Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Girl in Red Velvet by Margaret James - Five Stars. Book Review.

Synopsis:

Will loving two men tear your heart apart?
It’s the 1960s and Lily Denham is about to begin her studies at Oxford University.
On her first day she meets Harry Gale and Max Farley, two fellow undergraduates who are both full of mischievous charm. The three of them become firm great friends and enjoy exploring everything Oxford has to offer, from riotous parties to punting up the river on sunny afternoons.
However, something threatens to disrupt the fun, because Lily soon realises she’s falling for both of her new-found friends, men who might offer her two very different futures  – but who will she pick? Harry is generous and kind, reliable and trustworthy. Max embodies the spirit of the sixties; adventurous and rebellious, but possibly a little bit dangerous as well.
As university ends and Lily struggles to make her mark on the vibrant fashion scene, she must make a decision. But she soon becomes aware that the wrong decision could have devastating consequences for her own future and for Max’s and Harry’s futures, too … 
Girl in Red Velvet is book 6 in the Charton Minster Series (The Silver LocketThe Golden ChainThe Penny BangleThe Wedding Diary & Magic Sometimes Happens)

My review:


Author Margaret James has such a great writing track record that I could expect nothing less from her except a 5 star book! And she hasn't disappointed with "Girl in  Red Velvet. Her "writing voice" (if I can say that) is so soothing, even when the plot is taking a surprising turn. And the plot is full of such turns. Take the beginning, for instance, when Lily does a runner at her own wedding, leaving the reader to wonder who she's supposed to be marrying and why doesn't she want to, such a brilliant cliffhanger that keeps the reader guessing for a good part of the book.

Ms James also manages to convey Max's bold, adventurous spirit without resorting to piles of adjectives. His character is amazing, as is feisty Lily's whose journey from a frightened girl on her first day at Oxford to that of a mature, take-no-prisoners, woman is smoothly transitioned. Harry's quieter ways prove a perfect foil. The author has a way with words that evoke images of the story in the reader's mind, and makes the characters real.

If you lived in the sixties, you'll be reminded of life at that time and how undergraduates lived  (I'd forgotten all about Wimpeys), and the foreign lands that Max finds himself are so well researched and portrayed. 

This is no mere "chic-lit". Ms James takes light literary fiction several steps further and goes deeper (there are three main characters, remember) and produces a story that will keep the reader on his/her toes right to the end.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Hewhay Hall and First Chapter

Thanks to JULIA KAVAN for the wonderful graphic. Contact her for professional editing too!


Hewhay Hall is on promotion this week : 99p Amazon UK

                                                           $  1.24  Amazon.com


Read the first chapter: 

