Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance, Saga

Good Girls Amanda Brookfield 5*#Review @BoldwoodBooks @ABrookfield1 #BlogTour #Author #Interview #Extract #FamilyDrama #ComingofAge #Sisters #Secrets #Romance #Saga

GOOD GIRLS NEVER TELL TALES…

Everyone that meets Kat Keating is mesmerised. Beautiful, smart and charming, she is everything a good girl should be.

Her sister Eleanor, on the other hand, knows she can’t compete with Kat. On the awkward side of tall, clever enough to be bullied, and full of the responsibilities only an older sibling can understand, Eleanor grows up knowing she’s not a good girl.

This is the story of the Keating sisters – through a childhood fraught with secrets, adolescent rivalries, and on into adulthood with all its complexities and misunderstandings.  Until a terrible truth brings the sisters crashing together and finally, Eleanor begins to uncover just how good Kat really was.

Good Girls is a love story, a coming-of-age story, a mystery and a tear-jerker. But most of all it’s a reminder of who to keep close and who to trust with your darkest secrets. 

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#boldwoodblogtours

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

My Thoughts…

Two sisters, once close, but who have become estranged as they grew older. Eleanor, the older has her own reasons, but she’s never understood her sister Kat’s. Drawn together again, by a cruel stroke of fate, is it too late to reconnect?

This is an excellent family drama, with dark family secrets that devastate the once close sisterly bond. The story begins with Eleanor rushing to be with her sister, and them drifts back in time to the mid-1980s when they were young girls, and then the early 1990s, when Eleanor left for university.

The historical events slowly illuminate the present discord and misunderstanding, but all is not revealed until it is in some ways, too late to make amends. Serendipity plays a part in this story, as it often does in reality, and Eleanor gradually comes to terms with her past and the possibility of a hopeful future.

The cast of characters resonate, they all play a part in Eleanor’s life but have their own motivations and flaws, which makes them real. The story is realistically peppered with laughter, sadness, anger and despair. It is a poignant reminder that you cannot sometimes trust those closest to you, and of the rollercoaster nature of life.

An emotional family drama, with a realistic plot and memorable characters.

Author Interview – Amanda Brookfield – Good Girls

What inspired you to write ‘Good Girls’?

My original idea was to write about two sisters who are driven apart and then re-connected by the same man, deciding to get in touch by email after twenty years.  But then the story took off in a hundred other directions, as stories do!

What interests you about family drama? Why are stories about sisters so absorbing?

We all come from families of one kind or another – our upbringings forge us, whether we like it or not – and I love looking at the myriad ways we try to deal with that.  Sisters are a prime and rich example (I have two of my own!), being a relationship that is full of rivalries and ups and downs.  But there are also, always, the ties of love and loyalty that continue to bind us as siblings, long after we have gone our separate ways in the adult world.  This is a fascinating seam to explore as a novelist.

Dialogue is very important in a family drama story.  How do you make your dialogue realistic?

You can have the most gripping plot, but if the voices of the characters do no ring true then it will fall flat.  The way I work is to hear my characters speak inside my head.  In fact, often snatches of dialogue – of how my characters would communicate – arrive at unexpected moments when I am away from my desk, driving the car say, or walking the dog.  I have learnt to trust these snatches and write them down – it is my imagination working overtime, and 9 times out of 10 it is absolutely right.  I guess it is like being an actor, trying to get inside the psyche of a protagonist.

How do you create your characters?  What makes them believable and real?

Constructing a character is a bit like doing a jigsaw.  You decide what they look like, and where they live; what age they are and what they do for a living.  You give them hopes, hobbies and fears.  Then you throw events at them and see what they do!  If there is enough substance to your creations, enough humanity, the the way they behave under pressure will feel real and credible for the reader.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I read as widely as possible – mostly fiction, but also memoir, travel and some history.  I love being surprised by what I find on the page and always have my antennae up to learn new things, both creatively and factually.  If someone recommends a book to me passionately enough, then I will always give it a go!  I also try to avoid reading books that I think might be similar to whatever I am working on – I hate the idea of being influenced or feeling that someone has already gone where I am trying to go.

What are you currently writing?

I am halfway through a novel about a woman plucking the courage to leave her abusive husband – one of those subtle monsters that no one else knows about.  I am writing the story from my heroine’s point of view, so it has an intensity that feels new and exciting.  It is important for me to feel that each new writing project is stretching the boundaries of what I have done before.

Extract from ‘Good Girls’ – Amanda Brookfield
CHAPTER ONE
January 2013

Eleanor decided to take a taxi from the station, even though she knew it would cost ten precious pounds and mean a wait. Being so rural, only a handful of cars served the area, but she didn’t want to be a bother to Howard, her brother-in-law. She texted both him and Kat to say she would be there within the hour and stayed as warm as she could in the small arched station entrance. It was a cold, dank morning, not raining for once but with air like icy metal against her skin.

