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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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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