Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Literary Fiction, Mystery

4* #Review The First Time Lauren Pailing Died – Alyson Rudd @HQStories @allyrudd_times #LiteraryFiction #timeslip #love #grief #family #friends #mystery

Lauren Pailing is born in the sixties and a child of the seventies. She is thirteen years old the first time she dies.

Lauren Pailing is a teenager in the eighties, becomes a Londoner in the nineties. And each time she dies, new lives begin for the people who loved her – while Lauren enters a brand new life, too.

But in each of Lauren’s lives, a man called Peter Stanning disappears. And, in each of her lives, Lauren sets out to find him.

And so it is that every ending is also a beginning. And so it is that, with each new beginning, Peter Stanning inches closer to finally being found…

Amazon UK

Waterstones

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

My Thoughts…

This story may not appeal to everyone. You have to be willing to accept the concept of parallel lives that exist but only come to your notice, if you act in a certain way. Lauren Paling as a young girl, sees snapshots of her other possible lives, she learns not to share these insights with others who don’t understand, but then she dies and the emotional rollercoaster journey begins.

In each life she is different, and although surrounded by those who love her, they may relate to her, in different ways. The stories explore, love friendship, relationships loss and grief in a poignant way.

Lauren is searching for a mystery man in each life, without knowing his significance to her, if any. This is a story that can be read more than once, and perhaps needs to be, to fully grasp everything it is about, but that might just be me?

The historical scene-setting is well done, I grew up in this time frame, and I enjoyed the mid to late 20th Century references. Each life has subtle differences to authenticate it to Lauren, as part of her struggles to accept her new present and forget what has gone before.

The plot is detailed and the characters are likeable and believable, despite the extraordinariness of the storyline. This has a uniqueness, because of its emotional content and characterisation, even though the parallel lives concept is often used in science- fiction literature.

If you enjoy variety in your reading and enjoy a lovely, out worldly story this is for you.

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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 . . .

Amazon UK

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.

Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

The Botanist’s Daughter – Kayte Nunn – 4* #Review @orionbooks @KayteNunn #paperback #Botany #HistoricalFiction #Timeslip

A buried secret…

Present day: Anna is focused on growing her new gardening business and renovating her late grandmother’s house. But when she discovers a box hidden in a wall cavity, containing watercolours of exotic plants, an old diary and a handful of seeds, she finds herself thrust into a centuries-old mystery. One that will send her halfway across the world to Kew Gardens and then onto Cornwall in search of the truth.

A lady adventurer…

1886: Elizabeth Trebithick is determined to fulfil her father’s dying wish and continue his life’s work as an adventurer and plant-hunter. So when she embarks on a perilous journey to discover a rare and miraculous flower, she will discover that the ultimate betrayal can be found even across the seas…

Two women, separated by centuries. Can one mysterious flower bring them together?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

A lovely timeslip novel containing some unusual themes, which give it a uniqueness and quirky appeal.

An unexpected find when updating a house bequeathed to her by her beloved grandmother sets Anna on a mystery tour that reveals family secrets and takes her on a much-needed journey of self-discovery.

Elizabeth pushes against society’s conventions in Victorian England. When her much-loved father dies, she feels duty-bound to fulfil his dying wish This is not the selfless act it appears, as she has always wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps.

Both stories are engaging, and courageous in their own way. Elizabeth’s is perhaps the bravest and for me the most absorbing, because she sets out to visit Chile in South America, with only her maid, after living a sheltered, if unconventional life in Cornwall.

The story focuses on botany and botanical art and discoveries in great detail, this is fascinating and gives the story an authentic feel. The geographical descriptions likewise are well done and bring the settings to life. This is important in a story like this where the main protagonists are motivated out of their comfort zones to discover the truth. You have to experience what they do to believe it could happen.

The dual time perspectives are well- written and the links and crossover between past and present well grounded and believable. Neither of the female protagonists is perfect, they are flawed, but you are invested in their story’s and want it to end well.

Although easy to read, the pacing is slow in parts. The plot’s vivid imagery holds your interest, and the ending is worth waiting for.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Guest post, Historical Fiction, Mystery

The Inheritance – Anne Allen – 5* #Review – #TheGuernseyNovels #7 #Mystery #romance #historical #timeslip #intrigue @AnneAllen21

How close were Victor Hugo and his copyist?

1862 Young widow Eugénie is left bereft when her husband dies suddenly and faces an uncertain future in Guernsey. A further tragedy brings her to the attention of Monsieur Victor Hugo, living in exile on the island in his opulent house only yards away from Eugénie’s home. Their meeting changes her life and she becomes his copyist, forming a strong friendship with both Hugo and his mistress, Juliette Drouet.

2012 Doctor Tess Le Prevost, Guernsey-born though now living in Exeter, is shocked to inherit her Great-Aunt’s house on the island. As a child, she was entranced by Doris’s tales of their ancestor, Eugénie, whose house this once was, and who, according to family myth, was particularly close to Hugo. Was he the real father of her child? Tess is keen to find out and returning to the island presents her with the ideal opportunity.

Will she discover the truth about Eugénie and Hugo? A surprise find may hold the answer as Tess embraces new challenges which test her strength – and her heart.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A delightful mix of contemporary and Victorian life on Guernsey, with colourfully described historical details, and an engaging contemporary story full of romance, friendship and family drama.

Tess unexpectedly inherits an old house on Guernsey where she spent her childhood, Visiting her inheritance, she is drawn to the rundown house and being at a crossroads in her life decides to renovate and make Guernsey her home again.

Characters from previous stories make cameo appearances, but the story is standalone. The story slips between 2012 and Victorian times, told from Tess and Eugenie’s points of view. Both stories are complex and interesting, and there is a historical mystery for Tess to solve.

The story features a real historical figure, although the story is fictional, his presence as a character adds authenticity and depth.

Domestic abuse is a primary theme in this book, and it serves to highlight, its prevalence, and the differences and similarities between contemporary and Victorian women, in abusive relationships.

The storytelling is enthralling, the setting vividly described and the connections between the past and present meaningful. A lovely mix of believable characters and a realistic but hopeful ending make reading ‘The Inheritance’, a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

Guest Post – Anne Allen – The Inheritance
Image Credit – Anne Allen – Hauteville Crystal Room

I would like to start by thanking Jane for allowing me space on her lovely blog, to talk about my latest offering in The Guernsey Novels series.

This book marks a slight change of direction for me in that instead of referencing the German Occupation in Guernsey as in my previous books, I go further back in time to the late 19th C and we meet the famous writer, Victor Hugo. It may not be widely known, but he spent fifteen years in Guernsey while in exile from France, having fallen out with Emperor Napoleon III. He arrived, complete with his wife, children, mistress and various other exiles, in October 1855. Hugo had already been kicked out of Jersey, his port of call, for rude comments about Queen Victoria. The Guernsey view was that if Jersey didn’t want him, he must be worth having!

Image Credit – Anne Allen = Hauteville Red Salon

The inspiration behind my book was Hugo’s house, Hauteville House, in St Peter Port. It’s one of a kind – opulent, over the top, full of quirky features like oak panels carved by Hugo himself, and with a rooftop eerie made from steel and glass where he wrote his novels and poems. I have visited it a couple of times, both when I lived there and two years ago when the idea for this book first surfaced. It is exactly how it was in Hugo’s day and his descendants gifted it to France some years ago and a French flag flies outside to proclaim it as French territory. My last visit was just in time as the house has been closed for nearly two years for extensive renovation, re-opening on 7th April just before my book is published.

Hugo finished writing his most famous work here, Les Misérables, as well as several more novels and collections of poetry. In my book, my character, Eugénie, a young French woman living yards away from Hugo, has a life-changing encounter with him and becomes his copyist. No computers or typewriters around then! His mistress, Juliette Drouet, also helped with the copying and the two women became close. Eugénie, recently widowed, has inherited her husband’s family home but has no income and working for Hugo is her salvation. My story is dual-time and the in the modern part, my character, Tess, is a Guernsey-born doctor now living in Devon and she unexpectedly inherits what was Eugénie’s house from her great-aunt in 2012. There has long been a family myth that Hugo and Eugénie were particularly close and that he may have been the father of her child when she remarried. I had to be very careful about this aspect of the story as Hugo’s descendants still have an apartment in Hauteville House and do visit Guernsey regularly. How to avoid upsetting people! Although he was a known womanizer, as far as is known Hugo had no illegitimate children.

The Guernsey Novels – Anne Allen

Anne Allen lives in Devon, by her beloved sea. She has three children, and her daughter and two grandchildren live nearby.  Her restless spirit has meant a number of moves which included Spain for a couple of years. The longest stay was in Guernsey for nearly fourteen years after falling in love with the island and the people. She contrived to leave one son behind to ensure a valid reason for frequent returns.

By profession, Anne was a psychotherapist, but long had the itch to write. Now a full-time writer, she has written The Guernsey Novels, seven having been published. The books form a series, but each one is a standalone story with links to other books and characters. Although not originally planned, Anne is, in effect, writing a saga of Guernsey; featuring numerous characters and stories covering the German Occupation, Victorian Guernsey and the present day. A mix of family drama, mystery and love, the books have a wide appeal to readers of all ages.

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Posted in Book Review, Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Psychological Thriller

4* #Review The Woman in the Lake- Nicola Cornick

‘I see it all again: the silver moon swimming beneath the water and the golden gown billowing out about her…’

1765: Lady Isabella Gerard asks her maid to take her new golden gown and destroy it. Its shimmering beauty has been tainted by the actions of her husband the night before.

Three months later: Lord Eustace Gerard stands beside the lake looking down at the woman in the golden gown. As the body slowly rolls over to reveal her face, it’s clear this is not his intended victim…

1996: Fenella Brightwell steals a stunning gown from a stately home. Twenty years later and reeling from the end of an abusive marriage, she wonders if it has cursed her all this time. Now she’s determined to discover the history behind the beautiful golden dress…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Domestic abuse is the dark theme of this timeslip novel. Another central element is the mystical influence of a golden gown, the reader finds characters linked over time, both victims of abusive partners.

The historical detail and setting for the eighteenth century part of the novel are atmospheric and absorbing. Lady Isabella is perhaps the easiest of the characters to empathise, as she suffers her husband’s mental and physical abuse.

Fenella suffers a similar fate in the present day, and its effects force her into the role of an unreliable protagonist. You are not sure of her true motives and whether she really sees what she says she does.

The characters are complex and well written. The story has a supernatural element, which could be explained away as the psychological impact of the women’s abuse but there is always an element of doubt that keeps the reader guessing.

Well-paced with a layered plot, the book keeps you enthralled until the end.

Posted in Book Review

Her Frozen Heart – Lulu Taylor – 4* Review

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“Caitlyn, there’s something I have to tell you. About Sara.”

Caitlyn thinks her marriage to Patrick is a success. For one thing, he is one of the few people not to fall head over heels for her beautiful friend, Sara. Life is lived on his terms, but they are happy. Aren’t they? When a devastating accident turns her existence upside down, Caitlyn is forced to reassess everything she thought about her marriage, what she truly knows about Patrick, and his real feelings for her best friend.In the refuge of an old manor house, she begins to discover the truth.

In 1947, the worst winter in decades hits England, cutting off entirely the inhabitants of Kings Harcourt Manor. For Tommy Carter, widowed at the start of war, it is particularly hard: the burden of the family falls on her. She has the solace of her children, and the interesting presence of her brother’s friend, Fred. But there is also Barbara, a mysterious figure from her past who appears to want a piece of Tommy’s future as well. 

Amazon UK 

Amazon

My Thoughts…

An interesting story set in two time periods.There are parallels between the two main female characters Tommy and Caitlyn, and the past meets the present in the middle of the book. The characters are strong and believable; both women have emotionally difficult lives despite superficial wealth.

The plots are easy to follow, but there are enough twists to hold your interest. The setting is particularly vivid in the historical chapters. The description of the snow and cold was rich in detail and realistic imagery.

The female antagonists in the story hide their deceit and obsessive behaviour behind a cloak of friendliness and vulnerability. The psychological thrills are subtle but make the plot darker than you would first imagine.

The writing showed insight into human emotions and coupled with the vivid imagery it turns an ordinary plot into something worth reading.

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

Posted in Book Review, New Books, Release Day Spotlight

5* Review:The Viking and the Courtesan – Shehanne Moore

perf5.000x8.000.inddHistorical BlurbIn 898 AD she wasn’t just from another land.

Wrecking a marriage is generally no problem for the divorce-obtaining Lady Malice Mallender. But she faces a dilemma when she’s asked to ruin her own. Just how businesslike should she remain when the marriage was never consummated and kissing her husband leads to Sin—a handsome Viking who wants her for a bed slave in name only?

She came from another time.

Viking raider Sin Gudrunsson wants one thing. To marry his childhood sweetheart. Only she’s left him before, so he needs to keep her on her toes, and a bed slave, in name only, seems just the thing. Until he meets Malice.

One kiss is all it takes to flash between two times.

But when one kiss is no longer enough, which will it be? Regency London? Or Viking Norway? Will Malice learn what governs the flashes? Can Sin?

Where worlds collide, can love melt the iciest heart?

Historical Buy Links Amazon UK

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Historical My Review

perf5.000x8.000.inddLady Malice is not your typical Regency heroine but she is compelling and strangely likeable. A victim of an arranged marriage, she is still, woefully innocent and unfulfilled. Maybe this is why she enjoys her chosen career so much?

Destroying marriages is an unusual pursuit for a married lady but it keeps her in shoes and stops her thinking about her own disastrous nuptials. Faced with an unthinkable dilemma she seeks out her errant husband to carry out her latest commission, with life changing results.

The time slip is seamless and the shift from Regency drawing room to Saxon village under Viking attack, swift and shocking. Malice’s surprise and fear is tangible but her cynical outlook and sharp tongue remain. Both traits help her withstand the unexpected ordeal, despite the carnage surrounding her.

Sin is less than impressed with the latest slaves but he needs a bed slave to keep his fickle fiancée interested. Malice is no one’s slave but she finds Sin hard to resist. The chemistry between the courtesan and the Viking is memorable, despite the incongruity of their situation.

I loved the inconvenient time travelling and the gradual reveal of its meaning. Malice is prepared to risk all for her man and her strength and tenacity are legendary.

I purposely delayed writing this review for a few days, to see what I could remember. Malice, Sin and their compatriots’ formidable personalities, are easy to recall.

 The Viking and The Courtesan by Shehanne Moore

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Shehanne Moore

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