The Man Across The Street: An uplifting story of love and hope for 2020 (The Hope Street Series Book 1) by Marcie Steele. @Bloodredbooks @marcie_steele #blog #review #romance #womensfiction

I was SO excited to be given an advance reader copy of this amazing book by Marci Steele. I hadn’t read anything by this author before, but I’ll definitely be watching for her other books in this series.


Maybe I’m scared to be happy…

The Man Across The Street: An uplifting story of love and hope for 2020 (The Hope Street Series Book 1) by [Steele, Marcie]Meet Hannah – she’s been her mum’s sole carer since she was eighteen. Now alone after Martha’s sudden death, Hannah feels lost in the only place she’s known as home, Hope Street. Coming up to a milestone birthday, she’s wondering what her purpose in life is.

Meet Doug – a workaholic, he’s in the office from dusk ’til dawn, and when he has a heart attack. Now on the mend, he needs to de-stress his life and focus on living it, to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Doug moves to Hope Street, number 35. Hannah lives at number 34, directly opposite. From the moment they meet, there’s a spark.

But there are secrets too. Hannah’s mum has been keeping something from her, her sister left over twenty years ago, and there can’t be such a simple reason why Doug has moved to Somerley. Can there?

The Man Across the Street is the first of a new series by bestselling author, Marcie Steele. It features a host of characters living on Hope Street in the market town of Somerley, also featured in The Somerley Series. Each character will have their own standalone story in books to follow.

Publisher: Blood Red Books (January 1, 2020)

Publication Date: January 1, 2020

Buying links here


Hannah Lockley is lost. Having cared for her mother after an accident, she has no career prospects and can’t afford to go to college. But is her life as dire as she thinks? Living down a cobblestone road at 34 Hope Street, she knows almost everyone in the neighborhood. You can’t help warming to her lively, social personality and (I agree with her mum) she’d make an excellent nurse.

Doug and Alex Peterson work in the Salford Business Quarter, an office building that overlooks a park. They are embarking on demolishing a derelict factory on the waterfront to build sixteen flats. But when Doug moves into a house on Hope Street, his life becomes forever changed. He cannot get Hannah, his new neighbor, out of his mind. But he also can’t get his workaholic, obsessive past out of his head either.

Told from both Hannah and Doug’s perspectives, I found myself emotionally invested from the start. Steele has a knack of getting under her readers’ sin and this book is no exception. I love books about love, loss, and relationships, and the trials the characters face through each chapter. But this book doesn’t come without it’s hardships, and there’s a mystery to solve—a Pandora’s box—which gives the story an added layer I crave as a reader.

As Hannah chases up questions of her past with the widow at number three, the intrigue thickens. Phoebe is the best friend a girl could want and she’s always there to pick up the pieces. But why was Hannah’s mum holding on to such a secret? Talking to her mother’s grave doesn’t help and working out the ‘wherewithals’ with Thelma and Renee isn’t getting her anywhere. Who else is left to ask? Doug is such a kind man, it’s hard not to fall in love with him. But he has his secrets too.

One of the reasons I loved this book from the start was the age group of the characters. Doug is in his late forties (so I can resonate) and Hannah is not that far behind. You can live their lives through them as the author delivers each character on point and so accurately that it’s impossible not to be affected in some way. You want to wrap Hannah in a big hug and tell her it’s all going to be okay, but in order to grow she has to face pain head on.

In my opinion, Marcie Steel totally smashes this one out of the park. A heartfelt examination of a woman’s most wrenching moments as she struggles to find out who she really is. Another bestseller and one I highly recommend to those who love Women’s Romance Fiction.

Many thanks to the author, Marcie Steele, to the publisher and to the blog tour organizer, Sarah Hardy, for the privilege of reading this book.


‘Marcie Steele writes with such down to earth warmth that you wish you could live in her stories. The Man Across the Street is no exception, full of characters that you’d love to be friends with.’ Tilly Tennant.

‘Love, secrets, intrigue, heartache. Find it all on Hope Street. An engaging tale of ordinary lives to warm you heart and restore your faith in mankind.’ Imogen Clark

If you love an uplifting story about new beginnings, then The Man Across The Street is the perfect read to curl up with. Fans of Hannah Ellis, Debbie Johnson and Emily Harvale will love this book.

About the Author:

Hi, I’m Marcie Steele and I also write under the name of Mel Sherratt.

As Mel, I write crime thrillers, psychological suspense and fiction with a punch – or grit-lit, as I call it. Shortlisted for the prestigious CWA (Crime Writer’s Association) Dagger in Library Award 2014, my inspiration comes from authors such as Martina Cole, Lynda la Plante, Mandasue Heller and Elizabeth Haynes. Since 2012, all eight of my crime novels have been bestsellers, each one climbing into the kindle UK top 20.

However, I’m a romantic at heart and I’ve always wanted to write about characters who were not necessarily involved in the darker side of life. Coffee, cakes and friends are three of my favourite things, hence Stirred with Love for my first book writing as Marcie Steele. The Little Market Stall of Hope and Heartbreak and The Second Chance Shoe Shop are also available now.

I live in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, with my husband and terrier, Dexter. You can find out more at Mel’s website or I’m on Twitter at @marcie_steele.

Other books by Marcie Steele

Marcie Steele

Author links:








A Warm Welcome to Margaret K. Johnson

margaretMargaret K Johnson began writing after finishing at Art College to support her career as an artist. Writing quickly replaced painting as her major passion, and these days her canvasses lay neglected in her studio. She is the author of women’s fiction, stage plays and many original fiction readers in various genres for people learning to speak English. Margaret also teaches fiction writing and has an MA in Creative Writing (Scriptwriting) from the University of East Anglia. She lives in Norwich, UK with her partner and their bouncy son and dog.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog today, Claire.

My novel Taming Tom Jones is a contemporary romance, about a woman, Jen, on a mission to save her relationship.

The story starts with Jen discovering she’s pregnant. She’s thrilled about it, but a tad anxious too, because she’s well aware that her partner Michael doesn’t want any more children other than his teenage son, Kyle. She’s also well aware that so far Michael has never stayed in a relationship for longer than four years. As Jen waits at home to break the news, she tries not to dwell on the fact that their own four year anniversary is rapidly approaching, but then Michael comes home on a new motorbike, having traded in his sensible car, and the moment to tell him about the baby is lost.

When Jen decides to embark on a reckless investigation of Michael’s exes which takes her as far afield as North Norfolk and Cuba, she has no idea whether she’s finding out the truth, or even if what she discovers will help to keep her and Michael together as she hopes it will.

Photo by Paul Smith

Photo by Paul Smith

I live in Norfolk in the United Kingdom where much of the book is set, and it’s a beautiful county with a stunning coastline. One critical scene takes place at Winterton-On-Sea on the Norfolk coast. Michael takes Jen there early one morning, and she has no idea why. She only knows – from the reaction of others around her – that something very unusual is about to take place.

Here’s an extract of the scene:

Michael’s watching the conflicting emotions pass over my face. “Come on, Jen,” he says persuasively. “There are already quite a lot of people here. It’ll be too late soon. Come and see. Please. Hannah will be fine.”

Once again, my curiosity’s piqued. What can he want me to see? A wrecked ship? A beached whale? But how could he have arranged either of those things so specifically for nine-thirty on a Friday morning?

He has Hannah in his arms by this time, and her eyes are already closing as he rocks her.

“All right,” I say ungraciously, “but I hope you don’t expect me to walk very far.”

“Just to the dunes; not far.”

Very grudgingly, I begin to walk slowly beside him. “Why’s it so busy here today?” I ask, because normally on a Friday morning during term time I’d only expect a few dog-walkers’ cars to be parked in the car park. It’s different in the summer holidays, but we’re still only in June.

TTJ Cover (2)“Careful!” Michael warns as I half stumble down the step from the beach café terrace. Then he looks away, something distracting him. “Oh, God,” he says. “The TV’s here. They must have had a tip off.”

I turn to look, and sure enough, two men are unloading equipment from a van emblazoned with the logo of our local news programme. “Michael?” I ask. “What’s going on?”

If you want to find out what Jen discovers down on beautiful Winterton-on-sea, or whether Jen is successful in saving her relationship with Michael, you’ll have to read the book!

For more information on Margaret K. Johnson and her books go to

Why not visit Smashwords:

A Warm Welcome to Rumer Haven

Rumer Haven (2)Rumer Haven is probably the most social recluse you could ever meet. When she’s not babbling her fool head off among friends and family, she’s pacified with a good story that she’s reading, writing, or revising—or binge-watching something on Netflix. A former teacher hailing from Chicago, she presently lives in London with her husband and probably a ghost or two. Rumer has always had a penchant for the past and paranormal, which inspires her writing to explore dimensions of time, love, and the soul. She debuted in 2014 with Seven for a Secret (a contemporary/historical romance set in Y2K and 1920s Chicago). Her next novel, What the Clocks Know (a paranormal women’s fiction set in modern and Victorian London), is due for release by Crooked Cat Publishing in early 2016.


7forASecret_FRONT_REV (2)It’s the year 2000, and twenty-four-year-old Kate moves into a new apartment to find a new state of independence in a new millennium. A former 1920s hotel, Camden Court has housed many lonely lives over the decades—and is where a number of them have come to die. They’re not all resting in peace, however, including ninety-year-old Olive, who dropped dead in Kate’s apartment and continues to make her presence known. For Olive has a secret she’s dying to tell, one linking her to the sex, scandal, and sacrifice of a young dreamer named Lon. As the past haunts the present, Kate’s modern-day love life becomes entwined with Lon’s Jazz Age tragedy. 

In the 1920s storyline of Seven for a Secret, two Chicago socialites (Lon Ashby and Eva Hughes) struggle to find love and identity in their opulent, oppressive world. This scene follows Eva as she continues to go through the motions of her milieu after marrying Finlay Redcliffe.

Silver spoons clanked against delicate white china as Eva’s luncheon party cooled their tea in the secluded Palm Court lobby of the Drake Hotel.

The harpist’s flourishing notes helped drown out some of the dull murmuring surrounding her on this All Saint’s Day, but it couldn’t quite cancel out her own little group: her mother, sister, and mother- and sister-in-law.

Drake1 (2)Virgie, Finlay’s older sister, had a high nasally voice and the terrible tendency to end every laugh with a loud hum, serving as some sort of bridge to return her pitch from high to low. Mrs. Redcliffe—the other Mrs. Redcliffe, Finlay’s mother—was similarly affected with the need to place emphasis on the fourth word of every sentence she spoke. Eva sat with impeccable posture, stirring her tea and observing the effect her mother-in-law had on Eva’s own mother, who’d taken to crafting her responses with emphasis on the second word of nearly every sentence.

Ollie, on the other hand, just sat mutely munching through all the cucumber finger sandwiches, back hunched and feet swinging under the table even though she had to lift her knees to keep from skimming the floor. She’d already kicked Virgie once, which Eva hoped was accidental. Nonetheless, Eva touched a white-gloved hand to Ollie’s lap now and then as a signal to rein in her spastic limbs.

“I had the most divine tea last week at the Walnut Room,” Mrs. Redcliffe tittered on. “The cake was exquisite. I am positively certain the recipe still includes brandy.”

“That does sound decadent,” Mrs. Hughes replied. “We must make a point to go down to Marshall Field’s this week, Evie, before the masses descend at Christmastime. It’s most hospitable with its tea rooms.”

Yes, Mother,” Eva said, playing a private game of stressing the first word of her sentences, confident they’d never notice. “I agree. It is the last word in accommodating gentlewomen in this city. Positively charming.”

“Indeed, you are quite right there,” said Mrs. Redcliffe.

“I couldn’t agree more,” said Mrs. Hughes.

Quite unequivocally true,” said Eva.

Drake2 (2)“Ha, ha-ha, ha-ha! Hmmm,” giggle-hummed Virgie. “Charles told me the funniest story that happened in the Men’s Grill Room there recently…”

Ollie chomped on watercress, mentally checked out of the lofty lounge and, Eva knew, roaming the landscape of her even richer imaginary life.

As Virgie told her story, Eva tapped her spoon at the edge of her teacup, watching it flick creamy drops off its egg-shaped bowl. It reflected the glittering lights of the crystal chandeliers overhead, gleaming just like the silver spoons everyone in that room had held in their mouths since birth. Eva wanted to choke on hers.

To learn more about Rumer Haven and her books

Why not visit Rumer at her website:

Book trailer:





A Warm Welcome to Author Sue Barnard

Sue Barnard author pic (2)We are delighted to welcome Sue Barnard today. Sue was born in North Wales but has spent most of her life in and around Manchester. After graduating from Durham University, where she studied French and Italian, Sue got married then had a variety of office jobs before becoming a full-time parent. If she had her way, the phrase “non-working mother” would be banned from the English language.

Since then she has had a series of part-time jobs, including some work as a freelance copywriter. In parallel with this she took several courses in Creative Writing. Her writing achievements include winning the Writing Magazine New Subscribers Poetry Competition for 2013. She is also very interested in Family History. Her own background is stranger than fiction; she’d write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.

In case you haven’t read The Ghostly Father, it’s based on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, told from the point of view of the character of Friar Lawrence (called Fra’ Lorenzo in this version). In fact all the characters are given the Italian versions of their names – hence “Giulietta” rather than Juliet.

TGF front (2)The scene Sue has given us, which is pivotal to the story, is set in the vault, whilst Giulietta is still in her death-like trance. This is where, in the original tale, the lovers fall victim to a maddeningly preventable double-suicide. But in The Ghostly Father, events take a slightly different turn…

I have no idea how long I had been sitting there, desperately trying to ignore my cold, dark and dank surroundings, when I suddenly became aware of the noise of footsteps. I held my breath and listened. The footsteps grew louder; I realised that their owner must be coming down the steps into the vault. But concealed as I was behind Giulietta’s bier, I remained out of sight of the entrance, and the shaded light of my own flambard was wholly eclipsed by the light of another one, which was now being borne into the depths of the tomb.

Whoever this intruder might be, and whatever business he might have here, I prayed: Please may he go before the lady revives. Otherwise, what he sees will require no end of explanation. And neither she nor I would wish to be the one who would have to give it.

Vault (2)The footsteps came ever closer, eventually coming to a halt at the other side of Giulietta’s bier. There was a moment’s silence, then I was aware that the muslin sheet which had covered her body was slowly being pulled aside.

The intruder let out a low groan, then a stifled sob, before brokenly murmuring, “Giulietta! My love! My wife!”

I recognised the voice almost before the words had been uttered.

I lifted up my flambard and slowly eased myself to my feet. A ghastly sight met my eyes: young Romeo, his body racking with sobs, was clinging desperately to Giulietta’s body, his streaming face buried in the folds of her white wedding dress. So absorbed was he in his prostrate grief for his lost love that he was clearly utterly unaware that I was now standing at his side.

I was so taken aback at his arrival that it took some moments for me to ask myself: What in Heaven’s name was he doing here?

I received the answer to that question in the next instant. The broken-hearted boy was reaching into his pouch and pulling out a small glass vial.

Juliet's tomb (2)

Juliet’s tomb in Verona (part of the city’s Romeo & Juliet trail). Copyright Sue Barnard

Oh merciful Heaven, I thought, as I recalled Giulietta’s words: “I have no doubt that he would wish to follow me to the grave…”

I had no time to wonder what had happened to bring him hither in this desperate state; I knew only that I had but seconds to prevent a true catastrophe…

Book Blurb

Here’s the book blurb, as it appears on Amazon and on the back cover of the paperback edition:

Romeo & Juliet – was this what really happened? When Juliet Roberts is asked to make sense of an ancient Italian manuscript, she little suspects that she will find herself propelled into the midst of one of the greatest love stories of all time. But this is only the beginning. As more hidden secrets come to light, Juliet discovers that the tragic tale of her famous namesake might have had a very different outcome… A favourite classic story with a major new twist.

Sue Barnard is the author of the award-nominated historical fantasy The Ghostly Father and the romantic intrigues Nice Girls Don’t and The Unkindest Cut of All

Sue has a mind which is sufficiently warped as to be capable of compiling 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.

She joined the editorial team of Crooked Cat Publishing in 2013. Her first novel, The Ghostly Father (a new take on the traditional story of Romeo & Juliet) was officially released on St Valentine’s Day 2014. This was followed in July 2014 by her second novel, a romantic mystery entitled Nice Girls Don’t. Her third novel, The Unkindest Cut of All (a murder mystery set in a theatre), was released in June 2015.

You can find Sue on Facebook, Twitter (@SusanB2011), or follow her blog here.

Sue is also an Editor at Crooked Cat Publishing

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A Warm Welcome to Vanessa Couchman

Vanessa CouchmanToday I’m delighted to welcome Vanessa Couchman, author of THE HOUSE AT ZARONZA. Vanessa lives in France and is passionate about French and Corsican history and culture, which provide inspiration for her writing. The House at Zaronza is based on an intriguing true story that she came across when holidaying on the beguiling Mediterranean island of Corsica.

She is working on a sequel, set in World War II, and another novel set on Corsica during the 18th century.

Book description of The House at Zaronza:

Rachel Swift travels to Corsica to discover more about her forebears. She finds a series of passionate love letters and the story unfolds of a secret romance in the early 20th century between a village schoolteacher and Maria, the daughter of a bourgeois family. Maria’s parents have other plans for her future, and she sees her dreams crumble. Her life is played out against the backdrop of Corsica, the “island of beauty”, and the turmoil of World War I.

In the extract, Maria’s father has told her she must marry her cousin Vincentello to keep the family possessions together. She is carrying on a secret relationship with the village schoolmaster and reacts vehemently against her impending marriage. Her mother tries to get her to “see sense”, illustrating the Corsican attachment to family honour and the futility of struggling against it.


Front cover final 2My father stamped down the corridor, his heels ringing on the flagstones. The front door stuck and grated as usual on the uneven floor. The knocker banged on the door, such was the force with which Papa slammed it.

Maman sank down into the chair opposite me. She looked at me for a moment and a fleeting glimpse of something crossed her face. Sympathy? Understanding? I couldn’t tell, but it seemed unlikely. She sighed.

“Maria, you know your father always does what’s right for you, for us all, for the family. You can’t expect to love your husband at first, but it will come. Papa and I married because our families agreed it was in everyone’s best interests. I have never regretted it, even though… even though I have never been able to have any more children.”

She glanced away for a moment. Despite my own problems, I glimpsed the sadness behind the façade.

“But, Maman. You and Papa talk as if I were goods to be parcelled up and sold, like a barrel of olives. As if I had no will or wishes of my own. What about my feelings? I can’t love Vincentello. I never will. When I marry I want it to be to a man I love and have chosen myself.”

Rugged Corsican landscape

Rugged Corsican landscape

“Maria, stop being so unrealistic. You’re a woman. Women have little choice in these matters. And you know that once your father has made up his mind he won’t change it. You would do much better to reconcile yourself and prepare yourself for your marriage. So that you and Vincentello can get to know each other a little better, we have invited him to spend Christmas Eve with us. Your father and I expect you to be hospitable and agreeable towards him.”

Christmas Eve! But that was only two days away. What was I going to do? I had to get a message to Raphaël in his village. But how? The posts were unreliable at the best of times.

“And now,” Maman said. “I’ll leave you to think about all this. I must admit that your father and I find your response to this good news very disappointing. I hope that, on reflection, you’ll realise your good fortune and thank your father for having your best interests at heart.”

She left me and went back to the kitchen.

Interests, interests. That was all anyone could talk about. What about love? What about feelings? Was life just to be reduced to a series of financial transactions? I thought of Vincentello and his thin, cruel lips. Papa said he would respect me. I wasn’t so sure. I had heard the stories about the way he treated his mother and sisters after his father’s death. His sisters got away by marrying, his mother by following his father to the grave. Why hadn’t Papa heard about these things? Or maybe, in the family’s “interests,” he had just shut his mind to them.

Corsican village that inspired the novel

Corsican village that inspired the novel

I dragged myself upstairs, heavy as lead. I didn’t have the energy to fling myself on my bed but sat down on the edge of it like an old woman, worn out. Even the tears didn’t come, just a cold numbness that weighed me down. Now the mist that obscured my future had cleared away and I saw it stretching before me. But instead of a warm, sunny prospect, a stony, frozen wasteland spread out without end.


Vanessa Couchman lives in France and writes for magazines and websites about French life and writing. Her short stories have been placed and shortlisted in creative writing competitions. The House at Zaronza is her debut novel set in early 20th century Corsica and at the Western Front during World War I.

Vanessa describes herself as a “young” author, having been writing fiction since 2010. Her short stories have won, been placed and shortlisted in creative writing competitions and published in anthologies and online.

She runs a copywriting business and also writes magazine articles on French life and the art of writing.

You can find out more about Vanessa and her books on her Website and blog:

Amazon author page:

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Follow Vanessa on Twitter: @Vanessainfrance

Zaronza on Amazon UK:

Zaronza on Amazon US: