Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane | @MichaelJBooks @sriya__v | #extract #excerpt

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane. My thanks to Sriya at Michael Joseph for the invitation to join. I have an extract to share with you all today but first, here is what this novel is all about.

Author : Mary Beth Keane
Title : Ask Again, Yes
Pages : 388
Publisher : Michael Joseph
Publication date : August 8, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

A profoundly moving novel about two neighboring families in a suburban town, the bond between their children, a tragedy that reverberates over four decades, the daily intimacies of marriage, and the power of forgiveness.

Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, two rookie cops in the NYPD, live next door to each other outside the city. What happens behind closed doors in both houses—the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne—sets the stage for the explosive events to come.

Ask Again, Yes is a deeply affecting exploration of the lifelong friendship and love that blossoms between Francis and Lena’s daughter, Kate, and Brian and Anne’s son, Peter. Luminous, heartbreaking, and redemptive, Ask Again, Yes reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood—villains lose their menace and those who appeared innocent seem less so. Kate and Peter’s love story, while tested by echoes from the past, is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace.

| EXTRACT |

one

GILLAM WAS NICE ENOUGH but lonely, Lena Teobaldo thought when she first saw it. It was the kind of place that if she were there on vacation she’d love for the first two days, and then by the third day she’d start looking forward to leaving. It didn’t seem quite real: the apple trees and maples, the shingled houses with front porches, the cornfields, the dairy, the kids playing stickball in the street as if they didn’t notice their houses were sitting on a half acre of grass. Later, she’d figure out that the kids played the games their parents had played growing up in the city. Stickball. Hopscotch. Kick the can. When a father taught a son how to throw a ball, he marched that boy to the middle of the road as if they were on a block tight with tenements, because that’s where he’d learned from his father. She’d agreed to the trip because it was something to do and if she’d stayed in Bay Ridge that Saturday, her mother would have made her bring food to Mrs. Venard, who’d never been right since her boy went missing in Vietnam.

Her cousin Karolina’s dress was hanging on the hook behind Lena’s bedroom door, altered and ready for Lena to wear in just six days’ time. She’d gotten her shoes, her veil. There was nothing more to do other than wait, so when Francis asked if she wanted to take a little trip to check out a town he’d heard about through a guy at work, she’d said sure, it was a beautiful fall day, it would be nice to get out to the country for a few hours, she’d pack a picnic lunch. They unpacked that lunch on a bench outside the public library, and in the time it took to unwrap their sandwiches, eat them, sip all the tea from the thermos, only one person entered the library. A northbound train pulled into the station and three people got off. Across the town square was a deli, and next to it a five-and-dime with a stroller parked outside. Francis had driven them in Lena’s father’s Datsun—her brother Karol’s copy of Led Zeppelin IV stuck in the tape deck. Lena didn’t have a driver’s license, didn’t have the first idea how to drive. She’d assumed she’d never have to learn.

“So? What do you think?” Francis asked later as they eased back onto the Palisades Parkway. Lena opened the window and lit a cigarette.

“Pretty,” she said. “Quiet.” She slipped off her shoes and put her feet up on the dashboard. She’d put in for two weeks of vacation time—a week before her wedding plus a week after—and that day, a Saturday, was her first day of the longest stretch of days she’d had off in three years.

“You saw the train? There’s also a bus that goes to Midtown,” he said. She thought it a random piece of information until it hit her like a kick in the shin that he wanted to live there. He hadn’t said that. He’d said only that he wanted to take a spin in the car, check out a place he’d heard of. She thought he only wanted a break from all the wedding talk. Relatives from Italy and Poland were already arriving, and her parents’ apartment was packed with food and people every hour of the day. No one from Ireland was coming but some relation of Francis’s who’d emigrated to Chicago had sent a piece of Irish china. Francis said he didn’t mind. It was the bride’s day anyway. But now she saw he had a plan in mind. It seemed so far-fetched she decided not to mention it again unless he brought it up first.

A few weeks later, the wedding over and done with, their guests long departed, Lena back at work with a new name and a new band on her finger, Francis said it was time for them to move out of her parents’ apartment. He said that everyone had to tiptoe through the narrow livingroom if Lena’s sister, Natusia, was in there with her books. Karol was almost always in a bad mood, probably because the newlyweds had taken over his bedroom. There was nowhere to be alone. Every moment Francis spent there, he said, he felt like he should be offering to help with something, do something. Their wedding gifts were stacked in corners and Lena’s mother was always admonishing everyone to be careful, think of the crystal. Lena thought it was nice, a half dozen people sitting down to dinner together, sometimes more, depending on who stopped by. For the first time she wondered if she’d known him well enough to marry him.

“But where?” she said.

They looked on Staten Island. They looked within Bay Ridge. They climbed walk-ups in Yorkville, Morningside Heights, the Village. They walked through houses filled with other people’s things, their photos displayed on ledges, their polyester flower arrangements. On all those visits, Lena could see the road to Gillam approaching like an exit on the freeway. They’d socked away the cash gifts they’d gotten at the wedding plus most of their salaries and had enough for a down payment.

One Saturday morning in January 1974, after he’d worked a midnight tour plus a few hours of overtime, Francis got to Bay Ridge and told Lena to get her coat, he’d found their house.

