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#MeetMeInAnotherLife

Thora and Santi have met before…


Under the clocktower in central Cologne, with nothing but the stars above and their futures ahead.


They will meet again…


They don’t know it yet, but they’ll meet again: in numerous lives they will become friends, colleagues, lovers, enemies – meeting over and over for the first time, every time; each coming to know every version of the other.


But as they’re endlessly drawn together and the lines between their different lives begin to blur, they are faced with one question: why?


They must discover the truth of their strange attachment before this, and all their lives, are lost forever.

This was unlike anything I have read before. Once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down, I thought it was going in the direction of a romance similar to time travelers wife but it couldn’t have been further away from that. This story was about love as concept not romantic love.

We see the two main characters lives intersecting in a multitude of different ways and each time we learn a little but more about them as they unravel what’s happening to them. Santi believes that everyone has a path set out for them, whereas Thora believes that life changes based on the decisions you make. Santi is religious, Thora is not. We follow them through different iterations of their lives together and seeing how those beliefs were challenged was so interesting to read.

I honestly couldn’t tell you where I thought it was going but I was not expecting that ending at all but I absolutely loved it, I think it worked brilliantly and really cemented the read as a 5 star for me.

Thank you @randomttours and @harpervoyageruk for my spot on the blog tour.

About the Author:

Catriona Silvey was born in Glasgow and grew up in Perthshire and Derbyshire, which left her with a strange accent and a distrust of flat places. She overcame the latter to do a BA in English at Cambridge, and spent the next few years there working in scientific publishing. After that she did a PhD in language evolution, in the hope of finding out where all these words came from in the first place.


Following stints in Edinburgh and Chicago, she returned to Cambridge, where she lives with her husband and a very peculiar cat. When she’s not working as a researcher studying meaning in language, she writes. Her short stories have been performed at the Edinburgh Literary Festival and shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.

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#MaryJane

The summer’s must read is here MARY JANE by Jessica Anya Blau is perfect for fans o f the 1970s nostalgia captured by Daisy Jones and the Six as well as readers of Judy Blume With hints of Almost Famous MARY JANE is a charming coming of age novel that perfectly captures that era of American culture, from rock music on the radio to family therapy on the beach.

Set in 1975 suburban Baltimore Blau’s breakout novel introduces Mary Jane, a sheltered teenage girl whose world opens up when she lands a summer job as the nanny for the daughter of a local doctor A respectable job Mary Jane’s mother says in a respectable house. The Cone house may look respectable on the outside, but inside it’s a literal and figurative mess: clutter on every surface, Impeachment: Now More Than Ever bumper stickers on the doors, cereal and take away for dinner. And even more troublesome (were Mary Jane’s mother to know, which she does not): the doctor is a psychiatrist who has cleared his summer for one important job helping a famous
rock star dry out. A week after Mary Jane starts, the rock star and his movie star wife Jimmy and
Sheba move in.

Over the course of the summer, Mary Jane introduces her new household to crisply ironed clothes and a family dinner schedule and has a front row seat to a liberal world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll (not to mention group therapy). Caught between the lifestyle she’s always known and the future she’s only just realized is possible, Mary Jane will arrive at September with a new idea about what she wants out of life, and what kind of person she’s going to be.

A nostalgic trip into the 1970’s MARY JANE is a timeless coming of age story about finding yourself, all wrapped up with lots of humour, a dash of teenage rebellion and plenty of rock and roll.

This was a great coming of age story set in 1975. Mary Jane is hired as a nanny for the summer but ends up helping the family in more than her paid role as nanny.

I absolutely loved getting lost in the 70’s in this book, it really felt like I was travelling back in time with each page. I adored Mary Jane’s character, she was just such a lovely young girl thrown into a world she had no clue about but still tried to do her best for Izzy.

I thought Izzy was a brilliant character and enabled the innocent questions that child ask to be included in the story which I think really added to the narrative. I also really liked the rock star couple they bought music and glamour to the book that made it a joy to read. The group dynamic together had me laughing many a time.

I love how it showed the idea of family not necessarily being who you are born into but who supports you and looks out for you. A really great, heart warming read.

Thank you to @harper360uk and @randomttours for my spot on the blog tour

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#TheCouple

Lucy Vine Millie is a perfectionist. She’s happy, she’s successful and, with a great support network of friends and family (and a very grumpy cat), she’s never lonely. She loves working at a big tech firm and is on track be promoted to her dream role. The last thing she needs is romance messing up her perfectly organised world. Besides, normal people just don’t have romantic relationships. Everyone knows that being in a couple is a bit . . . well, odd. You know, like having a pet snake or referring to yourself in the third person. Why rely on another person for your own happiness? Why risk the humiliation of unrequited love or the agony of a break-up? No, Millie is more than happy with her conventional single life.

So, when Millie lands a new project at work, launching a pill that prevents you falling in love, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. That is, until she starts working with Ben. He’s charming and funny, and Millie feels an instant connection to him. Will Millie sacrifice everything she believes in for love?

I read this authors debut book, The Shelf, last summer and really enjoyed it so when the chance to read her latest novel came around I jumped at the chance. I love how easy this authors work is to read even though it is always packing some big punches.

I really enjoyed how the author flipped the norm and really exposed how much is put on marriage in our culture, things I didn’t even really think about like the tax benefits to being married or even just in a couple is something that I have always just taken as a given but really why are people being penalized for being single?

The chemistry between the two main characters felt real and I could feel the tension simmering between them. The concept of Oxytoxin pill was frightening and yet such a clever idea, I really hope it never gets invented 🤣

For me the ending felt at odds with the whole tone of the book although saying that I would have been disappointed if it didn’t end that way so I think I must have been in a contrary mood!

This is definitely one your going to want to pick up this summer and I can’t wait to see what this author brings us next.

Thank you to @zaffrebooks and @tr4cyf3nt0n for my spot on the blog tour!

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#ThisIsHowWeAreHuman

Sebastian James Murphy is twenty years, six months and two days
old. He loves swimming, fried eggs and Billy Ocean. Sebastian
is autistic. And lonely. Veronica wants her son Sebastian to be
happy, and she wants the world to accept him for who he is. She
is also thinking about paying a professional to give him what he
desperately wants.

Violetta is a high-class escort, who steps out into the night thinking
only of money. Of her nursing degree. Paying for her dad’s care.
Getting through the dark.

When these three lives collide, and intertwine in unexpected ways,
everything changes. For everyone.

Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, This Is How We Are
Human is a powerful, moving and thoughtful drama about a
mother’s love for her son, about getting it wrong when we think
we know what’s best, about the lengths we go to care for family
and to survive.

This is my 3rd Louise Beech Book and this one cements her in my auto-buy author list. I love that she can write so powerfully across genres so you never know what’s coming next!

In this story Sebastian wants nothing more than to meet a woman, and have sex, but he’s autistic which for him makes forming any kind of relationship difficult. His mother just wants him to be happy and thinks the solution is to hire a escort. Violetta has responsibilities to take care of and a nursing qualification to pay for, she is just trying to keep it all together.

I really loved Sebastian’s character, I thought he was a very loveable man with a good sense of right and wrong and he just felt so real to me, as did all the characters! I really felt for his mum as she really was jut trying to do her best but being on her own with no one to talk through raising a child with made her feel so alone. I loved the surprise twist, it was really clever and made me question my own judgements I might have made in that situation.

Reading the authors note I saw that Louise had worked hard to research and make sure that Sebastian’s character was right and that it actually based on a true story!!

Another moving tale from a master story teller who can weave emotion in to anything. Thank you @orendabooks and @randomttours for letting me be part of the blog tour!

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave
was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The follow-up, The Mountain in My Shoe
was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both of her previous books Maria in the
Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed
and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted
for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. Her 2019 novel Call Me
Star Girl won Best magazine Book of the Year, and was followed by I Am Dust.

Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

#jubilantjune #blogtour

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#TheDare

When she was thirteen, Lizzie lost her best friend in what she always believed was a terrible accident.

Even though she was with Alice when she died, Lizzie has no memory of the accident itself. Now there is doubt around if it was in fact an accident at all.

Alice’s friends and relatives seem to suspect Lizzie had a part to play in Alice’s death, but Lizzie knows that can’t be true. She would never have hurt Alice.

Twelve years later, unpacking boxes in the new home she shares with her fiancé, Lizzie is finally beginning to feel like she can move on with her life.

But someone has other ideas.

Twelve years is a long time to wait, when you’re planning the perfect revenge.

Lizzie has no memory of what happened in the moments before her best friend Alice died, she only knows that it must have been a tragic accident. Skip ahead to 12 years later and Lizzie is moving on with her life, she has moved in with her fiancé and is going to go back to college. But strange things keep happening, is she being haunted by the past or is someone out for revenge.

