Shady: No Safe Place

As much as I’d like to read all the crime fiction that I receive, sometimes I have to be sensible and hand them to a TBYL Reviewer. This week, Kate Barber had a read of No Safe Place by Jenny Spence (Allen and Unwin).

Take a read of Kate’s review of this suspenseful title from a new Australian author…


Elly Cartwright is an unassuming woman going about her everyday business. That is, of course, until two of her close friends are murdered. With the help of some very  IT-savvy work colleagues she takes it upon herself to try and get to the bottom of why this tragedy has happened, all the while being stalked by the murderer herself.

No safe place“I wake up shivering and for a moment I don’t know where I am. The light comes around the synthetic curtains is all wrong. Everything seems o strange I wonder if I’m still dreaming and I close my eyes again, willing myself back into my own bedroom with my good worn Persian rug, white cotton sheets, and the print of Vermeer’s Seamstress on the wall. But it’s no goo, I’m at Lily’s and though DS Webster isn’t chasing me and there’s no cobblestones oozing blood, Carlos and Mabel are both dead and my life could well be in danger.”

Set in Melbourne, this book has the reader traipsing around familiar territory and quirky Melbourne settings, on to Sydney and back to country Victoria. There’s also a little bit of lust and banter with Mike Lewis, the police Detective who’s following her case. An intricate web of deceit, money laundering, shady contract bids, offshore banking and Ukrainian connections is unravelled by this case of self-made ‘detectives’ and leads to an exciting climax.

Jenny Spence is a Melbourne writer and this is her first novel, leaving lots of scope for further adventures for Elly Cartwright. No Safe Place is certainly fast-paced and leaves you wanting to read on despite the fact the kids are calling and dinner needs to be cooked! At times the writing is a little clumsy “we got our coffee and we drank it” however the details and the quick pace keep the reader interested.

An easy, sit by the pool on holidays read.


If you’d like to find out more about No Safe Place, by Jenny Spence visit here…

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Pen pals: I’ll Be Seeing You

I didn’t know that I was giving TBYL Reviewer Kate Barber such a uniquely constructed book when I handed over I’ll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan (Harlequin) but by all accounts this novel is something new – both in its subject matter and in how it was put together – and it certainly seems to have won Kate over…


It’s January 1943 and the war is in full swing… normally a book that started that way would have sent me running, but from the first page of I’ll Be Seeing You I was completely hooked, so much so that I had it finished it in two sittings!

I'll be seeing youSuzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan share with us the story of two women, complete strangers, living on opposite sides of America, who, by a twist of fate begin to correspond with one another through letters. In the beginning, the only thing they have in common is that their loved ones are fighting in the war.

Rita Vincenzo – the ‘Garden Witch’ – lives in Iowa and has been married for 21 years to Sal, a professor. She has a wicked sense of humour, a love of gardening and abundant generosity. Both her 18 year old son and husband have gone to fight in the war. In contrast, on the other side of the country, in Massachusetts, lives high-society Gloria, aged 23, 7 months pregnant and mother to a 2 year old boy. With her husband also at war, she is bored and lonely. To ‘pass the time’ Gloria attends a ladies group on Wednesday afternoons in which, on one occasion, they are  asked to choose a name of a stranger out of a hat to correspond with if they began to ‘feel lonely or desperate’.

Over the next three years the two women regularly write, forging a true and beautiful friendship. Fighting their own separate battles of loneliness, temptation and desperation, their humour , honesty and in the end, deep affection for one another helps them get through the toughest time in both their lives. They share gossip, recipes, remedies for ailments, gardening tips and their histories, passions, fears and worries in the time of war.

Their journey sees them both facing incredible hardships and loneliness but through their bond and a bit of ‘girl power’, their friendship grows and is unwavering.

This book is made all the more remarkable by the fact that the two authors themselves have never met. Suzanne was blogging and connecting with other writers (no ladies group on a Wednesday here) and came across Loretta. They started writing to each other, a friendship was forged, a year later they talked on the phone. By writing emails back and forth to each other the book was formed. The method of of construction of course mirrored the story of Rita and Gloria, as their friendship grew despite never having met.

I have to say, I loved this book. It is beautifully written and outlines two very different characters and different styles of writing. The humour and honesty is lovely, the characters engaging. Get this book, make yourself a cuppa and nestle into your favourite reading chair…


You can find out more about I’ll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan here…

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Tough and Inspiring: My Wild Ride

Today’s review is from TBYL Reviewer Kate Barber. Kate recently read the inspirational story of horse-rider Fiona Johnson in her memiors My Wild Ride from Allen and Unwin. Here’s her thoughts on this tough but inspiring read…


My  Wild RideMy Wild Ride is the true story of Fiona Johnson who, at 25 years of age seems to have it all. She is newly married to the man of her dreams, has just bought a 5 acre property and is about to embark on building her first home when, in the prime of her life, she is diagnosed with Acute Myloid Leukaemia.

And so begins the biggest battle of her life. She begins a rigorous round of chemotherapy complicated by numerous setbacks and emotional uncertainty. She completes her chemotherapy with the amazing support of her adoring husband Matt, her family and her newly found faith in God.

Fiona goes into remission but her fight is not over. She recommences chemotherapy but is then faced with the choice of have a transplant or not – as she is given on 50% chance of surviving the next 5 years either way. On top of all this she desperately wants to have a child and her chances are slim after such intensive chemotherapy.

