book review · dual timeline · historical fiction · romance · WWII

Book Review – The Secret Notebook

A page-turning, emotional WW2 novel for fans of Barbara Taylor Bradford, Lucinda Riley and Kathryn Hughes

A view to the past…

When Izzie Dean’s beloved nan, Molly Blackshaw, passes away, Izzie returns to the Blackpool bungalow where she grew up, to say goodbye once and for all. When Izzie’s homecoming reunites her with her first love, Justin Swift, every emotion that Izzie has repressed since the day he broke her heart comes rushing to the surface. But then an unexpected discovery changes everything.

Between the pages of the battered secret diary Molly kept during WWII, Izzie discovers a story of love, heartbreak, and the incomparable hardship of life in a world at war. Reading her grandmother’s words soon puts her own story into perspective, and suddenly Izzie realises that the only thing holding her back from happiness, might be herself. Now she just has to convince Justin that they deserve a second chance at forever…

Readers are loving The Secret Notebook:

I loved this book from beginning to end! I couldn’t put it down’ Laureen

A truly lovely, sweet and romantic story…A gorgeous, relaxing read’ Jenn

‘An excellent and heart-warming read filled with love, secrets, betrayals, and growth’ Etta

‘Made me feel very nostalgic for the place I grew up in’ Ruth

‘A great read that should be at the top of your summer book list’ Meredith

‘A beautiful story, I loved every word!’ Laura

Purchase Link

My Review

The Secret Notebook tells two love stories that despite parallel themes are separated over time. Following the death of her writer husband, Rufus, Izzie has returned to her Nan’s former home in Blackpool with whom she had a very close relationship. As she sets about doing the place up so she can sell it, she finds her nan’s notebook hidden away in her old attic bedroom. Nan Molly’s notebook is filled to the rafters with diary entries, letters, photos and a zillion other memories written during the war years and telling her love story with Jack.

Molly’s story tells of her first encounter with her eventual husband and his twin brother when they are billeted to stay at her step-mother’s B&B. From dancing to falling in love, mistaken identities to getting pregnant, her nan’s story is full of love and hope, but it’s not without sadness and drama.

As Izzie reads this, she has met up with her own first love, the man she always thought rejected her, Justin. It becomes clear the two still have feelings for each other – can they overcome the misunderstandings that affected their lives as her nan did with those in hers?

It slightly amused me that when Izzie read about her nan stepping out with Joe, she presumed him to be her grandfather – the man she’d grown up with – as opposed to his twin brother, Jack (cue the misunderstanding that changed Nan’s life for the better) Maybe it’s just me, but as an adult, I knew my grandfather’s name; Izzie didn’t seem to.

Overall, the storyline is a tad predictable, but it is sweet and heart-warming and an easy read with some great insights into the war years and life in a Blackpool B&B back then. A quick read and most enjoyable as the two stories intersect.

My thanks to #NetGalley #HarperCollinsUK #OneMoreChapter and the author #JuliaWild for my copy of #TheSecretNotebook in exchange for an honest review.

As always,

Amazon Reviewer Name
Reviewed on Amazon UK as Meandthemutts


blog tour · book review · dual timeline · family · women's fiction

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Waiting to Begin

Waiting to Begin

From the bestselling author of The Girl in the Corner comes a story that asks: what would you risk for a shot at happiness?

1984. Bessie is a confident sixteen-year-old girl with the world at her feet, dreaming of what life will bring and what she’ll bring to this life. Then everything comes crashing down. Her bright and trusting smile is lost, banished by shame—and a secret she’ll carry with her for the rest of her life.

2021. The last thirty-seven years have not been easy for Bess. At fifty-three she is visibly weary, and her marriage to Mario is in tatters. Watching her son in newlywed bliss—the hope, the trust, the joy—Bess knows it is time to face her own demons, and try to save her relationship. But she’ll have to throw off the burden of shame if she is to honour that sixteen-year-old girl whose dreams lie frozen in time.

Can Bess face her past, finally come clean to Mario, and claim the love she has longed to fully experience all these years?

Purchase Linkhttp://bit.ly/WaitingToBegin_UK

Author Bio

Amanda Prowse is an International Bestselling author whose twenty seven novels and seven novellas have been published in dozens of languages around the world. Published by Lake Union, Amanda is the most prolific writer of bestselling contemporary fiction in the UK today; her titles also consistently score the highest online review approval ratings across several genres. Her books, including the chart topping No.1 titles ‘What Have I Done?’, ‘Perfect Daughter’, ‘My Husband’s Wife’, ‘The Girl in the Corner’, ‘The Things I Know’ and ‘The Day She Came Back’ have sold millions of copies across the globe.

A popular TV and radio personality, Amanda is a regular panellist on Channel 5’s ‘The Jeremy Vine Show’ and numerous daytime ITV programmes. She also makes countless guest appearances on BBC national independent Radio stations including LBC and Talk FM, where she is well known for her insightful observations and her infectious humour. Described by the Daily Mail as ‘The queen of family drama’ Amanda’s novel, ‘A Mother’s Story’ won the coveted Sainsbury’s eBook of the year Award while ‘Perfect Daughter’ was selected as a World Book Night title in 2016.

Amanda’s ambition is to create stories that keep people from turning the bedside lamp off at night, great characters that ensure you take every step with them and tales that fill your head so you can’t possibly read another book until the memory fades…

Praise for Amanda Prowse:


‘A powerful and emotional work of fiction’ – Piers Morgan
‘Deeply moving and emotional, Amanda Prowse handles her explosive subjects with delicate skill’ – Daily Mail
‘Uplifting and positive, but you will still need a box of tissues’ – Hello!
‘A gut-wrenching and absolutely brilliant read’ – The Irish Sun
‘You’ll fall in love with this…’ – Cosmopolitan
‘Deeply moving and eye opening. Powerful and emotional drama that packs a real punch.’ – Heat
‘Magical’ – Now magazine

Social Media Links –

Say hello on Twitter:  @MrsAmandaProwse

Friend me on Facebook:  www.facebook.com/AmandaProwseAuthor

Tag me on Instagram:  www.instagram.com/MrsAmandaProwse

Visit my Amazon Author Page:  Amanda Prowse Author  

Check out my website: www.amandaprowse.com

My Review

As a 16-year-old, Bessie has high hopes of a future travelling the world as an air stewardess. On the day she goes to collect her exam results, her world falls apart. It’s made even worse when she discovers she’s pregnant too. That’s it – her future is over. Or is it?

Some 37 years later, Bess is a mother of two with a secret. And that secret is threatening to blow her world apart for a second time … unless she can come to terms with what she did.

Waiting to Begin focuses on family relationships and, if I’m honest, I didn’t really gel with Bess. She struck me as someone with a chip on her shoulder and a little bit snobbish, which given that everything that happened to her was of her own making, meant she came across as not hugely likeable.

Her family, however, are just the nicest people. Her dad, in particular, brought tears to my eyes with just how lovely and normal and down-to-earth … and embarrassing 🙂 … he was. I guess this is the author’s great skill to portray a warts and all view of family life from many viewpoints.

The story moves between 1984 and the present day, with an excited Bessie looking forward to life. Then in the present day, Bess is less enthusiastic about her lot, she is no longer close to her brother (who kept her secret) and nor is she in touch with her one-time best friend, Michelle. Fortunately, the ending is wonderfully positive, tying up those loose ends and restoring calm in those erst-troubled waters.

I did feel for young Bessie but I also felt, at times, that she accepted no responsibility for her actions. Unaware of what had happened to their daughter, her parents continued to be the goofy, loving people they’d always been. Yes, they were flawed, but those flaws came with warmth and unconditional love.

The story tugs at the heartstrings many a times, but is equally funny and heartwarming. It shows how everything we go through makes us who we are, and that from failure and rejection comes strength and growth.

A story that evokes the whole range of emotions. You’ll laugh, cry, cheer and despair … but you’ll close the book feeling satisfied that all is well with the world. Sort of 😉

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blog tour · book review · dual timeline · historical fiction · WWII

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – You Let Me Go -plus giveaway

 You Let Me Go

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?

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/You-Let-Me-Eliza-Graham-ebook/dp/B08HN92DLQ/

US – https://www.amazon.com/You-Let-Me-Eliza-Graham/dp/1542017106

Author Bio

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.

Social Media Links

Website www.elizagrahamauthor.com

Facebook ElizaGrahamUK

Giveaway to Win 3 x Paperback copies of You Let Me Go by Eliza Graham (Open to UK / USA only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK and USA entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter link below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

RAFFLECOPTER LINK

My Review

I know, it’s another book with a WWII connection. What can I say? I love this era, but don’t let my idiosyncrasies put you off. YOU LET ME GO is more than historical fiction, this is a dual timeline story that brings it bang up to date.

