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Sunday, 30 October 2016

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

The Blurb

“They think I am still a little girl who is not capable of being a Queen.”

Lord Melbourne turned to look at Victoria. “They are mistaken. I have not known you long, but I observe in you a natural dignity that cannot be learnt. To me, ma’am, you are every inch a Queen.”

In 1837, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria – sheltered, small in stature, and female – became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Many thought it was preposterous: Alexandrina — Drina to her family — had always been tightly controlled by her mother and her household, and was surely too unprepossessing to hold the throne. Yet from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone: abandoning her hated first name in favor of Victoria; insisting, for the first time in her life, on sleeping in a room apart from her mother; resolute about meeting with her ministers alone.

One of those ministers, Lord Melbourne, became Victoria’s private secretary. Perhaps he might have become more than that, except everyone argued she was destined to marry her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. But Victoria had met Albert as a child and found him stiff and critical: surely the last man she would want for a husband….

Drawing on Victoria’s diaries as well as her own brilliant gifts for history and drama, Daisy Goodwin, author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter as well as creator and writer of the new PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria, brings the young queen even more richly to life in this magnificent novel.

Amazon UK - buy from your local bookstore online

My Review

I don't know about you, but my Sunday evenings recently have been taken over by the ITV series of Victoria and I have loved tuning in every week to see how the young Alexandrina transforms from stroppy teenager to Queen Victoria - with the help of her Prime Minister 'Lord M' - Rufus Sewell swoon!! - and also the love of Albert, who she didn't even like after their first meetings!  So when I heard about this book I knew it was going to be the perfect read for me and it was!

Daisy Goodwin wrote the TV series and so, this book is the TV show in book form!  It tells Victorias' story up until the proposal from Albert, so we get to see the struggles she has dealing with her new lifestyle, issues with her family and how the people of Britain take to having such a young Queen.  It is fascinating historical glimpse into life at the time with lots of lovely history nuggets to enjoy, as well as a more personal story of a young girl becoming a young woman in the public eye.

I found this to be such a fun, easy and interesting read and the perfect antidote to not having the TV show on anymore, and I am really looking forward to the series continuing in book and tv form in the future as we follow her fascinating life story.  Highly recommended for all who love a good history and romance story!

Friday, 28 October 2016

My Week in Books

Happy Friday to you all!    This weeks' post is going to look a little different to normal as this has been the week of THE READING SLUMP!  I can't explain it! The books have continued to pile up in hardback, paperback and e-book form but my inclination to read has just ceased to be.  My book reading part of the brain has gone on strike!!  Hopefully some careful negotiations will be able to lure it back to some form of reading very soon - or else this blog is going to start looking very diffferent!! Maybe I could just post up 'books I haven't read this week' instead!!  

Books read this week......

There has been one book that I did finish this week and it was a cracker so maybe it's a good thing that it gets all the attention this week...


Imagine if you couldn't see
couldn't hear
couldn't speak...
Then one day somebody took your hand and opened up the world to you.

Adeliza Golding is a deafblind girl, born in late Victorian England on her father's hop farm. Unable to interact with her loving family, she exists in a world of darkness and confusion; her only communication is with the ghosts she speaks to in her head, who she has christened the Visitors. One day she runs out into the fields and a young hop-picker, Lottie, grabs her hand and starts drawing shapes in it. Finally Liza can communicate.

Her friendship with her teacher and with Lottie's beloved brother Caleb leads her from the hop gardens and oyster beds of Kent to the dusty veldt of South Africa and the Boer War, and ultimately to the truth about the Visitors.

Rebecca Mascull's first novel is the tale of a wonderful friendship, but it is also a thrilling adventure, a heartbreaking love story and a compelling ghost story

I was a huge fan of The Song of The Sea Maid by Rebecca, so knew I wanted to read her debut novel and it didn't disappoint!  The perfect read for this time of year with its' ghostly visitors, and such an amazing character in Adeliza as you follow her journey, that you soon become absorbed in her story and how she deals with life as a deafblind girl, and how she overcomes many obstacles and deals with life in late Victorian England.  The bond between Adeliza and Lottie was extremely touching and adds some real charm to this stunning debut.  Can highly recommend it if you haven't already read it!

Books bought this week.....

I've even been extra good on the book buying front this week! Hard to believe I know!

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

An eleven-year-old girl stops eating, but remains miraculously alive and well. A nurse, sent to investigate whether she is a fraud, meets a journalist hungry for a story.

Set in the Irish Midlands in the 1850s, The Wonder—inspired by numerous European and North American cases of “fasting girls” between the sixteenth century and the twentieth—is a psychological thriller about a child’s murder threatening to happen in slow motion before our eyes. Pitting all the seductions of fundamentalism against sense and love, it is a searing examination of what nourishes us, body and soul.

 How could I resist a cover like that?! So I didn't! Loved reading Room by the same author, and have heard some good reports about this one so it had to be added to my collection! Have you read it? Would love to hear your thoughts on it if you have! Do i need to bump it up my TBR pile or will it snap me out of this reading slump?!

