Blog Tour/Q&A: The Runaway Wife by Rosie Clarke

The Runaway Wife - Blog Tour banner

I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for Rosie Clarke’s latest historical novel, The Runaway Wife.  Rosie is pretty much an unstoppable force when it comes to writing, having written around 100 books under different pen names.  Therefore, I’m so pleased she’s taken a temporary break to give us an insight into how she comes up with the ideas for her books and how she lets her characters tell their stories.

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Love, marriage, obsession, betrayal and treachery in 1920s London –  a powerful and gritty saga perfect for fans of Kitty Neale, Josephine Cox and Rosie Goodwin.

The hedonism of London in the roaring ’20s is a world away from Annabel Tarleton’s ordinary country existence. Until a chance meeting with the charming Richard Fortescue at a society ball changes her life for ever. Swept off her feet by the dashing Richard, and his renowned fortune, Annabel soon realises that all that glitters isn’t gold. Her bid for freedom has come at a terrible price and she finds herself trapped inside a marriage that behind closed doors is cruel and brutal.

Annabel has no choice but to flee, and will do everything to save herself, and her unborn baby, from destitution. But the very rich and very powerful expect to get what they want – and Richard wants only one thing – Annabel…

Format: ebook (255 pp.)                    Publisher: Aria Fiction
Published: 1st February 2018          Genre: Historical Fiction

Purchase Links*  ǀ  Kobo ǀ iBooks ǀ Google Play
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find The Runaway Wife on Goodreads

Interview with Rosie Clarke, author of The Runaway Wife

Without giving too much away, can you tell me a bit about The Runaway Wife?

Annabel is her mother’s daughter.  Taught to expect to marry well and to be a credit to her name, but that isn’t the reason she allows her mother to bully her.  Underneath her meekness, Annabel is brave and she seeks to protect those she loves: her younger sister and her brother, who is older but has to carry so much of the burden of a struggling estate and his mother’s displeasure.  When she is finally pushed into a marriage with a man who is as cruel as he is rich, a girl like that will break all the rules.

What was the inspiration for the book?

I never know why I write a particular book.  Usually there isn’t any particular reference point that turns a light bulb on and makes me think I’ll write about this or that.  However, things drip feed into your subconscious and perhaps I’d been watching or reading about abusive men.  I wanted a story that I could connect up with Jessie’s Promise without being a sequel to her story and Annabel just suddenly took root.  Once her mother started nagging I knew she had to make an unhappy marriage and Richard immediately strutted centre stage.  He was so damned sure of himself and so careless of others that I knew he had to be really nasty.

The book involves the portrayal of an abusive marriage.  Were there scenes you found difficult to write?

No, I enjoyed writing them.  Once I’m into Annabel’s character I’m feeling her misery and I wanted to hit back so I needed to really feel how she felt.  It was so difficult for her to think of actually walking out of her marriage so she tried other methods first until she understood that he might kill her in one of his rages and then she had to go.

How did you approach the research for the book? Do you enjoy the process of research?

I don’t do hours and hours of research.  I did this once for a period I didn’t know and it came out like a history lesson and I had to rewrite the whole thing.  I always know a bit about what I am writing and then when I need specific details I research that in books, internet and watch TV programmes set in the period if I can.  Watching the period you need is great, though it only gives you the feel and you still have to research dates and details.

The Runaway Wife is set in the 1920s. What do you think is the key to creating an authentic picture of a particular historical period?

First ask your characters to come and once they do you know where they belong.  All my books are character led and then I paint a picture in words of their surroundings.  Annabel is very much a young woman of the thirties, smart, intelligent but still chained by her mother’s old-fashioned ideas and strictures.  Only when she breaks free from her mother’s domination can she be herself. So once you know that you research that period and blend it into the story.

All your books are set in the first half of the 20th century.  What is it that attracts you to this period?

For my sagas I tend to write mostly about the period I know more about but I’ve also written other periods under other names, historical, twenties, all sorts.

You’ve written over one hundred books under a number of different pen names.  Where do you get all your ideas?

It is like a train station.  I have to use the signals to keep some of them waiting while the others are in the station.  New ideas come all the time.  [Cathy: I love that way of describing it!]

Do you have a special place to write or any writing rituals?

I have my study, which has all my printers, computers and books together and is very comfortable.

