An Englishwoman's Guide to the Cowboy by June Kearns

I'd noticed this book being promoted on Twitter but as I don't regard myself as a reader of Westerns hadn't looked at it until I was browsing in the Kindle Store and it popped up on the "other readers also read" list. I read part of the free sample and I'm glad I did as An Englishwoman's Guide to the Cowboy by June Kearns is one of the best examples of romantic fiction I've ever read.

Each chapter of An Englishwoman's Guide to the Cowboy is headed up with a quote from another book. I've been unable to find out whether or not this other book actually exists but if it doesn't it should. Author June Kearns uses references from The Gentlewoman's Guide To Good Travel by Margaret Mary Whittier to provide a marvellous structure for her novel.

The setting for An Englishwoman's Guide to the Cowboy is the American West in 1867. The beauty of the landscape contrasts with the difficulties of living within it. Not only the heat but the periodic attacks by the dispossessed peoples of the region make life intolerable for unlikely heroine, Annie Haddon. 

Annie is a well-bred, bookish, English spinster who is travelling with her stuffy aunt by stage coach across America. The aunt is Annie's guardian and she epitomises all the repressed attitudes of the Victorian era. However, an unexpected stage coach wreck causes Annie to meet English-hating, rule-breaking, Colt McCall. 

Was there ever such a hero? Heathcliff meets Rhett Butler! Colt is a wonderful romantic lead although the development of his and Annie's relationship is far from conventional.

The supporting characters are many and varied reflecting the different aspects of society of the era and the complexity of the plot. The writing is so good that every character comes alive and makes a strong contribution to the overall story. The dialogue is excellent in An Englishwoman's Guide to the Cowboy providing authenticity to the setting and ensuring the vivid development of the characters. The plot has more than enough complications to keep the story moving forwards at a good pace and, of course, there's a very satisfactory ending in true romance style albeit with an unexpected twist.

I really enjoyed reading An Englishwoman's Guide to the Cowboy and I recommend it highly not only to readers who enjoy romance but also to those who enjoy well written fiction whatever the genre. 

There are details of An Englishwoman's Guide to the Cowboy by June Kearns on the author's Amazon author page if you hit this link.

Cathedral of Lies (Detective Inspector Doug Taylor Book 1) by John Pye

With a gripping plot, interesting characters and an unexpected thriller style development, Cathedral of Lies is a page turner from start to finish.

DI Doug Taylor of the Staffordshire Police teams up with three police officers from Exeter when their respective investigations become entwined. Unexpectedly, the plot develops to encompass elements of a real life unsolved crime which broadens out the setting of this exciting novel into another country.

As a retired police officer, author John Pye uses his knowledge of police procedure to give this book a high level of authenticity. The dialogue feels very real: it's sharp and pacey and helps to keep the plot driving forwards and it adds to the sense of urgency that builds as the novel develops.

The relationships between the villains are complex and challenge the reader to try and work out who has been doing what to whom and why with a new interpretation in every chapter.

The novel is intriguing and exciting and after a few pages I found I had to force myself to put it down to go and do other things.

A really good read and there's a second DI Doug Taylor (Field of Lies)already published and waiting to be read.

This is a link to the Amazon bookpage for Cathedral of Lies and this is a link to the Author's website.

The website is well worth looking at. When you get to the end of Cathedral of Lies you find a secret code which lets you further into the website where there is a wealth of background information about several aspects of the story.

A bit of detective work on my part has found that author John Pye is of particular interest to self-published indie authors. In November 2013 he was interviewed in The Guardian about several aspects of self publishing and his answers still make for interesting reading.

Scotch on the Rocks by Lizzie Lamb

A couple of weeks ago I read Tall, Dark and Kilted by Lizzie Lamb (see review here) and learned that her new romantic novel Scotch on the Rocks was soon to be published. As it was available to pre-order in the Amazon Kindle Store I clicked the button and received the new ebook within a few seconds of publication on July 6th.

I'd just finished reading The Little Girl Waits by Jamie Greening (see review here) and needed to read something more light hearted so Scotch on the Rocks seemed a good idea.

Lizzie Lamb has already demonstrated in Tall, Dark and Kilted and in Bootcamp Bride that she is an expert in writing romantic fiction. She creates believable main characters who fall in once-in-a-lifetime love; she devises imaginative and unusual conflicts and tensions that threaten to keep the lovers apart; she develops a rich cast of supporting players who help and hinder the resolution to the lovers' problems; and she describes fascinating and beautiful settings in which their story unfolds.

Miss Lamb has done all this again in Scotch on the Rocks, another lightly comedic tale of love and romance. It's set on a beautiful, remote, isolated Scottish island where the sunsets, the landscape and the waves supply a charming location for the emerging romance between returning islander Issy and Brodie, a stunningly handsome Texan.

There are some unanswered questions about Brodie and his sudden appearance within the small island community and Lizzie Lamb teases the reader with possibilities while making sure that the characters themselves haven't a clue what's going on. The plotting in this novel is really clever and although you can see the end long before you arrive, there are many surprises on the way. Scotch on the Rocks keeps you turning the pages and wondering what's going to happen next.

Issy and Brodie are both attractive, feisty characters and Lizzie Lamb has included a couple of enviably lusty sex scenes which take full advantage of the stunning scenery without recourse to shackling the heroine to the furniture or the infliction of gratuitous pain. The epigraph to the novel is particularly apt.

There's a wealth of beautifully written cameo parts: Aunt Esme, the peace camp septuagenarian, Lindy, the over helpful wannabe croupier and opera singer Isabella, La Bella Scozzese. In addition, the local islanders bring authenticity and moments of high comedy to the story. And for comedy, the seventy-something, freeloading, dope-smoking, hippy protestors who are in at the start of the story made me snort with laughter. And not forgetting Pershing, the parrot with a vocabulary as explosive as his name.

The dialogue is particularly good in Scotch on the Rocks. It's sparkling and vivid, sharp and witty. There's a lovely Scots voice for all the indigenous characters enhanced with the musical, poetic tones of Gaelic. At the start of the book a glossary of definitions and pronunciation of the Gaelic words and phrases used by some of the characters helps the reader to get the most out of the beautiful language. The author plays with the language too helping American Brodie to find his Scottish roots and Lindy to practice her transatlantic twang.

No doubt about it: Lizzie Lamb has excelled with Scotch on the Rocks. A five star romance from a five star romantic novelist.

Get details of this and Lizzie Lamb's other novels on her Amazon Author Page or her website.

The Little Girl Waits by Jamie Greening

The unlikely hero of The Little Girl Waits is a Baptist Church minister whose congregation is located on the north west Pacific coast. Pastor Butch Gregory is distressed when Tamara, a young girl who attends his church, disappears, apparently without trace. 

Pastor Butch thinks he is called by God to search for the girl and rescue her. In his quest he is assisted by a disillusioned war veteran and a woman who is straight-talking and street-wise. Inspired by a prophetic poem, the determined trio are confronted with a series of obstacles as they race against time to save the girl.

The novel is well written in a direct style which is easy to read and moves with good pace from page to page. Although the underlying theme of child sex trafficking is unpleasant, I enjoyed reading the book and there were several aspects which I found interesting.

In the final pages, the author explains the circumstances which lead him to write the book. This provides the rationale for him looking at the issue of child sex trafficking in a novel. The novel succeeds in raising awareness of the subject without the use of gratuitous detail for which the author should be commended.

The novel is an overtly Christian book which explores the positive power of prayer and demonstrates the integration of bible study into the challenges of everyday life even in the difficult circumstances explored in the plot.

The two supporting characters, Wyoming Wallace and Amber Smith, are both very interesting. They are essential to the success of the venture and to the fulfilment of the prophecy. They are also vital to the Christian sub-text particularly in relation to the themes of retribution and redemption which criss-cross the text.

There are elements of the supernatural in the book which with a different focus would place the novel in the fantasy genre. This mixes with the thriller aspects of the novel to produce a highly readable hybrid which, for something a bit different, is well worth a look.

You can find details of all Jamie Greening's books on his Amazon Author page and his website. This is the Amazon UK link.

Guest Review of Julia Hughes' An Explosive Time

I enjoyed reading 'An Explosive Time' by Julia Hughes, the third of the Celtic Cousins' Adventures. Today my husband, Michael Murray, finished reading 'An Explosive Time' and I'm pleased to post his review here on Indie Bookworm.

Michael wrote:

'An Explosive Time' is a wonderfully entertaining blend of the real and the surreal. This delightfully picaresque comedy-drama zings and zips along with amazing vitality aided by dry, clever, worldly dialogue redolent of the back-chat and demotic bon mots of the London streets. Chas and Dave meet the Sweeny via Minder with a touch of magical realism.

D.I. Crombie, a very human Detective Inspector, as authentic as a pair of policemen's boots, is determined to do the right thing albeit in an unorthodox manner. His mission isn't made any easier by the actions of the Celtic Cousins; an elephant recently liberated from the circus; to say nothing of a bathroom monopolised by a crocodile. This reptile is depicted with such appealing and attractive menace by Julia Hughes that, for me, going to the bathroom will never be the same again!

The cast is an impressive gallery of strong and vividly contrasting characters that includes extremely heavy London villains, diamond geezers, various chancers and of course cops: some ineffectual, others irreverent and one definitely bent. The other central character whose presence is ubiquitous throughout the novel is London: not the London of tourist attractions but the city of caffs, corner pubs and undistinguished back streets linked by urban clearways and motorways enclosing sanctuaries of green open spaces that remind us that not too long ago this great, sprawling capital was once a series of discrete and picturesque villages separated by open fields. Julia Hughes' wonderful  evocation of this urban hinterland is so accurate it made me, a Londoner living in the North, feel homesick for a pint in 'The British Volunteer' and a plate of pie and mash.

There's plenty of action mixed in with the wacky comedy as well as a touching sub-plot of a love story. The author's genuinely original and descriptive writing style makes good use of metaphor: after an explosion 'Oversized scarlet petals hurtled skywards'; houses appear 'to march in one long terrace'; and when D.I. Crombie launches himself at the hard men it is  with 'rage burning through every molecule of blood in his veins'.

I hugely enjoyed 'An Explosive Time' which is the third in the 'Celtic Cousins' series. I recommend it and shall certainly be reading the other titles.

Michael Murray July 2015

You can find details of all Julia Hughes' books on her Amazon author page or her website.