A Lover of Books

Blog Tour – ‘Dark Place to Hide’ by AJ Waines

Blog Tour Poster

AJ Waines contacted me recently with regards to taking part in a blog tour for her new novel, ‘Dark Place to Hide’, which was published on the 30th July 2015. Having earlier this year posted an extract from her previous book on my blog and liking the sound of her novels I was more than eager to take part. I was kindly sent a copy of ‘Dark Place to Hide’.  Read on for my review and look out for a competition at the end of this post.

Harper and Diane Penn live in Nettledon, Hampshire. Harper is an expert in criminology and is very good at solving puzzles. So when his wife who has recently had a miscarriage goes missing, he instinctively knows there is more to her disappearance than meets the eye. Harper having recently found out that he is infertile feels that he cannot possibly have made her pregnant. He contacts the police and tells them what has happened, but they treat her disappearance as a low priority case thinking it likely that she has gone away to be on her own and get over things or has run off with a secret lover.

Marion and her seven-year-old daughter also live in the same village. Clara reads a lot and likes her own company, often retreating into a fantasy world. An accident causes her to sink deeper into her own world and when she starts quoting sentences from fairy tales there is a lot of concern. One day Harper sees Marion and Clara in the village. Marion isn’t very well so he takes them back to their cottage. Soon after Clara goes missing too. Could there be a connection between both disappearances and is there more to what Clara has been saying than meets the eye?

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Dark Place to Hide’, although I have to say it did take me a bit of time to get into the story. Once I got to the chapter where Diane went missing I was intrigued and couldn’t wait to find out what had happened to her. I couldn’t believe for one minute that she had left Harper. I really felt for Marion when Clara also disappeared and I could imagine what was going through her head.

I very much liked the layout of the book with the story being narrated by the characters. Most chapters were clearly marked with the date that events were taking place. I loved the suspense and mystery throughout this story and the fact that it was believable.

‘Dark Place to Hide’ is a psychological thriller that will get you thinking and wanting more. I now plan to read AJ Waines previous novels at some stage.

I give this book 4 out of 5.



About the author

Author Picture

AJ Waines was a Psychotherapist for fifteen years, during which time she worked with ex-offenders from high-security institutions, giving her a rare insight into abnormal psychology. She is now a full-time novelist with an Agent and has publishing deals in France and Germany (Random House). Both her debut novels, The Evil Beneath and Girl on a Train have been Number One in ‘Murder’ and ‘Psychological Thrillers’ in the UK Kindle Charts. Girl on a Train has also been a Number One Bestseller in the entire Kindle Chart in Australia. In 2015, she was ranked in the Top 100 UK authors on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

Her new psychological thriller, Dark Place to Hide, was released July 30th 2015, and is available HERE.

Alison lives in Southampton, UK, with her husband. Visit her website and blog, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


‘Dark Place to Hide’ is available to buy on Amazon UK:-




Like the sound of ‘Dark Place to Hide’ and really want to read it?  Well, one very lucky person has the chance to win a signed paperback copy of this book and to enter all you have to do to is leave a comment telling me why you want to read it.


Terms and Conditions 

This competition is open to UK residents only.

The closing date is 11:59  p.m. on the 17th August 2015.

The winner will be notified of their win within 7 days of the closing date and their details passed on to AJ Waines who will send out the prize.



Good luck! :-)

Blog Tour – ‘The Hiding Place’ by John Burley

Blog Tour Banner

I am absolutely thrilled to be kicking off this blog tour. ‘The Hiding Place’, published by Avon, is out today in eBook and on the 27th August will be released in paperback. I was kindly sent a proof copy of this book. Read on for my review.

Dr Lise Shields works for Menaker State Hospital, an institution which houses some of the most dangerous criminals in America. These patients have all been found guilty and there is little chance of any of them ever leaving.

Jason Edwards is admitted to the hospital without any paperwork, not even a transfer order. When Lise questions this she is immediately fobbed off, which makes her all the more suspicious. Is Jason really guilty of the crime he has supposedly been sentenced for or has he been set up? Lise is determined to find out the truth but soon finds herself caught up in something very sinister indeed.

I love a good psychological thriller so couldn’t wait to start reading this book. Hooked from the start, I was intrigued by Jason Edwards and wanted to know more about him and why there was so much secrecy. ‘The Hiding Place’ was really hard to put down. It was fast paced, exciting and just so addictive. I also really liked John Burley’s writing style. Split into five parts with the majority of chapters being fairly short it really was a case of just one more chapter. You are also given a good insight into both Lise’s and Jason’s past which helped to solve the mystery a bit. I could not wait to get back to the book.