“I’m not going,” she said, looking up from her coffee with her face set like stone. Angelo Teobaldo was doing a crossword across from her. Gosia Teobaldo had just cracked two eggs onto a skillet. Standing six foot two in his patrolman’s uniform, Francis’s face burned.

“He’s your husband,” Angelo said to his daughter. A reprimand. Like she’d left her toys scattered on the carpet and forgotten to put them away.

“You keep quiet,” Gosia said, motioning for him to zip his lip. “We’re having breakfast at Hinsch’s,” she announced, extinguishing the flame under the skillet.

“Let’s just go see, Lena. We don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.”

“Oh, sure,” Lena said.

An hour and twenty minutes later, Lena pressed her forehead against the glass of the passenger window and looked at the house that would be theirs. There was a brightly lettered For Sale sign outside. The hydrangea that would flower in June was just a clump of frostbitten sticks. The current owners were home, their Ford was in the driveway—so Francis kept the engine running.

“What’s that? Are they rocks?” Toward the back of the property were five huge rocks, lined up by Mother Nature hundreds of millennia ago in ascending order, the tallest maybe five feet high.

“Boulders,” Francis said. “They’re all over this area. The realtor told me the builders left some as natural dividers between the houses. They remind me of Ireland.”

Lena looked at him as if to say, So that’s why you brought me here. He’d met a realtor. His mind was made up. The houses on that street— Jefferson—and the surrounding streets—Washington, Adams, Madison, Monroe—were closer together than the houses farther from town, and Francis said that was because these houses were older, built back in the 1920s when there was a tannery in town and everyone walked to work. He thought Lena would like that. There was a porch out front.

“Who will I talk to?” she asked.

“To our neighbors,” he said. “To the people you meet. You make friends faster than anyone. Besides, you’ll still be in the city every day. You’ll have the girls you work with. The bus stops right at the end of the block. You don’t even have to learn to drive if you don’t want to.” He’d be her driver, he joked.

He couldn’t explain to her that he needed the trees and the quiet as a correction for what he saw on the job, how crossing a bridge and having that physical barrier between him and his beat felt like leaving one life and entering another. In his imagination he had it all organized: Officer Gleeson could exist there, and Francis Gleeson could exist here. In academy, some of the instructors were old-timers who claimed they’d never in their thirty-year careers so much as drawn their weapons, but after only six months Francis had drawn several times. His sergeant had just recently shot a thirty-year-old man in the chest during a standoff beside the Bruckner Expressway, and the man died on the scene. But it was a good kill, they all said, because the man was a known junkie and had been armed. Sergeant hadn’t seemed the slightest bit concerned. Francis had nodded along with the rest of them and gone out for drinks when their tour was over. But the next day, when someone had to meet with the man’s mother and the mother of his children to explain to them what had happened since they wouldn’t leave the waiting room for anything, it seemed to Francis that he was the only one who felt rattled. The man had had a mother. He’d been a father. He hadn’t always been a junkie. Standing by the coffeepot and wishing the women would go the hell home, it was as if he could see the whole rest of the man’s life—not just the moment he’d foolishly swung around while holding his little .22.

And though he told Lena none of this, only that work was fine, things were busy, she sensed the thing he wasn’t saying and looked at the house again. She imagined a bright row of flowers at the foot of the porch. They could have a guest bedroom. It was true that the bus from Gillam to Midtown Manhattan would take less time than the subway from Bay Ridge.

If you would like to read more about Francis and Lena and the events that will impact their family for years to come, then why not grab yourself a copy of Ask Again, Yes as it’s available to buy!

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| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Mary Beth Keane’s first novel, The Walking People (2009) was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and her second novel, Fever (2013) was named a best book of 2013 by NPR Books, Library Journal, and The San Francisco Chronicle. In 2011 she was named to the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35.” She was a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow in Fiction and her new novel, Ask Again, Yes, is forthcoming in June of 2019.

The Girl at the Window by Rowan Coleman | @rowancoleman @EburyPublishing @ChloeRose1702 @elliecrisp | #RandomThingsTours #recommended

I am absolutely delighted to kick off the blog tour for The Girl at the Window by Rowan Coleman today! My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for the opportunity to join and to the publisher for my review copy!

Author : Rowan Coleman
Title : The Girl at the Window
Pages : 464
Publisher : Ebury Publishing
Publication day : August 8, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from…

Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…

| MY THOUGHTS |

Oh, be still my beating heart. What an absolutely glorious novel this is. Something about The Girl at the Window called out to me the minute I saw it mentioned on social media. Something that said I would love this story, without even really knowing what it was about. But I wasn’t prepared for just how much!

When Trudy’s husband fails to come back from a trip to Peru, she returns home with her son. But Trudy’s childhood home isn’t just any random place. Oh no! It’s Ponden Hall, a centuries old house in the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories, and one that was often visited by none other than Emily Brontë. It’s been sixteen years since Trudy last went home. Ponden Hall has fallen into disrepair and yet Trudy feels it is still the best place for her and her son to find a way to heal and maybe even somehow fix her relationship with her mother.

Just like Ponden Hall seems to have put some kind of spell on Trudy, The Girl at the Window put a spell on me. From the very fist page, I found myself utterly engrossed, almost enchanted and unable to put this novel down for even a second. It is just so immensely beautifully written, somewhat spooky, immensely moving and sometimes positively heartbreaking. I don’t often get emotional when reading a novel but I did with this one and often found it quite hard not to choke on the lump in my throat.

