Spotlighting Her Secret War by Pam Lecky on Publication Day

It’s publication day for Her Secret War by Pam Lecky and I’m delighted to bring you details all about this wonderful sounding book. I’m lucky enough to have a copy of Her Secret War on my TBR pile thanks to the team at Avon and I can’t wait to read it.

Published by Harper Collins’ imprint Avon on 14th October 2021, Her Secret War is available for purchase through the links here.

Her Secret War

A life-changing moment

May 1941: German bombs drop on Dublin taking Sarah Gillespie’s family and home. Days later, the man she loves leaves Ireland to enlist.

A heart-breaking choice

With nothing to keep her in Ireland and a burning desire to help the war effort, Sarah seeks refuge with relatives in England. But before long, her father’s dark past threatens to catch up with her.

A dangerous mission

Sarah is asked to prove her loyalty to Britain through a special mission. Her courage could save lives. But it could also come at the cost of her own…

A gripping story that explores a deadly tangle of love and espionage in war-torn Britain, perfect for fans of Pam Jenoff, Kate Quinn and Kate Furnivall.

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Doesn’t that sound wonderful?

About Pam Lecky

Pam is an Irish historical fiction author with Avon Books UK/Harper Collins. Pam is represented by Therese Coen at the Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency, London.

Her Secret War, a WW2 thriller, will be released on 14th October 2021. The second book in the series will be released in 2022.

The Bowes Inheritance, her debut novel, was awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion; was shortlisted for the Carousel Aware Prize 2016; made ‘Editor’s Choice’ by the Historical Novel Society; long-listed for the Historical Novel Society 2016 Indie Award; and chosen as a Discovered Diamond in February 2017.

June 2019, saw the release of No Stone Unturned, the first book in the Lucy Lawrence Mystery series, set in the late Victorian era. This was closely followed by the sequel, Footprints in the Sand, in March 2020, which is set in Victorian Egypt. Pam is currently working on the third book in the series.

You can follow Pam on Twitter @pamlecky or visit her website for further information. You’ll also find Pam on Instagram and Facebook.

The Rose Garden by Tracy Rees

It’s a real thrill to be featuring The Rose Garden by Tracy Rees today as it is the first of a run of books I am reviewing for My Weekly magazine for their online platform. I was very excited to be invited to review for them. You can see an interview with me here on the My Weekly website.

I’m a huge fan of Tracy Rees’s writing and she has featured here on Linda’s Book Bag many times.

Most recently you’ll find my review of Tracy’s contemporary novel Hidden Secrets at the Little Village Church here.

Amy Snow was one of the first books I ever reviewed on the blog here.

I reviewed Florence Grace here and had a wonderful guest post from Tracy about the appeal of the C19th that you can read here.

Florence Grace was one of my Books of the Year in 2016 and you’ll see it featured here.

I also reviewed Tracy’s The Hourglass here and Tracy was kind enough to provide a guest post all about her memories of Richmond when Darling Blue was published. Darling Blue is still on my TBR but it’s just over a year ago that I reviewed The House at Silvermoor here.

The Rose Garden was published by Pan Macmillan on 19th August in ebook and is also available for purchase in paperback through the links here.

The Rose Garden

Every house has its secrets . . .

For twelve-year-old Ottilie Finch, London is an exciting playground to explore. Her family have recently arrived in Hamstead from Durham, under a cloud of scandal that Otty is blissfully unaware of. The only shadow over her days is her mother’s mysterious illness, which keeps her to her room.

When young local girl Mabs is offered the chance to become Mrs Finch’s companion, it saves her from a desperate life on the canals. Little does she know that all is not as picture-perfect as it seems. Mabs is about to become tangled in the secrets that chased the Finches from their last home, and trapped in an impossible dilemma . . .

My Review of The Rose Garden

My full review of The Rose Garden can be found on the My Weekly website here.

However, I can say that The Rose Garden is a sumptuously written historical drama that I adored, with vivid and engaging characters, wonderful settings and a plot that grips the reader. I loved it!

Do visit My Weekly to read more of my review.

About Tracy Rees

Tracy Rees was the first winner of the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition. She has also won the Love Stories Best Historical Read award and been shortlisted for the RNA Epic Romantic Novel of the Year. A Cambridge graduate, Tracy had a successful career in non-fiction publishing before retraining for a second career practising and teaching humanistic counselling. She has also been a waitress, bartender, shop assistant, estate agent, classroom assistant and workshop leader. Tracy divides her time between the Gower Peninsula of South Wales and London.

You can follow Tracy on Twitter @AuthorTracyRees or visit her website for more information. You’ll also find Tracy on Instagram.

About My Weekly Magazine

You can follow My Weekly on Twitter @My_Weekly and find them on Facebook and Instagram. The My Weekly website is here.

Tackling Difficult Topics in Fiction: A Guest Post by Bella Cassidy, Author of Shoot the Moon

Some of you will be aware that five years ago, just a few weeks before my Dad died, we lost our great-niece Emma Faith at full term about 90 minutes before her birth. You can imagine how devastating Emma’s loss was to the family and to my niece and her husband in particular.

When I realised that Bella Cassidy’s book, Shoot the Moon, tackles such difficult aspects of life, albeit in a light-hearted manner, and this week is Baby Loss Awareness Week, I simply had to ask Bella to write a guest piece for Linda’s Book Bag.

Before I share that post with you, let’s find out about Shoot the Moon which is available for purchase here.

Shoot the Moon

In a world of brides wearing black, disorderly doves, and weddings on mountains – what could possibly go wrong? Quite a lot it seems, when you also have a heart-broken photographer who’s secretly given up on romance.

Tassie Morris is everyone’s favourite wedding photographer, famous for her photos of offbeat ceremonies and alternative brides. Yet commitment is proving impossible for Tassie herself, who cannot forget her first love.

When she’s sent to photograph a ceremony on Schiehallion – the Fairy Hill of the Scottish Highlands – she meets Dan, who might be the one to make her forget her past. That is, until a family crisis begins a chain of events that threaten to destroy not only Tassie’s love life, but her entire career.

Set in a colourful world of extraordinary weddings, Shoot the Moon explores the complexities of different kinds of love: romantic love, mother love, friendship. And, ultimately, the importance of loving yourself.

Tackling Difficult Topics in Fiction

A Guest Post from Bella Cassidy

This week marks Baby Loss Awareness Week, and it’s made me think about the fact that I’ve written three novels, two of which feature women losing their babies through miscarriage or stillbirth.

