Too Close by Natalie Daniels | Book Review |#TooClose

For fans of THE GIRLFRIEND and THE WIFE BETWEEN US, TOO CLOSE is a twisting tale of friendship and betrayal.

How close is too close?

Connie and Ness met in the park while their children played. As they talked, they realised they were neighbours. Perhaps it was only natural that they and their families would become entirely inseparable.

But when Ness’s marriage ends in a bitter divorce, she is suddenly at Connie’s house all the time. Connie doesn’t have a moment to herself, no time alone with her husband, not a second to chat to her kids.

It’s all too much. Something has to give.

Connie has woken up in a psychiatric hospital. They say she committed a terrible crime but she says she can’t remember a thing.

Published by Transworld/Corgi

Available in ebook (24 November 2018) | Paperback (7 March 2019) and audiobook

315 pages 

|  My Thoughts |

When we first meet Connie and Ness it is in the park where their children are playing and they realise that they live nearby to each other. We next encounter Connie in a psychiatric hospital with horrific injuries. What on earth has happened.

Recounted mainly in the first person by Connie together with chapters from the perspective of Dr Emma Robinson, her psychiatrist. Emma has been assigned to her in order to encourage Connie to remember what happened. This is an intriguing story showing the devastation that results when a close friendship turns toxic.

Ness and Connie were each married when they met. Ness to Leah, a TV personality and Connie to Karl. Their two daughters got on well together and became best friends – there are some diary extracts from Connie’s daughter 9 year old Anna, complete with childish spelling, which at times are hilarious, and also so insightful. It’s surprising what children pick up on.

Don’t expect a fast paced read – this is more character based. For much of the story, we learn the backstory with only little teasers of what may have happened to put Connie in the hospital. We don’t find out what has actually happened until much later on and well done to the author for the ambiguity and some misdirection here. For much of the story my mind was in freefall, wondering what Connie had done to deserve being isolated in an institution and I made my own assumptions. However, there was a point when the rug was pulled from under me and I was completely taken by surprise.

All the characters are so realistic, in fact their lives are frighteningly so. Marriage difficulties, family problems, emotional meltdowns. In addition to Connie’s story, we also have Emma’s. She has her own marriage and life issues to deal with – in fact sometimes I thought that she should have been the patient instead of Connie.

Connie may have been accused of something dreadful but I couldn’t help but feel some sympathy for her. She was forthright and honest and her character was very well developed. With a family, as well as ageing parents to look after including a mother with dementia, she was trying to keep all the balls in the air, it was perhaps inevitable that one would drop.

Too Close is a disturbing novel of deceit and betrayal. I’ve seen it described as a psychological thriller however in my opinion it’s more of a domestic/suspense/drama. But whatever the description, it is an extremely well written debut novel and I’m looking forward to seeing what the author comes up with next.

About the Author  |

Natalie Daniels is the pseudonym for screenwriter, author and actress Clara Salaman who you may recognise as DS Claire Stanton from The Bill. She lives in London and in Northern Spain

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Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield | Book Review | (@DianeSetterfie1 @TransworldBooks) #OnceUponARiver #HistoricalFiction

• Hardcover: 432 pages
• Publisher: Doubleday (24 January 2019)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 0857525654
• ISBN-13: 978-0857525659

Source: Review copy provided by publisher

My thanks to Alison Barrow of Transworld for the review copy and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in the blog tour. I was never going to say no to this one!

|   About the Book   |


A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

Or can it be explained by science?

An exquisitely crafted multi-layered mystery brimming with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.

|   My Thoughts   |

I loved The Thirteenth Tale, which I think I must have read about 10 years ago and was stupidly excited to learn of a new book by Diane Setterfield.

The Swan Inn at Radcot, along the banks of the Thames, was renowned for its storytelling. Run for generations by the Ockwell family, it is a place where stories of folklore and magic are told, embellished and retold again. Until one winter solstice night over a hundred years ago, an injured stranger comes through the door carrying what at first appears to be a large sodden puppet and the most unbelievable story of all is about to begin.