Part love story, part ghost story and part historical fiction, this haunting tale wormed its way into my heart and straight onto my list of “top books of the year”. These characters jumped off the pages. Highly realistic and believable, it was impossible not to go through every range of emotion with them. I’m purposefully not giving anything away about the historical part of this novel, as it’s something you need to discover for yourself but I will say, it is brilliantly done and the mysteries surrounding Ponden Hall had me truly hooked.

The Girl at the Window is magical, haunting, moving and just …. wow! I was incredibly sad to see this story coming to an end, to be honest. I felt a little bereft and would have been quite happy to spend lots more time at Ponden Hall with Trudy and her family, searching through all the nooks and crannies. For surely this great house hides many more secrets and ghosts.

I don’t think my review is doing this novel justice at all. It’s one of those special ones. One of those stories where I just can’t find the words to describe how much I loved it. A novel to treasure. Highly recommend it. I’m not sure what more I can say. Loved it! Did I mention that? ❤️

The Girl at The Window is available to buy in ebook format. The paperback will be published in August.

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| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Rowan Coleman lives with her husband and their five children in a very full house in Hertfordshire. She juggles writing novels with raising her family.

Rowan’s last novel,The Summer of Impossible Things, was selected for Zoe Ball’s ITV Book Club.

Rowan has an everlasting love for the Brontes, and is a regular visitor of Ponden Hall.

After The End by Clare Mackintosh | @claremackint0sh @LittleBrownUK @millieseward | #bookreview #AfterTheEnd

Author : Clare Mackintosh
Title : After The End
Pages : 384
Publisher : Sphere / Little Brown UK
Publication date : June 25, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. They’re best friends, lovers—unshakable. But then their son gets sick and the doctors put the question of his survival into their hands. For the first time, Max and Pip can’t agree. They each want a different future for their son. 

What if they could have both?

| MY THOUGHTS |

This is such a hard review to write but I imagine not nearly as hard as it must have been to write this novel.

Max and Pip face one of the toughest decisions any parent could possibly face. Their three year old son, Dylan, is brain damaged due to complications from a tumour. Max and Pip are one of the strongest couples you’re bound to meet but now, they find themselves on opposite sides as each tries to decide for themselves what’s best for Dylan.

After The End is a novel I had to read in bits and pieces, for fear of choking on the huge lump in my throat. The author deals with a highly emotional topic and it all feels incredibly realistic, moving and extremely heartbreaking. The story is split into two parts, the before and after. The reader is offered an insight into Dylan’s circumstances and the many long days Pip spends at his bedside. The tiny slivers of hope and the plummeting realisations when things go downhill felt like a rollercoaster. There are also the wonderful friendships parents form with each other on the ward, the support they give each other and yet it must be so incredibly hard to watch another child make a recovery and ultimately leave for home when your own child lies unmoving in their bed.

The “after” in the story is split in two. The reader follows both Pip and Max but in alternative storylines. Each has to deal with the decision they made regarding Dylan’s future. Was it the right one? How can you ever know? Will their marriage survive when so many do not?

I must admit that my feelings for this novel were also split in two. I thought the first part of the story was exceedingly compelling and I was right there with the characters on the ward, trying to figure out what I would do in that situation. But the second half of the story started to lose me somewhat. It seemed a bit repetitive at times and while I was still rooting for the characters to come through it all, I didn’t find this second half as gripping as the first half.

Nevertheless, After The End is a beautifully written story about a marriage put under strain in the most difficult of circumstances and facing an impossible choice. A remarkable departure for Clare Mackintosh, who you may know from some excellent psychological thrillers. This was quite obviously a story that she needed to tell and she did it in the most wonderful way possible. Not an easy story to read, yet one that will remain with me forever.

My thanks to the publisher for the review copy!

After The Lie is available to buy!

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Death and Other Happy Endings by Melanie Cantor | @melaniecantor @TransworldBooks | #blogtour #bookreview #RandomThingsTours

Delighted to join the blog tour for Death and Other Happy Endings by Melanie Cantor today! My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join and to the publisher for my beautiful review copy!

Author : Melanie Cantor
Title : Death and Other Happy Endings
Pages : 300
Publisher : Bantam Press
Publication date : June 13, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Jennifer Cole has just been told that she has a terminal blood disease. She has three months to live — ninety days to say goodbye to friends and family and put her affairs in order. Trying to focus on the positives (at least she’ll never lose her teeth) Jennifer realises she has one overriding regret: the words she’s left unsaid. 

Rather than pursuing a frantic bucket list, she chooses to stay put, and write letters to three significant people in her life: her overbearing, selfish sister, her jelly-spined, cheating ex-husband, and her charming, unreliable ex-boyfriend finally telling them the things she’s always wanted to say but never dared.

At first, Jennifer feels cleansed by her catharsis. Liberated, even. But once you start telling the truth, it’s hard to stop. And, as she soon discovers, the truth isn’t always as straightforward as it seems, and death has a way of surprising you. 

| MY THOUGHTS |

Something somewhat different on my blog today. Far removed from all the crime fiction and psychological thrillers I tend to read, it was the book description for Death and Other Happy Endings that immediately appealed to me. Who doesn’t just want to let go and really tell people what you think of them?

Jennifer Cole is told she has an incurable disease and only has three months left to live. What would you do? Pull out a bucket list and cram as much as you can into those ninety days you have left? Or take a good, long look at the life you’ve led so far; the good and the bad? Jennifer decides this is the perfect time to write letters to her ex-husband, her ex-boyfriend and her sister. Three people who have been immensely significant in her life, but who have also let her down and maybe Jennifer has let them get away with just that little bit too much. Finally, she feels the time has come to tell them how she really feels about them. After all, she’s dying and won’t have to face the consequences, right? But there are a few surprises in store.

You’d be forgiven for thinking this story would be absolutely depressing but I promise you, it’s really not. A lot of that down is to the character of Jennifer, who is absolutely delightful. From the very first page, I already knew I was going to love her to bits. As heartbreaking as the news about her diagnosis is, there was something about her personality that immediately drew me to her. Even while sitting in the doctor’s office, receiving bad news, she somehow managed to make me laugh.

It’s remarkably easy to imagine the feeling of liberation Jennifer has when she finally posts the three letters. It almost made me feel slightly jealous, thinking I too would love to tell some people a few home truths. Although preferably without a death sentence hanging over my head. Why is it that we often don’t or wait until it’s too late?

Death and Other Happy Endings is a moving, yet witty and heartwarming story about relationships, friendships, life and regrets. I absolutely adored this book. I found it immensely enjoyable and entertaining, yet also quite thought-provoking. This is a truly delightful debut from Melanie Cantor and I would have absolutely no problem shoving my crime fiction and thrillers aside to read more by her.

Death and Other Happy Endings is available to buy!

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| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Melanie Cantor was a celebrity agent and publicist for over thirty years. Her clients included Ulrika Jonsson, Melinda Messenger and Melanie Sykes. 

In 2004, she hosted a makeover show on Channel 4 called Making Space and in 2017 having just turned 60 she was scouted on Kings Cross station, subsequently appearing as a ‘real model’ in the most recent Dove campaign. 

She turned her hand to writing in 2008. Death and other Happy Endings is her first published novel.

A Modern Family by Helga Flatland | @HelgaFlatland @OrendaBooks | #blogtour #AModernFamily #bookreview #RandomThingsTours

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for A Modern Family by Helga Flatland. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join and to the publisher for my beautiful review copy!

Author : Helga Flatland (trs Rosie Hedger)
Title : A Modern Family
Pages : 250
Publisher : Orenda Books
Publication date : June 13, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

When Liv, Ellen, and Håkon, along with their partners and children, arrive in Rome to celebrate their father’s 70th birthday, a quiet earthquake occurs: their parents have decided to divorce.

Shocked and disbelieving, the siblings try to come to terms with their parents’ decision as it echoes through the homes they have built for themselves, and forces them to reconstruct the shared narrative of their childhood and family history.

A bittersweet novel of regret, relationships, and rare psychological insights, A Modern Family encourages us to look at the people closest to us a little more carefully, and ultimately reveals that it’s never too late for change.

| MY THOUGHTS |

This novel is the perfect example of why I love doing blog tours as much as I do. It isn’t exactly the type of book I’d normally go for. In fact, I was rather worried it wouldn’t be my thing at all. But Orenda Books has never let me down before and as I have the utmost faith in their books, I decided to go for it. Didn’t regret it for a second!

On a trip to Italy to celebrate their father’s 70th birthday, Liv, Ellen and Håkon’s lives are thrown into turmoil when their parents reveal their decision to get divorced. Each must now come to terms with the changes that will bring.

I didn’t particularly like any of these characters. Yet the feelings they are struggling with were immensely relatable. It’s easy to forget sometimes that your parents are just people too, with their own thoughts, opinions and feelings. How well do we ever really know our parents and the life they lead when we aren’t around? Just because they don’t argue in front of us, doesn’t mean they don’t argue in private, for instance. Watching the siblings struggle with their parents’ divorce made sense. In effect, it is a safety net that has vanished and for Liv especially, who tried to model her own marriage after her parents, things fall apart rather quickly. If her parents can’t make their marriage last, how can she?

A Modern Family is a beautifully written story about relationships and the shifting of family dynamics. It delves deep into the psychology of these characters and shows remarkable insight as the characters start to analyse, not only themselves, but also those closest to them. I often found myself nodding at some of the things that were said and you just can’t help reading this and subsequently put your own family under a magnifying glass. With complex characters and issues, this beautifully written story soon became utterly immersive and that is no mean feat when you realise there are no bells and whistles, no twists and turns, but just everyday people dealing with everyday problems.

A Modern Family surprised me in the best way possible. Moving, powerful, thought-provoking and immensely absorbing, it paints a wonderful and realistic picture of a family going through the ups and downs of modern life.

A Modern Family is published tomorrow and available for preorder!

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| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Helga Flatland is already one of Norway’s most awarded and widely read authors.

Born in Telemark, Norway, in 1984, she made her literary debut in 2010 with the novel Stay If You Can, Leave If You Must, for which she was awarded the Tarjei Vesaas’ First Book Prize.

She has written four novels and a children’s book and has won several other literary awards. Her fifth novel, A Modern Family, was published to wide acclaim in Norway in August 2017, and was a number-one bestseller. The rights have subsequently been sold across Europe and the novel has sold more than 100,000 copies.

The House On The Edge Of The Cliff by Carol Drinkwater | @MichaelJBooks | #blogtour #extract #excerpt

It’s a real pleasure to welcome you all to my stop on the blog tour for The House On The Edge Of The Cliff by Carol Drinkwater today! My thanks to Sriya at Michael Joseph for the invitation to join. I have an extract to share with you all today but first, here is what this novel is all about.

Author : Carol Drinkwater
Title : The House on the Edge of the Cliff
Pages : 448
Publisher : Michael Joseph
Publication date : May 16, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Grace first came to France a lifetime ago. Young and full of dreams of adventure, she met two very different men.

She fell under the spell of one. The other fell under hers.

Until one summer night shattered everything . . .

Now, Grace is living an idyllic life with her husband, sheltered from the world in a magnificent Provencal villa, perched atop a windswept cliff.

Every day she looks out over the sea – the only witness to that fateful night years ago.

Until a stranger arrives at the house. A stranger who knows everything, and won’t leave until he gets what he wants.

| EXTRACT |

Beyond gently billowing muslin curtains, the windows were open wide, exposing a waxing crescent moon hanging midway in the sky. It was a little after five in the morning, and I was awake. My head resting on Peter’s chest, I tuned in to his heartbeat. Its speed was alarming. In spite of his daily medication, it still beat disconcertingly fast. By com-parison, my ticker is an old plodder. I lifted myself to a sitting position. Peter was sleeping, sighing and moaning.

‘My darling, please get well.’

I have always been in the habit of rising early. When the house is silent, I slip out for a long walk and a swim, like a full-sail galleon scudding across a cloudless sky, leaving my cares behind me. But during these anxious days, these fretful days of waiting for Peter’s operation, once out of bed I dally, hang back before heading for the beach, watching over my husband until I feel secure about leaving him.

This early-May morning, my knees tight against his side of the bed frame, I gazed upon him. Peter, my beloved, swathed in a twisted, sweaty sheet. He was fight-ing for equilibrium. His heart had become his enemy, hammering furiously at him. It pained me to observe his suffering, his visible decline. I bent low to him, stroked his shoulders, reassuring him of my love, while taking care not to disturb him. I crouched, laid my cheek against the fleshy part of his upper arm, softly kissing it. I inhaled him, the night on him. The heat, the worry sweat. He claimed he was not apprehensive about what lay ahead, but I would have argued otherwise. I was witness to his unsettled dreams.

I am the spectator, tuning in to his restlessness.

Throughout his waking hours, I had begun to remark a new expression in Peter’s eyes. A fixed stare, glassy, as though his pupils had glazed over or been coated in a thin layer of varnish. This focus disguised his fear, blocked it out, blocked me out. Peter was pushing me away, which, according to his logic, was to protect me. He believed that he was sheltering me from his terror, or sheltering himself from my terror, my inability to confront the worst possible outcome: his death.

I dreaded losing my husband, his heart packing up without warning, ‘worn out by strain’, in the consultant’s ominous words. Snatched from me while he was sleeping or, when the appointed day arrived, while he was under sedation. A being submerged beneath the effects of medication who would never awaken.

I refused to compare it to the past, to the first time I had lost someone, a lover who never resurfaced, the years it had taken me to come to terms with it.

Had Peter made the connection, cast his mind back to 1968, ‘our first summer’ together at this house, our long, carefree days together on this beach? Until calamity had struck.

It had come as no surprise to me that Peter was diag-nosed with atrial or supraventricular tachycardia, SVT. He had lived his life at a supersonic pace, in the turbo lane. He had travelled ceaselessly, worked incessantly, handled and triumphed over high-profile legal cases, which had won him a coveted international reputation and the honour of a CBE. However, alongside the acknowledgements came high stress levels. His caring heart carried the burdens of those less fortunate, those whose liberties he fought for and won. In his juridical field, few reputations, if any, surpassed Peter Soames’s.

Long-haul flights were his norm, sometimes once or even twice a week. He was always out of bed by five thirty a.m. no matter when we had turned in the night before. Even after we had stayed up till two watching a movie, he had set his phone alarm for five. And then he’d switch it off and roll over for half an hour, indulging in his ‘lie-in’.

I longed for him to slow down. Some days I felt as though I’d never catch hold of him, never pull him by his shirt tails and draw him in slow motion back to me, begging, ‘Hey, what’s the rush? Bide time with me.’

I turned now from the bedside and pattered to the open window, leaning my elbows on the sill, mesmerized by the swallows dipping and circling above the pink-tinged beach. I loved this time of year, with the first stirrings of summer ahead. I loved this old cliff house built high into its scrubby hillside overlooking the Mediterranean. Heron Heights. Peter had inherited it, this rather splendidly eccentric sunlit villa, from his late aunt, an artist, Agnes Armstrong-Soames. Yes, the painter. The very same.

I loved the privacy, the isolation, the villa’s distance from the nearest town. Our lives here have become secluded, our world privileged. The environment has cocooned me, allowed me to feel safe, even from the past. My past. Our past. The tragedy that took place here too long ago to remember. Except that I do remember. I have never allowed myself to forget it, but I have forgiven myself. Forgiven myself for the foolish, brainless role I played in someone’s death.

Peter and I never talk about it, never allude to it. That long-ago midsummer night.

But what happened on that long-ago midsummer night? If you’re intrigued and you’d like to find out more, The House on the Edge of the Cliff is available to buy!

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
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| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Anglo-Irish actress Carol Drinkwater is perhaps still most familiar to audiences for her award-winning portrayal of Helen Herriot in the BBC series All Creatures Great and Small. A popular and acclaimed author and film-maker as well, Carol has published nineteen books for both the adult and young adult markets. She is currently at work on her twentieth title.

Tell Me Where You Are by Moira Forsyth | @sandstonepress | #blogtour

It’s a pleasure to host a stop on the blog tour for Tell Me Where You Are by Moira Forsyth today! My thanks to Julia Forster for the invitation to join and for the review copy!

!Author : Moira Forsyth
Title : Tell Me Where You Are
Pages : 344
Publisher : Sandstone Press
Publication date : May 15, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

The last thing Frances wants is a phone call from Alec, the husband who left her for her sister thirteen years ago. But Susan has disappeared, abandoning Alec and her daughter Kate, a surly teenager with an explosive secret. Reluctantly, Frances is drawn into her sister’s turbulent life.

| MY THOUGHTS |

Thirteen years ago, Frances’ husband Alec left her. Not just for anyone, but for her younger sister, Susan. Frances hasn’t been in touch with her sister since. Nobody in the family has. But now, a phone call from Alec upsets Frances’s perfectly peaceful life. Susan has gone missing.

The reader never gets to meet Susan but she doesn’t come across as a particularly likeable character. From an early age, she seemed to be the odd one out in a family with three daughters and caused her parents quite the headaches. Did that somewhat outrageous behaviour just carry on into adulthood? Is she just a selfish woman or does she suffer from mental issues?

None of that matters to one iota to Frances. What matters is Kate, Susan’s teenage daughter. With her mother gone and her stepfather too busy or unwilling to take care off her, she’s dumped at the home of her aunt Frances. With a family member missing, surely nothing else can go wrong! Plenty, as it turns out.

This is a story about a family thrown into turmoil. With multiple points-of-view throughout, the impact Susan has had, and now continues to have even though she’s disappeared, becomes incredibly clear. From her parents who wonder what went wrong; to her husband who who may just regret his decision; to a daughter, lost and confused.

Despite all the disruption Susan’s disappearance has caused, life goes on and somehow this family must find a way to come together through ups and downs. They are faced with difficult and realistic decisions and throughout it all, Frances really stood out for me. She may not always be sympathetic or tactful but she always tries to tackle problems head-on and do what’s best. Her ex-husband, on the other hand, I could quite happily have strangled.

Just like in real life, things aren’t wrapped up all pretty with a bow. There are some unanswered questions, tough decisions and no easy solutions. Throughout it all are believable characters you’ll sympathise with and root for. Tell Me Where You are is a delightful and warm story about a dysfunctional family navigating its way through life and its various roadblocks.

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| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Moira Forsyth grew up in Aberdeen, lived in England for nearly twenty years, and is now in the Highlands. She is the author of four previous novels and many short stories and poems published in anthologies and magazines. Waiting for Lindsay and David’s Sisters, originally published by Sceptre, are now available as e-books from Sandstone Press, which also published The Treacle Well in 2015.

The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen | @wordsofhelen @MichaelJBooks @sriya__v | #blogtour #guestpost

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen. My thanks to Sriya at Michael Joseph for the invitation to join! Author Helen Cullen visits my blog today to talk about the importance of music in her novel but first, here is what The Lost Letters of William Woolf is all about.

Author : Helen Cullen
Title : The Lost Letters of William Woolf
Pages : 416
Publisher : Michael Joseph
Publication date : May 2, 2019 (paperback)

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Inside East London’s Dead Letters Depot, William Woolf unites lost mail with its intended recipient. White mice, a miniature grandfather clock and a full suit of armour are among the more unusual items lost then found thanks to William’s detective work.

But when he discovers a series of letters addressed only to ‘My Great Love’, everything changes. Written by Winter to a soulmate she hasn’t yet met, her heartfelt words stir William in ways he has long forgotten. Could they be destined for him? But what about his troubled marriage?

William must follow the clues in Winter’s letters to solve the mystery of his own heart.

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
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| GUEST POST |

The importance of music in The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen

One of the great joys of writing my debut novel, The Lost Letters of William Woolf, was undoubtedly creating the soundtrack to accompany the story. This curation of songs allowed me to indulge in the perfect intersection of my two great loves; music and literature. 

It was a moment of great revelation for me as I was developing each character when I realised who each of their favourite artists were; knowing what music they chose to listen to at pivotal moments in the narrative. Understanding, for example, that William Woolf was listening to The Smiths as he strolled through Dublin city made the whole scene crackle with life for me; I could place myself in the very heart of him. Understanding that Clare’s musical heroine was Kate Bush gave me insight into the longings she nursed in private; the artistic instincts that she was working hard to oppress. Discovering that Winter’s favourite band was The Cure reinforced in me her melancholic disposition, and how art could articulate sadness for her in a way that was restorative, uplifting and ultimately joyful. Situating the novel in the late 80s allowed me to revel in the music that I loved from that time.

Every day, before I began to write, I would choose a song to listen to that encapsulated for me the energy or the feeling of the scene I wanted to work on. Sinking into the music, the physical world around me would slip away, and I was able to cross the bridge from the reality of life to the imaginary world of the novel. It’s a practice I have continued now while writing my second novel.

The William Woolf playlist is an eclectic one; I would love to think that as readers follow the story, they might pause and look up the songs that are mentioned and play them as they read, to experience the music as the characters do, to activate their aural senses as their imaginations conjure the world before them. If they do, I hope they enjoy the musical rollercoaster and that it deepens their connection with the narrative. The playlist follows and you can listen to it on Spotify here. I hope you enjoy it! 

The Lost Letters of William Woolf Playlist

1. Chet Baker – Old Devil Moon 

2. David Bowie – Wild is The Wind 

3. Nina Simone – My baby just cares for me 

4. The Cure – Pictures of You 

5. Kate Bush – Hounds of Love 

6. Beethoven – Moonlight Piano Sonata

7. Culture Club – Karma Chameleon 

8. Sonny & Cher – I got you babe 

9. Madonna – Like A Prayer 

10. The Platters – The Great Pretender

11. Leonard Cohen – Suzanne 

12. George Michael – Careless Whisper

13. Michael Dees – What are you doing for the rest of your life?

14. The Undertones – Teenage Kicks

15. The Bangles – Eternal Flame

16. The Smiths – There is a Light and It Never Goes Out 

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Helen Cullen is an Irish writer living in London. She worked at RTE (Ireland’s national broadcaster) for seven years before moving to London in 2010. In the UK, Helen established a career as an events and engagement specialist before joining the Google UK marketing team in 2015.

The first draft of her debut novel THE LOST LETTERS OF WILLIAM WOOLF was written while completing the Guardian/UEA novel writing programme under the mentorship of Michèle Roberts. Helen holds an M.A. Theatre Studies from UCD and is currently completing an M.A. English Literature at Brunel University.

Helen is now writing full-time and working on her second novel.

Nobody’s Wife by Laura Pearson | @LauraPAuthor @AgoraBooksLDN @TheyCallMePeyto | #blogtour #NobodysWife

Delighted to join the blog tour for Nobody’s Wife by Laura Pearson today! My thanks to Peyton at Agora Books for the invitation to join and the wonderful review copy!

Author : Laura Pearson
Title : Nobody’s Wife
Pages : 267
Publisher : Agora Books
Publication date : March 28, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

‘Of the four of them, only three remained. And there was no going backwards from there.’ 

Emily and Josephine have always shared everything. They’re sisters, flatmates, and best friends. It’s the two of them against the world.

When Emily has the perfect wedding, and Josephine finds the perfect man, they know things will change forever. But nothing can prepare them for what, or who, one of them is willing to give up for love.

Four people. Three couples. Two sisters. One unforgivable betrayal.

| MY THOUGHTS |

I absolutely loved Laura Pearson’s debut Missing Pieces, even though it left me in bits. So I was quite eager to read Nobody’s Wife, wondering if I would once again be reaching for the tissues.

Sisters Emily and Josephine have always been close but their bond has only become stronger since their mother moved to the other side of the world. Now Emily is getting married and Josephine may have found “the one” as well. Naturally, changes are afoot as they both embark on a new adventure in their lives. But neither one is prepared for what happens next.

From the very beginning, Laura Pearson managed to draw me in with realistic and believable characters in relatable situations. While Emma has doubts and suffers from nerves on her wedding day, Josephine tries to figure out the sometimes complicated beginnings of a new relationship. But everything soon starts to fall apart.

It’s obvious from the prologue that something has happened that affects these characters’ lives and the what, how, why, who is slowly revealed throughout the storyline. Laura Pearson’s writing is extremely beautiful and the characters evoked quite a few emotions from me. I felt angry and frustrated at some of their decisions, saddened as well and I became completely caught up in their lives, feeling for everyone involved and having this sense of impending doom.

Nobody’s Wife is an emotional story of love, obsession and betrayal that has devastating consequences. Life often does not come wrapped up in a tiny little bow. In case you wondered, no, no tissues required this time around but I did have problems swallowing past the lump in my throat. Because no matter how I felt about these characters and their actions, or lack thereof, at times it seemed as if I was right there next to them, feeling their pain.

There seems to be something almost effortless about the way Laura Pearson writes. Everything flows quite naturally and it’s always touching and moving, without the distraction of bells and whistles, reaching down into your very core, leaving you wanting to hug those closest to you really tight and never let them go. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Nobody’s Wife will be available to buy on March 28th.

 Amazon US | Amazon UK

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Laura Pearson has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Chichester. She spent a decade living in London and working as a copywriter and editor for QVC, Expedia, Net a Porter, EE, and The Ministry of Justice. Now, she lives in Leicestershire, where she writes novels, blogs about her experience of breast cancer (www.breastcancerandbaby.com), runs The Motherload Book Club, and tries to work out how to raise her two children.

Love Punked by Nia Lucas #BooksNia @rararesources #blogtour #LovePunked #YA #YoungAdult #guestpost

It’s a real pleasure to welcome you all to my stop on the blog tour for Love Punked by Nia Lucas today! My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me along. Nia joins me on the blog today to share what she would tell her teenage self if she could. But first, here is what Love Punked is all about!

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Author : Nia Lucas
Title : Love Punked
Pages : 438
Publisher : n/a
Publication date : July 21, 2018

aboutthebook

When her life is irrevocably altered by a post-Rave tryst on her mother’s floral patio recliner, Erin Roberts’ long-standing relationship with Humiliation takes her down a path that’s not so much ‘less well trodden’, more ‘perilous descent down sheer cliffs’.

Armed with a fierce devotion to her best friend and the unrequited love for the boy she might have accidentally married at age seven, when Erin falls pregnant at sixteen, life veers off at a most unexpected tangent.

Her journey to adulthood is far from ordinary as Erin learns that protecting the hearts of those most precious to you isn’t balm enough when your Love Punked heart is as sore as your freshly tattooed arse.

Whilst raising football prodigies and trying not to get stuck in lifts with Social Work clients who hate her, Erin discovers that sometimes you have to circumnavigate the globe to find the very thing that was there all along.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads

guestpost

One of the greatest things about writing, one of my absolute favourite parts of the luxurious creation of worlds and people who have only lived in your head until fingertip prods key, is the fact that parts of your own world can be woven secretly and seamlessly into the fabric of the thing you create. I love the ‘Secret Squirrel’ part of writing, dropping flakes of truth into the casserole of fiction, changing the flavour without anyone being able to put their finger on what exactly the ingredient was. I like to chuckle like a moron when the people who know me best raise an eyebrow and murmur, “Isn’t that bit about that time when you……?”. Simple pleasures. 

Yet this truth sprinkling brings with it reflection and on occasion, pain and sorrow for things gone by. It also brings smirks, snorts and eye-rolling embarrassment and on that note, I have some advice to share.

Lessons from a misspent 90’s youth: Things I wish I’d tell my teenage self.

  1. If you are in Clair’s Accessories, back away. Find the exit. Now. Coating yourself in pink, sparkly tat will not transform you into an ironic, Courtney Love-esque sophisticate. Nope. You will look like a tit. A tit in a cheap plastic tiara but a tit nonetheless. 
  1. That undercut and those baggy black jeans with the massive red pockets on your bum will not make you look cool. You will look like a follically-challenged baboon. 
  1. Instead of allocating two hours a day to experimenting with ‘Berry Spice’ lipstick on the off-chance that you will bump into the lads from the band ‘Jesus Jones’ in Swindon town centre, spend those hours on revising your German vocab. You will never meet ‘Jesus Jones’, they will disappear into obscurity but you will get stuck in a Prague Police station with some passive-aggressive officers a few years down the line and decent German might prevent that trip to the British Consulate at 2am. 
  1. Your figure is incredible. Genuinely incredible. Wear as many crop tops, bikinis and hotpants as you can. Stop worrying about your legs or your belly because in twenty years time, as you stare down the barrel of an ankle-to-neck Spanx bodysuit (into which you will become wedged and have to be wrestled out of by your inebriated best mate in truly tiny toilets), you will weep tears of bitter regret for the immaculate teenage figure that you never appreciated. Wear anything. You have the figure for it. Bloody babies will destroy it soon enough. 
  1. Be so, so careful girl. In an ill advised escapade, you meet two lads, two incredibly funny, damaged and dangerous boys, who lure you into a world you inhabit oh-so-briefly but one which you never forget. These boys disappear into the cogs of the Criminal Justice System, evaporating from your life like ghosts but it’s their haunting that leads you to write your first book twenty years later. Be careful. Be safe. Listen to the voice in your head because she’s pretty sound (although ignore all of her tips on clothing choices).  
  1. You were entirely right all along, your suspicions spot on. You really do never need to use vectors outside of Mrs. Spinks’ Maths classroom. Absolute waste of your time. Spend your time learning how to jump start a car instead. You will need those skills.
  1. You will never regret being voluntarily teetotal. Not once. You’ll be tested on this decision, innumerable times in the coming years but stay strong. You will be the girl who has the best nights out, whose sobriety inhibits her craziness not a jot and she remembers every bloody minute of it. Thanks to that lucidity, you will also be the girl with the most incredible blackmail material against your mates. Carry on.
  1. Don’t bother with the driving lessons. Spend the cash on that AMAZING lace dress with the coordinating UV bra and hotpants that you will eternally regret not buying. Driving lessons are a waste of your time until you are 21. Why? Because you are a complete and absolute liability on the road, you fail innumerable tests (one of which is failed because you crash into the Test Centre wall with the examiner screaming beside you) and you only get a clue a few years down the line. GET THE DRESS INSTEAD.
  1. That rave in Milton Keynes is a truly terrible idea. You end up in Leicester at 2am aged sixteen, you have no money, you get so close to being found out by your parents that even now, the memory makes you sweaty and you are lucky not to have ended up as a Crimewatch Special. DO NOT GO. You still owe that Policeman a box of chocolates by the way. 
  1. Love every bloody minute of being a teenager in the 90’s. There are these things now called Mobile Phones which are surgically attached to people’s hands. They have cameras built into them. Which people take on every night out. Can. You. Imagine. You will forever feel gratitude that you are an Xennial, whose misspent youth is undocumented. You’re safe. Well, you were……..in about 2016 you decide to start writing books…….you’d better watch yourself madam, nothing stays secret for long……..

[Some truly wonderful lessons to be learned there. I can definitely relate to the last one. I often think those of us who grew up before all the gadgets and social media were very, very lucky indeed. Thanks so much for this fab post, Nia, and good luck with Love Punked!]

abouttheauthor

I am a UK based author of Contemporary women’s fiction who is passionate about telling the stories of strong, sympathetic, entertaining and engaging female characters and the lives that they lead. My Welsh heritage and my life as a practising Social Worker with teenagers and their families heavily influences my work as does my love of all things 90’s and an adolescence spent immersed in clubbing culture.

Author links : BlogFacebook | InstagramTwitter

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