Category Archives: Book of the Month!

Book of the Month – Forgive Me – LESLEY PEARSE

 

 

FORGIVE ME_approved design[1]

Why did I pick this book as my Book of the Month?

It won’t surprise many people who read my blog regularly to know what a huge fan of all of Lesley’s books I am. So when I was asked if I wanted an advanced proof of her latest book  Forgive me (due out Valentine’s day 2013) there wasn’t a  chance I would turn it down! So whilst most won’t be able to read it until next year, I really couldn’t help but tease you with my review – and I don’t apologies for it!!!!

Synopsis

Cheltenham, 1991

When Eva Patterson returns home from work one day, a devastating scene awaits her. Her mother, Flora, lies dead in the bath. Beside her is a note saying only: ‘Forgive Me’.

Until then, Eva always believed her family’s life would be comfortable and secure – but Flora’s suicide changes everything. And when Eva discovers that in her will Flora left her an artist’s studio in London, she realises how little she knows about her mother’s past.

When Eva visits the now derelict studio, she is shocked to find out that her mother was once a successful artist back in the 1960s. A chance encounter leads her to Phil, who agrees to help her restore the studio, as well as offering her the advice and friendship Eva so badly needs.

In the studio attic she finds a collection of Flora’s paintings and old diaries, which Eva believes were purposely left for her to find. Searching for answers, Eva encounters a psychic who mysteriously warns her to beware of a ‘sleeping serpent’, which she soon discovers refers to a shocking crime in Flora’s past.

Will discovering the truth destroy Eva’s belief in everything she holds dear? And will Phil stand by Eva even when her journey leads her and those she loves into certain danger?

Review

Like most, the last books of Lesley’s I read were Belle and then The Promise which were set in the very early 1900’s. This book is very different and takes you straight to the (almost) present day 1991.

The story follows Eva Patterson whose world changes one days when she walks into her home and finds her Mother dead. From that day on, nothing is as she thought, every ounce of innocence and youth is stripped from her.

When I started reading this book, it has all the typical Lesley Pearse impact in the first few pages but if I am honest I found it a little more gentle than I expected over the first handful of chapter. However, do NOT be fooled, you will feel kicked, battered and bruised by the time you reach the final page. The twists and turns Eva’s journey takes you on doesn’t give you time to sit back and think or reflect.

I am constantly surprised on how much tragedy and pain Lesley inflicts onto her leading lady. Just when you get over one hurdle, whack – something else happens. The centre of all her books are the family connections and this is no exception. Packed full of emotion, sorrow and you long for happiness.

There is no doubt that this is yet again a fantastic read. It will pull you in at page one and you won’t come back up again until you turn to the last page, and likely like me, to have shed a tear on the way.

Whilst very different to Belle (my favourite read of 2011), Forgive me is absolutely brilliant and I can’t recommend it enough. Another fabulous read and clearly another bestseller.

I asked Lesley the following questions:-

1) Forgive me will be released on Valentines Day 2013, what is it about?
Set in 1990’s it is the story of how when twenty year old Eva’s mother commits suicide, Eva is to discover that nothing in her family background is as she believed.

2) All your books have a huge family connection whether good or bad. How much of what you write is from personal experience?
In my view families and the experiences we have in them, for good or bad, shape our character. I certainly have had my fair share of trauma over the years, but it did make me self reliant and strong. I have written about things which actually happened to me, but mostly it is an amalgamation of both personal experience and imagination.
   
3) The leading ladies seem to suffer so much trauma in their world when you write, it’s very powerful and clearly important to you but what makes you focus on this aspect and where do you get the inspiration from?
If I was to write about people who had perfect lives it would be fairly dull!  I love to give my heroines something to battle for, or something to endure. I believe most people love to be taken on a hazardous journey when they are reading.. I know I do. I get the inspiration from real life stories sometimes, other times it just pops into my head. I hope too when I highlight certain issues, whether it is child abuse, adoption, or even mental illness, it might help people to have more understanding of that subject.
4) Is there any book that you have read that you wish you could swap the Authors name to yours and why?
The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough. I first read this in 1980 while feeding my youngest child late at night. I was still in that chair with a sleeping baby when the sun came up because I was so swept away with the story. I was to re-read it eighteen years later before going to Australia to research my book Trust Me, and it was still as fresh and wonderful. It was the book that made me want to write, my goal was to write one equally compelling. I owe Colleen a debt of gratitude for giving me the will to stick at writing until I eventually got published.
 
