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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: Reputation by Sarah Vaughan

Published: March 3rd 2022
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Domestic Fiction, Legal Thriller, Political Thriller
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this riveting novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Simon & Schuster UK for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

From the bestselling author of Anatomy of a Scandal, soon to be a major Netflix series…
Reputation: it takes a lifetime to build and just one moment to destroy.
‘Sarah Vaughan has done it again. Superb’ Shari Lapena

Emma Webster is a respectable MP.

Emma Webster is a devoted mother.

Emma Webster is innocent of the murder of a tabloid journalist.

Emma Webster is a liar.

#Reputation: The story you tell about yourself. And the lies others choose to believe…

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MY REVIEW:

MP Emma Webster is riding high; her career is flourishing, she’s making changes to laws she’s passionate about, and she’s being interviewed and featured on the front cover of the Guardian Weekend magazine.  But then things start to fall apart and Emma soon finds her life is in tatters as she’s put on trial for a murder she says she didn’t commit.  But what is the truth?  Is Emma Webster a terrified woman who acted in self-defence, or is she a calculating killer erasing the threat to her reputation?

Tense, twisty and powerful, Reputation is a riveting blend of captivating whodunnit, gripping legal thriller and exploration of important social issues we face today.  This was my first time reading one of Sarah Vaughan’s books and my expectations were high after hearing high praise of her previous novels.  I was not disappointed.  From the opening pages there is a foreshadowing of something terrible occurring that turns Emma’s world upside down, adding an ominous atmosphere that looms over every word.  It had me on the edge of my seat as I waited for the full story to unfold, my heart pounding as it reached its dramatic crescendo.  While I did guess some of the twists, many of them surprised me, taking the plot and characters in directions I never saw coming.  Sharply written and intelligent, this is a thriller that keeps you guessing, makes you think and entertains you all in one fell swoop.  

The characters are compelling, flawed and relatable, with problems that are both recognisable and believable.  Emma was a great protagonist and I found her easy to root for at every step.  She is a nuanced character who is strong, fierce and capable but also scared and unsure.  I was never sure if she was guilty or not but could see how everything could have come together to create the perfect storm that led to murder.  But the character I was most drawn to was Flora, Emma’s fourteen-year-old daughter.  The author expertly puts the reader back into the psyche of a teenage girl as her isolation, fear and teenage angst leap from the page. I found her chapters heart-rending as a parent of teenagers; worrying what my children might be going through without me having any clue it’s happening.  It also transported me back to my own teenage years and that feeling of having nowhere to turn and being scared to talk to your parents when something is really wrong.  Emma and Flora’s experiences mirrored each other in many ways and I did enjoy seeing how it drew them closer together when they could have let it tear them further apart. 

Emma’s political career sees her being a voice for the voiceless as she fights against violence and threats towards women, particularly concentrating on the battle for new legislation around revenge porn.  It is a fight that makes her many enemies and she is subjected to the most vile threats and abuse every day.  Before reading this book I had no idea of the extent of the abuse that is part of the daily lives of women in the public eye, the fear they live with or the many safety measures they are forced to take each day.  I was shocked and appalled at what they are subjected to and can’t imagine needing water at public events in case acid is thrown in your face or being told to accept that threats of death and rape are part of the job you’ve chosen.  All of this leads into the other many timely and important themes explored in the book such as female empowerment and solidarity, how women are judged more harshly than their male counterparts, online bullying and the misogyny,  threats and violence that women endure and have grown to expect in their day to day lives.  Even the young aren’t immune, with pre-teens and teenagers using technology as a bullying tool.  While technology and social media can be a positive thing, when it’s used in this way it means that those who are targeted have no respite from the onslaught of abuse.  

Unsurprisingly, the topic of reputation is another theme that recurs throughout the book and the author explores the subject of our reputation versus our character.  Our reputations are built from the outside in but can be destroyed by those who don’t even know us in an instant.  Emma is someone who is very aware of her reputation and carefully cultivates it, particularly in relation to her job.  She has spent years building her reputation as a loving mother, no-nonsense MP and fierce warrior for female rights.  It’s who she is from the inside out.  So when it all comes crumbling down and her reputation is left in tatters, it shakes her to her core and Emma struggles with being portrayed as a person she doesn’t recognise.  It is her reputation, as well as her freedom, that she is fighting for in court.   

Bold, brilliant and intriguing, Reputation packs a punchThis is a book you need to read. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sarah Vaughan read English at Oxford and went on to become a journalist. After training at the Press Association, she spent eleven years at the Guardian as a news reporter and political correspondent before leaving to freelance and write fiction. Anatomy of a Scandal, her 3rd novel and her first courtroom drama/psychological thriller, combined these experiences and became an instant international bestseller, and Sunday Times top five bestseller. Translated into 22 languages, it was also a kindle number 1 bestseller, shortlisted for awards in the UK, France and Sweden, and filmed as a six-part Netflix mini-series, starring Sienna Miller, Michelle Dockery, and Rupert Friend. It will be transmitted in spring 2022.

