The Silken Rose by Carol McGrath | @carolmcgrath @AccentPress | #blogtour #guestpost

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Silken Rose by Carol McGrath. Today, I welcome Carol to the blog to talk about inspiration. But first, here is some bookish information about The Silken Rose, the first book in the Rose Trilogy.

Author : Carol McGrath
Title : The Silken Rose
Series : The Rose Trilogy #1
Pages : 355
Publisher : Accent Press
Publication date : April 2, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

1236. Beautiful Ailenor of Provence, cultured and intelligent, is only thirteen when she marries Henry III. Aware of the desperate importance of providing heirs to secure the throne from those who would snatch it away, she is ruthless in her dealings with Henry’s barons. As conflict escalates between them, Ailenor’s shrewd and clever Savoyard uncles come to support her but her growing political power is threatened when Henry’s half-siblings also arrive at court. 

Henry and Ailenor become embroiled in an unpopular war to protect Gascony, last English territory on the continent, sparking conflict with warrior knight, Simon de Montfort, the King’s seneschal. Ailenor, desperate to protect Gascony for her son, strives to treat with France and bring peace to Gascony. 

Caught in a web of treachery and deceit, ‘she-wolf’ Ailenor’s courage is tested to the limit. Can she find the strength to control her destiny and protect her all that she holds dear?

| GUEST POST |

Inspiration

Hello, and thank you for hosting me, Eva. I am Carol McGrath, author of Medieval and Tudor Historical Fiction. So far I have four published novels. The fifth, my new novel The Silken Rose will be published by Headline on April 2nd as an e book and on July 23rd as a paperback. This book is the first of three novels in a new Trilogy about medieval she wolf queens. 

These queens lived during the magnificent thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. They are in chronological order: Ailenor of Provence, Eleanor of Castile and Isabella of France. All three wielded influence and power at a time when women were considered inferior to men mentally and physically. They were disliked by many nobles of the era for different reasons. Ailenor of Provence, married to Henry III was accused of nepotism. Eleanor of Castile was guilty of greed and amassing huge property portfolio. Isabella of France snatched the throne from her husband, Edward 11, and set up her teenage son as Edward III. She ruled as regent.

Their stories, as I write them, are intersected with female heroines drawn from the merchant class. Rosalind is an imagined character in The Silken Rose. She is an embroiderer and discoverer of secrets. The Silken Rose is told by both Ailenor and Rosalind. English embroidery was known as Opus Anglicanum and, during these magnificent gilded centuries of The High Middle Ages, was valued throughout Europe for its use of gold and silver threads and jewels.  My love of medieval embroidery and tapestry inspired the secondary plot within The Silken Rose

The inspiration for the she wolf queens’ novels initially came out of my love of telling stories, particularly about historical women whose lives are difficult to uncover. Secondly, wearing my Historian hat, I love researching too. Although I aim to tell a page-turning story with a splash of adventure and romance, I avoid contradicting the historical record. Rather, I look for the spaces in between, when nothing is recorded, where I can put my, hopefully, informed imagination into play. Queen consorts were not documented in the way their husbands are recorded within Historical sources. To investigate the queens, I had to look for precious snippets. Once I discovered their actions, it was easier to guess at their personalities. Actions, in context, often reveal more than any letters, wills or household accounts can tell about a person.

It is hard to work out appearance. There are statues of Ailenor of Provence and these, if the likeness is actually a true likeness, gave me the impression of a beautiful women with wide-set almond-shaped eyes.

She was known to be dark and tall, possibly around five feet six inches. Matthew Paris, an important chronicler during this period, wrote that she was beautiful. Ailenor is often remembered as cultured, educated, and fashionable. She wrote poetry, loved Arthurian legend and advocated the troubadour tradition loved in Provence. Ailenor was elegant and fashionable. She introduced a trend wearing little daggers on her belt and pill-box shaped headdresses or hats with shorter veils than before.

Married to doting Henry at thirteen, she was devoted to her family in Provence and to her children, especially her eldest son Lord Edward. Ailenor and Henry had three daughters and two sons. There is no evidence of Henry ever being unfaithful to her. The one serious quarrel between them occurred when his half-brothers, The Lusignans, came to England seeking his favour. She was furious and Henry banished her to Winchester. Read the novel to find out how she averted marital disaster. More tensions were to come from outside their marriage. Can she confront these and help protect the throne and her family?

Ailenor was a survivor. This little written queen was fascinating to research as was the background to the novel, the Magnificent Thirteenth Century. I aimed to create a sense of the tensions in medieval London that sweep through Rosalind’s story. A similar age to Ailenor she is portrayed as an independent woman with an embroidery workshop. It is enough to say here she hears and sees that which is hidden from others.

I hope you enjoy this novel as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Thank you again, Eva, for hosting me. Stay well everyone and stay safe through these unusual times.

[Thanks so much for stopping by, Carol. Stay safe!]

The Silken Rose is available to buy in ebook format. The UK paperback will be published in July.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Hive UK | Kobo

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Following a first degree in English and History, Carol McGrath completed an MA in Creative Writing from The Seamus Heaney Centre, Queens University Belfast, followed by an MPhil in English from University of London. 

The Handfasted Wife, first in a trilogy about the royal women of 1066 was shortlisted for the RoNAS in 2014. The Swan-Daughter and The Betrothed Sister complete this highly acclaimed trilogy. Mistress Cromwell, a best-selling historical novel about Elizabeth Cromwell, wife of Henry VIII’s statesman, Thomas Cromwell, is to be republished by Headline in 2020. 

The Silken Rose, first in a Medieval She-Wolf Queens Trilogy, featuring Ailenor of Provence, will be published 2nd April 2020 and 23rd July 2020 as a paperback by the Headline Group.

Carol is writing Historical nonfiction as well as fiction. She speaks at events and conferences and was the co-ordinator of the Historical Novels’ Society Conference, Oxford in September 2016. She is an avid reader and reviews for the Historical Novel Society. She is a member of both the Romantic Novelists’ Association and Historical Writers Association.

Carol lives in Oxfordshire with her husband. 

Amazon | Twitter | Subscribe to Carol’s newsletter | Website

The Henning Juul series by Thomas Enger

So, you’re a bookworm. And suddenly, you find you have the time to read as much as you’ve always wanted to. What better time to start catching up on series than right now?! I thought I’d offer some tips over the next few days/weeks/months (? Yikes!)

Today, I’m shining the spotlight on the Henning Juul series by Thomas Enger.

| ABOUT THE HENNING JUUL SERIES |

Two years after he lost his son in a fire, crime journalist Henning Juul starts working again. Emotionally speaking, he’s shot down, but he tries to pick up the pieces of his life. However, to do so, he must get to the bottom of what really happened when his son died.

The first three books of this series were published by Faber & Faber, the last two by Orenda Books. Why am I mentioning this, you wonder? I shall tell you. Because I didn’t actually know this at the time. If you have been following my blog, then you know that I am cursed (see what I did there?) by the logic that dictates I start a series from the very beginning. However, I read Cursed first, which is book four as I was unaware that there were three books preceding it. Then I read books one to three, and finally ended with book five. It made my head spin, I tell you.

Don’t be like me! There is some amazingly intricate plotting throughout this entire series, which you can only appreciate when you’ve read all the books in order, and to see all the pieces of the puzzle come together was just incredibly exciting. Watching Henning Juul’s character develop and mature throughout was an absolute delight. So do yourself a favour and start at the beginning so you too can enjoy the full experience and see the various threads unravel. It’s so worth it!

The good news, or the sad news depending on which way you look at it, is that this series has come to an end. Five books. That’s it. Come on! You can easily read those in a week! I challenge you! 😉. While it’s of course a shame to see any series come to an end, I will always prefer it being done in this way with a most satisfying conclusion, instead of having it dragged out and end up going nowhere. The ending is fitting, just perfect, and I’m glad the author chose to wrap things up the way he did.

Thomas Enger is responsible for my introduction to the Scandi-Noir genre and for that reason alone, the Henning Juul series will always have a special place in my heart. I hope you enjoy this series as much as I did, if you decide to give it a go.

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon UK | Waterstones

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Thomas Enger (b. 1973) is a former journalist. He made his debut with the crime novel Burned (Skinndød) in 2010, which became an international sensation before publication. Burned is the first in a series of 5 books about the journalist Henning Juul, which delves into the depths of Oslo’s underbelly, skewering the corridors of dirty politics and nailing the fast-moving world of 24-hour news. Rights to the series have been sold to 26 countries to date.

In 2013 Enger published his first book for young adults, a dark fantasy thriller called The Evil Legacy, for which he won the U-prize (best book Young Adult).

Enger also composes music, and he lives in Oslo.

March Wrap-Up

Well, this will go down in the books as the weirdest March ever, I’m sure. I was never really a fan of dystopian novels and now that it feels as if we’re actually stuck in one, even less so.

