Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Saga

The Girl from the Corner Shop – Alrene Hughes @HoZ_Books @alrenehughes #WW2 #Manchester #BlogTour 5* #Review #AuthorInterview #WomenInWar

WW2 Manchester: Newlyweds Helen and Jim Harrison have big plans – to leave the family shop where Helen works and set up home together. But when Jim is tragically killed in an air raid, Helen is heartbroken, her life in ruins.

Battling grief and despair, Helen resolves to escape her domineering mother and rebuild her shattered world. Wartime Manchester is a dangerous place, besieged by crime and poverty. So when Helen joins the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps, working with evacuees, the destitute and the vulnerable, she finds a renewed sense of purpose. She’s come a long way from her place behind the counter in the corner shop.

But there’s still something missing in her heart. Is Helen able to accept love and happiness and find the courage to change her life?

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Alrene Hughes – Author Interview

What are the inspirations behind this story?

I wanted to create a character – a young woman working in a corner shop – who has little belief in herself. When her circumstances change dramatically with the death of her husband, she is at her lowest ebb. The story twists when she joins the police, finding strength in helping others, especially women and children, and courage when she places herself in danger.

When you write what comes first the characters, the plot, or the setting?

I always know the wider setting, to begin with. In my first three novels, it was Belfast and my last two books have been set in Manchester. I’ve lived in both cities and I know the geography well but, more importantly, I have a sense of the atmosphere of the place and the character of the people. Almost at the same time, I focus on the main character, but it’s important as the story develops that she grows and changes with the events she experiences. As far as the plot is concerned, I don’t have a detailed story, just an idea to set it going and a possible ending with a few ideas in between. The detail comes when I’m immersed in the story. It’s almost as though the characters suggest what’s going to happen as it’s being written.

Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mixture of both? How do you make your characters realistic?

They’re all bound up together, I think, but I never transfer a real person into a novel. It’s more like a Rubik’s cube, twisting a complex character into being. You aim for an authentic, believable person who is memorable, even if they only play a small part in the novel. Overall, I think dialogue is one of the best ways to make characters realistic.     

If you could live in any time period which would it be? Why?

As a writer of WW2 sagas/romances, I would love to spend a day or two in Belfast during the war, just to see the city as it was when my family lived through that period. I would have no desire to stay any longer because, through my research, I know full well the hardships they endured.

What made you decide to become a writer and why this does this genre appeal to you?

I began to write in my thirties and for over twenty years I wrote poetry and short stories. I didn’t have the time to write anything longer because I had children and I worked as an English teacher and Assistant Head. Eventually, I decided I would write a family saga set in WW2 based on the story of my mother and her sisters who were singers, like the Andrews Sisters, entertaining the troops. That novel ‘Martha’s Girls’ was a success and I went on to write a trilogy.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I like books that are well written. If I’ve read 3-4 chapters and it hasn’t grabbed me, I don’t persevere.  I like historical novels, with elements of romance, and the occasional crime novel.

What are you currently writing?

I’m working on a third Manchester novel set in WW2. It’s the story of two sisters and their completely different experiences of war. The youngest is conscripted into the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, where she is part of the exciting Parachute Training School. The older sister stays at home looking after their invalid mother, enduring the hardships of the home front.    

I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This story focuses on women in WW2, how their lives changed, and how many were exposed to deprivation, uncertainty and violence. The writing is full of vivid historical details and believable characters, some you dislike passionately, but most you admire, and can empathise.

Helen is newly married, living and working at her mother’s corner shop in Manchester. After a tragedy, leaves her widowed, and she finally rebels against her controlling mother in the midst of her grief, she finds herself jobless and in a home, she can’t afford.

Offered a lifeline by her godmother, she finds that not everything is as it first appears. Her brush with the seedier side of life, makes her rethink, can she give something to society and fill her lonely hours? Joining the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps seems an opportunity too good to miss.

Helen naivety is shortlived, and her compassion and courage make her an excellent police auxiliary. The story is interesting and full of emotion and historical insight that make this wartime saga a page-turner. The challenges for Helen and women in war are realistic and give this story its authenticity.

This is a compelling story with great characters and a lovely hesitant love story that gives the story its hope for the future.

