TSARINA

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Spring 1699: Illegitimate, destitute and strikingly beautiful, Marta has survived the brutal Russian winter in her remote Baltic village. Sold by her family into household labour at the age of fifteen, Marta survives by committing a crime that will force her to go on the run.

A world away, Russia’s young ruler, Tsar Peter I, passionate and iron-willed, has a vision for transforming the traditionalist Tsardom of Russia into a modern, Western empire. Countless lives will be lost in the process.

Falling prey to the Great Northern War, Marta cheats death at every turn, finding work as a washerwoman at a battle camp. One night at a celebration, she encounters Peter the Great. Relying on her wits and her formidable courage, and fuelled by ambition, desire and the sheer will to live, Marta will become Catherine I of Russia. But her rise to the top is ridden with peril; how long will she survive the machinations of Peter’s court, and more importantly, Peter himself?

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I’d like to thank Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and introducing me to a new writer to enjoy during these Lockdown evenings. Since reading it, I’ve gone on a whole Russian extravaganza and have been watching the BBC War and Peace to continue with this new obsession.

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The fact that this novel is rooted in fact really adds to the reading experience and introduced me to another historical period and set of characters that I didn’t know that much about and left me feeling intrigued and desperate to go and find out more about Catherine I for myself and really get to know the woman behind all the myths. I am even thinking of joining Hulu online somehow so that I can watch The Great as soon as it comes out as it looks absolutely incredible in the trailer and it will be interesting to see another Tsarina in action…

Catherine I of Russia - Wikipedia

 

 

I love investigating the real history and characters found in the books I’m reading and Ellen Alpsten does an amazing job of transporting you back in time and reliving this turbulent and fascinating part of history, which is jam-packed full of double-crossing, back-stabbing, subterfuge and illicit shenanigans  – I could not put to down and it has left me with a real book hangover as it was so colourful and exciting a tale. Tsarina truly gives us a fascinating insight into Catherine or Marta’s experiences and allows us to travel back in time with her and witness these events unfolding at the Russian court – as well as getting the wider impact of these changes  at a very intriguing time in history from the perspective of some fairly unforgettable characters I loved the concept of
“See your power over men like a hand of cards; play them, to trump other people”

Saint Basil's Cathedral, Moscow, Russia

 

This is a really engrossing read. Alpsten has an excellent mixture of characters in this novel, from Catherine and her eccentric husband Peter the Great to some much more ordinary characters from Marta’s more humble background  – which really shows the reader that these turbulent events had an impact on life whoever you were and whatever your situation, providing much food for thought about women’s rights, independence and morality during this period for a 21st-century readership. I can’t believe that this is her debut novel and will eagerly await her next historical tale

 

Ellen Alpsten - Home n' Happy (@EAlpsten_Author) | Twitter

 

I think that Alpsten is just as skilful in writing about domestic matters as she is about the history or the politics at this time and the way that the impact of these events was so vividly depicted was a real strength of this novel. And as usual, I spent a lot of time online after finishing it, looking up Catherine’s story and falling into a bit of a rabbit hole as she was SUCH a fascinating character in her own right. Her ascent from abject poverty to becoming Empress of Russia in her own right makes for engrossing reading and I found myself totally gripped by Catherine’s incredible ascent to glory.

Biography of Empress Catherine I of Russia

Fans of historical epics and sweeping tales of rags to riches will love this beautifully written novel and I hope that it also brings her new readers who love period fiction and strongly written literary narratives. I really enjoyed this journey to Catherine I’s Russia and heartily recommend that you too delve into this fascinating period in history and find out more about it for yourself.

