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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.
#BlogTour : #Review The Beauty Of The Wolf by Wray Delaney @TheSallyGardner #TheBeautyOfTheWolf #WrayDelaney @HQStories
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.
#Review Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop by Rebecca Raisin @jaxandwillsmum #RosiesTravellingTeaShop #RomCom #Romance @HQDigitalUK
The trip of a lifetime!
Rosie Lewis has her life together.
A swanky job as a Michelin-Starred Sous Chef, a loving husband and future children scheduled for exactly January 2021.
That’s until she comes home one day to find her husband’s pre-packed bag and a confession that he’s had an affair.
Heartbroken and devastated, Rosie drowns her sorrows in a glass (or three) of wine, only to discover the following morning that she has spontaneously invested in a bright pink campervan to facilitate her grand plans to travel the country.
Now, Rosie is about to embark on the trip of a lifetime, and the chance to change her life! With Poppy, her new-found travelling tea shop in tow, nothing could go wrong, could it…?
A laugh-out-loud novel of love, friendship and adventure! Perfect for fans of Debbie Johnson and Holly Martin
This is wonderfully funny and original story all about taking chances, grabbing life and just basically coming out of your comfort zone to do something new, something which will set your heart and soul alight with joy. I am ashamed to say this is the first I have read by Rebecca Raisin and it will not be the last, I was instantly enchanted with her easy reading, entertaining and vibrant writing.
Rosie is a high achieving chef, hard-working and a perfectionist, who believes she has everything she could ever want in her life. Great job, she sort of loves. Nice husband, who she doesn’t really see too much of, but when they do it’s OK, but she does love him. So she is left reeling and speechless and lost when her husband tells her in no-uncertain terms that their marriage is over, that he has found someone else – who Rosie soon finds out he has been seeing behind her back, and more than that her whole friends network knew about it. Some friends, best get shot of those! Callum basically blames her for their failed marriage, typical man it’s never his fault that he can’t keep his trousers zipped. Without a backwards glance the rat leaves, leaving Rosie devastated not just at the end of what she had always thought was a happy marriage, but also hugely upset over what her soon to be ex-husband said about her. She is staid, a bit set in her ways, predictable and not very adventurous. It is those and other harsh words that lead her to one night after a few too many drinks, she buys a pink camper van called; Poppy and has a whole plan to go on the road selling tea.
All very good when you’re full to the brim with wine, but really? Is that even do-able?
As it goes; yes, it is. And so, with Rosie takes the plunge, one thing leads to another and she is on the road with Poppy. Which is where the fun and romance really starts, she meets up with some brilliant people, some which are a little eclectic, individual and who have real good hearts especially her new friend and owner of the travelling book shop – really these two are a match made in heaven, tea and books; how perfect is that? Plus she meets someone who she allows herself to have feelings for again, yes there is a wee bit of a romance in-store for Rosie and yes the man she finally ends up with is utterly delectable, but her journey of self discovery isn’t exactly all is as it seems. I can’t say too much as I never like to give away spoilers and I wouldn’t wish to spoiler your reading, but there is a bit of a sinister twist. It is one of those sub plots which really make you think about who you begin chatting to and exactly how much you should share about yourself to others – especially those you meet online.
I thoroughly enjoyed this, it is in all essence a great romantic comedy. But the difference with this to other’s I have read in this genre is that the author has tackled some pretty taboo subject’s which are more or less unheard of in romance books, such as being victim of a catfish – you need to read the book to find out what all that’s about. This is a fast paced, funny, romantic, heart-warming and realistic book that will have you not only laughing out loud but glued to the page. I loved the character’s, Rosie is a lovely young woman who the reader can really relate to. The writing is fresh, charming, engaging and very enjoyable.
This was an Arc from the author via Netgalley, thank you Rebecca.
Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop is to be released on 3rd March and can be pre-ordered from Amazon.
#OffTheBookshelf #Review Almost Forever: An Emotional Debut Perfect For Fans Of Jojo Moyes by Laura Danks @auradanks #AlmostForever #Romance @HQDigitalUK
This is my first ‘Off the Bookshelf’ post, I am so pleased to be able to share with you all my review of Almost Forever by Laura Danks.
Perfect for fans of Nicholas Sparks, Cecelia Ahern and Jojo Moyes
Can love truly conquer all?
When a vicious attack leaves Paul in a coma on his wedding day, the doctors fear he will never wake up. But his fiancée Fran will never give up hope.
Fran has always known Paul is the only man for her, from the first moment they locked eyes as children to the day he finally told her he loved her. Paul can’t leave her, not now their lives are just about to begin.
Love will always find a way… won’t it?
My goodness me this is an immensely emotional book to read, the writing is incredibly powerful, raw and heart-breaking. What surprises me most is that this is Laura Danks debut. Which really is unbelievable as this is good – no good doesn’t really justify just how stunning this book is. It pulls at the heart-strings and I can guarantee that you will be reaching for the tissues, especially with lines like this; “Why isn’t my love enough?”
Francesca and Paul are your dream couple, child heart sweethearts who after all the years together they are still very much in love. On the day of their wedding, the day starts off just like an other for them. They are getting ready to elope to Las Vegas for Fran’s dream wedding, under the moonlight with her beloved Paul beside her. When tragedy strikes, Paul is maliciously and cruelly attacked by a gang of thugs when he tries to save a woman’s life at the corner shop, leaving him in a coma fighting for his life.
