Murder Under the Tuscan Sun – Rachel Rhys

Tuscany, late Nineteen Twenties Mussolini’s power and dominance is on the rise. In this castle high above Tuscany, the people who love there are English.

William the ailing art dealer, nursing a broken heart.

Evelyn, William’s niece. Vacuous and false.

Roberto, Evelyn’s husband fascinated with Fascism.

Nora, neglected daughter of Evelyn and her first husband.

And Constance, widowed and grieving for a daughter also lost. The companion to William.

But all is not as it seems, there is something about this castle, deep in the Tuscan Hills.

There is something about the behaviour of Evelyn.

The behaviour of Roberto. Aligning himself to those who are to be noticed.

The treatment of Nora, which made me weep with frustration at such a barbaric act.

The noises that Constance can hear at night, during the day. Where are they coming from?

And the failing health of William, seemingly sometimes so fit and alert.

This book whilst filled with rich descriptions of the Tuscan landscape, is filled with twists and turns of the characters and plot. What is really going on in this novel? What is the aim of the author? A book which kept me turning the pages, because I was caught up with what was happening, that I had to find out. I had no clue as to what was happening, I was completely entranced but them all. I was wrong, as was Constance. What I learned was heart breaking, but the denouement was right and the outcome even more so. What a journey, what a book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Murder Under the Tuscan Sun is out now.


Killers of a Certain Age – Deanna Raybourn

Four women, Billie, Mary-Alice, Natalie and Helen all work for the Museum. To mark their retirement after forty years, they are all sent on an all expense paid holiday.

What could possibly be wrong with that – something, clearly as all four women become the target of an assassin. And they know it is from one of their own.

You need to know the Museum is a network of assassins which have been working for a number of years, formed during dying days of the Second World War.

If they have been targeted then that means it is from instruction from the Board at the Museum and thwarting the first assassin, they go on a mission, across America, across the world to discover who has ordered their destruction and most importantly why.

Using all the skills they have learnt over the last forty years or so and their ability to blend into the background as older overlooked women, it becomes a race against time.

Told entirely from Billie’s point of view, we do go back to previous kills that they women have been involved in as well as see a glimpse into their ‘normal’ lives as well. It all culminates in them arriving back to where it all began for them, but will they all make it out safely?

Whilst the premise of the book sounds quite grim, it has a light hearted touch and humour which seems in complete contrast and whilst it works across the majority of the book, there were times where it seemed rather callous and out of place. A bit bizarre if you will.

That said, this was an pleasant diversion of a book and whilst not up to previous novels I have read by this author it was a bit of escapist entertainment.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Killers of a Certain Age is out now.


Mrs Porter Calling – A.J.Pearce

Emmy Lake is not just popular with her friends and her new husband but also with the readers of Woman’s Friend magazine. Whilst her marriage is new and her husband is far away fighting the war, her love of the magazine is keeping Emmy and all her friends going.

But everything is about to change when Mrs Porter comes calling.

Mrs Porter is the new publisher, niece of the former one and is a well known socialite and purveyor of all things glamorous and shiny, the war it seems has not inconvenienced Mrs Porter in anyway at all.

Now with what she sees as a chance to do her bit, Mrs Porter decides to refresh Woman’s Friend magazine.

Gone are the tips on making meals, gardening, making do and mending and the advice column of Yours Cheerfully, which Emmy is now fully in charge. Now we have glamour and an abundance of it filling the pages. The magazine is no longer the friends it used to be but Emmy and her colleagues try their hardest to remind all their readers that they are thinking of them in such difficult times.

Whilst all of this is going on Emmy still continues her volunteer shifts at the Fire Service and finds that filling the house she shares with Bunty is going to be fuller when Thelma and her three children move in and they pool all their resources to create a home.

