Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Romance

The Night of the Flood Zoe Somerville 4*#Review @zessomerville @Hoz_Books #BlogTour #BookReview #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #LiteraryFiction #Norfolk #Flood #1950s #Romance #ComingofAge #Secrets #Crime #FridayReads #FridayThoughts #TheNightoftheFlood

Summer, 1952. Verity Frost, stranded on her family farm on the Norfolk coast, is caught between two worlds: the devotion of her childhood friend Arthur, just returned from National Service, and a strange new desire to escape it all. Arthur longs to escape too, but only with Verity by his side.

Into their world steps Jack, a charismatic American pilot flying secret reconnaissance missions off the North Sea coast. But where Verity sees adventure and glamour, Arthur sees only deception. As the water levels rise to breaking point, this tangled web of secrets, lies and passion will bring about a crime that will change all their lives.

Taking the epic real-life North Sea flood as its focus, The Night of the Flood is at once a passionate love story, an atmospheric thriller, and a portrait of a distinctive place in a time of radical social change.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Set on the Norfolk coast in the early 1950s The Night of the Flood is an atmospheric and at times claustrophobic historical story. Centred around a historic natural disaster, the author interweaves a believable fiction of complex emotional relationships and secrets.

It focuses on the five young adults all inexorably changed by WW2 and railing against their allotted roles in life. Peter, shackled to the failing family farm. Verity, an ambitious woman who wants more from life than marriage and domesticity. Arthur, a former evacuee who has journalistic ambitions he may never realise. Muriel is a less distinct character known to all whose role increases with the story’s progression. Finally, there is Jack, an American stationed at the local airbase, who is the catalyst that forever alters the young lives.

The story is sad and suspenseful, the protagonists’victims of society’s expectations and individual flaws. The coastal historical setting reinforces the story’s authenticity. Relatable characters engage the reader’s emotions in this insightful story.

Zoё Somerville -Image Credit Jonathan Pearce

Zoe Somerville is a writer and English teacher. Having lived all over the world – Japan, France, Washington – she now lives in Bath with her family. After completing a creative writing MA at Bath Spa, Zoe started writing her debut novel, which is inspired by her home county, Norfolk, and the devastating North Sea flood of the 1950s.

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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#TheOrphanDaughter

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

Posted in Blog Blitz, Book Spotlight, Historical Fiction, Motivational

Billy Tapper Zillionaire Gary Finnan #BookBlitz @GaryFinnan @LoveBooksGroup #HistFic #LoveBooksTours #1950s #1960s #BillyTapperZillionaire

Amazon UK

This colourful novel of adventure, family, and courage shows young Billy McTaggart coming of age as a tapper in a British railyard during the bitter years following World War II. Bullied for his small stature but endowed with a sharp mind, the fierce ambition of his sweetheart Meg, and the love of his Mam, Billy navigates a rapidly changing world where steam engines give way to rock and roll, Elvis, and the Beatles. Everything changes for Billy in one breathtaking moment when he uncovers an amazing secret hidden inside a rail car. Romance, loss, pain, and elation follow his path up and out of England’s rigid class system. Through it all, Billy maintains his generous spirit and sense of what is right. Billy Tapper Zillionaire captures the humanity of simple relationships for an accidental bystander to history growing up in the 1950s and 60s.

Amazon UK

Born in Scotland and raised in Zimbabwe and South Africa, Gary Finnan splits his time between Sonoma Wine country in California and his farm in Aiken South Carolina, along with his wife Eva and two daughters. Gary is an award-winning inspirational author.

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

Died and Gone to Devon T. P. Fielden 4*#Review @HQStories @TPFielden1 #BlogTour #MissDimontMystery #MurderMystery #CozyMystery #DiedandGonetoDevon #BookReview

#DiedandGonetoDevon

X marks the spot for murder…

In the seaside town of Temple Regis, seagulls are wheeling overhead and the holidays are getting close. And then the body of political candidate Odile Clifford is discovered on the balcony of the lighthouse.

Fearless Riviera Express reporter Judy Dimont goes in search of the killer – but who is it? And where will they strike next?

What’s more, Judy’s position as chief reporter is under threat when her editor takes on hot-shot journalist David Renishaw, whose work is just too good to be true.

Life is busier than ever for Devon’s most famous detective. Can Judy solve the mystery – and protect her position as Temple Regis’s best reporter – before the murderer strikes again?

Amazon UK

#HQBloggers

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

My Thoughts…

The retro 1950s ethos of this story intrigued me, so even though I have not read the earlier books in the series I decided to go for it.

The pacing is slow and the plot complex. The characters are in keeping with the time, and have lots of idiosyncracies that make the setting more realistic.

The team dynamics are difficult to grasp reading this far into the series,but the murder mystery is complete.

Miss Dimont is a reporter and amateur sleuth, with a mysterious background. She is astute and has a keen sense of humour.

The Devon setting and the name of the newspaper she works for make the inspiration for the series easy to guess. The fifties was a heyday for this part of Devon.

The visual writing style makes it easy for the reader to imagine the scenes, and adds to the atmospheric plot.

If you can read the series from the beginning it will be more enjoyable. If not immerse yourself in the historic ambience and enjoy the clever, coastal cozy mystery.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Domestic Thriller, Family Drama, Friendship, Novella

The Birthday House Jill Treseder 4*#Review @Jill_Treseder @SilverWoodBooks #RandomThingsTours #TrueLifeCrime #DomesticViolence #Dartmouth #Secrets #Lies #FamilyDrama #Loss #CrimeFiction #1950s #SmallTown #Devon #BlogTour #BookReview

#TheBirthdayHouse
#BackCoverBlurb

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#TheBirthdayHouse #BlogTour

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

My Thoughts…

Based on a true crime, although ‘The Birthday House’. is a fictional interpretation of the events before, during and after the tragedy. The characters too are fictional, although the author did know the young girl who was murdered.

This is a short story, but it has depth and impact, more so because this is based upon a real, historical crime. Told from the viewpoints of the people involved it paints a picture, which is both poignant and inevitable. The housekeeper, who made the discovery, and its aftereffects on her. The wife, the child, the friend, the child’s best friend, the husband, who committed such a grievous atrocity, and the grandmother left only with her memories and regrets.

The story reads well, drawing you into the 1950s Dartmouth community. There is something fatalistic about it, so many opportunities to circumvent the eventual tragedy, but still, it happened. A well-written thought-provoking story,

#JillTreseder

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I started writing in a red shiny exercise book when I was seven years old. But in that time and place it was an ‘invalid’ activity, was overlooked, but never went away. It was many years before I felt able to call myself ‘writer’.

But there came a day when the phrase ‘I am a writer’ no longer sounded pretentious, but legitimate, and even necessary. Was it because I had a writing room instead of the corner of a landing? Or because I spent more time writing? Or because I’d got better at it? Or because I get miserable and bad-tempered if I don’t write? Probably a combination of all of the above.

Writing is my third career. The first was as a social worker with children and families, a job I loved but left because I could no longer cope with the system.

This led to a freelance career as an independent management consultant, helping people to handle emotions in the work context. I worked in the IT industry, in companies large and small, as well as public organisations. Later I became involved in research projects concerned with the multi-disciplinary approach to social problems such as child abuse. So, in a sense, I had come full-circle.

All these experiences feed into the process of writing fiction, while my non-fiction book The Wise Woman Within resulted indirectly from the consultancy work and my subsequent PhD thesis,‘Bridging Incommensurable Paradigms’, which is available from the School of Management at the University of Bath.

I live in Devon and visit Cornwall frequently and these land and seascapes are powerful influences which demand a presence in my writing.

Writers’ groups and workshops are a further invaluable source of inspiration and support and I attend various groups locally and sign up for creative courses in stunning locations whenever I can. I try doing writing practice at home but there is no substitute for the focus and discipline achieved among others in a group.

I have written some short stories and recently signed up for a short story writing-course to explore this genre in more depth.

I live with my husband in South Devon and enjoy being involved in a lively local community.

