Posted in Book Review, Christmas Read, Festive Read, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Holiday Romance

Christmas Once Again Jina Bacarr 5*#Review @JinaBacarr @BoldwoodBooks #BoldwoodBloggers #Festive #Timeslip #HistoricalRomance #1943 #1955 #Serendipity

#ChristmasOnceAgain

ALL SHE WANTS FOR CHRISTMAS IS TO SAVE THE MAN SHE LOVES…

On a cold December day in 1955, Kate Arden got on a train to go home for Christmas.

This is the story of what happened when she got off that train. In 1943.

In 1943 Kate Arden was engaged to the man she loved, Jeffrey Rushbrooke. She was devastated and heartbroken when he was called up for wartime duty and later killed on a secret mission in France.

But what if Kate could change that? What if she could warn him and save his life before Christmas?
Or will fate have a bigger surprise in store for her?

Christmas Once Again is a sweeping, heartbreakingly romantic novel – it’s one woman’s chance to follow a different path and mend her broken heart…

AmazonUK Ebook Paperback

#BoldwoodBlogTour

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

My Thoughts…

Historical romance with a timeslip element is one of my favourite genre combinations, especially when there is a forbidden romance and a festive setting. Set mainly in 1943, it follows Kate’s story, as she falls in love, only to have her heartbroken when her true love is killed in WW2. Christmas is a painful reminder of all she’s lost, and she’s never felt able to return home until circumstances conspire in 1955, and make it a mercy mission she can’t ignore.

Full of mystery, poignancy and classic romance, the story is easy to read. I couldn’t put it down, I wanted to know what really happened, and if there was a chance for Kate to be truly happy. Kate is a complex, independent woman, like so many women who lost their partners in the war. Despite her strength, much of her emotional pain is hidden, and this has prevented her from moving on with her life. Her life stopped in 1943, perhaps now she can find the answers she seeks, and live, rather than going through the motions.

The historical detail brings the story to life. Written with vivid imagery, it unfolds in your mind like a movie. A lovely escape to a different time and place, full of heartbreaking romance and intriguing mystery and Kate’s chance to live another life, but should she?

#JinaBacarr

Jina Bacarr is a US-based historical romance author of over 10 previous books. She has been a screenwriter, journalist and news reporter, but now writes full-time and lives in LA. Jina’s novels have been sold in 9 territories.

Twitter Website Facebook Instagram Publisher Website

Extract From Christmas Once Again – Jina Bacarr

Chapter 1 Posey Creek, Pennsylvania
December 12, 1943


‘I bet you my last pair of stockings, little sister, I’ll be saying I do before Christmas.’

I whirl around in a circle, pretending the most wonderful man in the world is holding me in his arms, my heart soaring. A pot of Ma’s meat gravy simmers on the burner, the smell tickling my fancy to have my own kitchen soon. So many wonderful memories here. Planked floors, big white stove humming with good cooking, Ma’s rocker and her rosewood sewing box. Wallpaper dotted with daisies, their yellow petals turned golden over the years – and four ceramic angels lined up on top of the spice rack. A tradition we do every year along with listening to the holiday radio shows, but this Christmas is even more special to me. It’s crazy I feel so confident, even though he hasn’t actually asked me yet. But I know he will.

Eyes popping, Lucy swallows the spoonful of jam she shoved into her mouth. ‘You, Kate? Married?’ Slender and graceful like a young doe, she’s not as tall as me, though at sixteen she’s already filling out her sweaters. Dark brown hair rich with honeyed highlights frames her oval face and an army of freckles deepen in color on her cheeks as she laughs. ‘I hear Santa’s taken.’

I ignore her sarcasm and scoop Ma’s holiday cherry jam onto crackers. ‘It’s a secret, so don’t tell anyone.’ I wink at her, not letting up with my tease. I can’t. I’m too excited. Lucy adores secrets. Her face beams with excitement, like she got away with something without Ma finding out. Like using a pillow case for a laundry bag since bedding is hard to come by, or borrowing my two dollar face powder when she thinks I’m not looking.

