‘It got better, in time, though to be truthful it always felt more of a duty than a pleasure: a little like homework, satisfying when over, and done well, but never exactly enjoyable. But then nobody had ever suggested it could be otherwise.’
This was the view of Claudia Faraday, 1920s respectable wife and mother of three, on the subject of sex. That is until an unexpected turn of events shakes her out of her torpor and propels her back into the world revitalised and reawakened, where she discovers, as Marie Stopes might have said: Approached in the right way, even homework can be fun.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
I rather enjoyed this exploration of Claudia’s life when she is left alone in the family home wondering what next? Constricted by society expectations but changed in the aftermath of WW1, Claudia realises she’s missing out and that a wealth of experience awaits her if she’s open to it.
Claudia is a rule follower, sexually naive and prejudiced about anything she doesn’t understand, but this story shows her character developing in positive ways. There are parallels with contemporary society for women who feel they are invisible after a certain age.
The witty writing is sensitive and often humorous in a self-deprecating way. The author describes the 1920s succinctly with salient historical details and real historical characters. Authentic dialogue and events that illustrate this as a time of celebration and change.
Patsy Trench lives a quiet and largely respectable life in north London. Claudia’s story shows a side of her normally shy and reserved nature that is little known, even to her friends and acquaintances. Her previous books, about her family’s history in Australia, are entertaining and informative accounts of that country’s early colonial beginnings. She began writing late, and in a previous life she was an actress, scriptwriter, playscout, founder of The Children’s Musical Theatre of London and lyricist. When not writing books she emerges from her shell to teach theatre and organise theatre trips for overseas students. She is the grateful mother of two clever and grown-up children, and she is addicted to rag rugging and, when current circumstances permit, fossicking on the Thames foreshore for ancient treasure.
A masked ball, a dead body, a missing diamond necklace and a suspicious silver candlestick? Sounds like a case for Lady Eleanor Swift!
England, 1920. Lady Eleanor Swift, adventurer extraordinaire and reluctant amateur detective, is taking a break from sleuthing. She’s got much bigger problems: Eleanor has two left feet, nothing to wear and she’s expected at the masked ball at the local manor. Her new beau Lance Langham is the host, so she needs to dazzle.
Surrounded by partygoers with painted faces, pirates, priests and enough feathers to drown an ostrich, Eleanor searches for a familiar face. As she follows a familiar pair of long legs up a grand staircase, she’s sure she’s on Lance’s trail. But she opens the door on a dreadful scene: Lance standing over a dead Colonel Puddifoot, brandishing a silver candlestick, the family safe wide open and empty.
Moments later, the police burst in and arrest Lance for murder, diamond theft and a spate of similar burglaries. But Eleanor is convinced her love didn’t do it, and with him locked up in prison, she knows she needs to clear his name.
Something Lance lets slip about his pals convinces Eleanor the answer lies close to home. Accompanied by her faithful sidekick Gladstone the bulldog, she begins with Lance’s friends – a set of fast driving, even faster drinking, high-society types with a taste for mischief. But after they start getting picked off in circumstances that look a lot like murder, Eleanor is in a race against time to clear Lance’s name and avoid another brush with death…
A tremendously fun cozy whodunnit, full of mystery, murder and intrigue!
I received a copy of this book from bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This cosy mystery is full of vivid imagery it’s characters, conversation and setting all draw the reader into the 1920s, from the first page. Historically authentic characters and an engaging mystery plot make this an enjoyable read.
Events and people, in the wrong place, may seem insignificant, but they might not be. So if you are trying to solve the murder mystery be observant. The story is well-paced and not hampered by the impressive amount of character and historical detail.
This story is the second in the series but reads well as a standalone. Eleanor is a likeable amateur sleuth, and there is a diverse cast of characters that make reading the first book in the series a good idea too.
Despite the murders, this story captures the frivolity of the 1920s. It largely ignores the aftermath of the great war in keeping with the attitude of the bright young things that epitomised the period.
This mystery interlude is irreverent and irresistible a fun way to escape for a few hours.
In the City of Masks, deadly secrets are about to be revealed…
While attending a lavish masked ball in Venice, retired Scotland Yard detective Jasper has a shock when, at the midnight demasqué, he spots a woman whose accidental death he investigated in England three years ago.
Even more stunned than Jasper is the woman’s husband, Lord Bantham, who has since remarried, not to mention his new wife who sees her acquired position and wealth slip away. Then there are her old friends who all seem to have known more about the ‘accident’ than they ever let on.
When the resurrected lady is found dead the next morning on one of Venice’s many bridges, the question is: who wanted Lady Bantham to die, again?
Former Scotland Yard investigator Jasper is back on the case, this time in the glamorous and cultured city of Vienna.
The opening of an archaeological exhibition brings with it intrigue and evil as a fabled cursed golden death mask lives up to its dark past and death strikes at the exhibition. While digging up pieces of history, these archaeologists have also been burying secrets – deadly ones – and it’s up to Jasper to uncover the truth before the murderer strikes again.
With a nosy journalist desperate to breathe life into the rumour that the mask brings bad luck to anyone possessing it, and the police eager to blame a famous cat burglar who recently pulled off a string of daring robberies, Jasper is on his own in bringing the true culprit to light.
The fourthbook in the Murder Will Follow series.
I received copies of these books from Canelo via NetGalley in return for honest reviews.
Set in atmospheric and dramatic Venice Jasper finds himself embroiled in another murder investigation. The drama takes place at an iconic masked ball closely followed a death.
There are many people with a motive for murder and Jasper painstakingly investigates all of them, in his imitable style. The 1920’s setting is vibrant, and the cast of characters secretive and vividly portrayed. The plot is complex full of misinformation and twists that keep you guessing.
This Agatha Christie-style mystery has all the ingredients glamorous golden age setting, complex characters with realistic motivations for murder and an enigmatic detective who outwits them all.
The latest book, in the murder, will follow series, is set in Vienna at an archaeological exhibition. This is a complex noir mystery, involving a cursed mask and a deeply disturbed mind. There is a menacing feel to this story. Is the mask cursed? Or is this something the murder is perpetuating to cover their crimes?
Jasper is personally involved. He promised to protect the victim who dies this guilt spurs him on to solve the mystery. The vividly described historical setting gives the story an authentic ambience that makes it enjoyable.
A complex mystery eerie ethos and a well-orchestrated investigation make this another success for the enigmatic Jasper.
This wonderful new book in the bestselling The Mitford Murders series sees the Mitford sisters at a time of scandalous affairs, political upheaval and murder.
The newly married and most beautiful of the Mitford sisters, Diana, hot-steps around Europe with her husband and fortune heir Bryan Guinness, accompanied by maid Louisa Cannon, as well as some of the most famous and glamorous luminaries of the era.
But murder soon follows, and with it, a darkness grows in Diana’s heart…
I received a copy of this book from Little Brown Books UK – Sphere via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is book three in ‘The Mitford Murders’, series and the first one I have read. I had no trouble accustoming myself to the era and the characters and found it an engaging read. An intelligent mix of historical characters with a believable fictional story, spiced up with historical facts, to make it read authentically.
The hedonist, volatile ethos of England between the two world wars is captured perfectly. The reverence of artists, in all forms, is evident. The mix of old and new money, alongside the bohemian stars of this historical period, provides the quintessential setting for crime, romance and scandal.
The story unfolds through Louisa’s point of view, she knows the Mitford family well, and currently works as a lady’s maid for Diana Mitford. An amateur sleuth, she soon realises that some of the incidents she witnesses are more sinister than they superficially appear.
As the story progresses over a realistic period, the suspense builds, and there are also menacing moments, where Louisa faces dangers head-on. Louisa is ambitious, but like many women of her class, finds fulfilling her full potential almost impossible, hampered by not only her gender but also her social standing.
The fallout of the 1929 Wall Street Crash and the subsequent economic depression, allows extreme political views to gain momentum both in England and Europe. The story reflects this well, and this adds another sinister element to the story.
The conclusion to the murder mystery ties up the clues in a satisfying way. Leaving, the reader waiting eagerly to see what will happen to the Mitfords next.
After a whirlwind romance and dream wedding, the new Mrs Ramsforth is whisked away to an idyllic Greek island by her adoring husband. But as soon as they arrive at their luxurious hotel overlooking the azure sea, Damaris is struck by the feeling she’s been here before…
Puzzling over the familiarity, Damaris’ honeymoon goes from unsettling to a complete nightmare when she finds herself standing over a dead body, unable to explain how she got there.
Now only one man can save her – fellow holidaymaker and former Scotland Yard inspector Jasper. But even he starts to doubt Damaris’ innocence when he discovers that it’s not her first time embroiled in a murder case…
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Honeymooning on a Greek Island, sounds idyllic doesn’t it, but what if you have a disturbing sense of ‘deja vu’? Damaris still can’t’ believe she’s married after a whirlwind courtship, to such a lovely man. On her honeymoon, she looks forward to her life with Teddy, but then things start to go wrong. How much does she really know about her husband? Why doesn’t she like his friends?
The characters are flawed, and secretive, but is one of them hiding something deadly? The plot is written in the ‘Agatha Christie’whodunnit style, set in the 1920s. Ex-Inspector Jasper a delightful fusion of a Poirot and Chief Inspector Japp, less eccentric, but with an enigmatic presence.
Damaris, is vulnerable and doesn’t know who to trust, an unreliable protagonist, is she hiding something? The clues are plentiful but these are obscured by the many twists, and suspects, making the true antagonist hard to uncover.
If you enjoy retro murder mystery in a vividly described setting, this is one for you to escape with.
India, 1926: English Margaret arrives with her new husband Suraj at his family home, set amidst beautiful rolling hills, the air filled with the soft scent of spices and hibiscus flowers. Margaret is unwelcome, homesick and lonely, but her maid Archana, a young woman from an impoverished family, reminds her of her long-lost sister, a tiny glimpse of home in a faraway place.
As Margaret and Archana spend more time together, an unexpected friendship blooms. But in British India the divide between rich and poor, English and Indian, is wide, and the clash between Margaret’s modern views and the weight of tradition on Archana will lead to devastating results…
England, 2000:Emma is at a crossroads. She has discovered the lie at the heart of her relationship, and she worries over the right choice to make for herself and her beloved daughter. When her grandmother gives her a mysterious painting, and asks her to take a message of forgiveness to an old friend in India, Emma is relieved to have some time and space to make a decision about her future. But as she fulfils her grandmother’s wish, a secret kept for over seventy years is finally revealed – the story of a day spent painting by a stream full of water lilies, where a betrayal tore three lives apart forever…
Will the weight of her grandmother’s regrets push Emma towards a mistake that will stay with her forever, or give her the courage she needs to make the right choice?
I received a copy of this book from bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
‘The Girl in the Painting’ and all of this author’s books are always thought provoking, rich in literary and visual imagery, full of historical detail, and unashamedly emotional. They are a true escapist read, written for the pleasure of writing, and this love and dedication comes across in every word.
The plot is divided between the early twentieth century, particularly the 1920s in England and India, and the end of the twentieth century when Margaret, at the end of her life, asks her grandaughter, Emma, also at a crossroads in her life to seek out an old friend and right a wrong.
The historical plot moves between England from Margaret’s perspective and India from Archana’s perspective, the stories seem so divergent, there are common threads, but it’s only in the late 1920s, when the two women’s lives become inextricably joined.
The story highlights the culturial differences from a unique point of view and allows the reader to better understand , what from a westen perspective may seem unthinkable. The similarites in the outlook and empowerment of women is also explored in this story. At the time when English women were campaigning for equality. They were in many ways as powerless to determine their own destiny, as the women in India at that time. The importance of sisters in their lives, is another thing Margaret and Archana have in common.
The characters are relatable and easy to empathise, you feel their pain and guilt and want them to find some solace. All three women and those who touch their lives are changed by heartbreak.
The historical detail gives the story depth and vivacity, whether it be in India or England, where Margaret tastes life with ‘The Bloomsbury Group, artists and writers who care little for social conventions and eptiomise the 1920s in England.
‘The Girl in the Painting’ is an emotional, evocative , escapist journey for everyone who likes to lose themselves in a story..
A dying billionaire. Nine would-be heirs. But only one will take the prize…
At the lush Villa Calypso on the French Riviera, a dying billionaire launches a devious plan: at midnight each day, he appoints a new heir to his vast fortune. If he dies within 24 hours, that person takes it all. If not, their chance is gone forever.
Yet these are no ordinary beneficiaries, these men who crossed him, women who deceived him, and distant relations intent on reclaiming the family fortune. All are determined to lend death a hand and outwit their rivals in pursuit of the prize.
As tensions mount with every passing second retired Scotland Yard investigator Jasper must stay two steps ahead of every player if he hopes to prevent the billionaire’s devious game from becoming a testament to murder…
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I looked forward to reading this story, as I love murder mystery and especially those written in a similar style to Agatha Christie’s stories. This book delivers in every way.
The plot is clever, fast-paced, full of twists and has numerous suspects, all with motive and opportunity to commit murder. The setting on the French Riveria is ultra glamorous and epitomises the era, the story is set in.
The detective, Jasper, is charismatic, yet mysterious. When you look back at the story you learn very little about him, other than he is excellent at his job. The ending is well-orchestrated and the cryptic thoughts from one of the characters in the final lines, makes you wonder about Jasper and his motivations.
The cast of characters are not particularly likeable, but this is a requirement of this type of mystery. The reader has to suspect everyone at some point in the story for it to be enjoyable, and complex to solve. The narrative and dialogue are easy to read and realistic. The story has wonderful imagery that allows the reader to play it out in their mind as if they are watching it in real life.
An entertaining, compulsive read, I look forward to Jasper’s next case.
Patty really didn’t understand why
the mood had been so bleak after Uncle Malcolm’s grand revelation. Wasn’t it a
marvellous idea that they all had a chance to become sole heir to his entire
Of course, it would have been better if he had just made her sole heir, to begin with, but if he wanted to do it this way, he was entitled to. Hugh was just a spoilsport to have no stomach for this game. He didn’t like risks and he certainly didn’t like the idea he could lose out to somebody else.
Patty listened to her husband’s
heavy breathing as he lay, face down, beside her in the double bed. He had
gulped down several glasses of whiskey and was now completely oblivious to the
world. While she normally wouldn’t encourage his drinking, it was now very
convenient to her that he wouldn’t notice a thing when she crawled out of bed.
Lightning put the room in a bright
white glare for a second, then died down. Moments passed before thunder rolled
in the distance. The storm hadn’t yet reached the villa. Despite the reassurances
that there were higher points it could strike, Patty’s heartbeat fluttered and
she rubbed gooseflesh off her arms. She pushed away the sheet and swung her
legs over the edge of the bed. Feeling her way through the room, she picked up
her dressing gown and slipped it on over her silk nightdress.
At the door she listened carefully, first to determine Hugh was still asleep, then whether there was anyone in the corridor outside the room. With the storm brewing, it was possible people couldn’t sleep and went out of their rooms to get some milk or a book to read, from Malcolm’s library.
Yes, needing a book to read would be
the perfect excuse to hang around, and catch a glimpse of the signing of the
will. It was happening in his study, he had said, and the study was adjacent to
the library. Wouldn’t it be easy to make a small mistake and enter the wrong
In the corridor little lamps burned
along the wall, shedding just enough light to be able to move around. Malcolm
seemed to dislike the dark. Or perhaps it had been arranged for by the nurse
who had to rush to Malcolm’s bedside at any hour? Anna Cane had struck Patty as
a young lady who liked to make demands, just to see how far she could get with
Still, it was a good thing the nurse hadn’t left. The more suspects, the better.
Downstairs in the hallway, the grandfather clock struck twelve.
That’s my cue.
Patty tiptoed down the corridor,
making sure to stay on the carpet so nothing thudded or creaked. Thunder rolled
again sounding like a stack of cans collapsing. Her heart beat so fast she
could barely breathe.
In front of the door leading into
the study she halted. Malcolm was a man of his word, a man who liked
punctuality. He’d be signing his document now.
She opened the door a crack and
Behind a huge desk, Malcolm sat leaning over a sheet of paper. His trembling right hand held a pen, and he was just scribbling something. The name?
Patty’s stomach tightened at the
idea it could be Patricia Bryce-Rutherford he was writing. It was quite a long
name. But then Hugh Desmond Bryce-Rutherford was about as long. And Theodora
Cummings wasn’t exactly short either. Anna Cane was, but Malcolm wouldn’t make
the nurse his heir. Not on the first day anyway.
Maybe as he ran out of heirs to use.
After all, he had said everybody
would only get one turn.
How unfair. To think that if he
lived long enough, some unimportant person like that nurse or the butler would
get it all.
He’d better not live that long then.
Malcolm looked up, and for a moment
Patty could have sworn he looked straight at her. She didn’t make the mistake
to move. She stood firmly, holding her hand on the knob so the door didn’t move
either. She had stood just as firmly as she had made her wedding vows to Hugh.
Knowing this was something she had to go through to reach something better.
Something she deserved.
Malcolm shoved the document away
from him, and Koning looked it over. He then gestured to the two other men
present to sign it. The skeletal butler and the rugged, probably French,
Patty’s breath caught. Would they
know the name that was filled in? Could she bribe them, entice them somehow to
tell her what name the document held on that particular day?
They were but servants with meagre
pay. They might be open to the promise of a rich reward. After all, once she
had inherited the fortune, she could fulfil their every dream.
Patty suppressed a satisfied smile
as she watched the men do their duty. Then Koning picked up the document and
folded it in halves. He slipped it into an envelope and sealed it. He handed
the envelope to Malcolm, who had pushed himself up behind the desk.
Careful, swaying, the old man walked to the side wall and pulled at a painting. It swung away to reveal the gleaming metal of a safe. Malcolm looked at the men to see if they were watching him. They were all keeping their eyes on the floor. Still, Malcolm covered the combination lock with the envelope as he turned it to the right combination to unlock it.
Careful bastard, Patty thought.
The door of the safe opened, and
Malcolm placed the envelope in it and closed it again. He spun the combination
“It has begun,” he said to the men,
a strange satisfaction in his voice.
Armed with cheese and chocolate, Vivian Conroy sits down to create the aspirational settings, characters with secrets up their sleeves, and clever plots which took several of her mysteries to #1 bestseller in multiple categories on Amazon US and Canada. Away from the keyboard, Vivian likes to hike (especially in the Swiss mountains), hunt for the perfect cheesecake and experience the joy in every-day life, be it a fiery sunset, a gorgeous full moon or that errant butterfly descending on the windowsill.
On 21 June 1922 Count Alexander Rostov – recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew, member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt – is escorted out of the Kremlin, across Red Square and through the elegant revolving doors of the Hotel Metropol.
But instead of being taken to his usual suite, he is led to an attic room with a window the size of a chessboard. Deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the Count has been sentenced to house arrest indefinitely.
While Russia undergoes decades of tumultuous upheaval, the Count, stripped of the trappings that defined his life, is forced to question what makes us who we are. And with the assistance of a glamorous actress, a cantankerous chef and a very serious child, Rostov unexpectedly discovers a new understanding of both pleasure and purpose.
I’ve had this book on my to-read pile for over a year. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to read it but I wanted to savour it and until now, I never had the time.
This story is full of historical detail and the pacing is quite slow, very much in the style of Russian literature. It is a very engaging tale full of beautiful imagery and vivid characters who come to life as you read.
The history of Russia after the 1917 revolution is well documented. In this story, the main events are highlighted but it’s more about how the political and cultural change affected particular individuals who would probably have never known each other so well in imperialist Russia.
It is an enjoyable read, well written but you definitely need time to appreciate it.
I received a copy of this book from Random House UK, Cornerstone via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This story is a sensual delight. Set in the 1920’s Isobel visits Italy’s Amalfi coast. She soon forgets her reason for being there, when she meets the enigmatic Stefano. An artist, Isobel’s innocence makes her drawings two dimensional. Experiencing the beauty and ugliness of Italy between the wars matures her creativity, as she emerges from naive girl to womanhood. Vivid imagery brings this story to life, enjoy the easy ambience of the 1920’s as Isobel discovers there is more to life than debutantes and arranged marriages. This story illustrates emerging female emancipation in an interesting and powerful way. The romantic love story is tender and sensual and the outcome entirely in keeping with Isobel’s sexual awakening. The tensions of pre fascist Italy are a stark contrast to the verdant beauty of the setting and seen through Isobel’s eyes they are realistic and thought provoking. The flow and characterisation of this story makes it an easy, enjoyable escape from a dreary winter’s day. I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper is newly married to a rich and charming widower, eager to join him on his tea plantation, determined to be the perfect wife and mother.
But life in Ceylon is not what Gwen expected. The plantation workers are resentful, the neighbours treacherous. And there are clues to the past – a dusty trunk of dresses, an overgrown gravestone in the grounds – that her husband refuses to discuss.
Just as Gwen finds her feet, disaster strikes. She faces a terrible choice, hiding the truth from almost everyone, but a secret this big can’t stay buried forever . . .
An atmospheric story with strong characters, well researched historical detail and honest insight into the prejudices of the between-wars era.
Gwen is a naive, privileged young bride, with no idea what to expect from her new life. The story captures Gwen’s emotions perfectly. The reader follows her character development and increasing maturity, during her tempestuous marriage. Laurence, an attractive widower’s past life holds many secrets that can cause pain to his new bride. The most poignant scenes occur when Gwen becomes a mother. The choices she faces are terrible and life-changing.
There are mystery, romance and an interesting insight into life on a Ceylonese tea plantation. The historical details enhance and authenticate the story. The story has many strong female characters despite the prejudices of the time. ‘The Tea Planter’s Wife’ reflects the beginnings of female emancipation. It illustrates the courage and suffering of our female ancestors believably. The racial discrimination at the centre of colonialism is also highlighted and explored, as is the religious differences prevalent in Ceylon during the 1920’s and 1930s. Prejudice in both these forms force Gwen to make a tragic choice, which is pivotal to the story.
The plot is simple but effective and allows the dramatic, historical setting, powerful imagery and memorable characters to shine.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.