 


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“Astonishing…the ultimate Cinderella story.” —Daisy Goodwin, bestselling author of The Fortune Hunter

“As detailed as the jewels and enamel inlay on the creations of Faberge…[a] crisp, elegant fictional account of history, woven with emotion and brio.” —Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of The Shoemaker’s Wife

“Gripping…Love, sex, and loyalty vie with war, intrigue, and treason to create an epic canvas as exotic and powerful as eighteenth-century Russia itself. Masterfully researched and beautifully written, this is historical fiction at its best.” —Nancy Goldstone, author of Daughters of the Winter Queen and Rival Queens

“Intrigue, rivalry, and sumptuous decadence leap to vivid life in this fascinating story of Peter the Great’s second wife…conjuring the gorgeous marble of the Winter Palace and deprivation of Russia in the 18th century, the perilous ascent to power of the first woman to rule as empress is a gripping and unforgettable journey.” —C.W. Gortner, author of The Romanov Empress

“[Alpsten] recounts this remarkable woman’s colourful life and times.” —Count Nikolai Tolstoy, historian and author

“Luscious…Alpsten has clearly done some brilliant research. It reads like Game of Thrones without the dragons.” —Natasha Pulley, author of the international bestseller The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

Tsarina should come with a health warning–once you start reading, it’s impossible to stop.” —Hannah Rothschild, bestselling author of House of Trelawney

Click the image below to read Chapter One and then order your own copy straight away!

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Writer On The Shelf

Ellen Alpsten - Home n' Happy (@EAlpsten_Author) | Twitter

Ellen Alpsten was born and raised in the Kenyan highlands, before attending L’Institut
d’Etudes Politiques de Paris. Whilst studying for her Msc in PPE she won the Grande
École short story competition with her novella Meeting Mr. Gandhi and was encouraged to continue writing.

Upon graduating, she worked as a producer and presenter for Bloomberg TV in London. She contributes to international publications such as Vogue, Standpoint and Conde Nast Traveller. Tsarina is her first novel. She lives in London with her husband and three children.

The Happy Couple

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Me and Will. Will and Me. A perfect match. He said he would always be there for me, but it’s been a year since he drained his coffee, walked out the front door and vanished.

Did he leave me? Or did something terrible happen? I’m scared someone finally found out about what happened on the drive home that night…

I lie awake at night trawling the internet for rental properties, desperate for an escape. Until I see my husband’s gorgeous face smiling back at me from a photograph on the fireplace in someone else’s home, and something inside of me snaps.

At the house, I find no trace of him and the woman who lives there has no idea who I am. But I’m certain she’s hiding something behind the locked door upstairs. I know that if I want answers, I have to stay.

You might think that what’s inside that room is the answer to all my questions and the end of all my pain. But it’s only the beginning…

Nail-biting and completely gripping, The Happy Couple will make you question how well you really know the ones you love. Perfect reading for anyone who adored by The Wife Between UsThe Girl on The Train or Gone Girl.

The course of true love never ran smoothly, but the path of true love of this novel is as twisty and skilful as any pageturner you’ve read this year. If you haven’t discovered Samantha Hayes books, then you’ll be thrilled to hear that this is her tenth novel so if you’ve loved this then there are 9 more great reads to disover

If you love an unforgettable premise which will really get under your skin and a central character who will stay with you for a long time after reading then look no further. Once you’ve started this novel, you won’t want the journey to end.

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Jo is the kind of character that really comes alive for you as you read. In her relationship with handsome Will, she explains how they felt like the perfect match and that’s why what happened still makes absolutely no sense to her whatsoever. She cannot understand where Will has vanished to and  it’s little wonder that she begins to see him everywhere she goes…

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Lou’s advice to date other people and try and move on with her life is so hard for Jo to take and she eventually manages to persuade Jo to try house sitting in an attempt to move on with her life. And this is where it all starts to unravel… The plot zips along at a cracking pace and you’ll have to stay up late like me, turning the pages to try and keep up with all of the twists and turns as strange things begin to occur. Jo never expected to see a photo of Will propped on the mantelpiece of one of the house sitting properties and the mystery starts to deepen as to what exactly happened within her perfect relationship…

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I’m no fan of books being painted as ‘The next…’ and we’re all sick I’m sure, of seeing books compared with The Girl on the Train or Gone Girl. This definitely isn’t ‘The Girl in The Skies’ – it’s not trying to be anything else, it’s perfectly happy being its own  self.  I’d actually love to see it on screen and will be dragging people along with me to see Jo’s adventures in the flesh!

I can’t wait for more people to read The Happy Couple so that I can chat about that ENDING with them. You know that I hate spoilers so I’ve tried hard to avoid mentioning exactly how this all pans out– but suffice to say, there’s never a dull moment as Jo’s story twists and turns its way to an exciting and nailbiting conclusion

Thanks so much to  Sarah Hardy for inviting me onto the blog tour – I absolutely love taking part in these tours and look forward to seeing what all the other bloggers think of the books too.

Check out the rest of the blogtour and buy yourself a copy here if this sounds like your kind of read.

Writer On The Shelf

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Samantha Hayes grew up in Warwickshire, left school at sixteen, avoided university and took jobs ranging from private detective to barmaid to fruit picker and factory worker. She lived on a kibbutz, and spent time living in Australia and the USA, before finally becoming a crime-writer.

Her writing career began when she won a short story competition in 2003 and her sixteenth novel, THE HAPPY COUPLE is out 6th May. Her novels are family-based psychological thrillers, with the emphasis being on ‘real life fiction’.

Stay up to date on Samantha’s  website and follow her on her social media accounts.

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THE BEAUTY CHORUS

The Beauty Chorus Blog Tour Banner

Romance, glamour and adventure in the skies: an enthralling debut inspired by female pilots in World War Two.  166 women signed up to fly Spitfires and bombers from factories to airfields across England. It was an adventure that would cost many their lives.

New Year’s Eve, 1940: Evie Chase, the beautiful debutante daughter of an adoring RAF commander, gazes out at the sky as swing music drifts from the ballroom. With bombs falling nightly in London, she resolves that the coming year will bring more than just dances and tennis matches. She is determined to do her bit for the war effort.

2nd January, 1941:  Evie curses her fashionable heels as they skid on the frozen ground of her local airfield. She is here to volunteer for ‘The Beauty Chorus’, the female pilots who fly much-needed planes to bases across the country. Soon, she is billeted in a tiny country cottage, sharing with an anxious young mother and a naive teenager.

Thrown together by war, these three very different women soon become friends, confidantes and fellow adventuresses. But as they take to the skies, they will also face hardship, prejudice and tragedy. Can their new-found bond survive their darkest hours?

Reissued in a very timely manner to coincide with the 75th anniversary of VE Day and based on the heroism of or female pilots during WWII, this is a historical read to lose yourself in and enjoy the exploits of these women at that fascinating point in our shared history.

Evie Chase and her fellow members of the ATA are such memorable characters and I’m so happy that I was invited onto this blog tour and got the chance to ‘meet them’ on the page. Thank you so much to all the team at Midas PR for consistently introducing me to such a vast array of books and expanding my reading tastes with such interesting and diverse choices. The Beauty Chorus is a great read and I’ve been interested to follow the tour as I really wanted to see what all the other bloggers thought too.

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In 1940, Evie Chase is an Air Transport Auxillary pilot and I loved finding out all about her introduction to such an unorthodox job for a woman.  Soon she has to cast aside her glamorous outfits and dedicated follower of fashion ways to end up in a remote cottage, sharing with two very different girls – Stella an emotional young mother all the way from Singapore and idealistic Megan who has never set foot outside her own village beforehand finds it hard to settle away from her Welsh background.

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If you are like me and love books set in this era that you can really get caught up in and ones that will make you think about their events long after you’ve finished reading them, then. I’m always a sucker for any book that’s got the slightest connection to this period in history and I was really drawn in by Evie, Megan and Stella’s story and it definitely sent me off in an online hunt to find out more about the AWA for myself – especially as I teach at a military boarding school myself.

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I love books that transport me in time and place and I read this last week, in a wholly different time and space to these three characters but feeling connected with them across the years – totally losing myself in this unforgettable story and Kate Lord Brown’s fantastic deft sense of characterisation and feel for the small details that really helped make this credible. such as Evie’s ability to perform a perfect dive. Even my History Teacher husband had to wrack his brains to tell me more about the AWA and it got me thinking about how many other episodes of our collective history that I’ve never even heard of…

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The Beauty Chorus vividly tells the tale of all three girls’ experiences and this is a clever device that allows you to draw parallels and see the differences between their experiences and relationships as their individual stories unfold in an incredibly lifelike way. Their story is so captivating that it’s easy to forget that this is not telling a fictional tale, events such as these three characters experienced actually happened and this novel gives you a real window into the lives of these women living through these times and witnessing the ordeals that they managed to endure together.