As a part-time hermit, nothing much has changed for me. Except that the other half is home a lot more and that really cramps my style 😂. But at least I don’t have to socialise, so there’s that.

Reading-wise, I may have mentioned it before and it looks as if a lot of you are on the same boat, but it’s just not happening.

| BOOKS I READ IN MARCH |

Nine books. In an entire month. I don’t even recognise myself anymore.

| CURRENTLY READING |

Two, and not making much progress with either one of those. I’m going to have to add a third one too because I have blog tours coming up this month.

| BOOKS I BOUGHT IN MARCH |

What can I say? It’s a hobby. 🤷🏼‍♀️

| BOOK POST WHAT LANDED ON MY DOORSTEP IN MARCH |

With thanks to Avon, Orenda Books, Headline and Titan Books.

| WHAT I’VE BEEN WATCHING |

This is what happens when I don’t read 😂

| ON THE BLOG IN MARCH |

Review | Black River by Will Dean
Review | The Creak on the Stairs by Eva Björn Ægisdóttir
Extract | You Never Told Me by Sarah Jamson
Review | Keeper by Jessica Moor
Review | The Devil Wore Black by Mark Fowler

The Shardlake Series by C.J. Sansom
Nowhere To Run : A list of books set in isolated locations

| COMING UP IN APRIL |

There will be reviews! Because I don’t have a choice 🤣. And content! And hopefully more lists and tips!

April 3 : Blog tour | Guest Post | The Silken Rose by Carol McGrath

April 7 : Blog tour | Review | The Lost Child by Emily Gunnis

April 12 : Blog tour | Review | I Am Dust by Louise Beech

April 15 : Blog tour | Extract | Sister by Kjell Ola Dahl

April 16 : Blog tour | Review | The Murder Game by Rachel Abbott

April 30 : Blog tour | Review | Strangers by C.L. Taylor

That’s it for March. I predict April will be much of the same. The lockdown measures our government has taken have been extended to April 19th and I expect they will be extended again when that time comes. We are supposed to go to a family lunch thing near the end of the month, with about 40 people, half of which I don’t even like, so to be quite honest I’ll be a happy bunny if that doesn’t go ahead. 😉

Stay safe, stay home, keep laughing if you can and take excellent care of yourselves! ❤️

In the meantime, I shall leave you with this :

Team McSteamy 🥰

Until next time! xx

The Paper Bracelet by Rachael English | @EnglishRachael @HachetteIre

Author : Rachael English
Title : The Paper Bracelet
Pages : 388
Publisher : Hachette Ireland
Publication date : February 27, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

For almost fifty years, Katie Carroll has kept a box tucked away inside her wardrobe. It dates from her time working as a nurse in a west of Ireland mother and baby home in the 1960s. The box contains a notebook holding the details of the babies and young women she met there. It also holds many of the babies’ identity bracelets. 

Following the death of her husband, Katie makes a decision. The information she possesses could help reunite adopted people with their birth mothers, and she decides to post a message on an internet forum. Soon the replies are rolling in, and Katie finds herself returning many of the bracelets to their original owners. She encounters success and failure, heartbreak and joy. But is she prepared for old secrets to be uncovered in her own life?

| MY THOUGHTS |

I’m sure many of you have heard about the mother and baby homes before. It’s a dark era in Ireland’s past (though not only there) and for some reason a topic that I just can’t stop reading about or watch documentaries about, even though it’s often extremely upsetting.

In Rachael English’s latest novel, we meet Katie. She used to work as a nurse at a mother and baby home. During her time there, she kept a notebook with information about the mothers and babies she met, as well as many of the babies’ paper bracelets. Now, fifty years later, Katie decides it’s time to use her knowledge to reunite birth mothers with their children.

Interspersed throughout the story are chapters dealing with the mother and baby care home where Katie worked. The reader meets Patricia and it’s through her eyes that the harsh circumstances these women found themselves in are laid bare. Effectively abandoned by their families, they found little sympathy in the home. It didn’t matter where they came from, how old they were or how they fell pregnant. They were sinners and that was that.

Under the guidance of Catholic nuns, who quite frankly clearly lost their Christian ways if you ask me, they were stripped of their names and their identities. They were forced to work the fields, or in the blazing heat of a laundrette while months pregnant … can you even imagine? Some were even forced to stay at the home to work off their debt, after their babies had been given up for adoption. It’s not at all surprising to learn that some birth mothers just didn’t want to be faced with their past and somehow tried to erase that part of their lives from their memory. Different times indeed but scary to realise, they really weren’t that long ago.

It feels wrong somehow to say that I enjoyed those chapters the most. That is not to say I didn’t enjoy reading about Katie and her experiences, or the characters she meets along the way. But there was something about Patricia’s chapters that kept pulling me back in and I could quite happily have read an entire book about her life at the home. I couldn’t at all figure out how, or even if, the two strands of the story fitted together. But all the while, I tried to match some of the adopted children to the women at the home while Patricia was there. These now adult children the reader meets, lead very different lives. Some never left Ireland, some were adopted by people in America. Some are having a hard time, others are rich and seemingly happy. One is even a rockstar. Some have always known they were adopted, some only found out recently. But they all want to know where they came from.

I am a huge fan of Rachael English’s writing and with The Paper Bracelet she manages to tell this heartbreaking story beautifully. I often felt quite emotional while reading, even may have had a lump in my throat and that doesn’t happen often. As a journalist, Rachael came into contact with women from a mother and baby home in the early nineties and The Paper Bracelet is inspired by those interviews. These women’s stories should never be forgotten.

Thousands of women were continuing to live with a bitter legacy, and many were doing so in secret. These were the women who had been treated like criminals when some were the victims of crime. Their children had been taken from them and they’d been warned that any attempt to find their son or daughter was illegal. I wanted to try and bring the mothers and the women who ran the homes to life. It’s too easy to portray the nuns as caricatures of evil and the mothers as devoid of wit and personality. I hope I’ve done them justice. – Rachael English

You have, Rachael. You most definitely have.

My thanks to Rachael English for sending me a beautiful review copy! The Paper Bracelet is available to buy!

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Hive | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

Nowhere To Run : a list of books set in isolated locations

With most of the world’s population self-isolating and not being able to go anywhere, I thought I’d put together a wee list of books set in isolated locations. Let’s face it, things could always be worse. You could be somewhere with a murderer on the loose, for instance. Or zombies. Or one of my worst nightmares, on a ship, surrounded by nothing but water. 😱😂

These ten books were some that popped up in my head straight away when I thought of isolated places. I’m sure there are many more.

Anywho, off we go!

Ten strangers, apparently with little in common, are lured to an island mansion off the coast of Devon by the mysterious U.N.Owen. Over dinner, a record begins to play, and the voice of an unseen host accuses each person of hiding a guilty secret. That evening, former reckless driver Tony Marston is found murdered by a deadly dose of cyanide.

The tension escalates as the survivors realise the killer is not only among them but is preparing to strike again… and again…

Of course, I’m kicking things off with the brilliant Agatha Christie. I haven’t read that many of her books yet but this is definitely a favourite.

A remote lodge in upstate New York is the perfect getaway … until the bodies start piling up. When the weather takes a turn for the worse, and a blizzard cuts off the electricity–and all contact with the outside world–the guests settle in for the long haul. Soon, though, a body turns up–surely an accident. When a second body appears, they start to panic. Then they find a third body. Within the snowed-in paradise, something–or someone–is picking off the guests one by one. They can’t leave, and with no cell service, there’s no prospect of getting the police in until the weather loosens its icy grip. The weekend getaway has turned deadly. For some couples, it’s their first time away. For others, it will be their last.

Note to self : never book a break at a remote lodge in Winter

To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.

Each of the guests have a secret but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they’re on the island. There’s a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they’ve set their sights on Anna.

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.

Someone’s going to sleep and never wake up.

Island. Water. Never going to happen.

This was meant to be the perfect trip.

The Northern Lights. A luxury press launch on a boutique cruise ship.

A chance for travel journalist Lo Blackwood to recover from a traumatic break-in that has left her on the verge of collapse, and to work out what she wants from her relationship.

Except things don’t go as planned.

Woken in the night by screams, Lo rushes to her window to see a body thrown overboard from the next door cabin. But the records show that no-one ever checked into that cabin, and no passengers are missing from the boat.

Exhausted, emotional and increasingly desperate, Lo has to face the fact that her sleep problems might be driving her mad or she is trapped on a boat with a murderer – and she is the sole witness.

Anyone want to know the odds of little old me ever getting on a cruise ship?

1939: Europe is on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd, a servant girl, boards an ocean liner for Australia. She is on her way to a new life, leaving behind the shadows in her past.
For a humble girl, the passage proves magical – a band, cocktails, fancy dress balls. A time when she is beholden to no one. The exotic locations along the way – Naples, Cairo, Ceylon – allow her to see places she’d only ever dreamed of, and to make friends with people higher up the social scale who would ordinarily never give her the time of day. She even allows herself to hope that a man who she couldn’t possibly have a future with outside the cocoon of the ship might return her feelings. 
But Lily soon realises that her new-found friends are also escaping secrets in their past. As the ship’s glamour fades, the stage is set for something awful to happen. By the time the ship docks, two of Lily’s fellow passengers are dead, war has been declared and Lily’s life will be irrevocably changed.

Like I said, ships are a bad idea.

Jon thought he had all the time in the world to respond to his wife’s text message: I miss you so much. I feel bad about how we left it. Love you. But as he’s waiting in the lobby of the L’Hotel Sixieme in Switzerland after an academic conference, still mulling over how to respond to his wife, he receives a string of horrifying push notifications. Washington, DC has been hit with a nuclear bomb, then New York, then London, and finally Berlin. That’s all he knows before news outlets and social media goes black—and before the clouds on the horizon turn orange.

Now, two months later, there are twenty survivors holed up at the hotel, a place already tainted by its strange history of suicides and murders. Those who can’t bear to stay commit suicide or wander off into the woods. Jon and the others try to maintain some semblance of civilization. But when the water pressure disappears, and Jon and a crew of survivors investigate the hotel’s water tanks, they are shocked to discover the body of a young girl.

As supplies dwindle and tensions rise, Jon becomes obsessed with investigating the death of the little girl as a way to cling to his own humanity. Yet the real question remains: can he afford to lose his mind in this hotel, or should he take his chances in the outside world? 

As far as doom scenarios go, it can’t get much worse than this.

Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the sea break into a sudden and reckless storm. Forty fishermen, including her brother and father, are drowned and left broken on the rocks below. With the menfolk wiped out, the women of the tiny Arctic town of Vardø must fend for themselves. 

Three years later, a sinister figure arrives. Absalom Cornet comes from Scotland, where he burned witches in the northern isles. He brings with him his young Norwegian wife, Ursa, who is both heady with her husband’s authority and terrified by it. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa sees something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God, and flooded with a mighty evil. 

As Maren and Ursa are drawn to one another in ways that surprise them both, the island begins to close in on them, with Absalom’s iron rule threatening Vardø’s very existence. 

Islands are clearly a popular isolated location. This one has no men. Doesn’t sound too bad 🤔

The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast. 

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

Oh, look! Another island! And a wedding party go wrong. At least there’s champagne 😂

Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution. 

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard. 

Iceland. Always brings the goods. I know, it’s an island too. Sounds so pretty though. Not that Agnes is in any way able to appreciate that. Such a great novel! Read it! I’ll pimp it until I’m blue in the face!

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. 

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. 

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. 

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills — and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit — he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Quite possible the worst case scenario? All alone on another planet with no means of escape EVER! I don’t know about you but suddenly this self-isolation stuff doesn’t sound so bad, huh?

If you have any suggestions, please do leave them in the comments and I will be more than happy to compile a new list next week with your ideas. Or heck, do a post of your own. That works too!

Have you read any of the books on this list? Would you like to?

I have more lists planned over the next few weeks. I mean, I’m not reading so I might as well make lists, I guess. 😉

Stay safe and take excellent care of yourselves! xx

The Devil Wore Black by Mark Fowler | @MFowlerAuthor

Author : Mark Fowler
Title : The Devil Wore Black
Series : Tyler & Mills #3
Pages : 306
Publisher : n/a
Publication date : March 21, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

November 2003. When a priest is found crucified, following the desecration of local churches, hysterical media coverage focuses on terrorism, and a satanic cult operating out in the wilds of North Staffordshire. Panic grips the city. DCI Tyler and DS Mills are under pressure as the toxic atmosphere deepens.

One line of enquiry, involving historic allegations against the murdered priest, is close to home for Tyler and threatens to tip him over the edge. But Mills has a hunch that could lead the investigation in a different direction, until a serious complaint is made against him. The investigation appears to have stalled, when a second ritual murder is discovered. The pressure to find the killer mounts, and as winter closes in the detectives find themselves pushed to the limits. 

| MY THOUGHTS |

The Devil Wore Black is the third instalment in the Tyler and Mills series but reads perfectly well as a stand-alone. Things start out rather gruesome in this one when an unsuspecting jogger stumbles across the body of a priest nailed to a cross. The year is 2003. It hasn’t been that long since terrorism invaded the western world and so the media focuses on the terrorist angle but detectives aren’t convinced. There is after all a satanic cult operating in this area that could have something to do with this murder. Or was the priest hiding a dark secret? Plenty of angles for the detectives to investigate but for DCI Tyler, things may start to hit a little too close to home.

Several lines of enquiries then and all of them seemed perfectly plausible to me. But just when I thought I was getting close to figuring things out, another body is found in similar circumstances to the priest and it completely threw me off. I didn’t have a clue as to who was behind these murders or why.

Central to the story are allegations of abuse. Not only do these surround the dead priest in a “did he or did he not” kind of way, but abuse is also a big part of DCI Tyler’s background. Tyler is a difficult character to get to know, always playing things close to the vest, a tough nut to crack. But this investigation allows the reader to get a glimpse behind the facade. Do his experiences cloud his judgment though?

Different as they may be, as a team Tyler and Mills work quite well. Mills is a very different kind of person and often provides some of the comic relief with a witty remark or action, the latter mostly happening when biscuits are in his immediate surroundings. Despite their differences, they get along well. The banter between them covers up a multitude of feelings but also offers some hope that maybe some day there will be a friendship between the two of them.

I can’t deny I struggled a little bit with The Devil Wore Black at the start of the book and for some reason, I kept mixing Tyler and Mills up. That could quite possibly be down to me though as my concentration levels are shot to pieces (as I’m sure applies to many of us) and the pace was a bit too much on the slow side for me. But once the investigation really kicked off, I couldn’t stop until I knew what was going on. For the faint-hearted among you, while the murders sound brutal, none of it plays out on the page. But what I particularly liked is that the investigation isn’t nicely wrapped up in a bow. Maybe that’s something for Tyler and Mills to sink their teeth into in the future.

The Devil Wore Black is a well-plotted and intriguing police procedural with plenty of suspects and complex issues that will undoubtedly please fans of this series.

My thanks to Mark Fowler for the review copy. The Devil Wears Black is available to buy!

Amazon US | Amazon UK

The Shardlake Series by C.J. Sansom

So, you’re a bookworm. And suddenly, you find you have the time to read as much as you’ve always wanted to. What better time to start catching up on series than right now?! I thought I’d offer some tips (though not necessarily all series) over the next few days/weeks/months (? Yikes!)

Today, I’m kicking things off with the Matthew Shardlake series by C.J. Sansom. If you’re a fan of historical (crime) fiction, this series is for you.

The series currently stands at 7 books and they are sure to keep you busy for quite a while. Book one, Dissolution, is the shortest at 456 pages. Book seven, Tombland, is the longest and has 866 glorious pages.

| ABOUT THE MATTHEW SHARDLAKE SERIES |

We first meet Matthew Shardlake in Dissolution. Matthew is a lawyer, working out of Lincoln’s Inn in London in Tudor times, in the service of Thomas Cromwell. King Henry VIII has ordered the dissolution of the monasteries. At one of the monasteries, all hell breaks loose and a commissioner is found murdered. Matthew and his assistant are sent to Scarnsea to investigate.

With Matthew, C.J. Sansom has created a wonderful protagonist. As a hunchback, Matthew is often not taken seriously, somewhat underestimated. He struggles with his beliefs, he is often in pain and vulnerable, but he’s also incredibly intelligent and astute. His disability will not stop him from getting to the truth, no matter who tries to block his way. But the Tudor times were turbulent, in case you didn’t know and although Matthew is richer and more privileged than most people, he is still powerless in the midst of the political schemers like Thomas Cromwell and Richie Rich. Matthew may not be at court, but he’s close enough and with unpredictable people around him at all times, you just never know where the danger will be coming from.

To me, the Shardlake series offers the best of both worlds. I love crime fiction and I love historical fiction, especially set in Tudor times, and in this case I get both. It’s clear a humongous amount of research goes into these books. You end up learning quite a lot but it never turns into a long boring history lesson. C.J. Sansom has managed to create engaging characters, some of which come back time and time again so you can see them develop and there’s a fabulous balance between Shardlake’s private and professional life.

Big books do not scare me. I read the Game of Throne series, everything after that seems like a breeze. The books in the Shardlake series never felt too long for me, despite their page count. The investigations Shardlake undertakes are always fascinating and the books have me absolutely hooked from start to finish. I’m not normally one who reads a book more than once but these have a special place on my bookshelves and I know that I will return to them at some point.

I don’t know if there will be an eighth book, though I fiercely hope so. If there ever was a perfect time for you to get caught up, then this is it. C.J. Sansom is an outstanding author and he is, in my most humble opinion, head and shoulders above anyone else in this genre.

So, are you tempted?

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon UK | Hive UK | Kobo | Waterstones

Massively grateful shout-out to Leah for the recommendation!

This Week in Books (March 18)

Hosted by Lipsy Lost and Found, my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I’m reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words.

| LAST BOOK I FINISHED READING |

Seven-year-old Jocelyn loves her nanny more than her own mother.
When her nanny disappears one night, Jo never gets over the loss.
How could she vanish without saying goodbye?

Thirty years on, Jo is forced to return to her family home and confront her troubled relationship with her mother. When human remains are discovered in the grounds of the house, Jo begins to question everything.

Then an unexpected visitor knocks at the door and Jo’s world is destroyed again as, one by one, she discovers her childhood memories aren’t what they seemed.

What secrets was her nanny hiding – and what was she running away from? And can Jo trust what her mother tells her?

Sometimes the truth hurts so much you’d rather hear the lie.

| THE BOOK I’M CURRENTLY READING |

A series of unsolved murders with one thing in common: each of the deaths bears an eerie resemblance to the crimes depicted in classic mystery novels.

The deaths lead FBI Agent Gwen Mulvey to mystery bookshop Old Devils. Owner Malcolm Kershaw had once posted online an article titled ‘My Eight Favourite Murders,’ and there seems to be a deadly link between the deaths and his list – which includes Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.

Can the killer be stopped before all eight of these perfect murders have been re-enacted?

| WHAT I’M (PROBABLY) READING NEXT |

A year ago today, we all gathered for Lucas’s wedding at his glorious Cornish home overlooking the sea.

But no one was married that day.

Now Lucas has invited us back to celebrate the anniversary. But the anniversary of what? The wedding that never happened, or the tragedy that occurred just hours before the ceremony was due to begin?

He’s told us that tonight he has planned a game. We have our costumes, we have our parts, and everyone must play. The game, he tells us, is about to begin.

What does Lucas want from us? What are we not being told? And what’s going to happen when this terrible game is over?

It’s a good thing we’ve been stocking up on books. We can sure use them now! Anything here you’ve read or would like to? What’s on your reading schedule this week? Do let me know. Happy reading! xx

Keeper by Jessica Moore | @jessicammoor @VikingBooksUK @EllieeHud | #KeeperBook

Today, I join the blog tour for Keeper by Jessica Moore. My thanks to Ellie at Viking Books for the opportunity to join and for the wonderful review copy.

Author : Jessica Moor
Title : Keeper
Pages : 320
Publisher : Viking Books / Penguin UK
Publication date : March 19, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

He’s been looking in the windows again. Messing with cameras. Leaving notes. 
Supposed to be a refuge. But death got inside. 

When Katie Straw’s body is pulled from the waters of the local suicide spot, the police decide it’s an open-and-shut case. A standard-issue female suicide.

But the residents of Widringham women’s refuge where Katie worked don’t agree. They say it’s murder.

Will you listen to them?

| MY THOUGHTS |

He loves you.
He controls you.
He’ll never let you go.

It’s insanely hard to find the words to do this novel justice. Keeper is one of those books that requires time to process. One that made me feel so incredibly angry, it left me wanting to punch something. And even after giving myself that time to sit back and think … guess what. Still bloody angry!

When Katie Straw’s body is found in the river, detectives quickly rule her death a suicide. But not everyone is convinced. The women at the local refuge, where Katie worked, know that danger lurks in every corner and while they may be at what is considered a safe place, somehow death got inside.

Despite the fact that there is a mystery to solve surrounding the death of Katie Straw, this is not your typical crime fiction novel. Keeper is billed as a literary thriller and I’m slightly worried that the “thriller” part will be somewhat misleading to readers who decide to pick this one up. It’s not that kind of thriller, it’s not a fast-paced solve-a-crime sort of novel but more of a character-driven drama with a thriller-ish element to it. (I know what I’m trying to say here but I don’t think I’m doing a very good job of it.) Yet, it is equally compelling, tense and gripping.

To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect but what I got is a dark and powerful story. Told in alternating chapters, we hear from Katie herself and learn about her past, we follow the detectives who are investigating Katie’s death and we are introduced to the women at the refuge. Manipulation and abuse comes in various shapes and sizes and these women’s stories really bring that to the fore. It doesn’t always come like a bolt of lightning, sometimes it’s just there from the beginning and it builds up gradually, so slowly that maybe you don’t even realise it’s happening.

Needless to say this isn’t a comfortable read. It is awfully sad and upsetting. It is unfortunately highly believable and realistic. It is incredibly frightening because it makes you realise this could happen to any one of us. It is chilling, hugely insightful and addictive. Did I mention it made me angry?

