Perfect Dead by Jackie Baldwin #review @jackiembaldwin @killerreads #lovebooksgrouptours

Perfect Dead (DI Frank Farrell, Book 2) by [Baldwin, Jackie]

First of all, can we all just admire that fab cover! The colours and picture are so eye-catching. I loved the first book featuring DI Frank Farrell, Dead Man’s Prayer – you can read my review by clicking here. Perfect Dead can easily be read as a standalone though so don’t worry if you haven’t read the first book. There are a few references to what happened in the previous book but nothing that means you won’t understand this one.

This book starts off by immediately grabbing the attention with the prologue. A young girl is heading to get a bus home when she meets someone who she knows and goes off with them instead. Before long she realises she has made a big mistake and “a last tear tipped from her eyes. She would never see her home again.” At once I wanted to who was the person she went off, what had happened and why. Just what you need to hook you into a book.

DI Frank Farrell and the others in his team are looking into art forgery ring suspected to be working out of Kirkcudbright. A member of local art community, The Collective, who has recently been nominated for a major art prize is found dead in an apparent suicide. Human remains are found on the hills above the town, Could they be the girl who disappeared three years ago after leaving The Collective? With the art connection, are the three cases connected?

I love the main character of Frank Farrell. He is a very complex character. As well as being a dedicated and determined detective, he is also an ex- Catholic priest. Technically he is still a priest although he has been released from his duties. Once you have been ordained as a priest, you are always a priest.  His sense of vocation still guides his decision making and he is perhaps beginning to feel that call again. He has the added worry about a work colleague having serious marital difficulties. The complication is that Frank used to go out with his wife before he became a priest. Frank feels really torn between his call to the priesthood and his work as a detective and it was fascinating watching him in this book as he tried to decide where he could do the most good.

As well as having a great main character, Perfect Dead is also a cracking crime novel with plenty of surprises to keep you turning the pages. It is well paced and there is so much going on: murder, mystery, tension, danger, plenty action and even some romance. A terrific crime thriller and I do hope there are more DI Frank Farrell books to come, especially since the book ends with such a heart-stopping climax.

My thanks to Kelly at Love Books Group Tours for inviting me to be part of the blogtour. Perfect Dead is available now in e-book format and the paperback will follow in August. You can order a copy online here: Perfect Dead

From the back of the book

Each murder brings him one step closer to the perfect death.

Ex-priest DI Farrell is called on to investigate a gruesome death in rural Scotland. All evidence points to suicide, except for one loose end: every light in the cottage was switched off. Why would he kill himself in the dark?

The question sparks a murder investigation that leads to the mysterious Ivy House, home of ‘The Collective’, a sinister commune of artists who will do anything to keep their twisted secrets hidden.

And when the remains of a young girl are uncovered on a barren stretch of coastline, Farrell realises that there is something rotten in this tight-knit community. Now he must track down a ruthless killer before another person dies, this time much closer to home…

 

Jackie Baldwin

Jackie Baldwin is a Scottish crime writer. Her debut crime novel, Dead Man’s Prayer, was published by Killer Reads, Harper Collins on 2nd September 2016. The second in the series, Perfect Dead was published on 15th June 2018. For most of her working life, she has been a solicitor specialising in Family and Criminal Law. However, she now practices in Dumfries as a hypnotherapist which is where her novels are set. Married, with two grown up children, she has filled her empty nest with Golden Retrievers. She can often be found in a forest walking the dogs, covered in mud and with twigs in her hair.

 

Don’t miss the rest of the tour with these fab bloggers!

Perfect Dead Blog Tour graphic final

 

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#TenThings about #author Myra Duffy @duffy_myra

#TenThings

Today Myra Duffy is joining me to share #TenThings she’d like her readers to know about her including why Bute is a very special place. I have to say, I am immediately intrigued by the first thing and want to know more!

Myra Duffy

  1. I was born in a castle, though sadly I’m not of royal blood.
  2. I still have the first novel I wrote at the age of nine -a mystery story entitled The Mystery of the Silver Heather – all 796 words of it.
  3. I won a national writing competition when I was thirteen – and the prize was a black poodle – something that would never be allowed these days.
  4. Non-fiction, including fourteen books on management, was my genre for many years and fiction had to take a back seat.
  5. My cosy crime series set on the Isle of Bute came about by chance. My husband and I have family associations with the island going back many years and one day, as we were walking along the sands at Ettrick Bay, I wondered what it would be like if there was a large, dilapidated Victorian house in the hills above the bay. What would it be like? What secrets would it hide? And The House at Ettrick Bay was the result.
  6. I didn’t choose the name of my heroine – she chose it. Alison Cameron appeared in my first published novel When Old Ghosts Meet and she moved over seamlessly to the Bute mystery series.
  7. Alison Cameron is an amateur sleuth – it’s her curiosity that gets her involved in solving mysteries. In a review of Last Dance at the Rothesay Pavilion, The Buteman newspaper described her as ‘An ordinary woman in extraordinary circumstances’ and ‘Someone you could have a cup of tea with’.
  8. Local people on Bute have been very supportive, something which is important as I use many real locations in the novels. In Dark Deeds at Bute Noir (written specially for the Bute Noir crime festival which is held in August) I’ve included a number of real islanders – with their permission, of course! And I’ve been lucky to have the support of a wonderful local bookshop – the Print Point.
  9. My intention was to finish with number six in the Isle of Bute mystery series -at the end of Death at the Kyles of Bute, Alison moves to London. However, that didn’t quite work – Alison had other ideas, as did readers. I’ve now written seven novels in the series, plus three novellas and a prequel. The next one will be out at Christmas.
  10. Part of the fun of being a writer is challenging yourself by writing in different genres. I’ve recently adapted The House at Ettrick Bay as a six-part radio play for the Bute Theatre Company. Love is Another Country (a Romantic suspense) came out last year and I’ve several others in various stages of completion, including a science fiction novel, a contemporary woman’s novel, a thriller set in Spain and even a cowboy novel. What better job is there than being a writer? Love is Another Country by [Duffy, Myra]

Thanks Myra for a really interesting #TenThings. You can find out more about Myra from her website www.myraduffywriter.com and her books are available to order online. You can find all of her books listed online here.

Her Mother’s Secret by @RosannaLey #review @quercusbooks #randomthingstours

Her Mother's Secret: Escape to sunny France with the Number One bestselling author by [Ley, Rosanna]

When I open a Rosanna Ley book I know I am going to be transported to a different place. In the past couple of years I have visited Cuba through Last Dance in Havana and Sardinia in The Little Theatre by the Sea. In this book, the reader is taken to Belle-Île, an small island off the coast of Brittany. I’ve not been there, but have been to many of the other places on the mainland which were mentioned and feel the author captured the atmosphere of Brittany beautifully.

The story is told through the voices of several characters. Colette has come back to Belle-Île after many years away, returning only because her mother, Thea, is dying. Her father had died in fishing boat accident several years before and it seemed that their marriage had been affected by a secret. As well as coming back to see her mother, Colette returns to find out the truth. Etienne’s mother has recently died and he has come back to clear her house. He used to be part of the ‘summer gang’ who visited the island every year but why has he lost touch with the gang when they were once so close? Elodie is the daughter of Mathilde, who Thea used to work for as an au pair before she left the family suddenly. There is obviously some major rift between these women too which has led to their not speaking, yet Thea never left the island. There are also chapters told from the points of view of Thea and Mathilde

There is an undercurrent of sadness running throughout the book, so many past regrets. Through all the main characters you get a sense that there are many secrets to be uncovered and mysteries to be resolved. This is a book where you gradually get to know the characters and learn of their lives and secrets. The intertwining mysteries affected so many people. When the truth was finally revealed, I was taken by surprise. It wasn’t what I had imagined at all and yet the clues were there all along.

I find island settings endlessly fascinating and Rosanna Ley has written beautifully and atmospherically about Belle-Île. For some of her characters it is claustrophobic, a place to escape from but for others it is a place of safety, a sanctuary. The island is very much at the heart of the story with a smattering of French throughout adding to the authenticity of setting.

Her Mother’s Secret is compelling and beautifully written, a book to escape into as secrets are gradually revealed and characters look to the future with renewed hopes and fresh dreams.

