Sunday, 26 May 2019

#BlogTour The Little Gift Shop on the Loch by Maggie Conway

Today it's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Little Gift Shop on the Loch by Maggie Conway. It's contemporary romance, an uplifting and delightful read.

About the Author
Maggie lived the first ten years of life in London before moving to Scotland. She has a degree in English Literature and spent many years working in offices dreaming of pursuing her passion for writing.

A perfect day would include an early morning swim, a good coffee, a great book and a few hours spent writing before the chaos of a husband, three children, a dog and a cat begins.

Having landed the role of chief dog walker, she spends far too much time roaming the streets but at least this gives her a chance to think up new storylines.

Follow @conwaymd910 on Twitter, on Goodreads, on Amazon,
Buy The Little Gift Shop on the Loch

About the book
Home is where the heart is...
Lily Ballantine is still reeling from losing her job and the man she’s head over heels for all in one afternoon! So with her pride in tatters, she leaves the city behind her for the charming Scottish village of Carroch.

Bequeathed the tiny gift shop by her late, free-spirited mother, she only intends to stay until she sells the place – but instead, finds herself falling for the beautiful shop, the stray cat called Misty... and the rather handsome local, Jack Armstrong.

Lily’s not looking for love, but as the little gift shop weaves its magic around her heart, she wonders whether her mother might just have left her the greatest gift of all?

I think it's fair to say that Lily likes her life to fit into certain parameters. She enjoys the routine and knowing where her career is headed. She is more than shocked when her her imaginary romance and promotion all fall flat in a matter of moments when she is fired by the man of her dreams. All of her plans disappear in flash.

She travels up to Carroch to deal with the small shop her mother bequeathed to her in her will. The differences between mother and child become quite clear as the story evolves. How did the free-spirited mother manage to raise such a structured and rule loving child?

Lily doesn't expect to make connections in such an isolated and yet superbly quaint village, where everyone knows your name and nobody is a stranger. She most definitely doesn't expect to find somebody she is attracted to. Oh, and let's not forget the pesky wee cat who comes with the shop.

It's all about Lily learning to enjoy what life has to offer no matter where she is at any moment in time. Learning to take a breath and see, and not just build her life around her career. The result is a heartfelt exploration of the person she thought her mother was and who she was for the people around her. Those two pictures are completely different, something Lily has to come to terms with.

It's light on the heart-wrenching emotions and romance, it's the perfect mixture of both. The kind of read that doesn't ask for a piece of your soul and instead just invites you in for a nice cup of tea and piece of cake. It's contemporary romance, an uplifting and delightful read.

I wonder if that's the last we will hear from the small community of Carroch. There are plenty of threads and characters to follow up with.

Buy The Little Gift Shop on the Loch at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HQ Digital; pub date 31 May 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogBlitz Children in Chains by Lorraine Mace

It's my turn on the BlogTour Children in Chains by Lorraine Mace. It's police procedural crime fiction with a gritty realistic feel to it.
About the Author
When not working on her D.I. Sterling Series, Lorraine Mace is engaged in many writing-related activities. She is a columnist for both Writing Magazine and Writers' Forum and is head judge for Writers’ Forum monthly fiction competitions. A tutor for Writers Bureau, she also runs her own private critique and author mentoring service. She is co-author, with Maureen Vincent-Northam, of The Writer;s ABC Checklist (Accent Press). Other books include children’s novel Vlad the Inhaler - Hero in the Making, and Notes From the Margin, a compilation of her Writing Magazine humour column.

Follow @lomace on Twitter, on Facebook, on Goodreads, on Amazon, Visit  or
Buy Children in Chains

About the book
Detective Inspector Paolo Sterling is determined to shut down the syndicate flooding Bradchester’s streets with young prostitutes.

When a child is murdered, Paolo becomes aware of a sinister network of abusers spread across Europe, and spanning all levels of society. But Joey, the shadowy leader of the gang, always seems to be one step ahead in the chase.

Has Paolo come up against a criminal he cannot defeat?

This will be an uncomfortable read for some readers. It's quite graphic when it comes to the paedophilia, especially the interactions between the children and customers or kidnappers. It's not pleasant and can perhaps come across as a little gratuitous at times, however having read the first in the series, Retriever of Souls, I do think it's a Mace thing. Her schtick or particular style is to not only show the reader a spade is spade, but also to show them the dirt under the fingernails when someone is digging a grave with said spade.

