The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen @wordsofhelen @MichaelJBooks #bookreview


Lost letters have only one hope for survival . . .

Inside the Dead Letters Depot in East London, William Woolf is one of thirty letter detectives who spend their days solving mysteries. Missing postcodes, illegible handwriting, rain-smudged ink, lost address labels, torn packages, forgotten street names – they are all the culprits of missed birthdays, broken hearts, unheard confessions, pointless accusations, unpaid bills and unanswered prayers.

When William discovers letters addressed simply to ‘My Great Love’ his work takes on new meaning.

Written by a woman to a soulmate she hasn’t met yet, the missives stir William in ways he didn’t know were possible. Soon he begins to wonder: Could William be her great love?

William must follow the clues in Winter’s letters to solve his most important mystery yet: the human heart


My Review

Who wouldn’t be tempted by a book  about lost letters, broken hearts and love in all it’s forms. Not me for one, so I was delighted to lose myself inside the Dead Letters Depot. A building peopled by those hoping to re-unite soggy parcels, lost medals, unrecieved birthday cards and love-lorn confessions with their intended recipients. Set in a pre-internet age circa 1990, mostly it involved a lot of detective work, some intelligent research, a few phone calls and hopefully a resolution. Today Google has taken away the mystique and many people/streets/clues would be found within minutes. On rare occasions the ‘lost item’ was so precious it would be hand delivered to ensure it didn’t go missing again.  Sadly for many, it was impossible to find the owner or intended receiver as a vault full of fur coats, paintings, photo-albums, teddy bears, dentures and books to mention just a few, attested to.

William had worked as a letter detective for eleven years and the thrill of uncovering extra-ordinary stories in the lives of ordinary people has never left him. It even forms the basis of his ‘book’ recording his favourites. But things change the day he discovers the midnight blue envelope containing a letter addressed to ‘My Great Love’ and written by the mysterious Winter. It touches him in a way that others haven’t and when more appear he begins to believe they are actually meant for him. The letters are a catalyst in exposing the problems in William’s life, but will finding the elusive ‘Winter’ actually resolve them?

What isn’t made clear in the blurb, is that William is already married (this is no spoiler at it becomes very clear in the opening chapter). In fact as the book reveals in his first encounter and subsequent wooing of his now wife, Clare, his was a very real and deep love. That the vibrant, intelligent and popular Clare should love him back, was something William found hard to believe. Fast forward to the present and somewhere along the way, the magic has faded, dreams remain unachieved and the minutiae of real life has intervened. In searching for Winter, I believe William is unconsciously searching for his own lost hopes and dreams.

I enjoyed this book, it wasn’t perhaps what I initially expected from the blurb, as I imagined working through the stories of the Dead Letters Depot, while William sought his love. While I did get the latter, and nice little vignettes of the former, what I really got was a realistic portrayal of a marriage falling apart. This made the book, much more real and far less whimsical than it might have been.  Setting the book in a pre internet era harks back to an age when communication in all it’s forms was less immediate and  transient. Communication is a pretty central theme of the book, be it broken or in the case of William and Clare unspoken. Their problems were definitely exacerbated  by what wasn’t said and done, more than by what was.

The other theme of the book is also the mystery of Winter, is she real or the figment of someone else’s imagination? Is she sitting writing letters to a real or imagined ‘Great Love’ and will William find her to discover the truth for himself. In searching for Winter, William inadvertently discovers himself again and what he wants, but will that reality make or permanently break his already fractured marriage? William will either annoy or enchant you, with his search, but I fell for the lost soul that he had become, seeking an escape from reality in search of a perfect love.

My thanks to the publisher, Michael Joseph for a review copy.


Five on Friday with Zara Stoneley @ZaraStoneley

This week I’m very pleased to announce it’s the turn of Zara Stoneley to share her Five on Friday with us. I met Zara through the group that was the fore runner of the current Cheshire Book Connections.  At the time she had just written the third in her Tippermere Series, and has since gone from strength to strength with several best selling stand alone titles and The Little Village on the Green series.

zara stoneley author pic.jpg

Author Bio:

Born in a small village in Staffordshire, I wanted to be a female James Herriot, a spy, or an author when I grew up. After many years, and many different jobs, my dream of writing a bestseller came true.

I write about friendship, dreams, love, and happy ever afters, and hope that my tales make you cry a little, laugh a lot, and occasionally say ‘ahhh’.

I now live in a Cheshire village with my family, a lively cockapoo called Harry, and a very bossy (and slightly evil) cat called Saffron.

So over to Zara…


Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?

Only 5? This is far too difficult! Okay then…

Puff the Magic Dragon – I still annoy my son by singing this now, but it was one of the first pieces I learned to play on my guitar and brings back happy memories. Me and Dad used to play together. (Chopsticks was, of course, the first tune I learned to play on the piano!)

Barcarolle from Tales from Hoffman (Offenbach) – this was the music used in a Baileys advert years ago. It took me ages to find out what it was (before the days of Google and YouTube!). It’s just a beautiful, haunting piece of music (and I still like Baileys), and I love that cat.

I Wanna be Free (The Monkees) – I loved the Monkees when I was younger, and this track suited my angst-filled teenage years. I’ve always been hugely independent and have needed to be with people who will give me the space I need to be ‘me’. I’ve softened at the edges (and the middle) now, but this track was like an anthem for a while!

Lady in Red (Chris de Burgh) – I’ve loved watching romcoms as long as I can remember, this was in ‘Working Girl’. I suppose as a romance writer it captures a lot of those feelings you’re trying to get down on the page. There are lots of other tracks from Working Girl, Pretty Woman and other romcoms that I love – but I’m only allowed a total of 5!

Krazy Krush (Ms Dynamite) – I love the beat, and haven’t we all had one or two in our lives?

This list is far too short, I’ve not had chance to cover my crazy student years, and more recent ‘dance in the kitchen’ tunes!


Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.


My dog Harry

Pens and notebook

Coffee – strong, black, essential.

Google – so that kind of implies I need a laptop or mobile, and internet – I think I might be cheating a bit here.

Fresh air – I need lots of what I like to call ‘blue sky space’.


Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?


Believe in yourself, trust your instincts and grab the opportunities you are offered. You will regret not doing things far more than you’ll regret trying and failing.

Life isn’t a one-way street, you’re allowed to U-turn, turn off, make a whole new road of your own. Just do ‘it’, you can always change direction later.

Sometimes you have to follow the crowd before you can follow your dreams – do a job that will give you income and independence, then you have the freedom to do whatever you want.

Don’t be afraid to ask. When I was younger, I hated admitted I didn’t know something, I suppose I saw it as a weakness.

Don’t try and please everybody all the time – it’s impossible. Aim to please the people you love, trust and believe in.


Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.


David Essex was my first crush.

I have a computer science degree, started my working life as a computer programmer then worked my way up to consultant. I’m your girl if you want advice on IT testing and quality control (stop yawning).

I’m a company director.

I can do a mean poodle-cut (no, this is not a weird euphemism) I ran a dog-grooming business when my son was a baby.

I love water, but hate swimming, I’m one of those keep-your-head-above-water-breaststroke-ladies.

What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?


Horse-riding in the Canadian Rockies. This has been on my list since I fell in love with horses when I was still at primary school.

A luxury cruise.

Driving a supercar round a race track (a Jaguar F-type would be perfect, but I’m not fussy!). I’m a bit of a speed junkie, and I love fast cars.

Sky-diving. I think it’s important to carry on challenging yourself, and the biggest challenge of all is to give up control.

