Blog Tour: Moonlight Over Studland Bay by Della Galton

Animal loving Samantha Jones is on a mission to ‘live the dream’.

When best friend Abby has a beautiful baby boy Sam’s priorities change and she realises she wants more from her life.

Uninspired with her dull day job Sam plans to expand Purbeck Pooches, her seaside pet sitting business into a full-time career and embarks on a mission to find her perfect man.

Sam soon hits trouble. Her boss accuses her of moonlighting. The perfect man is frustratingly elusive and her parents make a shock revelation.

The odds are stacking up against her but Sam finds that sometimes when you reach for the moon, you get a handful of glittering stars thrown in for free.

What I Thoughts:

I’m sure most of us bookworms get that little buzz of excitement when presented with a book that is set in places we’re familiar with – such was the case for me when I spotted Moonlight Over Studland Bay by Della Galton.

In actual fact Della Galton is so local to me that, a few years ago, my friend and I took one of her writing workshops on short fiction. Although the course itself was excellent it clearly showed me that, while everyone may have a book in them, in my case that’s probably where it should stay!

Anyway, luckily for us, Della Galton is a skilled writer who truly understands her genre. I always say that there is a certain inevitability about romantic fiction, in that we know that it will have a happy ending but that it’s the getting there that is the fun – and this book definitely brings the fun!

Sam is a great character, immediately tapping into the feeling that a lot of people have of being stuck in a job that they cannot get passionate about – it pays the bills, but does not feed the soul. But Sam has a plan to start her own company looking after pets in the beautiful Studland Bay area of Dorset. Where romance is concerned, having been hurt in a previous relationship, she has no plans but could that all be about to change now that her house mate Abby has had a baby?

Of course! Although Sam is still dedicated to getting her business going, thoughts of starting a family can’t help but intrude and there are plenty of candidates – on and offline – to choose from. But as with all these things, it doesn’t go quite as smoothly as planned.

I loved this book – the local setting just added an extra cherry for me on top of an already lovely cake. I read quite a bit more romantic fiction these days – of variable quality – but I find that Boldwood Books has a knack of picking some real gems. Lovable characters, a proper romantic fiction ending and an eyebrow-raising plot involving Kunekune pigs makes this book a hit for me!

Moonlight Over Studland Bay is published by Boldwood Books.

To find out more about Della Galton and her work, you can check out her website, where you can also enquire about her writing courses (Covid permitting!). Alternatively, you can connect with her on Twitter.

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the publication of Moonlight Over Studland Bay – why not have a look at some of the other participating blogs below?

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book via Netgalley for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

EVERYONE WANTS TO BE A ROANOKE GIRL. BUT YOU WON’T WHEN YOU KNOW THE TRUTH.

The girls of the Roanoke family – beautiful, rich, mysterious – seem to have it all. But there’s a dark truth about them that’s never spoken. Either the girls run away… or they die.

Lane is one of the lucky ones. When she was fifteen, over one long, hot summer at her grandparents’ estate in rural Kansas, she found out what it really means to be a Roanoke girl. Lane ran, far and fast. Until eleven years later, when her cousin Allegra goes missing – and Lane has no choice but to go back.

She is a Roanoke girl.

Is she strong enough to escape a second time?

What I Thought:

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel is a perfect example of a book that deals with incredibly unpalatable subject matter, but in a way that is utterly compelling. I’m generally a wuss with things that make me uncomfortable but Lane is such an incredible character that I just had to stick with her.

When you see that this book begins with a quote from Nabokov, you can make an educated guess at what being a Roanoke Girl means, but a couple of chapters in it is laid out plainly for you and from that point on, I was reading practically through my fingers but I could not look away.

The parts told from Lane’s point of view – both in the past and present – bring out the weirdness of Roanoke and its residents. The way the house itself is described is as an isolated oddity, with almost a personality of its own. There is an old adage ‘If these walls could talk…’ and it almost seems like the house is imbued with menace.

Roanoke and the town it’s in – Osage Flats – is in rural Kansas and Amy Engel uses the intense heat of the area as a perfect way to echo the tension among the main characters. While Lane is initially unaware of anything untoward in the flashback sections of the book, upon her return she is older, wiser and has left unfinished business behind her. The sense of claustrophobia that this brings is beautifully written.

This is a very dark book but, aside from that aspect of it, the mystery of Allegra’s disappearance is well done, and resolved in an unexpected way. Amy Engel does a great job of making us really feel for this troubled girl and also for Lane and for such a dark book, the ending is surprisingly hopeful!

The Roanoke Girls is published by Hodder & Stoughton.

To find out more about Amy Engel and her work, you can check out her website. You can also connect with her on Twitter.

Please note: I received this book from Netgalley for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: A Wing and a Prayer by MW Arnold

When Betty Palmer’s sister dies under suspicious circumstances whilst landing her Tiger Moth, Betty and three other women pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary in WWII England unite to discover who killed her and why.

Estranged from her family, Penny Blake wants simply to belong. American Doris Winter, running from a personal tragedy, yearns for a new start. Naturally shy Mary Whitworth-Baines struggles to fit in. Together though, they are a force to be reckoned with as they face the mystery that confronts them.

Against the backdrop of war, when ties of friendship are exceptionally strong, they strive to unravel the puzzle’s complex threads, risking their lives as they seek justice for Betty’s sister.

What I Thought:

An historical mystery, set during World War 2 you say? Dominated by a cast of strong women? Sold!

A Wing and a Prayer is MW (Mick) Arnold’s debut novel, and only the first in The Air Transport Auxiliary Mystery Club.

I find the ATA aspect fascinating – if you read anything about that incredible organisation and the (mostly) women who put their lives on the line to deliver factory-new planes across the UK during WW2 it really is worth your time. The planes these women flew were not equipped with weapons and often without radios so they really were flying with all of their skill, on long days and with all the stresses of combat crews, but barely any of the recognition.

The fact that that ladies in this book turn out to be budding Miss Marples as well is a bonus! Betty Palmer’s sister meets her demise in the early stages of the book and the author then takes the bold step of choosing the ‘Columbo’ school of mystery writing – he clearly shows us the villains of the piece, and the fun part of the mystery is seeing them get their comeuppance!

The historical detail of this book is excellent – many of the details of the military life are obviously due to MW Arnold’s having served in the RAF and he obviously knows his stuff where the ATA is concerned.

It’s great to see a group of women comes to the forefront in a book about the war as, very often they are seen in these types of books as wives and girlfriends – something that very much diminishes the contribution of women to the war effort.

A Wing and a Prayer is published by The Wild Rose Press.

To find out more from MW Arnold, and about his plans for the future of this series, you can check out his website. You can also connect with him on Twitter.

This post is part of a blog tour celebrating the release of A Wing and a Prayer. For more reviews and exclusive content, be sure to check out some of the fantastic blogs listed in the sidebar.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: The Mersey Estuary: A Travel Guide by Kevin Sene

Stretching for around thirty miles to the coast, the Mersey Estuary is perhaps best known for Liverpool’s spectacular waterfront and the Mersey Ferry. But there are many other hidden gems along its shores, including waterside parks, sandy beaches and poignant reminders of the days of steamships and sail.

The Mersey Estuary: A Travel Guide provides suggestions for places to visit along the estuary, from its upper reaches in Warrington to where it meets the sea at New Brighton and the Sefton Coast.

Along the way, the book calls in at Widnes, Runcorn, Ellesmere Port, Port Sunlight, Birkenhead, Liverpool and Formby Point, and includes an interesting mix of walks and cycling routes, ranging from a couple of hours to a full day out. 

What I Thought:

Another non-fiction selection today and a trip to the North West to take in Kevin Sene’s excellent The Mersey Estuary.

My husband’s family is from Liverpool, so it’s the place that I know perhaps a little better than others, but still there was plenty in this guide to learn and interesting places to bookmark and visit when Covid-19 allows!

Although when you mention the Mersey, people’s minds turn to Liverpool and the famous ferry, the whole course of the Mersey features ancient and modern historical sites that are worth seeking out and Kevin Sene has selected the best to view via walking and cycling routes in the area.

