Kalinda Evans works for the Anglo-Boer war foundation in Canada. She’s sent to South Africa to make sure everyone who lost their lives in the war will be remembered. On her drive to the guest farm in Kimberley, South Africa, Kalinda picks up a female hitchhiker and is startled when just moments later, the woman vanishes. Kalinda would be convinced she was dreaming…except there’s still a white lace handkerchief on the passenger seat.
Extreme sports enthusiast and computer game designer Zack Carteris always after the next big challenge. He’s far too busy for romance and adheres to a three-date rule until he meets his parents’ latest guest. When she relays the story of her mysterious experience, Zack’s family shares the local ghost story. Kalinda and Zack work together to solve the puzzle of the ghost and how it all ties in with the war and the work Kalinda is doing.
As their attraction grows, Zack realizes he no longer feels the need to prove anything to himself. He only needs to prove to Kalinda that he’s more than a good time.
I enjoy romance with a twist, and this unusual story has more than one to entice the reader.
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.
‘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.
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?
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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
Extract From ‘That Girl’ Kate Kerrigan
Sligo, Ireland, 1961
‘It was her first visit to Dr Dorian Black’s surgery, and Hanna liked him straight away.
She had only been living in Killa for a few weeks at the time. After her father died suddenly, two years before, her mother Margaret decided they needed a new start and rented a small cottage in Killa, a fishing village on the north-west coast of county Sligo. Margaret hoped proximity to the sea would help heal their ongoing grief. Indeed, Margaret’s spirits lifted as she began a new life among people who knew little or nothing about her, fitting easily into the friendly new parish. Hanna, just thirteen, had settled well into the local convent school. Their home was at the end of the pier, and Hanna developed an appetite for the fresh, salty air, spending hours sitting on the front wall reading and watching the sea. However, this time spent in the chilly air had also resulted in a nasty cough. Margaret, overly protective of her only child, had brought her straight up to the local surgery where she had been greeted by this kind, handsome Dr Black.
‘Now, we’re going to have to take a little look in your mouth, Hanna. Can you open wide for me?’
Hanna opened her mouth widely and he peered in. He smelt of soap and she felt strangely pleased to be in the company of a nice man, even if he was only their doctor. Most of the men they knew from home were farmers, rough and ready, smelling of manure or beer. This man was clean and gentle, like her father. She missed him. It had been two years now and Hanna had started to find it hard to call his face to mind.
‘Now, that doesn’t look too bad.’ Dorian leaned back and took his stethoscope from around his neck. Hanna smiled at him. His accent was refined, barely detectable as Irish. She reminded him of a Jane Austen hero, handsome and dapper like Darcy, but friendly and open too, like Bingley.
‘Well, young lady,’ he said, ‘I think you’ll live.’ Hanna laughed.
Then he turned his attention to Margaret. ‘But, I am writing you a prescription for some antibiotics to clear this nasty cough.’
‘Thank you, Doctor,’ Margaret said.
‘Please,’ he said, smiling, ‘call me Dorian.’
‘Thank you, Dorian.’
Hanna noticed her mother blushing. Margaret was taken with him and, for a moment, Hanna felt pricked with possessive irritation. She reminded herself that her father was dead and it was nice, after all, to see her mother smiling.
As they were leaving, Dorian signalled Margaret to stay back for a private word. For a split second she had a dreadful feeling that there was something wrong with Hanna. After losing Liam, she knew she had become unnaturally attached to her daughter. There was just the two of them now. She couldn’t face it if Hanna were sick.
‘I was wondering,’ Dr Black said, his eyes downcast in shyness, ‘if you would do me the honour of allowing me to take you and Hanna out to dinner this evening.’
Over the coming weeks, Dorian courted Margaret. It was like a dream. This charming, erudite man had come into their lives after all the pain, hurt and shock of the last two years. She could hardly believe her luck in finding love again and, although she was as head over heels as a schoolgirl, it was Dorian’s kindness towards Hanna that truly won Margaret’s heart. Most men would have baulked at taking on another man’s daughter, but every time they went out for a drive, to a nice hotel for dinner or to a movie theatre, he always made sure to invite Hanna. Even when they went to Dublin for a weekend, Dorian insisted she and Hanna shared their own room in the Shelbourne rather than have Hanna enduring the upset of her mother being with another man.
That, he said, was the reason for his marriage proposal just two months after their initial meeting.’
You can escape a place. But you can’t escape yourself.
Hanna flees the scene of a terrible crime in her native Sligo. If she can just vanish, re-invent herself under a new name, perhaps the police won’t catch up with her. London seems the perfect place to disappear.
Lara has always loved Matthew and imagined happy married life in Dublin. Then comes the bombshell – Matthew says he wants to join the priesthood. Humiliated and broken-hearted, Lara heads to the most godless place she can find, King’s Road, Chelsea.
Matthew’s twin sister, Noreen, could not be more different from her brother. She does love fiance John, but she also craves sex, parties and fun. Swinging London has it all, but without John, Noreen is about to get way out of her depth.
All three girls find themselves working for Bobby Chevron – one of London’s most feared gangland bosses – and it’s not long before their new lives start to unravel.
This is a well- written character driven story, set against the background of the ‘swinging sixties’ in London. There’s crime, fashion and sex but this all takes second place to the stories of the three Irish girls Hanna, Lara and Noreen. Their courage, humour and tragedies keep the reader enthralled, empathic and shocked in this page-turning read.
The girls share a common heritage and their lives become increasingly interlinked as the story progresses with devasting consequences for one of them, The setting of a gangland club in Chelsea, captures the vibe of the sixties and the unique mix of fashionable and sordid which made this time in London iconic and a honey trap for naive girls.
The story doesn’t shy away from abuse and violence because this is integral to the plot but it is sensitively written and ensures the reader empathises with the heroines instantly. The ending is suspenseful, as you begin to wonder if everything the girls have achieved will be lost.
This is a memorable story, punctuated with vivid imagery and believable characters, not to be missed.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Bio Kate Kerrigan
Kate Kerrigan lives in County Mayo, Eire, with her husband and children. Her novels include Recipes for a Perfect Marriage, shortlisted for the 2006 Romantic Novel of the Year Award and Ellis Island, which was a TV Book Club Summer Read.
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“Caitlyn, there’s something I have to tell you. About Sara.”
Caitlyn thinks her marriage to Patrick is a success. For one thing, he is one of the few people not to fall head over heels for her beautiful friend, Sara. Life is lived on his terms, but they are happy. Aren’t they? When a devastating accident turns her existence upside down, Caitlyn is forced to reassess everything she thought about her marriage, what she truly knows about Patrick, and his real feelings for her best friend.In the refuge of an old manor house, she begins to discover the truth.
In 1947, the worst winter in decades hits England, cutting off entirely the inhabitants of Kings Harcourt Manor. For Tommy Carter, widowed at the start of war, it is particularly hard: the burden of the family falls on her. She has the solace of her children, and the interesting presence of her brother’s friend, Fred. But there is also Barbara, a mysterious figure from her past who appears to want a piece of Tommy’s future as well.
An interesting story set in two time periods.There are parallels between the two main female characters Tommy and Caitlyn, and the past meets the present in the middle of the book. The characters are strong and believable; both women have emotionally difficult lives despite superficial wealth.
The plots are easy to follow, but there are enough twists to hold your interest. The setting is particularly vivid in the historical chapters. The description of the snow and cold was rich in detail and realistic imagery.
The female antagonists in the story hide their deceit and obsessive behaviour behind a cloak of friendliness and vulnerability. The psychological thrills are subtle but make the plot darker than you would first imagine.
The writing showed insight into human emotions and coupled with the vivid imagery it turns an ordinary plot into something worth reading.
I received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Traveling to Faro, Portugal, journalist Joanna Millard hopes to escape an unsatisfying relationship and a stalled career. Faro is an enchanting town, and the views are enhanced by the company of Nathan Emberlin, a charismatic younger man. But beneath the crumbling façade of Moorish buildings, Joanna soon realizes, Faro has a seedy underbelly, its economy compromised by corruption. And Nathan has an ulterior motive for seeking her company: he is determined to discover the truth involving a child’s kidnapping that may have taken place on this dramatic coastline over two decades ago.
Joanna’s subsequent search leads her to Ian Rylands, an English expat who cryptically insists she will find answers in The Alliance, a novel written by American Esta Hartford. The book recounts an American couple’s experience in Portugal during World War II, and their entanglements both personal and professional with their German enemies. Only Rylands insists the book isn’t fiction, and as Joanna reads deeper into The Alliance, she begins to suspect that Esta Hartford’s story and Nathan Emberlin’s may indeed converge in Faro — where the past not only casts a long shadow but still exerts a very present danger.
This is a clever novel merging the past and present seamlessly. As a reader, you become an investigative journalist, without having to move from your armchair. The setting is dramatic, yet has a simplicity, which contrasts wonderfully with the corrupt elements discussed in the novel.
At a crossroads in her life, Joanna leaves the difficulties of her career and love life behind when she takes a language course in beautiful Portugal. Attraction and intrigue draw Joanna to Nathan. He embroils her in his mission to discover the mysteries of his past.
The pace is a little slow to begin with but it’s worth the wait, as the past collides with the present in alarmingly ways that make this book hard to put down. There is a story within a story as time slips back to WW2 and the fascinating, dangerous place Portugal was during this period, giving this novel an original twist. The plot and characters are authentic and vivid, you can imagine these people, behaving in this way. This is not a romance, there is no happy ever after but a believable, satisfying conclusion to the mysteries, with just a few threads left dangling to let you draw your own conclusions.
Joanna is a good heroine who I think could have further adventures both in the present and the past.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars