Rachel’s relationship with her mother, Eleanor, has always been far from perfect. Eleanor is a renowned artist born from the swinging sixties, and Rachel has forever lived in the shadow of her success.
When Rachel is left by her fiancé on the morning of their wedding she has no choice but to move back into her family home and spend an unbearably hot summer with a mother she feels distant from – in the presence of many painful memories.
It will take another turn of events before Rachel realises that sometimes the past holds exactly the comfort we need. And that behind the words left unsaid are untold stories that have the power to define us.
I received a copy of this book from Random House UK – Cornerstone- Century in return for an honest review.
An emotional. vibrant coming of age story, highlighting the relationship between a mother Eleanor, and her daughter, Rachel. Still reeling from the loss of Charlie, her father, she is jilted at the altar and has to return home to heal, and decide what to do next, Her complex relationship with Eleanor makes this emotional and difficult, and despite Eleanor’s efforts, they remain estranged.
With secrets untold, Rachel faces her third life-altering event and begins to realise what she has lost. She begins to look back into her mother’s life and discovers, she suffered her own pain and setbacks despite her glamorous persona. Told from dual points of view we revisit Eleanor’s life, coming of age, in the swinging sixties and Rachel solves a family secret that gives her hope for the future, whilst she comes to terms with her present, with the help of family and new friends.
The characters are complex and easily draw you into their lives. The snapshot of life in the sixties highlights the decadence, but also the prejudices that still need to be overcome. There are many poignant episodes in this story, which has an authentic ethos.
The plot is simple, and I have read similar stories, but this doesn’t detract from the excellent storytelling.
A family ripped asunder. A terrible secret lurks in a thrilling novel of love, grief, and mystery.
Patrick thought his grandfather, John, died before he was born. In later life, he finds out that it wasn’t true. For the first five years of Patrick’s life, they stayed in the same small village. So why were they kept apart?
Patrick wishes to search the past to find the reason – but only if he can be united with his young daughter first. And that means bringing her home to Scotland. It means journeying to France to take her away from the care of her mother, Patrick’s ex-wife.
In 1915, with the war raging in Europe, John is a young man working on the family farm. Not yet old enough to enlist but aware of its looming threat, he meets Catherine. But his attempts at courtship end suddenly when an accident rips his life apart.
Told in alternate chapters, set, mainly, in South-West Scotland, this is the dramatic story of Patrick, interwoven with John’s traumatic life.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Two men, in two time periods, both battle against their demons and life’s injustices. Patrick and John are related, and Patrick is on a quest to explore the mystery surrounding his grandfather.
Patrick is confused and unhappy, his marriage to a younger woman ends badly, and he loses contact with his daughter. His plan to reunite with her is the focus of his story. His need to find out what happened to his Grandfather equates to his need to find parallels and assume some control in his own life.
John’ story is set in Scotland during the early twentieth century. The setting and historical details of this time period are interesting and bring John’s character to life. His story is poignant. The ominous presence of World War 1, is another claustrophobic element in this part of the story.
The stories are well written and the mystery is carefully revealed, in a plot that has many twists. The male characters are complex and realistic. The female characters are much more simply drawn, perhaps because they are seen from John and Patrick’s point of view, and they both lack an intrinsic understanding of what motivates them?
A deep, and sometimes dark story of two men’s lives, with a good mystery to solve and an overriding theme of sadness and loss.
Guest Post – RR Gall – Two Tides To Turn
How Stressed Are you?
The candle is wicked. The man is rugged.
The dignitary is present to present the present to the present champion. It is
the timekeeper’s job to record the latest record.
This has been bothering me for a while now
– the lack of guidance. And I take my hat off to anyone trying to come to grips
with the rather tricky, awkward language of English. It must be extremely
difficult when given no direction on where to stress certain words. In some
ways, it is amazing how this language has become so prevalent. At the moment, more
people speak it than any other – approximately 2 billion – with native speakers
by far in the minority.
