The Lies You Told by Harriet Tyce

the lies you told

My enormous thanks to Rosie Margesson at Headline for sending me a copy of The Lies You Told by Harriet Tyce in return for an honest review. I was thrilled to receive it as I loved Harriet’s debut Blood Orange and you can see my review of that book here. I was delighted to meet Harriet Tyce at a bookish event that you can read about here, because Blood Orange was one of my Books of the Year in 2019.

Published on 23rd July 2020, The Lies You Told is available for purchase through the links here.

The Lies You Told

the lies you told

Can you tell the truth from the lies?

Sadie loves her daughter and will do anything to keep her safe.

She can’t tell her why they had to leave home so quickly – or why Robin’s father won’t be coming with them to London.

She can’t tell her why she hates being back in her dead mother’s house, with its ivy-covered walls and its poisonous memories.

And she can’t tell her the truth about the school Robin’s set to start at – a school that doesn’t welcome newcomers.

Sadie just wants to get their lives back on track.

But even lies with the best intentions can have deadly consequences…

My Review of The Lies You Told

Coming back to London from America isn’t the panacea Sadie hopes!

What a thoroughly gripping, unpleasant and compelling book The Lies You Told is. I had a horrible feeling of dread throughout so that by the time I’d finished reading it I felt quite wrung out.

I have no idea how Harriet Tyce’s mind works to write like this, but as the plot advances, threads tie up and reveals happen, there’s a sensation of having been taken into a story that begins innocuously enough, before slamming the reader into a twisted and ugly world.

To begin with I wasn’t entirely sure of the pace, but my goodness, having read the book, I understand how that initial slow burn was absolutely essential to the success of the narrative. Indeed, I think The Lies You Told would reward multiple readings fully to appreciate how cleverly it is plotted and written. The structure of the book mirrors the experiences Sadie has, so that the reader is irresistibly involved in the action too.

Characterisation is cracking. Harriet Tyce shines a laser focus on the bitchy, selfish aspirations of the privileged middle classes and the Establishment so that I found myself seething with indignation and anger as I read. Her depiction of motherhood is both entertaining and totally alarming as she illustrates how lives can change as a result of one comment or action and as she blows apart the conventional concept of motherly love. Reading The Lies You Told made me extremely glad that I have never had children of my own. Add in the legal elements, and The Lies You Told becomes a narrative that can be enjoyed on many levels.

The title is so fitting for the book as lies underpin so much of the action. Harriet Tyce manages to get her reader to trust no-one in all aspects of the narrative, making for a dynamic and dramatic story. I can’t say more for fear of spoiling the story, but there’s an awful lot here that resonates with some high profile people and events happening in the world today!

I loved the themes explored in The Lies You Told too. Of course there are relationships considered at many levels, but the professional ones and those between mother and child shine through. With swirling ambition, power, bullying, manipulation, jealousy and deception, The Lies You Told is a book that uncovers the dangers and corruption lurking at the very heart of society.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first began reading The Lies You Told. What I got was a super thriller of a read that kept me gripped. Great stuff.

About Harriet Tyce

harriet tyce

Harriet Tyce grew up in Edinburgh and studied English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford University before practising as a criminal barrister for the next decade.  After having children she left the Bar and completed with distinction an MA in Creative Writing – Crime Fiction at the University of East Anglia. Blood Orange was her first novel.

You can follow Harriet on Twitter @harriet_tyce and visit her website for more details. You’ll also find her on Facebook.

Hush Little Baby by Jane Isaac

Book cover

Although I’m cutting right back on blog tours and am, with a few exceptions, taking as much of August off from blogging as I can, I simply had to support lovely Jane Isaac and her new thriller Hush Little Baby – not least because I still owe her a scone from our last meeting in real life! My thanks to Vicky Joss for inviting me to participate in the blog tour. As well as my review of Hush Little Baby, I have a fabulous, and slightly stomach turning, guest post from Jane today, all about research!

You’ll find other posts featuring Jane on the blog here.

Published by Aria on 23rd July 2020, Hush Little Baby is available for purchase here.

Hush Little Baby

Book cover

Someone stole a baby…

One sunny day in July, someone took three-month-old Alicia Owen from her pram outside a supermarket. Her mother, Marie, was inside. No one saw who took Alicia. And no one could find her.

They silenced her cry…

Fifteen years later, a teenager on a construction site sees a tiny hand in the ground. When the police investigate, they find a baby buried and preserved in concrete. Could it be Alicia?

But the truth will always out.

When Alicia disappeared, the papers accused Marie of detachment and neglect. The Owens never got over the grief of their child’s disappearance and divorced not long after. By reopening the case, DC Beth Chamberlain must reopen old wounds. But the killer may be closer than anyone ever suspected…

An Experiment in the Name of Research

A Guest Post by Jane Isaac

I love research. It underpins the stories we write. I’ll admit I probably do far too much of it. Sometimes it’s only for an odd sentence, sometimes it’s a thread that runs through the entire book. Research comes in all shapes and sizes, but after eight novels, there is nothing for me that matches the personal experiment I carried out for my latest book.

In Hush Little Baby, I have a victim buried in concrete. Concrete holds some preserving properties – a delicious fact if you’re a crime writer because it opens upmany possibilities for the story. But it presents problems too. My body had been immersed in a concrete block for several years when the casing was disturbed on a building site, uncovering the person inside. What would it look like after all this time? What DNA evidence would be available for identification purposes? These are areas I neededto answer so that readers could follow the story through the eyes of Beth, my investigating detective.

Researching these points proved quite tricky. I tried all my current forensic and pathology contacts and, needless to say, they could speculate on the DNA and forensic front but had never dealt with this particular situation and couldn’t be exactly sure what it would look like. I read books and researched online, but there hasn’t been a huge amount of research done on bodies buried in concrete and the science was quite complex; I needed a lay person’s explanation. I was struggling and beginning to wonder if I should drop the idea. Then I decided to do my own experiment.

One Sunday afternoon, I eyed up the pig’s shoulder my daughter got out of the fridge, ready to roast for dinner. And it gave me an idea. Research has taught me that pig is similar to human skin. Depending on conditions, most bodies breakdown during the first six months after death. Why don’t I bury the pig’s shoulder in a bucket of concrete and leave it in my garden for a while?

So, much to the delight of my neighbours (and the disgust of my daughter – I won’t tell you what we ate for dinner that Sunday!), hubby and I took a little trip to the local DIY store, bought some concrete mix and did just that. The bucket sat in my garden for many months with a pot plant sitting on top. I knew it was completely sealed because the flies stayed away and my dogs showed no interest.

Fast forward to last May. Remember that beautiful hot bank holiday weekend? We were having quiet family time, catching up with jobs around the house while neighbours BBQ’d with friends and families in the surrounding gardens. I remember finishing my chores, sitting in the garden and eyeing up the bucket. The meat had been encased for almost a year; it was time to find out what it looked like inside.

The pot plant was moved. My hubby got his sledge hammer out of the shed and whacked the plastic bucket hard. The concrete smashed open. And for the first few seconds it was an extraordinary sight – the pig’s shoulder was exactly the same as when it was buried – the meat was pink and raw; even the skin hadn’t discoloured. What we didn’t realise was that as soon as it hit the air, it would go into rapid deterioration. By rapid, I mean super quick – the smell was putrid! And our neighbours were having these lovely BBQs with their loved ones only metres away…

Cue panic. Hubby broke up the concrete, burnt off the remnants of meat still attached to the stone, wrapped it in bags and disposed of it in the bin. I thought hard. What could I do with the joint to stop it smelling? I couldn’t put it in the wheelie bin like that. So, thinking on my toes, I wrapped it in a bag and put it in our freezer. Frozen meat doesn’t smell, right? I planned to put it out on refuse collection day.

When we’d finally finished clearing up, hubby and I came inside. But no matter how much we cleaned and showered and changed, the fetid odour still hung in the air. We thought it was in our noses, sprayed air freshener, lit candles. Eventually the smell faded and we went to bed.

The following morning, I came downstairs and could immediately smell rotting meat. We had friends coming for brunch, I needed to start cooking. But something wasn’t right. I opened the freezer and the stench slapped me in the face.

Brunch turned out to be takeaway of sorts eaten in the garden that day. Ten minutes before our guests were due to arrive my hubby was driving out of our village – the pig’s shoulder in a carrier bag hanging out of the driver window because he wouldn’t have it in the car – off to bury the rotting meat at the edge of a disused airfield nearby. And I was emptying my freezer in case the smell had infiltrated the other food in there!

I’ve since found a wonderful scientist and former crime scene manager who specialises in bodies buried in concrete and she has been wonderfully helpful with my research. But I’ll never forget that weekend we broke into our concrete. Needless to say, my expert was incredibly interested in our experiment!

Jane, that’s hilarious. I’m never coming to you for a BBQ or a roast dinner. Now I’ve read Hush Little Baby I can see why you needed to conduct this research!

My Review of Hush Little Baby

A cold case might only be the beginning!

I thoroughly enjoyed Hush Little Baby. Indeed, I had originally said I couldn’t review in time for today’s blog post but I began reading just to get a feel for the book following Jane Isaac’s guest post and before I knew it I was engrossed in the story!

Although Hush Little Baby is the third in the DC Beth Chamberlain series, it didn’t matter at all that I hadn’t read the previous book in the series because Jane Isaac’s plotting is so cleverly constructed there was enough information to give me all the detail I needed without adversely impacting on this narrative or slowing it down. There’s a wonderful sense of control in the writing that means it’s a pleasure simply to lose yourself in the plot. There’s a fast pace, partly achieved through short, impactful chapters, and partly through the twists and turns of the case so that Hush Little Baby is equally convincing and exciting and totally entertaining. I found the dialogue very realistic too.

Beth is a smashing character. She is all the more appealing to me because she doesn’t have the unrealistic baggage that so many female characters in police narrative seem to be overburdened with. Certainly she has a past and her vulnerabilities and anxieties, but these feel integral and natural making her someone I believe in completely.

As well as enjoying the story and characters, I found the underlying themes of Hush Little Baby compelling too. The impact of the past on the present, how we construct our own truths and memories, and how we judge others, are concepts that slip along underneath the plot so that there is a hugely satisfying depth to the story that made me think. Resolutions in life are not always neatly sewn up and choices are not always easy to make. Jane Isaac presents these ideas sensitively so that they have real impact.

I thoroughly enjoyed Hush Little Baby and am delighted that the book ends with potential for a future story with Beth Chamberlain. I shall look forward to reading it.

About Jane Isaac

jane

Jane Isaac is married to a serving detective and they live in rural Northamptonshire, UK with their daughter and dogs. Jane’s debut novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, introduces DCI Helen Lavery and was nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.’

The Truth Will Out, the second in the DCI Helen Lavery series, was nominated as ‘Thriller of the Month – April 2014’ by E-thriller.com and winner of ‘Noveltunity book club selection – May 2014’.

Jane’s ninth novel, Hush Little Baby, is the third in the highly acclaimed DC Beth Chamberlain (Family Liaison Officer) series.

You can follow Jane Isaac on Twitter @JaneIsaacAuthor and visit her web site. Jane is also on Facebook.

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The Siege of Caerlaverock by Barbara Henderson

The Siege of Caerlaverock Paperback FOIL FINAL JUNE 20203 (2)

I adore Barbara Henderson’s children’s fiction and so I’m genuinely thrilled to be starting off the blog tour for her latest book The Siege of Caerlaverock by hosting a wonderful guest post and sharing my review.

In case you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Barbara’s children’s books before, I have featured several here on Linda’s Book Bag. You will find:

My review of Fir For Luck here (also one of my books of the year in 2016).

A smashing guest post from Barbara about Fir For Luck publication day here.

Another super post from Barbara about why a book launch matters to celebrate Punch here.

A guest post from Barbara about nature and my review of Wilderness Wars here.

A guest post about novels and novellas and my review of Black Water here.

The Siege of Caerlaverock will be published by Cranachan imprint Pokey Hat on 6th August 2020 and is available for pre-order here.

The Siege of Caerlaverock

The Siege of Caerlaverock Paperback FOIL FINAL JUNE 20203 (2)

Enemies within.

Enemies without.

Nowhere to hide.

12-year-old Ada is a laundress of little consequence, but the new castle commander Brian de Berclay has his evil eye on her. Perhaps she shouldn’t have secretly fed the young prisoner in the tower.

But when the King of England crosses the border with an army over 3000 strong, Ada, her friend Godfrey and all at Caerlaverock suddenly find themselves under attack, with only 60 men for protection.

Soon, rocks and flaming arrows rain from the sky over Castle Caerlaverock—and Ada has a dangerous choice to make.

Heraldic Poetry behind The Siege of Caerlaverock

A Guest Post by Barbara Henderson

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To tell you the truth, I have always been drawn to coats of arms. I walked past our family one, framed in the hallway of my parents’ house, every day of my childhood (I was born a ‘Haas’). It was displayed as an example of an old family crest at our nearest medieval castle, and I was a frequent visitor throughout my childhood and youth, particularly during the annual medieval festival with re-enactments – you got in free if you dressed up in medieval attire. Who could resist that?

Caerlaverock photo Barbara Henderson

I do love a good castle ruin too – you know, the kind that leaves a lot to the imagination. But I was also fascinated by heraldry in general – the symbolism, the motto, the flattery in the poetry. You could think of heraldry as a precursor to PR – it managed how a family or clan was perceived.

When I visited Caerlaverock Castle near Dumfries with my family, I had no idea that I was about to be assailed by a new story which would conquer my heart to the extent that I simply had to write it. I often see displays in museums and castles which interest me, but this exhibition on a medieval siege was utterly compelling – because it came with a story attached! A medieval heraldic poem about the siege survives to this day, and it gives us a unique insight into the events which took place exactly 720 years ago this summer.

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The poem was written in the fashionable French, most likely by a court poet to the King:

In chronicles of great monasteries
It is found that King Edward […]
In the year one thousand three hundred
Of grace, on the day of Saint John,
Was at Carlisle, and held a great court,
And commanded that in a short time
All his men should prepare themselves,
To go together with him
Against his enemies the Scots.
Before the appointed day
The whole host summoned was ready;
And the King with his great household
Immediately set forward against the Scots.

I found it so exciting to read the description of this great train of warriors, their horses and banners and tents. Each of the 87 knights travelling with the King is described separately, with their heraldic symbols and heroic deeds mentioned while the vast army of archers and soldiers remain unnamed.

It is likely that the author was a court poet due to the flattery he uses, portraying Edward as fierce but fair:

‘The King is dreadful, fierce and proud…nevertheless, he is soon reanimated with gentle kindness, if they seek his friendship and are willing to come to his peace.’ As a storyteller, I had to decide whether to ‘buy’ some of the more positive portrayals of the King’s actions, as a court poet may not always have told the truth. My story was from the point of view of the besieged, so I skipped through some of the poem detailing all the King’s most valued knights. One of the squadrons was led by the Crown Prince, so this campaign was a bit of a who’s-who of the royal elite. Once they get there, the description of the castle is striking (and I agree wholeheartedly with the last lines!):

Caerlaverock was a castle so strong

 that it did not fear siege…

It was formed like a shield,

for it had only three sides in circuit,

with a tower at each angle…

with a drawbridge, well made and strong.

It had also good walls and good ditches,

all filled to the edge with water;

and I believe you will never see 

a castle more beautifully situated than it.’

Nevertheless, over the next couple of days, the 60+ defenders of Caerlaverock were no match for the ‘three thousand brave men at arms’. The poet details the violent resistance from within the castle:

‘Huge stones showered upon them,

And quarrels and arrows

That with wounds and bruises

They were so wearied and exhausted

That it was with great difficulty they retired.’

But the greatest moment for me came when the poem mentioned the ‘Lady of the castle’! So many knight-stories focus on warfare, jousting and valour that the female characters all but disappear. I had already resolved to tell the story from the point of view of a female servant, but this was remarkable – the decision maker at Caerlaverock at the time may well have been a woman!

Caerlaverock eventually ‘begged for peace and put out a pennon’. According to the poet, the King ‘gave them life and limb, a to each a new robe.’ In other words, the King granted all the survivors mercy. Some medievalists do not believe this version of events, citing Edward I’s fearsome reputation for brutality, but according to an eminent medieval scholar, this is not an impossible version of events. Edward was at the very beginning of his campaign and may well have attempted to win over hearts and minds at this point.

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I remember being close to tears when I first read and annotated the poem. What a gift it was!

As I see it, historical fiction is like a washing line. There are certain fixed events and facts which hold the story in place – the pegs if you like. This heraldic poem gave me plenty of those! But in between those, the fabric can flutter whichever way the story takes it, bright and lively against the sky. I hope that The Siege of Caerlaverock captures some of the spectacle the castle dwellers would have witnessed all those centuries ago!

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My goodness, yes it does Barbara!

My Review of The Siege of Caerlaverock

Ada may only be a kitchen maid but she is in the thick of adventure.

Wow. The Siege of Caerlaverock is absolutely brilliant. I cannot praise it enough.

