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 · historical fiction · Renaissance Italy · series

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Devil’s Tune

The Devil’s Tune

Carlo Gesualdo, prince, composer and murderer has his wife and her lover killed in Naples in 1590. The wife’s maidservant,Laura Scala, witnesses the events and vowes to avenge her mistress.

The princess, Donna Maria d’Avalos, rescued Laura in Sicily after she had been raped at the age of thirteen. Laura devotes her life to her saviour and after the murders she spends years of her life trying to be revenged on the musical prince.

The scene moves from Sicily to Naples and Venice, back to Naples and finally to the New World. Laura believes she is carrying a curse. Everyone she becomes involved with appears to suffers misfortune and death.

A Jewish girl in the Venetian ghetto is kidnapped and sold into the Sultan’s harem, Laura’s daughter is placed in an orphanage without her knowledge, the artist Caravaggio uses Laura as a model and meets a tragic end.

Three beautiful pearls given to Laura by her mistress play a part in the story. Is Laura really cursed – or is it her connection with the murderous prince who dabbles in the occult?

A gypsy woman is burned at the stake, a Venetian gondolier meets a mysterious fate and Laura becomes a skilled herbalist and poisoner by default before the story ends in the New World. The background to these  events is the strange and compelling music of Gesualdo.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Devils-Tune-Italian-trilogy-ebook/dp/B07CQ8FDP3

US – https://www.amazon.com/Devils-Tune-Italian-trilogy-ebook/dp/B07CQ8FDP3

Author Bio

Frances Kempton is a reclusive writer fleeing from the clutches of Jane Austen.

She has an obsession with Italy.

This is the first book in an Italian trilogy.

My Review

The Devil’s Tune is narrated by Laura Scala, the maidservant and confidante of Donna Maria, Prince Carlo Gesualdo’s wife. When her mistress is brutally murdered alongside her lover and child, Laura is so overwhelmed and abhorred by the act that she swears to exact vengeance on behalf of her mistress no matter how long it takes. As such, her own life is tainted by her hatred of Gesualdo and the promise she has made.

The author has created a vivid picture of how Laura might carry out her revenge, taking the readers through Naples and Venice as she keeps track of her prey. Gesualdo is obsessed by his music creations, seemingly oblivious to the effect of his decisions upon others. Laura is not the only person to dislike him, and understandably so. It was easy to root for Laura, even though she had murder in mind, especially given the impact her promise had on her own life. She’d experienced rape as a young girl and was wary of any romantic encounter, though she did eventually marry and have her own child. Sadly, her husband died and the mother-in-law from hell inflicted yet more tragedy on poor Laura. While Gesualdo seemed invincible, Laura lost everything and had to start over yet again. Nonetheless, her promise to her mistress was never far from her mind, despite the constant and never-ending obstacles that came her way.

Did she keep her promise? Did she find happiness again? The Devil’s Tune answers all of those questions while taking the reader on an indulgent, albeit vivid and brutal, tour of Renaissance Italy. An enthralling and captivating story with a resilient leading lady and a lot of heartbreak. As this is the first in a trilogy, I look forward to reading the next in the series.

As always,

Reviewed as Meandthemutts on Amazon UK
book review · France · historical fiction

Book Review – Blood Rose Angel (No Woman is an Island)

No Woman is an Island (Pandora’s Boxed Set #1) includes books by Liza PerratLinda GillardLorna FergussonClare Flynn and Helena Halme 

I’ll be reviewing each book in turn, starting with Blood Rose Angel by Liza Perrat

Blood Rose Angel

Book description:

1348. A bone-sculpted angel and the woman who wears it––heretic, Devil’s servant, saint.

Midwife Héloïse has always known that her bastard status threatens her standing in the French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne. Yet her midwifery and healing skills have gained the people’s respect, and she has won the heart of the handsome Raoul Stonemason. The future looks hopeful. Until the Black Death sweeps into France.

Terrified that Héloïse will bring the pestilence into their cottage, Raoul forbids her to treat its victims. Amidst the grief and hysteria, the villagers searching for a scapegoat, Héloïse must choose: preserve her marriage, or honour the oath she swore on her dead mother’s soul? And even as she places her faith in the protective powers of her angel talisman, she must prove she’s no Devil’s servant, her talisman no evil charm.

Héloïse, with all her tragedies and triumphs, celebrates the birth of modern medicine, midwifery and thinking in late medieval times.

Amazon UK purchase link

My Review

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and have to admit to being one lucky reader to get my hands on this gem of a boxed set, and I’m basing that on simply having read just one of the five books in the collection. If the others are half as good, then I am in for a treat.

Blood Rose Angel is the third book in Liza Perrat’s series: The Bone Angel. And, yes, it’s very typical of me to come late to the party, but all three books can be read as standalones. So, phew! On the plus side, I now have two more books to add to my TBR list.

Set in Lucie-sur-Vionne, France in the year of our Lord, 1348, it follows the life of midwife Héloïse, whose mother died giving birth to her and so she was raised by her aunt, Isa (her mother’s twin sister). The nature of her difficult birth and the identity of her father unknown led to superstitions running amok labelling her as “unborn” and subjecting her to taunts from child- to adulthood.

Since her mother was also a midwife, Héloïse picked up the mantle determined to be the best healer and midwife she could be. Given her lowly birth, she was not expected to be “worthy” of marriage, but nonetheless fell in love with stonemason Raoul and gave birth to their first child, a daughter, Morgane, before suffering two stillbirths – sons – in the years that followed.

For two years, Raoul worked away in Italy, returning to Lucie as the pestilence took root, spreading like wildfire and killing many, including one of his apprentices, Toubie. His return is welcomed by Héloïse and his family, but the arrival of the pestilence is not.

Over the years, Héloïse has fallen foul of many locals, some who – for reasons known only to them and their faith – blame her for the death of their father, mother, child, dog, rat and fleas – in fact, anything they can blame her for, they will. Fortunately, more see her as the competent, respectful and caring person that she is.

However, when things take a turn for the worse, it is the naysayers who seem to have the power to control her fate, and she must use all her strength and faith in her mother’s talisman to fend them off. But it’s not easy, and her life is endangered by these suspicious and vengeful folk.

Without spilling any of the beans – plotwise – let me just say that I defy you not to be transported back in time by this book, and to feel immersed in the daily life of villagers in Lucie. Héloïse is a woman to root for, as injustices pile upon her, yet on she goes. It’s evident the author has researched the era with precision; her words conjured up images in my mind so vivid in sight, sound and smell (many of the latter are far from pleasant too). While the author admits to fictionalising her characters, what she puts them through is drenched in fact and very believable for that era. I did feel the ending lost some of the earlier momentum, but I imagine that’s often the nature of things as loose ends are tied up.

Having read this whilst we are still living through a pandemic ourselves, it didn’t pass me by that there existed then – as now – the same division between those who believed in masks and distancing. Humans, eh, we’re creatures of habit, aren’t we? Anyhow, pandemic or plague aside, this is a great read and fans of historical fiction will relish in the detail of the scenes portrayed and the lives of the characters within those scenes. As for me, I’m adding Liza’s earlier books to my reading list.

See you next time with my review of Hidden, by Linda Gillard (not sure when that will happen, but it will happen) If you’re interested in the other books in this collection, please take a look for yourself … and, enjoy!



Pandora’s Boxed Set #1

Together for the first time: award-winners and trail-blazers. 5 international women authors showcase 5 unforgettable novels.

Blood Rose Angel, by Liza Perrat
1348, France. A bone-sculpted angel and the woman who wears it—heretic, Devil’s servant, saint.
Despite her bastardy, Héloïse has earned respect in the French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne for her midwifery and healing skills. Then the Black Death sweeps into France.

Hidden, by Linda Gillard
A birth. A death. Hidden for a hundred years.
1917.“Lady, fiancé killed, will gladly marry officer totally blinded or otherwise incapacitated by the war.” When Miranda Norton inherits Myddleton Mote and its art collection she is haunted by the dark secrets of a woman imprisoned in a reckless marriage.

The Chase, by Lorna Fergusson
The past will hunt you down.
Gerald Feldwick tells his wife Netty that in France they can put the past behind them. Alone in an old house, deep in the woods of the Dordogne, Netty is not so sure. Netty is right.

