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Book Tour – 33 Women

33 WomenOn the book tour for Isabel Ashdown’s thrilling new book called ’33 Women’ sit back and enjoy an extract from the story.

THE SISTERS OF TWO CROSS FARM :
CODE OF CONDUCT

1. Come as yourself, sister, whoever that may be.
2. No man shall enter through the gates of our community.
3. In all things, sisters are equal.
4. Trust is implicit, loyalty a given.
5. 33 will be the number at our table.
6. 6 will be the number of our Founding Sisters, the caretakers
of our community.
7. All who dwell here must first shed their limpets, who or
whatever they may be.
8. Come for a day or stay forever, but all must come in the
spirit of sisterhood.
9. Every sister will be afforded a week to weep and a lifetime
to grow.
10. Each sister will rise with the sun and rest with the moon.
11. She will labour six days out of seven for her weekly shelter.
12. Banishment is final.

1. VANESSA
March 2005

There is a moment in which pain and fear slips into acceptance.

I am there now, and all around me is still, a midnight hush
of shock and awe. No more can I feel the weight of fists slamming into my jaw, or the snap of my ribs, or even the gasping pressure of fingers closing around my throat. In fact, I barely feel a thing, just the frost-damp grass beneath my palms and the cool white whisper of my breath as it slips through my broken lips. Above me, the stars are out, the indigo sky quite lit up by them, and, as white wings soar by, it occurs to me that they are silent witnesses to my passing. I wonder if I should feel afraid.

But then I am sixteen again; I see Celine and Pip shrouded
in sunlight at the kitchen table, laying out bread for cheese
on toast, and Celine is cutting the crusts off Pip’s because she
won’t eat them, and drizzling Worcester sauce on mine because
that’s how I like it. And I’m standing there in the doorway in
my school uniform, biting down on my lip because I love these
two so much – I’m feeling too much – and it’s chaos inside my
head; and now we’re sitting on the back steps, arranged like pot
plants, one-two-three, eating our toast and looking out across the courtyard, naïvely planning summer day trips and meal rotas,
and Celine is saying ‘Delilah who ?’ and the light is radiating
through Pip’s scruffy blonde hair and she’s sticking two fingers
in the air, blowing raspberries and we’re laughing, all three of
us through tears, and we have each other and we’ll cling to that,and we’ll never walk away . . .

A sound, a thud like iron against hard earth, brings me back
to this starry night, and even through my inertia fresh panic
grips me. How will they know how to find me? How will my
sisters know where to look?

The night sky is obscured as women gather over me, their
faces lined with age, eyes moving closer, closer, closer still, testing me for life. Whether they see it or not, I wish them only love in this final breath, before their eyes, like the stars, fade to nothing.

If you liked this short extract from ’33 Women’, you can buy it from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Forgive Me By Susan Lewis

Forgive Me”Forgive me’ is the latest book by Susan Lewis.

This is Claudia Winters’s last chance for a fresh start. Changing her name and leaving her old life behind, she has fled to the small town of Kesterly with her mother and daughter. Here, she hopes they can be safe for the first time in years. But the past can’t stay hidden forever. And even as Claudia makes new friends and builds a new life, she can’t help feeling it’s all about to catch up with her… Until one disastrous night changes everything forever.

This was the first book that I’ve read by Susan and it was a fantastic introduction to the story.

The story is primarily seen through the narrative of a woman called Claudia who is escaping from her old life with her only daughter Jasmine and her mother called Marcy who have undertaken new identities to escape their old lives. But a terrible incident occurs when both lives connect leaving the family in chaos.

This book is a complex story of morals and forgiveness and delves into the concept of restorative justice which gives the victim of a crime an opportunity to meet the offender and put their views across, an interesting concept that I wasn’t aware of. It made me wonder about this concept whether it was successful and helped bring closure to victims and offenders.

The story travels at a fast pace and includes narratives from both Claudia and her family as well as an unknown man who is remorseful for his actions. As the story develops, we come to understand the unknown man and terrible repercussions of his actions.

The characters are a great mix of personalities, but I felt such a warmth towards Claudia and Marcy as they settle into their new lives and make new friends but they’re always on edge that they’re going to be exposed. Dan is also an interesting character, as him and Claudia tentatively begin a friendship and he introduces her to restorative justice.

There’s an element of suspense to the story as Claudia fears that her identity will be revealed, as well a deep underlying sadness as the family have to come to terms to the trauma that has come to their doors.

Beautifully written, filled with compassion and moments of poignant, ‘Forgive Me’ is a story of hope and new beginnings and is an deep exploration of morals and forgiveness.

You can buy ‘Forgive Me’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Chalet By Catherine Cooper

The Chalet‘The Chalet’ is the debut novel by Catherine Cooper.

French Alps, 1998. Two young men ski into a blizzard… but only one returns. 20 years later. Four people connected to the missing man find themselves in that same resort. Each has a secret. Two may have blood on their hands. One is a killer-in-waiting. Someone knows what really happened that day.

Catherine’s debut novel is a fast paced and action packed novel that made chilling reading.

The story is written in past and present sequences leading up to the discovery of a body in the French Alps. This all happens when Ria and her husband Hugo are there, when Hugo is trying to encourage new clients with his holiday business. He’s deeply in love with his wife Ria, but Ria isn’t as committed as he is and sees the life as more of an convenience.