I did find myself questioning a couple of things throughout the story but I was still totally unprepared for the ending. I have to admit that after the journey I was taken on I was a little bit disappointed. It was like coming back down to earth with a bump. This story was well thought out and very cleverly written and it is one that will say for me for a while.

If you want to read a book that keeps you up late, takes you on a rollercoaster of a ride and messes with your head then ‘The Hiding Place’ could well be what you are looking for. I will definitely be reading more of John Burley’s novels.

I give this book 4 out of 5.




Now for an extract from ‘The Hiding Place’…..

Menaker State Hospital is a curse, a refuge, a place of imprisonment, a necessity, a nightmare, a salvation. Originally funded by a philanthropic endowment, the regional psychiatric facility’s sprawling, oak- studded campus sits atop a bluff on the eastern bank of the Severn River. From the steps of the hospital’s main administration building, the outline of the U.S. Naval Academy can be seen where the river enters the Chesapeake Bay some two and a half miles to the south. There is but one entrance to the facility, and the campus perimeter is demarcated by a wrought- iron fence whose ten- foot spear pickets curve inward at the top. The hospital is not a large central structure as one might imagine, but rather an assortment of redbrick buildings erected at the end of the nineteenth century and disseminated in small clusters across the quiet grounds, as if reflecting the scattered, huddled psyches of the patients themselves. There is a mild senseof neglect to the property. The wooden door frames sag like the spine of an old mare that has been expected to carry too much weight for far too many years. The diligent work of the groundskeeper is no match for the irrepressible thistles that erupt from the earth during the warmer months and lay their barbed tendrils against the base of the edifices, attempting to claim them as their own. The metal railings along the outdoor walkways harbour minute, jagged irregularities on their surfaces that will cut you if you run your fingers along them too quickly.

Twenty- two miles to the north lies the city of Baltimore, its beautiful inner harbor and surrounding crime- ridden streets standing in stark contrast to each other— the ravages of poverty, violence, and drug addiction flowing like a river of human despair into some of the finest medical institutions in the world. Among them is The Johns Hopkins Hospital where I received my medical training. Ironic how, after all these years, the course of my career would take me here, so close to my starting point— as if the distance between those two places was all that was left to show for the totality of so much time, effort, and sacrifice. And why not? At the beginning of our lives the world stretches out before us with infinite possibility— and yet, what is it about the force of nature, or the proclivities within ourselves, that tend to anchor us so steadfastly to our origins? One can travel to the Far East, study particle physics, get married, raise a child, and still . . . in all that time we’re never too far from where we first started. We belong to our past, each of us serving it in our own way, and to break the tether between that time and the present is to risk shattering ourselves in the process.

Herein lies the crux of my profession as a psychiatrist. Life takes its toll on the mind as well as the body, and just as the body will react and sometimes succumb to forces acting upon it, so too will the mind. There are countless ways in which it can happen: from chemical imbalances to childhood trauma, from genetic predispositions to the ravages of guilt regarding actions past, from fractures of identity to a general dissociation from the outside world.


About the author

John Burley attended medical school in Chicago and completed his residency in emergency medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Centre’s Shock Trauma Centre in Baltimore. He currently serves as an emergency medicine physician in Northern California, where he lives with his wife and daughter, and their Great Dane and English bulldog.



‘The Hiding Place’ is available to buy on Amazon UK:-


Blog Tour – ‘Sugar and Snails’ by Anne Goodwin

Blog Tour - Sugar and Snails

I would like to start off by congratulating Anne Goodwin whose debut novel, ‘Sugar and Snails’ is out today, published by Inspired Quill.  As part of this blog tour I have interviewed Anne.


How does it feel to be having your debut novel published?

Wonderful – and a bit unreal. It’s taken me a long time to get here but it’s a good place to be. And I’m thrilled, humbled and moved by the volume of support I’ve received from friends and acquaintances both on and off-line.


Can you tell me a bit about ‘Sugar and Snails’ please?

It’s a midlife coming-of-age story about a woman who has gone to great lengths to safeguard the secret of her past. But it’s entailed a lot of sacrifice: although Diana appears fairly together on the outside, with her own house and a good job, she’s highly anxious and defensive, keeping others at a distance and forgoing opportunities for promotion at work.