The Chalky Sea, by Clare Flynn
July 1940. When bombs fall, the world changes for two troubled people.
Gwen knows her husband might die in the field but thought her sleepy English seaside town was safe. Amid horror and loss, she meets Jim Armstrong, a soldier far from the cosy life of his Ontario farm. Can war also bring salvation?

Coffee and Vodka, by Helena Halme
Eeva doesn’t want to remember, but in Finland she must face her past.
‘In Stockholm, everything is bigger and better.’ Her Pappa’s hopes for a better life in another country adjust to the harsh reality but one night, Eeva’s world falls apart. Thirty years later, Eeva needs to know what happened.


As always,

blog tour · book blitz · historical fiction · Publication Day · romance

Book Release Blitz – The Girl in the Triangle

TheGirlintheTriangle

Congratulations to author Joyana Peters on the release of her romantic historical fiction, The Girl in the Triangle!

Read on for details and a chance to win a signed copy of the book!

Triangle-CoverPick

The Girl in the Triangle

Publication Date: July 12th, 2021

Genre: Historical Fiction

When your dreams finally seem to be coming true, it’s hard to trust them.

It’s been four years since seventeen-year-old Ruth set eyes on her fiance. After surviving near-starvation, revolution and a long trip across the stormy ocean, she can’t help but wonder: Will Abraham still love her? Or has America changed him?

Nowhere’s as full of change as 1909 New York. From moving pictures to daring clothes to the ultra-modern Triangle Shirtwaist Factory where she gets a job, everything exhilarates Ruth. When the New World even seems to rejuvenate her bond with Abraham, she is filled with hope for their prospects and the future of their war-torn families.

But when she makes friends and joins the labor movement—fighting for rights of the mostly female workers against the powerful factory owners—something happens she never expected. She realizes she might be the one America is changing. And she just might be leaving Abraham behind.

The Girl in the Triangle is an immigration story that will appeal to fans of Brooklyn by Colm Toibin and The Queen of the Big Time by Adriana Trigiani. It questions what it means to be an American, and what is the true meaning of strength.

Add to Goodreads

Excerpt

He stood outside the dressing room with his arms crossed. “I was starting to fear I’d need to send in a search party.”

“I’m sorry,” Ruth said. “I met the sister of one of your friends.”

“Chayele,” Abraham chuckled. “That explains it. That girl could talk the hind legs off a donkey.”

He steered her to the line for the stairs and gestured for her to open her bag to be examined. “They fear people stealing scraps for sewing at home.”

Ruth held her bag open wide as the guard poked through. Eventually he nodded, and they exited through the door to the stairs.

“Chayele seemed really nice. She introduced me to her friends as well. She said you were good friends with her brother?”

“Yankel,” Abraham nodded. “He’s good folk. He took me under his wing when I got here. Makes me get out and have some fun from time to time.”

Ruth pondered that for a moment and considered Chayele’s painted face. “She’s not a—what do you call it? Floopsy, is she?”

Abraham laughed. “No, Chayele’s not a floozy, though she might be the center of any party. She’s just been here awhile and has embraced America.”

“America encourages painted faces?”

Abraham tilted his head and thought before answering. “America encourages fun, at least in your free time. Not like in Russia where you just go to work and come home.”

“How do you spend your free time?”

Abraham turned to face her with a twinkle in his eye. “All kinds of ways. Seeing performers singing in shows, going to the circus, heading out to Luna Park.”

“What’s Luna Park?”

“An amusement park in West Brighton Beach. You can ride a roller coaster and see recreations of villages from all over the world—it’s amazing. I’ll take you one weekend.”

Ruth mulled over this new word, weekend. She had no clue what a roller coaster was, but it sounded exciting. Everything Abraham mentioned was foreign and strange. They’d sung as a family around the piano or even in the street with neighbors on holidays. But shows? Performers? These were novel ideas.

Abraham glanced over at her with a mischievous smile. “Still love running?”

Ruth smiled.

“Race you home!” he shouted and took off ahead.

“You gonif! You still cheat!” she shouted and took off after him.

