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REVIEW: Nobody But Us by Laure Van Rensburg

Published: April 14th 2022
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Romance Novel
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Nobody But Us was April’s SquadPod Book Club pick, and boy was it a good one! Unpredictable and totally crazy, this is a phenomenal debut that everyone needs to read.

Thank you to Michael Joseph for the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

MEET 2022’S MOST DANGEROUS COUPLE . . .
________

Steven Harding is a handsome, well-respected professor.
Ellie Masterson is a wide-eyed young college student.

Together, they are driving south from New York, for their first holiday: three days in an isolated cabin, far from the city.

Ahead of them, the promise of long, dark nights – and the chance to explore one another’s bodies, away from disapproving eyes.

It should be a perfect, romantic trip for two.

EXCEPT THAT HE’S NOT WHO HE SAYS HE IS.

BUT THEN AGAIN, NEITHER IS SHE . . .

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MY REVIEW:

“Morning will cast a light on all this, shine on the craziness of the situation; this sham won’t survive sunrise, like all other evil it can only thrive in darkness.” 

What a wild ride!  This is a book that does exactly what it says on the tin and lives up to its tagline that calls Ellie and Steven ‘2022’s most f*cked up couple’.  This one took me quite some time to recover from after reading.  It’s that crazy.  I thought I knew what was in store but I had no idea just how messed up this was going to get…

The story opens with Ellie and Steven heading off on a three-day trip to celebrate their six month anniversary.  They both seem anxious and feel like everything rests on this weekend but the reader is in the dark as to what that is and why.  They quickly arrive at their destination: a remote cabin in the forest, surrounded by snow and with no cell phone reception.  Right then you would know this is going to be a getaway-gone-wrong even if you’d gone into this book blind.  Ominous and claustrophobic, there is an unbearable tension that wreaked havoc on my blood pressure as I tried to guess what would happen next.  But I could never have guessed what was coming if I’d had a hundred guesses.  It plays its cards extremely close to the vest so I won’t say anything more about the plot so you can discover the craziness for yourself. 

Stylish, sinister, scalpel-sharp and sophisticated, Laure Van Rensburg’s cunningly crafted debut is one you won’t forget.  She holds the reader in her vice-like grip, making it impossible to stop reading even when you want to turn away.  Ellie and Steven are richly drawn, memorable, unsavoury and unreliable characters, hiding their dysfunction behind a mask of normalcy that once removed will change everything you thought you knew. 

Unpredictable, darkly atmospheric and charged with adrenaline, Nobody But Us is the debut everyone is going to be talking about.  Laure Van Rensburg is a spectacular new talent that is one to watch and I for one can’t wait to read what she writes next.

READ THIS BOOK!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Laure Van Rensburg is a French writer living in the UK and an Ink Academy alumna. Her stories have appeared in online magazines and anthologies such as Litro Magazine, Storgy Magazine, The Real Jazz Baby (2020 Best Anthology, Saboteur Awards 2020), and FIVE:2:ONE. She has also placed in competitions including 2018 & 2019 Bath Short Story Award.

Her debut novel, Nobody But Us, follows Ellie and Steven who take their first trip away together, but what starts as an idyllic weekend soon takes a darker turn, as it quickly becomes apparent that each of them harbour secrets – and that one of those secrets is deadly.

Nobody But Us (originally titled The Downfall) was shortlisted for the 2019 First Novel Prize, 2019 Novel London Competition and 2019 Flash 500 Novel Opening. It will be published by Michael Joseph in April 2022 and has sold in fourteen territories, including Germany, Italy, Norway and the United States.

Laure’s current work in progress, Eden Lost, was longlisted in 2019 Exeter Novel Prize and more recently shortlisted in the 2020 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Amazon* | Bookshop.org* |
*These are affiliate links

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxxx

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: Nasty Little Cuts by Tina Baker

Published: February 24th 2022
Publisher: Viper
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Crime Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

I’m delighted to be opening the blog tour for this terrifically twisted thriller. Thank you to Viper Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

WHO WILL SURVIVE THE NIGHT?

