Friday, 31 March 2017

The Little Teashop of Lost & Found
Trisha Astley
Blog Tour

I have an extract for you today for Trisha Ashley's new book The Little Teashop of Lost and Found. I love the cover and spring like colours of this book.


Once Upon a Fairy Tale Alice Autumn 1995 I grew up knowing I was adopted, so it was never a shocking revelation, merely one of the things that defined me, like having curly copper-bright hair, distinctive dark eyebrows, a fine silvery scar above my upper lip and pale green eyes (like boiled gooseberries, according to Mum, though Dad said they were mermaid’s eyes, the colour of sea-washed green glass). As a little girl I’d sit for hours painting with Dad in his garden studio, while his deep, gentle voice wrapped me in a soft-spun fairy tale, in which my desperate young birth mother had been forced to abandon her poorly, premature little baby, hoping that someone like Mum and Dad would come along and adopt her. Or like Dad, at any rate, since eventually I came to see that Nessa (she’d insisted I call her that rather than Mummy, practically the moment I could string a sentence together) had had no maternal yearnings; she’d just been paying lip-service to his longing for a family, smug in the knowledge that she couldn’t physically carry a child even if she had wanted to. ‘A bad fairy had put a spell on baby Alice, but when the nice doctors had made her lip all better, everyone agreed she was the prettiest princess in the whole of Yorkshire,’ he’d finish his story, smiling at me over his canvas. 12 Trisha Ashley ‘And they put the wicked fairy in a metal cage and everyone threw rotten tomatoes at her,’ I’d suggest – or even worse punishments, for some old fairy-tale books given to me by my paternal grandmother, including one strangely but wonderfully illustrated by Arthur Rackham, had had a great influence on my imagination. We lived near Granny Rose in Knaresborough until moving to a village just outside Shrewsbury when I was eight, and I can still remember her reading to me the long, long poem by Edith Sitwell about Sleeping Beauty, once she’d tucked me up in bed. I’d slowly drift off on a sea of musical, beautiful words about malevolent fairies and enchantments. Other favourites of Granny’s included The Water-Babies and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – the latter a favourite of mine, too, since the heroine had the same name. I begged for her lovely old copies after she died and Dad made sure I got them, even though Nessa was hellbent on having a clearance firm empty the whole house. She was a minimalist sort of person . . . except when it came to her own clothes, jewellery and shoes. Our house was a tale of two parts, with most of the creatively chaotic clutter in Dad’s studio, which might have been stables once upon a time – until he married a wicked witch disguised as a flamboyantly beautiful ex- opera singer and she banished him there. Anyway, you can see why I have a tendency to turn everything that happens in my life into a dark-edged fairy tale – ​I can’t help it! ‘They threw stinky rotten eggs at the wicked fairy, too,’ I’d once added firmly to the familiar story. ‘Well, perhaps, but only until she said she was sorry and then they let her out,’ Dad had amended, kind-hearted as always. Over the years we embroidered the story with increasingly ridiculous flourishes at every retelling, but it had served its purpose, for I grew up knowing that I’d been abandoned in the village of Haworth in Yorkshire and adopted, and the filament-fine silvery scar was all that remained to show I’d been born with a harelip. Of course, later I realized Dad had had no way of knowing whether my birth mother was young or not and also, once I became quite obsessed 13 The Little Teashop of Lost and Found with the Brontë family and Haworth, I knew that it was extremely unlikely that she’d tiptoed up to the steps of the Parsonage in the middle of the night and laid me there, in the expectation that he and Nessa would shortly swing by and scoop me up. I mean, it was a museum by then, so it would have been closed, and also, adoption didn’t quite work like that. (I’m still surprised they let Nessa on to the register. I can only think that her opera training kicked in and she hadn’t been able to resist throwing herself into the role of eager prospective mother.) But while Nessa might make extravagant expressions of affection towards me only when her London friends were visiting (one of whom once cattily let fall the information that she hadn’t had that brilliant a voice even before the operation on her vocal cords that ended her career), I’d known real love from Granny and Dad. And I also had Lola, my best friend, and her lovely parents, who owned a nearby smallholding, growing herbs commercially. There we helped look after the hens and goats, ran wild in the fields and learned to bake in the long, cool, quarry-tiled kitchen. All my life, baking – even the scent of cinnamon and dried fruit – would have the power to transport me back immediately to those happy days and transfuse me with warmth and comfort. So it was an idyllic childhood on the whole, though once the rebellious teenage hormones kicked in I began to clash more and more with Nessa. Still, the finer details of my distant past didn’t seem to matter . . . until Dad suddenly died from a massive heart attack when I was nearly eighteen and my safe, secure world collapsed around me like a house of cards. In any ordinary family, his loss might have pulled Nessa and me together, but she was not so much grief-stricken as filled with a volcanic rage, mainly directed at me. And she became so obsessed with money that immediately after the funeral she sold the entire contents of Dad’s studio (he was quite a well-known artist) to an American collector without a word to me beforehand, locking the door so I couldn’t even go in there to find solace among the comforting, familiar smells of oil paint and turpentine. 