My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of the blogtour and to publishers Quercus for my copy of the book. Her Mother’s Secret is available in all formats. You can buy it at your usual book retailer or order a Kindle copy online here: Her Mother’s Secret

From the back of the book

For many years Colette has avoided returning to her homeland – the magical island of Belle-Île-en-Mer in Southern Brittany – afraid to confront the painful memories she left behind. She is living on the Cornish coast when she hears about her mother Thea’s failing health and realises that the time has come for her to go home. But can Colette ever forgive Thea for what she has done?

Despite Colette’s wariness, romantic Belle-Île still fascinates her. She takes on the running of her mother’s flower shop and makes friends with Élodie from the Old Lighthouse where Thea once worked as a nanny and with the enigmatic Étienne who shares Colette’s mixed feelings about the island. As Thea opens up to her for the first time, Colette finds herself softening and being drawn back into the landscape of her past. But can Belle-Île also be a part of her future?

The ghosts of that past still linger. What happened all those years ago and how did it cause the rift between mother and daughter? It becomes clear that the beauty of Belle-Île hides a devastating family secret – one that Colette is determined to unravel at any cost.

Rosanna Ley

Rosanna Ley has had six novels published by Quercus Books. She has worked as a creative writing tutor for many years and has written articles and stories for a number of national magazines. Her writing holidays and retreats take place in stunning locations in Spain and Italy. When she is not travelling, Rosanna lives in West Dorset by the sea.

Visit Rosanna: @RosannaLey / http://www.rosannaley.com

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Somewhere Beyond the Sea by Miranda Dickinson #review @wurdsmyth @panmacmillan #TeamSparkly

Somewhere Beyond the Sea by [Dickinson, Miranda]

I’m a big fan of Miranda Dickinson’s writing and previously have reviewed A Parcel for Anna Browne (read my review here) and the prequel to this book, Christmas in St Ives (read that review here). Sometimes a book just captures your heart and this one with its mixture of sea, seaglass, stars and sky did just that.

The story is told in short alternating chapters by Seren (which is Welsh for star) and Jack. They are told in first person so you really feel you get to know them. And the thing is, although they are on opposing sides of a local community argument, you can’t help but like them both. Jack recently lost his wife, and home, and is bringing up their young daughter Nessie. He is a builder but work has dried up and money is tight. He jumps at the chance to work on big development. He is passionate about building, and wants to work with the landscape, with natural materials and to use local expertise. He feels he can respect and honour the memory of Elinor Carne, a local and largely forgotten astronomer.

Seren on the other hand is continuing her late father’s campaign to save the parsonage where Elinor lived, to protect and develop the old remains, bring the name of Elinor back into public knowledge. This is the site that Jack’s boss wants to redevelop. She is still grieving the close bond she shared with her father and trying desperately to keep his craft shop business afloat. The author lost her own father when writing this book so it’s not surprisingly that the grief Seren feels over the sudden loss of her dad is so touchingly and convincingly portrayed.

Unknown to either of them, despite being in opposition to each other, they also have something in common – seaglass. There is something special about seaglass and I also get that fizz of excitement if I find some on the beach. Jack and his daughter Ness enjoy making stars from seaglass on the beach but one day don’t have time to finish one. Seren finds the star the next morning and completes it. Young Ness is convinced it is mermaids finishing the stars!  It was lovely to read about how special the stars became for them all. It was something secret away from their everyday cares. This part of the story reminded me a bit of  You’ve Got Mail with neither knowing who the mystery person was.  Both Jack and Seren seemed to need someone or something else to complete their lives but effectively being enemies made it difficult for them even to be friends.

There were lots of lovely references to  everyday magic in the book and something that Seren’s father said to her really touched me:  “Magic is everywhere Seren, if you look hard enough for it. Life is extraordinary, if you let it be.” Somewhere Beyond the Sea is a really uplifting book about finding that magic in life, sometimes in the most unexpected places. I had a lump in my throat at the many poignant moments throughout the book and yet it also gladdened my heart. It was a joy to read. 

Thanks to the publishers Pan Macmillan for my copy of this lovely book. It was published yesterday in paperback and ebook formats. It will be available from your usual book retailer or you can order a copy online here: Somewhere Beyond the Sea

From the back of the book

Can you fall in love with someone before you’ve even met?

Seren MacArthur is living a life she never intended. Trying to save the Cornish seaside business her late father built – while grieving for his loss – she has put her own dreams on hold and is struggling. Until she discovers a half-finished seaglass star on her favourite beach during an early morning walk. When she completes the star, she sets into motion a chain of events that will steal her heart and challenge everything she believes.

Jack Dixon is trying to secure a better life for daughter Nessie and himself. Left a widower and homeless when his wife died, he’s just about keeping their heads above water. Finding seaglass stars completed on Gwithian beach is a bright spark that slowly rekindles his hope.

Seren and Jack are searching for their missing pieces. But when they meet in real life, it’s on the opposing sides of a battle. Jack is managing the redevelopment of a local landmark, and Seren is leading the community campaign to save it.

Both have reason to fight – Seren for the cause her father believed in, Jack for his livelihood. But only one can win. With so much at stake, will they ever find what they are really looking for?

Miranda Dickinson’s Somewhere Beyond the Sea is a sparkling tale of love, life and finding magic where you least expect it.

Miranda Dickinson

Miranda Dickinson has always had a head full of stories. Born in 1973 in Wolverhampton, she grew up in Kingswinford and dreamed of one day writing a book that would reach the heady heights of Kingswinford Library… Her first novel, Fairytale of New York (2009) was discovered on Authonomy.com – HarperCollins’ site for unpublished authors. Within three weeks of its release, Fairytale of New York had entered the Sunday Times Top Ten Bestsellers List, where it remained for five weeks – making it the world’s first crowd-sourced bestseller. The novel was also shortlisted for the RNA’s Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2010 at the Pure Passion Awards.

Miranda is a six-times Sunday Times Bestseller, with Fairytale of New York, Welcome to My World, It Started With a Kiss, When I Fall in Love, Take a Look at Me Now, I’ll Take New York, A Parcel for Anna Browne and Searching for a Silver Lining. Her new Christmas novella, Christmas in St Ives, is a festive treat and also a prequel to her ninth novel, Somewhere Beyond the Sea, which publishes in June 2018. She is an international bestseller in four countries and her books have been translated into fifteen languages. To date, she has sold one million books worldwide. She is currently writing her tenth novel.
Miranda lives in Dudley with her husband, Bob and daughter, Flo. She is also a singer-songwriter and recently released her first solo album, About Time.
Follow Miranda’s vlog at http://www.youtube.com/mirandawurdy and visit her website: miranda-dickinson.com
You can also follow Miranda on Twitter @wurdsmyth, on Instagram @wurdsmyth and on Facebook: MirandaDickinsonAuthor

Oh Crumbs by Kathryn Freeman #review @kathrynfreeman1 @ChocLitUK

Oh Crumbs (Choc Lit) by [Freeman, Kathryn]

 

I’ve always enjoyed reading Kathryn Freeman’s books before and this was no exception. We meet Abby first as a thirteen year old at her mother’s funeral then later as a young woman going for a job interview at Crumbs biscuit company. In the intervening years she has put on her life on hold to help her dad bring up her four younger sisters. Life is never quiet or dull in the Spencer household but it hasn’t given Abby a whole lot of time to follow her own dreams. She arrives at the interview in a bit of a tizz, covered in crumbs from her young nephew George’s rusks (very appropriate), trips over her handbag and babbles a whole load of nonsense. Not quite the first impression she might have wanted to give her potential new boss, handsome managing director Doug Faulkner!

One thing I enjoy about Kathryn Freeman’s novels is that she writes about really relatable characters, You may not have been in the same situations but there is always something that you will recognise in them. The story of a personal assistant falling for the boss may not be a new story but it’s no less enjoyable, especially as Doug has secrets he is keeping from Abby.

I took to Abby from the beginning of the book. She has dedicated herself to her sisters and my goodness they could be a handful at times! I had to feel for her poor father, surrounded by all these young women with only young George to redress the balance – and Pat the dog of course. There was a lot of noise in the Spencer house but there was a lot of love and laughter too. I often found myself chuckling at some of the many times Abby let her mouth run away with itself , saying out loud exactly what she was thinking. It was great to see her grow as a character over the book as she finally was able to show her potential and make the most of opportunities. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Doug at first and was slightly worried he might be a bit of a Christian Grey character! However, despite perhaps sharing some of Mr Grey’s talents (!), he was a much more caring character though tormented by a secret he felt compelled to keep and feeling very trapped.

Oh Crumbs was a thoroughly enjoyable read which had me laughing but also moved me on occasion too. It was a really charming romance story which left me feeling very uplifted. It would be good to read more about Abby in the future as I’d love to see how things develop both in her personal and professional life.