Alrene Hughes grew up in Belfast and has lived in Manchester for most of her adult life. She worked for British Telecom and the BBC before training as an English teacher. After teaching for twenty years, she retired and now writes full-time. Facebook Twitter

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Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Saga

The House by the Loch – Kirsty Wark – 5* #Review @TwoRoadsBooks @KirstyWark @JMP_Publicity @johnmurrays #Scottish #LiteraryFiction #HistoricalFiction #FamilyDrama #MultiGenerational

Scotland, 1950s
Walter MacMillan is bewitched by the clever, glamorous Jean Thompson and can’t believe his luck when she agrees to marry him. Neither can she, for Walter represents a steady and loving man who can perhaps quiet the demons inside her. Yet their home on remote Loch Doon soon becomes a prison for Jean and neither a young family nor Walter’s care can seem to save her.

Many years later, Walter is with his adult children and adored grandchildren on the shores of Loch Doon where the family has been holidaying for two generations. But the shadows of the past stretch over them and will turn all their lives upside down on one fateful weekend.

The House by the Loch is the story of a family in all its loving complexity and the way it can, and must, remake itself endlessly in order to make peace with the past.

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I received a copy of this book from John Murray Press – Two Roads via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Walter witnesses a tragedy as a young boy at the side of the loch, close to his home. It haunts him, throughout his life, even though he could do nothing to stop it. Years later, his family gather at the loch, and once again it is the scene of a tragic event, this time personal, and he wonders if it is his fault and if his family will ever recover.

The setting is beautiful, yet unforgiving, an addiction for Walter, that threatens everything he holds dear.

A multi-generational story, Walter recalls his younger days, his marriage to Jean and their lives at the loch. Addiction and mental health issues irrevocably alter the family, and their effects resonate across the generations. The story’s ethos is predominately sad, but at its conclusion, there is a reckoning, a chance for redemption and a way forward for those left.

The characters are flawed, and therefore believable. Some are self-destructive, but whether the root cause is from nature or nurture, or both is part of what this story explores. The plot is complex, hiding its secrets until the end, The story is engaging and draws you into the family, how they interact and what it means to keep a family together.

Forgiveness, justice and understanding are all important themes. The emotional journey, the characters travel is poignant and often filled with a sense of hopelessness. Ultimately, it is the courage, love and tenacity of the family members, that gets them through the darkness, to survive and make the family stronger.

Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Saga

Nettie’s Secret – Dilly Court – 4* #Review @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam @DillyCourt #Historical Romance #Saga #Victorian #TuesdayBookBlog

As the wind whipped around her, dragging strands of hair from beneath her bonnet and tugging at her skirt, Nettie left behind the only home she’d ever known…

London, 1875. Taking one last look around her little room in Covent Garden, Nettie Carroll couldn’t believe she wouldn’t even be able to say goodbye to her friends. Her father had trusted the wrong man, and now they would have to go on the run. Once again.

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I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This is the first Dilly Court romantic saga I’ve read, and I enjoyed it.

Set in Victorian England and Europe, it follows the adventures of Nettie and her father, as they flee from the law, in the wake of an art forgery scandal. The plot is gently paced with hardships, romance and mystery, all intertwined to create, an easy to read historical adventure. The historical setting is well- researched and enriches the plot with different lifestyles and cultures and iconic cities and countryside.

The characters are authentically written. Netties’ father is a particularly irritating man. Netties is courageous, intuitive and loyal. You want her to find a happy life, after the constant stress of looking after her father.

This is quite a lengthy read, but it is easy to pick up the story again if life interferes with your reading time.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Family Drama, Saga

The Path to the Sea – Liz Fenwick -5* #Review @HQStories @liz_fenwick #Cornwall #Extract #BlogTour #HistoricalFiction #Saga #Family

Sometimes going home is just the beginning…

Boskenna, the beautiful, imposing house standing on the Cornish cliffs, means something different to each of the Trewin women.

For Joan, as a glamorous young wife in the 1960s, it was a paradise where she and her husband could entertain and escape a world where no one was quite what they seemed – a world that would ultimately cost their marriage and end in tragedy.

Diana, her daughter, still dreams of her childhood there – the endless blue skies and wide lawns, book-filled rooms and parties, the sound of the sea at the end of the coastal path – even the family she adored was shattered there.

And for the youngest, broken-hearted Lottie, heading home in the August traffic, returning to Boskenna is a welcome escape from a life gone wrong in London, but will mean facing a past she’d hoped to forget.

As the three women gather in Boskenna for a final time, the secrets hidden within the beautiful old house will be revealed in a summer that will leave them changed forever.

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dav

I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Set in the rugged beauty of Cornwall, a family drama, that is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, unfolds through the eyes of a dying grandmother, a driven daughter and a dutiful granddaughter. Each woman loves the house on the Cornish cliff, even though it is the scene of tragic events that have marred their lives.

Joan has a secret, kept hidden for most of her adult life, but now she is dying, she wants forgiveness and understanding. Told from her point of view as a young, mother in 1962, her secret life and the terrible events of the last family holiday at the house are revealed.

Diana has never forgiven her mother for taking her away from the house she loved, and leaving her to a soulless boarding school when as a grieving child all she needed was her mother’s love and presence. In her mother’s final days, she returns to her childhood holiday home, wanting answers, but most of all wanting to make sense of her life. We learn her story in 1962, as she discovers the answers she seeks in 2018.

Lottie lurches from crisis to crisis, seeking something that only her mother could give her, but never did. She doesn’t understand her mother’s coldness, and is grateful for the love and support her grandmother gives her. Returning to the house where she spent many happy childhood days, she finds more questions than answers, and is determined to confront her mother, about the father she refuses to discuss.

The plot moves effortlessly between 2018, 2008 and 1962, as the love, pain and secrets are uncovered and revealed. The three outwardly successful women, all hide emotional pain, that has damaged the part of their lives that should be the most precious.

The parts of the plot set in 1962 are rich in historical detail and are notably atmospheric, the fear surrounding the escalation of the cold war is tangible, and adds to the family drama that unfolds. The plot has many twists and the complex characters are authentic. You become engrossed in their lives and as the truth reveals itself, the true poignancy of the situation is breathtaking.

‘ The Path to the Sea is enthralling to read, it takes you back to another world, but lets you see how the problems and fears are just as relevant today. The family dysfunction, and the events that precipitated it is very sad, it perfectly illustrates how personal sacrifice can facilitate a greater good. The ending is hopeful, speaking of forgiveness, and lessons learned.

The perfect Summer read.

I Love All Things Coastal
Extract from The Path to The Sea – Liz Fenwick
1
Lottie

3 August 2008, 11.30 p.m.

All was silent except for the sound of the waves reaching the beach. ‘Happy anniversary,’ he said.

Lottie frowned. ‘Anniversary?’ Turning, she tried to see his expression. ‘Are you taking the piss?’

He traced her mouth with his finger. ‘Would I do that?’ ‘Yes.’

She felt rather than heard his laugh as his body was stretched out next to hers, thigh to thigh, hip to hip.

‘We’ve been together for a month and a half.’

‘So, we’re celebrating half months as well as months?’

He kissed her long and slow and she wasn’t sure what they had been talking about as his hand ran across the skin of her back, just above her jeans.

‘I celebrate every day, every minute, every second that you are mine.’

Her breath caught and held, and she looked up to the sky. The milky way stretched above, vast and mystical. She was captivated. The universe and all its glory filled her. Here on this beach, wrapped in his arms, was where she wanted to be always.

It could happen if they wanted it enough and she believed they did.

‘Alex?’

‘Yes?’ His arm tightened around her.

‘Will . . . ’ Just then a shooting star sped across the sky and seemed to fall into the sea. She wished with all her heart that she could be in Alex’s arms for the rest of her life. She rolled onto him. ‘Did you see it too?’

‘The shooting star?’ ‘Yes.’ He kissed her. ‘Did you make a wish?’

He nodded and pushed her hair back, tucking it behind her ears. ‘I did.’

‘I wonder if it was the same thing?’

‘I hope so,’ he whispered against her ear.

She brought her mouth to his, praying that he would be hers forever. ‘Tell me.’

‘No, because if I do it won’t come true.’ He pulled her even closer to him.

‘You are all my dreams come true,’ she said, wrapping her arms around him.

He hummed Gramps’ favourite song, ‘A Kiss to Build a Dream On’, and she knew then they would make it happen . . . Alex and her and Cornwall forever.

Back Cover

I was born in Massachusetts and after nine international moves – the final one lasting eight years in Dubai- I now live in Cornwall and London with my husband and a cat. I made my first trip to Cornwall in 1989, bought my home there seven years later. My heart is forever in Cornwall, creating new stories.

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Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Romance, Saga

In a Kingdom by the Sea – Sara MacDonald – 5*#Review @HarperFiction @MacDonaldSara @fictionpubteam @HarperCollinsUK #FamilyDrama #Secrets #Romance #Historical #LiteraryFiction #Cornwall #Karachi #PublicationDay

A sweeping, evocative story of love, secrets and betrayal, set against the stunning backdrops of Karachi and Cornwall.

When Gabby’s husband accepts a transfer to Pakistan, she discovers a new world of heat and colour, of exotic bazaars and trips to the breath-taking Kashmiri mountains. It is an escape she didn’t know she was looking for.

But then a shocking letter from her sister reveals a devastating secret. Gabby is transported back to her childhood home on the Cornish coast, and as memories unravel, so too does her new life in Karachi.

Will Gabby find the courage to face the dark secrets and embrace a different future?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I always enjoy reading a book written by a true storyteller, and this is the case with ‘In a Kingdom by the Sea’. The story flows beautifully, the characters are believable, complex, and draw you into their world. The settings are contrasting, but both are atmospheric and described using vivid imagery so that you can enjoy the sensory experience, as you become immersed in the secrets and mysteries of the plot.

There is a lovely balance of contemporary and historical as the family’s secrets are revisited and revealed. This is a journey of self-discovery for Gabby as she overcomes her emotional setbacks, and finally becomes her true self.

There are many important themes explored in this novel, the political situation in Pakistan, and the difficulty of day to day life there, contrasted against the freedom and relative safety of life in London, and the rural idyll of Cornwall, is most complex and absorbing. I love how the friendships made, and the encounters with individuals are portrayed in a positive, hopeful way. Its authenticity makes the whole book more realistic and enjoyable.

Gabby’s journey, both emotionally and logistically is the driving force of this story, and many women will identify, with at least parts of it. The role of women and the oppression they face underpins this novel, and the strength and resilience of these women resonate.

I will miss the characters and settings in this story, reading it, is a truly positive experience.

Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noir

An Unsuitable Woman – Kat Gordon – 4* #Review @BoroughPress @katgordon1984 @HarperFiction @fictionpubteam #HistoricalFiction #Kenya #LiteraryFiction

Theo Miller is young, bright and ambitious when he and his earnest younger sister Maud step off the train into the simmering heat of Nairobi. Both eagerly await their new life, yet neither are prepared for the pain it will bring.

When Theo meets American heiress Sylvie de Croÿ, he is welcomed into her inner circle – the Happy Valley set – rich, dazzling expatriates, infamous for their scandalous lifestyles.

Yet behind Sylvie’s intoxicating allure lies a powerful cocktail
of secrets, lust and betrayal. As dark clouds gather over Kenya’s future and his own, Theo must escape this most unsuitable woman – before it is too late.

First published as The Hunters.

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I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction – Borough Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Theo moves to Kenya with his father, an engineer, who was instrumental in pioneering the railway in the colonial world. Now a director, he is to establish a rail network in Kenya in the late 1920s. Theo adores his younger sister, but has a difficult, bordering on an abusive relationship with his mother, who is much younger than his father.

The colonial establishment in Africa is well described in this story, as is the political unrest and the rise of right-wing nationalism, in the mid to late 1930s. The main focus of the story against this tumultuous setting of privilege and political unrest is the ‘Happy Valley set.’

They are rather like the spoilt, immoral group of people, in ”The Great Gatsby, only in Africa, rather than America. After the horrors of the ‘Great War’, and the financial crisis of the late 1920s, this hedonist group, who disdain society’s rules, and live for the moment, have an obvious appeal for a young boy on the cusp of adulthood. His work absorbed father, and seemingly uncaring mother, allow Theo to the freedom to be influenced by this group, which has a tragic effect on his teenage and future life.

The story is rich in historical details and full of vivid imagery, both in terms of the African setting and the clash of colonialism and nationalism. It is complex and absorbing and the characters resonate. Most are emotionally damaged and have dark natures, but even so, you are invested and want to know what happens to them.

Maud is the most courageous of all the characters and is a true pioneer, willing to break through barriers even at the risk of her own comfort and safety.

The story portrays the fear, prejudice and unrest in Africa, during the 1930s well. It is not easy to read in parts, because it jars with 21st-century beliefs and norms, but if you can accept this, it is a worthwhile read.

Posted in Cover Reveal, Historical Crime Fiction, Saga

Rivals – Sam Michaels #CoverReveal #GeorginaGarrettSeries @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @SamMichaelsGG #HistoricalCrime #Saga

Georgina Garrett is back and more daring than ever!

Follow Georgina as she builds up her own empire in the second thrilling instalment of the Georgina Garrett series.

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Sam Michaels lives in Spain with her family and a plethora of animals. Having been writing for years Trickster is her debut novel. Facebook Twitter

3 October 2019