It might be 1943, but war is still very much in the minds of all the characters and the author weaves together the domestic home front, with the war far away from British shores and the impact it has in between to everyone, whether they be young or old. This book I think is the best in the series so far, and the first two were pretty awesome. I laughed with the antics of the children, the bull dozer approach that Mrs Porter had as well as cried at the tragedy of something unravelling and everything you knew and love suddenly changing.

I hope that I can pick up with Emmy again as I so dearly want to come back and see my friends.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Mrs Porter Calling is published on 25 May 2023


A Summer Surprise at the Little Blue Boathouse – Christie Barlow

Eleven books later and I am still revisiting Heartcross in the Love Heart Lane series as often as I can. I absolutely envy anyone first discovering book one and knowing that they have all the wonderful stories to catch up on.

Bea Fernsby has left behind everything, steady but boring job, family, fiancé and his wandering eyes and headed as far away as possible. She ends up in Heartcross and as it goes anyone that ends up there, never leaves.

Nolan Hemingway is determined to be leaving Heartcross on his adventure on his late grandfathers boat. It doesn’t matter who he meets, he no longer has the desire to settle.

Although it is meant to be a rest from everything that has gone on, Bea finds herself a little job in the Little Blue Boathouse and discovers she might have found the place to heal her heart. Becoming involved in the community, when a potential tragedy is averted, Bea finds herself determined to see safety to the river at the heart of this community. She then finds the pull of the community too much.

However Nolan is pulled by Bea’s enthusiasm and his humour and when she becomes involved in the real reason for Nolan’s landing in Heartcross, it seems that the community has a pull to Nolan that he never realised. Then of course there is Bea who has done something to Nolan, he never thought possible.

A book filled with mystery, warmth and laughter and plenty of old friends from Heartcross to become even more fond of if that is at all possible! What I love most is the fact that these books aren’t full of fluff, but tackle some real issues that many face and handles it with such skill, that you cannot but help cheer for more of the same!

As with all of the Love Heart Lane series, they can certainly be read as standalone novels but I implore you to just read them all. You will not regret it.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

A Summer Surprise at the Little Blue Boathouse is out now.


Found in a Bookshop – Stephanie Butland

This is the first book that I have read which has featured the recent COVID pandemic in the forefront of the plot. It is also the second book which features the bookshop Lost for Words, which I had not read. However, there is enough references to understand the main characters in this novel and what had happened previously.

Loveday Carew, owner of the bookshop is joined by manager Kelly and then stroppy teenager later on in the novel, Maddison.

The bookshop is closed, the pandemic starting to bite businesses as well as people. One day the shop receives a letter from a retired headteacher – could they send her some wonderful books using the money enclosed to get them through the next few months. This lady Rosemary and her husband George are retired, reclusive now due to the circumstances of the world and reading to each other in their garden is a joy.

An idea forms – what if the ship could offer other people books to get them through this time.

A simple advertisement, starts a flurry of letters, emails and phone calls and this book provides a small insight into some of those requests. Differing scenes on how the pandemic and actual life is affecting a wide range of people. All looking for solace through a book. Ironically something I do every day and was doing by reading this one. Sometimes we see the person request the book again, we get to learn what happened in the next chapter, sometimes we don’t. However, the story thread of Rosemary and George as well as Loveday, Kelly and Maddison is weaved through the book as the main story arc.

The book touched my heart, but it was a difficult read as the pandemic and lockdowns seem so recent and perhaps it provoked some panicky memories of which I didn’t realise I had until I read this book. However, it was a joy to read and I love the idea of a book pharmacy and even reading this book will give you lots more to add your “to read lists”.

Perfect for fans of bookshops featured in books.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Found in a Bookshop is out now.


Code Name Elodie – Anna Stuart

I am back with the girls at Bletchley Park. It is now 1943 and war is progressing and plans are being made for an advance in 1944. But there is so much to do before then and all of the three women, Ailsa, Steffie and Fran have their part to play, at Bletchley but much further afield.

Fran is still coming to terms with her choice of love, Valerie Rousseau is French, passionate and desperate to help at home on the front line, not from behind some cryptic messages in an old country house in England. Through all her passions, Valerie leaves Fran with the unknown – what she is really doing in Occupied France.

Alisa, now married to Ned is separated from him. But when a chance to go and work where he is, in Ceylon she jumps at the chance. Trouble is she might have to keep her extra passanger quiet as she knows the rules even if she is one of the best when it comes to wireless sets and finding frueqwncuies. Some things the Ministry will not overlook. But that still does not stop strong wlled Alisa from taking part in as much of the last days of war as she can.

Steffie, is in a different place in her life to other women. Her skills at languages and the influence of her father leads her to become involved in operative planning to confuse the enemy. She suddenly realises that she has quite a lot to give. So does the American solider who has been detailed off to accompany her, but she seems to spend most of time laughing at his use of the English language and not picking up on what is really going on.

All of this weaved to together as we see the planning for D-Day, Operation Mincemeat and the end of the War. The research is so detailed and thorough, that Anna Stuart brings it to life from the page and just like her first, this was a book I could not put down. In fact I was bereft when it ended, but the three women needed to go on and live their lives knowing that they had played a vital part in history.

Thoroughly fascinating, engaging and a must for all fans of historical fiction.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Code Name Elodie is out now.


Murder at the Beauty Pageant – Helena Dixon

If like me you have been with Kitty since the beginning then it is a delight to see that she is embracing married life with Matt Bryant and getting more involved in the private investigations.

However that doesn’t stop her being involved with The Dolphin hotel now being run by a manager. To celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the King, it is up to the hotel to stage a Beauty Pageant, what could possibly go wrong?

Well poison pen letters, some strange looking characters and then a couple of dead bodies, it seems this is going to be a beauty pageant that Dartmouth will not forget for a while. But the new inspector, who Kitty and Matt have encountered from previous cases thinks there is nothing amiss and it is all straightforward and the culprit will be easy to catch. Especially if the amateurs do not assist.

But that is okay because Matt and Kitty have been hired to look into Victoria, stepdaughter of Sir Vivian, a well known Egyptologist. He thinks she has fallen in with a bad lot and there is mention of drugs which doesn’t seem to bode well for Victoria. Trouble is Victoria is down to be in the beauty pageant and it seems this private case and the one the police are working on are connected and they are going to have work together.

Although we are on book twelve of this series, as our main characters have now got married there is a shift in the tone of the book, as they enter the next part of their life. Plenty of familiar characters are still present and I hope we get to spend more time with the delightful Alice and members of her family whoa re we getting to know more about. Then of course there is Kitty’s grandmothers close friend; the formidable Mrs Craven who seems to remain Kitty’s thorn in her side and got her into this beauty pageant in the first place!

I look forward to seeing where Matt and Kitty end up next, and whether they can possibly solve a case without putting either of their lives at risk!

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Murder at the Beauty Pageant is out now.


April Roundup

A bumper month, I think mainly because I stopped and was able to read more and also because some of the books were perfect crackers to get completely lost in.

Oh gosh where to start, if it ever was an eclectic mix it was this month. As May is the coronation of King Charles III it seemed by default to have a certain royal flavour in some of my reading. Valentine Low – Courtiers has been a book I have dipped in and out of for a few months, since I purchased it. A fascinating insight into the ‘men in grey suits’ and the workings of the palace, the later few chapters which focus on more recent events makes you stop and wonder what some people’s motives really are.

Debut novel Megan Clawson – Falling Hard for the Royal Guard takes us to the Tower of London, and all that Royal pomp and circumstance along with some mishaps and mistakes for our main character Maggie and her Royal Guard, Freddie. Oh I wonder how much of this book is based on the author’s real life mishaps – knowing she does really live in the Tower of London.