My thanks to Liz at publishers ChocLit for asking if I’d like to read a copy of this book. Oh Crumbs is available now as an ebook. You’ll find buying links for all ebook platforms on ChocLit’s website: Oh Crumbs

From the back of the book

Sometimes life just takes the biscuit …
Abby Spencer knows she can come across as an airhead – she talks too much and is a bit of a klutz – but there’s more to her than that. Though she sacrificed her career to help raise her sisters, a job interview at biscuit company Crumbs could finally be her chance to shine. That’s until she hurries in late wearing a shirt covered in rusk crumbs, courtesy of her baby nephew, and trips over her handbag. 

Managing director Douglas Faulkner isn’t sure what to make of Abby Spencer with her Bambi eyes, tousled hair and ability to say more in the half-hour interview than he manages in a day. All he knows is she’s a breath of fresh air and could bring a new lease of life to the stale corporate world of Crumbs. To his life too, if he’d let her. 

But Doug’s harbouring a secret. He’s not the man she thinks he is. 

 

Kathryn Freeman
Kathryn Freeman

Kathryn was born in Wallingford, England but has spent most of her life living in a village near Windsor. After studying pharmacy in Brighton she began her working life as a retail pharmacist. She quickly realised that trying to decipher doctor’s handwriting wasn’t for her and left to join the pharmaceutical industry where she spent twenty happy years working in medical communications. In 2011, backed by her family, she left the world of pharmaceutical science to begin life as a self-employed writer, juggling the two disciplines of medical writing and romance. Some days a racing heart is a medical condition, others it’s the reaction to a hunky hero…

With two teenage boys and a husband who asks every Valentine’s Day whether he has to bother buying a card again this year (yes, he does) the romance in her life is all in her head. Then again, her husband’s unstinting support of her career change goes to prove that love isn’t always about hearts and flowers – and heroes can come in many disguises.

One Summer in Italy by Sue Moorcroft #review @suemoorcroft @AvonBooksUK

One Summer in Italy by [Moorcroft, Sue]

It wouldn’t be summer without a lovely book from Sue Moorcroft to look forward to. Last year I was on holiday in Italy and Sue’s summer book was set in France. This year her book is set in Italy and yes, you’ve guessed it, I’m going on holiday to France. We seem to be a little out of sync! Reading One Summer in Italy brought some welcome summer sunshine to a week when Edinburgh was mostly covered in east coast haar.

Sofia Bianchi has come to the Umbrian village of Monteliberta fulfilling one of the promises she made to her dying father. With her mother dying young and her father suffering from poor health, although she is now in her 30s she hasn’t had the chance to just be a young woman and enjoy herself. Perhaps the most important promise would be the hardest to keep – simply to ‘be happy’. Sofia’s father was from Monteliberta but she doesn’t know much about her Italian family. Taking a job in a hotel for the summer, she resolves to find out what she can and try to meet them. Sofia takes teenage waitress Amy under her wing and is determined she will protect her from the advances of the owner’s son Davide. There is more than a little distraction provided by long-term guest Levi. Perhaps he can help her with her promise to ‘do all the things single women do’ and one particular promise she has made to herself? But relations between staff and guests are strictly prohibited so perhaps this particular promise may have to wait a bit.

Sue Moorcroft is fantastic at creating a vivid sense of place in my mind as I read. I could almost hear the Italian accents, taste the mouthwatering Umbrian food and wine, smell the fragrance of the flowers, see the colourful houses and streets and sense the heat. It’s a feast for the senses. I always have quite a strong emotional response to her characters too imagining how I would feel in their shoes. My heart went out to Amy in this story who had so much to take in for a young girl. Yet despite her emotional confusion, she was big hearted enough to want to help out young Matt in his hour of need too. I had to laugh at the way she quickly had Levi wrapped around her little finger!

Sofia was a lovely character, strong, caring and thoughtful. It was wonderful to see her start to grow throughout the book and really begin to live life on her own terms. There are plenty of secrets uncovered as she begins to get to know her Italian family but she soon discovers that hers is not the only family with secrets. With Levi, also having troubles of his own back home to deal with, not least of which was Octavia who seemed very determined to gets her claws into him, there was plenty happening to keep me turning the pages avidly.

When I see that Katie Fforde quote on the front of the books I have to agree – I have never read a Sue Moorcroft book I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed. With mystery and romance but with deeper themes also included, they genuinely are a pleasure to read.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the shops to see if I can find a bottle of Orvieto Classico – saluti!

Orvieto Classico Amabile, Barberani 2016

My thanks to Sabah Khan at Avon Books for my copy of the book and inviting me to take part in the blog tour. One Summer in Italy is available now in paperback and as an ebook. It is available from your usual book retailer or you can order a copy online here: One Summer in Italy

From the back of the book

When Sofia Bianchi’s father Aldo dies, it makes her stop and look at things afresh. Having been his carer for so many years, she knows it’s time for her to live her own life – and to fulfil some promises she made to Aldo in his final days.

So there’s nothing for it but to escape to Italy’s Umbrian mountains where, tucked away in a sleepy Italian village, lie plenty of family secrets waiting to be discovered. There, Sofia also finds Amy who is desperately trying to find her way in life after discovering her dad isn’t her biological father.

Sofia sets about helping Amy through this difficult time, but it’s the handsome Levi who proves to be the biggest distraction for Sofia, as her new life starts to take off…

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Effie’s War by Philip Paris #extract and #giveaway @bwpublishing

Effie's War

I’m just about to read another of Philip Paris’s books, The Italian Chapel, but today I have an extract from his latest novel Effie’s War to share with you. Effie’s War is inspired by a true event which took place during the Second World War and which I must admit, I had never heard anything about before now.

Thanks to the publishers, Black & White, you also have the chance to win a copy of the book, simply by commenting and telling me what you are reading. I’ll use a random name selector to pick a winner. Comment before midnight tomorrow (Wednesday 13th June) and I’ll contact the winner within 24 hours. UK entries only please.

If you’re not lucky enough to win a copy, you can order one online here: Effie’s War

First of all, here’s what the book is about:

Effie’s father has received notice to quit Kirk Farm, their family home. And every other farm and household in the area has had the same instruction. They all have one month to leave, to sell or move their livestock and harvest what they can. For Effie, the upheaval brings her close to Toni – a handsome Italian POW sent to help out on the farm.

Reverend Walter Smith – the local minister – is excited too, but for very different reasons. Handpicked by Hitler before the war and now integrated into British society, he senses that the secret to make the Führer proud is finally within his grasp. Something momentous is underway in this remote corner of the Highlands and he must find out what.

That secret is held by Captain Armstrong, newly billeted at Kirk Farm. He’s there to scope out places to rehearse the D-Day landings. But when Toni inadvertently passes on information about Operation Overlord, the race is on to block it from Reverend Smith – and from Hitler himself …

Philip Paris’s powerful new novel is based on events of almost 75 years ago, when an entire region of the Highlands was cleared to allow preparations for one of the greatest secrets of the Second World War. Evocative and deeply memorable, it captures the emotions, dangers and atmosphere of those days when the world faced its darkest hour.

Now read on for the extract

11 November 1943

Edward Ross sat at the large kitchen table and chewed his favourite pipe with such force that it was pure luck that neither the stem nor his dentures broke. He had read the letter once in total confusion, twice with a growing dread and a third time with a smouldering anger that few people would have believed possible of the quietly spoken elder of the kirk. His wife, Martha, was washing the breakfast dishes without any knowledge of the despair growing only a few feet away.

‘Damn . . . damn!’

Martha  turned around in  surprise at  hearing such language.

‘Edward! Whatever is the matter?’

Ina had just walked through the doorway and stood open-mouthed at her father’s utterance. He saw her staring.

‘Where’s Effie?’ he said.

‘Upstairs,’ replied Ina.

‘Fetch her.’

‘What’s happened?’

‘Fetch her! You need to hear this together.’

Ina had never seen her father so distraught and rushed to get her sister, who, at seventeen, was almost three years younger. Mr Ross slid the letter across to Martha. It was only right that she should have the chance to read the contents before they were discussed. She was still trying to understand the implications when their two daughters burst into the kitchen in a way that would normally have resulted in them being chastised sternly. Mr Ross looked at the sisters standing side by side, as exactly alike as an apple and pear can be.

‘Father,’ said Effie. ‘What’s wrong?’

‘Sit down.’

The girls sat at the table while their mother collapsed into the nearest chair.

‘We’ve received notice from the authorities that we must leave the farm by the twelfth of December.’

‘Leave?’ said Effie. ‘Why? Who’s going to look after the livestock?’

‘We’ll have to get rid of it . . . cattle, sheep, pigs, even the hens.’

Martha put a hand to her mouth and laid down the letter. Effie reached over and snatched it, scanning the text frantically while Ina looked on.

‘There must be a mistake,’ said Effie. ‘They’re giving us one month to move or sell everything, in addition to processing the crops. It’s not possible in such a short time. We would need a small army of workers.’

‘Why do they want our home?’ said Ina, close to tears.

‘What possible use is it to them?’

‘We could move the stock until we return,’ Effie cut in.

‘This letter seems to imply it’s temporary.’

‘It’s not just our farm, so there’ll be a surplus of animals and no one in the area will have the capacity to take on other people’s,’ said Mr Ross. ‘We might find someone to look after the horses, but as for the rest . . . And it’ll be a sad day indeed when we lose Alastair and his family.’

‘Barbara will be heartbroken,’ said Martha. ‘Their boys were born on Kirk Farm. Our cottage is all they’ve ever known as home.’

‘Alastair will have to find new employment at the end of the term,’ said Mr Ross, shaking his head. ‘He won’t have any choice.’

They fell silent, reflecting on the enormous changes that were about to be forced upon their lives. Effie eventually broke the stillness by jumping up and pacing around the kitchen in a state of great indignation and irritation that was so . . . Effie.

‘This is not right,’ she said.

‘It’s the war,’ said Ina.

‘I know it’s the war!’

‘The letter says there’s a meeting this afternoon at Inver hall, so perhaps we’ll get some answers there,’ said Martha.

Effie turned to her mother. Martha was a practical, down-to-earth woman, not given easily to weeping, yet she looked close to tears now. Effie’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather had meticulously bred the best livestock possible. The careful records they had kept meant they could trace the lineage of some of the cattle and pigs for more than eighty years. They were a part of the land as much as the ancient horse chestnut tree that overshadowed the drive.

‘If we sell the stock then so much will be lost,’ said Ina.

‘People are losing sons, brothers and husbands,’ replied her father, sitting up straight in his chair as he began to pull himself together. ‘If we survive this war and only lose our animals, then we should thank the good Lord.’

‘Can’t Christopher do something?’ said Effie, never one to back down without a fight. ‘Surely it must be some use having an officer living here.’

Captain Christopher Armstrong had been billeted with the family for three months. Mr Ross had been horrified when he had been informed that they would have to provide accommodation for a young British officer. He readily acknowledged that plenty of other families in the area had been ordered to give room and board to military personnel, but with two beautiful, trusting daughters in the house the idea of a stranger living in such close proximity made him very uncomfortable.

The move had been a double-edged sword. Christopher had been polite and respectful,  behaving like a caring older brother to seven-year-old Hugh, who had taken to him immediately. In fact, everyone liked him; Ina a little too much. She had fallen hopelessly in love, ignoring the advice given during their father’s frequent lectures on the subject of ‘hasty wartime romances’, and how uncertainty about the future was putting too much pressure on couples to commit.

He liked to remind them that there was a lot of wisdom in the saying ‘Marry in haste, repent at leisure’ and how, when he  was young you courted for months before you even held hands with a girl – and as for kissing! His daughters always listened politely without comment, and the advice had been easy to follow while there was no one to fall in love with.

‘I don’t see how Christopher can help, it’s nothing to do with him,’ said Ina bristling, yet there was a hesitance in  her  words.  Effie guessed she was thinking the same thought – that surveying the surrounding land for this evacuation was precisely what Christopher had been sent to the Tarbat peninsula to do.

 

Author, playwright and journalist P.I. Paris lives in the Highlands of Scotland and is best known for the historical fiction and non-fiction books he wrote about the Italian chapel, built during WW2 by Italian POWs in Orkney. His contemporary novel, Men Cry Alone, broke new ground in raising the profile of domestic abuse against men. His stage play, Casting Off, played to sell-out audiences in the autumn of 2015. The hilarious storyline is taken to new heights in the novel of the same name. Effie’s War sees him return to WW2, again with a story which has a backdrop of real events.