Thursday, 12 March 2015

REVIEW-The Shape of Sand by Marjorie Eccles


Life at Charnley is blessed for the Jardine children, Harriet, Vita and Daisy, who live in an idyllic Edwardian country manor with their loving parents, Beatrice and Amory. But one night, after a party celebrating their mother's birthday, their dreams of a propitious future suddenly come crashing down when a family scandal catapults them into the headlines. Nearly four decades pass by and still the exact events of that fateful night remain a mystery. But when an old diary detailing their mother's voyage to Egypt is unearthed it finally seems as though some of the answers are within reach - until the shocking discovery of a mummified corpse in the ruins of their old home. Beautifully written, evoking the life of the Edwardian upper classes, bomb-scarred post-war England and the sultry Egyptian landscape, The Shape of Sand is a compelling novel you will wish was as long as the Nile.


The premise of this story is quite simple, in that in 1910, after a lavish country house birthday party, Beatrice Jardine's teenage daughters,  husband and sun are shocked by the fact that to all appearances, she has run away with an exotic Egyptian visitor she met ten years before.

Of course the truth is far more complicated, and Ms Eccles weaves a multi-layered tapestry of emotions experienced by the diverse characters in the Jardine children, each of whom carry their own demons of their mother’s abandonment into WWII and beyond, suffering their own tragedies and getting their lives in order.

The events of the past are teased out with contrived slowness, combined with the emotions of the present which can be distracting in parts, but which made me feel this author’s deep and insightful writing requires close attention. This is not a book to be rushed, in that every personality is deeply drawn, leaving the reader to decide for themselves which of them have harboured a secret for forty years. Needless to say the story flows to a satisfying conclusion and wasn't spoiled for me at all by the fact I had guessed the ending.

I’m delighted to see there are plenty more of Ms Eccles’ books in which I can lose myself.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The Pitfalls of Genre Switching

I often read how historical authors should choose their genre carefully. That most writers, even established ones, find it hard to change genre, and are advised to use a pen name to do so.

I am not talking about building an audience, or meeting the expectations of a publisher – what I mean is how difficult is to switch your author voice into that of another time in history?

Once, I couldn’t imagine writing about anything but 17th Century England. I immersed myself in the history, how the court went about its daily business, the clothes, habits, manners and sometimes even the speech. How they moved from place to place, what they ate, the subjects they talked about over the dinner table and the place they occupied in society.

Five years ago, the English Civil War was not the most popular era for historical novel readers, so my novels moved into the early 20th Century. My next book due for release this June is set in 1900. I spent as much time reading about that era as I did my 17th Century ones, and the more I researched, the more I grew to love the atmosphere of the ‘Belle Époque’ age. Now I feel I can visualise the environment of that time; its smells, the objects used every day and how people moved around, spoke and the ideas which shaped their lives.

No problem so far then? Maybe not, however, I have now been asked to revert back to my roots and write a story for a 17th Century anthology being published by a group of authors later this year. I imagined it would be easy, all I have to do is switch heads again into that era - after all I know it so well. 

Several times over the last few weeks I have set out my notes on the main characters of that era, and with my fingers poised over the keyboard, arranged my characters within my chosen scene and waited. And waited.

These characters are the darlings of the Carolean Court. Colourful, flamboyant, outrageous, irreverent, immoral and decadent – whose lives were dominated by their wits and their main weapon was the spoken word - but they have nothing to say. Not one of them - Well that’s not quite true, they do, but in 20th Century voices. They don’t even move right! 

I feel as if I am being punished for having betrayed them and their time - but how do I get them to let me in again? 

Friday, 28 November 2014

Flora Maguire

SS Minneapolis 1900
My Flora Maguire Cozy Mystery is now in edits, which means my announcement of a release date is drawing closer.  I have learned a great deal from this exercise, in that reducing the word count of a story that holds, clues, red-herrings and false trails throughout the manuscript, is incredibly difficult to cut!  

Characters tell each other things in the wrong order, recognise people they have not yet met and reveal stuff they shouldn't know - fortunately my lovely editor has pointed these glaring errors and I am in the process of putting them right.

Next time - if there is one - I'll write a shorter story.

I have been asked what inspired this story which takes place on the SS Minneapolis on its maiden voyage from New York to London in March 1900. I was trawling through Newspaper reports for that era and came across one published in the New York Times dated December 1899 that  I knew I could make a story out of.  

I cannot reproduce it here as that would reveal three quarters of the clue. However there is a postscript to the creation of this novel I can mention, in that during the WW1 Centenary celebrations this summer, I delved into the fragmented family records including my grandfather's service record. 

Amongst the snippets of information, was one saying that his regiment were sent to France in October 1914, where they fought at Ypres. The ship was the SS Minneapolis - something of which I was completely unaware when looking for a steamship on which to base my murder mystery. 

In fact on further investigation I discovered all the 'Minne' class steamships of the Atlantic Transport Line were used as troopships during WW1. A possible clue  for the 'Twilight Zone' music, and for anyone born after 1980, and I don't mean the vampire movie.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Release Day - The Goldsmith's Wife

The second novel in the Woulfes of Loxsbeare series is now available on Amazon 
as an e-book released by Books We Love

It is London in 1688, and Helena Woulfe Palmer has what she always wanted, 
respectability and security. Her elder brothers, however, remain a worry - Aaron 
is scheming in Holland with the Prince of Orange and other exiles to depose the reigning 
King James II, and Henry carries his own sorrow in that he is pining for 
another man's wife.

Prince William arrives in England to re-establish the Anglican Church,
and when anti-Papist riots break out in London, Helena is forced to flee 
from her home – again.

The Palmers enter a new era of prosperity under the reign of King William III and 
Queen Mary, but Helena discovers she should be have been more careful what 
she wishes for. 
While Helena strives to keep what she holds dear, can she and her 
brothers attain what they both desire above all, will they ever learn the 
fate of their missing Father, who disappeared after 
the Battle of Sedgemoor?

Thursday, 6 November 2014

REVIEW - Married By Midnight by Talli Roland


Christmas is coming . . . and so is the biggest day of Kate's life.

While choosing a vintage dress for her Christmas Eve wedding, Kate finds a cryptic note pinned to the inside of a 1930s gown. As doubts about her own ceremony loom, Kate is determined to track down the dress' owner and determine what became of her - and the marriage.

Will Kate find the answers she's seeking to propel her down the aisle, or will her discovery prompt her to call off the wedding for good?


This novella is perfect for curling up in front of the fire with on a chilly evening with a hot chocolate at your side. The theme of this charming light romance is that some people appear to need signs and omens to decide whether a relationship is right. 

Kate has a Christmas Eve wedding planned, but her last minute nerves drive her to seek a sign from the cosmos that she is doing the right thing.  She ignores all the tell-tale signs that Tim is not the man for her and puts up with some pretty annoying behaviour – but she hasn't learned that marriage doesn’t change men – it just reinforces their characters! 

Kate’s sister Bea, however, has her head firmly on her shoulders and tells her sister to trust her instincts.  Kate, however isn't at all sure of her gut feelings, and is encouraged by their mother, who is equally fixated on horoscopes and omens to guide her and

Kate's Mother convinces her to visit a rundown bridal shop, where surprisingly, Kate finds the wedding dress of her dreams. The note attached to the vintage gown is from the previous owner wishing her well. Kate decides to find this woman, hoping to be told a story of perfect love and marriage, or is she simply looking for a reason to call off the wedding to rugby-obsessed Tim of the student habits and doesn’t yet know it?  Possibly.

Kate’s search, carried out through social media, [where Kate discovers to her surprise that her mother has over 640 virtual friends] brings her into contact with the original owner of the gown, and Kate has to face her demons at last.

I have read some of Talli Roland's other stories so knew vaguely what to expect and this one didn’t disappoint. My only criticism is it was too short and I finished it too quickly. 


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