#Book #Review: The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews

Okay, okay, I know I’ve said that I don’t enjoy romances but there is one major caveat to that statement. I have this horrible soft spot for certain period romances, and this Victorian beauty and the beast was just the ticket after a particularly hard day. Short and sweet with just enough steam to keep the pages turning, this is the perfect quick read with a tidy happy ending.

lost letterTitle: The Lost Letter

Author: Mimi Matthews

Publisher: Perfectly Proper Press

Publication Date: September 19, 2017

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance

Themes: Romance, Blackmail, Start-crossed lovers

My Rating: 4/ 5


England, 1860. An impoverished Victorian beauty is unexpectedly reunited with the now beastly earl who once broke her heart. Will they finally find their happily ever after? Or are some fairy-tale endings simply not meant to be?


When the tragic death of her gamester father leaves her destitute and alone, society beauty Sylvia Stafford finds work as a governess in a merchant’s household in Cheapside. Isolated from the fashionable acquaintance of her youth, she resigns herself to lonely spinsterhood…until a mysterious visitor convinces her to temporarily return to her former life–and her former love.


Colonel Sebastian Conrad is no longer the dashing cavalry officer Sylvia once fell in love with. Badly scarred during the Sepoy Rebellion, he has withdrawn to his estate in rural Hertfordshire where he lives in near complete seclusion. Brooding and tormented, he cares nothing for the earldom he has inherited–and even less for the faithless beauty who rejected him three years before.


A week together in the remote Victorian countryside is the last thing either of them ever wanted. But when fate intervenes to reunite them, will a beastly earl and an impoverished beauty finally find their happily ever after? Or are some fairy-tale endings simply not meant to be?



My Review

This book hit me in all the mushy spots. First off, Sylvia is a book lover and a bit of a grafter despite the raw deal that she’s been handed, so I couldn’t help but love her. Then there’s Julia, who’s probably the most annoying little creature since Jane Austen’s Lydia, who is somehow still endearing and manages to steal the show. And then there’s Radcliff who manages to say all the wrong things at all the wrong times, jumps to conclusions, and who shouldn’t be left to stew in his dangerous imagination who manages to overcome his own delusions and stubbornness to become a terrific romantic hero.

And lets face it, I’m a sucker for period costumes. The descriptions of the clothing and costumes in this book are so spot on it hurts. reading something like this so close to halloween for me is practically suicidal. I’ll be dreaming of nothing but gathered skirts, petticoats, and ribboned bonnets for days to come. But more than anything I love how the clothing symbolized the changes, moods, and station of every character in the book. I loved knowing what to expect from the descriptions, which is one of the most interesting foreshadowing techniques I have seen in a good long while.

Finally, part of me really loves how creepy Radcliff was. Seriously though, lurking in the upstairs windows watching the ladies ride by? Getting jealous over a smile? Hello stalker! The sticking to the shadows was also a fun touch, and so was trolling the house at midnight. Broody, entitles, and ridiculously rich makes for a fun combination and it certainly kept me turning the pages even if Radcliff wasn’t intended to be the comic relief.

Would I recommend this book? Heck yes! Grab your wine, chocolate, and scented candles because this baby deserves a little ambiance. I will be keeping this one on my beach reading list, and have no doubts that I will be revisiting it again in the not too distant future.

Many thanks to Perfectly Proper Publishing for providing a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

#ShortStory #Review: Soul Siphon by T. L. Branson #YALit

Today I thought we’d do something a little different and review a short story. I really enjoy shorter pieces, but always struggle with trying to fit them into my TBR schedule, so I was absolutely delighted when T. L. Branson approached me for a review. And if this baby is any indication of the what Branson’s upcoming novel Soul Render is going to be like, I think we’re in for an action packed treat!

soulTitle: Soul Siphon

Author: T. L. Branson

Publisher: T. L. Branson

Publication Date: September 29, 2017

Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Teens & YA

Themes: Magic, Rival Kingdoms, Greif, Quests

Features: N/A

My Rating: 4/ 5


From Goodreads…

Alexander Drygo, king of Sunbury, is reeling from the loss of his wife. Despite his best efforts using an incredible power, she is no longer among the living.

When a rival kingdom seeks to take advantage of this delicate time in Drygo’s life, he is thrust into a battle for the future of his kingdom.

Can he save his people where he could not save his queen?


My Review

At just 5000 words anyone, and I mean anyone, has the time to fit this story into their reading schedule. Not only are we offered an in depth look into the character traits of Alexander Drygo, there is so much world building and plot foreshadowing that I was left immediately checking the release dates on the upcoming novel.

What stood out the most however, was the unique magic system that seems to seems to form the backbone of the narrative. The concept of soul manipulation is one that I have always been drawn to as a YA and Fantasy reader, and while there are echoes of other works, Branson’s systems has all the working of something entirely new and exciting.

The premise of Drygo’s quest is one that has me wanting to know more, his grief makes me relate to him as character, and high-level action makes the story as a whole easy to read. In the writing itself there is just enough detail to get a clear picture of everything that is going on (especially the gore of the battles), but not so much detail that you get lost in explication.

As a promotional piece for Soul Render this baby has certainly done it’s job! I can’t wait for the novel to come out, and I highly recommend that any other lovers of YA fantasy, or even just high fantasy in general jump on board because the way things are looking this is going to be quite the ride.


Many thanks to T. L. Branson for providing an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

#Review: The Man of Dangerous Secrets by Margery Allingham

After years of avoiding the four queens of British crime fiction (sorry friends, I can’t bring myself to enjoy Agatha Christie), I checked this title out on NetGalley without realizing that it was actually Margery Allingham. Boy, did I ever learn my lesson about not judging authors by their read-alikes! The Man of Dangerous Secrets was an absolutely entrancing read and I so grateful that Ipso Books is re-releasing these amazing crime classics.

dangerousTitle: The Man of Dangerous Secrets

Author: Margery Allingham writing as Maxwell March

Publisher: Ipso Books

Orignial Publication Date: 1933

Publication Date: August 11, 2017

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Crime Fiction, Murder Mystery

Themes: Romance, Blackmail

Features: Excerpt from The Tiger in the Smoke

My Rating: 4/ 5


From Goodreads…

He was haunted by the face of a girl, a girl lovely beyond all imagining, with stark terror in her wide grey eyes.

Robin Grey is Scotland Yard’s inside man – handling matters requiring a delicacy, integrity, and secrecy outside the jurisdiction of regular government offices. He is a man of details, of observation, and of intuition.

While lurking about Waterloo station on a mission for the Foreign Office, Grey’s interest is piqued by a suspicious looking character. Tailing him, Grey catches the man shove a fellow passenger onto the train tracks. Rushing to intervene, Robin Grey never stops to think that saving the victim might ensnare him in the same sinister plot.

Heiress Jennifer Fern is cursed tragic accidents have claimed two past fiancés, and she would have lost a third had it not been for Robin Grey’s heroic actions. Terrorised by the torment that stalks her, Grey is drawn to this young woman and feels honour-bound to help her. Tempting fate, he goes undercover to solve this deadly mystery.

But if loving Miss Jennifer Fern means certain death, can Grey protect her, and his own heart, before history repeats itself.

The Man of Dangerous Secrets was originally published in 1933 as Other Man’s Danger

My Review

I absolutely loved this book. At just 264 pages, there is so much action packed in that I felt I like I was on my toes the entire time. It has all the hallmarks of 1930s crime fiction as the genre was being re-defined with the secret service man as a dashing hero, a wealthy yet helpless heiress, blackmail and high society business men, and a neat and tidy ending where those who committed crimes against their will get away (almost) Scott free.

I’m not going to lie, I originally thought that I was diving in to a piece of historical fiction and kept thinking ‘man, these details and the dialogue seems so authentic!’ Well, duh. It was originally written and set in 1933, so I had to change my mindset to the fact that I was reading a classical thriller and after that it was impossible not to get swept up. Yes, Miss Fern was rather helpless, yes the other women in this text are either victims or emotionally driven, yes it was originally written as a serial, and yes there are a lot of characters to keep track of but it all worked together so well.

I really enjoyed the tongue-and-cheek humour that was used to break moments of tension, but more than anything I really enjoyed how Allingham dropped so many clues in every chapter that I was running in circles trying to piece them all together. By the time everything started to reach it’s pinnacle I was starting to feel like and exhausted investigator myself.

Of all the many characters I was most drawn to Sir Henry Fern and Inspector Mowbray. Fern because he was by far the most relatable and emotionally raw, trying to the right or moral thing regardless of the consequences. His emotional turmoil was worn on his sleeve, and as a result he rose well above the status of dispassionate businessmen that I found so easy to assign to his colleagues. Mowbray simply because he was quirky and had the ability to razz our hero without reprimand, and yet still take a jab gracefully in return. I did not, however, really enjoy Miss Fern. Aside from being quite beautiful she doesn’t seem to have a lot going on – I mean come on, she agreed to marry a man that she didn’t love, simply because he liked her a lot, when she knew that all of her fiancé’s had been murdered. She does redeem herself some through sticking to her guns and insisting that she was crazy and confronting her nurses, but I would have liked to see that level of tenacity throughout the entire story.

Would I recommend this book? Goodness, yes! This trip down memory lane is an absolutely delightful read. With just enough romance and damsel in distress to balance out the gore and thrill, it’s sure to please as many readers today as it did during it’s debut in 1933.

Many thanks to Ipso Books for providing a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

#Review: Colorless by Rita Stradling #YALit

Okay, so I know that there will be a fair few people who disagree with my review of Colorless by Rita Stradling, but I freaking loved it! It wasn’t your run of the mill easy to infer, everything presented on platter, with simple cookie-cutter characters YA book. Instead we are asked to consider issues with class, politics, modesty and public judgement, and what it means to be forgotten by society. Amazing.

colorlessTitle: Colorless

Author: Rita Stradling

Publisher: Rita Stradling Books

Publication Date: August 8, 2017

Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Teens & YA

Themes: Classed Societies, Friendship, Magic, Murder Mystery

Features: N/A

My Rating: 4.5/ 5


From Goodreads…

In Domengrad, there are rules all must live by: Fear the Gods. Worship the Magicians. Forsake the Iconoclasts.

To Annabelle Klein, the rules laid down by the Magicians are the mere ramblings of stuffy old men. As far as she’s concerned, the historic Iconoclasts, heretics who nearly destroyed the Magicians so long ago, are nothing but myth. She has much more important matters to worry about.

Heiress to a manor mortgaged down to its candlesticks and betrothed to her loathsome cousin, sixteen-year-old Annabelle doubts the gods could forsake her more.

Then Annabelle is informed of her parents’ sudden and simultaneous deaths, and all of the pigment drips out of her skin and hair, leaving her colourless. Within moments, Annabelle is invisible and forgotten by all who know her.

Living like a wraith in her own home, Annabelle discovers that to regain her color she must solve the mystery behind her parents’ murders and her strange transformation.

Meanwhile, hundreds of the Magicians’ monks, with their all-black eyes and conjoined minds, have usurped control of Annabelle’s family manor. An Iconoclast is rumored to be about—a person who they claim goes unseen, unheard, and lost to memory, yet is the greatest threat to all of Domengrad. For the first time in a hundred years, the monks plan to unleash the dire wolves of old.

Their only target: Annabelle.


My Review

I can’t deny that I was totally drawn in by the cover on this baby. I knew nothing about Rita Stradling, and had no prior knowledge of the book before checking out the blurb on NetGalley, and I am so glad that I took a gamble on something completely new!

Perhaps because I love historical fiction so much I immediately latched on to the plot line surrounding classed society and I really, really loved how the disconnect between characters from different classes created drama. Not only do characters like Annabelle and Dylan embody the stereotypical tropes that accompany their social standing, it quickly becomes apparent that this has everything to do with upbringing and societal structure rather than deep set personal beliefs. Even those characters that I loved to hate in the beginning I ended up loving – or for some pitying – in the end.

I think that the concept of the Gods, the Magicians, and the Iconoclasts was incredibly well executed. The only thing that I ever wanted more of were details on Domengrad itself and why Iconoclasts were feared. Ultimately though, I loved the slow delivery of world building information as it avoided the always dry info-dump that accompanies so many created worlds. I am excited to see what more is revealed about Domengrad, the Magicians, and the Gods in the coming sequels as I have no doubt that it will only get better as the story goes on.

Of all the characters, I really didn’t start liking Annabelle until the very end – she makes a much better bad-ass than she does a lady. Initially I found her contrived and infuriating, but her grit and determination did a really great job of moving the plot along. I loved how she ended up following in the footsteps of her Father and Fauve and rejecting the system that saw her merely as a cog in a breeding programme. I won’t give away her final act, but I may have shouted out a good ‘Oh no you didn’t!’ as shit went down. It was the perfect ending for this book, and the perfect jumping in point for a sequel.

I know that this book won’t be for everyone – not only is it complex and demanding, the writing style is vastly different from what is often expected in YA. Stradling hits on some big issues and some controversial issues, and will no doubt encounter criticism from one camp or another – especially when it comes to inclusion in school libraries. But guess what? I don’t care. I loved it, and I would recommend that you read it for yourself to form your own opinions!


Many thanks to Rita Stradling for providing a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

#BlogTour #Review: The Year of the Gun by Chris Nickson

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I’m super excited that today is my stop on Chris Nickson’s The Year of the Gun blog tour. I have to say, Lottie is one of the most compelling female WWII protagonists I have read in a good long while and I found it incredibly refreshing to read something set in post-blitz England that wasn’t London. The Year of the Gun is a must read for lovers of WWII and historical fiction, and it’s perfect too for those that enjoy police procedurals and crime fiction.

lottieTitle: The Year of the Gun: A WAPC Lottie Armstrong Mystery

Author: Chris Nickson

Publisher: Mystery Press

Publication Date: February 1, 2018

Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction

Themes: WWII, Crime, Romance

My Rating: 4.5/ 5


From Goodreads…

1944: 20 years after WPC Lottie Armstrong was dismissed from Leeds police for insubordination, she’s back, now a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps and driving for her old boss.

DCS McMillan is now head of Criminal Investigation Department, trying to keep order with a depleted force as crime grows. But when the body of a young woman is found among the ruins of Kirkstall Abbey, things take a darker turn. The next night another young woman’s corpse is found. Both are in the service. Both have been shot by an American pistol. As World War II rages around them, can Lottie and McMillan stop a blackout killer with a taste for murder?

My Review

I loved this book, there is no question about it. It took me a few chapters to really get into it, but it wasn’t long before I found myself so engrossed that I couldn’t put it down. I loved the attention to detail, the depth of the research, and the playful relationship between Lottie and McMillan. I’m not going to lie, at first I was a little put off with how complacent and dependent I thought Lottie was – BUT (and this is a big but) once I kicked my brain back into the period that I was reading everything fell into place and I realized just how well crafted Lottie’s character was and how she pushed the boundaries as a modern, professional, respected and independent woman.

I was completely infatuated with the Leeds setting. As someone who has never had the pleasure of visiting the city, I really appreciated the minutiae of the descriptions, especially since it never felt like they weighed the plot down. I really got a sense of time and place, and most definitely felt as though I was transported back to WWII with the remnants of bombings, covered headlights and blackout curtains, and the realities of rationing and food shortages.

The serial killer plot was wonderfully done as well. I can only imagine the kind of terror that a killer on the home front would have inspired, especially since there would have been such an incredible sense of vulnerability with so many of the men away. I found myself holding my breath every time Lottie checked the missing persons list in the morning, my gut clenching as she approached crime scenes, and actually cheering out loud when she and McMillan made bold moves to confront suspects. But more than anything, I really appreciated how Lottie connected with the female victims and survivors, as it highlighted the positive impact that women on the police force had.

The only thing I can’t really talk about too much is Lottie’s relationship with Ellison because I don’t want to spoil the ending. But, I love that she had doubts, I love that she didn’t give in, and I love that so much of this story was left open for another instalment in the series. Oddly enough, I loved how much I hated Ellison at times! As most of you know by now I really enjoy reading flawed characters, and he certainly met the criteria on this one, mostly because I can completely understand the dilemma of making the moral choice and following direct orders. Ugh, infuriating man! I need to know where this goes next…

Would I recommend this book? Hands down, yes! The characters are so believable it hurts, it’s evident that everything is well researched, and the plot is one that keeps you on your toes as well. And the best part is that even though The Year of the Gun is the second book in a series, is stands entirely on it’s own. I have no doubts that I will be seeking out Modern Crimes as I would love to read more of Lottie as a young woman, as well as Nickson’s medieval murder mysteries in the Chesterfield trilogy – I sense my TBR spiralling out of control!

Thank you all for popping by my stop on the blog tour, and do check out @ShazsBookBlog tomorrow for an exciting final instalment.

Author Information 

cn021.jpgChris Nickson has written since he was a boy growing up in Leeds, starting with a three-paragraph school essay telling a tale of bomb disposal when he was 11. That brought the revelation that he enjoyed telling stories, and then more stories, teenage poetry, and music, as both a bassist and then a singer-songwriter-guitarist.

Chris spent 30 years living in the US, playing in bands and writing. He’s made a living as a writer since 1994. Much of his work has been music journalism, combining the twin passions of music and writing, specialising in world and roots music. His reviews and features are published in print and online, notably with fRoots, Sing Out!, emusic.com, and allmusic.com. He’s also the author of The NPR Casual Listener’s Guide to World Music.

Chris has also published 28 other non-fiction books, most of them quickie biographies, and has had a pair of one act plays staged in Seattle. His short fiction has appeared in several small magazines, and in the anthology Criminal Tendencies. A collection of his short Leeds fiction appeared under the title, Leeds, The Biography.

He moved back to the UK in 2005. The Broken Token was published by Creme de la Crime in 2010. The second of the Leeds novels featuring Richard Nottingham appeared in hardback in May 2011 with the third and fourth (The Constant Lovers and Come the Fear) appearing in 2012. The fifth and six in the series (At the Dying of the Year and Fair and Tender Ladies) arrived in 2013. The seventh novel, Free From All Danger, will appear in October 2017, Cold Cruel Winter was named one of the Best Mysteries of the Year in 2011 by Library Journal, and the audio book of The Broken Token was one of the Independent on Sunday’s Audiobooks of 2012.

Emerald City and West City Blues, two books featuring Seattle music journalist Laura Benton, are available on ebook and audiobook.

The Crooked Spire is set in Chesterfield in 1361 and can be found in paperback and ebook, as can the sequel, The Saltergate Psalter. The final volume in the trilogy, The Holywell Dead, will appear in 2017.

A series set in Leeds in the 1890s features Detective Inspector Tom Harper. Gods of Gold is the first volume, followed by Two Bronze Pennies, Skin Like Silver, The Iron Water, and On Copper Street. The Tin God is scheduled for publication in May 2017.

Dark Briggate Blues is a 1950s noir, with enquiry agent Dan Markham and also taking place in Leeds, as does The New Eastgate Swing, the second volume to feature Markham.

Lottie Armstrong, one of the first policewomen in Leeds, was the heroine of Modern Crimes, set in 1924. She reappears 20 years later in The Year of the Gun.

Chris is also the author of Solid Air – The Life of John Martyn. This appeared as an ebook and print on demand in June 2011, along with John’s posthumous album and a tribute CD that features many major names.

Authors Links:

Web site: https://chrisnickson.co.uk/

Twitter: @ChrisNickson2

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/12044.Chris_Nickson

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chrisnicksonwriter/

Many thanks to Chris Nickson for providing an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review, and to Abby Fairbrother-Slater @annebonnybooks for arranging this fabulous Blog Tour!