When, at fifteen, she made her life-changing decision, she was advised to put the past behind her. But, as she discovers, that’s easier said than done, especially after meeting Simon at a dinner party and being assigned a troubled student at work.

Sugar and Snails is about friendship, turbulent adolescence and the rocky road to self-acceptance. While Diana’s journey is an unusual one, I think many of us can identify with that struggle to bridge the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be.


Where did you get the idea from for your book?

The novel didn’t come out of one single thing but, looking back, I think there were three sources of influence that somehow came together to make the story. One was the exceedingly long time it took me to understand my own painful adolescence. Another was an interest in hidden vulnerabilities: knowing, from my experience as a clinical psychologist, how high levels of achievement can sit alongside deep levels of distress. A third factor was my curiosity about challenges to the rigidity of the gender divide.


How long did it take you to write?

I began my initial draft in October 2008, nearly seven years ago. Although I received some extremely encouraging feedback on the early chapters from a critique service, it took me at least another five drafts (how do you measure these things? when does tinkering turn into a new draft?) to get it anywhere near right. Several times I was ready to give up on it completely (which is how I wrote another novel and published several short stories during those six and a half years), but something about the story kept nagging me to have another go.


Did you have to do any research?

I did a fair amount of reading about the situation Diana faces, including identity issues, medical procedures and the legal framework. But as much as I could, I drew on what I knew already, setting the contemporary strand of the novel in a city where I’d lived for twenty years, and drawing on my knowledge of psychology. Even so, it required a lot of checking back, as well as compromises of the sake of the story.


Can you relate to any of your characters?

Absolutely! I’m an “it’s personal” as opposed to an “it’s autobiographical” kind of writer although I do, obviously, make a lot of things up. But the only way I could get inside Diana’s situation was to imagine it happening to me. Not that I gave her my own personal history, but hers does feel like a life that, in other circumstances, I might have led.


Are you working on any other writing projects?

Being published by a very small press no-one’s heard of (well you have now: it’s Inspired Quill), I’m conscious of the need for me to work extra hard to try to bring my novel to readers’ attention. So, thanks to the generosity of the blogging community, my main writing projects right now are guest posts and Q&A’s like this. But on the fiction side, in the next year or so I hope to see the publication of my other novel, Underneath, about a man who keeps a woman imprisoned in a cellar and do a second draft of the novel I began for my non-NaNo project about the secrets uncovered in the course of a psychiatric hospital closure.


Where do you tend to do most of your writing?

I have a lovely study (ostensibly shared with my husband, although he’s rarely allowed through the door) with a view over our wild front garden. With repetitive strain injury, I dictate with voice-activated software, standing at my desk with my laptop raised to a comfortable height with two box files (very high-tech).


What advice do you have for anyone wanting to write their first book?

Know whether you’re writing for publication or your own pleasure. Of course they overlap, but the path to publication is strewn with disappointments. You’ve got to really want to do it to make that worthwhile.


Which do you prefer: eBooks or printed books?

As a reader, printed most definitely. As a writer, with a low-budget publisher, ebooks.


What is your favourite genre?

Accessible literary fiction with complex characters, high stakes emotionally and a story worth telling.


Have any authors influenced your work?

Of course! I’m an avid reader and I learn a lot from just about everything I read, even if it’s how not to do it, but sometimes it’s hard to detect exactly how that influence has shaped my work. One of the lovely things about being published is having others pull out the links with more established authors. One of my early reviewers said she was reminded of Claire Messud’s novel, The Woman Upstairs (which I haven’t yet read, but I know from reviews that I’d like to). And very early on in my writing journey I was told my style was like Kate Atkinson’s. I’m not complaining about that!


About Anne Goodwin

Anne Goodwin author photo

Anne Goodwin grew up in Cumbria and studied Mathematics and Psychology at Newcastle University around the same time as the narrator of Sugar and Snails.

She loves fiction for the freedom to contradict herself and has been scribbling stories ever since she could hold a pencil. During her 25-year career as an NHS clinical psychologist her focus was on helping other people tell their neglected stories to themselves. Now that her short fiction publication count has overtaken her age, her ambition is to write and publish enough novels to match her shoe size.

Anne juggles her sentences while walking in the Peak District, only to lose them battling the slugs in her vegetable plot. As a break from finding her own words, she is an avid reader and barely-competent soprano in an all-comers choir.

