Posted in Book Review, Christmas Read, Family Drama, Mystery, Romance

My Mother’s Silence Lauren Westwood 5* #Review @bookouture @lwestwoodwriter #ContemporaryFiction #FamilyDrama #Secrets #Lies #Mothers #Daughters #Sisters #Twins #Scotland #BookReview #Mystery

#MyMothersSilence

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.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

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.

Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance, Saga

Good Girls Amanda Brookfield 5*#Review @BoldwoodBooks @ABrookfield1 #BlogTour #Author #Interview #Extract #FamilyDrama #ComingofAge #Sisters #Secrets #Romance #Saga

GOOD GIRLS NEVER TELL TALES…

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. 

AmazonUK Paperback Ebook

#boldwoodblogtours

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

My Thoughts…

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.

#AmandaBrookfield

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.

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Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Literary Fiction, Literary Humour

The Unlikely Adventures of The Shergill Sisters – Balli Kaur Jaswal – 5* #Review @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam @balli_jaswal #India #Women #Sisters #PublicationDay

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…

Amazon UK

Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

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.

Posted in Author Interview, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Mystery

Author Q&A – Merryn Allingham- A Tale of Two Sisters- 5*#Review @canelo_co @MerrynWrites #historicalfiction #historicalromance #Author #Interview

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?

Amazon UK

Merryn Allingham Q&A

What inspired you to write this story

It 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 train.

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.

My Thoughts…

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.

For the latest news of Merryn’s writing, visit her website or join her on Facebook or Twitter

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

The Missing Sister – #BlogTour Dinah Jefferies- 5*#Review @PenguinUKBooks @VikingBooksUK @DinahJefferies

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?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

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?’

Belle nodded.

‘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 the river.’

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.

Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Mystery

A Tale of Two Sisters – Merryn Allingham 5*#Review @canelo_co @MerrynWrites #historicalfiction #historicalromance #fridayreads

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?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

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.

Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction

5*#Review – Dinah Jefferies The Missing Sister @PenguinUKBooks@VikingBooksUK @DinahJefferies

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?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

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.