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AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT JEAN MEAD

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT 

Welcome to a new series. A showcase of writers who’s books I’ve enjoyed and whose company I relish. Writing is such a lonely occupation that the online friendship of fellow wordsmiths is a must.

The first author is the wonderful Jean Mead. Have you read Hannah? A wonderful book and I’m about to start on the next one, Hannah’s inheritance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean’s interest in writing historical fiction began at school where English and history were the only subjects she actually enjoyed. The history teacher was brilliant, and when she told tales of the past – the ring of clashing swords, the cries of battle, and the sobs of those to be beheaded were brought to life and held Jean enthralled.


The English teacher was appalling! Unable to control a class she would tell the children to write a story. Most of the pupils would groan but Jean was in her element. Whilst writing she forgot she was in a classroom which was a real bonus. As an adult it was second nature to write short stories and soon these began to appear in magazines in America, Australia, Ireland and the UK. An ambition to write a novel began quite by chance when she came across derelict Dorothea Quarry, an astounding beautiful and haunting place. Stepping over the rusty wire of a wrecked Blondin, the idea of The Widow Makers came to her. There was extensive research as she knew nothing of the slate quarries of North Wales, or the lives of the men working there in the 19th century. With no internet at that time, research was done in libraries, museums, archives in Caernarfon and Penrhyn Castle. There was a great deal of travelling between her renovated chapel in the Welsh hills to Caernarfon and hours of ploughing through ancient documents. The driving force at this time was to write the story of Joe Standish, a fictional quarry worker.

The first book in the series The Widow Makers 1842-1862 was traditionally published in 2005 and republished in 2012.The Welsh Books Council awarded a Literary Grant for the publication of the second book The Widow Makers: Strife.

 

 

 

 

 

Book three and four The Widow Makers: Road’s End and Tommy followed fairly promptly. While still living in North Wales, her home overlooked by an old slate quarry, Jean wrote Freya 800 AD. A Viking era book portraying the life of a woman living more than a thousand years ago at the beginning of the Viking raids on Britain. Research took her to longhouses, longships and museums in Ireland. Discovering how our northern ancestors really lived.

It was a strange decision, one prompted by her then agent Sylvia Land that Jean embarked on writing a psychological thriller Kate’s Secret. Because historical fiction is Jean’s forte it wasa difficult project. Though she did enjoy writing without stop-start research a historical novel demands.


Jean soon went back to her comfort zone of historical fiction and Hannah and Hannah’s Inheritance were created.The book in progress is another historical and based in Cornwall in 1803. With no thought of retiring from writing, she plans to carrying on until the Big Editor in the Sky takes out his redpen. When relaxing with a book Jean chooses to read historical fiction. Some favourite authors are Judith Arnopp, Mary Wood, Elizabeth Chadwick, Dauphne du Maurier to name just four.

Jean moved to Brittany in 2016 and has settled in a very rural environment. She loves the peace and quiet where the loudest sounds are made by the birds.

THANK YOU, JEAN. NEXT TIME IT’S THE TURN OF SUZIE TULLETT, WRITER AT BOMBSHELL/BOOKOUTURE.

Jenny x

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Edie Browne’s Cottage by the Sea. 

Book Blurb

Hurtling through the sky was supposed to be Edie Browne’s flight of independence. But when she falls head over champagne bucket while celebrating her successful landing, her life is changed in an instant. 

But starting over has its benefits, and as Edie relearns the basics under the watchful eye of her Aunty Josie and an entire Cornish village of new friends and neighbours, she finds love and joy she never could have imagined in the unlikeliest of places… 

Come home to St Aidan and Periwinkle Cottage for a romance full of love, laughter and friends for life!

Available here 

My review

Before I start I have to admit to loving Jane Linfoot’s writing. But this book is different. Deeper. More profound and tackles complex issues. There’s a new depth here, previously unseen and I would encourage Jane to delve deep and continue writing such excellent prose – prose with an underlying thread of tragedy. Writing is one of the hardest of professions. It’s not just sitting in a room by yourself, hour after hour staring at a blank screen, although that’s part of it. It’s dredging through ones personal life experiences, oftentimes at the expense of personal trauma and emotions. 

