Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Spotlight on Miss Moonshine's Emporium of Happy Endings by Authors on the Edge..

Nine romantic novelists from Yorkshire and Lancashire, including best-selling and award-winning authors, have joined together to create this collection of uplifting stories guaranteed to warm your heart. This intriguing mix of historical and contemporary romances will make you laugh, cry, and believe in the happy-ever-after.

Authors on the Edge
18 May 2018

My thanks to the authors for my copy of this book

Miss Moonshine’s Emporium of Happy Endings

Sometimes what you need is right there waiting for you...

Miss Moonshine’s Wonderful Emporium has stood in the pretty Yorkshire town of Haven Bridge for as long as anyone can remember. With her ever-changing stock, Miss Moonshine has a rare gift for providing exactly what her customers need: a fire opal necklace that provides a glimpse of a different life; a novel whose phantom doodler casts a spell over the reader; a music box whose song links love affairs across the generations. One thing is for certain: after visiting Miss Moonshine’s quirky shop, life is never the same again...

I'm delighted to welcome back to Jaffareadstoo, Helena Fairfax to tell me all about 

Miss Moonshine’s Emporium of Happy Endings

How a Beautiful Building in Hebden Bridge Inspired 9 Northern Romance Authors

A few years ago a group of northern romance writers began to meet up regularly in Hebden Bridge for lunch and a chat. This old mill town is the perfect place for us to meet, as it lies on the border between Yorkshire and Lancashire - and we now call ourselves Authors on the Edge!

Hebden Bridge is also a lovely place for a day out, with little streets full of interesting shops, a canal towpath to wander down, lined with narrowboats, and stunning views of the hills and the moors all around. An article once called Hebden Bridge ‘a little rain-soakedparadise’, and even when it’s raining here (which it does a lot) there are lots of caf├ęs to keep dry in – which all happen to serve delicious varieties of home-made cake!

The nine of us romance authors – that is, Mary Jayne Baker, Sophie Claire, Jacqui Cooper, Helena Fairfax (me), Kate Field, Melinda Hammond, Marie Laval, Helen Pollard, and Angela Wren - have just released an anthology of stories, which are all linked together. When it came to the setting for our collection, the ‘rain-soaked paradise’ of Hebden Bridge was obviously the perfect place! Our central character, who appears in every story, is called Miss Moonshine, and she’s the eccentric owner of a quirky shop on Market Street. We based Miss Moonshine’s shop on a real building in the town. There are lots of lovely old buildings in Hebden Bridge, but the Heart Gallery in particular seemed absolutely just right. 

Heart Gallery
Hebden Bridge

If you look at the photos, you’ll see the windows of the gallery building are quite high off the ground. This is because it was originally built for use as a Baptist Chapel. The lintel over the doorway shows the year 1777. There is a beautiful rowan tree outside the door, and an arch of roses at the entrance. There is so much about the outside of the building that makes you want to step inside. It was perfect for our stories.

Heart GalleryHebden Bridge

Melinda Hammond (who writes for Mill and Boon as Sarah Mallory) starts the anthology off with her Regency romance, and she reveals what Miss Moonshine’s shop was like two hundred years ago:
‘…a strange sort of shop, for the windows, though large, began at least four feet from the ground. A lamp burned in one of the windows, its golden light glinting on the objects displayed. A Malacca cane with a chased silver top was propped against the glass in one corner. In front of it was a metal birdcage and a bronze desk-set that appeared to be missing one of its inkwells. In the centre of the window was a small shepherdess figurine that could be French. 

Then comes my own story, set in 1908, when the heroine is amazed to see a gleaming motor car parked outside Miss Moonshine’s. The car belongs to the hero, and…well, I don’t want to give too much away! The stories go on to show Miss Moonshine’s Emporium as it is today –and it lives up to its name as a Wonderful Emporium! Miss Moonshine is the same mysterious, quirky and marvellous character throughout.

Working on this anthology, with this brilliant group of northern authors, has been really good fun from start to finish. We’ve even started to believe that Miss Moonshine is a real character, and that’s she’s worked her magic on all of us.