Keeper is an incredibly hard-hitting and thought-provoking debut from Jessica Moor and a novel that will undoubtedly stay with me forever. I definitely recommend you give this one a go. Brace yourself for the impact it will have and for the utterly heartbreaking conclusion.

Keeper is out tomorrow! Due to current circumstances, whenever you can, please support your local bookshops!

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon UK | Goldsboro | Hive UK | Kobo | Waterstones

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Jessica Moor studied English at Cambridge before completing a Creative Writing MA at Manchester University. Prior to this she spent a year working in the violence against women and girls sector and this experience inspired her first novel, Keeper.

You Never Told Me by Sarah Jasmon | @sarahontheboat @TransworldBooks @damppebbles | #blogtour #extract

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for You Never Told Me by Sarah Jasmon! My thanks to Emma at damppebbles for the invitation to join. I have an extract to share with you all today but first, let’s take a look at what this book is all about.

Author : Sarah Jasmon
Title : You Never Told Me
Pages : 384
Publisher : Transworld
Publication date : March 19, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

A year ago, Charlie’s life seemed to be following a plan: she had a beautiful house, a lovable dog and an upcoming wedding. But she felt trapped. A few months before the big day, ignoring the warnings from her family, she abandoned her life and fled to the other side of the world in a bid for freedom.

But when her mother unexpectedly falls ill, Charlie has to cut her trip short. She flies home, but by the time she gets to the hospital, it’s too late.

Her mother is gone, but she’s left a mystery behind. Why did she buy a canal boat, and where did the money for it come from? As Charlie attempts to work through her grief and pick up the pieces of her life, she follows the threads of her mother’s secret past – but has she missed her chance to learn the truth?

| EXTRACT |

A different nurse came around the edge of the curtain. Seeing Charlie, she made as if to back away. Then she stopped.

‘Everything all right, my love?’ she asked.

Charlie made an effort to concentrate. Maybe it was jetlag starting to kick in, but she felt as if her head had no connection with her body, or with her surroundings.

‘Yes, sorry,’ she said, and found herself smiling to reassure the nurse. She was only young, probably the age of most of the backpackers Charlie had spent the last few months with. 

‘I’m just—’ She gestured back to the bed. What was she doing? What was she supposed to be doing?

‘Just ask if you need anything,’ the girl said, and hurried off in her squishy white shoes.

Charlie dropped into the single chair that was squeezed between the bed and the curtain. Just ask if there was anything she needed. What she needed was for this not to be happening, for someone to tell her she could wake up now. She wasn’t ready, she didn’t know what to do. Should she hold her mother’s hand, tell her how sorry she was that this had happened? Apologize for not being in touch, for moving away, for always wanting her to be a different sort of mother? Nothing felt right.

Max would know. She imagined him being next to her, a bulwark against the strangeness. He would hold her and reassure her that what she was feeling was normal, that she didn’t need to worry about some imagined standard of behaviour she was failing to meet. For a moment it seemed possible, that she could call him and he’d drop everything. He might do that: he was a kind man and he had loved her. But it didn’t seem to be playing fair to call on him just because she was in need.

The words from one of their final conversations kept popping up in her head. You know if you leave, that’s going to be it? I’ll go with you anywhere, try anything, but if you go, you go. His voice had broken at that point, tears running down his cheeks. You can’t leave me and still have me, you know that?

‘What do you really think about it all?’ Charlie spoke without thinking in the end, the words surprising her. Somehow, her hand had reached out, resting itself lightly on her mother’s arm. It lay still and straight, resting on the laundry stamp of the hospital sheet, warmer than Charlie expected her to be. It really was as if she was lying there, listening to her speak. A moment of intimacy, the last chance to talk. Except they’d never sat together like this, not really. Charlie tried to remember the last time they’d talked, just the two of them, and her grip tightened.

She’d left it too late. Numbly, she sat on in silence, with every minute taking her mother further away. Gravity pulled at skin and muscle, leaving her mouth slack and lop- sided.

There was nothing Charlie could do.

But Charlie’s mother has left a mystery behind and if you’d like to find out what that is, then you can grab yourself a copy of You Never Told Me when it publishes on Thursday or pre-order it right now!

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Hive | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Sarah Jasmon lives on a canal boat near Manchester with her children. She has had several short stories published, is curating a poetry anthology, and has recently graduated from the Creative Writing MA course at Manchester Metropolitan University. To find out more, visit www.sarahjasmon.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sarahontheboat
Website: https://sarahjasmon.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sarahontheboat/