Belonging – Rhoda Baxter

She’s grieving her lost love. He’s searching for his lost niece. Can attraction overcome family loyalty in this enemies to lovers romance?

Hiding away in a tiny Yorkshire village, Harriet is grieving for her lost love. His family won’t talk to her and she can’t move on from from his death. All this changes when his daughter, Niamh, turns up on her doorstep, needing a sympathetic ear.

Tim thinks Harriet broke up his sister’s marriage all those years ago. His sister’s enemies are his enemies. When his niece runs away to Harriet’s house, he knows he has to get her back before his sister finds out. But that means talking with Harriet.

As they work together to console Niamh and get her home safely, Tim and Harriet become increasingly attracted to each other.

But with attraction comes guilt.

Can they overcome their respective loyalties and give in to love?



My review

When the time is right,  it can all turn out for the best.

Grieve can change you a lot. It feels like you live is slipping away as well and nothing seems worth living for anymore. And then something totally unexpected happens and turns everything upside down. Maybe it’s true what they say? Maybe even the darkest clouds have a silver lining …

This story is about grieve, realizing you have to try to get over it and seek closure. Sometimes you shut yourself off from everything and everybody, but was this the right thing to do?

But there is more. Maybe it’s high time some people loose their blinders and start noticing things outside their own little world.

A lovely and emotional story. 4 stars.

Thank you, Rhoda Baxter and RachelsRandomResources.


About the author

Rhoda Baxter writes contemporary romances with heart and a touch of cynicism. She has had several novels published by the award winning publisher Choc Lit. Writing under her other pen name, Jeevani Charika, she has been published by Bonnier Zaffre. Her books have been shortlisted for awards such as the RoNA Romantic Comedy of the Year (in 2017), Love Stories Award (in 2015) and the Joan Hessayon Award (2012).

Rhoda started off as a microbiologist and then drifted out of research and into technology transfer. When choosing a penname, she was hit by a fit of nostalgia and named herself after the bacterium she studied during her PhD. She has lived in a variety of places including Sri Lanka, Yap (it’s a real place), Halifax, Oxford and Didcot (also a real place). She tends to judge the standard of living by the quality and availability of tea and cake. She now lives with her young family in East Yorkshire, where the tea and cake provision is excellent.

You can find her wittering on about cake and science and other random things on her website (, on Facebook, or on Twitter (@rhodabaxter). Please do say hello if you’re passing.

You can also follow her on Bookbub. You can get a free copy of one of her books by joining her reader newsletter.

Social Media Links – website Facebook: Twitter (@rhodabaxter) Bookbub:




A Laughing Matter of Pain – Cynthia Hilston

Harry Rechthart always knew how to laugh, but laughter can hide a lot of pain that’s drowned by the bottle and good times. He grew up the joker in the early 1900s in Cleveland, Ohio, but as he enters adulthood, conflict splits him. His once close relationship with his brother, Erik, breaks as they come into their own and Erik goes off to college. No longer under Erik’s shadow, Harry feels he might finally shine and make others see him as someone to be proud of. Harry finds an unlikely comrade who understands how he feels–his younger sister, Hannah. Once free of high school, Harry and Hannah double date sister and brother, Kat and Will Jones, attending wild, extravagant parties during the years of Prohibition. Harry thinks he’s won at life–he’s found love in Kat, in a good time, and in the bottle. But all the light goes out fast when Harry’s alcoholism leads to disastrous consequences for him and Kat. Harry thinks the joke’s on him now that he’s sunk lower than ever. He’s in jail. He’s pushed away his family. He’s a broken man, but in the darkest depths of a prison cell, there is hope. Can Harry rebuild his life and learn that true laughter comes from knowing true joy, or will he bury himself once and for all in this laughing matter of pain?



Promo post

Today a simple promo post and of course wishing the author a happy publication day. I hope you took the time to read the blurb and if you liked what you saw, you will add it on your to read list.

Good luck, Cynthia Hilston and thank you, RachelsRandomResources.


About the author

Cynthia Hilston is a thirty-something-year-old stay at home mom of three young kids, happily married. Writing has always been like another child to her. After twenty years of waltzing in the world of fan fiction, she finally stepped away to do her debut dance with original works of fiction. Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful is her first original novel. She’s currently working on more books. Visit her website for more information. In her spare time – what spare time? – she devours books, watches Doctor Who and Game of Thrones, pets her orange kitty, looks at the stars, and dreams of what other stories she wishes to tell.

Social Media Links – Facebook: Goodreads: Amazon: Twitter: Instagram:


Cupid F*cks Up – Paula Houseman

Ruth Roth is a straight shooter. Pity Cupid’s not.

Smart-mouth Ruth is an inspirational humour columnist for a popular women’s magazine. Recently divorced, she has found the love of her life. Without any help, mind you, from the little fat love god. Ruth has decided she herself is her one and only.

And she’s in a comfy place. Why wouldn’t she be? No need to yell ‘Put the bloody toilet seat down!’ No need to hoover toe-nail clippings off the carpet.

But then a silver-tongued Prince Charming fronts up in his shiny Merc and tickles her discarded, little-girl fantasies. He tells her their love is written in the stars.

It must be a misprint.

A romance with this particular PC is not so PC! Still …

Ruth’s life plays out more like ancient myth than fairytale. And what hot-blooded woman can resist forbidden fruit?

There’s a problem, though. Ruth does not have a hot-blooded mum. Ruth has a pain-in-the-arse mum whose squawking disapproval cranks the taboo up a notch.

All the more reason to take up with the stud! But it means taking on the harpy.

Tensions mount, and even Ruth’s man can’t protect her from the trash-talking voices in her head. It looks like he can’t muzzle his own either. When an earth-shattering revelation causes him to give her grief, it makes her feel like she’s dating her mother.

Taking the kind of advice she doles out to her readers is not so easy, and Ruth wonders if this love can survive. More to the point, is it worth the trouble?




