Everything will change, my love, she whispers to her only baby. I will make sure you are protected, looked after, loved. She commits his smell, the feel of him, to memory and fastens the gold St Christopher’s medal around his neck, tucking it into the blanket. Kissing him one last time, she lets him go. And with him go the pieces of her shattered heart.
London, 1940. Clara Knight grew up an orphan in the first world war and now is fighting to win the second. Nursing brave soldiers, she falls in love with one of her patients, whose warm brown eyes give her hope for a brighter future. But then he is sent to the front, leaving her alone with their child amidst the bombs raining down on the city… When she is offered the chance to give her son a better life, Clara makes the impossible choice to let him go. She leaves her mother’s precious St Christopher pendant with him, vowing to find him again when the war is over, so they can be a family once more.
Years later. Indira’s life has taken an unexpected turn and her only solace is caring for her grandfather. As he lies in bed, weak and confused, he calls her ‘Clara’, begging forgiveness for an unknown terrible act, tears rolling down his face. Indira goes looking for the truth… and discovers a tattered box of unsent letters, a gold St Christopher’s medal and a photograph of a baby swaddled in a blanket. Who was Clara Knight? And who is the baby in the photo? Her quest will reveal a devastating secret spanning decades, and change everything Indira thought she knew about her family…
An unforgettable and heart-breaking novel set in World War Two about the powerful bond between a mother and her child and a betrayal that echoes across generations.
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Set across two continents and two world wars, this is an epic, and at times heartbreaking family saga full of betrayal, prejudice and sacrifice tempered with the power of love. This author writes from the heart with a myriad of emotions. Her writing is insightful and lyrical, riven with sensory imagery that transports the reader to the place and time. The two women face similar issues years apart determined, and driven they find a way through them.
A priceless manuscript. A missing scholar. A trail of riddles. Persis must solve the riddle to find the killer – or die trying . . .
For over a century, one of the world’s great treasures, a six-hundred-year-old copy of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, has been safely housed at Bombay’s Asiatic Society. But when it vanishes, together with the man charged with its care, British scholar and war hero, John Healy, the case lands on the desk of Persis Wadis, India’s first female police detective.
Uncovering a series of complex riddles written in verse, Persis – together with English forensic scientist Archie Blackfinch – is soon on the trail. But then they discover the first body. As the death toll mounts it becomes evident that someone else is also pursuing this priceless artifact and will stop at nothing to possess it . . .
Harking back to an era of darkness, this second thriller in the Malabar House series pits Persis, once again, against her peers, a changing India, and an evil of limitless intent.
I received a copy of this book from Hodder & Stoughton via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The second book in the Malabar House series has vivid historical detail, vibrant characters, and a tantalising mystery to solve. Set in 1950s Bombay, the legacy of WW2, British rule and the cultural and religious divisions make this a fascinating read.
Persis Wadis is the first female inspector of police. She achieved national infamy from her position and previous case. A believably complex woman driven by her need to succeed in the face of family doubts, institutional misogyny and self-doubt, she analytically approaches her cases but often puts herself in dangerous situations.
The story has an engaging balance of investigation and personal exploration of the detective’s life. Her father’s bookshop is a special place for Persis, and many clues to her cases are discovered within the pages of the books.
A multi-layered mystery with shadowy characters, political intrigue and echoes of WW2 illuminates India’s role in WW2 as another source of tension between India and its colonial past. Intricate cyphers and puzzles are woven into the plot for the investigation team and reader to solve. An engaging mix of action, cerebral detective skills and introspection make this a page-turner.
Hints of romance, friendship and family drama make this an authentic and entertaining historical crime mystery with characters and historical details that resonate.
She allows herself to kiss her perfect child just once. She wraps the baby in her last gift: a hand-knitted cardigan, embroidered with a water lily pattern. ‘You’re better off without me,’ she whispers and although every step breaks her heart, she walks away.
1910, India. Young and curious Alice, with her spun-gold hair, grows up in her family’s sprawling compound with parents as remote as England, the cold country she has never seen. It is Raju, son of a servant, with whom she shares her secrets. Together, their love grows like roses – but leaves deep thorns. Because when they get too close, Alice’s father drags them apart, sending Raju far away and banishing Alice to England…
1944. Intelligent and kind Janaki is raised in an orphanage in India. The nuns love to tell the story: Janaki’s arrival stopped the independence riots outside the gates, as the men on both sides gazed at the starry-eyed little girl left in a beautiful hand-knitted cardigan. Janaki longs for her real mother, the woman who was forced to abandon her, wrapped in a precious gift…
Now old enough to be a grandmother and living alone in India, Alice watches children play under the tamarind trees, haunted by the terrible mistake she made fifty years ago. It’s just an ordinary afternoon, until a young girl with familiar eyes appears with a photograph and Alice must make a choice. Will she spend the rest of her life consumed by dreams of the past, or can she admit her mistakes and choose love and light at last?
