This month's pick of the new Adult Fiction titles...

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John Wilcox: The Black Rocks of Morwenstowe

Published by Allison and Busby 18th May 2017


The year is 1832 and great change and reform are sweeping England, but 23-year-old Joshua Weyland is languishing in Key West, USA. He was third mate on the schooner Jessica, which had run aground in suspicious circumstances and the skipper has been arrested on charges of deliberately wrecking his ship. Josh is desperate to get back to England to marry his fiancé, so he ships as second mate on a small brig bound for Bristol. But when the ship founders on rocks off the coast of Cornwall, it’s clear it’s been deliberately wrecked, and it’s just a question of time before they seize the cargo – can Joshua stop them?


Fans of Poldark will thrill to this mighty adventure involving Joshua Weyland - this book has everything - thrills, spills and romance a-plenty!


Tony Foot: The Fortunes At War

Published by The Book Guild 28th April 2017


Captain James Fortune and Sergeant John Finch both reside in the same village in Hampshire. Though they may share the same geography, they do not share the same social status. They lead very different lives, but two factors link them together. Firstly they both belong to the same regiment: the Rifle Brigade. The second factor, however, is only known to one of them: they are related. The story opens as rumours circulate regarding the likelihood of an outbreak of war. The regiment is subsequently posted to the Crimean Penisular. The army lands and we follow Fortune and Finch from the battle of the Alma to the eventual fall of Sevastopol, where both men are involved in a secret and dangerous mission. Will they survive the war and their mission? Or will only one of them discover the truth behind their familial bond?


Heady mix of Poldark and Sharpe - sharply observed characters and the historical detail is superbly handled.




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Adult Book of the Month 1 - Conn Iggulden: Dunstan

Published by Michael Joseph 4th May 2017


From acclaimed historical writer Conn Iggulden comes a novel set in the red-blooded days of Anglo-Saxon England. This is the original game for the English throne. In the year 937, King Æthelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great, readies himself to throw a great spear into the north. His dream of a kingdom of all England will stand or fall on one field and the passage of a single day. At his side is Dunstan of Glastonbury, full of ambition and wit, perhaps enough to damn his soul. His talents will take him from the villages of Wessex to the royal court, to the hills of Rome - from exile to exaltation. Through Dunstan's vision, by his guiding hand, England may come together as one great country - or fall back into anarchy and misrule . . . From one of our finest historical writers, Dunstan is an intimate portrait of a priest and performer, a visionary, a traitor and confessor to kings - the man who changed the fate of England.


The amazing Conn Iggulden's writing skills take on the Dark Ages - some overlap with Bernard Cornwell is inevitable, but it's great to have another brilliant author offering an alternative take on Alfred the Great's dynasty and vision. From being that period of British history that high school students dreaded, the Dark Ages are now vibrant and fascinating now that these great minds have unravelled the facts and added their own special characters and fitted them to what we actually know about the period. Stunningly good!


Adult Book of the Month 2 - Sarah-Jane Stratford: Radio Girls

Published by Allison and Busby 1st July 2016


1926, the BBC. The nation listens. A woman finds her voice. London, 1926. Maisie Musgrave is thrilled to land a job at the fledgling British Broadcasting Corporation whose new and electrifying radio network is captivating the nation. Famous writers, scientists, politicians ? the BBC is broadcasting them all, but behind the scenes Maisie is drawn into a battle of wills being fought by her two bosses. John Reith, the formidable Director-General and Hilda Matheson, the extraordinary Director of Talks Programming, envisage very different futures for radio. And when Maisie unearths a shocking conspiracy, she and Hilda join forces to make their voices heard both on and off the air... An intriguing historical fiction novel with a brilliant blend of fact and fiction.


This is an absolute gem of a book, part novel, but with plenty of actual history interwoven as Maisie Musgrave secures a much-needed job at the fledgling BBC and finds herself embroiled in working with Lord Reith and Hilda Matheson as they vie with each other over what should and shouldn't be broadcast. Sarah-Jane's descriptions of her heroine play down the fact that she has a mind of her own and is ready to enter into the fray as politics engulf the new service, but Maisie gradually comes into her own to play a vital role in deciding what the corporation is to broadcast. Superb dialogue, faultless story-telling!

Mahsuda Snaith: The Things We Thought We Knew

Published by Random House 15th June 2017


Ravine and Marianne were best friends. They practised handstands together, raced slugs and went into the woods to play. But now everything has changed. Ten years later, Ravine lies in a bed plagued by chronic pain syndrome. And her best friend Marianne is gone. How did their last adventure go so wrong? Who is to blame? And where is Marianne? Heartbreaking, bittersweet and utterly unforgettable, The Things We Thought We Knew is a powerful novel about the things we remember and the things we wish we could forget.


How many of us have stayed in touch with childhood friends? I am "friends with one of my friends from my schooldays on Facebook, but that's about it. Mahsuda Snaith's study of long-lasting friendship is an eye-opener, and a very entertaining one at that...

Marcus Achison: Open To Doubt

Published by Matador 28th April 2017


An incredibly humorous book with the power to thrill, shock and inspire the reader whilst they tear with laughter. Open To Doubt is a laugh-out-loud collection of short humorous stories, adventure tales and spoof advertisements covering a wide variety of topics such as heroic behaviour, travel, monkey oil, the diary of Clovis Pumly and buttock maintenance, to name but a few! Compiled in the style of a magazine, Open To Doubt includes a collection of hilarious articles from 'Holiday Choices' by the none-too-bright reporter Barry Android, to 'News for Clowns', the most informative newsletter for the working idiot today. As well as articles on a variety of topics, this book also includes the hallmarks of a traditional magazine including notorious agony aunt Marjorie, recipe tips and advertisements for newly-opened restaurants to local attractions. The tales of high adventure will astound, the crime reports will startle and the informative advertisements will prove handy. Getting straight to the heart of the action, Open To Doubt is based on everyday life which has been tweaked, massaged and turned on its head. This collection is designed to be dipped into by the reader until overcome with laughter. You will be amazed, astonished and bewildered, but above all you won't be able to help but laugh. Open To Doubt is guaranteed to make you laugh and will appeal to readers looking for light comic relief.


It's a privilege and a pleasure to have a volume of short stories to review, and Marcus Achison's breadth and depth of subject matter is terrific. Sometimes all you want before you go to sleep is to be able to read something self-contained, and not to have to remember what happened in the bit of novel you read the night before... a most excellent collection.

Timothy Raine: Winter's Leap

Published by The Book Guild 28th March 2017


Winter's Leap is about the events in the day of a young man, Tommy, with mild cerebral palsy. It s a window into his mind and thoughts as the day unfolds and a tragic event befalls him. There is humour, warmth and sadness combined with the need for identity within a family unit to make sense of Tommy's world. We share his deepest concerns and observations about life during his daily routine and the longing for his father, who he has never known.


Anyone with the courage to write about someone with a mental illness in this way has my full admiration. Ground-breaking and absorbing.


Louise Walters: A Life Between Us

Published by Matador 28th April 2017


Tina Thornton's twin sister Meg died in a childhood accident, but for almost forty years Tina has secretly blamed herself for her sister's death. During a visit to her aging Uncle Edward and his sister Lucia, who both harbour dark secrets of their own, Tina makes a discovery that forces her to finally question her memories of the day her sister died. Who, if anyone, did kill Meg? As Tina finds the courage to face the past, she unravels the tangled family mysteries of her estranged parents, her beautiful French Aunt Simone, the fading, compassionate Uncle Edward, and above all, the cold, bitter Aunt Lucia, whose spectral presence casts a long shadow over them all. A Life Between Us is a beautifully evocative story of a family torn apart at the seams, which will appeal to readers who enjoy family sagas and modern-day mysteries.


Reminded me, in a way, of The Lovely Bones. A bit creepy, and Uncle Edward and Lucia are brilliant characters. This could have gone on the crime and thrillers page, but the psychological aspects outweigh the crime elements. A super read.


Caroline Newark: The Fair Maid of Kent

Published by Matador 28th March 2017


It is 1341 and Joan of Kent, the fourteen-year-old cousin of the King of England, is poised on the brink of marriage with the Earl of Salisbury's son. While plans are made for the king's continuing war against France, the families gather to celebrate the wedding. But the bride is in tears. For unknown to everyone, Joan has a secret and it is one so scandalous, so unspeakably shocking, that discovery could destroy this glorious marriage and place the lives of those Joan loves in danger. From the glittering court of Edward III to the lonely border fortress of Wark, to the bleak marshlands before the walls of Calais, Joan must tread a careful path balanced between truth and deception, where love is an illusion and one false move could spell disaster. When tragedy strikes at the heart of the royal family Joan finds herself facing a foe more deadly than a violent husband. Imprisoned in her chamber and with her fate resting in the hands of the Pope's tribunal in Avignon, there is nothing she can do but pray. The Fair Maid of Kent is the story of an enduring love in a dangerous world where a man may not be all he seems and your most powerful enemy is the one you cannot see. Inspired by the writings of Philippa Gregory and Hilary Mantel, and based on the life of Joan, the first Princess of Wales (and Caroline's seventeen times great-grandmother), The Fair Maid of Kent will appeal to fans of historical fiction.


Brilliant historical fiction from Caroline - highly reminiscent of the very best work of Jean Plaidy...


Jude Hayland: Counting The Ways

Published by Matador 28th April 2017


Grace Barnes, living in her subterranean one-room flat at the nether end of Earl's Court, feels out of tune with striving, self-seeking 1980's London. Meeting Archie Copeland, she is gratified to have found a man who shares her obsession for reading and seems more fascinated by Shelley than shifting share prices. In Oxford, Hester, Grace's mother, considers her estranged marriage to Fergus, who left her thirty years before to go and live on a remote Welsh hillside in pursuit of self-sufficiency. His subsequent appearance at Grace and Archie's quiet wedding is a surprise and she finds it hard to quantify her feelings about him. Soon, Grace is troubled by a distance in Archie, and a tendency to covert actions even though his faithfulness appears absolute. Moving to the countryside seems to offer relief, but the recession of the late 1980s impacts upon them both professionally and Grace is aware of a growing inadequacy in communication between the two of them as they struggle to talk openly. A spontaneous holiday on the Mediterranean island of Kronos provides a respite for them both and they begin to consider a permanent move away, but then Archie suddenly disappears. In the wake of this, Grace uncovers a trail of debts and increasing evidence of his duplicity. Remaining on Kronos, finding a job and friendship, Grace determines to find Archie. Hester is anxious to help, while Fergus is unexpectedly forthright in his attempts to assist. Archie, meanwhile, is forced to confront years of self-delusion. In the shadow of Archie's absence, Grace, Fergus and Hester find themselves facing the truth of their fractured relationships and considering how, so often, it has been the unspoken words rather than those uttered that have contributed towards conflict and separation. Counting the Ways explores the fears that shadow our lives - failure, loss, regret and mortality - and will appeal to fans of contemporary fiction. It also makes an ideal book group read.


This is the kind of story you might stumble across on the inside pages of one of the Sunday papers, well told by Jude Hayland, and you can't help but feel sorry for Grace as the events of her married life unfold.


J J Baloch: Whiter Than White

Published by Matador 15th April 2017


Written by seasoned police officer and accomplished writer, J. J. Baloch, Whiter Than White is the story of Hoor, an ordinary woman caught up in the throes of extraordinary circumstances. Hoor fosters her faith and cultivates confidence in her own destiny, protecting her womanhood with the tenacity of a wounded mother lion against the system that engulfs her world. Whiter Than White details Hoor’s journey from growing up in a hostile system in Pakistan and rising to the precipice of greatness and fame as the story unfolds. 

Whiter Than White is unique in its approach to the telling of Hoor’s story. While detailing her personal journey, J J. Baloch comprehensively addresses the different issues of women in sub-continental set-ups, specifically Pakistan. Drawing on the mistreatment of women and women’s rights, this novel sheds light on a society that considers women a symbol of misfortune, where they are arrested, prosecuted, imprisoned and sentenced without being involved in any violation of the law, and where they are presented as sexual tools for the pleasure of men, discriminated against on the basis of their gender. 

This novel touches on the sensitive systems of society and state, which are designed to perpetuate the status quo of male dominance, orthodoxy, discriminations, biases, intolerance, extremism and hatred against women. J. J. Baloch’s experience working in the police, specifically relating to crimes against women, adds a layer of authenticity to his writing that will be enjoyed by those who enjoy feminist literature and who are looking to deepen their understanding of women’s rights in other societies.


Pakistani society is totally different to what we know in the western world. J J Baloch's novel reveals a hierarchy and structure that is quite alien to our own - something of an eye opener for me..

S Lynn Scott: Elizabeth, William and Me...

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

S. Lynn Scott's debut novel is a funny, moving and very original tale that takes the reader on a rollicking adventure through modern England - accompanied by the Virgin Queen and William Shakespeare. Ally is living an ordinary life until Elizabeth and William come to stay. Exactly why Elizabeth Tudor should choose her pantry to appear in, or why the Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon should show up later in her bath is a bit of a mystery, not to mention a dreadful inconvenience, but the crotchety Elizabeth has a mission and she is used to getting her own way. Ally too, needs to recover something that has been lost, and perhaps Elizabeth and William will be the means by which she will find it. Elizabeth, William...and Me takes a wry look at modern life through the eyes of two of history's most famous personalities. Sometimes humorous, sometimes heart-breaking, the trio's quest takes them from middle England to the cold streets of London, from a shelter for the homeless to the home of the very highest in the land; and from grief to acceptance. Drawing from S. Lynn Scott's knowledge of Elizabethan England and her experience of directing Shakespeare productions, Elizabeth, William...and Me is an accessible and imaginative novel that will appeal to both fans and non-fans of Shakespeare, as well as readers who enjoy humorous fiction - with unexpected twists. ..


Fascinating... Elizabeth is Queen Elizabeth 1st,William is William Shakespeare, and "me" is Ally - a fly on the wall romp through Elizabethan England... Hugely entertaining!



The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its sixteenth year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email and I'll let you know where to send it.