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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: The Clockwork Girl by Anna Mazzola

Published: March 3rd 2022
Publisher: Orion
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Adventure Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this magnificent and haunting gothic mystery. Thank you to Alex at Orion for the invitation to take part and ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Paris, 1750.

In the midst of an icy winter, as birds fall frozen from the sky, chambermaid Madeleine Chastel arrives at the home of the city’s celebrated clockmaker and his clever, unworldly daughter.

Madeleine is hiding a dark past, and a dangerous purpose: to discover the truth of the clockmaker’s experiments and record his every move, in exchange for her own chance of freedom.

For as children quietly vanish from the Parisian streets, rumours are swirling that the clockmaker’s intricate mechanical creations, bejewelled birds and silver spiders, are more than they seem.

And soon Madeleine fears that she has stumbled upon an even greater conspiracy. One which might reach to the very heart of Versailles…

A intoxicating story of obsession, illusion and the price of freedom.

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MY REVIEW:

“She knew then that the clockmaker might not be simply strange. He might well be something much worse.”

Paris, 1750.  Madeleine Casteel arrives at the home of Doctor Maximillian Reinhart, a clockmaker who is the talk of the city thanks to his strange and unique creations.  She has been tasked with spying on Reinhart’s every move in exchange for her own freedom.  But Madeleine soon finds that she may have stumbled upon a secret much darker than she imagined.  A secret that may go to the heart of Versailles and put her life in danger.

“She was tired of being told she was worth less than nothing by men who did nothing themselves.”

Macabre, haunting and suspenseful, this twisted gothic tale was everything I could have hoped for and more.  A story cloaked in the syrupy blackness of a sinister mystery, this is a much darker tale than I expected.  A story of a maid, a clockmaker, a King, a Courtesan and missing children.  It has something for everyone: true crime mixed with historical fiction, a dash of mystery and a sprinkle of feminism.  The addition of French language amongst the prose was a coupe de genie that perfected this magnificent and original tale.  

My love for historical fiction is no secret and one of my favourite things about it is how much I learn while being entertained.  I know relatively little about the time and place this story is set in but the author’s meticulous research and evocative imagery transported me back to the bleak streets of 18th Century Paris so vividly that I could see the buildings leaning into one another, and the beggars in the shadows, hear the horses as they pulled their carriages full of passengers and smell the filth.  It was a time of corruption when humanity was forsaken in favour of wealth and power.  Men would use their position to control women, a theme that runs throughout the story as we see our three female narrators at the mercy of men with power no matter their position in society and feel powerless to change it.  

“Those things he makes, whatever it is he calls them – look at them closely. They’re impossible things, made with dark magic.” 

I love when a talented author takes an outlandish idea and runs with it successfully, which is what Anna Mazzola has done with this book.  Automata is a fascinating topic and through King Louis IV’s obsession with death, automata and reanimation and the fictitious Doctor Reinhart, the author explores how these astounding yet bizarre creations were both revered and feared, their ability to seemingly defy the laws of nature leading to whispers of witchcraft and black magic.  Combined with the mention of how children are quietly vanishing from the streets of Paris that is slowly dripped into the story this creates a chilling air of suspicion, menace and fear that hovers over every page.

Richly drawn, exquisitely told and intricately woven, The Clockwork Girl kept me guessing until the final pages, giving up its twisted secrets slowly, my heart racing in breathless anticipation as I read.  A spellbinding and unique story that I would highly recommend.

Rating:  ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Anna is a writer of historical thrillers and Gothic fiction. Her novels explore the impact of crime and injustice.

Her debut novel, The Unseeing, is based on the life of a real woman called Sarah Gale who was convicted of aiding a murder in London in 1837. It won an Edgar Allan Poe Award in the US and was nominated for the Historical Writers’ Association’s Debut Crown in the UK.

Her second novel, The Story Keeper, is out now. It follows a folklorist’s assistant as she searches out dark fairytales and stolen girls on the Isle of Skye in 1857. The Story Keeper  was nominated for the Highland Book Prize.

Her third novel, The Clockwork Girl, set in Paris in 1750 and based partly on the story of the vanishing children of Paris, will be published by Orion in March 2022. She is currently working on her fourth novel, a ghost story set in Fascist Italy.

As well as novels, Anna writes short stories. She is an accomplished public speaker and regularly speaks at and chairs literary events.

Anna is also a human rights and criminal justice solicitor, working with victims of crime. She lives in Camberwell, South London, with her family, a snake, a lizard and a cat.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Amazon* | Bookshop.org*
*This is an affiliate link

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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

BLOG TOUR: A Royal Murder by Verity Bright (Lady Eleanor Swift Mystery Book 9)

Published: February 28th 2022
Publisher: Bookouture
Genre: Cozy Mystery, Historical Mystery, Historical Romance, Historical Comedy
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this lively and entertaining romp. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

At the royal boat race there are beautiful barges, plenty of bunting, a handsome prince and… is that a body in the water? Lady Swift is on the case!

Spring, 1923. One-time adventurer and now amateur sleuth Lady Eleanor Swift is attending the annual royal regatta with her new pal Tipsy Fitzroy. Tipsy has Eleanor trussed up like a debutante in a new dress, determined to turn her into a proper society lady. Even Eleanor’s favourite companion, Gladstone the bulldog, has a new outfit for the occasion.

But the sparkling prize-giving ceremony is interrupted when the devilishly handsome host gulps his glass of champagne on stage and collapses to the floor. The victim is none other than the king’s cousin, Lord Xander Taylor-Howard. He was rumoured to be entangled in a rather dubious gambling ring, but did someone kill him instead of collecting his debt? Or was this simply an ill-timed tragic accident? Either way, a right royal scandal is afoot…

Sir Percival, the head of the royal police, asks Eleanor for her help investigating. He’d do anything to keep the story under wraps. She knows it will get her into hot water with a certain dapper Detective Seldon, but she’s determined to see justice done. However, as she digs deeper, she learns Lord Taylor-Howard was hiding more than one murky secret. It isn’t until she takes a closer look at the unfortunate royal’s shattered champagne flute that she stumbles upon just the clue she needs. But can she reel in the killer before her ship is sunk too?

A warm and witty 1920s mystery that cozy fans will just adore. Addictive reading for fans of T E Kinsey, Lee Strauss and Agatha Christie.

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MY REVIEW:

We’re back for another fun romp with my favourite aristocratic amateur sleuth.  For the ninth instalment in their Lady Eleanor Swift series, Verity Bright transport us back to Spring 1923 and the annual royal regatta, which Eleanor is attending with her new friend, Tipsy Fitzroy.  Tipsy is determined to turn Eleanor into a ‘proper’ Lady and find her a suitable man at the event.  But all thoughts of love and propriety are swiftly forgotten when Lord Xander Taylor-Howard, a minor member of the royal family, collapses at the prize-giving ceremony.  Though initially reluctant, Eleanor soon finds herself drawn into the investigation into Xander’s death, trying to identify the suspect and avoid a royal scandal.  But someone doesn’t appreciate Eleanor’s investigations and once again she finds herself in danger…

I have come to view this series as a real comfort read and it was the beginning of my journey into reading cosy mysteries, which I’d always previously thought would be too tame for my dark crime-loving soul.  The characters are a delight and I love the relationship between Lady Eleanor and her butler Clifford.  This witty crime-solving duo never fails to entertain me while keeping me glued to their latest mystery.  I am also deeply invested in her burgeoning romance with Chief Inspector Hugh Sleddon, which I’m hoping will head towards the happily-ever-after they deserve. 

Once again I was glued to the pages as Eleanor finds herself embroiled in yet another murder investigation.  The poor woman can’t seem to go anywhere without a dead body turning up!  This time she’s doing it for King and country as she tries to help avoid a royal scandal after the poisoning of a maverick minor royal.  Xander was charming but left a trail of potential scandal behind him, leaving a myriad of possible killers and motives.  It’s a tangled web to unravel, but if anyone can do it it’s Eleanor and Clifford.  I loved how much this story twisted and turned, taking me by surprise and revealing truths I never even considered.  

If you’re looking for a murder mystery that is also lively, witty and uplifting then pick up this book.  

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Confident woman at office with laptop computer, mobile phone, and schedule notebook.Gradients, Blending tool, Clipping mask is used.

Verity Bright is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing partnership that has spanned a quarter of a century. Starting out writing high-end travel articles and books, they published everything from self-improvement to humour, before embarking on their first historical mystery. They are the authors of the fabulous Lady Eleanor Swift Mystery series, set in the 1920s.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon*
*This is an affiliate link

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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

12 Audiobooks of Christmas Blog Tour: Murder Most Festive by Ava Moncrief

Published: December 1st 2021
Publisher: Vintage/Isis Audio
Genre: Mystery, Cozy Mystery, Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Crime Fiction, Holiday Fiction
Format: Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the 12 Audiobooks of Christmas Blog Tour. Thank you Danielle for the invitation to take part and to Isis Audio for the gifted audiobook.

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SYNOPSIS:

It’s Christmas at Westbury Manor and amateur detective Hugh Gaveston must unravel a fiendish mystery…

Christmas Eve, 1938. The Westbury family and assorted friends have gathered for another legendary celebration at their beautiful country house. The champagne flows, the silverware sparkles and upstairs the rooms are ready for their occupants.

But one bed will lie empty that night. On Christmas morning, David Campbell-Scott is found dead in the snow. There’s a pistol beside him and only one set of footprints.

Yet something doesn’t seem right to amateur sleuth Hugh Gaveston. Campbell-Scott had just returned from overseas with untold wealth – why would he kill himself? Hugh sets out to investigate…

‘If you’re a fan of historical mysteries, then Murder Most Festive should be at the top of your to-read list’ Cultured Vultures

Wonderfully atmospheric, with charming wit and brilliant plotting, Murder Most Festive is perfect for fans of Agatha Christie, M.C. Beaton and James Runcie’s Grantchester series.

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MY REVIEW:

It’s Christmas at Westbury Manor and amateur detective Hugh Gaveston must unravel a fiendish mystery…

On Christmas Eve 1938 the Westbury family and some of their friends have gathered for a celebration at their beautiful country house. Everyone is in the festive spirit as the champagne flows and Christmas games begin. But on Christmas morning, one of the guests is found dead in the snow. All clues seem to point to suicide, but ameutur sleuth Hugh Gaveston thinks that something is amiss. Could there be a killer in their midst?

I listened to this charming festive cozy mystery as part of the 12 Audiobooks of Christmas blog tour. While I admit that it took me a few chapters to get into it, once I did I enjoyed this story. The combination of the prose and narration came together to create a witty and atmospheric read that transported me back in time. It has a Christie-esque charm that I loved, making me feel like I was in an episode of Poirot. I was surprised to discover that this is Ava Moncrief’s first novel and I look forward to either reading or listening to more of her books.

A fabulous, fun and festive read, this is the ideal book to listen to this Christmas for anyone who enjoys historical fiction or cozy mysteries.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Ada Moncrieff was born in London and has lived in Madrid and Paris. She studied English at Cambridge University, and has worked in theatre, publishing and as a teacher. A Christmas Murder is her first novel.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Buy from The Reading House here

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

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles And Merry Christmas! Emma xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: The Red Monarch by Bella Ellis (Bronte Mysteries Book 3)

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Published: November 18th, 2021
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Mystery, Books Series
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the mesmerising and addictive The Red Monarch. Thank you to Steven at Hodder Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

The Brontë sisters’ first poetry collection has just been published, potentially marking an end to their careers as amateur detectors, when Anne receives a letter from her former pupil Lydia Robinson.

Lydia has eloped with a young actor, Harry Roxby, and following her disinheritance, the couple been living in poverty in London. Harry has become embroiled with a criminal gang and is in terrible danger after allegedly losing something very valuable that he was meant to deliver to their leader. The desperate and heavily pregnant Lydia has a week to return what her husband supposedly stole, or he will be killed. She knows there are few people who she can turn to in this time of need, but the sisters agree to help Lydia, beginning a race against time to save Harry’s life.

In doing so, our intrepid sisters come face to face with a terrifying adversary whom even the toughest of the slum-dwellers are afraid of . . . The Red Monarch.

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MY REVIEW:

“I am a bad man, Miss Bronte —the worst of them —but the Red Monarch is the devil himself.” 

The Bronte Mysteries and the escapades of the feisty and determined Bronte sisters are now a highlight of my autumn. The third book in this series, The Red Monarch, is another addictive, enthralling and witty novel that follows Charlotte, Emily and Anne in their alternative existence as lady detectors.

This time they have come to London to help Lydia Roxby, one of Anne’s former pupils, who was awoken a few nights ago by a gang of vicious thugs who took her husband Harry and demanded that she find and return their lost jewel within seven days or they would both be killed. With little to go on, it looks like an impossible task. But they soon make alliances with a couple of locals that lead them to the gang they are looking for. 

But they aren’t the only ones they need to fear. The sisters soon discover there is a much greater terror that looms over London: the Red Monarch. A man so evil that even the thugs fear him. A man whose name they dare not speak. Can the sisters find this illusive devil and save Harry and Lydia before it’s too late?

“As it happens, my sisters and I have found that even though we are but weak and feeble women, we can do most things that must be done entirely ourselves without the slightest bit of aid from any gentleman.”

Bella Ellis has done it again. As soon as I began reading I was enveloped in a sense of comfort that felt like a warm hug, the familiar writing, place and characters making me feel like I was coming home. Luscious prose and evocative imagery come together to create an atmospheric and vivid read that transports me back in time and makes me feel like I am there beside them as they do their detecting. It is so well written that I find myself completely caught up in the story and forgetting that they weren’t actually lady detectors. Though I wish they had been. 

The Brontes are the embodiment of the Yorkshire Moors so it was fascinating to see them out of their comfort zone and in the bleak, grimy streets of London this time around. I enjoyed seeing how they reacted to a different environment and being away from people who know them. It’s easy for us to forget how isolated even the most educated and well-read people would have been in somewhere such as Haworth at that time and how frightening a place like London would have been. We are so used to knowing about the most far flung corners of the world and seeing its wonders online or on TV that it is hard to imagine the impact travelling must have had on people back then. 

“Sir, if decent people never take a stand against encroaching dark, then soon the entire world will live in constant terror.” 

These three ladies now hold a piece of my heart and I feel like this series has given me a greater appreciation for who they really were and the ways they broke the mould. Though their escapades are fiction, their characters and other events in their lives are based in fact, allowing us to really get to the heart of who they are. Without this series I don’t think I’d have that knowledge or the passion it has sparked for them in my bookish heart. So I am forever thankful to Ms. Ellis for her genius in creating this series.

An addictive and mesmerising mystery, this was a joy to read from beginning to end. I just wish I didn’t have to wait a year for the next installment.  And, as I’ve said before, it is just crying out to be adapted for TV. BBC and Netflix: where are you? 

If you haven’t tried this series yet, then you are missing out.  What are you waiting for? Read it now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Bella Ellis is the Bronte inspired pen name for the award winning, Sunday Times bestselling author Rowan Coleman. A Bronte devotee for most of her life, Rowan is the author of fourteen novels including The Memory Book, The Summer of Impossible Things and The Girl at the Window.

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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 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

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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

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Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: Suspects by Lesley Pearse

Published: June 24th, 2021
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Saga, Thriller, Mystery, Domestic Fiction, Romance Novel, Historical Romance
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this entertaining whodunnit. Thank you to Megan at Midas PR for the invitation to take part and to Michael Joseph for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

What do you do when your dream home becomes your worst nightmare?
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Welcome to Willow Close, where everyone is a suspect . . .

On the day Nina and Conrad Best move into their new home in picture-perfect Willow Close, a body is discovered.

Hurrying inside with their belongings, they see horrified neighbours gather around the police cordon – one of the residents has been attacked and brutally killed in the woods.

When police start to interview the residents of the Close, they soon discover each neighbour harbours their own secrets. Because everyone on the Close is far from what they seem.

Nina and Conrad thought they’d found their dream home.

But have they moved into a nightmare . . . ?

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MY REVIEW:

Welcome to Willow Close, where everyone is a suspect…

Willow Close is a picture-perfect neighbourhood so idyllic that houses rarely come up for sale. Nina and Conrad feel lucky to have bought their new home on the close that backs onto a lush wooded area. But on the day they move in, the body of a young girl is discovered in the woods.

Thirteen-year-old Chloe Church had lived on Willow Close all her life and the residents are shocked to hear about her brutal murder in the woods that surround their homes. Suspicions quickly flare as neighbour suspects neighbour. And as the police investigate it soon becomes clear that Willow Close is a place full of secrets where many of the residents aren’t what they appear to be and anyone could be the killer…

Suspects is a steadily paced whodunnit with an atmosphere full of suspicion. An ensemble piece told in the third person, it reads like a darker version of Neighbours. The author introduces us to the residents of Willow Close, slowly unveiling the secrets they are hiding behind their picture-perfect facades: dodgy dealings, unhappy lives and crumbling marriages. I genuinely couldn’t pinpoint a suspect, instead being suspicious of everyone.

I admit that I struggled to get into the book at first. Focusing on everyone in the Close felt like it took away the tension and made it hard to connect with any of the characters. But about half way through the tension rises and I felt like I’d got to know the characters enough to care about them. It was at this point I felt like the murder became the focus of the story, rather than the drama of the lives of the residents, which also made it more gripping. 

The residents of Willow Close are a varied cast of characters. We get to know the life and backstory of each one in depth over the course of the book; some of which are wildly entertaining, while others are more mundane and ‘normal’. I loved Conrad and Nina and could have happily read more of the story from their perspective. I also had a soft spot for Janice, who was a warm and genuine character. The author wrote some fantastic villains and I often wanted to slap Trudy, Rose and Dee, with Dee being particularly callous, calculating and vile. 

This was my first foray into this author’s books and I would definitely read more. An entertaining story that explores what makes people tick and what is really going on behind our neighbours’ doors, I would recommend this for those who like their mysteries without the gore. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

International bestselling author Lesley Pearse has lived a life as rich with incidents, setbacks and joys as any found in her novels. After her mother died, Lesley spent three years in an orphanage before she was taken home when her father remarried. Resourceful, determined and willing to have a go at almost anything Lesley left home at sixteen. By the mid Sixties she was living in London, sharing flats, partying hard and married a trumpet player in a Jazz rock band. She has also worked as a nanny, a Playboy bunny and designed and made clothes to sell to boutiques. It was only after having three daughters that Lesley began to write. The hardships, traumas, close friends and lovers from those early years were inspiration for her beloved novels. She published her first book at 49 and has not looked back since. Lesley is still a party girl.

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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 blog tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: The Plague Letters by V. L. Valentine

Published: April 1st, 2021
Publisher: Viper Books
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Thriller

SYNOPSIS:

WHO WOULD MURDER THE DYING…

London, 1665. Hidden within the growing pile of corpses in his churchyard, Rector Symon Patrick discovers a victim of the pestilence unlike any he has seen before: a young woman with a shorn head, covered in burns, and with pieces of twine delicately tied around each wrist and ankle.

Desperate to discover the culprit, Symon joins a society of eccentric medical men who have gathered to find a cure for the plague. Someone is performing terrible experiments upon the dying, hiding their bodies amongst the hundreds that fill the death carts.

Only Penelope – a new and mysterious addition to Symon’s household – may have the skill to find the killer. Far more than what she appears, she is already on the hunt. But the dark presence that enters the houses of the sick will not stop, and has no mercy…

This hugely atmospheric and entertaining historical thriller will transport readers to the palaces and alleyways of seventeenth-century London. Perfect for fans of Laura Shepherd-Robinson, Andrew Taylor and C.J. Sansom.

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MY REVIEW:

Hear ye! Hear ye! The society for the prevention and cure of the plague is now in session. And they’re hunting for a killer. Could he be closer than they think?

London, 1655. The Bubonic Plague is spreading and the number of corpses piled in the churchyard grows each day. But the virus isn’t the only killer stalking the city. There is another threat hidden in their midst. One that lingers in the shadows hunting its prey just waiting for the perfect time to strike. Someone is murdering the dying; kidnapping those suffering from the plague and subjecting them to horrific experiments. 

Rector Symon Patrick is the one to first notice the strange marks on some of the dead in his parish. Together with Penelope, a mysterious young woman who recently joined his household, and a group of medical professionals calling themselves the plague society, he sets out to find the merciless killer.

A gripping whodunit with a sinister and supernatural twist, this is an outstanding debut. Valentine transports you back to a time of death and peril, taking you on a journey  through the filthy, pestilence-ridden streets of London. Her vast knowledge and research on this subject and time period is clearly shown in the societal, cultural and medical details she has woven into the story. The imagery is so vivid that you can almost smell the rot and decay in the air as the virus ravishes the population. 

It starts at a steady pace, slowly building up the mystery and tension. There is a creeping malice woven through the pages as the barbaric killer commits  gruesome acts of torture on already suffering victims. We know he is a cunning predator, so disturbed that he believes himself to be doing good, but everything else is a guessing game where we are almost as clueless as Symon and Penelope. Everyone is a suspect, and I had no one suspect in my mind even as we approached the big reveal. 

Most of the novel’s fascinating and memorable characters are based on real historical figures, adding to its air of authenticity. The protagonist, Symon, is a hapless sleuth who bumbles his way through the investigation. He isn’t even focused on his job as rector, instead more concerned with his complicated romance with a married woman. It is Penelope, the mysterious woman who has made herself a place in his household. Feisty, resilient and courageous, she was my favourite character. I loved how she was the total opposite of Symon and the driving force in the investigation, propelling things forward when he and the other members of the plague society would have just allowed things to happen. 

Atmospheric, haunting, compelling and darkly humorous, I lost myself in this book, relishing every word as I indulged my deep fascination with this time period and my love of historical and gothic mysteries. A delight for anyone who enjoys the genre, don’t miss this eerie tale. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

V.L. Valentine is a senior science editor at National Public Radio in Washington, D.C., where she covers infectious disease outbreaks such as the coronavirus pandemic, Ebola and the Zika. She has a master’s in the history of medicine from University College London. Her non-fiction work has been published by NPR, The New York Times, The Smithsonian Channel and Science Magazine.

Twitter |

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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Thank you to Viper Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book. Please check out the reviews from other bloggers on the tour.

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours Book Features

Book Feature: The Drowned City (Daniel Pursglove 1) by K. J. Maitland

Published: April 1st, 2021
Publisher: Headline
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Historical Mystery, Thriller

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Today I’m featuring the first in a new historical fiction series set in the Jacobean era.

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SYNOPSIS:

Gunpowder and treason changed England forever. But the tides are turning and revenge runs deep in this compelling historical thriller for fans of C.J. Sansom, Andrew Taylor’s Ashes of London, Kate Mosse and Blood Sugar.

1606. A year to the day that men were executed for conspiring to blow up Parliament, a towering wave devastates the Bristol Channel. Some proclaim God’s vengeance. Others seek to take advantage.

In London, Daniel Pursglove lies in prison waiting to die. But Charles FitzAlan, close adviser to King James I, has a job in mind that will free a man of Daniel’s skill from the horrors of Newgate. If he succeeds.

For Bristol is a hotbed of Catholic spies, and where better for the lone conspirator who evaded arrest, one Spero Pettingar, to gather allies than in the chaos of a drowned city? Daniel journeys there to investigate FitzAlan’s lead, but soon finds himself at the heart of a dark Jesuit conspiracy – and in pursuit of a killer.