A jubilee is something we may not see for a long while, but it is always fascinating to go back to previous ones and it is used as a vehicle for the twelfth book in the Kitty Underhay Series. Helena Dixon – Murder at the Beauty Pageant takes us back to 1935, Dartmouth and the raising of funds for a jubilee celebration for the local children. What could possibly go wrong?

Sticking with the past and back in time, I went back a lot further to the seventeenth century and Edinburgh for Kate Foster – The Maiden. Based on true events, this book was fascinating as it gave voice to the execution of a woman for murdering her lover. But was there more to it all than we know? I look forward to seeing what else this author may write.

Speeding forwards to the Second World War, which is a popular theme in a number of books I read, for various different reasons. What is always wonderful is to step away from what you would normally expect from a wartime saga novel. The latest in the Emmy Lake chronicles is no exception, A.J. Pearce – Mrs Porter Calling for me is the best of the series so far. So invested in the book, the force of Mrs Porter emanates off the page, but then so does the fight against her as well as the war. Laughs and tears in abundance in this book.

Another book which is packed with knowledge, research and thrills from the outset is Anna Stuart- Code Name Elodie, it is a follow up to The Bletchley Girls and this part of the Second World War has always fascinated me. The strong female characters and the insight goes to show you how mcuh research has been done and how much we still don;t know about what went on during those years and the impact it had to all those at the front.

Finishing one duo of books, I then have finished a trilogy with Vicki Beeby – Hopeful Hearts for the Wrens and as the war comes to an end for these women in the Orkney Isles, there is still time for the impact of their friendships to ruin the future. I really enjoyed this series and know that I can go back to her previous trilogy featuring the WAAF.

More modern thrilling literature came in the form of Hillary Rodham Clinton & Louise Penny – State of Terror which I picked up because of the input from Clinton. Having read and listened to quite a lot from her, I am always impressed by her knowledge and resilience against some pretty awful contemporaries and opponents. What if what I read in the book became a reality thanks to the power of one man. Scary. The first time reading Louise Penny, a prolific Canadian author who I may well investigate further should I be after something page turning in the future.

Another prolific author is the great Christie and with the adaptation on over the Easter Weekend, I had to read the book before I got stuck into the programme. Agatha Christie – Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? features neither Poirot or Marple and was a really cracking read, with plenty of twists and turns, and the most simple of questions – why didn’t they simply ask Evans. But if they had, then there wouldn’t have been a book! The adaptation by Hugh Laurie was much better than I was expecting and with a few little tweaks, it stayed very faithful to the book and for that I am most grateful.

I read my mum’s copy of Christie, and that was second hand when she received when she was pregnant with me. The beauty of second hand bookshops which is the theme of Stephanie Butland – Found in a Bookshop. This is the first book that I have read which has featured the COVID pandemic as a backdrop and I found myself slightly panicked by reading it, bringing back some of the more darker days. However the premise of the books is so delightful and once I had got over the poor formatting, it is a book to cherish and turns out is the second to feature the characters and I therefore need to seek out the first.

Kate Forster – Fly Me to Moongate Manor is the latest from this author. I have dipped in and out of her books over the last few years. In other words I don’t make a beeline for them if I know a new one is out. Sometimes it is nice to just rediscover the author again. This was the case with her latest. Some of my favourite things in this book – big houses, gardens, nosy neighbours and a mystery to solve from the past. The perfect escapist reading and just what I needed.

Just as quick as I am knocking these books off my netgalley list, more are being added and I am still trying to make a dent in those actual shelves too. Work does get in the way of reading, but I am hoping some extra bank holidays and with the weather getting better, there will be more reading to come.

How was your April?


Blog Tour – Coming Soon

I am delighted to be on the upcoming Blog Tour for the new Helena Dixon novel – Murder at the Beauty Pageant.

Kitty Underhay is awarding first place… to murder.

Spring, 1935. Newlywed Kitty Underhay has been enlisted by her old nemesis Mrs Craven to help organise the Miss Dartmouth Jubilee pageant at the Dolphin Hotel. Being bossed around by her arch enemy is not quite what Kitty had in mind for the start of her married life, but she’s excited to launch the glamorous show. Sparkling smiles are quickly replaced by audible gasps however, when one of the girls goes missing during the interval…

When pretty Peggy Blaine is discovered dead, Kitty can’t help but notice that none of the other contestants seem particularly shocked. Can jealousy over a sash and a diamante tiara be a motive for murder?

But when she discovers the threatening notes the young women have received, Kitty enlists her husband Matt to figure out who’s scaring the competitors. However, before Matt can speak to them, another entrant turns up dead after an apparently accidental overdose. Taking part in a beauty pageant seems to have turned into a fatal occupation!

The daring duo are sure that someone close to the girls is responsible. But can they sort the harmless face powders from the fatal poisons before it’s too late? Or will Kitty and Matt find they are next to be crowned… with death?

An utter joy! Fans of Agatha Christie, T E Kinsey and Lee Strauss will fall head over heels for this utterly compelling and totally charming historical cozy mystery!

Helena Dixon is the author of the best-selling Miss Underhay murder mystery series and lives in Devon. Married to the same man for over thirty-five years she has three daughters, a cactus called Spike, and a crazy cockapoo. She is allergic to adhesives, apples, tinsel and housework. She was winner of The Romance Prize in 2007 and Love Story of the Year 2010 as Nell Dixon.

Pop back on the 6th May to see my review for the latest in this wonderful series.


The Maiden – Kate Foster

This debut historical fiction novel has taken me back to a time I would not have necessarily chosen, but something drew me to this book especially when I learn that the main character Lady Christian Nimmo was in fact a real person.

It is 1679, Edinburgh. Lady Christian Nimmo is to be hanged for the murder of her lover Lord James Forrester. Not just her lover but her uncle.

We are taken from 1679 with Lady Christian Nimmo incarcerated awaiting her fate to the previous twelve months where her passion with Lord James Forrester begins, develops and how it ends with a death sentence. Amongst this tale of lovers is that of Violet.

Violet is far displaced form the society of Lady Christian Nimmo. She finds her safety in the pleasure houses of Edinburgh, Mrs Fiddes rules the roost and the girls within. AS men come and go, to find their pleasure however they desire. One of those men is Lord James Forrester and by a twist of fate, a transaction is made and Violet finds herself at the castle of this man. Secluded in a turret, with only a maid for company, Violet finds herself surplus to requirements when Lady Christian Nimmo appears on the scene.

As worlds collide, the women have to rally to summon strength to maintain their position with some unforeseen consequences.

This book takes the story of women from history, and fleshes it out and gives a voice to those in every walk of life. To those who are overlooked because they are women, or because of the life they are forced to lead to survive. I felt great passion for Lady Christian and whilst I condemned to begin with, as the novel moves on I find myself starting to question, to doubt when you have the full facts in front of you. Even Violet I wanted to champion wished her well on the life she wanted to create for herself out of nothing.

With equal distaste for Lord James, a man we only know through the eyes of the women who know him, including his wife. Manipulative, selfish, arrogant, egotistical and most of all controlling. This behaviour of his, this apparent plan had been growing for years and his victim chosen a long time before it all started. Perhapsi t was his arrognace that made he realise that it coudl all end very swiftly.

This book, is atmospheric from every page, whether it be the dank, dark and smells of the prison cell. To the gaudiness of the whore houses or the bedrooms of the whores, to the actions when an unwanted baby is discovered. Nothing is shied away from and you find yourself repulsed by such actions, but it adds so much tot he book I was drawn in and had to keep reading.

If this is the debut, then it can only get better for this author and I am intrigued as to what will come from the pen next. One of my books of the year.

Perfect for fans of historical fiction and championing the overlooked parts of history and the part women played, even if the outcome is less desirable.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

The Maiden is out now.