Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Saga

Home to the Hills Dee Yates 5* #Review @HoZ_Books @Aria_Fiction #DeeYates #HistoricalFiction #Saga #PostWar #WW2 #BlogTour #BookReview #guestpost

1945.

After the Second World War, Ellen and her daughter Netta make the journey from Germany back to Scotland. Nestled in the hills of the Southern Uplands is the farm where Ellen grew up – the home she left to be with the only man she’s ever loved. She is still haunted by her memories… and the secrets she dare not share with anyone.

Having grown up in Freiburg, farm life is new and exciting to Netta. Determined to be useful, she offers to help new shepherd, Andrew Cameron. But doing so might put her bruised heart at risk…

The war took so much from Ellen and Netta. But maybe now the sanctuary of the hills can offer them the hope of a new beginning.

A heartwrenching Scottish saga.

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

My Thoughts…

At the end of ‘A Last Goodbye’, Ellen decides, after the death of her husband Tom, to follow her love, an ex-prisoner of war in WW1, to his native Germany. I looked back to my review and noted I thought Ellen’s new life deserved a sequel, and this is it.

‘Home to the Hills’ is set predominately at the end of WW2. Ellen and her daughter return to the place of her birth to a make a new life, after suffering the atrocities of the war. Like with the first book, a different minor storyline, is also explored in this book, which adds depth and enriches the story.

The characters in this story are authentic and complex, damaged from what has gone before, but strong and resolute to carry on with their lives. The emotion and hardship faced by the characters, make them realistic, and they draw you into their story. The plot is nicely paced and has enough historical references to allow the reader to appreciate the post WW2 period.

This is addictive reading for anyone who enjoys a beautifully written, immersive and well researched, historical family saga.

Read my review of A Last Goodbye

Dee Yates

Born and brought up in the south of England, the eldest girl of nine children, Dee moved north to Yorkshire to study medicine. She rem

ained there, working in well-woman medicine and general practice and bringing up her three daughters. She retired slightly early at the end of 2003, in order to start writing, and wrote two books in the next three years. In 2007 she moved further north, to the beautiful Southern Uplands of Scotland. Here she fills her time with her three grandsons, helping in the local museum, the church and the school library, walking, gardening and reading. She writes historical fiction, poetry and more recently non-fiction. Occasionally she gets to compare notes with her youngest sister Sarah Flint who writes crime with blood-curdling descriptions which make Dee want to hide behind the settee.

HOME TO THE HILLS – Guest Post – Dee Yates

A remote valley of the Southern Uplands of Scotland was my home for a year when I first moved over The Border. The beautiful Southern Uplands is little known and under-explored, visitors to Scotland usually passing straight through on their way to Glasgow, Edinburgh and The Highlands.

My cats and I made the move from Yorkshire in 2007, eager to be near growing family. I had decided to rent a property, so I could look at leisure for a cottage to buy. On a farm sitting on the valley side was a shepherd’s cottage waiting for an occupant. It was ideal. For miles in each direction I could see nothing but hills and sheep. I knew nothing about farming but that year, with the help of the farmer, I learned a lot.

I also learned some of the history of the valley. A couple of miles east of where I was staying is a large reservoir, planned before the start of WW1, to supply water to the growing industrial towns further north. Building of the reservoir was being hampered because labourers were enlisting in the army and going off to The Front. Many did not return. To ease the shortage of labour, German POWs were brought into the valley.

I learned all this from the farmer. He showed me where the prisoners had camped, across from the farm, in the autumn of 1916, until the weather became too bad and they had to build accommodation further into the valley. I walked east to where the peaceful reservoir lies cupped in the hills and reflects in its water the coniferous forests that clothe  the valley sides.

This was the background for my first book, ‘A Last Goodbye’. Its sequel, ‘Home to the Hills’, continues the story of a mother and her daughter, returning home after many years away from the valley. For the mother it holds many memories, both good and bad; for the daughter it is a place she can barely remember and she now has to make a new life for herself in this beautiful but remote part of a strange country. What can she do? Will she be accepted or will she be forever an outsider? And will she and her mother be able to put behind them the horrors of the recent years? Part of this horror was the treatment of Jews in Germany, something that has been the subject of a number of recent books. It is something that should never be forgotten. It is up to succeeding generations to build relationships and learn to live together with all people. I am proud of the way my daughters have become Europeans, one of my daughters studying German and French, living in both and teaching in the south of Germany for a year. To my mind this is the way to prevent the horrors of the World Wars from ever happening again. My family has been immensely saddened at the decision to pull out of the European Economic Community. Togetherness brings a widening of vision and depth of understanding of humans and human nature.

Posted in Book Spotlight, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Blue Skies Over Berlin John Steinberg #BookPromo #HistoricalFiction #PostWW2 #FineArt #Secrets #LiteraryFiction @rararesources

A young German woman, thinking she can escape her memories of wartime Berlin, moves to London in 1954 under her new name of Charlotte Brown. The offer of a prestigious job at the National Gallery leads her to believe that she can establish a new life in a city itself emerging from the ruins of war.

With her new identity, Charlotte hopes she has left Eva Schlessinger far behind . . . but when her job brings her into contact with a ruthless set of art dealers with dubious wartime connections, she fears they can see behind her facade. Priceless masterpieces start appearing at auction, stolen from murdered Jewish families by the Nazis, and she herself is implicated. At this point, Charlotte makes a solemn promise – one that will take her a lifetime to fulfil.

Blue Skies Over Berlin is a novel about secrets and guilt in an uncertain time, balanced by friendship and enduring love – and ultimately the need to make amends for just standing by.

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John Steinberg

Born and raised in North London in 1952, John still lives in the city with his wife and three children. Privately educated, John left school after ‘A’ levels and completed a business diploma in what is now the University of Westminster, before entering banking.

He started training as an accountant but did not complete the course, choosing a position in his family’s furniture manufacturing business instead. John started his own mergers and acquisitions business in 1987, which he ran for almost 20 years before quitting to become a full time writer in 2007.

John has co-written and produced comedies for the stage and has created a series of books for children.

 “Previously, I had only been interested in comedy and finally started to write down the things I said or thought of. That led me to co-write and produce a play, In the Balance, and then W for Banker – which appeared at the New End Theatre, Hampstead. It was then I decided to quit the world of business in favour of writing full-time and move toward more serious subjects. My first novel has taken two years to write and is the first in a series of books I am calling the ‘Steinberg Stories’.”

John Steinberg.

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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.

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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.

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Posted in Book Review, New Books

5* Review: In the Shadow of Winter – Lorna Gray

23390890Historical BlurbThe Cotswolds, 1947

The relentless winter of 1947 holds post-war Britain in its deadly grip, and Eleanor Phillips rides out from her beleaguered Cotswold farm to rescue a stranger lost in the storm. But the near-dead man is no stranger and when she recognises Matthew Croft, the old ties of a failed romance tug deeply. Her sweetheart has returned from the war…

Suspicion, the police and the panicked flight of a desperate man beat a path to her door. And with a wanted man hidden in her home and stealing back into her heart, Eleanor must be on her guard—for the net is closing in on them both and enemies are all around…Historical Buy LinksAmazon UK
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In the Shadow of WinterSet in the devastating winter of 1947 ‘In the Shadow of Winter’ is an atmospheric story brimming with history, mystery, romance and suspense. Written in the first person, the story reads as Eleanor’s memoir. It allows the reader to experience post war rationing and poverty in a wholly realistic way. I remember my own grandparents and parents shuddering, when they recounted this cruel winter, so close to the austerity of WW2 and this story has the same authenticity.

Eleanor believes herself to be an eccentric person. In many ways this is true but it makes her easy to imagine and like. A strong, independent woman, Eleanor overcomes the obstacles thrown in her way and I admired her spirit. Her household is unconventional, but loving. The animals, which are an integral part of it, have distinct personalities, recognisable to anyone who shares similar lives with their animal friends.

Matthew is the perfect anti-hero. Seen through Eleanor’s eyes his transformation is believable and enlightening. The interplay between Eleanor and Matthew is interesting and sweetly romantic, in keeping with the attitudes of 1940’s England.

Absorbing and chilling, yet tempered with echoes of a lost romance, which makes Eleanor’s struggle to do what it is right, poignant. Well paced with plenty of action packed scenes, this story is one of the best I’ve read this year for its imagery and originality.

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

In the Shadow of Winter by Lorna Gray

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


In the Shadow of Winter by Lorna Gray

Lorna Gray

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