HQ Digital Publisher
#BlogTour | The Woman In the Painting by Kerry Postle #TheWomanInThePainting #Review @kerry_postle @HQDigitalUK
Hello, Sunshines, I have the huge pleasure to be today’s stop on this wonderful blog tour for; The Woman in the Painting by Kerry Postle. I can’t wait to share my review with you all, I hope you love it as much as I did.
The Woman In The Painting by Kerry Postle
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: HQ Digital
Release Date: 23rd July 2020
‘She’s beautiful,’ I told him. ‘Hair like skeins of silk; deep, brown eyes that sparkle in the light like jewels; beautiful lips, deep pink, and as juicy as ripe fruit.’
Ideas rippled in the pools of his eyes. ‘I must paint her,’ he said
1508. In Rome, artists are everywhere and feted as gods. But the most celebrated amongst them, a man who can paint beauty itself, is Raphael. When he touches brush to canvas, his subjects burst to life; he takes base metal and turns it to glistening gold.
When Raphael meets Margarita Luti, a baker’s daughter, he is beguiled and inspired in equal measure. As his muse, her face becomes that of a thousand Madonnas, but it is his portraits of her which reveal his full talents – and which will become his downfall.
For Raphael is wanted for greater things than a mere baker’s daughter. He is soon promised to the niece of a cardinal, a man upon whose connections and commissions the artist’s future relies. Without his good will, Raphael will be ruined.
Raphael must make a choice between his love for Margarita and his future as an artist – a choice that will have devastating consequences.
Inspired by a heartbreaking true story, this stunning and evocative novel is perfect for fans of Debbie Rix, Kate Furnivall and Dinah Jefferies.
After reading the previous by Kerry Postle, I was really looking forward to reading this one and I can happily say, I was not disappointed. It was a little slow-paced for my liking, there are long-winded chapters that did carry on a little too much, which I think could have been shorter and still told the overall story, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
Set in 1508; the Italian Renaissance is in full swing, artists are revered and loved by all this tells the story of maybe not as a well-known artist, but one of the very best; Raphael, a man whom people think has been touched by God himself for the beauty he creates on the canvas. When Raphael meets alluring and utterly beautiful Margarita, the daughter of a baker he is enthralled and transfixed by her, she becomes his muse and also his downfall. He may love her dearly but a mere bakers daughter isn’t good enough for the likes of the great Raphael as he is promised to another, a woman he doesn’t want but a woman who has the connections that any artist needs in this era to be able to further his career.
But will he give up the woman he loves his human heart or will his artist’s one win and he does as expected of him?
I learned so much about Italian art from this, I have read a few other stories that feature Italian artist’s from the Renaissance, so I had heard of the artist mentioned in this book. I loved this is inspired by the true love story of Raphael and Margarita, their story was one of love, passion and heartbreak. It is obvious from reading this, that this story and the history is a real love of Kerry’s, her passion for those Renaissance artists shines through, the research and attention to detail are fabulous it’s clear and vivid. But more than that, after reading this it does leave you intrigued by the artwork mentioned.
I was intrigued by the sound of this as soon as I read the back blurb, I am fascinated with this era there is something about Italian history that really pulls you in and captures the attention. This is a beautifully poignant and compelling book that will leave the reader feeling all the love of any Renaissance artist.
This was an arc copy via the publisher, which I voluntarily reviewed as apart of this blog tour.
About the Author
Kerry loves art, history and literature.
In her debut novel, ‘The Artist’s Muse’, she explores the artist Egon Schiele’s relationship with his model Wally Neuzil and shows that it isn’t only Schiele’s paintings of Wally that shimmer and shock.
Kerry’s second novel, ‘A Forbidden Love’, is set during the Spanish Civil War and tells a rousing and ultimately uplifting story: that when war has taken everything away from us we are still left with our humanity.
