Review of ‘The Body At Carnival Bridge’ by Michelle Salter

‘The Body At Carnival Bridge’ by Michelle Salter is a mystery set in the 1920s, and follows the life of journalist Iris Woodmore. After spending time abroad, Iris is back home and hoping to return to work on her old paper. Things have changed in Walden. Local businesswoman Constance Timpson has brought in equal pay for woman in her factories, and the right for married women to continue working. Not everyone is happy about this. When one of the workers is murdered, Iris starts investigating, and finds that many other women may be in danger, including Constance. Can she uncover the culprit before it is too late?

I love the strong women characters in Michelle Salter’s stories. Not just Iris. She writes them well, and ties their lives in with historical events of the time. Iris is a force of nature and has no intention of staying in her ‘place’, as dictated by the mores of the time.

This book dealt with real issues of the time. Issues that women were faced with every day. They were woven cleverly into a wonderful mystery. I loved it.

I was given this ARC for review

Review of ‘Outcast’ by KJ

‘Outcast’ by KJ is a whirlwind of a fantasy adventure story, with lashings of lovely romance thrown in. Talented metalworker, Rhiannon Clarke I having a terrible week. Her identity is stolen and there are some decidedly dodgy thugs on her tail. When she falls through a portal at the back of the laundromat, her week is about to become a whole lot stranger. The land of Bruela is definitely not Melbourne, and the inhabitants insist on renaming her Sevich. Her talent for manipulating metal make her important to them and she must decide if going back home is what she really wants. Especially since she has feelings for Ori, a princess of the realm. 

I liked the world building. It was impressive, and not at all stuffy. There were medieval elements, but it was built on, and the imagined universe was cleverly constructed. Although this was a love story, it was also a fantasy adventure.

With her usual irreverent and down to earth style, KJ took the reader on quite a ride. Sev didn’t take herself seriously and the humour really added to the story. The parallels to some pertinent issues of our time impressed me, and I found the novel thought-provoking. A very enjoyable read.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Stolen Ambition’ by Robyn Nyx

‘Stolen Dreams’ by Robyn Nyx is set in the world of Mexican drug cartels, where escaping the clutches of the drug lords is a dream to which few can aspire. Luca Romera has been betrayed and finds herself trapped on a drug farm, with little prospect of a free life. Marissa Vargas, the beautiful and kind daughter of the cartel boss, has her own reasons for wanting out. But freedom seems just as elusive for her. As the pair become entwined in a fight for survival, they must rely on each other, and hope that they can flee before anyone finds out. Will their growing feelings for each other be enough to keep their dreams alive? And will they ever break free from the desperation and fear of life under Marissa’s evil father?

We can always rely on Robyn Nyx to ramp up the tension, and this story was no exception. The suspense was immense and I couldn’t put it down. She pitched the fear of living under the drug lords perfectly. It was brutal and scary, and individuals meant nothing to those making money from their labour. I could feel the sense of hopelessness in those forced to toil in the fields.

The relationship between Marissa and Luca was intense, emotional, and so passionate. It‘s the best written love story between any of her characters. I’ve read all of her books so far and this tops them all. It felt so real and immersive from the start. Being forced to share a plan for escape pulled the women together, but the attraction was already there, and grew stronger as they fought to survive the carnage.

I also appreciated the various ‘Easter Eggs’ scattered throughout the story. If you’re a fan of lesfic, you’ll pick up on those quickly. A brilliant story I can see myself going back to again and again. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Murder At An Irish Bakery by Carlene O’Connor

Set in County Cork, ‘Murder In An Irish Bakery’ is the ninth in this series, and a very welcome addition. Garda Siobhan O’Sullivan is asked to keep an eye on a reality baking show taking place in an old mill in town. Excitement amongst the villagers peaks when it is revealed a very famous celebrity baker will be taking part. But it’s not all sweetness and light, when the competition show a ruthless determination to win. When one of them dies on day two, Siobhan and her husband, Garda Macdara Flannery, are called to investigate. Can they find out who is behind it all – and can they solve it before anyone else dies?

One thing is sure about this book – you’ll get hungry reading it. I couldn’t help but crave something sweet every time I picked it up. The bakery descriptions are yummy. 

Carlene O’Connor has a wonderful light touch, bringing humour into all of her stories. She weaves a great mystery, making her readers really think. There’s kindness too, and a family feel. I love that Siobhan’s family are part of the story – and the many villagers and colleagues.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘The Lady Of The Loch’ by Elena Collins

‘The Lady Of The Loch’ by Elena Collins is a dual timeline story, set in the beautiful Scottish Highlands. The year is 1307, and King Edward’s army is rampaging through Scotland, murdering and thieving as they try to capture Robert The Bruce. Kitchen maid Agnes flees one of the castles taken over, hoping that the Lord and Lady of Ravenscraig Castle will give her shelter. Dreams of love and a future seem attainable when she spots a handsome young warrior swimming in the nearby loch. But his loyalty to The Bruce may keep them apart as the country fights for independence.

In the present day, twins Zoe and Leah take a chance to change their lives. A job at Ravenscraig Castle is exactly what Leah has been looking for, and Zoe is determined to support her sister. But why doesn’t anyone last working there? Is the rumour of a ghost scaring them off? The women shrug off the stories, and plan to make a success of the opportunity. But the pervading sadness surrounding the castle affects them too. Will they be able to fix a centuries old wrong and bring peace to the castle again?

I enjoyed the supernatural nature of the story, which is subtle and doesn’t overpower. Leah and Zoe feel the intensity of the ghostly sadness and despair, and slowly they realise they may be able to make a difference. It was spooky at times, but it was not scary. 

The dual timeline works well, as it takes us back and forth between Agnes’s life in the 14th century and the present day. Agnes’s life was hard and brutal. She witnessed the horrors of war and could only hope that peace would prevail. That she could find love and make plans for the future was admirable. 

Leah and Zoe’s life plodded along with little excitement. The job at the castle gave them both a chance to experience a different life. It also brought them into the sphere of new people, and that’s exactly what they needed. 

There was a slowly teased out mystery for them to solve as they grew accustomed to their new life. There was tension and suspense, but the overall feeling was of love and determination. A lovely read.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Out of Human Sight’ by Sophie Parkes

‘Out Of Human Sight’ by Sophie Parkes is the story of northern mill worker Millie, and her family, as they struggle with tragedy and its aftermath. When Millie walks in on a bloody scene in her grandfather’s pub, her life is changed forever. Voyeurs come from all over to see where the grisly double murder took place, and the notoriety becomes too much for Millie to bear. 

When charismatic Johnny Barkwell shows an interest in her, Millie jumps at the chance to forget her troubles. His plan to leave for The Canadas and a new life is not what she wants, but women were expected to obey their husbands, and she has no choice. Life on a coffin ship is hard, and surviving in the New World is no easier. Millie will need all the strength she can muster to survive. 

This was a story of resilience, perseverance and sheer grit. Many aspects of Millie’s story would be familiar to many women in the early 1800s. But Millie suffered in ways that few could imagine. The horrors she witnessed, and not knowing who carried out the murders, would haunt her. But she was determined. She needed to know, even if others would rather she move on. She was a strong young woman, and I admired her. 

The historical detail was impressive, and I found myself immersed in the poverty and desperation of the time. It took an amazing amount of courage to survive weeks of hunger and deprivation on a ship. The danger for women was always there too, as they fought to evade the clutches of would-be attackers. 

‘Out Of Human Sight’ was a beautifully written mystery, but was also the story of a brave young woman who refused to be cowed. I loved it.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘The Lumberjills’ by M W Arnold

I’m delighted to be a part of the Blog Tour for ‘The Lumberjills’ by M W Arnold. Stories about the experiences of real people fascinate me, and I learned so much from this novel. I did not know women worked in the forestry service then.

‘The Lumberjills’ is a heartwarming story set during the Second World War. A group of dedicated women join the forestry service in North Yorkshire in 1942, determined to help the war effort. It’s a hard job and one that brings its own dangers. The horrors of war are brought home to them every day, and they will need friendship to get through. 

There’s a camaraderie between the women, and this is so important to their ability to carry on. There’s a genuine feeling of the time and place in history that works so well in this story. MW Arnold shows the pain and unexpected consequences of war. 

There is a strong sense of community and family, and how vital these are when you never know what will happen next. Or when you’ll see someone again.

I enjoyed reading their story and look forward to more from this author. I was given this ARC for review. 

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Review of ‘How To Write A Winning Fiction Book Outline – Cozy Mystery Fiction Workbook’ by Hackney & Jones

This is the second of this series of workbooks that I’ve tried and I must say I’m very impressed.

I have found this particular one so helpful in planning out a cozy mystery novel. The authors have thought of everything. They take the reader through the themes to consider, the most common names, locations and events in a cozy mystery and how to outline your story.

I found the chapter by chapter and scene by scene planning the most useful. It has taken away the mystique behind outlining a novel. I can see me using this and the others in the series again and again.

Review of ‘The 12.30 From Croydon’ by Freeman Wills Crofts

‘The 12.30 From Croydon’ by Freeman Wills Crofts is the second Freeman Wills Crofts mystery novel I’ve read, and I’m quickly becoming a fan of his meticulous storytelling. 

On a flight to Paris, elderly grandfather, Andrew Crowther dies in his seat. When questions are asked as to the nature of his death, we begin to find out what lead to it – and how it was planned.  The author takes the unusual step of telling the story from the point of view of the killer, making this a fascinating and utterly compelling read. 

This story looks into the mind of a killer, and how a very ordinary man finds himself on a destructive and dangerous path.  It tells of a man’s downfall and the terrible consequences. 

Inspector French is a quiet and unassuming character, and one that criminals underestimate at their peril. His contribution to the story was pivotal. An excellent story and one that will stay with me. 

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘The Murder Mystery’ by Alice Castle

‘The Murder Mystery’ by Alice Castle is the first book in this series and after reading this, I can’t wait to get my teeth into the next two. Beth Haldane gets a job as an assistant archivist at the local prestigious school, Wyatt’s. Her first day gets off to a surprising start, when she finds the dead body of her boss behind the bins. It soon becomes apparent that he had many enemies within the school. Was it one of Beth’s new colleagues? When she begins to investigate, it appears she may be in danger too. Will she find the killer before it is too late?

I like Beth . She’s a normal woman with a child. A widow, she lives in the south London village of Dulwich. It’s full of yummy mummies and Beth feels she’ll never fit the mould. But why should she have to. She’s clever, bright and determined, and more than a match for any of them. The story is well written, with interesting characters and I loved the descriptions of Dulwich and the local society. 

I was given this ARC to review.