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The Vintage Village Bake Off by Judy Leigh #Review

  Here we are with another amusing romcom by Judy Leigh . The Vintage Village Bake Off was published by Boldwood Books on December 4th. Now in his seventies, Robert Parkin is stunned to find himself the unlikely sex symbol of the village gardening club. Living in happy solitude with his cat Isaac Mewton in the Devon village of Millbrook, entertained by his mischievous chickens and goats, Robert has never figured out the rules of romance. But as the local ladies vie for his company, it soon becomes clear that Robert's Victoria Sponge cake is the lure, and as his baking prowess grows, so does his confidence. Cheesecakes, meringues, puddings, Robert can do it all, but his real masterpieces are his scones - ginger, rosemary, coconut, fruit, his recipes are inspired and soon come to the attention of the local media. Which county does the best cream tea - Devon or Cornwall? It's time for an age-old debate to be settled with a competition. Robert's sisters Bunty and Ha

Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone #Review #Giveaway #TheSkelfsBook4

 We are returning to Doug Johnstone's Skelf family for Black Hearts. This intriguing family first appeared in his crime novel, A Dark Matter,and you can check out my review here. You can also read the second novel featuring the Skelfs, The Big Chill here and the third, The Great Silence here.  Black Hearts will be published on September 29th by Orenda Books.

I am delighted to be offering a great giveaway with the chance to win a print copy of Black Hearts. Details on how to enter can be found at the foot of this post.  


 Death is just the beginning…

The Skelf women live in the shadow of death every day, running the family funeral directors and private investigator business in Edinburgh. But now their own grief interwines with that of their clients, as they are left reeling by shocking past events.

A fist-fight by an open grave leads Dorothy to investigate the possibility of a faked death, while a young woman’s obsession with Hannah threatens her relationship with Indy and puts them both in mortal danger. An elderly man claims he’s being abused by the ghost of his late wife, while ghosts of another kind come back to haunt Jenny from the grave … pushing her to breaking point.

As the Skelfs struggle with increasingly unnerving cases and chilling danger lurks close to home, it becomes clear that grief, in all its forms, can be deadly…

My Thoughts

Continuing this story of the three generations of the Skelf family, you are immediately back in their lives. Dealing with three generations, you are assured of a complicated layering of stories through their interests as Private Investigators and Funeral Directors. There are some moments of black humour, through the reactions of the characters and the almost slapstick events which sometimes happen. Dealing with the serious business of death, you are nevertheless shown a vibrant and connected family with vivid personalities. 

    The cases which are featured are quite a variety. Hannah fears she is being stalked. There is a missing man, presumed dead, and another elderly man who fears he is being assaulted by the spirit of his dead wife. The fallout from Jenny's husband's death continues with a degree of suffering for her. Personal traumas and mysteries to uncover means that the tension is always there are growing. This is more than a series of crime stories, woven together. Overlaying the stories is the universe itself, with its black holes and background radiation. It leads you to consider your place in the world, set against the greater cosmos. The Skelfs deal in death, aware of the grimmer side of living. It is their humanity which leavens their lives and breathes hope and life into the story. 

In short: thoughtful, rich storytelling







About the Author

Doug Johnstone is the author of twelve previous novels, most recently The BigChill (2020). Several of his books have been bestsellers and three, A Dark Matter (2020), Breakers (2019) and The Jump (2015), were shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions over the last decade – including at a funeral parlour ahead of writing A Dark Matter – and has been an arts journalist for over twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three solo EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh. 


You can follow Doug here: Twitter   |  Website 

 Book link: Amazon UK


Thanks to Doug Johnstone, Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater of Ore
nda Books for a copy of the book and a place on the tour.

Don't forget these other great bloggers!

Giveaway (UK only)

To win a print copy of Black Hearts just Follow and Retweet the pinned tweet at @bookslifethings and good luck!
Closing date is September 11th 2022 and there is one winner.    
*Terms and Conditions –  UK only  The winner will be selected at random via Tweetdraw from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.




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