Available from Amazon in print and as an ebook. 

Follow on Twitter #authorsontheedge

Find out more about the Heart Gallery  in  Hebden Bridge

My thoughts about Miss Moonshine's Emporium of Happy Endings ..

This collection of nine romantic short stories, each with a theme in common, really lightened my heart and, as each story ended, I was left with a rosy, warm glow, and an eager anticipation of what was to come in the next magical story.

Each of the stories are a perfect length to be read over a cup of tea and a Jaffa Cake, and even though the stories differ in content and even in timescale, the fine attention to detail and the love of writing comes across with each author's delicate contribution.

The appeal of good short stories is that they showcase just what the author is capable of, and it gives the reader a chance to sample the author’s individual writing style. And even though in Miss Moonshine's Emporium of Happy Endings the nine authors have very different writing styles, the generosity they have to each other in their collaboration works really well, with none of them wanting to outshine the others, and all of them making a generous contribution to the anthology as a whole.

It would be unfair of me to choose a favourite amongst the nine as I found something equally enjoyable in all of them, so I won’t single any out, but what I will say, is that this team of best-selling northern writers have a real hit on their hands with Miss Moonshine and her Emporium, and I really hope that they go on to work in partnership again in future anthologies.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Review ~ Queen of the North by Anne O'Brien

31 May 2018

My thanks to the author for sharing her book with me 

What's it all about ..

1399: England’s crown is under threat. King Richard II holds onto his power by an ever-weakening thread, with exiled Henry of Lancaster back to reclaim his place on the throne.

For Elizabeth Mortimer, there is only one rightful King – her eight-year-old nephew, Edmund. Only he can guarantee her fortunes, and protect her family’s rule over the precious Northern lands bordering Scotland.

But many, including Elizabeth’s husband, do not want another child-King. Elizabeth must hide her true ambitions in Court, and go against her husband’s wishes to help build a rebel army.

To question her loyalty to the King places Elizabeth in the shadow of the axe.

To concede would curdle her Plantagenet blood.

My thoughts about it..

When Henry of Lancaster usurped the throne from Richard II in 1399, it was a far from amicable take-over of power, as it opened the country to the possibility of counter claims to the English crown. Elizabeth Mortimer is married to Henry Percy, the heir to the earldom of Northumberland, better known in history as the volatile and impetuous 'Hotspur', and even though Percy's involvement in English politics results in danger and uncertainty, it is through Elizabeth’s Mortimer connection to royalty where the real challenge comes, as Elizabeth is determined to see that her young nephew, Edmund Mortimer, pursues his legitimate claim to the English throne.

What then follows is a gripping story of politics, ambition and thwarted power which has its foothold firmly established in the unsettled atmosphere of a country which has been divided, not just by the political ambitions of people who merely wanted power for the sake of power, but also from those game players who truly believed that right was on their side.

Into this incredibly masculine world of control and authority, Elizabeth tries to make her voice heard and it is thanks to the skill of this talented writer that she comes to life in such a realistic and positive way. All too often the important women of history are side-lined by their sexier and more powerful male counterparts, and yet, as is so often the case, the women who endured and who worked surreptitiously in the background often had huge influence on the way that events eventually played out.

The author writes with passion and authority deftly bringing medieval England alive in all of its convoluted glory. There are plots and counter plots, meetings with the Welsh Prince, Owain Glyn Dwr, and time spent at the spectacular Northumberland castles of Alnwick and Warkworth and through all of the political maneuverings, Elizabeth Mortimer comes across a determined and hugely intelligent woman who felt that she and her family had grievances aplenty against a king who was, quite simply, not listening. That it doesn't bode well for Henry Percy is enshrined in history but what Queen of the North gives us so vividly is Elizabeth's interpretation of events as they unfolded during the momentous years between 1399 and 1408.

Mixing historical fact with fiction is a difficult challenge especially as so little is documented historically about Elizabeth Mortimer and yet, the author has succeeded really well in bringing her entirely to life, and gives Elizabeth a clear voice which is as bright and distinctive as the woman herself.

Anne O'Brien was born in the West Riding of Yorkshire. After gaining a BA Honours degree in history at Manchester University and a Master's in Education at Hull. she lived in the East Riding for many years where she taught history.

Leaving teaching-but not her love of history-Anne turned to writing and her passion for giving voice to the oft forgotten women of the medieval era was born. Today Anne lives in an eighteenth century cottage in Herefordshore, an area steeped in history and full of inspiration for her work.

Twitter @anne_obrien #QueenoftheNorth

Queen of the North will be published on the 31st May 2018 by HQ

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered..

Morale Boosting Songs of WW1

Florrie Forde

Florrie Forde was a popular music hall entertainer who came to England, aged 21, from Australia. She made her first appearance on the London stage in 1897 and her powerful performances and charismatic stage presence meant that she was soon in demand. Her popularity, as a vaudeville act, made her one of the most sought after entertainers of the early twentieth century,

Her morale boosting songs during World War One were some of the most popular songs of the time.

These included songs which are still remembered today.

Down at the Old Bull and Bush
Pack Up Your Troubles in your old kit bag
It's a long way to Tipperary
Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty

Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty

Jack Dunn, son of a gun, somewhere in France today
Keeps fit doing his bit, up to his eyes in clay
Each night after a fight to pass the time along
He's got a little gramophone that plays this song

Take me back to dear old Blighty!
Put me on the train for London town
Take me over there
Drop me anywhere
Birmingham, Leeds, or Manchester, well, I don't care!
I should love to see my best girl
Cuddling up again we soon should be
Hurry me back to Blighty
Blighty is the place for me!

One day, Mickey O'Shea, out in a trench somewhere
So brave, having a shave, trying to part his hair
Mick yells, dodging the shells and lumps of dynamite:
"Talk of the Crystal Palace on a firework night!"

Take me back to dear old Blighty!
Put me on the train for London town
Take me over there
Drop me anywhere
Birmingham, Leeds, or Manchester, well, I don't care!
I should love to see my best girl
Cuddling up again we soon should be
Hurry me back to Blighty

Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty was written by Arthur J. Mills, Fred Godfrey and Bennett Scott in 1916. It was popular during the First World War and tells a story of fictional soldiers on the Western Front suffering from homesickness and their longing to return to "Blighty"..

During a recent visit to the IWM (North) I bought a set of WW1 memorabilia which contained a few replica WW1 morale boosting postcards and came across this image of a soldier in the trenches listening to this song and imagining himself back home with his folks and his sweetheart.

You can listen to Florrie Forde sing Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty 
by clicking on the You Tube link below.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Hist Fic Saturday ~ The Pharmacist's Wife by Vanessa Tait

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to ...Edinburgh,1869

12 April 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

The Pharmacist's Wife takes us back in time to the mean and moody streets of Victorian Edinburgh, back to a time when it was commonplace for women to be at the absolute mercy of the men who married them.

When Rebecca Palmer marries Edinburgh pharmacist,Alexander Palmer, she imagines that her life will be comfortable and even though the marriage is largely passionless, she doesn't question her husband's ability to know what's best for her. However, the controlling nature of her husband, and his experimental foray into the dark world of drug and drug addiction, leads Rebecca into some very dark places, especially when Alexander's experimentation of these new drugs threatens Rebecca's very sanity.

Whilst this is a dark and disturbing visit to Edinburgh, with all its shadowy and shady places, there is no doubt that everything comes alive beautifully, and so atmospheric is the narrative that you really feel as if you are living life alongside Rebecca, and watching in horror as her husband's controlling grip pulls ever tighter.

The author writes of Rebecca's struggle and manipulation so cleverly that the horror of what's unfolding makes you reel in disbelief and yet, it is Rebecca's strength of character and her determination to pull herself out of the darkness which gives the story its absolute strength.

The Pharmacist's Wife is a beautifully written Victorian melodrama which brings mid-nineteenth century, Edinburgh to life in all its dreadful detail and the story vividly highlights the plight of so many Victorian women who were never allowed to have their own voice.

