Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Renny de Groot reviews The Bowes Inheritance by Pam Lecky

Today Renny de Groot reviews The Bowes Inheritance by Pam Lecky. The author has kindly offered a signed paperback as a giveaway. To be in with a chance of winning this fabulous story, simply leave a comment below of on our Facebook Page.
The winner will be drawn on 28th February 2018.
Good luck!

Dublin 1882: When determined but impoverished Louisa Campbell inherits a large estate in the north of England, it appears to be the answer to her prayers. Her younger sister, Eleanor, is gravely ill, and believing the country air will benefit her, they take up residence at Bowes Farm. However, they soon realise all they have inherited is trouble. Their mysterious benefactor’s reputation leaves the young women battling to gain acceptance in polite society, especially with Nicholas Maxwell, their handsome neighbour and local magistrate. Louisa unearths secrets from their family’s past that threaten their future and she must dig deep to find the courage to solve them before their lives are destroyed. But most importantly of all, can she trust and love the man who is surely her sworn enemy?
The synopsis of The Bowes Inheritance by Pam Lecky had me intrigued from the start, and I’m delighted to say that the book did not disappoint. The beautifully designed cover, with its lowering skies and dark stone background, hints at the darkness that may surround the innocent woman. The icons of the well-deserved awards let us know that we can settle back to enjoy a great read.
The characters, especially the protagonist, Louisa Campbell, are well developed and believable. From the first page I was drawn to these two sisters and their challenges. In Louisa, Lecky has given us a young woman who is strong but caring. For any Downton Abbey fans, imagine Lady Sybil Crawley; a person who takes control over her destiny, within the constraints of the times. The secondary characters are interesting and move within the story in an authentic way. I would have liked to understand more about Aunt Milly, one of the lesser characters, but it is a testament to the author that I came away wanting to know more about her people.
The plot seems to follow the common romance standards; however, the many twists and turns keep the reader guessing and interested. There are enough characters involved in the story to develop a plot that intrigues. Will this woman fall in love with this man? Or perhaps that man. Or will the obstacles be too much for them to find common ground? I enjoyed speculating on the various potential outcomes. The historical elements are woven through the story to provide a well crafted and researched read. The sub-plot of the Fenian activities of the times added a dimension to the story that take it out of the ordinary. It is these historic and action-driven elements that transform this book from a simple romance to much more. It is a drama that captures aspects of mystery, action and yes, romance.
The book is made especially enjoyable by the authentic treatment of setting. I often felt that I was right there walking along with the characters in the well-detailed scenes, like this early one in Dublin:
“She loved the hues and earthy scents of autumn, and Stephen’s Green was a favourite place for her to enjoy them. The park’s pathways were a quiet and tranquil oasis in the centre of the bustling Dublin streets.”
Lecky takes the reader on a journey where one can almost taste the salt of the ocean spray and feel the wind as it comes down from Scotland to Cumberland. She uses all the senses to allow us the pleasure (and heartache!) of feeling what the sisters go through as they try to settle into their new life. The dust of the closed-up rooms tickles our noses and the gardens welcome us to come in for a stroll or to sit under an arbour of roses and honeysuckle.
The dialogue is well crafted. There is a natural back-and-forth flow between the characters that feels authentic and believable. The language used is spot-on for the times and keeps us grounded in the story. I enjoyed the clear distinction between the voices of the characters. Louisa is at times delicately sarcastic as befitting a strong woman chafing at the social constraints of the times, while her sister Eleanor, is softer and gentler. I could hear their voices, moving the story forward with the tidy dialogue.
As mentioned earlier, there were one or two threads that felt unfinished or less fleshed-out, but perhaps that was consciously done, both to keep focus on the movement of the main story and/or to allow for future development. I would definitely like to see a sequel to this story, although it is satisfying and complete as it stands now.
In summary, this is a book you’ll want to put on the ‘to read’ pile. It’s a well developed historical fiction which crosses the boundaries between romance, mystery and thriller.

 About the Author:

 Pam is an Irish writer of historical fiction with a particular love of the late Victorian era and early 20th century. Her debut novel, The Bowes Inheritance, was awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion; was shortlisted for the Carousel Aware Prize 2016; made 'Editor's Choice' by the Historical Novel Society; long-listed for the Historical Novel Society 2016 Indie Award; and chosen as a Discovered Diamond in February 2017.

She has also published three short stories. In Three-Quarter Time is a love story set against the backdrop of WW1 in her native Dublin. The second, The Lighthouse Keeper, is a contemporary ghost story with an eerie link to the past. Recently she has published, Christmas at Malton Manor, a Victorian Christmas romance.

To buy the book: The Bowes Inheritance

About the reviewer:
Renny deGroot is a first generation Canadian of Dutch parents. Her debut novel, Family Business, was shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, 2015.  Her second novel, After Paris, has also been well received, with the current interest in all things WW1.  Renny has a BA in English Literature from Trent University.
Renny lives in rural Ontario with her elderly Chocolate lab, Great Pyrenees and young Golden Retriever. 
Where to find Renny:

Friday, 16 February 2018

Diana talks to... Sebnem E. Sanders

Hi Sebnem, thank you for agreeing to talk. Have you a question you would like to ask yourself? If so, ask your own question and answer it! 

Why do I write in English although my mother tongue is Turkish? Because my education in English has allowed me to express my freest thoughts in this language, without having to worry about race, nationality or religion. In my opinion, three aspects that separate humanity. I'm a universal person who believes in humanity first. English is spoken by 360 million people in the world, so it has as a wide audience.

What is the genre you are best known for?
Fiction with a touch of fantasy.

If your latest book was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role?

My debut book, Ripples on the Pond,  is a collection of short and flash fiction stories. There are many characters, so it's difficult to say who I'd imagine to play the lead role in each tale. I'll give a few examples, hoping I'm not taking up too much space. There are two stories with the character Leila: Fear of Falling and Home. To me she is Meryl Streep, as I imagined her to be in my manuscript The Child of Heaven where she is the leading character. Then there is Isabelle in The Appointment. I think Sharon Stone would fit perfectly into the role. In Amber Street, there is a character called Harry. Young, innocent, and vulnerable. Ryan Gosling would be an ideal choice. I imagine Daniel Day Lewis in the role of the blind columnist in The Leader on the Corner, Jeremy Irons playing the writer in The Muse, and Anne Hathaway, as his muse.  Marvin in Angel's Cove has young Robert Redford's features and sun-streaked hair, and Paul Newman's blue eyes.

What made you choose this genre? The muse?
I don't choose genres, I'm multi-genre, I think. The stories to be told choose me. As well as writing longer work, I've been writing flash fiction for the last four years. Some of my stories have been published in online literary magazines in UK, the US, and Canada. This gave me the courage to publish an anthology containing 70 stories, out of a collection that had close to 130.

How do you get ideas for plots and characters?
They whisper to me their stories, and I try to keep up with the voices in my head. Sometimes a place tells a story, so the characters evolve with their tales that fit the setting. Two such stories are Selma of Soghut and Laurel Island.

Favourite picture or work of art?
Many. Anything by Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, Edward Hopper, Modigliani, Nuri İyem and Avni Arbaş ...

If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!)  you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?
Fantasy Fiction, set in parallel universes. I'm working on it. I believe in multi-verses.

Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously.
Writing has always been an enjoyable pastime since I was very young. I liked creating stories. I got around to writing longer work after I was 50.

Marmite? Love it or hate it?
At the beginning, I hated it because it was so different, foreign. Then I got addicted to it.

Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...??
Coffee in the morning to wake up, a drink in the evening to relax. I listen to music and dream. Music inspires me. I also love art. Paintings tell me stories, so do films. And nature, the night sky, the sea, the beach, the mountains, quaint towns, ancient settlements. Books inspire me. I think one must keep reading and observe life to write. Art inspires art.

I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters?
My characters and the story that needs to be told.

Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?
Singing. I love it, and dancing.

Coffee or tea? Red or white?
Coffee and red wine, but I also love champagne.

How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way?
I have an outline, but it's not strict. I must know the end, otherwise I cannot start. However, the plot usually finds its own way,  according to the actions or moods of the characters. 

If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?
I'm not fond of Times Roman. I like Calibri or Arial better.

Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be?
Anything related to Atlantis. Did they exist? Were they aliens? What happened to them?

Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head??? If so how did you cope with that!?
They do all the time. Yesterday, I was working on a new chapter and the MC did something unexpected. It seemed out of context. I'm not sure whether to keep it or not. I've been thinking about it. Maybe, maybe not.

How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips?
I research all the time. I try to write from firsthand experience, but we forget. So I re-visit on Google images/earth and tours, until I get it right. I haven't written about a setting I haven't been to, unless it's a fantasy where I have created a new world. Regarding facts, sometimes one has to read an entire book to get a statement or a sentence right.

Fiction authors have to contend with real characters invading our stories. Are there any ‘real’ characters you have been tempted to prematurely kill off or ignore because you just don’t like them or they spoil the plot?
I don't like dictators, leaders who limit the freedom of thought. So I ignore them. I pretend they don't exist. Ignoring is non-existence. 

Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this?
A story is a story. Fiction is not reality, it's a version/interpretation of  reality. I think it's called poetic licence. So I feel free to manipulate reality. If I were writing non-fiction, I couldn't do that. 

Do you find that the lines between fact and fiction sometimes become blurred?
Naturally they do. Fact is fact, fiction is fiction. But who says fiction is not another version of reality? A reality in other dimensions, multi-verses, endless possibilities, sliding doors, and a quantum probability?

Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?
I like the good guys and disapprove of the bad guys, but I know the bad exist as well as the good. So I accept them as they are because they're part of life. Isabelle in The Appointment is a manipulative character, she'll do anything to get what she wants. The character in Shards of Glass has a doppelganger, an evil twin. Both Ivan, in Virginia Creeper, and Bernard, in A Kind of Love, are weird characters with strange obsessions. They represent the dark side of us. Humans are complex creatures, with their weaknesses and strengths.

What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?
I like to read paperbacks, not Kindle. I think I like contemporary fiction most, but anything written well will hold my attention, as long as it has a gripping plot. A good book is a good book, regardless of the genre.

What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book?
This is a difficult question. Soft: herbal teas, coffee, fizzy mineral water  Hard: Wine, champagne or Scotch

Last but not least... favourite author?
Another difficult question. There are many: Iris Murdoch, D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath, Paul Auster, Yaşar Kemal, Paulo Coelho, Margaret Atwood ...

Thank you Sebnem. Thank you also for telling me the way to pronounce your name: Shebnem ! This has been really interesting and enlightening and I have to tell you how much I LOVE the cover of your book. I could sit and stare at that for hours

© Diana Milne January 2017 © Sebnem E. Sanders January 20th, 2018

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Sharon Reviews Lea Croft by Angela Rigley

Today Sharon Bennett Connolly reviews Lea Croft by Angela Rigley. The author has kindly offered an ebook as a giveaway. To be in with a chance of winning this fabulous story, simply leave a comment below of on our Facebook Page.
The winner will be drawn on 21st February 2018.
Good luck!

The sleepy village of Lea Croft in Victorian Derbyshire is awoken when the body of the farmer's son, Herbert Grant, is found down a gully. Martha Holloway suspects her husband, Charlie, of killing him in revenge for her being assaulted by him in the past. When Charlie goes missing in a landslide, to make ends meet, Martha has to find a job at the farm, where her younger sisters, Jessica, aged 15, and pregnant by an unknown father, and Charlotte, work as milkmaids. Charlie reappears but tells her not to tell anybody he is still alive. Herbert's brother, Ronald, fancies Charlotte, but will he pluck up the courage to tell her? He is arrested for Herbert's murder. But will he be found guilty, and what happens to Charlie?
If I am honest, I wasn't sure what to expect of Lea Croft, when I picked it from the Review reading list. I certainly wasn't expecting a hard-hitting, down-to-earth murder mystery drama that sucks you in and leaves you guessing to the very last paragraph. Angela Rigley has created a wonderful tale of life in a small, sleepy Derbyshire village, centred around the death of a man, Herbert Grant, who no-one liked. It is not giving away a spoiler to tell you the book opens with Herbert's death - possibly murder - an event which awakens the sleepy village and leads to endless speculation as to what happened and who did it.

Poor Martha Holloway is then drawn into the story, suspecting her husband, a brute of a man it is not easy to like. Martha is a wonderful creation, the lead protagonist and a downtrodden woman trying to balance work, her family and her fears. A 24-year-old mother of two, with two teenage sisters to keep an eye on, too, she tries her hardest to hold everything together.

 Six-year old Tommy Holloway ran into the kitchen where his mother, Martha, stood kneading bread. "Mam, Mama, they've found a body!"
"Really, dear? How nice." She wasn't really listening, as her thoughts were elsewhere.
"But, Mam ... it's a real one."
"A real what, darling?" She looked up, brushing her floury hands over her heart-shaped face.
"A ... real ... body." Hands on hips, defying her to mistake his meaning, he glared, his little uptirned nose twitching.
"A person?"
"Yes, Mam, in the gully. They say it looks like its been there ages."
"A man or a woman?" He finally  had her full attention.
"Um." Screwing up his face, he scratched his nose. "I don't know. It's just a body. I'm going ot see if Jimmy's playing. He always knows everything." He pulled his cap over his long fair hair. MArtha had been intending to cut it for the last week oor so, but had not found the time.
She took off her apron. "I'll come with you. This is something I don't want to miss."
Grabbing her hand, he dragged her out the door. "Come on then. Quick, before they take it away."

Growing up in South Yorkshire, close to the Derbyshire, I know the area in which Lea Croft is set. The book does an excellent job of evoking the atmosphere of country life in Victorian England. The locations are beautifully recreated and the language draws the reader back, not only to the era but to the location. Colloquial words are used sparingly, but are all the more noticeable as a result, such as 'snap' for a packed lunch - said to come from when the tin snaps closed - and 'trump' for flatulence.

The novel itself is a wonderful creation; the story of how a community reacts to a suspicious death within its midst, an event that may not have happened before within living memory The simple, tight-knit community is suddenly suspicious and distrusting. How would you feel, knowing that someone in your midst is a murderer?

Despite the subject matter, this is not a dark, scary book. And Angela Rigley pulls off an incredible balance, between telling the  story of a murder, and the everyday lives of the inhabitants, to give us a unique, unmissable novel.

About the author

I am married to Don, have 5 children and eight grandchildren and live in Derbyshire. My hobbies include singing in my church choir; genealogy, having traced ancestors back to 1520; gardening; flower arranging; playing Scrabble; Sudoku; meals out; family gatherings; and, when I have any spare time I love to read. I am the treasurer of Eastwood Writers’ Group. At church I am an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, a reader, a flower arranger and a member of the fundraising team for Cafod, my favourite charity. In the past I have written hymns, words and music, although I cannot read music. You can find me on Twitter: @angierigley, Facebook, LinkedIn, and my website is

About Sharon Bennett Connolly

Sharon has been fascinated by history for over 30 years.She has studied history at university and worked as a tour guide at several historic sites. She has lived in Paris and London before settling down back in a little village in her native Yorkshire, with husband James and their soon-to-be-teenage son.
Sharon has been writing a blog entitled 'History...the Interesting Bits' for a little over 2 years and has just finished her first non-fiction work, 'Heroines of the Medieval World'. The book looks at the lives of the women – some well known and some almost forgotten to history – who broke the mould; those who defied social norms and made their own future, consequently changing lives, society and even the course of history.

Sharon can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Heroines of the Medieval World,  is now available in hardback in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon UK and worldwide from Book Depository. It is also available on Kindle in both the UK and USA and will be available in Hardback from Amazon US from 1 May 2018.