The drinks glass and flashes of almost neon colour on this book’s cover were striking on NetGalley. To me they signified city living, the bar scene and potential for glitz and glamour – I’ve probably watched too much Sex and the City. However, the women depicted here were a long way from flashy, fashionista, New York City Girls. In fact there are only a couple of nights out in the whole book. This is a different NYC, where real people live and work day to day, just trying to get by in a city that’s exciting, but expensive and tough. In a split narrative, set partly in 1955 and partly in 1975, this is a novel that writes back to women’s history. It opened my eyes to a time when women were persecuted for the way they choose to live their lives. In 1955 Dovie Carmichael and her friend Gillian work together as teachers and share an apartment. The friends have a lot in common: they love jazz, a glass of whiskey at night and lazy Sundays at home. The pair guard their private time very carefully, until one day when the wrong person gets a glimpse into their lives, changing everything. Twenty years later teenager Ava Winter lives in the same apartment with her Mum and her Dad, when he’s around and not with his mistress. Ava’s mum is not well mentally and Ava is struggling to live a normal teenage life, preferring to stay home to keep an eye on her. She becomes fascinated with a mysterious box and letter sent to their address from France. Inside are letters, a butterfly necklace and a photograph with LIAR scrawled across a woman’s face. Ava wants to know the story behind the box. Who was this woman, that lived in her home and what do the letters say?
The theme that stood out to me more than anything was loneliness. I felt a contrast between the huge open city and the small private spaces where secrets are kept. The characters I felt most connection with were Ava and Dovie, both struggling to keep secrets about their living situation. The mistake Dovie and Gillian make allows a very manipulative woman to take advantage of them. Judith works at the same school and does come across as a lonely woman, but has allowed her situation to develop bitterness and envy in her character. In the guise of struggling to find an affordable apartment, she inveigles her way into Dovie and Gillian’s home and relationship. It’s clear she wants friends, but seemingly can’t stand to see two people who are happy in each other’s company and if she can’t have it for herself she might just set out to destroy it. Ava is also lonely and I think she senses a similar feeling in the box of keepsakes she discovers, it’s that connection with the sender’s loneliness that makes her so determined to find the person this box was meant for. It’s also a distraction from how miserable her own life is. With her mum and dad estranged she is often solely looking after her mother who seems severely depressed and liable to harm herself. It’s almost a role reversal, with Ava looking after her welfare instead of the other way round. I felt deeply for this young girl going through the usual teenage phases of a crush on a boy in the neighbourhood, a worry about how she looks and fitting in, and both the anticipation and fear of what comes next in life. On top of this her father uses his precious time with Ava to chat up the waitress in their favourite diner. Her mother is deteriorating, screaming and muttering through the night and Ava is so worried about the neighbours hearing her or her friend finding out what home is really like since her dad left. The scenes of her alone in their cold apartment, willing her mum to settle for the night and wishing her dad was there, were vivid and moving.
Whether in New York or Paris the settings are beautifully evoked and I could feel the change in time period from just a few well written sentences. Even the usually romantic Paris has it’s downsides because this is the reality of living there, rather than the dream. I felt the author really got under the surface of these cities and showed me what it was like to be a New Yorker. I found the LGBTQ+ scene so interesting and the contrast between women who kept their relationships secret, with more openly gay women in NYC or Paris, was beautifully portrayed. Dovie has never ventured into meeting other women and the scene where she visits a club stayed with me. There’s an innocence about Dovie that contrasts sharply with the sophisticated women she sees there, some of whom are scathing of Dovie’s lack of knowledge about being openly lesbian in 1955. I don’t think she really understood the danger she faced which could be anything from losing her job to being arrested or put into an asylum. I was just as shocked to realise that women who were open about their sexuality, or discovered, were subject to arrest and even ECT treatment to curb their ‘unnatural’ activities or desires. The nightclub raid where Dovie is helped to escape through a bathroom window is unbelievably tense and so poignant when we realise it’s link to 1975. The way police manhandle and sexually assault the women reminded me of how the suffragettes were treated so many decades earlier. The idea was to break the women’s resolve and remind them what they were really for – the amusement, desires and dominance of men. Reading these women’s experiences made me so angry, but also opened a door into a world I am ashamed to say I knew little about. At heart this is a love story and all the way through I wanted to know what had happened in that apartment in 1955 and I also hoped that Ava would find the intended recipient of the box from Paris. For me this book had a similar impact to the television series It’s A Sin. This was an emotionally captivating story that’s sure to stay with me and has inspired me to read more about the history of sexuality and the fight LGBTQ+ people still have for equal rights across the globe. It left me with a lump in my throat, thinking about how love can last a lifetime, even beyond separations and loss. I really look forward to reading more from this talented author in the future.
Meet The Author
Julie Owen Moylan is a writer whose short stories and articles have appeared in New Welsh Review, Horizon Literary Review, and The Voice of Women in Wales Anthology
She has also written and directed several short films as part of her MA in Film. Her graduation short film called ‘BabyCakes’ scooped Best Film awards at the Swansea Film Festival, Ffresh, and the Celtic Media Awards. She also has an MA in Creative Writing, and is an alumna of the Faber Academy’s Writing a Novel course.
Her debut novel THAT GREEN EYED GIRL was published by Penguin Michael Joseph on May 12 2022.
She is currently working on her second novel SPANGLELAND
What an intricately beautiful and nuanced novel this is! I had expected a story along the same lines as Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine or Meredith Alone at first. The beautiful aesthetics of the setting and glamorous lifestyle dazzle us and everything on the surface seems benign as Sunday and her daughter Dolly start a relationship with their new neighbours. Vita is aristocratic in her manner and comes across as a likeable eccentric, perhaps a little pretentious but as my friend Nigel used to say, ‘a little bit of pretension doesn’t hurt anyone’. They love- bomb Sunday and her daughter with gifts and elaborate Friday night dinners. Vita and her husband Rollo are staying in the house next door while ‘Rols’ completes a plan to buy and convert a large institution for children in care nearby. Until this glamorous pair enter their lives, Sunday and Dolly lead a very quiet life. Divorced from Dolly’s father, they still live in a house on his family estate where Sunday works in the gardens. Sunday isn’t great with noise (especially several at once) only eats white food and struggles to read between the lines with others. She gets on best with David who works in the greenhouses with her and uses sign language to communicate. Extremes of anything, cause panic in Sunday, so the slow rhythms of nature and it’s subtle colouring are perfect for her. Sunday didn’t even know anything was missing in her life until Vita wants to become her friend. However, is Vita a genuine friend or does she have an ulterior motive? This is where the slightness of the story and the details of glamorous clothes, extravagant dinners and endless champagne started to remind me of Virginia Woolf and her clever way of hiding so much beneath a beautiful surface. Instead of being an uplifting tale about someone who struggles to make connections finding a friend and embracing their peculiarities, this promised to be something darker.
I felt a kinship with Sunday immediately and the tone is light at first as she meets new neighbour Vita and her comical little dog Beast. Vita is one of those people who never question themselves or worry about their interactions with others. She simply inserts herself into Sunday’s life, without any of the social angst over whether she’s wanted there. Vita and her husband Rollo are dazzling and disarming, from the clothes they wear to the hyperbole in their speech and the very best delicacies on the dinner table, including the most exquisitely wrapped and coloured petit fours. They are disarming in the way they present themselves, classy but bohemian and often a touch of carelessness like sitting on the front step in a silk kimono and old work boots. Is this nonchalance studied or natural? Conversely, Sunday can’t be what she isn’t and her ‘quirks’ are not affectations. She has learned to be less, to mask and try to make herself acceptable from a young age thanks to a mother who never showed her love. She constantly proclaimed Sunday was an ‘it’, a ‘what’, an unsavoury puzzle to be solved. We learn that this animosity towards her daughter worsened when a terrible family tragedy occurred. I loved how the author layered the voices in Sunday’s head: her daughter explaining that her dad and stepmum love each other so much, it’s just that Sunday is incapable of seeing it; her mother saying ‘you’re not wired right you’; her sister saying ‘I don’t know what you are Sunday’. At first, the friendship of Vita and Rollo soothes Sunday’s soul, because she feels accepted. They always make sure white rolls are available at the dinner table, in case the main course is too colourful or complex for her. They also make sure there is champagne or soda water, because Sunday will only drink cold, fizzy liquids. These attentions are simply there, neither one of the couple mention them, but they mean the world to Sunday:
‘their attention to my preferences touched me. I had not been known in this way before and found acceptable. There I was seen and approved of, even indulged’.
At first, Dolly and Sunday would often stay late next door after dinner, but subtle changes start to occur. Dolly wants to stay over with Vita on Friday nights. One night, after leaving for home, Sunday returns with her daughter’s favourite pyjamas and hears music as well as laughter next door. Yet when Rollo answers the door, he holds it closed behind him as he takes the pyjamas. He is perfectly polite, but does not step back as he once might have done to let Sunday inside. These subtleties make the reader nervous and I felt worse because I wasn’t sure whether Sunday could see what I was seeing.
‘painted subjects are easier to read than their physical counterparts […] in real life the details I am drawn to are often secondary, and these often mislead. That evening when I looked at Vita, I saw her pretty hair, her little wrists wrapped in gold chains, and her welcoming smile. I did not notice the grip of her hand on my daughter’s arm’.
I wanted to put myself between Sunday and these charming people. She recalls jealousy, but was it because she envied Dolly’s easy relationship with Vita or was she jealous of Vita’s relationship with her daughter? The subtle foreshadowing becomes more direct as Dolly relates the story of Vita simply taking a friend’s baby for a walk without telling the mother. Vita seemingly could not understand why the woman was so scared or why the police were called. Slowly, Sunday understands that her new friend is possibly not what she seems, by using a system of observation and noting patterns of behaviour. Yet I was still worried that she might underestimate the extent of Vita’s ability to create chaos. Sunday describes her way of analysing people, to look beyond their ‘fleeting expressions’ to see the repeated pattern on their heart. She looks beyond what they say and instead values and interprets them based on their repeated behaviour. Yet with Vita she declares herself too scared to look, because she isn’t sure whether the tick tock of her heart signifies a clock or a bomb.
Dolly’s changes are also subtle at first, but Sunday notices a new confidence and self-possession that she is acquiring from time spent with their neighbours. Whereas once Dolly might have been reserved with new people, Vita unlocks the young girl who is soon easily pushed to near hysteria over a shared joke. This quantity of feeling makes Sunday uneasy. Yet surely this new ease in her daughter’s manner can only make life easier for Dolly? She won’t share Sunday’s fears and awkwardness. The coming summer heralds a rollercoaster of change and emotions, first Dolly’s accent becomes more cut glass and she starts to dress differently, more like Vita. As exams loom and the renovation of the children’s home comes closer, the couple offer Dolly a job helping out with admin and interior design. She announces she’d like to do it for the holidays, but Sunday reminds her she does not need to work. Her father and grandparents get her everything her heart desires. Yet Sunday feels churlish refusing the opportunity, torn between what is best for her daughter’s future. I felt that Dolly used her mum’s inexperience against her at times, claiming that there were simply so many uses for her on site, but Sunday could never imagine them, because she’s only ever known the farm. If she refuses Dolly’s request to spend time in London with them, will it make Vita and Rollo’s offer even more attractive?
Vita isn’t above manipulation herself : ‘I’m so sorry Dolly, you know we love taking you out. And we had such fun planned in London. But…’
Sunday doesn’t know whether she can or should deny her daughter these experiences. It might help her get on in life. Should she be supporting her daughter to reach for something different? Should she be holding her back? However, some base instinct urges her to say no, to ban the trip and keep Dolly home for the summer, knowing this could backfire completely if their offer is benign, nothing more than a favour for the daughter of their friend. Sunday hasn’t had close friends before so can’t compare the situation. When Dolly receives her exam results, the dam breaks and out comes a voice Sunday has never heard before from her daughter, one filled with scorn, shame and no appreciation for her mother’s years of caring attention. Dolly sees her mother’s life as a failure and she will do anything not to be like her. The author cleverly contrasts this awful evening with the story of a fox that arrived in Sunday’s garden, a little too thin and straggly. It made it’s home under their shed for the winter and every day without fail Sunday would set milk and dog food down. In the spring the fox was sleek and flourishing because of Sunday’s steady and dutiful nature.
One of the most heartbreaking revelations for me is Sunday’s slow realisation that others have quirks and oddities, but it is still possible for people to be fond of them. To love them even. She had always thought it simply a fact of life that anyone with quirks like hers would be impossible to love, but that’s not the truth:
‘My mother could still have loved me had she chosen to’.
