Five Star Friday – The Huntingfield Paintress by Pamela Holmes

The Huntingfield Paintress by Pamela Holmes

Looking for something to read over the weekend?

Nothing on your book radar screaming read me?

Then take a look at my Five Star Friday pick. It may be old, it may be new. But it is a book that is special to me , one that has captured both my imagination and my heart.

She steps down from the carriage into the yard. Behind the snort of horses and whispers of wind, there is silence. It clings to the branches of the trees, hides in the hedges and the nooks of walls, seeping out again when the murmured words between her husband, William Holland, and the coachman cease. Moonlight spills down between broken clouds. There is the Rectory, their new home. No welcoming light at the window, only a lantern hanging by a closed front door. And over there, the church, the purpose of their life here, silhouetted against the sky, headstones set around it like crooked teeth.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Plucky and headstrong Mildred Holland revelled in the eight years she and her husband, the vicar William Holland, spent travelling 1840s Europe, finding inspiration in recording beautiful artistic treasures and collecting exotic artifacts. But William’s new posting in a tiny Suffolk village is a world apart and Mildred finds a life of tea and sympathy dull and stifling in comparison. When a longed-for baby does not arrive, she sinks into despondency and despair. What options exist for a clever, creative woman in such a cossetted environment? A sudden chance encounter fires Mildred’s creative imagination and she embarks on a herculean task that demands courage and passion. Defying her loving but exasperated husband, and mistrustful locals who suspect her of supernatural powers, Mildred rediscovers her passion and lives again through her dreams of beauty. Inspired by the true story of the real Mildred Holland and the parish church of Huntingfield in Suffolk, the novel is unique, emotive and beautifully crafted, just like the history that inspired it.

MY THOUGHTS:🌌🌌🌌🌌.5 brilliant stars for the Huntingfield Paintress. I empathised with Mildred (Millie to her adoring husband). She and William have spent many years travelling Europe gathering ideas for when their living, purchased for them by William’s uncle, at Huntingfield parish will be theirs.

But just because you dream longingly of something doesn’t mean that when it actually happens you will like it. Mildred feels isolated in Huntingfield. The people are largely parochial and seem boring to Mildred. They have led narrow insulated lives and love to gossip. They accept her help, but at the same time resent her for it. They are suspicious of her and her ‘foreign ideas’ including that of hand-washing to stop the spread of infection. And they are nothing less than ‘shocked’ when Mildred decides to paint the church ceiling after the fashion of the great European churches and to adorn it with angels, especially when she elects to dress like a man for her work as it is far more practical. She manages to make only one friend Anne, who then shuns her when she goes ahead with her painting.

But not everyone is prepared to pass her off as eccentric and leave her to get on with it. She has enemies in the fold. Those who wish to stop her. And will go to any lengths to do so.

This is a gentle book that slowly enfolds you like a warm blanket. The writing is beautiful and evocative of the era. While The Huntingfield Paintress is fiction, it is based on truth and the author has done her research well.

THE AUTHOR: Pamela Holmes was born in Charleston, South Carolina. At the age of eight, she moved with her family to England. She won the Jane Austen Short Story Award in 2014 and published her first novel The Huntingfield Paintress in 2016. Pamela lives in London with her husband, acclaimed cartoonist Kipper Williams.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Netgalley and Urbane Publications for providing a digital ARC of the Huntingfield Paintress by Pamela Holmes for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my profile page or the about page on for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my page


Dirty Little Secrets by Jo Spain

Dirty Little Secrets by Jo Spain

EXCERPT: The police men and women hovering around my body right now don’t know anything of my story yet. They don’t know anything at all, really. They’ve spent the last twenty-four hours trying to rid the house of flies and maggots and pests they know are here but can’t see – the mice and the rats. The knawing at my fingers and toes speak to their existence. It’s amazing there’s anything left of me.

It’s the heat, you see. After an unusually cold spring and early summer, I was doing okay, sitting there on my chair, silently decomposing. The same chair Ron from number seven bent me over for three and a half minutes of mind blowing passion the night before I died, leaving with my knickers scrunched up in his pocket.

I hope, for his sake, he’s got rid of them.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Death stalked the Vale.
In every corner, every whisper.
They just didn’t know it yet.

Six neighbours, six secrets, six reasons to want Olive Collins dead.

In the exclusive gated community of Withered Vale, people’s lives appear as perfect as their beautifully manicured lawns. Money, success, privilege – the residents have it all. Life is good.

There’s just one problem.

Olive Collins’ dead body has been rotting inside number four for the last three months. Her neighbours say they’re shocked at the discovery but nobody thought to check on her when she vanished from sight.

The police start to ask questions and the seemingly flawless facade begins to crack. Because, when it comes to Olive’s neighbours, it seems each of them has something to hide, something to lose and everything to gain from her death.

MY THOUGHTS: What a wonderful read! I romped through this, devouring all the revelations about Olive’s neighbours. We get to see things from everyone’s point of view, including that of the dead woman, the investigating officers, and Olive’s neighbours who, as it turns out, all have good reasons for wanting her dead.

I have to admit to not liking Jo Spain’s previous book, The Confession, at all. But I am so glad I decided to pick up Dirty Little Secrets. I loved it. It certainly lives up to its name. Dirty Little Secrets is gossipy and suspenseful, and totally unpredictable. The ending brought a huge smile to my face.

Dirty Little Secrets by Jo Spain is due for publication February 7, 2019. I definitely recommend pre-ordering this one.

THE AUTHOR: Jo Spain is the author of the Inspector Tom Reynolds series. Her first book, top ten bestseller With Our Blessing, was a finalist in the 2015 Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller. The Confession her first standalone thriller, was a number one bestseller and translated all over the world.
Jo is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, a former political advisor in the Irish parliament and former vice-chair of InterTrade Ireland business body.
She now writes novels and screenplays full-time. Her first co-written TV show TAKEN DOWN was broadcast in Ireland in 2018 and bought by international distributors Fremantle.
Jo lives in Dublin with her husband and four young children. In her spare time (she has four children, there is no spare time really) she likes to read. Her favourite authors include Pierre Lemaitre, Jo Nesbo, Liane Moriarty, Fred Vargas and Louise Penny. She also watches TV detective series and was slightly obsessed with The Bridge, Trapped and The Missing.
Jo thinks up her plots on long runs in the woods. Her husband sleeps with one eye open and all her friends have looked at her strangely since she won her publishing deal.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Quercus Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Dirty Little Secrets by Jo Spain for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my profile page or the about page on for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my page

A Taste of. . . Tuesday

The Child (Kate Waters, #2)

I somehow missed reading The Child by Fiona Barton when it came out. But having read The Widow  (💖💖💖💖💖) (Kate Waters #1) and, more recently, The Suspect (💖💕💖💕💖) (Kate Waters #3), I simply could not bear to think I had missed reading the middle book. Now I have a copy and hope to be starting it later this week.

Here’s a small taste of The Child that I hope will tempt you into picking up a copy and reading along with me…..

When I move his briefcase off the sofa, I see he’sbrought home a copy of the Evening Standard. He must have picked it up on the Tube.

I sit and read it while he showers away the cares of the day, and it’s then that I see the paragraph about the baby.

‘BABY’S BODY FOUND’, it says. Just a few lines about how a baby’s skeleton has been discovered on a building site in Woolwich and police are investigating. I keep reading it over and over. I can’t take it in properly, as if it’s in a foreign language.

But I know what it says and terror is coiling around me. Squeezing the air out of my lungs. Making it hard to breathe.



You Belong to Me by Mark Tilbury

You Belong To Me

EXCERPT: The basement seemed to call out to him. Remember the good times we had, Danny-boy? The days when the grass was greener, the sky bluer, and the blood was redder? Why don’t you come on in and sit with me a while? We can reminisce about the good old days. Dig up the past and see what the bones have to say. 

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Can two wrongs ever make a right?
The police never found fifteen-year-old Ellie Hutton. She vanished ten years ago after walking home from school along a disused railway track. But Danny Sheppard knows exactly what happened to her. She is dead and buried in a field near Lassiter’s Brook.
Now Cassie Rafferty has gone missing. Same age. Similar circumstances. And Danny also knows what has happened to her.
Can Danny fight his demons and tell the truth this time?
Or will history repeat itself and leave another innocent girl dead?

MY THOUGHTS: ‘Dark and gritty’ are words that certainly describe Mark Tilbury’s latest book ‘You Belong to Me’. It is set in an atmosphere of almost poverty. A place where desperation and violence go hand in hand, a culture of bullying prevails, alcohol and drugs are a means of survival, and the cycle seems to be stuck endlessly on repeat. If that sounds bleak, then that’s because it is bleak. Don’t go into this read expecting joyous moments or sudden redemption. There may be the occasional promise of sunshine on the horizon, but nothing more.

I have to admit that I struggled a little with this book, purely because of the bleakness. I could feel it sucking at me and to counteract that, read most of it sitting out in the sun of our New Zealand summer days. It was almost too bleak. . . there were too few moments of normality which, on my part, a few more would have been appreciated, and which would have provided a much needed contrast. Or am I just talking about my normality? Perhaps the setting of Mark’s book is normal for some people…

So, dark and gritty it is, and bleak. A story of mental illness in many guises, and the coping strategies that accompany it; of guilt and the damage it does knawing away at the psyche; of manipulation and revenge, of cruelty and bullying.

I can’t say that I enjoyed this book, but I kept turning the pages to see where it was taking me.


THE AUTHOR: Mark lives in a small village in the lovely county of Cumbria, although his books are set in Oxfordshire where he was born and raised.

After serving in the Royal Navy and raising his two daughters after being widowed, Mark finally took the plunge and self-published two books on Amazon, The Revelation Room and The Eyes of the Accused.

He’s always had a keen interest in writing, and is extremely proud to have had six novels published by Bloodhound Books, including his most recent release, You Belong To Me.

When he’s not writing, Mark can be found trying and failing to master blues guitar, and taking walks around the beautiful county of Cumbria.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to author Mark Tilbury and Bloodhound Books for providing a digital ARC of YouBelong to Me for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my profile page or the about page on for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my page

Watching What I’m Reading

It is early Monday morning here in New Zealand and I am watching the sun come up as I write this post, a day late. Thank you everyone for your best wishes for my son and his wedding day. It was absolutely perfect in every way. I didn’t get to take many photos as I was in charge of the toddler and those I did take were rushed and not great, so will share some of the professional ones with you when we get them.

Currently I am reading … I have literally only just started. . .

I Invited Her In

The Child (Kate Waters, #2)

This week I also plan to read

The Stone Circle (Ruth Galloway, #11)

Dr Ruth Galloway returns to north Norfolk in her latest chilling adventure.

DCI Nelson has been receiving threatening letters. They are anonymous, yet somehow familiar. They read like the letters that first drew him into the case of The Crossing Places, and to Ruth. But the author of those letters is dead. Or are they?

The past is reaching out for Ruth and Nelson, and its grip is deadly.

Loaded onto my i-pod, ready to start listening to this morning, is

The Masterpiece

Fiona Davis takes readers into the glamorous lost art school within Grand Central Terminal, where two very different women, fifty years apart, strive to make their mark on a world set against them.

For the nearly nine million people who live in New York City, Grand Central Terminal is a crown jewel, a masterpiece of design. But for Clara Darden and Virginia Clay, it represents something quite different.

For Clara, the terminal is the stepping stone to her future, which she is certain will shine as the brightly as the constellations on the main concourse ceiling. It is 1928, and twenty-five-year-old Clara is teaching at the lauded Grand Central School of Art. A talented illustrator, she has dreams of creating cover art for Vogue, but not even the prestige of the school can override the public’s disdain for a “woman artist.” Brash, fiery, confident, and single-minded–even while juggling the affections of two men, a wealthy would-be poet and a brilliant experimental painter–Clara is determined to achieve every creative success. But she and her bohemian friends have no idea that they’ll soon be blindsided by the looming Great Depression, an insatiable monster with the power to destroy the entire art scene. And even poverty and hunger will do little to prepare Clara for the greater tragedy yet to come.

Nearly fifty years later, in 1974, the terminal has declined almost as sharply as Virginia Clay’s life. Full of grime and danger, from the smoke-blackened ceiling to the pickpockets and drug dealers who roam the floor, Grand Central is at the center of a fierce lawsuit: Is the once-grand building a landmark to be preserved, or a cancer to be demolished? For Virginia, it is simply her last resort. Recently divorced, she has just accepted a job in the information booth in order to support herself and her college-age daughter, Ruby. But when Virginia stumbles upon an abandoned art school within the terminal and discovers a striking watercolor hidden under the dust, her eyes are opened to the elegance beneath the decay. She embarks on a quest to find the artist of the unsigned masterpiece–an impassioned chase that draws Virginia not only into the battle to save Grand Central but deep into the mystery of Clara Darden, the famed 1920s illustrator who disappeared from history in 1931.

I had three approvals from NetGalley this week

The Woman I Was Before

The Housewife

Hope on the Inside

Have a happy week everyone!



She Saw What He Did by Linda Renham

She Saw What He Did by Lynda Renham

EXCERPT: The tide was coming in and luckily it had washed up her dolly, for now it lay discarded on the wet sand. She leant down to pick it up and stopped as her eyes feasted on something more interesting. She’d already collected several unusual shells.

‘Come on, Sarah,’ called her mother.

Sarah licked the salt from her lips and watched as the water drifted out to reveal what looked like someone’s toes. But they couldn’t be, could they? How could someone’s toes get in the water? Carefully she picked up the dolly and hugged it to her. She was about to turn back and hurry after her mother when she realised that it was indeed toes, for she could now see the legs above it. The water drifted out some more and Sarah gingerly moved closer. Then she saw it. The body was blue and stiff. For a second Sarah stared at it, puzzled, before realising it had no face. That’s when Sarah screamed, and the rest of the beach went silent. The only sounds were Sarah’s high pitched screams and the wailing of the seagulls.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Abby Miller thought she had the perfect family; a good looking, loving husband and a beautiful daughter. Her life was complete. The shock discovery that her husband, Jared, had been having an affair rocked her world. So when Jared suggested a short break to the Cannard Islands, to heal their fractured marriage, Abby agreed. An idyllic holiday turns into a nightmare when Abby witnesses something terrible. Suddenly her life and the life of her daughter are in serious danger and no one seems able to help them.

MY THOUGHTS: Lynda Renham is certainly a very versatile author. Romance, humor, psychological-thriller, and crime thriller – she has written them all, and written them equally well.

With ‘She Saw What He Did’, Lynda’s latest offering, she has packed in the action – political intrigue, kidnapping, murder – to name but a few.

The story is told from three points of view: Abby who is trying to save her marriage; Ellen, the only police officer to believe Abby witnessed a murder; and Sparrow, the desperate villainwho has bitten off more than he can chew.

While there are plenty of twists and turns in the plot I was disappointed that we discovered the identity of Sparrow well before the end. But don’t worry, the suspense is still strong due mainly to the unpredictability of his character.

And I love the cover! Early on I was wondering what the cover had to do with the plot – it is a pet peeve of mine when the cover doesn’t tie in with the plot – but as you can tell from the excerpt, it is both relevant and beautiful.


THE AUTHOR: Lynda Renham has been writing for as long as she can remember and had her first work published in a magazine at age nine and has continued writing in various forms since. She has had several poems published as well as articles in numerous magazines and newspapers. Recently she has taken part in radio discussions on the BBC.

She has studied literature and creative writing.

Lynda lives with her second husband and cat in Oxfordshire, England. She is Associate Editor for the online magazine The Scavenger and contributor to many others. When not writing Lynda can usually be found wasting her time on Facebook.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to author Lynda Renham and Raucous Publishing for providing a digital ARC of She Saw What He Did for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my profile page or the about page on for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my page

Watching What I’m Reading

I absolutely messed up last week’s reading schedule by missing out one of my scheduled reads – 2 pages of my reading diary were stuck together – but I discovered my error and read and posted my 5 star review for

Out of the Silence: a compelling revenge thriller

So, I have only just started

She Saw What He Did

I am also currently reading

Three Things About Elsie

and listening to

Breaking The Silence

This week I am planning on reading

You Belong To Me

Can two wrongs ever make a right?
The police never found fifteen-year-old Ellie Hutton. She vanished ten years ago after walking home from school along a disused railway track. But Danny Sheppard knows exactly what happened to her. She is dead and buried in a field near Lassiter’s Brook.
Now Cassie Rafferty has gone missing. Same age. Similar circumstances. And Danny also knows what has happened to her.
Can Danny fight his demons and tell the truth this time?
Or will history repeat itself and leave another innocent girl dead?

And hopefully will be able to start

I Invited Her In

‘I invited her in… and she took everything.’

When Mel hears from a long-lost friend in need of help, she doesn’t hesitate to invite her to stay. Mel and Abi were best friends back in the day, sharing the highs and lows of student life, until Mel’s unplanned pregnancy made her drop out of her studies.

Now, seventeen years later, Mel and Abi’s lives couldn’t be more different. Mel is happily married, having raised her son on her own before meeting her husband, Ben. Now they share gorgeous girls and have a chaotic but happy family home, with three children.

Abi, meanwhile, followed her lover to LA for a glamorous life of parties, celebrity and indulgence. Everything was perfect, until she discovered her partner had been cheating on her. Seventeen years wasted, and nothing to show for it. So what Abi needs now is a true friend to lean on, to share her grief over a glass of wine, and to have some time to heal. And what better place than Mel’s house, with her lovely kids, and supportive husband…

This dark, unsettling tale of the reunion of long-lost friends is thoroughly gripping exploration of wanting what you can’t have, jealousy and revenge from Sunday Times bestseller Adele Parks.

Only two new approvals this week

Two Silver Crosses

The Eighth Sister

I think that I am probably a bit optimistic about how much reading I am going to have time for this week, as we are in the final week of wedding preparations. Once I have finished work today I will be heading for my son’s for a few days gardening, then setting up for the wedding. I haven’t checked the weather forecast for Saturday as it is likely to change daily, and it is something I have no control over. Yes, there is an alternative to the garden should it rain – the barn.

Have a wonderful week’s reading everyone. I have scheduled some posts so I won’t be entirely absent. I would hate for you to forget me! 💕📚