Review ~ Blog Tour ~ The Golden Orphan by Gary Raymond #damppebblesblogtours

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Within the dark heart of an abandoned city, on an island once torn by betrayal and war, lies a terrible secret…

Francis Benthem is a successful artist; he’s created a new life on an island in the sun. He works all night, painting the dreams of his mysterious Russian benefactor, Illy Prostakov. He writes letters to old friends and students back in cold, far away London. But now Francis Benthem is found dead. The funeral is planned and his old friend from art school arrives to finish what Benthem had started. The painting of dreams on a faraway island. But you can also paint nightmares and Illy has secrets of his own that are not ready for the light. Of promises made and broken, betrayal and murder…

The Golden Orphans offers a new twist on the literary thriller.



I would like to thank the author, publisher Parthian Books and blog tour organiser Emma Welton for the ARC in return for an honest review.

The Golden Orphans is a tale of an artist who is fleeing his past and present, arriving on Cyprus to bury a friend.  In fleeing his own demons, he becomes entangled in those of a man haunted by his dreams.

When I started Golden Orphans I wasn’t sure it was or me, yet by the end I loved it. I have read some outstanding thrillers during the last year and what I loved about this one was the feeling of sparseness in the writing. Yet this is deceptive because it is in fact a complex and addictive read. Not layered with tons of twist and turns, you are sucked into the story by a rich and absorbing tale written with superb charactrisation.  A literary thriller with the emphasis being on character and emotion, rather than reams of action. Of course there are twists and turns, this is first and foremost a thriller, but as the air shimmers in the landscape, those twists are much more low key,

My favourite part of the book was the rich variety of characters. From Russian Olagacs, to barmaids and creepy ‘drug dealers’ and many more.  No one is who they initially seem to be and as a result I was forced to evaluate my thoughts as the story progressed, wrong footed by events as they unfurled within the novel.  At the end, I realised I had misjudged them all and I felt haunted by their far from certain fates.

I was left haunted by both the story and the characters and fascinated by the way the writer uses art to try to explore the dreams of a tortured mind.  I have not come across this before and it gave the novel a unique edge.

It is a story with elements of a thriller, mystery and an historical drama. As a reader the way the writer cleverly combined them into a story about murder and betrayal, delivered for me a read of the finest calabre.

It is without doubt a first class literary thriller with a cinematic quality to it, that delivers on every level.

You purchase  The Golden Orphans can be purchased from Amazon UK, Amazon US, Waterstones, Book DepositoryNook and Kobo.

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About the author.

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Gary Raymond is a novelist, critic, editor and broadcaster. He is the presenter of BBC Radio Wales’, The Review Show, and is one of the founding editors of Wales Arts Review. He is the author of two novels, The Golden Orphans (Parthian, 2018) and For Those Who Come After (Parthian, 2015). He is a widely published critic and cultural commentator.

You can follow the author on Twitter and Facebook.

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Extract ~ Blog Tour ~ The Hairy Hand by Robin Bennett #Gothic #Adventure #8-12yearolds

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The Hairy Hand
A scary adventure for 8 -12 year olds, full of jokes, magical familiars and a Dickensian cast. When Septimus inherits a magical, treasure-finding Hairy Hand from his uncle, life suddenly becomes a lot more exciting – and dangerous!

I’m delighted to welcome author Robin Bennett to booksaremycwtches today with an extract from his children’s book The Hairy Hand.


Chapter One
Introducing Sept, the awful Plogs, the Village of Nowhere and the letter that changed everything

When Septimus Plog was small he liked to play in puddles outside his house. Sometimes he would look up and see his mother watching him from the kitchen window. He would stop and wave at her with all his little might … then wait; but she never waved back. Not once.
He always knew he was very different from everyone else in the village and Septimus often wondered if that was why his mother seemed not to like him very much.
For starters, he had this name. Septimus (Sept, for short). Everyone else his age was called Garp, Darg or Dorgk or Blaarg. Good, honest names that sounded like you were sneezing into custard or you had swallowed something pointy.
Secondly, he read books – by the sack, when he could get his hands on them. As far as he knew, no-one else in his village read anything except graffiti. And quite how Sept knew how to read was a mystery: there were no schools for a hundred miles, no teachers and, more to the point, Sept couldn’t remember ever not being able to read. Printed words in books just popped into his head, as if someone was telling the story out loud.
Unfortunately, in the Plog household there were only two books: the one he kept secret from his parents; and the one they kept a secret from him. Sept had only ever glimpsed it when he’d come home once and caught his mother staring at the cover as if she dared not open it. It was a small book with a black cover, like dead bats’ wings, and no title. Something about the book scared Sept very much indeed. His mother kept the Black Book in her apron pocket.
The other one – his secret book – he had read so many times he knew it almost by heart. It was called, How to be Happy, and it had twelve chapters, each with a simple idea for looking on the bright side of life. It was Sept’s most treasured possession, one that was just his. He hid it away in his room under a floorboard – because where he came from, possessions were just things other people hadn’t got around to stealing yet.
Apart from him, everyone else in the village seemed to have some sort of point: There was Begre, next door, who made pig food for his dad’s pigs. He used rotten turnips, boiled acorns and mud; there was Flargh the Meat grinder (although, generally, if Flargh offered you one of his burgers, you checked where the cat was first, before you knew whether to eat or bury it); there was Stomp the Bully and, of course, Spew the Puker.
‘Is puking really a job?’ Sept asked his dad as they trudged along through the mud past one or two shops. His father, Plog the Sneaker, wiped a runny nose with the back of his hand before slapping Sept around the back of his head.
‘Don’t talk soft. Course it is. Donkey doo brain!’
A Sneaker was a night thief and it was one of the most respected jobs to have, which tells you pretty much all you need to know about the village and everyone in it. Sept’s dad came from a long line of Sneakers. Dark-haired, black eyes and enormous eyebrows – like two very hairy caterpillars had been glued to his forehead. He was also short, stocky and incredibly strong. Ideal Sneaker. Plog pinched goats, chickens, sheep, any food left lying about and even the thatch from roofs. Sept’s dad would steal anything not nailed down. And if it was nailed down, he’d come back later with a claw hammer.
They were at the end of the road; beyond them it was hundreds of miles of nothing and nobody. Their village didn’t even have a proper name. People just called it, Nowhere.
Most of the time Sept tried to look on the bright side, just as his book kept reminding him to do: he was given food once a day, sometimes twice, and it wasn’t always turnip — once a month they got a bit of meat off Flargh and sometimes you could actually swallow it, if you chewed for long enough. The main problem with Nowhere was that nothing nice ever happened. People in it just went on being selfish and stupid, day after day, after day …
He searched out his reflection in a dirty shop window. A small boy, with fair hair and narrow features gazed back unhappily. Who was he and why didn’t he fit in?

You can purchase the book from Amazon


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About the author.

Robin Bennett is an author and entrepreneur who has written several books for children, adults, and everything in between. Listed in the Who’s Who of British Business Excellence at 29, his 2016 documentary “Fantastic Britain”, about the British obsession with fantasy and folklore, won best foreign feature at the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards, and his first book for young adults, Picus the Thief, won the Writer’s News Indie Published Book of the Year Award in 2012.

You can follow the author on Twitter

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Book Review ~ Blog Tour ~ The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola.

