blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Village Vicar – Julie Houston

Fans of Katie Fforde, Phillipa Ashley and The Vicar of Dibley will love this heartwarming and witty new novel from Julie Houston.

Three devoted sisters… One complicated family.
When Rosa Quinn left her childhood home in Westenbury, she never expected to return over a decade later as the village vicar. But after a health scare and catching her boyfriend cheating, Rosa jumps at the chance to start over and live closer to her triplet sisters Eva and Hannah.
But Rosa’s isn’t the only old face in the village, and when her role in the parish throws her into the path of her ex, she begins to wonder if she’s made a terrible mistake. Meanwhile, Eva and Hannah
face their own troubles, as secrets about their family threaten to emerge.
Can Rosa make a life for herself in Westenbury? Or will the sisters discover you can’t run away from the past?

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Praise for Julie Houston:
‘A warm, funny story of sisters and the secrets they keep’ Sheila O’Flanagan
‘Warm, funny and well written, with a page turning plot, this book has everything! I loved it!’ Katie Fforde
‘Julie Houston at her best – heartfelt and hilarious’ Sandy Barker
‘Laugh-out-loud hilarious and heartwarming!’ Mandy Baggot
‘This book is an absolute gigglefest with characters you’ll fall in love with!’ Katie Ginger

Julie Houston lives in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire where her novels are set, and her only claims to fame are that she teaches part-time at ‘Bridget Jones’ author Helen Fielding’s old junior school and
her neighbour is ‘Chocolat’ author, Joanne Harris. Julie is married, with two adult children and a ridiculous Cockerpoo called Lincoln. She runs and swims because she’s been told it’s good for her, but would really prefer a glass of wine, a sun lounger and a jolly good book – preferably with Dev Patel in attendance.

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My thoughts: Westenbury sounds so delightful every time I read one of Julie Houston’s books and this is more of the same. Despite how complicated the family at the heart of this book is (and it really is!) they all love one another and Rosa and her sisters have a tight bond.

They all have their ups and downs, their struggles and tragedies and wins, just like all of us. Rosa has swapped a life of City success for a dog collar and the rambling old vicarage her grandfather once ruled, but she’s a different kind of incumbent. She enjoys a glass of wine and a gossip, and still wants to find love too. It’s not all fire and brimstone from the pulpit. Her sister Hannah has similar romantic dreams – but with complications and then there’s Freya – is her marriage really so perfect? Throw in troubled teens, exes, elderly parents, local gossips and a new dentist and well, it’s all a lot of fun.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Cover Reveal: Fly Me To Moongate Manor – Kate Forster

Designed by @ccbookdesign

Sometimes you have to travel far to find home 🏡

Amanda Cox is living in New York with a non-committal boyfriend and a student loan that threatens to crush her. That is, until she enters a raffle for a manor house in the British countryside of Northumberland – and wins…

Publishing April 2023 with @AriaFiction and available to request on NetGalley now

Kate Forster is a best-selling author of Starting Over at Acorn Cottage, The Perfect Retreat, Finding Love at Mermaid Terrace and many more books that she would want to read herself, so she wrote them. When not writing, Kate loves hanging out with family, friends, and her dogs. A dedicated houseplant lover, Kate also enjoys outdoor gardening and is the founder and moderator of one of largest online women’s writing support groups on Facebook.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Fallen Butterfly – Anna Nicholas

Eccentric, headstrong and engaging, Isabel Flores Montserrat is a cross between a highly charged Precious Ramotswe (The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency) & Phyrne Fisher (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries).

With political tensions running high due to a controversial new motorway scheme, the chilling and ritualistic murder of a high-flying local government minister sends shockwaves through the island. When her home is ransacked and another brutal killing occurs, Isabel Flores Montserrat, unorthodox former detective, joins up once again with Mallorca’s police chief, Tolo Cabot, in a perilous race for answers. Meanwhile, fear and distrust grow in Isabel’s village as fake signs and cairn markers send disorientated hikers plunging off cliffs. Is this mountain mischief the work of environmentalists or is something far more sinister afoot?

ANNA NICHOLAS is of Celtic origin & has lived for 20 years in rural Mallorca. An inveterate traveller & experienced freelance journalist, she regularly participates in humanitarian aid expeditions overseas with British explorer Colonel John Blashford-Snell, CBE & is a Fellow of the RGS. She ran her own PR company in Mayfair, London, for 20 years, was a Guinness Book of Records adjudicator alongside the book’s founder, Norris McWhirter, CBE, and as a rookie press officer at charity Help the Aged, handled events for Princess Diana. She runs an international marathon annually for her favourite causes. Anna & friend, Alison, are currently scaling all of Mallorca’s 54 peaks over 1,000m. They hope to be the first women to have climbed them all by the end of 2023.

My thoughts: I want to go to Mallorca, the food alone in this book sounds amazing. But only if Isabel is around to keep it crime free!

She’s back in another puzzling murder mystery, along with her assistant Pep and trusty ferret sidekick Furo. As someone who loves animals I really enjoy the bond between woman and creature, and he’s ace at solving crimes, literally finding clues humans would miss.