Sunday

Jude stared down the hill at the glint on the water and then across to the fields baked hard by weeks of sun. He’d followed the directions to the letter, so this was the right place. But where was Hewhay Hall?
A row of swallows balanced on a wire stretching overhead, each facing the same way as Jude, who rested against a five-bar gate. They too seemed to be eyeing the fallen tree trunks that littered the overgrown path down the rocky hillside. They were lucky—they could fly, but Jude had to hobble.
The air moved on the other side of the marshland. He didn’t imagine it. A definite ripple, the kind that alters your vision when a migraine’s about to start. Although the shift was fleeting, he had the idea something was down there after all, very faint and hard to describe. The outline of a building? Or maybe just heat haze. Whatever, he’d come this far—he’d go and investigate.
The latch and hinges on the gate were so rusted, Jude couldn’t open it. Nothing for it, then, but to climb over. He propped his crutches against the wooden bars, placed his hands on the top, and hauled himself up so his right leg got a footing on a lower rung. Now he could sit on the top. He bent down, picked up what was left of his other leg, and maneuvered it over until he straddled the gate. It creaked under his weight. As he swung his right leg over, he teetered, tried to grab the top bar but lost his balance and fell headlong into a bramble patch.
Prickles stabbed him as he lay on his back, his whirling gaze locked on a wiggly jet trail in the cloudless sky. Once the world righted itself, he pushed himself up on his elbows and extracted some of the more painful brambles before rolling onto his right knee. His bum in the air, he hoped no one was looking and that he retained a shred of dignity as he balanced on his right leg and wobbled his way upright. As he tried to stand, his knee locked. He was a second away from landing back on the ground but he grabbed an oak tree trunk for support.
Bloody hell. Wasn’t it about time they gave him a prosthesis? He bent to rub his stump, still raw after all this time. Why wasn’t he healing?
The thought was barely out of his head when the gate clicked and glided open behind him as if the latch and hinges had been well-oiled. He scratched his head and glared down the valley at the space where he thought he’d seen the outline of a house a moment ago. Was someone having a laugh at him here? Watch the ugly cripple struggle over the gate then open it on remote control? I tell you, he silently told the marshes, if I find out who did that, I’m going to nail him to this oak tree by his ears.
Fat chance. Even if the culprit were five years old, he’d still be stronger than Jude—and able to run faster.
A rifle shot resounded, the boom echoing off the hillside. Jude dove into the tall grass, his arms over his head, his chest bruised by the stony ground. When his heartbeat slowed, he lowered his arms and parted the weeds he was lying in to check out his surroundings. Of course it was only a local farmer scaring crows. God dammit, why did every little noise set him off?
Post traumatic stress disorder, the shrink had told him. Having experienced a bomb blast, you’re bound to get flashbacks.
I’m an idiot, he wanted to shout at the now-darting swallows, but until he got his trembling under control, he was speechless. Anyway, he had to find the strength to get back on his feet, or rather, foot.
Maybe he’d better just sit a moment, catch his breath and get his thoughts in order. Up to his chest in seed-grass, he wondered why the place called Hewhay Hall wasn’t here. The leaflet had said to follow the track as far as it goes, then to park when you got to the gate leading to Hewhay Hall because you could go no farther.
He reached over and grabbed his fallen crutches. With their help, he clambered upright, fitted his arms in, and squinted against the glare of the light. Even his damned eyesight seemed to be going these days. Anyone would think he was ninety, not thirty. What a wuss.
He scrubbed his hands over his face. Christ, he was tired. He’d lain awake for most of last night, tossing and turning, wondering if coming here was the right thing to do.
“It looks all wrong to me,” Tess, his wife, had said when he’d said good-bye to her this morning at home. And she’d thrown him that look—the one she’d acquired over the past year that had pity written all through it
Now he had two choices: go down and look for this Hewhay Hall or head back and admit his failure to assess a situation—again.
Another shot rang out, scattering a flock of crows. Jude swayed like a wind-blown sapling but kept his balance, even though his mind was thrown back to his final call-out…
 “Jude, code 10-79.”
Code 79. For a moment he’d forgotten what a 79 was—he had been on duty at the fire station for twenty-four hours, it was a wonder he remembered his own name. Oh yes: bomb threat. Imminent. Needing senior officer, on scene, stat. Hostage situation.
“OK,” he’d told his divisional officer, reaching for his white helmet. “Let’s hit the road. Who are the hostages?”
“A family at the top of the building. Woman—mother—has a bomb attached to her.”
“She’s a suicide bomber?”
“No, it was a break-in. The perp held the husband at gunpoint—heavy weaponry—and forced the woman to put on a waistcoat with the armed device.”
“Jesus. What is the guy? An octopus?”
“Nope, typical fucking terrorist.”
“Where is he now?”
“He lit outta there somehow. Bloody cops. Sheer incompetence, if you want my opinion. But he evaporated into thin air.”
Now, standing on the wasteland, Jude pictured the children who’d been held hostage with their parents. Kids he’d seen and heard crying before they were blown to smithereens.

He clasped his hands together to stop them from trembling as he relived the blanket of dust, the earsplitting crack as the ceiling gave way, and the rubble falling on him, tons, crashing down from above. It hadn’t hurt at the time—pain and repercussions had come later. Maybe it hadn’t been his job as a firefighter to go in like he had, maybe he had been disobeying orders. But he’d been driven by an overwhelming instinct to help.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Book Review - Jane Lovering's The Little Teashop of Horrors

The Little Teashop of Horrors is one of those oh so rare reads that I didn’t want it to end. If I could analyse why I couldn’t put it down I’d say, in this case, it’s the characters and the writer’s voice that are so appealing.

Amy and Josh are two very flawed people with some rather nasty back-story, especially, Josh, who went straight to my heart. Amy, rather plump and no beauty, is certain guys will only look at her if they think they can get into her knickers. And Josh? A beautiful Heathcliffe figure who prefers to live in clapped-out old van (that really only has a roof) because he can’t stand being cooped up.
The two are such rounded characters that I felt I wanted to talk to them, to become friends (with Amy).

But Ms Lovering had me from the first when one of Josh’s hawks (he’s a bird-handler at the 18th century manor house that is open to the public) takes off for the hills during one of his displays and Josh’s reaction is, ‘Oh bugger’. Amy, who works in the manor’s teashop, has to wear 18th century clothes is kind, sweet and gets herself into all kinds of troubles, from the trivial but hilarious way her mop-cap’s elastic slowly loosens around her head and the cap pops off, to coming down the dank stairway after visiting the boss where she scares the living daylights out of a boy from a visiting school-party. The boy’s convinced she’s a ghost and thereby starts a chain of events that lead the reader on until he/she reluctantly reaches the last page where all the loose ends are neatly tied up.

But the main question is whether spooked (no pun intended) Josh will ever be able to shake off his awful past and realise that Amy is perfect for him.