Today I am happy to share an extract. I hope you endjoy it and read the whole book!


Sylvia’s house was eerily quiet. She was sitting on the couch in a stupefied state with Myron on her right and his wife, space-cadet-Tammy, on her left. Rory and Robbie sat on the opposite couch like a pair of blobs, each one chomping away on biscuits. Nothing had changed since infancy (these two hadn’t moved their fat arses until they were fifteen months old, when they went straight from sitting to walking. They never crawled because you can’t eat and crawl at the same time). But I noticed significant changes in Myron from when I last saw him, none particularly flattering. His blue eyes had dulled, his mane of thick blond hair had thinned and darkened into mousy, like his nature. And Chubs had grown an extra chin. He’d always looked like Sylvia’s son. Now he could pass for her younger brother.

Our differences dropped away, though, and we all hugged and cried, except for Rory and Robbie, who looked on as they continued snarfing their cookies. (If they’d tossed them occasionally, they mightn’t have ended up so fat.)

I went into the bedroom to see Joe. He looked like he was just sleeping peacefully. Relieved, maybe. I knelt down next to him and kissed his cool cheek. ‘Oh, Joe …’ I shed silent tears. Then I chuckled and whispered in his ear, ‘The extremes you go to to get away from her.’ I stayed on the floor with him, lost in nothingness until I heard the irritating ding dang ding dong of the doorbell, a sound that seemed so disrespectful under the circumstances. I got up and went back into the lounge.

My parents’ GP was crouched down in front of Sylvia. He held her hand in his and was speaking to her in a muted tone. Distracted by a soft rapping on the front door, he left Sylvia and moved to the bedroom. Ralph let in two men from the Chevra Kadisha (the Jewish Funeral Society). Sympathetic and sombre, they went about their business, but the whole thing felt clinical to me. Joe was now ‘the body’. No longer a person, he was just a thing.

We watched in wide-eyed silence as, a short time later, they took my father away. The doctor had completed the death certificate, but hung back. Once again, he squatted down in front of Sylvia. As he plied her with platitudes, the cliché queen rallied a little, like a participant at an evangelist prayer meeting, but then she sank and started wailing like an air raid siren. It shook everyone up. The doctor murmured some ‘there, there’s’ and rummaged through his bag until he located a blister pack of drug samples. ‘Sedatives,’ he said. He pushed two pills out, pressed them into Sylvia’s hand and asked Myron to fetch her a glass of water. Doc watched her down them and then, in the conciliatory tone of an undertaker, he subjected all of us to his pedestrianism: ‘It was God’s will’; ‘He’s in a better place’; ‘Be strong’; ‘Time will heal’ … yada yada yada.

Dear God, whose will it was to take Joe, please take this man to his car so he can go home and hit the hay, snatch forty winks, go to the land of nod, recharge the batteries … bore himself to sleep.

God complied. Sylvia pushed herself up off the chair and escorted Doc to the door. While they stood there swapping more clichés, Myron said to me, ‘We’re going to sit shiva.’

‘What? Says who?’

‘Mum and I.’

‘Oh, really? Firstly, we’re not religious. Secondly, I have a say too, you know!’

‘Well, it’s been decided.’ He said it like a bossy pants in the schoolyard. ‘And Dad would have wanted it.’

‘Bullshit!’ I hissed.

Myron was miffed. He sniffed his disapproval. ‘It’s not up for discussion. Anyway, Dad would have sat shiva for Mum if she’d gone first.’

Again, ‘Bullshit!’ I gave him the stink eye. He looked away.

Shiva meant the family members had to sit for seven days of formal mourning starting after the funeral. Joe could have easily gone seven days without shaving, not wearing shoes or jewellery and sitting on his arse on a low chair doing nothing. But shiva meant covering all the mirrors in the house. That would have suited me fine, but Joe couldn’t have gone seven days without looking in a mirror. No way. Joe couldn’t have gone one hour without looking in a mirror. He was vain. And also, he’d become no more observant than he was when we were kids—the extent of his religiousness back then included celebrating Christmas and Easter. That was not in any Jewish-way-of-life handbook that I knew of. Sylvia and Myron’s decision to sit shiva was up for discussion, but it would have to keep for now.

Sylvia had let the doctor out. She was headed for the kitchen and told me to follow her. She closed the door behind us.

‘I don’t want Ralph here!’ she fumed.

What? Well, those pills he gave you are fucking useless!

I glared at her. ‘Why not? Ralph’s not a stranger. Joe was his uncle.’

‘Not his real uncle, he’s adopted!’

Oh, really? So NOW he’s adopted. Then I guess it’s okay for me to be sleeping with him? Those sentiments would have to keep for another time and another place. But these wouldn’t: ‘You might not want him here, but I need him here. He stays. Your husband, my father!’ Xena warrior, not so princess-like. Sylvia didn’t argue but she got her wish. Only because I didn’t even want me here.

Thank you, Paula Houseman and RahelsRandomResources


About the author

Paula Houseman was once a graphic designer. But when the temptation to include ‘the finger’ as part of a logo for a forward-moving women’s company proved too much, she knew it was time to give away design. Instead, she took up writing.

She found she was a natural with the double entendres (God knows she’d been in enough trouble as a child for dirty wordplay).

As a published writer of earthy chick lit and romantic comedy, Paula gets to bend, twist, stretch and juice up universal experiences to shape reality the way she wants it, even if it is only in books. But at the same time, she can make it more real, so that her readers feel part of the sisterhood. Or brotherhood (realness has nothing to do with gender).

Through her books, Paula also wants to help the reader escape into life and love’s comic relief. And who doesn’t need to sometimes?

Her style is a tad Monty Pythonesque because she adores satire. It helps defuse all those gaffes and thoughts that no one is too proud of.

Paula lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband. No other creatures. The kids have flown the nest and the dogs are long gone.

Social Media Links – Twitter: Goodreads: Facebook: LinkedIn:

Reflected destinies – Florence Keeling

Laura is happy and content, she has a new boyfriend and loves her job teaching primary school pupils in London. But when she inherits a rundown house from a stranger on her 30th birthday, memories of her prom night come flooding back, memories of a scary encounter and an antique mirror in the very same house.

Laura visits the house with all its secrets and as she unravels the clues she reveals the biggest secret of all: her own destiny. But how can you change the future if it’s already written in the past?



Guest post

I am happy to bring you a guest post written by the aythor about writing a time travel novel. Enjoy!


I am a huge fan of Doctor Who and Outlander, two very different things but with one thing in common, time travel. I have always been fascinated with time travel and portals to other worlds and dimensions. How wonderful would it be to travel backwards in time to see history in the making or forwards to see what the future holds?

The main challenge for me with time travel in this novel was that Reflected Destinies was never meant to be a fantasy novel so the mirror portal had to be a believable part of the story. I have tried to make it a simple thing, with links to magic and at the end of the story we discover how the mirror actually works.

I have been asked a number of times now if I am going to write a sequel to Reflected Destinies and I know the reason why people want one but to do a sequel with the story that people want would cause all sorts of time travel problems and render the first story impossible so although I have thought of a story, it would follow on from where Reflected Destinies ends.

I really enjoyed the time travel aspect of the story and haven’t ruled out using it again in the future but with a more epic fantasy novel. Time travel fascinates me and if I could travel back in time I would love to visit the Tudor period or maybe bring the Tudors forward to our time. Just imagine what they would make of our world? I’m sure we’d all be executed for witchcraft with all the technology and discoveries we have now.

It was easier to bring Ben forward to our time because although the 1940s was a very different era, they were starting to imagine and discover things and were more forward thinking and open minded. Ben especially is eager to change with the times and loves nothing more than learning about the future.

Time travel is of course an unknown quantity, no one knows if it actually exists or not so from that point of view you can pretty much do what you like with it. No one can tell you it’s wrong or implausible because, let’s face it, no one knows if it is or isn’t. But I didn’t want to be too fantastical about it. I wanted people to really believe that Ben had come from another time and I hope I have made him a believable character.

I chose to use the 1940s as I love World War Two and all the history and stories that we need to remember and learn from. I think it is a period in history that is close to my heart because my grandparents lived through it, in fact two of them lived through the first one as well. This just brings everything closer to home and I believe the horrors of it should never be forgotten.

Thank you, Florence Keeling and RachelsRandomResources.


About the author

Florence Keeling adopted for her pen-name her Great Grandmother’s name, chosen because of the shared birthday of April Fool’s Day. She is married with two teenage chidren. Born and raised in Coventry, England she now lives just outside in Nuneaton. Reflected Destinies is her first novel. Florence Keeling also writes for children under the name of Lily Mae Walters.

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The Victoria lie – Sarah Marie Graye

When is a lie a lifeline? To Tori lies are everything.

ZOE wants to end her life. But she can’t just leave a note. She needs to say goodbye to boyfriend JAMES and best friend ALISON.

TORI is waiting in the wings to fill the space ZOE will leave behind, wanting to claim both James and Alison for herself.

But with ZOE still alive and Alison’s childhood friend RUBY now on the scene vying to fill the gap, TORI realises she has her work cut out.

Just what lengths is TORI willing to go to in order to claim Alison and James for herself?




I’m sharing an excerpt from Chapter 2 when Alison finds out her best friend Zoe was discovered collapsed on the London Underground after taking an overdose. Enjoy!


I have no idea how to process this – any of it. Not only Zoe wanting to die, but her choosing the tube as her final resting place? Surrounded by strangers?

There’s a junior doctor staring at me, waiting for me to say something. Words rush through my brain faster than any train on the London Underground, but none of them make the short route to my tongue. So instead I concentrate on staring back at him.

He’s skinny, but seems surprisingly normal in comparison to the news he’s just delivered. Considering his build, the long sleeve T-shirt he’s wearing under his scrubs is probably to keep him warm in the cool hospital air. But it could also be a makeshift force field between him and his scrubs, to protect him from the emotional side of his job.

The hospital is the only place I’ve been today that hasn’t been like a sauna – the tube, the office, the client meeting. But after the news I’ve just been given, I long to be anywhere else, melting on the outside not the inside. I flex my tongue.

“The tube?” – it’s all I can manage.

But it’s enough. He was simply waiting for me to speak as a sign that I was ready for the next piece of information. He shifts forward in his seat, the way someone does when they want to be gentle, protect you, treat you like a child. I mentally brace myself – what could be worse than the news I’ve already been given?

“The overdose Zoe took was a serious one, and her liver is in distress, but she’s very much alive. At the moment.”

He waits for more words from me. I want to ask what he means by “at the moment” – is she still dying or not? I search the trains of thought hurtling through my head for the right words.

“But the tube?”

He doesn’t know the answer. How can he? What explanation is there for such alien behaviour?

“A Paracetamol overdose is potentially a slow death. It can take a good few days, often a week or more. People take an overdose, pass out and wake up shortly afterwards, believing they’ve survived their actions. But often they are just at the beginning of their problems. So she might very well be relieved to be alive, not realising that she could have done irreversible damage.”

I stare down at my feet while I let the words sink in. I look up at him again when the pause becomes uncomfortable.

“It will take a few days before we can fully assess the situation,” he explains. “And the treatments we have don’t always work. Unfortunately, we can’t always offer a liver transplant to someone who chooses to take an overdose.”

I wait for him to tell me how Zoe is one of the ones that’s going to be saved.

“She’s sleeping at the moment, but I can take you to her if you want.”

I nod. He can’t make me that promise.

Thank you, Sarah Marie Graye and RachelsRandomResources


About the author

British writer Sarah Marie Graye is the author of The Butterfly Effect series, which looks at suicides and those left behind. The Second Cup, the first book in the series, was published in July 2017, and this Blog Tour is to celebrate the launch of the second book in the series, The Victoria Lie

Social Media Links





The Mosul Legacy – Lowery Christopher


Mosul, Iraq, 2016 – once ISIL’s greatest conquest but fast becoming a giant graveyard, where the difference between a gruesome death or wretched survival is just a matter of chance. As attacks by the Western coalition forces devastate the city, even senior ISIL officers like Karl realise defeat is inevitable.

On his instructions, two ISIL jihadists travel across the EU Schengen Zone, planning to bring terror to a Western European city. German police officer Max Kellerman is on their tail – can he find them in time to prevent a catastrophic loss of life?

Hema and Faqir Al-Douri flee the Mosul death trap in search of peace and safety in Western Europe. As poor, homeless refugees, they face the impossible task of crossing unfriendly borders in Asia and Eastern Europe to reach the safe-haven they dream of. Their journey is fraught with danger and protecting their family demands sacrifices they could never have imagined.

The Al-Douri’s desperate attempt to find freedom in the face of heartless bureaucracy, murderous violence and venal corruption is in stark contrast with the jihadists’ dark intent as they journey across a borderless Europe.




I am happy to share an extract with you. Enjoy!


Cologne, Germany
March 2016
The studio flat was in a small, shabby apartment building
in the Kalk district of Cologne, not far from the mosque.
The facade of the building was scarred by primitive
graffiti writings and drawings in a mixture of German,
English and Arabic – complaints about the massive
increase in the Muslim community in the city due to the
influx of one million immigrants during the Middle East
wars. The most vicious and obscene messages daubed on
this and the neighbouring blocks had been added since
the sexual attacks against hundreds of women during
the New Year’s Eve celebrations. Alongside a bright red
swastika drawn with blood running down from it was
scrawled, ‘That bitch Merkel’s immigration policy will
destroy our country.’
A battered square table took up most of the room and
the man who had rented the place two months ago was
lying on a mattress on the floor when the ‘ping’ of an
email arriving on his laptop roused him. The message was
on his ‘’ address and said simply,
‘My Travel Dossier’. He opened up the travel agent
site offering trips to Australia and New Zealand then
entered the coordinates he’d been given by text message
on his phone and entered a site in the Dark Web, where
he found the next link. A password request came up
and he typed in ‘redemption16’. A file containing a PDF
document entitled ‘Instructions Part One’ was revealed.
The second password was ‘joyfulday’. Written in Arabic,
the document contained drawings, photographs and
diagrams. He didn’t download it in case his computer
might be interrogated later, but it took a while to print
on his clapped-out old printer, then he closed the link.
He knew it would be removed within the hour by the
The first eleven pages compared various options,
the advantages, disadvantages and risks of each type
of process. The last page was a general list of the kind
of materials he would need to purchase. There were
many everyday items that could be acquired in the
local supermarket, but he didn’t want to risk attracting
attention by buying anything there except food. There
would be other less innocuous materials to buy later and
he wanted to avoid any unnecessary risks until then. He
would give a list of those items to his younger brother,
Jamil, to purchase. He was only twelve and looked like
an angel.
By many standards, Ibrahim bin Omar al-Ahmad was
not much more than a boy himself. In January he had
celebrated his twentieth birthday at a pizza restaurant
with Jamil and their six-year-old sister, Fatima. They
didn’t live with him but with his mother, a few streets
away. He mostly saw Jamil at the mosque since he had
moved out of their mother’s flat, but he came from time
to time when he wanted to talk, and he often brought
Fatima. They were the only reasons he was still living
in this filthy country full of corrupt German infidels. He
hadn’t informed his brother of his plan; the boy was still

20 21
struggling to come to terms with the Imam’s preaching,
but Ibrahim was sure he would soon see the light,
especially after the event he was planning. He would
become a hero, a martyr to the cause, and Jamil would
be proud of him.
It was coming up to noon and he heard through the
open window the sound of the muezzin from the nearby
mosque calling him to worship. Ibrahim washed his
feet then unfolded his prayer mat and laid the frayed
fabric on the floor, kneeling on it to make his Dhuhr
midday supplication. Afterwards he sat at the table
with a slice of cold pizza and a carton of orange juice.
Before turning his attention to the instructions file, he
opened up another shadow site, a clandestine ‘News
Agency’, sponsored by ISIL. To cleanse his mind of his
surroundings, Ibrahim watched a video posted a couple
of months before by his brothers in arms. He had seen
it many times before. The first part showed the mass
execution of over seven hundred Shia prison inmates
in Mosul, Iraq, by firing squads using truck-mounted
Russian NSV heavy machine guns. This exploit was a
show of ‘security cleansing’ after ISIL’s capture of the
city in June 2014.
Ibrahim’s father, an ISIL officer fighting under his
original Iraqi name of Abu bin al Khattab, had been
killed there the following year. His obsession with
secrecy and self-effacement was the reason that the
German authorities had never taken any interest in his
family. He had left Cologne for Copenhagen in 2014,
arrived in Iraq via Istanbul, then fought for over a year
and sacrificed his life for ISIL, all without fanfare or
recognition. His family had been told of his death by the
Imam Mohammad. No one else knew he was no longer
in Germany, let alone dead in a besieged, condemned city,
his body probably buried beneath tons of rubble along
with thousands of other men, women and children, all
martyrs to the glory of Allah.
Ibrahim knelt and chanted SubhanAllah wa biHamdihi,
several times, praising Allah and remembering his father’s
glorious martyrdom.
He went back to his laptop to watch the second part
of the film. This featured a series of huge detonations as
ISIL explosives specialists demolished the two-thousandyear-old
Arch of Triumph, in Palmyra, Syria. A thrill of
power and achievement flooded through his body as the
series of ear-splitting explosions gradually reduced each
part of the ancient edifice to rubble, leaving only a few
remnants of the entrance arch still standing, resembling,
as it now was, a broken doorway into a lost civilisation.
The noise and destruction were so deeply erotic and
sensual that he had an erection and had to masturbate
to calm himself down. As always, he felt ashamed at his
lack of mental discipline and swore it wouldn’t happen
He replayed the second part of the video again,
revelling in this demonstration of pure, unrestrained
power and intent. A demonstration that had been seen
and understood by every nation on earth, testifying to
the inevitable destitution of the corrupt civilisations that
would soon be removed by the Islamist movement. He
pondered on this vicarious revenge, regretting once again
he hadn’t joined the group of friends who had left for

22 23
Turkey, en route to Iraq, six months before. Since they
had received news of his father’s death, he had thought
of nothing else but to go over to avenge him.
Ibrahim had never been close to his mother but
idolised his father, known by everyone as Jabbar, a name
which described his character; a tough, determined
and resourceful man who, in 2003, somehow managed
to save his pregnant wife and seven-year-old son from
the Iraqi death trap and find a way to safety in Europe.
Germany, with its disbelieving infidel people, was no
substitute for their country, but at least it wasn’t the UK
or US, the treacherous conspirators who had invaded
their homeland and murdered many of their friends and
He had not been a committed Islamist until, deprived
of the father he had admired and respected, the lost and
lonely teenager had sought consolation and advice in
the mosque. Imam Mohammad had easily converted
him into a committed ISIL believer, ready to follow his
father’s example and offer his life to their crusade. This
was a cause of huge friction between him and his mother.
She had lost her husband in what she thought was a
senseless adventure; a meaningless gesture, flying off to
die in a country which was no longer his own, a country
where coalition forces and its own army were murdering
its citizens with indiscriminate shelling and bombing.
Another anonymous death to add to the hundreds of
thousands of unnamed victims.
She implored Ibrahim not to become part of those
horrible statistics, but he was adamant. His father’s
brilliant career and his family’s life had been destroyed
by the murderous US-European alliance that had stolen
his country and forced him to flee with them like a
cowardly criminal. All this had been done in the name of
‘liberation’ and invented threats of potential attacks with
‘weapons of mass destruction’ which didn’t even exist.
The Imam had explained to him that the invasion of Iraq
had only two objectives; to satisfy the bloodlust of the
US’ and UK’s megalomaniac politicians and to steal their
most precious resource, their oil, leaving its 23 million
citizens with nothing but war, ruin and starvation, and
leaving his family in a foreign country surrounded by
people they hated. His mother didn’t understand what
had happened, but now he did, and he would make them
pay. He would travel the same road as his father and, if
necessary, suffer the same fate.
Then it seemed his plans had been thwarted by Allah.
His mother suffered a serious heart attack and couldn’t
work; he had felt guilty and obliged to stay to help look
after his brother and sister. For six months he worked at
two menial jobs to pay the rent on their flat, foregoing
his plans for the sake of his family. But now his mother’s
health was improving and she was able to work again,
things were going to change. Now it was his turn to strike
out at the non-believers, to show that though he wasn’t
in the front line of attack, he was fighting for his beliefs,
fighting for and with his brothers in ISIL. Through the
Imam’s preaching, Allah had revealed to him a different
plan and two months ago he’d moved out of the family’s
flat with this new, deadly purpose in mind. His patience
had not been in vain; his glorious project was worth the

24 25
delay. He took up the instruction manual and started
reading and making notes, learning new skills.
Ash Shurta Neighbourhood, Mosul, Iraq
‘We can’t take this any longer. The children are having
awful nightmares, it’s too much to expect them to see
this slaughter day after day, week after week. They
can’t cope with it anymore and neither can we.’ Hema
Al-Douri took her husband by the shoulders, gazing up
imploringly into his eyes, tears pouring down her cheeks.
Faqir looked at the face of the woman he had fallen in
love with twenty years before. She was still the loveliest
person he’d ever known, but the strain of living under
the ISIL rule was showing; today, she seemed to have
aged by ten years.
Earlier that week, members of the Mosul Battalion,
the secret resistance group, had attacked a truck carrying
six ISIL fighters with rifle fire, killing or injuring them,
before disappearing into the bowels of the city. Although
most of the supporters of the movement dared only to
spray the letter ‘M’, meaning Muqawama – Resistance
– on the walls of buildings, this was one of the rare
attempts at retaliation, all resulting in the same penalty,
the callous murder of more residents of the city. That
morning, the couple and their family had been forced to
witness twenty innocent civilians being tortured to death
by flame throwers in an unsuccessful attempt to identify
the culprits.
‘I’m worried about the girls,’ she went on, her voice
breaking with sobs. ‘Even with those awful niqabs they
have to wear, these ISIL creatures can still see they’re
young and beautiful. They get molested every time we
walk along the street by some stinking pervert. Today
I had to stop Malik from pushing the man away. He’s
going to get into trouble, he’ll be whipped or shot if his
temper gets the better of him.’
Faqir put his arms around her, searching for something
positive to say. ‘Be thankful he hasn’t had the idea of
joining the Battalion,’ he spoke in a whisper, even
pronouncing the name was punishable by death.
She went on, ‘And it’s not just the children. I saw Rana
at the market, she’s going crazy. Her parents have been
rounded up with some other older people and put in the
cells. They’re starting to grab them to be used as human
shields or suicide bombers when the street fighting starts
For the first time, Faqir silently thanked God that he
and his wife had only one surviving parent, her mother,
Hadiya, who lived with them and their four children
in two of the bedrooms of their small hotel-restaurant
near the university on Mosul’s left bank. The university
was now an ISIL headquarters and training facility
and Faqir’s premises no longer functioned as a public
facility. The other bedrooms and the dining room served
as a dosshouse for fifty fighters and they were expected
to provide meals twice a day for them and any other
militants who called in. Even after Hussein’s downfall,
they had scraped a living; for several years US troops had
regularly mingled with local customers and life had been
bearable, but after the 2014 ISIL invasion, their business
was destroyed.
The Al-Douri family were Christians, the only

26 27
reason for their survival under the ISIL doctrine being
the restaurant they owned. In July 2014, just after the
occupation, like all Christians, they had received an
ultimatum from the new regime; convert to Islam or be
executed or pay a ‘protection tax’ (known as jiziya), to
avoid the death sentence. Faqir had managed to barter his
restaurant business as payment of the tax. The premises
were large and his family managed the restaurant well;
the jihadists needed to eat and sleep so it suited them to
spare their lives. When he had originally made the deal,
a rate per night and per meal had been agreed, but it was
now over a year since they’d seen a dinar in payment and
his hard-earned savings were gradually dwindling away.
In the meantime, like every building in the area, the
hotel was slowly but surely being destroyed by the
escalating coalition attacks on the city. Every morning,
the streets around the university were littered with
bodies and body parts, either from the night-time US
air attacks or the collateral damage of the terrorist’s
own indiscriminate rockets and mortar bombing. Once
the Iraqi forces entered Mosul, it would be hand-tohand
fighting and Rana’s parents and hundreds or even
thousands like them would just be cannon fodder. And
with or without his restaurant, as Christians, he and his
family would not be spared.
The couple were blessed with twin sons, sixteen years
old, and girls of fourteen and thirteen. Until now, because
of the facility of the restaurant premises, the jihadists had
left them alone, although they were called out regularly,
like that morning, to witness beatings and executions in
the nearby square. Men, women, children and anyone
who was considered to have disobeyed the ultra-strict
mockery of Shariah law imposed by the caliphate’s
bullies. In the end, we’ll be just another example of their
pathological dogma, he realised.
Hema was saying tearfully, ‘The kids are so unhappy
and frustrated, squabbling amongst themselves and with
us, hiding from the bombs and those evil people who
can’t wait for us to be killed, or to transgress some stupid
rule so they can beat or execute us. When it’s safe to
go outside, they never see their friends, there’s no point,
they’re not allowed to laugh or have fun.’ She wiped
her eyes. ‘They’re surrounded by death and destruction
that children shouldn’t have to witness, just waiting
and wondering if it will ever be over and they can live a
normal life again. The boys won’t take it much longer,
one day they’ll do something to defy these monsters and
we’ll all suffer, more than we already do.’
Looking bleakly at him, she said, ‘We both know how
it will end. We’re amongst the few Christians still alive
here and when the terrorists are facing defeat, we’ll be
the first to be sacrificed. They’ll take our daughters as
sex slaves and send our sons out with rifles, so they’ll be
killed by the Iraqis and we’ll be used as suicide bombers
or something more dreadful.’ She broke down in tears
again, sobbing desperately. ‘We’ve got to get away from
this place before it’s too late to save our family.’
He held her close. ‘I know, we should have taken our
chance when there were still visas to be had. I’ve been
concentrating on surviving and so far, it’s worked, but
you’re right, if we stay, it’s finished, there’ll be no survival
for us. But there’s still a chance we can get away, we’ve

28 29
got some cash put aside, enough to buy our way out
and survive for a while, if we’re careful. I’ve heard some
names, guys who can get documents and help people like
us to escape. I’m going to get in touch, to find a way out
as soon as we possibly can.’
She wiped her eyes. ‘You promise?’ When he nodded
gravely, being a pragmatic woman, she asked, ‘Is England
still your first choice?’
‘There’s no other sensible option. It’s the only language
we speak reasonably well and the English are the most
welcoming people in the world. You loved it there.’ He
was referring to the trip they’d taken to London for their
honeymoon, in 1998, before Hussein’s relations with
the Western powers broke down completely. They had
kept up their language practice, often speaking English
with their children, to relieve the constant feeling of
being trapped in a Muslim world inhabited by fear and
‘If we can get into Turkey, I’m sure we can make it
to Europe, there’s thousands of people who’ve done it.’
He spoke convincingly, but he knew that Turkey had
suspended issuing visas to Iraqis earlier that year and
without them, he didn’t know how he’d get his family
across the border. He needed documents and he needed
a guide to have any chance of getting safely out of
Mosul and across the border. If they did make it, then
the only feasible routes were through Greece and across
the Aegean to Italy, or by ‘The Balkan Route’, through
Bulgaria and Romania to the Germanic states in northern
‘There has to be a way around the visa problem,
I know refugees are still getting through the Turkish
border. I’ll find people to help us to do the same.’ He
had a sudden feeling of panic when he uttered the word,
‘refugees’. That’s what we’ll become, homeless refugees
at the mercy of everyone who wants to take advantage
of us. But it can’t be worse than what will happen to us
here. He kissed Hema’s brow, ‘Stop worrying. I promise
I’ll find a solution.’
‘Be careful, don’t take any risks, or you’ll make things
worse. We need to find someone very soon, someone we
can trust, who won’t be suspected.’
Faqir knew Hema was right, but he would have to take
risks, whether he liked it or not, or they would never get
away from the Mosul death trap.

Thank you, Christopher Lowery and LoveBooksGroup.


About the author

Christopher Lowery is a ‘Geordie’, born in the northeast of England, who graduated in finance and economics after reluctantly giving up career choices in professional golf and rock & roll. Chris left the UK for Switzerland in 1966 and has lived and worked in six different countries over the last 50 years. He was a real estate developer and Telecoms/Internet entrepreneur and inventor and has created several successful companies around the world, notably Interoute Communications, now Europe’s largest cloud services platform provider and Wyless Group, now part of Kore Telematics, one of the world’s largest Internet of Things providers.

In 2014, Chris started writing historically/factually based thrillers and the first two volumes of his African Diamonds Trilogy – The Angolan Clan & The Rwandan Hostage, were published by Urbane Publications, a UK publisher. These books are based upon his family’s experiences during the Portuguese Revolution of the Carnations of 1974 and his daughter’s work as a delegate with the ICRC in Rwanda in 1996. The third volume, The Dark Web, was published in April 2018, and draws on his experience as one of the creators of The Internet of Things, between 2002 and 2016. His fourth book, The Mosul Legacy, an unrelated story, will be published in September 2018. His illustrated All About Jack stories for children are written in humorous verse, and were published privately.

Reflected Destinies – Florence Keeling

Laura is happy and content, she has a new boyfriend and loves her job teaching primary school pupils in London. But when she inherits a rundown house from a stranger on her 30th birthday, memories of her prom night come flooding back, memories of a scary encounter and an antique mirror in the very same house.
Laura visits the house with all its secrets and as she unravels the clues she reveals the biggest secret of all: her own destiny. But how can you change the future if it’s already written in the past?



My review

Mirror, mirror on the wall…

I sooooo adore the cover. It reflects the content perfectly. But it’s not only the outside of the book that I loved. The story itself is completely and utterly beautiful.

It’s a bit spooky in the beginning, but the whole is wonderful. I sometimes held my breath, I sometimes sighed with relief, I smiled at the little jokes, I sometimes felt tears well up in my eyes. I was totally captivated and it seemed like my mind followed Laura everywhere.

I can only add one thing. This is a must read, without a doubt. 5 stars more than deserved.

Thank you, Florence Keeling and RachelsRandomResources.


About the author

Florence Keeling adopted for her pen-name her Great Grandmother’s name, chosen because of the shared birthday of April Fool’s Day. She is married with two teenage chidren. Born and raised in Coventry, England she now lives just outside in Nuneaton. Reflected Destinies is her first novel. Florence Keeling also writes for children under the name of Lily Mae Walters.

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Strand of faith – Rachel J. Bonner

When the choice is between love and life, how can anyone decide?

A girl and a monk, both with extraordinary mental powers, have compelling reasons not to fall in love. But those from whom they expect support are manipulating them both because their choices will have consequences for the rest of the world.

After a stormy youth, Brother Prospero has found comfort and fulfilment in the monastery. That is, until he discovers something that forces him to reconsider his whole vocation. To follow his heart, he’ll have to face his demons again, outside the security of the monastery. Is it worth the risk? Can he beat them this time? Or will they finally destroy him?

Orphaned and mistreated, Leonie has found sanctuary and safety at the abbey. All she wants is to learn how to manage her unusual abilities so that she is not a danger to those around her. When she comes into contact with Prospero everything threatens to spiral out of her control. Whether she leaves or whether she stays, how can she possibly avoid destroying – yet again – those she has come to care about?

Abbot Gabriel is faced with an impossible choice. He can do nothing and watch the world descend into war. Or he can manipulate events and ensure peace – at the cost of two lives that he is responsible for. He knows what he has to do but is he strong enough to sacrifice those he loves?



Cover reveal

Today I am happy to reveal this cover. Like what you see? The book will be out in November!

Thank you, Rachel J. Bonner and RachelsRandomResources


About the author

Rachel J Bonner is the author of the four book Choices and Consequences series, the first of which, Strand of Faith, is due out in November 2018.

Getting a degree in engineering, followed by a career in accountancy is probably not a conventional path to becoming an author, particularly in paranormal romance. Rachel says that, although accountancy isn’t anything like as boring as everyone thinks, writing is a lot more fun. When not writing, she can be found walking in the beautiful countryside near where she lives, which has influenced much of the scenery in her books, or shooting things with her local archery club. Target shooting only, honest. Nothing to worry about.

She also enjoys swimming, eating chocolate chip cookies and growing aromatic herbs, especially thyme and rosemary. It’s no coincidence that her heroine likes the same things.

You can find out more about her books and sign up for Rachel’s newsletters at

Cover Designer’s Social Media @oliverpengilley


The Little Christmas Teashop of Second Chances – Donna Ashcroft

Snow is beginning to fall around the cosy Castle Teashop, with its toasty log fire, scrumptious mince pies and delicious hot chocolates. Romance is in the air and Lily King is hoping some winter magic will help to make her dreams come true…

Twenty-five-year-old Lily King is wondering when her life is going to start. She adores working at the much-loved Castle Teashop, surrounded by familiar faces and delicious cakes. But she’s stuck in a rut. She’s just been dumped by her boyfriend and her dream job seems to be slipping through her fingers.

When her best friend Emily Campbell needs urgent help to organise her enchanting Christmas wedding, Lily realises it’s finally her moment to shine and reach for the opportunities she’s been wishing for. Can she pull off the biggest celebration Castle Cove has ever seen or will something – or someone – make things more complicated than she imagined?

Rebellious and handsome photographer Josh Havellin-Scott has always felt like an outsider, especially next to his perfect older brother, who is about to get married. At the last minute, Josh finds himself roped into plans for the Big Day, the very last thing he wants to do, until he is meets creative and quirky Lily King…

When Lily and Josh are thrown together, it’s clear they couldn’t be more different. But they begin to realise that opposites can attract – and sometimes when you’re not looking for love, it comes and finds you when you least expect it. With some festive magic, will they manage to work together and save the day?

And could they discover a winter romance of their very own along the way?



My review

Pleasing people is good, but don’t put your own wishes on the back burner …

The author has taken me to Castle Cove before and I loved that story. It’s not easy to surpass a good book, but the author has shown she has not one single problem doing that.

Although the story takes place in the run up to Christmas, it’s not soggy one. I, for one, am very happy about that. This has so much more depth. It’s about standing up for yourself and chasing your dreams, about family and accepting people for who they are or what they want to be. Of course it is all spiced up with a lot of love and romance.

It was very hard to put this lovely and fluently written book down. I hope I will be able to travel to Castle Cove again real soon. 5 stars.

Thank you, Donna Ashcroft, Bookouture and Netgalley.


About the author

Donna wrote novels for over ten years before being published. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and was a joint winner of the Katie Fforde Bursary in 2017. Her first two books Summer at the Castle Cafe and Christmas at the Castle Cafe will publish in 2018.

Donna loves a happy ending and is never happier than when she’s escaping into a romance novel or movie. When she’s not reading or writing she’ll probably be found hoovering … or negotiating with her teenagers about who is doing the washing up.

You can find Donna on Twitter @Donnashc or visit her at


The Pretender – Katie Ward

France 2000: Two babies are born on the same day just two hours apart – but to very different lives. Isabella is a Princess and heir to the French throne, while Sophia is born into a life of poverty and abuse at the hands of her father. At the age of 18, Sophia runs away from home. That same night, Isabella is also fleeing from the burden of her royal life when she finds Sophia slumped at the palace gates. Amazed by how alike they look, Isabella proposes a daring plot – to exchange their lives for one week. ‘The Pretender’ is an emotionally intense and compelling story of friendship, love and the strange power of destiny.



Guest post

I am happy to share a guest post, written by the author with you about achieving goals. I a beautiful and emotional story. Take a look at her book as well, please. Enjoy!


As a child, I remember being told that everyone was born with a talent, that there was one thing everyone excelled at. That this was their calling in life. So, when my Primary teacher asked to show my mum a story I’d written, commenting “Katie certainly knows how to tell a story” I was sure this was my calling in life.

However, after a tumultuous time at secondary school the odds were stacked against me. Sitting in the chair opposite my careers officer ready to discuss my options after I left school, I felt optimistic. After all, I knew exactly what I wanted to be…a journalist. Relaying this to the careers officer, I remember there being a slight pause until she replied “I think working in a shop would be more suitable for you”. She then proceeded to pass me leaflets on this as I sat in stunned silence.

An extended period of sickness that saw me admitted to hospital in the beginning of Year 10, had set me back but I was confident I could turn it around. However, as the exams approached, I realised that I needed support. I spoke to my teachers to ask for extra tuition but each time I was told I was fine and that I should carry on the way I was. They weren’t aware that my aunt had been recently diagnosed with terminal cancer with a prognosis of three months to live. Previously, when I had tried to seek support from my teachers for bullying which saw me unable to take the school bus I was called a liar. Only when they were told it would be escalated to the local education authority did they address the issue. So, I had little confidence in them understanding this situation and I wasn’t going to tell them and give them the opportunity to call me a liar once again.

I worked hard to try and prepare for my exams but unfortunately it wasn’t enough. The circumstances were too difficult and even in my best subjects I did badly in, not gaining enough to take up my college course as planned. Suddenly, a voice asked me how I’d done. Looking up, I saw it was one of the teachers who had called me a liar. She had never said a nice word to me, in all my years at school. I didn’t want to answer.

“Not very well, I didn’t get enough to go to college.” I replied.

A broad smile crept across her face as she replied smugly, “Oh dear, you’ll just have to come back to school next year, won’t you?”

In that moment, I vowed to myself that whatever I did, I would not go back to school.

Speaking to my mum, I was inconsolable, the tears I had tried hard to stop at school came streaming down my face.

“The best revenge is success, Katie. There’s more than one route to get to where you want to?” My mum gently soothed.

As her words sunk in, my tears stopped. Asking my aunt if I could borrow her phone, I called the college. For the next two days, I negotiated with a frankly perplexed tutor for a chance to try. Finally, the tutor agreed to a second interview to decide if I should be given a chance.

So, the day after my aunt’s funeral, I gave a presentation on the British media’s differing portrayals of Princess Diana from saint to sinner and everything in between. I was immediately accepted to start the course on a three-month basis, on the proviso I retake my GCSE English and that I have a formal review at the end of term to ascertain my suitability to continue.

By the end of term, I was doing so well that I didn’t need a review and completed my course as well as successfully retaking my GCSE English. By the time I left, I had been accepted to my first choice university to study Journalism. Despite 2500 people competing for 48 places I took up my course having gained more than the required grades I had needed to get in.

After successfully completing my degree, I sent a photo of my graduation to the teacher who had said I should go back to school.

As I prepare to release my debut novel, ‘The Pretender’, I feel a great sense of relief that I’m on my way to achieving the dream they always believed I couldn’t.

Thank you, Katie Ward and RachelsRandomResources.


About the author

Katie Ward always knew she wanted to write for a living. However, she was told by her careers advisor that “it might be more appropriate for you to work in a shop”. When Katie didn’t get the grades she needed to get into college, she negotiated a three month trial. After successfully completing the course she secured a place at her first choice university to study Journalism.

After realising she wanted to be an author, Katie moved to Dublin where she worked her way up from receptionist to Executive Assistant at Merrill Lynch. Katie continued to write in her spare time, submitting her short story into the “Do the Write Thing” competition being run by Irish TV show ‘Seoige and O’Shea’. This story was originally written when Katie was 14 after she was inspired by an article in her favourite teen magazine. Katie was the only non-Irish author selected to have her story published in an anthology of the same name which reached 19 in the Irish Best sellers List. Katie was also shortlisted for a competition judged by MAN Booker Prize winning author Roddy Doyle which was run by Metro Eireann newspaper.

Katie currently lives in Devon with her cat (aka ‘Her Royal Fluffiness’) where she sings in a community choir and has recently taken up Archery. Katie’s favourite author has been Roald Dahl since she was a child as she loves the dark edge he brings to his books. On the flip side though, Katie loves Disney, magic, unicorns and a good rom com film at the cinema with her friends.

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