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Why Mummy’s Sloshed by Gill Sims

Ellen’s children are growing up and bringing a new range of problems. Peter is a typical teenage boy, spending most of his time in his bedroom, eating and playing computer games. Jane, however, is 17 and about to take her driving test and flee the nest and head off to university. With her own personal life bringing her added stress, just how will Ellen cope?

This is the fourth and final instalment of the ‘Why Mummy’s…’ series and we see Ellen contemplating her future life as a single woman with children who no longer need her attention. While this seems quite scary for her, looking after her friend’s toddler for a day soon makes her realise that maybe life isn’t so bad after all! This part of the book had numerous laugh out loud moments and the audiobook (read brilliantly by Gabrielle Glaister) had me visualising the utter chaos the whirlwind of a child managed to cause!

While this could be read as a standalone, I would advise reading the previous books in the series in order to develop an understanding of the family and what has happened in their lives up until this point in time. As someone who mainly reads crime books, this is one of my go-to series for when I need something a bit more lighthearted and Gill Sims has never let me down.

**BLOG TOUR** The Storm Girl by Kathleen McGurl

Present Day: After her divorce, Millie Galton has moved into an old house in Mudeford, determined to start afresh. Once work starts on the house, the fireplace reveals a secret that takes Millie back to the house’s original use and introduces her to the world of smuggling.

1784: When her father becomes unable to work, Esther Harris takes over his role of hiding smugglers’ contraband in the cellar of their pub. Knowing that she could be caught at any moment, secrecy is a must. When a battle occurs between the revenue men and the smugglers, people’s loyalties are tested to the limit and Esther has a decision to make: does she follow her heart or protect those she loves?

Kathleen McGurl’s dual timeline books are always a good read and this is no exception. I really got a feel for the geography and history of the locations used in The Storm Girl and could see the research that had been undertaken to make the plot as accurate as possible. The area was really brought to life in both time frames and I could easily visualise the pub and the activities that went on there.

I loved the character of Esther, a woman ahead of her time whose strength showed throughout the whole book. I admired her tenacity and loyalty and willed her to have a happy ending. Millie showed a different sort of strength in her willingness to leave everything behind and start a new life in a place she had no connection to.

The plot has a bit of everything: history, romance, murder… It moves on at a good pace and by switching the timeframes as you are reading, Kathleen McGurl leaves you wanting to know what is going to happen next all the time. The two stories, although set in different times, link together nicely and a mysterious event that happened in the past is solved in the present, providing yet another connection.

I always look forward to reading Kathleen McGurl’s latest book and she has certainly not disappointed with The Storm Girl.

With thanks to HQ Digital and Rachel’s Random Resources.

Take a look at my reviews of more of Kathleen McGurls books:

The Emerald Comb 

The Pearl Locket

The Daughters Of Red Hill Hall

The Girl from Ballymor 

The Drowned Village

The Forgotten Secret

The Stationmaster’s Daughter

The Secret of the Chateau

The Forgotten Gift

The Lost Sister

The Girl From Bletchley Park

The Music Makers by Alexandra Walsh

Pembrokeshire, 2020

Eleanor Wilder has been forced to return to her parents’ home in Wales after a devastating illness has made it difficult for her to carry on with the life she was used to. A set of old family photos has given her a new lease of life, however, especially a photo of someone called Esme Blood, a name Eleanor is already familiar with. She soon embarks on a research project to find out all she can about this intriguing woman.

London, 1875

Esme Blood lives with her adoptive parents, Cornelius and Rosie Hardy, spending her time performing as part of a theatrical troupe. When her close friend Aaron leaves, Esme feels that one day they will reunite and will be able to live as man and wife. Fate has the habit of dealing a cruel hand, however, and soon Esmefinds herself in a loveless marriage, one that threatens the safety of those around her.

I have really enjoyed Alexandra Walsh’s previous books and this one, The Music Makers, is the second in her Victorian timeshift series. Although it is the second book, it is very much a standalone as it features a brand new story and different characters from the previous book, The Wind Chime. I do like how the author weaves in characters from previous books in little cameo appearances however, a sort of Easter Egg for those of us who have read the previous book and also the Marquess House series.

Both time frames are very readable and, although I had great sympathy for Eleanor and willed her to get what she wanted by the end of the book, it was the story of Esme Blood that was the standout plot for me. Esme was a wonderful character and I loved how her strength carried her through some quite dangerous situations. Alexandra Walsh’s superb writing meant that I could visualise the various aspects of Esme’s life from her life on stage to her marriage and beyond. I enjoyed the connections made between the two time frames and could totally understand Eleanor’s need to find out more about this mysterious woman from her past.

Alexandra Walsh has become one of the authors whose books I look forward to reading and I am eagerly anticipating the next in the Marquess House series, The Jane Seymour Conspiracy.

With thanks to Sapere Books and Net Galley.

The Girl From Bletchley Park by Kathleen McGurl

The Present

The Past

In 1942, Pam decides to defer her place at Oxford University to help with the war effort, joining a team of codebreakers in Bletchley Park. Finding herself the subject of the affection of two young men, she makes her choice, setting in motion a series of events that could change her life forever.

The Girl From Bletchley Park is another superb dual timeframe book from Kathleen McGurl. Kathleen seems to have the knack of choosing the perfect eras for these books and she has done it again here, the Buckinghamshire estate being the perfect setting for a book about mystery and betrayal. I visited Bletchley Park several years ago and would thoroughly recommend it as it really brings home how brave and intelligent women like Pam were.

The theme of betrayal runs through both timeframes, albeit betrayal in very different ways. I admired the strength of both women, Pam and Julia, and enjoyed reading a book with such strong female characters who were not afraid to take matters into their own hands when faced with an earth-shattering situation.

I always look forward to Kathleen McGurl’s books and am eagerly waiting to see which historical era she takes us to next.

With thanks to Net Galley and HQ Digital for my copy.

Take a look at my reviews of other books by Kathleen McGurl.

The Emerald Comb 

The Pearl Locket

The Daughters Of Red Hill Hall

The Girl from Ballymor 

The Drowned Village

The Forgotten Secret

The Stationmaster’s Daughter

The Secret of the Chateau

The Forgotten Gift

The Lost Sister

The Wind Chime by Alexandra Walsh

After the death of her mother, Amelia Prentice is clearing out her attic when she finds a box of Victorian photographs. Depicting the Attwater family who resided at a Pembrokeshire estate called Cliffside, Amelia sets out to discover who they were. When she finds the diaries of Osyth Attwater, she finds her interest piqued even more.

Back in 1883, young Osyth overhears a conversation which shatters her world and leaves her wondering what other secrets her family has kept from her. What exactly did happen to Osyth’s mother and is there any link in the present day to Amelia?

I am a huge fan of the Marquess House series by Alexandra Walsh and was pleased to see that she had written another timeshift book, this time set in my favoured period of historical fiction, the Victorian age. The author captures the era perfectly and I particularly liked how it deals with some of the subjects that would have been taboo in that age such as mental illness and relationships outside of marriage.

Initially, I found myself favouring the sections written in the present day due to my love of all things genealogical but as the book progressed and I found myself understanding the complex family relationships of the family in 1883, I began to enjoy both eras equally. Osyth soon became a firm favourite and I admired her tenacity despite her reputation for being a bit of a dreamer.

The Wind Chime is a beautiful, poignant book written with sensitivity. I have already downloaded the next in the series, The Music Makers.

Take a look at my reviews of the Marquess House series by the same author:

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy

The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy

The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy

The Weeping Lady Conspiracy

**BLOG TOUR** The Lost Sister by Kathleen McGurl

In 1911, Emma leaves the family home to become a stewardess onboard the ocean liner Olympic. Leaving her two sisters, Lily and Ruby, behind, she promises to be back soon. Nothing ever goes according to plan, however, and soon the sisters’ lives are changed for ever. In the present day, Harriet finds her late grandmother’s travelling trunk in the attic. Finding a photo of her grandmother with her sisters, she is confused. She knew that her grandmother had a sister who died young but who is the other girl? She soon finds herself learning about the three sister ships Olympic, Britannic and Titanic and discovering what tore the sisters apart.

It is always a pleasure to feature on a blog tour for a Kathleen McGurl book and more so when the subject is something that I have a great interest in – RMS Titanic. The story of the Titanic has been well documented but the fate of her sister ships is less known and it was clear to see the research that has been undertaken by the author in order to tell their stories. Most fiction about the Titanic tends to focus on the passengers, so it was pleasing to read about a member of staff, giving a different perspective of life at sea.

The two time frames each have their own plot, linked neatly together by a family connection. We also see the common theme of complicated sibling relationships running throughout both eras. There were many parallels between the two sets of characters, Ruby and Davina being headstrong with no concerns about how they are perceived by the outside world and the more staid personalities of Emma and Sally.

I am a fan of genealogical fiction and so I particularly enjoyed reading about Harriet’s desire to find out about her family and her use of DNA testing. This gave the story another superb layer, helping to contribute to the several twists and turns that the author has included, one of which, in particular, knocked me sideways!

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Kathleen McGurl’s dual timeline novels and this one is another wonderful read. An accurate portrayal of family relationships with a plot that is both heartwarming and heart wrenching, I thoroughly recommend reading The Lost Sister.

With thanks to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources, Net Galley, H Q Digital and Kathleen McGurl for my copy and for organising the blog tour.

Take a look at my reviews of some of Kathleen McGurl’s other books:

The Emerald Comb 
The Pearl Locket
The Daughters Of Red Hill Hall
The Girl from Ballymor 
The Drowned Village
The Forgotten Secret
The Stationmaster’s Daughter
The Secret of the Chateau

The Forgotten Gift

**BLOG TOUR** How Love Actually Ruined Christmas (or Colourful Narcotics) by Gary Raymond

I’m not a huge fan of rom-coms but I’ve always had a soft spot for the film Love Actually. With its stellar cast and feel-good story lines, I went to see it at the cinema, own the DVD and if I see it’s on TV, I find myself settling down to watch it once again. The title of this book, therefore, intrigued me – just how could this film possibly be accused of ruining Christmas?

If you have never seen the film, then this book will not make much sense to you! It is, essentially, a retelling of the plot, taking each aspect and dissecting it with a very critical eye. While my opinion of Love Actually has not been swayed after reading this, I do concede that the author has made some very valid points and I will definitely see parts of the film in a different light.

Gary Raymond definitely hits the nail on the head with regards to Daniel and Karen. This is a man who has recently lost his wife and yet his friend is pushing him towards starting a new relationship, seemingly even before the funeral! Until reading this, I had never given this insensitive behaviour a second thought! Likewise, the author’s comments on the Mark/Juliet/Peter relationship are spot on, although I am still a sucker for Andrew Lincoln’s (Mark) scene with the flashcards. The mention of Boris Johnson in this section may have put me off slightly, though!

If you have ever seen Love Actually, whatever your opinion of it, then I can definitely recommend this book. Well-written, witty and with some astute observations, there will be new thoughts running through my mind the next time I watch it. With Christmas coming up, that’s bound to be soon…

With thanks to Parthian, Gary Raymond and Emma from Damppebbles blog tours for my copy.

**BLOG TOUR** The Thief on the Winged Horse by Kate Mascarenhas

The Kendrick family own a successful doll making firm, but these are not your run of the mill dolls. Beautifully crafted from a range of materials, these dolls are magical, its creator having bestowed a particular emotion on it which is then felt by its owner. Although the company was founded by a family of sisters two hundred years ago, today, only the men are allowed to perform the sorcery needed to set these dolls apart. This does not sit well with Persephone Kendrick and she is determined to break this tradition, so when a stranger arrives claiming to be a descendant of one of the original sisters, she sees this as the opportunity she needs. One night, however, the family’s most valuable doll is taken. Only someone with a knowledge of their magic could have taken it, only one of the Kendrick family…

This is not my preferred fiction genre, but having loved the author’s previous book, The Psychology of Time Travel, I knew that I would enjoy this one. I was not wrong! This is very much a cross-genre book, with hints of mystery, fantasy, history and romance, but above all, it has a great story, one that kept me engrossed until the very last page.

Set in an eyot near Oxford, I loved how the inhabitants live, almost in their own world, part of modern society yet removed from it at the same time. There were times when I had to remind myself that this was set in the present day as the events could have taken place any time in the past few hundred years. I thought this was very clever as it helped to display the parochial aspect of their life whilst they were also partaking in the same activities as everyone else in the ‘outside world’.

One of the main themes in the book is how we should not underestimate women. Like in her previous book, the author has created a strong female cast with Persephone, in particular, determined to show that she could perform the traditional tasks of a male, if only she were given the opportunity. As the book progressed, we saw how in this seemingly patriarchal society, it was the women who actually held things together and I willed them to get their aim of progressing in the doll-making firm.

This is a clever book with a strong cast and an engaging plot. Kate Mascarenhas is an author whose work I will definitely be looking out for. 

With thanks to Head of Zeus and to Amber Choudhary for organising the blog tour. 

 

**Blog Tour** The Smuggler’s Daughter by Kerry Barrett

1799

One night, young Emily Moon witnesses the brutal murder of her father. Unable to tell anyone what she has seen, her mother thinks that he has simply disappeared, leaving her to find solace in the alcohol that she sells at their clifftop inn in Cornwall. Knowing that the smugglers that operate nearby are the ones responsible for the murder, Emily is not happy that the killers are seemingly getting away with this horrific crime.

Present Day

After a tragic case, police officer Phoebe Bellingham decides that a break in Cornwall would be the ideal way to get some respite. Staying with her friend at The Moon Girl pub, she comes across the story of Emily and is immediately intrigued. Just what did happen to Emily Moon and are we about to see history repeat itself over 200 years later?

As a fan of dual timeline books, The Smuggler’s Daughter ticked all of the boxes for me. The author successfully transported me back to Georgian England, painting a very descriptive picture of the Cornwall coastline, something straight out of du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn. I could almost smell the sea air and hear the wind whistling across the cliffs.

Although the time frames are two very different eras, we get to see a parallel in the plots due to the place the story is set, with smuggling being the common link. We also see some similarities between the two lead characters, both of them with an eye for justice and a desire to do the right thing. My heart went out to Phoebe who is torturing herself due to what she perceives as a failure on her part to do her job properly on her last case. It was easy to see why she needed something to occupy her mind, her investigation into Emily Moon being the perfect distraction.

Emily Moon is a fantastic character. Dismissed by locals as a simple young girl, she was actually an incredibly strong young woman, brave beyond her years. I loved every scene she was in and had my fingers crossed throughout the book that she would go on to live a happy life. I admired her tenacity, even when faced with extreme danger, and understood her need to revenge the death of her father, whatever the cost.

The Smuggler’s Daughter is one of those books that draws you in straight away and I found it difficult to put down, reading it in a few sittings. This is the perfect book for someone wanting a mix of history and mystery and I will definitely be looking out for more books by this author.

With thanks to HQ and Net Galley for my ARC and to Sian Baldwin for organising the blog tour.

 

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