The Daughters of Red Hill Hall by Kathleen McGurl

daughtersMcGurl certainly does love to combine history, genealogy, the past and the present in her stories.

In The Daughters of Red Hill Hall the reader follows two stories. Gemma and Nat in the present, and Sarah and Rebecca in the past. The four of them have a lot in common. It’s almost like a repetition of history.

Rebecca and Sarah have been close friends for many years. They have grown up together in the same house and are like sisters. Rebecca is the daughter of the house and Sarah merely the daughter of a servant. Rebecca’s father treats them both as equals, which causes feelings of jealousy and envy. Sarah has built up a lifetime of anger against her ‘sister’ and anyone who doesn’t fit into her plans. She will literally do anything to get what she wants. The two of them become rivals, and their animosity towards each other ends in disaster.

Meanwhile in the present, best friends Gemma and Nat have a similar unequal relationship, or at least one of them thinks so. Jealousy leads to rash decisions and betrayal.

A old case with two duelling pistols connects the four women like a cold withered hand reaching from the past to grab the present to pull two more into the dark curse of Red Hill Hall. Question is whether it will end with another disaster.

There is a legal inconsistency, but that is actually pointed out by Charles towards the end and sheds a light on how powerless women were in that era in regards to having no voice and no rights. McCurl focuses on the relationships and emotional turmoil, and allows for a flexible interpretation of the era she writes in. As always a spirited read.

Buy The Daughters of Red Hill Hall at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @KathMcGurl  @HQStories @HQDigitalUK


Read The Girl from Ballymor by Kathleen McGurl

Read The Emerald Comb by Kathleen McGurl.

Read The Pearl Locket by Kathleen McGurl.

Read about Kathleen McGurl here.

The Blog-Tour for The Good Mother by A.L. Bird

Today is my turn on the Blog-Tour for The Good Mother by AL Bird. Not only do you get to find out about her psychological thriller, A.L. Bird has also been generous enough to reveal her inspiration for her book. A very interesting read indeed. To top this exciting post off is my review.

About the author

AL Bird lives in North London, where she divides her time between writing and working as a lawyer. The Good Mother is her major psychological thriller for Carina UK, embarking into the world of ‘grip-lit’. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London, and is also an alumna of the Faber Academy ‘Writing a Novel’ course, which she studied under Richard Skinner. She’s also a member of the Crime Writers’Association. For updates on her writing, you can follow her on Twitter, @ALBirdwriter, on Facebook at or by visiting her website, at

Inspirations behind The Good Mother

When I was a child I was terrified of being kidnapped. I’d think through exactly what I’d do if someone tried it – the kicking, the screaming, the ‘you’re not my mummy.’ Or how I’d try to jump out if someone drove off with me in the back of the car.

If someone had told me that grown-ups can be kidnapped too, I’d have been horrified.

In The Good Mother, Suze awakes to find she has been kidnapped. She doesn’t know where her daughter is. But then she realises that she is being kept in the room next door. Just separated by a wall. And so we begin.

But it wasn’t only my early, deep-rooted fear that inspired The Good Mother. I didn’t want to write just a kidnap book, or recreate Room by Emma Donoghue. I had another agenda. When we visited Berlin a couple of years ago, I was struck by the stories of families so suddenly and unreasonably kept from one another by the Berlin Wall. The powerlessness in the face of a self-declared authority over your freedom and liberty. The frustration at being so close to your loved ones but so cruelly kept apart. The tantalising feeling that if you could just reason a little harder, shout a little louder, you’d be reunited. I wanted to transplant that wall into an analogous domestic setting, to understand how an individual could be cut adrift from their family. Since I started writing the book I had my own child – I understand for myself now that the horror of something like that keeping us apart would be too disturbing to bear.

That entrance into motherhood also provided new inspirations for the book along the way.  There were new things I wanted to explore. The claustrophobia of living with a newborn baby and feeling of being trapped (while attempting feeding/ sleeping/ changing/ learning to co-exist), separated from your usual world, helped me to find the deprivation of the senses that Suze experiences in her captivity.   But it also showed me the fierceness of love and anxiety you have about your own baby. So small, so precious, so demanding. Suze knows all about that. And she also knows about the exacting standards we try to set ourselves as mothers. Which ones matter, which ones don’t. The lengths we would take to uphold them.

