Dot Scribbles


BLOG TOUR: The Body in the Ice by A.J. Mackenzie

I am delighted to be on the blog tour today for A.J. Mackenzie's new novel, The Body in the Ice. It is the first in the new Hardcastle and Chaytor series, here's the synopsis:

Christmas Day, Kent, 1976
On the frozen fields of Romney Marsh stands New Hall; silent, lifeless, deserted. In it's grounds lies an unexpected Christmas offering: a corpse, frozen into the ice of a horse pond.
It falls to the Reverend Hardcastle, justice of the peace at St Mary in the Marsh, to investigate. But with the victim's identity unknown, no murder weapon and no known motive, it seems like an impossible task. Working along with this trusted friend, Amelia Chaytor, and new arrival Captain Edward Austen, Hardcastle soon discovers there is more to the mystery than there first appeared.
With the arrival of an American family torn apart by war and desperate to reclaim their ancestral home, a French spy returning to the scene of his crimes, ancient loyalties and new vengeance combine to make Hardcastle and Mrs Chaytor's attempts to discover the secret of New Hall all the more dangerous.

Sounds fantastic doesn't it! I am just about to start reading it this evening so shall share my review with you as soon as I can. A.J. Mackenzie is the pseudonym of Marilyn Livingstone and Morgen Witzel, a collaborative Anglo-Canadian husband-and-wife duo; they have kindly written a piece for the blog tour discussing Ann Radcliffe and the rise of the gothic novel:

Search through the lists of ‘great authors’ in the English canon, and you will not find her name. But in the 1790s, Ann Radcliffe was the best-paid author in Britain, and the hottest thing in fiction writing. Publishers scrambled to attract her attention. She was the J.K. Rowling of her day.
            The foundation text of Gothic fiction is Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, published in 1764. Walpole broke away from the established, highly formal canon of literary fiction and concentrated on story-telling. Atmospheres were dark, gloomy and deliberately scary. Clara Reeve, another early writer, often added supernatural elements such as ghosts. There was sometimes a pretence that these were actually tales written in earlier times, ‘rediscovered’; Walpole, for example, claimed that The Castle of Otranto was written in medieval Italian, and he had merely translated it.
            Successful though Walpole and Reeve were, they were nothing next to Ann Radcliff. Her breakthrough novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho, pulls out all the stops. It is a gloriously rich, extremely long, preposterously spooky story about mysterious goings on in a castle in Italy. Critics derided it as rubbish. But the public loved it. In the 1790s, an author would count himself fortunate to earn £10 from a book. Robinsons the publisher paid Miss Radcliffe £500 for The Mysteries of Udolpho, and her later books sold for still more.
            And the critics were wrong. In many ways, The Mysteries of Udolpho was in advance of its time. The hero, Emily, is a woman; more than that, a strong, forthright, active woman who takes on the sinister forces in the castle of Udolpho and comes out a winner. And Radcliffe also knew quite a lot about the new and emerging discipline of psychology. She gets inside her character’s heads and explains their feelings and motivations in a way that not many eighteenth-century writers did.
            Even more important has been her influence. Ann Redcliffe knew both Jane Austen and Charles Dickens when they were young. Miss Austen was unimpressed – her own first novel, Northanger Abbey, was an attempt to take the mickey out of the entire genre – but Dickens adopted some of that dark brooding tone into his own writing. Miss Haversham could have stepped straight out of the pages of The Mysteries of Udolpho.
            Mary Shelley, Edgar Allen Poe and Bram Stoker were all influenced by Ann Radcliffe, and from them the modern genre of horror was born, continuing down through Hammer Horror films to present day writers such as Stephen King and Dean R. Koontz. Crime fiction, too, owes her a great deal. Many of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories have a gothic element, and The Hound of the Baskervilles, with its dark fogbound moor, creepy houses and satanic great dog again reflects the atmosphere of The Mysteries of Udolpho.
            Come down to the present day, and ‘noir’ fiction authors, whether they know it or not, owe a great debt to Ann Radcliffe. Conventions have changed; modern books are much more violent and gruesome and have considerably more sex. Somehow, we doubt that would have bothered Miss Radcliffe. Had she been born today, she would be writing ‘noir’; and, probably topping the best-seller lists.

