helencareybooks

A site for readers and writers

Welcome to Helen Carey’s blog

Hello, welcome to my blog,

I am a published author (see my book page above), an avid reader, and I occasionally teach creative writing at university level. In the past I have also worked as a reader for a couple of publishers and a literary agent.

If you would like to subscribe to this blog, just click the ‘Sign up by email’ or ‘RSS’ box on the right, I only post once or twice a month so you won’t be inundated and you can unsubscribe at any time.

My latest post is about DUNKIRK and brings you news of the Dunkirk Week WWII Epic Book Sale which runs 21-27 July.

My latest wartime novel, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET is out now in hardback and as an ebook version.

The previous novel in the Lavender Road series, LONDON CALLING was recently shortlisted for the 2017 RoNA Awards, Best Historical Romance.

With all best wishes and happy reading,

Helen

DUNKIRK

dunkirk promo pic

Today, as I know that many of my blog followers are interested in the events of World War Two, I am writing about Dunkirk, and to bring you news about a fabulous offer:

The DUNKIRK WEEK WWII EPIC BOOK SALE which starts today, 21 July, for one week only (21 – 27 July).

To celebrate the opening of Christopher Nolan’s movie Dunkirk this Friday, more than 50 authors of the Facebook Second World War Club have joined together to offer you their WWII novel at a reduced price, most at 99¢/99p.

The novels range from military war tales, home front drama and sagas, harrowing accounts of the Holocaust, gripping spy thrillers, moving wartime romances, and much, much more.

lav rd headline

UK Edition

It is a great opportunity to stock up your Kindle with a fantastic range of wartime novels, and if you don’t already have my novel LAVENDER ROAD, this is your chance to pick it up at the bargain price of 99p (UK edition), 99¢ (USA edition)! So do share the news with your friends, the offer closes 27 July.

LAVENDER ROAD final 1

USA Edition

For me, Dunkirk a particularly fascinating wartime event. Instead of remembering the poor military planning, horrific defeat and catastrophic losses of both men and equipment as British and French troops rapidly became encircled by advancing Nazi battalions on mainland Europe, the word ‘Dunkirk’ (in British minds at least) generally conjures up the dramatic rescue of the survivors by a fleet of naval and small private vessels, and has entered the collective consciousness as an amazing example of British resilience, courage and resolve.

It was indeed an extraordinary and magnificent effort. On the first day of the evacuation, only 7,669 men were evacuated, but by the end of the week, a total of 338,226 soldiers had been rescued by a hastily assembled fleet of over 800 boats.

The drama of the Dunkirk rescue, and the heroic involvement of so many civilians who risked their lives to pilot their tiny craft over the English Channel has inevitably made it the subject of numerous films and books.

It gave me, in LAVENDER ROAD, the opportunity to have one of my minor male characters to show unexpected grit and resolve, not to mention courage. When the novel opens Alan Nelson had been turned down by the military for a trivial medical reason. As a result he had lost his confidence and the respect of his wife, and had become a figure of fun for one or two local boys who felt he should be doing something for the war effort, instead of tinkering about on little canal boat he kept on the river in London.

But when the call for boats comes, Alan Nelson rises to the occasion.

Here is the scene from LAVENDER ROAD when his wife, Pam, first finds out what he has done.

For the hundredth time, Pam glanced irritably at the clock.

Where on earth was Alan? She needed his help in dealing with Sheila over the road. The news from Dunkirk was appalling. German planes were machine-gunning the exposed men on the beaches. German artillery was pounding the small town and the adjacent sand dunes where the shattered forces waited for their chance of rescue. Mercifully the brave rearguard of the Allied troops was still valiantly holding off the German tanks. But that small fragment of good news didn’t help Sheila Whitehead. Sheila was convinced her Jo was trapped on a Dunkirk beach, dying or about to die. She wouldn’t or couldn’t stop crying. She wouldn’t or couldn’t listen to reason.

In desperation Pam had called the doctor. But when he had eventually come, he had been typically unhelpful, saying carelessly that everyone was living through difficult times. There was nothing he could do.

If only Alan had been there. Doctors always took more notice of men. And, give him his due, Alan had a good way with people like that. Quiet but firm.

