After her beloved grandmother Rozenn’s death, Morane is heartbroken to learn that her sister is the sole inheritor of the family home in Cornwall—while she herself has been written out of the will. With both her business and her relationship with her sister on the rocks, Morane becomes consumed by one question: what made Rozenn turn her back on her?
When she finds an old letter linking her grandmother to Brittany under German occupation, Morane escapes on the trail of her family’s past. In the coastal village where Rozenn lived in 1941, she uncovers a web of shameful secrets that haunted Rozenn to the end of her days. Was it to protect those she loved that a desperate Rozenn made a heartbreaking decision and changed the course of all their lives forever?
Morane goes in search of the truth but the truth can be painful. Can she make her peace with the past and repair her relationship with her sister?
I received a copy of this book from Lake Union Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is a poignant dual timeline story, a family saga from occupied France in the 1940s to the present day. The prologue gives clues about the story’s secrets and the heartbreaking discoveries to follow.
Two sisters Morane and Gwen, find their relationship strained when their beloved grandmother Rozenn bequeaths her house to Gwen. Morane has already suffered, and now she feels rejected by her grandmother. A chance discovery leads Morane on a quest to find out about Rozenn’s life in occupied France, which has surprising consequences.
The dual storylines are well written, both full of vivid characters and emotion. The historical timeline is particularly engaging, as it conveys the horrors and stark choices of life in occupied France. The familial relationships are relatable, and the plot twists keep the reader engaged.
This is a family saga of betrayal, forgiveness, love and sacrifice with a satisfying conclusion.
Eliza Graham’s novels have been long-listed for the UK’s Richard & Judy Summer Book Club in the UK, and short-listed for World Book Day’s ‘Hidden Gem’ competition. She has also been nominated for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction.
Her books have been bestsellers both in Europe and the US.
She is fascinated by the world of the 1930s and 1940s: the Second World War and its immediate aftermath and the trickle-down effect on future generations. Consequently she’s made trips to visit bunkers in Brittany, decoy harbours in Cornwall, wartime radio studios in Bedfordshire and cemeteries in Szczecin, Poland. And those are the less obscure research trips.
It was probably inevitable that Eliza would pursue a life of writing. She spent biology lessons reading Jean Plaidy novels behind the textbooks, sitting at the back of the classroom. In English and history lessons she sat right at the front, hanging on to every word. At home she read books while getting dressed and cleaning her teeth. During school holidays she visited the public library multiple times a day.
Eliza lives in an ancient village in the Oxfordshire countryside with her family. Not far from her house there is a large perforated sarsen stone that can apparently summon King Alfred if you blow into it correctly. Eliza has never managed to summon him. Her interests still mainly revolve around reading, but she also enjoys walking in the downland country around her home and travelling around the world to research her novels.
Escape to the Cornish coast this spring with a trip to the beautiful Emerald Cove, where the sea sparkles in the sunshine, the sand glitters like gold, and true love is in the air. From the bestselling author of Sunrise over Sapphire Bay comes this gorgeously romantic and uplifting tale.
Skye Philips and Jesse Hamilton have a complicated relationship. They’ve been neighbours, best friends and even briefly married. But ever since Skye returned to the beautiful shores of Jewel Island to help her sisters Aria and Clover run their family hotel, she doesn’t know where she stands with Jesse.
When they’re together the chemistry between them sizzles, but with Jesse living in Canada and Skye on the Cornish island she calls home, they’ve kept things casual. Till now…
Jesse is coming to Jewel Island for the annual Pudding Parade and Skye knows this is her chance to tell him how she really feels. But putting her heart on the line isn’t easy when it’s been broken in the past. Will Jesse return her love? Or will she lose him for good?
Everything she’s ever wanted can be hers if she’s willing to take the chance, but is Skye brave enough to risk her heart once again?’
Set sail to the Cornish coast where sunshine, laughter and romance awaits. This stunning love story is guaranteed to steal your heart this summer
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
The third book in an engaging series about three sisters, set at a hotel complex in a picturesque cove, Skye’s story is complete, but read the series, its too good to miss. With her past littered with failed relationships, her friendship with Jesse endures despite living in different countries. Physical compatibility isn’t a problem, but both deny their emotional bond.
This story focuses on the Pudding parade, which brings Jesse and his daughter Bea back to the cove. This emotional story is full of conflicted romance and introspection. The characterisation is believable, especially the sibling bond between the sisters. Bea is a pivotal character, and there’s a mystery involving a guest.
This is a heartwarming story with love, sweet things and happy endings.
Gayle is a highly successful and motivated business woman, but her success has come at a price – she hasn’t spoken to her daughters, Ella and Samantha, for years. But when Gayle has an accident at work, she realises she needs to make amends with her family.
And so she invites herself to join Ella and Samantha for their Christmas in the beautiful Scottish Highlands. The sisters are none too pleased that their mother has inserted herself into their Christmas plans. They have each other – and don’t need their mother back in their lives. Or so they think…
As they embark on their first family Christmas together in years, will the three women learn that sometimes facing up to a few home truths is all you need to heal your heart?
I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Snow and the Scottish Highlands at Christmas seems idyllic, and that’s what Sam’s hoping for as she and her sister try out a highland lodge for her bespoke festive holidays’ company. They always spend the festive season together, but this time their estranged mother is coming too. Gayle has a successful company, but her family life is non-existent. This is not something she worries about until she has an accident and realises how alone she is.
The story told mainly from the three women’s point of view is engaging, poignant and realistic. The setting may be like a fairytale, but the angst is real and threatens the magic of the season. There are humour and romance are interwoven into the emotional minefield of past loss and secrets. The flawed characters are appealing, and you want them to find familial happiness.
The romance is magical and passionate. The childlike perspective from Tabitha, light relief in this emotional tale and the end of this story is positive and uplifting.
Sarah Parsons has a choice ahead of her. After the trip of a lifetime she’s somehow returned home with TWO handsome men wanting to whisk her away into the sunset.
Pulled in two directions across the globe, it’s making life trickier than it sounds. Her gorgeous American, Josh, wants to meet Sarah in Hawaii for a holiday to remember. Meanwhile silver fox, James, plans to wine and dine her in London.
It’s a lot to handle for this Aussie girl, who had totally sworn off men!
Join Sarah after her adventure in One Summer in Santorini, for the heart-warming and uplifting third novel in The Holiday Romance series.
I received a copy of this book from One More Chapter and the Author in return for an honest review.
The love triangle that left us guessing at the end of One Summer in Santorini is back, and it’s decision time for Sarah. You need to read book one to find out how she meets James and Josh, but there is enough backstory to clue you into her dilemma.
The story takes place in London with James, Hawaii with Josh and then New Zealand and Australia. The travel is descriptive and gives this romantic comedy its edge. Sarah is a little like a child in a sweet shop wanting both, having both and then not sure which she likes best. However, her emotional journey is insightful. She decides, but is it who you thought? I confess to being slightly disappointed with her choice, but it’s the right one for her.
The characters are flawed and relatable there are lots of humorous moments which are easy to visualise and then there’s the romance what more do you need? Lovely.
I’m a writer and traveller with a lengthy bucket list and cheeky sense of humour, and many of my travel adventures have found their way into my books. I’m also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover, and a coffee snob, though my writing is mostly fuelled by copious mugs of strong, milky tea (no sugar).
“I JUST NEED TO KNOW…WHICH ONE OF YOU SLEPT WITH MY HUSBAND?”
My One Month Marriage – Shari Low
You know that “till death do us part” bit in the wedding vows? Well, Zoe Danton believed it. One month after she said “I do”, the man she loved is gone, given his marching orders after Zoe discovered a devastating secret.
As teenagers facing a crushing loss, Zoe made a pact with her three sisters to stick together no matter what. Now she’s discovered that one of them may have been the reason her husband betrayed her. She’s lost her happy-ever-after, but has she lost a sister too?
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Not the most uplifting of titles, but certainly one that starts you turning the pages. Whilst Zoe’s unfortunately short marriage draws you into this story, what you find within the pages is an excellent family drama, full of emotions, laughter, lies, loss and secrets and many poignant moments that make you think.
The characters and setting are authentic and relatable, and despite the different viewpoints and timescales, it’s easy to read. You care about the characters, whilst experiencing a gamut of emotions with them.
Zoe and her three sisters are close especially after the loss they suffered as young girls. The family drama affected each of them in differing ways as they coped with it, and the resultant women are on the surface strikingly different personalities. This is a complex story, moving between the sisters’ points of view and the past and present. You learn what has made them into the women they are, and the connection they have Zoe’s failed marriage.
Some of the storylines are repeated, seen from a different point of view, but this part of this author’s writing style and is not a negative, but a way to see why the characters are motivated to act as they do.
A lovely story of family and sisters and learning to let go of the past.
Extract from My One Month Marriage – Shari Low
But back to the point. Yvie and Marina are right. If I worked anywhere else – the Civil Service, Top Shop, NASA – then none of this would have happened.
And to quote everyone in the entire history of the world who ever messed up, I just wish I could go back in time and change so many things.
In fact, right now I’d settle for just understanding what has happened to my life because there are still so many questions. So many uncertainties.
My phone buzzes and I stretch over a ceramic planter in the shape of a pair of wellies (from Auntie Geraldine – she has a picture of Alan Titchmarsh on her kitchen wall) to retrieve it from the table beside the sofa.
Marina’s heels click into the room and in my peripheral vision I can see that she slides elegantly into the armchair by the window, plate of sushi in hand.
The name at the top of the notification makes my anxiety soar. Roger Kemp. Sadly, no relation to anyone who was ever a member of Spandau Ballet. Or that slightly scary bloke who played Grant Mitchell in EastEnders and now makes documentaries about criminal gangs and serial killers.
With a shaking thumb, I swipe open the message.
Roger Kemp is a friend and client, the director of a hotel chain that employs our agency for all its marketing needs. After the proverbial hit the fan, I’d asked him for a favour. A slightly underhand, confidentiality-breaching, possibly borderline-illegal favour. With a bit of luck, the bloke that makes the documentaries about true crime won’t find out about it.
I’d asked Roger to check on who paid for a room in one of his hotels last weekend, on the night that my husband broke his vows only thirty days after making them. You know, that fairly insignificant one about being faithful in good times and bad. You see, I know it wasn’t my husband because he’d put his credit cards in my handbag that evening, so it must have been someone else. The other woman.
The thought forces me to take another swig of the unidentifiable pink cocktail.
Anyway, the favour I’d requested of Roger would mean asking someone in his financial team to pull up the credit card records and sharing the sordid details with me.
Now I stare in disbelief at the answer, typed right there on the screen of my phone.
Shari Low is the #1 bestselling author of over 20 novels, including One Day In Winter and With Or Without You and a collection of parenthood memories called Because Mummy Said So. She lives near Glasgow and her first title for Boldwood will be My One Month Marriage in January 2020.
Some things you can never escape. I should know. I’ve been running away for fifteen years, and now I’m right back where I started…
Skye Turner’s family fell apart the day her twin sister Ginny died. Everyone in their tiny community in the Scottish Highlands accepted it was an accident, but more than one person in town is haunted by a secret from that night…
Skye left after the funeral, believing her mother blamed her for Ginny’s death. Skye should have taken care of Ginny, should have been there to stop her falling from the cliffs that night. Over the years, she’s barely spoken to her mother, until the day she receives a phone call asking her to return home.
As soon as Skye arrives in her childhood home, she knows something isn’t right. Her mother has kept the bedroom she shared with her sister like a shrine, Ginny’s clothes and diaries gathering dust, as though her mother thinks Ginny might come back. And there are whispers in town that Ginny wasn’t alone when she died…
Skye is desperate to find out the truth, but her mother just wants her family back together. As Skye begins to unravel everyone’s lies, she realises the truth might tear her family apart for good…
My Mother’s Silence is a twisty and emotional novel about the bonds between mothers and daughters, and what happens when we hide things from those we love the most.
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A family tragedy resonates on a small Scottish community, It tears a local family apart, but now it’s time for Skye to come home. She’s unsure of her reception, but her younger brother insists her mother needs her. Her new life is in tatters, she has nowhere else, but can she face going back? This is a story about sisters, mothers and daughters and the secrets families keep to protect those they love most.
Told in the first person from Skye’s point of view, this is a compelling, emotional tale of a woman’s search for answers so that she can finally lose the guilt and move on with her life.Skye has done most of her growing up with strangers, always moving, never finding the peace, she unconsciously seeks. Circumstances, force her back home for Christmas, but what she finds is not what she expects.
The characters in the family and the wider village are well written and realistic. They are all hiding something, but Skye’s return opens Pandora’s box and finally, with the help of Nick, an ex-detective the truth is uncovered.The family relationships and tensions are believable and poignant, The mystery part of the plot is cleverly constructed and its resolution satisfying.
The romance is secondary to the family drama and mystery, but adds light to the darkness and makes the ending romantic and hopeful.
Ordinary families and tragic events make absorbing reading when instilled with a perfect balance of angst, hope, love, mystery, romance and sadness.
Everyone that meets Kat Keating is mesmerised. Beautiful, smart and charming, she is everything a good girl should be.
Her sister Eleanor, on the other hand, knows she can’t compete with Kat. On the awkward side of tall, clever enough to be bullied, and full of the responsibilities only an older sibling can understand, Eleanor grows up knowing she’s not a good girl.
This is the story of the Keating sisters – through a childhood fraught with secrets, adolescent rivalries, and on into adulthood with all its complexities and misunderstandings. Until a terrible truth brings the sisters crashing together and finally, Eleanor begins to uncover just how good Kat really was.
Good Girls is a love story, a coming-of-age story, a mystery and a tear-jerker. But most of all it’s a reminder of who to keep close and who to trust with your darkest secrets.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Two sisters, once close, but who have become estranged as they grew older. Eleanor, the older has her own reasons, but she’s never understood her sister Kat’s. Drawn together again, by a cruel stroke of fate, is it too late to reconnect?
This is an excellent family drama, with dark family secrets that devastate the once close sisterly bond. The story begins with Eleanor rushing to be with her sister, and them drifts back in time to the mid-1980s when they were young girls, and then the early 1990s, when Eleanor left for university.
The historical events slowly illuminate the present discord and misunderstanding, but all is not revealed until it is in some ways, too late to make amends. Serendipity plays a part in this story, as it often does in reality, and Eleanor gradually comes to terms with her past and the possibility of a hopeful future.
The cast of characters resonate, they all play a part in Eleanor’s life but have their own motivations and flaws, which makes them real. The story is realistically peppered with laughter, sadness, anger and despair. It is a poignant reminder that you cannot sometimes trust those closest to you, and of the rollercoaster nature of life.
An emotional family drama, with a realistic plot and memorable characters.
Author Interview – Amanda Brookfield – Good Girls
What inspired you to write ‘Good Girls’?
My original idea was to write about two sisters who are driven apart and then re-connected by the same man, deciding to get in touch by email after twenty years. But then the story took off in a hundred other directions, as stories do!
What interests you about family drama? Why are stories about sisters so absorbing?
We all come from families of one kind or another – our upbringings forge us, whether we like it or not – and I love looking at the myriad ways we try to deal with that. Sisters are a prime and rich example (I have two of my own!), being a relationship that is full of rivalries and ups and downs. But there are also, always, the ties of love and loyalty that continue to bind us as siblings, long after we have gone our separate ways in the adult world. This is a fascinating seam to explore as a novelist.
Dialogue is very important in a family drama story. How do you make your dialogue realistic?
You can have the most gripping plot, but if the voices of the characters do no ring true then it will fall flat. The way I work is to hear my characters speak inside my head. In fact, often snatches of dialogue – of how my characters would communicate – arrive at unexpected moments when I am away from my desk, driving the car say, or walking the dog. I have learnt to trust these snatches and write them down – it is my imagination working overtime, and 9 times out of 10 it is absolutely right. I guess it is like being an actor, trying to get inside the psyche of a protagonist.
How do you create your characters? What makes them believable and real?
Constructing a character is a bit like doing a jigsaw. You decide what they look like, and where they live; what age they are and what they do for a living. You give them hopes, hobbies and fears. Then you throw events at them and see what they do! If there is enough substance to your creations, enough humanity, the the way they behave under pressure will feel real and credible for the reader.
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
I read as widely as possible – mostly fiction, but also memoir, travel and some history. I love being surprised by what I find on the page and always have my antennae up to learn new things, both creatively and factually. If someone recommends a book to me passionately enough, then I will always give it a go! I also try to avoid reading books that I think might be similar to whatever I am working on – I hate the idea of being influenced or feeling that someone has already gone where I am trying to go.
What are you currently writing?
I am halfway through a novel about a woman plucking the courage to leave her abusive husband – one of those subtle monsters that no one else knows about. I am writing the story from my heroine’s point of view, so it has an intensity that feels new and exciting. It is important for me to feel that each new writing project is stretching the boundaries of what I have done before.
Extract from ‘Good Girls’ – Amanda Brookfield
CHAPTER ONE January 2013
Eleanor decided to take a taxi from the station, even though she knew it would cost ten precious pounds and mean a wait. Being so rural, only a handful of cars served the area, but she didn’t want to be a bother to Howard, her brother-in-law. She texted both him and Kat to say she would be there within the hour and stayed as warm as she could in the small arched station entrance. It was a cold, dank morning, not raining for once but with air like icy metal against her skin.
The taxi driver who pulled up some twenty minutes later exuded an attitude of reluctance that made Eleanor disinclined to make conversation. When they hit a tail-back, thanks to a loop round the old Roman bridge, still not fixed from the heavy flooding over the New Year, he thumped his steering wheel. ‘A bloody joke. We can land men on the moon and still it takes three weeks to fix a few old stones.’ Eleanor murmured agreement but found that she didn’t mind much. The fields on either side of the road were still visibly waterlogged. After the grimy mêlée of south London, it was a visual feast – ethereal, shimmering silver bands engraved with the black reflections of leafless trees and smudgy January clouds.
The usual criss-cross of feelings was stirring at being back in such proximity to the landscape of her childhood. Just twenty miles away, her father was a resident in a small care home called The Bressingham, which he had once included in his rounds as a parish priest, days long since lost to him through the fog of dementia. Howard and Kat’s substantial Georgian house was ten miles in the opposite direction, on the fringes of a town called Fairfield. They had moved from Holland Park seven years before, a year after the birth of their third child, Evie. At the time, Eleanor had been surprised to get the change of address card. She had always regarded her little sister and husband as life-long townies, Kat with her posh quirky dress-making commissions to private clients and Howard with his big-banker job. It was because they saw the house in a magazine and fell in love with it, Kat had explained at one of their rare subsequent encounters, in the manner of one long used to plucking things she wanted out of life, like fruits off a tree.
But recently life had not been so cooperative. A small tumour had been removed from Kat’s bowel and she was in bed recovering. Howard had reported the event earlier in the week, by email, and when Eleanor had got on the phone, as he must have known she would, he had said that the operation had gone well and that Kat was adamant that she didn’t need sisterly visits. No further treatment was required. She would be up and about in a matter of days. Their regular babysitter, Hannah, was increasing her hours to plug gaps with the children and he was taking a week off from his daily commute into the City. ‘But I am her sister,’ Eleanor had insisted, hurt, in spite of knowing better. ‘I’d just like to see her. Surely she can understand that.’ Howard had said he would get back to her, but then Kat had phoned back herself, saying why didn’t Eleanor pop down on Saturday afternoon.
‘Nice,’ said the driver, following Eleanor’s instructions to turn between the laburnums that masked the handsome red-brick walls and gleaming white sash windows and pulling up behind the two family cars, both black, one a tank-sized station wagon, the other an estate. He fiddled with his satnav while Eleanor dug into her purse for the right money. I am not the rich one, she wanted to cry, seeing the visible sag of disappointment on his sheeny unshaven face at the sight of her twenty-pence tip; I am merely the visiting elder sister who rents a flat by a Clapham railway line, who tutors slow or lazy kids to pay her bills and who has recently agreed to write an old actor’s memoirs for a sum that will barely see off her overdraft.
Howard answered the door, taking long enough to compound Eleanor’s apprehensions about having pushed for the visit. He was in a Barbour and carrying three brightly coloured backpacks, clearly on the way out of the house. ‘Good of you to come.’ Brandishing the backpacks, he kissed her perfunctorily on both cheeks. ‘Brownies, go-carting and a riding lesson – pick-ups in that order. Then two birthday parties and a bowling alley. God help me. See you later maybe. She’s upstairs,’ he added, somewhat unnecessarily. ‘
‘The Big Sister arrives,’ Kat called out before Eleanor had even crossed the landing. ‘Could you tug that curtain wider?’ she added as Eleanor entered the bedroom. ‘I want as much light as possible.’
‘So, how are you?’ Eleanor asked, adjusting the offending drape en route to kissing Kat’s cheek, knowing it was no moment to take offence at the Big Sister thing, in spite of the reflex of deep, instinctive certainty that Kat had said it to annoy. At thirty-eight she was the big sister, by three years. She was also almost six-foot, with the heavy-limbed, dark-haired, brown-eyed features that were such echoes of their father, while Kat, as had been pointed out as far back as either of them could remember, had inherited an uncanny replication of their mother’s striking looks, from the lithe elfin frame and flinty-blue feline eyes to the extraordinary eye-catching tumble of white-blonde curls. ‘You look so well,’ Eleanor exclaimed, happiness at the truth of this observation making her voice bounce, while inwardly she marvelled at her sibling’s insouciant beauty, utterly undiminished by the recent surgery. Her skin was like porcelain, faintly freckled; her hair in flames across the pillow.
‘Well, thank you, and thank goodness, because I feel extremely well,’ Kat retorted. ‘So please don’t start telling me off again for not having kept you better informed. As I said on the phone, the fucking thing was small and isolated. They have removed it – snip-snip,’ she merrily scissored two fingers in the air. ‘So I am not going to need any further treatment, which is a relief frankly since I would hate to lose this lot.’ She yanked at one of the flames. ‘Shallow, I know, but there it is.’
‘It’s not shallow,’ Eleanor assured her quietly, experiencing one of the sharp twists of longing for the distant days when they had been little enough and innocent enough to take each other’s affections for granted. They had been like strangers for years now in comparison, shouting across an invisible abyss.
Amanda Brookfield is the bestselling author of 15 novels including Relative Love and Before I Knew You, and a memoir, For the Love of a Dog starring her Golden Doodle Mabel. She lives in London and is currently a Visiting Fellow at Univ College Oxford. Her first book with Boldwood, Good Girls, will be published on 8th October 2019.
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.
Separated by time and distance, two sisters seek answers for all they’ve lost
When Alice Verinder’s beloved sister Lydia goes missing, Alice boards the Orient Express bound for Topkapi Palace in Constantinople, determined to find her.
Lydia was governess to the Sultan’s young children and though her letters spoke of exotic delights and welcoming hosts, the reception Alice receives is decidedly cold and answers unforthcoming.
Now, as Alice digs deeper into the secrets of a land foreign to her she has only Englishman Harry Frome to help her. But as their search uncovers unforeseen dangers and exposes an unexpected ardour, is Alice ready for the truths they’ll uncover?
was a journey I made a few years ago. I was lucky enough to travel to Venice on
the Orient Express (a special occasion trip) and fell in love with the train.
The compartments, dining carriages, even the mosaic bathrooms, are almost
unchanged since the train’s heyday. And whereas nowadays the journey to
Istanbul is a special once a year event, in 1907 there was a regular service
from London to Constantinople. I wondered what it must have felt like for a
young woman travelling alone for the first time in her life and on such a
Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?
They aren’t drawn from real life in the sense of my actually knowing people just like them. But as a writer, you imbue your characters with what you’ve gained from life and what you’ve seen of relationships and the way they work. I don’t have a sister myself, but it wasn’t too difficult to tune into the feelings of Alice and Lydia, given the period in which they live and their very different personalities.
Lydia Verinder has been working as a governess at
Topkapi Palace in Constantinople, while her elder sister, Alice, has been forced to take responsibility for their ailing parents.
Alice hasn’t heard from her sister for months and suspects
thoughtlessness – Lydia has always been indulged. She loves her and admires
Lydia’s courage and passion, but feels resentful that she has been left caring
for the household. Though her
feelings are decidedly mixed, Alice becomes increasingly worried by her
sister’s silence. Bravely, she decides to go to
Constantinople herself and
search for Lydia, and once there she meets a whole lot of other characters –
but not all of them are benevolent!
When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?
Looking back at the novels I’ve written, it’s setting that seems pre-eminent. Maybe it’s because I write historical fiction, but when I respond especially to a setting – it could be a house, a city, a garden, or in this case a train – I begin to imagine what it must once have looked like, who might have lived there, who travelled there etc. Once I start to people the setting, the questions come and I uncover the problems the characters are facing – then my plot is on its way!
What made you decide to become a writer, and why does this genre appeal to you?
I’m not sure you actually decide to be a writer. For as long as I can remember, I’ve needed to put pen to paper. As a small child, I wrote poems, at grammar school, there were short stories that I never dared mention – creative writing was definitely not encouraged. And I kept on writing through the years, but between family, pets and my job as a lecturer, there was little time to do more than dabble. However, when the pressures eased, I grabbed the chance to do something I’d always promised myself – to write a novel. The nineteenth-century novel was a favourite to teach so it’s no wonder I ended up writing historical fiction.
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
I read fairly widely. Naturally enough, I love historical fiction, particularly when there’s suspense, a mystery, maybe a death or two. And I like crime a lot, but not when it’s unduly violent and gory – psychological crime is a favourite. I love the unwrapping of a personality. The occasional literary fiction – some of Colm Toibin’s books, for example – hit the mark, and I’m a huge fan of Kate Atkinson and the way she combines the popular and the literary so well.
What are you currently writing?
This year I’ve embarked on a crime series, and changing genre has proved quite a challenge. But though I’m planning on one or more deaths in each book, there’s a focus, too, on relationships, including some romantic temptation. The series is set in the 1950s, a period when women were pushed back into the kitchen after the Second World War and generally lacked independent careers or their own money, and where marriage and children were seen as a woman’s only goal. My heroine, needless to say, kicks against that. She’s married but not entirely happily. However, her husband’s profession allows her to travel to different countries, where she’s certain to face a crime that needs solving. The first in the series, The Venice Atonement, will be published in July and I’m currently deep in the Caribbean, writing volume two!
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A beautifully told story of sisterly love, impetus youth, and evil. The Tale of Two Sisters is set in the vibrant historical background of early twentieth century Turkey. Full of vivid imagery and intricate historical details, you can imagine the opulence and the culture the two sisters experience.
The plot is believable and well thought out, the twists and turns, which keep the reader guessing are plentiful and the mystery keeps its terrible secrets to the end.
Lydia is a woman before her time, driven by political equality, yet naive and ill-equipped for what she becomes embroiled in. She is selfish and flawed, but her exuberance and zest for life’s experiences make this forgivable, Ultimately she becomes a heroine.
Alice is the antithesis of her sister, dependable, selfless and resigned to subjugating her needs for the good of her parents and sibling. She is easy to empathise. Her courage is notable and as the story progresses her adventurous and impulse qualities come to the fore, making her share more with her sister than you would first imagine.
Gentle pacing reflects the many obstacles Alice faces as she tries to discover her sister’s whereabouts. Told from both sisters’ points of view, the story is full of emotion, historical interest and suspense, as the mystery surrounding Lydia’s disapperance is solved. There is also a tender, unexpected romance, which adds extra depth to the story and allows its ending to be hopeful.
If like me, you love historical fiction with a mystery to solve, and just a touch of gentle romance, this lovely tale will draw you in.
Merryn Allingham was born into an army family and spent her childhood moving around the UK and abroad. Unsurprisingly it gave her itchy feet and in her twenties, she escaped from an unloved secretarial career to work as cabin crew and see the world.
Merryn still loves to travel and visit new places, especially those with an interesting history, but the arrival of marriage, children and cats meant a more settled life in the south of England, where she has lived ever since. It also gave her the opportunity to go back to ‘school’ and eventually teach at university.
She has written seven historical novels, all mysteries with a
helping of suspense and a dash of romance – sometimes set in exotic locations
and often against a background of stirring world events.
A stolen sister. A daughter determined to uncover the truth.
Belle Hatton has embarked upon an exciting new life far from home: a glamorous job as a nightclub singer in 1930s Burma, with a host of sophisticated new friends and admirers. But Belle is haunted by a mystery from the past – a 25-year-old newspaper clipping found in her parents’ belongings after their death, saying that the Hattons were leaving Rangoon after the disappearance of their baby daughter, Elvira.
Belle is desperate to find out what happened to the sister she never knew she had – but when she starts asking questions, she is confronted with unsettling rumours, malicious gossip, and outright threats. Oliver, an attractive, easy-going American journalist, promises to help her, but an anonymous note tells her not to trust those closest to her. . .
Belle survives riots, intruders, and bomb attacks – but nothing will stop her in her mission to uncover the truth. Can she trust her growing feelings for Oliver? Is her sister really dead? And could there be a chance Belle might find her?
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Such an evocative read, this story of loss, political unrest and a quest for the truth takes place in Burma during the 1930s, with slips back in time to 1911 and the 1920s.
Belle has left England, for a life as a singer in exotic Rangoon. She’s not the usual type of singer they have, but her talent and independent spirit bring her both admirers and adversaries.
Her mother’s failing mental health blighted her childhood, but after her father’s death, she discovers her parents once lived in Rangoon and had and lost a child there. Can this terrible tragedy explain her mother’s illness and what happened to her missing sister?
Belle’s search for the fate of her missing sister reveals more questions and answers, Oliver an attractive journalist offers to help, but can she trust his motives, or should she rely on the establishment to help her?
The plot is engaging. The perfect pacing adds to the story’s sense of mystery and menace. The political climate is dangerous, and Belle shows her emotional strength as she witnesses unspeakable violence and prejudice.
Full of powerful imagery, both in terms of the geographical and historical setting and the vivid characterisation, this story enthrals the reader. There is a mystery to solve a family tragedy to witness and empathise, and a lovely romance.
A lovely escapist read, which will touch your emotions and inspire your imagination.
Extract from The Missing Sister – Dinah Jefferies
Rangoon, Burma, 1936
Belle straightened her shoulders, flicked back her long red-gold hair and stared, her heart leaping with excitement as the ship began its steady approach to Rangoon harbour. Rangoon. Think of it. The city where dreams were made, still a mysterious outline in the distance but coming into focus as the ship cut through the water. The sky, a shockingly bright blue, seemed huger than a sky ever had business to be, and the sea, almost navy in its depths, reflected a molten surface so shiny she could almost see her face in it. Even the air shimmered as if the sun had formed minute swirling crystals from the moisture rising out of the sea. Small boats dotting the water dipped and rose and she laughed as screeching seabirds swooped and squabbled. Belle didn’t mind the noise, in fact, it added to the feeling that this was something so achingly different. She had long craved the freedom to travel and now she was really doing it.
With buzzing in her ears, she inhaled deeply, as if to suck in every particle of this glorious moment, and for a few minutes, she closed her eyes. When she opened them again she gasped in awe. It wasn’t the bustling harbour with its tall cranes, its freighters laden with teak, its lumbering oil tankers, its steamers and the small fishing boats gathering in the shadow of the larger vessels that had gripped her. Nor was it the impressive white colonial buildings coming into sight. For, rising behind all that, a huge golden edifice appeared to be floating over the city. Yes, floating, as if suspended, as if a section of some inconceivable paradise had descended to earth. Spellbound by the gold glittering against the cobalt sky, Belle couldn’t look away. Could there be anything more captivating? Without a shadow of a doubt, she knew she was going to fall in love with Burma.
The heat, however, was oppressive: not a dry heat but a kind of damp heat that clung to her clothes. Certainly different, but she’d get used to it, and the air that smelt of salt and burning and caught at the back of her throat. She heard her name being called and twisted sideways to see Gloria, the woman she’d met on the deck early in the voyage, now leaning against the rails, wearing a wide-brimmed pink sun hat. Belle began to turn away, but not before Gloria called out again. The woman raised a white-gloved hand and came across.
‘So,’ Gloria’s cut-glass voice rang out, breaking Belle’s
reverie. ‘What do you make of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Impressive, no?’
‘Covered in real gold,’ Gloria said. ‘Funny lot, the
Burmese. The entire place is peppered with shrines and golden pagodas. You
can’t walk without falling over a monk.’
‘I think they must be splendid to create something as
wonderful as this.’
‘As I said, the pagodas are everywhere. Now, my driver is waiting
at the dock. I’ll give you a lift to our wonderful Strand Hotel. It overlooks
Belle glanced at the skin around the other woman’s deeply
set dark eyes and, not for the first time, tried to guess her age. There were a
number of lines, but she had what was generally termed handsome looks. Striking
rather than beautiful, with a strong Roman nose, chiselled cheekbones and sleek
dark hair elegantly coiled at the nape of a long neck . . . but as for her age,
it was anyone’s guess. Probably well over fifty.
Gloria had spoken with the air of someone who owned the city. A woman with a reputation to preserve and a face to match it. Belle wondered what she might look like without the thick mask of expertly applied make-up, carefully drawn brows and film-star lips. Wouldn’t it all melt in the heat?
‘I occasionally stay at the Strand after a late night, in fact, I will be tonight, though naturally, I have my own home in Golden Valley,’ Gloria was saying.
‘Golden Valley?’ Belle couldn’t keep her curiosity from showing.
‘Yes, do you know of it?’
Belle shook her head and, after a moment’s hesitation,
decided not to say anything. It wasn’t as if she knew the place, was it? She simply
wasn’t ready to talk to someone she barely knew. ‘No. Not at all,’ she said. ‘I
simply liked the name.’
Gloria gave her a quizzical look and Belle, even though she had
determined not to, caught herself thinking back. A year had passed since her
father’s death, and it hadn’t gone well. The only work she’d found was in a friend’s
bookshop, but each week she’d pored over the latest copy of The Stage the
moment it arrived. And then, joy of joy, she’d spotted the advertisement for performers
wanted in prestigious hotels in Singapore, Colombo and Rangoon. Her audition
had been in London, where she’d stayed for a gruelling two days and an anxious
wait until she heard.