Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract Dead Man’s Daughter by @RozWatkins #NewRelease #CrimeFiction #DIMegDalton #Series #Derbyshire @HQstories @HarperCollinsUK

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Dead Man’s Daughter by Roz Watkins ~ #2 DI Meg Dalton Series
Currently Reading – Review To Follow

Synopsis ~

She was racing towards the gorge. The place the locals knew as ‘Dead Girl’s Drop’…

DI Meg Dalton is thrown headlong into her latest case when she finds a ten-year-old girl running barefoot through the woods in a blood-soaked nightdress. In the house nearby, the girl’s father has been brutally stabbed to death.

At first Meg suspects a robbery gone tragically wrong, but something doesn’t add up. Why does the girl have no memory of what happened to her? And why has her behaviour changed so dramatically since her recent heart transplant?

The case takes a chilling turn when evidence points to the girl’s involvement in her own father’s murder. As unsettling family secrets emerge, Meg is forced to question her deepest beliefs to discover the shocking truth, before the killer strikes again…

Extract ~

Prologue

She lay on her back, hard metal under her, so cold it felt like being punched. The smell of antiseptic scorched her throat. She couldn’t move. She tried to scream. To tell them not to do it. She was still alive, still conscious, still feeling. It shouldn’t be happening. But no sound came. The man had a knife. He was approaching with a knife. Silver glinted in the cold light. Why could she still see? This was wrong. With all her will, she tried to shrink from him. He took a step closer. Another man stood by. Dressed in green. Calm. They were all calm. How could they be so calm? She must be crying, tears streaming down her face, even if her voice and her legs and her arms wouldn’t work. Please, please, please don’t. Inside her head she was begging. Please stop. I can feel. I’m still here. I’m still me. No words came out. The terror filled her; filled the room. The knife came closer. She couldn’t move. It was happening.

The touch of steel on her skin. Finally a scream. One of the men placed his hand on her mouth. The other man pushed towards her heart.

The woman grabbed my hand and pulled me deeper into the woods. Her voice rasped with panic. ‘She was running towards the gorge. The place the locals call Dead Girl’s Drop.’ That didn’t sound good, particularly given the Derbyshire talent for understatement. I shouted over the wind and the cracking of frozen twigs underfoot. ‘What exactly did you see?’ ‘I know what you’re thinking, but I didn’t imagine it.’ Strands of dark hair whipped her face. She must have only been in her forties, but she looked worn, like something that had been washed too many times or left out in the rain. She tugged a similarly faded, speckled greyhound behind her. ‘I was expecting proper police,’ she added. ‘I’m a detective. DI Meg Dalton, remember? We wear plain clothes.’ No matter what I wore, I seemed to exude shabbiness. I was clearly a disappointment to Elaine Grant. I sneaked a glance at my watch. I’d had a phone-call from my mum that I should have been returning. Elaine tripped on a stump and turned to look accusingly at me, her edges unclear in the flat morning light. ‘Pale like a ghost. The dog saw her too.’ I glanced down at the dog. He panted and drooled a little.

I wasn’t sure I’d rely on his testimony, but I couldn’t afford not to check this out. I shivered and pulled my scarf tighter around my neck. ‘Wearing white, you mean? But you saw blood?’ ‘It was a nightdress, I think. Just a young girl. Streaking through the trees like she had the devil at her heels. And yes, there was red all over her.’ Branches rattled above us. Something flickered in the corner of my eye – shining pale in the distance. My breath stopped in my throat and I felt a twitch of anxiety. ‘Is there a house in these woods?’ I asked. ‘Approached down a lane?’ Elaine walked a few steps before answering. ‘Yes. Bellhurst House.’ I knew that place. The woman who lived there had kept calling the police, saying she was being watched and followed, but she’d had nothing concrete to report. After the first time, they’d joked that she had an over-active imagination. Possibly a fondness for men in uniform. And we hadn’t taken her seriously. Elaine touched my arm. ‘Did you see the girl?’ We waited, eyes wide and ears straining. The dog let out a little affronted half-bark, more of a puff of the cheeks. A twig snapped and something white slipped through the trees. ‘That’s her,’ Elaine shouted. ‘Hurry! The gorge is over there. Children have fallen . . . ’ I re-ran in my mind the control room’s leisurely reaction to this call; our previous lacklustre responses to the woman in the house in these woods. A band of worry tightened around my chest. I pictured a little girl crashing over the side of the gorge into the frothing stream below, covered in blood, fleeing something – something we’d been told about but dismissed.

Maybe this was the day the much-cried wolf actually showed up. I broke into a limping run, cursing my bad ankle and my bad judgement for not passing this to someone else. I couldn’t take on anything new this week. The dog ran alongside me, seeming to enjoy the chase. I glanced over my shoulder. If the girl had been running from someone, where were they? I arrived at a fence. A sign. Private property. Dangerous drops. Elaine came puffing up behind me. I was already half over the fence, barbed wired snagging my crotch. ‘Did you see anyone else?’ ‘I’m not sure . . . I don’t think so.’ She stood with arms on knees, panting. She wasn’t in good shape. ‘I can’t climb over that fence,’ she said. ‘I have a bad knee.’ ‘You wait here.’ I set off towards where I’d seen the flash of white. The dog followed me, pulling his lead from Elaine’s hand and performing a spectacular jump over the fence. The light was brighter ahead where the trees must have thinned out towards the gorge. I could hear the river rushing over rocks far below. My eyes flicked side to side. There was something to my left. Visible through the winter branches. ‘Hello,’ I shouted. ‘Are you alright?’ I moved a step closer. A figure in white. I hurried towards her. She was uncannily still. I blinked. It was a statue, carved in pale stone. Settled into the ground, as if it had been there for centuries. A child, crying, stone tears frozen on grey cheeks. I swore under my breath, but felt my heart rate returning to normal. Was that something else? It was hard to see in the dappled light.

A glimpse of pale cotton, the flash of an arm, a white figure shooting away. I followed. There in front of me another statue. Whereas the first child had been weeping, this one was screaming, mouth wide below terrified eyes. I shuddered. I ran towards the noise of the river, imagining a child’s body, smashed to pieces by stone and current. I didn’t need a dead girl on my conscience. Not another one. I’d been good recently – not checking my ceilings for hanging sisters or hoarding sleeping pills. I wanted to keep it that way. ‘Hello,’ I shouted again. ‘Is there anyone there?’ A face nudged out from behind a tree which grew at the edge of the gorge. It was a girl of about eight or nine. She was wearing only a white nightdress. Her face was bleached with fear and cold, her hair blonde. The paleness of her clothes, skin, and hair made the deep red stains even more shocking. I took a step towards the girl. She shuffled back, but stayed facing me, the drop falling away behind her. She must have been freezing. I tried to soften my body to make myself look safe. The dog was panting dramatically next to me, after his run. He took a couple of slow steps forward. I was about to call him back, but the girl seemed to relax a little. The dog’s whole body wagged. The girl reached and touched him. I held my breath. The girl shot me a suspicious look. ‘I like dogs.’ Her voice was rough as if she’d been shouting. ‘Not allowed dogs . . . Make me ill . . . ’ ‘Are you running from someone?’ I had to get her away from the edge, but I didn’t want to risk moving closer. ‘I’m with the police. I can help you.’

She stared at me with huge owl eyes, too close to the drop behind. Heart thumping, I said, ‘Shall we take him home for his breakfast?’ The dog’s tail wagged. ‘Is that okay?’ She shifted forward a little and touched the dog softly on the head. A stone splashed into the water below. ‘He needs a drink,’ she whispered. Elaine had been right. The girl’s nightdress was smeared with blood. A lot of blood. ‘Okay,’ I said. ‘Let’s take him back for a drink and some breakfast. Shall we do that?’ The girl nodded and stepped away from the edge. I picked up the end of the lead and handed it to her, hoping the dog would be keen to get home. I wanted the girl inside and warmed up before she got hypothermia or frostbite, but I sensed I couldn’t rush it. I walked slowly away from the gorge, and the dog followed, leading the girl. Her feet were bare, one of her toes bleeding. ‘What’s your name?’ I asked. I thought she wasn’t going to answer. She shuffled along, looking down. ‘Abbie,’ she said, finally. ‘I’m Meg. Were you running from someone?’ I shot another look into the trees. She whispered, ‘My dad . . . ’ ‘Were you running from your dad?’ No answer. I tried to remember the substance of the calls we’d had from the woman in the house in the woods. Someone following her. Nothing definite. Nothing anyone else had seen. ‘Are you hurt? Is it okay if I have a look?’

She nodded. I crouched and carefully checked for any wounds. She seemed unharmed, apart from the toe, but there were needle marks on her arms. I was used to seeing them on drug addicts, not on a young girl. ‘I have to get injected,’ Abbie said. I wondered what was the matter with her. My panic about her welfare ratcheted up a notch. I grabbed my radio and called for paramedics and back-up. ‘There’s a stream,’ Abbie said. ‘He needs a drink.’ The dog was still panting hard. ‘No, Abbie. Let’s – ’ She veered off to the right, surprisingly fast. ‘Oh, Jesus,’ I muttered. Abbie pulled the dog towards the pale statues, darting over the bone-numbing ground. I chased after her. There were four statues in total, arranged around the edge of a clearing. They were children of about Abbie’s age or a little younger, two weeping and two screaming, glistening white in the winter light. I ran between them, spooked by them and somehow feeling it was disrespectful to race through their apparent torment, but Abbie was getting away from me. I saw her ahead, stepping into a stream so cold there were icy patches on the banks. ‘No, Abbie, come this way!’ I ran to catch up, wincing at the sight of her skinny legs plunging into the glacial water. She called over her shoulder. ‘He can drink better at this next bit.’ She clutched the dog-lead as if it were the only thing in the world. I was panicking about her feet, about hypothermia, about what the hell had happened to her, and who might still be in the woods with us. But she was determined to get the dog a drink. And I sensed if I did the wrong thing, she’d bolt.

‘Abbie, let me carry you to the drinking place, okay? Your feet must be really sore and cold. We’ll get him a quick drink, then head back and get warmed up.’ She looked at her feet, then up at me. Worried eyes, blood on her face. She nodded, and shifted towards me. I reached for her, but she lurched sideways and fell, crashing into the freezing water. She screamed. Heart pounding, I reached and scooped her up. She was drenched and shivering, teeth clacking together. I pulled her inside my coat, feeling the shock of the water soaking into my clothes. I took off my scarf and wound it loosely around her neck. I stumbled through the mud, filling my boots with foetid bog water, and finally saw a larger stream ahead, flowing all bright and clear. The dog immersed his face in it, gulped for a few moments, and looked up to show he was done. ‘Right, let’s go.’ I shifted Abbie further up onto my hip and limped back in the direction we’d come, trousers dragging down, feet squelching in leaden boots. The dog pulled ahead, shifting me off-balance even more. Through the boggy bit again, past the cold gaze of the statues, and at last to the fence where Elaine was waiting. ‘Oh, thank goodness!’ Elaine said. ‘She’s alright.’ I gasped for breath. ‘Could you go on ahead and put your heating on high? It could take a while for the paramedics to get here. We might need to warm her up in your house. She’s frozen.’ ‘Shall I run a bath? Not too hot. Like for a baby.’ ‘No, it’s okay. Just the heating.’ ‘Like for my baby.’ Her eyes seemed to go cloudy. ‘My poor baby.’

I touched her lightly on the arm. ‘I’ll bring the girl back. Just put the heating on high and get some blankets or fleeces or whatever you have, to wrap round her.’ Elaine nodded and helped me lift Abbie over the fence, before heading off at a frustratingly slow walk. I picked Abbie up again. ‘Not far now,’ I said, as much to myself as her. ‘We’ll get you inside and warmed up.’ ‘Thank you,’ she said in a tiny voice. ‘Thank you for letting me get a drink for the dog.’ Her ribs moved in and out, too fast. That could be the start of hypothermia. I clasped her to me, enveloping her in my jacket and pulling the scarf more snuggly around her neck. My feet were throbbing, so I dreaded to think what hers felt like. ‘Where do you live, Abbie?’ I said. ‘In the woods.’ She held on to me with skinny arms, trusting in a way which brought a lump to my throat. She rested her head against my shoulder. Her voice was so quiet I could barely hear. ‘I’m tired. . . Will you make sure I’m okay?’ I swallowed, thinking of all that blood. I could smell it in her hair. ‘Yes,’ I whispered into the top of her head, ignoring all the reasons I couldn’t make any promises. ‘I’ll make sure you’re okay.’
*
We eventually arrived at the edge of the woods, and crossed the road to reach Elaine’s cottage. I hammered on the door and it flew straight open. I wrenched off my muddy boots and sodden socks, followed Elaine through to a faded living room, and lowered Abbie onto the sofa. ‘Get some blankets around her,’ I said. ‘I’ll be back.’ I dashed

