Search Sue's Blog

Tuesday 7 December 2021

NEW YEAR, NEW BOOK - a guest post by Val Penny

Today I'm delighted to welcome back my friend and fellow-author Val Penny, whose latest book, Hunter’s Rules, will be released on New Year's Day and is already available for pre-order.  And it sounds like an absolute cracker.

Welcome, Val.  Please tell us more!

Thank you, Sue, for hosting me on your blog today. It is always a pleasure to visit.

I write crime thrillers and started writing in this genre because that is what I enjoy reading. I firmly believe that to be a good author you must first be an avid reader, and it is due to my love of reading and story-telling that I began to write novels.

Hunter’s Rules is the sixth book in my Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series, and there are many more to come! Although the books form a series, each works as a standalone novel, so readers can join the stories at any point.

The books are set in the beautiful city of Edinburgh which is the capital of Scotland. I chose it because it is a relatively small city, and people from different walks of life and backgrounds are known to one another. That allows me to have some fun with my characters and storylines.

I am particularly proud of this book, because although the story is complete within itself, the concept follows on from a short story that I contributed to a charity anthology, Dark Scotland. The story, which is again a standalone piece, is the prequel to the novel. I hope those who read both will enjoy the conceit and those who read either will be absorbed by them.

And here, to whet your appetite, is how the story starts:

“Well, I have just one more surprise for you.”

“Another one? Oh, Hunter,” she said.

“I’ve booked the honeymoon suite here for us tonight, and if everything has gone according to plan there should be a bottle of champagne chilling there for us. Shall we go upstairs and check?”

Hunter and Meera continued walking towards the elevators, and he pressed the button indicating they would be going up. They stood close together, gazing into each other’s eyes, but it was not long until the furthest lift arrived. They shifted slightly towards those doors and made room for anybody getting out.

Nobody got out.

A young woman lay motionless on the floor, and the inside of the car was drenched with blood.

“Oh God, not another one,” Hunter said. He stared at the raw flesh in the sockets where the girl’s eyes should have been. What kind of monster would choose to murder someone this way? He turned away from the horrific sight of the young woman’s butchered face. He gagged. Then swallowed the bile. He daren’t contaminate the crime scene with his own vomit.

Meera knelt beside the victim and felt her wrist. “Hunter, this one is still alive. Call an ambulance. Do it now!”

Hunter immediately went into professional mode. He stepped a few yards away from the scene and called the ambulance. The soles of his shoes were covered in blood. Then he phoned Fettes police station. Desk Sergeant Charlie Middleton answered.

“Police Scotland, how can I help?”

“Charlie, the eye thief has struck again.”


Hunter's Rules

A bloody scene brings Hunter and Meera’s romantic plans to an abrupt end.

A young woman was attacked in a hotel lift. She has life-changing injuries, but she is alive. Hunter notes that her wounds are like those inflicted on two women who previously died.  

Can Meera keep the injured woman alive long enough for her to identify her assailant? Is the same person responsible for all three crimes? When Hunter is identified as a suspect in the crime, can he establish his innocence and lead his team to solve the crime and keep Edinburgh safe?

Hunter’s Rules is the sixth book in The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series of novels. Val Penny’s other crime novels – Hunter’s Chase, Hunter’s Revenge, Hunter’s Force, Hunter’s Blood and Hunter’s Secret – form the rest of this bestselling series set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by darkstroke.

You can also start at the beginning of The Jane Renwick Thrillers with The First Cut.

Val’s first non-fiction book, Let’s Get Published, is also available now and she has most recently contributed her short story Cats and Dogs to a charity anthology, Dark Scotland.

Val is an American author living in SW Scotland with her husband and their cat.


Author Contact Details and Buy Links

Tuesday 23 November 2021

THE WOMAN WHO FELT INVISIBLE - a guest post by Lizzie Chantree



The Woman Who Felt Invisible is a gorgeous romantic story of love and new beginnings.  Learning to love herself and be content on her own is the first step.  But will Olivia be able to leave her past behind, follow her heart and find lasting happiness?  A read full of humour, romance and tear-jerking reality, from international bestselling author, Lizzie Chantree.


Have you ever felt invisible? 

Working as a stationery supervisor and a sitter to a pair of internet famous, delinquent dogs, wasn’t how former cyber-specialist, Olivia, imagined her life turning out. 

Working in a tiny cubicle with a decrepit computer and being overlooked had suited her for a while, but now she’s fed up, lonely and determined to make the world ‘see’ her again. 

Old school friend, Darius, wants to fill Olivia’s days with romance, but their love of technology has taken them on very different paths. 