Despite my affection for her, I pray she keeps my news under her hat. She loves to talk as much as she loves flirting with the soldiers down at the canteen, but I have to tell somebody the news or I’ll burst. What are sisters for if you can’t tease them? Besides, when Jeff does ask me, I’ll need her help fitting my bridal suit to get the hem straight. A gray suit with a frog clasp I made from extra silk Ma had left over from before the war. I’m lucky to have it. I want to look pretty for him. I never thought of myself as the pinup type, but Jeff makes me feel special and loved. He says I stand up taller when he catches my eye and that brings me closer to kissing him. Ma also noticed how much more confident I am. She was curious about why I saved up for two months to buy a blue silk hat with a wispy veil to go with my red coat with the fake fur collar when I have a perfectly good black hat.

I just smiled.

‘What’s there to tell?’ Lucy points to my bare finger smeared with jam. ‘You’re not wearing a ring, so you can’t be engaged.’

I smile. ‘You don’t know everything about me.’

‘I know you’re sweet on some guy.’

I raise a brow. ‘Snooping again?’

‘Me?’ She bats her eyelashes. ‘I don’t have to. Not the way you go around singing to yourself when you come home from your job at the mill. How you stop and sigh when we walk past Wrightwood House on our way to town.’

A winsome smile makes my lips curl. I love working at the paper mill. I started out in the typing pool after I graduated from high school. I worked my way up to private secretary to Mr Clayborn in the billing and acquisitions department. He needed a girl who could think and not just type, he said. Nothing top secret about what I do, but I’ve been told not to ask questions. Anyway, I have other things on my mind. Even when I’m dead tired from typing a pile of my shorthand notes, I get warm all over when I think about the man I want to marry.

A light comes on in Lucy’s swimming green eyes. ‘So my big sister has stars in her eyes for Jeffrey Rushbrooke.’

‘Don’t get your garter belt in a twist.’ I grab another cherry jam filled cracker. ‘You don’t know anything of the sort.’

Surprisingly, Lucy goes quiet, like she’s mulling over her reply before saying something that might upset me. She gossips more than Mrs Widget the neighbor, but she’s a good egg. Bouncy and full of cheer, especially this time of year. She loves Christmas as much as I do and helped me pile Ma’s holiday cherry jam into glass jars.

For me, the Christmas season begins when Ma takes us kids cherry picking in the woods. Lucy, Frank Junior, and me. When the days are long, the nights are hot, and the cherries are big and sweet and perfect to pick for jam. Before the war, Ma made the sweetest jam in the county with cinnamon and lemon zest, but since rationing started, we’ve had food shortages. We cheered when the government doubled the sugar rations so we could make jam for the boys passing through our small town. The trains stop here every day and Lucy makes it a high priority to meet the train and flirt with the soldiers. She talks about nothing else.

‘He’ll never marry you, Kate,’ she says, her sad puppy eyes showing real concern. I’ve never seen her look so serious. ‘You know what Ma says about them rich people.’

‘Those rich people.’

She wriggles her nose. ‘It doesn’t matter how good you talk, we’re not his kind.’

I shrug. ‘The bet’s still on.’

‘You’re a fool, Kate Arden.’ She sighs. ‘Falling for a guy who doesn’t know you’re alive.’

Lucy never went up to Wrightwood House with Ma and me when we were kids, never knew Jeff and I were pals. I grin. ‘He knows.’

She stares at me straight on. ‘Then why don’t you bring him around the house to meet Ma and Pop?’

‘You know I can’t.’ The hoarseness in my voice reveals how much that hurts me. Because my romance is a secret. Is Lucy right? Am I a fool?

Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Noir

The Orange Grove Kate Murdoch 5*#Review @KateMurdoch3 @RegalHouse1 #Lies #Secrets, #historicalfiction #18Century #France #historicalromance

#TheOrangeGrove

Blois, 1705. The chateau of Duc Hugo d’Amboise simmers with rivalry and intrigue. 

Henriette d’Augustin, one of five mistresses of the duc, lives at the chateau with her daughter. When the duc’s wife, Duchesse Charlotte, maliciously undermines a new mistress, Letitia, Henriette is forced to choose between position and morality. She fights to maintain her status whilst targeted by the Duchesse who will do anything to harm her enemies.

The arrival of charismatic tarot reader, Romain de Villiers, further escalates tensions as rivals in domestic politics and love strive for supremacy.

In a society where status is a matter of life and death, Henriette must stay true to herself, her daughter, and her heart, all the while hiding a painful secret of her own.