Kate Lord Brown uses dialogue very skilfully in order to make these characters come to life as separate and individual people within these pages. This is a fascinating and satisfying read, where their brave exploits are wonderfully realised and these as well as their everyday lives are brought to life for a generation who can only imagine the moments that these characters lived through and the important part that they and others played in our country’s history.

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If you want a memorable and beautifully written book that brings a moment in history alive and introduces you to a part of history that should be much better taught, you’ll love this book and I know a few book-loving friends who are definitely going to be pinching it from me once I shout a bit more about how much I’ve enjoyed it.

 

Why don’t you treat yourself to a copy and find out more about this memorable story for yourself?

Writer On The Shelf

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Kate Lord Brown grew up in a wild and beautiful part of Devon. She read Philosophy at Durham and Art History at the Courtauld Institute and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, curating collections for palaces and embassies in Europe and the Middle East.

Kate has travelled and lived around the world with her airline pilot husband and gained a MA in creative writing from the Manchester Writing School MMU. She was a finalist in the ITV People’s Author contest 2009, and her international bestseller The Perfume Garden was shortlisted for the UK Romantic Novel of the Year 2014.

Kate currently lives in the Middle East with her family, and she was a regional winner in this year’s BBC International Radio Playwriting Competition.

 

 

Born Survivors

Born Survivors Blog Tour 30th April - 8th May (updated)

Little Brown Books
Re-issued in 2020

On the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Mauthausen concentration camp

Among millions of Holocaust victims sent to Auschwitz II-Birkenau in 1944, Priska, Rachel, and Anka each passed through its infamous gates with a secret. Strangers to each other, they were newly pregnant, and facing an uncertain fate without their husbands. Alone, scared, and with so many loved ones already lost to the Nazis, these young women were privately determined to hold on to all they had left: their lives, and those of their unborn babies.

That the gas chambers ran out of Zyklon-B just after the babies were born, before they and their mothers could be exterminated, is just one of several miracles that allowed them all to survive and rebuild their lives after World War II. Born Survivors follows the mothers’ incredible journey – first to Auschwitz, where they each came under the murderous scrutiny of Dr. Josef Mengele; then to a German slave labour camp where, half-starved and almost worked to death, they struggled to conceal their condition; and finally, as the Allies closed in, their hellish 17-day train journey with thousands of other prisoners to the Mauthausen death camp in Austria. Hundreds died along the way but the courage and kindness of strangers, including guards and civilians, helped save these women and their children.

Sixty-five years later, the three ‘miracle babies’ met for the first time at Mauthausen for the anniversary of the liberation that ultimately saved them. United by their remarkable experiences of survival against all odds, they now consider each other “siblings of the heart.” In Born Survivors, Wendy Holden brings all three stories together for the first time to mark their seventieth birthdays and the seventieth anniversary of the ending of the war.

A heart-stopping account of how three mothers and their newborns fought to survive the Holocaust, Born Survivors is also a life-affirming celebration of our capacity to care and to love amid inconceivable cruelty.

Born Survivors is one of the most moving and memorable books I’ve ever read and I can’t believe I haven’t read it before which makes me doubly grateful to have been invited onto the blogtour which is running around the Anniversary of VE Day.  It gives a voice to the disenfranchised and desolate and allows us a real insight into the many thousands of people across the world who lost everything,  fled their homes and went through unimaginable suffering at the hands of the Nazis and the Angel of Death, Mengele himself.

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This unforgettable and affecting read allows us an unforgettable insight into the lives of these three women, Priska, Rachel and Anka whilst we see at close hand the devastating impact the war has had on their lives. Auschwitz is brought vividly to life as a place full of people just trying to survive. These three women have very different backgrounds but their experience as young women at the hands of these people bonds them together as their jailors try to eradicate every last thread of compassion and humanity from those that they have incarcerated.

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The characters in this book spring to life from the page and remain in your heart long after you’ve finished–  it’s impossible to close the final page of this book and  not feel a strong connection to these characters as you know that all the time you are reading it that these three stories represent the many thousands of women who walked through those gateways and never returned  – and some who did survive but sometimes wished that they hadn’t. Even though this book is fictional, it is undoubtedly full of real stories of suffering and human endurance that are still happening in some places across the world.  The power of the narrative with its simple lyrical words to convey such powerful truths is an important part of why this novel has stuck with me and why I really think that you should read it too. The book it reminds me of in terms of my engagement with it is The Kite Runner and just like that book, these characters are very much still alive in my mind and I can’t forget their emotional as well as their literal struggle to protect their children and their children’s re-connection as ‘siblings of the heart’ so many years later would bring a tear to the very hardest of hearts.

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This is an important read and I can’t recommend it highly enough. A powerful insight into motherhood, suffering and the lengths we will go to to protect the things that are most important to us. This is not an easy read, but it’s a very important one and it’s one that I unreservedly recommend. This week we are celebrating VE Day and this book is a searing insight into what that commemoration actually means. I am so grateful that I got the chance to read it and have really learned a lot from these three women’s stories.

Buy yourself a copy here and make sure that you follow the rest of the tour to hear the trgoughts of our other bloggers on this fantastic special re release.

“Born Survivors, is exceptionally fresh history, a work of prodigious original research, written with zealous empathy.”–Women in the World, New York Times online

Born Survivors, is exceptionally fresh history, a work of prodigious original research, written with zealous empathy. –Women in the World, New York Times online”

An astonishing and deeply moving work. With remarkable detail gleaned from a wealth of research. –Booklist (starred review)”

Even though it occurred more than 70 years ago, the story s truth is so chillingly portrayed that it seems as if it could have happened recently…. An engrossing, intense, and highly descriptive narrative chronicling the ghastly conditions three pregnant women suffered through at the hands of the Nazis. –Kirkus Reviews”

It s no surprise Born Survivors is gathering excellent reviews. –Chicago Tribune”

Writer On The Shelf

 
WENDY HOLDEN is a former journalist and war correspondent who has written more than thirty non-fiction titles, most of which feature inspirational women and many of them international bestsellers.

They include Tomorrow to Be Brave about the only woman in the French Foreign Legion (soon to be a film); Behind Enemy Lines about a French Jewish spy in WWII (now an award winning documentary), and Till the Sun Grows Cold the story of a British woman caught up in the Sudanese war. She lives in Suffolk with her husband and two dogs.

 

 

When We Fall Blog Tour

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From the acclaimed author of The Conviction of Cora Burns, longlisted for the Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown Award.

England, 1943. Lost in fog, pilot Vee Katchatourian is forced to make an emergency landing where she meets enigmatic RAF airman Stefan Bergel, and then can’t get him out of her mind.

In occupied Poland, Ewa Hartman hosts German officers in her father’s guest house, while secretly gathering intelligence for the Polish resistance. Mourning her lover, Stefan, who was captured by the Soviets at the start of the war, Ewa is shocked to see him on the street one day.

Haunted by a terrible choice he made in captivity, Stefan asks Vee and Ewa to help him expose one of the darkest secrets of the war. But it is not clear where everyone’s loyalties lie until they are tested…

Published to coincide with the 75th anniversary of VE Day and based on WWII war atrocity the Katyn massacre, When We Fall is a moving story of three lives forever altered by one fatal choice.

Vee Katchatourian is an absolute legend, and I’m so happy that I was invited onto this blog tour and got the chance to ‘meet her’ on the page. Thank you so much to Anne Cater for consistently introducing me to such a fabulous range of books and expanding my reading tastes with such eclectic choices. When We Fall is a stand-out choice and I’ve been avidly following the tour as I really wanted to see what all the other bloggers thought too. What. A. Read.

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In 1943, Vee Katchatourian is an Air Transport Auxillary pilot and I loved finding out all about her introduction to such an unorthodox job for a woman.  On a standard flight, whilst delivering her Tiger Moth plane, Vee gets lost in fog and has to make an emergency landing. She has landed in Essex, where fate steps in, causing her to meet handsome and enigmatic Flight Sergeant Stefan Bergel –  a young Polish pilot whose life will become inextricably entangled with her own and lead her to places she could never have imagined

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Meanwhile, In Poznan, Poland, Ewa Hartman works in her family’s guesthouse, attending to the needs of the SS officers whilst assisting the Polish resistance by relaying any snippets of information she gathers from their German ‘guests’  It’s an undertaking that requires nerves of steel to get away with it whilst seeming to be an  obliging and sweet hostess, but Ewa persists – with the hope of being reunited with her missing fiance Stephan stronger on some days than others. Ewa’s tale is equally compelling as we witness her daily struggle under these watchful ‘masters’ and admire her steadfast bravery in continuing to risk everything for the greater good. World war two aviation fiction; Female pilot; war pilot; airport auxiliary

 

If you are like me and love books set in this era that you can really get caught up in and ones  that will make you think about their events long after you’ve finished reading them, then When We Fall  might be your next favourite read. I’m always a sucker for any book that’s got the slightest connection to spies and I was really drawn in by Vee, Ewa and Stefan’s story and really wonder why I’ve never heard of the Kateyn massacre before. resistance in ww2; polish history; Poland ww2; Katyn massacre; anniversary of Katyn

I love books that transport me in time and place and I read this last week, in a wholly different time and space to these three characters but feeling connected with them across the years – totally losing myself in this unforgettable story and Carolyn Kirby’s fantastic sense of atmosphere in this immersive and haunting read. The details of the masacre happen mostly off the page but the details that we are exposed to are brutal and shocking and definitely made me wonder why it’s been so utterly forgotten in the mists of time. Even my History Teacher husband had to wrack his brains and it got me thinking about how many other episodes of our collective history that I’ve never even heard of…

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When We Fall’s tale of both Vee and Ewa’s experiences is a clever device that allows you to draw parallels and see the differences between their experiences and relationships  as both stories unfold in an incredibly lifelike way. Their story is so captivating that it’s easy to forget that this is not fiction, it actually happened as you travel across time and place with them – witnessing the horrific ordeals that they managed to endure together.

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Carolyn Kirby has a compelling turn of phrase and recreates distinct thought patterns very skilfully in order to make these characters come to life  as separate and individual people within these pages. This is an exciting and satisfying read, where their daring and brave exploits are wonderfully realised and acts of amazing courage is brought to life for a generation who can only imagine the circumstances that these characters lived through and had to endure and the important part that they and others played in our country’s history.

If you want a memorable and beautifully written book that brings a moment in history alive and introduces you to a part of history that should be much better taught, you’ll love this book and I know a few book-loving friends who are definitely going to be pinching it from me once I shout a bit more about how much I’ve enjoyed it.

 

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Why don’t you treat yourself to a copy and find out more about this incredibly humbling and memorable story for yourself? I’ve linked straight to No Exit Press to try and encourage as many people as possible to support our independent publishing companies at this time and make sure we are there for them as they’ve been there for us over the years!

For an additional treat, Carolyn will be interviewed by author and critic Barry Forshaw (@barryforshaw3) at 8.15pm on Thursday 7th May and there is the opportunity to ask questions too. It sounds like a great opportunity to hear more about the research and the true stories behind this unforgettable read and I heartily recommend it.

To join the event go to crowdcast.io/e/whenwefall or the talk can be viewed afterwards if you can’t make that time.

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Carolyn will be interviewed by author and critic Barry Forshaw (@barryforshaw3) at 8.15pm on Thursday 7th May and there is the opportunity to ask questions too.

To join the event go to crowdcast.io/e/whenwefall or the talk can be viewed afterwards if you can’t make that time.

‘Historical fiction at its finest’ – Howard Linskey

‘An engaging and elegantly written novel on the grim realities of war, and the moral choices that can result. Highly recommended’ – Roger Moorhouse

‘In a story where loyalties are called into question, she kept me guessing to the final page’ – Anita Frank, author of The Lost Ones

‘A vivid novel that stays with you long after you reach the final page… told in breathless present tense’ – Fiona Erskine, author of The Chemical Detective

Writer On The Shelf

Carolyn Kirby is the author of The Conviction of Cora Burns which was longlisted for the Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown Award.

Before becoming a full-time writer, Carolyn worked in social housing and as a teacher. She has two grown-up daughters and lives with her husband in Oxfordshire.

Social Media Links

Carolyn’s Website

Twitter

Carolyn’s Facebook 

Historical fiction; second world war; world war two; ww2; war fiction; second world war fiction