Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · Books · Kathleen McGurl · Review Copy · Reviews

Blog Tour, Review: The Forgotten Secret by Kathleen McGurl (@KathMcGurl) @HQDigitalUK @HQstories @rararesources

I am thrilled to be sharing my review of Kathleen McGurl’s latest novel The Forgotten Secret with you today.

Thank you to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part and to HQ, Harper Collins for sending me an e-copy of the book via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Scroll on for a taster of the book and to read my review.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

A country at war

It’s the summer of 1919 and Ellen O’Brien has her whole life ahead of her. Young, in love and leaving home for her first job, the future seems full of shining possibility. But war is brewing and before long Ellen and everyone around her are swept up by it. As Ireland is torn apart by the turmoil, Ellen finds herself facing the ultimate test of love and loyalty.

And a long-buried secret

A hundred years later and Clare Farrell has inherited a dilapidated old farmhouse in County Meath. Seizing the chance to escape her unhappy marriage she strikes out on her own for the first time, hoping the old building might also provide clues to her family’s shadowy history. As she sets out to put the place – and herself – back to rights, she stumbles across a long-forgotten hiding place, with a clue to a secret that has lain buried for decades.

For fans of Kate Morton and Gill Paul comes an unforgettable novel about two women fighting for independence.

~ My thoughts ~

I can’t believe I am only just reading Kathleen McGurl’s stories!! I am sure I say this every time I review a book by an author whose books I haven’t read before, but I can’t!

The Forgotten Secret has everything I love in a story: contemporary and historical fiction, a mystery, characters I can easily connect with, well researched, beautifully told.

The story is told as a dual time frame, set between 1919-1920 and the present day. In the historical thread, Kathleen McGurl pulls us into Ellen O’Brien’s life and the War of Irish Independence. I warmed to Ellen instantly and the love she has for her childhood sweetheart is beautiful. Ellen’s story was not easy to read at times and there were instances where I wanted to jump into the page to hug her.

In present day Ireland, we accompany Clare Farrell on her journey to independence from her broken marriage. Having inherited a run-down farmhouse from her uncle, she seizes the chance to leave her husband, Paul, and start a new life. Gosh, I hated Paul. Even after a week, he still hasn’t redeemed himself. Well done to Kathleen McGurl for a writing a character who provoked this emotion in me! I did however really like Clare and was championing her on to really make a new life for herself.

I do love it when a house throws up a mystery to be solved and the farmhouse in this story is no exception. I will say no more for the risk of spoiling the story so you will have to read The Forgotten Secret to find out more.

I love how Kathleen McGurl intertwines both women’s stories, answering questions raised in one era in the other, tying it all up nicely at the end.

I do love reading the acknowledgements at the end of a book. Often, the author will give us an insight into where the idea for the story came from. The seed for The Forgotten Secret was a small nugget of conversation which became this great story.

~ Where to find The Forgotten Secret ~

The Forgotten Secret was published as an eBook by HQ Digital, Harper Collins, in March 2019 and will be published in paperback in May 2019. It can be found at Amazon UK and on Goodreads.

~ About Kathleen McGurl ~

Kathleen McGurl lives near the sea in Bournemouth, UK, with her husband and elderly tabby cat. She has two sons who are now grown-up and have left home. She began her writing career creating short stories, and sold dozens to women’s magazines in the UK and Australia. Then she got side-tracked onto family history research – which led eventually to writing novels with genealogy themes. She has always been fascinated by the past, and the ways in which the past can influence the present, and enjoys exploring these links in her novels.

~ Where to find Kathleen McGurl ~

You can find out more about Kathleen on her website https://kathleenmcgurl.com/ and connect with her on Twitter @KathMcGurl, on Facebook @KathleenMcGurl, and on Instagram @kathleenmcgurl.

~ Follow the tour ~

Be sure to drop by the other blogs on the tour!

Advanced Review Copy · Books · Emily Gunnis · Reviews

Review: The Girl in the Letter by Emily Gunnis (@EmilyGunnis) @headlinepg

I am thrilled to be sharing my review of The Girl in the Letter by Emily Gunnis. When it was first published as an eBook, I couldn’t commit to reading to review at the time but I knew that it was a book that I wanted to read. Six months later, I finally got to read it, and it did not disappoint!

Thank you to Phoebe Swinburn at Headline Books for sending me a proof copy of the book in return for an honest review.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

A heartbreaking letter. A girl locked away. A mystery to be solved.

1956. When Ivy Jenkins falls pregnant she is sent in disgrace to St Margaret’s, a dark, brooding house for unmarried mothers. Her baby is adopted against her will. Ivy will never leave.

Present day. Samantha Harper is a journalist desperate for a break. When she stumbles on a letter from the past, the contents shock and move her. The letter is from a young mother, begging to be rescued from St Margaret’s. Before it is too late. 
Sam is pulled into the tragic story and discovers a spate of unexplained deaths surrounding the woman and her child. With St Margaret’s set for demolition, Sam has only hours to piece together a sixty-year-old mystery before the truth, which lies disturbingly close to home, is lost for ever…

Read her letter. Remember her story…

~ My thoughts ~

The Girl in the Letter is a dual-time frame novel, which alternates between the 1950s and one weekend in 2016. In 2016, Sam’s grandmother finds some old letters in her grandfather’s belongings from a girl called Ivy, detailing her experiences in a mother and baby home in West Sussex in the 1950s. Sam feels drawn to these letters and so begins her journey of finding out who Ivy was and what happened to her and her baby.

Crikey, what an intense read. I finished it a couple of months ago and I think my heart has only just returned to beating its usual rhythm!

The Girl in the Letter is heartbreaking, gut wrenching and gripping. A couple of times I did have to put the book down for a breather because I couldn’t bear to read how Ivy, the other girls and their babies were being treated by the nuns in the home. That reaction is testament to Emily Gunnis’s powerful writing. I have read about these homes in Ireland but I hadn’t realised that they were also in England and until quite the 1970s too. It makes me so angry to think how these girls and women were punished for having children.

The Girl in the Letter is a powerful and emotive read. What a brilliant debut and I am looking forward to reading Emily’s next book.

~ Where to find The Girl in the Letter ~

The Girl in the Letter was published by the Headline Books as an eBook in August 2018 and will be published in paperback in April 2019. It can be found at Amazon UK and on Goodreads.

~ About Emily Gunnis ~

Emily Gunnis previously worked in TV drama and lives in Brighton with her young family. She is one of the four daughters of Sunday Times bestselling author Penny Vincenzi. You can find Emily on Twitter at @EmilyGunnis.

Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · Books · Dan Proops · Review Copy · Reviews

Blog Tour, Review: A Letter from Sarah by Dan Proops (@Dan_Proops) @UrbaneBooks @LoveBooksGroup

I am pleased to be sharing my review of Dan Proops’ debut novel A Letter from Sarah with you today.

Thank you to Kelly Lacey at Love Books Group Tours for inviting me to take part and to Urbane Books for sending me a copy of the book in return for my honest review.

Scroll down to find out more about the book and to read my thoughts.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

Adam’s sister, Sarah, has been missing for seven years, but he hasn’t given up hope of finding her. He is a sculptor and lives with his bedridden father who is a bully and a curmudgeon.

One morning, as the anniversary of Sarah’s disappearance nears, Adam receives a letter from her and she is apparently alive and well, living in New York. Adam travels to Brooklyn to search for Sarah as he’s desperate to see her, but she seems determined to avoid him.

Sarah’s letters arrive weekly, but she continues to remain elusive. Adam is perplexed by Sarah’s requests for secrecy, as is his father and his girlfriend, Cassandra.

He is determined to find her, whatever the cost to his wellbeing, health and sanity….  

~ My thoughts ~

I want to begin by mentioning how well packaged A Letter from Sarah is. The cover (below) is simple yet effective and I love the font choice and colour. It ties in nicely with the idea of the letters coming from New York. At the top of the page for each new chapter, there is ripped paper and a piece across the bottom follows through the entire book. It’s almost as though the story has been written on paper. At the end of each chapter, there is a silhouette of the Manhatten skyline, as per the photo on the left.

The story itself is far from simple though . Dan Proops has crafted an intimate observation of how the loss and resulting grief from a situation can take over your life and impact on those around you. Essentially, it shows how the not knowing what happened could literally drive you mad. We meet Adam, the protagonist, seven years after his sister, Sarah goes missing. With no word from her in this time, suddenly, letters from Sarah start to arrive. This leads Adam to try to find track her down, no matter what.

My thoughts about A Letter from Sarah have taken a while to settle in my mind. This isn’t because I didn’t enjoy the story. I just wasn’t sure what to make of it. Dan Proops has a style of writing that I’ve not read before. Some of the time, I was trying to decide whether I was reading thoughts and feelings from Adam’s imagination or whether it was his reality. As I write this, I think what I was reading was Adam verging on the edge of madness.

This book was not what I expected. Even so, something kept me reading, wanting more. The twist at the end was not something I saw coming and reflecting on this, Dan Proops has created a haunting and disturbing story. You’ll have to read the book to find out more about this.

~ Where to find A Letter from Sarah ~

A Letter from Sarah was published by Urbane Books in March 2019 and can be found at Amazon UK and on Goodreads.

~ About Dan Proops ~

Dan has been a full time writer for six years and has completed four novels and a memoir. He wrote short stories as a teenager gleaning knowledge from his grandmother, the legendary advice columnist, Marje Proops.

Dan Proops

Dan was a professional artist, and had a one man show at the age of fourteen in London. He’s had many exhibitions over a long career and his artwork was purchased by internationally acclaimed art dealer, Eric Franck. His artwork appeared frequently in the national press and his painting was featured in Image of the Week in the Times. One of his exhibitions was previewed in the Telegraphby columnist Colin Gleadell.

Dan lives and works in London. He is a Twitter influencer and has a following of 22, 000. Dan has been using the twitter platform for some years. In 2016 he had a wide outreach and his tweets were seen by 1.5 million users.

~ Where to find Dan Proops ~

You can find out more about Dan on his website http://dan-proops.com/ and connect with him on Twitter @Dan_Proops.

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Be sure to drop by the other blogs on the tour!