A House Full of Secrets by Zoë Miller / #BlogTour + Guest Post

Hi guys, and happy Friday! It’s almost weekend, yuppi! Today I am especially thrilled to welcome Zoë Miller to my blog – Zoë has been my guest in the past already and it is always a real pleasure to have her stopping by. Today, to celebrate the new release “A House Full of Secrets” – which, btw, sounds SO brilliant and I can’t wait to read it – I have a fantastic guest post about location for the story. Enjoy!

 

A HOUSE FULL OF SECRETS:  ON LOCATION

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I’d like to say a big thank you to Agi for hosting me on her wonderful blog, On My Bookshelf.  I’m delighted to be featured here today. This post on the blog tour is all about the magical location for A House Full of Secrets. I hope you enjoy it, Zoë x

In A House Full of Secrets, Vikki accepts an invitation from her good friend Niall to accompany him to his family weekend reunion in Lynes Glen, his childhood home in a remote part of Ireland.  The county of Mayo, where Lynes Glen is located, is part of the Wild Atlantic Way, one the world’s longest defined coastal touring route that encompasses the breath-taking wilderness of the west coast of Ireland.

I’m fortunate to have been there; I’ve strolled along golden, secluded beaches and breathed the invigorating air, feeling as though I was walking along the edge of the world. I’ve marvelled at the savage beauty of majestic mountains, the lush, swooping valleys, the heather-coated hills. It is a landscape dotted with stone bridges arching over crystal mountain streams, and narrow, solitary roads that twist and wind into infinity around the never-ending folds and curves in the landscape. Then when I was reading a magazine article about the magic of county Mayo, the wonder of it all came back to me, and even before I got to the part where the article saidthat wifi could be a problem in certain spots, the seeds of the story were planted in my heart.

Drop an estranged family who are forced to spend time together in the sheer remoteness of it all for a long weekend, together with little or no connectivity to the outside world, and you have all sorts of story possibilities.

The beautiful and remote location is a character in itself and supports the plot. It is a soulful landscape that helped to forge the character of Leo, the patriarch of the family, it brings him peace and inspiration, and it forms the backdrop to his love affair with the dazzling Gabrielle.

On a sunny Friday afternoon, Vikki flies from London into Knock airport, hoping the weekend with Niall will help move their friendship up to the next level. She’d always sensed something different about him, compared to her London mates, but as soon as they begin the drive to Lynes Glen, she realises that, growing up in this remote and beautiful place, Niall’s background is totally at odds with hers, and before she even reaches Lynes Glen andmeets Niall’s enigmatic sister, Lainey and his estranged brother Alex, she feels uneasy at the difference between them. It is a gulf that only widens as the weekend progresses and they spend time revisiting the haunts of Niall’s childhood against a stunning landscapesoaked in memories and teeming with secrets and shadows.

The brooding mountain summit that the house backs on to, the trail though the forest, the lough that’s out of bounds, barricaded with fallen tree trunks, old gates, encroaching nature,and a crumbling ‘Danger: Keep out’ sign,  all provide a sense of mystery and support a haunting atmosphere. It is an atmosphere in which the showing up of a ghost and a mysterious woman by the lough don’t seem inconceivable at all.

But when an Atlantic storm begins to rage, marooning the family in a world of their own, Vikki swiftly discovers that a Lynes Glen glazed in lemony-coloured sunshine is a very different proposition to a remote house battered with howling gale force winds, and surrounded by murky veils of cloud and rain, where strange incidents are taking place.

And that’s even before the family begin to realise that one of them is lying and someone is hell benton exacting revenge for past hurts…

© 2018 Zoë Miller

About the book:
 
Title: A House Full of Secrets by Zoë Miller
Published: February 1st 2018 by Hachette Ireland
Synopsis:
 All she sees is the perfect man – but what is he hiding?
An invitation to visit Niall’s childhood home is too good an opportunity for Vikki to pass up. This is the chance she’s been waiting for to get closer to her friend, and to meet the family he’s always been so cryptic about.
But when Vikki arrives at the beautiful but remote Lynes Glen on Ireland’s west coast, and finally meets Niall’s estranged brother Alex and his overbearing sister Lainey, she realises that this reunion will be far from heart-warming.
As Vikki fails to convince any of them that she saw a mysterious woman at the lake – off-limits since a tragic accident – strange and sinister incidents begin to happen at the Blake family home. What secrets are they keeping? And why exactly did Niall ask Vikki to join him for the weekend?

