Monday, 26 June 2017

Exclusive Cover Reveal and Giveaway: A House Full Of Secrets by Zoe Miller..

I am delighted, and honoured, to be the first to share the cover of Zoe Miller's latest novel, A House Full of Secrets.  I also have a copy of the book to giveaway to one lucky reader, to be posted on publication day, 3rd August. To be in with a chance of winning this first edition, please enter via rafflecopter link below. Open INT and closes on 7th July. Good Luck!

*Drum Roll Please*


When Londoner Vikki receives an invitation from Niall Blake to join him for a weekend at his family home in a remote part of Ireland, she hopes it will be the perfect opportunity to turn their friendship into something more significant. But Niall has a different reason for his proposition …

As the weekend takes a sinister turn and Vikki discovers more about Niall, his estranged older brother Alex and his over-compensating sister Lainey, it becomes clear that the family harbours a long-buried secret. But who is out to destroy them? Could it be one of their own? And why did Niall invite Vikki along for the weekend?


Zoë Miller writes contemporary fiction laced with mystery and intrigue. She is married and lives on the south side of Dublin, close to the foot of the Dublin Mountains. She has two daughters and a son. Zoë has been writing since childhood, when she loved reading so much that she felt compelled to write stories herself. Before having the time to devote to writing novels, she had short stories and feature journalism published. Zoë has successful eight novels published by Hachette Books Ireland, including The Compromise, A Husband’s Confession, A Question of Betrayal and Someone New.

  You can contact Zoë at, or Twitter @zoemillerauthor, or

A House Full of Secrets is published by Hachette Ireland on 3 August 2017 and in UK PB in Feb 2018. You can pre-order your copy via amazon link below:

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Joyride to Jupiter by Nuala O'Connor. Review and Giveaway.

Thanks to New Island Books, I have a copy of Joyride to Jupiter to Giveaway. Just enter via rafflecopter link below. Open INT. Ends 30th June. Good Luck!

A maid in Manhattan; two mismatched tourists in Naples; a grieving couple in Cáceres; a pair of lovers searching for the right spot in Ireland. This collection of short stories, from one of Ireland's finest writers, is a glimpse into the thoughts and narratives of many.

In Joyride to Jupter a man watches his wife deteriorate into the folds of dementia and his heart breaks a little more each day. In Napoli Abú, the forced friendship between two women leads to the realisation that not every book can be judged by its cover. The family home is the subject of a rift between two brothers in Tinnycross and a seaside bench is the catalyst for friendship in Squidinky.
While each story is different to its predecessor, each tale has a powerful aftertaste.

There are nods to everyday life: homelessness, emigration, post-celtic-tiger losses, the scandals of the catholic church, infertility; some written in the present day; some in the past. The characters are ripe and bulbous, ready to hop into the readers consciousness, and take hold. Landscape and atmosphere are the focus of many stories and O'Connor describes the sky with fluid and memorizing clarity.

 The collection contains tales of redemption, presumption, forgiveness and grief and the prose has a petal-like feel. These are delicate yet sturdy stories. Each one deserved of its place on the page. 
 There is something special to be found in each of the nineteen works and the characters stall in the readers minds, hanging on with determination. The pieces vary in length and depth yet are equal in their importance. This is a book that can be picked up, again and again, with the certainty of pleasure. Highly recommended.


Nuala O’Connor AKA Nuala Ní Chonchúir was born in Dublin, she lives in East Galway. Her fifth short story collection Joyride to Jupiter appears from New Island in June 2017. Penguin USA, Penguin Canada and Sandstone (UK) published Nuala’s third novel, Miss Emily, about the poet Emily Dickinson and her Irish maid. Miss Emily was shortlisted for the Bord Gáis Energy Eason Book Club Novel of the Year 2015 and longlisted for the 2017 International DUBLIN Literary Award. Nuala’s fourth novel, Becoming Belle, will be published in 2018.

Joyride to Jupiter is published by New Island Books and is available in PB and ebook format.
You canorder your copy with 12% discount, and Free Worldwide Postage, HERE. The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below:

To be in with a chance of winning a copy of this stunning collection of short stories, just click on the rafflecopter link below:

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Book Review: The Lying Game by Ruth Ware.

One text message. That is all it takes to dredge up the past. Isa knows something is terribly wrong when she receives a message from an old school friend. Throwing essentials into a bag, she grabs her baby daughter and boards the first train back to Salten, where Kate waits for her three best friends. "I need you" is all the message said, but the girls know she would not summon them without reason. Their boarding school days and The Lying Game come back to haunt them...

Ruth Ware thrilled readers with her previous novels, In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman In Cabin 10, and this one is just as sinister. Isa was late to the foursome, after joining their boarding school in fifth term. They soon find themselves embroiled in The Lying Game and ditching their dorms for the bohemian pull of Kate's home, situated in the isolated Reach area near their school. The house is accessed by trawling through marshy sands and the girls enjoy the freedom that Kate's father allows. They can drink, skinny dip and ignore all the usual restrictions afforded to teenagers. It is not too long before all the freedom catches up with the girls and they find themselves tangled up in a web of lies. 

Now, many years later, Isa travels back to the Reach and the secrets it contains. Kate is cagey and the atmosphere is tense. The house is literally crumbling away and Kate seems broken. When human remains are discovered, the village of Salten is awash with rumour.  Isa struggles between fleeing back to London with her daughter, or staying to help herself and her three friends confront the past. The past refuses to stay buried, despite the girls best attempts:

"The memories are no longer gentle little 'do you remember?' taps on my shoulder, they are slaps, each one an assault. Even away from the crowd they keep coming."

The chapters fly along, dipping from the days of boarding school, back to the present day.  Isa's role as an attentive mother is juxtaposed against Kate's refusal to be responsible for anyone. 

The Lying Game is a dark and multi-layered novel, with an eerie feel. It has the Gothic atmosphere of Bronte's Wuthering Heights, the slow-building and taut suspense of Apple Tree Yard and the tension of Alfred Hitchcock classic movies. A gentler pace than Ware's previous novels, but the thrills are subtle and effective. 

The Lying Game is published by Harvill Secker and is available in HB and ebook format. You can order your copy, with 20% discount and Free Worldwide postage, HERE. The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below:

Monday, 19 June 2017

Book Review: Love In Row 27 by Eithne Shortall.

Airline check-in agent, Cora Hendricks, is the queen of match-making. With the help of online research, she sees potential mates and brings them together on board Aer Lingus short-haul routes. Row 27 has been earmarked by herself and her cabin-crew friend, Nancy; where the unsuspecting singles are seated together and given some on-board VIP treatment. Not all the matches are successful, but Cora and Nancy cross their fingers and wait for the magic to happen. Meanwhile, Cupid's arrow seems to have flown right past Cora and she despairs at ever meeting Mr. Right. 

The search for the perfect summer read ends here. Eithne Shortall has written a wonderfully fun and uplifting tale, with Cora at its heart. Based in London Heathrow, the world of human interaction is temporarily restored when self-service and online check-in are suspended for a time. The days of queuing at an airline desk and chatting to the agent ceased back in the late 1990s and air travel lost a bit of its wonder. Staff become almost invisible and match-making opportunities were all but gone. By suspending passengers ability to ignore check-in, the story is given wings that would otherwise have been clipped. Cora's co-workers are a mixed bunch and the banter between all departments in the airport is just as real as it is in real-life. Ground crew; Cabin crew; baggage handlers; airport security; concession staff; they all work in the climate controlled, permanently busy airport. There is never a dull day and no two passengers are the same. 

Cora's mother is suffering from early on-set dementia and has been placed in a care-facility. Visits can be difficult and memories are becoming harder and harder to grasp. Nancy is hoping for promotion and to be seen more than just the 'coffee or tea? girl. A host of other airline staff are ever-present and the new-found fame of one of the gang leads to some hilarious antics in front of a TV crew. As the passengers board flights, they are unaware of the bigger story.  Female fiction doesn't get much better than this. Love in Row 27 is a refreshing and rewarding read, definitely worth packing in your suitcase. Highly recommended.

Love in Row 27 is published by Corvus and is available in PB an ebook format. You can order your copy, with Free Worldwide Postage, HERE. The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below:

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Conclave by Robert Harris: Guest Review from Liz McHale.