Admittedly, it’s a slow burner, but all of that background info only adds to the story as a whole. I guess it could be a little trimmer, but I’m not complaining because, for me, all those details really pay off once the second half gets going and Morane (Morie) heads off to Brittany to look into her grandmother’s past.

Morie had always been closer to her grandmother Rozenn, much more so than her sister, Gwen. It , therefore, came as no surprise to see her portray similar traits to Rozenn as the truth unravelled. This made Rozenn’s decision to leave her Cornwall home entirely to Gwen such a mystery. It made little sense, if any, and proved to be the catalyst for Morie’s trip to France. Was she peeved? You bet. Did she struggle to hide her feelings? Absolutely. Which is why putting some distance between herself and her sister seemed to be the right thing to do …before she could say something she might later regret.

Morie, you see, had had her own fair share of troubles up to that point – a horse riding accident, a failing business due to her partner’s gambling addiction. So this news from Rozenn’s will was the nail in the coffin. By going to France maybe she would be able to understand her grandmother’s decision.

Arriving in St Martin, the village from which her grandparents left France for Cornwall, Morie met up with ancestors of villagers who knew Rozenn and Luc. There was some initial reluctance to tell Morie anything, and the puzzle seemed to be missing more pieces than ever until she met with Madame O’Donnell, whose father remembered Rozenn’s family. It was during a conversation with him that Morie discovered her grandmother was not an only child – that she had a brother and a twin sister. So why had she kept their existence a secret all these years?

Piecing the past together, Morie encountered yet more surprises. Including one that would change her own life forever, and which proved her grandmother had made the decision about the Cornish house for a very good reason.

The second half of the book became compelling reading. The author paced the chapters perfectly, swapping point of view at critical times that meant I just had to read on. By the end, I had an inkling as to what was to come for Morie, and it was just as delightful and emotional as I expected.

Neither Morie nor Rozenn are the most instantly likeable of women, but their personalities grew on me and I thoroughly enjoyed how the story came to its conclusion. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves dual timelines and who can hang in through the slow start. It’s worth it. Trust me 😉


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blog tour · book review · dual timeline · Italy · mystery · WWII

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Garden of Angels

The Garden of Angels

The Palazzo Colombina is home to the Uccello family: three generations of men, trapped together in the dusty palace on Venice’s Grand Canal. Awkward fifteen-year-old Nico. His distant, business-focused father. And his beloved grandfather, Paolo. Paolo is dying. But before he passes, he has secrets he’s waited his whole life to share.

When a Jewish classmate is attacked by bullies, Nico just watches – earning him a week’s suspension and a typed, yellowing manuscript from his frail Nonno Paolo. A history lesson, his grandfather says. A secret he must keep from his father. A tale of blood and madness . . .

Nico is transported back to the Venice of 1943, an occupied city seething under its Nazi overlords, and to the defining moment of his grandfather’s life: when Paolo’s support for a murdered Jewish woman brings him into the sights of the city’s underground resistance. Hooked and unsettled, Nico can’t stop reading – but he soon wonders if he ever knew his beloved grandfather at all.

Purchase Links

http://severnhouse.com/book/The+Garden+of+Angels/9152

Author Bio

David Hewson is a former journalist with The Times, The Sunday Times and the Independent.

He is the author of more than twenty-five novels, including his Rome-based Nic Costa series which has been published in fifteen languages, and his Amsterdam-based series featuring detective Pieter Vos.

He has also written three acclaimed adaptations of the Danish TV series, The Killing.

He lives near Canterbury in Kent.

Social Media Links

https://www.facebook.com/pages/David-Hewson/105480612818443?fref=ts

https://twitter.com/david_hewson

My Review

This story drew me in more and more as I kept reading, and I especially enjoyed Nonno Paolo’s story during the German occupation of Venice as told to his grandson through a series of written notes that he handed over one at a time from his hospital bed.

Nico, the grandson, has recently been suspended from school for a playground ruckus in which he stood back and allowed the school bully to attack another schoolboy. Nonno Paolo is furious that Nico did nothing and just allowed the bullying to go ahead and has second thoughts about handing his story over to Nico as a result, but is determined that Nico’s father is not the right person to read the contents of those envelopes. Persuaded by Nico to let him read the notes, Nonno Paolo hands them over and waits for his grandson to return to visit before continuing the process, checking how his story is coming across to the teenager but without giving away any details of what is to come. 

Nico gets drawn into the story completely, learning how the Germans began rounding up Jews as Mussolini effectively became Hitler’s Italian puppet. The story deals with villagers who help the Germans, with clergy who refuse to do so, and with the harsh conditions people are forced to live in as the Germans enjoy the best of everything.

Nonno Paolo, barely an adult at the time, has recently lost his parents, both being shot by Germans as they sought new clients for their weaving business. His father’s last encounter left them with a job that has to be completed on a strict deadline, but now Paolo only has himself and Chiara to complete the delicate work required. To add to the tension, the delivery destination of the finished products leaves them in no doubt that the items are to be used as part of a German glorification effort.

Faced with what seems like an impossible task, he is then asked to hide two Resistance Jews – siblings, one of whom is injured – who are being hunted by the Germans. What follows is the struggle to get the job done (else face the dire consequences), and to keep the brother and sister hidden, which is no easy task when the sister has vengeance against the Germans in mind. Paolo is forced to grow up very quickly and he finds himself questioning himself and his developing friendships. 

This is a hugely satisfying mystery, combining historical detail with almost a coming-of-age story for both Paolo and Nico. The question is raised about how soon history is forgotten and how easily people can be drawn into making the same mistakes. There is a magnificent twist and a poignant ending. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy historical fiction with an added mystery. It made a refreshing change to read a WWII story set in Italy, and in particular in Venice, and the author’s description of the city verged on poetic at times as he brought it to life in both the past and the present. 

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book review · dual timeline · historical fiction

Book Review – Where Madness Lies

Germany, 1934. Rigmor, a young Jewish woman is a patient at Sonnenstein, a premier psychiatric institution known for their curative treatments. But with the tide of eugenics and the Nazis’ rise to power, Rigmor is swept up in a campaign to rid Germany of the mentally ill.

USA, 1984. Sabine, battling crippling panic and depression commits herself to McLean Hospital, but in doing so she has unwittingly agreed to give up her baby.

Linking these two generations of women is Inga, who did everything in her power to help her sister, Rigmor. Now with her granddaughter, Sabine, Inga is given a second chance to free someone she loves from oppressive forces, both within and without.

This is a story about hope and redemption, about what we pass on, both genetically and culturally. It is about the high price of repression, and how one woman, who lost nearly everything, must be willing to reveal the failures of the past in order to save future generations.

With chilling echoes of our time, Where Madness Lies is based on a true story of the author’s own family.

Add to Goodreads

My Review

Based on a true story, Where Madness Lies is a dual-timeline novel, focusing on mental illness in 1930s Germany and 1980s Boston, USA.  Putting aside the appalling “treatment” meted out in Nazi Germany, the book also highlights how little has changed in those fifty years. Even now, another forty years on, the topic of mental health is not discussed as much as it should be. 

But, back to this book:  

In 1930s Germany, Inge has a fractious relationship with her mother as they clash over the care needed for her sister, Rigmor who has suffered from mental illness for much of her life. Inge pushes for a diagnosis so that Rigmor can lead a happy and more fulfilled life. Her mother also wants the best for Rigmor, but has a tendency to mollycoddle her rather than face up to reality. Eventually, Rigmor is hospitalised, and it is from this point on that her life is in danger – not from her condition itself, but from the upcoming practices of the Nazi government as they aim for the perfect Aryan race. 

In 1980s Boston, Sabine checks herself into the Maclean Clinic, recognising that she suffers from psychosis and needs to learn how to manage it. With a husband and young daughter, she is torn by the decision but soon feels safer at the Clinic than in her home environment. Inge, as Sabine’s (de facto) grandmother travels from her home in Switzerland to help. But Sabine is not keen to have her grandmother around – at first. However, as they grow closer Sabine learns about Rigmor, and feels a closeness to her primarily as a result of having the same problems. 

The story flips between the two time periods and focuses on the relationships between the women and how their circumstances affect how they come to cope. For me, I hoped to hear more of Rigmor’s story. The procedures and backstory of the eugenics programme initiated by the Nazis seemed to me to have been undertold, probably because it’s a horrific truth that is difficult to do justice.  However, as a story – especially a true one – the family secrets are fascinating and intriguing enough on their own. I also enjoyed reading about Arnold, a key character in Rigmor’s life, and whose role is far more significant than he realises. For me, the dual timeframe detracted from the original story, and overall the story didn’t have the impact on me I was expecting, though I do appreciate how difficult it must be to tell a true story set against such a backdrop. 

It’s an interesting story, though not really the one I was expecting. Even so, a worthwhile read. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

As always, 

 

 

blog tour · book review · dual timeline · France · historical · NetGalley

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Secret of the Château

The Secret of the Château

Everything is about to change…

1789. Pierre and Catherine Aubert, the Comte and Comtesse de Verais, have fled the palace of Versailles for their château, deep in the French Alps. But as revolution spreads through the country, even hidden away the Auberts will not be safe forever. Soon they must make a terrible decision in order to protect themselves, and their children, from harm.

Present day. When Lu’s mother dies leaving her heartbroken, the chance to move to a château in the south of France with her husband and best friends seems an opportunity for a new beginning. But Lu can’t resist digging into their new home’s history, and when she stumbles across the unexplained disappearance of Catherine Aubert, the château begins to reveal its secrets – and a mystery unsolved for centuries is uncovered…

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B083PNG675

US – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B083PNG675

Author Bio –

Kathleen McGurl lives in Bournemouth with her husband. She has two sons who have both now left home.

She always wanted to write, and for many years was waiting until she had the time. Eventually she came to the bitter realisation that no one would pay her for a year off work to write a book, so she sat down and started to write one anyway.

Since then she has published several novels with HQ and self-published another. She has also sold dozens of short stories to women’s magazines, and written three How To books for writers. After a long career in the IT industry she became a full time writer in 2019. When she’s not writing, she’s often out running, slowly.

Social Media Links –

Website: https://kathleenmcgurl.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KathleenMcGurl/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KathMcGurl

My Review

As a fan of historical fiction and Kathleen McGurl, I had super high hopes, and was not disappointed. I loved the dual timeline, especially The French Revolution aspect. Combining the story of the family Aubert with the adventure of the British retirees made for a fascinating read, connecting the past and the present through the château in the Alpes-Maritime and the village it overlooked.

The story of the Pierre and Catherine Aubert, the Comte and Comtesse de Verais begins at the Palace of Versailles, as members of the Court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoniette. As the Revolution takes a hold, Pierre and Catherine flee to his family castle and live a relatively quiet life, raising children, and supporting their tenants and the villagers alike. When revolutionary forces move out of Paris in search of Louis’s supporters, the family is placed in danger again. Someone has betrayed them, and they must flee to safety once more.

If only it were so simple. Baying crowds descend upon the château before they are ready to leave. Will they make it to safety? What becomes of the castle?

In alternating chapters (between the events of the 1780s), the author tells the tale of five Brits looking to start a new life together as retirement beckons. During a boozy evening together, the idea is raised about clubbing together to buy a place in France. Was it an alcohol-fueled pipedream, or could it become a reality? One member of the group, Lu, is less enthusiastic than the others but does not want to be the one to shatter everyone’s dreams. And so, the château is purchased. With its many rooms, outlying buildings and towers, there’s a lot of work to be done, but they get stuck in and start renovating. It’s not until Lu’s son Tom comes for a visit that the window without a room is spotted. Lu’s intrigue is piqued. While her husband tends to the garden with his new pet goat, she starts to research the castle. As they settle into their new life, the secrets of the château are gradually revealed.

The opulence of the French Court and the exceptionalism of the nobility is set against the poverty and anger of the working classes. In the modern setting, the village is harmonious and beautifully depicted. The story explodes at great pace, keeping the history alive as the modern-day residents delve further into what might have happened to the castle’s original owners.

If you love a touch of history with your mystery, then this is the book for you. The pages fly by as each chapter reveals a new layer to the characters and their stories.

Another winner for me from Kathleen McGurl.
Thanks to NetGalley, Rachel’s Random Resources and HarperCollins for a review copy which I have reviewed willingly and honestly.

 

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cover reveal · dual timeline · historical fiction · WWII

Cover Reveal – The Walls We Build

The Walls We Build

Three friends …
Growing up together around Winston Churchill’s estate in Westerham, Kent, Frank, Florence and Hilda are inseparable. But as WW2 casts its menacing shadow, friendships between the three grow complex, and Frank – now employed as Churchill’s bricklayer – makes choices that will haunt him beyond the grave, impacting his grandson’s life too.

Two Secrets …
Shortly after Frank’s death in 2002 Florence writes to Richard, Frank’s grandson, hinting at the darkness hidden within his family. On investigation, disturbing secrets come to light, including a pivotal encounter between Frank and Churchill during the war and the existence of a mysterious relative in a psychiatric hospital.

One Hidden Life …
How much more does Florence dare reveal about Frank – and herself – and is Richard ready to hear?
Set against the stunning backdrop of Chartwell, Churchill’s country home, comes a tragic story of misguided honour, thwarted love and redemption, reverberating through three generations and nine decades.

For readers of Kate Morton, Rachel Hore, Katherine Webb, Lucinda Riley and Juliet West.

“Passion, intrigue and family secrets drive this complex wartime relationship drama. A page turner. I loved it.”

#1 bestselling author, Nicola May

Publication Date: 23rd March

Preorder links:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Author Bio.


Jules Hayes lives in Berkshire with her husband, daughter and a dog. She has a degree in modern history and holds a particular interest in events and characters from the early 20th century. As a former physiotherapist and trainer – old habits die hard – when not writing Jules likes to run. She also loves to watch films, read good novels and is a voracious consumer of non-fiction too, particularly biographies.
Jules is currently working on her second historical novel, another dual timeline story.
Jules also writes contemporary thriller and speculative fiction as JA Corrigan.

Jules Hayes can be found at:
Website: jules-hayes.com
Twitter @JulesHayes6 – http://www.twitter.com/JulesHayes6
Facebook Author Page: JulesHayesAuthor – http://www.facebook.com/JulesHayesAuthor
Instagram: JulesHayes6 – http://www.instagram.com/juleshayes6
Writing as JA Corrigan, Jules can be found at: Website: http://www.jacorrigan.com
Twitter: @juliannwriter – http://www.twitter.com/juliannwriter
Facebook Author Page: JA Corrigan – http://www.facebook.com/jacorrigan
Instagram: corriganjulieann http://www.instagram.com/corriganjulieann

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book review · contemporary fiction · dual timeline · historical fiction · NetGalley · women's fiction · WWII

Book Review – My Name is Eva

My Name Is Eva

by Suzanne Goldring

You can pay a terrible price for keeping a promise…

Evelyn Taylor-Clarke sits in her chair at Forest Lawns Care Home in the heart of the English countryside, surrounded by residents with minds not as sharp as hers. It would be easy to dismiss Evelyn as a muddled old woman, but her lipstick is applied perfectly, and her buttons done up correctly. Because Evelyn is a woman with secrets and Evelyn remembers everything. She can never forget the promise she made to the love of her life, to discover the truth about the mission that led to his death, no matter what it cost her…

When Evelyn’s niece Pat opens an old biscuit tin to find a photo of a small girl with a red ball entitled ‘Liese, 1951’ and a passport in another name, she has some questions for her aunt. And Evelyn is transported back to a place in Germany known as ‘The Forbidden Village,’ where a woman who called herself Eva went where no one else dared, amongst shivering prisoners, to find the man who gambled with her husband’s life…

A gripping, haunting and compelling read about love, courage and betrayal set in the war-battered landscape of Germany. Fans of The Letter, The Alice Network and The Nightingale will be hooked.

My Review

Evelyn Taylor-Clarke is one smart lady, and playing a forgetful old biddy in her later years as a resident at Forest Lawns Care Home is quite a challenge. But then, Evelyn has led a challenging life, and she hasn’t forgotten a single minute.

As a young woman, awaiting her husband’s return from the war, Evelyn is itching to “do her bit” for the war effort. When Hugh doesn’t return, then her mind is made up. After training, she is fully versed in the silent kill, the art of subterfuge, and her observational skills are perfectly honed. She ready to go into enemy territory, but then the war ends, and her skills see her going elsewhere – to a facility in Germany where she works as a translator, using the name Eva. What goes on there, she cannot tolerate. The “suspects” brought to the facility are badly mistreated in order to exact information they are supposed to have. And the man in charge – Colonel Stephen Robinson – is the same officer responsible for sending her husband to his death.

Her next job is more to her liking, as she helps displaced prison camp survivors to return home, or to get visas to move elsewhere, and rebuild their lives. When she returns to England herself, once more as Evelyn, she has a secret that it pains her to keep, but one she must. Besides, she has another job to do – and it involves dealing with the Colonel once and for all.

When she assumes ownership of the family home – Kingsley Manor – upon the death of her mother, she is able to put her plan in motion, using all the skills she has learnt over the years.

In her twilight years, she is compelled to move to the care home, and she is fairly certain she has covered her tracks … that is, until her niece, Pat, finds two suitcases on top of a wardrobe, with plenty of potentially incriminating evidence. Police interviews follow, and Evelyn’s performance is Oscar-worthy. She plays them like a virtuoso, giving contradictory comments, acting as though she has a bus to catch, and even arguing over the type of biscuits they’re given. Her niece is perplexed, the detective is bemused, and Evelyn is an innocent old lady … until she chooses not to be 😉

Told in multiple timelines and through letters to her husband, this story is fascinating, intriguing, uplifting, and hugely engrossing. I rooted for Evelyn from start to finish;  tiny details outlined her frame of mind and her intentions – it was sublimely addictive and entertaining. Suzanne Goldring is an author I will definitely seek out again.

Thanks go to NetGalley and the author for my copy, and this review is given voluntarily.

What others are saying about My Name is Eva:

‘Could not put this book down, and heaven help anyone that tried to disturb my reading !!…I absolutely loved this book !…I laughed, I cried, I cheered , I sympathized all because of Evelyn…I could so picture the setting and as Evelyn sets out to fool everyone, I thought you go girl !!I don’t want to say anything else but what a fantastic read…My first, not my last book by Suzanne Goldring. I can’t recommend this book enough !!’ Goodreads Reviewer, 5 stars

‘A phenomenal story of courage, love, murder and all the atrocities that go with war.Eva is an extraordinary character, strong, loyal, smart, funny, loving, and brave.A phenomenal read!!’ Goodreads Reviewer, 5 stars

‘This may be my new favorite book!!!! I absolutely love the premise of the heroine faking dementia in her retirement home to cover up her knowledge of questionable activities centering around WWII events. The tempo of this novel was perfect–kept me wondering until the very last page!’ Goodreads Reviewer, 5 stars

‘Absolutely loved this book and its riveting plot!… The author has successfully penned a debut novel that I would highly recommend without any hesitationAn excellent debut novel from Suzanne Goldring and I look forward to reading more of her work. Historical fiction is my favourite genre to read and this book was every bit as good as some of the well-known WW2-themed titles published in recent years.’ Goodreads Reviewer, 5 stars

‘A poignant and evocative story of love, betrayal and bravery that kept me page turning and completely engrossed from start to finish. Loved it and would definitely recommend.’ NetGalley Reviewer, 5 stars

This book was excellent! Totally kept my attention and I wanted to find out what would become of the main characters. Highly recommended.

As always,

blog tour · book review · dual timeline · historical · Ireland · NetGalley · women's fiction

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Forgotten Secret

The Forgotten Secret

by Kathleen McGurl

Thank you to the author, NetGalley & Rachel’s Random Resources for the opportunity to read and review this book. The opinions given here belong to me, are my own and only mine, so help me Hermes (apparently the god of literature, amongst many other things 😉 )

The Forgotten Secret

A country at war

It’s the summer of 1919 and Ellen O’Brien has her whole life ahead of her. Young, in love and leaving home for her first job, the future seems full of shining possibility. But war is brewing and before long Ellen and everyone around her are swept up by it. As Ireland is torn apart by the turmoil, Ellen finds herself facing the ultimate test of love and loyalty.

And a long-buried secret

A hundred years later and Clare Farrell has inherited a dilapidated old farmhouse in County Meath. Seizing the chance to escape her unhappy marriage she strikes out on her own for the first time, hoping the old building might also provide clues to her family’s shadowy history. As she sets out to put the place – and herself – back to rights, she stumbles across a long-forgotten hiding place, with a clue to a secret that has lain buried for decades.

For fans of Kate Morton and Gill Paul comes an unforgettable novel about two women fighting for independence.

Get your copy here:

UK  – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Forgotten-Secret-heartbreaking-gripping-historical-ebook/dp/B07H2PMPR3

US  – https://www.amazon.com/Forgotten-Secret-heartbreaking-gripping-historical-ebook/dp/B07H2PMPR3  

Author Bio

KATHLEEN MCGURL lives near the sea in Bournemouth, UK, with her husband and elderly tabby cat. She has two sons who are now grown-up and have left home. She began her writing career creating short stories, and sold dozens to women’s magazines in the UK and Australia. Then she got side-tracked onto family history research – which led eventually to writing novels with genealogy themes. She has always been fascinated by the past, and the ways in which the past can influence the present, and enjoys exploring these links in her novels.

Social Media Links –

Website:  https://kathleenmcgurl.com/

Twitter: @KathMcGurl  https://twitter.com/KathMcGurl

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KathleenMcGurl/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kathleenmcgurl/

My Review

I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and will definitely look for more from this author.

So what’s it all about?

The historical element centres on the relationship between Ellen O’Brien & Jimmy Gallagher – she’s an upstairs maid, he’s a Volunteer, fighting for a free Ireland. They’ve known each other since childhood, and everyone agrees they are made for each other. While Jimmy is off fighting, Ellen moves into Carlton House as a maid, sharing a room with another girl, Siobhan. Ellen is trusted by the employer, Mrs Carlton (aka Madame) and helps the Cause by carrying messages in milk cans, as well as nursing a Volunteer friend of hers, Captain Cunningham. Cunningham fought alongside Jimmy and, once returned to good health, he leaves the house to do so again.

But soon, Jimmy & Cunningham are both forced into hiding as the Black and Tans are looking for them. Ellen is desperate to see Jimmy, and is aided by Madame to spend one last night with Jimmy before he has to flee again. During this brief reunion, Jimmy gives her his medallion by way of an engagement ring, and the two of them look forward to a time when they can marry and live happily. Once Jimmy has gone, Ellen finds out she is pregnant. She cannot work at the House anymore and has to return to her father’s home, but her conscience tells her to warn Madame of her room-mate’s betrayal. Before she can do that, Madame is captured and taken to prison.

Ellen’s father is ashamed of her pregnancy and sends her away to the Merciful Sisters – a Magdalene laundry for fallen women. She has the baby and calls him James, then the wait begins. She expects her father or Jimmy to come and collect her. When it becomes obvious that no one is coming, Ellen escapes from the laundry and goes to look for her father – leaving baby James behind to be looked after by her friend Mairead.

Her father has gone, fled Ireland, stating there was nothing to keep him there – not even her or his grandson. Ellen visits Jimmy’s family farm – Clonamurty farm – which she knows as well as her own. The place has been destroyed, turned upside down and is empty apart from a few bloodstains. She leaves the medallion and baby James’ birth certificate in their secret hiding place, hoping jimmy will find it and know she is okay and that he has a son. She heads back to collect her son, and on the way meets Captain Cunningham, who pulls her to safety when the Black & Tans march past looking for any Volunteer fighter. The captain and Ellen agree to meet in two days’ time at her father’s house, where he hopes to give her news of Jimmy and his family.

However, on returning to the laundry, she is told the baby died, and is shown a mound of earth meant to be his grave. She leaves, numb and distraught, and heads for her father’s home to await the captain.

His news of Jimmy is not good, and he takes Ellen to live with his sister. Having lost everyone who meant anything to her, Ellen has to learn to live and love again.

***

In modern times, Clare is married to Paul when her uncle Padraig leaves her the family farm in Ireland, Paul, who is uber controlling and most annoying, wants to sell the farm and has plans to spend the money on things that he wants. He makes no attempt to include Clare in the decision.It comes as no surprise that Clare wants to leave him, his controlling nature has finally broken their relationship. She considers starting again in Ireland, and when her sons urge her to do so, then she makes the big move. As expected, Paul is gobsmacked, he cannot believe she is going and he fully expects her to return in a few days. After all, who will cook his meals and iron his shirts? He truly is a ‘piece of work’.

In Ireland, Clare befriends the owner of the village cake shop, Janice, and the bookstore owner, Ryan. Paul still pesters her with snide messages and tells her she’ll be running back to him in no time.

She tidies up the farm and vows to fill it with items of furniture that she loves, for a change. With a hobby of refurbishing old furniture, she spots an old armchair that she feels sure she could restore. Taking it apart, she finds Ellen’s medallion and the birth certificate, which inspire her to know more about the people who lived in her new house before her family, and to trace her own genealogy.

To be honest, the story falls apart a little at this point for me, as she seems to dwell on the former inhabitants of the house, more so than her own family, only learning that Granny Irish was a spy in the war of independence. She doesn’t trace her own family any further than that and is more interested in the medallion and the birth cert.

While she is happily settling in, Paul still has other ideas and his plan to get her back is both extreme and maniacal. It is the final nail in the coffin of their marriage, and Clare realises for certain that there is no going back to being his wife.

With Ryan’s help, she manages to trace baby James – and the story that follows here is as beautiful as it is sad as we learn what happened back at the Merciful Sisters, and also how Ellen’s life panned out.

The twist at the end succeeds in misdirecting the reader. The penny dropped for me about halfway, but it was nicely hidden until the big reveal towards the end.

I enjoyed the history of this story, knowing very little about the Irish fight for independence. The whole story had a great cast of characters, aside from Paul and some evil nuns! The author handled the issues of what happened in those laundries with great sensitivity, and the controlling husband of modern days was dealt with most effectively too.

I read the whole book in short space of time, always keen to pick it up again. I felt like I was immersed in the lives of both women, living their lives and understanding their thoughts and emotions.

I would highly recommend this book, and would read more by this author in a shot.

For more reviews, excerpts and guest posts, check out these other amazing blogs:

As always,