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Blog Tour – ‘The Street Orphans’ by Mary Wood

Having totally loved Mary Wood’s previous novel, I am over the moon to be taking part in this blog tour.  ‘The Street Orphans’ was published yesterday the 17th May 2018 in paperback and as an eBook by Pan Books.  I am so looking forward to reading this book.

I have something very special for all of you today.  Yes, you can exclusively read the first chapter of ‘The Street Orphans’.  First though, here’s what its about.

 

Book Blurb

The Street Orphans is an emotional story set in 1850s Lancashire, from Mary Wood, the author of In Their Mother’s Footsteps and Brighter Days Ahead.

Born with a club foot in a remote village in the Pennines, Ruth is feared and ridiculed by her superstitious neighbours who see her affliction as a sign of witchcraft. When her father is killed in an accident and her family evicted from their cottage, she hopes to leave her old life behind, to start afresh in the Blackburn cotton mills. But tragedy strikes once again, setting in motion a chain of events that will unravel her family’s lives.

Their fate is in the hands of the Earl of Harrogate, and his betrothed, Lady Katrina. But more sinister is the scheming Marcia, Lady Katrina’s jealous sister. Impossible dreams beset Ruth from the moment she meets the Earl. Dreams that lead her to hope that he will save her from the terrible fate that awaits those accused of witchcraft. Dreams that one day her destiny and the Earl’s will be entwined.

 

Extract

1

Ruth Dovecote

 

A Shattered Family

‘Eeh, Ruth, will you hurry yourself ? It’s nigh on nightfall and we’ve to find shelter.’

‘Ma, I can’t. You go on. I’ll rest awhile and catch up later. Leave a message at the inn when you find somewhere  to bed down, so that I know where to find you.’ Shouting her answer to her ma sapped more of her strength than Ruth could spare, as she battled against the strong, bitter January wind that whistled around the mountainous hills of Bowland.

Ruth’s one good leg wobbled. Thinking she was going to topple over, she leaned heavily on her crutch. Her underarm burned as the crutch rasped against her armpit. Despair threatened  to  engulf  her.  The  weight  of  her  club  foot seemed to become heavier with every mile they walked – and they had trundled many miles these last days.

Turned out of their tied cottage on a remote farm within days of their da taking his last breath, Ruth, her ma and her four siblings had now reached the narrow high-peak road of Lythe Fell on their way to Blackburn.

It had been an accident that had taken their da. A strong man, he’d been to market in the nearby small town of Pradley, which lay topside of Slaidburn, north of the Forest of Bowland. He’d stopped at an old well on the edge of the town to haul up a bucket of water for the old horse pulling his cart. The sides of the well had collapsed, taking him thirty feet into the ground. He’d been in freezing-cold water up to his neck for two days before the rescue workers brought him to the surface. With many bones broken and pneumonia setting in, he’d stood little chance.

Their da’s boss, a rich landowner, hadn’t considered the grief that her ma and Ruth and her siblings were suffering, or the plight the family would now be in. Within an hour of Da dying, the agent for the estate had served notice on them to quit their cottage and had ordered them to leave within twenty-four hours of the funeral. They had no money and had been left with just the clothes they stood up in, plus an old pram. The undertaker had taken everything they owned, in payment for their da’s burial.

Ma had a cousin in Blackburn who she thought might help them. When she’d last heard from him, two years since, he’d told her how the town was flourishing with the rise of the cotton-mill industry. This held the hope that Ma and the lads and Amy could get taken on at one of the mills. Ruth’s task would be to care for them all and look after Elsie. It all sounded good, if very different from the life they had led so far, and Ruth wasn’t without her worries as to how it would all work out. But she knew they would never be able to find the kind of work on the land that they were used to. Farm work paid little to the menfolk, and nothing for the labour of women and young ’uns, who were expected to work as part of the deal to gain a cottage with the job.

They had taken few rests as they walked during the day-light hours in the unforgiving weather conditions, and had had to keep to the highway, because of Ruth’s difficulties. The road was little more than a track, and it stretched their journey by many more miles than going over the top would have done. At night they had huddled together and bedded down amongst the bracken.

By nightfall this day they hoped to reach Clitheroe, as Ma thought it was within ten miles now. There, they planned to beg some shelter and food, as the last of the bread and preserves  that Ma had packed  for their trip had run out the night before. Hunger and cold slowed their progress – Ruth’s more than that of the others, as her affliction, already a hindrance to her, worsened with the effort of walking such a long distance.

Looking up, she saw that her ma was three hundred yards ahead of her. Behind her ma trailed her sister, Amy, her curly hair frizzed even more than usual by the way the wind had played with it. Amy hated it and thought Ruth lucky to have long, dark hair. Amy’s wouldn’t grow long; it became too tangled and Ma had to cut it. It reminded Ruth of a bowl of soapsuds all bubbled up, and though Amy wouldn’t have it, it set off her pretty face and huge dark eyes. At fifteen years of age, Amy was younger than Ruth by three years. No one would take her and Amy for sisters, if they didn’t know them to be. There was nothing about them that resembled the other.

Amy held the hand of four-year-old Elsie, a delicate child, who was slow to learn new skills. Seth, fourteen and a bit, and ten months younger than Amy, and George, just nine months younger than Seth, were up in front. Seth pushed the pram that had carried them all as bairns, and which was still needed for Elsie as she tired easily.

Two handsome lads, Seth and George looked very much alike and had the same appearance as Ruth, with their dark complexions, black hair and shining blue eyes. They were different in character, though. Seth had a gentle nature and preferred to reason problems out rather than argue his point. He tended to be shy and rarely put himself forward. George, though quick to lose his temper with people, had a wonder- ful way with animals; in contrast to his short fuse, he also had a good sense of humour and at times was so funny with his antics that he’d have you wetting yourself.

The  five  of  them  were  the  only  survivors  of  the  ten children Ma had birthed; one of these children, and two miscarriages, accounted for the gap in age between Ruth and her first three siblings. Twin boys and another two girls had died between George’s birth and Elsie’s. Ruth had helped at the delivery of all of them, from Amy down, and still felt the pain of their loss.

‘By, lass, I can’t go on without you. I—’ The howl of the wind took away Ma’s words as she stepped  off the grass verge to walk back towards Ruth.

Ruth opened her mouth to urge her ma to go on once more, but fear changed  what she was about to say. ‘Ma! Look out, Ma!’

The coach had come from nowhere. The horses reared. Ma cowered. Her body fell to the ground. The hooves of the startled animals  pounded down on her.  The screams of terrified children and the whinnying of the stallions filled the space around Ruth. Her own scream strangled in her throat. Horror held her as if she’d been turned to stone, but then desperation moved her body and urged her forward.

‘Ma . . . Naw, Ma!’

All around her went into slow motion, and it seemed she had to claw her way through invisible barriers as she tried to hasten. When at last she neared them, the horses swayed. Their hooves lost their grip on the muddied road and the carriage went onto its left wheel, before banging down onto its right. The violent motion catapulted the driver from his seat and over the cliff. His holler held the knowledge of his own imminent death. The carriage didn’t right itself, and the crashing and splintering of its wooden structure drowned out the sound of the desperate driver.

A face appeared at the window of what was left of the carriage: a lad, his hair curled tightly to his head, his eyes holding a look of terror. Mud splattered Ruth as one of the horses tried to keep its grip, but the animal lost the battle and slid over the edge, pulling the coach almost upside down. The face disappeared. The three horses remaining on sturdy ground reared against the weight of the one dangling below. Steam rushed from their nostrils. The whites of their eyes glared their own terror and compounded Ruth’s horror. Finding her voice, she shouted orders. ‘Amy, come and help me. Seth, George, get Ma away.’

Leaning her weight onto her crutch, Ruth stretched her body to enable her to reach the handle of the door.  It resisted her pulling it open. ‘Amy, climb up. See if anyone is alive.’

‘But, our ma? Eeh, Ruth, Ma’s—’

‘Leave Ma to the lads. They’ll take care of her. We must help those in the carriage afore it goes over the edge. Hurry, lass.’ Ruth’s heart didn’t encourage her to take these actions – it wanted her to go to her ma – but something in her knew it was already too late and, if she didn’t help the occupants of the carriage, it would be so for them, too.

‘Get up, Amy, lass, go on. That’s reet. Can you see if anyone’s alive?’

‘Aye,  there  is, Ruth.  A young  man,  but  I’m  not  sure about the lady. She looks dead. She – she’s bleeding from a cut on her head.’

‘Tell the lad to climb out. Tell him!’ Turning, Ruth saw Seth and George standing over the tangled, unmoving body of  their ma.  Her heart clamoured with despair at what she knew to be the truth, but she had to save the lad in the carriage.  She couldn’t  let him die. ‘Seth, George  – here, quick! Amy, come down and let me lean on you. Seth, take me crutch, and you and George climb up with it to the window. Get the young man to take hold of the crutch, then pull him out. Go on, me lads, let sommat good come out of today.’

It didn’t take long to get the young man out, but he’d not let them think they couldn’t save his mother.

‘Please try. Mama is breathing. She is alive!’

‘We can’t. I’m sorry – there’s nowt we can do, as she ain’t able to help us. She’s unconscious.  We wouldn’t manage. It’s impossible.’

‘Do it, or I’ll have you all up for murder, you scum! What were you doing on the highway anyway? You caused this. You should keep yourselves to the bridle paths.’

Ruth felt her anger rising, but common sense stopped her from giving full rein to her temper. What she’d thought of as a lad, because of how small he was, she could now see was a man of around twenty-five years of age. He was in shock and was reacting as all toffs would. Though she needed to take heed of what he said, as he could have them all sent down if he wished – hanged even.

But how could she get the woman out of the swaying cab, with the horses still pulling in all directions, and the whole lot likely to go over the edge of the cliff at any moment?

‘I’ll unleash the horses, Ruth. I knows how to do it. I learned that time when our da’s boss made me work with his stablehand for a while.’

‘But they’ll kick you to death, Seth.’

‘I’ll help.’ George chipping in with this comment offered Ruth some relief from her fear for Seth.  George  would be able to calm the animals. His confidence helped, as he instructed, ‘Come on, Seth, get between the back of the horses and the carriage. I’ll try to soothe them.’

Before the lads could act, the toff spoke. ‘Unleash the one hanging over the side first. It cannot be saved, and its weight is a danger.’

‘Aye, Sir, that is me plan.’ Seth touched the brim of his cap in a mock-salute.

‘“My Lord” – not “Sir”! You are addressing the Earl of Harrogate.’

Ruth clenched her fist. The ungrateful devil! And them with their ma lying dead, not ten feet away. He showed no compassion. Her glance over to her ma’s body showed her the pitiful scene of Amy sobbing and Elsie looking bewil- dered and afraid, her wide eyes staring at the raging horses. Their plight undid Ruth. Hatred for this man, and all he stood for, trembled through her and spat from her before she could stop it: ‘You’re nowt to us. Us “scum” don’t recognize the likes of you toffs. We should have left you to rot in hell!’

His hand sliced her face. His foot kicked her crutch away from her. The mud, though wet and squelchy, didn’t cushion her fall, but slapped hard against her,  knocking the breath from her.

‘You’ll  pay for that, cripple.  You’ll  pay  dearly.’  Rage puffed his face, making  him appear ugly and evil. As he turned from her, his hand went inside his jacket. Ruth’s fear intensified at the sight of the pistol that he now brandished towards her brothers, as they made as if to charge at him. The click of the gun as he cocked it, ready to fire, resounded around Ruth. The Earl’s voice shook with anger and fear.

‘Get back! Get those horses under control – now.’

Ruth knew the threat from the Earl was real. Though she hadn’t seen him load his pistol, he could have done so before starting his journey, as these toffs were always afraid of coming across robbers.  Terrified of what the impetuous George might do, and of the consequences for him, she drew in a painful breath. ‘Naw! George, leave it. Go with Seth, see to the horses.’

George did as she bade him, and within moments his uncanny knack with animals showed in the way they became calm.

Seth freed the dangling horse, but despite the shouted commands of the young man, he didn’t unleash the others; instead he listened to George, who was telling him to leave them, as he wanted to try and drive them forward, to pull the remains of the carriage gradually from the edge and out of danger. Ruth closed her eyes, praying that he would suc- ceed.

The scraping noise told her something was happening. When she dared to look, she saw with relief that George had accomplished what he’d set out to do. But her relief was short-lived, as the searing tragedy of her ma’s plight came to her. Dragging herself along the ground, Ruth reached the grass verge where her ma lay and looked into the unseeing, once-beautiful eyes. ‘Oh, Ma . . . Ma!’

Elsie’s wails penetrated Ruth’s grief. Reaching for her and Amy, she held them close, but the Earl’s voice brought her attention back to what was happening behind her.

‘You there, get over here and help my mother!’

Picking up her crutch, the Earl threw it towards her. Ruth crouched over her sisters, afraid the hurtling crutch would hit them, but it sailed right over them. Gathering her wits, she spoke as calmly as she could. ‘Amy, lass, pass me crutch to me and help me up. Don’t be afraid. We’ve to do as he bids. We’ll see to Ma later.’

‘Is – is she . . . ?’

‘Aye, lass. Ma’s gone.’ She said this as though she were talking about something else, as neither her ma’s death, nor the crying of her sisters, touched her in the way it should have done. It was as if she’d been taken out of her own body and put inside one that shielded her from all that could hurt her. But then it had to be so. Somehow she had to be strong for them all.

With Amy’s help, Ruth managed to get up and hobble over to where the Earl’s mother lay on a rug on the ground. It surprised Ruth to see that the lady wasn’t as old as she’d first assumed, and she realized that she must have been very young when she birthed the Earl.

‘Do something!’

Ruth stared down the barrel of the gun, saw the Earl’s finger on the trigger. Sweat dripped off his face.

‘Ruth!’

‘Stay back, George, lad, it’s all right.’

On  George’s  movement  towards  her,  the  Earl  turned swiftly and aimed his gun. ‘Do as she says, urchin.’

Ruth held her breath. George froze. The Earl turned, his gun once more pointing  at Ruth. ‘I’ve heard it said that cripples like you have powers. Well, use them now. The likes of you were hanged for being witches in the past, and still should be, in my opinion.’

‘I’m naw witch, M’Lord.’

‘Oh?  And  you’ll  be telling  me next  that  your  brother there is not a sorcerer, when only such a one could have calmed those horses. I would be within my rights to shoot you all, and have a mind to do so.’ The weak sun, which gave no warmth, reflected on the barrel of the Earl’s gun as he trained it on George. ‘And us within spitting distance of Pendle Hill, where they hanged a whole bunch of your kind a couple of centuries ago.’

His words filled Ruth with the fear of the time when people in Pradley  had whispered about her having evil powers, and that she should be sent away. It had been after one lad had been teasing  her.  Losing her temper, she’d turned on him, telling him no good would come to him. The lad had fallen ill just afterwards and, in his delirium, had screamed her name in terror. The atmosphere had darkened from that day, as many gave her a wide berth. Some even spat in her path. What this man had just said about Pendle Hill deepened her fear. Please, God, save us; save me brothers and our Amy and me little Elsie. Don’t let this devil of a man kill them.

‘Get on with it or they will all die.’

Ruth’s fear turned to terror, as she saw the gun was now pointed at Elsie. The child had no concept of the danger she was in, as she ran over to Seth. The movement spooked the Earl. A crack resounded through the valley, echoing off the hills.

Amy screamed. Ruth’s heart banged against her ribs. But then relief flooded through her as she saw that no one was hurt.

The Earl smiled as he reloaded his gun. ‘Just to show you that I mean what I say.’

Bending over as best she could, Ruth touched the lady’s forehead. She stirred.

‘See! It is as I said – you are a witch! You only had to touch her and—’

Pushing back her hair, which had come loose from the ribbon Ma had tied in it, Ruth looked up at him and saw him properly  for  the  first  time.  ‘Puny’ was  how  she’d label him. His bones jutted from hollow cheeks, his lips were feminine in their fullness, and she could see that his hair hung  in  false  curls  held  with  pins, some of which had escaped and now looked hideous. The depths of his black eyes held terror for her and, in that moment, she knew she was damned if his mother lived, and yet damned if she didn’t.

The thought came to her that this would be the fate of her sisters and brothers as well. With this, her anger – fuelled by fear for herself and her siblings – caused her to grab her crutch and swing it with all her might. Catching the back of the Earl’s knees, her blow floored him. Lunging  towards him on all fours, Ruth scrambled across him, holding his body down with her weight. Her eyes glimpsed his pistol, now loosened from his grip. Grabbing it, she mustered all her strength and smashed it across his head.

The gaping, bloodied gash on his forehead shocked her back to reality. Gasping for breath, she stared in horror as the Earl’s head rolled to one side, as if independent of his neck. His breath gasped from him in a rasping, gurgling sound. He didn’t draw it back in. Oh God! No. No . . . I’ve killed him!

‘Ruth! God, Ruth, lass, what have you don

‘I didn’t mean to kill him, Seth. I didn’t. I just wanted to knock him out, so we could get away.’

A moan caught their attention. The lady moved her head, but didn’t open her eyes.

‘What’re we going to do?’ Seth’s whisper held tears. His fear spurred Ruth into action. Pulling her crutch towards her and grabbing the piece of ribbon she’d lost from her hair – a precious memento now, as her ma had won it when the fair had visited – she put her hand out to Seth, who helped her up.

A flash of memory  came to her, as she held onto the ribbon – her ma’s words: ‘I’m choosing you over Amy or Elsie for the ribbon, lass, as it will help to keep you cool, to have your hair tied back. Never cut your hair, our lass. It is your crowning glory. Look at it: it reaches your waist. It suits your beautiful oval face and complements  your blue eyes. You need it to distract people from your affliction, and to let folk see as you’re a bonny lass, despite that foot of yours.’