A quick scan through other languages shows
that many have steady rules on where the emphasis should be. In Spanish, unless
indicated by an accent, the stress is on the penultimate syllable if the word
ends in a vowel, or if there is a vowel followed by the letter ‘s’ or ‘n’. If
not, the stress will be on the last syllable.
In Italian, again if there is no
direction, the stress tends to be on the penultimate syllable.
And in Greek, it appears they take no
chances, shovelling on more accents than coal on the Flying Scotsman, but with
the rule that only the last three syllables are ripe, and can be picked, for stressing.
In English, we are left to fend for
One bright aspect though, I hope I’m right
in saying, is that our lack of rules makes English ideally suited for cryptic
crosswords. Such crosswords do exist in other languages, but only in a handful
of them – German, Hebrew, Italian, Hindi, and a few others.
Back to the start then. How did you get on
with the sentences?
The candle has a wick. The candle is
wicked(1) (one syllable, pronounce like tricked).
The man has a rug (or toupee, hairpiece).
The man is rugged(1) (like hugged).
(Are there any rugged(2) men who are
rugged(1)? Perhaps not – or maybe is a matter of taste. I’ll leave you to come
to a conclusion on that.)
Is beloved always a (3) or can it go to (2)?
What about crooked and aged? You might be able to come up with a few of your
own. If you do, I wouldn’t mind hearing them as I am preparing a more extensive
Wait a minute! Oh, no. Just as I was about
to pat myself on the back with my new aid to indicate pronunciation, up steps the
next sentence, and my method falls flat on its face, no use to anyone. Why didn’t
I just write: the dignitary is here to hand over the gift to the current
champion? It would have saved any confusion. Never mind.
But don’t get me started on some other baffling
In 1875, the Punch Magazine highlighted the number of different ways the letters ‘ough’ could be said in English with this sentence: “A rough-coated, dough-faced ploughman strode, coughing and hiccoughing, thoughtfully through the streets of Scarborough.”
So am I stressed about all this? A little.
And I’ll say again, to anyone taking on my native language, I doff my hat to those
learning or learned – now is that ‘learned’ with a (1) or a (2)?
RR Gall lives in Scotland and is the author of: The Case of the Pig in the Evening Suit, The Case of Colourful Clothes and Kilts, The Case of the Hermit’s Guest Bedroom Two Tides To Turn, A Different Place to Die, Only the Living Can Die.
Coronation hears of the murders before she even reaches the slave port of Bristol – six boys found with their throats slit. Horrified, she questions the locals’ readiness to blame the killings on Red John, a travelling-man few have actually seen. Coronation yearns to know more about the mystery. But first, she has to outsmart the bawds, thieves and rakes who prey on young girls like her: fresh from the countryside and desperate for work. When the murderer strikes shockingly close to Coronation, she schemes eavesdrops and spies on all around her until the shameful truth is out.
I received a copy of this book from Hookline Books in return for an honest review
I hope this is going to be a series.
Coronation (Corrie) the main protagonist is enigmatic, despite her youth. Her courage, cleverness, and compassion make her the perfect amateur sleuth and social activist. The historical setting is so well-drawn. It transports the reader to 18th Century Bristol on so many levels; criminal, economic, political, sensory and social class are all explored here. The vast disparity between the rich and the poor is clear. The setting is authentic and believable because of the author’s obvious knowledge and love of it.
From the first page, where Corrie is crammed in a coach bound for Bristol, It’s so atmospheric, you can visualise, the dilapidated interior, the appearance and manner of her travelling companions and the authenticity of their conversation. The story is told from her perspective, from a first-person point of view. This works well for historical fiction. It allows the reader to see the sights, sound and smells of Bristol, in a personalised way, making them more realistic.
The murder mystery is alluded to at the beginning, but this element of the plot forms the latter part of the story. The former part providing the necessary world-building and characterisation to make the story work. The mystery is plotted well and makes this element of the story satisfying.
