The Home by Sarah Stovell | @sarahlovescrime @OrendaBooks | #recommended

Author : Sarah Stovell
Title : The Home
Pages : 303
Publisher : Orenda Books
Publication date : November 28, 2019 (ebook)

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

When the body of pregnant, 15-year-old Hope Lacey is discovered in a churchyard on Christmas morning, the community is shocked, but unsurprised. For Hope lived in The Home, the residence of three young girls, whose violent and disturbing pasts have seen them cloistered away. 

As a police investigation gets underway, the lives of Hope, Lara and Annie are examined, and the staff who work at the home are interviewed, leading to shocking revelations and clear evidence that someone is seeking revenge.

| MY THOUGHTS |

Oh …. goodness gracious me. Devastating doesn’t even begin to cover it. Wow!

It’s been a while since Sarah Stovell’s last offering, Exquisite, and while I thoroughly enjoyed that one when I read it, I’m just going to go right ahead and say that The Home is on a completely different level and most definitely worth the wait!

On Christmas morning, the body of a fifteen year old girl is discovered in a churchyard. Hope was a resident at The Home, a place where three young girls lived. Three girls who have been severely affected by violent and disturbing pasts. But what happened to Hope?

I wasn’t at all able to figure out what happened to Hope and to be honest, I wasn’t even really trying. I became so utterly absorbed by these girls’ lives that solving that particular mystery almost became secondary. Despite knowing what happened to Hope, I oddly found myself wishing for a happy ending throughout, which is a credit to Sarah Stovell’s amazing writing.

This incredibly powerful story about the lives of Hope, Annie and Lara will get under your skin and will be impossible to forget. These three girls are so realistic and believable, they almost jump from the pages and you want to reach in and help them in any way you can. It was abundantly clear to me from the very first pages that this book would leave me completely and utterly broken and it did. It is so extremely dark, brutal and raw that I often couldn’t decide if I should keep reading or maybe take a break, have a breather and trawl YouTube for some funny clips.

It should almost go without saying that this is one incredibly uncomfortable book to read. It’s harrowing, it is insanely disturbing, it is shocking. It’s positively heartbreaking but also immensely gripping and compelling. It hurts, people. It’s really, really painful in that way where it feels someone has reached into the very core of you, pulled out your heart and stomped all over it. And yet there is also a sliver of hope and love throughout, amidst all this darkness.

The Home will draw you in from the start and not let go. It will haunt you and linger in your mind for eternity. It will leave you with a lump in your throat and it will make you admire Sarah Stovell for tackling such hard topics in the most exquisite (see what I did there?) way possible.

I have no more words left. Completely and utterly broken. 😭

Huge thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my review copy!

The Home will be available to buy in ebook format next week. The UK paperback will be published in January.

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

The Other Daughter by Shalini Boland

Author : Shalini Boland
Title : The Other Daughter
Pages : 270
Publisher : Bookouture
Publication date : November 5, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Two-and-a-half-year-old Holly is playing happily in a pink plastic playhouse, while her mother Rachel sips coffee and chats with a friend nearby. It should be an ordinary day for all of them. But, in the blink of an eye, it turns into every family’s worst nightmare. 

Holly is taken by a stranger and never found.

Nine years later, Rachel is living a quiet life in Dorset. She’s tried to keep things together since the traumatic day when she lost her eldest daughter. She has a new family, a loving partner and her secrets are locked away in her painful past. 

Until one afternoon when Rachel meets a new school parent Kate and her teenage daughter Bella. Rachel’s world is instantly turned upside down – she’s seen Bella before. She’d recognise that face anywhere – it’s her missing child. 

And she will stop at nothing to get her back…

| MY THOUGHTS |

You can always expect Shalini Boland to deliver a tense story that will keep you hooked throughout and The Other Daughter does exactly that.

Every parent’s worst nightmare comes true for Rachel when her two-and-a-half- year old daughter, Holly, is abducted from a shopping mall. Now, nine years later, Rachel has moved away, picked up the pieces of her life and has a new partner and a new family. But then Kate and her family move into town and when Rachel meets Kate for the first time, Rachel’s life comes tumbling down around her. Because she is absolutely convinced that Kate’s daughter Bella is her very own missing daughter, Holly.

And off we go to find out if Bella really is Holly. Rachel is quite obviously the character to root for. She is going to stop at nothing, which is completely understandable. Yet I couldn’t help but think some of her actions were a tad on the dubious side. But it all does make you wonder what you would do in a situation like that.

Is Rachel imagining things? Is her conviction that Bella is her daughter driving her somewhat paranoid? What is Kate hiding? So many questions and the answers take quite a long time in coming. This story is one big puzzle, often switching between “then” and “now”, and I had a really hard time trying to put the pieces together. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have bothered because I couldn’t have predicted the outcome at all and it absolutely boggled my mind.

The Other Daughter is a twisty, gripping and addictive story that I devoured in one afternoon. Granted, there were moments where I felt I needed to suspend belief somewhat and I wasn’t entirely sure if things actually made sense in the end but I enjoyed it anyway. This is yet another suspenseful read from Shalini Boland and once you pick it up, you will not want to put it down.

The Other Daughter is available to buy!

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

This Week in Books (November 20)

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 |

When the body of pregnant, 15-year-old Hope Lacey is discovered in a churchyard on Christmas morning, the community is shocked, but unsurprised. For Hope lived in The Home, the residence of three young girls, whose violent and disturbing pasts have seen them cloistered away. 

As a police investigation gets underway, the lives of Hope, Lara and Annie are examined, and the staff who work at the home are interviewed, leading to shocking revelations and clear evidence that someone is seeking revenge.

[I finished this one yesterday and it left me utterly broken. Definitely one to look out for!]

| THE BOOK I’M CURRENTLY READING |

Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson’s daughters–the Brontë sisters–learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance.

These three creative, energetic, and resourceful women quickly realize that they have all the skills required to make for excellent “lady detectors.” Not yet published novelists, they have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. And, as Charlotte remarks, “detecting is reading between the lines–it’s seeing what is not there.”

As they investigate, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are confronted with a society that believes a woman’s place is in the home, not scouring the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives are in great peril.

[Only a few pages in but loving it already]

| WHAT I’M (PROBABLY) READING NEXT |

FEAR 

Tuva’s been living clean in southern Sweden for four months when she receives horrifying news. Her best friend Tammy Yamnim has gone missing.

SECRETS

Racing back to Gavrik at the height of Midsommar, Tuva fears for Tammy’s life. Who has taken her, and why? And who is sabotaging the small-town search efforts?

LIES

Surrounded by dark pine forest, the sinister residents of Snake River are suspicious of outsiders. Unfortunately, they also hold all the answers. On the shortest night of the year, Tuva must fight to save her friend. The only question is who will be there to save Tuva?

[I do realise this isn’t out for ages yet but I don’t think I can wait any longer.]

What are you reading this week? Do let me know! It’s been a while since I bought something (and by a while, I mean at least a week 🤣) and I’m getting withdrawal.

Happy reading! xx

Weekly Wrap-Up (November 17)

Miserable, miserable week. Cold and dark and wet and blah. Is it Spring yet?

Nothing much else to report. The other half is coming up to the busiest time of year at his job which means long, long hours and lots of alone time for me. And apparently the people in my life have simultaneously decided that three weeks is way more than enough time to spend grieving over the loss of your pet and it’s time to start socialising again. Double blah. So that’s what I’ll be doing this afternoon. With the in-laws. I feel like I’m being punished for something 😂

Reading-wise, you know, I didn’t have such a bad week. Buddy reading is such a great way to keep me motivated because I’m apparently incredibly competitive (who knew?!) and I get a kick out of reaching the checkpoints first. I even wrote a review but Netgalley screwed me over by saying the book I reviewed was published in October when it’s not actually coming until late December. 🙄

So, which books left the TBR pile this week?

| BOOKS I READ THIS WEEK |

Okay, four isn’t all THAT impressive but I’ll take it. I thought about reviewing The Outsider but to be honest, my buddy (reader) Janel did a much better job than I ever could so have a look at her thoughts right here. Furious Hours was unfortunately a huge disappointment and went right onto the charity pile. Non-fiction and I, let’s just say it’s not exactly a match made in heaven. 😂. Keep your eyes pealed for the new Jo Spain, coming early next year. It’s a goodie! As is The Guardians, which I may attempt to review next week.

| BOOKS I BOUGHT THIS WEEK |

I had pre-ordered this months ago. It’s so incredibly pretty! With the jacket on, with the jacket off … gorgeous 🥰

| THE BOOK I’M CURRENTLY READING |

This book …. I mean, I’ve only read about 100 pages but if things keep going as they are, it may just kill me.

| LISTENING TO |

Yep. Still the same audiobook. Granted, it’s really long (have I mentioned that? 🤣) and I since I was actually reading, I didn’t have much time to listen to this one but I’m still only at 43%! Good though, really really good!

Which leads me nicely into some things I’ve been thinking about lately regarding this here blog of mine. Saying “no” to blog tours has been a lot easier than I expected and this in turn is freeing up lots of time to spend on my own TBR. A TBR that holds quite a few classics. Some of which I’m sure I read some time in the dark ages but don’t remember anything about, some that have just been sitting pretty on my shelves since the day I bought them. I think the time has come to tackle them and I fully intend to read at least one of them each month, starting in January. Think The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and many more. I’m ridiculously excited about this. Plus, it’ll give me a chance to step away from the new and shiny books from time to time, which quite frankly, in my most humble opinion, are beginning to sound a lot alike lately. As if people have run out of inspiration. Or maybe I’m just reading the wrong books 🤔

Also coming up in the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing my favourite stand-alone books of the year and my favourite additions to series. As soon as I can make sense of my messy lists, that is. I may actually be able to get it down to a Top 10 this year. Maybe.

Right, that’s enough babble for this week. Time for some lunch and to mentally prepare myself for the arrival of the in-laws. Hope there’s wine. 😂

Wishing you all a fabulous week! Until next time! xx

This Week in Books (November 13)

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 |

When an eleven-year-old boy is found murdered in a town park, reliable eyewitnesses undeniably point to the town’s popular Little League coach, Terry Maitland, as the culprit. DNA evidence and fingerprints confirm the crime was committed by this well-loved family man.

Horrified by the brutal killing, Detective Ralph Anderson, whose own son was once coached by Maitland, orders the suspect to be arrested in a public spectacle. But Maitland has an alibi. And further research confirms he was indeed out of town that day.

As Anderson and the District Attorney trace the clues, the investigation expands from Ohio to Texas. And as horrifying answers begin to emerge, so King’s propulsive story of almost unbearable suspense kicks into high gear.

Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy but there is one rock-hard fact, as unassailable as gravity: a man cannot be in two places at the same time. Can he?

| THE BOOK I’M CURRENTLY READING |

He was framed for murder.
Now he needs a miracle. 