Shaking the tear-jerking recollection from her, Ruth brought her attention back to their current situation. ‘Seth, you and George get the Earl’s body back into the coach. Hurry, afore his ma comes round proper. Put him in a pos- ition that he would likely be in if he’d been killed in the accident. Go on, me lads.’

Hobbling over to the lady, Ruth placed herself between her and the carriage, because although the lady had sunk back into deep unconsciousness once more, Ruth felt afraid that she might still open her eyes and see what they were doing.

‘Amy, lass, bring Elsie to me, and then get sommat to disturb the mud to hide the trail of the lads dragging the body. A stick or something will do.’

‘But, our Ruth, anyone’ll know as he were out of the carriage afore he died. He’ll be covered in mud, and there’s mud on his boots.’

Fear of the truth of what Amy said stopped Ruth in her tracks for a moment. When a solution came to her, she knew George wouldn’t be in favour of it, but their situation was desperate – hers above all, as now the noose would be her certain fate.

‘We have to attach the horses again and drive them over the cliff to take the—’

‘Naw!’

George’s  horrified  gasp  showed  Ruth  the  enormity  of what she’d proposed, and she knew she wouldn’t be able to achieve it.

‘We have to do sommat to cover up what really happened, George. We have to.’

‘I think I knaw what we could do, our Ruth.’

Ruth didn’t dismiss Amy. The lass had a clever brain. She could even read and write, and she’d only had the miller’s lad to teach her what he’d learned in school.

‘We could just push the seating area of the carriage over the edge, with the Earl inside. Then, when he’s found, the state of him will give no clue to him having left the carriage before he died. And it won’t be too heavy for us to shift, now that it is detached from where the trunks are stored. We could say as we’d managed to get the lady out, but then had to unleash the horses as they were in danger of shoving the rest over the cliff. But just as we did so, the lightest part of the carriage went over, with the unconscious man still in it.’

‘Yes, that could have happened. You’re reet, lass. By, Ma allus said as you were the brains of the family, our Amy. Reet, me lads, that’s what we’ll do – just as Amy says – and I can help, if I get me back against it.’

‘Naw, you shield the lady’s view, Ruth, just in case. And mind our Elsie an’ all. Me and the lads’ll manage. We’re strong.’

Ruth did as Amy suggested. She knew her own strength was limited and would more than likely be a hindrance. It wasn’t just her foot that was crippled, as the bottom of her spine also had a curve in it. Though it wasn’t much of one and it didn’t bend her over, unless she was tired, like now, the curvature did cause her pain almost beyond endurance at times. She held Elsie to her, and the crashing sound of the carriage against the rocks undid her. Her body trembled. The dry sockets of her eyes filled with tears as the full impact of their plight hit her. She looked in fear at the lady, but she hadn’t moved. The thought came to her: God, what now? What now?

There was no doubt in Ruth’s mind that they had to take the lady down to Clitheroe and get help for her, but what trouble would that bring down upon them? The fear this caused increased the shaking in her body.

 

~~~~~

Did you enjoy this extract?  If so, ‘The Street Orphans’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Street-Orphans-Mary-Wood-ebook/dp/B0796YKFT6/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1526581100&sr=1-1

 

About Mary Wood

Born in Maidstone, Kent, in 1945, the thirteenth child of fifteen children, Mary’s family settled in Leicestershire after the war ended.

Mary married young and now, after 54 years of happy marriage, four children, 12 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren, Mary and her husband live in Blackpool during the summer and Spain during the winter – a place that Mary calls, ‘her writing retreat’.

After many jobs from cleaning to catering, all chosen to fit in with bringing up her family, and boost the family money-pot, Mary ended her 9 – 5 working days as a Probation Service Officer, a job that showed her another side to life, and which influences her writing, bringing a realism and grittiness to her novels

Mary first put pen to paper, in 1989, but it wasn’t until 2010 that she finally found some success by self-publishing on kindle.

Being spotted by an editor at Pan Macmillan in 2013, finally saw Mary reach her publishing dream.

When not writing, Mary enjoys family time, reading, eating out, and gardening. One of her favourite pastimes is interacting with her readers.

 

Links

Website – https://www.authormarywood.com/

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

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Authormary

 

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Blog Tour – ‘Rose Gold’ by David Barker

‘Rose Gold’ was published in paperback and as an eBook on the 10th May 2018 by Urbane Publications.  The second book in the Gaia Trilogy, it can be read as a standalone novel.  I would like to thank David Barker for inviting me to take part in his blog tour.  This book is getting such good reviews.

I have an exclusive extract from ‘Rose Gold’ for all of you, but first here’s what its about.

 

Book Blurb

Rose Gold is a thriller set in the near future, in the aftermath of a world war for water. Geopolitical tensions remain high and terrorism is a daily fact of life. But a mining base on the moon offers a rare example of international co-operation and a possible solution to the world’s energy problems. Yet not everyone on Earth is keen for this endeavour to succeed…

Rose Gold is the sequel to Blue Gold, but can be read as a stand-alone novel. It draws on influences as diverse as Arthur C Clarke’s A Fall of Moondust, the film Moon and Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries.

 

Extract

Click on the link to read Chapters 1, 2 and 3.

Extract from ‘Rose Gold’

~~~~

Like the sound of ‘Rose Gold’?  Well, it’s available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rose-Gold-thriller-thats-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B07CF4NS8Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1526224951&sr=1-3&keywords=david+barker

 

About David Barker

David was born in Cheshire but now lives in Berkshire. He is married to an author of children’s picture books, with a daughter who loves stories. His working life has been spent in the City, first for the Bank of England and now as Chief Economist for an international fund. So his job entails trying to predict the future all the time. David’s writing ambitions received a major boost after he attended the Faber Academy six-month course in 2014 and he still meets up with his inspirational fellow students. He loves reading, especially adventure stories, sci-fi and military history. Outside of family life, his other interests include tennis, golf and surfing. Rose Gold, sequel to Blue Gold, publishes spring 2018.

 

Links

Website – http://davidbarkerauthor.co.uk/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/bluegold201

 

Blog Tour – ‘The Dark Web’ by Christopher Lowery

‘The Dark Web’ is the final book in the African Diamonds trilogy.  It was published as an eBook on the 16th April 2018 by Urbane Publications and is also available in paperback.  Having heard so many good things about Christopher Lowery’s books, I am absolutely thrilled to be taking part in this blog tour.  I would like to thank Love Books Group for inviting me to participate.

I have an exclusive extract for you, but first here’s what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

The tentacles of the Dark Web are tightening their grip around the world. From Moscow to Shanghai, Washington, UK, the Middle East and Europe, nowhere is beyond their reach.

When a computer scientist dies mysteriously in Dubai, Jenny Bishop’s nephew, Leo Stewart, is hired to replace him. Leo’s life is soon in danger, but he is the only person who can find the key to prevent an impending global cyber-attack. With the help of Jenny and old and new friends, he must neutralise the threat before the world’s vital services are brought to a halt in a flagrant attempt to once again redraw the borders of Europe and Asia. Can the deadly conspiracy be exposed before the world is thrust into a new Cold War?

Christopher Lowery delivers a gripping final chapter in the bestselling African Diamonds trilogy, with a thriller that is powerfully resonant of today’s global dangers, hidden behind the ever-changing technological landscape.

The perfect read for fans of Gerald Seymour, Wilbur Smith and Frederick Forsyth.

 

Extract

TWO

Dubai, United Arab Emirates
March, 2017

“Hi, Guys. You’re in early.” Daniel Oberhart and Sharif were on their second coffee when the Welshman joined them in the canteen at seven the next morning. They were deep in conversation, talking quietly with their heads close together.

Sharif looked up with a start, “Oh, hi, Scotty. We’ve got a full programme of tests today, just making sure Daniel can fit it all in.” He shifted nervously on his chair and checked the time on his mobile, “I’d better get up there and make sure everything’s ready. I’ll catch you later. Don’t forget our revenge match tonight.” He walked quickly past him and out the door.

The Swiss man said, “I was up at five o’clock, it’s too hot to sleep. In Zurich in March, you still need a duvet. That’s what I call normal.”

Scotty wasn’t very keen on Oberhart, he seemed to find something to complain about in everything concerning Dubai and XPC. “You won’t be bitching when you go to the beach at the weekend. Sitting on the sand and swimming in the warm sea in March, you can’t do that in Zurich.”

“I never go to public beaches,” he replied. See you later.” He got up and left Scotty sitting alone with his coffee.

What the hell was that all about? He asked himself. Are the Swiss Germans really so hard to get along with?

 

Sharif won their game that evening hands down. Scotty was still a little preoccupied by the incident with the flash drive, but was waiting until his CEO returned on Sunday.

“What’s on the menu tonight?” He asked.

“It’s a lot cooler and I need my curry. We’re going to the Karachi House. OK?”

~~~~~

Hopefully by now you’ll be dying to read ‘The Dark Web’ in full.  If so, it is available to buy from Amazon UK – https://amzn.to/2uNAlDg

 

About Christopher Lowery

Christopher is a Geordie, born in the northeast of England, who graduated in finance and economics after reluctantly giving up career choices in professional golf and rock & roll. He is a real estate and telecoms entrepreneur and has created several successful companies around the world. Chris was inspired to write his debut novel, the Angolan Clan, after the Revolution of the Carnations forced him to flee Portugal in 1975 with his family. He and his wife live between Geneva and Marbella.

To find out about the other books in the African Diamond trilogy click on the link below:-

https://urbanepublications.com/authors/christopher-lowery/

 

Blog Tour – ‘Friends and Traitors’ by John Lawton

‘Friends and Traitors’, the latest book in the Inspector Troy series, was published on the 5th April 2018 by Grove Press and is available in hardback, paperback and as an eBook.  I was invited to take part in this blog tour by Ayo Onatade.  I have an extract for all of you, but first here’s what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

It is 1958. Chief Superintendent Frederick Troy of Scotland Yard, newly promoted after good service during Nikita Khrushchev’s visit to Britain, is not looking forward to a Continental trip with his older brother, Rod. Rod was too vain to celebrate being fifty so instead takes his entire family on ‘the Grand Tour’ for his fifty-first birthday: Paris, Siena, Florence, Vienna, Amsterdam. Restaurants, galleries and concert halls. But Frederick Troy never gets to Amsterdam.

After a concert in Vienna he is approached by an old friend whom he has not seen for years – Guy Burgess, a spy for the Soviets, who says something extraordinary: ‘I want to come home.’ Troy dumps the problem on MI5 who send an agent to debrief Burgess – but when the man is gunned down only yards from the embassy, the whole plan unravels with alarming speed and Troy finds himself a suspect.

As he fights to prove his innocence, Troy discovers that Burgess is not the only ghost who has returned to haunt him…

 

Extract

It was past midnight when Burgess staggered to the door.

“What say we meet over Christmas?”

“Fraid not, Guy.  I’m leaving for Berlin as soon as I can get a flight.  The air corridor is rather crowded at the moment as you may imagine.”

“Berlin?  What’s in Berlin?”

Troy was never going to answer that.

Burgess stood in the doorway looking up at a clear, cold winter sky.

“No raid tonight.  Makes a change.”

“The war’s been over three years, Guy.”

He twitched.  Shook his head as through trying to dislodge an insect from his hair.

“Eh?  What?  Bloody hell, so it has.  Must be more pissed than I thought.  Who’d ever have thought we’d end up missing the war?  Hot war …cold war …that’s a joke …this isn’t a cold war …it’s a lukewarm egg custard of a war.”

Burgess trundled off down the yard towards St. Martin’s Lane, to the corner where Ruby the Prostitute had stood until a matter of weeks ago–unsteady on his feet, happy as a newt.

If there really had been a raid on, Troy would have left him on the sofa under an eiderdown rather than booting him out on a cold December night.  But there wasn’t.  There might never be again, and Troy saw no reason to take him in.

As Burgess turned the corner Troy wondered if, this time, he might actually have seen the last of him.

~~~~~

Has this extract left you wanting to read more?  ‘Friends and Traitors’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Friends-Traitors-Inspector-Troy-Lawton-ebook/dp/B0777X752S/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1523382631&sr=1-1

 

About John Lawton

John Lawton is the director of over forty television programs, author of a dozen screenplays, several children’s books, seven Inspector Troy novels and two standalones. Lawton’s work has earned him comparisons to John le Carré and Alan Furst. Lawton lives in a remote hilltop village in Derbyshire.

 

Blog Tour – ‘Dead Ernest’ by Frances Garrood

‘Dead Ernest’ is being published as an eBook tomorrow the 1st March 2018 by Sapere Books.  It is also out in paperback.  I am absolutely thrilled to be kicking off this blog tour today along with two other bloggers.

I have an exclusive extract from the book for all of you to read, but first here’s what its about.

 

Book Blurb

No one had expected Ernest to die, least of all Ernest…

Ernest Bentley was a pillar of the community. But when he suddenly dies of a heart attack his wife Annie refuses to have the words ‘beloved husband’ added to his gravestone. Their son, Billy, is exasperated with his mother and worries about how she will cope on her own. Unwilling to take time out of his own busy schedule to take care of her, he enlists the services of the local vicar, Andrew, to keep an eye on her.

Before she knows what is happening, Annie finds herself telling Andrew things she has kept hidden for years. Dark secrets that had plagued her sixty-year marriage to Ernest. When Annie’s estranged granddaughter, Ophelia, turns up for a visit, the two bond over their mutual contempt for Billy and his controlling behaviour. But when Ophelia meets Andrew, the unhappily married vicar, things start to get very complicated…

What is the truth about Ernest? Why is Annie behaving so strangely now that he is dead? And how can Andrew reconcile his growing feelings for Ophelia with his respect for his marriage and his religion?

Spanning from the Second World War to the present day, Dead Ernest by Frances Garrood is a poignant, moving and, at times, very funny look at what really goes on behind closed doors in the ordinary lives of ordinary people.

 

Extract

CHAPTER ONE 

Dead Ernest

No one had expected Ernest to die, least of all Ernest. He prided himself on coming from tough, Yorkshire stock, and had often told Annie that he would easily outlive her. So, when he had his heart attack, Annie’s feelings were at first of surprise rather than anything else.

“Are you sure?” she asked the policewoman, who was making tea in the kitchen. (How odd that it was always the police who were sent to break bad news; almost as though dying in the street were an offence against the law). “Are you sure he’s dead?”

“Quite sure. I’m so sorry, dear.” The policewoman handed her the tea (much too sweet, and not hot enough) and put an arm around her shoulders. “It must be a terrible shock. Is there anyone you’d like us to contact?”

“Billy. My son Billy. You’ll need to contact him.”

Because, of course, Billy must be told. Strangely, Annie had rather wanted to keep the news to herself for a while; to taste it and think about it on her own before sharing it with anyone else. But Billy would think it odd if she didn’t tell him at once, and besides, there would be things that would need doing. Annie had only the vaguest idea of what those things were, but she was sure Billy would know how to deal with them. Billy was good at that sort of thing.

“How do you know it was a heart attack?” Annie asked. “How can they tell?”

“Well, they can’t tell. Not for certain. But that’s what it looks like. There’ll have to be a post-mortem, of course.”

“Ernest wouldn’t like that,” Annie said, remembering Ernest’s dislike of being touched and even greater dislike of anyone seeing him in a position of disadvantage. A post-mortem, she could see, was going to place him in a position of considerable disadvantage.

“It has to be done, dear. It’s the law. Because he didn’t die in hospital.” The policewoman poured herself a cup of tea, although Annie hadn’t invited her to have one. Death, it would seem, muddled up all the rules of normal behaviour.

Ernest would have hated dying in the street like that, with everyone watching. Dying in hospital would have been acceptable, with dignity and nurses and clean sheets. But then Annie might have had to sit with him while he was doing it, and she wasn’t sure she could have managed that. Perhaps, after all, it was a blessing that he had died in the street.

“Where was he?” she asked. “Where did Ernest die?”

“Outside the fish and chip shop.”

“Outside the fish and chip shop,” Annie repeated, surprised. It seemed such an odd place to die. She wondered what he had been doing there. The fish and chip shop was the wrong end of town for the barber’s, which was where Ernest was supposed to be, and he’d only just had his lunch, so he couldn’t have been hungry. But now she would never know. Nobody would ever know what Ernest was doing before he died outside the fish and chip shop.

Annie was aware of the policewoman watching her, waiting to see how she would behave. “What do people usually do?” she asked, suddenly interested.

“Do?” The policewoman looked bemused.

“Yes. When someone dies. You must see a lot of them. When you tell them, what do they do?”

“Everyone’s different of course,” said the policewoman carefully. “They cry, of course, and some people even scream. And sometimes they’re just shocked and quiet. Trying to understand what’s happened.”

“And what am I?”

“What are you?” The policewoman’s teacup paused, trembling, halfway to her lips.

“Yes. How would you say I was taking it?”

“I would say,” the teacup returned firmly to its saucer, “I would say that you were being very brave. Perhaps it hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” she added gently. “It’s a terrible shock for you.”

Was it? Was it really a terrible shock? A surprise, certainly, but a shock? Annie wished the policewoman would go away and let her think. She needed time to sort herself out; to get to grips with what had happened. Ernest was dead, and she didn’t feel anything much at all. Not sad, not happy, not anything. Was she normal? Was it okay to feel like this?

“Ernest is dead.” She tried the words to see what they felt like. “Ernest — is — dead. It sounds so strange.” She paused. “He had this little joke he used to tell: ‘Once upon a time there were two worms fighting in dead Ernest.’ I never thought it was funny, and Billy didn’t like it, but it always made Ernest laugh.”

The policewoman smiled.

“Did he have a sense of humour then, your Ernest?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. Ernest only had the two jokes, and I’ve forgotten the other one.”

“Would you like another cup of tea?” the policewoman asked.

“No thank you. I think I’d like you to go now,” Annie said.

“But we can’t leave you here on your own. Not at a time like this. Is there a neighbour who might sit with you? Just until your son gets here.”

Annie thought of her neighbours. Of odd, secretive Mr Adams, a tiny man of indeterminate age who lived alone and who hoarded things. Annie had only once been inside his house and had been left with an impression of disturbing smells and what appeared to be wall-to-wall jumble and bric-a-brac. The piles were neat and appeared to be in some kind of order, but the impression was not welcoming. On the other side lived a young couple, with a frog-faced toddler who screamed a lot. Annie certainly didn’t want to involve them, and she quite definitely didn’t need the toddler.

“I don’t really have much to do with the neighbours.” She stood up. “I want to be by myself now. I don’t need anyone else.”

After the policewoman had gone, Annie locked and bolted the door. Then, because it was getting dark, she drew the curtains and turned on the gas fire. Ernest would be home any time now, and wanting his tea. Ernest was very particular about his tea. He always had it at six o’clock on the dot, the same time as he used to have his meal when he got home from work. Ernest liked routine and order, and because it was easier to do what Ernest wanted, Annie had always gone along with it. Yes. She must get Ernest’s tea ready. A nice piece of fish (it was Friday) and some mashed potatoes and cabbage. Annie thought it was odd to have cabbage with fish, but Ernest had read a book about green vegetables being particularly good for you, and recently he had insisted on having them with everything.

But Ernest is dead, she realised again. Ernest is dead. He isn’t coming home for his tea. The green-vegetable book came too late to save him. He won’t be coming home at all; not ever. His heavy tread on the gravel (a slight limp because of his bad hip), his key in the door, his voice calling her name as he hung up his coat and cap. None of these things would ever happen again. The coat and the cap were — where? At the hospital, presumably. And Ernest himself; where exactly was he? Lying somewhere, cold, waiting for the post-mortem. Annie shivered. At least she wouldn’t have to go and identify him. Billy would see to that. She couldn’t understand why anyone had to go and identify Ernest, when he’d been carrying his pension book.

~~~~~

‘Dead Ernest’ can be purchased in paperback from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-Ernest-behind-closed-doors/dp/1912546019/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1519756569&sr=8-1 

The eBook can be pre-ordered – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-Ernest-behind-closed-doors-ebook/dp/B077Y1R7PP/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1519756569&sr=8-1

 

About Frances Garrood

My main career was in nursing, but I also trained and worked for many years as a relationship counsellor with Relate. Widowed in 1992, I re-married and now live with my husband in Wiltshire, where I enjoy riding my horse in the beautiful Pewsey Vale, reading, writing, singing in our large church choir and keeping up with my grandchildren. I also write regularly to a prisoner on Texas Death Row and do local voluntary work with homeless and vulnerable adults.

I first started writing as a child; mainly poetry, but there was one horrific novel (mercifully, never finished) in which a woman gives birth to a hideously deformed child in a thunderstorm. While I was bringing up my four children, I began writing and selling short stories to magazines before the enforced immobility following a fractured spine gave me the time to tackle my first novel, Dead Ernest.

All my books are very strongly relationship-based. My writing has also been affected by my widowhood and my experiences with my Relate clients, and my books sometimes include issues of death and bereavement. Strangely (and not by design) they all seem to include pet animal funerals (not a subject which normally occupies my mind!).

 

PRAISE FOR FRANCES AND HER BOOKS

“Frances Garrood is a magnificent writer.” — thebookbag.co.uk

“Dead Ernest is remarkably well written, well constructed.” — Grumpy Old Bookworm

“Light-hearted, heartwarming and enjoyable.” —writers-online.co.uk

 

Links

Website – http://www.francesgarrood.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/FrancesGarroodAuthor/

 

Blog Tour – ‘Our Little Secret’ by Claudia Carroll

‘Our Little Secret’ was published as an eBook and in paperback on the 8th February 2018 by Avon Books.  I am absolutely thrilled to be taking part in this blog tour.  I have heard so much about this book and I really hope to read it one of these days.

I have an exclusive extract for all of you, but first here’s what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

A sparkling story about what happens when you let someone into your life… but they turn out to want more than you’d bargained for!

Sarah Dee has the perfect life. A high-flying job in a law firm, a beautiful daughter and a house to die for. So how does she find herself looking in through the kitchen window while another woman enjoys it all?

When Sarah takes pity on a struggling young graduate who can’t get a job, she thinks she’s doing the right thing. She’s being kind, generous and helpful to others, as she always is. But as Sarah allows the younger woman into her home, her law firm and even her family, is there more to this pretty youngster than meets the eye? And could this be a good deed that goes further than expected?

Claudia Carroll does it again with a sparkling new novel about what happens when your life becomes up for grabs…

 

Extract

Liz

‘And now, I’d ask you all to raise your glasses to my beautiful bride. Stella, you make me happier than I ever could have dared to hope, and there’s not a day goes by that I don’t fall in love with you just a little bit more. So thank you, my love. Thank you for being my soulmate. Thank you for being my life partner throughout all these years of happily unmar­ried bliss.’

‘Yeah, because it’s all downhill from here you know!’ some smartarse from the back of the function room yelled out. I swiveled around to see who it was, but it was too packed to see properly.

‘Thank you for putting up with me,’ Tony, the groom went on, valiantly soldiering on with his speech, ‘and for being such a fantastic mum to our gorgeous kids all these years. Stella, you’re the glue that keeps our little family together, and I love you just as much, if not more than I did on the day we first met. I can’t tell you what joy it gives me to be able to say that in front of all our nearest and dearest. I love you from the bottom of a very full heart. And today Stella, you’ve made me the happiest man on earth. Ladies and gentlemen, will you please raise your glasses to my beautiful bride!’

There was a round of thunderous applause at that and not long after, the happy couple took to the floor for their first dance. Meanwhile, the rest of the guests, myself and Harry included, formed an impromptu circle around them, as bride and groom whirled away to their first dance.

Which was to There May Be Trouble Ahead, by Nat King Cole by the way, to gusts of giggles from the assembled throng. But this couple had already dealt with just about everything life can throw at any of us; the good, the bad and the ugly. What further trouble, we all wondered, might possibly lie ahead for them, that they hadn’t already come shining through?

Harry’s chunky hand slipped over mine as we stood side-by-side watching the bride and groom dance and I squeezed it back, really delighted that the day had gone off so well. Stella may have claimed to be a ‘Ryanair bride’ who insisted on no fuss or frills, but still. This was her wedding day and I knew she wanted it all to run smoothly. And by and large, it had.

It was coming up to 9pm but, amazingly, the sun had shone all day and it was still bright enough that smokers and anyone who wanted a gulp of fresh air could drift in and out to the gardens through the open terrace doors, without fear of getting hypothermia. We were in the gorgeous, uber-luxurious Rathsallagh House for the wedding and the staff had really excelled themselves. The banqueting hall where the reception dinner was held had been lovingly decorated in delicate shades of lavender and lilac, all to compliment Stella’s bridal colours.

~~~~~

Has the extract left you needing to read this book?  If so, it’s available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Our-Little-Secret-Claudia-Carroll-ebook/dp/B073YKLMY2/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1519493725&sr=1-1

 

About Claudia Carroll

Claudia Carroll is a number one bestselling author in Ireland and a top ten bestseller in the UK, selling over 670,000 copies of her paperbacks alone. She was born in Dublin where she still lives and where she has worked extensively both as a theatre and stage actress. She now writes full-time. Her 2013 novel Me and You was shortlisted for the Bord Gais Popular Choice Irish Book Award.

 

Links

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Claudiacarrollbooks/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/carrollclaudia

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16566.Claudia_Carroll

 

Blog Tour – ‘Romancing Robin Hood’ by Jenny Kane

When Jenny Kane was looking to put a blog tour together for ‘Romancing Robin Hood’, which was re-released in paperback and as an eBook by Littzwitz Press on 1st February 2018, I was only too happy to help.  The title had me intrigued and I wanted to know more about this book.

Jenny Kane has written a guest post for my blog all about her love for Robin Hood.

 

For the love of Robin Hood
Jenny Kane

Many thanks for inviting me to visit today, so I can share a little of my part modern/part medieval novel, Romancing Robin Hood.

Ever since I was a teenager I’ve had a serious outlaw obsession- all thanks to Richard Carpenter’s wonderful 1980’s television series, Robin of Sherwood. The moment I saw the first episode (which for me, happened to be the 9th episode of series three), I was hooked- not just on the show, but on anything and everything to do with the legend. I watched every film and read every book on the subject of Robin Hood I could find. This interest lasted through my GCSE years, took me through an A’ level history project, a degree, and a PhD in Medieval ballad literature and crime.

Ever since I took up a career in writing, thirteen years ago, I’ve been looking for an excuse to go back through my old history books so I can use them as research for novels. With the writing of Romancing Robin Hood I found that excuse.

Although this novel (first released in 2015 and now re-edited, re-covered and re-released), is 60% modern contemporary romance, the remaining 40% is a fourteenth century adventure. It was a real joy to read through all my old Robin Hood notes and relive the obsessions of my formative years.

 

Book Blurb

When you’re in love with a man of legend, how can anyone else match up?

Dr Grace Harper has loved the stories of Robin Hood ever since she first saw them on TV as a teenager. Now, with her fortieth birthday just around the corner, she’s a successful academic in Medieval History—but Grace is stuck in a rut.

Grace is supposed to be writing a textbook on a real-life medieval criminal gang—the Folvilles—but instead she is captivated by a novel she’s secretly writing. A medieval mystery which entwines the story of Folvilles with her long-time love of Robin Hood—and a feisty young woman named Mathilda of Twyford.

Just as she is trying to work out how Mathilda can survive being kidnapped by the Folvilles, Grace’s best friend Daisy announces she is getting married. After a whirlwind romance with a man she loves as much as the creatures in her animal shelter, Daisy has press-ganged Grace into being her bridesmaid.

Witnessing Daisy’s new-found happiness, Grace starts to re-evaluate her own life. Is her devotion to a man who may or may not have lived hundreds of years ago really a substitute for a real-life hero of her own? Grace’s life doesn’t get any easier when she meets Dr Robert Franks—a rival academic who she is determined to dislike but finds herself being increasingly drawn to… If only he didn’t know quite so much about Robin Hood.

Suddenly, spending more time living in the past than the present doesn’t seem such a good idea…

***

So, what is it about the Robin Hood story that appeals to me – and to Grace- so much?

At its base, the ballads of Robin Hood are about hope, about right triumphing over wrong – no matter who you are- and about doing the right thing. Of course, that is a very simplistic overview. Anyone who has studied the outlaw legends will quickly tell you that Robin Hood didn’t steal from the rich to give to the poor- he stole from the corrupt and cruel- if they were poor that did not matter. Nor did he give his money away- he had his own company of men to feed after all.

The notion of the Robin Hood ballads is a romantic one- despite the lack of a love story in the original tales (Maid Marion didn’t join the story until much later on). I think it’s the idea of justice prevailing no matter what the odds- no matter who is in charge. There is something so appealing about that.

The Robin Hood stories are more popular than ever. With another new Hollywood film about the outlaw due out any minute, and the original Robin of Sherwood cast from the 1980’s back in the studio recording audio dramas for a whole new generation to enjoy, that popularity is not so surprising if you think of the world we currently live in. If ever there was a time for a hero to come and right the corruptions of the country then it’s now!

Here’s an extract to whet the appetite…

It was all Jason Connery’s fault, or maybe it was Michael Praed’s? As she crashed onto her worn leather desk chair Grace, after two decades of indecision, still couldn’t decide which of the two actors she preferred in the title role of Robin of Sherwood.

That was how it had all started, ‘The Robin Hood Thing’ as Daisy referred to it, with an instant and unremitting love for a television show. Yet, for Grace, it hadn’t been a crush in the usual way. She had only watched one episode of the hit eighties series and, with the haunting theme tune from Clannad echoing in her ears, had run upstairs to her piggy bank to see how much money she’d saved, and how much more cash she’d need, before she could spend all her pocket money on the complete video collection. After that, the young Grace had done every odd job her parents would pay her for so she could purchase a myriad of Connery and Praed posters with which to bedeck her room. But that was just the beginning. Within weeks Grace had become pathologically and forensically interested in anything and everything to do with the outlaw legend as a whole.

She’d watched all the Robin Hood films, vintage scenes of Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Errol Flynn, Richard Greene, Sean Connery, and Barry Ingram. As time passed, she winced and cringed her way through Kevin Costner’s comical but endearing attempt, and privately applauded Patrick Bergin’s darker and infinitely more realistic approach to the tale. Daisy had quickly learnt to never ever mention Russell Crowe’s adaption of the story – it was the only time she’d ever heard Grace swear using words that could have been as labelled as Technicolor as the movie had been.

The teenage Grace had read every story, every ballad, and every academic book, paper, and report on the subject. She’d hoarded pictures, paintings, badges, and stickers, along with anything and everything else she could find connected with Robin Hood, his band of outlaws, his enemies, Nottingham, Sherwood, Barnsdale, Yorkshire – and so it went on and on. The collection, now over twenty years in the making, had reached ridiculous proportions and had long since overflowed from her small terraced home to her university office, where posters lined the walls, and books about the legend, both serious and comical, crammed the overstuffed shelves.

Her undergraduates who’d chosen to study medieval economy and crime as a history degree option, and her postgraduates whose interest in the intricate weavings of English medieval society was almost as insane as her own, often commented on how much they liked Dr Harper’s office. Apparently it was akin to sitting in a mad museum of medievalism. Sometimes Grace was pleased with this reaction. Other times it filled her with depression, for that office, its contents, and the daily, non-stop flow of work was her life – her whole life – and sometimes she felt that it was sucking her dry. Leaving literally no time for anything else – nor anyone else. Boyfriends had come and gone, but few had any hope of matching up to the figure she’d fallen in love with as a teenager. A man who is quite literally a legend is a hard act to follow…

***

I hope you enjoyed that. If you would like to read more about Grace, then you can buy Romancing Robin Hood from all good retailers, including…

Amazon – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Romancing-Robin-Hood-Jenny-Kane/dp/1999855248/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1517319761&sr=1-2&keywords=romancing+robin+hood+Jenny+Kane

Also- should you wish to revisit the heady days of 1980’s Robin of Sherwood- I (as Jennifer Ash) was lucky enough to be asked to write 2 episodes of the new audio series. You can find the buy links here- https://spitefulpuppet.com/product-category/robin-of-sherwood/

***

Many thanks again, Sonya.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

 

About Jenny Kane

With a background in history and archaeology, Jenny Kane should really be sat in a dusty university library translating Medieval Latin criminal records, before writing research documents that hardly anyone would want to read. Instead, tucked away in the South West of England, Jenny Kane writes stories with one hand, while designing creative writing workshops for ‘Imagine’ with the other.

Jenny spends a large part of her time in her local Costa, where she creates her stories, including the novels Romancing Robin Hood (Littwitz Press, 2018), Abi’s Neighbour (Accent Press, 2017), Another Glass of Champagne (Accent, 2016), Abi’s House (Accent Press, June 2015), the best selling contemporary romance Another Cup of Coffee (Accent Press, 2013), and the novella length sequels Another Cup of Christmas (Accent Press, 2013), Christmas in the Cotswolds, (Accent Press, 2014), and Christmas at the Castle, (Accent Press, 2015).

Jenny also writes medieval crime fiction as Jennifer Ash.

The Outlaw’s Ransom and The Winter Outlaw will both be published by Littwitz Press in early 2018

Jenny Kane is also the author of quirky children’s picture books There’s a Cow in the Flat (Hushpuppy, 2014) and Ben’s Biscuit Tin (Hushpuppy, 2015)

Keep your eye on Jenny’s blog at www.jennykane.co.uk for more details.

Twitter – @JennyKaneAuthor   @JenAshHistory    @Imagine_Writing

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/JennyKaneRomance?ref=hl

Facebook for Jennifer Ash – https://www.facebook.com/jenniferashhistorical/?ref=bookmarks

Facebook for Imagine – https://www.facebook.com/ImagineCreativeWriting/?ref=settings

Jenny Kane also writes erotica as Kay Jaybee. (www.kayjaybee.me.uk)

 

Cover and First Chapter Reveal – ‘The Things We Need to Say’ by Rachel Burton

I am thrilled to be taking part in the cover reveal for Rachel Burton’s new book.  ‘The Things We Need to Say’ is being published as an eBook on the 11th May 2018 by HQ Digital.

I hope you are ready to feast your eyes on the cover.  I really like it and think it’s beautiful.  It reminds me of long summer days.

Here goes……..

Book Blurb

Sometimes the things we never say are the most important.

Fran loves Will with all her heart. They had a whirlwind romance, a perfect marriage and a wonderful life. Until everything changed. Now Fran needs to find her way again and teaching a yoga retreat in Spain offers her just that. Leaving behind a broken marriage she has some very important decisions to make.

Will needs his wife, he needs her to open up to him if they’re to ever return to the ways things once were. But he may have damaged any possibility he had of mending their relationship and now Fran is in Spain and Will is alone.

As both Fran and Will begin to let go of a life that could have been, fate may just find a way of bringing them back together.