5) What has been your favourite read of 2012?
A difficult question as I have read many that I’ve loved for many different reasons. ‘We ought to talk about Kevin’, by Lionel Shriver was very chilling. Claire Tomalin’s biography of Dickens was fabulous. But was sheer entertainment and can’t-put-down able, I’d say JoJo Moyes, ‘The girl you Left Behind.’
 
6) And because it is Christmas .. and extra question!! – What is a typical Christmas like in the Pearse household?
I day dream of having one of those Christmases that the glossy magazines would have you believe exist, beautifully wrapped presents under a stylish tree, fantastic gourmet food perfectly cooked. Me looking fabulous and my daughters, their partners and grandchildren being helpful, grateful for my efforts and beaming with happiness. But reality is a bit different.
 
Its normally chaotic. The dinner is always served much later than planned perhaps because I drink too much during the preparation. One of my three girls usually kicks off about something and we usually have some sort of drama too. Once it was my grandson being savaged by a dog on Christmas Eve. So I was at hospital till the early hours.
 
This Christmas will be different as my youngest is due to have a new baby in early December. and I’ll be driving to her in London early on Christmas morning, with the dinner and presents in my car. The good news for me is that I leave for Marrakesh on Boxing Day with friends, where there will be no dinners to cook,  family disputes or drama’s.  The other two girls and partners will have to fend for themselves or go and pester their father. And I am resolving not to feel guilty about this.
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Book of the Month – With Love at Chistmas – CAROLE MATTHEWS

 

  

Why did I pick this book as my Book of the Month?

I always look forward to this time of year as I know there will always be plenty of fabulous book about Christmas that will get me in the festive mood and it is always Carole’s that I look forward too most. Whether it is the comic element or the great plot, I always know that it’s a curl up on the sofa and escape into Carole’s world for a few hours! – … Marvellous!!

Synopsis

Can the imperfect family really have the perfect Christmas?

Juliet Joyce adores Christmas. She loves the presents, the tree, the turkey, the tinsel, everything. Already the festive spirit is upon her, which is just as well as this Christmas things are starting to get out of hand.

Her son Tom is out of work and bringing home a slew of unsuitable partners; pregnant daughter Chloe and her little boy have moved back in; Juliet’s father, Frank, is getting over a heartbreak of his own and Rita, her eccentric mother, is behaving more erratically each day. And has the chaos got too much for Juliet’s husband Rick?

With the big day fast approaching, Juliet hopes that she can stop everything spiralling out of control, because the only thing she wants is her family all around her and her home to be filled

Review

I have to say this has been so far my favourite of all Carole’s books, it is so real. You join a ‘normal’ family in their normal lives and just watch as the stresses of the festive period unravel with all the other things people have to contend with on a daily basis.

Wonderful strong characters, brilliant comedy that you expect from this Author but also emotional moments that caught me on the hop and made me cry. Most of all, a story you can relate too and want to follow.

Not only will this story put you in a lovely happy place in time for christmas, it will also make you look around your family and friends and realise what you actually have in life and most importantly, what/who is import.

A truly excellent read, brilliantly written and I’m so delighted to have the honour of featuring Carole twice on my Book of Month feature this year.

 

I asked Carole the following questions:-

1) With Love at Christmas is your latest novel, tell us a little about it and where the idea came from.
We all hanker after the ‘perfect’ Christmas, don’t we? And then, inevitably, something goes wrong. It’s the time of the year when we want to be at our best and yet the pressure of it all usually ends up with someone falling out or getting stressed or everyone going down with a cold on Christmas day. So I thought it would be fun to write about a ‘typical’ family Christmas. I’d written about the Joyce family in my earlier book That Loving Feeling and I really enjoyed them as characters. So when I started to think about With Love at Christmas, they seemed like the ideal family to write about. It’s not a sequel  to That Loving Feeling. It’s a stand alone book that picks up with the Joyces, Juliet and Rick, two years later.

