Posted in Book Review, Historical Romance

4* Review- Bronwyn Scott- A Marriage Deal With The Viscount- @MillsandBoon @Bronwynscott

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‘I can protect you.’

But she must accept his ring!

An Allied at the Altar story: after an abusive marriage, Sofia is struggling to find acceptance in Society. So when dashing Viscount Taunton needs her investment for his business, she’s surprised by his strong, supportive nature.

In Conall’s arms, she discovers true pleasure. Yet to fully leave her past behind, Sofia must consider Conall’s offer of his full protection – in the form of wedding vows!

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Set in Victorian England, this is an ‘allied at the altar’, historical romance trope, with emotional depth, passion and a heroine and hero who epitomise the enterprise of this era.

Conall, the new Viscount Taunton, has to repair the family estate, which is almost bankrupt after his father’s death. He devises an entrepreneurial scheme to rejuvenate the family coffers and keep the estate workers employed but an outside investor is vital to its success.

Sofia is divorced and ostracised by society, except for her acquaintance with a Duke’s daughter. She meets Conall through this mutual connection and the chance of a business alliance brings the couple together. Sofia’s past threatens to destabilise her new life and only Conall can help her, but can she trust him?

A well layered, suspenseful plot, and complex easy to empathise characters make this very readable. The historical details add authenticity and the story’s passion and romance are emotionally grounded and believable.

A lovely alternative to the glamour of Regency romance.

I received a copy of this book via Mills and Boon via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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Posted in Book Review

Heads You Win – 4*Review – Jeffrey Archer – #political #historical #thriller @Jeffrey_Archer

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Leningrad, Russia, 1968. Alexander Karpenko is no ordinary child, and from an early age, it is clear he is destined to lead his countrymen. But when his father is assassinated by the KGB for defying the state, he and his mother will have to escape from Russia if they hope to survive. At the docks, they are confronted with an irreversible choice: should they board a container ship bound for America or Great Britain? Alexander leaves that choice to the toss of a coin . . .

In a single moment, a double twist decides Alexander’s future.

During an epic tale of fate and fortune, spanning two continents and thirty years, we follow his triumphs and defeats as he struggles as an immigrant to conquer his new world. As this unique story unfolds, Alexander comes to realize where his destiny lies and accepts that he must face the past he left behind in Russia.

Amazon UK

Waterstones 

My Thoughts…

If you enjoy political sagas with a twist, you’re in for a treat with this book. The storytelling and characters are believable and polished. The serendipitous storyline adds an interesting twist to a well researched, historically based political thriller.

Alexander a young man in the USSR in the late 1960’s is clever but his father isn’t a party member and wishes for a less totalitarian state. His father’s ‘accident’, and the circumstances that follow mean Alexander and his mother need to leave to survive. Escaping in a crate on a merchant ship is risky, but when there is a choice of two, fate takes over and the story splits into a ‘what if ‘scenario as Alexander’s life is explored with two possible outcomes.

Both stories are engaging, with strong characters and many plot twists, once you accept how the story will progress it is an enjoyable read, the ending has its surprises, but I did guess the main one. The moral of this being, I think whatever path you take the outcome is already decided.

An enjoyable read for those who enjoy political thrillers and family sagas with a twist of fate.

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

Posted in Book Review

One Enchanted Evening – Anton Du Beke – 4* Review

London, 1936. Inside the spectacular Grand Ballroom of the exclusive Buckingham Hotel the rich and powerful, politicians, film stars, even royalty, rub shoulders with Raymond de Guise and his troupe of talented dancers from all around the world, who must enchant them, captivate them, and sweep away their cares.

Accustomed to waltzing with the highest of society, Raymond knows a secret from his past could threaten all he holds dear.

Nancy Nettleton, new chambermaid at the Buckingham, finds hotel life a struggle after leaving her small hometown. She dreams of joining the dancers on the ballroom floor as she watches, unseen, from behind plush curtains and hidden doorways. She soon discovers everyone at the Buckingham – guests and staff alike – has something to hide…

The storm clouds of war are gathering, and beneath the glitz and glamour of the ballroom lurks an irresistible world of scandal and secrets.

Let’s dance . . .

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

A delicious, detailed, dance orientated novel, which unfolds against a background of class division, an unprecedented threat to the monarchy and a cosmopolitan hotel whose outward glamour hides a web of secrets.

The characters are believable and vividly depicted, they draw the reader into the story and engender empathy and dislike according to their behaviour. The setting epitomises polite London society in the 1930s. The ballroom’s importance, as a place to see and be seen, is a core theme of this story and is the focal point for the action and dialogue between the main characters.

Like ‘Upstairs Downstairs ‘ and ‘Downtown Abbey’, society’s class division is marked. The ‘lower class’ characters’lives are difficult and provide a thought-provoking reminder of poverty and hardship.

The political unrest in Europe and England make living life the limit a given, for those able to do so. When secrets unfold and people’s livelihood and reputations are in danger, the true heroes and villains emerge.

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

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Anita Davison – The Bloomsbury Affair – Guest Post – Extract – 4* Review

1905 London is a heady mix of unimaginable wealth and simmering political tensions, and with war looming Flora Maguire wants to keep her family safe.

So when her beloved charge Viscount Edward Trent is accused of murder, she’s determined not to leave the investigation to the police. Flora has trodden the path of amateur sleuth before, but with so much at stake, this time it’s personal.

Slowly the body of the victim found stabbed on a train bound for Paddington starts giving up its secrets, and Flora and her husband Bunny become mired in a murky world of spies, communists and fraudsters. And with the police more sure than ever that Edward is their murderer, Flora must work fast to keep him safe.

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Guest Post – Is Flora Maguire a Suffragist or a Suffragette? – Anita Davison

Book 3, A Knightsbridge Scandal is set in London in 1903 which was the year Emmeline Pankhurst broke away from the National Union of Women’s Social Societies and formed the controversial Women’s Social and Political Union.

My knowledge of Suffragettes was restricted to the scandal of the hunger strikes and Glynis John’s wearing a ‘Votes For Women’ banner in Mary Poppins – well perhaps not quite as simplistic as that, but my facts were sketchy so some serious research was called for.

As an intelligent, forward-thinking woman, it would be odd for me not to give Flora at least a passing interest in the movement. She treads carefully because as a former governess given entry into the middle class, she isn’t secure enough to make waves. By the time Flora gets involved,  Millicent Garrett Fawcett had been campaigning to instigate change in Parliament for women forty years before Emmeline Pankhurst threw her first brick through a window.

I imagine Mrs Fawcett, the sister of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson – England’s first female doctor, must have been dismayed by the ‘Deeds Not Words’ policy of the Pankhurst’s, whose methods would surely paint the movement as dangerous and uncontrolled. Many, and Flora is one of them, felt the Pankhurst’s put the movement back years by vandalism, arson attacks and dangerous stunts.

In 1908, one in three of the male population over 21 did not qualify for the ballot unless they owned property or paid a minimum rent of £10 a year. Younger men were happily conscripted to fight Britain’s wars, but had no vote, nor were they old enough to have a pint of beer in a pub. It was certainly a time of responsibility over rights.

That the ‘Votes For Women’ was aimed, initially at least, for women over thirty who owned property and personally paid taxes while domestic workers, shop girls, office staff and even teachers were excluded from their manifesto. The poor and indigent, men as well as women, weren’t seen as worthy of a vote in their own government.

The 1918 Representation of the People Act brought more than five million men over the age of 21 into the electorate without regard to property or class as well as over eight million women over 30; although the majority of these did not qualify for reasons of property ownership. It wasn’t until the 1928 Act that this changed.

Flora is a modern young woman who sees the need for change, but she isn’t the type to vandalise a work of art or chain herself to railings to make her point. She admires Mrs Garrett Fawcett’s principles as the way forward, but regards Mrs Pankhurst’s strategy will become a self-fulfilling prophesy in that women are what men believed all along; irresponsible, flighty creatures in need of guidance and control, incapable of choosing a government.

