Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Saga

The Butterfly Room -5* #Review – Lucinda Riley @panmacmillan @lucindariley #saga #family #literary #fiction #historical #secrets

Posy Montague is approaching her seventieth birthday. Still living in her beautiful family home, Admiral House, set in the glorious Suffolk countryside where she spent her own idyllic childhood catching butterflies with her beloved father and raised her own children, Posy knows she must make an agonizing decision. Despite the memories the house holds, and the exquisite garden she has spent twenty-five years creating, the house is crumbling around her, and Posy knows the time has come to sell it.

Then a face appears from the past – Freddie, her first love, who abandoned her and left her heartbroken fifty years ago. Already struggling to cope with her son Sam’s inept business dealings, and the sudden reappearance of her younger son Nick after ten years in Australia, Posy is reluctant to trust in Freddie’s renewed affection. And unbeknown to Posy, Freddie – and Admiral House – have a devastating secret to reveal . . .

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

My Thoughts…

‘The Butterfly Room’ takes you on an atmospheric, emotional journey full of memorable characters and sensual experiences.

Posy Montague spent her early childhood in Admiral House, her most cherished memories are catching butterflies and playing make-belief with her father. He is the driving force in her life, her mother fading into the background when he is around until she discovers something that shatters the illusion.

Moving between Posy’s often difficult childhood years, and her current life in Suffolk, Admiral House is a constant, but its crumbling glory means Posy has to accept, change is inevitable.

Posy’s life journey explores many themes, notably family life and dysfunctional families, women’s position and role in society, love, romance, relationships and money. Posy is a complex girl and woman, with a self-deprecating sense of humour and quirky personality, often associated with only children brought up in adult households.

This story is an effortless read. You are drawn in by the quality characterisation. What happens to the family matters, even though they are flawed, often selfish, and in some cases completely unlikeable. The plot is layered, revealing its secrets gradually until you are spellbound, yet completely unprepared for the final revelations. The last part of the book is suspenseful and poignant as the domestic drama intensifies.

The ending is hopeful and satisfying as Posy and her family finally realise what truly matters in life.

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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Excerpt, Family Drama, Gangland Crime, Historical Crime Fiction, saga

Trickster -Sam Michaels – 4* #Review #Author #Interview @Aria_Fiction @SamMichaelsGG #BlogTour #Extract #Historical #Crime #Fiction #Saga

To be ruthless is to be powerful, at least it is on the Battersea streets…

Georgina Garrett was born to be ruthless and she’s about to earn her reputation.

As World War One is announced a baby girl is born. Little do people know that she’s going to grow up to rule the streets of Battersea. From a family steeped in poverty the only way to survive is with street smarts.

With a father who steals for a living, a grandmother who’s a woman of the night and a mother long dead, Georgina was never in for an easy life. But after a tragic event left her father shaken he makes a decision that will change the course of all their lives – to raise Georgina as George, ensuring her safety but marking the start of her life of crime…

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

My Thoughts…

Set in the early 20th-century ‘Trickster’ follows the fortunes of Georgina Garrett from her birth in 1914 when England declared war on Germany. Georgina knows tragedy from her first breath, she is no stranger to loss and falls foul of the depravity she is born into, despite the love and protection of her family.

This historical crime saga is characterised by well-researched historical detail, which brings the story to life. It’s easy to imagine the poverty, depravity and violence of the London slums. The writing is full of vivid imagery and dialogue which gives it an authentic feel.

The characters are believable and even though many of them are criminals, they are easy to empathise. Many are victims of circumstance, they commit crimes and act violently to survive. The strong family bond essential for gangland crime fiction is evident in this story, and it is this that makes it such an absorbing read.

The abuse, language and violence are graphic, but not gratuitous. They make this story an authentic reading experience, but there will be times when you will cringe or want to look away.

The plot is well- written and has many twists, that shape Georgina Garrett and her future self. The underlying theme of the story is based on a misnomer, which gives this story a refreshing uniqueness. This is an accomplished debut story and I look forward to reading book two.

Q&A with Sam Michaels – TricksterI

Sagas are popular in romantic fiction, but your story is a crime-based saga, what inspired you to write this? Are all the stories historically based?

I’ve always enjoyed sagas, been interested in early 20th- century history and fascinated with the criminal underworld. So, it made sense for me to combine the three, hence, Trickster was born. It’s been a good outlet for my ghastly imagination!

The stories in the Georgina Garrett series of books are historically based, though as they progress, the last one will end in the ’60s and ’70s.

When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?

