Monday, 29 May 2017

5* review: The Man in the Needlecord Jacket by Linda Macdonald

Genre: Adult contemporary fiction; Domestic Noir
Release Date: 28th May 2017
Publisher: Matador – An imprint of Troubador Publishing

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket follows the story of two women who are each struggling to let go of a long-term destructive partnership. Felicity is reluctant to detach from her estranged archaeologist husband and, after being banished from the family home, she sets out to test the stability of his relationship with his new love, Marianne.

When Felicity meets Coll, a charismatic artist, she has high hopes of being distracted from her failed marriage. What she doesn’t know is that he has a partner, Sarah, with whom he has planned a future. Sarah is deeply in love with Coll, but his controlling behaviour and associations with other women have always made her life difficult. When he becomes obsessed with Felicity, Sarah’s world collapses and a series of events is set in motion that will challenge the integrity of all the characters involved.

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is a thought-provoking book, written from the perspectives of Sarah and Felicity. The reader is in the privileged position of knowing what’s going on for both of the women, while each of them is being kept in the dark about a very important issue.

Inspired by the work of Margaret Atwood and Fay Weldon, Linda explores the issue of mental abuse in partnerships and the grey area of an infidelity that is emotional, not physical. The book will appeal to readers interested in the psychology of relationships, as well as fans of Linda’s ‘Lydia’ series.


I am a huge fan of Linda Macdonald's 'Lydia' series, they are a thought provoking 'grown up' womens fiction series (none of the fluff!). I find them a page turning relaxing read. The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is no less than its predecessors, I loved the introduction of the new characters, Sarah and Coll, and enjoyed reading about the lives of the usual lives of the Harvey family.

This book is told from Sarah and Felicity's points of view. In the past I have shared no love for Felicity, and in this book I find I liked her even less until near to the end when I really softened to her character and saw her vulnerable side.

Sarah I felt extremely sorry for, yet frustrated with for constantly excusing what I felt was deplorable love-rat behaviours from Coll, the man who had been her long term love for ten years, yet had many OWs (other women) who Sarah knew existed but felt she could do little about. 

Coll, an artist and on many levels a really interesting character (and loose man in my opinion) turned up in Felicity's life when hawking his paintings to hang in her recently opened restaurant. He felt an attraction to her which turned into something close to obsession/addiction, though he was no stalker. Felicity, after being hurt deeply by younger man, Gianni, in Italy was interested by his advances, yet knew nothing of the woman who loved him and strived constantly to make him love her in return.

I was quite satisfied by the ending, yet was - as always - disappointed to have reached the conclusion and I feel so absorbed in the story!

I would urge readers to consider these books, all could be read as standalones but I feel it would be more enjoyable to know the backstory.

Many thanks to Linda and Brook Cottage Books for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.


Linda MacDonald is the author of three independently published novels: Meeting Lydia and the stand-alone sequels, A Meeting of a Different Kind and The Alone Alternative. They are all contemporary adult fiction, multi-themed, but with a focus on relationship issues.

After studying psychology at Goldsmiths', Linda trained as a secondary science and biology teacher. She taught these subjects for several years before moving to a sixth-form college to teach psychology. In 2012, she gave up teaching to focus fully on writing.
Linda was born and brought up in Cockermouth, Cumbria and now lives in Beckenham, Kent.
Twitter: @LindaMac1

5* review - Then, Now, Always by Isabelle Broom

Twenty-eight year old Hannah is ready for an adventure. She and her colleagues are in Spain for a month to film a documentary, and it's a dream come true. Not least because Hannah will get to spend long summer days with Theo, her boss (and gorgeous crush). It couldn't be a more perfect setting to fall in love...
If only Tom (Hannah's best friend and cameramen) and Claudette (the presenter) would stop getting in the way...
Then things become even more complicated when Nancy, Hannah's half-sister arrives. What on earth is she doing here?
For just once in her life, can't Hannah have one perfect summer, free of any drama?

I have to start by saying how much I adore Isabelle Broom. She should work for the tourism industry as she sprinkles a beautiful magic over the destinations she writes about and leaves the reader (at the very least just me) with an overwhelming sense of wanderlust and desire to experience the locations.

Hannah has a special place in her heart for the town of Mojacar in southern Spain, she holidayed there as a teenager and holds it dearly as her coming of age, a holiday spent without her parents accompanying her best friend's family. She has a small tattoo of the Indalo man, a symbol adopted by the community of Mojacar to represent love and hope, which she treasures, so when the 'love of her life', crush and boss, Theo asks her to research somewhere to do a travel documentary on, she instantly knows the place.

While on their film-making-working-holiday, she wants to make Theo fall in love with her, difficult when she has little experience with relationships and it seems that Theo has plenty - but still she tries.
Until half sister Nancy, who she despises, turns up and seemingly ruins everything.

Hannah learns as much during her adult stay in Mojacar as she did as a teenager, and once again there is a shift in her life, one that teaches her what is important to her and where her future should lie.

I loved the characters in this story, I initially loved to hate Nancy, until we learned her true story, but my favourite had to be Elaine - a local woman who relocated in her own teens due to an incredibly traumatic experience in her life. I loved how the story ended for her, with all ends tied up beautifully.

This is a glorious, beautiful and heart felt read - with many laugh out loud moments, but all in all just a well written book that will take you deep into the heart of Almeria and leave you yearning for more.

A hugely well deserved five stars. 

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Blog tour: The Butlins Girls by Elaine Everest

'Molly Missons gazed around in awe. So this was Butlin's. Whitewashed buildings, bordered by rhododendrons, gave a cheerful feeling to a world still recovering from six years of war. The Skegness holiday camp covered a vast area, much larger than Molly expected to see.'
Molly Missons hasn't had the best of times recently. Having lost her parents, now some dubious long-lost family have darkened her door - attempting to steal her home and livelihood...
After a horrendous ordeal, Molly applies for a job as a Butlin's Aunty. When she receives news that she has got the job, she immediately leaves her small home town - in search of a new life in Skegness.
Molly finds true friendship in Freda, Bunty and Plum. But the biggest shock is discovering that star of the silver screen, Johnny Johnson, is working at Butlin's as head of the entertainment team. Johnny takes an instant liking to Molly and she begins to shed the shackles of her recent traumas. Will Johnny be just the distraction Molly needs - or is he too good be to be true?

I was pleased to receive this new book from Elaine Everest as I thoroughly enjoyed The Woolworths Girls, and just looking at this cover I knew I would not be disappointed.

Molly Missons, a gentle young girl recovering from parents tragic death receives devastating and confusing news that she had been cut out of her parents will, to lose her home and livelihood to relatives she knew nothing about, cousin Harriet and her deplorable son, Simon. 
With help from good friends she is able to escape this and move to Skegness, to Butlins holiday camp, working as a Butlins auntie.

Here she forms a friendship with Bunty and Plum, who have their own heartbreaks and issues to overcome, and whose stories blend beautifully to enrich the plot. She also meets her screen idol and crush, Johnny Johnson, will he be the cure she needs to mend her fragile heart?

The Butlins Girls really is a warm, gentle, nostalgic tale with a feel good vibe, It sums life in a post war holiday camp up beautifully, it is written true to it's era and is a satisfying read. I'm certain fans of 1940's fiction will adore it.

Many thanks to Bethan at ED PR for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Blog Tour: Author Anne O'Brien's Top 6 Medieval Women with Style

Today I am delighted to welcome Anne O'Brien along on the publication day of 

The Shadow Queen,

 to discuss her 

Top Six Medieval Women with Style...

1340. Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent, learns that she is to marry William Montagu, heir to the Earldom of Salisbury, an alliance that will redeem their family after her father’s execution for treason. But Joan cannot marry her childhood friend Will. At just 12 years old, she has fallen in love with, and secretly married Sir Thomas Holland, a humble knight who is currently fighting in France with the King. Furious, her mother and the Montagu family convince Joan to marry Will, despite her feelings of guilt. But when Sir Thomas returns, he is determined to win back his wife, no matter what. Joan must quickly learn to navigate the dangerous and seductive world of the royal court, with its treachery, subterfuge, and power-hungry families… A tale of betrayal and ambition, and of love and loyalty, The Shadow Queen is the untold story of the beautiful, quick-witted and scandalous Joan of Kent, who would ultimately go on to mastermind the reign of the Child King, her son Richard II.

Six Medieval Women with Style

 Here are six medieval women who put pen to parchment, which is interesting in itself, but who also wrote with such elegance and forthright use of words.  Their letters and books shine with clarity and conviction, opening for us a window into the lives of these women who expressed themselves with confidence on all manner of subjects.  Love, sexual desire, education and the role of women in government at the side of their husband, nothing is outside their scope of interest and experience.  It is all here for our delight.

Christine de Pisan 
Widowed at an early age, Christine, living in France, turned to the pen as a way to support her children, writing both prose and poetry which was well received in the highest circles in an age when women had relatively no voice.  Christine worked to refute the negative ideas that scholars were spreading about the education and role of women, showing the elite women of her time how they could navigate most successfully through what was a man's world.  Her main work, The Book of the City of Ladies, stood as a testimony to the greatness and accomplishments of women, putting them on the same level as men.

Women particularly should concern themselves with peace because men by nature are more foolhardy and headstrong, and their overwhelming desire to avenge themselves prevents them from foreseeing the resulting dangers and terrors of war. But woman by nature is more gentle and circumspect. Therefore, if she has sufficient will and wisdom she can provide the best possible means to pacify man. 

Famous for her scandalous relationship with Peter Abelard, Heloise celebrated their forbidden love with a series of love letters.  A tragic story, Abelard and Heloise were cruelly separated, Abelard becoming a monk and Heloise a nun.  How firm and finely judged were Heloise's words to her lover whom she never met again, how full of conviction when the world was set against them.  Her words uplift the down-trodden spirit.

I think you are not unaware, my sweet light, that ashes placed on a sleeping fire never put it out ... and so not for any reason will external events be able to wipe out the thought of you, which is bound to my heart with a chain of gold

Julian of Norwich
This famous anchoress, closed off from the world in her simple cell, wrote an account of her visions and her understanding of God's love and compassion for humanity.  In a world that portrayed God as the One who judged and punished, this was a very personal interpretation of an all-gracious God in whom there was no anger.  Julian is responsible for perhaps the most famous of all medieval quotations.  So simple and so encouraging in a dangerous world.

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

Margaret Paston
Margaret was a superb letter-writer.  Wife of John Paston, a London solicitor, she was left to manage the estates in Norfolk while he pursued land claims.  The letters are detailed, entertaining and informative: family fall-outs, marriage alliances, parental nagging, clashes with the aristocracy and parties thrown while parents were away from home.  Further afield she writes of local gossip, the problems of cash-flow, the local wool trade and the shortage of good servants.  Margaret has an engaging style, and sometimes, delightfully, touches on the personal, as in this letter to her absent husband.

I pray that you will wear the ring with the image of St Margaret that I sent you for a remembrance till you come home.  You have left me such a remembrance that makes me to think upon you both day and night when I would sleep. (a pregnancy!)

Margery Kempe
Written probably in the late 1430s, The Book of Margery Kempe, dictated quaintly in the third person, is one of the most astonishing documents of late medieval English life.  From the merchant class, Margery was a wife, a mother and widow, experienced sin and conversion, who conversed intimately with God and travelled on pilgrimage.  Margery might be considered the first English Mystic, but she was not beyond giving strong advice, even to Archbishops, and relishing it when dictating it to her biographer.

Then the archbishop said to her (Margery!): I  am told very bad things about you.  I hear it said that you are a very wicked woman.  And she replied:  Sir, I also hear it said that you are a wicked man.  And if you are as wicked as people say, you will never get to heaven unless you amend while you are here.

Hildegard of Bingen
A German Benedictine Abbess, spending her whole life enclosed as a nun from the age of seven, Hildegard was a writer, a composer and a philosopher, writing plays and music as well as books of instruction and discussion of diseases and their cures.  What an astonishing breadth of education and knowledge and talent she had.  Nor did she neglect the vexed subject of human sexuality, and so powerfully, challenging the received medical opinion that women were more lustful (and thus more sinful) than men.

A man's love is a blazing heat, like a fire on a blazing mountain, which can hardly be quenched, while hers is more like a wood-fire that is easy to quench; but a woman's love is in comparison with a man's is like a sweet warmth coming from the sun which brings forth fruit.

What a multi-faceted view these writings allow us of the lives of these women who felt free to express themselves in such diverse ways.  Their ideas and thoughts have lasted though time to bring these medieval woman to life today.

The Shadow Queen by Anne O’Brien is published by HQ on 4th May (£12.99 hardback)


ANNE O’BRIEN was born in the West Riding of Yorkshire. After gaining a BA Honours degree in History at Manchester University and a Master’s in Education at Hull, she lived in the East Riding for many years where she taught History. Leaving teaching – but not her love of history – Anne turned to novel writing and her passion for giving voice to the oft forgotten women of the medieval era was born. Today Anne lives in an eighteenth-century cottage in Herefordshire, an area steeped in history and full of inspiration for her work.

Anne Tweets here @Anne_Obrien