#BookReview: The Women by S.E. Lynes @bookouture #TheWomen #damppebbles

the women

The night she moves in with Peter, she’s so happy, so exhilarated, so in love. Later, she will remember a much smaller feeling, a tiny one percent in her gut. And she will remember pushing that feeling aside…

Samantha Frayn doesn’t know why Peter Bridges picks her – a nobody with bitten fingernails and a troubled childhood behind her – but she falls quickly. He’s older, charming, likes fine wine and French films, and his beautiful home has real art on its walls.

Peter transforms Samantha’s life in an instant. He sees the better version of herself – the one she’s always wanted to be. It’s only normal that there’s a little friction, when she moves in, over domestic matters like where things are kept, or the proper times to eat, sleep and shower. She’s lucky to be with someone who can help her find a new job, move on from childish friends, and speak with greater sophistication.

But as Samantha notices, more and more, Peter’s temper, she starts to wonder if there might be consequences to breaking the rules of the world he has so quickly built around her.

And then she receives an anonymous note that makes her ask: is she the first woman to feel trapped by Peter? Is she being paranoid, manipulated, or could she be in danger?

You can tell the truth about your life, but someone needs to be listening. Someone needs to trust you. And someone needs to save you from the man you thought you loved.”

Oh I love S.E. Lynes’ writing. Bit of a fangirl moment for you! I’ve read nearly every book she’s written (bar one which is on my #15BooksofSummer list) and you can always guarantee it’s going to be brilliant and hard to put down. The Women is Susie’s latest book and was published by Bookouture on 22nd May. I received a free eARC of The Women but that has in no way influenced my review.

First thing I want to say about this book is I love the cover! If I weren’t already a huge S.E. Lynes fan then there’s a good chance I would be picking up The Women based purely on that brilliant blurb and the stunning cover. The book opens with Samantha and Peter (plus their baby, Emily) on their honeymoon in Rome. The opening is wonderfully tense and sets the scene perfectly. I was intrigued by what had gone before and I couldn’t wait to discover this couple’s story. And what a story it is.

The reader is then flung back in time to when Peter and Samantha first met. Professor Peter Bridges makes Samantha feel as though she’s the only woman in the world at a boring University party. He treats her with respect, listens intently to every word she says and makes her the centre of his universe. Samantha rapidly falls head over heels in love with Peter. He’s a class above the men (boys!) she usually meets with his expensive red wine, limitless supplies of cash, his elegant and sophisticated home and his sporty vintage midnight-blue Porsche. Before long Peter has suggested Samantha moves in with him, which she does leaving BBF and housemate, Marcia, on her own. Life is good for Samantha. Or is it?

What a great story this is with possibly one of the most unpleasant characters I have ever met in a novel. Peter is such a cliche and so utterly repulsive. Lynes has done an excellent job in making him so abhorrent – gah! He made my skin crawl, I was frequently cringing with how revolting he was. I was so desperate for sweet, trusting Samantha to see the light. To realise she was better than the life she was settling for, that not everything was how it seemed – not even to her – and for her to remove baby Emily from her obnoxious father’s influence.

It’s very difficult to say anything about this book without spoiling it for new readers. I will say, however, that the ending of this book was perfect. Had it ended any differently then I think I would have been disappointed. But Lynes has told her story with sensitivity (maybe not when it comes to Peter) and with wonderful little surprises along the way which made me despise ‘Peter the idiot’ even more.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. S.E. Lynes is a great writer and I urge you to read absolutely everything she has written (particularly Valentina). This is a beautifully written book with bucketloads of emotion. S.E. Lynes is a skilled and accomplished writer whose books I will return to again and again and again. Recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of The Women. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Women by S.E. Lynes was published in the UK by Bookouture on 22nd May 2019 and is available in paperback, audio and eBook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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S E Lynes Author Photo

S E Lynes is the Amazon best selling author of psychological thrillers, VALENTINA, MOTHER, THE PACT and THE PROPOSAL.

After graduating from Leeds University, Susie lived in London before moving to Aberdeen where she worked as a producer at the BBC before moving with her husband, Paul, and two young children to Rome.

In Rome, she began to write, snatching time where she could. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University.

She now combines writing, mentoring and lecturing. She has also published two children’s books in Italy.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter |

#BlogTour | #GuestPost: The Silent Dead by Graham Smith @bookouture #TheSilentDead #DCBethYoung

The-Silent-Dead-Kindle.jpg“He’d found an angel for his collection. But one angel at a time was never enough…

Detective Beth Young has just joined the Cumbrian major crimes team when a body is found posed in a ritualistic manner – arms spread and graceful wings attached – at a crumbling castle in the hills of the Lake District. 

The entire police force are on red alert. But Beth begins to feel she’s the only one who can follow the disturbing clues left by the twisted killer. Because she doesn’t think like everyone else. To Beth, crimes are puzzles she can solve. Even if real life is a little harder.

As more bodies are discovered in derelict stately homes across the Lake District, she knows she’s in a race against time.

But the killer is looking for another victim to add to his collection… Will Beth be able to save her? Or will he get there first?”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on The Silent Dead blog tour.  The Silent Dead is the start of a gripping new crime series from one of my go-to authors, Graham Smith, and was published by Bookouture on 30th November 2018.

To celebrate the book’s release I am delighted to have a brilliant guest post from Graham Smith to share with you today…

New Faces and Old Friends

As a reader I love the familiarity of reoccurring and series characters whose exploits I’ve followed over a number of years / novels. However, I also take great interest in broadening my horizons and meeting characters and authors who are new to me. After all, every great series / character has to start somewhere.

