Blog Tour

#BlogTour : The Earl’s Runaway Governess by Catherine Tinley @CatherineTinley #Review, Exclusive Extract & #Giveaway #TheEarlsRunawayGoverness @MillsandBoon @HarlequinBooks via @rararesourses

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Hello my lovelies, I am so excited to be one of the blogs to be kicking off this smading blog tour, for the beautiful; The Earl’s Runaway Governess, the new realease by Catherine Tinley. Not only will be sharing my review of this amazing book, but I also have an exclusive extract and a giveaway. So, what are you waiting for? Grab a cuppa and let me tell you about this marvellous book.

The Earl’s Runaway Governess by Catherine Tinley

Genre : Historical Romance

Publisher : Mills and Boon/Harlequin

Who knew living with an Earl…

would lead to such temptation?

Marianne Grant’s new identity as a governess is meant to keep her safe. But then she meets her new employer, Ash, Earl of Kingswood, and she immediately knows his handsome good looks are a danger of their own! Brusque on first meeting, Ash quickly shows his compassionate side. Yet Marianne doesn’t dare reveal the truth! Unless Ash really could be the safe haven she’s been looking for…

Purchase Here

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Extract

The interior of the inn was dark, cosy, and well-maintained. A fire burned in the grate, for the January day was chilly. Marianne made her way towards the wooden counter at the far end of the room, where a woman who must be the landlady was busy pouring ale. As she walked, Marianne found herself warily assessing the strangers in the room. Since the day and hour she had left home she had not felt truly safe, for even a minute. She had no experience with which to assess where danger might lurk, so she found herself constantly on edge.

Her fellow passengers were already seating themselves in various parts of the taproom, and there were also two men who looked like they might be farmers, each with a mug of beer in front of him.

Then she saw him. Her heart briefly thumped furiously in her chest, and the hairs at the back of her neck stood to attention.

He was seated with his back to her, at the table closest to the counter. She could see his dark hair, swept forward in a fashionable style. He wore a driving cloak with numerous capes. She could also see long legs encased in tight-fitting pantaloons and gleaming black boots. He looked like any one of a dozen London bucks. Except this time, she reminded herself, you have no reason to fear him.

She kept walking, soothing herself with calm thoughts. As she reached his table, she turned her head, compelled to confirm it was no one she knew.

This man was a few years older than Henry – perhaps in his late twenties or early thirties. His hair was similar – thick, dark, and luxuriant. But the face was totally different. This man was handsome – or at least, he would be if he were not scowling so fiercely. His strong bones and lean features contrasted with Henry’s slight pudginess and rather weak jawline. And, now that she could see all of him, she realised that his body shape was totally different to Henry’s. He was lean and muscular, with no sign of a paunch. The clothing was similar to that favoured by Henry – and indeed, by all the young bucks of London. There the resemblance ended.

Sensing her there, he looked up from his mug and their eyes met. Stormy blue eyes bore into hers and Marianne felt a slow flush rise. My, but he was attractive! – and, she realised, his gaze was doing strange things to her. Breaking away from that endless, compelling contact, she bit her lip and took the final four steps to the counter.

Yes, Miss?’

Marianne summoned a polite smile. She felt slightly lost and shaky, and she could feel the man’s gaze boring into her back. Still, she managed to reply to the landlady. ‘I am expecting someone to meet me here. I have travelled from London on the mail coach.’

Who is it you are expecting, miss?’

Marianne’s brow creased. ‘I am not exactly sure.’ Inside, panic was rising. What if there has been some mistake? What if there is no governess position? ‘I am to take up a position as governess at a place called Ledbury House. I was told to travel here by mail coach today.’

Ledbury House? This gentleman –’ she indicated the fashionable buck ‘– is also travelling there. Perhaps you are expected to travel with him?’

Heart sinking, Marianne swung round to face him. His scowl had deepened as he listened to their exchange, and he now raised a quizzical eyebrow. ‘Curious’ he mused. ‘And to think I was unaware of the delights this day would hold.’

Marianne was taken aback. She was unsure how to take this. The man’s words were perfectly polite, but something about the tone suggested the possibility that he was not, in fact, delighted. Accustomed as she was to straightforward politeness, his words and tone felt disconcerting. Something of what she was feeling must have shown on her face because, as she watched him, his expression changed to one of chagrin.

I have no doubt,’ he murmured cryptically, ‘that this is a mess of Fanny’s making, and I am expected to fix it. Well, I shall do so this one time, but no more.’ With this enigmatic statement, he drained his mug, then stood. ‘You’d best come with me.’

Not waiting for her reply, he swung away towards the door.

Marianne stood rooted to the spot, uncertainty bedevilling her. Should she go with him? A stranger, and she was to travel with him unaccompanied. Miss Marianne Grant, a lady, would never have done so. Miss Anne Bolton, governess, could.

Conscious that all eyes were all on her, Marianne was surprised to find determination rising within her. Surprised, because she did not often need to be brave. She was normally a placid, timid creature, most at home with a book in her hand and harmony and peace all around.

This unknown gentleman was expecting her to simply climb into a carriage beside him – without any chaperone, maid, or footman accompanying them. Perhaps he had a groom? Well, even if he didn’t, it was clear that everyone expected the governess to go with him and be grateful for the ride.

Although he was handsome and strangely compelling, she was almost relieved to be wary of him – being guarded would be much, much safer than being attracted to him.

Torn between the surprising temptation to sit down somewhere safe and wait for an unknown rescuer, and the (even stronger) temptation to run, to get as far away as she could from the danger inherent in being alone in a carriage with a man, Marianne recognised that instead, her best option was simply to get into the carriage and hope she would be safe with him.

*Extract was provided and used with permission from the author as apart of this blog tour post.

Well this is a beautifully written, hopeful and very loving story that really instils in the reader that love really can appear in the most surprising of places when you least expect it. I have said it before but I will say it again, that Catherine Tinley wondrous writer, she takes the reader on an emotional journey to find that elusive happily ever after, I have always felt that she genuinely loves the era and the stories she writes about as her passion just jumps of the page with every word.

Marianne runs away from home after her lecherous, foul and drunken step-brother makes it abundantly clear exactly what he expects from his ward; Marianne. She knows that for as long as she is under his roof she will never be safe, so she flees and takes a position as a governess under the alias of ‘Anne Bolton’. She hopes that as her position is in the country and far away from London she will be safe, but as we all know nothing is ever as it may appear in historical romance and there is always road blocks in the way. That said road block just happens to be the rakish, rude and society loving new Earl Kingswood; Ash.

Ash neither expected the Earldom or wanted it, he has been raised to live life free and basically to do as he pleases with no responsibility, something which he loathes more than actually having the title. So, you can imagine what a kick in the rump it was that the notorious playboy must put others before himself for a change. He had planned to settle what needs to be settled with the estate and then hop it back to London as fast as his beautiful horses will take him, but things tend to always get in the way especially when h meets Marianne.

You can see that there is a spark between them, there are little glances but in all essence it is a will they, wont they love story; which I found utterly charming. But with Marianne having deep secrets and Ash not ready to commit himself, there is a wall between them. What will happen when Marianne’s true identity comes out? – when that does happen it is a fabulous piece of writing.

Even though I did end up falling in love with Ash, I will admit that it took me a while to warm to him. I can’t explain why, I just didn’t feel as drawn to him at first as I usually do with heroes. There was something very self-centred about him that put me of. He did have to work all that much harder to win me over, but I am pleased to say he did. This is what I love and admire about Catherine Tinley, to be able to completely change the readers initial opinion of a character from; ‘Hmmm, I’m not sure I even like this guy.’ to ‘Oh, my goodness! I’m in love!!’ that is a real gift in writing and there are few authors out there who can so easily accomplish it. So, I whole-heartedly applaud you Catherine!

Whereas I instantly connected with Marianne, she is this an amazing young women, to leave home and everything she knew; her whole life is such a strong act. Yes, she had no choice about leaving she knew that if she stayed something terrible would have happened to her at the hands of her foul, lecherous step-brother. Knowing that one must leave is one thing, but for her actually to do it without even a shred of thought of what would happen to her is another. But, yet she takes the bull by the horn and plunges into her secret life as a governess.

This book really conveys just how powerless women were, not just with Marianne having her awful step-brother becoming her guardian, meaning in the eyes of the law she is his and can basically do as he wishes with. But you also see that power being flaunted in the case of the Dowager Countess of Kingswood and her daughter, I won’t say too much about the details as it would give too much of the plot away but there were times when I did feel a pang of pity for the Countess. This is what makes Ms Tinley’s writing pure, realistic and so brilliantly powerful, that us reader go through a monopoly of emotions as we read.