Fiona’s love of horses and determination then sees her embracing the rodeo circuit in the quest to forfill a life long dream of competing on the Australian Rodeo Circuit and, against all odds, to have a child.

Fiona’s story is told with honestly and it really is quite inspiring, the way in which she has been able to overcome everything that has been thrown her way with resilience and determination. Her love of horses and the rodeo circuit is spoken about with a lot of enthusiasm and is quite informative – great if you don’t know anything about this sport. As will most autobiographies of this nature it is very sad at times, however her positivity and determination definitely shines through.

Fiona is now the mother of 2 children and is cancer-free.


To find out more about Fiona Johnson’s My Wild Ride visit the Allen and Unwin website here.

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Keeping counsel: Mistress to the Crown

I can’t quite believe that so many wonderful people are keen to become part of the TBYL Reviewers team! Today I get to welcome the lovely Kate Barber.

Over the summer break, Kate read Mistress to the Crown, by Isolde Martyn (Harlequin). It was a different kind of book to that which she’d normally read, and Kate shared what she thought of this historical drama…


After having a few weeks off reading over the summer holidays, I was eager to get back into a good book, and so when Mistress to the Crown arrived on my doorstep, having not read many historical novels, I was ready to ‘read outside my comfort zone’.

mistress to the crown“The day Lord Hastings came into her husband’s store, Elizabeth saw the opportunity she had waited 12 years for – a way to separate herself once and for all from her dull, impotent husband, William Shore. The handsome stranger presented not only the chance to partake in the dance of desire, but legal counsel to annul her 12 year marriage.’

And so begins the real historical tale of Elizabeth Lambard – Mistress Shore, Mistress to King Edward IV of England in the 15th century.

Australian author Isolde Martyn is well known for her brilliantly researched and vivid accounts in her historical novels and has won numerous awards. She is a historian and former chair of the Richard II Society, and is more than qualified to write a book such as this!

The beginning of the book sees Elizabeth, at 14, trying to get legal counsel to annul her marriage to her husband while her ‘maidenhead’ is still intact. Having been ‘chosen’ to marry at 12 years of age by the 26 year old William, two years later she cannot stand her husband who she describes as ‘dull, dull, dull’ – not to mention impotent –  and she embarks on her not so easy quest to be granted a divorce, a notion almost completely unheard of in the 15th Century.

Fast forward 11 years and she is still married to William, working in his shop and bored, dreaming of grander things. When the handsome and debonair Lord Hastings (Lord Chamberlain and close friends of King Edward IV) visits the shop and spies her, she decides that this is her way out – she promptly asks him to ‘teach her’ the ways of love and so begins their affair.

All is going well with Lord Hastings until King Edward – Ned to his friends – spies her and thinks he would like in on the action. Being the King, he is not to be refused, and so Lord Hastings hands her over to the King. After some convincing, Elizabeth obliges and becomes his Mistress.

It is turbulent times within the Kingdom – wars, power struggles, take-over bids for the Crown, hangings, beheadings, the pox… but despite the hard times, Elizabeth is soon nickname ‘Jane’ by the King (as his wife is Queen Elizabeth and he doesn’t want to confuse the two!!) and moved into her own quarters within the Palace grounds where she is at Ned’s beck and call. They fall in love and the King begins to rely on her for ‘counsel’, friendship and comfort.

However, Elizabeth is labelled a strumpet and a whore and ostracised by her family and friends. She is scorned and despised by King Williams’s posse (except Lord Hastings, who still holds a flame) and frequently propositioned by the men at the Palace who despise the hold she has over the King. Nonetheless, Elizabeth is a strong and sure woman who stands up to her enemies and remains faithful to Ned.

That is until, after a short illness, Ned dies and the Kingdom is thrown into turmoil. Without the protection of the King, Elizabeth is on her own and her sorry downward spiral, at the hands of the King’s Counsel, begins. She moves from the Palace grounds and is labelled a witch, accused of sorcery and treason. She is taken to trial, thrown in jail and threatened to be burned at the stake.  When her only ally (and ex-lover) Lord Hastings is beheaded for treason she thinks there is no way out and concedes that she may well be killed.

But, a last minute reprieve, with the intervention of the new King’s Crown Solicitor, who just happens to fall for her quick wit and womanly charms (which apparently she has not lost despite being in prison with no toothbrush or shower!) and her destiny is once again changed. He devises a plan – if he marries her and gives up his Royal commitments, he can free her from the charges against her and make her a free woman. And so it is.

Having not read many historical novels, I was pleasantly surprised as to how easy this novel was to read and how much I enjoyed it. At the beginning of the book there is a ‘Family Tree’ and a list of characters appearing in the novel which comes in handy when the various Kings, Princes, Lords and Royal Counsel are discussed. There is also a ‘Glossary of Medieval Words’ at the back of the book – would’ve been good to be aware of this before I finished the book! Elizabeth is portrayed as a witty, feisty and clever woman trying hard to change her course and get out of the shackles that women in this era were bound by. The story has been told with humour and passion and gives an insight into the tumultuous times that were the 15th Century.

If you love an historical novel, I am sure you will enjoy this one too!


If you’d like to find out more about Mistress to the Crown, by Isolde Martyn you can do so here…

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