sights…

My Review of Presumed Guilty

One murder is just the start of a complicated investigation for Beth Chamberlain.

Although I haven’t read the first book in this series it made no difference whatsoever to my enjoyment of Presumed Guilty (except for the fact that I now really want to read it) because the background to the characters and the previous case was so skilfully woven into this narrative that I felt I had a thorough understanding of them and their personalities.

By the end of Presumed Guilty I was completely captivated by Beth in particular and I am now desperate to read any future book in the series to find out what happens next. I loved the concept of Beth as a family liaison office as this made such a refreshing change from police procedural novels where there is a hard bitten, hard drinking, cynical detective. Beth felt real and human to me with a perfect balance of strength and sensitivity that brought her alive.

Having read Jane Isaac before I was expecting a fast paced and exciting story, which I got in spades, but I also felt the quality of her writing had taken on a real poise and elegance so that I enjoyed the book even more than I had anticipated. It was the natural quality of the direct speech that worked so well for me. I could hear the conversations so vividly that I wanted to take part and put in my viewpoint too. I think it shows a successful story when I forget I’m reading fiction, but believe in the people and action completely. I also loved the settings as they are places I know well, having gone to school in Oundle and having lived in county. Reading Presumed Guilty took me right back to Northamptonshire.

The short chapters added pace and vibrancy and I thought the entire plotting from title to final full stop felt assured and masterful so that I was entertained but also impressed by the writing. I appreciated the exploration of motive behind the murders and the complex interplay of relationships that so many experience. This felt like mature and intelligent writing to me.

Presumed Guilty kept me captivated and engrossed throughout. I’m not a great fan of explicit gore and violence and prefer a novel that explores the motives behind the crimes with authority and panache which is exactly what Jane Isaac gave me in Presumed Guilty. I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed it.

About Jane Isaac


Jane Isaac lives with her detective husband (very helpful for research!) and her daughter in rural Northamptonshire, UK where she can often be found trudging over the fields with her Labrador, Bollo. Her debut, An Unfamiliar Murder, was nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.’ The follow up, The Truth Will Out, was nominated as ‘Thriller of the Month – April 2014’ by

After He’s Gone is Jane’s sixth novel and the first in a new series featuring Family Liaison Officer, DC Beth Chamberlain. The second DC Beth Chamberlain novel will be released later in 2018.

You can follow Jane Isaac on Twitter @JaneIsaacAuthor and visit her web site. Jane is also on Facebook,