There are multiple narratives in the story and one of the narratives is particularly interesting as they aren’t revealed but they have a huge role in the story and throughout the story. I’m found myself trying to guess scenarios and culprits and was pleasantly that each time I was wrong, proving this is far from a predictable story.

There’s a wide range of personalities in the story and Catherine has a skill of creating multiple dislikable characters that make for sad and unsettling reading.

Chillingly written and a book that I consumed in one seating, ‘The Chalet’ is a claustrophobic and atmospheric story that was a thrilling adrenaline journey from the very beginning.

You can buy ‘The Chalet’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Christmas Island By Natalie Normann

Christmas Island‘Christmas Island’ is the latest book by Natalie Normann.

After all the years of hard work it took Londoner Holly Greene to become a doctor, now it could all be taken away and she only has herself to blame. She’s retreating to her brother’s rustic home on an island off the coast of Norway to lick her wounds. Only, it’s the middle of winter and icy slush plus endless darkness isn’t exactly the cheery, festive getaway she had imagined. Nearly stumbling off the edge of a cliff in the dark, Holly is saved by Frøy, a yellow-eyed cat of fearsome but fluffy proportions, and his owner – grouchy, bearded recluse, Tor. Tor has his own problems to face but the inexplicable desire to leave a bag of freshly baked gingerbread men on Holly’s doorstep is seriously getting in the way of his hermit routine. Call it kindness, call it Christmas, but Holly’s arrival means midwinter has never looked less bleak.

If you’re a fan of Christmas and need a distraction, then I would wholeheartedly recommend this warm hearted Norwegian story.

The story is seen through the narrative of Holly and Tor who meet when Tor rescues Holly from almost falling off a cliff, when she first arrives on an island in Norway to visit her brother at Christmas. At first, the pair are tentative towards each other, they’re both at a crossroads in their lives and uncertain as to what will happen next so they decide to enjoy their time together, as they celebrate Christmas with the residents of the island.

I adored this book, life is grim right now with lockdowns and restrictions so it was wonderful to escape into this romantic and festive story that is brimming with delicious flavours, recipes and smells. Throughout the book, my mouth was literally salivating at the delicious food that was created and it was lovely to read the various traditions that are done each year.

The main characters are lovely, Holly is instantly likeable and relatable with her fun personality. Tor is quite a guarded character, who’s locally known as ‘the hermit of the island’ but Holly helps bring him out of the shell and embrace the locals. There’s an sense of underlying sadness with both characters, as they are both are going through hardships and they are drawn to each other for comfort. One of my favourite characters in the book was actually a cat called Frøy, I loved his personality and his mood swings, one minute he loved her owner Tor and the next he wouldn’t look at him. Even though, Tor is the hermit of the island, Frøy is notorious, going from various houses for food and comfort.

Beautifully written and wonderfully descriptive with heartwarming characters and flavours that will instantly brighten your day. ‘Christmas Island’ is a charming and engaging story about new friendships and new beginnings that read like a hug in a mug.

You can buy ‘Christmas Island’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Secret Of You And Me By Melissa Lenhardt

The Secret Of You And Me”The Secret of You and Me’ is the latest book by Melissa Lenhardt.

Nora hasn’t looked back. Not since she left home, and her broken heart, far behind her. But now tragedy calls her back, where she must finally come face to face with ex-boyfriend Charlie, and best friend Sophie. Only now will she be able to confront her past―and reconcile her future. Sophie seems to have everything. Married to Charlie, with a wonderful daughter and a successful career. Yet underneath that perfection lies an explosive secret. A secret that ripped through their town and destroyed her friendship with Nora. So when Sophie finds out that Nora has returned, she hopes Nora’s stay is short. The life she has built depends on it. But first love doesn’t fade easily. Memories come to light, passion ignites and old feelings resurface. As the forces that once tore them apart begin to re-emerge, both Nora and Sophie must accept that true love is something worth fighting for.

Founded in 1908, Mills & Boon is the UK’s number one publisher of romantic fiction and publish over 700 new titles a year and ‘The Secret of You and Me’ is their very first LGBTQ novel.

The story is written in the past and present tense between once best friends Nora and Sophie. Nora has returned home for her father’s funeral and to tie up a few loose ends including facing up to Sophie, her first love and best friend. Nora left home estranged from her father and joined the army, leaving her old love and life behind. She’s comfortable with her sexuality, whereas Sophie has hidden hers and had a traditional life, married with her daughter.

As the story progresses, both women confront their past and try to move on but their old feelings have returned. Even though they have hurt each other with their decisions in life, they are unable to stay apart.

Mills & Boon’s first step in the LGBTQ genre, is a tender and tentative one hat made for sweet reading. An exploration into first love, the story focuses on the issues of prejudice and homophobia as the small town are religious and against gay relationships. Life is particularly hard for Sophie, being married to an upcoming politician and pillar of the community, she has an image to maintain even though she is deeply unhappy.

The interactions between the 2 women made for heartfelt reading as they tried to ignore the feelings between them and Nora was feisty to point out her opinions, particularly when it came Sophie’s close-minded mother called Brenda.

Sweetly written, this book was a tender and sensitive read from start to finish. A story that recognises the hardship of coming out as well as the pressures of trying to lead a secret life, ‘The Secret of You and Me’ is a story of love overcoming all and new beginnings and is a triumph of a love story.

You can buy ‘The Secret Of You And Me’ from Amazon is available to buy from Amazon and other good bookshops.