Steeped in meticulously researched history, this is no dry reimagining of true events, but a living, vibrant story that held me spellbound. I’m beginning to wonder if Barbara Henderson is some kind of enchantress as she seems to have the ability to transport her readers so completely to whatever it is she is writing about. Her use of the senses is hugely evocative so that reading The Siege of Caerlaverock is an absolute delight. The inclusion of historical detail is done at such a human level that the past leaps from the page through Barbara Henderson’s skilled and dramatic writing.

The story is completely compelling. The pace of the plot, the realistic settings, the exciting narrative; indeed, every element of the book is totally pitch perfect. My heart was thumping at times because the level of peril, the danger and the excitement were so masterfully conveyed.

I loved meeting Ada and Godfrey. They are imbued with such life and friendship in spite of their social differences and the brief time they spend together, that they resonate long after the last page of the story has been read. I’m wondering now what has happened to Ada because she feels so real. I loved the balance between Ada and Godfrey too because young readers can see that gender doesn’t have to define or constrain  an individual. Brian de Berclay makes for the kind of villain that turns the blood cold and yet is so fascinating it’s impossible not to be riveted by his presence.

I genuinely think Barbara Henderson may be the most talented children’s writer in a generation. I am awestruck by her skill. Her books are, quite simply, fantastic and The Siege of Caerlaverock is the latest in a wonderful body of work. Whatever you do, whether you have children in your family or are reading for yourself, don’t miss this one. It’s an absolute cracker.

About Barbara Henderson

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Barbara Henderson has lived in Scotland since 1991, somehow acquiring an MA in English Language and Literature, a husband, three children and a shaggy dog along the way. Having tried her hand at working as a puppeteer, relief librarian and receptionist, she now teaches Drama part-time at secondary school.

Writing predominantly for children, Barbara won the Nairn Festival Short Story Competition in 2012, the Creative Scotland Easter Monologue Competition in 2013 and was one of three writers shortlisted for the Kelpies Prize 2013. In 2015, wins include the US-based Pockets Magazine Fiction Contest and the Ballantrae Smuggler’s Story Competition.

Follow Barbara on Twitter @scattyscribbler for more information, and read her blog. You’ll also find her author page on Facebook.

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The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon by Sarah Steele

Nancy

My enormous thanks to Rosie Margesson at Headline for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon by Sarah Steele and for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review. I love to travel and in these mad times when travel is restricted, what could be better than a book that transports a reader to another place? 

The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon will be published by Headline on 6th August 2020 and is available for pre-order through the links here.

The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon

Nancy

To unravel that long-lost summer, she had to follow the thread…

Florence Connelly is broken hearted. Her marriage has collapsed under the weight of the loss she shares with her husband, and her beloved grandmother has just died. Even the joy she found in dressmaking is gone.

But things change when Flo opens a box of vintage 1960s dress patterns found inside her grandmother’s wardrobe. Inside each pattern packet is a fabric swatch, a postcard from Europe and a photograph of a mysterious young woman, Nancy Moon, wearing the hand-made dress.

Flo discovers that Nancy was a distant relation who took the boat train to Paris in 1962 and never returned. With no one to stay home for, Flo decides to follow Nancy’s thread. She unravels an untold story of love and loss in her family’s past. And begins to stitch the pieces of her own life back together.

My Review of The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon

Flo’s journey to find Nancy might just help her find herself.

I absolutely loved The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon. If you love fast paced horror or visceral crime, go elsewhere, but if you want a sensitive and mature exploration of the lives of two linked women, look no further. Sarah Steele’s premise of both literal and metaphorical threads that join Nancy and Florence is so effective and so beautifully executed that I found I was able to lose myself entirely in the dual timeline narrative and leave the cares of the world behind me. I loved the glamour, the dressmaking, the hardships, the relationships and the history. The only negative is that I now want to follow in both Nancy and Flo’s footsteps as they travel and current world events don’t allow it!

The settings are very vivid. From Brighton to Tuscany with stops along the way in places like Paris and Venice I found Sarah Steele wove the senses into her settings so effectively that The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon is a very visual and evocative read. Not only is there a clear sense of place, but time and era are conveyed gloriously too which gave me a feeling of nostalgia as I became utterly wound up in Nancy’s part of the story. I found there were touches of brilliant humour that had the effect of lifting my spirits and making me feel more positive about the world too.

Although there’s action in this meticulously crafted plot, with superb descriptions that give a real sense of place, it is Nancy and Flo’s characters that really drive the story so that I would have loved to know them both in real life. Both women are feisty, vulnerable and strong in a mix that feels completely authentic. The sense of history repeating itself through their lives, with the universal themes of love and family weaving through what happens to them is wonderfully heart warming and totally convincing. 

The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon is completely wonderful. Rather like the literary version of a family heirloom quilt, it’s transporting in time and place, it’s warm, witty and uplifting and I loved it. Don’t let yourself miss this one!

About Sarah Steele

sarah steele

Sarah Steele was the director of Wordfest at Gloucester Cathedral in 2018, which culminated in a suffragette march led by Helen Pankhurst. After training in London as a classical pianist and violinist, Sarah joined the world of publishing as assistant at Hodder and Stoughton. She was for many years a freelance editor. She lives in Stroud. The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon is her debut novel.

You can follow Sarah on Twitter @sarah_l_steele

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An Extract from Feathertide by Beth Cartwright

Feathertide jacket

I’m doing my best to avoid blog tours at the moment but Feathertide by Beth Cartwright so intrigued me when I was asked by Alice Spencer if I liked fiction featuring ‘YA, mermaids, other worlds or LGBT stories’, I simply couldn’t resist taking part in today’s stop by sharing an extract from the book.

Feathertide was published yesterday, 30th July 2020 by Penguin imprint Cornerstone and is available for purchase through the links here.

Feathertide

Feathertide jacket

A magical fairytale-inspired debut about accepting being that little bit different.

A girl. A secret. A life-changing journey.

Born covered in the feathers of a bird, and kept hidden in a crumbling house full of secrets, Marea has always known she was different, but never known why. And so to find answers, she goes in search of the father she has never met.

The hunt leads her to the City of Murmurs, a place of mermaids and mystery, where jars of swirling mist are carried through the streets by the broken-hearted.

And Marea will never forget what she learns there

Feathertide is an enchanting, magical novel perfect for fans of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale.

An Extract from Feathertide

A midday sky at a midnight hour.It was the Night of the Great Winter Star: crackling bonfires and chortling mirth, warmth in the cold and light in the dark. Jewelled colours somersaulted through the sky, momentarily mapping out new constellations in the darkness. The swish of a rocket and the swirl of a wheel.Frost shimmered on the rooftops and left long, glistening trails along the pavements. The world stood – watchful, whisperful, wonderful – counting down the minutes to the end of something frayed and worn at the edges, and to the start of something woven with promise and hope.The old unravelling into the new, when another year was safely tucked up into the warm folds of memory.A luminous star-filled sky; wish-ready.

It was the night I was born.

That morning, a heavily pregnant Lemàn had been out buying fresh mackerel from the old weather-worn fisherman at the port. They greeted each other with a customary nod and a half-smile and nothing more; he knew what she needed. She waited as he quickly worked his glittering nets between his hands, untangling the fish and separating them from the clinging crustaceans, a bucket for each. Despite his swollen fingers and knotted knuckles, he still caught more fish than anyone else half his age. Experience had taught him well. A faded salt stained cap tamed his buoyant grey curls and a clay pipe balanced at the side of his mouth as he rattled through his treasures, tossing the broken pieces back into the sea and whistling the old songs of long forgotten sailors.

It was the second batch Lemàn had sought that morning;the first devoured before she’d even arrived at her doorstep,and with a deep rumble in her belly she had headed straight back down the hill to the port, seeking to satisfy what she already knew to be an insatiable hunger. Lemàn’s craving for fish, morning, noon and night had grown stronger during the last eight months, and now it was all she could swallow without feeling empty and hollow inside. After about the sixth month, when her belly was as ripe as a summer fruit, her cravings grew so desperate that she no longer bothered to boil the fish into a soup or take the time to sprinkle them with herbs carefully chosen from the market. Instead she bit right into their scales, tearing their skin apart with her teeth, picking at the splinters of tiny bones left behind in her mouth, her lips sleek and oil-smeared.

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I just love the atmosphere Beth Cartwright creates here. I’m hoping to get Feathertide onto my TBR pile very soon.

About Beth Cartwright

beth cartwright

Beth Cartwright has taught English in Greece and travelled around South East Asia and South America, where she worked at an animal sanctuary. A love of language and the imaginary led her to study English Literature and Linguistics at university, and she now lives on the edge of the Peak District with her family and two cats. Feathertide is her debut novel.

You can follow Beth on Twitter @bethcartwriter and Instagram.

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The Tuscan Contessa by Dinah Jefferies

the tuscan contessa

I’m absolutely delighted to have a novel by Dinah Jefferies back on Linda’s Book Bag, because I love her writing. My enormous thanks to Georgia Taylor at Penguin for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for The Tuscan Contessa.

Dinah Jefferies’ The Tea Planter’s Wife was one of my books of the year when I began blogging in 2015, and you can read my review (and see just how much the blog has evolved!) here.

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

The Tuscan Contessa was published by Penguin on 23rd July 2020 and is available for purchase through these links.

The Tuscan Contessa

the tuscan contessa

In 1943, Contessa Sofia de’ Corsi’s peaceful Tuscan villa among the olive groves is upturned by the sudden arrival of German soldiers. Desperate to fight back, she agrees to shelter a wounded British radio engineer in her home, keeping him hidden from her husband Lorenzo – knowing that she is putting all of their lives at risk.

When Maxine, an Italian-American working for the resistance, arrives on Sofia’s doorstep, the pair forge an uneasy alliance. Feisty, independent Maxine promised herself never to fall in love. But when she meets a handsome partisan named Marco, she realizes it’s a promise she can’t keep…

Before long, the two women find themselves entangled in a dangerous game with the Nazis. Will they be discovered? And will they both be able to save the ones they love?

My Review of The Tuscan Contessa

German occupation has taken over Italy.

What an absolute delight to return to a Dinah Jefferies novel. I was expecting an excellent read and I wasn’t disappointed. The Tuscan Contessa has all the typical hallmarks of this author’s atmospheric writing, with vivid appeal to the senses, but this time with a darker and more unsettling edge that I found riveting. With Dinah Jefferies customary strong women living challenging lives, this time the backdrop of WW2’s Italy had an extra layer of menace that I hadn’t been expecting but found so compelling. I adore this type of storytelling.

The research that underpins the narrative is exemplary. I confess I know little about Italy during WW2 as most of my reading has centred on France and the United Kingdom. In The Tuscan Contessa I found a clear sense of the brutality of war at both a national and personal level as well as a vivid sense of history and place that comes through the beautiful descriptions so that I have ended the book feeling thoroughly engaged, entertained and educated.

I thought the sensitive exploration of the possibilities of human reaction to circumstances in The Tuscan Contessa was superb. Dinah Jefferies really made me wonder ‘What if…?’ I have no idea if I could have behaved as Sofia and Maxine do, but their story held me captivated. There’s a convincing cross-section of society from Sofia to Clara so that war’s effect is seen at all levels. I loved the resourcefulness, the weaknesses and the strengths of the women here because it made them all the more real. Maxine’s search for her emotional identity is especially profound and I desperately wanted her and Sofia to have happy endings. Of course, I’m not going to spoil the read by saying if they did!

In The Tuscan Contessa, Diana Jefferies blends initial sumptuous glamour with harsh and realistic reality into an intoxicating read. The sense of place, of history and of human nature is a heady mix in this novel. I thoroughly recommend it.