I loved this book so much. Edie overcomes so much more than one would expect in her quest for happiness. 5 shiny ones ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ x
  

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MISSING IN WALES – cover reveal

As a book reviewer as well as a writer I rarely get the change to share my own work and that’s just as it should be. There are so many great authors out there and I always feel a fraud when I step up to the plate but here goes…

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I started this book May of 2018 and it took three months to write. the inspiration coming from a dream. It’s had more rewrites than I can even remember and, with the success of The Stepsister, which hung around the top 100 psychological thrillers on Amazon for five weeks, and that with no advertising, I sort of lost my nerve. What if this new series  wasn’t as good was my mantra. But, I’m now 50 percent into the next in series, which has the working title of STABBED IN WALES and I need to bite that very hard bullet and share my baby.

Some of you might ask why Wales? You’re Irish aren’t you and living in Guernsey? Yes. Yes and yes but…I’ve been visiting Wales since a toddler and my parents upped sticks and moved there when I was 17. I emigrated too when I finished my studies so Wales feels like home now as well as Guernsey. Most of my family live there and I even have a niece that’s pretty much  fluent in Welsh – how cool is that!

The book

There’s no getting away from the fact that this is a sad book and, if you told me 12 years ago, when I started my writing journey that I’d write something like this I’d have laughed. But things change and, as time’s gone on my writing has become darker. I love nothing more than curling up with a light-hearted romance but this story isn’t one of them. I’m worried it may be too dark but only my reviews will tell me that.  Now it’s off my hands and I have 40.000 words to write on the follow-up…

Blurb

Missing in Wales, the first in an exciting new Welsh-set crime series by Jenny O’Brien. The next in series, Stabbed in Wales, will be available shortly.

Izzy Grant thinks her life is over when her partner of nine-months abducts their seven-day old daughter, Alys. After five years there are still no clues. Despite advances in police technology it’s as if they’ve disappeared into thin air. That is until Grace Madden turns up…
DC Gabriella Darin, recently transferred from Swansea, is brash, bolshie and dedicated. Something doesn’t fit with the case and she’s determined to find out just what happened all those years ago.

Available to pre-order here for 99p/c

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Anne Allen – The Inheritance

Book blurb

How close were Victor Hugo and his copyist?

1862 Young widow Eugénie is left bereft when her husband dies suddenly and faces an uncertain future in Guernsey. A further tragedy brings her to the attention of Monsieur Victor Hugo, living in exile on the island in his opulent house only yards away from Eugénie’s home. Their meeting changes her life and she becomes his copyist, forming a strong friendship with both Hugo and his mistress, Juliette Drouet.

2012 Doctor Tess Le Prevost, Guernsey born though now living in Exeter, is shocked to inherit her Great-Aunt’s house on the island. As a child she was entranced by Doris’s tales of their ancestor, Eugénie, whose house this once was, and who, according to family myth, was particularly close to Hugo. Was he the real father of her child? Tess is keen to find out and returning to the island presents her with the ideal opportunity.

Will she discover the truth about Eugénie and Hugo? A surprise find may hold the answer as Tess embraces new challenges which test her strength – and her heart.

Available here

My review

The Inheritance is a duel-timeline mystery and like the other novels in the series, set in the beautiful Island of Guernsey.

Dr Tess Le Prevost decides to settle on the Island following inheriting a house in Hauteville near to that of Victor Hugo’s famed Guernsey residence. But, on her arrival she finds the house in disarray and a puzzle to be solved.

What exactly was the relationship between her ancestor, Eugénie Sarchet and the famous scribe?

Oh my goodness I sat down to read this over a few days only to pretty much devour it in one sitting. The characters, all of them, just jumped out from the page and into my lounge, dragging me kicking and screaming from any thoughts of the ironing or even what to make the kids for their tea! I was bowled over by the in-depth level of research that author, Anne Allen, carried out in forming this novel. It felt like she opened a door in my mind to allow me to travel across time and to the world of Victor Hugo in the 1860’s, right down to the clothes they wore, the food they ate and the words that they said. I loved the added contrast of the modern-day characters. Eugénie felt so real that the first thing I did on finishing the book was to contact Anne to find out a little more about the facts behind her book. I adored the character of Tess. Her relationships with both of her estranged parents adds spice as does her growing affection for the local builder she engages to sympathetically renovate her property. There’s also lots of local humour, language and even the odd ‘bloney’ that makes this a must read for anyone with Guernsey roots.