The story is told through Fran’s eyes, we see her go from waking up that morning full of excitement knowing she will be marrying her one true love, to having to see her husband-to-be in intensive care facing an unknown future. I absolutely love how the story goes from the present day to glimpses of Fran and Paul throughout the years. Those memories showing how they met, spending holidays together and touching moments between them are beautiful and takes the reader on a poignant journey through Fran and Paul’s past and really showcases just how much they truly love one and other, which makes the outcome of their story all the more heart-breaking.
The writing is spectacular, Ms Danks has a true gift, she has captures Fran’s emotional state of mind with so much raw realism that you feel every tear, every laugh every turmoil that she goes through. I literally read this in one go, I couldn’t put it down. It grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let me go. It’s mesmerising and compelling, the writing is flawless. I cannot recommend this book enough and I will definitely be reading more from Laura Danks, she is an amazing writer and a kind one too as a potion of her royalties for the sale of this book will be donated to the Stroke Association.
Almost Forever is available now from Amazon.
#Review The Murder Pit (Arrowood Series #2) by Mick Finlay (@mickfinlay2) #BlogTour #MurderPit #ArrowoodSeries #HistoricalFiction #Victorian #Mystery @HQStories
I have the great pleasure to be sharing my review of The Murder Pit by Mick Finley as apart of this great blog tour.
Where Evil Lies Buried
1896: Sherlock Holmes has once again hit the headlines, solving mysteries for the cream of aristocracy. But among the workhouses and pudding shops of South London, private detective William Arrowood is presented with far grittier, more violent and considerably less well-paid cases. Arrowood has no doubt who is the better detective, and when Mr. and Mrs. Barclay engage him to find their estranged daughter, Birdie, he’s sure it won’t be long before he and his assistant, Barnett, have tracked her down.
But this seemingly simple missing-person case soon turns into a murder investigation. Far from the comfort of Baker Street, Arrowood’s London is a city of unrelenting cruelty, where evil is waiting to be uncovered…
Well, what can I say about this, but utterly brilliant! It has a real Sherlock Holmes come Ripper Street feel to it, I was instantly drawn into the case and was glued right to the last page. As soon as I saw the cover I knew that I needed to read it, it looked so interesting and that was before reading the back blurb and I was not disappointed. I didn’t realise that this was apart of a series, I read this very much as a stand-a-lone and going by the superb quality of this I know that I will be reading more.
What I love about this is that Arrowood and Barnett are well and truly on the side of the regular people, the working and lower classes the people who the mighty Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson would never sully their hands with. The whole country is applauding the ‘genius’ that is Sherlock Holmes, the cream of the aristocratic stock are hiring Mr Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson to solve their mysteries for them. Yet, what about the lower classes? Those that can’t afford Sherlock’s substantial fee’s and those that aren’t deemed worthy of helping. In steps Arrowood!
It’s Victorian London, William Arrowood is a Private Investigator and along with his assistant Norman Barrett they take on the cases that Sherlock Holes won’t. They are approached by the Barclay’s who want Arrowood to find their daughter; Birdie who after marrying Walter Ockwell a pig farmer, hasn’t been in contact with her parents. The Barclay’s are worried that Birdie is in some way being stopped by her husband’s family from contacting them and because she is ‘simple-minded’ and ‘malleable’ they worry she may be being mistreated.
What appears to be a simple case, turns into something very different indeed, as Arrowood and Barnett find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy involving a local asylum, the murder of an old woman; Mrs Gillie, plus threats and violence at every corner as they try to find the truth of what has happened to Mrs Gillie what is going on at the Ockwell farm. But with the Ockwell family, the local police constable and the village all silent and protective of each other it becomes clear to Arrowood and Barnett that this case is far from easy and it will take them on a dark, violent and at times very uncomfortable journey.
I really like how this is written, we see the whole story play out not through the lead character; Arrowood’s eyes, but through the point of view of his assistant Barrett. I think that is so funny how Arrowood genuinely appears to hate Sherlock Holmes, whenever the man is mentioned or another of his cases appears in the paper Arrowood just sees red, which also makes him either reach for the laudanum or whatever tasty morsel he can get his chubby hands on. He truly believes himself to on par as an investigator as Holmes, personally I prefer Arrowood to Sherlock. He isn’t one to search and follow the clues he is more a thinker, he uses his intellect in human nature to solve the crimes – today he would be referred more of a psychoanalyst.
Mick Finlay has written a brilliant story that is engaging, atmospheric and addictive reading and I can guarantee any who loves historical fiction and a good crime mystery will love meeting Arrowood. I do love a Victorian set story and this is one of the best I’ve read, Finley has clearly done unbelievable amounts of research into the Victorian era and more so into how the Victorians used to treat those who had a disability or mental health issue. Which is astounding the cruelty what they showed to them, thank heaven times have changed. His meticulous attention to detail brings the story to life, it is as though the reader has been transported from their armchair to Arrowood’s dark world which is full of conspiracy and lies. The writing is solid, it captures the reader’s imagination with absolute clarity.
Over this is a brilliant introduction to this authors work, imaginative, dark, thrilling, fast-paced, and original. Definitely one that will be pulled of the bookshelf again and again, I can’t wait for the next Arrowood mystery.
Very highly recommended!
This was a complimentary copy via the publisher in exchange for an honest review as apart of this blog tour, Thank you Joe and the HQ Stories review team.
The Murder Pit is available from Amazon and I highly recommend you buy it.