A rapid read in my handbag

Please see my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

A rapid read in my handbag 

A Chick-Lit book to distract you at the airport.

Alternatively, have a drink, put your feet up and enjoy Beth’s company. 



Press Three for Goodbye 

Diane Need

Many thanks to Diane for requesting a review and providing me with a copy of her novel.

This is a quick read that will entertain.  You will sail through the narrative but expect some choppy water.

Please see My Reading for the full review.

A table for two and a notebook

On arrival at Restaurant James Sommerin, we ordered a good Pinot Noir. We noted that the ambiance was calm, staff attentive and the other guests were very well attired.

Feeling relaxed, in our jeans and T shirts, we discussed the merits of the food; each dish looked elegant like a work of art.  Much to my husband’s dismay, I started to make notes about the food.  The guests on the neighbouring table were intrigued by the notebook.  Clearly, I wasn’t a restaurant critic as I was wearing jeans.   We sipped more of the wine that was so beautifully flavoured with summer fruits that it could have been a soft drink.

The delicious food improved with each course.  Buoyed by this tasting experience, I was determined to write an analysis of each dish. I scribbled furiously between each morsel and took photographs of the dishes.  More delicious wine was poured into a glass that could happily home several goldfish.

Alas, I cannot read the scribbles in my notebook.  Throughout the notebook, I had repeated the words ‘great textures’ and ‘explosion of flavour’ albeit in various styles of handwriting. ‘Desert’ was underlined enthusiastically. Did I go to the Sahara to eat pudding? Other words were incomplete and I hope that they didn’t run off onto the beautifully laundered table cloth.  I circled ‘black pudding’ purée several times because I didn’t have my highlighter pen. I do remember that I was offended by the puréed texture but I am a northerner.

Undeterred by the black pudding, I did note down Picasso’s poetry on a plate.  Obviously, Pinot Noir should come with a cliché warning on the label. Mysteriously, the notebook has splashes of wine and food inside of it but I will keep it as a tribute to the Picasso chef.

James Sommerin is a chef and an artist.  The restaurant was like a theatre of food and next time I will dress up for the occasion. The food was so good that I can forgive the corruption of the black pudding texture.  I will wish on a star for the restaurant!



Please see my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Meeting historical novelist and his scoundrel ancestors

John Jackson





My phone guided me through the ancient streets of York to meet, historical novelist, John Jackson.  I could not resist stopping to watch to the occasional street entertainer, and was very distracted by the outdoor market.  Although, the air was unseasonably warm, I could sense Christmas creeping around the corner. Some of the stalls were crammed with Christmas jumpers, wrapping paper and the sort of decorations that would tempt the Christmas magpies.  Tempted by the bakery, I had a cursory glance through the window then moved on towards Ye Olde Shambles Tavern. 

Finally, I felt the uneven cobbles beneath my feet, and the heels of my boots struggled to grip the ground, it was obvious that I had reached the famous medieval street.  I reached a building that would have looked at home in a museum.  Outside the building was painted black and the window reminded me of a shop one would imagine in a Dickensian novel.  My imagination had taken me to the wrong era, but having researched John’s book, my mind was full of history.  Instantly, John greeted me with his warm smile and welcoming manner.  He was looking very relaxed in his cords and checked shirt.

John:  Welcome to York!  I have taken the liberty of buying you half a pint of Shambles Tavern Stumbler.

It was a straw coloured beer with a pleasant hoppy finish.  It was served cool but not cold.  We also had a complementary plate of sandwiches and crisps.

Jessie:  Thank you, John. It is great to be back in Yorkshire.  Sorry, I’m a little late but I got distracted with Shambles Market. 

John:  No problem, it is so easy to get lost in the history of York.  The Shambles is rumoured to be the best preserved medieval street in the world.

Jessie: I didn’t know that – thank you.  You certainly do adore your history.  I was reading about your historical novel on the train and it looks so tempting.  It was fascinating to discover your novel is based on your family history.

John:  Ah yes, I started to research my Family Tree fifty years ago.  I was lucky to find transcribed letters from my great, great grandfather on one side of the family, and on the other I found that my great great grandmother was related to the Rochforts of Belvedere, in Ireland.  I had to research this treasure and along the way, I came across some juicy relatives – and a story that was crying out to be told.

I found a booklet titled ” Some Celebrated Irish Beauties of the Last Century”, and the first chapter was about my book’s heroine. I couldn’t pass this story by. In my eyes it was crying out to be told, even though the original story would need a very different treatment.

I ended up writing the story of what I would LIKE to have happened.

John saw me looking at his novel peeping out of a rucksack.  He held up the front cover with pride.

John:  It was a great moment for me when I received the physical copies of the book.  I am totally delighted with the front cover. It’s a portrait of Robert Rochfort, and it hangs in Belvedere House in Mullingar. The management of the house (an Irish National Monument) were extremely helpful in allowing me to use the image.

Jessie:  It is like the front cover for a classic, historical novel – perfect for the genre.  Can you capture the essence of the book in a couple of sentences?


You can’t choose who you lose your heart to!

Love can be the only thing that keeps you alive.

Jessie:  Wow!  You have already hooked me into the novel.  

I picked up the book and searched for a key sentence on the blurb.  The blurb is succinct and deliciously tempting. I read from the blurb on the book, hoping that John would tell me more.

Jessie: The blurb says, ‘Based on real events, Heart of Stone is a tale of power, jealousy, imprisonment, and love, set in 1740s Ireland.’ Please tell me more about this captivating story.

John: I don’t want to give too much away, obviously. Fortunately, it is a time that is past. We behave better now – or at least differently. I can reassure you, though – you really WILL be captivated by the story.

Jessie: I can see that there has been an awful lot of interest in your book online.  Everyone seems to love the fact that the story is based on your own family.  What do the reviewers say?

John:  For me, the fact that my wife loved the book was such a great reward.  Here are some of the reviews from Amazon:

‘A brilliant book, found it hard to put it down!’ By Mum’s the word

‘I thoroughly enjoyed reading Heart of Stone. I found it hard to put down from the first pages onwards.’ By Rebecca H Stevens

And from Goodreads: ‘Utterly loved the book, fantastic read and loved it very much…’ by Gwessie Tee.

Jessie:  I am impressed with the way that you are tempting me to read the book – very clever.  Come on now, can you read an extract.

John took a sip of his beer then picked up his book.  He had already marked some passages and took a couple of minutes to select the extract.

John: Mary felt the warmth of his lips on her fingers; the sensation caused her to feel a glow deep within her. She looked up and into his eyes. They seemed deep enough to drown in.

Jessie:  Well, I wasn’t expecting that level of intrigue in such a short passage.  Who is Mary, she sounds as if she is in trouble?

John: She is, but doesn’t know it! She is my 5 x Great Grandmother, Mary Molesworth and the daughter of an Irish peer. She is Robert’s new wife.

Jessie:  How did you develop the characters in your novel.  Did you have clues about the characters’ personalities in your research?

I started with what was actually known about them and worked from there. I found that easier than I expected, possibly because they are – initially – “broad brush” characters.

Jessie:  It must have been quite a journey to write this book, and it must have been difficult to leave the characters behind. How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?

John: Writing “The End” was both the best and the worst of sensations. I was delighted to finish the work; but it was also like saying goodbye to some old friends.

I would like to have written more about the enigmatic Mr Stafford. He knows everything.

Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why?  This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family.  

John: Most of all, I would like my friends to read it. There is a lot of “me” in Heart of Stone.  My wife has already read it, and, happily, loved it.

Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?

John: It entertains (I hope), and it reaffirms the old tenet of “Never give up! Never lose faith!”

What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?

From my next book: (Working title “Strange Bedfellows”. He never felt the blow that felled him, but, as his assailant kicked him viciously in the ribs and back, he could feel himself slipping into unconsciousness. A disembodied voice spoke into his ear as he lay there. “Stay away from here. We don’t want your kind.”

Jessie: I have just read a wonderful blog post from you where you explain how you have marketed your book.  It was thorough and I have shared it with others. What is the biggest challenge for an author?

John: For a NEW author, realising that you might have a good tale to tell, but you really need to learn how to tell it! Writing is a craft, and it behoves us to do it well, if we believe in our story.

Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

John:  Don’t give up!

Jessie:  You certainly don’t seem like the sort of person to give up.  Your novel sounds like a labour of love. It must be wonderful to get an insight into your ancestors.  I searched for Belvedere House, one of the settings, it looks magnificent.  I was intrigued by the Jealous Wall.  Does this feature in the novel? Tell me, did you visit Belvedere House in Ireland? 

John: We did indeed. I HAD to check to see if I had made any major mistakes in my draft. Fortunately, I hadn’t. Belvedere and the Wall are impressive. They both feature heavily in the novel.

As expected, John was great fun to interview.  He is such a warm character and very clever at presenting clues about his book.  I wish him the very best of luck with his debut novel.

About John…

After a lifetime at sea, I am now retired, and have turned to writing fiction. An avid genealogist, I found a rich vein of ancestors, and suddenly realised just how much material there was for any number of books. Most people throughout history have led boring, humdrum and frequently brutally short lives, but on my family tree, there were a good number of real characters. Some were total scumbags, and lots did “interesting things.”

A chance meeting with some authors led me to turn his efforts to setting down some amazing stories. John is a keen member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Historic Novel Society and an enthusiastic conference-goer for both organizations.

I was brought up on Georgette Heyer from an early age, and, like many of my age devoured R L Stevenson, Jane Austen, R M Ballantyne, and the like. These days my tastes run towards Bernard Cornwell, Simon Scarrow, Liz Fenwick, and Kate Mosse.

Contact details:

Website:  john42hhh.blogspot.co.uk

Twitter: @jjackson42 

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/johnjacksonauthor/



Please see all my interviews at My Guests and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.


A ghostly extract in the pocket of my handbag

Lay Me to Rest, Elizabeth Clark








What is the book about?

Lay Me to Rest’ is the story of the newly-widowed, pregnant Annie’s attempt to overcome her depression, by renting a remote cottage in Anglesey. Her arrival, however, triggers violent, unexplained disturbances within the house and the “holiday” soon becomes the stuff of nightmares.

Why should I keep your book in my handbag?

You’ll want to keep the book to hand – there are several momentous events throughout, so you’ll probably want to keep turning pages!


Again, the same line, yet louder and more persistent. It seemed to reverberate round the walls. I was in no doubt now that the words had been uttered with venom; that someone – or something – meant me harm. My breath came in shallow, rapid gasps. I was filled with a feeling of unreserved dread.

As my eyes grew accustomed to the dimness, I could discern a silhouette, apparently seated at the foot of my bed. I opened my mouth to scream but the power of speech seemed to have deserted me. I could do no more than watch in sheer terror, as the mattress rose slightly and a nebulous figure drew to its full height, releasing a rush of icy air. I could not – dared not– conceive of what might ensue. I was petrified.

I stared helplessly at the apparition; through the gloom, its body resembled the shimmering negative of an old photograph; but the eyes receded deep into their sockets, as black and fathomless as a calm lake. My stomach lurched as the spectre brushed past me, only to vanish into the wall. I sat, rigid with fear, hardly daring to breathe. My heart pounded so loudly in my chest that it seemed to fill my whole head.

The tension shines through in this extract and involves the reader. Elizabeth’s debut novel is receiving very positive reviews. This is a gripping thriller; perfect for fans of Kerry Wilkinson, Sarah Wray and Stella Duffy. 

E. A. Clark

The novel is currently on offer.  Find out more about the book at:

Bag a Bargain

Elizabeth will talk more about her book in an interview on Friday. This ghostly book is released on Friday, 29th September. Warning!  You won’t be able to put this book down.


Please see my blog for more articles, book reviews, author interviews and adventures at jessiecahalin.com

 ‘Golden afternoon light’ and shadows lurking in my handbag

The Little Theatre by the Sea 


Rosanna Ley





For me, reading should enable me to escape, to travel and to inhabit another world.  And I was on that plane, travelling to Sardinia, with Faye taking in the sight of the ‘islands, rocky bays, boats moored in the almost circular harbour and turquoise water that looked more like the Caribbean.’  Instantly, seduced by Ley’s scene setting: I settled back to enjoy the journey.  I expected paradise but it wasn’t that simple.

As an armchair traveller, the only baggage I carried was high hopes for a romance with a perfect setting, and I was not disappointed.  I walked along ‘…cobbled streets lined by tall skinny houses painted every shade of vibrant turquoise to deep ochre’ and I was lost in the vibrant colours of the Mediterranean.   My senses were piqued by the ‘sweet, pungent smell of roasted peppers, tomato and garlic exiting every doorway.’  Lost in paradise, I meandered through the Ley’s setting and basked in the ‘golden afternoon light’, with Faye.

Beneath the beguiling canvas of Deriu there are shadows lurking.  Faye feels ‘a dark underbelly to this place’.  Ley’s story explores the shadows and searches beneath the surface of the paradise.  The Little Theatre is a symbol of: the town’s history, culture, the secrets and the way that the heart can wither if unloved.

‘The ravages of time and damp had left the theatre looking tired and unloved.’  And the ‘ravages of time’ have left scars on the community.  The Volitis morn for, Giorgia, their missing daughter. Pasquale still pines for the dream of a loved one that he could never obtain.  Time has taken Alessandro and Marisa’s parents, thus inspiring them to transform the theatre into a memorial.  Over time, the theatre has hidden secrets and even sheltered people from danger.  Faye’s parents, back in the UK, have also hidden a marriage that has been ravaged by time and secrets.  The theatre seems to be a symbol of the lives that also need to be restored.

If Faye is to restore the theatre, then she must understand what the theatre means to the people of Deriu.  However, it is uncertain if she will be able to succeed in the task that she has been given by the Rinaldis.  Alessandro Rinaldi is like a brooding Italian Healthcliff who seems wild and tormented by a mystery.  Surely, this is the beautiful hero with ‘navy eyes’ will fall in love with Faye.  Alessandro can be compassionate and mysterious, and Faye’s confusion is imprinted on the scenery that is ‘a jumble of roots and flower-ladden terraces; vines twisting around pergolas. Purple jasmine blossoming in a haze.’  Indeed, Faye’s feelings for Alessandro seem to be in a haze and the tension is overwhelming.  The interaction between Alessandro and Faye successfully drives the narrative.

The insight into Faye’s parents helps the reader to understand Faye.  There is a clever juxtaposition of what seems to be the end of a relationship compared with a potential new relationship.  Faye’s parents, Ade and Molly, both embark on an emotional journey.  These characters provide some poignant reflections on love and marriage.  Ade, who has been looking for adventure, realises ‘…it was the minutiae of life that kept couples together’.  Ley’s exploration of the way a marriage can veer out of control is thought-provoking. Molly’s epiphany is beautifully washed away in a memorable scene. Rosanna Ley examines how honesty is key in any relationship be it an established relationship or a new one.

Rosanna Ley

Faye’s parents live in a cold climate, by the sea, and are reserved and hide their feelings.  The villagers of……. live in a warm climate and they seem permanently angry.  The Sicilians are a ‘proud race’, they ‘shake their fists’ and ‘talk at the same time’.  It is difficult for Faye to understand the villagers but she must find a way if she is to be accepted.

An intriguing story about new beginnings, love, dreams and secrets.


Click here to buy on Amazon


Please see all my reviews at Books in Handbag or My Reading and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.


Enigmatic Dual-Time Guernsey novel in my handbag 

Anne Allen







Having departed from a grey, rainy day in London, it was a thrill to arrive in Guernsey.  A blue sky greeted me in Guernsey, and the cool breeze was refreshing.  A taxi took me to the quaint St Peter’s Port. I met Anne at The Old Government House Hotel, a cosy homely hotel with spectacular views.  Looking around, I tried to imagine how the building may have been used by the Germans, during World War Two.  My imagination slipped into scenes presented in novels and I shivered.  Fortunately, Anne greeted me, and her charming, sunny disposition and instantly brought me back to the present.

I wore my jeans and green Ralph Lauren jacket, while Anne wore jeans and a gorgeous grey leather jacket and carried a tan leather handbag. My green leather bag was crammed full of my notebook, kindle and snacks for the journey.  We sat in two comfortable brown leather armchairs, near a beautiful piano.  The room was cosy, despite the glamorous chandeliers twinkling above us. Unfortunately, there was no sign of the Renoir painting like the one found in Anne’s novel.  We chatted happily as we waited for the tea.  Grabbing Anne’s latest novel, ‘The Betrayal’, from my handbag, I asked Anne to tell me more.  

Jessie:  This is a beautiful place and it is difficult to imagine how Guernsey when it was occupied by the Germans.  Please, tell me more about your novel.

Anne: ‘The Betrayal’ is two intertwined stories; the first focusing on Leo, who loses everything in the German Occupation of Guernsey. The second concerns Fiona, who sixty years later, becomes caught up in what happened to Leo after the mysterious find of a Renoir in a Guernsey basement.

Jessie:  Where did you get the inspiration for your narrative in ‘The Betrayal’?

Anne: From two historical events that took place in Guernsey. The first was Renoir’s visit in 1883, when he stayed for a few weeks and painted numerous local scenes; in particular Moulin Huet on the south coast. These paintings are quite well-known and at least one is in a major museum. The second event was the forced deportation of Jews from Guernsey – and Jersey – by the Germans to concentration camps during WWII.

Jessie:  German occupation must have been terrifying for the inhabitants.  I look forward to reading your novel to capture a sense of the atmosphere.  Can you read an extract from the novel?

Anne removed her novel from the coffee table and selected a passage instantly.

Anne: ‘His heart lurched, hating to see her like this. Before he could say anything, she went on, ‘I can’t leave you here on your own, Leo. Anything might happen to you if…if the Germans do come.’

Jessie:  Great choice!  You build up the tension and make me want to read more.  Indeed, the passage is also anchored by the enigmatic front cover. I was searching for your reviews on the plane and found the following:

“To sum up, this is a wonderful novel, with tons of pace where pace is needed, and a setting so lovingly described, it is almost a character in the book. I am happy to recommend this story, in fact, all of them, to anybody who enjoys a well-plotted mystery populated with convincing and always credible characters.” A ‘Wishing Shelf’ Book Review

Anne found some Amazon reviews on her phone.


“I just finished the book–could hardly put it down! Another winning story from Anne with history, romance and intrigue” Amazon review 5*

“Really enjoyed this book. I almost didn’t put it down. Wonderful twists and turns with a lot of wonderful descriptions of Guernsey” Amazon Review 5*

Jessie:  Having seen the wonderful setting via the plane.  Could you read your description of the setting?

Anne:  The warm sunshine felt good and deep breaths of salty air soon had her striding out towards Moulin Huet Bay. The yellow flowers of the gorse, shading pink campion and yellow celandine, made a bright contrast against the deep green of the grass and Fiona felt her spirits lift a little. Cliff walks had played a large part in her childhood and youth. Her parents considered them an integral part of the weekends and school holidays. They always started from Soldiers Bay, within easy reach of their home in Colborne Road. The path led them close to Blue Bell Wood, a delightful sea of blue in spring and one of Fiona’s favourite places.

Jessie:  The setting is wonderful and does ‘lift my spirits.’.  I adore a book where you feel transported to the time and place.  I can understand why Renoir was inspired to paint in Guernsey. I notice the novel is part of a series.  How does ‘The Betrayal’ fit into the Guernsey Series?

Anne:  All six books in The Guernsey Novels series are standalone stories but they share characters who featured in previous books. It’s like reading about a small town, when people know each other and turn up when needed. Each book has fresh main characters to add to the mix and to prevent readers becoming bored! My ‘fans’ tell me they love recognising characters from previous books in the series, making them feel at home

Jessie: How did you feel when you had finished writing ‘The Betrayal’, and did you miss any of the characters?

Anne: Relieved – and exhausted! It had taken me months longer than anticipated to finish but I was pleased with the result. Characters do get under your skin and I miss Fiona and Michael in particular. The joy of writing books in a series is that characters can pop up again, so it might be au revoir not goodbye.

Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why?  This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family. 

Anne: I would be honoured if Barbara Erskine, the writer of so many wonderful time-slip books, would deign to read my humble offerings. Any words of advice and/or encouragement from her would be gratefully received.

Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?

Anne: It’s a page-turner and with short chapters, so easy to pick up and read when you have a moment to spare.

Jessie: What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?

Anne: “Leopoldine drowned with her husband, aged 19, in September 1843.” For my next book, ‘The Inheritance’, set partly around Victor Hugo’s time in Guernsey.

Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an author?

Anne: Getting noticed by potential readers. There are millions of books available to choose from these days making it almost impossible for an unknown writer to be noticed in the crowd. Now I have a series of six books to my name, it’s becoming a little easier.

Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

Anne: To write as if for myself, not to worry if anyone will ever read my words.

More about Anne…

…Anne is a retired psychotherapist who finally got the chance to write when her three children flew the nest.
… loves history and exploring old houses, visiting places of archaeological interest on her travels.
…won a holiday to The Gambia early this year and had a wonderful time.

The enigma and setting of ‘The Betrayal’ left me wanting more, and I was delighted to receive a copy of the novel. I look forward to travelling back to Guernsey via the novel. 

Following the interview, Anne took me on a tour of St Peter’s Port.  The cobbled streets greeted us as we walked towards the gardens.  It is no surprise that this port has been deemed one of the prettiest ports. We walked to George Road, the lodging house where Renoir stayed during his visit to Guernsey.


Please see all my interviews at My Guests and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.


Characters Trapped in the Mind of a Book Blogger

Please visit my website at jessiecahalin.com  

This week has been a busy adventure for @BooksInHandbag.

I have been communicating with fictional characters and trying to get into their world.  I feel as if have been residing in a corner of my mind that is neither reality nor fiction and it’s a great place.

Leah, from Just for the Holidays, has been sending me postcards about her dilemma out there in France, and other characters from the books that I am reviewing have asked for help.  Annoyingly, the author, Angela Petch is also travelling to Leah’s holiday destination and she has been trying to get into the heart of the gossip.  I am sure that Angela wants material for her next book.

I have been desperately trying to get out to France to support Leah, but it is proving to be quite a challenge.  Locating a ferry ticket has been an absolute nightmare, holiday shopping has been horrendous and I am petrified of driving in France.  As I write, I am planning how to get out there to Leah and find out what is happening.  It is difficult because I can sense that she doesn’t want me to go out there for some reason, but doesn’t want to offend. I need to see Leah face to face. It is a concern that Angela will hunt out any gossip and spill the beans in her next novel.  Despite my reservations about driving in France, I will just have to get on with it and race out there.

Must stop!!! Someone is knocking at the door and the next-door neighbour’s dogs are going mad.  Who is it?  I can see a camper van outside. I will be back soon…

It’s me…I am back again.

The characters from my debut novel You Can’t Go It Alone were knocking on my door. Sophie and Jack have arrived in a camper van and they have said that I can borrow it for the journey to France.  It is so typical of Sophie and Jack to think of others when they are going through so much.  However, I don’t know why they have changed the lovely tangerine orange colour to a yukky pale blue.  I might have to take them up on their offer, if I can find an available ferry crossing.

I hope that I get to France on time!

It’s frightening as the characters, from the books, are taking over and I am not sure what is reality and what is fiction: all I do is write, write, write the events of my day.  It’s great fun, and it’s amazing to connect with the creative minds of other authors.  I may never have to face reality again thanks to Twitter and the power of the imagination. The author Linn B Halton has just messaged me to say that there ought to be an ‘Authors Anonymous’ to assist with our addiction to writing.

Are the characters, in the books that I am reviewing, taking over my life?

Please visit my website jessiecahalin.com to find out more about these authors.