A nightmare jolts Debs awake. She leaves the kids tucked up in their beds and goes downstairs. There’s a man in her kitchen, holding a knife. But it’s not an intruder. This is her husband Marc, the father of her children. A man she no longer recognises.

Once their differences were what drew them together, what turned them on. Him, the ex-army officer from a good family. Her, the fitness instructor who grew up over a pub. But now these differences grate to the point of drawing blood. Marc screams in his sleep. And Debs hardly knows the person she’s become, or why she lets him hurt her.

Neither of them is completely innocent. Neither is totally guilty. Marc is taller, stronger, and more vicious, haunted by a war he can’t forget. But he has no idea what Debs is capable of when her children’s lives are at stake…

A powerful exploration of a relationship built on passion, poisoned by secrets and violence. Perfect for readers of Blood Orange and Big Little Lies.

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MY REVIEW:

“What if the thing she’s most afraid of isn’t some threat lurking outside the safety of this cosy home, clawing at the doors, peering into her double-glazed windows, its breath frosting the panes? 

What if it’s right here in the kitchen beside her?” 

Debs wakes early Christmas Eve from a nightmare.  Quietly, she makes her way downstairs and discovers she has woken up to something even more terrifying than what haunts her dreams; her husband, Marc, standing in the kitchen holding a knife.  She no longer recognises the man she married and as fear courses through her, she wonders what he has planned.  Over the course of a few hours that cold morning, the couple’s problems in their marriage come to a head.  But will Debs and her children make it out alive?

Tina Baker has done it again!  Nasty Little Cuts jumps straight into the action, taking no prisoners with a twisted opening, heavy with foreshadowing.  There’s an unbearable sense of dread as Debs and Marc face off against one another in the kitchen,  the story unfolding slowly as it moves between that December morning and flashbacks to the past; small clues about their characters and relationship unveiling as the reader is kept on a knife edge wondering how Debs will escape.  

“Each word, a tiny snag, each shallow cut stings. A word, a look, a sigh. One after the other after the other, all in a row, like the teeth on a bread knife. Tiny, tiny serrations. Eventually, they could slice you in half.”

My love for Ms. Baker is no secret.  I adore her.  And I have been waiting with bated breath for this follow up ever since I finished her fantastic debut, Call Me Mummy.  Once again she has delivered a knock-out thriller that is complex, layered and nuanced.  It is a psychological puzzle that not only examines the characters in uncomfortabledetail, but explores topics such as depression, PTSD, infertility and the need for communication in relationships.  She breathes pain into the story that will make your heart break in two.  I loved the imagery she used to describe depression, anxiety and PTSD; the dark, haunting, overwhelming feelings that you can’t escape and eat you up from the inside.  It is so vivid and raw, helping those who might never have experienced these things really understand how it feels.  The writing is ebullient, sharp, funny and riveting, much like the lady herself, and she creates a tone that moves between deeply unsettling, heart-wrenchingly emotional and darkly amusing, keeping me hostage as I was unable to tear myself away. 

“For a long time now a syrupy blackness has seeped back into this vacuum inside him.” 

The characters are deeply flawed and achingly real.  Richly drawn and compelling, they are superbly written and jump from the pages.  Dolly is a vivacious, fun child and I couldn’t get enough of her.  I loved little Pat-Pat, who reminded me of my own son when he was young, right down to the ‘Duracell bunny’ comparison.  And while there are multiple narrators, Debs feels like the main character.  The true heart of the story.  And it is her I felt the strongest connection with.  Her terror during those hours in the kitchen is palpable, making my heart race as if I was in the room myself.  Marc is someone we see as the villain from the start, but I found my heart breaking for him as I learned of his past and the inner turmoil he was trying to keep locked inside.  It isn’t easy to make a character someone the reader can both loathe and feel sympathy for, but Ms. Baker shows her talent as an author when she manages to accomplish this with Marc. 