Little Disasters has also been optioned for the screen, was a Waterstone’s thriller of the month, WH Smith paperback of the month, Kindle bestseller, and has been published in the US and various other countries. She is currently working on her fifth novel

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Amazon*| Bookshop.org*
*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

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2022

BLOG TOUR: Wahala by Nikki May

Published: January 6th 2022
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Psychological Fiction, Crime Fiction, Contemporary Novel, Domestic Fiction, Urban Fiction, Political Fiction, Romance Novel
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this sensational debut. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in the tour and to Doubleday for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

SEX AND THE CITY with a killer edge for fans of QUEENIE, EXPECTATION and MY SISTER, THE SERIAL KILLER

SOON TO BE A MAJOR BBC TV SERIAL

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Ronke, Simi, Boo are three mixed-race friends living in London.
They have the gift of two cultures, Nigerian and English.
Not all of them choose to see it that way.

Everyday racism has never held them back, but now in their thirties, they question their future. Ronke wants a husband (he must be Nigerian); Boo enjoys (correction: endures) stay-at-home motherhood; while Simi, full of fashion career dreams, rolls her eyes as her boss refers to her urban vibe yet again.

When Isobel, a lethally glamorous friend from their past arrives in town, she is determined to fix their futures for them.

Cracks in their friendship begin to appear, and it is soon obvious Isobel is not sorting but wrecking. When she is driven to a terrible act, the women are forced to reckon with a crime in their past that may just have repeated itself.

Explosive, hilarious and wildly entertaining, this razor-sharp tale of love, race and family will have you laughing, crying and gasping in horror. Fearlessly political about class, colourism and clothes, the spellbinding Wahala is for anyone who has ever cherished friendship, in all its forms.

PICKED AS ONE OF STYLIST MAGAZINE’S ‘FICTION BOOKS YOU CAN’T MISS OF 2022’

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MY REVIEW:

Wahala is a Nigerian Pidgin word meaning ‘trouble’, and there is trouble aplenty in this exciting debut. 

A story of friendship, family, identity, race and secrets, Wahala is narrated by three friends: Ronke, Simi and Boo.  Now living in London, the trio met at university in Bristol and bonded over being of Nigerian and English descent.  Their shared dual heritage made them outsiders and created a connection that they thought was unbreakable.  But when Isobel, a childhood friend of Simi from Lagos, comes into their lives, cracks in their friendships soon begin to appear and  soon all four women are forced to confront their darkest secrets and deepest vulnerabilities.  Will their friendships survive?

Wow!  What a sensational debut.  This book has a great vibe from the start and is full of humour, warmth, chaos and tension, it pulled me in immediately and didn’t let go until the final page.  Nikki May brings her characters and their world to life in vivid technicolour, educating the reader on life in Nigeria and exploring how it feels to be mixed race while also making you laugh and feel entertained.  And the food.  I was so happy to find there are recipes for some of the traditional Nigerian cuisine that is mentioned as it made my mouth water and stomach rumble reading about it. 

A book like this is nothing without great characters and Ms. May has created an enthralling group of flawed, fascinating and fabulous women.  Ronke is a dentist who just wants to find Mr. Right and have babies.  She loves cooking, especially Nigerian food, and seems to be the heart of the group.  Simi is the glamorous one, at least until Isobel arrives.  She likes the finer things in life and cares about what others think of her, always keen to project a picture perfect image of her life even if it’s falling apart at the seams.  Boo is unsatisfied with her life and feels like the grass is always greener.  She loves her husband and child but feels stifled by them and wants something more.  And then there’s Isobel, newly divorced, vivacious and exuding confidence.  I liked her at first but it didn’t take long for me to realise that this woman was a sniper from the side.  I could see her calculating to come between these three friends but couldn’t figure out why or what she wanted.  And I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure it out.  They were all such fun to read and I loved how the author portrays many facets of womanhood and female friendship through these women. There is something that we can all relate to in some way.  

Entertaining and explosive, Wahala is the debut that everyone is going to be talking about.  I was thrilled to learn that it has already been picked up for TV because it is utterly bingeable.  Read it now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Born in Bristol, raised in Lagos, I’m proud to be Anglo-Nigerian. I ran a successful ad agency before turning to writing and now live in Dorset with my husband, two standard schnauzers, and way too many books.

My debut novel WAHALA was inspired by a long (and loud) lunch with friends. It will be published around the world in January 2022 and is being adapted into a major BBC TV drama.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*| Amazon*
*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

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Book Review: The Imperfect Art of Caring by Jessica Ryn

Published: November 25th, 2021
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Domestic Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my review of this heartwarming novel. Thank you to HQ for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

One small act can make a big difference

Violet Strong is strong by name but not by nature, or so she thinks. She listens but never talks about herself. She’s friendly but doesn’t have many real friends. She’s become good at keeping people at a distance ever since she left home at eighteen and never looked back.

But when Violet is forced to return home to care for her estranged mother, Glenys, she quickly finds out that life as a carer isn’t easy. Feeling overwhelmed, she’s forced to turn to the other local carers, including childhood friend, Adam, for help.

Although returning home still feels like a mistake, maybe it will help Violet right some wrongs. After all, she can’t keep running from her past forever, and in learning to look after others, perhaps Violet can start to finally love herself…

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MY REIVEW:

“Not everyone’s burdens are visible, lots are inside. Trapped. Unseen.”

Sometimes you pick up a book and it is exactly what you need.  That was the case when I decided to read this book on a whim at the weekend.  Uplifting, heartwarming and tender, this book warmed me from the inside like a bowl of porridge on a cold day. 

This is a story of friendship, community and forgiveness.  A story about loving yourself and how there is joy to be found in helping those around us.  The protagonist, Violet, is forced to move back home to care for the mother she’s not spoken to for 14 years, bringing her face to face with the people and place that she has been running from all that time.  The terrible mistake she made haunts her every minute of the day and has left her feeling that she is Bad News and better off alone.  Forced to face her demons, can Violet learn to forgive and love herself?  

I was a big fan of Jessica Ryn’s debut novel so I was highly anticipating this one.  She has a talent for enveloping important life lessons and social commentary in a heartwarming tale, executing it to perfection once more with this novel. Exquisitely written, it draws you into Violet’s world with descriptive, vivid imagery that makes the story leap from the page.  I was mesmerised. Ms. Ryn has solidified her place on my list of auto-buy authors with this book for sure. 

There is a compelling cast of characters who I loved; each one richly drawn and memorable.  I loved Violet and was thrilled that the author made her a book blogger as it immediately gave me a connection to her.  I enjoyed the many literary references throughout the book and how she finds solace in the pages of what she reads, something  I’m sure we can all relate to. She is a wonderful character and I was desperate to know what she could have possibly done that was worth such self-recrimination.  I also had a real soft spot for Tammy and enjoyed watching her blossom as the story went on. 

Charming, warm and affecting, this is a hug in book form that will give you all the feels.  The perfect read to snuggle under a blanket with this winter. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Jessica Ryn is a former midwife and homeless resettlement worker. She has recently completed her MA in Creative Writing at CCCU, and her stories have been shortlisted for the Kimberly Chambers’ Kickstarter Award, Wordsmag and the Val Wood Prize for Creative Writing. When she’s not scribbling away, Jessica can be found meandering through the woods, reading stories that pull on the feel-strings and eating yoghurt-covered skittles. Jessica lives in Dover with her husband, two children and their high-spirited springer spaniel. The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside is her debut novel and her second book, The Imperfect Art of Caring, will be published in November.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles Emma xxx

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book reviews

Review: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Published: February 4th, 2016
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Domestic Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

SYNOPSIS:

A #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE & THE WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION

An exquisite story of mothers and daughters from the Pulitzer prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge

Lucy is recovering from an operation in a New York hospital when she wakes to find her estranged mother sitting by her bed. They have not seen one another in years. As they talk Lucy finds herself recalling her troubled rural childhood and how it was she eventually arrived in the big city, got married and had children. But this unexpected visit leaves her doubting the life she’s made: wondering what is lost and what has yet to be found.

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MY REVIEW:

“Lonely was the first flavor I had tasted in my life, and it was always there, hidden in the crevices of my mouth, reminding me.” 

When I picked up this book I did so out of duty; I am on the blog tour for the follow up and thought I should read this one first. While I’d heard great things and even read a review that day that had me feeling more excited to read it, I still wasn’t sure. It was about getting this one out of the way. I was unprepared for the masterpiece I was about to read. A book that captivated me so completely that I devoured it in one sitting over just a few hours, unable to tear myself away from the mesmerising story between its pages.

Set in New York in the 1980s, this is a story of not only mothers and daughters, but the human condition and its trials and tribulations. Lucy Barton is recovering from an operation when she wakes to find her estranged mother by her bedside. The two have always had a difficult relationship, which the author explores throughout the book. Lucy yearns for her mother’s love and recognition, feeling like she has never received either from her. As the pair talk, she finds herself looking back at her life, particularly her impoverished childhood in a small, rural town. It is a childhood filled with neglect, hunger, abuse and isolation, the scars faded, but still visible on her soul. This angst-ridden inner turmoil is cleverly juxtaposed with the lighthearted gossip and banter mother and daughter share as they talk, ensuring the story never feels too heavy.

After reading this book it is easy to see why Elizabeth Strout is so lauded and has won prestigious awards. The prose is unique and it almost feels that the protagonist is rambling, just blurting out things about her life without a filter. But it totally works. And the reason it works is because the writing is exquisite, pulling me into the world she had crafted and holding me captive until the final page. She has a new fan in this reader for sure.

Beautiful, haunting and evocative, this chilled story is one that will stay with me. My only frustration is why on earth I waited so long to read it. If you haven’t, then don’t wait any longer. Read it now! I promise you won’t regret it.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

th Strout is the author of the New York Times bestseller Olive Kitteridge, for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; the national bestseller Abide with Me; and Amy and Isabelle, winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. She has also been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in London. She lives in Maine and New York City.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles☺️ Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Next of Kin by Kia Abdullah

Published: September 2nd, 2021
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Legal Thriller, Legal Story, Domestic Fiction, Political Thriller,
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

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

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SYNOPSIS:

ON AN ORDINARY WORKING DAY…

Leila Syed receives a call that cleaves her life in two. Her brother-in-law’s voice is filled with panic. His son’s nursery has called to ask where little Max is.

YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE…

Leila was supposed to drop Max off that morning. But she forgot.

Racing to the carpark, she grasps the horror of what she has done.

IS ABOUT TO COME TRUE…

What follows is an explosive, high-profile trial that will tear the family apart. But as the case progresses it becomes clear there’s more to this incident than meets the eye…

A gripping, brave and tense courtroom drama, Next of Kin will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final, heart-stopping page.

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MY REVIEW:

Next of Kin examines a truly devastating tragedy: the accidental death of a child caused by his loving aunt. She claims she forgot he was in the back of the car but the prosecution says she left him there deliberately. Who is telling the truth?

