Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell



It’s summer in Cornwall, and love is in the air. But it’s not all plain sailing.

Clemency loves a man who can’t quite be hers. She ropes in a friend to help hide her feelings, but wires soon begin to get crossed .

Ronan’s always charmed the ladies, but it’s not working this time.  If only he could undo what happened That Night.

Belle seems to have the perfect boyfriend, but something doesn’t ring true. And revelations are rising to the surface …

As sunshine warms the sand and the turquoise sea sparkles, one thing is clear: buried secrets have a way of being found out.



Wow what a great romantic book. Absolutely loved it from start to finish. The characters are a delight all based in a Cornish town.

The main character is Clemency, who is a funny and an easy likeable character who works for Ronan who is an easy-going guy who all the ladies fancy.  A perfect solution for Clemency? Belle is Clemency’s sister and it is surprising how their lives entwine again with some funny moments. More characters are added as the story progresses and the story definitely is a page turner where all the characters build up with their stories. All the main characters are so likeable.

There were so many twists and turns where the reader is just wow! It is an easy to read Doesn’t matter it is set in summer, it is an all year read that is thoroughly enjoyable. Haven’t read such a good romantic book like this for ages as it had such a great storyline to it.

Score 5:


Can You Hear Me by Elena Varvello




In the August of 1978, the summer I met Anna Trabuio, my father took a girl into the woods…

I was sixteen 

He had been gone a long time already, but that was it – not even a year after he lost his job and that boy disappeared – that was when everything broke.

1978 Ponte, a small community in Northern Italy. An unbearably hot summer like may others.

Elia Furenti is sixteen, living an unremarkable life of moderate unhappiness, until the day the beautiful, damaged Anna returns to Ponte and firmly propels Elia to the edge of adulthood.

But then everything starts to unravel.

Elia’s father, Ettore, is let go from his job and loses himself in the darkest corns of his mind.

A young boy is murdered.

And a girl climbs into a van and vanishes in the deep, dark woods…

So, when I was offered the opportunity to read and review this psychological thriller, written by Elena Varvello, and translated from the original Italian by Alex ValenteI I was delighted, but had one reservation .  I am not really a fan of translated fiction, which I often find rather stilted.  However, this novel has won a prize; winner of the English Pen Award…and it shows.  ‘Can You Hear Me’ flows beautifully, proving that it isn’t all about the author, the quality of translation is paramount too, so an acknowledgement of  gratitude her to Alex Valente.

This novel is beautifully written, yet quite simple in its use of language.  We meet Elia, a 16 year old boy, who lives with his parents, in the summer of 1978.  It is a novel of several themes; mental illness, love, loss, hope, despair, and a deeply woven seam of menace and fear, generated by the parts of the novel fed to us via a nameless narrator.  In a way, I am reminded of the seminal ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.  That is not to say this is a book about racism, but rather, it is a story of an innocent from a small town, living through turmoil and upheaval… and being changed by that.

I am being pretty vague about the storyline, mainly because I really don’t want to spoil it.  An outline may help though: our young, male narrator, living with his parents, appears to have enjoyed a ‘normal’  childhood, which ends abruptly with the closure of the factory which had employed his father.  The father spirls into depression and despair, as his wife does her best to provide a ‘normal’ life for the three of them.  This proves impossible, with the disappearance of a young girl, following her lift off Elia’s father, as well as the murder of a young boy.

This is a short novel, but judicious use of language leaves the reader very satisfied.  It is a novel of opposites: love and hate, hope and despair, joy and sorrow, the past and the present, the teenage narrator and the anonymous menace, economy of words and eloquence of language, easy to read, hard to forget.  Try it, you won’t regret it.  Most years this would be my novel of the year, but Eleanor Oliphant beat Elia to it.


5 stars. Tracey Banting.

I am a retired teacher, in my mid 50’s, with three adult sons and an adorable granddaughter. I retired early on health grounds (I have MS) and spend much of my unexpected, yet precious, spare time reading.  My literature of choice is usually the detective novel, with many forays into the world of the psychological thrillers.  I do enjoy the occasional brush with the more “literary’ sort of novel too.  Recent examples have included Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, all of Kate Atkinson’s ‘Jackson Brodie’ novels and The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde by Eve Chase.  However my tip for Novel of the Year is definitely the wonderfully written and delightful Eleanor Oliphant novel; beautifully written, hugely entertaining and moving.what’s not to love.


No Way Back by Kelly Florentia




When two eligible and attractive men are vying for your heart, it should be the perfect dilemma.

Audrey Fox has been dumped by her unreliable fiancé Nick Byrne just days before the wedding.  Heartbroken and confused, the last thing she expects when she jumps on a plane to convalesce in Cyprus is romance.  But a chance meeting with handsome entrepreneur and father of one, Daniel Taylor, weaves her into a dating gamete’s not sure she’s ready for.  Audrey’s life is thrown into further turmoil when she discovers on her return to London that Nick has been involved in a serious accident that’s left him in intensive care.  Distraught, yet determined to look to the future, Audrey must make her decision – follow her heart or listen to well-meaning advice from family and friends?  Because sometimes, no matter what, it’s the people that we love can hurt us the most.