The figure is not a puppet at all but a young girl and she is dead. She has no pulse and is not breathing. The man’s wounds are treated and, having decided that there is nothing that can be done for the young girl, she is placed in an icy outer room. However nurse and midwife Rita Sunday decides to keep watch and eventually sees some small signs of life. The girl is alive. Rita’s scientific interest is piqued and she wants to know how it can be possible that someone can be dead and then not.

Thus begins the main mystery of the story. Who is this girl. Where has she come from and who does she belong to. She doesn’t speak and is unable to tell anyone however there is no shortage of people wanting to claim her as their own child.

Once Upon a River is a magical and mesmerising tale set against the backdrop of the the River Thames – a forceful character in its own right which, together with its tributaries, meanders for over 200 miles. Stories are told of Quietly, one of a long line of a family of mute ferrymen, who travels between the worlds of the living and the dead.  He will rescue river travellers in distress and will either deliver them safely to one side of the bank if it is not their time to pass, or if it is, then then they are taken to another destination!

There are a large number of characters intricately woven together throughout the story, all so vividly drawn with their distinct personalities and purpose and we get to know them all very well. There are families suffering heartbreak, such as the Vaughans, whose daughter was kidnapped. The Armstrongs, a good and hardworking family who can only watch whilst their eldest son turns to the dark side. Henry Daunt, a photographer, who together with Rita, turns investigator. Then we have the scoundrels who will take advantage of any situation for their own ends.

From the very first page, I was spellbound. This is not a quick read and you will be doing yourself and the story a great disservice by trying to race through it. You need to savour every page – it is so beautifully written that this is no hardship.  I looked at the pages of my book when I’d finished – I had marked so many pages of quotes that had especially caught my eye.

I had my own favourite characters; Margot (landlady of the The Swan), Rita with her logical scientific mind, Armstrong’s wife Bess (and her ‘seeing eye’), Daunt, Armstrong (the father, not the son!) who rises above the prejudice he faces of having a white father and a black mother  ….I could name others.

Magical, exquisite, captivating. Once Upon a River is all of these and more. I’ll be thinking about my 2018 books of the year very soon. I have no doubt at all that this book will be included. I loved it so much and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

|   About the Author   |

Diane Setterfield’s bestselling novel, The Thirteenth Tale was published in 38 countries, sold more than three million copies, and was made into a television drama scripted by Christopher Hampton, starring Olivia Colman and Vanessa Redgrave. Her second novel was Bellman & Black, and her new novel is Once Upon a River. Born in rural Berkshire, she now lives near Oxford, by the Thames.

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Forget My Name by J S Monroe | Blog Tour Guest Post (@JSThrillers @HoZ_Books) #ForgetMyName

Published by Head of Zeus

Available in ebook and hardback (4 October 2018) | Paperback (13 June 2019)

416 pages

My thanks to Jade of Head of Zeus for the invitation to take part in the tour for Forget My Name and to J S Monroe for providing the guest post.  I have already bought this one for my Kindle – it looks just my type of read!


|   About the Book   |


How do you know who to trust… 
…when you don’t even know who you are?
You are outside your front door.
There are strangers in your house.
Then you realise. You can’t remember your name.

She arrived at the train station after a difficult week at work. Her bag had been stolen, and with it, her identity. Her whole life was in there – passport, wallet, house key. When she tried to report the theft, she couldn’t remember her own name. All she knew was her own address.

Now she’s outside Tony and Laura’s front door. She says she lives in their home. They say they have never met her before.

One of them is lying.


Unreliable narration

by J.S.Monroe

There’s an interesting feature on Amazon that I’ve noticed recently. It’s under the heading “read reviews that mention” and lists key phrases that crop up most often in reviews. I’m not sure it’s healthy for authors to read online reviews (show me an author who doesn’t). I also fear that this new feature smacks of algorithms and we all know where they can lead us. Remember that well-intentioned but faulty Amazon gimmick, quietly dropped, that recommended a book based on the one you’ve just read? But there are two phrases that appear repeatedly in the reviews of Forget My Name, my latest psychological thriller, and Find Me, which came out last year: “Twists and turns” and “kept me guessing”.

Both of them are essential ingredients for a psychological thriller and I’m flattered and gratified that they are showing up enough to be noticed by Amazon’s algorithms (less helpful is the phrase “thanks to netgalley” but that’s algorithms for you). Interestingly, the phrase “unreliable narration” doesn’t feature, but neither does it for Gone Girl, or The Girl on the Train, two of the most popular psychological thrillers of recent times to utilize the device. And that’s because unreliable narration is part of a book’s wiring. It’s behind-the-scenes stuff rather than front of house.

That’s not to say that readers aren’t good at spotting – or expecting – an unreliable narrator. Ever since Amy’s diary in Gone Girl, it’s become a much discussed part of the contemporary psychological thriller. It’s also nothing new as a literary trick. Many of the Arabian tales in One Thousand and One Nights rely on it; Chaucer was at it too in the prologue to The Wife of Bath, in which she incorrectly remembers stories.

I’ve tried to push the device to the very limits in Forget My Name, a story that features an amnesic woman arriving in a Wiltshire village, unable to remember who she is and without any forms of identification. Various people within the community have their own theories about her identity and why she has come to the village. The local GP suspects her of being a dangerous psychiatric patient who used to live locally. The pub’s resident conspiracy theorist thinks she may be a Russian sleeper – the village is, after all, not so far from Salisbury. And a journalist is struck by how much the woman resembles his first girlfriend at school. There is also the woman herself, who is desperate to establish her own identity. It’s a multi-stranded narrative, complicated by the unreliability or otherwise of their accounts. And there might, of course, be a wholly different reason for her arrival.

I’ve come to the conclusion that there are, in effect, only two types of unreliable narrator. The one who unwittingly misrepresents his or her story. And those who set out intentionally to deceive. I experimented with the first in Find Me and I explore the second in Forget My Name. Its “twists and turns” are achieved almost exclusively through the use of deliberate unreliable narration by more than one character, which isn’t a technically easy thing to pull off. The best example I’ve read of this is Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go, which features a brilliant twist based entirely on a character’s deliberate misleading of the reader.

The goal, as with any twist, is to stop the reader dead in their tracks and make them return to the beginning of the book and read it all over again. When it comes in Forget My Name, half way through the story, I hope it knocks the wind out of the reader. Although I’m not sure I’d want “wind” as one of Amazon’s algorithmic key phrases…


Forget My Name by J.S.Monroe is available as a hardback (Head of Zeus, 18.99) from all good bookshops or as an eBook from Amazon (£2.48).



|   About the Author   |


J.S.Monroe’s new novel, Forget My Name, was published by Head of Zeus in the UK on 4 October 2018. It will be published in the US as The Last Thing She Remembers by Park Row Books (HarperCollins) in May 2019.

Monroe’s best-selling debut, Find Me, was published in the UK and the US in 2017. Translation rights have been sold to 14 countries.

J.S.Monroe is the pseudonym of author Jon Stock (see separate author page). Jon’s first two novels, The Riot Act, and The India Spy (originally published as The Cardamom Club) are being reissued as eBooks – “J.S.Monroe writing as Jon Stock” – in November 2018.

After reading English at Magdalene College, Cambridge, Jon worked as a freelance journalist in London, writing features for most of Britain’s national newspapers, as well as contributing to BBC Radio 4. He was also chosen for Carlton TV’s acclaimed screenwriters course. In 1995 he lived in Kochi in Kerala, where he worked on the staff of India’s The Week magazine. Between 1998 and 2000, he was a foreign correspondent in Delhi, writing for the Daily Telegraph, South China Morning Post and the Singapore Straits Times. He also wrote the Last Word column in The Week magazine from 1995 to 2012.


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Transworld Crime Fiction Showcase | 29 November 2018 #TWCrime


I was thrilled to receive an invite from Thomas of Transworld to attend their Crime Fiction Showcase on Thursday.  Held at the Soho Hotel, Richmond Mews, just a few minutes walk from Tottenham Court Road Underground.  The hotel was looking very Christmas ready!

Transworld were showcasing the latest books from Fiona Barton “The Suspect” (author of The Widow and The Child), Renee Knight “The Secretary” (first novel, Disclaimer) and debut author Lesley Kara “The Rumour“.

Hospitality was in the Library with drinks and canapes being offered and proof copies of all 3 books placed temptingly around the room. It was great to meet some of the Transworld team – Becky, Tom, Alice and Frankie.

We were then moved to the screening room (and to the most comfortable of chairs) to hear the authors being interviewed by Patricia Nicol of the Sunday Times.

Alison Barrow of Transworld introducing

Renee Knight, Lesley Kara, Fiona Barton, Patricia Nicol

I couldn’t stay until the end and had to leave shortly after the interview but it was a really enjoyable evening and so interesting to hear all three authors talk about their books. I’m very excited to read all of these and am on the blog tours for The Suspect and The Rumour. Thank you Transworld.


The Rumour – Lesley Kara (27 December 2018)

When single mum Joanna hears a rumour at the school gates, she never intends to pass it on. But one casual comment leads to another and now there’s no going back . . .

Rumour has it that a notorious child killer is living under a new identity, in their sleepy little town of Flinstead-on-Sea.

Sally McGowan was just ten years old when she stabbed little Robbie Harris to death forty-eight years ago – no photos of her exist since her release as a young woman.

So who is the supposedly reformed killer who now lives among them? How dangerous can one rumour become? And how far will Joanna go to protect her loved ones from harm, when she realizes what it is she’s unleashed?

The Suspect – Fiona Barton (24 January 2019)

When two eighteen-year-old girls go missing in Thailand, their families are thrust into the international spotlight: desperate, bereft, and frantic with worry. What were the girls up to before they disappeared?

Journalist Kate Waters always does everything she can to be first to the story, first with the exclusive, first to discover the truth–and this time is no exception. But she can’t help but think of her own son, whom she hasn’t seen in two years, since he left home to go travelling.

As the case of the missing girls unfolds, they will all find that even this far away, danger can lie closer to home than you might think…

The Secretary – Renee Knight (21 February 2019)

Look around you. Who holds the most power in the room? Is it the one who speaks loudest, who looks the part, who has the most money, who commands the most respect?

Or perhaps it’s someone like Christine Butcher: a meek, overlooked figure, who silently bears witness as information is shared and secrets are whispered. Someone who quietly, perhaps even unwittingly, gathers together knowledge of the people she’s there to serve – the ones who don’t notice her, the ones who consider themselves to be important.

There’s a fine line between loyalty and obsession. And when someone like Christine Butcher is pushed to her limit, she might just become the most dangerous person in the room . . .


A Village Affair by Julie Houston | Blog Tour Guest Post (@JulieHouston2 @Aria_Fiction) #AVillageAffair

Published by Aria

Available in ebook and paperback (6 November 2018)

470 pages

Having thoroughly enjoyed previous books by Julie Houston (reviewed here on the blog), its a pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for A Village Affair.  For a number of reasons I haven’t been able to read this in time for the tour, but I am looking forward to it.

For my turn today, I have a great guest post from Julie – thank you. My thanks also to Vicky off Head of Zeus/Aria for the tour invitation.


The Love Object

And then I slid down the wall…
by Julie Houston

Undoubtedly the best bit about writing Romance is conjuring up and creating the Love Object. It’s such a privilege: I can imagine and mould this gorgeous being however I choose for my female protagonists and, to be fair, he’s usually someone I’d fancy the pants off myself. I also realise, as I’m creating him, he will undoubtedly resemble the Love Objects I’ve known and slid down the wall over from being thirteen, when I first spotted a LO on the back seat of the school bus.

Slid down the wall over? My sister came up with the phrase, and it basically means meeting someone who knocks you so much off your feet with love/lust you can’t stand up.

In A Village Affair (Aria Nov 6th) Cassie tries to explain to Fi and Clare she’s never had that feeling of utter falling in love with anyone:

‘…never once have my insides turned inside out; never once did I want to slide down the wall.’
‘Slide down the wall?’ Clare laughed.
‘A girl I lived with at college once came back home and literally slid down the wall…’
‘Too much gin?’
‘… slid down the wall with lust and love. She couldn’t stand up.’

Fi and Clare both nodded, obviously in empathy with that almost-forgotten flatmate’s gymnastics…

It’s only when Cassie goes off to Mexico alone in an attempt get over her husband’s affair with her best friend and meets her own Love Object that she is able to report back:

‘For the first time in my life, my legs won’t hold me up and I have just slid down the wall and onto the floor.’