Juliet is addicted to Christmas. She loves everything about it, which is just as well as she has a lot on her plate this year. Her son, Tom, is unemployed and bringing a slew of unsuitable home every night. Her daughter, Chloe is pregnant but has split with her partner and is back at home with her toddler in tow. Her mother whose behaviour is, at best, eccentric starts to become even more erratic. Her father has a heartbreak of his own to deal with and she’s finding texts from another woman on Rick’s phone. With 25th December fast approaching Juliet is trying to all she can to hold her family and her marriage together as all she wants is her home to be filled with love at Christmas

2) I think this book would make a brilliant 2 part comedy/drama programme on the TV, would fit perfectly. If that was the case, who would you cast for the roles?
I’d love to see it on television too. We’re short of good, funny drama based around Christmas. The same ones have been doing the rounds for years. So come on producers! Make me an offer!  I’d like to see Hugh Laurie play Rick, though he’s probably too big a star now he’s gone all Hollywood. Neil Morrissey would work well too. We don’t see enough of him on our screens now. I think Hermione Norris from Cold Feet and Spooks would make a good Juliet.

…I would have to say Robson Green as Rick, Jessica Hynes as Juliet!…

 
3) What is a typical Christmas day at Matthews Towers?
I love a quiet day at home. We normally go into our next door neighbours, Martin and Lyn, to kick the day off with some bucks fizz. Which means that I end up cooking the dinner in a vaguely alcoholic haze. Twice I have dropped the Christmas dinner while getting it out of the oven. Now I keep an emergency spare one, just in case. We love to go for a long walk, if the weather is kind. Even better if it’s snowing. Then just a really chilled day. We try to get in a special Christmassy film. Last year we watched Nativity! with Martin Freeman, very funny and just so feel good. Sometimes family spend the day with us, this year we’ve got some friends coming, which we’re really looking forward to. I’m going big on decoration this year!

 4) If you could change the Authors name on any book that has been released in the past and put in yours, what book would it be and why?
One Day by David Nicholls. I just loved this book. It’s basically a romantic story and I’m convinced it did so well because there’s a man’s name on the cover and it’s not pink! I could relate to so much in that story. Wish I’d written it. The film wasn’t half so good, by the way. Anne Hathaway was totally  and utterly miscast as Emma.


5) What has been your favourite read so far this year?
I’m currently reading J K Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy which I’m really enjoying. I was never a big Harry Potter fan – wash my mouth out with soap – so was interested to see what I’d feel about her adult writing. I’ve not quite finished yet, but I love it. Her observations of minute detail are so compelling. She’s taken a lot of flak over this book as it’s so very different to what she’s been doing over the last umpteen years. I think it’s very brave of her to stick her head above the parapet and try something new and daring, when she could just stay at home counting her millions.

Thank you so much Carole for being part of my Book of the Month feature again this month .. always a pleasure to have you x

Available via Amazon With Love at Christmas and published Sphere

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Book of the Month – October – CAROL WYER

Why did I pick these as my books of the month?

I spent a while last month thinking of what to have as my book of the month in October and I decided that I wanted to support an Author that has written a couple of books that I read earlier this year and both made me laugh and were just great reads!

This is the first time that I have featured two books at once, but they are both brilliant and I just had to brings them to your attention! Read them both, you won’t be disappoint!!

Synopsis for Mini skirts and Laughter Lines

Amanda Wilson can’t decide between murder, insanity and another glass of red wine. Facing 50 and all that it entails is problematic enough. What’s the point in minking your eyes, when your husband would rather watch ‘Russia Today’ than admire you, strutting in front of the television in only thigh boots and a thong?

Her son has managed to perform yet another magical disappearing act. Could he actually be buried under the mountain of festering washing which is strewn on his bedroom floor? He’ll certainly be buried somewhere when she next gets her hands on him.

At least her mother knows how to enjoy herself. She’s partying her twilight years away in Cyprus. Queen of the Twister mat, she now has a toy boy in tow.

She really shouldn’t have pressed that send button. The past always catches up with you sooner or later. Still, her colourful past is a welcome relief to her monochrome present; especially when it comes in the shape of provocative Todd Bradshaw, her first true love.

Soon Mandy has a difficult decision to make; one that will require more than a few glasses of Chianti.

