Posted in Extract, Historical Fiction, Saga

Minnie’s Orphans Lindsey Hutchinson #Extract @LHutchAuthor @BoldwoodBooks #MinniesOrphans #boldwoodbloggers @rararesources #Saga #historicalfiction #HistFic #BlogTour

The Fitch children are finally safe, after they and their friends were rescued from the grim orphanage Reed House by Minnie and Billy Marshall. Their children’s home Marshall’s is full of love and laughter, and a world away from their terrible ordeal of being sold to Una Reed for five shillings.There are many more children who still need a home, especially in a world where the workhouse is the last option for desperate families, and so Minnie makes it her mission to build Marshall’s into a refuge for all the waifs and strays. 

But kind hearts can be taken advantage of, and before long, Marshall’s in under attack. Can Minnie and Billy keep their family together and keep all the children safe, or will they be torn apart again? 

The Queen of the Black Country sagas is back with a heart-warming, unputdownable and unforgettable tale of triumph against the odds.

Amazon UK

Extract from Minnie’s Orphans Lindsey Hutchinson

Adam Fitch and Billy Marshall stood waiting at the front of Stafford Gaol as they had done once a month for the last five years.

The door in the huge brick-built gatehouse was firmly locked and was flanked either side by a tall concrete wall.

Adam’s eyes glanced over the women leaning against the wall, awaiting a visit to their menfolk inside. Dressed in rags, some had scruffy children clinging to their worn skirts. Others stood alone as if trying to hide from the stigma of being a convict’s spouse. No one spoke. They simply waited patiently for the echoing sound of the key grating in the lock which heralded that their visit time was imminent.

Shuffling from foot to foot, Adam was eager for the wrought iron gates to swing open. He shivered. The spring sunshine gave very little warmth, but Adam realised it was anticipation which was making him shake rather than the cool air.

Lifting his flat cap, he pushed his dark hair back before replacing it. He heard a whisper from a small girl hiding behind her mother.

‘Is he a peaky blinder?’

‘Don’t be so daft!’ the woman scolded, but she eyed Adam warily nevertheless.

‘Won’t be long now, lad, and then we’ll not be coming again, God willing,’ Billy whispered as he laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder.

Adam nodded and glanced around again at the small group of people who were also waiting. Young men with their own flat caps pulled low over watchful eyes, everyone keen to see whoever it was they had come to the prison to visit.

As he attempted to quell his excitement, Adam’s mind ran swiftly over the last few years of his fifteen-year-old life. His natural father, a pugilist, had been killed in the boxing ring. Adam and his sister were sold to Reed’s Orphanage by his stepfather, who died by the hand of his brother James in a freak accident. When Polly was then sold again to a wealthy family, Adam and his friends broke out to rescue her.

Feeling strong fingers squeeze gently at his arm, Adam glanced at the big man at his side. Billy Marshall, champion pugilist, now retired, had taught him how to box and so defend himself if and when the need arose. Billy had married Adam’s mum Minnie four years previously, and they had bought a massive property in Major Street, which was now a children’s home.

Whilst on the run from Reed’s, Adam and his friends had met up with three boys who were living together, thieving and scavenging to survive. Two of them, Echo and Flash, had joined Adam’s ever-expanding family; the third had been apprehended by the police, which was the reason for their visit here today. Adam and Billy were awaiting the release of Digit, who had served five years for theft.

So lost in his thoughts was he that Adam had not heard the warder come to unlock the doors. The squeal of hinges drew his attention and he again glanced at Billy.

‘They will let Digit out today, won’t they?’ he asked in barely more than a whisper.

Billy nodded confidently, and the two watched the small group of people shuffle forward into the yard. Then the huge wooden doors began to close and Adam felt his stomach lurch. Where was Digit? Had something happened since they had last seen him? Was he ill – had he died? Adam pushed the thought aside as he stared at the huge wooden doors, willing them to open.

‘Bloody hell, Digit – come on!’ Adam muttered.