The taxi driver who pulled up some twenty minutes later exuded an attitude of reluctance that made Eleanor disinclined to make conversation. When they hit a tail-back, thanks to a loop round the old Roman bridge, still not fixed from the heavy flooding over the New Year, he thumped his steering wheel. ‘A bloody joke. We can land men on the moon and still it takes three weeks to fix a few old stones.’ Eleanor murmured agreement but found that she didn’t mind much. The fields on either side of the road were still visibly waterlogged. After the grimy mêlée of south London, it was a visual feast – ethereal, shimmering silver bands engraved with the black reflections of leafless trees and smudgy January clouds.

The usual criss-cross of feelings was stirring at being back in such proximity to the landscape of her childhood. Just twenty miles away, her father was a resident in a small care home called The Bressingham, which he had once included in his rounds as a parish priest, days long since lost to him through the fog of dementia. Howard and Kat’s substantial Georgian house was ten miles in the opposite direction, on the fringes of a town called Fairfield. They had moved from Holland Park seven years before, a year after the birth of their third child, Evie. At the time, Eleanor had been surprised to get the change of address card. She had always regarded her little sister and husband as life-long townies, Kat with her posh quirky dress-making commissions to private clients and Howard with his big-banker job. It was because they saw the house in a magazine and fell in love with it, Kat had explained at one of their rare subsequent encounters, in the manner of one long used to plucking things she wanted out of life, like fruits off a tree.

But recently life had not been so cooperative. A small tumour had been removed from Kat’s bowel and she was in bed recovering. Howard had reported the event earlier in the week, by email, and when Eleanor had got on the phone, as he must have known she would, he had said that the operation had gone well and that Kat was adamant that she didn’t need sisterly visits. No further treatment was required. She would be up and about in a matter of days. Their regular babysitter, Hannah, was increasing her hours to plug gaps with the children and he was taking a week off from his daily commute into the City. ‘But I am her sister,’ Eleanor had insisted, hurt, in spite of knowing better. ‘I’d just like to see her. Surely she can understand that.’ Howard had said he would get back to her, but then Kat had phoned back herself, saying why didn’t Eleanor pop down on Saturday afternoon.

‘Nice,’ said the driver, following Eleanor’s instructions to turn between the laburnums that masked the handsome red-brick walls and gleaming white sash windows and pulling up behind the two family cars, both black, one a tank-sized station wagon, the other an estate. He fiddled with his satnav while Eleanor dug into her purse for the right money. I am not the rich one, she wanted to cry, seeing the visible sag of disappointment on his sheeny unshaven face at the sight of her twenty-pence tip; I am merely the visiting elder sister who rents a flat by a Clapham railway line, who tutors slow or lazy kids to pay her bills and who has recently agreed to write an old actor’s memoirs for a sum that will barely see off her overdraft.

Howard answered the door, taking long enough to compound Eleanor’s apprehensions about having pushed for the visit. He was in a Barbour and carrying three brightly coloured backpacks, clearly on the way out of the house. ‘Good of you to come.’ Brandishing the backpacks, he kissed her perfunctorily on both cheeks. ‘Brownies, go-carting and a riding lesson – pick-ups in that order. Then two birthday parties and a bowling alley. God help me. See you later maybe. She’s upstairs,’ he added, somewhat unnecessarily. ‘

‘The Big Sister arrives,’ Kat called out before Eleanor had even crossed the landing. ‘Could you tug that curtain wider?’ she added as Eleanor entered the bedroom. ‘I want as much light as possible.’

‘So, how are you?’ Eleanor asked, adjusting the offending drape en route to kissing Kat’s cheek, knowing it was no moment to take offence at the Big Sister thing, in spite of the reflex of deep, instinctive certainty that Kat had said it to annoy. At thirty-eight she was the big sister, by three years. She was also almost six-foot, with the heavy-limbed, dark-haired, brown-eyed features that were such echoes of their father, while Kat, as had been pointed out as far back as either of them could remember, had inherited an uncanny replication of their mother’s striking looks, from the lithe elfin frame and flinty-blue feline eyes to the extraordinary eye-catching tumble of white-blonde curls. ‘You look so well,’ Eleanor exclaimed, happiness at the truth of this observation making her voice bounce, while inwardly she marvelled at her sibling’s insouciant beauty, utterly undiminished by the recent surgery. Her skin was like porcelain, faintly freckled; her hair in flames across the pillow.

‘Well, thank you, and thank goodness, because I feel extremely well,’ Kat retorted. ‘So please don’t start telling me off again for not having kept you better informed. As I said on the phone, the fucking thing was small and isolated. They have removed it – snip-snip,’ she merrily scissored two fingers in the air. ‘So I am not going to need any further treatment, which is a relief frankly since I would hate to lose this lot.’ She yanked at one of the flames. ‘Shallow, I know, but there it is.’

‘It’s not shallow,’ Eleanor assured her quietly, experiencing one of the sharp twists of longing for the distant days when they had been little enough and innocent enough to take each other’s affections for granted. They had been like strangers for years now in comparison, shouting across an invisible abyss.

#AmandaBrookfield

Amanda Brookfield is the bestselling author of 15 novels including Relative Love and Before I Knew You, and a memoir, For the Love of a Dog starring her Golden Doodle Mabel.  She lives in London and is currently a Visiting Fellow at Univ College Oxford. Her first book with Boldwood, Good Girls, will be published on 8th October 2019.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Saga

A Ration Book Childhood Jean Fullerton 4*#Review @AtlanticBooks @CorvusBooks @JeanFullerton_ #HistoricalFiction #WW2 #EastEnd #London #1941 #LondonBlitz #BlogTour #saga #Family #Forgiveness #Friendship #Rationing #RationBookSeries

#ARationBookChildhood

In the darkest days of the Blitz, family is more important than ever.

With her family struggling amidst the nightly bombing raids in London’s East End, Ida Brogan is doing her very best to keep their spirits up. The Blitz has hit the Brogans hard, and rationing is more challenging than ever, but they are doing all they can to help the war effort.

When Ida’s oldest friend Ellen returns to town, sick and in dire need of help, it is to Ida that she turns. But Ellen carries a secret, one that threatens not only Ida’s marriage but the entire foundation of the Brogan family. Can Ida let go of the past and see a way to forgive her friend? And can she overcome her sadness to find a place in her heart for a little boy, one who will need a mother more than ever in these dark times?

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#ARationBookChildhood #BlogTour

I received a copy of this book from Atlantic Books – Corvus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

The sense of community, family and the austerity of wartime London is conveyed well in this historical family saga. Part of the ‘Ration Book’ series, none of, which I have read, it works well as a standalone. However, the engaging characters, historical detail and sense of place, make me want to read the earlier books.

1941, London has suffered two long years of war, rationing makes living difficult, and the ever-present threat of nightly bombing means that living each day to the full, and appreciating your family is vital. Ida Brogan is a character who does this, she values her family and still loves her husband, but the return of an old friend in need makes her question everything that has gone before. The main plot focuses on her struggle to come to terms with this unwanted knowledge, and how it affects the family she holds so dearly.

There are many subplots interwoven into the story that gives it authenticity, depth and variety, which keeps the reader turning the pages. Outstanding characters are Ida, Jeremiah and Queenie. They are complex and believably flawed. The plot is well-paced and gives enough detail for you to appreciate the ambience of London’s EastEnd in WW2, without slowing the pace. The relationships, rationing and sense of community are beautifully conveyed and relatable. They made me recall my grandparents’ and parents’ wartime experiences, retold on numerous occasions during my childhood.

A lovely blend of family drama and history, with a realistic balance of humour and poignancy.

#JeanFullerton

Jean Fullerton is the author of twelve novels all set in East London where she was born. She also a retired district nurse and university lecturer.  She won the Harry Bowling Prize in 2006 and after initially signing for two East London historical series with Orion she moved to Corvus, part of Atlantic Publishing and is halfway through her WW2 East London series featuring the Brogan family.

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#ARationBookChildhood
Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Romance

The Things We Left Unsaid- Emma Kennedy 4*#Review @PenguinUKBooks @EmmaKennedy @arrowpublishing #FamilyDrama #BookReview #comingofage #1960s #relationships #HistoricalFiction #mothers #daughters #Contemporaryfiction #bookbloggers #Secrets

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.

Amazon UK

Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from Random House UK – Cornerstone- Century in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

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.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Guest post, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Romance

Two Tides To Turn R.R.Gall 4*#Review #Guestpost #RRGall @rrgall1 @rararesources #historicalfiction #Mystery #LiteraryFiction #ContemporaryFiction #Scotland #BlogTour #BookReview

#RRGall

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.

AmazonUK

Amazon

#TwoTidesToTurn

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

My Thoughts…

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 ourselves.

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 list.

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 pronunciations.

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)?

#RRGall

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.

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#TwoTidesToTurn
Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Historical Crime Fiction, Historical Fiction

A Pair of Sharp Eyes Kat Armstrong 4*#Review @HooklineBooks #katarmstrong @katarms38293453 #lovebookstours @LoveBooksGroup #historicalfiction-#historical #crimefiction #bristol #18thcentury #blogtour #bookreview

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.  

Amazon UK

Waterstones

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I received a copy of this book from Hookline Books in return for an honest review

My Thoughts…

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.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Historical Fiction

The Teacher at Donegal Bay Anne Doughty 4* #Review @HQDigitalUK #BlogTour #BookReview #bookbloggers #FamilyDrama #1968 #NorthernIreland #historicalfiction #Irish #Saga

When Jenny McKinstry is offered a new post as the Head of English at her Belfast school she’s elated! Yet she can’t help but feel conflicted about the position.

With all those around her mounting the pressure to start a family and her husband’s career about to take off, Jenny feels bound by an overwhelming sense of duty.

Will she be able to support her husband’s ambitions and land her dream job…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

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.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Family Drama, Historical Crime Fiction, Historical Fiction, Saga

The Orphan Daughter Sheila Riley 5*#Review @BoldwoodBooks @1sheilariley #HistoricalFiction #Saga #Liverpool #ReckonersRow #crimefiction #familydrama #BlogTour #extract

WINTER, LIVERPOOL 1947. 

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.

Paperback – Amazon UK Digital – eBook

#boldwoodblogtour

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

My Thoughts…

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.
 

#SheilaRiley

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.

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