Friday, 15 December 2017

Penhaligan's Pride
Terri Nixon

Series: The Penhaligon Saga
Genre: Historical Saga
Release Date: 07 Dec 2017
Publisher: Piatkus

I'm absolutely delighted to host the Blog Tour for Penhaligon's Pride by Terri Nixon here on Boon's Bookcase. I also have a Q&A with the author for you. I have been lucky enough to meet Terri and have had a lot of interaction on Facebook and she is such a lovely, funny and down to earth lady and when I saw the opportunity to host her new book, I jumped at the chance! So welcome Terri and I hope you enjoy the extract, Q&A and Giveaway!

1910. Anna Garvey and her daughter are still running the Tin Streamer's Arms in Caernoweth, Cornwall, and it finally seems like she has left her tumultuous history behind in Ireland. Meanwhile Freya Penhaligon has blossomed and is now the object of increasing affection of Hugh, the elder son of the wealthy Batten family.
After the dramatic events of the previous months, it feels like everything is finally getting back to normal. But when Anna inadvertently reveals something she shouldn't, she finds herself at the centre of a blackmail plot and it seems like the past she longed to escape is coming back to haunt her. To make matters worse, the tiny fishing hamlet is battered by a terrible storm and shifting relationships find themselves under more scrutiny than ever before.
With the Penhaligon family at breaking point it will take enormous strength and courage to bring them back together - but is it already too late?

Q&A with Terri Nixon

Hi. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing.

Firstly, please could you tell readers a little about yourself?
Hello! Thank you for having me here today. Briefly then, I’m a hybrid author, writing historical sagas for traditional publishers, but self-publishing my own spin on contemporary folklore. I live in Devon, and grew up in Cornwall, on the edge of the moors – which was as wonderful as it sounds! (And probably explains that folklore thing!)

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
This is always a tough question to answer, because while I’ve always known I wanted to write, I used to try and convince myself that meant I should be looking for a job as a journalist, or just to work with books in some way. It was only when I was in my early twenties that I dared to think I might try and actually ‘be’ a writer. At school I used to write ‘fan fiction’ for my friends, putting them with the boys they fancied!

What did you do as a job before becoming a writer?
Sadly I’m still doing it! I work full-time in the faculty office in a university, and before that I did twenty years or so in the civil service. I’d love to be able to give up at least a couple of days, but needs must when the devil’s your bank manager.

How do you carry out the research for your novels?
I read. A lot! I try to read mostly first-hand accounts of people from the era I’m writing about, to try and develop an authentic-sounding voice. I find that’s far more valuable than learning facts – you absorb so much more than you realise, and find it leaking out gradually and more naturally. I think you can tell when someone’s been on a fact-finding mission and is determined to let you know everything they’ve learned!

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
Dialogue – particularly arguments, or verbal conflict – I absolutely love. I can get swept right up in both sides once I get started, and often emerge a bit blinky, and not quite sure what’s happened until I read it back! I’ve changed massive plotlines and character arcs based on something that’s popped out while writing a massive row! More difficult, is making sure all my loose ends are tied up; I write series, so I’ll have dropped all kinds of hints, foreshadowing, and clues, then powered through and forgotten I’ve sowed all those seeds. Time for a tidy-up!

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
Because of my job I’m restricted to weekends for actual writing, though I can use the odd hour or so in an evening for a bit of editing, or plotting. But I write best when I begin early in the morning, so Saturday and Sunday you’ll find me planted at my bureau, trying to ignore the washing up. I’m getting pretty good at that…

When you're not writing, what do you like to read?
I’m a long-time rabid Stephen King fan, and I also love the novels of Walter Scott. Wildly romantic, in all its definitions. Been a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s books for years and years too, and for humour it has to be Tom Sharpe or Terry Pratchett.

How important do you think social media is to authors in today's society?
Crazy-important! You don’t have to like it, but you’ll be putting yourself at a disadvantage if you decide to avoid it. I’ve heard writers dismissing it as unnecessary, and those will be the ones who complain the loudest that it’s impossible to get their work or their name noticed. A connection with people you’re writing for, as well as a support network of people who ‘get it,’ is vital.

Could you tell the readers a bit about your latest book?
Penhaligon’s Pride is the second book in my Cornish series: The Penhaligon Saga. Set in a mining and fishing town in the early years of the 1900s, it focuses on family and friendship, and follows the lives ofa community of people living and working in dangerous occupations. The central family have secrets and regrets, but they’re close, and when something threatens the deep trust between them it’s hard to imagine how they can recover from that. Add in a potentially fatal explosion in the tin mine, a body found floating face-down in the quarry pool, and a ferocious coastal storm, and there’s quite a lot going on in this book!

Which of your characters would you most like to be and why?
Ooh, tough one! I don’t think any of them escape having a bit of a hard time now and again – some more than others – but nearly all of them also have times of great joy and contentment. I think, at this moment, I’d pick Lizzy Parker from Maid of Oaklands Manor… without giving too much away, I think she’s destined for an unpredictable and exciting life, with a very exciting companion!

Is there anything else you would have liked to be asked?
I would like to use this space to extend my thanks to all the wonderful bloggers and readers who have taken the time to review my work, or to help me bring it to the attention of those I might otherwise have missed. It’s SO deeply appreciated, and I just wanted to let you know that. Thank you all. And Merry Christmas!

Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions.

Extract from Penhaligon’s Pride.

(Matthew Penhaligon is working in the tin mine, and his old adversary David Donithorn, his shift captain, has been uncharacteristically distant all morning. The men are on their lunch break.)

Alan had broken off from talking to cough; a deep, hacking sound, appalling enough in an old man, never mind in a nineteen-year-old. Matthew swallowed hard, wondering if he was imagining the tickle in his own throat, and determined not to cough himself… it sounded as if Alan would never stop. He’d surely returned to work too soon, but during his time working with Tommy, Matthew had learned the Trevellicks had no living parents, just aging grandparents Esther and Joe. There had been little choice in the matter, Alan’s wage was needed.
At thirty-eight, Matthew was probably one of the oldest men working the underground levels, particularly down this far; most had succumbed to injury or illness long before they reached such an advanced age, but then most of the others had been doing it all their lives. He wondered, with a returning bleakness, how long it would be before he too sounded as if he were tearing himself apart inside. The tickle in his throat grew, and he cleared it, tasting rock dust. A swig of water helped, but as he pictured the dust swirling down his throat he wished he’d spat instead.
Donithorn came back, and picked up the coil of fuse and the tamping bar. ‘Time.’ He started back down the tunnel, but Alan spoke up.
‘Powder, Cap’n? Or be we not botherin’ with that today?’ The sarcasm made Tommy visibly flinch, and Donithorn stopped. Matthew couldn’t see his face properly, but he gave a little shake of his head, as if coming back from some other place his mind had been inhabiting. ‘Yes. And, um... bring the bar.’
‘You’ve got that,’ Alan pointed out.
Donithorn looked down at his hand. ‘Right. Swab stick then.’ Irritation crept in. ‘Just make haste.’ Then he was gone into the dark again, and Matthew and the others put their water bottles and lunch tins back in their bags.
‘Well he’s changed,’ Alan observed. ‘Time was you couldn’t speak to ’un like that without getting a right ear-bashin’ back.’ He nudged his brother. ‘Why din’t you tell me he’d turned into a purring kitten? I’d have come back sooner.’
‘He’s only been like it today,’ Tommy said. ‘And you wouldn’t anyway, you’ve been too sick.’
‘I was joking,’ Alan pointed out patiently. ‘Come on, boy, grab what’s needed, and let’s get this bloody stuff out.’ As they started down the tunnel he caught at Matthew’s shirt. ‘You take this. Nature’s callin’ an’ she’ve got a bleddy loud voice.’
He pushed the swab stick into Matthew’s hand, and went back out to one of the worked-out tunnels to relieve himself, while Matthew and Tommy rejoined their captain.
When they reached him he had already cut the three fuses, and was neatly re-coiling what was left. He looked up, and dropped the depleted coil of fuse on the floor, then nodded at the cart. ‘Tommy, finish getting that loaded, and get it out.’
‘Yes, Cap’n.’
‘On you go, Pen’aligon, since you’ve got the stick.’
Matthew cleaned the loose grit and dust out of the three holes, and Alan arrived and began pouring the gunpowder into the scraper. When he and Donithorn started to pack and tamp the shot-holes, Matthew turned to help Tommy push the almost-full cart back out to the main shaft.
‘Get in,’ he said, when he was sure they were out of Donithorn’s hearing.
Tommy looked at him, puzzled. ‘What?’
‘Get in!’ Matthew knocked the side of the cart, and grinned.
Tommy gave a snort of surprised laughter, and climbed into the cart, where he huddled down on the lumps of ore, making himself as small as possible. Matthew pushed, enjoying the sound of Tommy’s chuckling as they went, and only just remembering in time to duck his own head to avoid an ear-ringing collision with the low, rocky roof. The boy worked so hard it was easy to forget he was still a child, and it was good to be able to give him a rest, even a brief one, though the ground was almost impossible to navigate without stopping every minute or so to kick rubble out of the way.
Together Matthew and the cart rattled and slid around the last bend, where the tunnel opened up and the ore could be unloaded onto a kibble for its journey to the surface. Tommy climbed out, and Matthew manoeuvred the cart into position. He glanced around as the boy started back up the tunnel.
‘Where are you going now? Alan’s here, there’s no need for either of us to go back.’
‘My coat,’ Tommy said. ‘I tied it around one of the props. It’s the only one I got,’ he added, almost apologetically. He needn’t have; Matthew was only too well aware of the consequences of losing clothing, when you earned so little money.
‘I’ll fetch it. Stay put.’
Donithorn was removing the candle from his helmet as Matthew returned to the end of the tunnel. ‘What’re you back for?’
‘Tommy’s coat.’ Matthew stepped past him and saw the coat, tied by the arms around one of the roughly sawn props.
‘Get it then, and be quick.’ Donithorn touched the candle to the end of the first fuse. ‘Fire in the hole!’ Alan quickly lit the other two, and flashed a grin at Matthew, who swore and ripped the coat sleeves free. Turning to follow, Matthew’s foot slid on loose rubble, and, as he reached out to steady himself on the wall he glanced at the nearest burning fuse and blinked. Something was… then he froze. Almost burned through…
‘Run!’ It came out weak and dismayed, so he snatched a short breath and bellowed, ‘RUN!’
Donithorn half-turned to question the sudden panic, but there was no time to explain. Matthew’s heart hammered against his ribs, the sweat of terror mingled with that of the natural heat, and made
his free hand slip and slide on the rock wall. The hand holding Tommy’s coat gave him better purchase, and he leaned hard to his left, pushing against the wall to drive himself forward.
Donithorn, still blankly unmoving, looked past Matthew and, coming to life, gave a low cry of horror. Alan had heeded Matthew’s urgency and disappeared around the first bend, but Donithorn seemed locked in place and his face, in the thin light of the candle, was whiter than ever. ‘How…’
‘Go!’ Matthew shoved at him. He ducked low beneath the uneven roof, pushing Donithorn ahead of him. Even as he slipped and slid, and the skin was torn from his hands by sharp rock, he tried to calculate how long they had left. In his mind’s eye was only the sparking burn of the safety fuse, working its lazy, but unstoppable way towards the densely-packed gunpowder.

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About Terri Nixon

Terri was born in Plymouth, UK. At the age of 9 she moved with her family to Cornwall, to the village featured in Jamaica Inn -- North Hill -- where she discovered a love of writing that has stayed with her ever since. She also discovered apple-scrumping, and how to jump out of a hayloft without breaking any bones, but no-one's ever offered to pay her for doing those. Since publishing in paperback for the first time in 2002, Terri has appeared in both print and online fiction collections, and is proud to have contributed to the Shirley Jackson award-nominated hardback collection: Bound for Evil, by Dead Letter Press. Penhaligon’s Pride is her eighth novel to be published. Terri also writes under the name T Nixon, and has contributed to anthologies under the names Terri Pine and Teresa Nixon. She is represented by the Kate Nash Literary Agency. She now lives in Plymouth with her youngest son, and works in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Plymouth University, where she is constantly baffled by the number of students who don't possess pens. 

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Thursday, 14 December 2017

Winter at West Sands Guest House
Maggie Conway

Welcome to Maggie Conway and Winter at West Sands Guest House. I have an extract for you today, so sit back and enjoy chapter one.


Chapter One Eva Harris wasn’t spying, not exactly. It was more a case of taking a healthy interest in her new neighbours. She’d almost jumped for joy when the removal van had pulled up earlier. During the afternoon she’d taken several breaks from her painting, lingering at the window with mugs of tea, hoping to catch a glimpse of whoever had moved in. It must have been one of the most efficient removals ever – the van appeared to have come and gone in record time and apart from the removal men Eva hadn’t seen anyone. Even now all was quiet, a sleek black car in the driveway the only evidence anyone had moved in. Eva hated not having neighbours. She found the silence from next door unsettling. The house – known affectionately as Mac’s place – had lain empty, ever since Moira and Donald MacKenzie had decided to sell up and cruise around the world before moving into a bungalow to accommodate Donald’s arthritis. Tempted as she was to rush round to welcome her new neighbours, she held off. She knew moving day could be hectic and it was probably better to give whoever it was time to settle in. From where she stood at a bedroom window on her first floor, Eva looked out onto the harbour and beyond that to the expanse of sea. Even now in October, St Andrews was a beautiful place to live. Being close to the university, Eva was used to seeing students coming and going along the cobbled streets. Tonight though, everyone was huddled up against the rain, hurrying to wherever they had to go. Turning from the window, Eva rested her hands on her hips and admired the silky finish of the duck egg blue wall she had just painted. Listening to the radio as the rain lashed against the window, she’d been happy to be indoors today and even happier that she had managed to paint the whole room despite all her neighbour-spotting activity. Eva loved running her small guest house and even though visitors came to St Andrews all year round, she closed during the winter months. This gave her time to take care of any maintenance and freshen up the rooms. But more importantly it gave her time to be with her son Jamie and it let them have the house to themselves without guests. Looking at the time she realized he should be home by now, even allowing for his football after school. She pulled her phone from the back pocket of her dungarees but there were no messages from him. She resisted the urge to phone and check where he was. Eva was convinced when she gave birth to Jamie a worry bead had been planted in her brain at the same time. Whatever the stage – teething, feeding, learning to read or to cross the road safely – Eva was always capable of imagining the worst-case scenario and only her constant vigilance prevented disaster. Each milestone brought its joys of course but also a new set of anxieties for Eva. Jamie was almost twelve now; the teenage years were looming large and the thought terrified her. Starting high school had been a big change not just for Jamie but Eva too. With his new routine and all the after-school activities, she knew she had to give him a bit of independence but she’d been holding the reins of motherhood so tightly for so long it was difficult to let go. She wondered if she should phone Heather to see if she’d heard from Fraser. She could bet wherever Fraser was, Jamie would be two steps away. When Jamie had come home after his first day at primary school and announced he had a new best friend called Fraser, Eva was more than relieved to meet his mum, Heather. Like their sons, their friendship had been instant and enduring. When Eva had admitted to her excessive – bordering neurotic – worrying, Heather had taken it in her stride. To this day Eva had never seen her friend stressed despite having three boisterous sons. Heather had seen most things at least once and over the years Eva had called upon her expertise several times. When Jamie got his finger stuck in a bottle, kept bringing home bugs, or had decided jumping off furniture was fun, Heather reassured her that was what boys did. The only thing Heather hadn’t managed to bestow on Eva was the ability to relax, at least not without alcohol being involved. Eva loved spending time at her friend’s chaotic home but never knew if it was because of the easy atmosphere or because of her friend’s willingness to produce a bottle of wine at any time for any reason. No, she wouldn’t phone Heather. She’d only remind her – again – they were lucky living in a small safe community, they’d agreed the boys were old enough to walk home from high school themselves, and they’d be home soon. Swallowing the familiar tug of anxiety in her stomach, Eva took a deep breath and started tidying up. She placed the lid back on the paint pot, put the brushes in a jar of water, and went over in her head what she still had to do. Tomorrow she could start to put the furniture back in place and then give everything a good clean. Eva was using a small ceramic seahorse sculpture as her inspiration to give the room a coastal feel. A couple of patterned navy cushions for the armchair and a beautiful driftwood mirror she’d found in a craft shop would provide the finishing touches. She’d certainly come a long way in the seven years since she’d taken over West Sands guest house. When she’d moved in, the existing rooms were functional but drab. At school the only subject Eva had ever really enjoyed was art and she had discovered a real passion for interiors and decorating. Realizing she had a choice to either pay someone to do the work or learn how to do itself, she chose the latter. She’d enrolled in a painting and decorating course at a local college for one day a week that fitted in with Jamie’s school hours and after that she’d kept going, learning with books, online courses, and a lot of trial and error. Now she was able to tackle most jobs herself and loved it so much – dreaming up colour combinations or imagining how textures might work in a room and then putting all her ideas into practice – she sometimes thought she’d missed her calling. She liked to give each room an individual feel but it was also important to keep things fairly neutral and, above all, comfortable. The other two guest rooms wouldn’t be decorated this year, just a thorough clean and a check everything was in working order. She folded the stepladders, propped them against the wall, and clicked off the radio just in time to hear the front door bang shut. ‘Mum?’ Eva felt herself relax at the sound of her son’s voice. ‘Up here! I’ll be down in a sec.’ Wiping her hands on her dungarees Eva headed downstairs, almost being knocked down by Hamish as he hurtled down after her. The reality of having a (literally barking mad) dog was proving to be very different from the one Eva imagined when she had finally given in to Jamie’s constant pleading. Eva could think of a hundred reasons why not to get a dog but Jamie’s single reason – he wanted a dog because he didn’t have a brother or sister – trumped hers. Really, how could she refuse? Dogs and guests weren’t necessarily an ideal mix but Eva, always on the lookout for new target markets, had an idea and one she hoped would be a sound business move. Her master plan was to become a dog-friendly guest house. With its beautiful beaches and coastal paths, St Andrews was the ideal destination for dog lovers and she could tap into that. She’d have to look into it properly before the start of next season, find out about any legal requirements and change her website and marketing so guests would know she welcomed dogs. ‘You’ll have to train the dog properly and it won’t be allowed in the kitchen,’ she’d said to Jamie for the hundredth time as they had driven to the rescue centre. ‘I promise, Mum,’ he had replied solemnly. Jamie had fallen in love on sight with the mournful eyes of a scruffy brown and white crossbreed staring at him through the bars of a cage. Eva liked that he was small and – according to the lovely lady at the rescue centre – would be easy to train. That had been four weeks ago and so far, easy wasn’t a word Eva would use. In the hall, Eva ignored the trail of bags, jumpers, and football boots for now. Her eleven-year-old son’s tendency to go into a strop didn’t need any encouragement the minute he walked through the door. She found Jamie in the living room, his blond hair askew and long gangly limbs sprawled on the sofa with Hamish darting about ecstatically to welcome him home. Although Jamie shared Eva’s fair colouring, at times he looked so like Paul it broke her heart and all Eva wanted was to wrap her arms around him the way she had always done. But eleven was an awkward age. Sometimes still her little boy who needed reassurance but also an aspiring adult who didn’t always welcome hugs from his mum. ‘Hi, sweetheart. How was school?’ Eva asked him. ‘Fine,’ he replied using his standard response to most questions these days as he ruffled Hamish’s ears. The days of waiting at the primary school gates with other parents, swapping and verifying information before walking home while Jamie chatted non-stop already felt like a distant memory to Eva. It was early days, she reminded herself. There was so much for him to take in and he was bound to communicate more when he was ready. Overcome with excitement, Hamish suddenly leapt onto the sofa beside Jamie. ‘Off the sofa, Hamish!’ Eva yelled. ‘Mu-um! That’s not the right voice remember? You’re supposed to use a firm but calm voice,’ Jamie said, mimicking Mrs Duffy from puppy training class. Eva grimaced apologetically. ‘You’re right, I’m sorry.’ Jamie rolled off the sofa, giggling with delight as Hamish jumped on top of him and began slobbering all over his face. ‘Hamish – yeuch!’ he cried. Eva grinned at them, relishing the moments when getting a dog did actually make sense. ‘So, did you have a good game of football?’ Eva asked. ‘Nah, our team lost,’ Jamie sniffed. Sports mad like his father had been – Eva always felt a disappointment for not getting excited about penalty shoot-outs or understanding offside. She’d coped with the dinosaur stage, learning the difference between a T Rex and a stegosaurus. She’d actually enjoyed mastering the techniques to build bridges and cars from Lego and she even knew every character from Star Wars. But she had never managed to grasp the intricacies of The Beautiful Game. Of course if Paul was here, they could talk football father to son, the way it should be. ‘I expected you home before now.’ Eva tried to keep her voice neutral. ‘It’s no big deal, Mum – we were just chatting a bit after the game,’ Jamie retorted, wiping an arm across his dirt-streaked face. ‘I don’t have a problem with that. But how about a text next time? Just to let me know if you’re going to be later. We agreed if you got a mobile phone you would keep in touch.’ Eva wondered how many times she had given the ‘keep in touch’ speech. Even she was fed up with the sound of her own voice saying the same thing over and over. Their wrestling match now over, Jamie got up from the floor while Hamish, tired out by his exertions, flopped dramatically on the floor. ‘Mum?’ Jamie came and stood beside Eva, almost the same height as her now, his blue eyes fixing her with a challenging stare. ‘Have you thought about it yet?’ Eva’s heart sank. ‘Er, not properly yet.’ ‘I need to let them know by next week. All my friends are going; I’ll be the only one not going,’ he pleaded, his face settling into a petulant pout. ‘I know that, but –’ ‘Then why can’t I go?’ he demanded. ‘Let me think about it and I promise we’ll talk later, okay?’ She knew she was stalling. But how could she just say yes to a trip that meant her son would be hurling himself off cliffs, diving into water and God knows what else. The weekend trip, organized by his football club, might promise to be a great team-bonding adventure but the very thought of it made Eva come out in a cold sweat. And she wasn’t sure how she would cope with him being away. Apart from the odd sleepover she’d never been separated from him. Eva could almost hear Paul’s voice telling her not to worry, just to relax and let him go. But he wasn’t here now and it was all down to her. Eva plumped up a pillow, switching to a safer topic. ‘Are you hungry?’ Jamie’s face broke into the cheeky grin she knew so well and Eva felt her heart melt. ‘Why don’t you pick up your things in the hall and go for a shower and I’ll get something ready to eat.’ ‘Okay.’ He slouched off but stopped and turned at the door. ‘I meant to say – I saw a light on in Mac’s place when I was coming home.’ Eva nodded. ‘There was a removal van there earlier today. The new people have moved in.’ ‘Who will it be?’ Eva smiled at how young he could suddenly sound, as if she would always have the answers. ‘I don’t know. But I guess we’d better stop calling it Mac’s place.’ Eva heard Jamie and Hamish thundering up the stairs as she went into the kitchen to heat the lasagne she had made earlier. Switching on the oven, she wondered how her new neighbours were and hoped everything was going well for whoever it was. After all, she knew how difficult moving day could be. *** A cold January day, it had snowed the day Eva and Jamie moved in to West Sands guest house. It had been the day her confidence had suddenly crumbled and she questioned whether she could really do this. As she unlocked the door to their new home, Jamie was sobbing miserably with a streaming cold and Eva could have quite easily dissolved into a pool of tears herself. Suddenly it all seemed such a grown-up thing to do, move into a big house and be responsible for it all, not something a twenty-sixyear-old widow with a young child could do. After her husband Paul had died, everyone seemed to have an opinion as to what Eva should now do with her life, not least her mother. Although she had been visibly upset at Paul’s funeral – he was impossible not to like – Eva had sensed a quiet sense of satisfaction from her that it had all gone wrong just as she’d predicted.

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Friday, 8 December 2017

The Evacuee Christmas
Katie King
(Harper Collins)

Today, I am super excited to be hosting the blog tour for The Evacuee Christmas by Katie King. I absolutely fell in love with the cover of this book and it is on my TBR pile for the festive season.

Below is an extract for you, which is actually Chapter One. So sit back with a cuppa, perhaps a biscuit or two and relax while you read Chapter One of The Evacuee Christmas.....

Chapter One

The shadows were starting to lengthen as twins Connie and Jessie made their way back home.
They felt quite grown up these days as a week earlier it had been their tenth birthday, and their mother Barbara had iced a cake and there’d been a raucous tea party at home for family and their close friends, with party games and paper hats. The party had ended in the parlour with Barbara bashing out songs on the old piano and everyone having a good old sing-song.
What a lot of fun it had been, even though by bedtime Connie felt queasy from eating too much cake, and Jessie had a sore throat the following morning from yelling out the words to ‘The Lambeth Walk’ with far too much vigour.

On the twins’ iced Victoria sponge Barbara had carefully piped Connie’s name in cerise icing with loopy lettering and delicately traced small yellow and baby-pink flowers above it.

Then Barbara had thoroughly washed out her metal icing gun and got to work writing Jessie’s name below his sister’s on the lower half of the cake.

This time Barbara chose to work in boxy dark blue capitals, with a sailboat on some choppy turquoise and deep-blue waves carefully worked in contrasting-coloured icing as the decoration below his name, Jessie being very sensitive about his name and the all-too-common assumption, for people who hadn’t met him but only knew him by the name ‘Jessie’, that he was a girl.

If she cared to think about it, which she tried not to, Barbara heartily regretted that Ted had talked her into giving their only son as his Christian name the Ross family name of Jessie which, as tradition would have it, was passed down to the firstborn male in each new generation of Rosses. 

It wasn’t even spelt Jesse, as it usually was if naming a boy, because – Ross family tradition again – Jessie was on the earlier birth certificates of those other Jessies and in the family Bible that lay on the sideboard in the parlour at Ted’s elder brother’s house, and so Jessie was how it had to be for all the future Ross generations to come.

Ted had told Barbara what an honour it was to be called Jessie, and Barbara, still weak from the exertions of the birth, had allowed herself to be talked into believing her husband.

She must have still looked a little dubious, though, as then Ted pointed out that his own elder brother Jessie was a gruff-looking giant with huge arms and legs, and nobody had ever dared tease him about his name. It was going to be just the same for their newborn son, Ted promised.

Big Jessie (as Ted’s brother had become known since the birth of his nephew) was in charge of the maintenance of several riverboats on the River Thames, Ted working alongside him, and Big Jessie, with his massive bulk, could single-handedly fill virtually all of the kitchen hearth in his and his wife Val’s modest terraced house that backed on to the Bermondsey street where Ted and Barbara raised their children in their own, almost identical red-brick house.

Barbara could see why nobody in their right mind would mess with Big Jessie, even though those who knew him soon discovered that his bruiser looks belied his gentle nature as he was always mild of manner and slow to anger, with a surprisingly soft voice.

Sadly, it had proved to be a whole different story for young Jessie, who had turned out exactly as Barbara had suspected he would all those years ago when she lovingly gazed down at her newborn twins, with the hale and hearty Connie (named after Barbara’s mother Constance) dwarfing her more delicate-framed brother as they lay length to length with their toes almost touching and their heads away from each other in the beautifully crafted wooden crib Ted had made for the babies to sleep in.

These days, Barbara could hardly bear to see how cruelly it all played out on the grubby streets on which the Ross family lived. To say it fair broke Barbara’s heart was no exaggeration.
While Connie was tall, tomboyish and could easily pass for twelve, and very possibly older, Jessie was smaller and more introverted, often looking a lot younger than he was.

Barbara hated the way Jessie would shrink away from the bigger south-east London lads when they tussled him to the ground in their rough-house games. All the boys had their faces rubbed in the dirt by the other lads at one time or another – Barbara knew and readily accepted that that was part and parcel of a child’s life in the tangle of narrow and dingy streets they knew so well – but very few people had to endure quite the punishing that Jessie did with such depressing regularity.

Connie would confront the vindictive lads on her brother’s behalf, her chin stuck out defiantly as she dared them to take her on instead. If the boys didn’t immediately back away from Jessie, she blasted in their direction an impressive slew of swear words that she’d learnt by dint of hanging around on the docks when she took Ted his lunch in the school holidays. (It was universally agreed amongst all the local boys that when Connie was in a strop, it was wisest to do what she wanted, or else it was simply asking for trouble.)

Meanwhile, as Connie berated all and sundry, Jessie would freeze with a cowed expression on his face, and look as if he wished he were anywhere else but there. Needless to say, it was with a ferocious regularity that he found himself at the mercy of these bigger, stronger rowdies.

Usually this duffing-up happened out of sight of any grown-ups and, ideally, Connie. But the times Barbara spied what was going on all she wanted to do was to run over and take Jessie in her arms to comfort him and promise him it would be all right, and then keep him close to her as she led him back inside their home at number five Jubilee Street. However, she knew that if she even once gave into this impulse, then kind and placid Jessie would never live it down, and he would remain the butt of everyone’s poor behaviour for the rest of his childhood.

Barbara loved Connie, of course, as what mother wouldn’t be proud of such a lively, proud, strong-minded daughter, with her distinctive and lustrous tawny hair, clear blue eyes and strawberry-coloured lips, and her constant stream of chatter? (Connie was well known in the Ross family for being rarely, if ever, caught short of something to say.)

Nevertheless, it was Jessie who seemed connected to the essence of Barbara’s inner being, right to the very centre of her. If Barbara felt tired or anxious, it wouldn’t be long before Jessie was at her side, shyly smiling up to comfort his mother with his warm, endearingly lopsided grin.

Barbara never really worried about Connie, who seemed pretty much to have been born with a slightly defiant jib to her chin, as if she already knew how to look after herself or how to get the best from just about any situation. But right from the start Jessie had been much slower to thrive and to walk, although he’d always been good with his sums and with reading, and he was very quick to pick up card games and puzzles.

If Barbara had to describe the twins, she would say that Connie was smart as a whip, but that Jessie was the real thinker of the family, with a curious mind underneath
which still waters almost certainly ran very deep.
Unfortunately in Bermondsey during that dog-end of summer in 1939, the characteristics the other local children rated in one another were all to do with strength and cunning and stamina.

For the boys, being able to run faster than the girls when playing kiss chase was A Very Good Thing.
Jessie had never beaten any of the boys at running, and most of the girls could hare about faster than him too.
It was no surprise therefore, thought Barbara, that Jessie had these days to be more or less pushed out of the front door to go and play with the other children, while Connie would race to be the first of the gang outside and then she’d be amongst the last to return home in the evening.

Although only born five minutes apart, they were chalk and cheese, with Connie by far and away the best of any of the children at kiss chase, whether it be the hunting down of a likely target or the hurtling away from anyone brave enough to risk her wrath. Connie was also brilliant at two-ball, skipping, knock down ginger and hopscotch, and in fact just about any playground game anyone could suggest they play.

Jessie was better than Connie in one area – he excelled at conkers, he and Connie getting theirs from a special tree in Burgess Park that they had sworn each other to secrecy over and sealed with a blood pact, with the glossy brown conkers then being seasoned over a whole winter and spring above the kitchen range. Sadly, quite often Jessie would have to yield to bigger children who would demand with menace that his conkers be simply handed over to them, with or without the benefit of any sham game.

Ted never tried to stop Barbara being especially kind to Jessie within the privacy of their own home, provided the rest of the world had been firmly shut outside. But if – and this didn’t happen very often, as Barbara already knew what would be said – she wanted to talk to her husband about Jessie and his woes, and how difficult it was for him to make proper friends, Ted would reply that he felt differently about their son than she.
‘Barbara, love, it’s doing ’im no favours if yer try to fight’ is battles for ’im. I was little at ’is age, an’ yer jus’ look a’me now’ – Ted was well over six foot with tightly corded muscles on his arms and torso, and Barbara never tired of running her hands over his well-sculpted body whent hey were tucked up in their bed at night with the curtains drawn tight and the twins asleep – ‘an’ our Jessie’ll be fine if we jus’ ’elp ’im deal with the bullies. Connie’s got the right idea, and in time ’e’ll learn from ’er too. An’ there’ll be a time when our Jessie’ll come into his own, jus’ yer see if I’m not proved correct, love.’

Barbara really hoped that her husband was right. But she doubted it was going to happen any time soon. And until then she knew that inevitably sweet and open-hearted Jessie would be enduring a pretty torrid time of it.

To order a copy of this book click here 

Thursday, 7 December 2017

A Christmas Wish
Erin Green

Genre: Romance Contemporary
Release Date: 1st August 2017
Publisher: Aria Fiction/Head of Zeus

Flora Phillips has an excuse for every disaster in her life; she was abandoned as a new-born on a doorstep one cold autumn night, wrapped in nothing but a towel. Her philosophy is simple: if your mother doesn't want you – who will?
Now a thirty-year-old, without a boyfriend, a career or home she figures she might as well tackle the biggest question of them all – who is she? So, whilst everyone else enjoys their Christmas Eve traditions, Flora escapes the masses and drives to the village of Pooley to seek a specific doorstep. Her doorstep.
But in Pooley she finds more than her life story. She finds friends, laughter, and perhaps even a love to last a lifetime. Because once you know where you come from, it's so much easier to know where you're going.
A story of redemption and love, romance and Christmas dreams-come-true, the perfect novel to snuggle up with this festive season.


About Erin Green

Erin was born and raised in Warwickshire, where she resides with her husband. An avid reader since childhood, her imagination was instinctively drawn to creative writing as she grew older. Erin has two Hons degrees: BA English literature and another BSc Psychology – her previous careers have ranged from part-time waitress, the retail industry, fitness industry and education. She has an obsession about time, owns several tortoises and an infectious laugh!
Erin’s writes contemporary novels focusing on love, life and laughter. Erin is an active member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and was delighted to be awarded The Katie Fforde Bursary in 2017. An ideal day for Erin involves writing, people watching and drinking copious amounts of tea.

Twitter: @ErinGreenAuthor
Goodreads Author Page: Instagram: Website:

A signed copy of the book for 5 lucky winners! (UK only)

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Tuesday, 5 December 2017

House of Christmas Secrets
Lynda Stacey

Today I have an extract from the lovey Lynda Stacey's new novel House of  Christmas Secrets. She is such a lovely lady and so when she got in contact regarding her new book, I had no hesitation in hosting her on Boon's Bookcase. Happy Publication Day!

This year we’re just going to have a nice, normal Christmas… 
Last year’s Christmas at Wrea Head Hall didn’t quite go to plan which is why Jess Croft is determined this festive season will be the one to remember, for the right reasons. And she has plenty of reasons to be hopeful, she’s going to marry the man of her dreams, Jack Stone, seven days after New Year’s Eve. 

However, as family secrets are revealed in hidden letters and two unexpected guests turn up on the doorstep, Jess is left wondering whether her life will ever be the same again. 

Can Jess and Jack still experience a peaceful festive season that they had imagined or are there some problems that even Christmas can’t fix?

Extract from Chapter One
Jess hovered in the hotel’s grand hall and leaned against the huge inglenook fireplace. She brushed her dark, wild Afro hair away from her face, more out of habit than need, before allowing her hand to run across the stone mantel. Her fingertips traced the detail in the antique carved stone, and she tipped her head to one side in order to study it more closely. She had lived at Wrea Head Hall now for almost eighteen months, yet each and every day she found another thing of beauty that she hadn’t previously noticed.
Kneeling down by the tiled hearth, she felt herself shiver as she plunged her fingers into the thick pile of the new carpet. Everything was new and had been replaced after the fire that had almost destroyed the whole hotel just over a year before and now, instead of the dark blues that had previously run throughout the grand hall, everything was decorated in warm reds and golds, giving the whole room a rich and luxurious finish. Jess looked up to the ceiling, thankful that the ornate plaster had survived, along with the carved bosses within it that were painted gold on the white background. So much had been lost, yet miraculously much had also been saved or repaired. Even the Wren oak panelling had been restored, and Jess smiled at its beauty, grateful that the insurance had covered the work, and relieved that skilled craftsmen had pulled out all the stops to bring the Hall back to its former glory.
Jess picked up the long, cast iron poker, and began to stab at the embers in the grate, before carefully choosing a log, lifting back the fireguard and throwing the wood into the flames that already danced up the chimney. The sudden addition of another log created new flames of gold, orange and blue that wrapped themselves around the wood. For Jess the flames held a mesmerising magic and comfort that she couldn’t explain, and many a night she’d come down here with Jack after the guests had all gone to their beds. Together they’d sit on one of the settees, cuddling up, holding hands and simply staring into what remained of the embers.
‘Never waste a log,’ Jack often said to her; it was a saying he’d picked up from Madeleine’s father shortly before his untimely death. The saying always made Jess sigh and she wondered what life at the hotel would have been like had Morris survived. Would she be living here? Would she have got to know Jack? Would they have fallen in love? And what if they hadn’t, where would she be now and what would she be doing? She held a hand to her heart and acknowledged that she had so many reasons to be happy. Yet, she was fully aware that she was only happy because others, including herself, had previously suffered. She thought back to the year before, to how her sister Madeleine’s former boyfriend had terrorised them all and every single day she wished that Liam had never existed, that Madeleine had never met him and that he’d never got involved with their precious family. After all, he’d killed many of the people they loved and had almost succeeded in killing the rest. His obsession with Madeleine had caused each and every one of them more pain and heartache than Jess could have ever imagined.
Feeling a little warmer, Jess moved back from the fire, sat on the upholstered fender seat within the inglenook and thought about the past. It was times like this, as she sat watching the flames, that she’d think of her mother, of Madeleine’s father and of all the people that Liam had killed, while all the time feeling ridiculously overwhelmed and grateful to have survived his clutches.
‘This year we’re just going to have a nice, normal Christmas,’ she whispered to herself in full knowledge that the happenings of the year before had been somewhat extraordinary. In fact, she thought that this Christmas might end up being what most people would classify as boring. But she didn’t care; after being kidnapped, after thinking that both she and Maddie might die, any kind of boring would be absolutely perfect. The only good part of the Christmas before had been Christmas Eve, the wonderful meal that Nomsa had cooked and the fact that both Bandit’s grandmother, Emily, and his father, Arthur, had come
back to live at the Hall, where they belonged. It still seemed such an amazing coincidence that Bandit, the former gamekeeper of the hotel and the man Madeleine had fallen in love with, was a direct descendant of the family who had owned Wrea Head Hall for generations, before Maddie’s father had bought it and turned it into a hotel.
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Twitter @Lyndastacey Website

Monday, 4 December 2017

Brighter Days Ahead
Mary Wood

Today, I'm delighted to be hosting a Guest Piece by the lovely author Mary Wood as part of the Blog Tour for Brighter Days Ahead. I think it is widely known now that I am a sucker for family/wartime sagas and I really can't wait to read this one! Thank you so much Mary for writing a piece especially for Boon's Bookcase and I very much hope to be able to review Brighter Days Ahead soon.


Brighter Days Ahead is a moving story set against the backdrop of the Second World War, from Mary Wood, the author of In Their Mother’s Footsteps.

War pulled them apart, but can it bring them back together?

Molly lives with her repugnant father, who has betrayed her many times. From a young age, living on the
streets of London’s East End, she has seen the harsh realities of life . . . When she’s kidnapped by a gang and forced into their underworld, her future seems bleak.
Flo spent her early years in an orphanage, and is about to turn her hand to teacher training. When a kindly teacher at her school approaches her about a job at Bletchley Park, it could be everything she never knew she wanted.
Will the girls' friendship be enough to weather the hard times ahead? 


Hello Julie and Everyone. Lovely to be here as part of my first blog tour. 
In this guest blog, I have chosen to give a small insight to part of my writing year.
Writing books is something that I do all year round, but at the start of winter, when those first winds begin to bite, and the swaying trees are bare of their summer-green glory, my mind turns to warmer climes.
And so, the ferry is booked, the car packed with items from home that we need, and off we set. Our destination is – to me, the lovely jewel in the crown of Spain – The Mar Menor (The little sea)
Life now takes on a different mantle, as truly there are, BRIGHTER DAYS AHEAD, (very apt, as that is the title of my latest release – read more about it below) as grey skies are swapped for rich blue, and the odd snatched day sitting in the garden, for the endless available days when this is possible. And writing seems almost like a hobby, rather than my way of life. 
A very enjoyable hobby it is, though.
I still start my day very early in the morning, but with a difference. At home, I begin work at 5 am and sit in my little-bedroom-office away from the world and usually to the pitter-patter of rain hitting my window. Here, once it is light, I am part of life as I sit opposite my husband Roy on our balcony, laptop on my knee, feet up and warmed by the sun, while Roy reads his paper. 
At the moment, I am writing the third in a trilogy, which to date, doesn’t have a confirmed title, only a working title of: ‘The Girls Who Went to War’. The first of this trilogy is due to be published a year from now, after my Northern Historical Saga – The Street Orphans, which will be released in May 18. 
Here, in my winter retreat, I find the words flow from me, as now, the sounds around me are the swishing of palm trees, and the rippling of the communal pool – its water too cold to be disturbed by swimmers, whose glee would upset my peace – oh dear, that sounds a bit ‘grumpy old woman’, but no. I love to hear folk having fun, but not while I am writing, then, I need quiet around me.
I am in writer’s bliss. And feel blessed and very lucky as all cares, health worries – arthritis doesn’t hurt half as much in the suns warm rays – and stress, melt away from me, leaving me free to go into the world of my characters. 


Thank you, Julie, for having me guest on your blog. Much love to you and to your followers. Mary Wood x

To order a copy of the book on Amazon click here

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

The Secret Child
Kerry Fisher 

Guest Review
Julie Williams
Publication Day!

I loved this emotion packed story from the start it has characters that I really connected with. 

Set in Portsmouth in the 1960’s part 1 is told by Susie who is forced to give birth to her second child In a Mother and Baby place and then give her baby boy Edward up for adoption. Susie finds the whole experience harrowing and insists on caring for her son for the first six weeks of his life, which she cherishes, before the fateful day arrives where he is handed over to complete strangers.

As her story unfolds we learn of the impact this event has had on Susie, the torment she endures and the effect of those around her. Often her husband Danny and two daughters Louise and Grace bear the brunt of the guilt and regret she feels, yet she is unable to tell them her secret. 

With the birth date etched firmly in her mind Susie secretly reminisces each year causing even further relationship problems in the household. Her friend Jeanie is the only other person to share her true feelings with but Susie is always on tenterhooks in case she lets slip her secret.  

Part 2 is told by grace and I found her story particularly captivating as the relationship between her and her Mother is turned on its head with heart felt outcomes. As the truth reveals itself it is like a bomb exploding. How each member of the family react is not predictable. 

My thanks to Net Galley for the ARC, this is my own opinion .