January 2nd and a second chance

It’s New Year. The Christmas tree is in the hoover, the baubles and fairy lights are in the loft and the cards are in the recycling box. The fridge is devoid of any seasonal treats (verified by my bulging midriff) and Dry January has begun.

It’s January 2nd; which has a certain ring to it. Second. Second chance. Second coming. “I second that motion”. The motion to be happy, grateful, patient; traits that do not come naturally and which I must work at, eschewing melancholy, regret and irritation. Must try harder (as my school report was wont to say).

Second chance: another crack at writing – intelligent, entertaining, absorbing fiction. Something new, different, challenging. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I am categorically and clinically fond of my first two books Seeking Eden and Eden Interrupted – and grateful to Urbane Publications, who gave me my first break. I also know there’s a third Eden book to come; too many readers have begged for one to complete the circle, the trilogy. Ah, but to write something new – outside my comfort zone; it’s scary and exhilarating but it must be done.

Perhaps “The Godson” is my second chance. Or perhaps it’s merely a red herring – a transition. It’s my third completed novel (although I’ve started several others and have all sorts of partial manuscripts hidden in the bowels of my laptop).

The Godson is my first psychological thriller and a complete departure from my two published novels. It’s twisty, mysterious and dark in places. The premise is a simple one:

Three forty-something women borrow a friend’s villa in Italy for the summer, each having experienced upsetting life events. Desperate for a break, Susanne, Dale and Evie want nothing more than to relax and regroup in the glorious Tuscan sunshine. But the villa comes with a housemate: Harry, the owner’s Godson – a spoilt, wealthy twenty-four-year-old, ostensibly there to learn Italian while enjoying a final blast of freedom before starting a financial job in London.

Clever, handsome and manipulative, Harry has his own agenda: top of which is to flatter and seduce beautiful divorced-mother, Susanne. But lesbian drama teacher, Dale, is suspicious of Harry’s motives from the outset. Meanwhile, shy Evie remains neutral, keen to dispel tensions between Susanne and Dale, while nursing the recent loss of her mother in private. But as the secrets and lies escalate and Harry’s behaviour becomes increasingly bizarre, the women’s Tuscan dream becomes a nightmare.

And so, having taken The Godson as far as I’m able, I am looking for a publisher and the dreaded ‘querying’ process has begun. The publishers I am targeting form a select and revered list; I have either read and loved their books, or I’ve heard wonderful things from authors who already write for them. Having been through the process before, I know it will be a tense, frustrating and um, quiet period (I was amazed by the number of agents who simply ignored my emails three years ago, rendering the rejection letters a luxury).

So, maybe The Godson is my second chance. My second coming as a writer. But if not, it doesn’t matter; it’s only words on a page and I will moan, learn from the experience and move on – write something else. Because to a writer, there’s nothing more daunting or more exciting than a blank page.

Wishing friends, family, readers and the writing community a very HAPPY, HEALTHY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR.

Let 2020 be a second chance for all of us 🙂

In conversation with Iain McGeachin

Today I am privileged to introduce Iain McGeachin, better known to his 22,700 Twitter followers as @ataxiascot.

Scotsman, kilt-wearer, campaigner, fundraiser, traveller, Ataxia-sufferer – and let’s not forget, adventurer: Iain’s list of global challenges will leave you breathless.

In recent years, he has walked thousands of miles for charity, raising awareness of the little-known disease Spinocerebellar Ataxia, following his own diagnosis in March 2015.


*Photo (left) : Iain McGeachin with STV’s weather presenter Sean Batty 


You might think he’d want to take it easy after such a devastating blow -given that ‘Ataxia’ is an umbrella term for a group of progressive neurological disorders that impacts balance, coordination and speech. It affects people in different ways. In Iain’s case, his walking ability has been gradually reduced – to the point where he now relies on wheels. You can read more about Ataxia on Iain’s website at :

But has Ataxia slowed him down? Well, not so you’d notice. During the progression of his illness, Iain has clocked up thousands of miles, raising money and awareness for the condition; dozens of routes that kicked off with the London City Bridges Challenge for Ataxia UK in September 2015, (his first kilted-walk) followed by his 50th birthday walk in Hyde Park, and ended with a “stroll” along the French Riviera from Monte Carlo to Cannes; walking (with an ever-increasing reliance on his walking stick) in Paris, Nice, Cannes, Milan, Parma, Pisa, Florence, Ljubljana, Amsterdam, 500 miles along the Mediterranean coast of Spain, a 4-day walk around the coast of Isle of Arran (an island just off Iain’s beloved Scotland), and a walk along the Canal Du Midi in France along the way: this ‘walk’ first signalled the end of Iain’s walking days when he sustained a heavy fall near Toulouse, suffering knee-ligament damage.

*Photo (above) : Iain’s first kilted walk in London

But enough from me. You get the picture; Iain McGeachin is a very busy man who likes a challenge, so let’s find out more in his own words…

*Photo (left) : Iain at another successful fundraising event


BH: Iain, you are a total inspiration. Your list of walking challenges reads like an Atlas. Are there are more planned walks in the diary? And by ‘walks’ I include the use of your wheelchair.

I McG: For sure. And like the current “AtaxiaChristmasGiveaway” on Twitter it will be used to raise funds for FareShare UK. The planned trip will also allow me to complete at least one of the missing stages of my 2013 “Around The World By Train” trip, the journey that I was in the middle of when Ataxia first reared its ugly head.

However, the trip will involve other companies and sponsors, and until plans are more concrete, I am sworn to secrecy!

BH: I know you’re keen to focus on one particular fund raising initiative this month; the awesome #AtaxiaBookFairy project which raises funds for, and awareness of #FareShareUK – a charity focused on reducing food waste and feeding the hungry in the UK. Please, tell us all about it.

I McG: Now that my wheelchair has finally become a reality, physical fundraising for AtaxiaUK and MNDScotland has become increasingly difficult for any prolonged period of time, so I wracked my brains to see if I could come up with a means of fundraising that I could do from the comfort of home. The “#AtaxiaBookFairy” project was the answer.

It enables me to raise awareness of Ataxia, as well as raising funds for FareShare. Everyone knows what a book is; a few people even know what a “book fairy” is, so I’m hoping that people’s natural curiosity makes them find out more about this “Ataxia thing”.

The premise is simple too. Generous writers and publishers donate at least two copies of their books, which I then collate in two separate boxes. One copy I give away in online competitions (which promotes both the book-donor and FareShare); the other copy I give directly to various regional FareShare depots (for distribution to their volunteers). However, both copies are already labelled to encourage the sharing of the book, by leaving it in a public place – and readers are encouraged to do just this.

BH: I’m a keen reader and writer myself, but why books, Iain? How did #AtaxiaBookFairy start?

I McG: I read for the same reason I travel. Education. Now, I read for another (more important?) reason too: To exercise my brain – which is something everyone should do. In the same way that muscles are lost through lack of use (“use it or lose it”), mental exercise improves the health of our brains. And reading encourages us to do just that. We have to use our imagination to “colour in the pictures” ourselves.

BH: I am with you there, Iain – books can capture and open up whole new worlds for readers. Is there anything else you’d like to mention today?

I McG: Only to encourage people to take part in the #AtaxiaChristmasGiveaway on Twitter at:

SEVENTY books (many of them signed by the author) are included in prizes worth over £800. The competition is free-to-enter, however, donations to my FareShare Appeal are encouraged.

BH: Thank you, Iain. That’s brilliant, really inspiring. I appreciate you taking the time to chat today, and I wish you every success with the Christmas Giveaways and with your ongoing fundraising.


To find out more visit

Or follow Iain McGeachin on Twitter @ataxiascot


Or follow FareShare on Twitter @FareShareUK


Book Review : Don’t Think a Single Thought by Diana Cambridge

The Blurb : 1960s New York, and Emma Bowden seems to have it all – a glamorous Manhattan apartment, a loving husband, and a successful writing career. But while Emma and her husband Jonathan are on vacation at the Hamptons, a child drowns in the sea, and suspicion falls on Emma. As her picture-perfect life spirals out of control, and old wounds resurface, a persistent and monotonous voice in Emma’s head threatens to destroy all that she has worked for… Taut, elegant and mesmerising, Don’t Think a Single Thought lays bare a marriage, and a woman, and examines the decisions – and mistakes – that shape all of our lives.

Diana Cambridge is an award-winning journalist. She has written for many national newspapers and magazines, gives regular writing workshops, and is a Writer-in-Residence at Sherborne, Dorset. She is Agony Aunt to Writing Magazine. She lives in Bath. Don’t Think a Single Thought is her first novel.

Buy it here :

In Don’t Think a Single Thought, Diana Cambridge serves up a heady Manhattan cocktail of glamour, mystery and intrigue, with a twist of danger on the side.

It’s a character led novel that follows the life of Emma Bowden, who has more than a whiff of Daisy Buchanan about her; beautiful but vain, shallow and utterly self-absorbed, fragile and haunted by the past. I found Emma largely unlikeable yet completely relatable – her depression clinging to her like lint to a dark suit, keeping her mired in a haze of pills and isolation; Emma kept me fascinated from first to last page.

The dark undercurrent to this book – that is, the unexplained deaths of several small children, always in Emma’s orbit – is perfect for the pre-forensics and criminal psychology era in which the book is set. But were all these ‘accidents’ mistakes or murders? The reader must decide.

Don’t Think a Single Thought is a rags-to-riches story, but it’s no fairy tale and don’t expect a happy ending.

I loved this brilliant book : it gets five shiny stars and an unreserved ‘highly recommended’ from me.


In conversation with
author Julie Newman

Julie was born in East London but now lives a rural life in North Essex. She is married with two children. Her working life has seen her have a variety of jobs, including running her own publishing company. She is the author of the children’s book Poppy and the Garden Monster. Julie writes endlessly and when not writing she is reading. Other interests include theatre, music and running. Besides her family, the only thing she loves more than books is Bruce Springsteen.

To date, Julie has published two novels with Urbane Publications, The Kindness of Strangers (April, 2018) and Beware the Cuckoo (May, 2017); I caught up with her as she is about to launch her third novel, Cast No Shadow, which publishes on 26th September 2019.


BH: Julie, welcome, and thank you for making time to talk about life, writing and your books. I recently read your debut, Beware the Cuckoo – and loved it, although it was a tough read in places, given the subject matter and the incredible honesty of your writing. Can you tell me a bit about writing your first novel and your route to getting published, please?

JN: Beware the Cuckoo was a result of a conversation with a friend about Operation Yewtree and subsequent convictions. At the time she was working with some women who had experienced grooming. I spoke to them while writing Cuckoo and it was at their request that the explicit sections were included. They felt, in their words, that ‘the media coverage had desensitised the issue’. When completed I approached some agents but only received rejections, however one of them said my writing was good and suggested I looked at some of the indie publishers who were not so risk averse. One of them was Urbane and Matthew Smith offered me a contract straight away.

BH: Since then of course, you’ve enjoyed success with The Kindness of Strangers – which has excellent reviews – and you’re about to launch Cast No Shadow, your third novel. What can readers expect? Tempt us with the blurb.

JN: Samantha is a journalist who longs to crack the big story that will launch her career. In a search for her ‘big break’ she comes across a little reported story in India of an hotelier – Amit Joshi – accused of rape but exonerated when ‘he’ is revealed as a she.

Samantha believes there is more to the story and begins to investigate, helped by her colleague Gregory, whose brother Simon works for the British High Commission in Delhi.