Pam checked the clock again. Where was blasted Alan? She had promised to go over to Sheila’s again in a few minutes and she didn’t think she could face it alone.

When she heard the knock on the door she dimly assumed it must be Sheila and was astonished to find young Mick Carter standing awkwardly on the step.

He looked odd. Flushed and unusually scruffy even for him. He was breathing hard.

Pam wondered for a second if he was ill but then she realized he had been running.

‘What?’ she asked harshly as the hairs on her arm began to prickle. ‘What is it? What do you want?’

‘I-it’s your husband, Mrs Nelson,’ he stammered out. ‘It’s Mr Nelson.’

Pam’s mouth dried as she stared into the dirty, freckled face of Alan’s former tormentor. ‘What about him? What’s happened to him? What have you done to him?’

‘I haven’t done nothing,’ Mick said, momentarily aggrieved. ‘He’s done it. He’s gone, and he wouldn’t take me with him.’

Pam swallowed and tried to breathe normally. ‘What do you mean he’s gone? Gone where?’

Mick shuffled his feet. ‘Gone to France.’

‘To France?’ Pam repeated blankly. ‘To France?’

Mick nodded. ‘On his boat. To rescue them soldiers what are trapped. He heard it on the radio they needed help getting them off, smaller boats and that.’

For a second Pam stared at him in disbelief. She couldn’t take it in. Alan. Alan gone to France. To Dunkirk. In his little boat. The Merry Robin. He had never taken it further than Henley before. And that was years ago. One summer holiday for a week. Soon after they were married. It had been a kind of honeymoon. They’d made love every night in that little cabin.

Even as she quickly blocked that thought from her mind, it occurred to her that Mick Carter, of all people, was an unlikely recipient of Alan’s plans. ‘How do you know this?’ she snapped at him.

Mick shuffled his feet. ‘I was on the boat,’ he admitted.

Pam stared. ‘On Alan’s boat?’ She felt her mind spin. Trying to breathe slowly, she steadied herself on the door frame. ‘What were you doing on Alan’s boat?’

‘Mam threw me out the other night and I hadn’t got anywhere else to go. It was cold.’ He bit his lip. ‘I had to sleep somewhere, didn’t I?’ He shrugged bravely even as his chin wobbled. ‘Anyway I was still there this afternoon when Mr Nelson turned up.’

Pam was just trying to absorb the fact that Mick had been sleeping on Alan’s boat when to her utter astonishment, the boy burst into tears.

‘He wouldn’t take me,’ he sobbed. ‘I wanted to go, Mrs Nelson. I could of helped. But he said I was too young.’ He sniffed violently as the tears dripped unhindered off his nose and plopped on to the path. ‘He said there would be much more useful things I could do for the war than getting myself killed crossing the Channel. But I don’t know what they are, Mrs Nelson, them useful things. Nobody wants me to do anything.’

Pam was hardly listening. ‘Alan said that?’ she said tremulously, as tears threatened her own eyes.

Mick nodded and scrubbed at his eyes. ‘And now the boat’s gone, I’ve nowhere to go. I don’t know what to do, Mrs Nelson. I can’t go home because my mam won’t have me.’

Pam found she was shaking all over. ‘You’d better come in,’ she said. ‘You’d better come in. I think we both need a cup of tea.’

Those of you who have read LAVENDER ROAD will know whether Alan comes back safely or not. For those of you who haven’t, I won’t spoil the story!

There will be plenty of other stories in the film, and of course in the other fabulous books in the special DUNKIRK offer. So don’t miss the opportunity to treat yourself to a few Kindle bargains.

HAPPY READING!

All best wishes, Helen

 

The special 99¢ one week only US Amazon.com kindle version of LAVENDER ROAD can be found here.

For UK, Europe and Commonwealth the 99p (or equivalent) deal can be found here.

And click here to see all the other books in the DUNKIRK EPIC BOOK SALE, 21 – 27 July …

As part of the DUNKIRK Promo there are also some great giveaway prizes, including the Grand Prize of a paperback copy of Joshua Levine’s Dunkirk: The History Behind the Motion Picture. No purchases are necessary to enter the draw.
We’re also bringing you:

1. A two-part blog series about Dunkirk. You can read these excellent blog posts by two of our authors, Suzy Henderson (The Beauty Shop) and Jeremy Strozer (Threads of War), here: https://lowfellwritersplace.blogspot.co.uk/

2. Readings by The Book Speaks podcast of excerpts from All My Love, Detrick by Roberta Kagan plus another novel, both of which are part of the Dunkirk Week Book Sale: https://thebookspeakspodcast.wordpress.com/

3. Our authors’ pick of the Top 40 WWII Movies: http://alexakang.com/40-recommended-wwii-films-english/

 

OTHER NEWS:

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET, Helen’s latest novel in the LAVENDER ROAD series is now out in hardback and eBook versions (US edition / UK edition). The paperback edition will be published in October.

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USA edition

The Other Side of the Street HB

UK edition

VICTORY GIRLS

churchill ve dayToday is an exciting day for me because my publishers are announcing the title of my next novel.

It will be called VICTORY GIRLS.

VICTORY GIRLS will be the final book in my Second World War Lavender Road series.

The series started with the outbreak of war on the 3rd of September 1939 and, six books and a million words later, I have brought it to what I hope is a suitably celebratory close, at the end of VICTORY GIRLS, on VE Day, the 8th of May 1945.

I won’t give away the VICTORY GIRLS’ storyline here, but, suffice it to say, like its predecessors, it contains a good wartime ration of excitement, history, love and adventure, all combined with a light sprinkling of humour!

VICTORY GIRLS will be published in April next year (2018), and it is heartening (to me at least!) that interest in the Second World War seems to be stronger than ever.

You only need to look at current blockbuster film releases to see that. The recent film ALLIED with Brad Pitt had a massive budget (even though sadly it didn’t receive quite the success and publicity it deserved due to his marital breakup). And now we have two more huge films to look forward to, CHURCHILL and DUNKIRK.

Dunkirk featured in the first book of my series, LAVENDER ROAD itself, when one of the characters, at huge personal risk, takes his small river boat over the English Channel to help rescue the encircled British troops from the French coast.

Winston Churchill, always present in the background of the Lavender Road books, makes his first actual appearance in LONDON CALLING, as he lies ill with pneumonia in Tunisia at the end of 1943. He also figures in the upcoming VICTORY GIRLS, both at the Rhine Crossings, and in the VE celebrations.

Having covered almost the entire war in my six novels, I can imagine how Churchill (and everyone else) felt when peace in Europe was finally declared. In an odd way I feel as though I have vicariously lived through it all too! Not just Dunkirk, the Blitz, and subsequent relentless bombing of London, but also the trauma of evacuation, the fear for friends and loved ones, SOE operations in France, the sinking of the French fleet in Toulon harbour, torpedo attacks in the Mediterranean, the Sicily landings, POW camps, D Day, V1 and V2 rocket attacks, not to mention the day to day privations of rationing, shortages, love and loss, and the constant presence of danger.

But of course it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The aspect of my research that I found most amazing was the extraordinary courage, resilience, acceptance of adversity and gritty humour that people showed, people of all nationalities, and from all walks of life. And that’s what I have tried to show throughout the series, that when the chips are down people do what they have to do to survive, to cope, and to to overcome. I think we must all hope that some of the same attitudes of strength, tolerance and resilience will prevail today in our current troubled times.

 

 

Helen’s most recent novel, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET, (Lavender Road Book 5) is now out in Hardback (UK) and eBook (UK AND USA). It will be published as a paperback on 19th October 2017.

Serendipity

serendipityOne of the wonderful things about writing novels is that serendipity often lends a helping hand.

When I was starting to write my first book, LAVENDER ROAD, my car had broken down and I bumped into a wonderful local lady, Laura Boorman, at a bus stop on Clapham Common. Inevitably the bus was late, and we fell into conversation. It turned out Laura had lived in London right through the war years. She was a mine of information, and many of her memories crop up in the Lavender Road books.

A couple of days later the garage owner introduced me to an actor who in turn put me in touch with the lovely Mary Moreland who had been a celebrated concert artiste in the 30’s and 40’s. Much of Jen Carter’s turbulent career in SOME SUNNY DAY and the other books is based on Mary’s experiences.

Just as I was beginning to think about the SOE angle for ON A WING AND A PRAYER I was invited to an uncle’s birthday party at the Special Forces Club in Knightsbridge. There, I not only discovered the tragic staircase of pictures of agents killed during the war, which was a salutary reminder of the incredible dangers those men and women put themselves in for the sake of their country, but I also found information about certain young female agents and was therefore able to base Helen de Burrell’s adventures much more on reality than invention.

While I was researching the early development of penicillin for LONDON CALLING, I discovered by chance that an old family friend, Antony Jefferson, had been a medical student at the time (1942) and actually visited the laboratory in Oxford where Professor Florey and his small team were attempting to create a therapeutic drug. Things were so short in those days that they had to resort to using bedpans to grow the cultures in as they simply couldn’t find any other suitable receptacles. Antony had also survived a torpedo attach in mid Atlantic. Some of my readers will recall Jen and Molly’s dramatic escape from their sinking troopship in the Mediterranean, all based on Antony’s experiences!

I had already begun writing my most recent Lavender Road book, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET, and was trying to find useful details about the women’s services during the war years, when I asked Eirian Short (a famous local embroiderer) for some advice on a tapestry I had recently inherited, only to discover that Eirian had joined the ATS in 1942 and remembered every detail! Although I should add that Eirian’s military service history was exemplary, and my character Louise Rutherford’s various high jinks are entirely her own!

Now, as I draw to the end of writing Book 6 (as yet unnamed) I’m glad to report that the same kind of thing has happened again. I won’t tell you exactly what because I don’t want to give the story away yet, but suffice it to say that serendipity has once again played a part, and for that I am profoundly grateful!

 

 

Helen Carey’s latest novel, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET, was published by Headline on 6 April 2017 and is now available at your local Amazon store.

Uk editions combo 2          US Editions combo

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big news today! My new novel, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET, comes out.

Published by Headline Books in the UK, Europe and Commonwealth, and by TSAP in the USA and some other territories, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET is my fifth Lavender Road novel, and like its predecessors it can be read as a stand alone, or as part of the series.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET is mainly set in London in 1944, and as well as the inevitable problems of war, one of the themes this time is about someone (Louise Rutherford) trying to become a better person. That is never an easy thing to do, especially perhaps in wartime, and when Louise finds that she has to join the ATS, the Women’s section of the British Army, things become even more difficult for her.

I love writing about the Second World War. For me it is a fascinating period of history. So much happened in those eventful years, even for those who weren’t actually fighting. With almost constant Luftwaffe bombing, plus Hitler’s V1 and V2 revenge missiles, people on the Home Front were also in considerable danger. I have always been impressed by the extraordinary courage and resilience that people showed at that time, and I think, more than anything else, that is what has always drawn me to the period Putting characters in difficult circumstances is always interesting, and for the posh, pretty, somewhat self-centred young widow, Louise, the grim realities of as ATS training camp come as a nasty shock!

I very much hope you enjoy reading THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET, and as always, if you have the time or the inclination to pop a review of this or any other of my books on Amazon, that would be great. It all helps enormously!

To find out more about any of my books do visit the Books page above.

All best wishes, and Happy Reading,

Helen

To celebrate the launch of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET in the USA, all the American eBook editions of Helen’s books have been given a new look covers.

us covers launch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being shortlisted

I am late posting about this, as the news was announced last week, but I wanted to let you know that my latest novel LONDON CALLING has been shortlisted for this year’s RoNA Awards. london-calling-high-qual

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The RoNA Awards, sponsored by Goldsboro Books, are the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s annual awards for excellence. There are several categories. LONDON CALLING, set in the Second World War, is in the category: Historical Romance.

The prize-giving event is taking place in the Gladstone Library, in Whitehall, London on 13th March. (Tickets are £65 each so I am expecting it to be a glittering party! Luckily my publishers, Headline, are treating me to my ticket!)

It is a real honour to have been shortlisted and a lovely vote of confidence from the Industry. Years ago I was shortlisted really nice that LONDON CALLING has been picked up for this award.