“Bruises fade. Another blooms internally.” 

This is a portrait of a failing marriage and we soon discover the idyllic, happy relationship they try to portray isn’t the truth. Theirs is a marriage filled with misery, misunderstanding, isolation, abuse and fear.  A toxic relationship that is slowly killing them both on the inside but neither knows how to fix.  They are both adrift and desperately trying to reach out and tell each other what they feel and need.  Only they never come out and say it, leading to a minefield of miscommunication and resentment.  It is devastating to watch as they destroy not only themselves, but each other, all building up to the morning that Debs finds Marc in the kitchen holding the knife.  They have reached their breaking point. 

Nasty Little Cuts is a pacy, punchy and gripping thriller.  A harrowing, brutal and tortured story that will make your heart pound and leave your nerves on edge.  I can’t recommend this book enough.  Go and read this as soon as possible.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Tina Baker, the daughter of a window cleaner and fairground traveller, worked as a journalist and broadcaster for thirty years and is probably best known as a television critic for the BBC and GMTV. After so many hours watching soaps gave her a widescreen bum, she got off it and won Celebrity Fit Club. She now avoids writing-induced DVT by working as a Fitness Instructor.

Call Me Mummy is Tina’s first novel, inspired by her own unsuccessful attempts to become a mother. Despite the grief of that, she’s not stolen a child – so far. But she does rescue cats, whether they want to be rescued or not.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Amazon*| Bookshop.org*

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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️Emma xxx

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book reviews

Book Review: Her Perfect Family by Teresa Driscoll

Published: November 1st, 2021
Publisher: Amazon Publishing UK
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

I’m delighted to share my review for this tense and twisty thriller. Thank you to Amazon Publishing for the copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

A gripping psychological thriller from the bestselling author of I Am Watching You. The perfect family? Or the perfect lie?

It’s their daughter’s graduation and Rachel and Ed Hartley are expecting it to be one of their family’s happiest days. But when she stumbles and falls on stage during the ceremony, a beautiful moment turns to chaos: Gemma has been shot, and just like that, she’s fighting for her life.

PI Matthew Hill is one of the first on the scene. A cryptic message Gemma received earlier in the day suggests someone close to her was about to be exposed. But who? As Matthew starts to investigate, he finds more and more layers obscuring the truth. He even begins to suspect the Hartleys are hiding something big―from him and from each other.

While Gemma lies in hospital in a coma, her would-be killer is still out there. Can Matthew unravel the family’s secrets before the attacker strikes again?

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MY REVIEW:

Have you ever hidden a dark secret to try and protect those you love?

In Her Perfect Family, the latest gripping thriller from Teresa Driscoll, that is exactly what the characters have done. And you will ask yourself if it is ever okay to do so again and again as their dark secrets and the consequences of keeping them are revealed. Gemma Hartley is in a coma after being shot at her university graduation. No one seems to have any idea who would do this or why. But as PI Matthew Hill investigates he uncovers secrets that the Hartley family have been keeping, even from each other. Secrets that could hold the key to this whole mystery. But can he unravel the whole truth before the attacker strikes again?

I’m a big fan of Teresa Driscoll’s previous books as she can always be relied upon to write a riveting thriller. Once again she has delivered, crafting a fast-paced psychological thriller that sizzles with suspense and foreboding. The intricately woven plot is rich with dark secrets, lies and obsession, the truth hidden beneath layers of painful secrets, some of which have been kept hidden for decades. But the truth is always revealed, as they say, and that is certainly the case in this book as the investigation into Gemma’s shooting reveals that things aren’t what they seem for any of the Hartley family, the story getting curiouser and curiouser the more we know. And when all of the pieces were put together to unveil the final picture, it looked nothing like I expected, leaving my jaw on the floor as even my wildest guesses were proven wrong.

