#CoverReveal time! #FatalMasquerade by @VivWrites @hqdigital

Excited to bring a cover reveal to you today, for Fatal Masquerade by Vivian Conroy!

Title: Fatal Masquerade
Author: Vivian Conroy
Publisher: HQ Digital
Series: A Lady Alkmene Cosy Mystery, Book 4

Fatal Masquerade cover reveal banner

[Synopsis]

Lady Alkmene and Jake Dubois are back in a gripping new adventure facing dangerous opponents at a masked ball in the countryside.

Masked danger…
Lady Alkmene Callender has always loved grand parties, but when she receives an invitation to a masked ball thrown by Franklin Hargrove – oil magnate, aviation enthusiast and father of her best friend, Denise – she’s never seen such luxury. The estate is lit up with Chinese lanterns in the gardens, boats operated by footmen float across the pond and the guest list features the distinguished, rich and powerful!

But below the glamour, evil is lurking. When a dead body is discovered, it forces Lady Alkmene to throw off her mask and attempt to find the true killer before Denise’s family are accused. If only her partner, Jake Dubois, weren’t hiding something from her…

This case might just be more dangerous than either of them could have imagined…

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Fatal Masquerade is out in ebook format on 4 October - Pre-order on Amazon here

View Fatal Masquerade / the rest of the series on Goodreads

Find out more about Vivian Conroy here
 

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

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The Billion Pound Question by David York

[Author spotlight] David York, with tips on writing!

The Billion Pound Question by David York

Today I am excited to have a guest post written by David York, author of The Billion Pound Question. Here’s a synopsis of the story, and then read on for some of his great tips on writing for aspiring (or existing!) writers!

[Synopsis]

The unexpected death of reclusive businessman Tony Latimer in a plane crash after Christmas brings together an unusual mix of strangers from his unorthodox extended family. Their widely varied backgrounds in different countries and occupations, some legitimate, others very definitely not, contribute to the complex plot that emerges as the legalities of the intestate death are unravelled and Tony’s heirs move on with their lives and careers.

Frank Latimer, Bo Sung and Emily Tang are old school friends who have no idea that their families and fates are so closely connected, along with Thomas Latimer, until the aftermath of Tony’s death unites them again.

This family saga traces several generations of inter-related families in the UK, China and Hong Kong and examines in detail the logistics of drug smuggling, high finance and international relations. This fast-moving story comes to its conclusion with an exciting finale in a land-locked West African country.

The Billion Pound Question

[The Billion Pound Question – by David York]

My own life has included working in eighteen different countries, which has caused considerable disruption to what has turned out to be a happy family life. Whilst discussing an event that I and my youngest son had been involved in, we could not remember where we were when this event occurred. My son exclaimed that I must write about our family history to resolve future discussions, and I enjoyed doing just that and found writing quite easy. From this I was emboldened to try writing a novel. All fiction writers use their own life experiences, and those of other people who write or broadcast theirs, and that is just what I have done. I found it quite easy to start writing with only the haziest outline.

A tip that I would pass on to any aspiring writers is to create a list of characters and their details as you create them. I find that this is essential, as is a list of chapters and even paragraphs as the writing progresses. It was fascinating to resolve a dead end in the story by just creating a new character or killing off one already established.

The Lucky Banker, my first novel, established a billion pound fortune for a man who never married and whose illegitimate children, conceived at the request of their four different mothers, were never legitimised. His death in a plane crash without leaving a will raises a question regarding the beneficiaries who will inherit his billion pound fortune. The dead Billionaire journeyed in his life time from being a rather selfish loner, which helped in the accumulation of his wealth, to a generous guardian of a large happy family. My second novel attempts to relate the journey of two families from similar late nineteenth century poverty in Manchester, to their coming together as already wealthy beneficiaries of the Billionaire’s fortune.

The paternal Grandfather’s family reacts to poverty by justifying criminality, but with their own set of moral values. The maternal Grandmother’s family takes the Christian route, but never the less is drawn into illegality when their service to Britain’s intelligence services leaves them no choice. A Chinese family is drawn into the saga when the Manchester Methodist Missionary saves two boys from starvation. The older boy rises to become a highly placed communist party security official and over the period of his adult life he comes to recognise the similarities between Communism and Methodism, with a slight preference for Methodism as it seeks to achieve its aims peacefully.

Three beneficiaries meet when two of them start attending a British Public School at the age of eleven. The descendant of the Chinese official joins them under the guardianship of the third beneficiary who is older. During their successful time there and at Manchester University they become good friends and gradually work out their family relationships. Graduating some years before they receive their inheritance they are all drawn into their families illegal activities started by their previous generations, and they prosper, but not without considerable moral anxiety. Attitudes to; the European Union, the rise of Chinese Communism and its entry into world trade, the control of the worlds drug and other dangerous substances, the rise of modern terrorism, and the worlds refugee crisis; are all interwoven into the characters activities and thoughts.