Waterstones Foyles Blackwells Regal House Publishing BookTopia Angus and Robertson Amazon Book Depository Kobo Barnes and Noble

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

My Thoughts...

The rich historical detail of France, at the beginning of the eighteenth-century, is brought to life, with the intrigues, passions and sacrifices of the five court mistresses, in the house of the Duc Hugo d’Amboise. All the women of varying ages and backgrounds have been drawn into the Duc’s household, his Duchess tolerates their presence until she realises, her husband is falling in love with the youngest, Letitia. Threatened and heartbroken she uses the rivalry and secrets, of her uneasy housemates to remain the household’s dominant female.

I was enthralled from the first pages, this story is a compelling read. The female characters are flawed and beautifully written, all victims of circumstances, they fall into an uneasy alliance, to survive, and make their lives, and that of their children bearable. The society they create is akin to the animal kingdom, one dominant male, a hierarchy of females, that is constantly under pressure. The reality this story portrays is shocking and hard to countenance in the 21st century. In eighteenth-century France, they were considered lucky by most, but the reality is less palatable.

The abuse of status and power is also explored, with the vulnerable at the mercy of the people who should be protecting not abusing them. Status is the lynchpin of eighteenth-century French society, and to maintain it, many were prepared to sacrifice, their beliefs, morality and family.

The plot is constantly twisting as more secrets are revealed and used by the desperate Duchess to maintain her status. Underneath, the courtly manner is something wild and dangerous. Innocents have to become streetwise to survive. All the characters are believable and fascinating, some are easy to empathise and like. The ending is shocking, but it is inevitable the story will not end well for all.

A dramatic and often poignant story, that shows the depths humanity will sink to survive. The ultimate bloody end of this society is not surprising.

#KateMurdoch

Kate Murdoch is the author of Stone CircleShe exhibited widely as a painter both in Australia and internationally before turning her hand to writing.

Her short-form fiction has been published in various literary journals in Australia, UK, US and Canada.

Stone Circle is a historical fantasy novel set in Renaissance Italy. It was released by Fireship Press, December 1st 2017. Stone Circle was a First in Category winner in the Chaucer Awards 2018 for pre-1750’s historical fiction.

Kate was awarded a KSP Fellowship at the KSP Writers’ Centre in 2019 to develop her third novel,
The Glasshouse.

Her novel, The Orange Grove, about the passions and intrigues of court mistresses in 18th century France, will be published by Regal House Publishing in 2019.

 Website Blog Facebook Twitter Pinterest Instagram Goodreads

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Literary Fiction

The Travelers Regina Porter 4*#Review @ReginaMPorter @JonathanCape #LiteraryFiction #TheTravelers #FamilyDrama #BookReview #Life #Time #USA

#TheTravelers

When the boy was four, he asked his father why people needed sleep. His father said, ‘So God could unfuck all the things people fuck up.’

As America recovers from the Second World War, two families’ journeys begin. James Vincent, born in 1942 to an Irish-American family, escapes his parents’ turbulent marriage and attends law school in New York, where he moves up the social ladder as a prosperous and bright attorney. Meanwhile, Agnes Miller, a beautiful black woman on a date with a handsome suitor, is pulled over by the police on a rural road in Georgia. The terrible moments that follow make her question her future and pivot her into a hasty marriage and new life in the Bronx.

Illuminating more than six decades of sweeping change – from the struggle for civil rights and the chaos of Vietnam to Obama’s first year as President – James and Agnes’s families will come together in unexpected, intimate and profoundly human ways.

Romantic and defiant, humorous and intellectually daring, Regina Porter brilliantly explores how race, gender and class collide in modern-day America – and charts the mishaps and adventures we often take to get closer to ourselves and to home.

Amazon UK Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from Random House UK- Vintage Publishing -Jonathan Cape via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This book has sat on my virtual to be read pile all Summer, maybe I subconsciously knew that it would be a challenging read, and this weekend I found out I was right, it was. Though, not the way I thought.

It is an epic story, a family saga spanning an iconic period in USA history. It focuses on family, racism, sexuality, sex discrimination, as well as a myriad of other politically and socially significant themes, but it explores them through two families. One black, one white, and the ways they interconnect, sometimes intimately, other times just for a moment in time. This is an intensely personal way of exploring the modern-day history of the USA. It brings it to life, recalling memories for some, and making it real for the younger generation, who didn’t live through it.