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The Intruder by P.S. Hogan – #BlogTour

Hi guys – today is the last day of January – did you also have the feeling that it is the longest month ever? Awfully long. It’s great that we have some great books to read at least.

And of of such great books is for sure “The Intruder” by P.S. Hogan. I am deep into the story and guys, really, it’s so creepy and so unputdownable, keep your eyes peeled for my review in the next days. Today I have a post about the inspiration for the book. I always worry that the inspiration – question is the most cliched one but I am also always incredibly curious what has driven the authors to write the stories. So here it is – enjoy!

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The Inspiration for THE INTRUDER

 

It’s hard to pin down the moment that William Heming sprang into being. You could say he coalesced rather than sprang, though there must have been a point in the thinking process when he started to seem knowable; a point where you might predict what he would do next. Like most fictional characters, Heming is a product as much of accident as design, knocked and pulled together by other elements of a book in its endless early making and unmaking – its still-shaky structure, unsettled foundations, and other unformed characters all bumping about trying to get noticed.

One of the illusions of having completed your book is to persuade yourself that the characters you created were there all along; that you just had to make them talk and maybe kill or have sex with one another. The truth is that for much of the time you’re closing your eyes and ears and hoping for the best. Unless that’s just me. I won’t pretend that a lot of the process didn’t involve spiking the drinks of my friends, dragging them to a dark cell (or corner of a pub) and forcing them to help me out of some inescapable narrative hole I had dug for myself.

My wife once told me about a cousin or aunt or sister-in-law who’d had a ceramic artwork stolen from her house. The house had been up for sale and the culprit, it turned out much later, was a man showing buyers around the place on behalf of the estate agent. It turned out too (perhaps he had appeared in court – I don’t know) that the man was a retired policeman. Apparently, it is not uncommon for agents to retain trusted, personable individuals to open up properties on an ad hoc basis.

Our man seemed interesting. The ceramic artwork had not been worth much – but then perhaps nothing he had stolen was worth much (I assumed the thieving had become a habit). I started to wonder what deep-lying psychological impulse was behind his behaviour. Maybe he had been drummed out of the force unfairly and wanted some sort of twisted revenge – certainly that was a way into a novel. Perhaps he had it in his mind to commit crimes, and then – yes! – solve them, to the astonishment of his slow-witted former colleagues, perhaps with the finger of blame left pointing at some real corrupt officer of the law. I really didn’t want to write about a policeman, though.

I wanted to write about someone ordinary, or rather someone who looked ordinary but wasn’t. And, given that, wouldn’t it be simpler, I thought, just to make a thief out of an estate agent himself – a person who had access to other people’s houses all the time? Thievery was not enough though. Other acts of mischief came to mind. I dwelt for some time on that notion of revenge – or, more attractive, that spirit of the citizen vigilante whereby one man might utterly destroy another man’s morale and life as punishment for crimes against good manners. (Some of that spirit remains, of course.)

For a long time, too, I envisaged Heming as a conventionally weird villain, but this unhelpfully kept suggesting a focus on the detective trying to track him down – the dogged pursuer finally kicking down the door of Heming’s secret lair to reveal his gleaming, obsessive secrets. Eventually I realized the boot was on the wrong foot. It was Heming who needed to tell the story. It was he who needed to do the revealing. And the questions would be more fundamental. What was his story? Where had he come from? What was his problem? And – what consistency could I bring to his character as a result of finding out these things?

Anyway, that was the beginning. That’s when Heming moved in, hollowing out a space in my head – the dusty attic of my idling thoughts – creating doubt and havoc, fiddling with the lights, making a nonsense of my great ideas when I was asleep or making me forget things at the supermarket. That was him as he turned out: insidious, discreet– and so quiet, of course, you wouldn’t have known he was there at all.

 P. S. Hogan

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The Girl Before by JP Delaney / #BlogTour + Guest Post

Hi guys, and happy Saturday. I was supposed to post my entry yesterday and I am so, so sorry for not doing it but I’ve spent unexpected three hours at the doctor with my daughter and I wasn’t able to think about anything other. APOLOGIES! It doesn’t usually happen and I feel really, really bad.

“The Girl Before” by JP Delaney was published in hardcover last year and this year sees the publication of the paperback. I read this book last year and let me tell you this, guys, it was one of the best books – absolutely unique, intriguing and captivating. Today I also have something very special for you – have you ever wondered how the application form to test your suitability look like? Ha, I thought so – me too! Scroll down for the guest post!

The Girl Before by JP Delaney

 

 

untitledPublisher: Quercus

Publishing Date: 25th January 2018

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 448

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Enter the world of One Folgate Street and discover perfection . . . but can you pay the price?

For all fans of The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl comes this spellbinding Hitchcockian thriller which takes psychological suspense to the next level

Jane stumbles on the rental opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to live in a beautiful ultra-minimalist house designed by an enigmatic architect, on condition she abides by a long list of exacting rules. After moving in, she discovers that a previous tenant, Emma, met a mysterious death there – and starts to wonder if her own story will be a re-run of the girl before. As twist after twist catches the reader off guard, Emma’s past and Jane’s present become inexorably entwined in this tense, page-turning portrayal of psychological obsession.

Following in the footsteps of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, The Girl Before is being brought to the big screen. The film is set to be directed by Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard.

Rating: five-stars

When choosing a book to read I often follow my gut feeling, especially when it comes to the authors that I don’t know – although JP Delaney is a pen name for a best – selling author, and when reading “The Girl Before” I was looking for any hallmarks but I didn’t guess the real name – and when spotting this book I just had a feeling that this could be THE read. And well, yes, it turned out that I should trust my gut feeling as the book was totally engrossing and kept me glued to the pages. “The Girl Before” was a provocative, incredibly smart story about controlling and manipulations, making reader to ask who is reliable there and whom shall we trust.

Now. “The Girl Before”. We can start debating who the hell would go and live voluntarily in a house with 200 stipulations including no pets (no way), no children, no cushions, no curtains, no personal things on the floor, no books (hello?). And yet they signed on the dotted line. The house itself is an example of minimalism and the latest and best home technology, adjusting itself to the weather, temperature and probably the mood of the inhabitants. Originally designed by Edward Monkton as his family home but there was an accident on the site when his wife and his young son died. Also, he is the one who, after interviewing the prospective renters, is to decide if they’re going to live there or not. Weird, no? Who in their right mind would go for something like this? I wouldn’t, and I don’t want to go into this debate, but I thought that it is a brilliant and unique idea and premise for a book. For me the book sounded unique, not like others books that I read, and the only thing that didn’t work so good for me was the end, that sounded too Disney-like and somehow didn’t sit with the book. However, this is probably the only thing that I’m going to criticise. There were maybe some things that made me feel uncomfortable, just like building the house on the grave or some scenes with abuse – both human and animal – but nothing that would make me cringe.

The story alternates between Emma (Then) and Jane (Now), and the chapters were short and dynamic and it also made the story flow and reading much quicker. It was also the writing that makes this book so outstanding. It is sparse, but it is incredibly hooking and just beautiful – we can say just like the house! It just feels like the house, to be honest, white and with no barriers or unnecessary things and beautiful in its frugality. The way the stories of Emma and Jane mirrored made me feel a little claustrophobic and insecure, to be honest, it brought a lot of tension and changed my perspective more than once.
I loved how the story was divided between the two points of view. Both of them were in the first person but I’ve never had a problem to see who’s speaking. Duh, the chapters did have titles with the name of the characters! I also liked the way both stories were interwoven and how quickly and effortlessly they picked up when the other has just finished. Really, as the chapters flip back and forth the similarities between the women and their lives started to feel suspicious and somehow creepy, and it was obvious that eventually I’ll start to suspect Edward as well.

I think the characters there are not created to be liked by the readers. Their decisions didn’t help to warm to them, and it is not that I had problems with the characters but I did think that both the women, Emma and Jane, were incredibly naive. There were thousands of warning bells that they chose to ignore and the way they meekly agreed to be controlled by both house and Edward was remarkable and odd. I mean, allowing a man to control your diet and exercise? No, thank you. It was even more surprising that they were like lambs because they were both relatively troubled women and they should know better.
The house on One Folgate was like a living and breathing character itself, to be honest. I really started to believe that the house is trying to destroy the ones it doesn’t approve of, that it controls the lives. It was truly extraordinary how the author managed to create this special, claustrophobic atmosphere of this place.

It is not a book that is destined to make you scared or look over your shoulder. It is a book that is destined to make you feel tension and suspense, keep you in the dark and play with your mind. It is a slow burner, this novel, but with this kind of book it shouldn’t be different – well, you can’t expect the biggest twist to be explained on the first pages, right. No, you’re expecting it to grow slowly in tension, to change tracks, to pull wool over your eyes, and “The Girl Before” just does it. However, as the circle of suspects was very limited in the novel, the end didn’t come as such a BIG surprise, although the last quarter of the story truly meddled with my mind and made me change my opinion about some characters.

Because of the slow pace it takes some time for the book to really pick up, and it happens when Jane discovers that someone died in the house before, and it also takes time for Emma to start to feel afraid. However, even with it taking time, for me it was engaging, interesting and unusual read. The way the story developed was very masterfully and skilfully plotted and organized and I absolutely admired this feeling of dread that the author smuggled onto the pages.

This is a story about secrets, lies and appearances that can often be deceiving. It is one huge rollercoaster ride full of ups and downs and there was something very special in it and I didn’t want to put it down. It is an engrossing mystery, even if the characters are not too likeable – but they don’t have to be in this kind of story. It is good enough that they are multi – layered, they are very complex and I think that no matter what, we never know if they’re telling the truth or if they’re hiding something. It was a thought – provoking, addictive and a clever read, multi – layered with many surprises and I highly recommend “The Girl Before” to you.

GUEST POST

On applying to live at One Folgate Street:

The Girl Before is a book about a house, One Folgate Street. I’ve always loved books with houses at their core, from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca to Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. This particular house is unusual because it’s been built by a minimalist architect, and in order to rent it you have to sign up to over 200 rules – everything from ‘no curtains’ to ‘no pets’ – and complete a questionnaire designed to test your suitability.

The first question in the application is ‘Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life’, which may be fair enough for a minimalist house.But as the questions go on they get more and more unusual and penetrating – things like: “Would you sacrifice yourself to save ten innocent strangers?’ and ‘What about a thousand innocent strangers?’

Many of the questions are drawn from clinical tools designed to measure things like obsessive perfectionism and moral relativism. You can take the questionnaire yourself, and see how your answers compare with other readers’ – go to

http://www.thegirlbeforebook.com/

and click on ‘Continue Application’ (you’ll need to enter an email address.)

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It Started with a Tweet by Anna Bell – #BlogTour + Guest Post

Hi guys! Hope you’re having a great Monday and if not it’s going to be bettwe right now because I have a brilliant guest post from Anna Bell! Her brand new and shiny “It Started with a Tweet” has just been released as an ebook and will be available in paperback on 28th December, and what can I say guys, it’s a brilliant, humorous book and I loved every single minute of it!

It Started with a Tweet by Anna Bell

 

35091775Publisher: Zaffre

Publishing Date: 7th December 2017

Source:  Received from publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 416

Genre:  Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback (out on 28.12.2017)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Can Daisy Hobson log off for love…?

Could you survive a digital detox? This hilarious new romantic comedy from the author of The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart is perfect for fans of Lucy Diamond and Sophie Kinsella.

Daisy Hobson lives her whole life online. A marketing manager by day, she tweets her friends, instagrams every meal and arranges (frankly, appalling) dates on Tinder. But when her social media obsession causes her to make a catastrophic mistake at work, Daisy finds her life going into free-fall . . .

Her sister Rosie thinks she has the answer to all of Daisy’s problems – a digital detox in a remote cottage in Cumbria, that she just happens to need help doing up. Soon, too, Daisy finds herself with two welcome distractions: sexy French exchange-help Alexis, and Jack, the brusque and rugged man-next-door, who keeps accidentally rescuing her.

But can Daisy, a London girl, ever really settle into life in a tiny, isolated village? And, more importantly, can she survive without her phone?

Rating: five-stars

Anna Bell belongs to my auto – buy authors, guys, and I really don’t need to read the blurb to her new book because I know it’s going to be brilliant and just my cup of tea. I fell in love with her writing style, and her stories are not only incredibly hilarious but also close to life and full of wonderful, livid characters, and I am always waiting impatiently for her new release.

The heroine, Daisy, was such a typical Anna Bell’s character – bubbly and quirky, full of life, always getting in troubles but in the end always learning her lesson, and I bloody loved her. You couldn’t not like her, even though you sometimes wanted to throttle her and feel desperate with her, but mostly she was really a brilliant person. She was honest and straightforward and felt so realistic and when she got herself into this huge trouble I couldn’t help but fell and feel for her, even though it happened of her own making.
Meet Jack. So grumpy and so introverted but oh my word, so gorgeous, so funny and he very quickly became one of my favourite characters in this book. The blossoming relationship between him and Daisy was simply the best, so awkward and so genuine and one of the greatest moments in the story were the letters (yes! Letters! Don’t forget about Daisy being on a detox, and the fact that there was never reception didn’t help as well) that Daisy and Jake sent to each other – oh boy, they were so honest and so funny! It was so heart – warming, and so sweet and I so wanted to bang their heads together sometimes, as – of course! OF COURSE! – nothing is straightforward in life in fiction, right, and there are few bumps and turns on the (muddy) road to their happiness. One of them is the sexy Frenchman Alexis – oh, he’s going to stir up troubles!

Even though I spent endless hours on social networks I hope I’m not as extreme as Daisy, though the story really made me think and I promised myself to cut those hours spent scrolling down on Twitter or Facebook. However, I can go without my phone. Really. Lately I even once forgot to take it with me to work. Yes, I felt funny and insecure but I survived. But maybe it wouldn’t be too bad to go on a digital detox myself? To start see things again? To pay more attention to the outside world? This book is a real eye – opener, guys.

Anna Bell’s writing style is so light and easy. It is chatty and I had a feeling as if someone was recounting me the story and not as if I was reading it. She can so easily engage with her readers, both thanks to the topics she chooses and to her writing style, and it is so easy to connect to her characters and everything she writes about, especially as the social media stuff is such a hot topic nowadays. I think all of us can relate to Daisy, in this way or the other, with her need to stay up to date with all the news on Facebook or Twitter.

“It Started with a Tweet” was such a light, funny and entertaining read but it also touched on some more important and serious issues, and I loved how well Anna Bell interwoven them into the story, how she mixed the light – hearted and heavier stuff together and delivered a brilliant and up – to – date and close to reality story that rings the bell oh so much and that we can relate to. It was full of laugh – out – loud moments and I was all the time smiling when reading it. Full of embarrassing moment and surprises and I couldn’t wait to turn the page to see what’s going to happen next. Another cracker from the lovely Anna Bell – highly recommended!

GUEST POST

How ideas evolve

Every novel has a starting point. A small kernel of an idea that sparks off the project. For It Started With A Tweet it was the idea that the two main characters would fall in love with each other by writing letters. It was a simple idea with a huge question to solve: why would they write letters? Why wouldn’t they speak in person? Why would they not text or use a messaging app? And so the process began . . .

At first I thought I’d set my novel in rural France where I live. Lots of British people move over to France and buy run down properties that they renovate. There are also a lot of people that choose to live off grid and don’t have mobile phones (we often can’t get reception) and don’t have TVs etc. It seemed at first like it would make the perfect setting, but when I started to plan the novel I realised it presented a lot of problems. The villagers would have to be french, would my main character be able to speak the language? The location seemed to create as many problems as it seemed to solve and that’s when I decided to set it in Cumbria.

Cumbria was a great setting as it’s remote enough to suffer from mobile phone black spots and old derelict farmhouses are relatively cheap to buy (compared to other areas in the UK). It was the perfect place and to create an easily believable scenario where my main character could be easily away from having phone and internet. Only something was still niggling at me. Why couldn’t the main character walk into the village and use a phone box? And surely they’d be able to get signal somewhere for her to text. I needed more of an incentive to keep her offline and that’s when the digital detox was born.

The digital detox idea seemed perfect. It gave the book a real focus (and a plot) as the book became about Daisy’s digital addiction and what happened when her sister Rosie forced her offline. The first draft saw Daisy fired from her job because she’d forgotten to send important emails – she was too distracted all the time by her mobile. When I sent it to my editors they loved her digital detox but they felt her reason for going wasn’t strong enough. They suggested that Daisy make a digital faux pas. It was a great idea and I knew almost immediately how it could happen. There’s a scene near the beginning where Daisy goes on the Tinder date from hell and it lent itself beautifully for her to tweet something about the date accidentally from her work account rather than her personal one. It tied the whole novel together instantly and it even lent itself to the title of the book.

It takes roughly eighteen months between the initial idea and the moment I see the finished book on the shelf and the end product is usually unrecognisable. With each draft the ideas evolve and change. I think that’s why I love writing so much – you never know where your ideas are going to take you!

 

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Guest Post by Angus Donald

Hi guys! Today is the say when the new historical fiction series novel Blood’s Game by thebloods-game-by-angus-donald bestselling author, Angus Donald, is published.  What makes this novel particularly interesting is that Angus Donald is a distant relative of the protagonist, Col. Thomas Blood who famously stole the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London in 1671 – brilliant, no? I am incredibly looking towards reading the book but in the meantime I have a guest post from the author!

 

The court of Charles II: mistresses, mischief and merry-making

By Angus Donald
I’ve always enjoyed a little debauchery – I don’t get to indulge so much these days, now that I’m middle-aged and married with two young kids, but I’ve done more than my fair share of wild partying over the years. And I must admit that it was partly this deplorable character failing that drew me to write about the Restoration period and the “Merry Monarch” Charles II – it sounded like a hell of a lot of fun!

My new novel Blood’s Game, a tale about the attempt by Colonel Thomas Blood to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London, opens in 1670, ten years after Charles was restored to his thrones in the Three Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland. Once back in power after a long penniless exile, the King was determined to have a really good time. He travelled back to London from the Kentish coast in a glittering procession, dressed in a silver tunic, his path strewn with fragrant herbs by beautiful maidens, the public fountains in the capital all running with wine. He continued this display of largesse throughout his reign; he spent money he didn’t have on fabulous masked balls, parties and banquets for his friends, he bought rare jewels and thoroughbred race horses, he gave extravagant gifts and grants of lands to his many mistresses and their offspring – by 1670 he owned eleven royal yachts and was about to buy another for his unhappy Portuguese wife Catherine.

His ministers tried to rein in his spending but, even though he received more than a million pounds a year from Parliament, his expenditure always far outstripped his income. But, as Charles says in Blood’s Game: “A certain carelessness with his finances befits a monarch. I refuse to scrimp and snivel like some damned pauper.”

The King was deliberate about this policy of having fun: the Three Kingdoms had just come out of a long dark period when the bloody civil wars were followed by the Puritan rule of the Commonwealth and Oliver Cromwell. During the austere interregnum period, most sports were banned, drunkenness and even swearing was punished with a fine, non-religious expressions of Christmas were stopped, many inns were closed, as were all the theatres, women caught working on Sundays were put in the stocks, bright clothes were banned and make-up was scrubbed off girls’ faces by soldiers who caught them wearing it, right there and then. Armed men humiliating women in the streets in the name of religious purity does not only happen in other parts of the world. We had our own approximation of the Taliban once.

So, when Charles returned to the throne, he wanted to show his subjects that it was now perfectly all right for people to enjoy themselves. Hip hip hooray! The theatres were reopened, and there was a resurgence of bawdy, satirical plays. Public drunkenness, particularly among the aristocracy, was so commonplace as to be almost a badge of rank. Pranks and japes abounded – a pair of well-born young men, friends of the King and members of the notorious Merry Gang, scandalised London by appearing on a balcony and pretending to sodomise each other. Poets and playwrights could openly criticise the King, his court, his morals and his mistresses. And did so enthusiastically. The drunken poet John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, leader of the Merry Gang, wrote of the King in one satire: “Restless he rolls from whore to whore/ A merry monarch, scandalous and poor”

Because Charles took his sexual pleasures seriously, too. He had many lovers as a young bachelor, including his nanny Mrs Wyndham, who took his virginity when he was fifteen. And after he married Catherine of Braganza, in 1662, he had at least seven mistresses, and possible as many as thirteen, who bore him a dozen children.

The role of mistress was semi-official – a whore or courtesan, or woman with whom the King had a casual encounter, would not counted among their number – and a man who kept one was obliged to pay for her food, drink, accommodation and servants, as well as making her generous presents from time to time, perhaps when he paid them a visit. Many of the mistresses and their illegitimate children, whose paternity the King acknowledged, received earldoms and dukedoms from the King – and many of British aristocrats alive today trace their ancestry back to Charles II.

Two of the the most famous of Charles’s mistresses – the formidable beauty Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, and the famous actress Nell Gywn – make appearances in Blood’s Game. In the period when the book is set, Barbara was about thirty and was being replaced in the royal affections by the feisty and outrageous Nell, who was ten years younger. Gwyn was an actress, and before that an “orange-seller” in the theatres, a profession which some historians take as a euphemism for prostitute. Perhaps because of her lowly origins and dubious trade, she was never ennobled by her royal lover, although her two children were.

Barbara, on the other hand, came from the noble Villiers family. She gave Charles five children and, as a long-time and fecund mistress, she wielded more power at court than childless Catherine. In fact, she was known as the Uncrowned Queen and she used her position ruthlessly to enrich herself and her friends. She persuaded the King to grant her lavish titles and lands and properties – she was given  Nonsuch Palace, built by Henry VIII, and the title Baroness Nonsuch, and promptly dismantled the palace and sold off the building materials to pay her gambling debts. She “borrowed” tens of thousands of pounds from the Privy Purse, and when this was discovered, the debt was immediately forgiven by her indulgent lover Charles.

When Charles’s interest in her began to wane, she was not above finding other gentlemen friends to amuse her. She became the lover of Jack Churchill, the future Duke of Marlborough, when he was a handsome and penniless young officer at court. She bore Churchill a daughter and tried, unsuccessfully, to claim she was the King’s.

Charles was not exactly delighted that his long-time lover, a woman he had given so much to, had taken a younger man to her bed – Barbara had given Churchill a gift of £5,000, money she had received from the King, which infuriated Charles – but he was perfectly gentlemanly about the situation. He was, after all, beginning his relationship with Nell Gwyn at the time. There is a (probably apocryphal) tale, which I have included in Blood’s Game, that a servant was paid £100 by the Duke of Buckingham to inform His Grace when Churchill and Villiers would next be enjoying a lovers’ tryst. The mischief-making Duke then persuaded the King to visit Barbara at the same time. The story goes that when the King arrived unexpectedly, the naked Churchill had to hide in a cupboard, and was discovered there by the Merry Monarch.

Apparently, the King saw the funny side, and forgave his love rival. He said: “You are a rascal, sir, but I forgive you because you do it to get your [daily] bread.”

A stinging insult – basically calling Churchill a man-whore – then forgiveness. And never losing your sense of humour. That’s pure class in my book. And the lusty King even hung around to pleasure his old mistress after young Churchill had gone.

How could writing about a monarch like that, and chronicling his court of drunken, debauched and promiscuous hangers-on, not be the most tremendous fun?

I hope you find reading Blood’s Game just as enjoyable.

Another Woman’s Husband by Gill Paul / #BlogTour + Guest Post

Having read – or rather, having devoured – Gill Paul’s “No Place for a Lady” two years ago – this author has jumped to the top of my favourite authors’ list. Not everybody can write good historical fiction but Gill Paul can, that’s certain! I’ll be honest with you – I haven’t read synopsis for “Another Woman’s Husband” because I knew that whatever the author writes is going to be a cracker – so I didn’t know it features real people, like Diana Spencer or Wallis Simpson, so it was a surprise for me, but not a bad one. I am so sure that all of us knows where they’ve been when the news about Diana’s dead came across, right?

Today I am thrilled to welcome Gill Paul to the blog – she has written a brilliant guest post for my stop on her blog tour! Enjoy!

What would Diana be doing now?

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In the moving tribute Diana: Our Mother, shown on ITV, Prince William said he thought Diana would have been a very naughty grandma, the type who popped in at bathtime, got the kids all wound up with lots of bubble bath everywhere, then left the parents to calm them for bed. This sounds like a good guess for the woman who used to sneak forbidden sweets to her boys at prep school, hidden inside their socks, and it set me thinking about what else Diana would be doing had she lived.

Her love life would have remained complicated, for sure. The carnage of her upbringing, with a bitter divorce between her parents in which her mother lost custody of the kids, clearly left scars she was still trying to deal with. Lots of people make a mistake in their first marriage, especially when they marry young – and Diana had just turned twenty when the carriage rolled up to St Paul’s and she stepped out onto the world stage – but her relationship choices after her marriage broke down were not particularly clever. There were at least a couple of married men, a few more who sold their stories to the media, and a practising Muslim whose family were never going to approve. Her last boyfriend, Dodi, was a renowned playboy who unceremoniously dumped the American model he’d been dating when he began his affair with Diana, which didn’t make me warm to him at the time. But, having said that, I made disastrous relationship choices myself in the 1990s and only settled down in the 21st century, so perhaps Diana would have done the same (we were similar ages).

There’s no question she would have gone on to make a real difference through her charitable and campaigning work. I’m sure she would have continued to choose difficult, unfashionable issues, as she did with AIDS. I can see her helping ebola orphans in Africa, turning up at refugee camps in Sicily and the Greek Islands and Calais, and she would probably have been at Grenfell Tower long before the politicians. Perhaps she would have been a UN ambassador, visiting war zones, as Angelina Jolie does today. Like Jolie, Diana had the ear of top politicians and knew how to use her influence. It was in no small part due to her campaigning that a month after her death the Land Mine Ban Treaty was signed in Oslo, and ratified by 122 states. You get the sense that even Putin would have been putty in her hands.

I wonder how Diana would have got on with her daughter-in-law, Catherine? There would have been an element of competition for William’s attention, as with all mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships, but I’m sure they would have bonded over shopping trips and playing with grandkids. And I think that as the years went on, Diana would have become good friends with her boys’ grandmother, the Queen. Elizabeth II is a canny monarch and she must have appreciated that despite all the tantrums, Diana was the best thing that ever happened to the House of Windsor.

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Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear / #BlogTour #GuestPost

Hi guys! Are you all having a great Saturday?

So all you lovely folks out there. Today I have a new blog tour for you – Caz Frear’s debut novel, “Sweet LittleLies”, was published on 29th June by Zaffre. This book has won the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller Competition – I have read some books that have won this competition already and they were all brilliant, so it’s already a great recommendation, no? Sadly, I haven’t managed to read this novel in time for my blog tour stop but I am already half into it and believe me, guys – it’s Special. It’s Something. And today I am thrilled to have a guest post from Caz on fascination with prologues – enjoy!

516zotzxaml-_sx323_bo1204203200_Prologues – what’s the fascination?  Should you or shouldn’t you?

Wikipedia states, a prologue is an opening to a story that establishes the context and gives background details, along with other miscellaneous information.’

Mmmm, I beg to differ, Wikipedia.  In fact, I’d argue that sums everything a prologue shouldn’t be.  More of that later.

But first, here’s a thing:  I’m not even sure if my novel, Sweet Little Lies has a prologue.  I certainly haven’t called it ‘The Prologue’ and it’s just become known as ‘That Bit at The Start’.  If truth be told, I was scared of writing the ‘P’ word as it’s such a divisive term in the literary world.  Some people can’t stand them.  They say they’re lazy, or indulgent – literary shorthand for “not important.”   However, surely the point of a good prologue is that there’s ‘something’ contained within it that’s so damn bloody important that it can’t just be covered casually, in passing, within the main narrative?

But then, as with everything in life, there are good prologues and bad prologues.

Rumour has it that some people skip prologues altogether – all I can say here is that I’m yet to meet one.  Then there’s also the slightly skewed myth that publishers and agents HATE prologues.  That they’re a fast-track to an auto-reject.  While, admittedly, I do know of a few book-folk who definitely aren’t wild about them, who think they’re overused etc, the very presence of the word PROLOGUE usually isn’t enough to make an agent or publisher banish you to literary purgatory forever, not if your writing shines and your characters sing.

They’ll just make you get rid of it in the edit, that’s all.

It’s sometimes remarked that prologues, especially within the crime genre, really took off with the rise of the e-book – the idea being that, with fiction at our fingertips, available at knock-down prices, the reader demands instant gratification in the first few pages or they simply cut their losses and move on.  While I don’t doubt there’s some truth in this, I think it does the poor prologue a slight disservice.  It plays up to it’s ‘cheap gimmick’ reputation and forgets that if done well, the prologue is an incredibly strong plot device.  After all, they’ve been knocking around since the days of Chaucer and Shakespeare certainly didn’t shy away from including one.  Also, by way of anecdote, I know of one very successful author who experienced a whole round of rejections when her non-prologued debut first went out on submission, but after a teeny bit of plot surgery and the addition of a killer prologue (literally), the book went to auction in the second round.  Pure coincidence – possibly.  But she firmly believes the prologue had a lot to do with it.

So, more knowledgeable folk than me have given their views on what makes a good or bad prologue, but hey, it’s 2017 and everyone’s got an opinion, so for what it’s worth, here’s mine…

A prologue should

  • Grab the reader by the throat. It shouldn’t be thoughtful, meandering or abstract.  Of course, that doesn’t mean there has to be a car chase or an explosion (although feel free) but it should contain some sort of action and pose an immediate question.  Who is she running from?  Why is the door locked?
  • Be relatively short. There’s no hard and fast rules on word-count, but more than a few pages and it either needs sharpening or scrapping (and calling ‘Chapter 1’)
  • Be set outside the main story. A different narrator, a different timeframe, a different continent, whatever.  Again, if it’s part of the main story, it’s probably not a prologue, it’s Chapter 1.

A prologue can…

  • Be the very last thing you write – in fact, there’s a case for saying it should be.
  • Exist without the word ‘Prologue’ written at the top. Prologues can come in the form of a diary entry/a newspaper cutting/a court transcript…
  • Be taken from a scene that comes much later in the book – the reader (usually) won’t mind the repetition as it now holds new meaning.
  • Allow you to use a very different tone, tense, narrator (not all prologues are narrated by the main protagonist.

A prologue shouldn’t

  • Be an info-dump. This is the last thing it should be and it’s my only ‘shouldn’t’.  Ultimately, a prologue is all about intrigue – the info and the history can come later (although seeded in gradually – an info-dump isn’t a great at any point!)

 

 

*DISCLAIMER  J

There are glorious, best-selling exceptions to all these rules – stream-of-consciousness prologues, fifteen page prologues, prologues that read like text-books until you reach the end and it all makes sense.   But remember they’re the exception, not the norm, and while brass-necked originality is what we think everyone craves, there’s something to be said for sticking to the norm – .to giving the reader what they expect.

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