The Inheritance is a beautiful book that will stay with me longer than many others in that genre – a favourite read of 2019 and one that I can highly recommend.

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Poppy’s Recipe for Life – Book review 

Book blurb

Things haven’t always been straightforward in Poppy’s life but her dreams are finally within her reach.

She’s moving into a cottage in beautiful Nightingale Square, close to the local community garden, where she can indulge her passion for making preserves and pickles. She may not have the best relationship with her family but she is surrounded by loving friends, and feels sure that even her grumpy new neighbour, Jacob, has more to him than his steely exterior belies. 

But the unexpected arrival of Poppy’s troubled younger brother soon threatens her new-found happiness and as the garden team works together to win community space of the year, Poppy must decide where her priorities lie and what she is prepared to fight for …

My review

Ooh my Easter weekend read and what a goodie. I’ve been saving this, wanting to leave the best till last. This had me both laughing and crying in equal portions. I loved the central character of Poppy as she saves both herself and the day in this gorgeous life-reaffirming read. Here Swain helps the reader press pause on all the nasty bits in their life like housework and, well more housework and dip into the wonderful life around Nightingale  Square. 

Poppy is the earth-mother type; a woman, if we all had the time, we’d love to be. But growing your own fruit and veg to make into wonderful chutneys and jams is a dream for many and not the reality. Jacob, the male lead, has everything a woman could ask for including having a difficult past and an iron-clad front that takes a brick or, in this case, sweet Poppy to storm through. I can’t help feeling we’ll here more from the characters in and around Prosperous Place and hurrah for that…

Pre-order here 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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How to maximise that word count

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Procrastination is the word of the day. There’s nothing I like better than dreaming up ways to wriggle out of writing and yet I must be doing something right as I’m currently working on book number 12. Twelve books in as many years but, in truth, it did take me an age to finish the first one but I’ve honed my way of writing now.

The first book

Boy Brainy, only twenty-thousand words but, oh my. I never thought I’d get it started let alone finished. I like to say it took six-months to write and six years to edit but that’s not true. It took six years to hold my courage in both hands and self-publish.

Boy Brainy was written the good old-fashioned way with pencil and paper in my fifteen-minute coffee breaks at work. I can speed write about 200 words in those minutes so I was writing 1000 words a week, typing up late into the night when my kids were asleep (3 kids under 4 in those days).

To this day I still always carry around a pencil and notebook but I rarely use it for more than note-taking.

My Current book

I’m working on the second in a crime thriller series set in Wales, the first is finished and in the pre-publication stage. These days I like to write ten-thousand + words a week and again, my lifestyle is such that I have to cram my words in and around my day job and three teens. How I write has changed too. Whilst I don’t favour one medium over the other I use both typing and voice recognition to rack-up that word count.

What I do

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Bear in mind I’m not a techie so if I can do this anyone can.

After years of trying other programmes I still write in Word but both on my laptop and phone and, instead of buying voice recognition software, I manage just fine with the built-in programmes on my devices. I don’t use it all the time but it’s easier than typing on my mobile.

But, what I’ve also done is set up OneDrive, an online Word storage programme and synced it with both my phone and my Laptop. So, now with auto-save a permanent feature of both devices I can work on the move on my phone, all the changes automatically saved to my Word document. I can’t tell you how much time this has saved and, those words keep just building-up.

I know there are other ways out there but, for someone like me who doesn’t know a RAM from a terabyte, it works.

Happy Writing x

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The Flatshare – Beth O’Leary

Blurb

Tiffy and Leon share a flat

Tiffy and Leon share a bed

Tiffy and Leon have never met…

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.
But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window..

My thoughts

I’ve just placed my Kindle down after finishing this amazing book and my first thought is jealousy. I’m not jealous of the writer, well,  I am a bit. What writer doesn’t regret not dreaming up iconic books like this! No. I’m jealous of you, the reader. The reader who’s yet to read this delight. I do re-read books again on occasion but it won’t be the same as the first-time round. 

In the blurb this has been stylised as a Richard Curtis rom-com, a director I admire hugely (Notting Hill is one of my favourite movies, more later on that below). But, whilst I can see the parallels I think The Flatshare roots stretch much further back to the halcyon days of cinematography and Billy Wilder. Who can forget those classics like Some Like It Hot and The Seven-Year Itch and, of course not forgetting  The Apartment: all comedies but ones that deal with particularly challenging issues just as The Flatshare does. So, dear reader don’t expect pink fluffy bunnies when you read the blurb. This isn’t a light read although the idea of two people sharing a flat and never communicating or even meeting, except through the medium of Post-It notes is quite frankly ridiculous. It’s the stuff of dreams although, I believe, inspired by a true situation that the author experienced. 

Tiffy, God, I loved Tiffy. She’s kooky (think of, the greatly missed,  Emma Chambers portrayal of Honey in Notting Hill but red-haired and taller and you’ll be able to conjure her up). Like Honey she’s unlucky in love and has made some bad choices in the past, choices that find her pretty much homeless and unable to afford anywhere to live in London except sharing a flat with, palliative-care night-nurse, Leon. Leon has his own financial worries, all his money going on lawyers fees in order to secure the release of his wrongly imprisoned brother. 

The scene is set. The characters are strong, the writing stronger and the plot….well, I’m not giving away any spoilers but, if this little slice of literary delight doesn’t pretty much clean up the 2019 rom-com/up-lift market I’m in the wrong job! 

A million yellow, shiny, pointy thingamajigs. 

Thank you to Beth O’Leary for putting a good word in with Hannah Robinson for the ARC. 

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A Summer to Remember, Sue Moorcroft.

 
Blurb

WANTED! A caretaker for Roundhouse Row holiday cottages.

WHERE? Nelson’s Bar is the perfect little village. Nestled away on the Norfolk coast we can offer you no signal, no Wi-Fi and – most importantly – no problems!
WHO? The ideal candidate will be looking for an escape from their cheating scumbag ex-fiancé, a diversion from their entitled cousin, and a break from their traitorous friends.
WHAT YOU’LL GET! Accommodation in a chocolate-box cottage, plus a summer filled with blue skies and beachside walks. Oh, and a reunion with the man of your dreams.

PLEASE NOTE: We take no responsibility for any of the above scumbags, passengers and/or traitors walking back into your life…

GET IN TOUCH NOW TO MAKE THIS A SUMMER TO REMEMBER!

Available to pre-order here

My review

OMG, where to start.

Life is never quite the same when cousin, Alice does the dirty on groom, Lee on the day of their wedding. But, as so often happens, history repeats itself when Clancy’s fiancé is caught with his trousers around his ankles. The only place she can go to lick her wounds is back to Nelson’s Bar and the holiday cottages half-owned by her cousin.

If you’re expecting a gentle romance that wanders along to the inevitable HEA or HFN then think again. This book is a rollercoaster that takes the reader through more emotional loops than Blackpool Towers. I just loved the character of Clancy who roared off the page and wasn’t prepared to sit back and take the poo that everyone seemed to be flinging in her direction. Nelson, the adorable dog, needs a special mention as does Daisy. However what struck me most was the clever way the writer addressed the plot issues of what is a very complex read. Here the good guys come out on top, the bad guys lose and the in-between ones, you know the sort – the ones that unwittingly harmed the mc through no fault of their own. Well, wait and see. This is up there with my best reads of 2019 and I predict will be in my top ten. 

Ten gold ones 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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One Summer in Paris – Sarah Morgan


Book blurb

One charming Left Bank bookshop, two unlikely friends, and a summer in Paris that will change their lives forever…

Grace can’t believe it when her husband of twenty-five years announces he doesn’t want to join her on their anniversary trip to Paris – instead, he wants a divorce. Reeling from the shock, Grace makes the bold decision to go on this holiday of a lifetime alone.
Audrey leaves behind heartache of her own when she arrives in Paris. A job in a bookshop is her ticket to freedom, but with no money, and no knowledge of the French language, her summer adventure seems doomed to fail. Until she meets Grace, and everything changes…
Living in neighbouring apartments above the bookshop, Grace and Audrey form an unlikely friendship. They came to Paris to find themselves, but finding each other might be the best thing that’s ever happened to them. 