Six decades are covered and the cast of character is plentiful, but it is the way the story is written that I find challenging. It is best described as a series of short stories, each featuring members, of the two families, often at a notable historical time point. Many of the scenes are retold more than once, being seen from another point of view. Whilst, this reinforces the effect of the historic event, it does make the reader feel they are experiencing a groundhog day.

If you can accept the unusual structure, which would work seamlessly in visual media, not surprisingly, the author is a playwright. The story is enlightening, humourous, poignant and romantic, illuminated with rich historical detail. Full of vivid imagery, the reader can visualise what is happening, how it affects the participants, and the story as a whole, very easily.

So, if you enjoy historical literary fiction, and are prepared to let it absorb you without worrying about who did what, and why do you have to see it, from so many perspectives. This is a story that will sweep you away, in time and place, whilst also illuminating the political and social struggles of the USA’s citizens in an influential sixty-year period.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Guest post, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Romance

Two Tides To Turn R.R.Gall 4*#Review #Guestpost #RRGall @rrgall1 @rararesources #historicalfiction #Mystery #LiteraryFiction #ContemporaryFiction #Scotland #BlogTour #BookReview

#RRGall

A family ripped asunder.
A terrible secret lurks in a thrilling novel of love, grief, and mystery.

Patrick thought his grandfather, John, died before he was born.
In later life, he finds out that it wasn’t true. For the first five years of Patrick’s life, they stayed in the same small village.
So why were they kept apart?

Patrick wishes to search the past to find the reason – but only if he can be united with his young daughter first.
And that means bringing her home to Scotland.
It means journeying to France to take her away from the care of her mother, Patrick’s ex-wife.

In 1915, with the war raging in Europe, John is a young man working on the family farm. Not yet old enough to enlist but aware of its looming threat, he meets Catherine. But his attempts at courtship end suddenly when an accident rips his life apart.

Told in alternate chapters, set, mainly, in South-West Scotland, this is the dramatic story of Patrick, interwoven with John’s traumatic life.

AmazonUK

Amazon

#TwoTidesToTurn

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

My Thoughts…

Two men, in two time periods, both battle against their demons and life’s injustices. Patrick and John are related, and Patrick is on a quest to explore the mystery surrounding his grandfather.

Patrick is confused and unhappy, his marriage to a younger woman ends badly, and he loses contact with his daughter. His plan to reunite with her is the focus of his story. His need to find out what happened to his Grandfather equates to his need to find parallels and assume some control in his own life.

John’ story is set in Scotland during the early twentieth century. The setting and historical details of this time period are interesting and bring John’s character to life. His story is poignant. The ominous presence of World War 1, is another claustrophobic element in this part of the story.

The stories are well written and the mystery is carefully revealed, in a plot that has many twists. The male characters are complex and realistic. The female characters are much more simply drawn, perhaps because they are seen from John and Patrick’s point of view, and they both lack an intrinsic understanding of what motivates them?

A deep, and sometimes dark story of two men’s lives, with a good mystery to solve and an overriding theme of sadness and loss.

Guest Post – RR Gall – Two Tides To Turn
How Stressed Are you?

The candle is wicked. The man is rugged. The dignitary is present to present the present to the present champion. It is the timekeeper’s job to record the latest record.

This has been bothering me for a while now – the lack of guidance. And I take my hat off to anyone trying to come to grips with the rather tricky, awkward language of English. It must be extremely difficult when given no direction on where to stress certain words. In some ways, it is amazing how this language has become so prevalent. At the moment, more people speak it than any other – approximately 2 billion – with native speakers by far in the minority.

A quick scan through other languages shows that many have steady rules on where the emphasis should be. In Spanish, unless indicated by an accent, the stress is on the penultimate syllable if the word ends in a vowel, or if there is a vowel followed by the letter ‘s’ or ‘n’. If not, the stress will be on the last syllable.

In Italian, again if there is no direction, the stress tends to be on the penultimate syllable.

And in Greek, it appears they take no chances, shovelling on more accents than coal on the Flying Scotsman, but with the rule that only the last three syllables are ripe, and can be picked, for stressing.

In English, we are left to fend for ourselves.

One bright aspect though, I hope I’m right in saying, is that our lack of rules makes English ideally suited for cryptic crosswords. Such crosswords do exist in other languages, but only in a handful of them – German, Hebrew, Italian, Hindi, and a few others.

Back to the start then. How did you get on with the sentences?

The candle has a wick. The candle is wicked(1) (one syllable, pronounce like tricked).

The man has a rug (or toupee, hairpiece). The man is rugged(1) (like hugged).

(Are there any rugged(2) men who are rugged(1)? Perhaps not – or maybe is a matter of taste. I’ll leave you to come to a conclusion on that.)

Is beloved always a (3) or can it go to (2)? What about crooked and aged? You might be able to come up with a few of your own. If you do, I wouldn’t mind hearing them as I am preparing a more extensive list.

Wait a minute! Oh, no. Just as I was about to pat myself on the back with my new aid to indicate pronunciation, up steps the next sentence, and my method falls flat on its face, no use to anyone. Why didn’t I just write: the dignitary is here to hand over the gift to the current champion? It would have saved any confusion. Never mind.

But don’t get me started on some other baffling pronunciations.

In 1875, the Punch Magazine highlighted the number of different ways the letters ‘ough’ could be said in English with this sentence: “A rough-coated, dough-faced ploughman strode, coughing and hiccoughing, thoughtfully through the streets of Scarborough.”

So am I stressed about all this? A little. And I’ll say again, to anyone taking on my native language, I doff my hat to those learning or learned – now is that ‘learned’ with a (1) or a (2)?

#RRGall

RR Gall lives in Scotland and is the author of:
The Case of the Pig in the Evening Suit,
The Case of Colourful Clothes and Kilts,
The Case of the Hermit’s Guest Bedroom
Two Tides To Turn,
A Different Place to Die,
Only the Living Can Die.

Website Facebook Twitter

#TwoTidesToTurn
Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Historical Crime Fiction, Historical Fiction

A Pair of Sharp Eyes Kat Armstrong 4*#Review @HooklineBooks #katarmstrong @katarms38293453 #lovebookstours @LoveBooksGroup #historicalfiction-#historical #crimefiction #bristol #18thcentury #blogtour #bookreview

Coronation hears of the murders before she even reaches the slave port of Bristol – six boys found with their throats slit. Horrified, she questions the locals’ readiness to blame the killings on Red John, a travelling-man few have actually seen. Coronation yearns to know more about the mystery. But first, she has to outsmart the bawds, thieves and rakes who prey on young girls like her: fresh from the countryside and desperate for work. When the murderer strikes shockingly close to Coronation, she schemes eavesdrops and spies on all around her until the shameful truth is out.  

Amazon UK

Waterstones

#LoveBooksTours

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

My Thoughts…

I hope this is going to be a series.

Coronation (Corrie) the main protagonist is enigmatic, despite her youth. Her courage, cleverness, and compassion make her the perfect amateur sleuth and social activist. The historical setting is so well-drawn. It transports the reader to 18th Century Bristol on so many levels; criminal, economic, political, sensory and social class are all explored here. The vast disparity between the rich and the poor is clear. The setting is authentic and believable because of the author’s obvious knowledge and love of it.

From the first page, where Corrie is crammed in a coach bound for Bristol, It’s so atmospheric, you can visualise, the dilapidated interior, the appearance and manner of her travelling companions and the authenticity of their conversation. The story is told from her perspective, from a first-person point of view. This works well for historical fiction. It allows the reader to see the sights, sound and smells of Bristol, in a personalised way, making them more realistic.

The murder mystery is alluded to at the beginning, but this element of the plot forms the latter part of the story. The former part providing the necessary world-building and characterisation to make the story work. The mystery is plotted well and makes this element of the story satisfying.

A Pair of Sharp Eyes’ is a vividly portrayed historical fiction novel, fused with elements of mystery and crime fiction, the plot and setting sparkle with originality. As do the authentically created characters and a first-hand account of 18th Century Bristol and its ethos. A recommended read for historical fiction readers.

Kat Armstrong grew up in Bristol and became an English lecturer after writing a doctoral thesis on eighteenth-century fiction at the University of Oxford. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester and has written articles for The Guardian as well as a scholarly study of Daniel Defoe.

Kat’s debut novel, A Pair of Sharp Eyes, was published by Hookline Books in September 2019.

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

The Teacher at Donegal Bay Anne Doughty 4* #Review @HQDigitalUK #BlogTour #BookReview #bookbloggers #FamilyDrama #1968 #NorthernIreland #historicalfiction #Irish #Saga

When Jenny McKinstry is offered a new post as the Head of English at her Belfast school she’s elated! Yet she can’t help but feel conflicted about the position.

With all those around her mounting the pressure to start a family and her husband’s career about to take off, Jenny feels bound by an overwhelming sense of duty.

Will she be able to support her husband’s ambitions and land her dream job…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

A historical family drama set in Northern Ireland in 1968. It focuses on Jenny’s ambition to have a career in teaching, despite being married. She faces well-meaning and intrusive advice on how she should live her life. From those she trusts, and people in the wider community. The community is divided, sometimes families are divided because of the political climate, and maintaining old values assumes a disproportionate importance in this community.

The expectation that married woman should stay home and not pursue a career is the norm at this time, and Jenny is seen as a misfit, someone who wants to destroy the fabric of the community. Jenny is ambitious, brave and committed to her career, but will she sacrifice her friends, family and even her marriage to pursue her dream?

An emotional journey pathed with angst and prejudice, the characters are authentic and complex, and the plot is slow-paced and relentless. You empathise with Jenny and rile at her accusers, but the ending is hopeful.

A gritty and poignant story, which reflects the setting and time well, and demonstrates what it is like for a working wife in the 1960s, and the battles they endure to live life as they choose.

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

The Orphan Daughter Sheila Riley 5*#Review @BoldwoodBooks @1sheilariley #HistoricalFiction #Saga #Liverpool #ReckonersRow #crimefiction #familydrama #BlogTour #extract

WINTER, LIVERPOOL 1947. 

Evie Kilgaren is a fighter. Abandoned by her mother and with her father long gone, she is left to raise her siblings in dockside Liverpool, as they battle against the coldest winter on record. But she is determined to make a life for herself and create a happy home for what’s left of her family.

Desperate for work, Evie takes a job at the Tram Tavern under the kindly watch of pub landlady, and pillar of the community, Connie Sharp. But Connie has problems of her own when her quiet life of spinsterhood is upturned with the arrival of a mysterious undercover detective from out of town.

When melting ice reveals a body in the canal, things take a turn for the worst for the residents of Reckoner’s Row. Who could be responsible for such a brutal attack? And can Evie keep her family safe before they strike again?

A gritty, historical family drama, full of laughter and tears from the author of Annie Groves’ bestsellers including Child of the Mersey and Christmas on the Mersey.

Paperback – Amazon UK Digital – eBook

#boldwoodblogtour

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

My Thoughts…

I love reading a book that you become absorbed in from the first page. ‘The Orphan Daughter’, has this quality, and it’s an enthralling story, with historically authentic characters, whose lives you feel part of, especially the two main female protagonists Connie and Evie.

The historical period for this book, the post WW2 era, and the terrible winter of 1947 is a time I often heard my grandparents and parents talk about. The historic details are believable, and the setting and characters portrayed using vivid imagery, which brings the book to life.

Evie’s hardships are all too common during this time, the euphoria of the ending of war recedes, leaving the bombed cities, damaged infrastructure and relentless poverty for many. Life is hard in Reckoner’s Row, although the community is tight, it is wary of outsiders and unforgiving to those who break the unwritten laws. Evie wants to get out and make something of her life, but love and responsibility draw her back, into the world she longs to leave. This is an emotional family drama, where women are important, they keep families together, and have to subjugate their ambitions.

Angus is an outsider, there to investigate. He and Connie have an attraction, but she is loath to risk her heart and reputation on a fling. There is a mystery element, in this story, which adds to the family saga theme. The air of menace increases as the story progresses. Connie and Evie find that their daily hardship is not the only danger they face.

‘The Orphan Daughter’ has an authentic historical setting, complex characters, with intriguing elements of crime and mystery cleverly woven into the story. An enticing start to the ‘Reckoner’s Row’ series.

Extract from The Orphan Daughter – Sheila Riley

CHAPTER 1
SUMMER 1946
Nineteen-year-old Evie Kilgaren gathered her mane of honey-coloured hair into a loop of knicker elastic before taking a vase of heavy-scented lilies and freesias into the kitchen. The flowers were barely faded when she rescued them from the churchyard
bin that morning.