No Way Back is the second novel by Kelly Florentia, and follows Audrey Fox as she has to deal with two men in her life plus the problems of friends and family.  This is a brilliant book, I couldn’t put it down one I started it, I was hooked from the first page.  This plot is fast paced with quite a few twists and turns in the lives of Audrey and her friends and family.  There are laughs along the way but Kelly also touches on more difficult topics of post natal depression, infertility, and cancer.  Kelly writes with such an ease, the plot flows seamlessly which makes this book a joy to read.

What makes this book so readable is the normality of the characters and the situations.  Audrey is the kind of person you want to be friends with; she is in her forties, as her mother likes to remind her frequently, single again, and even though she has her own problems she also has time for her friends when that are in need.  I loved the fact that she wasn’t this attractive, slim perfect woman as in so many books; Audrey’s hair frizzes, she has put on weight so some of her clothes don’t fit and frequently seems to look frazzled.  She is a girl after my own heart with her love of designer shoes, and a new love interest who buys the for her.  There is a brilliant cast of supporting characters; George her brother and Vicky his tired and harrased wife, Tina a flirt, Louise her closest friend and her nineteen year old daughter Jess; all of whom had their own problems, and were very down to earth.  By the end of the book these people felt like my friends.

No Way Back is a book I loved, it has romance, humour, secrets, lies  and designer shoes. It is a brilliant read, with engaging characters and a plot line that will grip you from the first word to the last.  After finishing the book I was straight on Messenger to Kelly asking about the sequel which will be published in May 2018.  She sent me a teaser and it sounds brilliant, but she wouldn’t tell me anything  even though I tried to press her; it is very frustrating.  I think Kelly Florentia is an author to look out for in the future.















Blackmail, Sex and Lies by Kathryn McMaster



Blackmail, Sex and Lies is a story of deception, scandal, and fractured traditional Victorian social values. It is the tale of a naïve, young woman caught up in a whirlwind romance with a much older man. However, both have personality flaws that result in poor choices, and ultimately lead to a tragic end.
For 160 years, people have believed Madeleine Smith to have been guilty of murder. But was she? Could she have been innocent after all?
This Victorian murder mystery, based on a true story, takes place in Glasgow, Scotland, 1857. It explores the disastrous romance between the vivacious socialite, Madeleine Hamilton Smith, and her working class lover, Pierre Emile L’Angelier.
After a two-year torrid, and forbidden relationship with L’Angelier, that takes place against her parents’ wishes, the situation changes dramatically when William Minnoch enters the scene. This new man in Madeleine’s life is handsome, rich, and of her social class. He is also a man of whom her family approve.
Sadly, insane jealous rages, and threats of blackmail, are suddenly silenced by an untimely death.



Blackmail, Sex and Lies is a fascinating read with its mix of fact and fiction. Set in Victorian England where society is very much class and gender based, Kathryn McMaster uses the letters sent between Emilie L’Angelier and Madeleine Smith, and details of the court case as the centre for the fictionalised story of the two lovers. The love letters, are certainly damning for Madeleine, and the implication is that their content was worth killing for. It certainly becomes apparent that Emilie kept the letters to use against Madeleine at some point. Over three years, through their correspondence we see the love affair blossom and then die, literally; with the death of Emilie.

As characters, neither Madeleine nor Emile come out well, although for me I felt more sympathetic to Madeleine’s story. Emilie is a man who does across as vain and a social climber and unscrupulous in his pursuit of what he wants. Considering the times I also feel he is lightly delusional as he cannot understand why Madeleine’s father, a prominent architect, does not think Emilie is good enough for his daughter. From the start his ill health is apparent, he has episodes of stomach pain and sickness, even before he met Madeleine.  The reader is let wandering if, in the hindsight of our times, this is caused by his use of arsenic for his complexion and health.

Madeleine led a very sheltered life and for me she came across as very naive. Emilie is the first man she has had any real contact with and is obviously flattered by the attention he gives her. Women did not have any rights in nineteenth century Scotland, they were legally under the protection of either their father or their husband. Madeleine had to do as her father demanded, but she also felt an obligation to Emilie, whom she referred to as her husband.  Her naivety in putting her feeling in the  love letters, and trusting Emilie to destroy them, was her down fall. The implication that their content was worth killing for stayed with her the rest of her life.  It certainly becomes apparent that Emilie kept the letters to use against Madeleine at some point, they were damning in their content and ruined Madeleine’s reputation, and eventually her life.

Kathryn McMaster puts all the facts in front of the reader and the and leaves it up to you to decide if you thought Madeleine was guilty of murder or if Emilie poisoned himself over the years. This is a well written un biased account of a tragic love story, that ended in a death and a reputation ruined for life of both protagonists. This is a fascinating, well researched, read that may leave you with more questions than answers.

My Top Ten Books of 2017


So its nearly the end of the year and with Christmas just around the corner I thought I would share my ten favourite books for 2017.  Whether you are looking for some inspiration for yourself or for presents for the book lover in your life, I hope you will find something that will engage you.  These are in no particular order.



Column of Fire by Ken Follett. I was really excited to hear that Ken Follett had written a third instalment of the Kingsbridge Series.  This lived up to all expectations, the story starts two hundred years after A World Without End so can also be read as a stand alone novel.  This is the perfect read for those who like a huge chunk of historical fiction; set in the sixteenth century it has war, plots, revenge, love, subterfuge, a cast of memorable characters and a brilliant plot.


The Pearl Sister by Lucinda Riley.  This is the fourth book in Lucinda’s Seven Sister’s 918n5tu48rLseries, and follows CeCe as she travels to Australia to find out who her biological family are.  I love this series by Lucinda Riley, she is becoming one of my favourite contemporary authors, and the books should be read in order.  This book really drew me in with its descriptive writing, interesting plot and wonderful characters.  It is also the book where I felt further clues to the sister’s adoptive father were included.  If you enjoy women’s contemporary fiction please give this series a go.


51TG4uoXxLLIn The Name of the Family by Sarah Dunant.  Sarah Dunant’s novels set in Renaissance Italy are outstanding.  This book follows the final years the Borgia rule in the Vatican and their control in the Italian States. Sarah Dunant’s attention to detail brings the finer details to life, the surroundings, palaces, places and characters jump of the page and give a real sense of the period.  The Borgia family and their history is wonderful to write about, their political intrigue, love lives, battles, intrigue and murder.  Another novel for the history buff.


Ragdoll by Daniel Cole. This is Daniel Coles’s debut novel and shows great promise of 514oJ+vBHaLthings to come.  I loved the premise of a body being found made upon six different murder victims, with the race being on not only to identify those already murdered but also those on a the killers list.  I found this a dark, disturbing and exciting read, great characters and a compelling plot.



A1LkHyE3HxLYou Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood.  I found this court room thriller a wonderfully original read.  Set in a court room, at the time of final arguments the narrative is the defendant giving his account of what happened.  It reads like a soliloquy as it is only the defendants voice we hear through out the novel.  You are never given the defendant’s name, only that he is a young black male, and you the reader are on the jury.  This is a compelling read, dark in places about gang culture in London’s poorest estates.


Crimson and Bone by Marina Fiorato.. I have been a huge fan of Marina Fiorato since 51KoJDpxHCLreading her debut novel, The Glassblower’s Apprentice. This is darker than any of her previous novels and has a gothic feel that complements the setting of the Victorian Era.  It follows Francis Maybrick Gill, a Pre-Raphaelite Artist, and his latest muse Annie Stride who he saves from killing herself on Waterloo Bridge.  Set in London, Florence and Venice this book is a beautiful read.  Maria Fiorato’s writing is wonderfully descriptive bringing the sounds and smells of the nineteenth century to life. An exquisite and engaging novel.


91FsDfsOG7LA Harvest of Thorns by Corbin Addison.  This book looks at the clarge company’s wh sell clothes and the factories that make them in the Far East.  It starts with a fire in a factory in Bangladesh, which results with multiple deaths and life changing injuries, then the American firm who claim they didn’t know their clothes were made in that factory.  It looks at the world of exploitation and cheap labour.  This is a brilliant, and erudite read that will really get you thinking about the clothes you buy.


Sweetpea by C J Skuse.. This was one of the most popular thrillers of 2017, and quite 51LfhOgg2XLdeservingly.  It takes an alternative look at the female serial killer.  Rhiannon works at the local paper, lives with her boyfriend and dog and to seems to be just a average person.  But through diary entries we learn that  Rhiannon is a serial killer, who keeps a kill list of those who annoy her.  Rhiannon is a killer with redeeming qualities and who will make you laugh with her observations of everyday life.  This is a book that will grab your attention and will stay with you long after you finish it.


91CgiSdxTcLThe One by John Marrs.. What I loved about this book was it’s originality plot and how they story unfolded.  The premise is that there is a DNA test to find ‘The One’, that special person you will spend the rest of your life with.  The test has no boundaries or discrimination; it crosses the barrier of religion, gender, age, and geographical location.  This book follows five people who have done the test and how the outcome effects their lives.  This is an engaging and entertaining read that is hard to put down once started.



Mount by Jilly Cooper. Jilly Cooper is a legend for me, I have read and enjoyed all her 814AA-TJECLbooks in the Rustishire Chronicles that began thirty years ago with Riders.  I was beyond excited when this book was released, Rupert Campbell Black was back, and is still the loveable rogue I fell in love with when I was fifteen.  There are many returning characters and a few new ones, and as usual a brilliant cast of animals.  This time the book is set in the world of flat racing and the Stud Industry of the horses.  This is a book that will make you laugh and cry; it is pure escapism at its best.


I hope I have given you some ideas for presents, to others or to yourself.













