Is Everything We Write A Coming-Of-Age Story?: A Guest Post by Leslie Tate, Author of Love’s Register

It’s a while since Leslie Tate last featured on Linda’s Book Bag when he was celebrating his book Violet in a post you can read here. When Blue was published Leslie provided another superb piece and I reviewed his story Cross-Dressing from Heaven’s Rage. You’ll find that blog post here.

Leslie’s latest book, Love’s Register, will be published in October and you can pre-order a signed copy here.

Love’s Register

Love’s Register tells the story of romantic love and climate change over four UK generations.

Beginning with ‘climate children’ Joe, Mia and Cass and ending with Hereiti’s night sea journey across Oceania, the book’s voices take us through family conflicts in the 1920s, the pressures of the ‘free-love 60s’, open relationships in the feminist 80s/90s and a contemporary late-life love affair.

Love’s Register is a family saga and a modern psychological novel that explores the way we live now.


A Guest Post by Leslie Tate

Books come out of mindsets. In the case of my new novel, Love’s Register, I grew up as an author while writing it.

When I started, I believed I was producing something spectacular that would make my name and stand the test of time. Now, after 14 years of revision and republishing, I realise that achieving either is beside the point. A book follows its own logic; the writer’s task is to see it through.

I was fortunate to be published by small presses. It allowed me to find my feet as a writer, and at first the book grew as three separate novels. It also meant I escaped the standard big-five ‘heavy edit’ (see here). But by the final version, I’d recast everything while adding new characters and storylines.

My original mindset 14 years ago was youthfully naïve. I believed that the ‘literary coaching industry’ had neutered our writing, focusing on crime, the teen-talk book, historical commentaries or the stripped-down dirty realist story. By way of contrast, my ‘60s book, Aphrodite’s Children, was going to use complex, lyrical language in order to dramatize the hidden psychology of the era. I imagined I was saying yah boo sucks to fashion and genre.

But I was also over-cautious, inserting repeat phrases and labouring time/place shifts, covering the jumps with too many connecting phrases. Later, with more confidence, I learned to cut from scene to scene and take out all redundancies. The rule is: say it once then move on. And when the story fires up, it’s better to burn up than fade away. Too much signposting what’s happening and ‘keeping the reader onside’ doesn’t work.

My next step was Frontliners, a story about open relationships and left-wing politics in the 80s/90s. This was written by my ‘teenage’ self, so it needed less mirror-gazing, more character in action.

I was lucky enough to be able to rewrite both books – republished as Purple and Blue – adding in links between characters and stylistic experiments. When I finally wrote Violet, the third in the trilogy, my mindset had become ‘adult’ and closed off, i.e. I believed my task was done.

I’d made myself into one of those grownups who say “I don’t do that” or ‘That’s not for me.” I was climbing into a space of my own and drawing up the ladder behind me. But really, I was blocking. When I looked again, I was shocked at how much cutting and reshaping my novels needed. There was plenty to fix, lots to expand on.

The child got the better of me and I started rewriting again. I had to dig deep and question every word but in the end I was lucky enough to find a publisher, TSLBooks, willing to go for it. So I had my third and final shot at writing the big novel that says something about who we are. It came out at 226,000 words with cross-referenced backstories, several protagonists and sections spanning four generations. It also examined creativity, resistance, psychological learning and how we tell the stories that direct us.

Perhaps all novel writing is a coming-of-age story. It’s certainly a trial and error thing. In the process of writing and promoting our work we may find ourselves in a room on our own or bigging ourselves up in a bargain basement.  Some authors learn the ‘rules’, others go it alone, many give up. If the main myth of our times is the rise and fall of the wunderkind, then we’re all individualists on mission impossible.  For me, to record that journey may be risky and the mindset complex but what counts is the person we become – and the qualities that brings to a book.


That’s fascinating Leslie. Thank you so much for the insight into your writing life. I have a feeling we all need to remember the child latent within us on occasion and not only in writing.

About Leslie Tate

jEMMA leslie-6

(Photo by Jemma Driver)

Leslie Tate is an ex-student of the UEA Creative Writing Course, and the author of six novels. Leslie’s website offers book and personal information plus weekly interviews with creative and community-involved people.

To find out more about Leslie, visit his website, find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @LSTateAuthor.

A Publication Day Extract from The Entitled by Nancy Boyarsky

I can’t believe it’s almost two years to the day that I stayed in with Nancy Boyarsky to chat all about her novel Liar Liar. You can see that event here. Today I’m delighted to host an extract from Nancy’s latest book in her P.I. Nicole Graves series, The Entitled.

Published today, 29th September 2020, by Light Messages Publishing, The Entitled is available for purchase through the links here.

The Entitled

P.I. Nicole Graves’ latest assignment sends her to London to retrieve Abigail Fletcher, a 17-year-old in a study abroad program at the prestigious King’s College in London. The assignment sounds simple enough. But Abigail’s return is put on indefinite hold when she’s charged with the murder of her boyfriend, a former student at King’s.

Nicole believes Abigail has been framed, but the victim’s tight-knit circle of friends and relatives are most unwilling to talk to an American detective. Further complicating the case, is Abigail’s defiant and uncooperative demeanor. As evidence stacks up against Abigail, Nicole discovers that she herself has become the next target.

Nicole’s first solo case abroad as a private detective has just turned a lot more deadly than she ever anticipated.

An Extract from The Entitled

Nicole gave her name and explained that she was a P.I. hired by Abigail’s parents to bring the girl back to L.A. When she was done, she repeated her question. “What does this murder have to do with Abigail?”

“We don’t know that it does,” Norton said. “Miss Fletcher was acquainted with the victim. She was caught on CCTV entering his building around the time of his death. An earlier video showed her having an altercation with him on the street. We found Mr. Malouf’s mobile near his body and called the last number he’d dialed, which was Miss Fletcher’s. We’re hoping she can help us with our inquiries. We also need her fingerprints.”

“Fingerprints?” Nicole didn’t like the sound of this. “Why?”

“To eliminate her as a suspect.”

“Is she a suspect?” Nicole said.

“We are just beginning our investigation,” he said stiffly. “At this point, everyone is a suspect.”

Abigail was sitting motionless on the chair where they’d seated her. She looked completely gob smacked. To Nicole, it was unthinkable that this young girl—spoiled as she was— wascapable of murder. But she hardly knew Abigail and had no idea what she was capable of. It was already apparent she had a bad temper.

“How was he killed?” Nicole said.

“I’m not at liberty to say.” Norton seemed impatient to move on. “We’re here because we need Miss Fletcher to come to the station and answer a few questions.”

“Come to the station?” Nicole said. “Look at her! This poor girl was savagely beaten last night, and she’s under the care of a doctor. He’s supposed to stop by this morning to look at her again. In addition to that, she’s in shock because she just learned that her boyfriend is dead. Why can’t you question her later, when she’s recovered a bit?”

Norton didn’t answer. He was giving the room a closer look. Nicole wondered if he’d even heard her. Just then, he spotted the blood-stained coat draped over the end of the couch and paused. “Hello,” he said, like a modern-day Sherlock Holmes. “What do we have here?” Nicole instantly regretted that she’d neglected to fold the coat lining-side-out after showing it to the doctor.

Norton pulled a pair of latex gloves out of his pocket, put them on, and picked up the coat for closer inspection. “Who does this belong to?”

Nicole hesitated, realizing how this would look. But there was no denying whose coat it was. “It’s Abigail’s. As I told you, she was attacked last night,” she said. “Surely you noticed her swollen eye. The doctor thought she might have had a nosebleed.”

Norton reached into the closet for a clean laundry bag—he seemed quite familiar with the hotel’s amenities—and put the coat inside. “Follow us downstairs,” he said. “We’ll take you to the station.”

“What about her injuries?”

Norton turned to Abigail. “Are you in need of medical attention? We can take you to A&E before you come to the station.”

“I’m fine,” Abigail said. “I’m not going to the hospital, and I’m not going to any police station either. We have other plans.”

“I’m afraid you haven’t a choice, Miss Fletcher,” he said. “In a murder investigation, we have the right to bring you to the station and question you.”


Now isn’t that intriguing? The Entitled sounds a cracker!

About Nancy Boyarsky

Nancy Boyarsky is the bestselling author of the award-winning Nicole Graves Mysteries, of which The Entitled is the fifth in the series. The Entitled is on Apple Books list of most anticipated fall books of 2020. Nancy’s first mystery, The Swap, won a gold medal in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards.

Before turning to mysteries, Nancy coauthored Backroom Politics, a New York Times notable book, with her husband, Bill Boyarsky. She has written several textbooks on the justice system as well as articles for publications including the Los Angeles Times, Forbes, and McCall’s. She also contributed to political anthologies, including In the Running, about women’s political campaigns. In addition to her writing career, she was communications director for political affairs for ARCO.

You can find out more about Nancy by visiting her website, or finding her on Facebook.

The Italian Girls by Debbie Rix

My enormous thanks to Sarah Hardy at Books on the Bright Side publicity for inviting me to participate in the launch celebrations of The Italian Girls by Debbie Rix. It’s a privilege to help start off the tour today by sharing my review.

The Italian Girls is published today, 28th September 2020, by Bookouture and is available for purchase here.

The Italian Girls

The sun hung low in the sky, casting pink light all over the city. A faint breeze blew over the rooftops, as flocks of starlings swirled above her, swooping and diving in unison. It seemed unimaginable that, even now, German soldiers were marching along the streets below. It was time, she decided, for direct action. It was time to fight back.

Each morning Livia Moretti makes her way from an apartment overlooking Florence’s famous Duomo to a nearby café, where she drinks espresso and reads the newspaper. To the crowds of tourists who pass by, snapping selfies, nothing about Livia will be memorable. She is simply an old lady. They walk on without knowing the part she played in ensuring the future of this beautiful city. And to Livia now, those dark days feel very far away too.

But today, when she opens the paper, she sees a name she has not heard for a long time. A name that will bring memories flooding back of Nazi troops marching through the city and the dangers she faced as a young woman, carrying out secret missions for the resistance.

Isabella Bellucci.

A siren of the silver screen, Isabella cultivated all the right connections to ensure her rise to stardom. But when Rome falls to the Nazis, Isabella is suddenly faced with the choice between protecting herself, and all she has worked for, or sacrificing everything to save the man she loves.

As the war rages across Europe, a terrible misunderstanding causes the fates of Isabella and Livia to become forever intertwined. And each woman must decide what they’re willing to risk, to protect the ones they hold dear from a brutal enemy.

Inspired by the incredible true stories of two women in wartime Italy, this is a heart-wrenching and unforgettable tale of love, resistance, betrayal and hope. Fans of Kate Furnivall, Fiona Valpy and My Name is Eva will be absolutely gripped by this sweeping Second World War novel.

My Review of The Italian Girls

Isabella and Livia’s lives are inextricably linked.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Italian Girls because it is a sweeping, historical tale with credible, vibrant characters written by Debbie Rix with panache and authenticity.

I confess that I’m rather more hazy about Italy’s role in WW2 than I should be and what I so enjoyed about The Italian Girls was the level of historical detail and accuracy that truly brought the narrative to life. Here is a story that gives the reader a real insight into the lives of ordinary people like Livia and her family as well as the more glamorous aspects pertaining to Isabella, as Debbie Rix skilfully illustrates how everyone was affected by events and had a role to play. I found Isabella more difficult to empathise with and yet it was she who had my greatest sympathy in the closing pages of the novel. I found myself so drawn in to her story that my views and feelings were altered by my reading.

I think what is so powerful about The Italian Girls is that whilst there are Counts and officers, lawyers and doctors, housewives and students, each character, no matter how fleeting or important, feels like someone who could have existed. Several times I found myself wondering how I might have behaved had I found myself in their circumstances. This extra layer of interest was fascinating. I love a book that makes me question my own values and potential in the way The Italian Girls does.

I thoroughly appreciated the quality of the writing too. Whilst I’m not usually a fan of dual narratives, I thought the balance between Livia and Isabella, Florence and Rome was extremely well achieved so that the book flowed perfectly. The poetic nature of some of the descriptions and Debbie Rix’s ability to suggest some of the more cruel elements rather than giving all the gory details thoroughly appealed to my reader taste and I found the plot both captivating and exciting. There’s an intriguing sense of menace as well as hope as both Livia and Isabella strive to come to terms with the changes in their lives that I found captivating.

I found the themes really engaging. Obviously war is at the forefront, driving the narrative, but its the exploration of loyalty and betrayal, trust and fear, love and passion, friends and family that makes The Italian Girls such a brilliant book. I was filled with admiration for Livia and her father particularly.

I haven’t read Debbie Rix before and I rather think I have been missing out if The Italian Girls is indicative of her atmospheric and engaging writing. I really, really enjoyed this book and recommend it most highly.

About Debbie Rix

Debbie Rix has had a long career in journalism, including working as a presenter for the BBC. Her first novel, The Girl with Emerald Eyes was set around the building of the tower of Pisa and she has since released Daughters of the Silk Road and The Silk Weaver’s Wife. Debbie writes heartbreaking historical novels about love, tragedy and secrets.

For more information about Debbie, visit her website, find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @debbierix.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Two Besides by Alan Bennett

Having taught Alan Bennett’s original Talking Heads to an adult A’Level group at the local college many years ago I have a soft spot for these fabulous works and couldn’t believe it when I heard two new pieces had been written. My enormous thanks to Anna-Marie Fitzgerald at Profile Books for sending me a copy of Alan Bennett’s Two Besides in return for an honest review. I was thrilled to receive it and am still looking forward to finding time to watch the BBC Talking Heads series which was broadcast earlier this year.

Published by Faber and Profile Books on 1st October 2020, Two Besides is available for pre-order online and in all good bookshops, including through the links here.

Two Besides

‘Given the opportunity to revisit the characters from Talking Heads I’ve added a couple more, both of them ordinary women whom life takes by surprise. They just about end up on top and go on, but without quite knowing how. Still, they’re in good company, and at least they’ve made it into print.’

Alan Bennett’s twelve Talking Heads are acknowledged masterworks by one of our most highly acclaimed writers. Some thirty years after the original sixBennett has written Two Besides, a pair of monologues. Each, in its way, is a devastating portrait of grief. In An Ordinary Woman, a mother suffers the inevitable consequences when she makes life intolerable for herself and her family by falling for her own flesh and blood; while The Shrine tells the story behind a makeshift roadside shrine, introducing us to Lorna, bearing witness in her high-vis jacket, the bereft partner of a dedicated biker with a surprising private life.

The two new Talking Heads were recorded for the BBC during the exceptional circumstances of coronavirus lockdown in the spring of 2020, directed by Nicholas Hytner and performed by Sarah Lancashire and Monica Dolan.

The book contains a substantial preface by Nicholas Hytner and an introduction to each, by Alan Bennett.

My Review of Two Besides

Two new ‘Talking Heads’.

What an absolute gem of a book. I loved every moment of reading Two Besides. Before I review properly, I would say I think it best to read An Ordinary Woman and The Shrine before reading the introduction by Nicholas Hytner as he refers to them in his piece and it might colour the reading experience.

The introductory Talking Heads – How They Happened by Nicholas Hytner is absolutely fascinating. I still haven’t got round to watching the series produced for the BBC, although I have them recorded, but this introduction has made me desperate to find the time. I was completely absorbed in the production process of a Covid world with everything from casting to sound, make up and music explained clearly and interestingly. There’s a reverence and affection for Alan Bennett’s writing and skill that shines through the pages too which gives a real warmth to the book.

However, excellent introduction aside, it is, of course, Alan Bennett’s utter brilliance as a writer that makes these two new narratives in Two Besides so compelling. His distinctive authorial voice, his ability to look into the very soul of his characters, his sublime use of sentence variety and structure gives an authentic cadence that places the reader in intimate contact with the characters. It is as if they are speaking directly to you, making the reader as much part of the story as they are.

In both An Ordinary Woman and The Shrine we have universal and identifiable themes of love and desire, moral acceptability and abhorrence, a sense of self and otherness that rings with emotion so that whilst characters may behave badly or foolishly, they have our utmost sympathy. Both Gwen and Lorna could so easily be a member of our families, a neighbour or a friend. I read both An Ordinary Woman and The Shrine desperate for Gwen and Lorna to triumph.

In Two Besides Alan Bennett writes with a raw understanding of humanity that is astounding. I think any reader picking up Two Besides and not feeling emotionally affected by its contents must be almost inhuman. I loved this book unreservedly.

About Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett has been a leading dramatist since Beyond the Fringe in the 1960s. His works for stage and screen include Talking Heads, Forty Years On, The Lady in the Van, A Question of Attribution, The Madness of George III, an adaptation of The Wind in the Willows, The History Boys, The Habit of Art, People, Hymn, Cocktail Sticks and Allelujah! His collections of prose are Writing Home, Untold Stories (PEN/Ackerley Prize, 2006) and Keeping On, Keeping On. Six Poets contains Bennett’s selection of English verse, accompanied by his commentary. His recent fiction includes The Uncommon Reader and Smut: Two Unseemly Stories.

Scruff by Alice Bowsher

A little while ago a surprise parcel of children’s books arrived from lovely Lefki at Cicada Books and today I’m reviewing the first – Scruff by Alice Bowsher.

Scruff is available for purchase here.


I wanted a dog… This one was perfect! Nobody wanted him because he looked scruffy…. but I m a scruffy guy so that suited me just fine.

After picking out the scruffiest dog at the pound, the narrator is surprised to find that Scruff isn’t what he initially seemed. He doesn’t want to catch sticks… or roll in the mud or swim in the pond. What could be the problem? It turns out that Scruff just loves being pampered!

So the narrator goes along with it. They wash, brush, trim and polish together, until they are anything but scruffy! In their newly groomed state they go to the dog show… and win the prize for the dog that looks most like its owner!

A funny story that is sure to charm dog-mad little ones and their parents.

My Review of Scruff

Scruff and his owner need a haircut.

I always like to comment on the physical properties of children’s books and Alice Bowsher’s Scruff is robust and durable with a cover that would easily wipe clean from sticky fingers, making it ideal for home or school use. The illustrations are naive in style, appealing to young children, whilst being entertaining and supportive of the text, helping language acquisition, as well as being funny. I loved the fact that Scruff’s owner is not Caucasian as this helps celebrate diversity and shows young children that people of all ethnicities have status.  The majority of the other people in the book are multi-cultural in appearance too.

There’s a smashing story in Scruff that celebrates being different and helps children explore how we judge (quite literally) by appearances. Scruff does not behave like ‘normal’ dogs and I very much liked the concept of being individual because too frequently children are expected to behave as an homogeneous mass. The ending to the story shows clearly that we all have a talent for something even if it isn’t necessarily what we set out to do so that children can learn to accept themselves and find their own winning ways.

Scruff is an entertaining and informative book that could lead to all kinds of further child development as well as being enjoyed just as a story. I could envisage counting the dogs and owners at the dog show, looking for pictures of animals that look like people and finding out about them, talking about how to look after pets, producing artwork of pets and animals and so on. Scruff is a small book that packs a punch.

About Alice Bowsher

Alice Bowsher is an illustrator based in south-east London who has worked on numerous projects.

For more information, visit Alice’s website. You can follow Alice on Twitter @abowsh.

Penguin Beach by Lawrence Prestidge

My enormous thanks to Jade Callaway for offering me a copy of children’s book Penguin Beach by Lawrence Prestidge in return for an honest review which I am delighted to share today.

Penguin Beach is published by Matador Children’s Books and is available for purchase through the links here.

Penguin Beach

Clyde loves being a penguin! He’s the star of the show at London Zoo’s Penguin Beach, delighting visitors every day. From the way he waddles, to his tuxedo-like feathers, no one can resist the loveable charms of Clyde the penguin. That is, until Diego, a new penguin from Spain, arrives. Why do the visitors love his back-flips and leaps so much? And why are the other penguins so impressed by him?

Clyde must come up with a plan to drive Diego out and claim the top spot again. This is his beach. This is his spotlight. However, his mischievous plans have gone too far and Diego may be in danger. Clyde and his penguin friends go on a mission to find Diego.

Will they find him, or will the pythons, gorillas and a trio of ‘bad guys’ get in their way?

My Review of Penguin Beach

A new penguin in the zoo might just cause a few problems!

I’m going to begin by mentioning a tiny negative that I want to get out of the way before my review proper. There are a couple of cultural references, such as a mention of Downton Abbey, in Penguin Beach that I think will be lost on its readership as they would be too young to have encountered them. Having said that, we older readers who might be sharing the book with a young person will enjoy them and I certainly found myself sniggering.

Penguin Beach is really fun with a fast paced, dynamic plot that romps along. There’s humour, peril and drama as animals and humans clash and interact. The illustrations are excellent and not only give great visual appeal, but they will help support less confident independent readers, as will the short chapters, because not only do they add to the pace, but they mean a young reader can have the satisfaction of reading a complete section independently. The language is so expertly used by Lawrence Prestidge in Penguin Beach because where more challenging words are used, their context makes them understandable so that children will enjoy a story and learn at the same time.

However, it is the combination of character and theme that makes Penguin Beach such a success. With gender, race and implied sexuality cleverly woven into the narrative, children will recognise, either overtly or subliminally, characters they are aware of in their own lives so that they can explore issues and reach an understanding without even realising they are doing so as they are entertained. The bullying snake Cuddles is dealt with through others supporting one another, the outsider Taddy simply wants to find friends and have someone notice her, the human bully Benjamin is shown to be a completely different person when faced with his mum, Clyde behaves unkindly and badly when he feels his role is being threatened and so on. What Lawrence Prestidge does so well is to exemplify why people (or in this case animals) behave the way they do and to show that it is possible to change and to create friendships even with those who seems to threaten us or who are very different from us. The major theme of family is just lovely too.

I really enjoyed Penguin Beach and whilst Miles’ routine in Primates Got Talent might not be the kind of act I’d like to see to much of (you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is…), I can envisage children being absolutely delighted with it. Penguin Beach is enormously entertaining, accessible and the kind of book that even reluctant readers will enjoy.

About Lawrence Prestidge

Lawrence Prestidge is a popular children’s author originally from Oxfordshire, best known for his children’s novel Terror at the Sweet Shop. Educated at the University of Bedfordshire, Lawrence has previously worked with Disney as well as theatres across London. Lawrence visits many different Primary and Secondary schools throughout the year and travels all around the country doing so. He is the author of four children’s books. Lawrence has spoke candidly on BBC Radio stations about how his love of writing helped him deal with depression.
You can find out more by visiting Lawrence’s website. You’ll also follow Lawrence on Twitter @LPrestidge7, and find him on Facebook or Instagram.

The Second Marriage by Gill Paul

I’m a huge fan of Gill Paul as both a person and a writer, so I broke my vow not to accept any further tours for September when Random Things Tour Organiser Anne Cater invited me to participate in the UK launch celebrations for The Second Marriage. I simply couldn’t decline. Gill has previously featured on Linda’s Book Bag when I reviewed The Lost Daughter here, and Gill wrote a superb guest post here.

The Second Marriage (Jackie and Maria in the US) was published by Avon, an imprint of Harper Collins on 17th September 2020 and is available for purchase through the links here.

The Second Marriage

When her first marriage ends in tragedy, Jackie Kennedy fears she’ll never love again. But all that changes when she encounters…

Successful and charming, Ari Onassis is a man who promises her the world. Yet soon after they marry, Jackie learns that his heart also belongs to another…

A beautiful, famed singer, Maria Callas is in love with Jackie’s new husband – and she isn’t going to give up.

Little by little, Jackie and Maria’s lives begin to tangle in a dangerous web of secrets, scandal and lies. But with both women determined to make Ari theirs alone, the stakes are high. How far will they go for true love?

My Review of The Second Marriage

The lives and loves of two famous women.

I’m not quite sure how Gill Paul does it, but in The Second Marriage she immerses her readers into a world that we think we know something about and manages to bring it into sharp focus, giving it a vivid, emotional reality that vibrates with life. It might be the depth of research that has gone into the lives of Jackie and Maria. It might be the gorgeous quality of Gill Paul’s writing. It might be the evocative era and setting but somehow the author manages to place the reader at the heart of what ought to be familiar action in an innovative and fresh way that I found entrancing. I thoroughly enjoyed The Second Marriage.

Whilst the plot might have elements we would expect, there was so much in The Second Marriage of which I simply had no concept. I loved the way I kept being surprised and I’ll admit to heading off to Google aspects as I read too. When a book educates and entertains I feel it adds so much more pleasure to the reading and Gill Paul manages this with subtlety and skill so that The Second Marriage is a cracker of a read.

There’s a glamour to the lives of Maria and Jackie as might be expected and I loved being transported to the settings, but what I found so moving and so affecting was the insight into the women as women. Their sense of self, the way their appearance is scrutinised, the way the media depicts and shapes their personas, their relationships blended with themes of loyalty, love, power and need all come together into a read that is incredibly satisfying. At times I felt Jackie and Maria’s emotions as if I had become them. Although Ari is a catalyst for much of what happens with Jackie and Maria, The Second Marriage is very much herstory rather than just history,

It’s quite challenging to review The Second Marriage adequately because I don’t want to spoil elements for those who’ve yet to read it, and the historically accurate aspects are already known. What I would say is that Gill Paul imbues her narrative with a touch of genius so that reading The Second Marriage is immersive, hypnotising and enthralling. I loved it.

About Gill Paul

Gill Paul is an author of historical fiction, specialising in relatively recent history.

Gill’s novels include Another Woman’s HusbandThe Secret Wife, about the romance between cavalry officer Dmitri Malama and Grand Duchess Tatiana, the second daughter of Russia’s last tsar, who first met in 1914,  Women and Children First about a young steward who works on the Titanic and The Affair set in Rome in 1961–62 as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton fell in love while making Cleopatra. No Place for a Lady is about two Victorian sisters who travel out to the Crimean War of 1854–56 and face challenges beyond anything they could have imagined.

All of Gill’s lovely books can be found here.

You can follow Gill on Twitter @GillPaulAUTHOR, visit her website and find her on Facebook for more information.

No Love Lost by Robert Crouch

No Love Lost ebook cover final

It was a privilege to help reveal the cover for No Love Lost, the sixth book in Robert Crouch’s Kent Fisher Mysteries series back in August because Robert has long been a welcome visitor to Linda’s Book Bag, kindly providing all manner of posts, including a super guest post about daring to be different when the fifth book in his Kent Fisher MysteriesNo Mercy, was published. You can read that post here. Robert featured when No More Lies was released, in a post you can see here. I ‘stayed in’ with Rob in a post you can read here, and he’s been kind enough to provide a guest post (here) shortly after his Fisher’s Fables was released and another here to celebrate No Bodies. Finally, however, I am able to share my review of one of Robert’s books as I have actually read No Love Lost! I’d like to thank Robert for sending me a copy in return for an honest review and for inviting me to participate in these launch celebrations.

No Love Lost was published on 17th September is available for purchase here.

No Love Lost

No Love Lost ebook cover final

How can a simple job interview end in complete carnage?

When Mandy Paige seeks Kent Fisher’s help to find the mother who abandoned her as a baby, he has no idea of the mayhem his investigation will unleash. With only a photograph of a woman he once knew, he discovers she left her office one Friday afternoon twenty years ago and never returned.

Did Helen Cassidy escape an abusive husband or was she abducted and murdered?

People connected to Helen begin to die in mysterious circumstances. An old foe returns, leaving cryptic messages on the windscreen of Kent’s car. He seems to know Kent’s every move, hounding and taunting the sleuth, attacking those who can help him solve the mystery.

When the main suspect dies, Kent’s investigation lies in tatters – until he realises he’s not the one pursuing the killer. The killer’s pursuing him.

My Review of No Love Lost

Mandy’s arrival in Kent’s life leads to more than he could imagine!

No Love Lost May be the sixth book in the Kent Fisher series but not having read the others did not diminish my extreme pleasure in this one and it works perfectly as a stand alone narrative. I do think I would have appreciated the subtleties of some of Kent’s relationships more had I read the other books in the series but actually that has simply had the effect of making me determined to catch up with the series from the beginning.

Robert Crouch has a smooth writing style that makes No Love Lost effortless to read, allowing the reader to immerse themselves in the action. And what action there is! The book opens in dramatic fashion and maintains a cracking pace throughout, never missing a beat. I loved the endings of each chapter as they often surprised me, were always gripping and meant I simply had to read on. There’s a smashing visual quality to the narrative too so that natural images and descriptions enhance the impact of the action. I could envisage the scenes very vividly. No Love Lost would translate brilliantly to the small screen.

I found the themes of No Love Lost all too pertinent to today’s society. The concept of commitment, fidelity and trust underpins the fast paced action and with side issues such as local government restructuring, the use of technology and the drama of revenge all swirling through the writing, not only does the book entertain wonderfully, it provides relatable food for thought.

What I thoroughly enjoyed too was the lack of expletives in the language and the ability to create drama and tension without the use of extreme gore to convey the drama. Instead, I found myself falling for Kent Fisher as a person, seeing the real man and finding him plausible and human. I rather hope he’ll find some sustained happiness in the next book. I must confess, however, that Columbo was probably my favourite character because he provides light relief in amongst the tension.

No Love Lost is an absolute cracker of a book that deserves a wide audience. I found it hugely exciting, cleverly plotted and very entertaining. I’m sure that had No Love Lost been written by a famous author, film and television companies would be falling over themselves to turn it into a screen production. Robert Crouch’s writing is excellent and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

About Robert Crouch

Robert Crouch and Harvey

Robert Crouch is the author of the Kent Fisher murder mystery series. Set in today’s world, the books pay homage to the traditional murder mystery and classic whodunit.

Based on his career as an environmental health officer, Kent Fisher is a different kind of detective, described as ‘unique in crime fiction’ by one reviewer.

Having left environmental health, Robert now writes full time from his home on the East Sussex coast. He loves walking on the South Downs with his wife, Carol, and their Westie, Harvey, reading crime fiction and photography.

You can find out more on Robert’s website, by following him on Twitter @robertcrouchuk or by finding him on Facebook.

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Staying in with Emma Cooper

It feels far too long since lovely Emma Cooper has appeared on Linda’s Book Bag. The first time was when I shared an extract from Emma’s No Wonder in a post you can read here. Earlier this year I reviewed Emma’s fabulous The First Time I Saw You. My review is here, but The First Time I Saw You will be making another appearance at the end of December as it is one of my books of the year.

Today, I’m thrilled to stay in with Emma to hear all about her latest book. I would like to thank Alara Delfosse at Headline for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for If I Could Say Goodbye.

Staying in with Emma Cooper

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

Hello Linda, wow! I love your book cases!

Thanks! Though I’m rapidly running out of space… Tell me, (as if I didn’t know!) which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I have brought along my new Women’s Fiction novel If I Could Say Goodbye which I’m so excited to see out in the world … I can’t believe it’s my third book!

Congratulations Emma and happy publication day for last Thursday! So , what can we expect from an evening in with If I Could Say Goodbye?

It’s a story about Jennifer Jones who is married to a wonderful man called Ed, they have two young children and she is very happy with her life, very settled. But at the beginning of the story, Jen’s sister Kerry is tragically killed in a road accident by pushing Jen out of the way and so what follows is the story of how Jen deals firstly with her grief, her own mortality and then the guilt of why she is still and alive when her sister isn’t.

That sounds quite emotional. Tell me more.

Now I know this sounds like a very sad tale but as with my other books there are a lot of laughs along the way as Jen tries to make the most out of her life by having more adventurous sex with her husband and taking up roller-booting! My books may break your heart but I always, always try to put it back together by the end.

Hmm. I’m not sure I believe you Emma. You shredded my heart when I read The First Time I Saw You!

What else have you brought along and why?

Well, just stay there for a moment, Linda … *pops out to the car and returns with two-meter-tall thank you card* Can you just give me a hand fitting it this through your door? Thank you, there we go!

Crikey, that’s enormous. What are you doing with it here?

I have brought along a thank you card filled with messages from the hundreds and hundreds of authors who you’ve helped and supported over the past few years.  What we all love so much is how you help not just the well established authors with big publishing houses but also new writers as I was myself when you first supported me. Thank you for everything.

Oh my goodness Emma. You’ve brought a tear to my eye. It’s my pleasure and I’m thrilled to think I might have helped occasionally along the way. You’re very kind.

I’ve also brought with me The Best of Aretha Franklin because Jen’s sister Kerry loved her, and a homemade white chocolate cheesecake to go with it.

This is one of my favourite recipes and it plays a part in a heart-breaking scene where Jen is trying her best to carry on as if everything is fine, but we can see through Ed’s eyes that Jen is really struggling.

What a perfect combination Emma. I love Aretha Franklin’s music and cheesecake is such a treat. Thank you so much for staying in with me to chat all about If I Could Say Goodbye. I can’t wait to read it but I know I’ll need to stock up with tissues first!

Thank you for having me over Linda, it’s been wonderful to be able to say thank you in person x

It’s been lovely having you here Emma. You serve up some cheesecake and I’ll provide the details about If I Could Say Goodbye:

If I Could Say Goodbye

Perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes and Cecelia Ahern, If I Could Say Goodbye is sure to ‘break your heart but put it back together again’ (Katie Fforde)

Jennifer Jones’ life began when her little sister, Kerry, was born. So when her sister dies in a tragic accident, nothing seems to make sense any more.

Despite the support of her husband, Ed, and their wonderful children, Jen can’t comprehend why she is still here, while bright, spirited Kerry is not.

When Jen starts to lose herself in her memories of her sister, she doesn’t realise that the closer she feels to Kerry, the further she gets from her family.

Jen was never able to say goodbye to her sister. But what if she could?

Would you risk everything if you had the chance to say goodbye?

Published by Headline on 17th September 2020, If I Could Say Goodbye is available for purchase through the links here.

About Emma Cooper

emma ccooper

Emma Cooper is a former teaching assistant, who lives in Shropshire with her partner and four children. She spends her spare time writing novels, drinking wine and watching box-sets with her partner of twenty-four years, who still makes her smile every day. Emma has always wanted to be a writer – ever since childhood, she’s been inventing characters (her favourite being her imaginary friend ‘Boot’) and is thrilled that she now gets to use this imagination to bring to life all of her creations.

For more information. follow Emma on Twitter @ItsEmmacooper and on Facebook. You can also visit her website.

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Staying in with Jo Lambert

It’s far too long since lovely Jo Lambert has appeared on Linda’s Book Bag. Last time I was reviewing her novel Watercolours in the Rain in a post you’ll find here. Jo has also previously written a super guest post, telling us about writing in the first person and you can read that blog post here. Another of Jo’s books, The Other Side of the Morning, featured here. Today I’m delighted to stay in with Jo to find out what she’s been writing of late.

Staying in with Jo Lambert

Welcome back to Linda’s Book Bag, Jo. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me on this occasion.

Thank you for inviting me. It’s lovely to take a break from writing…

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

I’m currently writing a trilogy set on the south Cornish coast. The first book, Shadows on the Water, has just been published and it’s the one I’ve decided to bring with me today.

Congratulations on a new series. What can we expect from an evening in with Shadows on the Water?

Love, loss, family, friendship and suspense – all the usual ingredients you’ll find in my books. The icing on the cake for me was writing the story set against such a wonderful backdrop. The fictitious estuary towns of East and West Kingswater were created from a mix of Dartmouth and Fowey. They are places I’ve been to many times and made it much easier to give my characters a ‘home’  and create the scenes for the book.

That sounds wonderful Jo. I think we could all do with a trip to Cornwall! 

What else have you brought along and why?

A cream tea for us to share. An absolute must if you visit Cornwall isn’t it? I know there’s this thing about which comes first, jam or cream but on the Cornish side of the border it’s definitely jam first! Will you pour or shall I?

You pour Jo. I can’t hold myself back from those scones. A cream tea is one of my very favourite things and it always makes sense to me to put the jam on first even all the way up here in Lincolnshire! Did you bring anything else?

I always create a playlist for my books. Mood music which helps me write some of the scenes. If I had to choose one track from the list it would be Maggie Reilly’s Every Time We Touch which is  the theme for Ava and Alex my central characters.

And finally I’ve brought along a couple of photos. One of Dartmouth and one of Fowey. Without photographic memories like these it would not have been possible to create the feel of my fictitious estuary town of Kingswater.  We’re hoping to go back to Fowey in early October – more research for book 3!

I can quite understand why you want to return as soon as you can Jo. Let’s hope you get there! Shadows on the Water seems to fit the setting perfectly. Thank you so much for staying in with me to chat about it. Now, pass me another scone please whilst I add a few more details for blog readers about Shadows on the Water.

Shadows on the Water

After the tragic death of her fiancé, Ava Warren is slowly rebuilding her life.  She has a supportive family, great friends and a job she loves, managing holiday letting company Estuary Escapes in her home town of Kingswater. Another relationship is the last thing she wants or needs. Until one evening she meets Alex Penhaligon.

Alex’s father Sam owns Heron’s Gate Vineyard and Alex has recently returned from California, where he has been working for the past five years.  A case of mistaken identity gets them off to a bad start. But discovering his error, Alex is anxious to make amends and soon persuades Ava that he’s not quite as arrogant as she thinks he is. As their friendship begins to turn into something much deeper, Ava wonders whether she can at last put the past behind her and make a new future with Alex.

But someone is watching.  A man who not only thinks Ava should be his but also holds a long term grudge against Alex. And he’s determined to get his own way irrespective of the lengths he has to go to or who gets hurt in the process.

Set in Cornwall Shadows on the Water is a story of family ties, lost love and tangled loyalties.

Shadows on the Water is available for purchase here.

About Jo Lambert

Jo Lambert lives on the eastern edge of the city of Bath. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors.  She has been writing since 2008. Her first five books, a set of linked romantic sagas following the lives of several families in rural West Somerset, were followed in 2015 by Summer Moved On, a contemporary romance set in South Devon. A sequel, Watercolours in the Rain was published 2017,

In June 2018 Jo signed to Choc Lit and her debut A Cornish Affair, set in North Cornwall was published in 2019 under their Ruby Fiction imprint.

Her latest novel Shadows on the Water is due for publication on 26th July. It is the first in a three book series. She is currently busy working on the second which will be published next year.

When she isn’t writing she reads and reviews. She also has an active blog.  Jo loves travel, red wine and music and long as it has a great melody and lyrics. Oh and she often takes the odd photograph or two…

For more information you can find Jo Lambert on Facebook, Instagram and her website. You can also follow her on Twitter @Jolambertwriter and read her blog.