#BookReview: RETURN TO SATTERTHWAITE COURT by Mimi Matthews @MimiMatthewsEsq

Publication: 11th April 2023 – Perfectly Proper Press

A reckless Victorian heiress sets her sights on a dashing ex-naval lieutenant, determined to win his heart as the two of them embark on a quest to solve a decades-old mystery in USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews’s sequel to her critically acclaimed novels The Work of Art and Gentleman Jim.

Lieutenant Charles Heywood has had his fill of adventure. Battle-weary and disillusioned, he returns to England, resolved to settle down to a quiet, uneventful life on an estate of his own. But arranging to purchase the property he desires is more difficult than Charles ever imagined. The place is mired in secrets, some of which may prove deadly. If he’s going to unravel them, he’ll need the assistance of someone as daring as he is.

At only twenty, Lady Katherine Beresford has already earned a scandalous reputation. As skilled with pistols as she is on horseback, she’s never met an obstacle she can’t surmount-or a man she can’t win. That is, until she encounters the infuriatingly somber Lieutenant Heywood. But Kate refuses to be deterred by the raven-haired soldier’s strong, silent facade. After all, faint heart never won handsome gentleman.

From the wilds of rural Somersetshire to the glittering ballrooms of early-Victorian London, Charles and Kate embark on a cross-country quest to solve a decades’ old mystery. Will the greatest danger be to their hearts-or to their lives?

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In the last couple years, I have been reading quite a few historical romance novels and Mimi Matthews is one of my favourite authors. I love her writing style that keeps me engrossed in the pages of the story and I love her protagonists from the very beginning.

Return to Satterthwaite Court is the third book in the Somerset Stories series, but it can also be easily read as a stand-alone. Set a couple of decades after the events of the first two books, we see again the protagonists from The Work of Art and Gentleman Jim and we are introduced to their children.

Lieutenant Charles Heywood has chosen a career in the Navy, against the wishes of his family, especially his father. But, after eight years, he’s become disillusioned with it and its politics, and he returns to England to settle down, possibly somewhere near his family in Somerset. Lady Katherine Beresford has had an unsuccessful first season in London, mostly because men, while they find her beautiful, are looking for a dutiful and obedient wife and she’s definitely not that. Kate is convinced she’ll never find a man that meets her expectations, a hero, a man of noble character and firm convictions, until she meets Charles Heywood. Their meeting on a London street involves a vivacious dog and a bite on the hand, but Kate is instantly fascinated by the Navy hero and she’s determined to find out more about him. And when Charles receives a mysterious letter involving a secret and the sale of a house, Kate helps him to uncover the truth.

I loved all the books in the Somerset Stories series, but I think that Return to Satterthwaite Court is my favourite so far. I was thrilled to see the return of the protagonists of The Work of Art and Gentleman Jim, but I was much more excited about Charles and Kate’s story. I adored these two characters from the very beginning and I was so engrossed in their lives that I found it very difficult to put the book down. Charles is the silent, strong, sulking hero who, initially, may appear rude, while Kate is fierce, smart, and determined to get what she wants, including choosing a husband of her own free will. 

Entertaining, immersive, and beautifully written, Return to Satterthwaite Court is one of those books that will stay on my mind for a very long time thanks to a cast of amazing characters, lots of animals, and a beautiful romance and I already can’t wait to read the sequel, Appointment in Bath, of which we already got quite an interesting glimpse.

A huge thank you to Mimi Matthews and NetGalley for providing me with a proof of this beautiful novel.

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances, including Fair as a Star, a Library Journal Best Romance of 2020; Gentleman Jim, a Kirkus Best Book of 2020; and The Work of Art, winner of the 2020 HOLT Medallion. Mimi’s novels have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, and Shelf Awareness, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine.

In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats. To learn more, please visit www.MimiMatthews.com

#BlogTour: THE CORNISH HIDEAWAY by Jennifer Bibby @jennyfromthewr1 @simonschusterUK @TeamBATC

Publication: 30th March 2023 – Simon & Schuster UK

All Freya has ever wanted to do is paint. So when she fails her Master’s Degree in Art, on the same day that her boyfriend decides he needs a ‘more serious’ partner, to Freya it feels like the end of the world.
 
Luckily, she has a saviour in the shape of best friend Lola, who invites her to the sleepy Cornish village of Polcarrow, to work in her café. With nothing keeping her in London, Freya jumps at the chance of a summer by the sea.
 
Freya needs time to focus on herself. But then dark and mysterious biker Angelo blows into town on a stormy afternoon, with his own artistic dreams and a secretive past, and Freya’s plans of a romance-free summer fly straight out of the window…

Heart-warming, heartfelt and romantic, The Cornish Hideaway is a novel of community, friendship and learning to love again, for fans of Jenny Colgan, Cathy Bramley and Heidi Swain.

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Good morning, everyone. I am so thrilled to welcome you on my stop for the blog tour of The Cornish Hideaway, the feel-good debut novel by Jennifery Bibby, out on Thursday.

The Cornish Hideaway is an immersive and beautiful novel of self-discovery and new beginnings set in beautiful Cornwall. The protagonist is twenty-seven years old Freya who, after failing her postgraduate course and being dumped from her long-term boyfriend, all in the same day, decides it is time for a change and to take a break from art and the chaos of London and accepts her friend Lola’s invitation to spend the summer in Cornwall helping her out in her new café.

The story is set in Polcarrow, a small fictional village by the sea and, upon arriving, Freya is warmly welcomed by the residents. But she is not the only newcomer in the village. Arriving on his motorbike, Angelo draws even more attention than Freya. And, exactly like Freya, he is also taking a break from his life to figure out what he wants. The attraction between Freya and Angelo is immediate and strong, but with so much from their past to resolve, first they have to find out if they are ready for love.

I was initially drawn to this novel by the beautiful cover. And then I read the blurb and I knew that I would love it and I wasn’t disappointed. The story is entertaining and charming and the characters captured my heart. Life in Polcarrow is very different from London and soon Freya finds herself refreshed and rested. She is able to focus on her art again, without pressure or fear of being rushed and she immerses herself in the local life. She also has a chance to love, but Angelo has his own demons haunting him and things won’t be easy between them, but I loved how their story developed. In Polcarrow, Freya not only finds love, but also a few new friends. Lola (who she met in London working together in a bar) is fun and sweet, the local vicar, Tristan, is always ready to listen and to offer some advice, and Alf is eighty-year-old star resident, full of stories and unconditional friendship together with his adorable dog, Scruff.

The Cornish Hideaway is one of these stories that keep you engrossed from start to finish and I didn’t want it to end. It is very well-written and with the right doses of romance and friendship and I am already looking forward reading to the author’s next story!

A huge thank you to SJV and Simon & Schuster UK for providing me with a copy of this beautiful novel.

Follow the rest of the blog tour:

As a lifelong lover of stories, Jennifer Bibby spent her teenage years wowing various teachers with her historical epics before finding her feet exploring the everyday lives of modern women through literature. In addition to being a bibliophile she loves classy cocktails, cake and medieval history. She’s happiest by the sea and loves to travel, and firmly believes that dinosaurs improve everything. The Cornish Hideaway is her debut novel.

#BookReview: THE HALF BURNT HOUSE by Alex North @writer_north @MichaelJBooks

Publication: 16th March 2023 – Michael Joseph

Katie Shaw always looked after her younger brother Chris – until she left him alone one carefree afternoon and he was savagely attacked. He hasn’t spoken to her since.

Now a mother, Katie vows not to repeat her mistakes. Carelessness cost her one family, and she won’t let it destroy another.

Then she receives a call from the police.

They’re investigating a particularly brutal murder, in a half-ruined house that once belonged to a notorious local serial killer. The case has thrown up many unsettling questions, but only one prime suspect: Chris.

The detective wants Katie’s help finding him, but she has only one thing on her mind: proving her brother’s innocence, and finally making up for her negligence all those years ago. But soon it becomes clear that the killer isn’t finished yet.

Which means that even as she attempts to save her old family, Katie is placing her new one in deadly peril…

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“If you could see the future, would you want to?”. This is the question that, one afternoon, leads seventeen-year-old Katie Shaw to go to her boyfriend’s house instead of going home with her younger brother Chris, changing their lives forever. Chris’ brutal attack left not only scars on him, but also on Katie, who, fifteen years later, is still affected by the events of that afternoon and feeling guilty. Now a mother, she worries constantly about her daughter’s safety, seeing danger everywhere and she hasn’t spoken to her brother in two years. However, when her mother tells her that Chris has finally put his life back together, but has suddenly disappeared, Katie promises not to leave her brother alone this time.

In the meantime, detective Laurence Page is on the scene of a murder in a mansion half still in ruins from a decades-old fire. The victim is a philosophy professor, Alan Hobbes, who’s been brutally murdered in his sleep. And the only suspect is none other than Chris. While the half burnt house is peculiar, what’s strange is that the victim seemed to be obsessed with a decades-old serial killer, but even more bizarre that he seemed to know that death was coming and he was waiting for it.

The story is told from different perspectives, starting from the victim of the murder, and then Katie and detective Laurence Page, but also other characters whose role is slowly revealed, creating a puzzling narrative that kept me in suspense the entire time. I love Alex North’s novels and, while The Whisper Man is still my favourite, I really enjoyed The Half Burnt House. With paranormal vibes and twists and turns at every corner, I was completely engrossed in the story as both Katie and detective Page try to find out the truth: why was Chris randomly attacked? And what has got himself involved with this time? Why is a red car stalking Katie’s family? And was a 1950s serial killer really able to predict the future? The road to the truth is dark, disturbing, and suspenseful. The Half Burnt House is a gripping, thought-provoking, and exciting read and I can’t recommend it enough!

A huge thank you to Michael Joseph and NetGalley for providing me with a proof of the novel.

Alex North was born in Leeds, where he now lives with his wife and son. He studied Philosophy at Leeds University, and prior to becoming a writer he worked there in their sociology department. The Whisper Man was a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, and is being published in more than 30 languages.

#BookReview: THE FOXGLOVE KING by Hannah Whitten @hwhittenwrites @orbitbooks

Publication: 9th March 2023 – Orbit

In this gilded, gothic, and romantic new epic fantasy series from New York Times-bestselling author Hannah Whitten, a young woman’s secret power to raise the dead plunges her into the dangerous world of the Sainted King’s royal court.

Lore has been living by her wits since she was a child, running poisons for the cartel that took her in, avoiding the attention of the law, and keeping her illicit affinity for death magic a secret.

When a job goes wrong and Lore is captured by the Sainted King’s warrior-monks, she expects death. But King August has a different plan. Entire villages on the outskirts of the country have been dying overnight, seemingly at random. Lore can either use her magic to find out what’s happening – or face the pyre.

Thrust into a lavish court where no one can be believed and even fewer can be trusted, Lore must navigate an intricate web of politics, religion, and forbidden romance and solve the King’s mystery. A mystery more dangerous and twisted than Lore can even imagine.

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The protagonist of The Foxglove King is Lore, a twenty-three-year-old with the death power of Mortem, the essence of death, the power born of entropy, and the only way to use it is to nearly die. Mortem also makes it impossible for Lore to leave the city of Dellaire, but she must hide her power and hope that the cult that she escaped when she was a child will never find her. But she is discovered by the Pressure Mort, a group of monks who, under orders of the Sainted King, are allowed to use the death power. Lore is presented with a choice: help the king figure out who is killing entire villages at the border and, at the same time, get close to his son and heir Bastian to prove that he is working for their enemies. If she refuses, she will die. The choice is simple, so Lore is introduced at court as the cousin of Gabriel, the duke who turned a monk following his family’s betrayal to the crown. Together, they will have to figure out the truth, while the threats of a war and the cult loom closer.

I was deeply immersed in this story. The world-building is incredible with its magic system, the political intrigue, the religious order, and the forbidden romance. The characters are well-drawn and intriguing: I loved Lore with her determination and her survival skills, Gabriel, who carries the guilt of his family’s betrayal, and Bastian, who is not at all who he seems.

I enjoyed the author’s previous novels, but I must admit that I am a bit obsessed with The Foxglove King. It’s addictive, dark, suspenseful, and riveting. The Foxglove King is easily one of my favourite books of the year and I am already looking forward to the sequel: I can’t wait to see what happens next!

A huge thank you to Orbit and NetGalley for providing me with a proof of this fantastic novel.

Hannah Whitten has been writing to amuse herself since she could hold a pen, and sometime in high school, she figured out that what amused her might also amuse others. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, making music or attempting to bake. She lives in Tennessee with her husband and children in a house ruled by a temperamental cat.

Follow her on Twitter at @hwhittenwrites.

#BookReview: KILLERS OF A CERTAIN AGE by Deanna Raybourn @deannaraybourn @HodderBooks

Publication: 9th March 2023 (paperback) – Hodder & Stoughton

Older women often feel invisible, but sometimes that’s their secret weapon.

Billie, Mary Alice, Helen and Natalie have worked for the Museum, an elite network of assassins, for forty years. But now their talents are considered old-school and no one appreciates their real-world resourcefulness in an age of technology.

When the foursome is sent on an all-expenses-paid trip to mark their retirement, they are targeted by one of their own. Only the Board, the top-level members of the Museum, can order the termination of field agents, and the women realise they’ve been marked for death.

To get out alive they have to turn against their own organization, relying on experience and each other to get the job done, knowing that working together is the secret to their survival. They’re about to teach the Board what it really means to be a woman – and a killer – of a certain age.

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Killers of a Certain Age is my first novel by Deanna Raybourn, but it certainly won’t be my last (in fact, I have already bought the first two books of her Veronica Speedwell series). I love her writing style and she created a story full of action and incredible characters.

Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie are professional assassins. Recruited in 1979 to be part of Project Sphinx, the first chance of female operative trained together, they are part of an extragovernmental organization known as the Museum, born after World War II to rid the world of the worst of the human race. For the last forty years, the four of them have killed murderers, sex, drug, and human traffickers, dictators, politicians, and all those who deserved it, but now it’s time to retire. As a parting gift, the Museum has offered them a cruise, but once on board of the ship, they realize that someone from the organization is there to kill them. They manage to escape the first assassination attempt, but they are not safe because there are more coming for them.

The story is told from Billie’s point of view, in first person in the present time, and in third person in the flashbacks to the past where we see when Billie was recruited, the training that was far from easy, and her first missions. In the present time, Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie are running for their lives using all the resources and information collected in forty years to stay alive, figure out why the Museum wants to kill them, and find a way to stop them. Despite their different personalities, Natalie, Helen, Billie, and Mary Alice are very close and support each other. They are dynamic, intriguing, cunning, and strong characters, but Billie comes out a bit as the natural leader of the group, the one with the stronger personality, the one they follow and confide in. They all have suffered loss, grief, guilt and, despite a few aches and pains of their age, they turn the chase around and go after their own killers because they don’t want to spend the rest of their lives hiding.

Killers of a Certain Age is engaging, well-written, and well-executed. There is travel, exciting scenes, dry humour, twists, and suspenseful moments and I enjoyed every page of it!

A huge thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for providing me with a proof of the novel.

Deanna Raybourn is the New York Times bestselling author of the Edgar Award-nominated Veronica Speedwell Mysteries, as well as the Lady Julia Grey series and several stand-alone works. She makes her home in Virgina with her family.

#BookReview: A WITCH’S GUIDE TO FAKE DATING A DEMON by Sarah Hawley @MsSarahHawley @gollancz @orionbooks

Publication: 9th March 2023 – Gollancz

Mariel Spark knows not to trust a demon, especially one that wants her soul, but what’s a witch to do when he won’t leave her side – and she kind of doesn’t want him to?

Mariel Spark is prophesied to be the most powerful witch seen in centuries of the famed Spark family, but to the displeasure of her mother, she prefers baking to brewing potions and gardening to casting hexes. When a spell to summon flour goes very wrong, Mariel finds herself staring down a demon – one she inadvertently summoned for a soul bargain.

Ozroth the Ruthless is a legend among demons. Powerful and merciless, he drives hard bargains to collect mortal souls. But his reputation has suffered ever since a bargain went awry – if he can strike a deal with Mariel, he will earn back his deadly reputation. Ozroth can’t leave Mariel’s side until they complete a bargain, which she refuses to do (turns out some humans are attached to their souls).

But the witch is funny. And curvy. And disgustingly yet endearingly cheerful. Becoming awkward roommates quickly escalates when Mariel, terrified to confess the inadvertent summoning to her mother, blurts out that she’s dating Ozroth. As Ozroth and Mariel struggle to maintain a fake relationship, real attraction blooms between them. But Ozroth has a limited amount of time to strike the deal, and if Mariel gives up her soul, she’ll lose all her emotions – including love – which will only spell disaster for them both.

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Ozroth the Ruthless has been a bargainer for centuries, exchanging souls for desires, but he’s never been summoned by mistake. And with his reputation on the line, he has no intention to back down, but neither does the witch who summoned him. 