But as more pieces of the story come to light Simon is found brutally murdered. When Gregory travels to Delhi to discover what happened to his brother he goes missing. With the authorities seemingly unable to help, Samantha must head to India to search for Gregory and discover the truth behind Amit’s story and Simon’s murder.

Thrown into a dark underworld with danger at every turn, Samantha discovers it is not just the truth that is under threat, but her very life.

BH: Wow, sounds gripping, Julie – it must have taken a great deal of research. In a few words, how would you sum up the book’s key themes?

JN: Gender, equality, western ignorance. There are instances in the book where assumptions are made about the characters. I hope I have demonstrated that you need to look beyond the stereotypes and preconceptions in order to understand not just others but yourself and society too. I also hope I have shown what a wonderful country India is.

BH: What inspired Cast No Shadow?

JN: I read a news item about a successful business owner. A ‘man’ who was revealed as a woman after being accused of a crime. In this instance the deception was just because it was easier as a ‘man’ to own a business. I thought it was a good starting point, but in Cast No Shadow the reason for the deception is a matter of life or death.

BH: I note that you’re a busy Mum of two – how do you dovetail writing with family life? Do you have a particular routine?

JN: I am busy, however I can no longer blame my children for that; they are 23 & 25 now. My writing day begins in the morning, around 7-30. I am definitely more productive in the mornings. Other commitments – where possible – I schedule for the afternoon.

BH: Are you working on a new book at the moment?

JN: I am. It’s too early in the process to reveal anything about it, other than to say it is something very different; not a thriller.

BH: Name the last three books you read.

JN: The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris. Normal People by Sally Rooney. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.

BH: And the last three feature films?

JN: I’m more of a theatregoer so sometimes I’m a bit late to the party where films are concerned but they were: The Favourite. Green Book. Bohemian Rhapsody. I am going to see Blinded by the Light this week as I love Bruce Springsteen.

BH: Finally, Julie, what are your three top tips for fledgling authors who are at an early stage in their writing journey?

JN: Every writer should read, and write every day, anything. Just get words on the page. Always keep a notebook with you as you never know when inspiration will strike. And be persistent, especially with yourself.

BH: Julie, thank you so much for chatting to me – really appreciate your time and insight, and good luck with Cast No Shadow, which is now available to pre-order here :


Follow Julie on Twitter @Julesmnewman
or check out her website

Also by Julie Newman:

Beware the Cuckoo

The Kindness of Strangers

Book Review : No Way Out by Cara Hunter

No Way Out is the third book in Cara Hunter’s brilliant DI Adam Fawley thriller series and it’s been creeping up my #TBR list all summer.

It was worth the wait and Fawley fans will not be disappointed. It’s New Year 2018 and we return to Oxford where Thames Valley Police are tasked with investigating a devastating house fire that has claimed the lives of several family members, including two small children.

With Quinn disgraced and demoted, DI Fawley is ably supported by DS Gislingham (Gis), while DCs Somer and Everett make a welcome return to complete the male/female dynamic.

From the outset, there are too many questions and no forthcoming answers, but one thing’s for sure; the fire was no accident and the deaths look like murder.

Running alongside the crime, we see Fawley struggling with his own demons – namely the recent and painful disintegration of his marriage. This adds a layer of poignancy as wife Alex floats, spectre-like, in and out of Fawley’s life – in an almost dreamlike way that was very intriguing.

During the first half, I found this book a little harder to grip than the author’s first two volumes; simply because I didn’t know who I was rooting for within the Esmond family. Later however, several cracking twists emerge which pick up the pace and make for a twisty second half and a shocking and very satisfying ending.

The combination of the authentic, relatable investigating team mixed with the intricate plot, makes for another gripping read as Cara Hunter serves up just enough familiarity but with a collection of thrilling new twists.



Rain Walking





Dog stands by the door, feet planted, tail still
While I put on wellingtons and a mac
Dog’s eyes say: ‘Terriers hate the rain; don’t you know nuffink?’
Collar and lead on, we set out
Past the village store, open all hours
Past the house with the broken gate
Where lives a woman with a broken heart
Past the post box, unleashing love and hope
And bills (but nobody wants those)
And to the footpath, muddied and brown
Moving through fields of overripe wheat
Looking up I feel the kiss of clouds
As rain, fine as sea spray
Mists my nose, cheeks and eyelids
Field after field, until dog and I are bound for home
Each wetter than a paper boat



16.08.19 Beverley Harvey


Book Review : Beware the Cuckoo by Julie Newman

Blurb: They were reunited at his funeral, school friends with a shared past. A past that is anything but straightforward. A past that harbours secrets and untruths.

Karen has a seemingly perfect life. An adoring husband, two wonderful children and a beautiful home. She has all she has ever wanted, living the dream. She also has a secret.

Sandra’s once perfect life is rapidly unravelling. The man who meant everything to her had a dark side and her business is failing. To get her life back on track she needs to reclaim what is rightfully hers. She knows the secret.

As the past meets the present, truths are revealed – and both women understand the true cost of betrayal.

Review : In this dark thriller, Julie Newman skilfully weaves a tale of intrigue and suspense. The narrative spans several decades, mainly the recent past and the seventies, and the key characters are three schoolgirls and one sinister and wealthy businessman.

Overall, ‘Beware the Cuckoo’ is the story of one woman’s struggle to outrun a lifetime of misery and abuse at the hands of not only a male perpetrator but a bullying and monstrous woman. To say much more would spoil the plot, but at the mid-way point, there’s a subtle shift in tone as we focus more on the recent past and themes of blackmail, financial skulduggery and revenge smoulder throughout the action.

I found the character of Karen terribly sad and her story a tough read in places, particularly some of the detailed descriptions of her abuse at the hands of Bill.  There are no laughs in this book, but if you like a twisty and unpredictable read, you’ll get much out of this novel and I’m looking forward to reading other novels by Ms Newman.

Beware the Cuckoo – OUT NOW

Watch this space for exciting news of Julie’s forthcoming release ‘Cast No Shadow’ published by Urbane on 26th September 2019



Book Review : Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech

I loved Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech and was excited by the idea of the deliciously titled Call Me Star Girl which has been creeping up my TBR list since it launched. I was not disappointed.

Two words: Obsessive Love. For this is what Ms Beech’s brilliantly written, poignant and just plain creepy novel boils down to; the ripple effects of what can happen when people love too much.

Call Me Star Girl is a captivating story with a timeline that spans one fateful Night. Cleverly, the author manages to weave in a lifetime of pent up struggle and emotion, told through the eyes of Stella, a mid-twenties radio presenter, and her mother Elizabeth. It’s a story about love, obsession, secrets, shadows and regrets.

Events take place during Stella’s last ever radio show, with flashbacks that span both her own lifetime and her mother’s. This is a book about women for women with the nature of mother/daughter relationships at its heart. The male characters are indeed pivotal to the action but we scarcely care what they think, and they win little to no affection.

I loved Louise’s narrative style; its lack of flowery prose is just right for me as it is evocative, rather than descriptive. I read one review that had described the book as repetitive and in some parts it is, but in a deliberate and artful way that illustrates how Stella’s life is spinning out of control and the desperation she feels, with much of her inner dialogue reminding me of someone who suffers from anxiety or OCD.

Regards plot, there are myriad twists and turns and you’ll find your sympathy vacillating from one character to another as the facts emerge and overall it makes for a tight and tense read.

The ending is shocking, utterly unpredictable – and absolutely right. I loved it.

Published by Orenda and out now

Eden Interrupted: the wait is over

#Review: “Another beautifully crafted piece of life drama by the talented author of Seeking Eden. I’m in awe of this writer’s ability to see into the minds of such a diverse cast…I loved every page. This is a compelling page turning read, a must to take on holiday.”

Source: Waterstones


Happy Publication Day to me! Eden Interrupted finally launched today. It’s been a long time coming. My publisher, Urbane, has had an incredibly busy year and I’ve been happy to wait my turn. Today the wait is over.

So how does it feel to unleash Book Two? Short, official answer; pretty cool, thanks. Longer view? A bit flat and somewhat of an anti-climax. This time there’ll be no big launch party spent guzzling champagne with my beautiful friends and family; well, you only write your debut once…

It’s nerve wracking, too. Will anyone like it? Will anyone review it? Will anyone even read the darn thing?! There are no guarantees, except that it’s out there in the ether now, and I feel as naked as a bare lady on a nudist beach – but more about my holidays later.

So what can readers expect of Eden Interrupted? First things first: it’s the sequel to Seeking Eden so readers will have a better experience if they’ve read the latter. That said, it makes perfect sense as a standalone novel – but possibly without the depth in some storylines.

There are several familiar faces, but – plot spoiler alert – not everyone from Seeking Eden makes it across to Eden Interrupted. In addition, there are plenty of exciting new characters on the block; like Chloe, a forty-something divorced mum, with an angst-ridden teenage son. Poor Chloe is trying to juggle a new business, a new house and a new relationship – never mind Jake’s grand scale teenage meltdowns.

At the other end of the village, we meet Nigel and Rosemary Bradshaw, and their six year old daughter Iris. But there’s more to this family than meets the eye.

At least we can rely on Ben and Lisa for some light relief…can’t we? Just don’t mention the M word to Lisa…

Finally, Martin and Jan take the plunge and move to Eden Hill after a dramatic life event forces their hands – but as is usually the case, it’s not all plain sailing for them either.

To all the people who have pre-ordered the book – and to those yet to be persuaded, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope you enjoy it as much as readers loved Seeking Eden. And if Eden Interrupted isn’t quite your bag, tell me (seriously, get in touch), but if it is, tell everybody and please consider leaving a review on Amazon, however brief.

Thank you to all the kind people who have supported me throughout the writing of both books; you know who you are – and I’ll never forget it.

Happy Reading… xx

Book Review: The Grass Below by Mark Mayes

Having read and enjoyed another of Mark Mayes’ novels, The Blue Box, I expected The Grass Below to come alive with original and stylish prose and to contain an element of fantasy or magic. But whilst the former is true, his latest novel is filled with a gritty and visceral realism that at times left me breathless.

The book tracks the story of Alex Wright, a timid dreamer of a boy raised in lower-middle class suburbia in the 70s. Mayes’ observations of the times are scarily accurate and will certainly raise a knowing smile of familiarity for readers of a certain age (me being one of them).

We soon learn that young Alex spends his time with a local gang of lads, but that he is often the butt of the joke due to being overweight and overtly shy. From the outset I felt that Alex was tolerated rather than embraced by the other boys. He is also bullied mercilessly by an older boy from a local thuggish family – and it is this sense of victimisation that forms one of the book’s overarching themes: Alex’s quest for truth and justice as a middle-aged man, single, childless and with no real career to speak of. This is the story of the worm that turned as Alex goes ‘home’ to right the wrongs of the past and to free himself of the guilt and shame and the ‘loser’ status that has always followed him.

The balance of the action is fifty-fifty between Alex the boy and Alex the man, and although there’s real darkness in the story, its telling is so vivid that – as in life – there are flashes of hilarity, too. For instance, an all-night drunken bender with the ‘old gang’ when Alex returns home will have you reading through your fingers with fascination and discomfort.

Throughout, there’s real tension and pace; I had a terrible sense of dread, whilst willing Alex on to do whatever was necessary to right the wrongs of the past. The ending is shocking and very satisfying and kept me guessing to the bitter end. The writing is immaculate and veers between anecdotal reminiscence to stream of consciousness chaos as Alex falls deeper down the rabbit hole in his search for the truth.

Overall The Grass Below is a brilliant follow up to Mark Mayes’ debut – and I personally preferred it.