Big thanks to Liz McHale for her guest review of the bestselling title, Conclave.  Here are her thoughts:

From the moment I started reading this book I could not put it down. Robert Harris draws you in from the start, you really feel you are there.

118 Cardinals come together to elect a new Pope. Simple? Anything but!
Central to the unfolding story, Cardinal Lomeli, confidant to the late Pope and Dean of the College of Cardinals struggles to make sense of the death of the Pope and the enormous task of organising the Conclave.

The wonderful descriptions of the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel and the surrounding buildings guide you through the heart of the Catholic Church and the hierarchy that dwells within.
There are ego's, friendships, alliance's, secrets and the appearance, at the last minute, of a new member to vote. 

"I'm afraid there's nothing simple about it" 

Some are pure of heart, some wallow in a sense of their own importance, some have secrets only a few are privy to. All this leads to a very organised and not so pure system of voting. Will the most deserving become the next Pope or the one others are afraid to stand up to. As the voting begins you find yourself taking sides also. 

I was so disappointed when I came to the last page as I wanted the story to continue, but.....the last page gives the biggest surprise of all !!

Liz McHale

*We received a copy of this title, via the publishers, in return for an honest review.

Conclave is published by Arrow and is available in paperback and ebook format. Available from all good bookshops and via the amazon link below:

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Book Review: All At Sea by Pauline Lawless.

A Caribbean cruise is fairly high up on everyone's wish-list, right? Escaping from the Irish weather; the daily commute; the housework and the sameness of everyday life. Three sets of Irish passengers board the Liberté in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, not realising the impact the trip could have on their individual lives.

The McElroys are led by their matriarch, Bunny, who gathers her flock with distinctive style. Herself and husband, Richard, have treated their grown children to the luxury cruise and the vision of an ideal family trip is not shaping up as they imagined. 

The Jordans are on on their 'second honeymoon', yet Cassie is unaware that Declan's bit-on-the-side is also embarking.  Alix is determined to get her man, no matter who gets hurt along the way.

The Kennys are escaping the exhausting family routine of Christmas and think a cruise is an ideal way to avoid stress and strife. While their young adult children make the most of their surroundings, Ann and Tony drift further and further apart. A lonesome passenger becomes Ann's ally, while Tony creates his own fun.

Pauline Lawless had hit the summer blockbuster market with a bang. The story is full of sun, sea, sex and scandal. The younger passengers are not the only ones making the most of the all-inclusive drinks and on-board entertainment. The over-powering Bunny is outrageously overbearing and her youngest daughter, Sarah is a self-centered, spoiled brat who needs to be given a good life-lesson. Recently separated Jess is not much better and completes the family tradition of frightful women. Declan is the atypical mid-life-crisis kind of man; full of a newly discovered sex-drive and a veritable briefcase full of lies. His wife Cassie is naive and taken for granted. A similar tale is told via Tony and Ann Kenny. Another middle-aged man; another downtrodden wife. Their two kids are bland and wholesome, yet manage to find their perfect matches. The overall tone does not portray women in a particularly good light. It implies that all men can be 'controlled' by a bit of forward planning and making them think they are actually the boss:

"Jess couldn't but admire her mother's scheming mind. She certainly knew how to manipulate her husband. Women who could do that always seemed to get what they wanted. Jess took note."

While two wives suddenly discover they don't need their husbands to survive, both seem to have only noticed this after said husbands had been caught cheating. I think us women deserve more credit for knowing what makes us happy, and what doesn't. 

This is a novel that is destined for holiday carry-on luggage as it is a complete package of escapism. It is like an episode of The Love Boat mixed up with the story lines of Dallas and Dynasty; all with Irish characters. Not for everyone, but sure to delight many. 

All At Sea is published by Poolbeg and is available in paperback and ebook format. 

Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor: Exclusive Cover Reveal and Giveaway

Thanks to Harper Collins in Ireland, I have the pleasure of the revealing the UK/IRE cover of The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor, published on 7th September 2017. There is also a chance to win a limited edition ARC. Just enter via the rafflecopter link below. Open INT and ends on 5th June.

Drum Roll Please...

The Blurb

The New York Times bestselling author turns the clock back to a time when two young girls convinced the world that fairies really did exist…

 Cottingley, Yorkshire, 1917: When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright, announce they have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when the great novelist, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, endorses the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a sensation; their discovery offering something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war.

One hundred years later: When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript and a photograph in her late grandfather’s bookshop it sparks a fascination with the story of the two young girls who mystified the world. Delving deeper into the past, and the truth behind an innocent game that became a national obsession, Olivia begins to question her own beliefs. And as she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, will Olivia find a way to believe in herself? 

Praise for The Cottingley Secret

The Cottingley Fairies
“I adored The Cottingley Secret. Gaynor has penned in majestic prose an enchanting and enthralling tale of childhood magic, forgotten dreams, and finding the parts of ourselves we thought were lost forever." - Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan's Tale

"There is real magic in these pages. And beauty. And heart." - Nicole Mary Kelby, author of The Pink Suit

About The Author

Hazel Gaynor’s debut novel The Girl Who Came Home—A Novel of the Titanic—was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller and was awarded the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Her second novel A Memory of Violets, also hit the New York Timesbestseller list and her third, The Girl from the Savoy was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestseller. The book was also a finalist for the 2016 Irish Book Awards. Hazel is also a contributing author to WWI anthology Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War. Her novels have been translated into several languages.
Hazel was selected by US Library Journal as one of ‘Ten Big Breakout Authors’ for 2015, was a WHSmith Fresh Talent selection in spring 2015, and the recipient of the 2012 Cecil Day Lewis Award for Emerging Writers. As features writer for national Irish writing website Hazel has interviewed Philippa Gregory, Sebastian Faulks, Kate Mosse, Jojo Moyes and Cheryl Strayed, among others.
Following American publication in August, THE COTTINGLEY SECRET will be published by HarperCollins in Ireland in September 2017, with UK paperback publication to follow in March 2018. Later this year, Hazel’s epistolary novel LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS, co-written with Heather Webb, will also be published by HarperCollins.
Hazel lives in Kildare with her husband and two children. She is represented by Michelle Brower of Aevitas Creative, New York. For more information visit, @HazelGaynor on Twitter, or @hazelgaynorbooks on Facebook

Hazel Gaynor & Margaret Madden
Praise for Hazel Gaynor:

*‘Addictive, charming and gleaming with Jazz Age glitz’ The Lady 

*‘Sumptuous, gorgeous, authentic and surprising, Hazel Gaynor has written another hit.’ Sunday Independent 

*‘Peopled with unforgettable characters…Once begun, I dare you to put it down.’ Kathleen Tessaro, author of The Perfume Collector

The Cottingley Secret is published by Harper Collins in Ireland, in TPB and ebook format, on the 7th September and is available for pre-order HERE

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Book Review: The Woman At 72 Derry Lane by Carmel Harrington.

Rea may not have left her house in over a year, but she is well aware of what is going on next-door. Despite the sturdy walls of the houses on Derry Lane, she can hear the realities of her neighbour's marriage. But how can she help if she cannot place a foot over the threshold of her home?
Stella and Matt appear to have it all. The beautiful couple turn heads wherever they go and seem flawless. If only the truth was known.
Behind closed doors, the residents of Derry Lane have secrets. Some more dangerous than others...

The seaside town of Clontarf, Dublin, is the setting for Carmel Harrington's latest novel. A beautiful area, steeped in history and home to the affluent. But, as with many villages and towns located near a large city, the residents rarely know their neighbours. With busy lives and hectic schedules, we often find ourselves with 'wave and smile' relationships and never get to really know who we live close to. The sense of community can fade and loneliness can be a reality. Rea is alone in Derry Lane. Her family have moved on and she finds herself trapped in the confines of her home. Agoraphobia has taken over her life and she spends her days in mismatched PJs, eating food delivered to her door. A local teenager takes out her bins (for an extortionate fee) yet she craves his bravado and humour. When Stella arrives at her door, she is hesitant to let her into her life. She has heard what goes on in 70 Derry Lane and is not sure she wants to get involved. But Stella looks so lost. She invites the young woman in to her house and they immediately find solace in each other's company. The world suddenly seems wider; their friendship becomes linked through their mutual pain; the light begins to enter the rooms of Derry Lane.

