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Celebrating Indie Publishing today has a review of a book I read at the end of 2019 and it’s stayed with me ever since. The book in question comes from a publisher I discovered late last year, but they are proving to be favourite when it comes to one of my top genres to read, WWII historical fiction.

  • Title: Hidden in the Shadows
  • Author: Imogen Matthews
  • Publisher: Amsterdam Publishers
  • Publication Date: 1st December 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Escape from the hidden village is just the beginning

September 1944: The hidden village is in ruins. Stormed by the Nazis. Several are dead and dozens flee for their lives.

Instead of leading survivors to safety, Wouter panics and abandons Laura, the love of his life. He has no choice but to keep running from the enemy who want to hunt him down.

Laura must also stay hidden as she is Jewish. Moving from one safe house to another, she is concealed in attics and cellars. The threat of discovery is always close at hand.

On the run with no end in sight, the two young people despair for ever seeing each other again.

As cold sweeps in signalling the start of the Hunger Winter, time is running out.

Wouter’s search now becomes a battle for survival.

Where can Laura be? Will they ever be reunited?

Hidden in the Shadows is an unforgettable story of bravery and love, inspired by historical events.

My Thoughts:

This sounded like a unique and fascinating book when I read the description, I can’t think that I’d ever read a book quite like this one before so I was keen to find out more. I was certainly intrigued by the idea of a hidden village in the woods and the lengths that people had to go to to hide from the Nazis.

Following the tale of Wouter, readers are taken on an emotional journey as he flees from the danger of the advancing Nazis, who are systematically clearing the area of any Jewish people and anyone they deem a danger to their regime. With an army of people ready to help where they can, offering safety, food, clothing or even links to The Underground, Wouter runs to safety where he can find it.
But for me, the most poignant tale had to be that of Laura. She flees the village after the Nazis discover it and runs blindly to any form of safety she can find. Never knowing whether it’s truly safe or who she can trust, she has to rely on others to hide her and the others who fled the village.

With so much danger and unease woven throughout the narrative, this was a book that I became heavily invested in. I cared about Wouter and Laura, I cared what happened to them and hoped they would find their way back together again. Watching these characters growing, seeing events from their perspectives really made me think. The way that Imogen Matthews writes Laura as a young woman slowly finding her strength and courage was moving. This portrayal was superb and I liked this character more as I read on, seeing the challenges facing a young Jewish woman in hiding in 1944 was deeply moving, I got a great sense of the fear, anxiety and panic felt by Laura as she moved from safe house to safe house, never truly knowing if this might be the last journey she would make.
The same can be said for Wouter, his growth as a character was interesting to see, finding out his reasons for being in the village in the first place, the lengths he would go to to avoid capture … it made for poignant reading.

  • Title: Stasi Winter
  • Author: David Young
  • Publisher: Zaffre
  • Publication Date: 9th January 2020

Copy received via publisher and Tracy Fenton for review purposes.

Description:

In East Germany, solving a murder can get you killed …

A gripping and intelligent thriller set in East Germany, during the worst winter in one-hundred years. Perfect for fans of Tom Rob Smith, Phillip Kerr and Joseph Kanon.


In 1978 East Germany, nothing is as it seems. The state’s power is absolute, history is re-written and the ‘truth’ is whatever the Stasi say it is.

So when a woman’s murder is officially labelled ‘accidental death’, Major Karin Müller of the People’s Police is faced with a dilemma. To solve the crime, she must disregard the official version of events. But defying the Stasi means putting her own life – and the lives of her young family – in danger.

As the worst winter in living memory holds Germany in its freeze, Müller must untangle a web of state secrets and make a choice: between truth and lies, justice and injustice, and, ultimately, life and death.

Stunningly authentic and brimming with moral ambiguity, Stasi Winter is the thrilling new novel from the award-winning author of Stasi Child.