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From the author of THE UNSEEING comes a sizzling, period novel of folk tales, disappearances and injustice set on the Isle of Skye, sure to appeal to readers of Hannah Kent’s BURIAL RITES or Beth Underdown’s THE WITCH FINDER’S SISTER.

Longlisted for the 2018 Highland Book Prize

‘A wonderful combination of a thrilling mystery and a perfectly depicted period piece’ Sunday Mirror

Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the folk and fairy tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857 and the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty, and a community riven by fear. The crofters are suspicious and hostile to a stranger, claiming they no longer know their fireside stories.

Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach and the crofters reveal that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the restless dead: spirits who take the form of birds.

Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but as events accumulate she begins to wonder if something else is at work. Something which may be linked to the death of her own mother, many years before.


I would like to thank the author, publisher and blog tour organiser for the ARC in return for an honest review.

It is only the 16th day of the New Year, but I already know that this beautifully written story will be amongst my favourite reads of 2019.

Why? For many reasons!

I loved the beauty of the story itself, which was light and delicate, yet full of brooding atmosphere. With a dark, gothic and opulent feeling to the writing, which brought alive the sense that whatever was afflicting the people of Skye, also seeped into the mind of the reader. I was so engrossed in the story that the real world outside of its pages drifted out of focus. Leaving the story felt like a terrible wrench and returning to it a pleasure to be treasured and luxuriated in. Beautifully written by Anna Mazzola, it takes us back to a world where women are still confined by male prejudices and to a small island community so buffeted by devastating poverty, they look to the fireside stories past down by generations of islanders, seeking answers to events they can’t explain.

The story is full of an amazing collection of characters, such as Aubrey Hart who in defying those that seek to control her is the personification of intelligent, sensitive and creative women. Her bravery and resilience takes her into danger, but she never stops wanting to solve the mystery of the missing girls. I defy anyone not to either love or admire her. As amazing as she is, it’s one of the more minor characters that seared themselves into my heart, Miss Buchanan, who may be dismissed as harsh and overly critical at the beginning, but is revealed as far more than that, though I leave you to decide if that is in a good or bad way. It says so much about this captivating page turner, that the main character is complex and engaging, but so are those characters that form the ensemble cast.

The atmosphere is dark and oppressive on times, with a brooding menace that sent shivers down my spine. Yet it was impossible to not read on, worried about Aubrey’s fate, the story draws you into its embrace and wills you to keep reading. That ominous feeling that engulfs you as the reader also pervades the very land the story is set in, the Island of Skye. It sits front and centre of the story and is as much a part of it, as Aubrey and Miss Buchanan.

The Story Keeper is part historical fiction, part mystery, part suspense thriller and it’s a hard combination to pull off, but Anna Mazzola achieves it by enthusing her story with beautifully written characters, a ominous atmosphere that wraps itself around the reader and a story so beautifully told that it was a wrench to turn the last page, knowing that will be the end. I for one will not forget it easily and believe its power to captivate lies in its breathtaking characters and a finely woven mystery that beguiles you at every turn.

This dazzling, often creepy tale, will be one I will recommend to anyone who cares to listen and will certainly be one I buy as presents for family and friends.

You can purchase the novel from Amazon and Waterstones

About the author.

anna picture credit lou abercrombie.

Photo by Lou Abercrombie. 

Anna is a writer who, due to some fault of her parents, is drawn to peculiar and dark historical subjects. Her novels have been described as literary crime fiction or historical crime. Anna’s influences include Sarah Waters, Daphne Du Maurier, Shirley Jackson and Margaret Atwood.

Her debut novel, The Unseeing, is based on the life of a real woman called Sarah Gale who was convicted of aiding a murder in London in 1837. Her second novel, The Story Keeper, follows a folklorist’s assistant as she searches out dark fairytales and stolen girls on the Isle of Skye in 1857.

She studied English at Pembroke College, Oxford, before becoming a human rights and criminal justice solicitor. She now tries to combine law with writing and child wrangling, to varying degrees of success.

Anna loves to hear from readers, so do say hello on social media or via her website.

You can follow the author on Twitter and Facebook

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Book Review ~ Blog Tour ~ Fat Chance by Alison Morgan. #Thriller.


A missing barrister, a severed thumb and fat chance of finding out the truth.

Ella Fitzwilliam’s world is about to spiral out of control. She’s not cut out to be a private investigator. With little or no aptitude for the job, she’s been sent undercover to expose the hidden lives of two men who meet nearly every week at Buxham’s – a private members’ club where portions are large and secrets are held in strictest confidence.

One of those men is Harry Drysdale, a defence barrister, and the other is Marcus Carver, an eminent surgeon with a tarnished past and much to lose. Ella knows he has unhealthy appetites, she’s sure he’s feeding his perverted habits and putting his female patients at risk but she has to prove it.

When Harry Drysdale goes missing, Konrad Neale TV journalist tries to reveal the truth behind the lies, but some of the secrets start to reveal themselves… and they are big.


I would like to thank the author and blog tour organiser Jill Burkenshaw for the ARC in return for an honest review.

Having read all the authors previous books I was excited to be asked to review Fat Chance.  What I really love is that with each book she publishes Alison Morgan’s writing goes from strength to strength and she has once again delivered a first class read.

There were many things I liked about this book, for one the characters felt real, you can imagine the reality of Ella’s battle with severe mental health and the triggers that set off a manic episode; the pressure of the need for constant self care, to prevent a downward spiral. Ella was painfully authentic and I dare anyone to not read this novel and not take from it, a better understanding of the intense bravery she displays throughout the story. Then you have Konard Neale’s desperation to save his career, even if that means he often doesn’t judge his own actions well enough or those of others. What I loved about him though, were his flaws, especially the feelings we all get when the future of something we love and is an integral part of our personality and life is threatened. Both beautifully written and endlessly intriguing to read about.

As well as that I was kept guessing about the fate of these two characters and the host of supporting ones as well. It’s true that the ending came as an utter surprise, the writer having wrong footed me, just when I was getting smug thinking I knew what would happen. This is a thriller that deals with some difficult subjects, the portrayal of characters whose mental health is fragile and body image and does so with grace and senstivity, while maintaining the much loved elements of a great thriller.  It’s a balancing act, that the author achieves with great skill.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this novel to anyone who appreciates a great read.

You can purchase Fat Chance from Amazon

About the author

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Alison Morgan lives in rural Bedfordshire, UK, with her engineer husband and bonkers dog. Life is never boring and they are usually planning the next adventure. Alison spent several decades working on the front line of mental health services as a specialist nurse and latterly as manager of an early intervention service for first episode psychosis. However, when a heart problem brought her career to a juddering halt, she had to find a way of managing her own sanity, so she sat down to write some useful clinical guidelines for student nurses. Instead, a story that had been lurking in her mind came spewing forth onto the pages of what became her first novel. Since then she has been unable to stem the flow of ideas and writes full-time from a luxurious shack at the top of the garden. Alison writes under the name A B Morgan and. within her storylines, she continues to make good use of her years of experience in mental health services, where the truth is often much stranger than fiction.

You can follow the author on Twitter

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Cover Reveal ~ Blog Tour ~The Talisman, Molly’s Story by Eliza J Scott.

I’m delighted today to be taking part in the cover reveal for The Talisman, Molly’s Story by Eliza J Scott.

Thanks to both Eliza and blog tour organiser Rachel Gilbey for inviting me to take part.

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Molly’s dream of taking over her childhood home at Withrin Hill Farm with husband Pip and their three children has finally come true. And, as they settle into the stunning Georgian farmhouse, with their plans to diversify into glamping nicely taking shape, the family couldn’t be happier.

But tragedy suddenly strikes, and Molly’s world is turned upside down.
Heartbroken and devastated, she struggles to face each day. True to form, her fiercely loyal best friends, Kitty and Violet, rally round offering love and support, but Molly doesn’t think she’ll ever be able to smile again. Until the day a tall, dark stranger with twinkly eyes arrives…

Follow Molly’s story in book 2 of the Life on the Moors Series set in Lytell Stangdale, a picture-perfect village in the heart of the North Yorkshire Moors, where life is anything but quiet.

A heart-warming story of love, friendship and hope.


What a pretty cover it is!


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You can pre-order the book on Amazon UK and US.


About the author

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Eliza lives in a 17th-century cottage on the edge of a village in the North Yorkshire Moors with her husband, their two daughters and two mischievous black Labradors. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found with her nose in a book/glued to her Kindle or working in her garden. Eliza also enjoys bracing walks in the countryside, rounded off by a visit to a teashop where she can indulge in another two of her favourite things: tea and cake. Eliza is inspired by her beautiful surroundings and loves to write heart-warming stories with happy endings.

You can follow the author on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, her blog.


Extract ~ Blog Tour ~ Deep Dirty Truth by Steph Broadribb #thriller

Deep Dirty Truth AW.indd

A price on her head. A secret worth dying for.

Just 48 hours to expose the truth…

Single-mother bounty hunter Lori Anderson has finally got her family back together, but her new-found happiness is shattered when she’s snatched by the Miami Mob – and they want her dead. Rather than a bullet, they offer her a job: find the Mob’s ‘numbers man’ – Carlton North – who’s in protective custody after being forced to turn federal witness against them. If Lori succeeds, they’ll wipe the slate clean and the price on her head – and those of her family – will be removed. If she fails, they die.

With North due in court in forty-eight hours, Lori sets off across Florida, racing against the clock to find him and save her family. Only in this race the prize is more deadly – and the secret she shares with JT more dangerous – than she ever could have imagined.

In this race only the winner gets out alive…

Brimming with tension, high-stakes jeopardy and high-voltage action, and a deep, emotional core, Deep Dirty Truth is an unmissable thriller by one of the freshest and most exciting voices in crime fiction.

Many thanks to author, publisher and blog organiser for the extract of Deep Dirty Truth being shared today on booksaremycwtches.


Deep Dirty Truth
Lori Anderson Book Three
Steph Broadribb


I never saw it coming. Got totally blindsided. That’s the God’s honest
See, we’ve gotten ourselves into a routine of sorts – me, JT and
Dakota. Living all together in my two-bed apartment at the Clearwater
Village complex, playing our version of house. It’s still a little
awkward, with each of us taking time to find our rhythm in the shared
space of each other’s lives. But, you know, all that domestic stuff? It’s
starting to feel real good, kind of natural. I should’ve known something
bad was lurking around the corner, and some kind of evil was about to
storm in and mess it all up.
Because that’s what happens when you’ve a dirty secret in your past,
and a price on your head from Old Man Bonchese – the head of the
Miami Mob crime family – because of something he’s discovered you
did ten years back. Someone you killed: a lying, cheating, murdering
mobster. Thomas ‘Tommy’ Ford; my wife-beating, son-of-a-bitch
First they thought JT was responsible. Nearly had him killed a
couple of months back – multiple stab wounds, busted ribs, punctured
lung and a heart attack. But he’s strong. A fighter. And he’s convalescing
But they wouldn’t let it go. Word was they’d got new information
and were now gunning hard for me; raising the bounty, getting every
low-life, bottom-feeding asshole to think they should chance their
As it was, they waited until September 19th to make their move. The
day started with a shared breakfast of bagels and cream cheese, followed
by me taking Dakota to school and leaving JT to do the dishes before
his physical therapy appointment. It seemed like a regular day; just like
the day before, and the day before that. But the schedule got changed
up. Our rhythm violently disrupted. And by 08:29 that morning our
world was shot to shit.

It’s mad busy outside the school, and I can’t squeeze the Jeep into the
drop-off area, so I continue along the street a ways before finding a
spot that’s clear. I glance in the rearview mirror at Dakota as I shove
the gear into park. She’s fiddling with her cellphone, brow creased and
front teeth biting her lower lip in concentration, playing whatever
game is the latest craze.
‘Come on, honey. You don’t want to be late.’
She nods, but doesn’t look up. Jumping out, I run around to her side
and open the door. She puts the cell into her bag and I gesture for her
to get out. She’s got a coy expression on her that usually means she’s
revving up to ask something.
She takes her time unfastening her belt and gets her bags together
real slow. Clears her throat. ‘So JT said it would be okay, Momma, and
you know how much I love the Tampa Bay Rays.’
Her love of the Tampa Bay Rays is new. It started the moment JT said
they were his favourite local sports team, second only to the Yankees.
I lift her science project – a papier-mâché model of the planets in the
solar system – out of the trunk.
‘Sweetie, hurry.’
She dangles her legs out of the Jeep. Her knee socks are scrunched
around her ankles, her shoes are new, but the toe of the right one is
already scuffed. ‘So can I?’
They’ve been talking about it the last three weeks. JT wants to take
her to a ballgame at Tropicana Field and she’s keen to go. I want them
to have some father-daughter time, even if we haven’t yet told her that
JT is her father, but I’m worried the trip is too soon. Not for their
relationship, that’s doing just fine, but for JT’s health. He’s still healing,
and although the external bruises have faded now, he’s no way close to
being back to full strength. Standing for any length of time makes him
dog-tired and he still can’t walk any kind of distance.
‘Maybe, honey.’
Dakota sits on the edge of the seat. She pushes her strawberryblonde
bangs out of her eyes and looks up at me through long lashes.
‘But why only maybe? Why not yes?’
I smile. She’s persistent. Determined, just like her momma. ‘How
about soon?’
She frowns. ‘It’s better than no, I guess.’
I laugh. ‘Yes, it is. Now, scoot.’
She grins, and slides out of the Jeep. Swinging her bags over her
shoulder, she takes the science project and trots towards the school
gates. I stand on the sidewalk in the morning sunshine, leaning on the
trunk, and watch her join the flow of kids rushing into school. She’s
been through so much in the past year, yet she seems happy. She’s been
abducted, seen men die and been in fear of her life. That’s stuff no nineyear-
old should ever have to experience.
As Dakota reaches the school gate she turns, waves and disappears
I watch her, daring to hope the psychological scars are fading. The
guilt that what happened to her was because of me, because of my job,
remains heavy in my chest, and I know I’ll never forgive myself for it.
But I have to push through. Move on and stay focused on the future.
We all do.
On the street close behind me, a vehicle brakes hard, pulling me
from my thoughts. I hear a door slide open and glance over my shoulder,
glimpsing a van with blacked-out windows that’s stopped, butted
up against my Jeep, blocking me in.
I start to turn. ‘Hey, what are you…?’
Two men with shaved heads jump out of the vehicle. Hands yank
me backwards. Fingers dig into my shoulders and hips, pinning my
arms. I kick back, fighting hard, but they’re pulling me off balance. I
can’t get any power into my blows.
The voice in my right ear is low, menacing. ‘You keep wiggling,
you’ll only die tired.’
I pay their warning no mind. As they haul me across the blacktop
I’m screaming, bellowing, frantically looking for someone who can
help. But there’s no one; the other parents are inside the school gate,
out of sight and oblivious. I’m too far away.
‘Let me go … get your goddamn hands off—’
Tape is slapped across my mouth, silencing my shouts. Trapped
inside, my screams and curses echo in my head. Rough hands hood
me. The black material turns the world around me dark.
Then I’m off the ground, lifted up and back. I’m still fighting,
punching, bucking against them, but I’m outnumbered and they’re
too strong. I’m losing the battle. Seconds later they release me. Gravity
drops me onto the floor of the van. Pain shoots through my hip, my
knee, my elbow. My face hits something solid and I hear my jaw crack.
I taste blood in my mouth.
The door slides shut. The engine fires, and we’re moving.
Less than fifteen seconds from start to finish.
I doubt anyone even knows I’m gone.

