Book reviews, Extract

Warbringer by Aaron Hodges – *EXTRACT*

 

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Welcome to the Bookwormery and I’m pleased to be taking part in the blog blitz for Warbringer by Aaron Hodges…  and to bring you an extract……

 

Here’s a little about Warbringer and the extract will follow …

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PUBLISHERS BLURB 

 

Warbringer

 

Centuries ago, the world fell.

From the ashes rose a terrible new species—the Tangata.

Now they wage war against the kingdoms of man.

And humanity is losing.

Recruited straight from his academy, twenty-year-old Lukys hopes the frontier will make a soldier out of him. But Tangata are massing in the south, and the allied armies are desperate. They will do anything to halt the enemy advance—including sending untrained men and women into battle. 

Determined to survive, Lukys seeks aid from the only man who seems to care: Romaine, the last warrior of an extinct kingdom.

Meanwhile, the Queen’s Archivist leads an expedition deep beneath the earth. She seeks to uncover the secrets of the Gods. Their magic has been lost to the ages, yet artifacts remain, objects of power that could turn the tide of the war. But salvation is not all that waits beneath the surface. Something else slumbers in the darkness. Something old. Something evil.

Thank you to Rachel’s Random Resources for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour, for the promotional material and the extract to share.

 

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08653PM1L/

US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08653PM1L/

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

 

Aaron Hodges was born in 1989 in the small town of Whakatane, New Zealand. He studied for five years at the University of Auckland, completing a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology and Geography, and a Masters of Environmental Engineering. After working as an environmental consultant for two years, he grew tired of office work and decided to quit his job and explore the world. During his travels he picked up an old draft of a novel he once wrote in High School (titled The Sword of Light) and began to rewrite the story. Six months later he published his first novel, Stormwielder, and hasn’t looked back since.

http://www.aaronhodges.co.nz/

https://www.facebook.com/Aaron-Hodges-669480156486208/

 

EXTRACT

 

Lukys sat back on his haunches. Around him, the world was on fire. Winds blew from across the river, catching in the hay below the walls and sending flaming strands swirling through the air. Acrid smoke stung his nostrils as he inhaled, and his throat burned. Terror robbed him of strength.

 

He drew on what final dredges of courage remained to him. Clasping at his fallen spear, he forced himself up—and found himself staring into the stony eyes of the beast.

 

It stood just a yard away, close enough that it could have reached out and snapped his neck at any moment. It didn’t. Wrinkles creased its forehead as it watched him. The spear shook in Lukys’s hand as he realised this was his chance.

 

But even as he tightened his grip on the weapon, the Tangata tensed, its features closing over. A smile twisted its lips, revealing yellowed teeth.

 

Death, death, death.

 

Laughter sounded in Lukys’s ears and the beast raised a hand, gesturing him forward.

 

Screaming, Lukys leapt, spear held at the ready. He knew he could not win, that this was the end, but in that moment he didn’t care. All that mattered was the spear in his hands and the beast.

 

The tip of his spear flashed out, aimed clumsily for the creature’s stomach. The Tangata was quicker, its hand swiping down, catching his weapon by the haft and snapping it in two with a quick wrench.

 

Lukys staggered back, half of his now useless weapon still clutched to his chest. The tip of Lukys’s spear clasped in one hand, the Tangata advanced.

 

A cry escaped Lukys as his boots failed to find purchase in the mud. He crashed to the ground, broken spear tumbling from his fingers. Mouth wide in terror, he looked up, expecting to see death descending upon him.

 

A warrior stood between Lukys and the Tangata, twin-bladed axe extended towards the beast. The weapon rippled in the firelight as it swept out. The Tangata leapt away, twisting from the path of the blade, but even with its superhuman speed, it could not avoid the blow completely.

A shriek rent the air as the axe sliced the creature’s thigh. Blood pulsed from the wound as it staggered. Lukys was surprised to see it bled red. Despite their distinctly human appearance, surely the monsters could not be the same within?

 

Pain contorted the Tangata’s face as it faced the axeman. Then a change seemed to come over the creature, a wave of pure rage sweeping away its agony. Its eyes flashed and it rushed forward—now in total silence.

 

The axeman did not retreat from its fury. He charged with a shout, words lost in the chaos, massive shoulders sending the axe flashing for the Tangata. Somehow, the creature seemed sluggish by comparison. Perhaps the wound had slowed it. Regardless, it realised its mistake too late, and with a sickening thud, the axe slammed into its shoulder, slicing through bone and sinew to bury itself in the beast’s chest.

 

An awful gurgling came from the Tangata as it struggled to step forward, to reach the enemy that had slain it. But not even these creatures could survive such a blow, and with a sharp whistle of departing air, it slumped to its knees and fell alongside Lukys.

 

The warrior towered over the beast. His shoulders heaved as blue eyes scanned the ramparts, seeking out signs of fresh danger. Another Tangata lay nearby, its body peppered with arrows and impaled by several spears. In the distance, the sounds of battle were fading, an eerie stillness coming over the night.

 

The battle was won.

 

Looking up at the massive axeman, Lukys could hardly believe he was alive. If not for the ferocious warrior, he wouldn’t be. Only now did he notice the man did not wear the familiar red of Flumeer, nor the blue of Perfugia. Instead, his chainmail had been woven through with the deepest green, remnant of the forest.

 

Calafe.

 

He hadn’t realised there were any Calafe warriors left. They had passed the refugee camps outside Mildeth, but it was said that the last of their soldiers had refused to leave their land, and had died on the shores of the Illmoor. What did this man fight for now, with his kingdom overcome?

 

“Need some help?”

 

Lukys started as the man spoke, dragging him from his thoughts. Seeing the hand the warrior was extending, he took it. His slender fingers were ingulfed by the warrior’s giant mitts and he was yanked to his feet. Lukys stumbled before righting himself, his gaze catching on the body of the Tangata once more. The blood had stopped flowing from the awful wound the man’s axe had left.

 

It almost killed me.

Before he could stop himself, Lukys was bent in two and retching in the mud.

Gentle laughter came from beside him. “First battle?”

 

Gasping, Lukys managed a nod.

 

“You’ll get used to it,” the warrior grunted.

 

With that, he took a hold of his axe. Placing a boot on the Tangata’s chest, he yanked the weapon free with a sickening squelch, then turned and walked away along the ramparts.

Lukys watched him go, a reply on his lips, though he couldn’t bring himself to say it. The warrior was wrong. He would never get used to this. He would never get the chance.

 

He’d be dead long before then. 

Book reviews, Extract, Thriller

No One Will Hear Your Screams by Thomas O’Callaghan – * EXCERPT*

Here’s an excerpt from the suspense thriller No One Will Hear Your Screams by Thomas O’Callaghan ( my review will follow in a day or so)….

 

Excerpted from No One Will Hear Your Screams. Copyright © 2020 by Thomas

 

O’Callaghan. All rights reserved. Published by WildBlue Press.

Pearsol opened the mortuary cooler and pulled out the stainless steel tray supporting the victim. “Lieutenant, meet Jane Doe,” he said sliding the woman’s bloated body under Driscoll’s gaze. “Harbor Patrol fished her out of the muck.  I’d say she was a feast for the gulls for a day. Maybe two.”
“What’s that smell?  Paint thinner?”
“Phenol.”  
“She was doused in phenol?”
“Injected.”
Driscoll’s eyes narrowed.
“The complete autopsy will fill in the blanks, but I’d bet my pension I already know what killed her.  The who, and the why, I’ll leave to you.”  Pearsol handed the preliminary lab report to Driscoll.  It identifies a mixture of substances inside her vascular system.  
“Phenol, formaldehyde and Chloride of Zinc?”  Driscoll looked perplexed. 
“The same Chloride of Zinc they put in dry cell batteries?” 
Pearsol nodded. “There’s three more.”
“Myrrh, aloe and cassia,” Driscoll read aloud.  “That’s a strange mix.”  He glanced at Pearsol, who nodded.  “Says here you drained 851 milliliters from her circulatory system.  What’s that?  About two pints?”
“Just under.”
“A body contains five to six quarts of blood.  So the rest of this mixture?”
“Still in her.”     
Using his finger, Driscoll pushed back a lock of the victim’s hair. “What could you have done to warrant this?” he whispered, eyes on the corpse.
 
“Right now the unofficial cause of death is phenol poisoning by arterial injection.  Familiar with the German word, ‘abgespritzt’, Lieutenant?”
“No.”
“Abgespritzt was a method of genocide favored by the Nazis in the early 1940s.  Hitler’s henchmen delivered instantaneous death by injecting 15 milliliters of phenol directly into the heart.”
“What kind of syringe injects six quarts?”  
“More than likely he used a centrifugal pump.  And he knew what he was doing.” Pearsol pointed to the side of the victim’s neck, where a semi- translucent latex adhesive covered a two inch stretch of rippled flesh between the carotid artery and the jugular vein.  “An extreme method of murder, Lieutenant.  He arterially embalmed her.”
Driscoll winced.               
“There’s more.”  The M.E. produced a transparent evidence bag containing a locket.  It was an inch in diameter and featured Saint Vitalis of Gaza; his name etched in a half circle below his likeness.  “I found it under her tongue.  Someone apparently placed it there before suturing the tongue to the floor of her mouth.”
“What’s that about?” Driscoll wondered aloud.
“Good question.  I’m not familiar with that saint.  You?”
“She‘s the patron saint of prostitutes.”
“Well, there’s a lead.  Oh, and there’s one other bit of information you’re sure to find intriguing.  The myrrh, aloe, and cassia injected with the embalming fluid were once embalming solutions on their own.  Sort of.”
“Sort of?”
“They were the purifying fragrances applied to the linens that wrapped the crucified Christ before he was laid in his tomb.”

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About the Author:
Thomas O’Callaghan’s work has been translated for publication in Germany, Slovakia, Indonesia, the Czech Republic, China, and Italy. As an internationally acclaimed author, Mr. O’Callaghan is a member of both the Mystery Writers of America and the International Thriller Writers associations. A native of New York City and a graduate of Richmond College, Mr. O’Callaghan resides with his lovely wife, Eileen, a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean in beautiful Belle Harbor, New York. 
His debut novel BONE THIEF introduces NYPD Homicide Commander Lieutenant John W. Driscoll. THE SCREAMING ROOM is the second in the John Driscoll series. The third book in the series, NO ONE WILL HEAR YOUR SCREAMS, is now available from WildBlue Press. For more information, please visit https://thomasocallaghan.com

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Book reviews, Extract

Act Of Deception by John Bishop M.D -*EXTRACT*…

I’m pleased to share an extract of John Bishop MD’s latest Doc Brady Mystery series…Act Of Deception.

 

 


Act of Deception: A Doc Brady Mystery

by John Bishop, MD

 

Excerpted from Act of Deception: A Doc Brady Mystery. Copyright © 2020 by John Bishop. All rights reserved. Published by Mantid Press.

Chapter 1

Friday, August 25, 1995

I awoke that Friday morning in a serious sweat, the kind that is not immediately relieved by rising and washing one’s face with cold water. I noted that the clock in the bathroom read 4:38, twenty-two minutes before my designated alarm setting. After staring at the clock for a minute, maybe two, I felt my right radial pulse. The accelerated throbbing confirmed that tachycardia was still my predominant rhythm. I decided to attend to ritualistic morning bathroom chores, make coffee, read the paper, and at least try to pretend that it was a normal Friday morning.

Upon completion of the bathroom routine, as quietly as possible, I punched in the five-digit alarm code and started to leave the bedroom to go downstairs. Unfortunately, even the sound of punching in the numbers was unduly shrill, and it caused Mary Louise, my bride of twenty-four years, to stir.

“Jim Bob?”

“Yes?”

“It’s not even five yet. Why are you up?”

“Couldn’t sleep. Woke up with the sweats again. Sorry to wake you. I thought I’d go downstairs, make some coffee, and sit outside and think for a while. Okay?”

“Want some company?”

Normally, I would never turn down such an offer. I loved my wife dearly. She was, in fact, my best friend. That particular morning, however, I responded in the negative.

“I don’t want to hurt your feelings, sweetie, but this is just one of those times I need to collect my thoughts. Know what I mean?”

“I do. I’m sorry you’re having to go through all this. It isn’t fair. After all you’ve done for everybody else. I know in my heart it will be all right, just maybe not today. Try not to get too upset. Promise?”

“I’ll do my best.” I leaned down and kissed her warm cheek. She smelled so good, I considered taking off my robe and getting back into bed. I finally chose not to. “Go back to sleep. I’m not leaving until about eight o’clock.”

 

I left her reluctantly and plodded downstairs barefooted, in my cotton robe, with lights still off, toward coffee heaven. I selected Twin Peaks Blend coffee beans, which we kept in the freezer to avoid staleness, ground them, and began the ten-minute process to achieve as perfect a cup of coffee as I could make. I waited on the back porch in my “spot,” a large white cane rocker. The month of August was a stifling time of year in Houston, even at that hour of the morning. The heat and humidity were almost unbearable during July, August, and early September. I turned on the outdoor ceiling fan that hovered above my chair and hoped it would make the weather more pleasant. It didn’t.

 

I considered my life that morning. I, Dr. James Robert Brady, who had done my best to be a compassionate and dedicated orthopedic surgeon for the past seventeen years, was being sued for medical malpractice. I was not a neophyte when it came to lawsuits. I had been sued twice before, not an unusual occurrence in a city of four million people, with far too many law school graduates sitting in their quiet offices with nothing to do. The other two suits were quite minor and did not linger but were dismissed rather quickly, meaning over a year-or-two period. The current lawsuit, the cause of my awakening before five with the sweats and intense gastrointestinal distress, had not been dismissed.

 

I stepped back inside to the relatively cool air, although during August even the air-conditioning system labored heavily. I poured my coffee into a large black mug with a removable top that allowed intermittent filling of the cup but twisted on securely so as not to spill during the drive to work. While I wasn’t yet ready to leave, I used the “to go” cup anyway, being a creature of habit, a trait inherited from my dear departed father, and one which drove even me to distraction on occasion.

 

I returned to the French door to head back to the humidity and spotted Cat perched on the back doorstep, peering through the lowest windowpane, awaiting her breakfast. I sipped my coffee and prepared her Prime Feast in a disposable dish, probably not recyclable because I am sure it isn’t possible to remove the smell of mixed seafood, no matter what treatment is available at the nearest recycling plant.

Strolling to the door, feast in hand, I greeted the discriminating feline. “Morning, Cat. I have your breakfast.”

 

No response. Just a simple twitch of the sensitive nose. There was no tail- wagging or jumping on my bare leg to greet me, sure signs that man’s best friend loved you and missed you. Rather, Cat simply did what she did best. She remained aloof and distinctly noncommittal. I bent down, sat her dish on the patterned concrete deck, and stroked her damp fur as she sampled my selection. She did give me a brief look of gratitude, then resumed her nibbling. I returned to my chair and continued to assess my life and its worth.

 

I was most critical of self that morning, pondering the effects of aging on a once-athletic physique. While Mary Louise considered me to be a handsome specimen, I lamented my shrinkage from six feet plus one inch to slightly less than the “manly” six feet. I continued to disguise my shortening by wearing Western boots, and only on weekends did I allow myself the comfort of high-topped athletic shoes—not that I used them for athletics.

 

I remembered my previously full head of hair that had slowly thinned, especially at the front, to allow for enlargement of my forehead while a balding spot was created on the crown of my head. My sideburns were a little long and gray and transitioned to brown at an always-increasing distance from the top of my ears. I criticized the extra minute I spent every morning to carefully position my combed-straight-back locks over that bare spot I had grown to hate.

 

I had begun to study myself each morning before showering to confirm that I indeed resembled Alfalfa of Little Rascals fame, with thin wisps of hair sticking straight up toward the heavens. I then reminded myself of my need to wear bifocals and of my need to start a workout program to slim my waist from its size 38—although I had noticed lately that the cleaners had been shrinking my best jeans.

I tried to take comfort in Mary Louise’s love of what she called my “charming cleft chin” and “captivating smile” but was unsuccessful. I felt old that morning, which, along with words like useless, worthless, out-of-shape, and four-eyed, drove me to an even fouler mood than when I awoke to cold sweats and the dreaded digestive-tract blues.

 

By six o’clock I was sweating again, that time from drinking an entire pot of coffee and from the oppressive heat that had already risen to a sultry 80 degrees with the humidity at drip level. I threw off my robe and dove into the pool, taking care to avoid a cervical spine injury in the four-foot-deep water. It did cool me off temporarily, so after two laps I simply stood in the healing waters, naturally, in the buff. As I reminisced over the treatment of the patient that had decided to sue me, the back door of the house opened and the Tipster bounded outside. He saw me in the pool and almost dove in with me. Fortunately, I was able to hold him back while I ruffled his shaggy mane and scratched his ears. At least he was glad to see me and acted as though we had been apart for years, not just the six hours since we had bid him good night.

 

His official title was “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too,” a typical name given by a particular breeder who prized his full-blooded intelligent golden retrievers. But “Tip,” “Tipper,” or “the Tipster,” as Mary Louise intermittently called him, had failed the IQ test for well-bred dogs and was lovingly given to me by that grateful patient, who had many more golden retrievers than insurance dollars.

 

Tip had been presented to me in the office five months previously at the end of the day as a surprise. The man didn’t ask me if I wanted a dog, but simply showed up at my office with a large, overly friendly seven-month-old golden retriever puppy. I still suspected that Fran and Rae, my faithful office staff, had somehow conspired with my darling wife to bring some new joy into my life. At the time, I was highly skeptical and hoped to rid myself of the constantly-shedding beast who had disrupted our lives. Over the next few months, however, I had grown to love, without restraint, this large, adorable dog, whose only faults were that he was too much a friend to strangers and a poor fetcher of dead birds. Neither flaw bothered me. I didn’t hunt much anymore, and we rarely had anyone to the house that I despised. Besides, considering we had yet to be burglarized, the Tipster’s camaraderie with those stealers of one’s things was an untested character defect.

