Blog Tour & Excerpt – Tall Chimneys by Allie Cresswell

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Part of my goal as a reader is to continue to explore a diverse range of titles and share them with others. I love finding new books and authors. Today I am pleased to be sharing an excerpt of Tall Chimneys by Allie Cresswell as part of a blog tour presented by Rachel’s Random Resources.


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Tall Chimneys
By Allie Cresswell
Available 12/12/17

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Synopsis:

Considered a troublesome burden, Evelyn Talbot is banished by her family to their remote country house. Tall Chimneys is hidden in a damp and gloomy hollow. It is outmoded and inconvenient but Evelyn is determined to save it from the fate of so many stately homes at the time – abandonment or demolition.

Occasional echoes of tumult in the wider world reach their sequestered backwater – the strident cries of political extremists, a furore of royal scandal, rumblings of the European war machine. But their isolated spot seems largely untouched. At times life is hard – little more than survival. At times it feels enchanted, almost outside of time itself. The woman and the house shore each other up – until love comes calling, threatening to pull them asunder. 


Her desertion will spell its demise, but saving Tall Chimneys could mean sacrificing her hope for happiness, even sacrificing herself. 


A century later, a distant relative crosses the globe to find the house of his ancestors. What he finds in the strange depression of the moor could change the course of his life forever.
One woman, one house, one hundred years.

Purchase Links:  Amazon.com  Amazon.co.uk


(New)Excerpt

“There are certain human experiences that all writers quail at describing; childbirth, death and sex are three of them. These things are so individual and yet so universal. They are also, often, dramatic peaks in any story. It is almost impossible to depict them in a light that is credible, sensitive, realistic and yet impactful, and many writers fail in their attempt. Thankfully, as a mother, childbirth is something I have experienced for myself, and, while my children were not born as Evelyn’s is, I called on personal experience in describing labour.”

Winter Labour

The light was fading, turning from opaque pearl to smoky amethyst. We went indoors and stoked up the drawing room fire. John went downstairs to make tea, while I arranged all the cushions so as to ease my back and aching legs. Later, John read to me from A Christmas Carol and I stroked my belly, and wondered if the baby could hear the sonorous tone of his voice as he read. The three of us curled up together in the depths of the sofa, and the warmth of the room wrapped itself around us, and the whole house stood sentinel over us in that remote, hidden glen, swathed in mist and clamped by cold, under the dome of the sky and the eye of God.

John still used the upper room of the gatehouse as his studio but he hadn’t spent a night there since his return from the Continent. It seemed a specious fallacy, now, a charade that fooled nobody. We usually slept in the housekeeper’s room, and kept ourselves discreetly and decorously below stairs in all our daily comings and goings, but, that night, when it was time to sleep, we damped down the fire and switched off the lights, and climbed the stairs to Mrs Simpson’s room.

Overnight the temperature rose, the mist dissolved and in the morning the house was bathed in pure, winter sunlight. The lawn and trees sparkled, drenched in dew like diamonds. John opened the curtains and immediately got that look in his eye which I knew presaged creativity.

‘Go and paint,’ I told him, nestling back into the pillows and resting the cup and saucer he had brought me onto my bump. ‘Go, while the light lasts, and paint something glorious.’

He looked at me. ‘I oughtn’t to leave you,’ he demurred.

‘Nonsense,’ I retorted. ‘I’m going to go back to sleep in a moment, so I’ll be no company for you.’

‘Oh, alright,’ he gave in.

I was as good as my word, back asleep within moments; I didn’t even hear the motorcar as it pulled out of the stables and laboured up the slush on the drive. I slept in the filtered sunlight that came in through the half-drawn curtains until midway through the morning when a change in its quality woke me. The blue had been replaced by thin cloud. Above the amphitheatre of the trees I could see it moving, quite quickly, from the east. I got up and drew myself a bath. From its depths I could hear the telephone ringing, but it would have been impossible – and dangerous – for me to try and answer it. I wallowed on, and presently it stopped ringing.

By the time I got downstairs it was midday, and I set about getting together some food to carry up to the gatehouse for John, later. This necessitated a trip to the hot house, where tomatoes were still to be had from the yellowing, spent trusses. On my way I let the chickens out, and collected the eggs – not many, at that time of year, but enough for an omelette for supper, I thought. The hens came out cautiously, eyeing the air, placing tentative feet down on the chill, wet ground. As I re-entered the house I could hear the telephone again, ringing in the butler’s pantry. I dropped the eggs and tomatoes into a handy basket and hurried through, but when I lifted the receiver there was only a click and a buzz like an angry wasp on the line. The only person I could imagine calling was the doctor, and I put a call through to him, but his telephone, too, rang on and on and nobody answered.