And while browsing in a charity shop the other day I also discovered a Persephone cover version of Greenery Street by Denis Mackail.  I've seen the Persephone covers all over BookTube and thought they'd always looked gorgeous so I couldn't resist buying this despite knowing very little about the actual book!  Sometimes that's the best way to buy a book I think!  So I think I'll now definitely be looking out for more of these covers and start a little Persephone collection!

So that has been my week! How has your week been? Good or bad?!  No plans for this weekend so maybe I can get back to attacking some of the wonderful titles on the TBR pile once more!


Friday, 21 October 2016

In the garden.......

Greetings from the Garden!

Been neglecting my garden blogging recently - my apologies!  Would love to say that I've been too busy working in the garden on various projects but I've been neglecting out there too - I am ashamed of myself!!

Not that the garden seems to be suffering too much through my pitiful gardening attempts this month.  After such a dry summer, we have finally had a few showers that seem to have helped keep things going a little longer than normal - although the lawn is still suffering so think an Autumn feed may be required to help 're-green' it to its' former glory!  And it is still fairly mild during daylight hours, and no real frosts yet overnight so am still waiting for the Dahlias to be hit so am just enjoying their flowers for a little while longer!

These Primula Vialii are on their 2nd or 3rd flush of flowers now - not bad for a bargain buy in a local garden centre! Managed to split the plant up too so 'free' plants are always a winner!

The pot chrysanthemums have been slow to flower this year and this russet coloured flower has just begun to bloom, whereas the pink version is yet to open!

Poppies are still continuing to flower around where they've self seeded - in the ground, in concrete.... they seem to flower in any condition and are the perfect low maintenance flower!

Have put in some new grasses recently so am hoping they soon settle in and love how they are mixing with the colour of the Acers behind! 

The Dahlias have been amazing this year too and still continue to flower so am hoping the frosts hold off a little longer!

 Just beginning to enjoy the gorgeous colours of the Acers and their changing leaves!  Need to repot a few of them soon as they are beginning to outgrow their pots!  Just hope we have the space for slightly larger pots and an ever increasing collection of Acers!

The only negative of the garden recently has been the lack of wildlife due to the increase in the number of neighbourhood cats :(  I used to feed a wide variety of different birds from a number of bird tables and feeders, but now we are lucky just to see a few Wood Pigeons and Collared Doves as the others seem to have been scared off by a number of feline trespassers.  Any advice on how to keep cats out but keep birds in?!  Have tried using Pepper Spray to no avail - maybe the local cats have no sense of smell! - and have just ended up resorting to chasing the cats away when we see them..........

My week in bookish form

Hello all!! I hope this week has treated you all well!  My sleeping pattern seems to have gone to pot yet again so back to the drawing board it seems on finding the cure for Insomnia - extra time awake does have its' advantages though on the reading front!!

So it's been a pretty good week on the reading front - and on the front of acquiring new books for my collection too! November and December are definitely going to have to be turned into Book Buying Ban months!! I can do this!!

Going to try and do this a little differently this week and see how it turns out.....

Books Bought this week......

Charity shops were my downfall this week!! I should know by now that I can't just go in and 'browse' as I always end up finding a cover that grabs me, or a title that i've been after for a while!  So this week 4 caught my eye and had to come home with me!

 The Somnambulist by Essie Fox
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

An interesting selection, if I do say so myself, and some perfect reads for the dark autumnal nights ahead so I can't wait to dive into these! Which one to start with though? Thoughts and suggestions gratefully accepted!!

Books read this week

Been an enjoyable week of reading as those books I have managed to get off the TBR pile have been 4 and 5 star rating books!

Letting In Light by Emma Davies

Rowan Hill means many things to many people, but to Ellie Hesketh it represents new beginnings. Putting her life back together after a break-up is going to take time, but the crumbling country estate—as much in need of TLC as she is—seems the perfect place to do it.

But Ellie is not the only person for whom Rowan Hill is a refuge. There’s Will, damaged and complicated, whose secrets almost nobody knows. And Finn, his brother, who’s finally decided to stop running from his own past. As Ellie is drawn further into saving the estate, she can’t help but try saving the brothers too—and she’s sure she knows just how to go about it. The trouble is, she’s been accused of meddling before…

By turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, this story of friendship, forgiveness and unexpected romance reveals the lies we tell to hide dark secrets—and what can happen when we let in a little light.

This was an e-book that I'd had on my Kindle for quite some time, and I thoroughly enjoyed the journey we followed Ellie on as she tried to overcome heartache and moving on with her life in a new location, amongst others who had been through some tough times as well.  Highly recommeded!

To The Bright Edge of The World by Eowyn Ivey

Set again in the Alaskan landscape that she bought to stunningly vivid life in THE SNOW CHILD, Eowyn Ivey's new novel is a breathtaking story of discovery and adventure, set at the end of the nineteenth century, and of a marriage tested by a closely held secret.

Colonel Allen Forrester receives the commission of a lifetime when he is charged to navigate Alaska's hitherto impassable Wolverine River, with only a small group of men. The Wolverine is the key to opening up Alaska and its huge reserves of gold to the outside world, but previous attempts have ended in tragedy.

For Forrester, the decision to accept this mission is even more difficult, as he is only recently married to Sophie, the wife he had perhaps never expected to find. Sophie is pregnant with their first child, and does not relish the prospect of a year in a military barracks while her husband embarks upon the journey of a lifetime. She has genuine cause to worry about her pregnancy, and it is with deep uncertainty about what their future holds that she and her husband part.

A story shot through with a darker but potent strand of the magic that illuminated THE SNOW CHILD, and with the sweep and insight that characterised Rose Tremain's The Colour, this new novel from Pulitzer Prize finalist Eowyn Ivey singles her out as a major literary talent.

I was a huge fan of The Snow Child, so was very eager to read this and it didn't disappoint! The author has such a beautiful way of capturing the surroundings and the personalities of their characters, that this epic adventure/love story was a captivating read from start to finish.  Loved the use of diary entries, letters, photographs and sketches too that allowed you to go back to 1885 and experience the lives of Col Allen Forrester and his wife Sophie through their experiences of happy and tougher times.  A must read!

Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups by Ben Holden

There are few more precious routines than that of the bedtime story. So why do we discard this invaluable ritual as grown-ups to the detriment of our well-being and good health?
In this groundbreaking anthology, Ben Holden, editor of the bestselling Poems That Make Grown Men  Cry, challenges how we think about life, a third of which is spent asleep. He deftly explores not only the science of sleep but also why we endlessly tell stories – even to ourselves, as we dream.
Holden combines his own illuminating storytelling with a treasure trove of timeless classics and contemporary gems. Poems and short stories, fairy tales and fables, reveries and nocturnes – from William Shakespeare to Haruki Murakami, Charles Dickens to Roald Dahl, Rabindranath Tagore to Nora Ephron, Vladimir Nabokov to Neil Gaiman – are all woven together to replicate the journey of a single night’s sleep.
Some of today’s greatest storytellers reveal their choice of the ideal grown-up bedtime story: writers such as Margaret Drabble, Ken Follett, Tessa Hadley, Joanne Harris; Robert Macfarlane, Patrick Ness, Tony Robinson and Warsan Shire.
Fold away your laptop and shut down your mobile phone. Curl up and crash out with the ultimate bedside book, one you’ll return to again and again. Full of laughter and tears, moonlight and magic,Bedtime Stories for Grown-ups joyfully provides the dream way to end the day – and begin the night . . 

Was excited to receive this through Nudge and  as the older I've become, the more attention I pay to sleep, and how the lack of it can affect me! And this is a fascinating look at the sleep process in a number of ways alongside various short stories, poems and essays on the subject of sleep, the night and dreams by a number of well known voices in the world of literature.  I think this is one of those books that you can keep dipping in and out of and discovering something new each time you read more and it is also a great way of discovering new styles of writing - I will definitely be checking out a lot of the voices featured as I'd not read anything by some of them before.  A fascinating read!

Another fairly decent week then on the reading front - noticed the other day that i've now reached my GoodReads 2016 Reading Challenge total of 150 books so yay me!! Think i deserve a medal..... or another book or two to celebrate!

Happy Reading!! 

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Book and A Brew Unboxing - October

I love this time of the month!! A gorgeous box appears on the doorstep - well, that's where the postie kindly left it today! - and the anticipation rises as I wait to uncover what the lovely people at Book And A Brew have chosen for their subscribers in the form of a lovely hardback book, and a box of teabags! The perfect combination in my eyes!!

Even Bagpuss was excited to find out what was inside the box this month!! oohhhhh the tension mounts.....

First up it's the tea!!  Not heard of Prince & sons Tea Co before, but am loving their packaging and this noble Blood Orange flavour tea sounds absolutely delicious!! Really looking forward to trying this one very soon!  Loved the bat confetti too added to the box! Nice spooky touch!

And now for the book.......

 That cover has me hooked!! Anything with a tree on is fine by me, and this sounds a real frightful treat - perfect for this time of year!! Seems a fabulous choice!

The Blurb

In 1910, eleven year old Iris Villarca lives with her father at Rawblood, a lonely house on Dartmoor. Iris and her father are the last of their name. The Villarcas always die young, bloodily. Iris knows it’s because of a congenital disease which means she must be strictly isolated. Papa told her so. Forbidden to speak to other children or the servants, denied her one friend, Iris grows up in solitude. But she reads books. And one sunlit autumn day, beside her mother’s grave, she forces the truth from her father. The disease is biologically impossible. A lie, to cover a darker secret.

The Villarcas are haunted, through the generations, by her. She is white, skeletal, covered with scars. Her origins are a mystery but her purpose is clear. When a Villarca marries, when they love, when they have a child – she comes and death follows.

Iris makes her father a promise: to remain alone all her life. But when she’s fifteen, she breaks it. The consequences of her choice are immediate and horrific.

Iris’s story is interwoven with the past, the voices of the dead – Villarcas, taken by her. Iris’s grandmother sets sail from Dover to Italy with a hired companion, to spend her final years in the sun before consumption takes her. Instead she meets betrayal, and a fate worse than death. Iris’s father, his medical career in ruins, conducts unconscionable experiments, to discover how she travels in the Villarca blood. Iris’s mother, pregnant, walks the halls of Rawblood whispering to her, coaxing her to come. As the narratives converge, Iris seeks her out in a confrontation which shatters her past and her reality, revealing the chasm in Iris’s own, fractured identity. Who is she? What does she desire? The answer is more terrible and stranger than Iris could have imagined.

So, another wonderful selection of book and tea from Book And A Brew so thankyou to them again for running such a wonderful monthly subscription service!  Whoever invented book subscription packages deserves a medal!  Great way to discover some different books, and new tea flavours as well!


Saturday, 15 October 2016

Book Haul!!

Woken up early by a knock on the door from the postman this morning which caused a little bit of grumbling - surely deliveries should be banned before midday on a weekend?! - but he was soon forgiven when I unwrapped the 4 parcels sent my way!  So I thought I would share!  Isn't that generous of me!! ;)

First off was a lovely couple of parcels from the wonderful people at HarperImpulse! As I'd helped promote a couple of their recent, and wonderful!, christmas books, they sent me some book and chocolate goodies!! Can there be a better combination?!

So that's breakfast, lunch and dinner taken care of for today!! Yum, Yum and more Yum!!

And then there was my little haul from a recent Ebay shopping spree! I often find myself searching round local charity shops for various titles that I see advertised online - mainly via BookTube videos! -  and those that are a little more obscure are much harder to find!  So I was pleased to find a few on Ebay this week so here's what I've added to my TBR pile/stash/mountain!!

Julius Winsome by Gerard Donovan

Julius Winsome lives in a cabin in the hunting heartland of the Maine woods, with only his books and his dog for company. That is until the morning he finds that his dog has been shot dead. Gerard Donovan weaves a tale that explores ideas of revenge and the threat of the wild, but also a tender and heartbreaking paean to lost love.


Layer upon layer of London soil reveals burials from pre-historic and medieval times. The city is one giant grave, filled with the remains of previous eras. The Houses of Parliament sit on the edge of a former plague pit; St Paul's is built over human remains; Underground tunnels were driven through forgotten catacombs, thick with bones. A society can be judged by the way it treats its dead, and this is especially true of London. From Roman burial rites to the horrors of the plague, from the founding of the great Victorian cemeteries to the development of cremation and the cult of mourning that surrounded the death of Diana, Princess of Wales - Necropolis leaves no headstone unturned in its exploration of our changing attitudes towards the deceased among us.


On an Illinois farm in the 1920s, a man is murdered, and in the same moment the tenous friendship between two lonely boys comes to an end. In telling their interconnected stories, American Book Award winner William Maxwell delivers a masterfully restrained and magically evocative meditation on the past.


Biographer Margaret Lea returns one night to her apartment above her father’s antiquarian bookshop. On her steps she finds a letter. It is a hand-written request from one of Britain’s most prolific and well-loved novelists. Vida Winter, gravely ill, wants to recount her life story before it is too late, and she wants Margaret to be the one to capture her history. The request takes Margaret by surprise — she doesn’t know the author, nor has she read any of Miss Winter’s dozens of novels.

Late one night while pondering whether to accept the task of recording Miss Winter’s personal story, Margaret begins to read her father’s rare copy of Miss Winter’s Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation. She is spellbound by the stories and confused when she realizes the book only contains twelve stories. Where is the thirteenth tale? Intrigued, Margaret agrees to meet Miss Winter and act as her biographer.

As Vida Winter unfolds her story, she shares with Margaret the dark family secrets that she has long kept hidden as she remembers her days at Angelfield, the now burnt-out estate that was her childhood home. Margaret carefully records Miss Winter’s account and finds herself more and more deeply immersed in the strange and troubling story. 

Both women will have to confront their pasts and the weight of family secrets... and the ghosts that haunt them still.

Definitely finding myself being drawn to more darker titles recently! Anybody else read any of these?! would love to hear your thoughts if you have as not sure which one to start first!!

The struggle to find extra bookshelf space is now back on though........ 

Wishing you all a happy reading weekend!!

Friday, 14 October 2016

My Week In Bookish form!

Yay it's Friday!!  And we draw another day closer to CHRISTMAS!!!  The shops already seem full of festive delights - way too early!! Should definitely be banned until December 1st at the earliest!

Anyway, on to book things - which should never be banned and should be encouraged at all times of the year!!  Been a bit slow on the reading front this week and seem to be halfway into a couple of books which will hopefully be finished over the weekend - so I can then start on the stash that I may have added to over the past 7 days!! But the more I learn about the book community, it seems that we all have this issue of constantly adding to our 'collections' despite the overwhelming numbers of books we still haven't read yet!  But we'll get time someday.... won't we?!

Week started off well with Bookshop day being held on the 8th October - so that, of course, meant it was the law to actually visit a bookshop that day and purchase a book or 3...........

And that Tote bag!! How could I say no!!  

There may have also been some purchases on Ebay that day too of things that are shaped like books, and feel like books..... and are books!  Oops! But they've still not arrived yet so will update my blog when they finally arrive - and once I've tried to create yet more space on the bookshelves to put them all!

But one book I did manage to read this week, and loved, was Lily's House by Cassandra Parkin


 The Blurb        When Jen goes to her grandmother's house for the last time, she's determined not to dwell on the past. As a child, Jen adored Lily and suspected she might be a witch, but the spell was broken long ago, and now her death means there won't be any reconciliation. Lily's gone, but the enchantments she wove and the secrets she kept still remain. In Lily's house, Jen and her daughter Marianne reluctantly confront the secrets of the past and present—and discover how dangerous we become when we're trying to protect the ones we love.

Paperback304 pages

Amazon UK  £8.99

I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader copy of this book via NetGalley as it just sounded like just a really interesting read - and it didn't let me down!  Fascinating characters and a pretty powerful storyline considering families and secrets, and I can highly recommend this to all as I loved it!

And this was the only book that I finished this week..... oh wow! My standards are slipping!!  This needs to be rectified! I hate when real life gets in the way of reading time!!

   I am halfway through reading The Book Thief (again!) for a bookclub that I'm part of, and I am loving re-reading that.  And I am sure I'll end up crying again too!

  And I've also just started to read Letting In Light by Emma Davies and this is turning into a really enjoyable read which I can hopefully finish today!

The Blurb     Rowan Hill means many things to many people, but to Ellie Hesketh it represents new beginnings. Putting her life back together after a break-up is going to take time, but the crumbling country estate—as much in need of TLC as she is—seems the perfect place to do it.

But Ellie is not the only person for whom Rowan Hill is a refuge. There’s Will, damaged and complicated, whose secrets almost nobody knows. And Finn, his brother, who’s finally decided to stop running from his own past. As Ellie is drawn further into saving the estate, she can’t help but try saving the brothers too—and she’s sure she knows just how to go about it. The trouble is, she’s been accused of meddling before…

By turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, this story of friendship, forgiveness and unexpected romance reveals the lies we tell to hide dark secrets—and what can happen when we let in a little light

And then yesterday in the post I received a copy of Bedtime Stories for Grown-ups by Ben Holden from Nudge Books to review.  Immediately drawn to the cover and I started reading this yesterday and finding it a really interesting and fascinating look at the bedtime ritual of reading, and how we forget to make it part of our routine as adults, and also the influence that night-time has had on various writers and poets over the years.  Full of different styles and kinds of writing from extracts of novels to poems,  it seems to be a book that you can keep going back to and finding something different from everytime.  Am only 100 pages in so far - there are 528 pages! - but I can't wait for bedtime to read more!!


The Blurb     There are few more precious routines than that of the bedtime story. So why do we discard this invaluable ritual as grown-ups to the detriment of our well-being and good health?
In this groundbreaking anthology, Ben Holden, editor of the bestselling Poems That Make Grown Men  Cry, challenges how we think about life, a third of which is spent asleep. He deftly explores not only the science of sleep but also why we endlessly tell stories – even to ourselves, as we dream.
Holden combines his own illuminating storytelling with a treasure trove of timeless classics and contemporary gems. Poems and short stories, fairy tales and fables, reveries and nocturnes – from William Shakespeare to Haruki Murakami, Charles Dickens to Roald Dahl, Rabindranath Tagore to Nora Ephron, Vladimir Nabokov to Neil Gaiman – are all woven together to replicate the journey of a single night’s sleep.
Some of today’s greatest storytellers reveal their choice of the ideal grown-up bedtime story: writers such as Margaret Drabble, Ken Follett, Tessa Hadley, Joanne Harris; Robert Macfarlane, Patrick Ness, Tony Robinson and Warsan Shire.
Fold away your laptop and shut down your mobile phone. Curl up and crash out with the ultimate bedside book, one you’ll return to again and again. Full of laughter and tears, moonlight and magic,Bedtime Stories for Grown-ups joyfully provides the dream way to end the day – and begin the night . . .

Hope the week has been kind to you all on the reading front! Anything stand out that you'd like to share?!   Yes, I do need to buy more books so please feel free to recommend more my way!!


Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The Velvet Cloak of Moonlight Blog Tour

The Velvet Cloak of Moonlight by Christina Courtenay

Extremely delighted to  be part of this wonderful blog tour to share exclusive extracts from this stunning new story by Christina Courtenay - thank you Choc Lit for asking me to be involved!!

Have just finished reading this book myself and it was a captivating read!  A time slip romance set in stunning scenery and featuring some fascinating characters in the past and present! Found it very difficult to put down once I'd started reading as it is a fabulous mix of history, romance and the supernatural!  

Enjoy the following excerpt and hope you'll be following the rest of the blog tour, and following Choc Lit via Twitter for more of this enchanting story!

Chapter Three from The Velvet Cloak of Moonlight by Christina Courtenay 


 Another exclusive extract from Christina Courtenay’s new novel, The Velvet Cloak of Moonlight today! Choc Lit are going to be sharing an excerpt every couple of days until next Tuesday so make sure you keep an eye on their Twitter feed to find out where each extract has landed. Enjoy!!  You can read the Prologue, Chapter One and Chapter Two HERE ( 

Raglan Castle, 21st May 1646 

The castle gates were closed during mealtimes, with dinner strictly at eleven o’clock in the morning and supper at five in the afternoon. Arabella was at risk of being late for supper, having stayed outside for too long, and hurried to her room to wash her hands and tidy her clothes and hair. 
Meals were rather formal affairs in Lord Worcester’s household and everyone was allocated a specific place to sit, in accordance with their rank and duties. With around a hundred and fifty people to feed normally on a daily basis, this was necessary, and now that Raglan housed a huge garrison of officers and soldiers as well, it had become even more imperative to keep order. 
His lordship, together with his daughter-in-law, Lady Glamorgan – usually called Lady Margaret by everyone in the castle – and the rest of their family and any visiting aristocrats, ate in a private dining room, while almost everyone else had a seat somewhere in the Great Hall. Arabella, although distantly related to the marquis on her mother’s side, was merely one of Lady Margaret’s ladies, so her place was in the housekeeper’s, Mrs Watson’s, rooms, where all the gentlewomen ate together with the chaplain and any temporary guests. 
She made her way across the Fountain Court, afraid she’d be the last person to arrive. Just as she reached her chair, however, another latecomer slipped through the door and was ushered to the place next to her – Rhys Cadell, the man she’d met outside. Just her luck. She sincerely hoped he wouldn’t mention anything about her loitering by the lake. There were probably other things she should have been doing instead. 
‘We meet again,’ he whispered as soon as the chaplain had said grace and they all sat down. 
‘So it seems,’ she replied, keeping her voice to a mere breath. ‘But we’re not supposed to talk during meals.’ That wasn’t strictly true, but it was mostly the housekeeper and senior ladies who made small talk. 
The man by her side waited until the chaplain started to speak in a loud voice, then murmured, ‘Are you certain that’s not just an excuse to avoid talking to me?’ He sounded offended, but when she risked a glance, his eyes were dancing with merriment. He was roasting her. 
‘No, of course not.’ She was used to the men in the castle trying to court her, but they were usually scrupulously polite and rather serious. They were well aware they could be in trouble if they overstepped the mark with one of her ladyship’s gentlewomen. This Rhys obviously didn’t. 
Arabella concentrated on her meal, a simple repast of cold meats, bread and cheese, washed down with cider. Dinner was always more elaborate, with numerous cooked dishes to choose from, but it was considered better not to go to bed with a full stomach so supper was lighter. Now there were so many people crammed into the castle – an additional eight hundred men if what she’d been told was correct – they needed to be more frugal with the supplies as well. Arabella couldn’t imagine having to cook for that many. The poor cooks must be tearing their hair out. 
‘Did you hear what happened in the village last night?’ the chaplain asked Mrs Watson, although everyone else at the table was clearly listening as well. 
‘No, but I was told musket fire was heard. And I saw houses burning this afternoon. Have you any news?’ 
‘Yes, it would appear some Roundheads came after dark and killed at least five men, while taking others prisoner. The villagers tried to fight back, of course, and I believe some of the enemy were killed too, but not as many. And the scoundrels then had the temerity to steal some of his lordship’s horses.’ 
‘No – outrageous!’ 
‘Indeed. His lordship has ordered that almost all the buildings in the village should be burned and even the church pulled down so that the Parliamentarians can’t surprise us like that again. I believe his men were carrying out his wishes this afternoon.’ The chaplain crossed himself and shook his head. ‘These are evil times we live in, Mrs Watson, evil.’ 

Arabella felt a tendril of fear coil in her stomach. The English king and his parliament had been fighting for almost four years now, although the rift between them went back much further. Neither could see the other’s point of view and neither would back down. What had happened in Raglan village was merely the latest in a long line of atrocities and conflict. Although the castle itself had so far been left in peace, only the previous month a group of about a hundred men from Raglan had been beaten in a skirmish with Sir Trevor Williams and his Parliamentarians. Many had been killed and about half the men taken prisoner. There were those among the castle inhabitants who had fled upon hearing that piece of news as things were looking grim for the Royalists. 
They’d since heard rumours of fighting all around the Monmouthshire and Hereford area. Apparently only Raglan and Usk were still loyal to their sovereign. So far as anyone could tell, most other places in the country had capitulated, except Oxford, the king’s headquarters throughout the war. But the king himself had left for Scotland and it was rumoured he had sneaked away in the night dressed as a servant. 
‘Any more news of His Majesty?’ Mrs Watson asked, looking round the table to see if anyone was better informed than herself. 
To Arabella’s surprise, Rhys spoke up. ‘I’ve but recently come from Oxford, mistress, and it is not looking good for our cause, I’m afraid.’ 
‘Why? What’s happened?’ It was clear from the way her mouth was pursed that Mrs Watson didn’t approve of anyone giving negative views unless they could back them up with proof. 
Rhys appeared not to be fazed and answered in a calm manner. ‘General Fairfax was heading that way and all the king’s plans appear to have come to naught. There’s no news from anyone on the Continent – no French, Dutch or even Danish troops on their way to help – and not a word from the Irish either.’ He shrugged. ‘And His Majesty is himself a prisoner of the Scots now.’ 
‘Aye, a sorry business that,’ the chaplain agreed. 
Sympathy welled up inside Arabella. The poor king; he’d believed the Scots to be his allies and instead they had captured him, having made some sort of pact with Parliament. What whoresons. Surely they would see reason? The king was their sovereign. 
‘Well, we must hope our own Lord Glamorgan manages to bring the Irish over soon. If anyone can do it, he can,’ Mrs Watson said stoutly, and no one dared gainsay her even if they privately thought it unlikely. 
Lord Glamorgan was the Marquis of Worcester’s eldest son. He’d fought tirelessly for the king’s cause throughout the war and the previous autumn he had been sent to Ireland to raise more troops. Somehow things had gone very wrong. He had been taken prisoner over there and was, as far as they knew, still held captive. And the king had denied ever having sent Lord Glamorgan as an envoy after some of his private correspondence came to light. He’d lied in order to save his own skin, which had made the marquis extremely angry. 
‘It will be a mite difficult for him to bring anyone over if he’s still incarcerated,’ someone muttered, but Mrs Watson sent a quelling glance down the table. The king may have made an error of judgement, but everyone at Raglan was still committed to his cause. He was the rightful ruler of the country, no matter what. 
‘Formidable lady,’ Rhys murmured to Arabella as fierce whispering broke out along the table. 
‘Yes, don’t ever get on the wrong side of her,’ she whispered back. She shouldn’t encourage him to talk, but somehow she was drawn in by his charming manner. 
‘That sounds like someone who’s learned from experience.’ 
She heard the smile in his voice and couldn’t resist a glance at him. Those green eyes were sparkling with amusement and she had to drag her own gaze away. ‘And how!’ she said, speaking as quietly as she could. ‘I once spilled red wine on one of his lordship’s best linen tablecloths. Mrs Watson didn’t speak to me for weeks.’ 
Rhys spluttered into his tankard of cider and turned the sound into a cough. Arabella helpfully slapped him on the back. ‘Are you all right, sir? Did your drink go down the wrong way?’ 
‘Thank you, I’m fine.’ 
The chaplain was complaining about something to the housekeeper so Arabella took the chance to ask Rhys a question. 
‘Have you really come from Oxford? Is that why you were so secretive earlier?’ 
‘Yes and no.’ He sent her a teasing smile when she bristled. ‘Now don’t be offended. I meant only that, yes, I did escape from Oxford before Fairfax arrived, but that’s not where I’ve come from today. I’m here to report to Lord Worcester.’ 
‘Oh, so you’ll be leaving soon then.’ Arabella berated herself for the instant surge of disappointment that flooded her. And for asking. It shouldn’t make any difference to her. She shouldn’t be taken in by a practised charmer like him, even if his smiles did make her innards flutter. 
‘Perhaps I’ll stay for a while. There aren’t many places of refuge left to people like us, after all.’ 
‘You mean Catholics?’ The Marquis of Worcester was proud of his faith and others like him had flocked to Raglan. Although she belonged to the Anglican Church herself, Arabella didn’t mind anyone else’s beliefs being different. They’d taken her in and given her help when she needed it so their religious views were unimportant to her. 
Rhys shook his head. ‘No, Royalists. I’m not a Papist.’ 
‘Oh, right.’ 
‘You do know there are very few places still loyal to the king, don’t you?’ 
He sounded serious now and another tendril of fear snaked through her. The marquis never showed that he was afraid and seemed to have no intention of giving in. But if what Rhys said was true, then surely Raglan was doomed even before it was attacked? 
‘We’re fighting a losing battle, aren’t we?’ she muttered. 
To her surprise, he took her hand under the table and gave it a reassuring squeeze. ‘All isn’t lost yet,’ he whispered. ‘And even if Raglan falls, there are other places to go.’ 
‘Overseas?’ she guessed. 
He nodded. ‘Indeed. Let’s talk about something else. Tell me about yourself. Have you always lived here?’ 
Arabella checked to make sure Mrs Watson and the chaplain were still chattering and hadn’t noticed that everyone else was doing the same, albeit in hushed voices. They seemed to be having some sort of mild argument, so it was safe to continue her conversation with Rhys. Although why she was thinking of him by his Christian name, she had no idea. She really shouldn’t. 
‘No, I’ve only been here for five years. The marquis very kindly offered me shelter when … when my mother died.’ That wasn’t the whole story, but she didn’t want to go into further details. Rhys was a stranger after all and she knew nothing about him. He might even be a Roundhead spy. Or a friend of her uncle Huw … She suppressed a shudder. She didn’t want to think about him. 
‘He’s a good man, obviously.’ 
‘The marquis? Yes, very. Have you known him long?’ 
Rhys smiled. ‘Never met him. I’m waiting to be called in to see his lordship. Probably after supper, I was told.’ 
‘Oh, well I’m sure he’ll receive you graciously. He always does.’ Arabella lowered her voice even further. ‘He was even kind to the king when he came last year and practically helped himself to Lord Worcester’s wealth. Or what remained of it.’ 
Rhys’s mouth twitched. ‘Yes, I heard about that little episode. Tried to get the keys to the treasure room from a steward or something? Or so the gossips have it.’ 
‘It was Dr Bayly he asked, actually, the marquis’s friend and confidant. Of course he went straight to his lordship, who then went to offer the king the keys himself. Not how His Majesty ought to have behaved, according to some.’ 
‘And you, what do you think?’ Rhys looked as though he was really interested in her views, which surprised Arabella. 
‘Me? I don’t have an opinion on such things. I’m merely here to serve my lady Margaret.’ 
‘Hmm.’ His eyes appraised her and appeared to like what they saw if the warmth in their moss-green depths was anything to go by. ‘If you ask me, I think you have a great deal of opinions, but you are too clever to voice them. That’s good.’ 
The meal was over and silence fell on the table as the chaplain bent his head to thank God for what they had received. When he had finished, Arabella heard Rhys whisper, ‘I hope to see you again soon, Mistress Dauncey. In the meantime, I brought you this as an apology if I offended you by the lake. I obviously had the wrong impression of your intentions.’ 
From inside his jerkin, he pulled something out and put it in her lap under cover of the tablecloth. Arabella felt a stem and a flower and when she peeked there was a white rose, hardly damaged at all from its incarceration inside Rhys’s clothing. Her eyes flew to his, but he didn’t give her the chance to reply or even thank him. Which was probably just as well because what would she have said? 
The truth – that she would look forward to seeing him too – was not an option. 

Merrick Court, 21st May 2016 

Tess sat up abruptly, splashing water over the sides of the bath in the process. She blinked into the darkness, having forgotten to turn the lights on. That would explain why she’d dozed off. She had been asleep, hadn’t she? The hallucinations had returned; not quite as vivid this time, just a sequence of unclear impressions. It had been almost like viewing a film through an aquarium, the images and sounds muffled. Very odd. 
Rhys. She remembered him. He’d spoken to her, flirted with her, those extraordinary eyes sparkling. 
No, she was fantasising. The man she’d met, whose name probably wasn’t Rhys at all, didn’t exist. Or if he did, she’d imagined him in the strange clothing. He was surely just another visitor to Raglan Castle, who’d thought she was about to throw herself into the moat. The sun, her agitation, the medicine she was taking, it all combined to scramble her brain. He had been very handsome and he’d obviously wormed his way into her mind, even though she hadn’t been interested in men since … well, since Giles. Surely it was a healthy sign, an indication that she was returning to normal if she could feel attracted to someone? And who wouldn’t have been dazzled by a man like him? 
‘Yes, a good sign,’ she told herself, while getting out of the now cool water. 
She stared into the bathroom mirror and wondered what he had seen when he met her. A nervous, defensive woman who must have looked sad or upset. Why else would he have assumed she was suicidal? A pale face stared back at her, but she was surprised to see that her eyes were more alive than they’d been in weeks, months. It was as though she was actually looking at herself properly for the first time in ages. Not through a pill-induced haze. She decided then and there to stop taking the antidepressants altogether. 
‘I don’t need them.’ 
She was already on the lowest possible dose, but it was an unnecessary crutch. She was over the shock of Giles’s death and no longer feeling depressed. Just a bit apprehensive about what the future would hold, but then who wouldn’t be when they were starting on a new chapter in their life? 
As she entered her bedroom, a different sort of apprehension washed over her for no discernible reason. She glanced around the room while trying to suppress a shiver. Someone was watching her, she was convinced of it, but there wasn’t anyone here. Or was there? 
She shouldn’t have made that joke to Louis about ghosts. She’d spooked herself, literally. 
‘Giles?’ she whispered, hearing the tremor in her voice. Oh, God, what if he really is haunting me? She hadn’t thought he would actually do so, only through all the memories he’d left behind in the house. And it had been six months since he’d passed away. Why now? 
She scanned the room again and her eyes were drawn to one of the two windows. It had a deep recess in the thick walls of this the oldest part of the house and she didn’t normally keep anything on it as she didn’t want to block the light. She jumped as she thought she saw a shadow flitting across the aperture, cutting off the moonbeams currently shining through the panes of glass. 
‘Go away, please,’ she hissed. ‘It wasn’t my fault you drove like that. I never wanted you … d-dead.’ She trembled all over, the horrible word making this so much worse. Giles had told her there were ghosts at Merrick Court, but she’d never seen one and thought it was just a joke. Now she wasn’t so sure. 
A draught stirred the air near her right cheek as if someone had caressed her and she twisted round, backing up towards her bed. But with the soft touch, a feeling of well-being flowed through her and for some reason her heartbeat calmed in an instant. Cariad.’ She thought she heard the Welsh endearment, a whisper so faint it could have been a trick of her imagination. Then the voice – one she vaguely recognised although she had no idea where from – flowed into her mind, stronger, repeating the word. Cariad.’ She sank down onto the bed and strained her ears for further sounds. 
That couldn’t be Giles. He hadn’t spoken a word of Welsh and never called her ‘cariad’ – ‘darling’ was more his style. But who then? A former inhabitant of this part of Merrick Court, perhaps? 
‘Who’s there?’ There was a faint shimmering over by the window, almost like a heat haze but more phosphorescent. Although she stared intently, she couldn’t make out a specific shape, but she definitely wasn’t alone and it would appear someone was trying to comfort her. 
Tess just sat there for a while, until the feeling of being watched subsided and she was sure the ghost or spirit had left. Then she lay down, falling instantly asleep, sure that whoever had been there meant her no harm. She was safe. 

The Velvet Cloak of Moonlight is by Christina Courtenay and published by Choc Lit. It is available to purchase in paperback and eBook format from all good suppliers. Please click here for buying options: 

For more information on the author, you can follow her on Twitter @PiaCCourtenay 

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