50 Shades of Monarch of the Glen

‘Highland Games’ by Evie Alexander

A fiery heroine, a Scottish god, a cabin, a castle, and enough heat to warm the coldest Scottish winter…

Highland Games is an unputdownable, enemies-to-lovers, romantic comedy, with sparkle and sizzle and a guaranteed happy ending. This sexy, witty, debut from Evie Alexander will have you laughing, swooning, and staying up way past your bedtime…

Perfect for fans of Sally ThorneTalia Hibbert, Sophie Kinsella, and Helen Hoang. If you’re looking for a riotous romantic comedy with plenty of heat, then Highland Games is for you!

♥♥♥ Welcome to Kinloch, and the hottest winter Scotland’s ever seen. ♥♥♥

Zoe’s always played it safe, just as her parents wanted. But when her great-uncle dies and leaves her a ramshackle cabin in the Scottish Highlands, she decides it’s time to change her life.

Upping sticks seems like a good idea in her cosy flat in London, but the reality is very different. There’s no electricity or running water, the roof leaks and there’s no front door. If that wasn’t bad enough, she’s moved up in the depths of winter and her scorching hot neighbour wants her out.

Rory’s got a fifty thousand tonne problem. If he can’t make Kinloch castle profitable, he’s out of a job. He needs a clear head, but there’s someone living in the cabin he saw as his own and she’s turned his world upside down.

Rory needs Zoe out of Scotland, and out of his life. The trouble is, she has no intention of leaving.

Let the games begin…

Some books come with a bit of a health warning for me as a reader. I am a book blogger based in the Highlands – coincidentally located about an hour of Inverness as is the setting for this novel.

So, when Evie Alexander’s novel came across my door I was curious to see how she was going to handle the Englishwoman incoming to the Highlands – because, spoiler alert, incomers are not always universally welcomed up here.

Again, I should know, I am one. And there are plenty of my fellow compatriots who would do well to learn to shut their yaps.

So, aside from spending a vast amount of time trying to geolocate Alexander’s model for the village of Kinloch (unsuccessfully, you know I think this might be fiction?) I can tell you that Highland Games is a delight. Oh and that Zoe is exactly the sort of heroine who would be welcomed in the north.

Yes, she has the unrealistic expectations of how much it will cost to do up her dilapidated semi-bothy hovel that many do, but she also wants to fit in and respects the people and the location.

Alexander captures beautifully the warmth of Highland hospitality and the near food coma a visit to a local family can induce. She also captures something of the sadness of many of the country estates which are falling to wrack and ruin.

Obviously, what she is also does is weave a cinematic will-they/they-definitely-will-but-it’s-just-a-matter-of-time-until-they-get-over-themselves romance between free spirited Zoe and preposterously hunky, good with his hands – in every sense – Rory.

Honestly, the description was like looking in a mirror. We all look like that up here.

‘Highland Games’ does have the same issue which novels of this form and genre have: in order to keep the protagonists away from jumping on each other, both have to be incapable of just saying how they feel and this can grow increasingly implausible. Alexander navigates this with the very effective solution of including a hefty dollop of slapstick comedy which is a delight.

Overall, ‘Highland Games’ is a debut of astonishing assuredness and I really believe that Evie Alexander will return with more novels which I hope will have the same lightness of touch, smoothly flowing dialogue and, with any luck, bucolic Highland setting.

Pre-order Link – https://amzn.to/3la37GY

Author Bio

Evie Alexander is the author of sexy romantic comedies with a very British sense of humour. She takes a method approach to her work, believing her capacity to repeatedly fail at life and love is what has given her such a rich supply of material for her writing.

Her interests include reading, eating, saving the world, and fantasising about people who only exist between the pages of her books. She lives in the West country with her family.

Website: https://eviealexanderauthor.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eviealexanderauthor

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/eviealexanderauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Evie_author

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21611777.Evie_Alexander

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/evie-alexander

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/eviealexanderauthor/

Giveaway to Win a signed copy of Highland Games, Shortbread and more… (Open to UK Only)

Prize is a signed copy of Highland Games, Exclusive postcard and bookmark, Personalised heart & Shortbread

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email.

If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information.

This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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No Need to Fall Off This Log

‘Book Review Log Book’ by Jennifer Gilmour

Keep a track of your reading progress and your book reviews in one place:

  • Reading Goals
  • To Be Read List
  • Book Release Dates
  • Word Cloud
  • Your Reviews
  • Your Notes

Purchase Link – mybook.to/bookreview

Some book blog tours are such a delight to be on and Jennifer Gilmour’s Book Review Log Book is one such.

This is not an especially complicated idea: it’s a log book in which to review your book reviews. But this simplicity is its beauty. A space for notes, a space for a word cloud to record your learning from your reading, a space to print out a copy of your book cover and stick it in! It’s like a nostalgic throwback to the scrapbooks of youth.

This is a well-timed release – I can’t help but think that the book worm in your life might well appreciate this as a Christmas gift. I know I would!

Author Bio –

Jennifer Gilmour is an author and advocate for women in abusive relationships, using her own experiences of domestic abuse as a catalyst to bring awareness and to help others. Jennifer has published two publications, Isolation Junction and Clipped Wings which have both been Amazon Best Sellers and received awards. Jennifer speaks at events across the UK and continues to raise awareness through her blog posts, public speaking, radio interviews and social media.

Most Informative Blogger Award 2018 (Bloggers Bash Annual Awards)
UK & European Award for using Social Media for Good 2019 (Social Day: Social Media Marketing Awards)

Jennifer says: “Together we are Louder”.

Social Media Links –

Website; www.jennifergilmour.com  

Facebook; www.facebook.com/JenLGilmour

Twitter; www.twitter.com/JenLGilmour  

Instagram; www.instagram.com/JenLGilmour  

Amazon author profile; http://author.to/jennifergilmour  

Goodreads author profile; https://www.goodreads.com/JenniferGilmour  

Huffington post blogger profile; http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/author/jennifer-gilmour

Inheritances and Italian Amore

‘A Little Piece of Paradise’ by TA Williams

The inheritance of a lifetime… with a catch

When Sophie’s uncle leaves her a castle in the Italian Riviera in his will, she can’t believe her luck. The catch? She and her estranged sister, Rachel, must live there together for three months in order to inherit it.  

Having worked in Rome for four years, Sophie’s excited to revisit to Italy, even if it reignites memories of a cheating ex who soon learns of her return and wants to rekindle their spark. Sophie realises that distance does indeed make the heart grow fonder – but for her friend back home, Chris, who she discovers is more to her than just a friend.

With the clock ticking, can Sophie and Rachel stick it out and heal old wounds, or are the sisters destined to go their own way at the end of the three months? And does Chris feel the same way about Sophie as she does for him?

A beautiful story of romance and sisterhood, perfect for fans of Alex Brown and Lucy Coleman.

Regular readers of this blog (Oh, so you’re the one) will know that I like a nice escapist romance novel from time to time. I understand that as a man, demographically, this puts me outside the realm of the usual purchasers of such literature.

However, there is clearly at least one other fan of the genre in author TA Williams. Here, Williams has taken a fairly well trodden path – the inheritance with the millstone bequest attached – and added in the tantalising reward of an Italian villa worth over a million Euros.

The catch? Being shackled to an estranged sister for three months (shackled metaphorically, rather than literally. This becomes a very different novel if not.)

As with my favourite novels from this genre, the food is the described in great detail, the wine as enchanting as the scenery and love affairs flare up and create havoc as the principle characters navigate this taxing situation.

Between the food, the wine, the amore and the villa, this is a novel to charm the reader and its 300-odd pages zip by. Sometimes the dialogue can read as a little stilted, especially in the early chapters where the need for exposition can make some of the characters sound a little wooden, but this is a minor quibble in a novel of enormous charm and lightness of touch. Also, any novel with a character as fully rounded and obviously loved as Jeeves the Labrador is a delight and can do no wrong!