The transport minister is found dead trapped in a body bag in the water, filled with dead fish and insects – namely the local yellow butterflies. Who killed him and why the additional creatures? What message is being sent?

Meanwhile another, stranger, crime is perplexing the local police – someone seems to be switching the route signs up in the mountains and hikers are having accidents. Is it a local artist or is something much more sinister going on?

Thankfully Isabel is on the case, as wellas running her holiday lets business and being on the planning committee for the local fiesta. She’s a busy woman!

Lots of fun and a spot of romance with Tolo too. Just don’t read it when you’re in bed, I couldn’t put it down!

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Cover Reveal: Fires of the Forsaken – Stephanie E. Donohue

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Welcome to the reveal of the cover for Fires of the Forsaken (Across Time #1) by Stephanie E. Donohue. Isn’t it a beauty? 

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Fires of the Forsaken (Across #1)

Expected Publication Date: May 2023

Genre: Adult Fantasy/ Romantic Fantasy

Addie wanted a gosh-darn pizza.

Lass wanted to avoid being cooked over a spit.

Neither figured they’d end up with a one-way ticket to the end of days.

Addie did not have “getting plucked from the 21st century and thrown into a rudimentary fantasy world” on her “fun things to do at 30” checklist. Yet here she is, struggling to survive in the hellscape known as Sakar, a place where Wraiths flame-broil humans and Celestial armies wage war with each other over a centuries-old spat. Thankfully, Cheriour, the hunky commander of the human army, takes her under his wing—although he’s allergic to giving straight answers. And talking.

As Addie reluctantly starts to care for him, and the rest of the Sakarians, she also learns why she was sent to this world. And it’s a doozy…

The violent society of Sakar is the only home Lass has ever known, and it’s been a wretched one. She has spent her life being tormented and twisted into an inhuman hybrid by the Celestials and hunted by the humans who fear her. But she finds solace with a cocky, blue-eyed boy who comforts her, even after she accidentally slaughters innocents.

As Lass struggles to control her volatile powers, she slowly transforms into the monster the humans believe her to be. And even the boy she loves is in peril…

At the end of time, there is only fire. And neither Addie nor Lass will escape unscathed.

Pre-Order Here!

About the Author

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As a child, Stephanie E. Donohue roamed Narnia with the Pevensie siblings and rode the Hogwarts Express with Harry and his friends. She never tired of discovering new and magical worlds through the pages of a book. And, when the yearning to explore still wasn’t satiated, Stephanie turned to writing. With a pen and a few sheets of paper, she learned to craft new worlds, and vibrant characters to explore with.

That passion has never died. Stephanie still enjoys writing stories that take readers on exciting, and sometimes dangerous, adventures.

When she’s not writing, Stephanie can usually be found cuddling with her two cats, obsessively re-watching The Office, or rocking out to a Pound Fitness class.

Stephanie E. Donohue

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Simon & Schuster’s #DigitalOriginals #OneDay2023

Ten years after holding the first #DigitalOriginals open submission day, Simon & Schuster UK Ltd.’s Books and the City project announce details of the 2023 initiative.

HOW DOES IT WORK

From 8am to 8pm GMT on Saturday 15th July 2023, writers of ‘commercial women’s fiction’ can pitch the hook of their novel in 200 words (max) via email to oneday@simonandschuster.co.uk. We will read your pitches as they come in – make sure you use #OneDay2023 in the subject header of your email – and if we like the sound of your pitch will reply to you by Saturday 29th July 2023 to ask for your full synopsis and first three chapters.

This year we will be accepting agented and un-agented submissions, and we are dedicated to publishing a broad and diverse range of books for everyone, representative of the world around us. We are committed to working with and supporting writers from all walks of life, regardless of age, gender identity, disability status, race, nationality, religion or belief, sexual orientation, social or economic circumstance. 

FAQ

Do I have to have a completed full manuscript to pitch? No. It’s not essential that you have a full completed manuscript at pitch stage, but it would be wise to have the synopsis and first three chapters of your exciting, fresh and original idea available.

Can I pitch more than one novel? Only one pitch is permitted per person, so please only pitch the novel you believe to be your strongest concept.

I don’t live in the UK; can I still take part? We are only accepting #OneDay2023 pitches from authors aged 18 or above, who are currently resident in the UK or Republic of Ireland.

I have self-published my book previously; can I still pitch it? Yes. As long as you have retained full rights.

I can’t be on email on 15th July 2023, can I still take part? All pitches must be received between the hours of 8.00am and 8.00pm on 15th July 2023, so we suggest you schedule your email in advance. We cannot accept pitches outside this window and any received outside of this period will not be considered.

I pitched my novel but haven’t been contacted via email yet. What should I do? If we don’t contact you by Saturday 29th July 2023, please don’t be disheartened. This is a very subjective business, and it is likely that your pitch is not quite what we are currently looking for, for our #DigitalOriginals list.

You requested to read my synopsis and first three chapters, when will I hear back from you? If we enjoyed reading your synopsis and first three chapters, we will get back to you within one month of receipt requesting the full manuscript. If we haven’t contacted you within one month of receipt, please don’t be disheartened. It is likely that your novel feels too similar to a novel we are, or have, already published, or too similar in tone to another author we have under contract. 

You requested to read my full manuscript, when will I hear back from you? We will endeavor to get back to you within 8 weeks of receipt of your full manuscript.

GENERAL INFORMATION

  • Your pitch will help us understand exactly what your novel is about and give us an idea of how we might talk to potential readers about it. We want to be immediately grabbed by your concept, and desperate to read more, so draw us into your plot, your characters or setting, with a hook we haven’t read before. If you’re struggling to pin down what your book is about, consider how you’d describe it to a friend. 
  • The term ‘commercial women’s fiction’ is generally used to mean fiction that appeals primarily to women, though is not necessarily written by a woman, and tends to be full of modern relationships featuring friends, family and lovers.  It can be funny or sad, but most of all it covers great storytelling with believable characters and plot.
  • #OneDay2023 is not open for non-fiction, short stories, historical fiction, crime thrillers, science fiction or fantasy, poetry, young adult or children’s titles.
  • The email account to send your pitch to is oneday@simonandschuster.co.uk. Please ensure you use ‘#OneDay2023’ as the subject heading to your email.
  • Your 200-word pitch must be in the body of the email, not sent as an attachment.
  • We reserve the right to discount any pitch submissions that do not meet the criteria stated, at our sole discretion.
  • We’re specifically looking for authors we can launch as part of our #DigitalOriginals programme in the same way we launched the careers of Heidi Swain, Jennifer Bibby, Holly Hepburn, Laura Bambrey, Jackie Fraser, Claire Frost, Julie Haworth and Christina Pishiris. #OneDay2023 is not a writing competition, and therefore there are no ‘winners’, but any novel we acquire through our #OneDay2023 open submission day will be published in #DigitalOriginals eBook format, which will be available across all e-tailers in the English language across the World.  You will be working with our experienced in-house team, and will be provided with a contract, full editorial input including copy editing and proof reading, an eBook jacket and a suite of marketing and publicity promotion.
  • Due to the volume of submissions expected, we are not able to give individual feedback if we don’t request to read the full manuscript.
  • We accept no responsibility for any illegible, incomplete, delayed, corrupted, malfunctioning, late, lost or misdirected pitches, including but not limited to emails not received due to technical disruptions, network congestion, compute error in transit or any other reason. 
  • If we make an offer to publish your novel and you don’t accept the terms of the acquisition or advance, you are entitled to reject them, but the terms of our contract are non-negotiable.
  • We are not a vanity or custom publisher and we do not charge a fee for submitting to #OneDay2023. #DigitalOriginals is part of the Simon & Schuster UK publishing company. A #DigitalOriginals author will benefit from the Simon & Schuster UK editorial, marketing, publicity and sales expertise and your contract with us under the #DigitalOriginals project offers you the same benefits as all Simon & Schuster UK authors receive.
  • All decisions made by the Books and the City editorial team are final and not subject to appeal.
  • Notwithstanding anything set forth in these guidelines if, in the sole opinion of Simon & Schuster UK, Ltd., none of the submissions are of a sufficiently high standard to merit publication, Simon & Schuster UK, Ltd. shall have no obligation to proceed with this offering.
  • By submitting to #OneDay2023, you confirm that (i) his/her/their submitted materials are their original, wholly owned, creation and make no use of any third party materials or intellectual property rights; (ii) no deliberate attempt has been made to base any fictional characters in the written submissions upon any individual, living or dead; and (iii) the submitted materials contain nothing that is illegal, obscene, discriminatory or of a defamatory nature. Applicants will keep the Simon & Schuster UK Ltd. harmless from any claims that their submitted materials infringe the personal or proprietary right of any other person

Simon & Schuster UK is one of the leading general book publishing companies in the UK. The group is based in London with sister companies in the United States, Canada, Australia and India. Within the UK division, there are four imprints: Simon & Schuster, Gallery, Scribner and Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, which publish a wide and eclectic mix of authors ranging across commercial fiction, literary fiction, general non-fiction and children’s publications. Home to bestselling authors and award winners, Simon & Schuster UK is a publishing house of quality writing and a proud home to its authors and their exceptional work.

Books and the City comprises a website, social media channels, #DigitalOriginals publishing programme, direct to consumer marketing tool and events platform – developed to promote Simon & Schuster’s women’s fiction. For more information go to https://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/m/Books-and-the-City/Books-and-the-City

blog tour, books

Blog Tour: A Kinder City – Peter Taylor-Gooby

Welcome to the book tour for A Kinder City by Peter Taylor-Gooby. Read on for details and grab yourself a copy today!

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A Kinder City

Publication Date: April 28, 2023

Genre: Eco Sci-Fi/ Sci-fi/ Dystopian

What place for love in a city ruled by greed?
Sarah, spirited and caring, is on her first trip outside her village. The city is dominated by the grim law of the market – the only relations permitted are between buyer and seller. Her gift of a wagonload of food to those who need it is a crime. David, a serious-minded police cadet who naively trusts in the law, arrests her and finds himself falling in love.
Franklin, the richest man in Market World, puts a price on everything. His giant factories spew forth road beasts – the huge machines that devastate the lands beyond the City in pursuit of yet more wealth.
How can David prove his love to Sarah? And how can they save her village and build a kinder city?
A gripping and thought-provoking eco-sci-fi novel, set in a world a little bit like ours.

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Excerpt

In an overheated semi-basement, seven storeys beneath the Council Chamber, David awaits Sarah’s Audit Hearing. The windows are horizontal slits high up the walls and the overhead strip-lights are still on, although it’s before 11.00 am and bright sunshine outside. The room is barely wide enough to hold the dais with the wooden table for the Assessor, her Recorder and the clerk, with the chair for the witness to the right and the dock for the defaulter to the left. He feels stifled and wonders if he suffers from asthma.

He has found a seat at the back of the courtroom on an upright chair that grates when he moves. He shouldn’t be here. He crept in with the public through the main door, and was squeezed against a young man with inky fingers, a notebook, and furtive eyes. As soon as he sees the uniform the young man introduces himself as a TV reporter, but doesn’t give a channel. He slips his cuff back to show his wristband.

‘We pay for your stories. Do you think Franklin has the answer to lawlessness in the Old Town?’

David touches the insignia on his sleeve: ‘No comment.’

A group of young women and men in blue uniforms without badges fill the benches at the front of the room. David guesses they are cadets from the Academy. Not so long ago I was one of you, he thinks. A cadet whose hair seems unruly despite the regulation cut looks back at him and says something to the young woman next to him. She glances round and giggles.

The Assessor enters at the door behind the bench, a spare black woman in a navy blue trouser suit with the badge of office – the Golden Balance – on her breast pocket. Her clerk follows her. Everyone rises with a scraping of chairs and David is forced back against the main door.

The Assessor surveys the room through metal-rimmed spectacles, sighs, and sits down.

‘What have you got for us today?’

The clerk bows his head. He’s short, plump-faced and his hair needs combing. He reminds David of a pocket spaniel.

‘Long list, Madam. First case, Major Breach of the One Law. Conveying a cargo without contract. Intent to supply said cargo without payment.’

‘Bring the defaulter to scrutiny.’

David is forced to stand as the main door opens and the Court-Serjeant enters, a square-shouldered older man in a gold-braided uniform who scowls at the Bench, the Assessor and the audience. He leads Sarah into the courtroom. She glances round the room, as if noting the details for when she tells her friends the story.

The Serjeant grasps her arm and the clerk slaps his hand on the desk:

‘Proceed.’

She nods to him, picks the officer’s fingers from her arm with her other hand and strolls forward.

‘Take her to the dock.’

‘Please. I’ll find my own way.’

The clerk snorts.

‘Silence.’

She takes her position to the left of the bench, the Serjeant behind her, and looks round. David feels she is searching him out. The journalist licks his biro and scribbles at his pad.

The Assessor leans towards her.

‘You are Ms S.Cordell, known as Sarah. You are called to scrutiny for a serious Audit transgression. I have reviewed the evidence and am minded to order full compensation with costs. Have you anything to say?’

Sarah frowns, and for an instant David feels dizzy, as if everything is back to front. She is the judge and he stands accused in the dock. Then her face lights up.

‘Not really. I was taking some fruit and other produce from Coneystone in the wagon with Juno. We wanted to share it with our cousins and friends in the Old Town. First time I’ve done the trip, we had a great crop this year. These people,’ she waves a hand towards David, ‘him and his mates, jumped out on me, all dressed up like comedy policemen. Pity it was muddy, they kept falling over. He’ll do it now if you’re lucky.’

Someone sniggers and the Assessor fixes her gaze on the cadets.

Sarah keeps talking.

‘It’s not funny. They scared Juno.’

‘That’s of no importance. The question is: have you a valid contract?’ The Assessor pauses a moment, then raises her voice. ‘You have no contract, it’s idle to deny it. Answer a simple question: who pays you for the apples?’

‘But it’s a good act, you really should see it. Then they frightened Juno and upset the applecart.’ Her face darkens. ‘So to speak. Then they took me here and kept me in and I’m worried about Juno. The apples will spoil. So will the blackberries.’ She turns to the court: ‘You haven’t seen where they’ve put Juno have you? Lovely beast, heavy horse, red ribbons in her mane. You wouldn’t miss her.’

The Assessor thrusts her face towards Sarah.

‘You will address the question. The longer you waste the court’s time, the more it will cost you.’

Sarah smooths her forehead with her hand.

‘Oh no, I’m sorry, didn’t I say? The apples and everything, they’re all presents. Brilliant harvest this year. You can have some.’

She looks round at all of them, smiling at her good fortune.

The Assessor straightens her back. She glances at the clerk, who nods.

‘Thank you. Transfer of commodity at zero price: major breach.’

‘I’m sorry? Would you like some apples? Don’t you want witnesses? Look, one of them’s over there.’

David colours and hunches down in his chair, but he can’t stop himself gazing at her. He feels as if everyone in the court is craning round to look at him.

The clerk slaps the desk again.

‘Silence!’

Sarah raises an eyebrow but says nothing. The Assessor sighs.

‘Breach of the One Law. Full confession. Witnesses are unnecessary.’

David feels the tension flow out of his shoulders.

Sarah shakes her head, her face comical. Her eyelid flutters. David can’t tell if she just winked at him.

‘I’m sorry?’

‘The One Law directs that all transactions must be between willing buyer and willing seller at an agreed price. Law of the Market. You do not give people things that you could sell to them. There are no exceptions.’

‘But….’ Sarah stops, her mouth open.

‘Be quiet. You have incurred substantial expenses.’

She gestures to the clerk, who reads out staccato from a thin strip of paper:

‘Deployment twelve Enforcers, 1 captain, 1 sergeant, 1 half-sergeant for 4 hours: 300 credits; Item: deduction for value of training exercise: minus 110 credits.

Uniform cleaning: 10 credits.

Accommodation, item: basic cell by one night: 200 credits; item: stabling and incidentals: 4 credits

Security during accommodation: 50 credits

Incidentals: toothpaste, soap, towel etc: 5 credits.

Courtroom, third grade, by one hour, staffing and incidentals: 100 credits.

Compensation: inconvenience of arrest to the detainee, standard rate 2 credits an hour by 18 hours: minus 36 credits. Item: proceeds, sale of 1 horse: minus 17 credits. Item: proceeds sale of cart and contents: minus 32 credits.’

David keeps his eyes on Sarah. She raises her eyebrows again and shrugs her shoulders.

‘Total 474 credits.’

‘Thank you. Ms Cordell, your breach cost Market World 669 credits minus 110 credits value of training provided, 36 credits citizen compensation and 49 credits sale of confiscated items. Your civic recompense is set at 474 credits. Next case.’

Sarah stares at her.

‘You must be joking! What is a credit anyway?’

The Assessor blinks.

‘Next case.’

‘But what about Juno?’

The clerk remarks to no-one ‘Additional court time may be purchased at 1.4 credits a minute.’

The Court-Serjeant seizes Sarah by the arm and hustles her towards the door. David rises and pulls his chair out of the way. She catches his eye as she passes and looks back at him and grimaces. It strikes him to the heart. He grips the door and stops it from shutting. The next case, a market trader accused of short weight, in a shabby suit with the jacket too tight under his shoulders, is brought in.

A buzz of conversation rises from the cadets. The young man who stared back at David tilts his head towards the young woman next to him and whispers something that is terribly important to them both. He takes the young woman’s hand, ignoring the others. The Assessor glowers at them

‘Silence! Or I shall clear the court.’

The journalist flips to the next page, sucks at his pen and writes.

David slips round the door and pulls it shut behind him. He leans against it for a full half-minute, his eyes closed.

He knows that the staircase in front of him leads up to the main hall where fines are paid. He turns left and strides down the corridor towards the barracks block. Voices sound from the guard room and he dodges left again into a narrower corridor with raw concrete walls lit by unshaded light-bulbs, then up an iron spiral stair. He listens for foot-steps, then creeps across a metal landing as softly as if he were on a close surveillance exercise and it was Adam assessing him. He listens again, and passes through a side-door into the Process Room. He blinks in the daylight that streams in from tall windows overlooking City Square. His heart feels tight in his chest. He has never in his life done anything like this. He doesn’t know why he is doing it now. He is a fool.

The duty Enforcer sits at the metal desk with the band-reader on it and the empty metal chair opposite, examining her finger nails. She slips something into her mouth. David clenches his fist, relaxes it and lets the door slam shut. The sound echoes across the room. She jerks upright and glances towards him, and pulls her jacket straight.

He knows her, they did their basic training together. Six weeks of square-bashing with Curtis shouting at you.

‘Hi Jan. Your lucky day. I’m to take over.’

He didn’t plan that. Where did it come from?

Jan frowns.

‘Who says? I’m here ‘til 18.00 hours.’

She chews at something.

‘Curtis. Extra duty – for yesterday.’

‘I heard. Curtis doesn’t like you, does he?’

‘Yeah, well. It’s a long story, I think he was a bit scared of the horse. Guess he likes you.’

‘Sure he does.’ She studies his face. ‘Are you alright?’

‘Yeah, well. I’ll be OK.’

‘That bad, is it? You’ve got friends you know.’

‘Sure… Thanks.’

She touches his hand.

‘All yours. I’m off.’

The side-door clicks to. David expels the air from his lungs and breathes in slowly to calm the throbbing in his head. He touches the band-reader in front of him. He’s used it a thousand times. You key in the amount, touch your wristband against the screen and it deducts or adds on the credits.

No citizen in Market World is ever without a wristband. It’s fastened to your wrist at the citizenship ceremony when you pass eighteen and goes with you to the grave. You get lessons on it in “Lifeskills” at school. It only works if the buyer assents to the deal and that is infallible. Willing seller, willing buyer. As the signs in the street say: ‘You’re not dressed without it’, ‘No pay, no get’ and ‘You are your account’.

He swallows and pushes the hair back off his forehead.

The door is thrown open and the Serjeant enters, still gripping Sarah by the arm. He marches her up to the desk and releases her. He reminds David of an elderly bullfrog.

‘All yours. Watch her. She tried to chat up my deputy in the Guard Room.’

‘I did not. I just said he had nice eyes for a comedian.’ She stares at David. ‘Nice to meet you again.’

She holds out her hand.

David reaches out, then lays his hand palm-down on the desk.

