Another Life by Owen W Knight

I am pleased to be taking part in the tour for Another Life by Owen W Knight and run by Love Books Group. You can follow the tour here.

The Blurb

Oliver believes his life to be one of disappointment and failure. Haunted by the memory of a mysterious woman he encountered thirty years ago, and obsessed with finding her, he embarks on a  journey embracing grief, hope, myths and legends to find her.

He is drawn into diverse worlds, from ancient rural beliefs and traditions to emerging medical science, as he and the reader are led to question the boundaries between dreams, reality and imagination.

The Excerpt

On a spring morning, many years ago, I set off from my home in Essex to visit a friend who had moved to a village close to Stratford-upon-Avon. I had left before dawn and had chosen not to take the direct route. My plan was to visit some Cotswold villages to take photographs. Even as a child, I had a fondness for vernacular architecture, although of course, I would not have described it as such at the time.

I had another mission: to buy some books. I intended to visit a small independent printing company, the Walnut Tree Press. It was a new venture, founded two years earlier, and had quickly built a reputation for its small print runs of hand-printed books and its poetry imprint. Many of the books on their list were illustrated with engravings, by new and established artists, and had already become collectors’ editions. Some people bought them for their investment potential. I admired them both for their content and as well-crafted artefacts, as objects of beauty that combined interest and quality with appealing design.

I had spent hours browsing their catalogue. It was difficult to make a final decision on which to buy. Once I had produced a shortlist, I could have placed an order, either by post or telephone (this was in the days before the Internet). I was hesitant to do so; I wanted to hold them in my hands and to turn the pages, feeling the quality of the paper, to touch and smell them before confirming my purchase. They were expensive, understandably, although would no doubt hold their value, in the unlikely event I should ever need to sell.

The press was located in a small village. I had not telephoned to ask whether it would be open. Such was my indecision as to whether to spend what was to me at that time a large sum of money on inessential items. By leaving it to chance, the acquisition, or otherwise, would be resolved by destiny. I was, after all, just passing through on my journey to another place.

The village was not as I thought it would be. The single main street was narrow, with half a dozen lanes leading from either side. There were no shops and, unusually for a village in those days, no inn. Many of the cottages were of a similar design. Some were empty and falling towards dereliction. I had the impression that they formed all or part of a collection of workers’ cottages, from an estate that was in the process of being sold or dissolved, its owners’ dynasty at an end.

The Author

Owen W Knight is a writer of contemporary and speculative fiction. His works include Another Life, described as ‘It’s a Wonderful Life for the 21st Century’ and The Invisible College Trilogy, an apocalyptic dystopian conspiracy tale for young adults, described as ‘1984 Meets the Book of Revelation’.
Owen was born in Southend-on-Sea at a time when children spent their days outdoors, creating imaginary worlds that formed the basis of their adventures and social interaction.
He has used this experience to create a world based on documented myths, with elements of dystopia, mystery and science fiction, highlighting the use and abuse of power and the conflicts associated with maintaining ethical values.
Owen lives in Essex, close to the countryside that inspired his trilogy.

The Vagabond Mother by Tracey Scott-Townsend

What a pleasure it is to be included on the tour for The Vagabond Mother, the new novel by Tracey Scott-Townsend. The Tour is run by Love Books group and you can follow it here.

The Blurb

All Maya Galen wanted was a happy family, stifling her inner urges to explore the wider world for the sake of being there for her children. But parenting with her husband, Con, wasn’t always easy. Their eldest son, Jamie, broke off all contact some years ago and now Joe, the apple of her eye, has done the same after an argument with his parents about his chosen way of life. Maya and Con are left rattling around ‘The Cottages’ – their enormous home in a Lincolnshire village, wondering what they did wrong.

When they are called to Australia to identify the body of a young man, Maya is given her son’s journal. After a sleepless night she makes the decision to follow in her youngest son’s footsteps and become a vagabond, leaving her husband and daughters to return to the UK without her. From now on she needs to rely on her own physical and emotional strength.

Following Joe’s hand-drawn maps and journal entries, Maya travels from Australia to Denmark and beyond, meeting many young people like Joe along the way and trying to discover what it means to be alive. As months turn into years she can’t bear to go back to the opression of her perfect home. Slowly, she comes to understand that what she is discovering is her most basic human self.