This is the second thriller I have read by Lesley Kara as I was on the blog tour for who did you tell, and I think this is even better than the last. I read it in just a few sittings and was thinking about it when I was I put it down. The tension the author creates oozed off the page and at times I just wanted to shake Lizzie and say ‘can’t you see what’s happening here!!’

I did predict two of the main twists but in no way did this detract from my reading pleasure, in fact it enhanced it as it played out as I wanted it to in my head which gave me a whole separate sense of satisfaction.

Thank you to @randomttours and @lesleykara for my review copy of the book.

Lesley’s debut The Rumour was the bestselling crime thriller debut of 2019. It was a Sunday Times bestseller in both hardback and paperback, a Kindle No.1 bestseller, and has now sold over 350,000 copies globally. The Rumour has been optioned for TV by Cuba Pictures, and has sold in 15+ territories to date. Who Did You Tell? her critically acclaimed second novel was also a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller.

Lesley is an alumna of the Faber Academy ‘Writing a Novel’ course. She lives on the North Essex coast, inspiration for the locations in her novels.

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#AViolentGentleman

Jeremiah O’Connell made his name solving problems in London and now does the same in LA. The problems other people can’t or won’t touch? They’re the ones that end up at Jerry’s door.

Suddenly Jeremiah has problems of his own when he sets out to right a wrong and finds himself on the hitlist of one of LA’s most feared drug gangs.

As the stakes rise, so does the body count, and Jerry has the fight of his life on his hands. Now, with high-class escort Noah in tow, Jeremiah must revisit his old London stomping grounds and assemble his team in order to wage all-out war on the streets on Tinseltown…

Jerry ambled towards the strip club entrance, pulled open a

door and moved into a vestibule area, where a doorman sat

on a bar stool looking at his phone. Jerry tried to hide his

contempt, resisting the urge to tell the guy to get his arse

outside, which was where he should be. Standing. Watching.

Being a fucking doorman. Not sitting inside texting like a

kid.

The guy looked up at Jerry, down at his phone and then,

in a double take, back at Jerry. In the next second, he was

scrambling to his feet, broadening his shoulders and narrowing

his eyes. ‘What up?’ he croaked.

From behind him came the muffled thump of the strip

club music. The phone went away, hands into the pockets of

his bomber jacket. Making it clear to Jerry where he kept his

weapon – whatever that might be.

‘All right, mate?’ said Jerry. ‘You open for business, are

you?’ He was taking the piss, but it went clean over the head

of the doorman.

‘Always, always,’ nodded the doorman, ‘just as long as

you’re not after trouble . . .’

Jerry held up his hands. ‘Just here for the booze and the

birds, mate.’

The doorman held the door open for him and he moved

through into the foyer. A woman in a booth took his money.

He passed into the main club and took in the scene: dancers

gyrating at poles on a central stage; sleepyeyed

waiting staff;

a clientele who looked like part of the furniture. The overall

feel was one of lethargy, boredom. The afternoon after a

heavy night when the world has nothing more to show you.

He took a seat, ordered from a waitress who introduced

herself as Ashley, and then, when she returned with the

bottle, asked her, ‘You got a girl here called Commodore?’

Commodore. Fucksake. What a stupid name.

‘Yeah, Commodore’s here,’ replied Ashley warily. ‘Who

wants to know?’

‘A fan. I’ve been told her dancing is utterly sublime,’ said

Jerry, tongueincheek,

affecting the voice of a connoisseur.

Taking the piss again. He kissed his fingers. Grinned.

Ashley wasn’t having it. ‘She’s new.’

‘Word travels fast.’

‘All right. Well, you’re in luck, she’s on soon.’

Jerry sat back, drank his beer in three long slugs and then

ordered another one, Ashley even more wary now, which

was just as he intended. Sure enough, from the corner of

his eye, he watched the arrival of a guy he decided was

probably the duty manager. Jerry knew the type: scrawny

little guy with a wispy beard, cheap, shit suit and shoes that

didn’t match. The kind of guy who’d take advantage of the

women.

In turn, the duty manager beckoned to Ashley to join him.

They spoke briefly, the waitress glancing over at Jerry, nodding,

before the manager was joined by a bouncer in black

‘You’ve got a girl here called Commodore, yeah?’ began

cargo pants and trainers. More conversation. More glances

towards Jerry. Ashley departed to go about her business. The

Jerry. ‘Don’t answer that, it’s a rhetorical question. I know

bouncer and the duty manager remained, just at the periphery

of Jerry’s vision but staring his way.

Now Jerry looked over, maintaining eye contact. Next,

he stood, turned and very deliberately repositioned his chair

so that instead of facing the stage, it now faced the two men.