An excellent read that kept me on tenterhooks all the way through and made me want to find Skillex and take him home with me (except Josh wouldn’t allow it).

This is a definite 5 star read.

Links: Amazon uk
            Amazon.com
             Kobo

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Hewhay Hall by Susan Roebuck

Hewhay Hall

by Susan Roebuck




Blurb:

An Unsung Hero’s Destiny – Slater’s house of horrors.

Fire-fighter Jude Elliott loses part of his leg trying to rescue a family held hostage during a terrorist attack. He journey’s to mysterious Hewhay Hall where it is told there are wondrous, magical cures. Little does Jude know that his destination is Slater The Prince of Envy’s lair where a demon resides and courageous souls are tormented.

Can Jude escape Slater’s house of horrors, or will he suffer for all of eternity?

Winner of the EPIC (Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition) 2013 e-Book Award in the Horror Category.

Buy links:



Excerpt

Jude stared down the hill at the glint on the water and then across to the fields baked hard by weeks of sun. He’d followed the directions to the letter, so this was the right place. But where was Hewhay Hall?
A row of swallows balanced on a wire stretching overhead, each facing the same way as Jude, who rested against a five-bar gate. They too seemed to be eyeing the fallen tree trunks that littered the overgrown path down the rocky hillside. They were lucky—they could fly, but Jude had to hobble.
The air moved on the other side of the marshland. He didn’t imagine it. A definite ripple, the kind that alters your vision when a migraine’s about to start. Although the shift was fleeting, he had the idea something was down there after all, very faint and hard to describe. The outline of a building? Or maybe just heat haze. Whatever, he’d come this far—he’d go and investigate.
The latch and hinges on the gate were so rusted, Jude couldn’t open it. Nothing for it, then, but to climb over. He propped his crutches against the wooden bars, placed his hands on the top, and hauled himself up so his right leg got a footing on a lower rung. Now he could sit on the top. He bent down, picked up what was left of his other leg, and maneuvered it over until he straddled the gate. It creaked under his weight. As he swung his right leg over, he teetered, tried to grab the top bar but lost his balance and fell headlong into a bramble patch.
Prickles stabbed him as he lay on his back, his whirling gaze locked on a wiggly jet trail in the cloudless sky. Once the world righted itself, he pushed himself up on his elbows and extracted some of the more painful brambles before rolling onto his right knee. His bum in the air, he hoped no one was looking and that he retained a shred of dignity as he balanced on his right leg and wobbled his way upright. As he tried to stand, his knee locked. He was a second away from landing back on the ground but he grabbed an oak tree trunk for support.
Bloody hell. Wasn’t it about time they gave him a prosthesis? He bent to rub his stump, still raw after all this time. Why wasn’t he healing?
The thought was barely out of his head when the gate clicked and glided open behind him as if the latch and hinges had been well-oiled. He scratched his head and glared down the valley at the space where he thought he’d seen the outline of a house a moment ago. Was someone having a laugh at him here? Watch the ugly cripple struggle over the gate then open it on remote control? I tell you, he silently told the marshes, if I find out who did that, I’m going to nail him to this oak tree by his ears.
Fat chance. Even if the culprit were five years old, he’d still be stronger than Jude—and able to run faster.
A rifle shot resounded, the boom echoing off the hillside. Jude dove into the tall grass, his arms over his head, his chest bruised by the stony ground. When his heartbeat slowed, he lowered his arms and parted the weeds he was lying in to check out his surroundings. Of course it was only a local farmer scaring crows. God dammit, why did every little noise set him off?
Post traumatic stress disorder, the shrink had told him. Having experienced a bomb blast, you’re bound to get flashbacks.


By the way: if you can guess the meaning of the title, you'll get a free copy :-)

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Wednesday, February 08, 2017

The New Catherine Cavendish Collection


I am so happy to welcome Catherine Cavendish back onto my blog. She is a horror-writer extraordinaire with an enviable back-list of fiction. All available (see below). 

The Bride of Annandale



My novella – Linden Manor – features the ghost of Lady Celia Fitzmichael, about whom a scary nursery rhyme was written. This has haunted my main character – Lesley Carpenter – since childhood. In it, Lady Celia is never mentioned by name. Instead, she is referred to as ‘The Scottish bride.’ And woe betide you if you laid eyes on her ‘blackened face’.
This sparked curiosity in me to go searching for other brides who might also have decided to linger around after their deaths. My path led me to Mannsdale, Mississippi and The Chapel of the Cross. In 1852, this chapel was consecrated, built by a Mrs Johnstone, in memory of her husband who owned the Annandale Plantation. But the haunting is by neither one of this couple. It is their youngest daughter, Helen, who seems reluctant to leave.