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09F5QJQDZ

US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09F5QJQDZ

Author Bio – I’m a man. And a pretty old man as well. I did languages at university a long time ago and then lived and worked in France and Switzerland before going to Italy for seven years as a teacher of English. My Italian wife and I then came back to the UK with our little daughter (now long-since grown up) where I ran a big English language school for many years. We now live in a sleepy little village in Devonshire. I’ve been writing almost all my life but it was only seven years ago that I finally managed to find a publisher who liked my work enough to offer me my first contract.

The fact that I am now writing escapist romance is something I still find hard to explain. My early books were thrillers and historical novels. Maybe it’s because there are so many horrible things happening in the world today that I feel I need to do my best to provide something to cheer my readers up. My books provide escapism to some gorgeous locations, even if travel to them is currently difficult.

Social Media Links –

Website: www.tawilliamsbooks.com

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/tawilliamsbooks

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrevorWilliamsBooks/

If Downton Did Homicide…

‘Murder At The House On The Hill’ by Victoria Walters

Once Upon A Crime…

Nancy Hunter and her grandmother Jane Hunter run the Dedley Endings Bookshop, selling crime, thriller and mystery books, in a small, quiet Cotswold village where nothing ever happens…

That is, until the wealthy and reclusive Roth family open up their mansion for the first time in twenty years, inviting the people of Dedley End to a lavish engagement party.

While everyone is thrilled to finally look around the mansion on the hill, the festivities are quickly cut short when beautiful Lucy, recently married to young Harry Roth, is found dead after being pushed over the first-floor balustrade.

But who among the guests could have been capable of her murder – and why?

Nancy and Jane decide to investigate – after all, not only do they own a crime themed bookshop, they were also both named after famous literary detectives – but soon wonder if they’ve taken on more than they can handle. Especially when it seems the killer has worked out that they’re hot on their heels…

Can they catch the murderer before the murderer catches up with them? Or will there be a deadly ending to this story?

Join the unlikeliest detective duo for the killer opener of The Dedley End Mysteries series, by a major voice in women’s fiction.

In my quiet moments, often when I am standing in front of a class of bored teenagers failing to inspire them to anything other than sleep, I can be found staring out of the window, dreaming of my perfect bookshop.

It will be Dickensian in its untidiness. Wobbling piles of books will adorn the floors, the steps, the  shelves will be three deep with paperbacks. You will need to rummage for your trophies and, when you find them, you will celebrate like you’ve won the cup final.

There will be coffee and a bookshop dog. It will have battered leather armchairs and you will be allowed to sit in the armchairs, reading the books and the smell of musty books will mingle with the autumnal damp and freshly brewed coffee and you will be content.

More importantly, so will I.

Into this particularly vivid daydream which I can, in no way, finance, waltzes Victoria Walters and her charming opening instalment in ‘The Dedley End Mysteries’ series, Murder at the House on the Hill.

Walters introduces us to Jane and Nancy – channelling her literary influences perhaps? – and Charlie, the bookshop beagle. I love it – it is a novel which has pinched my dreams and populated them with capable women solving crimes in a picturesque village setting. What’s not to like?

Fans of Fiona Leitch and Martin Walker should be prepared to be bowled over by this charming little tale of murder up at the big house.

A cozy homicide of delight. I look forward to book two!

Purchase Links

AMZ: https://amzn.to/3yJqSKk

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2SzAN4h

Apple: https://apple.co/3yJGkWE

Author Bio – Victoria Walters writes up-lifting and inspiring stories. She’s the author of the bestselling GLENDALE HALL series, which continues with its third book HOPEFUL HEARTS at GLENDALE HALL in September, as well as two other standalone novels – SUMMER at the KINDNESS CAFE, and THE SECOND LOVE of my LIFE. She has been chosen for WHSmith Fresh Talent and shortlisted for two RNA awards. Victoria was also picked as an Amazon Rising Star, and her books have won wide reader acclaim.

Victoria is a full-time author. She lives in Surrey with her cat Harry, and loves books, clothes, music, going out for tea and cake, and posting photos on Instagram.

Find out more about Victoria by following on Instagram at @vickyjwalters,

Twitter: @Vicky_Walters 

She blogs at https://www.victoria-writes.com/.

Love Amongst the Lourve – and the Pigeons

‘Falling in Louvre’ by Fiona Leitch

‘A heartfelt, funny and romantic caper – a mashup masterpiece!’ – Sandy Barker, author of ‘That Night in Paris’.

Bertrand is King of the Pigeons

Unofficially. From his perch atop a gargoyle on Notre Dame cathedral, he surveys his kingdom. He sees Sylvie Cloutier, art lover and ex-antiques dealer, making dinner for her bullying husband Henri, trapped in their loveless marriage like a bird in a gilded cage. He sees security guard, hopeless romantic and bookworm Philippe Moreau cycling through the streets of Paris in his crumpled uniform, late (again) for his night shift at the museum.

When Sylvie begs her husband to let her go to work, he gets her a job as an evening cleaner at the Louvre. He thinks such a menial position will dispel any ideas about independence she might have, but his plan backfires when she falls in love with kind, gentle Philippe. They decide to run away together, but theres a major problem: neither of them has any money.

One stormy night in the Louvre, the answer to their prayers falls into their lapBut is it really the solution, or just another, even bigger problem?

What follows is a romantic, wistful but madcap adventure through (and under) the city of lights, involving a stolen painting, an art heist in reverse, and Eric Cantona. Will love find a way?

I’ve previously reviewed a couple of Fiona Leitch’s novels and I was quietly swept away by her lightness of touch and her soufflé light tales of murders in small English villages.

Here, Leitch crosses the Channel and lands us in the capital of love. ‘Falling in Lourve’ is a switch of pace to a light romantic comedy but it channels another writer I am a big fan of, Peter Mayle.

The caper aspect is well handled and the horrible husband a believeable enough turd to make you root for Sylvie and Philippe to succeed in their madcap adventure.

This is a novel designed for holiday reading and, as the nights draw in, I can only hope that this acts as beacon of light relief in our darkening days

Purchase Link – mybook.to/Louvre

Author Bio Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’.

After living in London and Cornwall she’s finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the windswept beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

Her debut novel, ‘Dead in Venice’, was published by Audible as one of their Crime Grant scheme finalists, and her bestselling cosy mystery series, The Nosey Parker Mysteries, is published by One More Chapter/HarperCollins.

Social Media Links

https://www.facebook.com/fionakleitch

https://www.instagram.com/leitchfiona/

www.fionaleitch.com

A Lightness of Touch for A Lethal Arrogance

‘A Lethal Arrogance-An Arabella Stewart Historical Mystery Book 3’ by D.S Lang

After returning home from her service as a United States Army Signal Corps operator in the Great War, Arabella Stewart’s goal, to save her family’s resort, seems within reach as the summer season progresses. She and her business partner, Mac MacLendon, look forward to re-establishing a successful championship golf tournament, once the signature event of the resort’s year. Problems arise when one of the contestants, an overbearing snob who has created problems at other competitions, clashes with more than one person. When he is found dead, the victim of a suspicious automobile crash, Bella once again helps Jax Hastings, the town constable and her childhood friend, investigate. As they pursue answers, Bella and Jax find several suspects who might have wanted to make the victim suffer for his lethal arrogance.

I’m not one for wishing I lived in another place and time. For all of the horrors of this world, I’ll take the advancements in medication, standard of living and ease of convenience of the 21st century over the rationing, rickets and shortened life expectancy of the mid-20th century or the powdered wigs and tights of the 19th.

But, if pushed, I would have certainly enjoyed a shot at the Jazz Age. Cocktails, tennis and parties – yeah, I’d have put my back into that particular set of activities.

And it is into this milieu that we Arabellla Stewart and her Scottish business partner and honorary grandfather, Mac MacLendon. Joined by her chum Jax Hastings, the trio fly through the period hunting Cadillacs which plunged into ravines in the best spirit of Raymond Chandler and set out to prove there are dastardly deeds afoot in the best spirit of Lord Peter Wimsey.

This is a pacey, well written crime story of the cozy variety: the dialogue crisp and well written, the plotting tight and convincing and the settings rendered for the reader in clear fashion. It has a lightness of touch to delight the reader.

There are some things which can trip a UK-based reader up. The description of Ballantyne as a resort that has been in the family for 30 years is confusing as this is seen as a long time, whereas this is just about enough time in this country not to be frowned at as a dangerous stranger. Additionally, Jax tends to be a female name which lead to the introduction of that character (or reintroduction as this is Book 3) a small measure of confusion.

But these are mere trifling quibbles which do nothing to take away the joire de verve of the piece and add attractive details to its US setting.

Overall, a very enjoyable read!

Purchase Links

Author Bio –

D.S. Lang, a native Ohioan, has been making up stories since she was a little girl, and she still is! Along the way, she studied English and social studies as an undergrad. After graduate school, she went on to teach government and American history in high school. She also taught English at the junior high, high school, and college levels. In addition, she has worked as a program coordinator, golf shop manager, and online tutor.

Now, she spends much of her time reading, researching, and writing. Most recently, she has delved into the Great War era and the years immediately after it. Her Arabella Stewart Historical Mystery Series was inspired by her Great Uncle Brice who served in the American Expeditionary Force during World War One, and by her love of historical mysteries. In her spare time, she loves to spend time with family and friends, including her dog Izzy.

Social Media Links – https://www.facebook.com/Author-DS-Lang-106722091331345

Lay With Pigs – End Up Bacon

‘Mum’s the Word’ by Lorraine Turnbull

When Ann-Marie Ross murders her abusive husband and feeds him to the pigs, she thinks she’s got away with murder and secured the future of her Scottish cider farm. But she soon finds herself having to keep more than one deadly secret to protect those closest to her.
As four women embrace their new-found independence, Ann-Marie is tormented by the threat of discovery.
A darkly comic tale of murder, friendship and Love.

Lorraine Turnbull’s ‘Mum’s the Word’ will probably get listed under the cozy crime or black comedy genre. And this is fair enough. It is darkly comedic, Turnbull has a love of the contrast and ironies of living and it does have the sweet, “oh well, never mind,” aspect which can make cozy crime so easy to read.

What is also has – especially if you’re a reader in rural Scotland who also has to care for an ill, elderly parent – is a sense of dismay at the way that society has trapped the women in this novel.

“Used” is the word which keeps coming to mind: for their inheritances, for their cooking, for their patience, for their bodies. It is a darkly comic novel, but it is just dark in its view of human nature and how society has trapped people in dependency and misery.

This is not to make ‘Mum’s the Word’ sound depressing or po-faced. It is a romp of rare humour and entertainment, with a Glaswegian’s eye for the humour of the macabre detail. After all, there’s more fun at a Glasgow funeral than an Edinburgh wedding. Just ask Ann-Marie Ross…

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mums-Word-Lorraine-Turnbull-ebook/dp/B093C6YXJH

US – https://www.amazon.com/Mums-Word-Lorraine-Turnbull-ebook/dp/B093C6YXJH

Author Bio – Lorraine Turnbull was born in Glasgow where she lived until 2005 when she and her family moved to Cornwall to run a smallholding. She relocated to France in 2017 where she continues to make cider, writes books and learns French.

Social Media Links – https://www.facebook.com/LorraineTurnbullAuthor

 Twitter – @LorraineAuthor

Catering to the Romantics

‘Dream Café’ by RJ Gould

“Why on earth am I here?” David wonders as he observes the juvenile antics of ex-classmates at the twenty-five year school reunion. Then he sees Bridget.

David draws up a list of all that he hopes to achieve to kick-start a new life now that his wife has moved in with his best friend – his ex-best friend. A relationship with Bridget is top of the list, opening an arts café is a close second.

Formidable women – an unfaithful wife, a reckless teenage daughter, a boss from hell, a disapproving policewoman – seem like insurmountable obstacles.

But it’s still OK to dream, isn’t it?

I don’t think I’m giving too much away to confess that I have a birthday coming up in the next couple of weeks. A “big” one. One with a zero at the end.

As it happens, it is a “big” birthday which puts me in close proximity to David, the lead character of ‘Dream Café’. Having decided against attending my own school reunion (to paraphrase a friend’s response, he’d rather defecate in his hands and clap) I really felt for the character as half remembered school contemporaries lunge at him as the novel opens.

As the book progresses, we learn that poor David has quite the complicated back story, with all sorts of unpleasant behaviour having been dealt to this rather nice, if vague, protagonist.

Personally, I think a nice romantic comedy which nips along with ease of reading and light touch charm and ‘Dream Café’ has this in abundance. David is a hero we can root for and, even including the necessary ups and downs which must befall all characters in this genre, it is comforting to know that all will – up to a point – turn out right with the world.

Incidentally, I too have a secret dream to abandon my career and relaunch ala David – but perhaps I’ll have to wait until nearer his age to do so 😉

Purchase Links –

Author Bio –

Richard writes under the pseudonym R J Gould and is a (rare male) member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA). His first novel was shortlisted for the Joan Hessayon Award following his participation on the RNA New Writers’ Scheme. Having been published by Headline Access and Lume Books, he now self-publishes.

He writes contemporary literary fiction about relationships, loosely though not prescriptively within the Romance genre, using both humour and pathos to describe the tragi-comic journeys of his protagonists in search of love. ‘Dream Café’ is his sixth novel, following ‘The Engagement Party’, ‘Jack and Jill Went Downhill’, ‘Mid-life follies’, ‘The Bench by Cromer Beach’ and ‘Nothing Man’. [It is a rewrite of ‘A Street Café Named Desire’].

Ahead of writing full time, Richard led a national educational charity. He has been published in a wide range of educational journals, national newspapers and magazines and is the co-author of a major work on educating able young people. He lives in Cambridge, England.

Social Media Links –

Website:                           http://www.rjgould.info

Twitter:               https://twitter.com/RJGould_author

Email:                                news@rjgould.info

Facebook:                         https://www.facebook.com/RJGouldauthor

Instagram:                        https://www.instagram.com/rjgould_author

Exckusive Extract: ‘Rat Island’

This is the opening passage of Rat Island. It captures how I experienced the maelstrom of 1995 42nd Street in Manhattan and gives a pen-picture of the novel’s protagonist, Callum Burke, and his past.

For a review of John Steele’s ‘Rat Island‘ click HERE

Callum Burke was late for the Chinese taxidermist’s murder. He shoved a Camel between cracked lips and sparked his Zippo then leaned against the wall next to the subway entrance on 42nd. He lit the cigarette like a fuse. His watch read eight-twenty.

A handsome drunk black guy in khaki pants and a busted-up jacket caught his eye and sauntered over, flexing and weaving through pedestrians like the booze in his system had liquefied his bones.

‘Excuse me, man, you got thirty cents?’ Alcohol fumes seeped through Callum’s tobacco cloud.

‘No, I don’t have any change.’

‘Thirty cents, man. I just need thirty cents for my bus to Chester.’

‘Sorry. No change.’

‘Alright. God loves you anyway, man.’

The drunk lurched off as a Latino girl in a PVC miniskirt with a sweet face and glazed eyes strolled up.

‘Hey, baby. You all by yourself?’

‘Just like the song.’

‘You want some company? I got a half hour to spare.’

‘Not tonight.’

A wired, scrawny white youth made a move after the girl tottered away.

‘Hey, man, you got the time?’ His voice was drowned by the stream of traffic heading to and from 8th Avenue. Callum cocked his head toward the youth as a siren howled from somewhere behind Port Authority.

The youth leaned closer. ‘You got the time?’

Callum checked his watch. ‘Uh, it’s – ’

‘I got blow, speed, crack, H. What you need?’

‘No, I’m good.’

‘It’s aaaaall good, man’

Callum pinched the bridge of his nose. A cop was standing on the corner fifteen feet away working hard not to notice the wicked business going down on his patch. The buildings of midtown rocketed skyward, swallowed by low rags of cloud oppressing the early evening bustle of the streets. A tide of gossip, questions, information and bawdy profanity assaulted him. Before, in the other metropolis of Hong Kong, it had been just as raucous but most of it was Cantonese backwash, white noise he filtered out. Now it was rushing him, penetrating his skull and cannoning around in his head.

‘Thirty cents, man? Port Authority’s just across the street.’

The black man reappeared on his right, face bathed in yellow from a neon sign declaring, In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him.

‘I told you already,’ said Callum.

‘Hey baby, you busy?’

‘I’m fine.’

‘You wanna’ get high?’

‘You wanna’ fuck?’

‘What time is it, brother?’

‘Thirty cents?’

Callum dropped the spent smoke on the sidewalk and ground it out with his boot. He sparked up another and imagined himself through their eyes: the hustlers, the hookers and pushers. He looked younger than his twenty-nine years, despite the dark two-day growth on his face. A thatch of unruly black hair cut short and a nose skewed by a couple of prime shots in the ring. A wide mouth and a funny accent, maybe Irish but not like that comedy Top-O’-The-Mornin’ brogue people put on for St. Paddy’s. Heavy black brows over affective hazel eyes that were tender or playful or flinty at the whim of his moods.

Those eyes were his greatest tell.

The cop had crossed 42nd Street and disappeared downstream among the mass of citizens heading toward Penn Station on 8th Avenue. Callum took in the parking lot opposite, Port Authority Bus Terminal diagonal, the huge Camel mural across 8th to his right, and wondered how long he could live with this noise and fury.

Amid the chaos, a beautiful woman dragged a small child by the arm toward the subway entrance where Callum stood. Her hair was darker than shadow, her skin amber under the lights of the city, like she was sculpted from gemstone. She was East Asian but looked nothing like Irene Chu. Yet her face as she swept the child into her arms pulled Callum back to Hong Kong and his estranged wife. The child burrowed her head deep by her mother’s neck and Callum felt the memory leave a cold crater in his chest as he thought of his daughter, how Tara would do the same. Tara’s hands could barely meet as they encircled his neck back then.

The mother and child passed him by on 42nd and disappeared down the steps to the subway and he felt a part of him descend with them.

Callum pulled hard on the cigarette. That was his problem – he always went hard. Drank too hard. Gambled too hard. Maybe he loved too hard, now that his family was gone. He’d blown it with them and almost blown it with his job.

And now he was in New York.

He’d been here once before, a short trip with Irene but that had been the Empire State Building, Central Park and museums. This, tonight, was low cloud crawling through midtown, the buildings monoliths scattered with pinpricks of light. Rain was close. He dropped his smoke.

He scratched his head. No one likes to watch a man murdered but Callum couldn’t duck this one, so might as well get it over with. It wasn’t like he hadn’t seen plenty of bodies. But this time, he’d watch the Chinese taxidermist’s life snuffed out while he sat with a coffee and a cigarette. As he turned to enter the subway, he checked the change in his pocket and snorted.

Thirty cents.

PRAISE FOR RAT ISLAND AND JOHN STEELE:

‘A nonstop thrill ride… a lyrical, super read filled with plenty of intrigue, action and suspense and sent against an exotic and seldom explored corner of crime fiction’ Gerald Posner

‘RAT ISLAND speeds and thrashes with the dangerous energy of the Manhattan streets which are so vividly recalled’ Gary Donnelly

‘John Steele writes with grit, pace and authenticity’ Claire McGowan

Purchase Links

Author Bio –

John Steele was born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In 1995, at the age of twenty-two he travelled to the United States and has since lived and worked on three continents, including a thirteen-year spell in Japan. Among past jobs he has been a drummer in a rock band, an illustrator, a truck driver and a teacher of English. He now lives in England with his wife and daughter. He began writing short stories, selling them to North American magazines and fiction digests. He has published three previous novels: ‘RAVENHILL’, ‘SEVEN SKINS’ and ‘DRY RIVER’, the first of which was longlisted for a CWA Debut Dagger award. John’s books have been described as “Remarkable” by the Sunday Times, “Dark and thrilling” by Claire McGowan, and “Spectacular” by Tony Parsons. The Irish Independent called John ‘a writer of huge promise’ and Gary Donnelly appointed him ‘the undisputed champion of the modern metropolitan thriller’.

Social Media Links –

Twitter: @JohnSte_author

Murder in the Market Town

Death Comes to Bishops Well’ by Anna Legat

When Sam Dee moves to the beautiful Wiltshire village of Bishops Well, he expects a quiet life of country walks and pub lunches. OK, so his new neighbour, Maggie Kaye, is a little peculiar, but she’s very nice – and his old pal Richard Ruta lives just down the road.

But when Richard throws one of his famous parties, things take a sinister turn. Sam, Maggie and the rest of the guests are dumbfounded when Richard falls down dead. A horrible tragedy – or a cunningly planned murder?

With a village full of suspects – and plenty of dark secrets – just who exactly would want to bump off their host? Is there a connection to another mysterious death, nearly twenty years before?

Armed with her local knowledge, Maggie – with Sam’s reluctant but indispensable help – is soon on the case. But when the body count starts to rise, will sleepy Bishops Well ever be the same again?

I recently wrote glowingly of Simon Whaley’s novel ‘Blooming Murder’, describing it as “essentially, what would happen if Gardener’s World had an illicit love child by Midsomer Murders via the work of Tom Sharpe.

Anna Legat’s ‘Death Comes to Bishops Well’ has something of the same spirit but strikes me as more what would happen if ‘Midsomer Murders’ was crossed with ‘Escape to the Country’.

Here we have the obnoxious Richard bumped off – despite his boasts of eternal youth and his swimming pool – while new resident Sam is swept along in the investigation by his neighbour Maggie.

Legat has clearly worked at her writing craft and is an especially wonderful observer of human posture. Richard is described as “an old man, whether he cared to admit it or not: his frame was hollowed and his skin leathery and wrinkled, the hue and texture of tea-soaked parchment.”

Likewise, Sam is an, “ex-full back, he had a boxing-glove textured body, heavily padded with raw muscle.” The vivid nature of these descriptions offers a telling insight into the characterisation of Legat’s players.

‘Death Comes to Bishop Well’ is a straightforward cozy crime mystery set against the picturesque backdrop of the English countryside. Legat handles dialogue with a pleasingly assured hand, although the shift from a third person to first person narrator early in the book threw me at first.

However, as the opening instalment of what Legat is calling the ‘Shire Mysteries’ I hope that the unconventional pair of Maggie and Sam will be back thwarting murderers and struggling with ethical dilemmas in the near future.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Death-Comes-Bishops-Well-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B093XV385N

US – https://www.amazon.com/Death-Comes-Bishops-Well-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B093XV385N

Author Bio – Anna Legat is a Wiltshire-based author, best known for her DI Gillian Marsh murder mystery series. Murder isn’t the only thing on her mind. She dabbles in a wide variety of genres, ranging from dark humorous comedy, through magic realism to dystopian. A globe-trotter and Jack-of-all-trades, Anna has been an attorney, legal adviser, a silver-service waitress, a school teacher and a librarian. She has lived in far-flung places all over the world where she delighted in people-watching and collecting precious life experiences for her stories. Anna writes, reads, lives and breathes books and can no longer tell the difference between fact and fiction.

Social Media Links –

Anna’s News, Rumours and Scandalous Revelations at https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/j6b7k1
To find out more:
https://annalegat.com/
Follow Anna on Twitter:
www.twitter.com/LegatWriter
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