About Dinah Jefferies

dinah

Dinah Jefferies was born in Malaysia and moved to England at the age of nine. Her idyllic childhood always held a special place in her imagination, and when she began writing novels in her 60s, she was able to return there – first in her fiction and then on annual research trips for each new novel.

Dinah Jefferies is the author of the novels, The SeparationThe Tea Planter’s Wife – a Number One Sunday Times bestseller, The Silk Merchant’s Daughter, The Missing Sister and Before the Rains. She lives in Gloucestershire.

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

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Finders, Keepers by Sabine Durrant

Finders keepers

My enormous thanks to Jenny Platt for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Finders, Keepers by Sabine Durrant. I’m delighted to share my review today.

Published by Hodder and Stoughton on 9th July 2020, Finders, Keepers is available for purchase through the links here.

Finders, Keepers

Finders keepers

‘A masterly slow-burn gripper’ Louise Candlish

‘Deliciously sly yet also profoundly moving – a twisty game of cat and mouse that keeps the reader guessing at every step’ JP Delaney

‘Pitch-perfect. I absolutely loved it’ Lucy Dawson

‘Elegant and astute, Finders Keepers is truly gripping’ Louise O’Neill

Ailsa Tilson moves with her husband and children to Trinity Fields in search of the new.
New project – a house to renovate. New people – no links to the past. New friends – especially her next-door neighbour, the lonely Verity, who needs her help.

Verity has lived in Trinity Fields all her life. She’s always resisted change. Her home and belongings are a shield, a defence to keep the outside world at bay. But something about the Tilsons piques her interest.

Just as her ivy creeps through the shared garden fence, so Verity will work her way into the Tilson family.

And once they realise how formidable she can be, it might well be too late.

My review of Finders, Keepers

Neighbours can have secrets!

Finders Keepers is a claustrophobic, uneasy and unsettling narrative that I thoroughly enjoyed because it made my skin creep as if I were seeing something slightly distasteful and yet completely compelling. The aptly, perfectly named, Verity’s voice is strong and convincing so that I was sucked into her world and that of her neighbours, Tom and Alisa, almost against my will.

I thought the plot was masterful with a drip feeding of hints, distractions and credibility that captivated my attention throughout. Reading Finders, Keepers is a bit like catching something out of the corner of your eye. It’s unsettling but you’re not quite sure if you saw what you thought you saw. As well as providing a cracking story, Sabine Durrant considers what it is that makes us who we are, the persona we present to others and the way manipulation can come in many forms so that whilst Finders, Keepers is a riveting story, it is one that has many layers to fathom. The psychological element is subtle, and so plausible that it has far greater impact than brutal physical violence of some reads.

I loved Sabine Durrant’s creation of character. Throughout I couldn’t decide if I loathed Tom or felt sorry for him as the author manipulated my reader responses so unnervingly. Verity’s voice creeps into the reader’s mind until they are mesmerised, whilst Alisa seems like a chimera not to be entirely trusted. Both Alisa and Verity have a neediness that is utterly convincing but at the same time, each woman has a manipulative strength too so that it is impossible to know who is controlling whom and who can – or cannot – be trusted. The interplay between the people in Finders, Keepers, the conveying of meaning through what is withheld as much as what is said and the dynamics of control, all add layers of creepiness whilst seeming to be perfectly benign. I thought this was excellent.

There’s quite a filmic quality to the settings that makes them vivid and vibrant. Iterative themes redolent of threat and danger such as the colour red, a locked room, spying on other people as so skilfully woven in to Finders, Keepers that having finished the read I feel I want to go back to the beginning and look much more carefully, with the benefit of hindsight.
I thought Finders, Keepers was at the very least hugely entertaining and distracting, but more than that, I thought it was a subtle, manipulative story that was intelligently written and actually very unsettling. It made me wonder just how much I really know the people next door. I thoroughly enjoyed it and really recommend it.

About Sabine Durrant

sabine

Sabine Durrant is the author of three psychological thrillers, Under Your Skin, Remember Me This Way and Lie With Me, a Richard & Judy Bookclub selection and Sunday Times paperback bestseller. Her previous novels are Having It and Eating It and The Great Indoors, and two books for teenage girls, Cross Your Heart, Connie Pickles and Ooh La La! Connie Pickles. She is a former features editor of the Guardian and a former literary editor at the Sunday Times, and her writing has appeared in many national newspapers and magazines. She lives in south London with her partner and their three children.

For further information, find Sabine Facebook or follow her on Twitter @SabineDurrant.

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The New Book Club from @CapitalCrime1

capital crime logo

It was last September when I spent two sensational days at the inaugural Capital Crime event that you can read about here.

I’m delighted to bring you exciting news from Capital Crime today.

CApital crime authors

Today, Capital Crime launches an exciting new venture. Capital Crime presents the Capital Crime Book Club, an affordable monthly subscription service and year-round home for crime and thriller fans.

The Capital Crime Book Club will be fabulous resource for readers, and a regular link between authors and fans.

Each month, subscribers will receive two carefully curated paperbacks along with exclusive access to great author content and community activities. The Capital Crime Book Club offers a way for authors and publishers to connect with readers, maintaining the ethos at the heart of the Capital Crime festival.

The Capital Crime Book Club will provide readers with great value for money, and a greater sense of community.

Adam Handy

Adam Hamdy

Capital Crime co-founder Adam Hamdy, says “Capital Crime is an inclusive festival with a strong sense of community. It is in this spirit that we’re launching the Capital Crime Book Club, a home for all fans of crime fiction. With a monthly subscription fee in the region of £10 for two paperbacks and access to exclusive community content, we’re intent on offering a great value service that’s accessible to everyone.”

David Headley

David Headley

Capital Crime co-founder and Goldsboro Books Managing Director, David Headley, says
“Capital Crime has always been about connecting fans of crime fiction with their favourite writers. We see this as another string to our bow complementing our physical festival and capitalcrime.digital platform. We’re supporting authors and publishers and helping them connect with readers in celebration of this much-loved genre.”

The Capital Crime Book Club will officially launch on September 1st 2020. Register here now to be among the first to experience The Capital Crime Book Club.

About Capital Crime

capital crime logo

Capital Crime is a diverse, inclusive and socially responsible festival, running initiatives including social outreach to support students exploring a literary career, an innovative digital festival and the New Voices Award. The festival is the brainchild of British screenwriter Adam Hamdy and Managing Director of Goldsboro Books, David Headley.

Capital Crime’s inaugural festival took place from September 26th -28th 2019 at the Connaught Rooms in London. Guests included Kate Atkinson, Robert Harris, David Baldacci, Ian Rankin, Ann Cleeves, Robert Glenister, Leye Adenle, Denise Mina, Anthony Horowitz, Abir Mukherjee and many others.

Capital Crime 2020 is due to take place on 1st – 3rd October 2020. Capital Crime organisers are monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic closely and while they are not yet able to take a decision on the 2020 festival, their priority is keeping their delegates and guests safe. The Capital Crime Book Club will run alongside the festival in the event it goes ahead, or act as a substitute if it gets cancelled. If the 2020 festival does not go ahead, existing Capital Crime 2020 pass holders will have the opportunity to convert
to membership of the Capital Crime Book Club, transfer their purchase to a 2021 pass or get full refunds as they see fit.

Capital Crime will be sharing more details with existing Capital Crime 2020 pass holders in the coming weeks.

Follow Capital Crime on Twitter @CapitalCrime1 and Instagram.  Catch up with Capital Crime’s Digital Festival here.

An Extract from This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens

This Time Next Year Cover (1)

I’m delighted to share an extract from This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens today. Although I wasn’t able to read in time for today’s post, I’m thrilled to be participating in the paperback blog tour on publication day on 15th October, so do come back then to see what I thought of the book. My thanks to Rachel Kennedy at Penguin Random House for inviting me to take part in these launch celebrations.

Published by Penguin imprint Arrow on 1st August 2020, This Time Next Year is available for purchase through the links here.

This Time Next Year

This Time Next Year Cover (1)

Get ready to fall for this year’s most extraordinary love story

Quinn and Minnie are born on New Year’s Eve, in the same hospital, one minute apart.

Their lives may begin together, but their worlds couldn’t be more different.

Thirty years later they find themselves together again in the same place, at the same time.

What if fate is trying to bring them together?

Maybe it’s time to take a chance on love…

An Extract from This Time Next Year

New Year’s Eve 2019

The Night Jam was rammed. Pounding music pulsed through the club and the walls felt sticky with sweat, alcohol and likely worse. Minnie held tightly to Greg’s hand as they jostled through the crowd near the door.

‘We’re never going to get to the bar,’ Greg shouted back to her.

‘What?’ Minnie yelled back, her ears adjusting to the heavy bass.

‘We won’t be able to get a drink before midnight. I don’t even know where Lucy’s party is,’ said Greg.

He pointed upwards, indicating they should try to push their way upstairs to the terrace on the mezzanine above.

Minnie looked at her watch – it was ten to midnight. So far,this whole evening was only validating her hatred of New Year’s Eve. Why hadn’t she stayed at home and gone to bed early? Then she remembered that her heating had been cutoff – she’d come out to keep warm. And Greg had been determined to go to his work friend’s party; she would have felt like a bad girlfriend if she’d made him go alone.Minnie let herself be dragged through the throng of pulsating bodies. Finally, they emerged from the crush,stepping out into the cool night air where the thumping bass from the club settled to a more manageable decibel.

‘Watch it!’ Greg said, pushing a drunk guy out of his way.Greg glared at the man, trying to make him notice he’d spilt his beer on someone, but the man was too far gone to care.

‘I did warn you about spending New Year with me,’ said Minnie.

‘Will you stop with this jinxed stuff?’ said Greg, shaking his head.

‘Honestly, it’s a thing; bad things happen to me at New Year’s. I wouldn’t be surprised if this whole building went up in flames before the night’s out. Or perhaps a very small asteroid lands right where I’m standing.’

‘I don’t think we’re having a terrible night because you’re jinxed; I think we’re having a terrible night because you dragged us to dinner at weird Alan’s house on the other side of the galaxy. Now we’re arriving at a party two seconds to midnight when everyone’s high on moon juice and . . . come in Star Command?’ Greg lifted a finger to his ear, pausing to listen to an imaginary transmission, ‘Mission control says we’re not even at the right party.’

‘Permission to abort the mission?’ Minnie asked hopefully.

‘Denied,’ said Greg.

‘Look, you stay here,’ he said with a sigh, looking around the balcony, ‘I’ll go back through and try to find this private room.’

‘OK, well, if an asteroid lands in your absence. I can only say goodbye, I told you so, and Happy New Year,’ Minnie replied, trying to sound upbeat.

As Greg walked away, Minnie turned to look out at the London skyline and shivered. The city exuded a sense of serenity in sharp contrast to the atmosphere of the club. The buildings were bathed in silver moonlight and the night sky was still and cloudless. Minnie wished she could transport herself to the top of another empty skyscraper just to lie down on the flat roof and gaze up at the stars, unfettered by other people.

‘Ten, nine, eight . . . ’ People were starting the countdown.‘Seven, six, five . . . ’ Minnie looked at all the couples pulling together in anticipation of the midnight kiss. She was glad Greg wasn’t there to kiss her. She never understood why the end of the year had to be marked with the ridiculous convention of everyone locking lips in unison. People behaving like lemmings, following the herd. ‘Four, three,two, one, HAPPY NEW YEAR!’

An explosion of fireworks erupted in the sky, illuminating the city beneath in a shower of multicoloured lights. Huge bursts of energy ignited in the darkness, miniature universes flaring into existence only to fade to extinction moments later. Minnie wondered at all that effort for such a fleeting display of brilliance. The city buildings below looked still and stately, unmoved by the frenzy of activity above them.

On the balcony of the club, the fireworks cast ugly shadows onto the spaced-out faces of intoxicated people, as they swayed and swerved through the crowd. Light shone into grimy corners, full of cigarette butts and discarded plastic glasses. A group of girls tottering about in high heels pushed into her and Minnie had to grab the railing to stay upright.

‘Happy Birthday to me,’ Minnie said quietly to herself. Then she felt a warm, wet sensation as one of the girls vomited down her back.

*

What a place to end eh? I can’t wait to read This Time Next Year and find out what happens!

About Sophie Cousens

Sophie Cousens cr. Holly Smith

Sophie Cousens worked in TV in London for over twelve years, producing The Graham Norton Show, Big Brother and Ant and Dec. Sophie has previously published an eBook only romantic comedy novel How To Get Ahead In Television which was shortlisted for the 2015 Romantic Novelist Association Awards. She relocated from London to Jersey and balances her writing career with working for an arts charity, taking care of her two small children and enjoying small island life.

You can follow Sophie on Twitter @SophieCous.

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An Extract From The Puritan Princess by Miranda Malins

The Puritan Princess_HB

I’m very partial to historical fiction and with Cromwell being a local to me figure I’m delighted to participate in the  blog tour for The Puritan Princess by Miranda Malins. I’m really grateful to Gaby Drinkald at Midas PR for inviting me to participate in this blog tour.

Published by Orion, The Puritan Princess is available for purchase through the links here.

The Puritan Princess

The Puritan Princess_HB

Power, politics and a devastating fight for the crown in this gripping historical novel following the rise of Oliver Cromwell’s youngest daughter. Perfect for fans of Anne O’Brien, Joanna Hickson and Alison Weir.

London, 1657. The youngest daughter of Oliver Cromwell, eighteen-year-old Frances is finding her place at England’s new centre of power.

Following the turmoil of Civil War, a fragile sense of stability has returned to the country. Her father has risen to the unprecedented position of Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, and Frances has found herself transported from her humble childhood home to the sumptuous palaces of Hampton Court and Whitehall, where she dreams of a love match that must surely be found at court.

But after an assassination attempt on the Cromwell family, Frances realises the precarious danger of her position – and when her father is officially offered the crown, Frances’s fate suddenly assumes diplomatic and dynastic importance.

Will she become a political pawn, or can Frances use her new status to seize control and further her own ambitions?

An Extract from The Puritan Princess

Frances Cromwell discusses foreign affairs with the young courtier Robert Rich

Robert’s mention of the Council’s split opinion on our aligning with France or Spain calls to my mind our Tudor forebears who, only a few generations ago, wrestled here at Whitehall with exactly the same dilemma: King Henry famously played the two much mightier nations off against each other for most of his reign where his daughter, the bloody Mary, married into Spain – the famous Armada the terrifying legacy of this for her sister, brave Queen Elizabeth. These thoughts bring to mind another topic about which I have long wished an opportunity to remind Robert, though I doubt the subject often strays far from his thoughts:

‘You are indeed knowledgeable, sir.’ I smile politely. ‘I wonder you do not offer your expertise to my father, hitching the Rich horse to the Cromwell wagon as your ancestor did a century ago. Did not the lawyer Richard Rich, the founder of your noble house, secure his fortune by entering the service of my great-great-great uncle Thomas Cromwell, rising to the top of Henry VIII’s court on the hem of his cloak before betraying him on his downfall?’ It is perhaps a little cruel, but faced with his cool expression, I smart, remembering how much of myself I revealed to him the last time we spoke. Now it is my turn to remind him of the murky origins of his own noble heritage; justice of a sort for all his jibes about East Anglian farmers.

‘I cannot account for the sins of my forebears,’ Robert replies carefully, his voice even against my taunt. ‘Though I would remind you, my lady, as the keen student of history you are, that your great-great-great uncle’s fall from King Henry’s favour was hardly the fault of my great-great-great-grandfather.’ He counts the ‘greats’ with elaborate nods of his head, emphasising the passing years.

‘That may be.’ I incline my head. ‘But doesn’t patronage in turn deserve loyalty? Thomas Cromwell did not abandon his sponsor Cardinal Wolsey on his debasement. And he could perhaps have expected the same loyalty meted out to him from his protégé Richard Rich.’

I see Robert take in a breath before turning away from me, his eyes now the ones focusing on the middle distance as he shifts his weight from foot to foot. ‘It is a long time ago now, my lady. And besides,’ he continues, speaking softly, his voice smooth as if to calm a restless horse, ‘the lesson I draw from our families’ tangled past is that, under propitious circumstances, an alliance between a Rich and a Cromwell is a formidable partnership indeed.’

His words stop all noise from the room for me and I am flattened by the wall of silence. I hear my breath loud beneath my stays, feel my breasts swell over the lace-edged top of my corset. I am struck by a sudden desire to reach out and touch his face, to run my finger along his jaw and turn his noble profile to face me. The urge unbalances me and I bury it in anger.

*

And now of course, I need to read the whole book to find out just what IS going to happen!

About Miranda Malins

Miranda Malins

Miranda is a writer and historian specialising in the history of Oliver Cromwell, his family and the politics of the Interregnum period following the Civil Wars. She studied at Cambridge University, leaving with a PhD, and continues to speak at conferences and publish journal articles and book reviews. She is also a Trustee of the Cromwell Association. Alongside this, Miranda works as a commercial solicitor in the City and began writing historical novels on maternity leave. She lives in Hampshire with her husband, young son and cat, Keats. The Puritan Princess is her debut novel.

For further information, follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaMalins, or visit her website. You’ll also find Miranda on Facebook.

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