My main character always comes first, along with a small scenario which sets the scene for the rest of the book. I think the character comes first as I believe this is the most important part of the story. Good, strong characters make good stories!

 Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?

My characters are mostly from my imagination although I do bring in aspects of real-life people I know. To make them realistic, I find myself acting out each character’s point of view – their voices, facial expressions and sometimes even their body movements. Obviously, I do all this in my head as I don’t want my husband to think I’m a lunatic!

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I’m a fan of true stories, especially tales of triumph over hardship or really gory crime. I’ve recently discovered Bill Bryson books which are not my normal ilk but I’m finding them very amusing and interesting.

 When did you start writing? What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?

I’ve been writing for the past few years since I moved from the UK to Spain. The best thing about being a writer is knowing that your work is bringing pleasure to someone, and that could be anywhere in the world. The worst thing is being sat indoors in front of my computer when the sun is shining outside.

What are you currently writing?

I’m nearing the end of writing the first draft of the next book in the Georgina Garrett series. It’s been wonderful to dip back into the first book and bring out some of the lesser characters and give them a more prominent role in this story.

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Sam Michaels lives in Spain with her family and a plethora of animals. Having been writing for years Trickster is her debut novel.

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Extract from Trickster – Book 1 – Georgina Garrett series – Sam Michaels

‘I dunno what to do, Mum. She needs a feed…’

Dulcie chewed her lower lip as her mind turned but then struck by an idea she said, ‘Don’t worry, Jack, I know someone who might be able to help. There’s a jug of ale in the kitchen. Go and pour yourself a glass. I’ll be back as soon as I can.’

Dulcie left her house and hurried along the narrow street with the wailing baby in her arms. She could ill afford to feed Percy and herself, let alone this poor little mite, and a wet nurse didn’t come cheap. However, if her idea panned out, she wouldn’t have to part with a penny.

Fifteen minutes later Dulcie was in the roughest part of town. This was an area where no person of good virtue would dare to frequent. Women hung out of windows with their bosoms on display, vying for business, while others were drunk, vomiting openly in the filthy streets. In a dark corner behind a cart, Dulcie glimpsed a woman bent over with her skirt up, a punter behind her, trousers round his ankles as he pounded hard for his pleasure.

This wasn’t the sort of place where Dulcie felt comfortable carrying a small baby. She held her granddaughter protectively close to her and tried to muffle the child’s screams in the hope of avoiding any unwanted attention.

The sun was still high in the sky. Dulcie was grateful, as she would have been worried if it had been dark. A short, skinny man with bare feet and a bent back walked towards her. His leering eyes unnerved Dulcie and she could see he was trying to peer at the child she held. He stood ominously in front of her, blocking her path. If she hadn’t had been carrying Georgina, she wouldn’t have given a second thought to kneeing him in the crotch.

With an evil sneer, he licked his lips, nodded towards the baby and then asked, ‘How much?’

‘This child is not for sale,’ Dulcie said firmly, then sidestepped the man and marched on. It was no secret that in these streets, any desire could be bought for the right price, but it turned Dulcie’s stomach. It wasn’t unusual for a prostitute to fall with an unwanted pregnancy, then sell the child on, no questions asked. Dulcie didn’t believe it was something any woman wanted to do, but the desperation of poverty forced them into it. Gawd knows where those helpless babies ended up, or what they went through, Dulcie thought and shuddered. She reckoned the women would be better off killing their babies – something she suspected her friend Ruby had recently resorted to.

She had seen many young women turn to drugs or booze to numb the pain and block out the memories of what they’d done. Some went out of their minds and ended up in institutions, a fate worse than death, and it was something she didn’t want to see happen to Ruby. The girl was only sixteen, with bright ginger hair and a sprinkling of freckles across her nose. Her fair skin was the colour of porcelain, so when she’d turned up on the streets one day her purple and yellow bruises had really stood out.

Dulcie had taken her under her wing and learned that Ruby was homeless after running away from her abusive father. Her mother had died when Ruby was seven, and her father had forced her into his bed to fulfil the role of his wife. When he’d filled her belly with a child, he’d beaten her until she miscarried, then thrown her out to fend for herself.

Dulcie did her best to protect the girl and would steer her away from the customers she knew had a liking for wanting to rough up the women, but it hadn’t been long before she’d noticed that Ruby was trying to hide a growing bump in her stomach. She’d had a quiet word with her and found that Ruby was distraught, fearing her secret would be discovered and she’d be sent to the workhouse. Dulcie felt sorry for the girl but, struggling herself to make enough money to live on, she could only offer a shoulder to cry on.

Less than a week ago and well into her pregnancy, Ruby disappeared, but then she’d turned up again two days ago, her stomach flat. She refused to discuss the fate of the baby, but Dulcie noticed her demeanour had changed. Where once she’d been a chatty young woman with a wicked sense of humour, she was now mostly silent, her eyes veiled in a darkness that Dulcie couldn’t penetrate.

Ruby lived in the basement of a shared house at the end of the street. It was decrepit, with the roof caved in and the stairs to the upper level broken. Dulcie thought the whole house looked unsound and had never been inside, but she had to speak to Ruby and hoped to find her in. She took a deep breath and braced herself for what she may find, then slowly walked down the stairs that led to the basement door. It was open, so with trepidation, she stepped inside.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Family Drama, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Mystery

God’s Acre – Dee Yates -5*#Review – #BlogTour #Historical #Fiction #Romance #Saga @Aria_Fiction #WW2 #LandGirls #Scotland

As the drums of war begin to beat louder on the continent, and life becomes more dangerous in cities, seventeen-year-old Jeannie McIver leaves the comfort of her Aunt’s house in Glasgow, to head to the wilds of the Scottish Uplands to start life as a Land Girl.

Jeannie soon falls in love with life on the busy Scottish hill farm, despite all of its hardships and challenges. She feels welcomed by the Cunningham family who values and cherishes her far more than her own rather remote and cold parents, and the work is rewarding.

She even finds her interest piqued by the brooding, attractive Tam, the son of the neighbouring farmer, and a sweet romance between them slowly blossoms. But even in the barren hills, they can’t avoid the hell of war, and as local men start disappearing off to fight at the Front, Jeannie’s idyllic life starts to crumble.

Those left behind try desperately to keep the home fires burning, but then Jeannie makes one devastating decision which changes the course of her and Tam’s lives forever.

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Extract From God’s Acre – Dee Yates

3. For Sale January 2002

Liz can’t believe her luck when she sees the ‘For Sale’ sign attached drunkenly to the front gate. It is unclear from the dilapidated state of the cottage whether its most recent resident is living in a similar state of neglect or has given up the unequal battle and departed to pastures new, either in this world or the next. What is clear is that the cottage, whatever its current decrepit appearance, has the best view in the village. And although Liz has often heard quoted the maxim ‘Never buy a house for the view’, she feels certain that, in this case, there will be a queue of would-be purchasers.

The estate agent seems taken aback by the speed of her response. He agrees to show her round and they arrange a time and a day.

When, two days later, she steps into the cottage she sees that the description of it being ‘in need of some modernisation’ is no exaggeration. But she is not put off by the paucity of rooms – two in fact, with what is little more than a corridor squeezed between, quaintly described in the brochure as a galley kitchen. The meagre space of the cooking area is further depleted by a rusty metal ladder that leads up into the attic. Liz peers up the ladder and is met by darkness and a cold draught of musty air.

A row of blackened pans hang from hooks beneath a shelf running the length of the kitchen. On it are ranged baking trays, rusting metal biscuit tins, jars and containers of various sizes, a glass demijohn, furry with grey dust, and a set of weighing scales, their copper surface tarnished and dull. It seems to Liz as though she has stepped back several decades into the kind of house beloved of museum curators. A stone sink stands in the corner beneath a small window and, next to it, an electric cooker. On the floor, linoleum, cracked and lifting round the edges, reveals glimpses of the stone floor beneath. All that is needed, she thinks, is the model of a cook, in a black dress, frilly apron and starched hat, standing uncomfortably angled at the stove, wooden spoon poised over a never-boiling double pan of hollandaise sauce. Although, she realises, even as she imagines it, that a maid of that generation would not have had the advantage of electricity. This amenity has been listed with others as contributing to part of the cottage’s ‘modernisation’. Looking up at the metal lampshade suspended from a frayed twist of wire, Liz considers the word overstated.

‘I hope the owner doesn’t mind us looking round when she’s out,’ she says, seeing the further signs of habitation in the stained tea towel on a hook beneath the window and a greasy oven glove hanging by its side. She turns to Kenneth Mackie, the young man from the estate agent’s, who has ventured no further than the front door. He sniffs.

‘“She” was a “he”, actually. I believe the old chap died, so I’m sure he won’t mind you looking round.’

‘Oh, I’d no idea.’ She scans the room, seeing it with new eyes. ‘Did he live here long?’

‘I believe so.’

‘It doesn’t look as though he had many visitors. That’s sad.’

Her companion glances at his watch. ‘Perhaps you would like to see the rest of the cottage.’ His voice is bland, disinterested. It is clear that he has no opinion on the previous resident, dead or otherwise, or the property in his charge.

‘Yes… yes please.’ Liz follows him into the bedroom. It’s sparsely furnished, but the heavy, old-fashioned pieces fill the space. The bed is situated within a recess, where it can be closed off with a curtain. The curtain has been pulled back and hooked behind a chair and the bedcovers are crumpled, as though someone has been lying on top of them. This intimacy comes as a shock to Liz. She glances towards the door, eager to leave the room and look elsewhere.

The living room is a little more welcoming. In it, she can picture the old man going about his tasks. He must have been very old, she thinks, given the antiquity of the furniture. His favourite chair is drawn up to the fireplace. Ashes lie cold in the grate and litter the hearth. On a rag rug, down-at-heel slippers wait for their departed owner. A naked light bulb hangs from the centre of the ceiling. Against the wall opposite the fireplace stands a bookcase, stuffed with volumes in identical orange-brown covers and with indecipherable titles. A small sash window adorned with cobwebs rations the light entering the room. She walks over to it, examining the deep recess with its eighteen-inch-thick walls. Hopefully, these will keep out the chill of winter.

On the windowsill is propped a solitary photograph. It is sepia and blotted with age. Liz steps up to it slowly and stares at the smiling girl with a frizz of hair encircling her face. She is standing in a field and holds a bucket in one hand, a rake in the other. Around her and in the distance are sheep. But the girl has eyes only for the view in front of her. She is looking not at the photographer but to one side. The young face is radiant. But it is not this that causes her heart to leap. It is the familiarity of the image in front of her.

It is a photo of Liz’s own mother.

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

My Thoughts…

Told from several points of view, from a historical and current day perspective, ‘God’s Acre’ creates a vivid picture of life in rural Scotland during World War 2 and in the twenty-first century. It ‘s a story of coming of age, working in the Land Army and finding out that love and family are not always bound by blood.

Jeannie is a free spirit, she is clever, but is not allowed to follow the same educational path as her brothers. Her clergyman father feels she should help in his parish, but she wants independence and freedom. Joining the Land Army means living in a rural setting, but the people are friendly and she finds she fits. Meeting Tam is love at first sight, but he is troubled and she is young and naive and it seems their love story is doomed to fail.

Liz knows little of her mother’s background when she visits the Scottish village her mother often talked about. Finding a cottage for sale, she visits and finds a tenuous connection. She buys the cottage and tries to rebuild her life and discover what she can about her mother’s past.

The historical viewpoints of this story are poignant and page turning, there is so much heartache, but a real sense of family. Jeannie is a lovely woman but so naive and this flaw in her character changes her whole life.

Believable, complex characters drive this story forward and make it an excellent read. The setting is full of visual imagery and you can imagine what working on the farm at this time was like for Jeannie. The mystery of Jeannie is revealed in a letter to her daughter, it is full of sadness and transparency and underlines the heartbreaking waste, caused by misunderstanding and the inability to trust. Despite this, the ending is hopeful for Liz in the present day and ends this lovely story in a satisfying way.

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

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Historical Fiction, Romance

Hetty’s Secret War- Rosie Clarke- #blogtour #4* #Review – #extract @Aria_Fiction @AnneHerries #WW2 #Historical Fiction #Romance

In 1939, with the world on the brink of war, one woman faces a future more uncertain than she had ever imagined…

Georgie – when the man she has always loved is sent to France on a secret war office mission every knock of the door fills her with dread of it being the feared telegram boy…

Beth – orphaned as a child, Beth is coming of age and determined to do her bit for the war effort. Caught up in a whirlwind romance, she marries only to become a war widow….and one expecting a baby who will never know his brave father. Can she find happiness again?

Hetty – desperately trying to make her way back from Paris to her beloved family in England, a fateful and tragic encounter brings Hetty to Chateau de Faubourg where she joins the resistance and risks both her heart and her life fighting for charismatic resistance leader Stefan Lefarge…

However dark the times, courage, determination and the power of friendship can overcome the hardships of war.

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

My Thoughts…

This is the third book in the ‘Women at War’ series, for those readers, like me who haven’t read the previous two books, there is a comprehensive summary at the beginning of the book, with character details and significant events explained and noted.

The story reads well as a standalone, but the characters are complex and the previous storylines intriguing, so that I wish I’d read the whole series. There is a distinctive writing style, in keeping with the time period and some of the dialogue seems a little stilted, but you get used to this, as the characters are believable and easy to like and the plot has many twists.

There is a satisfying balance of action, angst, historical detail and surprisingly sensual romance in this story. Focused primarily on Hetty as she fights a secret war in occupied France, the story also features, Georgie, Beth and to a lesser extent Annabel and Jessie, characters featured in more detail in previous books. Hetty’s story is exciting and shows her character development well.

The plot is interesting and well-paced and the characters are authentic to the time period but endear themselves quickly to the reader, so you become absorbed in their stories and want them to find happiness and peace as World War Two draws to a close.

An enjoyable, historical read, with notable characters and an intriguing plot.

Extract From Hetty’s Secret War

‘War imminent! Children evacuated from London!’

Beth shivered as she heard the strident tones of the newspaper boy standing outside the railway station. She’d had to change trains in London and, having an hour to spare, had gone for a quick shopping trip. Now she saw that the station was crowded. A party of young children were being herded at one end by a harassed-looking woman, who was obviously in charge of getting them to their destination in the country. But most of the travellers appeared to be young men; several of them dressed in army uniforms. Some were saying goodbye to family or girlfriends; others were obviously together and in a boisterous mood.

As she watched them jostling and shoving each other in a good-natured manner, she wondered if one or two had been drinking a little too much. Or perhaps it was a mixture of excitement and nerves. One of them had noticed her glance their way and a loud wolf whistle made her turn her head aside, her cheeks pink.

It wasn’t the first time she’d been whistled at, but being a reserved girl, except with her close friends, she didn’t particularly care for it and decided to make sure she entered a different carriage to the one picked by the party of boisterous young men.

When the train arrived, Beth chose a carriage already occupied by a woman and teenage boy and another young man, who was dressed in the uniform of an army officer. He didn’t look at her as she sat down and Beth settled herself to read a magazine she had bought. However, the train had a corridor rather than being individual closed carriages and she heard the laughter of the noisy young men as they made their way along the train but thankfully bypassed her carriage.

‘Terrible news, isn’t it?’ the woman sitting opposite said to Beth, obliging her to lower her magazine. ‘All those children being evacuated. I shouldn’t want my Marcus to be shipped off to strangers like that. I’m taking him to my sister’s and I’m going to stay put until all this nonsense is over.’

‘I think that’s a good idea,’ Beth said. ‘But I think you may be in for a long visit.’

‘Oh, don’t say that!’ the woman exclaimed. ‘My husband says once they get to grips with the Germans it will all be over in a matter of months. He joined up a couple of days ago, but he’s sure he’ll be home for Christmas. That’s what Daddy said, isn’t it, Marcus?’

‘I want to go and fight the Germans,’ the lad said, giving her a mutinous look. ‘Don’t want to stay with Auntie Peggy.’

‘You’ll like it when you get there. It’s nice in the country.’ She nodded at Beth. ‘Ask that young lady – it’s nice in the country, isn’t it?’

‘I like it,’ Beth replied, eyeing the sullen lad doubtfully. ‘You’ll enjoy exploring and climbing trees, I dare say.’

His mother looked horrified. ‘For goodness’ sake, don’t put ideas in his head. Climbing trees are much too dangerous.’

‘Want to go to the toilet,’ Marcus said. ‘And I feel sick.’

‘You went before we came,’ his harassed mother said and frowned at him. ‘I suppose I’d better take you.’ She looked at Beth. ‘Would you mind keeping an eye on my parcels? I don’t want to cart them all the way to the toilet and back.’

‘Yes, of course,’ Beth said and smiled as she went out.

She happened to glance at the man in army uniform sitting opposite and he grinned at her. ‘I wouldn’t be in her shoes,’ he said. ‘That young chap has been spoiled if you ask me.’

‘Yes, I think he has,’ Beth agreed and looked down at her magazine. She was just beginning to get interested in one of the articles when the door was thrust back and three of the noisy young men she had noticed on the platform entered.

‘Don’t mind if we sit here, do you, darlin’?’ one of them asked with a cheeky grin.

‘Two of the seats are taken,’ Beth said, ‘but there are two available.’

‘Thanks, darlin’,’ the soldier replied. ‘That means you’re out, Charlie. Get orf down the train and we’ll see yer later, mate.’

‘Who are you givin’ yer orders?’ the other replied, but seeing that neither of his friends were about to oblige by giving up the seats they had taken, he scowled and went out.

The soldier with the cheeky grin had chosen to sit next to Beth, his companion sitting in the corner near the door. She felt the pressure of the soldier’s warm body as he deliberately pressed his thigh up against hers. She resisted looking at him, returning to her magazine, although it was only a pretence now because she was conscious of the leering looks the soldier was sending her way.

‘All on your own then, darlin’?’ he asked. ‘Me and me mates are on our way to Torquay. We’ve got a couple of days leave before we join our units see – going to make the most of our time if you get my meaning?’

‘Really,’ Beth said, her heart sinking as she realised that she would have to endure his presence all the way home. ‘That will be nice for you.’

‘Yeah – find ourselves a few girls, have a bevvy or two,’ he said. ‘Do you come from round there, darlin’?’

Rosie is happily married and lives in a quiet village in East Anglia. Writing books is a passion for Rosie, she also likes to read, watch good films and enjoys holidays in the sunshine. She loves shoes and adores animals, especially squirrels and dogs.  
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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.

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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

4* Review- Sara Alexander – The Secret Legacy

 

 

Do our secrets make us who we are?
Santina is spending her final days at her home, Villa San Vito, in the beautiful Italian town of Positano. As she decides the fate of the magnificent eighteenth-century palazzo, she must confront the choices that led her here.

In 1949, hoping to escape poverty, young Santina becomes housekeeper to a distinguished British major and his creative, impulsive wife, Adeline.

When they move to Positano, Santina joins them, raising their daughter as Adeline’s mental health declines. With each passing year, Santina becomes more deeply entwined with the family, trying to navigate her complicated feelings for a man who is much more than an employer―while hiding secrets that could shatter the only home she knows . . .

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My Thoughts…

‘The Secret Legacy’ is a saga of Santina’s life in the twentieth century against a vividly described Italian setting. Varied and detailed with plenty of rich imagery of Italy and its food coupled with historical detail from Santina’s early life there is a pleasing authenticity to this story. The forbidden romance is everything you could wish, and the characters develop believably. Perfect summer reading.

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

Posted in Book Review

Coming Home to Island House – Erica James – 5* Review

It’s the summer of 1939, and after touring an unsettled Europe to promote her latest book, Romily Temple returns home to Island House and the love of her life, the charismatic Jack Devereux. 

But when Jack falls ill, his estranged family are called home and given seven days to find a way to bury their resentments and come together. 

With war now declared, each member of the family is reluctantly forced to accept their new stepmother and confront their own shortcomings. But can the habits of a lifetime be changed in one week? And can Romily, a woman who thrives on adventure, cope with the life that has been so unexpectedly thrust upon her?

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My Thoughts…

Vivid characters and locations bring this family saga to life at an iconic time in the 20th-century. Set in 1939 and 1940, Britain at war is the setting for a dysfunctional family brought together by the death of their estranged father.

Romily marries Jack, an older man, soulmates they live the perfect life although Jack regrets his distant relationship with his children. Irreparably changed by grief after the death of his first wife, Jack distanced himself emotionally from his children. Their memories of him are of a strict disciplinarian, judgemental and never to be pleased.

Romily fulfils her husband’s dying wish to try an unite his family, providing the story with conflict, laughter, poignancy and romance as she weaves her magic amongst Jack’s emotionally damaged children. The character development and depth of connections forged with family members make this an absorbing read. The images of war and life in Britain are well-researched and give the story and enthralling authenticity.

The gently paced plot has many dramatic twists that add to the angst Romily faces. The characters are well-drawn and individual, there are many stories within this book, which are concluded well but with enough loose ends to make the reader want to know what happens next in their lives.

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

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: A Last Goodbye – Dee Yates – 4* Review

In a remote hill farm in beautiful Scotland, Ellen and her father Duncan are enjoying a peaceful life away from the belching mills and hustle and bustle of the growing towns. In time they’re joined by rugged farmhand Tom, come to lend some muscle to Ellen’s ageing father, who has begun to find sheep farming hard to manage alone. Almost inevitably romance grows between Ellen and the new arrival but once married, however, Ellen discovers that Tom has a brutish side to his character. As war in Europe spreads, she begins to dream of him leaving for the trenches as a way for her to escape.

Even with Tom fighting abroad, however, the family cannot hide from the realities of war as a group of POWs are brought to their valley to build a reservoir. And amongst the men, sworn enemies and shunned by all the locals, Ellen finds a gentler heart that she is difficult to resist…

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My Thoughts…

A different perspective on the effect of WW1, which explores the horror of war at the front and the battles fought by those left behind. Told, mainly from Ellen and Tom’s points of view the reader sees life on a Scottish sheep farm and in the trenches before and during WW1.

Tom decides to move from Yorkshire to Scotland for personal reasons, his relationship with Ellen happens by chance when his plans go awry, and it proves to be troubled from the start. Tom’s youth may excuse some of his actions, but his personality has many dark areas, which lead to violence and withdrawal from his new family, these are described well in this story, and the outcome is not a surprise. The trench scenes from WW1 are descriptive and convey the horror for the young soldiers in vivid detail.

Ellen never knew her mother and so has no female guidance when faced with Tom’s interest and questionable behaviour to a such a young girl. She has to grow up quickly and becomes a strong, likeable woman who always puts her family first. The hardship and heartbreak Ellen suffers is poignant reading.

The characters are well-written and realistic and the setting dramatic and unforgiving. The historical element adds depth to this emotional story and puts the characters’ actions and interactions in perspective.

The ending is full of hope for Ellen and has an air of inevitability for Tom. Hopefully, Ellen’s next chapter will be in a sequel?

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

 

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Posted in Book Review

Beneath an Indian Sky Renita D’Silva 5 * Review

 

An unforgettable and heart-wrenching story of love, betrayal and family secrets. In colonial India, a young woman finds herself faced with an impossible choice, the consequences of which will echo through the generations…

1928. In British-ruled India, headstrong Sita longs to choose her own path, but her only destiny is a good marriage. After a chance meeting with a Crown Prince leads to a match, her family’s status seems secured, and she moves into the palace, where peacocks fill the gardens and tapestries adorn the walls. But royal life is far from simple, and her failure to provide an heir makes her position fragile. Soon Sita is on the brink of losing everything, and the only way to save herself could mean betraying her oldest friend…

2000. When Priya’s marriage ends in heartbreak, she flees home to India and the palace where her grandmother, Sita, once reigned as Queen. But as grandmother and granddaughter grow closer, Priya has questions. Why is Sita so reluctant to accept that her royal status ended with Independence? And who is the mysterious woman who waits patiently at the palace gates day after day? Soon Priya uncovers a secret Sita has kept for years – and which will change the shape of her life forever…

A breathtaking journey through India from British rule to Independence and beyond; a world of green hills, cardamom-scented air, and gold thread glinting in the sun, brought to life.

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My Thoughts…

An evocative, emotional encounter with India from the mid-1920s to the millennium, tracing the lives of three women through their hopes, loves, lies and secrets.
Sita and Mary become friends both finding something in the other that they like and admire, but even at the beginning of their childhood friendship, lies and secrets are evident. A tragic event changes the course of both their lives but fate brings them back together as young women. One suffers the ultimate betrayal, and the other carries a guilty secret that blights her entire life. The women’s lives are full of complex relationships, and the three stories are enthralling, where they intertwine the emotion intensifies, demonstrating their ambition, independent spirit and tenacity.
A beautifully written, thought-provoking story. Set mainly in India, the setting is atmospheric and imaginable through the vividly descriptive prose. Historically the book is set in a pivotal time for India and its people, which provides an opportunity for some and takes away privilege from others, in its wake. A story of childhood dreams, and adult realities and the fine line between good and evil, a lovely way to while away a few hours.
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

 

Posted in Book Review

A Place to Remember – Jenn McLeod – 5* Review

A multi-generational contemporary romantic saga set in a cattle ranch in Central Queensland, Australia.

A man loses five years of his life. Two women are desperate for him to remember.

Running away for the second time in her life, twenty-seven-year-old Ava believes the cook’s job at a country B&B is perfect until she meets the owner’s son, John Tate.

The young fifth-generation grazier is a beguiling blend of both man, boy and a terrible flirt. With their connection immediate and intense, they begin a clandestine affair right under the noses of John’s formidable parents.

Thirty years later, Ava returns to Candlebark Creek with her daughter, Nina, who is determined to meet her mother’s lost love for herself. While struggling to find her own place in the world, Nina discovers an urban myth about a love-struck man, a forgotten engagement ring, and a dinner reservation back in the eighties. Now she must decide if revealing the truth will hurt more than it heals…

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A Place to Remember

Extract

Candlebark Creek, 1985–6

Chapter 1

Young Ava

The massive slab of varnished wood was the biggest tabletop twenty-seven-year-old Ava had ever seen. Still, she almost doubted it could hide the nervous jig in her legs that both hands pressing firmly on failed to stop. She hoped the folder’s contents would be enough to convince the lady of the house that she was perfect for the position.

‘I did say on the telephone that the role is a varied one and not all cookery and not only when we have guests staying. No one on a property like Ivy-May can afford to be picky or precious about their jobs.’ It was fifteen minutes into the interview, and the woman’s expression had yet to shift into anything close to a smile. ‘Your time off is your own, but we all do our share.’

Marjorie Tate paused before slowly rolling up her sleeves as if driving home the point. The action offered Ava a glimpse of hardworking hands: stubby and tanned with a simple gold wedding band and bitten-down nails. Somewhere around forty or forty-five, the B-and-B operator wasn’t old, just plain, as though all her effort went into something other than herself.

‘I do consider myself versatile, Mrs Tate, and I’m always keen to learn new things. I’d also have little need for days off in a town like Candlebark Creek. There aren’t many places to go or things to do.’

For that careless statement, Ava got a raised eyebrow and a minute of the clock ticking above the stove.

‘You seem young to have had so many jobs, although you have provided an impressive CV and an extensive portfolio of dishes.’

‘Thirteen years in the workforce.’ Ava sat straight and proud. ‘The last eleven in hospitality.’ She could see the woman mentally subtracting eleven from twenty-seven. ‘And I was never fired from a job,’ she added, sounding a little too enthusiastic. ‘Some were set contracts, some seasonal. Hospitality can be like that.’

‘Ivy-May B-and-B might be small and out of the way, but I’m aware of the industry’s many facets.’ Marjorie Tate flicked through the plastic sleeves of the folder. She stopped again on the résumé at the front. ‘You have no school certificate listed.’

‘I left school when I turned fifteen.’

‘Before exams?’ Another raised eyebrow, another flick through the folder’s many photographs.

Never before had Ava’s lack of formal qualifications been an issue. Hands-on experience was what landed you a kitchen job, and every role, from waiting tables to making desserts, had added to Ava’s expertise and skills. As confident as she was about her abilities, she still sat with her hands clasped between her knees, fingers crossed.

‘Our son finished high school a couple of years ago and did well. John’s a bit of a dreamer, although there’s no doubting his passion for the land.’ The grazier’s wife with the moon-shaped face – taut, shiny skin, rosy cheeks – reminded Ava of a wooden babushka doll, with its rotund face and multiple hidden layers. The unexpected softness in her voice when she’d spoken her son’s name revealed one. ‘Naturally, he was keen to finish studying early to work with his father. John’s very capable and quite mature for his age. Children in these parts tend to grow up quickly,’ she added. ‘No choice out here. Operating heavy machinery and working bulls requires a sensible head on robust shoulders. But as much as the property had needed more hands at the time, I insisted John stay on at school.’ She peered over the top of thick black spectacle frames. ‘The value of a proper education should not be underestimated. Dreams are more achievable with a thorough education, and it shows discipline. Smart employers insist on such qualities.’

Ava nodded, forcing a smile. Was the woman telling her she was no longer a suitable candidate? Should she try speaking to her feminine side and explain what had happened to drive her from the city to hide in an out-of-the-way country town? Marjorie Tate was more likely to find fault because Ava had allowed herself to be put in such a position in the first place. Unfortunately, Zac had not come with a warning plastered on his forehead. At least he couldn’t find her here and affect her employment chances.

Could he?

My Thoughts…

It’s rare for a story to make me cry, but this tale of lost chances and the abiding love of a mother and daughter did. An epic tale, set in Queensland, Austrailia, Ava and Nina’s story spans over thirty years. You can’t recapture the past, but Ava finds it is not the case but is she prepared to risk her heart again?

Vividly described, you get a sense of the wildness and beauty of the dramatic setting, but mostly the land is unforgiving and demands everything from those who work it. I’ve never visited Australia and probably never will, but this story lets me travel there in my imagination.

It takes a while to get into this story, but each twist and heartbreak and risk Ava takes, draws you into her world past and present until you are emotionally involved and want her to have a happy ending, even when it seems unlikely.

The characters are believable, and their life events realistic, not everything falls into place as Ava’s past collides with her present, but there is hope. She is successful in her career and more importantly her family life, even though she has never forgotten the man she loved and left.

I read the ‘Thorn Birds’ about forty years ago when I was a teenager and still remember it now, and similarly, I think the emotion and poignancy of this story will stay with me too. If you get the chance, read this.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

JENN J MCLEOD photo

After leaving the corporate working world, Jenn J. McLeod decided to travel Australia in a fifth-wheeler caravan and fulfil her lifelong ambition to write. She has since published four novels.

Website: https://www.jennjmcleod.com/

Twitter: @jennjmcleod

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