The story is told from multiple points of view which allows us to really get to know these vivid, deeply flawed characters. We learn their secrets before anyone else does and see their heartache, fear, guilt, regret and inner turmoil laid bare. It was great to be back with familiar characters, particularly PI Matthew Hill, who is one of my favourite crime series protagonists. If I ever needed a PI then he would certainly be the man I’d want to call and I enjoyed being back with him and DI Melanie Sanders as they try to piece together this twisty puzzle. I also liked that even though she is in a coma Gemma is still a very present character and that the author did this not only through flashbacks, but also with the chapters told by her while in a coma. These chapters were beautifully written, with a dream-like quality that felt so authentic. Her confusion and frustration was evocatively written, leaping from the pages and breaking my heart with how desperately she wanted to return to her life and her family while having no idea how to. These chapters not only connected me to Gemma, but her recovery, making me root for her to regain consciousness in a way I wouldn’t have done without them.

One of my favourite tropes in thrillers is when the mysterious perpetrator is one of the narrators and I was happy to see it in this book. I liked getting to know them from the inside while still wondering who they were, searching their monologues for clues that might reveal their identity. I feel like it heightens the suspense and gives you an insight into what makes them tick, even if it is quite dark and disturbing. I liked that there were a few suspects in this case, so although I had my suspicions, I was never completely sure. I don’t mind admitting that the author had me totally fooled and I never once suspected the actual perpetrator, leaving me shook when we got to the big reveal.

Tense, twisty and addictive, this superb psychological thriller is one not to be missed. Though I highly recommend Ms. Driscoll’s previous books, you can read this as a standalone too.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Teresa Driscoll is a former BBC TV news presenter whose psychological thrillers have sold more than two million copies across the world.

Her first thriller I Am Watching You hit Kindle Number 1 in the UK, USA and Australia and has sold more than a million copies in English alone.

Teresa writes women’s fiction as well as thrillers and her work has been optioned for film and sold for translation in more than 20 territories.

For decades Teresa was a journalist working across newspapers, magazines and television. Covering crime for so long, she was deeply moved by the haunting impact on the relatives, the friends and the witnesses and it is those ripples she explores now in her darker fiction.

Teresa lives in glorious Devon with her family and blogs regularly about her “writing life” at her website.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: The Shadowing by Rhiannon Ward

Published: September 16th, 2021
Publisher: Trapeze
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Historical Fantasy, Gothic Fiction, Thriller, Ghost Story, Romance Novel
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this haunting gothic mystery. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and Trapeze for the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

When well-to-do Hester learns of her sister Mercy’s death at a Nottinghamshire workhouse, she travels to Southwell to find out how her sister ended up at such a place.

Haunted by her sister’s ghost, Hester sets out to uncover the truth, when the official story reported by the workhouse master proves to be untrue. Mercy was pregnant – both her and the baby are said to be dead of cholera, but the workhouse hasn’t had an outbreak for years.

Hester discovers a strange trend in the workhouse of children going missing. One woman tells her about the Pale Lady, a ghostly figure that steals babies in the night. Is this lady a myth or is something more sinister afoot at the Southwell poorhouse?

As Hester investigates, she uncovers a conspiracy, one that someone is determined to keep a secret, no matter the cost…

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MY REVIEW:

“The shadowing had returned.” 

The Shadowing is an atmospheric and absorbing historical gothic mystery overflowing with menace. A story laced with secrets, spirits and sinister happenings, I was drawn in from the first pages right and couldn’t put it down. My mind was full of questions that I needed answers to as desperately as the characters did. And I genuinely had no idea what they were going to be. 

Hester Goodwin lives in Bristol with her wealthy family in a strict Quaker home. Three years ago, her sister Mercy disappeared and none of them have heard from her since, until the day they receive a letter informing them that Mercy has died in Southwell Workhouse in Nottinghamshire. But how did her sister end up in such a place? And how did she die? Searching for answers, Hester travels to Southwell to try and answer their questions, little knowing that she is stepping into a much deeper and darker mystery than she ever imagined. One that involves spectres, missing children and cover ups. 

I’ve been wanting to read Rhiannon Ward’s books since her debut last year so I jumped at the chance when the opportunity to take part in this blog tour arose. My expectations were high and I’m happy to say that she exceeded them with this magnificent novel. Eloquently and evocatively written, it wrenches you out of your own reality and into the one the author created, making you feel like you can feel a ghostly spirit behind you or that you are walking the dank corridors of the workhouse. As the secrets are slowly revealed and Hester brings the women’s plights to light I got goosebumps from the emotion and tension. Their fear was so palpable that I could feel it’s cold claws raking their way down my spine. I was very glad to be reading in the daytime at that point! But, for me, one of the best things about this book is that it genuinely surprised me. I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers, so it isn’t often I’m stumped by an author. But Ward had me at a loss, suspicious of everyone and no real idea who was behind it all, and my jaw hit the floor when it was time for the big reveal. 

“Don’t let the angelmaker take my baby. She wants it for her own end. If I see her, it’s already too late. Do you understand?” 

The characters are all richly drawn and compelling, vividly brought to life by the author in such a way that you feel like they are in the room with you. I found Hester to be especially likeable and easy to root for, her naivete giving her an innocent charm that gave her an extra sweetness alongside her courage and determination. The journey to Southwell is a big deal for a woman of her age and standing, and she is both excited and full of trepidation at her task. Her fears only deepen when she arrives at Southwell Workhouse, a gloomy, bleak and eerie place where frightened women tell her stories of ‘the pale lady’ or ‘the angelmaker’, a ghostly figure who takes women’s babies.  Instead of answers about Mercy, she’s left with even more questions about what happened to her beloved sister and vows to keep digging until she uncovers the truth, unaware of just how much danger she’s putting herself in. 

But the pale lady isn’t the only ghostly part of the story. There are also the shadowings, visions of spirits who appear to Hester that she has experienced since childhood. Her father tried to beat them out of her but they return shortly before she learns of her sister Mercy’s death. She is too terrified of further punishments to mention them, and keenly aware that others, not just her father, will see them as the work of the Devil or Witchcraft. So she keeps them to herself, afraid of the consequences of discovery. 

Captivating, dark and haunting, The Shadowing is a sensational gothic mystery with an eerie charm that lingers over every page. Perfect for the cold nights heading our way, this is ideal for reading with a cosy blanket and warm drink by the fire. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Rhiannon Ward. As Sarah Ward, I’m the author of the DC Childs crime series set in the Derbyshire Peak District. I’m also the writer of Doctor Who audio dramas for Big Finish.

My gothic thriller, The Quickening, was published by Trapeze as Rhiannon Ward and The Shadowing is coming in September 2021.

Throughout COVID-19, I’ve been talking about all things bookish either online or, more recently, in person. 

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*| Amazon| Google Books| Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: The Trapped Wife by Samantha Hayes

Published: September 8th, 2021
Publisher: Bookouture
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Crime Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this sensational thriller. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

The rain hammers the glass outside. My husband has stoked the wood burner with a fresh supply of logs, and I’ve just put a joint of beef in the oven. It’s the most clichéd Sunday afternoon ever, and it’s the most heavenly one, too. Little do I know that days later, the ash in the fire will be all that remains of us…

My perfect life…

I thought I had it all – a dream job as a doctor in small town, a stunning home and a family I adore – but that illusion shattered the moment my husband Jeremy left on a work trip and vanished without a trace. Now my son and I are all alone in the world.

My missing husband…

My best friend thinks Jeremy had an accident up in the mountains, that I’ll never see him again and need to move on. I know he loves us too much to ever abandon us, but my head is still spinning with the texts I found on his phone before he left. Did I ever really know the man I married?

The night I can’t remember…

Everything changed the night of the medical conference weeks before Jeremy disappeared. I wrack my brains for answers, but my memory goes blank after my first drink. Ever since, I’ve felt like I’m being followed and can’t explain why panic thunders in my chest every time I see my newest patient. If he’s not local to the village, then why does he seem so familiar? And so dangerous?

As I piece together the shards of what really happened that fateful evening, only one thing can possibly be true: everyone is lying, even me…

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MY REVIEW:

Samantha Hay is the queen of misdirection, red herrings and curveballs. And her latest book, The Trapped Wife, is just as tense and twisty as her others. And that ending? I did NOT see it coming. Not one bit. After being so sure I had it figured out she totally blindsided, leaving me with my jaw on the floor trying to figure out how on earth she’d done it yet again.

Jennifer Miller is trying to piece her life back together after the recent death of her husband in a tragic accident. The golden couple seemed to have it all. But behind closed doors was a different story, one that Jen is still trying to conceal after Jeremy’s death. She hasn’t even confided these secrets in her best friend, especially the dark secret about the night she can’t really remember; the night that echoes in her memory through fleeting flashbacks. But then one of those secrets comes back to haunt her in person and Jen finds herself in a living nightmare. 

In a second timeline we meet a young, troubled boy full of dark thoughts. He forms a bond with a kindred spirit, creating a club where they fantasise about revenge on those who have hurt them. It’s all harmless fun, until one day when he decided to make the fantasies a reality. But just how are the two timelines connected? What could this troubled boy have to do with the respectable widow? I had so many suspicions and predictions, but were they right? 

Ms. Hayes is one of my auto-read thriller authors. When you pick up one of her books you know you’re getting a gripping thriller and, once again, she did not disappoint. Cleverly plotted, intricately woven, and full of crazy twists, the author has filled this book with emotion, yet there is a coldness that lingers over the pages. An emptiness that doesn’t only surround the loss of Jeremy, whose presence is always felt despite his death happening before the story begins. There is a pervading atmosphere of malice and foreboding; a powder keg just waiting for a spark. And when it did, it exploded many lives in the process. I tore through the pages, not wanting to put it down or even sleep. Though I eventually forced myself to sleep at 2am and finished it the next day.

The characters are brilliantly written and compelling. There’s an increasing sense of claustrophobia as Jen’s world closes in around her, her stress and anxiety rising as she tries to stop it from crumbling even more. Scott is such a fantastic villain that he sent shivers down my spine each time he was on the page, the feelings he gave Jen radiating from the pages into my own body. He oozes malevolence and I had no doubt he’d stop at nothing to get what he’d set his sights on. I really liked Rhonda, Jen’s best friend. She was a great character who went out of her way to help her friend, and I was shouting at the book for Jen to just confide the truth to her so they could work together to figure things out and escape his clutches.

But nothing, and no-one, is what they seem in this twisty story. There are secrets much darker than you imagine lurking in the shadows. Revelations that will make your head spin. I was on the edge of my seat from beginning to end, and I’m still reeling from that final twist that hit out of the blue.

Fiendishly dark, surprising and suspenseful, The Trapped Wife is a must read for any thriller lover. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Samantha Hayes grew up in a creative family where her love of writing began as a child. Samantha has written eight thrillers in total, including the bestselling Until You’re Mine. The Independent said “fantastically written and very tense” while Good Housekeeping said “Her believable psychological thrillers are completely gripping.” Samantha’s books are published in 22 languages at the last count.

When not writing, Samantha loves to cook, go to the gym, see friends and drink nice wine. She is also studying for a degree in psychotherapy. She has three grown-up children and lives in Warwickshire.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon| Google Books| Apple Books| Kobo

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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the blog tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan

Published: August 5th, 2021
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Adventure Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this exquisite novel. Thank you to Steven at Hodder for the invitation to take part and the gifted finished copy.

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SYNOPSIS:

Could one rare plant hold the key to a thousand riches?

It’s the summer of 1822 and Edinburgh is abuzz with rumours of King George IV’s impending visit. In botanical circles, however, a different kind of excitement has gripped the city. In the newly-installed Botanic Garden, the Agave Americana plant looks set to flower – an event that only occurs once every few decades.

When newly widowed Elizabeth arrives in Edinburgh to live with her late husband’s aunt Clementina, she’s determined to put her unhappy past in London behind her. As she settles into her new home, she becomes fascinated by the beautiful Botanic Garden which borders the grand house and offers her services as an artist to record the rare plant’s impending bloom. In this pursuit, she meets Belle Brodie, a vivacious young woman with a passion for botany and the lucrative, dark art of perfume creation.

Belle is determined to keep both her real identity and the reason for her interest the Garden secret from her new friend. But as Elizabeth and Belle are about to discover, secrets don’t last long in this Enlightenment city . . .

And when they are revealed, they can carry the greatest of consequences.

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MY REVIEW:

“There is mischief afoot…”

Sumptuous and sensual, The Fair Botanists is an intoxicating blend of secrets, skullduggery, friendship, passion and empowerment. So beautifully crafted that every sentence reads like a work of art, this book is one to savor, and I luxuriated in it as I slowly drank in every luscious word.

The thing I love most about historical fiction is how it transports you back in time, something the author expertly does with this novel. . She has taken historical and reimagined characters and combined them with real history and moments she created to bring 1820s Edinburgh to life and create a world that is evocative, alluring and authentic. I knew nothing about the events of the story, or about botany, but the author writes with such rich detail that her meticulous research, vast knowledge and passion is both evident and infectious. I never imagined I’d care about the blooming of a plant or its seeds, but the author had me so invested that I was excited to see the Agave Americana – also known as the Century Plant – flower and on tenterhooks waiting to see who’s scheme would be successful. 

“Why must it be women who shoulder the shame and not men? Why is it so shocking that she might choose her own path and be perfectly happy along it?”

The story centers around two female characters, Belle and Elizabeth, who become unlikely friends. I adored these fascinating women and how the author explored female empowerment and challenged society’s expectations through them in different ways, giving a voice to those who were silenced in history. Belle is a feisty, strong, independent and determined woman who refuses to conform to society’s expectations. She is a courtesan who also makes money from her secret passion – botany – and dreams of finding financial freedom by concocting a love potion. I loved how she challenges patriarchal society and refuses to apologise for who she is. And the description of her as “an attractive but determined fairy general” is not only utterly brilliant, but one that will stay with me. She’s a bad-ass woman who I would love to be friends with. Elizabeth is much more subdued but through her friendship with Belle she finds strength and a new life that she never dreamed she deserved. I enjoyed watching as she blossomed, just like the famous plant, coming into bloom and finding herself as the story progressed. The author also filled the story with an array of vibrant background characters that I enjoyed, each one inextricably linked with the Botanical Gardens and Century Plant.

Dazzling, evocative, intricate and absorbing, The Fair Botanists is an exquisite piece of historical fiction. I was so completely immersed in the story and lives of these characters that I never wanted to leave and felt bereft when it was finished. I can’t recommend this enough to anyone who enjoys the genre. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sara Sheridan is a writer and activist who is interested particularly in female history. She has written more than 20 books.

Truth or Dare, her first novel received a Scottish Library Award and was shortlisted for the Saltire. Her novel On Starlit Seas, was shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Prize in 2017. An occasional journalist, Sara has reported for BBC Radio 4’s From Our Own Correspondent and on ‘being a lady’ for Women’s Hour. In 2019 Sara re mapped Scotland according to women’s history for Historic Environment Scotland – the resulting book Where are the Women was listed as one of the David Hume Institute’s Books of the year 2019. In it, she imagined several monuments to the witches.

Sara mentors fledgling writers for the Scottish Book Trust and has sat on the board of several writers’ organisations. In 2015, Sophie McKay Knight’s portrait of Sara garnered media and critical attention at the National Gallery of Scotland.

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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx