Blog Tour Book Review: On Starlit Seas, by Sara Sheridan

Publisher:  Black and White Publishing

Publication date:  28th July 2016

On Starlit Seas My Review

On Starlit Seas - coverWhat a delight! The pure richness of words wrapped by the cover of On Starlit Seas allowed me to be swept away on a magical, epic voyage that simply took my breath away. From Cacoa beans in Mexico, to Fry’s Chocolate manufactory in Bristol, and the filthy London back streets knocking on society’s finest door, On Starlit Seas is delicious story featuring smuggling, blackmail and adventure, where the path of two people with differing destinies seemed fated to cross.

Widowed Maria Graham, a Naval Captain’s wife and English lady of respectable birth and intellect, sought passage home during a turbulent time of in South America’s history. Being used to travelling to exotic places with her husband before his passing she continued to do so alone. She has found acclaim as an author after documenting her experiences, much to the interest of her publisher who eagerly anticipated her newest manuscripts from his offices in the chillier climes of London.

A rarity in the 1800’s, a woman author (she’s not fictional) would inevitably lead to mockery by her male peers, but Maria Graham was not the sort of lady you would meet every day. In fact she was a breath of fresh air – lead by her determination to observe the world and everything in it.

After discovering there were no passenger or Naval ships available to provide a suitable escort for Maria, as they were commissioned to carry out more important tasks, her quest to find a suitable means home became an interesting proposition. She had to deliver her new manuscripts to her publisher and collect supplies for her new position as governess to a young princess and although she might be accustomed to dealing with rugged escorts on her many journeys, trudging along on horseback through difficult terrain, nothing would prepare her for Captain Henderson, a gentlemanly rogue if ever there was one!

From the moment they met at the port, no matter what he seemed to do, he caused repeated insult or offence. Frustratingly, her position means she cannot admit to being intrigued by his rugged exterior and the mysteries of his inherited cargo, not to mention his unusual boat and the crew that complimented it! The surprising nature of their affinity leads to endearing moments throughout.

The Captain took a step away from polite society when his was a boy of twelve to join his father’s business, and despite his best efforts his rough edges show. He’s used to his own company and another class of lady altogether and his unintentional confusion surrounding these matters is met with some distain from Maria Graham as she graces the deck of the Bittersweet.

Although fiercely independent, she is grateful for the advantages her status has afforded her. If only she could put aside the inhibitions reining her in for just a moment, and if only he can stop being so innocently devilish, and presumptuous, then things could be very different on the perilous journey ahead where they will meet some very unsavoury characters indeed. Their difficulties also lead to the heart of society which shows its disapproval at the slightest whiff of impropriety, and neither wishes to rock that particular boat (excuse the pun).

The many flavours of the characters are further enhanced by the places they encounter. I was especially intrigued by the regular consumption of chocolate throughout, which is sipped from a cup rather than eaten in a block. Its innovations and practices lead Fry’s Chocolate to be woven into the intricacies of a grand plot, as are the hints of improvements to conditions for the plantation workers with the hint of a ‘fair trade’ cacoa bean.

On Starlit Seas is a magnificent and captivating read, blended to perfection.

Rating:  5/5

(I’m most grateful to have received a copy of an exquisitely packaged book from the publisher for review.)

Publishers Book Post

On Starlit Seas Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Celebrated writer and historian Maria Graham must make the treacherous voyage from Brazil to London to deliver her latest book to her publisher. Having come to terms with the loss of her beloved husband, Maria now has renewed hope for the future and is determined to live her life as she pleases, free from the smothering constraints of Georgian society.

For a woman travelling alone it s a journey fraught with danger, and as civil war rages around her, the only ship prepared to take Maria belongs to roguish smuggler Captain James Henderson. Onboard, all is well until Maria makes two shocking discoveries the first a deadly secret, the second an irresistible attraction to the enigmatic captain.

With Henderson on a journey of his own and determined to finally put his life of crime behind him, he and Maria grow ever closer. But can Henderson escape his illicit past or will the scandalous secret he s hiding ruin them both?

On Starlit Seas is a breathtaking and compelling story of passion, secrets and escape.