Sugar and Snails is her first published novel.


Sugar and Snails on the Inspired Quill website


Sugar and Snails on my website


Guest Post by Erin Lawless

Somewhere only we Know hi-res

‘Somewhere Only We Know’ was published on the 11th June 2015 by HarperImpulse.  The lovely Erin Lawless has written a guest post about the main characters for my blog.


Somewhere Only We Know is the story of the spirited Nadia Osipova and the downtrodden Alex Bradley, but it’s a lot more than your usual ‘boy meets girl’ and ‘opposites attract’ tale…

Russian-born Nadia has been living in the UK since she was a pre-teen, but with the political climate the way that it is there are definitely no more visa extensions forthcoming… She’s got all her hopes pinned on one last appeal before deportation and she’s trying to stay positive. But on the other hand, just in case, it’s probably prudent to make sure she spends the summer visiting all of her favourite places, and doing all the things she never got around to, just in case…

Alex joined the Home Office’s graduate scheme after university hoping to get some experience on his CV and some money in his bank account before moving on to more exciting things. More than half a decade later and he’s still there, cringing through the same weekly team meetings, being passed over for all the promotions and picking through an unending stream of visa application letters. Nadia’s is the only one that he ever remembered.

And then, quite by chance, the two meet, and an unlikely relationship is sparked. Nadia decides on a whim to take the tentative Alex under her wing and invites him to join her as she makes her way through her London ‘bucket list’. Alex – in equal parts horrified and fascinated by this whirlwind of a girl – decides not to tell her that he once saw her visa application and to go with the flow of this unexpected friendship.

And that unexpected friendship grows through the summer, through half-fictious boyfriends for Nadia and Alex’s painfully unrequited love for his flatmate’s girlfriend, through near-misses and almost-kisses. Nadia’s court date looms. Will Alex pull himself out of his rut long enough to realise what he has with Nadia before it’s too late…?


About Erin Lawless

Erin and Best Thing paperback smile

Erin Lawless lives a happy life full of wonderful friends, in love with a man who buys her books instead of flowers. To mix things up a little, she writes books where friends and lovers hit obstacles and (usually) overcome them. When she’s not doing that she reads absolutely everything she gets her hands on, spends an inordinate amount of time in pyjamas and runs a fun-but-informative blog on British history.



Website – http://www.erinlawless.co.uk

Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/rinylou

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/erinlawlessauthor

Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/rinylou

Blog Tour – ‘Death Night’ by Todd Ritter

Death Night

‘Death Night’ by Todd Ritter is out on the 25th June 2015, published by Avon.  Today I am taking part in a blog tour for which I am posting an extract from the book, but first here’s the book blurb.


Book Blurb

24 hours: that’s all they have to stop a killer in his tracks… Perfect for fans of Gregg Hurwitz and P.J. Tracy.

Two things Perry Hollow Police Chief Kat Campbell never thought she would do again

Enter a burning building, and lay eyes on Henry Goll, the man who was trapped inside with her the last time she was in one. So Kat’s on high alert when, barely a year after the dust settled around the Grim Reaper killings, both happen on the same day.

She’s jolted awake at 1 a.m. by a desperate phone call telling her Perry Hollow’s one and only museum—home to all the town’s historical artefacts—has been set on fire. Arriving at the scene, Kat catches just a glimpse of Henry’s face among the crowd before she’s rushed into the charred building, only to find the museum curator dead…bludgeoned, not burned.

Kat has lived through some tense moments and seen some gruesome crimes, but the next twenty-four hours will be the most dangerous of her life as she and Henry seek out a killer and the motivation behind these terrifying crimes.



The first thing she saw was a body on the floor. It was a man, slumped on his side and facing the far wall. Blood matted his hair and oozed from beneath his head in a circular pool that crept across the floorboards.

Even without seeing his face, Kat could identify him. She rushed to his side and, despite already knowing that he was dead and gone, checked his wrist for a pulse. When she inevitably didn’t feel one, a heaviness flooded her heart. Yet another casualty in a day that was full of them.

“Who did this to you?” she whispered. “And why —”

She stopped speaking as her gaze flicked to the dark corner nearest the body. Something was there, shrouded in the shadows.

A propane tank.

It was small, just like the one hooked up to the gas grill in her backyard. The cap had been removed, replaced with a grease-smeared handkerchief that soaked up the liquid inside. The gas that leaked out was a noxious vapor that made Kat dizzy.

