The Lost Children by Helen Phifer

After a previous case ended in a tragic double murder, Detective Lucy Harwin, has been on enforced absence from the force. But when the body of an elderly man is discovered in an abandoned hospital, she is plunged straight back into a case that will test her to breaking point.

For decades, The Moore housed the forgotten children of Northern coastal town, Brooklyn Bay. But ever since a scandal forced its closure, the abandoned building has been left untouched.

Together with her partner, Detective Mattie Jackson, Lucy begins to unearth its terrible history, and soon finds herself on the trail of a killer ruthlessly fixated on avenging the crimes of the past.

As Lucy begins to close in on the killer, a woman is found murdered on her own doorstep. With the attacks escalating, and those closest to her now a target, can Lucy protect them and herself before it’s too late?

 

This is a really gripping story of revenge and murder, and I think it’s possibly my favourite of Helen Phifer’s books so far. It definitely pulled me in from the first page, and the action never stops. A really grisly murder in an old asylum – how can it not hold your attention and make your heart beat just that little bit faster?
I’m a fan of this author’s Annie Graham books, so I wondered if Lucy Harwin would appeal as much. She did. I could relate to the overworked detective, whose husband had walked out on her for another woman, and whose daughter, Ellie, is struggling with issues around their separation, her mother’s obsession with her job, coping with a new family, and all the other teenage angst that girls of her age have to deal with. Lucy is battling the inevitable guilt over Ellie, sadness over losing her husband, and the aftermath of events in her professional past, which have led to her being ordered to undergo counselling.
When the first murder occurs, it puts added pressure on Lucy’s and Ellie’s relationship, as, before long, Lucy is in the grip of an all-consuming police investigation, involving an old asylum, the people who once worked there, and the patients they “treated” – the lost children. As the body count rises, Lucy and her sidekick, Mattie, find themselves in a race against time. Someone is out for revenge, and the killer is showing no mercy.
My thoughts on who this killer could be changed throughout the course of the novel. It wasn’t until I nearly reached the end of the book that I realised who it was. I’d been led down another path very cleverly by the author.
This is, I believe, the first in a new series of Lucy Harwin novels, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing where the character goes next. Helen Phifer is a gifted storyteller, and I’m half dreading what poor Lucy will have to cope with next. Loved the Stephen King character, by the way! Lovely touch. 5/5

You can buy The Lost Children here.

The Forgotten Cottage by Helen Phifer

Poor Annie Graham! As if she hasn’t been through enough, dealing with a serial killer and a shadow man, she’s really put through the mill this time. It seems that she’s under attack from just about every angle. I felt exhausted just reading it!
Annie and her fiance, Will, are finally going to get married. Annie has a man who adores her, prospective in-laws who think the world of her, the wedding dress of her dreams, and to top it all off, Will has found them the most perfect little cottage in the country. Okay, it’s a renovation project, as it hasn’t been lived in for twenty years, but Annie’s always up for a challenge, and she can’t wait to get started, turning the cottage into the dream home that will be just right for the family she so desperately hopes she and Will will have one day.
Except…The cottage, it seems, already has an occupant. And she’s not happy that Annie is moving in. As Annie’s nightmares become increasingly vivid, she begins to realise that she’s in danger. And this time, she’s not the only one under threat.
Will’s father has a secret, and it’s about to be brought out into the open in a truly explosive fashion. Will – already reeling from recent events – isn’t prepared, and before long, he’s in deep trouble.
And somewhere, in what should be a place of safety, an old adversary is making plans. He has a new friend, and between them, they have some dangerous ideas. There is some unfinished business, and Annie’s enemy is determined to put an end to it.
Will and Annie are facing so many threats. Can they possibly come through and make it to the altar? Or, this time, is the danger they are in too strong, even for them?
Wow, this book was non-stop action! Annie and Will had the lot hurled at them, and the sense of menace grew as the book progressed. I really enjoyed reading about the normal, everyday stuff in their lives. Preparing for the wedding, finding a home that they wanted to live in, hanging out with family and friends. Of course, you know when you read about Annie Graham, that the normal stuff isn’t going to last very long, and sure enough, you quickly realise that all is not as it seems. Actually, with this book, the action starts on the first page, when Annie’s dreams foreshadow the danger ahead.
I love the way the book cuts to the eighteenth century, so we see the story of Betsy Baker unfolding. She is one scary spook! Also, the present-day threats are interspersed throughout the story, so the pace of the book never flags. On the contrary, it is fast paced and leaves you quite breathless. While two of the storylines are tied up at the end of the book, one remains open, heralding the fact that, in book four, Annie and Will may find themselves in even greater peril. I can’t wait to read The Lake House and find out what happens next!
Helen Phifer is a great storyteller, and the Annie Graham series is totally gripping. Although this is the third in the series, it can be read as a standalone, though why miss out? The Ghost House and The Secrets of the Shadows are just as good! 5/5