Authors take note, because THIS is how you write a gripping legal thriller. Once again, Abdullah takes a shocking crime and puts a thought-provoking spin on things. This trope is proving to be her signature and forte; executed to perfection each time as she makes you ponder the grey areas of a crime, holds you hostage in breathless anticipation, and throws in some shocking twists. 

The book opens with a normal family get together that quickly gives way to crushing and heartbreaking scenes as three-year-old Max dies after being left in a hot car by his Aunt, Leila. As we learn his fate the pain and anguish is palpable. It is like  you can actually feel their hearts shattering. Tears stung my eyes and my heart ached as I read. The emotions continue to leap from the pages as the family try to deal with Max’s tragic death, Leila’s possible guilt, the impending court case, and an array of family secrets lurking in the shadows. 

Every facet of this book is spectacularly written. The story and characters are nuanced, compelling and full of depth. As with all this author’s books, this is a story that has many layers and deals with a multitude of topics, going beyond simply the crime that took place. At the heart of this book is a family who have been visited by tragedy many times. She explores the effect this has on mental health and how trauma and jealousy can affect our perception of people and events, often clouding our ability to see things clearly. She asks just how much someone can take before they break and examines the complicated threads that can both hold a family together and threaten to tear it apart. 

Another aspect of Ms. Abdullah’s books I admire, is how she uses them as a social commentary, focusing on a different issue in each one. In Next of Kin it is childless women. Leila isn’t a mother, and through this she explores how it feels to be a childless woman in our society. She shows how these women are scorned, viewed as cold and selfish and looked down upon. In Leila’s case, her childlessness is even used against her as a reason she’d want to kill her nephew, adding to the already pervading sense of injustice you feel on her behalf.

Sizzling with tension, this book will keep you on the edge of your seat right until the last page, the author slowly peeling away the layers to reveal the hidden truth. And just when I thought I’d got it all figured out… Holy twist, Batman! In comes a curve ball that hits like a bomb and blows everything I thought I knew into pieces. Days later I’m still reeling from the shock. 

Gritty, hard-hitting and addictive, this is one of the best legal thrillers I’ve ever read. Ms. Abdullah just keeps getting better and better and is now my go-to author recommendation in this genre, overtaking John Grisham, who I’ve been a huge fan of since my mid teens. If you haven’t read her books, then what are you waiting for? Do it now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

From the author’s website:
Kia Abdullah is an author and travel writer from London. Her novel Take It Back was named one of the best thrillers of the year by The Guardian and Telegraph and was selected for an industry-first audio serialisation by HarperCollins and The Pigeonhole. Her follow-up novel, Truth Be Told, is out now (Mar 2021, HarperCollins).

Kia has written for The New York TimesThe GuardianThe FTThe Telegraphthe BBC and The Times, and is the founder of Asian Booklist, a nonprofit that advocates for diversity in publishing. 

Born in Tower Hamlets in East London, Kia was raised in a family of eight children. As the most stubborn of six daughters, she constantly found herself in trouble for making choices that clashed with her parents’, a habit they came to accept when she became their first and only child to graduate from university – with a degree in Computer Science.

In 2007, Kia left her job in tech to pursue the one thing she had always wanted: a career as a writer, taking a 50% pay cut in the process. She worked as sub-editor and later features editor at Asian Woman Magazine where she interviewed British-Asian luminaries like Riz Ahmed, Meera Syal, Nitin Sawnhey and Anoushka Shankar. 

Kia went on to join global publisher Penguin Random House where she helped grow digital readership at Rough Guides to over a million users per month. In 2014, she quit her day job to found Atlas & Boots, an outdoor travel blog now read by 250,000 people a month. 

Today, she splits her time between London and the Yorkshire Dales town of Richmond, and spends her time writing, hiking, mentoring pupils from Tower Hamlets and visiting far-flung destinations for Atlas & Boots.

Kia loves to travel, hates to cook and periodically highlights that, in actual fact, she is one of nine children (one passed away), making her Seven of Nine… which is cool but only if you’re a Star Trek fan… which she is. But please don’t hold it against her.

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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 Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: The Hidden Child by Louise Fein

Published: September 2nd, 2021
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance Novel, Domestic Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this extraordinary piece of historical fiction. Thank you to Head of Zeus for the invitation to take part in the blog tour and the gifted limited edition proof copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

From the outside, Eleanor and Edward Hamilton have the perfect life, but they’re harbouring a secret that threatens to fracture their entire world.

London, 1929.

Eleanor Hamilton is a dutiful mother, a caring sister and an adoring wife to a celebrated war hero. Her husband, Edward, is a pioneer in the eugenics movement. The Hamiltons are on the social rise, and it looks as though their future is bright.

When Mabel, their young daughter, begins to develop debilitating seizures, they have to face an uncomfortable truth: Mabel has epilepsy – one of the ‘undesirable’ conditions that Edward campaigns against.

Forced to hide their daughter away so as to not jeopardise Edward’s life’s work, the couple must confront the truth of their past – and the secrets that have been buried.

Will Eleanor and Edward be able to fight for their family? Or will the truth destroy them?

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MY REVIEW:

A perfect family is fractured and torn apart when illness invades their lives and not only tests their strength, but makes them question their core beliefs and values in this extraordinary piece of historical fiction. 