My Thoughts:

I have been a huge fan of David Young’s Karin Müller series for some time now, and I was ecstatic when I heard about the latest book, Stasi Winter. I’ve loved getting to know this character and following the turbulent path that her life has taken to this point, seeing the obstacles that are thrown at her and how she tackles them make for thrilling reading.

Müller’s battles with the Stasi have been a regular occurrence throughout the series and the one thing that you always take away from the books is the feeling of the underdog winning small battles here and there in the face of adversity. She may not win the war against them, but she certainly scores a few points where she can, showing the enemy that she’s not going to be bullied by their strong-arm tactics and red tape.

The case that Müller takes on is puzzling, and the more she looks at the evidence the less she believes the officially sanctioned version of events. Why are the powers that be so keen for the investigation to follow a certain route? What evidence are they covering up, or not disclosing to Müller and her team?
Running alongside this is a strand of plot centring around a young woman who has already tangled with the Stasi and is keen to avoid them at all costs. But life in East Germany is never easy, especially when your name is already on a list belonging to the Stasi. As she struggles to get a handle on the situation she’s in, Irma faces up to demons from her past and realises that escaping the regime may be harder than she’d ever imagined.

Atmospheric writing evokes a strong sense of the setting, the biting cold of wintry weather almost makes you shiver involuntarily as you read on. The creeping unease that leeches from the pages is strong and grips you, you can’t help but be drawn in to the story and try to piece together the clues that Müller and her team uncover. The case is intense, and as things unravel slowly, I found I was gripped. I needed to keep reading, I had to know what happened to the woman that was found dead, I had to know what would happen to Karin Müller and her family.
One of the things I’ve loved most about this series so far is the the way that David Young manages to give his readers a great feel for life in East Germany under the repressive and feared administration of the Stasi. His writing transports readers to the setting, even if it is to the harsh conditions of Hohenschönhausen. This quality makes each of his books an immersive reading experience and has me eagerly awaiting the next book!

Today’s Celebrating Indie Publishing post is slightly different, it’s a collection of short stories that have been compiled by a editor friend to raise money for charity, but it’s also a book that I had the honour to work on as a proofreader. In the spotlight today is When Stars Will Shine, a fantastic collection of short stories from some familiar names as well as some brilliant new ones.

  • Title: When Stars Will Shine
  • Author: Various
  • Publisher: Independently Published
  • Publication Date: 29th November 2019

Copy purchased via http://www.amazon.co.uk


When Stars Will Shine is a collection of short stories from your favourite authors who have come together to deliver you a Christmas read with a twist.

With true war tales that will break your heart, gritty Christmas crimes that will shake you to your core, and heart-warming tales of love lost and found, this anthology has something for everyone. And, with every penny made being sent to support our troops, you can rest assured that you’re helping our heroes, one page at a time.

From authors such as Louise Jensen, Graham Smith, Malcolm Hollingdrake, Lucy Cameron, Val Portelli and Alex Kane, you are in for one heck of a ride!

When Stars Will Shine is the perfect Christmas gift for the bookworms in your life.

A Note from Emma Mitchell:

As the blurb tells us, When Stars Will Shine is a multi-genre collection of Christmas-themed short stories compiled to raise money for our armed forces and every penny made from the sales of both the digital and paperback copies will be donated to the charity.

Working closely with Kate Noble at Noble Owl Proofreading and Amanda Ni Odhrain from Let’s Get Booked, I’ve been able to pick the best of the submissions to bring you a thrilling book which is perfect for dipping into at lunchtime or snuggling up with on a cold winter’s night. I have been completely blown away by the support we’ve received from the writing and blogging community, especially the authors who submitted stories and Shell Baker from Baker’s Not So Secret Blog, who has organised the cover reveal and blog tour.

There isn’t a person in the country who hasn’t benefited from the sacrifices our troops, past and present, have made for us and they all deserve our thanks.

It has been an honour working on these stories, and I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have.

Full contents:

Fredrick Snellgrove, Private 23208 by Rob Ashman

Four Seasons by Robert Scragg

The Close Encounter by Gordon Bickerstaff

Believe by Mark Brownless

What Can Possibly Go Wrong? by Lucy Cameron

Mountain Dew by Paul T. Campbell

The Art of War and Peace by John Carson

A Gift for Christmas by Kris Egleton

Free Time by Stewart Giles

Died of Wounds by Malcolm Hollingdrake

The Christmas Killer by Louise Jensen

The Village Hotel by Alex Kane

A Present of Presence by HR Kemp

The Invitation by Billy McLaughlin

Brothers Forever by Paul Moore

Girl in a Red Shirt by Owen Mullen

Pivotal Moments by Anna Franklin Osborne

Uncle Christmas by Val Portelli

Time for a Barbeque by Carmen Radtke

Christmas Present by Lexi Rees

Inside Out by KA Richardson

Penance by Jane Risdon

New Year’s Resolution by Robert Scragg

Family Time by Graham Smith

You can purchase a copy of When Stars Will Shine via Amazon

As Christmas draws closer I thought it might be nice to feature a Christmas book in the spotlight. Today’s book is Christmas at the Little Cottage by the Sea by the lovely Rachel Griffiths.

  • Title: Christmas at the Little Cottage by the Sea
  • Author: Rachel Griffiths
  • Publisher: Cosy Cottage Books
  • Publication Date: 15th November 2019

Copy purchased via http://www.amazon.co.uk

Description:

This winter, curl up with the new festive novella from the author of The Cosy Cottage Cafe series.

Driving around unfamiliar country lanes, while enduring the scorn of her teenage daughter, wasn’t how Pippa Hardy thought she’d start the Christmas holidays, but her satnav seems to be more confused than she is.

Joe Roberts has had a difficult year following the loss of his mother. Added to this, he’s trying to run his own business while dealing with pressure from his sister about when he’ll finish renovating their mother’s house. So when his best friend, Luke Hardy, invites him to a remote Welsh cottage to join his family for Christmas, it seems like the break he needs.

Christmas at a cottage by the sea sounds appealing, but sometimes having all the people you care about together in one place can be a festive recipe for disaster — especially when unexpected guests arrive.

As snow falls, carols play and Pippa and Joe face the ghosts of Christmas past under the mistletoe, they realise that there might actually be more than festive magic sparkling between them.

My Thoughts:

There’s something so lovely about grabbing a book by one of your favourite authors, and as soon as I hear that Rachel Griffiths has a book due out I have a pre-order in. I was absolutely thrilled to see Christmas at the Little Cottage by the Sea pop onto my Kindle last month, but I did have a sneaky preview of this book in my role as a proofreader over at Noble Owl Proofreading.

Pippa Hardy is a character that many readers will connect with, she’s a wonderfully kind and compassionate character that cares deeply about her family and friends. Being a mum, sister, daughter, friend … her time is spent putting everyone else first. So this Christmas, with her daughter being that little bit older, Pippa can look forward to a break and relaxing. Finding an old friend joining their family gathering makes Pippa falter, but that’s not the only expected guest to appear.

A Christmas tale usually needs laughter, mishaps and love, and Rachel Griffiths gives her fans all of these and more! I laughed at the way things played out, I gasped in shock when revelations were uttered and I smiled so much while reading this story. The wonderfully rich details woven throughout make this such a treat for readers, the atmospheric setting comes alive through Rachel’s writing, you can smell the mince pies that are baking, you can see the delights in the farm shop and the Christmas market … she has such a way with words that you feel you’re there, watching the story play out right in front of you as if it were on a TV.

If you’ve read any of her other books, you will know that there’s a cosy loveliness that emanates from the pages, and in Christmas at the Little Cottage by the Sea, Rachel Griffiths manages to pull together characters that are genuine, and relatable, some may well remind you of your own family members. Their lives reflect a lot of what we have going on around us and seeing them struggle and find a course to follow is ultimately heartwarming.

It’s fair to say this book is also a wonderful escape from the festive madness of shopping, wrapping, cooking … it’s the perfect accompaniment to a hot mug of cocoa, tea or coffee, one warms the stomach and the other warms the soul.

  • Title: The Blood Acre
  • Author: RJ Mitchell
  • Publisher: Matthew James Publishing Ltd
  • Publication Date: 12th September 2019

Copy received from damppebbles blog tours for review purposes.

Description:

Fresh from his exploits in The Shift, Constable Angus Thoroughgood finds himself assigned to Community Policing in the crime-ridden Briarknock area of Glasgow — an area known for its horrific drugs problem, violent petty crime, and unemployment. It’s also home to The Creepers, a notorious team of housebreakers whose reign of terror must come to an end.

However, it’s not just The Creepers that Thoroughgood must contend with. Working with his partner Harry Currie, the Scottish detective must battle corruption within the force and work to stop a plot that would destroy cities across the North of England, discovering a fabled piece of Glasgow criminal folklore along the way — the Blood Acre.

My Thoughts:

I have to admit that this author and his series were entirely unknown to me when I first heard about The Blood Acre, something about the description appealed to me and I wanted to find out more.

Short chapters mean readers move quickly through the pages as the story unfolds. The setting was well described by the author and he clearly knows his way around Glasgow, bringing it alive on the pages for his readers to experience. This coupled with the atmospheric writing really made the book quite a vivid read, especially when it came to the crimes that were committed and the investigations of them. You just have to look at the opening chapters for the level of detail you can expect throughout. These scenes were fascinating and so intriguing. I can’t say that my knowledge of safe-cracking was ever extensive, but after reading this, I feel like I understand better what they do in the films with the plasticine looking stuff and how delicate they need to be with the other compounds they use.

Although this is part of a series, I found that I was able to read this without having read the previous books. I got to know Thoroughgood and his partner Harry Currie through the narrative and witnessed the dynamic between them, and watching them work together made for an interesting read.

I do love seeing local dialects popping up in the narrative, it adds a sense of the location and is often a wonderful tool to bring the characters to life. And I’m sure I’m not the only one that will sit and try to work out how certain words will sound in the accents from the book … so it was great to see that here, although I do wonder if readers may have some difficulty translating them/ navigating around them as some Scots words can be a little tricky.

About the Author:


Robert James Mitchell was brought up in Stirling. Mitchell was initially detailed beat duties out of the former Blackhill Police Office and then Baird Street Police Office in the former ‘D’ Division, or the North, as it was known to all the men who served in the division. In January, 2007, while recovering from an appendicitis, Mitchell decided to write the first draft of ‘Parallel Lines: The Glasgow Supremacy‘, drawing heavily on his own experiences and featuring the characters of Detective Sergeant Gus Thoroughgood and DC Kenny Hardie.

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/spitfiremedia

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rjmitchellcrimewriter/

Website: https://rjmitchellauthor.co.uk/

I’ve decided to make today a Celebrating Indie Publishing day, sometimes there are just so many brilliant indie books that I won’t have a chance to squash them all in on Fridays. So I’m sharing a review of a book I discovered by chance. Today’s post sees a delve into the world of a historical novel, WWII to be precise. The book in the spotlight is The Knife-Edge Path by Patrick T. Leahy, published by Amsterdam Publishers in 2019.

  • Title: The Knife-Edge Path
  • Author: Patrick T. Leahy
  • Publisher: Amsterdam Publishers
  • Publication Date: 6th December 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Driven by destitution in war-torn Berlin, a beguiling woman is cornered into accepting a precarious role in espionage to keep from being thrown out on the street.
As Geli Straub becomes the seductive Mlle. Simone Miroux, on orders to discover whether SS officer Kurt Langsdorff is all he seems to be, her plot to betray him falters on conflicted feelings. Drawn past the point of no return into his life, she cannot sell him out.
How, then, is she to save him without shedding the identity of the woman who deceived him, and on whom her life depends?

My Thoughts:

All too often espionage tales feature a lead character that goes deep undercover, risks everything for the good of their country … willingly. But The Knife-Edge Path is different, here we have a protagonist who is left with little choice but to take on a guise and act as a spy for the SS.

Geli Straub plays a dangerous game when she “agrees” to become Mlle. Simone Miroux for an SS officer to spy on one of their own. Asking favours of her new SS friend is dangerous, and initially she thinks nothing of using her connections for information, cigarettes … whatever it is that she might need. However, the life of a double agent is a precarious one, never knowing who’s watching and if everyone is who they say they are. For Geli/Simone this is only one aspect that is making life difficult. Whether as Frau Straub or Mlle. Miroux, she is a target of suspicion, her motives are questioned and her life is in danger.

Delving into the world of WWII espionage, the author takes readers on a journey filled with intrigue and danger as his characters face perilous situations and risk everything for what they think is right. As she gets to know SS officer Kurt Langsdorff, Simone Miroux sees there’s a side to him that is at odds with his SS facade and develops feelings for him that she knows she shouldn’t have, clashing with her mission and potentially putting everything as risk.

The writing is everything I would look for in a book set in this era, crisp details of the characters and their lives, the unnerving feeling of danger lurking ahead, the harrowing details of atrocious acts carried out in the name of the Third Reich and above all, it’s hugely emotive.

Celebrating Indie Publishing today sees a review of Heleen Kist’s latest book, Stay Mad, Sweetheart, a thought-provoking read that has readers shouting and cheering in equal measure.

  • Title: Stay Mad, Sweetheart
  • Author: Heleen Kist
  • Publisher: Red Dog Press
  • Publication Date: 13th November 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

There’s a fine line between innocence and guilt. An even finer line between justice and revenge.

Data scientist Laura prefers the company of her books to the real world – let alone that cesspit online. But when her best friend Emily becomes the victim of horrific cyberbullying, she makes it her all-engulfing mission to track down the worst culprits.

Petite corporate financier Suki is about to outshine the stupid boys at her firm: she’s leading the acquisition of Edinburgh’s most exciting start-up. If only she could get its brilliant, but distracted, co-founder Laura to engage.

Event planner Claire is left to salvage the start-up’s annual conference after her colleague Emily fails to return to work. She’s determined to get a promotion out of it, but her boss isn’t playing ball.

As the women’s paths intertwine, the insidious discrimination they each face comes to light. Emboldened by Emily’s tragic experience, they join forces to plot the downfall of all those who’ve wronged them.

But with emotions running high, will the punishments fit the crimes?

My Thoughts:

Heleen Kist is a hugely talented writer who never shies away from the harsh realities and uncomfortable truths. In Stay Mad, Sweetheart, Kist offers readers a glimpse into the world of a devastated friend who will utilise every skill she has to track down those responsible for tormenting her best friend online, and ultimately pushing her to commit suicide. Cyberbulling is something we are becoming more and more aware of in recent years, and so seeing how data scientist Laura approaches her investigation is fascinating, her frustrations at things never being straightforward or easy are understandable and realistic.
But Laura isn’t the only character that readers follow, the narration comes from the perspective of Suki, another hugely intelligent character. Through Suki, readers see another side of Laura, the side of a client who is frustratingly busy and unable to engage in the discussions necessary for the successful conclusion of the biggest deal of Suki’s corporate financial career. And there’s also Claire who is trying to pull off a conference, against impossible odds, and juggle things as best as she can to prove she deserves a promotion and the recognition that comes with all of her hard work. The lives of these three women are linked, and like many women they face hostility, discrimination and sexism.

