Posted in Writing

It’s publication day for Girl in Red Velvet by Margaret James…


Will loving two men tear your heart apart?

It’s the 1960s and Lily Denham is about to begin her studies at Oxford University.
On her first day she meets Harry Gale and Max Farley, two fellow undergraduates who are both full of mischievous charm. The three of them become firm great friends and enjoy exploring everything Oxford has to offer, from riotous parties to punting up the river on sunny afternoons.
However, something threatens to disrupt the fun, because Lily soon realises she’s falling for both of her new-found friends, men who might offer her two very different futures – but who will she pick? Harry is generous and kind, reliable and trustworthy. Max embodies the spirit of the sixties; adventurous and rebellious, but possibly a little bit dangerous as well.
As university ends and Lily struggles to make her mark on the vibrant fashion scene, she must make a decision. But she soon becomes aware that the wrong decision could have devastating consequences for her own future and for Max’s and Harry’s futures, too…

Girl in Red Velvet is book 6 in the Charton Minster Series (The Silver Locket, The Golden Chain, The Penny Bangle, The Wedding Diary & Magic Sometimes Happens).





B&N Nook:

iBooks: (problem with link this morning)



I was lucky enough to be asked to read and review an ARC of Girl in Red Velvet, Margaret James’ new novel for Choc Lit.

Meeting Harry Gale and Max Farley on her first day in Oxford Lily Denham – christened Red Queen by Max because of the dress she is wearing – soon becomes close friends and drinking buddies with them.  Although similar in height and colouring, the two are poles apart when it comes to personality. While Harry takes his studying seriously, Max always needs to test boundaries and live on the edge.  His womanising and outrageous pranks soon make Lily  realise that although she is attracted to him more than Henry, he would be the worst mistake she could make.  Yes, life with Harry seems a far more stable option.  But in choosing stable, is she selling herself short?  Her personal tutor Minnie Rushman certainly thinks so.

Max loves Lily but never seems to be able to put his feelings into words. When he discovers she has slept with Harry, he knows he can no longer stay and leaves Oxford. Abandoning his degree and finds a new career as a travel writer visiting extreme locations and often putting his life in danger (a sort of nineteen sixties Bear Grylls).  Harry and Lily successfully complete their degrees with Harry joining the civil service and Lily deciding on a career in fashion – using her clever dressmaking skills to become as she puts it ‘the new Biba’.  Living with Harry and concentrating on her career she feels settled, despite Max’s occasional ‘between travel project’ visits which tend to resurrect old feelings. But then a trip to India to source material for a new collection changes everything…

This is a wonderful story, covering three decades and charting Lily, Harry and Max’s lives and the changes that occur because of the choices they make along the way.  The writing flows well and I loved the way the three characters interacted. I have to admit to having soft spot for Max. In the beginning you see him as someone constantly challenging authority and doing the most outrageous things.  Then as the story progresses we learn the reason for his behaviour is deeply rooted in his unhappy childhood. Yes, I’m always drawn to vulnerable  heroes.

For me it’s the sign of a good read when you actually care what happens to the characters you are reading about.  I desperately hoped for a happy ending for all three.  Did that happen?  Well you’ll need to read the book for yourself and find out I’m afraid….and please do because it’s a great read.

A well-deserved five stars



Author-pic-e1382741922267-150x148Margaret James was born and brought up in Hereford and now lives in Devon. She studied English at London University, and has written many short stories, articles and serials for magazines. She is the author of sixteen published novels.
Her debut novel for Choc Lit, The Silver Locket, received a glowing review from the Daily Mail and reached the Top 20 Small Publishers Fiction List in November 2010 and in the same year a Reviewers’ Choice Award from Single Titles. The Golden Chain also hit the Top 20 Small Publishers Fiction List in May 2011.
Margaret is a long standing contributor to Writing Magazine for which she writes the Fiction Focus column and an author interview for each issue. She’s also a creative writing tutor for the London School of Journalism.
Margaret loves hearing from her readers, and can be found on both Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Writing

Tuesday Talk catches up with lawyer-turned-novelist Caroline England whose debut novel Beneath the Skin will be published this October…

_DSC5966Good morning Caroline and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself?