You can buy The Forgotten Cottage here.forgotten cottage

The Busy Month of May

After my participation in the A to Z Challenge during the merry month of April, I was all blogged out. I’d somehow – don’t ask me how, because I’ve no idea – managed to come up with twenty-six different topics to blog about, all starting with the appropriate letter. Even more astonishing, I’d remembered to schedule them. And I’d scheduled them correctly. Give that girl a pat on the back! By the thirtieth of April, however, I was feeling a bit weary, and resolved to take some time off blogging.

On May 1st, I broke the resolution immediately by taking part in the Lovely Blog tour, at the invitation of my Write Romantic pal, Jo Bartlett. But that, I decided, was that. No more blogging for another month. Then another of my Write Romantic pals, Jessica Redland, asked me to be the first guest on her blog. How could I refuse that invitation? So I agreed to that, too, and you can read my post here. Jessica, by the way, has a fabulous new website that you may like to check out. It’s absolutely gorgeous and you can see it in all its glory here.

Not blogging freed up a little bit of time, and May has actually been quite a productive month for me. I finished the novella I’d started, and I’m quite impressed that I managed to bring in a story at just IDShot_225x225under 41,000 words. I’ll let you know what happens with that one. I’ve also done a first draft for a short story, and I’m now looking at it and wondering, if I turn the viewpoint around completely, will that make it more interesting, and unpredictable? Hmm, I’ll think about that one. And, best of all, I’ve made real progress with book three! Now that really is good news, because it’s been really worrying me for simply ages. Nothing I tried felt right and the story just wasn’t working. I put it away for a few months – yes, honestly, months! – and tried to think about something else entirely, while I got A Kiss from a Rose ready to send to the editor, beta read two other writers’ novels, and worked on the novella. Then I had a lightbulb moment. It came to me, in a flash (so an exploding lightbulb moment!) that I was writing about the wrong character entirely. That was the problem. When I sent her packing (sorry, sweetie) and focused on a different character, the story began to take shape immediately. This has given me so much relief, I can’t begin to tell you. So I won’t. Although I rather think I just did.

Anyway, I’ve been writing a scene a day in my little office, so my husband knows I mean business. If I’m downstairs, tapping away on the laptop, he can be quite sure that I’m on Facebook, Twitter or Googling pointless things in the name of research. If I’m in my office, sitting at my desk, staring at the large computer monitor, he knows I’m doing real writing. And I won’t leave that room until I’ve written at least one scene. That’s the rule.

download (16)I’ve also managed to get a bit more reading done. I’ve read Jessica’s novella, Raving about Rhys (you can read my review here), as well as being lucky enough to read both her debut novel, Searching for Steven, and her follow-up book, the second in the Whitsborough Bay series. I absolutely loved them! I’ve also read Louise Marley’s novella, Something Wicked, and I posted a review of that, too, which you can read here. I’m currently reading two books – Helen Phifer’s The Secrets of the Shadows, and Valerie-Anne Baglietto’s The Moon on a Stick. I’m loving them both!

When I popped over to post my reviews on here, I thought the blog was looking a bit tired, so I had a play around with background colours and fonts, and then made a header picture. I’ve used a similar one for my Facebook writer’s page here. I’m not technically minded at all, so it took me a good while to figure out how to do it, but I’m really pleased with the result.

All in all, I’ve had a good May, in terms of my “proper job”, which is what I consider writing to be. Unfortunately, it’s the “day job” that pays the bills, which is terribly inconvenient. One day I will win the lottery and then I’ll be able to buy the house of my dreams and clear off to the countryside or coast and spend every day writing. Or faffing about on Facebook. Or blogging! Now, there’s a thought. Of 10429272_799949250122316_6415847908952233703_ncourse, I’d have to buy a ticket first, and since I haven’t done that since around 2002 I don’t rate my chances very highly. Ah well.

Ooh, and as a final treat to finish off the month, my Baby Oleg arrived today! We took out car insurance through a certain comparison site, and we’ve been waiting patiently while PostKat trotted halfway round the world with our little darling, but this morning there was a knock on the door and our very own PostKat, well, a rather wet and bedraggled looking postman, actually, was standing there with our newly adopted baby meerkat. Small things, and all that… Now I just need a Paddington Bear and I’ll be happy. 🙂

Have a great week xx

S is for Series

Sis for series, which is what I’m currently writing. The Kearton Bay series, to be exact, which consists of four novels featuring different main characters each time, but with the same setting and with a backdrop of characters that have featured in all four novels.