Helen Johnstone was just sixteen years old when she met the man she would fall in love with. His name was Henry Grey Vick and he was something of a catch. Good-looking, well connected, his ancestors put the ‘Vick’ in ‘Vicksburg’. Christmas, 1855 saw their first meeting, and it was love at first sight. The young couple quickly decided they couldn’t live without each other and planned to marry.
Mrs Johnstone urged caution. She was in the process of fulfilling her late husband’s ambitions by building a grand house - Annandale. Concerned that Helen was simply too young to make such a momentous decision as marriage, she insisted the young couple wait a few years. Their love remained steadfast and, in 1859, Mrs Johnston finally gave her consent to the wedding, which would take place at the Chapel of the Cross on May 21st of that year.

Sadly, tragedy was to follow. A week before the wedding, Henry made a quick trip to New Orleans to collect his suit and a few items which would grace his new home. He decided to visit a local hostelry for a drink and ran into a former friend of his called James Stith. Sadly, the two had parted on the worst possible terms a year earlier and Henry saw no reason to rekindle their acquaintance with any kind of acknowledgement. Stith, though, had harboured a grudge all this time and it was about to boil over. He smashed his glass down on the bar and announced, loudly enough for all to hear, that he would not drink in the same establishment as Henry Grey Vick who was, he said, ‘no gentleman.’ In the South, especially at that time, there were few worse insults.
Tempers were lost, a brawl ensued, punches were thrown. In the heat of the moment, Henry challenged Stith to a duel. Honour demanded that Stith should accept the challenge. When he had calmed down, Henry remembered a vow he had made to Helen never to participate in such an ‘affair of honour’. He withdrew his challenge and apologised to Stith. Too late. Stith would not accept the retraction and held him to it.

The duel was held near Mobile, Alabama on May 17th 1859, with all due ceremony accorded to such events. The police were just in the process of moving in to stop it, when Henry fired and deliberately missed his opponent. Stith was not so magnanimous. He shot to kill – and succeeded. A single shot to the forehead and Helen’s beloved fiancé was dead.
In the confusion that followed, Stith and his seconds escaped. Stith would later join Confederate forces and be killed at Vicksburg – perhaps there is some irony in that at last.
Henry’s friends took his body back to Vicksburg, then went onto Annandale to break the terrible news to Helen. She was devastated and became hysterical. The Chapel was already decorated for their wedding. She had been so blissfully happy. Now her life was shattered.

She would not be parted from Henry and insisted his body be brought back to Annandale and buried in the Johnstone family plot in the Chapel, where he remains to this day. Helen insisted that she wished to be laid to rest next to him, when her time came.
Helen remained in her deep, dark pit of grief for many months, spending her day sitting by Henry’s grave, talking to him. Her mother became increasingly fearful for her sanity. She took her daughter to Scotland to visit her late husband’s relatives. After a year had gone by, Helen seemed sufficiently recovered to return to her home.
She eventually married a minister – George Harris – having told him that, while she would make him a good wife, she could never hope to love him as she had Henry. The couple moved away to northern Mississippi and had three children.
Helen lived on until 1916, and is not buried next to Henry. She lies instead next to her husband, but it seems this really wasn’t her wish. Over the years, there have been many reports of a beautiful young woman, dressed in nineteenth century mourning, weeping at Henry’s grave. When concerned people have approached her, she has simply vanished before their eyes.


Now, here’s a flavour of Linden Manor:
Have you ever been so scared your soul left your body? 

All her life, Lesley Carpenter has been haunted by a gruesome nursery rhyme—“The Scottish Bride”—sung to her by her great grandmother. To find out more about its origins, Lesley visits the mysterious Isobel Warrender, the current hereditary owner of Linden Manor, a grand house with centuries of murky history surrounding it. 

But her visit transforms into a nightmare when Lesley sees the ghost of the Scottish Bride herself. A sight that, according to the rhyme, means certain death. The secrets of the house slowly reveal themselves to Lesley - terrible secrets of murder, evil and a curse that soaks the very earth on which Linden Manor now stands. But Linden Manor has saved its most chilling secret for last. 



Linden Manor has just been reissued by Crossroad Press and is available from:
And other online retailers

Other books by Catherine Cavendish include:
And are currently available from:
and other online retailers

Catherine Cavendish lives with a long-suffering husband and ‘trainee’ black cat in North Wales. Her home is in a building dating back to the mid-18th century, which is haunted by a friendly ghost, who announces her presence by footsteps, switching lights on and strange phenomena involving the washing machine and the TV. Cat has written a number of published horror novellas, short stories, and novels, frequently reflecting her twin loves of history and horror and often containing more than a dash of the dark and Gothic. When not slaving over a hot computer, she enjoys wandering around Neolithic stone circles and visiting old haunted houses.
You can connect with her here: