blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Blitz: The Automobile Assassination – M.J. Porter


Erdington, September 1944
As events in Europe begin to turn in favour of the Allies, Chief Inspector Mason of Erdington Police Station is once more prevailed upon to solve a seemingly impossible case.
Called to the local mortuary where a man’s body lies, shockingly bent double and lacking any form of identification, Mason and O’Rourke find themselves at Castle Bromwich aerodrome seeking answers
that seem out of reach to them. The men and women of the royal air force stationed there are their prime suspects. Or are they? Was the man a spy, killed on the orders of some higher authority, or is
the place his body was found irrelevant? And why do none of the men and women at the aerodrome recognise the dead man?
Mason, fearing a repeat of the cold case that dogged his career for two decades and that he’s only just solved, is determined to do all he can to uncover the identity of the dead man, and to find out why he was killed and abandoned in such a bizarre way, even as Smythe demands he spends his time solving the counterfeiting case that is leaving local shopkeepers out of pocket.
Join Mason and O’Rourke as they once more attempt to solve the impossible in 1940s Erdington.
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MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh
to Eleventh-Century England, as well as three twentieth-century mysteries. Raised in the shadow of a building that was believed to house the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia, meant that the
author’s writing destiny was set.

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My thoughts: this was a good old-fashioned whodunnit, with an intriguing victim – a man with no identifying documents or even clothes, found bent double near the airfield in wartime. Easy to see why Mason and O’Rourke look closely at the RAF stationed there.

Theres other strange goings on too, someone is tampering with the AA’s road side boxes, and there’s still a case Mason doesn’t even want to be investigating to be resolved – Jones would love the counterfeiting case.

But there’s more crime than coppers, so Mason, aided by the very resourceful O’Rourke (not limited to filing and tea making as sadly female police officers really were for a long time) to solve all of these cases and identify the mysterious dead man in order to return him to his family and find his killer. Highly enjoyable.

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

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Chaos at Carnegie Hall – Kelly Oliver

New York, 1917. Notorious spy, Fredrick Fredricks, has invited Fiona to Carnegie Hall to hear a famous soprano. It’s an
opportunity the War Office can’t turn down. Fiona and Clifford are soon on their way, but not before Fiona is saddled with chaperon duties for Captain Hall’s niece. Is Fiona a spy or a glorified babysitter?
From the minute Fiona meets the soprano aboard the RMS Adriatic it’s treble on the high C’s. Fiona sees something—or someone—thrown overboard, and then she overhears a chemist plotting in
German with one of her own countrymen!
And the trouble doesn’t stop when they disembark. Soon Fiona is doing time with a group of suffragettes and investigating America’s most impressive inventor Thomas Edison.
When her number one suspect turns up dead at the opera and Fredrick Fredricks is caught red-handed, it looks like it’s finally curtains for the notorious spy.
But all the evidence points to his innocence. Will Fiona change her tune and clear her nemesis’ name? Or will she do her duty? And just what is she going to do with the pesky Kitty Lane? Not to mention swoon-worthy Archie Somersby . . .
If Fiona’s going to come out on top, she’s going to have to make the most difficult decision of her life: the choice between her head and her heart.
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Kelly Oliver is the award-winning, bestselling author of three mysteries series: The Jessica James Mysteries, The Pet Detective Mysteries, and the historical cozies The Fiona Figg Mysteries, set in
WW1. She is also the Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. She is bringing new titles in the Fiona Figg series to Boldwood, the first of
which, Chaos in Carnegie Hall, will be published in November 2022.

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My thoughts: I hadn’t read the previous books in this series, but it doesn’t matter, it works just fine as a standalone or as the beginning of Fiona’s collaboration with Kitty Lane.

Sent to New York on the trail of a German spy, Fiona becomes embroiled in several murders, a different potential spy, Thomas Edison, suffragettes, Dorothy Parker’s Algonquin set and escorting her boss’ annoying neice to college. She’s accompanied by the devoted, if long suffering, Clifford, rather against her will. And her beloved Archie keeps popping up everywhere – is he a double agent?

With a wardrobe full of disguises, some subterfuge, a cute but not fully toilet trained dog, Poppy, and some help from a crinkly concierge, Fiona decides to untangle all the various threads, solve the murders, and of course find out what Frederick Fredericks is up to. She might even get to enjoy the sights of the Big Apple.

Lots of fun, and a bit silly, full of real famous names, and some artistic licence, this was an enjoyable historical crime caper.

*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: Daughters of Teutobod – Kurt Hansen

Daughters of Teutobod is a story of love triumphing over hate, of persistence in the face of domination, and of the strength of women in the face of adversity.

Gudrun is the stolen wife of Teutobod, the leader of the Teutons in Gaul in 102 BCE. Her story culminates in a historic battle with the Roman army.