One day while scaling the lower slopes of Mount-To-Be-Read for my next read, I happened to start thinking about my own writing and how it’s a mixture of old faces and new friends. As soon as the thought entered my head I went all introspective and started comparing the different characters, from their personality traits to their methodology and how they engaged not just me, but also my readers.

A quick recap for those unfamiliar with my writing

My debut novel, Snatched from Home featured a grizzled DI, Harry Evans, who is facing enforced retirement as well as an immense personal trauma.

The next series I wrote was about a Utah doorman, Jake Boulder, who found himself on the trail of serial killers.

Now we come to my latest series which features a newly promoted DC Beth Young whose first case in FMIT sees her investigating bodies which have been left in the cellars of derelict country houses.

All three characters have their own individual traits which neither of the others share, yet they all have a strong desire to bring about justice for the victims, a keen investigative mind and a determination to get results regardless of what it may cost them on a personal level.

Individually they have their failings and baggage, DI Harry Evans is bereaved and is trying to dodge a retirement which is largely being enforced due to his renegade ways. He’s politically incorrect in a VERY type way and while he has the hardened carapace of an embittered man, he has a good heart and will always find a way to do the right thing. His stamping ground is Cumbria and he thinks of it as a personal fiefdom.

Jake Boulder is a different kettle of fish altogether. Glaswegian by birth he enjoys the rough and tumble of tossing drunks and the girls who’re attracted to his quick fists and ready wit. Coupled with his PI friend Alfonse Devereaux he gets himself embroiled in all manner of escapades as they take on cases with ever more complexity. He’s resolute, brave and smarter than you’d expect for a doorman, but the only person who can control him with any measure of success is his narcissistic, grandchild-wanting mother.

Beth Young is something of a step into the unknown for me. As a somewhat cynical man in my forties, I gave myself a challenge when choosing to have a mid-twenties female lead. DC Beth Young is on an upward trajectory in the police although it’s results that drive her rather than opportunities for promotion. A puzzle-solver by nature she has a quirky mind that works best when allowed to think on a lateral level. She’s loyal, determined and resourceful, and when she’s put under the most extreme pressure she can always find a way to triumph regardless of the odds against her. Like Evans she’s based in Cumbria although she’s in Penrith to Evans’ Carlisle. A constant driver for Beth is the search for the man who thrust a broken bottle into her cheek.

If anyone would like to jump in on the first of any of these series, they are as listed below.

DI Harry Evans – Snatched from Home
Jake Boulder – Watching the Bodies
DC Beth Young – The Silent Dead

Thanks ever so much, Graham.  It always amazes me how authors manage to create totally different characters with each new series they start.

The Silent Dead by Graham Smith was published in the UK by Bookouture on 30th November 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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about-the-author3

Graham Smith Author PicGraham Smith is the bestselling author of four explosive crime thrillers in the Jake Boulder series, Watching the Bodies, The Kindred Killers, Past Echoes and Die Cold. Watching the Bodies spent over two weeks at number one in the Amazon UK chart and Amazon CA charts. Graham is also the author of the popular DI Harry Evans series and has collections of short stories and novellas. His latest novel – The Silent Dead is published by Bookouture and set in Cumbria / the Lake District, featuring DC Beth Young.

He is the proud father of a young son. As a time served joiner he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since 2000 he has been the manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.

An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer for the well-respected review site Crimesquad.com since 2010.

When not working, his time is spent reading, writing and playing games with his son. He enjoys socialising and spending time with friends and family.

Author Links:Facebook | Twitter | Website | Goodreads |

#damppebblestakeover with S.E. Lynes (@SELynesAuthor) | #GuestPost: In Praise of Insecurity #TheProposal @bookouture

the proposal.jpg“The first thing you should know, dear reader, is that I am dead…

Teacher Pippa wants a second chance. Recently divorced and unhappy at work, she uproots her life and moves to the countryside, determined to make a fresh start. But Pippa soon realises: your troubles are never far behind.

When Pippa meets blue-eyed Ryan Marks, he is funny and charming. He is haunted by his past – but insists he is a changed man. 

He might just be the answer to all of her problems. And Pippa can tell the truth from lies. She’d know if she were in danger. Wouldn’t she?”

Hello bookish friends.  I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to a #damppebblestakeover, hoorah!  I am thrilled to welcome one of my favourite authors to the blog, the fabulous S.E. Lynes.  Back in yesteryear (2016 to be precise), I was asked to join a blog tour for a book called Valentina.  It was the author’s debut and that author was S.E. Lynes.  The book blew my mind! Since signing last year with Bookouture, Susie’s books have gone from strength to strength culminating recently with Bookouture republishing the mighty Valentina.  But things haven’t stopped there.  On Friday 21st September Susie’s latest release with Bookouture was published, The Proposal.  I am absolutely kicking myself as I am monumentally behind in my reading at the moment but The Proposal is riding high on the TBR and I hope to bring you a review sooner rather than later.  But until then you can enjoy a brilliant guest post from the author herself.  Without further ado, I’ll hand over to S.E. Lynes…

The first question I ask my writing students is not why do you write but why don’t you?

Why don’t you write?

Their answers are variations on the same themes: ‘no time,’ ‘I’m worried I don’t have a story,’ ‘I’m scared people will think it’s rubbish,’ ‘I doubt I’ve got anything interesting to say …’

Pushing the old ‘no time’ chestnut to one side … that’s a whole other article … you will notice words like worried, scared, and doubt. How then do I get these would-be writers to put words on a page? How on earth do I get them to read those words aloud to their classmates?