Which other writers do you admire or enjoy reading?

Oh, so many.  I love Georgette Heyer but I also love Matthew Harffy’s work, which is Saxons fighting in early Britain.  I’m just reading a good Viking trilogy, and I also enjoy Sarah Flint’s thrillers.  I like family sagas, though I try not to read these all the time because I don’t want to cross threads with my own work.

What are you working on next?

At the moment I’ve just started a standalone Christmas book but I am also thinking about the next in the Mulberry Lane series.  Thank you for having me on your blog and I hope your readers enjoy my answers, and try my books.

Clarke_RosieAbout the Author

Rosie Clarke was born in Swindon, but moved to Ely in Cambridgeshire at the age of nine. She started writing in 1976, combining this with helping her husband run his antiques shop. In 2004, Rosie was the well-deserved winner of the RNA Romance Award and the Betty Neels Trophy.

Rosie also writes as Anne Herries and Cathy Sharp.

Connect with Rosie

Website ǀ  Twitter  ǀ  Goodreads



Blog Tour: The Once and Future Queen by Nicole Evelina

The Once and Future Queen_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Once and Future Queen by Nicole Evelina.  Subtitled Guinevere in Arthurian Legend, the book traces the evolution of the character of Guinevere in Arthurian legend from her Celtic roots to the present day, showing how the character changed along with the period’s views of women. It’s described as ‘a must-read book for Arthurian enthusiasts of every knowledge level’.

Click to here to read Nicole’s interview with Amy at Passages to the Past.

WinFor US residents, there is a giveaway with a chance to win one of two paperback copies of The Once and Future Queen.  To view the giveaway terms and conditions and enter, visit the tour page here.  Entries close at 11:59pm EST on February 28th 2018.  Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the entry form.

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The Once and Future QueenAbout the Book

Guinevere’s journey from literary sinner to feminist icon took over one thousand years…and it’s not over yet.

Literature tells us painfully little about Guinevere, mostly focusing on her sin and betrayal of Arthur and Camelot. As a result, she is often seen as a one-dimensional character. But there is more to her story. By examining popular works of more than 20 authors over the last one thousand years, The Once and Future Queen shows how Guinevere reflects attitudes toward women during the time in which her story was written, changing to suit the expectations of her audience. Beginning in Celtic times and continuing through the present day, this book synthesizes academic criticism and popular opinion into a highly readable, approachable work that fills a gap in Arthurian material available to the general public.

Format: eBook, paperback (281 pp.)  Publisher: Lawson Gartner

Published: 21st November 201           Genre: Literary Criticism, History

Purchase Links*  ǀ ǀ Barnes and Noble ǀ  Indiebound ǀ Kobo
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Find The Once and Future Queen on Goodreads

Nicole EvelinaAbout the Author

Nicole Evelina is a multi-award-winning historical fiction, romantic comedy and non-fiction writer, whose four novels have collectively won over 20 awards, including two Book of the Year designations (Daughter of Destiny by Chanticleer Reviews and Camelot’s Queen by Author’s Circle).  Nicole is currently working on Mistress of Legend (2018), the final book in her Guinevere’s Tale trilogy.

As an armchair historian, Nicole researches her books extensively, consulting with biographers, historical societies and travelling to locations when possible. For example, she travelled to England twice to research the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy, where she consulted with internationally acclaimed author and historian Geoffrey Ashe, as well as Arthurian/Glastonbury expert Jaime George, the man who helped Marion Zimmer Bradley research The Mists of Avalon.

Nicole is a member of and book reviewer for The Historical Novel Society, as well as a member of the Historical Fiction Writers of America, International Arthurian Society – North American Branch, Romantic Novelists Association, Novelists, Inc., the St. Louis Writer’s Guild, Alliance of Independent Authors, the Independent Book Publishers Association and the Midwest Publisher’s Association.

Connect with Nicole

Website  ǀ  Facebook  ǀ  Twitter  ǀ  Instagram  ǀ Goodreads

The Once and Future Queen Release Graphic

Blog Tour/Review: The Renaissance Club by Rachel Dacus

Blog Tour January 23, 2018 - February 23, 2018

I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for The Renaissance Club by Rachel Dacus.  You can read my review below.  If you’re interested in art history, Italy or just love a time travel romance, then this is the book for you.