22 years ago Quincy Miller was sentenced to life without parole. He was accused of killing Keith Russo, a lawyer in a small Florida town. But there were no reliable witnesses and little motive. Just the fact that Russo had botched Quincy’s divorce case, that Quincy was black in a largely all-white town and that a blood-splattered torch was found in the boot of Quincy’s car. A torch he swore was planted. A torch that was conveniently destroyed in a fire just before his trial.

The lack of evidence made no difference to judge or jury. In the eyes of the law Quincy was guilty and, no matter how often he protested his innocence, his punishment was life in prison.

Finally, after 22 years, comes Quincy’s one and only chance of freedom. An innocence lawyer and minister, Cullen Post, takes on his case. Post has exonerated eight men in the last ten years. He intends to make Quincy the next.

But there were powerful and ruthless people behind Russo’s murder. They prefer that an innocent man dies in jail rather than one of them. There’s one way to guarantee that. They killed one lawyer 22 years ago, and they’ll kill another without a second thought. 

| WHAT I’M (PROBABLY) READING NEXT |

Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson’s daughters–the Brontë sisters–learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance.

These three creative, energetic, and resourceful women quickly realize that they have all the skills required to make for excellent “lady detectors.” Not yet published novelists, they have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. And, as Charlotte remarks, “detecting is reading between the lines–it’s seeing what is not there.”

As they investigate, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are confronted with a society that believes a woman’s place is in the home, not scouring the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives are in great peril…

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that Bone China by Laura Purcell didn’t survive the week. That is not to say I wasn’t enjoying it but other books suddenly prioritised themselves and let’s face it, this whole reading-three-books-at-the-same-time-thing was never going to last 😂.

Have you read any of these? Would you like to? What are you reading this week? Do let me know! Happy reading! xx

Weekly Wrap-Up (November 10)

Well, not exactly a weekly one as it’s been a while but hi, hello, I’m back!

First things first. For those who don’t know, on October 23rd we were sadly forced to say goodbye to this gorgeous wee face.

It’s been a tough couple of weeks. She and I were together pretty much 24/7 for almost 16 years and I feel utterly and completely lost without her. 💔

Books, my usual escape, have not quite been the remedy to distract me. As you will see from the rest of this post. But I’d rather not let this blog fade into obscurity, even if it means only one post a week and it’s not one about books. 😳

| BOOKS I READ IN OCTOBER |

That’s right. Eight books. In an entire month. Remember the days when I read that in one week? No? Me either 😂

| BOOKS I READ SO FAR IN NOVEMBER |

A sad two. Two books in ten days. And one of them took me a week to get through as well.

Notice how I’ve not reviewed any of them (apart from one which was for a blog tour)? That’s because if you thought my reading mojo went up in smoke, my reviewing mojo is somewhere in another universe, I think. 🙄

| CURRENTLY READING |

No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. I am in fact reading three books at once. Slowly. A snail’s pace is nothing compared to how slowly I’m making progress on these. I’m enjoying all three so far but the one that’s able to hold my attention just that little bit more is The Outsider.

| CURRENTLY LISTENING TO |

You’re all going to start thinking you’ve stumbled on the wrong blog, aren’t you? 😂. Me? An audiobook? Why, yes, indeed. And it’s absolutely amazing! I’ve been wanting to listen to this one for ages but never had the time. Thank goodness I finally saw the light and just said no to blog tours 😂

| BOOK POST THAT LANDED ON MY DOORSTEP |

Lucky, lucky blogger.

| WHAT I HAVE BEEN WATCHING |

All 7 seasons of The West Wing, which in my most humble opinion, is one of the best tv shows ever made. The first three or four seasons anyway. And twenty years after it first aired, it is still oddly apt. It’s quite confronting to realise how little has changed in all these years, or how things have become worse even. Stellar cast, fantastic writing, delightful witty moments …. I have a feeling this is a series I will be returning to on a regular basis. Have you ever watched it?

Some of you may remember from a while back, that I quite like my Lego. The other half has been collecting some humongous Star Wars builds and on Monday, he picked up another one. So while listening to David Copperfield, I’ve been doing this :

That’s an internet image, by the way. Did I mention it’s big? I couldn’t get a decent picture of it myself 😂. I finished it yesterday so now I have to find something else to do while listening to my (really long!!!) audiobook.

And that’s it. You’re all caught up. I will be back. Just don’t know when, or with what 🤔

Wishing you all a fabulous week! Until next time! xx

This Week in Books (November 6)

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 |

Six friends trapped by one dark secret.

It was supposed to be our last weekend away as friends, before marriage and respectability beckoned. But what happened that Saturday changed everything.

In the middle of the night, someone died. The six of us promised each other we would not tell anyone about the body we buried. But now the pact has been broken. And the killing has started again …

Who knows what we did? And what price will we pay?

| THE BOOK I’M CURRENTLY READING |

Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.

Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralysed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last. 

| WHAT I’M (PROBABLY) READING NEXT |

He was framed for murder.
Now he needs a miracle. 

22 years ago Quincy Miller was sentenced to life without parole. He was accused of killing Keith Russo, a lawyer in a small Florida town. But there were no reliable witnesses and little motive. Just the fact that Russo had botched Quincy’s divorce case, that Quincy was black in a largely all-white town and that a blood-splattered torch was found in the boot of Quincy’s car. A torch he swore was planted. A torch that was conveniently destroyed in a fire just before his trial.

The lack of evidence made no difference to judge or jury. In the eyes of the law Quincy was guilty and, no matter how often he protested his innocence, his punishment was life in prison.

Finally, after 22 years, comes Quincy’s one and only chance of freedom. An innocence lawyer and minister, Cullen Post, takes on his case. Post has exonerated eight men in the last ten years. He intends to make Quincy the next.

But there were powerful and ruthless people behind Russo’s murder. They prefer that an innocent man dies in jail rather than one of them. There’s one way to guarantee that. They killed one lawyer 22 years ago, and they’ll kill another without a second thought. 

Hopefully these will restore my reading mojo because it’s been slim pickings the last few weeks.

What are you reading this week? Let me know! Happy reading! xx

The Ex-Girlfriend by Nicola Moriarty | #blogtour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Ex-Girlfriend by Nicola Moriarty. My thanks to Sriya at Michael Joseph for the invitation to join and for the review copy!

Author : Nicola Moriarty
Title : The Ex-Girlfriend
Pages : 385
Publisher : Michael Joseph / Penguin
Publication date : October 31, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

SHE WANTS HIM BACK. SHE WANTS YOU GONE.

Luke is the one. After everything she’s been through, Georgia knows she deserves someone like him, to make her feel loved. Safe.

The only problem is his ex-girlfriend. Luke says Cadence is having trouble accepting their break-up, but Georgia thinks there’s more to the story. She has the feeling someone is watching her.

So when everything starts to go wrong at work, at home, in her old friendships and her happy new relationship with Luke, Georgia starts to feel afraid.

It’s becoming clear Cadence wants what she has. But how far will she go to get it? 

| MY THOUGHTS |

My Ex-Girlfriend is one of those books that is hard to review without giving anything away so this might quite possibly be one of the shortest reviews I’ve ever written.

Girl meets boy in bar, after having been stood up by a Tinder date. Georgia and Luke’s romance is one of the whirlwind kind. But Georgia knows she has finally found the one. Luke is everything she could possibly want in a boyfriend. Except for the fact that he can’t seem to shake his crazy ex-girlfriend, Cadence.

Now, I read a lot of books from the psychological thriller and suspense genre and I’m not entirely sure I’d put this book in that particular category. On top of that, I have a truly suspicious nature. So I pretty much figured out where things were heading right from the start. Yet that didn’t mean I wasn’t invested in the story. I often caught myself rolling my eyes, urging the characters to see what I was seeing or practically imploring them not to do certain things.

Personally, I prefer my psychological thrillers a lot more on the gripping side, which is something I felt was lacking somewhat in The Ex-Girlfriend. Nevertheless, it’s an entertaining and quickie read and Nicola Moriarty tackles a range of subjects from mental health issues to depression to self-harm. It’s remarkably easy to imagine how a stalker can drive you to the brink when you’re already feeling vulnerable.

And really, that’s all I’m going to say. Very sorry but I’ve already had to delete certain things because they came too close to spoiler territory. I will say that things turned out quite a bit more harrowing than I expected them to and if there are lessons to be learned from this story, they are to stay as far away from the dating scene as you possibly can and never trust anyone. Ever. You’re welcome.

The Ex-Girlfriend is available to buy!

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

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Nicola Moriarty lives in Sydney’s north west with her husband and two small daughters. She is the younger sister of bestselling authors Liane Moriarty and Jaclyn Moriarty. In between various career changes, becoming a mum and studying teaching at Macquarie University, she began to write. Now, she can’t seem to stop.

Writing Regency Women : a #guestpost by Caroline Miley, author of Artist On Campaign

Happy publication day to Caroline Miley for her latest novel, Artist On Campaign. Caroline visits my blog today to talk about writing regency women in novels but first let’s see what her latest book is all about.

Author : Caroline Miley
Title : Artist On Campaign
Pages : 380
Publisher : Greenslade Creations
Publication date : October 30, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Ralph Oughtred has few ambitions – to be rich, or at least out of debt, to eventually marry his charming mistress, and to get into the Royal Academy.

An amiable rake in Georgian London, Ralph is an artist who thinks he’s got it made when he wins a big commission to paint the Duke of Wellington’s generals. But before he can put brush to canvas they’re whisked off to Portugal to fight Napoleon, and he must follow or lose the money. In a comic romp through Portugal and Spain in the train of the British army, Ralph leads the reader through war, art, sex, love, travelogue, musings on life and a lot of drinking. He’s recruited as a spy, accidentally leads a cavalry charge, makes love to an officer’s wife during the Battle of Porto, and is captured by the French.

A man of his time and an everyman bound to the wheel of fortune, Ralph travels the road of the reluctant hero from innocence to experience. But he’s intelligent and complex and his adventures will appeal to the reader who wants their history to live, their escapism to be philosophical and their narratives lyrical. The book is written with a deft, light touch; there’s just enough accurate military history, and the characters – Ralph and his friends, and the generals he paints – are varied and amusing.

Artist at Large is that rare bird, a novel that is literary, historical and funny, a stylish evocation of the history and manners of an era, and an entertainment of the highest order.

Amazon US | Amazon UK

| GUEST POST |

WRITING REGENCY WOMEN

As a historian and author of historical novels set in the late Georgian, I’m often in conflict about writing female characters. The conflict is caused by the clash between the values of today and of the past, and between historical facts and imaginary characters. The past, as LP Hartley famously said, is another country. They do things differently there. And nowhere is that more apparent for a historical writer today, than in the position of women, which has changed far, far more in the last 200 years than the positions of men. And that poses a dilemma for authors.

Dame Hilary Mantel says that women writers must stop rewriting history to make their female characters falsely “empowered”. Part of this, she says, is the desire to give ‘a voice to those who have been silenced’. That’s very understandable, but I’m with Dame Hilary. The problem is not empowerment, it’s the ‘falsely’. 

Two hundred years ago, women had few legal rights. Married women could not own property, although women from moneyed families often had specific amounts agreed to in marriage contracts. Married women had no rights, even, to their children, and depended on the men in their families – fathers, brothers, husbands – to use goodwill in managing their affairs and representing them in public spheres such as the law courts. Unmarried women over their late 20s were generally regarded as ‘poor cousins’ by society and had little status. Society had narrow views on what roles and behaviour were suitable for women and ostracized those who didn’t conform.

So what’s a writer to do? For me, the answer is in looking more closely at what women’s lives were really like, and what they thought themselves. Something that’s immediately apparent is that women didn’t particularly think of themselves as unempowered. Women of all classes – and there were enormous differences in the life of working, middle and upper-class women – exercised their powers in a large variety of ways.

The greatest freedom, as always, was to be found in the lowest and highest in the land. A wealthy woman had a great deal at her command, especially if her father had managed her marriage contract well. Lady Caroline Lamb had money and a title that no-one could take away; she was excluded from polite society because of her rampant behaviour, but perhaps didn’t care. Women like Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair could shrewdly parlay their beauty and skills into social advancement. And women at the lowest levels could do much as they pleased, because they, too, didn’t care what people thought. They could fall down drunk on gin, brawl in the street, run a tavern or conduct a respectable business as a washerwoman. They still had no rights, but then, the men of their class had relatively few either. There was an equality of disempowerment. It was the respectable middle classes, such as Jane Austen’s family, who cared what people thought and tried to conform to expected standards of polite behaviour.

It’s important, too, to realise that the Regency was the last gasp of the rollicking, boisterous, bawdy Georgian era, the last before the straightlaced Victorians and their ‘family values’ and prudery about sex. Regency rakes still wore powder and patches, dampened their breeches to make them cling and wore ornate fobs dangling just above their genitals, and rakish Regency women rouged their nipples and wore transparent muslin. In the dark streets of pre-gaslit London and in country hedgerows, men and women enjoyed each other with gusto. We know this because of Sheridan’s and Goldsmith’s plays, and most of all, perhaps, from Rowlandson’s lampoons and sketches. One of the premier illustrators of his day, Rowlandson’s colossal output included a huge number of graphically sexual drawings that show men – and women – enjoying themselves with energy.

Soldiers’ wives – and the army was large at the time – lived in barracks with their children and followed their men on campaign, marching with them from place to place, carrying their children and sometimes even their man’s equipment. They might be respectable or otherwise. They could make money by doing the officers’ washing, mending and cutting their hair, and baking biscuit for the Commissaries. These women were enterprising and entrepreneurial, and endured hardships stoically. Their achievements were in many ways highly admirable.

More respectable women did none of this, but there is no reason to suppose that they didn’t enjoy their respectable marriage bed. And they had plenty to occupy themselves. They cared for the poor, visited the sick, drew the vicar’s attention to evils that needed to be remedied. They taught their own and other people’s children. They ran schools for girls and young ladies. They wrote novels and poetry and translated books. There were, in fact, many women writers of the late 18th century, although most have been forgotten today, but Maria Edgeworth, Fanny Burney, Anna Laetitia Barbauld and Anna Yearsley, and bluestockings like Hester Thrale were well-known in their own time.  Ann Radcliffe, author of Gothic novels, was the most popular and highest-paid novelist in Britain in the 1790s.

Women were also interested in politics, although the suffrage movement was decades away. Mary Wollestonecraft was middle class, but her more bohemian circle was more liberal in its acceptance of unconventional behaviour. Women could not speak in public or stand for Parliament, but they could read, and attempt to influence others. Again, they had to be imaginative in the ways they could exercise that influence. Women were very instrumental in the abolition of the slave trade movement of the period, for instance. Aphra Benn and Hannah More, among others, published books, tracts and poems drawing attention to the plight of the slaves, which were widely distributed. Women bought Wedgwood anti-slavery medallions they wore as jewellery and played a huge part in the very successful sugar boycott, which hit plantation-owners’ pockets, and exclusively patronising grocers who did not sell plantation sugar.

Women of the past may have had few rights and a narrow range of social roles, but there is real fascination, and countless stories, in seeing the variety of what they did with their lives within those confines, and how imaginatively and powerfully they exerted themselves in the spheres that were open to them.

I couldn’t agree more with this post if I tried. The whole idea of rewriting history is a scary thought to me. You can’t just erase historical events or ways of life because they make people feel uncomfortable in this day and age. Where do you even draw the line? That was then, this is now and I for one prefer my historical fiction, fiction though it may be, as close to the mark as it can possibly be.

Thank you so much for stopping by, Caroline, and for writing this fascinating and thought-provoking post.

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Caroline Miley is an art historian and author of literary historical novels set in the late Georgian era. Her debut novel, The Competition, won a Varuna Fellowship and a Fellowship of Australian Writers award, and was selected by the Royal Academy of Arts for its 250th Anniversary celebrations. Her latest novel, Artist on Campaign, was inspired by wondering what would happen if a rake of an artist was obliged to put up with the British Army, and vice versa.

Her interests are art, both as a practitioner and a viewer, books, films, history, travel and gardens. 

Close To You by Kerry Wilkinson | @kerrywk @bookouture

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Close To You by Kerry Wilkinson. I have an extract to share with you all today but first, let’s see what Close To You is all about.

Author : Kerry Wilkinson
Title : Close To You
Pages : 284
Publisher : Bookouture
Publication date : October 17, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

I pinch the screen to zoom until I’m staring at the face of a ghost. A man with very short hair, staring directly at the camera with piercing brown eyes. 

He is as he was when I last saw him: wrinkles around the corners of the eyes and a knowing smirk. That’s the expression I see when I can’t sleep. 

My body tenses. It can’t be him. It’s not my ex-husband. It’s not David. 

I know that better than anyone because he didn’t walk out on me. 

He didn’t disappear two years ago and he’s not a missing person. 

I know that for a fact because I’m the one who killed him.

| EXTRACT |

THE NOW

SUNDAY

There’s nothing quite like a good hypocrite. The people surrounding me, not to mention myself, will spend our day-to-day lives telling people about the benefits of moderation. A small glass of wine contains around 120 calories, so moderation is the key. Let’s be moderate, people. Nothing wrong with a glass or two here or there, but let’s hold back on downing half-a-bottle a night, yeah? Let’s not even dream of putting away a full bottle of Asda’s own £4-a-bottle white on a Friday night. That’s probably 800 calories right there and all your good work will be for nothing. All true – but none of that stops our room of ‘fitness professionals’ putting away the booze like a meteor strike has been pencilled in for tomorrow afternoon.

The waiter ambles around to my side of the table and reaches for my glass. His bottle is angled ready to dump another couple of hundred calories, but I place one hand over the rim and wave him away with the other. ‘Not for me,’ I say. His lips twitch into something close to a smirk and then they instantly arch down again. Assuming he works at this hotel most Friday and Saturday nights through November and December, he’ll have seen this over and over. Grown adults who are one step away from teenagers in a park sharing a bottle of cider. It really is not for me, though – not tonight in any case. My relationship with alcohol is like my mother’s with back-to-back episodes of her favourite soaps. A brief taste and I’m slumped in a chair, drooling for the rest of the night.

The bloke two seats away from me has no such hang-ups. He manages a leisure centre but has that hipsterish, waxy beard-look about him, as if he’d rather be running his own craft brewery. He motions the waiter over and gleefully eyes the white nectar that’s emptied into his glass. When it’s nearly full, he raises it in my direction: ‘To us,’ he declares. I waft my almost empty glass of water towards him. ‘To beards,’ I reply. He either doesn’t hear me, or doesn’t care, as he downs half his glass in one go.

This is the problem with these sorts of awards dinners – the seating plans are thrown together like an expressionist’s painting of an orgy. It’s all a vague collection of limbs and there are dicks everywhere. Even though it’s a ceremony and not strictly a Christmas party, it is December – so the room is decorated with various wreathes and tinsel. There’s a giant Christmas tree in the corner and twinkly lights zigzagging across the ceiling. There was turkey for dinner, but, now that’s cleared away, the booze is flowing and it’s time for the main event. Well, almost time.

I am fighting back the yawns as the comedian compère is busy making himself laugh, which at least makes it one person who’s enjoying the act. Someone else on my table described him as ‘old-school’, which is essentially code for ‘a bit sexist’. A decade back and there would’ve been a few racist jokes thrown in for the old-timers. His act is drawing a mix of muted laughs, awkward silences and brainless cackling from a handful of people who’ve either been lobotomised or had too much to drink. When the comedian reaches for his water, he trips on the mic stand and gets the biggest laugh of the night. Life offers nothing quite as funny as a stranger falling over and then pretending it hasn’t happened.

When his act is done, there’s an excited hum to the room. This is the reason we’ve paid £80-a-head for bad food and unfunny comedy. On the stage at the front, some bloke in a suit is messing around with the PowerPoint display that’s being beamed onto the screen. He’s obviously making a hash of it because that’s what blokes in suits do. He jabs at a laptop, looks gormlessly to his mate off to the side, holds up both hands, and then has a hushed argument with someone else who ends up plugging in a cable. A slide finally appears, displaying ‘Eighth Annual UK Fitness Professional Awards’. It’s not exactly the BAFTAs and, as I sit through a series of prizes being awarded, I start to question a few of my life choices. I’ve done some bad things in my time, one in particular, but I’ve never stumbled onto a stage and thanked ‘God, the Queen and my Mum’ for allowing my branch of Total Fitness to win gym chain of the year. Most people here are of the eye-rolling variety. We know this is a farce, but it’s also the game we play. For personal trainers like me, winning these sorts of awards means more offers of work, more appearances, better contracts, perhaps even a book deal.

I’ve more or less switched off when my best friend, Jane, leans over to me. She’s more excited than I am: ‘Is this your award?’ It takes me a second to catch what she’s said but, when I look up, I realise that she’s right. Jane hasn’t said much all evening, although she doesn’t really know anyone. I would have come with Andy, but he’s busy with his scout troop. That sounds like a euphemism, but isn’t – there really is a scout troop. I was happy to come by myself, but Jane said she’d be my plus-one and that was that. I could have mentioned a midwinter trip to the Antarctic with Piers Morgan and she’d have still volunteered to come. I think that’s what happens when there’s a 16-month-old at home. Any excuse for a night away. She won’t say it out loud, but she’s definitely missed work since giving up her job to have Norah.

The slide on the screen has changed to read ‘Personal Trainer of the Year’ and then ‘Seven Nation Army’ pulses in the background as Steven, the organiser, runs through a list of the nominees. Before today, I’d only met him via emails. He has that comic-book airline-pilot-look going on. All neat hair, stiff upper lip and moustachy. There are five of us nominated for the award, with our photos flashing across the screen as our names are announced. ‘Jason McMahon’, whose head is like a cork atop a barrel, gets a big cheer from his table. The next three names get polite applause and I tense as my own face appears on the screen. It’s one of the shots from my portfolio, the one that I convinced myself was a good idea after reading a New Year, New You article and, presumably, temporarily losing my mind.

‘ And finally,’ Steven says, his moustache practically audible, ‘after all she’s been through, Morgan Persephone.’There’s a gentle wave of applause that gets louder as people realise who I am. He’s pronounced my name wrong, making it rhyme with ‘telephone’, instead of ‘per-sef-oh-knee’. A shiver creases along my back, but not because of the mispronunciation. After all she’s been through. Maybe they are; maybe they’re not – but I can feel everyone watching as I give the watery, closed-lip smile that I’ve become so good at over the past couple of years. I can sense the whispers, if not hear them. People telling those next to them that my husband disappeared two years ago.

There is mercifully little time to dwell as Steven rips open the envelope like a kid with a Christmas present. And the winner is…’ He pauses, thinking he’s Simon Cowell waiting to tell some Mariah wannabe that she’s one step closer to being a little-known answer to a pub quiz question.

‘…Morgan Persephone.

’Steven gets my name wrong again and there’s a second or two in which I can’t quite take in what he’s said. It’s like we’re in different time zones with a slight delay. Jane leans in and gleefully hisses, ‘You won!’ – and then I find myself clambering to my feet. Jane adds a quick ‘Smile!’, which is when I realise I’m stumbling blankly to the front, like a drunk at closing time. I wave to a pair of women I don’t know on one of the front tables, largely because they’re clapping and cheering. I’ve seen those award shows, where winners guff a load of nonsense about not expecting their victories. This isn’t that. I had an inkling ever since the nominations went out in a barely noticed press release a couple of months back. I suspected I’d probably win, if for no other reason than everyone loves a good redemption story. That doesn’t prepare me for the wall of noise, all from strangers. The eruption is disorientating and hard to prepare for.

I head onto the stage and Steven passes me a golden trophy that’s in the shape of a treadmill. I expect it to be heavy, but the metal is plasticky and cheap. No matter – it’s the title that counts. A weird thought creeps into my mind that I’m going to need new business cards. ‘Personal Trainer of the Year’ sounds a lot better than ‘Personal Trainer’.

Everything is a bit of a blur – but it’s been like that since it all happened with David. After all she’s been through. Sometimes it feels as if someone else is steering the ship and I’m watching myself go through life. Not now. In this moment, I’m completely aware that nobody wants to look like the bitch who prepared a speech in advance. I run through the mental list of things to say while attempting to make it seem as off-the-cuff as possible. I remember to thank the organiser Steven; the gyms where I work and a few other industry types. To an untrained eye, it probably seems as if I know what I’m doing. That’s the game, really. That’s life. Nobody cares if a person actually knows what they’re doing, as long as they look like it.

When I’m done, Steven re-takes the mic and I hustle back to my table while shaking hands like a low-level Royal opening a community centre. When I get to my seat, more people come over to offer congratulations and pass across business cards, like I’m a hooker heading to a London phone box. I know very few faces, only a handful of people from the speaking circuit. Jane gives me a hug, but it’s awkward because we’re both sitting. The drunken leisure centre manager downs the rest of his wine and winks. There are more nods and waves and then, finally, Steven hushes everyone and continues onto the next category.

It’s late and, despite the rush of the past few minutes, I have to stifle a yawn. I’ve never really got these people that can do all-nighters. I’m a drowsy mess after about 11 and, with my trophy in hand, the hotel bed is calling. Steven runs through the nominees for Fitness Brand of the Year and, after another blast of ‘Seven Nation Army’, he names the winner. There’s a big cheer from the table at the front and then, after a chaotic speech with half a dozen people trying to talk over one another, the ceremony is finally put out of its misery. Jane uses the table to push herself up and is clear-eyed as she rubs my upper arm. ‘You deserve this,’ she says. ‘It’s only an industry award.’ ‘Your industry, though. It’s amazing… especially after everything you’ve been through.’ There’s that line again…

She smiles and then adds: ‘Are there photos?’ ‘I hope not.’ Jane nods over my shoulder, to where Steven is beckoning together the winners. ‘I’ll keep an eye on your bag,’ she says. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I’m back to my wedding day. Back with David. I have to blink away the moment. I think of him every day – but it’s never the Saturday we married; it’s always what happened at the end. Someone says, ‘Where is everyone?’ and then it’s all, ‘Stand here’, ‘Look there’, ‘Smile’, ‘Don’t smile’, ‘Point there’, ‘Laugh’, ‘Roll over’ – and so on. Possibly without the rolling over. There are around thirty winners in all and we’re divided into various groups for the picture-taking on the stage. At the rear of the room, the staff bustle back and forth clearing the tables. Steven continues to take photos, but Jane and others are there, too, with their phones. Nothing can happen nowadays without it being captured and sent to the cloud. Steven asks all the winners to smoosh closer together. I make sure I’m angling with my left side away from him, hiding the purple-brown scar at the base of my neck from the camera’s unrelenting gaze. He takes a few more photos and then puts his camera down.

We’re all ready to stop tensing our muscles when Jane calls, ‘One more’ and then she clicks a final photo or three. After that, we are finally done. Everyone offers weary smiles and drifts back to their colleagues. One of the other winners asks if I want a drink to celebrate, but I’m already batting away yawns. Sex and chocolate are good – but there’s nothing quite like a good sleep. Before I can get back to the table in order to collect my bag, Steven corners me at the edge of the stage. He is wearing the looks of a man who’s relieved it’s all over. ‘Congratulations,’ he says, rubbing my arm while he does so. I’d tell him to stop, but it already feels awkward. ‘Thank you.’ ‘I know it’s been hard after everything you’ve been through.’ ‘Yes…’ I almost reach for the mark on my neck. I used to rub the scar all the time – but I’ve been working at stopping myself for months now. Stephen’s stare flickers across it without lingering. He leaves my arm alone long enough to smooth his moustache, even though it doesn’t look like a hurricane would put a hair out of place. There is a moment in which he angles forward and I wonder if he might try to kiss me. Perhaps it’s ego on my part. I brace myself to flinch to the side, but he slants away at the last moment to whisper in my ear. ‘I voted for you,’ he says. ‘Thank you.’ ‘You’ve been very brave about everything. ’He speaks as if I’ve done a lengthy stint in Afghanistan and am finally back in Blighty. I don’t know what to say, so give him a slim smile and a half-hearted ‘thanks’. He pats my shoulder and then disappears off to talk to someone else.

Back at the table, the leisure centre manager has disappeared, along with the remnants of the table wine. Jane hands me my bag and we step to the side as the staff continue to clear the tables to make way for a dance floor. ‘You look tired,’ she says. ‘This isn’t really my thing,’ I reply. Jane finishes her water and passes the empty glass to one of the staff. I’ve only had a single glass of wine and she’s not had any alcohol at all. We’re a right pair of lightweights. I’m only thirty-three but can sense my teenage-self disapproving. ‘I’ve got to head back,’ Jane says, ‘I don’t like being away from Norah for a night… not a whole one, anyway.’ We’d spoken about this beforehand and brought two cars. I’m staying at the hotel where the awards are taking place, while Jane is driving home.

She starts to fish into her bag: ‘Do you want to see the photos?’ ‘How do I look in them?’ ‘Fit.’ ‘Let’s see then.’ She retrieves her phone from her bag and flicks through the images before passing it across. The device is one of those plus-sized ones that’s closer to a TV than a phone. Give it a few years and mobiles will be the same size as the bricks that used to pass for phones in the 80s. I suppose fashion really is cyclical. I refuse to use the word ‘phablet’. I’d bring back capital punishment for inventing words like that. 

The thing about a photograph full of fitness professionals is that we are, by definition, fit. Almost everyone in the picture will have to stay in shape as part of the job. That brings a natural competition. Almost all the women are wearing tight, low-cut tops or dresses, while the men are in custom-cut slimming suits. Everyone is flexing their arms, either subtly or not. At one time, everyone desired the biggest muscles; now it is all about getting lean. I glance at Jane’s photo and clock myself at the side. I’ve got my back straight, chest puffed up, chin solid, smile fixed. Give it the old tits and teeth. Half of us are turned towards Steven’s camera while the others are looking towards Jane. It’s all quite the mess. I’m about to hand the phone back when I spot a face at the very back. It doesn’t belong to the group, it’s not one of the winners, it’s simply there.

A man with very short hair, facing sideways but staring directly at the camera with piercing brown eyes. My body tenses and I can’t quite take in what I’m seeing. I pinch the screen to zoom until I’m staring at the face of a ghost. He is as he was when I last saw him: wrinkles around the corners of the eyes and a knowing smirk. That’s the expression I see when I can’t sleep. ‘Are you OK?’ I glance up to see Jane frowning in my direction. She has released her hair from its bun and the curly waves have dropped to her shoulders. She seems ready to leave. ‘Yes, um…’ My gaze flicks to the screen once more. ‘Could you send this photo to me?’ ‘Sure. ’Jane takes back her phone and swipes around the screen until she says ‘Done’.

The thing is, I recognise the man in the background of the photo. How could I not? It’s just that it can’t be him. It’s not my ex-husband. It’s not David. I know that better than anyone because he didn’t walk out on me. He didn’t disappear two years ago and he’s not a missing person. I know that for a fact because I’m the one who killed him.

I don’t know about you but that certainly got my attention! I’m sure you’d like to find out more so why not go ahead and grab yourself a copy of Close To You today!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Kerry Wilkinson has had No.1 crime bestsellers in the UK, Australia, Canada, South Africa and Singapore. He has also written two top-20 thrillers in the United States. His book, Ten Birthdays, won the RNA award for Young Adult Novel of the Year in 2018.

As well as his million-selling Jessica Daniel series, Kerry has written the Silver Blackthorn trilogy – a fantasy-adventure serial for young adults – a second crime series featuring private investigator Andrew Hunter, plus numerous standalone novels. He has been published around the world in more than a dozen languages.

Originally from the county of Somerset, Kerry has spent far too long living in the north of England, picking up words like ‘barm’ and ‘ginnel’.

When he’s short of ideas, he rides his bike or bakes cakes. When he’s not, he writes it all down.