2022’s Most Recommended Reads from Linda’s Book Bag

I thought long and hard about sharing my favourite reads this year because I can imagine it’s dispiriting for those authors who don’t find themselves on the innumerable lists that pop up at this time. However, I also thought that life is tough for us all and any celebration must be worth sharing.

Those who know me, know that as soon as I’ve finished reading a book I allocate a gut reaction score out of 100 to my blogging spreadsheet . Books that score 95-100 automatically become my books of the year. That doesn’t mean that there haven’t been other 5* reads – far from it – as I allocate five stars to books that I score 85+/100. This means that I don’t have an annual top 20 or any other number. I might have 30 top books one year and only three the next! According to Goodreads I have read 148 books this year, but not all those I read appear there, I’ve read others that I’ll be reviewing in 2023 and some I simply didn’t like so didn’t review. In my view, there’s no point in being negative. I’m a blogger, not a critic!

So, in the order that I reviewed them, out of the 165 or so books I read in 2022, here are my absolute favourites including thrillers, historical fiction, flash fiction, poetry, short stories, romantic fiction, memoir, non-fiction, literary fiction, children’s books and (can you believe it?) one with a supernatural horror element:

The Library by Bella Osborne

Two lonely bookworms. An unexpected friendship. A library that needs their help

Teenager Tom has always blended into the background of life. After a row with his dad and facing an unhappy future at the dog food factory, he escapes to the library.

Pensioner Maggie has been happily alone with her beloved novels for ten years – at least, that’s what she tells herself.

When they meet, they recognise something in each other that will change both their lives for ever.

Then the library comes under threat of closure, and they must join forces to prove that it’s not just about books – it’s the heart of their community.

They are determined to save it – because some things are worth fighting for.

Published by Head of Zeus imprint Aria, you’ll find my review of The Library on the My Weekly website here.

Behind the Veil by E.J. Dawson

Can she keep the secrets of her past to rescue a girl tormented by a ghost?

In 1920s Los Angeles, Letitia Hawking reads the veil between life and death. A scrying bowl allows her to experience the final moments of the deceased. She brings closure to grief-stricken war widows and mourning families.

For Letitia, it is a penance. She knows no such peace.

For Alasdair Driscoll, it may be the only way to save his niece, Finola, from her growing night terrors. But when Letitia sees a shadowy figure attached to the household, it rouses old fears of her unspeakable past in England.

When a man comes to her about his missing daughter, the third girl to go missing in as many months, Letitia can’t help him when she can’t see who’s taken them.

As a darkness haunts Letitia’s vision, she may not be given a choice in helping the determined Mr Driscoll, or stop herself falling in love with him. But to do so risks a part of herself she locked away, and to release it may cost Letitia her sanity and her heart.

Way out of my usual comfort zone, I loved this one and you’ll find my review of Behind the Veil published by Literary Wanderlust here.

The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs

Eliza Acton, despite having never before boiled an egg, became one of the world’s most successful cookery writers, revolutionizing cooking and cookbooks around the world. Her story is fascinating, uplifting and truly inspiring.

Told in alternate voices by the award-winning author of The Joyce Girl, and with recipes that leap to life from the page, The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs is the most thought-provoking and page-turning historical novel you’ll read this year, exploring the enduring struggle for female freedom, the power of female friendship, the creativity and quiet joy of cooking and the poetry of food, all while bringing Eliza Action out of the archives and back into the public eye.

Published by Simon and Schuster, you’ll find my review of The Language of Food here.

Reputation by Sarah Vaughan

Emma Webster is a respectable MP.

Emma Webster is a devoted mother.

Emma Webster is innocent of the murder of a tabloid journalist.

Emma Webster is a liar.

#Reputation: The story you tell about yourself. And the lies others choose to believe…

Published by Simon and Schuster you’ll find my review of Reputation here.

100 Voices edited by Miranda Roszkowski

100 Voices is an anthology of writing by women across the country on what achievement means for them, and how they have come to find their own voice. Featuring poetry, fiction and memoir, the pieces range from notes on making lemon curd, to tales of marathon running and riding motorbikes, to accounts of a refugee eating English food for the first time, a newlywed learning her mother tongue and a woman rebuilding her life after an abusive relationship.

The poignant, funny and inspiring stories collected here are as varied and diverse as their authors, who include established names such as Louise Jensen, Sabrina Mahfouz, Yvonne Battle-Felton and Miranda Keeling alongside a host of exciting new writers. Taken together, they build a picture of what it’s really like to be a woman in the UK today.

Published by Unbound, you’ll find my review of 100 Voices here.

The Green Indian Problem by Jade Leaf Willetts

Set in the valleys of South Wales at the tail end of Thatcher’s Britain, The Green Indian Problem is the story of Green, a seven year-old with intelligence beyond his years – an ordinary boy with an extraordinary problem: everyone thinks he’s a girl.

Green sets out to try and solve the mystery of his identity, but other issues keep cropping up – God, Father Christmas, cancer – and one day his best friend goes missing, leaving a rift in the community and even more unanswered questions. Dealing with deep themes of friendship, identity, child abuse and grief, The Green Indian Problem is, at heart, an all-too-real story of a young boy trying to find out why he’s not like the other boys in his class.

Published by Renard Press, you’ll find my review of The Green Indian Problem here.

The Lost Whale by Hannah Gold

What if you could communicate with a whale?

Rio has been sent to live with a grandmother he barely knows in California, while his mum is in hospital back home. Alone and adrift, the only thing that makes him smile is joining his new friend Marina on her dad’s whale watching trips. That is until an incredible encounter with White Beak, a gentle giant of the sea changes everything. But when White Beak goes missing, Rio must set out on a desperate quest to find his whale and somehow save his mum.

Dive into this incredible story about the connection between a boy and a whale and the bond that sets them both free.

Perfect for readers of 8+, beautifully illustrated throughout by Levi Pinfold – winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal and illustrator of Harry Potter 20th anniversary edition covers.

Published by Harper Collins’ Children’s Books you’ll find my review of The Lost Whale here.

Peach Blossom Spring by Melissa Fu

It is 1938 in China, and the Japanese are advancing. A young mother, Meilin, is forced to flee her burning city with here four-year-old son, Renshu, and embark on an epic journey across China. For comfort, they turn to their most treasured possession – a beautifully illustrated hand scroll. Its ancient fables offer solace and wisdom as they travel through their ravaged country, seeking refuge.

Years later, Renshu has settled in America as Henry Dao. His daughter is desperate to understand her heritage, but he refuses to talk about his childhood. How can he keep his family safe in this new land when the weight of his history threatens to drag them down?

Spanning continents and generations, Peach Blossom Spring is a bold and moving look at the history of modern China, told through the story of one family. It’s about the power of our past, the hope for a better future, and the search for a place to call home.

Published by Headline imprint Wildfire you’ll find my review of Peach Blossom Spring here.

The Clockwork Girl by Anna Mazzola

Paris, 1750.

In the midst of an icy winter, as birds fall frozen from the sky, chambermaid Madeleine Chastel arrives at the home of the city’s celebrated clockmaker and his clever, unworldly daughter.

Madeleine is hiding a dark past, and a dangerous purpose: to discover the truth of the clockmaker’s experiments and record his every move, in exchange for her own chance of freedom.

For as children quietly vanish from the Parisian streets, rumours are swirling that the clockmaker’s intricate mechanical creations, bejewelled birds and silver spiders, are more than they seem.

And soon Madeleine fears that she has stumbled upon an even greater conspiracy. One which might reach to the very heart of Versailles…

A intoxicating story of obsession, illusion and the price of freedom.

Published by Orion, you’ll find my review of The Clockwork Girl here.

A Little Hope by Ethan Joella

Set in an idyllic Connecticut town over the course of a year, A Little Hope follows the intertwining lives of a dozen neighbours as they confront everyday desires and fears: an illness, a road not taken, a broken heart, a betrayal.

Freddie and Greg Tyler seem to have it all: a comfortable home at the edge of the woods, a beautiful young daughter, a bond that feels unbreakable. But when Greg is diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer, the sense of certainty they once knew evaporates overnight. Meanwhile, Darcy Crowley is still coming to terms with the loss of her husband as she worries over her struggling adult son, Luke. Elsewhere, Ginger Lord returns home longing for a lost relationship; Ahmed Ghannam wonders if he’ll ever find true love; and Greg’s boss, Alex Lionel, grapples with a secret of his own.

 Celebrating the grace in everyday life, this powerful debut immerses the reader in a community of friends, family, and neighbours and identifies the ways that love and forgiveness can help us survive even the most difficult of life’s challenges.

Published by Muswell Press you’ll find my review of A Little Hope here.

Only May by Carol Lovekin

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.

Published by Honno, you’ll find my review of Only May here.

A Golden Cornish Summer by Phillipa Ashley

Under the golden Cornish sun, buried treasure and family secrets will change Emma’s life forever…

Emma loved her life in the seaside village of Silver Cove. But when the discovery of sunken treasure ignited a feud between her family and that of Luke, her first love, everything fell apart. Heartbroken and betrayed, she fled.

Now, as she wades into the sparkling surf for the first time in fifteen years, she remembers everything she loved about this beautiful place. Then a huge wave knocks her off her feet. Wet and dripping, Emma is rescued by none other than Luke – who is, to her dismay, even more handsome than ever.

As their paths continue to cross, and Emma is reminded of everything she ran away from, she starts to wonder if returning home was a huge mistake.

Or could the real treasure have been waiting here for her all along?

A heart-warming read full of sun, sea, friendship and romance. Fans of Sarah Morgan and Trisha Ashley will be hooked from the very first page.

Published by Harper Collins’ imprint Avon, you’ll find my review of A Golden Cornish Summer on the My Weekly website here.

Stargazer by Laurie Petrou


Diana Martin has lived her life in the shadow of her sadistic older brother. She quietly watches the family next door, enthralled by celebrity fashion designer Marianne Taylor and her feted daughter, Aurelle.

She wishes she were a ‘Taylor girl’.

By the summer of 1995, the two girls are at university together, bonded by a mutual desire to escape their wealthy families and personal tragedies and forge new identities.

They are closer than lovers, intoxicated by their own bond, falling into the hedonistic seduction of the woods and the water at a remote university that is more summer camp than campus.

But when burgeoning artist Diana has a chance at fame, cracks start to appear in their friendship. To what lengths is Diana willing to go to secure her own stardom?

Published by Verve, you’ll find my review of Stargazer here.

Ginger and Me by Elissa Soave

Wendy is lonely but coping.

All nineteen-year-old Wendy wants is to drive the 255 bus around Uddingston with her regulars on board, remember to buy milk when it runs out and just to be okay. After her mum died, there’s nobody to remind her to eat and what to do each day.

And Wendy is ready to step out of her comfort zone.

Each week she shows her social worker the progress she’s made, like the coasters she bought to spruce up the place, even if she forgets to make tea. And she even joins a writers’ group to share the stories she writes, like the one about a bullied boy who goes to Mars.

But everything changes when Wendy meets Ginger.

A teenager with flaming orange hair, Ginger’s so brave she’s wearing a coat that isn’t even waterproof. For the first time, Wendy has a real best friend. But as they begin the summer of their lives, Wendy wonders if things were simpler before. And that’s before she realizes just how much trouble Ginger is about to get them in…

Published by Harper Collins’ imprint HQ, you’ll find my review of Ginger and Me on the My Weekly website here.

All I Said Was True by Imran Mahmood

When Amy Blahn was murdered on a London office rooftop, Layla Mahoney was there. She held Amy as she died. But all she can say when police arrest her is that ‘It was Michael. Find Michael and you’ll find out everything you need to know.’

The problem is, the police can’t find Michael – there is no evidence that he exists. And time is running out before they have to either charge Layla with Amy’s murder, or let her go.

As a lawyer, Layla knows that she has only forty-eight hours to convince police to investigate the man she knows only as ‘Michael’ instead of her.

But the more she attempts to control her interviews with police, the more the truth leaks out – and how much of that truth can Layla risk being exposed?

Published by Bloomsbury Raven, you’ll find my review of All I Said Was True here.

Letter From A Tea Garden by Abi Oliver

1965, an English country mansion.

Eleanora Byngh is not in a good state. Wedded to the whisky bottle and with her house crumbling round her ears, her days seem destined to follow a lonely (and grumpy) downhill path.

When the post brings an unexpected invitation to return to the Indian tea gardens of her childhood, Eleanora risks breaking open painful memories of her younger years, lived across a tumultuous century.

As relationships with her new-found family face their own challenges, she is offered fresh truths, the chance of love and unexpected new life – if she is prepared to take them.

You’ll find my review of Letter From A Tea Garden here.

The Lighthouse Bookshop by Sharon Gosling

At the heart of a tiny community in a remote village just inland from the Aberdeenshire coast stands an unexpected lighthouse. Built two centuries ago by an eccentric landowner, it has become home to the only bookshop for miles around.

Rachel is an incomer to the village. She arrived five years ago and found a place she could call home. So when the owner of the Lighthouse Bookshop dies suddenly, she steps in to take care of the place, trying to help it survive the next stage of its life.

But when she discovers a secret in the lighthouse, long kept hidden, she realises there is more to the history of the place than she could ever imagine. Can she uncover the truth about the lighthouse’s first owner? And can she protect the secret history of the place?

Published by Simon and Schuster, you’ll find my review of The Lighthouse Bookshop on the My Weekly website here.

The Lost Man of Bombay by Vaseem Khan

Bombay, 1950

When the body of a white man is found frozen in the Himalayan foothills near Dehra Dun, he is christened the Ice Man by the national media. Who is he? How long has he been there? Why was he killed?

As Inspector Persis Wadia and Metropolitan Police criminalist Archie Blackfinch investigate the case in Bombay, they uncover a trail left behind by the enigmatic Ice Man – a trail leading directly into the dark heart of conspiracy.

Meanwhile, two new murders grip the city. Is there a serial killer on the loose, targeting Europeans?

Rich in atmosphere, the thrilling third chapter in the CWA Historical Dagger-winning Malabar House series pits Persis against a mystery from beyond the grave, unfolding against the backdrop of a turbulent post-colonial India, a nation struggling to redefine itself in the shadow of the Raj.

Published by Hodder and Stoughton, you’ll find my review of The Lost Man of Bombay here.

I Am Ill With Hope: poems and sketches by Gommie

In 2019 poet-artist Gommie began walking the coastline of an England with nothing but a backpack, a tent and an unusually large collection of pens. His aim? Searching for hope during increasingly hard times.

From losing his way on the Dover Hills to bankruptcy in Rhyl and wild camping in Scarborough, Gommie’s extraordinary journey is still ongoing, and his findings, a deeply moving mixture of texture, illustration, poetry and verbatim conversations, are a gentle homage to the often-overlooked places we inhabit and the frequently forgotten voices we hear.

Published by Salamander Street, you’ll find my review of I Am Ill With Hope here.

The Manhattan Girls by Gill Paul


An impossible dream.

The war is over, the twenties are roaring, but in the depths of the city that never sleeps, Dorothy Parker is struggling to make her mark in a man’s world. A broken woman.

She’s penniless, she’s unemployed and her marriage is on the rocks when she starts a bridge group with three extraordinary women – but will they be able to save her from herself?

A fight for survival.

When tragedy strikes, and everything Dorothy holds dear is threatened, it’s up to Peggy, Winifred and Jane to help her confront the truth before it’s too late. Because the stakes may be life or death…

Published by Harper Collins’ Avon imprint, you’ll find my review of The Manhattan Girls here.

One Last Gift by Emily Stone

For as long as Cassie can remember, it had been the three of them: Cassie, her big brother Tom, and Tom’s annoying best friend Sam.

Now, Tom is sorted, Sam is flying high, and Cassie thinks she’s figured it all out. Then tragedy happens and three becomes two.

For Cassie picking herself up seems unimaginable. Until she finds an envelope addressed to her, asking her to follow the trail to one last gift…

And suddenly what seems like an ending leads Cassie to something unexpected, beautiful and new…

Published by Headline Review, you’ll find my review of One Last Gift here.

Skip to the End by Molly James

Three kisses. Two break ups. One happy ending…

Amy Daniels has a pretty nice life. Her career is on the up, she loves her friends, and she’s about to buy her very own flat. On a good day, Amy could be described as a catch – so why is she perpetually single?

The trouble is, Amy can see something no one else can: the end. As soon as she kisses someone, she knows, in intimate, vivid detail, how their relationship will end. A screaming argument in the middle of the supermarket over milk. An explicit email sent to the wrong address. A hasty escape through a bathroom window on the second date. At the altar – runaway-bride style. There seems to be no end to the unhappy endings.

After years of trying, and failing, to change a pre-written future, Amy has given up. But then she drunkenly kisses three men at her best friend’s wedding and sees three possible endings: two painful, one perfect. The problem is, Amy can’t really remember who she kissed, and worse, what ending belongs to which person – the only thing she knows for certain is that she’s determined to find out…

This novel will have you swirling with first date butterflies, crying with laughter and finally, brimming with joy. The perfect summer read for fans of Lindsey Kelk, Mhairi McFarlane and Sophie Cousens.

Published by Quercus, you’ll find my review of Skip to the End here.

Ravished by Anna Vaught

Ravished, subtitled A Series of Reflections on Age, Sex, Death, and Judgement, is the second collection from Anna Vaught. These are peculiar tales, weird fiction, gothic, unusual, full of literary allusion, threaded through with classical and Welsh reference, occasionally starring the author’s relatives and the Virgin Mary. Sometimes funny, morbid, potentially inspiring, Ravished is both revolting and pretty; both awful and yet optimistic in the stress it places on playful language and the abundance of the imagination. The stories explore revenge, angels, an encounter with faith, death and loss and are full of off-kilter experiences, such as a chat with the holy spirit on a bench, a love story in an embalming parlour, passing the time with the man who’s going to bury you and why you should never underestimate the power of the landscape or the weird outcast you underestimated.

Published by Reflex Press, you’ll find my review of Ravished here.

The Big Amazing Poetry Book edited by Gaby Morgan and illustrated by Chris Riddell

A brilliant introduction to 52 fantastic poets introduced by Roger McGough and illustrated by Chris Riddell. The Big Amazing Poetry Book is a warm, funny collection snd packed with different styles of poetry – ballads, riddles, tongue-twisters, shape poems, haikus, sonnets and raps – about seasons, festivals, animals, birds, love, war, food, fish and football and much more. There are 7 poems and a biography to showcase each poet and stunning line artwork on every page.

Published by Pan Macmillan Children’s Books, you’ll find my review of The Big Amazing Poetry Book here.

From Now by Amelia Henley

A heartbreaking tragedy.
Charlie left his hometown behind years ago and hasn’t looked back since. These days, with a successful career and a beautiful soon-to-be fiancée, he couldn’t be happier. But when he receives some unexpected news, his life is forever changed.

A life-changing choice.
Suddenly things are falling apart, and now Charlie has to care for his family. How is he supposed to look after a heartbroken little brother and a sullen teenage sister who want nothing to do with him? He’s completely at a loss and knows he can’t do it alone – not without the help of his oldest friend, Pippa.

The chance to start afresh.
As Charlie steps back into his old life, he soon realises it’s only his family who needs fixing, there’s also his relationship with Pippa too. But returning home is a painful reminder of all that he lost and tried so hard to forget. And if Charlie is to fight for what he wants, first he must face up to his own past and decide whether he is ready to let go…

Published by Harper Collins’ imprint HQ, you’ll find my Review of From Now On here.

Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson

1926, and in a country still recovering from the Great War, London has become the focus for a delirious new nightlife. In the clubs of Soho, peers of the realm rub shoulders with starlets, foreign dignitaries with gangsters, and girls sell dances for a shilling a time.

At the heart of this glittering world is notorious Nellie Coker, ruthless but also ambitious to advance her six children, including the enigmatic eldest, Niven whose character has been forged in the crucible of the Somme. But success breeds enemies, and Nellie’s empire faces threats from without and within. For beneath the dazzle of Soho’s gaiety, there is a dark underbelly, a world in which it is all too easy to become lost.

With her unique Dickensian flair, Kate Atkinson brings together a glittering cast of characters in a truly mesmeric novel that captures the uncertainty and mutability of life; of a world in which nothing is quite as it seems.

Published by Transworld, you’ll find my review of Shrines of Gaiety here.

Women Like Us by Amanda Prowse

I guess the first question to ask is, what kind of woman am I? Well, you know those women who saunter into a room, immaculately coiffed and primped from head to toe?

If you look behind her, you’ll see me.

From her childhood, where there was no blueprint for success, to building a career as a bestselling novelist against all odds, Amanda Prowse explores what it means to be a woman in a world where popularity, slimness, beauty and youth are currency―and how she overcame all of that to forge her own path to happiness.

Sometimes heartbreaking, often hilarious and always entirely relatable, Prowse details her early struggles with self-esteem and how she coped with the frustrating expectations others had of how she should live. Most poignantly, she delves into her toxic relationship with food, the hardest addiction she has ever known, and how she journeyed out the other side.

One of the most candid memoirs you’re ever likely to read, Women Like Us provides welcome insight into how it is possible―against the odds―to overcome insecurity, body consciousness and the ubiquitous imposter syndrome to find happiness and success, from a woman who’s done it all, and then some.

Published by Little A, you’ll find my review of Women Like Us here.

The Echoes of Love by Jenny Ashcroft

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.

Published by Harper Collins’ imprint HQ, you’ll find my review on the My Weekly website here.

The Empire by Michael Ball

Welcome to The Empire theatre

1922. When Jack Treadwell arrives at The Empire, in the middle of a rehearsal, he is instantly mesmerised. But amid the glitz and glamour, he soon learns that the true magic of the theatre lies in its cast of characters – both on stage and behind the scenes.

There’s stunning starlet Stella Stanmore and Hollywood heartthrob Lancelot Drake; and Ruby Rowntree, who keeps the music playing, while Lady Lillian Lassiter, theatre owner and former showgirl, is determined to take on a bigger role. And then there’s cool, competent Grace Hawkins, without whom the show would never go on . . . could she be the leading lady Jack is looking for?

When long-held rivalries threaten The Empire’s future, tensions rise along with the curtain. There is treachery at the heart of the company and a shocking secret waiting in the wings. Can Jack discover the truth before it’s too late, and the theatre he loves goes dark?

Published by Zaffre, you’ll find my review of The Empire here.

Keeping A Christmas Promise by Jo Thomas

One Icelandic Christmas holiday. One snowstorm. An adventure they’ll never forget!

Twenty-five years ago, Freya and her three best friends created a bucket list. The future seemed bright and full of hope . . . But now they are travelling to Iceland in memory of the friend they’ve lost, determined to fulfil her dream of seeing the Northern Lights at Christmas.

They didn’t count on an avalanche leaving them stranded! Handsome local, Pétur, comes to the rescue, showing them how the community survives the hard winter. With Christmas approaching, Freya and her friends throw themselves into the festivities, decorating and cooking for the villagers using delicious local ingredients.

But will they manage to see the Northern Lights? And can Freya’s own dreams come true, this Christmas?

Published by Penguin, you’ll find my review of Keeping A Christmas Promise on the My Weekly website here.

The Cornish Cream Tea Bookshop by Cressida McLaughlin

Ollie Spencer has started a new life in the idyllic Cornish seaside town of Port Karadow. Throwing herself into her job at the town’s bookshop, A New Chapter, is one way to make friends. The shop is glitzing up for first Christmas and Ollie hopes her inspired ideas will give the shop the edge it needs to dazzle the town.

But far from being the Sugar Plum fairy the place needs, Ollie is fast becoming its Christmas pudding. With the bookshop’s success at stake, Ollie turns to twinkly-eyed café owner Max for help. Can he help Ollie to turn the page, and put the sparkle back into her Cornish dream?

Published by Harper Collins, you’ll find my review of The Cornish Cream Tea Bookshop on the My Weekly website here.


My Favourite Read of 2022

You deserve a medal if you’re still with me after all that, but I just have one more thing to add and that’s my outright favourite book of 2022. I loved every single one of those listed above, but one book stood out above all else for me and that was The Echoes of Love by Jenny Ashcroft. The Echoes of Love certainly has romantic love, but it encompasses so many forms of love – and hatred – is authentic in time and place and has such relevance for what is happening in today’s world that I simply couldn’t fault it.


I hope you’ve found a book that appeals amongst my favourite reads. Here’s to a 2023 filled with wonderful stories. Happy New Year!

Death in Heels by Kitty Murphy

On 4th January I’ll be running a giveaway for Death in Heels by Kitty Murphy as part of the paperback launch blog tour, but today I’m delighted to share my review of this first book in the Dublin Drag Mysteries. My enormous thanks to Rhiannon at FmCM for sending me a copy of Death in Heels in return for an honest review.

Death in Heels will be published by Thomas & Mercer on 1st January 2023 and is available for purchase here.

These are the stops if you’d like to follow the launch tour:

Death in Heels

When Fi went to support her best friend’s drag debut, she didn’t imagine a killer would be going to watch it too. And they’re waiting for their grand finale…

Fi McKinnery is full of nerves as the gorgeous Mae B (aka her best friend Robyn) takes to the stage for her debut at drag club TRASH, but Mae B is dazzling…that is until local queen Eve lampoons her performance and ruins the show. So when Eve turns up dead later that night, face down in the gutter of a rain-soaked Dublin street, the timing seems awfully suspicious…

The police are quick to rule Eve’s death an accident, but Fi is convinced it was foul play. When her ‘Hagatha Christie’ amateur sleuthing backfires, it drives a wedge between Fi and Robyn. But when another friend is targeted in a hit-and-run, she’s determined to get this twisted killer caught, no matter what the consequences.

Even as the rest of the gang start to distance themselves, Fi is certain that they’re all in terrible danger. Something dark is lurking beneath the feathers, glitter and sequins of Dublin’s drag scene. And it’s not just the sticky floor and cracked mirrors. Someone is targeting the queens. When another member of the group is gunned down, it’s clear the danger is coming ever closer. Can Fi stop the killer before any more of her friends are hurt?

My Review of Death in Heels

Drag queens are being hunted down.

Death in Heels opens with such a bang that Kitty Murphy grabs the reader’s attention and holds them in a vice-like grip. I was instantly so invested in Robyn and Fi that had Eve not been murdered I might just have climbed in the pages and killed her myself. 

There’s a chatty, conversational tone in Fi’s first person account that draws in the reader and makes them feel they are her only confidante as she tries to establish how Eve died.  There’s just enough colloquialism to make the direct speech feel perfectly fitting for the Dublin setting and that lends an authenticity to the story. The descriptions are beautifully written, clear and evocative so that Kitty Murphy places vivid images in the reader’s mind, creating a filmic quality that I found rather special. They contrast too with the humorous and often vitriolic, biting, comments some of the queens make, especially to Fi, so that Death in Heels feels balanced and nuanced.

My heart went out to Fi. Although Death in Heels is a murder mystery, Fi imbues an emotional element, illustrating how it feels never quite to belong, to be permanently on the outside or periphery. Indeed, her photography places her one pace removed from others in an affecting manner, making the reader empathise with her all the more. I found her development over the story surprisingly touching and all the more effective as she is the straight character who is isolated, rather than the LGBTQ+ community members. I loved too, the way her photography didn’t usually show people’s faces as this emphasised how we tend to make assumptions and judgements about others without knowing the full facts.

The plot romps along and gives a superb insight into the world of drag queens so that I felt I learnt a lot about how their personas change with their costumes and whether they are acting as male or female, lending a fascinating psychological viewpoint too. Although the narrative is relatively light even if it is a murder story, it does consider some profound issues of loyalty, family and isolation that add layers of interest at the same time as the reader is being thoroughly entertained by the story.

Death in Heels is witty, acerbic, interesting, entertaining and moving. I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed it.

About Kitty Murphy

Kitty lives with her husband, Roger, on the very westerly edge of Co. Clare, Ireland. She adores drag in all its forms and crime fiction in all its chilling splendour. Kitty is bi/queer. From a well-spent youth divided equally between the library and the LGBTQ+ scene, it was only a matter of time until both worlds collided in a flurry of fictional sequins.

For more information, follow Kitty on Twitter @scribblingink1 or find her on Instagram.

Staying in with Jessica Jayne Webb

Thanks to the lovely folk at Pegasus I have a copy of the book Jessica Jayne Webb has brought along today to share as we stay in together, and although I haven’t had chance to read it yet, I simply had to find out more. Let’s see what Jessica told me:

Staying in with Jessica Jayne Webb

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

Kia ora (Moari for hello)

Oh! Hello!

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

I am a kiwi/New Zealand writer bringing with me today my first published book, it has been a journey from starting to finishing with this book and it is very dear to me. I have brought this book as it is my first, that I have published. Between you and me I have already started book two, and have three others I have already started writing.

So no second book syndrome for you then Jessica!

What can we expect from an evening in with The Secrets of Wilderfort Castle?

Gosh where do I start! It jumps straight into the adventures of Agatha, our female main character; it is loosely based within the Victorian Era and with all her friends that join her along the way, she is building her crew around her as magic is lifted and the ever present war between good and evil builds. There is action, a little bit of romance, adventures, magic, daemons the good and evil kind and coming of age magic all squished into this book.

When writing this the Beta readers were excited for the final product, a comment made recently was “This is definitely movie material” and for me that’s a huge thing as I would love nothing more than to see my characters come to life. I have even been learning how to use parts of discord to create my characters and linking some to actors I thought would look good, hint hint to any film producers.

I’m not sure film producers read Linda’s Book Bag Jessica but you never know!

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

Since waiting for the release I have been listening to a lot of music, all of which I felt matched parts of the book and the scene that unfolds. Music such as Liberation by Buzz, Seven Devils by Florence and the Machine, and another would be Losing my mind by JXCKY. This is only three though, I guess with such a vivid imagination when I listen to this music it plays the scenes out in my head and my characters come to life.

That’s really interesting as some writers tell me they need total silence to write and others have playlists. Do I sound too old if I say I’ve never heard of Buzz or JXCKY (thank goodness for Florence and the Machine to stop me being totally ancient)?

I have also brought some images of my characters for you.

The sullen looking one is Alfred the moody teenager type death daemon, Agatha of course with her brilliant reddy auburn hair and Charles in his suit lovely tanned skin and brown to blonde hair, some others are also in there for you to have a wee looksie.

I’ve had a good look and I’m not sure I’d want to meet Hessis on a dark night Jessica! I’m not including them all here as readers will need to meet them by reading The Secrets of Wilderfort Castle. Thanks so much for staying in with me to chat all about the book.

The Secrets of Wilderfort Castle

Agatha Wilderfort has spent years trying to build a life in the city outside of the sleepy town where her aunt raised her, but is pulled back home when her aunt’s sudden death leaves their family manor in Agatha’s hands. She arrives to find the castle in grave need of repair and a local nobleman, Lord Caspian, sniffing around, clearly eager to get his hands on her inheritance. She hires several workmen and an assistant who knew her aunt and they start on the renovations.

But Agatha’s aunt wasn’t just a well-off spinster… she was the guardian of a world that has been hidden from Agatha until now, and Agatha’s inherited that responsibility, too. Unprepared, but ready to do her duty, Agatha learns about the dangers lurking in the background and her own history. Lord Caspian has sinister plans for her and her home, but fortunately for Agatha, she’s not alone. Learning of worlds more than just her own, her crew and her assistant, a handsome man who’s more than he appears, is there to help. Will they be able to stand against the darkness that Lord Caspian wants to unleash and find happiness together?

Published by Pegasus on 27th October 2022 The Secrets of Wilderfort Castle is available for purchase through the links here.

About Jessica Jayne Webb

Jessica Jayne Webb is a mother of two high functioning boys, and partner who is such a very patient man, he puts up with all her racing energies and can sleep through most of Jessica’s sleepless nights (she doesn’t sleep very much). Jessica lives in Wellington New Zealand in a semi detached cottage, with beautiful high ceiling wooden beams. It’s a small place with just two bedrooms and Jessica and her family are crammed in with their very charismatic dog Mandy who is Great Dane x Staffy. Jessica has no idea how that worked, as Mandy is a rescue and has come a long way since she arrived at their house as a foster dog with the first of the lockdowns.

Jessica is also a student working towards her bachelors in Primary teaching. Next year is her final year and she is so excited for her next placement school. Jessica loves fishing, foraging although this has taken a back burner of late, and is a volunteer Kea leader for 2022 for the year. This is for the junior section of Scout NZ looking after children 5.5-8 years old taking them on adventures and teaching them important life stuff, first aid, what you need for hikes, recycling, nature benefits, and so many more things. Jessica loves walking, and her favourite thing is walking Mandy down to the coffee shop, ordering coffee and then Mandy knows they are off to the pet shop. Mandy likes to have a ‘chat’ with Jessica to hurry up so she can pick her dog treats. They then walk back home and Mandy wags her tail the entire time knowing she has treats coming.

Jessica’s partner is also studying for his job so they are very busy at the moment, balancing both thier heavy loaded study time tables and his full time work and Jessica’s part time work. Her boys who are 9 and soon to be 8 are like ever ready batteries constantly moving and on the go.

For more information head to Jessica’s Instagram page.

The Cornish Cream Tea Bookshop by Cressida McLaughin

I first discovered Cressida McLaughlin’s lovely writing when I reviewed The Staycation here for My Weekly earlier this year. Today I’m delighted to review Cressida’s latest book The Cornish Cream Tea Bookshop, again for My Weekly.

Cressida also has a short story in this week’s bumper edition of My Weekly magazine.

The Cornish Cream Tea Bookshop was published by Harper Collins on 10th November 2022 and is available for purchase through the links here.

The Cornish Cream Tea Bookshop

Ollie Spencer has started a new life in the idyllic Cornish seaside town of Port Karadow. Throwing herself into her job at the town’s bookshop, A New Chapter, is one way to make friends. The shop is glitzing up for first Christmas and Ollie hopes her inspired ideas will give the shop the edge it needs to dazzle the town.

But far from being the Sugar Plum fairy the place needs, Ollie is fast becoming its Christmas pudding. With the bookshop’s success at stake, Ollie turns to twinkly-eyed café owner Max for help. Can he help Ollie to turn the page, and put the sparkle back into her Cornish dream?

My Review of The Cornish Cream Tea Bookshop

My full review of The Cornish Cream Tea Bookshop can be found online on the My Weekly website here.

However, here I can say that The Cornish Cream Tea Bookshop is absolutely brilliant. I adored it and it’s and one of my favourite reads in 2022.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Cressida Mc Laughlin

Cressida Mc Laughlin is the bestselling author of uplifting, romantic books including The Canal Boat CaféThe House of Birds and Butterflies and The Cornish Cream Tea series.

She grew up in London surrounded by books and with a cat named after Lawrence of Arabia. She studied English at the University of East Anglia and now lives in the beautiful city of Norwich with her husband David.

Apart from writing, Cressy loves terrifying ghost stories, romantic heroes and Henry Cavill.

When she isn’t writing, Cressy spends her spare time reading, returning to London or exploring the beautiful Norfolk coastline.

You can find out more information on her website and follow her on Twitter @cressmclaughlinInstagram and Facebook.

Featuring Behear – Vision without Sight

It’s some years since I stayed in with Colin Sinclair and he told me all about his book Elji and the Galrass in a post you’ll find here.


Sadly, a freak car accident saw a rock fall from the back of a lorry that left Colin’s daughter Amy seriously injured and she lost her sight. As a result, Amy was unable to read Colin’s book and Colin set about finding a means to bring his story, and those of others, to those unable to read them for themselves. With his daughter Colin has set up Behear to bring books to life for the partially sighted and blind.

However, whilst we are all increasingly familiar with audio books, what Amy discovered was that it was more difficult to attune to a single narrator and as Colin has been involved in acting and performance for many years Behear was born. With Behear, books are transformed from single narration to dramatic performances with a variety of voices and effects that dramatise story, making books accessible and engaging.

Having sampled Elji and the Galrass through Behear, and understood how this method differs from a simple audiobook, I wanted to feature the initiative on Linda’s Book Bag, because I think this more realistic and dramatic method of making books into audio books would not only help blind or partially sighted readers, but would be fabulous for reluctant readers or those who struggle to engage with conventional forms of books. Behear will take a book, turn each character into a unique voice and release the book in a series of episodes.

If you’d like to find out more about Behear, visit their website, where you can download their APP, follow them on Twitter @authorcol and find them on Facebook and Instagram.

A White Christmas on Winter Street by Sue Moorcroft

Having previously reviewed Sue Moorcroft’s Summer at the French Café for My Weekly here, its my pleasure today to share another  My Weekly review, this time of Sue’s A White Christmas on Winter Street. Sue has been a regular feature on Linda’s Book Bag and you’ll find all the posts here.

You’ll also find a short story by Sue in the latest edition of My Weekly.

Published by Avon Books on 27th October 2022, A White Christmas on Winter Street is available for purchase through the links here.

A White Christmas on Winter Street

When Sky Terran returns to the village of Middledip after losing the job she loves, she anticipates a quiet Christmas getting used to her new life. However, the annual street decoration competition is coming up and this year, the residents of Winter Street are determined to win.

As she is pulled into the preparations, Sky quickly grows to love the quirky, tight-knit community she is now part of. Including the extremely handsome Daz, who soon becomes more than just a friendly neighbour.

But when Daz’s ex turns up determined to win him back and it seems he might not be the man Sky thought he was, she remembers how much allowing people into her life – and heart – can hurt. As the snow falls, will she and Daz find a way through – and help win a Christmas victory for Winter Street?

A gorgeously festive novel about love, family and the power of forgiveness from Sunday Times bestseller Sue Moorcroft, perfect for fans of Sarah Morgan and Phillipa Ashley.

My Review of A White Christmas on Winter Street

My full review of A White Christmas on Winter Street can be found on the My Weekly website here.

However, here I can say that A White Christmas on Winter Street is moving, sensitive, romantic and filled with festive meaning that touches the reader completely.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Sue Moorcroft

Sue Moorcroft is a Sunday Times bestselling author and has reached the coveted #1 spot on Amazon Kindle UK as well as top 100 in the US. She’s won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award, Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary. Sue’s emotionally compelling, feel-good novels are currently released by publishing giant HarperCollins in the UK, US and Canada and by other publishers around the world. She’s also well known for short stories, serials, columns, writing ‘how to’ and courses. Born in Germany into an army family, Sue spent much of her childhood in Cyprus and Malta but settled in Northamptonshire, England aged ten. She loves reading, Formula 1, travel, time spent with friends, dance exercise and yoga.

For more information, follow Sue on Twitter @SueMoorcroft, or find her on Instagram and Facebook and visit her website.

A Magical Journey with Jenny Loudon

It’s a special time of the year so when better to take a magic carpet ride with Jenny Loudon, author of Finding Verity and Snow Angels? I’m lucky to have both books waiting for me on my TBR, but in the meantime, I’m delighted to host a guest post from Jenny today, that takes us on two wonderful journeys.

Before we let Jenny whisk us away, let’s find out more about her books.

Finding Verity

The heart-warming bestseller from this exciting debut novelist.

An unhappy woman. An unfinished romance. A sense that time is running out…

Verity Westwood is a successful London businesswoman whose husband is handsome but selfish. When Edward Farrell, a nomadic American journalist from her past, returns unexpectedly, she is swept by the irresistible desire to fulfil her dreams of working as an artist, like her famous father before her. After being caught in a storm on the Cote d’Azur, she vows to change her life.
What she does not foresee is the struggle involved, the ultimate price she will pay, and the powerful force of enduring love that changes everything.

Finding Verity is available for purchase here.

Snow Angels

An accident. That’s all it was.

Amelie Tierney is working hard, furthering her nursing career in Oxford. She has a loving husband and a small son, who is not yet two. She jogs through the streets of her beloved city most days, does not see enough of her lonely mother, and misses her grandmother who lives in a remote wooden house, beside a lake in Sweden.

And then, one sunny October morning, it happens—the accident that changes everything and leaves Amelie fighting to survive.

Set amid the gleaming spires of Oxford and the wild beauty of a Swedish forest, this is a story about one woman’s hope and her courage in the face of the unthinkable.

Snow Angels is available for purchase here.

An Evening on My Magic Carpet

A Guest Post by Jenny Loudon

I have prepared a nice supper for our evening in, and it is a summer evening so we eat it at the table in my garden, on a hillside overlooking a wood-topped valley which stretches as far as the eye can see in either direction. As we eat and chat, we watch the deer grazing in the fields below the woodlands, and listen to the red kites calling, as they wheel overhead.

Pleasantly full of food, I unroll my magic carpet (because when we stay in, we so rarely actually stay in, do we? We usually take our imagination on a journey by watching television or reading a book, and so this evening is no different in that respect.)

I put big cushions for your comfort on my jewel-coloured rug, we sit down, and off we go, lifting into the air. Firstly, we visit London, Fulham specifically. A pleasant, tree-lined suburban street where we see Verity through the window of her comfortable home. She is the heroine of Finding Verity and we see how lonely and unhappy she is, how overworked and at a loss. We fly on, through time and space, to Les Massif des Maures, the beautiful mountains of Provence which overlook the warm, sparkling Mediterranean Sea. It is sunset, the landscape is bathed in a soft lemony light, and the sky is alive with colour—apricot, turquoise, pink. Our Verity is walking in the garden of a house there, her mood quite different, uplifted and alert, her heart alive again. We see the change in her and wonder what has happened… I know, of course, but you will have to read the book to find out…

For our next journey, I throw you a blanket of softest cashmere and advise you to wrap up warm. I fly us to the city of Oxford where Amelie, the heroine of Snow Angels lives with her husband and young son. We move on from this happy domestic picture to circle over the scene of a terrible accident, keeping our distance because the reality is too awful, and we wish to respect the privacy of those involved. I reassure you and whisk you on, out across the grey and choppy North Sea to the land of forest and lakes, snow and ice. We are in a fictional winter now, in the depths of the Swedish countryside, and there we find our Amelie, living in a small homestead with her beloved grandmother, and we wonder how she will survive, and what she will do next.

It has been a long, emotional, and often beautiful journey on my magic carpet, and we arrive back at my home where I make you a hot drink and chat a while, before walking you to your car. It’s been a great visit, Linda. We say our goodbyes and hope to see each other again soon.


If you’re going to take me on trips like that Jenny, I’ll be back very soon indeed. Thanks so much.

About Jenny Loudon

Jenny Loudon is a novelist and poet who has published two Amazon best-selling books Finding Verity and Snow Angels. She has worked as an editor, researcher and proof-reader. She read English and American Literature at the University of Kent at Canterbury, and gained a Masters in The Modern Movement.  She currently lives with her family in the English countryside.

For further information about Jenny, visit her website and follow her on Twitter @jenloudonauthor, or find her on Facebook and Instagram.

Merrily Ever After by Cathy Bramley

It’s been my pleasure to meet lovely Cathy Bramley on several occasions, but I’m ashamed to say she hasn’t featured on Linda’s Book Bag for far too long. Consequently I’m thrilled that my latest online My Weekly review is of Cathy’s latest book Merrily Ever After.

Published by Orion on 13th October 2022, Merrily Ever After is available for purchase through the links here.

Merrily Ever After

In a picturesque town in Derbyshire, Merry has always wanted a family to spend Christmas with, and this year her dream comes true as she says ‘I do’ to father-of-two Cole. But as she juggles worries about her business, last-minute wedding planning and the two new children in her life, Merry is stretched to breaking point.

Meanwhile, only a few miles away, Emily is desperately waiting for the New Year to begin. Her father Ray’s dementia is worsening, and she’s struggling to care for him alone while holding down a job. When Ray moves into a residential home, she discovers a photograph in his belongings that has the potential to change everything .

As shocking secrets from Ray’s past finally come to light, will this Christmas make or break Emily and Merry?

My Review of Merrily Ever After

My full review of Merrily Ever After can be found on the My Weekly website here.

However, what I can say here is that Merrily Ever After is a wonderful, heart-felt exploration of love and belonging that I thought was just lovely.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Cathy Bramley

Cathy Bramley is the Sunday Times Top Ten best-selling author of The Lemon Tree Cafe. Her other romantic comedies include Ivy Lane, Appleby Farm, Wickham Hall, Conditional Love, The Plumberry School of Comfort Food and White Lies and Wishes. She lives in a Nottinghamshire village with her family and a dog. Cathy turned to writing after spending eighteen years running her own marketing agency. She has been always an avid reader, never without a book on the go and now thinks she may have found her dream job! Cathy loves to hear from her readers.

You can find out more about Cathy Bramley on her website and you can follow her on Twitter @CathyBramley, Facebook and Instagram.

A Ukrainian Christmas by Nadiyka Gerbish and Yaroslav Hrytsak

It was a real pleasure when a surprise copy of A Ukrainian Christmas by Nadiyka Gerbish and Yaroslav Hrytsak turned up in my post box. My huge thanks to Becky Hunter for sending it my way. I’m delighted to share my review today.

A Ukrainian Christmas was published by Sphere on 3rd November 2022 and is available in all good bookshops and online including here.

The publisher is making a donation to the Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal on publication of A Ukrainian Christmas.

A Ukrainian Christmas

The perfect gift this Christmas

‘History, stories, recipes and beautiful illustrations’ – OLINA HERCULES

‘Christmas brings the indestructibility of hope in times of the greatest hopelessness. As long as we celebrate this holiday, we can neither be defeated nor destroyed. This is the message that Ukraine is trying to convey to the world. And this is what our book is about.’

From Christmas music to gifts and food, as well as a look back through the country’s rich and troubled history through the perspective of the festive season, this beautifully illustrated and powerful book introduces readers to Ukraine’s unique Christmas traditions. In a country where East and West meet, this is a fascinating and unmissable guide to capturing the spirit of one of the most important times of year and a powerful reminder of the strength of holding on to your culture and beliefs, even as others try to take everything from you.

My Review of A Ukrainian Christmas

A celebration of Ukrainian and Christmas traditions in the face of adversity.

From the very first page it’s obvious that A Ukrainian Christmas is a very special book. I’m going to be honest and say that by the time I’d read the dedication and Foreword, before I’d even turned another page, I was in pieces. However, A Ukrainian Christmas is not a maudlin or depressing book. Far, far from it. I think it can be summed up by Nadiyka Gerbish’s comment ‘…our current suffering is not in vain, and there is still hope even in the midst of the greatest crisis.’

A Ukrainian Christmas is glorious. It doesn’t shy away from reality, but rather celebrates life, the world and Christmas in all its facets. Between the pages of this book lies history, geography, folklore, food, challenge, humanity, hope and love. There’s everything from Cromwell’s banning of carol singing, through traditional Ukrainian recipes, to Marxism so that it is a cornucopia of treasure for all readers. A Ukrainian Christmas educates, explores and entertains.

Aside from the eclectic and fascinating topics, what makes A Ukrainian Christmas so fabulous is the range of beautiful illustrations. Some are more simple, some totally sumptuous but all add quality and value to the writing. I loved the fact that there are proper biographies of the illustrators as well as the authors in the back of the book too. The physical attributes of the book; its size, the robust cover with gold lettering and so on, lend it an excellence that enhances the contents still further.

I think reading A Ukrainian Christmas ensures the reader remembers the true value of home and family. It celebrates hope and joy even in the darkest of times. Hugely affecting, interesting and compelling with a visual and literary beauty, A Ukrainian Christmas would make a wonderful gift. I thought it was excellent.

About Yaroslav Hrytsak

Yaroslav Hrytsak is a Ukrainian historian and public intellectual. Professor of the Ukrainian Catholic University and Honorary Professor of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Professor Hrytsak has taught at Columbia and Harvard Universities and was a guest lecturer at the Central European University in Budapest. He is the author of many historical books, including several bestsellers and the recipient of numerous national and international awards and has written opinion pieces for many publications including The Times, the New York Times and Time Magazine.

About Nadiyka Gerbish

Nadiyka Gerbish is a Ukrainian writer, podcaster, and Riggins Rights Management European rights director. She has written nineteen books, many of which have become bestsellers and have won numerous awards. A number of Nadiyka’s children’s books are studied in schools in Ukraine and have been published in braille and audiobook.

The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor

Had it not been the choice at my U3A book group this month, I probably would never have read The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor and my word I’d have missed out. I’m delighted to share my review today.

The Ashes of London was published in paperback on 26th January 2017 by Harper Collins and is available for purchase in all formats through the links here.

The Ashes of London

London, 1666. As the Great Fire consumes everything in its path, the body of a man is found in the ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral – stabbed in the neck, thumbs tied behind his back.

The son of a traitor, James Marwood is forced to hunt the killer through the city’s devastated streets. There he encounters a determined young woman, who will stop at nothing to secure her freedom.

When a second murder victim is discovered in the Fleet Ditch, Marwood is drawn into the political and religious intrigue of Westminster – and across the path of a killer with nothing to lose…

My Review of The Ashes of London

It’s 1666 and London is burning.

My goodness I enjoyed The Ashes of London. It opens dramatically and continues with a fast, sometimes brutal, pace that makes the plot fly past right up to the exciting end. I was entirely entranced by Andrew Taylor’s writing. His style is accessible and yet authentic for the era with direct speech especially well attuned to convey class, social standing and gender. 

The story is steeped in politics, intrigue, betrayal, control and mystery so that I became absolutely spellbound in its telling. There’s a delicious blend of real and imagined characters lending an authenticity that enhances the narrative still further and reading The Ashes of London is a bit like peeling back the layers of history and society so that the reader feels as if they were actually present. 

I found the descriptions of London vivid, convincing and authentic with every sense catered for so that I could not have been more impressed by the quality of research and realism in this brilliantly conveyed narrative. The Ashes of London has a filmic quality I thought was simply fabulous.

Whilst I found Cat’s narrative so tantalising, there’s more here from James Marwood’s perspective in a technique that I found perfectly mirrored the status of men and women in the society of the time. I thought the way Cat’s actions make the reader contemplate morality was so thought-provoking, because she often does the wrong thing but for absolutely the right reason. I loved, too, the middle ground, the ordinariness of James Marwood, that illustrates how a twist of fate can completely alter a person’s life. He was completely convincing and believable.

I found The Ashes of London exceptionally well plotted, atmospherically written and hugely entertaining. I absolutely loved it and totally resented it when life interrupted my reading of the book. And what a pleasure to know The Ashes of London is the start of a series I haven’t previously discovered and I’ve so much to look forward to.

About Andrew Taylor

Andrew Taylor is a bestselling British crime and historical novelist, winner of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger (for lifelong excellence in the genre), the HWA Gold Crown for best historical novel of the year, and the triple winner of the CWA Historical Dagger. He has published over 45 books.

They include the international bestseller, The American Boy (a Richard and Judy selection); the Roth Trilogy (filmed for TV as Fallen Angel); the Lydmouth detective series set in the 1950s; and The Anatomy of Ghosts, shortlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.

His most recent books are the Marwood and Lovett Restoration series. The Ashes of London was a Times/Waterstones number one bestseller. The sequels have both all been bestsellers too. The fifth in the series, The Royal Secret, is out now.

For more information visit Andrew’s website, or follow him on Twitter @andrewjrtaylor.