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The Renaissance ClubAbout the Book

May Gold, college adjunct, often dreams about the subject of her master’s thesis – Gianlorenzo Bernini. In her fantasies she’s in his arms, the wildly adored partner of the man who invented the Baroque.

But in reality, May has just landed in Rome with her teaching colleagues and older boyfriend who is paying her way. She yearns to unleash her passion and creative spirit, and when the floor under the gilded dome of St Peter’s basilica rocks under her feet, she gets her chance. Walking through the veil that appears, she finds herself in the year 1624, staring straight into Bernini’s eyes. Their immediate and powerful attraction grows throughout May’s tour of Italy. And as she continues to meet her ethereal partner, even for brief snatches of time, her creativity and confidence blossom. All the doorways to happiness seem blocked for May-all except the shimmering doorway to Bernini’s world.

May has to choose: stay in her safe but stagnant existence, or take a risk. Will May’s adventure in time ruin her life or lead to a magical new one?

Praise for The Renaissance Club

‘Enchanting, rich and romantic…a poetic journey through the folds of time. In The Renaissance Club, passion, art, and history come together in this captivating tale of one woman’s quest to discover her true self and the life she’s meant to lead. Rachel Dacus deftly crafts a unique and spellbinding twist to the time-traveling adventure that’s perfect for fans of Susanna Kearsley and Diana Gabaldon’. [Kerry Lonsdale, Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author]

‘The Renaissance Club is a beautifully written story about a woman torn between two worlds – the present and the distant past. This time-travel adventure kept me guessing until the end about which world May would choose, and if that choice would be the right one. Highly recommended for lovers of time travel fiction or anyone looking for a compelling story about a woman trying to find happiness.’  [Annabelle Costa, Author of The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend]

The Renaissance Club shimmers with beauty, poetry, and art. Author Rachel Dacus sweeps her readers away to Italy with her, lifting the senses with the sights, sounds, and tastes of that stunning country; imparting her deep knowledge of Renaissance and Baroque art while immersing the reader in a gorgeously romantic story. This book is time travel at its best!’ [Georgina Young-Ellis, author of The Time Mistress series]

Format: eBook, paperback (274 pp.)  Publisher: Fiery Seas Publishing
Published: 23rd January 2018              Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Purchase Links*  ǀ  ǀ Barnes and Noble ǀ  iBooks ǀ  Kobo
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find The Renaissance Club on Goodreads

My Review

Bernini1When I was contacted by Catherine at Fiery Seas Publishing about taking part in the tour, I was immediately attracted not only by the intriguing premise of The Renaissance Club but also by the fact that I’ve visited some of the Italian locations in the book – Rome and Venice.  I’ve even seen the Bernini sculptures at Villa Borghese in Rome – although I didn’t have a close encounter anything like May does.

The author uses the story of May’s travels around Italy with the other members of The Renaissance Club in an imaginative way to give the reader the story of Bernini’s life and work without the book ever feeling like an art history textbook.

May’s relationship with her boyfriend, Darren, is strained and what she experiences during her journey through Italy only seems to make their differences more apparent.  Although May feels gratitude towards Darren for bringing her on the trip, she feels frustrated at his unwillingness to commit to their future together.  They seem temperamentally very different as well.  He is ambitious and status driven, whilst May is more interested in exploring her creativity through writing poetry. When Darren remarks dismissively, “There’s not much money in writing poetry, is there?” May’s understandable reaction is to think his comments ‘eminently reasonable, but not exactly encouraging’.

At one point, initiated by Darren, they indulge in an academic debate over lunch about who was the better sculptor – Bernini or Michelangelo.  To my mind, the discussion that follows encapsulates the tensions in their relationship – it’s an argument loosely disguised as academic debate.   No surprise that Darren puts the case for Michelangelo, dismissing May’s adored Bernini as “a mere entertainer…a vaudevillian who equates art with spectacle…a showoff.”  May soon works out what’s really going on. ‘He was demolishing her idol with a savage analysis.  This wasn’t their usual game.  This was a fight.  She felt as if he were acting like a jealous lover.’

May, and her boss, Eva, both find their creativity awakened by their experiences on the tour.  For Eva it is getting up close and personal with the greatest Renaissance art, as represented by Michelangelo, that brings about this change and offers her the possibility of moving on from tragedies in her personal life.  For May, it is the master of the Baroque, Bernini, who gets her creative (and other) juices flowing.  Her creative outlet is poetry, the medium in which she can most effectively express her feelings and emotions.

As a reader, I felt almost transported to the various artistic sites The Renaissance Club visit on their tour thanks to the author’s wonderful descriptions of church interiors, frescoes and sculptures.  There are also some evocative descriptions of the cities the group visit on their tour: Rome, Siena, Assisi, Florence and Venice.  For example, this description of Rome: ‘Ancient city walls next to rough-piled medieval palazzos, Egyptian obelisks rising from Baroque fountains.  Rome was a hot mess of beauty.’  (I love that phrase ‘a hot mess of beauty’.  If you’ve ever been there, you’ll realise how apt it is.) Or this description of Venice: ‘White-domed churches shouldered next to palazzos of earthy colours, and the filigreed palaces, with fluted chimneys and Juliet balconies, were jewels against the blue sky.  Venice was the gaudy inheritance of a rich empire built on water, imagination, and bold ambition.’  The author also writes poetry and I got a real sense of this in some of the imaginative phrases and metaphors in the book.  For instance, as May feels herself slipping between past and present: ‘The city kept doing this to her, zigzagging through its eras so fast she had time-whiplash.’

I really enjoyed The Renaissance Club and found much to admire in it on a number of different levels.  I loved the imaginative use of the time travel aspect to provide an insight into Italian art of the Renaissance and the Baroque without feeling that I’d sat through a lecture on art history.  I enjoyed seeing the awakening of May’s creativity and the effect on her of Bernini’s energizing presence: ‘I need to learn to flow. Why do I always feel like I’m encased in stone?’.  And I found myself applauding the changes she decides to make in her life.  As the group’s remarkable tour guide, George, says, “Your life is yours to create, May.  Shape it like a poem, with imagination but also sense”.

I received an advance reader copy courtesy of publishers, Fiery Sea Publishing, in return for an honest and unbiased review.

In three words: Imaginative, romantic, time travel

Try something similar…The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

Rachel DacusAbout the Author

Rachel Dacus is the daughter of a bipolar rocket engineer who blew up a number of missiles during the race-to-space 1950’s. He was also an accomplished painter. Rachel studied at UC Berkeley and has remained in the San Francisco area. Her most recent book, Gods of Water and Air, combines poetry, prose, and a short play on the afterlife of dogs. Other poetry books are Earth Lessons and Femme au Chapeau.

Her interest in Italy was ignited by a course and tour on the Italian Renaissance. She’s been hooked on Italy ever since. Her essay “Venice and the Passion to Nurture” was anthologized in Italy, A Love Story: Women Write About the Italian Experience. When not writing, she raises funds for non-profit causes and takes walks with her Silky Terrier. She blogs at Rocket Kid Writing.

Connect with Rachel

Website ǀ  Twitter ǀ  Goodreads



Blog Tour: Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves by Rachel Malik

Miss Boston and Miss H Blog Tour

I’m thrilled to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves by Rachel Malik, published in paperback today.  Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves was one of my favourite books of 2017 and, since I read it, I haven’t stopped recommending it to other people.   I included the hardcover version in my list of favourite book covers and in my wishlist of novels I’d like to see make The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction longlist.  You get the picture; I’m a fan of this book!

I’m absolutely delighted to share with you my Q&A with Rachel in which she talks about the inspiration for the book, her research process and a serendipitous meeting!  Absolutely fascinating.

You can also read my review of Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves and find out just why I loved it so much.

Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves PbackAbout the Book

When Rene Hargreaves is billeted to Starlight Farm as a Land Girl, far from the city where she grew up, she finds farmer Elsie Boston and her country ways strange at first. Yet over the days and months Rene and Elsie come to understand and depend on each other. Soon they can no longer imagine a life apart.

But a visitor from Rene’s past threatens the life they have built together, a life that has always kept others at a careful distance. Soon they are involved in a war of their own that endangers everything and will finally expose them to the nation’s press and the full force of the law.

Format: Paperback (288 pp.)                                  Publisher: Penguin
Published in paperback: 1st February 2017      Genre: Historical Fiction

Purchase Links*  ǀ
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves on Goodreads

Interview with Rachel Malik, author of Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves

Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves is inspired by your own family history.  When did you first learn about the story of your grandmother?

My mum told me about Rene (Hargreaves) when I was in my late twenties – a long time ago. Rene had left her and the family home in Manchester when she was a little girl and never returned. She also told me that Rene had got caught up in a murder trial many years later when she was living in Cornwall – she didn’t know much more than that. I had quite recently started an academic job and I remember thinking that I should try and find out more about the trial – I definitely had my researcher’s hat (or nose) on.

What was the biggest challenge you faced when writing the book?

I think the biggest challenge was working out exactly what I was writing – and that took time. When I first started researching the story, I don’t think I knew I was going to write anything.  I wrote notes about what I discovered, as I might about anything else I might read. I quickly became interested in how the press represented Rene and Elsie; there was definite sympathy but also a rather prurient interest in how they lived and looked. My notes started to turn into an essay at that point. As I started to find out more about the places where they lived, I began to think I should write a piece of creative non-fiction about how I tried to track Rene and Elsie down. And then one day, an incredibly strong image of them came into my head. There they were in the little kitchen at Wheal Rock in Cornwall – where much of the novel is set. And I think I realised then that I was starting to write a novel.

One reviewer has remarked that in the book there is ‘much left unsaid, and unexplored’.  This seems particularly true of the relationship between Rene and Elsie.  Was this deliberate on your part?

Yes, very deliberate.  There are a number of reasons. I wanted readers to get to know Rene and Elsie and feel close to them but I also wanted them kept slightly at a distance – just as Rene and Elsie keep other people at a distance. They become so close that they make their own universe but, as in many relationships, there are important things they don’t know about each other and don’t share. Rene and Elsie are not very ‘talky’ about their feelings; Elsie in particular isn’t somebody who talks much at all.  When Rene wants to tell Elsie her secret, she writes it in the form of a letter – that’s quite understandable I think for modern readers. But Elsie doesn’t say ‘I understand’ or ‘I won’t judge you’.  She tells a story about a comparable situation to reassure Rene.  I don’t think they’re longing for a language of feeling. This is their language and it works well for them – most of the time. There’s also the question of their sexuality. To me, it’s clear that theirs is a sexual relationship but that’s only a part of who they are and when the world judges them later in the novel, it isn’t only their sexuality that is presumed and judged.

The English countryside features strongly in the book.  How did you go about recreating the landscape of the 1940s and 1950s?

Yes, the countryside is incredibly important and because Rene and Elsie have to keep moving in the second part of the novel, some places had to be registered very quickly, lightly.  Some of the places in the book are well-known (the White Horse of Uffington for instance), some are tourist areas: the Lake District and Cornwall. Some aspects of these places have changed very little if at all – geography, geology – but others clearly had.  I didn’t want to create a ‘general’ English countryside of the period, but a countryside from various points of view, in particular Rene and Elsie’s. The countryside they see is attuned to boundaries and ownership, land-use and agricultural work and the possibilities of the long walks they love.  I read a lot: history but also fiction, memoirs, poetry; I also looked at old photographs and films.

How did you approach the research for the book? Do you enjoy the process of research?

I wasn’t as organised as I could have been.  I got a lot from the trial documents I read at the National Archives in Kew. That and the press coverage of the trial – local and national – were my main sources for Rene and Elsie.  Together this allowed me to plot a rough chronology but there were big gaps.  All I knew about Elsie was that she came from a large family (the 1911 census) and that she’d been born in Willesden – on the outskirts of London in the early 20th century. I found and read lots of other things as I went along.  Some things are just luck.  I read Akenfield by Ronald Blythe on a friend’s recommendation. It’s an oral history of a village in Suffolk from the early 20th century to the sixties – the book’s mood had a huge impact on me. I visited the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading which has some wonderful material about farming in the 1930s and 40s – I love research but it’s very easy to get distracted. I spent way too long deciding on the names of the Starlight cows after looking through their milking records!

What was the most surprising fact you came across during your research?

It wasn’t a fact but a living person! I was in Fowey at the festival there and I decided to go and see the village where Rene and Elsie lived (Rosenys in the novel).  When I arrived there was nobody about, I didn’t have a clue where Wheal Rock was.  A red car pulled up in the car park and when a woman got out I took my courage in both hands and asked if she knew anything about Rene Hargreaves and Wheal Rock. Before I knew it I was sitting in her kitchen with a coffee. It turned out that her grandmother had known Rene quite well and wrote to her in prison and sent her cigarettes.

What do you think is the key to creating an authentic picture of a particular historical period?

I’m not sure there’s a single key; writers are trying to achieve different things. Some want to transport you (I had that feeling in Wolf Hall or in a different way when I read the Poldark saga) – you’re almost behind the curtain listening. In my case, I needed to show how life was changing in the countryside over a twenty-year period (and there are flashbacks to much further back). I didn’t want readers to become too immersed in one particular historical moment, I wanted them to travel through this changing world with Rene and Elsie. Because of that I created a kind of shorthand to signal particular moment: the wartime information posters they adapt for themselves, the 1950s adverts that Rene has a problem identifying with and so on. I only hope that it works

Although you have written articles, essays and reviews, Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves is your first published novel.  What advice would you offer to writers working on their own first novel?

I don’t know if I’m the best person to ask, seeing as it has taken me so long to do it! Writers work in such different ways so what works for me may not work for other people or for me – next time. Here goes:

  • Count all the work you do on your novel as work: thinking, reading, brooding, plotting and re-plotting, writing, editing. Don’t fetishize writing as the only work that counts.
  • Ignore all the people who say you must write this many words per day, every day or that they work 16 hours a day. If you pause for just a moment to think about it, this excludes so many people: parents, women particularly, but anyone with caring responsibilities, anyone who needs to earn money…
  • Try to do some work on your novel as often as you can – even if it’s a few minutes thinking about a setting on the bus. It keeps your ideas moving, developing. And, if you’re anxious like me, it helps keeps the worry a little more in control.

Which other writers do you admire?

There are so many and I keep adding to it. A lot of 19th writing, especially George Eliot and Emile Zola. The first half of the twentieth century has so many brilliant writers, at the moment it’s Jean Rhys and Katherine Mansfield.  I’ve been lucky enough to discover both Shirley Jackson and Barbara Comyns over the last year and they’re definitely in! Sybille Bedford, whom I wish people read and wrote about more. I’m also very keen on recent and contemporary Irish writing: Anne Enright, John McGahern and Colm Tóibín.

What are you working on next?

I’m working on another novel. I’m a bit superstitious about saying much about what I’m doing but it’s set in the 1920s and 1930s in Northern Italy…

My Review

The story is based on the life of Rachel Malik’s own grandmother but, as she states, the book is a fiction and not a speculation and it should be read as such’.  The author’s writing style has a rhythmic, almost poetic quality: ‘For they were all gone: two sisters married and third moved away; three brothers, dead such a long time ago – their names engraved on the memorial to prove it; her mother and her father as well’.  I quickly became immersed in the story and totally engaged with the two main characters, Rene and Elsie.

From the start, Elsie is an enigmatic character, cherishing her solitude and resisting intrusion from neighbours, seeing this as ‘encroachment’. At the same time, she has a ‘lonely power’ that proves strangely attractive to Rene: ‘Elsie wasn’t quite like other people, but that didn’t matter to Rene’.   Elsie’s strangeness is communicated in small ways, such as by gestures. When Rene first arrives at Starlight Farm: ‘She had offered her hand to Elsie, and Elsie had reached out hers but it wasn’t a greeting – Elsie had reached out as if she were trapped and needed to be pulled out, pulled free’. Gradually, they find each meets a kind of need in the other – Elsie, for companionship and a conduit to the outside world, and Rene, for refuge from her past: ‘Elsie knew that Rene fitted. A stranger to be sure, but one who didn’t make her feel strange.’

The development of Elsie and Rene’s relationship over time is tenderly observed without explicitly stating its nature.  Instead their growing mutual dependence is indicated by small things, like shared evenings listening to radio plays or the way they address each other: ‘A “we” was creeping into their talk, sometimes an “us”‘.  Eventually, Rene shares more details about her own history and the choices she has made. The war brings tumultuous change but also new beginnings for the pair. Then a figure from Rene’s past disrupts their way of life and brings with it grave consequences that puts their life together under an unwelcome and potentially life-changing spotlight.

This book is probably not everyone’s cup of tea (although there is plenty of tea drinking in it) but I absolutely fell in love with it.  I received an advance review copy courtesy of NetGalley and publishers, Penguin Books UK, in return for an honest review.

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In three words: Moving, tender, engaging

Try something similar… Mussolini’s Island by Sarah Day or Shelter by Sarah Franklin  (click on titles to read my review)

Rachel MalikAbout the Author

Rachel Malik was born in London in 1965 of mixed English and Pakistani parentage.  She studied English at Cambridge and Linguistics at Strathcylde.  For many years, Rachel taught English Literature at Middlesex University.  Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves is her first novel, and is based on the extraordinary experiences of her grandmother.

Connect with Rachel

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Miss B & Miss H PB2
‘If the weather was fine, they would make the long-delayed trip to Gunwalloe – on the scooter – Elsie had agreed.’ (p.180)


Blog Tour: An Argument of Blood by Matthew Willis & J. A. Ironside

An Argument of Blood_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for An Argument of Blood by Matthew Willis and J. A. Ironside.  An Argument of Blood is the first in the two book Oath and Crown series dramatizing the life and battles of the man who would come to be known as William the Conqueror. You can read all about the book below.

WinI’m pleased to say there’s a chance to win a signed copy of An Argument of Blood.  Visit the tour page here to view the giveaway rules and enter the giveaway.

Entries close at 11:59pm EST on February 7th 2018.

Via the tour page you can also visit the other great bloggers on the tour and read their reviews of An Argument of Blood.

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An Argument of BloodAbout the Book

William, the nineteen-year-old duke of Normandy, is enjoying the full fruits of his station. Life is a succession of hunts, feasts, and revels, with little attention paid to the welfare of his vassals. Tired of the young duke’s dissolute behaviour and ashamed of his illegitimate birth, a group of traitorous barons force their way into his castle. While William survives their assassination attempt, his days of leisure are over. He’ll need help from the king of France to secure his dukedom from the rebels.

On the other side of the English Channel lives ten-year-old Ælfgifa, the malformed and unwanted youngest sister to the Anglo-Saxon Jarl, Harold Godwinson. Ælfgifa discovers powerful rivalries in the heart of the state when her sister Ealdgyth is given in a political marriage to King Edward, and she finds herself caught up in intrigues and political manoeuvring as powerful men vie for influence. Her path will collide with William’s, and both must fight to shape the future.

Format: eBook, paperback (369 pp.) Publisher: Penmore Press
Published: 19th June 2017                    Genre: Historical Fiction

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J A IronsideAbout the Author – J. A. Ironside

Jules grew up in rural Dorset, surrounded by books – which pretty much set he up for life as a complete bibliophile. She loves speculative fiction of all stripes, especially fantasy and science fiction, although when it comes to the written word, she’s not choosy and will read almost anything. Actually it would be fair to say she starts to go a bit peculiar if she doesn’t get through at least three books a week. She writes across various genres, both adult and YA fiction, and it’s a rare story if there isn’t a fantastical or speculative element in there somewhere.

Jules has had several short stories published in magazines and anthologies, as well as recorded for literature podcasts. Books 1 and 2 of her popular Unveiled series are currently available with the 3rd and 4th books due for release Autumn/Winter 2017. She also co-authored the sweeping epic historical Oath and Crown Duology with Matthew Willis, released June 2017 from Penmore Press.

Jules now lives on the edge of the Cotswold way with her boyfriend creature and a small black and white cat, both of whom share a god-complex.

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Matthew WillisAbout the Author – Matthew Willis

Matthew Willis is an author of historical fiction, SF, fantasy and non-fiction. In June 2017 An Argument of Blood, the first of two historical novels about the Norman Conquest co-written with J.A. Ironside, was published. In 2015 his story ‘Energy’ was shortlisted for the Bridport short story award.  Matthew studied Literature and History of Science at the University of Kent, where he wrote an MA thesis on Joseph Conrad and sailed for the University in national competitions. He subsequently worked as a journalist for Autosport and F1 Racing magazines, before switching to a career with the National Health Service.

His first non-fiction book, a history of the Blackburn Skua WW2 naval dive bomber, was published in 2007. He now has four non-fiction books published with a fifth, a biography of test pilot Duncan Menzies, due later in 2017. He currently lives in Southampton and writes both fiction and non-fiction for a living.

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