Good Taste by Caroline Scott

It’s almost a year since I reviewed Caroline Scott’s The Visitors here and with her The Photographer of the Lost, reviewed here, one of my top reads in 2019, I could not be happier than to share my review of her latest book Good Taste for the blog tour today. My enormous thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate.

Good Taste was published by Simon and Schuster on 13th October 2022 and is available for purchase through the links here.

Good Taste

Good taste is in the eye of the beholder…

England, 1932, and the country is in the grip of the Great Depression. To lift the spirits of the nation, Stella Douglas is tasked with writing a history of food in England. It’s to be quintessentially English and will remind English housewives of the old ways, and English men of the glory of their country. The only problem is –much of English food is really from, well, elsewhere . . .

So, Stella sets about unearthing recipes from all corners of the country, in the hope of finding a hidden culinary gem. But what she discovers is rissoles, gravy, stewed prunes and lots of oatcakes.

Longing for something more thrilling, she heads off to speak to the nation’s housewives. But when her car breaks down and the dashing and charismatic Freddie springs to her rescue, she is led in a very different direction . . .

Full of wit and vim, Good Taste is a story of discovery, of English nostalgia, change and challenge, and one woman’s desire to make her own way as a modern woman.

My Review of Good Taste

Stella has a new book to write.

I so enjoyed Good Taste. It’s a cracking story. There’s a wicked, wry sense of humour underpinning the narrative that felt spot on for the era and was absolutely brilliant to read. I’ve no idea if the alliterative elements within Caroline Scott’s writing were intentional (I suspect so) but they added to my enjoyment so much. And any book that makes reference to my favourite poet of all time, John Donne, has got to be a winner!

There’s a fabulous exploration of English food and a brilliant realisation that Englishness is a somewhat nebulous and moveable concept that makes Good Taste pertinent to today’s society whilst being pitch perfect in reflecting the society of the era Stella inhabits. Xenophobic attitudes, contemptuous comments about the less well off and the excesses of those who should know better mean that, whilst there is a lightness of touch in Caroline Scott’s writing, it only serves to contrast the deeper themes all the more effectively. In Good Taste we discover what good taste truly is! I loved the way the author explored grief and relationships, honesty, worth and value with such razor sharp perception. Good Taste may revolve around research for a book about English food, but it’s surprisingly emotional too.

The plot in Good Taste is relatively gentle as Stella researches her book, but it is completely engaging. Sumptuous descriptions place the reader at the heart of the story so that it is as if they are seeing, hearing, touching, feeling and tasting everything with Stella to the extent that I’ll never consider an Eccles cake or oatcake with quite such indifference as I have before! That said, and despite living in the Fens, I won’t be eating eel in any form…

I loved the interplay between Stella and Freddie, Stella’s relationship with Michael, her sense of duty to her father and her need to be an individual woman in her own right too. Stella is as vibrant, engaging and interesting a character as you could wish to meet and what is so wonderful here is her development over the story so that she becomes a kind of Everywoman and an aspirational character for us all. I cared what happened to her.

Good Taste is a smashing story. Historically accurate and authentic, with a lead character who cannot be confined by the book’s pages but who I keep thinking about, I found Good Taste absorbed me completely. It made me laugh aloud, brought an occasional moistness to my eye and above all made me feel happy and brilliantly entertained. What more could a reader ask? Don’t miss this one.

About Caroline Scott

Caroline completed a PhD in History at the University of Durham. She developed a particular interest in the impact of the First World War on the landscape of Belgium and France, and in the experience of women during the conflict – fascinations that she was able to pursue while she spent several years working as a researcher for a Belgian company. Caroline is originally from Lancashire, but now lives in southwest France. The Photographer of the Lost was a BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick.

You can follow Caroline on Twitter @CScottBooks, or visit her website for further information.

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An Interview with Romantic Novelists’ Association Media Star of the Year 2022 Finalist Anne Williams

I could not be happier today than to welcome fellow blogger and friend Anne Williams to Linda’s Book Bag. Anne is a fabulous blogger at Being Anne and a huge supporter of romantic fiction – to the extent that, as a previous winner of the Romantic Novelists’ Association Media Star Award, she has been nominated again and has made it through to the final for 2022. I’m delighted Anne agreed to be interviewed today.

An Interview with Anne Williams

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Anne and congratulations on your RNA Media Star Award nomination.

This isn’t the first time you’ve been nominated and you’ve won the award in the past. How does that make you feel?

Thank you Linda! This is the third time I’ve been a finalist, and it feels every bit as special this time as it did when I walked away with that lovely trophy back in 2019. I started blogging nearly ten years ago, and all I ever really wanted to do was share my love of the books I’ve enjoyed – I’m delighted that people enjoy reading my reviews, and even more so that I’m able to support a large group of very talented authors and help (in my small way!) to bring their books some of the extra attention they deserve. Romance has always been my first love – and to be recognised by the RNA (their members are my rock stars…) feels particularly special.

I bet! What was it like when you won previously?