‘A Pair of Sharp Eyes’ is a vividly portrayed historical fiction novel, fused with elements of mystery and crime fiction, the plot and setting sparkle with originality. As do the authentically created characters and a first-hand account of 18th Century Bristol and its ethos. A recommended read for historical fiction readers.
Kat Armstrong grew up in Bristol and became an English lecturer after writing a doctoral thesis on eighteenth-century fiction at the University of Oxford. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester and has written articles for The Guardian as well as a scholarly study of Daniel Defoe.
Kat’s debut novel, A Pair of Sharp Eyes, was published by Hookline Books in September 2019.
I received a copy of this book from HQ Digital UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A historical family drama set in Northern Ireland in 1968. It focuses on Jenny’s ambition to have a career in teaching, despite being married. She faces well-meaning and intrusive advice on how she should live her life. From those she trusts, and people in the wider community. The community is divided, sometimes families are divided because of the political climate, and maintaining old values assumes a disproportionate importance in this community.
The expectation that married woman should stay home and not pursue a career is the norm at this time, and Jenny is seen as a misfit, someone who wants to destroy the fabric of the community. Jenny is ambitious, brave and committed to her career, but will she sacrifice her friends, family and even her marriage to pursue her dream?
An emotional journey pathed with angst and prejudice, the characters are authentic and complex, and the plot is slow-paced and relentless. You empathise with Jenny and rile at her accusers, but the ending is hopeful.
A gritty and poignant story, which reflects the setting and time well, and demonstrates what it is like for a working wife in the 1960s, and the battles they endure to live life as they choose.
Evie Kilgaren is a fighter. Abandoned by her mother and with her father long gone, she is left to raise her siblings in dockside Liverpool, as they battle against the coldest winter on record. But she is determined to make a life for herself and create a happy home for what’s left of her family.
Desperate for work, Evie takes a job at the Tram Tavern under the kindly watch of pub landlady, and pillar of the community, Connie Sharp. But Connie has problems of her own when her quiet life of spinsterhood is upturned with the arrival of a mysterious undercover detective from out of town.
When melting ice reveals a body in the canal, things take a turn for the worst for the residents of Reckoner’s Row. Who could be responsible for such a brutal attack? And can Evie keep her family safe before they strike again?
A gritty, historical family drama, full of laughter and tears from the author of Annie Groves’ bestsellers including Child of the Mersey and Christmas on the Mersey.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I love reading a book that you become absorbed in from the first page. ‘The Orphan Daughter’, has this quality, and it’s an enthralling story, with historically authentic characters, whose lives you feel part of, especially the two main female protagonists Connie and Evie.
The historical period for this book, the post WW2 era, and the terrible winter of 1947 is a time I often heard my grandparents and parents talk about. The historic details are believable, and the setting and characters portrayed using vivid imagery, which brings the book to life.
Evie’s hardships are all too common during this time, the euphoria of the ending of war recedes, leaving the bombed cities, damaged infrastructure and relentless poverty for many. Life is hard in Reckoner’s Row, although the community is tight, it is wary of outsiders and unforgiving to those who break the unwritten laws. Evie wants to get out and make something of her life, but love and responsibility draw her back, into the world she longs to leave. This is an emotional family drama, where women are important, they keep families together, and have to subjugate their ambitions.
Angus is an outsider, there to investigate. He and Connie have an attraction, but she is loath to risk her heart and reputation on a fling. There is a mystery element, in this story, which adds to the family saga theme. The air of menace increases as the story progresses. Connie and Evie find that their daily hardship is not the only danger they face.
‘The Orphan Daughter’ has an authentic historical setting, complex characters, with intriguing elements of crime and mystery cleverly woven into the story. An enticing start to the ‘Reckoner’s Row’ series.
Extract from The Orphan Daughter – Sheila Riley
CHAPTER 1 SUMMER 1946 Nineteen-year-old Evie Kilgaren gathered her mane of honey-coloured hair into a loop of knicker elastic before taking a vase of heavy-scented lilies and freesias into the kitchen. The flowers were barely faded when she rescued them from the churchyard bin that morning.
Placing them in the centre of the table, she hoped their heady scent would mask the smell of damp that riddled every dwelling in the row of terraced houses opposite the canal and add a bit of joy to the place.
‘Who’s dead?’ her mother, Rene, asked. Her scornful retort was proof she had already been at the gin and Evie’s heart sank. She had wanted today to be special.
Surely her dead father’s birthday warranted a few flowers. Even if they were knockoffs from the church – at least she had made an effort, which was more than her mother had.
‘I got them for Dad’s…’ Evie was silenced by the warning flash in her mother’s dark eyes. A warning she had seen many times before. Rene gave a hefty sniff, her eyes squinting to focus, her brow wrinkled, and her olive skin flushed. Evie knew that when her mother had drunk enough ‘mother’s ruin’, she could be the life and soul of any party or, by contrast, one over could make her contrary and argumentative. ‘I thought they’d look nice on the table,’ Evie answered lightly, quickly changing her answer to try and keep the peace. She should have known better than to mention her father in front of Leo Darnel, who’d moved in as their lodger six months ago and taken no time at all getting his feet under her mother’s eiderdown. ‘I found a vase in…’ Her voice trailed off. Her mother wasn’t listening. As usual, she’d disappeared into the parlour to darken her finely shaped eyebrows with soot from the unlit grate – make-up was still on ration – dolling herself up for her shift behind the bar of the Tram Tavern. The tavern was barely a stone’s throw away on the other side of the narrow alleyway running alongside their house, so why her mother felt the need to dress to the nines was anybody’s guess.
Out of the corner of her eye, Evie noticed a sudden movement from their lodger, who was standing near the range, which she had black-leaded that morning. Leo Darnel didn’t like her and that was fine, because she didn’t like him either.
He was a jumped-up spiv who tried to pass himself off as a respectable businessman. Respectable? He didn’t know the meaning of the word, she thought, her eyes taking in the polished leather Chesterfield suite that cluttered the room and seemed out of place in a small backstreet terraced house.
‘None of your utility stuff,’ he’d said, pushing out his blubbery chest like a strutting pigeon. All the time he had a wonky eye on the bedroom door. He would do anything to keep her mother sweet and made it obvious every chance he got to show Evie she was in the way.
He’d been very quiet for the last few minutes, Evie realised. That wasn’t like Darnel. He was up to something, she could tell. He hadn’t interrupted with a sarcastic comment as he usually did when she and her mother were having a tit-for-tat. His elfsatisfied smirk stretched mean across thin lips as he hunched inside a crisp white shirt and peered at her.
His beady eyes looked her up and down as he chewed a spent matchstick at the corner of his mouth before turning back to the grate. His piggy eyes were engrossed in the rising flames of something he had thrown onto the fire. Her attention darted to the blaze casting dancing flares of light across the room.
‘No!’ Evie heard the gasp of horror and disbelief coming from her own lips. How could he be so callous? How could he? As he stepped back with arms outstretched like he was showing off a new sofa, Evie could see exactly what he had done.
‘You burned them!’ Evie cried, hurrying over to the range, pushing Darnel out of her way and grabbing the brass fire tongs from the companion set on the hearth, desperate to save at least some of the valuable night-school work.
Two years of concentrated learning to prove she was just as good as all the rest – reduced to ashes in moments. Thrusting the tongs into the flames again and again was hopeless Her valuable notes disintegrated.
‘Mam, look! Look what he’s done!’ Her blue eyes blazed as hotly as the flames licking up the chimney.
‘You are not the only one who can crawl out of the gutter? Mr High-and-mighty!’ Evie was breathless when her burst of anger erupted, watching the flames envelope her books, turning the curling pages to ash. She balled her work-worn hands, roughly red through cleaning up after other people and pummelled his chest. Why? She caught his mocking eyes turn to flint before being dealt a quick backhander that made her head spin.
Her nostrils, which only moments before had been filled with the sweet fragrance of summer freesias and Mansion polish, were now congested with blood as traitorous tears rolled down her cheek. Evie dashed them away with the pad of her hand, ashamed and angry because he was privy to her vulnerability. Her pale blue eyes dashed from the range to her mother, who was now standing in the doorway shaking painted nails.
Sheila Riley wrote four #1 bestselling novels under the pseudonym Annie Groves and is now writing a new saga trilogy under her own name. She has set it around the River Mersey and its docklands near to where she spent her early years. She still lives in Liverpool.
Hull, 1930. A terrified woman runs through the dark, rain-lashed streets pursued by a man, desperate to reach the sanctuary of the local police station. Alice Goddard runs with one thing in her mind: her daughter. In her panic, she is hit by a car at speed and rushed to hospital. When she awakes, she has no memory of who she is, but at night she dreams of being hunted by a man, and of a little girl.
As the weeks pass and her memories gradually resurface, Alice anxiously searches for her daughter, but no one is forthcoming about the girl’s whereabouts – even her own mother is evasive. Penniless and homeless, Alice must begin again and rebuild her life, never giving up hope that one day she will be reunited with her lost daughter.
From 22nd – 29th August, The Lost Daughter will be at the bargain price of 99p.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Beginning with a tragic event, the first part of this story has a gentle pace, as Alice discovers what she has lost, how powerless she is, and gradually begins to rebuild her life.
Exploring the institutions, and events of the 1930s and 1940s, this story has an interesting, authentic setting. Alice is a likeable character, whose character develops, through adversity, friendship and tenacity, as the story progresses.
The first part of the story does seem to be more tell than show, but as Alice matures, her emotions and motivations are dominant, making the story enthralling. It is sad and poignant, in some respects, but also shows the importance of women in World War Two and how hard they fought for, any degree of empowerment.
Easy to read, rich in historical detail, with characters whose vibrancy increases, as the story develops, this is an enjoyable read, for lovers of sagas, and historical fiction.
Sylvia Broady was born in Kingston upon Hull and has lived in the area all her life, though she loves to travel the world. It wasn’t until she started to frequent her local library, after World War 2, that her relationship with literature truly began and her memories of war influence her writing, as does her home town. A member of the: RNA, HNS, S of A and Beverley Writers. She has had a varied career in childcare, the NHS and East Yorkshire Council Library Services, but is now a full-time writer. Plus volunteering as a Welcomer at Beverley Minster to visitors from around the world, and raising money for local charities by singing in the choir of the Beverley Singers, both bringing colour and enrichment to her imagination and to her passion for writing.
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Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from…
Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.
While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…
I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House – Ebury Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Reading this story is rather like opening a Pandora’s box, there are surprises, light and dark. love and hate, purity and evil, all intertwined into an epic story that keeps on giving, as you turn the pages.
I love, the clever fusion of genres, family drama, romance, timeslip, historical fact and fiction, paranormal, gothic fiction, are all part of this novel’s embroidery. Whilst, this will not be for everyone, there are many timelines to negotiate, it is compelling and worth the effort, to move out of the ease of contemporary reading into the more elaborate historical details and subterfuge.
This story works for me because of Trudy’s state of mind, she is heartbroken, without hope, and open to any experience that lessens the pain. Her maternal instinct keeps her on track, making sure Will gets the emotional and practical support he needs, but she needs more than this and discovering hidden secrets that the house gives up is part of this. She is a sensitive woman, a loner, her childhood was full of imagination and literature, and it gave her purpose and solace. Now, in her pain, she seeks the familiar and is prepared to accept whatever the house reveals, even if it sometimes defies explanation and is frightening.
This is an escapist novel, something to enthral and capture your imagination, full of emotion and a clever medley of fact and fiction, it makes you want to visit Ponden Hall, and find out if it’s as magical and troubled as it seems.