Excerpt & Giveaway: The Big Dreams Beach Hotel by Lilly Bartlett

Morning all! Today’s post is a double treat for all of you looking for a beach read for what’s left of the summer (where’s the sun gone!!??), as not only can you read about The Big Dreams Beach Hotel, but you can also enter a contest to win a copy of Lilly Bartlett’s previous novel, The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square. If that wasn’t enough, I also have the first three chapters of The Big Dreams Beach Hotel for you to download and read to whet your appetite!

Wriggle your toes in the sand and feel the warm breeze on your face at the hotel that’s full of dreams…

Three years after ditching her career in New York City, Rosie never thought she’d still be managing the quaint faded Victorian hotel in her seaside hometown.

What’s worse, the hotel’s new owners are turning it into a copy of their Florida properties. Flamingos and all. Cultures are clashing and the hotel’s residents stand in the way of the developers’ plans. The hotel is both their home and their family.

That’s going to make Rory’s job difficult when he arrives to enforce the changes. And Rosie isn’t exactly on his side, even though it’s the chance to finally restart her career. Rory might be charming, but he’s still there to evict her friends.

How can she follow her dreams if it means ending everyone else’s?

Click on the image below to begin reading the book, and then pop back to enter the contest…

And now for the contest!

You’re warmly invited to the Wedding of the Century with all your favourite friends. It’s the most vintage fun you’ll have this year!

To WIN a personally inscribed paperback of this gorgeous book, simply sign up here: http://eepurl.com/b96-Yz

Winners will be randomly selected and notified on August 18th via the email used to sign up.

The Big Dreams Beach Hotel is available to buy in ebook from 18th August, published by Harper Impulse.

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Blog Tour: Marked for Death by Matt Hilton

It should be a routine job. Joe Hunter and his associates are hired to provide security for an elite event in Miami. Wear a tux, stay professional, job done.

But things go wrong.

Hunter is drawn into what appears to be a domestic altercation. When he crosses the mysterious Mikhail however, he soon finds something altogether more sinister…

Before long this chance encounter has serious repercussions for Hunter and his friends. Good people are being killed. On the run, in the line of fire, the clock is ticking.

What I Thought:
Even after 11 books, Marked for Death, the twelfth book in the Joe Hunter series shows no signs of the hero slowing down. Matt Hilton has written a fast-paced novel, with a tight plot and a thoroughly detestable villain.

This is the first of the Joe Hunter thrillers that I’ve read, but after doing so I would definitely be interested in going back to the earlier novels to see Joe Hunter’s character forming, as there ae some small references to earlier situations, but they don’t spoil the overall plot.

I was really impressed that this novel was bang up-to-date, with references to the current US President, and the final dastardly plan is clever in its execution, and not revealed until almost the end of the novel.

The characters are well written, and there is real emotion as bad things happen to Hunter’s colleagues – it all adds up to a worthwhile thriller, full of action and intrigue.

Marked for Death was released by Canelo on 17th July. This review is part of a blog tour, which is still ongoing – do check out some of the fantastic blogs below for exclusive content, reviews and interviews with Matt Hilton.

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Blog Tour: To Provence, With Love by T. A. Williams

Over the past few months, I’ve been delighted to take part in two blog tours for books by T. A. (Trevor) Williams – and he is such a prolific author that I am pleased to say that this is another!

As is my habit, I will review To Provence, With Love at a later date, but having read it, I’d happily recommend it as a summer read. Heavy on the romance, and with a little bit of mystery thrown in, it’s definitely a satisfying book.

For today, though, Trevor has been kind enough to answer some questions for me, about his background and writing process:

You’ve been writing since you were 14 – what gave you the push to take up writing as a career after so many years?

I spent my working life in a language school and it could be quite a full-on job, especially in the summer, so I wrote in the evenings for relaxation. I had written six or seven books (I lost the manuscript for one of them in a house move…) by the time I retired (I am very old – 68), but nobody in the publishing world had shown any interest in them. Then, miraculously, Carina (now HQ Digital) took my book, “Dirty Minds” in 2013, and that was the encouragement I needed. Since then I haven’t stopped.

What’s the best money you ever spent to further your writing – training? publicist? Etc

Buying a good pc. As I said above, I am very old and my first books were typed on a battered old portable typewriter. I am a TERRIBLE typist (two fingers on a good day, but a mistake every line) and you can imagine what a mess my manuscripts looked. I spent a fortune on Tippex. Then, suddenly, with a computer, you can copy and paste, spell check and seamlessly correct.

I’ve read books by you set in Italy, France and Spain – what is it about the continent that makes for a great setting for a romance novel?

When I was running the International School, I travelled pretty much all over the world, but I just love Europe. Europe has the scenery, but it also has the history (one of my passions). I did French and German at university and then spent 8 years living and working in Italy. I speak a bit of Spanish, too, so I feel very comfortable in most European countries. Also, the distances are so small, compared to, say, the USA or Australia. People can jump on a plane in England in the morning and be in Rome for lunch.

You are a hugely prolific writer, where do you get your inspiration for such varied settings and characters from?

I only ever write about places I know and have visited. So, I tend to choose places either that I already know and love, or would like to visit. For instance, my next book will be set in Florence and we lived there for 4 years. The one after will be in St-Tropez and my wife and I went over for a few days last month just to get the flavour of the place. Somehow, I don’t think you’re going to see a book from me set in Pyongyang any time soon. As for the characters and plot, I wish I knew. They just sort of happen (if I’m lucky).

Which is longer? Your writing process or your editing process?

Ha, ha, a very good question. I write very quickly (once I’ve made up my mind what the book’s going to be about). An 80,000 word book usually takes me less than two months. However, the next stage is to give it to my wife to read and then I edit according to her comments. After that it goes to the publishers and they can ask for two or even three rewrites of bits. And then it goes for copy editing to somebody who changes all my semi-colons to colons or whatever. So, if the first draft takes 2 months, the editing process probably takes twice that.

Where do you come up with names for your characters – are they random, or based on people you know or meet?

The heroine of “To Provence, with Love” is called Faye. I borrowed this name from Faye Rogers, who organises my blog tours. I’m currently writing a book where the main character is called Debbie – I used to work with a very nice girl called Debbie. So, although I have been known to trawl through baby name websites, I mostly tend to use names of people I know. One thing’s for sure – you’ll never find a Trevor in any of my books. I’ve hated the name since I was a kid.

If I may say, as a male author, you write your female characters extremely well – what do you think gives you an insight into the female psyche?

Thank you, but I would be very rash if I were to claim that I have really got a handle on the female psyche. I spent most of my working life in an environment where most of my colleagues were female and no doubt that gave me a bit of an insight. In my writing, I get a lot of help from my wife and my editor, who is a girl in her twenties. One thing I have learnt is that you lot think a lot more than we men do. If somebody is rude or unkind to me, I tend to just shrug it off. A woman, I feel sure, would try hard to analyse the motivation behind. Similarly with emotions. Men, I think, tend to take things much more at face value. Women seek a deeper meaning behind actions. I’m constantly being told by my editor to “get inside her head”.

I know you write in a broad range of genres, but to focus it down, why romance novels?

Various reasons – the first very pragmatic. Two thirds of all books are bought and read by women (allegedly), so it makes sense to write with the female reader in mind. Second – I have always liked happy endings (not just in books, but in life generally), so I chose romance because it (generally, but not always) leads to a happy ending.

If you could recommend one of your novels as a starting point for your body of work, which would it be?

Mmh, not sure. All my books are standalone, so there’s no need to begin with any particular one. I’m convinced that my writing has developed over the past few years. The fact that “Dreaming of Venice”, my last book before “To Provence with Love,” has been so very popular is probably because I have learnt from my previous books. It is a continuous learning process. Having said that, I would maybe suggest “What Happens in Tuscany”, the first of the five “What happens…” books, as one to start with. Although I shouldn’t have favourites, this one is definitely one I like a lot.

