REVIEW: Death in Provence by Serena Kent

 

Death in Provence

Blurb

When Penelope Kite swaps her humdrum life in Surrey for a picturesque farmhouse in the south of France, she imagines a simple life of long lunches and chilled rosé . . . What she doesn’t imagine is the dead body floating in her swimming pool.

Convinced that the victim suffered more than a drunken accident, Penelope plunges headlong into local intrigue and long-simmering resentments to uncover the truth.

But with a meddling estate agent, an unfriendly Chief of Police, a suspiciously charming Mayor, and the endless temptation of that second pain au chocolat, life in the delightful village of St Merlot is certainly never simple.

 

Review

I so enjoyed Death in Provence.

Although I’m still to visit Provence, I’ve always loved the locale, the colours, and the lavender. This story brings them all out and I loved it.

It’s a light-hearted murder mystery, filled with intrigue and laughs. A loved the characters. The main character, Penelope Kite is a wonderful, older woman, clever, and determined to discover why there was a body in her swimming pool. Not what she expected when she bought a home in the small village of St Merlot.

This is a perfect holiday read. Escape to the sunshine. I highly recommend it.

 

 

 

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The Thornton Mysteries – Book 3, Draft 2

I’m very pleased to have finished the Second draft of Book 3 of The Thornton Mysteries.

It’s set in the Barossa Valley, northeast of Adelaide, in South Australia, which is an area known for its superb wines. Shiraz grapes are the local speciality.

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Barossa Valley.  Photo by Ellen Read

 

The stone cottages and Lutheran churches throughout the region owe their heritage to a 19th-century wave of German settlers.

My story is also set in Handorf, a beautiful little town, closer to Adelaide. Its German history can be traced back to 1838 when George Fife Angas, a director of a South Australian company, made a trip to London to promote colonisation. During his trip he met Pastor Kavel who was helping German Lutherans, being persecuted by the King of Prussia, to immigrate to safer places.

 

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Photo by Ellen Read

Set in 1928, the Handorf in my story has become Ambleside. Because of the Great War 1914-1918 (World War I), the government changed the name of the town because it sounded too German.

An interesting point I discovered in my research is that Handorf/Ambleside residents were not interned during the war, unless they posed a threat because of strong German allegiances. Anyone who was interned, however, was deported to Germany after the end of the war.

Four days ago at 11.00am on the 11 November, was the 100th Anniversary of the signing of the Armistice, the agreement that warring parties would stop fighting.

In my book, the Thornton family go to the Barossa Valley as Benedict’s parents have a vineyard and winery. Alexandra wants to discover why they rejected Benedict after he returned home from the war.

This was Benedict’s war and he suffers nightmares from the horrors of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Page – Crimson Cloak Publishing

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I am so thrilled to have my own page on my publisher’s website.

Crimson Cloak Publishing

My first two books are with my publisher.

Book 1 – The Dragon Sleeps

Book 2 – The Inca’s Curse

Book 3 – I’m working on it now.

Book 4 – To follow

The Next Steps after a Publishing Contract

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As writers, it would be wonderful to always stay in our own little bubble and write. Perhaps a cave, as long as there was enough light to see. Or a sanctuary with a view, overlooking the ocean, or a rainforest or even a beautiful garden. Reality won’t allow it though, and we have to peek out sometimes and see what is going on out there, knowing full well that it isn’t as interesting as anything going on in our heads.

For me, hand in hand with a passion to write, was the desire to be published. When I moved towns just over three years ago, I write Love The Gift, a time-slip novella, which I self published. I then started The Dragon Sleeps, book one in The Thornton Mysteries Series. I went down the road of self publishing with it as well – a way that is not easy. I’m pleased I did this, as I have met so many wonderful people along the way.

By the time I had finished writing book two, I realised I wanted try for a traditional publisher. I had come so close many years ago, in another life, when I had an agent in London. Things didn’t work out, even though I received a verbal offer to publish a book I’d written back then.

This time I had success. A publisher, US company Crimson Cloak Publishing, said they would publish book two. But where was book one? After reading it, they said they’d publish it also. In the end, my contract was for four books. I was ecstatic!

My first steps, onto a new publishing path, started straight away with a media kit and an interview to do for the publisher. Why did I write? Why did I write this book? Tell me about your characters. What motivated you? And so many more questions. It made me think hard about…everything. Difficult to do but it was great to go over everything.

So, now these have been sent to the publisher. What’s next? So much more, but for now back to writing book three in The Thornton Mystery Series.

Book Two Title Reveal : The Thornton Mysteries

I’m very pleased to announce the title of Book Two in The Thornton Mysteries Series.

THE INCA’S CURSE

 

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In the 1850’s, Daylesford, in Country Victoria, found itself in the grip of a gold rush. Thomas Thornton Senior made his fortune during those days, as did his friend, Aquilino Bassetti. Giacomo Rigoni remained a dirt miner before he worked for Thomas Thornton Senior.

By 1928, when the Thorntons visit Wombat Hill Manor, their holiday home, tucked into the side of Wombat Hill, Daylesford’s new ‘rush’ is spring water. Mount Franklin, which most Australians know for its spring/mineral water, is close by.

The Thorntons have kept their gold mines in operation, but others, like the Bassettis, have gone into the hotel business. Hungry miners have to eat and drink. In 1928, the Bassettis still own an hotel, cheese factory and mineral springs. The Rigonis remain at Wombat Hill Manor as caretakers and staff.

Through the years, the Inca’s curse has insidiously filtered through the generations, killing with its touch, until at the end, it nearly tears three families apart.

BLURB:  Inca’s Curse – Book 2  is set at the Thornton’s holiday home in Daylesford, country Victoria. Alexandra and Benedict are no sooner there, than Alexandra’s pearls are stolen. Two murders follow. A girl’s body thrown into a lake. The second body is found at the bottom of a collapsed gold mine tunnel.

What do these have to do with the drowning of Thornton Antique’s acting manager in Melbourne?

Then, Alexandra discovers an old love letter written by her grandfather, along with a necklace that is missing a large diamond.

Are the rumours about a cursed necklace true? Can a curse cling to an object and unleash its power through the decades?

Alexandra must discover the truth before more people are killed.

 

REVIEW TIME: Sleeper’s Castle

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Sleeper’s Castle by Barbara Erskine.

Blurb:

Two women, centuries apart. One endless nightmare tearing Wales apart – and only they can stop it.

Hay-On-Wye, 1400 – War is brewing in the Welsh borders, Catrin is on the brink of womanhood and falling in love for the first time. Her father is a soothsayer, playing a dangerous game playing on the mixed loyalties and furious rivalries between welsh princes and English lords. For two hundred years, the Welsh people have lain under the English yoke, dreaming of independence. And finally it looks as though the charismatic Owain Glyndwr may be the man legend talks of. In the walls of Sleeper’s Castle, Catrin finds herself caught in the middle of a doomed war as she is called upon to foretell Wales’s destiny… And what she sees, is blood and war coming closer…

Hay, 2015. Miranda has moved to Sleeper’s Castle to escape and grieve. Slowly she feels herself coming to life in the solitude of the mountains. But every time she closes her eyes her dreams become more vivid. And she makes a connection with a young girl, who’s screaming, who’s reaching out… who only Miranda can help. Is she losing herself to time?

My thoughts:

Sleeper’s Castle enthralled and enchanted me from the very beginning. Barbara Erskine effortlessly weaves together the two eras of this time-slip story. I loved the references back to the ancient druids and their sacred dreaming.

There’s magic and mystery, a hint of romance, wild Welsh countryside, and mysterious characters, such as Meryn, who is mentioned in the beginning of the story. When he makes an appearance, he still carries an aura of the unknown about him. Not to mention, Pepper, the condescending cat that believes he really own Sleeper’s Castle.

I love the historical side of the story, which follows the life of Owain Glyndwr, Prince of Wales, who waged a campaign to free Wales from the English yoke.

Sleeper’s Castle is the pivotal link. The house is an extra character in the story, with its own past, tragic tales and hopes for the future. However, it’s the stories of Miranda (Andy) and Bryn, in the present day, and Catrin and Edmund in 1400 that held me all the way through, along with the suspense engendered by a crazy ex-wife out for blood.

This is a fantastic read. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and highly recommend it.

5 STARS

The House behind Thornton Park

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When I first thought of writing The Dragon Sleeps and needed a grand house for the Thornton’s family home, Werribee Park and mansion in Victoria came to mind. I’d first visited it years earlier and always intended to include a house like it into a story. 

I thought you might like to read something about the house behind my Thornton Park.

Werribee Park is approximately 10 hectares of manicured gardens and native woodland. There is Werribee Mansion, which is next to the Victorian State Rose Garden, and also Werribee Open Range Zoo.

Many people think that Australia’s history is not as rich as England’s or Europe‘s and that we don’t have grand houses and gardens. They haven’t seen Werribee Park. 

Scottish brothers Thomas and Andrew Chirnside, built the Italianate styled mansion over three years, from 1874 to 1877. They had made their fortune in Australia’s developing agricultural industry, so had the wealth to construct such an elaborate residence. 

It’s intriguing to note that there was a romantic triangle here. Some years earlier, Thomas had proposed marriage to Andrew’s wife Mary, who was also their first cousin. The mansion was built by the brothers for Mary, who held both their hearts.

It is sad that Thomas committed suicide in 1887 from depression. Andrew died in 1890. Werribee Park was left to Andrew and Mary’s children, with Mary residing in it for the remainder of her life. 

In 1923 the property was sold to the Roman Catholic Bishops of Australia, where it became a seminary, a place of reflection and spiritual development, named Corpus Christi College.

Today, the mansion is open to the public. It also has an adjoining hotel and spa. Visitors can experience the grandeur of Werribee Mansion, discover Victoria’s unique pastoral history down at the farm and homestead, or have a picnic on the Great lawn surrounded by stunning formal gardens.

It’s located 30 minutes from Melbourne by car.

REVIEW TIME: The Daughters of the Oak by Becky Wright

Daughters of the Oak

 

Daughters of the Oak
The blurb of this extended edition of The Manningtree Account.

“A supernatural thriller, weaving witches, and ghosts, together, in one spine-tingling tale.”

1646 – The English Civil War. The Royalists of King Charles I, and Cromwell’s Parliamentarians, battle, both eager to lay claim to a tattered country, where life has become cheap and death trivial.

Though, for the lowly commoner, a greater, far more devious, war rages. It threatens the souls of the weak, timid and needy. Seeking refuge in the Lord’s word, God fearing folk employ the skills of one man, the Witchfinder. His success speaks of his talent, to seek out, punish and rid the countryside of Witches, the Devil’s Whores.

2016 – A paranormal team are called to investigate, as poltergeist activity brings terror to one family. Under the cover of darkness, in silent suburbia, an endless night of battle against evil ensues, until finally, a new day dawns.

Lies, secrets, and treachery, it seems, are never forgotten.
Welcome to Manningtree…

After reading The Manningtree Account, I was interested to read this extended version. Becky Wright has combined history with chilling imagination to craft this dark, paranormal tale of witchcraft. Of course, Matthew Hopkins, The Witchfinder General, isn’t a fictional character. Women who were branded witches had no hope of escaping his brand of terror.

Becky Wright seamlessly merges the story in the 1600s with the characters in 2016.

I found Daughters of the Oak dark and disturbing.

The ending has quite an unexpected twist that is quite chilling.

If you like a dark tale, then this is for you.

 

Interview with Soulla Christodoulou by Ellen Read

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Welcome Soulla.

I am delighted to welcome Soulla Christodoulou to my blog today.

Soulla is an author from London.

Today we’re discussing her new book The Summer Will Come.

Congratulations on its publication.

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ER  The Summer Will Come is very close to your heart and your heritage. So to start, would you like to tell us something about yourself and what inspired you to write this book?

SC   I’m British born, with Greek Cypriot parents and I’ve always lived in London. Growing up I remember embracing my family’s traditions and our culture in a way which made me feel safe. I liked having something that made me different to the children in my class at school. I also liked the way other Greek Cypriot children would somehow become part of not only my friendship circle but their parents would come to know my family too. So in a way, my family was always growing!

In my adult years, my mother became ill and after a long battle with cancer I was overwhelmed with the news she was in remission. This experience impacted on me deeply and I questioned my purpose and my life’s path. I began asking questions about my heritage, my grandparents and their decision to come to London. I knew part of the story but never really thought about it in the context of the political landscape of the country at the time. This is what planted the seed that lead me to write The Summer Will Come.

ER   I suspect your parents would have had many anecdotal stories to help you. However, you must have had to a do a lot of research.

SC  They certainly did Ellen but you’re right in that my research, both primary and secondary, opened me up to the reality of the harsh, violent and disturbing political backdrop which has, even to this day, shrouded the island of Cyprus. I always believed Turkey were wrong to invade Cyprus in 1974, but going back over the history since 1953, I can see why they did, even if I disagree with it. The research I did, in the main, was around the political landscape. It connected me with the family of a famous EOKA hero, Evagoras Pallikarides, whose poetry, incidentally, gave me the title of my book. I interviewed many people of my parents’ generation and older too and their personal stories are what makes my book so real. It’s not about facts and figures, or what I gleaned from history books of the time, but personal accounts; it’s the passion, the love, the fear, the uncertainty, the reality of leaving the home they had ever known, which I have explored and hopefully, bring out in the story.

ER  The story revolves around two families, both Greek Cypriot living in different villages in Cyprus. You’ve set the story in 1953. That was a turbulent time in Cyprus’s history. I refer in particular to a quote from your book, ‘You want to be a part of this. I praise your conviction to the EOKA cause even if I disagree. But it’s more complicated than you know. You’re putting yourself, and us, in danger.’

Could you tell us something about the turmoil and political conflict during those years?

SC   Yes of course, although it’s all far more complicated than I am able to tell you here and I am certainly no specialist on the subject; much of my research involved personal accounts of that time period. Many of the stories talk of complete and utter chaos and a reign of inter-racial conflict; the EOKA guerrilla group fought hard against the British in an effort to gain freedom from British occupation. Initially, the British administration didn’t realise how serious the situation was and when they did, it was too late; EOKA was highly organised, regimented and those who signed up were patriotic to the death in wanting to secure freedom. It caused a panic, form the accounts I have heard, and as such the tactics used by the British too were ferocious and inhumane. Many innocent people, including Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots and British, were killed in bombings and unprovoked attacks. Many school children got involved too with demonstrations against the British who retaliated by imposing curfews on villages and their inhabitants and arresting anyone who behaved suspiciously. It was a terrifying and chaotic time. There are, of course, many accounts written from many different viewpoints, however my book has been written from the viewpoint of those who lived in Cyprus during this time and it is these personal struggles that are depicted through the characters in my book. It is certainly not a political or historic encyclopaedia.

ER   EOKA was a Greek Cypriot nationalist guerrilla organisation that fought a campaign for the end of British rule in Cyprus.

How many years did it take before this was achieved?

SC   All in all, Ellen, it took 5 years until a resolution as reached which gave Greece, Turkey and Britain the authority to intervene should they have to through the Treaty of Guarantee. But if you look at the bigger picture it goes further back than 1955, all the way back to 1931 in fact and, I suppose, the repercussions of the EOKA movement is what ultimately lead to Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in the summer of 1974.

The British flag came down at midnight on the 15th August 1960 which brought to an end the British occupation of the island. So officially Cyprus gained its first day of independence on 16th August 1960.

ER  Both families in The Summer Will Come immigrate to London. This must have been a challenge for them.

Could you tell us how they coped?

SC   Both families in the story had common hardships; language, culture, finding work, but they also had their own individual hardships to face.

Elena’s family missing family and friends and even foods and personal belongings. came to London in the hope of starting a new life with the Kostas, the wife of Evangelia, but their dramas were shattered when it evolves he was weak man with poor morals and little regard toward his family responsibilities. This in turn, brought additional hardship to the family whereby Evangelia becomes the sole income earner of the family and Elena, despite being a promising at student at school, has to leave and work to supplement her mother’s income. Christaki’s family struggle initially as Loizos, his father, does not come to England with them. Christaki therefore has to grow up and becomes head of the family. Pavlo and Melani both have their own demons; Pavlo is angry and cannot settle, Melani begins to fight the restricting demands of her culture and traditions which are exacerbated against the backdrop of 1950s London.

ER  The novel is written as a multi-point of view story – a mother and daughter from one family and a father and son from the other family. Elena, the daughter, and Christaki, the son, are the key main characters in the story.

How did you find writing in both female and male voices?

SC   Actually I feel like I cheated a bit here. I knew my grandparents, both maternal and paternal, and Christaki and Elena are based loosely on my own parents, and so I just imagined what they would say. The only difficulty was getting across the same passion in the English language as would be evident had the story been written in Greek. I tried to compensate for this by using little Greek sayings and anecdotes my family have used over the years and which are still used today in Cyprus.

ER   Do you have a favourite character in this book? Why?

SC   I would have to say, Elena who is one of the four main characters. She is the one who grows up the most in the story from being a child living in the village of Kato Lefkara to becoming a mature young woman in London and finding herself despite the setbacks along the way; both external and personal. She longs to meet her father and when she does, despite her initial excitement and intrigue, she is disappointed and let down and neglected but despite this she loves him to the very end of the story. She deals with poverty, a controlling mother after the family’s move to England and yet she stands by her family despite their failings, which are not always intentional or malicious but rather a thread woven into their lives through tradition, culture and beliefs. She’s my favourite because she faces her chance for a new life with a happy-go-lucky outlook and a can-do attitude, which sometimes gets her into trouble…she reminds me a little of me in a lot of ways!

 ER   Readers interested in Greek Cypriot life and culture, as well as 1950s Cypriot and British history will love this book. It’s also a story of hope and new dreams.

What do you hope readers take away with them when reading The Summer Will Come?

SC   I really hope that above all else they will get a real sense of what Cyprus was like and how passionate the people of the country are and how they held onto their values and traditions despite being miles away from home in a foreign land. It is with belief in God and their faith that drove them to continue and work hard to make things work in a new country, with no support network, a new language and culture and way of life to get used to.

ER   What are you working on now?

SC   I’ve written the first 43,000 words of a novel called Trust is a Big Word about an illicit online relationship that develops between two people. It’s quite experimental as I’m including in the book passages of narration in the first person, witter message feeds between the two main characters and poetry which one of the characters writes for the other.

 ER   What do you do when you’re not writing?

SC   I’m a busy bee doing lots of other things including private tutoring from home, working part-time for a private tuition school as well as working on commissions for proof-reading and editing and writing marketing content and blog posts for clients. I enjoy meeting up with my friends, especially if there’s dancing involved, and of course being Greek Cypriot I spend a lot of time with my immediate and extended family, which always involves food…a lot of food! I enjoy walking and holidays that take me to places that make me think and feel differently. (I can add a bit about India here if you like – going there in Feb)

ER   I’d like to thank you so much for joining me today. I wish you every success with The Summer Will Come.

Thank you so much for having me Ellen and for putting together this really thoughtful interview. I’ve really enjoyed taking part…you’re a dear friend and I wish you well with your writing too.

 

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Born in London to Greek Cypriot parents Soulla Christodoulou spent much of her childhood living carefree days full of family, school and friends. She was the first in her family to go to university and studied BA Hotel & Catering Management at Portsmouth University. Years later, after having a family of her own she studied again at Middlesex University and has a PGCE in Business Studies and an MA in Education.

Soulla is a Fiction author and wrote her first novel Broken Pieces of Tomorrow over a few months while working full time in secondary education and is a mother of three boys.

She is a compassionate and empathetic supporter of young people. Her passion for teaching continues through private tuition of English Language and Children’s Creative Writing Classes. She offers writing services too in support of businesses, authors and students.

Her writing has also connected her with a charity in California which she is very much involved in as a contributor of handwritten letters every month to support and give hope to women diagnosed with breast cancer. One of her letters is featured in a book ‘Dear Friend’, released on Amazon in September 2017.

When asked, she will tell you she has always, somewhere on a subconscious level, wanted to write and her life’s experiences both personal and professional have played a huge part in bringing her to where she was always meant to be; writing books and drinking lots of cinnamon and clove tea!

She also has a poetry collection inspired by old phrases and sayings, Sunshine after Rain, published on Amazon and is releasing her second novel, The Summer Will Come in March 2018.

She is currently working on a third novel, Trust is a Big Word, about an on-line friendship which evolves over time into an illicit cyber relationship.

A Word from Soulla.

I have recently come back from India and after spending 23 days there I can honestly say the country and its people have inspired a deeper happiness in me, which coupled with gratefulness, has allowed me to look at my life, for a second time, with different eyes.

Travelling always seems to impact on me in a big way; it refreshes, enlightens, empowers me in so many ways.

You can buy The Summer Will Come at the following:

The Summer Will Come

Connect with Soulla:

Website: https://www.soulla-author.com/

Blog: https://www.soulla-author.com/blog/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/schristodoulou2?lang=en

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

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100016786150671

Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/asceducational/

  

Mrs Preston’s Kitchen

Thank you to Michael Chrobak for inviting me to write a guest post for his blog.

Please visit his link below.

https://eatingwrite.weebly.com/guest-blogs/mrs-prestons-kitchen