Panic never helped no one, and I’ll be damned if it’ll get the better
of me.
Heart punching in my chest, double-speed, I take stock of the situation.
I’m on my back – not a good position as it leaves my stomach
exposed, my vital organs vulnerable to easy damage, so I arch my back,
turn myself over.
My captors have other ideas. One grabs me, pulling me across the
van floor. I kick hard at them. Feel my toe connect and hear a grunt.
The moment of triumph doesn’t last. I feel more hands on me, flipping
me onto my side and clamping me still. My arms are yanked behind
me and I feel tape against my skin, binding my wrists, then my ankles.
Next moment they’ve gotten me hogtied. They’re are fast, practised
and methodical. This isn’t their first time.
So I make a choice and quit fighting. Conserve energy. But I’m sure
as hell not giving up. I’m harvesting data; every sound, every bump in
the blacktop, every gradient in the terrain, is a clue about where they’re
taking me.
I close my eyes. Listen real hard. At first I mostly hear the thump of
my pulse gunfire loud in my ears, but as I force my breathing to slow,
clearing my mind of panic, more sounds start to register.
The muffler’s rattling and the air conditioning is dialled up high.
I hear low voices, male, up front. I can’t make out their words, but I
can tell that there are two of them. Wondering how many others there
are, I move about the van floor, act restless and try to push myself up
with my elbow. Rough hands on my shoulders and my hips force me
down hard. My face slams against the floor. Pain shoots through my
A third hand presses down on me. The same voice as before snarls in
my ear, ‘Quiet down, bitch.’
I don’t appreciate his tone, but I’ve got me my answer: there are two
people riding in the back with me, so with the pair up front that makes
four in total. Four guys sent to grab one woman.
Numbers like that tell me these people take no kind of chances.
We come to a stop, at an intersection I’m guessing. Over the blowers
of the air conditioning, I hear a blast of Miley Cyrus. It’s to our left,
likely coming from another vehicle. Then the van’s engine guns hard,
and we take a left, leaving the music behind.
I need to get my bearings but it’s tricky without any visual references.
I think back to the route we’ve taken, run through each of the
turns made since leaving Dakota’s school. I feel about-faced, but figure
we’re maybe going north-east. Heading out of town. Question is why;
is this a random snatch, or am I their target?
Right now, there’s no way to know for sure.
My captors are silent. The blacktop is smooth, the turns minimal.
The van coasts on at a steady speed, doing nothing that might attract
I concentrate on my breathing. Try to ignore the musty stench of
the hood, the oppressive gag of the tape and the sweat running down
my back. I push away thoughts of Dakota and JT, and the fear that I’ll
never see them again. There might be four of these guys, but I’ll never
go down easy. I’ll wait it out, looking for my chance to fight back.
Minutes later the van brakes and we start to reduce speed.
I flinch as a hand grips the back of my neck. ‘No noise, no tricks.’
We’re almost at a stop. I hear the buzz of a window being lowered
and the clatter of coins hitting metal. The hand around my neck
squeezes harder.
‘Have a nice day.’ A woman says from outside the van. There’s a
pause, followed by an electronic ping. Then we’re moving again.
The window buzzes back up and the pressure on my neck releases. I
know where we are. The woman was in a teller booth. We’ve just passed
through a toll.
My captors used coins – they don’t have a resident’s sunshine pass
that would’ve allowed them to use the lane for automated toll payments,
and that means they’re most likely from out of town.
As the van reaches cruising speed two things are real clear: we’re on
the freeway, and we’re not in Clermont anymore.
Not a car jacking.
Not robbery.
Not rape, at least not yet.
Then what the hell is it that these men want with me?
Again I run through the turns we’ve taken since leaving Dakota’s
school. I concentrate hard on the direction we’re taking along the
freeway. I think about the enemies I’ve made during my time as a
bounty hunter, and the threats I’ve gotten since. The realisation of
who could be behind this slithers up my spine and into my mind like
a copperhead.
I clench my fingers together. Grit my teeth beneath the tape.
I’ve seen the faces of the two men with shaved heads, and I’m clear
about what they’re capable of. If I’m right, if these men work for who
I think they do, then my situation is way worse than a random abduction.
If I want to live, I have to figure out a way to get free. I need to be
ready. Stay vigilant for any opportunity. Because one thing’s for sure:
these men are playing this game for keeps.
If they get their way, I won’t get out of this alive.


Orenda Books16 Carson Road
West Dulwich
London se21 8hu
First published in the UK in 2019 by Orenda Books
Copyright © Steph Broadribb 2018
Steph Broadribb has asserted her moral right to be identified as the author of
this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any
form or by any means without the written permission of the publishers.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
ISBN 978-1-912374-55-7
eISBN 978-1-912374-56-4
Typeset in Garamond by MacGuru Ltd
Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon cr0 4yy
For sales and distribution, please contact

You can purchase the book from Waterstones and Amazon.


About the author

steph broadribb

Steph Broadribb was born in Birmingham and grew up in Buckinghamshire. Most of her working life has been spent between the UK and USA. As her alter ego – Crime Thriller Girl – she indulges her love of all things crime fiction by blogging at, where she interviews authors and reviews the latest releases. Steph is an alumni of the MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at City University London, and she trained as a bounty hunter in California. She lives in Buckinghamshire surrounded by horses, cows and chickens. Her debut thriller, Deep Down Dead, was shortlisted for the Dead Good Reader Awards in two categories and a finalist in the ITW Awards, and hit number one on the UK and AU kindle charts, and the sequel, Deep Blue Trouble soon followed suit. My Little Eye, her first novel under her pseudonym Stephanie Marland, was published by Trapeze Books in April 2018.

You can follow the author on Twitter

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Book Review ~ Blog Tour ~ Changeling by Matt Wesolowski. #Thriller

Changeling AW.indd

On Christmas Eve in 1988, seven-year-old Alfie Marsden vanished in the dark Wentshire Forest Pass, when his father, Sorrel, stopped the car to investigate a mysterious knocking sound. No trace of the child, nor his remains, have ever been found. Alfie Marsden was declared officially dead in 1995.

Elusive online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the disappearance, interviewing six witnesses, including Sorrel and his ex-partner, to try to find out what really happened that fateful night. Journeying through the trees of the Wentshire Forest – a place synonymous with strange sightings, and tales of hidden folk who dwell there, he talks to a company that tried and failed to build a development in the forest, and a psychic who claims to know what happened to the little boy…


I would like to thank the author, publisher Orenda Books and blog tour organiser Anne Cater for the ARC in return for an honest review.

How to sum up my feelings about this book, the last I read in the closing moments of 2018?

A series of words come to mind,

*Though provoking

What a way to end a reading year, with a story so marvellous that you’re left feeling elated and the fireworks that are going off outside, seem to be celebrating with you as turn the final page.

So why is it so good?

It is highly original in its format for one, the story is told as a series of podcasts, as online reporter Scott King looks into the historical case of missing Alfie Marsden. Scott interviews those involved and seeks to solve the mystery behind the boy’s disappearance. It has the feel of a true crime investigation to it, even though it’s a work of fiction and plays to that idea held by many true crime investigators, that real life is way scarier than fiction; what the writer achieves in my eyes is to disprove that, leaving me too scared to walk through the woods alone. As a result I was on edge from page one to the very last word.

The other wonderful thing is that Changeling has a dark and edgy feel to it, created by the way the writer builds the tension up gripping you so tight, you feel like you’re listening to the podcasts in real time, that your very much part of the story as it evolves. On top of this there are events within the story that cannot be explained, that are out of the ordinary, eerie and spine chilling, that left me feeling so on edge, I kept reading to find a resolution and some explanation. The wonder of this book, is that not only was I wowed by the ending, which resolved questions I had had since book one in the series, but I was left feeling chilled over a week after reading the book. Now that is master story teller at work, if days after turning the last page your still delightfully unnerved by a story you have read! It really was utterly spell binding!

The characterisation is perfection. Over the three books I have come to love on-line journalist Scott King, he is the right mixture of flawed, determined and elusive. You never quite know who he is, so secretive is he, so paranoid of the repercussions from his investigations, that he remains hidden not only from his listeners, but in many ways from us as well. What this book does is flesh him out, help us to understand him, but leaves him still a little bit of a mystery to us and himself. I feel sad that this may be the last time we read about Mr King, because his mercurial nature remains very much open to more stories. Why not a stunning televised crime drama, because King and the podcasts are surely a screen writers dream come true? Even characters such as Sorrel and Alfie Marsden’s mum, challenged me as a reader not to judge characters by the initial impression, but to allow the story to tell their tale.

This is bold and clever story telling at its best and it fulfils that much used phrase ‘a must read novel’. I look forward to where Matt Wesolowski’s talents will take us next and I feel confident it will be one heck of a ride.

You can purchase this book from Waterstones and Amazon.

About the author

mattwesolowski (1)

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- an US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie CreatureSelfies from the End of the WorldCold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller.

You can follow the author on Twitter

changeling blog tour poster

Book Review ~ Blog ~ The Convalescent Corpse by Nicola Slade. #HistoricalCosyMystery.

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The Convalescent Corpse

A story of Family, Rationing and Inconvenient Corpses.
Life in 1918 has brought loss and grief and hardship to the three Fyttleton sisters. Helped only by their grandmother (a failed society belle and expert poacher) and hindered by a difficult suffragette mother, as well as an unruly chicken-stealing dog and a house full of paying-guests, they now have to deal with the worrying news that their late – and unlamented – father may not be dead after all. And on top of that, there’s a body in the ha-ha.


‘I love it. A delightfully unusual mystery with wonderful characterisation and historical detail.’ – LESLEY COOKMAN BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF



I would like to thank the author and blog tour organiser for the ARC in return for an honest review.

The Convalescent Corpse is a fun and highly enjoyable who done it, set on the home front during World War one. The Fyttleton sisters have to contend with an eccentric mother, money worries and a murder, which all ads up to a cosy mystery in which strong female characters are front and centre of the story.

One of the things I loved about this novel was the characters, the indomitable Fyttleton sisters. They are beautifully written as all very different from each other, one practical, another fun loving but self sacrificing and the youngest as eccentric and intelligent as her mother! They give this story its strength and vitality, because you can’t help but love the way they unite to support each other, but never stop being individuals. At a time in history, where women were given the liberty to live fuller lives, they encompass that can do attitude, so prevalent during that time and their vibrancy fills the pages of this novel.

The other wonderful thing about The Convalescent Corpse is the story, its cosy and a really pleasing read. I found myself lost in the story for hours and can see it being adapted into a fantastic Sunday night drama! You know the type, sat with a hot drink, snuggled up under a blanket, simply enjoying an hour or two of relaxed TV. Don’t mistake me, this is a story that has plenty of drama, a murder to solve and a father who may not dead after all, but it feels like your reading a story that simply lets you enjoy it, without having to check all your doors and windows are locked. More Joan Hickinson as Miss Marple, rather than check under the bed for crazy psychopaths Luther and I loved it.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone that wants to read a very enjoyable book, filled with highly likeable characters. Cosy up with it, you won’t regret it.

You can purchase a copy of the book from Amazon

You can also enter a giveaway to win a paperback copy of another of the authors books The House of Ladywell (Open Internationally) by following the LINK.
*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.


the convalescent corpse

About the author

the convalescent corpse nickydiamondphotocropped

Nicola Slade lives in Hampshire where she writes historical and contemporary mysteries and women’s fiction. While her three children were growing up she wrote stories for children and for women’s magazines before her first novel, Scuba Dancing, was published in 2005. Among other jobs, Nicola has been an antiques dealer and a Brown Owl! She loves travelling and at one time, lived in Egypt for a year. The Convalescent Corpse is Nicola’s 9th novel. Nicola is also a member of a crime writers’ panel, The Deadly Dames.

You can follow the author on Twitter and Facebook.

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Favourite Reads of 2018 #fiction #nonfiction & #children’s.

It’s been a wonderful reading year and I would like to thank the authors and publishers for all the amazing books i read in 2018. I would also like to thank the amazingly tour organisers who brought reading pleasure into my life.

I hope you enjoy my end of year favourites list and I look forward to sharing more fabulous books with you in 2019.

Top Ten Fiction reads of 2018

1 The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech



Be careful what you wish for…

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

Why is this my book of 2018? Because it’s  beautiful, exquisite, heart breaking and establishes Louise Beech as one of the best writers this country has to offer. 

2 Attend by West Camel



When Sam falls in love with Deptford thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah.
Seamstress, sailor, story-teller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, an exquisite history of hidden Deptford and, ultimately, the solution to their crises.
With echoes of Armistead Maupin, Attend is a beautifully written, darkly funny, mesmerisingly emotive and deliciously told debut novel, rich in finely wrought characters that you will never forget.

This is another stunning read from publisher Orenda Books and a close contender for book of the year.  Just like The Lion Tamer Who Lost its beauty lies in the exquisite story about friendship, love and the stories that connect us. 

3 The Lido by Libby Page



Meet Rosemary, 86, and Kate, 26: dreamers, campaigners, outdoor swimmers…

Rosemary has lived in Brixton all her life, but everything she knows is changing. Only the local lido, where she swims every day, remains a constant reminder of the past and her beloved husband George.

Kate has just moved and feels adrift in a city that is too big for her. She’s on the bottom rung of her career as a local journalist, and is determined to make something of it.

So when the lido is threatened with closure, Kate knows this story could be her chance to shine. But for Rosemary, it could be the end of everything. Together they are determined to make a stand, and to prove that the pool is more than just a place to swim – it is the heart of the community.

The Lido is an uplifting novel about the importance of friendship, the value of community, and how
ordinary people can protect the things they love.

This  is a charming story about friendship and community. Uplifting, gentle, a fine debut and a wonderfully generous read. 

4 Keeper by Johanna Gustawsson



Whitechapel, 1888: London is bowed under Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror.
London 2015: actress Julianne Bell is abducted in a case similar to the terrible Tower Hamlets murders of some ten years earlier, and harking back to the Ripper killings of a century before.
Falkenberg, Sweden, 2015: a woman’s body is found mutilated in a forest, her wounds identical to those of the Tower Hamlets victims.
With the man arrested for the Tower Hamlets crimes already locked up, do the new killings mean he has a dangerous accomplice, or is a copy-cat serial killer on the loose?
Profiler Emily Roy and true-crime writer Alexis Castells again find themselves drawn into an intriguing case, with personal links that turn their world upside down.
Following the highly acclaimed Block 46 and guaranteed to disturb and enthral, Keeper is a breathless thriller from the new queen of French Noir.

This is a superb and exciting sequel to Block 46. A dark and intelligent read, it’s one of the finest examples of the thriller genre currently available to read. 

5 Turning For Home by Barney Norris



‘Isn’t the life of any person made up out of the telling of two tales, after all? People live in the space between the realities of their lives and the hopes they have for them. The whole world makes more sense if you remember that everyone has two lives, their real lives and their dreams, both stories only a tape’s breadth apart from each other, impossibly divided, indivisibly close.’

Every year, Robert’s family come together at a rambling old house to celebrate his birthday. Aunts, uncles, distant cousins – it has been a milestone in their lives for decades. But this year Robert doesn’t want to be reminded of what has happened since they last met – and neither, for quite different reasons, does his granddaughter Kate. Neither of them is sure they can face the party. But for both Robert and Kate, it may become the most important gathering of all.

The reason I loved this book is the lyrical use of language which weaves a story about family, connections and the reality that separates our dreams and real lives. It’s a stunning read. 

6 Palm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen



Jan Nyman, the ace detective of the covert operations unit of the National Central Police, is sent to a sleepy seaside town to investigate a mysterious death. Nyman arrives in the town dominated by a bizarre holiday village – the ‘hottest beach in Finland’. The suspect: Olivia Koski, who has only recently returned to her old hometown. The mission: find out what happened, by any means necessary.
With a nod to Fargo, and dark noir, Palm Beach, Finland is both a page-turning thriller and a black comedy about lust for money, fleeing dreams and people struggling at turning points in their lives – chasing their fantasies regardless of reason.

Delicious, dark and very funny. It’s noir at it’s best.

7 Good Samaritan by Will Carver



Dark, sexy, dangerous and wildly listenable, Good Samaritans marks the scorching return of one of crime fiction’s most exceptional voices.

One crossed wire, three dead bodies and six bottles of bleach.

Seth Beauman can’t sleep. He stays up late, calling strangers from his phone book, hoping to make a connection, while his wife, Maeve, sleeps upstairs. A crossed wire finds a suicidal Hadley Serf on the phone to Seth, thinking she is talking to The Samaritans.

But a seemingly harmless late-night hobby turns into something more for Seth and for Hadley, and soon their late-night talks are turning into daytime meet-ups. And then this dysfunctional love story turns into something altogether darker when Seth brings Hadley home…. And someone is watching….

This wonderful novel not only made me wonder why my mother spends so much time selecting her bleach, it left me turning the pages because it is such a thrilling read. 

8 Mostyn Thomas and The Big Rave by Richard Williams



When Mostyn, an ageing Pembrokeshire farmer on the brink of bankruptcy, runs into Jethro, a young raver, his fortunes appear to take a positive turn. The pair secretly mobilise the locals of the village pub to help put on the greatest money-spinning event in the history of Little Emlyn: Lewistock. The tension ramps up as the clock ticks down to the August bank holiday rave and young revellers begin to pour in from all corners of the county. But things do not go to plan; moneylenders, drug dealers, the county council and the bank all set a collision course with Mostyn and Jethro. It’s not clear who will get out alive…

This is an incredibly moving, funny and exciting read, that left me sad that the story had to end. 

9 Overkill by Vanda Simon



When the body of a young mother is found washed up on the banks of the Mataura River, a small rural community is rocked by her tragic suicide. But all is not what it seems.
Sam Shephard, sole-charge police constable in Mataura, soon discovers the death was no suicide and has to face the realisation that there is a killer in town. To complicate the situation, the murdered woman was the wife of her former lover. When Sam finds herself on the list of suspects and suspended from duty, she must cast aside her personal feelings and take matters into her own hands.
To find the murderer … and clear her name.
A taut, atmospheric and page-turning thriller, Overkill marks the start of an unputdownable and unforgettable series from one of New Zealand’s finest crime writers.

This book is simply unputdownable, with a exciting story, fabulous characters and I’m excited to read the upcoming sequel. 

10 The  Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry


London, 1893. When Cora Seaborne’s controlling husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness. Along with her son Francis – a curious, obsessive boy – she leaves town for Essex, in the hope that fresh air and open space will provide refuge.

On arrival, rumours reach them that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming lives, has returned to the coastal parish of Aldwinter. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist with no patience for superstition, is enthralled, convinced that what the local people think is a magical beast may be a yet-undiscovered species. As she sets out on its trail, she is introduced to William Ransome, Aldwinter’s vicar, who is also deeply suspicious of the rumours, but thinks they are a distraction from true faith.

As he tries to calm his parishioners, Will and Cora strike up an intense relationship, and although they agree on absolutely nothing, they find themselves at once drawn together and torn apart, affecting each other in ways that surprise them both.
The Essex Serpent is a celebration of love, and the many different shapes it can take.

Such a beautiful read. The language is stunning and the story wraps itself around your very reading soul. 


Top Ten Non Fiction Reads

1 This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay



Funny, moving and a warning to all of us of how much we stand to lose if we don’t act to protect the NHS and it’s staff. 

2 The Luckiest Thirteen by Brian Lavery



Social history writing at it’s very best. 

3 Reading Allowed – True Stories and Curious Incidents From A Provincial Library by Chris Palling.


Funny, moving, a tribute to the importance of libraries and why their closing is such a tragedy. 

4 The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller



Such a wonderfully absorbing read.

5 Somebody I Used To Know by Wendy Mitchell



Powerful, uplifting and a must read book. 

6. The Princess Diaries – A Sort of Memoir by Carrie Fisher


When I was young, Princess Leia became my Princess and so I had to read this book. Funny, touching and honest. 

7 I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzal with Christopher Lamb



This was an incredibly moving and powerful read about such an incredible young lady. 

8 Gypsy Boy by Mikey Walsh


LGBT non fiction read and I loved it. The story is powerful and very moving. 

9 One Hundred Favourite Poems by Classic FM Listeners


Truly a lovely and fun read.

10 The Light In The Dark by Horatio Clare


Depression can affect us all. Here the author opens up his experience for us and it’s both moving and inspiring. 