She glanced in the opposite corner. It also contained a propane tank. As did the room’s other two corners. Each tank was the same. Caps off. Stuffed with rags. Waiting to be lit.

A mere spark on one of the rags could make an entire tank explode. That would set off a chain reaction. Explosion after explosion after explosion.

The whole room had been turned into a bomb.

And Kat was now standing right in the heart of it.


24 Hours Earlier

Kat was dreaming about Henry when she heard the sirens. She had no idea why. It’s not as if she dwelled on him so much during her waking hours that it invaded her subconscious at night. In fact, it had been weeks since she thought about Henry, months since she had heard from him and a full year since she last saw him.

Yet there he was, front and center in her dream. They were in a nondescript room so dim and vast that Kat wasn’t sure if it was a room at all. Dreams were like that. Ceilings not supported by walls. Floors as malleable as wet sand. The only thing concrete about their surroundings was the table in front of them — white Formica as bright as a smile in a toothpaste commercial.

On the table were two large sheets of paper, thin and translucent. Henry, staring at his swath of paper, frowned.

“I don’t know how to do this.”

“It’s easy,” Kat said. “I’ll show you.”

She lifted a corner of her sheet to the center, cementing the fold with a crease. Henry followed suit. They did it again, this time simultaneously, with an upper fold.

“See,” she said. “I told you it was easy.”


‘Death Night’ can be pre-ordered on Amazon:-


Blog Tour – ‘The Hunt’ by Tim Lebbon


‘The Hunt’ by Tim Lebbon is out today, published by Avon.  It is also the first day of the blog tour to celebrate this new book.  To whet your appetites here is an extract.



When he wanted to run faster, Chris Sheen imagined being chased by a tiger. Sleek, stealthy, powerful, it pounded silently along the trail behind him, tail swishing at the clasping brambles and eyes focused on his back. He didn’t risk a glance over his shoulder. There was no time for that. If he did his pace would slow, and maybe he’d trip over a tree root or a rock protruding from the uneven path. He’d go sprawling and the big cat would be upon him. All they’d find would be his GPS watch and perhaps one of his running shoes, bloodied and torn and still containing a foot.

He giggled. Sweat ran into his eyes and down his back. Mud was splattered up his legs from the newly ploughed field he’d run across a couple of miles back. Blood pulsed, his heart thudded fast and even, and he had never felt so good.

He loved running with the dawn. Out of the house while it was still dark, leaving Terri and the girls sleeping, he was through one small woodland and already running down towards the canal towpath by the time the sun set the hills alight. Sometimes he saw someone else on the canal, walking their dog or cycling to work, but more often than not he was on his own. This morning he’d seen a buzzard in a field, sitting on a recent kill and staring around as if daring anyone to try for it. Once on the towpath a heron had taken off close by, startling him with its sheer size. He heard a woodpecker at work somewhere, scared ducks into the water with their ducklings, and he’d caught a brief glimpse of a kingfisher’s neon beauty. This early morning world felt like his alone, and he revelled in it.

Now, close to the end of his run, the giggles came in again. It was a familiar feeling. The endorphins were flowing, his heart hammering, and it felt so bloody great to be alive that sometimes he whooped out loud, running through the woods towards home. He ran with assurance and style, flowing across the uneven ground and watching ahead for potential trip hazards. Spider web strands broke across his face, but he didn’t mind. Once, he’d arrived home to find Terri in the kitchen, sleep-ruffled and clasping a warm mug of tea, and when he’d hugged her – ignoring her protestations at his sweat-soaked clothing and cold hands – she’d screeched at the sight of a spider crawling in his hair.

He leaped a stream, slipped, found his footing and ran on. He knew this was a good run, he could feel it, but when he glanced at his watch he saw that he was well on course for a personal best. It was one of his regular routes – through a small woodland on the other side of the village, along a country lane, up a steep hill to a local folly, back down a rocky trail to the canal towpath, then under several bridges until he entered the larger woodland that led back home. Twelve miles, and his best time so far was one hour fifty minutes. Not bad for cross country, and pretty good for a middle-aged former fat bastard. But today he was set to smash that record by five minutes.


‘The Hunt’ is available to buy on Amazon:-


Interview with Tessy L Reys

Reach for Joy

Tessy L Reys went through years of shocking abuse and has since written a book.  I interviewed Tessy who very kindly answered my questions.