Gorgeous undercover policeman Gabe, is steadfast in finding out if Olivia was part of an online scam, but something doesn’t feel right and he suspects someone else was manipulating her life. 

Can love blossom from the most deceptive of starts? And can someone who feels lost, find a way to flourish against all odds?


International bestselling author and award-winning inventor, Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now works as a business mentor and runs a popular networking hour on social media, where creatives can support to each other. She writes books full of friendship and laughter, that are about women with unusual and adventurous businesses, who are far stronger than they realise. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex. Visit her website at or follow her on Twitter @Lizzie_Chantree



International bestselling author Lizzie Chantree started her own business at the age of 18, and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year. She writes books full of friendship and laughter, about women with unusual businesses, who are stronger than they realise.


Book links: Lizzie Chantree.

Universal book buy link: The little ice cream shop:


Universal book buy link: Networking for writers:

Universal book buy link: If you love me, I’m yours:

Universal book buy link: Ninja School Mum:

Universal book buy link: Babe Driven:

Universal book buy link: Love’s Child:

Universal book buy link: Finding Gina:

Shh… It’s Our Secret:

The woman who felt invisible:



Social media links:


Author page:






FB Groups:






Wednesday 27 October 2021

THE HIDDEN - a guest post by Alison Knight

Today I'm delighted to welcome back my dear friend and fellow-author Alison Knight, whose latest novel The Hidden has just been released.  I had the honour of working with Alison as her editor (not that her work has ever needed much editing!), and I can thoroughly recommend this excellent story.

Welcome, Alison!  Please, tell us more!


Background: New York, 1973. Faye has been in hiding in America since something terrible happened to her, her boyfriend James and her brother Percy in London in 1969. She is currently living in a cabin in Montana. She receives news that her father has died and her mother, Elizabeth, wants to see her. They meet in the restaurant of the Waldorf Hotel in New York.

                “I must say, you’re looking well. Life in America must suit you.”

                “Who says I live in America?” Faye smiled. “I might have popped over the border from Canada, or hitch-hiked up from Mexico.”

                “And did you do either of those things?”

                “I’m afraid I can’t say.”

                “Oh, Felicity, really.”

                Faye leaned forward, her hands on the table. “Call me that just one more time, and I walk,” she hissed. “I am not Felicity. I never will be again. Accept it.”

                Elizabeth leaned back, her lips thinned.

                “You always were a dramatic child. I’m your mother, for goodness’ sake. Surely it’s not too much to ask to know your new name and where you live?”

                “It was explained to you at the time. The less you know, the better. It wouldn’t be safe for either of us. I’m actually trying to protect you. Can’t you accept that?”

                “But it’s all over and done with now, isn’t it? You’re halfway around the world. Can’t we just be mother and daughter for a little while?”

                Faye sat back and took a sip of her drink. She was stunned. In all her twenty-eight years, this was the first time Elizabeth had ever said anything like that to her. Her memories were of being told: Don’t do that, or Be quiet, or What have you done now, you bloody child? “Why change the habit of a lifetime?” she asked, her tone bitter.

                She expected her mother to snarl back at her, but Elizabeth closed her eyes as though in pain.

                “I know I haven’t been the best mother,” she said after a few moments. She took a sip of her martini and put the glass back on the table before going on. “We’ve all made mistakes. I just don’t want it to be too late before we do something about it. With your father and Percy both gone now…”

                This time it was Faye who closed her eyes. “So you’re not here to blame me for Daddy’s demise as well as Percy’s?” she asked.

                “Oh, darling, of course not. I know we blamed you initially over Percy, but well, while you were in hospital for all those months, it became quite clear with all the terrible things they said in the papers that your brother was the one who led you into the situation, and not the other way around.”

                Faye felt her mouth drop open in surprise. Had she spent years broken under the burden of her guilt, while her parents had actually forgiven her?

                The waiter arrived with their meals. A steak for Faye and a salad for her mother. Elizabeth couldn’t help raising her eyebrows as her daughter sliced into the meat and ate it with gusto. Faye wasn’t about to tell her mother that she’d been travelling for three days, had hardly slept, and had survived on snacks from bus stations and airports along the way.

                They ate in silence for a few minutes until Faye felt human again.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked, her tone mild. “Why wait nearly four years before saying this?”

                Her mother put down her fork and picked up her napkin, blotting at her lips in order to preserve her carefully-applied lipstick. “We didn’t get a chance, darling. You were whisked away and we weren’t allowed to see you. They said we had to keep up the pretence that you were dead in order to keep you alive. Then they moved you on and that was that.”