My first real Love Object was discovered at the town’s disco when, at the age of fifteen I gazed starry-eyed at a vision of wonder executing back drops on the dance floor. His wonderful – and slightly unusual – combination of blonde hair and brown eyes has been the model for both Nick in Goodness, Grace and Me as well as James in Coming Home to Holly Close Farm (Aria Feb 2019). My main Love Object at university – and, I hold my hand up, there were rather a lot – was spotted as I was sitting in the union bar. I glanced up, our eyes met and that was it. Harriet in Goodness, Grace and Me meets Nick in just the same way, leading to much wall sliding and eventually, for her, marriage and commitment.

It’s lovely, even when happily married to a wonderful man as I am, to have a Love Object to have a little dream over.

Contenders for the post have included George Michael (in his early days),


Enriques Iglesias, (on whom I based Seb Henderson In Goodness, Grace and Me and The One Saving Grace and yes, he’s also appearing in Coming home to Holly Close Farm)


Matthew McConaughey and rather strangely, Robbie Coltrane (as Cracker I hasten to add, not Hagrid.)

Even more worrying was the little thing I had for John Prescott.

John Prescott? I know, I know. Beyond me too.


My latest LO is Kygo, the Norwegian DJ and songwriter

Take a look on You tube at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert 2015 and you might get my drift: I’m already basing the LO for Lexia, my character in the novel I’m writing at the moment, on this talented musician. At the risk of being labelled A Sleazy Old Woman (female equivalent of a Dirty Old Man) imagine my delight when, on holiday in Ibiza this summer with my kids (twenty-one and twenty-four) I was told Kygo was DJing down in one of the clubs. The kids refused to let me go with them. I’ve told them when I die I want to come out to Kygo’s “Firestone” being played at my funeral, to which my ever-loving swiftly pointed out he’d heard of people going in, but certainly never once coming out.


Thank you so much for the entertaining post Julie.  John Prescott?  Really?


|   About the Book   |


Cassie Beresford has recently landed her dream job as deputy head at her local, idyllic village primary school, Little Acorns. So, the last thing she needs is her husband of twenty years being ‘outed’ at a village charity auction – he has been having an affair with one of her closest friends.

As if that weren’t enough to cope with, Cassie suddenly finds herself catapulted into the head teacher position, and at the forefront of a fight to ward off developers determined to concrete over the beautiful landscape.

But through it all, the irresistible joy of her pupils, the reality of keeping her teenage children on the straight and narrow, her irrepressible family and friends, and the possibility of new love, mean what could have been the worst year ever, actually might be the best yet…

Julie Houston’s novels are funny, wonderfully warm and completely addictive. Perfect for all fans of Gervaise Phinn, Katie Fforde and Jill Mansell.



|   About the Author   |



Julie Houston is the author of five novels:

Published Nov 2018 by HeadOfZeus/Aria A VILLAGE AFFAIR
and Coming Feb 2019 HOLLY CLOSE FARM

Julie lives in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire where her novels are set, and her only claims to fame are that she teaches part-time at ‘Bridget Jones’ author Helen Fielding’s old junior school and her neighbour is ‘Chocolat’ author, Joanne Harris. After University, where she studied Education and English Literature, she taught for many years as a junior school teacher. As a newly qualified teacher, broke and paying off her first mortgage, she would spend every long summer holiday working on different Kibbutzim in Israel. After teaching for a few years she decided to go to New Zealand to work and taught in Auckland for a year before coming back to this country. She now teaches just two days a week, and still loves the buzz of teaching junior-aged children. She has been a magistrate for the past nineteen years, and, when not distracted by Ebay, Twitter and Ancestry, spends much of her time writing. Julie is married, has a twenty-four-year-old son and twenty-one-year-old daughter and a ridiculous Cockerpoo called Lincoln. She runs and swims because she’s been told it’s good for her, but would really prefer a glass of wine, a sun lounger and a jolly good book – preferably with Matthew Mcconaughay in attendance.

She hates skiing, gets sick on boats and wouldn’t go pot-holing or paddy diving if her life depended on it.


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