“A story as rich and velvety as the chocolate at its heart… A joy to read.”
MARY CHAMBERLAIN (author of The Dressmaker of Dachau)

“This is a novel to take one seamlessly from exotic places to shadowy underworlds and polite drawing rooms, in order to revel in an emotionally charged and socially challenged Victorian romance, coupled with the cliff-hanging jeopardy of Brazilian and London low-life… Five stars with extra phosphorescence!”
JOANNA HICKSON (author of The Tudor Bride)

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On Starlit Seas Author Profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Sara Sheridan was born in Edinburgh and studied at Trinity College, Dublin. She works in a wide range of media and genres. Tipped in Company and GQ magazines, she has been nominated for a Young Achiever Award. She has also received a Scottish Library Award and was shortlisted for the Saltire Book Prize. She sits on the committee for the Society of Authors in Scotland (where she lives) and on the board of ’26’ the campaign for the importance of words. She’s taken part in 3 ’26 Treasures’ exhibitions at the V&A, London, The National Museum of Scotland and the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green.

She occasionally blogs on the Guardian site about her writing life and puts her hand up to being a ‘twitter evangelist’. From time to time she appears on radio, most recently reporting for BBC Radio 4’s From Our Own Correspondent. Sara is a member of the Historical Writers Association and the Crime Writers Association. A self-confessed ‘word nerd’ her favourite book is ‘Water Music’ by TC Boyle.

Sara Sheridan writes the popular Mirabelle Bevan Murder Mysteries set in 1950s as well as historical novels set in 1820-1845. Fascinated particularly by female history she is a cultural commentator who appears regularly on television and radio. In 2014 she was named one of the Saltire Society’s 365 Most Influential Scottish Women, past and present.

TWITTER   |   FACEBOOK   |   WEBSITE

blogtour

Book Review: A Christmas Cracker, by Trisha Ashley

Publisher: Avon (Harper Collins)  |  Publication date: 22nd October 2015  |  Edition: Kindle (Review copy, via Netgalley)

~ FIRSTLY, A VERY HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY TO TRISHA ASHLEY!!!! ~

A Christmas Cracker My Review

A Christmas Cracker by Trisha Astley Kindle CoverA Christmas Cracker is a cheery little marvel and provided me with a delightful distraction over the recent dismal days. This book has the “F” Factor – that’s Fantastically Festive and Feel good!

The village of Little Mumming in the Hamlet of Godsend and its random selection of quirky residents are such excellent company.  The story has just about everything: from perfectly chosen names of the characters and places, a snobby cat called Pye with human traits, not to mention that Marwood’s Magical Crackers seems the most welcoming workplace in the world – it was an absolute joy to read!

With the owners of the old factory mill being practicing Quakers they have a marvellous reputation for offering second chances to those in need. Yet it seems they could do with one themselves, as the products they sell need a much welcomed facelift, along with most of the staff who aren’t getting any younger! Over time, each employee has become a valued friend of the quirky owners and has their own story to tell, but I’ll let you get to know them for yourself. Let’s just say they’re keen as mustard and happy to leave their past behind them. Much like our main gal, Tabitha…

After being wrongly accused of fraud and losing everything only to gain a custodial sentence, Tabby is desperate to move on. But it seems that the shadows from her past just won’t let her go and they leap out to challenge her at unexpected intervals. You can almost hear her cry, “good grief, what next?!”

Since her mum passed away Tabby is without any family. Her one and only friend has tried to remain supportive but is experiencing difficulties of her own with a jealous husband watching her every move. So Tabby relies on the uncompromising kindness of Mercy Marwood, famed for her good, honest hospitality, plenty of mouth-watering food and an abundance of energy, despite her advancing years.

With Tabby’s artistic eye for design, Mercy hopes to turn her Cracker factory around by dragging it kicking and screaming into a popular attraction, while still retaining its traditional values. But Randal, her nephew, has other ideas for the mill and seems hell bent on making the new house guest and her cantankerous cat as unwelcome as possible. He cannot believe the family business will be profitable again and will take some convincing, but he’s facing a formidable team!

