getimage.jpgTo celebrate The Big Allotment Challenge, the practical guide to a productive garden to accompany the 6-part television series of BBC2, we are giving away a luxury gardening starter hamper to inspire your green fingers. The kit contains everything you need to start your ideal garden, including tools, seeds and gloves. The Big Allotment Challenge book has tips on everything for your allotment, with guides to composting, pruning, and even how to make the most of the fruits of your labour with delicious guides on for making jams, jellies, cordials and stunning flower arrangements.

Now, for your chance to win simply tell us in the comments section below: which fruit or veg would you grow in your allotment and how would you eat and cook it?

One of the first things you should try making is a basic raspberry jam. The classic teatime favourite, fresh and fruity raspberry jam is delicious spread on hot buttered toast or scones or used to snadwich layers of a traditional Victories sponge cake. If you have summer and autumn fruiting raspberries, you can be making this jam right through the long season.


1kg raspberries

juice of 1 lemon

1kg granulated sugar


1. Place the raspberries in a preseving pan and add the lemon juice. Cook for 5 minutes until the berries have reduced to a pulp

2. Add the sugar and heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.

3. Bring the mixture to the boil and boil rapidly for 5 minutes or until setting point has been reached.

4. Remove any scum from the jam with a slotted spoon. Pour into clean sterilised jars and seal with sterilised lids.

Good luck!

Pick up a copy of The Big Allotment Challenge in store now!

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9780099509691It is the stuff that dreams are made of – an encounter somewhere outside your normal day-to-day routine that turns into a romance and changes the course of your life. The French have a melodious expression for such a head-turning event: un coup de foudre. And David Lean (working from a screenplay by the ever-extraordinary Noel Coward) surveyed a very English postwar version of love-at-first-sight  in his great film, ‘Brief Encounter’.

Certainly the David Lean film was present in my thoughts when I began to consider the storyline of my novel, ‘Five Days’ – in which Laura, a woman in her early forties (a radiography technician in a hospital on the Maine coast), meets an insurance salesman Richard by chance in Boston – and the events that transpire over their several days together completely upends her life. Especially as, like Richard, Laura is herself also in a marriage that has flat-lined, and seems destined for further decades of quiet desperation. There is central question lurking behind her story (which one which underscores  the dilemmas that so many of us face): why is the verb ‘to change’ the most difficult to act upon in life?

Of course, one of the great truisms of the human condition is that, whenever we complain about the limitations of the lives we lead, we also have to face the fact that it is we ourselves who have created most of these barriers and frontiers. As such, when somebody moans to me about finding themselves in a personal cul-de-sac, my thought is always: but who constructed this cul-de-sac? Accompanying this question is the additional reflection: the only person who can lead you out of a life that you don’t want anymore is, ultimately, yourself. Just as our own happiness is also, ultimately, our own responsibility. The notion that someone else can render us content is one of the great missteps that we all have made at some juncture in our lives. Even if we are with someone who is difficult or abusive, it is, in the end, our choice to stay and be miserable, or to hit the door marked ‘Exit’.

Even when the relationship itself isn’t horrible – but merely blah and half-dead – the decision to to pass through that door into a new life often takes enormous courage. As such I never judge friends and acquaintances who have stayed put in an increasingly compromised and sad situation, because (speaking as someone who went through the necessary trauma of a divorce after a very long marriage) I know just how difficult it is to walk away from a life built with someone else, and to expose children to the hurt of a family cleaved in two.

But there is the other side of the equation – and this is the notion that you simply never know where life might bring you; that you could, indeed, encounter someone by accident with whom a wholly new way of seeing the world might just be possible. I’ve often maintained the belief that, as hard and as damaging as life can be, you still owe it to yourself to try to travel hopefully, For as long as you remain open to life’s great possibilities, there is still the chance to find a new way forward. As I said earlier, change is never simple – and perhaps the biggest struggle you will have in your life is going to be with yourself. And though we often don’t like to admit such things, unhappiness is frequently a choice. I’ve know people whose lives have been like The Book of Job, with multiple tragedies and setbacks, yet who have somehow managed to still soldier on (and indeed rebuild themselves). Just as I have known others for whom a few small setbacks have upended everything.