There are obvious advantages to writing a series. For a start, you don’t have to think of a new setting each time, and you don’t have to create a whole new cast of characters. When you open the laptop and write Chapter One, you’re heading back to familiar territory. You’re visiting a place you’re familiar with, to meet up with people who’ve become great friends. You know the characters and their quirks; you have a soft spot for them and find it easy to write about them; you don’t have to sit there for hours on end trying to decide who is related to whom and working out a back story for your lead character because you’ve already done it. You’ve put in the groundwork right at the beginning.

On the other hand, there is the big issue of continuity. When I started writing Book Three, I decided to change something which meant amending Book One. I was lucky because There Must Be An Angel hadn’t yet been published, so it was easy to go in and tweak something to make it  correspond with the new twist. However, Angel is now officially out there, and I can’t change anything. Book Two, A Kiss From A Rose, will be out there in September, which means I really have to be careful with what I’ve written, and make absolutely sure that it ties up with Book Three before it’s too late. There’s an awful lot of checking and re-checking to be done, and I have long lists with characters’ birthdates, important dates in their timelines, even eye colour and favourite food!

The other thing, of course, is freshness. I have to confess that, after completing the first two novels, I needed a bit of a break from Kearton Bay. I’m currently writing short stories and working on a novella length one, just to do something different without taking too much time off. I’m on a schedule, after all, and can’t take too long a break, but a little time spent in a new location with new characters is a delight, and I think it’s essential to stop me getting too jaded.

And after I’ve finished Book Four? Well, I have an idea for a stand alone novel, but then I have plots for three more which I think will form a new series, set in the Yorkshire Dales. I’ve got just the place in mind as inspiration, and I have some lovely new characters who I’m dying to start working with. But for now, Books Three and Four are my priority.

61TROIi4YmL._AA160_I’m not the only Write Romantic writing a series. Helen Phifer is the author of the hugely successful Annie Graham books, published by Carina Uk; Jessica Redland’s Whitsborough Bay series is to be published by So Vain Books; fellow Fabrian author Jo Bartlett is writing a series 51RNIeU+KiL._AA160_set on the south coast in St Nicholas Bay, and the first – The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come – was published in November; while Alys West’s series is a brilliant urban fantasy collection, the first of which, Beltane, will hopefully be available soon.

I love reading series. There’s something so comforting about opening the covers of a book and finding yourself back amongst characters you’ve come to know and love.

51-Ea4e2iuL._AA160_Recently, I finished reading the third in the Heartfelt trilogy by Adrienne Vaughan. There was something wonderful about opening the covers of those books and heading straight back to the lovely island of Innishmahon to catch up with old friends like Marianne and Ryan, Dermot and Kathleen. I was very sad to finish Secrets of the Heart and realise that I wouldn’t be visiting the island again. Because, that’s another great thing about a series – the joy of loving a whole new group of characters and becoming part of their lives, and knowing that once a book is finished, you can always head back later to find out what they’ve been up to. My mother, upon finishing Angel, asked me quite anxiously, ‘This second book, are Eliza and Gabriel still in it?’ I replied that they were but the story was really about Rose and Flynn. ‘But Eliza and Gabriel are in it?’ she persisted. I assured her they were and asked, ‘Why? Do you like them?’ ‘Oh yes,’ she replied. ‘They’re lovely, and I want to know they’re all right.’

41XR2JYT0TL._AA160_I can’t tell you how happy that made me! I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve struggled with the third in the Bridget Jones series. In spite of loving the first two novels, I haven’t managed to get past the half way point in Mad About the Boy. I just can’t stop grieving for Mark Darcy! And I can’t quite get over the feeling that, as a reader, I’ve been cheated of the happy ending that was promised for the two lead characters in The Edge of Reason.

Characters like Rupert Campbell Black in Jilly Cooper’s fabulously naughty Rutshire series; the wonderful Merrily the wine of angelsWatkins in Phil Rickman’s mystery series; or, lately – for me at any rate, though I know they’ve been around for years – the delicious Ross Poldark and the delightful Demelza in the Poldark books of Winston Graham, are just some of the many, many characters whose lives I have followed and loved as I’ve read each book in the series. There are so many more. In fact, I’ve just reminded myself of a book I have waiting on my Kindle right now! Time to end this blog post and fit in some reading time…

51TBEqTKLPL._AA160_.

Have a great day xx

Remember, There Must Be An Angel is currently free on Kindle, but the offer ends on 23rd April so hurry! Click on the image in the side bar to get your copy.

Why not visit some of the other blogs taking part in the A to Z Challenge?

 

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

sister-hood-awardMy thanks to lovely Linda Huber for nominating me for this award. I love the idea of a sisterhood. Women should support and nourish each other, and I think we mostly do. I think the popular idea is that women are natural rivals, keen to outdo each other and put each other down, but, speaking from personal experience, I find most women are all too keen to help their ‘sisters’ along the way. I, for one, am very grateful for that, and keen to repay the favour. Linda was one of the lovely authors who contributed a short story to the Write Romantics’ charity anthology, Winter Tales, so I already knew that she was one of those helpful and supportive women. She has also taken an interest in the forthcoming release of my debut novel, There Must Be An Angel, so she really is part of the sisterhood! I’m, therefore, very happy and honoured to take part in this blogging award tour, and answer her questions. Thanks, Linda.

Do you have a ‘sister’? I have a real sister, Tracey, who is two and a half years younger than me and loves to remind me of the fact. I don’t see her as often as I’d like, but I love her to bits and she is one person guaranteed to make me laugh, as well as being the person who really ‘gets’ me. She has known me all her life, after all, and still speaks to me! I think, sometimes, she thinks I’m a bit weird, but she seems willing to put up with that. I’m very proud of her for all she’s achieved and for the person she is, and there’s a bond there that no one else can share, because we grew up together and have so many shared memories and experiences. She is very special to me and I’m so glad I have her. I also have nine honorary ‘sisters’ – the Write Romantics, who listen to my woes and worries and insecurities, laugh at my odd sense of humour and boost my flagging confidence just when I need it. They are a fabulous bunch of ladies and I’m very blessed to be part of their sisterhood.

What’s your favourite memory of primary school? I have loads! I loved primary school. It was a really fabulous school with lovely staff, and I have nothing but happy memories of it. I remember the big old boiler, with the massive fireguard around it, in the centre of the prefab classroom. We used to drape wet coats etc on it in really bad weather, and huddle round it to get warm when we were reading. I remember the school plays which were always such fun. I remember the library and the thrill of discovering a stack of pony books to read. I remember assemblies every morning, singing hymns, bowing our heads to recite the Lord’s Prayer. I remember the last hour of the day when the teacher would read to us – books such as The Cat That Walked a Week by Meindert Dejong, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, and Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner. I remember the sweet shop by the school where we’d all crowd in and buy two ounces of sour apples or kop kops, or the bakery which sold off yesterday’s cream buns for a penny. I remember collecting conkers and fallen leaves for the autumn classroom display, having orange armbands sewn onto my coat sleeves, and walking to school in fog so thick that it was impossible to see a thing in front of you. I remember my friends, and Christmas, and the class postbox where we’d put our cards and presents to be handed out on the last day of term, and singing carols, and the Christmas party, and skipping in the playground, and glueing shiny coloured paper onto card, and playing with plasticine, and having my own peg in the cloakroom, and spelling tests, and sports day, and school reports. Impossible to choose a favourite!

download (4) Who would you invite to dinner, and why? Ooh, good question. Just one person? Really? Well, if it was any person in history I would probably choose Henry VIII because I want to know if he really was as mad as a box of frogs or just a horrible, cruel tyrant, or if there was a lot more to him than we know. I want to know what was going on in what appears to be an incredibly twisted mind. Why did he make those choices? Did he really believe in the decisions he made? Has he any redeeming qualities at all? On the other hand, if it was just one person alive today, I’d choose Jilly Cooper, because I love her books, and I think she’d be fun and I’d love to know what she’s writing next and what we can expect from Rupert Campbell Black.

And what would you cook for them? I wouldn’t. If it was Henry VIII I’d plonk a plate of salad in front of him, followed by fruit, because I think he had a meat overload and could do with a break. And, if it was Jilly Cooper, I like her far too much to inflict my cooking on her. Definitely time to call in outside catering!

Which fictional character would you like to be? Jill Crewe from Jill’s Gymkhana and the other Jill books by Ruby Ferguson. Or any girl in any pony book from that golden era really. They had such jolly, horsy lives, and the only thing they had to worry about was if they would win a rosette at the next gymkhana, or how to do a decent half pass, or if they would get new jodhpurs for Christmas. Happy days.download (5)

Can you remember your first glass of wine? Yes. It was at my aunt and uncle’s wedding. I was a bridesmaid so was allowed a glass for the toast, and I hated it. I still hate it. I just don’t like wine. I don’t like any alcohol really, unless it doesn’t taste much of alcohol.

What’s your favourite colour? Blue. Reminds me of the sea and a clear sky on a  hot summer’s day.

Tell us about your first teenage crush. Oh, this is embarrassing. Okay, it was on my English teacher at school. He was absolutely lovely and I adored him. He was really encouraging about my writing, and I idolised him. The whole school seemed to know I was mad about him. I even sent him a soppy poem. He was incredibly patient and kind, but I bet he breathed a sigh of relief when I left school!

Why do you blog? Initially, it was because I was told it was “the thing to do”, and that writers simply had to blog. I’m not so sure that’s true, actually, but I do enjoy having the blog now. It’s a great place to practice writing, share my news, connect with other bloggers and, hopefully, it will be a place where I can one day connect with readers of my novels.

What do you hope to achieve in 2015? Well, There Must Be An Angel is released in less than two weeks, and I’m hoping at least one person will read it and love it! I also have the second novel, A Kiss From a Rose coming out in September, and I want to have completed book three in the series by the end of the year, ready for publishing in 2016. Quite a lot to do, as you can imagine!

It now falls to me to nominate seven other female bloggers, so I choose Rachael Thomas, Jessica Redland, Alys West, Helen Phifer, Laura James, Julie Stock and Liz Berry. If you’ve already done it, my apologies, and you don’t have to take up the banner. It’s entirely up to you. 

My questions, should you accept the challenge, are as follows:

What is your earliest memory?

What was your favourite Christmas present?

Who would you like to go on a date with? (Excluding current partners/spouses)

Which film would you choose if you could only ever watch one again?

What are you most proud of?

Which woman in history do you most admire?

Which book do you wish you’d written?

What one thing do you think would surprise other people about you?

You’ve had an unexpected windfall of one thousand pounds. What would you spend it on?

Who is your secret crush?

Over to you! Have a great week xx

A Story to Warm Your Heart

Yes, I can finally say it. I’m a published author! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Winter Tales ~ Stories to Warm Your Heart went live on Kindle today (Saturday 8th November) and I, along with the other Write Romantics, couldn’t be more proud. The paperback edition of the book will be available very soon and it will be so utterly gorgeous that it will be worth waiting for. In fact, why not buy both editions? Why not buy extra copies as Christmas presents? good copy

I expect you’re thinking, ‘She’s totally shameless! What a cheek, plugging the book like that!’ Well, when it comes to this particular book I’m happy to promote it endlessly because all proceeds go to two such worthy causes that it would be wrong not to. All the money that’s made from Winter Tales will go to two charities that are close to the Write Romantics’ hearts – The Teenage Cancer Trust and The Cystic Fibrosis Trust. If you want to know why these charities matter so much to us, please click here.

At just £2.56, the anthology provides fabulous value for money – just over 10p a story. Now you can’t deny that’s a bargain, can you? 😉 We’ve had so much help with this anthology, not least from our lovely guests who contributed such great stories. The full list of authors is: Jessica Redland, Rhoda Baxter, Zanna Mackenzie, Jo Bartlett, Harriet James, Alison May, Holly Martin, Kerry Fisher, Sharon Booth, Sarah Painter, Jackie Ladbury, Helen Phifer, Jennifer Bohnet, Helen J Rolfe, Alys West, Terri Nixon, Annie Lyons, Linda Huber, Sarah Lewis, Rachael Thomas, Lynne Pardoe and Samantha Tonge. We really can’t thank our guests enough for sparing the time to write such fabulous stories, and for helping us to spread the word about the anthology and the causes we’re raising money for.

 

To celebrate the launch we’re having a party over on Facebook right here between 1pm and 3pm today (Saturday) and we’re giving away some great prizes including signed copies of books from some of our contributors: Kerry Fisher, Jo Bartlett, Rachael Thomas, Helen Phifer and Linda Huber. There will also, of course, be a copy of the anthology to be won and our star prize which will be awarded to the person who has tweeted the most about the launch. There’ll be food, drink, laughter and friendly chatter, and you can bring a guest. (I’m bringing two!) We’ll no doubt have cake and lots of other delicious nibbly things and since it’s all virtual there are no calories involved. Win win!

We hope you can join us, but if you’re reading this after the event then don’t despair. You can still grab yourself a copy of Winter Tales, snuggle in front of the fire, sip your hot chocolate and shut out the wintry weather with twenty-four feelgood stories to warm your heart.  We do hope you’ll enjoy reading them!

Buy Winter Tales here.

Have a great week xx