Of course, apart from these thematics, I set out to keep readers guessing. I like to be hooked and I like a twist – my current Kindle highlights include Disclaimer, Reconstructing Amelia, and The Husband’s Secret (and of course, the various girls – Gone, On a Train…). When I hear that people have been up all night reading The Good Mother, and that they can’t stop thinking about it, I’m delighted, because that’s exactly what I look for in a book.

Because a good psychological thriller that really gets under the skin isn’t just about twists. It’s about exploration. A route into a different set of minds. Often warped, flawed, or damaged minds. But always interesting. In The Good Mother, the relationship that Suze has with her daughter through that wall, with The Captor outside, and with herself, allowed me to delve into the darkest, most destructive parts of the human psyche. Yet it is also an exploration of some of the most awe-inspiring parts – the power of the bond between mother and child, the force of the human spirit to preserve itself, and what we will do for the people we love. As a writer, I’m always teetering on the edge of the wall between the two. I like to see how close my characters can come to falling down.

A.L. Bird, 3 April 2016


I wasn’t expecting the wicked twist at the end. Seems a strange way to start a review, but it confirmed the uneasiness I felt about Susan the whole way through the book.

I have to hand it to Bird, she hasn’t made it easy to like any particular character. Their actions and the overall scenarios make it difficult to feel empathy for any of them.

The kidnapper is nothing short of creepy with a strong fixation on Susan, but hey if he can’t have her there is always the daughter, right?  Why doesn’t he just take what he wants and get it over with?

Susan is both relieved and terrified when she realises that her teenage daughter has also been kidnapped. Their connection becomes a lifeline for the two of them. It drives Susan to try the most desperate things to get the two of them out of there. I suppose she does what any mother would do to save her child.

I’m going to come back to something I mentioned at the beginning. The fact I couldn’t connect to the mother. Something about her felt unnatural, something about the interactions with Cara didn’t quite feel right. I think Bird lets the doubts enter into the plot like an invisible layer. She wants you to question your instincts, because she is the one messing with them in the first place.

This is a dark psychological thriller with quite a few unexpected twists and turns. Some more unexpected than others. Everything you assume will probably be proven wrong and any outcome you expect, well you might as well just toss it in the bin.

Buy The Good Mother at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @ALBirdwriter and @HQDigitalUK

Read Don’t Say a Word by A.L. Bird

Blog-Tour: The Good Mother by A.L. Bird

The Blog-Tour for The Good Mother by A.L. Bird is already well underway and I am looking forward to hosting a great piece by A.L. Bird on the inspiration for her novel, and my review of course.

So you can follow the blog-tour and see what my fellow bloggers have to say about The Good Mother and to read features by A.L. Bird, here are the links to their blogs.

5th April

6th April and

7th April


8th April


9th April here and

10th April

Hope to see you here on the 9th of April for my turn on the Blog-Tour!

Kathleen McGurl

Kathleen McGurl author photo small (2)

Kathleen McGurl is a writer of short stories, novels and how-to-write books. She lives by the sea in Bournemouth with her husband and teen son 2. Teen son 1 is away at university. When not writing she is either working at the day-job (IT for a large retail organisation) or running along the Bournemouth prom, slowly.

She has sold dozens of stories to women’s magazines in the UK and Australia. Her how-to-write books and a romantic novella are available as ebooks from Amazon. Her first full-length novel, The Emerald Comb, was published by Carina UK on 22nd September 2014, and her second, The Pearl Locket, is available for pre-order, to be released on 27th February 2015.

(bio provided by the author)

To connect with Kathleen on Twitter: @KathMcGurl

Or to find out more about Kathleen McGurl and her books, go visit

Read more about The Emerald Comb, The Pearl Locket and The Daughters of Red Hill Hall:


The Emerald Comb is a story of betrayal, murder and the hidden mysteries of genealogy. Katie finds out more than she wants to know, but once opened the content of Pandora’s box can never be unseen. Read more here






Ali inhdownload (26)erits both a house and the family secrets. The type of secrets that destroy families, and in this case even threaten to break up her own. Read more here









The Daughters of Red Hill Hall is about history repeating itself. The echoes of betrayal, jealousy and envy are transported through time. Imprinted on two duelling pistols. Will they cause another tragedy in the present? Read more here.

The Pearl Locket by Kathleen McGurl

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This story actually reminded me a lot of my own genealogy research. Similar to Ali and Kelly, I also found out that my grandmother had secrets she had kept from her children and grandchildren, during her entire lifetime as a mother and grandmother.

In Ali’s case the secrets seem to be embedded in the house she has just inherited, almost as if something or someone there is still waiting to be acknowledged or to get some closure.

The presence is so strong that it starts to cause changes in the family. One specific person starts to melt back into the memories, behaviour and emotions of the mysterious presence.

The author takes us from the past to the present, from one chapter to another, letting the story of the past unfold into the lives of those in the house. The reader gets a glimpse of the love and also despair that once vibrated through the walls.The young girl surrounded by family and yet completely alone, oppressed by the strict father and his rules, which ultimately leads to unexpected and tragic events.

Ali has very sexist views when it comes to Kelly. She has to keep herself from blaming her daughter for the fact Kelly’s boyfriend broke up with her, because of her taste in clothes. Dressing like a girl from the 1940’s, ergo too fuddy duddy and not fashionable enough for him to remain interested.

That isn’t the kind of message you want to relay to a daughter, as a mother. Even the fact Ali thinks that way, even if she doesn’t voice it, is quite strange. Perhaps Ali is more like her grandfather than she realises or is history repeating itself on a very subtle level? Is there more than one ghostly echo in the property?

McGurl really likes to weave her stories within the folds of family relationships, secrets and genealogy. Mixing heartbreak with romance to create a pleasant and inviting read,
I received a copy of this book courtesy of the author and Carina UK.

Buy The Pearl Locket at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read The Emerald Comb or The Daughters of Red Hill Hall by Kathleen McGurl.
Read about Kathleen McGurl here.

Follow @KathMcGurl  @HQStories @HQDigitalUK


Read The Girl from Ballymor by Kathleen McGurl

Not Quite Perfect by Annie Lyons

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The story gives one a real sense of the chaos, bustle and the unpredictability of life, especially when small children are thrown in the mix. The miniature humans in this tale could give the kids from the TV series Outnumbered a run for their money.

Speaking from experience I can say that the scenarios with children in this story, aren’t unusual at all. One of mine used to be a bit of a Lily, and I also believed in letting her explore her own sense of fashion, much to her grandmothers chagrin and more often than not to my horror. I would like to say that she grew out of it, needless to say she is still a walking fashion statement now at 21, although I still quite uncertain of which particular statement we are trying to make.

As the mother of small children life can often seem like a whirlwind episode on the Harry Potter ghost bus, travelling at high speeds with no stops and many bumps in the road. The adult or mother, who was previously the career gal suddenly becomes just so and so’s mom.

First names cease to exist, personalities get lost, and the relationships between husband and wife are often put on hold until the kiddy stress dies down a little. Not all marriages cope with the extreme pressure of child rearing and family life. A lot crumble under the pressure.

Rachel seems to be losing sight of her relationship within the busy and chaotic life they have built for themselves and Emma thinks she is living in one of the books she helps to edit. Both of them need a wake-up call and unfortunately there is one heading right in their direction.

The author has added an unexpected plot twist, one that I found very emotional and indeed it made me cry. Perhaps because it hits upon a fear or apprehension I have about something I know is inevitable, but have no idea how I will handle the situation when it arises.

I think one of the strengths of this book is Lyons portrayal of a realistic family setting. There are no perfect relationships, encounters or family dynamics for that matter. The reality is none of us are perfect and we all make mistakes.

Buy Not Quite Perfect from Amazon.UK or from any other retailer on Goodreads.

Follow @1AnnieLyons or @HQStories visit or connect with Annie on Facebbook

Read The Happiness ListThe Choir on Hope Street or Life or Something Like it by Annie Lyons.