I continued to potter round the kitchen; folding laundry which had been drying over the range, getting distracted by a particularly delicious pie which Mrs Greene had sent down for us, opening one of the jars of pickled cabbage from the larder to eat with it. I dried and put away the glassware we’d used the night before. Time passed.

About three o’clock I locked up the hens. They had already retreated into the shelter and warmth of their accommodation, sensing, as I had not, the storm which was imminent. The air outside had turned bluish; the cloud overhead was much thicker, lower, and very dark. As I watched, fat flakes of snow began to float from the sky.

I packed up my basket and made ready for the walk up to the gatehouse. I would have to hurry.

The first pain came as I was bending to lace up my boots. It was sharper and much stronger than I had expected, and not in my back, as Rose had described, but in some hidden and hitherto unsuspected ventricle at my core. I took a sharp intake of breath and sat back on the settle, quelling panic. My instinct was to clench up the place where the pain had been, to resist the sense of prising pressure.

‘Relax,’ I told myself, ‘probably just wind. Shouldn’t have eaten that cabbage.’

But immediately it came again, more insistent, a sense of determined opening, the way I had seen Kenneth kick and rattle at a shed door which has swollen and warped over winter, breaking the seal which time and nature together have fastened shut. At the same time I was conscious of a trickle of warm liquid coming from me.

Clearly, the baby was on its way.


Tall Chimneys - Allie CresswellAuthor Bio

Allie Cresswell was born in Stockport, UK and began writing fiction as soon as she could hold a pencil.

She did a BA in English Literature at Birmingham University and an MA at Queen Mary College, London.

She has been a print-buyer, a pub landlady, a book-keeper, run a B & B and a group of boutique holiday cottages. Nowadays Allie writes full time having retired from teaching literature to lifelong learners.

She has two grown-up children, one granddaughter and two grandsons, is married to Tim and lives in Cumbria, NW England.

Tall Chimneys is the sixth of her novels to be published.

Follow Allie: Facebook  Website  Twitter 


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I would like to thank Rachel and Allie Cresswell for allowing me to participate in the tour today alongside so many other wonderful blogs.

Happy Reading!

Danielle ❤

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Muriel Avenue Sluts by Maggie Hasbrouck

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Muriel Avenue Sluts
By Maggie Hasbrouck
Publisher: No Bones Studio Press
Kindle ASIN: B01MZ4Q5IA
Pages: 296
Genre: Fiction/Coming of Age

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Julia Turnbow’s mother gets paid to have sex; that’s just how it is. When Jules turns eighteen she‘ll follow in her mother’s footsteps and begin training to join the exclusive world of Philadelphia’s infamous Muriel Avenue Sluts. Anyway, that’s the plan.

But when Jules’s best friend Anna reveals that she’s being abused by one of Muriel Avenue’s gentleman clients, Jules’s world is knocked off its bearings. After a routine haircut and shave, Anna’s abuser falls to his death from a second-story balcony—and Jules is just one of two people who knows exactly what happened.

To complicate matters, Jules dives head first into a friendship with the daughter of the dead man. Greta’s a train wreck: she’s charming, unpredictable, and has one too many questions about Muriel Avenue. Then, Jules puts all of Muriel Avenue at risk with an ill-timed slip of the tongue and she finds herself wanted by the FBI. Running from everything she’s ever cared about, all Jules wants is to get back to the people she loves.

Complete with duct tape, wasp spray, and a healthy dose of sexual tension, Muriel Avenue Sluts is a coming of age story with a dark edge and plenty of heart.


(New) Thoughts

Muriel Avenue Sluts is certainly not a typical read for myself, but it is also not one to overlook. My review on this particular book is a bit late I am sad to say. I picked this up while on hiatus and devoured it within a few nights. Honestly, I am not sure why I am just now sharing my thoughts. Too far behind I suppose. But better late than never.

Muriel Avenue is not like other streets. It is famous for housing Philadelphia’s “Muriel Avenue Sluts”. A community of women who offer a variety of services that range from haircuts to sexual favors. For them it is a way of life. 18-year-old Jules is no exception, as she will follow in suit and train for the same occupation as her mother and the other avenue inhabitants. But when Jules’ best friend and neighbor Anna reveals a horrible secret, life takes a turn for the unexpected. Plans change and become very complicated, driving Jules far from the only life she thought she would ever know.

I want to start of by acknowledging that Muriel Avenue Sluts is a story that explores some very heavy and important issues. It is quite possible that some will encounter triggers and it will not be suitable for all. It is an emotional read that is much deeper than its title or cover could ever possible convey. Do not pick this up expecting a light read and please avoid if you struggle with the topic of sexual abuse or rape.

With that said, I will admit that equally driven by character and plot, events unfold at a reasonable pace creating a fast read. A dynamic set of characters placed within a very unique environment offers the reader a diverse experience that is as thought-provoking as it is original. Jules grows tremendously during the span of the story and we receive a firsthand look at the consequences of very difficult actions. Yet it is significantly hard to fault her or Anna for the choices they have made, right or wrong. While their lives are beyond anything I could imagine or compare to my own, I found myself empathizing and relating to them in multiple ways with incredible ease.

The plot is brazen and dark, as it tackles difficult topics of sexual abuse, the unfamiliar and the uncomfortable. It also takes a direct look at an environment where sex is viewed as a commodity. This alone can feel very unsettling. While the main protagonist is a teenager, I find it difficult to classify this as YA. It does not read as such and really explores some strong subjects in a very direct on and raw manner. I admire the author’s ability to delve so deeply and honestly into such complex and sensitive issues. I feel this would not have succeeded otherwise. Without her straightforwardness, the message would not have packed the necessary punch. It was important to make the reader troubled and uneasy with what was happening, and she accomplished this well.

This is a challenging read not without a few minor issues. There were some elements I found myself questioning and it was never possible to fully accept or understand the life these women had chosen. But Hasbrouck did manage to solicit many moments of empathy and understanding, so in that I think it was a success. While I was not able to fully relate to the characters’ lives, I found myself relating to small portions within them and walking away with a powerful message. This would be an excellent selection for a discussion group.

Untitled design Served with a tall glass of iced tea and fresh lemon.

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Purchase Links: Amazon.com Book Depository

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My Sweet Friend by H.A. Leuschel

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My Sweet Friend
By H.A. Leuschel
Published Helene Leuschel
Kindle ASIN: B077SJ657G
Pages: 92
Genre: Novella/Fiction

Synopsis:

A stand-alone novella from the author of Manipulated Lives
A perfect friend … or a perfect impostor?
Alexa is an energetic and charismatic professional and the new member of a Parisian PR company where she quickly befriends her colleagues Rosie and Jack. She brings a much-needed breath of fresh air into the office and ambitiously throws herself into her new job and friendships.
But is Alexa all she claims to be?
As her life intertwines with Rosie and Jack’s, they must all decide what separates truth from fiction. Will the stories that unfold unite or divide them? Can first impressions ever be trusted?
In this original novella, H.A. Leuschel evokes the powerful hold of appearances and what a person is prepared to do to keep up the facade. If you like thought-provoking and compelling reads with intriguing characters, My Sweet Friend is for you.


(New) Thoughts

Having read Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel, I am familiar with her impressive talent for exploring the human psych. She has a way of approaching the behavior of manipulation in a manner that captures the raw, uneasy reality of what it is to be not only the victim, but the actual manipulator. My Sweet Friend is no exception.

This is the story of three individuals whose relationships as coworkers eventually progress into more intimate friendships. Alexa instantly captures the affection of Rosie and Jack as she begins her new career with their current employer at a  Parisian PR company. But as their friendships evolve, lines begin to blur, and Rosie and Jack find themselves questioning Alexa’s behavior and intentions. This is a 360 degree viewpoint of 3 intermingled lives and cause and effect, and it works brilliantly.

Told through alternating perspectives, Leuschel successfully analyzes three individuals and the effects of betrayal and toxic relationships within the mere span of 92 pages. Through Alexa we are provided a firsthand look at what it is to build a life around falsities, the upkeep it requires, and the ramifications of when the veil is lifted. Through Jack and Rosie we examine life as the victim and gain a working knowledge of the damage and harm that can result from deceit.

Leuschel’s writing is concise and knowledgeable, offering a realistic glimpse into the less desirable aspects of human traits. She yields dynamic characters in complex situations, exposing their faults, secrets and weaknesses without ever overwhelming her audience or relying on frivolous details. The outcome is a story that is easily digestible but none the less impactful. I highly recommend her work to anyone who enjoys examining the human psych and how we function as individuals, particularly in a socially structured setting.

*I would like to thank Helene Leuschel for this copy. The above review is my own, unbiased opinion.

Untitled designEnjoyed with a cup of green tea with a hint of lemongrass and spearmint.

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Purchase Links: Amazon.com  Amazon UK 


haleuschelAbout The Author

Helene Andrea Leuschel grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She now lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches Yoga.

Follow Helene: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads


Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

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