#BookReview: Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch @headlinepg #HerHusbandsLover #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

her husbands lover“She stole her husband. Now she wants to take her life.

After the horrors of the past, Louisa Williams is desperate to make a clean start.

Her husband Sam is dead. Her children, too, are gone, victims of the car accident in which he died.

Sam said that she would never get away from him. That he would hound her until she died if she tried to leave. Louisa never thought that he would want to harm their children though.

But then she never thought that he would betray her with a woman like Sophie.

And now Sophie is determined to take all that Louisa has left. She wants to destroy her reputation and to take what she thinks is owed her – the life she would have had if Sam had lived.

Her husband’s lover wants to take her life. The only question is will Louisa let her?”

Hello, a very warm welcome to damppebbles! Today I am delighted to be sharing my thirteenth 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch. Her Husband’s Lover was published by Headline Books in June 2017 and is available in all formats. I chose to read and review an eARC of Her Husband’s Lover but that has in no way influenced my review.

Holy moly, batten down the hatches and take cover! This is one seriously intense book and I was swept up into its pages almost instantly. I’ve never felt so many emotions in the first 6% of a book before. Six per cent in and I was straight on Twitter to share how utterly compelling this story was and how it already had its hooks in me. Wow!

Louisa is rebuilding her life after the death of her controlling and manipulative husband, Sam. He always told her she would never escape him but she did, as the sole survivor of the car crash which killed Sam and their two children. Bearing the scars and the trauma of the accident, she moves to London to start a new life. But a face from the past won’t let Louisa be. Sophie, Sam’s lover, is out to wreak havoc and get what she’s owed. Sophie won’t give up until she’s taken what she wants from Louisa, no matter what the cost…

Thank you for reading my review. I’m afraid that’s it! There is no more because if I start talking about this book in any detail I’m bound to give something away and no one wants that. I am, of course, joking about the very short review but I am also very aware that I have to tread carefully with this one. It may be a little more vague and succinct then normal!

This is a twisty, twisted story and I savoured every moment I had with it. It took me longer to read Her Husband’s Lover than anything else I’ve read recently because I was eking it out, making sure I was there in every scene with the characters, living and breathing their world. I was fully immersed from the get-go and my emotions were running high. There’s an impending sense of doom throughout the novel, you’re just waiting for something catastrophic to happen and it keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. What’s the next move going to be?

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Her Husband’s Lover is like nothing else I’ve read before and I would gladly pick up another book by this author (this is the first book I’ve read by Julia Crouch). I was a smidge disappointed with the ending but that was because I wanted MORE. I wanted to see it through to the bitter end and didn’t want to leave the characters at that particular point. But as Barnum apparently said, “always leave them wanting more”. All in all, an engrossing read which I savoured over the course of several days and will remember for some time to come. Recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Her Husband’s Lover. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch was published in the UK by Headline Books on 15th June 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, 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 | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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julia crouchJulia Crouch grew up in Cambridge and studied Drama at Bristol University. She spent ten years working as a theatre director and playwright, then, after a spell of teaching, she somehow became a successful graphic and website designer, a career she followed for another decade while raising her three children. An MA in sequential illustration re-awoke her love of narrative and a couple of Open University creative writing courses brought it to the fore.

Cuckoo, her first novel, emerged as a very rough draft during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2008. A year’s editing got it ready for submission to an agent and within a couple of months she had a book deal with Headline and had given up the day job.

Every Vow You Break, her second novel, was published in March 2012, Tarnished, her third, came out in 2013, followed by Every Vow You Break in 2014 and Her Husband’s Lover in 2017. She is also published in Italy, France, Germany, Holland, Brazil and China.

Unable to find a sub-genre of crime writing that neatly described her work, she came up with the term Domestic Noir, which is now widely accepted as the label for one of the most popular crime genres today. She has even written a foreword to a book of academic essays on the subject.

She works in a shed at the bottom of the Brighton house she shares with her husband, the actor and playwright Tim Crouch, their three children, two cats called Keith and Sandra, and about twelve guitars (you can find #Keith, who has his own hashtag, on twitter). She is a self-confessed geek and fights a daily battle to resist tinkering with the code on her website, which can be found at http://www.juliacrouch.co.uk.