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Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Romance -Dark and Steamy

Cape May – 4* #Review Chip Cheek @orionbooks @wnbooks @ChipCheek @PoppyStimpson

September 1957

Henry and Effie, young newlyweds from Georgia, arrive in Cape May, New Jersey, for their honeymoon. It’s the end of the season and the town is deserted. 
As they tentatively discover each other, they begin to realize that everyday married life might be disappointingly different from their happily-ever-after fantasy.

Just as they get ready to cut the trip short, a decadent and glamorous set suddenly sweep them up into their drama – Clara, a beautiful socialite who feels her youth slipping away; Max, a wealthy playboy and Clara’s lover; and Alma, Max’s aloof and mysterious half-sister.

The empty beach town becomes their playground, and as they sneak into abandoned summer homes, go sailing, walk naked under the stars, make love, and drink a great deal of gin, Henry and Effie slip from innocence into betrayal, with irrevocable consequences that reverberate through the rest of their lives…

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Orion Publishing – W&N Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Told from Henry’s point of view, this story explores his honeymoon with Effie as they discover marriage isn’t quite the fairytale they believed. Disillusioned they are swept away by a glamorous trio of people who they meet in the deserted jet-set resort. What follows changes their lives forever, and explores a way of life that is far removed from the clean, wholesome ideal of 1950s North America.

There are obvious and deliberate similarities between this story and ‘The Great Gatsby’. The glamour, the importance of money, the innocence of the young couple, and the ethos of desperate sadness.

Henry’s innocence and naivety, and the lack of reality he feels in Cape May make him easy prey. Full of sexual innuendo and passion, which highlight the differences between the young couple and their new friends. Most disturbing is the way Clara, Max, Alma, and ultimately Henry and Effie, treat other people’s houses and possessions. They are similarly careless of people’s feelings.

Whilst you may be taken in by their glamour, and their risque way of life, especially against the staid historical background of 1950s America. They also appear shallow, immoral and pathetic as they strive for something decadent to give them their next high.

Even though the characters are not likeable, the story is. I like its authenticity, sensuality and insight. The ending is poignant and full of lost opportunities for happiness. There is an undeniable question of what if they’d honeymooned on Florida?

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Summer of Love – Caro Fraser- Extract – 5* Review

 

The dark days of the war are over, but the family secrets they held are only just dawning.

 In the hot summer of 1949, a group of family and friends gather at Harry Denholm’s country house in Kent. Meg and Dan Ranscombe, emerging from a scandal of their own making; Dan’s godmother, Sonia; and her two young girls, Laura and Avril, only one of whom is Sonia’s biological daughter. Amongst the heat, memories, and infatuations, a secret is revealed to Meg’s son, Max, and soon a terrible tragedy unfolds that will have consequences for them all. Afterwards, Avril, Laura and Max must come of age in a society still reeling from the war, haunted by the choices of that fateful summer. Cold, entitled Avril will go to any lengths to take what is hers. Beautiful, naive Laura finds refuge and love in the London jazz clubs, but Max, with wealth and unrequited love, has the capacity to undo it all.

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 Extract –

1

1949

The air was full of the fresh, damp scents of early spring as Meg and Dan Ranscombe turned off the road and walked up the narrow path that led to the back of Woodbourne House. They made a handsome couple – Meg, in her early thirties, was vividly pretty, with dark eyes and chestnut hair curling to her shoulders; Dan, a few years older, was by contrast fair-haired and blue-eyed, his clean-cut features marked by a faint arrogance, a remnant of youthful vanity. They walked in thoughtful silence. It was four years since they had last been to Woodbourne House, the home of Sonia Haddon, Meg’s aunt and Dan’s godmother.

‘I’m glad we took the train instead of driving,’ said Dan, breaking the quiet. ‘I have fond memories of this walk.’

They paused by a big, whitewashed stone barn standing at the foot of a sloping apple orchard.

‘Uncle Henry’s studio,’ murmured Meg. ‘I remember that summer, having to traipse down every morning with barley water and biscuits for him while he was painting.’

Sonia’s husband, Henry Haddon, had been an acclaimed artist in his day, and in pre-war times to have one’s portrait painted by him had had considerable cachet. In Britain’s post-war modernist world, his name had fallen out of fashion.

Dan stood gazing at the barn, lost in his own memories: that final day of the house party twelve years ago, when he had come down to the studio to say farewell to his host. Finding Henry Haddon, his trousers round his ankles, locked in an embrace with Madeleine, the nanny, against the wall of the studio had been absurd and shocking enough, but what had then transpired had been even worse. He could remember still the sound of the ladder crashing to the floor, and the sight of five-year-old Avril peeping over the edge of the hayloft. Presumably the shock of seeing his daughter had brought on Haddon’s heart attack. That, and unwonted sexual exertions. The moments afterwards were confused in his memory, although he recalled setting the ladder aright so that Avril could get down, then sending her running up to the house to get someone to fetch a doctor, while he uselessly attempted to revive Haddon. Madeleine, unsurprisingly, had made herself scarce. And the painting – he remembered that. A portrait of Madeleine in her yellow sundress, seated on a wicker chair, head half-turned as though listening to notes of unheard music, or the footfall of some awaited lover. Haddon had been working on it in the days running up to his death, and no doubt the intimacy forged between painter and sitter had led to that brief and ludicrously tragic affair. The falling ladder had knocked it from the easel, and he had picked it up and placed it with its face to the wall next to the other canvases. He didn’t to this day know why he had done that. Perhaps as a way of closing off and keeping secret what he had witnessed. To this day nobody but he knew about Haddon’s affair with Madeleine. Had the painting ever been discovered? No one had ever mentioned it. Perhaps it was there still, just as he had left it.

Meg glanced at his face. ‘Penny for them.’

‘Oh, nothing,’ said Dan. ‘Just thinking about that house party, when you and I first met.’

What a fateful chain of events had been set in motion in the summer of 1936. He had been a twenty-four-year-old penniless journalist, invited to spend several days at Woodbourne House with a handful of other guests. Meeting and falling in love with Meg had led to the clandestine affair they had conducted throughout the war years behind the back of her husband, Paul. Its discovery had led to estrangement with much of the family. Paul, a bomber pilot, had been killed on the way back from a raid over Germany, and the possibility that his discovery of the affair might have contributed in some way, on some level, to his death, still haunted them both. They never spoke of it. Meg and Dan were married now, but the guilt of what they had done remained. Meg’s mother Helen had been trying for some time to persuade her sister, Sonia, to forgive Meg and Dan, and today’s invitation to Woodbourne House was a signal that she had at last relented.

They walked up through the orchard, and when they reached the flagged courtyard at the back of the house, Meg said, ‘I’m going to the kitchen to say hello to Effie. I don’t think I can face Aunt Sonia quite yet. I’ll let you go first. Cowardly of me, I know, but I can’t help it.’ She gave him a quick smile and a kiss and turned in the direction of the kitchen.

My Thoughts…

Such an atmospheric book, immersing you in the post-war decades of the 1950s and 1960s. ‘Summer of Love’ is the sequel to ‘ The Summer House Party’, which I haven’t read but it is a complete story, and there is an adequate backstory to make this read well as a standalone.

A tragedy, a mystery and oodles of deceit and passion make this an absorbing story. The vivid setting provides the perfect backdrop for Avril, Laura and Max to find out who they are as adults.

Avril is the least empathetic character, she has a dark nature, which threatens to blight both hers and Laura’s lives. Laura lacks self-esteem, a symptom of her parentage and upbringing as the ‘poor relation’, in the Haddon household. Her lack of self-worth coupled with naivety makes her vulnerable to manipulation. Max discovers a secret that changes his life, reaching adulthood, he is confused about his identity and who indeed to love.

Full of fateful decisions, decadence and prejudice, the story vividly portrays Avril, Laura and Max’s Summers of love, against the evolving times of the 1950s and 1960s. Their character development is believable, and although flawed they are compelling and make the reader eagerly turn the pages to find out what they do next.

A perfect escapist read for the summer.

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

Caro Fraser is the author of the bestselling Caper Court novels, based on her own experiences as a lawyer. She is the daughter of Flashman author George MacDonald Fraser and lives in London.

Facebook: @CaroFraserAuthor