                She made it sound so uncomplicated, but it had been far from simple. Faye realised her mother hadn’t known how long she been in hospital, or the full extent of both her physical and mental injuries. It had been decided that she needed a complete break from her past, including what was left of her family, if they were to convince her assassins that she really was dead. Even now, she couldn’t tell her mother the real reason why she was moved on after a couple of months in hospital recovering from her physical injuries. She probably thinks I was rushed out of the country just to spite her, when in fact I was in an asylum going through a nervous breakdown.

                “You could have asked to send a message,” she said, stabbing at her steak. She carried on eating steadily, even though she’d lost her appetite.

                “I know. But we didn’t know what to say.”

                Faye looked up. Her mother looked genuinely sad for a moment, but then, in true Broughton family tradition, she rallied, pasting a smile on her face. “But that’s in the past, all of it. I’m here now, darling, and I have a marvellous idea. I’m booked on a Caribbean cruise, starting on Sunday. I’ve got a suite which has two bedrooms. Why don’t you come with me? We could spend the next couple of days shopping, my treat. Wouldn’t it be lovely to relax and explore the islands together?”

                “I can’t.”

                “Oh. Why not? Have you got a job?”

                She wanted to lie, but what was the point? “No. But I have animals and people depending on me. I need to get back.”

                “But where to?”

                She shook her head. “I’m not going to tell you, so please stop asking.” She held up a hand when her mother would have argued with her. “I know you think I’m making excuses, but I’m not. The people Percy and I got involved with weren’t some tinpot gang of thugs. They were organized, brutal and evil. There were far more of them than went to prison, and they never ever forgot. If they had just a hint that I’m still alive, they’d hunt me down. If they thought you knew where I was, they’d make you talk – and it wouldn’t be pretty. God, when one of them paid James a visit, he nearly wet himself.”

                “Of course he did. That boy was an arse,” snapped his mother. “He had no backbone.”



Secrets, nightmares, and a big black dog…

Montana, 1973.

Faye has found sanctuary in a simple cabin in the wilds of the Crazy Mountains in Montana with a dog called Bear. She’s a long way from her old life in England. But she knows that one day her peaceful life could be invaded by her enemies, and she keeps her guard up at all times.

Jeff returns home from Vietnam, a wounded, damaged hero, just weeks after his father’s sudden death. He finds hostile, secretive Faye living in his cabin and refusing to leave. The reading of his father’s will adds another layer of mystery to this woman’s presence.

The tension between them grows as Jeff tries to overcome his nightmares and expose Faye’s scars and secrets. The more he learns about her, the more enigmatic she seems.

When her enemies come calling, she needs Jeff to protect her. Can they learn to trust each other? And will Faye ever be safe?





Alison Knight has been a legal executive, a registered childminder, a professional fund-raiser and a teacher. She has travelled the world – from spending a year as an exchange student in the US in the 1970s and trekking the Great Wall of China to celebrate her fortieth year and lots of other interesting places in between.

In her mid-forties, Alison went to university part-time and gained a first-class degree in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and an MA in the same subject from Oxford Brookes University, both while still working full-time. Her first book was published a year after she completed her master’s degree.

Alison currently has a trio of novels published by Darkstroke. The first, Mine, is a domestic drama set in 1960s London based on real events in her family. She is the only person who can tell this particular story. Exploring themes of class, ambition and sexual politics, Mine shows how ordinary people can make choices that lead them into extraordinary situations.

The Legacy, a drama set in London in 1969, was inspired by a scene in Mine, and explores how an unexpected legacy can be both a blessing and a curse. The Legacy looks at themes of greed and expectations, and the lengths people will go to when they are desperate.

The Hidden, available from September 2021, is a romantic suspense that picks up the story of one of the characters in The Legacy. Set in Montana in 1973, two wounded, damaged people are forced together, each guarding their secrets. Can they learn to trust each other? And will their nightmares ever end?

Alison teaches creative and life-writing, runs workshops and retreats with Imagine Creative Writing Workshops ( as well as working as a freelance editor. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

She lives in Somerset, within sight of Glastonbury Tor.


@Alison_Knight59 on Twitter


Sincere thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour.  Why not check out the other posts?  Details below.





Tuesday 19 October 2021

HOLIDAYS & HOMICIDE - an interview with Jessica Thompson

Today I'm delighted to welcome my friend and fellow-Darkstroke author Jessica Thompson, whose new novel A Caterer's Guide to Holidays and Homicide is published today.

Welcome to Broad Thoughts, Jessica.  What prompted you to first start writing?  What was the first thing you wrote?

It sounds so silly now, but the first thing I sat down to write as "a writer" was my first book, A Caterer's Guide to Love and Murder.  I did so after reading a really disappointing culinary cozy mystery.  I thought, "If THAT can get published, then so can I!"

Can you summarise your latest work in just a few words?

A Caterer's Guide to Holidays and Homicide is a holiday-flavored sequel to my first book.  Violet and her husband are acting as personal chefs on their friend's vacation.  But then, they get snowed in and someone dies!  *GASP*

What was the inspiration for this book?

When I went to college in Utah, there was this big mountain house that used to be owned by a wealthy family but had since been donated to the college.  I think I was largely inspired by that real-life building, so it's pretty accurate in the book - indoor treehouse and everything!

I have also been snowed in for about a week, twice.  Both times it was an ever-present thought that if anything went wrong, even a little, we would be in huge trouble.

Did you do any research for the book?

I won't name the mountain house because last time I was there I hopped the fence and snuck around to make sure I had the setting description just right.  Twice when someone came by on an ATV I dived into the bushes to hide!

I also brushed up on my knowledge of plant poisons.  At college I was a horticulture major.  I already thought I might use Taxus cuspidata (or Yew) in the book because it looks Christmassy and is poisonous, but I knew I had to when I looked up how very poisonous it is and saw it next to the front door at the read-life lodge!

How do you decide on the names for your characters?

Mostly the names are ones that I like but couldn't use for my own children, like Violet or Mercedes, but sometimes the are names that remind me of the people that the character is modeled on - such as Jake for the character who looks like my husband Nate, or Gayle for the character who looks like Oprah.

Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?

Oh, I'm a plotter, all the way!  I don't know how a person could write a mystery without plotting.  Well, I couldn't.  Even with plotting, there are things that I think of towards the end of the book that I have to go back and "plant the seeds" for.

Which writers have influenced your own writing?

I love Agatha Christie and have almost finished reading all of her novels (it's been quite the project), but there are also several contemporary cozy mystery authors that I love, like Josi Kilpack and Ellie Alexander.

What has been the best part of the writing process - and the worst?  

I love the plotting and the first draft, but I'm not a fan of the editing.  But marketing might actually be the worst.  To have to sell yourself and your creations is a strangely arrogant and presumptuous act.  Especially for something that is not technically needed, but is entertainment.  It’s a weird feeling.

Is there a message for the reader?

Maybe, just don’t take this too seriously.  It’s for fun!

Do you have any advice for new writers?

My advice would be to reach out to other authors.  For a long time I thought I could be a closet writer and no one needed to know that I was writing, but that doesn’t work.  It takes a village to get a book into print.  And you don’t need to be scared to start making those connections!  Everyone in the writing community is so generous with their time, and willing to help and make friends.  It’s wonderful! 

What can we expect from you in the future?

I have at least one more Violet book in the works.  I'm thinking a prequel.  I always planned to go back and write some of the early story between Violet and Jake, and I think I am finally ready.

I'm also working on something that's not as cozy.  Shoot Shovel and Shut Up will be my classic-style mystery that doesn't have recipes but is instead a retelling of an Agatha Christie novel, but set on a Texan family cattle ranch.   

That sounds intriguing!  Thank you for visiting me today, Jessica, and good luck with the new book!


Deck the halls...with a personal chef, a snowed-in lodge, and a sprinkling of murder!

"Watch the knives!"

While acting as personal chef for a friend's mountain retreat, Violet and her husband Jake must set aside their stress over infertility and create a magical and delicious holiday - until tragedy crashes the party.

Being snowed in and unreachable from town, Violet and Jake end up hired for a different kind of job: finding out which of the guests committed murder, and why they're trying to frame their hostess.  Violet must find a balance between following her gut and keeping it all under control until the police can reach them, while still managing the kitchen.  But can she sniff out the killer before anyone else bites the big one?  

A Caterer's Guide to Holidays and Homicide will give you a culinary holiday you won't forget!  To order your copy, click here.


When Jessica discovered mystery novels with recipes, she knew she had found her niche.

Jessica is now the author of the Amazon bestselling culinary cozy mystery A Caterer's Guide to Love and Murder, with the second book of the series - A Caterer's Guide to Holidays and Homicide - now available.  She is active in her local writing community, and is a member of the Writers' League of Texas and the Storymakers Guild.  She received a Bachelor's degree in Horticulture from Brigham Young University but has always enjoyed writing and reading mysteries.

As an avid home chef and food science geek, Jessica has won cooking competitions and been featured in the online Taste of Home recipe collection.  She also tends to be the go-to source for recipes, taste-testing and food advice among her peers.

Jessica is originally from California, but has now adopted the lifestyle of Austin, Texas.  She enjoys living in the suburbs with her husband and young children, but also enjoys helping her parents with their nearby longhorn cattle ranch.

You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Tuesday 5 October 2021

TWELVE DATES 'TILL CHRISTMAS - a guest post by Jennifer C Wilson

Today is a very special day for my dear friend and fellow-author Jennifer C Wilson, because it marks the publication of her latest work Twelve Dates 'Till Christmas, released through Ocelot Press.  She joins me on the blog to talk about the background to this amazing new venture.

Welcome, Jen!  Please tell us more!

Hi Sue, and thank you for inviting me along to your blog today, to talk about Twelve Dates ‘Till Christmas, my latest release, which is out today! As you know, this is a bit of a departure for me, compared to what I usually write, but as the idea landed in my mind almost fully-formed, it seemed rude not to at least try and write it down and see how it went…

The inspiration behind Twelve Dates is an odd one, even for me. I usually get my story ideas from pottering around castles or other historical sites, and thinking about the people who have lived there before, but obviously, that’s been in short supply for the last eighteen months or so. For Twelve Dates, it all began with a night of terrible sleeplessness. I have been going through phases of TV nostalgia during the various stages of Lockdown, and back in March, I had been watching a lot of Coupling, Musketeers, and Friends (still am, in the last case). I had been struggling to sort some plot points in the historical romance I was working on at the time, and decided the best way forward might be to write something completely different for a bit, to see if I could break the cycle and become unstuck. As I said, one night, I just could not get to sleep, however hard I tried, and the characters of Lexie and Callum started chattering away. Another writing friend had also mentioned she was working on a Christmas romance novella, and everything just slotted into place. I knew straight away that they were best friends, almost inseparable, but initially, couldn’t work out whether they were a couple or not. As I started jotting down ideas though, the concept of a will-they-won’t-they / friends-to-lovers plot really started jumping out at me, and it seemed to fit perfectly for Callum and Lexie’s situation.

I also liked the idea of a “Christmas countdown”, with regular events leading up to the big day, and that’s when I thought about how quickly weekends get booked up when everyone’s working hard, especially in the run-up to Christmas, with so many parties, chances to catch up with friends etc. After that, the concept of ‘twelve weeks’ or ‘twelve dates’ came together, and I started thinking about key events, when they would be happening, and what potential fall-out would be between those events.

Within a week of that bad night, I had the skeleton sorted, and began drafting some of the scenes out, just to see if it kept working. And I was really enjoying it, so just kept going. I always knew it would be novella length, rather than a novel, and that I wanted to hear both Callum's and Lexie’s sides of the story, since there’s a lot going on for both of them. After all, that change from seeing somebody as ‘just a friend’ to sensing a growing attraction can be a time of turmoil, and I wanted to capture that.

Given that we were in the middle of Covid, I decided to set everything in October to December 2019, before any of us had really even heard of the virus, and it certainly wasn’t holding up Christmas parties or other celebrations. I know some people are tackling the pandemic in their fiction, but for me, I couldn’t quite face it. Although I think if it had been set during 2020, we would have found Callum and Lexie setting up their own little support bubble, and definitely spending even more time in each other’s pockets! Happily, in Twelve Dates, all of this is still in the future, and not troubling anyone just yet.

I really enjoyed writing Twelve Dates ‘Till Christmas, and hope people enjoy reading it just as much!

Thank you, Jen.  I hope this one flies for you!


Callum and Lexie are perfect for each other - at least, that's what everyone tells them. But they're just good friends, aren't they? And neither wants to ruin the solid friendship that's treated them so well since university.

But when an old school friend of Callum's asks Lexie for a date, and passions overflow on a work night out, could it be the trigger to show each of them what they have been missing out on all this time?

With twelve weeks until Christmas, that's a lot of opportunity for romance - and for misunderstandings...

Purchase Link -


Jennifer C. Wilson stalks dead people (usually monarchs, mostly Mary Queen of Scots and Richard III). Inspired by childhood visits to as many castles and historical sites her parents could find, and losing herself in their stories (not to mention quite often the castles themselves!), at least now her daydreams make it onto the page.

After returning to the north-east of England for work, she joined a creative writing class, and has been filling notebooks ever since. Jennifer won North Tyneside Libraries’ Story Tyne short story competition in 2014, and in 2015, her debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London was published by Crooked Cat Books. The full series was re-released by Darkstroke in January 2020.

Jennifer is a founder and host of the award-winning North Tyneside Writers’ Circle, and has been running writing workshops in North Tyneside since 2015. She also publishes historical fiction novels with Ocelot Press. She lives in Whitley Bay, and is very proud of her two-inch view of the North Sea. 

Social Media Links –






Sincere thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour.  Do check out the other stops on the tour - the banner below has all the details.

Friday 25 June 2021

INSPIRED BY CORSICA - a guest post by Vanessa Couchman

Today I'm delighted to welcome back my dear friend and fellow-author Vanessa Couchman, whose amazing novel The Corsican Widow is the Ocelot Press Book of the Month for June 2021.  I had the pleasure of working with Vanessa as editor of this novel (not that it needed much editing!), and it comes highly recommended.

Vanessa is here to talk about novels inspired by her beloved Corsica.  Read on for a fascinating insight into this magical place, and for details of a very special freebie!

Welcome, Vanessa!  Please tell us more...

Thank you, Sue!  

Corsica is blessed not only with magnificent, mountainous scenery but also with an intriguing history and culture. The island provides inspiring material for historical novelists. It has also fascinated writers for centuries.

“Corsica” Boswell

During the 18th and 19th centuries, a number of authors visited and wrote about Corsica. James Boswell, better known as Samuel Johnson’s biographer, visited Corsica during his Grand Tour in 1765. The young Corsican republic was struggling for independence from Genoa. Boswell was greatly impressed by Pasquale di Paoli, the republic’s leader, and published An Account of Corsica on his return to England.

Statue of Pasquale di Paoli in Corte 
(photo: Vanessa Couchman)

Boswell’s book is not a novel, although aspects of it may seem inventive! He remained a lifelong fan of the island, proclaiming the Corsican cause wherever he went, which earned him the nickname “Corsica” Boswell.


Several French authors visited the island and found the more gruesome themes in its history captivating. The concept of personal and family honour was particularly strong on Corsica, often culminating in vendetta when honour was breached. Vendetta diminished in the 19th century from its 18th-century peak, but it continued to pose enough of a problem for the authorities to make it an interesting topic for novelists.

The best-known novel about vendetta is Prosper Mérimée’s Colomba (1840). While visiting Corsica, Mérimée met Colomba Carabelli, whose family was involved in a particularly bloody vendetta in Fozzano, in which her son was killed. I have seen her house in Olmeto, where she moved later in life.

Colomba’s house in Olmeto 
(photo: Vanessa Couchman)

Prosper Mérimée fictionalised her story. The heroine of Colomba is young and beautiful but bloodthirsty and formidable. Following the murder of her father, she tries to incite her reluctant brother, recently returned from the Napoleonic Wars, to avenge his death.

Mérimée’s short story Mateo Falcone (1829) also deals with banditry, honour and vendetta.

Other novelists who wrote about vendetta include Honoré de Balzac (La Vendetta, 1830) and Alexandre Dumas (Les Frères Corses, 1844). Both novels dealt with the theme of expatriate Corsicans who were unable to break with the cultural traditions of their homeland.

The power of the landscape

Writers have also been inspired by the charismatic power of Corsica’s landscape, including Gustave Flaubert, Edward Lear and Guy de Maupassant. Lear published a journal of his 1868 trip and made a series of sketches and watercolours of the island’s towns and scenery.

Edward Lear – The Forest of Valdoniello 
(photo: Wikimedia Commons - Public Domain)

De Maupassant spent two months travelling around Corsica in 1880 and subsequently referred to it in novels and other writings. In Une Vie (1883), the only happy time in the heroine’s marriage to a rake occurs during their honeymoon on Corsica during a journey by pony between Ajaccio and Bastia.

All of the French novels mentioned above are available in English translation.

Tales of Corsica series

My own Corsica novels are similarly inspired by the landscape, culture and history of this enigmatic island. Both The House at Zaronza (early 20th century) and The Corsica Widow (18th century) are based on true stories.

Vendetta is not a theme in either novel, since they are both set in Cap Corse in northern Corsica, where vendetta never took such a firm hold as in the south. However, they both draw on Corsica’s unique traditions, particularly as regards beliefs in magic and the supernatural, and on its strict social mores.         

The Corsican Widow is Ocelot Press Book of the Month for June 2021. The story takes place during the mid-late 18th century, a time of great upheaval for the Corsican people.

Vanessa has lived in Southwest France since 1997 and is a self-confessed history nut. Quirky true stories often find their way into her fiction, and she likes nothing more than pottering around ruined châteaux or exploring the lesser-known byways of France. She is very attached to the Mediterranean island of Corsica, which has provided the inspiration for some of her novels and short stories.

The Tales of Corsica series are standalone novels set in the same house on the island: The Corsican Widow (18th century) and The House at Zaronza (early 20th century) are published so far.

Vanessa is also writing a trilogy set in France between 1880 and 1945.

Sign up to Vanessa’s monthly newsletter for book news, background info about France and Corsica and book recommendations, and get two free Corsica stories.

Amazon author page:


Facebook page:


Thursday 20 May 2021


Today I'm delighted to welcome my dear friend and fellow-author Nancy Jardine, whose amazing novel The Beltane Choice is the Ocelot Press Book of the Month for May.  Read on to find out more about Nancy, her amazing books, a wonderful special offer and a great competition.

Welcome back to Broad Thoughts, Nancy!  

Hello Sue, thank you for inviting me to your blog. It’s really lovely to be visiting again.


10 Questions – 10 Answers from Nancy Jardine


What do you think makes the best historical fiction?

It needs to be a compelling tale that draws the reader in to the world depicted where they can feel, hear and can almost touch the protagonists. The plot needs to keep them engrossed. The settings, the dialogue and the narrative need to be seamlessly intertwined and entirely realistic to entertain throughout. And last but definitely not least, the tale needs to be well-written and well-edited.


What does your family think of your writing?

My daughters have always been very supportive of my writing and can be critical beta readers. They’ve helped at a couple of my local book launches and since they both look very decorative that’s a great thing! My husband reads mostly non-fiction and had never read any of my novels till my latest – Beathan The Brigante – was launched in August 2020. He totally surprised me by getting himself a copy which he ‘critically reviewed’ afterwards, claiming it an entertaining read, and that he would probably read the rest of the series from the beginning. Book 1 is of course The Beltane Choice, Book of the Month (May) at Ocelot Press.


What are the most surprising things you’ve learned about yourself as an author?

From very young, I’ve always been an avid reader and love the escapism that fiction can bring me. When I re-read some of my earliest published work from 2012, I’ve difficulty believing that I really was author who wrote it. I don’t have great recall, never have, so I can surprise myself by the historical depth I managed to convey back then. I’ve learned so much more about Roman Britain during the last ten years that I’m almost tempted to re-write some archaeological aspects that I included, which are maybe now slightly out-of-date. However, life is about learning and, to me, so is the writing process.


How much research do you do?

Loads. I can never stop researching once started. I’m a book magpie and my Roman Empire bookshelf continues to spill over.


How do you relax?

I’m not great at that, but I love watching historical series that are made for TV. A nice glass of red wine helps with that relaxation.


As a self-published author, how do you promote your books?

Without a doubt, this is the toughest aspect to writing! I relatively recently became a member of a couple of retweet groups on Twitter and do daily ‘shares’. I’ve also dabbled my toes, of late, in the Amazon Advertising waters. I’m hoping my cold feet will warm up soon. I occasionally try paid promotion sites to boost sales of my novels, and have done a few Blog Tours for my books. I’m on Facebook and other Social Media places but posting there doesn’t sell my novels.


What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

I try not to get downhearted when a poor review comes to my attention. It happens occasionally, but it’s best to accept that readers who review often read things differently. I try to find ‘quotes’ that I can use in positive promotion from most reviews I’ve received.


What makes your books stand out from the crowd?

I like to think that the strengths of my Celtic Fervour Series are in the relatively underused locations of northern Roman Britain (north England and Scotland) and that my stories are about relatively average displaced tribespeople rather than ‘Celtic’/Iron Age kings or queens. My stories are adventures; however, they’re not about Roman legionaries and the battles they’re involved in, which is what a lot of Roman Empire novels are about.


Plotter or Pantser?

Mostly pantser. The final plots for my Celtic Fervour Series have mostly grown organically, though I have a rough idea of what the book will entail at the beginning. I create timelines as I progress and check them constantly to make sure plot events work, since I try to keep to what is known about documented historical events if I’ve included them. As the series has progressed to five books and a short-story about my Garrigill warrior clan, I also have an expanding family tree which I sometimes refer to if I’ve forgotten details from an earlier book.


What’s in your future writing plan?

A great question. And probably the same as it would have been last year since my writing progress has taken a little sabbatical. I can blame the pandemic, or just admit that I’ve been less motivated.

I’m presently working on a prequel to the Celtic Fervour Series. I started this after a couple of reviewers commented that they would have preferred more specific historical background references in Book 1, The Beltane Choice. I’m hoping that the prequel will give a more detailed setting to an era that actually is very vague in pure historical terms. What is known about 1st Century northern Roman Britain comes more from archaeological interpretation than from historical sources, so it truly is a challenge that I’ve set myself.

I anticipate getting more progress made on my story that begins in Victorian Scotland during the summer. This is intended to develop into a 3-book series. And someday soon, I’ll get back to my time travel trio who will go on other adventures – they’re currently in limbo after being whizzed back to the Roman Aberdeenshire of AD 210.


Given that the Covid 19 global pandemic has curtailed most travel plans during this early part of 2021, where would your ideal location be if you got the go-ahead to have a holiday?

Melrose, to re-visit the Trimontium Roman Museum (see the photo above) and to visit the Vindolanda Fort on Hadrian’s Wall (and some other forts along the wall while I’m in the vicinity). I missed out on a visit to York last year, to sell my novels alongside other historical authors at the Eboracum Festival,  and would love to get down there if they plan another one. I’m not quite ready to fly off anywhere exotic, but destinations that I can drive to, or take a train to, sound like a great plan! My husband might like the idea of doing another cruise, but not just yet for me.



Don’t miss out on the bargains!

During the whole month of May, as the Ocelot Press Book of the Month, Nancy Jardine’s Celtic Fervour Series of historical adventures will be on special prices.

The Beltane Choice will be 99p

The other 4 novels in the series will be reduced to £1.99 (equivalent prices across the Amazon network)

Nancy has a couple of competitions on the Ocelot Press Readers page on Facebook during May 2021 where you can win 1) a beautiful Celtic Keyring 2) a signed copy of The Beltane Choice. Join us there and enter the competitions


Nancy Jardine lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. She creates her fictional characters for her historical; time travel historical; and contemporary mystery/ thriller novels at her usually messy desk. When not writing, researching (a total obsession), reading or gardening, her young grandchildren will probably be entertaining her. Or, she’ll be binge-watching historical series’ made for TV.

Signing/ selling her novels at local events is great fun, as is giving author presentations – on her novels or on Ancient Roman Scotland – to groups large and small. Both are a fabulous excuse to get away from the keyboard and meet new readers. Zoom sessions have lately been an entertaining alternative to face-to-face events till Covid 19 pandemic rules permit local events to restart.

Current memberships are with the Historical Novel Society; Scottish Association of Writers; Federation of Writers Scotland, Romantic Novelists Association and the Alliance of Independent Authors. She’s self-published with the author co-operative Ocelot Press.

You can find her at these places:






Amazon Author page

Monday 10 May 2021

Feature: PAPARAZZI by Jo Fenton

Today I'm delighted to welcome back a dear friend and fellow-scribe.  Jo Fenton and I started our writing careers at around the same time.  It's hard to believe that was more than eight years ago!

Jo's latest novel, Paparazzi, is published today.  It is the second in her Becky White thriller series, and I had the pleasure of working with her as editor of this amazing story.  Believe me, she's really excelled herself with this one.  Read on to find out more about it, and for news of an exciting giveaway!


A stalker. A popstar’s family murdered. A terrified photographer. 

It’s thirty years since Becky White joined the police. Now, six months after leaving the force, she is suffering from PTSD, when an old friend turns up with a tempting offer. 

Following the creation of The White Knight Detective Agency, their first client is a press photographer – a member of the Paparazzi – a young woman with a mysterious and troublesome stalker.

But as the case develops, Becky and Joanna find themselves embroiled in murder. When they are unable to prevent further deaths, their investigation takes them down an unexpected path.

But can they trust their instinct? And will they identify the killer in time to save a child’s life?

Paparazzi, the second instalment in the bestselling Becky White Thriller series. takes you on a journey into the deceptive world of superstars – and those who follow them! 

Purchase Links

UK -

US -

Jo Fenton grew up in Hertfordshire, UK. She devoured books from an early age, particularly enjoying adventure books, school stories and fantasy. She wanted to be a scientist from aged six after being given a wonderful book titled Science Can Be Fun. At eleven, she discovered Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer, and now has an eclectic and much-loved book collection cluttering her home office.

Jo combines an exciting career in Clinical Research with an equally exciting but very different career as a writer of psychological thrillers.

When not working, she runs (very slowly), and chats to lots of people. She lives in Manchester with her husband, two sons, a Corgi and a tankful of tropical fish. She is an active and enthusiastic member of two writing groups and a reading group.





Giveaway to win a signed copy of Revelation by Jo Fenton (the first in the Becky White thriller series)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please click here to enter via Rafflecopter.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves 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, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Huge thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour.