Review – Betrayal at Cleeve Abbey by Anita Davison

Today it’s my great pleasure to welcome Anita Davison. Anita is the author of the brilliant Flora Maguire Mysteries, published by Aria Fiction.

First, a little background, from Anita, to book one:

Flora’s Secret by Anita Davison (Book 1 in the Flora Maguire Series)

Flora Maguire is a twenty-two-year old governess to Edward, the son of Earl Trent. Raised by her father, Riordan Maguire, the head butler on the earl’s Gloucestershire estate, she is used to watching the lives of the aristocracy from the side-lines.

After a family wedding in New York, where Flora has been included as part of the family party, the earl and countess decide to extend their holiday, thus Flora is entrusted with the task of escorting Edward home to England to attend school. Conscious of her status as an upper servant among a complement of only first class passengers, she avoids the dining room on the first night and meets the charming Bunny Harrington on deck, who catches her peeking under the canvas at his new automobile.

The next morning, Flora finds the body of a man at the bottom of a companionway, a death pronounced accidental by the ship’s doctor. Flora’s doubts about what happened prompts her to have the man’s death acknowledges as deliberate, and to do that she has to find the killer.

She enlists the help of Bunny, who is at first sceptical, but after a burglary, a near drowning during a storm and a second murder – the hunt is now on in earnest for a killer as the Minneapolis approaches the English coast.

Book 2 in the series, Betrayal at Cleeve Abbey is out now, followed by Book 3, A Knightsbridge Scandal, due for publication in early in 2017, with two more stories scheduled for later in the year.


About Betrayal at Cleeve Abbey:

Even the most glamorous stately houses hide secrets and lies from the past…

For fans of Downton Abbey, a thrilling and romantic mystery set in the glorious Cotswolds landscape.

Flora Maguire is now happily married to Bunny Harrington and living in Richmond when she receives an alarming telegram informing her of her father’s tragic death in a riding accident at Cleeve Abbey.

Heartbroken, she and Bunny return to her former home, where she was Governess to Eddy, Viscount Trent, and her father was Butler to Earl Trent.

Flora’s intention was to bury him next to Lily, her mother, who sadly passed away when Flora was a small child.

Mystery surrounds the final resting place of Lily. No-one is willing to talk and, with her father now dead in a suspicious accident, Flora must once again strive alone to uncover hidden family secrets.

My thoughts:

I remember writing a review for the first in this series, Flora’s Secret, and being bowled over by the captivating writing style, and the fresh voice of the main character, Flora Maguire. I clearly recall hoping we would meet Flora again at some point. I also remembered the unfolding story, and how it was so beautifully structured, and the great sense of everything being exactly as it should be, by the end.
What I hadn’t fully remembered, until I came to read Betrayal at Cleeve Abbey, was the author’s ability to describe everything – from the ornate beauty of a well-appointed room, to the glorious simplicity of a perfectly-fried egg – with the kind of immediacy that puts you in that room, (or poises your fork above the egg!) and makes you feel such an integral part of the story you forget where you actually are.
This second book in the series is no less evocative than the first in any of those respects; from the very outset – when we are with Flora on a sticky hot day, and feeling her slightly grumpy discomfort – right the way through until the end, we can see, taste and smell everything. And we can feel the gradually building tension as Flora investigates, and unravels the mystery behind a seemingly-accidental death on the hitherto-familiar estate where she spent her childhood.
This death, in contrast to the slightly detached fascination of the previous incident on the Minneapolis, hits much closer to home. Flora’s emotions are tugged in all directions as she learns family secrets that have been shared by people she has always trusted, and struggles to keep the clear head she needs if she is to see justice done.
As with the descriptions of physical sights, sounds, and other everyday occurrences, we are gently but skilfully drawn into the very heart of Flora’s fears and dilemmas. Again, the viewpoint is third person, but limited to Flora, so we discover things at the same time, react in much the same way, and rejoice in every small triumph.
The secondary characters in this book are as well-drawn as those in the first; the contrast between social classes is clearly marked, without resorting to stereotypes, and the kind of family dynamics that favour no class or situation, shine through the dialogue and little ‘asides.’

I very much look forward to the next outing with Flora… Although, feeling so much part of her world, I just hope I’m not the one she’s investigating next!

Buy Betrayal at Cleeve Abbey from


Weather/News. And some happy-dancing.