14 Trisha Ashley That was bad enough. But then, with even more indecent haste, she moved a new man into the house – and a horrible one, at that, who was scarily over-friendly in an old-lech kind of way whenever she was out of earshot – and I came to realize that now I was just an encumbrance and she couldn’t wait for me to go off to university the following year. The pain of Dad’s loss was still raw and I couldn’t bear to see another man in his place, so I had the row to end all rows with Nessa, culminating in my saying that I hated her and I was going to go and find my real mother. ‘She has to be an improvement on you!’ I finished. ‘You’re a foundling, darling, so there’s no way you can find her,’ she snapped cuttingly. ‘And bearing in mind that she dumped you out on the moors on a freezing cold night, she’d be unlikely to welcome you with open arms, even if you did.’ Stunned into silence, I stared at her while I took in the implications of what she’d just told me. ‘She . . . didn’t leave me in Haworth village, but up on the moors, where she didn’t think I’d be found?’ I asked eventually. Nessa looked at me, the fury dying down slightly into a sort of malicious, slightly shame-faced pleasure that shook me: I knew she’d never really loved me, but until recently I’d thought her as fond of me as her self-absorbed nature would allow. ‘Your father never wanted me to tell you the truth, but I think that was a mistake. And maybe she was batty and thought someone would come across you,’ she suggested, possibly divining from my expression that she’d gone too far. ‘No, if she left me at night out on the moors, then clearly she hoped I’d die and never be found,’ I said numbly, for the spell of Dad’s fairy tale was now well and truly shattered and there was no way it could be glued together again. I felt empty, alone and lost . . . and unwanted – totally unwanted – by anyone. ‘I hate you!’ I cried with sudden violence as hot tears rushed to my eyes. ‘I wish you’d died instead of Dad – though you couldn’t have had a heart attack, because you haven’t got a heart. You’ve never loved me like Lola’s mum loves her.’ 15 The Little Teashop of Lost and Found She shrugged. ‘I expect Dolly actually wanted children, which I never did, even if I could have had them. Your father finally wore me down into agreeing to adoption and he was over the moon when we were offered a baby. But you’d only just had the surgery on your face and what with that and the carroty hair, you weren’t exactly prepossessing, darling.’ Now the floodgates of frankness were open, there seemed to be no stopping the hurtful revelations, so I added one of my own: I told her that the day before, when she was out, her creepy new lover had tried to kiss me and made suggestive remarks. ‘You lying snake in the bosom!’ she hissed furiously, clutching those generous appendages as though she’d just been bitten there by an asp. And though of course she didn’t believe me (which was why I hadn’t already told her), there was no going back after that. Dawn found me on a coach heading to Cornwall, with the loan of Lola’s birthday money in my bag, to tide me over. I took only one case with me, leaving with her for safekeeping my most precious possessions, including Granny’s books and a small portrait of me in oils, painted by Dad. Of course Lola had wanted to tell her mum what had happened, but I’d sworn her to secrecy until I’d found a job and somewhere to live. ‘I’ll stay in a bed and breakfast at first, and there are lots of hotels and cafés there where I can get some casual work until I find my feet,’ I assured her. Inspired by some of Dad’s old stories of the Newlyn artists, and our holidays in Cornwall, I had romantic ideas about joining an artists’ colony, where my aspirations to become a writer and painter could be nurtured, though later I realized this was not only unrealistic, but several decades too late. The stark reality was that my arrival, late in the evening and off-season, when many places were shut up for the winter and no one was hiring, left me without any option other than spending the first night huddled in a shelter on the seafront . . . and all too soon my over-active imagination was peopling the darkest corners with evilly muttering goblins and foully hellish Hieronymus Bosch creatures. 16 Trisha Ashley When the cold breeze blew a discarded cardboard cup across the prom I thought it was the clatter of running footsteps and even the soft, constant susurration of the sea sounded like an unkind conversation about me. I’d begun to write my own contemporary mash-ups of fairy tales, fables and folklore, spiced with an edge of horror, but when it came to the crunch, this princess was no kick-ass kind of girl able to rescue herself, but a frightened waif in urgent need of a handsome prince . . . or even a kind, ugly one. Hell, I’d have settled for a reasonably friendly frog. Tears trickled down my face and I shivered as the cold wind picked up and wound its way around my legs. Then, all at once, I heard the staccato tap of high heels and the excited yapping of a small dog. Before I could attempt to shrink even further into my dark corner, it dashed in and discovered me. A torch snapped on and I screwed up my eyes against the dazzling beam, though not before I’d glimpsed the small and unthreatening shape behind it, so that my heart rate steadied. ‘Well, what have we here, Ginny?’ said a surprised female voice with the hint of a highland lilt. ‘A wee lassie?

To order a copy of this book click here 

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Where the Wild Cherries Grow
Laura Madeleine
Blog Tour


In 1919 Emeline Vale is trying to forget her demons by taking a lethal cocktail of medication. Her family are trying to get her committed and she is trying to do everything she can to get out of their grip. Whilst on a train journey to what she can only presume is an asylum, she decides to make a run for it, with near fatal consequences.

Meanwhile in the 1969, trainee Solicitor Bill Perch is asked to find out if Emeline is still alive so that the sale of the family home can go ahead to make way for a holiday camp.

Whilst Bill is looking through documents and remnants from the past, he comes across a diary written by Emeline. Will this reveal what really happened to her all those years ago?......

I  really enjoyed the alternating chapters from 1919 to 1969. It was such a lovely, feelgood book and you couldn’t help feeling sorry for Emeline. She certainly got under Bill Perch’s skin and he just had to find out what happened to her, even if it meant crossing the channel to find out.

What a lovely read and can’t wait to read more from this author.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Sometimes I Lie
Alice Feeney

Guest Review 
Julie Williams


My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:

1. I’m in a coma

2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore

3. Sometimes I lie

This great debut psychological thriller by Alice Feeney had me gripped from the start, which I love. There are so many twists that I was kept completely captivated throughout.

The story begins with Amber Reynolds in hospital, in a coma, unable to move, yet she can hear what’s going on around her, how terrifying that must be! Then there are chapters of events in the week leading up to the accident and interwoven childhood diary entries. 

As a comatose Amber lies in hospital I couldn’t decide who was telling the truth, who was being deceitful and who to trust. I completed this book in little over a day as I found myself picking it up at every opportunity, I have so many questions whirling around my head that I was desperate to have answers to.

I will certainly be looking out for further books by Alice and suggest that this is a must read for fans of this genre.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Idea of You
Amanda Prowse

Happy Publication Day to Amanda Prowse with her new novel The Idea of You. I have a guest review by Julie Williams for you.


5* Release day 21/03/2017

This latest book by Amanda Prowse tackles the often unspoken subject of miscarriage with both sensitivity and realism. It is written from the heart and as usual Amanda has tugged at my heart strings. 

I read The Idea Of You very quickly as I was hooked from page one. The characters in this story are totally believable and created with compassion.

Lucy and Jonah Carpenter are delighted when Lucy discovers that she is pregnant but unfortunately it is not meant to be and she experiences a miscarriage and with more that follows Lucy just wants to know why this is happening to her and what she can do to prevent it happening again and again. With Lucy’s biological clock ticking as she is approaching 40 and with a demanding successful career, she becomes desperate to carry a baby to full term and bring home their child. 

This story is at times extremely emotional and painful to read as we discover the impact miscarriage can have on a family. Lucy’s journey to be a Mum is at times heart wrenching and not only has she to cope with her loss every month but also past secrets and a stroppy teenage step daughter.

Get a box of tissues ready and hang on to your hat as this story takes you on a roller coaster ride that stays with you. 

Thank you to Netgalley, Lake Union Publishing and Amanda for getting me approved for the ARC of this book.

To order a copy of this book click here

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Born Bad
Marnie Riches
Blog Tour

I'm delighted to be a part of this blog tour. I love Marnie's George McKenzie series, so am eager to read this one. I have an extract for you today, but hopefully will have a review for you soon.


Conky pulled Sheila from Gloria as gently as possible, though the two women fought against him with balled fists and venomous slaps.
‘About time too! Get her out of here!’ Sheila said.
‘You’re making a big mistake!’ Gloria shouted. Normally so primly dressed, Conky was surprised by the defined, almost manly musculature of her arms. She was grabbing at Sheila again. Shaking her like a wayward child. ‘I need this final deal to go through. I need money. It’s all right for you.’
But the diminutive Sheila was no pushover. She pummelled Gloria towards the door like a mini-Sumo pushing her opponent to the chalk line. ‘All these years, we worked as business partners and you’re still thinking it’s all right for me? You cheeky, chippy cow! You were my cleaner and I made you rich.’
Gloria halted in her offensive. Stepped back suddenly, her hands in the air, her neck at an awkward, sassy angle. Blinking hard like the Ricki Lake show had never been taken off air. ‘You made me rich? I’m sorry. I cleaned your mess up for the first ten years of your marriage and have all but run your business single handedly. But you. Made me. Rich. You. In your frigging mansion.’ She gasped. ‘Look at that. You made me swear, you terrible woman.’
Sheila poked the taller woman in her chest with a manicured fingernail. ‘You were nothing until we started the agency together. Nowt. An old washed-up scrubber from Sweeney Hall with a Boddlington scumbag for a son.’
Conky sucked the air in between his teeth. Ready to step between the women yet again but privately relishing seeing the feisty side to Sheila come out.
‘Now, come on girls. Don’t be saying anything you’re going to regret tomorrow.’
‘Too late for that,’ Gloria said. ‘There’s no coming back from this. All the things I could say about you, you overindulged, anorexic white cow.’
‘Oh, I’m really losing sleep,’ Sheila said, hand on hip in her satin bathrobe. Sarcasm dripping thickly from every syllable.
‘My future’s ruined, thanks to you!’ Gloria shouted. ‘All because you couldn’t be bothered to do one more lousy job, you heartless hussy. A false witness will not go unpunished. Proverbs 19:5!’
‘Gloria!’ Conky snapped, grabbing her by the upper arm. ‘Time you went home.’ He had only got the gist of the conversation but could see from the tears standing in Gloria’s eyes that things weren’t good for her. He felt a pang of unexpected sympathy.
‘And you think my life’s easy, do you?’ Sheila opened her mouth, as though there was much more to say. But the question simply hung in the air between them – rhetorical and loaded with insinuation. Sheila put her hand over her own mouth. Gathered her robe about her and hugged herself. Spoke in a quiet voice. ‘I’m sorry you feel this way, Gloria, but a promise is a promise. Me and Paddy are packing up and going to Thailand. You want to start your own cleaning company, go ahead. But you can’t have mine. I have the majority share, and Pad says it’s over. All of it.’
Gloria snatched up her handbag. Glared at Conky as though this contretemps were somehow his fault. ‘Fine,’ she said, throwing her coat over her arm. ‘Leave all those women in the lurch. Forget about the likes of little Efe. Forget about me. Forget about your own hopes and dreams. I’ll see you around.’
As the front door slammed shut, Sheila burst into tears. A small woman who suddenly looked like a vulnerable scrap of a girl. Conky put his arm around her tentatively. Stroked her hair, wondering if it would be appropriate to plant a gentle kiss on her head. He decided against it.
‘She’s so tight,’ Sheila said. ‘Calling me a heartless bitch!’ She hiccoughed the words out, beside herself, now. ‘I never thought it would be so hard just to down tools and step away from all this.’
Feeling that she was holding onto him with a little too much vigour and not sure if he could trust himself, Conky ushered her to a bar stool and bade her sit down.
‘I’ll make some tea,’ he said. Started to rifle through the convenience food in the kitchen cupboard; rummaging behind the packets of Smash, the tins of beef stew and Patak’s jars to find what he sought. A packet of chamomile tea he had bought Sheila at a time when she had complained that she wasn’t sleeping. He prepared the infusion in silence, allowing Sheila to process her hurt. She blew her nose heavily on some kitchen roll and took the vodka bottle out of the cupboard.
‘No need for that,’ he said, taking it from her and stowing it away again. ‘It’ll keep you awake all night. Have this hot drink I’ve made you instead.’
He watched with some satisfaction as Sheila sipped from the cup. Her hiccoughs slowed before stopping altogether.
‘What do you want to do?’ he asked her finally.
Sheila shook her head. Looked as if she were about to share her innermost thoughts. Placed her hand on top of his, then thought better of it. ‘I do whatever my Paddy wants me to do. And you need to go home, Conks.’

To order a copy of Born Bad click here