In this second book in the DI Sterling series, Paolo stumbles across an insidious network of criminals that are supplying deviants with young children. It could be connected to the same syndicate who seem to have an endless supply of young prostitutes.

Mace gives her main character a lot of depth by balancing the crime element with his complex personal life and his equally as challenging professional life. His daughter is still suffering from the traumatic events of the last book and his team at work seems to be having some internal problems.

It's police procedural crime fiction with a gritty realistic feel to it. Mace doesn't mince words or care for the readers with a more delicate disposition. This is what that kind of crime looks like. There is no smoothing over the dirty details of the most heinous of crimes.

I was a little taken aback by the last few pages. I didn't expect that and found myself shaking my head and saying: 'Oh no, don't do it Sterling'.

Buy Children in Chains (DI Sterling #2) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Accent Press Ltd; pub date 12 Feb. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Read my review of Retriever of Souls by Lorraine Mace

Children In Chains is on offer at 99p/99c across all Amazon stores until June 15.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

#BlogTour You Are What You Read by Jodie Jackson

Today it's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour You Are What You Read by Jodie Jackson. This is an engaging and thought-provoking piece of non-fiction.
About the Author
Jodie Jackson is an author, researcher and campaigner.
She holds a Master’s Degree in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of East London (UK) where she investigated the psychological impact of the news.

As she discovered evidence of the beneficial effects of solutions focused news on our wellbeing, she grew convinced of the need to spread consumer awareness. She is a regular speaker at media conferences and universities.
Jodie is also a qualified yoga teacher and life coach.

Follow @JacksonJodie21 on Twitter, Visit
Buy You are What You Read

About the book
Do you ever feel overwhelmed and powerless after watching the news? Does it make you feel sad about the world, without much hope for its future? Take a breath – the world is not as bad as the headlines would have you believe.

In You Are What You Read, campaigner and researcher Jodie Jackson helps us understand how our current twenty-four-hour news cycle is produced, who decides what stories are selected, why the news is mostly negative and what effect this has on us as individuals and as a society.

Combining the latest research from psychology, sociology and the media, she builds a powerful case for including solutions into our news narrative as an antidote to the negativity bias.

You Are What You Read is not just a book, it is a manifesto for a movement: it is not a call for us to ignore the negative but rather a call to not ignore the positive. It asks us to change the way we consume the news and shows us how, through our choices, we have the power to improve our media diet, our mental health and just possibly the world

I absolutely understand why some people, including the author choose to step away from the negativity that drives the media. It has become almost like a shark feeding frenzy with the audience baying for blood. The more traumatic, brutal and soul-destroying the news is the better.

The news of today isn't the news of yesterday. We used to have media outlets with journalists who strived to give the world, their audience, the facts and the truth, albeit as they perceived it through their frame of reference. Nowadays you get opinion based journalism, sensationalist tabloid pieces and a slowly declining number of outlets and individuals who report the facts.

On top of that our media outlets are controlled by conglomerates and moguls who have bought up the majority of them, so it has become a kind of monopoly. There is a good reason the peasants rose up to demand Rupert Murdoch not be allowed to buy yet another media outlet that reaches millions of people.

Monopolies change the way we receive information and more importantly they control the information we are being fed. They decide what to feed the masses, which means they can sway opinions and votes. Not exactly unimportant in our day and age when tempers are frayed and the extreme right is on the rise.

I think the saddest aspect of all of the above, aside from journalists not being journalists anymore, is that the majority of people don't realise they are being manipulated to think, vote and perceive information a certain way. That's not the same as being ignorant or uninformed. If you have no clue that someone is trying to dictate or influence your opinions, then you will be none the wiser.

It's a fact that the Russians have influenced political outcomes in multiple countries, and still are. They have buildings filled with people who plant false information and stories to influence the public - troll farms. Fact. It's also a fact that big media outlets no longer produce non-biased news.

We live in a world where the public is hungry for every detail of someone's life. Reality shows and Z-celebrities make money the more extreme, aggressive and dramatic they are. The other side of that coin is the fact that the public wants it to be delivered to them.

Jackson advocates for the audience to adapt a more balanced media diet. I concur with the general idea, however I do believe it is quite hard to do so. It's not easy for everyone to discern between fact and opinion, and whilst I agree that more positivity is needed to balance the negativity, I think it's becoming harder to find sources to deliver that.