Review

What a fantastic, addictive novel Carol has brilliantly written. I sat down on Sunday morning to read this and never left the sofa until Sunday evening as I closed the book! The book is set in a diary (or should I say as we are now in the 21st century) blog format with an entry most days. What is fantastic about it, is that Carol has also captured additional characters that are Amanda’s blog followers that leave little comments at the end of each blog! They in themselves have little stories but you will see what I mean when you read the book!

This book is very funny indeed in places. Amanda is a 50 something married lady to a man approaching 60 (but could easily be 80 due to being so boring!), a mother (and what a great character she is!!!) who spends more time in Cyprus getting up to goodness knows what and at her age! Throw in a 21-year-old son that thinks their family home is a hotel and you suddenly know Amanda has a lot to write (or moan) about!

A wonderfully different way of writing a book. You really get to know Amanda and travel with her on her highs, lows and mid menopausal panics in life!

Synopsis for Surfing in Stilettos

Surfing in Stilettos is the second book by Carol E Wyer following on the success of Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines.

Amanda Wilson is all geared up for an exciting gap year, travelling across Europe with her husband, Phil, hoping that it will cheer him up and put a little romance back into their lives. Fate, however, intervenes to turn Amanda’s life on its head. First, Bertie, the campervan, breaks down. Then, the trip is doing nothing to change the grumpy disposition of her husband. In fact he seems to be getting worse. Finally, her dopey son, Tom, who is staying in their house in the UK, holds a raucous party, during which the front door gets broken, opening the way for a bunch of squatters to move in.

With her plans thwarted as Phil returns to the UK to handle the squatters, Amanda is abandoned in France with only a cellar full of Chateau Plonk, a large, orange Space Hopper, and Old Ted, a dog, for company. To make matters worse, the jaw-dropping, Skype calls from her irrepressible mother are only making her trip even less palatable by comparison. She turns to the internet and to writing to amuse herself.

Review

When Carol approached me and told me she had written a sequel I was delighted, but I had high expectations. I imagine writing a sequel to a book that was successful and received high praise must be a daunting task and something a lot of Authors don’t do but I was so thrilled that Surfing in Stilettos was just as engaging and enjoyable to read.

We rejoin Amanda embarking on a years tour in their campavan Bertie with her “beloved” husband Phil. Lots of the old characters are still in the story, Tom the Son, her blogger friends, Todd and her wonderful Mother! obviously nothing goes to plan and it’s not the bliss gap year expected (or maybe being a realist Amanda knew all along!!) a long as some fabulous new French characters and a gorgeous Dog Ted

Carol has brilliantly written the second book that is just as funny and still a real page turner but this time there was a little more to the story. More emotion, more stories from the other’s perspective and closure I would say in many cases. I felt this novel went deeper than one Woman’s blog and “moaning” husband. This really was about people finding themselves and understanding what is important in life and to do it whether it hurt to do or not!

Both available in book ebook and paperback

SURFING IN STILETTOS – published by Thornberry

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Book of the Month – Sworn Secret – AMANDA JENNINGS

 

 Sworn Secret is the debut novel by Amanda Jennings and published by Canvas.

Why did I pick this book as my Book of the Month?

As August approached, I had my book of the month in place and settled down to read a few books from my pile before starting to look for September’s book of the month. I picked up Sworn Secret, a book by a new Author that i had been sent by Constable & Robinson. I was blown away by how fantastic it was. What I am most delighted about is that this book was unexpected and not what I had planned for this months main feature, but so good it made me move things around as I knew I just had to have it for September.

Synopsis

When Anna, Lizzie Thorne’s charismatic sister, is killed in a tragic fall from the roof of her school, her family is plunged into shock and despair.

One year on and grief still has a suffocating hold on them. Her mother, Kate, consumed by loss and desperate to find someone to blame for Anna’s death, retreats from her family, locking herself away to paint Anna’s portrait for hours on end. Jon, her father, is doing his best to care for his loved ones but the pressure of trying to stop his marriage collapsing is pushing him to breaking point. And amid her parents’ turmoil Lizzie just wants to grow up and leave her sister’s ghost in the past.

But then a devastating revelation rocks her parents further still and raises questions concerning what really happened the night Anna died. While Kate and Jon grapple with their dead daughter’s secrets, Lizzie throws herself into a passionate but forbidden love affair that frees her from the heartache all around her – but also threatens to tear her family apart.

Review

Wow what a book and even more impressive with it being a debut novel.

Brilliantly written, very gripping, emotional and heartbreaking. You’re plunged (sorry – bad choice of words but you will understand why in chapter 1!) straight into the story on page one, this is not a slow burner of a novel. The writing style reminds me very much of Rosamund Lupton and I really believe that anyone that enjoyed Sister or Afterwards will love this book too.

The characters are very believable and you warm to many of them so easily. This isn’t a gentle story, this is a story of a family being torn apart and the after effects that it has on each and every member. Great plot and sub-stories running through the book. I’m relectant to say too much about the story as I don’t want to spoil any part of it.

I can’t praise this book enough, I couldn’t put it down and read it cover to cover in a day. I have to say I really think it has been my favourite read of 2012 so far. I will definitly be reading Amanda’s next books.

I asked Amanda the following questions:-

1)      What an amazing story Sworn Secret is Amanda and your debut novel – please could you tell us a little bit about it?
The story starts when fifteen year old Anna is killed falling from a school roof, then focuses on how her parents and younger sister, Lizzie, are coping a year on. They’re struggling with their grief as it is, but when Anna’s shocking secrets begin to surface and questions are raised over the circumstances of her death, the emotional recovery of the family is jeopardised.

2)      Are there any Authors that you have read past/present that have inspired you to write or was it something else that made you start?
I started to think about writing around the age of 20, and although I was always starting a book (my dad referred to me in his wedding speech as the most prolific writer of first chapters known to Man), back then I really wanted to write for television, and if I’d had my dream, sitcom. I was addicted to sitcom through my teens; Blackadder, Fawlty Towers, The Young Ones, Girls on Top, you name it, if there was a tight script and a laugh on offer, I was watching. (Very different to my reading matter at the same time which was overwhelmingly Stephen King and James Herbert.) I entered a script for BBC Talent, and was shortlisted from a couple of thousand to the last eight. I got to meet Paul Mayhew-Archer, who co-wrote The Vicar of Dibley among other things, and he was very encouraging and positive. However, something wasn’t right. I suddenly felt enormous pressure to have to make people laugh consistently – I think I felt I’d put all my jokes into that one episode, perhaps! But I was now convinced I wanted to write. I used this mini-success as the impetus I needed to start (and finish) my first book. In terms of inspirational books, around this time I read Alex Garland’s The Beach and Alice Seebold’s The Lovely Bones, and remember clearly being a bit jealous that I hadn’t written them myself.

3)      What advice would you give to debut novelists trying to get published?
Firstly, get to The End. You need that first draft in front of you before you can do anything. No unfinished novel was ever published. The temptation to constantly rewrite the first chapters every time the narrative makes a change in direction is huge. I write the changes in capitals at the appropriate place in my manuscript and make a note of it in my notebook (eg TOM HAS AGORAPHOBIA) and then in the edit make the necessary changes. The edit is where the story comes together. If you read the first draft of Sworn Secret, for example, you would think it was a different book to the one published. The piece of advice is grow a thick skin and expect rejection. There might be a few writers out there who got there first book published by the first editor they submitted to, but I certainly haven’t heard of them.

4)      Are you able to tell us a little bit about your next novel?
My next book centres on two men who were involved in a dreadful incident whilst at school. They happen to meet again after a long time apart. One of the men is married, and the memories and emotions that are dredged up put strain on his relationship. Further complications occur when the wife develops an attraction for the other man and turns it into a dangerous love triangle. It’s a story of the differing definitions of love, of covetousness, and a look at what constitutes an outwardly ‘perfect life’. 

5)      What has been your favourite read of the last 12 months?
I’ve read some great books this year. I really enjoyed Sister and Room, but without doubt my favourite has been The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. I was chatting to a friend and she horrified to discover I hadn’t read it! She pushed a copy into my hands and told me to get on with it. It was a great recommendation. It’s everything I love about fiction: distinct characterisation, an evocative sense of place, heartbreaking and thought-provoking.

Thank you so much to Constable & Robinson for sending me a copy to review.

You can get your copy via Amazon UK (and you’d be mad not too!)

 

 

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Book of the Month – In Her Shadow – LOUISE DOUGLAS

Why did I pick this book as my Book of the Month?

Last year I read The Secrets Between Us also written by Louise Douglas and I was captivated by her style of writing and how she hooks the reader straight away with a plot that you just don’t really know where it is going and how it will end. I love a book that makes you think and you can’t guess what is going to happen and that is exactly what I get from the books that Louise writes. In her Shadows is exactly like this too.

Synopsis

Hannah Brown has spent her whole adult life trying to pretend that Ellen Brecht almost never existed. That Ellen Brecht didn’t die in a terrible accident. And, most importantly, that Hannah isn’t to blame.

When the Brecht family arrive in the sleepy Cornish village of Trethene, eight year old Hannah Brown is delighted. The Brechts are glamorous, exotic and exciting – especially the charismatic Mr Brecht, and his invalid wife. Hannah quickly strikes up an intense friendship with their young daughter, Ellen, who is wild and daring. For a while, life is perfect. Hannah is accepted into the enchanted world of the Brecht family, and is never happier than when she, her adopted brother Jago and Ellen escape to explore the glorious coastline of Cornwall.

But, one hot sultry summer when the girls are eighteen, their idyllic world is shattered by obsession, betrayal – and death…

Review

I waited with huge expectation for this book as I was such a fan of The Secrets Between Us and I can honestly say I wasn’t disappointed one bit.

Louise has written another gripping book that  really takes you on a journey that you are unsure where it will lead you. In Her Shadow starts with Hannah in the present day, she glimpses something that throws her totally off-balance and makes her doubt everything she thinks she knows to be true. The book transports you back to her childhood with her ‘brother’ and best Friend, Ellen. What starts off as a normal childhood changes so dramatically.

Whilst there are lots of ‘flash backs’ and chapters in the past as well as the present day, it is extremely easy to read and understand where you are.

As with Louise’s last book, there is a chilling feel to the book and an uncertainty of what will happen next. Beautifully written and powerful descriptive passages. This is really a book that makes you think and whilst you may or may not like the leading characters (I did), I don’t think that matters as the whole story will captivate you until you turn to the very last page and a very satisfying ending.

I asked Louise the following:-

 1)   Firstly let me congratulate you on The Secrets Between us being chosen as A Richard and Judy book – that is fantastic, how did that come about?

I didn’t know it had even been submitted until it was chosen, but apparently publishers put forward a range of books to the Richard and Judy team and they whittle it down to a shortlist, and in the end a selection is chosen to be part of that summer’s club. When my amazing editor Cat Cobain called me to tell me it had been picked it really was the best surprise ever! 

2)   Following on from the success of that book, you have now released In her Shadows. Tell us a little bit about the book and what inspired you to write this it?

It’s basically a book about friendship, and how jealousy, misunderstandings and circumstance can drive a wedge between even the closest friends. It started off very differently to how it ended up. I began with two older women meeting for the first time in 20 years, but the trouble with that was that they could just tell one another what had happened so there wasn’t much of a story. So I changed it to one woman, Hannah, thinking she has seen Ellen, the friend she believed had died 20 years earlier and going back into her past to work out the truth.

3)   I love your books as they have a slight edgy – haunting feel to them, did you intentionally start writing like that or did it just steer that way?

I didn’t start off writing like that on purpose, but I do love reading Gothic books, and I do believe in karma and that everything in the world is interconnected so that everything influences everything else so I suppose that comes through!

4)   I’m guessing you are already thinking / starting your next book – do you have any sneaky bit of info you can share about it yet?

I’m writing like mad when I have the chance, yes! I don’t want to say too much but it’s a book about love, lies and what happens when secrets are exposed. After 50 Shades, my agent asked me to write more sex, which is quite a nice thing to be asked to do and I’m really enjoying it at the moment!

5)   What has been your favourite read of the last 12 months?  

Ooh that’s a difficult question to answer! I loved the Sisters Brothers, which is not the kind of book I normally read. It’s about murdering desperadoes in the wild west, I found it really moving and it has stayed with me. I loved wonderful Milly Johnson’s White Wedding and The Light Between Oceans is a lovely book too.

Thank you so much Louise for allowing me to feature In Her Shadow as my Book of the Month for August.

In her Shadows is available by Transworld Publishers and published by Bantam Press and available now via Amazon uk

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