A Life in Books with John Mayer


About the Author Pic used


Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Sure. I’m John Mayer. I was an Advocate in the Supreme Courts of Scotland until I retired in 2013. I’d written books before I started to write fiction. These were non-fiction and legal books for use in universities and courts. I was a specialist in international child abduction and I’m glad to say I’ve helped return many, many children to the places from where they were stolen. I was also legal counsel to Greenpeace International. I even had responsibility for one of the ships for a short time.
I’ve lived in very violent places and posh places and now live quietly on a tiny Greek island where I go fishing from my boat, eat and drink with Greek friends (mostly rogues) and write my series called The Parliament House Books.
I’m married to a wonderful wife who helps promote my books. We have one son (36) who lives and works in New York City.
Growing up in Glasgow, Scotland, I saw shootings, stabbings and houses being burned out while people slept in them. Violence was in the very air we breathed. But Glasgow produced some great characters in those days. There was The Duke who controlled all the illegal gambling in the East End of the City. Tucker Queen who was a ‘civilian’. Because of his unusual delivery technique, he was often hired to send messages among gang members. Tucker’s speciality was rats. Big black, river ones he’d catch down at the dockside of the river Clyde. He’d tie messages to their tails and, in the middle of the night, slip them through the letter box of the addressee to be found in the morning. It was a very effective technique which I guess just made people angrier. Big Bill Broonzy was so-called after the black American blues singer – for two reasons. Firstly because he was a big guy and his name really was William Brown; which we pronounced ‘Broon’. But secondly, because he kept a shop in Glasgow’s High Street called the ‘Soul Agent’. He was the sole importer (via his brother who worked on ships going to and from America) of soul records; which he sold from old shoe boxes he got from the store next door. I made something of a name for myself when in 1967 I changed my name to John after John Lennon. Don’t ask me what my birth name was; I have never uttered it from that day to this.
Growing up in a war zone wasn’t the whole story to where I lived. Contrary to where I practised law in Parliament House, most people in my old neighbourhood could be trusted. Also, we knew how to have fun – something that doesn’t exist in Parliament House. For instance, we ‘invented’ our own styles of dress. In the summer of ’66 we all wore white cotton jackets; the kind worn by waiters and ice cream salesmen. I had a pair of red velvet bellbottom trousers which I wore with my white jacket. It was a very successful combo for attracting girls – I can tell you!
When the weather turned colder, we took to wearing long knotted white scarves. The knots were really bows and the idea was that your girlfriend could wear it along with you. Years later, in New York City, I told Malcolm McLaren about all of that. He was managing the Sex Pistols at the time. He later sought out such gangs in New York and made the hit record ‘Skip They Do The Double Dutch’ which was about street kids inventing their own pastimes instead of gang fighting.
Oh, I mustn’t leave out a big influence on me. My High School Teacher of English Language and Literature was a wonderful man called Danny Thomson. When inspectors would come to check on standards, he would ask me to read aloud to the class. His nods of satisfaction when I surprised the inspectors left a deep impression on me that I had a real way with words. He left to become a script writer. We were amazed because such an occupation was so very exotic.
Decades later, in my first year as an Advocate in Parliament House I thought of him after my first appearance in the highest court in Scotland. I was leaving Parliament House when an old Macer (the one who carries the golden Mace representing Her Majesty The Queen) came running down a corridor after me. Running is absolutely forbidden in Parliament House but there he was; running and calling my name. I stopped and waited for him. He said “Mr Mayer. I’ve just come from the Judges’ Robing Rooms. They sent me to tell you that they were very impressed with your old fashioned way of pleading and to say that they think you have a real talent for persuasion.” I walked home reciting my legal argument to the judges and imagined Danny Thomson walking beside me. I was very proud that day to be an Advocate.


 What was your favourite book from childhood?51qLKmMGHiL

Oh, that would have to be Anton Chekhov’s ‘The Cherry Orchard’. I didn’t read children’s books and Cherry Orchard was the first book I ever read. I was 14 when I read it. I thought it would teach me about Russia because we’d gone through the Cuban Missile Crisis and I was fascinated by all things Russian. We’d been told by our teacher that the world would be coming to an end. When it didn’t I wanted to know why not. I know this sounds incredible, but it’s true.


What type of books did you read as a teenager?

From about 14 I got into Animal Farm and read J. D. Salinger’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ about 10 times. I’d never been taken on a holiday so books were the only way I learned about far-away places with strange sounding names.


At school, which book you studied was your favourite?

I walked out of school when I was 14 because they weren’t teaching me enough. I used to cycle 9 miles every day to and from (18 miles a day) a big library in Glasgow for a whole year until I was 15 and able to get a job. I remember starting at the letter ‘Z’ and reading backwards from Zoology to Astronomy. I got help from a kind Librarian who made sure I read basic maths and science books. I had a strange childhood. In fact, I’ve had a very unusual life pattern; but at least it’s all been of my own choosing.


51c6IjDLnpLWhat is your favourite classic book?

Easy. Homer’s Iliad – followed closely by Homer’s Odyssey. We don’t know if Homer even existed, but it’s likely he did. He must have spent his entire life learning how to relay about 15,000 couplets to audiences. I could read ‘The Iliad – subtitled The Rage of Achilles – every month and never tire of it.


What would you consider to be one of the best books you’ve read over the last 5 years?

That would be Coveney and Highfield’s ‘The Arrow of Time’. I love learning and this book was brilliantly written in a way that non-astronomers could understand. I must confess I read only very carefully selected fiction books. I mostly stick to non-fiction for my own enjoyment.


 What book do you think you should read but never get around to?

Oh, I think Beowolf lies at the back of my mind but never seems to get selected. I’ll read it one day.


 What do you consider to be your favourite book?41z16rSMIAL

Definitely Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial’. Although it’s fictional, it’s taught in many law schools around the world to demonstrate what can happen to a society when the rule of law is usurped. It’s a haunting tale of a normal guy called ‘Josef K’ being treated unjustly by a corrupt judicial system which is secret and operates in a random way: so that for instance, no-one knows where the court room will be the next time it convenes and it’s a crime to miss your court hearing. I titled my first novel ‘the Trial’ and dedicated it to Franz Kafka. There are no votes in law and order, but there soon would be if law and order broke down.


Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?

I’ve closed many books that have been hyped but which I found uninteresting.
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was rubbish to me. It was chock full of words which had fallen out of the English language and had been retrieved as an attempt at authenticity. That attempt failed. The movie was much better.
Most of the Sir Walter Scott books in the Waverley Novels series are completely impenetrable nowadays. The language of that time is nowadays opaque and the pre-TV world of spending a whole page describing what’s on a mantelpiece just doesn’t hold the modern reader.
I also don’t like books with a political leaning. If I detect a political message in a book, I close it. I don’t have time to read political lectures from other people; however they’re disguised.


513BKF7YNXLIf you were stranded on a desert Island, which two books would you want to have with you?

Well, as a lawyer, I’d argue that my first one be the complete works of Shakespeare. My second would be The Life of Albert Einstein. I could of course, remember my own series The Parliament House Books; so I’d have them in my head.


Kindle or Book?
Oh Kindle every time. They’re getting better and better. Soon we’ll be feeling the sensation of paper when reading Kindle.


The first three books in The Parliament House Series are available now.

The Trial by John Mayer




Brogan McLane, may have come from the wrong side of the tracks, but after many years of university education and legal training he joins the most prestigious club in Scotland; The Faculty of Advocates in Parliament House.

He may not have had an easy time being accepted but his life and career are on the line when he is accused of the murder of a High Court Judge, Lord Aldounhill.  On bail and with his career on hold McLane contacts his old friends to help find the truth about Lord Aldounhill’s murders.   They come across Russian controlled transvestites clubs, and reveal corruption at Parliament House, but every time they keep coming up against obstacles.

Can McLane save his career when the real killer is protected by those in high places?



The Trial is the first book in The Parliament House Series by John Mayer, an Advocate in The Supreme Courts of Scotland himself.  His knowledge and expertise are evident in his writing.  There is legal language but John Mayer does include a reference to these at the beginning of the book so you don’t have to worry if you forget something or want to double check.  About half way through the book there is a lovely section that shows the reader the places mentioned in the book, this adds to the pleasure of reading the book as you can relate the characters better to their setting.

The plot follows Brogan McLane in his quest to clear his name in a murder for which he is being made a scape goat.  McLane is a fascinating character in that he has made a successful career in a profession that doesn’t accept someone from his background.  He may be an Advocate but he doesn’t forget his roots and it is these roots that play a big part in helping him.  The use of the Scottish dialect adds realism and grit to this book, and the characters.

As a character I grew to like Brogan McLane, he has a padding for his job and for justice to be done.  He doesn’t really fit in at Parliament House, he is not a member of the old boys club, and probably never will be, but that is what makes him stand out and likeable; lets face it we all like the underdog in a book.  I will be interested to see how his character grows through the other books in the series.  I also liked his wife, Joanne, who seems the complete opposite to him; she is delicate and quite reserved and very reliant on her husband.  I am led to believe that there are also prequel books that show McLane’s life prior to his calling to the Bar.

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed The Trial, it was really drawn into the plot, it was pacy, with plenty of twists and turns to keep you on your toes and memorable characters.  If you love a crime/legal novel, I can highly recommend this book and I look forward to reading the next book in the series, The Order.

Just One Time by K S Hunter




The first novel by K.S. Hunter, the alter ego of an international bestselling author, whose identity will remain a secret.

Desire can have dire consequences

Two years ago, David Madden made a mistake that almost cost him his marriage. His wife, Alison, gave him another chance, but she has not forgotten, nor has she forgiven.

She is irresistible

Then David meets the alluring Nina at a theatre in London. When he loses his phone in the dark, she helps him find it, and by giving her his number he unwittingly invites her into his life.

What David initially views as an innocent flirt turns into a dangerous game of deception. His increasingly suspicious wife thinks something is up, and each lie he tells pushes them further apart.

She is insatiable

Nina pursues David relentlessly, following him to New York where she gives him an ultimatum: sleep with her, just one time, and then she’ll get out of his life forever; or she’ll ruin everything he holds dear.

She is unstoppable

Of course, once won’t be enough for Nina, and what David hoped would be the end is merely the beginning.

A modern-day Fatal Attraction, Just One Time is a steamy psychological thriller that will have you hooked from the first page and holding your breath until its shocking conclusion.



Just One Time may be the debut novel for K S Hunter, but the author has written several other books, of a different genre, under a different name.  This is evident in the writing style and composition of the book; the plot flows well and the characters are well developed. Just One Time is a short book at under two hundred pages, but is not short of content.  The plot is told from David’s point of view, as he tries to be a good husband but is tempted by Nina’s offer.  Personally, I would have liked to see the story from wife’s perspective.  We see David’s view of the marriage, its disintegration, Alison’s coldness and how the past played out. I would have liked to hear her feelings and thoughts, her resentment  and any suspicions she had.

As a character I expected to have no sympathy for David, a married man who claims his love for his daughter is enough for him, that he can live with Alison’s resentment in order to keep the family together.  However, I did have a bit of sympathy for him as he was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t sleep with Nina.  In fact, I was quite surprised at how long he held out; Nina was beautiful and seemingly perfect in looks and what she was offering .  This book is reminiscent of Fatal Attraction, and The Proposal in that nothing that seems just a one off will stay a one off.

Just One Time is classes as an erotic genre, so if you are offended or uncomfortable by explicit sex scenes then this book is not for you.  This thriller is a fast paced, rollercoaster of a novel that offers thrills aplenty, a great quick read.


















The Room by the Lake by Emma Dibdin



When Caitlin left London for New York, she thought she’d left her problems behind: her alcoholic father, her dead mother, the unrelenting pressure to succeed.  But now, down to her last dollar in a strange city, she is desperately lonely.

Then she finds Jake. Handsome, smart, slightly damaged Jake. And he wants her to meet his family.

He takes her to a lake house in the middle of the woods – in the middle of nowhere.  The community there live off-grid.  They believe in regular exercise and group therapy.   And they’re friendly.  Really friendly.

Turns out they’re not Jake’s real family – but isn’t family exactly what she’s running from.

But as the days drift by, Caitlin starts to feel uneasy. Now that she’s no longer running, does she risk getting lost forever.



This is Emma Dibdin’s first novel which is a physiological thriller and it doesn’t disappoint.

Caitlin is the main character where she describes everything in great detail from the scenery to how she is feeling so you feel connected to her throughout the story. She comes across as someone who is confused in life and very panicky that she is going to turn out like her mother, where the Lake House makes it worse.

With the character of Jake, the man she meets, he comes over very secretive and you just wish he would open up a bit more. The rest of the characters at the Lake House are also very secretive but it all becomes clear at the end why they are like this. You just want to know more about them!!

The story is just at the right pace and the plot is centred around the Lake House which all seems normal but is it? Feel the characters needed to be a bit more in-depth but apart from that a good read.  A dark and twisted plot where you need to find out what happens.


Thank you to Iona Karen Waterman for her guest review today.

Michelangelo’s Son by Peter Cane




Aly, son of Michelangelo and a moorish slave, and part of a family who include some of the most revered artists of the Renaissance.  Learning from the masters, Aly follows in his father’s footsteps and learns not only how to paint but  also how to hide messages in his paintings.  Aly’s life takes him around the world, from the America’s, to the Far East and from the Renaissance court’s of Spain and Portugal to England and Scotland.  He finds himself involved in political power play, war, intrigue and even murder.  As Aly tells his story he writes of an alternative to the Renaissance history that we know.



By now my regular readers will know of my great love for historical fiction and the history of art, so I was very excited to read Michelangelo’s Son, which combines the two.   The plot is mainly narrated by Aly, who at the end of his life decides to write down all that has happened to him, and in the process tell of secrets and lies that he has kept for years.  The book starts at the very end of the fifteenth century and finishes late in the sixteenth century a period of that takes in the many wars,  political machinations, religious reformation and exploration of the new world.

Aly is noted in history as the son of Michelangelo, and while it is conceivable that Michelangelo did have a son, as there is not that much information on him.  Peter Cane uses Aly’s story to give an alternative history of this period, that will make you challenge all that you thought you knew.  The plot its self is multi layered, first of all it is Aly’s story, from his beginnings as a slave, to his being depicted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, his involvement in many of the political intrigues of the period, and even his skill as an assassin.  Then there is one of my favourite plots of this book, the many aliases used by the main protagonists as they traveled the world in the fifteenth century, mainly those of Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and the double lives of others.  I will admit that at first I wasn’t convinced with all of this, and did consider giving up on the book.  I am so glad I didn’t, I emailed Peter Cane who sent me all the evidence he had collected over the years, family trees, paintings etc, and I have also looked at his blog, that has much of the information and research on it (I will give details of this at the end of my review).

This feels like a work of passion for Peter Cane, there is a lot of historical detail in this book, and obviously a lot of research.  It is well written and Peter does remind you throughout the book who the characters and their aliases are so you don’t have to remember them all.  This is a big book, at eight hundred pages, and is not a book you can speed read; you need the time to take it all in and enjoy it, like a good whisky, to get the most out of this book.  It is a wonderful and interesting read, perfect for those who like a big slice go historical fiction, mixed with fact.

Below I have an email sent to me about Michelangelo’s Son from Peter Cane that explains how and why he came to write this book.  This is a fascinating email so please take the time to read it and learn more about this amazing author who has put so much into this book.  I am also putting the link to Peter Cane’s WordPress sight where you can read more about the different subjects raised in this book.


To find out more please see Peter’s blog


This is the reply I received when I asked Peter about how he came to write this book, it is a very interesting read.

What gave me the idea?

Well, first thing you need to know is that I’m 73, and have long been fascinated by communication, and the hidden things that influence and control it. My first love in this regard was linguistics, and the ways in which the very structure of language directs what we perceive and express ourselves, not just vocabulary, but the very syntax by which it is turned into a facsimile of the ‘real’ world. (I was a huge fan of the Sapir-Whorf theory, alas though, when it was totally out of fashion). Then one evening in the early 90s I watched a short documentary by a professor called Manfred Clynes, who had discovered characteristic structures in both sound and touch that conveyed basic senses of joy, sadness, tranquility, fear, etc. (He was both a professor of neurobiology, and a concert pianist, and this combination proved enormously fertile). If you can imagine saying the word ‘Oh’ imbued with different emotions, again joy, sadness, awe, surprise, and then compare the prosody of the sound in each case – each one conveys its distinctive emotion even if you change the ‘Oh’ to ‘Wow’, or indeed any other word. And when he got people to press against a pad to express this emotion, the length of the gesture, its intensity, its profile, its surge and dying away were identical. He had found the characteristic wave patterns of communicating emotion. It was so profound in its implications, I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

At the time I worked in the field of popular art, and I had gone to great lengths to try to figure out why some forms of art (and indeed even kitsch) moved people, and others, even when superbly painted, did not. It occurred to me that if these wave patterns appeared in the senses of both hearing and touch, then they were likely universals, and should appear in vision also, and I was determined to discover them if they were there. The first one popped out at me almost immediately. It was the cusp: the shape of a rose thorn, of a fang, a shark’s fin, a talon, and elongated even the horns of a buffalo. One glance and we instinctively withdraw from contact. The sharp tip inspires fear of being pierced, the curve, of being pierced and then retained by a predator, or ripped. It’s a primordial shape, and I immediately realised how artists had used it throughout history. In particular, in cartoons. Take a creature with soft round eyes, and replace the curves with a pointed cusp, its eyebrows too, its nose, its ears and you don’t even have to bother about its teeth or claws – it looks evil and cruel. Build that cusp into the shape of its cloak, and you have a vampire, or wings – a bat. Into its hat, a wicked wizard or witch. Its shoes… It was universal, and it worked cross-culturally too. Everyone reacted the same… we might withdraw in distaste, young boys might challenge it to show how brave they were, but everyone recognised that the invented being was dangerous.

It’s complementary shape was easy, too. Anything rounded. If it’s rounded it can’t pierce us. It’s symbolic of everything we want instinctively to reach out and touch, fondle. Unwelcome touching was a problem for well rounded parts of one’s anatomy, and for grocers, who had to put up signs saying ‘don’t touch me until I’m yours’ on their peaches, and other soft fruit. And the shape was directly analogous to Manfred Clynes’ audio and tactile ‘shape’ for ‘love’. And then, having picked up two ‘sentic’ forms using in communicating appropriate emotion, the floodgates opened, and I found a wealth more. Big, tall things denoted power. Little things tended to turn on parental instincts. Things that are attenuated, long and strong in one direction, and slender in another aroused fascination, one pause, looked in awe at the grace of a cheetah, a racehorse, a saluki dog, and arrow, a flowering grass, a ballerina. Things that were chunky did not inspire the same awe. They could be treated roughly and wouldn’t break. Pigs, bulldogs, Miss Piggy even… After a few years I started lecturing on this new subject – bioaesthetics – at an institute in London, giving occasional seminars on ‘sensory triggers’, and their use in art and marketing. I built a huge website of about 2000 pages displaying what I had found, and eagerly added to it each day as examples accumulated.

That was when it happened.

I was looking for ‘tension’ triggers. Those simple visual forms that make you stop in your tracks, freeze, hold your breath, and stand open mouthed watching, waiting for something – we know not what – to happen. I knew that tense curves were used in car profiles and panels, and had some good photos to show people. I had heard that Michelangelo used tense spirals in his sculptures, and that the sense of frozen movement would mesmerise those who looked at them – so I wanted examples, and Googled what I thought were appropriate words. Alas, my choice was inept, and all I got were endless pictures of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, and the creation of Adam. After some hours fruitless effort in finding that perfect exemplary sculpture, it struck me WHY all I could find was God reaching out to touch Adam’s finger. This was a tension trigger. And it was so powerful that it not only made this feature the central point in the whole vast ceiling, but it hypnotised people to the extent that it was almost all that I could find. So – having found gold, I selected the highest resolution image of the pregnant gap between the two fingers that I could find, and set to work colour correcting it, and improving the contrast to put it on my site. The only thing was, I could see misty, evanescent forms between the two fingers. Initially I ignored it, because I assumed it was the result of centuries of wear and tear, but then it struck me (camouflage having been one aspect of the directing of human attention that I had studied), that what I was seeing was – perhaps – not the result of accident and misfortune, but intentional but hidden.

And so I darkened the light areas, and intensified the contrast, dramatically so. Before the age of Photoshop it would have been impossible, but I knew how to break camouflage digitally, and if there was something there, I was determined to find it. Letters emerged, and then a word. The word was ‘CHIAVE’, which in English means ‘key’. That was the goosebumps moment. Michelangelo had written the word ‘key ‘ in the most salient spot of the most dramatic feature on the entire ceiling. I started reading about hidden features in Michelangelo’s art, and immediately came across an article that related the ubiquitous presence of acorns on the Pope’s ceiling to the name of the then Pope, and Michelangelo’s patron – Giuliano della Rovere, ‘della Rovere’ meaning ‘of the oak’. The article pointed out that in Tuscan dialect, the same word was used for acorn as for the end of the male appendage, and that this Pope was notorious for his fascination for youths and young men. When I looked again at the sacks of acorns and the analogous parts of the naked youths on the ceiling, they bore more than a fortuitous resemblance to one another. Michelangelo was having a go at the Pope, who it is well know, he hated. I went back to the lettering, and found all around the fresco of the Creation of Adam the word ‘vendetta’. It cascaded in a cloud from the two legendary fingers, and paraded across empty spaces in profusion. I found words flowing from Adam’s mouth, accusing the Pope of being scandalous ‘papa birba’, and found also that the cloud of dust beneath the two hands contained the word ‘arsenico’. I looked to see when Pope Julius had died, and found it was just shortly after Michelangelo had finished the ceiling, and days after he had gotten a signature from His Holiness for a further commission. It seemed quite possible that his death was no accident, and that it involved something that had happened to Adam.

I was hooked. And then I found two things. The profile of an African lad up in the shadows over God’s shoulder, and the words ‘Aly, te amo’. I had to know two things. Was this extraordinary hiding of material something of Michelangelo’s invention, or was it something he had learned from Ghirlandaio. I looked at his earliest work, and there it was again, well developed. The Torment of St Anthony was not really about St Anthony. It was an allegory. I looked at Ghirlandaio’s work, and found he did it too. Who did he learn from? I traced back the techniques generation by generation, back to the very start of the Renaissance, and before. All the way to Rome, indeed all the way back to the frescos in the Palace of Knossos. It was a human universal, in times of tyranny. I had found Michelangelo’s name in his work, and found the names of other artists too. Most paintings were signed, and carried – it seemed an entire genealogy of who the father was, written below the eye of the person (in a portrait), and along the chin the name of the mother. Occasionally I found more than one name. On Jan van Eyck’s paintings, I found, to my consternation, the word ‘Masolino’. And then on another part of the Pope’s Ceiling, I found the two words together also. Could it be? They are both credited with originating oil painting. I drew up timelines for them both, and they dovetailed. They didn’t conflict, they dovetailed. One could not find the two people at the same time in different parts of Europe. And then I slowly unveiled the true meaning of the Arnolfini Wedding… The new story made sense in a way the old one simply did not. Arnolfini was the name Jan used when working as a merchant. Masolino when he was in Italy. ‘Arnolfini’ in the painting was the Duke of Burgundy, and his wife was the Infanta of Portugal, and she was pregnant with Charles the Bold. Oh, but that was not the half of it. Across the wall was splattered the words ‘Als ik xan, Costanza’. And on the bed spread two stains that spelled out ‘Vend’ and ‘etta’. Across the lady’s belly it said that Charles the Bold was a bastard, and that he, Jan was the father. The brush on the wall said it had brushed clean the throne of Burgundy (the wooden chair) from the Valois, and that revenge – for Costanza’s rape by the Duke of Burgundy a decade before, had been served.

And so on, over five years and several thousand paintings, the story developed, family trees were revealed and drawn, and the story you find in the book revealed.

But one thing lingered with me all along. That there was hidden material in the paintings was beyond doubt, but did it say what I thought it said? The new emergent story told of a very different Renaissance, and it was a story that explained many inexplicable features of conventional history. There were occasions, such as when I combined two studies of the Mona Lisa that I had done years apart, having discovered a portrait of Leonardo hidden to the far right in one, and lettering spelling out the date of the painting and where it was painted in roughly the same area. When I combined the two files, fed up with never knowing in which one was the text I remembered seeing, I was astonished to find the text now came directly from Leonardo’s mouth. These sorts of things gave it credibility, much as one seeks credibility in deciphering any camouflage – in warfare, weapons are camouflaged, and fake ones set up to draw the fire. Fail to bomb the real weapons, and they will take you out. Bomb the fake ones and you use up your ammunition and won’t have it to defend yourself when the attack comes from somewhere else. Life and death decisions have to be made with inadequate and confusing data. Indeed, in communications theory, there are two epic problems recorded: the ‘type one error’, and the ‘type two error’. One is to see something that is not there – seeing a face in the clouds, pareidolia. The other is to NOT see something that IS there. The first error leaves one open to ridicule, the second to death. So – was what I was seeing truer than what I found in the history books? My research showed that Masaccio changed his name in 1428, and pursued a ecclesiastical and political career thereafter, plus some wonderful bas-relief sculpting. I seemed to have portraits of the same person under different names, too. What was the basis for the historical claim of 1428? Well, there is a Florentine tax record that has written in the margin by his name ‘it is said he died in Rome’. Now, being 73, I have a certain experience of tax records, and I would not expect medieval Florentine ones to be any more reliable. That was the only base for the ‘truth’ of his death in 1428. Similarly for Hieronymus Bosch, Leonardo, and even Amerigo Vespucci and Christopher Columbus…

So, as I wrote, I came to realise that I was not so much propagating a new vision of history, as talking about the inherent duplicity of truth, and how we all manage to live in a world of endless uncertainty, a counterfeit world of words. This really became the main theme of Aly, Michelangelo’s Son.