Powerful, moving, thought-provoking and illuminating, this book will leave you a different person to the one who began reading. It will break your heart, make you question humanity, and then give you back your hope. Exquisitely crafted, the story is written with heart and compassion, somehow finding beauty in the most ugly of subjects. I won’t pretend this isn’t hard to read in places; characters talk about ideals that are reprehensible, make plans that sickened me and spoke vile words about some of the most vulnerable members of our society, and that is hard to digest. But these things are taken from history. And it is important to remember, recognise and learn from them. It is also a reminder that these things aren’t black and white, but nuanced, and that the best stories and lessons in life are sometimes found in the shades of grey. 

The Hidden Child explores a part of British history that has been swept under the rug for decades. When we think of eugenics most of us will think of it in the context of Nazi Germany and the horrors of the Holocaust. But through this story, which begins eleven years before the start of WW2, the author strips bare the walls of secrecy to highlight our own country’s history with the Eugenics Movement. Something I was completely ignorant of before reading this book. I had no idea that the movement was born in England at the end of the nineteenth century, or how widespread it was in the beginning of the 1900s. It felt particularly poignant for me to be reading this on September 3rd, the 82nd anniversary of the beginning of WW2. To read as characters, some of whom were real people in history, discussing these ideas like they were saving the human race was stomach-churning and sobering. This was ableism at its peak and was terrifying to read, particularly as someone who would have then been dismissed as an ‘undesirable’. The so-called treatments Mabel is subjected to are barbaric and were the hardest scenes for me to read. It made me so grateful for how far we have come in our treatment of epilepsy and mental illness in the past hundred years and serves as a potent reminder that it is not solely monsters who are responsible for the most awful and shocking times in history, but ordinary, and often admired, people too. 

Edward and Eleanor Hamilton lived a charmed life. They are a wealthy, well respected couple with everything going for them. But this begins to fall apart when their five-year-old daughter Mabel begins to suffer fits. Staunch supporters of the Eugenics Movement, this, and her subsequent Epilepsy diagnosis, rocks their world. How can their perfect, healthy daughter be one of the ‘undesirables’ they campaign against? Instinctively, they hide Mabel away and keep her condition secret. This unfolding nightmare takes them on a harrowing and heart-wrenching journey of self discovery. One filled with privilege, moral superiority, uncomfortable truths, reprehensible actions and regret. As they battle her condition and try to keep their lives from falling apart, they find themselves questioning everything they thought they knew to be true. Could what they believed about those who are ‘defective’ be wrong? 

Despite their awful beliefs, it is impossible not to feel empathy for this couple. For me, this is a real testimony to the skill of the author’s writing, as she manages to convey both disgust at their beliefs and some of their actions, and empathy as they watch their daughter suffer and attempt to make sense of what is happening. You feel their utter disbelief and devastation at her diagnosis, their heartbreak as they do what they believe is right. Through their backstories we come to understand how they were drawn to eugenics, though Edward’s past is shrouded in shadows that take much longer to come to light. And by giving them both a voice, the author allows the reader a glimpse into the thoughts and feelings they keep to themselves, revealing a fuller picture and giving us a greater understanding of them.

There is an increasing sense of claustrophobia as the secrets , isolation and fear close in around not only Eleanor and Edward, but young Mabel too.  We never get the story from her perspective, instead the author takes a much more striking, and creative route, giving a voice and persona to the illness itself. This was my favourite element of the book. As someone with multiple chronic illnesses, I related to this on a very personal level. Illnesses do feel like they have their own personalities and unique voices that only you can hear. The author eloquently conveys this through Epilepsy’s enlightening and evocative chapters. It was a powerful and moving master stroke that really makes the book stand out. 

This was my first foray into reading this author’s books and has immediately secured her a place on my must-read list and that of authors I recommend everybody read. The book is meticulously researched and brimming with emotion. I couldn’t put it down. A masterful storyteller, she has merged her own personal knowledge and experience with fiction and historical fact to create a book that is simply breathtaking.

Affecting, immersive, atmospheric and compelling, The Hidden Child is an absolute triumph. A story of love, loss, hope and redemption, it is a  reminder that we must stand up against prejudice and those who promote it. Everyone needs to read this book, including the unmissable author’s note at the end. I would love to see this book added to school reading lists so that the next generation can heed its warnings and learn the lessons on its pages.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Louise writes twentieth century historical fiction, based around unheard voices, or from unusual perspectives.

Her debut novel, PEOPLE LIKE US (entitled DAUGHTER OF THE REICH in the US/Canada edition) and first published in 2020 into 13 territories, is set in 1930’s Leipzig, seen through the eyes of a young girl, Hetty, brainwashed into believing the Nazi dream, until that is, she encounters Walter, a Jew. The book was shortlisted for the RSL Christopher Bland Prize 2021 and the RNA Historical Novel of the Year Award, 2021.

Louise’s second novel, THE HIDDEN CHILD, will be published in the UK in September 2021 and the US and Canada in October 2021, and is the story of Edward and Eleanor, firm believers in the widely held pseudo-science of Eugenics, who firmly believe in genetic superiority. Their world is shattered, however, when their young daughter, Mabel, develops debilitating seizures.

Louise lives in Surrey with her husband, children, two naughty cats and small dog Bonnie, who is the best writing companion she could ask for. Always at her side when she writes and listens most patiently when Louise needs to talk through a tricky plot problem. She is currently working on her third novel. 

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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: She’s Mine by A. A. Chaudhuri

Published: August 18th, 2021
Publisher: Hera Books
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Psychological Thriller, Domestic Fiction, Urban Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this mind-blowing thriller. Thank you to Hera Books for the ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Her missing daughter was just the start of the nightmare

Twenty years ago, Christine Donovan took a call she should have ignored while shopping. In those few seconds while her back was turned, her toddler, Heidi, was kidnapped. She’s never been seen again.

Despite having two other children with husband Greg, Christine remains guilt-stricken that her neglect caused her child to be stolen, while haunted by a secret that consumes her.

Just as she takes measures to finally heal, a note is posted through her door, with the words she has always longed to hear: Heidi isn’t dead.

Christine might finally get the answers she craves – but what she doesn’t know is that finding her daughter will uncover dark secrets close to home.

In seeking the truth, Christine might destroy everything that she loves … so how far is she willing to go to find Heidi?

With a truly jaw-dropping end twist, She’s Mine is a dark, scandalous, and gripping read from a major new talent in psychological thriller writing. For fans of Harriet Tyce, C.L. Taylor and Apple Tree Yard.

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MY REVIEW:

Secrets. Lies. Deceit. Vengeance. A mother’s worst nightmare come true. These are the things at the heart of this twisty psychological thriller. Like an iceberg, there is much more to this story than at first appears; layers hidden beneath the surface that slowly reveal themselves to the reader. Intricately woven and expertly plotted, the author skillfully crafts a hall of smoke and mirrors where nothing is quite what it seems and each time you think you have it figured out, that things couldn’t get any more dark, sinister or shocking, Chaudhuri pulls the rug from under you and leaves your jaw on the floor. 

Utterly mind-blowing and addictive, this is exactly the kind of dark and twisted thriller that sings to me. A story oozing with atmosphere that has tension leaping from the pages. It takes you on a wild ride, your heart pounding as you immerse yourself in this convoluted game of revenge. My mind was full of so many theories and suspicions, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough, unable to turn away as things spiraled more and more out of control. But would I be proven correct or be blindsided by the truth? I couldn’t wait to find out. 

The author tells the story from multiple points of view and various timelines, seamlessly shifting between them and creating a connection between the reader and each character. It offered us a glimpse of the fuller picture. An insight into the character’s true selves. What they really think and feel. The things they kept secret from those closest to them. It allows us to explore their deepest, darkest memories, dreams and fantasies in a way that wouldn’t have been possible if we’d only had one or two points of view. 

What I think I loved most about this story is the complex, fractured and unlikeable characters. No one is completely innocent. And no one is completely guilty. A miasma of despair surrounding them.  It is a hard feat to pull off writing so many unlikeable characters while also making them compelling, but Chaudhuri does so with finesse, managing to add sympathetic qualities to even the most detestable characters. A great example of this is Chrissy. As the mother of the missing child you would traditionally expect her to be a very likeable, sympathetic character. But she’s not. She repeatedly makes bad choices and is a selfish woman who made me frustrated and angry most of the time. 

She’s Mine is a dark, devious, warped and suspenseful psychological thriller that quite honestly blew my mind.  And that ending: Wow! It was impossible to predict, my jaw was on the floor when the kidnapper was unmasked and the truth was revealed. This is by far one of the best thrillers I’ve read in a long time. If you like this genre then READ THIS BOOK. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

A. A. Chaudhuri is a former City lawyer. After gaining a degree in History at University College London, she later trained as a solicitor and worked for several major London law firms before leaving law to pursue her passion for writing. She is the author of The Scribe and The Abduction, books 1 and 2 of her Kramer & Carver legal thriller series featuring the feisty Maddy Kramer, also published in audio. Her first psychological thriller with Hera Books, She’s Mine, will be published in 18th August 2021. Represented by Annette Crossland of A for Authors Literary Agency, she lives in Surrey with her family, and loves films, all things Italian and a good margarita!

#1 Amazon Australia Amateur Sleuth Mysteries (Aug ’19); #1 Amazon Canada Women Sleuth Mysteries; (Aug ’19) top 10 Amazon UK Legal crime thrillers (Aug ’19); #1 Amazon Australia Legal Thrillers (November ’19)

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Amazon | Apple Books | Kobo
*This is an affiliate link

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Emma's Anticipated Treasures First Lines Friday

First Lines Friday

Welcome to First Lines Friday, where I share the first lines from one of the books on my shelves to try and tempt you to add it to yours. 

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“A long time ago, in another country, I nearly killed a woman.
It’s a particular feeling, the urge to murder. First comes rage, greater than any you’ve every imagined. It takes over your body so completely it’s like a divine force, grabbing hold of your will, your limbs, your psyche. It coveys a strength you never knew you possessed. Your hands, harmless until now, rise up to squeeze another person’s life away. There’s a joy to it. In retrospect, it’s frightening, but in the moment, it feels sweet, the way justice feels sweet.”

Today’s first lines are taken from The Christie Affair by Nina De Gramont one of my most anticipated books of 2022. This intriguing novel, based on the real-life disappearance of Agatha Christie in 1926, is published January 20th and I was fortunate to receive an amazing package with the book and themed goodies recently. Thank you to Mantle books for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

In 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days. Only I know the truth of her disappearance.

I’m no Hercule Poirot.

I’m her husband’s mistress.

Agatha Christie’s world is one of glamorous society parties, country house weekends, and growing literary fame.

Nan O’Dea’s world is something very different. Her attempts to escape a tough London upbringing during the Great War led to a life in Ireland marred by a hidden tragedy.

After fighting her way back to England, she’s set her sights on Agatha. Because Agatha Christie has something Nan wants. And it’s not just her husband.

Despite their differences, the two women will become the most unlikely of allies. And during the mysterious eleven days that Agatha goes missing, they will unravel a dark secret that only Nan holds the key to . . .

The Christie Affair is a stunning novel that reimagines the unexplained eleven-day disappearance of Agatha Christie in 1926, which captivated the world.

Pre-order the book here*

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Nina de Gramont’s latest novel, The Christie Affair, will be available In February, 2022. She is the author of a collection of short stories, Of Cats and Men, as well as the novels Gossip of the Starlings and The Last September. She has written several YA novels (Every Little Thing in the World, Meet Me at the River, The Boy I Love, and — under the pen name Marina Gessner — The Distance From Me to You). Nina teaches creative writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She lives in coastal North Carolina with her daughter and her husband, the writer David Gessner.

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Have I tempted you to read this book? Let me know in the comments.

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. See you next week for more first lines xxx

*This is an affiliate link

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: Olympus, Texas by Stacey Swann

Published: July 8th, 2021
Publisher: W&N
Genre: Humour, Domestic Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my review of Olympus, Texas. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and W&N for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

When March Briscoe returns to East Texas two years after he was caught having an affair with his brother’s wife, the Briscoe family becomes once again the talk of the small town of Olympus. His mother, June, hardly welcomes him back with open arms: her husband’s own past affairs have made her tired of being the long-suffering spouse. Is it, perhaps, time for a change?

But within days of March’s arrival, someone is dead, marriages are upended, and even the strongest of alliances are shattered. In the end, the ties that hold the Briscoes together might be exactly what drag them all down.

An expansive tour de force, Olympus, Texas combines the archetypes of Greek and Roman mythology with the psychological complexity of a messy family. After all, at some point, we all wonder: what good is this destructive force we call love?

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MY REVIEW:

“Our reactions to most things are much muddier than we admit. Yours don’t have to be all good or evil. They just are what they are.” 

A steadily paced family saga that takes place over six days, Olympus, Texas overflows with tension, drama and emotion. It follows the Briscoe family, who are not only the wealthiest family of their smalltown, but possibly it’s most dysfunctional; their complex history woven into smalltown lore.

The Briscoes are a fractious, fractured and warring family. A labyrinthine entanglement of love, lies, pain, deception and regret. A family full of deep wounds they don’t know how to heal. Elegantly written, the author makes the emotions leap from the page and immerses you in their lives as she tells the story in the present day with flashbacks that explain their history in greater detail. These chapters have titles that begin with ‘The Origin of…’, offering a deeper glimpse into their family dynamics. It helped me understand their behaviours and sympathise with their perspectives.

The characters are richly drawn, nuanced and compelling, the author experly evoking feelings of sympathy and making me root for them, while also making me dislike them and even making me angry. No one is all good or all bad in this story, it is about the shades of grey that are much more uncomfortable to see. I felt like this was most evident in March, who is seen as the black sheep of the family. A role he partly deserves from his own bad choices and behaviour. But we also see the pain raging inside him, how he wants to be better but just doesn’t know how to change.

A fascinating and thought-provoking read, Olympus, Texas is an atmospheric, tense, engaging and emotional debut that explores family, flaws and forgiveness. I would definitely recommend adding this to your tbr.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

STACEY SWANN holds an M.F.A. from Texas State University and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Her fiction has appeared in Epoch, Memorious, Versal, and other journals, and she is a contributing editor of American Short Fiction. She is a native Texan.

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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 other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours Book Features

Blog Tour – Extract: The House of Whispers by Anna Kent

Published: August 5th, 2021
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Ghost Story, Supernatural Fiction, Domestic Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio

Today I’m delighted to share and extract from this creepy psychological thriller. Thank you to Becky at Midas PR for the invitation to take part and HQ for the eBook ARC.

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EXTRACT:

PROLOGUE:

Transcript of interview with Mr Rohan Allerton, husband of Abigail Allerton: 20 December 2019

‘So, let’s rewind right to the beginning. When was it that you first suspected that something might be wrong?’
‘It’s really hard to say. Abi’s always been a bit of an oddball.
It’s what I love about her. She has what I call… “quirks”, but I put that down to her being so talented. You know she’s an artist?
Her work is sublime, and I always think that, with such talent, comes a degree of… [cough] “individuality”? “Uniqueness”? [pause] I guess what I’m saying is that it’s hard to tell where that ended and… Look: I thought things were pretty normal, given that one of us was an artist. I wasn’t looking for signs. I wasn’t on high alert.’
‘But if you had to pin it down? How long ago are we talking?’
‘I guess last summer. Do you remember how hot it was? God.
Our house is old. It traps the heat. It rises, right up to the attic where she works. Maybe that had something to do with it. Stuck up there all day, stewing in the heat. I don’t know. Even my mum said she wasn’t herself.’
‘And did she have any ideas on what might be the root of the problem?’
[Laughs] ‘Let’s not go there! But, yeah, I suppose it was the summer when I knew something was up with Abi. I felt she might be hiding something from me… To be honest, I thought she might be pregnant.’
‘And would that be a problem? Something you would describe as “wrong”?’
‘Oh God, no. Not at all. It would be right. All right. We’ve been trying for over a year.’
‘I see. But she wasn’t pregnant?’
‘No. She wasn’t pregnant.’


One

I didn’t tell Rohan straight away that Grace was coming back. The morning that I got her email, I started to tell him, but then I held the thought inside me, like a breath. Inviting her to stay with us was a huge decision. I knew it would change everything.
It was 7.30 a.m. and already the air in the kitchen was stifling; residual heat from the long days of the heatwave was an unwelcome guest trapped in the ceilings and walls of the house, like a ghost.
London was suffocating.
‘Darling,’ I’d begun, thinking at that point that I would tell him – not just about Grace, but everything – the whole story.
Ridiculous, really, but it was honestly what I was thinking that sweltering morning. We were sitting at the small table in the kitchen, and the back door was propped open to suck in what reluctant breeze there might be. I was nursing a coffee and my husband, ready in his work shirt, his silk tie slung over his shoulder, was eating scrambled eggs on toast. Already I could see the fabric of his shirt darkening under his arms.
But he hadn’t heard me. Maybe I hadn’t said it loud enough; maybe I hadn’t said it out loud at all – I don’t like to think he ignored me. The unresolved issue of what we were going to do about New York hung in the air between us, crackling like an electrical charge. I was still upset with him and he knew it. The fine hairs on my forearms tickled under a sheen of sweat. A fly, gleaming metallic blue, circled lazily over the fruit bowl. The
coffee made me sweat more; I pushed it away.
‘So, what are you up to today?’ Rohan said. ‘More pets?’ He shook his head and tutted, but he was smiling. ‘I don’t know why you do it. You should be focusing on your real work: going to galleries, looking at books – I don’t know. Nobody ever got inspired painting dogs. And no gallery ever bought Rufus – the Series.’ He laughed.
I closed my eyes as I let out an imperceptible sigh. We’d been here before. ‘As Picasso said,’ I told him, ‘“inspiration exists – but it has to find us working.”’
Rohan moved his head in time with the words; he’d heard that before, too.
‘I’m doing a home visit today,’ I said.
His eyebrows shot up. ‘A home visit?’
‘Yep.’
Rohan looked at me then, his head tilted; the ghost of a frown lining his forehead. ‘I thought they were supposed to upload photos. Wasn’t that the whole point of the website?’ He shook his head and smiled indulgently. ‘You’re too soft.’ I went over to him and put my hands on his shoulders, feeling the heat of his skin under his shirt as I gave him a little massage.
‘It’s a one-off.’
Rohan leaned back into my hands. ‘Yeah, that’s good. Right there.’ He groaned as my fingers released the tension in his muscles and I realized that, with one thing or another, we hadn’t touched properly for a day or two. That was unusual for us; New York really was taking a toll.
‘Look,’ Rohan said, ‘you’re the best judge, of course, but I really think you need to focus on your next collection and stop messing about. You’ve exhibited in London, hon. It was a sell-out! You can do it again!’ His voice softened. ‘You’re good.’ He reached up and squeezed my hands. ‘I hate it when you sell yourself short.’
He stood up and touched his lips to mine. The tension went out of me as I relaxed into the kiss and, for a few moments, there was no New York, no Grace, no house, no masterpiece waiting to be painted – just the feel of my husband’s mouth on mine and the familiar smell of his skin. But then he pulled away reluctantly, stroking a finger across my cheek as he did so.
‘Hold that feeling, gorgeous. Save it for tonight.’ His hand slid down my body, round my waist and across my bum. ‘I’ve got to run.’
He winked as he looked around for his keys and his briefcase, and that was it: the moment to bring up the topic of Grace was lost. But what I didn’t realize then was that the longer I held the information inside me, secret and burning, the harder it would be to tell him. Rohan didn’t know Grace, or the effect she had on me, but I did. I’d lived with her before.

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SYNOPSIS:

Once you let her in, she’ll never leave…

‘A nail-biting read that absolutely gripped me’ Susan Lewis
‘Haunting, dark and wonderfully atmospheric’ B A Paris
‘Utterly compelling’ Lesley Kara

Some secrets aren’t meant to be kept…

When Grace returns to Abi’s life, years after they fell out at university, Abi can’t help but feel uneasy. Years ago, Grace’s friendship was all-consuming and exhausting.

Now happily married, Abi’s built a new life for herself and put those days behind her. And yet as Grace slips back into her life with all the lethal charm she had before, Abi finds herself falling back under her spell…

Abi’s husband, Rohan, can’t help but be concerned as his wife’s behaviour changes. As their happy home threatens to fall apart, he realises that there’s something deeply unnerving about Grace. Just what influence does this woman have over his wife, and why has she come back now?

A chilling story of guilt and obsession from Anna Kent

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Anna Kent has worked as a journalist, magazine editor and book editor as well as enjoying a stint as a radio producer. She’s written for numerous publications at home and abroad, including the Daily Telegraph, where she was a contributor for six years. Brought up in the South East, she loves to travel while maintaining a base in Gloucestershire. She’s married with two children.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

********

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx