#bookpromo The Lost Girls by Helen Pryke

On the 17 June, my latest book, The Lost Girls, was published by Bloodhound Books, and I thought I’d tell you something about it. You can buy it now on Amazon for only 99c/99p or you can get the paperback if you prefer!

Here’s some background about the writing of the book:

It’s mainly set in the south of England (with a slight detour to the Peak District towards the end!) and I think it’s the only book I’ve ever read that’s set in the Portsmouth area, including Cosham, Hilsea and Bedhampton!

Why there? Well, I grew up on the south coast in a small town called Emsworth, and often took the bus or train to other towns in the area. When I needed somewhere for the book, I immediately thought of where I used to live.

map of south of england for fb page

What I didn’t plan on was getting so nostalgic as I used Google maps to refresh my memory. It was like travelling back to the past, and so many memories from my childhood came to mind. It made me quite emotional!

I’ve been living in Italy since 1990, and although I visited the UK quite frequently in the beginning, I haven’t been back since 2012. Partly from choice, as every time I go there it gets harder for me to leave, and partly because planning anything around my auto-immune illness is difficult as I never know when it will flare and leave me too exhausted to do anything. So, while I’m glad I chose those towns, it’s been a bitter-sweet experience!

The only place I haven’t been is Farlington Marshes, mentioned at the beginning of the story. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know they existed! I found this on Wikipedia:

“Farlington Marshes is an area of reclaimed land in Langstone harbour. It was reclaimed from the harbour in 1771 and includes a larger part of what was formerly Binner’s Island (the remainder of the island is now referred to as North Binness Island). Farlington Marshes is about 120 hectares in size and features both freshwater marsh and brackish marsh. It is a Local Nature Reserve and is a feeding ground for overwintering Brent geese. During World War 2 it was used as a starfish site acting as a decoy for Portsea Island. The control blockhouses remain on the marshes.”

If I should go back to the UK, I’ll make sure I go and take a walk around there!

Farlington_marshes_april_2011.jpg

The protagonist

The protagonist of The Lost Girls is ex-investigative journalist Maggie Turner. She wasn’t always the protagonist, though – originally, Michael and Chloe, the brother and sister of the lost girls, were meant to team up and search for their sisters. Then one day Maggie popped into my head and demanded to be the main character! There’s a lot of banter between Mike, Chloe and Maggie which I’m sure many parents of teenagers will recognise – much of it was taken from my own conversations with my sons!

I like Maggie – she’s fighting her own demons caused by a traumatic childhood, a chronic illness (as yet undiagnosed), and the death of her nephew, but she puts them aside to help Mike and Chloe find their sisters. This is how she describes herself:

“I’m a pathetic, forty-five-year-old woman who only thinks of herself, with greying hair, quite a few wrinkles, and bits of me sagging that were pert up until a few years ago. I feel old.”

But underneath the self-pity, she has a strong character and won’t take any nonsense from people. She’s had to fight all her life to get anywhere, and won’t give up while there’s hope. In the story, she arrives at a point where she doesn’t know where to go or what to do to find the girls, while her body shuts down due to stress and her illness. The only thing she can do is pray for a miracle…

The antagonist

The antagonist, who shall remain unnamed, turned out completely different from how I’d originally planned! When I jotted down some notes a few years ago, I didn’t have a motive for him abducting the girls – this all came about when I took out the story and started working on it again. I had fun figuring out the reasoning behind his madness!

As his past is gradually revealed, the reader comes to understand why he’s abducted the girls. We don’t find out everything about him, but more than enough to show that he’s always been crazy. I particularly enjoyed writing the chapters from his personal point of view – getting inside his head was scarily easy to do!

I can’t give away too much here, as it will ruin the story. Let’s just say our antagonist has ‘issues’ with his mother and sisters, which come to a terrifying head in the book. Oh, and he likes fire. A lot.

Beautiful stylish fire flames reflected in water

 

A minor character

I thought I’d mention a minor character in the book, who was taken from real life.

As any author knows, you’re always advised to observe the people around you in everyday situations, and make notes of anything you can use in your writing. I love people watching anyway, and there’s no better place (in my opinion) than a hospital waiting room. I’ve been in many over the last few years, and every time I come away thinking I could write a book about what I’ve just seen. (My oldest son says I should write a series – The Waiting Room Chronicles – as I’ve always got a story or two to tell after going to the hospital!)

