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

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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…

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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