Our Altered Life By Charlene Beswick #review #guestpost

Altered life book cover 1

 I’m delighted to be on the blog tour today for Our altered life and welcome Charlie to my blog for a a very special guest post!


After a healthy twin pregnancy, Charlene and Mark were shocked to be told that one of their boys had been born with half of his face undeveloped. In seconds, the happy family future they had been planning disintegrated into turmoil and uncertainty.

Laugh out loud funny in places, heart-wrenchingly sad in others, and refreshingly honest at all times, Our Altered Life is Charlene’s wonderful account of how she struggled to forgive herself and bond with a baby she didn’t expect. Follow her transition through grief and anger, challenges and triumphs, loss and acceptance, to love for the life she has now with two children she wouldn’t change for the world

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My review

This is a truly wonderful story of hope, love and laughter. Charlie takes you through the family’s story from just before the birth of the twins.

Although sometimes bittersweet, Charlie finds the light in every situation and readily admits there have been dark days. The love Charlie has for her boys shines out from within the pages of our altered life and for me, made it an ‘unputadownable’ read!

I loved Charlie’s brutal honesty and sometimes hilarious recall of events, I think I went through every emotion whilst reading Our altered life, I cried, I laughed and I could relate to a lot of what the family went through.

Like every expectant Mum and Dad, Charlie and Mark were excited about the future, Charlene was” proud to be having twins, blessed and privileged”. After a text book pregnancy at 32 weeks gestation Charlie’s waters broke. The boys were born by emergency cesarean as one of the boys was breech. Harry and Oliver had made their entrance into the world albeit slightly earlier than they were expected but they were here. Being so premature they were whisked off to the special care baby unit.

A couple of hours later, Dr Mona, the consultant explained to Charlene and Mark that…

one twin (Oliver) was fine, but twin two (Harry) had some problems, I can still see the way Dr Mona drew an imaginary line down the centre of his face with his hand and swept it across to the left side as if I were dreaming. His voice was muffled like he was talking to me under water. I could hear the odd word, dulled by my delayed understanding and the pounding in my ears. At the same time, he was mentioning something about no eye, a small, under -developed ear, no nostril, a short and slanted jaw. He mentioned Goldenhar syndrome and Hemifacial Microsomia – different terms for similar conditions. Associated with his condition are heart defects, spinal problems and brain damage, but it was too early to know how severely Harry had been affected. He’d also been born with only one artery in his umbilical cord instead of two and the implications of this were, again, unknown at that time”

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Charlie went through guilt, fear and a rollercoaster of many other emotions that so many parents who have children with SEND go through. ”Did I do something wrong during pregnancy” ”could I have stopped this” ”what if” ”Why us?”

Harry was later also diagnosed with ASD -Autism Spectrum Disorder, this affects his communication skills, social skills and causes rigid, repetitive and obsessive behavior and sensory issues.

Our altered life documents the trials and tribulations along the bumpy path of life within a family who has a child with SEND. It shows first hand the effect it can have on the family, siblings and relationship between the parents. We have an insight into the hurdles that you come up against when looking for a nursery, then a school. Balancing work life and home life.

This is definitely not a story of doom and gloom but a story of achievements, and most importantly how there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how small.

In Charlie’s words…

”If I have learned anything on this journey, it’s to laugh as often as possible. Yes, there will be days that you’ll cry, but try to find the humor where you can. It makes for better memories to look back on through the tough times”


Our Altered life is inspirational I’d recommend any parent who has a child with extra needs or a disability should have this by their bedside. As a parent of a child with ASD and also a SENCO I know first and second hand how lonely it can be for a Mum and Dad along their journey.

Our Altered life will help parents to realise they are not alone and everything they are feeling is normal. It will also be a great book for professional’s to signpost families to for guidance and reassurance.

I’m going to end this review by quoting a toast that Charlie raised to her Facebook community after a trip to Blackpool, for me, it sums up Our Altered life and made me feel emotional but in a happy way!

”Here’s to Blackpool, to *motes, to rides, to the tram, to my boy laughing his head of, to so many cuddles, to memories! I know everyone thinks I’ve always got my shit together 24/7, but sometimes, doing things like this with a boy who needs structure and routine, I’m scared. Here’s to being brave, to doing it for my boy and with my boy, for the Mum he’s created, the love I have for him and all the Mum’s of unique children who worry that they can’t…until they know they can”

*Harry has a fixation on remotes and calls them motes

*Guest post*

7 ways to cope when you know people are staring.

I never really noticed people staring at each other before I had a baby with half a face (yes, I’m blunt). The reaction we got in the early days almost made me a recluse. I was hyper sensitive to every glance and whisper. They may not have even been aimed at us but I was convinced that they were. I ‘knew’ that people were talking about my son and the terrible mother who had failed him. Read more about my initial reactions to the news that Harry had been born with Goldenhar Syndrome in the moment that life changed forever.
Over the years I have developed some strategies that make it easier for me to cope with the stares, the sideways nudges, the pointing and the whispering (and even some crying from infants!). I’m not saying I don’t notice them, or that they don’t hurt sometimes but I no longer dread taking my son out of the house. Hopefully, they might help (or simply interest) you too.

Don’t take it personally

Harry is not the sort of child people see every day. He does look different. As do people in wheelchairs, with amputated limbs, with birth marks or injuries. Curiosity is natural. I am not excusing staring here. Some people stare discretely while others will gawp with eyes as big as saucers. It’s hard not to take it personally but I can absolutely guarantee that if those people were to meet your child or loved one, they wouldn’t stare a second time. They are not staring at the person. They are staring at the condition. Their ignorance and curiosity intensifies that moment where their gaze rests for 30 seconds longer than it should and feels like an eternity of pain for you. But the vast majority of people mean no harm. In the same way that cars slow down to rubber neck at a collision on the opposite side of the road. No-one is hoping those passengers have died, it’s the very opposite in fact, but we all have a morbid curiosity to wonder and stare. It’s not your fault but equally it’s not theirs. It is not an attack on your child. It is not a judgment of you as a parent. They simply don’t understand.



This simply has to be one of the most under rated tools of defence that we have. A smile in the direction of a staring pair of eyes will have one of three results.

It may have no effect at all. From experience, this is rare. If I smile at someone (usually a teenager) and they ignore me or simply continue then yes, I want to punch them in the throat. (I said I had developed techniques to cope – not that I was totally immune to the occasional urge for retaliation!) However, more likely is that people will either feel incredibly awkward and look away (result!) or they feel comfortable enough to then approach you. Yes, I know this is terrifying but bear with me…


Be prepared to answer questions

I am pretty much a walking FAQ these days. “What happened to your boys face?” “Where is his eye?” “Will he have a new one?” The questions have changed as Harrys face has evolved but I still have a bank of standard responses and am rarely caught off guard by a random question. Although, the little girl who pulled my sunglasses off at the park to see if I had one or two eyes a few years ago took me my surprise, and did make me laugh. Once you accept that people stare because they don’t understand what they are looking at, you can pre-empt the sort of questions they will have and you can be ready to answer them. The alternative is feeling a surge of adrenalin the minute anyone tries to engage you in conversation and feeling like your mouth is full of cotton wool. I’ve been there and its not healthy for anyone. Take some time to think objectively about the things you would want to know if you saw a child or person like the one you love and get comfortable with answering them.


Control your self-talk

Ok so in the early days my mind went something like “Everyone is looking” “They all think he’s ugly” “They all think you caused his problems and you’re a terrible mum” “They’re laughing at us”.

This self-talk totally overrode any rational internal dialogue and if I didn’t take a shopping list and a pen with me when I went food shopping then the chances are I wouldn’t buy anything we needed because I was physically unable to think clearly. Self-talk is massively powerful. It becomes the reality we create and it can hold you captive or set you free. Again, I’m not saying this is easy but working on the things you say to yourself is absolutely crucial to your resilience and mental health. Now, if I find myself in a situation where lots of eyes are on us – like a recent visit to a huge swimming attraction where I knew there would be lots of curious children – I tell myself “Its natural and fine” “Just smile” “Focus on Harrys happiness” “A few stares will not spoil our day”. Don’t let the things you say to yourself spiral out of control. Even just being aware of your inner dialogue is a great place to start.


Be proactive

This is a tough one and took me a long time but by a mile it’s the strategy that leaves me feeling the most successful. When I see children staring now I will smile back and ask Harry to wave. Or I’ll introduce him. At this point, I usually get all the questions and can use my FAQ responses that I rehearsed at home. Yeay for preparation! Sometimes people scurry away but often they will chat for a little while and leave us a little bit more educated than they found us. Mortified parents who have caught their child staring or pointing and dragged them off by the arm to be reprimanded are my favourite to speak with. I tell them it’s ok and not to worry. I introduce Harry and although the parent clearly wants to crawl up their own arse I know it’s helping their child so I feel that it’s worth a moment of discomfort on their part. Here, the control is mine and let me tell you, it feels so good not to be passive in your own life.


Don’t go looking for it

This one is more proactive than reactive but from experience I know that I used to leave the house expecting people to stare. I think now that I almost eyeballed them first, daring them to stare at me and prove me right. Not healthy.

If I tell you to count white cars on the road then suddenly you’ll see loads. The brain is amazing at honing in on what you need it to. You don’t need the starers but you do fear them and so the same principle works. Focus on having fun yourself. Just don’t go looking for the stares and whispers or I guarantee you’ll find plenty.



Notice the times when you are a starer too (Yes, you do it too!)

Oh the irony! I would hate people staring and yet the minute I saw other children with facial disfigurements or disabilities I was all about the staring. Not because I was judging or rude. I might simply wonder if they’d had any procedures like Harry had, or what device they were wearing and how it helped them. My friends son is in a wheelchair and often she says she catches herself staring with ‘wheel envy’ at a more up to date model of a chair. Like I say, its natural and you never know the motives of people when they are staring.


There will always be people who stare. Some will be naturally curious, others will be wondering what you have been through and it’s a sad fact that some will just be plain rude. You can either spend time worrying and wondering or you can accept that it will happen, be prepared with your strategies and decision to enjoy the day.

It’s always a conscious choice and sometimes it takes practice but if I can do it, anyone can!


Chat soon

Charlie xxx

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All about Charlie

Hi, I’m Charlie, mum to twins Oliver and Harry and I am blogging about life as a parent of a child with special needs at Our Altered Life. I chronicle the highs and lows of a life less ordinary and the challenges and adventures we all face. When I’m not writing or working you will find me drinking gin, eating my own body weight in cheese and laminating stuff (you can take the girl out of teaching but you cant take the teacher out of the girl!)

Social media links





Our altered life will be available to buy from 29th September.

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Dangerous Crossing By Rachel Rhys #review

Dangerous Crossing Cover

I am honoured to be on the blog tour for Dangerous crossing, I adore this book, it’s in my top 3 reads of 2017 and if you haven’t already read this delight of a book I urge to add it to your TBR pile now!


 NOW A RICHARD AND JUDY BOOK CLUB PICK 2017* ‘The pages turn themselves!’

Shortlisted for the HWA Gold Crown 2017

A stunning, atmospheric novel in the great tradition of Death on the Nile and Patricia Highsmith, which tells of a young girl’s terrifying journey trapped on a cruise liner to Australia at the brink of the Second World War.

‘Thrilling, captivating. Simply stunning’ Daily Express 5 *****

‘An exquisite tale of love, murder and dark secrets’ LISA JEWELL

‘Intoxicating. I loved this book!’ SANTA MONTEFIORE

‘An utter treat . . . a glorious mix of proper old-school glamour and a labyrinthine plot full of class war, politics and sexual tension . . . A masterful storyteller.’ VERONICA HENRY

England, September 1939
Lily Shepherd boards a cruise liner for a new life in Australia and is plunged into a world of cocktails, jazz and glamorous friends. But as the sun beats down, poisonous secrets begin to surface. Suddenly Lily finds herself trapped with nowhere to go …

Australia, six-weeks later
The world is at war, the cruise liner docks, and a beautiful young woman is escorted onto dry land in handcuffs.

What has she done?

Dangerous Crossing Blog Tour Poster

My Review

Where do I start with this fantastic novel! Firstly I love this era so for me it was off to a good start. By the second chapter, i was hooked and drawn into the plot.

A Dangerous Crossing has a mix of everything, love, suspense, murder, mystery, as well as being a historic novel. The twist at the end……amazing and totally unexpected, but I’m not going to spoil it for you, instead I urge you to click on the link at the end of this review and read it for yourself, I promise you won’t be disappointed!


The first pages start where the story ends, 4th September 1939, Sydney, Australia. A woman is led down the gangplank of a ship which left Tilbury Docks five and a half weeks earlier. She is in handcuffs and flanked by a policeman either side of her. What is her crime? Why was she on board the ship?

The story centres around Lily Shepherd. It’s 29th July 1939 she is leaving England to create a new life, the government are offering young women who are prepared to go into domestic work in Australia, a free ticket with a promise of  2 years of work. Lily is running away from life in England and the reason why slowly unfolds as you delve deeper into this book.

The other characters all have secrets they are trying to escape, the rich and damaged Max and Eliza Campbell. They are flamboyant, larger than life and not like anybody Lily has ever met or socialised with before. She is warned about the couple many a time but something draws her back to them.

Helena and Edward Fletcher are brother and sister, Edward’s health has been very poor, Helena has given up her life in England to travel to Australia to make a new life where hopefully Edward’s health will improve but is there more to them than meets the eye?

Running through the story as an under current is the increasing threat of war and the effect it will have on everyone. As well as the divides of class and nationality.

Lily is a strong and very likeable character. At the beginning of the story she is very naive, as you follow her journey you feel her changing yet still trying to stay true to who she is. The stories main core of characters have individual stories and secrets that slowly unfold.

The only down side of A dangerous crossing is it had to end! This book really does give you a taste of everything and has the ability to keep you up far too late ‘just reading one more chapter’

This is a definite 5 star read for me!

To buy Dangerous Crossing click here

I’d like to thank Anne Cater,   Alison Barrow , Tammy Cohen & Transworld books for allowing me to review Dangerous Crossing.

Rachel Rhys+©+Johnny Ring


The Law Of Attraction By Roxie Cooper #giveaway #BlogTour #Review

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Amanda Bentley has always dreamed of being a barrister…

But as a platinum blonde bombshell from the wrong side of town, with a perfect tan and sleek high heels, she doesn’t exactly look the part – or fit in with the brash public school boys and cold posh girls of Newcastle Crown Court’s robing room. Amanda’s never been one to back down from a challenge, and so when she wins a prestigious pupillage following law school, she’s determined to make the most of her chance – and make all her dreams come true.

Only three things stand in her way: Sid Ryder – the sexy, irresistible barrister who she absolutely cannot, under any circumstances, sleep with. At all. Marty Gregg – her smarmy law school nemesis, who she’s in direct competition with for the top job. And her big, dark secret that could jeopardise everything she’s worked so hard for.

Who said that following the laws of attraction was going to be easy…?

Perfects for fans of Legally Blonde, Lindsey Kelk and Joanna Bolouri

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My review

I absolutely adored this beautifully written book. I was intrigued to enter the world of a barrister and all the pomp and ceremony that goes hand in hand with it.

The main character Amanda is a breath of fresh air. She is feisty, sassy and gorgeous. The fact that she is not a stereo typical barrister makes the story even more endearing. There is such a girl power element that made me want to punch the air a fair few times!

From the moment Amanda starts her pupillage at Athena Chambers you join her on a roller coast of a ride. The law of attraction is a real winning recipe of wit, intrigue & sheer determination, with a pinch of love and passion thrown in to spice things up. It has a complete feel good factor and for me ticked all the boxes of a top read.

There is a secret  that Amanda is hiding that could ruin her career before it has even begun, Roxie manages to entice you with this through out the book, you find out snippets here and there, it definitely intrigued me and led to many a late night as i just read ”one more chapter”

The characters have been so well created that they jump out of the pages and come alive. A delicious read that has left me wanting more! 5* review from me!

Thank you to Roxie, Neverland blog tours & HQ Digital for allowing me to review The law of attraction.


All about Roxie Cooper

Author Photo law of 3

Roxie was born and bred in Middlesbrough.  After studying Classics at University, she became a dancer in a nightclub for a few years, before going travelling and living in Australia.  When she returned, she swapped dancing on a bar, to practising at the Bar, and became a barrister for 7 years.

It was after being constantly told “Ooh! You don’t look like a barrister!” by absolutely everyone she met, that the idea for her debut novel was born.

Roxie lives in Yarm, a pretty little market town in the North-East.  She’s a bit (lot) obsessed with Prince and spends far too much time watching him on YouTube.  Her hobbies include watching musicals, making her hair as big (and blonde) as possible, and wishing she was Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Where to find Roxie





Links to buy The Law Of Attraction



Win a copy of The law of attraction, a legally blonde DVD and a £10 MAC gift card (UK only) Click here to enter



Let Her Go by Dawn Barker #Q&A #extract

Let Her Go Blog Tour (3)

Today  I’m so excited to welcome Dawn Barker to my blog.


Hi Dawn, thank you so much for joining me on your blog tour for Let her go. Could you tell me a bit about Let her go?

Thank you for having me! It’s great to be here.

Let Her Go is my second novel, but my first to be published with Canelo. It tells the story of two step-sisters, Nadia and Zoe, one of whom acts as a surrogate for the other. It weaves between the perspectives of both sisters, as well as the child who is born out of the surrogacy, Louise, and explores each character’s own psychological journey as they come to realise that the arrangement has not worked out as they had planned.

I first thought about writing Let Her Go after watching a documentary about a woman with a medical illness who used a surrogate mother to have a child. In the show, when the surrogate mother attended the child’s birthday party, she seemed very attached to the child she had carried. There was something in the body language of both women that made me wonder how they both really felt, behind their smiles.

I then heard more and more about the advances in fertility treatment, and read stories in magazines about people buying eggs and embryos overseas, then paying women to carry the children for them. Around the same time, I re-read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and saw that the world she imagined in a speculative fiction novel is not that far removed from the one we live in now.

I personally felt conflicted: being a mother myself, I would never deny anyone the right to experience the joy of being a parent, but I was aware that there are ethical issues to consider. I wrote Let Her Go to explore my own feelings about this complex issue.


Your books are so beautifully written and about really emotive subjects. How does a story first start to form in your mind?

Thank you! Both of my novels have started from my own ethical conflicts about contemporary issues. My first novel, Fractured, dealt with the issue of postnatal mental illness, and Let Her Go deals with surrogacy. I like to take real life issues and explore my own uncertainty about them through characters and writing. Our society is changing so rapidly that there are no shortage of ideas in the newspapers, in documentaries, and in real life stories. I try to explore those issues from various points of views through my characters because there is no ‘right’ answer in my books; life is not like that.

Of all the characters you have created which is your favourite and why?

In Let Her Go, I enjoyed writing Louise the most. Zoe and Nadia both had elements of myself in them, but Louise was a character that seemed to spring from the page. She wasn’t even in the first couple of drafts of the book, but as I redrafted, I felt that her story was missing and needed to be told. She was easy to write, and it didn’t feel like hard work at all.

Where is your happy place? The place where you find it the easiest to write.

I used to always write in my local library. It’s a lovely, modern library where they encourage you to chat and even have a coffee shop! When my children were younger I’d leave them with a babysitter and head to the library, and write amongst the books with the sounds of baby rhyme time in the background! Now, with my children at school, I try to write at home in my study. I don’t find anywhere easy to write at the moment with all the distractions of my day job and a busy family – I do dream of going to a writing retreat somewhere quiet, but I think I’d miss my kids too much to concentrate!

What is your all time favourite read?

It’s so hard to pick just one! I loved Lionel Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin for inspiring me to write about difficult subjects and A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving for creating such a wonderful and complex character. I also loved The Secret History by Donna Tartt (although when I re-read it for a second time it lost some magic!) and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Who is your favourite author?

Again, it’s hard to pick one but if I have to, I’d say that David Vann is one of my favourites; I always rush out to buy his books. While writing Let Her Go I re-read his brilliant Caribou Island. While this is set in Alaska, a long way from Western Australia, Vann is an expert at using landscape – in this case an island – to increase the intensity between characters. I loved the idea of an island being both an escape, and a prison, and tried to use that idea in Let Her Go.

What book is on the top of your ‘’To be read’’ pile?

At the moment, it’s The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. My to-read pile is very large and ever-evolving!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

I hope that I’m pretty much doing what I’m doing now – finding a balance between my family, my day job as a psychiatrist, and writing. Most of all, I’ll be grateful to have health and happiness!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I don’t have much spare time – I work three to four days a week and have three children, and also try to fit in writing, but my big passion (apart from reading of course!) is running. I run most mornings – it’s my time to de-stress and prepare myself for a busy day, and I can fit in some more reading by listening to audiobooks.

Finally, do you have a third book in the pipeline?

I do! I’m writing it at the moment and the plan is for it to be out next year with Canelo. It’s not finished enough to talk about yet, but I look forward to sharing it in the near future!

Thanks again for having me on your blog today, and if any of your readers have any questions I’d love to hear from them through my website http://www.authordawnbarker.com, Facebook http://www.facebook.com/authordawnbarker, or Twitter @drdawnbarker. Thanks again!







Could you share your child with someone else?

Zoe wanted a baby more than anything. But her dreams will come at a price…

After years of struggling to conceive, Zoe and her husband face the prospect of never having a family. When Zoe’s stepsister, Nadia, offers to be a surrogate it presents the perfect solution. A healthy girl, Louise, is born.

But no one imagined just how hard it would be to know someone else was also mother to your child. As the pressure on Zoe and Nadia mounts, they make choices that there is no going back from.

Years later, Louise is in desperate need of her family’s help. Can they put their painful history aside to save the child they love so much?

Let Her Go Blog Tour


Chapter one

Zoe stood on the front step of her parents’ house, staring at the two floating helium-filled balloons tied to the door handle. Inside, she could hear the rhythmic beating of music pierced by laughter and the clinking of glasses. They were late.

‘You OK?’ Standing beside her, Lachlan squeezed her hand slightly.

She clutched him tighter, but didn’t move. ‘I don’t think I can do this.’

‘We don’t need to stay long, we’ll just show our faces, then we’ll go home again. I promise.’ He let go of her hand and put his arm around her.

Zoe nodded, then closed her eyes for a moment. If she didn’t go in, there would be too many questions later. She opened her eyes again, looked up into Lachlan’s face, then tried to smile. He smiled back, then pushed open the door. Inside, the narrow hallway was lined with even more balloons, distorted 60s stretched on the taut blue metallic skin, each string weighed down by a book. Her mother must have gotten the idea from a magazine. Zoe stepped in, swatting at the balloons as they drifted towards her face. Lachlan followed her and closed the door behind them.

The music was Paul Simon, of course, her stepfather’s favourite. With each thump of the deep bass, her body vibrated. The noise seemed to rattle through the hollow of her pelvis, as if it was something more solid than sound. She wanted to turn around and run, but instead she shuffled down the hallway towards the party.

When they emerged into the kitchen, Zoe forced herself to smile and wave at her mum. Rosemary had been to the hairdresser: her ash-blonde hair barely moved as she put a tray of sausage rolls down on the kitchen bench. She spotted Zoe and Lachlan, and raised her hand and smiled back. Zoe had an urge to run to her and tell her what had happened, but her mother had already turned away and was gesticulating to the two teenage waitresses. Besides, this wasn’t the right time.

Lachlan’s hand was in the small of her back; she kept walking through the open-plan kitchen to the lounge room. All the furniture had been pushed to the edges of the room, and the patio doors were open onto the timber deck, which was thick with people.

Lachlan leaned down towards her ear. ‘Do you want a drink?’

Zoe nodded, then stood still as he went to find one, not trusting herself to be able to walk without Lachlan by her side. One drink wouldn’t hurt, not tonight.

People pushed past her, a few saying hello. She heard herself responding, as instinctual as breathing. Lachlan came back, a beer in one hand, a glass of champagne – of all things – in the other. She took a sip, then a gulp, grimacing at the bubbles popping in her mouth. She drank another mouthful, then followed Lachlan out onto the deck.

Her stepfather, Martin, stood by the barbecue, holding long tongs. His nose was red and shiny in the glare of the deck lights, and his cheeks were flushed. Someone spoke to him and he threw back his head and roared with laughter. Zoe smiled, genuinely this time. He was wearing the apron with the image of a bodybuilder’s torso on it that she and Nadia had given him one Father’s Day. He was sixty now. Zoe couldn’t imagine herself at sixty. She mightn’t make it that long; if she did, who would come to her party? Her parents would be dead, probably, in another twenty-four years. She would have no children. No grandchildren.

Shaking off her maudlin thoughts, she gulped down her drink. Tonight was about Martin. She put down her empty glass, laced her fingers through Lachlan’s, walked towards Martin and touched his arm.

‘Happy birthday.’ She stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek, then took the shiny silver parcel from her handbag and handed it to him.

‘Hi!’ Martin cried. ‘How long have you been here? Thanks!’ He put down the tongs and started to open the parcel.

‘We just got here. I hope they’re OK, I didn’t know . . .’ Martin grinned and moved the open box from side to side so that the cufflinks caught the light. ‘Zoe, they’re great!’

She smiled. ‘Are you sure, I —’

He put his arm around her and kissed her forehead. ‘They’re perfect.’ He looked at Lachlan, then clasped his shoulder. ‘Lachie! Great to see you! When did you get back from Kalgoorlie?’

‘Happy birthday, mate,’ Lachlan said. ‘I just got in last night, I’m back for a couple of weeks.’

‘That’s good timing! I’m glad you could make it. You got a beer?’

Lachlan held his up. ‘Got one here!’ He looked around the garden. ‘Good turnout.’

As Martin and Lachlan chatted, Zoe let the noise around her fade out. Lachlan didn’t have great timing at all. Yes, he’d made it back in time for the appointment with Dr Patel this morning, but he’d been away so many other times in the past few years when she had needed him. What about the times she’d woken up barely able to move because of her joints burning, her face swollen, a livid rash scalding her cheeks, and knowing that it meant the lupus had flared up again? Or the times when an ache in her abdomen had sent her running to the bathroom, praying that she wouldn’t see streaks of blood on the toilet paper, but knowing that she would? While grief had torn through her body, he hadn’t been there. Yes, he’d offered to come back early, but in the next breath told her that he didn’t want to tell the guys on the mines what was going on, and that someone else would have to cut short their own time with their wife and kids to take his place. So, the last time, Zoe had told him not to come back; after all, it wasn’t like she hadn’t been through it before, she’d be OK.

But she hadn’t meant it.


Click here to buy Let her go

All about Dawn Barker

Dawn Barker

Dr Dawn Barker is a psychiatrist and author. She studied Medicine in the UK before moving to Australia in 2001 where she completed her psychiatric training – winning the RANZCP’s  Maddison Medallion in 2009 – and began writing.

In 2010, Dawn’s first novel, Fractured, was selected for the Hachette/Queensland Writers Centre’s manuscript development competition and it was published in 2013 in Australia. It was one of Australia’s bestselling debut fiction titles, and was shortlisted for 2014 Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards. It has also been published in Turkey and Poland.

Her second novel, Let Her Go, was published in July 2014 in Australia, and has now been published in Turkey, Poland, and the UK in May 2017.

Dawn has written non-fiction for various magazines and websites, including Good Weekend, Mamamia, Essential Baby, Quartz, Artlink and the Medical Journal of Australia.

She is an experienced public speaker and has spoken on writing, mental health and parenting at conferences, writers festivals, television and radio.

Dawn lives in Perth, Western Australia with her husband and three young children. When not working as a psychiatrist or writing, you might see her running and listening to audiobooks.

Where to find Dawn





I’d like to thank Dawn Barker & Canelo for allowing me to take part in this blog tour.

The Collective by R.S Williams #blogtour #giveaway

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Matilda Gregson never knew a world outside hers existed, that is until Harvey comes along and shows her something beyond her imagination. All that is on Tilly’s mind is finishing her dissertation, getting her degree, and spending time with her friends before the end of the school year.

But everything changes when she meets Jenny, an agent of a secret society, and nothing prepared either of them for the adventure they are about to endure. Under the pressures of surviving, their friendship grows and they find friends in the most unlikely of places, and betrayal just around the corner.

Will they both be able to stop him before he tears Jenny’s society to the ground?

My review

Welcome to a magical story that transports you to bygone days. The collective is a fantastic story and has a great fantasy element.

The Collective takes you back to the 1700’s amongst pirates and privateers, hold on tight as you find yourself aboard The Solitaire amongst the most fierce and fearless pirates that sail the seas.

If like me you love Harry Potter, time travel and anything that pushes your imagination back to childhood, this is the book for you!

The collective is a secret society of agents who check that the history recorded in history books and other media match the version of events that the Regents, the experienced members of the society, know to be true. If there is a difference one of the collectors will travel back in time to rectify it.

In the collective,  there is a rogue collector on the loose, one who is entering time portals without permission and trying to change history.


The story alternates between Jenny, a novice collector and Tilly a uni student who’s life up to now has been very much normal! Both characters are gutsy, strong and have the real likeability factor. Jenny is on a mission to find out who the rogue collector is and Tilly gets swept up and taken along for the ride!

This is a story that draws you in from the first few pages and delivers you back to reality as you read the last word!

The ending is left open for the next installment which I for one can’t wait for!





All about the author

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Rhianne Williams, formally known as RS Williams, writes Fantasy, Adventure and Romance novels. As an avid reader Rhianne has always been in love with the written word and the emotions a good story can create.

Discovering she had a knack for creating stories as a teenager, she started work on her first story. However, at 16 the mundane adult world called her back to an admin job and Rhianne put writing on the back burner until she turned 20. Rediscovering her fascination with writing and creating Rhianne then threw herself back into her writing in 2014.

When she isn’t catching plot bunnies, typing up her creations or writing on her blog, you’ll find her in front of the television watching her favourite shows, spending time with her family and getting lost in others fictional worlds.

Where to find R.S Williams






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Click here to buy The Collective


To win a signed copy of The Collective click here  – UK ONLY





37 Hours By J F Kirwan

37 hours


After two long years spent in a secret British prison, Nadia Laksheva is suddenly granted her freedom. Yet there is a dangerous price to pay for her release: she must retrieve the Russian nuclear warhead stolen by her deadliest enemy, a powerful and ruthless terrorist known only as The Client.

But her mysterious nemesis is always one step ahead and the clock is ticking. In 37 hours, the warhead will explode, reducing the city of London to a pile of ash. Only this time, Nadia is prepared to pull the trigger at any cost…

The deadly trail will take her from crowded Moscow to the silent streets of Chernobyl, but will Nadia find what she is looking for before the clock hits zero?

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My review

This is the second book in the Nadia Laksheva spy thriller series. It can be read as a stand alone book, although I’m sure if like me and characters in a book really draw you in, you’ll soon be reading the first book to find out the history of the characters.

37 hours is a gutsy story of espionage and deceit.  Where no one can be trusted and just as you think you know the direction the story is taking you,  J F Kirwan manages to give you virtual whiplash as he changes direction without warning!

Nadia, the main character is ballsy,  courageous and has nerves of steel. She is a mixture of Lara Croft and a female James Bond. There is a softer side to her and the romance between her and jake that runs throughout the story,  makes her very human and 37 hours a real winning read.

Not for the faint hearted, there is plenty of blood and guts, J F Kirwan doesn’t take prisoners and often characters meet an early end when you least expect it.

This is a great read and one I challenge you to not read in one sitting!

Thank you to J F Kirwan and Neverland blog tours for allowing me to review 37 hours.



All about the author

J F Kirwan

 J.F. Kirwan is a writer for Harper Collins, under their HQ digital imprint. By day he works in aviation and nuclear safety, but at night, during bouts of insomnia, he writes thrillers with significant body counts. He’s an ex-diving instructor, so there is an underwater element in each of his two novels, 66 Metres and 37 Hours. Most readers find his writing has a cinematic feel, as if you are there with the characters. The original inspiration for the protagonist, Nadia, came from Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the dragon tattoo, though David Baldacci and Lee Child have had significant impact on the writing style, plotting and pace. He is currently writing the third book in the series.

Where to find J F Kirwan




Buy 37 hours here…



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