Thursday, 11 July 2019

Release Day Review: The Secret Hours by Santa Montefiore

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Enthralling, I fell head-first into this captivating, standalone fourth book in the Deverill Chronicles.

Bostonian Faye Langton has spent her life living and doing as others expect her to do; firstly as a daughter and now as a wife and mother. When her mother Arethusa Clayton dies, the reading of the will acts as a catalyst for Faye to embark on a journey to her Mom's homeland, Ireland. Knowing she will come up against opposition, Faye manages to convince her husband to let her go to Ballinakelly, to see if any of her Mom's family are still alive. On arrival, everything she thought she knew about Arethusa is a lie as she discovers secrets from the past, a large extended family she never knew existed as well as unlocking her own repressed passions and desires.

Written to reflect the past (early twentieth century) and the present (1961) we find out how and why Arethusa left her family in Ireland and moved to America without a backward glance. The missing elements are pieced together from extracts in a diary she bequeathed to her daughter, Faye. In Ireland, Faye's assisted by her newly found, lookalike cousin, Kitty Deverill and local 'Jack of all trades', Cormac O'Farrell. What they uncover is shocking however it allows both sides of the family to finally lay to rest the memory of the formidable Arethusa 'Tussy' Deverill.

Exquisitely written, the narrative blends together captivating stories, heightened with historical events of the time. Set against a stunning County Cork backdrop, it's easy to visualise the scenery of this South Eastern part of Ireland along with the character of the communities within. Together, they create a delightful, page-turning experience for the reader.

I picked up this title simply because it's written by Santa Montefiore. I've only read one book by her in the past and it left a lasting impression. This second time around, I'm filled with the same feeling of satisfaction and a longing to read more from this author, starting with the other novels in the Deverill Chronicles.

Whether you are familiar with the Deverill's or not, The Secret Hours is a wonderful way to escape and pass away many hours whether as a holiday read or curled up next to a fire.

***arc generously received courtesy of Simon and Schuster UK Fiction via NetGalley***

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Release Day Spotlight & Review: The Closer I Get by Paul Burston


THE CLOSER I GET by Paul Burston

‘A sucker-punch of a twist that took my breath away! Absurdly gripping, and enough to unnerve anyone who has ever spent any time online’ Angela Clarke, author of Trust Me

‘As perfect a thriller as you’ll read all year. Blurred boundaries between hero and villain – check. A creeping sense of dread that never lets up – check. The stark realisation that this could happen to you – check. Loved it.’ Caz Frear, author of Sweet Little Lies


Tom is a successful author, but for the first time in his life, he has writer’s block. His main distraction is an online admirer, Evie, who simply won’t leave him alone. Evie is smart, well read and unstable; she lives with her sick father and her social media friendships are not only her escape, but everything she has. When she’s hit with a restraining order, her world collapses, whilst Tom is free to live his life again, and to concentrate on writing.
But things aren’t adding up. For Tom is also addicted to his online relationships, and when they take a darker, more menacing turn, he’s powerless to change things. Because maybe he needs Evie more than he’s letting on.

‘A terrifying portrayal of the online world and the blurred lines into real life, the characters are top notch, the writing sublime, and the storyline chillingly plausible. This is dark twisty fiction at its very best ’ Susi Holliday, author of The Lingering

‘The kind of book you read in one breathless gulp’ Cass Green, author of Don’t You Cry

A compulsive, disturbingly relevant, twisty and powerful psychological thriller, The Closer I Get is also a searing commentary on the fragility and insincerity of online relationships, and the danger that can lurk on the other side of a screen…

Oh, what a twisty, dark novel this is. A tale about the uglier side of social media when used by the wrong people!

Novelist Tom Hunter is struggling to write his current novel. His first was a best seller, however, critics mauled his second leaving him distracted when it comes to his current work-in-progress. Instead of concentrating on his writing, he's procrastinating on social media, specifically on Twitter. An enthusiastic follower begins bombarding him with comments after he followed her back. It isn't long before Evie Stokes begins turning his life upside-down.

Throughout this novel, the narrative's told from both Tom and Evie's point of view so we gain an insight into what they are thinking. Sometimes I felt we keep getting told the same things repeatedly which draws out the inevitable conclusion. For some reason, although all the characters feel real and in many cases relatable, I didn't warm to them personally-not that there's anything wrong in that. I felt detached from them in the same way as I avoid becoming embroiled in any online drama whilst using social media. Yet, the author manages to create a novel which draws you into this dark place which makes uncomfortable reading, if only to make you aware of your own online activity and its pitfalls.

The Closer I Get is thought-provoking for any reader who is an active user of social media, showing how easily someone can fall victim to a stalker and how when confronted, the truth is distorted. It certainly nurtures a sense of 'food for thought' as we are given both Tom and Evie's differing accounts of their relationship and how it's viewed by outsiders. To balance out the drama, notable secondary characters are Emma, Tom's best friend and Lucinda, his literary agent. Both add a sense of normality around Tom unlike the disturbing events happening in his life.

What I take away from reading this novel is the heightened awareness of potential 'dangers' from using social media, it's sobering. Whilst I enjoyed the drama of the novel, it's the message and warning about the dangers of using social media which impacts me the most.

***review copy received courtesy of Orenda Books*** 

Paul Burston is the author of five novels and the editor of two short story collections. His most recent novel The Black Path, was a WHSmith bestseller. His first novel, Shameless, was shortlisted for the State of Britain Award. His third novel, Lovers & Losers was shortlisted for a Stonewall Award. His fourth, The Gay Divorcee, was optioned for television. He was a founding editor of Attitude magazine and has written for many publications including Guardian, Independent, Time Out, The Times and Sunday Times. In March 2016, he was featured in the British Council’s #FiveFilms4Freedom Global List 2016, celebrating “33 visionary people who are promoting freedom, equality and LGBT rights around the world”. He is the founder and host of London’s award-winning LGBT+ literary salon Polari and founder and chair of The Polari First Book Prize for new writing and the newly announced Polari Prize.