His rudeness is to be expected though, as Tabby recognises Mercy’s nephew from the awful past she’s trying to forget, the one just before she had been arrested. Well, you can gather that things get very interesting indeed as the headstrong battle for the survival of the mill plays out.

So, what did I find in A Christmas Cracker? A WONDERFUL STORY with a great BIG HEART! It reminds you that no matter how bleak things look there’s always hope – okay, you might miss it on the first couple of passes, but it’ll be waiting for you to stumble over it all in good time…

Rating: 4/5

PS. The recipes in the back of the book were a lovely touch too!

(My thanks to the publisher, Avon Books and Helena Sheffield, for providing a digital copy of this book for review via Netgalley.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Get into the festive spirit with this heart-warming, funny and simply gorgeous Christmas read.

The eagerly awaited new novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author.

This Christmas is about to go off with a bang!

Things can’t possibly get worse for Tabby. Framed for a crime she didn’t commit, she suddenly finds herself without a job. Then to make matters worse, Tabby’s boyfriend dumps her and gives her cat away to a shelter.

But rescue comes in the form of kindly Mercy. A master of saving waifs and strays, Mercy wants Tabby to breathe new flair into her ailing cracker business. Together, they’ll save Marwood’s Magical Christmas Crackers.

But someone has other ideas. Mercy’s nephew Randal thinks Tabby’s a fraudster. Stubborn, difficult and very attractive, her future depends upon winning him round. But it’s that time of the year when miracles really can happen. Standing under the mistletoe, Tabby’s Christmas is set to be one that she will never forget . . .

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A Christmas Cracker Author Links

Connect with the author, Trisha Ashley:

TWITTER  |  WEBSITE FACEBOOK


 

Book Review: Holy Island – A DCI Ryan Mystery (Book 1), by L J Ross

Publication date: 1st January 2015   |   Edition: Kindle (Review copy courtesy of the author)

Holy Island My Review

Holy Island by L J RossA wicked crime will always crave a special location to give it the darkest edge, and a location that is steeped with deep religious significance can only succeed in heaping more mystery on the occasion. In this story, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne ironically proves to be the perfect place for pure evil to thrive.

Following an earlier case that has affected him personally, a moody, troubled detective chooses to stay on the Island to recover. DCI Ryan had no idea he would soon be on hand to investigate the murder of a member of this quiet community. It was a lucky break for the islanders to have his expertise on tap.

T’was the season to be jolly, yet everyone is now looking over their shoulders wondering who could have committed such a heinous crime. Their concerns are amplified, as the tide cuts them off from the mainland at regular intervals and it’s likely that the suspect is still walking among them.

Following the manner in which a young girl met her death, and given the symbolism of Lindisfarne’s historical and religious background, the suggestion of Paganism raises its head. As an invisible menace plagues the daily routines of the islanders, the finger of suspicion is being pointed in all kinds of directions.

The author has certainly worked the setting to its full advantage, being cunning enough to conceal the perpetrator’s identity until the very last. Although, we do get to ‘hear’ from the anonymous menace periodically as they offer their smug thoughts in what is a brilliant, disapproving tone, particularly when considering the manipulation of lesser mortals. I tried to keep an eye on the close-knit community throughout the investigation, but they were all looking pretty shady and I just couldn’t pin the right suspect down!

The crime/mystery side of this book worked exceedingly well. I couldn’t fault it. Alas, things changed for me when Ryan’s supposed love interest was introduced when a consultant and ex-resident of the island is hired to assist with the case, bringing more baggage with her than you’d find in airport. Given their bullish behaviour toward each other I was initially intrigued how life would pan out for them. That was until any relationship they might be heading for started to overshadow the reality of the investigation. I decided to side-step any hint of cheesy sentimentality that was developing to prevent it getting in the way of an otherwise gripping storyline.

Yes, yes, you may think my heart is colder than the brickwork of Lindisfarne Priory. But this, coupled with a touch of ‘cliché cop’ speak in places, is why I’ve agonised for a few days over the rating I would give. (Between a 3.5 to 4).

All-in-all this is a VERY worthy start to a new crime series. For anyone who does like a romantic side to their fiction it’ll kill two birds with one stone, by merging the two results in a sort of ‘cri-rom-combo’, or a ‘crombo’ perhaps? I’d certainly be curious to read the next in the line-up, Sycamore Gap, to discover what is in store for DCI Ryan and co., especially after being left with that rather intriguing ending!

Rating: 4/5

(I must thank the author for kindly providing a free digital copy of this book for review. Thank you for getting in touch via the blog, it’s very much appreciated.)

Holy Island Book Summary

Detective Chief Inspector Ryan retreats to Holy Island seeking sanctuary when he is forced to take sabbatical leave from his duties as a homicide detective. A few days before Christmas, his peace is shattered and he is thrust back into the murky world of murder when a young woman is found dead amongst the ancient ruins of the nearby Priory. When former local girl Dr Anna Taylor arrives back on the island as a police consultant, old memories swim to the surface making her confront her difficult past. She and Ryan struggle to work together to hunt a killer who hides in plain sight, while pagan ritual and small-town politics muddy the waters of their investigation. Murder and mystery are peppered with a sprinkling of romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunnit set on the spectacular Northumbrian island of Lindisfarne, cut off from the English mainland by a tidal causeway.

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Holy Island Author Links

Louise Ross

Born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, LJ Ross moved to London where she graduated from King’s College London with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Law. After working in the City as a regulatory lawyer for a number of years, she realised it was high time for a change. The catalyst was the birth of her son, which forced her to take a break from the legal world and find time for some of the detective stories which had been percolating for a while and finally demanded to be written.

She lives with her husband and young son in the south of England, but will always be a northern girl at heart.

Her first book, “Holy Island”, has consistently been listed as an Amazon bestseller since its release in January 2015 and hit the Amazon UK Kindle #1 position in May 2015. Its sequel, “Sycamore Gap” was released on 11th September 2015. She is currently working on the third book in the DCI Ryan series, which should be available in early 2016.

If you would like to connect with LJ Ross, she would be very happy to hear from you:

TWITTER   |   FACEBOOK   |   WEBSITE

Books by L J Ross

All This Will Be Lost, by Brian Payton

Publisher:  Picador (Pan Macmillan)  |  Publication date:  21st May 2015  |  Edition: Paperback (review copy)

All This Will Be Lost by Brian Payton

‘All This Will Be Lost’ is a story of courage, truth and an unwavering devotion. (Hardback version was entitled ‘The Wind Is Not A River’.)

How many books leave a genuine imprint on your train of thought? How many really? You know, the ones that prick your senses from a solitary line of prose…

Death itself is no longer an abstract concept, it is an unwelcomed and patient companion.

All This will Be Lost is such a book. This snapshot in time captures momentous tragedy with a poetic charm that’s in a class of its own. It’s a beautifully written story, depicting an ugly period of history.

The book spans 1st April 1943 to 9th November 1945. Journalist John Easley and his wife, Helen, have been separated. This story strives to construct a virtual bridge, hoping to close the chasm these two people have created, whilst leaving a scar deepened by war.

Told entirely in the third person, we hear of their struggles during this time – their individual accounts are unforgettable.

Following an air crash, the journalist finds himself not only in an unfamiliar territory, but a hostile one. He is enveloped by the bleakness of the Japanese occupied Aleutian Islands, Alaska.

The events that unfold are not heart breaking, they’re heart tearing. With no immediate way home, extreme survival is the only option, as John is driven by the knowledge of the untold story of these islands, a story he believes should be reported to the rest of the world. The harrowing conditions, the question of his sanity, and his dwindling connection to civilisation are all presented with a tenderness I cannot even begin to describe.

Helen is hundreds of miles away in Seattle, unsettled and waiting for news of his whereabouts. When none is forthcoming, she is determined to find a way to get closer to the truth. Although her enquiries seem futile, she proves she can take any measures necessary to try to deliver her husband safely home.

Their journeys bring unexpected challenges and consequences. But please, please, do not mistake this for a traditional, war-torn romance, it is on another level entirely. There are no clichéd melodramatics, if there were, I wouldn’t be writing this review. It also presents a wretched, eye opening experience of two people’s lives when the rest of the world, including theirs, is being torn apart.

A marvel of a book, and a highly recommended one at that.

Rating: 4.5/5

I would like to thank the publisher for providing this marvellous book for review. I’m so grateful to have been given (this opportunity to read it.)


You can follow the author on Twitter: @bapayton  |  Publisher: @panmacmillan & @Sophiemorme

Like to know more about this author’s work? Visit his website here: http://brianpayton.com/

The Faerie Tree, by Jane Cable

Publisher: Troubador Publishing / Matador | Version: Kindle

I admit I almost didn’t download this one – why? I was guilty of judging a book purely by its Netgalley cover. Yes, yes, shame on me.

The Faerie Tree by Jane Cable

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover – this is an edgy, pacey story.

It was only when Jane Cable, the author, contacted me via Twitter to ask if I’d seen her book and would I like to review it. So I gave it another look, and you know what, I’m so glad I did.

I’m sorry, Jane, I still don’t like the cover – in my humble opinion, it doesn’t reflect the edgy story you’ve written. Your writing is much punchier and pacey than I’d have expected, and writing has to be good to keep my short attention span happy!

 

Enough about the cover already, let’s get to the story:

Love, relationships, grief, depression, hope. The Faerie Tree covers it all, yet it’s not all doom and gloom. Nor was it overly soppy either. Nothing dwells too long and the pace makes it a very quick read.

Izzie (Isobel O’Briain) is a 44 year recently widowed lady, who lives with her headstrong daughter, Claire. She is grief stricken, trying to face life again without her husband, Connor.

During a visit to into town she unexpectedly bumps into a tramp and by doing so, she recognises a face she hasn’t seen for over twenty years. Despite his dishevelled appearance, Izzie could swear it was Robin Vale, someone she was close to but lost touch with under very difficult circumstances following the death of his mother.

Izzie can’t stop thinking about their old life and tries to track him down. She finds him, but he’s in hospital. Being ill, he can’t be discharged back on the streets and needs to stay somewhere to recuperate. So, she invites him to stay with her and Claire until he can sort things out for himself.

During his stay, it becomes clear that time has passed differently for both of them. Their lives have each taken different paths, yet both of them are filled with their own grief and are dealing with it in their separate ways. In fact, each recollects a different memory of their own time together – prompting them to ask themselves: exactly how close were they all those years ago?

In alternating chapters, Izzie and Robin tell their story from their own point of view. They battle for the truth, each believing they are to blame and questioning their state of mind, whilst neither is confiding in each other. Forever wondering if they can move on from their past – is it something that will always haunt them, or can they pick up where they left off, wherever that may be?

faerie tree

Example of a faerie tree, where wishes are made and traditions are followed.

The only real constant in the entire story is a Faerie Tree with its roots still standing firm, its many branched arms holding everyone’s secrets. For many years people have visited it to make their wishes and for kids to write letters to the little folk who supposedly inhabit it.

Following a wish Robin and Izzie made in 1986, he still holds respect for it all these years later with his quiet pagan beliefs. But what actually happened that day? You don’t know until near the end whose memory will unlock the true version of events and what the future holds for them both.

For anyone wondering whether a book that mentions Paganism will appeal, never fear; the presence of ‘The Faerie Tree’ and its associations are not the main theme, so the story has a much wider audience.

I do love a story that surprises me and this certainly did. I also loved Jane Cable’s writing style. If it wasn’t for a couple of personal ‘irritations’ I would have rated it five stars (I so wanted to):

  1. I just can’t see a teenager who has recently lost their dad being so content with moving a tramp into their house (especially if the tramp’s an old flame of their mother’s).
  2. And, despite Izzie’s obvious alcohol issues, you’d think if Robin cared enough he wouldn’t buy / serve a bottle of wine to accompany every meal, even if it is at her request.

Like I said, irritations really. Just ignore me. I’m a miserable old cynic and analyse everything  x

Still highly recommended.

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book for review, and to the author for bringing it to my attention.)


You can follow the author on Twitter:  @JaneCable