Perfect for fans of Katie Marsh, Amanda Prowse and Sheila O’Flanagan

~~~~~

And now to give you a taste of this book here’s the first chapter.

Book Extract

 

DECEMBER 2004

It started at the party. His hands on my hips, my forehead against his shoulder. He asked me to dance but he didn’t know how. We stood together at the edge of the dance floor shaking with laughter at his two left feet. I don’t know how long we stood there. I don’t know if anybody noticed.

He’d waited for me, sitting with my friends, not sure if I’d turn up or not. I wasn’t in the habit of going to work Christmas parties; I only went in the end because he said he would be there, because he said he would wait for me. I arrived just as the main course was being served. I slipped into the seat next to him. His hand brushed against my thigh as I sat down. He held my gaze for longer than he should have done.

I fell in love with him that night as we stood on the dance floor laughing, my hands on his waist, feeling the muscles of his back, the warmth of his body, through his dress shirt, the press of him against my hip.

That was where it began. I sometimes wonder if that should have been where it ended.

But later that evening, as I got out of his car, and I said those words I should have kept to myself, we both knew there was no going back.

 

JULY 2016

Fran

She wakes up in the same position in which she fell asleep, her husband’s arms around her, their hands entwined on her stomach. Neither of them have slept that deeply for months. Fran remembers something: a hotel room on a Greek island, a feeling of hope, of new beginnings. She doesn’t allow the memory to linger. This is what they have now. They can be happy again if they allow themselves to be.

The hot, humid weather has broken in the night and she listens to the sound of summer rain on the roof. Will moves gently against her, pulling her closer. She feels his breath against her neck and the sensation of hot liquid in her stomach, a combination of desire and need. This is their second chance – she can’t let it pass her by.

‘I love you,’ Will says sleepily.

‘I love you too,’ she replies. It feels good to be saying it to each other again. She’s never stopped loving him; she just forgot how to tell him for a while.

‘Do you want me to go and make coffee?’ Will asks, nuzzling her neck.

‘Not just yet,’ she replies, turning around to look at him. His brown eyes are dark, impenetrable pools. His hair is pushed back off his face. Sometimes she forgets how much all of this has affected him too. Sometimes she forgets everything except her own pain. She feels his warmth against her, his strength. She feels as though the gulf that had been threatening to open up between them for the last year is slowly closing. She realises they have so much life ahead of them. So much time to learn to be happy again.

‘I thought I’d lost you,’ Will says quietly, reaching up to stroke her face. ‘I thought you’d gone, but recently I feel as though you’ve come back to me.’

She smiles softly. ‘I thought I’d lost you too,’ she says. ‘This last year has been …’ She doesn’t finish. She can’t finish.

She watches as a shadow of anguish crosses his face, as his brow furrows, as his jaw tightens. She recognises that look, recognises the pain he is trying to hide. She hears the shudder of his breath. His eyes flick away for a moment; he pauses for a fraction too long.

‘No,’ he says. ‘You never lost me. I’ll always be here.’

She kisses him gently then, and feels his hand drift down the bones of her spine.

Later, showered and dressed, they finally appear in the kitchen; Will’s younger brother, Jamie, is already sitting at the table drinking coffee. Will and Fran are hardly able to stop touching each other.

Jamie smiles at them, raising an eyebrow. ‘You’re up late,’ he says. Fran feels herself blushing, her stomach flipping over, and turns away towards the toaster.

‘Thanks for last night,’ Jamie goes on. ‘I needed that.’ Recently separated from his wife, living apart from his children, Jamie is lonely. Last night wasn’t the first Saturday night he’d spent with them. Fran knows Will has been throwing himself into cheering his brother up. She doesn’t mind. Jamie makes Will smile and it’s good to see him smile again.

As Will and Jamie start talking about the cricket, she feels her husband’s hand on her thigh, the warm, solid sensation of him right there next to her. They have been given a second chance, and they have grabbed it with both hands. She isn’t naive enough to think everything is going to go back to the way it used to be, but she knows that they can move on; they can talk and heal together. They can take another chance on living, find a new kind of normal.

Will stretches, draining his coffee cup. ‘This weather isn’t going to let up is it?’ he says looking out of the window where the rain is rattling against the frames like beads in a jar. ‘I’m going to have to cancel the cricket.’ As captain of the village team it is up to him to reschedule this afternoon’s match. Fran is quietly delighted that the weather means she doesn’t have to spend her last afternoon with her husband before she goes away watching him play cricket. Will gets up and walks into his study, shutting the door behind him.

‘How are you feeling about tomorrow?’ Jamie asks.

‘Nervous,’ Fran replies. ‘It’s the first time I’ve been on a plane on my own, which is pathetic at my age, I know.’

‘It’s OK to be nervous.’

‘It’s the first time Will and I have been apart since …’ She trails off. Jamie knows what she’s talking about. ‘I’m worried about him too.’

Jamie smiles. ‘I’ll look after him,’ he says.

After a moment Jamie gets up and follows Will into his study. He doesn’t knock; he just opens the door and walks in. As Fran starts to clear the breakfast dishes she hears raised voices but can’t quite make out what they are saying. She rolls her eyes to herself. As an only child she has long since given up on understanding Will and Jamie’s relationship: best friends one minute, bickering the next. She just hopes Jamie doesn’t stay too long – she wants her husband to herself for the day.

 

Will

It rains all day, the sky grey and waterlogged and heavy with cloud. After Jamie leaves, Will pulls Fran towards him, his hands at the back of her head where her skull meets her neck, where her hair is cut so short.

‘No cricket,’ he says. ‘I’m all yours.’

She smiles, standing on tiptoe to kiss him.

‘Can we just watch a film or something?’ she says. ‘I’m tired and I have to pack for Spain later.’ His stomach drops at the thought of her going away. He wishes he’d never encouraged her to do it.

‘I’d forgotten about Spain,’ he says.

‘No you hadn’t. It’s the only thing we’ve talked about for ages.’

Will had watched Fran spend the last few weeks flipping back and forth between excitement and terror at the thought of going to Spain on her own. He knew she was strong enough to do it; he knew she was stronger than anyone realised. But he also knew that she wondered if she was ready. When she first mentioned Spain to him he had seen it as a perfect opportunity to help her begin to put herself back together again after what had been the worst year of both their lives. He tried to believe that everything life threw at him was an opportunity.

Fran had been teaching at a studio in central Cambridge for six years and had been asked to teach for a week on a retreat in Spain. Will had always supported her teaching, always tried to put her career on a level par with his own and had done everything he could to help her find the strength to go back to work in January. None of it had felt as though it was enough. None of it would make up for the last year, the things he had said, the things he had done. Suddenly he is terrified about being on his own. Neither of them have been alone for months.

‘What do you want to watch?’ he asks, squatting down in front of the TV.

‘Can we watch Some Like it Hot?’ Fran replies.

Will rolls his eyes. He must have seen it a hundred times, but puts it in the DVD player anyway and goes to settle himself on the sofa. ‘Come here,’ he says, and she sits with him, leaning back against his chest.

‘Are you OK about Spain?’ he asks quietly.

‘I think so,’ she says. ‘I’m nervous, but I’m excited as well.’

‘Elizabeth will be there with you, won’t she?’

‘Yes, and Constance. In fact, I already know most of the other people who are going. I’ll be fine.’ She pauses. ‘Are you going to be OK?’ she asks quietly.

‘I’m going to miss you,’ he says, lying back on the sofa, wrapping his arms around her. He doesn’t know how to answer the question. He wants to tell her everything but knows that now is not the right time.

‘I’m going to miss you too,’ she replies.

He kisses the top of her head as she presses ‘play’ on the remote control. He watches her as she watches her favourite film, her lips moving along with the characters – she still knows every word by heart. They used to spend rainy Sundays like this when they were younger, when life seemed easier.

Halfway through the film he realises that Fran is crying – fat, salty tears running down her cheeks.

‘Fran?’ he asks quietly, pressing pause on the remote.

Fran doesn’t reply, she just turns around and he takes her in his arms. He feels her body against his. She clings to him as though her life depends on it and he holds her close as she cries and cries. He can’t remember the last time he saw her cry like this. They had both done their grieving in private over the last year but to Will it feels as though Fran has been holding all this in for months, shutting herself down. He’s relieved that she finally seems ready to let go.

‘I want my old life back,’ she sobs. ‘I want to be happy again.’

‘So do I,’ Will whispers. ‘And we will, in time. I promise.’

‘I wish we’d never bought this house – we had so much hope.’

‘Shhh …’ Will says softly, stroking her hair as she weeps against him.

 

~~~~~

Hopefully your appetite for this book has been well and truly whet.  The good news is that it can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK – http://amzn.to/2kLqSYL

 

About Rachel Burton

Rachel Burton has been making up stories since she first learned to talk. After many false starts she finally made one up that was worth writing down.

After graduating with a degree in Classics and another in English, she didn’t really know what to do when she grew up. She has worked as a waitress, a paralegal and a yoga teacher.

She has spent most of her life between Cambridge and London but now lives in Leeds with her boyfriend and three cats. The main loves of her life are The Beatles and very tall romantic heroes.

Her debut, The Many Colours of Us, was an Amazon Kindle bestseller. Her second novel, The Things We Need to to Say, is released on 11 May 2018. She is currently working on her third novel in which the heroine follows the love of her life to live in a city in northern England. It has no autobiographical elements at all…..maybe.

Find her on Twitter & Instagram as @bookish_yogi or search Facebook for Rachel Burton Author. She is always happy to talk books, writing, music, cats and how the weather in Yorkshire is rubbish. She is mostly dreaming of her next holiday….

 

Links

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/rachelburtonauthor/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/bookish_yogi

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/bookish_yogi/

 

Book Extract – ‘Random Acts of Kindness: Part One’ by Victoria Walters

Part One of ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ by Victoria Walters was published on the 4th December 2017 as an eBook by Simon & Schuster UK.  I have a real treat for all of you today.  Yes, the author wants to share the first chapter of her book.  Isn’t that just lovely?  The extract will follow in a moment, but first here’s what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

An emotional, cosy, community read that will reaffirm your faith in human kindness; perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley, Penny Parkes and Jo Thomas. 

Welcome to Littlewood, a small town community with a big heart. Abbie has fled London and the humiliation of not being able to make rent after being made redundant. Louise, seriously unlucky in love, has thrown herself into her career at the local hospital. And Eszter, who has travelled from Hungary with her daughter, Zoe, hopes to reach out to the mother-in-law she never met while her husband was still alive…

Can a little bit of kindness really change your life? Three very different women are about to find out…

 

Extract

Chapter One

The endless green countryside stretched out as far as Abbie Morgan could see from the train window. The urban blanket of London had transformed into the rolling Surrey Hills as she made her way to the small town of Littlewood. It had been a nightmare of a week and her head was still pounding. Her suitcases were wedged in beside her, another painful reminder that this wasn’t a quick visit to see her younger sister, Louise, she was actually moving in with her. Hopefully not for long, but still . . .

Abbie sighed and leaned her head against the cool window so that her shoulder-length dark curls fell across her cheek, screening her from her fellow passengers. She was relieved that her train carriage was relatively empty, save for a mother and daughter a few seats away, so she could dwell on recent events in glum peace. She had lived in London for five years since leaving university and couldn’t believe she was being forced to part ways with it. But when she had been made redundant from her job at City PR, where she had worked for the last two years, she knew there was no way she could stay in the city she loved. The worst part was that her ex-boyfriend, Jack, a partner at the company, had been the one to deliver the news.

Abbie’s phone on her lap buzzed with a call. ‘Hi, Lou,’ she greeted her sister, forcing a smile into her voice, if not fully onto her face. She was grateful to her little sister for putting her up but wished she didn’t live in such a tiny town. At least the train would be quite quick for getting back to the city if she had interviews to go to.

‘I’m so sorry I won’t be there to meet you from the train,’ Louise said. ‘I won’t be much longer though. Do you want to meet me at the café near the station and we can go home together?’ Louise was a nurse at a hospital in the next, larger town, and her shift would be over soon. Abbie agreed to the plan and got directions to Brew. Louise said she was excited to finally show her town to Abbie, who hadn’t had any time since getting the assistant job at City PR to make the trip out of London. Louise had always come to stay with her when she had time off instead. To Abbie, London was the place that everyone should want to be, so she had been surprised that Louise had settled somewhere so quiet.

The train soon drew into the small station of Littlewood. Colourful hanging baskets adorned the platform. It made a stark change from the graffiti Abbie was used to seeing on her old commute. She heaved her two wheelie cases off the train and rattled along the platform with them. She had sent the rest of her things to her parents’ house in Cornwall.

After struggling through the barriers with her bags, she began to walk to the café – which turned out to be in the grounds of a grand stone house perched on top of a hill looking over the small town.

The uphill walk was not at all easy in her favourite four-inch-heeled boots, but when you were as tiny as she was, you needed the extra height at all times, so she dragged herself and her bags towards the stately home. Louise said the café stood at the beginning of the estate and was the best place in Littlewood for coffee. And, God, Abbie needed a large cup.

She heard a faint noise in the wind behind her, but she kept up her brisk London pace, thinking it was probably someone after money or something. That was usually why people tried to get your attention nowadays.

Finally, she made it to the top of the hill. The café was just through the imposing iron gates of the stately home. There was a green and gold sign proclaiming the house to be Huntley Manor – a luxury hotel, apparently. Abbie glanced at the tall, light-brown stone building as she made her way to the cute-looking café on the edge of the green. The hotel looked as if it could have been lifted out of a Jane Austen novel and Abbie resolved to explore it soon.

Abbie gratefully pushed open the door to Brew to escape the light drizzle of rain starting to fall on top of her shoulders, and she went up to the counter to order. The café was cute and colourful with small, round wooden tables with a vase of sunflowers on each and slate chairs in different shades of blue, a black and white tiled floor and a large counter at the back with a vast array of delicious-looking cakes. Abbie breathed in the fresh coffee smell that lingered on the air. She loved cafés and this one felt like home as soon as she walked through the door.

‘Good morning!’ said a lady with a messy grey-haired bun and big smile, leaning on the counter to greet her. Her apron was blue and white with ‘Have a Brew!’ written on it in big letters. ‘What can I get you?’

‘A large latte, please.’

The woman started making it immediately and glanced back at Abbie as she did so. ‘I haven’t seen you in here before, have I?’

Abbie shook her head. ‘No, I’m here to stay with my sister.’

‘Well, I’m Joy and I own Brew with my husband, Harry. He’s in the back making sandwiches. Welcome to Littlewood,’ she said cheerfully, sliding Abbie’s drink across to her. She moved to the till.

Abbie reached for her bag, but her hands grabbed air instead. ‘Oh no!’ she cried, looking down at her cases in horror.

‘What’s wrong?’ Joy asked, leaning over the counter to see.

‘But I picked it up off the train, I’m sure I did,’ she said out loud, shaking her head. She had kept her handbag balanced on top of one of the wheelie cases so she didn’t have to carry it on her shoulder. ‘I can’t find my bag,’ she admitted to Joy.

‘Oh, dear, I’m sorry,’ Joy said, sympathetically.

Abbie checked around her again, a sinking feeling in her chest. ‘What am I going to do without it?’ she said. If living in London had taught her anything, it was to keep a tight hold of your belongings at all times. She’d have to cancel her cards immediately. Oh, God. Her phone was in there. She started to feel panicky at the thought of not having it with her. How would anyone get in contact with her?

‘Look, try not to worry. You’re in Littlewood now and everyone looks out for one another here. I’m sure someone will find your bag and deliver it back to you. Go and sit down and drink your latte; you’ve had a shock and you need your coffee.’

‘But I can’t pay for it,’ Abbie admitted, her cheeks turning pink. She had never lost her bag before. This week was just going from bad to worse.

‘Don’t be silly, it’s on us.’ Joy grabbed a brownie and put it on a plate. ‘This too.’

‘Oh, no, I couldn’t possibly accept . . .’

Joy waved off Abbie’s protests. ‘Sit down, I insist. You can pay next time, after you find your bag.’

Abbie wished she shared Joy’s faith that her bag would be found. She carried the brownie and latte over to her table, hoping Louise would hurry up and get there so she could use her phone to ring the bank.

The door to the café banged open, making Abbie turn with a start. ‘There you are,’ a woman cried, waving something at her. ‘I’ve been chasing you from the station.’ A little girl followed her inside the café; both of them were pulling suitcases. ‘Your bag fell off when you went through the barrier,’ she said, a distinct accent to her brisk tone, holding up what Abbie could now see was her lost handbag.

Abbie recognised her from the train carriage and breathed a huge sigh of relief. ‘Oh, wow, thank you so much,’ she said, amazed that the woman had followed her all the way to Brew to get it back to her. She took it from her. ‘I’m so grateful.’

The woman, who looked a similar age to Abbie’s twenty-eight years and had a sharp, blonde bob, smiled. ‘Of course. I would be so upset if I lost mine.’

‘See? I told you it would turn up,’ Joy called from the counter. ‘All’s well that ends well.’

‘It certainly wouldn’t have got back to me so quickly in London,’ Abbie said. She pulled out her purse. ‘And now I can pay you.’

‘No, this one is still on us,’ Joy said, firmly. ‘What would you like?’ she asked Abbie’s saviour just as a tall, round-bellied man came out of the kitchen with two plates of egg and cress sandwiches for an elderly couple sitting by the door. ‘This is my husband, Harry,’ Joy told them. ‘And I can see you’re new to Littlewood too,’ she added to the blonde woman who had seated her daughter with their bags at the next table to Abbie.

‘I’m Eszter. This is Zoe. We’ve just arrived in England from Hungary.’

‘Well, we hardly ever get any newcomers and now we have three! Coffee?’

Joy took Eszter’s order and brought her drinks to the table. She glanced at Abbie who was marvelling at how delicious her brownie was. ‘You look so familiar; have we met before?’

Abbie shook her head. ‘No, but my sister Louise lives here.’

‘Is that Louise Morgan?’ Joy asked, her eyes lighting up.

‘That’s right, yes.’

Harry came over and put his arm around his wife. ‘We know Louise well, lovely girl, she helped looked after me in hospital and started coming in here then. Drinks too much coffee for a nurse, though.’

Abbie smiled. ‘It runs in the family.’

‘So, you’re here to stay with Louise, and what about you?’ Joy asked Eszter.

‘We’re here to see family too. Well, sort of family, anyway.’ She sipped her coffee with a nervous look on her face. She glanced at her daughter, who had long, fair hair and the same sharp eyes as her mother. ‘It was a bit of a rush decision to come here. We don’t even know where we’re going to stay.’ She bit her lip, then smiled quickly when Zoe looked at her. Abbie suspected she was putting a brave face on things and was intrigued by their story.

‘I’m sure we can help with that,’ Joy said. Then she clapped her hands together. ‘And, Abbie, I just remembered, you must put Eszter’s kindness to you up on the board,’ she said, gesturing to the large chalkboard that hung across one wall. It was filled with chalk scribbles in various styles of handwriting and colours.

‘What’s that?’

‘This is our Kindness Board. If anyone has an act of kindness done to them, they write it up on the board. We started it this summer and it’s already filling up. Eszter finding your bag is definitely worthy of being up there,’ Joy said, going back around the counter to make Louise’s regular coffee for her arrival. She held out a piece of chalk to Abbie.

‘A Kindness Board?’ Abbie glanced at her, wondering if it was a joke, but Joy told her to go on up. Sensing everyone’s eyes on her, Abbie went to the board and looked at some of the entries already up there. Feeling like she was back in school, she added Eszter’s random act of kindness to the board.

My lost handbag was returned to me by Eszter. Thank you for your act of kindness!

She added a smiley face to it.

‘And now you’ll have to pay her act of kindness forward,’ Joy said from behind her.

‘Huh?’

‘In Littlewood, if someone is kind to you, you repay their act by being kind to someone yourself.’

Abbie stared at Joy, wondering if she had walked into some kind of cult. ‘That’s a thing?’

Joy laughed. ‘We are trying to make it “a thing”, yes. Ever since Harry was in hospital, and the whole town rallied around us and helped us keep Brew going, we have tried to be kind to the community when we can. Harry thought having a board in here would encourage others to do the same.’

‘Is it working?’ Abbie was sceptical. She was certain no one had ever been what she would call ‘kind’ to a stranger back in London.

‘You’ll have to come back and tell me if it works for you.’ Joy went to serve another customer and Abbie watched her go, wondering if she was really expected to pay Eszter’s kindness forward.

Was kindness something that could be sprinkled around as if it was confetti?

~~~~~

I really hope you enjoyed reading the extract.  You can buy ‘Random Acts of Kindness: Part One’ from:-

Amazon UK – http://amzn.to/2ivgEL2

iBooks – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/random-acts-of-kindness-part-1/id1275148057?mt=11

 

About Victoria Walters

Victoria Walters has always loved creating stories. Her first book was handwritten when she was sixteen years old, and was closely modelled on the Sweet Valley High series. Victoria studied sociology at Warwick University and has since worked for a business publisher and as a Waterstones bookseller. She lives in Surrey with her cat Harry (named after Harry Potter, not Harry Styles).

You can discover more about Victoria – and find pictures of Harry the cat – by following her on:

Twitter:  https://mobile.twitter.com/Vicky_Walters

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/vickyjwalters/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VictoriaWaltersAuthor/

Blog:  https://victoria-writes.com/

 

Book Extract – ‘Don’t Tell A Soul’ by D.K. Hood

Bookouture are publishing some amazing books at the moment.  ‘Don’t Tell A Soul’, the first in the Detectives Kane and Alton series was released last month in paperback and as an eBook.  I have an extract from this book for all of you to read, but first here’s what it’s all about.

 

Book Blurb

Small town. Big crimes. Dark secrets.

A wave of panic rushed over her as her heart pounded hard enough to break her ribs. ‘Not a soul knows where I am,’ she thought as she took in the darkness around her.

Sheriff Jenna Alton and her deputy David Kane arrive in the town of Black Rock Falls, each hoping to escape their past for a new beginning. But instead, they find a town living in terror, and a killer on the loose…

Samantha Woodward was last seen driving towards Black Rock Falls to buy a house for her family. They haven’t heard from her since, and they fear for her life.

John Helms headed to town to watch a big game, but nobody knows if he made it or not. He was never seen again.

When a body is found, and Jenna’s life is threatened, she and her deputy become caught in a race against time to find a brutal killer, and to unlock the secret that lies at the dark heart of the town before it is too late…

Don’t Tell a Soul is a tense detective thriller that will have you guessing right up until the end, perfect for readers of Robert Dugoni, Karin Slaughter and Rachel Abbott.

 

Extract

Prologue

Kill me. One blood-splattered cowboy boot crunched on the chipped cement floor inches away from his cheek. A sick chuckle followed by a nerve-shattering kick to broken ribs brought back the tremors. A lightning bolt of white-hot agony shot down his spine. In a desperate attempt to pull precious air through swollen lips, he spat blood and gasped precious air. Lungs burning with effort, he writhed like a worm in the dirt waiting for the death blow. His vision blurred and pain pierced his eyes. He had lost all sense of direction, and his tormentor’s peals of satanic laughter played tricks with his confused mind. Night had drifted into another day of endless torture. He tried to crawl away and puffed out a spray of red, stirring the straw on the dusty floor.

How long had it been since he walked into the stables? One day? Five days? Time had become the periods between attacks. He had suffered unimaginable torture from a man well skilled at inflicting misery, but he’d somehow survived. At first, he tried to reason with his captor and gave him the information he demanded, but he had fallen into a lunatic’s sadistic fantasy. He had had no time to retaliate, no time to bargain for his life. The first hammer blow knocked him senseless and he came out of oblivion into a world of pain, tied hand and foot at the mercy of a monster.

He hovered between reality and delusion. The mind is a wonderful organ, and his tried to compensate by taking him on trips to the beach with his family. At times, he floated into another dimension on marshmallow clouds but reality came crashing back with each round of torment. He soon discovered crying or begging for mercy made the sessions last longer. Biting back moans and pretending to be unconscious gave the wielder of pain no satisfaction.

Under him, the cold floor acted as a balm to his injuries, numbing the agony, and when darkness came, he could crawl beneath a pile of stinking straw. The fermenting horse dung kept him warm, kept him alive. He had spent the first hours in captivity gnawing at the ropes around his wrists, using his teeth to loosen the knot, but one swing of the lunatic’s hammer put paid to any hope of escape. A shadow passed over him. A boot pressed down on his spine, the heel twisting to part the vertebrae in bone-jarring agony. Sensation left his legs. He has paralyzed me. Determined not to give him the satisfaction of crying out, he remained silent. One more night naked on the freezing ground would finish him, and he would welcome the release.

A car engine hummed in the distance and Cowboy Boots bent over him, grabbed his legs, and dragged him into a stall. Straw tumbled over him, coating his eyelashes with dust. Through the golden strands, he peered out the open door and his heart pounded in anticipation. A police cruiser pulled up in the driveway and two uniformed officers climbed out. A female cop handed his captor a piece of paper. He edged forward on his elbows, dragging his useless legs behind him. Sucking in a deep breath, he screamed though his shredded lips but only a long whine escaped his throat. The woman glanced in his direction and he clawed at the ground, edging inch by inch from the stall. He had to get her attention, and fighting back waves of nausea, he tried again. “Aaaaarh.”

The police officer indicated toward the barn with her chin then moved in his direction, but Cowboy Boots blocked her way and shook his head. A grin spread across his face with the cunning of a gargoyle, evil personified. The cop spoke again but her muffled words dissipated in the wind and his tormentor’s attention moved back to the paper in his hand. Somehow, he had convinced her all was well. I have a chance to escape. He dug for his last ounce of strength and bucked to move forward one painful inch at a time.

I must crawl into the open. Spitting blood, he pushed sound through his shattered mouth. Hear me. Please hear me. “Aaaaarh.”

The woman flicked a look his way, squeezed Cowboy Boots’ arm in a comforting gesture then followed the other officer back to the car. Despair enveloped him, and all hope lost, he allowed the tears stinging his eyes to run down his cheeks. Footsteps came tapping on the cement floor like the ringing of a death knell. His cries for help had enraged the maniac.

“How dare you try to alert the cops? I own you.” Cowboy Boots spat a hot, slimy globule on his cheek. “It’s your fault the bitch scanned my yard. You are so gonna pay.”

Blows rained down on him, searing pain exploded in his head, and his vision blinked. A strange fog surrounded him and he embraced the peace of darkness.

~~~~~

Has this extract left you needing to read more?  If so, you can buy it from:-

Amazon UK – http://amzn.to/2wESpf4

Amazon US – http://amzn.to/2vgQtva

 

About D.K. Hood

I’ve always had a wicked sense of humour, and was the kid who told the ghost stories around the campfire. I am lucky to have family all over the world and have spent many wonderful vacations in places from Paris France to Montana USA and Australia. I use the wonderful memories from these visits to enhance my stories.

My interest in the development of forensic science to solve crime goes back many years. I enjoy writing crime, mystery and thrillers. With many stories, waiting for me to write I’ll look forward to sharing many spine tingling stories with you. D.K. Hood is an active member of International Thriller Writers.

Website – www.dkhood.com

 

Blog Tour – ‘The Other Daughter’ by Sara Alexi

It’s a brand new month and I am absolutely delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for Sara Alexi’s new book, ‘The Other Daughter’ which is out today as an eBook.  Set in Yorkshire this is the first of a series.

I have an exclusive extract for all of you to read.  First though here’s what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

The Other Daughter by Sara Alexi is a compelling and gritty tale, set amongst the wild moors and crooked streets of a Yorkshire Village, following one woman who finally untangles herself from the clutches of a painful past and a self-centred mother.

More than a decade after leaving home Dawn finds herself stuck in a dead-end job, in a rundown flat, while her sister has it all – the husband, children and prestigious job in sunny Australia. Their mum’s favouritism is palpable, and even as she has a terrible fall leaving Dawn to pick up the pieces, nothing Dawn does can live up to her perfect, absent sister.

But still Dawn persists with taking care of her aging and fragile mum, until one day it begins to feel like the only thing standing between Dawn and her happiness is her mother’s continued, pitiful existence…

 

Extract

There are more paintings in there, too – ones that Dad collected. It’s strange to remember him when he was alive. Even when he was alive, it was like he wasn’t. Her memory is of a hunched-over man in a drab dressing gown, moping his way from one room to another. Always in that dressing gown. There was another man, too, of whom she only caught brief glimpses – a man who was almost never there. He wore a white shirt, and always a tie and jacket, and he worked long hours. Mum has never been one to talk about the past, or emotions, or say anything worth actually saying, but Dawn has pieced it together, and it came as a bit of a shock that these two men were one and the same. Both were her father: one when he did nothing but work, and the other when he was depressed. He died of lymphatic cancer when she was thirteen, on the day of the school dance, which she had been so excited about, and because he had died she was not allowed to go. She did not need telling she could not go; a death is a shock. She was not very upset, though; he had never been around anyway, and what difference did it make to her? The word ‘father’ meant nothing to her, and surely it was better to live whilst she had the chance. Of course, now she can see why they stopped her going: it was a matter of respect. But at the time it had felt unfair.

 

Links

Hopefully the extract has left you dying to read ‘The Other Daughter’.  If so, it is available to buy from Amazon UK – http://snig.gr/13

Sara Alexi’s Amazon Page – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sara-Alexi/e/B008M6D60K/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1503513777&sr=1-2-ent

Website – http://www.saraalexi.com

Twitter – @SaraAlexi

 

Blog Tour – ‘All The Colours In Between’ by Eva Jordan

‘All The Colours In Between’ was published on the 19th October 2017 by Urbane Publications.  I am delighted to be taking part in this blog tour which the lovely Michelle Ryles has organised.  I have an extract for all of you to read and there’s also a fantastic Rafflecopter giveaway being run throughout the tour.  First though here’s what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

It’s not a life, it’s an adventure!

Lizzie is fast approaching 50. Her once angst ridden teenage daughters, now grown and in their twenties, have flown the nest, Cassie to London and Maisy to Australia. And, although Connor, Lizzie’s sulky, surly teenage son, is now on his own tormented passage to adulthood, his quest to get there, for the most part, is a far quieter journey than that of his sisters. The hard years, Lizzie believes, are behind her. Only, things are never quite as black and white as they seem… A visit to her daughter in London leaves Lizzie troubled. And that is just the start. Add to that an unexpected visitor, a disturbing phone call, a son acting suspiciously, a run in with her ex husband plus a new man in her life who quite simply takes her breath away; Lizzie quickly realises life is something that happens while plans are being made. Gritty but tender, thought provoking but light-hearted, dark but brilliantly funny, this is a story of contemporary family life in all its 21st century glory. A story of mothers and sons, of fathers and daughters, of brothers and sisters, and friends. A tale of love and loss, of friendships and betrayals, and coming of age. Nobody said it would be easy and as Lizzie knows only too well, life is never straightforward when you see all the colours in between.

 

Extract

Connor

The handle to the shed door slowly turns. Thank god I locked it. ‘Who is it?’ I shout. Muffled giggling drifts under the door and I wonder if it’s Cas, only it doesn’t sound like Cas. Maisy, maybe?

‘Can we come in?’ a familiar voice asks.

‘Shit, It’s my bloody nan!’ I exclaim. ‘Robbo, put that dooby out NOW!’ Robbo looks at me, grinning, as smoke escapes from the corner of his mouth. The Rickmeister grabs the spliff from Robbo’s hand, takes another quick drag then stubs it out, placing it in the sacred tin. I grab the deodorant can out of my bag and spray the shed to within an inch of its life, manically wafting my hands around like some demented ballerina. Everyone starts coughing and I realise I’ve sprayed way too much deodorant. Jake unlocks the door and we all fall out of the shed, desperate for some fresh air.

We are greeted by my smiling nan and Aunt Marie. ‘Hello boys,’ Nan says. ‘Ooh, smells very nice in there,’ she continues as she sticks her head inside the shed. To my surprise, Nan asks us for a smoke.

‘But, you don’t smoke?’ I reply.

‘Aunt Marie used to,’ Nan says.’

‘When?’

‘About forty years ago.’

‘What? And she just happens to fancy a smoke now, forty years later?’

Nan explains that Aunt Marie is a little stressed right now. ‘As am I, so I’ll have one, too.’

‘Did you used to smoke as well, when you were younger?’

Nan shakes her head. ‘Nope, but I know I could do with one right now.’

We all follow Nan and Aunt Marie back into the shed. I explain that we only have baccy and Rizlas so they’ll have to wait a minute while we roll them one.

‘Or they could have a drag of the one we’ve already made,’ Jake suggests, tapping the sacred tin.

Panicking, I look at his huge grinning face. ‘No. Jake.’ I reply through gritted teeth, ‘we’ll make them a new one.’

‘Oh, don’t roll a new one just for us,’ Nan replies, ‘we’re not fussy.’

Before I know it, Jake has lifted the spliff from the tin, lit it and passed it to Nan and Aunt Marie.

Aunt Marie takes a drag then pulls a strange face. ‘Tastes different to how I remember,’ she says, expertly blowing smoke from her mouth as if it was something she did all the time.

Aunt Marie passes the dooby to Nan who drags heavily on it and then starts to choke. I pass her my can of fizzy shit, which she greedily drinks then, to my surprise, I watch as Nan takes another huge drag. Jake, Robbo, the Rickmeister, and I all look at one another. We each wear the same look of horror as we watch the spliff get smaller and smaller. I tell Nan that I think I can hear someone calling her and somehow, we manage to push the two very high, very giggly, old ladies out the door.

‘Shit man,’ Robbo says, ‘your nan rocks.’

I can’t help thinking there may be hell to pay for this later but that doesn’t stop me laughing my arse off.

 

Giveaway

There’s a chance to win 2 x signed paperbacks and 2 kindle eBooks of All The Colours In Between (UK only).  To enter click on this link – Rafflecopter Giveaway

 

About Eva Jordan

Eva Jordan, born in Kent but living most of her life in a small Cambridgeshire town, describes herself as a lover of words, books, travel and chocolate. She is also partial to the odd glass or two of wine. Providing her with some of the inspiration for her novels, Eva is both a mum and step mum to four grown-up children. Her career has been varied including working within the library service and at a women’s refuge. She writes a monthly column for a local magazine and currently works as a volunteer for a charity based organisation that teaches adults to read. However, storytelling through the art of writing is her passion. All The Colours In Between is Eva’s second novel.

 

Links

‘All The Colours In Between’ can be purchased from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/all-the-colours-in-between/

Amazon UK – http://amzn.eu/3kKSFbb%20

Amazon US – http://a.co/25M1oMD%20

 

If you want to know more you can find Eva at all the usual places. She loves to hear from readers and reviewers so please feel free to contact her.

Website – http://evajordanwriter.com

Twitter – @evajordanwriter

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/EvaJordanWriter/

 

Extract from ‘The Secret Mother’ by Shalini Boland

‘The Secret Mother’ is being published as an eBook on the 9th November 2017 by Bookouture.  As a special treat they are giving readers the chance to read an exclusive extract from the book.  Isn’t that just lovely of them?