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If this sounds like a book you’d enjoy, then head over to my Instagram page where I’m giving away a proof copy of this book.

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Karen Maitland is an historical novelist, lecturer and teacher of Creative Writing, with over twenty books to her name, including the much-loved Company of Liars. She grew up in Malta, which inspired her passion for history, and travelled and worked all over the world before settling in the United Kingdom. She has a doctorate in psycholinguistics, and now lives on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon.

Website | Twitter

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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Thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Headline for the gifted ARC. Please check out the reviews from other bloggers on the tour.

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles. Until next time, Emma xxx

Categories
book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Book Review: The Asylum by Karen Coles

Published: April 1st, 2021
Publisher: Welbeck Publishing Group
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction, Gothic Fiction, Suspense, Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Historical Mystery, Romance

SYNOPSIS:

1906: Being a woman is dangerous, being different is deadly.

Maud Lovell has been at Angelton Lunatic Asylum for five years. She is not sure how she came to be there and knows nothing beyond its four walls. She is hysterical, distressed, untrustworthy. Badly unstable and prone to violence. Or so she has been told.

When a new doctor arrives, keen to experiment with the revolutionary practice of medical hypnosis, Maud’s lack of history makes her the perfect case study. But as Doctor Dimmond delves deeper into the past, it becomes clear that confinement and high doses are there to keep her silent.

When Maud finally remembers what has been done to her, and by whom, her mind turns to her past and to revenge.

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Maud has been locked in the darkness of Angelton Lunatic Asylum for five years. She doesn’t remember how she got here or what caused her madness. The only thing she remembers is the man in the marsh, an eerie and ghoulish figure that haunts her nightmares. But is he real or a figment of her imagination?

When Dr Dimmond says he wants to help her by exploring her unconscious it seems like someone is finally on Maud’s side. But as the hypnosis awakens her memories, Maud begins to wonder if some things were better off buried and forgotten after all…

WHAT. A. BOOK! It’s no secret that I love historical and gothic fiction, so this book had everything I could want and more. Claustrophobic, haunting and addictive, I couldn’t put this one down. It is exquisitely written, a creeping malice seeping from every page as the author transports you to the bleak, shadowy rooms of the asylum and the anguished recesses of Maud’s mind. 

The depth of Coles’ research is clear in her striking imagery, the descriptions of the practices asylum staff use to treat patients, and in her thought-provoking exploration of topics such as the mistreatment of women and mental health, and the effects of psychological and physical imprisonment. The sense of dread, desperation and sheer helplessness are palpable, coming together to create an atmosphere that has you on the edge of your seat and your heart pounding as you wait for the secrets buried in Maud’s memory to be unlocked. 

Maud is an unreliable narrator. While there is a suspicion early on that she might not be as mad as some of the doctors would like her to think she is, even she doesn’t trust what she tells herself. Reality shifts and cracks around her, echoes of memory stir and haunt her nightmares and hallucinations. She is an enigma to the reader, and herself. A woman fighting to be heard in a place where they want her to be silent.. She is an unlikely heroine, but shows herself to be much braver and stronger than anyone could have imagined at the start of the story. 

The Asylum is a menacing, evocative, lingering and intricately woven novel. An example of storytelling and mystery at its finest, it is one fans of historical and gothic fiction won’t want to miss. Go read this book! 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Karen was born in Taplow, Berkshire UK to rather nomadic parents. Countryside walks with her father instilled in her a lifelong love of nature, particularly wild plants, insects and amphibians. Karen is a painter and sculptor. As a child she was a voracious reader of fairy tales, myths and legends, and this led to a fascination with dark, Gothic literature. She now lives in Wales, not far from a town which once had three Victorian asylums. Their history inspired the writing of her novel, The Asylum.

Instagram | Twitter

The pictures above were part of the author’s inspiration when writing The Asylum. They are taken from the author’s Instagram page where she talks about each one in relation to Maud and the book.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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

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Thank you to Welbeck Publishing for the gifted ARC.

Thanks for reading Bibliphiles. Until next time, Emma xxx