Do you know, the night itself is still a bit of a blur – and not only because of the wine consumed! I was so surprised when my name was called and I had to get up onto that stage to accept the award – and, I have to say, totally terrified because I hadn’t even thought what I was going to say when in front of the microphone. In the end though, it was much easier than I thought it would be – I said a heartfelt thank you, told everyone how much I loved romantic fiction, and about how it had given me an escape and kept me going through a few particularly difficult years. The warmth from everyone in the room was something I’ll always remember – and I think my smile probably says everything else…

I think it does. I was there that night and remember it well. I was thrilled for you that you’d had all your support for your ‘rock stars’ recognised.

So, what do you think is so special about romantic fiction?

My goodness, where can I start? I might be getting on a little now, but I have had my moments – and I’m sure there can’t be many of us who haven’t had the wonderful experience of being in love. I particularly like to see (maybe that should say “feel”) a special chemistry between the book’s main characters – when they become real people, striving to overcome any obstacles that cross their paths on the way to the happy ending I know will be coming. But it’s often about more than just the central romance – I like all the characters and the relationships between them to be believable, for individuals to have some faults and failings, some depth in their back story, a few surprises. But I also love a vividly drawn setting, a strong supporting cast, a community I enjoy being part of. And the writing and storytelling really must be as good as it could possibly be – I like to be wrapped up in the pages of a book when I’m reading and for the rest of the world to disappear, and that’s something I’ve unfailingly found in the world of romantic fiction.

I agree completely. And if there’s a happy ending too, so much the better. What would you say to those who never read romantic fiction?

Just try it – it might surprise you. I sometimes think that those who avoid it don’t realise the immense range that the genre covers, or the sheer quality of so much of the writing. Ok, I’ll accept that if your first love is serial murder, you might not be attracted to a romantic comedy or Regency romance – but romantic suspense might give you a lot of what you might be looking for. And how will you know if you never try? Choose carefully, read with an open mind… you might find you’ve found something you’ll love as much as I do.

Sage advice. I think only reading one genre is like only eating the same meal every day! What qualities to you look for in a romantic protagonist, male or female?

I have very eclectic tastes – but I do need to either be able to identify with, or at least empathise with, a book’s main characters. I think that’s all about depth – people don’t simply exist in the present, they have pasts, they have friends and families, life sometimes gets complicated. And people are rarely perfect – a few flaws and a bit of behaving badly are something I’m always happy to see.

Is there anything you’d like to see more or less of in romantic fiction?

I’ve already seen a lot of changes over the years I’ve been reading and reviewing. Perhaps the most significant one for me has been the age of the characters – it used to be so difficult to find a heroine who was out of her twenties, but nowadays they’re increasingly in their 40s, 50s or beyond. It’s something I’ve particularly welcomed – and I’m certainly not the only reader past the first flush who enjoys being able to identify more readily with a book’s protagonists. And that’s something that’s carried through into the supporting casts too – older characters just aren’t cardboard cut outs or (even worse) cuddly grandmothers any more. More please!

Yes indeed. We 60+ women still have life in us!

Is there a ‘go to’ romantic author whose books you never miss?

Now, you don’t really expect me to answer that one, do you?

Actually, no not really, but I thought I’d ask…

I do have my firm favourites (I have an ever-growing list) but I’m very rarely able to read and review every book they produce when they seem to write books even faster than I can read them. And there’s always the chance I’ll come across a new favourite, so I do like to mix things up a little and read books from new-to-me authors.

Which romantic novelist do you think is too much under the radar and deserves more recognition?

There really are more than I could begin to mention – especially those without a mainstream publisher, who have to work so hard to be seen. There are some real gems to be found in the self and independently published world, and I really do enjoy helping bring them the attention they so richly deserve.

I agree. Self published authors or those from small independent publishers don’t have the big budgets behind them for promotion and there are so many brilliant writers out there. I think the work you do in supporting them is amazing.

Is there a romantic book you haven’t read that you’re itching to get to?

I’m acutely aware of the fact that there are a few authors – loved by many – whose books I’ve never been able to get round to reading and reviewing. I read three or four books a week – sometimes more – but even if I read ten times as many I still wouldn’t be doing more than scratching the surface.

So many books and so little time – the curse of the blogger!

Which has been your favourite romantic read this year so far?

Again, I’m not going to answer that one – I do pull together a “books of the year” list at the end of every year, and it’s one of the most difficult things I ever do. Romance covers such a wide spectrum – books become favourites at different times for differing reasons. But I will say that this year might just have been one of the best in a very long time… but I think I might say that every year.

What other genres do you enjoy?

I am pretty faithful to contemporary romantic fiction – and to the broader genre of what used to be called “women’s fiction”, but might perhaps be better described as book club fiction, contemporary fiction or “up lit”. But I also enjoy historical fiction – far more than I used to, when I rarely used to venture outside time slip or a well-handled dual timeline. I do visit the dark side from time to time – psychological thrillers preferred, but not too regularly, and often as an audiobook. And I’m never quite sure what makes a book “literary fiction”, but I do sometimes read that too.

You’re a blogger so could you tell us a bit about your blog and what blogging entails for you please?

My blog is called Being Anne – it’s almost ten years old now, and started almost by accident just as a place to keep all my reviews in one place, a nice little hobby. I was surprised when I found people starting to follow it – by 2016, my posts had an astonishing almost quarter of a million views. After retiring, I decided to develop it a bit further – I’d already started adding interviews, guest posts and features – moved everything over to WordPress, and began to post daily.

I now have almost 12,000 followers (with almost 1,000 also following my linked Facebook page) and my daily views rarely fall below 200. You’ll find me on Twitter too (@Williams13Anne) – sharing other bloggers’ and authors’ posts as well as my own, and where others share mine in greater volume than I can say thank you for.

I will admit that producing daily posts did begin to feel a little bit like another full-time job – I’ve scaled back a little recently, but still try to post four or five times a week. And these days, my posts are mainly reviews – it’s what I enjoy doing the most, I think it’s what people like to read, and it’s certainly the kind of support most appreciated by the authors. And I still love doing it – and really can’t see a time when I’ll want to stop!

I can’t either. And long may Being Anne continue! Huge congratulations again Anne on your third nomination for the RNA Media Star Award and thanks so much for being on Linda’s Book Bag today. 

About Anne Williams

Anne Williams is a book blogger and reviewer, sharing her reviews of the romance and women’s fiction she loves in all the most important places, including on her website Being Anne; the blog is now approaching ten years old, and has almost 12,000 followers. She lives in Wetherby in Yorkshire, and took early retirement a decade ago intending to spend her time doing everything she enjoyed, including reading and reviewing as many books as she possibly could, and indulging herself with exotic holidays. Life didn’t quite work out as expected, when she became carer for her late mother; the travelling might have had to stop for a while, but nothing could possibly come between Anne and her reading. In recent years, Anne has developed a passion for Nordic walking, and can often be found exploring the Yorkshire countryside with her poles in hand. Her blog won the Best Pal award at the Annual Bloggers’ Bash for three years running, and she was delighted to win the RNA’s Media Star of the Year award in 2019.

For more information, follow Anne on Twitter, find her on Facebook and visit her blog Being Anne.

Staying in with Margaret Amatt

It’s an absolute pleasure to welcome Margaret Amatt to Linda’s Book Bag today as part of the blog tour organised by Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources. My thanks to Rachel for enabling me to stay in with Margaret.

Let’s find out more:

Staying in with Margaret Amatt

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Margaret 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?

A Festive Surprise – it’s my latest (and final) book in a ten book series.

Gosh! I had no idea there were so many in this series. What can we expect from an evening in with A Festive Surprise?

It’s a Christmas romcom with a twist! It’s got all the festive ingredients you would expect – and want. I’m talking twinkly lights, mince pies, Santa’s grotto, elf suits and more. It also has a Scrooge-like character in Holly. She’s over Christmas and it isn’t even December yet. Enter Farid. He’s the hero with a difference – don’t worry he’s still a dreamy book boyfriend but he’s clueless about Christmas. He’s had a hard shift coming to Scotland from Syria as a refugee and some of our Christmas traditions not only baffle him but make him laugh.

I love the idea of a slightly different romantic lead man. Tell me more.

Holly and Farid are drawn to each other but there’s a world between them. But they soon discover they can learn from each other – that’s when the fun really starts!

Only when I started looking at Christmas through Farid’s eyes, did I see just how very odd some of our Christmas traditions are. Holly tries to explain some of them but lots of them she’s equally clueless about. As the learn and grow together they discover something special – not just about Christmas, but about places, people, family and love.

That’s the enduring message of the book – the heart of Christmas and home isn’t about ‘stuff’.

I think you’re absolutely right Margaret. Christmas has become far too commercialised and all we really need is our loved ones around us.

I love this quote from Farid in the book:

‘Maybe these things are like the decorations on the tree. The extra bits people add on; every year it grows as people add more and more. Some old decorations… ya’ni… they fade and are forgotten, but the heart of the tree is the same. That’s what we must find. The heart of Christmas. Not what each little extra bit means. Because different people attach different meaning to them. You might love the decoration that’s like a snowflake; I might like the red flower more. We must dig deep, find the heart and what the heart means to you.’

Oh yes!

What else have you brought along and why?

This is a photo of the Isle of Mull in winter. I started a love affair with this island over twenty years ago and it’s now the setting for all ten of my books.

I’m not surprised Margaret. What a stunning location. It makes me want to climb in the motorhome and head there right away.

The gorgeous romantic setting has played at my heartstrings ever since my first visit there. In fact that very visit was the seed for the first story in this series I wrote. That book eventually became book four and was based on my youthful naivety and lack of planning for that trip! I travelled to the island and got completely lost! I had no idea how big it was, thinking I could drive around the whole thing in about half an hour. How wrong was I? I discovered it’s about 40 miles long and has 300 miles of coastline!  It got me thinking what fun it would be to land a character there and give her a real need to find someone. I made it even worse for her by sending her on public transport!

That sounds very cruel! But also very appealing as a storyline!

Some years later, I was on holiday on the island again and had injured my foot. In the evenings, I wasn’t able to go out walks and just wanted to rest my foot. I started to crave books set on the island. There wasn’t a lot of choice in the fiction department. That was when I realised if I wanted one, I would have to write it myself. Now, I have ten! Earlier this year a bookshop on the island started stocking them too, so hopefully lots more holidaymakers will enjoy the series in situ!

What could be better? I love reading about the locations I visit. Thank you so much for telling me about your series and A Festive Surprise in particular. I know they can all be found here

A Festive Surprise

She can’t abide Christmas. He’s not sure what it’s all about. Together they’re in for a festive surprise.

Ambitious software developer Holly may have a festive name but the connection ends there. She despises the holiday season and decides to flee to the remote island of Mull in a bid to escape from it.

Syrian refugee Farid has made a new home in Scotland but he’s lonely. Understanding Nessie and Irn Bru is one thing, but when glittery reindeer and tinsel hit the shelves, he’s completely bemused. Determined to understand a new culture, he asks his new neighbour to educate him on all things Christmas.

When Holly reluctantly agrees, he realises there’s more to her hatred of mince pies and mulled wine than meets the eye. Farid makes it his mission to inject some joy into Hollys’ life but falling for her is an unexpected gift that was never on his list.

As their attraction sparkles, can Christmas work its magic on Holly and Farid, or will their spark fizzle out with the end of December?

A Festive Surprise is available for purchase on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

About Margaret Amatt

Margaret is a writer, mummy, wife and chocolate eater (in any order you care to choose). She lives in highland Perthshire in a little house close to the woods where she often sees red squirrels, deer and other such tremendously Scottish wildlife… Though not normally haggises or even men in kilts!

She has published nine books and written many more. Margaret won a short story writing competition in 2012 and her winning entry was performed live to an audience at Pitlochry Festival Theatre as part of their Winter Words Event. This spring boarded Margaret’s journey from writing for fun to novel writing – though she still enjoys every minute of it.

Margaret is also a keen amateur photographer, who enjoys drawing, reading, and talking about books.

You can visit Margaret’s website for further information, find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @amattauthor.

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A Conflict of Interests by Claire Gradidge

My enormous thanks to Tracy Fenton for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for A Conflict of Interests by Claire Gradidge and to Zaffre for sending me a copy of of the book in return for an honest review.

A Conflict of Interests was published by Zaffre on 13th October 2022 and is available for purchase here.

A Conflict of Interests

June 1944, Romsey, England.

Josephine ‘Jo’ Fox is at an impasse since the unwelcome return of her wayward husband Richard. So, when he disappears again, she is neither concerned nor surprised – until a burning car is discovered with a body inside. And there are signs that Richard is somehow involved.

Jo is determined to find both her husband and answers, yet with her friend Bram Nash in hospital suffering an infection of his old war wound, she must do so alone. When information comes to light that implicates Bram too, Jo finds herself on a dangerous path to the truth.

But what will be left for her when all is revealed?

My Review of A Conflict of Interests

I expected a gentle, meandering cosy crime in A Conflict of Interests, but I was soon disabused of that assumption as it opens in dramatic fashion in a manner that engages the reader instantly and keeps them enthralled throughout.

The plot is fast paced and cleverly constructed to keep the reader guessing. I thought the timed and dated chapter headings with the italicised narrative interspersing Jo’s first person story, gave impetus that compelled me on. I kept thinking I’d just read one more chapter and found myself devouring A Conflict of Interests because I found it exciting and interesting.

I loved meeting Josephine Fox and am now desperate to read more with her as the protagonist. Jo is feisty and feminist, reckless and measured, intelligent and passionate, so that she is an ideal heroine. The depiction of her relationship with Richard made my blood boil whereas I was desperate for her to find happiness with Bram. Claire Gradidge made me care about Jo completely and I found myself cheering for her all the way.

Indeed, all the characters are so convincing, particularly the insidious Alec, so that A Conflict of Interests is peopled by realistic and fascinating individuals that really bring the narrative to life. I thought they were brilliantly depicted.

The themes weaving through the story give real texture. Social mores, the place of women in society, war and conflict, loyalty and morality, mental and physical health, rivalry, betrayal and courage all swirl through an absolutely super read, giving plenty for the reader to think about. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book.

Set against a brilliantly authentic, but not intrusive, historical backdrop, A Conflict of Interests manages to be a thriller, a romance and a social history that educates, entrances and entertains. I thought it was excellent and thoroughly recommend it.

About Claire Gradidge

Claire Gradidge was born and brought up in Romsey. After a career as, among other things, a nurse and a school librarian, she went to the University of Winchester, where she graduated in 2009 with a first class honours BA in Creative Writing. In January 2018, she was awarded a PhD in creative writing and The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox was written as the creative element of her PhD study. An early version of the opening 3000 words was highly commended in the Good Housekeeping Magazine competition in 2012.

Claire has taught at the University of Winchester as an Associate Lecturer for six years and has also had some short fictions and poems published in South, Orbis and Vortex. She has been married for 40 years and has two adult sons.

Follow Claire on Twitter @ClaireGradidge for more information.

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A Christmas Celebration by Heidi Swain

If you visit Linda’s Book Bag regularly, you’ll know how much I love Heidi Swain’s writing. You’ll find ten other posts featuring Heidi’s books here! Consequently I couldn’t be happier than to help celebrate her latest book, A Christmas Celebration by sharing my review today. My enormous thanks to Sara-Jade Virtue for sending me a copy of A Christmas Celebration.

Published by Simon and Schuster on 13th October 2022, A Christmas Celebration is available for purchase through the links here.

A Christmas Celebration

*** The sparkling new Christmas novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author Heidi Swain! ***

‘Grab a hot chocolate and lose yourself in this heart-warming story of romance, community and secrets. The perfect story to read by the fire!’ PHILLIPPA ASHLEY

‘Brimming with warmth and Christmas cheer’ SARAH MORGAN

When Paige turns up unannounced at Wynthorpe Hall, she discovers the place she knew when she was growing up has changed beyond all recognition. She’s only planning to stay for a short time, but is quickly pulled into local life.

One night while driving home after delivering library books and shopping to residents she stumbles across an isolated cottage and meets Albert, its elderly and rather grumpy owner. She quickly realises there’s more to Albert than meets the eye and the same can be said for the other man she can’t seem to help running into, handsome but brooding Brodie.

All three of them have a secret and a desire to hide away from the world, but with Christmas on the horizon, is that really the best way to celebrate the season?

My Review of A Christmas Celebration

It was so lovely to be back at Wynthorpe Hall with Heidi Swain. A Christmas Celebration felt like a total treat in book form. I do think, however, that Heidi Swain’s books should come with a warning. I’ve read so many that I ought to be used to it by now, but I swear I put on half a stone just reading her glorious descriptions of food. She has the ability to make me ravenous as I read.

There’s a smashing plot in A Christmas Celebration with all the Heidi Swain hallmarks I’ve come to expect, including a warm and uplifting sense of community, a fizzing romance and a totally engaging and entertaining story that transports the reader away from the cares of the real world for a while.

I love the way in which Heidi Swain blends romantic fiction with just a touch of mystery – in why Paige has left Jordan – and illustrates that the most wonderful sense of self worth and satisfaction in life can be achieved not through material riches, but through being kind and helping others. A Christmas Celebration is the most gorgeous antidote to the depressing negativity that pervades much of the real world. It leaves the reader feeling as if they’ve found real human connection again.

Alongside Paige who is a convincing amalgam of strength and vulnerability, and the attractive, enigmatic Brodie, the character who is most wonderful is Albert Price. He lends the story such a depth, reality and genuine morality that is utterly convincing. What I found most affecting was the way Heidi Swain explored how we so often have to live within the bounds set by others and how difficult it is to be true to ourselves. A Christmas Celebration might be a light, festive read, but that doesn’t mean it lacks emotion, gravitas and profound themes.

If you want your own festive joy, you really need Heidi Swain’s A Christmas Celebration. It is pure Christmas essence in book form and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

About Heidi Swain


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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The Echoes of Love by Jenny Ashcroft

Today I’m sharing another of my My Weekly online reviews and on this occasion it is of the truly wonderful The Echoes of Love by Jenny Ashcroft.

The Echoes of Love was published by Harper Collins’ HQ on 29th September 2022 and is available for purchase through the links here.

The Echoes of Love

Under the Cretan sun, in the summer of 1936, two young people fall in love…

Eleni has been coming to Crete her entire life, swapping her English home for cherished sun-baked summers with her grandfather, in the shoreside villa her lost mama grew up in. When she arrives in 1936, she believes the long, hot weeks ahead will be no different to so many that have gone before. But someone else is visiting the island that year too: a young German man called Otto. The two of them meet, and – far from the Nazi’s Berlin Olympics, the brewing civil war in Spain – share the happiest time of their lives; a summer of innocence lost, and love discovered; one that is finite, but not the end.

When, in 1941, the island falls to a Nazi invasion, Eleni and Otto meet there once more. It is a different place to the one they knew. Secrets have become currency, traded for lives, and trust is a luxury few can indulge in. Eleni has returned to fight for her home, Otto to occupy it. They are enemies, and their love is not only treacherous, it is dangerous – but will it destroy them, or prove strong enough to overcome the ravages of war?

An epic tale of secrets, love, loyalty, family and how far you’d go to keep those you love safe, The Echoes of Love is an exquisite and deeply moving love letter to Crete – one that will move every reader to tears.

My Review of The Echoes of Love

My full review of The Echoes of Love can be found on the My Weekly website here.

However, what I can say here is that The Echoes of Love is beautifully written and truly one of the most wonderful books I’ve ever had the privilege to read. I could not have loved it more.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Jenny Ashcroft

Jenny Ashcroft is a British author of historical fiction. Having spent many years living, working and exploring in Australia and Asia, she is now based in Brighton where she lives with her family by the sea. She has a degree from Oxford University in history, and has always been fascinated by the past—in particular the way that extraordinary events can transform the lives of normal people.

For more information, visit Jenny’s website or follow Jenny on Twitter @Jenny_Ashcroft and Instagram.

Staying in with Ruby Basu for a Book Birthday Blitz

I can’t believe how quickly this year is passing and here we are celebrating a Christmas book! It’s a real pleasure to feature Ruby Basu today as she tells me all about one of her books and I’d like to thank Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.

Staying in with Ruby Basu

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

Thank you for inviting me.

It’s a pleasure. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I’ve brought along The Twelve Wishes of Christmas, my debut novel which was published on October 13 last year so it’s out for a first birthday celebration.

What can we expect from an evening in with The Twelve Wishes of Christmas?

In The Twelve Wishes of Christmas Sharmila inherits the chance to experience a small-town American Christmas but she needs to complete items on a festive wish list to get her full inheritance. Zach must stop her if he wants to keep his family’s legacy. As they spend time together amongst the twinkling town lights and fallen snow, they learn to open up their hearts to the close-knit community and each other.

Oo. I like the sound of this one. How did you come up with the premise?

The book is my homage to Christmas movies, particularly those by Hallmark. I was watching a Christmas film and started thinking about what the story could look like with a South Asian-British protagonist. I wanted to explore the fish out of water theme not only in terms of place but the festive activities.

Great idea! What else have you brought along and why?

I’ve brought along some hot chocolate and marshmallows and a warm blanket to keep cosy while we watch some Hallmark Christmas movies. After the movies I have a jigsaw for us to work on while we listen to some Christmas carols. All of these are activities Sharmila got the chance to do when she had her dream holiday in the American small town of Pineford.

I rather think I’d like to meet Sharmila. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat about The Twelve Wishes of Christmas and happy book birthday! You get the hot chocolate made Ruby and I’ll give Linda’s Book Bag readers a few more details.

The Twelve Wishes of Christmas

She’s here for the perfect Christmas escape…

When Sharmila discovers her late friend, Thomas, has gifted her the holiday of her dreams, she can’t pack her bags fast enough. Arriving in Pineford, it’s everything she’d ever hoped for and more.

But she’s in for another surprise, because Thomas has left her with one last request: if she completes his Christmas wish list of festive activities, her chosen charity will receive a big donation. Or so Sharmila thinks.

…He’s there to reclaim his family’s legacy

Little does she know, she’s set to inherit Thomas’s estate too, much to his nephew Zach’s disbelief. Determined not to see his family’s legacy left to a stranger, he’s come to Pineford to do whatever it takes to stop Sharmila from fulfilling that list.

When Sharmila and Zach meet, neither are prepared for sparks to fly. For Sharmila’s sworn off love, and Zach doesn’t trust her. But with every passing wish they find themselves growing closer. And amongst the twinkling town lights and fallen snow, Sharmila can feel her heart opening up to Zach. But when she learns he’s been keeping a secret from her, can Sharmila forgive him and get the happy-ever-after she’s always wished for this Christmas?

The Twelve Wishes of Christmas is the perfect book to snuggle up with on those cosy wintry nights. Perfect for fans of Heidi Swain and Jo Thomas.

Published by HQ Digital, The Twelve Wishes of Christmas is available for purchase through the links here.

About Ruby Basu

Ruby lives in the beautiful Chilterns with her husband, two children, and the cutest dog in the world. She worked for many years as a lawyer and policy lead in the Civil Service.

As the second of four children, Ruby connected strongly with Little Women’s Jo March and was scribbling down stories from a young age. A huge fan of romantic movies, Star Wars, and Marvel, she loves creating new characters and worlds while waiting for her superpowers to develop.

For more information visit Ruby’s website, follow her on Twitter @writerrb01, or find her on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.

Sleep When You’re Dead by Jude O’Reilly

One of the pleasures of being privileged to review for My Weekly magazine online is getting to read books that I perhaps wouldn’t usually encounter. Today I’m delighted to share details of my My Weekly review of Sleep When You’re Dead by Jude O’Reilly – a book I might not otherwise have read!

Sleep When You’re Dead is published by Head of Zeus on 13th October 2022 and available for purchase here.

Sleep When You’re Dead

In thirty-six hours, thousands of innocent people will die. There’s not a second to waste. And no time for sleep…

Michael North has a bullet lodged in his brain which could kill him any second. That makes him the perfect MI5 asset: he’s ruthless, loyal, brave. And, best of all, disposable.

Teenage computer expert Fangfang Yu does not feel the same way. She’s determined to keep her friend out of danger – however many cyber laws she has to break to keep him alive.

Now North has been sent undercover into a doomsday cult on a remote Scottish island. He has thirty-six hours to stop their charismatic leader from inciting the murder of thousands. He can only do it with Fangfang’s help – but when they uncover a shocking link between the cult and the dark heart of the US defence establishment, it doesn’t just put North’s life at risk… it threatens Fangfang too.

Perfect for fans of David Baldacci, Lee Child and Mark Dawson, Sleep When You’re Dead is a rollercoaster action thriller packed with twists that will keep you up all night.

My Review of Sleep When You’re Dead

My full review of Sleep When You’re Dead can be found on the My Weekly website here.

However, what I can say here is that Sleep When You’re Dead is a fast paced, action packed story that simply doesn’t let up. I found it gripping and exciting.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Jude O’Reilly

Jude O’Reilly is the author of Wife in the North, a top-three Sunday Times bestseller and BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week, and The Year of Doing Good. Jude is a former senior journalist with the Sunday Times and a former political producer with BBC 2’s Newsnight and ITN’s Channel 4 News. Her Michael North series has been praised by bestselling thriller writers around the globe.

For further information visit Jude’s website, follow her on Twitter @judithoreilly or Instagram and find her on Facebook.

Wolf Pack by Will Dean

I’m becoming rather an avid Will Dean fan and so I was delighted to be invited to participate in the blog tour for his latest book, Wolf Pack. My enormous thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate. I’m delighted to share my review of Wolf Pack today.

My review of Will Dean’s First Born can be found here, of Bad Apples here and of The Last Thing to Burn here.

Published by One World imprint Point Blank on 6th October 2022, Wolf Pack is available for purchase through the links here.

Wolf Pack

When there’s a pack on the hunt, nobody’s safe

A closed community

Rose Farm is home to a group of survivalists, completely cut off from the outside world. Until now.

A missing person

A young woman goes missing within the perimeter of the farm compound. Can Tuva talk her way inside the tight-knit group to find her story?

A frantic search

As Tuva attempts to unmask the culprit, she gains unique access to the residents. But soon she finds herself in danger of the pack turning against her – will she make her way back to safety so she can expose the truth?

Will Dean’s most heart-pounding Tuva Moodyson thriller yet takes Tuva to her absolute limits in exposing a heinous crime, and in her own personal life. Can she, and will she, do the right thing?

My Review of Wolf Pack

I was late to Will Dean’s Tuva Moodyson series, but my goodness I’m glad I’ve found it. What is so wonderful is that you know Will Dean is going to write a compelling plot interwoven with pitch perfect descriptions of settings through varied and gorgeously crafted prose. I adore in particular the short, simple sentences that are packed with nuance and meaning, pulling the reader up short. Wolf Pack is no exception and has all these features in spades, including those end of chapter hooks that don’t allow the reader to tear themselves from the story. It doesn’t matter at all that this book is part of a series because there’s enough reference to Tuva’s back story to inform the reader, without interfering with the coherence of narrative, making Wolf Pack a fabulous stand alone read. There’s a filmic quality to the writing so that the reader gets the full range of settings from a single drop of blood on the floor to a panoramic view of an entire region.

The plot simply races along, catching the reader unawares and engaging them completely. However, aside from a fast paced and exciting thriller, there’s a strong undercurrent of emotion that runs through this latest Tuva book, giving moments of surprisingly effective tenderness that brought a lump to my throat. There’s a realistic exploration of grief and how it can affect us through the members of the Rose Farm community, but especially through Tuva’s relationship with Noora. Will Dean illustrates a compelling insight into guilt, identity and acceptance that I found very affecting.

Tuva is such a rounded, layered character that it is impossible not to be attracted to her. Her blend of strength and vulnerability is absolutely pitch perfect. Through her the reader gets to understand small town, isolated lives and gains a terrifyingly prescient insight into cults, preppers and those whose lives are slightly askew from the rest of us. Each aspect is so convincing that I’ve found the concepts underpinning Wolf Pack resonate disturbingly long after the book is finished.

Taut, claustrophobic (literally at one point) and atmospheric, Wolf Pack is so, so good. I truly resented life intervening when it prevented me accompanying Tuva as she tried to determine how Elsa died. I cannot recommend Will Dean’s writing strongly enough. Wolf Pack is a fabulous addition to his body of work and I loved it.

About Will Dean

Will Dean lives in the middle of a vast elk forest in Sweden, where the Tuva Moodyson novels are set. He grew up in the East Midlands. After studying Law at the LSE, and working in London, he settled in rural Sweden and built a wooden house in a boggy clearing, where he lives with his wife and son, and it’s from this base that he reads and writes.

Will Dean is the author of Dark Pines, Red Snow, Black River and Bad Apples in the Tuva Moodyson series. His debut novel in the series, Dark Pines, was selected for Zoe Ball’s Book Club and shortlisted for the Guardian Not the Booker prize. The second, Red Snow, won Best Independent Voice at the Amazon Publishing Readers’ Awards and was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2020, as was his third novel, Black River. The series is in development for television. Will is also the author of two stand-alone novels, The Last Thing to Burn, shortlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2022, and First Born, both published by Hodder.

Will Dean posts regularly about reading and writing on YouTube and you can find him on Twitter @willrdean, Instagram and Facebook.

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An Extract from Discipline is Destiny by Ryan Holiday

When I was working I was incredibly well organised and disciplined in everything I did. Since I retired that level of discipline seems to be just out of reach! Consequently I’m delighted to have an extract from Ryan Holiday’s Discipline is Destiny to share with you as I feel it might help!

Published by Profile on 27th September 2022, Discipline is Destiny is available for purchase through the links here.

Discipline is Destiny

The inscription on the Oracle of Delphi says: ‘Nothing in excess.’ C.S. Lewis described temperance as going to the ‘right length but no further.’ Easy to say, hard to practice – and if it was tough in 300 BC, or in the 1940s, it feels all but impossible today. Yet it’s the most empowering and important virtue any of us can learn.

Without self-discipline, all our plans fall apart. Here, Ryan Holiday shows how to cultivate willpower, moderation and self-control in our lives. From Aristotle and Marcus Aurelius, to Toni Morrison and Queen Elizabeth II, he illuminates the great exemplars of its practice and what we can learn from them. Moderation is not about abstinence: it is about self-respect, focus and balance. Without it, even the most positive traits become vices. But with it, happiness and success are assured: the key is not more but finding the right amount.

An Extract from Discipline is Destiny

Attack the Dawn

It was early, always early, when Toni Morrison awoke to write. In the dark, she would move quietly, making that first cup of coffee. She’d sit at her desk in her small apartment, and as her mind cleared and the sun rose and the light filled the room, she would write. She did this for years, practicing this secular ritual used not just by writers but by countless busy and driven people for all time.

“Writers all devise ways to approach that place where they expect to make the contact,” she’d later reflect, “where they become the conduit, or where they engage in this mysterious process. For me, light is the signal in the transition. It’s not being in the light, it’s being there before it arrives. It enables me, in some sense.”

But of course, it was as practical as it was spiritual. Because at the beginning of her career, Morrison was also a single work- ing mother of two young boys. Her job as an editor for Random House occupied her days, her children every other minute, and by the late evening she was burned out, too tired to think. It was the precious early morning hours between the parting dark and the rising dawn, before her boys uttered the word Mama, before the pile of manuscripts from work demanded her attention, before the commute, before the phone calls, before the bills beckoned, before the dishes needed to be done, it was then that she could be a writer.

Early , she was free. Early, she was confident and clearheaded and full of energy. Early, the obligations of life existed only in theory and not in fact. All that mattered, all that was there, was the story—the inspiration and the art.

There she was, starting her first novel in 1965, freshly divorced, thirty-four years old struggling as one of the few black women in an incredibly white, male industry. Yet in her mind, this was “the height of life.” She was no longer a child, and yet for all her responsibilities, everything was quite simple: Her kids needed her to be an adult. So did her unfinished novel.

Wake up. Show up. Be present.

Give it everything you’ve got.

Which she did. Even after The Bluest Eyes was published to rave reviews in 1970. She followed it with ten more novels, nine nonfiction works, five children’s books, two plays, and short stories. And she earned herself a National Book Award, a Nobel Prize and a Presidential Medal. Yet for all the plaudits, she must have been most proud of having done it while being a great mother, a great working mother.

Of course, it’s not exactly fun to wake up early. Even the people who have reaped a lifetime of benefits from it, still struggle with it. You think you’re not a morning person? Nobody is a morning person.*

But at least in the morning, are free. Hemingway would talk about how he’d get up early because early, there was “no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write.” Morrison found she was just more confident in the morning, before the day had exacted its toll and the mind was fresh. Like most of us, she realized she was just “not very bright or very witty or very inventive after the sun goes down.” Who can be? After a day of banal conversations, frustrations, mistakes, and exhaustion.

Not that it’s all about being clever. There’s a reason CEOs hit the gym early—they still have willpower then. There’s a reason people read and think in the morning—they know they might not get time later. There’s a reason coaches get to the facility before everyone else—they can get a jump on the competition that way.

Be up and doing.

While you’re fresh. While you can. Grab that hour before daylight. Grab that hour before traffic. Grab it while no one is looking, while everyone else is still asleep.

In Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, we hear the most powerful man in the world trying to convince himself to get out of bed at dawn when the lower part of himself wants desperately to stay. “Is this what I was created for?” he asks of his reluctance. “To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”

Yes, it is nicer under there. But is that what we were born for? To feel nice? That’s how you’re going to spend the gift of life, the gift of this present moment which you will never have again? “Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants, and the spiders and the bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can?” he said to himself but also to us. “And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?”

Yet here we are, thousands of years later, still hitting the snooze button on our alarms. Here we are, wasting the most pro- ductive hours of the day, choosing to reject these moments be- fore the interruptions, before the distractions, before the rest of the world gets up and going too. Passing on the opportunity to gather our flowering potential while it’s freshest, still shining with morning dew.

“I think Christ has recommended rising early in the morn- ing, by rising from his grave very early,” observed the theologian Jonathan Edwards in the 1720s. Is that why quiet mornings seem so holy? Perhaps it’s that we’re tapping into the traditions of our ancestors, who also rose early to pray, to farm, to fetch water from the river or the well, to travel across the desert before the sun got too hot.

When you have trouble waking up, when you find it hard, remind yourself of who you come from, remind yourself of the tradition, remind yourself of what is at stake. Think, as Morri- son did, of her grandmother, who had more children and an even harder life. Think of Morrison herself, who certainly did not have it easy, and still got up early.

Think of how lucky you are. Be glad to be awake (because it’s better than the alternative, which we’ll all greet one day). Feel the joy of being able to do what you love.

Cherish the time. But most of all, use it.

* While we might say that waking up early might not be for absolutely everyone . . . it is for almost everyone.


Wise words indeed Ryan!

About Ryan Holiday

Ryan Holiday is one of the world’s foremost writers on ancient philosophy and its place in everyday life. His books, including The Obstacle Is the Way, Ego Is the Enemy, The Daily Stoic, and the #1 New York Times bestseller Stillness Is the Key have sold millions of copies and been translated into over 40 languages. He lives outside Austin, Texas, with his wife and two boys… and cows and donkeys and goats. He founded a bookshop during the pandemic called The Painted Porch, which features a carefully curated selection of Ryan’s favourite books and a stunning fireplace display made from 2000 books.

For more information, follow Ryan on Twitter @RyanHoliday or visit his website. You’ll also find Ryan on Facebook and Instagram.

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