To befriend someone who has experienced this trauma, to make them feel loved and accepted, but then manipulate them for your own ends is evil. Yet the author keeps the reader unsure whether that’s what Vita is doing an I was constantly waiting for this ticking time bomb of a woman to explode. Yet whatever the outcome, I wasn’t sure that Vita was consciously acting this way. Her behaviour felt like a repeated pattern, possibly an enactment of her own traumas. Rollo knows though and when the truth starts to emerge he is openly affectionate to Sunday. Instead of serving up the usual air kisses, this is a hug that’s more substantial and perhaps honest. Showing a remarkable insight into his wife’s nature he tells Sunday:
‘It’s not you, darling. It’s Vee I’m afraid. She doesn’t think these things through. It might all change again by tomorrow’.
Yet he is willing to let her continue, to collude in destroying others casually and without consequence. At the very least she will offer friendship and take it away on a whim. They will simply slip into another life, with all the security their money and status gives them. Like Nick and Daisy in The Great Gatsby, Vita and Rollo are careless with other people, content to use others and leave them behind. Yet there are threads of hope in the conclusion, not least in Sunday’s ability to reflect on her own actions and feelings with more awareness. This novel is stunning, beautifully written and has such psychological complexity and insight. I loved it.
Meet the Author
Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Kent. Like her protagonist, Sunday, in ALL THE LITTLE BIRD-HEARTS, Viktoria is autistic. She has presented her doctoral research internationally, most recently speaking at Harvard University on autism and literary narrative. Viktoria lives with her husband and children on the Kent coast.
Welcome to 2023 at The Lotus Readers! It’s already looking like a busy one and if January is anything to go by there are going to to be some hot contenders for my round-up in twelve months time. I’m going to be spoiled for choice. There are going to be some new and developing projects this year that I’m excited about and I’m already planning into June. I’m doing a lot more work with the Squad Pod Collective this year and I’m very excited at some of the books and read alongs we have scheduled. On a more personal level I’m hoping to be a better planner this year, with the hope of clearing some of my NetGalley backlog and keeping on top of publisher’s proofs. I want to develop my Instagram account and start work on TikTok too. I have various themes planned throughout the year and new spotlights to bring to you, with poetry and classics featuring more prominently. I’ve also realised I need to tell you all a little bit about me and I must get used to seeing to showing you my face a little bit. Finally I’m hoping to update the website with new photos and a better layout so I’m easier to find. So to kick off this new year, here are my first books of the month for January.
House of Fortune by Jessie Burton
To say I’m a fan of Jessie Burton is an understatement. I am in awe of her writing abilities and love every one of her books, but there’s a soft spot in my heart for her debut novel The Miniaturist. I was transported straight back to 16th Century Amsterdam and whenever I think about the town house where Nella goes to live with her new husband Johannes and his sister Marin, I have an almost synaesthesic response because I can smell it. It’s a mixture of wood panelling and beeswax. Considering how attached I am to this extraordinary tale, there was a certain amount of trepidation in reading her follow up House of Fortune. I’d saved it for the end of the year and it came to me in two special editions, one with spredges in a green pattern and one with a yellow pineapple print. It’s been eighteen years since the events of the first book and Thea’s birthday approaches. As her father Otto is let go by his employer the household is in decline, almost down to the last treasures it can sell to stay afloat. Maybe their only hope for the future is Thea and the family are forced to launch her on Amsterdam society with the hope of finding her a husband with the fortune to keep them afloat. Otto wants Thea to have a choice and with new friend Caspar he has planned to farm Thea’s childhood home, Assendelft, by growing a crop of pineapples. However, Thea has her own plans and when small packages start appearing on the doorstep it’s clear a period of change is on the way. Could this be the miniaturist, up to her old tricks?
I was sucked straight back into Nella’s world as mistress of this extraordinary house. I loved that Burton took us to Nella’s childhood, with the walls of Assendelft full of memories, good and bad. Over the eighteen years since Johannes’s death she has become a force to be reckoned with and this reminds us of how naïve and young she was at the beginning. I felt sad that she had almost written herself off, pinning all their hopes for the future on Marin’s daughter Thea and not even considering that she could be the one pursued by potential husbands. Wealthy widows can be very attractive in the marriage market and nobody knows what Johannes’s arrangements were for his wife. I felt that Nella didn’t want marriage though, having been free for eighteen years it would certainly be hard to adjust to the more conventional woman’s role a husband might expect. I also really enjoyed being taken into the world of the theatre, where Thea is transfixed by the stories being told on stage. Her fear that someone has seen her hanging around backstage, especially since spending time with scene painter Walter, really came across strongly. I felt for her and I wanted Thea to remember what it felt like to be a teenager without her whole family’s fortunes weighing heavy on her shoulders. I was compelled to keep reading, completely caught up in the world of this strange family of outsiders, but also wondering if this time the miniaturist would be unmasked and her purpose revealed. I throughly enjoyed being back in Nella’s world and it renewed my desire to go to Amsterdam to see the original cabinet house that fired up Jessie’s imagination.
We All Want Impossible Things by
This book was a joy. That’s going to seem odd when I explain what it’s about, but it is joyful and full of life. Even though at it’s centre there’s a death. Ash and Edi have been friends forever, since childhood in fact. They’ve gone through adolescence together: survived school; other girls; discovering boys and even that awkward phase of starting adult life, when one went to college and the other stayed behind. They’ve both married and been each other’s maids of honour and become mothers. Instead of any of these things pulling them apart they’ve remained platonic partners in life. However, now Edi is unwell and decisions need to be made. After years of struggle with being, treatment, remission and recurrence, Edi now has to decide how she’ll be dying. With all the hospices locally being full, Ash makes an offer – if Edi comes to a hospice near Ash, she can devote time to being with her and Edi’s husband can get on with every day life for her son Dash. There’s a hospice near Ash that’s like a home from home, with everything that’s needed medically, but the informality and personal touch of a family. Now Ash and Edi have to negotiate that strange contradiction; learning how to live, while dying.
Ash’s home and family life is so enviable I wanted to be part of it. Her estranged husband Honey is an incredible chef and her daughter seems to have picked up the talent. The author’s descriptions of their meals really did make the mouth water and are their way of contributing and supporting Ash. All of these people are so nurturing, in Honey’s case this is despite he and Ash being separated. Before you think this sounds schmaltzy and sentimental I can assure you that these characters are not perfect. Each has their flaws and their ways of coping, some of which are destructive and possibly difficult for others to understand. Ash particularly has a novel approach to grief, but I understood it. If we look beneath the surface, it’s a way of forging connection with others on the same journey and expressing their love for Edi. It’s also a distraction, a way of leaving all the paraphernalia of death behind and affirming life. That doesn’t mean her behaviour isn’t confusing, especially to her teenage daughter who supplies whip smart commentary, eye rolls and remarkable wisdom. The men in this friendship group seem to understand that their grief is secondary, because Edi is the love of Ash’s life. I enjoyed the little addition of Edi’s other friend – the college friend – who Ash has concerns about. Does Edi like her more than Ash? Do they have a special bond? The author provides us with this loving picture but then undermines it slightly, so it isn’t perfect. We are imperfect beings and no one knows how they will react in a time like this, until we’re there. Catherine Newman shows this with realism, charm, humour and buckets of compassion.
The Curious Case of The Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett.
I was enthralled, addicted and so desperate to find out what actually did happen on the night when the police found a strange cult massacre in a deserted warehouse. Open the safe deposit box. Inside you will find research material for a true crime book. You must read the documents, then make a decision. Will you destroy them? Or will you take them to the police? Everyone knows the sad story of the Alperton Angels: the cult who brainwashed a teenage girl and convinced her that her newborn baby was the anti-Christ. Believing they had a divine mission to kill the infant, they were only stopped when the girl came to her senses and called the police. The Angels committed suicide rather than stand trial, while mother and baby disappeared into the care system. Nearly two decades later, true-crime author Amanda Bailey is writing a book on the Angels. The Alperton baby has turned eighteen and can finally be interviewed; if Amanda can find them, it will be the true-crime scoop of the year, and will save her flagging career. But rival author Oliver Menzies is just as smart, better connected, and is also on the baby’s trail. As Amanda and Oliver are forced to collaborate, they realise that what everyone thinks they know about the Angels is wrong. The truth is something much darker and stranger than they’d ever imagined. And the story of the Alperton Angels is far from over.. After all, the devil is in the detail…
It was hard to review when I didn’t want to let slip any signal or clue, so I won’t comment on the storyline. It’s drip fed to you in the different communications and I loved how we were presented with other people’s opinions and thoughts on the discoveries being made. Who to trust and who to ignore wasn’t always clear and the red herrings, including the involvement of the Royal Family, were incredible. I felt that true crime author Amanda had an agenda, that possibly had nothing to do with the story at hand and was more about a personal grudge. Janice Hallet’s research is impeccable and here she has to cover the early 1990’s and 2003, as well as the workings of the police, special forces and the social services – some of which is less than flattering and even corrupt. I found delving into the True Crime genre fascinating considering how popular it is these days, something I’m personally very conflicted about. This has all the aspects of a sensational True Crime investigation with a more nuanced perspective from other characters to balance things out. I was gripped to the end and the end didn’t disappoint.
River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer.
This incredible debut novel grabbed hold of my mind and heart, never letting go until the final paragraph. I shed tears at several points in Rachel’s journey and she’s a character I won’t forget. We meet her working on a plantation in Barbados, at that strange point after slavery when plantations were instructed to free slaves, but their sense of freedom was short-lived as masters were able to keep slaves for a further six years as apprentices. So, despite being freed the day afterwards started just the same, at the crack of dawn and walking to the cane fields for a day of back breaking work. Having nothing meant that most had no other choice. Rachel is thinking of her children, several lost before they had a chance to live but others scattered to the four winds. Her boys Micah and Thomas Augustus and her girls Cherry Jane, Mary Grace and Mercy all taken from her in different ways. Only Cherry Jane spends a few years nearby as a house slave, but in her superior position she doesn’t acknowledge Rachel who is merely a field hand. One day she decides that she must find her children, she mustknow where they are and what happened to them, even if the news is that devastating final loss. Rachel says that as a slave she plants cane but nothing of her own. However her children came about, Rachel feels that they anchor her in this world and she can’t rest until she finds them. So she runs and with our hearts pounding we follow her.
Shearer uses incredibly evocative detail to bring nature to life in this book and underscore Rachel’s sense of freedom. A river takes them deep into the forest and a community of freed slaves and indigenous tribespeople where one of her sons may be. It also sweeps them along, back to freedom after searching Grenadian plantation for daughter Mary Grace. The whole journey is littered with joys and terrible grief, but Rachel knows she must keep going. She meets others who have started to build a new life, placing the past firmly behind them and never pining for it. They live firmly in the here and now with questions left unanswered and people left behind. For Rachel that isn’t enough. Her children are like the scattered pieces of a broken vase. She doesn’t expect her family to be perfect and knows that there will be cracks and missing pieces. Rachel is putting her broken vase back together and she will pour a substance into the cracks, bringing the pieces together until her past is whole again. The binding substance used in Japanese Kintsugi pottery is usually gold, each crack making the piece more valuable and beautiful. In Rachel’s case the binding substance is love. Love for those here, those found but far away and those gone forever. An all encompassing love symbolised by the bond between a mother and her children.
Amazing Grace Adams by Fran Littlewood.
It’s possibly way too early to start picking candidates for favourite books of 2023 – I’m still deliberating over 2022 – but I think this book is certainly going to be in contention. Grace is one of those characters that you fantasise about having cocktails with and you already know you’d have the best time. Grace is stuck in traffic, it’s a boiling hot day and she’s melting. All she wants to do is get to the bakery and pick up the cake for her daughter’s birthday. This is one hell of a birthday cake, not only is it a Love Island cake; it has to say that Grace cares, that she’s sorry, that will show Lotte she loves her and hasn’t given up on their relationship. It’s shaping up to be the day from hell and as Grace sits in a tin can on boiling hot tarmac, something snaps. She decides to get out of the car and walk, leaving her vehicle stranded and pissing off everyone now blocked by a car parked in the middle of a busy road. So, despite the fact her trainers aren’t broken in, she sets off walking towards the bakery and a reunion with Lotte. There are just a few obstacles in the way, but Grace can see the cake and Lotte’s face when she opens the box. As she walks she recounts everything that has happened to bring her to where she is now.
When we first meet Grace she’s living alone, estranged from husband Ben and even from her teenage daughter Lotte. She’s peri-menopausal, wearing trainers her daughter thinks she shouldn’t be wearing at her age and she’s had enough. There’s that sense of the Michael Douglas film Falling Down except when the meltdown comes all she has is a water pistol filled with river water, an embarrassingly tiny Love Island cake and a blister on her heel. Then in flashbacks we can follow Grace all the way back to the start, to when she and Ben met at a competition for polyglots. The truth when it comes is devastating, but feels weirdly like something you’ve known all along. Those interspersed chapters from happier times are a countdown to this moment, a before and after that runs like a fault line through everything that’s happened since. As Grace closes in on Lotte’s party, sweaty, dirty and brandishing her tiny squashed cake, it doesn’t seem enough to overturn everything that’s happened, but of course it isn’t about the cake. This is about everything Grace has done to be here, including the illegal bits. In a day that’s highlighted to Grace how much she has changed what will happen to her relationship to the people she loves most?
All of these books are out now and you can potter along to your local book shop for them. Happy Reading! ❤️📚
This is my second of this weekend’s looks at new fiction for early 2023. These are the books I’m already excited about, some I’ve already read and others are waiting for me on NetGalley or via my Squad Pod Collective for our monthly book club. I hope you see some books here you’d like to try.
I had to use a bigger photo for this because it’s completely stunning! This is a book I’m going to want a posh finished copy of to adorn the book shelves. This book could have been written for me. Exploring universal themes of love and loss, the power of redemption and what it means to be unique, The Fascination is an evocative,glittering and bewitching gothic novel that brings alive Victorian London and darkness and deception that lies beneath…
Victorian England. A world of rural fairgrounds and glamorous London theatres. A world of dark secrets and deadly obsessions…Twin sisters Keziah and Tilly Lovell are identical in every way, except that Tilly hasn’t grown a single inch since she was five. Coerced into promoting their father’s quack elixir as they tour the country fairgrounds, at the age of fifteen the girls are sold to a mysterious Italian known as ‘Captain’. Theo is an orphan, raised by his grandfather, Lord Seabrook, a man who has a dark interest in anatomical freaks and other curiosities … particularly the human kind. Resenting his grandson for his mother’s death in childbirth, when Seabrook remarries and a new heir is produced, Theo is forced to leave home without a penny to his name. Unable to train to be a doctor as he’d hoped, Theo finds employment in Dr Summerwell’s Museum of Anatomy in London, and here he meets Captain and his theatrical ‘family’ of performers, freaks and outcasts. But it is Theo’s fascination with Tilly and Keziah that will lead all of them into a web of dark deceits, exposing the darkest secrets and threatening everything they know…
Exploring universal themes of love and loss, the power of redemption and what it means to be unique, The Fascination is an evocative, glittering and bewitching gothic novel that brings alive Victorian London and darkness and deception that lies beneath…
Published 22nd June 2023 by Orenda Books.
I’ve already had the chance of reading this fabulous new novel by Janice Hallett. I honestly couldn’t put this one down and it’s a fantastic mystery novel with some really unique approaches to storytelling.
Open the safe deposit box. Inside you will find research material for a true crime book. You must read the documents, then make a decision. Will you destroy them? Or will you take them to the police?
Everyone knows the sad story of the Alperton Angels: the cult who brainwashed a teenage girl and convinced her that her newborn baby was the anti-Christ. Believing they had a divine mission to kill the infant, they were only stopped when the girl came to her senses and called the police. The Angels committed suicide rather than stand trial, while mother and baby disappeared into the care system. Nearly two decades later, true-crime author Amanda Bailey is writing a book on the Angels. The Alperton baby has turned eighteen and can finally be interviewed; if Amanda can find them, it will be the true-crime scoop of the year, and will save her flagging career. But rival author Oliver Menzies is just as smart, better connected, and is also on the baby’s trail. As Amanda and Oliver are forced to collaborate, they realise that what everyone thinks they know about the Angels is wrong. The truth is something much darker and stranger than they’d ever imagined. And the story of the Alperton Angels is far from over.
Published 19th Jan by Viper.
You may think I’m overstating this, but I have read Louise Swanson’s new novel and it is a masterpiece. There was a point where I was wondering where the story was going and I worried about how it was going to resolve itself, but then everything changed. I felt the change in my bones and had a lump in my throat before the truth fully emerged. It was as if some muscle memory exists in my brain and it had worked out the puzzle before I fully realised. I was totally sideswiped.
Too much imagination can be a dangerous thing. It has been five years since writing fiction was banned by the government. Fern Dostoy is a criminal. Officially, she has retrained in a new job outside of the arts but she still scrawls in a secret notepad in an effort to capture what her life has become: her work on a banned phone line, reading bedtime stories to sleep-starved children; Hunter, the young boy who calls her and has captured her heart; and the dreaded visits from government officials. But as Fern begins to learn more about Hunter, doubts begin to surface. What are they both hiding?
And who can be trusted?
Published 23rd March 2023 Hodder and Stoughton
Ann Stilwell arrives in New York City, hoping to spend her summer working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Instead, she is assigned to The Cloisters, a gothic museum and garden renowned for its medieval and Renaissance collections. There she is drawn into a small circle of charismatic but enigmatic researchers, each with their own secrets and desires, including the museum’s curator, Patrick Roland, who is convinced that the history of Tarot holds the key to unlocking contemporary fortune telling. Relieved to have left her troubled past behind and eager for the approval of her new colleagues, Ann is only too happy to indulge some of Patrick’s more outlandish theories. But when Ann discovers a mysterious, once-thought lost deck of 15th-century Italian tarot cards she suddenly finds herself at the centre of a dangerous game of power, toxic friendship and ambition.
And as the game being played within the Cloisters spirals out of control, Ann must decide whether she is truly able to defy the cards and shape her own future . . .
Published 19th April 2023 Bantam Press
I adore this author so I’m really excited for this new novel from the author of The Metal Heart. Set in Toronto, Canada in 1926, we meet friends Lily di Marco and Mae Thebault. They were once inseparable, lived under the same roof and cared for each other’s children. But with mouths to feeds and demanding husbands to keep happy, both women are forced into terrible decisions as the Great Depression tightens its grip. When lawyer Charles Vance Miller’s will promises a handsome sum of money to the woman who can produce the most babies in the next ten years, it is initially dismissed as a vanity project. But as the Great Depression worsens, and times get increasingly tough across the world, for the most desperate in society this contest known as The Great Stork Derby suddenly seems like a way out. Ten years later, Lily and Mae couldn’t be further apart. And as The Great Stork Derby continues to make headlines, for all the wrong reasons, both these women must face up to their part in it, and the consequences…
Published 27th April 2023 by Penguin
This book has been on my radar for over six months and I’ve been lucky enough to have a NetGalley copy. For a counsellor the premise is fascinating. Imagine you could be rid of your sadness, your anxiety, your heartache, your fear. Imagine you could take those feelings from others and turn them into something beautiful. Lynx is a Grief Nurse. Kept by the Asters, a wealthy, influential family, to ensure they’re never troubled by negative emotions, she knows no other life. When news arrives that the Asters’ eldest son is dead, Lynx does what she can to alleviate their Sorrow. As guests flock to the Asters’ private island for the wake, bringing their own secrets, lies and grief, tensions rise.
Then the bodies start to pile up.
With romance, intrigue and spectacular gothic world-building, this spellbinding debut novel is immersive and unforgettable.
Published 13th April 2023 Sandstone Press.
Lucy Braithwhite lives a privileged existence as heir to the fortune of Braithwhite & Company – the most successful purveyor of English luxury wallpapers the world over. The company’s formulas have been respected for nearly a century, but have always remained cloaked in mystery. No one has been able to explain the originality of design, or the brilliance of their colours, leaving many to wonder if the mysterious spell-like effect of their wallpapers is due simply to artistry, or something more sinister. When Mr Luckhurst, the company’s manager, and the man who has acted as surrogate father to Lucy and her invalid brother John since they were children, suddenly dies, Lucy is shocked to discover that there is no succession plan in place. Who will ensure that the company and her family continue to thrive?
The answer soon arrives in the form of the young and alluring Julian Rivers, who, unbeknownst to Lucy and John, has been essential to the company’s operations for some time. At first, he seems like the answer to their prayers, but as Lucy begins piecing together Julian’s true intentions, and John begins seeing spectral visions in the house’s wallpaper, it becomes clear to Lucy that she must do everything within her power to oppose the diabolic forces that have risen up to destroy her family.
Published 16th March 2023 Baskerville
Another book about books here and Fflur Dafydd has melded this world with a high concept thriller. Twins Ana and Nan are lost after the death of their mother. Everyone knows who drove Elena, the renowned novelist, to suicide – her long-term literary critic, Eben. But the twins need proof if they’re going to get revenge. Desperate to clear his name, Eben requests access to Elena’s diaries at the National Library where the twins work, and they see an opportunity. With careful planning, the twins lock down the labyrinthine building, trapping their colleagues, the public and most importantly Eben inside. But as a rogue security guard starts freeing hostages, the plan unravels. And what began as a single-minded act of revenge blooms into a complex unravelling of loyalties, motives and what it is that makes us who we are.
Hauntingly written, with a fresh, captivating voice, The Library Suicides is an intensely memorable and provocative literary read for fans of high concept thrillers that break the mould, and books about books and the concept of the written word.
Published 19th January by Hodder and Stoughton
I have everything crossed for a proof copy of this one, because I love Sarah Stovell and the way she writes relationship dynamics. Minnie and Bert are over the moon to have their three grown-up children home for the first time in a decade. But having Lizzie, Jess, Owen and the grandchildren under one roof isn’t without its dramas. Lizzie is off the alcohol (although emergency gin doesn’t count), Jess is juggling a toddler and a newborn, but it’s Owen who has the power to throw a grenade into everything. It all stems from an incident that happened years ago. And it involves Nora Skelly – a name you don’t mention in front of Minnie. With Nora also back in town, the past is about to come crashing into the present. And what better time to revisit old secrets and resentments than around the family dinner table?
Published 30th March 2023 by HQ
Laura Purcell is the absolute queen of gothic literature and despite this being a summer release, it’s already pre-ordered with an eye out for special editions, spredges and cover designs. I have every one of her books, signed and in my special collector’s cabinet.
Be careful what you wish for… it may just come true.
At The Mercury Theatre in London’s West End, rumours are circulating of a curse. It is said that the lead actress Lilith has made a pact with Melpomene, the tragic muse of Greek mythology, to become the greatest actress to ever grace the stage. Suspicious of Lilith, the jealous wife of the theatre owner sends dresser Jenny to spy on her, and desperate for the money to help her family, Jenny agrees. What Jenny finds is a woman as astonishing in her performance as she is provocative in nature. On stage, it’s as though Lilith is possessed by the characters she plays, yet off stage she is as tragic as the Muse who inspires her, and Jenny, sorry for her, befriends the troubled actress. But when strange events begin to take place around the theatre, Jenny wonders if the rumours are true, and fears that when the Muse comes calling for payment, the cost will be too high.
Published 2nd February 2023 Raven Books
River Sing Me Home is another impressive 2023 debut from Eleanor Shearer.
We whisper the names of the ones we love like the words of a song. That was the taste of freedom to us, those names on our lips.
Mary Grace, Micah, Thomas Augustus, Cherry Jane and Mercy.
These are the names of her children. The five who survived, only to be sold to other plantations. The faces Rachel cannot forget. It’s 1834, and the law says her people are now free. But for Rachel freedom means finding her children, even if the truth is more than she can bear. With fear snapping at her heels, Rachel keeps moving. From sunrise to sunset, through the cane fields of Barbados to the forests of British Guiana and on to Trinidad, to the dangerous river and the open sea. Only once she knows their stories can she rest. Only then can she finally find home. Inspired by the women who, in the aftermath of slavery, went in search of their lost children.
Published 19th Jan 2023 by Headline Review
Police Chief Nash Morgan is known for two things: being a good guy and the way his uniform accentuates his rear end. But two bullets put a dent in his Southern charm and now he’s facing a criminal still on the loose and a town full of citizens that consider the law more of a ‘guideline’. The last thing he needs is the leggy, smart-mouthed Lina Solavita moving in next door, making him feel things he doesn’t have the energy to feel.
Lina is on a mission. As soon as she gets what she’s after, she has no intention of sticking around. The town of Knockemout has other ideas. Soon she finds herself sucked into small-town life. Dog-sitting. Saying yes to a bridesmaid’s dress. Listening to the sexy chief of police in the shower. But when Nash discovers Lina’s secret these friends become furious enemies – though the sparks flying between them don’t know the difference between love and hate.
Published 21st February by Hodder Paperbacks
Silence tore them apart. Can the truth bring them back together?
In 1960s Glasgow, anti-nuclear activists Judith and Jimmy fall in love. But their future hopes are dashed when their protestors’ squat is raided and many, including Jimmy, are sent to prison. Pregnant and with no word from Jimmy, Judith is forced to enter an unmarried mothers’ home, give up their baby and learn to live with her grief. More than half a century later, Judith’s Mending Shop restores broken treasures, just as Judith herself has been bound back together by her late, much-missed partner, Catherine. But her tranquillity is shattered when Jimmy―so different and yet somehow the same―reappears, yearning to unpick the painful past. Realising they each know only half of the other’s story, Jimmy and Judith finally break the silence that tore apart what might have been their family. Amid heartbreak and hope, how much can now be mended?
Published in Paperback 24th Jan 2023 by Lake Union Publishing.
I loved Philippa East’s Little White Lies and really enjoy a story full of dysfunctional family dynamics, so this sounds like the perfect read for me.
Keep your family close, and your secrets closer…
To the outside world, the Goodlights are perfect. Julia is a lawyer, Paul a stay-at-home dad who has dedicated his life to helping their daughter Chrissie achieve her dreams as a talented violinist. But on the night of a prestigious music competition, which has the power to change everything for Chrissie and her family, Chrissie goes missing. She puts on the performance of a lifetime, then completely disappears. Suddenly every single crack, every single secret that the family is hiding risks being exposed. Because the Goodlights aren’t perfect. Not even close.
Published 5th January 2023 by HQ
As you can see above I’m lucky enough to have a beautiful proof of this debut novel, which sounds fascinating.
Soon you will become the thing all other beasts fear.
Treasure and her mother lost everything when Treasure’s daddy died. Haggling for scraps in the market, Treasure meets a spirit who promises to bring her father back – but she has to do something for him first. Ozoemena has an itch in the middle of her back that can’t be scratched. An itch that speaks to her patrilineal destiny, to defend her people by becoming a leopard. Her father impressed upon her what an honour this was before he vanished, but it’s one she couldn’t want less. But as the two girls reckon with their burgeoning wildness and the legacy of their fathers’ decisions, Ozoemena’s fellow students at her new boarding school start to vanish. Treasure and Ozoemena will face terrible choices as each must ask herself: in a world that always says ‘no’ to women, what must two young girls sacrifice to get what is theirs?
Published 16th February 2023 by Wildfire Books
July Hooper knows eighteen things about her mother. Like number thirteen: she loved dancing on the kitchen table. And number eight: she was covered in freckles. And then there’s number two: she died after being hit by a car when July was small. She keeps this list hidden in a drawer away from her father. Because they’re not allowed to talk about her mother. Ever. But an anonymous note slipped into July’s bag on her tenth birthday is about to change everything she thinks she knows about her mum. Determined to discover what really happened to her, July begins to investigate, cycling around the neighbourhood where her family used to live. There she meets someone who might finally have the answers. July wants her family to stop lying to her, but will the truth be harder to face?
Published 9th February Harvill Secker
What a privilege it is to receive Beth Lewis’s new novel in my book mail this week and it sounds incredible.
Welcome to Atlas. What would you do for a second chance?
Summer 1982. Deep in the Adirondack Mountains, over three hundred people live off-grid in a secret community. Atlas is a refuge for broken souls who long for a different life. Founded by the enigmatic Sol, the group now prepares for their final ceremony: the opening of the Golden Door. They believe they will cross to another world, to a new life where their past decisions never ended in tragedy. James Morrow is a rookie New York City reporter intent on making his name with an exposé of the crazy cult in the woods. He secures an invitation to the camp on the condition he tell the world of its wonders, but James is a sceptic. He’s sure there must be more to the mysterious leader and his endgame than his followers have signed up for. James soon finds there is a darker side to the cult beyond the prayers and yellow robes. A group of children are treated like gods, there are iron strips embedded in the earth, and nobody talks about what’s behind the gates of Sol’s private sanctuary. As James learns the stories of the members and how they came to be there, he begins to understand the desperate nature of their beliefs – a desperation he knows all too well.
As the final ceremony draws near, James must ask himself: what will it cost them to reach this other life? And is that a price he’s willing to pay?
Published 25th May by Hodder and Stoughton
I have a Netgalley ARC of this latest novel from Louise Candlish and as usual it’s addictive, tense and I read it in 24 hours. There’s the obvious story. And then there’s the truth. Alex lives a comfortable life with his wife Beth in the leafy suburb of Silver Vale. Fine, so he’s not the most outgoing guy on the street, he prefers to keep himself to himself, but he’s a good husband and an easy-going neighbour. That’s until Beth announces the creation of a nature trail on a local site that’s been disused for decades and suddenly Alex is a changed man. Now he’s always watching. Questioning. Struggling to hide his dread . . . As the landscapers get to work, a secret threatens to surface from years ago, back in Alex’s twenties when he got entangled with a seductive young woman called Marina, who threw both their lives into turmoil. And who sparked a police hunt for a murder suspect that was never quite what it seemed. And it still isn’t.
Published 2nd February by Simon and Schuster UK.
This second novel from the author of The Deception of Harriet Fleet (which I loved) takes us back to the aftermath of the Great War in another haunting, atmospheric Gothic tale. London in 1919 was a city of ghosts and absences, haunted by the men who marched away but never came back from ‘the war to end all wars.’ Grace Armstrong believes that she has come to terms with her own loss, the death of her fiancé, the brilliant and dazzling best friend of her brother. He was declared Missing in Action during the Battle of the Somme, but he starts to reappear both in her waking life and dreams.
Grace is appalled when a body, dragged from the Thames, is identified as Elizabeth Smith, who has lodged with Grace and her family for the last eight years before suddenly disappearing. Elizabeth had been more than a lodger; she had become a close friend to Grace, who feels compelled to find out what happened. In doing so she is drawn reluctantly into the sordid and dangerous underbelly of London and a scandal that rocked Edwardian society. Soon Grace finds herself under threat, and the only person prepared to listen is the brooding Tom Monaghan. But Tom has dark shadows of his own to navigate before being able to put his past behind him to help Grace in her quest for the truth.
Published 17th August by Quercus.
Among the cobbled streets of the Somerset town of Frome, Lou is embarking on the start of something new. After the death of her beloved mother, she takes a deep breath into the unknown and is opening her own vintage clothes shop.
In upstate New York, Donna has just found out some news about her family which has called into question her whole upbringing. The only clue she has to unlock her past is a picture of a yellow dress, and the fact it is currently on display in a shop in England.
For Maggy, she is facing life as a 70-something divorcee and while she got the house, she’s not sure what to fill it with now her family have moved out. The new vintage shop in town sparks memories of her past and reignites a passion she’s been missing…
Together, can these three women find the answers they are searching for and unlock a second chance at a new life?
Oh my goodness 2023 is looking delicious when it comes to new releases and there were so many I’ve been lucky enough to either read in the last month, or that are still waiting on my TBR that I’ve had to do this in two parts. I wanted to tell you about all of them. This is a combination of proofs I’ve been lucky enough to receive, NetGalley ARC’s, and others I’ve got on pre-order for their release date. Some are for blog tours, others I’ve been given through working with the Squad Pod Collective. It’s going to be a busy year for me and I’m hoping to go to a few more events this year and meet some of the lovely people who support me or who send me books, hoping that I’m going to love them. So, without further rambling, these are the books on my radar for the first part of 2023.
I’m so grateful that Viper Books sent me a copy of this beautiful book when I was too unwell to go to their showcase event. Slated as perfect for readers of Jessie Burton, Stacey Halls and Laura Purcell and recommended by the amazing Essie Fox, this might as well have ‘written for Hayley Baxter written across the cover! We’re in Victorian gothic territory as Many would find much to fear in Fyneshade’s dark and crumbling corridors, its unseen master and silent servants. But not I. For they have far more to fear from me… On the day of her grandmother’s funeral, Marta discovers that she is to be sent to be governess at Fyneshade, her charge the young daughter of the owner, Sir William Pritchard. All is not well at Fyneshade. Sir William is mysteriously absent, and his son and heir Vaughan is forbidden to enter the house. Marta finds herself drawn to him, despite the warnings of the housekeeper that Vaughan is a danger to all around him. But Marta is no innocent to be preyed upon. Guided by the dark gift taught to her by her grandmother, she has made her own plans. It will take more than a family riven by murderous secrets to stop her.
Published 18th May 2023 by Profile Books
Expectant is the latest novel in Vanda Symon’s Detective Sam Shephard series and I finished this late last night so I can reveal it’s brilliant and full of tension as the countdown to catch a murderer coincides with the last weeks of Sam’s pregnancy. This great series, set in Dunedin New Zealand, never lets me down. Sam is a fantastic character, who I’d happily go for a drink with. She’s professional and has one of those faces that people trust immediately, meaning she can elicit new leads and confessions from the unlikeliest criminal. She’s stubborn and outspoken, very ballsy and, although she tries her best not to use it, has an incredible swearing vocabulary. She and partner Paul are expecting their first child and she’s working up to two weeks before her due date. They haven’t found time to organise their endless piles of baby kit into a nursery when a case comes in that Sam can’t help but be drawn into. A group of kids who are hoping to tag the wall down a quiet side street find a woman covered in blood, only one of them has the conscience to stay and ring an ambulance. He’s willing to face the music for the graffiti if he can save her. At first it’s thought to be a stabbing, but it soon becomes clear this is something more sinister. A pregnant woman has been subjected to a rudimentary Caesarian and left for dead, even worse there’s no sign of the baby. This must be someone with a certain amount of medical skill. For Sam, who’s at her most vulnerable, it’s scary to think this might have been someone the victim trusted and it makes her more determined to catch her killer.
Published 18th May 2023 by Orenda Books
I received a beautiful copy of this book because I’m taking part in the blog tour with Random Things Tours. This is a heartbreaking memoir about the power of stories with beautiful illustrations from Anna Walker.
Let me tell you a story…
When Chloe Hooper’s partner is diagnosed with a rare and aggressive illness, she has to find a way to tell their two young sons. By instinct, she turns to the bookshelf. Can the news be broken as a bedtime tale? Is there a perfect book to prepare children for loss? Hooper embarks on a quest to find what practical lessons children’s literature—with its innocent orphans and evil adults, magic, monsters and anthropomorphic animals—can teach about grief and resilience in real life. As she discovers, ‘the right words are an incantation, a spell of hope for the future.’ From the Brothers Grimm to Frances Hodgson Burnett and Tolkien and Dahl—all of whom suffered childhood bereavements—she follows the breadcrumbs of the world’s favourite authors, searching for the deep wisdom in their books and lives. Both memoir and manual, Bedtime Story is stunningly illustrated by the New York Times award-winning Anna Walker. In an age of worldwide uncertainty, here is a profound and moving exploration of the dark and light of storytelling.
Out now from Scribner U.K.
Grace has the incredible power to grab hold of you, immerse you in her world and have you firmly on her side all the way through. It’s possibly way too early to start picking candidates for favourite books of 2023, but I think this book is certainly going to be in contention. I found myself fantasising about having cocktails with her, already knowing we’d have the best time. Grace is stuck in traffic, it’s a boiling hot day and she’s melting. All she wants to do is get to the bakery and pick up the cake for her daughter’s birthday. This is one hell of a birthday cake: it’s a Love Island cake; it has to say that Grace cares; that she’s sorry; that she loves Lotte and hasn’t given up on their relationship. It’s shaping up to be the day from hell and as Grace sits in her tin can of a car on boiling hot tarmac, something snaps. She decides to get out of the car and walk, leaving her vehicle stranded and pissing off everyone now blocked by a car parked in the middle of a busy road. So, despite the fact her trainers aren’t broken in, she sets off walking towards the bakery and a reunion with Lotte. There are just a few obstacles in the way, but Grace can see the cake and Lotte’s face when she opens the box. As she walks she recounts everything that has happened to bring her to where she is now. The deep delves into the past slowly recount how Grace’s life imploded and created a permanent before and after. This book is a stunning debut and should be on your reading list.
Published on 19th January 2023 by Michael Joseph.
Touted as perfect for fans of Eve Chase, Kate Morton and Kate Mosse – all of whom take up space on my forever shelves – this is the third novel from Polly Crosby and on the strength of her first two I would pre-order this without question. In a time slip structure we meet two women, Lady Vita Goldsborough and Eve Blakeney. In 1938 Vita lives in the shadow of her controlling older brother, Aubrey. Trapped and isolated on the East Anglian coast, Vita takes solace in watching the birds that fly over the marshes. But then she meets local artist Dodie Blakeney. The two women form a close bond, and Vita finally glimpses a chance to escape Aubrey’s grasp and be as free as the birds she loves. Decades later in the 1990’s and in the wake of her mother’s death, Eve Blakeney returns to the coast where she spent childhood summers with her beloved grandmother, Dodie. Eve hopes the visit will help make sense of her grief. The last thing she expects to find is a bundle of letters that hint at the heart-breaking story of Dodie’s relationship with a woman named Vita. Eve and Vita’s stories are linked by a shattering secret that echoes through the decades, and when Eve discovers the truth, it will overturn everything she thought she knew about her family – and change her life forever. It shows how much I rate Polly Crosby that this isn’t out until the end of May 2023 and I’m already anticipating publication day.
Published 25th May 2023 by HQ
I’ve been lucky enough to receive a special proof copy of this romantic book with special spredges, which I’m always a sucker for. This isn’t one love story. It’s two.
Becca Calloway is calling it: she’s ready for Mr Right, and she’s ready now. She even goes as far as to hold a manifestation ceremony for him – and when she receives a text from her ex five minutes later, she knows it’s a sign. The problem is, she doesn’t know which way it’s pointing…
Should Becca reply and reignite things with her old flame Mike? Or delete and block, moving forward with the new man in her life? Becca has one choice, with two ways this could go. And in Lovestruck, you’re about to see them both.
Published by Penguin 8th June 2023.
THEY TRIED TO CAGE US.
BUT A WEYWARD WOMAN BELONGS TO THE WILD.
WE CANNOT BE TAMED.
Kate, 2019 Kate flees London – abandoning everything – for Cumbria and Weyward Cottage, inherited from her great-aunt. There, a secret lurks in the bones of the house, hidden ever since the witch-hunts of the 17th century.
Violet, 1942 Violet is more interested in collecting insects and climbing trees than in becoming a proper young lady. Until a chain of shocking events changes her life forever.
Altha, 1619 Altha is on trial for witchcraft, accused of killing a local man. Known for her uncanny connection with nature and animals, she is a threat that must be eliminated.
But Weyward women belong to the wild. And they cannot be tamed…
I couldn’t be more excited about this debut. Weaving together the stories of three women across five centuries, Weyward is an enthralling novel of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world.
Published 2nd February 2023 by Borough Press.
1852. Margaret Lennox, a young widow, is offered a position as governess at Hartwood Hall. She quickly accepts, hoping this isolated country house will allow her to leave the past behind.
Margaret soon feels there’s something odd about Hartwood: strange figures in the dark, tensions between servants and an abandoned east wing.
Margaret is certain that everyone here has something to hide, and as her own past threatens to catch up with her, she must learn to trust her instincts before it’s too late… this is another Gothic treasure that I can’t wait to open.
Published by 30th March 2023
I loved the psychological detail in Liz Nugent’s last novel about family dynamics and the fact that no two children have the same parent. I’m hoping for similar in this new novel. Sally Diamond cannot understand why what she did was so strange. She was only doing what her father told her to do, to put him out with the rubbish when he died.
Now Sally is the centre of attention, not only from the hungry media and police detectives, but also a sinister voice from a past she cannot remember. As she begins to discover the horrors of her childhood, Sally steps into the world for the first time, making new friends and big decisions, and learning that people don’t always mean what they say.
But who is the man observing Sally from the other side of the world? And why does her neighbour seem to be obsessed with her? Sally’s trust issues are about to be severely challenged . . .
Published 2nd March 2023 by Sandycove Publishing
‘All of you are cursed, you hear me? An ugly death for the ones with whom you fall in love’
For generations, the Montrose women have lived alone with their secrets, their delicate peace depending on the unspoken bond that underpins their family life – Voodoo and hoodoo magic, and a decades-old curse that will kill anyone they fall for. When seventeen-year-old Nickie Montrose brings home a boy for the first time, this careful balance is thrown into disarray. For the other women have been keeping the curse from Nickie, and revealing it means that they must reckon with their own choices and mistakes.
As new truths emerge, the Montrose women are set on a collision course that echoes back to New Orleans’ French Quarter, where a crumbling book of spells may hold the answers that all of them have been looking for… Rich in its sense of character and place, Black Candle Womenis a haunting and magical debut from a talented new storyteller.
Published 28th February 2023 by Headline
Power. History. Love. Hate. Vengeance.
She will be Queen. Whatever it takes…
Daughter of an ousted king, descendant of ancient druids, as a child it is prophesied that one day Gruoch will be queen of Alba.
When she is betrothed to Duncan, heir elect, this appears to confirm the prophecy. She leaves behind her home, her family and her close friend MacBethad, and travels to the royal seat at Scone to embrace her new position.
But nothing is as Gruoch anticipates. Duncan’s court is filled with sly words and unfriendly faces, women desperate to usurp her position, and others whose motives are shrouded in mystery. As her coronation approaches, a deadly turn of events forces Gruoch to flee Duncan and the capital, finding herself alone, vulnerable and at the mercy of an old enemy. Her hope of becoming Queen all but lost, Gruoch does what she must to survive, vowing that one day she will fulfill her destiny and take up the future owed to her. Whatever it may take.
Published 2nd March 2023 by Raven Books
In New York City, two rival witch families fight for the upper hand.
The Antonova sisters are beautiful, cunning and ruthless, and their mother – known only as Baba Yaga – is the elusive supplier of premium intoxicants. Their adversaries, the influential Fedorov brothers, serve their crime boss father. Named Koschei the Deathless, his enterprise dominates the shadows of magical Manhattan.
For twelve years, the families have maintained a fraught stalemate. Then everything is thrown into disarray. Bad blood carries them to the brink of disaster, even as fate draws together a brother and sister from either side. Yet the siblings still struggle for power, and internal conflicts could destroy each family from within. That is, if the enmity between empires doesn’t destroy both sides first. I’m totally new to this author, but have seen such great reviews for her last novel The Atlas Six and five star previews for this one too. I’m excited to discover an author that’s new to me but has a back catalogue to read my way through.
Published by Tor, 6th April 2023.
For someone who spent time studying the Gothic, Grotesque and Monstrous at university, this cover would have screamed out to me in any bookshop even if I wasn’t a book blogger. gothic adventure story, a classic tale with a feminist twist, a story of ambition and obsession, forbidden love and sabotage…
‘It is not the monster you must fear, but the monster it makes of men…’
Mary is the great-niece of Victor Frankenstein. She knows her great uncle disappeared in mysterious circumstances in the Arctic but she doesn’t know why or how…
The 1850s is a time of discovery and London is ablaze with the latest scientific theories and debates, especially when a spectacular new exhibition of dinosaur sculptures opens at the Crystal Palace. Mary, with a sharp mind and a sharper tongue, is keen to make her name in this world of science, alongside her geologist husband Henry, but without wealth and connections, their options are limited.
But when Mary discovers some old family papers that allude to the shocking truth behind her great-uncle’s past, she thinks she may have found the key to securing their future… Their quest takes them to the wilds of Scotland, to Henry’s intriguing but reclusive sister Maisie, and to a deadly chase with a rival who is out to steal their secret. Our Hideous Progeny is a sumptuous tale of ambition and obsession, of forbidden love and sabotage; an adventure story that blends classic, immersive storytelling with contemporary themes.
Published by Doubleday 4th May 2023
This is a book I’ll be reading along with the rest of my Squad Pod Collective and I’m looking forward to the discussions coming up. I’ve seen preview comments from other authors and it’s recommended by Erin Kelly, Catriona Ward and one of my favourite authors Will Dean, so it must be good. Plus it’s a book about books and what do we book bloggers like more than that? It’s billed as the debut thriller of 2023 and much as I usually avoid hype, this one has tempted me.
Roach – bookseller, loner and true crime obsessive – is not interested in making friends. She has all the company she needs in her serial killer books, murder podcasts and her pet snail, Bleep. That is, until Laura joins the bookshop. Smelling of roses, with her cute literary tote bags (oh I do love a tote bag) and beautiful poetry, she’s everyone’s new favourite bookseller. But beneath the shiny veneer, Roach senses a darkness within Laura, the same darkness Roach possesses. As Roach’s curiosity blooms into morbid obsession, it becomes clear that she is prepared to infiltrate Laura’s life at any cost.
Published by Hodder and Stoughton 28th April 2023
I heard the words ‘Edwardian heist novel’ and ‘Ocean’s 8 meets Fingersmith’ and I was hooked by this novel.
Mayfair, 1905. The grandest house on Park Lane has just dismissed its housekeeper. All manner of treasures lie behind the pillared doors – and scandalous secrets too. With the event of the season looming, nothing must go wrong. But what no one knows is that Mrs King will be back at Park Lane on the night of the ball. She has an audacious plan in mind… and knows just who to recruit to help her clean up.
Housekeeper. Sewing maid. Kitchen girl. Thief.
Never underestimate the women downstairs.
IT’S YOUR HOUSE. BUT IT’S THEIR RULES.
Dazzling, stylish and wildly entertaining, The Housekeepers lets loose an outlandish alliance of women you’ll never forget.
Published by Headline Review 6th July 2023.
Kate Sawyer’s debut novel The Stranding was my favourite novel of 2021 so I have high hopes for this second novel and have been the luckiest blogger in the world to receive this early copy.
It is my dearest wish, that after so long apart, I am able to bring this family together for my wedding day.
This house. This family.
Mary has raised a family in this house. Watched her children play and laugh and bicker in this house. Today she is getting married in this house, with all her family in attendance. The wedding celebrations have brought fractured family together for the first time in years: there’s Phoebe and her husband Michael, children in tow. The young and sensitive Rosie, with her new partner. Irene, Mary’s ex-mother-in-law. Even Emma, Mary’s eldest, is back for the wedding – despite being at odds with everyone else. Set over the course of an English summer’s day but punctuated with memories from the past forty years of love and loss, hope and joy, heartbreak and grief, this is the story of a family. Told by a chorus of characters, it is an exploration of the small moments that bring us to where we are, the changes that are brought about by time, and what, despite everything, stays the same. This sounds like my perfect mix of reminiscences and recriminations, with a fractured family dynamic there can be a dozen interpretations of the past and I’m looking forward to making sense of them.
Published 11th May 2023 by Coronet.
In the name of the Father, not a word of this. Her letters are forbidden.
Beatrice is the convent’s librarian. For years, she has shunned the company of her sisters, finding solace only with her manuscripts.
Then, one carnival night, two women, bleeding and stricken, are abandoned outside the convent’s walls. Moments from death, one of them presses something into Beatrice’s hands: a bewitching book whose pages have a dangerous life of their own.
But men of the faith want the book destroyed, and a zealous preacher has tracked it to her door. Her sisters’ lives – or her obsession. Beatrice must decide.
The book’s voice is growing stronger. An ancient power uncoils. Will she dare to listen?
Published 2nd March 2023 by Wildfire.
My final pick for this post is The Walled Garden, which again has a stunning cover and is a debut novel. The aftermath of war is something I’ve been deeply interested in, although my reading covered the post- WW1 period. This past year I’ve read a couple of books set post WW2 and I learned so much about prisoners of war and how long it took communities, both those occupied and those of the occupier, to recover. No one survives war unscathed. But even in the darkest days, seeds of hope can grow.
It is 1946 and in the village of Oakbourne the men are home from the war. Their bodies are healing but their psychological wounds run deep. Everyone is scarred – those who fought and those left behind.
Alice Rayne is married to Stephen, heir to crumbling Oakbourne Hall. Once a sweet, gentle man, he has returned a bitter and angry stranger, destroyed by what he has seen and done, tormented by secrets Alice can only guess at. Lonely and increasingly afraid of the man her husband has become, Alice must try to pick up the pieces of her marriage and save Oakbourne Hall from total collapse. She begins with the walled garden and, as it starts to bear fruit, she finds herself drawn into a new, forbidden love. Set in the Suffolk countryside as it moves from winter to spring, The Walled Garden is a captivating love story and a timeless, moving exploration of trauma and the miracle of human resilience.
Published 16th March by Manila Press.
Tomorrow I’ll be musing on more new books from the coming year. ❤️📚
Following a long-standing feud and looking to settle the score, a woman decides to dismantle her home – alone and by hand – and move it across a frozen pond during a harsh New England winter in this mesmerizing debut. Home is certainly not where Del’s heart is. After a local scandal led to her parents’ divorce and the rest of her family turned their backs on her, Del left her small town and cut off contact. Now, with both of her parents gone, a chance has arrived for Del to retaliate.
Her uncle wants the one thing Del inherited: the family home. Instead of handing the place over, and with no other resources at her disposal, Del decides she will tear the place apart herself – piece by piece. But Del will soon discover, the task stirs up more than just old memories as relatives-each in their own state of unravelling – come knocking on her door.
This spare, strange, magical book is a story not only about the powerlessness and hurt that run through a family but also about the moments when brokenness can offer us the rare chance to start again.
I spent much of yesterday afternoon in the attic searching for Christmas decorations and our tree, but inevitably raving through boxes unearthed an awful lot of history. As usual I found myself poring over my old high school yearbook, reminiscing on other lives such as the time I spent in Milton Keynes with my late husband, and having that strange bittersweet feeling. It’s smiling about memories of the past but also a pang of sadness because it’s so long ago and there was the realisation that I’ve now spent more years without him than with him. When I return to Milton Keynes that feeling of nostalgia is even stronger and I even get the feeling I might bump into him, having a coffee and living a life that carried on without me. It’s these feelings we have when we return to a place that has huge significance in our lives and for Del that’s her home town and the family home she’s now inherited. Fate seems to be laughing at her though, because she’s never wanted to return to the small town in Maine where she grew up but she has nowhere else to go. Her friend and room mate Tym would like his boyfriend to move in and since Del has been sacked she can’t pay the rent anyway. Her uncle wants to buy the house and develop the plot, but with no other choice Del finds herself on a bus back to a place she’d left behind long ago and holds some of the worst memories of her life.
After dreading the house for a long time, Del is surprised that although it’s in a terrible state of repair, the house is conjuring up some good memories too. All relate way back, to the time before the scandal that forced her parent’s divorce. She’s surprised to find that she’s loathe to give the house up, even though she’s desperate for the money. Her uncle has inherited a lot of land around the house, but the house itself was the only thing her mother inherited from Del’s grandparents. Then an idea presents itself, what if she sells the site but keeps the house? To me, Del’s idea feels like an act of protest at first. However, as time goes on, I can see that the physical exertion seems to illicit a change in Del. I loved her grit and determination in taking the house apart, especially during the Maine winter. Her family can’t believe that she will succeed, fully expecting her to abandon the project and disappear again. Del surprises them all, but she also surprises herself. The house is almost a metaphor for the wall Del has built up to cope with mental anguish. With clients I always equate our ‘selves’ as wall built up of bricks, each one represents something about our development or experience. Here and there, are bricks that represent a trauma and they are often unstable. If we continue to build on top of that trauma without dealing with it, the foundations of the wall will be unstable. It’s only by dismantling the wall, brick by brick, that we can go back to the trauma and process the pain. Then the wall can continue on a strong base that will last. Del’s dismantling of her family home is the equivalent of therapy. Each brick represents a memory and Del needs to make peace with each one before she can move on.
I really enjoyed Del as a character. She’s beautifully written and is a bit of a ‘hedgehog’ person – covered in prickles, not to hurt others but to protect herself. She’s not great at sharing her feelings, with Tym being her only friend she’s effectively isolated herself. I really enjoyed Tym, who is a wonderful friend to Del despite his own sadness and tragedy. I thought the author depicted the physical and mental struggle that comes with working on ourselves really well. It’s wonderful to watch as Del puts down these huge burdens she’s been carrying and sloughs off those prickles and extra skins she’s used as a defence. I loved how more people started to form relationships with Del as she becomes more approachable and open. Her determination to move the house and move on in her emotional life touches other people. This is a quiet book, but don’t mistake that as a criticism. I love quiet books that follow the pace of life, that takes us into the heart of real life and how we make human connections. What I loved more than anything, after the reality of hard psychological graft, were the little glimmers of hope. It made me think of a couple of my favourite lines of poetry.
‘Hope is a thing with feathers, that perches in the soul,
I never stop counting my lucky stars that I’m a member of the Squad Pod Collective – a group of friends formed organically on Twitter who have formed a book blogging community. Not only are they lovely women who support each other daily they are very talented writers and book reviewers. Each month we have a book club pick and I’ve been lucky enough to have time at the end of the year to read this stunning fantasy duology back to back and I’m so glad I did. I loved escaping into the clouds in Sue Lynn Tann’s first instalment, Daughter of the Moon Goddess because it lured me into a richly evocative world of goddesses, monsters, warriors and Chinese mythology. I’m so in awe of this author’s imagination and I was fascinated to see the next part of Xingyin’s journey. The first book has really set the scene for this sequel in terms of the relationships and character developments that are immediately picked up where we left them last time. We meet Xingyin, now reunited with her mother and living contentedly back on the moon. However, this is only a short moment of peace because there is a power shift in the Celestial Kingdom and Xingyin is forced to flee from her home again and defend the realm.
The author’s vivid imagination can be seen on every page, with such lush description that I fully believed in this incredible world she builds, but her attention to detail doesn’t stop at the setting. Once again she takes her heroine through ordeals and personal choices that build real character growth. Her journey is an emotional one and her growing maturity is shown in the tough decisions she makes both in her quest and in her personal life. I felt that the romance angle was more successful this time, with all characters in the love triangle showing more maturity. This could be just my age and experience though and young adult readers may well identify strongly with the set up of this storyline in the first book. Here she has to face betrayal and I was caught up in this powerful dynamic that threatens to tip over into enemies, rather than potential lovers. Her sadness and conflicted feelings over Wenzhi’s betrayal work well and he’s still very much part of the story. In my opinion he brings that spark of chemistry too. He really wants to make things right with Xingyin and shows this by devotedly sticking by her side to be there whenever she needs him. There is less instant chemistry between Xingyin and Liwei, but there is strong friendship and loyalty. He shows he is willing to defy his parents for her which removes the main obstacle to their potential romance. The mental push and pull between these very polarised relationships was definitely more engaging this time and I became more and more interested to see who, if anyone, she would choose.
The pace of the novel did ebb and flow, with a quieter middle section followed by a helter -skelter rush towards the conclusion. The battle sequences are incredibly effective because they feel dynamic and there’s genuine peril – characters do die here. The decision to make this a duology was a clever one. As the novel rushed towards it’s conclusion I worried that it might feel jumbled or sudden, but everything worked and I came away feeling satisfied. In many ways The Heart of the Sun Warrior worked better for me than the first novel, taking the story to new places with higher stakes and life-changing consequences. There was more tension, a faster pace and a few twists and turns to surprise the reader. As mentioned the romance seemed better worked out here too, but everything Sue Lynn Tan did well in the first novel is maintained. We didn’t lose any of the luscious description and lyrical language that she does so well, drawing the reader into her magical world. As with the first novel though, it was the heroine’s self-growth that I enjoyed most and those life lessons extended to the other characters too, who go on their own inner journey. Of course there’s the strength and courage you would expect from warriors, but that conflict also brought lessons in loss and coping with grief. Each character had to practice forgiveness and learn what it means to give unconditional love. These deeper emotional elements really elevated this book for me and along with the strength of Chang’e and Xingyin’s mother/daughter relationship, they give a very magical world it’s human heart. Sue Lynn Tan should be incredibly proud of these debut novels and her beautiful, poetic writing style. What finishes these books off beautifully are those stunning covers, both of which would look perfect as framed book posters on my bedroom wall (if anyone’s listening).
Published 10th November 2022 by Harper Voyager
Meet The Author
Sue Lynn Tan writes stories inspired by the myths and legends she fell in love with as a child. After devouring every fable she could find in the library, she discovered fantasy books, spending much of her childhood lost in magical worlds.
Daughter of the Moon Goddess is her debut, the first in the Celestial Kingdom duology – a fantasy of immortals, magic and love, inspired by the beloved legend of the Chinese moon goddess, Chang’e. Its sequel, Heart of the Sun Warrior, is also out now.
When not writing or reading, she enjoys exploring the hills, lakes, and temples around her home. She is also grateful to be within reach of bubble tea and spicy food, that she unfortunately cannot cook.
I am a huge fan of Damon Albarn – I haven’t gone crazy, this is relevant – from the first 12 inch Blur single I bought in 1989, to Gorillaz and all the solo projects in-between I’ve been there. For me, the most amazing piece of work he’s composed is Monkey: The Opera which I went to see at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and then again at Lincoln Centre in NYC. I’d seen the ‘Monkey Magic’ series when I was a child, me and my brother loved the hilarious and badly dubbed chronicles of Monkey and his quest. However, in the opera house, when the music started and the curtains opened this Monkey was simply magical, like a window to another world. The music was exquisite and the set was just incredible, with floating clouds and giant bamboo, underwater realms and ancient gods and spirits lurking above while Monkey learns what his journey is about. I’d honestly never seen anything like it. So, when I picked up this beautiful book I put the music on so I had a soundtrack to my reading experience and it fitted together beautifully. Used to Greek, Roman and Celtic mythology, Albarn’s soundtrack felt like fitting music for the entirely alien, but rich and evocative mythology I was becoming immersed in.
This incredible debut novel from Sue Lynn Tan is a mix of mythology, spirituality, magic and Bildüngsroman- that wonderful and almost untranslatable word that relates to books focused on a young person growing up. Our heroine is Xingyin a young woman who has grown up on the moon, hidden from a powerful Celestial Emperor who placed her mother Chang’e in exile for the theft of his elixir of mortality. Xingyin’s life has been a lonely one and as she grows she longs for new experiences and places. Now Xinying is coming into her power and as her magic increases, she is discovered. Now she must flee the moon and leave her mother behind, knowing that she’s pitted against the most powerful immortal leaving both their lives at risk. Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity she works as a servant, but then seizes a lucky opportunity to train in the Crown Prince’s service. Xingyin starts learning to master archery, magic, and the strange attraction between her and the emperor’s son. I loved being back in a world within the clouds. The author’s beautifully lyrical language is so vibrant and she really does bring this stunning world to life. This celestial realm is woven from layers of description about the clothing, the food, the buildings and the unique magical elements, creating a setting and atmosphere that’s suitably awe inspiring.
I found Xingyin’s inner journey interesting too, because she develops so much from the naïve young girl at the beginning. I loved that she is following a path to be a warrior, something that seems rare for women in Western mythologies. I learned so much about Chinese culture through her obligations to family, particularly the mother/daughter relationship and the concept of honour and how it informs her ambitions. Her focus is to free her mother from exile and this brings out an incredible determination in Xingyin. She starts out unable to fend for herself and she shows both patience and grit, achieving each goal on the way to her destiny. She has to learn the history of these Immortal Realms in order to negotiate her way forward. She also has to practice her magic and the find the best way to utilise it in her quest. I loved how the author kept a steady pace in these early sections, the slower pace echoing that Xingyin is only at the beginning of her journey and she feels those same emotions we do when our goals are still so far away. The pace really speeds up when Xingyin has undergone her initial training and the army leaves to test it’s recruits in battle. I really enjoyed the extraordinary monsters from Chinese legend that the army must defeat for Xingyin to really fulfil her potential as a battle-hardened warrior. The author beautifully describes that uncertainty and fear soldiers must feel before a battle – the self-doubt that can creep in and takes hold. Yet Xingyin manages to feel this and still maintain her warrior-like demeanour. She isn’t just a killing machine. Throughout her endeavours she has kept her own deep seated sense of morality and a self-awareness that allows her to set boundaries.
Aside from Xingyin’s quest there is also an element of romance in the novel; a love triangle that does dominate in parts and takes up an enormous amount of her head space. I wasn’t sure I needed the romance for the book to work, but I guess it’s part of a young girl’s journey into womanhood. She is torn between two men and seems on a rollercoaster of trying to understand her feelings for both. One minute she’s berating her own fickleness in wanting one and then the other, then is angry that whatever they do she can’t let either one of them go. I think the author is trying to capture the immaturity of relationships at this age and I felt the romance might have been pitched at a YA audience who would understand the angst better than this middle-aged reader. I didn’t want the romance to take over the storyline and distract Xingyin from her own journey and potential. I don’t read a enormous amount of fantasy, but this was a complete escape from normal everyday life and I found myself lost in it’s imagery and those wonderful mythical creatures. The author has a boundless imagination, shown in the sheer scale of this work and how she paints her world with words so that it’s beautifully rich, evocative and ultimately, enchanting. I’m looking forward to diving into her world again for the sequel to this incredible debut novel.
Published 20th Jan 2022 by Harper Voyager
Meet the Author
Sue Lynn Tan writes stories inspired by the myths and legends she fell in love with as a child. After devouring every fable she could find in the library, she discovered fantasy books, spending much of her childhood lost in magical worlds. Daughter of the Moon Goddess is her debut, the first in the Celestial Kingdom duology – a fantasy of immortals, magic and love, inspired by the beloved legend of the Chinese moon goddess, Chang’e.
When not writing or reading, she enjoys exploring the hills, lakes, and temples around her home. She is also grateful to be within reach of bubble tea and spicy food, that she unfortunately cannot cook.
The Ghost Woods is the third book I’ve read by C.J. Cooke and I’m convinced she’s getting better with each novel. This brilliant mix of historical fiction, women’s history, Scottish folklore and the supernatural had me transfixed. We follow two young girls struggling with the realities of becoming pregnant out of wedlock in mid-Twentieth Century Scotland. In 1965, Pearl Gorham is sent to Lichen Hall, a large 16th Century private house set in the middle of woodland and home to a wealthy couple and their grandson. Pearl is 22 and heavily pregnant, until now she’s been working as a nurse, but she’s being driven to Lichen Hall. The family here look after young women ‘in trouble’ and find adoptive parents for their babies. Five years earlier in Dundee, Mabel Haggith is at the doctors with her mother and has just found out that she’s pregnant. Her mother is furious, but Mabel is confused, how can she be pregnant when she hasn’t done anything wrong? To make sense of her predicament, Mabel assumes it must be the ghosts that live inside her that have made her pregnant, she can feel one in her knee right now. Her mum and stepfather decide Mabel must go to a mother and baby home, but Mabel has heard what can go on in those places. She decides to go to Lichen Hall instead, where she’ll have her baby and hopefully adoptive parents will be found. As long as they don’t mind having a ghost baby of course.
What they find at Lichen Hall is an eccentric and isolated family called the Whitlocks. Mrs Whitlock is most definitely in charge, but is dealing with her husband and son’s issues as well. Mr Whitlock was a professor of biology, focused on the more unusual types of fungi and the symbiotic relationship between them and humans. However, more recently dementia has made his behaviour rather erratic. He has taken to wandering and wearing eccentric combinations of clothing, some of which are more revealing than others. Son, Wolfie, is a complex boy with erratic moods and explosive behaviour when frustrated. Mrs Whitlock herself is a strange mix of pleasant and welcoming, then suddenly cold, distant and even mean. Into this bizarre setting come girls who need help, empathy and care. Of course there are also other residents: Morwen who appears to be the only servant when Mabel arrives, as well as the other girls there to have their babies. Who will tend to these girls when they go into labour in this remote place? With folkloric stories of witches and evil fairies around, plus a deliciously Gothic house, full of atmosphere and and an infestation of fungi, that doesn’t seem to be as straightforward as they might have thought.
I loved this strange gothic mix of the horrors of nature and the supernatural. In the room where he keeps his favourite specimens, Mr Whitlock has a wasp that’s been taken over by a fungus. The life cycle starts when people simply breath in the spores, but then they grow inside the insect until it bursts out of their body. Monstrous births have a rich seam in gothic fiction and it feels like there may be parallels here, especially for Mabel and her ghost baby. By the time Pearl arrives, this mini example of a parasitic fungus is overshadowed by the fungal takeover in the west wing. Despite being closed off, she finds spores growing and multiplying on the stairs. Will it eventually take over the whole of Lichen Hall? There is a sense in which the girl’s pregnancies do seem monstrous. There are descriptions of their babies’ movements such as seeing a tiny foot stretching out the skin on their abdomens, which is amazing but strange all at the same time. Mabel’s boy is beautiful, but its not long before she notices the strange lights appearing from under his skin. What do they signify? Is this the legacy of the ghosts? The atmosphere feels isolated and wild, but weirdly suffocating and claustrophobic at the same time. When walking outside it’s best not to go into the woods where a shadowy figure awaits. It’s terrifying when one of the girls falls trying to escape this creature and it grabs her leg, seemingly able to make clear it’s intention to get ‘inside’ her skin.
The book works really well because the girl’s vulnerable position creates empathy and interest in the reader. We don’t want to see them harmed so there’s tension from the outside as well as that sense of foreboding we get from the atmosphere. I found the parts where the girls are struggling with giving up their babies, terribly moving, especially when some are given no warning or chance to say goodbye. The Whitlocks can only act like this due to the shame attached in society to an unmarried mother. We can see a change in attitudes between Mabel and Pearl’s time at the hall even though its only 6 years. Mabel is very ignorant of sex and motherhood, whereas Pearl is older and a nurse so she has more agency in her decisions. She also slept with a man at a party, after falling out with her true love Sebastian. When he turns up after all this time to the hall, they share a romantic picnic and he declares his love for her. It’s a ray of hope in an otherwise gloomy prospect for the residents of the hall. Pearl chooses to make love with Sebastian, showing a young woman making choices about her sex life, choices that don’t seem as bound up with shame and stigma. For Mabel, her early days at the hall are softened by servant Morwen, who seems to do everything for the family – besides looking after Wulfric. She helps the girls give birth too, a skill that’s severely tested if two girls are in labour at once. The new girls are also expected to help with Wulfric when they can. Mrs Whitlock’s present of some hens and wood to build a coop, felt doomed to failure to me. His erratic behaviour up to this point leaving me constantly in fear for the chicken’s lives. One question kept recurring to me, time and time again. Why are the Whitlocks taking these girls in? Could it be for free labour or is there another, more sinister reason, because the Whitlocks do not seem to be particularly charitable souls.
This is an intensely creepy book from the beginning, but as we start to find new clues it becomes more disturbing still. The strange notes that read ‘Help me’ can only be from one of the hall’s residents but who? Has Mr Whitlock had a more lucid moment? Is it a despairing mother to be who wishes to keep her baby? To be honest, by the time both Mabel and Pearl have been with the Whitlocks a few days, I was screaming at them to get out. It seems strange to me that no one enforces the girl’s stay, so there’s only one reason for their obedience and I think that is shame. Each girl is infested by this destructive emotion: they’ve been made to feel shame because of their behaviour, their condition and their lack of a man to stand by them. In one girl’s case, shame has affected her so strongly that she’s pushed a lot of her experiences into a little box in her mind and keeps them under lock and key. Denial is a very powerful tool that shuns truths that are so scary they would overwhelm us. It’s so terribly sad that the girl’s shame creates an opening for others to exploit and exert power over them, but will they succumb? Or will they find strength from somewhere to resist and discover the truth about this mouldy house and family who live there. This book is a brilliant mix of women’s history, gothic fiction and both psychological and physical deterioration. I’d been a little wary of mushrooms since Silvia Moreno Garcia’s Mexican Gothic, now I’m definitely keeping a lookout for fairy rings when I walk the dogs in the woods.
Published 13th Oct 2022 by Harper Fiction
Meet The Author
C J Cooke (Carolyn Jess-Cooke) lives in Glasgow with her husband and four children. C J Cooke’s works have been published in 23 languages and have won many awards. She holds a PhD in Literature from the Queen’s University of Belfast and is currently Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, where she researches creative writing interventions for mental health. Two of her books are currently optioned for film. Visit http://www.cjcookeauthor.com.
There are so many great books this autumn, but I’ve narrowed it down to those I have and I’m looking forward to reading the most. It’s all here, from spooky Halloween reads to feel-good fiction, thrillers to historical fiction and a splash of horror. Here’s a little preview of these great books.
In the midst of the woods stands a house called Lichen Hall. This place is shrouded in folklore – old stories of ghosts, of witches, of a child who is not quite a child. Now the woods are creeping closer, and something has been unleashed.
Pearl Gorham arrives in 1965, one of a string of young women sent to Lichen Hall to give birth. And she soon suspects the proprietors are hiding something. Then she meets the mysterious mother and young boy who live in the grounds – and together they begin to unpick the secrets of this place. As the truth comes to the surface and the darkness moves in, Pearl must rethink everything she knew – and risk what she holds most dear. I loved this author’s previous book The Lighthouse Witches and I can’t wait to get stuck into this one.
Published on 13th October 2022 by HarperCollins
I loved Caroline’s first two novels, both set in the aftermath of WW1 and full of historical detail, characters to empathise with and that chaos that seems to thrive in war’s aftermath. Between the two World Wars the country was in a state of flux, with huge changes in class structure, gender and the finances, both public and personal. This book is set in England, 1932, when the country was in the grip of the Great Depression. To lift the spirits of the nation, Stella Douglas is tasked with writing a history of food in England. It’s to be quintessentially English and will remind English housewives of the old ways, and English men of the glory of their country. The only problem is –much of English food is really from, well, elsewhere and can one cookbook really manoeuvre people back into those pre-war roles?
Stella sets about unearthing recipes from all corners of the country, in the hope of finding a hidden culinary gem. But what she discovers is rissoles, gravy, stewed prunes and lots of oatcakes. Longing for something more thrilling, she heads off to speak to the nation’s housewives. But when her car breaks down and the dashing and charismatic Freddie springs to her rescue, she is led in a very different direction . . . Full of wit and vim, Good Taste is a story of discovery, of English nostalgia, change and challenge, and one woman’s desire to make her own way as a modern woman.
Published on 13th October 2022 by Simon and Schuster U.K.
Rachel Joyce is one of those authors I’ve had lick to meet twice, at book signings, where I’ve been one of the last people to queue with my old books under my arm and her latest in my hand. Her last book Miss Benson’s Beetle was an incredible read about extraordinary women. Now she reverts to a series of books that have celebrated very ordinary people doing extraordinary things and Mrs Fry is no exception. Ten years ago, Harold Fry set off on his epic journey on foot to save a friend. But the story doesn’t end there. Now his wife, Maureen, has her own pilgrimage to make.
Maureen Fry has settled into the quiet life she now shares with her husband Harold after his iconic walk across England. Now, ten years later, an unexpected message from the North disturbs her equilibrium again, and this time it is Maureen’s turn to make her own journey. But Maureen is not like Harold. She struggles to bond with strangers, and the landscape she crosses has changed radically. She has little sense of what she’ll find at the end of the road. All she knows is that she must get there. Maureen Fry and the Angel of the North is a deeply felt, lyrical and powerful novel, full of warmth and kindness, about love, loss, and how we come to terms with the past in order to understand ourselves and our lives a little better. Short, exquisite, while it stands in its own right, it is also the moving finale to a trilogy that began with the phenomenal bestseller The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and continued with The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy.
This is a slender book but it has all the power and weight of a classic.
Published by Doubleday 20th Oct 2022. Kindle Edition available from 5th October.
I have already started this book and had a nightmare of epic proportions the very first night. I’m suggestible and have a wild imagination, but I think the opening to this book is strangely unsettling. I felt uneasy, even though the chapters I read didn’t have any particularly terrifying events. It’s the strangeness that creeps up on you.
Superstitions only survive if people believe in them… Renowned academic Dr Sparling seeks help with his project on a remote Irish village. Historical researchers Ben and Chloe are thrilled to be chosen – until they arrive. The village is isolated and forgotten. There is no record of its history, its stories. There is no friendliness from the locals, only wary looks and whispers. The villagers lock down their homes at sundown. It seems a nameless fear stalks the streets, but nobody will talk – nobody except one little girl. Her words strike dread into the hearts of the newcomers. Three times you see him. Each night he comes closer… That night, Ben and Chloe see a sinister figure watching them. He is the Creeper. He is the nameless fear in the night. Stories keep him alive. And nothing will keep him away..
Published by Head of Zeus/ Aries 15th September 2022.
I’m a sucker for historical fiction with a gothic edge, so this really captured my imagination as soon as I read the blurb. Obviously my counsellor brain is always ready for tales of supposed madness and hysteria too.
I must pull myself together. I had to find Dr Rastrick and demand my immediate release. My stomach knotted at the prospect, but I knew I was perfectly sane and that he must see reason.
In 1886, a respectable young woman must acquire a husband. But Violet Pring does not want to marry. She longs to be a professional artist and live on her own terms. When her scheming mother secures a desirable marriage proposal from an eligible Brighton gentleman for her, Violet protests. Her family believes she is deranged and deluded, so she is locked away in Hillwood Grange Lunatic Asylum against her will.In her new cage, Violet faces an even greater challenge: she must escape the clutches of a sinister and formidable doctor and set herself free. This tantalizing Gothic novel from Noel O’Reilly tells a thrilling story of duty and desire, madness and sanity, truth and delusion from within a Victorian asylum.
Published by HQ 8th December 2022
Spring 1937: Teresa is evacuated to London in the wake of the Guernica bombing. She thinks she’s found safety in the soothing arms of Mary Davidson and the lofty halls of Rochester Place, but trouble pursues her wherever she goes.
Autumn 2020: Corrine, an emergency dispatcher, receives a call from a distressed woman named Mary. But when the ambulance arrives at the address, Mary is nowhere to be found. Intrigued, Corinne investigates and, in doing so, disturbs secrets that have long-dwelt in Rochester Place’s crumbling walls. Secrets that, once revealed, will change her life for ever . . .
Who is Mary Davidson? And what happened at Rochester Place all those years ago? Set between the dusty halls of Rochester Place and the bustling streets of modern-day Tooting, this emotive, intricately layered mystery tells the spellbinding story of two people, separated by time, yet mysteriously connected through an enchanting Georgian house and the secrets within its walls.
Published by Penguin 8th Dec 2022
I always look forward to an Orenda book, because I know I’m going to great a fantastic and often thought provoking read. I’m on the blog tour for this in November and I’m looking forward to this one. James Garrett was critically injured when he was shot following his parents’ execution, and no one expected him to waken from a deep, traumatic coma. When he does, nine years later, Detective Inspector Rebecca Kent is tasked with closing the case that her now retired colleague, Theodore Tate, failed to solve all those years ago.
But between that, and hunting for Copy Joe – a murderer on a spree, who’s imitating Christchurch’s most notorious serial killer – she’s going to need Tate’s help … especially when they learn that James has lived out another life in his nine-year coma, and there are things he couldn’t possibly know, including the fact that Copy Joe isn’t the only serial killer in town…
Published by Orenda Books Nov 10th 2022
In between the serial killers, ghostly apparitions and terrifying ‘creepers’ I need some light relief. I was looking for something warm and uplifting and this could be it. Newly installed at All Souls Lutheran, Mallory “Pastor Pete” Peterson soon realizes that her church isn’t merely going through turbulent waters, but is a sinking ship. With the help of five loyal members of the Naomi Circle, the young, bold minister brainstorms fundraising ideas. They all agree that the usual recipe book won’t add much to the parish coffers, but maybe one with all the ingredients on how to heat up relationships rather than casseroles will…
Pastor Pete has her doubts about the project, but it turns out the group of postmenopausal women has a lot to say on the subject of romance. While Charlene, the youngest member at fifty-two, struggles with the assignment, baker-extraordinaire Marlys, elegantly bohemian Bunny, I’m-always-right Velda, and ebullient Edie take up their contributions enthusiastically. After all, their book is really about cooking up love in all its forms. But not everyone in the congregation is on board with this “scandalous” project. As the voices of opposition grow louder, Pastor Pete and these intrepid women will have to decide how hard they’re willing to fight for this book and the powerful stories within—stories of discovery, softened hearts, and changed lives.
Published by Lake Union 6th December 2022
Although this book is already out I’m saving it for the autumn, because it’s one of my Squad Pod’s Book Club reads. I loved Quinn’s debut novel The Smallest Man so I’ve had my eye on this for a while. I also love unusually named heroines, ever since Mary Webb’s Precious Bane, and Endurance Proudfoot is a brilliant invention. It’s usual, they say, for a young person coming to London for the first time to arrive with a head full of dreams. Well, Endurance Proudfoot did not. When she stepped off the coach from Sussex, on a warm and sticky afternoon in the summer of 1757, it never occurred to her that the city would be the place where she’d make her fortune; she was just very annoyed to be arriving there at all.
Meet Endurance Proudfoot, the bonesetter’s daughter: clumsy as a carthorse, with a tactless tongue and a face she’s sure only a mother could love. Durie only wants one thing in life – to follow her father and grandfather into the family business of bonesetting. It’s a physically demanding job, requiring strength, nerves of steel and discretion – and not the job for a woman. But Durie isn’t like other women. She’s strong and stubborn and determined to get her own way. And she finds that she has a talent at bonesetting – her big hands and lack of grace have finally found their natural calling. So, when she is banished to London with her sister, who is pretty, delicate and exactly the opposite to Durie in every way, Durie will not let it stop her realising her dreams. And while her sister will become one of the first ever Georgian celebrities, Durie will become England’s first and most celebrated female bonesetter. But what goes up must come down, and Durie’s elevated status may well become her undoing…
Published by Simon and Schuster 21st July 2022.
There are a few formidable women in my autumn reading and this is another brilliant historical fiction novel for the list. This is billed as a ‘rich and atmospheric’ new novel from prize-winning author Sally Gardner, set in the 18th century between the two great Frost Fairs. Neva Friezland is born into a world of trickery and illusion, where fortunes can be won and lost on the turn of a card. She is also born with an extraordinary gift. She can predict the weather. In Regency England, where the proper goal for a gentlewoman is marriage and only God knows the weather, this is dangerous. It is also potentially very lucrative.
In order to debate with the men of science and move about freely, Neva adopts a sophisticated male disguise. She foretells the weather from inside an automaton created by her brilliant clockmaker father. But what will happen when the disguised Neva falls in love with a charismatic young man?
It can be very dangerous to be ahead of your time. Especially as a woman.
Published by Apollo 10th November 2022.
Will Carver is an incredible writer and his imagination knows no bounds. His books are always so completely original.
Eli Hagin can’t finish anything. He hates his job, but can’t seem to quit. He doesn’t want to be with his girlfriend, but doesn’t know how end things with her, either. Eli wants to write a novel, but he’s never taken a story beyond the first chapter. Eli also has trouble separating reality from fiction.
When his best friend kills himself, Eli is motivated, for the first time in his life, to finally end something himself, just as Mike did… Except sessions with his therapist suggest that Eli’s most recent ‘first chapters’ are not as fictitious as he had intended … and a series of text messages that Mike received before his death point to something much, much darker…
Published by Orenda Books 24th November 2022.
This book sounds like a very dark fairy tale and aren’t they the best ones? An ancient, mercurial spirit is trapped inside Elspeth Spindle’s head – she calls him the Nightmare. He protects her. He keeps her secrets. But nothing comes for free, especially magic.
When Elspeth meets a mysterious highwayman on the forest road, she is thrust into a world of shadow and deception. Together, they embark on a dangerous quest to cure the town of Blunder from the dark magic infecting it. As the stakes heighten and their undeniable attraction intensifies, Elspeth is forced to face her darkest secret yet: the Nightmare is slowly, darkly, taking over her mind. And she might not be able to fight it. This is a gothic fantasy romance about a maiden who must unleash the monster within to save her kingdom.
Published by Orbit 29th September
Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives a quiet existence with his loving but broken father, a former linguist who now shelves books in a university library. Bird knows to not ask too many questions, stand out too much, or stray too far. For a decade, their lives have been governed by laws written to preserve “American culture” in the wake of years of economic instability and violence. To keep the peace and restore prosperity, the authorities are now allowed to relocate children of dissidents, especially those of Asian origin, and libraries have been forced to remove books seen as unpatriotic—including the work of Bird’s mother, Margaret, a Chinese American poet who left the family when he was nine years old.
Bird has grown up disavowing his mother and her poems; he doesn’t know her work or what happened to her, and he knows he shouldn’t wonder. But when he receives a mysterious letter containing only a cryptic drawing, he is pulled into a quest to find her. His journey will take him back to the many folktales she poured into his head as a child, through the ranks of an underground network of librarians, into the lives of the children who have been taken, and finally to New York City, where a new act of defiance may be the beginning of much-needed change.
Our Missing Hearts is an old story made new, of the ways supposedly civilized communities can ignore the most searing injustice. It’s a story about the power—and limitations—of art to create change, the lessons and legacies we pass on to our children, and how any of us can survive a broken world with our hearts intact. This sounds absolutely epic and I’m so excited to have been granted a copy on NetGalley, so I’ll keep you all informed.
Published 4th October 2022 by Penguin Press
1643: A small group of Parliamentarian soldiers are ambushed in an isolated part of Northern England. Their only hope for survival is to flee into the nearby Moresby Wood… unwise though that may seem. For Moresby Wood is known to be an unnatural place, the realm of witchcraft and shadows, where the devil is said to go walking by moonlight. Seventeen men enter the wood. Only two are ever seen again, and the stories they tell of what happened make no sense. Stories of shifting landscapes, of trees that appear and disappear at will… and of something else. Something dark. Something hungry.
Today, five women are headed into Moresby Wood to discover, once and for all, what happened to that unfortunate group of soldiers. Led by Dr Alice Christopher, an historian who has devoted her entire academic career to uncovering the secrets of Moresby Wood. Armed with metal detectors, GPS units, mobile phones and the most recent map of the area (which is nearly 50 years old), Dr Christopher’s group enters the wood ready for anything. Or so they think. I love the mix of historical fiction and a touch of the supernatural so this one is a definite title for the TBR.
Published on 13th October by S
If someone says gothic, paranormal, romance to me, I’m there with bells on! As a lifelong fan of Wuthering Heights it’s very much my sort of thing. 1813. Lizzie’s beloved older sister Esme is sold in marriage to the aging Lord Blountford to settle their father’s debts. One year later, Esme is dead, and Lizzie is sent to take her place as Lord Blountford’s next wife.
Arriving at Ambletye Manor, Lizzie uncovers a twisted web of secrets, not least that she is to be the fifth mistress of this house. Marisa. Anne. Pansy. Esme. What happened to the four wives who came before her? In possession of a unique gift, only Lizzie can hear their stories, and try to find a way to save herself from sharing the same fate. This sounds to me like a Bluebeard type tale and perfect for a cozy autumn afternoon in front of the log burner.
Published 24th November 2022 by Penguin.
Three women Three eras One extraordinary mystery…
1899, Belle Époque Paris. Lucienne’s two daughters are believed dead when her mansion burns to the ground, but she is certain that her girls are still alive and embarks on a journey into the depths of the spiritualist community to find them.
1949, Post-War Québec. Teenager Lina’s father has died in the French Resistance, and as she struggles to fit in at school, her mother introduces her to an elderly woman at the asylum where she works, changing Lina’s life in the darkest way imaginable.
2002, Quebec. A former schoolteacher is accused of brutally stabbing her husband – a famous university professor – to death. Detective Maxine Grant, who has recently lost her own husband and is parenting a teenager and a new baby single-handedly, takes on the investigation.
Under enormous personal pressure, Maxine makes a series of macabre discoveries that link directly to historical cases involving black magic and murder, secret societies and spiritism … and women at breaking point, who will stop at nothing to protect the ones they love. I’m so excited about this one I’ve ordered a special copy from Goldsboro Books it’s simply stunning and I’m dying to read it.
Published by Orenda Book on 15th September 2022
Bleeding Heart Yard by Elly Griffiths
Another stunning cover here. From the author of the Ruth Galloway crime series this is a propulsive new thriller set in London featuring Detective Harbinder Kaur. A murderer hides in plain sight – in the police. DS Cassie Fitzherbert has a secret – but it’s one she’s deleted from her memory. In the 1990s when she was at school, she and her friends killed a fellow pupil. Thirty years later, Cassie is happily married and loves her job as a police officer.
One day her husband persuades her to go to a school reunion and another ex-pupil, Garfield Rice, is found dead, supposedly from a drug overdose. As Garfield was an eminent MP and the investigation is high profile, it’s headed by Cassie’s new boss, DI Harbinder Kaur. The trouble is, Cassie can’t shake the feeling that one of her old friends has killed again. Is Cassie right, or was Garfield murdered by one of his political cronies? It’s in Cassie’s interest to skew the investigation so that it looks like the latter and she seems to be succeeding.
Until someone else is killed…
Published on 29th September 2022 by Quercus
And I can’t believe I forgot…..
I possibly forgot this one because I’ve already read and reviewed it for NetGalley and it really is a cracker. After going in a slightly different direction with her last two novels, Jodi Picoult is back in her usual territory here. After teaming up with author Jennifer Finney Boylan, from a Twitter conversation, Picoult is back to tackling a controversial issue with a tense legal case at the centre of the drama.
Olivia fled her abusive marriage to return to her hometown and take over the family beekeeping business when her son Asher was six. Now, impossibly, her baby is six feet tall and in his last year of high school, a kind, good-looking, popular ice hockey star with a tiny sprite of a new girlfriend. Lily also knows what it feels like to start over – when she and her mother relocated to New Hampshire it was all about a fresh start. She and Asher couldn’t help falling for each other, and Lily feels happy for the first time. But can she trust him completely? Then Olivia gets a phone call – Lily is dead, and Asher is arrested on a charge of murder. As the case against him unfolds, she realises he has hidden more than he’s shared with her. And Olivia knows firsthand that the secrets we keep reflect the past we want to leave behind - and that we rarely know the people we love well as we think we do. Each author has written the story from a different character’s perspective, sometimes taking us back in time to understand their experiences. I don’t want to ruin your enjoyment so I won’t give you any more of the plot, but I will say it’s a belter of a novel that will make you question your own prejudices.
Published on 15th November 2022 by Hodder & Stoughton