With the author’s third novel, ‘The Woman in the Painting’, she returns to the world of art. Set in Rome at the start of the 16th century the author shares with us the heartbreaking story behind the artist Raphael’s portrait of his lover, Margarita Luti. Known as ‘The Baker’s Daughter’, this portrait hides a secret…
For more about Kerry Postle visit; http://frockfriday.co.uk/
Blog Tour Schedule
#BlogTour | Arrowood and the Thames Corpses (Arrowood Mysteries) by Mick Finlay #ArrowoodAndTheThamesCorpse #Review #ArrowoodMysteries @mickfinlay2 @HQStories
Hello Sunshines, I hope you are all safe and well! I am super excited about being today’s stop on the amazing blog tour, I have been so looking forward to this book and I can’t wait to share my review of Arrowood and the Thames Corpses by Mick Finlay. As always take a seat, grab a cuppa and enjoy!
Arrowood and the Thames Corpses
Series: Arrowood Mysteries #3
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery
Publisher: HQ Stories
Format: Print, Ebook, Audio
The most exciting historical crime fiction thriller of 2020 for fans of Sherlock Holmes
South London, 1896.
William Arrowood, Victorian London’s less salubrious private detective, is paid a visit by Captain Moon, the owner of a pleasure steamer moored on the Thames. He complains that someone has been damaging his boat, putting his business in jeopardy.
Arrowood and his trusty sidekick Barnett suspect professional jealousy, but when a string of skulls is retrieved from the river, it seems like even fouler play is afoot.
It’s up to Arrowood and his trusty sidekick Barnett to solve the case, before any more corpses end up in the watery depths . . .
Am I excited about this book, or what? The long-awaited latest instalment of the fabulous Arrowood Mysteries is back, I have been waiting with baited breathe for this book and it was well and truly worth the wait. Mick Finlay has sealed his name as one of the best historical mystery fiction writers of the time, this is a gripping, atmospheric, richly detailed, gritty, darkly funny and realistic mystery.
Those who haven’t read an Arrowood mystery – then you are really missing something – each book is a stand-alone story so anyone can pick up any of the books without worrying about whether they have missed something. William Arrowood is a London Private Detective, not to be mistaken for the famed Sherlock Holmes, Arrowood takes on those cases that the celebrated Holmes wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. There are some cracking moments especially with Arrowood as he continues his secret loathing and one-sided feud with the much-acclaimed detective, he hates that Holmes has the fame and the respect of the city and he loves to compare his superior brain and knowledge with Holmes. As before the whole saga is told through the eyes of Arrowood’s assistance; Norman Barnett who is a man of the world he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and he is loyal and protective of his boss.
Set in London 1896; Private Detective William Arrowood is approached by a Captain Moon and his daughter Suzie who are reaching out for help, their boat; The Gravesend Queen, a pleasure steamer which runs tourists and locals down the river and back again. Their family-run boat is being targeted with what they believe for the intention of running them out of business and to take over their routes. So Arrowood along with his loyal sidekick; Norman Barnett take on the case, but soon it becomes apparent that there is more going on than mere route wars, as the deeper the investigate the ore dangerous it all becomes especially when a line of skulls and corpses or found tied to a boat, who put them there and is it connected to what is happening with Captains Moons’ boat?
It hooks you from the off, with each you are pulled into the dark and grimy Victorian world which is full of dingy working-class life and strife, plus the vivid description of just how desolate, grimy and harsh Victorian London really held my attention, it’s raw, honest and brilliantly engaging. If you love your murkier historical mystery crime fiction which has the slightest Sherlock Holmes essence and a large spoonful of Ripper Street and the best characters in the genre, then Arrowood is the book and series you need to read.
The writing is impeccable as is Finlay’s flawless research into the era, I cannot say a single negative word against this amazing book or it’s a hugely talented author. It is memorable as it is thrilling and I am already waiting for the next instalment from the remarkable Arrowood series.
There is a real buzz about it that I can’t quite describe, I don’t have the adequate words but believe me when I say that this really is an absolute stonking great book, a huge joy to read; in other words, pure brilliance!!
This was an arc copy via the publisher which I voluntarily reviewed as apart of this blog tour, thank you Sian and the HQ team. Xx
Arrowood and the Thames Corpses is available now from Amazon.
Blog Tour Schedule
#BlogTour | A Year of Chasing Love by Rosie Chambers #AYearOfChasingLove #Review @RosieCBooks @HQDigital
Hello Sunshines – and Happy New Year!! My first blog tour of 2020 and it’s a real charming one; The Year Of Chasing Love by Rosie Chambers. So, sit back grab that cuppa – or health drink – and enjoy!
One moment can change a lifetime…
The last thing top divorce lawyer Olivia Hamilton ever expected was to be served her own divorce papers! To escape her marriage troubles, she agrees to go on a year-long trip to find the ultimate guide to love.
Travelling the world, surrounded by stories of love and happiness, it’s not long before her thoughts turn to Nathan, her soon-to-be ex-husband, and she starts to take note of her own lessons in love…
But with Nathan over a thousand miles away, will it be too late?
Perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley, Philippa Ashley and Caroline Roberts.
The year of Chasing Love is the debut novel by Rosie Chambers, and I definitely see great things in her future, and I am looking forward to seeing what comes next from this new author. This is a sweet, little contemporary story, one that will leave you smiling and feeling in a sunnier mood.
The story opens when top divorce lawyer; Olivia is presented with her own divorce papers. Not just shock and horror for her, but she also sees this as bad for her career.
After years of putting her career first, of building up her steely reputation she has unfortunately neglected to look after her home life, she has neglected her husband. Nathen has been patiently waiting and wanting them to move forward with their married life and now she is at the top of her game, Nathen decides enough is enough and files for divorce. Olivia is shocked, obviously, she isn’t naïve enough to think that everything was hunky-dory but she thought that she and Nathen were rubbing along happily enough and so for him to want to tear up their marriage is a real blow for her. She wants nothing more than to stick her head in the sand and delve further and further into her work but the fates are all against her as her boss forces her to take a long-overdue sabbatical hoping that it will make her take the breath she needs to actually take stock and put some perspective in her life before it’s too late.
Now she is left with a year with no work, no husband and she is fast sinking into despair that is until brilliant best friend Rachel turns up and offers her the chance to turn her life – or the year – around, by travelling around the world as she research’s the ultimate guide to love, she travels around Malta, Hawaii, Copenhagen and Singapore and finally landing in the city of love the most romantic place on earth; Paris, but will her travels be her saving grace? Swill Olivia finally be able to allow herself to be happy and will she find the love and the life she is secretly searching for?
I really enjoyed this, I did think at first it started off a little on the slow side for my liking, but it soon picks up the pace, A year of Chasing Love is such a relatable story, it’s one that is so relevant for today where there are so many women in top positions they do unfortunately have to pick between career and family, and when the career path is chosen family and those we love are unfortunately pushed aside. It’s a simple story which has a lot of heart, it’s a delightful and heartwarming story, the characters are wonderfully portrayed Olivia especially is very relatable even though at first I did find it difficult to warm to her but she soon won me over.
Overall, this is a charming little story about finding happiness and love and allowing yourself to let go a little if you love your easy-peasy, none taxing feel-good stories then this is the book for you.
This was an arc copy via the publisher and Netgalley, which I voluntarily and honestly reviewed as apart of this blog tour.
Blog Tour Schedule
#CoverReveal | Aria’s Travelling Book Shop by Rebecca Raisin #AriasTravellingBookShop @jaxandwillsmum @HQDigitalUK
Hello my lovely readers! Today, I have the huge pleasure to be taking part in this exclusive cover reveal for; Aria’s Travelling Boom Shop by Rebecca Raisin. If you love your Contemporary Romance books, then I can guarantee you will love this cover, it’s so gorgeous.
Aria’s Travelling Book Shop by Rebecca Raisin
Releasing: April 8th 2020
Publisher: HQ Digital
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Contemporary
With her merry band of Van Lifers, Aria heads to France in her travelling bookshop, best friend Rosie by her side for a summer they’ll never forget!
Hopeless romantic Aria vowed never to love again after losing her husband, TJ, but fate has other ideas and keeps throwing the bespectacled, booklover Jonathan in her path. When a memento from TJ turns up it brings Aria’s past back to the fore.
Nomadic by nature, Aria can’t see how love could work anyway when home is always at the end of a new patch of road…
A long, hot summer travelling off the beaten track, surrounded by newly loved up couples reminds Aria of what she’s missing.
Will she bookmark her love life at the point her husband left, or she will begin a new chapter under the sizzling sun of the Cote d’azure…?
Amazon UK / Amazon US / Amazon Aust / Google Play / iBooks / Barnes and Nobles / Goodreads
About The Author
Rebecca Raisin is a true bibliophile. This love of books morphed into the desire to write them. She’s been widely published in short story anthologies, and in fiction magazines. And now she is focusing on writing romance.
Rebecca aims to write characters you can see yourself being friends with. People with big hearts who care about relationships and believe in true love.
#Blog Tour | Snowflakes at the Little Christmas Tree Farm by Jaimie Admans #SnowflakesAtTheLittleChristmasTreeFarm #Review @be_the_spark @HQDigitalUK
Hello my lovelies, I have the huge pleasure to be todays stop on this wonderful blog tour for Snowflakes At The Little Christmas Tree Farm by Jaimie Admans, so as ever sit back grab some hot chocolate and maybe a piece of pumpkin pie – read the book and you will understand my reference to Pumpkin 😉 and enjoy!
Snowflakes At The Little Christmas Tree Farm by Jaimie Admans
All she wants for Christmas…
Leah Griffiths has woken up after a few too many glasses of Prosecco with a hangover – and discovers she’s accidentally bought a little Christmas tree farm in Scotland!
At first she’s horrified, but perhaps it’s the perfect way to forget all about her cheating ex.
And when she meets grumpy (but ridiculously gorgeous) pumpkin farmer Noel underneath the mistletoe, Leah begins to believe that at Christmas time, anything can happen…
I absolutely adore this book! I do have a real love for Christmas stories, they are like chocolate to me, I can read my fill of them and still want more and this wonderful. It is such a fabulously fun, joyful, very festive and romantic tale with all the hilarity and adorable moments that you love to see in romantic comedies – I could definitely see this made into a film. I loved the whole concept of this story, it’s completely out there original, but brings home the, message that if you truly want something then go out there and get it – yes, easier said then done, i know but if anything this book will inspire and make you feel all cosy warm.
Written first person through Leah’s eyes, we are taken on a laugh-out-loud, engrossing and marvellous festive journey, I can guarantee that you will be charmed from the start and you will be giggling away throughout.
After catching her boyfriend/boss having a fumble with another colleague at work, Leah Griffiths walks out after making quite the spectacle of her self and that of her amorous boss, she drowns her sorrows in three bottles of Prosecco and while under the influence she does what we all do when a wee bit intoxicated, she opens the computer, grabs the credit card and starts to buy. Only difference here is Leah doesn’t just buy shoes, storage boxes and garden ornaments (we’ve all done that right? Leah doesn’t do the ordinary binge buying trash she buys a Christmas Tree Farm in the middle of Scotland – as you do!
As much as spontaneously buying a Christmas Tree Farm sounds mad, Leah believes that this is exactly the thing she needs. Leah has been through the mill over the last few years, not only with walking out on her dead end job but she has had to cope with the death of her parents, having to sort everything out has been a weight on Leah’s shoulders and now she needs something else, for the first time in many years Leah feels free – that is until she actually sees what she has spent all of her savings on.
The pictures online didn’t exactly portray the whole truth, the farm has been abandoned these last four year and most of the trees are dead, the farmhouse is falling down around her ears, plus there is her neighbour; grumpy, moody, brooding ridiculously sexy in a rough around the edges sort of way, pumpkin farmer; Noel. To say he is a little put out by the city lass next door is an understatement, he firmly believes that she will give up and run off back to where she came from with her tail between her legs, but she surprises him by staying.
Oh be still be thundering heart, I have completely fallen head over heals for Noel, sigh!! He comes across as brusque and a bit of a group but he does have a real kind and soft heart, he is the sterotypical romantic comedy guy brooding with a lot of hidden virtues, he is as sexy as hell – but then again I have always had a love for the rougher heroes, add into that his Scottish accent and his love of dogs then you have my perfect man…even when he is baring a pain in the arse.
I have to comment on the dedication, Oh my word that tore at my heart, for anyone who has lost a dog will know exactly what I mean. Those few words alone with have you a bit teary and which made the whole having a dog in centre stage rather poignant.
This is a fast paced quick read, the story started off with great humour which carried on through out. From the first page ou will instantly feel a real kinship with Leah, she is fabulously down-to-earth and fun, you will be cheering her on as she negotiates her path from drunken stupor of chapter one to getting the Christmas Tree farm on its feet. This is the first I have read by Jaimie Admans, and I can certainly say without a doubt that it will not be the last, I really liked her engaging and witty writing, she grabs the readers attention and keeps a firm hold until the very last word.
Overall, this is a fantastic book, if you love your sweet rom-com’s with a gorgeous festive feel and some brilliant characters then this is the book for you.
This was a Arc via Netgalley, which I voluntarily reviewed as apart of this blog tour.
About the Author
Jaimie is a 32-year-old English-sounding Welsh girl with an awkward-to-spell name. She lives in South Wales and enjoys writing, gardening, watching horror movies, and drinking tea, although she’s seriously considering marrying her coffee machine. She loves autumn and winter, and singing songs from musicals despite the fact she’s got the voice of a dying hyena. She hates spiders, hot weather, and cheese & onion crisps. She spends far too much time on Twitter and owns too many pairs of boots.
She will never have time to read all the books she wants to read.
She has been writing for years but has only just plucked up the courage to tell people.
She is the author of chick-lit romantic comedies Kismetology and The Chateau of Happily Ever Afters, and young adult romantic comedies Afterlife Academy, Not Pretty Enough, and North Pole Reform School.
Blog Tour Schedule
#BlogTour : The Silent Woman (Cat Carlise #1) by Terry Lynn Thomas @TLThomasBooks #Review #TheSilentWoman via @HFVBT
Hello my lovely readers! I have the great pleasure to be todays stop on this great blog tour, for The Silent Woman by Terry Lynn Thomas. This is book is so good, I cannot say another good things about it, but don’t worry I have controlled myself and haven’t done a ten page review. So, without any ado grab a cuppa and have a read.
The Silent Woman by Terry Lynn Thomas
Publication Date: April 11, 2018
Publisher: HQ Digital
Format: Paperback & eBook; 384 Pages
Genre: Historical Mystery
Series: Cat Carlisle, Book One
Would you sell your secrets?
Catherine Carlisle is trapped in a loveless marriage and the threat of World War Two is looming. She sees no way out… that is until a trusted friend asks her to switch her husband’s papers in a desperate bid to confuse the Germans.
Soon Catherine finds herself caught up in a deadly mixture of espionage and murder. Someone is selling secrets to the other side, and the evidence seems to point right at her.
Can she clear her name before it’s too late?
What a wonderful book, this is what I would call a serious ‘Girl Power’ book. Not only have we got a fabulous lead heroine but the villain is a woman too. It’s about time that we had a book with a strong female led cast of characters. This is the first I have read by this author and it most certainly will no be the last, I have fallen in love with her clever and articulated writing style. This book is fresh and ridiculously addictive to read, this is only book one in the Cat Carlise series but I am hooked, I can’t wait to see if there will be more.
This is a pre-ww2 set historical fiction with a mystery/thriller twist to it that will capture the readers imagination and attention from off. I love a good old fashioned spy thriller, come one who doesn’t? And this has to be one of the best I’ve read, what really makes this book so engaging is that the story is very character led, Catherine the heroine is just brilliant. She finds herself in a loveless, unhappy marriage while her husband is off with the Air Ministry poor Catherine is stuck with her awful sister-in-law. She is desperate to escape, then out of the blue she finds a way. Without giving too much away, she finds herself in the middle of a dangerous spy game, with an added murder – you know just to keep everyone on their toes 😉
I really liked Catherine, she may at first come across as a meek little wife trying to out some excitement into her life but there is more to this young woman then that. I really admire her, she is brave, loyal and has real inner strength that you see come out as the story moves along. The secondary characters are brilliant, I particularly like the villain, such a great baddie and a woman to boot – it’s about time we had a good female baddie.
The story takes the reader on a fast and furious game of cat and mouse, it’s stylish, clever and completely engaging. You will be at the edge of your seat as the story moves towards its brilliant ending, I cannot recommend this enough. It has high intensity thrills, spy’s, great characters and a great atmospheric plot. If you love the likes of Pam Jenoff or Steve Berry then this is the book for you, I cannot wait to see what comes next.
This was an complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review as apart of this blog tour, thank you Amy and Terry Lynn.
About the Author
TERRY LYNN THOMAS grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, which explains her love of foggy beaches and Gothic mysteries. When her husband promised to buy Terry a horse and the time to write if she moved to Mississippi with him, she jumped at the chance. Although she had written several novels and screenplays prior to 2006, after she relocated to the South she set out to write in earnest and has never looked back.
Terry Lynn writes the Sarah Bennett Mysteries, set on the California coast during the 1940s, which feature a misunderstood medium in love with a spy. The Drowned Woman is a recipient of the IndieBRAG Medallion. She also writes the Cat Carlisle Mysteries, set in Britain during World War II. The first book in this series, The Silent Woman, came out in April 2018 and has since become a USA TODAY bestseller. The Family Secret is slated for release in March 2019. When she’s not writing, you can find Terry Lynn riding her horse, walking in the woods with her dogs, or visiting old cemeteries in search of story ideas.
Blog Tour Schedule
Do have a look at the other blog’s that are participating in this tour.
Tuesday, April 30
Review at My Reading Chronicles
Thursday, May 2
Interview at Passages to the Past
Monday, May 6
Interview at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots
Wednesday, May 8
Review at Bibliophile Reviews
Tuesday, May 14
Review at Chicks, Rogues and Scandals
During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away a $20 Amazon Gift Card! To enter, please use the Gleam form : The Silent Woman
–Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on May 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
#BlogTour : Love and Other Things To Live For by @louiseleverett #Review #LoveAndOtherThings #LoveOnTour via @ninadouglas and @hqstories
Hi everyone! I have the pleasure to be today’s stop on this great blog tour and to be sharing my review of Love and Other Things To Live for by Louise Leverett.
Jessica Wood is an aspiring photographer living in London. She’s had her heart broken, and her friends have pieced it back together again.
But across the neon lights of Soho, in the smell of alcohol and cigarette smoke, on every night bus, in every song, every time she tries to forget: she remembers him.
Now, in a battle between the past and the future, choosing between having a life and making a living, finding her feet or spreading her wings, Jessica must ask herself: who is she really living for?
Love and Other Things to Live For is an ode to modern girls and triumph over heartbreak, perfect for fans of Holly Bourne and Dolly Alderton.
This is the debut novel by Louise Leverett and I do have to say I am impressed, it wasn’t exactly my kind of reading but I have to give credit where credit’s due and say that this has a real quality about it that I had not expected.
Going by the blurb, I had unoriginally thought that this would be a fun chic-lit come coming of age story, but it is more more a journey of self discovery and shows just how important true friends can be.
The main character’ Jess is in the midst of a life breakdown, a promising, aspiring photographer she is living in the lights and smoke of London on the outside Jess has it all, but inside she is screaming and a dishevelled crying mess who after having her heart broken she has taken to the path of self destruction as she tries to make sense of her life and find her way to her won happiness.
I will admit that I am in two frames of mind about this, on one hand it is a fascinating look into the life of a twenty-something women living the high life in London, a woman who goes as on a self-destructive journey which ends in self discovery. And one the other hand, I couldn’t relate to Jess or the story, I felt that there was something essential; missing from it. That missing item was relatability, I am a reader that likes to relate in some way to the character’s and if I can’t – like I couldn’t here – then it does ruin the whole story. Which is a shame as, there is a lot of real depth and heart in this.
But, even though the story didn’t quite work for me, it will for many, many other readers out there. It’s not a light read, there is a real heavy feel to it especially as Jess goes on her self-destructive moments. Recommanded for those who like the more edgier, thought-provoking stories.
This was a complimentary copy via the Publisher and authors PA in exchange for an honest review, as apart of this blog tour, thank you Nina!
Do check out the other blogs which are participating in this blog tour.
Hello everyone! Today I have the great pleasure to be sharing my review of The Time Of Our Lives by the wonderful Portia MacIntosh, so grab a cuppa and let me tell you about this gorgeous book.
Love is in the air…?
Luca is used to being the ‘single one’ at weddings – it happens, when all your other friends are engaged, married or taken. But when she bumps into Tom, her friend from university who broke her heart into a million pieces, she finds herself wondering what could have been.
It’s ten years later, surely she should be over that Tom by now? So why is he looking even more gorgeous than ever – and why doesn’t he seem to be able to keep his eyes off her either?
And as the champagne flows and old secrets resurface, Luca realises that perhaps the time to take a chance on love and life is…now?
The laugh-out-loud new novel from bestseller Portia Macintosh
Well, Portia MacIntosh you have gone and done it again, this is good, so good! I will admit that I am very late to discovering Ms MacIntosh’s work after only reading my first of her work at Christmas, but I am definitely well and truly a fan of hers.
The story is split between two times of Luca’s life; present day and then it flits back to her university days and I really love how this is written, it really gives and insight into what was going on and how Luca found herself where she is in her life. I found that the flashbacks to her university days really brought Luca to life and you began to understand her and her friends all the more, at times this kind of writing can be a bit confused for the reader but Ms MacIntosh has nailed it.
I really like Luca, she is a down-to-earth, likeable and very real character, she is a woman whose life hasn’t exactly gone to plan she has headed way off the planned path of life – I think every single one of us can relate to that in one way or another! Single, in a job she has come to pretty much hate and surrounded by happily married/coupled people, something she is used to, so when she is invited to the wedding of one of her oldest university friends she knows that it will end up being a reunion – and she is ready for being the only single one left amongst their little circle. She is ready to blow their socks of at what a successful woman she has become – even if that does mean buying an out fit that could make her go hungry for the next few months, but hey; she can always take it back to the shop! What she isn’t prepared for is to unexpectedly bump into the very person her broke her heart all those years ago, a man whom she says she is over but deep down she is in fact still that heartbroken young woman and seeing him again at the wedding is a real punch for her. It is bumping into Tom; the one who broke her heart, that really makes Luca start evaluating her life.
This is a great story, the present is set during the wedding and we all know what mayhem weddings can bring on their own, let alone mixing in a bunch of old friends, ex’s popping up left right and centre and a bit of a romance blossoming – but from what direction is this romance? You will just have to read it to find out! The main message I got from this above the romance, the heartbreak, the emotional upheaval was that true friendships can last forever, no matter where you are going in life, those special friendships will always be there when needed.
The Time Of Our Lives is a fun, engaging and very sweet romance that I am positive readers will relate to in some way, there is a realism about it – or more accurately about lead character; Luca. I know that a lot of readers will probably say the same, but there is something very real about Luca, she is one of those character’s that you can instantly see a certain aspect of yourself in and you just know and understand her in every way. This is so rare to find and I absolutely applaud Portia MacIntosh for writing this wonderful story, for bringing Luca into the world where we all can sit back and say; ‘That is so me’ or ‘My, goodness, yes I think that too’. I literally finished reading this, sat back and heaved a sigh, wiped a tear at the perfect story I’d just read.
Ms MacIntosh is an astounding writer, she really captures Luca in this she is so real to me, it is so rare to really connect with a character from the very first page but here I instantly did. The story really does pull at the heartstrings, you will be laughing out loud, blubbering like a baby with it’s intricately woven tale of love and friendship, there are secrets and lies some of the best wedding scenes ever – honestly think Four Weddings and a Funeral and you will know what I mean about fun and love at a wedding.
Overall, this is one of the best romantic comedy’s I have read, highly recommended and one that you will be pulling of the bookshelf to re-read.
This was am Arc from the publisher, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Time Of Our Lives is available now and can be found at Amazon, and do grab a copy.
#BlogTour : #Review A Forbidden Love by Kerry Postle @kerry_postle #AForbiddenLove @HQstories @HQDigitalUK
Hello everyone, I have the very great pleasure to be todays stop on A Forbidden Love by Kerry Postle blog tour, I can’t wait to share with you all my review of this amazing book. So, take a seat, grab yourselves a cuppa and let me tell you a little about this wonderful book.
An extraordinary story against all the odds…
He vowed in his letter to one day meet her again, once the war was over. But it was a letter Maria couldn’t bring herself to read…
Growing up in the humble Spanish town of Fuentes, Maria dreamed of seeing the world and marrying one day. But before her life can truly start, civil war breaks out and Fuentes is torn apart by violence, secrecy and corruption.
Maria vows to take a stand, yet as an unspeakable tragedy rocks her trust in human decency, her heart hardens and the love she once believed in seems far out of reach. But when she falls for an occupying soldier, she questions whether she can truly love someone who is her enemy?
This is the first I have read by Kerry Postle so I did go into this book with my eyes wide open, unsure of what I would expect. But, I can honestly say that I will be reading more of Ms Postle’s work again. This is a spine-tingling, poignant and beautifully written book that is a must read for all historical fiction readers.
A Forbidden Love is set during the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930’s, I obviously have heard about the Spanish Civil War but I didn’t really know too much about it and what the people went through during that awful time, but from reading this it has made me want to learn more about this terrible aspect of history.
Growing up a little Spanish town; Fuentes; Maria has always dreamed of marrying and having a fairy-tale happy ever after, but unfortunately for Maria before she can find her Prince charming civil war breaks out and her much-loved village is torn apart by the war that is raging all around her. Her once quiet life has turned into one full of violence and she finds herself surrounded by secrecy, corruption and terror. Being faced with such horror, it understandably has an effect on Maria and makes her question all what she knew, she becomes jaded and cynical about whether human decency really exists any more. This war does change her and changes her views and makes her think that her once much sought after love was nothing but dream, but then she meets an occupying soldier who makes her again believe in love. But, with the war raging can Maria really have the happiness she so wanted?
I have purposely been very vague in this review as I wouldn’t wish to spoil the story for anyone and believe me this book needs to read without any hint of a spoiler. I am a huge fan of novels which you can really learn something from it and this one will definitely make you sit up and take notice. Because of the subject matter it is at times uncomfortable reading, it does make you stop and draw breath at what you have just read but it is a story that must be read, it shines a light on a part of history that is so rarely told. It is obvious that Ms Postle has done her research, it – at times – really bites and transports the reader from their comfy armchair to the savaged war-torn country. The writing is solid, full of passion for the story and compassion for the subject. Overall, this is a brilliant book that will both satisfy and educate the history lovers out there and it is very highly recommended!
This was an Arc from the publisher in exchange for an honest review as apart of this blog tour, Thank you Izzy!
A Forbidden Love is available now and can be found at Amazon.
#BlogTour : The Woman In The Lake by Nicola Cornick @NicolaCornick #Review & Exclusive Extract #WomanInTheLake @HQstories
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
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.
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.
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.
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.