 

My mood improved significantly after seeing Tip, and I watched with interest as he bounded over to greet Cat with a friendly good morning. He had attempted to make Cat his new best friend every day since his arrival at our abode but had been miserably unsuccessful. Cat’s reaction to his energetic playfulness was to leap gracefully into the rocking chair next to mine, back herself up as far as possible to the rear of the chair, and wait. When Tip happily padded over to see her and put his whole head onto the seat of the chair, she would strike out at his sensitive nose with one of her front paws, prompting an episode of howling. For five months, this scenario had occurred each and every time the two animals had a backyard encounter. I believed that Cat had become bored with the whole routine and had actually become embarrassed at what seemed to be the retriever’s inability to learn. “Tip? Be careful over there. She scratches your nose every day! It’s so raw, you almost need stitches.”

 

I obviously had lost my mind. I was talking to the dog as though he understood my every word. Just before pushing his fat head into the seat of the chair to smell the gray bundle of fur, though, he turned his head toward me and perked up his ears. I didn’t know if he had actually understood what I had said or simply had forgotten that I was in the pool, since he had wandered into the bushes to relieve himself before approaching Cat. He stared at me for a moment, seemed to consider what I had said, then pushed his tender, scarred nose toward the she-beast, and . . . I couldn’t believe it! She didn’t hurt him! He licked her fur, and Cat just stood there. I guessed she finally decided that Tip was harmless and just wanted to play. She might have also figured out that a large dog like that could be an impressive ally when trying to ward off neighborhood cats who strayed into her domain looking for a free meal.

And so it was that on that hot, steamy morning in August, my cat and dog became friends. I thought that maybe Mary Louise was right, having told me repeatedly that everything would be okay. Alas, that small, backyard miracle was the only one I witnessed for a while.

 

About the Author:

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John Bishop MD is the author of Act of Deception: A Doc Brady Mystery.

Dr. Bishop has practiced orthopedic surgery in Houston, Texas, for 30 years. His Doc Brady medical thriller series is set in the changing environment of medicine in the 1990s. Drawing on his years of experience as a practicing surgeon, Bishop entertains readers using his unique insights into the medical world with all its challenges, intricacies, and complexities, while at the same time revealing the compassion and dedication of health care professionals. Dr. Bishop and his wife, Joan, reside in the Texas Hill Country. For more information, please visit https://johnbishopauthor.com

 

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Book reviews, Extract

The Beauty Chorus by Kate Lord Brown -* EXTRACT*

Welcome to the blog tour for the marvellous The Beauty Chorus by Kate Lord Brown. I’m excited to share an extract from the book, but first a little about the novel.

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PUBLISHERS BLURB

New Year’s Eve 1940: Evie Chase, the beautiful debutante daughter of an RAF commander, listens wistfully to the swing music drifting out from the ballroom. With bombs falling nightly in London, she is determined to make a difference to the war effort.  Evie joins the ATA – the civilian pilots who ferry fighter planes to bases across war-torn Britain. Two other women wait nervously to join up with her – Stella Grainger, a forlorn young mother from Singapore, and Megan Jones, an idealistic teenager who has never left her Welsh village before.  Billeted together in a tiny cottage, Stella, Megan and Evie learn to live and work together as they find romance, confront loss and forge friendships that last a lifetime.

 

Kate Lord Brown grew up in a wild and beautiful part of Devon. She read Philosophy at Durham and Art History at the Courtauld Institute and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, curating collections for palaces and embassies in Europe and the Middle East. Kate has travelled and lived around the world with her airline pilot husband and gained a MA in creative writing from the Manchester Writing School MMU. She was a finalist in the ITV People’s Author contest 2009, and her international bestseller The Perfume Garden was shortlisted for the UK Romantic Novel of the Year 2014. Kate currently lives in the Middle East with her family, and she was a regional winner in this year’s BBC International Radio Playwriting Competition.

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and now here’s the extract…

 

THE EXTRACT

 


Squires Gate, 11.39 a.m., Sunday 5th January, 1941

I have four and a half hours to live. I am leaning against the wing of the yellow-bellied Airspeed Oxford, smoking contentedly while the ground crew chaps run their final checks. The freezing rain hisses as it hits the glowing coal of my cigarette, drums softly on the tin roof of the hangar. Call me Johnnie, by the way. Everyone does.

There is no changing fate, but when I look back at my last moments on earth I want to rush through the molecules of my body and shake off my reverie: I want to yell ‘Wake up, you silly bugger, make the most of this! This is the last time you will feel the rain on your face, the ground beneath your feet.’ But I didn’t believe in premonitions and guardian angels so I doubt I would sense anything. Now I know better.

The flight to the RAF base at Kidlington in Oxfordshire should have been simple enough – ninety minutes at most. What I did with my last hours is a mystery. The journey is a government secret still. Maybe I’ll tell you why I died 100 miles off course, maybe I won’t. Why don’t you make up your own mind?

 

WINTER

 

Ten, nine, eight …’ Swing music and laughter from the party drifted out through the open door to Evie. As she walked down the long moonlit driveway to her father’s house, snowflakes caught on her eyelashes. Her footsteps on the frozen gravel fell into time with the big-band tune bubbling into the chill midnight air and she sang under her breath: ‘How High the Moon …’ The Bentleys and Rolls Royces parked along the drive had a light coating of snow on them already, and in spite of her white fur coat she shivered with cold, her feet frozen in her silver eveningshoes.

‘Miss Evelyn!’ The butler stepped forward to catch her mink coat as it slipped from her shoulders. As the staff door swung closed, Evie caught sight of the grey-uniformed chauffeurs smoking and chatting, one with the pink-cheeked housemaid on his knee sipping Guinness. ‘Your father has been asking for you,’ the butler said as she shook the snow from her glossy dark hair.

‘Has he, Ross?’ She smoothed her pale silver satin Schiaparelli gown, and raised her chin defiantly as a cheer went up.

‘1941!’ Leo ‘Lucky’ Chase cried out, one arm raising a glass of champagne, the other clutching Virginia, his latest wife.

‘I’m amazed he even noticed I’d gone.’ Evie nodded her thanks to Ross. She touched up her red lipstick in the hall mirror then twisted her shoulder to adjust the long rope of diamonds that fell from her throat to the deep curved back of the dress. She glanced down at the hem of her gown and noticed for the first time how wet it was from trudging through the snow. ‘In for a penny …’ she murmured.

Instead of going in to the party, Evie walked on across the marble hall. Heads turned as she passed, the silver dress rippling over her curves like mercury. She flung open the terrace windows and slipped off her shoes, swinging them nonchalantly in one hand. She dropped them at the edge of the steaming, heated pool. Leo liked it to be warm all year. A crowd gathered on the terrace as Evie executed a perfect dive, her body streaking underwater like a silver fish before surfacing at the other end. A cheer greeted her as she stepped elegantly up from the pool, squeezing the water from her hair.

‘Evie! You’re bonkers!’ A young officer in uniform planted a kiss on her cheek and draped a blanket around her shoulders. ‘Happy New Year!’

‘Hello, Peter.’ She slipped her arm through his.

‘Come on, let’s get you inside before you catch your death.’

He led her around the packed dance floor to the bar. People smiled indulgently as she passed – you could always count on Evie to make an entrance.

‘Where have you been all night?’

A drunken girl in a pale blue bias-cut gown giggled as Peter handed Evie a brandy.

‘I went to see Mary, Charles’s mother.’

Evie put the glass on the mantelpiece and warmed her toes by the fire. Somehow she managed to make even a blanket look like an elegant wrap.

‘How is she?’ The smile fell from Peter’s face as Evie pursed her lips and shrugged. ‘Jolly decent of you to go out tonight.’

‘I didn’t like to think of her alone. She looked so awfully sad on Boxing Day.’

‘Of all of us, I thought Charlie would make it through,’ Peter said quietly. ‘He was so full of life. I’ll never forget the two of you bombing down that black run in Chamonix. You were determined to beat him.’

Evie shook her head. ‘He was like a brother to me. You never can tell which one of us is going to get bumped off next.’

‘Evie!’ Leo cut through the crowd towards her. He barely cleared five feet, but he was a dynamo of a man and whenever he bore down on her Evie pictured a missile skimming through water. Without her heels their gazes locked, eye to eye. He eyed her wet, clinging dress with exasperation.

She held up a hand. ‘Before you start, I went to see Mary.’

Nonplussed, he thought quickly.‘She’s only in the next village. What took so long?’

‘I ran out of petrol.’

‘Not again! How many times have I told you?’

‘Daddy, I can’t get used to this rationing … I thought I had enough left.’

‘You can’t drive on fumes! Especially not at the speed you drive. Where’s the Aston?’

‘On the verge between here and White Waltham.’ He frowned. ‘I’ll send Cullen in the morning.’ ‘Sorry, Daddy.’ Evie bit her lip.

‘What am I going to do with you?’ As Leo embraced her, Evie saw the scowl on Virginia’s face and raised a triumphant eyebrow. ‘Happy New Year.’ She planted a quick kiss on his cheek before he bustled back into the party. Her father’s cocksure, springing step reminded her of a Jack Russell out on the razzle, up to no good.

‘I don’t know how you do it.’ Peter shook his head.

Evie watched her father in his element, surrounded by friends

and hangers-on, and that old familiar loneliness crept in. ‘Years of practice. So,’ she said briskly, ‘what have I missed?’

‘It’s been marvellous!’ the drunken girl trilled. ‘Lucky always throws the most wonderful parties. Tonight you’d never know there was a war on!’ A young soldier grabbed her hand and pulled her onto the dance floor as the big band struck up ‘In the Mood’.

7

Evie shook her head. ‘Silly girl.’

‘Come on old thing!’ Peter laughed. ‘You’re only twenty yourself! Have some fun.’

She shook her head. ‘No. I’m tired of …’ She waved her hand. ‘All this. Talking to Mary tonight, I felt I must do something. Even the Countess of Wharncliffe is running a bomb factory, and I heard the Duchess of Norfolk is breeding rabbits.’

‘What do you know about bombs and rabbits?’

‘Nothing, but I could learn.’ Evie frowned.

Peter tilted his head, gently took her in his arms. ‘Don’t be blue. Charlie …’ He sighed. ‘It’s just awful bad luck, but if we let every death get to us, we’ll never win this bloody war. We’ve got to be strong.’ His voice shook slightly. ‘Besides which, this is my last night of freedom, and I at least deserve to have some fun.’

‘I’m sorry, Peter.’ Evie shivered as she pulled the blanket around her. ‘I’d forgotten. When are you leaving?’

‘I have to be at Debden first thing.’

‘When I see all you chaps going off to fly, I wish—’

‘You’re a more natural pilot than I’ll ever be!’ Peter cut in. His gaze settled on a table of men in uniform on the other side of the dance floor. ‘Are you serious?’

‘About what?’

‘Doing something useful.’

‘Absolutely!’

‘Come on then.’ He took her arm and steered her through the crowd, stopping at the table. ‘Excuse me, sir.’ He leant down to talk to the distinguished-looking grey-haired officer smoking a pipe. ‘Squadron Leader Peter Taylor.’

The officer stood and shook his hand. ‘Pleased to meet you.’ He turned to Evie. ‘And this lovely young lady is Miss Chase, if I am not mistaken?’ He kissed her hand.

‘Evie, this is Captain Eric Bailey.’

‘But you can call me Badger, everyone does.’ He smiled as he smoothed the white streak in his hair. ‘At least behind my back.’

‘Miss Chase is a pilot, sir,’ Peter said. 

Bailey eyed her wet dress. ‘Really? I’d have had you down as a sailor.’

‘Most amusing, sir.’

‘How many hours have you got?’ Bailey sucked at his pipe. ‘Oh, not—’ Evie’s eyes opened wide.

‘She’s a very good pilot,’ Peter interrupted. Turning to Evie he said pointedly,

‘Captain Bailey helps run the Air Transport Auxiliary at White Waltham.’ ‘The ferry pilots?’ She held Peter’s gaze. He nodded. ‘What have you flown?’ Bailey folded his arms.

‘Tiger Moths mainly.’ She tried to sound confident. Tiger Moths only, she thought, and a couple of hundred hours at that. ‘Well, Miss Chase, we need good pilots. Why don’t you come over to White Waltham one morning and see what you think?’ ‘Really?’

‘It’s not what you’re used to. But we need all the chaps …’ he corrected himself, ‘and gals we can get our hands on. In fact, we have some new recruits arriving tomorrow. Why don’t you join them, come along for a test flight and see what you think? Ask for Commander Pauline Gower.’ He shook their hands and rejoined his table.

‘Why didn’t Daddy tell me he was going to be here?’ she said to Peter as they

stepped onto the dance floor. Peter laughed as he swung her around to the music. ‘Probably because he knew you’d jump at the chance of signing up. 

Book reviews, Extract

The Thunder Girls by Melanie Blake – *Extract*

Please accept my apologies for the late posting…..

 

Welcome to the blog tour for The Thunder Girls by Melanie Blake.

 

First, here’s  a little about the book and the an extract to follow:

 

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PUBLISHERS BLURB
 

THE THUNDER GIRLS NOVEL

It’s the 1980’s. Chrissie, Roxanne, Carly and Anita are ordinary girls with extraordinary lives. They are better known as eighties pop sensation The Thunder Girls. This girl group is dominating the pop scene, their faces on every magazine cover, millions of fans worldwide, constantly at the top of the charts. Until one of them brings the band’s dream run to an abrupt end. Three of their careers are over – and so is their friendship. 

Fast forward thirty years. Their old record label lands a bombshell by asking them to reunite for a series of huge concerts. These would be the gigs of a lifetime with a pay check to match – some need it more than others – and old wounds leave deep scars. A lot has happened since The Thunder Girls were ruling the charts. Addiction, breakdowns, bankruptcy and divorce have led them far from the lives they once lived. If they are to move forward, the past needs to be laid to rest – but there is more to this reunion than meets the eye. Each Thunder Girl is hungry to revive their past success, but what they don’t know is that someone is watching their every move – and is determined to stop them succeeding – in the deadliest way possible.

These four girls have been to hell and back – and some of them are still there.

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Extract 

 

Prologue

 

November 1989

Carly Hughes stepped from the back of the limousine at the entrance to Shine Records. She was wearing a short kilt and leather jacket. Lacy tights with biker boots; big hair, kooky-looking shades and an oversized designer bag worth thousands.

Every inch the pop star.

Her driver, Dale, threw a protective arm around her as he steered her past thousands of screaming Thunder Girls fans, Carly stopping to scribble her name on the autograph books and tour programmes being thrust at her. Some of the fans were hysterical. A young girl clung to her, sobbing, burying her tear-streaked face in her idol’s new jacket.

Without taking his eyes off her, a handsome lad was snap- ping endless pictures on a battered Instamatic whilst staring at Carly intently. Dale let Carly know it was time to move. She detached herself from the crying girl and escaped into the building.

As they waited for the lift she inspected her jacket. ‘I think I’ve got snot on my sleeve. First time I’ve worn this, as well.’

Dale frowned and handed her a crisp white hanky. She dabbed at the damp leather.

‘I keep telling you not to be so touchy-feely,’ he said. ‘You don’t know where they’ve been.’

‘Harsh, Dale. They’re just kids—’

‘Bunking off school, most of them,’ he grumbled. ‘—hanging about in the cold for hours, hoping for a word.’ ‘You’re way too trusting. They could pull a knife, anything.’

Dale was ex-military. Special Forces. Decorated for bravery. Secretly hoping someone would step out of line one day so he could show what he was made of.

‘They’re our fans, they’d never hurt us.’ Carly gave him a dazzling smile. ‘Anyway, that’s why you’re here.’

He shook his head. ‘That weird one taking pictures . . . I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him – his eyes don’t look right.’

She giggled. ‘Don’t be mean. He’s the Mad Fan – goes everywhere we do, just likes to look at us and take his pics, bless him.’

‘Yeah, well that’s odd as well, the quiet ones are always the worst.’

On the fourth floor of Shine Records, Roxanne Lloyd was in the glass-fronted executive meeting room – the think-tank,

 

ABOUT MELANIE BLAKE

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As one of the UK’s most successful female entrepreneurs, over the years Melanie has had two careers at the top tier of the entertainment industry. Her first 10 years were as a music manager with a roster of award-winning artists who sold over 100 million records and the second decade as one of the UK’s leading acting agents representing some of the most famous faces on British television. The Thunder Girls is inspired by her time in the music business and her second novel which is out in 2021 will be inspired by her years in the world of soap opera and drama. Her own management company, which has covered both genres, has turned over more than 30 million.

With no formal education herself, Melanie is a true champion for working class women who are so often overlooked in our society. The Thunder Girls is a celebration of women from diverse demographics and all the lead characters in the novel are over 40 and working class. As well as having written the book, Melanie has penned The Thunder Girls the play which embarks on a nationwide tour in 2021. Melanie Blake might just be the world’s biggest Jackie Collins fan. She first read Rock Star aged 9, after smuggling the copy out of the library by telling the librarian it was for her mum!  Melanie was dazzled by Jackie Collin’s world where women clawed themselves from poverty into glamorous, moneyed lives. In Jackie Collins’ novels, women were bosses and winners who achieved everything they wanted and it was these novels that inspired Melanie to become her own boss and a lady entrepreneur.  In 2017 Melanie’s connection with Jackie Collins came full circle, when after Jackie’s sad death she bought five pieces of Jackie’s jewellery at auction – two rings and three necklaces inlayed with morganite, citrines and diamonds – which she wears every day.