You are happy to admit that there is a Black Labrador in your books whenever you can fit one in – can you introduce us to your Black Labrador?

The inclusion of a black Lab in all my books is a little homage to Merlin, our wonderful old Lab who died a few years ago. I’m not a religious person and I don’t believe in reincarnation, but if it exists, then Merlin must have been somebody very special in his former life. He was a rescue dog who had been seriously mistreated and could have had deep mistrust for and hatred of humans as a result. Instead, he was the sweetest, softest woofer in the world. We no longer have a dog – my wife was so broken up when he died, she vowed she didn’t want another – so I get my vicarious canine fix through my writing.

In To Provence, With Love, Claudette’s home-made biscuits have a starring role – do you have a biscuit recipe that you swear by (or love having made for you)?

Me, cook? I’m afraid the only cooking I do is on the barbecue. That’s one of many reasons why I chose to marry an Italian. She’s a great cook. As for biscuits, I’ve had a lifelong addiction to Chocolate Hobnobs (nb always best from the fridge). Just go into the supermarket and save yourself the trouble of making them.

Huge thanks to Trevor for taking time out of writing his next book to answer these questions – having not started the ‘What Happens in…’ series, I’ll definitely be picking those up!

To Provence, With Love was published by HQ Digital on 12th July. The blog tour for this book is ongoing, with lots of other exclusive content and reviews featured on the blogs below, so do check them out if you can.

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Book Review: Gather the Daughtes by Jennie Melamed

On a small isolated island, there’s a community that lives by its own rules. Boys grow up knowing they will one day reign inside and outside the home, while girls know they will be married and pregnant within moments of hitting womanhood.

But before that time comes, there is an island ritual that offers children an exhilarating reprieve. Every summer they are turned out onto their doorsteps to roam wild: they run, they fight, they sleep on the beach and build camps in trees. They are free.

It is at the end of one of these summers, as the first frost laces the ground, that one of the younger girls witnesses something she was never supposed to see. And she returns home, muddy and terrified, clutching in her small hand a truth that could unravel their carefully constructed island world forever.

What I Thought:
Tinder Press is really becoming a must-watch publisher, with fantastic titles like Gather the Daughters popping up all over the place. My first response after reading this book was just ‘whoa’, and even after a little while to digest, it’s still difficult to articulate my thoughts on it.

Any book that starts out with an isolated cult is automatically bound to interest, but as the book unfolds and we learn more and more about this cult, the more sickening and distasteful it becomes. In the folklore passed down through the families, the country was burned to the ground, and ten families escaped to an island, living in a traditional way, and writing their own holy book governing how they live. At the first sign of bleeding, daughters are married, and are grandmothers by the time they are in their late twenties, expected to take their final draft when they are no longer useful.

What is not immediately clear, but that unfolds as you read without an explicit explanation, is that daughters are expected to ‘lie under their fathers’ until they marry, and then ‘lie under their husbands’.

The families all practice different skills and professions, with some being ‘wanderers’ who are allowed to travel back to the wastelands to trade, or bring in new families when they are needed to better the society, and it quickly becomes clear that they are not telling the rest of the families the truth.

The outlook for the daughters is bleak, until one autumn, Janey Soloman, a girl who refuses to grow up and marry, leads a group of girls to live on the beach. As each girl thinks more about what her lot in life is, and what it will go on to be, more and more join, discontent with being used as breeders and having no future to look forward to, but in a society controlled by the fathers, can the daughters ever hope to change anything?

The world in this book is so beautifully written, with the claustrophobic society reflected in the mean wooden house and endless mud of autumn. There is also a real sense of frustration – the only way to leave the island is by the ferry, manned by the ferryman, but no girls are permitted to go there – even if the girls can swim, where will they go? How can they ever change their lives?

Janey is a remarkable character, having the courage to try and write her own story while her entire society brands her as mad, leading the girls to go against their tradition while being unsure of herself as a leader. Vanessa is also an intriguing character, having the spark to have her own ideas, but still just a little too unsure to disobey her father.

This book is dark, and chilling, but it reveals the intricacies of the community at such a perfect pace, never explicitly saying ‘this is what’s going on’, but giving enough signposts for you to cotton on. It’s similar in many ways to The Handmaid’s Tale, but it is informed by real, clinical knowledge of psychology which makes each girl all the more real.

Gather the Daughters is published by Tinder Press on 25th July. To find out more about Jennie Melamed, please do check out her website, her Facebook page, or you can connect with her on Twitter.

Note: I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: Lost Boy by Christina Henry – Writing in Other People’s Worlds

Good morning all you lovely people! I’m absolutely honoured to be taking part in the blog tour for Christina Henry’s Lost Boy today – having finished the book, I can’t begin to tell you how fantastic it is. A retelling of J M Barrie’s Peter Pan, or rather something of a prequel, we see pretty quickly that all is not as bright and innocent in Neverland as we have been led to understand.

I’ll post a review at a later date (Spoiler alert: it’s likely to be positive!), but today I’m hosting a piece written by Christina Henry looking at why we retell the stories we love, and a sneak-peak into the story of Lost Boy…

Playing In Other Writer’s Sandboxes by Christina Henry

Why retell stories? This is a question I am asked fairly often, and I would argue that humans have been retelling stories almost since they started telling stories in the first place. Each generation’s storytellers takes elements from stories they heard as children. They’ll mash those elements with their own ideas and suddenly the story becomes something completely new.

Even the so-called “classic” fairy tales do this. If you’re familiar with the Greek story of Cupid and Psyche there are an awful lot of similar elements in the French story “Beauty and the Beast” as well as in “Cinderella”. And elements of “Beauty and the Beast” also turn up in the Norse tale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”.

Storytellers love to take familiar plots and give them a twist. When you take an existing story and adapt it for your own you are making a connection – a connection with every storyteller who told their own version of that story, and a connection with every audience that has loved some variation of that story. It allows the writer to create a kind of shorthand with the audience – if you like “x”, then you’ll find familiar things in this new version of the story. We take comfort in the familiar and relish the new that’s mixed in, and something fresh and original is created from that mixture.

J.M. Barrie’s PETER PAN is one of those novels that has the feeling of myth, just as Lewis Carroll’s ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND does. We have a kind of cultural memory of these books – everyone knows who Peter Pan and Tinker Bell and Captain Hook are even if they haven’t actually read the original. That cultural memory allows me to create that shorthand with the audience. It gives me an entry point that all readers can start from.

When I wrote LOST BOY I wanted to answer a single question – Why does Captain Hook hate Peter Pan so much?

As I read and re-read PETER PAN to my Peter-obsessed son I kept wondering – why does this person, this adult, continue to hang about Neverland harassing a bunch of kids? Isn’t he a pirate? Doesn’t he have pirate things to do? And surely those pirate things would involve leaving the island and stealing treasure, not trying to kill one eternally-young boy.

I wondered and wondered, and then I thought that Captain James Hook had been a boy once. And maybe that boy had loved Peter Pan, loved him the way all of his lost boys seemed to adore him in Barrie’s original novel. Only love could turn into something as corrosive and consuming as the hatred Captain Hook has for Peter Pan.

Captain Hook was once a boy called Jamie, and he was the first and best of Peter’s lost boys, and he loved him.

But Jamie didn’t know the real Peter.

Peter lies.

Come along to a Neverland where nothing is as it seems, and one of the greatest villains of all time may not be the villain of the story at all…

Lost Boy was published by Titan Books on 4th July. To support this, the blog tour is still ongoing, so do check out some of the brilliant blogs below for reviews and exclusive content.

