Monday 10 June 2024

Fear in the Blood: Tales from the Dark Lineages of the Weird (ed. by Mike Ashley)

Chez Maximka, ghost stories, paranormal stories

"As I stooped to reach it I felt someone pull my dress from behind. I fancied I had caught the train in something, and I turned to disengage it. But the folds were perfectly free, and I returned to my original design of ringing the bell... My first impusle was to examine my dress. Yes! There on the new velvet was the distinct impress of a little hand where the material had been grasped abd pulled, just about on a level with my knees" (The Haunted Nursery, by Florence Marryat)

I've been collecting books from the British Library - Crime Classics for a few years, as I love their book designs. Every time I check out online what the latest additions are, I come upon suggestions for British Library Tales of the Weird. I enjoy reading paranormal/ghost stories, and have added a few to my wish list. It was one of the Insta reels though that made me search for the books properly. 

Unsure whether I want to start another shopping spree of the series I might or might not like, I decided to borrow a couple of books in the library before making up my mind.

My first foray in the series is Fear in the Blood: Tales from the Dark Lineages of the Weird (edited by Mike Ashley).

The concept of the book is the literary bloodlines, the writer's skills and talents passed down through the generations in families.

As it happens, quite a few families have passed their writing genes to descendants. Charles Dickens and his family are probably one of the better known ones. Among his descendants you can find such writers as Mary Angela Dickens, Monica Dickens and Mary Danby. All of them happened to turn their hand to tales of the supernatural.

Mike Ashley explains, "Which is the theme of this volume. I have selected six literary families and chosen stories from different generations to show how an interest in dark tales has passed down the bloodline".

The table of contents lists six literary families:
The Marryat Family (Frederick and Florence Marryat),
The Sheridan and Le Fanu Families (Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Rhoda Broughton and Sarah Lefanu),
The Hawthorne Family (Nathaniel Hawthorne, Julian Hawthorne and Hildegarde Hawthorne),
The Dickens Family (Charles Dickens, Mary Angela Dickens, Monica Dickens, Mary Danby)'
The Pangborn Family (Georgia Wood Pangborn, Edgar Pangborn and Mary C. Pangborn),
The Aiken Family (Conrad Aieken, Martin Armstrong and Joan Aiken)

The stories vary in style and literary skill, some appear very old-fashioned and quaint, bordering on overly sentimental, some are quite brutal and harsh, and all of them explore the world of the eerie and strange.

I had to search and read the synopsis of a couple of stories to help me understand the plot, as I found them rather confusing and convoluted. One of them is the classic story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Young Goodman Browne, published in 1835.This atmospheric story is set in the Puritan New England, and deals with the themes of depravity and self-scrutiny. 

Most of the classic stories in the volume left me indifferent, and hard to relate to. It's the stories by modern writers that I found more intriguing and spellbinding. 
The three stories worth highlighting are:

Fran Nan's Story by Sarah Lefanu is set during the foot-and-mouth outbreak in the early 2000s.
Fran the junior haidresser at the salon tells her tale, while doing the customer's hair.
Her Nan shared the tale about the old man and his three-legged border collie Jess who disappeared in the moors. 
The old farmer is desperate to save the remaining healthy sheep and move them away from being destroyed. He takes his loyal companion collie Jess on a perilous night trip through the moors.
During the trek, the dog goes missing, and the old man pines for her, waiting for her to reappear at the farm. 
"No, he said. "I seen her. I seen a dog with three legs. She were standing there on the old drovers' track. I knows it were my Jess. She were a-calling me. But when I got to where she were, she warn't there no more".
It's not a horror story, but a tale of the deep bond between a man and his best friend.

The Secret Ones by Mary Danby is a thought-provoking tale of the outcasts of the society.
It deliberately doesn't specify who the family members are, they are nameless. They could be unfortunates fleeing the wars, asylum seekers in search of a peaceful life.
"The husband, the wife and the wife's sister arrived by boat one fear-grey dawn". They are starving, and to survive, search for scraps of food among the heaps of rubbish. They hide from the hostile people.
"They were the last members of a vast family to make the journey and were disheartened to find the land of their dreams to be one of hate, not plenty".
The story takes a sinister turn and has a shocking ending. And while there are hints through the narrative at who the family members are, the revelation at the end will make you wince.

Woggelbeast by Edgar Pangborn explores the themes of unfulfilled dreams, hope and loss.
Molly lives with her husband Danny. She is a traditional housewife, whose life is centred around the needs of her husband. Molly is 41 and childless. She believes that to have a child at this date would need a miracle.
Lonely Molly finds the most unusual companion in Wogglebeast. To this magic creature she pours her heart and tells of her heart's desire.
"There had always been something about Molly to make you think of a little girl playing with dolls".
This is a poignant moving story of a woman who dreams of having a child.

The sad tale resonated deeply, as it addresses the loneliness of a gentle soul who yearns for a child, and tries to find imaginative in the mundane. 

It was a promising introduction to the series, and I've alredy started reading another book from Tales of the Weird called Polar Horrors.

Are you familiar with British Classic Tales of the Weird series? Is there a book that you would recommend?

Chez Maximka, ghost stories

Sunday 9 June 2024

The Heartpine Recipes: A Coming Home Novel by L.C. Fields


"It was a high honor to be sitting there listening, getting a glimpse into the mind of the alchemist. I folded the paper carefully, like the important document it was. I reached down for my purse, and then I stopped.
"Are you sure?" I asked. "You really want to give up your recipe?"

The Heartpine Recipes: A Coming Home Novel by L.C. Fields is a heartwarming tale set in the small Tennessee town of Heartpine.


The Heartpine Recipes

It's more than southern storytelling. It's southern storytelling with a side of biscuits.

When Grace Collier comes back to Heartpine, Tennessee, she's thinking about endings. The end of her job. The end of her engagement. Instead, she finds a new beginning. A journey of discovery that will reconnect her to her home place... as well as her own past.

Like so many southern tales, this one starts out in the kitchen. Grace's Aunt Jess - the wise, loving woman who raised her after her parents passed - is collecting recipes for a new community cookbook. It's not long before Grace finds herself an honorary member of the cookbook committee; and next thing she knows, she's busy gathering up all the rich stories that come with those recipes. All the surprises, all the mysteries, all the memories. Along the way, she gets to know a townful of unforgettable characters. Stirs up a few old secrets. And comes to terms, finally, with her own legacy of loss.

It's about the recipes, yes. But more than that, it's about the relationships. It's a journey that links families and generations. A journey of homecoming and redemption.

And just for fun, every chapter includes an iconic southern recipe - so you can cook them up yourself and see what all the fuss is about. From cornbread to collards, from pulled pork to pineapple casserole, you'll find them here. There's even a never-fail recipe for the best sweet tea you've ever tasted (not that a true southern cook would need a recipe for that, heaven knows!)

Touching, positive and uplifting, The Heartpine Recipes is a generous serving of warmth, humor and heart.

Grace Collier is unsure about her future. Having lost her job and fiance, she moves back to her childhood town of Heartpine, to stay with her Aunt Jess and figure out what to do next. Her parents died when she was a young child, and it was Aunt Jess who brought her up.

Grace dreams of being a writer, she has always been writing stories and diaries, since she was a child. Her job as a copywriter wasn't exactly the most creative, as she had to endorse cookware. 

When Grace arrives to Aunt Jess, she discovers a group of ladies from the Heartpine Ladies' League who set up their mind on putting together a cookbook of the local recipes, as a charity fundraiser. 

"The Heartpine Ladies' League is one of those institutions that exists partly to do charitable work around the town, and partly to give the members an opportunity to socialize, start rumors and commiserate over the doings of various friends and relations".

Soon Grace finds herself co-opted into the editing of the book.

"And finally, somewhere along the way, I agreed to help out with the cookbook. It felt like the right thing. It wasn't like I had anything better to do."

The recipes begin to pour in, all tested by generations of family cooks. Some of these recipes are guarded as a secret, some are considered to be a historical legacy. There is even a controversial dispute on the submitted apple cobbler recipe (this was one of my favourite chapters).

Each recipe comes with a family story. As Grace and her aunt meet the recipe entrants, they listen to the stories. All these tales create a striking visual image of the town characters and history.

And while digging into the history of her childhood town and its inhabitants, Grace realises that the cook book "had come along at just the right time, giving me something to throw myself into - something to keep me from having to confront all the big, uncomfortable questions." Will the homecoming turn to be the step in the right direction?

The narrative is sparkling with gentle humour. Descirbing the meeting of the cookbook committee, Grace mentions, "The panel convened at the dining room table, taking their places silently, with a due regard for the significance of the occasion".

This book reminded me of The Quilter's Kitchen by Jennifer Chiaverini. It has a similar vibe of camaraderie and shared interests, and is a record of beloved recipes. And the format is much alike, as you have a mix of recipes and personal stories. 

The Heartpine Recipes is a enjoyable book of stories and recipes, seasoned with love and history. 

This post is part of the blog tour for The Heartpine Recipes.

Many thanks to L.C. Fields and Rachel's Random Resources for my e-copy of the book!

Chez Maximka,

Purchase Links

Author Bio:

You’ve probably read some of L.C. Fields’s writing, somewhere along the line. That’s because L.C. has spent a couple of decades at ad agencies, writing for a few of the great icon brands. Some of that experience is baked into L.C.’s fiction.


L.C. lives in rural Southwest Virginia – about an hour’s drive from the imagined town of Heartpine – off a winding gravel road. It’s a grand place to listen to the wind, watch the animals (including one ridiculously cute Kerry Blue Terrier) and soak up inspiration.


The Heartpine Recipes is L.C.’s first (published) novel.


Social Media Links:




Amazon author page:

southern cuisine


Friday 7 June 2024

Louise's War by Rosie Clarke

historical fiction set in WWI

"She was going to do all she could to help him. It was one small act of defiance against the brutes that had invaded her country".

Louise's War by Rosie Clarke is a moving historical novel set in England and France during the WWII. This is the second book in the series, which reads as a standalone.


Louise's War

Caught between enemy lines - can they survive?

1914, Hampshire

Jack Barlow has a dream. For generations his family have been in service at Trenwith Estate. If he can survive the ravages of war, he'll return home to build his own mechanic business and become master of his own destiny.

Louise Saint-Claire, is battling against the odds to run her family farmhouse in German occupied France after her abusive husband is taken prisoner by the Germans. She is determined to survive this brutal and bloody war.

But fate throws Jack and Louise together when she finds the wounded British soldier and she decides to risk eveything to keep him safe.

What chance can one woman and one man have when caught between the Frencg Rsistance and the German army?

Previously published as Love and War by Linda Sole.

Though the book is titled Louise's War, it's much more than just Louise's story. In fact, we follow lives of four young people as their storylines are intertwined.

Jack Barlow comes from a family who's been in service at Trenwith Estate. Both his parents and younger sister Rose worked for the Trenwiths. While his parents still adhere to the old-fashioned views on their social standing, Jack hopes to establish his own business one day, as a mechanic. If he manages to survive the war, he won't be returning back to work for the Trenwiths.

"He was going to improve his education all round, because when the war was over he wanted to be his own man... He would serve his time in the army, keep his head down like Rose said, and then, when it was all over, he might be able to set up his own business."

Rose Barlow, his younger sister, has similar dreams of her own. Not satisfied to work any longer for the manor house, she wants to expand her horizons and train as a nurse. 

"Rose had no intention of returning to service after the war. She was hoping the voluntary services would let her join the nursing section, and in time she might even apply to be a nurse".

Luke Trenwith joins the army as he knows he has no choice. His father says he won't prevent him doing his duty, as long as he remembers that his true duty is with the estate. 

"All his life he had been reminded of his duty to the estate, his own desire to be an artist dismissed as mere fancy or a waste of time". Luke would never be free to follow the life he preferred, he is expected to run the estate and marry a suitable young lady to raise the next heir. 

Yet his heart is yearning for beautiful Rose. "Rose wasn't for him. The divide was too great; the prejudices on both sides too entrenched to overcome..."

Louise Saint-Claire is living on the farm with her violent husband Jacque. Her life is full of misery. Whene her nasty husband is taken prisoner by the Germans, she is left to manage the big farm on her own. The work is hard and relentless, and nearly impossible for one person to manage. 

Louise dreams of moving to Paris to open her own cafe, but her dreams have to be put on hold. The German occupation makes everything more complicated, and who will look after the animals on the farm if she leaves?

One night a wounded British soldier stumbles upon her farm. This puts both of them in a perilous situation, and Louise understands the risks.

"Louise knew it was dangerous. If the Germas discovered that she was harbouring the enemy she would be shown no mercy, but at this moment she didn't care."

Amidst tragedy and devastation, love begins to blossom. Will Louise and Jack be able to stay together, when the German army and French Resistance are making the chances of their survival nearly impossible?

Louise's War is a compelling, captivating novel. The author vividly imagines how the war has touched the daily life at the front in France and back in England. It is an enduring tale of love and loyalty, loss and challenges, fulfilment and courage. History, and its characters, come alive .

This post is part of the blog tour for Louise's War.

Many thanks to Rosie Clarke and Rachel's Random Resources for my e-copy of the book!

Chez Maximka, fiction set in England and France during WWI

Purchase Link -

Author Bio –

Rosie Clarke is a #1 bestselling saga writer whose most recent books include The Mulberry Lane series. She has written over 100 novels under different pseudonyms and is a RNA Award winner. She lives in Cambridgeshire.

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historical novels set during WWI

historical fiction set during WWI

Wednesday 5 June 2024

Degustabox May Box

 Degustabox is a monthly food and drink subscription box. It's an excellent way of discovering new products which have only just appeared in the shops, or those which have been around for a while, but you haven't had a chance to try them yet.

Thanks to Degustabox, I have found new favourites to add to our shopping list, including some products which I otherwise wouldn't have tried.

Each time a monthly box arrives, its contents are a total surprise. You get a good selection of foods and drinks.

If you haven't tried Degustabox subscription box yet, and would like to have a go, I have a £3off discount from your first box (and you can unsubscribe any time), just use code DKRLN when placing an order. 

What did we get in May Box Degustabox?

Chez Maximka, subscription food box

Product of the Month: Kellogg's Rice Krispies 350g (£3.30) is a popular cereal. This breakfast meal contains no artificial colours or flavours.

And if you are not a morning cereal person, how about making some lovely treats, like rice krispie cakes with golden syrup, and chocolate?

Currently Kellogg's is partnering with professional football clubs up and down the country to offer 7 to 14-year-olds the chance to play in the footsteps of their heroes. With access to professional coaches, they will learn from the best. Purchase a promotional pack and claim your free day at an available football camp. What a super idea!

Available in the major supermarket chains.

Chez Maximka, Degustabox food box

PhD Smart Bar Milk Choc Hazelnut Flavour (£2.50) is a high protein low sugar bar. It has a soft centre, with a caramel layer and crispy soya pieces.

My older son loves protein bars, and enjoyed the PhD bar. 

Nutritional values: 22g of protein, 1.9g sugar, palm oil free, 245kcal per 60g bar.

Available at and

Chez Maximka, Degustabox food box

Swizzels Strawberry & Cream Squashies (£1.15) - your favourite sweets come in a summer-inspired flavour now. Delicious strawberry and cream make you think of English summers, Wimbledon and picnics in the garden.

My younger son put dibs on the pack, as he's doing his DofE event this week, and wants a sweet treat during the trip.

Available in major supermarket chains.

Chez Maximka, Degustabox food box

Mr Porky Crispy Strips (£1.25) has been the nation's favourite snack since 1960. This is a unique snack, and a winner in the Great Taste awards in 2019. 

They taste like pork scratchings, but with a bite to them, like crispy bacon rinds.

Nutritional values: 198kcal and 2.25g of salt per 35g serving.

Available in major supermarket chains.

Chez Maximka, Degustabox food box

Kettle Sweet Chilli & Sour Cream (£2.50) - if you like your chips spicy, these delicious crunchy snacks are perfectly seasoned with a blend of chilli and paprika and a cooler taste of sour cream.

At Kettle HQ in Norfolk, they cook their chips from British potatoes in small batches, so that a great crunch is guaranteed every time. Gluten free, vegetarian, hand cooked.

Typical values: 509kcal and 4.5g of sugar per 100g. 

Available in Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, ASDA.

Chez Maximka, Degustabox food box

Maldon Kalahari Desert Salt (£2.50) is a naturally coarse salt, harvested from the vast desert plains of the Kalahari.

You will always find a pack or two of Maldon salt in our kitchen. I use it for cooking, and also for creating intricate patterns while painting with inks and watercolour.

Kalahari salt is another exceptional salt selected by Maldon specialists.

Available on Amazon UK.

Chez Maximka, Degustabox food box

Sacla' UK Char-Grilled Aubergine & Roasted Garlic Pesto (£3.35) is inspired by an Italian dish Pasta alla Norma. This tasty pesto is made in Italy and reflects rich flavours of the Neapolitan cuisine.

Ingredients include char-grilled aubergines, sunflower seed oil, roasted garlic, sundried tomatoes, basil, cashew nuts, pine nuts and more.

Nutritional values: 339kcal and 1.2g of salt per 100g.

Available in Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose and online from Ocado and

Chez Maximka, Degustabox food box

Very Lazy Jerk Paste (£1.99, see above) is another excellent product from the Very Lazy range, which provides maximum flavour and minimum fuss.

It's a Caribbean cuisine inspired cooking paste made with onion, Scotch Bonnet chilli puree and Allspice among other ingredients. Great with chicken wings or roast vegetables with rice.

Available in Morrisons.

Batchelors Cook with Noodles Chicken Flavour (£2.25) is a handy pantry product for quick and easy meals. Cook a bowl of noodles in just 3 minutes. Add a selection of your favourite vegetables and perhaps a tablespoon of miso paste for a satisfying quick meal.

Nutritional values: 466kcal and 1.2g of salt per 300g portion as prepared; no artificial colours, low sugar.

Available in major supermarket chains.

Chez Maximka, Degustabox food box

Nescafe Azera Americano (£6.25) is a super premium barista-inspired instant coffee. 

Rich and smooth, this is a blend of instant coffee and finely ground roasted beans. If you enjoy coffee-based desserts, try Azera Americano as an ingredient in a luxurious Tiramisu.

Available in all major supermarket chains.

Chez Maximka, Degustabox food box

Frobishers Sicilian Lemonade Presse (£1.79) is a light and zesty soft drink, made with Sicilian lemon juice, lemon oil and juniper extract. It tastes like a summer in a glass, refreshing, tangy and tart, with delicate bubbles of fizz.

Nutritionals: 20.8kcal and 4.9g of sugar per 100ml.

Available in WHSmith and selected gastronomy.

Chez Maximka, Degustabox food box

What a great selection of foods and drinks! What product is your favourite in the latest boox?

Friday 31 May 2024

Under a Summer Skye by Sue Moorcroft ( review + #giveaway )


modern romance set on Skye

"These beautiful surroundings were her happy place, where she breathed the clear Skye air and relished the peace and serenity of the island".

Under a Summer Skye by Sue Moorcroft is a contemporary romance set on the Isle of Skye.


A Scottish island. A stranger from the mainland. A summer of possibilities...

Escape to the Isle of Skye this summer with the Sunday Times bestselling author, and lose yourself in the first book of the Skye Sisters Trilogy.

A chance encounter is about to change everything for Thea Wynter.

The moment she arrived on the Isle of Skye, life changed for Thea. Running from a succession of wrong turns, she comes to the island in search of blue sea, endless skies, and mountains that make the heart soar. Here, she feels at peace.

As head gardener at Rothach Hall, life is exactly how she wants it, with her days spent working in the glorious clifftop garden and her evenings in the cosy village pub.

But an encounter with a stranger from the mainland brings with it an unexpected turn - and she is left wondering whether he is friend or foe.

It seems that even on Skye, life can catch up with you, and Thea is soon faced with the past she left behind - and with it, the family she's never met...

From old lives to new beginnings, lose yourself on the beautiful Isle of Skye with Thea as she discovers how many possibilities life can truly hold if you look hard enough.

Thea Wynter works as a head gardener at Rothach Hall, an old manor on the Isle of Skye, rescued from falling into ruins by a successful couple. Thea enjoys her job, it makes her feel fulfilled. She also feels safe in the near-obscure environment, where nobody is aware of her past.

For the last eight years Thea has been hiding from the wide public after an accident that has shattered her world. 

Thea and her two sisters have been adopted into a loving family. There is a great bond between the sisters. One is a successful lawyer, another works as an assistant manager at Rothach Hall. 

Yet there is also a yearning gap in Thea's heart and mind. What is her true identity? What circumstances have brought her to be adopted?

A chance encounter with a handsome stranger seems to become a catalyst for a series of events that bring more questions than answers. And the past cannot stay hidden forever.

Deveron Dowie has his own skeletons in the closet. The recent dramatic events including the collapse of his business and a personal betrayal cloud his judgment and he accepts a rather questionable job,  writing commision pieces for the clickbait celebrity website on the "Where are they now?" series. Thea's story brings him to Rothach Hall. Meeting Thea makes Dev re-think his priorities.

Accepting that nobody is perfect might be one of the ways of moving forward. What do you do when everything that seems stable comes into question?

Ever since I first read a book set on the Isle of Skye (Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart) as a teen, I was fascinated by this unique location, and it has become one of my favourite fiction settings. 

Sue Moorcroft creates an evoctive, atmospheric setting for her latest novel. 

This is the sixth or seventh book by the author that I've read. I love Sue Moorcroft's depictions of nature and landscapes. She has a talent for creating a vivid scenery in just a few sentences, for example, "Above the road, rock crags punctuated slopes green with trees, white cottages with slate roofs half hidden in their midst. A sea eagle spread its wings and soared between pearly grey sculpted clouds lit on one side. It felt unreal, like being part of a landscape painting on a wall".

There are several themes going on: how we perceive ourselves based on our origins (or the lack of knowledge of our true origins), family loyalty and how far we're ready to sacrifice for the family allegiance, the dark side and mob-like power of social media trolls and more.

Thea has made a terrible mistake of judgment. Has she paid enough in anxiety, hiding from the truth? 

There is an abundance of supporting characters, which are drawn effortlessly and convincingly, from an elderly couple next door to the self-centred influencer Fredek.

The so called influencer character is a bit of a parody. They are mercenary, manipulative, scheming and totally oblivious to anyone else's feelings.

There's a couple of things that make this book a mixed bag for me. 

A. the dog's antics. It appears to be a trend in contemporary romance that the presence of a companion animal becomes a must. Sometimes it is integral as part of the plotline, sometimes it's used as a trope to show the sensitive side of the main character. And while some readers will be undoubtedly rolling their eyes at yet another dog that takes too much page-space in the story, for the canine fans this could be one of the major attractions.

B. There is a pretty graphic creative sex scene that might offend some readers. As I have a lot of blog readers from the States who prefer the so called clean romance, the frisky scenes might ruffle some feathers.

Under a Summer Skye is an uplifting and enjoyable story of secrets and lies, family loyalty and betrayal. Sue Moorcroft blends authentic location detail with emotional drama and plenty of light-hearted notes.

A lovely diversion for a holiday afternoon.

This post is part of the blog tour for Under a Summer Skye.

Many thanks to Sue Moorcroft and Rachel's Random Resources for my e-copy of the book!

Chez Maximka, books set on Isle of Skye


Purchase Links

Author Bio –

Sue Moorcroft is a Sunday Times bestselling author, and her novels have been #1 on Kindle UK and Top 100 on Kindle US, Canada and Italy. She writes two books a year for publishing giant HarperCollins and has won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Novel of the Year, Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award, a HOLT Medallion and the Katie Fforde Bursary. She’s the president of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Her novels, short stories, serials, columns, writing ‘how to’ and courses have appeared around the world.

book sets on Isle of Skye


Social Media Links –

Amazon page: Sue Moorcroft

Audible page: Sue Moorcroft


Facebook author page SueMoorcroftAuthor

Twitter: @SueMoorcroft

Instagram: @SueMoorcroftAuthor

And now here is your chance to win a signed copy of the book, Sue Moorcroft pen and bookmarks.


Giveaway to Win a Signed copy of Under A Summer Skye, plus Sue Moorcroft Pen and Bookmarks (Open to UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  

Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  

The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. 

If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. 

Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  

Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. 

This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  

Chez Maximka is hosting the Rafflecopter gadget for free for the pusposes of the book promotion. 

I have no access to the data collected, aI'm not responsible for the selection of the winner, despatch or delivery of the prize.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

books set on Isle of Skye

Monday 27 May 2024

A New Doctor at Orchard Cottage Hospital by Lizzie Lane


fiction set after WWI

"With grim determination, she marched out with her head held high, unsure of what might happen next but suddenly determined that she would win them all over, that as a woman she would take this job no matter what, a small act of defiance towards those who had belittled her. Whatever would be would be".

A New Doctor at Orchard Cottage Hospital by Lizzie Lane is a captivating historical novel, set in 1930.


A country town in need of a good Doctor, but will they accept her as one of their own?

Somerset, March 1930.

Born in the workhouse and adopted by a former suffragette, Frances Brakespeare was encouraged from an early age to be strong, independent and to pursue a career as a doctor. The tragic loss of the love of her life in the Great War propels Frances to commit to her one true vocation.

Rebelling against the unfair treatment of female doctors, Frances is dismissed from her London post and things continue to take a turn for the worse when Izzy, her benefactress dies and Frances finds herself homeless.

With no employment or roof over her head, her future seems uncertain until she's offered a residency at the Orchard Cottage Hospital in Norton Dene, Somerset, a town where quarrying and coal mining scar the land.

It is a far cry from London, and town's narrow minds are not so welcoming of a young, female Doctor, but she's determined to win through.

At first sight the town seems quaintly old-fashioned, a place where nothing much happens but there are secrets and sins bubbling beneath the surface plus a mystery she's determined to solve.

When Frances Brakespeare loses her job at St Aldelm Hospital, she finds herself in a quandary. Her situation is very precarious. Her adoptive mother, Miss Izzy, has died, and Frances becomes homeless.

Looking for professional positions in the paper, she comes across an adevtisement, "Resident Doctor required. Orchard Cottage Hospital, Norton Dene, Somerset. Duties to be wide ranging. Accommodation supplied. A basic stipend of three hundred and fifty guineas is payable."

This position would solve so many problems for Frances, were she employed as the local doctor. 

Norton Dene is a small community, and people are not used to an idea of a woman doctor. Not everyone is happy about the big changes. Frances meets quite an opposition, and has to navigate a lot of undercurrents which she cannot understand at first. Along the way, she makes new friends and comes up with great ideas for the hospital

Frances is passionate about her job, but she is lacking in diplomacy skills. While understandable that her feathers have been ruffled during the interview, she is ready to flounce out without trying to prove her point. She appears to be prickly and awkward, no wonder, the committee might see her as being problematic. 

There is a great gallery of supportive characters, each adding a realistic touch to the story. 

Take Miss Izzy, a former suffragette, who pours all her love and stalled ambitions into raising her adopted daughter. Living through the great injustice and heartache, she has high hopes for Frances. Encouraging her to be independent, in a way Izzy lives her own life through her daughter's, at times being resentful and even hostile when she thinks Frances is making a mistake. 

The novel has strong female protagonists from different social backgrounds and age groups. 

The Norton Dene womenfolk, Lucy, Nancy, Ma Skittings, the formidable Lady Araminta Compton-Dixon, chairman of the hospital trust - their personal stories portray the challenges women faced in-between the wars.

This is the first book by Lizzie Lane that I've read, and I'm happy to discover this new historical series. This is a character-driven historical fiction, a tale of loss and courage, professional challenges and fulfilment.

Loved the story setting, it gave me the vibes of Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman (TV series that I used to watch in the 1990s).Though the setting is different (both the historical period and country), it also addresses the issue of gender, and the obstacles professional women faced in the male-dominant world. Both doctors are strong characters, who need to fight againts prejudices.

A New Doctor at Orchard Cottage Hospital is a beautiful evocative story, full of secrets and emotions, with a likeable protagonist and lashings of romance to come. Utterly compelling.

This post is part of the blog tour for A New Doctor at Orchard Cottage Hospital.

 Many thanks to Lizzie Lane, Boldwood Books and Rachel's Random Resources for my e-copy of the book!

Chez Maximka, historical saga

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Lizzie Lane was born and brought up in one of the toughest areas of Bristol, as the eldest of three siblings. Her mother, who had endured both the depression and war years, was a natural born storyteller, and it's from her telling of actual experiences of the tumultuous first half of the twentieth century that Lizzie gets her inspiration. Lizzie now lives in Bath, preferring to lead a simple life where she can write without interruption.

historical saga


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historical fiction set after WWI

Wednesday 22 May 2024

Whispers Through the Canvas by K.J. McGillick (guest post)


time travel fiction

I'm delighted to welcome K.J. McGillick to my blog today.

Whispers Through The Canvas

Murder... Across The Fractured Corridors of Time.

Plunged into a centuries-old conspiracy, unconventional art historian Rowan Southeil must race against time to stop an ancient evil from rewriting history. When a young artist is murdered in a chilling echo of medieval violence, Rowan finds herself drawn to a seemingly unrelated clue - a 16th-century painting drenched in arcane symbols. Aided by the victim's haunting presence, Rowan delves into the painting's mysterious past, uncovering a dark conspiracy that stretches back generations.

Teaming up with the pragmatic Detective Lancaster, the intuitive Rowan follows a daring journey through time, from the storied halls of 16th-century Tudor London to the secretive 17th-century Vatican. As she awakens powerful elemental forces within herself, Rowan must decipher the painting's secrets - and the connection to the medieval-style murder - before Lev Rubilov, a dark centuries-old occultist, can harness its magic to rewrite history and restore a twisted vision of the past.

For fans of genre-blending thrillers like A Discovery of Witches and Outlander, this captivating novel weaves together mystery, the supernatural, and high-stakes time travel in a race against the clock to stop an ancient evil. Whispers Through The Canvas is a crime story, filled with action and adventure, within a historical fantasy milieu. If you love kick-ass heroines who have a bit of life experience and walk on the wild side of magic, this book is for you.

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Author Bio –

From the bustling courtrooms of Atlanta to the vibrant tapestry of 16th-century England, Kathleen McGillick's life and career have been a captivating blend of legal expertise, artistic passion, and a thirst for adventure.

Fueled by an undergraduate and graduate degree in nursing, Kathleen built a foundation of compassion and care. This dedication to service later led her to pursue a Juris Doctorate, allowing her to navigate the intricacies of the legal system for nearly three decades. Her courtroom experience now breathes life into the intricate details of her legal thrillers, ensuring every courtroom scene crackles with authenticity.

But Kathleen's story doesn't end there. A deep fascination with art history led her to delve into the world of renowned artists and captivating eras. Her particular passion for 16th-century British history allows her to transport readers to richly detailed historical settings, immersing them in the culture, politics, and societal nuances of the time.

Driven by an unwavering dedication to her craft, Kathleen has independently published eleven legal thrillers since 2018. Her commitment extends beyond solo creation, as she actively engages with the writing community, honing her skills through workshops and courses led by renowned authors.

And when she's not crafting captivating narratives, Kathleen embarks on international journeys, soaking in diverse cultures and experiences that further enrich her writing. This global perspective adds another layer of depth and realism to her stories, allowing readers to connect with characters and settings that transcend geographical boundaries.

To delve deeper into Kathleen's world and explore her captivating legal thrillers, visit her website at


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time travel fiction

A Sublime Synthesis: Magic and 16th Century England (guest post by K.J. McGillick )

Ever since I could remember, I've been drawn to tales of wizards, witches, and the mysterious unknown. At the same time, the rich tapestry of 16th century English history has long entranced me with its clashing ideologies, monumental events, and legendary figures. For me, there could be no more sublime synthesis than wedding magic with the vibrant, transitional era of the 1500s in England.

It was a bewitching period when the medieval firmly intersected with the Renaissance - superstition coexisting with empirical inquiry, ancient folklore clashing with humanist rationality. In many ways, the 16th century marked the peak of Western civilization's obsession with all things occult and esoteric. The revival of Hermeticism, Kabbalah, and neo-Platonic magic spurred the likes of John Dee and other learned men to obsessively study the arcane. Debates raged between proponents of white versus black magic, angel versus demonic conjuring.

Yet even as so-called "high magic" entranced the intelligentsia and court nobility, faerie faiths and rustic traditions maintained a stronghold in the popular imagination. One can envision villagers whispering of witches blighting crops, dances with the fey folk under the full moon, or rituals to summon familiars at the dead of night. The very same circles where genteel pursuits of alchemy and astrology were practiced also fostered a deep paranoia of the diabolical other.

Simultaneously, the Protestant Reformation's rejection of Catholic doctrine opened the door for a renewed persecution of those mystics accused of witchcraft - the "cunning folk," wise women, and crones. Upheaval reigned as a Renaissance lust for scientific knowledge collided with deep-rooted pagan traditions. Witch trials and moral panics gripped town after town in their furor.

With its potent, romanticized backdrop of swirling cosmic mysteries and earthly religious conflicts, there is arguably no richer crucible to blend magic and history than 16th century England. Here was an era when the roots of our modern world first manifested, yet a society still equally obsessed with reasoned enlightenment and the alluring, unseen supernatural.

From the lofty towers of learned occult philosophers to the damp, earthen hovels of the rustic wise woman, magic in all its forms infused every stratum of 16th century English life and culture. The era birthed the very notion of the "wise man" or "cunning man" - a renaissance mage straddling medicine and the arcane. Such storied figures as Thomas Allen, John Selman, and Mother Shipton were either revered or reviled for their alleged command of preternatural powers.

In the synthesis of magic and the vibrant tapestry of 16th-century England, we discover a profound reflection of the human condition. Through the lens of history, we uncover echoes of our own struggles with faith, reason, and the unknown. In this sublime fusion, we find not only a window into the past but also a mirror reflecting our deepest desires and fears.

My new book Whispers Through The Canvas blends all my genre loves: Mystery, Magical Realism, Historical Fantasy, and Time Travel.

time travel fiction