With their inheritance after tax and their business success, the friends and their families control more than two billion pounds, but a series of tragedies forces the current generation to dig deep into the previous generation’s mistakes. This leads them into dangerous conflict with terrorism before they finally resolve to use their wealth for the good of all. My first novel ended in tragedy, but this one ends happily, but with just a hint that a third book could revive the dark side of the future?

For more information about ‘The Billion Pound Question’ please visit:
http://www.austinmacauley.com/book/billion-pound-question

See other books by David York on Goodreads.

Definitely one to add to your ‘To Read’ list!

The Billion Pound Question
The Moral Line by Vanessa Bogenholm

[The Story Behind…] The Moral Line

The Moral Line by Vanessa Bogenholm

The Moral Line by Vanessa Bogenholm

The Moral Line, a romantic work of Women’s Fiction by Vanessa Bogenholm, opens readers’ eyes to the world of high-end escorts and the men who frequent them.

Vanessa describes the intense and sometimes deeply saddening process she went through in order to achieve the greatest possible accuracy: “I underwent extensive research while writing The Moral Line in order to fully understand the motivations and feelings of the people who participate in the high-end escort business. I interviewed the escorts themselves, pimps, and the men who commission these services. For the last set of interviews I even went so far as to meet men who wanted to pay me for sex and then would tell them the truth of why I was meeting them.  Some were mad, some were fascinated, and all were lonely just like me.”

 

[Synopsis]

After being rejected and left alone, Alexandria finds herself going down a moral line. Slightly desperate for money, she takes a one-time ‘job’ as a paid for companion by a not so attractive but very nice wealthy man. Is getting paid to be in the company of men really such a bad thing if it feels good? She falls into a world of clients that are wealthy, powerful, successful men with fancy cars and country club lifestyles. But she sees the fragility in all of these men, the loneliness and need for acceptance that is the human condition.

Alexandria becomes ‘Catherine’, a high-end escort with a beautiful laugh who finds the goodness and attractiveness in all men, falling in love with all of her clients just a little. By accepting these men and seeing the goodness in them, she pleases these men in many ways. Is it possible by pleasing others maybe Alexandria can find her true self and find happiness?

The Moral Line


[The Story Behind The Moral Line]

Most of my friends, after the book came out, were more fascinated with the back story then the book itself. In the eight or so months I was writing the book, I became a hermit, or so they thought. I wasn’t meeting my friends for drinks, was not dating, and just seemed to be living a very lonely life at home with my dogs. Well, that was true, kind of…

I was going out more in the evenings and meeting more people then I had in years. These were just different kinds of people then had been in my life before and I was fascinated. I made friends with two men, young business start-up kind of guys. These two men had created a network. This network included girls on the phones, websites, and over 80 women who worked for them around the country. I told them I was writing a book and they showed me how the modern day world of internet escorting worked. I learned how the money was taken care of, in call, out call, how hotels worked, the most efficient advertising, the business aspect. Because I had befriended these two business men, the women working with them as escorts were more then happy to talk about how their hour spent with a client and what really went down in that hour.

Most of the women were perfectly normal, educated, attractive women. The most successful women were over 32 years old and had college degrees. These were women billed at $200 or more per hour. They were well read and happy, the most important characteristic. The women looked at what they did as a service job, not as sex work. In fact, most women said the actual sexual activity was about 7 minutes per hour. Their ‘job’, was to make the man feel like a woman wanted him, like he was a man and attractive, it wasn’t so much about the sexual release, it was the build up and having the man feel he was taken care of. The men would put out wine and chocolates, wanted to be dressed nice, like a real date. The men were always not just financially, but emotionally, thankful for the attention the escorts gave them. None of them, and I met over 50 escorts, had ever had a man physically be abusive, they had a few be a little rough, but nothing that was out of control. This was due to the screening process done by the two business men. Most of the women loved their jobs, but didn’t love having to be secretive about what they did.

All high end escorts, $200 an hour and above, use some kind of screening service. The two business men would get the phone number or email of whomever was contacting the girl and see who it really was, i.e. his real name, what he owned, etc. using the same software that journalists and police departments use. The guy would have to be honest about who he was, not have a criminal record, or complaints from other escorts. It is a tight community. The women would go out and the guys knew where the woman was going and for how long. There was a check in system so the woman always felt safe.

I met over 40 men. They were nice polite and just looking for attention and acceptance. When my research was over, I missed my meetings with these men and women. This world had become my social outlet and I liked the people in it, I got them and they got me.

Author Vanessa Bogenholm


Vanessa Bogenholm[About Vanessa Bogenholm]

Vanessa Bogenholm has been writing Romance/Women’s Fiction, reviews and short stories for numerous websites and magazines for years. Her debut novel – The Moral Line – was published in March 2014 by AuthorHouse. It is available in eBook, paperback, and hardback formats from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, AuthorHouse, and many other websites.

Vanessa lives in Los Gatos, California with her three dogs, and teaches tennis.

Readers can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

[Praise for The Moral Line]

“Words to describe this book are Emotional, Sexy, Inspirational, and well written in a memorable fashion that will engulf the mind well after you are finished reading. The story line is also original and the plot was extremely entertaining.”Lazaro

“I went in expecting some titillating erotica, but what I got was an emotional depth that blew me away.”Kitty Smith

“Well written, delightfully sensual, and exciting in more ways than one.”Hawk

“If you are looking for an engaging and emotionally fulfilling read, Vanessa Bogenholm has nailed it with The Moral Line.”Red City Review

Do you like the sound of The Moral Line? If you’ve read it let me know what you think- it’s one I’ve got on my To Read list!

Searchin for Vivian

[New Novel Spotlight] Searching for Vivian

New Novel Spotlight: Searching for Vivian by Babette Hughes

Searchin for Vivian

[Synopsis]

In 1966, seventeen year old Vivian Russell disappeared like smoke. The seemingly senseless murder of her parents in their home in Cleveland, Ohio was as unexplainable as her vanishing act in its aftermath. Her younger sister, Emma-traumatized by the horrific event- grows into a capable and relentless investigator who decides to do whatever it takes to find her. Her search takes her through the turbulent sixties- Viet Nam, The Black Panthers, dead ends, and bank jobs. Along the way, she finds herself and, whether she is prepared for it or not, the truth.

Searching for Vivian

[First Chapter]

The Cleveland Press called the murders senseless because the Russells had no known enemies and lord knows there wasn’t much to steal; all they had was a pickup, an old black and white TV with one snowy channel and little else. A detective was quoted in the article speculating that perhaps the killers had gone to the wrong house in some kind of a tragic mistake. But the baffling part was that the murdered couples’ oldest daughter, Vivian, 17, home from school with a cold that day, had vanished like smoke.

But events like that, tragic and bizarre as they are, are soon forgotten, except perhaps when someone passes the house and wonders whatever happened to Vivian Russell. Sometimes someone hints knowingly that the Russells were drug dealers, or fences, or Russian spies. (The more years that transpired the more exotic the theories.) But for the most part people went on about their lives and, of course, as the years passed there were those too young or too new in town to have even heard of the murders or of Vivian’s disappearance.

Even her sister, ten-year-old Emma, seemed to leave it behind. Even from the beginning. Even from the first day when she came home from school on a sunny Tuesday afternoon and found neighbors staring behind yellow police tape. Her parents’ bloody bodies were being carried on gurneys into an ambulance. Her big sister was gone. Struggling with her own grief, her Aunt Eleanor couldn’t understand the child’s stoicism and as the weeks and months passed she worried about her more and more. It isn’t natural, she complained to her husband–it isn’t normal for a ten year old not to cry and carry on, not to grieve. The child acted as if she were just visiting her aunt and uncle as she sometimes did when her parents were alive; as if she hadn’t just lost her mother and father; as if her own sister hadn’t vanished into thin air. Although Thad Fisher was as shocked as anyone else over his in-laws’ murders, the truth is that he never really liked them and was secretly rather pleased to have them out of his life. They were damn hippies as far as he was concerned and it infuriated him the way Ellie ran over there all the time when they were alive. He had no objection to taking Emma in— where could the kid go? She was a quiet, well-behaved ten-year-old, a bit dull for his taste, but a small eater and so quiet you forgot she was around—actually an easy kid for a childless couple past middle age to raise. And she was someone Ellie could chatter to and leave him in peace.

Still, it annoyed him the way the child refused to let Ellie out of her sight, following her from room to room, even coming into their bedroom at night in her white nightgown like an undersized ghost. After he locked their bedroom door she wailed and beat on it until she fell asleep on the floor and Thad carried her into her own bed.

Ellie had eagerly welcomed Emma’s arrival. Like many childless women she envied her friends who had children; she even envied the problems and commotion and mess they complained about. She thought of her sister’s murder and Emma’s sudden arrival as a kind of terrible deal from God; she lost her sister but received the child she had prayed for. Quiet and small, transparent almost, Emma seemed to take up less room than the beautiful big doll Ellie had bought her the day after she arrived, which Emma ignored. So she offered her a puppy and then a kitten, but the child merely shook her head.

She tried to get her to talk about what happened. She tried to get her to ask questions about that terrible day. She wished the girl would grieve so she could comfort her. Or just cry. Something. Anything. But it was as if her family had been mysteriously wiped from Emma’s mind like an eraser on chalkboard leaving the same cloudy, formless residue. Ellie took Emma to a psychiatrist who specialized in treating traumatized children; a Doctor Isabelle Dryer. She drove her to her office on Fairmount Boulevard twice a week until Dr. Dryer told her that although Emma came dutifully, she simply would not talk about the loss of her family and that after almost six months any further sessions would be a waste of Mrs. Fisher’s money and her time.

Her aunt went to PTA meetings and teacher conferences and Home Room Nights like a mom and bragged to Thad about Emma’s A’s. (Who didn’t seem very impressed at this information; his disapproval of Emma’s parents hung in the air like fog.) Emma always hurried home after school to be with her Aunt Ellie. She liked her quick hugs and jokes; she liked seeing her in the shining, good-smelling kitchen in her high heals and sheer hose that she wore even around the house, even to the super market. (Ellie had beautiful legs the way some heavy-set women do.) She liked the way she sat down with her at the round yellow kitchen table while they talked and ate her freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Evenings, as Ellie prepared dinner, Emma followed her around the kitchen, putting lids back on jars, returning milk to the refrigerator, wiping the counter, sweeping the floor as the Mixmaster whirled, driving Ellie crazy.

She put up with Emma’s constant presence wondering if the child associated disorder with the blood and violence of her parents’ deaths. The child lived in a state of discipline and order, doing her homework, volunteering to clean blackboards and empty trash at school, cleaning her room, pressing her blouses. Where there were no rules, she made them up as if she had to be this perfect child or she would get lost in the world like Vivian.

Her room was always in perfect order, clothes hung according to type, (school, gym class, dressy for dinners out with her aunt and uncle) color and season; the hangers all uniformly plastic, her shoes lined up by season and color (and later heal height although they didn’t exceeded an inch and a half). She catalogued her aunt’s recipes by soups, appetizers, entrees and desserts, and then alphabetized them within each category. She began to arrange them again by calorie and cholesterol count until her aunt stopped her. She organized and indexed the Fishers’ record collection according to type (classical, jazz, show tunes, operas, soloists.) She arranged books on their shelves not only by fiction, non-fiction and authors, but also by genre’s: mystery, horror, biography, (separated from autobiography) science fiction, politics, literary classics. She even created a section of books made into films. Her aunt and uncle shook their heads at each other and refused to let her into their closets or Thad’s den.

Emma did her best to act like a normal kid so everyone would leave her alone; still she refused to sign up for extra-curricular activities at school, her fantasy life more interesting than any chess club or work on the school paper. In a favorite daydream Uncle Thad died of a mysterious illness leaving her Aunt Ellie all to herself. When the telephone rang she imagined it was Vivian calling to say she was back from a trip to San Francisco or New York. Sometimes it was England. She pretended that her parents were divorced and that one of them would come back for her, or that they sailed to England on the Queen Mary like Patricia in her Social Studies class who stood up and bragged about her parents’ trip. Sometimes she pretended that her parents were both killed in a respectable car crash that wasn’t their fault. Half aware that her daydreams were an excessive and neurotic substitute for reality, they were so sweet and satisfying that if they also made her a bit strange she didn’t mind.

Babette Hughes[About the Author]

Born in Cleveland Ohio, Babette Hughes grew up in the time of Prohibition and bootleggers. Her father was one of the first bootleggers in the country, and was murdered by the Mafia in a turf war at the age of 29. Babette was just two at the time.

Writing has allowed her to draw from her unusual life experiences to create her characters and tell their stories (and sometimes cautionary tales) in vivid detail.

Now 93, she writes every day with fluidity and grace. “The truth is liberating, but sometimes elusive.” She explains. “I’m always looking for it and how to best write about it, and I probably always will.”

[Find Out More]
Website: http://www.babettehughesbooks.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/babettehughes/?fref=ts
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Searching-Vivian-Babette-Hughes/dp/1939828562/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1455314375&sr=8-3&keywords=babette+hughes
HuffPost: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/babette-hughes/

Phoenix by Ellie King

Hot New Release: Phoenix by Elle King + giveaway!

Phoenix by Ellie King
Phoenix
by Elle King looks really entertaining and something a little different if you’re into crime/ mystery novels! It’s available to buy now, plus you can win a copy too– see details at the bottom of the page.

Release Date: May 1, 2015

Publisher: Voodoo Lilly Press

Synopsis:

New York City homicide detectives Rachel Wayland and Artemis Gregory are first on the murder scene of a beautiful young gay man, the third victim of a serial killer dubbed the Moon Killer by the department. Their investigation leads them to Talis Kehk, charismatic lead singer of the rock group Phoenix Rising.

As the next full moon approaches, Rachel and her partner uncover clues that lead straight to Talis, even as Talis, exhibiting behavior Rachel finds strange indeed, considering the circumstances, uses every means possible to keep her close. Innocent or not, Talis has a secret, and discovering what it is will change Rachel’s world forever.


Buy Links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | All Romance | Kobo | Scribd

About the Author:

Elle King lives in south Florida with her five-pound dog and a stack of manuscripts she hopes one day to finish.

Author Links:

Elle’s Blog

Elle on Facebook

Elle on Goodreads

 

** Giveaway **

If this has you interested and you’d like to win an ebook copy of Phoenix, entry is simple!  Tweet me @lauranazmdeh and include #Phoenix #giveaway! OR if you don’t have Twitter, just like and comment on this post with what you think you’ll like about this book!

I’ll pick a winner at random on Wednesday 20 May, so keep an eye out on Twitter or email, depending how you entered! **

Read on for an excerpt from the novel:

“It bugs me that there’s no obvious motive,” Rachel said. “Why kill these young people? Thrill seeker? Lunatic? Someone who’s taking revenge because of some slight, real or imagined? Except they all appear to have died peacefully. No trauma, so it couldn’t be revenge, could it?” She stared hard at her picture of the tattoo, as if it might whisper something to her. “What do you know about Phoenix Rising?”

“Played all over Europe before coming here—did you see that asshole cut me off? I oughta give him a ticket.” Artemis laid on the horn. “He wouldn’t have done that if we’d been in a squad car.”

“Phoenix Rising,” she reminded him, hiding a smile. He was all about road rage. She shouldn’t let him drive, but she enjoyed the frequent adrenalin rushes it provided her.

“Yeah. They’re huge right now, very popular. Lead singer is hot as hell.”

“Do you really have tickets to their concert, or were you bullshitting Creed?”

“I really have tickets.” He shot her a suspicious look. “Why?”

“When is it?”

“Saturday night.”

It was Thursday. “I suppose you’re going with Steve.”

“I suppose I am,” he said, eyes narrowing. “Don’t you dare.”

“What?”

“Don’t give me that innocent look. You want me to dump him and take you.”

“I think I should experience them firsthand, considering they’re on the periphery of our cases.”

“That is such shit.” He raced through an intersection on yellow. “A couple of bodies have bird tats and right away, you’re making a connection? I would guess that general design is in demand right now, given how popular the band is, and exclusive flash or not, plenty of shops are offering something similar. And let me remind you, the second victim didn’t have one. I am not dumping Steve in favor of you.”

Rachel grinned. “Where is this band staying? Let’s check them out.”

“How the hell are you going to justify that?”

“Call it a hunch, and I’m a detective doing legwork for a series of murders. They won’t say no.” She called the number Creed had provided, introduced herself, spoke briefly, and hung up. “That was too easy; the guy was über cooperative. They’re at the Waldorf Towers.”

“Do you know how much that place costs? A goddamn fortune, that’s what it costs.”

“I guess they have one then.” She tapped an index finger against her knee. “It’s on our way. Let’s drop by and welcome them to the neighborhood.”

“It’s not on our way, and you are not getting Steve’s ticket.” But he obediently turned right at the next light, headed for the Waldorf-Astoria.

Million Dollar Question by Ellie Campbell

Million Dollar Que$tion: Blog Tour review

Hello everyone! I’m part of the book tour for Ellie Campbell’s Million Dollar Que$tion, so read on for more info about the book and my review!

 

Million Dollar Que$tion
by Ellie Campbell
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction, ChickLit
Release Date: April 25, 2015

Just as a huge financial scandal ejects Olivia Wheeler from her high-flying Manhattan job and high-society engagement, a silver Mercedes pulls up at lonely single-mother Rosie Dixon’s house with a cheque for one million pounds from the Premium Bonds.  Two very different strokes  of luck.  And yet both women have more in common than they realize.  While Olivia struggles with the humiliations of surviving in London broke and homeless, shy unassuming Rosie discovers that unexpected wealth arrives with its own mega-load of problems.

Can a career-obsessed workaholic find a passion for something earthier and warmer than cold hard cash? And can Rosie sift through envy and greed to discover true friends, true family and even true love?

Two strangers who’ve never met. Yet neither realises how each is affecting the other’s destiny or the places their paths touch and fates entwine.

But will they surmount the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?

That is the million dollar question.

 CHAPTER 1

Rosie Dixon perched herself on the hard plastic chair, watching the drawing take shape. A line, followed by a squiggle. Snake maybe? Then what looked like a head of a person with ears on top. And was that a saddle on its back or—‘Do you like it, Miss?’ Emily asked.

‘Oh yes, it’s good.’ Rosie smiled encouragement as the young girl plucked another crayon from the Tupperware box and worked earnestly, tongue curled stiffly against her cheek in concentration. ‘Extremely good. I love the bright colours you’ve chosen.’

Finished, Emily pointed at the purple object. ‘What do you think that is?’

‘Um. Let’s see.’ Rosie peered closer. It vaguely resembled a bear, although how that fitted in with the ‘My Family at Home’ project, heaven knew. She didn’t want to offend but… ‘What’s his name?’

‘Bruno.’

Ah yes. ‘Bruno the bear. Of course.’

‘Bear?’ The girl shook her two perfect bunches and wrinkled her tiny freckled nose. ‘It’s not a bear, Miss, it’s a chocolate Labrador. Mummy’s boyfriend has one. Durr…’

‘Well it’s lovely.’ Rosie stood up. ‘And I’m Rosie, remember?’

Not that Rosie didn’t appreciate being called Miss, she did. Made her feel like a teacher, although the rather less grand title of ‘Teaching Assistant’ suited her fine. She’d been working at Avondale Infants for eighteen months now, supporting primary-aged pupils in classes of thirty-plus without needing to fret about parents’ evenings, lesson plans and the mountains of paperwork expected of a real teacher. She loved the small children and the hours meant she could still collect her own two sons from junior school.

‘Miss?’ Max, angelic curls disguising an impish spirit, frowned at his latest creation. ‘Can you help me?’

‘Shove over then.’ She nudged him playfully, as she squeezed beside him. Who’d have ever thought that she, shy little Rosie, always too timid to raise her hand in class, would be making a difference, however small, in the world of education? Just showed that good could come from the direst of situations. Even if it had taken a broken heart and some other God-awful trials to get her here.

She tucked a lock of shoulder-length hair behind her ear and handed Max a glue stick.

All things considered she really was incredibly lucky.

$$$

Mid-morning, the kettle in the staffroom had boiled and Rosie’s fellow teaching assistant, Gemma, was handing round the custard creams. Also in her early thirties, Gemma was recently divorced and had a secret obsession with The X Factor’s Simon Cowell that Rosie was sworn, on pain of death, never to reveal.

‘Anyone got an astrophysics degree?’ Carol, teacher of Orange Class, leafed through a stack of forms, eyebrows furrowed. ‘Certainly need one to fill in all these bloody risk assessments. Talk about ’elf and safety!’

Rosie joined in the laughter as she dropped a teabag in a smiley face mug. She was about to ask her colleagues, flopped onto chairs for their short break, if they were all right for beverages when Pauline Dawkins, Admin Officer, sidled up, a giant birthday card tucked under one paisley-clad arm.

‘Barry’s fiftieth. Whip-round,’ she hissed, spy-like from the corner of her mouth, as if the sole male teacher might burst in and discover the dastardly plot. ‘Drinks and cake at four.’

Pauline took her charge of The Birthday Book extremely seriously. Rosie had suffered the same ordeal when she’d turned thirty-three in March.

‘Oh, I’d love to be there, but I’ve my sons to pick up.’ Dutifully she scribbled, ‘Have a great day, Barry!’ unable to conjure anything witty or mildly original.

The envelope under her nose was stuffed with pound coins and larger notes. Rosie opened her ancient leatherette handbag, pushed aside her soggy egg sandwich and peeked inside her purse.

A lonely fiver lay folded next to a single fifty pence piece.

Her heart sank. That cash had to last the next two days until her monthly salary reached her bank. The twins, being eleven, always needed money for this or that and Charlie’s cheque was late again.

But then again poor Barry had recently lost his wife. Fifty pence seemed so stingy and she’d never dare offer the five pound note and ask for change.

There was an uncomfortable beat. Rosie’s fingers froze. Nobody was paying attention but still damp pooled in her armpits and along her hairline, her insecurities running rampant under Pauline’s scrutiny.

Was she assessing the havoc a runaway husband could create? Maybe worse – thinking it no wonder he’d strayed? If Rosie had once felt young, pretty and loved, it had all vanished with the end of her marriage. She cursed herself for not finding something smarter to wear than the skanky black cords pilled from the washing machine and a faded cotton blouse (Selfridges Sale 70% off) which sagged where it used to cling. And she’d totally messed up her hair attempting to add subtle honey-gold streaks from a Superdrug box to her mousy-brown frizz and ended up with tiger stripes instead.

Blow it, she thought, and handed over the fiver with a flourish, smiling to silence the warning pang from her gut.

‘Ta ever so.’ Pauline stuffed the note in the envelope. ‘We want to buy him a special present. Poor devil’s all on his lonesome…’ She broke off, fiddling with the plastic ID badge dangling from her neck. ‘I didn’t mean…well, it’s different for you with those darling boys, never a dull minute in your house, I’m sure.’ Her eyes fired with matchmaking zeal. ‘Now there’s a thought. Don’t suppose you and Barry…?’

‘No. Really.’ Rosie tried looking appreciative instead of appalled. Bearded bespectacled Barry was even more tortuously shy than Rosie and any attempts to speak made him extra nervous. They only had to reach the kettle at the same time and Rosie could feel her hands sweat, watching him twitch and stammer. As for fireworks, there’d be more sparks with two squibs in a rainstorm.

‘Just an idea.’ Pauline shrugged it off. She was basically a kind woman, Rosie thought, whatever catty things people said – just maybe a touch too blunt for the fragile sensitivities of a mostly female environment. And it must be excruciating asking people to hand over cash.

Pauline left to corner someone else and Rosie slumped onto an empty seat, tea forgotten. Two years since Charlie had walked out and no one – except Rosie in the secret corners of her soul – believed he was ever coming back. The beautiful home they’d spent ages lovingly doing up had been sold, Rosie and the boys now installed in a tatty two-bed terrace in a scruffy housing estate, where luckily the neighbours had welcomed her as one of their own.

Better off without him, everyone declared. What self-respecting woman stayed with a cheat after all? Outraged friends wanted him to suffer and occasionally Rosie did too. Not in a nasty, vengeful way, but at least to experience a few twinges of her own devastation.

She had fantasies in which he came crawling back, grief-stricken over what he’d carelessly tossed aside. She’d imagine herself on the arm of Colin Farrell, wearing a fiery-red figure-hugging dress, strikingly elegant, flawlessly made-up, her belly flat and her legs mysteriously three inches longer. She’d be ice-cool, telling him it was too late but usually in these daydreams – and she knew it was wrong – just as Charlie left, dejected, her stony heart would relent, she’d apologise to Colin, kick off her heels and run to Charlie’s joyful arms.

Other times her sleep betrayed her. She’d walk in the kitchen to find Charlie cooking spaghetti bolognese, wearing only a chef’s apron and an endearingly rueful smile. Silly stuff. Like last night – they’d sat in the bath together, him soaping her back. So convincing was this dream that in the morning she’d lazily stretched out her arm to him, forgetting that his side of the bed was empty and cold. He’d been her best friend and lover for so long. Not easy persuading her subconscious to switch from love to hate. Or even indifference. And he’d been such a caring father to Luke and Tim. Were they truly ‘better off without him’?

Determined not to submerge into despondency, she jumped up and tackled the backlog of crockery clogging the staffroom kitchenette.

Damn. She’d thought she’d got past all those predictable emotional stages, familiar to her as commuter stations. Denial. Shock. Anger. Depression. Last stop – Guilt – where she still lingered, scolding herself for not leaping to action the second Charlie’s secretary warned her about the female customer who showed more interest in the showroom’s Sales Manager than the vehicles on sale.

And why hadn’t she? Jumped? Leapt? Fought?

Because it had been unthinkable. Laughable even. With the red flag flapping inches from her face, Rosie had brushed it away with a smile, too certain of her husband to fall for that alarmist nonsense. This was Charlie, after all, her soul mate, who’d rescued her in her darkest hours, made her believe in her own worth after years of her mother’s jibes. He loved her even if she had grown two dress sizes finishing the kids’ meals, barely ever wore make-up, slumped around the home in baggy sweatshirts and couldn’t stay awake to watch an entire film when the boys were finally in bed.

‘…first out. Hey, what’s so fascinating about that sponge? You’ve been staring at it ages.’

Rosie hadn’t realised Gemma had joined her at the sink, let alone that she’d been speaking.

‘Sorry, Gem.’ She came out of her daze. ‘What was that?’

‘I was saying that as long as it’s not last in, first out, ’cos technically speaking…’ Gemma pushed her glasses up her nose and gave Rosie a meaningful glance before picking up a tea towel.

‘Technically speaking…?’

Gemma sighed as she wiped a saucer. ‘Rosie, you dingbat, did you hear a word I said? That meeting with the union reps yesterday, Carol’s just filled me in. They’re talking staff cuts. Redundancies. Teaching assistants in particular. Some of us – God knows how many – are for the chop!’

Written by sisters Pam Burks and Lorraine Campbell writing under the pseudonym ‘Ellie Campbell’, Million Dollar Que$tion is that rare breed of novel classed as ‘chick-lit’ but which often avoids the overused cliches of this genre. It’s an enjoyable, well written story which which includes elements of romance throughout but this isn’t overplayed or made too cheesy. Those tropes are there, but they’re done in a charming way!

Similarly the characters aren’t placed into too defined, black or white categories. They have their faults at times but that makes them seem more real. Most of them are brilliantly crafted, realistic characters that we can probably identify in the people around us, whether we like them or not.

Olivia and Rosie are both quite different people but are both hugely likeable in their own ways, just as Olivia’s ‘friend’ from university seems a nice enough woman and then we hear that sadly all-too-familiar chime of “Meanwhile…’ bitterness crept in, ‘all these refugees and no-good slackers get it all for free” and we think, I know someone like that…

Similarly even Rosie’s brother Paul succumbs to the lure of big bucks and his greed tramples through his good nature. We know life often isn’t a fairy tale and there aren’t clear-cut ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people; instead Ellie Campbell creates interesting, three-dimensional characters that are believable.

The story was fun to read and got right into the story from the very beginning- no hanging about! It’s well written and is easy to read; I genuinely enjoyed every word and finished it really quickly.

I hope there will be many more to come from Ellie Campbell!

Rating: 4/5

Million Dollar Que$tion is, for a limited time, available to buy as an ebook for only 99p! This price is only available until 4 May so get it quick!

eBook:
Paperback:

Ellie Campbell is a pseudonym for sisters, Pam Burks and Lorraine Campbell who collaborate across the mighty Atlantic, finding writing together the perfect excuse for endless phone conversations.  They are equally passionate about travel, animals and the great outdoors. Although Pam lives near London, with husband, three children and a dog, while Lorraine is on a Colorado ranch near wild and wonderful Boulder with husband, five horses, five cats, one dog and four chickens – they both believe in enjoying life to the fullest, be it discovering new remote locations or going on trail rides in the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

Marrakesh and what I read…

I recently got back from an AMAZING week in Marrakech with Tom. Although I didn’t have much time to read whilst I was out there, I did get some time to enjoy a few books. 

I really wish I had taken a better camera out there as there was so many amazing things to see and do! In the end I just took pictures using my phone which unfortunately didn’t really do the surroundings justice!

Here’s some holiday snaps anyway showing some of what we did, and also what I read whilst I was out there! 

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balcony cafe in Marrakech

Tea on the rooftop cafe in the souks

  

part of the Medina at night

The Medina at night

 
Olive Stall!

So many types of olive for sale!

  

parkland

One of the many city-centre parks with a sense of tranquility!

 
Palais de la Bahia

Palais de la Bahia

    

Community underground bakery in the Souks

Community underground bakery in the Souks

  

Underground oven for cooking lamb

Underground oven for cooking lamb- up to 40 sheep can be cooked in this hole all year round!

   

Jemaa el-Fna square

Jemaa el-Fna square: the view from a rooftop cafe!

camel ride in Marrakech

Very excited to be on a camel!

Quad ride in Marrakech

We also enjoyed some quad biking!

 
Morroccan tea with mint

We fell in love with their famous tea with mint!

Jemaa el-fna square at night

Jemaa el-fna square at night

What I read/ finished reading in Marrakech:

Elly Griffiths- The Ghost Fields 

This was a fairly easy read which wasn’t too taxing and which I enjoyed by the pool! Not your typical holiday read perhaps but hey, I really enjoyed it! (review here)

Lynda LaPlante- Wrongful Death

This was a book club title which I needed to finish in time for book club when I got back, and I had mixed feelings on it overall… A review will follow shortly on here, so keep an eye out for it!

Have you ever visited Marrakech or Morocco? What did you think?

Peter James

Peter James wins!

PD James best crime author
Peter James
was voted the Best Crime Writer of all time by WH Smith readers on Wednesday- and I’m really pleased to hear it! As a massive crime writing fan, there are loads of great novelists from this genre that I really enjoy reading and many of them made the top 20- but I am really pleased that Peter James topped the list!

Here’s the Top 20:

  1. Peter James
  2. James Patterson
  3. Val McDermid
  4. Ian Rankin
  5. Agatha Christie
  6. Martina Cole
  7. Sheila Quigley
  8. R. C. Bridgestock
  9. Karin Slaughter
  10. Tess Gerritsen
  11. Mark Billingham
  12. Patricia Cornwell
  13. Ruth Rendell
  14. Karen Rose
  15. Chris Carter
  16. Lee Child
  17. Simon Kernick
  18. P. D. James
  19. Thomas Harris
  20. Stuart MacBride

I’ve read a lot of Peter’s books but there are still plenty more on my ‘to-read’ list which I am very glad about- he’s written many stand-alone novels but my favourites by far are all part of the fantastic Roy Grace series; full list below:

  1. Dead Simple (2005)
  2. Looking Good Dead (2006)
  3. Not Dead Enough (2007)
  4. Dead Man’s Footsteps (2008)
  5. Dead Tomorrow (2009)
  6. Dead Like You (2010)
  7. Dead Man’s Grip (2011)
  8. Not Dead Yet (2012)
  9. Dead Man’s Time (2013)
  10. Want You Dead (2014)
  11. You Are Dead (2015)

The WH Smith page includes a top 100 list too, and some of the authors on there seem a little strange to be included (Cecelia Ahern? Sophie Kinsella? Nothing against their books but I wouldn’t imagine any of them as fitting in the crime category!)

I am quite disappointed that Robert Galbraith (J.K Rowling) didn’t make it into the Top 20 as the Cormoran Strike novels are, in my opinion, fantastic- but I suppose compared to the majority of others on the list Galbraith hasn’t released many books at all. Maybe in a few years’ time though!

Most of all I was incredibly surprised to see no mention anywhere in the top 100 of Peter Robinson? I think he’s a brilliant crime writer and his DCI Banks novels certainly deserve a place on the list. I suppose that, as this is voted by readers, it is what it is- but I am very surprised nonetheless!

Who is your favourite crime writer? Is there anyone you were pleased to see had made the list, or surprised that didn’t?