Many of my friends and readers know that I took a long break from writing to nurse my mother through Alzheimer’s. Eventually, after eight years, as her condition deteriorated, we had to get full time care, and it was then that I began writing again. Sadly my mother died last year, but she knew that I had finished LONDON CALLING, and would have been delighted to know about it being shortlisted for the award.

Next week am off on a trip to France to do a little bit of research form my next book, the sixth in the Lavender Road series. But I will be back in London in time for the Awards ceremony. I am not expecting to win as there are obviously lots of great books on the shortlist, but I am expecting to enjoy the canapés and bubbly!

 

London Calling is now available in paperback or ebook

Helen’s next novel THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET comes out 6th April 2017.

The Dog Star

 

This is a poem written by my lovely husband about our beautiful dog Phoebe who died four weeks ago.

themarcistagenda

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For

Phoebe, the dog star.

(i) The joy of running.

A bolt from the blue,

A golden arrow streaking , skirting Newport bay

Effortlessly matching sand sail and surf.

A pimple, possibly canine, on the farthest horizon

was enough to take you away,

bullet running, wide pawed dancing.

Find the fiercest dog you could – and make it chase you!

You and Maisie rising and falling like dolphins

in the meadow sweet, long grass of summer.

In Wiltshire woods the intoxicating frustration of putting up deer,

glad running into the copses,

thundering through bramble and bracken,

off, into the dim distance.

Leaving us with the panicky emptiness of the long wait.

half an hour, maybe more,

then you would appear, purple tongue, seemingly a mile long,

hawking for breath, flat out on the green downs.

(ii) A wolf god.

Eyes, soul pooled,

kohl lined.

Anput, Egyptian dog princess,

Pharaoh dog…

View original post 266 more words

Tricky choices for authors

otterThere are so many choices for an author to make when embarking on a novel. What time period? What setting? What structure? What genre? What characters? What events? How true should it be to real history? What is the time frame? What is it all really about?

Many of these need to be answered before even starting out. No wonder so many potential novelists are put off at the first hurdle.

And as soon as you’ve made those decisions, (assuming you haven’t given up in despair,) another wave of questions immediately comes hurtling towards you.

How are you going to tell the story? Whose point of view? First or third person? What tone? What voice? Where should it start? What is going to kick the whole thing off? Where is it going to end? How are you going to layer in the clues to make that ending satisfactory? And, horror of horrors, what are you going to put in the middle?

Obviously there are even more choices to be made further down the line, about style, dialogue, punctuation, action versus exposition, amount of description, and what actual words to use, but for now I am going to focus briefly on the question of what to put in the middle. Or, as it is more commonly called, the plot.

Plots are tricky things to get right. But when they work, they engross readers in your make-believe world so effectively that they keep turning the pages, even at chapter endings, and finish up by feeling that their lives have been enhanced in some way, and best of all, eager to start reading your next book.

There are lots of things that can go wrong with a plot. The basic premise might be too weak. The concept may lack believability. The story might be too yawn-makingly obvious. The inherent conflict set up by the opening may not be sufficiently escalated. Readers also lose interest when crucial bits of information are missing, key scenes avoided, or if there is too much repetition. On the other hand there may be too many red herrings, inconsistencies or loose ends. As Chekhov said: ‘One must not put a loaded rifle on stage if no-one is thinking of firing it.’ The ending should not appear random or insubstantial, or, as so often seems to happen nowadays, to have been plonked in by the author just to get the whole damn thing over with. In my view, the very best endings grow out of the story, giving the reader what they want, but not quite in the way they expected.

There is no magic formula for a great plot, and no quick fixes for a bad one. It is the individual decisions that writers make that are the key to success. So take time to ask yourself if your story is genuinely interesting. Are your characters’ quests worth pursuing?

 If the answer is yes, then I reckon you are well on the way to a bestseller!

 

 

Helen Carey’s latest novel LONDON CALLING is now out in paperback.

All her books are available from good booksellers, or on line.

Win! Win! Win!

As you may know my latest Lavender Road novel, LONDON CALLING, came out in paperback last week.

london-calling-high-qualSet right in the middle of the Second World War, LONDON CALLING follows the lives of a number of people living in street in London.

Lavender Road is a perfectly ordinary south London street. But in wartime ordinary people find themselves doing extraordinary things, and now, in LONDON CALLING, actress Jen Carter  and nurse Molly Coogan are about to take on their biggest challenge yet.

*To celebrate the paperback publication, my publishers, Headline, are offering 10 free copies of LONDON CALLING.*

All you have to do to be in with a chance is pop over to my /helencareybooks facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/helencareybooks and write a brief comment under the competition post about why you would like to win a copy.

GOOD LUCK and HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

For more info on LONDON CALLING or to look at my other books, visit my books page above, or my website, or Amazon

 

LONDON CALLING

Stop press!

My latest novel LONDON CALLING comes out in paperback in the UK, Europe and Commonwealth next week. I have just received my advance copies and they are looking good!

london-calling-high-qual

London Calling is set in the middle of the Second World War. It follows the lives of a number of people who live in one perfectly ordinary south London Street. But in wartime ordinary people find themselves having to do extraordinary things. And nurse Molly Coogan and actress Jen Carter are about to take on their biggest challenge yet.

 

LONDON CALLING is already out on Kindle, and in Hardback, and as an Audio version too, read by Annie Aldington.

But now it is in paperback, and it joins the three earlier books with the new branding that my new publishers Headline have given them.

lav rd headline  some sunny day final  on a wing and a prayer 5

I have just recorded a tiny video about my research, showing some of the books I used – you can find that at my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/helencareybooks/

Those of you who have read and enjoyed (and hopefully reviewed!) my earlier Lavender Road books will be glad to know that the next in the series THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET will be published in 2017. And is already on pre-order at Amazon.

Find more information about my books at my book page (see above), or at http://helencareybooks.co.uk

Enjoy!

 

 

 

When is the best time to write a book?

dog and seasonsI recently read an excellent article by Professor Alexandra Harris in The Author Magazine about the best weather for writing.

Traditionally people have associated springtime with artistic creativity, all those budding plants and trees somehow linked with the germination and production of creative ideas. But for a rurally based author (like me) spring is a very busy time, flowers might be bursting into life, but so are the weeds, and what with planting and potting on, and doing all the garden chores that are so unpalatable in the dark days of winter, there is little time left for writing.

Then there is summer. Surely those long warm days lend themselves to the creative process? Well yes, but they also attract visitors. Living in an idyllic spot by the sea (as we do) makes the summer even more busy than spring. All our lovely city dwelling friends who baulk at the thought of Welsh winter mud and rain, descend on us during the summer, and so, instead of writing, I find myself picnicking on the beach and hosting endless jolly barbeques in the (well-weeded) garden.

Autumn seems the obvious choice for a decent bit of writing. It isn’t so hot and the children are back at school so there is less to distract me. But no. Because now the people who want to avoid school holidays arrive, older couples and single friends, wanting long quiet walks on the coast path and equally long talks about life and loves.

So maybe I should pin my hopes on winter. But winter in West Wales is not to be taken lightly. Not only is there the problem of resisting the urge to hibernate, there’s the problem of hours spent persuading our elderly dogs to venture out into the howling gales, of the need for warm baths afterwards.

Then even when we authors do find time to pen a few words, there is the issue of trying to write about the season that we aren’t actually in. It is hard to think about snowdrops during long hot sultry August days, and equally hard to remember that lovely feeling of sun on skin when sleety winter winds are rattling the windows.

But somehow, word by word, chapter by chapter we get it done. Sometimes we have to retreat into our own cocoons, spurning entertainment, and alienating our friends and loved-ones.

Because books have to be written. And for those of us who don’t have the inclination or indeed the stamina to write all night, finding the time to work is an ongoing problem. Because time is what all writers need. We need to live – ‘to fill the creative well’ – as Julia Cameron puts it, but we also need time to write.

Even if life, whatever the weather, whatever the season, always tries to interfere.

 

 

Helen Carey’s latest novel LONDON CALLING is now available in hardback, ebook and audio versions. The paperback follows in December. All Helen’s other novels are available at Amazon, or in good bookshops.

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