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Book Review: The Last Son’s Secret by Rafel Nadal Farreras

Among the olive groves and vineyards of southern Italy, a boy and a girl are born, moments apart. Far away in the trenches of World War I, their fathers have just died. Now all the men in Vitantonio’s family have been wiped out – all twenty-one. All except him.

Growing up together, war seems far away for the two children. But Vitantonio’s mother will do anything to protect her son from the curse of death that seems to hang over the family – and so she tells a lie. It is a lie that will bind Vitantonio and Giovanna, the girl who shares his birthday, together over the years. But as the clouds of another war begin to gather on the horizon, it may ultimately drive them apart…

What I Thought:
As part of my personal reading challenge this year, I am trying to read more books in translation – there are so many fantastic books out there in other languages and, sadly I won’t be able to work on the languages, but I certainly intend to seek out more translations to add to my wish list.

The Last Son’s Secret, originally written in Catalan, is beautifully translated into English by Mara Faye Lethem, and retains all the pace, emotion and drama of the original text.

I am a sucker for a wartime, historical novel, and while the lion’s share of the novel takes place between the wars, it serves in some instances as a useful history lesson – for example, I had no real idea that Italy fought with the allies in World War One, before forming a alliance with Germany by the 1930s. There is also a great deal written about the French resistance during the German occupation, but this book also provides an introduction to the Italian resistance and anti-fascists that were also working against the Germans.

While there is a lot of factual information, and real-life events in the novel, it is skillfully interwoven with the fictional characters, and so never seems like a ‘facts overload’. The narrative is very clear and focused, using the real events to add drama and tragedy into the story of Giovanna and Vitantonio. This is particularly evident in the World War 2 sections, where we have seen the two characters grow up from babies, but now follow them as adults, as they make their own decisions and follow their own paths.

In terms of readability, the book starts out at a good pace, then there is a minor lag as we watch the children grow up, but I wonder if this is just the nature of the idyllic lifestyle shown here? The pace picks up again as the threat of war looms and the World War Two sections are packed with action and very quick to read.

This is the first of Rafel Nadal Farreras’ novels to be translated into English, and I would definitely read more, should they become available.

The Last Son’s Secret was published by Black Swan on 29th June. For more information about the author and to read an extract of the novel, you can take a look at the book’s page on the Penguin website.

Note: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

When Liv and Nora decide to take their husbands and children on a holiday cruise, everyone is thrilled. The ship’s comforts and possibilities seem infinite. But when they all go ashore in beautiful Central America, a series of minor mishaps lead the families further from the ship’s safety.

One minute the children are there, and the next they’re gone.

What follows is a heart-racing story told from the perspectives of the adults and the children, as the distraught parents – now turning on one another and blaming themselves – try to recover their children and their shattered lives.

What I Thought:
What a nightmare situation to be in! Ask any parent their worst fear regarding their kids, and aside from the usual fears that they’ll get into drugs or never have a job, it’s got to be the kids going missing.

In Do Not Become Alarmed, Maile Meloy captures all the intense feelings that would go along with the disappearance of your children – even the title of the book is perfect, as the families in the book are told this numerous times, all while their world is falling apart!

This book was definitely refreshing to read, as it is a new – and dramatic – take on the domestic drama. There are things afoot in these two families, secrets, inequalities, feelings of inadequacy and all come to a head on what should be a peaceful Christmas cruise.

Looking from the outside it’s easy to see that these are priviledged families, with spoiled children who have never had to lift a finger and it’s compelling to watch the kids try to cope when they are lost, and when they are in real danger of their lives, not really realising that the people they turn to for help could do them actual harm. It’s good too to see Noemi’s story and the contrast of her journey to that of the American children is a real insight.

Told in alternating chapters between the kids and their parents, this book is as close as one would like to come to having children disappear, with real edge-of-your-seat writing and some awful, unimaginable scenes, it is the combination of the big, dangerous experiences of the children and the quiet, nightmarish panic from the parents that really makes this a brilliant read.

Do Not Become Alarmed is published by Penguin on 6th July. To find out more, check out Maile Meloy’s website.

This review is part of a blog tour in advance of the release of Do Not Become Alarmed. There are lots of other great blogs taking part, with reviews, extracts and exclusive content. Please do check them out as below:

Note: I was sent this book to enable participation in the blog tour and for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: You Don’t Belong Here by Tim Major

Daniel Faint is on the run with a stolen time machine.

As the house-sitter of a remote Cumbrian mansion, he hopes to hide and experiment with the machine. But is the Manor being watched by locals, his twin brother or even himself?

Daniel is terrified about what the future may hold but, as he discovers, there can be no going back.

What I Thought:

“The time machine in the back of the van shifted as Daniel pulled off the motorway.”

This line opens You Don’t Belong Here – so far, so intrigued. I think many of us are excited by the idea of time travel – what would we do if we could go back to a certain event, or what would we think if we could visit the future? The answer in this novel is not as simple as all that, and in fact it puts forward a new take on time travel that is expertly examined and revealed only in the last few pages.

Daniel Faint is an intriguing character – almost an anti-hero as he seems throughout the novel to be selfish and arrogant – so arrogant that he steals a time machine, with no knowledge of how such a device would even work. This does not detract from the novel though, as the reader has a vested interest in what will happen to him – perhaps he’ll blow himself up using the machine, or catapult himself into the very far future? Finding out is definitely rewarding!

Although I did enjoy the novel, and the premise, I found the pacing a little slow early on – from a dramatic beginning of Daniel being on the run with a time machine, the parts where he gets settled in Cumbria seem to lag a little, and I felt that he needed to get on and start testing the machine, as that was when the pace began to pick up.

Ultimately, the reveal of what has been going on with the time machine was paced well, and the drama of Daniel’s flight from the Manor met my expectations from the start of the book, so I would definitely recommend it to lovers of Sci-Fi.

You Don’t Belong Here is published by Snowbooks. To find out more about Tim Major, please do check out his website.

Note: I was sent a copy of the book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: Far to Go & Many to Love by Lesley Blanch ed. Georgia de Chamberet

Lesley Blanch, a Londoner by birth, spent the greater part of her life travelling about those remote areas her books record so vividly. She was an astute observer of places and people their quirks, habits and passions. This selection of her early journalism, essays and traveller’s tales forms an irresistible sequel to her posthumous memoirs, On the Wilder Shores of Love: A Bohemian Life.

Savvy, self-possessed, talented and successful, Lesley Blanch was a bold and daring writer; travelling at a time when women were expected to be subservient to the needs of husbands and children. Illustrated with photos and a selection of Blanch’s line drawings and with an insightful introduction by Blanch’s god-daughter, Far to Go and Many to Love: People and Places brings together writings on subjects as various as Vivien Leigh, polygamy and the Orient Express. She remembers life in post-war Bulgaria with her husband, the diplomat-novelist Romain Gary, and Christmas in Mexico with him. Specific places were of particular significance to her: the Sahara, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Afghanistan, Central Asia. Her descriptions make for disturbing reading given the cumulative impact of a century of war on the Middle East.

What I Thought:
To my shame and my cost, I rarely read non-fiction books, but when I do, I tend to enjoy reading about women who kick arse, and in Far to Go & Many to Love, Lesley Blanch confirms her membership of this club with her superb, descriptive writing.

In this new collections of her writings, Blanch’s god-daughter, Georgia de Chamberet lovingly curates a collection of images, illustrations and text creating both a beautiful book, and also a contemporary record of an age that has long since passed.

The first chapter of the book tells some of Lesley’s history – her time at art school, and her career designing sets and costumes for the Ballets Russe, mixing with escaped White Russians, and her tumultuous affair with the Traveller. It then moves on to her married life, and the beginnings of her wanderlust that led her around the globe, but back time and again to the Middle East.

Reading Lesley’s own writings on her time in the Middle East and the people she saw there, it’s clear that among her love affairs, the one she had with the region is just as real. Some of her descriptions of the ancient sites and relics she observed are more poignant, bearing in mind the devastating wars ongoing in that region, and the awful news of the destruction of some of the those sites, such as Palmyra. Through Lesley’s beautiful descriptions, we can get a sense of these monuments that is just not possible now.

Whether writing about people or places, Lesley Blanch’s writing is arresting and has real life to it – her piece about Vivien Leigh is a particular favourite of mine and, as I said, the whole collection is put together with such love and respect, that it is a fantastic introduction to the work of a remarkable woman.

The blog tour for Far to Go & Many to Love is ongoing, with the brilliant blogs below involved, with some fantastic, exclusive content, so please do give them a look if you can.

Please Note: I received a review copy of the book to aid participation in the blog tour. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh

Stepping off the boat in Mombasa, eighteen-year-old Rachel Fullsmith stands on Kenyan soil for the first time in six years. She has come home.

But when Rachel reaches the family farm at the end of the dusty Rift Valley Road, she finds so much has changed. Her beloved father has moved his new partner and her son into the family home. She hears menacing rumours of Mau Mau violence, and witnesses cruel reprisals by British soldiers. Even Michael, the handsome Kikuyu boy from her childhood, has started to look at her differently.

Isolated and conflicted, Rachel fears for her future. But when home is no longer a place of safety and belonging, where do you go, and who do you turn to?

What I Thought:
I was initially asked to be part of the Leopard at the Door blog tour, so was delighted to host a piece by Jennifer McVeigh about her idyllic African honeymoon. By reading that piece, you’ll begin to get some idea of Jennifer’s writing style which brings the landscape and wildlife of Africa vividly to life, and there’s much more of that in the book.

I love the story of how Jennifer came across the events described in Leopard at the Door, which she writes about on her blog – the idea that an elderly woman has kept photographs, news clippings and propaganda materials from a dark time in Kenyan history and lived through it, hoping that it would find a home and a voice is the sort of thing that keep me reading. In Jennifer McVeigh, that story has found an author that does it justice.

As difficult as it must have been to tease a narrative out of a suitcase of seemingly unconnected items, Jennifer has done this brilliantly, crafting a cast of characters who each have very different views on, and investment in, colonialism and all the things that entails. There are views from the British side, and those who have the most to lose if the Kikuyu succeed in bringing about a change and also the view from the native population who suffer the most under the British foot. Even Rachel’s mother – who has passed away before the events of the book – is described so vividly and longingly by Rachel, that she seems almost a living character within the book.

I was not previously aware of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, seeing as my knowledge of African history is shockingly poor, but I found enough historical information in the book to be able to set the scene in my own mind, without it being overwhelmed by facts and figures. It is interesting during further reading to note that, while it must have been a frightening time for white settlers, which comes across well from the book, fewer than 500 settlers were killed. This is in stark contrast to retaliatory attacks, in which thousands of Kikuyu were imprisoned and killed. It’s absolutely true that history depends entirely on perspective!

Although this book was an excellent read, and I do enjoy historical fiction, on some occasions it does make my blood boil. In this instance, Rachel is a young woman who knows her own mind, but events towards the end of the book are a hideous reminder of how far we have come – and how far we still have to go – before women are truly in control of their own fate. I don’t wish to spoil the end of the book, but it is a stark reminder that only half a century ago, a young woman could be completely at the mercy of her own family and have her liberty taken away if she did not toe the line. Thankfully, things have improved in this area!

To find out more about this book, and Jennifer McVeigh’s debut novel, please do take a look at her website. You can also catch up with her on Facebook or Twitter – whichever is your poison!

Leopard at the Door is published by Penguin.

Note: I was sent this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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