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

A Sarah’s Vignettes Book Review: The Stationmaster’s Daughter by Kathleen McGurl (@KathMcGurl) ~ @HQDigitalUK @HQstories ~ @rararesources #BlogTour

I am pleased to be sharing my review of The Stationmaster’s Daughter, the latest novel from author Kathleen McGurl.

My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for a space on the tour and to HQ Digital for sending me an eProof copy of the book via Netgalley (in return for my honest review).

Before I share my thoughts with you, here is what The Stationmaster’s Daughter is about.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

As the last train leaves, will life ever be the same?

Dorset 1935

Stationmaster Ted has never cared much for romance. Occupied with ensuring England’s most beautiful railway runs on time, love has always felt like a comparatively trivial matter. Yet when he meets Annie Galbraith on the 8.42 train to Lynford, he can’t help but instantly fall for her.

But soon the railway is forced to close and a terrible accident occurs within the station grounds, Ted finds his job and any hope of a relationship with Annie hanging in the balance…

Present day

Recovering from heartbreak after a disastrous marriage, Tilly decides to escape from the bustling capital and move to Dorset to stay with her dad, Ken. When Ken convinces Tilly to help with the restoration of the old railway, she discovers a diary hidden in the old ticket office. Tilly is soon swept up in Ted’s story, and the fateful accident that changed his life forever. But an encounter with an enigmatic stranger takes Tilly by surprise, and she can’t help but feel a connection with Ted’s story in the past.

~ My thoughts ~

Back in March, I discovered Kathleen McGurl’s writing for the first time with The Forgotten Secret and I fell in love with it. Kathleen writes stories that I love: contemporary and historical fiction, a mystery, characters I can easily connect with, well researched, beautifully told. Needless to say that I was really excited when I was contacted about taking part in the blog tour for The Stationmaster’s Daughter.

Kathleen McGurl knows how to tell a story and a heartbreaking one at that. The Stationmaster’s Daughter starts in the present day with Tilly Thomson at a pivotal time in her life and and her dad, Ken, coming to rescue her. The story then alternates between Tilly’s recovery and 1936 with Ted Morgan’s story, the stationmaster at Lynford station.

Oh, dear, sweet Ted. I warmed to him immediately. He is proud to be a stationmaster and lives for his work. Then he meets Annie, one of the regular passengers, and his life changes forever. I did feel for him and, on occasions, I wanted to jump into the pages to hug him.

One of the many things I liked about this story, and The Forgotten Secret, is how Kathleen McGurl intertwined the historical story with the present. Tilly’s dad volunteers for the local railway restoration society and asks Tilly to get involved, archiving the documents they find and displaying them in the railway museum at Lynford. In doing so, Tilly comes across Ted’s diary and so his story plays out part in the present day as well as in ‘real time’.

Although there were these parallels between Tilly’s and Ted’s stories, I was quite interested in the parallels between Tilly and Annie, in terms of how women were viewed in society in their respective periods.

The historical part of the story is set 4 years before World War Two, when a woman’s place was either at work whilst living with parents before she got married or in the home after she got married. Fast forward 80 years and to Tilly living with her dad after her marriage has ended and working out her way forward as a single, independent woman. The relationships that both women have with their father’s are therefore different. Annie’s father saw his daughter’s place in society for his gain whereas Tilly’s father is so loving, caring and supportive and just wants her to be happy. How times have changed for the better.

The Stationmaster’s Daughter is an escapist timeslip novel about love, tragedy and overcoming bad times for brighter futures. I’m looking forward to Kathleen McGurl’s next story.

~ Where to find The Stationmaster’s Daughter ~

The Stationmaster's Daughter book cover

The Stationmaster’s Daughter was published as a eBook by HQ Digital on 6th August 2019. You can buy it on Amazon UK and Amazon US. It is also on goodreads.

~ About Kathleen McGurl ~

Kathleen McGurl author photo

Kathleen McGurl lives near the sea in Bournemouth, UK, with her husband. 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.

W: https://kathleenmcgurl.com/ ~ F: @KathleenMcGurl ~ T: @KathMcGurl

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Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · Books · fiction · Mary Beth Keane · Review Copy · Reviews

A Sarah’s Vignettes Book Review: Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane (@Mary_Beth_Keane) ~ @MichaelJBooks #BlogTour

I am pleased to be sharing my review of The New York Times bestseller and Radio 2 Summer Book Club pick Ask Again, Yes , the latest novel from author Mary Beth Keane.

