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  • Title: Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay
  • Author: Ali McNamara
  • Publisher: Sphere
  • Publication Date: 27th June 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Amelia is a single mother, doing her very best to look after her young son, Charlie – but money is tight and times are tough. When she first hears that she is the last descendent of the Chesterford family and that she has inherited a Real-Life Castle by the sea, Amelia can’t quite believe her ears. But it’s true!

She soon finds that owning a castle isn’t quite the ticket to sorting out her money problems that she’d first hoped: she can’t sell, because the terms of the ancient bequest state that any Chesterford who inherits the castle, must live there and work towards the upkeep and maintenance of the family home. So ever-practical Amelia decides to uproot her little family and move to this magnificent castle by the sea.

Living in a castle on the beautiful Northumberland coast is fun at first, but organising the day-to-day running is a lot more complicated than Amelia first imagined. Luckily she has help from the small band of eccentric and unconventional staff that are already employed there – and a mysterious unseen hand that often gives her a push in the right direction just when she needs it most. It’s only when she meets Tom, a furniture restorer who comes to the castle to help repair some antique furniture, that Amelia realises she might get the fairy-tale ending that she and Charlie truly deserve…

My Thoughts:

Ali McNamara is one of those authors I turn to when I need a glimpse of sunshine on a gloomy day. Her books are like a tonic for the soul and I always relish reading them, so when I found out about Secrets and Seashells at Rainbow Bay, I knew that I was in for a treat.

Amelia is a character that I think many readers will connect with, her tale is one that is heartbreakingly real and one that many will be able to synpathise with.
Changes in circumstances has meant that life has been tough for Amelia and her son Charlie, she tries her utmost to protect him from the realities of it all. Her constant struggles to make ends meet are wearing her down, worrying if she has money to pay bills, put food on the table, she always has tries her hardest to do what’s best. So when she hears of an inheritance that could change her and Charlie’s lives, she can’t believe it!

What then follows is a wonderful and heartwarming tale of Amelia getting to grips with life in a castle, learning how it’s not all glamour and glitz as Disney might have us believe. The castle staff are an eccentric and fun bunch, their personalities feel so authentic and genuine, and it’s hard not to feel a liking for them, although some more than others. As Amelia’s adventure in Northumberland unfolds, readers are rewarded with seeing a different side to her, her confidence grows and she becomes more self assured. But she also opens up about her past, we find out about what happened to cause her and Charlie to live in such tough circumstances. It all adds to the likeableness of this character and secures her place in your heart. She’s the sort of character that you root for, you wish there’s a happy ending for and you’re almost racing through the pages to find out if things work out ok for her.

I’m purposely avoiding saying anything much about the plot of this book, it’s one you will have to discover for yourself, and I hope you fall in love with it as much as I did. But I will say that there is something magical in these pages … Ali’s writing to be precise. She is a wonderful writer, and always manages to transport me to the settings of her books. I could feel the claustrophobia of the tower staircase, the awe of the portraits in the galleries, the ethereal feeling that comes with a castle setting … it was all so vivid.
A highly recommended summer read, and the perfect escape!

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Paperback Published: 6 April 2017
Reviewed: 20 November 2016

4.5 out of 5 stars

Copy supplied by Sphere in return for an honest review

 

Description:

TWO CHILDHOOD FRIENDS… ONE BECAME A DETECTIVE… ONE BECAME A KILLER…

One night changed their lives
Thirty years ago, the Longacre Children’s Home stood on a London street where once-grand Victorian homes lay derelict. There its children lived in terror of Gordon Tallis, the home’s manager.

Cries in the fire and smoke
Then Connor Laird arrived: a frighteningly intense boy who quickly became Tallis’ favourite criminal helper. Soon after, destruction befell the Longacre, and the facts of that night have lain buried . . . until today.

A truth both must hide
Now, a mysterious figure, the Two O’Clock Boy, is killing all who grew up there, one by one. DI Ray Drake will do whatever it take to stop the murders – but he will go even further to cover up the truth.

Discover the gripping, twist-filled start to a fantastic new London-set crime thriller series starring morally corrupt DI Ray Drake – the perfect new addiction for fans of Luther.

My Thoughts & Review:

When I started this book I was grabbed by the story, it was interesting and the explosive first pages really set the tone for the rest of the book.   The description promised mystery, intrigue and murder but this turned out to be so much more,  a brilliantly compelling read that was almost impossible to put down.

Skilfully, Mark Hill weaves together numerous threads to bring the reader an enticing story that tangles along the way with some dangerous and devastating events.  The reader is plunged into the chaotic and desolate Longacre Children’s Home in the 1980s, the details of the goings on there are harrowing reading at times, and the impacts of the abuse towards the children resident there are far reaching, so much so that some are still living in the shadows of their torment.  The tormentor in the home ruled with an iron fist, somewhat drunkenly and never missed an opportunity to exploit his charges for his criminal activities.

The recent promotion of DS Flick Crowley should be a cause for celebration, but for this character she is constantly checking herself, ensuring she is not reading subtle context into remarks of her mentor DI Ray Drake and superiors.  Determined not to show signs she is struggling under pressure or not up to the challenge of leading a murder investigation, Flick looks for connections between the victims not realising that someone is working hard to cover up the evidence she needs to solve the case.

Rich with lies and secrets, this is a well plotted novel, it draws the reader in and builds a level of tension that makes this an incredibly fast paced read.  The characters in this are very well written, each one of them is damaged in their own way, be it Elliot and his time at Longacre which turned him into an alcohol abusing criminal, Flick Crowley with her strained relationship with her father, or indeed Ray Drake who recently lost his wife to cancer and has a troubled relationship with his daughter.  Each character is a victim in their own way, and through clever and insightful writing Mark Hill makes the reader feel empathy towards their plights.  The strong characters really bring this book alive, there are elements of the personalities that readers will connect with,  and will understand but will ultimately feel driven to read on to discover what happens to that character(s). 

The writing itself is impressive, and it is hard to believe that this is a debut novel.  It’s chilling, it’s compelling and it’s brilliant.  The deception and danger in this book are so well constructed that the reader may guess what happens from time to time, but Hill ensures that they are kept on their toes with some of the unexpected twists he throws into the story.

Now I just need the details for the next outing for DI Drake and DS Crowley…….any hints when we can expect book two Mr Hill!?

 

About the Author:

Courtesy of http://markhillauthor.com/about

I’ve been a journalist and an award-winning music radio producer. I worked for about five minutes in PR.

But I write now, which is just as well, because I love writing. It’s my dream job.

It’s nice to see you here, thanks for coming, but you can also find me on social media.

I’m on Facebook right here. If you like The Two O’Clock Boy, if you’re interested in keeping up to date with news, events and giveaways – everything Drake and Crowley, basically – then head to my author page and, you know, ‘like’ the page.

Or if Twitter’s your thing then you can find me there, too, @markhillwriter. I tweet about all sorts: writing, books, movies, games, custard, otters, all the stuff you like. So give me a follow.

But wait, before you do any of that, make sure you buy my book.

 

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Author: Sarra Mannning

Published: 10 March 2016
Reviewed: 5 September 2016

4 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Sphere in return for an honest review

 

Description:

After the Last Dance is an extraordinary story of two women, separated by time but connected by fate, that will make you believe in the redemptive power of unexpected love.

Kings Cross station, 1943. Rose arrives in London hoping to swap the drudgery of wartime for romance, glamour and jiving with GIs at Rainbow Corner, the famous dance hall in Piccadilly Circus. As the bombs fall, Rose loses her heart to a pilot but will lose so much more before the war has done its worst.

Las Vegas, present day. A beautiful woman in a wedding dress walks into a seedy bar and asks the first man she sees to marry her. When Leo slips the ring onto Jane’s finger, he has no idea that his new wife will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

So when Jane meets Rose, now a formidable older lady, there’s no love lost between them. But with time running out, can Rose and Jane come together to make peace with the tragic secrets that have always haunted their lives?

My Thoughts & Review:

Recounting the tales of two women 60 years apart, Manning first introduces the reader to Rose in 1943.  Rose is a teenage runaway, boarding a train to Kings Cross and escaping the dull and mundane life of Durham.  She makes her way to Rainbow Corner, the famous dance hall run by the American Red Cross and starts a new life.  Making friends and falling in love cannot stop the war ravaging those nearest and dearest to her.

The second woman the reader is introduced to is Jane, decades after Rose’s escape to London, Jane makes her own daring move to change her life.  She walks into a run down bar in Las Vegas wearing a wedding dress and proposes to the first man she sees.

Paralleling the timelines of young Rose and Jane (and older Rose) in present day is interesting, it allows the reader to compare both versions of Rose, gives a great insight as to how this character has grown and matured.  The transformation from being a naive but hopeful young woman to a powerful and judgement woman was quite a juxtaposition.  However, the way that Manning has written this character it is difficult not to want to find out more about her.
Jane and Leo are characters that take time to warm to, Jane definitely does not come across as sympathetic in any way but as her back story is drip fed to the reader it soon becomes clear that she has a dark past, perhaps psychological damage lurking under her outwardly façade which can only really be explained by why she was running away too.

The writing itself is wonderful, the detail about the war years shows a great wealth of research has been done to ensure accuracy.  The descriptiveness of the narrative is superb, you can almost taste the doughnuts Rose eats, the coffee she drinks.  The detail about  Rainbow Corner conjures vivid images and is something I want to find out more about.

I have to admit that I did prefer the historical story of Rose most, I felt more connected to it and would have loved to have read more about her.

You can buy a copy of After The Last Dance here.

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