My thoughts

There are so many things I could say about this book. The superb opening that had me glued to the page from the very start. The amazing Paris location. The main characters of Grace and Audrey, one young and strong, the other middle-aged and damaged – both fighting a darkness… But the only thing you really need to know is that this is Morgan’s best novel to date.

Morgan is in my top 5 of romantic writers. There’s just something about her books that strikes a cord, maybe because we’re both nurses, I don’t know but I’ve read pretty much everything she’s written. But recently there’s been a shift in her writing since How to Keep a Secret. it’s different, stronger, more traumatic. Yes, there’s the guaranteed HEA but the route to that end has so many twists and loops to give any Satnav a power surge. 

One Summer in Paris follows the intricate and complex lives of two strangers, destined to meet on a Parisian boulevard. Two strangers who, in the normal way wouldn’t give the other a look. But something binds them together, a past history that weaves in and out of the storyline. Morgan plays on Grace and Audrey’s differences (age, looks, social circumstances) and yet manages to untangle  the thread that makes them almost mother and daughter. All this set in one of my favourite places in the world and with the backdrop of a dusty treasure-trove of a bookstore. 

Now all I need to do is add A Wedding in December (her Christmas, 2019 offering) to my TBR pile – I have a funny feeling it’s going to be amazing…

10 stars 

Available to pre-order here 

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The Housewife, Valerie Keogh


Blurb

There’s no place like home” – that’s what I tell myself as I pull another flawless meal from the oven. This perfect house on a quiet street was supposed to be my sanctuary, a place to recover. But everything changed the moment I saw that woman in the charity shop. She triggered something dark, buried deep within my memory…

Now I’ve started forgetting small things, like locking the front door.

And bigger things, like remembering to pick my little girl up from nursery.

I feel terrified every time I pass through a particular spot in our living room.
And sometimes, when I’m alone, I’m sure I can hear a baby crying…
I think the woman in the shop knows what happened to me. But if I can’t trust myself to believe she’s real, who will?

Available here

My review

NB, I wrote this review last week, before I’d seen the cover. OMG,  I just love it – the raw beauty of that blue and then the red – it just pops out at you. Even though I’ve read I’ve just gone ahead and pre ordered anyway just because of it. 

I’ve long been a fan of Valerie Keogh, my go to writer for nail-biting reads. Okay, so her Hudson/Connelly does make me feel a little uncomfortable but there’s something fundamentally wrong about a psychopathic murdering nurse don’t you think? Her Garda West series, more formulaic but with stunning locations and unusual plots is pure genius. 

But enough about that. The Housewife is the second of Keogh’s thrillers under the auspices of Bookouture. Secrets Between Us, my favourite thriller of 2018, her first. But this one is very different.

I don’t know if any of you are fans of Irish literature but there’s shades of that famous of all famous Irish playwrights, Seán O’Casey’s Kitchen-sink masterpiece, ‘Juno and the Paycock’, to be found amongst the pages of The Housewife. Keogh has taken a situation, a day in the life of a housewife and turned it inside-out and upside-down. After all there’s little to find that’s exciting in the day-to-day chores of washing, ironing, shopping and cleaning for a husband and small child – rewarding perhaps but exciting? No. But there’s something lurking, some element just out of the corner of the reader’s eye that is uncomfortable. Amongst the cooking and cleaning the husband is a little too controlling. The drive for Diane to be that impossible of all things – perfect – unsettling. And when she decides to try and get back into the workplace after a period of ill-health? Tragic.

There are no heroes between the pages of Keogh’s novel. There are no millionaires, yachts, blonde bombshells or other unrealistic characters. Here Keogh has made the ordinary extraordinary. The monotonous, riveting. Housework will never seem the same again and housewives? They each have a story to tell. 

More please.