Placing them in the centre of the table, she hoped their heady scent would mask the smell of damp that riddled every dwelling in the row of terraced houses opposite the canal and add a bit of joy to the place.

‘Who’s dead?’ her mother, Rene, asked. Her scornful retort was proof she had already been at the gin and Evie’s heart sank. She had wanted today to be special.

Surely her dead father’s birthday warranted a few flowers. Even if they were knockoffs from the church – at least she had made an effort, which was more than her mother had.

‘I got them for Dad’s…’ Evie was silenced by the warning flash in her mother’s dark eyes. A warning she had seen many times before. Rene gave a hefty sniff, her eyes squinting to focus, her brow wrinkled, and her olive skin flushed. Evie knew that when
her mother had drunk enough ‘mother’s ruin’, she could be the life and soul of any party or, by contrast, one over could make her contrary and argumentative.
‘I thought they’d look nice on the table,’ Evie answered lightly, quickly changing her answer to try and keep the peace. She should have known better than to mention her father in front of Leo Darnel, who’d moved in as their lodger six months ago and
taken no time at all getting his feet under her mother’s eiderdown. ‘I found a vase in…’ Her voice trailed off. Her mother wasn’t listening. As usual, she’d disappeared into the parlour to darken her finely shaped eyebrows with soot from the unlit grate – make-up was still on ration – dolling herself up for her shift behind the bar of the Tram Tavern. The tavern was barely a stone’s throw away on the other side of the narrow alleyway running alongside their house, so why her mother felt the need to dress to the nines
was anybody’s guess.

Out of the corner of her eye, Evie noticed a sudden movement from their lodger, who was standing near the range, which she had black-leaded that morning. Leo Darnel didn’t like her and that was fine, because she didn’t like him either.

He was a jumped-up spiv who tried to pass himself off as a respectable businessman. Respectable? He didn’t know the meaning of the word, she thought, her eyes taking in the polished leather Chesterfield suite that cluttered the room and seemed out of place in a small backstreet terraced house.

‘None of your utility stuff,’ he’d said, pushing out his blubbery chest like a strutting pigeon. All the time he had a wonky eye on the bedroom door. He would do anything to keep her mother sweet and made it obvious every chance he got to show Evie she was in the way.

He’d been very quiet for the last few minutes, Evie realised. That wasn’t like Darnel. He was up to something, she could tell. He hadn’t interrupted with a sarcastic comment as he usually did when she and her mother were having a tit-for-tat. His elfsatisfied
smirk stretched mean across thin lips as he hunched inside a crisp white shirt and peered at her.

His beady eyes looked her up and down as he chewed a spent matchstick at the corner of his mouth before turning back to the grate. His piggy eyes were engrossed in the rising flames of something he had thrown onto the fire. Her attention darted to the
blaze casting dancing flares of light across the room.

‘No!’ Evie heard the gasp of horror and disbelief coming from her own lips. How could he be so callous? How could he? As he stepped back with arms outstretched like he was showing off a new sofa, Evie could see exactly what he had done.

‘You burned them!’ Evie cried, hurrying over to the range, pushing Darnel out of her way and grabbing the brass fire tongs from the companion set on the hearth, desperate to save at least some of the valuable night-school work.

Two years of concentrated learning to prove she was just as good as all the rest – reduced to ashes in moments. Thrusting the tongs into the flames again and again was hopeless Her valuable notes disintegrated.

‘Mam, look! Look what he’s done!’ Her blue eyes blazed as hotly as the flames licking up the chimney.

‘You are not the only one who can crawl out of the gutter? Mr High-and-mighty!’ Evie was breathless when her burst of anger erupted, watching the flames envelope her books, turning the curling pages to ash. She balled her work-worn hands, roughly red through cleaning up after other people and pummelled his chest. Why? She caught his mocking eyes turn to flint before being dealt a quick backhander that made her head spin.

Her nostrils, which only moments before had been filled with the sweet fragrance of summer freesias and Mansion polish, were now congested with blood as traitorous tears rolled down her cheek. Evie dashed them away with the pad of her hand, ashamed and angry because he was privy to her vulnerability. Her pale blue eyes dashed from the range to her mother, who was now standing in the doorway shaking painted nails.
 

#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.

Twitter Website PublishersWebsite