Although the theoretical idea is one I believe will allow many to have a more productive life and be less stressed, I also believe it's important not to retreat into a false bubble of hope. I do believe it's important to educate people and to fight this war of negativity head on. You can't change something if you don't know it's already swallowed you whole and influenced you, which means helping others to understand what is happening is even more important.

This is an engaging and thought-provoking piece of non-fiction. In fact perhaps the world would be a better place if we had more voices like Jackson, who are trying to be heard through the cacophony of falsities. It is indeed a movement.

Buy You Are What You Read at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Unbound; pub date 4 April 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Friday, 24 May 2019

#BlogTour Because of You by Hélene Fermont

Today it's my turn on the BlogTour Because of You by Hélene Fermont. It's contemporary and women's fiction.

About the Author
Hélene Fermont writes character-driven psychological crime fiction with a Scandi Noir flavour. Known for her explosive, pacy narrative and storylines, she has published three novels – Because of You, We Never Said Goodbye and His Guilty Secret – and two short story collections – The Love of Her Life and Who’s Sorry Now? Her fourth novel is due for release in the summer of 2019. After 20 years in London, Hélene recently returned to her native Sweden where she finds the unspoiled scenery and tranquillity a therapeutic boost for creativity.

Enjoying a successful career as a Psychologist, when she’s not working her ‘day job’, Hélene spends her time writing, with friends and family, or playing with her beloved cat, Teddy. All three novels can be purchased via her website

Follow @helenefermont on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, on Pinterest,
Buy Because of You

About the book
How desperate are you to get the one you love?

When Hannah and Ben meet at a friend's party, he knows she's The One. But Hannah's in an intense relationship with Mark and planning to return to her native Sweden to embark on a teaching career.

Desperate to make Ben fall in love with her, rich spoilt heiress Vanessa sets in motion a devious string of events that ultimately changes the course of four people's lives indefinitely.

Hannah is the love of Ben's life, yet Vanessa will stop at nothing to claim the man she is convinced is her destiny.

Because of You is a dark, morally complex and cross-generational story of enduring love, fate and destiny.

Before Hannah meets Ben she has a rather tumultuous relationship with Mark. In fact Mark takes up over half of the book.

Let me just say this; Ben, Mark and Linus aren't exactly excellent examples of male behaviour, yes even Ben now and again. Hannah is inexperienced, which is probably why she has no idea why their behaviour isn't always that of a gentleman.

Mark's actions and behaviour aren't romantic. He has no idea what consent means, he stalks, intimidates and emotionally blackmails Hannah. Unfortunately his behaviour is perceived as that of an enthusiastic and love-struck man. It's not. Nothing he does can be excused or waved away.

There is some semblance of acknowledgement by Hannah about his behaviour as time goes on, however her decisions are fuelled more by the anti-Semitism that comes her way. The story shows us her journey from a young girl to a woman of experience and strength. The people who have helped to nurture and define her, and the people who tried to keep her from evolving.

One could think that the author believes the harassment and behaviour tropes of the men in this story are romantic, hence expected to titillate and give readers a warm fuzzy feeling. 'Aww, he is just being a manly man and the silly woman doesn't know what's good for her'. Instead it's a way of shoving the inequality and abusive nature of the relationship right into the spotlight.

It's contemporary and women's fiction. For me it didn't fall into the category of Scandi Noir. It also doesn't fit into romance, however it is a contemporary read about abuse, anti-Semitism, consent, manipulation, chauvinism, privilege and jealousy. That paints a pretty bleak picture I suppose, but the story also features strong family bonds, friendships, coming of age and discovery of self. It levels out the more darker aspects of the story.

I hope readers, especially younger ones, take something away from this read. The ability to recognise abuse, coercion and oppression when they experience it, and that it has nothing to do with love or romance and everything to do with control.

Buy Because of You at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Fridhem Publishing; pub date 15 Oct. 2018. Buy at Amazon com.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

#BlogTour The Naming Game by Gabriel Valjan

The Naming Game by Gabriel Valjan

The Company Files: 2.

The Naming Game

by Gabriel Valjan

on Tour April 22 - June 22, 2019

The Company Files 2 The Naming Game by Gabriel Valjan


Whether it's Hollywood or DC, life and death, success or failure hinge on saying a name.

The right name.

When Charlie Loew is found murdered in a seedy flophouse with a cryptic list inside the dead script-fixer's handkerchief, Jack Marshall sends Walker undercover as a screenwriter at a major studio and Leslie as a secretary to Dr. Phillip Ernest, shrink to the stars. J. Edgar Hoover has his own list. Blacklisted writers and studio politics. Ruthless gangsters and Chief Parker's LAPD. Paranoia, suspicions, and divided loyalties begin to blur when the House Un-American Activities Committee insists that everyone play the naming game.

Praise for The Naming Game:

"With crackling dialogue and a page turning plot shot-through with authentic period detail, Gabriel Valjan pulls the reader into the hidden world of the 1950's Hollywood studio scene, involving murder, McCarthyism and mayhem."
~ James L'Etoile, author of At What Cost and Bury the Past

"Terrific historical noir as Gabriel Valjan takes us on a trip through post-war Hollywood involving scandal, McCarthyism, blacklisting, J. Edgar Hoover and, of course, murder. Compelling story, compelling characters - and all the famous name dropping is great fun. Highly recommended!"
~ R.G. Belsky, author of the Clare Carlson Mystery Series

"Brilliantly written, Gabriel Valjan's The Naming Game whisks the reader back in time to postwar Los Angeles. Spies, Communism, and Hollywood converge in a first-rate thriller."
~ Bruce Robert Coffin, Agatha Award nominated author of Beyond the Truth

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery, Crime Fiction
Published by: Winter Goose Publishing
Publication Date: May 4, 2019
Number of Pages: 210
ISBN: 978-1-941058-86-2
Series: The Company Files: 2
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

At seven minutes past the hour while reviewing the classified documents at his desk, one of the two colored phones, the beige one, rang. He placed the receiver next to his ear, closed the folder, and waited for the caller's voice to speak first.
"Is this Jack Marshall?"
"It is."
"This is William Parker. Is the line secure?"
"It is," Jack replied, his hand opening a desk cabinet and flipping the ON switch to start recording the conversation.
"I don't know you Mr. Marshall and I presume you don't know me."
A pause.
"I know of you, Chief Parker."
"Were you expecting my call?"
"No and it doesn't matter." Jack lied.
"Fact of the matter, Mr. Marshall, is an individual, whom I need not name, has suggested I contact you about a sensitive matter. He said matter of security so I listened."
"Of course. I'm listening."
"I was instructed to give you an address and have my man at the scene allow you to do whatever it is that you need to do when you arrive there."
"Pencil and paper are ready. The address, please."
Jack wrote out the address; it was in town, low rent section with the usual rooming houses, cheap bars, about a fifteen-minute drive on Highway 1 without traffic.
"Ask for Detective Brown. You won't miss him. Don't like it that someone steps in and tells me how to mind my own city, but I have no choice in the matter."
Jack ignored the man's defensive tone. He knew Detective Brown was a dummy name, like Jones or Smith on a hotel ledger. Plain, unimaginative, but it would do. Most policemen, he conceded, were neither bright nor fully screwed into the socket. A chief was no different except he had more current in him. The chief of police who ruled Los Angeles by day with his cop-syndicate the way Mickey Cohen owned the night must've swallowed his pride when he dropped that nickel to make this call.
"Thank you, Chief Parker."
Jack hung up and flipped the switch to OFF.
Whatever it was at the scene waiting for Jack was sufficient cause to pull back a man like Bill Parker and his boys for twelve hours. Whoever gave this order had enough juice to rein in the LAPD.
Jack took the folder he was reviewing and walked it across the room. He opened the folder once more and reread the phrases 'malicious international spy' and, in Ronald Reagan's own choice of words, 'Asia's Mata Hari', before closing the cover and placing it inside the safe. His review will have to wait. He put on his holster and grabbed a jacket.
Betty came out on the porch as he was putting the key into the car door.
"I won't be long. Please kiss the children good night for me."
"Can't this wait, Jack? The children were expecting you to read to them tonight. Jack Junior set aside the book and you know Elizabeth will be crushed."
"It can't wait. I'm sorry. Tell them I'll make it up to them."
"You need to look them in the face when you tell them sorry."
He opened the door as his decision. She understood she dealt him the low card. "Want something for the road?"
"No thanks. I'll see you soon."
He closed the door with finesse. He couldn't help it if the children heard the car. He checked the mirror and saw her on the porch, still standing there, still disappointed and patient, as he drove off.
Detective Brown, sole man on the scene, walked him over to the body without introducing himself. Jack didn't give his name.
At six-fifteen the vet renting a room down the hall discovered the body. Detective Brown said the veteran was probably a hired hound doing a bag job - break-ins, surveillance, and the like. Recent veterans made the best candidates for that kind of work for Hoover, Jack thought. Worked cheap and they went the extra mile without Hoover's agents having to worry about technicalities like a citizen's rights going to law.
"What makes you think he was hired out?" Jack asked.
Brown, a man of few words, handed Jack his notebook, flipped over to the open page he marked Witness Statement and said politely, "Please read it. Words and writing are from the witness himself."
"The man was a no good 'commonist'."
"Nice spelling. A suspect?"
"No, sir. The coroner places the death around early afternoon, about 2ish. Our patriot was across the street drinking his lunch. I verified it."
Jack viewed the body. The man was fully dressed wearing a light weave gabardine suit costing at least twenty-five. The hardly scuffed oxfords had to cost as much as the suit, and the shirt and tie, both silk, put the entire ensemble near a hundred. Hardly class consciousness for an alleged Communist, Jack thought.
The corpse lying on his side reminded Jack of the children sleeping, minus the red pool seeping into the rug under the right ear. The dead man wore a small sapphire ring on his small finger, left hand. No wedding band. Nice watch on the wrist, face turned in. An odd way to read time. Breast pocket contained a cigarette case with expensive cigarettes, Egyptian. Jack recognized the brand from his work in the Far East. Ten cents a cigarette is nice discretionary income. Wallet in other breast pocket held fifty dollars, various denominations. Ruled out robbery or staging it. Identification card said Charles Loew, Warner Brothers. Another card: Screen Writers Guild, signed by Mary McCall, Jr. President. Back of card presented a pencil scrawl.
"Find a lighter or book of matches?"
Detective Brown shook his head. Jack patted the breast pockets again and the man's jacket's side-pockets. Some loose change, but nothing else. The man was unarmed, except for a nice pen. Much as he disliked the idea Jack put his hands into the man's front pockets. Nothing. He found a book of matches in the left rear pocket, black with gold telltale lettering, Trocadero on Sunset. Jack flipped the matchbook open and as he suspected, found a telephone number written in silver ink; different ink than the man's own pen. Other back pocket contained a handkerchief square Jack found interesting, as did Detective Brown.
"What's that?" he asked, head peering over for a better look.
"Not sure," answered Jack, unfolding the several-times folded piece of paper hidden inside the hanky. The unfolded paper revealed a bunch of typewritten names that had bled out onto other parts of the paper. It must have been folded while the ink was still wet. It didn't help someone spilt something on the paper. Smelled faintly of recent whiskey. Jack reviewed what he thought were names when he realized the letters were nonsense words.
"Might be a Commie membership list. Looks like code." But Brown zipped it when Jack folded the paper back up and put it into his pocket.
"The paper and the matches stay with me. We clear?"
"Uh, yes sir. The Chief told me himself to do whatever you said and not ask questions."
"Good. Other than the coroner - who else was here? Photographers, fingerprints?"
"Nobody else. Medical pronounced him dead, but nothing more. Chief had them called off to another scene - a multiple homicide, few blocks away. We're short-staffed tonight. The Chief said he'd send Homicide after you leave. They'll process the scene however you leave it. They won't know about the matches or the paper. Chief's orders."
Jack checked his watch. Man down, found at six fifteen. Chief called a little after seven. He arrived not much later than seven forty. The busy bodies would get the stiff by eight or eight thirty, the latest. Perfectly reasonable Jack thought. He squatted down to see the man's watch, noticing light bruising on the wrist and the throw rug bunched into a small hill near the man's time hand. Intriguing.
"Thank you, Detective. I'll be going now. If I speak to the chief I'll let him know you've done your job to the letter."
"You're welcome. Night."
Jack knew he and the chief would be speaking again.
Outside on the street, Jack pulled out his handkerchief and wiped both hands for any traces of dead man as he headed for the parked car. Compulsive habit. He pulled up the collar on his jacket. It was cold for late May.
The street sign said he was not far from Broadway. In this part of town thousands lived crowded in on themselves as lodgers in dilapidated Gothic mansions or residence hotels, working the downtown stores, factories, and offices, riding public transit and the other funicular railway in the area, Court Flight, a two-track railway climb towards Hill Street.
Los Angeles changed with the world. The war was over and there was a new war, possibly domestic, definitely foreign. Court Flight is gone, ceased operations. Its owner and his faithful cat had passed on. His good widow tried. In '43 a careless brush fire destroyed the tracks and the Board of Public Utilities signed the death warrant; and now Jack was hearing whispers Mayor Bowron planned to revitalize the area International Style, which meant dotting the desert city with skyscrapers.
Jack opened the door and sat behind the wheel a moment. He took the family once to nearby Angels Flight. Junior wondered why there was no apostrophe on the sign. Betty tolerated the excursion, indifferent to Los Angeles because she preferred their home in DC. He released the clutch. Betty disliked LA because it changed too much without reason. She might have had a point. He shifted gear. Pueblo city would level whole blocks of thriving masses just to create a parking lot. He pulled the car from the curb.
Excerpt from The Naming Game by Gabriel Valjan. Copyright 2019 by Gabriel Valjan. Reproduced with permission from Gabriel Valjan. All rights reserved.

Gabriel Valjan

Author Bio:

Gabriel Valjan is the author of two series, The Roma Series and The Company Files, available from Winter Goose Publishing. His short stories have appeared in Level Best anthologies and other publications. Twice shortlisted for the Fish Prize in Ireland, once for the Bridport Prize in England, and an Honorable Mention for the Nero Wolfe Black Orchid Novella Contest, he is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime National, a local member of Sisters in Crime New England, and an attendee of Bouchercon, Crime Bake, and Malice Domestic conferences.

Catch Up With Gabriel On:, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

My Review

I really enjoyed the way Valjan combined important political and historical events of the time to create a characters with greater depth and a storyline that has a realistic feel to it.

Set in the 1950s, in post-war Hollywood, a time when there were echoes of Nazi Germany when McCarthy started hunting for Communists. When your name on the list meant you were a pariah. Blacklisting people who believed in Communism smacks of the same political repression and fearmongering.

Jack Marshall is tasked with solving the murder of a script writer. The trail seems to lead straight to the office of Hoover. The reader follows Marshall, Walker and Leslie as they try and navigate their way through a world of glitzy glam, make believe, and complete and utter paranoia. Then again it isn't paranoia if they really are out to get you.

Valjan slips in small moments of brutal reality, which may fly under the radar, but I am sure there are many who comprehend the need to give background to time, people and events. Case in point is Walker when he mentions quite casually and yet filled with the emotional trauma it comes with, that his company liberated Dachau. Nothing more, just the fact he acknowledges and those around him understand the implications. As the Germans say 'Ohne Worte'.

The author doesn't romanticise the past, something I greatly appreciate when it comes to historical fiction. He calls a spade a spade, which makes the characters seem more authentic. Of course that means the story can lean towards politically incorrect, but then that's what it was like. Racism, sexism, discrimination. A country still recovering from the tumultuous years of war. Valjan also makes the read more inclusive, adding to his readership by using creative ways to describe certain events and scenery, as opposed to filling in the blanks with gratuitous violence.
It's historical crime fiction with a noirish flair.

Tour Participants:

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#BlogTour The Den by Abi Maxwell

Today it's my turn on the BlogTour The Den by Abi Maxwell. It's historical fiction, and it is also women's fiction.
About the Author
Abi Maxwell is the author of an acclaimed story collection, Lake People, and her fiction has also appeared in McSweeney’s. She studied writing at the University of Montana and now lives in New Hampshire, where she grew up, with her husband and son.

Buy The Den
About the book
A hypnotic story of youth, sex and power.
A story of two women cast out by the same community though separated by a hundred years. A story of two extraordinary, magnetic women and their disappearances - a hundred years apart - from
the small New England town they call home.

Henrietta and Jane are growing up in a farmhouse on the outskirts of town, their mother a remote artist, their father in thrall to the folklore and legend of their corner of New England. When Henrietta falls under the spell of Kaus, an outsider and petty criminal, Jane takes to trailing the couple, spying on their trysts, until one night, Henrietta vanishes into the woods.

Elspeth and Claire are sisters separated by an ocean. Elspeth’s pregnancy at seventeen meant she was quickly married and sent away from her Scottish village to make a new life in America. When she comes to the attention of the local mill owner, a series of wrenching and violent events unfolds, culminating in her disappearance.

As Jane and Claire search in their own times for their missing sisters, each uncovers the strange legend of Cold Thursday, and of a family apparently transformed into coyotes. But what does his myth really mean?

Are their sisters dead, destroyed by the men who desired them? Or have they made new lives, elsewhere, beyond the watchful eyes of the community they longed to escape?

At the beginning of the book and during the first few chapters the story of Henrietta is narrated by her younger sister Jane. I must admit it was a great intro and paved the way for the rest of the story.

She paints a picture of her older sister Henrietta, the Lolita.The precocious teenager who is discovering her power over both boys and men. Henrietta treats her sister with disdain, well actually everyone, with that special brand of teenage disdain.

Although the women have a lot in common there are certain differences. Henrietta's story is a coming-of-age one, whereas when the reader meets Elspeth she has already overcome those stages in her life. The two of them share the fact they were both pregnant as teenagers. Elspeth is sent overseas under a cloud of scandal and Henrietta just disappears one day.

In a way it is an example of the time periods that lay between them. How the woman in the 1850s has less choice and more obstacles in her way than the teenager in the more modern era. On the other side of the lives of these women are the sisters. Jane and Claire, who have been left behind by Elspeth and Henrietta.

Whilst the reader learns what the disappearance means to the sister left holding up the rest of the family and the impact it has on those left behind, they are also eager for Henrietta and Elspeth to be safe and independent.

It's historical fiction, and it is also women's fiction. A story that speaks of oppression, rape, manipulation and also of strength, perseverance and a strong will to survive. At the same time it also takes a look at the often complex relationships between sisters. How discord and disagreements doesn't negate the bond between them. Women are the glue that keeps families together, and yet they are also the weapon that has the capability to destroy them.

I really enjoyed the read. I especially enjoyed the voice of Jane and the relationship between her and Henrietta. It was realistic in its assessment of the complexity that exists between two women bound by blood.

Buy The Den at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.  Publisher: Tinder Press Hardback; pub date 16th May 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Ellie and the Harp Maker by Hazel Prior

Today it's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Ellie and the Harp Maker. It's contemporary fiction, a story about breaking free from the chains of our existence and societal rules.

About the Author
Hazel Prior lives on Exmoor with her husband and a huge ginger cat. As well as writing, she works as a harpist.
You can find and follow Hazel at @HaveAHarp on Twitter, Visit
Buy Ellie and the Harp Maker

About the book
Meet Ellie. She’s perfectly happy with her home and her husband and her quiet life. Happy enough,
anyway. Which is why she’s so surprised to find herself drawn to an extrordinary stranger who
gives her a gift - and a fresh perspective.

Dan. He thinks all he needs to be happy is the time and space to carry on making harps.
Sometimes people buy them, too. But the last thing he expects is for Ellie to walk into his life, a
whirlwind with cherry-coloured socks, bringing a string of surprises into his ordered existence.

As Ellie and Dan get to know one another, they begin to see the world - and themselves - in an
entirely new way...

What comes to mind when you read this is the simplicity of the interactions, the words, the dialogue and structure of the story.

Whilst it is never referred to in the sense of a diagnosis, it's clear that Dan doesn't fit into certain typical stereotypes. He has his own way of living. A perspective through his own lenses, which doesn't necessarily fit with the general overall perspective the majority of the world has.

The author doesn't give it or Dan a label, which I found quite refreshing, because that way every reader experiences him in a different way and through their own frame of reference. His vision of the world and of beauty is envisioned through the works of art, his harps. He doesn't make them to make money, he creates them because he has a calling. That's the only way to explain it. His harps have individual identities, each one forged by hand.

When Ellie stumbles upon Dan and his harps she has no idea how it will change her life. It helps her to open up the door to her own wants, needs and dreams. A life controlled, determined and undermined first by her parents and then by her husband. A possessive and abusive husband who doesn't want her to discover the magic of harps.

On a side-note: Anyone who calls any person, especially a woman Honey-pun deserves to be tarred, feathered, maimed and quartered. I am fairly certain that would drive me to commit the most heinous of crimes. Why did you kill your husband? He called me Honey-pun one too many times.

I couldn't decide whether I liked the oversimplified writing, however when taking the entirety of the story into consideration it helped to portray and tell the story in a way it needed to be told.

It's contemporary fiction, a story about breaking free from the chains of our existence and societal rules. It's also a story about self-discovery and lifting the veil of oppression.

Buy Ellie and the Harp Maker at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.Publisher: Bantam Press; pub date 2 May 2019. Buy at Amazon com.