Genre: Ghost/Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Ebury Press (Penguin)

Published: 27th June 2019

Reviewed: 21st August 2019


A house full of history is bound to have secrets…

Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from…

Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…

My Review

Rowan Coleman has always been one of my favourite authors, occupying three out of the twenty coveted spaces on my ‘All Time Favourites’ shelf: The Baby Group, Dearest Rose, and The Summer of Impossible Things. All different genres, and all equally as brilliant as each other. So, as you can imagine, I had already set my hopes quite high for the author’s latest novel. As well as this, I knew The Girl at the Window had connotations with Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. This brings back fond memories when during the second year of my literature degree, I was snuggled up in my writing room, writing an essay on ‘the constant overlapping of the gothic and the domestic’ in Wuthering Heights whilst the snow and hail storm of February 2016 rapped against my window.

The Girl at the Window is a perfect blend of fact and fiction, historical and contemporary. Starting in the present, Tru is having one of those weird dreams where you think you’ve woken up but you haven’t. But when she does wake up her nightmare is only just beginning when she is told her army surgeon husband, Abe, has gone missing in action. But despite all the evidence stacking against him, Will (Tru and Abe’s young son) refuses to admit defeat and is determined to have faith in the return of his father. But Tru isn’t convinced and decides to go back to the home where she grew up, and the place where she fell in love with Abe: Ponden Hall and the Yorkshire moors, in the hope that she will find a clue as to what happened to him.

Tru’s mother still lives at Ponden Hall but we soon learn that their relationship is a difficult one and they have been estranged for several years. As the rift in their relationship gradually heals, we learn about what life was like for Tru as a child, and her father’s familial connection to Ponden and the Bronte’s. The story also touches on some deep issues such as post-natal depression. At first, Tru’s mother came across as a right old hag, but by the end I absolutely loved her. A tribute to the author’s wonderful creation of this multi-dimensional character.

But where this story is so very different from other ‘uplit’ genres is that it is also utterly creepy. You wouldn’t think the two genres would work together, but this hybrid really does work so well. There is a scene where a hand comes out of the wall and grabs Tru: like OMG I almost s**t myself! One of the reasons nineteenth-century gothic and crime novels were so popular was because they juxtaposed the ordinary world against danger. Sherlock Holmes for example, one minute he was trying to escape with his life, the next he was in his cosy living room with an open fire and his housekeeper bringing him a cup of tea. Ponden is like that; you have weird and supernatural things going on in one part of the house whilst Tru’s mother is baking cakes in another.

Like Wuthering Heights, The Girl at the Window also has a frame structure, where the past story is told through the present-day story. There were also some other plot and characterisation similarities to Wuthering Heights: I could see parts of Heathcliffe in a few of the characters. Like Heathcliffe, Agnes was brought to Ponden by the man who adopted her; and in the same way that Heathcliffe returned and bought Wuthering Heights, so did Robert. Whilst Blackbeard, like the adult Heathcliffe, was full of hatred and revenge, this character also reminded me of Hindley Earnshaw and the way he treated the young Heathcliffe. There is also, of course, the star-crossed love story element between Agnes and Robert, and not to mention Tru and Abe.

The Girl at the Window has been yet another unique and incredibly satisfying read from Rowan Coleman. I don’t want to give any spoilers but wow that ending, and how the message from Agnes links to Tru on a much deeper level is just brilliant. I can’t really say who I would recommend this book for as it in a league of its own. It’s a story for anybody who is looking for an uplifting story of family, love, loss, reconciliation, as well as somebody who likes a bit of gothic horror. Not to mention anybody who has a book addiction. Modern-day Bronte’ fans perhaps!

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley

for an Advance Review Copy of this book

in return for an honest and unbiased review.

About the Author

Rowan Coleman lives with her husband, and five children in a very full house in Hertfordshire. She juggles writing novels with raising her family which includes a very lively set of toddler twins whose main hobby is going in the opposite directions. When she gets the chance, Rowan enjoys sleeping, sitting and loves watching films; she is also attempting to learn how to bake.

Rowan would like to live every day as if she were starring in a musical, although her daughter no longer allows her to sing in public. Despite being dyslexic, Rowan loves writing, and The Memory Book is her eleventh novel, which was chosen as a Richard and Judy bookclub selection in 2014. Others include The Accidental Mother, Lessons in Laughing Out Loud and the award-winning Dearest Rose, a novel which lead Rowan to become an active supporter of domestic abuse charity Refuge, donating 100% of royalties from the ebook publication of her novella, Woman Walks Into a Bar, to the charity.

A House at the End of the Track

by Michelle Lawson

Publisher: Troubador Publishing

Date of Publication: 17th Dec 2018

Date of Review: 4th March 2019


An exploration of the English community in a remote corner of France. A book which looks beyond the stereotype of the English living abroad. No other travel narratives have focused on the Ariege Pyrenees region of France.

Intrigued by the endless accounts of English incomers `living the dream’ in France, Michelle Lawson set out to find out what it’s all about beneath that romantic veneer. Travelling around the Ariege Pyrenees she captured stories and observed the online interactions of a scattered English community, as well as frank conversations with new arrivals, old-timers and those packing up to return to England. We hear stories of meticulous preparation as well as buying on a whim, and from those who describe themselves as village celebrities, along with couples living in social isolation.

The book is a long way from the usual `we moved to France’ accounts. Instead it casts aside the romantic lens as the author travels among English settlers to hear their reasons for ending up in this remote corner of France. Readers will feel a mix of admiration, envy and sympathy, and perhaps even irritation with the incomers, as they sometimes contradict themselves in order to avoid the well-worn stereotype of the English abroad. The book is also a gentle reminder that such stereotypes present an unbalanced picture, and that if incomers do stick to some of their old ways, the reasons why might be understandable.

The author weaves her relationship with the landscape into the stories of the incomers in this wild and depopulated corner of the Pyrenees. Stories open up comment on local issues relating to conservation and re-wilding, as well as the continuing shadow of wartime events, in this much less well known part of France.

My Review

This refreshingly honest travel narrative gives an unbiased view of everyday life for the British community living in a remote area tucked away in the corner of south-west France. The author’s ability to bring this piece of non-fiction to life through vivid imagery makes this book not only suitable for anybody thinking of moving abroad but also for those who love a good story.

The book starts with the narrator lost at a crossroad. Although a physical act of misdirection for the narrator, this is also a metaphor for those thinking of up-rooting their lives in Britain at the prospect of a better life abroad. Such a huge decision: which way to go? And what about those who have already uprooted? Should they stay? Michelle Lawson explores these decisions through the people she meets.

The author’s journey across the region seems all the more real as we see her struggling to get from A to B on her bicycle in the sweltering heat of summertime in France. I felt like I was right there with her; in fact I had to stop part way through this section of the book to go and get myself a nice cold drink! The people the author meets along the way are depicted so well it was like I was meeting them myself. As we learn of the ‘push’ factors for leaving Britain, and the ‘pull’ factors of moving abroad, a character that stood out to me was Tina. Tina’s life had become intolerable following her divorce, where she lived on a forever spinning wheel of juggling childcare, long working days, alongside medication to help her sleep. Her desire to escape this stressful lifestyle in the UK that was affecting her health, for a more laid-back and better quality of life abroad, must resonate with many people. But rather than being portrayed as a ‘happy every after’, Tina’s real-life story is tinged with sadness at her daughter’s choice to stay behind in the UK. A House at the End of the Track is jam-packed with real people just like Tina, each with their own unique and personal story.

This gritty and realistic travel narrative is a real gem of a read and an absolutely essential piece of equipment for anybody who is thinking of moving abroad, not just to France but to anywhere. I really enjoyed reading this book which left me feeling like I had been on long holiday but actually quite glad to be back home!

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley

for an Advance Review Copy of this book

in return for an honest and unbiased review.

About the Author

A Young Man’s Game by Paul Blake

Publisher:                     New Generation Publishing

Date of Publication:    18th June 2018

Date of Review:            1st August 2018


Alec Foster is no Jason Bourne. He is Head of Section in Berlin for M16. He is fifty-one, and a borderline alcoholic counting down the days to retirement. Alec is told of a plot to assassinate a British Minister and that there is a traitor in M16.

As he tries to uncover the traitor, he is chased across Berlin by the assassins, Russian SVR and the Berlin Police. He must use his long-forgotten skills and push his body to the very limits to survive.

He comes face to face with actions from his past, as everything and everyone he cares about is threatened.

My Review

From the outset this fast-paced spy-thriller draws the reader into Alec Foster’s world by juxtaposing the setting of his work place alongside him receiving a text from his niece, Sarah. This gives an insight into how Alec’s all-consuming career working for MI6 has impacted on his personal life over the years, scuppering any chance of an ordinary family life, or indeed romance. We quickly learn that Sara is just about the only family he has; apart from Sarah, the only people in his life are his work colleagues.

When Alec receives inside information of a plot to assassinate the prime minister, his informant is shot and Alec soon becomes the number one suspect.  An intense game of cat and mouse then ensues as Alec is forced to use his skills to outwit those hot on his heels. He knows somebody at the embassy is behind the plot but doesn’t know who. When Alec worked as an agent out in the field he was used to working alone and thinking on his feet but now he’s not as young or as fit as he once was and he’s going to needs help this time. But just who can he trust?

The author has given this middle-aged protagonist some fab flaws. As well as shutting himself off emotionally from those around him and reluctant to ask for help, he is also a technophobe.  He might have got away with it twenty-five years ago but with technology now the forefront of intelligence this is a huge disadvantage. He packs a great punch though, and there are some awesome punch-ups.  The dramatic visuals are convincingly good, especially when Alec confronts the antagonist in the climatic scene; I can see this novel making a good film.

This third-person narrative has it all: action, suspense, even romance. And just when you think it’s all over… WHAM! .. another twist in the tale where events of the past put him in danger yet again. Alec Foster is a fantastic character and I hope this isn’t the last we hear of him.

This book has been awarded 5 out of 5 stars for its genre.

 I absolutely loved this book and couldn’t put it down.

Thank you to the author for an Advance Review Copy of this book.