The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon by Sarah Steele


My enormous thanks to Rosie Margesson at Headline for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon by Sarah Steele and for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review. I love to travel and in these mad times when travel is restricted, what could be better than a book that transports a reader to another place? 

The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon will be published by Headline on 6th August 2020 and is available for pre-order through the links here.

The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon


To unravel that long-lost summer, she had to follow the thread…

Florence Connelly is broken hearted. Her marriage has collapsed under the weight of the loss she shares with her husband, and her beloved grandmother has just died. Even the joy she found in dressmaking is gone.

But things change when Flo opens a box of vintage 1960s dress patterns found inside her grandmother’s wardrobe. Inside each pattern packet is a fabric swatch, a postcard from Europe and a photograph of a mysterious young woman, Nancy Moon, wearing the hand-made dress.

Flo discovers that Nancy was a distant relation who took the boat train to Paris in 1962 and never returned. With no one to stay home for, Flo decides to follow Nancy’s thread. She unravels an untold story of love and loss in her family’s past. And begins to stitch the pieces of her own life back together.

My Review of The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon

Flo’s journey to find Nancy might just help her find herself.

I absolutely loved The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon. If you love fast paced horror or visceral crime, go elsewhere, but if you want a sensitive and mature exploration of the lives of two linked women, look no further. Sarah Steele’s premise of both literal and metaphorical threads that join Nancy and Florence is so effective and so beautifully executed that I found I was able to lose myself entirely in the dual timeline narrative and leave the cares of the world behind me. I loved the glamour, the dressmaking, the hardships, the relationships and the history. The only negative is that I now want to follow in both Nancy and Flo’s footsteps as they travel and current world events don’t allow it!

The settings are very vivid. From Brighton to Tuscany with stops along the way in places like Paris and Venice I found Sarah Steele wove the senses into her settings so effectively that The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon is a very visual and evocative read. Not only is there a clear sense of place, but time and era are conveyed gloriously too which gave me a feeling of nostalgia as I became utterly wound up in Nancy’s part of the story. I found there were touches of brilliant humour that had the effect of lifting my spirits and making me feel more positive about the world too.

Although there’s action in this meticulously crafted plot, with superb descriptions that give a real sense of place, it is Nancy and Flo’s characters that really drive the story so that I would have loved to know them both in real life. Both women are feisty, vulnerable and strong in a mix that feels completely authentic. The sense of history repeating itself through their lives, with the universal themes of love and family weaving through what happens to them is wonderfully heart warming and totally convincing. 

The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon is completely wonderful. Rather like the literary version of a family heirloom quilt, it’s transporting in time and place, it’s warm, witty and uplifting and I loved it. Don’t let yourself miss this one!

About Sarah Steele

sarah steele

Sarah Steele was the director of Wordfest at Gloucester Cathedral in 2018, which culminated in a suffragette march led by Helen Pankhurst. After training in London as a classical pianist and violinist, Sarah joined the world of publishing as assistant at Hodder and Stoughton. She was for many years a freelance editor. She lives in Stroud. The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon is her debut novel.

You can follow Sarah on Twitter @sarah_l_steele

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An Extract from Feathertide by Beth Cartwright

Feathertide jacket

I’m doing my best to avoid blog tours at the moment but Feathertide by Beth Cartwright so intrigued me when I was asked by Alice Spencer if I liked fiction featuring ‘YA, mermaids, other worlds or LGBT stories’, I simply couldn’t resist taking part in today’s stop by sharing an extract from the book.

Feathertide was published yesterday, 30th July 2020 by Penguin imprint Cornerstone and is available for purchase through the links here.


Feathertide jacket

A magical fairytale-inspired debut about accepting being that little bit different.

A girl. A secret. A life-changing journey.

Born covered in the feathers of a bird, and kept hidden in a crumbling house full of secrets, Marea has always known she was different, but never known why. And so to find answers, she goes in search of the father she has never met.

The hunt leads her to the City of Murmurs, a place of mermaids and mystery, where jars of swirling mist are carried through the streets by the broken-hearted.

And Marea will never forget what she learns there

Feathertide is an enchanting, magical novel perfect for fans of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale.

An Extract from Feathertide

A midday sky at a midnight hour.It was the Night of the Great Winter Star: crackling bonfires and chortling mirth, warmth in the cold and light in the dark. Jewelled colours somersaulted through the sky, momentarily mapping out new constellations in the darkness. The swish of a rocket and the swirl of a wheel.Frost shimmered on the rooftops and left long, glistening trails along the pavements. The world stood – watchful, whisperful, wonderful – counting down the minutes to the end of something frayed and worn at the edges, and to the start of something woven with promise and hope.The old unravelling into the new, when another year was safely tucked up into the warm folds of memory.A luminous star-filled sky; wish-ready.

It was the night I was born.

That morning, a heavily pregnant Lemàn had been out buying fresh mackerel from the old weather-worn fisherman at the port. They greeted each other with a customary nod and a half-smile and nothing more; he knew what she needed. She waited as he quickly worked his glittering nets between his hands, untangling the fish and separating them from the clinging crustaceans, a bucket for each. Despite his swollen fingers and knotted knuckles, he still caught more fish than anyone else half his age. Experience had taught him well. A faded salt stained cap tamed his buoyant grey curls and a clay pipe balanced at the side of his mouth as he rattled through his treasures, tossing the broken pieces back into the sea and whistling the old songs of long forgotten sailors.

It was the second batch Lemàn had sought that morning;the first devoured before she’d even arrived at her doorstep,and with a deep rumble in her belly she had headed straight back down the hill to the port, seeking to satisfy what she already knew to be an insatiable hunger. Lemàn’s craving for fish, morning, noon and night had grown stronger during the last eight months, and now it was all she could swallow without feeling empty and hollow inside. After about the sixth month, when her belly was as ripe as a summer fruit, her cravings grew so desperate that she no longer bothered to boil the fish into a soup or take the time to sprinkle them with herbs carefully chosen from the market. Instead she bit right into their scales, tearing their skin apart with her teeth, picking at the splinters of tiny bones left behind in her mouth, her lips sleek and oil-smeared.


I just love the atmosphere Beth Cartwright creates here. I’m hoping to get Feathertide onto my TBR pile very soon.

About Beth Cartwright

beth cartwright

Beth Cartwright has taught English in Greece and travelled around South East Asia and South America, where she worked at an animal sanctuary. A love of language and the imaginary led her to study English Literature and Linguistics at university, and she now lives on the edge of the Peak District with her family and two cats. Feathertide is her debut novel.

You can follow Beth on Twitter @bethcartwriter and Instagram.

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The Tuscan Contessa by Dinah Jefferies

the tuscan contessa

I’m absolutely delighted to have a novel by Dinah Jefferies back on Linda’s Book Bag, because I love her writing. My enormous thanks to Georgia Taylor at Penguin for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for The Tuscan Contessa.

Dinah Jefferies’ The Tea Planter’s Wife was one of my books of the year when I began blogging in 2015, and you can read my review (and see just how much the blog has evolved!) here.

Since then I was thrilled to interview Dinah here about Before The Rains and to review The Silk Merchant’s Daughter here and The Sapphire Widow here. I also reviewed Dinah’s The Missing Sister, here.

The Tuscan Contessa was published by Penguin on 23rd July 2020 and is available for purchase through these links.

The Tuscan Contessa

the tuscan contessa

In 1943, Contessa Sofia de’ Corsi’s peaceful Tuscan villa among the olive groves is upturned by the sudden arrival of German soldiers. Desperate to fight back, she agrees to shelter a wounded British radio engineer in her home, keeping him hidden from her husband Lorenzo – knowing that she is putting all of their lives at risk.

When Maxine, an Italian-American working for the resistance, arrives on Sofia’s doorstep, the pair forge an uneasy alliance. Feisty, independent Maxine promised herself never to fall in love. But when she meets a handsome partisan named Marco, she realizes it’s a promise she can’t keep…

Before long, the two women find themselves entangled in a dangerous game with the Nazis. Will they be discovered? And will they both be able to save the ones they love?

My Review of The Tuscan Contessa

German occupation has taken over Italy.

What an absolute delight to return to a Dinah Jefferies novel. I was expecting an excellent read and I wasn’t disappointed. The Tuscan Contessa has all the typical hallmarks of this author’s atmospheric writing, with vivid appeal to the senses, but this time with a darker and more unsettling edge that I found riveting. With Dinah Jefferies customary strong women living challenging lives, this time the backdrop of WW2’s Italy had an extra layer of menace that I hadn’t been expecting but found so compelling. I adore this type of storytelling.

The research that underpins the narrative is exemplary. I confess I know little about Italy during WW2 as most of my reading has centred on France and the United Kingdom. In The Tuscan Contessa I found a clear sense of the brutality of war at both a national and personal level as well as a vivid sense of history and place that comes through the beautiful descriptions so that I have ended the book feeling thoroughly engaged, entertained and educated.

I thought the sensitive exploration of the possibilities of human reaction to circumstances in The Tuscan Contessa was superb. Dinah Jefferies really made me wonder ‘What if…?’ I have no idea if I could have behaved as Sofia and Maxine do, but their story held me captivated. There’s a convincing cross-section of society from Sofia to Clara so that war’s effect is seen at all levels. I loved the resourcefulness, the weaknesses and the strengths of the women here because it made them all the more real. Maxine’s search for her emotional identity is especially profound and I desperately wanted her and Sofia to have happy endings. Of course, I’m not going to spoil the read by saying if they did!

In The Tuscan Contessa, Diana Jefferies blends initial sumptuous glamour with harsh and realistic reality into an intoxicating read. The sense of place, of history and of human nature is a heady mix in this novel. I thoroughly recommend it.

About Dinah Jefferies


Dinah Jefferies was born in Malaysia and moved to England at the age of nine. Her idyllic childhood always held a special place in her imagination, and when she began writing novels in her 60s, she was able to return there – first in her fiction and then on annual research trips for each new novel.

Dinah Jefferies is the author of the novels, The SeparationThe Tea Planter’s Wife – a Number One Sunday Times bestseller, The Silk Merchant’s Daughter, The Missing Sister and Before the Rains. She lives in Gloucestershire.

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

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Finders, Keepers by Sabine Durrant

Finders keepers

My enormous thanks to Jenny Platt for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Finders, Keepers by Sabine Durrant. I’m delighted to share my review today.

Published by Hodder and Stoughton on 9th July 2020, Finders, Keepers is available for purchase through the links here.

Finders, Keepers

Finders keepers

‘A masterly slow-burn gripper’ Louise Candlish

‘Deliciously sly yet also profoundly moving – a twisty game of cat and mouse that keeps the reader guessing at every step’ JP Delaney

‘Pitch-perfect. I absolutely loved it’ Lucy Dawson

‘Elegant and astute, Finders Keepers is truly gripping’ Louise O’Neill

Ailsa Tilson moves with her husband and children to Trinity Fields in search of the new.
New project – a house to renovate. New people – no links to the past. New friends – especially her next-door neighbour, the lonely Verity, who needs her help.

Verity has lived in Trinity Fields all her life. She’s always resisted change. Her home and belongings are a shield, a defence to keep the outside world at bay. But something about the Tilsons piques her interest.

Just as her ivy creeps through the shared garden fence, so Verity will work her way into the Tilson family.

And once they realise how formidable she can be, it might well be too late.

My review of Finders, Keepers

Neighbours can have secrets!

Finders Keepers is a claustrophobic, uneasy and unsettling narrative that I thoroughly enjoyed because it made my skin creep as if I were seeing something slightly distasteful and yet completely compelling. The aptly, perfectly named, Verity’s voice is strong and convincing so that I was sucked into her world and that of her neighbours, Tom and Alisa, almost against my will.

I thought the plot was masterful with a drip feeding of hints, distractions and credibility that captivated my attention throughout. Reading Finders, Keepers is a bit like catching something out of the corner of your eye. It’s unsettling but you’re not quite sure if you saw what you thought you saw. As well as providing a cracking story, Sabine Durrant considers what it is that makes us who we are, the persona we present to others and the way manipulation can come in many forms so that whilst Finders, Keepers is a riveting story, it is one that has many layers to fathom. The psychological element is subtle, and so plausible that it has far greater impact than brutal physical violence of some reads.

I loved Sabine Durrant’s creation of character. Throughout I couldn’t decide if I loathed Tom or felt sorry for him as the author manipulated my reader responses so unnervingly. Verity’s voice creeps into the reader’s mind until they are mesmerised, whilst Alisa seems like a chimera not to be entirely trusted. Both Alisa and Verity have a neediness that is utterly convincing but at the same time, each woman has a manipulative strength too so that it is impossible to know who is controlling whom and who can – or cannot – be trusted. The interplay between the people in Finders, Keepers, the conveying of meaning through what is withheld as much as what is said and the dynamics of control, all add layers of creepiness whilst seeming to be perfectly benign. I thought this was excellent.

There’s quite a filmic quality to the settings that makes them vivid and vibrant. Iterative themes redolent of threat and danger such as the colour red, a locked room, spying on other people as so skilfully woven in to Finders, Keepers that having finished the read I feel I want to go back to the beginning and look much more carefully, with the benefit of hindsight.
I thought Finders, Keepers was at the very least hugely entertaining and distracting, but more than that, I thought it was a subtle, manipulative story that was intelligently written and actually very unsettling. It made me wonder just how much I really know the people next door. I thoroughly enjoyed it and really recommend it.

About Sabine Durrant


Sabine Durrant is the author of three psychological thrillers, Under Your Skin, Remember Me This Way and Lie With Me, a Richard & Judy Bookclub selection and Sunday Times paperback bestseller. Her previous novels are Having It and Eating It and The Great Indoors, and two books for teenage girls, Cross Your Heart, Connie Pickles and Ooh La La! Connie Pickles. She is a former features editor of the Guardian and a former literary editor at the Sunday Times, and her writing has appeared in many national newspapers and magazines. She lives in south London with her partner and their three children.

For further information, find Sabine Facebook or follow her on Twitter @SabineDurrant.

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The New Book Club from @CapitalCrime1

capital crime logo

It was last September when I spent two sensational days at the inaugural Capital Crime event that you can read about here.

I’m delighted to bring you exciting news from Capital Crime today.

CApital crime authors

Today, Capital Crime launches an exciting new venture. Capital Crime presents the Capital Crime Book Club, an affordable monthly subscription service and year-round home for crime and thriller fans.

The Capital Crime Book Club will be fabulous resource for readers, and a regular link between authors and fans.

Each month, subscribers will receive two carefully curated paperbacks along with exclusive access to great author content and community activities. The Capital Crime Book Club offers a way for authors and publishers to connect with readers, maintaining the ethos at the heart of the Capital Crime festival.

The Capital Crime Book Club will provide readers with great value for money, and a greater sense of community.

Adam Handy

Adam Hamdy

Capital Crime co-founder Adam Hamdy, says “Capital Crime is an inclusive festival with a strong sense of community. It is in this spirit that we’re launching the Capital Crime Book Club, a home for all fans of crime fiction. With a monthly subscription fee in the region of £10 for two paperbacks and access to exclusive community content, we’re intent on offering a great value service that’s accessible to everyone.”

David Headley

David Headley

Capital Crime co-founder and Goldsboro Books Managing Director, David Headley, says
“Capital Crime has always been about connecting fans of crime fiction with their favourite writers. We see this as another string to our bow complementing our physical festival and platform. We’re supporting authors and publishers and helping them connect with readers in celebration of this much-loved genre.”

The Capital Crime Book Club will officially launch on September 1st 2020. Register here now to be among the first to experience The Capital Crime Book Club.

About Capital Crime

capital crime logo

Capital Crime is a diverse, inclusive and socially responsible festival, running initiatives including social outreach to support students exploring a literary career, an innovative digital festival and the New Voices Award. The festival is the brainchild of British screenwriter Adam Hamdy and Managing Director of Goldsboro Books, David Headley.

Capital Crime’s inaugural festival took place from September 26th -28th 2019 at the Connaught Rooms in London. Guests included Kate Atkinson, Robert Harris, David Baldacci, Ian Rankin, Ann Cleeves, Robert Glenister, Leye Adenle, Denise Mina, Anthony Horowitz, Abir Mukherjee and many others.

Capital Crime 2020 is due to take place on 1st – 3rd October 2020. Capital Crime organisers are monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic closely and while they are not yet able to take a decision on the 2020 festival, their priority is keeping their delegates and guests safe. The Capital Crime Book Club will run alongside the festival in the event it goes ahead, or act as a substitute if it gets cancelled. If the 2020 festival does not go ahead, existing Capital Crime 2020 pass holders will have the opportunity to convert
to membership of the Capital Crime Book Club, transfer their purchase to a 2021 pass or get full refunds as they see fit.

Capital Crime will be sharing more details with existing Capital Crime 2020 pass holders in the coming weeks.

Follow Capital Crime on Twitter @CapitalCrime1 and Instagram.  Catch up with Capital Crime’s Digital Festival here.

An Extract from This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens

This Time Next Year Cover (1)

I’m delighted to share an extract from This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens today. Although I wasn’t able to read in time for today’s post, I’m thrilled to be participating in the paperback blog tour on publication day on 15th October, so do come back then to see what I thought of the book. My thanks to Rachel Kennedy at Penguin Random House for inviting me to take part in these launch celebrations.

Published by Penguin imprint Arrow on 1st August 2020, This Time Next Year is available for purchase through the links here.

This Time Next Year

This Time Next Year Cover (1)

Get ready to fall for this year’s most extraordinary love story

Quinn and Minnie are born on New Year’s Eve, in the same hospital, one minute apart.

Their lives may begin together, but their worlds couldn’t be more different.

Thirty years later they find themselves together again in the same place, at the same time.

What if fate is trying to bring them together?

Maybe it’s time to take a chance on love…

An Extract from This Time Next Year

New Year’s Eve 2019

The Night Jam was rammed. Pounding music pulsed through the club and the walls felt sticky with sweat, alcohol and likely worse. Minnie held tightly to Greg’s hand as they jostled through the crowd near the door.

‘We’re never going to get to the bar,’ Greg shouted back to her.

‘What?’ Minnie yelled back, her ears adjusting to the heavy bass.

‘We won’t be able to get a drink before midnight. I don’t even know where Lucy’s party is,’ said Greg.

He pointed upwards, indicating they should try to push their way upstairs to the terrace on the mezzanine above.

Minnie looked at her watch – it was ten to midnight. So far,this whole evening was only validating her hatred of New Year’s Eve. Why hadn’t she stayed at home and gone to bed early? Then she remembered that her heating had been cutoff – she’d come out to keep warm. And Greg had been determined to go to his work friend’s party; she would have felt like a bad girlfriend if she’d made him go alone.Minnie let herself be dragged through the throng of pulsating bodies. Finally, they emerged from the crush,stepping out into the cool night air where the thumping bass from the club settled to a more manageable decibel.

‘Watch it!’ Greg said, pushing a drunk guy out of his way.Greg glared at the man, trying to make him notice he’d spilt his beer on someone, but the man was too far gone to care.

‘I did warn you about spending New Year with me,’ said Minnie.

‘Will you stop with this jinxed stuff?’ said Greg, shaking his head.

‘Honestly, it’s a thing; bad things happen to me at New Year’s. I wouldn’t be surprised if this whole building went up in flames before the night’s out. Or perhaps a very small asteroid lands right where I’m standing.’

‘I don’t think we’re having a terrible night because you’re jinxed; I think we’re having a terrible night because you dragged us to dinner at weird Alan’s house on the other side of the galaxy. Now we’re arriving at a party two seconds to midnight when everyone’s high on moon juice and . . . come in Star Command?’ Greg lifted a finger to his ear, pausing to listen to an imaginary transmission, ‘Mission control says we’re not even at the right party.’

‘Permission to abort the mission?’ Minnie asked hopefully.

‘Denied,’ said Greg.

‘Look, you stay here,’ he said with a sigh, looking around the balcony, ‘I’ll go back through and try to find this private room.’

‘OK, well, if an asteroid lands in your absence. I can only say goodbye, I told you so, and Happy New Year,’ Minnie replied, trying to sound upbeat.

As Greg walked away, Minnie turned to look out at the London skyline and shivered. The city exuded a sense of serenity in sharp contrast to the atmosphere of the club. The buildings were bathed in silver moonlight and the night sky was still and cloudless. Minnie wished she could transport herself to the top of another empty skyscraper just to lie down on the flat roof and gaze up at the stars, unfettered by other people.

‘Ten, nine, eight . . . ’ People were starting the countdown.‘Seven, six, five . . . ’ Minnie looked at all the couples pulling together in anticipation of the midnight kiss. She was glad Greg wasn’t there to kiss her. She never understood why the end of the year had to be marked with the ridiculous convention of everyone locking lips in unison. People behaving like lemmings, following the herd. ‘Four, three,two, one, HAPPY NEW YEAR!’

An explosion of fireworks erupted in the sky, illuminating the city beneath in a shower of multicoloured lights. Huge bursts of energy ignited in the darkness, miniature universes flaring into existence only to fade to extinction moments later. Minnie wondered at all that effort for such a fleeting display of brilliance. The city buildings below looked still and stately, unmoved by the frenzy of activity above them.

On the balcony of the club, the fireworks cast ugly shadows onto the spaced-out faces of intoxicated people, as they swayed and swerved through the crowd. Light shone into grimy corners, full of cigarette butts and discarded plastic glasses. A group of girls tottering about in high heels pushed into her and Minnie had to grab the railing to stay upright.

‘Happy Birthday to me,’ Minnie said quietly to herself. Then she felt a warm, wet sensation as one of the girls vomited down her back.


What a place to end eh? I can’t wait to read This Time Next Year and find out what happens!

About Sophie Cousens

Sophie Cousens cr. Holly Smith

Sophie Cousens worked in TV in London for over twelve years, producing The Graham Norton Show, Big Brother and Ant and Dec. Sophie has previously published an eBook only romantic comedy novel How To Get Ahead In Television which was shortlisted for the 2015 Romantic Novelist Association Awards. She relocated from London to Jersey and balances her writing career with working for an arts charity, taking care of her two small children and enjoying small island life.

You can follow Sophie on Twitter @SophieCous.

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An Extract From The Puritan Princess by Miranda Malins

The Puritan Princess_HB

I’m very partial to historical fiction and with Cromwell being a local to me figure I’m delighted to participate in the  blog tour for The Puritan Princess by Miranda Malins. I’m really grateful to Gaby Drinkald at Midas PR for inviting me to participate in this blog tour.

Published by Orion, The Puritan Princess is available for purchase through the links here.

The Puritan Princess

The Puritan Princess_HB

Power, politics and a devastating fight for the crown in this gripping historical novel following the rise of Oliver Cromwell’s youngest daughter. Perfect for fans of Anne O’Brien, Joanna Hickson and Alison Weir.

London, 1657. The youngest daughter of Oliver Cromwell, eighteen-year-old Frances is finding her place at England’s new centre of power.

Following the turmoil of Civil War, a fragile sense of stability has returned to the country. Her father has risen to the unprecedented position of Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, and Frances has found herself transported from her humble childhood home to the sumptuous palaces of Hampton Court and Whitehall, where she dreams of a love match that must surely be found at court.

But after an assassination attempt on the Cromwell family, Frances realises the precarious danger of her position – and when her father is officially offered the crown, Frances’s fate suddenly assumes diplomatic and dynastic importance.

Will she become a political pawn, or can Frances use her new status to seize control and further her own ambitions?

An Extract from The Puritan Princess

Frances Cromwell discusses foreign affairs with the young courtier Robert Rich

Robert’s mention of the Council’s split opinion on our aligning with France or Spain calls to my mind our Tudor forebears who, only a few generations ago, wrestled here at Whitehall with exactly the same dilemma: King Henry famously played the two much mightier nations off against each other for most of his reign where his daughter, the bloody Mary, married into Spain – the famous Armada the terrifying legacy of this for her sister, brave Queen Elizabeth. These thoughts bring to mind another topic about which I have long wished an opportunity to remind Robert, though I doubt the subject often strays far from his thoughts:

‘You are indeed knowledgeable, sir.’ I smile politely. ‘I wonder you do not offer your expertise to my father, hitching the Rich horse to the Cromwell wagon as your ancestor did a century ago. Did not the lawyer Richard Rich, the founder of your noble house, secure his fortune by entering the service of my great-great-great uncle Thomas Cromwell, rising to the top of Henry VIII’s court on the hem of his cloak before betraying him on his downfall?’ It is perhaps a little cruel, but faced with his cool expression, I smart, remembering how much of myself I revealed to him the last time we spoke. Now it is my turn to remind him of the murky origins of his own noble heritage; justice of a sort for all his jibes about East Anglian farmers.

‘I cannot account for the sins of my forebears,’ Robert replies carefully, his voice even against my taunt. ‘Though I would remind you, my lady, as the keen student of history you are, that your great-great-great uncle’s fall from King Henry’s favour was hardly the fault of my great-great-great-grandfather.’ He counts the ‘greats’ with elaborate nods of his head, emphasising the passing years.

‘That may be.’ I incline my head. ‘But doesn’t patronage in turn deserve loyalty? Thomas Cromwell did not abandon his sponsor Cardinal Wolsey on his debasement. And he could perhaps have expected the same loyalty meted out to him from his protégé Richard Rich.’

I see Robert take in a breath before turning away from me, his eyes now the ones focusing on the middle distance as he shifts his weight from foot to foot. ‘It is a long time ago now, my lady. And besides,’ he continues, speaking softly, his voice smooth as if to calm a restless horse, ‘the lesson I draw from our families’ tangled past is that, under propitious circumstances, an alliance between a Rich and a Cromwell is a formidable partnership indeed.’

His words stop all noise from the room for me and I am flattened by the wall of silence. I hear my breath loud beneath my stays, feel my breasts swell over the lace-edged top of my corset. I am struck by a sudden desire to reach out and touch his face, to run my finger along his jaw and turn his noble profile to face me. The urge unbalances me and I bury it in anger.


And now of course, I need to read the whole book to find out just what IS going to happen!

About Miranda Malins

Miranda Malins

Miranda is a writer and historian specialising in the history of Oliver Cromwell, his family and the politics of the Interregnum period following the Civil Wars. She studied at Cambridge University, leaving with a PhD, and continues to speak at conferences and publish journal articles and book reviews. She is also a Trustee of the Cromwell Association. Alongside this, Miranda works as a commercial solicitor in the City and began writing historical novels on maternity leave. She lives in Hampshire with her husband, young son and cat, Keats. The Puritan Princess is her debut novel.

For further information, follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaMalins, or visit her website. You’ll also find Miranda on Facebook.

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Clouds of Love and War by Rachel Billington

clouds of love and war cover

I’m very pleased to be opening the blog tour for Rachel Billington’s latest novel, Clouds of Love and War. My thanks to the team at Bookollective for inviting me to participate.

Published by Unicorn on 15th July 2020, Clouds of Love and War is available for purchase here.

Clouds of Love and War

clouds of love and war cover

Occasionally panoramic, more often intimate, in Clouds of Love and War author Rachel Billington balances a detailed and highly researched picture of the life of a Second World War Spitfire pilot with the travails and ambitions of a young woman too often on her own. The result is both a gripping story of war and a sensitive story of love, a love that struggles to survive.

Eddie and Eva meet on the eve of the Second World War. Eddie only wants to be a flyer, to find escape in the clouds from his own complicated family. However, the Battle of Britain makes a pilot’s life a dangerous way to flee reality.

Eva has her own passionate longing: to become a painter. When Eva’s Jewish mother disappears to Germany, she is left alone with her elderly father. Both Eddie and Eva come of age at a time that teaches them that happiness is always fleeting, but there are things worth living – or dying – for.

Through the connecting stories of these young people and their wider families, and against a background of southern county airfields, London, Oxford, Dorset and France, Rachel Billington brings the world of war time England, now eighty years in the past, back to life.

My review of Clouds of Love and War

Eddie and Eva’s relationship starts as WW2 begins.

Clouds of Love and War is a sweeping narrative set against the backdrop of the Second World War that takes the reader on a journey thorough time and place.

Rachel Billington’s research is meticulous so that the reader has a clear insight into the era, the world of a fighter pilot and the upper middle classes as well as into the lives of those leading more prosaic lives, particularly some of the women in the story. This makes for an interesting blend of writing.

I have to confess that it rook me a very long time to warm to Eddie’s frenetic character and yet by the end of Clouds of Love and War I felt I had been on his journey of self-discovery with him very effectively and I understood and appreciated him much more. Indeed, I found the women far more empathetic. Eva’s desperate desire to become a painter and the events that happen to her felt quite moving at times and I liked her more than Eddie. It’s not possible to say too much more without plot spoilers because who they are and who they become is so very much part of the story.

The themes are clear and well developed. I enjoyed the frequent literary references although occasionally the more spiritual elements sat slightly uncomfortably for me, but that says more about me than Clouds of Love and War. The exploration of relationships, valour, endeavour, war and self awareness is very thorough so that there is something for all readers to take away from Rachel Billington’s writing.

Clouds of Love and War will very much appeal to those who like to be transported back to another era and especially to readers looking for a tale founded in well researched factual assiduousness.

About Rachel Billington


Rachel Billington worked in television in London and New York before taking up full-time writing in 1968. Her first novel All Things Nice was set in sixties New York. Her latest novel for adults is Clouds of Love and War, about a Spitfire pilot in the Second World War and the girl who falls in love with him.

Rachel Billington has written twenty three novels, one novella,  several books for children, and three non-fiction books.

She has also written and continues to write journalism for newspapers both in the UK and the US, including a three year stint as a columnist for The Sunday Telegraph.

Rachel Billington has written two plays for television, Don’t be Silly’ and ‘Life after Death’, both in the BBC Play for To-day series, and several radio plays, as well as contributing to film scripts.

For further information, visit Rachel’s website.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

clouds of love and war poster

Staying in with Julie Stock

Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace

I’m trying very hard to decline blog tours and especially posting on a Sunday because I’m inundated at the moment so you might wonder what I’m doing here today! Well you see, I am very fond of lovely Julie Stock both as an author and a person so when Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources asked me to participate in a mini blog blitz for Julie’s Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace, I had to agree!

Julie has featured here many times before, partly through the Deepings Literary Festival and including when she wrote a smashing post about happy endings here to celebrate The Vineyard in Alsace. I’ve also reviewed Julie’s The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge here and From Here to Nashville here.

This time Julie has agreed to stay in with me.

Staying in with Julie Stock

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

Thank you very much for inviting me, Linda! It’s lovely to talk to you after not seeing you for so long.

It seems ages since you gave a talk at the Deepings literary Festival last year Julie. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?


I’ve brought along my latest release, Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace, which is book 2 in my Domaine des Montagnes series. It was published on 14 July so it really is very new.

Oo. A belated happy publication day! I love how the cover of Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace picks up from The Vineyard in Alsace.

the vineyard in Alsasce

What can we expect from an evening in with Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace?

In the first book of the series, The Vineyard in Alsace, Lottie and Thierry have just met and started a fledgling relationship, and this book tells their story following on from that. She’s pregnant by someone else and he’s still getting over the death of his wife, so there are lots of obstacles in the way of their happy ending. It’s a poignant story about how to let go of pride and grief, and of learning to love again with someone new.

It must be interesting to return to previous characters.

It was lovely for me to be writing about the characters from the vineyard again. Readers will be able to catch up with Fran and Didier from the first book, and also Ellie and Henri, although the next book will be all about them. Each book works on its own but if you’ve read the first book, you will have the benefit of knowing what brought all the characters together.

As this book ends, Ellie and Henri go off on their travels, so the final book in the series will hopefully see everyone reunited, but I haven’t started writing it yet so we’ll have to see!

When you have, you’ll have to come back on Linda’s Book Bag and we can find out!

What else have you brought along and why?

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I’ve brought along a couple of glasses of Alsace pinot blanc and a home-made Tarte Flambée or Flammekeuche, one of the region’s signature dishes. Please help yourself!

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Oh I will. Thanks Julie. You can have my share of the wine but I’ll certainly be having some of that Tarte.

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I’ve also brought along a photo of the little church in Alsace and the surrounding vineyards which got me thinking about writing this series in the first place. It’s such a romantic setting. My two characters from the first book attend a wedding at that church, and I might make a return to it in the final book…

That looks so atmospheric. No wonder you decided to write about the region. 

I first visited Alsace with my husband in 1993. I’d just got a job with The Wine Society and we went on a touring holiday of France before I took up the position. We already loved Alsace wine but on that holiday, we fell in love with the place, its people and its food. We’ve been back many times since and it really does hold a special place in our hearts now. I hope we get to go back again before too long.

Oh, I hope so too Julie. In these uncertain times at least we can travel there through your books. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace. I think it sounds delightful.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog today, Linda. It’s been lovely chatting with you and catching up. I look forward to meeting up with you in real life again soon.

Gosh I hope so Julie – perhaps at next year’s Deepings Literary Festival. Fingers crossed.

Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace


It’s springtime at The Vineyard in Alsace, a new season and a new beginning.

After being abandoned by her partner when she falls pregnant, Lottie Schell goes home to live on The Vineyard in Alsace, where she has started a new relationship with the estate’s winemaker, Thierry. Now about to give birth, Lottie’s determined to raise her child and to provide for them both on her own without having to depend on anyone else.

Thierry Bernard is still dealing with his grief and guilt following the death of his wife two years earlier, for which he blames himself. When he meets Lottie, the instant attraction he feels towards her gives him hope that he can move on from the tragedy of his past, as long as he can tell Lottie the truth of what happened.

When circumstances force Lottie and Thierry closer together, they both find it hard to compromise – she’s proudly independent and he’s fiercely protective – and they’re both wary about trusting someone new with their heart.

Can Lottie and Thierry take a chance on each other, move on from their pasts and start over?

Escape to The Vineyard in Alsace once again with this romantic read set in the heart of Alsace’s wine country.

Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace is available for purchase on Amazon.

About Julie Stock

Starting Over - Author Pic

Julie Stock writes contemporary feel-good romance from around the world: novels, novellas and short stories. She published her debut novel, From Here to Nashville, in 2015, after starting to write as an escape from the demands of her day job as a teacher. Starting Over at the Vineyard in Alsace is her ninth book, and the second in the Domaine des Montagnes series set on a vineyard.

Julie is now a full-time author, and loves every minute of her writing life. When not writing, she can be found reading, her favourite past-time, running, a new hobby, or cooking up a storm in the kitchen, glass of wine in hand.

Julie is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.She is married and lives with her family in Bedfordshire in the UK.

You can find out more about Julie via her website , by finding her on Facebook or following her on Twitter @wood_beez48.

Staying in with Amelia Henley

The Life We Almost Had

I couldn’t be happier to be staying in with Ameila Henley today and I’m thrilled she agreed to be here to chat about her brand new book. For those of you who don’t yet realise (where have you been?) Amelia Henley is the alter-ego of fabulous writer Louise Jensen. I reviewed Louise’s The Family here and it was one of my books of the year last year.

Let’s see what Louise/Amelia has to tell me today:

Staying in with Amelia Henley

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Amelia and thank you so much 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?

The Life We Almost Had

I’ve brought along The Life We Almost Had, my contemporary fiction debut which published this week. Adam and Anna’s unusual love story is one of courage, hope, loyalty and sacrifice. It’s always been a dream of mine to write a story that will make people cry and this is that book!

You’re not kidding. I sobbed buckets reading The Life We Almost Had!

It’s been such a joy to write and as I’ve published several thrillers (as Louise Jensen) I’ve been able to incorporate the things I’ve learned and apply them to this book where nothing is what it seems. There is lots of suspense, twists and cliff hangers at the end of every chapter but at its core, it’s a beautiful story of love. I hope it appeals to both romance and my loyal thriller readers.

Oh it certainly does. I can vouch for that.

Here are the first few paragraphs –


Seven years. It’s been seven years since that night on the beach. I had laid on the damp sand with Adam, his thumb stroking mine. Dawn smudged the sky with its pink fingers while the rising sun flung glitter across the sea. We’d faced each other curled onto our sides, our bodies speech marks, unspoken words passing hesitantly between us; an illusory dream. Don’t ever leave me, I had silently asked him. I won’t, his eyes had silently replied.

But he did.

He has.

My memories are both painful and pleasurable to recall. We were blissfully happy until gradually we weren’t. Every cross word, every hard stare, each time we turned our backs on each other in bed gathered like storm clouds hanging over us, ready to burst, drenching us with doubt and uncertainty until we questioned what we once thought was unquestionable.

Can love really be eternal?

I can answer that now because the inequitable truth is that I am hopelessly, irrevocably, lost without him.

But does he feel the same?

I turn over the possibility of life without Adam, but each time I think of myself without him, no longer an us, my heart breaks all over again.

If only we hadn’t…

My chest tightens.


Breathe, Anna. You’re okay.

It’s a lie I tell myself, but gradually the horror of that day begins to dissipate with every slow inhale, with every measured exhale. It takes several minutes to calm myself. My fingers furling and unfurling, my nails biting into the tender skin of my palms until my burning sorrow subsides.


I am running out of time. I’ve been trying to write a letter but the words won’t come. My notepaper is still stark white. My pen once again poised, ink waiting to stain the blank page with my tenuous excuses.

My secrets.

But not my lies. There’s been enough of those. Too many.

I am desperate to see him once more and make it right.

All of it.

I think that sets the scene perfectly Amelia. I cannot express how much I loved your book.

What can we expect from an evening in with The Life We Almost Had?

If Josh and Nell who are Adam and Anna’s best friends join us they’ll be lots of music, laughter and games.

That’s true!

What else have you brought along and why?


I’ve brought along a photo album of Lanzarote which is where part of the story is set (although I renamed the island), a Limoncello and plum tart which is Adam and Anna’s favourite meal and a book on neuroscience as this is integral to the plot (did I mention this isn’t a typical love story)… And a giant box of tissues because you’ll need them!

We certainly will Amelia. My review here tries to explain why!  Thanks so much for staying in with me to share a bit about one of my books of the year in 2020!

Thanks for having me Linda!

You slice up that plum tart and I’ll give Linda’s Book Bag readers all the details they need:

The Life We Almost Had

The Life We Almost Had

This is not a typical love story, but it’s our love story.

Anna wasn’t looking for love when Adam swept her off her feet but there was no denying their connection, and she believed they would be together forever.

Years later, cracks have appeared in their relationship. Anna is questioning whether their love can really be eternal when a cruel twist of fate delivers a crushing blow, and Anna and Adam are completely lost to one another. Now, Anna needs Adam more than ever, but the way back to him has life-changing consequences.

Is a second chance at first love really worth the sacrifice? Anna needs to decide and time is running out…

A beautiful and emotional love story that asks, how far would you go for a second chance at first love? Perfect for fans of The Man Who Didn’t Call and Miss You.

The Life We Almost Had was published on 23rd July by Harper Collins imprint HQ and is available for purchase through the links here.

About Amelia Henley


Amelia Henley is a hopeless romantic who has a penchant for exploring the intricacies of relationships through writing heart-breaking, high-concept love stories.

Amelia also writes psychological thrillers under her real name, Louise Jensen. As Louise Jensen she has sold over a million copies of her global number one bestsellers. Her stories have been translated into twenty-five languages and optioned for TV as well as featuring on the USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestsellers list. Louise’s books have been nominated for multiple awards.

The Life We Almost Had is the first story she’s written as Amelia Henley and she can’t wait to share it with readers.

You can follow Amelia on Twitter @MsAmeliaHenley and find her on Facebook.

You can find out more about Amelia writing as Louise Jensen by visiting her website, finding her on Facebook and following her on Twitter @Fab_fiction.

There’s a blog tour happening too so you might like to check out these other bloggers:

the life tour