Another family crisis, involving one of her twin daughters, eventually forces Maya to return home. As she treads carefully through the wreckage of her marriage, unfinished business is tied up and the family once again becomes complete, but in a different way from before.

The Excerpt

Maya

Melbourne, Australia. November 2014

Somebody brought them pale, sweet tea. Not exactly hot. Maya wondered how many corridors the tray had been carried down before reaching them. The remaining members of their family each held a cup between their shaking hands.

‘But I don’t take sugar,’ said Lola. Her eyes looked enormous to Maya, bewildered. Just like when she was a toddler and the health visitor had given her a sugar cube after a vaccination. The sugar in her tea would no more take away her pain now than the cube had done then.

A woman, – a nurse perhaps – spoke to Lola in a gentle voice. ‘You ought to drink the tea darl. It’ll help with the shock.’

Maya saw Daisy encouraging her twin by taking the first sip. it was always Daisy’s mouth Maya had aimed for first with the feeding spoon when they were babies, as Lola would copy her sister. On Maya’s other side sat a white-faced man whom she recognised as her husband. Con’s hand lifted a cup to his lips in a mechanical sort of way, and brown liquid leaked down his chin. Maya found that she had taken tea into her own mouth. She watched her hand reflecting Con’s movements.

‘Are you ready, Sir?’ The officer reappeared in the room, directing his question at Maya’s husband.

‘Yes.’ Con placed his cup somewhere to one side. He stood but his body immediately collapsed back onto the chair. He tried again.

‘Where are you going?’ Maya surprised herself with the loudness of her voice. She snapped her mouth shut.

‘Madam forgive me,’ said the officer. What the hell for, he hadn’t killed her son, had he? ‘I’m taking your husband to identify the body.’

The Author

Tracey’s novels have been described as both poetic and painterly. She is also a poet and a visual artist. All her work is inspired by the emotions of her own experiences and perceptions. She has a Fine Art MA (University of Lincoln) and a BA Hons Visual Studies (Humberside Polytechnic). She has exhibited throughout the UK (as Tracey Scott). Most importantly, she is the mother of four grown-up children, who have astonished and inspired her.

Tracey and her husband Phil travel regularly in their campervan with their two dogs, and next year plan to buy and convert a library van as a more permanent home.

A Cowardice of Crows by S.E. Smith

What a treat to be included in the book tour for A Cowardice of Crows by S.E.Smith and run by Love Book Tours. There is an exciting Excerpt to read today and follow the tour this week.

The Blurb

When a House of Commons cufflink, stuffed in the mouth of Millie Jones, turns suicide to murder, Symington, Earl Byrd, the prime minister’s personal detective, soon finds his killer. A ruthless East End pawnbroker not known for carelessness.
Forced to re-evaluate his position following a trip to the Houses of Parliament, Symington is left with more questions than answers.
Like, who wants to destroy the pawnbroker and why? Is the cufflink a clue or a red herring? And more importantly why did Millie Jones have to die?

The Excerpt

Note from: William Melville MO3, and sent to Arthur James Balfour, Prime Minister, July 1902

Sir,

Unless otherwise indicated (as extracts from individual reports, journals and diaries) the following account is compiled from the testimony of eyewitnesses, and those closely involved with the case. For ease, they have been identified purely as “From Reports” – rather than naming the individuals concerned.

From Reports.

London, Thursday October 4th, 1900.

Muffled against the night, an ugly-looking brute barged past an elderly lady, slammed his money under the nose of the ticket seller, and demanded a return to Brighton. Then he ran – as though possessed by the devil, along the platform towards the engine. There were plenty of empty carriages, but he was focussed on one door in particular, and reached it just as the train was beginning to chug slowly on its way. The carriage door opened, and the man swung himself into the compartment.

“Strange place for a meeting! Would have thought you’d have been better working out of a hotel, given what you do for the old man,” he said to the willowy – tartily dressed, and a little overdone with the make-up – woman who let him in.

Millie didn’t bother to acknowledge the newcomer’s arrival or move her handbag, forcing the man to sit opposite, with his back to the engine. “Trains are private,” she told him when she eventually deigned to speak. “Carriage like this. Two exits. Can see who’s coming and you don’t get no interruptions. ‘Specially if you bribe the conductor.” Millie leant forward, allowing the man a good glimpse of bosom. “Want a bit of bribery, love?” He flushed and she sniggered. “Don’t recall you being a shy one.” Her laughter grew louder.

Attempting to ignore her, the man went to open the window, causing smoke to gush into the confined space.

“Oi don’t do that,” Millie snapped. “We’re coming up to Merstham tunnel. It’ll smoke like Canton Sue’s bleedin’ opium den if you don’t shut the window.” She pushed past the man and slammed it so hard the window rattled in its casing. “Look stop crowdin’ me,” Millie ordered as the man moved towards her.

He held his ground, blocking the door to the corridor as he did so. “Where’s the stuff, Millie?” he snarled. “You got them on you … in that purse of yours?”

“Not so fast,” she replied as her eye darted to her bag. “You’ll get your photographs and the letter when I get me money. All of it. Every last shilling.” The carefully turned out blond emphasised her point by poking her companion with a kid gloved finger.

“You little cow!” He lunged for her purse but Millie was too quick for him, hiding it behind her back – firmly out of his reach.

“Takes one to know one.” She laughed again – a shrill bitter sound that ricocheted around the compartment.

The Author

S.E. Smith, known as Sarah to her friends, and ‘Miss’ to her students, was born into a naval family and now lives on a 65 foot broadbeam boat with her husband, Steve, and her two rescue dogs – Ben and Eva.

Crediting her Nana May for instilling in her a love of history, and an encyclopedic knowledge of the East End of London at the turn of the 20th Century, Sarah took on board the adage ‘write about what you know’ and created Symington Byrd: a gentleman detective whose foray into the East End leads him into all kinds of danger.

A great fan of the West Wing, Pokemon Go, and Doctor Who, Sarah’s biggest claim to fame is the day spent with the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, chasing Daleks down The Strand.

Forgotten Lives by Ray Britain

I am delighted to be part of the blog tour for Forgotten Britain by Ray Britain @ray_britain run by Love Book Group Tours @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours. You can follow the tour:

The Blurb

A man is murdered with quiet efficiency on his doorstep. A strange emblem left behind suggests a gang killing but when more bodies are found with the same emblem, and one of them a cop, DCI Doug Stirling’s investigation takes a sinister turn.

But what linked the victims in life, and now in death?

When more deaths are uncovered, miles away and years apart, but all with the same emblem left behind, pressure mounts on Stirling. Is it the work of the same person? If so, why are they killing again, and why here? One thing is clear. The killer is highly skilled, ruthless, and always one step ahead of the investigation. Is someone feeding information to them?

Working in a crippling heatwave with too few investigators, too many questions and not enough answers, when wild media speculation of a vigilante at work sparks copycat attacks, demonstrations for justice and with politicians fearing riots, Stirling needs a result – fast!

Meanwhile, Stirling’s private life is falling apart, not helped when Lena Novak of the National Crime Agency is assigned to his team. But is she all that she seems? Things could not get worse. Stirling takes a call from a retired cop. Things just got worse!

As Stirling closes in on the killer he finds the killer’s trademark inside his home – he is being targeted.

The Excerpt

A child alone

Asleep for so long, as she struggled into wakefulness she had no idea of the time of day but was aware that something was different. The bed was different and smelt clean. The air felt cool and clean too, not the fetid atmosphere she had been used to. Feigning sleep, she squinted through one eye at the unfamiliar room, while trying to remember how she got here. Next to the bed was a simple wooden chair. On it, a small pile of clothes. Across the room, maybe five steps from her, was a pinewood cabinet with wide three drawers and an oval shaped mirror on top. Beside the mirror, a matching china basin and jug and something flatter covered with a cloth. Fearful of what she would discover, she slowly reached behind her for the heat of another body, but the bed was cool. She was alone.

Now awake, she sat up, drew her knees into her chest and wrapped her arms around them tightly as she surveyed the room apprehensively before settling on a door at the corner of the room. Once white, it had yellowed with age. On the other side of the bed, sunlight lay in thin laddered stripes on bare floorboards. When she followed the light to see a window, boarded from the outside, her heart sank as she realised she had exchanged one prison for another. She turned her head back to the door, wondering how long it would be until a stranger entered the room and it started again.

As she drew her hand across the clean sheet, lifting the pleasant scent of laundry, she tried to remember how she had got here. But it had happened so fast, and she had been so frightened: the hated man on the ground who looked dead, the gloved hand hastening her from the house to the motorbike in the street, the frightening journey into the night, so fast she had closed her eyes against the wind and hung on as tightly as she could. Somewhere in the darkness a bright light had flashed, blinding her when she had looked at it and frightening her still more, so she had held the rider even tighter still for fear of falling off, for fear of being left alone. How long the journey had lasted she had no idea and when it ended, it was very dark. She remembered nothing after that.

Was she drugged, or had she just fainted, because she had no memory of being brought to this room?  Was something done to her while she was unconscious? The thought prompted a sudden awareness of cotton on her body, and that she was naked. She lifted the sheet and examined her body, contracted her muscles but could not be sure. Cautiously, she reached down and shuddered again at the memories. How could she ever face her family again with such shame.

The girl cocked an ear to listen for movement from outside the room or below but heard only silence itself. On top of the clothes on the chair lay a pair of knickers. She grabbed them and smelt them. Not new but clean. She slipped them on and dressed quickly in the loose shirt and jeans put out for her, all of them second hand but clean, and the right size too. But no shoes, which started a new anxiety. To stop her running away.

With slow, light steps, she crossed to the window where she saw it was covered not by boards, as she had thought, but by folding wooden shutters. With a faint hope rising in her chest, the girl opened the window as far as the shutters allowed and then pressed on the shutter. Hope died again when it didn’t budge, held fast from the outside. She was indeed a prisoner again. Peering down through the thin angled slats she could see into a garden, badly overgrown with grass that had fallen over and lay scorched and dry. Through the slats she could breathe summer and pressed her face against the shutter to draw in the warm, light peppery scent of dry grass.

When had she last felt sunshine on her face, she wondered, and closed her eyes to listen to the call of a songbird.

The Author

Ray Britain is a crime writer with a difference – he’s investigated serious crime.

His second novel ‘Forgotten Lives’ will publish on 10th January 2021, and follows his debut novel of ‘The Last Thread’ (2017).

As a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) Ray led many specialist investigations. He was also a Hostage & Crisis Intervention Negotiator, a voluntary role, that saw him involved in hostage situations, many firearms operations and numerous suicide interventions, not all of which ended happily. In those specialist roles he supported national counter-terrorism capabilities, and travelled to the USA, India, Europe, Australia and elsewhere. He received several Commendations for his work.

He also worked with the Serious Fraud Office and the Home Office, London, and the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police.

Ray’s real-world experience gives an authentic edge to his stories, immersing the reader in the grim realities, uncertainties and frustrations of crime investigation, and of human nature.

If not writing Ray might be found mountain hiking, watching rugby, skiing, reading, sailing or in the gym.

http://www.raybritain.com/ | @ray_britain

Buy Link 

https://amzn.to/33Z8P4V

Katherina: Fortitude by Margaret Skea

It is a great pleasure to be involved in the tour for Katherina: Fortitude by Margaret Skea @margaretskea1 and run by @LoveBooksGroup. You can follow the tour here.

The Blurb

‘We are none of us perfect, and a streak of stubbornness is what is needed in dealing with a household such as yours, Kat… and with Martin.’

Wittenberg 1525. The unexpected marriage of Martin Luther to Katharina von Bora has no fairytale ending.

A sign of apostasy to their enemies, and a source of consternation to their friends, it sends shock waves throughout Europe.

Yet as they face persecution, poverty, war, plague and family tragedy, Katharina’s resilience and strength of character shines through.

While this book can be read as a standalone, it is also the powerful conclusion to her story, begun in Katharina: Deliverance.

The Excerpt

Chapter One
Wittenberg, June–July 1525

The music stops, the sound of the fiddle dying away, the piper trailing a fraction behind, as he has done all evening. I cannot help but smile as I curtsy to Justus Jonas, his answering twinkle suggesting he shares my amusement.

‘Thank you, Frau Luther.’ And then, his smile wider, so that even before he continues I suspicion it isn’t the piping amuses him, ‘For a renegade nun, you dance well.’

It is on the tip of my tongue to respond with ‘For a cleric, so do you’, but I stop myself, aware that should I be overheard it would likely be considered inappropriate for any woman, far less a newly married one, to speak so to an older man, however good a friend he has been. And on this day of all days, I do not wish to invite censure. Instead I say, ‘I have been well taught. Barbara saw to that. She did not wish me to disgrace myself or her, and there is a pair of slippers with the soles worn through to testify to the hours of practice she insisted upon.’

‘She succeeded admirably then.’

All around us there is the buzz of laughter and chatter, an air of goodwill evident in every flushed face. Martin is waiting at the foot of the dais, and as we turn towards him, his smile of thanks to Justus is evidence he too is grateful for the seal of approval, of me and of the marriage, our shared dance a tangible sign to the whole town that Justus Jonas at least has no reservations regarding our union. Over his shoulder I catch Barbara’s eye and she nods also. I nod back but am unable to suppress altogether the inner voice, Tonight there is drink taken, tomorrow some may feel differently.

As if he can read my mind, Justus says, a new seriousness in his tone, ‘You have not made a mistake, either of you.’ He waves his hand at the folk clustered in groups along the length of the room. ‘Look around. When the difficult times come, as no doubt they will, remember tonight and the number of those who came to wish you well.’

The Author

Margaret Skea grew up in Ulster at the height of the ‘Troubles’, but now lives with her husband in the Scottish Borders.

You can find more details, including why chocolate is vital to her creative process, on her website http://www.margaretskea.com

STOP PRESS: Katharina: Fortitude was shortlisted for The 2020 BookBrunch Award
Katharina :Deliverance was placed 2nd in the (international) Historical Novel Society New Novel Award 2018.
Judged ‘Assured, evocative, compelling, a fascinating read.’ by Lead judge Catharina Cho.

Together they chronicle the life of Katharina von Bora, the escaped nun who married Martin Luther.

“Behind even a great (sometimes, noisy, fractious) man, there is often a quietly strong woman.
Margaret Skea’s deep research and empathy brings alive one such. If you like your historical fiction truthful and complex, then this novel about Katharina Luther is for you.” Sarah Dunant

“Beautifully written and meticulously researched.’





The Smart Home Manual by Marlon Buchanan

What a treat it is to be included in the tour for the The Smart Home Manual: How to Automate Your Home to Keep Your Family Entertained, Comfortable, and Safe by Marlon Buchanan @HomeTechHacker run by the fine team at @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours Follow the tour across their social media channels.

The Blurb

When you are done reading The Smart Home Manual you’ll know:

  • What a smart home is and what it can do for you
  • How much smart homes cost
  • How to start building your smart home from scratch
  • How to pick the right smart home devices
  • How to plan for the future of the smart home
  • How to secure your smart home

After reading this book, you’ll be equipped with all the tools and information you need to plan, design, and implement the smart home you’ve always wanted.

The Extract

Know Your Budget and Time Availability

Building a smart home can take a little time or a lot of time, depending on what you want to accomplish. It can also cost a little money or a lot of money. You should know how much time and money you plan to spend on your smart home. These commitments will help determine what you can reasonably expect from your smart home–building efforts.

I wrote earlier about the costs of a smart home. To summarize,

  • bare-bones smart home costs from $80 to $260;
  • cost of expanding your smart home adds between $370 and $950;
  • full smart home build adds costs from $520 to $2,100; and
  • adding luxury smart home items depends on how much you want to spend.

All in, a full buildout of a smart home from scratch will probably cost you from around $1,000 to $3,500. You can get by with spending less, and you can certainly spend more. Most people will be very happy with anything built in the $1,000–$3,500 price range. Remember, you don’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) buy it all at once. That’s the cost over time as you accumulate devices. You should decide how much you have to spend before you get started.

It’s important to consider the costs before diving in and to remember the cost of your personal time. Luckily, you don’t have to break the bank to get started, and you can gradually add items over time (which is a good thing, since it takes time to configure each device). A smart home will be a labor of love. Deciding whether it’s worth the cost of equipment is easy. Deciding whether it’s worth your time and effort takes more thought.

The Author

Marlon Buchanan has worked in the IT field for over twenty-five years as a software developer, a college instructor, and an IT Director. In his free time, he can be found researching new smart home projects, playing sports with his children, and writing articles for his blog, HomeTechHacker.com. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering and master’s degrees in software engineering and business administration.

Buy Link – https://amzn.to/3n2KBy7

Hunting Hidden Shadows by Elizabeth Huerta

It is a pleasure to be taking part in the tour for Hunting Hidden Shadows by Elizabeth Huerta and run by Love Books Group. You can follow the tour here.

The Blurb

I have one job, make sure order exists between the races. As long as there are no unnecessary killings then I do not have to come in an exterminate them. For the most part the races understand these rules, only a few trouble making vampires and the rogue daemon or two try to disobey. But when mutilated women corpses turn up with the taint of dark magic on them, I have to find the culprit, nothing can distract me, not even the painfully attractive daemon who is trying to kill me.

The Excerpt

The tall trees and high rocks provide perfect cover for the night. Up in the trees I cannot be sensed, and it gives me an advantage for the hunt. The soft sound of hooves and wheels hitting the ground below alerted me of strangers passing. A wagon was being pulled by a horse, about three humans are huddled inside bracing the cold. The current prey is not entertaining enough, humans are weak, and do not offer any challenge.

The one I was looking for hid himself well. I could sense him nearby, but he did not make a sound despite his large size. His footsteps were nimble. The wagon disappeared up ahead as the darkness thickened. I turned around and looked in all directions, as I hunted him, he also hunted me in this endless cycle of hunter and prey.

Sudden heat hit me from behind, I was just able to dodge the spell the daemon threw at me. Damianos was a powerful daemon, killing him would send a warning to all the others, it would tell them that even though I am smaller, I was not weaker. I had never lost a fight against the other daemons. I had been hunted since I was little. I was seen as inferior because my shape was similar to a human. I was not big like the other daemons, or as large, but my strength was equal to theirs, and my speed went beyond.

My magic was powerful, I made sure to practice every day so that there would be no one to match it. Being hunted, being the prey for so many years made me strong, it made me adapt to my surroundings, it made me learn to survive, it made me unstoppable.

The Author

Elisabeth Huerta lives in Long Beach, California with her husband, her dog, and two cats. Her love is for fantasy and romance. She loves to write about women who enjoy several dirty jokes. When not writing she is reading, preferably at ungodly hours when she should be sleeping.

Messandrierre by Angela Wren

Sometimes it is not a good idea to read books by people you know and like, because it can result in disappointment. It was for this reason that I had not picked up any novels by Angela Wren previously. Mistake – big mistake!

The Blurb

Sacrificing his job in investigation following an incident in Paris, Jacques Forêt has only a matter of weeks to solve a series of mysterious disappearances as a Gendarme in the rural French village of Messandrierre. 

But, as the number of missing persons rises, his difficult and hectoring boss puts obstacles in his way. Steely and determined, Jacques won’t give up and, when a new Investigating Magistrate is appointed, he becomes the go-to local policeman for all the work on the case.

Will he find the perpetrators before his lover, Beth, becomes a victim?

The Review

Set in France, Messandrierre is the first in the Jaques Foret mysteries written by Angela Wren. (Good! More stories to catch up on!) I really enjoyed the way the author effortlessly transported me to the French village where the story unfolds. Jaques is an engaging hero with an enduring mixture of strength, gentleness and intelligence and just a little bit of pride thrown into the mix. He also has a hilarious fan, little five year old Junior Gendarme Mancelle with whom he has delightful interactions.

The plot is woven around a series of missing persons that Jacques has to investigate while he considers his future in the police force, and his feelings for Beth, whom he adores but who he is in danger of losing.
This is a captivating crime story with a strong romantic element that make this book such a great read. I certainly look forward to more novels by Angela Wren and highly recommend Messandrierre.

The Author

I’m an actor and director at a small theatre a few miles from where I live in the county of Yorkshire in the UK. I did work as a project and business change manager – very pressured and very demanding – but I managed to escape and now I write books.

I’ve always loved stories and story telling so it seemed a natural progression, to me, to try my hand at writing and I started with short stories. My first published story was included an anthology, which was put together by the magazine ‘Ireland’s Own’ in 2011.

I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work. My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical. I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio.

My full-length stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year. Currently, I’m working on the follow-up stories in my Jacques Forêt series of novels and I continue to write my blog every week where you can find lots of info about France, books, book reviews and author interviews.

Val Penny

Katherina: Deliverance by Margaret Skea

It is a privilege to be involved in the tour for Katharina: Deliverance (Book 1 Katharina series) by Margaret Skea @margaretskea1 run by @lovebooksgroup. You can read an extract below and can follow the tour.

The Blurb

At five Katharina is placed in a convent.
At twenty-three she escapes.
At twenty-five she marries the most controversial man in Europe.

This is her story – of courage, resilience in the face of adversity and a determination to choose her own life.

If you like your historical fiction to be absorbing, authentic, beautifully written and full of warmth and heart, this portrayal of Katharina von Bora, the escaped nun who married Martin Luther, is for you.

The Extract

Torgau: September, 1552

It seems that I am dry, underneath me something soft. I search for the word to describe it, dredging it from the recesses of my brain: sheepskin. I am lying on sheepskin. I want to stretch, but my right leg refuses to move, and when I try to move onto my side, there is a sharp pain in my hip, as if someone is trying to thrust a sharp poker through me. I raise my arm; it at least works, as do my fingers when I wiggle them. But even that effort seems too much, and I let my hand drop onto the coverlet, my eyelids flickering.

When I next wake, it is to the half light that creeps around the edge of ill-fitting shutters, augmented by a stump of candle flickering on the window ledge. Beside it, slumped in a roughly fashioned chair, a woman sleeps and momentarily I feel pity for her, for the sound of laboured breathing fills the room and I think she must be unwell.

She stirs, approaches my bed. ‘Frau Luther?’

The Author

Margaret Skea grew up in Ulster at the height of the ‘Troubles’, but now lives with her husband in the Scottish Borders.

You can find more details, including why chocolate is vital to her creative process, on her website http://www.margaretskea.com

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

I was given The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley as a birthday gift. I was pleased to receive it because I had heard lots of good things about it. I had not read anything by this author before, so I was intrigued.

The Blurb

n a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather for New Year.

The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
The outsider

The victim.

Not an accident – a murder among friends.

The Review

The story in The Hunting Party is about a group of friends who travel from London to the highlands of Scotland to spend the New Year Holiday in a remote hunting lodge. The only other guests at the resort are a man and a woman from Iceland. The story is told from the point of view of the two members of staff at the lodge and the female friends in the group.

The narrative jumps over the period from New Year’s Eve until January second. I usually try to avoid books where the passage of time jumps forward and back as the story does in The Hunting Party but in this novel, the passage of time is so short and the chapters so well identified that it didn’t matter very much. Certainly not enough to spoil my enjoyment of the book.

However, there are some short comings in the story-telling: the reader does no get told enough about the Icelandic couple to give them clues as to their importance. Neither is enough light shone on the victim or the perpetrator of the crime. As a result of this, there is a lengthy information dump at the end of the novel. This was disappointing because there was so much jumping backwards and forwards in time, reminiscing about the thoughts and experiences of the friendship group, the information dump could have been avoided.

Having said that, until that end point, the novel is gripping and beautifully paced. I enjoyed The Hunting Party. It would be a good book group read and I would recommend it to those who enjoy a good mystery.

The Author

Lucy Foley studied English Literature at Durham and UCL universities and worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry, before leaving to write full-time. The Hunting Party is her debut crime novel, inspired by a particularly remote spot in Scotland that fired her imagination.

Lucy is also the author of three historical novels, which have been translated into sixteen languages. Her journalism has appeared in ES Magazine, Sunday Times Style, Grazia and more.

Val Penny