Overall this is a definite must read, I love the personal journey Ash and Marianne go on through out the story, they both have to get past their own personal issues, but I also like that there is an undercurrent of suspense that runs throughout the story. It’s alike a tingling of what is to come, of something more. I have loved every book of Ms Tinley’s that I have read so I knew that I would be in for something great and it doesn’t disappoint.

Very highly recommended!

This was an Arc copy via the author in exchange for an honest review as apart of this blog tour, Thank you Catherine and Rachel.

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About The Author

Catherine Tinley writes witty, heartwarming Regency love stories for Harlequin Mills & Boon. She has loved reading and writing since childhood, and has a particular fondness for love, romance, and happy endings.

After a career encompassing speech & language therapy, NHS management, maternity campaigning and being President of a charity, she now works in Sure Start. She lives in Ireland with her husband, children, and dog and can be reached via the links below.

Website / Twitter / Facebook

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Giveaway

To be in for a chance of winning one of three signed copies of The Earl’s Runaway Governess, plus a mystery book by another romance writer. The enter via the Rafflecopter form/Link below.

Rafflecopter Giveaway – Enter Here

Open Internationally – 2 x UK winners and 1 x International Winner.

*T&C’s : Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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#BlogTour : #Review What We Find by Robyn Carr @RCarrWriter #WhatWeFind @MillsandBoon #MillsandBoonInsiders

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I have the great pleasure to be today’s stop on this great blog tour, I will be sharing my review of What We Find by Robyn Carr. So grab a cuppa and let me tell you about this sweet little book.

Under extreme pressure, neurosurgeon Maggie Sullivan knows she needs to slow down before she burns out completely, and the best place she can do that is Sullivan’s Crossing.

Named for Maggie’s great-grandfather, the land and charming general store at the crossroads of the Colorado and the Continental Divide trails now belong to Maggie’s eccentric father, Sully. She relishes the opportunity to indulge in his simple way of life.

But Maggie’s world is rocked and she must take responsibility for the Crossing. When a quiet and serious-looking hiker, Cal Jones, offers to lend a hand, Maggie is suspicious of his motives—until she finds out the true reason for his deliberate isolation.

Though Cal and Maggie each struggle with loss and loneliness, the time they spend together gives Maggie hope for something brighter just on the horizon…if only they can learn to find peace and healing—and perhaps love—with each other.

This is sweet little, easy to read romance that will be perfect for those who are just starting to read the romance genre. But, for me I thought it was a little too predictable and a little too sweet. Don’t get me wrong it is a lovely story, with a satisfying ending, and the scenery and setting is beautiful, but for me it just lacked a certain magic. This is actually the first I have read by Robyn Carr and even though this particular story didn’t rock my romantic soul I would happily read more from Ms Carr.

Neurosurgeon Maggie is on the verge of a breakdown, she has so much piled on top of her, so much that has happened – some which are absolutely heart-breaking – and she knows that if she doesn’t just step back, take a breath and just remove herself from her stressful life she will burn out completely. So, she packs up and heads home, back to her childhood town – which is what we all do right? When life gets difficult we head to the one place where we are happy and that is usually home. From the beginning your heart really goes out for Maggie, she has had to face some really terrible things – things that would have broken many other’s long before now. But she is strong, maybe not at first but I like how as the story goes along her inner strength really comes out.

Once home at Sullivans Crossing all doesn’t exactly go to plan when, yet again Maggie is knocked over by another tragedy, when her father has a heart attack forcing her to stay on and look after him and the family business. This is where charming Cal walks in and offers a friendly helping hand, usually this is where I would go into a huge detailed chapter of how much I liked the couple and how much I loved the hero, but I felt that I couldn’t really envisage Cal – or Maggie for that fact – there isn’t a lot of description about who they are, yes there is a lot of back ground to tell you how they came to be where they are, but that didn’t enlighten me to who they are, what they looked like. And because of that, I couldn’t connect with them or their romance as I usually would. This is what the story was missing, I am a very visual reader, I like knowing who a character is and what they look like but I couldn’t see the character’s.

Overall a basic, sweet romance, a little cheesy and predictable at times but enjoyable none the less. Perfect for those readers who are more about character history and their past journeys instead of readers like me who like to connect and visual the book.

This was a complimentary copy via the publisher in exchange for an honest review as apart of this blog tour, Thank you Sanjana and the Mills and Boon Insiders team.

What We Find is available now and can be found at Amazon.

#BlogTour : The Woman In The Lake by Nicola Cornick @NicolaCornick #Review & Exclusive Extract #WomanInTheLake @HQstories

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Hello my lovelies, I have the great pleasure to be todays stop on this great blog tour. I will be sharing my review of The Woman In The Lake, plus I have an exclusive extract. So grab a cuppa and let me tell you a wee bit about the great book.

About The Book

From the bestselling author of House of Shadows and The Phantom Tree comes a spellbinding tale of jealousy, greed, plotting and revenge—part history, part mystery—for fans of Kate Morton, Susanna Kearsley and Barbara Erskine

London, 1765

Lady Isabella Gerard, a respectable member of Georgian society, orders her maid to take her new golden gown and destroy it, its shimmering beauty tainted by the actions of her brutal husband the night before.

Three months later, Lord Gerard stands at the shoreline of the lake, looking down at a woman wearing the golden gown. As the body slowly rolls over to reveal her face, it’s clear this was not his intended victim…

250 Years Later…

When a gown she stole from a historic home as a child is mysteriously returned to Fenella Brightwell, it begins to possess her in exactly the same way that it did as a girl. Soon the fragile new life Fen has created for herself away from her abusive ex-husband is threatened at its foundations by the gown’s power over her until she can’t tell what is real and what is imaginary.

As Fen uncovers more about the gown and Isabella’s story, she begins to see the parallels with her own life. When each piece of history is revealed, the gown—and its past—seems to possess her more and more, culminating in a dramatic revelation set to destroy her sanity.

Exclusive Extract

Prologue

Eustace April 1765

I know what they will say of me when I am dead. I will be cast as a madman and a fool. They will blame the divorce, so scandalous for a peer of the realm, and claim that it drove me to misery and delusion, that it turned my mind. They will rake up all the old gossip and call my wife a whore. It pleases me that society will slander Isabella over again. I will gladly tolerate being painted a cuckold and a weakling if it hurts her. I wish I could hurt her more but she is beyond my reach now, more is the pity. There are those who call me a wicked man. They are wrong. True evil requires intent and I never had the will or the cunning to be truly wicked.

Only once was I tempted to commit murder and even then it was not my fault, for I swear I was possessed. It was the golden gown that moved me to evil and the gown that led to that most terrible mistake. I remember the horror of it to this day. I still see the scene so clear before my eyes. She was walking ahead of me, through the dappled moonlight, and I recognised the gown and hastened my step.

I swear I had no fixed intention, no thought of murder, not at that moment. I wanted to talk, to reason with her. Then, on the path by the mill, she seemed to stumble and fall and all of a sudden I was seized by the thought that this was my chance to be rid of the threat for ever. I could not bring myself to touch her directly so I nudged her body with my boot and she rolled gently, so gently, over the edge and into the pool. I see it all again: the silver moon swimming beneath the water and the golden gown billowing out about her like a shroud slowly unfurling. I needed to claim that gown but my fear made me clumsy and I ripped it from her body when it would not yield to my hands.

And then…

I break out into a cold sweat whenever I remember. Everything is so vivid. The sweet scent of lime blossom mingled with the stink of dank weed from the millpond, the endless roar of the water over the sluice like the rush to bedlam. And then…

The body rolled over in the water and I saw her properly for the first time in the moon’s reflected glow. It was not the face of my nemesis. I stood there with the gown dripping in my hands and then I was sick; sick with revulsion, sick with fear, sick with disappointment. Binks came upon me as I knelt there, retching up my guts.

I will attend to this, Lord Gerard,’ he said, as though he were my butler tidying away a glass of spilt wine.

You should have left it with me, as we agreed.’ Binks was a damned impertinent fellow but a useful one and I was not going to argue with him. I took my carriage back to Lydiard House and I sat here in my study and drank more than I had ever taken before.

I was out cold for three days. When I came to my senses the first thing I saw was the golden gown draped across the end of my bed like a reproachful ghost. I wanted to be rid of it, to burn it, rip it to shreds or give it to the first beggar woman I saw but at the same time I was too afraid; afraid that somehow, some day, it would return to haunt me.