I’ve often wondered why I should have been drawn to research and write about these issues – having been lucky enough never to have experienced them personally. Family history briefly mentions that I was a rainbow baby – born after my mother had a miscarriage – and I’ve always been grateful to the baby who came before me. Also, in a previous life I co-founded a baby swimming company, and in 2006 one of my franchisees, Tamsin Brewis, suggested we fundraise for Tommy’s, the baby charity.

the extraordinary ordinary

I rang her to hesitantly check my estimate that Water Babies has since raised nearly £2million for the charity. ‘Er no, we’ve raised over four, and as of the end of this month it will be £4.5million.’

Wow.

And then it came back to me, the conversations we had with the staff at Tommy’s when Tamsin and I originally went to see them: the woman who’d had 18 miscarriages over six years, before she’d finally managed to give birth to a healthy baby. The women who easily fall pregnant, only to continually lose their babies; or those who find it impossible to conceive. Then there was the devastating cruelty of the phrase, ‘It’s nature’s way’ – clearly still an attitude today, given that one of the first things you see on Tommy’s home page is the sentence, ‘Losing a baby should never be ‘just one of those things’’. And on another, the hashtag #breakthesilence.

Tommy’s was started in 1992 to challenge the lack of answers surrounding premature birth. Since then it’s grown to be the UK’s largest charity researching the causes and prevention of pregnancy complications, miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and neonatal death. Thanks to the charity putting research into practice at specialist clinics across the UK, the rates of heart-breaking losses are falling year on year -and it aims to have halved them by 2030.

When we visited the organisation in 2006, people just didn’t talk about miscarriage. And the strange thing is that now, in 2021, people still don’t really talk about, nor write about it. Just like I remember being hugely irritated by the attitude of a major childbirth organisation who told me, ‘We don’t want to publicise how potentially difficult breastfeeding can be’ – meaning it can hit new mothers like a sledgehammer when it turns out to be really hard – miscarriage and stillbirth are still something that women have to suffer almost in silence, despite it affecting every part of their life, often for the rest of their lives.

I was extremely grateful to be able to interview one of my former colleagues, who sadly lost her baby at twenty-one weeks. We spoke for over an hour, our voices low amongst the chatter and clatter of the café where we met, and I was shocked to discover the depth of pain she’d experienced, but so impressed by her strength and resilience, as well as the love woven into her story.

Next, I spent days scrolling through websites and chat rooms – women’s (and men’s) grief shading every page. I now know that a hospital can organise a full funeral, with a hearse, a tiny coffin and bearers to carry it, should you want. I watched a heart-breaking documentary, ‘Still Loved’, learning that 7,000 babies are stillborn, across the world, every single day. I read that if a baby dies after 20 weeks the mother will be encouraged to have a ‘natural birth’ – and I couldn’t begin to imagine the trauma of having to go through that.

It was like I’d entered a completely hidden world – reading page after page on a subject that remains taboo, yet affects so many.

For in the UK, it’s estimated that one in four pregnancies end in loss during pregnancy or birth. One. In. Four. That’s just so much grief that’s just not being talked about, nor depicted in the stories we read and watch. Thus creating a vacuum; when really women should be able to see their experiences reflected back at them, should they want.

I think I now understand why I’ve written my novels: because the memories of walking around the wards in Tommy’s have stayed with me. Fifteen years ago, I was privileged to see the tiniest of babies thriving under the hospital’s care; and the scores of cards lining the hospital walls, sent by grateful parents who’d never believed they’d one day carry their baby home. And it became deeply embedded in me how lucky I’ve been. For not only was I fortunate to give birth to two healthy babies, but I thrived during both pregnancies; never knowing the acute anxiety of ‘what if it goes wrong again.’

I have debated and deliberated over the cover of my first published novel, Shoot the Moon – executed, admittedly, in a bit of a rush. I find myself handing the book to people, saying, ‘It actually contains much deeper themes of attachment hunger and miscarriage than the cover might imply.’ Which is ironic, for I’ve always remembered Jojo Moyes expressing her frustration that, “So many women who write about quite difficult issues are lumped under the ‘chick lit’ umbrella. It’s so reductive and disappointing.” I for one was delighted when the term lost its traction in the UK – although interestingly it’s currently enjoying a strong resurgence in the US.

Yet numerous people in publishing have reassured me that the cover is right for the genre – and admittedly the novel does also contain doves flying amok, jaunts on borrowed horses and the traditional love story arc necessary for a contemporary romance. But I remain uncomfortable – and will one day change it for something less ‘lightweight’.

For being unable to conceive is heart-breaking, just as the loss of a child is deeply traumatic; leaving women (and men),as one mother described it, ‘being left grasping at something permanently just out of reach’.

Or, as my colleague told me, quietly, leaning over the table in the café, “The majority of the time I’m totally fine. It is what it is. She was never a person, I don’t have a memory of her, I’m totally fine. It’s just three days of the year when I crack and go into the ‘I should be inflating a balloon tonight’, and instead I’m sat there crying.”

So you see, to me, my cover feels a little too much like the phrase, ‘just one of those things.’ Just one of those things: like difficult breastfeeding, caesareans and miscarriage, that women are expected to cope with – quietly. Dismissed as ‘not that important’ by society – just as the research Tommy’s now carries out was also deemed unnecessary, thirty years ago.

I am immensely proud of the money Water Babies has raised for the charity – money that’s paid for the creation of a research centre in Warwick. It’s ten years since I stepped away from my company, but if I can still do one thing to help #breakthesilence it’s by continuing to write honest novels that reflect the depth and breadth of the hardships so many women experience, yet rarely hear being spoken about. Although, in the future, I’ll aim for more complex covers. Ones that pay proper tribute to lives which demonstrate the courage of the extraordinary ordinary; as opposed to being ‘just one of those things.’

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What a wonderful post Bella. You have expressed so much of what our family experienced. I think guest posts like this and books like Shoot the Moon are essential for breaking down the barriers to difficult topics. I know your book is a light hearted read with some weighty topics and I agree that finding the ‘right’ cover is a difficult balance, but what’s that old adage? Never judge a book by its cover!

Thank you so much for sharing this with us and huge congratulations on all your fund raising success.

About Bella Cassidy

Bella Cassidy grew up in the West Country – reading contemporary romances, romances, historical novels, literary fiction… Just about anything she could lay her hands on. After a few years in London, working as a waitress and in PR and advertising, she went to Sussex to read English – despite admitting in her pre-interview that this rather sociable period in her life had seen her read only one book in six months: a Jilly Cooper.

She’s had an eclectic range of jobs: including in the world of finance; social housing fundraising; a stint at the Body Shop – working as Anita Roddick’s assistant; as a secondary school teacher, then teaching babies to swim: all over the world.

She’s done a lot of research for writing a weddings romance, having had two herself. For her first she was eight months pregnant – a whale in bright orange – and was married in a barn with wood fires burning. The second saw her in elegant Edwardian silk, crystals and lace, teamed with yellow wellies and a cardigan. Both were great fun; but it was lovely having her daughter alongside, rather than inside her at the second one.

Bella Cassidy is the pen name of Jess Morency and you can follow Jess on Twitter @meHappyShed or visit her blog or website for further information. You can also find Jess on Instagram. Bella is on Facebook and Instagram.

Baby Loss Awareness

If you have been affected by baby loss, please visit the Baby Loss Awareness Week website or follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @BLA_Campaign.

Tommy’s

Tommy’s is dedicated to finding causes and treatments to save babies’ lives as well as providing trusted pregnancy and baby loss information and support.

Visit the Tommy’s website for further information. You can follow Tommy’s on Twitter @tommys, or find them on Facebook and Instagram.

Water Babies

Water Babies believes confidence starts with baby swimming. Their vision is a world where the physical and emotional development of every child is fully supported and nurtured from birth.

For more information, visit the Water Babies website, follow them on Twitter @WaterBabies or find them on Facebook and Instagram.

Pug Actually by Matt Dunn

My enormous thanks to Gariella Drinkald at Midas PR for sending me a copy of Pug Actually by Matt Dunn in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share my review today.

Published by Harper Collins imprint HQ on 14th October, Pug Actually is available for pre-order here.

Pug Actually

When your dog plays Cupid…what could possibly go wrong?

Loyal rescue pug Doug wants his adoring owner Julie to find unconditional love and happiness – and he knows she won’t find either in the arms of Luke, her married boss.

Doug is terrified that Julie will become a lonely cat-lover if she stays single too long, but he can’t let her fall for any more of Luke’s empty promises. Julie needs to move on – and Doug is convinced that Tom, a newly divorced V-E-T, is perfect for her (despite his questionable occupation).

There’s just one problem: Julie and Tom can’t stand each other.

Doug doesn’t quite understand the quirks and complexities of human relationships, but he won’t let that get in the way of his mission to bring Tom and Julie together. After all, being a ‘rescue’ works both ways…

My Review of Pug Actually

Doug doesn’t like Julie’s boyfriend Luke one little bit.

Pug Actually is an absolute delight. Certainly it’s obvious from the cover, the genre and blurb that this will be a ‘happy ever after’ kind of read but my goodness the journey getting there is just glorious. It’s witty, entertaining and totally captivating and escapist reading that I loved. Reading Pug Actually brought me total joy, a smile to my face and some laughing aloud moments.

Told from Doug the pug’s point of view, there’s an innovative approach to the traditional rom-com in Pug Actually that works perfectly as Doug’s narrative voice shines through, immediately enchanting the reader and making them complicit in his actions to try to make Julie happy. As someone who doesn’t like dogs much, I thought Doug was magnificent. And because there is a relatively reduced palette of characters, Matt Dunn ensures the reader has absolute insight into their personalities through Doug’s astute and perceptive observations. I loathed Luke with a passion – enough to want to do him physical injury and whilst I’d have jettisoned him months ago, the writing is so convincing that I could accept Julie’s relationship with him. Her frustrating acceptance of Luke’s duplicity, her insecurity and her love for her Dad all had a totally realistic and authentic tone that drew me in and made me want her to be happy.

The plot zips along with brilliant pace and Pug Actually was one of those books I simply had to consume over a couple of days because not only did I want to discover how Doug’s plans might work out, but I loved it so much I didn’t want to set it aside. It’s a skilful thing to write a novel that makes a reader feel so happy but Matt Dunn has managed it brilliantly here.

Whilst Pug Actually is a light-hearted, uplifting read, it has some more weighty themes weaving through it too, giving it depth as well as entertainment. Jim’s grief over his wife’s death, marriage and security, trust and deception, new beginnings and self-sabotage mean that Pug Actually provides the reader with the perfect balance of food for thought and entertainment. Matt Dunn has the ability to illustrate humanities frailties with sensitivity and yet still keep a lightness of touch that is so much fun to read.

I loved Pug Actually. The world needs more people (and I use the word ‘people’ deliberately) like Doug in it. And if we can’t actually meet them in real life, what better than to read about them? I can’t recommend the fabulous Pug Actually highly enough. Just buy it!

About Matt Dunn

Matt Dunn is the author of numerous romantic comedy novels, including the bestselling The Ex-Boyfriend’s Handbook and A Day at the Office. He’s also written about life, love, and relationships for various publications including The Times, Guardian, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Company, Elle, and The Sun.

For more information about Matt, visit his website, follow him on Twitter @mattdunnwrites or find him on Facebook and Instagram.

The Woman in the Middle by Milly Johnson

My enormous thanks to Annabelle Wright at ED PR for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Milly Johnson’s nineteenth novel, The Woman in the Middle. It’s a real privilege to start off the tour by sharing my review.

I’m such a fan of Milly, and you’ll find her featured on Linda’s Book Bag many times:

I’ve a review of I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day here

I reviewed My One True North here and it was one of my books of the year in 2020.

My review of The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew is here.

Milly was kind enough to write a piece for Linda’s Book Bag when The Mother of All Christmases was released in a post available here.

I have my review of another of Milly’s books, The Perfectly Imperfect Womanhere.

The Woman in the Middle will be published by Simon and Schuster on 14th October and is available for pre-order through the links here.

The Woman in the Middle

The emotional, uplifting and completely relatable new novel from Sunday Times bestseller Milly Johnson.

Shay Bastable is the woman in the middle. She is part of the sandwich generation – caring for her parents and her children, supporting her husband Bruce, holding them all together and caring for them as best she can.

Then the arrival of a large orange skip on her mother’s estate sets in motion a cataclysmic series of events which leads to the collapse of Shay’s world. She is forced to put herself first for a change.

But in order to move forward with her present, Shay needs to make sense of her past. And so she returns to the little village she grew up in, to uncover the truth about what happened to her when she was younger. And in doing so, she discovers that sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to find the only way is up.

My Review of The Woman in the Middle

Shay’s trying to keep all the plates spinning.

A confession. I wasn’t sure to begin with that I was going to love The Woman in the Middle as much as I have other books by Milly Johnson. I needn’t have worried. It wasn’t long before I found myself completely ensnared in Shay’s life, laughing and crying as I read because of Milly Johnson’s absolute ability to shine a light on real people, their hopes, their dreams and their realities. In fact, I think I was a bit resistant at the start because I found so much to resonate with me that it made for slightly uncomfortable reading. Whilst I don’t have the marital situation or the children of Shay’s life, I’d defy any reader not to find echoes of their own thoughts and feelings in the pages of this book; echoes so deftly presented by the author who manages to present humanity with such caring compassion.

The plot of The Woman in the Middle is absolutely brilliant and I’d love to see it as a Sunday evening winter television series as it has all the elements to rival any other such production. It has several dramatic moments that add entertaining dynamism, but it is the quieter aspects, Shay’s thoughts and the mundane elements of a woman’s life that are the real strength here. The Woman in the Middle is about the difficult process of rationalising and accepting our pasts, of being comfortable in our own skin without becoming complacent, of supporting without being overbearing, of living our own lives and allowing others to live theirs. The warmth of Milly Johnson’s writing illustrates these elements perfectly but at the same time she isn’t afraid to show her readers the full extent of her characters’ personalities. Shay might be the heroine of the story but she is by no means perfect. She can be quick to speak, rash and frustrating, as well as thoughtful, loving and supportive so that I cared about her all the more as a result. There’s a depth and range across all the characters with both men and women equally treated so that The Woman in the Middle feels balanced and true to life.

Although to comment on all the themes would be to spoil the story, Milly Johnson tackles some big issues here in The Woman in the Middle. Again, there is a glorious balance of darkness and light with a down-to-earth approach that I found so engaging. What struck me most was the underlying message of kindness that weaves through the story. Sometimes that kindness is mis-placed despite being well-meaning and there are consequences, but nothing can detract from the warmth of this book. Kindness to others and to ourselves is key, but I genuinely felt that in writing The Woman in the Middle Milly Johnson has brought kindness to her readers, giving them permission to put themselves first on occasion and helping them to realise it isn’t always necessary to make yourself the filling in a sandwich of duty and responsibility.

I may have begun The Woman in the Middle a little uncertainly, but I ended it feeling uplifted, included and as if Milly Johnson had taken a long look into my head and decided exactly what I needed to read to make the world a better place for me. The Woman in the Middle is a restorative book – and not just for the characters! Don’t miss it.

About Milly Johnson

Milly Johnson was born, raised and still lives in Barnsley, South Yorkshire.

A Sunday Times bestseller, she is one of the Top 10 Female Fiction authors in the UK with millions of copies of her books sold across the world. In 2020, she was honoured with the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Outstanding Achievement Award and was a featured author in the Reading Agency’s Quick Reads and World Book Night campaigns.

A writer who champions women and highlights the importance of friendship and community, Milly’s characters are celebrations of the strength of the human spirit. The Woman in the Middle is her nineteenth novel.

You can follow Milly on Twitter @millyjohnson and Facebook, or you can visit her website for more information. You’ll also find Milly on Instagram.

The Woman in the Middle by Milly Johnson is published on 14th October by Simon & Schuster in hardback, eBook and audiobook. Milly will be joining My Weekly for a virtual event on Thursday 21st October at 7pm – register for free here.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Bad Apples by Will Dean

With Will Dean’s The Last Thing to Burn one of my favourite reads of 2021 so far (my review of which you’ll find here) I simply couldn’t resist breaking my self imposed blog tour ban to participate in this one for Will’s latest book Bad Apples. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to Point Blank for sending me a copy of Bad Apples in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share that review today.

Published by One World News Imprint, Point Blank, on 7th October 2021, Bad Apples is available for purchase through the links here.

Bad Apples

A murder

A resident of small-town Visberg is found decapitated.

A festival

A cultish hilltop community ‘celebrates’ Pan Night after the apple harvest.

A race against time

As Visberg closes ranks to keep its deadly secrets, there could not be a worse time for Tuva Moodyson to arrive as deputy editor of the local newspaper. Powerful forces are at play, and no one dares speak out. But Tuva senses the story of her career, unaware that perhaps she is the story….

My Review of Bad Apples

Tuva’s got a new post.

My goodness. Bad Apples is a compelling, disturbing and exciting read. My poor brain and pulse are still recovering. Will Dean begins Bad Apples in dramatic style and keeps the reader entranced and unsettled throughout. Alongside all the drama – and my word, there’s drama – is an intelligent balance of quietness, nature and the prosaic aspects of life that makes the riveting plot all the more affecting and entertaining.

Within the narrative style, there’s an intimate sensation as Tuva Moodyson’s first person voice feels as if she’s speaking directly to the reader in a way that makes Bad Apples completely captivating. The atmosphere is creepy and unnerving so that I felt quite tense as I read and the descriptions of ‘Pan night’ will reverberate in my mind for some considerable time to come. It’s the use of the senses, possibly heightened because of Tuva’s hearing impairment, that really brings the text to life. The setting of Visberg is horribly clear in the reader’s mind to the extent that I almost felt I was physically present.

In a fast paced plot Will Dean sprinkles Bad Apples with hints, bluffs and clues that draw in the reader and make them think they’re ahead of Tuva, before he wrong foots them completely. I loved this aspect of the book because it adds to the tension and excitement. The plot truly made my head spin and I found my dreams held elements that I’d been reading about because Will Dean writes with such manipulative skill. The range of sentence length is superb in creating tension within the plot too.

Tuva is a brilliant character. She’s bright, sassy and witty but has a softness and vulnerability too that makes her very real to the reader. Although I haven’t read other books in this series, Will Dean’s writing ensured I was never at a disadvantage, but left me feeling that I knew Tuva completely and the author made me care so much about Tuva that now I’m determined to read the other books in the series too.

As well as being a spell binding whirlwind of a tale, Bad Apples has themes that give it such a richness. The iterative image of apples reminds the reader of biblical temptation and traditional tales like Snow White so that our knowledge of evil and danger heightens the impact of reading the book. There are elements of horror that make Bad Apples feel as if there’s something evil lurking in the reader’s peripheral vision so that the book is deliciously perturbing. Revenge, community, control, secrets, obfuscation, lies and deceit add layer upon layer of unease. I thought this was an affecting, excellent element of the text.

Atmospheric, creepy and unnerving, Bad Apples is a must read for Tuva Moodyson fans and for those of us who haven’t encountered the series before, we’re in for an absolute treat. Bad Apples is a brilliant read.

About Will Dean

Will Dean grew up in the East Midlands and lived in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. His debut novel, Dark Pines, was selected for Zoe Ball’s Book Club, shortlisted for the Guardian Not the Booker prize and named a Daily Telegraph Book of the Year. The second Tuva Moodyson thriller, Red Snow, won ‘Best Independent Voice’ at the Amazon Publishing Readers’ Awards, 2019, and was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2020. The third novel, Black River, has been longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2021. Rights for the series have been sold in eight territories (France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Poland, Czech Republic, China and Turkey).

Will lives in Sweden where the Tuva Moodyson novels are set. TV Rights to Dark Pines have been optioned by Lionsgate, the producers of Mad Men, with plans for a multi-part series featuring Tuva Moodyson.

You can follow Will Dean on Twitter @willrdean, Instagram and Facebook as well as on his YouTube Channel for further information.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

A Retrospective: A Guest Post by Tony J Forder, Author of The Huntsmen

It’s an absolute pleasure to be in at the start of a brand new series from Tony J Forder. As book one in Tony’s DS Chase Crime Series, The Huntsmen, is launched, Tony looks back on his writing career in a brilliant guest post for today’s blog tour stop here on Linda’s Book Bag.

Tony’s writing is so popular and it has been my pleasure to feature him here on the blog many, many times. You can find the following posts:

My review of Slow Slicing here

My review of Endless Silent Scream here

A guest piece from Tony about The Cold Winter Sun imperative you will find here,

A  moving post about becoming a writer here when Bad to the Bone was published

Tony also told us about writing outside his comfort zone here

His characters Bliss and Chandler from The Scent of Guilt introduced each other here.

A wonderful guest post to introduce The Autumn Tree here.

The Huntsmen is available for purchase here.

The Huntsmen

Multiple deaths following a road collision are hard enough to deal with. That the man responsible was the ex-Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police and a Knight of the Realm is worse still for those tasked to investigate the incident. But the real question they have to answer is: who was the now deceased naked female minor alongside him at the time?

DS Royston Chase is living life as an outcast in a small Wiltshire village, and is called to the scene. Paired with the bold and strident DC Claire Laney, Chase is given the task of closing the case quickly and quietly.

But when the minor’s DNA provides a familial link to a girl who vanished from her home twenty years earlier at the age of eight, Chase and Laney refuse to accept the coincidence. The pair start looking harder at the ex-cop’s life, at which point they encounter serious opposition. Perhaps deadly serious.

Because the establishment looks after its own, and soon it’s not only their bosses getting in the way of a thorough investigation. Chase and Laney find themselves seemingly at odds with everyone, fighting to save their own reputations as well as the case. But neither will rest until they identify their young victim, no matter what the cost…

A RETROSPECTIVE

A Guest Post by Tony J Forder

The first full-length novel I wrote was initially called Haunted Thoughts. Ultimately I decided that sounded too much like a ghost story, and so it became Degrees of Darkness. I wrote the first draft in around 1995. A sequel came next. This was called The Feather Man. I then wrote a third and final untitled book featuring the same cast of characters. All first draft. All with no ambitions for any of them to ever see the light of day. At that time, writing was a pleasurable hobby; writing because I couldn’t not write. Of the three, the first had something about it, so somewhere around the early noughties I edited and polished the book to the point where I was satisfied with how it read. All three books were set in London, where I was born and raised, though all of the writing occurred after I’d moved to Peterborough, where I still live.

I then decided to write a police procedural based in my new city. This was called Burnout. During the edits I realised the book was flat with little suspense, but the two main characters, DI Jimmy Bliss and DC Penny Chandler, felt real enough for me to want to feature them again. This led me to write Bad to the Bone in 2004-2005. Because writing was still no more than a hobby to me, and one I had increasingly less time to enjoy, I wrote the book with no thought of a follow-up or series of them. By this time I was quite ill (I have Meniere’s disease, a condition I gave Jimmy Bliss, something for which he does not thank me) and my hobby took a back seat.

In 2014 my dad, who was a huge fan of action-thrillers, was going through a reading slump. By this time I was feeling a little better, and so I embarked on a new journey – to write a book for him. I set sail with high hopes, and soon Scream Blue Murder was taking shape. About a third of the way through I realised I was stuck. That, combined with increased work commitments and my illness, meant putting Scream to one side. After all, a book takes as long as it takes. What did it matter? In the end it mattered a great deal because my dad passed away in the December of that year, having never got to read the book I wrote for him.

And so to 2016. In the autumn of that year I was given my redundancy notice. I immediately set about creating my own company so that I could continue working in the education sector, specialising in IT consultancy. My wife had the idea that instead of doing this full time, I should also take my writing seriously again. So in November 2016 I set about finishing Scream Blue Murder in honour of my dad, and I also responded to online requests for submissions to a publisher who specialised in crime fiction; I sent them both Degrees of Darkness and Bad to the Bone. I had no expectations of either being good enough for publication, but in my naivety I hoped the publisher might offer some guidance.

The first response I got back was to say they liked Degrees, but it would require the removal of some bad language for them to consider it. I set about making the changes and returned it to them. The next time I heard from them they offered me a two-book contract for both Bad to the Bone and, to my shock, a follow-up. Possibly terrified that if I didn’t respond immediately they might realise they’d made a mistake, I signed on 1 February 2017. This was followed swiftly by the offer of a contract to publish Degrees as well. Now, although I had this second DI Bliss book to write for them (with no idea whatsoever what it might be) I was determined to finish Scream Blue Murder. I made it clear to them that although they might have no interest in it themselves, it was a book I had to get out of my system.

Perhaps it was this distraction that caused the issues I later had transitioning from Bliss #1 to Bliss #2. The issue being, Bad to the Bone was written in and set in 2005. Yet here we were in 2017. I told my publisher I wanted to rewrite Bad to the Bone in order to bring it forward to the current year, but they told me they were already too far down the publishing road to turn back. So, I had to choose whether to continue along the original timeline for the second book and set it in, say 2006, or make it contemporary. Looking ahead for perhaps the first time, I felt a longer series would benefit from taking place in the here and now. All I had to do was explain away the twelve-year gap. After much thought, I decided I had an explanation that worked well, and might even be useful later on.

To my delight, following the release of Bad to the Bone and Degrees of Darkness, my third published book was Scream Blue Murder. Looking back, I realise these three books were so different from each other that I was hardly establishing myself as any one kind of writer. But I have to say, it didn’t matter to me at all. I was a published author, and I was about to have a series to my name. That came with The Scent of Guilt – Bliss and Chandler’s second outing. This was soon followed by the third book, If Fear Wins. And to finish off 2018, Cold Winter Sun came along. The creation of that book came as a surprise even to me, because Scream Blue Murder had always been intended as a standalone. However, I got so deeply involved with the characters that I slipped straight into a sequel and, although they hadn’t asked for it and really weren’t looking for it, my publishers released it as well.

In 2019 there were two more DI Bliss books – The Reach of Shadows and The Death of Justice. These two books helped to firmly establish the Bliss series, developing the characters and increasing my following. All seemed to be going so well. But then two things happened: firstly, I wanted to develop a standalone called Fifteen Coffins, but my publishers had other ideas; secondly, those other ideas included leaving the Bliss series behind and creating a brand new crime series for them. This left me in a real quandary. I wanted to write Fifteen Coffins, and I most certainly intended to continue with Bliss. In fact, I was already writing both new books. Eventually, my publisher told me they would take the next Bliss, but that it really ought to be the last as they wanted me to focus on something new. By the end of the year I’d decided I had more Bliss stories to tell, and I’d completed Fifteen Coffins. And so it was that I declined to hand over my new Bliss book and instead parted ways with my publisher.

Come the release of Endless Silent Scream in the spring of 2020, book #6 in the Bliss series and the first I had self-published under my imprint Spare Nib Books, I was a nervous wreck. What if my publishers had been right? What if the appetite for Bliss had waned? What if going on my own had been a terrible mistake? The proof, or so we are told, is in the tasting of the pudding. Imagine my delight, then, when Endless became my best received book to date. I achieved my best reviews and my best sales, and more than that it left the door wide open to carry on. Which came as an immense relief, because by then I had written the next, Slow Slicing. To my surprise, this book took everything up yet another notch. It was my seventh Bliss novel and it did incredibly well, ticking every box I could have hoped for.

Before the year was over, another two books hit the shelves. First there was Fifteen Coffins, a standalone set in northern California. It featured my first female protagonist, and a story set around the aftermath of a school shooting with what I hoped was a unique slant on such a tragic event. This was quickly followed by a Bliss prequel novella called Bliss Uncovered. The book came about after readers had wondered in emails and online what Bliss was like when he was younger. I didn’t like the idea of a full-length prequel as I must confess I’m not usually a fan of them, but the idea I had floating around inside my head was going to be too long for a short story. Having reached an internal compromise, I decided to write about Jimmy’s first case as a callow DC, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed writing it.

This year I have regained the rights to three books, which I have republished with new covers and minor edits. Also, I published what I consider to be my finest DI Bliss book yet, The Autumn Tree. I’m extremely proud of that one, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to top it. There will definitely be more Jimmy Bliss (I’m writing the next book now, in fact) but ahead of that I have just released the first book in a brand new UK crime series. It’s called The Huntsmen, and I think I’ve really hit the ground running with this one. At its core it is a raw, brutal, horrific story, yet I hope it’s told in such a sensitive way that the full weight of what you read creeps up on you steadily so as not to be overwhelming. Also, it was my intention for the lighter, more humorous moments to release the valve a little each time. This is a dark, dreadful tale of unspeakable tastes and desires, but told with compassion, without the more graphical element. The reader will discover the true nature of certain people, but they will not be forced to endure any of the events in graphic detail. I could have gone that way, could have put it all out there and made it a horribly twisted piece of work, but instead I chose to drip feed the revelations and leave the rest to the reader’s imagination. I can only hope I have done so successfully.

****

I’m sure you have Tony. I love your writing and I know that readers are raving about your latest book. Good luck with The Huntsmen. I’m thrilled to have it waiting for me on my TBR. Thanks so much for such a fascinating guest post. It just goes to show that the route to publication isn’t all plain sailing and that determination is key. I am absolutely certain your Dad would have been beyond proud of you.

About Tony J Forder

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Tony J Forder is the author of the bestselling DI Bliss crime thriller series. The first seven books, Bad to the Bone, The Scent of Guilt, If Fear Wins, The Reach of Shadows, The Death of Justice, Endless Silent Scream, and Slow Slicing, were joined in December 2020 by a prequel novella, Bliss Uncovered. The series continued with The Autumn Tree in May 2021.

Tony’s other early series – two action-adventure novels featuring Mike Lynch – comprises both Scream Blue Murder and Cold Winter Sun. These books were republished in April 2021, and will be joined in 2022 by The Dark Division.

In addition, Tony has written two standalone novels: a  dark, psychological crime thriller, Degrees of Darkness, and a suspense thriller set in California, called Fifteen Coffins.

The Huntsmen, released on 4 October 2022, is the first book in a new crime series, set in Wiltshire. It features DS Royston Chase, DC Claire Laney, and PCSO Alison May.

Tony lives with his wife in Peterborough, UK, and is now a full-time author.

You can follow Tony on Twitter @TonyJForder, visit his website and find him on Instagram and Facebook.

You’ll find all Tony’s books here and he’s also on Goodreads and Fantastic Fiction.

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Lions in Africa: The British and Irish Lions and the Hunt for the Springboks by Chris Schoeman and David McLennan

My grateful thanks to Phillip Dean at Amberley for sending me a copy of Lions in Africa: The British & Irish Lions and the Hunt for the Springboks by Chris Schoeman and David McLennan in return for an honest review. It might surprise Linda’s Book Bag readers to find a non-fiction book about rugby here, but being married to a Welshman, we love our international rugby and times can get very competitive here in the Hill household during the world cup, Lions’ tours or six nations! I’m delighted to share my review of Lions in Africa: The British & Irish Lions and the Hunt for the Springboks today.

Published by Amberley on 15th August 2021, of Lions in Africa: The British & Irish Lions and the Hunt for the Springboks is available in all good bookshops, online and directly from the publisher here.

 Lions in Africa: The British & Irish Lions and the Hunt for the Springboks

It was the year 1891, and the first rugby football team from the British Isles was about to embark on a tour of South Africa; any doubts about the financial sustainability of the venture were removed when mining magnate Cecil John Rhodes thumped the table and declared, ’Let them come. I shall stand security for any shortfall.’

And so a tradition began that survived the financial insecurities of the pioneer years, two World Wars, sports boycotts, and the birth of the professional era.

These tours have produced some of the finest Test rugby and some of the greatest players and sides seen anywhere in the world. The 1955 series, where Ellis Park drew 90 000 spectators and the likes of Tony O’Reilly, Cliff Morgan and Tom van Vollenhoven set the game alight; the legendary undefeated 1974 side of Willie John McBride, when arguably the finest international touring team to set foot on South African soil destroyed the Springboks; the 1997 side that conquered the then world champions when Jeremy Guscott’s snap drop goal sealed the series with one Test to go. Lions in Africa is an entertaining narrative of one of international sport’s most popular contests, and a welcome addition to any rugby fan’s bookshelf.

My Review of Lions in Africa: The British & Irish Lions and the Hunt for the Springboks

A history of the British Lions on tour in South Africa.

I confess it took me some considerable time to read Lions in Africa, because it’s so filled with facts and figures, match reports and details that there was a lot to absorb and I needed to take my time. It is, however, a book that lends itself to being picked up and set aside remarkably well.

Lions in Africa is an incredibly detailed, meticulously researched history that will absolutely mesmerise rugby fans. It would make a fantastic gift for them too. As a more casual rugby lover, I’d have liked a few more photographs to exemplify the written details, but given that the book takes the reader back to 1891 in the history and spans almost 120 years of Lions tours to South Africa, perhaps the lack is unsurprising (and indeed there is an image of that first 1891 touring team).

The tour and match details provided are very visual so that the reader can picture (and in some cases remember) the matches vividly. Facts and figures abound from team lists to match scores. However, although Lions in Africa is fascinating in its own right with passing reference to the political and social history of the eras as well as the sporting one, I think it has value far beyond simply reading it. The team lists, for example, made me want to discover what happened to players beyond their playing days. Some potted biographies are included and spark the need to find more about more of the players. This is a real added bonus in reading Lions in Africa. Add in the footnotes and bibliography and Lions in Africa become a catalyst to entertain a rugby lover for months.

Lions in Africa is written with authority but a very accessible style with human touches that really bring the tours to life. For example, when it comes to playing in the wind at an unfamiliar stadium, never trust a groundsman – but you need to read the book to find out why!

Lions in Africa will captivate passionate rugby lovers completely. It’s also a fascinating insight into the British Lions tours for the more casual rugby or sports enthusiast too.

About Chris Schoeman and David McLennan

Chris Schoeman co-authored the autobiographies of Springbok rugby legends Danie Gerber, Frik du Preez (South Africa’s Player of the Century), Os du Randt and Dawie de Villiers, as well as international cricket umpire Rudi Koertzen. He has also written several books on the Anglo-Boer War, World War I and South African regional histories.

Visit Chris’s website for more information.

David McLennan was born in Mbombela and attended the Diocesan College (Bishops) in Cape Town. He has a degree in history from the University of Cape Town. He worked in the South African archives service before becoming a dealer in rare and unusual books on Africa (Africana) with his wife Karen. They own Select Books based in Claremont (near Cape Town). The shop was established in 1986 and we have owned it since 1996. He has written a number of books related to rugby in South Africa.

Staying in with Kevin Stone

You know, it’s a real privilege to ‘meet’ new authors and find out about their books. It gives me enormous pleasure to welcome Kevin Stone to Linda’s Book Bag today to tell me about a book which has such an intriguing title!

Staying in with Kevin Stone

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Kevin.

Thank you so much, Linda, for the invite. I’m excited to sit down (metaphorically) and talk with you.

Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

No, thank you! I’m honoured to be here.

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

I’ve brought my novel, The Onion Ring Lovers (Guide to Vermont), which was just published August 7th. It’s my debut novel and, as I’m sure you can expect, I’m excited to share it with people. After years of writing and re-writing, and countless drafts, seeing it in print has been incredibly rewarding. Even more so is the opportunity to have it in the hands and on the screens of readers and book lovers.

Congratulations on your debut novel Kevin. You must be delighted to see it in print. What can we expect from an evening in with The Onion Ring Lovers (Guide to Vermont) A Novel?  

My family moved around frequently as a child. We never quite settled in a place to put down roots, so I often found myself in the role as an observer, an outsider looking in. In the course of one of our cross-country journeys across the United States, our family found itself in the unassuming state of Vermont. I did not know at the time what a profound effect my time in the Green Mountain state would have on me. The strain of so many moves, so little money, and one too many indiscretions had its final toll on our family. It was in Vermont that the family broke, and my parents divorced.

Gosh. What a memory. I think there’s a degree of autobiography in many books. How did this affect your writing?

It was on this foundation that I built the (fictional) story about the Suttons, a family that relocated to Vermont with the best of intentions but experienced the worst of outcomes.

Inspired by the unique and varied people of Vermont, the fiction novel is full of real and imagined places and facts. I wanted to create a picture of the Vermont that meant so much to me. Set in two timelines, the book alternates between the year that the Sutton family threw caution to the wind, sold everything, and cast their fate in running a snack stand in a year-round Christmas-themed attraction on a tiny island off the shores of Lake Champlain, and in the present, where the adult Jim Sutton returns to the state on the pretence of writing his travelogue novel The Onion Ring Lover’s Guide to Vermont.

I think The Onion Ring Lover’s Guide to Vermont sounds wonderful Kevin. How is it being received?

Some praise for the novel:

“What gives the book its power, however, is the autobiography that resonates behind every page. Stone has clearly harnessed deeply-felt memories in his book, and re-dressed them in fictive form. His descriptions of Vermont at its most beautiful, and later, at its most dangerous, merit reading again and again. “

Laura C Stevenson, author of Liar from Vermont

“I grew up in Vermont, and this book brought me home. The imagery is beautiful, the characters are engaging, and I didn’t see the ending coming. Stone not only captures the place but also the quirky nuance of the people in a way that is authentic and familiar, and yes, a little disturbing. Onion Ring Lovers is a strong debut novel, and it’s well worth your time. I look forward to more from Kevin Stone.”

Amazon review

Those reviews make me want to dive right in to The Onion Ring Lover’s Guide to Vermont.

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

I brought a couple of things!

First, there’s a book within the book. The (fictional) protagonist of the novel, Jim Sutton, is writing his own book, The Onion Ring Lover’s Guide to Vermont. Part of my (delicious) research for the book was going to some very real places in Vermont and writing reviews in Jim’s own hand. Alas, like so many authors forced to “kill their darlings,” the reviews were too long for the novel. They did not die off the page, but rather live on in digital form on the novel’s dedicated website, onionringlovers.com. This is a link to the page with Jim’s reviews.

Ha! That’s brilliant.

Second, I would like to share a recipe for low-carb, air fryer onion rings, a delicious and (marginally) healthier version of their deep-fried brethren. Delicious on their own, or with a remoulade sauce for dipping, these rings are the perfect companion to the novel!

Now that sounds just my kind of snack. What’s the recipe?

Air-Fried Onion Rings

Ingredients:

1 large sweet onion, cut into ½-inch rings

½ cup whole wheat flour

1 cup whole grain panko bread crumbs

1 egg

1 Tbsp. water

½ tsp. paprika

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp cayenne pepper

Pinch of salt

1. Get three bowls. Fill the first bowl with a mixture of flour, paprika, cayenne pepper, oregano and pinch of salt. Fill the second bowl with the egg and water beaten together. Fill the third bowl with panko breadcrumbs.

2. Coat the onion rings in flour, dip into the egg mixture. Coat with panko breadcrumbs. You may need to press the panko with your fingers.

3. Spray the bottom of an air fryer basket with non-stick spray. Place the onion rings in a single layer in the bottom of the basket. Spray the onion rings with non-stick spray. For best results, cook the rings in batches.

4. Cook at 375°F for 6 minutes. Flip and cook for another 4 minutes.

You’ve made my mouth water Kevin. Not just for the onion rings either! I love the sound of The Onion Ring Lover’s Guide to Vermont too. Thank you so much for staying in with me to chat about it.

Thanks for having me Linda.

You head to the kitchen Kevin and get cooking and I’ll give blog readers a few more book details:

The Onion Ring Lover’s Guide to Vermont

Many children wish that every day could be Christmas. For one year, Jim Sutton and his family found themselves living that dream. As dreams go, however, it turned out to be more of a nightmare.

The Suttons were not caught up in some kind of “Groundhog Day” scenario. Far from it. While each day was distinct and separate, some days seemed to echo the one before, like a rerun nobody asked to relive. From 1977 through early 1978, the Sutton clan lived as permanent residents in a year-round Christmas attraction named, appropriately enough, Christmas Town.

The chain of events leading to how precisely they came to settle on an island in the middle of Lake Champlain, Vermont is found in two words: Bob Sutton (or as he was more colloquially called: Dad). Bob Sutton pried his brood from their comfortable lives in Boston, Massachusetts to relocate to the Green Mountain State. He bought a snack stand concession in Christmas Town, where he believed they would make their fortunes in a forever Winter Wonderland. None of the Suttons expected that this outwardly idyllic setting would lead to familial betrayal and tragedy.

Twenty-two years later, a grown Jim Sutton ventures out to write his novel. His muse: onion rings. The setting: the state he once swore he would never visit again. In a rusted-out beater of a car, Jim navigates his way through the countryside, sampling onion rings for his book, The Onion Ring Lover’s Guide to Vermont. When an accident strands him in the sleepy town of Strawberry Falls, little does Jim know that another dark family secret hides beneath the surface of this seemingly idyllic little New England town, a secret that some of the town residents would kill for to keep from coming to light.

The Onion Ring Lover’s Guide to Vermont is available for purchase from all the online stores including through the links here.

About Kevin Stone

Kevin lives in Tampa, Florida with his family, two dogs (one very good, one naughty), two guinea pigs, a rabbit, and a menagerie of plush critters who frequently come to life through a child’s dabbling in ventriloquism, imagination, and an assertion that there is no such thing as too many animals under one roof.

Kevin’s family moved around when he grew up. A lot. From Massachusetts to Missouri, they ultimately landed in Vermont. Not having Vermonter roots offered him the unique perspective of the outsider, never fitting in as a native son, always observing from a distance. His childhood experiences inspired him to write The Onion Ring Lover’s Guide to Vermont.

There’s more about The Onion Lovers and Kevin on the website, on Instagram and Facebook and you can follow Kevin on Twitter @onionringlovers.

Daughters of War by Dinah Jefferies

It’s over a year since I’ve had the opportunity to read one of Dinah Jefferies’ wonderful books. Then I was reviewing The Tuscan Contessa in a post you can read here. Today it gives me enormous pleasure to share my review of Daughters of War and I’d like to thank Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and to Harper Collins for sending me a copy of Daughters of War in return for an honest review.

Dinah’s’ The Tea Planter’s Wife was one of my books of the year when I began blogging in 2015, and you can read my review here.

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

Daughters of War was published by Harper Collins on 16th September 2021 and is available for purchase through the links here.

Daughters of War

France, 1944.

Deep in the river valley of the Dordogne, in an old stone cottage on the edge of a beautiful village, three sisters long for the end of the war.

Hélène, the eldest, is trying her hardest to steer her family to safety, even as the Nazi occupation becomes more threatening.

Elise, the rebel, is determined to help the Resistance, whatever the cost.

And Florence, the dreamer, just yearns for a world where France is free.

Then, one dark night, the Allies come knocking for help. And Hélène knows that she cannot sit on the sidelines any longer. But secrets from their own mysterious past threaten to unravel everything they hold most dear…

The first in an epic new series from the No.1 Sunday Times bestseller, Daughters of War is a stunning tale of sisters, secrets and bravery in the darkness of war-torn France…

My Review of Daughters of War

War is raging as three sisters live through it in very different ways.

From the very first moment Dinah Jefferies wastes no time in plunging her readers right into the heart of the action so that Daughters of War captivates them immediately. The Second World War may be a well known era for historical fiction but Dinah Jefferies imbues it with a freshness and excitement that is superb to read and I adored this book.

The plot of Daughters of War simply zips along with the drama and ordinary daily life under Nazi occupation perfectly balanced so that this is a really fast paced, impossible to put down, narrative. What Dinah Jefferies does so well is to show her readers the brutality of war and its effect on the individual in a realistic way that is never simply gratuitous, so that the impact is felt all the more keenly. With beautiful writing, especially through descriptions of nature, to counteract man’s inhumanity to man, this means that there’s depth and maturity that gives Daughters of War a wonderful richness. Reading the book is a very visual experience and I could picture it all as if I were watching a film because the detail is so evocative.

The three daughters of the title Hélène, Elise and Florence are so credibly depicted as real, warm, vibrant people who transcend mere characters that now I’ve finished reading Daughters of War, I find them slipping into my thoughts as I wonder how they are after the events of the novel. Their very different personalities shine through the writing and Dinah Jefferies made me care about them completely. I desperately wanted a happy ending for them all, but you need to read the book to see if my wishes were granted. Similarly, the men in the book feel totally believable making for a very satisfying read. What I found particularly skilful in the writing was the way the girls’ mother Claudette influenced their lives even though she was physically absent from the story.

Obviously war is a major theme in Daughters of War, and I learnt new aspects that I hadn’t known about before which added to my enjoyment of the book. However, it is relationships, family, bravery, trust and betrayal, loyalty, love in many forms, and sheer human resilience that combine into a wonderful, maturely observed and eloquently presented narrative. I can honestly say that I lost myself in the story. It felt weird to look up and find I wasn’t actually in France with Hélène, Elise and Florence et al.

I think Daughters of War is the complete package and not to be missed. I thought it was excellent.

About Dinah Jefferies

Dinah Jefferies began her career with The Separation, followed by the number 1 Sunday Times and Richard and Judy bestseller, The Tea-Planter’s Wife. Born in Malaysia, she moved to England at the age of nine. As a teenager she missed the heat of Malaysia, which left her with a kind of restlessness that led to quite an unusual life. She studied fashion design, went to live in Tuscany where she worked as an au-pair for an Italian countess, and there was even a time when Dinah lived with a rock band in a ‘hippie’ commune in Suffolk. In 1985, the death of her fourteen-year-old son changed everything and she now draws on the experience of loss in her writing. She started writing novels in her sixties and sets her books abroad, aiming to infuse love, loss and danger with the extremely seductive beauty of her locations.

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

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