Author talk: Sue Barnard on Finding Nina


Today I’m really happy to have Sue Barnard as my coffee shop guest once again to tell us about her new novel which is coming out in a couple of weeks and is perfect for romance fans. Over to you, Sue!

Hello Katy, and thank you for inviting me to your blog today to talk about Finding Nina.


Although I didn’t realise it at the time, Nina’s story really began several years ago, when I was writing my second novel, Nice Girls Don’t.  That book was originally intended to be a stand-alone story, with no plans for a sequel.  Only after it was published (in 2014) did it dawn on me that one loose end had been unintentionally left dangling. Nice Girls Don’t was set in 1982, but in one key scene, mention was made of something which had occurred almost forty years earlier: the secret birth, during World War Two, of a baby girl who was given up for adoption.  Thankfully this didn’t affect the outcome of that story, but it did fortuitously leave open the possibility of another one: What could have happened to that wartime baby?

The eventual result was Finding Nina, which is part-prequel, part-sequel to Nice Girls Don’t. Nina was born in mid-November 1943, when World War Two was still at its height, and was named Nina after the nurse who delivered her.  Nina’s mother Alice was seventeen and unmarried, and although the war had changed many things, the prevailing post-Victorian attitude to illegitimacy was not one of them.  So one month later, just before Christmas 1943, Nina was handed over to a childless couple who formally adopted her and changed her name to Stella.

The next sixty-one years took Stella on a fascinating journey of discovery.  What did she find at the end of it?


FINDING NINA is already available for pre-order. The book is officially released on 3 June 2019, when there will be an online launch party on Facebook, with guests, competitions and giveaways.  To add yourself to the guest list, click here then select “Going”.  See you there!


1943: A broken-hearted teenager gives birth in secret. Her soldier sweetheart has disappeared, and she reluctantly gives up her daughter for adoption.

1960: A girl discovers a dark family secret, but it is swiftly brushed back under the carpet. Conventions must be adhered to.

1982: A young woman learns of the existence of a secret cousin. She yearns to find her long-lost relative, but is held back by legal constraints.  Life goes on.

2004: Everything changes…


105269ED-A202-47B4-ACA0-F67E53AA7F7CSue Barnard is a British novelist, editor and award-winning poet who was born in North Wales some time during the last millennium.  She speaks French like a Belgian, German like a schoolgirl, and Italian and Portuguese like an Englishwoman abroad.  She now lives in Cheshire, UK, with her extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.  

Her mind is so warped that she has appeared on BBC TV’s Only Connect quiz show, and she has also compiled questions for BBC Radio 4’s fiendishly difficult Round Britain Quiz. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as “professionally weird.” The label has stuck.

Sue’s own family background is far stranger than any work of fiction. She would write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.  

Finding Nina, which is her sixth novel, is not that book.

Thanks for stopping by, Sue. I can’t wait to read Finding Nina!

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The Ghostly Father  Nice Girls Don’t  The Unkindest Cut of All  Never on Saturday  Heathcliff 


The Suspects is out!

AA 28603-44

The Suspects is now a published book!

Thanks to everyone who came to the Online Launch Party and made it such fun. We talked about house share experiences, Bristol and the Eighties.

Some of the things people suggested would most put them off sharing a house with someone would be bad temper, smoking, poor hygiene; playing music on repeat, passive aggressive behaviour such as leaving notes around the house and pointedly not clearing up something because it isn’t their mess. What are your house share pet hates?

I’m thrilled to have 38 reviews on Goodreads already and some of these are also working their way through to Amazon which is fantastic.

Just a reminder to anyone in/around Berkshire who would like a paperback (useful present idea for someone?) I’m going to be signing books in WH Smith, Windsor this Saturday May 18th 1-5pm so please drop in – I’d love to see you!



Countdown to publication…1 day!


This time tomorrow The Suspects will be published. Will it be landing on your phone?

Today’s the last day of the blog tour organised by Rachel’s Random Resources which has been fantastic and I really appreciate all the posts and photos on so many fabulous book blogs. Sending your book out to people you don’t know is always a bit scary but it’s had some lovely reviews, some of which you can see on Goodreads

I’m thrilled that people have found The Suspects “addictive”, “compelling”, “twisty”, “intriguing”, “a real sleep-stealer”, and have said that they were kept guessing over whodunnit.

Was it young fogey Stuart, the self-appointed leader whose behaviour is becoming more and more paranoid? Ice-queen Imogen who was conveniently absent when the body was found? Free-spirit Zak who thinks on his feet and disappears from time to time? Dreamer Xanthe who has no family, never has any money for bills but spends recklessly on luxury items? Or is conscientious Emily an unreliable narrator?

You’ll have to read the book to find out!

I never know quite how to categorise my stories but most reviewers have described this as a psychological thriller because it’s about paranoia, guilt and fear of the enemy within. One reviewer described it as “an intense mind game.”

I’ve been describing it as a “quirky psychological thriller” because it’s not a thriller in the sense of an action-packed, blood-and-guts story about a detective hunting down a serial killer so I wouldn’t want to disappoint people buying it with those expectations. There are no car chases, no shoot-outs, no autopsies and there is some humour – but it’s also quite a tense read as the suspects try and cover their tracks and also question if they’re safe with each other.

If you read it I’d love to know which genre you think describes it best.

You can read a sample using the Look Inside feature on Amazon or buy the book here

Or, if you’re a Facebook user, you can find out more tomorrow at the The Suspects Online Launch Party

These fabulous authors will be popping in to share some Eighties nostalgia, discuss house share rules and talk about their books: Catherine Fearns, Kate Braithwaite, Miriam Drori, Jo Fenton and Alice Castle.

See you there!

Countdown to publication…3 days!


It’s three days until Publication Day for The Suspects.

Where did that time go? After all the writing, re-drafting, beta reads, edits, cover design, more edits, sending out review copies – suddenly it’s about to hit the shelves.

If you follow me on social media or subscribe to my newsletter you’ll probably be sick of hearing about this book (sorry!) but if you don’t you might be wondering what it’s about so here’s the blurb:

Shallow Grave meets The Secret History in this quirky psychological thriller

Bristol, 1988. Five young graduates on the threshold of their careers buy a house together in order to get a foot on the property ladder before prices rocket out of their reach. But it soon becomes the house share from hell.

After their New Year’s Eve party, they discover a body – and it’s clear they’ll be the first suspects. As each of them has a good reason from their past not to trust the police, they come up with a solution – one which forces them into a life of secrets and lies. But can they trust each other? 

I chose a house share because I love domestic noir stories but wanted a different setting from the usual marital home. I liked the idea of throwing a group of virtual strangers together and seeing how they dealt with a situation. And it’s quite a situation!

My characters have very little in common except that they’re all new to the town and have started on the same journalism training scheme. The cracks in their relationship start to appear soon after they move in but the New Year’s Eve party changes everything. The decision they make binds them to each other but mutual suspicion escalates. Will they stick together or save themselves?

If you’re on Facebook you can find out more about the book, ask me questions, share house share-from-hell stories and meet the characters at my Online Launch Party. Some amazing authors will also be dropping in and there will be prizes! Click this link and select Going to make sure you get a reminder about the Event on Friday 1300-2000 (UK time).

The Suspects Online Launch Party

But if you can’t wait until then you can preorder the ebook or buy the paperback here

I also wanted to let you know about two events that are coming up. If you’re interested in writing and live in or around London you might like to know about the Author School event which is great value for money and you can snap up a copy of The Suspects for free!

I’m really excited to be taking part in a panel conversation with Phoebe Morgan, author of The Doll House and The Girl Next Door; and Helen Matthews author of After Leaving the Village and Lies Behind the Ruin.

Tickets are only £8 which includes the cost of a paperback of your choice.

In conversation 20th May.jpg

Also, I’m going to be signing books in WH Smith in Windsor on 18th May so if you’re local I’d love it if you stopped by!


Book review: The Girl Puzzle by Kate Braithwaite

Today is Publication Day for The Girl Puzzle, a story about the real historical figure Nellie Bly, an investigative journalist, adventurer and champion of women’s rights, whose birthday is also today.

I knew very little about Nellie Bly, whose real name was Elizabeth Cochrane, before reading the book but it inspired me to find out more about her. She was fascinating in lots of ways including undertaking a record-breaking round-the-world trip in the style of Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg in 72 days.

The Girl Puzzle, however, is based on the true story of Elizabeth’s spell in a women’s lunatic asylum, which she tricked her way into so that she could report on conditions inside.

The blurb

Her published story is well known. But did she tell the whole truth about her ten days in the madhouse? Down to her last dime and offered the chance of a job of a lifetime at The New York World, twenty three year-old Elizabeth Cochrane agrees to get herself admitted to Blackwell’s Island Lunatic Asylum and report on conditions from the inside. But what happened to her poor friend Tilly Maynard? Was there more to her high praise of Dr Frank Ingram than everyone knew?

Thirty years later, Elizabeth, known as Nellie Bly, is no a longer celebrated trailblazer and the toast of Newspaper Row. Instead, she lives in a suite in the Hotel McAlpin, writes a column for The New York Journal and runs an informal adoption agency for the city’s orphans. 

Beatrice Alexander is her secretary, fascinated by Miss bly and her causes and crusades. Asked to type a manuscript revisiting her employer’s experience in the asylum in 1887, Beatrice believes she’s been given the key to understanding one of the most innovative and daring figures of the age.

My review

This an extraordinary book about a remarkable woman. It’s written in two viewpoints – the younger Elizabeth and her secretary Beatrice thirty years later. I found both of them convincing and engaging. Elizabeth’s determined attitude and spirited responses feel just right for the person she was, and I enjoyed learning about the older Miss Bly through Beatrice’s observations much in the way we learn about Sherlock Homes through Watson. The dual timeline was admirably handled and the story is thought-provoking as well as beautifully written.

I’d highly recommend this to readers interested in women’s history or indeed anyone looking for a great story with a strong female lead.

How to buy

Amazon UK

Amazon US

About the author

Kate Braithwaite grew up in Edinburgh but now lives in the Brandwine valley in Pennsylvania. Her daughter doesn’t think Kate should describe herself as a history nerd but that’s exactly what she is. Always on the hunt for lesser known stories from the past, Kate’s books have strong female characters, rich settings and dark secrets.



Find out more about Nellie Bly and Kate’s other books on her  website

Connect with Kate Braithwaite on Twitter @KMBraithwaite and @TheGirlPuzzle1






Book review: The Last Weekend by Blake Morrison

Last Weekend

I caught some of the three-part televised version of this psychological thriller years ago but had forgotten the name of it and had always wondered how it ended so I was so pleased to come across this book.

The story’s set over a stifling bank holiday weekend in a house in East Anglia, reuniting four friends, three of whom were together at university twenty years ago. It’s told by Ian who you learn at the beginning has been less successful than his friend Ollie, a barrister, who’s now married to Daisy, the girl they both loved as students and they have a son. Ian’s a primary school teacher whose marriage is under pressure because his wife Em wants children and they’re unable to have them, and because Ian has a tribunal coming up at work which could end his career.

Ollie and Daisy’s invitation to spend a weekend in the country seems half-hearted as it turns out they’ve double-booked, inviting one of Daisy’s designer friends Milo and they seem embarrassed to introduce Ian and Em to their more stylish set.

Over the weekend Ollie and Ian resurrect a bet made twenty years earlier and a strong theme of male rivalry emerges as you start to question Ian’s version of events. In the claustrophobic atmosphere of the house during a blindingly hot summer, the tension creeps up and then soars as one revelation after another spills out, leading to a devastating ending.

The writing is so very clever. You’re told one thing but at the same time shown another. I absolutely loved it. It isn’t fast-paced or action-packed but the brilliantly-captured characters and perfectly handled misdirection kept me glued to the pages. If you missed  it on television starring the brilliant Sean Evans (Endeavour) and Rupert Penry-Jones (Spooks) or even if you didn’t I’d highly recommend the book.


Blog tour – Lies Behind the Ruin by Helen Matthews

Lies Behind The Ruin

Today is my stop on the blog tour for Lies Behind The Ruin by Helen Matthews – a brand new, contemporary suspense novel set in France.  Here’s my review – and remember to read on for the chance to win a paperback copy!

Lies Behind The Ruin Front Cover


About the book

Emma Willshire has overcome plenty of obstacles in her life, from student bride to single mum of a son, Owen, but she has found happiness with her second husband, Paul and another child, Mollie. Emma’s dark days seem far behind her until a fatal accident happens at Paul’s work and he is held responsible.

On holiday in France, Paul’s behaviour turns erratic. On impulse, he buys a cheap, dilapidated property and, to Emma’s dismay, persuades her they can renovate it into a holiday home.

Back in England, their problems spiral out of control. Escape to a new life in France seems the only solution but with heart-breaking loss for Emma. As the couple strive to renovate their ruin and open a small business, shadows from the past threaten their happiness and safety. Because, how can you build a new life on toxic foundations?

My review

I love books about old houses in idyllic locations filled with secrets so this was sure to appeal! Many of us dream about finding a tumbledown property in France to restore and I really enjoyed experiencing this with the characters but it’s also a reminder that we should be careful what we wish for. The tense domestic noir drama behind the lovely facade of a French holiday home really sets this book apart.

Les Quatre Vents is far from your dream French holiday home – more like a cow shed. It’s a long, low building (a longere) in crumbling stone, partly reclaimed by nature with a sagging roof, ivy-clad walls, a rotting front door and earth floor. So why is Paul so keen to buy it? Or is the truth that he wants to escape from trouble back home? Meanwhile, Emma faces pressure from her ex husband Zak who has no intention of letting Emma take their son Owen abroad. And the work accident turns out to be not the only complication in Paul’s life – which means someone’s out for revenge.

I loved the revelations and the brooding tension as the threat to the family’s happiness and safety grows. I tore through it to get to the end and find out what would happen – especially to one nasty individual. And what an ending!

This is such a brilliant read – I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good drama as well as a beautiful setting. You won’t regret it!

Win a copy

There are 2 x signed copies of Lies Behind The Ruins (Europe Only). Click to enter the Rafflecopter draw:

*Terms and Conditions –European entries welcome.   The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.


How to buy

Title: Lies Behind the Ruin

Author: Helen Matthews

Publisher: Hashtag Press

Number of print pages: 347

Lies Behind the Ruin is available from good book shops including Waterstones and WH Smith, and online from

 UK –



Lies Behind The Ruin Author Photo

About the author

Helen Matthews’ debut novel After Leaving the Village, published in 2017, won first prize for the opening pages of a novel at Winchester Writers’ Festival. Born in Cardiff, she read English at the University of Liverpool and holds an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University. Helen’s short stories and flash fiction have won prizes and been published in Reflex Fiction, Ad Hoc, Artificium, Scribble and Love Sunday. Her freelance journalism has been published in the Guardian and broadcast on BBC radio. She is an ambassador for Unseen, a charity that campaigns to end human trafficking and modern slavery.

Connect with Helen on



Don’t forget to visit other stops on the tour:

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