This scene, set in a café where Mike, Chloe and Maggie were meeting, comes from one of those waiting room experiences:

The waitress jotted down their order and went over to the counter. A tall, thin woman in her sixties strode into the café. Dressed in brown, knee-length boots, a bright yellow anorak, and a detective-style felt hat with a brown speckled feather in it, she caught their attention right away.

“Young lady, a cappuccino with extra cocoa on top, as soon as you can,” she demanded in a supercilious voice. She stood glaring round at the few customers while the waitress rushed to make her coffee. “Come, come, I haven’t got all day.”

Mike leaned over and nudged Maggie. “Hey, that’ll be you in a few years’ time, old thing,” he said with a wink.

Chloe giggled.

Maggie snorted, trying to hold back a laugh in case the woman looked their way. “Less of the cheek,” she said, then glanced at the woman again. “Although, I do like that hat, I must admit.”

It may be short and sweet, but this scene makes me laugh every time as it features a woman I saw in a hospital waiting room, dressed exactly like that! I came home, wrote some notes, and knew I had to fit her into the book somehow. And yes, I was jealous of her hat, as well – I’d love to have the courage to wear something like that! (The photo below is a rough representation, just so you get the idea.)

fb post

I hope this has whet your appetite, and I’d love to hear back from you if you read The Lost Girls!

mybook.to/TheLostGirlsPryke

#BookReview for Grubane by Karl Drinkwater

Pink quill books pick_2020

My review for Grubane by Karl Drinkwater, 5/5 stars. It also earns a Pink Quill Book Pick badge (click here for more information.)

This is another great addition to the Solace series. Each novella gives us more background to the universe Drinkwater has created, building up to the two main novels.

In Grubane, he has interwoven the story with tactics used in chess, in a clever, intriguing way. It gives us an insight into Grubane’s mind, and leads the story along to its gripping conclusion.

The interaction between the AI and Major Grubane is intelligent, witty, and at times almost childlike, as the AI questions its almost human-like feelings. I loved these two characters – neither is as sterile or emotionless as they seem at the beginning.

A great read, as ever, from Drinkwater. I highly recommend the whole series!

Amazon US
Amazon UK

#BookReview for Patrick the War Man by Kim Rigby

Pink quill books pick_2020

My review for The Black Fire Chronicles: Guardians 2 – Patrick the War Man by Kim Rigby, 5/5 stars. It also earns a Pink Quill Book Pick badge (click here for more information.)

I love the Black Fire Chronicles series, and these books about Andrew’s guardians are the perfect addition! Here we find out how Patrick met the Seer and became a guardian, and the events that led to him becoming a soldier in the First World War.

Patrick is a complex character who believes war is the answer to his problems, only to come to realise that life can be so much more. Some of my favourite characters make an appearance too, as the present day is interwoven with Patrick’s memories. Sad, funny, poignant, the story will make you think about events of the past.

Well written and researched, and with great characters and storyline, this book will appeal to older children and adults alike. I highly recommend the whole series!

At the time of posting, the series is discounted to only .99 for each book in the series!

Amazon US
Amazon UK

#BookReview for The Runaway by Linda Huber

Pink quill books pick_2020My review for The Runaway by Linda Huber, 5/5 stars. It also earns a Pink Quill Book Pick badge (click here for more information.)

What can I say? I’ve read quite a few books by Linda Huber, starting with The Cold Cold Sea, which my husband bought me for my birthday a couple of years ago. Since then, I’ve become quite a fan. She kindly gave me an ARC of The Runaway, and I loved it!

Nicola, Ed, and Kelly are such relatable characters, and you immediately feel like you’ve known them forever. Nicola is a stressed-out mum, trying to juggle work and family life in London, Kelly is a teenager, going through a turbulent time and opposed to any change, and Ed is the quiet one, keeping himself to himself. Everything ticks along nicely, until Ed’s mother dies and he inherits her house down in Cornwall.

For a while you don’t know where the story is going to take you, then all of a sudden you’re in the middle of every parent’s deepest fear. The tension pulls you along, keeping you enthralled as the story develops. The scenes where Nicola is trawling the streets of London are heartwrenching, and so well written!

I’m not going to give anything away, but I couldn’t put it down until I’d finished. There were so many missed chances, so many “Noooo!” moments, and a scene towards the end that will have your heart in your mouth as you beg her not to do it.

A great psychological thriller I highly recommend!

Amazon US
Amazon UK

#Unicorns, #mermaids, and so much more!

About six months ago, Sarah Northwood and I decided to write a children’s book together. You can see the cover reveal and read about it here.

The book, Unicorns, Mermaids, and Magical Tales, is now with our beta readers, and initial feedback is wonderful!

“There are so many beautiful passages throughout, life lessons for young children hidden within the stories, and some lovely advice (kindness, courage) as well.”

“I love the short stories, perfect for a bedtime story each night, with lots to spark the imagination of little ones (and grown ups too!)”

We now have a publishing date! The paperback will be available from the 15th March. The ebook will be available to pre-order the same day at the special low price of 99c/99p, and will be published on the 31st March.

We’ve also created a website where you can find lots of fun activities for children, with puzzles, word searches, and beautiful hand-drawn pictures to download and colour in. We’d love to see your children’s creations and show them off on the site!

Visit the site

Take a look and let me know what you think!

We’re very proud of this book, with its beautiful illustrations, poems, and short stories that we hope children will love and treasure for years to come. I hope we’ll write more books together in the future!

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#BookReview for Snowflakes and Sapphires by Kristina Beck

pink quill book pick badge

My review for Snowflakes and Sapphires by Kristina Beck, 5/5 stars. It also earns a Pink Quill Book Pick badge (click here for more information.)

What a gorgeous story, just as beautiful as the cover! I’ve read every book by Kristina Beck, and each one just gets better. Well written, with characters you’ll fall in love with, and set in New York at Christmas – what more could you want?!

Sophia and Drew are made for each other, but Drew’s sister Lacey steals the show, in my opinion. I just loved her character and her quirky one-liners. The story draws you in from the beginning, and has you rooting for Sophia and Drew to overcome all the obstacles in their way and find true love.

I highly recommend for lovers of romantic Christmas stories that warm your heart!

Amazon US
Amazon UK

The story behind my latest book, The Lost Girls #suspense #thriller

On the 30 June, my latest book, The Lost Girls, will be published! You can preorder it now for only 99c/99p and start reading on the 30 June. Or you can buy the paperback now if you can’t wait!

Preorder now on Amazon

Here are some posts about the writing of the book:

It’s mainly set in the south of England (with a slight detour to the Peak District towards the end!) and I think it’s the only book I’ve ever read that’s set in the Portsmouth area, including Cosham, Hilsea and Bedhampton!

Why there? Well, I grew up on the south coast in a small town called Emsworth, and often took the bus or train to other towns in the area. When I needed somewhere for the book, I immediately thought of where I used to live.

map of south of england for fb page

What I didn’t plan on was getting so nostalgic as I used Google maps to refresh my memory. It was like travelling back to the past, and so many memories from my childhood came to mind. It made me quite emotional!

I’ve been living in Italy since 1990, and although I visited the UK quite frequently in the beginning, I haven’t been back since 2012. Partly from choice, as every time I go there it gets harder for me to leave, and partly because planning anything around my auto-immune illness is difficult as I never know when it will flare and leave me too exhausted to do anything. So, while I’m glad I chose those towns, it’s been a bitter-sweet experience!

The only place I haven’t been is Farlington Marshes, mentioned at the beginning of the story. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know they existed! I found this on Wikipedia:

“Farlington Marshes is an area of reclaimed land in Langstone harbour. It was reclaimed from the harbour in 1771 and includes a larger part of what was formerly Binner’s Island (the remainder of the island is now referred to as North Binness Island). Farlington Marshes is about 120 hectares in size and features both freshwater marsh and brackish marsh. It is a Local Nature Reserve and is a feeding ground for overwintering Brent geese. During World War 2 it was used as a starfish site acting as a decoy for Portsea Island. The control blockhouses remain on the marshes.”

If I should go back to the UK, I’ll make sure I go and take a walk around there!

Farlington_marshes_april_2011.jpg

The protagonist

The protagonist of The Lost Girls is ex-investigative journalist Maggie Dupont. She wasn’t always the protagonist, though – originally, Michael and Chloe, the brother and sister of the lost girls, were meant to team up and search for their sisters. Then one day Maggie popped into my head and demanded to be the main character! There’s a lot of banter between Mike, Chloe and Maggie which I’m sure many parents of teenagers will recognise – much of it was taken from my own conversations with my sons!

I like Maggie – she’s fighting her own demons caused by a traumatic childhood, a chronic illness, and the death of her nephew, but she puts them aside to help Mike and Chloe find their sisters. This is how she describes herself:

“I’m a pathetic, forty-five-year-old woman who only thinks of herself, with greying hair, quite a few wrinkles, and bits of me sagging that were pert up until a few years ago. I feel old.”

But underneath the self-pity, she has a strong character and won’t take any nonsense from people. She’s had to fight all her life to get anywhere, and won’t give up while there’s hope. In the story, she arrives at a point where she doesn’t know where to go or what to do to find the girls, while her body shuts down due to stress and her illness. The only thing she can do is pray for a miracle…

The antagonist

The antagonist, who shall remain unnamed, turned out completely different from how I’d originally planned! When I jotted down some notes a few years ago, I didn’t have a motive for him abducting the girls – this all came about when I took out the story and started working on it again. I had fun figuring out the reasoning behind his madness!

As his past is gradually revealed, the reader comes to understand why he’s abducted the girls. We don’t find out everything about him, but just enough to show that he’s always been crazy. I particularly enjoyed writing the chapters from his personal point of view – getting inside his head was scarily easy to do! My husband keeps asking me if there’s something he should know…!

I can’t give away too much here, as it will ruin the story. Let’s just say our antagonist has ‘issues’ with his mother and sisters, which come to a terrifying head in the book. Oh, and he likes fire. A lot.

flame-1487835_1920

 

A minor character

I thought I’d mention a minor character in the book, who was taken from real life.

As any author knows, you’re always advised to observe the people around you in everyday situations, and make notes of anything you can use in your writing. I love people watching anyway, and there’s no better place (in my opinion) than a hospital waiting room. I’ve been in many over the last few years, and every time I come away thinking I could write a book about what I’ve just seen. (My oldest son says I should write a series – The Waiting Room Chronicles – as I’ve always got a story or two to tell after going to the hospital!)

This scene, set in a café where Mike, Chloe and Maggie were meeting, comes from one of those waiting room experiences:

The waitress jotted down their order and went over to the counter. A tall, thin woman in her sixties strode into the café. Dressed in brown, knee-length boots, a bright yellow anorak, and a detective-style felt hat with a brown speckled feather in it, she caught their attention right away.

“Young lady, a cappuccino with extra cocoa on top, as soon as you can,” she demanded in a supercilious voice. She stood glaring round at the few customers while the waitress rushed to make her coffee. “Come, come, I haven’t got all day.”

Mike leaned over and nudged Maggie. “Hey, that’ll be you in a few years’ time, old thing,” he said with a wink.

Chloe giggled.

Maggie snorted, trying to hold back a laugh in case the woman looked their way. “Less of the cheek,” she said, then glanced at the woman again. “Although, I do like that hat, I must admit.”

It may be short and sweet, but this scene makes me laugh every time as it features a woman I saw in a hospital waiting room, dressed exactly like that! I came home, wrote some notes, and knew I had to fit her into the book somehow. And yes, I was jealous of her hat, as well – I’d love to have the courage to wear something like that! (The photo below is a rough representation, just so you get the idea.)

fb post

I hope this has whet your appetite, and I’d love to hear back from you if you read The Lost Girls!

#BookReview for Dear Jane: The Final Book in the Highbury Trilogy by Allie Cresswell

My review for Dear Jane: The Final Book in the Highbury Trilogy by Allie Cresswell, 5/5 stars.

NOTE: The book is free to download on Amazon from today for the next few days!

In this third book we follow the story of Jane Fairfax, which leads us to the events in Jane Austen’s Emma. I’ve read and enjoyed the first two books in the series, and this third one is, in my opinion, the best.

All the characters we have come to know and love in the previous books return, including the wonderful Miss Bates, who adds a tragic-comic touch to the story, along with a new generation and all their trials and tribulations.

Wonderfully written, it takes you back to those times when gossip and intrigue were the main ingredient of daily lives, and misunderstandings and broken hearts were all too common. Jane Fairfax is kind, genteel, unassuming, but also has a surprising strength of character, thanks to her upbringing, surrounded by people who love her.

I loved the characters, the style of writing, the way the book took me back to those times, it was like visiting old friends in a place I used to know.

This is a wonderful story that you could imagine Jane Austen herself would have written, so faithful is it to the original book. Highly recommend!

(I’d like to thank Allie Cresswell for giving me the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.)

Amazon US
Amazon UK

#BookReview for My Africa my Home by Jennifer Peacock-Smith

pink quill book pick badge

My review for My Africa my Home by Jennifer Peacock-Smith, 5/5 stars. It also earns a Pink Quill Book Pick badge (click here for more information).

As a proofreader/editor, I consider myself very lucky to read so many books by indie authors. My Africa my Home by Jennifer Peacock-Smith is another gem I’ve had the privilege to work on.

I met Jennifer and her husband last year, when they stopped at my house on their way through Italy, heading back to their home in Malta. We spent a pleasant afternoon eating, drinking and chatting, as you do, and got on brilliantly. Jennifer and I have a lot in common, not least a debilitating auto-immune disease.

helen pryke_jennifer peacock-smith

Apart from that one meeting, we only know each other through various Facebook groups. So when Jennifer asked me to edit her memoir, I knew it would be a good read. What I didn’t realise is that it would be a great read! From the first pages, Jennifer had me hooked – if I hadn’t had to read it slowly due to editing, I’d have devoured it in a day!

This book, the first in the series, takes us through Jennifer’s childhood in South Africa, and all the contradictions both in the country and her own family. The country was home to top doctors, surgeons, and state of the art hospitals, but there was no TV until the early seventies. Her parents, in particular her mother, championed women’s rights, but brought up their daughters in a rigid regime with little warmth and love.

But the way Jennifer describes her childhood – her loneliness, the way she felt an outsider in her own family, her very different relationships with her brother and sister – doesn’t really come across as negative. On the contrary, you feel that her dysfunctional childhood has given this woman an incredible strength and compassionate character that has helped her deal with many things through her life.

This memoir leaves you with a deep sense of sympathy (and empathy, in my case) for this young girl who only wanted to fit in, and to have a family where she could love and be loved. Interspersed with various incidents and childhood scrapes, there are also many humorous moments! And she describes her childhood home and country so perfectly that you can almost imagine you’re there with her.

The opening scene in the prologue is one that wouldn’t be out of place in a thriller, and leaves you wondering as you are taken back in time to the beginning of Jennifer’s story. The gradual build up through the years take you to this pivotal moment in Jennifer’s life, which will have implications in the distant future too, as we find out at the end of the book.

My Africa my Home is available to preorder now for only 99c until the 12th April, and I highly recommend you take advantage of this great price! I can’t wait for the other instalments to see where Jennifer’s life will take her next.

Preorder here:

Amazon US
Amazon UK

Release Day for A Dragonfly in Winter, book 3 of The Innocenti Saga

Today’s the day! A Dragonfly in Winter is now available to buy, having been on pre-order for the last couple of months. You can also get it in paperback, with a beautiful cover designed by my talented son.

This book is the first in a series of novellas about various healers from the past, telling their stories. Set in the late 1800s in Tuscany, Sara Innocenti is 16 years old, and has never heard of the healers. But when she discovers an abandoned cottage in the woods, she is intrigued and wants to find out more.

Talking with Simone, the head groom at the villa, she finds out secrets about her grandmother, Ginevra, that turn her world upside down. After yet another fight with her parents, she decides to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps and become a healer.

You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens! This has been the easiest book I’ve ever written, Sara’s story just flowed out onto the pages. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

I hope to start work on the next novella in a couple of months, when I’ve finished my current project (more about that in the future!). I have plenty of ideas, just not enough time to write them!

And as an extra treat, if you’ve never read any of the books in the Innocenti Saga, you can find all 3 books discounted today and tomorrow in the US and UK! So now’s your chance to pick up The Healer’s Secret and The Dragonfly Grove at a great price!

PROMO RELEASE DAY

Here’s the link: getbook.at/InnocentiSaga

I’d love it if you could leave a review after reading any of my books, as this helps other readers decide if they’d like to read it too. Thanks!

Here’s the paperback cover, which I absolutely love! The back cover will be the same for all future novellas.

A Dragonfly in Winter_paperback cover

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