My thanks to Sriya Varadharajan at Michael Joseph for a space on the tour and for me sending me a proof copy of the book (in return for my honest review).

Before I share my thoughts with you, here is what Ask Again, Yes is about.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

A gripping and compassionate drama of two families linked by chance, love and tragedy

Gillam, upstate New York: a town of ordinary, big-lawned suburban houses. The Gleesons have recently moved there and soon welcome the Stanhopes as their new neighbours.

Lonely Lena Gleeson wants a friend but Anne Stanhope – cold, elegant, unstable – wants to be left alone.

It’s left to their children – Lena’s youngest, Kate, and Anne’s only child, Peter – to find their way to one another. To form a friendship whose resilience and love will be almost broken by the fault line dividing both families, and by the terrible tragedy that will engulf them all.

A tragedy whose true origins only become clear many years later . . .

A story of love and redemption, faith and forgiveness, Ask Again, Yes reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood – villains lose their menace, and those who appeared innocent seem less so. 

A story of how, if we’re lucky, the violence lurking beneath everyday life can be vanquished by the power of love.

~ My thoughts ~

Ask Again, Yes is one of the most powerful books I have read in a long time. Set in Gillam, New York, this multigenerational family drama follows the trials and tribulations of neighbours The Stanhopes and The Gleesons across 40 years.

When The Stanhopes move in, everyone expects that Anne Stanhope and Lena Gleeson will be friends. The neighbourhood is so tight, that it is suffocating. However, Anne is very cold towards Lena and it isn’t until much later on in the book that we understand why.

The story is told mostly from the points of view of Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope. Kate and Peter are born during the story and both families are completely different. Seeing events through young and innocent eyes, they cannot understand why their parents want to stop them from being friends. Then as the years pass, we see through their adult eyes the reasoning behind this.

Mary Beth Keane writes with compassion for her characters but she also puts them through the mill, as she does her readers. I was exhausted by the time I came to the end. Four decades of love, loss, tragedy are carefully woven with the topics of mental health, alcoholism, marriage, parenthood, and much more.

At it’s core, Ask Again, Yes shows how the power of love will conquer all. This is a book and an author to watch.

~ Where to find Ask Again, Yes ~

Ask Again, Yes book cover

Ask Again, Yes was published in the UK by Michael Joseph on 7th August 2019. You can buy it in all good bookshops and on Amazon UK. It is also on Goodreads.

~ About Mary Beth Keane ~

Mary Beth Keane, author photo

Mary Beth Keane attended Barnard College and the University of Virginia, where she received an MFA. In 2011, she was named one of the National Book Foundation’s ‘5 Under 35,’ and in 2015 she was awarded a John S. Guggenheim fellowship for fiction writing. She currently lives in Pearl River, New York, with her husband and their two sons. She is the author of The Walking People , Fever , and Ask Again, Yes .

W: MaryBethKeane.com ~ F: @mbkwriter ~ T: @Mary_Beth_Keane ~ I: @marybethkeane

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Advanced Review Copy · Ali Pantony · Blog Tours · Books · fiction · Review Copy · Reviews

A Sarah’s Vignettes Book Review: Almost Adults by Ali Pantony (@alipantony) ~ @EburyPublishing #BlogTour

I am pleased to be sharing with you my review of Almost Adults , the debut novel from journalist and author Ali Pantony.

My thanks to Alice King at Ebury Press for a space on the blog tour and for sending me a proof copy of the book (in return for this honest review).

Before I share my thoughts with you, here is what Almost Adults is about.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

The struggle is real but at least they’re all in it together.

Ever managed to kill a succulent after just a few days? 
Got seven reminder letters on the kitchen table because you forgot to pay your council tax? 
Become a hot mess who’s falling apart because they’ve been broken up with?

Mackie, Edele, Alex and Nat are navigating their chaotic and confusing twenties together. They have jobs and pay their own rent (well, most of them) but don’t know how to bleed radiators, defrost a freezer or test the smoke alarms.

With break-ups to deal with and major decisions to make, life can get messy especially when they’re still trying to get the hang of this ‘being a grown-up’ thing.

Welcome to the joys of being almost adults.

~ My thoughts ~

Almost Adults is a fresh and uplifting story exploring the power of female friendships. It was such a joy to read and I honestly didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did.

Mackie, Edele, Alex and Nat have been the best of friends for years. Mackie and Alex seem to have life figured out and Nat and Edele are still working it out. Almost Adults charts the highs and lows of the twenty somethings as they navigate their way through their personal and professional lives, asking the question, when is it that we truly become adults? It is the strength of their friendship that gets them through. These are the friends who are there to cheer you on on your good days but more importantly who sit and hold you on the bad days. These women have each others backs and will do anything for one another.

Each chapter is told from a different character’s point of view , allowing us to get to know each of them individually and see the other characters how they see them. Each character is relatable and I think there are elements of these women in all of us.

Ali Pantony writes with such ease that the story flows seamlessly and I could easily have read this book in one sitting. Instead, I read it over several lunch breaks and I found that I couldn’t wait to pick up where I last left the girls to find out what was happening and how they were. I felt so comfortable in their company that I felt as though I was an honorary member of their group.

Almost Adults has a lot of heart and I finished it with a smile on my face. It is feel-good fiction and a perfect summer read. This is a brilliant debut and I’m looking forward to seeing what Ali Pantony writes next.

~ Where to find Almost Adults ~

Almost Adults was published by Ebury Press, first as an eBook on 24 June 2019 and in Paperback on 8th August 2019. You can buy it in all good bookshops and on Amazon UK. It is also on goodreads.

~ About Ali Pantony ~

Ali Pantony

Ali Pantony is a freelance writer and editor. Her writing has appeared in Glamour, Grazia, BBC Three, Refinery29, Vice, Red, and Evening Standard. Ali was born in Maidstone, Kent, and lives in North London. Almost Adults is her debut novel.

W: https://www.alipantony.com/ ~ T: @alipantony ~ I: @alipantony

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Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · Books · Review Copy · Reviews · Rowan Coleman

A Sarah’s Vignettes Book Review: The Girl at the Window by Rowan Coleman (@rowancoleman) ~ @EburyPublishing ~ @annecater #RandomThingsTours #BlogTour

I am thrilled to be able to finally share with you my review of The Girl at the Window by Sunday Times bestselling author Rowan Coleman. I read it back in June and it blew me away. I’ve been itching to talk about it ever since.

My thanks to Ellie Crisp at Ebury Press for sending me a stunning proof copy of the novel (in return for my honest review) and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.

Before I finally share my thoughts with you, here is what The Girl at the Window is about.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from…

Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…

~ My thoughts ~

Whenever I can, I like to read a physical copy of a book. For me, there is something about holding it, turning its pages, and looking at the book’s cover each time I pick it up. I feel I become part of the book. This was certainly the case with The Girl at the Window and my enjoyment started with its beautiful front cover. Even the proof copy of the book is a thing beauty.

I have five of Rowan Coleman’s novels sitting on my bookshelf, patiently waiting to be read. For some reason, The Girl at the Window is the first one that I am reading but I do understand why. I am a great believer that some books come to us at the exact time that we are supposed to read them and The Girl at the Window is one of those books. It is simply stunning and what an introduction to Rowan Coleman’s writing!

The Girl at the Window is a hauntingly beautiful story about love and hope. When Trudy Heaton’s husband goes missing, she returns to her family home, Ponden Hall, with son Will in tow. As Trudy becomes reacquainted with her mother and the Hall, both the house and its surroundings start to offer up some of their secrets. 

The book is divided into six Parts, each part introduced by an Emily Bronte poem. It moves between present day, Trudy and her husband Abe’s story and the historical story. Each story is so intricately and delicately woven together, they flow seamlessly. If I’d had the time, I could have easily read The Girl at the Window in one sitting. It is captivating! Rowan Coleman’s love of the Bronte’s really shines through in this book too and Emily Bronte is living within its pages.

Rowan Coleman’s writing has a gentle, softly spoken nature to it – one I’ve not experienced before. It’s tender almost, holding your hand as you travel Trudy’s journey with her. It’s sensitive to all of the characters stories, both past and present. 

Whilst immersed in this story, I laughed, I cried, my heart pounded several times, but most all, I loved. The Girl at the Window really does have the whole package. It is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. I highly recommend it!

~ Where to find The Girl at the Window ~

The Girl at the Window was published by Ebury Press, first as eBook on 27 June 2019 and will be published in Paperback on 8th August 2019. You can buy it in all good bookshops and on Amazon UK. It is also on Goodreads.

~ About Rowan Coleman ~

Rowan Coleman

Rowan Coleman lives with her husband and their five children in a very full house in Hertfordshire. She juggles writing novels with raising her family. Rowan’s last novel, The Summer of Impossible Things , was selected for Zoe Ball’s ITV Book Club. Rowan has an everlasting love for the Brontes, and is a regular visitor of Ponden Hall.

W: www.rowancoleman.com ~ T: @rowancoleman ~ F: @rowancolemanauthor ~ I: @rowanmcoleman

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Books · Carol Drinkwater · Reviews

A Sarah’s Vignettes Book Review: The House on the Edge of the Cliff by Carol Drinkwater (@Carol4OliveFarm) ~ @MichaelJBooks

~ Publisher’s Description ~

No one else knows what happened that summer. Or so she believes . . .

Grace first came to France a lifetime ago. Young and full of dreams of adventure, she met two very different men.

She fell under the spell of one. The other fell under hers.

Until one summer night shattered everything . . .

Now, Grace is living an idyllic life with her husband, sheltered from the world in a magnificent Provençal villa, perched atop a windswept cliff.

Every day she looks out over the sea – the only witness to that fateful night years ago.

Until a stranger arrives at the house. A stranger who knows everything, and won’t leave until he gets what he wants.

The past and present spectacularly collide in this gripping story of love and betrayal echoing across the decades. 

~ My thoughts ~

When I heard that Carol Drinkwater had a new novel coming out, I couldn’t wait to go out and buy a copy. Having loved both The Forgotten Summer and The Lost Girl, I had high hopes for The House on the Edge of the Cliff. I am pleased to say that it did not disappoint!

Rich description of Provence, family drama, intrigue, mystery, passion, loss coupled with what happens when the past and present collide and some twists and turns thrown in, all make The House on the Edge of the Cliff a compelling and gripping read from start to finish.

The intrigue, mystery and passion in this book starts with its elegant front cover, which invites the reader to ask several questions: who is the woman on the rocks? Why is she there? What is she thinking? What’s the significance of the house on the cliff behind her? Well, I can tell you that the woman on the rocks is Grace, the protagonist of The House on the Edge of the Cliff. For the answers to the other questions, you will have to read the book, as I would certainly give away too much of the story here.

We first meet Grace in the present day, at her idyllic villa close to Marseille. Her step daughters and grandchildren are packing up to go home after their holiday. Grace’s grandson wanders off and she goes to find him. When Grace does catch up with him, it’s not quite what she expects. The start of the book really packs a punch and sets up the rhythm and tension for the whole book. We then follow Grace’s life, loves and losses over 50 years.

I really enjoyed the historical elements to this story. Like in The Lost Girl, where Carol Drinkwater set the book around a pivotal moment in France’s history (the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks), The House on the Edge of the Cliff is set around the Paris riots of May 1968. From the detail that goes into these scenes, it is clear that Carol Drinkwater has researched this period to an inch of its life. I learnt a great deal about France’s history when I studied in Paris for 3 years, so I really appreciate these parts of her books as well as the present day France. It feels like coming home.

Another thing I enjoy about Carol Drinkwater’s storytelling, is her ability to write as though she is looking down the lens of a camera, capturing every aspect of the scene in front of her. Each sound of a cicada, perfume of a flower, crack on the wall of the house is described so vividly, I was transported to that moment.

~ Where to find The House on the Edge of the Cliff ~

The House on the Edge of the Cliff by Carol Drinkwater

The House on the Edge of the Cliff was published by Michael Joseph on 16 May 2019 and is available to buy in all good bookshops as well as on Amazon UK . It can also be found on Goodreads.

~ About Carol Drinkwater ~

Carol Drinkwater

Carol Drinkwater is a multi-award-winning actress who is best known for her portrayal of Helen Herriot in the BBC television series All Creatures Great and Small

Her quartet of memoirs set on her olive farm in the south of France have sold over a million copies worldwide and her solo journey round the Mediterranean in search of the olive tree’s mythical secrets inspired a five-part documentary film series, The Olive Route

She is also the author of novels The Forgotten Summer, The Lost Girl and The House on the Edge of the Cliff

She lives in the south of France where she is writing her next novel.

W: www.caroldrinkwater.com ~ T: @Carol4OliveFarm

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.

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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.