‘Patience, lad – all in good time,’ Billy said.

Suddenly the door opened, and a young man stepped out into the yard. Toby Hanley, aka Digit, stood for a moment with the sun shining on his thick black hair, which was long and lank and badly in need of a wash. His dark eyes blinked at the bright sunlight, then they searched for the two friends who had promised to be there on his release. His clothes hung on his frame which had once been thickset and muscled but now after five years in gaol, appeared to have lost a little of that mass, although there was still strength beneath the bedraggled appearance.

Lindsey Hutchinson

Lindsey Hutchinson is a bestselling saga author whose novels include The Workhouse Children. She was born and raised in Wednesbury and was always destined to follow in the footsteps of her mother, the multi-million selling Meg Hutchinson.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Saga, Victorian Romance

A Widow’s Vow Rachel Brimble 5*#Review @RachelBrimble @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance #Saga #BlogTour @rararesources #BookReview #Victorian #Bath #19thCentury #AWidowsVow

From grieving widow...

1851. After her merchant husband saved her from a life of prostitution, Louisa Hill was briefly happy as a housewife in Bristol. But then a constable arrives at her door. Her husband has been found hanged in a Bath hotel room, a note and a key to a property in Bath the only things she has left of him. And now the debt collectors will come calling.

To a new life as a madam.

Forced to leave everything she knows behind, Louisa finds more painful betrayals waiting for her in the house in Bath. Left with no means of income, Louisa knows she has nothing to turn to but her old way of life. But this time, she’ll do it on her own terms – by turning her home into a brothel for upper class gentleman. And she’s determined to spare the girls she saves from the street the horrors she endured in the past.

Enlisting the help of Jacob Jackson, a quiet but feared boxer, to watch over the house, Louisa is about to embark on a life she never envisaged. Can she find the courage to forge this new path? 

A Widow’s Vow is the first in a gripping and gritty new Victorian saga series from Rachel Brimble. You won’t be able to put it down.

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

My Thoughts…

Set in Victorian Bath, this is a story about women who survive the danger, deceit and depravity of the time. Louisa recently widowed, reluctantly returns to her old life but this time on her terms. She experiences angst and conflict as she forges a new living for herself and the young women she saves from the streets. Jacob regrets not saving his mother, from his father. Despite his reputation as a tough fighter, he respects and protects women. It is these qualities that draw Louisa to him.

There is a good insight into what life was like for women in Victorian England with stark contrasts between the genders and social classes. It is an emotional read with gentle romance.

This book is recommended for fans of Victorian history and romance, believable characters and an absorbing plot.

Rachel lives with her husband and their two daughters in a small town near Bath, England. She is the author of over 20 published novels including the Pennington’s department store series (Aria Fiction) and the Templeton Cove Stories (Harlequin).

Her next project is a Victorian trilogy set in a Bath brothel which she recently signed with Aria Fiction. The series will feature three heroines determined to change their lives and those of other women. The first book. A Widow’s Vow is due for release in September and available for Amazon preorder now.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and has thousands of social media followers all over the world.

To sign up for her newsletter (a guaranteed giveaway every month!), click on link Newsletter Sign Up

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Romance, Saga

The Boat Girls Margaret Mayhew 4*#Review @TransworldBooks @RandomTTours #TheBoatGirls #WW2 #HistFic #England #BookReview #BlogTour #MondayBlogs

THREE GIRLS GO THE EXTRA MILE TO DO THEIR BIT FOR THE WAR EFFORT.

1943: three very different girls are longing to do their bit for the war effort.

Frances – her life of seeming privilege has been a lonely one. Brave and strong, stifled by her traditional upbringing, she falls for a most unsuitable man. Prudence – timid and conventional, her horizons have never strayed beyond her job as a bank clerk in Croydon until the war brings her new experiences.

Rosalind – a beautiful, flame-haired actress who catches the eye of Frances’s stuffy elder brother, the heir to an ancestral mansion.

The three become friends when they join the band of women working the canal boats, delivering goods and doing a man’s job while the men are away fighting. A tough, unglamorous task – but one which brings them all unexpected rewards…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Told from three young women’s points of view The Boat Girls highlights the largely unsung contribution this female workforce made to the second world war effort. The three women are from diverse backgrounds in terms of social class and life experience. They form strong friendships as they train and work on the inland waterway ferrying essential supplies from the docks to the factories in the Midlands.

The characters are relatable and easy to empathise, their experiences are interesting as they try to gain acceptance from the traditional boating communities. There’s friendship, laughter, poignancy and romance for the three women who mature and emerge independent and stronger than before.

There are some interesting historical details, in this character driven historical saga which add depth to an enjoyable story.

Margaret Mayhew

Margaret Mayhew was born in London and her earliest childhood memories were of the London Blitz. She began writing in her mid-thirties and had her first novel published in 1976. She is married to American aviation author, Philip Kaplan, and lives in Gloucestershire.

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

Our Yanks Margaret Mayhew 4*#Review @TransworldBooks @RandomTTours #OurYanks #WW2 #Northampton #Airforce #HistFic #England #BookReview #BlogTour #MondayBlogs

August 1943. A fighter group of US airmen descends upon the quiet and sleepy village of King’s Thorpe in Northamptonshire. The village has never seen the like of them before: they are glamorous, rich, exciting and full of bravado.

While some of the older residents are dismayed, many of the younger ones cannot help but be won over by their charms.

And for many – including young Sally Barnet from the bakery, Agnes Dawe – the Rector’s daughter, and newly-widowed Lady Beauchamp, they will have a long lasting impact.

It will be a summer many will never forget…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

This is a gently paced WW2 historical saga novel set in 1943 in Northamptonshire England. This story captures the ethos of an English village during the second world war. The rationing, the loss of loved ones, the loneliness and the realistic mix of community spirit and village gossip.

The American airmen’s impact on the cosy villagers is perfectly pitched in this novel. The villagers are worried about their daughters and how they airmen will alter the village’s ambience. The American airmen are lonely, scared of war and dismayed with the lack of facilities and the villagers’ reluctant acceptance of them.

There’s animosity, friendship and romance in this historical saga with poignancy, humour and some happy endings.

Margaret Mayhew

Margaret Mayhew was born in London and her earliest childhood memories were of the London Blitz. She began writing in her mid-thirties and had her first novel published in 1976. She is married to American aviation author, Philip Kaplan, and lives in Gloucestershire.

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

The Mersey Girls Sheila Riley 5*#Review @1sheilariley @BoldwoodBooks @rararesources #BoldwoodBloggers #HistoricalFiction #Saga #Liverpool #ReckonersRow #familydrama #BlogTour #TheMerseyGirls #BookReview

Liverpool 1950

When Evie Kilgaren takes over the running of the back office at Skinner and Son’s haulage yard, she has no idea she is walking into a hive of blackmail, secrets and lies.
Her fellow co-worker and childhood nemesis, Susie Blackthorn, is outraged at being demoted and is hell-bent on securing the affections of local heartthrob Danny Harris.
Grace Harris, a singer on the prestigious D’Angelo transatlantic ocean liners, is returning home engaged to be married. But Grace is harbouring her own shocking secrets and something valuable her fiancé very desperately wants back.

As we return to the lives and loves of those who live and work in the Mersey Docklands, not everything is as it seems and love and luck are rarely on the same side.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

The second book in the Reckoner’s Row series is another gripping family saga focusing on the women and their lives in 1950s Liverpool. The story has moved on. Evie has an office job with prospects at the haulage yard where she discovers inconsistencies that need solving. Susie resents Evie and is determined to make trouble. Grace has a more glamorous life as a cruise ship singer, but life is about to get complicated.

The characters are believable and draw you into their story. The plot has a touch of mystery, romance and many poignant moments. There is a good sense of place and time, and the historical details bring the story to life.

This is an enthralling saga, which involves the reader in the characters’ lives and makes what happens matter to the reader.

