Anne Bonny #BookReview & #Extract The Secret by @jenwellswriter 5* Genius #Saga #NewRelease @Aria_Fiction #DualTimeline #HistoricalFiction #TheSecret

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The Secret by Jennifer Wells
Review Copy
Synopsis:

A tightly woven story full of secrets and lies with a breathtaking finale.

London 1920 – Troubled young dancer, Lily, is invited to remote Elmridge House, home of the wealthy theatre benefactor Dr Cuthbertson to escape her troubled past. An isolated guest room and a surprise pregnancy leave her longing to return to the stage and her London life. She soon discovers that Elmridge House is not all that it seems – the house holds secrets which make it difficult for her to leave.

Missensham 1942 – Young nurse Ivy Watts is called out to a patient at Elmridge House, home of the aloof Mrs Cuthbertson and reclusive Dr Cuthbertson. Ivy is entranced by the opulence of the house and its glamorous past, but when she tells her mother about Mrs Cuthbertson, her mother becomes fearful and forbids her from returning to the house. What secrets does Elmridge House hold? And why does Lily’s mother live in fear of the mysterious Mrs Cuthbertson?

My Review:

I have previously read and reviewed The Murderess by Jennifer Wells, which I found to be perfect for a Sunday afternoons reading. With The Secret, I personally think the author has really stepped up her game, in carving out her name within the saga genre.
I was absolutely gripped throughout and found both historical era’s to be fascinating. From the 1920s ballet scene, to the district nursing in a humble village in the 1940s.
The author has managed to create drama that lures you to both timeframes.

The novel opens in 1943, with Ivy living in fear but from what or whom we are not sure. Then the novel jumps back to September 1942 and begins to tell the tale of what lead to Ivy’s fear. We learn of her first acquaintance with Mrs Cuthbertson!
Ivy is a local nurse, but she works specifically within the area of adoption and often in the upper most secrecy, given the era. I got the impression Ivy’s heart was always in the right place. She just simply never had enough life experience to know any different. Ivy has grown up in poverty and taking care of her ailing mother, who has suffered childhood polio. They scrape by with the help of their good friend Sadie. The midwife that also brought Ivy into the world.

Mrs Cuthbertson comes across at first as a cantankerous old battle axe. Especially, when she first meets Ivy demanding un-prescribed medication for her son. Why does she want the medication? And what is it that made her so set in her horrid ways?

‘There was something not right with her mind’ 

Ivy makes friends with fellow nurse Bridget, whom is brash and gossipy. Also quiet local assistant Violet. The three form the team at the Missensham Cottage Hospital. But it is when Ivy begins snooping into Mrs Cuthbertson’s need for medication, that she uncovers a world of secrets that will shake her to the core…

Past secrets come to life and we uncover a wealth of knowledge about Ivy and everyone she knows. It is a clash of culture, class structure and life choices made, that brings all the characters together in their shared past deeds.

I love that women’s issues lay at the heart of the story. The dual timeline of 1920s/1940s works exceptionally well, given that these era’s generated so much change for women of the future. There is a shocking showdown at the end and one I NEVER saw coming at all! With extra side note ‘THAT LAST PAGE!!!!5* Genius 

Jennifer Wells
Jennifer Wells
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Extract:

I thought nothing more of Mrs Cuthbertson for almost a week. It turned out that she was Bridget’s problem and I was glad of it. Even when I walked in on Bridget fumbling through the medicine cabinet, her hands full and her face guilty, I said nothing and turned on my heel. Over the week, however, I did notice some changes in Bridget; she had a new coat from Partridge’s, had lightened her hair from its original chestnut to a shade that was almost blonde, and when I borrowed one of her textbooks, I found six new pound notes which sprang into tight curls when I opened the pages.
But Bridget’s luck did not last and she was called back to her family home in Fulham on Friday morning as an unexploded bomb had been found at the back of her parents’ garden, leaving them shocked and in need of their daughter. It was customary for a nurse to have twenty-four hours off for a family emergency and I wondered how I would cope without Bridget, but between us, Violet and I managed to tend to all the patients, changing dressings and administering medicines as if we had been doing it for years.
It was not until I came off shift on Sunday morning that I felt I could really relax. I left the hospital and went straight to the nurses’ house, putting the kettle on before slumping down in the armchair by the stove without even changing out of my uniform. An hour had passed since Bridget had called the main hospital from a telephone box outside Parsons Green tube station with the news that she was on her way back to Missensham and, although she missed the doctor’s rounds, I was relieved to know that she was returning.
When the phone in the hallway rang, I answered, expecting Violet’s voice on the hospital line with a request for help on the ward or a notification about more patients transferring in from London. But when I took the call, I knew instantly that it was not Violet.
‘Nurse, are you there?’ Despite the crackle on the line, the woman’s voice was unmistakable and as I heard the words, I could imagine them on the lips of the night visitor, the woman who had sat opposite me at the kitchen table and demanded medicine that had not been prescribed.
I glanced at the clock, the hand clicking on to the hour as I did so. It was ten o’clock. This was the call that Bridget usually took from the woman known in the book as Mrs Cuthbertson and as she spoke her name, I remembered how I had heard it on Bridget’s lips exactly one week ago when she had stood in the hallway and answered the telephone just as I was now. As I had suspected, the woman who had visited me in the kitchen and the woman Bridget listed in the book were the same.
‘With whom am I speaking?’ she said, but the words had a tone to them which made me unsure whether she wanted an answer or just to know that someone was listening and ready to take orders.
‘This is Nurse Watts at the Missensham Cottage Hospital Nurses’ House,’ I said, but my greeting seemed to be a detail that did not matter to her.
‘I need someone up at Elmridge House today,’ she said. ‘As soon as you can, for I must attend a church service and my son cannot be left alone for long.’
Her voice was sharp and somehow I felt as if I was being scolded for breaking an engagement I did not know I had agreed to. I took a deep breath. ‘I am afraid that there are no nurses working at this time,’ I said. ‘If you have a medical emergency, I can telephone a doctor or ambulance for you, but if you require a routine visit from a nurse, you may telephone Dr Crawford at the surgery on the green and he can get you added to the rounds of the district nurse…’ but my last words were lost under her own as if they did not matter.
‘I cannot wait for the district nurse,’ she said. ‘This is a private appointment and I will pay you directly. I understood that a nurse would be free from duties at this time. I assume you are not on duty as you have answered this number.’
‘Well, I…’ I glanced at the clock again, but it told me only that it was a few minutes past the hour and not what time Bridget would arrive back. ‘All right,’ I said, reluctant to let down Bridget’s patient. ‘A nurse can come out to you this morning, but it will not be Nurse Bradshaw, for she has been called away unexpectedly. It will be me, Nurse Watts, and I—’
‘I shall need to leave Elmridge House on the half hour,’ she said, ‘so be prompt. It is on the Oxworth Road. I need you at half past ten, it will only take you half an hour, so you have sufficient notice, and don’t come smelling like a brothel this time.’
‘Please,’ I said. ‘I am not the nurse who—’
‘Oh, and be sure to bring the medicine.’
‘Which medicine?’ I said. ‘For I cannot bring anything that has not been prescribed by—’
But the line was already dead.
I put the receiver down and stared at my reflection in the mirror above the telephone table. I took off my cap and smoothed my hair back into a bun, then I removed my apron and belt, leaving just my blue dress. We were forbidden from wearing our uniform off duty, but the plain blue dress was the only thing I could imagine a private nurse wearing and I remembered how I had seen Bridget leave the nurses’ house without her cap and apron the previous Sunday. I sat on the floor next to my nursing bag. I checked the contents – everything was clean and replenished, but it was just the usual array of metal instruments, tubing and jars, and I did not know what else to take. Then I remembered the little bottle of Luminal and the caller’s insistence that I bring ‘the medicine’. Maybe now she had a prescription to show me – I would take some just to be sure.
I ran across the lawn and through the trees to the back of the hospital, passing a startled Violet as I barged through the back door. In the sluice room I found the key to the medicine cabinet under the kidney bowl and rummaged for the little glass bottle with the blue label among the packets and jars. I found the Luminal near the back. There were a few bottles and I fancied that one would not be missed and thought that I could always sign it out later if Mrs Cuthbertson did have a prescription to show me after all. Then I ran back to the nurses’ house to collect my bag and burst in through the kitchen door.
‘Nurse?’
A girl perched on the chair by the fire. She was barely bigger than a child and wore a floral print pinafore and a cardigan which seemed two sizes too big for her. By her feet was an old-fashioned wicker basket lined with straw and as many real eggs as I would usually see in a whole month.
Her face was not one that I had seen before and something about her made me think of an evacuee, although since the bombs had started to fall on the outskirts of London, Missensham was no longer considered a safe area and most evacuees had returned, which made me wonder if she had anywhere left to call home.
‘Can I help you?’ I asked impatiently. ‘For I must go out to a patient.’
‘I heard that you can do things for ladies in trouble,’ she said in a voice with more depth than I expected and I realised her a woman, but only just.
‘Oh!’ I said. ‘Yes, of course,’ but could manage nothing more. To see such a girl sat where I had seen so many others was a shock to me. I was more used to dealing with middle aged women who could not afford another mouth to feed, farmers’ wives fearing they had no strength left to carry another and women who were having flings with soldiers. That someone like her would come to me asking for help was something that I could not quite understand. Somehow she was in the same situation as these women, yet she was so unlike them.
‘Is this not the right place?’ she said. ‘For I heard that—’
‘Yes, yes,’ I said quickly. ‘Yes, this is the place, but surely it can’t be for yourself…’
She nodded. ‘There was this gentleman,’ she said, ‘and now I am late.’