My only safety lay in keeping it close to me. Wherever I went the gown came with me, wrapped up tightly, hidden away to contain its poison, but with me all the same. And that is how it haunted me for ever after. That is how it has possessed me, in mind and body. I have no notion what happened after I left Binks to do the work that I dared not do. I heard reports of the tragedy of course, for the servants were full of the story and it was in all the local newspapers. It was a famous scandal that respected Swindon banker and businessman Samuel Lawrence had drowned his wife in the millpond and then apparently taken his own life, following her down into those dark waters.

In time I almost came to believe those stories myself. Except that for as long as the gown is with me, I will remember the truth. I will remember Binks, who disappeared like a will-o’-the-wisp once the deed was done, and I will remember Binks’s men, the Moonrakers, hard men, smugglers, criminals. I have lived in fear of them these past twenty years for I know they hate me for killing one of their own.

My life is so much more precious, infinitely more important than theirs, and yet I live in fear of a gang of felons. From the drawing room window I can see the lake here at Lydiard Park glittering in the morning sun. On the days when I am too drink-sodden and addled to walk, the steward places me here, telling me that it will raise my spirits to see the world outside. Little does he know that nothing could cause me more pain than to look upon the shining water. Or perhaps he does know it, and places me here to torment me. Perhaps he hates me too.

The Moonrakers will come for me soon. This morning I received a token from their leader. It was such a beautiful gift, an inlaid box. I unwrapped it with greedy excitement until I saw the tiepin inside with the design of a hanged man, the word ‘remember’, and the initials C. L. Then I dropped it and it went skittering away across the floor propelled by my revulsion. She need have no fear. I shall never forget that day. The gown will remind me. It will possess me to my last breath. The sun swims under the rippling water and the day turns dark.

The Moonrakers are ready. Ready to fish for their fortunes again, ready for time to repeat itself, ready for the secrets to be told.

Chapter 1

Fenella 2004

She could never forget the day she stole the gown. Twenty-three of them visited Lydiard Park that day. It should have been twenty-five but Emily Dunn had chickenpox and Lauren Featherstone’s parents had taken her on holiday to Greece despite the fact that it was still term time, and Mrs Holmes, the headmistress, disapproved. Mr Featherstone paid the fees, though, so Mrs Holmes kept quiet. There were three teachers as well, not that many to keep them all under control. Two of them looked harassed – Miss Littlejohn always looked harassed, and Mr Cash didn’t really like children much – they all knew it even though he never said so – but Miss French was all relaxed and smiley. Miss French was cool, more like a big sister than a teacher.

Just one more room to visit, girls,’ she coaxed, when they all started to drag their heels due to heat and tiredness and endless stately home corridors, ‘and then we can go to the tearoom and the shop.’ Fen didn’t have any money to spend in the shop because her grandmother had forgotten again. She wasn’t sure if anyone remembered to pay her school fees either but until someone said something she was stuck at St Hilda’s and that was fine. She’d been to worse schools, plenty of them, some of them boarding, some not. She made friends quickly and easily because she’d learned how. It was either that or forever be the loner, the outsider, the one who came and went without leaving a trace.

Fen,’ Jessie, her best friend, all brown curls and bossiness, was pulling on her sleeve. ‘Come on.’ But Fen lingered in the state bedroom as the gaggle of schoolgirls in their red and white summer dresses and red blazers went chattering through the doorway into the drawing room.

As soon as they were gone the silence swept back in like a tide, cutting her off. It was odd, as though a thick door had slammed somewhere separating her from the rest of the world. She could hear her own breathing, feel the sun on her face as it fell through the high windows to speckle the wooden floor. It wasn’t a room that appealed to her at all.

Her bedroom in her grandmother Sarah’s house in West Swindon was quite small, painted pale green and had an accumulation of vintage bits of china and glass and other small pieces that Sarah had encouraged her to buy on their trips to the flea markets and car boot sales. This huge space with its flock allpaper, soaring white pillars and four poster bed with its embroidered hangings seemed completely lifeless. It was no one’s room, merely a museum. The whole place felt empty to her and a bit creepy; the other rooms held waxwork figures in period dress that had made her shudder. The other girls had giggled over them but Fen had imagined them as zombies or automatons come to life, stalking the corridors of the old house.

There was a door in the corner and beyond it a room that looked to be full of light. It beckoned to her. Fen peeped inside. It was small, oval-shaped, painted in blue and white like the Wedgwood vases that her grandmother collected. What caught her eye, though, was the stained glass window with its tiny little painted panels depicting colourful pictures of fruit, flowers, animals – was that an elephant? – something that looked half-man half-goat, a ship to sail away in, a mermaid…

The window enchanted her. She stretched out a hand towards the light, wanting to touch those bright panes and experience that vivid world but before her fingers touched the glass there was the sound of running footsteps behind her.

Fen! Fenella! Where are you?’ It was Jessie’s voice, anxious and breathless now. Fen dropped her hand and turned quickly, hurrying back through the door of the closet into the bedroom beyond. Jessie was not there. Everything looked the same, as empty and lifeless as before. And yet on second glance it did not. It took Fen a moment to realise what was different. The shutters at the windows were now closed and the lamps were lit; they smelled unpleasantly of oil and heat.

Perhaps one of the curators had come in whilst she was in the blue closet and had decided to block out the bright sun in case it damaged the furnishings. That was not the only difference though. The bed was rumpled, covers thrown back, and the wardrobe door was half-open, revealing shelves of clothes within that looked as though they had been tossed aside by an impatient hand. All of a sudden the place looked lived in rather than frozen in time. It was an unsettling feeling; instead of making the house seem more real, it gave Fen the creeps. Looking straight ahead, she was aware that her heart was suddenly beating hard but was not quite sure why. She walked quickly through into the drawing room to find the rest of the pupils. In the drawing room the differences were even more marked.

There was a fire burning fiercely in the grate even though here the shutters were thrown back and the room was in full sunlight. It was so hot and airless that Fen felt the sweat spring on the back of her neck and trickle uncomfortably beneath her collar. The whole house was as quiet as a sepulchre. It was uncanny. Over the high back of one chair, shimmering in the light with a soft, golden glow, was the most beautiful dress Fen had ever seen. She stared at it. It felt almost impossible to tear her gaze away. She did not even realise that she had started to move towards it; her hand was on the material and it felt as soft as clouds, lighter than air, a trail of silver and gold spangled with stars.

Pound? Where the hell are you, man?’ Fen had not seen the figure sitting before the window, almost hidden by the high curved back of a wing chair. She jumped at the crack of his voice and spun around. He was fair, florid, dressed in a wig and poorly fitting jacket with some sort of scarf wound carelessly about his neck and a waistcoat flapping open. He looked bad-tempered and drunk. Fen was only thirteen but she knew an alcoholic when she saw one. She could smell the fumes on him from where she was standing. Nevertheless she opened her mouth to apologise. He was probably a re-enactor of some sort, or a room steward, although really it didn’t seem appropriate to have drunks in costume wandering about the place.

I got lost—’ Quick, facile lies came easily to Fen, they were her survival tactics. But the drunk wasn’t looking at her, more over her shoulder towards the doorway.

Pound!’ the man roared. ‘Damn you, get in here now and pour me more wine!’ There was a bottle on the table, Fen saw, cruelly placed either by accident or design just out of his reach. He lurched forward and almost fell from the chair, clutching at the sides to steady himself. She saw his face clearly then; the vicious lines drawn deep about the mouth, the pain and frustration and anger in the eyes. Panic seized her. She wondered if she had unwittingly stumbled into some sort of performance put on for the visitors. Yet that didn’t feel right. There was no audience apart from her and the intensity of the man’s fury and desolation seemed all too visceral. She needed to get out of there.

Take me…’ The golden gown seemed to call to her. She felt the allure of it and was powerless to resist. The impulse was so strong and so sudden that she reacted instinctively. She grabbed the gown and ran, fumbling to push it into her rucksack, her feet slipping and sliding on the wooden floor. She was panting, her heart thumping, and she stopped only when she burst through the doorway into the hall and saw the startled faces of staff and visitors turned in her direction.

Fenella Brightwell?’ A woman with iron-grey hair and an iron demeanour, a museum piece herself, marched up to her.

Yes,’ Fen said. Her mind was still grappling with what she had seen; with the violence and the anger. Were they making a film? How embarrassing if she had accidentally wandered onto the set mid-performance. She would never live that down. Everyone would be laughing at her. No doubt the iron woman was about to tell her off.

We’ve been looking for you everywhere,’ the woman said. Her grey eyes snapped with irritation. ‘The rest of your group have gone back to the coach. If you run you might catch them.’

What? Oh, thank you.’ Fen was still distracted by the scene in the drawing room and the old man. There had been something pathetic about his impotent desperation. ‘Excuse me,’ she said, very politely, ‘but is there some sort of film being made in the drawing room? Only there was an old man sitting in a chair by the window and I thought—’

It’s forbidden to sit on the furniture,’ the woman said. ‘How many times do I have to tell people?’ And she stalked off towards the drawing room. Fen hoisted her rucksack onto her shoulder and went outside. It was a relief to be out in the fresh air. There had been something smothering about the room and its occupant, brim-full of anger and misery.

She started to walk up the wide gravel path through the woods. She had no intention of running all the way back to the car park. The coach wouldn’t go without her. The teachers would get into too much trouble if they did. She looked back at the house. There were visitors milling around in the drawing room. She could see them through the glass of the sash windows. The chair looking out over the gardens was empty. It was odd that the drunk had disappeared but perhaps the iron-grey woman had thrown him out already. He was probably homeless or care in the community, or something. She had more pressing things to think about anyway, such as the need for a plausible excuse for where she had been so that the teachers didn’t get cross with her.

You got locked in the lavatory!’ Miss French said, eyes lighting up with amusement, as Fen clambered aboard the coach and made her apologies. ‘Oh, Fenella! Only you!’ Even harassed Miss Littlejohn relaxed into a smile. Mr Cash didn’t; he looked hot and annoyed and had been searching the gardens for her. He didn’t look as though he believed her either but Fen didn’t care.

I looked for you everywhere,’ Jessie whispered, as Fen slid into the seat next to her. ‘How did you get out?’

They had to break the door in,’ Fen said. ‘The lock had jammed. They sent for a carpenter.’ She smiled. ‘He was cute.’

Fen was rescued by a cute carpenter,’ Jessie said, giggling, to Kesia, who was sitting across the aisle. Word went around the coach. Soon everyone was hanging over the back of the seats or crowding the aisle, wanting to know what her rescuer had looked like.

Sit down, girls,’ Mr Cash snapped. ‘You’re a health and safety hazard.’ There was more giggling at that. The coach dropped Fen off at the end of her grandmother’s road. No one else from school lived in The Planks, although the houses were very nice. Most of the girls lived in the picture postcard villages outside Swindon rather than in the town itself. There was always a slight drawing back, eyebrows raised in surprise, when Fen mentioned that she lived in town so she never told anyone.

When she pushed open the back door she could hear the sound of the television, very loud. It was four thirty. Her grandmother would already be halfway down her second bottle of wine by now, watching the afternoon soaps with her spaniel, Scampi, sleeping next to her. Fen didn’t interrupt her. Her grandmother was a happy drunk but not if someone disturbed her when she was watching TV. Anyway, she had homework to do, an essay on the visit to Lydiard Park, but that could wait. She rummaged in her coat pocket and took out a battered copy of Bliss magazine that she had found under Kesia’s seat in the coach and lay back on her bed with a contented sigh. She thought that Kes had probably dropped the magazine accidentally rather than finished with it but her loss was Fen’s gain. She’d give it back when she had read it since Kes was her friend. At five o’clock the living room door banged and there were footsteps on the stairs.

Fenella!’ Her grandmother never called her Fen. She thought it was common to shorten people’s names. ‘Darling!’ Her grandmother rushed in and wrapped her in a wine and patchouli scented hug. ‘How was the trip? Did you have fun?’

It was great, thanks.’ Fen never told her grandmother anything significant. She had learned long ago only to give adults information on a need-to-know basis. Perhaps the lesson had been learned when she had first tried to explain to her mother about her grandmother’s drinking. ‘We all like a glass of sweet sherry now and then, Fenella,’ her mother had said on a crackly telephone line from Patagonia, where she had been leading an archaeological dig. ‘Don’t worry about it. Your gran is fine.’

It was then that Fen had realised she was on her own. Her father had run off with one of his PhD students when she was only seven; they didn’t talk anymore, in fact she had no idea where he was, or even if he was dead or alive. One of her brothers was at boarding school, the other on a gap year in Malawi. Her elder sister, Pepper, was with their mother in Argentina, working as an unpaid assistant on the dig. Fen couldn’t tell either Jessie or Kesia about her gran, even though they were her closest friends at school. They might laugh at her or tell other people. It was too much of a risk.

I must show you the bracelet I bought in a charity shop this afternoon,’ Fen’s grandmother was saying. ‘I’m sure they’re real rubies, and nineteenth century too!’

Well, you never know,’ Fen said, squeezing her hand. She felt a rush of affection for Sarah. Her grandmother had been there for her when everyone else had buggered off and left her, and that counted for a lot even if it meant that Fen was looking after Sarah most of the time rather than vice versa. Besides, she knew that Sarah was sad. Fen didn’t remember her grandfather, who had died when she was only three, but by all accounts he had been a wonderful man as well as a rich one. Once widowed, Sarah had had plenty of suitors, as she quaintly called the men who were after Granddad’s money, but none of them held a candle to him. ‘What’s for tea?’ her grandmother asked now. With a sigh, Fen put aside the magazine and stood up. She knew she had better find something or it would be a tin of baked beans again.

It was only later that she opened her rucksack. The golden dress from Lydiard Park was bundled up inside. Fen had known it was there, of course, but she had deliberately ignored it because to think about it was too difficult. She didn’t know why she had stolen it. She wished she hadn’t. Sometimes she took small things: sweets from the post office, a pair of tights or some lipstick or face cream. She didn’t do it for the excitement. It was weird really. It scared her but at the same time she needed to do it. The impulse was uncontrollable. She had no idea why. It wasn’t as though she needed to steal.

Her grandmother was generous with pocket money when she remembered. It wasn’t even as though Fen wanted the things she took. She usually threw them away. The golden gown, though… That had felt different. The impulse to take it had been more powerful than anything she had ever previously known. It had been totally instinctive and irresistible, which was very frightening.

She wondered if anyone had noticed that it had disappeared. Surely they must and tomorrow there would be a message waiting for her to go to Mrs Holmes’s office and she would be arrested for theft, and then she would need to make up another story and convince them that she had taken it by accident. She screwed her eyes tight shut. She wasn’t a bad person. She did her best. But sometimes she just could not help herself. She should give the gown back. She should own up before anyone asked her. Fen stood irresolute for a moment in the middle of the bedroom floor, clutching the gown to her chest. She did not want to let it go. Already it felt too precious, too secret and too special. It wasn’t the sort of dress she would ever wear but, even so, she knew how important it was. She just knew it.

Her palms itched. Was it guilt? Greed? She was not sure. She only knew that it was essential that she should keep the gown. It was hers now.

She laid it flat on the desk and looked at it in the light from the anglepoise lamp. The material felt as soft as feathers, as light as clouds, just as it had when she had first touched it. It was so fine. She had never seen anything so pretty. The gold glowed richly and in the weave there was a bright silver thread creating elaborate patterns. Lace adorned the neck and dripped from the sleeves. Then she noticed the tears, two of them, ugly rips in the material, one at the waist, one on the bodice. She felt a sense of fury that anyone would damage the gown. She would have to sew it up and make it whole again. She felt compelled to repair it at once. The sensation was quite uncomfortable. It was urgent, fierce, as though the dress possessed her as much as she possessed it. She did not like the way it seemed to control her and tell her what to do. It felt as though she should go and find the needlework box and start work on the repairs at once.

Fen didn’t like anyone telling her what to do. She fought hard against the need to do as the dress demanded and folded it up again, very carefully, and placed it in the bottom drawer of the battered chest in the corner of the room. She didn’t like the chest much but Sarah had bought it at an antique fair in Hungerford and had sworn it was Chippendale. There was nowhere in the house for it to go so it had ended up in Fen’s room, the home for homeless objects. She pushed the drawer closed and the golden radiance of the gown disappeared. Immediately she felt a little easier, safer in some odd way. Out of sight, out of mind. She could forget that she had stolen it now, forget the drunken man and his fury, the over-heated room, the smothering blanket of silence. She wanted to forget and yet at the same time the gown would not allow it… The phone rang downstairs, snapping the intense quiet and freeing her. Fen waited for Sarah to answer it but there was no sound, no movement above the noise of the television. The bell rang on and on. It would be her mother, Lisa, Fen thought, checking the time. It was early evening in Patagonia.

She could tell her all about the visit to Lydiard House and how she had got locked in the lavatory even though she hadn’t. At the end her mother would say ‘only you, Fenella,’ like Miss French had, and laugh, and they would both be happy because everything seemed normal even if it wasn’t really. Her mother never wanted to know if there was anything wrong. She certainly would never want to know that her daughter had stolen a gown from a stately home, a gown that even now Fen itched to take from its hiding place and hug close to her. It felt like a battle of wills, as though she was possessed. Which was weird because at the end of the day it was only a dress. She went to answer the phone and when she had finished chatting to her mother and had roused Sarah, grumbling, from the ten o’clock news, she went to bed.

She half-expected to dream about the gown since it was preying on her mind but in the end she didn’t dream about anything at all and in the morning she got up and went to school and she wasn’t called into Mrs Holmes’s office and no one talked about the visit to Lydiard at all. On the way home she went into town with Jessie, Kesia, Laura and a few others, and when they weren’t watching, she pocketed a silver necklace from the stand on the counter in the chemist shop. It was only a cheap little thing and when she got back and put it on the desk it looked dull in the light. One of the links was already broken. She knew she wouldn’t wear it so it didn’t matter. That wasn’t why she had taken it. There wasn’t a good reason for her actions. The dress, the necklace… She just had to take things. It made her feel better for about five minutes but then afterwards she felt worse.

Fenella!’ Her grandmother was calling her. Fen wondered if they had run out of milk. She hadn’t had chance to do the shopping yet. ‘Jessie’s mother’s here,’ Sarah said when Fen came downstairs. ‘She wonders if you would like to go over for tea?’

That would be lovely,’ Fen said. At least that way she would get a meal she hadn’t had to cook herself. Through the window she could see Jessie in the back of the Volvo and Jessie’s older brother – a thin, intense boy with a lock of dark hair falling across his forehead – in the front. He looked impatient. She grabbed her bag and ignored the coat Sarah was holding out to her. Old people always thought you had to wear a coat or you’d catch a chill but she never felt the cold.

For a moment she wondered what sort of state Sarah would be in when she got home but she pushed the thought away. It would good to be part of a proper family even if it was only for one evening. Perhaps Jessie’s mum would make shepherd’s pie and they could all sit around the telly and maybe she might even be asked to stay over. She sat in the back of the car beside Jessie and looked at the little silver charm in the shape of padlock that was attached to Jessie’s mum’s handbag. It was a pretty little thing and Fen badly wanted to take it, so badly it felt as though her fingers were itching. In the end she never got the chance but when she went to the cloakroom later she found another silver charm just lying on the windowsill, this one shaped like a letter A. She took that instead. She didn’t like taking things from Jessie’s house but the urge was just too strong and in the end there was nothing she could do to resist.

By the time Mrs Ross took her home she had also taken a little leather notebook and a nerdy-looking digital watch that probably belonged to Jessie’s brother. She didn’t like the watch; it was ugly, so she threw it in the bin as soon as she got home.

This is the first Nicola Cornick book I have read in ages, why I don’t know as she is a wonderful author, an author who grabs your attention right from the first page. I can only put it down to way too many books on my over flowing TBR pile, but I will definitely be squeezing in more Nicola Cornick books in the future.

This is a dark, mysterious, gorgeous, edge-of-your-seat story that will grab you the moment you open the first page. With the exciting, supernatural undercurrent and a great twisty tale The Woman In The Lake is a fantastic read that you will devour in one.

The Woman In The Lake is a time slip story, set in both the Georgian era and in the present. It tells the stories of three women, Isabella, Constance and Fenella all mysteriously linked together across the centuries via a beautiful golden dress that appears to have other-worldly powers. The dress was given to Lady Isabella by her malicious and abusive husband, really he is a nasty piece of work. Constance is Lady Isabella’s maid, who tries her best to look after Isabella and protect her as best she can and finally we have Fenella (Fen) who once in the possession of the dress she finds that the dress has dark powers which seem to control her very actions and makes her do things she wouldn’t normally.

I can’t really go into too much detail with this review as I wouldn’t wish to give too much away about the plot, I am not one to give spoilers. But I will say that this is brilliant and the real pull for me was the character’s which are wonderfully complex and at times flawed individuals, who you will become fully absorbed into each of their stories.

I was fascinated by this the moment I saw it, and I knew that I had to read it. I am so glad that I got the chance as it is a real edge of your seat, breath-taking book which not only takes you on a thrilling foray into the past but also keeps you guessing with the mystery. I loved how the story was told through the eyes of three women; Lady Isabella, Constance in the past and Fenella in the present, the way the story jumps from one era to the next with the past and present so intricately entwined is expertly written, not once was I confused as to who was who and which era I was reading. There is a real skill in time slip stories and Ms Cornick has got the gift of writing them with confidence and surety.

Over all an engaging, compelling, atmospheric and at times chilling story that you won’t be able to put down.

This was an Arc copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review as apart of this blog tour, thank you Lucy.

The Lady In The lake is available now and can be purchased from Amazon.

*Images and extract were provided by publisher who gave permission for the use of in this post.

#BlogTour : #Review The Beauty Of The Wolf by Wray Delaney @TheSallyGardner #TheBeautyOfTheWolf #WrayDelaney @HQStories

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I have the huge pleasure to be todays stop on this amazing blog tour and to be sharing my review of this stunning book. So grab a cuppa, sit back an let me tell you all about this enchanting book.

‘What some might call beauty, I find monstrous’

In the age of the Faerie Queene, Elizabeth I, Lord Francis Rodermere starts to lay waste to a forest.Furious, the sorceress who dwells there scrawls acurse into the bark of the first oak he fells: A faerie boywill be born to you whose beauty will be your death.

Ten years later, Lord Rodermere’s son Beau is born and all who encounter him are struck by his great beauty. Meanwhile many miles away in a London alchemist’s cellar lives Randa a beast deemed too monstrous to see the light of day.

And so begins a timeless tale of love, tragedy and revenge.

A Stunning retelling of Beauty and the Beast!.

I have only one word for this book, and that is; stunning! I know I say the same about an awful lot of the books that I have read but this is something special. I have never read anything like it before and I doubt I will read anything quite as beautiful as this again. This could very well be the best book I have read!

I was instantly fascinated by this book, the premise of the story was a lure that I couldn’t pass. But I was just blown away, right from the first page I knew that I had opened a once in a life time book and it is. It’s enchanting, beautiful and full of eternal love.

The Beauty of the Wolf tells the story of how one action can start a whole line of events some good and some very bad, how our actions will always be weighed and measured and when that happens you will have to face and live with the repercussions. Just as Francis; Lord Rodermere had to face! When he callously cut down some of the trees to the Faerie woods to build his ‘House of the Three Turrets’ the Sorceress vowed she would have her revenge and laid a curse upon not only his head but that of his son; Beau.

Beau is cursed with beauty so enchanting that any who sees him will instantly be enchanted by the Faerie boy, be he also has a cursed that weighs heavy on his beautiful shoulders a destiny as such that he will be the death of his father.

But the Sorceresses plan back fires as Beau isn’t at all what she had planned him to be, he is nothing like his cold, ruthless and hated father. He is good, kind, caring and loyal.

Far away in a grimy and cold cellar in London lives Randa, born human but due to an act by her father she is now a beast of nightmares. Seen to be cold, heart-less, evil and soul-less a beast that isn’t capable of anything more than killing. But lonely Randa is far more than what people see of her, she is full of life and love but she has been treated with hate and fear all her life, except by a rare few.

Both Randa and Beau are stuck in lives that is against them, but as with the original fairy-tale there is light a head for both and that light is each other. But, as they are so different and both set to follow different path’s, and so begins a story of true love and tragedy.

The Beauty of the Wolf is an original and imaginative re-telling of one of my whole time favourite fairy-tales; Beauty and the Beast but with a twist, and it is that twist away from the original well-loved story that really sets this apart from any other book. Instead of the beast being the man in this it is in fact the woman, which really speaks the female readers especially. After all what woman has felt like a ‘Beast’ at one time or another? What woman doesn’t look in the mirror and constantly find something we hate about what we see? Writing the ‘Beast’ as a woman is a stroke of genius and it is that element that so many will utterly love about this book, it is putting every woman’s thoughts of their selves into perspective. I would call that; empowering!

I am so in love with this, the story is simply beautiful. I was instantly pulled into the Faerie world where Beau and Randa dwell as the writing is mesmerizing it is so full of passion and charm, Ms Delaney takes the reader away and transports them to this far of Faerie world with her unique and hugely lovable characters, who even though they are from the world of magic you can relate to them. The story is utterly enchanting, moving, passionate full of love and danger, captivating and spell-binding.

I can guarantee that you will fall utterly in love with this story, you will feel every emotion that Beau, Randa and even the Sorceress feel. You will walk in their footsteps and become enchanted.

No, other word but; Perfection!

This was a complimentary copy via the publisher in exchange for an honest review as apart of this blog tour, Thank you Lily!

The Beauty Of The Wolf is available now and can be found at Amazon.

