Today as a part of the blog tour, I am sharing an extract from Shadows in the Ashes by Christina Courtenay. This one was just released on January 18th. This one is brimming with romance, adventure and vivid historical detail, Christina Courtenay’s gripping dual-time novel travels from the present day to the fires of ancient Pompeii.
The sunlight caught her gold bracelet, sending a flash that almost blinded her.
She closed her eyes, but jumped when the earth started shaking and there was an almighty boom behind her.
Finally escaping an abusive marriage, Caterina Rossi takes her three-year-old daughter and flees to Italy. There she’s drawn to research scientist Connor, who needs her translation help for his work on volcanology. Together they visit the ruins of Pompeii and, standing where Mount Vesuvius unleashed its fire on the city centuries before, Cat begins to see startling visions. Visions that appear to come from the antique bracelet handed down through her family’s generations…
Sold by his half-brother and enslaved as a gladiator in Roman Pompeii, Raedwald dreams only of surviving each fight, making the coin needed to return to his homeland and taking his revenge. That is, until he is hired to guard beautiful Aemilia. As their forbidden love grows, Raedwald’s dreams shift like the ever more violent tremors of the earth beneath his feet.
The present starts eerily to mirror the past as Cat must fight to protect her safety, and to forge a new path from the ashes of her old life…
Author’s Note on the extract: This scene is the beginning of the hero’s journey towards becoming a gladiator.
Frisia, 73 AD
‘Why do you want to go this way? We should be getting back before dusk.’ Raedwald frowned at his younger half-brother, Osbehrt, who seemed inordinately pleased with himself.
‘I think I saw that big stag here yesterday. You know, the one everyone’s talking about with the huge antlers. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we manage to kill it and bring it back to Father? He’ll be so proud of us. Come, it was this way.’
Osbehrt didn’t slow his pace and Raedwald had no choice but to follow. He’d always been told to watch over his younger half-siblings. As the eldest, it was his duty, but sometimes, like now, it was a chore he could well do without. It wasn’t as though anyone gave him credit for it either, least of all their father, Raedwulf. After the early death of Raedwald’s mother, he’d quickly remarried, and had fallen completely in thrall to his new woman. She’d done everything she could to promote the interests of her own offspring, while Raedwald was given all the hard or boring tasks. The only thing she hadn’t been able to persuade his father to do was to have Osbehrt declared his heir instead of Raedwald. Some stubborn part of Raedwulf refused to give in on that point, but that didn’t mean he liked his eldest son. Far from it – he was forever criticising, making Raedwald do more weapons training than anyone else, and expecting him to be at the beck and call of his stepmother in between.
It was unbearable, and Raedwald hated the pair of them, but he took it in silence. That was the only way he could thwart her – by not showing that she was affecting him in any way, nor giving up his rights as the heir. If she could, he was sure she’d insist on him being made a sacrificial offering to the gods. Fortunately, that wasn’t up to her.
He sighed now as he trudged behind his brother. ‘If you saw the stag yesterday, who’s to say he’ll still be there now? Deer roam far and wide. No doubt he’ll be long gone.’
‘No, no, it’s not the first time, actually. I’ve spotted him several times, and there’s a small lake nearby so he probably goes there to drink. It’s not far now, I promise.’
Raedwald rolled his eyes, but Osbehrt wasn’t looking so he didn’t see that. Honestly, this was probably a wild goose chase, but best to let the boy learn that for himself. The youth – a mere fifteen winters to Raedwald’s eighteen – raced ahead as if eager to reach their goal. From time to time, he glanced over his shoulder to check whether his brother was following, but he didn’t slow his pace. This was becoming very tedious, and it would soon begin to get dark. They should definitely be turning back, not going forward.
Just as he had decided he’d had enough, Raedwald suddenly felt something hard connect with the back of his skull. Shadowy figures materialised from the trees and surrounded him, one of them throwing some sort of net over his head while he was still stunned from the blow. What in the name of all the gods …?
‘Run, Osbehrt, run!’ he yelled, anger making his voice soar among the trees.
He tried to fight his way free of the net, galvanised into action by a fear for his brother, but although he was strong, he didn’t stand a chance. They were too many against one, and he was grabbed from all sides and held in a tight grip while someone tied his hands behind his back. His head was pounding from the vicious blow. He squinted against the fading light as he looked up to see whether his brother had managed to escape. To his surprise, Osbehrt was standing in front of him, grinning, while tossing a clinking pouch from one hand to the other. Realisation hit him harder than that thump on the head.
‘What have you done?’ he growled, a fury greater than any he’d ever felt surging through him. Why, the little rat …
‘Sold you. Mother thought it best.’ The rat in question looked unrepentant. Triumphant, even. ‘These men will take you away and sell you to the highest bidder, and they’ve guaranteed we’ll never see you again. Father’s hall and all his domains will be mine, as they should be. You’ve always thought you are so much better than me, but you’re wrong. I’ll make a great chieftain. And perhaps with you gone, Father will finally train me as he ought instead of giving all his attention to you.’
‘You’ll regret this, you little worm, and your bitch of a mother too. I will come back and kill you, brother, one way or another. You have my oath on it.’ Raedwald spat on the ground and watched as Osbehrt jumped back, glaring at him.
Some of his swagger had left him, and there was uncertainty lurking in the youth’s gaze, but he lifted his chin. ‘No, you won’t. These men will see to that. You’ll die in a Roman arena somewhere, torn to pieces by wild beasts. I only wish I could be there to watch. Farewell. I’ll tell Father not to mourn you.’
‘Don’t be too sure.’ Raedwald made his voice as menacing as he possibly could and had the satisfaction of seeing Osbehrt flinch. ‘From now on, you’d better watch your every step, because one day I will be right behind you, ready to slit your throat. May the gods curse you!’
Another blow to the head cut off the sight of the snivelling little snake, but that was probably just as well or Raedwald would have choked on his rage. Oblivion was preferable for now.
About the Author:
Christina Courtenay writes historical romance, time slip/dual time and time travel stories, and lives in Herefordshire (near the Welsh border) in the UK. Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden – hence her abiding interest in the Vikings. Christina is a Vice President and former Chair and of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association and has won several awards, including the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel twice with Highland Storms (2012) and The Gilded Fan (2014) and the RNA Fantasy Romantic Novel of the year 2021 with Echoes of the Runes. SHADOWS IN THE ASHES (dual time romance published by Headline Review 18th January 2024) is her latest novel. Christina is a keen amateur genealogist and loves history and archaeology (the armchair variety).
Today I am taking part in the blog tour for Missing by Ruby Speechley. It was just released on September 27th and I am sharing my review today! I think this would be a fear of most parents!
Single mum Ellie is shown a missing person post on Facebook. It’s of her three-year-old son, Tyler…
But he’s right there, holding her hand.
Surely this is some kind of prank – she knows her friend Louise can go too far with her jokes sometimes. And Ellie is used to the other mums gossiping at the school gates…
But now the other parents are questioning whether Tyler is really her child.
Ellie does everything she can to prove the post is fake, but the longer it goes on she knows it is malicious. Who would do this to her? And why?
It could be her ex, Darren, but deep down she knows it must be linked to what happened all those years ago – the night she’s been doing her best to forget…
All she knows is that she has to keep her son safe – no matter what.
Author: Ruby Speechley
Published: September 27, 2023
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: September 6-13, 2023
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars
Whoa!!! I’m not a parent, but the book description had me wanting to read this book! And it is a roller coaster of a ride along with the Energizer Bunny: It just keeps going and going! I had no idea how this was going to end! The chapters were shorter which made this one a quick read that I enjoyed and did not want to put down! I didn’t know who to trust or believe.
Missing shows the danger of the internet and social media: How just a few clicks can change a life. And how much we all seemingly believe what we see on there. People’s lives can change for better or even much worse because of Facebook!
Admittedly Ellie did annoy me at first: Just go to the police! I mean there isn’t much that could be done but at least you have a record of what is going on. She did grow on me after a little time.
Ellie is on her own with her three-year-old son Tyler. Ellie’s ex denies that Tyler is his when she insists she was faithful to him. But also during their time together she drank a lot and there was one night were she blacked out. And she has nightmares of a clown.
So yes, if you have a fear of clowns, you might not want to read this one. The clowns were a bit creepy!
The big twist didn’t totally work for me with the villain and everything that happened. But otherwise I did really enjoy this novel! Missing was the first for me by Speechley and I do plan to look into what else she has written!
Order Your Copy here.
About the Author:
Ruby Speechley is a bestselling psychological thriller writer, whose titles include Someone Else’s Baby. Previously published by Hera, she has been a journalist and worked in PR and lives in Cheshire.
Today I am taking part in the Book Birthday Blitz for Jana’s Brightly Coloured Socks by Sally Fetouh and illustrated by Alexis Schnitger. This children’s picture book was released last year and I am sharing my review. Happy First Book Birthday!
Author Sally Fetouh was inspired to write this touching story by her own daughter who has Down syndrome, feeling it was important for her and other children like her to be able to see themselves in literature. Two years ago, after reading a different story about a girl with Down syndrome to her daughter’s preschool class, Sally says, “The children were so engaged in the story and asked questions. They were very accepting and loving of their friend—my daughter. I left with a heart overflowing with emotion and that inspired me to write my story.”
When young Jana receives heaps of beautiful socks from her parents after learning how to put on socks all by herself, she can’t wait to show her friends at school. They are always kind and patient with Jana when they play together. Jana decides to share a pair of her new socks with each and every friend. This calls for a school sock parade! All of the children had so much fun showing off their colourful socks together that they gave a very special and huge gift for their kind and generous friend, Jana, a box of more socks!
There is cheerful text and whimsical illustrations that bring alive this heart-warming story of kindness and inclusion featuring a character with Down Syndrome.
Jana’s Brightly Coloured Socks
Author: Sally Fetouh
Illustrator: Alexis Schnitger
Published: May 21, 2022
Reviewed By: Jessica
Date Read: May 18, 2023
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars
Jana’s Brightly Coloured Socks is a colorful picture book aimed at children ages 4 and up and focuses on friendship, kindness, and inclusion! Jana has Down Syndrome and she was able to get her socks on herself! Her parents celebrate this accomplishment and Jana takes socks to all the kids at school. This is a simple yet fun book with the illustrations that enhance the story 1000%! The illustrations are watercolor like for me and could tell the story themselves!
We have lots of inclusion and diversity in the pictures presented. The story along with the pictures really show how that even though we are all different in our own way, but that’s ok! The world would be very boring if we were all the same!
This short children’s book can also teach: The focus in the story is socks and how they are all different. Socks reference the extra chromosome that people with Down Syndrome have. Did you know that Chromosomes look like socks? There is also a hashtag: #lotsofsocks which has a campaign: Lots of Socks.
We need more books like this that both children and adults can enjoy and learn something from!
About the Author:
Writing is very much a part of who author Sally Fetouh is as a human being. As a child, writing was a way for her to express herself and all of the stories and ideas she had in her head. Now, as an adult, she has been inspired to write a beautiful story of kindness and friendship, Jana’s Brightly Coloured Socks, a heart-warming picture book loosely based on her daughter who has Down syndrome.
It was important to Sally that her daughter and other children like her were able to see themselves represented in literature. The idea came to Sally when she visited her daughter’s preschool to read a story about a girl with Down syndrome. The loving, accepting, and inquisitive responses from her daughter’s classmates inspired her to write a story reflecting these caring friendships.
Sally believes a great book is one that has impactful characters and a story that provides a new experience or perspective to the reader that stays with them long after the book is closed. She hopes that her young readers with disabilities or those who are different in some way will be able to relate to the main character and see a little bit of themselves, while also aiming for other readers to gain insight into the world of Down syndrome and the importance and impact of kindness and friendship.
When she isn’t writing thought-provoking children’s books, Sally works as a lawyer and a photographer. She enjoys being in nature, hiking, and horse riding. She lives with her family in Sydney, Australia. Jana’s Brightly Coloured Socks is her debut picture book.[Top]