Carmel Harrington is renowned for her emotional reads. She touches the reader by bringing hope, love and inspiration into their lives, through her characters and their journeys.  In The Woman At 72 Derry Lane she weaves stories from the past and present; riding on a wave of emotions. There are magical family times; laugh out loud nights with friends (with the BEST hairdresser ever!); gut-wrenching scenes of despair; tense moments of fear and pain. This novel has it all, and more. The characters are brought to life with genuine affection and their stories are mesmerizing. The author has researched her topics and it shows. There are scenes in this book that will have you holding your breath and gasping with empathy and despair. It is entirely possible that you may have a book-hangover when you turn the last page. You will most certainly realise that you need to be careful what you wish for. Sometimes all you need is right there in front of you. A compelling and emotional novel that will delight and hurt, in equal measures. Sure to be a summer sensation.  


Follow the publication day fun using #UglyCry where there will be photos of readers reactions to the emotional scenes in #72DerryLane. @HCinIreland will have a copy of the book to giveaway to the best #UglyCry photo.

The Woman At 72 Derry Lane is published in TPB by Harper Collins in Ireland on 15th June 2017. The ebook is available for pre-order via amazon link below:
*I received an ARC of this title, for review purposes.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The Ludlow Ladies' Society by Ann O'Loughlin: Exclusive Cover Reveal and Giveaway.

Exclusive Cover reveal.

The Ludlow Ladies Society by Ann O' Loughlin. Pub. 4th July 2017.

Thanks to Black and White Publishing, I have the honour of revealing the cover of Ann O'Loughlin's latest novel, The Ludlow Ladies Society. They have also donated two Advance Reading Copies for giveaway. To be in with a chance of winning one, just enter via rafflecopter link at the end of the page. Open INT and closes on 31st May. Good Luck!
And without further ado....

The Blurb

Connie Carter has lost everybody and everything dear to her. To help nurse her grieving heart and to try and find answers, she moves from her home in America to Ludlow Hall, deep in the Irish countryside. All she knows about Ludlow is that her late husband spent all their money on the house – without ever mentioning it to her. Now Connie needs to know why.

At Ludlow Hall, Connie befriends Eve and Hetty and is introduced to the somewhat curious Ludlow Ladies’ Society. But can Connie ever reveal her hurt? And, more importantly, can she ever understand or forgive? As the Ludlow Ladies stitch patchwork memory quilts to remember those they have loved and lost, the secrets of the past finally begin to surface.

The Ludlow Ladies’ Society is a story of friendship, resilience and compassion, and how women support each other through the most difficult times.

"The Ludlow Ladies Society brought me to a beautiful place and into a circle of friends that I didn’t want to leave. Unputdownable. Ann’s world is uniquely Irish in its warmth and charm.”

Author Bio

A leading journalist in Ireland for nearly thirty years, Ann O’Loughlin has covered all major news events of the last three decades. Ann spent most of her career with independent newspapers where she was Security Correspondent at the height of the Troubles, and was a senior journalist on the Irish Independent and the Evening Herald. She is currently a senior journalist with the Irish Examiner newspaper covering legal issues. Ann’s debut novel, The Ballroom Café, was one of the top 20 Kindle bestsellers of 2015, and her second novel, The Judge’s Wife was shortlisted for a Romantic Novel Award (RoNA) and an Irish bestseller for five weeks. Ann has also lived and worked in India. Originally from the west of Ireland she now lives on the east coast in Co. Wicklow with her husband and two children.


Ann O’Loughlin on Twitter:
Ann O’Loughlin on Facebook:

The Ludlow Ladies Society will be published in PB and ebook format on 4th July 2017. You can pre-order your copy via amazon link below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway 

ARC cover

As an added bonus,, Ann O’Loughlin has just launched a brand new mailing list. Black & White Publishing will be giving 15 lucky subscribers the chance to win an eBook copy of The Ludlow Ladies’ Society via NetGalley. For your chance to win one of these copies, simply sign-up to Ann’s mailing list using the link below before 30 June 2017.

Mailing List Sign-Up:

Monday, 15 May 2017

The Woman at 72 Derry Lane by Carmel Harrington. Exclusive Extract and Giveaway.

twitter prize

Thanks to Harper Collins, I have the pleasure of sharing a sneak-peek at the latest novel from Carmel Harrington, published on 15th June. There is also a chance to win one of two signed early editions of the book and a little extra prize (for twitter followers) of an A4-sized wooden wall plaque, which I thought captured the feeling of Carmel's novels perfectly.  Twitter winner will also receive a signed edition of the book.

To be in with a chance of winning The Woman at 72 Derry Lane, just enter via rafflecopter link below.  To enter twitter competition, see pinned tweet @margaretbmadden. Good Luck! 

The Blurb

On a leafy suburban street in Dublin, beautiful, poised Stella Greene lives with her successful husband, Matt. The perfect couple in every way, Stella appears to have it all. Next door, at number 72 however, lives Rea Brady. Gruff, bad-tempered and rarely seen besides the twitching of her net curtains, rumour has it she’s lost it all…including her marbles if you believe the neighbourhood gossip.
But appearances can be deceiving and when Stella and Rea’s worlds collide they realise they have much in common. Both are trapped in a prison of their own making.
Has help been next door without them realising it?
With the warmth and wit of Maeve Binchy and the secrets and twists of Liane Moriarty, this is the utterly original and compelling new novel from Irish Times bestseller Carmel Harrington.

 What Readers Think Of Carmel Harrington's Books

‘Will make you see life in a different way’ Woman’s Way

‘Heartwrenching and heartwarming’
Evening Herald

‘Guaranteed to brighten your day’

‘Carmel Harrington has done it again! Brilliantly written … it surpasses all expectations’
Chicklit Club

‘A bittersweet, quietly brilliant novel that will make you cry, laugh and cry all over again’
Female First

‘Funny, poignant and bursting with heartfelt humour’
I Heart … Chick Lit

‘Completely stunning’
Reviewed the Book

‘It will stay with you, well after you have turned the last page’
Bleach House Library

Exclusive Extract from The Woman at 72 Derry Lane

Looking at the trees, Stella thought that maybe next door was her answer. Her gut, her every instinct told her that despite the gruff exterior, her neighbour, Rea, was a good person. It had to be her who called the Gardaí each time. That showed she cared, didn't it?

So, before she had a chance to talk herself out of it, she found herself knocking on her neighbours door.

'I was surprised to see you,' Rea said. 'A nice surprise, I might add, but one I wasn't expecting.'

Rea looked at Stella closely, taking in how agitated she seemed, her hands wringing in her lap. 'You have a look of someone with something on her mind. Spit it out.'

Stella nodded, then cleared her throat. 'Can I be frank with you?'

'I'd rather that. I've little or no patience for anyone who beats about the bush.'

Stella smiled, warming even more to this woman; while she was what many would call brusque, her eyes were kind. 'I should have practised what to say. Sometimes finding the right words is difficult.'

'When you get to my age, that's something that comes with the territory,' Rea smiled.

'Oh I doubt that. You're not so old.'

Rea took the compliment.

'First of all, please don't be offended by this question, but I need to ask it all the same,' Stella said, leaning in.

Rea brushed aside her apology, 'You don't know me, so I would think you have more questions than answers.'

Somehow even before she spoke, she knew the answer, 'Can I trust you? I need to be sure that you won't repeat this conversation to anyone.'

'When you say anyone, I assume you mean your husband?'

'Yes,' Stella nodded.

'You can say what you like here. Think of it as a confessional.'

'I gave up believing in God a long time ago,' Stella replied.

'I've a pretty up and down relationship with her myself too.'


'Why not?' Rea said.

Stella smiled, thinking that she liked that idea a lot and liked Rea even more.

'Well, leaving God and confessionals aside, would you take my word for it, that you can trust me?' Rea asked.

Stella felt her shoulders sag with relief, nodding. Her heartbeat accelerated so rapidly she thought it would jump out of her chest and bounce clear across the floor, right out the door.

'I want to leave him,' Stella said.

'Good for you.' Rea had never been so glad to hear a statement in her whole life. Maybe this one had more about her after all.

'Then why don't you? He's at work. You're not chained to the house. Just pack a bag and go.'

'He's clever. He's backed me into a corner. I need to sort some things out first before he ....'

Rea watched the girl before her tremble, unable to finish the statement. 'Before he hits you again?'

Stella nodded, looking so broken, lost and very alone, that it made Rea's stomach flip nervously for her.

'Matt has told me over and over that I'm all alone without him, that I'd not last a moment on my own. He's right about one of those things. I don't intend to prove the second.'

'You've got nobody?' Rea asked. When Stella nodded, Rea felt something give deep inside of her. The girls face looked so sorrowful and bereft and she recognised how that felt.

'I have family living in France. That's where I'll go,' Stella shifted her weight slightly, wincing in pain as she did.

'That bastard, how could a man do that to a woman, to anyone?'

'He's not a man when he loses his temper. He's an animal. And each time he loses it with me, less of the man I married remains. I'm afraid that soon they'll be none of him left.' Stella took a deep breath and continued, 'I know you don't know me. I know that me landing on your doorstep is a terrible imposition. But I'm desperate. I don't have anyone else to turn to.'

It took Rea all of a nano second to reply. 'Now stop that. I'm very happy you called in to me. What do you need? Because if it's in my power to give it to you, it's yours.'

Rea reached over to hold one of Stella's hands between her own. 'He seems to be losing his temper with you more frequently. The walls may be thick in these Victorian houses, but they are linked all the same, so noise travels....'

Stella felt her old friend shame come back to torment her. The embarrassment of knowing that the most horrific, dark, secret part of her life was silently witnessed by her neighbour was a difficult pill to swallow.  'Yes, you're right.'

'You've got to get out of that house sooner rather than later. Do you hear me?' Rea said, her voice rising in anger.

There was a time that Stella would have disagreed with this. But things were different now. She didn't plan on dithering. 'I know. Its hard when you are in the middle of it, to see a way out. He's been chipping away at me for so long, I've forgotten who I am.'

'Well then, that's the first thing you have to work out. How to get back the Stella you were before he came into your life. As for being trapped, the only person who can hold you back, is you,' Rea said.

She stood up and walked to the door, saying, 'I better make some tea. A large pot too. I think we'll need it, to work through this mess. But work through it we will. Two heads are better than one.'

'Thank you,' Stella said, almost breathless with gratitude.

Rea stopped at the doorway and said to her, 'You were wrong about something else you know. You're not on your own. Not anymore.'

The Woman at 72 Derry Lane is published by Harper Collins in Ireland on 15th June 2017 in TBP and ebook format. 

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Book Review - Reinventing Susannah by Joan Brady.

Susannah is in her fifties. Her children have grown up and her life is mostly filled with housework, cooking meals for herself and husband Rob and prepping for her monthly bookclub. However, when Rob announces that he is off on a year-long trip of self-discovery, and she is not invited, things begin to change. It is time for Susannah to do some reinvention of herself...

Susannah is atypical of many 'women of a certain age' (a phrase I personally hate, but it serves a purpose in this case). She has devoted the latter part of her life to raising a family and ensuring the smooth running of the household. Rob, a banker, has always supported his wife and twin daughters but now feels he has missed out on something and has secretly been planning his escape for years. Downtrodden Susannah is pushed into moving on and (conveniently) lands a job as a newspaper columnist. Suddenly she is flying first class to cover a Mind, Body and Soul conference in London and being wooed (badly) by a famous self-help guru. A whole new set of opportunities are opening up when she least expected them.  Her love of writing comes back to her and she even begins to notice men 'of a certain age' (why do we never hear this phrase when referring to men?).

Joan Brady has a knack of bringing her characters to life. Susannah may be a little mousy, but she is balanced by her new boss (the young and determined Katie) and despite their differences, the two women work well together. Rob is a piece of work. Within two pages he shows his true colours and you can see how Susannah managed to blend into the background of their marriage. I suspect there are many, many women who find themselves stunned with their situations when their children move out. Not all of them will land their dream jobs so easily, or find themselves moving on without financial strain. But, perhaps fictional stories like Susannah's will inspire some to take a chance. Brady uses her writing skills to bring a mature lady to life. Reinventing Susannah is a warm, charming and easy read, ideal for enjoying on a summer holiday or on the patio with a glass of whatever tickles your fancy. Especially if your children have left you with no more 'Mom's Taxi' duties. A feel-good read, ideal for fans of  Cathy Kelly and Carmel Harrington.

Reinventing Susannah is published by Poolbeg and is available in TPB and ebook format. You can pick your copy up from all good booksellers, or via the amazon link below:

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