#BookReview: In The Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone #InTheAbsenceofMiracles #damppebbles

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“John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again.

With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood.

For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about. A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover.

For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence.

Shocking, chilling and heartbreakingly emotive, In the Absence of Miracles is domestic noir at its most powerful, and a sensitively wrought portrait of a family whose shameful lies hide the very darkest of secrets.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to the blog. Today I am delighted to be sharing with you my review of one of the most powerful and emotive books I have read – In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone. Back in 2016, my book of the year was Malone’s first Orenda release, the simply sublime A Suitable Lie. It blew my mind on so many levels and still, to this day, I recommend it to everyone. If you’re a fan of domestic noir novels then you need to add Malone to your list of must-read authors. I received a free eARC of In the Absence of Miracles but that has in no way influenced my review.

I didn’t think it would be possible for someone (anyone!) to write a book which affected me the way A Suitable Lie did. That was until I read In the Absence of Miracles. Malone puts his heart and soul into his writing and you, as the reader, get to experience every heart-stopping emotion and every breath-taking twist and turn. I love that Malone isn’t scared to tackle the more difficult and unsettling subject matters, the things we as a society tend to turn and shy away from. In the Absence of Miracles is another brave, unflinching, unapologetic look at the secrets a family hides within its heart, and it left me broken.

I liked John Docherty. He doesn’t make it easy at times and I wouldn’t necessarily call him a likeable character but this is his story. His discovery, his unravelling, his trauma. I liked how Malone has written John as a pretty typical bloke (if there is such a thing!). It was interesting to watch how John dealt with situations early on in the book, giving us the measure of the character, before plunging him into an unimaginable, heart-breaking situation as the reality hits home. My heart broke into a thousand pieces and I cried for John Docherty.

The author does an incredible job of misleading his reader. You think you know where the story is going, only for Malone to step in and completely change everything you thought you knew. I had an inkling about where the plot was headed but I was by no means convinced. When the book took me to that dark and scary place, I was devastated for the characters. I was living that moment, that sudden realisation as the horror hits home. No one writes like Malone does. No one can conjure these emotions in this hardened reader like he does.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. Malone has done it again and written a book which will stay with me for a long, long time to come. I’ve not found another writer who can produce stories with the pure power and emotion to rival Malone. Unforgettable and haunting. Dark and utterly immersive. I can’t wait to see what this author comes up with next. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of In the Absence of Miracles. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 19th September 2019 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, 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 | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Michael Malone Photo

Michael J Malone is the author of over 200 published poems, two poetry collections, six novels, countless articles and one work of non-fiction.

Formerly a Faber and Faber Regional Sales Manager (Scotland and North England), he has judged and critiqued countless poetry, short story and novel competitions for a variety of organisations, and for a number of years was the Scottish correspondent for Writers’ Forum.

Michael is an experienced workshop leader/ creative writing lecturer to writers’ groups, schools and colleges as well as a personal coach and mentor. He has a Certificate in Life Coaching and studied as a facilitator with The Pacific Institute.

As a freelance editor he has edited and mentored writers in a variety of genres and for traditionally published as well as self-published authors.

He is a regular speaker and chair at book festivals throughout the UK– including Aye Write, Bloody Scotland, Crimefest and Wigtown.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Website |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: After He Died by Michael J. Malone (@michaelJmalone1) @OrendaBooks #AfterHeDied

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“You need to know who your husband really was…

When Paula Gadd’s husband of almost thirty years dies, just days away from the seventh anniversary of their son, Christopher’s death, her world falls apart. Grieving and bereft, she is stunned when a young woman approaches her at the funeral service, and slips something into her pocket. A note suggesting that Paula’s husband was not all that he seemed…

When the two women eventually meet, a series of revelations challenges everything Paula thought they knew, and it becomes immediately clear that both women’s lives are in very real danger.

Both a dark, twisty slice of domestic noir and taut, explosive psychological thriller, After He Died is also a chilling reminder that the people we trust the most can harbour the deadliest secrets…”

I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on the After He Died blog tour. After He Died is the latest release from one of my favourite authors, Michael J. Malone and is currently available in eBook format with the Orenda Books paperback publishing later this week on Thursday 20th September 2018.

As soon as I hear Michael J. Malone has a new book coming out, I want a copy! For those of you who are new to damppebbles, Malone’s first Orenda release, A Suitable Lie absolutely blew my socks off (and then some!) back in 2016. It was my book of the year and I still, to this day, recommend it to EVERYONE! Here’s my review if you missed it the first time, and if you haven’t purchased a copy yet, then you MUST! I’m also a massive fan of Malone’s self-published gritty Scottish crime series featuring the ‘rough-around-the-edges’ DI, Ray McBain. Another must read if you haven’t already discovered this series yet. So new Michael J. Malone titles immediately kick the book craving into gear, particularly those published by Orenda Books. I love a gritty police procedural like the McBain series, they’re my bread and butter and Malone excels at writing them. But his novels published via Orenda Books are very different; they’re domestic noir thrillers that set a benchmark so high, others can only dream of achieving what he does. They’re chock full of heart, with real living, breathing characters. And more often than not, they take my breath away. They have so much soul, there’s so much emotion between the pages and the unease the reader feels is really quite glorious.

After He Died is another top-notch domestic thriller from the twisted mind and pen of Michael J. Malone. Another page-turner full of secrets and lies; you never know what to believe! The unease I felt whilst reading was palpable and I very much enjoyed every moment I spent in Paula and Cara’s company. Did I like them? Well…I didn’t hate them. I found myself strongly disliking Thomas from quite early on which was rather unfair of me as he is the ‘he’ who has died. I can’t say I liked Paula or Cara but I was definitely on their side, wanting to solve the mystery, urging them on to discover the truth.

Would I recommend this book? I would. If you want a surefire, guaranteed good read then Michael J. Malone’s After He Died is the book for you. Or any other of Malone’s books actually, they’re all wonderful compulsive reads that I’ve struggled to put down. Malone knows how to write a character; whether it’s someone to love or someone to hate, eliciting that emotion is what is all about and Malone does that with ease and lashings of style. After He Died is bulging with secrets, it has a wonderfully Scottish edge that will appeal to many readers – you feel as though you’re reading something very special. Recommended.

Four stars out of five.

I chose to read and review an ARC of After He Died. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

After He Died by Michael J. Malone was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 20th September 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook 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 | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

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Michael Malone Photo

Michael J Malone is the author of over 200 published poems, two poetry collections, six novels, countless articles and one work of non-fiction.

Formerly a Faber and Faber Regional Sales Manager (Scotland and North England), he has judged and critiqued countless poetry, short story and novel competitions for a variety of organisations, and for a number of years was the Scottish correspondent for Writers’ Forum.

Michael is an experienced workshop leader/ creative writing lecturer to writers’ groups, schools and colleges as well as a personal coach and mentor. He has a Certificate in Life Coaching and studied as a facilitator with The Pacific Institute.

As a freelance editor he has edited and mentored writers in a variety of genres and for traditionally published as well as self-published authors.

He is a regular speaker and chair at book festivals throughout the UK– including Aye Write, Bloody Scotland, Crimefest and Wigtown.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Website |

#BookReview: Our House by Louise Candlish (@louise_candlish) @simonschusterUK #OurHouse #DomesticSuspense

9781471168031 (3)“FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE.
When Fi Lawson arrives home to find strangers moving into her house, she is plunged into terror and confusion. She and her husband Bram have owned their home on Trinity Avenue for years and have no intention of selling. How can this other family possibly think the house is theirs? And why has Bram disappeared when she needs him most?

FOR RICHER, FOR POORER.
Bram has made a catastrophic mistake and now he is paying. Unable to see his wife, his children or his home, he has nothing left but to settle scores. As the nightmare takes grip, both Bram and Fi try to make sense of the events that led to a devastating crime. What has he hidden from her – and what has she hidden from him? And will either survive the chilling truth – that there are far worse things you can lose than your house?

TILL DEATH US DO PART.”

I was kindly invited to take part in the blog tour for Our House by Jess at Simon & Schuster, and if you were around over the weekend you would have seen a brilliant guest post on the blog written by the author, Louise Candlish.  When Jess approached me about the tour, I didn’t think I would be able to fit a review in.  But, in the end, I just couldn’t help myself!  (And I know I promised you that review on Monday but I’m afraid life got in the way a little, as it does to all of us sometimes.)

I did, however, finish reading Our House over the weekend and I’m still feeling a number of the unsettling emotions it has left me with.  Now don’t get me wrong, this is a GREAT book but flipping heck, it made me really quite uncomfortable at times.  It’s a strange one (a good strange one).  I struggled to put it down but at the same time, I didn’t want to pick it again once I had put it down.  Isn’t that a weird thing to say?!  I knew things were only going to get worse for the Lawson family and whilst I was seriously intrigued by their situation, at points, I wasn’t sure I wanted to witness them.  It was like I wanted to postpone the inevitable for as long as possible.  Gosh, I hope I’m making some sort of sense here.  It felt a little like slowing down to gawp as you pass a road traffic accident, a little ghoulish…

Fi returns home after a romantic break with her new man to find a young couple moving into their family home.  There is no mistake about it; the funds have been transferred and the names on the deeds have been changed.  Fi’s beloved family home is no longer hers.  But this is the first she’s heard about it.  Fi would never even consider selling their house; it was meant to be passed down to her boys.  It was their inheritance.  To complicate matters Fi’s estranged husband, Bram is missing.  He’s not picking up his phone.  No one has seen hide nor hair of him.  What’s going on?  How could this happen?  Are Fi and Bram the victims of some complex property fraud, or is the source of the crime much closer to home than anyone imagines…

The way Candlish has told the story is exceptional.  We meet Fi as she discovers the horrible truth, her home is no longer her own.  The reader watches from the shadows as she argues and debates with the new owners, urging them to understand what a terrible mistake this must all be.  But it has to be true, the paperwork says so, as does the missing two million pounds.  Which takes us to ‘The Victim‘, a Podcast that “tells the true story of a crime directly in the words of the victim. ‘The Victim’ is not an investigation, but a privileged insight into an innocent person’s suffering.”  [taken from Louise Candlish’s website].  These sections are where we get to see the real Fi; her naivety, her good nature, her gullibility and her strong love and devotion to her two sons.  The reader also gets to hear Bram’s side of the story which doesn’t make for a pleasant read.  Bram is an idiot.  He’s probably King Idiot actually!  I wanted to thump him at times and, truth be told, I also wanted to give him a big cuddle and tell him it would be alright in the end (that really isn’t a spoiler by the way!).  Bram’s devotion to his boys, if nothing else, melted my heart.  The dawning realisation of what was happening to him and what the repercussions of that was tough going at times.

Before I turn this into the longest review I have ever written, I want to talk briefly about the end of this book.  I was warned about a big twist and it really is quite devastating as books go.  It wasn’t a WOW moment for me though, I found myself inhaling sharply and then slumping in a heap.  If at any point in the book, you feel any kind of fondness or warmth for the characters, I expect you may feel the same.  Several days later and I’m still turning over the story of Fi and Bram in my mind.  I wish it had ended differently for them, but the ending was perfect.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  It’s quite different to many other domestic suspense novels I have read over the years.  It’s a triumphant step up for a genre that I often feel can be quite samey.  Full of emotion, probably more than I could handle at times, and totally devastating in places.  With characters that leap off the page at you and with situations you could easily find yourself in, Our House is a must read.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Our House.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Our House by Louise Candlish was published in the UK by Simon & Schuster (UK) on 5th April 2018 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following Amazon and Waterstones links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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Louise CandlishLouise Candlish was born in Hexham, Northumberland, and grew up in the Midlands town of Northampton. She studied English at University College London and lives in Herne Hill in South London with her husband and daughter. She is the bestselling author of eleven novels, including The Swimming Pool (2016) and The Sudden Departure of the Frasers (2015), Her new novel Our House, will be published in April 2018 by Simon & Schuster in the UK and in August 2018 by Berkley in the US.

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers has been optioned for TV by Hartswood Films.

Besides books, the things Louise likes best are: coffee; TV (so much TV, too much, probably); cats and dogs; salted caramel; France (especially the Ile de Re); Italy (especially Sicily); tennis; soup; Vanity Fair magazine; ‘Book at Bedtime’; lasagne; heavy metal; ‘The Archers’; driving towards the sea (but not into it); anything at the Royal Opera House; white wine; Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (or, failing that, a Starbar).

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

#BlogTour | #BookReview: A Suitable Lie by Michael J. Malone (@michaelJmalone1) @OrendaBooks

41lslkcpql-_sx324_bo1204203200_“Some secrets should never be kept…

Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match … and she loves his son like he is her own. When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. Desperate for that happy-ever-after, he ignores it. A dangerous mistake that could cost him everything. A brave, deeply moving, page-turning psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie marks a stunning departure for one of Scotland’s finest crime writers, exploring the lengths people will go to hide their deepest secrets, even if it kills them…”

Stop everything!  This is an incredible book and I suggest you click on this link now and just buy yourself a copy.  It upsets me to think that there are people out there who won’t experience the wonder that is A Suitable Lie.  Don’t be one of them.  If you want to read a psychological thriller that takes you through every emotion (and I mean EVERY emotion) then you have no choice, get yourself a copy of A Suitable Lie.  Absolutely sublime!

Andy Boyd is a widower with a young son.  He’s not that interested in meeting someone else as he knows no one will ever replace Patricia in his heart.  That is until he meets beautiful charismatic Anna.  It’s an instant attraction and before long the wedding invitations have been sent to friends and family.  But on their wedding night something terrible happens and Andy ends up in the local A&E department.  It’s OK, they’ll laugh about it in the future – one of those ‘do you remember when…’ moments.  But that’s not the end of Andy’s accidents, oh no.  It’s only the beginning of the pain, hurt and humiliation coming his way.  Can Andy escape the reign of terror forced upon him by the woman he loves?  For him?  For his son…?

Now that I’ve managed to calm down a little I can welcome you to my stop on the A Suitable Lie blog tour.  Categorically my favourite book of the year.  Full stop.  I’m not going to add ‘so far’ because it would take one heck of novel to knock A Suitable Lie off of the top spot.  I finished reading a couple of days ago and all I’ve thought about for the last two days is this book!  I finally understand the term ‘book hangover’.

This is one seriously dark and addictive tale.  There were moments where I was completely torn; I felt I had to pull myself away from the story (even just for a few gulps of fresh clean air) but there was no way I was going to stop reading.  There were moments where my tummy did a queasy flip, but I wasn’t going to stop reading.  Oh my gosh it was phenomenal!  This is my book of the year, without doubt (and we still have three months to go!).

Andy Boyd is a wonderful character (don’t tell my husband but I may be a little in love with Andy).  I am totally ashamed to admit that I wanted to dislike him a little for showing signs of weakness but the writing is so that you just feel bucketfuls of empathy and admiration instead.  He’s a decent, honest man doing the best he can for his son…and he truly loves Anna.

The other characters were brilliantly written; I loved Andy’s brother, Jim and their mum.  But oh my, I adored the children in this book.  Both Pat and Ryan are so beautifully written that they felt very real to me.  It may just be because I have a five year old and a two year old myself (roughly Pat and Ryan’s ages) that I felt real angst and fear for the boys.  Particularly towards the end.  If I could have sat behind the sofa whilst reading, I would have!

Would I recommend this book?  I ADORE this book.  I don’t tend to re-read books but this one I could easily break that rule for.  Look out family members who enjoy psychological thrillers, this is the book you’re getting for Christmas!  I want to tell everyone I meet about this book, whether they want to listen or not! Absolutely wonderful; a haunting tale of love and terror mixed together to perfection to create the must-read book of the year.  BUY THIS BOOK!!

Six stars out of five (I’m joking but I would if I could, five out of five stars!).

Many thanks to Liz and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for providing me with a copy of A Suitable Lie in exchange for an honest review.

A Suitable Lie by Michael J Malone was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 15th September 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Orenda Books |

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Smith & Sons (11)

bobmcd18-214x300Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country, just a stone’s throw from the great man’s cottage in Ayr. Well, a stone thrown by a catapult. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. His career as a poet has also included a (very) brief stint as the Poet-In-Residence for an adult gift shop.Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize (judge: Alex Gray) from the Scottish Association of Writers.

Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call (a non-fiction work about successful modern-day Scots); A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; and Beyond the Rage. His poetry includes: In The Raw, Running Threadsand Lip Synch. Michael is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website www.crimesquad.com. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.

Author Links: Facebook | Twitter | Website |