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

5* #Review – The Girl in the Painting – Renita D’ Silva @bookouture @RenitaDSilva #HistoricalFiction #Literary #Fiction #India #1920s

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?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

‘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..

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Posted in Blog Blitz, Blog Tour, Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Historical Crime Fiction, Murder Mystery, Mystery

A Testament to Murder – Vivian Conroy – #5*Review #BlogBlitz #Extract @canelo_co @VivWrites

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…

Links to Book:

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

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

My Thoughts…

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.

Extract

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 fortune?

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 room?

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 them.

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 peeked in.

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, chauffeur.

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 lock.

“It has begun,” he said to the men, a strange satisfaction in his voice.

Author Bio

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.

Twitter: @VivWrites

Posted in Book Review

A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles – 4*Review

Amazon

My Review -1

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.

Posted in Book Review

5* Review: An Innocent Abroad – Romy Sommer – A Jazz Age Romance

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Winter Blurb

Ingénue Isobel Harrington, fresh from finishing school in the summer of 1922, experiences a sexual awakening during a visit to Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

Sent to visit distant relatives in the hope she will ensnare a wealthy and aristocratic English husband, Isobel falls instead under the spell of enigmatic local, Stefano.

Is their forbidden romance destined to be nothing more than a holiday affair, or will Isobel be brave enough to defy convention and her parents’ expectations to follow her dreams?

Winter Buy Links

Amazon UK

Amazon

Winter My Review

An Innocent Abroad

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.

 

An Innocent Abroad by Romy Sommer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An Innocent Abroad by Romy Sommer

Romy Sommer

 
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Posted in Book Review, New Books

4* Review:The Tea Planter’s Wife – Dinah Jefferies

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Poppy - Blurb

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 . . .
Flowers - Buy Links

Amazon UK

Flowers - My Review

The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah JefferiesAn 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.

The Tea Planter's Wife

The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dinah Jefferies

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