            Calpurnia Vane, whom we introduce in The Body in the Ice, is unashamedly modelled – in her career, not her personality – on Ann Radcliffe. Mrs Vane is our own salute to an often overlooked heroine. We are happy to acknowledge her influence.

Make sure you check out the other blogs on the tour, The Body in The Ice is available now!  


BOOK REVIEW: Ivy Lane by Cathy Bramley

From spring to summer, autumn to winter, a lot can happen in a single year.
Tilly Porter needs a fresh start, fresh air and a fresh attitude if she is ever to leave the past behind and move on with her life. As she seeks out peace and quiet in a new town, taking on a plot at Ivy Lane allotments seems like the perfect solution.
But the members of the friendly Ivy Lane community have other ideas and gradually draw Tilly into their cosy, comforting world of planting seedlings, organising bake sales and planning seasonal parties.
As the seasons pass, will Tilly learn to stop hiding amongst the sweetpeas and let people into her life- and her heart?

Publisher: Corgi
Pages: 443

One of the mums who I have made friends with at Darcey's school is a big chick lit fan and asked me if I liked Cathy Bramley; when I admitted that I hadn't read any of her books, she very kindly lent me the first three. I'm so glad she did as I fell in love with Ivy Lane and I can't wait to read more by this author.
Tilly is looking for a complete fresh start; a new job at a primary school, new village to live in and a new hobby in the form of a plot of land at Ivy Lane Allotments. She goes with the idea that she will keep herself to herself but the other residents of Ivy Lane have different ideas. She soon becomes an integral part of their little community and begins to think that it may be time to stop hiding and start living again instead.
This book was just what I needed this week (well the two days that it took to read it) it is warm, witty and charming. I took to Tilly straight away and the author keeps you guessing as to what she's running away from which adds a little bit of mystery. Tilly is one of life's good people; she goes out of her way to help others at Ivy Lane  and she does so without want of praise or appreciation. It reminded me a little of joining my village W.I. I, like Tilly was a little daunted by it at first but then you quickly become enveloped into the group and can't imagine not being a part of it. The author has created some splendid characters, they really did bring the whole story alive and it was great to see them take Tilly under their wing.
Ivy Lane by Cathy Bramley is a lovely, feel-good read, and it is part of a series so there's plenty more for me to catch up on!


BOOK REVIEW: The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

Summer, 1976.
Mrs Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, ten-year-old Grace and Tilly decide to take matters into their own hands. But as doors and mouths begin to open and the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives will find more than they could have imagined. 

Publisher: Borough Press
Pages: 453

The Trouble With Goats and Sheep is everywhere at the moment so I had to find out what all the hype was about! I;m so glad I did as I think this book is very special.
Set in the Summer of 1976, The Avenue where Grace and Tilly live is buzzing with secrets and whispers. Mrs Creasy from No. 8 has gone missing, her husband has no idea where she has gone and so speculation becomes rife. Grace and Tilly decide to help with the investigation and for some reason they decide that if they find God then they will definitely find their missing neighbour. But as they begin asking questions and making their own observations, it becomes clear that The Avenue if holding many secrets, not just the disappearance of Mrs Creasy.
This book is so nostalgic, it really made me think about the long summer holidays I experienced as a child, playing outside with my friends and the different way in which I viewed the world then. Grace and Tilly's world as children is focused entirely on The Avenue, that is their only real experience. As the story develops the author shows how it is the same for some of the adults who live there. They have an extremely narrow perspective of the world and some would rather believe what they choose to rather than the truth.
It took me a little while to get into the swing of this book as there are quite a few characters to introduce. But once I was comfortable with who they all were than I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The relationship between Grace and Tilly is perfectly presented; Joanna Cannon shows how, at the age of ten, friendships can be so precarious. Intense love and devotion one minute followed by fickleness and fall outs.
The two girls are so innocent and unaware of what is taking place around them. This enables the author to make some very subtle but profound observations of the other characters. All of the adults have their own axes to grind about each other but Grace and Tilly just take everything at face value.
Joanna Cannon explores people's perceptions of others and how we can project an image on to someone that can be entirely false. But if we believe it enough then others will follow suit. The consequences of this taking place in The Avenue have been devastating. One off-hand comment, one lie and one misunderstanding have led to a whole catalogue of awful events and recriminations.
The Trouble With Goats and Sheep left me with so much to think about, it is beautifully written and thought-provoking, I highly recommend it.


BLOG TOUR: Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses by Carole Matthews

I am so excited to be on the blog tour today for Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses, the beautiful new book from Carole Matthews. Here's the synopsis:

Christie Chapman is a single mum who spends her days commuting to her secretarial job in London and looking after her teenage son Finn. It's not an easy life, but Christie finds comfort in her love of crafting and spends her spare time working on her beautiful creations. From intricately designed cards to personalised gifts, Christie's flair for the handmade knows no bounds and it's not long before opportunity comes knocking.
Now Christie can see a future full of hope and possibility for her and Finn and if the handsome Max is to be believed, one full of love too. And then, all of a sudden, her world is turned upside down. Christie knows that something has to give, but can she really give up her dreams and the chance of love?
Will Christie find her happy ending?

Publisher: Sphere
Pages: 421

Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses is the stunning new book from Carole Matthews. The cover is absolutely beautiful, definitely my favourite cover of Carole's and it makes the book even more perfect to give as a gift.
Christie is a single mum to Finn, she commutes into London every day to work as a legal PA. She has very little spare time but when she does, nothing makes her happier than paper crafting. She loves coming up with new ideas and designs and out of the blue she is given the opportunity to use her talents for a possible new career. An American craft company are looking to sell their products in the UK and they feel that Christie would be the perfect ambassador. The offer is very tempting especially when it is being pushed by Max Alexander (in my head he was the Christian Grey of the crafting world but without the whips etc) he is the very attractive CEO of the company and he and Christie have instant chemistry.
Christie knows that this is exactly the opportunity that she needs but then everything changes. Finn is taken ill and Christie's world implodes. All she cares about is her son and making him better. Maybe her dreams will have to be put on hold or maybe she will have to give up on them altogether.
As usual, Carole Matthews writes from the heart and Paper Hears and Summer Kisses is a beautiful story. Christie is clearly very kind  and an excellent mother to Finn. She is also incredibly independent, resilient and ambitious, what's not to like? It is clear that she is having to juggle so much and as the reader you are just hoping that she chooses the right ball to drop.
I know near to nothing about the crafting world so don't be put off the book if you have little experience of it too. It was very interesting to dip into it though and learn about the techniques being used and the community driving it. Christie shows how it is possible to turn a hobby and a passion into a career and a successful business; something I feel is much more achievable in present times than it has ever been.
If, like me, you are a fan of Carole Matthews then you will not be disappointed. If you've not read anything by this fabulous author then Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses would be a great place to start.

Carole Matthews wanted to use this blog tour to create a paper chain of thanks so I was sent an extra copy of the book to give as a gift. I chose my friend Jennie who is a big Carole Matthews fan! She is a really lovely person who works tirelessly at my daughter's school to raise funds so the children can have lovely new equipment and treats. I know that Jennie really loved the book and she has already passed it on to her mum who is also a fan! I know I said before but this book would be a lovely gift for someone so if you can think of a worthy recipient then why not continue the paper chain?

Many thanks to Stephanie for inviting me to be part of the blog tour, check out the other posts for more reviews, interviews and competitions! 


BLOG TOUR: We Never Said Goodbye by Helene Fermont

I am on the blog tour today for the gripping new novel from Helene Fermont, We Never Said Goodbye which is published today! Here's the synopsis from this new Scandi Crime read:

When Louise is dumped by Mike on their twentieth wedding anniversary, she faces the daunting task of picking up the pieces of her life. She can either choose to persevere in her adopted hometown of London, bolstered by dear friends and the fashion business she loves, or return to her native Sweden alone. Can she find happiness with an old flame in a city she avoided for two decades? Or will her ex’s violent, criminal past haunt her forever? As Mike becomes increasingly unhinged, the choices Louise makes could prove fatal. Will she ever be able to say goodbye to the past and start afresh? Full of suspense and drama, We Never Said Goodbye explores the secrets and scandals we hide from loved ones, the enduring scars of abuse and the exhilarating feeling of falling in love again after heartbreak. With a dark and tangled ‘Scandi’ mood, this novel is ideal for fans of drama, romance and Scandi-inspired suspense novels. 

If that isn't enough to whet you appetite then continue reading for an extract:

Steve picked up on the third ring. “Kershaw & Matthews Limousine Service.”
“It’s me, Louise. Is Mike still at work?” Deep inside, Louise knew something was wrong. Mike had never let her down on their wedding anniversary until now. But Steve’s response made her gasp.
“Mike’s not come in to work since last week.” There was an edge to his voice. “I don’t understand . . . Mike told me you’ve a lot of clients to look after. You’re seriously telling me he’s not been around for a week?” Louise’s heart was beating frantically inside her chest.
“I assumed he’d told you,” Steve replied in his usual direct manner.
“I don’t get it . . . I’m sorry I called and disrupted you.”
“That’s okay. Mike’s probably got something up his sleeve! Happy anniversary, darling.”
Switching off her mobile, Louise let out another sigh. Mike knows today’s a special day. I’ll give him more time to return home.
Recalling all the times he’d surprised her over the years in the most spectacular ways, she was on her way downstairs when her mobile rang. Mike’s name was displayed on the screen.
Louise held her breath for a moment, a sense of foreboding overwhelming her as she picked up. “Mike! Where are you? I’m imagining all kinds of things! How long before you return home?”
“We need to talk. There’s something I have to tell you.” Mike sounded distant, as if they were strangers, not husband and wife. Not at all what she’d expected of him, today of all days.
“Can’t it wait until you’re home? Where are you? I talked to Steve. He told me you’ve not showed up at work since last week.”
Louise’s mouth turned dry with fear.
“It’s over. I’m not returning to you. Don’t bother to try and change my mind. I’ll pick up my belongings later.” Mike’s voice was deathly cold.
It was as if they’d never known each other, much less shared a life.
Feeling faint, Louise whispered, “You’re kidding, right?”
“I’ve never been more serious than I am now,” Mike replied. “We’re through, Louise.”
The following weeks passed by in a haze. Trine and Jasper took turns to watch over Louise. They’d persuaded her it was best that she stayed with them and Jasper convinced her he ought to pick up some of her belongings at the house. Neither Trine nor Louise had remembered to pack anything but a few pieces of clothing, a toothbrush and a pair of shoes. But ever since she arrived, Louise had confined herself to the guestroom and refused to get out of bed, except to shower.
Trine and Jasper had never seen her so distraught. Mike was a callous coward to end their marriage without warning over the phone! As much as they’d attempted to tempt her with food she normally liked, Louise barely touched it, causing her to lose at least a stone.
Watching her husband walk out the front door of their big and bustling home, Trine thought, I hope Mike’s not taken Louise’s belongings, I’d not put it past him to stoop even lower than he already did! If she ever saw him again, Trine would only be too pleased to wring his neck for all the pain and distress he’d subjected on her friend.
Her sentiment was confirmed when Jasper returned later that day, an angry expression in his normally kind blue eyes.
“You were right all along. Mike’s picked up his things and helped himself to Louise’s old paintings and furniture – the ones she inherited after her parents died! How will we tell her? It’ll destroy her when she finds out.”
Holding hands, the couple steered themselves to confront Louise with the news that Mike had already picked up his belongings.
She looked so frail and upset, as if on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Trine spoke first. She’d finished talking when to their surprise, Louise simply bowed her head, as if she’d already figured it out for herself.
“I wish he was dead!” she cried. “At least then I’d be able to bury him and put what happened behind me.” Inwardly Louise wanted to cut him out of her life in the same way as he did with her. If only she knew the reason behind it! She’d spent a big part of her life with a man whom she loved and trusted. Yet all of it turned out to be a complete lie. Mike abandoned her without so much as an explanation, leaving her crushed to the core of her soul. All she could think of was how he sounded when he called that day. She repeated their conversation to herself so many times that all she wanted was to cry and sleep, wishing she could slip into oblivion and not wake up.
Later that week, Trine and Jasper’s teenage son, Zack, went upstairs to check if she was alright, having already tried in vain to persuade her to join them downstairs in the kitchen for dinner. By then she’d lost so much weight they feared for her health. At fifteen, Zack was very mature for his age and viewed Louise as part of the family.
Hearing him shout, “I can’t wake her up!” Trine and Jasper ran upstairs and found Louise lying in bed, seemingly fast asleep. On the bedside table lay an empty bottle of sleeping pills neither of them recalled seeing before.
We Never Said Goodbye by HelĂ©ne Fermont is out 6th April (Fridhem, £9.99)

Many thanks to Alice at Midas PR for inviting me to join in with the blog tour, please check out the other stops for more reviews, extracts and interviews! 


BLOG TOUR: The Housekeeper by Suellen Dainty

Some dirty secrets can't be scrubbed away.
When Anne Morgan's successful restaurateur boyfriend- who happens to be her boss- leaves her for another woman, Anne finds herself in desperate need of a new job and quiet place to recover.
Meanwhile, her celebrity idol, Emma Helmsley- England's answer to Oprah Winfrey- is in need of a housekeeper. The opportunity seems too good to be true.
Landing the job, Anne is soon enthralled by a high-profile world of parties and media appearances. Emma's husband Ron, is a prominent academic and television personality in the midst of writing a book about a rogue psychologist who once led a notorious cult. They're a successful and sought after couple with two well-adjusted teenage children, Jake and Lily. To the outside world, they're the perfect modern family.
But as Anne becomes more enmeshed in the Helmsley's dirty laundry, both literally and figuratively, she discovers that underneath the dust, grime and whimsical clutter, everyone has a secret to hide. And as she frantically strives to maintain order, Anne's own disturbing past threatens to unhinge everything. 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 309

The Housekeeper by Suellen Dainty is one of those books that creeps up on you a little. At first I felt like I was having a bit of trouble getting into it and then suddenly I was completely absorbed and couldn't put it down. Suellen Dainty is so clever, it seemed as though it was all very normal and mundane  and then you realise that Anne has unwittingly entered a very sinister new world at the Helmsley's; a world that she wasn't expecting and one where she doesn't know the rules.
Taking the job at the Helmsley's is a new start for Anne; she discovers that her boyfriend, a famous chef has been cheating on her. She needs a new job and new challenges. Becoming a housekeeper for celebrity couple Emma and Rob is a totally new type of job for Anne. She quickly becomes part of the family but it takes her a while to realise that the perfect facade they present is actually hiding a lot of cracks.
Suellen Dainty creates a beautifully sinister atmosphere, I don't want to give the plot away but the author offers up many surprises and plot twists along the way. Emma and Rob are very interesting characters and; Anne is almost a little naive at the beginning and is in awe of their fame and success. Initially she just wants to help them, even if that means helping them to keep up the pretence of being the perfect family. However, when she begins to question things at the Helmsley's, she is shocked at how involved she has become in their lives and that it may not be that easy to leave.
The Housekeeper is tense and sinister; in a world seemingly driven by fame and picture-perfect images, it will make you question your perception of others, I highly recommend it.

Many thanks to Eve at Midas PR for inviting me to take part in the blog tour! 


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