As a for instance, did you know that the remains of the first wet dock in the world (built in 1715) can be viewed under the Liverpool 1 shopping complex? The industrial heritage doesn’t end there, with information on the development of docks and ship building from Birkenhead to Widnes and Manchester and the author provides a wide range of links and publications for you to research further, or develop your own visits to the area.

Aside from the the historical aspects of the guide it is, after all a travel guide, so there is lots of information on indoor and outdoor activities that can be undertaken in the area, aside from the described walks, and a whole chapter dedicated to the wildlife you might see on the Mersey, thanks to clean-up efforts in recent years.

The guide is crammed full of maps and photos to help you plan your visit to the area, all indexed so that you can dip easily in and out of the guide, depending on the area you wish to see. I read the guide straight through, but I think I will get much more out of it once we select a specific area and look at those pages in more detail.

For a comprehensive guide to Mersey and surrounding areas, you couldn’t get much better than this and I look forward to using the book as a starting point for future excursions – Covid-19 allowing!!

The Mersey Estuary: A Travel Guide is published by Matador.

KEVIN SENE is a scientist and writer with an extensive knowledge of the maritime history, wildlife and environment of the estuary, and is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Now based in Edinburgh, he is a regular visitor to the area having lived in Warrington for many years, and also posts articles on the Mersey Estuary, Cumbria and beyond at https://www.meteowriter.com.

This post is part of a blog tour for The Mersey Estuary: A Travel Guide. Why not check out some of the blogs below for more reviews of this excellent title?

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: Immortal by Jessica Duchen

Who was Beethoven’s ‘Immortal Beloved’?

After Ludwig van Beethoven’s death, a love letter in his writing was discovered, addressed only to his ‘Immortal Beloved’. Decades later, Countess Therese Brunsvik claims to have been the composer’s lost love. Yet is she concealing a tragic secret? Who is the one person who deserves to know the truth?

Becoming Beethoven’s pupils in 1799, Therese and her sister Josephine followed his struggles against the onset of deafness, Viennese society’s flamboyance, privilege and hypocrisy and the upheavals of the Napoleonic wars. While Therese sought liberation, Josephine found the odds stacked against even the most unquenchable of passions…

What I Thought:

You can always count on publisher Unbound to have some really interesting projects to back, or books to buy. Take Immortal as a for instance – an historical fiction book that not only expands on a popular theory about Beethoven’s life but also examines the early wisps of feminism and the concept of universal education.

Told through the eyes of Countess Therese Brunsvik, who introduced the first pre-schools to Hungary, Jessica Duchen develops the theory that Therese’s sister, Josephine, was the intended recipient of a letter found after Beethoven’s death and addressed to ‘Immortal Beloved’. Whether or not that is true, it is a creative way in to the sniping and gossip of Vienna during the Napoleonic wars.

I really enjoyed this book. The historical elements and scene setting were done with a very light hand. The research needed to produce this book must have been phenomenal, and yet it is delicately used to pull us deep into Beethoven’s public and personal life. The way Jessica Duchen relates Beethoven’s response to his growing deafness is very sensitively done and it tugs at the heartstrings to see the great composer losing his hearing, rather than just knowing the bare fact that ‘Beethoven was deaf’.

Writing this enduring mystery into historical fiction is a great move, allowing the author to present a possible set of answers without worrying about having it contradicted! It also allows much greater exploration of the characters involved – Therese’s inner thoughts were particularly interesting as she begins to think about her situation as a woman, and how unfair the system is for her and the women in her life.

The music of Beethoven is woven tightly into the narrative in this book – Jessica Duchen describes select pieces as they come into the lives of the Brunsvik family and it’s amazing how you can almost hear the music from her descriptions. I know a few Beethoven pieces, but there is a feast here to choose from in exploring further.

I think the power of this novel is that, while it is about Beethoven’s life, you could lift those real-life characters out of the story and drop fictional ones in and it would still be a compelling, accessible and highly intriguing novel. The fact that the plot is, potentially, close to true events is the icing on the cake!

Immortal is published by Unbound.

To find out more about Jessica Duchen and her work, you can check out her website. Alternatively, why not connect with her on Twitter?

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the publication on Immortal – why not check out some of the other blogs below for more reviews and exclusive content?

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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