Mariel Spark’s fate had been predicted at her birth, promising a legacy of great magic and power, except that, so far, the only magic she can make is with her plants. She’s been deemed a failure both by her family and by the town, especially her successful and overbearing mother, who never miss the chance to put her down. Things don’t get any better when, instead of summoning flour to bake she calls for a demon, who won’t leave until she claims her wish. Mariel can’t admit to her family that she messed up her magic once again, so she pretends that Oz is her boyfriend. And the more time they spend together, the less fake their relationship becomes.

A Witch’s Guide to Fake Dating a Demon was such a fun and addictive read with lots of romance, laugh, and fantastic characters. The story is told from the perspectives of both Mariel and Oz and I loved those two characters. Mariel is sweet, optimistic, the sunshine to grumpy Oz, but she strongly feels the pressure of her family’s expectations, especially her overbearing perfect mother. She loves plants and nature and she uses her magic to protect them. Ozroth is one of the most powerful bargainers, famous for his merciless bargains, but six months earlier a bargain went a bit wrong and now he has something that no other demons owns: a soul. With his reputation on the line, he thinks that the bargain with Mariel is exactly what he needs to get things back to normal. Except that she won’t give up her soul, and after a few days of forced proximity, he is not sure he wants her to give it up either.

Romantic, hilarious, and bewitching, A Witch’ Guide to Fake Dating a Demon is the perfect read if you love fake relationships, close proximity, and witty banter with the addition of delightful magical creatures and an evocative setting.

A huge thank you to Gollancz and NetGalley for providing me with a proof of this fantastic novel.

Sarah Hawley is an author of romance and fantasy novels. She co-hosts the Wicked Wallflowers Club podcast about romance fiction, which was featured on Entertainment Weekly’s “Must List.” When not dreaming up whimsical love stories, she can be found reading, dancing, or cuddling her two cats. A WITCH’S GUIDE TO FAKE-DATING A DEMON is her debut romcom.

#BookReview: EXES & O’S by Amy Lea @PenguinUKBooks

Publication: 19th January 2023 – Penguin Books UK

Tara Chen has had her heart broken ten times, by ten different men. Nevertheless, she is still determined to find her perfect match. The only problem? Tara is a romance novel obsessive, and her standards are sky high.

Modern dating apps have killed the meet-cute, so Tara decides to revisit her exes – all ten of them – in the hope of finding her very own trope-worthy second-chance romance. And every heroine needs a sidekick, so she enlists her new flatmate, firefighter Trevor.

Trevor Metcalfe is the first to rush into a burning building but the last to rush into a relationship. Love just isn’t his thing. But, the more time they spend together, the more Trevor appreciates Tara’s authentic, dramatic self.

Can they break the habits of a lifetime and give their spark a chance?

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When it comes to a good romcom you can’t go wrong with Amy Lea. I enjoyed Set on You and I loved Exes and O’s even more.

Hospital nurse and book influencer Tara Chen is looking for love, but after her engagement had abruptly ended a year earlier, she hasn’t had any luck. With online dating out of the question and trying to meet people in public places not going at all well, Tara decides to take a page out of her grandmother’s book and reconnect with her former loves to see if there may be a second chance to love. With the help of her handsome new roommate, Trevor Metcalfe, Tara tracks down her ex-boyfriends in the hope that the romance is not over, but the more time she spends with Trevor, the more she struggles to pretend that they can be just friends.

If you’ve read Set On You, you have already met Tara and Trevor. Tara is Crystal’s sister and when she and her now-fiancé Scott decide to move in together, Tara moves in with Scott’s friend and colleague Trevor. And the two of them couldn’t be more different. Despite many heartbreaks, Tara has never stopped believing in love and looking for it. On the other hand, Trevor is a one-night stand kind of guy and doesn’t do relationships. Tara is messy and leaves all her books laying around their apartment, Trevor is always cleaning after her. She loves junk food, he follows a healthy diet. Tara is sunshine and Trevor is grumpy and together they are simply adorable.

Exes and O’s is a really fun read: it is witty and sexy, featuring a slow-burn romance and two fantastic protagonists that kept me glued to the pages. Highly recommended!!!

A huge thank you to Penguin Book and NetGalley for providing me with a proof of the novel.

Amy Lea is a Canadian bureaucrat by day and contemporary romance author by night (and weekends). She writes laugh out loud romantic comedies featuring strong heroines, witty banter, mid-2000s pop culture references, and happily ever afters. When Amy is not writing, she can be found fan-girling over other romance books on Instagram (@amyleabooks), eating potato chips with reckless abandon, and snuggling with her husband and goldendoodle. Set on You was her first book and her second book, Exes and O’s, is coming in early 2023.

#BookReview: NOCTURNE by Alyssa Wees @AlyssaWees @DelReyUK

Publication: 21st February 2023 – Del Rey UK

In this gorgeous and haunting fantasy set in 1930s Chicago, a talented ballerina finds herself torn between her dreams and her desires when she’s pursued by a secretive patron who may be more than he seems.

Grace has always wanted to be a ballerina, ever since she first peered through the windows of the Near North Ballet company. The elegance of the dance seemed transcendent to an immigrant child of the working poor, and so, when she is orphaned, it is to the ballet that she flees.

Years later, Grace is on the verge of becoming the company’s new prima ballerina – though she is beginning to realise that achieving her long-held dream may not be the triumph she once envisioned. Then Grace attracts the attention of the enigmatic Master La Rosa, and realises that the world may not be as small or constricted as she had come to fear.

But who is her mysterious patron, and what does he want from her? As Grace begins to unlock the Master’s secrets, she discovers that there may be another way entirely to achieve the transcendence she has always sought.

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Chicago, 1938. Grace Dragotta, a ballerina of the Near North Ballet, has been chosen for the lead role of the Firebird, a Russian ballet. However, her dream of becoming first ballerina is not what she thought it would be, especially when she attracts the attention of the company’s new patron, Master La Rosa, who attends every single ballet, but remains always a shadow. And when Grace starts to discover the Master’s secrets, she realize that she may finally get what she’s always wanted, but at what cost?

Nocturne is a haunting and enchanting fantasy with fairy tales elements. The protagonist is Grace Dragotta, who is very well-drawn and well-developed. At a very young age she’s already suffered incredible loss, having lost her mother, brother and a close friend. Becoming first ballerina means losing her best friend who is leaving the company to get married. And then Master La Rosa appears and he seems to be able to give her what she wants most.

Nocturne is a beautiful retelling of Beauty and The Beast mixed with the myth of Hades and Persephone. It is a unique, dark, and tragic tale about death and lost souls, about loss and freedom. The story is very well-written with such evocative and beautiful descriptions that kept me completely immersed in the narrative and with an ending that was emotional, unexpected, and perfect all at the same time. I loved every page of it!

A huge thank you to DelRey and NetGalley for providing me with a proof of this incredible novel.

Alyssa Wees grew up writing stories starring her Beanie Babies, in between training in ballet and watching lots of Disney movies. She earned a BA in English from Creighton University and an MFA in Fiction Writing from Columbia College Chicago. She lives outside of Chicago with her family.

#BookReview: THE MURDER GAME by Tom Hindle @TomHindle3 @centurybooksuk

Publication: 2nd February 2023 – Century

One house. Nine guests. Endless motives for murder…

In the seaside town of Hamlet Wick, nine guests assemble for a New Year’s Eve party to remember.

The owner of Hamlet Hall has organised a murder mystery evening with a 1920s twist, and everyone has their own part to play.

But the game has barely begun when one guest is found dead – killed by a fatal injury to the head.

With no phone signal and no way out of the house, the others are trapped with a killer in their midst.

Someone is playing by their own rules. And in a close-knit community, old rivalries run deep…

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It’s  New Year’s Eve in Hamlet Wick, in a quiet corner of Devon, and a few people are celebrating by taking part in a murder game. Organized by young Will Hopper, the guests of the murder game include: Gwen Holloway and her husband Hugh, Syvlia and Nige Cobb, Edward and Martha Finn, Justin Fletcher, and Damien White and his daughter Lily.

Right from the start, the tension is high. Gwen wants to renovate the local lighthouse as a first step for her campaign for mayor, but Damien White, the local boy who has turned into a ruthless London property magnate, has bought it to make it into a holiday house.  The lighthouse is the set of a tragedy years earlier and the locals want to protect it, so they have started a petition against Damien White. The only one supporting him is Nigel Cobb, who’s been hired to make all the work on it. And while the guests clash, journalist Justin Fletcher hopes that this dinner will get him the scoop to attract the national newspapers and get him out of Hamlet Wick. In the meantime, in another room, the actors hired for the night are dealing with their own tension. And then, someone is murdered and the murder game is no longer a game. No one entered or left the hotel, so who among them is the killer?