His laughter floated back to her as she ran. The cityscape flew by as she weaved in and out of people on the sidewalk, some shouting insults in response. They rolled right off Ruth. Her exhaustion evaporated, the caress of cool air on her face sweeping away her lethargy. She dug deep to run faster, her competitive instincts kicking in. She’d never felt so happy and free.

Available on Amazon

International Giveaway: Click the link below for a chance to win a signed copy of the book. Giveaway will be open until July 16th!

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About the Author

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Growing up in New York, she always loved exploring the city, particularly the Lower East Side. This led to her discovery of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and the stories it holds.

She currently lives in Northern Virginia where she takes in the sights of DC with her two kids and husband.

Joyana Peters | Facebook | Instagram

Book Release Blitz Organized By:

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book review · drama · family · historical · historical fiction · political · social history

Book Review – The Girl Behind The Wall

My favourite Historical Fiction book this year!

A city divided.
When the Berlin Wall goes up, Karin is on the wrong side of the city. Overnight, she’s trapped under Soviet rule in unforgiving East Berlin and separated from her twin sister, Jutta.
Two sisters torn apart.
Karin and Jutta lead parallel lives for years, cut off by the Wall. But Karin finds one reason to keep going: Otto, the man who gives her hope, even amidst the brutal East German regime.
One impossible choice…
When Jutta finds a hidden way through the wall, the twins are reunited. But the Stasi have eyes everywhere, and soon Karin is faced with a terrible decision: to flee to the West and be with her sister, or sacrifice it all to follow her heart?

Purchase link (publication date July 8th 2021)

My Review

Historical Fiction is one of my most favourite genres to read, and I’m a sucker for a WWII story. The Girl Behind The Wall, whilst set in Berlin, is not a war story since it takes place in the 1960s. However, the events of that day in 1961 when the Berlin Wall went up overnight has its roots very firmly set in the aftermath of WWII and the division of Berlin.

Identical twin sisters, Jutta and Karin, share an enviable thread that is about to be tested to its limits when Karin insists on travelling to the Eastern part of Berlin, despite not feeling so great. Normally, Jutta would have gone with her, but this time Karin can’t wait for her sister.

That night, their cousin, Hugo, an upcoming news reporter for the radio, hears rumblings of a story. He drags Jutta out with him to see what is going on, riding on his motorbike past all the checkpoints that mark the dividing line between East and West Berlin. Except the checkpoints are all closed and frenetic activity sees the making of a more permanent division, concrete and barbed wire split the city in two as the Berlin Wall goes up with Karin still in the East, after a ruptured appendix sees her hospitalised.

Jutta and the family in the West aren’t able to visit her but they can see no reason why she wouldn’t be allowed to return home once she recovers. Well, no reason other than the German Democratic Republic not granting her permission to leave – but they wouldn’t be so inflexible, would they? Hell, yeah.

When Karin recovers, her path to the West has been blocked and she has to accept the offer of her kind doctor to move in with him and his wife for the time being. Every step is considered temporary at first … until it not longer is.

Jutta is refused access to visit and Karin is refused permission to leave. The two young women who have never been apart are suddenly plunged into a new reality, never really understanding why their applications consistently fail. (The reason does become known eventually, but all too late for them)

Karin gets a job as a cleaner in the hospital, thanks again to the doctor, and has to come to terms with the fact that her life is now in East Berlin. Initially, she wants to leave, to go home to her family until she meets and falls in love with Otto, whose ambition is to rebuild East Germany from within as an architect. He has no real attachment to the West and only sees a future for him and his family – and Karin – in the East.

Jutta, from the other side of the Wall, is desperate to get her sister home, especially when letters aren’t getting through and telephone lines are down permanently. Her One day, when she is walking the length of the Wall, she hears the mewing of a cat and follows the sound to find a mother cat and her kittens in a deserted building that flanks the Wall. She gives the cat her lunch and explores a labyrinth of doors and rooms and ultimately a window that looks out into East Berlin.

She risks going over the window, checking carefully for any onlookers and lands with dusty knees in East Berlin, whereupon she heads for the hospital in the hope they know where Karin might now be. From here, the pace picks up as there is danger around every corner and Jutta’s paranoia reaches new heights. Even so, she continues, her desire to find her sister worth the risk.

A connection is made … but the reunion is a far cry from what Jutta expects. Karin is more alert to the dangers, but she also aware that her escape from the East could put those who looked out for her in danger too. And, of course, she has grown fond of Otto, too fond to consider a life without him.

Jutta, forlorn and disappointed, begs Karin to convince Otto to leave the East too and the two women meet up more often from then on. Jutta’s determination to bring Karin home knows no bounds, and she cannot understand why her sister might choose to stay with Otto than to return to her family.

It is not until Jutta finds love herself that she begins to understand, and while the two of them continue their very different lives, each time they meet up Jutta still hopes that Karin can persuade Otto to leave too.

The danger intensifies as Jutta is mistaken for Karin, and a familiar face keeps popping up which sets them both on edge. Have they been found out? Are they under surveillance? The mood is tense, and grows more unnerving with each visit. What began as two sisters divided by the Wall has now evolved into them having others in their lives that mean as much – if not more – to them than they do to each other. And for twins who have only really ever relied upon each other, it’s hard to accept, and even harder to admit to the other that other people are important to them too.

The Girl Behind The Wall is a story of decisions and sacrifices that threaten to tear a family apart. It’s emotional, tense, and highly addictive. So many families were broken up at this time, so many lives were lost as people attempted to flee, and so much mistrust and division was sown among communities as neighbours spied on neighbours. Thankfully, the Wall did come down eventually, but for so many it was too late. For Jutta and Karin, however, there was always hope and a thread between them that nothing could destroy.

Many thanks to Netgalley, Avon books and HarperCollins for my advanced copy of this book which I have reviewed voluntarily.

blog tour · book review · family · historical fiction · Italy · saga · WWII

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Paradiso

Paradiso

Italy, 1937. In a tiny village in rural Lombardy, Graziella Ponti is born into a loving family.

Though they are not rich and life is full of challenges, they are content and safe, surrounded by the tightly-knit community of Pieve Santa Clara.

But when the shadow of World War Two falls across the village with the arrival of Nazi soldiers, nothing in young Graziella’s life will ever be the same again.

Paradiso is Graziella’s story. It charts her loves, losses and triumphs as she grows up in post-war Italy, a country in transformation, freed from the shackles of dictatorship yet still gripped by the restraints of the Catholic church.

Paradiso is inspired by true stories told to Francesca Scanacapra by her Italian family and set in locations where she spent much of her childhood. It is a deeply affecting novel which sheds light on the complexity and trauma of Italy’s past and weaves it into the epic tale of an ordinary woman compelled to live in extraordinary times.

This stunning historical read is perfect for fans of Dinah Jeffries, Rhys Bowen, Victoria Hislop, Angela Petch and Heather Morris.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Paradiso-Utterly-gripping-emotional-historical-ebook/dp/B08X1B15P8/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Paradiso-Utterly-gripping-emotional-historical-ebook/dp/B08X1B15P8/

Author Bio

Francesca Scanacapra was born in Italy to an English mother and Italian father, and her childhood was spent living between England and Italy. Her adult life has been somewhat nomadic and she has pursued an eclectic mixture of career paths, including working as a technical translator between Italian, English, Spanish and French, a gym owner in Spain, an estate agent in France, a property developer in France and Senegal, and a teacher. Francesca lives in Dorset and currently works as a builder with her husband. She has two children.

My Review

An enthralling story representing a side not often seen in WWII historical fiction novels: that of a child in Italy, evacuated to a convent and later returned to her family in a village much changed from the place she left.

Sworn to keep a secret about the death of a couple of German officers, Graziella protects her family … but at what cost? Life in post-war Lombardy has its ups and downs, and we see both sides through the young girl’s eyes as she grows up and into adulthood. For me, the story had a similar vibe to “Anne of Avonlea” (Green Gables) as the reader is drawn into life there, with all the family members and neighbours having their part to play.

I found it interesting how the mothers in the story changed after losing their husbands, how they stood up to be counted in their own very subtle way. Zia Mina’s story would make a great spin-off with the Marcesini family. I would gladly read more about Graziella and her family. Had she found her true love in Gianfrancesco? Would she go on to be a teacher?

A true family drama, both emotionally engaging and historically compelling.
If there is to be a sequel, then count me in. More, please 🙂

Update: as I post my review on Amazon, I spy book 2 – Return to Paradiso!

Wishes do come true! 😉

For more news and reviews,

As always,

Amazon Reviewer Name
Reviewed on Amazon UK as Meandthemutts

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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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.

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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.

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blog tour · historical fiction · mystery · thriller

Blog Tour – Redlined: A Novel of Boston (with giveaway)

RedLine

Welcome to the blog tour for Redlined: A Novel of Boston by Richard W. Wise. Read on for an excerpt and a chance to win an audiobook edition of the book!

Redlined Front CoverRedlined

Publication Date: June 2020

Genre: Historical Fiction/ Mystery/ Thriller

The year is 1974. Boston’s Jamaica Plain is a neighborhood under siege, a community skating along the razor’s edge of decline. The banks have REDLINED Jamaica Plain, causing the housing market to crash, wiping out local homeowner’s lifetime investments and opening the neighborhood to blockbusters and slumlords. Now, someone has begun systematically torching those abandoned buildings and the charred body of Sandy Morgan, a dedicated young neighborhood organizer, has been found among the ashes. Why? Who stands to gain?

Community organizer and Marine combat veteran, Jedidiah Flynt and Alex Jordan, his beautiful Harvard educated researcher together with a group of local property owners are determined to stop the redlining and and bring the arsonists responsible for Sandy Morgan’s death to justice. Their search will lead them through a labyrinth of corrupt politicians, Asian gangsters and bent churchmen.

Two interwoven plots work their way through the narrative, one is absolutely true, the other never happened, but very well might have.

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Excerpt

“Any word from the district fire chief ’s office?”

“So far can’t get anyone from the district to return my calls,” he said with a thin smile. “Better make up a Freedom of Information request, get one of your leaders to sign it. They know they have to respond to that. Talked to one of the fact checkers over at Little City Hall. She claims all fires are ‘thoroughly investigated, Mr. Flynt.’”

He raised his hands and dropped them in a gesture of helplessness.

She made a face. “Guess I better write a letter. So, what’s the point? Insurance?”

“Doesn’t seem to be a reason. Fire insurance on Green Street? Good luck getting any insurance company to write a new policy in your neighborhood or anywhere else in central J. P. The whole area is redlined.”

“Redlined? You’ve mentioned that before, but I really can’t say that I understand it all that well?”

Flynt hesitated and gazed at her for a moment to make sure that she wasn’t pulling his chain. Sandy, he knew, typically came on like she knew it all even when she didn’t.

“It’s complicated. The Northwest Community Organization in Chicago was the first people’s organization to get a handle on it. Got an organizer from N.P.A. —that’s National People’s Action—fellow by the name of Trapp coming in to run a staff training session. Basically, redlining happens when the banks or the insurance companies or all of the above get together and draw a big red circle on a map around parts of the city that they consider too risky to do business with.”

“So they write off the whole neighborhood?”

“You got it and once that happens, kiss the central neighborhood goodbye. Ninety-five percent of all residential housing sales are sold subject to a mortgage, and to get a mortgage you must have insurance. So, Catch 22, you can’t get one, you don’t get the other. If mortgage or the insurance money is choked off, the housing market collapses—which sets the stage for slumlords buying cheap for cash, racial steering and housing abandonment.”

“Redlining is the underlying economic cause of most of the shit we have been organizing around. So, basically all the properties in central J.P. are worthless?”

“Yeah, well there it is,” he said rocking back in his chair. She noted the stubble on his cheeks and the dark smudges under his smoke-gray eyes.

“You ever read the novel Gone with the Wind”? he asked.

“Yeah, when I was like about twelve, why?”

“Well, there is this scene where Melanie is questioning Rhett Butler about how he made all his money. You recall he was a smuggler, dodging the Yankee blockade to bring supplies into southern ports during the Civil War?”

“Uh, huh.”

“Okay, so, Melanie finally overcomes her proper Southern manners and asks the question, and he says, ‘There is more money to be made out of the wreckage of a civilization than from the building of one.’”

Sandy rolled her eyes, “Yeah right, okay. I get it.”

“Exactly.”

“Okay, but what’s with the corridor anyhow? I mean whose bright idea was that?”

“Happened before my time. Bunch of community groups got together to stop I-95 running right through the middle of the neighborhood. Finally got the governor to stop it but not until the whole thing was demo’d in from Route 128 to Roxbury. What you see is what’s left, a partially demolished six-lane cancer eating out the guts of the neighborhood,” Flynt said.

She stood up. “Yeah, looks like Berlin after the blitz and only a couple of blocks down from my abandoned house.

Okay, I’ll get set up as soon as I leave here. But what do I do if I see anybody?”

“Stay out of sight! Hide in an alley between the buildings. Or just stay in the shadows. If you see anyone or anything suspicious, try for a description or a license plate. Then get the fuck outta there, call the cops, the fire department and then call me.”

“And if it’s late and you’re home asleep?”

“I’m serious, Morgan. Don’t take any chances. People who torch houses are not the kind of fuckers you want to screw around with. Call me if you see anything suspicious, no matter what time, day or night, just call me, okay?”

“Aye, aye, sir!” she said, and she tossed off a mock salute.

“Sandy!”

“Okay, okay. I get it. I’ll call!”

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About the Author

Vault

Richard Wise is the author of three books. His latest novel, REDLINED, A Novel of Boston is a mystery thriller set in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. PublishersWeekly raves: “Fans of suspense fiction with a social conscience will be pleased.” Midwest Book Review describes REDLINED as a “An original and simply riveting novel.” REDLINED was nominated for the National Book Award and the Benjamin Franklin Award in fiction.

The author’s first book: SECRETS OF THE GEM TRADE, THE CONNOISSEUR’S GUIDE TO PRECIOUS GEMSTONES was originally published in 2001. The book was serialized in two magazines and became a critically acclaimed best seller. The second edition appeared in 2016. Extensively revised and rewritten, the 2nd edition has added 127 pages, 11 new chapters, 5 new introductory essays and 161 additional photographs.

Mr. Wise’s second book,THE FRENCH BLUE, a historical novel published in 2010 was the winner of a 2011 International Book Award in Historical Fiction. The novel is set in the 17th Century gem trade. Called “a fine piece of historical fiction” in a 5 star review by Midwest Book Review, THE FRENCH BLUE tells the back story of the Hope Diamond and the true life adventures of 17th Century gem merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier.

Richard Wise has enjoyed a diverse career. He is a veteran of the U. S. Coast Guard. After receiving his B.A., teaching and doing graduate work at the University of Rhode Island, he spent most of the decade of the 70s as a professional community organizer. Wise headed organizing projects in Massachusetts and Rhode island. In the late 1970s he left organizing and apprenticed as a goldsmith. He studied gemology at the Gemological Institute of American and received his Graduate Gemologist diploma in 1985. He founded his retail company R. W. Wise, Goldsmiths, Inc. in the early 1980s and began traveling internationally, buying gems and writing about them in 1986.

Mr. Wise’s articles have appeared in Gems & Gemology, Lapidary Journal, JQ and Colored Stone. He is a former Gemology Columnist for National Jeweler and Contributing Editor at Gem Market News. The author retired from retail in 2012 to pursue his writing. Currently, he writes a book review column for Gemmology Today Magazine. He lives with his wife and two cats in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Richard W. Wise

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Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Children’s Fate

Children’s Fate

How can a mother just stand by when her daughter is being cozened into sin?

It’s 1360, eleven years since the Black Death devastated all of England, and six years since Emma Ward fled Meonbridge with her children, to find a more prosperous life in Winchester. Long satisfied that she’d made the right decision, Emma is now terrified that she was wrong. For she’s convinced her daughter Bea is in grave danger, being exploited by her scheming and immoral mistress.

Bea herself is confused: fearful and ashamed of her sudden descent into sin, but also thrilled by her wealthy and attentive client.

When Emma resolves to rescue Bea from ruin and tricks her into returning to Meonbridge, Bea doesn’t at first suspect her mother’s motives. She is happy to renew her former friendships but, yearning for her rich lover, Bea soon absconds back to the city. Yet, only months later, plague is stalking Winchester again and, in terror, Bea flees once more to Meonbridge.

But, this time, she finds herself unwelcome, and fear, hostility and hatred threaten…

Terror, betrayal and deceit, but also love and courage, in a time of continuing change and challenge – Children’s Fate, the fourth MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLE.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Childrens-Fate-Meonbridge-Chronicle-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B08LZLW9S1

US – https://www.amazon.com/Childrens-Fate-Meonbridge-Chronicle-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B08LZLW9S1

Author Bio –

CAROLYN HUGHES was born in London, but has lived most of her life in Hampshire. After completing a degree in Classics and English, she started her working life as a computer programmer, in those days a very new profession. But it was when she discovered technical authoring that she knew she had found her vocation. She spent the next few decades writing and editing all sorts of material, some fascinating, some dull, for a wide variety of clients, including an international hotel group, medical instrument manufacturers and the government.

She has written creatively for most of her adult life, but it was not until her children grew up and flew the nest several years ago that writing historical fiction took centre stage in her life. She has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.

Children’s Fate is the fourth novel in the MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLES series. A fifth novel is under way.

You can connect with Carolyn through her website http://www.carolynhughesauthor.com and social media:

Social Media Links –

Facebook: CarolynHughesAuthor; Twitter: @writingcalliope; Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2hs2rrX

Giveaway to Win a $15 / £15 / €15 Amazon Gift Card (Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide 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.

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My Review

Children’s Fate is the fourth in the series set in the village of Meonbridge in the fourteenth century and, like its predecessor, it’s a gem. I say predecessor in the singular because, to date, I’ve only been to Meonbridge once before, in book three – De Bohun’s Destiny – but it was a most memorable read, so much so I knew I had to read this latest instalment. Besides, it was a joy to pick up with old characters to see how the years had treated them.

Fourteenth century England sees both progress and challenges for the people of Meonbridge. Emma Ward and her family take the leading roles, as we head to Winchester where Emma hopes new opportunities await. And, indeed they do, as Emma enters the weaving trade and earns enough to buy her daughter Bea an apprenticeship with an embroideress. Yet, it is here that Emma’s hopes begin to unravel, and maybe, just maybe, she has put her daughter in danger, morally and physically.

With that in mind, she heads back to Meonbridge wary of the welcome she might receive having left so unexpectedly some six years ago. But Bea has become accustomed to a different lifestyle in Winchester, albeit one of which her mother – and society – disapprove. Whilst Emma is eventually able to make amends with old friends, Bea struggles to settle into village life again when it comes to work. Bea has grown up, and attracts many admirers, but her reputation precedes her, and it’s a reputation that she daren’t let her mother hear of.

The to- and froing between Meonbridge and Winchester highlights not only the differences in city and village life, but it is later blamed when the plague returns. Those who put on a front of respectability in Winchester life are quick to seek their own gratification and self-gain whilst condemning others for doing the same, and they do so ironically without any thought for others. It’s the very essence of “do as I say, not as I do” in times when money and connections can absolve guilt in an instance.

Over in Meonbridge, the villagers want answers for the fate that has befallen them once again. And who do they blame when children’s lives are lost but the young woman who has travelled oft between the two places and whose sullied reputation marks her out as morally corrupt and socially despised. Their reactions, as they grieve, only makes Bea more unpopular. Poor Emma now blames herself for having left Meonbridge in the first place. She is faced with confronting an angry mob and defending her daughter, or sending Bea away to an unknown fate.

Although the story focuses on Emma and her family, it also looks at the lives of other women of the village as they cope with new births and miscarriages, grieve loved ones, fear what will become of their offspring, and contend with the plague, supposedly foreseen by a solar eclipse. The message sent out by religious leaders urges them to confess and renounce their sinful ways if they are to survive. It was interesting to read the author’s notes at the end, about how people in those times “treated” the plague with instructions to stay at home and cover their faces in public, both actions being spookily comparable to current times.

Once again, the author has created a rich tapestry of life in 1361, with all the trials and tribulations that came with it. For me, historical fiction at its best, immerses the reader in another time for a brief spell. Carolyn Hughes does just that; this is a story in 3D format and I can’t wait for the next one.

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