It’s a sunny Saturday in my home town of Plymouth… wait, no, it’s raining. Wait. Sun’s out again… should I put the washing out? What if… Oh, who cares? I HAVE NEWS!    type

Yes, news from the sofa/office, and it’s GOOD news. You might recall a little post I made some time ago, called I’m No Hypocrite, But…  (in essence, it’s a bit of a foot-stamping post about how no-one will take me seriously in my home town as I’ve only had 3 books published, and in digital format so they don’t count. Also in the not-counting category are my self-published paperbacks. They must be rubbish, right?) 

Well, earlier this month Piatkus, the Little, Brown imprint who published my debut novel, Maid of Oaklands Manor, announced to the world that they are sending the book to print! PRINT, dammit! On paper (one assumes) and even in bookshops – Waterstones and Smiths have been mentioned – but even if that part of it falls through, it will be available to buy, and you’ll have to check the delivery options on this one!

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I know I already have two paperbacks out, and a third about to launch. But those are my self-published ones, and it’s a whole different kind of a thrill. When I look at my Lynher Mill books I feel all this immense love for them, for the characters, the world I’ve helped them build (or they’ve helped me build) and the gorgeous, solid reality of them is a feeling unlike any other. (So, just because I can, I’m going to post the covers here, with further thanks to the magical combination of cover designer Jeanine Henning, and artist Sean Ryan, who between them took my rather dull photographs, of Cornish tin mines on a non-descript kind of a day, and turned them into the beauties you see here.)




This blog isn’t about the selling, so these are not links, simply images.     However, if you’re interested in reading more about this Cornish Mythic Fiction series, please visit my website where you’ll find a few more details, and information on how to buy, or download a free sample.                           

But now onto Maid of Oaklands Manor. This one is also very, very special to me, and that’s mostly because it was inspired by the stories told to me by my late maternal grandmother Mary Nixon, nee Deegan (whose name you might recognise if you’ve read the book.) The story is not hers, although some of the events within it are true, but all the way through I had her in my head, talking to me in her slight, lilting Liverpudlian accent. I dedicated the book to her.

The difference between my self-published paperbacks being available, and the decision to send this one to print, is that this time someone else has decided it’s worth the financial cost – the book will print at over 430 pages – and that it’s fit to sit on the shelves alongside some of the greatest names in the world of books.

Piatkus have designed a gorgeous new cover for it, to tie it in with the second and third books in the series, and so, with a grin of utter delight, I give you the final, the perfect, Lizzy Parker:

Oaklands Paperback

“This blog isn’t about the selling,” she says! Well of course I’m going to have to leave a link to the pre-order page for this paperback, aren’t I? But the bonus of having had it available as an e-book for two years already, is that you can check out the reviews, and even view a free sample, before you decide whether you think it’s worth ordering the paperback. 

‘Look Inside’ the e-book here.

Pre-order the paperback here.

Thank you for reading, and, as always, please feel free to comment here or on the shared post on my Facebook  page. 

Review – Murder on the Minneapolis, by Anita Davison.


The SS Minneapolis;  last word in luxury on a grand scale. From the outset, this story  pulls you off the pier and onto the ship, mingling with the passengers and experiencing the anticipation and excitement of the start of a sea voyage; you can hear the band playing, see the colours and the crowds, and  smell the salt air. Meet Flora Maguire. Instantly likeable, infinitely sympathetic.

As a governess to thirteen year-old Eddy (Viscount) Trent, and travelling alone with him, she is vulnerable to both prejudice and loneliness, but events very quickly conspire to ensure that, while the prejudice might continue among some of the other passengers with whom she finds herself sharing a table, she will never be lonely… whether she wants to be or not. She also proves herself to be resilient, courageous and with a gung-ho attitude she might well come to regret.

The discover of a dead body, early in the voyage, pulls all the varying characters together, and we are treated to sniping, fawning, back-biting, suspicion, humour, affection… a group people very much of their time, with the attitudes to match. The characters in this story are fully fleshed out, with  back-stories and ideas of their own, and although the story is told from the third person, limited viewpoint of Flora herself, the reader still gets the rounded experience of learning what makes everyone ‘tick.’ Over the course of the voyage, and the investigation that follows that initial grim discovery, we grow to like characters we thought we wouldn’t, to re-think initial impressions…  and this reader found herself thinking ahead to possible further books in a series based on the main characters in this one, and hoping that the ending wouldn’t preclude the possibility of meeting Flora again!

Overall this was a lovely read; tense in places, fascinating in others, and the phenomenal level of research shows in the details sprinkled throughout. Descriptions of the opulance of a ship such as this are not over-done, but give a real flavour of what it must have been like to travel on her, and to mix with a populace in the throes of great social change. Highly recommended.

You can buy Murder on the Minneapolis from Amazon UK — or Amazon US.