The author presents us with a long cast of suspects, each one of them with a reason to want the victim dead, some more than others. Hamlet Wick had been hit by two tragedies in the past and many of the guests are hiding secrets connected to them. But who would be willing to kill to keep their secret?

The Murder Game was a fun and thrilling read and it kept me guessing until the end. It has Agatha Christie’s vibes, a full cast of suspicious characters, it is well-written, and it is set in a location not easily reachable and with no phone signal… everything to keep the suspense high and keep you engrossed in the story. I really enjoyed reading The Murder Game and I couldn’t put it down until the truth was finally revealed!

A huge thank you to Century and NetGalley for providing me with a proof of the novel.

Tom Hindle is originally from Yorkshire and now lives in Oxfordshire, where he works for a digital PR agency. A FATAL CROSSING is Tom’s debut novel and was inspired by masters of the crime genre from Agatha Christie to Anthony Horowitz.

#BookReview: EXILES by Jane Harper @janeharperautho @panmacmillan

Publication: 2nd February 2023 – Macmillan

A mother disappears from a busy festival on a warm spring night.

Her baby lies alone in the pram, her mother’s possessions surrounding her, waiting for a return which never comes.

A year later, Kim Gillespie’s absence still casts a long shadow as her friends and loved ones gather to welcome a new addition to the family.

Joining the celebrations on a rare break from work is federal investigator Aaron Falk, who begins to suspect that all is not as it seems.

As he looks into Kim’s case, long-held secrets and resentments begin to come to the fore, secrets that show that her community is not as close as it appears.

Falk will have to tread carefully if he is to expose the dark fractures at its heart, but sometimes it takes an outsider to get to the truth…

An outstanding novel, a brilliant mystery and a heart-pounding read from the author of The Dry, Force of Nature, The Lost Man and The Survivors.

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WATERSTONES

Exiles is the third and sadly last novel featuring Aaron Falk, a financial investigator with the Australian Federal Police. 

In this novel, he’s travelled to Marralle, in South Australian, for the christening of the son of his friend Greg Raco, a police colleague. This is the second time Falk is in Marralee for the christening. A year earlier, it had been delayed following the mysterious disappearance of Kim Gillespie. Kim went to the local food festival with her family, never to be seen again, leaving her 6-week-old daughter unattended.

A year later, there are still no developments in her disappearance and her teenage daughter Zara is convinced that something is not right because her mother would have never left her baby alone. In occasion of the one-year anniversary of the disappearance, Zara makes an appeal during the festival hoping to jog people’s memory and find out what happened to her. Zara is not the only one thinking that something is not right in Kim’s disappearance. Even though Falk had never met Kim in person, he remembers the night of her disappearance and he senses that something is missing.

Exiles is a slow-paced, gripping read and I couldn’t put it down. I have always liked the character of Aaron Falk and in this last book he is quite busy not only trying to solve Kim’s disappearance, but also a six-year-old hit-and-run. The two crimes seem unrelated, but he thinks that there is something going on in the closed community of Marralle where everyone knows each other since they were children. Falk is empathetic and a good listener and everyone seem to want to confide in him. He analyses and rethink his relationship with his father and how his job has completely taken over his life. We also see a romantic side of him that I don’t think we have seen in the previous books. I really enjoyed his relationship with Emma and, like other characters in the book, I rooted for them.

The descriptions of the Australian wilderness are beautiful, vivid, and detailed and the characters are well-developed and intriguing.

I really enjoyed Exiles and I am sorry that this is the last book featuring the character of Aaron Falk, but I liked how everything turned out for him and how the mysteries were resolved. Highly recommended!

A huge thank you to Macmillan and NetGalley for providing me with a proof of the novel.

Jane Harper is the author of four internationally bestselling Australian mysteries, including The Dry. Her books are published in 40 territories and have sold more than 3 million copies worldwide. Jane has won numerous top awards including the CWA Gold Dagger, the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year and the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year. The 2021 movie adaptation of The Dry, starring Eric Bana, is one of the highest grossing Australian films of all time.

Jane worked as a print journalist for 13 years in both Australia and the UK, and now lives in Melbourne with her husband, daughter and son.