Through her writing, Heleen Kist ensures that readers are engaged constantly, but they are also furious and horrified at what they read. The characters are ones that many will connect with, will perhaps recognise from their own circles of friends or family, but most importantly, these characters are ones that readers cannot help become invested in.
The plot is emotive, immersive and utterly compelling. It forces readers to think and has them pondering the dangers of social media, the ramifications of mob mentality when it comes to the frenzied activity we witness across the various platforms. It reminds us that sexism and bullying exist in many workplaces and situations, and it is totally unacceptable.
Revenge and justice are vastly different, and there is a fine line between them. In chasing for justice, what happens when you become so focused that it borders on obsession? When do the actions of the pursuer become unacceptable and too like those they are pursuing? Kist throws so many questions to her readers, asking them to stop and think about everything they read and look around at the world around them.

A hugely engaging and powerful read, one that I think will have people talking for quite some time, and would be perfect for book groups.

Welcome to another Celebrating Indie Publishing post! Today I am thrilled to indulge another of my great interests, true crime, with a review of Krays: The Final Word.

  • Title: Krays: The Final Word
  • Author: James Morton
  • Publisher: Mirror Books
  • Publication Date: 14th November 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Think you know everything about the Krays? 

Think again.

Britain’s most notorious gangsters as you’ve never seen them before.

Britain’s most infamous criminals: the Kray twins. The extent of their activities has always been uncertain. But now, it is time for the conclusive account of their story, from their East End beginnings, to becoming the kingpins of London’s underworld.

This objective account, compiled by best-selling crime author and criminal lawyer James Morton, cuts through the conflicting versions of their stories and answers burning questions still being asked, 50 years after their infamous conviction. How was the clergy involved in evading police action? What was Charlie Kray’s true position with his brothers? Just how many did they kill?

Featuring an in-depth discussion at the supposed claims they killed up to 30, and a deep dive into the death of champion boxer Freddie Mills, The Final Word compiles all previous accounts and then some to find the truth behind their legendary status.

This is the Krays – all facts, no fiction.

My Thoughts:

There have been so many books published about the Krays over the years, each proclaiming to give an insight into the gangland legends that were Ronnie and Reggie Kray, but many are sensationalist or controversial, so I was keen to read this and see what James Morton could offer.

Before getting into this book, I looked up the author to get an idea about who he is and what his background is to get a feel for what sort of book I was embarking on. As a best-selling crime writer, criminal lawyer and the ghost writer for Frankie Fraser, I felt that I was in safe hands with James Morton.

The examination of the lives of the Kray brothers is fascinating and feels to steer away from the usual sensationalism that is rife in many true crime books. Whether this is down to Morton’s time as a lawyer or his own personal writing style, it makes this much easier to read and feels somewhat more authentic.

Exploring the impact these two men had on society as well as the criminal world, Morton also gives information about how the brothers rose to the heights they did and the route they took, the people they were involved with and what brought about their eventual downfall.

I am thrilled to share a review with you today of Sam Blake’s latest thriller which she will be discussing at this First Monday Crime on 2nd December at City University London. Details about the panel and how to book your free ticket can be found on the First Monday Crime website.

  • Title: Keep Your Eyes on Me
  • Author: Sam Blake
  • Publisher: Corvus
  • Publication Date: 2nd January 2020

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

You won’t be able to look away

When Vittoria Devine and Lily Power find themselves sitting next to each other on a flight to New York, they discover they both have men in their lives whose impact has been devastating. Lily’s family life is in turmoil, her brother left on the brink of ruin by a con man. Vittoria’s philandering husband’s latest mistress is pregnant.

By the time they land, Vittoria and Lily have realised that they can help each other right the balance. But only one of them knows the real story…

My Thoughts:

As a fan of Sam Blake’s Cathy Connolly series, I was keen to see if she could grab my attention with a new set of characters and have me writing off an entire day at the weekend to just read a book, and she pulled it off with impressive ease.

From the moment I started reading Keep You Eyes on Me I was hooked, I loved how the plot was twisting and weaving, I was intrigued by the characters and began to care what happened to them. Blake crafted two incredibly fascinating female characters that readers cannot help but become invested in, their happy lives have been disrupted and rather than sit back and wallow, they take matters into their own hands and do something about it … well for each other.
A chance meeting in the airport, has Lily and Vittoria sharing pleasantries as they sit together and they end up sitting together on their flight, chatting more personally, both letting slip just how fraught their situations are. It’s not long before the women come up with a plan to try and put things right.

Where Sam Blake’s writing really shines is by crafting situations and scenes that you can see playing out in your head as you read. The vivid details woven into the narrative gave me a great image of the bookshop, the intricate pieces of jewellery, and even had me looking up paintings for an idea of whether they looked like I imagined. She creates supporting characters who are so well defined and sculpted that readers feel sympathy towards their plights, or anger at their lack of morals.
And the plot, what a whirlwind packed with tension! I was absolutely gobsmacked while reading parts, so clever and so subtle at times, I was caught off guard when things didn’t pan out the way I thought they might.

A brilliant read that kept me guessing and entertained throughout!

Today I am thrilled to share a review of a book that I’d followed eagerly on Twitter. I first heard of this book in 2018 when I happened to spot a tweet by a local author, I had sporadically read blog posts with local connections by her and was quite intrigued by the idea of her book. Witchcraft is something intrinsically woven throughout Scottish history, but the majority of the tales seem to be concentrated in the central belt of the country, with little mention of anything near Aberdeen. But with research and a determined outlook, Ailish Sinclair has taken the stories of three of these accused women and crafted it into a story.

  • Title: The Mermaid and the Bear
  • Author: Ailish Sinclair
  • Publisher: GWL Publishing
  • Publication Date: 16th October 2019

Copy purchased via amazon.co.uk

Description:

Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it.

She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland.

She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird.

Despite the superstitious nature of the time and place, her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety. And the chance for a new beginning…

Until the past catches up with her.

Set in the late sixteenth century, at the height of the Scottish witchcraft accusations, The Mermaid and the Bear is a story of triumph over evil, hope through adversity, faith in humankind and – above all – love.

My Thoughts:

The moment I heard about this book I was intrigued, I do love a historical read and if you throw in a tale with some witchcraft, well you’re pretty much guarantee to grab my attention. The publication date couldn’t roll around quick enough for me and so on 16th October it magically arrived on my kindle and I instantly started reading.

Readers meet Isobell as she flees for her life under the cover of darkness with her brother and friend, and their escape brings them to the safety of Scotland. There they have jobs waiting for them, safety and a new lives, which all seems idyllic in the setting of a castle surrounded by woodlands, lochs and a stone circle.
As a young lass finding her feet in a new place, Isobell soon finds an ally in the cook, Bessie Thom. Through her chats with Bessie, readers find out more about the Laird and the Manteith family. And the more Isobell finds out about the elusive Laird and his son, the more she comes to like them, and indeed a chance meeting with Thomas Manteith sets in motion events that change everything.

With beautifully flowing narrative, it’s not difficult to get caught up in the story. Rich, atmospheric descriptions bring the scenes alive, readers can see the delights that Bessie and Isobell create to serve at the feasts, can feel the crispness of the cool air and waters of the loch.
The characters are brought to life so well, each of their individual personalities become so real as they develop from being mere names on a page. I found myself becoming infuriated by the actions of some, feeling appreciation for others, and will admit that I did find a fondness towards others.

This wonderful magical tale then takes a deviation towards the darkness and from here Sinclair’s research and writing really shines. Her portrayal of 16th century Scotland is entrancing, and the details of the witch-hunts taking place in that time are fascinating. Taking inspiration from events that took place in Aberdeen during this time, Sinclair has highlighted a horrific world where power wielded over innocent people under the guise of religion or witchery. The actions of those heading up the hunts were deplorable, but at the time, this was accepted as the “norm”, there was little understanding of things fell outside these parameters.

Although there is a romantic arc to the plot, there is so much more to this book and I would urge any fans of historical fiction involving tales of witchcraft to look into reading this book.

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Gem's Quiet Corner

Welcome to my little corner. Grab a cup of tea (or hot drink of preference), find your happy place and join me to talk all things bookish...