Well, firstly, I have to get them to acknowledge their insecurities and see them in a different way. And they’ve already taken that step: voicing their worries aloud and realising that everyone else is worrying about the same things. The relief is palpable.

I didn’t write. For years. I was too full of insecurity. And then I did write, but I threw my work away. All of it. Why? Because nothing I wrote compared favourably to my favourite authors, to say the least. My conclusion ran something like: my work isn’t as good as theirs, therefore my work isn’t good at all, ergo, I’m not good. Needless to say, this kind of insecurity was not helpful.

I used to think the answer lay in getting rid of insecurity and reaching a place where I was completely confident. Because being completely confident is possible, right? After all, here we are, in an internet world of bumper sticker philosophies and motivational poster-bites which tell us to believe in ourselves, to be strong, to shine, to be different, to let our weirdness show … whatever. I have no problem with these slogans. In fact, I find their axe-to-crack-a-hazelnut approach a great antidote to my own personal brand of the heebie-jeebies. However, sometimes you feel insecure, you just do, and when that happens, those slogans can compound your insecurity by making you feel inadequate about feeling insecure in the first place. Sheesh! That’s not so helpful! What can be helpful, to me at least, is to embrace my insecurity and use it … and I try and pass that on to my students.

In class, the first thing I try and banish is the ‘my work is not good therefore I am not good’ equation and make a new one along the lines of ‘my work is not good – yet – therefore I need to study and practise’. No writer comes to their first page and dashes off a masterpiece. Well, there might be a few, but they are a very small minority and I blow a raspberry in their general direction. For the rest of us, when faced with the blank page, the pressure to shine is the death of creativity. If you’re trying to shine, you’re not learning. You’re not thinking about your characters and how they see the world. You’re not wondering where they were when they told their wife about the dead body in the bathroom or what they were doing/thinking when they said that. So, in the creative writing classroom, the spirit needs to be not ‘check this out, it’s pretty flipping awesome’ but ‘this is what I’m trying to do, how can I improve it?’ That requires removing your ego from the equation. It’s not about you! It’s about the work! THAT is helpful. THAT is a place of learning.

I encourage my students to think about writing as oboe practice. To write every day not to produce something great but to become a little bit better than last time. And in order to see the need to practice they need to be able to see their work as ‘not good’ or ‘not good enough’ in the right way. They need to embrace the right kind of insecurity.

So, on the cusp of publishing my fourth book and after some lovely reviews, am I able to say ‘I am good’? Good God, no! If I say that, I am dead creatively. None of my books are as good as I want them to be. If I’m proud of them it is because they are the best that I could possibly do at the time. Whatever I do next, I will try to do better. I will read my work back and think, no, not good enough. But I will not sit in a corner and weep. Well, I might, but after that I will return to it and think, how can I improve it? In practical terms, this might be cutting the dialogue back, or showing the character through an action, or upping the tension. In personal terms, it is using insecurity in the right way, using the critical voice constructively.

But maybe the question here, for all of us, is not why don’t we write but why don’t we do whatever it is we dream of doing? Releasing into the world the work you have sweated and fretted over is a risk. It is terrifying. It is exhilarating. Getting on stage is the same. Ditto singing in public. But if you think about it hard enough – and boy, do I ever – walking out of your front door is a risk, isn’t it? What if no one likes you? What if you say the wrong thing? What if your skirt is tucked into the back of your knickers? We are all of us worried about something. But if we can acknowledge our insecurity and realise everyone else feels it too, we can be kind in our intentions towards others and most importantly towards ourselves. We can relax and create the space we need to improve, in whatever it is we’re aiming to do.

Thank you so much for this insightful and inspiring post, Susie.  Dear reader, I hope, if you’re a budding writer, that you’ve taken note.  And as Susie said in her piece, the same applies to us all in whatever we dream of doing.  Feel the fear and do it anyway!

My reviews of S.E. Lynes’s books: | Mother | The Pact | Valentina |

The Proposal by S.E. Lynes was published in the UK by Bookouture on 21st September 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | BookDepository | Goodreads |

about-the-author3

S E Lynes Author PhotoAfter graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a producer at BBC Radio Scotland before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She now combines writing with lecturing at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children. She lives in Teddington.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter |

#BookReview: Valentina by S.E. Lynes (@SELynesAuthor) @bookouture #Valentina #mustread

valentina.jpg“When city girl Shona moves with her partner Mikey and their baby to an idyllic cottage in rural Scotland, she believes that all that lies ahead for her family is happiness.

But with Mikey working long hours away from home, the frightening isolation of the Scottish countryside begins to get to Shona. She feels lonely and trapped.

That is, until she is rescued by a new friendship with the enchanting Valentina. Valentina enters Shona’s life like a whirlwind, bringing excitement and spontaneity to replace boredom and fear.

Now Shona has the perfect home, the perfect man, and the perfect new best friend – or does she?

As Shona’s fairytale life begins to unravel, the deep dark wood outside becomes the least of her fears…”

I’ve recently returned home from my holiday in North Wales.  We had a wonderful time but oh boy, there was ZERO wifi.  I spent just over a week completely offline (it was tough!).  When I returned I discovered that one of my all-time favourite books had been republished by the mighty Bookouture, yay!  The incredible Valentina by S.E. Lynes has been given a fabulous make-over.  So what better opportunity to repost my review and make sure YOU get yourself a copy of this incredible book.  Here’s my review from June 2016…

This is an exceptional novel.  There is something truly wonderful and special about it.  It’s fair to say I loved this book.  It sent chills down my spine and I couldn’t put it down.  This is S E Lynes debut and I am so excited to see what else she has in store for us.