In the end, everything in life comes down to how you interpret all that has happened to you. And just as you can choose to stay bitter or anguished, so you can also choose to live a happier life. Which is perhaps the most difficult and courageous choice of them all.

Pick up a copy of Five Days by Douglas Kennedy in store now!

getimage.jpgAs Elizabeth George takes Detective Inspector Lynley out of the UK for the first time in her latest mystery, we asked to hear the story behind her doing so. While many of us think of Tuscany and picture the beautiful scenery and the delicious food, Elizabeth’s piece shows how authors are instead often inspired by real life tragedies:

‘Most novels have a genesis, and Just One Evil Act – my latest Inspector Lynley novel – has its roots in the murder of Meredith Kercher and its subsequent investigation. I was in London when Meredith was murdered in Perugia, Italy. I was there in the ensuing days as the investigation into this horrible crime swung into action. I watched the daily news and I read both the broadsheets and the tabloids as they covered the story. Thus, like everyone else, I was introduced to the putative killers as they were interrogated and then charged with the crime. From the London newspapers I came to know Foxy Knoxy and her lover: otherwise more appropriately called Seattleite student Amanda Knox and her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito. Daily, I learned about their callousness in the face of the crime and the crime scene: tender kisses exchanged in the garden of the house as the police examined the room in which the body lay; cartwheels in the police station while waiting for interviews; purchases of red bikini underwear; gross lavatory habits; loose living; drug taking. Like everyone else, I believed Amanda Knox for reasons unknown but soon to be revealed had murdered her roommate.

Unlike many people, once Amanda and Raffaele were convicted I began reading more about the crime and the investigation. When the first book indicated a miscarriage of justice had occurred, I assumed Amanda’s family had paid to have it written. When the second book indicated the same, I became more thoughtful. When the third, fourth, and fifth books also indicated that justice had not been served in this matter, I became convinced – along with the authors of these books – that Amanda Knox had been convicted of the murder of Meredith Kercher because of her naiveté in the face of a police investigation, that she was guilty of being extremely eccentric and equally ingenuous, and that she was railroaded into a conviction by a prosecutor who desperately needed a win in order to save his reputation since he was, at the time, under investigation himself for abuse of office.

I became interested in the entire criminal justice system in Italy, a system in which the prosecutor leads the investigation, in which there are no checks and balances, in which there is no free press, in which a speedy trial and conviction and imprisonment of the real killer of Meredith Kercher – Rudy Guede – can be buried along with the information that, in exchange for a reduced sentence of 16 years, all he had to do was say in court that Amanda and Raffaele had been there in the room and that Amanda had wielded the knife that killed Meredith. I also became interested in a justice system in which a courtroom of judges can be led to believe that two young people – Amanda and Raffaele – managed to clean a blood-soaked crime scene of all of their own DNA while simultaneously leaving in place the DNA of the real killer.

So I decided to write my own novel of Italy, and I used the kidnapping of a little girl in London as the instrument of my investigation. In Just One Evil Act, an Italian prosecutor remains stubbornly blind to the truth that’s swirling round him while his subordinate – assisted first by Thomas Lynley and then by Barbara Havers in the wildest move of her spotty career – pursues first a kidnapper and then a killer. The tabloids are involved, misinformation is involved, jealousy is involved, and the politics of policing in both countries come into play.

The book is set in Lucca, Italy, and in London. I think it has a lot to say about how justice is and is not served.’

To celebrate the paperback publication of Elizabeth George’s new Inspector Lynley novel, Just One Evil Act, we’re giving one lucky person the chance to get their hands on a glorious Italian speciality food hamper from award-winning delicatessen Papadeli, packed with delicious Italian treats. To enter, simply answer the following question in the comments section below:

What is your favourite Italian recipe?

Good luck!

Grab a copy of Just One Evil Act by Elizabeth George in stores now!

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Everything to LoseHello Tesco Book Blog readers!

A common question for novelists is, where do you get your ideas?  For me, each book is a marriage of separate leitmotifs or themes that form the beginnings of plot and characters. Often these are things that sparked my interest a while back, which I didn’t know what to do with at the time. I throw such ideas ‘in the vault’, so to speak, in the hopes that I’ll be able to use them one day.

In Everything To Lose, there were four separate starting points. The first was a question – how far would you go to protect your child? Would you cross the line and do something that you knew was wrong? Criminal? And does doing a bad thing for the right reason make it any more right? Or forgivable? I created a single mom – gritty, devoted, and desperate. Her son has Asperger syndrome and needs attention. His deadbeat father refuses to help. A tempting twist of fate lures her to the edge of what she knows is right. It’s just a small step from the moral high ground to total freefall.

The second came from a fascinating article I read a year or so ago in the New York Times Magazine. It was about ‘C-U’ kids – callous and unemotional – who behaviorists believe carry the twisted personality defect of future psychopaths. I began to toss around the thought: what if a child with C-U traits grows up, learns to control his bad instincts, is successful in life, and ultimately finds himself in a position of power and responsibility – and then the urges come back? He’s a bad seed, a time bomb waiting to go off…

Flash back to five years ago. I saved a newspaper article describing the murder of a teenage girl by her boyfriend decades before on the blighted, industrialized shoreline of Staten Island in New York City. I can’t quite recall what attracted me back then: the ugly, moonscape setting; that it was buried and forgotten for twenty years; that ultimately, when it came out, it was such a seemingly spontaneous and motiveless act. Whatever it was, it provided the third strand of Everything To Lose – what if the boyfriend was my aforementioned ‘bad seed’ as a teenager? He did something terrible, and had to hide for his life.

And then, as the novel was taking shape, Superstorm Sandy happened – a devastating event, especially in the low lying coastal areas, like Staten Island. The fourth element of the novel was inspired by the personal tale of a friend whose mother owned a beautiful house on the Jersey shore which was devastated by the storm – every memento, every antique, every photo, every piece of china, the entire history of my friend’s parents’ lives, swept out to sea. It was a compelling and heartbreaking story, and I wanted to weave it in: to tie it back to my silent, buried murder victim; to my now-powerful bad seed with his terrible secret; back to my desperate mother who steals something she knows is wrong. They are all linked by the storm, and something valuable that is washed out to sea – a piece of evidence they didn’t even know they had, which is returned to them by the same waves that took it away.

I hope you enjoy the book!

Pick up your copy of Everything to Lose by Andrew Gross in store now! 

51peEnPRn8L._Hello Tesco Books Blog readers; it’s lovely to have the chance to let you know a bit about myself.

I was a troubled soul when I came down to London in the mid 1980’s as a teenager, searching for the bright lights, the parties, and the lifestyle. I didn’t know who I was and so was living on the edge, experimenting with every kind of drug and every kind of man; all in a desperate bid to reconnect with myself. Unsurprisingly neither the drugs nor the men helped me.

Still, I was in good company. A lot of the people I met back then who were living on the streets of London or living in squats were lost; looking for something they might never find. We all had our own demons.

On the surface living an unconventional lifestyle was fun, Soho in the 80’s was full of vibrancy and colourful characters as well as being a tight community. But living in squats, doorways and on stranger’s floors eventually became tiring and even though I could have gone back home to the North, I felt I needed to stay in London.

I got myself together enough to find a place to live and managed to hold down various jobs. Life was tough especially  when I found myself in a physically and sexually violent relationship, but despite this, the one thing I still had was hope; hope that one day I would find peace of mind and happiness. Throughout the years my writing was my salvation and my voice; no-one could take that away from me. Whether it was ideas for books or diary entries or even poems, in the darkest of hours I always turned to writing; it was almost like a friend to me.

As the years passed, I wanted more for myself. I began to attend counselling sessions and group workshops which gave me the strength to help me start to change my life.

I decided not only was I going to turn my life around I was going to write my way out. Writing was not only cathartic but I loved the process, developing stories and characters. I had been expelled from school just before my O levels and so my formal education had stopped at fifteen but the novel writing process came so naturally to me. I put all my emotions into the characters and the story and once I had finished I sent it off to an agent who took me on, and within a couple of months we had secured a deal. Taken, my debut novel went on to be published by Harper Collins in 2012.

I still pinch myself at how my life has turned around. I look back at the naïve teenager who came down from the North seeking happiness and finally I can honestly say I have found it. I am very lucky to be doing something I love and having such a great response to my books is wonderful.

My latest book is called, Betrayed. I do so hope you will enjoy it and fall in love with the characters as I did when I was writing it. I’d love to hear from you and you can follow me on Twitter, @JacPereiraUK – Happy reading guys.

Jacqui x

Pick up your copy of Betrayed by Jacqui Rose in store now!

Actress and Mumsnet Best Cookbook winner Fay Ripley is back with 100 deliciously easy recipes that take the stress out of your kitchen.

This is the food Fay eats and the food she loves to share – delicious meals that don’t involve hours of preparation or unnecessary stress, but which you can show-off and enjoy eating.

Whether you need something special like Steak with a Red Wine and Rosemary Sauce, failsafe family fare such as Lemon and Basil Summer Spaghetti or a show-stopping Hazelnut and Raspberry Pavlova, these simple, quick-to-cook dishes come straight from Fay’s kitchen and from her heart.

Complete with shortcuts and easy ways to add the `wow’ factor, this book will get you back to loving the food you cook, eat and share.

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 12.14.57

To celebrate the publication of Fay Makes It Easy, we are offering one lucky winner the chance to win a signed copy of the book, plus a five-piece Adventure cookware set from Tefal, which has a RSP of £60.00. To enter, simply answer the following question in the comments section below:

What is your favourite dinner party dish?

Good luck!

Pick up your copy of Fay Makes It Easy by Fay Ripley online and in store now!

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Life was pretty full-on when we had three children under four, and one Mother’s Day, my husband Jimmy must have realised how shattered I was as he booked me a day at Stobo House, a gorgeous spa nestling in the Scottish Borders. I had a whole bunch of treatments but must admit, the loveliest part was being away from everything (and everyone!). Most thoughtful of all, Jimmy had compiled a selection of my favourite songs to play on the drive to and from the spa. I felt fully restored, and just about human again!


It sounds horribly ungrateful but the year I was deluged with presents was the year it went horribly wrong. One of my sons knocked my (glass) bottle of posh bath oil off the kitchen table and it smashed all over the floor. Daughter had obviously crept back to have another peek at my lovely necklace – because next time I opened its plush box, the chain had mysteriously snapped. Plus, husband bought me a skirt that was two sizes too big. ‘You think I’m fat,’ I wailed, in typically over-reacting fashion.  Yes, I’m ashamed. I behaved like a spoilt kid. But I’d have been far happier with a few hugs and home-made cards.


As our kids have grown up (daughter is 13, our twin sons are 17), what I’ve started to cherish more than anything is time with Jimmy, my husband. Our house is perpetually full of marauding teenagers, taking over the telly and filling the place with their thumping music. Which is great, of course – we’ll miss them madly when the boys are gone next year. But it does make me crave some time out of the house, with my beloved!

My perfect Mother’s Day would be a long lunch at home with the family (not cooked by me), then escaping to Edinburgh (only an hour from home, but one of my favourite cities) with Jimmy. We’d browse the shops, stop for coffee and cakes at Urban Angel, then see a movie at the Cameo and have dinner. I do hope my husband is reading this and making plans to arrange it all.


Ah, Mother’s Day. We tell ourselves it doesn’t matter but secretly hope to be spoilt. So what to do when it goes horribly wrong, and your gift doesn’t match expectations?

The gift: An ‘interesting’ breakfast. When my twin boys were about seven they surprised me with a Mother’s Day breakfast in bed. This consisted of digestive biscuits thickly smothered in jam, and decorated with chunks of browning apple. I feigned delight by taking a big bite, and let my boys snuggle into bed with me for a cuddle (to be honest, it was such a sweet gesture I didn’t even have to feign happiness. Although, when they got bored and ran off, I did stuff the last two biscuits in the waste paper bin, hidden under a magazine).

If you’re presented with a piece of incinerated toast and a grenade-like boiled egg, remember that these days will soon pass, and that you’ll be lucky to even glimpse your offspring before lunchtime. My lads are now strapping 17 year-olds who’d no more volunteer to wash the car than bring me so much as a cuppa in bed!

The gift: Bleugh perfume. Tricky this, as you have to make a show of spraying it on and saying, ‘Oh, this is lovely!’ But only once. After that, you can display it proudly in a prominent place. If anyone comments that the level in the bottle doesn’t seem to be going down, just explain that perfume virtually lasts forever. However tempted you are, please don’t donate it to the school tombola.