I am just one of a number of bloggers who is hosting this extract.  First though here’s what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

Tessa Markham comes home to find a child in her kitchen calling her ‘mummy’. But Tessa doesn’t have any children.

Not anymore.

She doesn’t know who the little boy is or how he got there.

After contacting the police, Tessa comes under suspicion for snatching the child. She must fight to prove her innocence. But how can she convince everyone she’s not guilty when even those closest to her are questioning the truth? And when Tessa doesn’t even trust herself…

A chilling, unputdownable thriller with a dark twist that will take your breath away and make you wonder if you can ever trust anyone again. Perfect for fans of Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train and The Sister.

~~~~~

What readers are saying about Shalini Boland:

‘Read in one sitting from 9pm last night until 2:15 am.  I literally could not put it down!!!!  The story line and the twists and the way it’s written just draws you in completely and you have to know where it’s going  I couldn’t read fast enough… absolutely addictive and brilliant  and an end I didn’t see coming.  This is one book you have to read and it gets 5 huge stars from me!!!! ’  Goodreads reviewer , 5 stars

‘What can I say? Just wow. I’m usually never surprised by an ending, but  this one blew me away. I am totally in shock  and think I’ll have a hangover from this book for a while.  A great read that keeps you on your toes until the very last word .’  Stacey Harrell, Goodreads

‘If anyone can have me reading until 2am and finishing a book in less than 48hrs in the school holidays it’s this author…  massive five stars  from me.’  Sarah Mackins, UK Crime Book Club , 5 stars

‘The  ending of this book blew me out of the water, you won’t be able to put this down .’  For the Love of Books , 5 stars

‘The plot is  gripping  and once you’ve started reading,  you have to keep on reading, you need to know how the story will end .’  Bits About Books , 5 Stars

… one of the most chilling reads of the year for me .’ Ajoobacats Blog , 5 Stars

‘This book should come with a warning… make sure you have enough time to read it in one-sitting because as soon as you’ll pick it up,  you won’t be able to put it down! ’  Bookishly Ever After , 5 stars

‘This is a brilliant psychological thriller. In fact, it’s one of the best I’ve read. It is full of suspense and has  more twists and turns than a fairground ride .’  Jackie Roche, UK Crime Book Club , 5 Stars

‘I thought I knew the direction this story was going go. Then the  jaw dropping  moment happened!…  unputdownable! ’  Goodreads Reviewer , 5 Stars

‘Once again, Boland has managed to blow my mind with all the  twists and turns … an outstanding  explosive  read!’  Mello and June , 5 Stars

‘Great book. I read it in less than 24 hours. I was unable to put it down. The story was  fast paced and intriguing .’  Goodreads reviewer , 5 stars

 

Extract

Chapter One

The street lamps flicker, illuminating the grey pavement mottled with patches of dirty snow and slick black ice. Slushy puddles hug the kerb, cringing away from the hissing, splashing car tyres. It takes all my concentration to keep my balance. My hands would be warmer if I jammed them into my coat pockets, but I need them free to steady myself on walls, fences, tree trunks, lamp posts. I don’t want to fall. And yet would it really be so terrible if I slipped on the ice? Wet jeans, a bruised bum. Not the end of the world. There are worse things. Far worse things.

It’s Sunday: the last exhale of the week. That uncomfortable pause before Monday, when it all starts up again – this lonely pretence at life. Sunday has become a black dot on the horizon for me, growing larger each day. I’m relieved now it’s almost over and yet I’m already anticipating the next one. The day when I visit the cemetery and stand above their graves, staring at the grass and stone, talking to them both, wondering if they hear my inane chatter or if I’m simply talking into the empty wind. In burning sunlight, pouring rain, sub-zero temperatures or thick fog I stand there. Every week. I’ve never missed a Sunday yet.

Sleet spatters my face. Icy needles that make me blink and gasp. Finally, I turn off the high street into my narrow road, where it’s more sheltered and the wind less violent. A rainbow assortment of overflowing bins lines my route, waiting for collection tomorrow at some ungodly pre-dawn hour. I turn my face away from the windows where Christmas tree lights wink and blink, reminding me of happier Christmases. Before.

Almost home.

My little north London terraced house sits halfway along the road. Pushing open the rusted gate, I turn my face away from the neglected front garden with its discarded sweet wrappers and crisp packets blown in from the street, now wedged among long tussocks of grass and overgrown bushes. I thrust my frozen fingers into my bag until they finally close around a jagged set of keys. I’m glad to be home, to get out of the cold, and yet my body sags when I open the door and step into the dark silence of the hall, feeling the hollow of their absence.

At least it’s warm in here. I shrug off my coat, kick off my boots, dump my bag on the hall table and switch on the light, avoiding my sad reflection in the hall mirror. A glass of wine would be welcome about now. I glance at my watch – only 5.20. No. I’ll be good and make a hot chocolate instead.

Strangely, the door to the kitchen is closed. This strikes me as odd, as I always leave it open. Perhaps a gust of wind slammed it shut when I came in. I trudge to the end of the hall and stop. Through a gap in the bottom of the door I see that the light is on. Someone’s in there. I catch my breath, feel the world slow down for a moment before it speeds back up. Could I have a burglar in my house?

I cock my ear. A sound filters through. Humming. A child is humming a tune in my kitchen. But I don’t have a child. Not any more.

Slowly I pull down the handle and push the door, my body tensing. I hardly dare breathe.

Here before me sits a little boy with dark hair, wearing pale blue jeans and a green cable-knit jumper. A little boy aged about five or six, perched on a chair at my kitchen counter, humming a familiar tune. Head down, he is intent on his drawing, colouring pencils spread out around an A4 sheet of paper. A navy raincoat hangs neatly over the back of the chair.

He looks up as I enter the room, his chocolate-brown eyes wide. We stare at one another for a moment.

‘Are you my mummy?’ the little boy asks.

I bite my bottom lip, feel the ground shift. I grasp the counter top to steady myself. ‘Hello,’ I say, my heart suddenly swelling. ‘Hello. And who might you be?’

‘You know. I’m Harry,’ he replies. ‘Do you like my picture?’ He holds the sheet out in front of him, showing me his drawing of a little boy and a woman standing next to a train. ‘It’s not finished. I haven’t had time to colour it in properly,’ he explains.

‘It’s lovely, Harry. Is that you standing next to the train?’

‘Yes.’ He nods. ‘It’s you and me. I drew it for you because you’re my mummy.’

Am I hallucinating? Have I finally gone crazy? This beautiful little boy is calling me his mummy. And yet I don’t know him. I’ve never seen him before in my life. I close my eyes tight and then open them again. He’s still there, looking less confident now. His hopeful smile has faltered, slipping into a frown. His eyes are now a little too bright. I know that look – it’s the one that precedes tears.

‘Hey, Harry,’ I say with false jollity. ‘So you like trains, huh?’

His smile returns. ‘Steam trains are the best. Better than diesels.’ He scrunches up his face in disgust and blinks.

‘Did you come here on the train? To my house?’

‘No. We came on the bus. I wish we did come on the train, the bus was really slow. And it made me feel a bit sick.’ He lays the sheet of paper back on the counter.

‘And who did you come with?’ I ask.

‘The angel.’

I think I must have misheard him. ‘Who?’

‘The angel brought me here. She told me that you’re my mummy.’

‘The angel?’

He nods.

I glance around, suddenly aware that Harry might not be the only stranger in my house. ‘Is she here now?’ I ask in a whisper. ‘Is there someone else here with you?’

‘No, she’s gone. She told me to do some drawing and you’d be here soon.’

I relax my shoulders, relieved that there’s no one else in my home. But it still doesn’t help me solve the problem of who this little boy is. ‘How did you get into the house?’ I ask, nervously wondering if I might find a smashed window somewhere.

‘Through the front door, silly,’ he replies with a smile, rolling his eyes.

Through the front door? Did I leave it open somehow? I’m sure I would never have done that. What’s going on here? I should call someone. The authorities. The police. Somebody will be looking for this child. They will be frantic with worry. ‘Would you like a hot chocolate, Harry?’ I ask, keeping my voice as calm as possible. ‘I was going to make one for myself, so—’

‘Do you make it with milk?’ he interrupts. ‘Or with hot water? It’s definitely nicer with milk.’

I suppress a smile. ‘I agree, Harry. I always make it with milk.’

‘Okay. Yes, please,’ he replies. ‘Hot chocolate would be lovely.’

My heart squeezes at his politeness.

‘Shall I carry on colouring in my picture,’ he says, ‘or shall I help you? Because I’m really good at stirring in the chocolate.’

‘Well, that’s lucky,’ I reply, ‘because I’m terrible at stirring in the chocolate, so it’s a good thing you’re here to help me.’

He grins and slides off the stool.

What am I doing? I need to call the police right now. This child is missing from somewhere. But, oh God, just give me ten minutes with this sweet little boy who believes I’m his mother. Just a few moments of make-believe and then I’ll do the right thing. I reach out to touch his head and immediately snatch my hand back. What am I thinking? This boy has to go back to his real mother; she must be paralysed with worry.

He smiles up at me again and my chest constricts.

‘Okay,’ I say, taking a breath and blinking back any threat of tears. ‘We’ll do the chocolate in a minute. I’m just going to make a quick phone call in the hall, okay?’

‘Oh, okay.’

‘Carry on with your drawing for a little while. I won’t be long.’

He climbs back up onto the stool and selects a dark green pencil before resuming his colouring with a look of serious concentration. I turn away and pad out to the hall, where I retrieve my phone from my bag. But instead of dialling the police, I call another number. It rings twice.

‘Tess.’ The voice at the other end of the line is clipped, wary.

‘Hi, Scott. I need you to come over.’

‘What? Now?’

‘Yes. Please, it’s important.’

‘Tessa, I’m knackered, and it’s hideous out there. I’ve just sat down with a cup of tea. Can’t it wait till tomorrow?’

‘No.’ Standing by the hall table, I glimpse Harry through the doorway, the curls of his fringe flopping over one eye. Am I dreaming him?

‘What’s the matter?’ Scott says this the way he always says it. What he really means is, What’s the matter now? Because there’s always something the matter. I’m his damaged wife, who’s always having some new drama or make-believe crisis. Only this time he’ll see it’s something real, it’s something not of my making.

‘I can’t tell you over the phone, it’s too weird. You have to come over, see for yourself.’

His sigh comes long and hard down the phone. ‘Give me twenty minutes, okay?’

‘Okay. Thanks, Scott. Get here as soon as you can.’

My heart pounds, trying to make sense of what’s happening. That little boy in there says an angel brought him. He says I’m his mummy. But he’s not mine. So where on earth did he come from?

I take a breath and go back into the kitchen. The air is warm, welcoming, cosy. Nothing like the usual sterile atmosphere in here.

‘Can we make hot chocolate now?’ Harry looks up with shining eyes.

‘Of course. I’ll get the mugs and the chocolate. You open that drawer over there and pass me the smallest pan you can find.’

He eagerly does as I ask.

‘Harry,’ I say. ‘Where are your parents, your mummy and daddy?’

He stares at the pans in the drawer.

‘Harry?’ I prompt.

‘They’re not here,’ he replies. ‘Is this one small enough?’ He lifts out a stainless-steel milk pan and waves it in my direction.

‘Perfect.’ I nod and take it from him. ‘Can you tell me where you live?’

No reply.

‘Did you run away from home? Are you lost?’

‘No.’

‘But where’s your house or flat? The place you live? Is it here in Friern Barnet? In London? Close to my house?’

He scowls and looks down at the flagstone floor.

‘Do you have a last name?’ I ask as gently as I can.

He looks up at me, his chin jutting out. ‘No.’

I try again, crouching down so I’m on his level. ‘Harry, darling, what’s your mummy’s name?’

‘You’re my new mummy. I have to stay here now.’ His bottom lip quivers.

‘Okay, sweetie. Don’t worry. Let’s just make our drinks, shall we?’

He nods vigorously and sniffs.

I give his hand a squeeze and straighten up. I wish I hadn’t had to call Scott. And yet I need him to be here when I ring the police. I can’t deal with them on my own, not after what happened before. I’m dreading their arrival – the questions, the sideways glances, the implication that I might have done something wrong. I haven’t done anything wrong, though. Have I?

And Harry… he’ll be taken away. What if his parents have been abusive? What if he has to go into foster care? A thousand thoughts run through my mind, each worse than the one before. But it’s not my place to decide what happens to him. There’s nothing I can do about any of it, because he’s not mine.

I don’t have a child. Not any more.

~~~~~

Did the extract leave you wanting to read more?  ‘The Secret Mother’ can be pre-ordered from:-

Amazon UK – http://amzn.to/2xrkDu4

Amazon US – http://amzn.to/2vXeg3W

 

About Shalini Boland

Shalini Boland lives in Dorset, England with her husband, two children and their cheeky terrier cross. Before kids, she was signed to Universal Music Publishing as a singer/songwriter, but now she spends her days writing psychological thrillers (in between school runs and hanging out endless baskets of laundry).

THE SECRET MOTHER (published by Bookouture) is now available to pre-order!

Shalini’s debut psychological thriller THE GIRL FROM THE SEA reached No 1 in the US Audible charts and No 7 in the UK Kindle charts. Her second thriller THE BEST FRIEND reached no 2 in the US Audible charts and No 10 in the Amazon UK Kindle charts. It also achieved number 1 in all its categories and was a Kindle All Star title for several months in a row. Shalini’s recent release THE MILLIONAIRE’S WIFE reached No 9 in the Kindle UK charts.

Follow Shalini Boland on:-

Twitter – https://twitter.com/ShaliniBoland

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/ShaliniBolandAuthor/

Blog Tour – ‘Lost in the Lake’ by A.J. Waines

‘Lost in the Lake’ is the second book in the Dr Samantha Willerby series. It was published on the 7th September 2017, both in paperback and as an eBook. Having read and enjoyed one of A.J. Waines previous books I was delighted to be asked if I would like to take part in this blog tour. It’s a real pleasure to be the final stop on the tour and today I not only have my review, but there is also an extract from the book and a competition.

When a crash sends members of a string quartet plunging into a lake, it seems that Rosie Chandler, an amateur viola player is the only survivor. It looks like it was just a tragic accident but Rosie isn’t convinced. However, she is unable to recall exactly what happened. Rosie decides that she needs help recovering her lost memories and seeks out clinical psychologist, Dr Samantha Willerby.

Sam finds herself drawn to Rosie and does her best to help her put the missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together. In the meantime the police find some disturbing new evidence which raises further questions. Why is Rosie so desperate to recover her worthless viola? What happened to the violin which was lost in the crash and was worth a lot of money?

When Rosie insists that they return to the lake to relive the fatal accident, the truth finally creeps up on Sam.

Well, what can I say? I totally loved ‘Lost in the Lake’. I haven’t read the first book in the series but this didn’t spoil things for me. I love this author’s writing style. I thought the prologue was fantastic, it left me totally intrigued. A number of the chapters were very short which made things all the more exciting. I needed to know what was going to happen next and I didn’t really want to put the book down.

The story is narrated by Dr Sam Willerby and Rosie Chandler. I liked Sam from the very start and I admired how dedicated she was to her job. Rosie had had a tragic childhood which affected her for life. I felt bad for Rosie at first and could see why Sam wanted to do what she could to help her, but I really didn’t like her. Rosie seemed to be totally obsessed with Sam and struck me as a rather dangerous person.

When Sam agreed to go with Rosie to where the ‘accident’ took place I wanted to scream at her not to go there. Rosie was bad news and I didn’t want Sam to be put in danger. I raced through the last few chapters and was left totally shocked by what she was actually capable of. It made for scary reading.

If you like psychological thrillers then you’ll hopefully love ‘Lost in the Lake’. It’s fast-paced, gripping and makes for extremely addictive reading. I know I’ll be following the rest of this series.

I give this book 5 out of 5.

 

Extract

Prologue

Did I make you jump? Turning up like that in your own kitchen? You have to admit, it must have been a nasty shock.

I bet you thought you’d been ever so smart at covering your tracks. But, be honest, you made a complete hash of things. You made out you were one step ahead of the game all along, but once you scooped the ultimate prize you couldn’t work out what to do next! Face facts, you were too ambitious for your own good and hadn’t thought things through properly.

You took great delight in explaining your cunning scheme to me, even though it was bound to leave you with egg on your face. I could see you thought you’d have the last laugh. I could tell your little brain was ticking over, thinking that once you’d told me the whole story, there was no way I’d be walking out of there. But that’s where you went wrong. You underestimated me. Most people do.

I could feel rage burning up my insides as you brandished that bottle of whisky like we were mates – in it together.

‘Let’s toast our windfall’, you suggested, trying to make me smile. By then, however, my fury with what you’d done had ignited from a niggling spark into a white-hot ball of fire. Every moment I was forced to endure with you, a growing, uncontainable frenzy was building inside me.

You reached over to the draining board to find two glasses and that’s when you made your fatal mistake.

You should never have turned your back.

 

Competition

Now that you’ve read my review and the extract you’ll hopefully be dying to read ‘Lost in the Lake’.  If so, you’re in luck because two very lucky people have the chance to win a paperback copy of this book.  To enter all you have to do is leave a comment telling me why you want to read ‘Lost in the Lake’.

Terms and Conditions

This competition is open to UK residents only.

The closing date is 11:59 p.m. on the 25th September 2017.

The winners will be chosen within 7 days of the closing date and their details will be passed to A.J. Waines who will arrange delivery of the books.

 

 

About A.J. Waines

AJ Waines has sold over 400,000 books worldwide and topped the UK and Australian Kindle Charts with her number one bestseller, Girl on a Train. Following fifteen years as a psychotherapist, she is now a full-time novelist with publishing deals in France, Germany, Norway, Hungary and USA (audiobooks).

Her fourth psychological thriller, No Longer Safe, sold over 30,000 copies in the first month, in thirteen countries. AJ Waines has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and ranked a Top 10 UK author on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). She lives in Hampshire, UK, with her husband. Visit her website, blog, on Twitter, Facebook or sign up for her Newsletter.

 

‘Lost in the Lake’ is available to buy from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-Lake-Samantha-Willerby-Book-ebook/dp/B073W8X17W/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1505673830&sr=1-1&keywords=lost+in+the+lake+by+a.j+waines

 

Blog Tour – ‘A Country Girl’ by Nancy Carson

‘A Country Girl’ was published yesterday the 10th August 2017 in paperback and as an eBook by Avon.  I am one of a few book bloggers taking part in a blog tour to celebrate its publication.  I have an extract for all of you to read but first here’s what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

A must-read sweeping saga, full of intrigue, romance and page-turning drama . . .

Marigold Bingham, though promised to Algie Stokes, the lock-keeper’s son, reconsiders her dreams of marriage when she wrongly believes he has been two-timing her.

With the sudden death of his father, as well as the loss of Marigold, Algie is consoled by Aurelia Sampson, the charming and beguiling wife of his employer, Benjamin. Yet Aurelia merely muddies the waters, adding to Algie’s worries which weigh heavily on his shoulders as head of his increasingly troubled family.

Marigold Bingham is unaware of Algie’s spiralling burdens, yet she is in for a whole series of life-changing surprises.

So too is Algie, the man she once called her own . . .

 

Extract

Chapter 2 p.33-35

Eli was not entirely comfortable with the thought that his second daughter, easily the most appealing of those of marriageable age, could feasibly end up with the inconsequential son of a lock-keeper. He had hoped she would have set her sights higher, but was wily enough to realise that to forbid the liaison would only serve to launch it into more perilous waters, the consequences of which could be devastating and too painful to contemplate. In time, Harriet’s superior education would reveal itself to both of them, and Algernon Stokes would come to recognise his social and mental inferiority – and so would she. Meanwhile, he tolerated Algernon without actually encouraging him at all. Besides, Algernon’s father, Will, used to be Eli’s regular playmate in those far off days of mutual impoverishment. The lad’s mother, Clara, too . . . Indeed, when Clara was a young filly and Eli was a young buck with a weather eye for a potential mate, she had been a feast to the eye and a definite target. The trouble was, she was too preoccupied with his rivals and would have nothing to do with him. So he had to content himself eventually with Mary, who he’d put in the family way. Mary would never fetch any ducks off water. Her plainness, though, had proved an advantage in one respect, Eli pondered; she was never attractive enough to appeal to anybody else, which ensured her fidelity. On reflection, perhaps he had been too hasty in agreeing to marry her. The acquisition of wealth had made him much more appealing to other women – better-looking women – he’d noticed over the years.

Such were the ruminations, contemporary and nostalgic, of Eli Meese as he supped alone in the saloon of the Bell Hotel sucking at his clay pipe, his head enveloped in an aromatic cloud of blue smoke. Because he was an important citizen and a Justice of the Peace, few of the lesser locals these days considered themselves socially fit to sup in the same room with him. One man, however, walked into the hotel some little time after Eli, greeted him as an equal, and asked if he would allow him to buy him a drink.

Eli grinned in acknowledgement. ‘A pint of India pale, please, Murdoch.’

Murdoch Jeroboam Osborne paid for the drinks and took them over to the table where Eli was sitting. ‘You was deep in thought when I walked in, ha, Eli? Summat up?’

Eli swigged the last inch of beer that remained of his first helping, then sighed as if deeply troubled. ‘What d’yer mek o’ Will Stokes’s lad, Murdoch?’

Murdoch pulled a stick of tobacco from his pocket and began cutting it into workable pieces with his penknife as he pondered the question. ‘Can’t say as I know him that well, but he seems a likeable enough lad. Ain’t he a-courtin’ your Harriet? I’ve seen him a time or two come to meet her from the Drill Hall after our rehearsals, ha?’

‘Between me and thee, Murdoch, that’s what’s troubling me. I ain’t so sure he’s quite up to the mark, if you get me drift.’

Murdoch laughed. ‘I seem to recall as his mother was well up to the mark at one time, ha? Still is, if you want my opinion.’

Eli grinned conspiratorially. ‘Aye, you’m right there and no mistake. Proper little poppet, was Clara Bunn. Many’s the time I’ve wished . . .’

‘And the daughter takes after her,’ Murdoch remarked with a twinkle in his eye.

‘Ain’t set eyes on e’er a daughter so far’s I know,’ Eli replied. ‘But is that right? Another poppet? Like her mother was, eh, Murdoch?’

‘The image.’

‘I ain’t surprised. D’you see anything of Clara these days?’

‘Calls in me shop regular.’ Murdoch began rubbing the pieces of tobacco between the palms of his hands to render it into shreds. ‘If there’s e’er a boiling fowl or a rabbit spare I generally let her have it cheap. She’s grateful for that. I’ve always had a soft spot for Clara.’

 

Links

‘A Country Girl’ is available to buy from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Country-Girl-Nancy-Carson/dp/0008173540/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1502389495&sr=1-1

Twitter – @nancycarsonauth

 

Blog Tour – ‘The Darkness Within’ by Lisa Stone

‘The Darkness Within’ was published on the 13th July 2017 in paperback and as an eBook by Avon.  I am absolutely delighted to be taking part in this blog tour.  I have an extract for all of you to read but first here’s what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

From global bestseller Cathy Glass comes a gripping new crime novel under the name Lisa Stone.

You know your son better than anyone. Don’t you?

When critically ill Jacob Wilson is given a life-saving heart transplant, his parents are relieved that their loving son has been saved.

However, before long, his family are forced to accept that something has changed in Jacob. Their once loving son is slowly being replaced by a violent man whose mood swings leave them terrified – but is it their fault?

Jacob’s girlfriend, Rosie, is convinced the man she loves is suffering from stress. But when his moods turn on her, she begins to doubt herself – and she can only hide the bruises for so long.

When a terrible crime is committed, Jacob’s family are forced to confront their darkest fears. Has the boy they raised become a monster? Or is someone else to blame?

 

Extract

Chapter 8 pp. 46-47

Continuously examined by doctors who discussed him as though he was theirs, so that he felt his body was no longer his own. Everyone seemed to have a claim on it and knew more about it than he did. And all the advice about his recovery, although necessary and well meant, had become suffocating, as was being constantly fussed over, not only by the nurses but by his parents and Eloise. Some blokes might have enjoyed all the attention but he didn’t; it had reduced him to a childlike dependency, humiliating and degrading. It would be a sharp learning curve before his parents and Eloise saw him as an inde­pendent bloke again, if he’d ever been one, which he was starting to doubt.

He’d had too much time to think in hospital; indeed there hadn’t been much else to do. He’d spent hours, days thinking about his life – the years before his illness. Gradually he’d come to see that he’d never carved out an identity, a will, a personality of his own. He’d always toed the line, done as he was told and what was expected of him. He’d worked hard at school, learnt to play the organ so he could help out in church, been polite to his father’s parishioners, and had tolerated the down-and-outs and misfits who’d arrived regularly at their door in the city looking for help and a handout. Even as a teenager he hadn’t rebelled. In fact he’d been a bit of a mummy’s boy. And away at university he could only remember one instance of drunk and loutish behaviour, before he’d joined the Christian Union and met Eloise.

Eloise was a nice girl; kind, well-mannered and polite. His parents had taken an immediate liking to her and were soon treating her like the daughter they’d never had.

Jacob was looking forward to seeing her again tonight and hopefully having sex – the first time since he couldn’t remember when – sometime before he’d become really ill. When he stayed the night at her house her parents gave them a double room, but when she stayed with him his mother showed her to the guest room. They then had to wait until his parents were asleep before he could creep along the landing and into Eloise’s room to make love to her. Although he apologized for his parents’ Victorian and prudish attitude, he had to admit that the secret risqué nature of their liaison added to his enjoyment.

Tonight, however, there was an additional hurdle to be overcome. The list of dos and don’ts included post-operative sex with the warning that his breastbone mustn’t be put under any pressure until it was fully healed, which ruled out the missionary position – the one they usually used. After some thought Jacob decided that the best way – perhaps the only way – would be for her to sit astride him as he lay on his bed. And as he pictured this, the conservative, rather prim Eloise bouncing up and down on his erect penis, it caused it to come to life. A very good sign, he thought, for one of the possible side effects of his medication was impotence, which would require more pills and be yet another blow to his manhood.

 

About Lisa Stone

“As a writer of suspense thrillers I often ask myself what if? What if this happened instead of that? Or why a particular person reacted as they did. So often fact is stranger than fiction; these books start with a fact which I develop.”

Lisa Stone lives in England, has 3 children, and 27 books published under the pseudonym Cathy Glass, many of which have become bestsellers.

 

Links

‘The Darkness Within’ is available to buy from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Darkness-Within-Lisa-Stone/dp/0008236690/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1501522609&sr=1-1&keywords=the+darkness+within

Twitter – @LisaStoneBooks

 

Book Extract – ‘Pigeon-Blood Red’ by Ed Duncan

‘Pigeon-Blood Red’, the first book of a trilogy, was self-published last year as an eBook and in paperback.  I have an extract for you to read, but first here’s what it’s about.

 

Book Blurb

For underworld enforcer Richard “Rico” Sanders, it seemed like an ordinary job. Retrieve his gangster boss’s priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it. But the chase quickly goes sideways and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu, where the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory when a couple of innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in the crime.

As Rico pursues his new targets, the hunter and his prey develop an unlikely respect for one another and Rico is faced with a momentous decision: follow his orders to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves?

 

Extract

From Chapter 3

Robert sat back and felt something lodged in the crack between the cushions. He reached behind him and pulled it out. It was the pouch Litvak had entrusted to Rico. He slowly removed its contents. The snippets of conversation he’d heard now made sense. Litvak had removed this from his safe. It looked expensive. But how valuable was it? He looked up. Rico was heading back to the car. He returned the necklace to the pouch and slipped it into his sock.

When Rico opened the door, Jerry was still laughing. “You told him?” Rico asked.

Jerry cleared his throat and managed to restrain his laughter. “He said it sounded sick to him.”

“Nobody’s ever said that before,” Rico said.

His tone was a little too serious for Robert. He quickly explained, “I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“Life’s too short,” Rico said. “She has a nice body, doesn’t she?”

“I guess so,” Robert said.

“You guess?” Jerry said.

“Then, yes,” Robert said.

“She works hard to keep it that way,” Rico said. “No reason to hide it.” He turned to look at Robert. “Right?”

“No. No reason.”

Rico turned back around and gave Jerry a wink. “Glad we straightened that out.”

Robert was glad Rico was facing forward again. He couldn’t concentrate with Rico looking at him. His mind raced. Was he being a complete idiot to even consider what he was contemplating? He knew he couldn’t come up with the money he owed Litvak in two short weeks. He didn’t want to think about what Litvak would do then. But he knew what Litvak would do if he actually stole the necklace.

Then there was the whole idea of taking something that didn’t belong to him. He was a lot of things, but he wasn’t a thief—yet. But was he really a thief if he stole from an unsavory character like Litvak, a loan shark and probably worse? He convinced himself that he was not.

Still, it was a gamble. But he was a gambler.

He had time to pack and make it to the airport. If Evelyn’s plane wasn’t full…How long would he be gone? He had no idea. Nor any idea what he would do with the contents of the pouch. But now wasn’t the time to worry about it. He’d have time to think after the plane took off—assuming Rico and Jerry didn’t kill him before he got to the airport. Until now he hadn’t entertained that possibility, but suddenly he could focus on nothing else.

He stared at the bulge in his sock. It wasn’t too late to put it back where he’d found it. They’d never know. He perspired heavily. The resolve he’d felt an instant earlier had melted away, and in its place was indecision rapidly morphing into panic. He froze and as he did, the car stopped in front of the racetrack. He didn’t move.

“Get out of the car,” Jerry said without looking back. Still Robert didn’t budge. Jerry and Rico both turned around and stared at him. “Hey, you going deaf or something?” Jerry asked. “Get out of the car already.”

The decision had been made for him. They looked right at him, close enough to touch him. He couldn’t return the necklace now even if he wanted to. He could explain finding it in the back seat, but he couldn’t explain how it got in his sock.

“I’m sorry,” Robert said. “I don’t know what I was thinking.” He got out of the car and stood transfixed at it as it sped away. Robotically, he drove home and made his way to his apartment, locked the door behind him, and sank to the floor in a sitting position, his legs stretched outward and his back against the door. Staring at the ceiling like it wasn’t there and clutching his chest with both hands, he inhaled deeply and tried in vain to slow the pace of his galloping heart.

 

About Ed Duncan

Ed Duncan is a graduate of Oberlin College and Northwestern University Law School. He was a partner at a national law firm in Cleveland, Ohio for many years. He currently lives outside of Cleveland, OH and is at work on the second installment in the Pigeon-Blood Red trilogy. To learn more, go to http://eduncan.net/

Connect with Ed on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

 

‘Pigeon-Blood Red’ is available to buy from:-

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pigeon-Blood-Red-Ed-Duncan-ebook/dp/B01KYNYUAI/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1501091553&sr=1-1

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Pigeon-Blood-Red-Ed-Duncan-ebook/dp/B01KYNYUAI/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1501091454&sr=1-1

 

Blog Tour – ‘Hunting Angels Diaries’ by Conrad Jones

I am delighted to be taking part in this blog tour celebrating ‘Hunting Angels’.  Today is the last day of the tour but the excitement hasn’t quite finished yet.  I have an extract for all of you, plus there are several other blogs to visit.  First though here’s what the book is about:-

 

Book Blurb

When an author is asked to help the police with the investigation into a double murder by identifying occult symbols, which had been carved into the victims, he is plunged into a nightmare and forced to go on the run. Hunted by law and a powerful cult, he has to stay one step ahead to survive.

 

Extract

If this woman was a member of the order, then he was in terrible trouble; he thought it wise to tell her something credible without incriminating himself. “Look, I was following a missing-person case and stumbled upon the fact she’d joined a cult, that’s all. Her mother said that she thought her daughter had joined the Hell’s Angels, but she was old and confused.” He laughed nervously and looked around at the faces. “No one here has a Harley do they?” The faces remained blank so he carried on. “Her friends told me she wasn’t involved with any biker gangs, so I looked deeper into other groups and touched upon a website belonging to a group called the Nine ‘Angles’ not Angels.” Malcolm shrugged and licked his lips. “I need a drink, please.”

“You know more than that.”

“Look, my head is cabbaged and my gob feels like the bottom of a parrot’s cage. I need a drink!”

“Let him drink.” She laughed and pushed herself away from the culling chair, and he sighed with relief as a man stepped forwards. Malcolm thought that he looked expressionless as he approached. He was hoping that he’d have a tall glass of cold beer. As the man neared, he realised that everyone in the room was naked. The dark shadows had hidden their forms from his view. The fact that they were naked panicked him further. It added to the eeriness of the whole scenario in which he found himself. “You can drink from him. We have nothing pure down here.”

“Whatever, I’ve had enough of this crap.” Malcolm licked his parched lips, not realising what she meant. The man stood in front of him and held his penis between his forefinger and thumb. “What the fuck is your game?” Malcolm shouted a second before a stream of hot urine hit him in the face. Two pairs of strong hands grabbed his head from behind, pulling his forehead backwards, pinching his nostrils and forcing his jaw downwards. Malcolm gagged as the steaming piss hit the back of his throat, filling his open mouth and dribbling down his chin. The powerful stream seemed endless and he was forced to swallow in order to breathe. The stinking urine filled his nasal cavities and dribbled through his nostrils, stinging as it touched the sensitive tissue. He was desperate not to vomit in case he choked to death. His body jerked, but there was no escape until the man finished urinating.

As his head was released, his stomach expelled its contents and vomit spewed from his mouth. The acidic liquid burnt his nostrils and the back of his throat before splattering down his chest and soaking his thighs. He gagged at the taste of cider and urine. “You’re sick! You’re all fucking sick.” He coughed and spluttered once the deed was done, and he tried to settle his breathing. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. There was no doubt in his mind now that this woman was part of the group he’d investigated. He was intelligent enough to know that his situation was dire. His eyes were watering and tears ran down his cheeks. He began to shiver uncontrollably as his mind raced, searching for a way out.

“Are you still thirsty, fat, mundane man?” She smiled for the first time. Malcolm noticed that there wasn’t a line on her face. It seemed odd to him to be attracted to a woman who was responsible for a stranger pissing in his mouth, but then the entire night had been freaky.

“Fuck you!” Malcolm spat his words and globules of vomit flew from his lips. He was terrified but defiant. “You’re bang out of order and you have no idea who you’re fucking with. I’m connected to some very serious people.”

“That is an interesting choice of words because some of our sinister would be happy to fuck with you.” There were chuckles from the dark corners of the room. Some of the laughter was guttural, almost animal-like. Malcolm couldn’t see who was laughing and he found no humour in her words. The thought of being tied up and buggered by a line of naked nutcases sent another wave of fear through him. Some of the cold cases he’d investigated in the US showed the victims has suffered violent sexual trauma. He gritted his teeth and rocked violently in the chair, but his bindings were too tight to escape.

 

About Conrad Jones

Conrad is the author of seventeen novels, eight author guides and two biographies. He has three series;
The Detective Alec Ramsay Series; seven books Gritty Crime Thrillers
The Soft Target Series; Gritty Thrillers six books (Reacher Style)
The Hunting Angels Diaries; three books Horror Thrillers
You can find out more; www.conradjonesauthor.com  or contact Conrad Jones at jonesconrad5@aol.com

I am Conrad Jones, a fifty-year-old author, originally from a sleepy green-belt called Tarbock Green, which is situated on the outskirts of Liverpool. I spent a number of years living in Holyhead, Anglesey, which I class as my home, before starting a career as a trainee manager with McDonalds Restaurants in 1989. I worked in management at McDonalds Restaurants Ltd from 1989-2002, working my way up to Business Consultant (area manager) working in the corporate and franchised departments.

On March 20th, 1993, I was managing the restaurant in Warrington`s Bridge St when two Irish Republican Army bombs exploded directly outside the store, resulting in the death of two young boys and many casualties. Along with hundreds of other people there that day I was deeply affected by the attack, which led to a long-term interest in the motivation and mind set of criminal gangs. I began to read anything crime related that I could get my hands on.

I link this experience with the desire to write books on the subject, which came much later on due to an unusual set of circumstances. Because of that experience my early novels follow the adventures of an elite counter terrorist unit, The Terrorist Task Force, and their enigmatic leader, John Tankersley, or `Tank` and they are the Soft Target Series, which have been described by a reviewer as ‘Reacher on steroids’; You can see them here;
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Target-Series-Length-Mystery-Thrillers-ebook/dp/B00JEN607Q

I had no intentions of writing until 2007, when I set off on an eleven-week tour of the USA. The Day before I boarded the plane, Madeleine McCann disappeared and all through the holiday I followed the American news reports which had little or no information about her. I didn’t realise it at the time, but the terrible kidnap would inspire my book, The Child Taker years later. During that trip, I received news that my house had been burgled and my work van and equipment were stolen. That summer was the year when York and Tewksbury were flooded by a deluge and insurance companies were swamped with claims. They informed me that they couldn’t do anything for weeks and that returning home would be a wasted journey. Rendered unemployed on a beach in Clearwater, Florida, I decided to begin my first book, Soft Target. I have never stopped writing since. I have recently completed my fifteenth novel, ‘Brick’, something that never would have happened but for that burglary and my experiences in Warrington.

The Child Taker was the 6th book in the Soft Target Series but it also became the first book in the Detective Alec Ramsay Series when I signed a three-book deal with London based publishers, Thames River Press. The series is now seven books long with an average of 4.8 stars from over 2000 reviews. The first two books are always free with over 1100 5-star reviews. You can see them here;
http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B010DWH57K

As far as my favourite series ever, it has to be James Herbert’s, The Rats trilogy. The first book did for me what school books couldn’t. It fascinated me, triggered my imagination and gave me the hunger to want to read more. I waited years for the second book, The Lair, and Domain, the third book to come out and they were amazing. Domain is one of the best books I have ever read. In later years, Lee Child, especially the early books, has kept me hypnotised on my sunbed on holiday as has Michael Connelly and his Harry Bosch Series.

 

Purchase Links

‘Hunting Angels’ is available to buy from:-

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hunting-Angels-Box-Set-ebook/dp/B00GZ0TH7G/ref=la_B002BOBGRE_1_12?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1498397207&sr=1-1

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Hunting-Angels-Box-Set-ebook/dp/B00GZ0TH7G/ref=la_B002BOBGRE_1_12?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1498397207&sr=1-12

 

Cover Reveal – ‘Felicity at the Cross Hotel’ by Helena Fairfax

I am delighted to be revealing the cover for ‘Felicity at the Cross Hotel’ which is being published as an eBook on the 7th July 2017.  Isn’t it just gorgeous?  It’s so bright and summery.  Read on to find out what this book is about.  There is also an exclusive extract.

 

Book Blurb

A quaint hotel in a romantic landscape. The Lake District is the perfect getaway. Or is it?

Felicity Everdene needs a break from the family business. Driving through the Lake District to the Cross Hotel, past the shining lake and the mountains, everything seems perfect. But Felicity soon discovers all is not well at the Cross Hotel …

Patrick Cross left the village of Emmside years ago never intending to return, but his father has left him the family’s hotel in his will, and now he’s forced to come back. With a missing barmaid, a grumpy chef, and the hotel losing money, the arrival of Felicity Everdene from the notorious Everdene family only adds to Patrick’s troubles.

With so much to overcome, can Felicity and Patrick bring happiness to the Cross Hotel … and find happiness for themselves?

 

Extract

Chapter One

Fliss

At last it had stopped raining. Fliss lowered the window of her old car, letting in the smell of damp asphalt and sodden leaves. A faint whiff of burning mingled with the earthier odours, and she cast an anxious glance at the bonnet.

‘Don’t give up on me here, Agnetha,’ she pleaded. ‘This is no place to break down.’

For the past three miles as she’d climbed the steep incline out of the valley, Fliss hadn’t seen a soul. The village of Emmside, whose high street had provided her with the last latte of civilisation, now lay far below her. Here, high up on the fell, there was nothing but shadows and the dark, brooding branches of trees hanging over her head. It was enough to make a girl feel dismal.

Fliss, never one to remain downcast for long, switched on the radio to banish the silence, and soon the merry sound of her singing streamed down the hillside through her open window. She put the car into its lowest gear to round a sharp curve and slammed on the brakes.

‘Wow. Look at that. This was worth the climb.’

Agnetha, Fliss’s faithful car of many years’ travel, rumbled and spluttered in agreement. The road had surfaced above the trees and far below was Lake Emmswater, shimmering green and silver, like a scene from a fairy tale.

On an impulse, Fliss turned her car into a lay-by on the other side of the road, pulling up beside a dark four-by-four. There was a man standing by the dry stone wall that bounded the steep slope. He was gazing down at the lake, shoulders hunched, hands thrust deep in his jacket pockets. Apart from the light breeze ruffling his hair he could have been carved into the wall himself.

Fliss climbed out of her car and moved to stand beside him. The jagged mountains of the Lake District rose and fell in great dark peaks on the skyline, their sides flecked with splashes of bright, mossy green. Soft fields crept down into the valley, dotted with the fluffy white forms of sheep, and lying at the centre of it all was the gleaming lake.

Fliss took in a deep breath, letting the fresh air fill her lungs.  ‘What a magical place,’ she said to the man standing next to her. ‘All those gloomy trees – and now this.’

Her neighbour turned at the sound of her voice, moving slowly, as though surfacing from a dream. Fliss, who’d been too enthralled by the scene to pay him much attention, was taken aback to confront eyes as sombre as the trees behind them, and as cheerless. His complexion was browned by the sun, and his strong hands, which he’d removed from his pockets to rest on the wall, were weathered. Wherever he’d spent the past few years, it wasn’t under these leaden skies. Something about his bearing made Fliss think of the sea. It was as though here, on dry land, he was lost and out of his element.

Fliss wasn’t often given to fanciful thoughts. If you see someone without a smile, give them one of your own. It worked for Dolly Parton, and so Fliss smiled. The stranger blinked at the full wattage of her beam.

 

About Helena Fairfax


Helena Fairfax is a British author who was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. She’s grown used to the cold now which is just as well, since these days she lives in an old Victorian mill town in the north of England, right next door to the windswept Yorkshire moors. Helena walks this romantic landscape every day with her rescue dog, finding it the perfect place to dream up her heroes and her happy endings. Subscribers to Helena’s newsletter receive news of free stuff, competitions with prizes, gossip, and links to cool websites she’s been looking at when she should have been writing.

 

Links

You can pre-order ‘Felicity at the Cross Hotel’ here – http://mybook.to/FelicityCH

Social Media Links:-

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bRQtsT

Website: www.helenafairfax.com

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HelenaFairfax/

Twitter https://twitter.com/HelenaFairfax

Pinterest https://uk.pinterest.com/helenafairfax/

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/helenafairfax/

 

The gorgeous cover was designed by Rachel Lawston of Lawston Design http://www.lawstondesign.com/

 

Blog Tour – ‘The Lighterman’ by Simon Michael

‘The Lighterman’ was published in paperback on the 8th June 2017 by Urbane Publications and is out as an eBook as well.  I am delighted to be taking part in this blog tour.  Having loved ‘the Brief’ I just know that this is bound to be a winning series.  I have an extract for all of you to read and a competition at the end, but first here’s what the book is about.

 

Book Blurb

The Lighterman is the third book in the bestselling series of legal thrillers starring barrister Charles Holborne.

Simon Michael’s follow up to the bestselling The Brief and An Honest Man, continues the adventures of criminal barrister Charles Holborne. The Lighterman provides more of Charles’ personal history, dating back to the war years when he worked on the River Thames with his cousin Izzy.

When Izzy is accused of murder Charles must dig up the secrets of the past to defend him. But brutal gangland leader Ronnie Kray will stop at nothing to get his revenge on Charles for the events of An Honest Man. Can Charles save his cousin…and his own life?

Simon Michael brings the past vividly back to life across a beautifully rendered 60s landscape, and delivers a gripping piece of thriller fiction that will excite any fan of the genre.

 

Extract

Prologue
September 1940

Luftwaffe Hauptmann Heinz Schumann releases his bombs at 03:45 hours. His Dornier 215 is in the middle wave of the attack and although several of the escorting Messerschmitt 109s have been shot down, the approach has been easy. The cloud cover as they crossed the Channel had melted away, and the bomber squadron had simply followed the meandering line of the Thames, deviating slightly every now and then to avoid the puffs of smoke from the anti- aircraft fire and then returning to its course. Ahead of Schumann clusters of incendiaries continue to rain onto the city, dropped by the leading bombers in his formation. As each new cluster falls there is a dazzling flash followed by a flame soaring up from a white centre, turning the underside of the barrage balloons silvery yellow and throwing up great boiling eruptions of smoke. And as each burst of black smoke clears in the breeze, the great river reappears, a black snake in a brightly-illuminated landscape of uncontrolled fire.

As he releases his payload, Schumann is able to look down and obtain a perfect view of the U-shaped bend in the river known by the Britishers as The Isle of Dogs. He watches the bombs drop, becoming tiny black dots before they are swallowed up by the great orange and yellow tongues of flame which leap hundreds of feet into the night air, as if making futile attempts to lick the belly of his Dornier. The Port of London is burning to the ground, and to Schumann’s eye it is both terrible and beautiful.

It takes the 1000 kg bombs 42 seconds to hit the ground. This is what happens on the ground during that period of 42 seconds:

Hallsville Junior School, Agate Street, Canning Town is heaving with over 600 East Enders – men, women and children – awaiting evacuation. Almost all of them are homeless, their houses and schools having been destroyed in the first few days of the Blitz. Some have gathered together a few treasured possessions; some have a cardboard suitcase or two; some, recently dug out from collapsed buildings, have nothing but the nightclothes they stand in, their modesty covered by borrowed blankets, soot and building dust. Almost all have lost family members and the majority carries injuries; the walking wounded of working class London.

New dazed families continued to arrive at the already overcrowded building but, despite all, spirits have been reasonable for much of the day. Then, as the hours pass and the promised transports fail to materialise, muttering turns to anger and anger to shouting at the hopelessly overrun authorities. They are sitting ducks, they protest, with no air raid shelter to protect them and another bombing raid inevitable. By early afternoon a blind eye is being turned to the dozens of East End servicemen who desert from nearby postings to slip into the school and spirit their families away.

The unrest turns to barely-contained panic when the air raid starts. Children shriek with terror and cling to their mothers’ legs as the bombs scream down, shaking the ground with each impact, and the drone of the oncoming Luftwaffe planes goes on, and on, and on, wave after wave, dulling the senses, making it impossible to think beyond the thundering engines and the rising hysteria.

40 seconds.

Harry Horowitz, tailor and furrier, lately of British Street, Mile End, and his wife Millie Horowitz, milliner, huddle at the very end of a corridor at the back of the school with their boys, Charles aged 14 and David, 12. Despite the noise of the German planes, the bombs raining down all around them which shake the entire building, and the thick dust-laden air which catches in her throat, Millie’s lifelong debilitating anxiety is focused mostly on David. Her younger son had been running a fever when dragged out of their damaged home two nights earlier, and he now lies in her arms, sweating and shivering uncontrollably. Crouched next to them on the floor of the narrow corridor are four other families, one being that of Millie’s best friend, Sarah, who along with her husband and three girls had arrived earlier that afternoon to claim the last remaining floor space just inside the door leading out to the playground.

30 seconds.

Another bomb – one in fact released by the plane preceding that of Luftwaffe Hauptmann Heinz Schumann – screams down towards Agate Street and for a few seconds every adult in the school building holds their breath and falls silent. It lands with an almighty impact and the entire building shakes violently, but it misses the school, destroying instead the row of buildings on the opposite side of the road. Pieces of masonry and shrapnel ping off the cobbles of Agate Street and several heavy pieces of debris crash into the school roof at the front of the building.

‘That’s it,’ announces Harry. ‘We’re leaving.’

Harry Horovitz is a short, dapper man, always perfectly turned out in a three-piece suit, a watch chain across his slim torso. He works long hard hours in his little East End factory which produces high-quality fur coats, stoles and hats for the carriage trade. When he returns to the family home, invariably late and tired, he speaks little, preferring to sit in his armchair by the coal fire in waistcoat and shirt- sleeves and read the newspaper from start to finish in silence. Everyone knows that Millie, sharp-featured and sharp-tongued, wears the trousers in the Horovitz household. However, few realise that on the rare occasion when Harry put his foot down, Millie always complies without a word. She stands and lifts David to his feet, turning to her friend.

‘You coming, Sal?’

Sarah looks up at her husband, who nods his assent.

The nine East End Jews grab their pathetic suitcases and shoulder their way through their terrified neighbours and friends, shouting their apologies over the drone of the aircraft and the explosions all around them, and emerge through the door into the playground.

15 seconds.

‘Run!’ shouts Harry, as he leads them across the playground.

10 seconds.

Charles hesitates, looking back down the corridor as the rest of his family hurry outside into the orange tinted, dust-filled, cacophony of the air raid. Further down the corridor, into the bowels of the school and just outside its combined gymnasium and hall, is another East End family. The Hoffmanns live only 30 yards from the Horowitz household and their house had, like that of the Horowitz family, been almost completely destroyed in the raid two nights before. The two families often queue together with the same ration books; eat the same sparse food; speak essentially the same language in their respective homes, and have much in common besides. But they never speak beyond an occasional nodded greeting. The Hoffmanns, although refugees from Hitler like many in the surrounding streets, are not Jewish, and Millie and Harry Horowitz’s social circle simply does not include non-Jews. Their lives simply revolve around their home, their business and their synagogue. The Hoffmanns are, simply, “goyim” – of “The Nations” – and accordingly outside the circle. But the Hoffmanns have a daughter, a slim, fair and blue-eyed girl of fourteen, named Adalie. Unknown to either set of parents, while walking back from school every evening Charles Horowitz and Adalie Hoffmann have become friends. They have shared their thoughts on their teachers, their homework and on Hitler. And at Adalie’s instigation, they have shared several sweet, chaste, kisses.

So Charles lingers for a second or two, trying to catch a last glimpse of Adalie, and as a result very nearly loses his life. The rest of his family have stumbled across the rubble- strewn playground and are disappearing through the rear gates of the school. Outside on the street the air glows, backlit by orange flames on all sides; the fires of hell.

The shriek of Luftwaffe Hauptmann Heinz Schumann’s bomb fills the air as Charles, having given up his quest, races across the playground after the shadowy figure of his mother, the last of the party to disappear through the school gates ahead of him. Charles reaches the gate and takes two steps up Agate Street.

Impact.

The 1000 kg bomb scores a direct hit on the school. Charles is blown off his feet and finds himself sailing eight feet into the air, the explosive pressure drop making him feel as if his eyeballs are being sucked out of their sockets. He lands in an adjoining garden, destroying the rhododendron bush which breaks his fall, and suffers a bruised back and a cut to his scalp from a piece of flying masonry from the school wall. Everyone else in the family is unscathed. Although winded, Charles manages to roll back onto his feet in a single movement and continue running.
Harry Horowitz, soft-spoken East End tailor, has saved the lives of his family.

Later that day the government places a “D Notice” on the event, preventing accurate reports of the number of casualties to avert a collapse of morale in London. Officially 73 people died. Locals know that of the 600 or so men, women and children in the building, over 450 were killed instantly, many more in the hours thereafter, and almost all of the survivors suffered injuries. The Hoffmann family were blown to unrecognisably small pieces.

Four days later the Horowitz family unfolds stiff limbs and climbs down the steep steps of a bus in the centre of Carmarthen, and are introduced to the farmers who are to take them in. Four weeks of regular enforced chapel attendance later, Charles runs away and jumps on a Great Western milk train to London where he spends the next, and best, years of his life, running wild on the rubble-strewn streets of London and the one artery the Luftwaffe never managed to close: the River

 

Competition

Matthew Smith of Urbane Publications is very kindly giving away a paperback copy of ‘The Lighterman’ for each stop on the blog tour.  To enter just leave a comment telling me what you thought of the extract.  Has it left you wanting to read more?  Are you totally intrigued?

Terms and Conditions

This competition is open to UK residents only.

The closing date is 11:59 p.m. tonight, 13th June 2017.

The winner will be randomly selected and notified by the end of this week and their details will be passed on to Matthew Smith who will send out the prize.

 

‘The Lighterman’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/the-lighterman/

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lighterman-Book-Charles-Holborne-x/dp/191158300X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1497331771&sr=1-1&keywords=the+lighterman

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