Shona and Mikey are madly in love and expecting their first little bundle of joy. Being a responsible father-to-be Mikey finds himself a job working on the oil rigs off the coast of Scotland.  Shona begrudgingly packs up her old life and her job, says goodbye to her friends and family and follows Mikey to deepest, darkest Aberdeenshire.  It’s OK though, she has the most beautiful house to spend her days in.  Mikey’s work rota means that he’s away two weeks out of four so it’s not long before loneliness starts to creep in.  She has Isla, her baby daughter, but babies aren’t all that good at conversation!

Thankfully she meets spirited Valentina.  She’s full of life, charismatic and Shona’s saviour.  But how well does Shona really know Valentina?  Is she the answer to her prayers, or the epitome of her nightmares….?

I love how Shona is written.  A few chapters into the book and I felt I was sat in the pub chatting to a friend.  That’s how well S E Lynes has written her, she became real to me.  As I progressed through the book I wanted everything to turn out well for Shona.  Does it? Well, you’ll have to read Valentina and find out for yourself.

The plot is so very clever and quite intricate.  It was a joy to read this book and I struggled to focus on anything else as it had my full attention.  When I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about the characters and wondering what was going to happen next.  I even explained the plot to my husband (I don’t think he could work out why I was explaining it to him) but it was because I wanted to talk about the book with someone!  It really gets under your skin.

This is a dark story about loneliness and what we accept to be the truth.  The one thing I will say, I was a touch disappointed by the closing chapters. I wanted a little more ‘omph’ but I still loved the story and the authors style.

Would I recommend this book?  Most definitely.  A very deserving five out of five stars from me.  It’s dark, totally compelling and full of shady characters.  There’s a sense of foreboding you get from the very beginning which stays with you until the very end. Completely enticing, once you start reading you will struggle to stop.  I loved it!  As I said earlier, if this is the first offering from S E Lynes, I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us next.

In answer to my pondering, S.E. Lynes had two other stonking novels up her sleeve (Mother and The Pact) with a fourth (The Proposal) due to be published in September!  I am delighted to have an eARC of The Proposal on my Kindle so look out for a review (plus a fantastic #damppebblestakeover post from the author herself!) coming your way soon.

Valentina by S.E. Lynes was published in the UK by Bookouture on 13th August 2018 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I earn a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | BookDepository | Goodreads |

about the author3

S E Lynes Author PhotoAfter graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a producer at BBC Radio Scotland before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She now combines writing with lecturing at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children. She lives in Teddington.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter |

#BookReview: The Perfect Friend by Barbara Copperthwaite (@BCopperthwait) @bookouture #ThePerfectFriend

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“She’ll do anything for you…

My name is Alex, and my world has been shattered.

My husband has left me.

My children won’t speak to me.

My friend Carrie is the only person I have.

She’s the only one I can trust to keep all my secrets.

She’d never do anything to let me down.

Would she?

I am a huge fan of Barbara Copperthwaite’s books. I have read nearly all of them (except one, Invisible) and every single book I have read has been a five-star read. Here are the reviews to prove it; Flowers for the Dead, The Darkest Lies and Her Last Secret. The other notable thing this author tends to do, more often than not, is to make this tough, ‘ard as nails crime reader bawl like a baby (she also made me fall in love with a serial killer but we won’t mention that 😉)! In essence, when Barbara Copperthwaite writes a book, I jump through hoops to read it.

So did The Perfect Friend live up to my very high expectations? Of course it did. It’s a Barbara Copperthwaite novel, duh! We meet Alex who immediately confesses to the reader that she is a liar. I don’t know about you but as an avid reader of crime and psychological thrillers, I’m always on the lookout for lies and half-truths from the characters I share my time with. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m overly suspicious and trust no-one who lives their life between the covers of a book. So knowing full well that Alex is a self-confessed liar I was immediately on my guard. But, with this at the forefront of my mind, I couldn’t help but like her. She is hiding some absolutely massive porkies and I did gasp when I discovered what they were, crikey! Amongst the inner turmoil, the secrets and the deceit, Alex is trying to make amends for something terrible she did; another secret she needs to keep at all costs! This particular secret involves her new best friend, Carrie who is terminally ill and who she met at the local support group. When anonymous threatening parcels start to arrive at Carrie’s house, Alex steps in and does everything she can to protect her best friend. But instead of helping, Alex starts to become suspicious. Something just don’t add up….

Copperthwaite has created a wonderful sense of unease in The Perfect Friend. It’s difficult to put your finger on why you feel so uncomfortable whilst reading but it’s there, peering over your shoulder making you feel twitchy. This is another brilliant, twisty read and I just knew something big was going to happen but couldn’t for the life of me work out where the author was going to take the story. I have to confess that I found some parts of the book a little difficult to believe but I was enjoying it so much that I just shrugged and threw myself straight back into the story. After all, it IS fiction. And yes, you may be wondering if the author managed to make me cry this time. She did, but only a little. I managed to keep the big ugly sobbing inside cos I’m ‘ard. 😬

Would I recommend this book? I would, but I would recommend all of Copperthwaite’s books because you can easily get lost in her stories. The Perfect Friend is a highly entertaining read which kept me turning the pages, desperate to find out what was going to happen to these two women. Full of twists, you never really know what to believe and Copperthwaite has surpassed herself in keeping her readers firmly on their toes. Highly recommended.

Five out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an eARC of The Perfect Friend. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Perfect Friend by Barbara Copperthwaite was published in the UK by Bookouture on 5th July and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | BookDepository | Goodreads |

about the author3

barbara copperthwaite

Barbara is the Amazon and USA Today bestselling author of psychological thrillers INVISIBLE, FLOWERS FOR THE DEAD, THE DARKEST LIES, and HER LAST SECRET. Her latest book is THE PERFECT FRIEND.

More importantly, she loves cakes, wildlife photography and, last but definitely not least, her two dogs, Scamp and Buddy (who force her to throw tennis balls for them for hours).

Having spent over twenty years as a national newspaper and magazine journalist, Barbara has interviewed the real victims of crime – and also those who have carried those crimes out. She is fascinated by creating realistic, complex characters, and taking them apart before the readers’ eyes in order to discover just how much it takes to push a person over a line.

When not writing feverishly, she is often found hiding behind a camera, taking wildlife photographs.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Website |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Date by Louise Jensen (@Fab_fiction) @bookouture #TheDate #Prosopagnosia

the date“One night can change everything. 

‘I know it as soon as I wake up and open my eyes… Something is wrong.’

Her Saturday night started normally. Recently separated from her husband, Ali has been persuaded by her friends to go on a date with a new man. She is ready, she is nervous, she is excited. She is about to take a step into her new future. By Sunday morning, Ali’s life is unrecognisable. She wakes, and she knows that something is wrong. She is home, she is alone, she is hurt and she has no memory of what happened to her. 

Worse still, when she looks in the mirror, Ali doesn’t recognise the face staring back at her…

From the no. 1 bestselling author of The Sister, The Gift and The Surrogate, The Date is a gripping page-turner that will keep you awake until the early hours. Perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train and Before I Go To Sleep.”

I am absolutely thrilled to welcome you to damppebbles today because I’m kicking off The Date blog tour, eeek!  The Date is the fourth book written by one of my very favourite authors, Louise Jensen.  And if that wasn’t enough, it’s publication day too so a very happy book birthday to Louise and the folk at Bookouture!  I’ve read and reviewed all of Jensen’s previous books and I can’t recommend them highly enough; The SisterThe Gift & The Surrogate.  If you want a guaranteed emotive, twisty, shocker of a read then look no further than Ms Jensen.

With this in mind, I was really looking forward to making a start on The Date.  Ali is heading out on her first date since reluctantly separating from her husband, Matt.  The following morning she wakes dazed and confused, slowly realising that something terrible has happened, that she’s been subjected to an unknown trauma.  The effects are devastating, the doctors tell Ali that she now suffers from prosopagnosia; face blindness.  Now I have to be honest here.  I have recently read another book where the main character suffered from the same condition.  I have no experience of face blindness myself and struggle to visualise how sufferers live their lives but I think, having that previous experience (albeit reading a book!) did diminish the shock factor.  The news of Ali’s new condition didn’t hit me as hard as it would a reader coming to prosopagnosia for the first time.  However, what really resonated with me was how utterly terrified Ali was.  She has no memory of the date which changed her life forever.  She’s broken and bruised and suddenly, thanks to the face blindness very, very alone and she can’t trust anyone.  Absolutely terrifying.

Jensen is a master at making you think one thing whilst doing some clever sleight of hand under the table so you’re never really sure what to expect.  I don’t think I have ever been as surprised as I was at the end of The Surrogate, Jensen’s previous book.  Which put me on my guard this time around.  I was obsessed with looking for clues and hints.  I’m delighted to confirm that once again the author worked her seemingly effortless magic and I was miles out in my predictions.  I had concocted all manner of possible scenarios, all but the one it actually was!

Ali’s past is a lot more complicated than it first seems and I enjoyed reading the flashbacks to her childhood.  As childhoods go, Ali’s wasn’t the greatest but again, for reasons you do not expect at first.  It was fascinating to see the events which made her the woman she is, the birth of the guilt she carries so heavily as an adult.  I felt enormously sorry for her many times throughout the book but strangely, I struggled to like her.  Ali is a character who will be loved by many readers but for me, she lacked gumption; I wanted her to be a little more kick-ass and a little less whiny and timid.

Would I recommend this book?  I would, but then I would highly recommend ALL of Jensen’s books as she is a step above most other writers in the same genre.  The Date is bursting at the seams with shedloads of delicious intriguing suspense. The ending was an absolutely perfect fit for the story and I can’t stop picturing that final scene in my head and wondering to myself….

Four and a half stars out of five.

I chose to read and review an eARC of The Date.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Date by Louise Jensen was published in the UK by Bookouture on 21st June 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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about the author3

15183346Louise Jensen is the Global No.1 Bestselling author of psychological thrillers The Sister, The Gift & The Surrogate.

To date Louise has sold approaching a million books and her novels have been sold for translation to nineteen territories, as well as being featured on the USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestseller’s List.

Louise was nominated for the Goodreads Debut Author of 2016 Award.

Louise lives with her husband, children, madcap dog and a rather naughty cat in Northamptonshire. She loves to hear from readers and writers.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: Dark Water by Robert Bryndza (@RobertBryndza) @bookouture #DetectiveErikaFoster #DarkWater

dark water cover.jpg“Beneath the water the body sank rapidly.  She would lie still and undisturbed for many years but above her on dry land, the nightmare was just beginning.

When Detective Erika Foster receives a tip off that key evidence for a major narcotics case was stashed in a disused quarry on the outskirts of London, she orders for it to be searched. From the thick sludge the drugs are recovered, but so is the skeleton of a young child.

The remains are quickly identified as eleven-year-old Jessica Collins.  The missing girl who made headline news when she vanished twenty-six years ago.

As Erika tries to piece together new evidence with the old, she discovers a family harbouring secrets, a detective plagued by her failure to find Jessica, and the mysterious death of a man living by the quarry. 

Is the suspect someone close to home? Someone doesn’t want this case solved. And they’ll do anything to stop Erika from finding the truth.”

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “Surely Emma has got this wrong.  Surely she meant to include the title, cover and blurb of Deadly Secrets, book 6 in the Erika Foster series and the most recent release.  Surely she can’t mean Dark Water, the third book in the series, can she?  Being the dedicated, up-to-date crime fiction blogger she is, she MUST have read Dark Water AGES ago”.  I’m right, aren’t I?  That’s exactly what you’re thinking.  No?  Well, truth be told, I am deeply ashamed to admit that I have fallen (significantly) behind in some of my favourite series; Robert Bryndza’s Erika Foster series being one of them (there are many, MANY more!).

I came up with a brilliant idea the other month whilst staring at my burgeoning NetGalley shelf and wondering what the heck I was going to read next.  I decided to pass the buck and get someone else to decide for me by running a poll.  Dark Water was the winner, closely followed by another Bookouture author and, erm…another Robert Bryndza book!  And I am so glad you chose Dark Water for me to read, thank you!  I’ve missed Erika a lot.

It’s been nearly TWO YEARS (oh gosh *hangs head in shame*) since I last caught up with my favourite Slovakian detective.  You can read my review of The Girl in the Ice (book #1) by clicking HERE and my review of The Night Stalker (book #2) by clicking HERE.  I was a little concerned as I started to read.  Worried that I wouldn’t remember enough of Erika’s history, worried that I’d forgotten the dynamics of her working relationships and, my immediate ‘main’ concern, why all of a sudden she was based in Bromley?!  I needn’t have worried (although I am still trying to figure out the move to Bromley!).  Within a few chapters I was reminded exactly why I love this tough, determined and dedicated DCI as much as I do.

Erika Foster and her new team unwittingly find themselves in the middle of a heart wrenching cold case investigation.  In the dead of night, Erika and the Met Police Marine Recovery team are searching Hayes Quarry for ten kilos of heroin with a street value of four million pounds.  What they find is worth so much more than four million pounds to one family.  The grisly discovery of Jessica Collins’ remains rewinds the clock by twenty-six years.  A high profile missing child case which was never solved and destroyed not only a family but the career of the Senior Investigating Officer, DCI Amanda Baker.

Of course, that doesn’t stop Erika from wanting to jump into the driving seat of the case now it’s been reopened.  And now that’s it’s become about a young girl’s murder, Erika is determined to bring justice for Jessica.  But, just as DCI Amanda Baker failed all those years ago, it seems Erika might be destined to fail on this one too…

I love Erika Foster. I was also very happy to see, despite the move to Bromley, that Erika was able to recruit the DIs she worked with in South London; DI Moss and DI Peterson (two very familiar characters who I feel I know well, yay!).  Bryndza’s characters are always so real and very memorable.  Other characters in the book also stood out for me.  I found myself loving the Collins family which may surprise some people.  I felt there was something the family unit was hiding; something….not quite right and I loved them for that.  It’s always the darker characters, the secretive ones that grab my attention!

I’m afraid I managed to guess one of the major twists in the story fairly early on, but that certainly didn’t put me off and there was a lot more to come!  Plus, I was keen to see what Erika was going to do and how she was going to solve the case.  I wanted to know what her break would be and how Bryndza would tie up the threads of the story.  That was more important to me than anything else.

Would I recommend this book?  Oh definitely.  I adore Robert Bryndza’s writing and I absolutely love Erika Foster (it’s true, I still have my #girlcrush on her!).  Beautifully detailed, devilishly good and a book that’s hard to put down.  I promise to make a start on Last Breath (book #4 in the series) soon.  I DEFINITELY won’t leave it so long this time!

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Dark Water.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Dark Water by Robert Bryndza was published in the UK by Bookouture on 20th October 2016 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository |

about the author3

robert bryndza.jpgRobert Bryndza is the author of the international #1 bestseller The Girl in the Ice, which is the first in his Detective Erika Foster series.

The Night Stalker, Dark Water, Last Breath and Cold Blood are the second, third, fourth and fifth books in the series. The sixth book, Deadly Secrets is now available to purchase.

Robert’s books have sold over 2 million copies and have been translated into 27 languages.

In addition to writing crime fiction, Robert has published a bestselling series of romantic comedy novels. He is British and lives in Slovakia.

Sign up to Robert Bryndza‘s mailing list here.

Author Links:Instagram | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#CoverReveal: The Date by Louise Jensen (@Fab_fiction) @bookouture #TheDate

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the blog this evening, particularly as I have a rather special cover reveal to share with you.

Regular visitors to damppebbles will know that I am a HUGE fan of Louise Jensen’s psychological thrillers and I am over the moon that her next release is on the horizon. Today I have the stunning cover of The Date to share with you, Jensen’s fourth release with the mighty Bookouture. Without further ado, here is the blurb…

Something bad has happened to Alison Taylor.

Her Saturday night started normally. Recently separated from her husband, Ali has been persuaded by her friends to go on a date with a new man. She is ready, she is nervous, she is excited. She is about to take a step into her new future.

By Sunday morning, Ali’s life is unrecognisable. She wakes, and she knows that something is wrong. She is home, she is alone, she is hurt and she has no memory of what happened to her.

Worse still, when she looks in the mirror, Ali doesn’t recognise the face staring back at her. She can’t recognise her friends and family. And she can’t recognise the person who is trying to destroy her…

From the no. 1 bestselling author of The Sister, The Gift and The Surrogate, The Date is a gripping page-turner that will keep you awake until the early hours. Perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train and Before I Go To Sleep.

Oh.My.Flipping.Goodness! What a blurb and what a stunning cover. Feast your eyes on this beauty 😍….

the date.jpg

I CANNOT WAIT to get my paws on this new release!  It’s available to pre-order now but won’t be downloading to your Kindle until 21st June 2018 (I’m not sure I can wait that long!).  Click HERE for the universal pre-order link.  And if you need any help making your mind up (pah!) then you should check out my reviews for the first three of Jensen’s books; #1 The Sister#2 The Gift and the absolutely superb #3 The Surrogate.

about the author3

Louise Jensen author pic - no creditLouise is a USA Today Bestselling Author, and lives in Northamptonshire with her husband, children, madcap dog and a rather naughty cat.

Louise’s first two novels, The Sister and The Gift, were both International No.1 Bestsellers, and have been sold for translation to sixteen countries. The Sister was nominated for The Goodreads Awards Debut of 2016. Louise’s third psychological thriller, The Surrogate, is out now.

Louise loves to hear from readers and writers and can be found at www.louisejensen.co.uk, where she regularly blogs flash fiction.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook |

#BookReview: The Babysitter by Sheryl Browne | @bookouture #TheBabysitter

the babysitter cover

“You trust her with your family. Would you trust her with your life?

Mark and Melissa Cain are thrilled to have found Jade, a babysitter who is brilliant with their young children. Having seen her own house burn to the ground, Jade needs them as much as they need her. Moving Jade into the family home can only be a good thing, can’t it?

As Mark works long hours as a police officer and Melissa struggles with running a business, the family become ever more reliant on their babysitter, who is only too happy to help. And as Melissa begins to slip into depression, it’s Jade who is left picking up the pieces.

But Mark soon notices things aren’t quite as they seem. Things at home feel wrong, and as Mark begins to investigate their seemingly perfect sitter, what he discovers shocks him to his core. He’s met Jade before. And now he suspects he might know what she wants …

Mark is in a race against time to protect his family. But what will he find as he goes back to his family home?

If you loved reading The Girl on the Train, Behind Closed Doors and The Sister, you’ll love the suspense of The Babysitter. This unputdownable read will have you turning the pages until way after dark.”

The Babysitter is the first Bookouture release from Sheryl Browne, having previously published her work with ChocLit. Having met Sheryl a couple of years ago (she’s such a darling), I was keen to read her latest book. I also took part in the blog blitz for The Babysitter when it was first released by hosting an extract. You can read that post by clicking HERE.

First up, I can see this book being huge. It’s a well-written psychological thriller with an antagonist you will love to hate. Mark and Melissa Cain are likeable enough characters if maybe a touch too nice (or maybe clueless) at times. Everything that follows all comes down to personal taste. And to prove that point I will link to a number of very positive reviews, written by my blogger peers, at the end of this review. I wanted to love this book. Really, I did. I certainly didn’t hate it, but I struggled to find any love for it either. I feel like I’m heading towards a reading slump at the moment and the only type of fiction that grabs my attention, that gets any kind of real interest from me is on the darker side. For me, The Babysitter is the total opposite of dark fiction (although there was one scene with a pig, which I can safely say was my favourite part!).

I did thoroughly enjoy the prologue which, if you read the extract I featured on publication day, you will see hints at some fairly dark themes. I think I wanted more of that and less of the happy little middle-class family. Aspects of Jade’s character I really liked; her malevolence, her deviousness and her anger. But other characters were just too nice, too naive and too accepting for my tastes. And I certainly wouldn’t want DI Mark Cain involved in any investigation I was part of! This story is not all sweetness and light, by the way. I feel that’s how I’m making it sound but it really isn’t. One of the characters is fairly evil in their intentions and disgustingly manipulative. I’m afraid it just wasn’t enough for me. I wanted a lot more.

Would I recommend this book? I’m not sure. If, like me, you prefer to read darker tales then no, this book isn’t for you. But if you enjoy psychological thrillers then don’t let me put you off – I would hate for that to happen. I read the book from start to finish despite not being fully invested. And in all honesty, I would pick up another book written by Sheryl Browne without a moment’s doubt.

What other reviewers are saying about The Babysitter: Jen Med’s Book Reviews | Chelle’s Book Reviews | Novel Gossip | Sweet Little Book Blog |

The Babysitter by Sheryl Browne was published in the UK by Bookouture on 8th March 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, the following Amazon links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

about the author3

sheryl browne

Sheryl Browne brings you powerful psychological thrillers and contemporary fiction. Sheryl’s latest psychological thriller THE BABYSITTER – the first of a three-book deal – comes to you from fabulous BOOKOUTURE. A member of the Crime Writers’ Association and the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and previously writing for award winning Choc Lit, Sheryl has several books published and two short stories in Birmingham City University anthologies, where she completed her MA in Creative Writing.

So why does Sheryl write in two genres? Quoting E. L. Doctorow, Sheryl says: “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights…” This she thinks sums up a writer’s journey, you never quite know where you are going until you get there. You might start with an outline, but a strong character will always divert from the plot. If Sheryl’s not sure where a character is going, she simply has to trust him to show her the way. Plus, according to one reviewer, she also has a scary insight into the mind of a psychopath.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |

#BlogBlitz | #Extract: The Babysitter by Sheryl Browne (@SherylBrowne) @bookouture #TheBabysitter

the babysitter cover.jpg

“You trust her with your family. Would you trust her with your life?

Mark and Melissa Cain are thrilled to have found Jade, a babysitter who is brilliant with their young children. Having seen her own house burn to the ground, Jade needs them as much as they need her. Moving Jade into the family home can only be a good thing, can’t it?

As Mark works long hours as a police officer and Melissa struggles with running a business, the family become ever more reliant on their babysitter, who is only too happy to help. And as Melissa begins to slip into depression, it’s Jade who is left picking up the pieces.

But Mark soon notices things aren’t quite as they seem. Things at home feel wrong, and as Mark begins to investigate their seemingly perfect sitter, what he discovers shocks him to his core. He’s met Jade before. And now he suspects he might know what she wants …

Mark is in a race against time to protect his family. But what will he find as he goes back to his family home?

If you loved reading The Girl on the Train, Behind Closed Doors and The Sister, you’ll love the suspense of The Babysitter. This unputdownable read will have you turning the pages until way after dark.”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on The Babysitter blog blitz, which I share with a plethora of fabulous bloggers so make sure you check them all out. The Babysitter is written by the very lovely Sheryl Browne and is published by Bookouture today! Happy publication day 🎉.

As part of the blog blitz festivities, I have a gripping extract from the book to share with you today. I don’t want to keep you waiting so without further ado…

PROLOGUE
EIGHT YEARS AGO

Oblivious to the slimy, wet mud oozing between her toes, Grace took a faltering step backwards, away from the house. Her huge cognac-coloured eyes illuminated by the light of the fire, she watched, mesmerised and helpless, as the flames licked hungrily at her parents’ bedroom curtains. She’d tried to tell them what happened to Ellie wasn’t her fault.

Constantly around her ankles, while their mum and husband number three had partied, her younger sister Ellie had been watching as she and her friends lit up their sparklers and drew their names against the dark blue ink of the sky. Ellie had wanted to do it, too. Later, Grace had promised her; anything to placate her and stop her ‘telling Mummy’ she’d been smoking, which would only add to Grace’s list of sins.

Ellie hadn’t forgotten. Still awake when Grace had crept up to bed, her sister had whinged until, urging her to be quiet, Grace had given in and tiptoed back downstairs to fetch a packet of leftover sparklers from the box in the kitchen.

Her eyes like big brown orbs, Ellie had watched in awe as Grace struck the match and lit the sparkler, igniting a thousand crackling slivers of light in their bedroom. She’d squealed like the foxes that scream in the night when her flesh had singed, despite how hard Grace tried to shush her. Grace hadn’t wanted to hurt her sister. But she knew nobody would believe her. They never did.

Grace took another step back, her heart skipping a beat as a figure appeared at the window, flames lashing at his flesh like hot vipers’ tongues. It wasn’t her fault. She’d tried to tell them. She’d told Ellie to hold the firework at arm’s length. They hadn’t been listening. Her mum’s eyes had been as wild as the fire. She’d still been wearing her lipstick, blood red, like an angry red slash for a mouth, as she’d cursed and spat, ‘You stupid creature. Look what you’ve done. Look what you’ve done!’

She’d been holding Ellie in her arms, clutching her plump little hand in her own and pointing it out towards Grace like an accusation. Ellie’s fingers had been blistered, her thigh, too, where the sparkler had landed.

Her stepdad had started after her as her mum swept past Grace to take Ellie to accident and emergency. ‘I’ll drive you,’ he’d offered, but he hadn’t wanted to. Grace could tell by the way his gaze drifted lewdly towards her that he hadn’t wanted to.

‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ her mum had snapped angrily. ‘You’ve drunk your own body weight in beer. Just… deal with her,’ she’d added, causing ice-cold dread to pool in the pit of Grace’s stomach. She hadn’t wanted to be alone with him, to watch him draw the blinds and turn from the window, that liquid, faraway look in his eyes as he unfastened his waistband.

Hearing the wail of the sirens growing closer, Grace tore her gaze from the window. Panic twisting her stomach and thick, choking smoke gripping her throat, she backed towards the denser foliage at the bottom of the garden.

Doesn’t that grab your attention?! It certainly made me sit up and take note. Watch out for a review of The Babysitter coming soon to damppebbles.

The Babysitter by Sheryl Browne was published in the UK by Bookouture on 8th March 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, the following Amazon links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

the babysitter.jpg

about the author3

sheryl browne.jpg

Sheryl Browne brings you powerful psychological thriller and contemporary fiction. SheryI’s latest psychological thriller THE BABYSITTER – the first of a three-book deal – comes to you from fabulous BOOKOUTURE. A member of the Crime Writers’ Association and the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and previously writing for award winning Choc Lit, Sheryl has several books published and two short stories in Birmingham City University anthologies, where she completed her MA in Creative Writing.

So why does Sheryl write in two genres? Quoting E. L. Doctorow, Sheryl says: “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights…” This she thinks sums up a writer’s journey, you never quite know where you are going until you get there. You might start with an outline, but a strong character will always divert from the plot. If Sheryl’s not sure where a character is going, she simply has to trust him to show her the way. Plus, according to one reviewer, she also has a scary insight into the mind of a psychopath.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |