Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract The Confessions Of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins @mrsjaneymac #FrannieLangton #NewRelease #HistFic @VikingBooksUK

The Confessions Of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
Currently Reading – Review To Follow

Synopsis ~

‘They say I must be put to death for what happened to Madame, and they want me to confess. But how can I confess what I don’t believe I’ve done?’

1826, and all of London is in a frenzy. Crowds gather at the gates of the Old Bailey to watch as Frannie Langton, maid to Mr and Mrs Benham, goes on trial for their murder. The testimonies against her are damning – slave, whore, seductress. And they may be the truth. But they are not the whole truth.

For the first time Frannie must tell her story. It begins with a girl learning to read on a plantation in Jamaica, and it ends in a grand house in London, where a beautiful woman waits to be freed.

But through her fevered confessions, one burning question haunts Frannie Langton: could she have murdered the only person she ever loved?

A beautiful and haunting tale about one woman’s fight to tell her story, The Confessions of Frannie Langton leads you through laudanum-laced dressing rooms and dark-as-night back alleys, into the enthralling heart of Georgian London.

Extract ~

The Old Bailey,
7 April 1826

Chapter One

My trial starts the way my life did: a squall of elbows and shoving and spit. From the prisoners’ hold they take me through the gallery, down the stairs and past the table crawling with barristers and clerks. Around me a river of faces in flood, their mutters rising, blending with the lawyers’ whispers. A noise that hums with all the spite of bees in a bush. Heads turn as I enter. Every eye a skewer.

I duck my head, peer at my boots, grip my hands to stop their awful trembling. It seems all of London is here, but then murder is the story this city likes best. All of them swollen into the same mood, all of them in a stir about the ‘sensation excited by these most ferocious murders’. Those were the words of the Morning Chronicle, itself in the business of harvesting that very sensation link an ink-black crop. I don’t make a habit of reading what the broadsheets say about me, for newspapers are like a mirror I saw once in a fair near the Strand that stretched my reflection like a rack, gave me two heads so I almost didn’t know myself. If you’ve ever had the misfortune to be written about, you know what I mean.

But there are turnkeys at Newgate who read them at you for sport, precious little you can do to get away.

When they see I’m not moving, they shove me forward with the flats of their hands and I shiver, despite the heat, fumble my way down the steps.

Murderer! The word follows me. Murderer! The Mulatta Murderess.
I’m forced to trot to keep up with the turnkeys so I don’t tumble crown over ankle. Fear skitters up my throat as they push me into the dock. The barristers look up from their table, idle as cattle in their mournful gowns. Even those old hacks who’ve seen it all want a glimpse of the Mulatta Murderess. Even the judge stares, fat and glossy in his robes, his face soft and blank as an old potato until he screws his eyes on me and nods at his limp-haired clerk to read the indictment.

FRANCES LANGTON, also known as Ebony Fran or Dusky Fran, is indicted for the wilful murder of GEORGE BENHAM and MARGUERITE BENHAM in that she on the 27th day of January in the year of Our Lord 1826 did feloniously and with malice aforethought assault GEORGE BENHAM and MARGUERITE BENHAM, subjects of our lord the King, in that she did strike and stab them until they were dead, both about the upper and middle chest, their bodies having been discovered by EUSTACIA LINUX, housekeeper, of Montfort Street, London.

MR JESSOP to conduct the prosecution.

The gallery is crowded, all manner of quality folk and ordinary folk and rabble squeezed in, the courtroom being one of the few places they’d ever be caught so cheek to jowl. Paduasoy silk next to Kashmir shawls next to kerchiefs. Fidgeting their backsides along the wood, giving off a smell like milk on the turn, like a slab of pork Phibbah forgot once, under the porch. The kind of smell that sticks your tongue to your throat. Some of them suck candied orange peel fished out of their purses, jaws going like paddles. The ones who can’t stomach being caught in any sort of honest smell. Ladies. I know the sort.

Jessop hooks his gown with his thumbs, pushes to his feet. His voice laps steady as water against a hull. So soft. He could be gabbing with them at his own fireside. Which is how he wants it, for that makes them lean closer, makes them attend.

‘Gentlemen, on the evening of the twenty-seventh of January, Mr and Mrs Benham were stabbed to death. Mr Benham in his library, Mrs Benham in her bedchamber. This . . . woman . . . the prisoner at the bar, stands accused of those crimes. Earlier that night, she confronted them in their drawing room, and threat- ened them with murder. Those threats were witnessed by several guests in attendance that evening, at one of Mrs Benham’s legendary soirées. You will hear from those guests. And you will hear from the housekeeper, Mrs Linux, who will tell you the pris- oner was observed going into Mrs Benham’s rooms shortly after she had retired. Mrs Linux went upstairs herself at around one o’clock that morning, where she discovered her master’s body in his library. Shortly thereafter, she entered Mrs Benham’s bed- chamber and discovered her body, and, next to it, the prisoner. In her mistress’s bed. Asleep. When the prisoner was woken by the housekeeper, she had blood on her hands, blood drying on her sleeves.

What frightens me is dying believing that it was me who killed her

‘All through her arrest and incarceration . . . to this day, she has refused to speak about what happened that night. The refuge of those who are unable to offer a plain and honest defence. Well, if she can now offer an explanation, I am sure you will hear it, gentlemen, I am sure you will hear it. But it seems to me that a satisfactory explanation is impossible when the crime is attended with circumstances such as these.’

I grip the railing, shackles clanking like keys. I can’t hold on to what he’s saying. My eye swings around the room, catches the sword hung behind the judge, silver as a chink of moon. I read the words hammered in gold beneath. ‘A false witness shall not be unpunished, but he that speaketh lies shall perish.’ Well. We’re all going to perish, liars and truth-tellers alike, though the Old Bailey is meant to speed a liar’s progress. But that’s not what frightens me. What frightens me is dying believing that it was me who killed her.

I see you at the barristers’ table. You look up, give me a quick nod that settles on me like a horse blanket. There, laid out like china on a buffet, is the evidence against me: Benham’s cravat, his green brocade waistcoat; Madame’s lavender silk, her chemise, and her bandeau with the swan feather dyed lavender also, to match her dress. And there is Linux’s butchering knife, which, so far as I knew, was in its scabbard in the kitchen the whole time I was in Madame’s room.

But it’s the thing beside them that you’re frowning at. When I see it, worry curdles my guts. It’s curled inside an apothecary’s jar, tight as a fist. The baby. Someone joggles the table and it flattens against the glass, like a cheek. There’s a question in your raised brows, but it’s one I cannot answer. I didn’t expect to see it here. The baby. Why is it allowed here? Will they ask me to speak about it?

When I see it, my knees start to quake, and I feel all the terror of that night again. But the mind is its own place, as Milton said, it can make a Hell of Heaven and a Heaven of Hell. How does it do that? By remembering, or forgetting. The only tricks a mind can play.
A wave of memory breaks. She’s lying in bed, up on her elbows with her toes pointing into the air, in her hand an apple I’m trying in vain to coax her to eat. ‘Listen! Are you listening?’ She kicks one of her heels.

‘I met a traveller from an antique land,

Who said ‒ “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies . . .’

I’m only half listening, because it is impossible, this thing that is happening, my mistress lying with me in her bed and reading me a poem! But also because it was one of those times, when it fell to me to watch what they called the balance of her mind, like a pot I had on the stove. Is she well? I’m asking myself. Is she well?

A novel is like a long, warm drink but a poem is a spike through the head

She turns to me. ‘Do you like it?’

‘Who is it?’ I ask, stirring her hair with my breath.

‘Shelley. Though I like Byron better, don’t you? The prince of melodrama.’ She turns over suddenly, onto her back, and closes her eyes. ‘Byron is proof, if ever it were needed, that a man is merely spoiled by his vices while a woman is soiled by hers. Oh, Frances, Frances, don’t you think everyone should be prescribed a poem a day? Woman cannot live on novels alone!’

She was right about that. A novel is like a long, warm drink but a poem is a spike through the head.

I told you that story yesterday when we first met. I don’t know why, except maybe I wanted you to know something about me and her other than the terrible things that are being said. You lawyers are as squeamish about hearsay as a planter about cane-rats, yet a trial boils a whole character down to that.

‘John Pettigrew,’ you said, holding out your hand, with your brief still in it so the ribbons dribbled down your wrists. You peered out through all your dark hair. I could see you were even nervier than I was about what lay ahead of us.