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Anne Bonny #BookReview & #Extract Halfway by @bevjoneswriting 4* #Psychological #SerialKiller #Thriller #WinterReads

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Halfway by B.E. Jones
Review Copy
Synopsis:

If everyone is lying, who can you trust?

The Halfway Inn is closed to customers, side-lined by a bypass and hidden deep in inhospitable countryside. One winter’s night, two women end up knocking on the door, seeking refuge as a blizzard takes hold.

But why is the landlord less than pleased to see them? And what is his elderly father trying so hard to tell them?

At the local police station PC Lissa Lloyd is holding the fort while the rest of her team share in the rare excitement of a brutal murder at an isolated farmhouse. A dangerous fugitive is on the run – but how can Lissa make a name for herself if she’s stuck at her desk? When a call comes in saying the local district nurse is missing, she jumps at the chance to investigate her disappearance.

The strangers at Halfway wait out the storm, but soon realise they might have been safer on the road. It seems not all the travellers will make it home for Christmas . . .

My Review:

The prologue opens on 22nd December 2017, we are aware of an armed and frightened female. Then the novel cuts away to the present moment, of a hitchhiker stranded in a snowy isolated Welsh scene…

‘There will be noise and fury. There will be damage. There will be casualties’

The novel spans around various characters and their current circumstances. Which includes the local law enforcement. We become aware there is a crime scene at a farmhouse and the majority of the police have dispatched there. Leaving PC Lisa Lloyd (6 months out of probation) and soon to be retired Jim Price.

There are little snippets of information cleverly woven into the plot. Such as, we know the hitchhiker is making their way home and to a farmhouse. We also get the scene of an old man caring for his son Brian and bed bound wife Rose. The three main perspectives are from the old man, local cops and the hitchhiker, who has now been picked up by a district nurse.

As the plot develops, I never felt I could trust any of the individual characters. But when all the characters collide at a closed pub The Star, nicknamed Halfway… ALL will be revealed!!!! This title is a psychological thriller, perfect for the winter months! 4*

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B.E. Jones
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halfway

Extract:

Excerpt 1 – Prologue

When she sees the hatchet in his hand she knows it’s going to happen, right here, right now. It’s been coming for hours, longer probably, since before the storm howling and keening around the eaves began its slow creep across the countryside, before the car was abandoned at the side of the snowbound road.
This moment was waiting even before she raised her hand and knocked on the door of this godforsaken place, squatting below its slipping slates and bowing brickwork, beneath the low iron sky, under the weight of winter.
So here they are.
She’s glad now that she’d had the foresight to arm herself, downstairs, when the unpleasant ticking started in her chest, when she’d finally realized the answers to the questions plaguing her since her arrival: Who are these people? And why are they lying?
She’d been sure that something was very wrong for hours. She just hadn’t been able to gather the quiet nudges in the back of her brain into a single, clearly defined thought until now, now it’s punching itself to the fore, bullying her into the realization she’d have been safer out in the storm.
But it’s too late to leave, now that there are only three of them left alive, assembled under the twinkly Christmas star: a hitchhiker, a nurse, a landlord, , everyone, everything, bending itself into this moment, before the weight of what has been and what is to come. How could she have imagined for even one moment that she was the only one with anything to hide?
She knows it’s her own fault for allowing herself to be caught off guard, first back on the road and then over and over again until she stepped into this room. It happened so easily because this is the sort of place that’s supposed to be safe and steady, a quiet, nothing-ever-happens-kind of village where people look out for each other, still leave their doors unlocked and never, ever try to kill you.
Trouble is, you should never read only the surface signs and signals of anywhere or anyone, she knows that. There’s a lesson here, never assume you’re the biggest, baddest thing in the woods unless you’re prepared to prove it.
So this is it.
That bloody balding donkey understands, his red and white trimmed Santa leaning at a jaunty angle as he gives her that look again, as if he’s thinking what she’s thinking, knows what she knows – not all of them will leave this room alive. He may be happy to wait passively for the outcome but she isn’t, so she readies herself, plants her feet firmly apart on the floorboards, aware of every inch of her body, every twitch of muscle fibre and sinew, careful not to show that her hands are waiting and ready to move.
The ticking in her chest tells her it’s too late to stop the countdown, there’s no way back, the explosion is overdue. There will be noise and fury. There will be damage. There will be casualties.
So here they go!

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Anne Bonny #BookReview Too Far by Jason Starr @JasonStarrBooks 5* #Psychological #Noir @noexitpress #TooFarBook

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Too Far by Jason Starr
Review Copy
Synopsis:

One night. One date. What have you got to lose?

Jack Harper isn’t a bad man, but he’s stuck in a loveless marriage with a mediocre job just trying to keep sober. The only good thing in his life is his son. When an old college friend introduces him to a new extramarital dating website, he tentatively reaches out to find a distraction from his misery. But when he goes to meet up with his steamy online date, he quickly realises it was a dire choice.

Soon, Jack finds himself desperately trying to prove his innocence for crimes he did not commit, and the life he once had – unhappy as it was – is nothing but a dream. Now, he’s living his worst nightmare. . .

My Review:

The novel surrounds Jack Harper, trapped in a loveless marriage, with a boring and unhappy career in real estate. He reconnects with an old friend from 20yrs ago Rob McEvoy. Rob appears to have it all, wealthy lifestyle, huge ego and not to mention he openly boasts of cheating on his wife to ease his boredom.
Now, before the little feminist within me got riled, I decided it would be very intriguing to see how this fictional situation carried out before my eyes…

‘Sex has always been risky’

Jack’s wife Maria and young son Jonah are blissfully unaware of his shady late nights on the illicit dating site. But what starts out as just a bit of fun, soon takes a much sinister turn and before Jack knows it, he has lost everything he holds dear…

I don’t want to go into too much detail of the intricate themes. But this novel is far from seedy and much more a sinister psychological thriller. I was absolutely HOOKED! Oh how the other half live, indeed!!!!
I found this novel to be gripping and completely addictive, I read it straight through in just 3 hours!!!!! I couldn’t put it down at all. I HAD to know how it ended and the ending was phenomenal!!!! I was completely blown away! 5*

Huge respect to the author for this clever and addictive thriller. I have since bought Cold Caller and Hard Feelings. Which I shall leave the details of at the end of this post.

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HF
Hard Feelings by Jason Starr
Synopsis:

Richie Segal’s prospects are pretty miserable and, what’s more humiliating, his wife’s career is on the up. Richie knows he is a good salesman, but he just can’t seem to land an account. He’s starting to drink again and worry about whether Paula is seeing that old high school flame or maybe someone new. At thirty-four, he’s a little young for a mid-life crisis, but that’s what it feels like. And then there are those unwelcome memories of the neighbourhood bully, Michael Rudnick, and what he did to Richie when he was eleven…

Just when Richie is about as low as he can get, he runs into Rudnick on the street and knows exactly what he needs to do. Suddenly things seem to be going much better. That is until they get much, much worse.

CC
Cold Caller by Jason Starr
Synopsis:

Once a rising VP at a topflight ad agency, Bill Moss now works as a ‘cold caller’ at a telemarketing firm in the Times Square area. He’s got a bad case of the urban blues, and when a pink slip rather than promotion comes through, Bill snaps.

Now he’s got a dead supervisor on his hands and problems no career counsellor can help him with…

JS
Jason Starr
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Anne Bonny #BookReview The Snow Girls by @cmooneybooks Chris Mooney 4* #WinterReads #TheSnowGirls

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The Snow Girls by Chris Mooney
Review Copy
Synopsis:

It’s been eleven years since Claire Flynn disappeared – abducted without trace from a snowy hillside, leaving her parents heartbroken.

Investigator Darby McCormick remembers the case. She knows there’s only ever been one suspect, Father Richard Byrne, linked inconclusively to two similar disappearances.

Finally, terminally ill, Byrne is willing to talk. But he’ll only talk to Darby.

She’s expecting a confession – but what she hears is far more disturbing.

And it soon becomes clear that someone is willing to kill to keep this cold case on ice…

My Review:

The novel opens in the crime ridden city of Belham, at the local police station in Boston. Detective Chris Kennedy is in-charge of the investigation but calls in consultant investigator Darby McCormick. The case centres around an 11yr cold case, of missing little girl Claire Flynn. Who was just 6yrs old at the time of her disappearance.
Coincidentally, this was Darby’s first case all those years ago, under veteran cop Detective Atkinson. This time Darby wants justice…

‘That was the thing about hope. It made you believe anything was possible. It made you believe in miracles’

This started off fairly slow-paced, as there was so much information to catch up on. But with the confusing and misleading ‘confessions’ of Father Richard Byrne. The case has so many links back to not only Darby’s past. But a whole host of characters from Belham’s past including police, the Catholic church and the victim’s own family.
Darby must work hard to connect the dots between the past missing girl and the newly disappeared Elizabeth Levenson (10yrs). But can she do it in time?

I loved how this novel dealt with the mind games suspected killers play, the psychology and the cops relentless pursuit of justice. The novel also goes further to explain the unjust justice system we witness so often in life…
“Man with the best lawyer wins, right” ~ Mickey Flynn 

Despite facing an epic case, with dark sadistic roots. Darby must face further taunts from Father Bryne as he reveals information her mother gave in sacred confession! 4*

CM
Chris Mooney
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Anne Bonny #BookReview The Winters by @lisagabrieletv 5* #Thriller #Suspense @harvillsecker

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The Winters by Lisa Gabriele
Review Copy
Synopsis:

An addictively suspenseful new novel set in the glamorous world of the New York Hamptons, about secrets that refuse to remain buried and consequences that cannot be escaped.

After a whirlwind romance, a young woman returns to the opulent, secluded mansion of her new fiancé Max Winter – a wealthy senator and recent widower – and a life of luxury she’s never known. But all is not as it appears at the Asherley estate. The house is steeped in the memory of Max’s beautiful first wife Rebekah, who haunts the young woman’s imagination and feeds her uncertainties, while his very alive teenage daughter Dani makes her life a living hell.

As the soon-to-be second Mrs. Winter grows more in love with Max, and more afraid of Dani, she is drawn deeper into the family’s dark secrets – the kind of secrets that could kill her, too.

Inspired by the classic novel Rebecca, The Winters is a riveting story about what happens when a family’s ghosts resurface and threaten to upend everything.

My Review:

‘Last night Rebekah tried to murder me again’

The opening line of this novel, is enough to give anyone nightmares. But what is revealed inside is a much more complex layered suspenseful mystery.
Just less than a year ago, the now newly engaged protagonist met Senator Max Winter. Having no family herself she was rushed off her feet in what is a typical paperback romance fashion. However, all is not as it seems at the Asherley Estate…

‘Recklessness is a luxury to someone like me’

In the secluded house there are photos of Max’s ex-wife Rebekah everywhere. Not to mention their teenage daughter, whom presents as mood and resentful. But this is more than just ordinary teen angst. Dani appears to have a personality disorder and her feelings have built up, to utter contempt and hatred.

‘There are things you do when you’re desperate, things that would shock you’

Eventually, the would-be step-mum and Dani seem to bond. With Dani confiding and offloading some deeply held secrets. But is Dani just a drama queen intent on causing problems? or is something sinister making her behave this way…

One thing is for certain, Max has clearly underestimated his new ‘bride to be’.
An intense and gripping psychological thriller. I thoroughly enjoyed every single page. 5*

LG
Lisa Gabriele
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