‘The defaulter will maintain discipline,’ barks the Serjeant. ‘Sit.’

Sarah looks round her, pulls out the chair, sits and crosses her legs.

David squares his shoulders.

‘Alright. I’ll take over from here.’

‘The court placed Ms Cordell in my charge.’

The Serjeant keeps his hand on Sarah’s shoulder.

‘Until her debt is discharged. Which is now.’

He looks the Serjeant in the eye. After a pause the officer drops his hand and pulls on a leather glove.

‘Very well.’

The door slams behind him. David licks his lips and looks at Sarah and tries to smile. He has the script by heart, he learned it last night.

‘You understand that you must pay civic recompense as decided by the court. 474 credits. Touch your wristband to the reader.’

‘Where’s Juno? I don’t care about the cart, but she’s not used to being away from me.’

‘Your possessions will be auctioned to defray expenses. Just touch your wristband here. See that number? That’s your account: “Debit 474”. But you must have a wristband. It’s always issued at the citizenship ceremony when you leave school. You could buy that cartload ten times over with that many credits. Twenty times.’

He taps the reader. She grins at him.

‘We don’t bother with those things in the villages, waste of time.’ She starts to get up. ‘Let’s go and find Juno. I need to get on my way.’

‘She’s OK, I sorted it. She’s being looked after.’

‘Are you sure? What do you know about horses?’

‘She’s OK.’

‘Tell me about Juno.’

She rests her chin on her fingertips and fixes her eyes on him. He places his hands together on the table.

‘She’s a black Percheron. 18 hands.’

She nods and her cheeks dimple.

‘She’s being fed OK?’

‘All the hay she wants – and crushed oats. And apples, but not too many. I tell you, she’s OK. Trust me. Now touch your wristband to the reader.’

She’s puzzled. Her brow furrows in tiny creases.

‘What wristband? I told you we don’t go in for them. My sister’ll plait you one out of wool. She’s only nine.’

‘You really don’t understand do you? You are in Market World. You pay for everything, you have to. You’ve taken up the time of the court and the resources of the Enforcers. No-one is going to lock you up for free.’

She giggles and the tiny dints dimple her cheeks. She places her hand over her mouth.

‘Sorry, but you just said…’

‘I know. Everything is for sale here, you get nothing without paying for it. The One Law – law of the market. It’s what give s us a well-ordered society, why we’re so much better off than you are in the villages.’

‘Sort of “All for One and One for All?” Free for All?’

‘Sort of – but it works. Don’t you see it?’

He craves for her to understand, to see how his world is better, to want to be part of it. That’s why he’s here. For her. He will be her guide, her mentor, her friend and she will trust him.

She shakes her head.

‘You really shouldn’t take these things so seriously. It doesn’t make you happy, does it?’

There’s a sharpness in her glance, as if it’s in her mind to say something else, but she continues: ‘Anyway, I don’t have a wristband.’

He shows her the numbers on the screen set into the black band on his left wrist. ‘There. See – all my credits: eight thousand seven hundred and fifty two, until I get paid. It’s all connected up to central computing – they keep the records. It’s how we do things.’

He feels a flush of pleasure at teaching her. She’s so confident and, at the same time, so wrong, so much in need of help and he can give it. His left leg trembles against the desk. He wills it to be calm.

She folds her arms.

‘Yeah, I heard stories about that. But I told you, we don’t bother with that kind of stuff – it’s no fun.’

‘Listen. In the past was the Great Hunger. Didn’t they tell you about it in school? Everything was terrible, people fought for food, children starved and warlords ruled the land. So many died they could no longer bury the dead.’

She shivers. ‘Sounds nasty.’

He finds it hard to concentrate.

‘Look out of that window.’ He points over City Square. ‘Can’t you see? Everyone going about their business. The shops, full of food and clothes and everything you need. The residence blocks where everybody lives.’

The words come more easily as he remembers the lesson. She mutters something to herself.

‘What’s that?’

‘Don’t look as if they’re having much fun.’

‘Clinics where you can buy medicine, schools and training colleges where you can pay for a degree, markets where citizens buy and sell at a fair price. Above them, the towers of the Entrepreneurs. And everywhere the Enforcers watching over us all, trusted by everyone, making sure we follow the rules.’

She peers out through the window.

‘They’re not happy. No-one’s smiling, nobody stops for a chat. Why aren’t there children playing? Or animals? And their clothes are so drab. Don’t you like to see trees?’ She spreads out her arms. ‘They’re so lovely this time of year.’

 ‘Everyone’s busy, they’re going about their business. That’s what you do in Market World. Children are in school or training or working. No time to waste. We keep the beasts in their sheds and the trees in the park. What’s the profit in bright clothes?’

He watches her as if, at that moment, she matters more than anything to him. The thought comes to him: I am an Enforcer. She will understand, without the Enforcers there is no market, no Market World. I am worthy of respect.

She needs to see Market World as it is, but he can’t let her go out there. She’ll be as lost as he would be in the forest. How desolate it would be, to be alone on those streets with no wristband and the night coming on.

‘When did you last eat?’

He has her full attention.

‘I don’t know.’ She pauses and tiny creases appear between her eyebrows. Her face clears. ‘I had some dried fish on the way. They wouldn’t give me breakfast back there, they kept saying didn’t I know “No pay, no get”. They didn’t like it when I asked if that was the chorus and could I sing along? I keep telling you, you people have no sense of humour.’

David stands and at the same time flips his left hand forward onto the reader without looking down, hears the click as it makes contact and checks the screen. “Account cleared”. She doesn’t notice. He’s in command for once like he’s in a novel.

‘Come on. We’ll find a café. You need someone to show you what Market World’s really like. And I’ll tell you my dream – why I’m an Enforcer.’

Her eyes light up and she rubs her hands together.

‘And I’ll tell you about how we live in the villages. And we’ll find Juno, won’t we?’

 ‘Of course.’

She trusts him. He knows that she trusts him.

He leads the way, through the lobby and the double doors, and down the flight of steps from the Halls of Justice into City Square. Happiness bubbles within him. She laughs, mouth open, the dimples in her cheeks each side of it. He remembers he’s on extra duty. He’ll deal with that later.

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About the Author

PTG2

My novels deal with issues that matter – love, money, power and environmental disaster. I’ve worked on adventure playgrounds, in a social security office and as a teacher. I love walking, cycling, writing and talking to my children.
In my day job I’m an academic but I believe that you can only truly understand the issues that matter to people through your feelings, your imagination and your compassion. That’s why I write novels.
My first novel, “The Baby Auction” 2017, is a love story set in a fantasy world where the only rule is the law of the market. That someone should help another because they care for them simply doesn’t make sense to the citizens of Market World, any more that auctioning babies might to us.

My second, “Ardent Justice” 2018, is a crime story set in the world of high finance and city fat-cats, where money rules, but greed can trip even the most successful.

My third, “Blood Ties” 2020, is about the ties of love in a troubled family, and the bonds of debt that chain illegal immigrants to people-traffickers, and how they can be broken through self-sacrifice.

My fourth, “A Kinder City” 2022, returns to Market World where the relentless pursuit of profit leads to environmental devastation. I hope you enjoy them.

Peter Taylor-Gooby

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Cover Reveal: My Last Hope – Katie Richard

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If you enjoy Colleen Hoover, you’re going to love this! Check out the cover for My Last Hope by Katie Richard. Stay tuned for the book trailer reveal on January 27th!

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My Last Hope

Expected Publication Date: May 30th, 2023

Genre: Domestic Thriller/ Romantic Suspense

When vows to love and to cherish, shatter.

Abby’s no stranger to the pain secrets, and lies can inflict on the person trying to hold it all together. She hides behind a forced smile and the hope that one day she’ll be able to find happiness again. After suffering from domestic abuse at the hands of her husband, Abby makes a split decision that alters the trajectory of her life forever. That decision leads her to cross paths with Dawson, a devastatingly handsome but troubled physical therapist who’ll do everything he can to save her. He’ll stop at nothing to ensure Abby’s life doesn’t end in the same fate his sister’s did.

Desperate to leave her husband before his violence turns fatal but too stubborn to accept the help of another man, will Abby be able to get out in time to save her own life?

With hearts tangled and lives at stake, can Dawson keep the beautiful art teacher from ripping off the cage he’s surrounded his heart with? Or will they allow their unmistakable chemistry to ignite, giving in to the forbidden relationship?

~ Forbidden Romance

~ One Bed

~ He Falls First

~ Alpha Hero

~ Emotional Scars

~ Slow Burn

~ Touch her and I’ll unalive you!

~ Dual POV

Trigger Warnings:

This book may not be suitable for all readers. Mature themes within have a recommended audience of 18 years old and above. You can read at your own discretion.

Scenes in this book may include but are not limited to:

~ physical and emotional abuse

Coming Soon!

About the Author

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Katie is an Indie Author who lives in Vermont with her husband and their children. When she’s not busy working, writing, or spending time with loved ones, she enjoys getting lost in a good book. Katie loves all types of gardening but especially enjoys flowers. When she’s not hard at work writing the next novel in the Destiny Of Graystone series or the standalone romantic suspense novels, she likes creating things in Canva or Procreate!

Katie Richard

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Blog Tour: Daisy Does It Herself – Gracie Player

Sometimes, the Last Place You Intended to Go is Exactly Where You Need to Be.

When 26-year-old Daisy’s life in London comes crashing down around her, the only thing she canthink of is getting away – far away. That’s how she found herself stumbling off a train in England’s
picturesque Peak District – 150 miles from home, with no idea why she’d gone there and even less idea how she intended to get home.
As Daisy explores the gorgeous village of Upper Finlay, she glimpses the possibility of a different life.
The Derbyshire Dales offer up new friends, new opportunities, and a distractingly dishy object of attraction in the form of local bookstore owner Alex (and his bumbling Great Dane.) When Daisy
discovers Alex’s business is in trouble she steps in to save the day.
But London’s Calling – literally. The life Daisy ran away from is calling her back. Why then, is she so reluctant to heed its call?
Daisy’s got a decision to make: Will she play it safe, and return to what she knew? Or is she brave enough to take a leap of faith and create a bold, new life for herself in the last place she’d ever expected?
Daisy Does it Herself is a sweet, uplifting romantic comedy about the power of self-confidence, friendship and of course love! Fans of warm and witty romantic comedies with a guaranteed
happily-ever-after will be entranced.

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Gracie is the author of the romantic fiction novel Daisy Does it Herself.
Gracie loves to create strong, quirky heroines and hopes to introduce you to your latest book-boyfriend crush.
She makes her home in the stunning Peak District in Derbyshire. Where she lives with her partner — amid ongoing negotiations over the size of her book collection and whose job it is to take out the bins!

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My thoughts: this was a lot of fun and I really liked Daisy. She loses her job, her (actually quite awful) boyfriend all in the same day and finds herself in Derbyshire after falling asleep on the train.

A bookshop offers her shelter and there she meets Wolf the dog and Alex the bookshop owner. Offering to stay for a month for room and board in exchange for helping out in the shop, designing a website and generally avoiding the mess of her London life, Daisy stays put. And has a wonderful, happy month. And even comes up with a way to save the bookshop for closing. She’s basically awesome. And her stupid boyfriend who belittles her belongs in the bin.

Luckily she realises that she doesn’t want her old life when she can make herself a new, happier one with new friends and perhaps a new love in Upper Finlay. Thank goodness. Honestly if she’d gone back to stupid Phil I’d have been cross. Daisy feels like someone I’d want to be friends with, a fellow bookworm and a fun person. More Daisy please!

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: My (extra) Ordinary Life – Rebecca Ryan

Have you ever wondered how normal you are? 
What if you were perfectly average? 
More than anyone else. 

For Emily – it’s true. When she watches a documentary on the average human she sees her life. Her job, her hair, her favourite food. All of her – plainly, horrifically average. Even her blood group. Right there and then, she decides she wants more

She’ll travel the world (i.e. venture out of her hometown)

She’ll become a vegan (it’s interesting to hate cheese, right?) 

She’ll do something daring (As long as it’s safety tested) 

Nothing will stand in the way of Emily living her best life. Not even Josh and his dimples. Because she absolutely can’t fall in love… that would be too ordinary. 

And from now on, Emily is going to be extraordinary. 

My thoughts: Emily is stuck in a rut, and grieving a terrible loss she won’t discuss, even with best friend Kaz. She thinks she’s too ordinary, and now she’s planning on shaking things up and becoming extraordinary.

I’ve been there, Emily is very relatable, I’m sure we’ve all had days, weeks, months, years, where we struggle to work out who we are and what we want from life.

Not all of us are dealing with the kind of loss Emily is, but the rest of her misadventures, from somehow surviving a Tough Mudder (I’d be dead about 2 minutes in) to not falling in love because that’s so ordinary, she’s going to become something better, something extraordinary. Or maybe discover she’s been that all along.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Book Review: You’ll Never Walk Alone – Rachel Kelly

Just before Christmas I was kindly sent a signed copy of this lovely book. A collection of wonderful poems to help us through some of life’s challenges. As some of you may know I love poetry and find it soothing and powerful. I dip into my poetry books when I need a mood boost or to sit with my feelings, but feel comforted, knowing that I’m not the only one to feel that way. Which is what this book is meant to do. There’s a wonderful selection of poems, old friends and some new faces too. Whatever you’re going through, poetry can help remind us to keep going. You’ll be ok.

A wise and soulful poetry prescription for every season and every mood. Words can be a way to unlock our feelings. Poetry allows us to be in touch with our emotions and explore our vulnerability. You’ll Never Walk Alone is a collection of the kind of inspirational texts – mainly poems – that can accompany us, whatever we are feeling, from sorrow to delight. These are poems that allow us to enjoy a full range of emotions. The poems are organised according to the season in which they ‘belong’: we all have seasons of our minds, be they wintery and dark, or more spring-like and hopeful. With this book by your side, you will feel comforted when times are tough and cheered when they are joyful. The texts are introduced by Rachel Kelly, writer and mental health advocate, whose gentle voice will show you how each poem might become your friend and become part of your emotional reality. Poetry can be a new tool for wellbeing. And one that means you’ll never walk alone.

Rachel Kelly is a keynote speaker, bestselling writer and mental health campaigner. She shares her experience of depression and evidence-based strategies that have helped her recover, and has long been an advocate for the therapeutic power of poetry. She runs Healing Words poetry workshops for mental health charities, at festivals and in prisons, and has been a judge for the Koestler Poetry Prize and the Rethink Mental Illness Poetry Awards. Her passion for poetry led to her becoming the co-founder of the iF poetry app and co-editor of iF: A Treasury of Poetry for Almost Every Possibility (Canongate, 2012). Her memoir Black Rainbow: How words healed me -my journey through depression describes how poetry was an integral part of her recovery. Her critically acclaimed books include The Happy Kitchen, Walking on Sunshine and Singing in the Rain and have been published in over 10 countries. Rachel has spoken all over the world from Delhi to Sydney, America and across the UK. She is also a well-known media commentator and former Times journalist as well as an official ambassador for mental health charities Rethink Mental Illness, SANE, The Counselling Foundation and Head Talks. Rachel lives in London with her husband, Sebastian, and their children.

Thank you to Rachel, the publisher and Midas PR for my copy. I’ll treasure it.