#BlogTour : #Review An Abiding Fire by M. J. Logue @Hollie_Babbitt #AnAbidingFire @SapereBooks

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I have the great pleasure to be todays stop on this great blog tour and to be sharing my review for An Abiding Fire by M.J. Logue, so sit back grab a cuppa and let me tell you about this book.

About The Book

How do you solve a murder when you are one of the suspects?

1664, London

Life should be good for Major Thankful Russell and his new bride, Thomazine. Russell, middle-aged and battle-scarred, isn’t everyone’s idea of the perfect husband for an eligible young woman but the moment Thomazine set eyes on her childhood hero, she knew they were destined for one another.

But Russell, a former Roundhead, now working for the King’s intelligence service, was never going to have a simple life in Restoration London.

Unable to shake suspicions of his Parliamentarian past, someone seems hell-bent on ruining his reputation — and his life.

Whispers about his sister’s violent murder follow him and accusations of treason abound.

When more deaths occur Russell finds himself under suspicion.

He is ready to escape from the capital, but Thomazine is determined to find the truth and clear the name of the man she loves.

But who is the real killer and why are they so keen to frame Russell? More importantly, will they succeed?

And has Thomazine’s quest put them all in mortal danger?

An Abiding Fire can be purchased HERE

When I first got offered to be a part of this blog tour, I was in two minds; should I take on another review even though my TBR is literally towering above my head? Or do I just go for it as I so want to read this book, as it sounds utterly fascinating? I you can see, I did what I usually do and just dived in and I am so pleased that I did. I was thoroughly intrigued by the sound of this book, even though I haven’t read this author before |I was fascinated by the book ad I can say it was very worth being crushed by my TBR pile to take this one on.

What a fascinating man Russel is, a former Roundhead now the war is over, and King Charles is firmly on the throne Russell made the toughest decision either return to the Kings side or be tried as a traitor. Yes, Russell did choose to stay alive and serve the King then be hung, drawn and quartered but don’t think that he is a turn coat or anything – ok, he maybe but there is a reason behind why he does anything. I was instantly intrigued by this man, he is proud, principled and loyal so why would a man like Russell change sides? Well you will have to read the book to find out more about him. Now the war is over he is free to marry the only women who has set his heart beating faster, but he has is reservations as beautiful, innocent Thomazine is at least half his age and far too sweet to be with a rough old soldier like him. Oh, how wrong he is!

Thomazine can think of nothing better than being Mrs Russell and finally being able to proclaim her love for the old weathered soldier she fell in love with as a mere slip of a girl. But, all isn’t sunshine and daisies for our couple not when Russell is looked on with suspicion and when his own sister is brutally murdered eyes start looking in his direction. It is down to Russell and Thomazine to clear his name and prove that he is the good man he proclaims himself to be.

With danger lurking at every corner and our newly married couple stuck in the middle it is a race to find the truth before those that would do them wrong destroy them.

I love how the story opens, it really sets the reader up for the great dark and twisty tale that follows. It has a real dark undercurrent that is really grabs the attention and keeps you fully engaged right to the end. It is set in an era that we see so little of, especially in romance. I found An Abiding Fire to be thrilling, engrossing and very intriguing. If you are like me and love the darker and grittier historical’s that are more historic fiction then romance, then this will be right up your street. The author has a done a brilliant job at entwining in-depth history with a fabulous ‘who-dunnit’ and at the centre is such a fascinating couple who the reader can really get behind from the start.

The writing has a real depth to it, at times it can be dark and a little heavy so for those who prefer the lighter historical’s then this may not be the best book for them, even though I would say just give it a go. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, it’s fresh and original you get a real sense that the writer is very passionate about the era. I like how it was written so that the reader goes on the journey with the two leads, my only fault with it is I felt that the dialogue was at times a little jumpy.

Well worth a try for those who love their historical fiction.

About the Author

M.J. Logue (as in cataLOGUE and epiLOGUE and not, ever, loge, which is apparently a kind of private box in a theatre) wrote her first short novel on a manual typewriter aged seven. It wasn’t very good, being about talking horses, but she made her parents sit through endless readings of it anyway.

Thirty-something years later she is still writing, although horses only come into it occasionally these days. Born and brought up in Lancashire, she moved to Cornwall at the turn of the century (and has always wanted to write that) and now lives in a granite cottage with her husband, and son, five cats, and various itinerant wildlife.

After periods of employment as a tarot reader, complaints call handler, executive PA, copywriter and civil servant, she decided to start writing historical fiction about the period of British history that fascinates her – the 17th century.

Her first series, covering the less than stellar career of a disreputable troop of Parliamentarian cavalry during the civil wars, was acclaimed by reviewers as “historical fiction written with elegance, wit and black humour” – but so many readers wanted to know whether fierce young lieutenant Thankful Russell ever did get his Happy Ever After, that the upcoming series of romantic thrillers for Sapere Books began.

She can be found on Twitter @Hollie_Babbitt, lurking on the web at asweetdisorder.com, and posting photos of cake, cats and extreme embroidery on Instagram as asweetdisorder.

#BlogTour : #Review Mr One-Night Stand by Rachael Stewart @rach_b52 – Exclusive Extract & #Giveaway #MrOneNightStand #DoYouDare @MillsandBoon #MillsandBoonsInsiders

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Hello my lovelies, I have the huge pleasure to be the next stop on this fantastic blog tour. I am so excited to be sharing my review of Mr One Night Stand by the very lovely Rachael Stewart, plus I have an exclusive extract to whet your appetite, and on top of all that, I have an exclusive to Mills and Boon copy of Mr One Night Stand to giveaway to one very lucky winner – you may have seen the gorgeous black books popping up all over social media, Yep, I have a spare, Phew! So, grab a cuppa, sit back and enjoy.

About The Book

One night only.
Just think of the possibilities

The second she sees Mr Oh-So-Delicious, Jennifer Hayes knows she needs one night of crazy. No names, no strings, no rules. Except that Jennifer’s naughty one-nighter is actually Marcus Wright—her new business partner! Now they’re mixing business with all kinds of pleasure. But when it comes to falling in love her sexy Mr Wright is either Mr Wrong or the best mistake of her life…

Mr One Night Stand is to be released on the 21st February, and can be found at Amazon

***

Exclusive Extract

Her breathe caught, a peculiar awareness taking hold.

He sat at a table beside the glass wall. A great seat from which to enjoy the far-reaching cityscape below, although his eyes showed no interest in the vista. No, they were well and truly pinned on her, projecting an intensity that had her skin prickling with such thrill.

Hell, she wanted to stride straight over – the urge was almost making her do just that – but sense prevailed. Tony wanted her. Hopefully he could explain away his crazy behaviour, and put her mind at rest over the future.

Giving a small sigh, she headed for the bar. A drink – that was what she needed. Anything to take the edge off.

Slipping on to the bar stool, she crossed her legs and replaced her clutch with the leather-clad drinks menu.

Good evening, Miss Hayes, what can I get you?” She looked up to find Darren, the head bar tender, approaching with a smile, his hands busy drying off a glass. She returned his smile easily and scanned the list, honing in on a Vodka Martini and figured that had to be strong enough.

He cocked an eyebrow when she made her request, “Shaken, not stirred madame?” his Scottish-accented Bond impression had her laughing, and the sound was alien to her eyes. It had to be weeks – months, even – since she had a proper giggle. Maybe she was the one in need of a good shake, never mind the drink.

He knew her too well. She didn’t do spirits. A spritzer was her usual drink of choice. But a spritzer just wasn’t going to cut it. Nit tonight. It wasn’t just Tony, it was her concern of her mother too. She was getting worse and there was nothing Jennifer could do to stop it.

Her heart fluttered painfully and she pushed the thought aside. Not now!

Sounds perfect,” she said, flipping open her and retrieving her mobile to check if Tony had at least messaged. But shed not eve lit the screen before her eyes sidled away drawn to the brooding silhouette not twelve feet away.

He was tall – she could tell that even though his body folded deep into the bucket seat. The ankle of one leg casually rested atop the knee of the other. The designer cut f his dark suit and tan leather shoes spoke money. Although whether he had any was an entirely different matter. She’d learned tat quickly enough in the city. People only had to dress to impress and it attracted wealth like bees to honey.

But there was something in the broad set of his shoulder’s, accentuated as they were by this tailored jacket, and the confident air in his relaxed poise that had her certain he was all about the front.

And what a front…

Her eyes drifted upwards. The crisp white shirt say smoothly over his torso, no hint of spread. Then they drifted higher, to the last fastened button of his open collar and the hint of dark hair curling there.

Her pulse skipped, her mouth watered, and her eyes snapped back to her phone. Not now!

Seriously, what was wrong with her? Was she that desperate to get laid? That fed up with her trusty vibrator that her body was putting up a fight? Truth was, there was no time in her life for that complication. Mr Dildo didn’t talk back, didn’t require care and affection. He didn’t require time that she didn’t have.

Between dashing back and forth between London and Yorkshire each weekend to be with her family she was all out of that.

But one night, though. Think of the possibilities…

Heat simmered low in her belly as she activated her phone scree. No notifications. She fired off a brief ‘Where are you?’ Message and placed the device back on the bar, her heighten awareness picking on movement from the man’s direction. She watched him crook his finger to the blonde waitress hovering nearby and an inexplicable pull ripped through her.

Christ, he was reeling her in too.

She nibbled the inside of her lip, drinking in his rakishly long dark hair, chiselled set of his jaw that softened delectably with his easy grin. And then there were his eyes – so compelling. She couldn’t make out the colour, but there was something about them, something deliciously sinful…

Her tummy contracted with a barrage of heat, and in that second she knew she wanted to leave with him. That she wanted one night of crazy. No names, no real talk, just wild, no-holds-barred sex.

Could she do it? Hell, would he?

***

My, oh, my!! What a book! Ms Stewart has been cutting her teeth with saucy, sexy romances for a while now, but what surprised me most is that this is her debut Mills and Boon Dare novel. And what a debut! The quality of this is astounding, I can see a shining long and successful writing career ahead of her. This is – and I am rather embarrassed to say – first full length novel I have read by her, why is this? I don’t have an answer to that, only I must have been living in a Historical focused bubble for the best part of a year. But, that will change. I can’t wait to read more from this talented author.

I am a late-comer to Dare books, after only reading my first this year – again living in a bubble, so when I got offered to participate in this blog tour, I did jump at the chance as fast as I could. And I am so pleased that I did, as this is fabulous!

When Jennifer has to attend a business meeting, she is rather more peeved at her boss Tony not only because he does tend to use and lay a n awful lot on her shoulders. But mainly by the fact that he doesn’t even appear to meet her as promised, he was supposed to do all the introductions with the man who has bought into their business; a Mr Marcus Wright. Jennifer is frustrated – in mores way then one, she has had enough of how lax Tony is being lately and she is in an emotional state worrying about her ill mother. So when she sees the sinfully attractive man sitting in the airport, she has only one thing on her mind – and it has nothing to do with business meeting and corporate partners, it has everything to do with a partner in a completely different sense.

She makes it very clear to the stud in the suit that she only wishes for one night, one night of no strings and good old-fashioned – and may be a bit of new-fashioned – sex. But what she doesn’t realise that she has just gone and had the night of her life with not any old random from the airport lounge, but her new business partner; the enigmatic Marcus Wright!

Now she knows the truth, can she really go on as thought nothing happened? Can she forget what they did with each other, how he made her feel sexy and special and how she melted him with a mere smile? Or should she do what is said never to be done, and mix business with a whole load of pleasure?

What really appealed to me about ‘Mr One-Night Stand’ was just how real and relatable the two lead character’s are, I sometimes find it difficult to relate or even like character’s who like nothing more than to sip champagne while wearing a cat-walk named suit, people who do nothing but complain about breaking nails and not being able to jet off on holiday. Those people – I hate to admit it, irritate me. I am more of a fan or very real character’s who have actually lived and understand the world; which is Marcus and Jennifer down to a tee. Yes, they are both powerful and wealthy individuals who have forged their way into their world with hard graft, but beneath their cool masks of powerful business magnets they are very complex and fascinating people, especially Jennifer.

I so related to certain aspects of Jennifer’s life, she spoke to me, I understood her far better than I do most character’s. Her need for her own life, her career, to protect and look after her family. The fact that she has an ailing parent at home and her guilt at not being able to be there all the time and help spoke volumes about her to me. She is an amazing women who has fought for what she has, she has toiled and worked her arse off to get to where she is, and I really admire her for that. She is a strong, independent, no-nonsense woman who knows what she wants….and she wants Marcus!

Overall, this is hot! Fiery, sexy, raunchy, spicy, steaming-up-the-windows hot. A great twisty plot that will keep the reader hooked and engaged, but the real pull of this has to be the character’s. They are wonderfully developed, each one real and with their own back story which makes you sit up even further to pay attention. Jennifer and Marcus don’t iust steam up the page, they burn the book right out of your hand. Their attraction for one and other is instant, it’s sizzlingly hot – and this is before they proceed to the bedroom, once there…well, phew pass me the ice ;-) The writing is solid, it’s stylish and flowing, it’s very easy to become fully absorbed into the story, I got a real sense that Ms Stewart has put her heart into this book and I for one cannot wait to read more from her.

If you like your romances very hot, then this is the book you need to read, even if erotic romances aren’t your bread and butter then I would say give it a go as there is far more to this then just a good old fashion romp between the sheets.

This was an Arc copy via the publisher in exchange for an honest review as apart o this blog tour, thanks you Sanjana and the Mills and Boon Insiders team.

About The Author

Rachael adores conjuring up stories for the readers of Harlequin Mills & Boon and Deep Desires Press.

She’s been writing since she could put pen to paper as the stacks of scrawled on A4 sheets in her loft will attest to, and the lovingly bound short stories that her father would run off at work and proudly share out with his colleagues. Thinking it was a pipe dream to be published one day, she pursued a sensible career in business but she was really play-acting, achieving the appropriate degree and spending many years in the corporate world where she never truly belonged. Always happiest when she was sat at her laptop in the quiet hours tapping out a story or two. And so here she is, a published author, her full-time pleasure, a dream come true.

A Welsh lass at heart, she now lives in Yorkshire with her husband and three children, and if she’s not glued to her laptop, she’s wrapped up in them or enjoying the great outdoors seeking out inspiration.

Rachael loves hearing from her readers, why not check out the links below.

Twitter / Website / Facebook / Amazon / Goodreads

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I was so lucky to be sent two proof copies – you know the gorgeous black one’s which really do look amazing! – of Mr One Night Stand. One to review (Which I am ashamed to say, does look a little worse for wear now – or in other words, it looks loved.) and a spare. I so want to share this saucy and amazing book with you all, so I am giving away my spare copy plus I will throw in a selection of tea’s and chocolate for you to enjoy while reading.

How do I enter? I hear you ask.

Just comment below telling me who makes your pulse race that bit faster? Mine is below and for those who know me, it isn’t a surpise 😉

The giveaway is open across Twitter and Facebook too, same rules apply; just like the giveaway post/s and comment with your answer. (Each post you comment on is a separate entry, eg; If you comment here, Twitter and Facebook you have three chances to win.)

Good Luck, my lovelies!

*T&C’s – Closing date is 26th February at 9pm GMT, the winner will be chosen at random and will be announced shortly after, winner will be contacted directly by myself whether that be by email or DM via Twitter or Facebook. This Giveaway belongs to me and it is not sponsored or endorsed by anyone. Open to UK only, sorry!

#Review The Escape by Clare Harvey @ClareHarveyauth and #Exclusive Guest Post. #TheEscape #BlogTour #GuestPost #HistoricFiction @simonshusterUK

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I have the very great pleasure to be todays stop on The Escape by Clare Harvey blog tour. I have a brilliant exclusive guest post by Clare – it is an amazing post. Plus I am sharing my review of The Escape, so grab a cup of tea and have a look. 

About Clare

I was born in North Devon, and lived there until just after my seventh birthday, when my family uprooted and moved to Mauritius for two years. After living overseas, we moved back to Surrey, and then later back to Devon, where I went to secondary school and took a foundation course in art and design.

I read Law at the University of Leicester, but chose not to follow a legal path, deciding instead to do voluntary work in Tanzania and hitch-hike from Zanzibar to Cape Town, where I stayed for a year. After my African adventure, I worked for an overseas charity, picked up a journalism qualification, and fell in love with a soldier. Much to my parents’ dismay, a safe career as a solicitor never looked likely!

I’ve had an itinerant adulthood, working variously as a freelance journalist, radio reporter and English tutor in Nepal, Germany and Northern Ireland as the trailing spouse of a serving soldier.

I’m now settled in Nottingham, with husband, three children, a black German Shepherd dog, and a father-in-law who lives in a detached annexe in the garden – it’s a busy household. However, I haven’t given up on the wanderlust just yet. Although Nottingham’s home for now, we’ve got a camper van and a canal boat, so who knows where next…

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Amazon / Instagram

Guest Post

Procrastination by Clare Harvey

Let’s talk about procrastination. No, wait, let me make a cup of tea and Google the definition of procrastination, and then we can make a start (see what I did there?)…

Procrastination is the action of delaying or postponing something. Most of us, but authors in particular, are very good at procrastination. When you work from home there are tempting lollygagging opportunities a-plenty. This morning, for example, I promised myself I’d be at my desk by 9am, but six acts of procrastination delayed the start of my working day by an hour and a half.

I was a little late back from my morning dog walk (and as there’s no boss to shout at me if I’m not at work on time, I don’t tend to rush). Then, whilst the coffee was brewing, I decided to post a photo on my Instagram feed, which meant I got sucked into social media for a while, and there was an interesting person on Desert Island Discs on Radio 4, too, so I didn’t rush drinking my coffee. Just as I was giving myself a metaphorical kick up the backside, my husband phoned, then the postman arrived with a parcel a new hairstyling gadget, which I felt I just had to test out…I finally opened my laptop at 10.30. In any normal job this amount of shilly-shallying would surely get me the sack?

I should be stricter with myself, shouldn’t I? Shorten that dog walk, limit my use of social media before I’ve completed my to-do list, turn off the radio, ignore personal phone calls, leave the parcels unopened. In short, I should flipping well get on with things, right?

Wrong.

I believe that procrastination or at least a kind of managed mindlessness is positively beneficial to writers. Let’s go through my dilatory start to the day again, and I’ll tell you why:

1. The extended morning dog walk/run:

Writing is a sedentary occupation we need to get out from behind our desks and move about. Exercise has been shown to boost creativity, and running to thumping bass beats increases self-confidence, both of which are essential to authors. Being outdoors is also an ideal opportunity for a spot of mindfulness. When I’m out I try to spend a few minutes internally describing my surroundings (today it was the pink vapour trails criss-crossing the powder blue skies, my breath puffing dragon-clouds in front of my face, and the slide of my boots on the muddy path, for example); this has the twin benefits both of calming me down before the day begins, and also exercising my writer’s mind by practising a bit of word painting.

2. Personal phone calls:

As I mentioned, authors lead a hermit-like existence. I’m not sure about other writers, but I spend a lot of time talking and listening to the voices of made-up people inside my head! Real life – family and friends – are critically important in keeping me grounded and sane, and I’m sure that’s true for most other authors too.

3. Dithering on social media:

For authors, social media performs two critical functions: writing is a lonely job, and social media connects you with the world. Almost all the contact I have with fellow writers is via Facebook groups and Twitter feeds, and without it I’d run the risk of feeling increasingly isolated. In addition, social media is a crucial marketing tool. I usually post something every weekday so that I’m maintaining contact with my readers. This morning I posted a photo of some old graffiti I’d spotted on my walk, which I just thought was unexpectedly beautiful. I also put a promo link on a FB group for saga readers, inviting them along to my book launch. Social media helps market my work, connects me to readers and writers, and is sometimes an outlet for creativity, too.

4. Listening to the radio:

I like having Radio 4 quietly chattering along in the background in the kitchen, and although it doesn’t usually stop me from getting to work, sometimes it’s worth allowing myself to be diverted. A couple of years ago Hillary Mantel’s Reith lectures on historical fiction were an essential listen for hist fic authors like me. And only a few weeks ago an item on the radio sparked an idea that I developed into a synopsis, and is now my current work-in-progress. You never know when an obscure radio feature might send you off down a new creative path, so it’s always worth a listen.

5. Taking the time to brew a cup of real coffee:

Most authors probably swear by a caffeine shot to get their creative juices going, but it’s more than that. My morning cuppa is a ritual – I have a little Italian-style coffee pot that you heat on the hob, and I have to go through the rigmarole of filling the pot with water, spooning the coffee into the chamber, tamping it down with the back of the special coffee spoon, heating the milk in a separate jug, etc. Rituals give focus and structure to our lives. I might not go out to work, but making that coffee helps make my brain transition from home to job, and after I have finished drinking it, I’m ready to leave behind thoughts of shopping, washing, homework projects, and doctor’s appointments, and open my laptop, or pick up my pen.

6. Opening parcels:

Okay, I admit it, this one really does count as procrastination. I just wanted the fleeting thrill of unwrapping something, and once it was open, I couldn’t help giving my new hair styling gadget a try. I probably could have been at my desk a few minutes earlier but at least I’m definitely not having a bad hair day today…

Five out of six ain’t bad, I’d say. Stalling, temporizing, dilly-dallying, vacillation call it what you like, some kind of delaying tactics are an essential part of an author’s day, and for me this morning has definitely been a procrastination win!

The Escape is out now in paperback, e-book and Audible.

About The Book

A compelling wartime drama for fans of Lucinda Riley, Rachel Hore and Katherine Webb

Detta works as a translator for a Nazi-run labour camp for French workers. One winter morning in early 1945, Detta passes a group of exhausted British prisoners of war who are being force-marched westwards. The following day she receives an urgent message to contact the local priest. He is harbouring a group of escaped British prisoners of war in the manse: can she help?

London, 1989. Miranda is a 19-year old photography student in London, in thrall to her older boyfriend, a journalist called Quill. In November the fall of the Berlin Wall is all over the news. Quill asks Miranda to come with him to Germany: before they leave, Miranda’s grandmother gives her an old postcard of the village she was born in. Miranda hopes that working together in Berlin will help cement the cracks in her relationship with Quill, but one night his behaviour spills over into violence, and Miranda ends up fleeing through the rubble of the Berlin wall and into the East. As she travels further, she begins to suspect she’s being followed by the Stasi. If she goes on, she worries that she’ll be taken into custody and be accused of spying; if she turns back, it means returning to Quill.

At last her grandmother’s photograph offers the solution. She tells people that she is going to find her family in the East. The Catholic church, and the manse, opposite where her grandmother once lived, are still standing. And the secrets of the past begin to be revealed.

Wow, what a gripping and thought- provoking book. From the very first page when Detta spot’s the Russian planes flying over her office, I was hooked. I wanted to know what would happen to her and what came of Tom. I was turning the pages lightening quick, becoming more and more engrossed in a story that spans from 1945 to 1989. This is a truly thrilling and moving book, set during two unsettled and dangerous times, and centres around two women in particular.

This is the first book I have read by Clare Harvey, I didn’t know what to expect from her writing. Yes, I have read a lot of great things about her work, but I like to make my own opinions, and my opinion is that Ms Harvey has a true skill. She has a rare gift, time slip stories at times don’t always work and some can fall a little flat or become confusing the further into the story the reader gets. But not this one. Ms Harvey easily takes the reader from Detta in 1945 and jumps cleanly to Miranda in 1989, the transitions from one woman and one era to the next and then back again is perfectly timed and written.

As I said above the story is split between two era’s; in 1945, Detta lives in a little village in Germany working as a translator – which gives a real insight into what was going on at this stage in the war. The Russian are moving in, there is a quiet hostility that just jumps out at you read. The part with the mother and baby trying to get on the train and facing an onslaught of hostility was particularly moving. When she receives word from the local priest for help, she at first is uncertain as whether to assist as he is harbouring escaped British prisoners of war. Dare she help him and these poor men, while putting her own life at risk if she was ever caught?

The second part of the story set during 1989 the Berlin wall has fallen and trainee photographer is right in the thick of it. She is only in Berlin as her older boyfriend; Quill asked her to go with him, but one thing leads to another and the night ends in violence. As she flees the feeling of threats and danger is ever present, it leaped of the pages and your heart is in your mouth as your follow Miranda as she makes her way through some pretty harrowing moments, believing she is being followed she ends up using the old postcard her grandmother gave her, and says she is going to find her family in East Germany.

The threads that start to appear which link the two women makes for compelling and intriguing reading. The way Ms Harvey has entwined raw history throughout the story is beautifully done. There is a real sense of not knowing what’s to come, at not letting anything slip through your fingers as you never know if you will ever get the chance or see the person again. There are moments which had shivers running down my back and tears in my eyes; such as the march of the concentration camp workers, wearing nothing but rags and skeletal thin as they lumbered past Tom’s prisoner of war camp is harrowing.

This is an absolute stunning piece of writing, it’s sensitive, poignant, engaging, compelling, beautifully written, rich in historic detail, a thrilling story which will grab you and not let you go. Really this is a perfect book for all those who love historic fiction, if you love the likes of Pam Jenoff, Alison Richman or Kate Mosse then read this book.

It is in one word; Perfection! – Honestly, I can’t say any more it is really is.

This was a complimentary copy via the publisher in exchange for a honest review as apart of this blog tour, thank you so much Jess.

The Escape can be found at Amazon, do buy it, I cannot recommend it enough.