Extract from The Mersey Girls – Sheila Riley

Another performance ended with a standing ovation and the thunderous applause rang in her ears as, straightening her spine, Grace stood taller, flicked back her abundance of chestnut curls, and dipped a curtsey before leaving the stage. She would take a walk round the deck before turning in for an early night, but first she must feel the balmy breeze waft through her hair, let her thoughts wander…

‘Going somewhere?’

Grace gave a small gasp of surprise. She hadn’t seen the figure sitting alone at a nearby table. She felt her heart flip when she recognised Bruce D’Angelo, the son and heir of the man who owned the shipping line, was speaking to her.

‘It’s such a wonderful night I thought I’d take in the sights.’ Grace smiled, professionally friendly, like an air hostess, or an assistant in a high-class store.

‘Such a wonderful night for a beautiful lady,’ he said, rising from the chair.

‘I bet you say that to all the girls, you smooth talker,’ she replied, noticing he stood with the aid of a barley-twist walking stick in one hand, and held out his other hand towards her.

‘Bruce D’Angelo,’ he said, as if needing to introduce himself, and Grace realised she was staring when he explained, ‘war wound, shrapnel hit my leg and broke my thigh bone in three places, the doc said I was lucky to walk again.’

‘So, you’re quite determined, then?’ The words slipped effortlessly from her lips and his smile was somewhat apologetic. ‘Why are you sitting here, alone, with just a book for company? Everyone else is having a good time.’

‘I might ask you the same thing,’ Bruce said, as the smile in his voice matched the twinkle in his chocolate-brown eyes. ‘I’m just a guy who likes reading more than partying. What’s your excuse?’

‘I’m just a girl who likes her own company sometimes.’ Realising she may have overstepped the mark, she said, ‘Sorry, my mouth opens without engaging my brain. Sometimes, even I don’t know what’s going to come out of it.’

His laugh was an easy-going rumble that made her glad he hadn’t taken offence.

‘You were terrific tonight, as always.’ His accent was Ivy League with a touch of Southern charm and Grace began to relax. ‘I was here, listening.’ His friendliness gave Grace the confidence to jest.

‘Don’t tell me you’re stuck out here ’cause you’ve got no mates?’ she said in the broad Liverpool dialect that she had trained herself to lose over the years and was amused when his brow furrowed.

‘I have not got the faintest idea what you just said.’ Bruce laughed, and Grace laughed too. ‘Champagne?’ he asked, nodding to summon a waiter, and pulled out a chair for her to join him. The crew would be eager to know what it was like drinking the finest, most expensive champagne with Bruce D’Angelo.

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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Read my review of The Orphan Daughter Book 1 in Reckoner’s Row series.

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

The Ops Room Girls Vicki Beeby 5*#Review @VickiBeeby @canelo_co @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours #WW2 #WomeninWar #WAAF #TheOpsRoomGirls #BlogTour #BookReview #histfic #saga

When Evie’s dreams come crashing down, she’s determined to still make something of herself in these trying times…

It is 1939 and working-class Evie Bishop has received a scholarship to study mathematics at Oxford when tragedy turns her life upside down. Evie must seek a new future for herself and, inspired to contribute to the war effort, joins the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force as an Ops Room plotter.

Posted to a fighter station on the Sussex Coast, Evie befriends two other WAAFs – shy, awkward May and flirty, glamorous Jess. Faced with earning the approval of strict officers and finding their way in a male-dominated world, the three girls band together to overcome challenges, keep their pilots safe in the skies and navigate new romances.

But the German bombers seem to know more than they should about the base’s operations, and soon Evie, May and Jess are caught up in a world more dangerous than they ever imagined…

This is an uplifting, dramatic WW2 saga.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

This engaging story follows the lives of three young women during WW2. All are part of the Women’s Auxillary Airforce (WAFF). Evie, Jess and May have different backgrounds and personalities, but they gravitate together when they meet on an airbase in Sussex. This friendship sustains them through adventure, danger, intrigue and romance.

The characters are believable and likeable. The story’s excellent sense of period brings WW2 to life, highlighting the sense of community and the tragic consequence of war. This is a charming story, One that involves the reader in the women’s lives. It’s easy to imagine the airbase and its occupants as the author uses sensory imagery well. It would make a good television series.

Vicki Beeby writes historical fiction about the friendships and loves of service women brought together by the Second World War.

Her first job was as a civil engineer on a sewage treatment project, so things could only improve from there. Since then, she has worked as a maths teacher and education consultant before turning freelance to give herself more time to write.

In her free time, when she can drag herself away from reading, she enjoys walking and travelling to far-off places by train. She lives in Shropshire in a house that doesn’t contain nearly enough bookshelves.

Posted in Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Saga

The Orphan’s Gift Renita D’Silva 5*#Review @RenitaDSilva @bookouture #saga #India #historicalfiction #histfic #LiteraryFiction #BookReview #TheOrphansGift

She allows herself to kiss her perfect child just once. She wraps the baby in her last gift: a hand-knitted cardigan, embroidered with a water lily pattern. ‘You’re better off without me,’ she whispers and although every step breaks her heart, she walks away.

1910, India. Young and curious Alice, with her spun-gold hair, grows up in her family’s sprawling compound with parents as remote as England, the cold country she has never seen. It is Raju, son of a servant, with whom she shares her secrets. Together, their love grows like roses – but leaves deep thorns. Because when they get too close, Alice’s father drags them apart, sending Raju far away and banishing Alice to England…

1944. Intelligent and kind Janaki is raised in an orphanage in India. The nuns love to tell the story: Janaki’s arrival stopped the independence riots outside the gates, as the men on both sides gazed at the starry-eyed little girl left in a beautiful hand-knitted cardigan. Janaki longs for her real mother, the woman who was forced to abandon her, wrapped in a precious gift…

Now old enough to be a grandmother and living alone in India, Alice watches children play under the tamarind trees, haunted by the terrible mistake she made fifty years ago. It’s just an ordinary afternoon, until a young girl with familiar eyes appears with a photograph and Alice must make a choice. Will she spend the rest of her life consumed by dreams of the past, or can she admit her mistakes and choose love and light at last?

A stunning and heartbreaking novel about how a forbidden love can echo through the generations. 

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

This author always delivers an emotional story. The lyrical writing style is pleasurable to read. The vivid characters and imagery are evocative of the setting. Told from Alice and Janaki’s viewpoints the story set in India and England encompasses a turbulent time in the two country’s histories. Loss, love, manipulation and prejudice form the intricate embroidery of this story. The characters draw you into their worlds the ripple of effect resonates from carelessly made decisions.

If you are looking for a book that is vibrant yet poignant and full of sensory imagery, this is for you.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Saga, Travel

A Shop Girl At Sea Rachel Brimble 5*#Review @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @RachelBrimble #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance #Saga #Titanic #BlogTour @#Penningtons #AShopGirlAtSea @rararesources #RachelsRandomResources #BookReview

Bath, 1912.

Amelia Wakefield loves working at Pennington’s, Bath’s finest department store. An escape from her traumatic past, it saved her life. So when Miss Pennington sets her a task to set sail on the Titanic and study the department stores of New York, she couldn’t be more excited – or determined!

Frustrated with his life at home, Samuel Murphy longs for a few weeks of freedom and adventure. Meeting Amelia on board the Titanic, Samuel can’t help wonder what painful history has made the beauty so reserved. But he already has too many responsibilities for love.

Ruby Taylor has always kept her Pennington co-workers at a distance. Making sure her little brother is safe has always been her priority. But when that means accepting Victoria Lark’s offer of sanctuary, more than one of Ruby’s secrets is under threat of being revealed…

A riveting and uplifting saga.

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

My Thoughts…

Amelia’s American adventure takes the reader away from Pennington’s glamourous ethos. A popular subject for historical fiction, the Titanic tragedy gets a new perspective in this story.
Amelia and Samuel’s lives are irrevocably changed when they get to opportunity to visit America on the luxury liner. Amelia is damaged, by a terrible past crime. Sam is drowning in unwanted responsibility. The chance to escape even for a short time is too good to miss. The romance is gentle but full of angst. Well researched and sensitive writing emphasises the terrible loss, and courage of those on board the ship.

Ruby’ story highlights domestic abuse and society’s prejudice to single-sex couples.

This is an engaging romantic saga. It has a perfect balance of vivid characters, historical detail and poignant events. The complex protagonists are easy to empathise, the historical setting vibrantly brought to life by the easy to read writing style.

In January 2018, she signed a four-book deal with Aria Fiction for a new Edwardian series set in Bath’s finest department store. The Mistress of Pennington’s released July 2018, A Rebel At Pennington’s February 2019 and Christmas At Pennington’s September 2019.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America and has thousands of social media followers all over the world. To sign up for her quarterly and new release newsletter, click here to go to her website: https://rachelbrimble.com/

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

A Ration Book Wedding Jean Fullerton 5*#Review @AtlanticBooks @CorvusBooks @JeanFullerton_ #HistoricalRomance #WW2 #EastEnd #London #1942 #LondonBlitz #BlogTour #saga #Family #Friendship #BBC #Rationing #HistFic #RationBookSeries @rararesources #BookReview #RachelsRandomResources

Because in the darkest days of the Blitz, love is more important than ever.

It’s February 1942 and the Americans have finally joined Britain and its allies. Meanwhile, twenty-three-year-old Francesca Fabrino, like thousands of other women, is doing her bit for the war effort in a factory in East London. But her thoughts are constantly occupied by her unrequited love for Charlie Brogan, who has recently married a woman of questionable reputation, before being shipped out to North Africa with the Eighth Army.

When Francesca starts a new job as an Italian translator for the BBC Overseas Department, she meets handsome Count Leonardo D’Angelo. Just as Francesca has begun to put her hopeless love for Charlie to one side and embrace the affections of this charming and impressive man, Charlie returns from the front, his marriage in ruins and his heart burning for Francesca at last. Could she, a good Catholic girl, countenance an illicit affair with the man she has always longed for? Or should she choose a different, less dangerous path?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

London in 1942 and the nightly bombings continue. Life goes on for the Brogans in the East End, but it is never easy. There’s a web of deceit, lies and secrets as the family try to get through the war. The complex characters and authentic historical setting make this an engaging read.

The story portrays the sense of community and the effects of rationing believably. Getting ready for a family wedding has its problems. Francesa, a close family friend, is torn between new love and requiting a long-held desire.

This is an easy book to like. It’s another excellent chapter in a relevant relatable wartime saga.

Jean Fullerton

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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Posted in Blog Blitz, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Humour, Literary Fiction, Literary Humour, Saga, Short stories

Sometimes In Bath Charles Nevin ​4*#Review @charlesnevin @rararesources #LiteraryFiction #Humour #HisFic #Bath #shortstories #guestpost #SometimesInBath #BlogTour #BookReview

Sometimes in Bath is a captivating story-tour through the city’s history conducted by Charles Nevin, the award-winning journalist, national newspaper columnist, author and humorist.

Beau Nash, Old King Bladud, young Horatio Nelson, Jane Austen’s Mr Bennet, the Emperor Haile Selassie and many more spring to life in episodes shimmering with the curious magic of Britain’s oldest resort and premier purveyor of good health, happiness and romance for the last 2000 years.

Each story has an afterword distinguishing the fiction from fact, adding enthralling historical detail – and giving visitors useful links to Bath’s many sights and fascinations Sometimes in Bath is warm, witty, wistful and will be loved by all who come to and from this most enchanting and enchanted of cities.

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Guest Post – Charles Nevin – Sometimes In Bath

How do you like your historical fiction? Romantic, an exciting escape into the consolations of the beguiling past? Realistic and instructive as well as entertaining? Or all of that?

I’m all for the all-in approach. And I have a great weakness for a touch of humour being thrown into the mix. Which is why one of my very favourite pieces of historical fiction is the marvellous ‘No Bed For Bacon,’ by Caryl Brahms and S J Simon, a wonderfully entertaining re-telling of Shakespeare and his life which clearly inspired the Oscar-winning Shakespeare In Love of Gwyneth Paltrow and Judi Dench fame.

So when I moved to Somerset and fell under that old Bath magic of healing waters, mythic origins, Roman bathing, Georgian larks and the finest cast list ever encountered of charmers, chancers, characters and charlatans, I didn’t need much encouragement to set them down in a series of stories set throughout this richest of histories. Step forward, to name but a few, Bladud, mythical founder and wannabe aviator; a Roman governor with gout; Alfred the Great; Sir John Harington, Elizabethan inventor of the water closet; Beau Nash, Georgian master of its revels; Dr Johnson; Horatio Nelson; Charles Dickens; the Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, in Bath in exile; and, oh, yes, Jane Austen’s Mr Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.

Thus, Sometimes In Bath; which was tremendous fun, and is, I hope tremendous fun, a happy canter through the city’s history, with some balancing poignancy and wistfulness mixed in.

But possibly not that realistic, which presented me with a problem. A career as a journalist entails many things: and one of them (believe it or not) is a compulsion to establish fact and differentiate it from the speculative and the unfounded. I’m one of those sad people who cannot watch any drama ‘based on’ historical events and characters without afterwards rushing to Wiki to find out how based and how true.

So how to combine this with my flights of Bath fantasy? Just expect readers to do their own research? That seemed a little unmannerly, a touch unfriendly, somehow ungenerous, mean.

The solution I hit upon was to follow each story with an afterword explaining what was fact and what was my invention. And, further, to set the story in its historical context.

This has the added benefit of building up a history of the great city chapter by chapter, with an interesting further dash of fascinating fact and anecdote. So you will learn of the theories of Bath’s great architect, John Wood, on magic and druids, and the significance of the layout of his crescent, circus and square, of the mysterious symbols decorating his buildings; of the origin of the Bath Bun and the end of the noted Bath dandy highwayman, Sixteen String Jack Rann; of how the great Roman bath was rediscovered in Victorian times; of John Betjeman and his fight to save fine Bath buildings, and the truth behind his famous poem, “In A Bath Teashop”; of how Haile Selassie regained his Ethiopian throne in a remarkable campaign of the Second World War; and of the city’s great goddess, Sul, begged in writing on little lead tablets by many a citizen in the time of Rome to curse thieves and vagabonds.

You will learn, too, where to see those tablets and find other places and features mentioned in the book: a veritable cornucopia of Bath, compiled with love and fascination and imagination, and written, as I say in the dedication, for all those come to and from the city. And why not you?

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

My Thoughts…

Bath holds a fascination for so many people, even those who have only passed through it. There is a wealth of history, coupled with colourful historical and literary characters embodied in this city. This book, captures many of them, in a humorous, knowledgeable way.

The characters, real or imaginary, are brought to life with astute observation and wit. The engagingly visual descriptions make imagining the characters and settings effortless. Each story completes with a narrative on the fact and fiction and where further historical knowledge is available.

This book is a delightfully different literary adventure to the ancient city of Bath.

Charles Nevin

Charles Nevin has written for, among others, the Guardian, the Independent on Sunday, the Daily Telegraph, The Times and Sunday Times, and the New York Times. Sometimes in Bath is his second book of fiction following Lost in the Wash with Other Things, a collection of short stories. He has also published three books of non-fiction – Lancashire, Where Women Die of Love, a paean to the neglected romance of his native county; The Book of Jacks, a history and lexicon of the name, and So Long Our Home, a history of Knowsley Road, the famous old ground of St Helens Rugby Football Club. Charles lives in an old watermill near Bath, which is ideally placed for his forays into the enchanting city.

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