Buying a motorhome – I’d love to explore more of Europe, and be able to take Harry my dog along as well. This would be perfect.


Thanks for sharing with us Zara, while David Essex wasn’t my first crush (I go back to The Monkees for mine) he was certainly on my wall as a teenager. Great advice for your younger self, I wonder how many of us would have actually taken it back then? Hope you get to achieve your bucket list – as per your advice hopefully you can ‘follow your dreams’.


Zara’s Books


No One Cancels ChristmasNo Once Cancels Christmas – published 19th October

It’s the most magical time of the year, and for travel agent Sarah it’s also the busiest! But this year one man threatens to ruin Christmas for Sarah’s customers – Mr Grinch, Will Armstrong.

The Shooting Star Mountain resort is a magical place, and Sarah has fond memories of Christmas here as a little girl – visits to Father Christmas, husky rides in the snow and hot chocolate by a roaring fire. But as the resorts new owner, Will refuses to play snowball or to deck the halls with anything remotely resembling tinsel!

With customers complaining their Christmas is ruined, Sarah decides it’s up to her to convince Scroogey Will just how magical Christmas can be….

But getting Will into the Christmas spirit is hopeless – he is Bah Humbug personified! But as Sarah gets to know him better, she realises that underneath all the gloom is a man struggling with a pain of his own.

With the big day approaching, Sarah realises that the magic and sparkle can wait. This year, she’s going to spend Christmas day with someone special her very own Mr Scrooge…


The Wedding DateThe Wedding Date 

One ex.
One wedding.
One little white lie.

When Samantha Jenkins is asked to be the maid of honour at her best friend’s wedding, she couldn’t be happier. There are just three problems…

1) Sam’s ex-boyfriend, Liam, will be the best man.
2) His new girlfriend is pregnant.
3) Sam might have told people she has a new man when she doesn’t (see points 1 and 2 above)

So, Sam does the only sensible thing available to her… and hires a professional to do the job.

Actor Jake Porter is perfect for the role: single, gorgeous and cheap! Sam is certain it’s the perfect solution: no strings, no heartbreak and hopefully no chance of being found out.

But spending a week in the Scottish Highlands with Jake is harder than she imagined. He is the perfect boyfriend, charming, sexy and the hottest thing in a kilt since Outlander! And his dog Harry is quite possibly the cutest things Sam has ever seen!

As the wedding draws closer, Jake plays his part to perfection and everyone believes he is madly in love with Sam. The problem is, Sam’s not sure if Jake is acting anymore…


The Little Village on the Green Series


                Summer with the Country Village VetBlackberry Picking at Jasmine Cottage


The Holiday SwapThe Holiday Swap

Two women, two very different lives – one perfect solution to escape festive heartbreak!

Tucked away in the idyllic English countryside, Daisy Fischer’s cosy little cottage has always been her safe haven. But when her completely dependable boyfriend issues her an ultimatum, Daisy realises there’s a whole world out there she’s missing out on.

Florence Cortes’s life couldn’t be better – gorgeous apartment right on the beach, fabulous job and dreamy boyfriend, or so she thought. Suddenly, Flo’s life isn’t so perfect after all.

When the girls house swap for the holidays, it’s not long before Daisy is being distracted by sun, sea and sexy Javier while Flo finds herself snowbound for Christmas with only handsome neighbour Hugo and a house full of animals to keep her company.

Love actually does seem to be all around this Christmas, but in the places Flo and Daisy least expect to find it…


The Tippermere Series

          Stable Mates 1Country Affairs 2Country Rivals 3


You can follow Zara via

Her website




Bookchoice Selection for October @BookchoiceEN

It’s the beginning of the month and time to look at this month’s offerings from Bookchoice. Described as “the digital book service in your pocket” Bookchoice select eight e-books and audiobooks  for £3.99 a month. Yes, you read that correctly £3.99 a month. Every month the Bookchoice team selects a range of titles  – from bestsellers and award-winners to the latest literary hits and sends them direct to your email inbox.  Where books are offered in e-book and audiobook format, the offer isn’t for one or the other – it’s for both!! I subscribed in January and here are the titles for this month.

E-book and Audio Titles


Cold GraniteCold Granite by Stuart MacBride

It’s DS Logan McCrae’s first day back, and it’s raining hard enough to burst the banks of the River Don. Of course, he’s forgotten his umbrella.

But the weather isn’t the worst of it. By the time police found David Reid, he’d been dead for months: strangled, mutilated and dumped in a ditch. He is only four years old.

Now McCrae’s boss is breathing down his neck to catch the killer before he strikes again, Professional Standards are keeping a clоse eye on him, and the press an even closer one.

For McCrae the saying is true: when it rains, it pours.


Big BrotherBig Brother by Lionel Shriver

It was rude to stare, and even ruder to cry.

Pandora hadn’t recognized her brother at first. She’d been looking for a man that strode through the airport like the world knew his name. So she hadn’t looked twice at Edison’s wheelchair, his deep-set eyes, or the hundreds of extra pounds. These couldn’t belong to her brother.

She knew then that she’d do anything to save him.

Big Brother is a startling and moving novel about the limits of sibling devotion, and the ways we are willing to sacrifice ourselves for others, even when they don’t want us to.


The SurfboardThe Surfboard by Dan Kieran

One week. One board. One new craft.

Dan Kieran, CEO of Unbound, undertakes a new challenge when he feels he has reached his limits, both personally and professionally. He retreats to Cornwall, where he learns the intricate craft of building a seven-foot surfboard from scratch, despite never having surfed a day in his life.

With this project comes a time of pure reflection regarding all the obstacles, rewards and realisations he has encountered upon starting his business and turning it into a success.

Both an insightful business memoir and an ode to the value of craftmanship, this book is a must for anyone looking for their next challenge.


ExquisiteExquisite by Sarah Stovell

Alice is an aspiring author still figuring her life out. Bo Luxton is an established novelist, wife and mother. Despite their differences, when they meet at a writers’ retreat they form an immediate bond and embark on a thrilling and illicit affair.

But something sinister lurks beneath the secret letters and whispered phone calls.

As their intimacy grows, disturbing realisations and hints of a dark past come to the surface. Accusations, betrayal and manipulation abound, as the two womens’ lives are torn apart. Both are telling the story, but who is telling the truth?


E-book only titles


The Secret Life of CowsThe Secret life of Cows by Rosamund Young

The lives of animals pose many questions. What do they get up to when we’re not looking? Do they have friends? Do they have their own unique personalities? Do they hold a grudge?

When it comes to cows, farmer Rosamund Young has the answers to everything you could ask and more.

This charming account details her observations, accumulated over a lifetime of tending cattle. The Secret Life of Cows reveals the real-life drama found in everyday bovine life, and shows that not every cow follows the herd.


The FrightenersThe Frighteners by Peter Laws 

If you’ve cheered the revving of a chainsaw, this book might be for you.

If you’ve spent hours trying to achieve that perfect fake blood consistency, this book might be for you.

If you’ve slowed down, just for a second, and snatched a glance at a road accident, then this book might be for you.

Join Peter Laws, life-long horror fan and ordained minister, as he investigates the darker side of our imaginations. From the forests of Transylvania to the catacombs of Rome, Laws travels the world to prove that loving the monsters under your bed doesn’t make you monstrous.


The Murder of Norman WareThe Murder of Norman Ware by Rosamund Kendal

Amidst the secure luxury of posh eco-estate San La Mer outside Durban, a shocking murder takes place. Prominent advocate Norman Ware is found mutilated and dead, and attention turns to the estate residents to find the culprit.

Through skillful introduction of an eclectic cast of characters, everyone seems to have a hand in what happened to Norman Ware. Rosamund Kendal weaves a story that is uniquely South African, depicting a society that is both widely diverse and divided.


Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetHotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

1986, The Panama Hotel. The old Seattle landmark has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made a startling discovery in the basement: personal belongings stored away by Japanese families sent to interment camps during the Second World War.

Among the fascinated crowd gathering outside the hotel, stands Henry Lee, and, as the owner unfurls a distinctive parasol, he is flooded by memories of his childhood. He wonders if by some miracle, in amongst the boxes of dusty treasures, lies a link to the Okabe family, and the girl he lost his young heart to, so many years ago.


Audio book only titles


The Other Boleyn Girl audioThe Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

Mary Boleyn arrives in the English court, fresh-faced and eager to earn her place as the favourite of the king. She catches his eye, a flirtation begins, and what happens next changes the course of English history.

At the center of it all is Mary and her sister Anne – both the fiercest of rivals and dearest of friends. This addictive story of family, ambition, and love in all its forms is a Sunday Times bestseller and a major motion picture starring Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson – and has now been released in a new audiobook recorded by Vanessa Kirby (The Crown’s Princess Margaret).


The Book of Memory audioThe Book of Memory by Petina Gappah

Memory is an albino woman languishing in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, where she has been convicted of murder. As part of her appeal her lawyer insists that she write down what happened as she remembers it.

The death penalty is a mandatory sentence for murder, and Memory is, both literally and metaphorically, writing for her life. As her story unfolds, Memory reveals that she has been tried and convicted for the murder of Lloyd Hendricks, her adopted father. But who was Lloyd Hendricks? Why does Memory feel no remorse for his death? And did everything happen exactly as she remembers?


Things Bright and Beautiful audioThings Bright and Beautiful by Anbara Salam

When Bea found there was no outhouse door, she realized the island didn’t value private space.

The jungle invades the mission house she shares with her husband. There are weevils in the powdered milk and black orchids in the sink.

Houseguests are just as invasive. They claim their own room, their own chair, their own place in the kitchen. Their constant humming is the only thing louder than the insects.

And if you believe the islanders, it’s hard to keep the Devil out. He’s taken root amongst those who dare to sin. Only faith can drive him out. Faith and violence.


And Fire Came Down audioAnd Fire Came Down by Emma Viskic

Deaf since childhood, Caleb is no stranger to facing difficulties head on. However, following the aftermath of his best mate’s death and falling out with his ex-wife, he’s struggling to make it through the day.

When a young woman is killed after pleading for his help in sign language, he throws himself into the mystery of her identity and finds himself lead back to his hometown, Resurrection Bay. At the height of summer and faced with brush fires advancing in the distance, it’s a fitting backdrop for a town that is torn by racial tensions and simmering with secrets.


A pretty impressive selection for £3.99 I think. If you want to take a look at Bookchoice you can find them here.  I would like to make it clear that I have no affiliation with Bookchoice, I’m choosing to share this with you, purely because I think it’s a great subscription package.

Ladies’ Day by Sarah Barton @S_Barton_Author


Amazon Blurb

Working in a fading Manchester department store, four women hide their dark secrets: abuse, an illicit affair, huge debts and an overwhelming desire to have a child at any cost. Will their secrets destroy them or can they together find a solution?

My Review

I was invited to review this book by another author keen to share the word about his friend’s first novel. With nothing other than the cover and blurb to whet my appetite I was not sure what to expect. What I’m pleased to say, is that this was a very accomplished and engaging debut.

The story focuses around, Amanda, Marianne, Hayley and Jane who all work at Peltham’s, a fading Manchester department store. The story unfolds via alternating chapters that tell each woman’s individual story, while integrating them into a narrative that gives a wider picture of the store and it’s troubles. Initially wary, if not downright disapproving of each other in some cases, the four forge an unexpected bond. It’s a bond and a friendship that helps each strengthen their own resolve to sort their individual problems. It’s a reminder not to be judgemental – none of us know what goes on in someones head, or at home behind closed doors. It also serves to acknowledge the adage that a problem shared is a problem halved, or in this case quartered. Definitely a case of four heads are better than one.

The fairly brief blurb and possibly simplistic idea for a story, belies a novel that has rich characters, dark and dramatic secrets and a warmth and humour that balances and brings everything together into a cohesive whole. The themes covered are universal and unflinchingly dealt with as the women struggle with domestic abuse, debt, infertility and ironically given the latter, an unwanted pregnancy. It’s a story that has light and shade, definite goodies (the wonderful Charlie) and baddies (David, there is a circle of hell reserved just for you) and humorous interludes (Ada the shoplifter and a seedy neighbour). Given that the book has female friendship and solidarity at it’s heart, it would have been easy to give way to typical male stereotypes but what I loved about this book was that never happened. For every bad male character there was a good, honest decent man, ready to step up and show that not all men are the same.

I’m loath to really reveal much more than is told in the blurb as the joy lies in discovering each character, their problems and the ingenious solutions to some of them. Not all of which can be guessed at from the title. With such a strong debut I’m certainly looking forward to reading more from this author.



Five on Friday with Janet MacLeod Trotter @MacLeodTrotter

Today I’m delighted to introduce Janet MacLeod Trotter to present her Five on Friday. I first ‘met’ Janet online after I’d reviewed several of her India Tea Series. With a shared love of India and Scotland; a dislike of injustice, and of course, tea, it would be lovely to meet in real life one day. We could put the world to rights over several cups of Darjeeling.



Author Bio:

British author Janet MacLeod Trotter has had 24 books published, 19 of them historical family dramas. Her first, THE HUNGRY HILLS, was nominated for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, while THE TEA PLANTER’S DAUGHTER (the first in the INDIA TEA SERIES set in Britain and India) was long-listed for the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year and was an Amazon top ten best seller. It has gone on to be a best-seller in Russian, French and Italian too.

Janet’s second novel in THE INDIA TEA SERIES, THE TEA PLANTER’S BRIDE (sequel to THE TEA PLANTER’S DAUGHTER) is set in 1920’s Scotland, North East England and India. It was inspired by diaries and letters that recently came to light, belonging to Janet’s grandparents who married in Lahore and lived and worked in the Punjab for nearly 30 years.

The third novel in the series, GIRL FROM THE TEA GARDEN, follows the family into the Second World War – some of it was inspired by Janet’s trip to the foothills of the Himalayas to discover where her mother had lived as a child. The fourth and final novel, SECRETS OF THE TEA GARDEN, is set in the dying days of the British Raj and Indian Independence.

She has written for teenagers and numerous short stories for women’s magazines, some of which are published in an ebook anthology ICE CREAM SUMMER. She has been a columnist and reviewer for The Newcastle Journal and editor of The Clan MacLeod Magazine. Her childhood memoirs of Durham and Skye in the 1960’s, BEATLES & CHIEFS, was featured on BBC Radio 4’s Home Truths.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

So over to Janet:-

Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?


I Want to Hold Your Hand by the Beatles – it conjures up childhood memories of playing pretend guitars with my brother Rory (me being Paul and he being John) and wearing our plastic Beatles wigs!

Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones – my ultimate dance tune.

My Home played on the bagpipes by my son Charlie. It reduced me to tears at a recent clan gathering – and was my dad’s favourite pipe tune.

Hide in Your Shell by Supertramp – reminds me of being on a bus trip to India in 1976 where it was played so often that the tape nearly wore out. Yes, it was tapes in those days! As I had just left school, the journey opened my eyes to a wider world of amazing diversity. It inspired my mystery novel, The Vanishing of Ruth.

The Gael by the Vatersay Boys (or any of their uptempo ceilidh music). It reminds me of so many good memories of family Hogmanays and impromptu ceilidhs.


Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.


Photos of my one year-old granddaughter Connie.

Coffee beans – continental ones from Cuttea Sark in Edinburgh mixed with Café Direct’s coffee club selection.

My Kindle – it’s a Mary Poppins-like bottomless bag, except for books!

The sea – a beach walk and a sea swim are good for body and soul.

Tea – Darjeeling First Flush for breakfast and Rooibos throughout the day. My tea consumption has definitely increased since writing the India Tea Series!


Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?


It doesn’t matter that you can’t spell – word processing spell checking will come along one day!

Ask your grandparents all those questions about their life in India before it’s too late.

Procrastination isn’t always bad – it can give you thinking time.

When you took that writer’s correspondence course and were offered your money back because you hadn’t earned a penny by the end of it, don’t worry! One day, writing will be your living.

Never stop challenging perceived wisdom – one day women will become sailors! (See below)


Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.


I became a feminist at the age of three or four when I was told I couldn’t become a sailor when I grew up; I could only be a wren. (I used to like dressing up in my Dad’s naval hat). I was baffled and indignant to learn that wrens didn’t go to sea – it was my first conscious experience of girls not being treated as equal to boys.

Aged 8, I starred in a BBC docudrama about the 1926 Miners’ Strike as the coal owner’s daughter. My speaking part was left on the cutting-room floor but I still got paid six guineas and was on telly for about ten seconds!

Aged 18, I climbed on an old Bristol bus in London and got off four months later in Katmandu.

I’m named after my great-granny Janet. She and her three daughters were members of the suffragette WSPU in Edinburgh and my grand-aunt Belle was their champion newspaper seller in all of Scotland.

My four brothers and I have a family tradition of smacking Tunnocks tea cakes on our foreheads before eating them. I have no idea why! Does anyone else do this?


What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?


Visit all the cities that appear on the list of independent Europa cinemas (even if I start now I think this is a lifetime’s work!)

Return to Rawalpindi and Lahore in Pakistan to find where my grandparents lived on and off from 1922 till 1950.

Walk a pilgrim route.

Drink a cocktail at Raffles in Singapore.

Live long enough to dance to Brown Sugar at Connie’s 21st!


Thanks so much for joining us Janet, and I’m sure Connie’s 21st will be do-able, I’d be more worried about the knees (from personal experience). I can recommend The Camino Ingles as a great pilgrim route, which is a full (but thankfully shorter) route that finishes in the amazing city of Santiago de Compostela. Hope you get to drink that Singapore Sling in Raffles and as for the Tunnock’s ‘thing’ – we’ll await comments to see if it’s just your family!!

Janet’s Books

Click on image for buying links (these are not affiliate links)


In the Far Pashmina MountainsIn the Far Pashmina Mountains (just published)

From shipwreck and heartbreak to treachery and war: can their love survive?

Abandoned as a baby and raised in a remote lighthouse off the wild Northumberland coast, Alice Fairchild has always dreamed of adventure. When a fierce storm wrecks a ship nearby, she risks everything in an act of bravery that alters the course of her life.

Aboard the doomed vessel is the handsome John Sinclair, a Scottish soldier on his way to India. The connection between them is instant, but soon fate intervenes and leaves Alice heartbroken and alone. Determined to take charge of her destiny but secretly hoping her path will cross again with John’s, she too makes a new start in colonial India.

Life there is colourful and exotic, but beneath the bright facade is an undercurrent of violence, and when the British invade Afghanistan, Alice is caught up in the dangerous campaign. When at last she hears news of John, she is torn between two very different lives. But will she follow her head or her heart?


The India Tea Series


The Tea Planter's Daughter (The India Tea Book 1)The Tea Planter’s Daughter

Lush, green, fragrant: the Indian hills of Assam are full of promise. But eighteen-year-old Clarissa Belhaven is full of worry. The family tea plantation is suffering, and so is her father, still grieving over the untimely death of his wife, while Clarissa’s fragile sister, Olive, needs love and resourceful care.

Beautiful and headstrong, Clarissa soon attracts the attention of young, brash Wesley Robson, a rival tea planter. Yet before his intentions become fully clear, tragedy befalls the Belhavens and the sisters are wrenched from their beloved tea garden to the industrial streets of Tyneside.

A world away from the only home she has ever known, Clarissa must start again. Using all her means, she must endure not only poverty but jealousy and betrayal too. Will the reappearance of Wesley give her the link to her old life that she so desperately craves? Or will a fast-changing world and the advent of war extinguish hope forever?


The Tea Planter's Bride (The India Tea Book 2)The Tea Planter’s Bride (my review here)

When Sophie is suddenly orphaned at the age of six, she is taken from her parents’ tea plantation, the only home she has ever known, to be raised halfway across the world in Scotland.

As the years pass and her exotic childhood becomes a distant memory, adventurous Sophie finds refuge in her friendship with her kind, shy cousin, Tilly. It is no surprise when the girls follow each other to India to embark on new adventures, new lives and new loves.

But the reality of 1920s India is far removed from their dream: the jungles are too humid and the breathtaking tea gardens too remote. And amongst the stifling beauty, intrigue abounds; while Sophie struggles with affairs of the heart, Tilly, alone in a difficult world, delves into the mystery of Sophie’s parents’ deaths. As the past begins to darken their friendship, will long-held secrets shatter everything they’ve ever striven for?


The Girl from the Tea Garden (The India Tea Book 3)The Girl from the Tea Garden (my review here)

In the dying days of the Raj, Anglo-Indian schoolgirl Adela Robson dreams of a glamorous career on the stage. When she sneaks away from school in the back of handsome Sam Jackman’s car, she knows a new life awaits—but it is not the one she imagined.

In Simla, the summer seat of the Raj government, Adela throws herself into all the dazzling entertainments 1930s Indian society can offer a beautiful debutante. But just as her ambitions seem on the cusp of becoming reality, she meets a charming but spoilt prince, setting in motion a devastating chain of events.

The outbreak of the Second World War finds Adela back in England—a country she cannot remember—without hope or love, and hiding a shameful secret. Only exceptional courage and endurance can pull her through these dark times and carry her back to the homeland of her heart.


The Secrets of the Tea Garden (The India Tea Book 4)The Secrets of the Tea Garden (available to pre-order, due 22 Nov)

She’s gone in search of happy memories. But was her idyllic childhood in India an illusion?

After the Second World War, Libby Robson leaves chilly England for India, and the childhood home where she left her heart—and her beloved father, James—fourteen years ago.

At first Libby is intoxicated by India’s vibrant beauty: the bustle of Calcutta, the lush tea gardens of Assam. But beneath the surface a rebellion is simmering: India is on the brink of Independence, and the days of British rule are numbered. As the owner of a tea plantation, James embodies the hated colonial regime, and Libby finds herself questioning her idealised memories—particularly when she meets the dashing freedom fighter Ghulam Khan.

As Independence looms, life in India becomes precarious for Libby, James and even Ghulam. And when James reveals a shameful family secret, Libby is forced to question her past—and her future.


The Jarrow Trilogy




The Durham Trilogy




The Tyneside Saga’s

The Suffragette    A CRIMSON DAWN                       A HANDFUL OF STARS    CHASING THE DREAM    FOR LOVE & GLORY


The Highland Romances



The Mysteries



Beatles and Chiefs a '60s ChildhoodBeatles & Chiefs : a 60’s childhood

Featured on BBC Home Truths, this is the delightful memoir of a Beatle-mad, ex-pat Scot growing up in the north-east of England in the 1960s. The only girl in a family of boys, Janet was brought up in the ‘Land of Boy’ – a boarding school in Durham where her father Norman was housemaster. Every year, these seven MacLeods would cram into a Ford Zephyr for the two day journey back to the ancestral home on the Isle of Skye.
Beatlemania, the Girls from U.N.C.L.E, suffragette great-aunts, real chiefs, Donovan-spotting, a pastry scandal and a dash of blood-thirsty clan history – Janet’s tales are amusing and touching, and vividly re-create the lost world of ’60s Durham and the Scottish Highlands before mass tourism.


You can follow Janet via her website, Twitter and Facebook



September Book Haul

If this haul is bigger than usual I’m blaming the fact that a few slipped in from last month as I was away and without internet access to update the scheduled post. (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!). Click on image for buying link (these are not affiliated links).


August and September’s Unbound Reading Club Books


The Backstreets of PurgatoryThe Backstreets of Purgatory by Helen Taylor

Finn Garvie’s life is one spectacular mess. He spends most of his time fannying around a makeshift Glasgow studio, failing to paint his degree portfolio, while his girlfriend Lizzi treats him like one of her psychology patients, and his best friend Rob is convinced that the tattoos he designs are the height of artistic achievement.

To top it all, Finn is worried that some stinking bastard is hanging around, spying on him, laughing at his cock-ups and eating his leftover curry. Fortunately, he has plenty of techniques to distract him – tackling the church hall renovations with the help of his alcoholic neighbour; pining after Kassia, the splendidly stroppy au-pair; and re-reading that book on Caravaggio, his all-time hero.

Things take a turn for the strange when he finally encounters the person who’s been bugging him, and it seems to be none other than Caravaggio himself…


agrippinaAgrippina: Empress Exile Hustler Whore by Emma Southon

Agrippina the Younger held a unique position in the first Roman imperial family. As great niece of Tiberius, sister of Caligula, wife of Claudius and mother of Nero she stood at the centre of power in the Roman empire for three generations. Even in her own time, she was recognised as a woman of unparalleled power. From exile to being hailed empress, across three marriages and three widowhoods, her life, power and role were extraordinary in their scope and drama. Beautiful and intelligent, she is alternately a ruthless murderer and helpless victim, the most loving mother and the most powerful woman of the Roman empire. She is portrayed in ancient sources as using sex, motherhood, manipulation and violence to get her way, and single-minded in her pursuit of power for herself and her son. Agrippina’s life sheds light on the Julio-Claudian dynasty and Rome at its height – the chaos, blood and politics of it all – as well as the place of women in the Roman world.

This book follows Agrippina as a daughter, born to the expected heir to Augustus’s throne, who was then orphaned, as a sister to Caligula who raped his sisters and showered them with honours until they attempted rebellion against him and were exiled, as a seductive niece and then wife to Claudius who gave her access to near unlimited power, and then as a mother to Nero who adored her until he killed her. She was 44 when she died. It takes us from the camps of Germany during a mutiny, through senatorial political intrigue, assassination attempts and exile to a small island, to the heights of imperial power, thrones and golden cloaks and games and adoration. We will see Agrippina found her own city (Cologne), live up to and then flaunt the greatest ideals of Roman femininity and motherhood, and explore the absolute limits of female power in Rome. The biography of Agrippina is also the biography of the first Roman imperial family – the Julio-Claudians, and of the empire itself.


Kindle Purchases


The Wife Before MeThe Wife Before Me by Laura Elliot

One evening as the sun is setting, Amelia Madison’s car slides into the sea off Mason’s Pier. Her body is never found.

Two years later, Elena Langdon meets Nicholas Madison. She is grieving the loss of her mother, he is grieving for his wife. Together they can help each other.

Now Elena is living with Nicholas. But Elena doesn’t really know him. She doesn’t know what he is capable of.

And she doesn’t know what really happened to Amelia.

Until the day she discovers the torn page of a letter and the words she reads chill her to the bone.

Elena must find the person who wrote these letters if she is to save herself.


Love Like BloodLove Like Blood by Mark Billingham

As DI Nicola Tanner investigates what appears to be a series of organised killings, her partner Susan is brutally murdered, leaving the detective bereft, and vengeful.

Taken off the case, Tanner enlists the help of DI Tom Thorne to pursue a pair of ruthless killers and the broker handing out the deadly contracts.

As the killers target their latest victim, Thorne takes the biggest risk of his career and is drawn into a horrifying and disturbing world in which families will do anything to protect their honour.


Keep Me SafeKeep me Safe by Daniela Sacerdoti

Can a tiny Scottish island bring a heart back to life.. and offer a second chance at love?

When Anna’s partner walks away from their relationship, she is shattered. But it is her little girl Ava who takes it hardest of all, falling silent for three days. When she does finally speak, Ava talks about a new place – a small island of beauty, salt and sea in the Western Scottish Isles. In search of a new start, Anna and Ava embark on a journey to the remote and gorgeous Island of Seal. Falling in love with the locals and the landscape, could Seal offer the second chance they both need?


The Rules of SeeingThe Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap

Nova is 32 years old and she is about to see the world for the very first time.

Jillian Safinova, Nova to her friends, can do many things. She can speak five languages. She can always find a silver lining. And she can even tell when someone is lying just from the sound of their voice.

But there’s one thing Nova can’t do. She can’t see.

When her brother convinces her to have an operation that will restore her sight, Nova wakes up to a world she no longer understands. Until she meets Kate.

As Kate comes into focus, her past threatens to throw them into a different kind of darkness. Can they each learn to see the world in a different … and open their eyes to the lives they could have been living all along?


The Happiness ListThe Happiness List by Annie Lyons

Life is about to change forever…

Heather is finally back on Hope Street after running from the memories for so long. She hasn’t bumped into many neighbours yet but with her upcoming wedding to plan there’s plenty to keep her busy!

Fran is still trying to get used to a life without her husband by her side. It’s hard enough raising two children on her own – she doesn’t have time to even think about dating…

Pamela is fed up with being taken for granted by her grown-up children and grumbling husband. She’s ready to shake things up a little, but will her family even notice?

So when the three women hear about a ‘happiness course’ starting on Hope Street, surely it’s the perfect opportunity to let their hair down, laugh with new friends and maybe even change their lives in ways they never expected…


One Day in DecemberOne Day in December by Josie Silver

Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist. After all, life isn’t a scene from the movies, is it? But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away.

Laurie thinks she’ll never see the boy from the bus again. But at their Christmas party a year later, her best friend Sarah introduces her to the new love of her life. Who is, of course, the boy from the bus.

Determined to let him go, Laurie gets on with her life. But what if fate has other plans?


The Forget-Me-Not Flower ShopThe Forget-me-Not Flower Shop by Tracy Corbett

Evie is busy running the Forget-Me-Not Flower Shop and praying for an uplift in sales as soon as possible. She might be in the market of selling romance, but for Evie a new man is the last thing she needs!

That is until plumber Scott Castillo turns up to fix her boiler. She’s definitely not interested. But then, why does she keep ogling his rather attractive forearms? She’s been fooled before – she isn’t about to fall head-over-heels for some smooth-talker, right?

When he isn’t trying to balance paying the bills with caring for his sick mother, Scott has stepped in to help parent his 18-year-old nephew, Ben. Between that and working full time Scott doesn’t have time for romance. Until he meets Evie…

Love doesn’t always bloom the way you expect but for the customers of the Forget-Me-Not Flower Shop it might just be the perfect time for romance…


Relative StrangersRelative Strangers by Allie Cresswell

The McKay family gathers for a week-long holiday at a rambling old house to celebrate the fiftieth wedding anniversary of Robert and Mary. In recent years only funerals and sudden, severe illnesses have been able to draw them together and as they gather in the splendid rooms of Hunting Manor, their differences are soon uncomfortably apparent. For all their history, their traditions, the connective strands of DNA, they are relative strangers. There are truths unspoken, but the question is: how much truth can a family really stand?
The family holiday mushrooms, drawing in sundry relatives both estranged and deranged. The machinations of an appalling, uninvited aunt threaten the holiday – and the family – with irreparable damage.
This book will make you question your own family situation. What does it really mean to be ‘family’?


Before Her EyesBefore Her Eyes by Jack Jordan

She can’t see the killer
But the killer can see her…

Naomi Hannah has been blind since birth. Struggling with living in a small, claustrophobic town, Naomi contemplates ending her life. But then she stumbles across the body of a young woman who has been brutally murdered. She senses someone else there at the scene – watching her. Naomi may not be able to see the killer’s face, but she is still the only person who can identify him.

As the police begin hunting the person responsible and more victims are discovered, Naomi is forced to answer the question on which her fate hangs: why did the killer let her live?

In a town this small, the murderer must be close, perhaps even before her very eyes…


The Letter - Kitty's StoryThe Letter by Eliza J Scott

To the outside world, she has it all: a chocolate-box pretty home, the perfect marriage to a good-looking and successful criminal barrister and two beautiful children. But you never know what goes on behind closed doors…

Thirty-four-year-old Kitty Bennett is trapped in a loveless marriage to cold-hearted, expert manipulator, Dan, who’s gradually isolated her from her family and friends. Until the day she (literally) bumps into her first love, the handsome and easy-going Ollie Cartwright – someone she’s done her best to avoid for as long as she can remember. Looking into Ollie’s eyes awakens feelings for him she thought she’d buried deep years ago, and he clearly feels the spark, too. As she walks away, Kitty can’t help but wonder what might have been.
Dan senses that his marriage is on shaky ground and knows he needs to win his wife round. He turns on the charm, skilfully using their two children, Lucas and Lily, as bargaining tools. But Kitty’s older brother, Jimby, and her childhood best-friends, Molly and Violet, have decided enough is enough. For years they’ve had to watch from afar as Kitty’s been browbeaten into an unrecognisable version of herself. They vow to make her see Dan for what he really is, but their attempts are no match for his finely-honed courtroom skills and, against her better judgement, Kitty agrees to give her husband one last chance. But, all-too-soon, a series of heart-breaking events and a shocking secret throw her life into turmoil…
Will she stand by Dan, or will Kitty be brave enough to take the leap and follow her heart to Ollie?

Life is anything but peaceful in the idyllic village of Lytell Stangdale, where life unravels, and hearts are broken. Full of heart-warming moments, this book with have you crying tears of joy, laughter and sadness.


Letters to My DaughtersLetters to My Daughter by Emma Hannigan

Throughout their lives, the three Brady sisters have always been closer to their nanny May than to their own mother, Martha a busy midwife. May always thought of them as her daughters so when she dies suddenly, the sisters are left devastated — especially when they learn that letters intended for them from May with final words of advice and love have gone missing.

But what words of advice could the sisters need?

Beatrice, owner of exclusive wedding boutiques, is busy and fulfilled. Rose has a beautiful daughter, a luxurious home and a thriving interiors company. And Jeannie, married to a wealthy plastic surgeon in L.A., wants for nothing.

Except that each of the sisters carries a secret …

As they gather for the reading of May’s will in Dublin, they must face some life-changing decisions. Will they ever learn the words of advice May had for them and discover who took the letters?


The Woman Who Kept EverythingThe Woman who Kept Everything by Jane Gilley (pre-ordered due 3 Dec 2018)

The Lady in the Van meets The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry in this uplifting, funny and moving debut novel about a 79-year-old hoarder who is convinced the world is against her.

79-year-old Gloria Frensham is a hoarder. She lives amongst piles of magazines, cardboard boxes and endless knick-knacks that are stacked into every room of her home, and teeter in piles along the landing and up the stairs.

She hasn’t left the house in years, but when a sudden smell of burning signifies real danger, she is forced to make a sudden departure and leave behind her beloved possessions.

Determined she’s not ready for a care home, Gloria sets out to discover what life still has to offer her. It’s time to navigate the outside world on her own, one step at a time, with just one very small suitcase in tow…

Heart-warming and poignant in equal measure, this is a story about the loneliness of life, the struggles of growing old, the power of kindness, and the bravery it takes to leave our comfort zones.


Now She's GoneNow She’s Gone by Alison James

She took a mouthful of the sweet liquid and started to feel a pounding in her head. Arms went around her waist and she was half lifted and half pulled. The last thing she was aware of was her head hitting a step…

Sixteen-year-old Emily had everything to live for. A bright, beautiful teenager with a promising future ahead of her. But one dark night her life is cut short.

The police say it’s an accident. Her parents think she was murdered.

Detective Rachel Prince is called in to investigate the tragic incident. And she discovers a chilling link with the suspicious death of another student who stayed in the same old, sprawling guesthouse in the heart of Edinburgh two years before Emily.

Just as Rachel realises she’s on the hunt for a serial killer, a painful relationship from her past catches up with her. But will her secrets put someone she loves in danger? And can Rachel stop the murderer, before they strike again?


The Gathering DarkThe Gathering Dark by James Oswald

The gripping new crime thriller in the highly acclaimed Inspector McLean series

A truck driver loses control in central Edinburgh, ploughing into a crowded bus stop and spilling his vehicle’s toxic load. The consequences are devastating.

DI Tony McLean witnesses the carnage. Taking control of the investigation, he soon realises there is much that is deeply amiss – and everyone involved seems to have something to hide.

But as McLean struggles to uncover who caused the tragedy, a greater crisis develops: the new Chief Superintendent’s son is missing, last seen in the area of the crash…


The Salt PathThe Salt Path by Raynor Winn

Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home is taken away and they lose their livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall.

Carrying only the essentials for survival on their backs, they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.

The Salt Path is an honest and life-affirming true story of coming to terms with grief and the healing power of the natural world. Ultimately, it is a portrayal of home, and how it can be lost, rebuilt and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways.


A Bicycle Made For TwoA Bicycle Made for Two by Mary Jayne Baker

In a lost corner of the Yorkshire Dales, Lana Donati runs a medieval theme restaurant with her brother. As a distraction to help them get over losing the father they loved dearly, and as a tribute to his passion for the beautiful area they live in, Lana hatches a plan to boost business for everyone by having the Grand Départ route pass through their village.

But this entails getting the small community to work together to convince the decision-makers that their beloved village is Tour material. Not an easy task when the people involved include Lana’s shy, unlucky-in-love brother Tom, the man-eating WI chair Yolanda, bickering spouses Gerry and Sue, arrogant celebrity Harper Brady, and Lana’s (attractive) arch-nemesis, former pro cyclist turned bike shop owner, Stewart McLean, whose offbeat ideas might just cost them everything.


Force of NatureForce of Nature by Jane Harper

Is Alice here? Did she make it? Is she safe? In the chaos, in the night, it was impossible to say which of the four had asked after Alice’s welfare. Later, when everything got worse, each would insist it had been them.

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

The hike through the rugged landscape is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with.

Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew.


The Third BreathThe Third Breath by Malcolm Hollingdrake

DCI Bennett is away on compassionate leave. After much soul-searching, he has decided to attend his father’s funeral.

DS Owen is left at the helm when the discovery of a body in a car in the multi-storey car park is reported. Initially, the Coroner rules out suspicious circumstances but when a second body is found with similar symptoms, Bennett is back in the fold. He suspects that the coincidences must be of some significance.

Soon Bennett’s team are hunting for a callous and devious killer who has covered his tracks effectively.

Will Bennett’s perseverance and attention to detail eventually crack this perplexing case?


Murder in RetreatMurder in Retreat by Noreen Wainwright

After settling in to married life in Ellbeck. Edith is happy when Henry goes on retreat to Staffordshire, knowing that spiritual renewal is an essential part of a busy vicar’s life. However, after meeting fellow priests, Henry soon realizes most have their own secrets and deep troubles to reflect upon. His sense of unease is vindicated when he discovers there is a murderer in St. Chad’s House, and he is reluctantly drawn into the mystery.

At home, Edith is plunged into a crisis when the son of her housekeeper, and friend, disappears. A figure from the past has been in contact with the boy, and both women fear for his safety. Adding to Edith’s distress, she worries about Henry and is unable to dismiss the deep concern she feels about him and what is happening at St. Chad’s.

Will Edith and Henry’s involvement in the troubles affect their relationship? Can  they survive the seemingly endless struggles and find their way back to each other?


Dead SoulsSet In DarknessThe Falls


Resurrection MenA Question of BloodFleshmarket Close


The Naming Of The DeadExit MusicEven Dogs in the Wild


The Lion Tamer Who LostThe Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech

Be careful what you wish for…

Long ago, Andrew made a childhood wish, and kept it in a silver box. When it finally comes true, he wishes he hadn’t…
Long ago, Ben made a promise and he had a dream: to travel to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally makes it, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined…
Ben and Andrew keep meeting in unexpected places, and the intense relationship that develops seems to be guided by fate. Or is it?
What if the very thing that draws them together is tainted by past secrets that threaten everything?
A dark, consuming drama that shifts from Zimbabwe to England, and then back into the past, The Lion Tamer Who Lost is also a devastatingly beautiful love story, with a tragic heart…


Death Parts UsDeath Parts Us by Alex Walters

Twenty years ago, Jackie Galloway was a senior cop with a bad reputation. Then he ended up on the wrong side of the wrong people, and his career was ruined. Sacked and with no pension, he ends up eking out his last days on Scotland’s Black Isle, his mind lost to dementia, supported only by his long-suffering wife, Bridie.

Then Galloway is found dead. The police assume the death to be accidental until Bridie Galloway reveals that her husband has been receiving threatening letters containing only the phrase: ‘NOT FORGOTTEN. NOT FORGIVEN.’

DI Alec McKay is struggling to come to terms with life without his estranged wife Chrissie, and is living in isolation on the Black Isle. As a junior officer, McKay had been allocated to Galloway’s team and has bad memories of the man and his methods. Now he finds himself investigating Galloway’s death.

But when suspicion falls on him and more police officers are murdered, the pressure is on for McKay to solve the case.

Why would the killer seek revenge twenty years after Galloway left the force?

As McKay fights to link the events of past and present, he realizes that time is rapidly running out…


Their Final ActTheir Final Act by Alex Walters

Jimmy McGuire, a washed-up comic, is found dead on the streets of Inverness, his body garroted. Back in the 1990s, McGuire had been half of a promising double-act until his partner, Jack Dingwall, was convicted of rape.

Soon after, a second corpse is found in an abandoned industrial site on the edge of the Moray Firth. The body has been there for some days and has also been garroted. The victim turns out to be a former musician turned record producer, who had also been the subject of rape allegations.

Meanwhile, DI Alec McKay and DCI Helena Grant are still wrestling with the fallout from one of their recent cases following an acquittal.

As the body count rises, the police think they have the killer in their sights. But McKay is concerned that the evidence is too neat so when he realises there will be a final victim, he fears that time is running out …


The Last GoodbyeThe Last Goodbye by Caroline Finnerty

Sometimes the decisions we make can last a lifetime . . . and sometimes we cannot shake off the shackles of decisions made by others in the past.

Kate Flynn has spent her whole life running away. She reckons the best decision she ever made was to leave Ireland the day after she finished school. Having seldom returned since, she would be perfectly happy if she never had to go back there. She is happy in London where she runs a successful photography gallery with her best friend Nat, though their relationship is going through a rocky patch since Nat began an affair with a married man.

When Kate becomes pregnant and her partner Ben persuades her to make the trip home, she is forced to confront everything she left behind and memories of Eva, the mother she feels betrayed her. Kate finds it impossible to forgive Eva who chose to refuse cancer treatment while pregnant and died, leaving a young family motherless.

Do some wounds go too deep to ever heal? Must Eva’s Choice forever deny Kate real happiness?


Hetty_s Farmhouse BakeryHetty’s Farmhouse Bakery by Cathy  Bramley

Thirty-two-year-old Hetty Greengrass is the star around which the rest of her family orbits. Marriage, motherhood and helping Dan run Sunnybank Farm have certainly kept her hands full for the last twelve years. But when her daughter Poppy has to choose her inspiration for a school project and picks her aunt, not her mum, Hetty is left full of self-doubt.

Hetty’s always been generous with her time and until now, her biggest talent – baking deliciously moreish shortcrust pastry pies – has been limited to charity work and the village fete. But taking part in a competition run by Cumbria’s Finest to find the very best produce from the region might be just the thing to make her daughter proud . . . and reclaim something for herself.

Except that life isn’t as simple as producing the perfect pie. Changing the status quo isn’t easy – and with cracks appearing in her marriage and shocking secrets coming to light, Hetty must decide where her priorities really lie . . .


The Death of Mrs WestawayThe Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware

When Harriet Westaway receives an unexpected letter telling her she’s inherited a substantial bequest from her Cornish grandmother, it seems like the answer to her prayers. She owes money to a loan shark and the threats are getting increasingly aggressive: she needs to get her hands on some cash fast.

There’s just one problem – Hal’s real grandparents died more than twenty years ago. The letter has been sent to the wrong person. But Hal knows that the cold-reading techniques she’s honed as a seaside fortune teller could help her con her way to getting the money. If anyone has the skills to turn up at a stranger’s funeral and claim a bequest they’re not entitled to, it’s her.

Hal makes a choice that will change her life for ever. But once she embarks on her deception, there is no going back. She must keep going or risk losing everything, even her life…


Greatest HitsGreatest Hits by Laura Barnett

If you could choose just sixteen moments to define your entire life, what would they be?
Cass Wheeler has seen it all – from the searing heights of success, to earth-shattering moments of despair. She has known passion, envy, pride, fear, and love. She has been a daughter, a mother, a singer, a lover.

A musician born in 1950, Cass is now taking one day to select the sixteen songs in her repertoire that have meant the most to her. And behind each song lies a story – from the day her mother abandoned her, to her passionate first love, to the moment she lost everything. The dreams, the failures, the second chances. But what made her disappear so suddenly from her public life and, most importantly, can she find her way back?


OK so even I’m beginning to see that this book hauling has got out of hand, especially when you add in my Book Choice and newly signed up Reading in Heels subscriptions. So next month I’m attempting to reign it back, if it’s not on my official ‘Wanted’ list, or an exceptional deal (yes, that old get out clause) then it’s not being bought. I’m as curious as you to see how that’s going to go. Happy Reading!!



Five on Friday with Mollie Blake @MollieBlake0

This week I’m delighted to introduce Mollie Blake. Mollie is responsible for keeping Cheshire Book Connections on track, for which the rest of the group, including myself, are extremely grateful.  ​Mollie writes erotic romance suspense, for adults only. All her books are branded A Cheshire Love Story.



About Mollie

Mollie is a regular mum of one son and wife of one husband. She also has a new love in her life – a Newfoundland puppy called Pepper. As a former finance director, she was a bit of a latecomer to writing, but now she has ventured from analysing figures in her spreadsheets to creating steamy scenes for her characters between the bed sheets.

Her stories are filled with provocative romance and laced with suspense. She loves to wander through Google Earth in search of locations to inspire – from castles in the Channel Islands to high rise flats in London: from the streets of Melbourne to hotels in Kenya. Directionally challenged, you can find her getting lost in most places! However, the heart of her stories rests in Cheshire, England.

With a new passion of walking her Newfoundland, Mollie is also guilty of a love of reading, swimming, fast cars, Prosecco and chocolate. She has been condemned in the kitchen on more than one occasion. As she warned her husband – she kisses better than she cooks.

In November 2015 Mollie was delighted to sign a publishing contract with American publisher, Black Opal Books. She is a member of International Thriller Writers and UK Romantic Novelists Association.

So over to Mollie :-


Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?


Titanium – Sia. For me it represents having strength & resolve to overcome negativity.

 Always look on the bright side of life – Monty Python. When life gets you down this is a good thing to remember.

 The Chain – Fleetwood Mac. I just love the thrill of it, not to mention the link with cars.

Hustler – Josef Salvat. I came across this track after I had written Keeping You, & the words resonated so much with my hero, Lawrence Bane. The cover for Hustler is very erotic. I have since gone on to love everything Josef does.

 Shep – Elvis Presley. My dad loved Elvis, and had a dog called Shep. Captivates family, childhood memories and pets.


Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.


My car. A Bentley Continental V8 GT

My piano, which I still play abysmally but I love the challenge of trying to get better.

My MacBook Pro. Mainly used for writing but also connecting on social media.

My wedding and engagement rings.

Pepper, our Newfoundland. A relatively newcomer to our lives, I would not want to be without her.

Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?


Have a bit more patience and you may make fewer mistakes. But I guess it’s part of our huge learning curve.

Be careful which friends you take along the way. I have lost some and I wish I hadn’t.

Make a plan to visit places in the world. Before you know it they can drift out of your reach.

Be more of a positive parent. I missed that post-natal course because I had to go back to work. I apologise to my son.

Don’t worry that everyone doesn’t like you. I don’t like everyone so we’re quits.


Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.


I love superheroes. My favourites are Spiderman and Batman. One of the best things about having a son is I get to watch all the films and cartoons as part of “family” time.

As a challenge for my fortieth year, I passed my motorcycle test and owned a Suzuki SV400. I have never ridden since having my child and I miss it.

For another challenge I cycled the Manchester 100 miles. Twice, but two years apart! It’s on our list to do again.

I love driving and am guilty of singing in the car. If you pass me and I have an odd expression on my face, that’s why. Unless I’ve caught my wheel on the curb and then I’m furious!

I have recently experienced a low period in my life, for no major reason. Never being one to be down very much, this has given me a greater awareness of the cruelty of depression. I was not depressed, but I was not myself and I hated that feeling. The negativity weighed down on me as I believed at the time that I would never be myself again. I was lucky and am in a much better place now. My heart goes out to people who live with the illness and I wish them comfort and peace.


What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?


Travel and see more of the world. We have been States’ side, Canada & Peru, and Africa. Going East this year to Singapore & Borneo. Must visits include China, Australia, Alaska.

Write a best seller 😉 One of my books reached No 29 in erotic thrillers, but that was a while ago.

Play the piano well enough to take the headphones off.

Sail through the Panama Canal

Go to the ballet in Moscow


Thanks so much for taking part Mollie, I love your eclectic music choices. I’m afraid I have to confess to having lost my original wedding ring, but I was forgiven – just! I love your practical take on liking people – maybe that should be good advice for us at any age. Enjoy Singapore and Borneo, I’m sure you’ll love it – if you get the chance to visit Sepilok, take it – you won’t regret it.  


Mollie’s Books


Secret at ArnfordThe Secret at Arnford Hall

He lived in a nightmare. His son brought him daylight. Can this woman be his breaking dawn?

Gabriel Black didn’t give a damn about the world. Until, that is, his seven-year-old son enters his life for the first time. The young boy brings daylight into the darkness of Gabriel’s world. But a single parent needs a distraction. And this single parent has no limits when it comes to getting what he wants…

She’s built a new life for herself on the ruins of the old, but this man can destroy everything she’s worked so hard to gain…

Grace McGuire lives with a dark secret—one that, if revealed, will destroy her new life. Then her world collides with that of forceful Gabriel Black, a multi-millionaire with a secret of his own, a secret Grace is determined to uncover for her sanity and all she holds dear.



Managing Director of her own successful fashion house, Lauren Chandler should have everything going for her. But at twenty-nine, she finds herself single again, and bored. Seeking a new challenge in her life, under the guise of saving her company money, Lauren embarks on a mission to model their latest range of lingerie herself. She just needs a photographer. When Byron Lord makes an unusual proposal, Lauren is adamant he won’t win the contract.

Co-owner of Broadway Studios, Byron Lord is determined to provide job security to his off-beat workforce, and he needs Lauren Chandler’s help to do so. Byron may have underestimated how far Lauren would be prepared to go. He had definitely underestimated how much she would demand of him.

And with an ultimatum of her own, Lauren gets far more than she bargained for.


Keeping YouKeeping You

His past haunts him. Revenge drives him. Can her love save him?

After a chance meeting in a bookshop, young Suzy Harper is engaged by multi-multimillionaire, Lawrence Bane, to work on translating a French document. They embark on an intense relationship, but he is surrounded by mystery and shame as demons from his past threaten to destroy everything he has worked for, including her love for him.

This exciting erotic romantic thriller traces the increasingly intense and tender relationship between the inexperienced Suzy and her wealthy, troubled lover, Lawrence. There are two obsessions in Lawrence’s life—his passion for Suzy and his drive for revenge against the gangland boss who murdered his best friend.

Will Suzy be strong enough to accept Lawrence for the man he is? Will Lawrence trust the woman he loves enough to reveal his darkest secrets to her? Will their love survive the challenges that lie ahead?


American Best ManThe American Best Man

Emily Moorcroft is the skeptical bridesmaid at her best friend’s wedding. Lauren Chandler is getting married to enigmatic Byron Lord, and Emily is compelled to ask her if she really knows who she’s marrying. Emily’s concerns grow when she suspects the newly weds friendship with the best man is “very close.” Lauren is her best friend! It’s not right that the best man seems to know Lauren better than Emily does. Jealousy rears its head, and painful memories threaten to spoil the day for Emily Moorcroft.

Why does the best man seem to know more than the bridesmaid? And why is the bridesmaid able to tell the best man things she has never told anyone else?


Unconventional AffairAn Unconventional Affair

Tranquility “Tee” Hammond is head of a law firm. Having escaped a violent husband, with a son she was really too young to have had, her life revolved around her work. There was little time for anything else and she didn’t need anything else. When she was inclined to treat herself to a little sexual pleasure, she engaged the services of Email Indulgence–an exclusive club–one email for one night of sex with a man she didn’t know and didn’t need to care about again. For her, it was enough. But her life was about to be changed by a friend of Tee’s son at university, Barrington Stone, fifteen years her junior who is determined to woo her into an unconventional affair.


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