Vanessa Tait grew up in Gloucestershire. She went to the University of Manchester and completed a Master's degree in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths College. The Pharmacist's Wife is her second novel.

Twitter @vanessa_tait


Friday, 18 May 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Old You by Louise Voss

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be part of the blog tour for The Old You

Orenda Books
15 May 2018

My thanks to the publishers and Random Things Tours for the invitation to be a part of this tour and for my copy of the book
What's it about..

Lynn Waites gave up the job she loved when she married Ed, the love of her life, but it was worth it for the happy years they enjoyed together. Now, ten years on, Ed has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, and things start to happen; things more sinister than missing keys and lost words. As some memories are forgotten, other, long buried, begin to surface… and Lynn’s perfect world begins to crumble. 

But is it Ed’s mind playing tricks, or hers…?

My thoughts about it..

The question I have to ask myself is why I haven’t read any of this author’s work before, because if this is the standard of her writing, well, it would seem that I’ve been missing out on a few treasures.

The Old You is a very good domestic noir thriller, the premise of which drew me in from the offset, especially as it seems, from the poignant start, that Lynn Naismith, and her husband, Ed, are facing a huge challenge when Ed is diagnosed with a rare form of early onset dementia. And as the story progresses, and Lynn and Ed’s lives get more and more complicated, so the slow burn of the thriller starts to kick in, and it does so in such a subtle and believable way, that I was constantly surprised by what I saw unfolding on the page before me.

I loved the way that the author brought both of these two complex characters alive in such a realistic way, stretching the reader’s perception so that I found my allegiances swapped and changed as their individual stories emerged. And as past and present start to converge, so the element of doubt starts to set in, until you are never really sure who is giving us the truth. There are so many facets to Lynn and Ed’s individual idea of honesty, that unpicking each of their stories becomes a real challenge. I really enjoyed trying to second guess where the story was leading, but all too often I had to rethink, back track and read again,  just to make sure I was still on the right track and that I hadn't missed anything in my excitement at turning the pages quickly.

The Old You is a dark and daring story with a subtle, and totally, believable edginess. It’s about the ambiguity of lives which are shrouded in secrets and lies, and credit to the skill of the author, who really does hold the reader in the palm of her hand, that when the dreadful jaw dropping truth finally emerges, it is as every bit as dramatic as I hoped it would be.

Over her eighteen-year writing career, Louise has had books out via pretty much every publishing model there is, from deals with major traditional publishing houses (Transworld and Harper Collins), to digital-only (the Amazon-owned Thomas & Mercer) and self-publishing – she and co-author Mark Edwards were the first UK indie-published authors to hit the No. 1spot on Amazon back in 2011. She has had eleven novels published in total, five solo and six co-written, a combination of psychological thrillers, police procedurals and contemporary fiction. Louise has an MA(Dist) in Creative Writing and also works as a literary consultant and mentor for writers at www.thewritingcoach.co.uk. She lives in South-West London and is a proud member of two female crime-writing collectives, The Slice Girls and Killer Women.

Twitter @LouiseVoss1 #TheOldYou

@OrendaBooks #TeamOrenda


Thursday, 17 May 2018

Review ~ The Brighton Mermaid by Dorothy Koomson

17 May 2018

My thanks to the publishers and edpr for my copy of this book

What's it all about..

Brighton Beach, 1993: Teenagers Nell and Jude find the body of a young woman and when no one comes to claim her, she becomes known as the Brighton Mermaid. Nell is still struggling to move on when, three weeks later, Jude disappears.

Twenty-five years on, Nell quits her job to find out who the Brighton Mermaid really was – and what happened to her best friend that summer.

But as Nell edges closer to the truth, dangerous things start to happen. Someone seems to be watching her every move, and soon she starts to wonder who in her life she can actually trust.

My thoughts about it..

When teenagers, Nell and Jude, discover the body of a young woman washed up on a Brighton beach in 1993, it sets into motion a chain of events which will have repercussions for the next twenty five years, when life, for both Nell, Jude and their families, is changed forever. As an adult, Nell finds it difficult to let go of the events of 1993, and in using her commentary, and that of her younger sister, Macy, we get a multifaceted and suspenseful story which looks into the very heart of a dark and tragic mystery. 

Throughout the story the many layers of The Brighton Mermaid are stripped bare and the complex twists and turns in the story certainly kept me guessing. Many times I thought I knew which way the story was going, only for it to veer off in a completely different direction, with the last third of the book being particularly tense, when my anxiety levels shot up another notch or two.

The characterisation is particularly well done and Nell comes across as a scarily, realistic person who is just as flawed as the rest of us but she has an amazing strength of character which is so believable that you can't help but be her champion. However, it it is in the intricate details of the other characters who flit into and out of the story where the strength of the story lies, and yet, to disclose anything about them would be to reveal too much, so I won't divulge anything at all, as this is one of those cleverly put together stories which is better if it’s read with no spoilers from me.

The Brighton Mermaid is a complex and intricate story which grabs your attention from the very beginning and takes you on a shadowy journey which is layered with details of systemic racial abuse, overt sexism and a blatant disregard for truth and justice. 

I have read all of Dorothy Koomson's stories to date and I think her writing just gets better and better and with The Brighton Mermaid I really do think that she has surpassed herself.

Dorothy Koomson is the author of thirteen bestselling novels. Books and reading have always played a pivotal role in Dorothy's life and she fell in love with drama and fantasy of fictional worlds at an early age and has been making up stories since she was thirteen. Passionate about the importance of reading and literacy, Dorothy is a regular speaker in libraries and festivals and supports the work of the National Literacy Trust and Little Green Pig, a charity based in Brighton and Hove.

Twitter @DorothyKoomson #TheBrightonMermaid



Amazon UK

The Brighton Mermaid is published by Century today

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Blog Tour ~ Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on Meet Me at the Museum Blog Tour

17 May 2018

My thanks to the publishers and Random Things Tours for my invitation to be part of this Blog Tour 

What's it all about..

Sometimes it takes a stranger to really know who you are When Tina Hopgood writes a letter of regret to a man she has never met, she doesn’t expect a reply. When Anders Larsen, a lonely museum curator, answers it, nor does he. They’re both searching for something, they just don’t know it yet. Anders has lost his wife, along with his hopes and dreams for the future. Tina is trapped in a marriage she doesn’t remember choosing. Slowly their correspondence blossoms as they bare their souls to each other with stories of joy, anguish and discovery. But then Tina’s letters suddenly cease, and Anders is thrown into despair. Can their unexpected friendship survive?

What did I think about it..

This gentle, epistolary novel focuses on the shared experiences of two unlikely people who start a correspondence based on their shared interest in the Tollund Man. Their interest in the Iron Age isn't really what the story is about , although I did find some of the descriptions of Tollund Man quite fascinating, however, it is in the quiet build-up of a relationship between two lonely people where the story finds its heart.

The letters between Tina Hopgood in Bury St Edmunds and museum curator Anders Larsen at the Silkeborg Museum in Denmark gradually expose the loneliness of their lives and their regret at time passing. Their considerate and, almost, rueful recollections of the relationship they each have had with their respective spouses and children, adds a perceptive glimpse into those reminisces which come all too frequently in later life.

There's a real difference in reading a novel which is entirely epistolary as it gives the story a unique ability to get right into the minds of the characters and Meet Me at the Museum, succeeds where perhaps a conventional novel wouldn't, as it allows a unique perspective into the souls of the correspondents in an intimate and inclusive way.

Quietly thoughtful with a sensitive and considerate look at all the vagaries of life, Meet Me At The Museum is a story which is expressed with kindness, gentle humour and an awareness that love can be found, often in the most unlikely of places.

ANNE YOUNGSON worked for many years in senior management in the car industry before embarking on a creative career as a writer. She has supported many charities in governance roles, including Chair of the Writers in Prison Network, which provided residencies in prisons for writers. She lives in Oxfordshire and is married with two children and three grandchildren to date. MEET ME AT THE MUSEUM is her debut novel, which is due to be published around the world.

Twitter #MeetMeAtTheMuseum