Then you said, ‘For God’s sake, give me something I can save your neck with.’

But how can I give you what I do not have? Remembering is a thing that happens or doesn’t, like breathing.

So I told you that story. I suppose I wanted to show you there was love between me and her. Though what good does that do? Whatever she and I were to each other is not a thing you men would care for. At any rate, love is no defence to murder, as you said, though, more often than not, it’s an explanation.

But this is a story of love, not just murder, though I know that’s not the kind of story you’re expecting. In truth, no one expects any kind of story from a woman like me. No doubt you think this will be one of those slave histories, all sugared over with misery and despair. But who’d want to read one of those? No, this is my account of myself and my own life and the happiness that came to it, which was not a thing I thought I’d ever be allowed, the happiness or the account.

I have the paper you gave me, and a fresh quill, and your instructions to explain myself.
Any gaol-bird could tell you that for every crime there are two stories, and that an Old Bailey trial is the story of the crime, not the story of the prisoner.

That story is one only I can tell.

Sara Collins

***Don’t miss the other bloggers on the blog tour***
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Anne Bonny #BookReview Only The Dead Know by @verdandiweaves C.J. Dunford #NewRelease #CrimeFiction #NewSeries #Debut #DanielUneasyTruce @be_ebooks_com ‘Intriguing new addition to the crime fiction genre’

Only The Dead Know by C.J Dunford
Daniel ‘Uneasy’ Truce – Mystery #1
Review copy

After a traumatic military tour in the Middle East, Daniel “Uneasy” Truce returns home with PTSD. Something happened there. Something he never wants to come out.

A few hand shakes later, Truce lands a new job in a ragtag investigations unit. He may be emotionally awkward, but he’s got a knack for reading body language. Problem is, his boss hates him. Calls him mentally unsound. She gives Truce the dirty work. That’s how he ends up with “the crazy old bat” case.

At 11 a.m. every morning, June drops by her local police station to report a murder she witnessed. Initially the cops took her seriously. They visit the alleged victim’s home to find him very much alive. But June won’t give up, and her daily appearances become a nuisance. Truce is tasked to investigate. To shut her up. Soon June winds up dead-hit by a car. Was it really an accident? Truce thinks there’s more to the case. That maybe someone just doesn’t want the truth to come out …

Only the Dead Know is the first book in the Daniel ‘Uneasy’ Truce Mystery series.

My Review:

I am always intrigued by novels that feature military veterans. I am myself married to a veteran of 15yrs military service. I think even for myself, there is something fascinating about a protagonist who has been to war.

Daniel ‘uneasy’ Truce is an ex-military cop. He was orphaned at a young age and went from children’s home to military service. A situation not to unbelievable, if you’ve ever known any serving personnel. His only friend in the world is Leighton, who is what I’d call a sofa surfer. A close friend that hangs on Daniel’s every word, but actually contributes very little to the household.

Major Percival Bay managed to organise a role for Truce as a special advisor to combined special crimes task force – police Scotland. A role that is not what it seems. With a boos that hates him, he is often side-lined and given the uninteresting ‘crimes’. His boss Chief Superintendent Lydia Rose assigns him to the case of June Mills. An elderly lady who is reporting the same murder daily.
He is given specific instructions to ‘shut her up’.

‘You could talk to her: mental case to mental case’ – Chief Superintendent Lydia Rose

When Daniel meets June he actually really warms to her character. She assures him, she is not going senile. But when he digs a little deeper it would appear June is not lying. She leads a busy and happy lifestyle. She had met the victim previous to witnessing his alleged murder. The one problem is, the victim Davie Whiles, isn’t dead!

Despite their heart-to-heart and meeting of minds. When June fees she isn’t getting anywhere she goes to the press. Which brings a Lydia Rose sized storm upon Daniel.
Eventually Daniel relents and agrees to take June to the mortuary to ID any recent bodies. I wasn’t 100% this scene was very accurate.
But nevertheless, I ran with it. June ID’s no body.

‘There’s a mystery here. A mystery no one wants to solve. Yet everything about it is impossible’ – Truce

Days later Daniel spots a newspaper article, with a recent death of a woman that sounds a lot like June. The lady in question was knocked over and killed by a taxi driver. Daniel vows to investigate further.

‘There’s enough evil in this world without you making up more’ – Leighton

At June’s funeral, Daniel is introduced to her friends and learns more facts. Everything about June’s suicide contradicts itself. June’s death is a confusing case and nothing makes sense at all.

I did really enjoy the mystery element and found Daniel Truce a fantastic protagonist. There is a Q&A at the back of the novel which expands further upon his characters and themes. It is a brilliant addition and gives much food for thought. But obviously I cannot cover it within this review. There were elements I wasn’t so keen on, the police cast aside from Daniel were an array of stereotype cops. But it doesn’t ruin the enjoyment of this novel, as the main focus is mostly on Daniel.

Intriguing new addition to the crime fiction genre. 4*

C.J. Dunford

#Review and Q&A: Purged by Peter Laws 4* @revpeterlaws @AllisonandBusby #Horror meets #CrimeFic

Purged by Peter Laws

The synopsis:

Matt Hunter lost his faith a long time ago. Formerly a minister, now a professor of sociology, he’s writing a book that debunks the Christian faith while assisting the police with religiously motivated crimes. On holiday with his family in Oxfordshire, Matt finds himself on edge in a seemingly idyllic village where wooden crosses hang at every turn. The stay becomes more sinister still when a local girl goes missing, followed by further disappearances. Caught up in an investigation that brings memories to the surface that he would prefer stay buried deep, Matt is on the trail of a killer determined to save us all.

My review:

Wow crikey bobs, this novel is dark, creepy and is destined to give you the heebee jeebies. I am a huge fan of horror movies, since my early teens. The one to truly scar me, was The Exorcist! I knew it was due to the religious elements. Years later I read the novel, of The Exorcist in one day and then refused to keep it, as I didn’t want it in my house. There is just something about the darkness of religion in horror or crime fiction, that is guaranteed to make this reader, feel terrified!

The novel opens with a very dramatic and vivid scene. So you will know straight away, if this is one you can handle! As the novel develops we meet Matt Hunter, fallen Christian and Professor of sociology. Matt regularly works with Sgt Bob Gerard and DS Larry Forbes to assess/assist with crimes with a possible religious element. Almost immediately we are taken to an emergency hostage situation where Nigerian Kwame Adakay is holding a knife to his wife’s throat, claiming she is possessed and demanding a vicar. I couldn’t believe how much action and intensity the novel held within it’s opening pages. A very impressive start by all accounts.

Next, we meet Matt’s family. Wife Wren and step children Lucy and Amelia. Lucy appears, not be Matt’s biggest fan and the standard step parent/child relationship is easily explained. The family are due to leave for a holiday in an idyllic Oxfordshire cottage. As Wren attempts to win a contract to develop a local church, as Wren is an architect by trade. However, when they arrive at the church, they discover the church is not all it seems…….

Matt’s past is explained slowly throughout the novel and in particular the story of his mother’s death and eventual break from the fold of the church is both moving and horrifying! Whilst staying at Kingdom Come Church, Matt is reacquainted with someone from his past, Chris Kelly. Pastor Chris runs a church with 300 members and they hold what they call ‘purging’ ceremony’s. Members are baptised, saying bye to their old selves as the enter the ‘kingdom of light’. Now as this storyline unravels, I found it getting more and more creepy. Is this a church or a cult? Why does someone’s deep passion for their faith, scare me so much?

When Matt receives an image of a young girl via email and the young girl is reported missing in the village moments later. The novel shifts to a much darker and intense vibe, mainly due to, creepy pastor Chris. I found his character, one I would want to avoid at all costs. He comes on very strong, appearing controlling and self-righteous. When another woman is reported missing and the numbers of missing females rises. Matt must solve the mystery, before it strikes at the very heart of his family. What is the connection behind the girls/women? Is there a religious element to their disappearances? Can he solve it?

Due to the religious content, I was not only questioning the intent of the characters. But what could also be visions of faith or delusions. My general opinion, is that it drove me slightly mad, but totally in a good way! Gripping, dark and almost definitely sinful stuff! 4*


Q) For the readers, can you give a summary of your novel Purged

A) Purged is the first in a series of novels featuring Matt Hunter. He’s an atheist ex-vicar who now works as a London academic. As well as writing books debunking the Christian faith he uses his Biblical training and theological skill to catch religiously motivated murderers and cults. In Purged, he’s on the trail of an evangelical killer who’s obsessed with baptism. Basically – and this isn’t given any spoilers since it’s in the first chapter – he wants to save people’s souls for heaven so he kills people soon after they’re baptised. It’s a way of fast-tracking them into paradise without giving them time to lose their faith. Yeah, he’s a nut – but he makes for an interesting killer, because in many ways he cares for his victims.

…and what’s your background?

Like Matt Hunter, I’m also an ordained church minister – but unlike him I haven’t turned away from that! These days my denomination (Baptist) have freed me up from looking after a local congregation, so now I write full time. But I still travel around speaking and preaching in churches.

I also present a YouTube channel and podcast called The Flicks That Church Forgot, which reviews scary films from a spiritual perspective. I write a horror film column for the print magazine The Fortean Times. So basically, my working life has a lot of scary and sacred stuff in it! But I balance that out with lots of fun stuff too, ha ha.

Q) Crikey Bobs! I hate to make a sweeping generalisation, but that was not a novel I expected from a Reverend. I have to know, where the inspiration for this novel came from?

A) Yeah, people seem surprised because the book is pretty gory and unpleasant in places and there’s a bit of swearing here and there. But I think the main thing that strikes people is that the main character is so openly antagonistic toward God and Christianity. Some might expect me to write a more cosy book that promotes Christianity. In some ways, this book does the opposite! I’m okay with that though, because I think readers can handle that. Plus I’m just really interested in Matt as a character. A lot of crime fiction has a hero who battles with alcoholism or divorce etc, but Matt is healthy and happy in his family. His issues just tend to be a little more cosmic – so he struggles with the idea of faith. I think a lot of people struggle with it, actually, so I’m hoping people can relate to it. I’ve had some amazing responses to the book, both from religious people and atheists.

Q) I have to be careful not to risk spoilers but the novel dangles the possibility that Kingdom Come Church, may be a cult with Pastor Chris in church. Was this something you researched?

A) I didn’t do any specific research into cults, but I do have lots of experience of people assuming the Christian church is freaky and cult like! To be honest, Abby, I only started going to church when I was in my early twenties. Before that I was really anti-religion, especially towards Christianity. And my early stereotypes of Christians were that they were at best boring and irrelevant or at worst corrupt and trying to brain wash me. Then at University I met Christians who were really normal people, and intelligent too. They were experts in science and other subjects I assumed would clash with religious faith. So I looked into the claims about Jesus and it did change me. I don’t mean I turned into some freaky Stepford Husband, who lost his personality. I just mean it totally revolutionised my sense of purpose and worth. These days, I’ve seen the local church as a pretty amazing place for community, support and spiritual adventure – but I still remember my suspicions of it…and I also appreciate that there are plenty of really whacky believers out there who get the attention. Even more so, with these Matt Hunter books, ha ha!

Q) I think the character of Matt and his backstory worked very well. Is there a real life Matt that you based the character around?

A) In terms of his backstory of losing faith, he isn’t based on anyone in particular. He’s more a composite of reasons why people get understandably disillusioned with the idea of God. But in other ways, he’s kinda based on me. I know it’s lazy, but I just couldn’t help it. We share the same quirky humour and lots of his observations about the church are based on my own thoughts. Course, he’s way cooler, braver and intelligent than me, but I can live with that.

Q) As stated in my review, the one horror movie. To truly scar me was The Exorcist. What was a movie that frightened you as a teen or adult?

A) Oh, The Exorcist. That really freaked me out, but it also was one of the first films that made me really start to think about the idea of spirituality. Oddly enough, horror movies and scary stories have been an important part of my coming to believe in God. Which sounds a bit odd, I know.

Other films that scared me include Roman Polanski’s Repulsion – about a young woman who gradually goes insane. That really got under my skin. And films like The Amityville Horror and The Changeling from my youth really gave me the creeps. I watch all sorts of films, but I do love horror. It’s one of the reasons why Purged is listed as a Crime Fiction book, which it is, but there’s a generous dose of the macabre in there too, with hints of the supernatural. So some people have described it as a mixture of the two. But it’s written in such a way that you can read it purely as a crime thriller and it works fine that way. I just like a bit of extra spook in my stories, so that’s there too if you like it.

Q) What’s next, have you anymore plans to write another novel?

A) Not just plans…it’s already done! The follow up to Purged is called Unleashed, and it hits shops on July 20th. Hopefully if enough people buy the first two books, the publishers will commission more – I certainly have book three plotted out and ready to start working on. Since Matt isn’t tied to one city or police department, he can technically go anywhere in the world, tracking down crazy religious killers.

Incidentally, I actually spent the last five years trying to get published and wrote four novels in that time. It’s been a long road of rejections, but not that the books are coming out, and being so well received, it’s fantastic.

As for what I’m working on right now, I’m actually writing a non-fiction book for Icon Books. It’s funny how that came about. Basically I was worried I might not get any publishing deal for Matt Hunter, so I asked my agent to pitch my idea for a non-fiction book instead. Then I got a two book fiction deal, and soon after the non-fiction was accepted too! So that’s three books of mine coming out in the space of 18th months or so.

So this non-fiction thing is (currently) called The Frighteners and comes out in hardback and audio in the UK and US next year. It’s basically me on a Louis Theroux-style quest to understand why humans are drawn to the strange, morbid and scary. I’ve been interviewing psychologists, anthropologists and other experts while also meeting self-proclaimed vampires and ghost hunters. I’ve been werewolf hunting in Hull, trekking the snowy streets of Transylvania, I’ve held a lock of Charles Mansons hair in my hands, and have been subjected to a bizarre day and night of scares for a BBC documentary which is out next year. In October, I’ve even been invited to Germany to board a vintage schooner ship, to recreate the journey Dracula made from Transylvania to Whitby! That’s with a bunch of Norwegians who will be in character for the full trip. I just heard that my character is somebody posh so I don’t have to spend the trip scrubbing decks!   I also like composing music, and so I have recorded and released a full soundtrack album to Purged. It’s currently streaming for free at

*Huge Thank you to the author for taking part in a Q&A on my blog.

PL: Nah, thank YOU for being interested!

PL pic
Peter Laws
Author Links:
Twitter: @revpeterlaws
Instagram: @revpeterlaws
Facebook: Peter Laws Author

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Released today debut novel: The May Queen by Helen Irene Young. Review and Q&A


The May Queen by Helen Irene Young


It all began beside the mill pond. Honest, fair and eager to please, fifteen-year-old May has a secret, and not of her own making. She wears it like an invisible badge, sewn to her skin, as though Ma stitched it there herself. It rubs only when she thinks of Sophie, Pa or the other name that’s hidden there; that no one knows about.

Caught in an inevitable net of change, May joins the Wrens, leaving her Cotswolds home for war-torn London and the Blitz. As a dispatch rider, she navigates
the city by day and night, surviving love and loss throughout a blackout of remembered streets and wrong turns.

Night after night, the bombs drop and, like those around her, she takes cover in the shadows when they do. But May is waiting for a greater shadow to lift, one which will see the past explode into the present.

A tale of one girl’s search for love and belonging, The May Queen is a debut novel that goes to the heart of what family means and finding your place in it.

My review:

The May Queen is the story of 15-year-old May Thomas. As she navigates world war 2, relationships and her life. In the opening of Part one the novel begins in July 1934, with a teenage May. May has a mother who is very reminiscent of the era, in that she is a matriarch type figure, rather brash, harsh and abusive. This is an era when ‘young girls must stay out of trouble’ and trouble comes to visit May’s family. The early chapters show the development of May’s childhood. The writing is subtle and slower paced as it sets the mood for the message of the novel.

Part two, welcomes the month of May 1940 and a now older and more mature May has swapped the small bubble of her existence in the Cotswolds for war torn London during the Blitz. We read on as she discovers new relationships with work colleagues and soldiers alike. For May will surely, come to know love and loss in equal measure.

Part three opens in June 1945, I found this part to be very reflective of the relationship between May and her sister Sophie. Two very different young women, forced together in trying times. The novel is based around family relationships and how they contribute to the adults we ultimately become. I found this novel to be very much a ‘coming of age’ story. Literary in its content in some parts and I can see a definite YA appeal. My daughter is 14 years old and I could see her being able to relate to May’s journey of self-discovery. 4*


Q) For the readers can you give us a summary of your novel The May Queen and your background?

A) The May Queen is a tale of family love and loss. It’s about learning to see yourself as something more than an appendage of this unit. It’s about what happens to you when you do that. And about what happens if you don’t. I’m a digital editor by trade and always having to think forwards. It’s such an escape to focus firmly in the past when I write.

Q) I found The May Queen to be very much a coming of age story, surrounding May Thomas. Was this intentional or did it develop whilst writing her story?

A) It was always a coming-of-age story because in order for May to develop she had to grow. That’s the usual way of it. Although, some people start off fully grown and then regress, but that’s a different story altogether! What did develop during the writing process was just how much conflict existed in the everyday – in the domestic. I hadn’t quite appreciated that. So, between May and Ma, May and Sophie, May and Pa. Conflict, conflict, conflict. I was only surprised she didn’t leave them earlier.

Q) The novel is very different to many of this genre, currently on sale. As it focuses solely around May’s relationships with others and the impact they have on her. What is the inspiration behind May?

A) Thank you! That was my intention. I love narratives which focus around character development and growth – a journey of self as opposed to a physical one. I didn’t see the point of writing another WW2 novel that ticked off historic events as fact (although of course in The May Queen the research is there, it’s just background). What’s the point of telling people what they already know? No, for me it was about May. She was something new. She floated to the surface of the mill pond (beside her home) and refused to sink. She’s inspired by my mother and grandmother (who grew up in the mill at Fairford). They were strong and fearless women with the ability to light up a room. I wanted to honour that.

Q) I am a huge WW2 geek. I love the absolutely love the era in movies, fiction and non-fiction. What drew you to the era?

A) I was initially drawn to the 1930s. I wanted to explore that hazy time in the countryside – of town carnivals (Fairford’s was one of the biggest in the South West) and community that centred on patronage from the local gentry. In Fairford, all of that changed after WW2. The carnival never returned and the big house was torn down (sometime in the 1950s). I wanted the reader to slip into that earlier time and emerge with a full understanding of what had been lost.

Q) I have many WW2 heroes, some ordinary people, who achieved amazing things for their country during the word. Such as Alan Turing and Viola Szabo. Who are your WW2 heroes?

A) The women of the WRNS. It was a wonderful time for them. I don’t care to name the well-heeled few who came from money and made it into history. It’s the poor girls, like my grandmother, who took the initiative; who drove motorbikes and pulled great warships out to deep water, proudly standing on the decks of their little tugs in bellbottoms. Those girls are my heroes. I bet they got up to all sorts.

Q) What’s next for your writing career? Do you intend to write anything else in the WW2 genre or historical fiction?

A) I have flipped to a completely different continent but stayed true to genre. My next book is set post-WW2 in the late 1940s in Colombia. It’s about an architect, Luke Vosey, who is broken and seeking a new life for himself in a new place. He’s trying to run from his past but what he doesn’t realise is that he’s running towards something much worse. Colombia in the 1940s was also reeling from a European war they hadn’t participated in. Even there it reached. The novel is set at a time before everything in Colombia, politically and socially, was about to get more savage. I don’t want to spoil it and so won’t say more than that!

*Huge thank you to Helen for agreeing to be part of a Q&A on my blog.


Authors Links:
Twitter: @helenireneyoung

New release/Debut: The Witch Finder’s Sister by Beth Underdown 4*

This review is shorter than I would like, I read & reviewed the novel many months ago before I started my blog in January. However it is a very worthy read!


The Witch Finder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

The blurb:

‘The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six…’
1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.
But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women’s names.

To what lengths will Matthew’s obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?

Based on the true story of the man known as the Witchfinder General, this exquisitely rendered novel transports you to a time and place almost unimaginable, where survival might mean betraying those closest to you, and danger lurks outside every door.

My review:

A historical novel of witchcraft, mystery & suspicion!
I grew up in Lancashire where you could see Pendle hill from my Granma’s house. As children she would fill our heads with tales of the Pendle witches. This novel reminded me very much of those stories,
The novel is fundamentally a story of suspicion, when the fear of being named as a witch would ultimately be a death sentence. The novel is written very well & the characters have huge appeal to the readers, even the not so nice ones. 4*

Congratulations to the author on it’s release today!

*I received an Ebook copy via netgalley in return for an honest review.