barefoot over the road to my car, grabbed some evidence bags, and slipped my feet into the spare trainers I’d shoved in there in a fit of sensibleness. My toes felt as if they’d been dipped in ice, rubbed with a cheese-grater, and held in front of a blow-torch. Back at the house, Elaine had swaddled Abbie in a couple of towels and about five fleecy blankets that looked like they could be the dog’s. I decided it was best not to smell them. ‘Do you have anything she could wear?’ I asked. ‘So we can get that wet nightdress off her?’ Elaine hesitated. ‘I still have . . . ’ Abbie looked up from her nest of fleeces and mumbled, ‘Where’s the dog?’ Elaine called him, and Abbie stroked the top of his head gently, her eyelids drooping, while Elaine went to fetch some clothes. The room was clean and tidy but had a museum feel, as if it had been abandoned years ago and not touched since. Something caught my eye beside the window behind the sofa. A collection of dolls, sitting in rows on a set of shelves. I’d never been a fan of dolls and had dismembered those I’d been given as a child, in the name of scientific and medical research. And there was something odd about these. I took a step towards them and looked more closely. A floorboard creaked. I jumped and spun round. Elaine stood in the doorway, holding up some soft blue pyjamas. ‘These?’ They must have belonged to a child a little older than Abbie. I nodded, walked over and took the pyjamas, then sat on the sofa next to Abbie. I opened my mouth to thank Elaine and ask if she had a child of her own, but I glanced first at her face. It was flat, as if her muscles had been paralysed. I closed my mouth again. I persuaded Abbie to let me take off the sopping-wet,

blood-soaked nightdress and replace it with the pyjamas. Her teeth chattered, and she clutched my scarf. I put the nightdress in an evidence bag. ‘My sister Carrie knitted that for me.’ I was better at saying her name now. ‘When I was very young. It’s the longest scarf I’ve ever seen.’ Abbie touched the scarf against her cheek, closed her eyes and sank back into the sofa. I looked up at Elaine. ‘Do you know if she lives at Bellhurst House? She said she lived in the woods, but she’s pretty confused.’ Elaine stared blankly at me. ‘Yes, I suppose she must. They own the land that goes down to the gorge.’ A pitter-patter of my heart. The guilt that was so familiar. Again I tried to remember what the woman from Bellhurst House had reported. Someone in the woods, someone looking into their windows, someone following her. She hadn’t lived alone; I remembered that. There was definitely a husband, possibly children. ‘Is that your house, Abbie? Bellhurst House?’ She nodded. ‘A car went down there,’ Elaine said. ‘In the night. I couldn’t sleep. Down the lane. I didn’t think much of it at the time. But now I’m wondering . . . ’ ‘What time?’ ‘I’m not sure exactly. About three or four, I think.’ ‘Okay,’ I said. ‘Police are on their way to the house. What colour was the car?’ ‘I couldn’t see – it was too dark.’ I turned to Abbie. ‘Do you remember anything about what happened?’ I said. ‘Where the blood came from?’ She leant close to the dog and wrapped her arms around him. He gave me a long-suffering look. Abbie spoke softly into his ear, so I could barely make out the words. ‘Everyone always dies. Jess. And Dad . . . ’ I looked at her blood-stained hair. ‘Who’s Jess?’ ‘My sister.’ I imagined her sister and her father bleeding to death in those dark woods, surrounded by statues of terrified children. ‘Where are your sister and your dad, Abbie?’ No answer. She closed her eyes and flopped sideways towards me. I caught sight of the dolls again. It felt as if someone had lightly touched the back of my neck with a cold hand. It was the eyes. In some of the dolls, the whole eye was white – no iris or pupil. In others, the iris was high, so you just saw the edge of it as if the eyes had rolled up inside the doll’s head. I turned away, feeling Abbie’s soft weight against me.

RW
Roz Watkins
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My Review of The Devil’s Dice ~ #1 in the DI Meg Dalton Series

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Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract The Murder Pit by @mickfinlay2 #NewRelease #HistoricalFiction @HQstories @HQDigitalUK #MurderPit Where Evil Lies Buried. . .

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The Murder Pit by Mick Finlay
Synopsis:

London Society takes their problems to Sherlock Holmes.
Everyone else goes to Arrowood.

1896: Sherlock Holmes has once again hit the headlines, solving mysteries for the cream of London society. But among the workhouses and pudding shops of the city, private detective William Arrowood is presented with far grittier, more violent, and considerably less well-paid cases.

Arrowood is in no doubt who is the better detective, and when Mr and Mrs Barclay engage him to trace their estranged daughter Birdie, he’s sure it won’t be long before he and his assistant Barnett have tracked her down.

But this seemingly simple missing person case soon turns into a murder investigation. Far from the comfort of Baker Street, Arrowood’s London is a city of unrelenting cruelty, where evil is waiting to be uncovered . . .

Extract:

Chapter One

South London, 1896

Horror sometimes arrives with a smile upon her face, and so it was with the case of Birdie Barclay. It was early New Year, the mud frozen in the streets, smuts drifting like black snow in the fog. Shuddering horses trudged past, driven on to places they didn’t want to go by sullen, red-faced men. Crossing sweepers stood by waiting for punters to drop them a coin, while old folk clutched walls and railings lest they should slip on the slick cobbles, sighing, muttering, hacking up big gobs of germs and firing them into the piles of horse dung as collected at every corner.

We hadn’t had a case for five weeks, so the letter from Mr Barclay inviting us to call that afternoon was welcome. He lived on Saville Place, a row of two-bedroom cottages under the train lines between the Lambeth Palace and Bethlem. When we reached the house we could hear a lady inside
singing over a piano. I was about to knock when the guvnor touched my arm.

‘Wait, Barnett,’ he whispered.

We stood on the doorstep listening, the fog bunched thick around us. It was a song you’d often hear in the pubs near closing time, but never had I heard it sang so very fine and sad, so full of loneliness: ‘In the gloaming, oh my darling, when the lights are dim and low, and the quiet shadows
falling, softly come and softly go.’ As it built to the refrain, the guvnor shut his eyes and swayed with the chords, his face like a hog at stool. Then, when the last line came, he started singing himself, flat and out of time, drowning out the lady’s mournful voice: ‘When the winds are sobbing faintly, with a
gentle unknown woe, will you think of me and love me, as you did once long ago?’

I think it was the only line he knew, the line that spoke most direct to his own battered heart, and he ended in a choke and a tremble. I reached out to squeeze his fat arm. Finally, he opened his eyes and nodded for me to knock.

A broad, pink-faced fellow opened the door. The first thing you noticed was his Malmsey nose, round at the end and coated in fine fur like a gooseberry; beneath it the thick moustache was black though the hair around his bald scalp was white. He greeted us in a nervy voice and led us through to the front room, where a tall woman stood next to a pianoforte. She was Spanish or Portuguese or somesuch, dressed in black from head to toe.

‘These are the detective agents, my dear,’ he said, wringing his hands in excitement. ‘Mr Arrowood, Mr Barnett, this is my wife, Mrs Barclay.’

On hearing our names a warm smile broke over her face, and I could see from the way the guvnor bowed and put his hand flat on his chest that he felt humbled by the lady: by her singing, her deep brown eyes, the kindness in her expression. She bade us sit on the couch.

The small parlour was packed out with furniture too big for it. The pianoforte was jammed between a writing desk and a glass-fronted cabinet. The couch touched the armchair. A gilded Neptune clock took up most of the mantel, its tick ringing out maddeningly loud.

‘Now,’ said the guvnor, ‘how about you tell us your difficulty and we’ll see what we can do to help?’

‘It’s our daughter, Birdie, sir,’ said Mr Barclay. ‘She was married six months ago into a farming family, but since the wedding we’ve heard nothing from her. Nothing at all. No visits, no letters, not even this Christmas last. I’ve twice tried to call for her but they wouldn’t even let me in the house! Said she’s out visiting. Well, sir, it simply cannot be true.’

‘Surely young ladies visit?’ asked the guvnor.

‘She’s not the type to visit, sir. If you knew her you’d understand that. We’ve been driven wild with worry, Mr Arrowood. It’s as if she’s disappeared.’

Mick Finlay
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Anne Bonny #BlogTour #BookReview Lies Between Us by @Ronnie__Turner #NewRelease #PsychologicalThriller #DebutAuthor @HQDigitalUK @HQStories #WhereIsBonnie

Lies Between Us
Lies Between Us by Ronnie Turner
Review Copy
Synopsis:

Will they ever learn the truth?
Three people, leading very different lives, are about to be brought together – with devastating consequences . . .

John has a perfect life, until the day his daughter goes missing.
Maisie cares for her patients, but hides her own traumatic past.
Miller should be an innocent child, but is obsessed with something he can’t have.

They all have something in common, though none of them know it – and the truth won’t stay hidden for long . . .

My Review:

‘Not all love is pure
not all love is kind
not all love is true love
some love is blind’

The novel focuses around three central characters. John the father with the perfect life who had it all until his young daughter Bonnie went missing. Maisie the Intensive care unit nurse who cares deeply for her patients; and Miller an innocent child with a dark and deadly home life.

The novel opens in 1992 with a traumatic scene from Miller’s childhood, one that will go on to shape the man he becomes. . .
‘Sweet girl. Funny girl. Dead girl’

We then jump to 2015 and the disappearance of author John Graham’s 6yr old daughter Bonnie. John lives with his pregnant artist wife Jules in Oxford and until the disappearance of their daughter they had the picture perfect life.
Is someone targeting John? If so, why?

We then move to 2016 and meet Maisie Green an ICU nurse treating coma patient Tim. Maisie becomes involved in Tim’s life and personal backstory due to the nature of his circumstances. Tim was attacked and left for dead. His devastated wife and daughter regularly visit; and this draws Maisie deeper into their lives.

‘I’ll start with my family because you know the beginning is just as important as the end’ – Miller
Miller’s backstory is harrowing, and I became quite obsessed with his character. I was desperate to know if Miller really is the victim of abuse, or if Miller just perceives himself to be the victim? You have to read his scenes and inner thoughts to fully try to grasp his character. It does not make for easy reading.

‘It isn’t death that fascinates me. It is life’ – Miller

The biggest mystery within the novel is #WhereIsBonnie? Who has taken her and why. The chapters are short, sharp and stick to the point. The author provides you breadcrumb like clues to each of the individual characters.
But will you be smart enough to figure it out?
When John begins to receive threatening notes and photos the tension and suspense is really ramped up!

‘Bonnie is a piece of weaponry in the kidnapper’s arsenal’

The author has written an intelligent and well crafted plot. That instantly reminded me of, Why Did You Lie by Yrsa Sigadottir. It isn’t all the mini/sub plots that give this novel it’s intelligence but how they all eventually come together.

I was 80% of the way through the novel and had no idea how the novel would tie up.
A menacing and taunting psychological thriller, from an author with a bright future ahead of her. 4.5*

Author Photo 2
Ronnie Turner
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*Apologies to Ronnie & HQ, that my post is a few days late, I have been laid up with flu*

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Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract Goodbye For Now by @MikeHollows #NewRelease #HistoricalFiction #WW1Fiction @HQDigitalUK

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Goodbye For Now by M J Hollows
Synopsis:

Two brothers, only one survives.
As Europe is torn apart by war, two brothers fight very different battles, and both could lose everything…

While George has always been the brother to rush towards the action, fast becoming a boy-soldier when war breaks out, Joe thinks differently. Refusing to fight, Joe stays behind as a conscientious objector battling against the propaganda.

On the Western front, George soon discovers that war is not the great adventure he was led to believe. Surrounded by mud, blood and horror his mindset begins to shift as he questions everything he was once sure of.

At home in Liverpool, Joe has his own war to win. Judged and imprisoned for his cowardice, he is determined to stand by his convictions, no matter the cost.

By the end of The Great War only one brother will survive, but which?

Extract:

Chapter 1

‘It’s war!’

George Abbott would never forget where he was that day, when those very words were spoken. He was sat at the family kitchen table, a roughly cut dark wooden frame, with an off-white cloth draped across it to hide its wear and tear. He leaned over a bowl of oats, playing them around with his tarnished spoon. Beside it was an enamel plate with some bread and milk.

His sisters, Catherine and Elisabeth, sat either side of him. Catherine was looking over at George to see if he would eat his bread, or if she could take it. Her hair was a deep black mess of curls, the same as their mother’s, framing a pale, chubby face, whereas little Elisabeth’s hair was a distinct copper colour, more like their father’s. At the other end of the table, across the other side was George’s brother Joe, gaunt and long like their father, although with a growth of unkempt curly black hair. He wore the deep brown suit that he always wore to work, even at the breakfast table. He was careful not to get any food on it.

The back door had burst open and their father limped in clutching the Daily Post to his chest and calling to the family. If George were to look him in the eye, it would be like looking in a mirror, except his father was older and thinner. Their faces were exactly alike and the resemblance was uncanny. It was only his father’s eyes that looked different, like they had seen a thousand things, and crow’s feet pulled at the edge of his face.

‘It’s war!’ he said. ‘We’ve declared war.’ He carried on as if unheard. ‘Britain has declared war on Germany.’

Everyone stared, not knowing quite what to say. War had been brewing for some time, so they weren’t surprised.

‘Pass your father the kedgeree,’ their mother said to Catherine and she did as bid, passing the dish of flaked fish and rice that everyone but their father despised. He must have picked up his taste for it in India.

‘I thought we were allies with Germany?’ Their mother was ever the practical woman. She carried on eating while the rest of the family grew excited and agitated. George pushed his plate of bread towards Catherine to distract her, but she just stared at it, then at him.

Their father finally found his seat, hanging his cheap coat behind him as he wrestled his body onto the chair.

‘No, no, love. Belgium. They’re the ones. They invaded there, so ol’ squiffy told ’em where to go.’

‘Belgium invaded Germany?’

‘No. The other way round!’

She didn’t appear to be listening and smiled conspiratorially in her husband’s direction, before collecting up more plates.

Joe stared across the room at the news their father had brought with him, wringing his hands in front of his face. Joe was older than George, but in this moment he looked even older, worry lining his face. His hair threatened to grow too long on his head and his feeble attempts to grow a beard in patches on his chin was a constant source of ridicule. The object of Joe’s gaze was a faded photograph of their dad dressed in his uniform, beaming with pride at the South Africa medal pinned to his breast. He still often wore his medal, stroking the silver disc absent-mindedly. Father turned to Joe, putting the paper down.

‘D’you know what this means, son?’ Joe didn’t respond and their father looked around the room, at the rest of them, testing everyone’s reaction. ‘The papers say they’re going to issue a call. They’re gonna need more men.’

George carried on playing with his oats, knowing that this was between Joe and their dad. Joe looked into the middle distance, the edges of his mouth moving as if about to form words but thinking better of it.

After a tense pause, Joe spoke. ‘I won’t do it,’ he muttered under his breath, so quietly that George almost didn’t hear.

Their father banged a fist on the table, and cutlery jingled as it was disturbed.

MJH
M J Hollows
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Anne Bonny #BlogTour Q&A with @anne_obrien #Author of, Queen Of The North #HistoricalFiction #Medieval England 1399 @HQstories #AuthorTalks ‘This is one woman’s quest to turn history on its head’

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Queen Of The North by Anne O’Brien
Review to follow
Synopsis:

To those around her she was a loyal subject.

In her heart she was a traitor.

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

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

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

To question her loyalty to the King places Elizabeth in the shadow of the axe.
To concede would curdle her Plantagenet blood.

This is one woman’s quest to turn history on its head.

#BlogTour Q&A:

Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel? Biography

A) Although I now live in the Welsh Marches, in Herefordshire, I am a Yorkshire girl by birth in West Yorkshire. After gaining a BA Honours degree in History at Manchester University and a Master’s in Education at Hull, I lived in East Yorkshire for many years where I taught history. Writing was not something I ever thought of doing.
That was in a past life.
Moving to Herefordshire, I gave up teaching and began writing historical novels. It has brought me much enjoyment and a new career. Now I live with my husband in an eighteenth-century timber-framed cottage with a large garden, where I write about the forgotten women of medieval history. It is a marvellous area for giving me inspiration, full of castles and churches and battlefields.

Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?

A) – Firstly I have to select a medieval woman as the central character. She must be well connected and involved in the politics of the day. There must be an element of notoriety, scandal, or interest about her life to make her a worthwhile candidate to tell the story.
– A timeline is essential to put the woman and her family into historical perspective with other characters and historical events.
– After many weeks of historical research to put all the relevant facts into place, I start writing. Accuracy is essential.
– A year later, after four separate drafts, additions of events and characters who often take me by surprise, much editing and reviewing and it is complete to be sent off to my agent and my editor
– With my editor’s keen eye, there follows some polishing, usually with regard to length. I tend to write too much.
– And hopefully, sixteen months after I began, the novel is finished.
It is not always as seamless as this of course. Real life tends to break in to my writing schedule with such mundane occupations as dusting and shopping and cooking a meal or two, but I try to write something every morning. It also takes perseverance, patience, and compassion with my characters and what they wish to say. All of it though is highly enjoyable.

Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

A) If I wish to read historical fiction, it has to be Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles, six novels that carry her hero through sixteenth century France, Scotland with visits to Russia and the Levant, all magnificently constructed to combine fact and fiction.
If I feel a need for some atmospheric crime, then what better than Anne Cleves’ Shetland series, now a superb TV adaptation in the bleak but beautiful islands off northern Scotland.
An excellent blend of folklore, myth, crime, and rural creepiness makes compulsive reading with the novels of Phil Rickman’s series with Merrily Watkins the priest in the depths of Hereford, starting with Wine of Angels.
If I want a novel of family or the relationships and interaction between people, then there can be no better than Anne Tyler. I first discovered her years ago with Breathing Lessons, and continue to read her novels.

Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

A) They tended to be historical. My interests have not changed.
A loved the novels of Mary Renault, particularly those which brought the Greek myths to life. I think the first I read were The King Must Die and Bull from the Sea. The novels of Alexander the Great also make great reading in my teenage years, starting with Fire From Heaven. I have re-read them more recently and find they have stood the test of time.
The Passionate Brood was the first historical novel by Margaret Campbell Barnes that I recall reading. It tells the tale of the children of King Henry II and Robin Hood. It showed me what could be done with history to make it a page turning experience for the reader.
Mary Stewart’s novels of King Arthur and Merlin, beginning with The Crystal Cave , captivated me, and still do. I still have a soft spot for King Arthur novels.

Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?

A) It has to be, every time, holding the completed novel in my hands. All is done and it can no longer be changed and edited. It is complete in its cover. It is proof that I have produced something tangible over the past year that has come together in readable form. It is proof that not only have I enjoyed writing it, but my editor and my agent have also enjoyed reading it. It is also a time of some trepidation of course. Now the novel is out of my hands and available to the vast the reading public. I always hope that they enjoy it too.

Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?

A) For me writing is a very private matter. No one reads my novel, not even sections of it, until it is finished when it is sent off to my agent and editor. Even so the support of those around me is invaluable. My husband who I often dragged into my discussions of historical motivation and logic. His interest in 19th Century history but he is fast becoming well educated in the politics of medieval England. My agent who I know will give me all her support if I get into difficulties or simply need some encouragement. My editor who has the final sweeping view of the novel and gives me advice. I trust her expertise implicitly.
I am blessed to have such support in what can be a very lonely world between me, my PC, and people who have been dead for at least six hundred years.

AOB
Anne O’Brien
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***Review to follow soon***