Hi, I’m a former divorce and professional indemnity lawyer who lives in South Manchester. I came over the border from Sheffield to study law at Manchester uni and stayed. I have three gorgeous daughters and three greedy cats but only one husband!

How did your writing journey begin?

I had always thought it a romantic notion to write a novel, but never thought I’d actually do it! I finally put pen to paper about ten years ago. I wrote very basic drafts of three or four novels, then decided short stories and poems were a lot less effort! Many of them were published in literary magazines and anthologies. A few years later, I came back to Beneath the Skin.

Who are your favourite authors? Have any of them influenced your writing?

My holiday reading is mostly crime – anyone from Ian Rankin to Jo Nesbo, and some contemporary – Mary Wesley back in the day, Kate Atkinson and Maggie O’Farrell. When Kate Atkinson combined contemporary and crime in her Jackson Brodie novels I was ecstatic! Though my novels are not crime fiction per se, I think my writing has been influenced by the blend of those genres too, so I write about contemporary lives but with intrigue, dark edges and secrets. And, of course, love.
Roald Dahl has been another big influence. I never read his children’s books, but I adored his short stories when I was a teenager. My copy of Switch Bitch did the rounds at school but was eventually confiscated. I think my love of the twist and my need to surprise readers comes from there.

Your debut novel, Beneath the Skin, is due to be published in October, can you tell us something about it?

Good or bad, I do love all my characters! They first made an appearance in a short story called The Dinner Circle and the novel grew from there, mostly when I was musing in the bath! Each character has their private fears, weaknesses and demons hiding beneath the skin…
I have always struggled to describe the mix of different genres in the novel, but I’m delighted the label ‘domestic noir’ sums it up in two words!
Sarah Jasmon, the author of The Summer of Secrets reviewed Beneath the Skin and said: ‘Four couples with interlocking histories; eight individuals, all with secrets that are ready to explode. Set in the lush heartland of the Cheshire countryside, this is a tautly elegant psychological thriller, razor-sharp and utterly believable. I loved it.’
Thank you, Sarah Jasmon, I couldn’t have put it better myself!

Are you a beach or city girl? Name your favourite destination and why you love it so much.

A city with a beach would be my preference (culture, mooching and relaxation) though last year’s holiday to Mexico would be hard to beat – a white sandy beach and turquoise sea, swimming, snorkelling and sunbathing, cocktails on demand…

If you hadn’t decided on a legal career, is there another profession that would have interested you?

When I left the law I became a volunteer mediator. It was very rewarding work, and though those participating had complete confidentiality, it was brilliant insight to the human psyche – misunderstandings, emotions, fears, viewpoints, identity and versions of truth! Just the sort of things I find fascinating and explore in my writing.

And lastly, you’ve been invited onto I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. If you could choose four of your companion contestants, who would they be and why?

This is a tough question! I’m hopeless at coming up with quick-fire answers to what I want for my birthday or for dinner, let alone being abandoned in Australia! But I’ll give it a go…
Kate Atkinson, not only because I admire her writing so much, but to find out how exciting it must have been to have Jason Isaacs, perfectly cast, as Jackson Brodie!
Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes (I’ll count them as one) because they were both so hugely talented (and to thrash out what really happened in their tempestuous relationship).
Steve Coogan because he’s witty, funny and creative. And he’s a great impressionist. And comes from Manchester!
James Keziah Delaney, the character Tom Hardy played in Taboo. He’s an incestuous brutal monster, but he’s a compelling, vulnerable and damaged human being too! It would be fascinating to peel back the layers of his past and I don’t think he’d have a problem with the challenges and bugs! Tom Hardy would have to come too, obviously. He’s such a fabulous and versatile actor, he’d be very welcome to play any, or indeed, all the characters in Beneath the Skin!




Facebook author page:
Twitter: Caroline England @CazEngland

About Caroline England

Born a Yorkshire lass, Caroline studied Law at Manchester university and stayed over the border. Caroline practised family and professional indemnity law. She became a partner in a firm of Solicitors and instigated her jottings when she deserted the law to bring up her three lovely daughters. Caroline has had short stories and poems published in a wide variety of literary magazines and anthologies.

Beneath the Skin

Buy Link:


The lies start small. They always do.
Antonia. It’s been her name for many years. But sometimes, like tonight, she forgets.
Antonia has a secret. A secret so dark and so deep that she can barely admit it to herself. Instead, she treats herself to Friday night sessions of self-harm while her husband David is at the pub and her best friend Sophie is drinking too much wine a few doors down.
Nobody close to her knows the truth about what she saw all those years ago. No one, that is, except her mother. But Candy is in a care home now, her mind too confused to remember the truth. Antonia is safe. Isn’t she?

Posted in Writing

Today Tuesday Talk catches up with writer Emma Hornby, whose second Victorian saga Manchester Moll is due to be published on 4th May…

12278947_1673068766270653_4860251469678423258_nGood morning Emma and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself?

Hi, Jo, thanks for inviting me here. I’m 33 years old and live in Bolton, England, with my fiancé and our three children. I signed a three-book deal last year with Transworld, Penguin Random House, and now write full time.

How did your writing journey begin?

I’ve always had a passion for writing and began jotting poetry in my teens. After selling some of my poems and having short fiction pieces accepted for the internet, print and stage, I decided to try my hand at novel writing – I’m so glad I did. It’s been an incredible journey so far.
I’d been researching my family history for years and was fascinated by what I unearthed. Generation after generation lived, worked and clawed out a life in the poorest slums in Bolton and Manchester. I’d spend hours imagining what their lot must have been like, picturing these faceless people, wondering about their daily lives, their relationships, loves, fights, hopes and struggles. My mind was soon swamped with imaginary scenarios and I began penning down snippets, immersing myself in the research of the time. The result was a full-length novel – my debut, A Shilling for a Wife – and an overflowing trunk of ideas now sitting patiently in my mind, waiting to be turned into future books.

Are you planning to remain a saga writer for the foreseeable future, or would you ever be tempted to write something more contemporary?

I enjoy writing most genres. However, sagas are my passion. They are what I prefer to read and write. I’m contracted to produce books set in the Victorian era (my favourites) but I do have ideas for a WWII novel on the back burner. I’ve discovered some fascinating facts about my great-grandfather, who fell in the war, which I’d love to weave into a novel one day.

Who is your favourite author and why?

I can’t really pick a specific one; there are several I admire. Saga-wise, I would have to put Catherine Cookson at the top. She was a true master of her craft – her style is rather simplistic but does the job brilliantly. Gripping, un-put-downable stories told from the heart. Magic. I also adore Joan Jonker’s books. Her stories ooze warmth – she’s my feel-good author I turn to when I need cheering up. Her books are like a big hug from beginning to end.
I also love the classics; Austen, Hardy and Wilde’s works in particular. Though my favourite is Wilkie Collins. His voice and creative skill blow me away. He had a true gift.

Have you another book in the pipeline? If so, can you tell us something about it?

I’ve recently finished the final edits for my second novel Manchester Moll, which is out in May, and am currently working on book three. This tells the story of three orphans struggling for survival in the mean slums of Victorian Manchester. These may be some of my favourite characters yet – I’m enjoying it immensely. This book is out February next year.

And lastly, you are holding a dinner party and are planning to invite four celebrity guests. Who would you choose and why?

Sadly, most of my favourite people are dead! But as we’re speaking hypothetically… My first choice would have to be Winston Churchill. Because, well. It’s Winston Churchill. I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to meet one of the greatest Britons of all time. Moreover, he might have some useful tips for that war book I mentioned…
Next would be Brian Blessed. I LOVE that man. His positive outlook and zest for life is wonderful. He’s big, brash, and fabulously eccentric. What’s not to like?
On that note, my third choice would be David Attenborough – everyone’s wished-for granddad (admit it, we’ve all thought it!). Brian’s booming voice might get a bit much after a while, and David’s silken tones would counteract perfectly. Also, he must have some fascinating stories to tell!
Lastly, to add a comedic touch to the proceedings, I’d invite David Jason. A fantastic actor and all-round lovely jubbly bloke. But if he’s busy, you know, flogging knocked-off lawn mower engines and tea cosies as soppy hats, I’d have Sid James in reserve. And if Hattie Jacques and the rest of the gang fancied tagging along, they’d be more than welcome – we could always dig out the emergency chairs…


Thirty-three-year-old mother of three Emma Hornby lives on a tight-knit working-class estate in Bolton and has read sagas all her life. Before pursuing a career as a novelist, she had a variety of jobs, from care assistant for the elderly, to working in a Blackpool rock factory. She was inspired to write after researching her family history; like the characters in her books, many generations of her family eked out life amidst the squalor and poverty of Lancashire’s slums.


Emma’s Social Media Links:



Sally Swann thought life couldn’t get much worse. Then a single coin changed hands.x

A dismal cottage in the heart of Bolton, Lancashire, has been Sally’s prison since Joseph Goden ‘bought’ her from the workhouse as his wife. A drunkard and bully, Joseph rules her with a rod of iron, using fists and threats to keep her in check.

When Sally gives birth, however, she knows she must do anything to save her child from her husband’s clutches. She manages to escape, and taking her baby, flees for the belching chimneys of Manchester, in search of her only relative.

But with the threat of discovery by Joseph, who will stop at nothing to find her, Sally must fight with every ounce of strength she has to protect herself and her son, and finally be with the man who truly loves her. For a fresh start does not come without a price . . .

Buy links:



Moll thought she could keep her family safe…

51xWkbMPvaLEighteen-year-old Moll Chambers works her fingers to the bone doing all she can to support her family. With an ailing father and a wayward mother, Moll is the only one who can look after her siblings, Bo and Sissy.

But Manchester is an increasingly dangerous place to live, overrun with a ferocious rivalry between gangs of so-called ‘scuttlers’: young men and women bent on a life of violence and crime. And they have her brother in their sights. Soon even Moll can’t protect Bo from the lure of the criminal underworld.

Then the scuttlers looked her way.

When she herself falls for the leader of a rival gang, Moll’s choices place her and Bo firmly on opposite sides of the city’s turf war.

With her loyalties now torn in two and tragedy lurking round every corner, will Moll be able to rise above the conflict and protect those she loves the most? Or will stepping out with a scuttler spell ruin for them all…?

Buy links:


Posted in Writing

It’s 17th April and publication day for Natalie Fergie’s debut novel The Sewing Machine


Screen Shot 2017-03-03 at 14.44.38

It is 1911, and Jean is about to join the mass strike at the Singer factory. For her, nothing will be the same again.

Decades later, in Edinburgh, Connie sews coded moments of her life into a notebook, as her mother did before her.

More than 100 years after his grandmother’s sewing machine was made, Fred discovers a treasure trove of documents. His family history is laid out before him in a patchwork of unfamiliar handwriting and colourful seams.

He starts to unpick the secrets of four generations, one stitch at a time.



I absolutely loved this book.  A multi-layered trio of stories which weave together, all connected to one sewing machine.

These three very different yet connected tales move seamlessly through the book.  It’s cleverly written and well researched.  Although there’s quite a large cast of characters, I had no trouble keeping each story separate and being able to identify who was who.  The book moves in and out of the various timelines as Jean, Connie and Fred’s individual stories are plaited together.  I didn’t find the changes between past and present and back again at all distracting – something I feel was down to the quality of the writing.

The author has created a wonderful array of very real characters.  Beginning in 1911 and ending in 2016, there’s everything here to keep the reader turning the pages – a tale of families, love, heartache, challenges, and some surprising discoveries.   All in all a wonderful debut and worthy of five stars.  I look forward to reading more from Natalie Fergie.


E-book currently available on Amazon –

Waterstones Link:

Paperback to follow.


17Natalie Fergie is a textile enthusiast, and has spent the last ten years running a one-woman dyeing business, sending parcels of unique yarn and thread all over the world. Before this she had a career in nursing. She lives near Edinburgh.

The Singer 99K, which was the inspiration for this novel, has had at least four previous owners.  It was bought for £20 from someone who lived in the Clydebank, just a stone’s throw from the site of the factory where it was made a hundred years earlier.

It’s quite possible that there are another eight sewing machines in her house.

She blogs at and can be found on Twitter at @theyarnyard





Posted in Writing

Tuesday Talk welcomes author Sue Shepherd chatting about bucket lists, favourite songs and where she gets her inspiration from…

Sue ShepherdGood morning Sue and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself?

Morning, Jo. Thanks very much for having me. I suppose it’s true to say that I’m a middle-aged wife and mum. Although, as anyone of my age will tell you, we never really feel like we’ve reached that note-worthy point of middle age! I live on the beautiful Isle of Wight, a move we made as a family six years ago. I have two teenage sons and a 2-year-old standard poodle, called Forrest (named after Mr Gump.) I came to writing quite late in life, but I’m so glad I finally found it, or it found me!

How did your writing journey begin?

Originally, I thought I fancied writing for children. However, I soon discovered that my characters’ choice of vocabulary and my subject matter were far from conducive with kid’s books. I dabbled in short stories when I was younger, but I’d say my writing journey began properly when I attended some Creative Writing courses which were being held locally by the author, Sophie King. I found that I thoroughly enjoyed those two hours a week and soon developed a love of writing. At one of the classes, I wrote a piece of flash fiction about a guardian angel who had been allocated Sue Shepherd to watch over. It was a comedy piece about how disastrous I was, and how all the angels dreaded getting assigned to me. I don’t know why, but I decided to give the angel a human side and described her staff room etc. The group seemed to like the piece, and Sophie suggested I elaborate on the idea. Before I knew it, I was writing a full-blown novel, and very quickly my three main human characters made themselves and their situations known to me. From those humble beginnings, my best-selling novel ‘Doesn’t Everyone Have a Secret?’ was born.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I’m very nosey. I listen in to people’s conversations and I think, ‘Oh, that’s going in alove-them-and-leave-them book book.’ Obviously, not word for word! The general situations that people find themselves in fascinate me. I never do a lot of plotting for my books. I prefer to put my characters in a situation and see where they go. My second novel, ‘Love Them and Leave Them.’ is about a split-second decision. It begins with a man driving and he must decide whether to hit a rabbit in the road or swerve. The story then shows his twenty-something daughter six years later, living two very different lives. That story was inspired by a piece I read about a woman who had a car accident when she swerved to avoid a bird in the road and collided with a telegraph pole. Sadly, her life was dramatically changed from that day forward and, as well as feeling terrible for the woman and her family, my main thought was, ‘Gosh, I’ll bet she’d give anything to go back and make that decision again.’ And that’s how my second novel began.

What destination is at the top of your bucket list and why?

I’d say Western Australia, because I went travelling for a year around Australia when I was 24, but I never made it over to the Western side and everyone told me it was “The best bit!”. However, I’m not convinced I could do such a long flight now I’m a … um … middle aged woman! So maybe, I’ll say Iceland, because I’d love to see the Northern Lights.

Have you another book in the pipeline? If so, can you tell us something about it?

I’m on the second draft of my 3rd book. My publisher is also my editor and I’ll soon be sending it to him for his thoughts. Obviously, this is now the third time we’ve done this process and one of the things I love most about it is how invested into the books Ian becomes. By the time we’re on the final, final edits we both know the characters so well, it’s like we’re discussing mutual friends. I can’t tell you what the third book is about, sorry. But I can say, it’s very much in my usual style, hopefully funny in places, but also moving. I like to have something slightly different in my books, for example, angels and parallel lives, and there is a similar element to book three. Mysterious, huh? I enjoy tackling bold subjects, and, thankfully, I’ve been assured I handled them with sensitivity.

Which author would you most like to meet?

I’m a big fan of Marian Keyes. I think it was reading her novels that really helped me to decide on my preferred genre. Along with Sophie King, Marian showed me that it’s possible to write a novel from multiple viewpoints, which I really enjoy. Another thing I love about her books is how she can go from laughter to tears in the space of a page. She has a wonderful warm Irish voice which is captured within her books. However, I think we all need to find our own writing voice and stick to it, so I won’t be attempting any Irish charm of my own. My writing voice has been described as containing a dry wit, and I’m more than happy with that compliment.
One day, I’d love to meet Marian and thank her for being such a great influence. I must say that she does follow me back on Twitter, a fact I’m very proud of.

And lastly, a Desert Island Disc themed question. If you were planning to spend time away from civilization, what four songs would you take with you and why? 

I’m so pleased you asked this question. I recently got interested in desert island discs. My sister told me Marian Keyes was on and I had a listen to her and found her life story very moving. After that, I was totally hooked, and I’ve been listening to loads of back episodes and thinking about what discs I’d choose, so this is a brilliant question to finish on.
1. Do you love me by The Contours. It’s part of the ‘I carried a watermelon’ scene in Dirty Dancing. Oh blimey, when Johnny Castle bursts through that door! The song is just so vibrant and energetic. I heard it in the supermarket recently, it was difficult to stop myself from dropping the basket and dancing!
2. Kiss Me by Sixpence None the Richer. It reminds me of when my husband and I first met. It was kind of our song. It’s romantic without being vomit inducing.
3. Shut up and Dance by Walk the Moon. It’s got a kind of 80s beat and much like my first choice, I find it energising. My teenage sons even allowed me to play it on repeat in the car for a little while.
4. Fly Me to the Moon by Julie London. My mum used to sing this all the time. My sister and I chose it for her funeral last year and although it did make us sad, it also reminded us of the numerous times throughout our childhood when our mum would sing ‘Fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars.’ And our dad, who’s also no longer with us, would shout, ‘I will fly you there, in a bloody minute, if you don’t stop singing that song!’



Sue Shepherd writes contemporary romance and enjoys creating novels with heart, laughs and naughtiness. She doesn’t pull any punches when choosing her subjects, but manages to handle her characters’ challenging situations with sensitivity and humour.

Her debut novel ‘Doesn’t Everyone Have a Secret?’ was published by Corazon Books in March 2015. It reached the top 10 UK Kindle chart, and also topped the romantic comedy, contemporary romance and humour charts. It became available in paperback on Amazon.UK in November 2015.
Sue’s second novel ‘Love Them and Leave Them’ was published in September 2016.
Sue lives on the picturesque Isle of Wight with her husband, two sons and a standard poodle. Her passions in life are: her family, writing, the sea-side and all the beautiful purple things her sons have bought her over the years. Ask Sue to plan too far in advance and you’ll give her the heebie-jeebies and she’d prefer you not to mention Christmas until at least November!


Twitter – @thatsueshepherd

Facebook –



Can Jessie gain the confidence to get her life back on track? And will Jessica lose everything she cares about because of one stupid mistake?

Whichever decision Jessica’s dad makes, the same people are destined to come into her life, sometimes in delightfully different ways. And before they can look forward to the future, they will all have to deal with the mistakes of the past.

Now, twenty-something Jessie is stuck in a job with no prospects, with an unreliable boyfriend, Chris; her dreams never fulfilled.


What Reviewers have to say…

Another page turner from the No.1 bestselling author of Doesn’t Everyone Have a Secret?

“I really enjoyed the whole concept of this novel. Being able to see someone’s life in parallel worlds and how one decision can cause such a difference in someone’s life.” Sarah Hardy

“… a lovely novel that may get you thinking ‘what if’ … in your own life.” Rachel’s Random Reads

“A truly brilliant read – unique, funny and thought provoking.” Laura Bambrey Books

Six years ago, Jessica’s dad made a split-second decision that changed her life forever …

Now, twenty-something Jessica has a successful career, loving boyfriend, Nick, and a keen eye on her dream home.

But in a parallel world, Jessica’s dad made another choice and everything turned out differently …
Link to book on Amazon –



Posted in Writing



Faithless cover


Amazon UK Purchase Link: Purchase Link:

About the book…

Oslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich are back … and this time, it’s personal… When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that he knows her … and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he ponders the tragic events surrounding her death, Frølich’s colleague Gunnarstranda investigates a disturbingly similar cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway and Frølich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers – and the killer – before he strikes again. Dark, brooding and utterly chilling, Faithless is a breath-taking and atmospheric page-turner that marks the return of an internationally renowned and award-winning series, from one of the fathers of Nordic Noir.



As my Saturday evenings in aren’t complete without tuning in to BBC 4 to catch the latest episode of the current Nordic Crime series, I was really pleased to join this book tour for Kjell Ola Dahl’s latest novel Faithless.  Oslo detectives Frølich and Gunnarstranda’s investigations – one involving a missing foreign student and the other the murder of thirty something Veronika Undset – seem at the outset to have a tenuous connection.  The body, wrapped in plastic, also bears the hallmarks of a previous murder, but are they connected in any way?

As the book progressed and the fate of the missing student was discovered, I was left to concentrate on who out of all the suspects was Veronika’s murderer – and there were a few!  I made my choice. Now all I had to do was read on to discover how exactly they would eventually be apprehended.  I have to say the ending of the story took me totally by surprise – I honestly didn’t it coming.

A well woven plot with dark characters, tense moments and lots of surprises – thoroughly deserving of  5 stars.

Although a complete departure from my usual reading/reviewing I found the story gripping from start to finish.  This may well have started an addiction to Nordic Crime novels as well as TV series!

As the cover of Faithless says ‘Kjell Ola Dahl’s novels are superb. If you haven’t read one yet, you need to  – right now.’



One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.






Posted in Writing

Today Tuesday Talk is chatting to Natalie Fergie whose debut novel The Sewing Machine is due out on 17th April.

17Good morning Natalie and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself?

Hello, and thank you very much for inviting me onto your blog.
I’m Natalie, and I live near Edinburgh in a very ordinary house with extraordinary views across the Forth Valley; on a clear day we can see for about 40 miles. I have deliberately put my desk against a wall to stop myself spending all day looking out of the window and soaking up the landscape.
I have cycled from Edinburgh to London, ice climbed on Ben Nevis, built drystone walls, worked in a pub and a supermarket (and very briefly, in a call centre – I was terrible at it). I was a nurse for 26 years, and then set up a textiles business making hand-dyed yarn.
My favourite food is cheese – any sort of cheese. If the world had to ban cheese or chocolate I would have no hesitation at all in binning the chocolate. I make a mean French onion soup.
Despite being the holder of a full motorbike licence, I am completely uncoordinated, and have given up trying to go to fitness classes because I always end up in a fit of giggles at the back.

How did your writing journey begin?

The short answer to that is “in fits and starts”.
At school, I had pen-pals. There was an organisation called International Pen Pals, and if you paid for five names you got two, absolutely free! So as a teenager, I wrote letters; lots and lots of letters.
I turned down an offer to go to university to study English when I left school, and decided to go and do all the drystone walling and rock climbing instead, which was much more fun.
And then, as an adult, with small children at home, I joined another Pen Pal organisation and wrote more letters to women in the USA and Ukraine and other places. Eventually that fizzled out, but in the days before Facebook and email, when ringing someone in America cost £2 a minute, spending time at the kitchen table with a pen and a stack of airmail paper taught me a lot about story-telling, though I didn’t realise it at the time. I started a blog in 2006 and wrote about knitting and the hens in the back garden, and how to change the filters on your Dyson (most popular blogpost, ever).
And then in 2015 I did a short writing course called Write Like a Grrrl, designed to help women get words from their heads onto the page, and met a group of amazing women in Edinburgh who I am proud to know.

Your debut novel The Sewing Machine is about to be published. What was the inspiration behind it?

Anyone who does dressmaking knows that you start sewing a garment together by filling a sewing machine bobbin with thread. How much you will need for the dress or skirt you are making is a total guesstimate. When you finish the project there is always a bit left on the bobbin, but we rarely remove it, we simply add the cotton for the next project on top of it.

I have a bit of a vintage sewing machine habit. When I brought home a 1923 Singer 99k, I wanted to use it, not look at it. I began to unwind the bobbins to refill them with fresh thread, and all of a sudden I realised that the colours in front of me were events in the lives of the former owners; school uniform, a dress for a dance, a pair of curtains.
That was the start of the idea for the book.

What research did you do for the book and where did you find the information you needed?

The internet is a wonderful thing, but it can’t replace actually visiting locations and looking at real documents.
I went to the site of the Singer factory (now demolished), and stood on the platform of the Singer train station. I visited Clydebank Library (the staff were great) and looked at archive material, receipts, newspaper articles and other ephemera, and I went to see the Singer Sewing Machine Collection at the same time.
In Edinburgh, I spent time in various locations, timed how long it took to walk from A to B, (and C and D) and consulted early 20th century street and business directories.
I learned very quickly that, without exception, people are kind and generous with their expertise if you ask. The acknowledgements list in the back of the novel will give you some idea of the range of questions I asked – everything from botany to chess!

Have you another book in the pipeline? If so, can you tell us something about it?

I do.
There is a theme to my writing, but I’m not writing a connected series.
In many ways, the main character of The Sewing Machine is not Jean or Fred, it’s the machine itself, and how people’s lives are influenced by it. The next novel is similar, but about a different object.
I’m a bit superstitious about saying more than that!

Who are your favourite authors?

I tend to have favourite books rather than authors, but I’ll do my best.

Long time favourites I have read several times:
Happenstance, by Carol Shields, Pulitzer Prize winning novelist. This is one of my favourite books of all time.
The Diaries of Jane Somers, by Doris Lessing, published originally under a pseudonym.

Recent books:
The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick
The Other Mrs Walker by Mary Paulson-Ellis
Pretty much anything by Denise Mina. I love the way she leads you into a plot.

And lastly, if you were planning a sabbatical on a desert island and could take four ‘must haves’, what would they be and why?

1. My Filofax and an endless supply of paper and pencils. It’s my tool of choice for note taking and plotting.

2. Teabags. Nothing fancy. Just as everyday cheddar is known as ‘mousetrap’ in our house, ordinary ‘mousetrap’ cheapie teabags would be perfect. Posh tea is wasted on me, I’m afraid.

3. Marmite. Being the first person to open a new jar and disrupt the glossy dark brown surface is an event which is fought over in our house!

4. A solar powered radio so I can listen to Radio 4, and be entertained by Rev. Richard Coles on Saturday mornings. If I get desperate I might be tempted back to The Archers, but it’s not been the same since the Nigel incident so I may stick with Gardeners’ Question Time instead.

The Sewing Machine  


Screen Shot 2017-03-03 at 14.44.38

It is 1911, and Jean is about to join the mass strike at the Singer factory. For her, nothing will be the same again.

Decades later, in Edinburgh, Connie sews coded moments of her life into a notebook, as her mother did before her.

More than 100 years after his grandmother’s sewing machine was made, Fred discovers a treasure trove of documents. His family history is laid out before him in a patchwork of unfamiliar handwriting and colourful seams.

He starts to unpick the secrets of four generations, one stitch at a time.

E-book currently available for pre- order on Amazon –

Waterstones Link:

Paperback to follow.

Posted in Writing

Bookouture’s Blog Tour for Sandy Taylor’s When We Danced at The End of the Pier: A heartbreaking novel of family tragedy and wartime romance (Brighton Girls Trilogy Book 1)



I was really pleased to be part of this tour.  I absolutely loved The Girls From See Saw Lane and Counting Chimneys so couldn ‘t wait to see how the Brighton Series came to a conclusion.

unnamed (1)Sandy Taylor’s first two books were emotional rollercoasters and When We Danced at the End of the Pier is yet another.  On this occasion we have a prequel –  it’s Dottie’s mother Maureen’s story and it is every bit as heart-breaking as her daughter’s.

Sandy takes us through her childhood years, growing up with her younger sister Brenda.  Her mother cleans well to do peoples’ houses. Her father, emotionally damaged by his experiences in the First World War – what today we would call post traumatic stress disorder – stays at home to look after his daughters and cook.  Despite his relapses he adores his two daughters and gives them  a warm, loving environment.  However this does not stop him being labelled a work shirker by the girls’ unpleasant Uncle Fred and Aunt Vera.

When the family is moved from Carlton Hill to a new home in See Saw Lane, Maureen meets next door neighbour Jack. Although she is only eight years old at the time she instinctively knows they will always be together.

The story follows Maureen and Brenda’s  lives and their relationship with Jack and Nelson as they grow from children into young adults.  It’s a time of simple pleasures, of make do and mend and a great feel of community. There are so many changes to come for these four characters, not all of them good.  What does shine through is their resilience and ability to accept situations and make the best of them, no matter how difficult.  The two characters that particularly impacted on me were poor fatherless Nelson and the girls shell-shocked father.  Having said that, the rest of the cast are a brilliant weave of personalities – some to empathise with and some to thoroughly dislike. Sandy has a great gift for storytelling and I’m very much looking forward to what she has next in store for us readers.

A beautiful read that stayed with me long after I’d reached the last page and a fitting finale to the Brighton Trilogy.



unnamed (2)