A stunning and heartbreaking novel about how a forbidden love can echo through the generations.
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This author always delivers an emotional story. The lyrical writing style is pleasurable to read. The vivid characters and imagery are evocative of the setting. Told from Alice and Janaki’s viewpoints the story set in India and England encompasses a turbulent time in the two country’s histories. Loss, love, manipulation and prejudice form the intricate embroidery of this story. The characters draw you into their worlds the ripple of effect resonates from carelessly made decisions.
If you are looking for a book that is vibrant yet poignant and full of sensory imagery, this is for you.
When a young woman comes forward saying she’s the reincarnation of Riya Kaur, a wife and mother who vanished during the bloody 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Puri is dismissive. He’s busy enough dealing with an irate matrimonial client whose daughter is complaining about her groom’s thunderous snoring. Puri’s indomitable Mummy-ji, however, is adamant the client is genuine. How else could she so accurately describe under hypnosis Riya Kaur’s life and final hours?
Driven by a sense of duty – the original case was his late father’s – Puri manages to acquire the police file only to find that someone powerful has orchestrated a cover-up. Forced into an alliance with his mother that tests his beliefs and high blood pressure as never before, it’s only by delving into the past the help of his reincarnated client that Puri can hope to unlock the truth.
I received a copy of this book from Severn House Publishers via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A charming cozy mystery, set in India, with a charismatic detective, whose life is constantly invaded by his Mummy-ji, who knows her son well. She is happy to manipulate him for her ends. A clever woman, observant, well-connected and a natural investigator, she is effectively a silent partner in the private detective firm.
Indian customs and society are integral to the story, and historic events are also included, which add interest to the plot.The cast of characters is eclectic and enigmatic and gives this story its quirky appeal. There are several cases to be investigated, but it is the one Puri wants to ignore that proves the most absorbing and challenging.
This is the fifth book in the series, but it is possible to read as a standalone, as I did. However, series like these are always worth reading from the beginning.
At times humorous and often poignant, this is a well-written mystery with a memorable detective, a diverse set of cases and a distinctive cultural ethos.
Tarquin Hall is a British author and journalist who has previously lived in the USA, Pakistan, India, Kenya and Turkey. He now divides his time between the UK and India and is married to BBC reporter and presenter Anu Anand. He is the author of four previous Vish Puri mysteries and The Delhi Detective’s Handbook. Twitter.
Zara Das is Bollywood’s hottest property, her every move watched by the eyes of the press. Riding high from the success of a string of blockbusters, she has the world at her feet, but the scandal from her latest film threatens to dethrone her as Bollywood’s reigning queen.
So when superstar director Raj Dillon stages a lavish retelling of Pride and Prejudice, moving the shoot from Mumbai’s soundstages to London, Zara knows this is the role that could put her back on top. Coming with them are the Bollywood Wives – Jackie, Sasha, and Rani – bringing their own off-screen drama.
But behind the diamonds, designer clothes and seven-star hotels lies the truth of how Zara reached the top. And when a dead body is found in her hotel room, it seems that someone is determined to take Zara down – and will stop at nothing to expose her darkest secrets.
Zara has spent years running from her past. But now it’s caught up with her…
A sexy, gripping, scandalous novel set in the world of Bollywood.
I received a copy of this book from Hera Books in return for an honest review.
This is a story full of contrasts, It opens up the Bollywood film world, and is fascinating to read, but there is a darker side to this book. Intelligent commentary on Indian society, and the deceit and depravity that simmers below Bollywood’s glamour and ostentatious wealth.
There is a wonderful cast of characters, including Zara, who the story revolves around. Despite her celebrity status, she has secrets, and these make her vulnerable. The writing style is informative and inclusive, you feel part of what is happening, even though most of the readers will have little experience of such a glamorous, dangerous world.
On one level this a bonkbuster romance, snapshots of lives, full of sex, secrets and money, but underneath there is a hidden noir world of abuse and desperation. The thriller is well-plotted and gives the story additional depth and interest.
The ending is poignant, but ultimately hopeful, as people who can make a difference and help others not to suffer, as they did, finally find the courage to act.
An insightful look at an important twenty-first-century phenomenon, with a clever fusion of genres, and believable, complex characters.
Alex Khan has spent his life dreaming of writing and starring in Bollywood movies while travelling the world visiting some of the most glamorous and exciting locations. Moonlighting as a crime writer he finally got the courage to pen the novel he wanted to write all his life-Bollywood Wives. Taking you into the glamorous sexy thrilling environment of the world’s biggest movie stars and the secrets they hide.
The sequel to the bestselling phenomenon The Note – based on the true story of one girl and her ‘Train Man’…
year after the kiss that brought them together in a snowy train-station
doorway, Maya and James are embarking on another journey – this time around the
The trip starts promisingly, with an opulent and romantic Indian wedding. But as their travels continue, Maya fears that ‘love at first sight’ might not survive trains, planes and tuk-tuks, especially when she realises that what she really wants is a baby, and James doesn’t feel the same.
Can Maya and James navigate their different hopes and dreams to stay together? Or is love at first sight just a myth after all…
I received a copy of this book from Aria – Head of Zeus Books in return for an honest review.
I must be the only person in the UK who didn’t read ‘The Note’, but fortunately ‘The Postcard’ whilst being a sequel, is also a separate adventure for Maya and James and reads well as a standalone.
There is a curious diversion from Maya’s story as she prepares to go on around the world trip with #TheTrainMan. A different character, confused, lost and vulnerable, is introduced, the menace and mystery of this encounter are on your mind as Maya and James start their journey, and then the person’s identity and the situation is revealed, and you wonder if, where and when, Maya will meet her?
The characters and relationships you explore in this story are complex and realistic, whether they be from Maya’s past, present or on the trip of a lifetime. Her best friend’s story is so far removed from Maya’s at this time, and yet both think they want what the other is experiencing.
There is a lovely balance of humour and poignancy in this, the romance is still there, but tempered with reality and therefore authentic.Maya and Jamesfind out who they are as a couple as a series of conflicts, try to break them.
The final conflict is adrenaline-fueled, suspenseful and unexpectedly poignant. These scenes are full of vivid imagery that really lets you experience the tension, terror and tumultuousness of the events. Romance and love prevail, and the final scenes provide a heartwarming and believable ending.
Guest Post – Zoe Folbigg – The Postcard
Welcome back, Maya and James! –
If you enjoyed my debut book The Note then I hope you love the sequel, The Postcard, even more. At first, I was nervy about revisiting Maya and James and writing about what happens after the happy ever after. The Note was based on my own story of how I fell for a stranger on a train on my daily commute and then married him. It was a story I had told a thousand times even before I’d fictionalised it; before Aria offered me a book deal; before it became a bestseller.
When I wrote my second novel, The Distance, a story about long-distance love, based (almost) entirely on characters plucked from my imagination and nothing to do with me or my husband, I enjoyed the liberating feeling of writing about something totally different, telling a new story.
So when Aria suggested a sequel, I was worried. How could I move Maya and James’ story on? In reality, Train Man and I got married and had kids. We settled down to school runs, sports clubs and Friday-night fajitas. Nowadays the most drama in our lives tends to be Sainsbury’s selling out of coriander (those fajitas matter), or me falling over in the mums’ race on Sports Day. Embarrassing, yes, but none of my current life felt like novel material.
Then I remembered the “in-between”. Those years in a relationship when you’re out of the early throes of glorious newness, when you’re still self-conscious about morning breath and think each other’s bad outfit choices are adorable, but you’re not quite ready for his ‘n’ hers Mahabis or actually saying, “This is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with!”, even if you think it. A period when family and friends ask about marriage and babies in hushed tones and want to move your relationship on to the next stage, even if you haven’t discussed it yet.
Our “in-between” coincided with some amazing travels: a holiday to Argentina with friends, Costa Rica for my 30th (double income no kids = nice holidays) and then a year-long round-the-world trip (redundancy = a “sod-it, it’s now or never” attitude).
Before these trips, friends would gush about the proposal opportunities, how we would definitely come back engaged, that surely Train Man had something up his sleeve, and I felt a mixture of hope and pressure, excitement and resentment.
So while pondering a sequel I remembered that phase. The round-the-world trip was chock full of vibrant places, crazy characters, beautiful scenery, and weirdly that in-between issue that I realised would be as pertinent to Maya and James as it is to many people.
Once I started writing The Postcard and I took Maya and James on their own travels, I fell in love with their new chapter: I could almost smell the coriander and coconut of dinner on the Mekong; hear the beat of a drum at a Hindu wedding; see the mossy limestone karsts looking down on them at a beach in Thailand. And I could hear the ring of that lingering question: “Do you think he’ll ask you to marry him?!” “Do you think you’d ask him?” All from my kitchen table.
So welcome back Maya and James! It’s been an honour to pick up their story and revisit all these amazing places for The Postcard – and I hope you enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.
Zoë Folbigg is a magazine journalist and digital editor, starting at Cosmopolitan in 2001 and since freelancing for titles including Glamour, Fabulous, Daily Mail, Healthy, LOOK, Top Santé, Mother & Baby, ELLE, Sunday Times Style and Style.com. In 2008 she had a weekly column in Fabulous magazine documenting her year-long round-the-world trip with ‘Train Man’ – a man she had met on her daily commute. She since married Train Man and lives in Hertfordshire with him and their two young sons. Twitter FacebookInstagram Website
At eighteen, Somlata married into the Mitras: a once noble Bengali household whose descendants have taken to pawning off the family gold to keep up appearances.
When Pishima, the embittered matriarch, dies, Somlata is the first to discover her aunt-in-law’s body – and her sharp-tongued ghost.
First demanding that Somlata hide her gold from the family’s prying hands, Pishima’s ghost continues to wreak havoc on the Mitras. Secrets spilt, cooking spoilt, Somlata finds herself at the centre of the chaos. And as the family teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, it looks like it’s up to her to fix it.
The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die is a frenetic, funny and fresh novel about three generations of Mitra women, a jewellery box, and the rickety family they hold together.
I received a copy of this book from John Murray Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The description attracted me to this book, it was first published in 1993.
Somlata marries into an aristocratic, but cash poor Bengali family, who still have noble aspirations and therefore do not understand the concept of earning a living. To live, they sell off their assets, but even this income source is now in jeopardy. The family lives traditionally in a large house, according to hierarchy. When the matriarch dies, something has to change.
Somlata discovers Roshomoyee’s body, and also her ghost, and a quirky tale of strange occurrences, superstition and change begin. Somlata is effectively the conduit for the ghost’s wishes, and this empowers her and makes her a feared by some members of her new family. Her actions directed by the deceased Aunt bring the family to its lowest ebb, but her sense of empowerment grows and she becomes the key to their survival.
Three generations of women are featured; Roshomoyee, the aunt by marriage who was married and widowed very young, and feels she has been robbed of her rightful life, Somlata, who is bright and brave, and with a little ghostly help, changes all their lives for the better. Boshon is Somlata’s daughter, who believes in herself and her rights, and is not afraid to push against the family’s patriarch model. Interestingly Roshomoyee’s ghost diminishes when Somlata has her daughter?
The story is short but packed with detail, cultural references and family drama, it is humorous in parts and poignant in others. The style takes a little getting used to but it is an interesting story of tradition and female empowerment.
Full of warmth and laugh-out-loud funny, the new novel from the author of Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows
British-born Punjabi sisters Rajni, Jezmeen and Shirina have never been close but when their mother died, she had only one request: that they take a pilgrimage across India to carry out her final rites. While an extended family holiday is the last thing they want, each sister has her own reasons to run away from her life.
Rajni is the archetypal know-it-all eldest but her son dropped a devastating bombshell before she left and for the first time she doesn’t know what the future holds.
Middle sister Jezmeen was always a loudmouth, translating her need for attention into life as a struggling actress. But her career is on the skids after an incident went viral and now she’s desperate to find her voice again.
Shirina has always been the golden child, who confounded expectations by having an arranged marriage and moving to the other side of the world. But her perfect life isn’t what it seems and time is running out to make the right choice.
As the miles rack up on their jaunt across India, the secrets of the past and present are sure to spill out…
I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A charming, humorous, poignant journey for three sisters; Rajni, Jezmeen and Shirina, who travel to India, to honour their mother’s memory. A duty trip turns out to be a cultural, emotional and ultimately enlightening adventure, even if things didn’t happen quite how their mother Sita envisaged them.
Sita is dying and in pain on a terminal care ward, her family life has not been easy, and she despairs of the lack of connectivity between her daughters. Writing a letter with her last wishes means she can die in peace in the hope her three daughters can find each other and live their lives in a positive way.
Each sister has secrets, revealed as their journey unfolds, the sisters are believable, flawed characters, easy to empathise, even if they exasperate you sometimes. The setting is vividly described and an important character in this story. It’s India in all its contrasting forms that makes the sisters need each other and reflect on their lives and relationships. For someone who has never visited, it is an interesting travelogue, which complements the sisters’ journey of self -realisation perfectly,
Past and present events woven into the well-paced plot, illuminate the reader. The humour is sometimes dark, but this makes the story authentic. Social issues affecting women everywhere and more particularly in India are highlighted, they fit seamlessly into the plot but still resonate.
The ending is heartwarming and you are hopeful the sisters’ lives will be everything Sita would wish for them.
India, 1926: English Margaret arrives with her new husband Suraj at his family home, set amidst beautiful rolling hills, the air filled with the soft scent of spices and hibiscus flowers. Margaret is unwelcome, homesick and lonely, but her maid Archana, a young woman from an impoverished family, reminds her of her long-lost sister, a tiny glimpse of home in a faraway place.
As Margaret and Archana spend more time together, an unexpected friendship blooms. But in British India the divide between rich and poor, English and Indian, is wide, and the clash between Margaret’s modern views and the weight of tradition on Archana will lead to devastating results…
England, 2000:Emma is at a crossroads. She has discovered the lie at the heart of her relationship, and she worries over the right choice to make for herself and her beloved daughter. When her grandmother gives her a mysterious painting, and asks her to take a message of forgiveness to an old friend in India, Emma is relieved to have some time and space to make a decision about her future. But as she fulfils her grandmother’s wish, a secret kept for over seventy years is finally revealed – the story of a day spent painting by a stream full of water lilies, where a betrayal tore three lives apart forever…
Will the weight of her grandmother’s regrets push Emma towards a mistake that will stay with her forever, or give her the courage she needs to make the right choice?
I received a copy of this book from bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
‘The Girl in the Painting’ and all of this author’s books are always thought provoking, rich in literary and visual imagery, full of historical detail, and unashamedly emotional. They are a true escapist read, written for the pleasure of writing, and this love and dedication comes across in every word.
The plot is divided between the early twentieth century, particularly the 1920s in England and India, and the end of the twentieth century when Margaret, at the end of her life, asks her grandaughter, Emma, also at a crossroads in her life to seek out an old friend and right a wrong.
The historical plot moves between England from Margaret’s perspective and India from Archana’s perspective, the stories seem so divergent, there are common threads, but it’s only in the late 1920s, when the two women’s lives become inextricably joined.
The story highlights the culturial differences from a unique point of view and allows the reader to better understand , what from a westen perspective may seem unthinkable. The similarites in the outlook and empowerment of women is also explored in this story. At the time when English women were campaigning for equality. They were in many ways as powerless to determine their own destiny, as the women in India at that time. The importance of sisters in their lives, is another thing Margaret and Archana have in common.
The characters are relatable and easy to empathise, you feel their pain and guilt and want them to find some solace. All three women and those who touch their lives are changed by heartbreak.
The historical detail gives the story depth and vivacity, whether it be in India or England, where Margaret tastes life with ‘The Bloomsbury Group, artists and writers who care little for social conventions and eptiomise the 1920s in England.
‘The Girl in the Painting’ is an emotional, evocative , escapist journey for everyone who likes to lose themselves in a story..
For a century the iconic Grand Raj Palace Hotel has welcomed the world’s elite. From film stars to foreign dignitaries, anyone who is anyone stays at the Grand Raj.
The last thing the venerable old hotel needs is a murder…
When American billionaire Hollis Burbank is found dead – the day after buying India’s most expensive painting – the authorities are keen to label it a suicide. But the man in charge of the investigation is not so sure. Chopra is called in – and discovers a hotel full of people with a reason to want Burbank dead.
Accompanied by his sidekick, baby elephant Ganesh, Chopra navigates his way through the palatial building, a journey that leads him steadily to a killer, and into the heart of darkness.
If you’re looking for a 21st-century take on the cosy mystery, this is a must-read. I love Miss Marple, Poirot and Midsomer Murders and this series encompasses the best of these with an enthralling taste of life in India.
Chopra, a retired policeman, is an inherent crime solver and even ill health can’t prevent him from doing what he loves. He is an honest, loyal man who values truth and justice. Sometimes his personal life gets sidelined by his investigations, like this one, which threatens to rock his marriage after twenty-five years. Chopra is a surrogate parent to an orphaned baby elephant called Ganesh, with a talent for crime solving and a young boy who is inseparable from the young elephant. These young characters provide the light relief to Chopra’s often grisly investigations.
The plot plays out like an Agatha Christie with numerous suspects, misinformation and sub-plots. The steady pacing makes these easy to follow, but the storyline keeps its secrets well. Poppy, Chopra’s wife, has her investigation adding to the story’s diversity. Indian culture and society are intrinsic to this series, and there are also pertinent comments about politics, colonialism, religion, and multi-national corporations, which give the story its authenticity.
I haven’t read the previous books in this series, but this one reads well as a standalone. However, it’s addictive reading, and I’m sure I will read the other books in the series soon. If you like whodunnit mysteries, charismatic characters and charming animals, this is a book you’re sure to enjoy.
I received a copy of this book from Mulholland Books, Hodder& Stoughton via NetGalley in return for an honest review.