A tale as old as time. A spirit that has never rested.
As a love affair comes to an end, and with it her dreams for her future, artist Selena needs a retreat. The picture-postcard Sloe Cottage in the Somerset village of Ashcombe promises to be the perfect place to forget her problems, and Selena settles into her new home as spring arrives. But it isn’t long before Selena hears the past whispering to her. Sloe Cottage is keeping secrets which refuse to stay hidden.
Grace Cotter longs for nothing more than a husband and family of her own. Content enough with her work on the farm, looking after her father, and learning the secrets of her grandmother Bett’s healing hands, nevertheless Grace still hopes for love. But these are dangerous times for dreamers, and rumours and gossip can be deadly. One mis-move and Grace’s fate looks set…
Separated by three hundred years, two women are drawn together by a home bathed in blood and magic. Grace Cotter’s spirit needs to rest, and only Selena can help her now.
The Witch’s Tree is my second dual timeline novel in a week. It’s not my preferred take on historical fiction, but hey, I’m on holiday, so why not.
The Witch’s Tree is a story linked by a single space – a house – and the author offers two timelines, one modern-day and one set in the late seventeenth century. It was the late seventeenth-century story that fascinated me the most, and the feeling of impending doom made the story a little difficult to read in places. The contrasting stories of the two women further enforced the sense that problems were brewing for Grace in the seventeenth century,. As you might expect, I wanted more of the seventeenth-century story, and less of the modern-day one. I did appreciate that the modern-day story didn’t give away any of the details of the seventeenth-century story and that some of the aspects were misunderstood by the modern cast. I think that little bit of realism really helped with the contemporary storyline.
A captivating read, I think readers will enjoy meeting Grace and Selena.
My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for my review copy.
(Not one to ever think that books should come with trigger warnings, I confess, there was one aspect of the book that I found a little upsetting, so I’ll say here that readers should be aware of the appearance in the narrative of a cleft lip. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but just to let readers know it is there.)
The Witches Tree is released today, 17th May 2022, and is available in ebook, paperback, hardback, large print and audio.
At 14 years old, Jesus ‘Chuy’ Perez Contreras Verazzi Messi is too small and frail to work the land on the family farm near the Rio Bravo in Mexico. The local padre’s tutoring reveals Jesus’s unending curiosity and fertile mind. Noted Las Cruces, New Mexico attorney, and politician Colonel Albert Jennings Fountain, agrees to take his nephew under his wing. Jesus ‘reads law’ with his uncle and shares adventures and adversity with the Fountain family and other historic Mesilla and Tularosa Valley citizens. His coming-of-age story will take you into the wild southwest, a brewing range war, a territory struggling toward statehood, courtroom dramas, and the adventures and adversities of a boy’s quest for manhood.
*A fictional memoir by Jesus about the ten years leading to the notorious and unsolved Fountain murders.
Mary lives in the heart of one of the ‘Two Valleys’ in Las Cruces New Mexico, with her husband Norman ‘Skip’ Bailey, Jr. and their Cavachon child-dog, Java. In 2017 she wrote the one-act play, “It is Blood,” which was selected for a performance by the Las Cruces Community Theatre. Whereas the Two Valleys series is a prequel to the notorious and unsolved murders of Albert J. Fountain and his eight-year-old son, “It is Blood,” is a sequel to those events.
After winning an award for her debut historic fiction novel “The Mesilla,” Mary has decided to focus on that genre — at least for the foreseeable future. Her writing is fast-moving, thought-provoking and with just enough wordsmithing to satisfy your artistic hankerings. While her writing has literary merit, she strives to capture the moment — the time and the place — and help you live in that moment.
Before releasing her debut novel, Mary dabbled in creative writing, including a weekly column in the Las Cruces Sun News. Since retiring from a diverse career in various planning and design fields, she has devoted herself more fully to her writing, being a good spouse, serving her dog Java, and slipping away to the golf course when left unchained to the desk.
I’ll be uploading links on the days of the tour, and would like to thank all the hosts and Kelly Lacey for organising the tour.
Here’s the blurb:
From the author of The Erdington Mysteries, a classic 1930s murder mystery house party.
Lady Merryweather has had a shocking year. Apprehended for the murder of her husband the year before, and only recently released, she hopes a trip away from London will allow her to grieve. The isolated, but much loved, Cragside Estate in North Northumberland, home of her friends, Lord and Lady Bradbury, holds special memories for her.
But, no sooner has she arrived than the body of one of the guests is found on the estate, and suspicion immediately turns on her. Perhaps, there are no friendships to be found here, after all.
Released, due to a lack of evidence, Lady Ella returns to Cragside only to discover a second murder has taken place in her absence, and one she can’t possibly have committed.
Quickly realising that these new murders must be related to that of her beloved husband, Lady Merryweather sets out to solve the crime, once and for all. But there are many who don’t want her to succeed, and as the number of murder victims increases, the possibility that she might well be the next victim, can’t be ignored.
Journey to the 1930s Cragside Estate, to a period house-party where no one is truly safe, and the estate is just as deadly as the people.
You can purchase the audiobook via the following link.
And I’m adding the links for all the fab hosts below.
Today, I’m taking part in The Storm Girl by Kathleen McGurl blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources.
Here’s the blurb:
The gripping new historical novel from the USA Today bestselling author of The Girl from Bletchley Park and The Forgotten Secret.
A heartbreaking choice. A secret kept for centuries.
1784. When Esther Harris’s father hurts his back, she takes over his role helping smugglers hide contraband in the secret cellar in their pub. But when the free traders’ ships are trapped in the harbour, a battle between the smugglers and the revenue officers leads to murder and betrayal – and Esther is forced to choose between the love of her life and protecting her family…
Present day. Fresh from her divorce, Millie Galton moves into a former inn overlooking the harbour in Mudeford and plans to create her dream home. When a chance discovery behind an old fireplace reveals the house’s secret history as a haven for smugglers and the devastating story of its former residents, could the mystery of a disappearance from centuries ago finally be solved?
Sweeping historical fiction perfect for fans of Lucinda Riley, Kathryn Hughes and Tracy Rees.
The Storm Girl is a dual timeline novel, and as a reader and writer of historical fiction, it was the historical storyline that captivated me far more than the modern-day tale of divorce and starting afresh.
Coming at this from a ‘newb’ point of view, I expected both storylines to have some connection, other than the most tenuous one, of them simply taking place in the same space although at different times. That wasn’t what happened, and I did encounter some problems, whereby the one storyline gave away events in the other – which was a little frustrating.
With all that said, I did enjoy this book. The historical storyline, while a little too wholesome for me, did capture my imagination and The Storm Girl is very much a competent and go-getting type of gal that a modern audience will thrill to discover.
Will I try a dual timeline novel again, that remains to be seen? I confess I would have been happy to have the story revolve only around the historical elements, and not worry about the modern-day setting at all, but I more than understand that a dual timeline narrative is extremely popular, and I’m sure fans of this genre will be captivated by this tale of a place in two different timelines, over two hundred years apart, and will, hopefully, consider learning more about their own local history as a result of reading the book.
A firm 4/5 from me – I did appreciate the historical notes at the back of the novel.
Kathleen McGurl lives near the coast in Christchurch, England. She writes dual timeline novels in which a historical mystery is uncovered and resolved in the present day. She is married to an Irishman and has two adult sons. She enjoys travelling, especially in her motorhome around Europe but home is Mudeford, where this novel is set.
January, 1145. Godfrey Bowyer, the best but least likeable bow maker in Worcester, dies an agonising death by poisoning. Although similarly struck down after the same meal, his wife Blanche survives. The number of people who could have administered the poison should mean a very short investigation for the Sheriff’s men, Hugh Bradecote and Serjeant Catchpoll, but perhaps someone was pulling the strings, and that widens the net considerably. Could it be the cast-out younger brother or perhaps Orderic the Bailiff, whose wife may have had to endure Godfrey’s attentions? Could it even be the wife herself?
With Bradecote eager to return to his manor and worried about his wife’s impending confinement, and Underserjeant Walkelin trying to get his mother to accept his choice of bride, there are distractions aplenty, though Serjeant Catchpoll will not let them get in the way of solving this case.
This is the 10th title in this series, however it can be read alone!
A Taste for Killing is my third Bradecote and Catchpoll Investigations book, and it is always fabulous to return to twelfth-century Worcester.
In A Taste for Killing, Bradecote, Catchpoll and Walkelin must uncover the true culprit when Godfrey Bowyer dies from poisoning. There are, as always, no end of possible suspects, and because this book takes place in Worcester, we meet all sorts of characters, from the burgesses to the maids, and even an old woman, on her death bed, and with a fabulous memory for things that happened many years ago.
The investigation is as tricky as always. Some information points one way, other information, another. I do love the way the author puts the solution together, with all the false leads and people guilty of something, if not the murder. The three main characters, while having their own, separate lives, don’t overburden the story with their storylines, and yet still add to it. All of the characters feel real, and as though they could have truly existed.
My biggest complaint would be that I didn’t want to murderer to be who it was, but still, a thoroughly enjoyable addition to the series. I’ll be reading the 7 books I’ve not yet gotten to when I have the time:)
My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for my review copy.
The Write Balance: How to Embrace Percolation, Revision & Going Public
Bonni Goldberg’s The Write Balance introduces you to alternative perspectives and motivation for lasting creative fulfillment. This companion book to the beloved bestseller, Room toWrite is filled with encouragement, tools, examples and exercises.
Through years of teaching writing in workshops and in classrooms, Bonni has seen that the writers who are most passionate and grounded in their Writing Self embrace three aspects of the writing process: nurturing ideas, revising to best communicate those ideas, and completing the writing cycle by going public.
In this powerful guide, Bonni invites you to explore these creative stages which are essential to satisfying your Writing Self.
Believe it or not, The Write Balance, is the first book I’ve read on the process of writing. I’m just not that sort of person who thinks, ‘I want to do something, so I’ll read and research it first before I try.’ For writing, I just started writing, and have made all the mistakes along the way:)
As such, The Write Balance, was a great read. I recognised many of the scenarios mentioned in the book, and quickly came to understand that Bonni Goldberg’s intent for much of the book, was to teach the body to accept that writing, revision etc was going to take place and to be receptive to it – essentially, making the process physical as opposed to just mental. And I can really see how this would work. All writers make pacts with themselves about their expectations and targets. It’s how we go about meeting these expectations and reaching our targets which is often the hardest element. We need to train ourselves to accept the processes, and there will be many different ways of doing this, and the author makes some very valid suggestions.
I defy any writer to not find themselves in one, or many of the scenarios, and I do believe that writers will find answers throughout the book, and if not answers, then certainly a means of finding a solution.
A genuinely interesting read, that fellow writers and would be writers will find an invaluable resource, even if they only dip in and out of it, when looking for solutions, the knowledge that everyone suffers similar issues and when seeking a cheerleader who wants you to succeed.
Bonni teaches creative writing at colleges and leads writing workshops internationally for all ages. She knows everyone is creative, and she supports people to discover and share their authentic, meaningful and imaginative experiences through words. Whether through her writings or through teaching, her methods and perspectives continue to empower thousands of adults, families, and children.
Bonni is also a Jewish educator. She speaks, writes, and leads workshops on Jewish topics such as Jewish identity, rituals and antisemitism at Jewish women’s events, JCCs, and conferences.
Bonni Goldberg lives in Portland, Oregon with her partner in life, and some creative projects, artist Geo Kendall.
Today, I’m excited to share an excerpt from The Admiral’s Wife by M K Tod.
August 1912 – The next hour passed in a blur as Flannigan unrolled and rerolled various bolts of cloth. Her selections made and the account tallied, Isabel gathered her things. “It looks rather stormy,” she said.
“We’re sure to get a big blow today, Mrs. Taylor. You might want to get home as soon as you can.”
Outside the wind was stronger and the sky was thick and menacing. Waves churned the harbor. Sampans lining the shore pitched up and down. The air smelled of lightning. An explosion sounded, the blast echoing in her ears.
Suddenly, the mood of the Praya changed. Chinese workers hurried away; some abandoned the tools of their trade—rickshaws, brooms, wheelbarrows, long poles, rickety chairs and tables—while others pushed, pulled, or carried their belongings with them. Those who made their homes and living on the sampans swarmed the decks of their vessels grabbing this and that, hurrying nimbly along the gunnels, and scrambling up the ladders connecting them to long-fingered piers.
The wind grew stronger. Isabel’s hat blew off, rolling along the Praya like a runaway wheel. Without thinking, she chased after it. Hampered by the bulk of her purchases, she weaved this way and that. Every time she got close, the wind picked her hat up again. It’s gone, she finally admitted as the blue concoction sailed off over the water and rain pelted down—big, fat drops that smacked her skin. I should return to Murphy’s and wait out the storm.
She swiveled around. The Praya was deserted. Several sampans were precariously close to capsizing. The wind that had previously been at her back now buffeted her with such force, she could barely keep her balance. Isabel braced herself against the gale. Murphy’s seemed a long way away.
The wind howled like an animal in distress. The rain grew in intensity. “One step at a time,” she muttered aloud. Left foot, right foot. Left foot, right foot. She caught a glimpse of a man falling from a sampan into the water. Should she try to rescue him? Would her skirts weigh her down so that she would only drown trying? The sky closed in. Day felt like night.
Isabel continued to push forward. Without warning, someone grabbed her arm. She struggled to break free.
“I’m trying to help you, Mrs. Taylor,” Li Tao-Kai said, his voice gruff. “Don’t you realize this is a typhoon?”
A typhoon. She’d heard about typhoons—the Asian equivalent to hurricanes—and had even heard about the devastation caused by one that hit Hong Kong in 1906, but she had no idea what such an event would be like. “How was I supposed to know?” she said.
“The typhoon signal went off.”
“Was that the explosion I heard?”
He jerked his head in a quick nod and she thought he might be a little exasperated with her, although it was difficult to tell. They were both shouting to be heard. Li Tao-Kai held her arm firmly and a few minutes later, pulled her inside the shop.
“I saw a man fall into the water,” she said, as soon as she caught her breath. “He needs help.”
“We can’t go out again,” he said. “It’s dangerous. If you don’t believe me, look out the window to see for yourself.”
With the sun totally obscured and only one narrow window in Murphy’s Fine Silks and Linens, the interior was dim. Isabel hadn’t noticed the men milling about the room when she and Mr. Li had entered, but now she saw that there were about fifteen of them, a mix of Chinese and European. Isabel nodded in their direction, then crossed over to look out the window. Debris skittered along the Praya: bits of wood, sheets of paper, a straw hat, a broom. A table had fallen over and now scraped along the asphalt. She looked for the place where she’d seen the man fall, but everything was so topsy-turvy she could find no trace of him. A crash sounded as something smashed against the building.
“Step away from the window, Mrs. Taylor,” George Flannigan said. “It’s not safe.”
Isabel was so startled that she obeyed without question and took a spot standing next to Li Tao-Kai. Since his role brought him into frequent contact with the British community, she’d seen him on a few occasions following the opera and at times there’d been a chance to talk. He was an interesting man who, to her surprise, didn’t treat her as many men did: an attractive woman worthy of a flirtatious glance or two but unworthy of weighty conversation. She was just musing about whether he spoke to all women in the same fashion, when a bamboo pole shattered the window, flinging glass across the room.
“Good heavens!” she exclaimed. Her eyes wide with shock.
“Are you all right?” Li Tao-Kai asked.
“I think so.” Isabel spoke slowly. Nothing in her life had prepared her for a storm so fierce it left the surroundings looking like a bundle of jackstraws.
“Careful, I see something on your clothes.” He reached over and plucked a shard of glass from the sleeve of her dress.
The howls of the storm were deafening—like a train charging through a tunnel. Beyond the wind was the thumping and banging of debris tumbling past the warehouse. Without thinking, Isabel crossed to the window once more and peered out. Pellets of rain whipped her face.
“We have to help,” she said. “I can see women on the dock trying to save their children. They can barely stand. Look at them,” she urged.
“It’s too dangerous outside,” George Flannigan said.
“But we can’t just think of ourselves. Surely there are enough of us here to help.”
“You don’t understand how deadly typhoons can be,” Mr. Li said. “I’ve seen men blown down the street and trees uprooted by the force of the wind.” He shook his head. “It’s dangerous outside.”
“But those people could die without our help. If we were to form a human chain, each person standing close to the next person in line, we could rescue them. Whoever heads the line will help these people off their boats and hand them over to the next person in line and so on. Surely we can at least try.”
“It could work, Mr. Li,” George Flannigan said. “The wind has eased a bit, so we may have a few minutes before it strengthens again. Now might be the perfect time.”
“All right. We can try. But Mrs. Taylor remains in the shop.”
“I’ll do no such thing,” Isabel declared.
Li Tao-Kai drew his lips into a tight grimace. “If you’re determined to help, perhaps you will agree to be at the end closest to the shop.”
Isabel debated the benefit of further argument. “All right,” she said.
One by one, they stepped outside. When it was her turn, the wind tore at her clothes and rain pummeled her face. From all around she heard the clang, clatter, and smash of items hurled by the wind.
Here’s the blurb:
The lives of two women living in Hong Kong more than a century apart are unexpectedly linked by forbidden love and financial scandal.
In 2016, Patricia Findlay leaves a high-powered career to move to Hong Kong, where she hopes to rekindle the bonds of family and embrace the city of her ancestors. Instead, she is overwhelmed by feelings of displacement and depression. To make matters worse, her father, CEO of the family bank, insists that Patricia’s duty is to produce an heir, even though she has suffered three miscarriages.
In 1912, when Isabel Taylor moves to Hong Kong with her husband, Henry, and their young daughter, she struggles to find her place in such a different world and to meet the demands of being the admiral’s wife. At a reception hosted by the governor of Hong Kong, she meets Li Tao-Kai, an influential member of the Chinese community and a man she met a decade earlier when he was a student at Cambridge.
As the story unfolds, each woman must consider where her loyalties lie and what she is prepared to risk for love.
Trigger Warnings: Brief sex scenes
“Family secrets and personal ambitions, east and west, collide in this compelling, deeply moving novel.” — Weina Dai Randel, award-winning author of THE LAST ROSE OF SHANGHAI
“Irresistible and absorbing.” Janie Chang, bestselling author of THE LIBRARY OF LEGENDS
M.K. (Mary) Tod’s interest in historical fiction began as a teenager immersed in the stories of Rosemary Sutcliff, Jean Plaidy, and Georgette Heyer. In 2004, her husband’s career took them to Hong Kong where, with no job and few prospects, Mary began what became Unravelled, her first novel. The Admiral’s Wife is her fifth novel.
Mary’s award-winning blog, www.awriterofhistory.com, focuses on reading and writing historical fiction. She’s an active member of the historical fiction community and has conducted five unique reader surveys on topics from readers’ habits and preferences to favorite historical fiction authors. Mary is happily married to her high-school sweetheart. They have two adult children and two delightful grandsons.
All is not well in the village. The local meadows have been the pride of Bishops Well for hundreds of years, but now they are facing the sharp blades of developers. The landowner is a rich and reclusive author who is happy to see them destroyed, but the villagers – including Sam Dee and Maggie Kaye – are fighting back.
Until, that is, someone decides to silence one of their number permanently.
As Maggie and Sam soon discover, there is more than a quick buck to be made in the developers’ plans. There are age-old secrets and personal vendettas that could have deadly repercussions in Bishops Well today.
With Sam’s legal expertise and Maggie’s… well, Maggie-ness, they delve into the past, determined to unearth the truth. And, as sparks begin to fly, could there finally be something more between this sleuthing duo?
Here’s my review
Cause of Death is the third book in The Shires Mysteries, but the first one I’d read. I think this left me at a little bit of a disadvantage to begin with as Maggie has a quirk, that I didn’t know about, and it took me a while to work out what it was. Also, and this is a very personal complaint, so I apologise – this book has two points of view, but one is told first person, one third person and then there’a also an omnipresent narrator – I really struggle with books that don’t stick to one tense, and writing style.
That said, the story is intriguing, and I did want to know who the murderer was, so I continued reading, despite all my misgivings about tenses. Maggie is an intriguing character, but rather pushy and overbearing. Sam is a milder character, and more likely to apply reason to his conclusions. The story is quite twisty and there’s a touch of humour to it in places. The author has no qualms about making the resolutions quite complex and employing a large and diverse set of characters.
Overwhelmingly, this was an enjoyable and satisfying read, and I might just go back and read books 1 and 2:)
Anna Legat is a Wiltshire-based author, best known for her DI Gillian Marsh murder mystery series. Murder isn’t the only thing on her mind. She dabbles in a wide variety of genres, ranging from dark humorous comedy, through magic realism to dystopian. A globe-trotter and Jack-of-all-trades, Anna has been an attorney, legal adviser, a silver-service waitress, a school teacher and a librarian. She has lived in far-flung places all over the world where she delighted in people-watching and collecting precious life experiences for her stories. Anna writes, reads, lives and breathes books and can no longer tell the difference between fact and fiction.
Today, I’m delighted to welcome Strung to the blog. Please check out the excerpt from the new book.
(aka Prologue, Scene II)
Captain Ibalis returns the ocean’s salt from his mouth and hikes the top of his chapped lip in satisfaction. For five months, they’ve been making sweeps along the edge of The Brine—the uncharted expanse of sea surrounding Iodesh’s pangea—half-heartedly carrying out their contract.
But the Earl was set on bedding a Haywood, and the Lady in question was a Faye-nutter herself: “A gesture this grand would guarantee the marriage seal, and earn My Lady’s deepest appreciation. I flatter myself, it’s fool-proof!”
Fool’s errand, rather, though Ibalis wouldn’t have risked shattering the Earl’s delusion by saying so. Better to be free on the high seas than to have your ship and crew commandeered for the Kingswar, after all, and better still with a fool volunteering to fund your truancy. Ibalis had ordered his men to sign the Earl’s ridiculous writ of silence and they’d left within a week. Today, their contract came to an unexpected end.
After the midday sun erected too-tall columns under the hold’s grate, Ibalis had altered course for a resupply. That’s when the crow’s nest saw it: a brief sparkle on the horizon. The same sparkle reported in every sea encounter with the Faye. It’d taken the entire day to catch up to the slippery bastards, and now…
Uproarious cheers from his crew pulse outward from the deck, riding dusk-lit waves below. Ibalis eyes the lone scow drifting towards him as the larger, stranger, blue vessel behind it gains an impressive burst of speed.
He’ll be rich. The Faye are real, and they’d willingly given up one of their own.
First thing he’ll do is threaten to talk. The Earl wants all the glory, but his writ of silence failed to include provisions for disembarking. Ibalis should be able to squeeze the dolt for enough to buy a title. Then maybe he’d call on the Haywood mare himself.
Cheers reach a fever pitch as the scow scrapes along the side of his ship. Shadows of empty lifeboat hooks slither down grimy wooden planks—crooked rust stretching for water. Ibalis’ sneer expands to a grin.
No, first he’ll find out just how many Fayetales are true.
Few in the world of Iodesh believe the Faye are more than legend—until an unwanted suitor captures one as Lady Lysbeth Haywood’s bride price.
Presented with the Faye, Lysbeth is torn between her excitement to learn more about the legendary people, her dread at the possibility of a forced engagement, and her battle of attrition with Avon society.
It’s worth the struggle, for as layers of the Faye’s extraordinary mysteries are peeled away, their revelations—and Lysbeth’s own role in them—reach farther than she ever thought possible.
Mild self-harm, off-screen abuse, and brief on-screen violence.
⟅R̫o̮s̫k͚e̫ is Strung’s diegetic author and illustrator. Its real-world counterpart began building the world of Strung at age 12 to disassociate from budding bisexuality and physical disabilities—and eventually traded adversity’s escapism for inspiration.
I’m giving a shout out to a fellow writer of historical fiction. Elizabeth R Andersen’s The Scribe is a BookBub deal today for just 99p on Amazon UK:) Check out her post from when I featured her on the blog a few months ago.
I love all the covers for this series.
Here’s the blurb:
All Henri of Maron wanted was to stay with his family on his country estate, surrounded by lemon groves and safety. But in 13th century Palestine, when noble-born boys are raised to fight for the Holy Land, young Henri will be sent to live and train among men who hate him for what he is: a French nobleman of an Arab mother. Robbed of his humanity and steeped in cruelty, his encounters with a slave soldier, a former pickpocket, and a kindly scribe will force Henri to confront his own beliefs and behaviors. Will Henri maintain the status quo in order to fit into a society that doesn’t want him, or will fate intervene first?