Favourite children’s and YA reads

1 Julian Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love




The sweetest and most generous story of celebrating difference that I’ve ever read. Truly a book both adults and children should read. 

2 Go To Sleep by Marion Adams



I know a little girl that used to say she had forgotten how to go to sleep and so I passed this to her and we loved it. 

3 Sarah’s Shadow by Nick Jones



Bullying is wrong, it hurts and ruins lives. This powerful book for younger readers tells them why and how to overcome it.

4 The Lights of Time by Paul Ian Cross




One for older children, this tale is an exciting fantasy story, that made me hope the author soon published more YA books. 

5 The Seven Sisters by Sibel Beadle



6 Sleepless in Stonehenge by Sibel Beadle



7 The Golden Bunny of The Lake District by Sibel Beadle



8. Nessie’s Husband by Sibel Beadle



All the books in this series encourage the younger reader to travel and to believe that adventures can be made through reading. They charming and very enjoyable.

9 Star Jumpers by Zoe Baxter. 

star jumpers cover - ZOE Baxter SMALL

Another exciting children’s book that I really enjoyed reading in 2018.

10 Hemlock Jones and The Angel of Death by Justin Carroll





This was a fun, quirky read that I really enjoyed. I’m really hoping there will be more in the series. 

Well those were my favourite reads of 2018! I’m looking forward to more fabulous reads in 2019.

Thank you everyone for your support. It really meant the world 💕



Extract ~ Blog Tour ~Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton

Bone Lines Cover

A young woman walks alone through a barren landscape in a time before history, a time of cataclysmic natural change. She is cold, hungry and with child but not without hope or resources. A skilful hunter, she draws on her intuitive understanding of how to stay alive… and knows that she must survive.
In present-day London, geneticist Dr Eloise Kluft wrestles with an ancient conundrum as she unravels the secrets of a momentous archaeological find. She is working at the forefront of contemporary science but is caught in the lonely time-lock of her own emotional past.
Bone Lines is the story of two women, separated by millennia yet bound by the web of life.  A tale of love and survival – of courage and the quest for wisdom – it explores the nature of our species and asks what lies at the heart of being human.
Although partly set during a crucial era of human history 74,000 years ago, Bones Lines is very much a book for our times. Dealing with themes from genetics, climate change and migration to the yearning for meaning and the clash between faith and reason, it also paints an intimate portrait of who we are as a species. The book tackles some of the big questions but requires no special knowledge of any of the subjects to enjoy.
Alternating between ancient and modern timelines, the story unfolds through the experiences of two unique characters:  One is a shaman, the sole surviving adult of her tribe who is braving a hazardous journey of migration, the other a dedicated scientist living a comfortable if troubled existence in London, who is on her own mission of discovery. 
The two are connected not only by a set of archaic remains but by a sense of destiny – and their desire to shape it. Both are pioneers, women of passion, grit and determination, although their day to day lives could not be more different. One lives moment by moment, drawing on every scrap of courage and ingenuity to keep herself and her infant daughter alive, while the other is absorbed by work, imagination and regret. Each is isolated and facing her own mortal dangers and heart-rending decisions, but each is inspired by the power of the life force and driven by love. 
Bone Lines stands alone as a novel but also marks the beginning of the intended ‘Children of Sarah’ series.


She watches her sleeping, the tender breath coming slow and easy. Eyelashes fluttering in gentle dreaming. Watching. This is her task alone now.
When the men of her kind became fathers they received their markings in a ceremony that women were not permitted to witness, but she had seen it once, well-hidden and quiet. A very fine, sharp arrowhead was warmed in the fire. Deep sounds rose and fell in humming. Hands were held behind the back, but no force was used or needed. This was for pride. This made a man. Three quick cuts, like fingers, on each side of the upper chest, then widened and sealed with a stick, ember red from the pit of the fire.
She is both mother and father now. She is a whole tribe.
She makes a decision. Prepares the fire, blesses and heats the tools, comes to stillness and looks long and deep into the flames. Elusive yet alive with ways and wisdom beyond understanding, the voices of the ancestors could be heard within its silences. But this treacherous attraction has also left its mark upon her. She knows both the beauty and the fury of fire all too well, the skin of her forearm tells the pitiful tale from a careless moment of play. Pain she will never forget.
Her flint is not fine or sharp enough (is it hot enough?) but she does not care, she needs to feel. Something. To know that she is not made of stone and dust. She closes her eyes and begins to deepen her breath, turns back into the sacred place until all has slowed to nothing.
Then she drops the stones she has been beating, but keeps the humming buried low within her gut. Now. She winces as she draws the first cut, but makes no cry, the child still sleeps. The cut is jagged, the blood flows too fast but she stops it with the smouldering. The smell. She had forgotten the smell, different somehow when it is your own flesh. The next cut is better, faster, cleaner. She gets the angle right, keeps all the cuts high and close. It is done.
In the morning the child notices, reaches out to touch but she pushes her hand firmly away. She avoids her questioning gaze, draws deeply on this new authority and they move on. Her father, her brothers are with her now once more and at her shoulders again.
But what of the child’s father? Where is he now? For all her determination to forget, she sees him each time she looks into her daughter’s eyes. What more might they have exchanged, what more might she have learned from him? How might he have found and fed the softness in her, now all but gone.
She recalls how her mother and father had been with each other, their looks, their quarrels soon forgiven, their care for each other. Not all pairings were so blessed, she understood this, she had seen some couplings come and go, had seen the bruises of the battles to mate in other members of her clan. She had witnessed the fear of those left alone, whether by death or choice or theft. And then there were those other times, during the gatherings, those forgiven nights of the year under certain moons when pairs might be permitted to separate and find another for only a few hours, if all were willing, if all agreed. Not every pair took this path, but for some it was a way to feed a threatening hunger, or to welcome fresh seed into a bond that had been unable to bring new life to birth.
But she had always believed it would be her destiny to have what her parents had enjoyed, she had been determined to settle for nothing less, to resist any attempt at a trade between tribes, unless it suited her. She knew her gifts were valued above many things, and she knew she might bring good to her band if she agreed to an advantageous match with a long beard, or his son, or with a water talker or a herd runner. But she had known also that she would never be forced. She knew that she channelled a different kind of force that must be free to flow, could not be coerced.
Perhaps she had taken advantage of that, perhaps her brothers (those whose company she has pined for since) were right to resent her pride. And would this pride have tainted her own attempts at partnership? Would she have tired of the one with the sunburnt hair, would he have tired of her? Could he have looked away from her faults and she from his? But these things are beyond answer now and pointless to ponder. She knows that she must find and sharpen the flint within her own blood once more. No more dreams of softness.

You can purchase Bone Lines from Amazon

About the author

Stephanie Bretherton Author Pic

Who do you think you are? A daunting question for the debut author… but also one to inspire a genre-fluid novel based on the writer’s fascination for what makes humanity tick. Born in Hong Kong to expats from Liverpool (and something of a nomad ever since) Stephanie is now based in London, but manages her sanity by escaping to any kind of coast
Before returning to her first love of creative writing, Stephanie spent much of her youth pursuing alternative forms of storytelling, from stage to screen and media to marketing. For the past fifteen years Stephanie has run her own communications and copywriting company specialised in design, architecture and building. In the meantime an enduring love affair with words and the world of fiction has led her down many a wormhole on the written page, even if the day job confined such adventures to the weekends.
Drawn to what connects rather than separates, Stephanie is intrigued by the spaces between absolutes and opposites, between science and spirituality, nature and culture. This lifelong curiosity has been channelled most recently into her debut novel, Bone Lines. When not bothering Siri with note-taking for her next books and short stories, Stephanie can be found pottering about with poetry, or working out what worries/amuses her most in an opinion piece or an unwise social media post. Although, if she had more sense or opportunity she would be beachcombing, sailing, meditating or making a well-disguised cameo in the screen version of one of her stories. (Wishful thinking sometimes has its rewards?)

You can follow the author on her websiteTwitter and Instagram .

Bone Lines 2 Blog Tour Poster


Extract ~ Blog Tour ~ The Other Miss Bates by Ellie Cresswell.

The Other-Miss-Bates

The Other Miss Bates

Jane Bates has left Highbury to become the companion of the invalid widow Mrs Sealy in Brighton. Life in the new, fashionable seaside resort is exciting indeed. A wide circle of interesting acquaintance and a rich tapestry of new experiences – balls at the Assembly rooms, carriage rides and promenades on the Steyne – make her new life all Jane had hoped for.
While Jane’s sister Hetty can be a tiresome conversationalist she proves to be a surprisingly good correspondent and Jane is kept minutely up-to-date with developments in Highbury, particularly the tragic news from Donwell Abbey.
When handsome Lieutenant Weston returns to Brighton Jane expects their attachment to pick up where it left off in Highbury the previous Christmas, but the determined Miss Louisa Churchill, newly arrived with her brother and sister-in-law from Enscombe in Yorkshire, seems to have a different plan in mind.

I’m delighted to welcome author Allie Creswell to booksaremycwtches today with an extract from the second in the series of the Highbury trilogy.


Heartbreak and the ensuing heartache are incredibly difficult emotions to describe. It is so easy to over-write the vacillation between reasoned assimilation of the new circumstances, anger and the kind of misery which no words can articulate so that it becomes hyperbole or just purple prose. On the other hand, to under-play it is a betrayal of the character.
Here is my attempt. Jane Bates has learned that the man she has loved for over a year is to marry another. Disappointment for herself, and in him, is no compensation for the assaults of abject misery which overwhelm her. But there is a comforter whose gentleness, restraint and understanding suggest to the reader, at least, that Jane’s heart may not remain broken for ever.

Jane was utterly wretched, and not just on her own account, although this was severe enough in all conscience. Her dreams of James Weston were at an end. What had begun the previous Christmas – the chance of happiness she had glimpsed with him – must now be put to one side and forgotten; it could never be. This was the dreary truth which haunted her as she lay wakeful in the night and the shock which assaulted her as she blinked at each new lacklustre day. Louisa Churchill had gambled, risking everything, but had won the prize. In some ways Jane had to admire Miss Churchill – there was no denying the great depth of her love for Mr Weston. That he would be married to someone who loved him so completely, so desperately, ameliorated to some degree her own unfathomable sense of loss. His losses, though, she could not forgive. For Louisa he had given up everything; his duty to his superiors and to his men; his own quest for adventure – his yen to travel – the wanderlust that he and Jane had shared; and last of all, his independence, the thing he had fought for, resisting his father’s efforts to involve him in the family trade. Now he would be an awkward scion of the Churchill household, dependent on their wealth, branded a social-climber, out of his depths, perhaps in their elevated, patrician sphere.
The days passed in East Street. Rain beaded the windows, wind howled over the roofs causing soot to fall in the grates and gaps in the windows to moan and complain. Jane read aloud, page after page, chapter after chapter, absorbing nothing of what transpired in the book and often finding, on looking up, that Lady Cecily dozed. Then she would place the book aside and wander, quiet and drooping, from room to room, trying to find a place where Mrs Brigham would not come across her, where Lucy would not find the need to dust or tidy, a place where she could sit alone and mope and allow the tears to fall. It was in these places – behind the curtain in the window at the turning of the stair, before the cold grate of a room rarely used, on the chill iron of the seat beneath the naked sycamore in the stunted, bare garden – that Dr Fairfax often found her.
‘How do you, today?’ he would ask her, his voice very gentle, and she would pour out, without any words at all, her utter, overwhelming, immeasurable misery.
‘Yes, yes,’ he would say when all that day’s tears were spent and she leaned against his shoulder exhausted by the fullness of all she could not even begin to articulate, ‘I think I understand.’
When the weather was clement he would lead her – she all unresisting and barely conscious of where they went – to places in the vicinity which would have no association for her with Mr Weston or Miss Churchill. He took her to the fishermen’s cottages, to the tenements where the waiters and grooms and kitchen maids lived. He was very popular there, flocked around and made much of, and little gifts pressed into his hands by grateful patients who could afford no money for the treatments he offered them. Sometimes he tended the sick and wounded while she watched, mildly curious as his hands gently pressed and probed, half listening to his questions; does the cold make it worse? Does it suppurate? Are you eating green vegetables? They explored the countryside far from the sea and from the sight of the encampments where officers in red jackets would remind her of the man she had lost. One day they found themselves in a sunken lane, between hawthorn hedges and – beyond the hedges – neatly ploughed fields. Early daffodils danced along the hedgerow. The slightest possible haze of green heralded the slow awakening of new leaf.
‘Does this not remind you a little of the country around Highbury?’ Dr Fairfax asked her.
She looked around her. ‘Yes,’ she said at last, ‘it does a little. But our soil is much darker – Sussex has a sandy loam, I think. Surrey soil is black. Mama had no end of trouble scrubbing it off my hands when I was little.’ The memory brought a smile.
Dr Fairfax nodded. ‘I am glad you mention your mama,’ he said. ‘Do you recall the conversation we had when Mr Knightley died?’
Jane bethought herself. At last she said, ‘Yes, you said that people do not die of broken hearts. Your prognosis was that she would recover.’
‘And has she?’
Jane put her head on one side. ‘She is recovering. Hetty was more sanguine in her last letter.’
‘I am glad to hear it. Let us walk on a little further.’
On another day he said to her, ‘Come with me, Miss Bates. I am summoned to the lying in of Mrs Mason, the harbour-master’s wife. If you are to assist Lady Cecily when the time comes you had better know what to expect.’
For those hours, in the cramped gloom of the harbour-master’s cottage, Jane forgot Mr Weston, Miss Churchill and her own unhappiness in the woman’s travails, Dr Fairfax’s patience and gentleness and at last in the squalling, squirming infant she could place in the exhausted woman’s arms.

You can purchase The Other Miss Bates from Amazon

About the author

The Other DSC_3138

Allie Cresswell was born in Stockport, UK and began writing fiction as soon as she could hold a pencil.
She did a BA in English Literature at Birmingham University and an MA at Queen Mary College, London.
She has been a print-buyer, a pub landlady, a book-keeper, run a B & B and a group of boutique holiday cottages. Nowadays Allie writes full time having retired from teaching literature to lifelong learners.
She has two grown-up children, two granddaughters, two grandsons and two cockapoos but just one husband – Tim. They live in Cumbria, NW England.
The Other Miss Bates is her eighth novel and the second in the Highbury series

You can follow the author on TwitterFacebook and her website.

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