The gift: Anything bought by Dad in a hurry. We all know kids need a little prompting where Mother’s Day is concerned. Even cards hand-made in the classroom are likely to lie crumpled in schoolbags unless an adult’s on hand to remind them. It’s likely that Dad’s had a hand in the present-buying too.

So here’s what to do if you’re presented by some ratty carnations, which have obviously been grabbed in haste (by Dad) from the garage. Cheer yourself up by imagining his panic-stricken face, as he sprinted to the petrol station with his hair on end, realising that Mother’s Day was about to pass by unnoticed.

The gift: A depressing practical thing. Occasionally, our loved ones forget that gifts should be treaty and not about need or, heaven forbid, practical tasks in the kitchen – and this is when it’s hardest to feign delight. But you can do it. ‘How did you know I really needed one of these?’ I enthused when presented with a cheese grater (brightly coloured and shaped like a lady, with the grater part forming her skirt… but still a grater, right?). If you’re scrabbling for something positive to say, then try to be specific: ‘I’ll feel really cheered up every time I use this.’ Who cares if it’s a little white lie?

The gift: That wonky home-made object. It doesn’t matter that you have no use for a lump of clay which your child tells you is ‘a tortoise’, or a bunch of slimy-ended weeds from the garden. As the saying goes, it’s the thought that counts – and, let’s face it, we’re always delighted with a makeshift gift, no matter how wonky it is.

If you are disappointed, remind yourself how much you’ll miss their sweet offerings in years to come. A decade on, I still have the hand-painted pebble, a Mother’s Day present from my daughter, sitting proudly on my desk. It’s one of my favourite things in the world.

So happy Mother’s Day, everyone. In the end, it’s not really about presents, is it? I know that, for me, it’s a chance to curl up with a book, to be cooked for, and to feel spoiled with no demands made upon me. Hope you get your heart’s desire too.

And now for a chance to win yourself an indulgent skincare gift set worth £100. Simply finish this sentence in the comments section below:

Before I became a mum, I wish I’d known….. 

Good luck!

Fiona x

Grab a copy of Take Mum Out by Fiona Gibson in stores now!

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DLP_main2Cathy Glass talks to Tesco Books about her years as a foster carer, and a special little girl she looked after.

Hello Tesco Books Blog readers!

I have been a foster carer for 25 years during which time I have looked after over 100 children, from vulnerable little babies only a day or so old, to teenagers whose lives had been beset by tragedy and loss, and as a result felt rejected and unloved. No two children’s stories are the same but their life-experiences – before coming into care – are always heartbreaking as they struggled to make sense of what was going on around them and yearned for nothing more than love and security, which most of us take for granted.

In my latest book, Daddy’s Little Princess, I tell the story of Beth. Beth was seven when she came to live with me and appeared to have been well looked after by her single-parent father. Her mother had left when Beth was a toddler, and Beth had come into short term care while her father was in hospital as there was no one else to look after her.

Beth was a sweet-natured child who was obviously very close to her father. She loved him dearly as he did her, and they missed each other dreadfully.   Yet soon after Beth arrived I began to feel that something wasn’t quite right. It was a ‘niggle’, an unsettling ‘gut-feeling’ that all wasn’t well at home, and Beth had something to hide. Years of fostering had taught me that sometimes children are too frightened, lost or simply confused to know when something is very wrong, and that they are hurting deep down inside and desperately need help.

Then I discovered that I wasn’t the only adult who had concerns about Beth. Beth’s teacher and Beth’s father’s girlfriend were also worried, but like me they found it difficult to put their concerns into words and say exactly what was wrong. Eventually, I was so worried that I raised my concerns with Beth’s social worker. I wasn’t believed  and no action was taken, until one day Beth’s social worker accompanied Beth to the hospital to see her father. Then everything suddenly changed.  All contact between Beth and her father was abruptly stopped and the social worker asked me if Beth could stay with me permanently if it became necessary. I said she could. Beth had never known a mother’s love and I knew my family and I would love her.

All the children in my books are true heroes. To read more about Beth, you can find Daddy’s Little Princess in Tesco from the 27th March.

I really hope you enjoy it.

Love Cathy xx

getimage.jpg (2)Britain’s favourite gardener and TV presenter Alan Titchmarsh has sold over one million copies of his novels in the UK alone and is the author of eight bestselling novels including The Haunting and Folly.  In Bring Me Home he takes us to the scenic highlands of Scotland for his new multi-generational tale of betrayal, mystery and romance.

It seems a perfect afternoon in the Highlands.

Standing at the door of the lochside castle that has been his family’s home for generations, Charlie Stuart welcomes his guests to the annual summer drinks party. Conversation, laughter and the clinking of glasses soon fill the air as friends and neighbours come together to toast the laird’s happiness and prosperity.

But Charlie sees the truth behind the façade: the sacrifices made to safeguard the estate; the devastating losses that have haunted him for decades; the guilt that lies at the heart of it all.

And in a few hours, he knows, the perfect afternoon will come to an end. The past, with its dark secrets of love, death, loyalty and betrayal, is about to catch up with him. And it could finally tear his family apart . . .

You can read an extract from Bring Me Home here…

To celebrate the publication of Bring Me Home on the 13th March, Hodder & Stoughton are delighted to be able to offer one lucky winner the chance to win a hardback copy of Bring Me Homeplus a luxury hamper filled with delicious Scottish delicacies for you to sample whilst immersing yourself in the Stuart family. Goodies include fudge, haggis, pate, vintage port, macaroons, cheese, salmon and beer. All presented in a beautiful wicker basket for you to keep.

For the chance to win all you need to do is answer this question in the comments section below: 

What is the name of the main character in Bring Me Home?

Pick up a copy of Bring Me Home by Alan Titchmarsh online and in store now!

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085158-FC50[1]The incredible Rosie Lewis talks honestly about her time as a foster parent, and the heartbreak of saying goodbye.

Hello Tesco Books Blog – I’m Rosie Lewis, a mum of three (two birth children and one adopted), a foster carer and, most recently, a writer.

Even as a child I was drawn towards the idea of fostering – there was a local authority home close to where we lived and I would watch the children coming and going with a mixture of fascination and, like many people, a longing to make things better for them – but I waited until my own children were at school before I did anything about registering as a foster carer myself.

That was nearly eleven years ago and in that time I’ve fostered more than twenty-five children, with placements lasting anything from a couple of weeks to three years or more. Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know lots of foster carers and have been heartened by their dedication and warmth. Witnessing the lengths they go to in trying to overwrite a child’s traumatic past has always bowled me over, spurring me on to try and do as good a job as them.

What inspired me to write about my fostering experiences was the ending of a long and much loved placement; a sibling group of two who stayed with us for three years. It was so hard to say goodbye to them and our house rattled with emptiness after they left. Even though their ‘forever’ home was barely thirty miles from our own, accepting that I would probably never see them again left me feeling bereaved. Writing my feelings down really helped me to come to terms with the loss.

Still missing the children a few months later, I flicked back through my scribbled notes and was amazed to find that I couldn’t stop smiling, even though I had been so sad when I wrote them. The little notebook helped me to remember all the special times we’d shared and made me appreciate what an honour it was to play a role in the upbringing of a child, however small.  I’m thrilled that I now have the opportunity to share the joys and sometimes the heartache of caring for vulnerable children and am hoping that the insight might inspire others to consider fostering, as I know the wonderful Cathy Glass and Casey Watson have done.

For my first full-length book I wrote Trapped, the story of our time with Phoebe, who was eight years old when she first came to stay with us.

At first I was baffled by the randomness of Phoebe’s behaviour; one minute she was chatty and bubbly, the next screaming and uncontrollable. Phoebe’s high-flying, middle-class parents seemed equally mystified and as I got to know them it became clear that the strain of looking after her had taken its toll on their marriage.

It took a while to unravel the skeins that Phoebe had bound so tightly around herself but as each one loosened, I began to realise that the frightened girl cowering beneath had withdrawn into herself because the world around her was so terrifying.

As Phoebe learned to trust us, the veneer of their perfect life began to lose its shine. When it finally cracked, myself, social workers and even the police were shocked at the depth of cruelty and abuse she had live through.

I’m so excited about the release of Trapped and really hope you enjoy reading it.

Rosie xx

Grab your copy of Trapped by Rosie Lewis in store now!