Also, with so many young men about to be killed in WWI, suppose the remaining women voters outnumbered the men? A prospect which must have terrified the Government of the day.

Flora is also keenly aware that had she remained a governess and not married a solicitor who owned property, she too would have been excluded from any legislation achieved by these women.

While in search of a murderer, Flora attends a National Union of Women’s Suffrage Society meeting and hears Miss Evelyn Sharp expound the new Women’s Social and Political Union formed in Manchester who advocates a campaign of civil disobedience.

As a result, Flora becomes a passive Suffragist, as opposed to a Suffragette. She believes society needs to be more equal, not just for wealthy, upper-class ladies who preside over tea tables in drawing rooms. That progress will be made naturally and organically, not by slashing paintings or setting fire to post boxes.

Millicent Fawcett worked tirelessly until her seventies for international women’s suffrage, the opening up university education to women, raising the age of consent, making horticulture a possible employment for women, criminalising incest, providing homes for middle-class working women, and even for offering a German ‘open-air treatment’ to tuberculosis sufferers.

An excellent Blog which provided me with facts and interesting stories on the Women’s Suffrage Movement is Elizabeth Crawford’s Women and Their Sphere:   https://womanandhersphere.com/

My Thoughts… 

Historical fiction with a murder mystery brings together two of my favourite genres. This is a later book in the ‘Flora Maguire series’, but it reads as a standalone. The mystery is created and solved within the book, and any backstory for the characters and their interrelationships is provided in the early chapters. 

England in 1905 was characterised by political intrigue and a shifting in the social and gender class systems.  This story uses the ethos of unrest to dramatise and authenticate the mystery Flora sets out to investigate. There are lots of historical facts, so the reader is able to step back in time as the story progresses.

Flora’s social conscience and independent spirit, make her an intriguing and believable protagonist.  Her husband Bunny is an excellent sidekick and the long-suffering Inspector, the essential final ingredient for this type of mystery.

Like all murder mysteries, the plot is twisty and full of false starts, with numerous suspects. The motive behind the mystery is well concealed and trying to decide what really happened is a satisfying experience.

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

Extract 

Chapter 2

Flora tugged her shawl tighter around her exposed shoulders and shivered in the cool wind gusting across the porch. It had been a warm day for April, but as night drew in, splatters of rain-streaked the windows from air cooled to a wintry chill. She raised a hand to wave at Alice who occupied the seat beside William in his two-seater Spyker motor car.

‘She’s a real beauty, isn’t she?’ Bunny sighed.

‘Indeed, she is.’ Flora leaned into her husband’s one-armed hug. ‘I hope I’ll look as good when I reach Alice’s age.’

‘I meant William’s motor car.’

Flora tutted, nudging him. ‘Our Berliet is perfectly adequate and far more practical. Besides, there would be no need for a chauffeur and you would have to discharge Timms.’

‘Hmm, I hadn’t thought of that.’ He followed the gleaming green vehicle with his eyes until it disappeared around the corner.

Flora knew the prospect of losing Timms would not appeal. The chauffeur’s previous employer, a former client of the firm of solicitors Bunny worked for had been jailed for fraud. On learning that the man’s out-of-work valet was also a keen amateur mechanic, Bunny installed him in the mews behind the house. The pair spent hours tinkering with the engine of Bunny’s beloved motor car; more like friends than employer and chauffeur. In their brown coveralls and with their heads ducked beneath the metal hood, even Flora was hard put to tell them apart.

‘Well, despite the host’s unexplained absence, I think the evening was a success.’ Flora returned to the relative warmth of the hallway.

‘I’ve already apologized for that.’ Bunny tightened his arm around her and nuzzled her hair just above her ear before guiding her back into the sitting room, where Stokes was clearing away the coffee cups and empty brandy glasses. ‘You do realize bringing them together without warning like that could have gone horribly wrong? Suppose they had harboured some long-buried resentment in the intervening years, or worse, didn’t like the person they had each become?’

‘That didn’t occur to me,’ Flora lied. ‘I was confident they would behave as if the last twenty years had never happened.’

‘William couldn’t keep the smile off his face, and all those long looks.’ Bunny chuckled.

‘He was like a young boy with his first tendre.’

‘Except this particular tendre had already produced a grown-up daughter.’ Flora summoned a distracted smile, her thoughts still on William and whether or not he might be recalled to Russia if the situation there worsened.

‘Stokes,’ Bunny halted the butler on his way out with a loaded tray. ‘Before you retire, would you kindly bring us some fresh coffee?’

‘Of course, sir.’ Stokes bowed and left.

‘None for me, thank you.’ Flora frowned. ‘I shan’t be able to sleep. After such a long day, I would have thought cocoa would have been more appropriate’

‘Coffee.’ Bunny’s eyes hardened and he caressed her shoulder. ‘I have a feeling we might need it.’

‘You’ve been very distracted tonight,’ Flora dragged her thoughts back to the present. ‘Are you sure something isn’t bothering you?’

‘Don’t change the subject. We were talking about your parents.’ Bunny took the place beside Flora on the sofa. ‘I sensed at some point during the evening you became somewhat tense.’ 

‘Did I?’ She sighed having hoped he had not noticed. ‘You might think I’m being selfish, but in all the drama of getting them together again, the past – my past has been overlooked.  I still don’t understand why Riordan told everyone that Alice, or Lily as she was known then, had died.’

‘She left him, Flora. Did it occur to you that might have hurt his pride? Pretending to be a widower meant no one would whisper about him behind his back.’

Flora silently acknowledged he was probably right. Her mother had married the head butler at Cleeve Abbey when she had fallen pregnant by William. The family had made it clear a marriage between Lily and William was out of the question and sent him abroad. Too young and overawed by their respective families to fight back, they had both obeyed. However William pined in America and Lily was miserable at home, until she could stand no more and ran away leaving Flora behind to be raised by the man she married to preserve her reputation. 

Riordan Maguire had adored Flora and despite Lily’s urging, had refused to let her see Flora again, preferring to explain away her absence by spinning a story acceptable for a child.

‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if William and Alice found happiness together after all this time? It’s just—’ she broke off, smothering a yawn at the reappearance of Stokes who set down a tray in front of them, wished them both goodnight and withdrew.

‘I’m going up to bed. Enjoy your coffee.’ As she rose to leave, he grasped her hand and tugged her gently onto the squab.

‘Could you give me a moment, Flora? There’s something I need to tell you. Well, more show you actually.’

‘Something which explains why you were late for dinner?’ she asked, yawning again.

‘In a way.’ He stood, one hand held palm downwards in a command for her to stay. ‘Wait here. I’ll be back in a moment.’

‘Can’t whatever it is keep until morn—’ she broke off with a sigh as she addressed an empty room.

More for something to do than a desire for some coffee, she poured herself a cup and stirred in milk, the gentle tinkling of silver against china the only sound in the room as the hot, aromatic coffee triggered her senses.

The evening she had anticipated with such pleasure should have been one for celebration, but as she had observed her parents smile at each other across her dining table, all her unresolved feelings had resurfaced.

The knowledge that Lily Maguire had cared for other people’s children in a London hospital while her own daughter grew up without her remained a cruel irony. That Alice had instigated contact again went some way to compensating for the past, although a deep-seated antipathy persisted for all the lost years in between.

Flora’s childhood had been far from unhappy with Riordan Maguire, who had always been a loving parent if an uncompromising one. His halo had slipped slightly when she discovered he had known Lily had been alive all this time. He had even destroyed the letters she sent him pleading for forgiveness.  Letters Flora had known nothing about, but which Alice had told her she had written in an effort to see her again. That he had been killed protecting Flora made it impossible to harbour bitterness against him, but also meant he could never explain.

At the sound of the rear hall door closing, she returned her cup to its saucer. The smile she had summoned in anticipation of Bunny’s return faded instantly when she realized he was not alone. A young man with light brown hair hovered a pace behind him, his head down and shoulders hunched as if unsure of his welcome. He lifted his head, his eyes meeting Flora’s for a second before he ducked away, his cheeks flushed red.

‘Eddy!’ A shaft of delighted recognition ran through her and she leapt to her feet, crossed the room in two strides. ‘How lovely to see you. But why are you here this late? Has something happened?’

Born in London, Anita has always had a penchant for all things historical. She now lives in the beautiful Cotswolds, the backdrop for her Flora Maguire mysteries.    Twitter  Website

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

5* Review Kathleen McGurl- The Drowned Village –

A village destroyed
It’s the summer of 1935, and eleven-year-old Stella Walker is preparing to leave her home forever. Forced to evacuate to make way for a new reservoir, the village of Brackendale Green will soon be lost. But before the water has even reached them, a dreadful event threatens to tear Stella’s family apart.

An uncovered secret
Present day and a fierce summer has dried up the lake and revealed the remnants of the deserted village. Now an old woman, Stella begs her granddaughter Laura to make the journey she can’t. She’s sure the village still holds answers for her but, with only days until the floodwaters start to rise again, Laura is in a race against time to solve the mysteries of Stella’s almost forgotten past.

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Laura turns to her grandmother Stella when her boyfriend and best friend betray her. Life with Stella is quiet and safe, but her grandmother worries Laura is missing out. A TV news item brings Stella’s secret past to the present and Laura is easily persuaded to help her Grandmother solve past secrets and enjoy an escape to the beautiful English Lake District.

The destruction of villages through the creation of reservoirs must leave its community with latent resentment. Even though the villagers are usually financially compensated this doesn’t negate the sense of loss and destruction of a community. Stella village is resurrected after an exceptional drought and with it the chance to right a wrong and find the answers to some family secrets buried by the water.

The timeslip between the present day and the thirties is well written and adds depth to the story. The characters are complex and flawed but believable, and it’s easy to empathise with the choices most of them are forced to make. The gentle romance between Laura and Tom is lovely and the ending when family secrets are revealed poignant and satisfying.

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

Posted in Book Review

The Labyrinth of the Spirits – Carlos Ruiz Zafon – 3* Review

Barcelona, 1957. Daniel Sempere runs the Sempere & Sons bookshop, is happily married and has a son. No longer the child who discovered the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, he is still haunted by the mysterious death of his mother when he was six years old. Meanwhile, his best friend and accomplice, Fermin, is about to marry the love of his life. But something appears to be bothering him. One morning, when Daniel is alone in the shop, a mysterious figure enters and buys a precious copy of The Count of Monte Cristo. Then, to Daniel’s surprise, the man inscribes the book with the words ‘To Fermin Romero de Torres, who came back from the dead and who holds the key to the future’.

That night Fermin confesses that he was once in prison and that he had to fake his own death to escape. Now his former cellmate has reappeared with a possible key to the hidden treasure. But is it a trap? And why is Daniel’s wife meeting someone in secret? And who was the sinister figure Daniel’s mother went to meet on the night of her death…

The Labyrinth is a stunning Russian doll of a novel, an addictive story that will lure you into a world of plots within plots, where even the shadows have a story to tell…

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts… 

Although it states you can read this book as a standalone, I found it difficult to get into the story and empathise with the characters. The sheer length of the book demands that you feel something for the characters and I couldn’t. The language and imagery are noteworthy, but it isn’t enough if you can’t grasp the plot and what motivates the characters.

So this is one I didn’t finish. If you’re familiar with the author’s other books you should enjoy reacquainting with some characters and the storyline and style may appeal. It’s not a story you can dip into you need to be a fantasy fan, and the fantasy created by the author needs to be one you can relate to, I wasn’t able to.

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

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The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp -Sarra Manning- 5* Review

Posted in Book Review

Where the River Bends – Elsa Winckler – 5* Review

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Her Hidden Life V.S. Alexander – 4* Review

It’s 1943 and Hitler’s Germany is a terrifying place to be.
But Magda Ritter’s duty is the most dangerous of all…

Assigned to The Berghof, Hitler’s mountain retreat, she must serve the Reich by becoming the Führer’s ‘Taster’ – a woman who checks his food for poison. Magda can see no way out of this hellish existence until she meets Karl, an SS officer who has formed an underground resistance group within Hitler’s inner circle.

As their forbidden love grows, Magda and Karl see an opportunity to stop the atrocities of the madman leading their country. But in doing so, they risk their lives, their families and, above all, a love unlike either of them have ever known…

Lose yourself in this sweeping, heroic love story fraught with danger.

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

‘Her Hidden Life’, reads more like a memoir than a novel. Partly due to the iconic historical time but primarily because of the quality of the writing and the painstaking research that underlines it.

The story captures the underlying fear that symbolised Germany in 1943 and the sinister shadow of the Gestapo that ordinary German citizens experienced. Magda’s own family is divided, her mother, a supporter of the regime, though more out of fear of reprisal than anything else. Magda’s father is critical of the government but again only in private. Both her parents want their daughter away from the bombing in Berlin, and so she is shipped off to her paternal uncle and forced to work for Hitler.

Magda’s life as a taster of Hitler’s food is knife-edge, as is living so close to the man and his entourage. The story portrays well the thinly veiled menace, and the sense of needing to do whatever it takes to survive is apparent. Her romance with Karl an SS officer is fraught with danger but surprisingly charming, Magda’s naivety makes her seem younger than she is and shows how courageous some of her actions and decisions are. The atrocities of the Nazi regime are acknowledged and are the catalyst for much of the story, but there is a sense of the horror without overly graphic description.

The historical characters are realistic, but some of the others lack depth, this may be due to the shallowness of Magda’s interactions with others, but a little more characterisation of her fellow tasters and the cook would have been better. Overall it is an absorbing, tense story with a vibrant historical setting making it worthwhile reading.

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

Posted in Book Review

The Candle Factory Girl – Tania Crosse 3*Review Blog Tour

1930’s London – A backstreet saga full of hopes, dreams and the fight for survival. 

Work at Price’s Candle Factory in Battersea is tedious for intelligent, seventeen-year-old Hillie Hardwick, but she knows she is lucky to have a job at all.

Her home life is no better, as she constantly battles with her exacting and bullying father in order to protect her mother and five younger siblings from his abuse.

Her only solace is her loving relationship with the chaotic Parker family and her best friend, Gert Parker.

When matters violently escalate for Hillie, smitten Jack-the-Lad Jimmy Baxter seems her only salvation.

But could this be the biggest mistake of her life, and should she be looking for protection nearer home?

Links to buy

 Amazon: http://amzn.to/2sKD3IJ

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2CB9ZTE

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2HxyIMs

iBooks: https://apple.co/2Ht50rU

 

My Thoughts…

Life was hard in 1930s England for most people. During ‘the depression’, women had little or no say in their lives, forced into domestic drudgery or menial factory jobs, paying less than men and with few prospects.

Hillie Hardwick is a young woman, she works in the Candle Factory with her best friend Gert Parker, and hands over most of her wages to her father to help support their large family. Money is tight, and her home life is far from idyllic, Hillie’s father is abusive, and Hillie seeks solace with Gert’s family who financially are no better off than the Hardwicks but happy. The tone of this story realistically reflects the period, full of angst,  despair and hardship, which will not be the everyone’s reading tastes. 

Jimmy offers Hillie a lifeline to a better life but is she moving in the right direction or following a different path to the same disastrous end? Romance, friendship and mystery are all explored in this saga. Abusive behaviour and crime also feature and the last few chapters are sinister and action-packed, Hillie’s life is in turmoil and changes irrevocably.

Intrinsic historical detail brings the story to life, but you do spend a lot of time in Hillie’s head which does slow the story’s pacing and makes it daunting to read in parts. Overall, if family sagas that showcase the best and worst of life, full of realistic but often mundane events are your thing, this will be an enjoyable read. The ending is lovely and romantic and gives Hillie the type of life she deserves.

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

Delaying her childhood dream of writing historical novels until her family had grown up, Tania eventually completed a series of published stories based on her beloved Dartmoor. She is now setting her future sagas in London and the south-east

Website: http://www.tania-crosse.co.uk/

Twitter: @TaniaCrosse

Facebook: @TaniaCrosseAuthor