He regained his seat, lifted his beer bottle and saluted them,

mouthing Cheers.

They gave no response, just stared. The manager said

something to the bouncer. The bouncer nodded and made

his way over to Jerry.

He was a big guy: goatee beard, thick dark eyebrows.

Probably knew his way around a fight. As he arrived at Jerry’s

table, Jerry stood, reached for a chair, pulled it out. For a

moment or so, the two men faced one another, and then the

bouncer sat, Jerry doing the same.

‘What can I do for you?’ asked the bouncer. His gaze was

steady, but light glanced off a line of sweat on his forehead.

you have. Thing is, she’s leaving with me, so I’d appreciate it

if you’d let Commodore know that we’re going, like, now.

Tell her to pack a bag, take anything that’s hers. She’s not

coming back.’ Jerry checked his watch, the flash of his gold

Rolex not lost on the bouncer.

The bouncer regarded him. His expression barely changed.

‘Fallen in love, have we?’ he said.

 ‘It makes not a blind bit of difference to you why I’m taking

her. Just: I’m taking her.’

The bouncer pulled a face, shook his head. ‘Commodore’s

not free to leave. We set her up here, which means she works

for us until such time as she’s paid off her front money, and

she’s nowhere near doing that. What I’m saying is, she ain’t

going nowhere.’

Another bouncer had appeared and was standing a few

tables away, hands clasped in front of him, still as a statue.

Jerry gave him the onceover,

reflecting that you could

always tell if a geezer knew what he was doing by the way he

held his hands. Behind his back or down by his sides? Forget

it, guy was an amateur, you might as well have them in your

pockets. In front was a bit better, but the real pros had them

up high to make it easy to deflect.

Meantime, the girls on the poles were still dancing, but at

the same time were looking across. Even the few customers

had raised their eyes, their attention arrested by something

that was only slightly less commonplace than the sight of

‘And now,’ said the bouncer, as though he had regained

naked flesh and the taste of warm beer – the threat of imminent

A moment passed. Their eyes locked. Jerry didn’t move.

violence.

‘I’ll tell you what, I’m going to give you my card,’ said

the upper hand, ‘I’ll have to ask you to go.’

Jerry. It was already on the table. He slid it over.

‘Just says “Jeremiah O’Connell”, and a number,’ said the

bouncer without picking it up.

‘That’s all you need,’ said Jerry. ‘Make a few calls. I’ll wait

for you to speak to whoever you need to speak to.’

It took about ten minutes or so. Then the bouncer with

the goatee returned. ‘Commodore will be out in a moment,’

he said flatly. His eyes betrayed nothing, but Jerry saw the

tension in his shoulders. A vein that stood out on his neck.

Both tells that Jerry knew well – signs of one predator sizing

up another.

‘Well done, mate,’ replied Jerry.

The bouncer gave him an appraising look, seemed about to

say something, but thought better of it and then moved away.

Moments later, Commodore appeared, pale and drawn. Her

eyes were tired, and she wore streetwalker clothes.

‘They say I have to come with you,’ she said blankly.

‘They’re right, darlin’.’

Hope for the best, plan for the worst – that was what they

always said. He was prepared for a fuss. Tears. Screaming,

maybe even fists, and he was ready to carry her bodily out of

the door if needs be.

Instead, she just looked at him with tired, darkrimmed

eyes that no amount of caked on

makeup

could disguise.

She might be beautiful again, maybe, at some point in the

future. But right now her world had robbed her of looks and

life. Drugs had brought her low, and when she asked, ‘Did

my father send you?’ and he told her yes, the look on her face

was one of relief.

In short order, he made the call, drove to The Saddle

Ranch further along and delivered the girl into the grateful

arms of her father. An envelope was handed over. ‘There’s a

lot of money in there,’ said the father.

Jerry shrugged. ‘Price was agreed. Twenty grand for her

safe return. You got her back, you pay up. Simple as that.’

His face darkened. ‘Not planning on quibbling about it now,

are you?’

The man seemed to remember himself, shook his head,

and when he handed over the envelope, it was with a look of

gratitude, of relief. He watched as Jerry stowed the envelope

in his inside jacket pocket, got in the car and took off.

For his part, as he took off along Cedar Tree Avenue in

the shitty Prius, Jerry was looking forward to a drink at the

Naughty Pig on the Strip.

Which was when it happened.

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#FoulPlay

WELCOME TO EDWARDIAN ENGLAND

Lord D’Arque is dead, enquiries have led to the Lord’s loved ones being ruled out, and the search for a clear picture has put the servants of the manor in the frame. But what possible motive could the staff have for wanting their mean and miserly master murdered?

You’d be surprised what secrets are lurking behind the doors of the Manor! 

The servants are our lead suspects and it’s up to you as detectives to prove which one committed the dastardly deed. Playing good cop or bad cop? Picking from these two game versions will determine the type of investigators you’ll be whilst you try to solve the crime, but which detective will crack the case first?

Foul Play is a murder mystery card game for 2-5 players in which you need to find three clues to work out who the murder is and then convince the other players that you know who it is and put your evidence forward to back it up.

I sat down to play this with my husband after putting the little one to bed. The set up was really easy and there is even a photo on the website that shows how it should look for anyone who is unsure. We started off playing good cop but quickly moved on to bad cop as we are both very competitive and wanted to be able to win quicker! The game was fast paced and fun and we will definitely introduce the family to it over Christmas. The one recommendation I would give is to read the instructions online over the small card instructions as they didn’t seem to be as clear about what do with cards you had played/picking up new cards so the first few games we ran out of cards!

Thank you to @damppebbles , @DamppebblesBTs and @afterdarkmurder for my chance to play along! Check out these other lovely bloggers who will be taking part over the next ten days:

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#TheLockdownDiaryOfTomCooper

One man vs the coronavirus.

2020 was supposed to be a great year.

Unfortunately, Tom Cooper, like the rest of the world, has found himself stuck in the middle of a pandemic. He’s going to be spending the next few months trapped inside a small flat with sole responsibility for his two single digit children.

Separated from his girlfriend (and any possibility of help with childcare), Tom is plunged into a world of home schooling, awkward Zoom calls, supermarket feuds, al fresco workout sessions, cash strapped tooth fairies, aging parents who won’t stay home and competitive clapping for the NHS. Not to mention the problem of trying to fulfil his girlfriend’s request for an erotic selfie of his rapidly deteriorating body…


Join Tom as he navigates the lockdown in the stand-alone sequel to last year’s hilarious The Rebuilding of Tom Cooper. Laugh-out-loud with real heart.

Lockdown has never been so entertaining!

To be honest I was a little worried about reading this at the start of a second lockdown but this was a thoroughly enjoyable look at lock down from the perspective of a single parent. I really liked seeing all the parts I didn’t see from living in the country side and I especially enjoyed the observations of how different lockdown was for the rich vs the poor as (not knowing any very rich people) was something I was curious about.

This book is more about the challenges and joys of raising children and all the hilarious situations they put us in and is one I would recommend to all if you want a fun, light hearted read. That being said it did have some very tender and real moments that had me welling up!

I didn’t realise this was the second book when I signed up for the tour but I am glad of that as I might not have said yes had I know and it read absolutely fine as a stand alone. I will definitely be on the look out for book one!

Thank you to @randomttours @marottebooks and @thespencerbrown for my copy of the book in exchange for review.

Spencer Brown began performing comedy with the Cambridge Footlights alongside John Oliver (HBO’s This Week Tonight) and Matthew Holness (Garth Merenghi’s Darkplace), before becoming an internationally acclaimed stand up. He has performed everywhere from London’s The Comedy Store to Mumbai and the USA, TV credits including Nathan Barley (Channel 4), Edinburgh Comedy (BBC 2), Last Comic Standing (NBC), his own special on Swedish television. As a TV presenter, he fronted ITV’s Lip Service alongside Holly Willoughby and Five’s The Sexy Ads Show. He is also the writer-director of the multi-award-winning film The Boy with a Camera for a Face. The Lockdown Diary of Tom Cooper is his second novel.

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#wingingit

Emily is sure she’s getting this baby stuff all wrong. Why does everyone look like they’re smashing motherhood when she’s barely made it out of the house? She’s usually covered in sick, eating yet another beige freezer dinner, and relying on wet wipes to clean the baby, herself and the house. And coffee. All the coffee. Surely she can’t be the only new mum totally winging it?

Emily’s about to discover that when you’re starting a family, what you really need are your friends…

Our baby is stuck. The previously calm birthing room is full
of doctors shouting at the midwives.
‘We need to get her to the operating theatre, now!’ one
yells. ‘Why the hell isn’t she there already?’
I strain to see behind me as the pain grips and twists.
‘Nick? NICK? Where are you?’
‘Here,’ Nick says. His hand firmly grabs mine.
‘What’s happening?’ I shrill, my voice not sounding like
my own.
‘It’s OK, Emily,’ my midwife reassures me, ‘you’ve been
in second stage labour for some time now. We are going to
help you get your baby out.’ She squeezes my shoulder and
hurries out of the room.
‘Nick, what’s happening? What does she mean?’ I demand
as my entire innards crunch and tighten in the world’s
strongest vice.
‘It’s going to be alright,’ Nick says.
‘How do you know?’ I screech at him. The mother of all
contractions takes hold as I’m wheeled down the corridor.
‘Holy fuck!’ I hear myself scream.
The porters push the trolley through the swing doors and
the waiting doctor greets me, ‘Hello, Emily, I’m Doctor Marston.
We’re going to move you into a sitting position and ask
you to keep very still as I insert a spinal drip into your back.
Do you understand?’

‘Yes,’ I respond, as the contraction eases and I get my
breath back.
‘OK, Emily, you need to keep still. That’s it, remain absolutely
still.’
Can he stop asking me to stay still? It’s like asking a boxer
to remain static as his opponent repeatedly punches him in
the face. My body wants to push our baby out.
‘Right, it’s in!’ he says triumphantly, and my midwife appears,
guiding me back into a horizontal position on the bed.
‘You’re so close, Emily, you can do this,’ my midwife
encourages.
‘I can do this,’ I agree weakly.
‘You’re doing brilliantly.’ Nick wipes my sweaty forehead
with the sleeve of his jumper.
This isn’t how it’s meant to happen. I wanted ‘Here Comes
the Sun’, the Nina Simone version, playing triumphantly as
my child effortlessly slipped into the world. I’d imagined
doing the whole thing drugfree;
that I would get the baby
out on willpower alone. It’s all typed up in the birth plan.
Why isn’t it happening like the birth plan?
‘Get my baby OUT!’ The wave of another kneeshaking
contraction is starting to rumble. I can hear a low, Maorilike
wail, which I assume is coming from one of the other rooms
but as I draw breath, I’m surprised to fi nd it’s me making
the noise.
‘What are you doing?’ I ask as a doctor straps monitors to
me linked up to big beeping machines. ‘Is there something
wrong with the baby?’ I panic. Where’s Nick? He’s not next
to me anymore.
‘Nothing’s wrong. You’ve been crowning for a while now
and your baby has just become a bit distressed so we need to
monitor the heart rate. Just try to relax,’ the doctor explains.
‘Nick? Nick?’ Where has he gone?

‘I’m here. I’m right here,’ he soothes as I grab for his hand
and pull him close to me. He’s changed. He’s wearing blue
scrubs, George Clooney in ER style, and a net that tames his
uncontrollable curly hair; he looks like he works in a chip
shop. Where did he get the outfit from?
‘They know what they’re doing, Em.’ His voice is calm
but his eyes look wild with fear. My breath is becoming
shallow and panting. People sound like they are talking
underwater and the skin on my face feels like it is about
three sizes too small for my skull. I squeeze Nick’s fingers
together so tightly that his hand starts to twitch.
I close my eyes and try to take in a deep breath but only
feel as if I can fi ll about ten per cent of my lungs.
‘Just breathe, breathe, Emily. Release it slowly like we
practised. Make your lips really tight. Like a cat’s bum, remember?’
Nick’s voice sounds far away and echoey.
I exhale and open my eyes. My vision has altered, the
harsh strip lights have developed a seventies porno soft focus
quality; the doctors busy around me through a frosted
pane of glass. Nick grins at me and I know he is trying to
mask his panic. He’s squatting down so he’s at eye level but
his face is too close to mine. I can feel his warm breath on my
cheek and it smells like Cornish pasties.
‘I love you. I love you so much. You’re doing so brilliantly.
You’re amazing. Keep going, keep going. You’re
nearly there.’ He squeezes my hand and emphasises every
word.
I try to reply but no sound comes out. He tucks a sweaty
clump of hair behind my ear and I momentarily close my
eyes. When I open them, my legs are in stirrups. I hadn’t
even felt them move. These drugs are brilliant. Why hadn’t
I asked for them sooner? Stupid, self-righteous
birth plan.
I start to melt into a drug fuelled
bliss. My head feels like it is full of cotton wool; sentences drift off unfinished. I try
to smile at Nick but only half my face moves, like a kind of
Anne Robinson wink.
‘That’s my girl.’ He leans over and kisses my forehead.
‘We’re nearly there,’ he whispers, ‘we’re so nearly there.
I’m so proud of you.’
I reach out to touch his face but my arm feels like it weighs
a ton so I drop it back down onto the bed.
My midwife has both her hands pressed deep into my
stomach to feel when I am contracting; I can’t feel anything
at all now – thank fuck for drugs. ‘OK, OK, this is it. I can
feel another contraction coming, Emily. I need you to do one
last big push for me, can you do that?’
‘How? I can’t feel anything. How do I push?’ My body is
completely numb from my lower chest downwards.
‘Imagine you’re doing a poo. Push like you think you’re
doing a poo, Emily,’ she orders. ‘NOW! DO IT NOW!’
The world suddenly stands still. I’m looking at the silent,
scarlet faced
midwife barking orders at me. Her mouth is
moving but I can’t hear her. I am utterly gripped by fear. I
can’t do this, I can’t do this. I want all this to stop. I can’t
do this. I’m not ready. I scrunch my eyes shut as the tears
spill down my cheeks. Can all this just stop for a moment?
I’m not ready.
Then quick as a fl ash I’m back in the room like I’ve been
given a shot of adrenaline. A glob of spit sprays out the
midwife’s mouth as she screams, ‘I SAID NOW, EMILY!’
I shut my eyes again, but this time, a sheer determination
takes over my whole body. I tense every muscle I can feel and
focus on tensing all those that are numb. I imagine myself sat
on the toilet and then push. And push. And push. And push.
‘And PUSH. Keep going. The head is almost out. Your
baby is almost here. ONE MORE BIG PUSH, EMILY!’

The doctor standing between my legs is nodding frantically
at the midwife. Fuck. This is it. Come on, Emily, you
can do this. Let’s get this baby out.
I gulp in another huge breath, grip Nick’s hand with all
my might and scream a deep, powerful scream from somewhere
right down in my solar plexus.
‘That’s it, Emily, that’s it, keep going. This is the one,
we’re going to get your baby out on this one, KEEP GOING,’
she bellows.
I gasp for another lungful of air and use the last bit of
upper body strength to bend forward, imagining I’m doing
the biggest poo of my life.
Suddenly there’s a sharp tug between my legs followed
by what sounds like someone spilling a pint of water on the
floor.
‘Yes! Well done, Emily, your baby is here.’
Our baby is here.
Everything pauses. There is a collective intake of breath
followed by an ear bleedingly
loud wail and the room becomes
a hive of activity again. I flop back on the bed, sweat
dripping in my eyes.
‘Daddy, do you want to come and see what sex it is?’ It
takes me a moment to realise the doctor is talking to Nick.
‘Oh my God, Emily . . .’ His voice cracks. ‘It’s a girl, she’s
a girl!’
‘Can I see her?’ I croak.
The doctor carefully places her on my chest. I’m stunned
by the alien feeling of having the weight of a one breath old
human being on top of me. She has tiny, tiny fingers with
titchy fingernails and a mouth the size of an old five pence,
opening and closing like a goldfish.
We have a daughter. All slippery, a full head of black hair
matted to her purple scalp with blood and discharge.

I look up at Nick, who is taking a picture of us both on his
phone, and say in a voice that comes out so deep it sounds
more like a burp: ‘It’s our baby.’
Later, we look back at that photograph which he immediately
texts to everyone we know, and both comment on how
much I look like a transvestite.
‘Do you have a name?’ a nurse asks.
Nick and I look at each other and without hesitation,
proudly say, ‘Lucy’, in unison. Of the five million names we
toyed with, we always came back to Lucy. We don’t agree
on a lot of things, but thankfully we agreed on this.
There is another tug between my legs. I’ve been so busy
staring at our baby, I hadn’t noticed the doctor was still
ferreting around down there. She looks up at me and says,
‘Would you like to see your placenta?’
I nod before I’ve really had a chance to think it through
and she passes it to the midwife who presents me with what
looks like a massive bloody steak.
‘Are you keeping it?’ she asks.
‘Am I what?’
‘Some people like to keep them, have it dried and made
into capsules, or necklaces.’ She’s still holding the meat tray
of bloody flesh.
‘Err . . . No, no, I’m fi ne thanks.’
‘Yes, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.’ She shrugs, putting
it down.
‘Can I hold her?’ Nick whispers.
‘You can do better than that, would you like to cut the
cord, Daddy?’
I wish she’d stop calling him ‘Daddy’. It’s totally creeping
me out.
Nick looks terrified as the midwife gently takes Lucy
from me and hands him a pair of scissors. He says afterwards how he wished the midwife had done it.
‘It was horrible.’ he explains.’ ‘Like sawing through
really gristly cheap meat, knowing that you might slip and
stab your new born baby.’
Nick picks her up tenderly and holds her in the crook
of his arm. He reminds me of the Athena poster, if the guy
was dressed like he worked in a chippy. A wave of emotion
shudders through me. This is my family now.
Nick passes Lucy back and I wrap a sheet around us both.
A purple, wrinkly hand rests on my chest territorially and I
think, I’m your mum. I’m your mum. I’m your mum.
The room has emptied so it’s just me, Lucy, Nick, the
midwife and one doctor, who looks at me reassuringly as she
settles on the stool between my legs, which are still strung
up in the stirrups.
‘Just relax,’ the doctor says perkily. ‘We had to cut
through several layers of your vaginal wall to get your baby
out, so I’m going to sew it up for you. You won’t feel a thing
for now. I’ll tidy it up as best I can so it’ll be nearly as good
as new.’ I don’t think I ever want to use my vagina again.
She might as well just sew the whole thing up.
‘Would you like some tea and toast?’ the midwife asks in
a kind voice that makes me want to cry. I am suddenly the
hungriest I’ve been in my entire life, having done the whole
labour on two peanut Tracker bars and a Milky Way. Under
normal circumstances, that would be an in between snack
snack. I give my brand new
baby a big sniff on the top of
her sticky head, and gratefully say, ‘Yes please.’
‘I’ll go and put that toast on for you. Just relax, you’ve
done the hard work now.’ She smiles. Those words stick
with me, and later I will think how cruel it is to mislead
someone so much, so early on.

The hard work has only just begun…

Thank you to @orionbooks and @alexxlayt for letting me share this extract with you as part of the blog tour.

Posted in Uncategorized

#CityOfSpies

The stunning debut from the new name to watch in espionage thrillers. For fans of Charlotte Philby, and The Bletchley Circle, this is perfect Sunday night drama. 

LISBON, 1943.

When her cover is blown, SOE agent Elisabeth de Mornay flees Paris. Pursued by the Gestapo, she makes her way to neutral Lisbon, where Europe’s elite rub shoulders with diplomats, businessmen, smugglers, and spies. There she receives new orders – and a new identity.

Posing as wealthy French widow Solange Verin, Elisabeth must infiltrate a German espionage ring targeting Allied ships, before more British servicemen are killed.

The closer Elisabeth comes to discovering the truth, the greater the risk grows. With a German officer watching her every step, it will take all of Elisabeth’s resourcefulness and determination to complete her mission.

But in a city where no one is who they claim to be, who can she trust?

City of Spies is a spy thriller that had me hooked from page one. The story starts in France with our main character Elizabeth De Moray who is a trained SOE (Special Operations Executive) SOE agents purpose was to conduct espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in occupied Europe against the Axis powers, and to aid local resistance movements during the second World War.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth’s cover is blown, and she must leave Paris and the first part of the book follows her across France as she endeavours to contact London to receive new orders. When she does receive help, she is moved to Lisbon to start anew undercover assignment as Solange Verin, a wealthy French Widow mixing with high society to Spy on the Germans.

I actually had no idea that Portugal was neutral in the WW2 and to find out that there was a country where in the Capital City the British Embassy was across from the German Embassy and citizens of these countries mixed socially was a complete eye opener and had me reaching for google to read all about it. I enjoyed learning something new.

I very much liked that the main character was a strong and independent, intelligent woman who could very much hold her own against the male characters. Normally when a female lead shows these characteristics she is shown as a hard-facedball breaker, but I did not feel Elisabeth was. I would have liked her past to have been a explained in a bit more detail as we find out that she was shunned by her family for a bad marriage but we didn’t find out why the marriage was unacceptable. Also references to her family go unexplained but I believe this is done deliberately so it can be explored in future novels. This book had the terror of being in occupied France and trying to escape the Germans to the glamour of the 1940’s jet set in Lisbon with all the underlying twists and turns of espionage. Mara Timon sets the scene of both beautifully.

I was really enjoying the book and even before I had finished it was recommending it to people that is right up until the last page. I was disappointed that it just finished. Literally just stopped. I understand that this is so a follow up book can be written but I would have liked more of this book to be wrapped up and I was left feeling a little bit conned.

I would still recommend the book and will look out for the next instalment. It was cleverly written and very well researched and opened a chapter of WW2 that I knew nothing about.

Thank you to zaffrebooks and compulsivereads for my spot on the blog tour!