Everyone is Still Alive by Cathy Retzenbrink

It’s my very great pleasure to be part of the blog tour for Cathy Rentzenbrink’s Everyone Is Still Alive today. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate and to Leanne Oliver at Orion for sending me a copy of Everyone Is Still Alive in return for an honest review.

Published by Orion imprint Phoenix on 8th July 2021, Everyone Is Still Alive is available for purchase through these links.

Everyone Is Still Alive

‘Incredibly tender’ Marian Keyes
‘A total triumph’ Nina Stibbe
‘Beautiful, moving and so funny and well-observed’ Philippa Perry

It is summer on Magnolia Road when Juliet moves into her late mother’s house with her husband Liam and their young son, Charlie. Preoccupied by guilt, grief and the juggle of working motherhood, she can’t imagine finding time to get to know the neighbouring families, let alone fitting in with them. But for Liam, a writer, the morning coffees and after-school gatherings soon reveal the secret struggles, fears and rivalries playing out behind closed doors – all of which are going straight into his new novel . . .

Juliet tries to bury her unease and leave Liam to forge these new friendships. But when the rupture of a marriage sends ripples through the group, painful home truths are brought to light. And then, one sun-drenched afternoon at a party, a single moment changes everything.

The fiction debut from Sunday Times bestselling author Cathy Rentzenbrink, Everyone Is Still Alive is funny and moving, intimate and wise; a novel that explores the deeper realities of marriage and parenthood and the way life thwarts our expectations at every turn.

My Review of Everyone Is Still Alive

Juliet, Liam and Charlie have moved house.

If you’re looking for a fast paced twisty thriller then look elsewhere. If, however, you’re looking for a brilliantly observed, witty, poignant and compelling insight into middle class England then Everyone Is Still Alive delivers it to perfection. This is such a wonderful book because Cathy Rentzenbrink shines a laser spotlight onto marriage and relationships in a way that resonates with the reader and, ultimately, gives them faith not only in the characters here, but in themselves and in humanity.

Other than a couple of larger events, little happens in Everyone Is Still Alive, but there’s a palpable intensity to the plot that is incredibly affecting. Cathy Rentzenbrink understands and presents human emotion with such clarity and honesty that it is impossible to read this book and not feel that your own soul has been partially exposed along with that of Juliet et al. It is the uncovering of what Joseph Conrad would term ‘the thin veneer of civilisation’ that held me gripped. In this one street of Magnolia Road live those maintaining a façade of domestic perfection with their juicers and au pairs whist quietly unravelling inside. I found this very moving.

The characters exemplify the impact of prosaic life perfectly. I think it illustrates Cathy Rentzenbrink’s quality of writing that although I loathed Liam with enough passion to want to shake him physically, by the end of Everyone Is Still Alive I realised how easily I had been manipulated into seeing him from Juliet’s perspective. I had been tricked into behaving just like the characters, judging others by appearances. I found the children in Everyone Is Still Alive scarily accurate. Their impact on their parents reinforced my relief that I chose not to have any, but at the same time as she explores the challenges of parenthood, Cathy Rentzenbrink also illustrates its joys and rewards too in a completely authentic and realistic manner.

Indeed it, it is the themes of Everyone Is Still Alive that make it such a triumph. Grief certainly comes through the death of Juliet’s mother and is the catalyst for her move to Magnolia Road, but there’s grief over broken relationships, a loss of personal identity, an inability to live up to the expectations of others and grief over what might have been that resonates throughout the intense, affecting prose. Add in the exploration of relationships, education, parenthood, friendships, career and identity and Everyone Is Still Alive becomes a kind of love song to who we are and who we want to be.

I so enjoyed Everyone Is Still Alive. It’s beautifully written, human and tender with a super sprinkling of dry wit that makes it thrum with interest. I really recommend it.

About Cathy Rentzenbrink

Cathy Rentzenbrink grew up in Yorkshire, spent many years in London, and now lives in Cornwall. She is the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Last Act of Love, which was shortlisted for the Wellcome Prize, and the acclaimed memoirs A Manual for Heartache and Dear ReaderEveryone Is Still Alive is her first novel.
For further information, follow Cathy in Twitter @CatRentzenbrink and find her on Instagram or Facebook.
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Valley of Shadows by Paul Buchanan

My very grateful thanks to Lucy at Legend Press for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for Valley of Shadows by Paul Buchanan and for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review. It gives me real pleasure to share that review today.

Published by Legend Press on 15th July, Valley of Shadows is available for purchase here.

Valley of Shadows

The second novel in the PI Jim Keegan series.

A reclusive millionaire hires PI Jim Keegan to look after her interests, she is currently hidden away at the legendary Chateau Marmont hotel. All Keegan has to do is humour her, keep her important papers in his office safe, and make weekly checks of her LA properties. but within a week she goes missing. Keegan suspects her ne’er-do-well young nephew of murder―but all the evidence he can find is circumstantial, and there’s a good chance the kid will get away scot free.

My Review of Valley of Shadows

Private Investigator Jim Keegan has a new case.

I thoroughly enjoyed Valley of Shadows. Paul Buchanan has written a crime thriller that has all the best nuances and qualities of modern detective noir fiction but plotted without the luxury and ease of mobile phones and the Internet in his time frame so that old fashioned qualities ripple through the story. Valley of Shadows is an excellent blend of the golden era of crime fiction and sharp modern plotting that reminded me of Poirot, Sam Spade and Columbo all in the one character of Jim Keegan.

I thought Jim Keegan was such a well wrought character. He is flawed, frustrating (ask Mrs Dodd), often misguided and foolish as well as insightful and intellectually attractive so that he feels three dimensional and vivid, without the hard boiled maverick personalities so often stereotypically attributed to middle aged men in this genre. Reading Valley of Shadows as a stand alone book works brilliantly as references to Jim’s past are effortlessly included so that the reader understands him completely, but it has certainly made me want to go back and discover him from the beginning in City of Fallen Angels. I found Mrs Dodd almost Shakespearean as a humorous foil to Jim. She provides a pragmatic balance with just a touch of quirkiness embodied in her superstitions that I found really appealing.

Speaking of superstitions, there’s an undercurrent of supernatural other-worldliness in Valley of Shadows that adds both interest and a frisson of fear for the reader. Not everything is explained and Nora’s behaviour leaves the reader wondering what the truth really is, making for an intriguing read with a sprinkling of moments when the hairs on the back of your neck raise from the creepiness.

The plot in Valley of Shadows is a corker. Quite a slow burner, but hugely compelling, it’s brilliantly designed to engage the reader completely. There’s enough of Jim’s personal life subplot to break the tension as needed without affecting the drama of the narrative. I had it all worked out really early on – as soon as Ida Fletcher’s nephew Danny Church arrived in the story – except of course, I was completely wrong. Paul Buchanan wrongfooted me in Valley of Shadows and I found the denouement hugely satisfying.

Valley of Shadows may not have the visceral violence we often expect in crime fiction; it may not be a writhing twisty psychological roller coaster, but it is a sophisticated, wonderfully crafted story that builds throughout and which I thought was excellent. I fear it might be a quiet book that many miss which would be a real injustice. I really recommend it.

About Paul Buchanan

Paul Buchanan earned a Master of Professional Writing degree from the University of Southern California and an MFA in fiction writing from Chapman University. He teaches and writes in the Los Angeles area.

You’ll find Paul Buchanan on Twitter @ProfBuch and Instagram.

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The Art of Loving You by Amelia Henley

Having been privileged to help reveal the cover to Amelia Henley’s second book, The Art of Loving You in a post you can see here, I’m delighted to share my review of the the book today. My enormous thanks to Amelia for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.

I was utterly thrilled to find myself mentioned in the Acknowledgements after I had read The Art of Loving You.

Amelia Henley’s The Life We Almost Had was my joint book of the year in 2020 and I stayed in here with Amelia here on the blog to discuss it, having shared my review here.

The Art of Loving You will be published by Harper Collins imprint HQ on 22nd July 2021 and is available for pre-order through the links here.

The Art of Loving You

Perfect for fans of Rebecca Serle, Josie Silver and Sophie Cousens.

* * * *

They were so in love . . .
And then life changed forever . . .
Will they find happiness again?

Libby and Jack are the happiest they’ve ever been. Thanks to their dear friend, eighty-year-old Sid, they’ve just bought their first house together, and it’s the beginning of the life they’ve always dreamed of.

But the universe has other plans for Libby and Jack and a devastating twist of fate shatters their world.

All of a sudden life is looking very different, and unlikely though it seems, might Sid be the one person who can help Libby and Jack move forward when what they loved the most has been lost?

The Art of Loving You is a beautiful love story for our times. Romantic and uplifting, it will break your heart and then put it back together again.

My Review of The Art of Loving You

Libby and Jack have a new home.

Oh dear. Amelia Henley’s books should definitely come with a warning. If you’re not prepared to put your life on hold as you read and to have your heart completely destroyed, to wade through entire boxes of tissues and to wonder if you’ll ever recover, then don’t pick up The Art of Loving You. It broke me completely and I loved it.

It’s the heightened emotional tension that is so brilliantly created that makes The Art of Loving You such an affecting read. I felt completely entranced as I read; anxious, tense and yet filled with warmth and love too. It’s some considerable skill from an author to be able create such atmosphere. I genuinely had to pause at times to give my physical responses to Amelia Henley’s writing time to abate and at one point when I was waiting to go in to the dentist, I was crying so hard at what I read, the person in the next car donned their mask and came to see if I was all right!

I thought the characters were wonderful. There’s a relatively small cast so that the reader gets to know them intimately. I found it fascinating how Owen and Norma, who are hardly present, help shape so much of what happens. The relationship between Libby and Jack is, of course, at the heart of the narrative and is totally convincing, mesmerising and heart-breaking as well as being uplifting and suffused with hope, but it was the other forms of relationship, especially those created through chance and the butterfly effect, that I found completely fascinating. The relationship between Libby and her mother and Alice exemplifies perfectly how families work, but at the same time in The Art of Loving You we see how family is a loose concept. Sid’s influence on so many of the relationships is natural, realistic and convincing and I thought the presence of Liam and Noah worked so well to illustrate the fluidity of relationships, the randomness of those we form relationships with and, perhaps more importantly, how we can never truly know what is going on in another person’s life.

The plot is brilliant. On the surface The Art Of Loving You is a fairly simple love story. Except it isn’t. I can’t say too much more because it would spoil the read, but fate, the blurring of realities, and the full gamut of human emotion and experience from love to hate, joy to despair, life to death weaves through the story so that The Art of Loving You can be enjoyed on many, many levels. Again, theme is impossible to write about in a review as to discuss the topics presented here would uncover aspects a reader needs to discover for themselves. Let me just say that they are wonderful, brilliantly explored and utterly, utterly convincing.

I am aware that this review is vague and unsatisfying, but Amelia Henley has written such a deep and beautiful story with such intricacy and depth that anything more will spoil the experience of reading The Art of Loving You for others. Let me just say that, should you read this book, you won’t be left unaffected or unquestioning and you’ll definitely want to be more Jack! The Art of Loving You is wonderful. Don’t miss it.

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 was the first story she’s written as Amelia Henley.

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

The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness by Laura Bambrey

I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to share my review of The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness by Laura Bambrey today. My enormous thanks to SJ at TeamBATC for inviting me to participate in the blog tour and for sending me a copy of The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness in return for an honest review.

The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness is published by Simon and Schuster and is available for purchase through these links.

The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness

The perfect feel-good read from an exciting new voice in women’s fiction, for fans of Heidi Swain, Cathy Bramley and Jenny Colgan.

Tori Williamson is alone. After a tragic event left her isolated from her loved ones, she’s been struggling to find her way back to, well – herself. That’s why she set up her blog, The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness, as a way of – anonymously – connecting with the outside world and reaching others who just need a little help sometimes.

When she’s offered a free spot on a wellbeing retreat in exchange for a review on her blog, Tori is anxious about opening herself up to new surroundings. But after her three closest friends – who she talks to online but has never actually met – convince her it’ll do her some good, she reluctantly agrees and heads off for three weeks in the wild (well, a farm in Wales).

From the moment she arrives, Tori is sceptical and quickly finds herself drawn to fellow sceptic Than, the retreat’s dark and mysterious latecomer. But as the beauty of The Farm slowly comes to light she realizes that opening herself up might not be the worst thing. And sharing a yurt with fellow retreater Bay definitely isn’t.  Will the retreat be able to fix Tori? Or will she finally learn that being lonely doesn’t mean she’s broken . . .

My Review of The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness

Tori is off to a retreat to review for her blog.

The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness is an absolute belter of a book. I loved it unreservedly. Laura Bambrey has crafted a witty, moving and entertaining read that completely captivated me.

I thought the blog entries at the start of each chapter were brilliant and, although The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness is escapist entertainment of the very best kind, the messages in these chapter openings are actually truly inspiring and helpful to those experiencing similar feelings of guilt, worthlessness and loneliness as Tori does. They left me feeling encouraged and uplifted so that as well as being diverted from the cares of the world by The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness, I actually benefitted from it emotionally and mentally too.

The Welsh retreat setting provides the perfect backdrop to the action because there’s a fantastic unity of place that complements the characters beautifully. Laura Bambrey adds just the right amount of physical description to place her reader at the heart of the action without ever slowing the pace. The exercises and activities at the retreat feel completely authentic and convincing with the effect of making the reader relax into the reading in a way that mirrors the manner Tori learns to let go of some of her anxieties. Alongside this authenticity is a plot that races along to the extent that I had to put life on hold until I had devoured The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness.

I loved meeting the cast of characters in The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness. Whilst there are recognisable aspects of people who would run or visit this kind of retreat, such as having beards and dreadlocks, or wearing white floaty clothing, these aspects never feel stereotypical, but rather make the reader feel included in the narrative by Laura Bambrey through a shared understanding. I was in love with Bay myself from the very beginning and desperately wanted Tori to distance herself from Than and fall in love with Bay too but you’ll need to read the book to see if that actually happens. Indeed, Than’s prickliness and Rowan’s entrepreneurial activities counteract perfectly the softer personalities of those like Doreen and Lizzie so that it feels as if all life is here in the community on the farm.

However, what I found so special about The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness was the balance between light hearted comedy and sensitive emotional depth because it made the book all the more affecting. As well as exploring aspects of loneliness, Laura Bambrey provides insight into mental health in many forms, relationships, friendship and family whilst touching on social media and its benefits and dangers in an accessible, engaging and compelling manner.

I thought The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness was a wonderful example of its genre and have put it straight on my list of favourite reads this year. Laura Bambrey entertains, comforts and delights her reader in equal measure in The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness. It’s fabulous. Don’t miss it.

About Laura Bambrey

Laura Bambrey was born in Dorset but raised in Wales. She’s worked as a trapeze choreographer, sculpture conservator and stilt walker, amongst others, and spent most of her time collecting stories from the people she met along the way.

She has spent many years as a book blogger and reviewer of women’s fiction and now lives in Devon with her very own romantic hero and a ridiculously fluffy rabbit named Mop. The Beginner’s Guide to Loneliness is her début novel.

For further information, follow Laura on Twitter @LauraBambrey, or find her on Facebook and Instagram.

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Staying in with Iain Hood

My grateful thanks to Will Dady at Renard press for putting me in touch with Iain Hood so that we could stay in together to chat about Iain’s debut book. Let’s find out what Iain told me:

Staying in with Iain Hood

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Iain.

Thanks for inviting me!

Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

A pleasure. I love staying in. My wife and I, who had our kid later in life, joke that we had her just so we had an excuse to stay in, because actually we were sick of going out.

That sounds quite a drastic way of making the decision! 

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

I’ve brought along This Good Book. It’s the fifth novel I’ve written, but the first one to be published, by the wonderful Renard Press. If I had dreamed of a publisher who ‘gets’ This Good Book the way Renard do, I would have thought it a for-definite opium pipe dream.

That’s lovely to hear. I think smaller independent publishers are brilliant actually Iain. Mind you, I think we need to have a conversation another time about how you know what an opium pipe dream feels like!

So, what can we expect from an evening in with This Good Book?

This Good Book is the story of two artists, Susan Alison and Douglas, trying to create the best art they can, while always aware that the ideas of ‘good’ art, ‘great’ art, the ‘best’ art are illusory, and can kill the art and, sometimes, the artist.

Crikey. That’s quite some premise. Tell me more!

Susan Alison narrates throughout, and this is her story told, as she says, the way her mithair likes a good story told. It’s Susan Alison’s description, explanation, maybe her apology, and her confession, if you like. The tone of the novel is a wicked dark humour paired with a fearlessness in terms of the ideas that get thrown around (God, art, love, death, mother: the ‘big’ words, as James Joyce has it) that I learned 100% from Dame Muriel Spark, that greatest of Scottish novelists. Susan Alison and Douglas can bicker like siblings, and lob hand grenades of intentional or accidental insult at each other. They can also make each other laugh until laughing makes their bellies hurt and think until thinking makes their heads hurt.

That sounds fascinating. What genre would you say This Good Book is?

This Good Book is a book that has a crime and a trial in it, but it’s not a crime novel, more a novel like Alexander Trocchi’s Young Adam. It has horror in it, but it’s not a horror story: more in the tradition of ‘The Horror’ in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. It is a romance and a love story, but not a romance about the love relationship between the two protagonists.

This transcendence of genre mirrors the transcendence that both Susan Alison and Douglas seek in and from their art; a cut-through to meaning independent of form. And now I can hear Susan Alison and Douglas, simultaneously shouting out ‘Woooooo!’ Their howling derision at my pretentious description. And Susan Alison is  like, ‘Independent of form, is it?’ And Douglas adds, ‘Oh aye, total cut-through!’ And Susan will kill it, with a final kiss off, ‘You know, I think I heard a semi-colon in there.’ They’re like that, the two of them.

Susan and Douglas sound utterly wonderful. I can’t wait to meet them when I read This Good Book and I’m delighted it’s on my TBR.

What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?

I’ve brought along the entire back catalogue of the Glasgow rock band Mogwai. Mogwai’s music was instrumental in the writing of This Good Book (there’s a wee joke in there for the initiated: most of Mogwai’s music is lyric- and singing-free).

Now I’m intrigued – and not a little ashamed to say I’ve never heard of Mogwai!

When I started planning This Good Book, the plan simply consisted of a list of Mogwai track titles that I thought might fit with the things I wanted to write about. This was a rich seam for mining: ‘Angels versus Aliens’, ‘The Lord is Out of Control’, ‘Like Herod’, ‘No Medicine for Regret’, and the track title that kicked it all off for me, ‘You Don’t Know Jesus’. Eventually the plan mutated into something else, but weaving the Mogwai track titles into the text was fun, helped the writing, and helped construct Susan Alison’s somewhat peculiar synthesised idiolect.

One plot thread in the book is enhanced (or even just understood, though I do try to explain as well) if you know some of the lyric-based songs of Mogwai, because Susan Alison appears to experience premonitions based around Mogwai lyrics. This is mystifying to Douglas and us, and Susan Alison herself, as she says, ‘Prophecy is all in the saying what the future holds. But Mogwai tunes? What kind of prophecy is that? It’s not exactly the time and date of the Apocalypse. Not unless, you know, you’ve seen them do ‘Mogwai Fear Satan’ live.’ (Mogwai play extremely loud live, in case you don’t know your Mogwai stuff.)

Maybe we can play the music turned down a bit then…

We can either listen to songs associated with This Good Book (as you got to know them, or know them in this context, a game could develop of seeing how many track titles you can spot in the text). Or we could listen to the more mellow and quiet stuff they do; it is a relaxed staying-in evening we are after, correct?

That sounds more my thing actually…

Though maybe I’ll bring some drinks along and as the evening wears on, we might be heard stomping around to ‘How to Be a Werewolf’ or even ‘Like Herod’!! You never know.

You never know indeed Iain. Thank you so much for staying in with me to chat all about This Good Book. You put on some Mogwai music (quietly) and I’ll tell blog readers a bit more about the book:

This Good Book

‘Sometimes I wonder, if I had known that it was going to take me fourteen years to paint this painting of the Crucifixion with Douglas as Jesus, and what it would take for me to paint this painting, would I have been as happy as I was then?’

Susan Alison MacLeod, a Glasgow School of Art graduate with a dark sense of humour, first lays eyes on Douglas MacDougal at a party in 1988, and resolves to put him on the cross in the Crucifixion painting she’s been sketching out, but her desire to create ‘good’ art and a powerful, beautiful portrayal means that a final painting doesn’t see the light of day for fourteen years.

Over the same years, Douglas’s ever-more elaborately designed urine-based installations bring him increasing fame, prizes and commissions, while his modelling for Susan Alison, who continues to work pain and suffering on to the canvas, takes place mostly in the shadows. This Good Book is a wickedly funny, brilliantly observed novel that spins the moral compass and plays with notions of creating art.

A novel about Glasgow, about art, and about obsession. This Good Book will have you gripped from the opening chapter to its disturbing conclusion. Iain Hood is an original new voice in Scottish fiction. Colette Paul

Published by Renard Press on 30th June 2021, This Good Book is available for purchase in all the usual places including directly from the publisher here.

About Iain Hood

(Photograph © Jeremy Andrews)

Iain Hood was born in Glasgow and grew up in the seaside town of Ayr. He attended the University of Glasgow and Jordanhill College, and later worked in education in Glasgow and the West Country. During this time he attended the University of Manchester. He now lives in Cambridge with his wife and daughter. This Good Book is his first novel.

You can follow Iain on Twitter @iain_hood.

Staying in with Lynda Renham

I can’t believe how many years have passed since I interviewed Lynda Renham in a post you can find here. Today Lynda has returned to stay in with me and tell me all about her latest book.

Staying in with Lynda Renham

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

It’s an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for inviting me.

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

I’ve chosen my new novel The Lies She Told, which was released on the 5th July and is available in hardback, paperback and E format. It’s a novel I am very excited to share with you.

I love the atmospheric cover Lynda. What can we expect from an evening in with The Lies She Told?

A great deal of tension, murder, friendships, lies and you may find yourself learning a little about village life in Oxfordshire too. You will make new friends too with Detective Sergeant Harper and Detective Inspector Tom Miller. Most of all, you should expect a gripping evening because I’ve been told that it is very hard to stop reading once you begin the novel.

The Lies She Told sounds really exciting and quite a bit different to some of your comedy writing that I’m more familiar with.

So, what else have you brought along, and why have you brought it?

I’ve brought some music by Jocelyn Pook, particularly the soundtrack from ‘The Staircase’ because I played it a lot while writing the novel.

Oh! I confess I’ve never heard of Jocelyn Pook! And what’s that I can see you’ve brought too?

I’ve also bought a fan because the story is set during a sweltering summer.

It looks as if we’re about to have a bit of real sweltering summer too, so it’s a perfect time to read The Lies She Told! Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about it Lynda. It sounds a great read. You put on Jocelyn’s music and I’ll give Linda’s Book Bag readers a bit more information about The Lies She Told.

The Lies She Told

A quiet village, a friendly community, a brutal attack.

The Lies She Told is set in a quiet Oxfordshire village. Meet Detective Sergeant Beth Harper. Beth has lived in the village most of her life. The crime rate is low, and that’s how everyone likes it. Then Detective Inspector Tom Miller comes from London.

Meet Tom Miller, who immediately clashes with Beth. Beth feels a recent tragedy in Tom’s life will affect his judgement as a police officer. No sooner has Tom arrived and the village is turned upside down. A local school teacher is brutally attacked and left for dead in her home. Could this be a burglary gone wrong, or could it be connected to Tom’s troubled past?

The Lies She Told is available for purchase here.

About Lynda Renham

Lynda Renham is the author of many popular romantic comedies and gripping psychological thriller novels. Lynda studied creative writing at the Open University. She lives in Oxford, UK. She has appeared on BBC radio discussion programs and is a prolific blogger. Lynda is also an avid photographer. When not writing, she can usually be found wasting her time on Facebook or crocheting blankets.

You can find Lynda on Facebook, Instagram and on Twitter @Lyndarenham. You can also visit her website for further information.

Staying in with Sandra Harris

Blogging inhabits a strange universe. I ‘met’ my staying in guest Sandra Harris at an online event and we communicated after the evening. As a result I’m delighted to welcome Sandra to the blog for her tour with Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources and to help start it off. Today Sandra is staying in with me so let’s find out what she has to say!

Staying in with Sandra Harris

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

Hi, Linda!

Tell me, which of your books have you brought this evening?

This evening I’ve brought along the first two books in the Thirteen Stops trilogy: Thirteen Stops (published in June 2020) and Thirteen Stops Later (published in April 2021). Thirteen Stops Earlier will hopefully be released sometime in early 2022.

Why have you brought Thirteen Stops and Thirteen Stops Later?

Can I tell the readers how the trilogy actually came about?

You can!

I’ve brought along some Luas (tram) tickets as well, now some of my most important possessions, because they are directly related to the story.

My son Reuben (six feet tall now and built like the proverbial brick privy, lol) went to school for the first time ever in 2018, at the ripe old age of thirteen. By this time, he had seven years of home-schooling by me under his belt and a recent enough diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and he was more than ready for the change. And the challenge!

I bet!

One of the biggest adjustments I personally had to make that autumn was in regard to transport. Living in the city centre as we do, and therefore having everything we need within walking distance most of the time, I was, and still am, a carless person. Not a careless person, mind you, but a carless one. Well, if you can walk to the chipper and to the Spar for a newspaper and a carton of milk, what do you need a car for?

Well quite!

Exactly! Gimme a break.

So why the tickets?

While we waited for a school bus place to become available for my son, it fell to myself and Reuben’s big sister Lisa to ferry him back and forth to school every day for the month of September on the Luas, which is like a train but kind of smoother. Here in Dublin, we might also call it a tram.

I was a bit iffy about travelling on this tram, as I always do poorly on public transport. It just makes me nervous, plus I get terrible motion sickness, but the Luas was grand and smooth, and a million times less bumpy than the bus. I wasn’t sick once…!

That’s a relief!

Once we were comfortably seated on the choo-choo, oh joy unconfined! Putting a nosy person like myself in a tram with dozens of unsuspecting commuters is a bit like slipping a barracuda into a bathful of goldfish. How I watched them, fascinated, and they never even knew I was doing it.

For, to my utter astonishment –– you must remember that I was new to this travelling lark –– scarcely a one of ’em looked up from their phones or gadgets for the entire journey. My kids caught me staring and hissed: “Mind your own business, Mum! Everyone’s busy doing their own thing!”

Of course, my kids are mortified beyond belief if I so much as utter ‘good morning’ to another living soul, and I kind of see their point. Everything a parent does is embarrassing to a child, and rightly so. But they couldn’t stop me looking, right?

From what I know of you Sandra, I very much doubt it…

And what I saw was gobsmacking. What was happening here, I wondered? Are we now afraid to the point of being terrified of making contact with our fellow human beings, or is it just that the world of interesting stuff to look at and listen to online is too damned tantalising to resist?

I didn’t figure out any answers to this question during my lazy hazy sunlit Luas days. What did occur to me, however, was the following: What if some of these strap-hanging gadget-fiddlers, every one of them a digital island unto themselves, were to look up occasionally from their iPads and take notice of the people around them? A germ of an idea for a story was starting to take shape in my brain. I’d make these lads and lasses mix and mingle if it was the last thing I did, even if I had to damn well write a book to do it, lol.

Aha – I an see where this is headed Sandra.

What a September we had! Places with magical names like Windy Arbour, Cowper, Beechwood and Balally (they’re all in the books!) whizzed by us daily as we lounged like royalty in our iron chariot, while, on an exposed stretch of road between the Luas station and the school, an Indian summer sun burned a layer of skin off our pale inner city faces.

We even picked blackberries on this road, something I hadn’t done since I was a kid. Blackberries, can you imagine? My son, being autistic and fussy, was naturally suspicious of something that grew on a bush by the side of the road and didn’t come in a flat box with a picture of a smiling pizza-making man on the front, but my daughter and I gobbled them down with child-like enthusiasm. City folks don’t see too many blackberries growing au naturel…!

I might be with your son on that one – too many car pollutants. I grow my blackberries in my allotment.

We may never recapture the magic and beauty of that sun-dappled September, when the road ahead literally shimmered for us with newness and anticipation, but it doesn’t matter. We lived it, and it’s in our heads, there to play on the flickering screen of our memories whenever we press ‘rewind.’ Happy days. Oooh-er, I’m sniffling a bit here. Help yourself to some complementary blackberries while I compose myself.

I’ll pass on the blackberries but you help yourself to a tissue…

The pictured Luas tickets are the actual ones we used that September to ride the rails. I’ll never part with them because of what they represent, but I might sell ‘em if I ever get famous and someone offers me a million dollars for them…!

I can quite understand that Sandra. Fingers crossed for that million dollars (and a cut for me).

So, what else have you brought and why have you brought it?

 

You said I could bring guests, Linda, so here they are. Their names are Victoria, Honey Joy, Millicent, Princess Katerina, Claudia, Catherine, Patricia Constance, Rose, Kate and Scarlett Cassandra… and they’re all dolls…!

Oh. Why dolls?

Why am I bringing dolls to join us on our night in? Well, while I was writing my trilogy of chick-lit books, I felt extremely girlie, somehow. I’m not one for spending all day shopping for clothes- in fact, I loathe shopping of nearly any description, except book-shopping- but I was aware that there was something I’d been missing in my life since my childhood… dolls!

Somehow, I felt that being a chick-lit author entitled me to reclaim my long-disregarded inner girlieness and finally make it up to myself for the loss of my childhood dolls; Baby Noelle (I can still smell that Christmas morning new doll smell!), my rag doll Susie, my favourite doll Linda and my cute little girl doll Goldie.

I’m so glad to hear the name of your favourite doll Sandra!

I decided I was going to buy some dolls for myself, and that’s exactly what I did. They all came from charity shops or vintage second-hand shops in Dublin city centre and didn’t cost very much, and within a ridiculously short space of time, I had acquired the above-named ladies.

They’re mostly for show and not to play with as such, but I do enjoy picking them up and fiddling with their hair, because they all have such fabulous hair! Most of them are wearing old-fashioned dresses, which I love, and some of them came from the oddest little junk shops, the kind piled from floor to ceiling with old books and vinyl records and moth-eaten vintage clothes, and there’s usually a tray or two of old coins or army medals sitting near the till, you know the kind of place!

I do indeed.

I love them all, but especially Victoria, because she was the first and has magnificent curls. Scarlett Cassandra was so named because her dark green velvet dress reminds me of the gown Scarlett O’Hara makes from her mother’s curtains in Gone With The Wind. She wants a new outfit so she can look her best when she’s visiting Rhett Butler in jail, to ask him to lend her the dough to pay the taxes on Tara. But to pull down and desecrate Miz Ellen’s portieres… As Mammy might say, t’aint fitting…

Princess Katerina is extremely tall, at about three feet. I found her leaning against the back wall of a dusty old vintage shop, waiting to be seen. My daughter and I had just finished watching our North and South box-set, starring the delicious Patrick Swayze as Orry Main, and we both agreed that her outfit and gorgeous hat resembled something that Lesley Anne Down might have worn as the stunningly beautiful and fetchingly garbed Madalyn La Motte.

Honey Joy and Millicent I adore because they look like exactly the kind of doll a little Victorian girl might have played with back in the day. The Victorians really knew how to craft a beautiful doll.

Claudia, my one Barbie, is ultra-glamorous. I imagine her as a mysterious Eastern European princess of a small, little-known principality, and she goes to parties peopled with James Bond-type spies and beautiful but deadly female assassins, parties where the hero is, of course, smitten by her beauty. Will she submit to a woo-ing, or does she have she an ulterior motive our hero has yet to find out about…? That’s the fiction writer in me, lol. I’m never off the clock…!

Crikey. That’s some collection. Dare I tell you I never liked dolls as a child? I was given twin boy dolls at Christmas one year and bit off their noses. I also cut all the hair of my sister’s doll Blondie who had to be renamed Baldie.

I’ve also brought along some of my fancy notebooks, because, during the writing of the trilogy, dolls weren’t the only thing I indulged my passion for. I adore fancy notebooks, and all my writing scribbles and book notes go into the various nice notebooks I find in stationery shops. I know other writers use spreadsheets, yellow post-it notes, wall charts, etc,. but I’m a notebook fiend and I probably have dozens of gorgeous ones knocking around the place by now.

I think we ALL love notebooks Sandra.

I also took up journaling during the writing of the three books, largely because I really wanted to write words in a notebook with a pen again, after years of typing my work on my laptop. I actually had a real yearning for using a pen and paper once more.

So, I found an unused notebook in a local second-hand bookshop that I liked the look of, and bought it for this exact purpose. I didn’t realise at first that the journal was part of a famous series by a lady called Keri Smith, entitled Wreck this Journal.

The idea is that you find inner freedom and creativity by following the journal’s prompts to do mad things to it, like rolling it down a hill, bringing it into the shower with you, poking holes in it with a pencil and even punching the pages, after first dipping your fist in something. Sweet Jesus.

Is there a society for the protection of notebook abuse?

I knew I’d do none of these wacky, sadistic things to the poor, poor journal. I’d write things in it and carry it around with me and record my thoughts, dreams, hopes and fears in it like you’re supposed to in a journal, although any journal writer will tell you that you can write absolutely anything you want to in a journal. Your journal, your rules. Have it YOUR way, as they used to say at Burger King. Some people even draw or doodle in theirs, if it feels right, but I’m strictly a wordsmith.

I’ve been a fervent diary-keeper for the last sixteen years, since my youngest child was born and suddenly I needed to keep track of things like vaccinations, doctor-and-hospital visits and a load of different baby milestones once more.

But a diary differs from a journal in that it’s a record of events that have happened to you. A journal can be a record of how you feel about these events and what they mean to you. A journal can be a tool, just one of the many tools we can use in search of a meaningful life. (Note to self: Wine and cake are not real tools…!)

Oh I rather think they count too!

I googled what kind of things you can write in a journal. You can keep a gratitude journal, writing down every day what things you’re grateful for. This practice can definitely promote well-being and feelings of happiness, optimism and positivity. Whether it’s a delicious dinner or finding a fiver in an old coat pocket (preferably your own coat, but whatever!), we’ll all have at least one thing to be grateful about every day.

Hang on a minute Sandra. I’m just off to rifle through my coat pockets…

You can journal to find solutions to problems, or just to rant a bit if you have no other outlet. You can use your journal for self-growth and knowledge about self by writing about your talents and skills, your strengths and weaknesses, areas in which you’re doing really well or areas in which you could use a little improvement and, let’s face it, nobody’s perfect, lol.

Except perhaps Bryan Ferry…

Like Richard Branson, you can use a journal to write down lists or your career goals. I started using mine to write down my writing goals for the near future. Even if I don’t stick to the plan, writing down my goals helps to crystallise them for me in my mind and assists me in remembering them.

You can also look up journal prompts on the Internet. I’ve done this a couple of times and ended up answering questions like, what is enough for you, and if you had a magic wand, what changes would you make in your life? Prompts are an endless source of things to write about, and I discovered that you can even buy books of prompts too if you prefer that to googling.

Now I could use that magic wand…

Here’s some stuff I’ve written about in my own journal since November, and some questions I’ve tried to answer there: my dreams (the dreams I have while I’m sleeping, not my goals); my writing resolutions for the year ahead (I’ve broken ’em all already!); thirty things that make me happy (that was a good one!); what does a Wednesday mean to me?

That’s a conversation we’ll have another time I think!

If the world ended at midnight tonight, how would I spend the rest of the day; some movie/writing quotes I like and identify with; how am I currently self-sabotaging my goals (sneaky but very clever!); and finally, I wrote a detailed account of my second child’s birth from sixteen years ago because I realised that, although the story had passed into oral legend in the family, there was no written account of it anywhere. So now it’s in my journal! (My daughter, my oldest child, is adamant that she in particular will never read this account but hey, my job was just to document the birth, not find readers for it…!)

I enjoyed filling some of the journal pages with photos of my kids and hamsters, and my daughter, who adores stationery, bought me some stickers of random girlie things like shoes and handbags to jazzy up the book, so my journals ought to be worthy of display in a museum or art gallery by the time I’m finished with them all…!

I’m sure they will be!

One last thought on journaling, Linda. Did my practice of journaling distract me from my Work In Progress and my actual novel writing?

I was going to ask you that.

Oh, absolutely! One hundred million percent yes. I hardly wrote so much as a chapter while I was journaling, so I had to address that situation and regulate things again, ahem. I really enjoyed being up to my ears in glitter, coloured marker pens and glue-on sparkles, though, and I had a ball wholeheartedly embracing my inner child-artist.

I think that sounds wonderful.

Finally, I’ve also brought some Kate Bush albums to put on in the background as we chat, as Thirteen Stops was written during the autumn of 2018 with Kate Bush on in the background the whole time. I wrote the sequel, Thirteen Stops Later, in the winter/spring of 2019, with Kate’s album 50 Words for Snow pretty much on repeat every single day I was writing.

The sheer beauty of songs like MISTY (sex with a snowman, anyone?), SNOWED IN AT WHEELER STREET, in which she duets with Elton John, and the titular 50 WORDS FOR SNOW literally helped me to fly through the writing. This was the easiest book in the trilogy to write, and at least some of the credit must go to the gorgeous and sensual Ms. Bush.

THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER is a prequel to the events that take place in the first book. I mixed and matched all my Kate albums whilst penning it. I especially loved listening to THE DREAMING, with songs on it like the magnificent NIGHT OF THE SWALLOW, PULLING OUT THE PIN and GET OUT OF MY HOUSE.

This last song was especially apt during the Great Coronavirus Lockdown of 2020, which was when I wrote the third book. Kate’s inspirational music was especially needed and welcome during this time, as all my usual sources of inspiration, such as going for long walks in the fresh air and visiting the library, museums or galleries, were temporarily closed off to me during this time, what with the whole ‘STAY HOME, STAY SAFE AND PROTECT EACH OTHER’ thing.

I love Kate Bush, so I’m really happy you’ve brought her music too tonight. 

Anyway, Linda, I’ve gone on a fair bit by now, so best wishes and thank you for having me and all that jazz!

I must say, Sandra, you’ve been one of the most talkative guests who’s stayed in with me but also the one of the most entertaining. Thanks so much for being here to chat with me about Thirteen Stops and Thirteen Stops Later

Thirteen Stops

There are thirteen Luas stops between Sandyford and St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin, each significant in the lives of the people who step on and off the tram every day.

The passengers all hunker down, folded tightly into themselves, eyes fixed on their phones, interminably scrolling, terrified of connecting with each other. Except . . .

Except, who’s that good-looking guy in the long dark coat who’s eyeing up Selfie Queen Laura? Could he end up as one of her terrible choices? Hang on, isn’t he the same guy who was ogling glamorous working-mum-with-a-secret Maroon before? And why is Jamie over there telling his life story to a complete stranger? What’s Fauve hiding in her handbag? It must be the Crown Jewels at the very least, the way she’s clutching it so tightly to herself. And why does Becks from two seats down look out the window so anxiously? Is she worried that Barry could be straying?

Alight here for the inside track . . .

Thirteen Stops is available for purchase on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Thirteen Stops Later

The same thirteen Luas stops.

The same twelve unforgettable characters.

A dozen dazzling new twists of fate.

Here we are again, and poor Selfie Queen Laura’s love life has dived head-first from the frying pan into the Towering Inferno. Will she be able to cope? Just about, until she sees who’s coming out of the Disney Store on Grafton Street one Saturday afternoon!

Someone who shouldn’t has a beady eye on Fauve’s bouncing bundle of baby joy, and a face from the past returns to upturn Maroon-Vicky’s applecart of Happy Ever After with the dishy Graeme. The frazzled Carl is up to his tonsils in Tara’s Endless Legs and Things, and something very sinister is going on at Becks’ house . . . will her mother’s old summerhouse finally give up its grisly secret?

All this and much, much more in Thirteen Stops Later. . .

Thirteen Stops Later is available for purchase on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

About Sandra Harris

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following this link straight to her Amazon Author Page.

For further information, follow Sandra on Twitter @SandraAuthor, find her on Facebook or visit her blog.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Celebrating the Audio Version of Hunter’s Chase with Val Penny

Val Penny is one of the authors most supportive of bloggers and it gives me enormous pleasure to welcome her back to Linda’s Book Bag to celebrate the audio version of her thriller Hunter’s Chase today. My thanks to Lynsey at Reading Between the Lines PR for inviting me to participate in this blog tour. It’s a real honour to help start if off.

It’s far too long since Val last appeared on the blog when I reviewed her super book Let’s Get Published here.

The audio book of Hunter’s Chase is available for purchase here.

Hunter’s Chase

Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until Edinburgh is safe.

Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson knows there is a new supply of cocaine flooding his city, and he needs to find the source, but his attention is transferred to murder when a corpse is discovered in the grounds of a golf course.

Shortly after the post-mortem, Hunter witnesses a second murder, but that is not the end of the slaughter. With a young woman’s life also hanging in the balance, the last thing Hunter needs is a new man on his team: Detective Constable Tim Myerscough, the son of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable Sir Peter Myerscough.

Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this first novel in The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series.

The Audio Version of Hunter’s Chase

an Edinburgh Thriller

A Gust Post by Val Penny

Writing Hunter’s Chase was an exciting challenge, and now it is available on audiobook too. I have wanted to produce an audio book for a long time because one of my friends lost his sight during a military conflict and I wanted to be able to share my books with him. Other friends told me how much they enjoyed listening to books as they walked during lock-down and yet more just prefer to have a story read to them than to sit down with a book, so I was thrilled to arrange for Edinburgh man, Sean Pia to narrate the book for me. He even went to Leith Academy as DI Hunter Wilson did!

But let me start at the beginning, because before I could even create the story, first I had to choose a setting for my novel.

I toyed with the idea of creating an imaginary town for DI Hunter Wilson to inhabit, as Peter Robinson has done with DCI Alan Banks and the town of Eastdale in Yorkshire. However, after much consideration, I decided there was no more beautiful setting than Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland in which to set Hunter’s Chase.

The story is set in late 2012, shortly before the Police Forces in Scotland were united into one national force. Hunter and his team are based in the Headquarters of the Lothian and Borders Police Force at Fettes, in the north-west of Edinburgh.

Much of the action in the story, Hunter’s Chase, takes part in and around the south-west of the city. DC Tim Myerscough lives there with his girlfriend, Lady Sophie Dalmore, in a first-floor flat at the edge of Tollcross and Bruntsfield, while his father Sir Peter Myerscough has a house at East Steils on the outskirts of Morningside.

The young lovers, Annie and Frankie do not live together. Annie lives at home with her family in Steele’s Place near the Morningside Clock. Her father, Joe, frequents a local pub, Bennett’s Bar. Annie and Frankie often walk through the beautiful area of parkland known as the Hermitage of Braid to meet each other, as Frankie lives with his parents in Liberton.

However, the principal character, DI Hunter Wilson, following his divorce has moved to a second floor flat on the east side of the city, at Easter Road. He enjoys the company of the regulars he knows in his local pub, the Persevere Bar.

I hope those of you who are familiar with Edinburgh will enjoy listening to Sean Pia telling the story of the mystery led by Hunter Wilson and his team in Hunter’s Chase. Those of you who have not yet visited this historic and beautiful city will be persuaded to do so after listening to the new audio version of the book, read by Sean Pia.

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I’m sure we will Val. I can’t wait to visit the Edinburgh of your series of books.

About Val Penny

author pic 2

Val is an American author living in SW Scotland with her husband and their cat.

Capture

Val Penny’s other crime novels, Hunter’s Chase Hunter’s Revenge, Hunter’s Force, Hunter’s Blood and Hunter’s Secret form the bestselling series The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries. They are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, and published by Darkstroke.

Her first non-fiction book Let’s Get Published is also available now and she has most recently contributed her short story, Cats and Dogs to a charity anthology, Dark Scotland.

For more information about Val, visit her website or blog.  You’ll find Val on Goodreads, Twitter @valeriepenny, and Facebook.

Cover Reveal: The Girl She Was Before by Jess Kitching

One of the aspects I enjoy most about blogging is being part of the start of a book’s journey into the world, so it gives me enormous pleasure to help reveal the cover for Jess Kitching’s forthcoming crime thriller The Girl She Was Before.

Let’s find out all we need to know:

The Girl She Was Before

A crime thriller with a brilliant twist you won’t see coming!! Powerful, packed full of gruelling details that will linger with you long after the book has finished.

Nat lives a picture-perfect life, but it wasn’t always this way. A victim of horrific bullying when she was a teenager, Nat will do anything to keep distance between the girl she was before and the woman she is now.

But when her best friend is murdered and people begin to point their finger at her, Nat’s new life quickly begins to unravel.

To Nat, it’s no surprise that the crime happened at the same time as the return of her biggest tormentor, Chrissy Summers. A woman with a violent streak who destroyed lives when she was younger and isn’t afraid to do it again.

Face to face with the past she so firmly keeps behind her, Nat’s sanity wavers as her determination to reveal Chrissy as the monster she knows her as rises to dangerous heights.

The question is, can Nat prove Chrissy is a killer, or will Chrissy get to Nat and her family before she has the chance?

You can’t outrun the past…

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Now doesn’t that sound brilliant?

The Girl She was Before will be published by Kingsley on 31st October 2021 and is available for pre-order here.

About Jess Kitching

Jess Kitching is an avid reader, writer and binge-watcher. Originally from Bradford, England, she currently lives in Sydney with her fiancé Jack. Her two goals in life were to move to Australia and have a book published. To be able to say she has done both is something she still can’t wrap her head around.

You can find Jess on Instagram and visit her website for further information.

Staying in with Kate Abley

It gives me enormous pleasure to welcome Kate Abley to Linda’s Book Bag today to stay in with me and tell me about her latest book.

Staying in with Kate Abley

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Kate and thank you for staying in with me.

It’s lovely to be here Linda, thank you for inviting me.

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

I have brought along my second novel, Hausa Blue.

I love that cover Kate. What genre is is?

I’m not entirely sure what genre it is, but I do know it’s an adventure and very different from my last book, Changing the Subject.

Why the difference? 

I suppose I wanted to play a little with the historical novel genre. The central character, Dipa, is a young and beautiful dressmaker’s daughter who reveals how she was caught up in a rags to riches life and ended up in the Tower of London.

I am a Londoner, born and bred, and given the capital’s rich and colourful history I set the book there, just down the road from where I actually live in East London.

London has also had ties with the rest of the world for centuries, some good and some bad, so I also set part of the book in the Bengal Region of India and Bangladesh.

I love novels where we can have an insight into different cultures Kate.

I love historical novels but I also wanted to write something that reflects the cultural makeup of the UK now. To do that I had to invent a slightly different history, where one of the King George’s (not the mad one) married an African princess in the 18th century. This means that the royal family, as well as most upper-class families are multi-racial.

Well, THAT’S a topical theme at the moment! 

Their cultural identity doesn’t have much bearing on the way the characters behave. As Dipa confesses/boasts of the extravagance and decadence of the Aristoi class she was so willing to join, we learn about the Lady Aditi Egremont-Cooch-Bahar, rich, beautiful and from one of the most influential families in the Empire who is undisputed queen of the Yangans, the ‘it-girls’ of this world.

Aditi is clever too, but has played one too many japes and escaped with the rightful heir and the person who holds the fate of the future in her head. She is on the other side of the world in the land of some of her forefathers. She has a sort of plan to turn the tide of the revolution back in her favour, all she needs is the right equipment.

I know it sounds a bit strange, with quite a few twists and turns, but the structure means that the reader should be carried along with the story of the characters.

I think it Hausa Blue sounds exactly my kind of read Kate.

What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?

I hope you don’t mind, but I have brought another book.

Absolutely not! Of course I don’t mind. The more books the better I say. Which one did you bring?

This one is non-fiction. It is called, The Art of Benin by Nigel Barley and is published by The British Museum.

You might recognise the cover image because it is the same as the image on the cover of Hausa Blue. I am fascinated with the woman who this 17th pectoral mask represents.

The beauty and craftsmanship are gorgeous but I think knowing a little about who she was adds to its wonder. She is thought to be Queen Idia of the kingdom of Benin, in what is now Nigeria. She was a great warrior who is said to have led many battles against the enemies her son the Ibo, or king.

The mask forms part of the collection known as the Benin Bronzes, which were looted in 1896 and many of which now reside in the British Museum.

Next time you’re in London, you might enjoy a trip to see the exquisite metal, wood and ivory work, which dates from the 1600s. I go there quite often, to look at the beautiful Queen Idia, as well as many other favourites. So you never know, we may bump into each other. The British museum serves very good cake.

Did you say cake? And books? It’s a date! Thank you so much for staying in with me to chat about Hausa Blue Kate. I think it sounds utterly fascinating. Let me give blog readers a few more details:

Hausa Blue

Person’s unknown bring our world a message in an adventure about identity, change and frocks. Lots of them.

From the contaminated Capitol to moth-eaten Bengal, a multi-racial British Empire is getting round to revolution. Will the Queen’s imposter be released from the Tower of London? Who is she now? Her lawyer clings to Justice but might lose her grip; How many of those bloody beautiful idiot women are there?

The New Management is making the Empire change and it in turn is changing them, the counter-revolutionary’s knees hurt and Joshi hasn’t got a suit that fits.

Welcome to an alternative past, present and future.

Hausa Blue is available for purchase here.

About Kate Abley

Kate Abley was accidentally born, and now intentionally lives, in London, England, where, amongst other things she has been an awful front woman in a psychobilly band, good dish-washer, bad shop assistant, officially outstanding Early Years teacher, nice charitable fund-giver and failed political activist. Last century, she wrote the non-fiction book, Swings and Roundabouts: The Dangers of Outdoor Play Safety (1999). Nowadays, she is a respectable and happily married woman with two children who have grown-up pretty well and she has turned her hand to killing plants and writing stories. She published her first novel, Changing the Subject, in 2019. Her latest book is Hausa Blue.

For further information, visit Kate’s website, follow her on Twitter @AbleyKate and find her on Instagram, Facebook and Goodreads.