Susanna is a German American farm wife in Pennsylvania whose husband, Karl, has strong affinity for the Nazi party in Germany. Susanna’s story revolves around raising her three daughters and one son as World War II unfolds.

Finally, Gretel is the infant child of Susanna, now seventy-nine years old and a professor of women’s studies, a US senator and Nobel laureate for her World Women’s Initiative. She is heading to France to represent the United States at the seventy-fifth anniversary of the liberation of southern France, at the commemoration site where her older brother, who was killed in action nearby, is buried. The site is very near the location where the Romans defeated the Teutons.

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Kurt Hansen is from Racine, Wisconsin, and has lived in Kansas, Texas, and Iowa. He has experience in mental health and family systems as well as in parish ministry and administration. He holds degrees in psychology, social work and divinity. Kurt now lives in Dubuque, Iowa with his wife of 44 years, Dr. Susan Hansen, a professor emerita of international business. Kurt is the author of Gathered (2019). Daughters of Teutobod is his second novel.

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Interview:

On writing:

How did you do research for your book?

Online searches for everything about the Teutons  to pre-war Pennsylvania and the earliest training of American Rangers, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and modern-day sites in Paris and Southern France.

Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest?

Hardest? Ada.

Easiest? Gretel.

Where do you get inspiration for your stories?

From reading, from people, and from the news.

What advice would you give budding writers? 

Read widely. Attend a well-established writer’s conference. 

Do you have another profession besides writing?

Retired pastor.

How long have you been writing?

After heart disease forced early retirement, I began attending the Iowa Summer Writer’s Festival in 2014. I began writing poetry, but soon began writing novels.

What is your next project?

A book entitled Chameleon, about a man in treatment for Borderline personality disorder. 

What genre do you write and why?

I write character driven stories and historical fiction because those are what interest me.

What is the last great book you’ve read?

Chances Are by Richard Russo 

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?

A reader wrote that my book connected with her on an emotional level, bringing her to tears at times.

If your book were made into a movie, who would star in the leading roles?

The only one I’ve had an instant intuition for is the elder Gretel, who would surely be portrayed nicely by Meryl Streep.

If your book were made into a movie, what songs would be on the soundtrack?

Not sure, but during closing credits, I could suggest Respect by Aretha Franklin.

What were the biggest rewards and challenges with writing your book?

Greatest reward is the coming together of the various story elements. Greatest challenge is slogging through the research and persisting through the dialogues.

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like?

It was painful and frustrating.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Be open to criticism. Write about what you know. 

Which authors inspired you to write?

Philip Roth, Harper Lee, Richard Russo, Flannery O’Connor, Charles Dickens, Michael Crighton, Dan Brown, Kurt Vonnegut, Amy Hassinger 

On rituals:

Where do you write?

Either in my office at home or in a coffee shop.

Do you write every day?

No. But I’ve heard many authors say that I should.

What is your writing schedule?

It tends to be manicky. I may go weeks without writing anything, and then a sudden spurt of energy possesses me and I write furiously for days.

In today’s tech savvy world, most writers use a computer or laptop. Have you ever written parts of your book on paper?

Only notes.

Fun stuff:

Favorite travel spot?

Toledo, Spain.

Favorite dessert?

Sour cream raisin pie

If you were stuck on a deserted island, which 3 books would you want with you? 

To Kill a Mockingbird, A Tale of Two Cities, and the Bible.

Any hobbies? or Name a quirky thing you like to do.

I collect rock-n-roll memorabilia. Signed record albums and photos and so forth. 

If there is one thing you want readers to remember about you, what would it be?

That I care about relationships and helping people.

What TV series are you currently binge watching?

Silent Witness and Cheers

What is your theme song?

“You’ve Got a Friend” by James Taylor

What is your go-to breakfast item?

Low-carb wraps

Tell us about your longest friendship.

I’ve been going on an annual retreat with six colleagues for over thirty years.


Chapter One

The smoke of the grist fires rose incessantly, grey black against the cloudy blue sky as the day meandered toward its middle hours. It was the season of harvest, and those konas who were able were out among the plantings, gleaning grain or digging turnips, carrots, or beets out of the black, loamy soil. Some ground grain into flour and some baked bread, while others tended the fires and the fleshpots. Still others were about the business of tanning hides, mostly of deer, raccoons, rabbits, or fox, occasionally from a bear. The smells of death intermingled with the breathing life and beating heart of the sveit.

Gudrun liked this time of day best. She grabbed another handful of golden wheatstalks, slicing off the grain heads with a strong whisking motion and dropping the grain into her tightly woven flaxen gathering bag. She paused for a moment, wiping the sweat from her brow with the back of her hand. The sun was bright today, making the air steamy. Gudrun looked out across the hills, down the valley, past the wooded glades where she could see dozens of other kǫngulls like her own, and she knew there were even more beyond the reach of her eyes. Most of the kǫngulls contained about 100 persons, but some had more. As she fixed her gaze closer, to the kǫngull where she lived, she could see the jungen, chasing one another, some wielding sticks or branches, others seeking to escape the assaults of their aggressors. The jungmädchen were variously helping their mothers with cooking or cleaning vegetables or sewing hides; the kinder simply hid in corners or clung to their mothers’ legs.

Several hours passed, and now the sun was receding, thankfully, because its blazing, yellow glare kept breaking through the billowing clouds all day, intensifying the laborers’ fatigue. Gudrun emptied her grain bag into the large, woven basket at the edge of the planting. The basket was filled to the brim, and as she plunged both hands into the basket, letting the harvested grain sift between her fingers, a smile of satisfaction softened her face. Filling up her basket all the way to the top was for her, a measure of the goodness of the day. She hoisted the heavy basket, glad for the leather strap she had fashioned to carry it. Before she designed the strap, two women were needed to carry the woven baskets—one on either side—especially when full. But Gudrun decided to cut a long strip from the edge of a tanned deer hide and, with a sharp bone needle she affixed the strap to her basket, allowing her to shoulder the entire weight by herself.

When she first showed her invention, one of the men—Torolf—chastised her for taking the piece of deer hide. He pushed her to the ground and threatened worse, but Teutobod intervened, bashing Torolf on the head with his club and sending him reeling. Teutobod, Gudrun’s mann, was the undisputed leader of their sveit, and he had been their leader long before he took her for his wife, ever since the sveit’s earliest days in Jutland. He ordered that all the grain baskets be fashioned with straps for carrying, and Gudrun won the admiration of all the konas (and even some men). Torolf avoided her from then on.

As evening approached, it was time to prepare for the return of the männer. Most hunting excursions were a one-day affair, bringing in meat for perhaps a few days at best. But as the harvest season proceeded, the männer would leave for days at a time, seeking to increase supplies for the long winter to come. This foray had lasted nearly a week, but Gudrun was told by Teutobod to expect their return before seven suns had passed, and she shared this information with the some of the other konas. By now all the kongulls were preparing for the männer coming home.

As the sun began to set, the konas started pulling out skins from their bærs, unfolding them and laying them on the ground about the fire pits. The flesh pots were stirred and stoked, and a hearty stew was prepared with deer meats, mushrooms, yellow beans, potatoes, turnips and carrots, seasoned with salt and fennel and black peppercorns. Flasks of beer that had been cooling in the stream all day were brought to each firepit and hung on a stake which had been plunged in the ground for that purpose. Various dinner ware made from carved bone or fashioned out of wood or clay were laid out. All was in readiness.

An aura of anticipation and anxiety tumbled around the kǫngull, shortening tempers as the waiting lengthened. Finally, about an hour after the sun had fully set, the sound of the ram’s horn distantly blasted out its announcement: Die männer komme! The jungen were hustled away to the kinderbærs. One never knew the mood that might accompany the hunters when they returned, and things could and often did get ugly. The konas sat or knelt respectfully beside the firepits, twitching, nervously swatting insects away from the food, inhaling excitement and breathing out fear. 

Soon the rustling of leaves and the snap of twigs underfoot grew louder and closer until the shadows brought forth the whole troop of men, bustling in to the kǫngull, carrying or dragging the meat they had procured, pounding their chests, howling, pulling on their scraggly hair or beards, banging the ground with clubs or spears and smelling of the hunt and of the forest. Similar sounds of triumph and dominion could be heard resonating throughout all the kǫngulls below as the männer clamored in across the entire sveit.

Here in Gudrun’s kǫngull, the konas kept their gaze to the ground, their eyes fixed on the fire, and as the hunters’ swagger slowly abated, one by one the konas silently lifted their plates above their heads, each looking up to her mann as they all found their respective places. Once the providers were all reclining on skins beside the firepits, the konas stood and began to prepare plates of food for them. The men ate loudly, hungrily, slurping the stew from the lips of the bowls and using hunks of bread to grasp chunks of meat and vegetables.

The food having been consumed, skinflasks of beer soon followed, and before long the sated belches and grunts of the eaters gave way to boisterous banter, the proud providers reliving the thrill of killing a stag or the bravery of facing a bear. The konas scraped up the leftovers to take to the huts for themselves and the children, after which the cleanup tasks commenced. The women worked in groups of three or four, tending two large boiling pots to soak the dinnerware until all remnants of the food floated up to the top and were skimmed off. A little more soaking, then all the dinnerware was stacked and stored for the next use. Gudrun, along with two other konas, took the job of drying the cleaned dishes, swinging a dish in each hand to move the air. They playfully swung the wet plates or cups at one another, spritzing each other in the process and giggling like little meyas.

This being the end of a prolonged hunting venture, the children were tucked in early in the kinderhäusen, and the konas prepared to receive their husbands. For those unlucky enough to have brutish men, their wifely duties were not at all pleasant. Others were more fortunate. Gudrun was happy to be among the latter, hoping only that the beer ran out before Teutobod’s love lust. She retreated to the bær she shared with her husband, glad for the privacy his role as leader provided. This entire kǫngull was comprised of the sveit’s leadership and their skuldaliðs, and as such it claimed luxuries not generally known throughout the sveit by underlings. The leaders camped furthest upstream, and therefore got the cleanest water for drinking, cooking, and bathing. The leaders claimed individual space for themselves and their vifs, while others down below had to share living space with two or three other skuldaliðs. 

Gudrun removed her garments and lay nude on the soft deerskins in her bær to prepare herself for her husband. Covering herself with another skin, she began to move her hands over her thighs and abdomen, softly, back and forth, her rough-skinned fingertips adapting to their more delicate uses. She moved a hand upward, swirling around her breasts and throat, teasing each nipple at the edges, holding back from contacting the most delicate flesh.

Her stroking and probing continued, a bit more urgently as she felt her breath rise and grow more heated. The muscles in her abdomen began to pulse, and as her hands found the sensitive spot between her legs, she felt the moisture beginning to flow inside her. When she was young Gudrun had learned from the older konas how to help her husband in this way, to ease his entrance and hasten his joy. Along the way, over the years, she also learned to enjoy herself more in the process. As the instinctive rocking motion in her pelvis began, she eased her manipulations, not wanting to be prematurely excited. Breathlessly, she looked toward the bær’s entrance, hoping Teutobod would hurry.


You never know where researching a book might take you! While researching the WWII portion of Daughters of Teutobod, I learned about the earliest training of the Army Rangers. After gathering at Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland, the group headed off to the highlands of Scotland for intensive combat training, after which they returned to Carrickfergus to await deployment. A fascinating sidenote for me related to the treatment of Black soldiers, many of whom related how wonderfully they were treated by the Irish people. They were welcomed into homes and pubs and treated as equals among their lighter-skinned compatriots. When some of the White soldiers complained to their commanding officers, the officers addressed the “morale” problem by attempting to force local business owners to impose race restrictions on the soldiers they served. The locals would have none of it! They all stood up to the American officers and reminded them they were guests in Ireland, and that they (pub and restaurant owners, mostly) would not be told whom they could serve in their own country! 

For me, the experience of the Black soldiers intersects with the experiences of women in history. Being called to serve (for women, in roles such as mother, wife, nurse, schoolteacher, etc., and for Blacks in roles of servant or even soldier) has come with a tacit exclusion from full participation in the world of those they served. The message has been, “be a good little (fill in the blank), but don’t bother the men. You don’t really belong here.” 

*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: Death & Mr Fould – Alan Derosby

A stunning gothic historical hybrid genre story perfect for Halloween!

Max Fould, an aristocrat from the Fould banking family, goes off to war under the leadership of Napoleon.

While stranded in Russia, he encounters a creature that sets his life on an unimaginable path based on Russian folklore.

Follow Max Fould from post-revolutionary France to the First World War, where his past and present come full circle. Buy Link

Alan Derosby, a Maine native, has spent the past several years focusing on his passion: writing.  Alan has created original and spooky short stories, having several published in a variety of anthologies. MAN OF CLAY is his debut novel. 

When not writing, Alan is teaching history at Messalonskee High School in Oakland, Maine, spending time with his wife and daughter, or watching the New York Mets suffer through another disappointing season.

My thoughts: Maximilian Fould makes a Faustian pact with the devilish immortal bird Katkh, a creature that sows chaos and destruction. Linked together forever, Max attempts to outwit the creature and die – thus ending its power. His only friend through the centuries is Death.

From revolutionary France, to post Industrial Revolution Britain, the freezing fields of Russia to the First World War, Max lives a life far longer than he should and encounters terrible losses in his attempt to stop the raven of chaos destroying everything.

A clever and interesting exploration of history – from Napoleon to the First World War, via the palaces of Russia. Max can’t predict the bird’s next terrible plot (hint: it involves creepy monk Rasputin) and what monstrous things it will do but he knows it must end.

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*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: The Cursed Heir – Heather Atkinson

Edinburgh 1896. At Alardyce House, the family are gathered to celebrate the engagement of the heir to the estate, Robert, to his childhood sweetheart. But what should be a precious memory for his
mother Amy, is marred by darkness. For Robert’s biological father was a demon and a criminal, and now Robert is coming-of-age, disturbing reports are beginning to emerge about his behaviour.
Amy is torn between her love and loyalty to her son, her hope that she can save his soul, and her growing sense of dread that the streets of Edinburgh aren’t safe when Robert is in town. Meanwhile the increasing distance between Robert and his stepfather Henry threatens the peace of her loving marriage.
The Alardyce family is riven by secrets and scandal, but will this most cursed heir of all, be the one to ruin their reputation forever, or can the power of a mother’s love save them all?
If you love Emily Organ, Kate Saunders and Ann Granger, you’ll love The Cursed Heir. Discover bestselling author Heather Atkinson and you’ll never look back…
Please note this book was previously published as Corruption of the Son.
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Heather Atkinson is the author of over fifty books – predominantly in the crime fiction genre.
Although Lancashire born and bred she now lives with her family, including twin teenage daughters, on the beautiful west coast of Scotland. Her gangland series for Boldwood, set on the fictional Gallowburn estate in Glasgow begins with the title Blood Brothers.

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My thoughts: terrified her son has inherited the dark traits of his biological father Matthew and her cousin Edward, both rapists and murderers, Amy Alardyce and her husband Sir Henry will do anything to stop Robert from marrying sweet, innocent Jane, and keep him from harming any more maidservants. But nothing seems to be able to stop Robert from his path.

Amy is haunted by her past (The Lost Girls of Alardyce House, currently 99p for the ebook, tells her story) and especially by the terrible Matthew. Henry is desperate to save his wife and stepson from the past that threatens to destroy the family they’ve built.

Robert is a repulsive creature, beating servants, raping women and carousing and whoring with his friends. Violence flows through him. Jane, completely unaware of who he really is and refusing to hear her family’s concerns, is basically an idiot. Nothing penetrates her romantic imaginings and since Robert is sweetness and light to her, she never will.

The lengths his parents go to to stop him are extreme – from sending him to stern Uncle Abel and hiring his own huge minder, to cutting him off. But he just won’t listen. Which culminates in a chase to Gretna Green – where you can still elope to and get married over an old anvil (I saw it on a travel show!).

Poor deluded Jane has a terrible time ahead of her if Amy and Esther’s experiences are anything to go by. Amy and Henry can do nothing more. And Robert’s super creepy pal Andrew is still loitering around too. I can’t imagine the horrors those two will get up to in the next book.

*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: The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch – Julia Brewer Daily

For Fans of Yellowstone & Outlander!

Welcome to the book tour for Julia Brewer Daily’s upcoming novel, The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch: A Modern Ranch with an ancient secret!

Thorn-Front-Cover-F

The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch

Expected Publication Date: November 1st, 2022

Genre: Modern Western/ Family Saga

Emma Rosales is the heiress to the largest ranch in Texas-The Thorn. All of the responsibilities of managing a million acres now fall into her fifth-generation hands.

A task Emma could handle with her eyes closed… if The Thorn was any ordinary property.

The Thorn is home to many things. Clear, cloudless skies. Miles of desert scrub and craggy mountains. A quiet disrupted only by whispers of the wind. And an ancient web of secrets that won’t let Emma out alive without a fight.

The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch is a family saga as large as the state of Texas.

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About the Author

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Julia Brewer Daily is a Texan with a southern accent. She holds a B.S. in English and a M.S. degree in Education from the University of Southern Mississippi.

She has been a Communications adjunct professor at Belhaven University, Jackson, Mississippi, and Public Relations Director of the Mississippi Department of Education and Millsaps College, a liberal arts college in Jackson, Mississippi.

She was the founding director of the Greater Belhaven Market, a producers’ only market in a historic neighborhood in Jackson, and even shadowed Martha Stewart.

As the executive director of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi (three hundred artisans from nineteen states) which operates the Mississippi Craft Center, she wrote their stories to introduce them to the public.

Daily is an adopted child from a maternity home hospital in New Orleans. She searched and found her birth mother and through a DNA test, her birth father’s family, as well.  A lifelong southerner, she now resides on a ranch in Fredericksburg, Texas, with her husband Emmerson and Labrador Retrievers, Memphis Belle and Texas Star.

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Blog Blast: The Winter Dress – Lauren Chater

Two women separated by centuries, the threads of their lives drawn together by one beautiful silk dress

Textiles historian Jo Baaker is drawn back to the Dutch island where she was born to investigate the provenance of a valuable seventeenth-century silk dress retrieved from a sunken shipwreck. Her research leads her to Anna Tesseltje, a poor Amsterdam laundress who served on the fringes of the Dutch court.

But how did Anna come to possess such a precious dress? Jo is determined to trace the threads and find out, all while battling with professional egos and personal demons.

My thoughts: I studied material culture as part of my MA so this really appealed to me academically as well as a reader of historical fiction. The things people leave behind them can tell us so much. The beautiful dress found in a shipwreck off Texel tells the story of Anna.

Once a merchant’s daughter, she’s reduced to doing other people’s laundry when the opportunity comes to be companion to a female artist – Catherina. And to love, a freedom she didn’t know she could have and then to tragedy. Her mother’s dress, silk with intricate embroidery outlives her and textile historian Jo carefully teases out Anna’s life story.

Both Anna and Jo are determined women in world’s dominated by men – for Anna the obnoxious Maarten, for Jo her so-called colleague Liam. But both are clever and capable and use all their resources (and in Anna’s case, a storm) to prove their worth.

I really enjoyed this book with its slip back and forth between the two narratives, hundreds of years apart, the insight into the Dutch court that Anna gets was interesting and the lives of the modern islanders was too. A fascinating and informative story of two women, ordinary but in their own way extremely remarkable too.

*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: Inglestone Manor – S S Saywack

It’s 1944 and the war, it seems will never end. 

When Lizzy, her brother and sister, are evacuated to the village of Inglestone, they find their new home strange. 

Under the shadow of the ruined Inglestone Manor, they meet Dorothy Inglestone, the last of her line, and the ever-watchful Mr and Mrs Gains. When they are told of a treasure hidden in a ruin manor, they can’t resist trying to find it. 

In their hunt, they come across a strange boy roaming the ruins. 

Not only is he wanted by the police, but he is also wanted by the Gains. Can the Allens keep a secret and not betray the boy? Before long, their loyalties will be tested. Buy Links

Originally from Guyana, a country in South America, S S Saywack came to London with his family in 1962. Educated in North London, he studied information graphics at a London college and then worked as a graphic designer for many years. He later changed careers and became a teacher at a sixth-form college in East London. Taking early retirement, he turned to a third career, being an author.  

With a love for reading and history in general, he wrote his first novel that became the Mary Finch Series (four books for older children set in the fictional world of Sherlock Holmes and an additional chapter book to make five in total) and that was swiftly followed by Inglestone Manor. 

His current writing scurries between children’s fiction and adult detective fiction.

To find out more about S S Saywack, you can visit his website, or find him on Facebook.

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My thoughts: this was a great wartime kids book, all about trust, friendship and kindness, with a mystery at its heart. While hunting through Inglestone Manor for a treasure supposedly hidden there, the children meet another boy hiding in the grounds.

Keeping his secret and protecting him is important to their friendship. But with police circling and a war on, should they be hiding a wanted person?

For all I don’t enjoy wartime set books, that’s just an excuse for this clever book to get all the characters in one place, and the adventure plot is a lot of fun to read. I’d be passing this on to any young readers I know who like mystery, adventure and stories about friendship.

*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: We Do What We Must – Richard Robbins

Welcome to the tour for We Do What We Must, a gritty novel based on true events!

Must Final Cover

We Do What We Must

Publication Date: October 3rd, 2022

Genre: Historical Fiction/ Mafia (Based on True Events)
An immigrant Sicilian family triumphs over The Mafia in turn of the century New Orleans, just not in the way they’d planned.
This fictionalized tale recounts the story of the true life Giacona family, who emigrated from Sicily to New Orleans in the 1890s. They came to the US to escape the influence of The Mafia, only to be confronted by the same challenges in the New World.
Pietro and Corrado, father and son, do what they must to defend their family and business from the dreaded Black Hand, as well as powerful organized crime families. They proceed the only way they know how, through bravery, guile, and tough choices. Although committed to living as ‘Honest Italians,’ their choices lead them down a perilous path.

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Excerpt

Chapter 1 – New Orleans, 1908

Every detail had to be perfect, as if their lives depended upon it. On this night, it just might.

Corrado picked up the pieces of the final place setting, one by one, careful not to scratch the delicate surfaces of the fine silver-plated utensils, the ones brought out for just the most special occasions. He made sure to hold each piece with thumb and forefinger, by their necks, just the way he preferred.

“Here you go, Papa.” He handed the last one to his father, who did not look up from his task.

Corrado watched as his father, Pietro, laid each utensil carefully into place, in perfect formal order, straightening each one after the setting was complete. Always set from left to right, neatly centered, on perfectly folded white linen napkins.
He stood by as patiently as he could, until he could wait no more. “Okay, Papa, it looks good to me.”

When his father failed to reply, he called out, more urgently, “Papa, do you hear me, it’s fine.”

Pietro turned his large, melon shaped head, even larger appearing due to his oversized mustache and shock of unkempt salt and pepper hair. “It is not enough to be good, it must be perfect. We all make choices, and some choose to be good, and others to be perfect. It was my choosing to be perfect that created this business, made it thrive, and bought us this fine home. And I will not choose anything but perfection, especially on this day, which may be the most important day of our lives.”

Corrado suppressed a soft smile. The familiarity of his father’s words momentarily distracted him from thoughts of the evening’s negotiations, thoughts he played over and again while he tossed in bed at night. Distracted him from the fear and excitement, from the anticipation and uncertainty. From the magnitude of his plan, and the possibility of its failure.

He brought himself back into the moment, and addressed his father. “Papa, you speak of choices, and of making good choices.” He paused and twirled the edges of his thin, jet black mustache with his fingers. “But Papa, what if there are no good choices?”
Pietro stopped what he was doing and looked directly into Corrado’s eyes. “There are times when there are no good choices. That’s what happened to me in Palermo, and I made the most of it. Sometimes you don’t get to do what you’d like to do, or what you ought to do. Sometimes you do what you must.”

Corrado paused, signaling respect for his father’s words, then replied in his most considered tone. “Yes, Papa, I know, and we’re grateful for your courage and achievements. Now can you check on the Stigghiola while I go down to the cellar and bring up a case of wine.”

The corner of Pietro’s eyes crinkled as his face pulled itself into a broad smile. “Yes, son, that is indeed a good choice.”

Corrado turned and headed down the steep stairs, taking them two at a time, to the large dusty cellar where they stored their wares. He turned on the electric light, took a moment to admire the brilliant tungsten bulbs they’d just installed, and strolled down the aisles of dusty crates, some covered with fancy labels all in Italian, some with the simple markings of homemade raisin wine, looking for the perfect case.
It must be expensive looking, he thought, but not so expensive as to arouse suspicions. And high enough in alcohol content to achieve its intended effect.

Finally, he settled on a case of Valpolicella. Perfect. Dark, red, and rich tasting. And the highest alcohol content of all the wines.
He hoisted a full case onto his broad shoulder, closed his eyes to let the dust settle around him, headed up the stairs, and placed the case next to the dining room table.
“Papa, I put the wine in the dining room.” He took a moment to catch his breath. “They’ll be here soon, is everything ready?”

“There’s just one thing left,” Pietro replied from the kitchen, then set down the ladle he’d been using to stir the stew, walked into the living room, and opened the doors of the large wooden armoire across from the fireplace. He looked inside for a moment, leaning over and fumbling with some items, moving them from one side to the other, then reached down and picked up something with his right hand, and turned and headed silently back towards the kitchen.

As he passed, Corrado noticed the long, wooden handle of their Winchester repeating rifle in his father’s right hand. Pietro continued into the kitchen, placed the rifle carefully behind the half-opened door, and turned back towards his son.

“There. Now everything is perfect indeed.”

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About the Author

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Amazon Best Selling Author Richard Robbins’ novels explore important moral questions such as the price of fame, the nature of loss and redemption, and the meaning of life, through the lens of family dynamics. He lives with his wife in New Orleans and New York City, near their adult children, and his work is infused with the flavor of those vibrant and unique cities.

Richard was named Louisiana Independent Author of the Year for 2020, and his works have won numerous awards, including Feathered Quill Book Awards and Readers’ Favorite Book Awards.

Richard Robbins

My thoughts: inspired by a true story, this novel retells the creation of the New Orleans mafia, how they destroyed their opponents and took over the city. It features some real life gangsters in their early years, as well as historical pictures and epilogue that brings it to the modern age. These were mostly Sicilian men, come to find a better life in America, recruited by friends and family to the mafioso life.

We follow future head of the New Orleans mafia, Corrado Giacona, as he sets himself up as a wine merchant alongside his family, becomes involved in a terrible case and takes on the Black Hand personally.

His relationships are key to who he becomes, Gio, who he meets on the ship across the Atlantic, has a cousin who the existing Don speaks directly to, Sam, who as a child plays outside the family wine shop. This proves key as events unfold.

A fascinating look at a piece of history not much known outside New Orleans I imagine.

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Blog Tour: The Unlikely Spy – Sophie Schiller

Welcome to the book tour for The Unlikely Spy by Sophie Schiller! Read on for more details!

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The Unlikely Spy

Publication Date: August 21st, 2022

Genre: Spy Thriller/ Historical Romance/ Historical Fiction
Casablanca meets Notorious in a Hitchcock-style thriller of espionage, romance, adventure, and intrigue.

1917. Emma Christensen is a young widow who returns to the Danish West Indies to reclaim the life and the villa she left behind. When she discovers her husband has disinherited her in favor of his young heir—an illegitimate son—she turns to the one thing she knows, gambling, and soon finds herself deeply in debt.

Emma is approached by Cornelius Smith, a representative of an American shipping line, who offers an alternative: infiltrate the suspicious Hamburg-American Line and spy on its nefarious leader, Julius Luckner, to gain valuable business intelligence for his firm.

It doesn’t take long for Emma to realize that both Smith and Luckner are not as they seem. Close to the Allies but even closer to the enemy, Emma bravely engages in missions that could blow her cover at any moment. But with the Panama Canal at stake, how far will she go to help the Allies?
A gripping and suspenseful World War I spy thriller from an accomplished thriller and historical adventure writer.

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Excerpt

From the moment she left the telegraph office, Emma had an eerie feeling that someone was following her. It stayed with her all the way back to the hotel. She felt as if someone was watching her every move although she was quite certain she had slipped past the German in the lobby.

When she returned to her hotel, waited impatiently for Smith’s cable. She called down to the front desk numerous times to ask if any message had arrived for her, but the answer was always no. With no other recourse, she went to bed, tossing and turning half the night, fearing that something terrible had happened to Allendorf and now she was all alone. This was completely unexpected. For several agonizing hours she pondered what she should do, but couldn’t come up with a viable plan. The Germans were watching her every move. She was basically trapped in her hotel room, and Smith was counting on her to complete her mission. But no one could have foreseen such a reversal.

As the hours ticked by, she had an ominous feeling she couldn’t shake, that her life was hanging in the balance. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up and she had an unsettling feeling that would not quit.

When she could no longer tolerate her insomnia, she picked up the phone and ordered a chamomile tea from room service, hoping it would calm her jangling nerves. When the drink arrived, she splashed a bit of rum in it from her trusty flask. Yet she still had a nagging feeling that something was wrong.

Her eyes fell on her purse. It sat on the nightstand near her bed, just within her reach. She opened it, took out the pistol, and rehearsed priming it so she could use it in a tight spot. She needed to have the movements go like clockwork. There was no room for failure in this business. Luckily it only weighed two pounds. That made slipping it into her pocket easier. The magazine was already loaded with seven bullets. Seven chances to save her life. She gripped the pistol in her right hand and racked the slide, then added a bullet to the barrel. Now it was ready. She flicked the lever to “safe” and set the pistol down on the nightstand. Perhaps now she could sleep.

She lay down, pulled the sheet around her, and turned off the light. She closed her eyes and tried to relax, but she could not fall asleep.

Outside, the moon cast a luminous glow on the surroundings. Crickets croaked their nightly serenade and the stars lit up the heavens. The palm fronds billowed in the breeze. The waves crashing on the rocks sent an ominous warning. Emma found it difficult to sleep in a different bed, and impossible to relax when she had so much on her mind, so much responsibility on her shoulders.

She got up and peered outside. Despite the late hour, there were still people milling about, laughing and heading to restaurants and casinos. Horse carriages trotted past while motorcars meandered down the streets, their glowing lights like the eyes of a puma. Sounds of amusement echoed from the restaurant below. Lights shone from the ships in Manzanillo Bay, creating a scene that was idyllic, almost peaceful. Further out, she could see the lights on the ships waiting to enter the canal. There was a long line of them that suspended off to the horizon. Each one had its own purpose and destination. Each one could be sunk at any time by German torpedoes or hidden bombs. She shivered. An explosion along the canal would cause chaos for the Allies. The Kaiser would gloat in his victory. His generals and their underlings would launch even more attacks. Emma could picture Luckner in his office toasting his triumph, patting himself on the back even as the embers of the canal still glowed.

She went back to bed and covered herself with the sheet, trying to block out her worries. But it was impossible. She had a sense of impending doom. And for some strange reason, the hairs on the back of her neck stood up.

Suddenly she heard a scratching noise near her door. A man’s footsteps shuffled just outside. She froze and listened, not daring to move. Someone was fumbling with the lock, trying to break in. She sat up in bed, listening. She felt her heart stop. Yes, somebody was trying to break in.

She fumbled in the dark for her pistol. She grabbed it, flicked the safety to “fire” then eased herself off the bed. Crouching down on the floor, she listened as the noise continued ever so slightly that it was barely detectable. She sat behind the bed, aiming the pistol, not daring to breathe.

The latch turned and the door opened, allowing just enough light from the hallway to illuminate the figure of a man entering her room. When he was inside, he closed the door behind him and latched it. Her eyes widened. He tiptoed toward the bed and raised his hands as if to attack. Emma’s heart pounded as she released the pistol break and held her breath.

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About the Author

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Sophie Schiller was born in Paterson, NJ. She is a novelist and a poet. She loves stories that carry the reader back in time to exotic and far-flung locations. Kirkus Reviews has called her “an accomplished thriller and historical adventure writer.” Publishers Weekly called her novel, ISLAND ON FIRE, “a memorable romantic thriller”, her novel RACE TO TIBET, “a thrilling yarn,” and her TRANSFER DAY, “a page-turner with emotional resonance.” Her novel, THE LOST DIARY OF ALEXANDER HAMILTON, was called, “an engaging coming-of-age story of heartbreak, bravery, honor, and triumph” by Kirkus Reviews. She graduated from American University, Washington, DC and lives in New York.

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