Shelley Wilson Introduces The Last Princess

Whenever I meet Shelley Wilson – whether that’s in person or online – I’m always in awe of what she achieves. Today it gives me enormous pleasure to hand over Linda’s Book Bag to Shelley as she introduces her latest book, The Last Princess in a super guest post.

The Last Princess was published yesterday, 24th May 2022, by BHC Press Books and is available for purchase directly from BHC Press, on Amazon UK, Amazon US, Barnes & NobleWaterstonesGoogle PlayKobo and Apple Books.

The Last Princess

Northumbria, 866 AD

Edith still has much to learn about the art of ruling a kingdom, but when her family is murdered, she’s faced with the challenge of staying alive.

As a young woman in Anglo-Saxon England, Edith finds it hard to be heard above the Eldermen who are ripping the kingdom to pieces, but nothing can prepare her for the arrival of the pirates and the Vikings. Torn from her homeland and sold into slavery, she’s determined to survive at any cost.

Finding allies in the unexpected and enemies closer to home, Edith clings to her dream of returning home one day to reclaim her throne and to exact revenge on those who harmed her family.

Early Praise for The Last Princess:

This fast-paced historical novel builds on an obscure Anglo-Saxon king’s life to tell an empowering tale of a girl’s journey to fully embrace a new world, a new culture…as she grows into her own as a warrior. Edith’s fierce and often violent quest for revenge is juxtaposed with lovely, life-affirming moments of friendship and love in an engaging first-person narrative.” – Kirkus Reviews

I LOVED this quick fantasy read. I can’t wait to share with my students once I get a copy.” – Dawn, Teacher & Goodreads Reviewer

WOW! I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but this wasn’t it! This story is absolutely amazing.” – Rebecca, Goodreads Reviewer

Introducing The Last Princess

A Guest Post by Shelley Wilson

I love joining Linda on her amazing blog and scaring her half to death with talk of werewolves, vampires, and things that go bump in the night. I was over the moon when she agreed to let me hang out with her again, although after I chat about my latest release she might never invite me back!

Hmm – I’ll wait until I see what you have to say! I know you and your scary stuff Shelley…

Are you ready to set sail for an epic adventure?

Go on then!

My new release, The Last Princess, was published through BHC Press (24th May 2022). You’ll be happy to hear there are no supernatural creatures in this one. However, I do chop off quite a few heads with an axe or two. Sorry, Linda.

Why doesn’t that surprise me Shelley? Dare I ask, what can we expect from The Last Princess?

In The Last Princess, you’ll meet Edith, a feisty Anglo-Saxon princess who loses everyone she cares about in the first chapter, before being dragged off by pirates and sold to a Viking Jarl as a slave – and you thought you were having a rough day!

I take it Edith doesn’t take this lightly?

Edith might have dealt with a lot but she is the daughter of a king and that drives her desire for revenge. She wants to get home and punish the man responsible for killing her family and trying to kill her. Unfortunately, she is now in a foreign land working as a slave for a Viking Jarl and his family. Even more confusing is Leif, the handsome son of her owner who seems to enjoy teasing her.

The fact she is a princess and heir to the throne of Northumbria remains her secret. As far as Leif and his family are concerned she is a lowly slave with a knack for getting into trouble and saving the life of the Jarl’s youngest son.

Over time, Edith warms to the Vikings and this is reciprocated as she is given a mentor to train her on how to fight. Solveig is a shield maiden who takes no prisoners. She is moody, tough, and funny, and although she is always quick to put Edith in her place, the warrior and princess build a strong bond of friendship.

As this is a Viking story I’m sure you can guess what’s coming. Yep, epic battles, plenty of blood, gore, and axe fights, longboats and invading armies, and a smidge of romance.

Actually, despite you decapitating folk, I love the sound of The Last Princess Shelley. So where did you get the idea for The Last Princess?

The story inspiration for The Last Princess came from my love of genealogy and a DNA test I did. The results showed my DNA is 38% Scandinavian and with my overly active imagination I put two and two together and came up with ‘I’m descended from a Viking!’ The characters began to bubble up in my head after that and Edith’s voice was pretty loud.

Actually, I can definitely accept you’re descended from a Viking!

As with all my YA novels, my main character is a young girl with as many challenges as I can physically throw at her, but with an inner strength that needs to be teased out by her supporting characters.

I love exploring themes of loyalty, family, friendships, and confidence, and I hope Edith’s story resonates with my readers.

Solveig is probably my favourite character as she is feisty, sassy, and strong willed – everything I wish I’d been as a teenager.

Certainly everything you are as an adult!

What research did you do?

Moving from fantasy and supernatural stories to historical fiction has been an adventure in itself. I adored the research process for The Last Princess, heading off to York and Northumberland in my campervan to visit sites and learn more about the Viking raids.

Writing about a specific point in our history means I can’t just make stuff up this time. I needed to explore an authentic timeline that included real Anglo-Saxon places and people. The clothing, weapons, and customs needed to be investigated thoroughly, and I spent hours reading books and articles, and watching documentaries on Viking history.

The favourite part of my research was visiting Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland which plays a big part in this novel. In The Last Princess, the castle is a wooden fort but still stands proud on its rocky plateau where there has been a stronghold for over 1,400 years.

I think Northumberland is quickly becoming one of my favourite places to visit. My daughter accompanied me on my research trip, and aside from me embarrassing her by pretending to be an invading Viking running up the sand dunes, I think she was as impressed as I was. We’ve returned twice and have another trip booked later this year.

I might see you there in our motorhome. I love Northumberland.

Standing on the beach facing the North Sea and imagining what it must have felt like seeing the Viking ships on the horizon was inspiring. Our visit included a day trip to The Holy Island of Lindisfarne where we saw the world-renowned Viking Raider Stone and learned more about the Viking raids of 793 AD.

I’d love to go there.

I chose to set The Last Princess in 866 AD when the Great Heathen Army captured York. It meant I could integrate this large force into the story.

Researching this book was a lot of fun and I’ve already started working on an idea for a future Viking novel. Perhaps I’ve set sail on an epic adventure of my own?

I bet you have Shelley! Thanks so much for introducing The Last Princess to us. Those who are on Twitter can find out more using the following too: 

@ShelleyWilson72 #YA #NewRelease #TheLastPrincess #BHCPress #Vikings

About Shelley Wilson

Shelley is an English multi-genre author. She has written nine young adult/middle-grade supernatural, fantasy, and historical novels, a children’s meditation book, and six motivational self-help titles for adults.

She is a proud single mum of three and lives in the West Midlands, UK. Shelley loves travelling in her VW camper searching for stories. She also enjoys paddle boarding, Tudor and Viking history, supporting Leeds United, and obsessing over to-do lists!

You can find out more on Shelley’s website, by finding her on Facebook, Twitter @ShelleyWilson72 and Instagram or via her publisher.

Only May by Carol Lovekin

With Carol Lovekin one of my all time favourite authors I was delighted when Anne Cater of Random Things Tours asked if I’d like to be involved in the blog tour for Carol’s latest book Only May. I’m thrilled to share my review today and would like to thank Carol for including me in the acknowledgements of Only May which was a huge surprise and delight to me, as was finding myself quoted on the back cover alongside Louise Beech and Joanne Harris as follows:

GHOSTBIRD: ‘Charming, quirky, magical’ Joanne Harris
SNOW SISTERS: ‘… a novel of magic, of potent spells, and of great beauty.’ Louise Beech
WILD SPINNING GIRLS: ‘an author with magic in her writing whose words enhance the lives of those who read her.’ Linda’s Book Bag,

You see, Carol’s Snow Sisters was my outright book of the year in 2017, and I reviewed it here. Carol’s Wild Spinning Girls was another of my books of the year in 2020 and I reviewed Wild Spinning Girls here. I still have Ghostbird waiting for me on my TBR.

Published by Honno on 18th May 2022, Only May is available for purchase here.

Only May

Listen. The bee walks across my finger, slow as anything and I can see through the gauzy wing, to the detail of my skin. You aren’t looking in the right place.

If you look her in the eye and tell a lie, May Harper will see it. And if she doesn’t see it, the bees will hum it in her ear. Her kind mother and her free-spirited aunt have learned to choose their words with care. Her beloved invalid father lives in a world of his own, lost in another time, the war he cannot forget.

On May’s seventeenth birthday, a casual evasion from her employer hints at a secret hiding at the heart of the family. Determined to discover the truth, May starts listening at doors… She begins watching the faces of the people she loves best in all the world, those she suspects are hiding the biggest lie of all.

My Review of Only May

May can see lies.

Only May is, quite simply, wonderful. I absolutely adored it. From the very first sentence May’s conversational narrative voice is hypnotic so that through her Carol Lovekin seems to slip an enchantment over the reader, drawing them into her bewitching story-telling from the very first page. There’s mystery here that swirls over the story in much the same way Carol Lovekin describes the mists in her stunning writing. I’d defy any reader to find an author who writes description quite so convincingly, so evocatively and so mesmerisingly as this writer.

Indeed, Carol Lovekin’s beautiful, mellifluous writing is suffused with love and a kind of hiraeth, a longing, that permeates the narrative of Only May. This is a story about family, belonging and identity. About choices and the way love and hate are so closely aligned. About how blood is thicker than water. And about society and the public personas we present. I am, genuinely, in awe of Carol Lovekin’s ability to present women with such insight, such clarity and such tenderness. That said, Billy is a wonderful character too. His physical and mental injuries are sensitively portrayed so that the reader falls in love with Billy every bit as much as Esme did.

May is an amazing creation. She’s fierce, vulnerable and completely individual. Her strong alignment with nature balances perfectly how she finds herself untethered from the truth despite her ability to detect lies. It’s as if she is Mother Nature personified and yet she feels completely authentic as a seventeen year old girl on the cusp of adulthood and all the knowledge that maturity can bring. Reading May’s story broke my heart and mended it in such a way that I experienced my emotions physically. Through May we learn that our past can shape us as far as our present but that our future is in our own hands.

Wise, warm and wonderful, Only May is a book to touch your very soul. I absolutely adored it. Don’t miss it.

About Carol Lovekin

Carol Lovekin has Irish blood and a Welsh heart. She was born in Warwickshire and has lived in mid Wales since 1979. A feminist, she finds fiction the perfect vehicle for telling women’s collective stories. Her books  reflect her love of the landscape and mythology of her adopted home.

You can follow Carol on Twitter @carollovekin, visit her website and find her on Instagram and Facebook.

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The French House by Jacquie Bloese

When a book has two stunning covers for the e-book and hardback like The French House by Jacquie Bloese, how can a reader resist? I’m thrilled that The French House is my latest online My Weekly magazine review.

Published by Hodder and Stoughton on 28th April 2022, The French House is available for purchase through the links here.

The French House

In Nazi-occupied Guernsey, the wrong decision can destroy a life…

Left profoundly deaf after an accident, Émile is no stranger to isolation – or heartbreak. Now, as Nazi planes loom over Guernsey, he senses life is about to change forever.

Trapped in a tense, fearful marriage, Isabelle doesn’t know what has become of Émile and the future she hoped for. But when she glimpses him from the window of the French House, their lives collide once more.

Leutnant Schreiber is more comfortable wielding a paintbrush than a pistol. But he has little choice in the role he is forced to play in the occupying forces – or in his own forbidden desires.

As their paths entwine, loyalties are blurred and dangerous secrets forged. But on an island under occupation, courage can have deadly consequences…

Lyrical, moving and compelling, this is a novel about wanting to hear and learning to listen – to the truths of our own hearts. Perfect for lovers of The NightingaleThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and All the Light We Cannot See.

My Review of The French House

My full review of The French House can be found on the My Weekly website here.

However, here I can say that The French House is an absolute triumph of storytelling, evocative writing and magnificent characters.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Jacquie Bloese

Jacquie Bloese, an alumna of the Curtis Brown Creative course, has a strong personal connection with the subject matter of The French House. She grew up on Guernsey, and is in love with both the island setting and its history. The character of Émile is loosely inspired by her great-grandfather, who suffered permanent hearing loss as a young man. Jacquie has worked as a publisher of English Language Teaching materials for a variety of publishers including Penguin Random House, Scholastic and Oxford University Press. The French House, which was commended in the 2020 Caledonian Novel Award as ‘a brilliantly moving historical novel’ and was a finalist in the 2019 Mslexia First Novel Award, is her debut novel.

For further information, follow Jacquie on Twitter @novelthesecond and visit her website. You’ll also find Jacquie on Facebook and Instagram.

The Botanist by M.W. Craven

When a surprise copy of M.W. Craven’s The Botanist, book five in the Washington Poe Series, dropped into my parcel box I think you probably could have heard my shriek of delight in space. My enormous thanks to Beth Wright at Little Brown for sending it to me. I’m thrilled to share my review of The Botanist today.

You can read my reviews of The Puppet Show here, of Black Summer here, of The Curator here. and of Dead Ground here.

Indeed, the first two books in the series were on my books of the year list (here) in 2019 and the third a book of the year in 2020.

Published by Hachette imprint Constable on 2nd June 2022, The Botanist is available for pre-order through the links here.

The Botanist

‘I swear I’m one bad mood away from calling it black magic and going home . . .’

Detective Sergeant Washington Poe can count on one hand the number of friends he has. And he’d still have his thumb left. There’s the insanely brilliant, guilelessly innocent civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw of course. He’s known his beleaguered boss, Detective Inspector Stephanie Flynn for years as he has his nearest neighbour, full-time shepherd/part-time dog sitter, Victoria.

And then there’s Estelle Doyle. It’s true the caustic pathologist has never walked down the sunny side of the street but this time has she gone too far? Shot twice in the head, her father’s murder appears to be an open and shut case. Estelle has firearms discharge residue on her hands, and, in a house surrounded by fresh snow, hers are the only footprints going in. Since her arrest she’s only said three words: ‘Tell Washington Poe.’

Meanwhile, a poisoner the press have dubbed the Botanist is sending high profile celebrities poems and pressed flowers. The killer seems to be able to walk through walls and, despite the advance notice he gives his victims, and regardless of the security measures the police take, he seems to be able to kill with impunity.

For a man who hates locked room mysteries, this is going to be the longest week of Washington Poe’s life . . .

My Review of The Botanist

Washington Poe has two new cases.

Oh my goodness it was good to be back with Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw. The Botanist is fabulous. Less visceral than other books in the series, but possibly more devious, there’s an increased sophistication in M.W. Craven’s brilliant, intelligent, exciting writing that had me held spellbound.

Each brief chapter is an absolute masterclass in thriller writing. There’s fabulous dialogue imbued with Poe’s wit and Bradshaw’s innocence, fast pace, perfectly crafted plotting and a hook at the end of every chapter that compels the reader onwards. It’s impossible not to be entirely obsessed by reading The Botanist.

Aside from a breath taking plot that simply doesn’t let up and that I don’t want to spoil by saying too much, The Botanist weaves science, retribution, the media and corruption into the narrative so that the reader feels educated as well as entertained. In the same skilful manner with which M.W. Craven ensures those not familiar with Poe and Bradshaw have an insight into their pasts that never slows the pace, so aspects of social history and science are seamlessly woven into the story. It gave me enormous pleasure to find a softer side to Poe in The Botanist that felt exactly right for his character.

The eponymous character is a cracking creation and an excellent depiction of the fine line between brilliance and evil. There’s considerable depth of research into an egotist’s psyche here that lends depth and authenticity to the story. What I enjoyed so much is that even when we, and Poe, know who the perpetrator is, we have no idea how he is committing his killings or how he might be apprehended. I loved the level of tension this gives.

I don’t read all the books in any series because there are simply too many books to get through. M.W. Craven’s Washington Poe Series is the exception and I don’t read these either. I devour them. And then feel completely unsettled until I know I have the next book in the series to read. If you’ve yet to discover Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw you must. Each narrative works perfectly as a stand alone story, but this series deserves to be read from the beginning. I’m totally hooked and possibly obsessed by M.W. Craven’s writing. The Botanist is equally as brilliant as the rest. I absolutely loved it.

About M.W. Craven

mike craven

Multi-award winning author M. W. Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle. He joined the army at sixteen, leaving ten years later to complete a social work degree. Seventeen years after taking up a probation officer role in Cumbria, at the rank of assistant chief officer, he became a full-time author. The Puppet Show, the first book in his Cumbria-set Washington Poe series, was published by Little, Brown in 2018 and went on to win the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger in 2019. It has now been translated into twenty-one languages. Black Summer, the second in the series, was longlisted for the 2020 Gold Dagger as was book three, The Curator. The fourth in the series, Dead Ground, became an instant Sunday Times bestseller and is shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger.

You can follow M.W. Craven on Twitter @MWCravenUK and visit his website for more information or find him on Facebook and Instagram.

The Summer Fair by Heidi Swain

With Heidi Swain featuring here as often as she does you might be forgiven for thinking this is Heidi’s Book Bag, not Linda’s Book Bag, but as I so enjoy Heidi’s writing I won’t mind the name change! My thanks to Harriett Collins for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Heidi’s latest book, The Summer Fair. I’m delighted to share my review today.

Before I do so, however, here are the other posts you’ll find featuring Heidi:

My review of Underneath the Christmas Tree here.

My review of A Taste of Home here.

My review of The Winter Garden here.

My review of The Secret Seaside Escape here.

My review of Poppy’s Recipe for Life here.

My review of Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market here.

A ‘staying in’ post with Heidi to chat all about Sunshine and Sweet Peas In Nightingale Square here.

A guest post from Heidi to celebrate Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland, explaining exactly what Christmas means to her here.

Published on 12th May 2022 by Simon and Schuster, The Summer Fair is available for purchase through the links here.

The Summer Fair

Join Sunday Times bestseller Heidi Swain back in Nightingale Square for a sunshine and celebration filled summer…

Beth loves her job working in a care home, looking after its elderly residents, but she doesn’t love the cramped and dirty house-share she currently lives in. So, when she gets the opportunity to move to Nightingale Square, sharing a house with the lovely Eli, she jumps at the chance.

The community at Nightingale Square welcomes Beth with open arms, and when she needs help to organise a fundraiser for the care home they rally round. Then she discovers The Arches, a local creative arts centre, has closed and the venture to replace it needs their help too – but this opens old wounds and past secrets for Beth.

Music was always an important part of her life, but now she has closed the door on all that. Will her friends at the care home and the people of Nightingale Square help her find a way to learn to love it once more…?

My Review of The Summer Fair

Beth needs a fresh start.

Heidi Swain has done it again! The Summer Fair is filled to the brim with love, community and belonging in all their forms so that it’s a book to soothe the soul and gladden the heart.

It doesn’t matter whether a reader has met some of the characters in Nightingale Square before, or is encountering them for the first time, as this lovely, lovely story works beautifully either way. I loved being reminded of those like Harold whom I’ve met before, but equally it felt wonderful to discover new folk like Beth and Eli.

The story bubbles along with events that illustrate how we are very often our own worst enemies. Of course there will be a happy ending – this IS Heidi Swain – but the journey to that ending is a real delight to read. There’s humour, frustration and a depth of emotion I found extremely effective.

Beth works so well as a character because she is highly relatable. She’s by no means perfect and can be occasionally sharp or unkind, so that when she atones, the story becomes all the more engaging. Her history illustrates just how we can let ourselves be shaped by events beyond our control, but Heidi Swain shows the reader, through Beth and the cast of the Edith Cavell Care Home, that we don’t have to tolerate the status quo and set our dreams aside regardless of our age. Indeed, one of the triumphs of this book is the older characters who are vivid, real and distinct so that they have true status in the story rather than being an adjunct to the narrative.

Both Eli and Pete feel authentic and true too so that I was desperate for them to be happy every bit as much as I wanted Beth to find her true role in life. What Heidi Swain does so brilliantly in her writing is to make the reader care about the people in her stories and The Summer Fair is no exception.

I adored the themes too. Whilst the narrative of The Summer Fair is uplifting in its own right, music, crafts, gardening, animals and friendship are presented as effective reminders that our mental health can be improved in simple ways. Equally important is the understanding that we deserve a life after those we love are no longer with us and that to find happiness and use our talents is not a betrayal. I can imagine readers being helped emotionally as well as being royally entertained by The Summer Fair.

If, to quote a certain playwright, music be the food of love, then Heidi Swain has given us a banquet in The Summer Fair. I loved it.

About Heidi Swain

heidi-swain-576635598

Heidi lives in beautiful Norfolk with her family and a mischievous cat called Storm. She is passionate about gardening, the countryside, collecting vintage paraphernalia and reading. Her TBR pile is always out of control!

You can follow Heidi on Twitter @Heidi_Swain and visit her blog or website. You’ll also find Heidi on Facebook and Instagram.

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A Publication Day Extract from Dead in the Water by Mark Ellis

I am delighted to share a publication ay extract from Mark Ellis’s Dead in the Water today, not least because I have heard such good things about Mark’s writing but I’ve never had chance to fit in reading him. Today’s extract has made me want to rectify that situation as soon as I can. My thanks to the folk at Midas PR for sending it my way!

Dead In The Water is the fifth book in the acclaimed DCI Frank Merlin historical detective series and can be read as a standalone. The third novel in the series, Merlin at War, was on the CWA Historical Dagger Longlist in 2018.

Published by Headline imprint Access today, 19th May 2022, Dead in the Water is available for purchase through the links here.

Dead in the Water

Summer, 1942.
The Second World War rages on but Britain now faces the Nazi threat with America at its side.

In a bombed-out London swarming with gangsters and spies, DCI Frank Merlin continues his battle against rampant wartime crime. A mangled body is found in the Thames just as some items of priceless art go mysteriously missing. What sinister connection links the two?

Merlin and his team follow a twisting trail of secrets and lies as they investigate a baffling and deadly puzzle .

An Extract from Dead in the Water

Prologue

November 1938

Vienna

The apartment was in a fashionable residential building just off the Ringstrasse, the grand boulevard that encircled the centre of Austria’s capital. Daniel was the fourth head of the Katz family to live there. Samuel Katz, his ​great-grandfather​ and founder of the eponymous family bank, had been the first. Daniel’s wife Esther and the younger of their four children, Sarah and Rachel, shared the apartment with him. His son and older daughter were away studying at the Sorbonne in Paris.

Daniel had taken over the running of the bank in 1920, after the sudden death of his father. Under his assured management, it had weathered the economic storms of the twenties and early thirties and had emerged as one of the soundest finance houses in Vienna. All should have been good in the Katz world. It was not. For the Katzes were Jews, and since March, Adolf Hitler had ruled their country. Daniel’s younger brother, Benjamin, had been quick to sniff the wind years before, when Hitler had first come to power in Germany. He had moved to London, where he had rap-idly built up his own successful financial business. He had pestered Daniel for years to follow him, but Daniel had stubbornly resisted. An eternal optimist, he continued to believe, against all the evidence, that Hitler would make allowances for Jews who had brains and skills to offer society. The German annexation of Austria had at last put paid to this optimism. It was now crystal clear that all Jews, clever or not, were to be pariahs. The authorities had begun to strip him of his business interests. There was no prospect of escape, and it had become only a matter of time before everything was lost.

Now, on this fine autumn morning, that time had come. The family was breakfasting together in the dining room. The servants had long gone, and mother and daughters had prepared the meal. A letter had just arrived from their son, Nathan, and Esther was reading it aloud. As she turned to the final page, there was a sudden fierce pounding at the door, and a voice screamed, ‘Open up, Jewish scum!’

Daniel hurried to the hallway to see the front door already splintering under the pounding of rifle butts. Snarling soldiers pushed through. One of them dragged him down the corridor to where his petrified wife and daughters were cowering.

‘I am Sergeant Vogel. You will all do as you are told. Where is your sitting room?’

Daniel inclined his head to the left. ‘Second on the right. But . . . what is this about? This is a private dwelling. On what grounds . . .’

The sergeant struck him hard on his right cheek. ‘Shut up and move along.’

‘But gentlemen, please. You have no right. I must ask you to leave.’

The sergeant smiled and looked at his men. ‘Gentlemen, eh? Very polite, ain’t he, lads?’ He waved his gun. ‘Move.’

The party entered the larger of the apartment’s two parlours. Vogel, a fat man with the purple nose of a serious drinker, had a quick look round, then instructed the other soldiers to search the rest of the flat. He turned his attention back to the family. ‘Every-one get over there by the window.’

They did as they were told. Looking down into the street,

Daniel saw a fleet of military vehicles. ‘May I ask what is happening?’

The sergeant grinned. ‘What is happening is that we are taking some of you rich Viennese Jews on a nice little vacation. We’ve got a holiday camp waiting for you, a place called Mauthausen. You’ll love it.’ He moved to the window and looked down himself at the action on the street. He emitted a satisfied grunt, then turned his attention to the girls. ‘You have two fine​-looking​ daughters, Katz. I think I might steal a kiss before we go. Maybe a little more. What do you think, eh, my lovelies?’ Sarah cringed as he reached out to touch her. Then a peremptory voice sounded.

‘Vogel! What the hell are you doing?’

Another soldier was at the door. A younger man than Vogel but apparently of higher rank. His collar sported the insignia of the SS.

The sergeant stepped back. ‘I was just . . . just about to start searching everyone, sir.’

‘Starting with the prettiest, I see.’ The officer considered for a moment. ‘You may check to see if Herr Katz is armed, but I think it unnecessary to search the ladies.’

A clearly disappointed Vogel nodded and frisked Daniel roughly. ‘He’s clean, sir.’

The SS officer flashed a shark​-like​ smile. ‘I’m forgetting my manners, Herr Katz. My name is Spitzen. Colonel Ferdinand Spitzen. Heil Hitler.’ His hand rose in more of a wave than a salute. ‘What a ​fine-​looking family you have, Herr Katz.’ He stared at the women for a moment, then looked down at his highly polished boots. ‘Such a pity.’

‘I beg your pardon, Colonel?’

Spitzen’s face darkened. ‘You may beg my pardon indeed, Herr Katz. However, it will sadly not be forthcoming. The time has come for Jews to pay the price for the crimes of their race.’ He turned back to Vogel. ‘Go and see how the others are getting on. Make sure no one damages anything, or there’ll be hell to pay. Understand?’

‘Yes, sir.’ The sergeant disappeared into the corridor and the colonel began to walk around the room, voicing his admiration for the paintings, the opulent furniture and the numerous fine objets d’art dotted all around. Eventually he settled himself in a large leather armchair by the fireplace. ‘So, Herr Katz. You will not be surprised to know, I’m sure, that the Reich has a full file on your long career as a crooked Jewish banker.’ He flicked a speck of dirt from his trousers. ‘Have you anything to say?’

‘I have been a straight and honest businessman all my life. I do not recognise your description.’

After considering this reply for a moment, Spitzen eased him-self to his feet, strolled over to Daniel and punched him hard in the face. Daniel collapsed to the floor, blood spurting from his nose. Esther and his daughters burst out crying, and rushed to help him to his feet.

‘You lie, Katz!’ shouted the colonel. ‘You and your race have connived for years to defraud the great German people. The Füh-rer has now, thankfully, decided to put a halt to this abuse once and for all. Justice will be served.’ He returned to his chair. ‘As it happens, the name of Daniel Katz is surprisingly well known among the ruling circles of the Reich. Not because of your crim-inality, but for another reason. You are something of an art collector, are you not?’

Daniel realised for the first time that his tie had come loose. He attempted to retie it, but found that his hands were shaking too much. He shrugged.

‘We were under the impression that the greatest pieces in the collection were kept in your headquarter offices in Schottengasse. However, when we searched them, we did not find what we were looking for.’ Spitzen glanced around the room. ‘I see some attractive paintings here, but, unless I’m very much mistaken, these are again lesser works. Am I mistaken?’

Vogel appeared at the door before Daniel could answer.

‘Yes, Sergeant?’ Spitzen said irritably.

‘We’ve found a lot of stuff. Paintings, drawings, sculptures, ornaments. Some jewellery in the bedrooms. Oh, and a safe that needs opening.’

‘What about those particular items I listed for you?’ ‘Haven’t found them yet.’

Spitzen frowned, then turned back to Daniel. ‘You will open the safe for Sergeant Vogel. And you will show him any other hid-den safes or receptacles for items of value in the flat. Don’t bother trying to conceal anything. There is no point. Once you are out of here, everything will be pulled apart.’

Daniel closed his eyes, then nodded.

‘I have what I believe to be a comprehensive list of the finest works in your collection. If they are not here, you must tell me where they are.’

‘I . . . I sent some works abroad.’

‘There is no record of transfer in official export records.’ ‘I did not . . . did not use official channels.’

‘I see. Yet another crime to be added to your long list. It may interest you to know that we’ve already had valuable assistance from some of your employees. According to them, you have stored a good portion of your collection in this country. They remember items being packed and dispatched to Austrian destinations. Unfortunately, there is no written record of these destinations. No doubt if I put a team on the matter they will track the works down, but things might go a little better for you and your family if you provide the addresses now.’

Daniel glanced nervously at his wife but said nothing.

Spitzen indicated the two girls. ‘You know, I made a point of protecting your daughters earlier.’ The ​shark-​like smile reap-peared. ‘Such protection could easily be removed.’

With a look of despair, Daniel conceded. ‘All right, all right. I’ll tell you.’

‘How sensible of you. Vogel, find Herr Katz a pen and paper.’

About Mark Ellis

Mark Ellis is a thriller writer from Swansea and a former barrister and entrepreneur. He grew up under the shadow of his parents’ experience of the Second World War. His father served in the wartime navy and died a young man. His mother told him stories of watching the heavy bombardment of Swansea from the safe vantage point of a hill in Llanelli, and of attending tea dances in wartime London under the bombs and doodlebugs.

In consequence Mark has always been fascinated by WW2 and in particular the Home Front and the fact that while the nation was engaged in a heroic endeavour, crime flourished. Murder, robbery, theft, rape and corruption were rife. This was an intriguing, harsh and cruel world – the world of DCI Frank Merlin. Mark Ellis is a member of several writers organisations including the Crime Writers’ Association and Crime Cymru. The third novel in his historical detective series, Merlin at War, was on the CWA Historical Dagger Longlist in 2018.

For further information, follow Mark on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter @MarkEllis15 and visit his website.

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Tackling Difficult Subjects Through Fiction: A Guest Post by Louise Fein, Author of The Hidden Child

I cannot express how much Louise Fein’s The Hidden Child is calling to me from my TBR and I’m thrilled to have been invited to participate in the blog tour. My huge thanks to Graeme Williams for that invitation. It’s a real privilege to host a guest post from Louise today.

Just released in paperback by Head of Zeus on 12th May 2022, The Hidden Child is available for purchase in all good bookshops, online and directly through the publisher here.

The Hidden Child

From the outside, Eleanor and Edward Hamilton have the perfect life, but they’re harbouring a secret that threatens to fracture their entire world.

London, 1929.

Eleanor Hamilton is a dutiful mother, a caring sister and an adoring wife to a celebrated war hero. Her husband, Edward, is a pioneer in the eugenics movement. The Hamiltons are on the social rise, and it looks as though their future is bright.

When Mabel, their young daughter, begins to develop debilitating seizures, they have to face an uncomfortable truth: Mabel has epilepsy – one of the ‘undesirable’ conditions that Edward campaigns against.

Forced to hide their daughter away so as to not jeopardise Edward’s life’s work, the couple must confront the truth of their past – and the secrets that have been buried.

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Tackling difficult subjects through fiction

A Guest Post by Louise Fein

I believe that all characters in novels must be a product of their time. So, as a writer of historical fiction, they should not have ideas or values which reflect those of today, and for that reason might be considered ‘difficult’. Of course, there must be balance, or there is a risk of completely alienating a modern readership with very unpalatable viewpoints. I feel I have a duty to be as authentic and true to the times I write in as possible, which does mean tackling difficult subjects. For me it is a matter of integrity – whitewashing, glorifying or romanticising the past means we can’t properly understand the present or learn from it for the future. It means we yearn for a false history which never existed. That said, I am writing fiction where the story is the most important element to what I’m writing, so liberties are of course taken, characters and situations invented. However, I hope that the overall sentiments, values and flavour of the novels I write, remain historically authentic.

The Hidden Child is set in the late 1920’s. I chose that period for a few reasons. It was a time of great social and economic change. Often the 1920’s are portrayed as the ‘roaring’ twenties – a time of freedom and excess after the war years. But for many ordinary people, the ‘20’s were a time of deprivation and hardship, and also great uncertainty. The rise of the working classes, liberation of women and the wide circulation of thoughts and ideas which questioned the very basis of capitalism and democracy, brought fear to the ruling and moneyed classes. All around the world was the rise of autocracy and the planned economy. Fear of the demise of democracy, freedom and a certain way of life drove rhetoric for extreme measures to be taken to protect them, albeit rhetoric based on false premises. Premises such as eugenics, a topic dealt with in The Hidden Child.

Within The Hidden Child are some ideas and views which today’s reader may find reprehensible. I don’t shy away from writing about these because however much we would like to think times have changed, human nature has not, and the legacy of these ideas linger on, not only in far-away countries, but right here at home. I think to have a healthy society, we need to understand where ideas come from, what drives people to think and behave as they do. I believe this is always at the heart of what I write. This can make for, at times, uncomfortable reading. I am, however, ultimately an optimist for the better part of human nature to shine through in the end, and this is also reflected in my fictional worlds. There is always hope, always good. In both The Hidden Child, and my debut novel, People Like Us, I chose to tell my stories from the points of view of those who hold views so contrary to my own. I always seek to understand why people might believe such things, and ultimately, what might drive them to think differently.

Tackling difficult subjects through fiction is an ideal way to do so. I believe fiction has a unique power to engage widely with people. It is its ability to emotionally draw a reader in and to have them walk side-by-side with characters, completely immersed in their world which gives it that power. Novels are an incredibly flexible tool enabling the writer to take a set of facts and fill the gaps with fiction which can take readers to literally any time or place. This is what I love about reading, and writing. To learn something of the world, of human nature and ideally, how we can all be more compassionate towards each other. I don’t think any subject should be off-limits for fiction. Tackled in the right way, with humanity and understanding, novels can be the perfect forum for exploring and engendering discussion.

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That is absolutely fantastic Louise, thank you. I couldn’t agree more. I’m so looking forward to reading The Hidden Child and would like to thank you for this wonderful guest post.

About Louise Fein

Louise Fein was born and brought up in London. She harboured a secret love of writing from a young age, preferring to live in her imagination than the real world. After a law degree, Louise worked in Hong Kong and Australia, travelling for a while through Asia and North America before settling back to a working life in London. She finally gave in to the urge to write, taking an MA in creative writing, and embarking on her first novel, Daughter of the Reich (named People Like Us in the UK and Commonwealth edition). The novel was inspired by the experience of her father’s family, who escaped from the Nazis and arrived in England as refugees in the 1930’s. Daughter of the Reich/People Like Us is being translated into 11 foreign languages, has been shortlisted for the 2021 RSL Christopher Bland Prize, the RNA Historical Novel of the year Award 2021 and long listed for the Not The Booker Prize 2020.

Louise’s second novel, The Hidden Child, was published in the Autumn of 2021. Louise lives in the beautiful English countryside with her husband, three children, two cats, small dog and the local wildlife who like to make an occasional appearance in the house. Louise is currently working on her third novel.

For further information about Louise, visit her website, follow her on Twitter @FeinLouise and find her on Facebook and Instagram. There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Capital Crime Festival 2022 from @CapitalCrime1

I was so looking forward to attending the launch of Capital Crime 2022 last evening at Goldsboro Books, thanks to a very generous invitation from the lovely folk at FMcM, but sadly a recent bout of Covid has taken the wind out of my sails quite dramatically and I simply didn’t have the energy to make the trip to London from darkest Lincolnshire.

It was back in 2019 when I had the most amazing time at the inaugural Capital Crime festival. You can read about it here.

Now Capital Crime is back for 2022 and although I couldn’t attend the launch, I can tell you all about it:

Capital Crime 2022

Capital Crime launched their 2022 programme with a bang last night at leading independent bookshop, Goldsboro Books, at a party to announce their stellar line up and spectacular new location.

Taking place in the shadow of the iconic Battersea Power Station from 29th September – 1st October 2022, Capital Crime will bring together readers, authors, industry figures and the local community for the first major literary festival held on the site for a weekend of fun, innovation and celebration of crime fiction.

Consisting of over 40 events and over 150 panelists, the line-up will include appearances from Peter James, Kate Mosse, Mark Billingham, Richard Osman, Robert Harris, SA Cosby, Dorothy Koomson, Jeffrey Archer, Anthony Horowitz, Charlie Higson, Jeffery Deaver, Lucy Foley, Bella Mackie, Ragnar Jónasson, Paula Hawkins, Reverend Richard Coles, Mark Edwards, Claire McGowan, Ben Aaronovitch and Former President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Judge Lady Hale, in conversation with Harriet Tyce. Their full schedule of innovative panel talks will be announced later in the summer.

As part of the live festival this year, Capital Crime’s Social Outreach Initiative will be returning for a third year with the aim to create an inclusive, safe space where state school students with an interest in books can engage with authors, agents, editors and publishers to help demystify the publishing industry.

The festival will also be launching the coveted Fingerprint Awards, which celebrate the best in genre, as chosen by readers. In 2022 the Fingerprints will present eight awards as well as a prestigious lifetime achievement award.

Co-founded by David Headley, the owner of one of London’s destination bookshops, which attracts visitors from all over the world, Capital Crime 2022 will serve as a major London attraction, following the regeneration of the local Battersea area and improved transport links. Festival Founder, David Headley, said: “I am so delighted that Goldsboro Books and Capital Crime, along with our valued festival sponsors, will be working in partnership this year to bring a bigger and better live celebration of crime fiction back to London. We were so proud of what we achieved at our inaugural festival, and look forward to welcoming authors and readers to our new, exciting venue.”

Festival Director, Lizzie Curle, said: “After what’s been an emotional few years, we are so grateful to our readers, authors and sponsors for their support, and are thrilled to be reuniting household name authors, new voices in fiction and their fans at our new home in Battersea Park. Though this Capital Crime event may look a little different from the outside; diversity, inclusivity and accessibility remain at the heart of our festival. We can’t wait to celebrate the best genre in the world, and hope everyone will agree it’s been worth the wait.”

With diversity, accessibility, inclusivity and readers at the heart of the festival, Capital Crime this year will take place in a series of large stretch-tented venues for multiple panel events, signing area, a stunning bar area central to the festival, a pop up Goldsboro Books bookshop in the iconic Pump House Gallery, and an array of London’s tastiest street food traders.

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Weekend and Day Passes are available from the Capital Crime website.

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About Capital Crime

Founded by bookseller, agent and publisher, David Headley, and author Adam Hamdy, Capital Crime is a new crime and thriller festival located in London. Built around the reader, Capital Crime is modelled on the extremely successful mass participation, multimedia conventions that engage and delight audiences in new and innovative ways. Capital Crime is committed to producing an inclusive, welcoming festival that will deliver something for everyone.

You can find out more on Twitter @CapitalCrime1, on the Capital Crime website and on Instagram.

About Goldsboro Books

Goldsboro Books is an independent bookshop, based in central London, specialising in signed first edition books. Providing an expert, knowledgeable team and a carefully curated range is at the heart of the business, delivering the best book-buying experience for every customer. Goldsboro Books aims to interest and inspire book lovers, readers and collectors and provide the finest quality signed books in the world.

Goldsboro Books was founded in 1999 by two friends and book collectors, David Headley and Daniel Gedeon. Their reputation for spotting quality books early on, an expert eye on the future collectibles, along with enthusiasm and passion for bookselling excellence has grown with the business and Goldsboro Books has become a world-famous and much admired bookshop. Their global reputation grew in 2013 when they were the only bookshop in the world to have signed copies of The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, who of course turned out to be none other than J.K. Rowling.

For further information about Goldsboro Books, please visit their website or follow them on Twitter @GoldsboroBooks.

Do No Harm by Jack Jordan

I love Jack Jordan’s writing and can’t believe how long it is since I read one of his books. Consequently I’m delighted that Jack’s lbrand new thriller Do No Harm is my latest online My Weekly magazine review.

Shortly after I began blogging in 2015 I reviewed Jack’s Anything for Her in a post you’ll find here. I also reviewed My Girl here. and helped to reveal Jack’s Before Her Eyes here.

Do No Harm is published by Simon and Schuster on 26th May and is available through the links here.

Do No Harm

My child has been taken. And I’ve been given a choice…
Kill a patient on the operating table. Or never see my son again.

The man lies on the table in front of me.
As a surgeon, it’s my job to save him.
As a mother, I know I must kill him.
You might think that I’m a monster.
But there really is only one choice.
I must get away with murder.
Or I will never see my son again.

I’VE SAVED MANY LIVES.
WOULD YOU TRUST ME WITH YOURS?

My Review of Do No Harm

My full review of Do No Harm can be found on the My Weekly website here.

However, here I can say that Do No Harm is classic Jack Jordan. Fast paced, exciting and a thumpingly good read with layers of depth that make it all the more engaging and thought provoking. I loved every moment of it.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Jack Jordan

Jack Jordan is the global number one bestselling author of Anything for Her (2015), My Girl (2016), A Woman Scorned (2018), and Before Her Eyes (2018).

To find out more about Jack, enter numerous annual giveaways to win signed copies of his books, and be one of the first to hear of new book releases and news, follow him Jack on Facebook, Twitter @JackJordanBooks and Instagram.

Staying in with Caron McKinlay

It’s only fairly recently that I have ‘met’ Caron McKinlay online, but I’ve already discovered what a lovely person she is and I am thrilled to welcome her to Linda’s Book Bag today to tell me all about her debut novel. Let’s find out what she had to say.

Staying in with Caron McKinlay

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Caron and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

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

Thank you for inviting me, I am so happy to join you, I’ve been following your social media posts and reviews for ages now.  They are always so brilliant, and I have found so many new authors through reading them. I have brought along my debut book The Storytellers.

That’s really lovely of you to say. I’m so glad you enjoy my reviews. So, tell me, what can we expect from an evening in with The Storytellers?

The Storytellers has been described as The Midnight Library meets Mhairi McFarlane and I am delighted with that vibe. Set in real life and the afterlife it has a speculative edge and a feminist thread. And it deals with the themes of grief, love, identity and esteem.

Crikey. That’s some elevator pitch. Tell me more.

So expect and evening of romance, humour and mystery. A few early readers said they laughed out loud at some points, and I hope we can find something to smile about too. All three women have different senses of humour so hopefully at least one of them will resonate with you.

Three women?

Ronnie is focused on her teaching career but will do anything to snare Graham even if that means pushing past her sexual boundaries. Nikki is fed up with downing sambuca and one night stands in Blackpool and wants true love and a white picket fence. Mrs Hawthorne is grieving but when she meets Charles who is a lonely widow something sparks between them.

But as the sun sets and the evening progresses, the book gets darker. Expect swearing, threesomes, and death.  Perhaps it’s time to for a glass of red wine before we meet The Gatekeeper who will reveal the women’s fates? None of the women really like him and I don’t think he will fare any better with us. But then I’m not sure how I would react if some stranger told me I was dead too.

Well quite! I can’t imagine it would be the best news! I’m not sure about a glass of wine. I’m beginning to think I might need something stronger for an evening in with The Storytellers!

Although the narrative deals with three women and their toxic relationships with men – the story itself is uplifting. One early reader said it was like getting a message from the Fairy Godmother she didn’t know she needed. And Francis Quinn said she was so engrossed she missed her stop on the train!

That’s a brilliant response. You must be thrilled Caron.

It is such an exciting and scary thing to put your heart out into the world so I do hope when its published on May 16th that readers enjoy it too, it means a lot to me.

I’ve been hearing VERY good things about The Storytellers. A slightly belated happy publication day and many congratulations. What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?

I’ve brought along V E Schwab to persuade her to sit and read my book – there wouldn’t be any other way I could get it to her! I absolutely adored The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and although I don’t have her talent, I would still love to hear her thoughts on mine.

I’m sure we can persuade her!

But since that is an impossible feat. I have brought along my favourite dinner for us. I’m probably showing my age as its quite an eighties thing. But I hope you enjoy Steak Diane. The question is of course do you want these potatoes made into mash or chips to accompany it?

Chips of course!

And don’t forget the coconut rum, pineapple and cream for our Pina Coladas. On top of the red wine and rich food I think we might fall asleep on the sofa. Or do you think we might make last drinks at the pub? I’m game if you are?

Oo. Let’s have a Pina Colada here and then head to the pub. You never know, we might meet our own Graham and Charles! Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about The Storytellers Caron. I’ve really enjoyed it and am delighted I have a copy to read just as soon as I can. Now, you mix the cocktails and I’ll give readers a few more details about the book:

The Storytellers

Trapped between life and the afterlife, three women meet and share their stories while discovering the truth about the men in their lives—and about themselves.

Suspended in an eerie state of limbo, an entity called the Gatekeeper tells Nikki, Ronnie, and Mrs. Hawthorne they are on the cusp of entering the afterlife—but only if the women can persuade him that in their earthly lives, they knew the meaning of love.

Fragments of their memories return, plunging them back into their pasts, and forcing them to face the desires, disappointments, addictions, lies, and obsessions they battled in life.

But before time runs out, will they find the answer to the ultimate question: what is love?

The Storytellers was published on 16th May 2022 by Bloodhound and is available for purchase on Amazon UK, Amazon US, Barnes and Noble and Kobo.

About Caron Mckinlay

Caron grew up in a mining town on the east coast of Scotland where her dad would return from the pit and fill her life with his tall tales and encourage her to tell her own. Despite this, she never thought about making a career in writing – that was what posh people did, not someone from a working-class council estate.

After living in Italy for a while and the birth of her daughters, she became a teacher and taught in various secondary schools before becoming a headteacher in Merseyside.

However, her father’s death came as a shock and was the cause of deep introspection but her emotions gave birth to a short story, Cash, which was published in the Scottish Book Trust’s anthology, Blether. A second chance at love also spurred an early retirement and a move to Edinburgh where she lives happily with her husband.

When not blogging, reading, and writing, Caron spends her time supporting her daughters, Francesca and Paola, who fill her with pride and joy. She doesn’t enjoy exercise – but loves running around after her grandsons, Lyle and Noah, to whom she is devoted.

Caron had three childhood dreams in life: to become a published author, to become a teacher, and for David Essex to fall in love with her. Two out of three ain’t bad, and she’s delighted with that.

​Caron is often hanging around on social media and she loves to hear from readers so please feel free to contact her.

You’ll find all Caron’s links here, but for further information, visit her website, find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @CaronMcKinlay and Instagram.