Can you tell me a little bit about your book, ‘Reach for Joy’ please?

I was married to a narcissisic/sociopathic man for 30 years. He didn’t like people and didn’t want to live in the real world. I was forced to bear 10 children and homeschool them. We lived in terrible situations. In some of the places we lived we endured freezing conditions. At times we didn’t have running water, electricity or even plumbing. We were often isolated. The children often had no friends, no social life and never did the things other children do growing up. I wasn’t allowed to drive, cut my hair, use deodorant or wear pants. My life was tightly controlled. One of my babies died in my arms and I endured rape. When I finally realized my life was in danger and our situation was getting worse, I escaped with my two youngest children.


How long did it take you to write it? 

It took me five years to write my story. I revised it several times as I struggled to tell it in a way that portrayed the unbelievably strange life we led and the terrible interior anguish I endured.


You went through an absolutely shocking experience.  Did you ever feel that you wouldn’t get out alive?

Yes, towards the end, there were several times I believed my life was in danger, I wrote about them in the book.


How does it feel to be out of the awful situation you were in?

Incredible. After 30 years in a controlled, abusive, confined state, without personal freedom, I fell apart (after I escaped). I didn’t know who I was. I was brainwashed and lived apart from the real world for so long that I felt as if I was starting all over at 22 again. There was no real personal growth for me all of those years of just trying to hold on and not commit suicide. Freedom feels wonderful, but not having the skills to live and support myself and my two children has been a terrible struggle. However, I wake up everyday and am so grateful to be free and alive.


Understandably, it must be hard to rid yourself of the past and all the pain you went through.  As well as the memoir, what steps have you taken to move on? 

I have been in therapy for five years and have done a lot of writing. Healing takes a long time. You can never get back the decades you’ve missed out on. I have chosen to reach for joy. I have forgiven my abuser and feel that love is the most powerful healing force there is. I wish to help others realize that fear is only as powerful as you allow it to be. You can be free if you can break through the fear.


What advice would you give to other women who are going through the same sort of thing?

Get help. Find a way, some way to get away. It isn’t hopeless. If I could live in fear for 30 years and escape, you can do it. But you have to be careful and get help. Life really will get better and it is so worth being free. Be strong, love yourself and be free.


Are you planning to write any more books?

I have written a small booklet called, “Self-Love Transformation” and I intend to write some other self-esteem and inspirational type books to help others who feel life is desperate and filled with anguish. I may write the rest of the story of what happened after I escaped and my abuser came after me.


Can you describe in three words what life means to you now?

Incredible wonderful JOY


About Tessy L Reys

Married at 21 and forced to have ten children while at times living in primitive conditions, Tessy L Reys was 51 when she finally escaped after 30 years of confinement, neglect and abuse. She now lives with her last two children while pursuing writing and reaching for joy



Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TLReys

Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/R4JOY

Blog: http://lovingmeproject.blogspot.com/

Webpage I am setting up: http://www.reach4joy.com

My Self-Love Transformation booklet:  https://tinyurl.com/k58au6v (this is my affiliate link)

Google Plus:  https://plus.google.com/u/0/108021965074616531014/posts/p/pub


Blog Tour – ‘Among a Thousand Stars’ by Jo Bartlett

blog tour

‘Among a Thousand Stars’ by Jo Bartlett has been published by So Vain Books.  Today is the start of a blog tour celebrating this book and I am kicking it off with a guest post from Jo.


All in the stars?

Are you one of those people who believes in fate, luck or spooky coincidence? I suppose we all have our superstitions – I can’t see a single magpie without touching black and my sister won’t have new shoes in her kitchen.  Not even sure what that one’s about, but it’s clearly significant to her!

Despite being a romance writer, with over seven billion people in the world I’m not sure I really believe in the concept of “the one”. I quite like the idea of fate binding people together, though, and my husband and I certainly had our fair share of coincidences, which seemed to suggest we were meant to be together – although we’d both worked for the same company years before and never met.

Life is full of amazing coincidences and twists of fate, or so it seems; from the ‘just missed it’ club, who were booked to board the Titanic but for one reason or another never made it, to the couple who got together in their late twenties and found photographs from years earlier showing them both playing on the same beach only yards apart.

In ‘Among A Thousand Stars’ there are definitely some coincidences which the protagonist, Ashleigh Hayes, wishes had never happened.  She seems to have a habit of turning up in the wrong place at the wrong time and develops a bad case of emotional Tourettes around her prickly new boss as a result.  Yet it’s the discovery of a long lost painting that seems to give Ashleigh her biggest hint that the future might already be mapped out for her.

Is it really fate that decides who we’re going to spend our lives with, though? I think fate is just the thing that puts something or someone in our path and what we do as a result is up to us.  Characters in a novel are, of course, at the mercy of the writer rather than fate; or at least that’s the theory.  After all, how can characters who have no existence outside the writer’s mind have any sort of free will? Put it this way, my plans for Ashleigh didn’t always work out quite as I expected!

Perhaps it truly is all written for us in the stars, but either way I’m glad I don’t know too much about what will happen next.  As for Ashleigh and that long lost painting? That’s really is a story mapped out among a thousand stars.


About Jo Bartlett


Jo Bartlett has been a teacher for longer than she ever expected, which made it difficult to choose names for her children because ‘challenging’ students put her off so many potential choices.  She now combines educational consultancy, teaching in HE and blogging as one of The Write Romantics, with writing both fiction and non-fiction, and lives so close to the South-East edge of England that she’s very nearly French.

Among a Thousand Stars is her first full-length novel.

Website:  http://jobartlettauthor.com/

Twitter:  @J_B_Writer


‘Among a Thousand Stars’ is available to buy from Amazon:-


Interview with Marion Kenyon Jones

Pippo's War cover

Marion Kenyon Jones recently had her debut novel published.  Marion was interested in being interviewed for my blog.


Can you tell me a bit about your book please?

This sweeping Historical novel begins in the Italian countryside during the last months of World War II, and will span the globe. Pippo is the teenage son of an Italian father and British mother. His father is a diplomat who turns against Mussolini, and is imprisoned. His mother Rose is forced to take refuge with her two sons (Pippo, and his younger brother Benni, who is autistic) at a magnificent, but neglected villa offered them by Pippo’s wealthy godmother. Rose also rescues Hannah, a seventeen year old jewish girl.

Coming of age is hard enough for Pippo, but his father’s arrest causes him to question the old family allegiance to the Fascist cause. His mother, originally aligned with Italy against her native Britain, decides to hide escaped allied soldiers from the occupying Nazis, and finds that love and war often go hand in hand.

Pippo and Hannah begin a romance. He feels a special empathy for someone whose family history has been turned upside down. (Hannah’s father was a loyal Italian Jew, who was betrayed by people he thought of as his fellow countrymen.)

The family are drawn into the Resistance and there is an increasingly menacing undertone of war, which erupts with tragic consequences as the retreating German army arrive in the area. Pippo and Hannah are forced apart. As paths divide and fates collide, can one young man fly in the face of all opposition to be with the one he loves?

Pippo’s war is an historical novel full of period detail, a love story, and a classic coming-of-age tale.

(If you enjoyed: The English Patient, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, or the more recent: In love and war, this could be the book for you.)


Did you have to do any research for it?

Yes, I am fortunate enough to have lived in Italy for many years, and am grateful to neighbours and friends who shared their stories with me. I talked to veterans of the Italian campaign (Now very elderly!) and I read a great deal about the history of the period.


Where did you get your ideas from?

There is a memorial plaque in the Italian village where I live which is dedicated to the memory of a group of young partisans who lost their lives. It sparked my interest.

I met a man who shares much in common with Pippo. The book is a work of fiction, but it is informed by his experiences, and those of many others.

The descriptive passages in Pippo’s War are inspired by the incomparable beauty of Italy’s landscape, buildings and art.


Do you sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with new ideas which you have to write down quickly?



Did it take you a long time to write?

I spent five years writing Pippo’s War, but the ideas had been forming in my mind for many years before, and the historical research took time.


Do you have a favourite place where you do your writing?

Yes, I have a tiny study crammed with books. There is a window overlooking the garden which fills the space with light, and above my desk are a collection of small paintings from the days when I was a practising artist.


Can we look forward to more books?

I am researching the story of a woman artist and traveller from the 18c. The working title is: The life and times of Angelica Finch.


Describe a day in your life.

I start the day skimming the news on my phone (in bed with a cup of coffee!)  I am learning about twitter and Facebook, and have a quick look at those before Holly the lurcher barks for her breakfast. We head for the kitchen together, and then she takes me for a brisk walk.

Each day is different, but I usually spend at least two hours in the morning and another two in the afternoon either writing or researching. If the writing is going well, I keep going!

My favourite evenings are spent at home with my historian husband. After supper we curl up with a box set or a book.


Who are your favourite authors?

There are so many! Classics: Trollop, George Eliot, Jane Austen, 20c: Anthony Burgess, Evelyn Waugh, Freya Stark, Pat Barker. Current reading: Marilynne Robinson, Tim Winton, Lydia Davis, Hilary Mantel. I could go on…


What do you do in your spare time?

I travel as much as I can, and I love to visit museums and galleries. I walk a great deal and of course I devour books.



About Marion Kenyon Jones


Marion was born in London in 1949 and trained as a sculptor in Paris. In 1974 she moved to the United States and took up painting. In 1982 she began to divide her time between her studio in Italy and New York where she regularly exhibited her work. During this period she wrote short stories about her summers on a small holding in the Tuscan Hills, and became interested in the local history.

After a hiatus during which she married, raised two children and took an MA at the Tavistock Centre in London, she began work on her debut novel Pippo’s War which was published in May 2015.

She continues to visit Italy regularly and is researching her second novel.









Guest Post by Heidi Swain

first class

Heidi Swain’s debut novel is being published in July and I for one can’t wait to read it.  Heidi has written a fabulous guest post for my blog.


How did I get here?

Hello Sonya. Thank you so much for inviting me to feature on your fabulous blog ahead of the eagerly anticipated The Cherry Tree Café publication day of July 16th.


Cherry Tree Cafe Cover

It is always exciting to chat about writing and current projects but for this post I thought it would be an opportunity to think back over my writing journey (for want over a better word), to when it all began. One of the most common comments I have received recently is how lucky I am that everything has happened so quickly for me but actually, it hasn’t happened all that quickly at all.

As some of you may already know I submitted to the thoroughly fabulous Books and The City Team at Simon & Schuster on July 15th last year through their #onedayonly call for submissions and The Cherry Tree Café is scheduled for publication exactly one year and a day from that date. So yes, I guess that is pretty fast, but the commitment (and kernel of confidence), to jump in and take my writing seriously actually happened years before my submission last July.

Tales from the Old Dining Room

My daughter was recently raiding my bedroom bookshelf and discovered a little book titled Tales from the Old Dining Room which was printed after the second creative writing course I took. The blurb reads;

‘Don’t think, just write. The idea was simple – write every day for two weeks and see where the story takes you. This book is a collection of unedited stories produced by the Friday morning Creative Writing group at Wensum Lodge in Norwich.’

By the time that book was printed by my wonderful tutor Neil Mason in 2010 I had already completed a writing for children course with Paeony Lewis and would go on to take two further creative writing courses with Norwich based poet, Julia Webb.

During that time I also wrote a variety of short stories, (one of which was a Christmas competition winner), for the online community Shortbread Stories (http://www.shortbreadstories.co.uk/#axzz3ZdUSmCvH), ran a blog alongside various features I wrote for our local magazine and attended as many writing related functions and seminars as possible.

I didn’t find the confidence to begin writing my first novel until sometime in 2012, however since then I have written four. I joined the RNA New Writers Scheme in 2014 and struck gold straightaway with The Cherry Tree Café.

Taking the time to look back I can’t quite believe just how many years have slipped by between filling in that first creative course application and signing my contract with Simon & Schuster, but if I had to do it all again I wouldn’t change a thing. Five plus years of hard work, trials, errors and triumphs are now being beautifully rewarded in ways I could have only ever dreamt of and for that I am so, so grateful.

No matter where you are on your own writing journey, whether you are just taking that first step and putting pen to paper, submitting your first manuscript, or crossing your fingers as you check your inbox just remember that if you want it badly enough and you’ve put in the hours, you will get there. You will find a way to make your writing dreams come true and I wish you the very best of luck.

Never lose faith, no matter how long it takes.


The Cherry Tree Café will be published on July 16th but is already available for pre-order via links below.


Blog: http://www.heidiswain.blogspot.co.uk/

Twitter: @Heidi_Swain

Amazon pre-order: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cherry-Tree-Cafe-Heidi-Swain-ebook/dp/B00RM4V02E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1430324049&sr=8-1&keywords=cherry+tree+cafe

Kobo pre-order: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/the-cherry-tree-cafe/id955075784?mt=11

iBooks pre-order: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-cherry-tree-cafe


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