The Return of the Courtesan by Victoria Blake




Venice 1576, a city destroyed by the plague, where Sebastiano da Canal has been a boatman all his life, employed by the writer Arentino, artist Titian and now Tullia Buffo, a famous Courtesan returned to the city.  He is the keeper of secrets, and scandal.  He also holds a grudge against Titian’s son, who he blames for the destruction of his family, and who has returned after the death of his father.

Tullia Buffo, once a famous courtesan, has also returned to Venice to find her house ransacked and herself without money.  Tullia sets out to set herself up again, make her house a place of knowledge, music and ultimately passion, and regain her place as the most renowned courtesan.

New York 2011 Aurora is a maid for a rich couple under investigation by the police.  The highlight of her job is being able to look up at painting of Saint Sebastian, that hangs in their hallway, that reminds her of her mother in Cuba whom she was separated from at five years old.

London 2011, Terry Jardine, a famous actor, is struggling after the death of his mother.  He visits the National Gallery to see Titian’s The Man with the Blue Sleeve, which is where he told his mother that he was gay, and a painting that speaks to him of his death.

As they deal with the problems in their lives, their stories cross time and continents but all come back to Venice and Titian.



I actually don’t know where to start my review as this novel just blew me away.  It is beautifully written, and researched with a cast of characters that drew me into their lives.  There are many voices in this book; Aurora and Alberto in New York; Terry and his new love Ludovico in London; Sebastian and Tullia in Venice.  At first it may seen that their stories are unconnected, but like a great painting their stories are like layers of paint that are gradually built up that eventually combine to make a masterpiece. Their different stories are told with great understanding and empathy, you feel invested in their lives, and care about where their future.  It is two of Titian’s paintings that connect these characters, The Man with the Blue Sleeve that hangs in the National Gallery London, which I am very fortunate to have seen, and The Resurrection of Saint Sebastian.  Victoria Blake’s writing brings these paintings to life, the detail of the quilted sleeve, its rich colour and the sumptuous cloth and Saint Sebastian’s pain, the detail of his face, the expression are all brought to life.  The paintings also represent that art transcends time, there is four hundred and fifty years between the timelines but still Titians art is able to touch peoples lives no matter where or when you are. Titian painted a couple of works featuring Saint Sebastian, but for the book it is there version taken from a polyptych, I have included images of both of these paintings at the end of my review.

Another theme is families; in particular those effected by the death of a family member that marks their lives; Terry and his mother, Aurora and her husband, Sebastiano and his father, Tullia who has lost children and her mother. These characters are very much defined by what has happened, but turn to Titian’s paintings as a solace, a place where they can turn in grief.

Most historical fiction based around Courtesan’s in Venice tells of a city of fun, Carnivale, of Masks and parties, but the only masks in The Return of the Courtesan are the masks of the plague doctor.  Venice is now a dark place,  decimated by the plague, it is a shadow of its former self; thousands died and many of the upper patrician class left to try and escape.  What is left is a city of ransacked houses where anything of any value has been stolen, it is dangerous to walk the streets after dark due to thieves.  In contrast the Venice of 2011 is a tourist haven, full of people taking in the wonderful architecture and art the city has to offer, a city of love and dreams. 

I found The Return of the Courtesan to be an erudite novel, as sumptuous as the paintings it describes.  It covers love, death, family, the power of art, human survival instincts, and also is part mystery.  It is written with knowledge, empathy and great detail to the plot and characters.  I can not praise this book highly enough, it is certainly one of the best novels I have read this year, which is quite an accolade as I have been privileged to read some wonderful books this year.

I should add the note that this book was previously published under the title Titian’s Boatman, a title I much prefer.












A Life in Books with Sam from Clues and Reviews



This evening I welcome fellow blogger Sam from Clues and Reviews to discuss books that  she has loved in A Life in Books.


Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I’m Sam, the blogger behind Clues and Reviews. By day, I am a teacher and by night, I read mystery, suspense and thriller titles. Anything crime fiction? I’ll read it! Besides reading, I enjoy trying to take selfies with my dog (who is un-cooperative) and baking.


1. What was you favourite book from childhood?61301Zyi6QL

My first memory of really loving a book was Flowers in the Attic by V.C Andrews. My mom bought me a copy from a used bookstore when I was eight. My grandmother almost had a heart attack when she caught me reading it!


2. What type of books did you read as a teenager?

You’d probably be surprised to know that I loved any sort of teenage romance; if it had a title with a pun in it and a geeky girl who was in love with the popular boy, I was probably reading it.


51u7Vynu4nL3. When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?

Night by Elie Wiesel. I am a history geek and have always been fascinated by human survival stories so this one really got under my skin; it was has always been one of my favourites to read and to teach. I am always in awe of his story and his ability to forgive.



4. What is your favourite classic book?

Ooh! Good question! I majored in English Literature in University so I have read many a classic. I have always been a huge fan of The Great Gatsby and The Sun Also Rises. I am a huge fan of American expatriate literature. I also love anything by the Southern Gothic writers; Flannery O’Conner, William Faulker.


5. What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 551l6YcIN7dL years?

This is a hard question! I have read all kinds of amazing books- especially lately. I think one that I go back to and constantly recommend would be The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson. I had been in a book slump for a few years after I first stated teaching, I read this one and it reignited my love of reading.


6. What book to you think you should read but never get round to?

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I feel like it is a crime fiction staple but I never have enough time!


51eqYMqRNpL7. What do you consider to be your favourite book ?

You know, I couldn’t even answer this question if I tried! Depending on my mood and the time and the year, this would be continuously changing. I do know for sure I am always a fan of Ania Ahlborn books and I love Tess Gerritsen. I also am a huge fan of the Harry Potter series; I re-read them every year at Christmas time. I’d say those are all my favourites.


8. Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?
Yes and I always feel so guilty!


9. If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have 5100RtgdrzLwith you?
Lord of the Flies and Robinson Crusoe. Maybe I’d be able to pick up some tips for survival!


10. Kindle or Book?
Book for sure; I love the smell and I’m too scared to bring my kindle into the bathtub!











A Life in Books with Jennifer S Alderson.



Earlier today I reviewed the brilliant The Lover’s Portrait by Jennifer S Alderson, and this evening Jennifer joins me to discuss A life in Books.


Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Travel and writing have always been an important part of my life. My father was an industrial engineer and designed aluminum recycling plants, meaning me moved every two years. We started out in my birthplace of San Francisco and slowly made our way up north to Seattle, Washington where an accident ended his career and our relocations.
My earliest memories are of writing stories with my father, mostly Steve King inspired novellas. I wrote my first full-length murder mystery when I was thirteen. At school I always wrote for the school newspapers and yearbooks. I studied print and television journalism and worked as journalist for a few years before transitioning into the ICT sector where I made a career as a multimedia developer. Burnout led me to art history, and my father’s unexpected death at the age of sixty-one motivated me to pursue my dreams of writing a novel worthy of publication.
In November 2015 I published Down and Out in Kathmandu: A Backpacker Mystery, a travel thriller set in Nepal and Thailand. The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery, an amateur sleuth mystery set in Amsterdam was released seven months later. I am overwhelmed to see the positive reaction to both by readers of all ages and nationalities. These are the first two books in what I hope will be a long running series following the adventures of culture and travel lover Zelda Richardson.
In May I released my third book, a travelogue entitled Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand. This novella-length book contains excerpts from my travel journal and email back home. Readers seem to be enjoying their journey!
This winter I hope to release my fourth book, currently entitled Smuggler’s Deceit, another art mystery in the Adventures of Zelda Richardson series. This time readers will be transported to Papua New Guinea and follow along on anthropological expeditions as they try and solve mysteries of the past and present.


What was your favourite book from childhood?51AOGAZor9L

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I still have my great-grandmother’s hardback copy, complete with hand-painted illustrations.


What type of books did you read as a teenager?

Mystery and adventure were (and still are) my go-to genres: the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Mysteries, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, and all of the Agatha Christie mysteries. Though my favorite were the Choose Your Own Adventure books; this wonderful series taught me early on there is no ‘right’ answer in life.


51btOLAf4lLWhen you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. The author breaks every rule of writing, yet it is one of the most powerful books I have ever read. It is truly a revelation in style and technique and the story told is a surprise, in every way possible.



What is your favourite classic book?

On The Road by Jack Kerouac. This is a book I have read many times and will continue to re-read because it always reminds me to think outside the box and challenge social norms as well as peoples’ expectations. Besides, it’s beautifully written and contains several of my favorite book quotes, such as this line by Sal Paradise: “For life is holy and every moment is precious.”


What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 41A4oppupSLyears?

I have read so many wonderful books during the last five years, yet Het Diner (2010) by Herman Koch has probably stayed with me the longest. (It was translated from Dutch into English in 2013 as The Dinner). This is one of the most surprising and captivating books I’ve ever read. You will not guess what happens next, I almost guarantee it! It’s extraordinary well written but more importantly, well-conceived. I can’t say much about the story without ruining the plot, except buy it, you won’t be disappointed.
Two recent favorites are Bridge of Sighs and Dreams by Pamela Allegretto and Titian’s Boatman (renamed: The Return of the Courtesan) by Victoria Blake, published in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Both are beautifully written, absorbing historical fiction novels set in Italy, one of my favorite countries in the world.


What book to you think you should read but never get round to?

I am almost afraid to admit I have never read anything by Jane Austen or Sylvia Plath. Considering how highly regarded they are by most readers, I suppose I should read some of their works, one day.


What do you consider to be your favourite book?

On The Road by Jack Kerouac.


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

I am fascinated by Umberto Eco yet cannot seem to finish any of his books. I already had three of his novels collect dust on my bookshelf, then recently received his book On Ugliness as a gift. I still haven’t opened it but am determined to give it a go.

512kgZyolHLWhat are you reading now?
I just started reading Winter’s Mourning by Janice J. Richardson. It’s the second in a cozy mystery series set in a Canadian funeral home, and so far quite wonderful.

Kindle or Book?




Please take a look at my review for The Lover’s Portrait which I posted earlier today.

Down and Out in Kathmandu and The Lover’s Portrait are available now.




The Lover’s Portrait by Jennifer S Alderson














Zelda Richardson, having finished her Art History Course, is now waiting to be accepted for an MA Course in Museum Studies.  Over the summer she takes an intern job at the prestigious Amsterdam Museum which is running an exhibition of art work stolen by the Nazis during the war, in the hope that they may be recognised and returned to the descendants of the original owners.  Originally employed to work on the website, she becomes embroiled in the ownership of a painting Irises, when two women come forward to claim it.  Zelda oversteps the mark in her research into the painting and puts herself in danger as someone is willing to murder to get the painting  and a collection of modern masterpieces missing since 1942.

1942 A Dutch Art Dealer is being blackmailed by a member the Nazi SS.  He decides to hide his collection, and that of some of his friends, to stop it from falling into the hands of his blackmailer.  He pays for his actions with his life, but without telling anyone where the art is hidden.  Somewhere in Amsterdam there is a large collection of modern masterpieces probably lost forever, until Irises by Lex Wederstien turns up at the Amsterdam Museum.



As well as reading and books in general, my other passion in life is art, so I was very excited to read A Lover’s Portrait.  I think that everyone who studies Art History and is then lucky enough to work in the field, dreams of finding a lost masterpiece, or a cache of art lost during the war which is the premise of this book.  It might sound like a fantasy but this did happen in 2013  when Rolf Nikolaus Cornelius Gurlitt was found to have hoarded millions of pounds worth of art stolen by the Nazi’s.  I should point out that Jennifer S Alderson wrote this book before that event.

The plot is written in the third person and from three different perspectives.  In 1942 we see Amsterdam under the Nazi regime and their procurement of ‘degenerate’ art via the story of art dealer Arjan van Heemsvliet.  In present day Zelda is the main protagonist and we are privy to her search for the details of the painting and the people who claim ownership.  Finally there is Konrad Heider who has been looking for his uncle’s art collection lost during the war.  All these separate threads slowly knit together, until they become one and solve the mystery.  As well as the main characters there is an interesting supporting cast, all with their own back story that enhance the plot; the curator who has a history with possessions lost during the war;  Rita Brouwer one of the claimants for Irises who left Amsterdam during the war; Karen, the rich American widow who also makes a claim, but all is not as it should be.  I really enjoyed the fact that all characters had a back story gave them credence in the story.  Not surprisingly Zelda was my favourite character, I loved her exuberance for life and for art.  I have to say I was slightly jealous of her being able to study n Amsterdam and being able to be part of the search for the art.

Jennifer’s attention to detail in her writing is brilliant.  She is able to bring Amsterdam, both in the present and in the past to life with vivid clarity, I felt I was back in the Museumplein, looking at the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum. The same detail is given to her descriptions of the art, the reader gets a real sense of the images, and how they were painted.

There are plenty of clever twists and turns in the plot as Zelda races towards the truth of the ownership of Irises and the secret cache of art.  The suspense an tension are kept throughout, and will keep you engaged until you turn the last page.  I found The Lover’s Portrait to be and erudite and compelling read, full of suspense and culture; a perfect combination of history, mystery and art.







A Life in Books with Suzie Tullett




This evening I am very happy to welcome author Suzie Tullett to my blog to take part in A Life in Books.  Suzie’s new book The Trouble with Words is released today through Bombshell Books.  Suzie has written a guest post which I have included in the introduction section about her books and writing.  May  I take this opportunity to wish her luck with the book, it looks fab and I will definitely be purchasing a copy.


Suzie Tullett My Life in Books Guest Feature

My writing career began when I got my MA in Television and Radio Scriptwriting. I was lucky enough to be chosen by the BBC for their New Writers’ Scheme, which gave me the opportunity to write for their long running series Doctors. Even though I enjoyed scriptwriting I eventually decided to try my hand at writing books, although looking back at my first novel Going Underground, I can see it’s definitely a transition piece. With its short, sharp chapters there’s no denying my scriptwriting background. It was a wonderful process to go through and writing that book taught me a lot.

I write contemporary humourous fiction and romantic comedy. For me, these genres best suit my voice. I like to write about real people, living real, everyday lives, but who are eccentric enough in their way of thinking to be different. Of course, this leaves them making choices their peers wouldn’t necessarily make, but I like to celebrate these differences, not shy away from them. I also like to make readers smile and what better way to do that, than by writing comedy. And because relationships are a part of all our lives in one way or another, why not include a bit of romance too?

So where do I pen these books of mine? I live in a tiny hamlet in the middle of the French countryside, along with my husband and two Greek rescue dogs, and in  truth, as long as I have a pencil and notebook the answer to this is anywhere and everywhere. When it comes to a first draft I like to write long hand, so you’ll often find me scribbling away at the local café. When it comes to typing everything up though, up until recently my desk sat in the corner of the lounge. However, I’m pleased to say that I now have a dedicated writing room. Nothing fancy, we converted an old oil store attached to the house, I know, an ambitious project for a couple of DIYers like my husband and myself, I’m pleased with the result. Now I can lock myself away without interruption.

You can find me on Facebook here

And on Twitter @SuzieTullett


Facebook Author Page:

Twitter: @SuzieTullett


1. What was your favourite book from childhood?71ZblAkfCaL

As a child I always had my head in a book, so there are so many to choose from. That said, I absolutely adored The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton. I remember winning a book token at junior school and the excitement I felt at being able to pick any book I wanted from the shelves. I chose The Enchanted Wood, which of course meant I had to then read all the rest.


2. What type of books did you read as a teenager?

The short answer would be anything I could get my hands on. If it was on the shelf, I read it. The books that stick out, however, are those in the Dollanganger series by V.C. Andrews. At the time, everyone was reading Flowers in the Attic and Petals in the Wind etcetera so it’s no surprise I ended up reading them too.


418uOZKwBSL3. When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?

That’s easy – Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. Oh, it did make me cry.

4. What is your favourite classic book?

Again, that would be Oliver Twist.


5. What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years?

One of my best books during this time would be Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey. Part mystery, part love story, I read it a couple of years ago and am still recommending it. Imagine inheriting an apartment straight from La Belle Époque… For a Francophile like myself, it’s the stuff of dreams.


6. What book to you think you should read but never get round to?61W6nTNmO4L

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin


7. What do you consider to be your favourite book?

I’m going to be a coward here and say I couldn’t possibly narrow it down to a single favourite. I’ve enjoyed tonnes of books and from a whole range of genres, so my brain would hurt if I attempted to pick just one.


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

Nope, if I start a book I always finish it. As an author myself, I know how much blood, sweat and tears can go into writing a novel. It seems only right I respect the work a novelist has put in and read right up until ‘The End’.


41pizDYbrQL9. If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with you?

The first would be my copy of Richard Adams’s Favourite Animal Stories. It’s a collection of animal related short stories whose authors include James Herriot, Rudyard Kipling, Joy Adamson, and Gerald Durrell. It’s the only book I have left from my childhood so it’s too important to leave behind.The second would be my copy of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Not only is it a great read, but it’s a book that my husband bought for me.


10. Kindle or Book?

I don’t mind, as long as I’m reading.


The Trouble with Words is available to buy now.

The Girl in the Glass Tower by Elizabeth Fremantle




Sixteenth Century England and Queen Elizabeth I is on the throne, but she has no heir.  Lady Arbella Stuart, cousin to the Queen, is descended from Henry VII and also has a Tudor bloodline, is seen as the natural heir to he throne.  She is imprisoned at Hardwick Hall by her grandmother Bess of Hardwick, to keep her safe from any political alliances wishing to overthrow the Queen and make Arbella queen.  This is a period where women are silenced, and it is not seemly to have to many opinions, a time when Arbella could be made a puppet for those out for their own motives, a fact that could see her tried for treason and killed

Arbella just wants to be free, to lead a different life, to love and be loved and not be a contender for the throne, but who can she trust, who really has her best interests at heart.  Arbella’s story is re imagined in this tense historical thriller.



The  Girl in the Glass Tower weaves together the stories of  Arbella Stuart and poet Aemilia Lanyer, both historical figures, educated women in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.  Elizabeth Fremantle does admit that they were both at the Royal Court at the same time, probably in Queen Anne’s rooms, there is no actual evidence that they met.  This is a historical fiction and Elizabeth Fremantle uses Aemilia Lanyer and her poetry as a way to tell the story of Arbella Stuart, a lesser known and shadow figure in the Tudor dynasty.  Both women are feisty and want to be incharge of their destiny at a time when that was not possible.  Lanyer, may not have been the first female poet, but she was the first women to declare herself a poet, a very radical thing to do.

The plot follows Arbella’s life, and also Aemilia who is reading writings by Arbella about her life in the hope of finding some sort of forgiveness for an act that we are not privy to until the end of the book.  The only problem was that the chapters were not labeled as to where they are in both date and who they are about;  I think doing this would have made  reading this book a bit easier as there are jumps in time which can cause some confusion.  I would also have liked a family tree at the beginning of the book to refer to to help make sense of all the family relationships.  I had a digital copy to read so I am not sure if it was included in a print copy, but it would have made a difference to my reading experience.  Apart from that it is well written, and it is obvious that Elizabeth Fremantle has done a vast amount of research into the characters and cultural history of the time.  I found myself looking into the characters on the internet to refresh my memory of the details of the characters and the period. I have added two pictures at the end of my review of Arbella Stuart and Aemilia Lanyer for you to look at if interested.

I found The Girl in the Glass Tower  to be an  interesting and engaging read, full of historical fact and political and social intrigue in post Elizabethan England.
Picture of Lady Arbella Stuart, top and Aemilia Lanyer bottom.






A Life in Books with Pat Young


To celebrate the publication of her first book, thriller Til the Dust Settles, author Pat Young joins me to tells us about some of her favourite books in A Life in Books.


Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I grew up in the south west of Scotland where I still live, sometimes. The other extreme, in so many ways, is the south west of France, where I like to go in search of sunlight. However, I must say I find it easier to be productive during the long dark months of a Scottish winter. From bleak November to blustery wet March, it makes sense to sit inside writing. Bit harder when the sun’s shining.
I never expected to be a writer. Then I found a discarded book with a wad of cash and a letter tucked in the flyleaf. ‘What if something awful happened to the owner of this book?’ I thought, and I was off. I used to think my constant ‘what iffing’ was a curse as I fretted about my children. Now I regard it as a blessing. ‘What if’ is the start of a story.
I tried to find someone to write the story that I could see in my head. I knew nothing about writing. I did know a thing or two about books however. Having studied English, French and German at uni, I’d read a fair few! And so, I gave it a go. There was no turning back, although I had other plans, none of which included sitting at a desk from daybreak till dusk. But some days I just have to. Because there’s a story to be told. And when it’s done, I go out to play. On zip-wires and abseil ropes, or just the tennis court.
Sometimes learning, hard work and persistence pay off. Although I was just another pebble on a stony beach, Betsy Reavley of Bloodhound Books found me. I’m delighted to say that my debut novel, Till the Dust Settles, a psychological thriller, will be available from late July.



1. What was you favourite book from childhood? 91ee9N4eSEL

I’ve always had a hyperactive imagination. As a child I devoured books. Depending on what I was reading, usually under the bedcovers, I’d believe I was Heidi. Or that I owned magical ballet shoes, or led secret clubs at boarding school. A far cry from my life in a small village on the Ayrshire coalfields.
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield is my favourite, I think. And I loved The Borrowers.


2. What type of books did you read as a teenager?

I was really into Catherine Cookson and in fact, I answered the literature question in my O Level English exam on a Catherine Cookson novel.
I adored The Catcher in the Rye.


3. When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?

By sixth form my tastes had matured and I loved DH Lawrence. Sons and Lovers probably was, and still is, my favourite.


41NkqWv4b8L4. What is your favourite classic book?

The Great Gatsby
I re-read it again quite recently and was shocked by two things 1 how short it was and 2 how sad a character Gatsby is. Between the first and second reading many years later, I saw the movie. Robert Redford will always be my Gatsby.



5. What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years?

I’ve read countless books in that time and I’m ashamed to say, I’m not very good at remembering them all. I really enjoyed The Reader on the 9.27 but I was moved to tears by one whose name I’ve forgotten (!) about a man who has to learn a number of things before he dies by meeting folk in his life and seeing his life-changing events from their point of view. Maybe you’ll get a response from someone with a better memory than mine who can identify the title for us?


6. What book do you think you should read but never get round to?5191u1Xie6L

Gone with the Wind – I remember it on my Gran’s bookshelf a lifetime ago. Fast forward two generations and my daughter adored the film so much we watched it over and over again. Stef has read it, but I’ve never got round to it. Yet.


7. What do you consider to be your favourite book?

That is the hardest question of all ten. I have no idea.
I’m very fickle and often say, that’s my favourite book … till I find another and fall in love with it. (May I say, in case my husband reads this, that the previous comment applies only to books.)


8. Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?
At university, faced with piles of books that I absolutely had to read, I made myself a promise. When I graduated, I swore I’d never force myself to read another book I didn’t like. I’ve stuck to that pledge.
Nowadays I give up on a book if I don’t care what happens to the main character. The world is full of so many wonderful books, it’s a shame to waste a moment’s reading time.


81zuIUxKknL9. If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with you?
That would be, for me, such a nightmare scenario, I cannot imagine taking my eyes off the horizon or the creepy crawlies long enough to read a word. I’d much rather have a pair of flippers and a snorkel. But if you insist, I’ll go for the poetry of Robert Burns, a Kilmarnock Edition that I was given by an old Uncle at age fifteen and The Bible. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that it’s another book I should read but never get round to.


10. Kindle or Book?
Can I say both, please? Kindle has made it so easy for readers to access books which is great for authors. I love mine. But a paperback has a tactile quality that I find hard to resist.


Pat’s book is available to buy from today.


til the dust settles cover

A Life in Books with Babs Morton


This evening I welcome author and fellow Geordie Babs Morton to my weekly feature A Life in Books.


Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Hi, I’m Babs Morton. I live in rural Northumberland with my hubby and my Border Terrier Jess. I’ve always been a bookworm, growing up in Newcastle opposite a library probably had something to do with that. I write crime fiction and historical fiction (BA Morton). My debut crime novel, Mrs Jones, set in New York took second place in The Yeovil Prize literary competition and went on to be an Amazon best seller. My latest works are North East based psychological crime thrillers, published by Caffeine Nights Publishing. I was thrilled to have a short story included in Bloodhound Book’s recent charity collection Dark Minds. I’m currently working on my seventh novel.


1. What was your favourite book from childhood?81YVXyLGTIL

Like most youngsters growing up in the 60s/70s, I was heavily influenced by Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, and any kind of stories that had children having extraordinary adventures. I enjoyed The Chalet School books (midnight feasts and high jinx galore) and I recall a book called The House at World’s End (great title) about abandoned kids, thwarting the system. I think my all time favourites were the Chronicles of Narnia, still enjoy them now.


2. What type of books did you read as a teenager?

I read a lot of science fiction/fantasy as a teenager, hand me downs from an older brother, Mervyn Peake, Isaac Asimov, and of course Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I had pet guinea pigs called Titus, Fuschia and Gandalf. While my original copy of Lord of the Rings still claims a favoured place on my bookshelf I don’t read science fiction now.


3. When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?

To be honest I can’t recall any books studied at school other than Of Mice and Men and Cider with Rosie. I can’t say that I enjoyed either. I was the one who hid my own choice of paperback inside the school book and read quietly to myself during lessons.


07fa21e98c1c6b74951bec745147c4284. What is your favourite classic book?

I still have my orange Penguin copy of Jamaica Inn, Daphne Du Maurier, and read that at least once per year. Love it! Lent it to a friend once and it came back with a coffee stain on the front cover…arghhhhh!


5. What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years?
That’s a difficult question. I’ve read some amazing books, mostly crime fiction and all the best leave you wrung out at the end, mainly because of the need to keep reading nonstop until they’re finished. John Connolly is my favourite crime writer, I like the supernatural twist, and the tortured main character Charlie Parker. All Connolly’s books are so beautifully written. I’m also hooked on Indie crime writer Claire Stibbe’s ‘Temeke’ series, dark psychological crime with almost poetic prose – fabulous.


6. What book do you think you should read but never get round to?

Too many. Since joining The Book Club on TBC I’ve been introduced to many new writers and new series and can’t keep up with them all.


7. What do you consider to be your favourite book ?51CcRfIl3PL

The Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett – fabulous historical fiction. The book that encouraged my love of all things medieval and set me off writing my own medieval trilogy. It’s a sweeping story charting the lives of three families through turbulent times and the building of a cathedral. It was televised, (poorly in my opinion).


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

There have been a few. Usually I check on the ‘look inside’ feature on Amazon first to see if the writing grabs me, but occasionally I’ve bought a paperback solely on the back cover blurb and then been disappointed by the read. I recently started a book and just couldn’t get away with the main character and so gave up on it. Others probably love the books that I don’t, so I’d never name a book that I didn’t enjoy as it’s only my opinion.


51SYheF9zuL9. If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with you

The White Road, John Connolly and Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett.


10. Kindle or Book?

Both. Kindles take up less room and downloading is instant, no fifty mile round trip to the nearest bookstore, or waiting for the postie to deliver, though my preference will always be for paperbacks.


Babs Morton’s books are available to buy now.

Tara Lyons Deadly Friendship Guest Post


Deadly Friendship, the third booking the DCI Hamilton Series was released July 23rd.  To celebrate Tara Lyons has written a guest post about her inspiration for her books and her writing process.


The journey to Deadly Friendship

Deadly Friendship is the third book in the DI Hamilton series, and I’m delighted readers are following the series and excited to find out more about DI Denis Hamilton.
Although this book is the third in the series, it can easily be read as a standalone. In The Shadows, No Safe Home and Deadly Friendship all deal with different crimes, depravities and threats, but the base city of London and the Murder Investigations Team is the theme which runs through them all. Of course, as the series goes on, readers can delve into the character of DI Hamilton, and his team, and discover more about their backgrounds, motivations and hopes for the future. In No Safe Home and Deadly Friendship, I’ve left little hints of something further to come for one of the characters.
The idea for Deadly Friendship came after a trip I took with some friends to Ambleside in the Lake District – where this book begins. While the scenery on a boat trip we took was stunning, there was also something eerie about the way the trees hung low and dark over an old boat house. I snapped some photos and my friends said this would be a great location for one of your books. However, I like writing about London, as it’s where I’m from – and DI Hamilton, of course – so I wanted to write a story which connected the two places.
In The Shadows and No Safe Home focus very much on family, and in both of those stories there’s an element of me – in terms of something I’ve been through, or how I live my life – so, they’re very personal. I knew I wanted Deadly Friendship to concentrate on the different relationships we can have for people, and the difficulties that can arise from them. But, let me stop you there, this is not the personal side of the book – my friendships are not twisted… I did, however, study at Brunel University, which features in this book.
Like the plot ideas, my inspiration for the characters in my books come from everyday life – friends, television personalities, strangers in the street and people I speak to online. There isn’t one character in any of the books who is an exact replica of someone I know, but rather, they’re all amalgamations of these different people.
My writing process has changed dramatically since In The Shadows – which was completed in the evenings while my son was asleep, with me perched on the sofa in my living room. I’ve now made myself a little office nook in my bedroom, with a desk (my lap certainly appreciates the break) and tend to write more in the day, while my son is at part-time nursery. He starts reception in September, so I’m hoping that’ll mean even more writing time to get the next book out.
I’d like to take a moment to thank Juliet for hosting my guest post today, as well as all the bloggers and readers who go above and beyond to shout about my books. Thanks for sticking with Hamilton, and the series, and I hope you enjoy Deadly Friendship.



You can keep in touch with Tara via the following:




Tara Lyons JAN 2017

A Life in Books with Rebecca Chance


Following on from my review of Killer Affair earlier today, this evening I am delighted to welcome Rebecca Chance to my blog to discuss A Life in Books.


Rebecca Chance was born in Hampstead to international art dealer parents, and grew up in the exclusive millionaire’s row surroundings of London’s St John’s Wood. Tiring of her cushioned, privileged existence, she ran away to Tuscany to live a wild bohemian life on a wine-making estate, where she lived in a 14th century villa in a Chianti vineyard, partying with artists, learning Italian, and picking grapes. But big city life was calling her, and after staying in Rome and Porto Ercole, she moved to Manhattan, lured by the glamorous single-girl existence and nonstop nightlife. She spent a decade living the Sex and The City dream in SoHo, equally at home in an uptown penthouse on Fifth Avenue overlooking the Metropolitan Museum, or downtown dancing on the bar of the Coyote Ugly for kicks. Eventually, a handsome American husband in tow, she moved back to London to settle down (as much as she can) and finally fictionalize some of her most exciting and glamorous experiences into her bestselling blockbuster novels.

Rebecca’s interests include trapeze, pole-dancing, watching “America’s Next Top Model”, and cocktail-drinking.

website with info on me is


1. What was you favourite book from childhood?51K2KAy4lvL

It’s impossible to pick just one! I loved Rosemary Sutcliffe and Geoffrey Trease, and the Roger Lancelyn Green myth collections, as well as Andrew Lang’s fairy story collections.


2. What type of books did you read as a teenager?

The authors I read the most were Georgette Heyer, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Jean Plaidy – mysteries and historical romances. I was also obsessed by Francoise Sagan. But I read everything in my teens. My parents had a very well-stocked library and I worked my way through it.


51SU8O0PsJL3. When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?

Anything by Jane Austen.





4. What is your favourite classic book?

The Chronicles of Barsetshire by Anthony Trollope. Or Dombey and Son by Dickens.


5. What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 551Twah2UHHL

I really enjoyed Garth Greenwell’s “What Belongs To You” – both reading it and discussing it with friends.



6. What book to you think you should read but never get round to?

I don’t have “should-reads”. If i don’t get round to it, there’ll be a good reason!


518D2AVJEBL7. What do you consider to be your favourite book?

“This Is Not For You” by Jane Rule.




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

Yes, but I wouldn’t embarrass the author by naming them! I am a really, really fast reader so if a book isn’t working for me, I’ll usually skim it to see what happens in the story.

9. If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have 41ZRFMC5KTLwith you

I’ll cheat and say the Collected Works of Anthony Trollope and Ngaio Marsh – that should give me a decent amount to read and re-read.


10. Kindle or Book?

Book, though I love my Kindle – especially because I can read it in a car without any motion sickness, which I can’t do with books.


Killer Affair will be published on 27 July.  You can read my five star review of this sassy, sexy and sensational novel on my blog.