Monday, December 31, 2018

Review: The Secrets of the Tea Garden

Title: The Secrets of the Tea Garden (The India Tea Book 4)
Author: Janet MacLeod Trotter
Publisher: 22nd November 2018 by Amazon Publishing UK Lake Union Publishing
Pages: 574 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, womens fiction, romance, cultural India
My Rating: 4 cups

Synopsis:
She’s gone in search of happy memories. But was her idyllic childhood in India an illusion?
After the Second World War, Libby Robson leaves chilly England for India, and the childhood home where she left her heart—and her beloved father, James—fourteen years ago.
At first Libby is intoxicated by India’s vibrant beauty: the bustle of Calcutta, the lush tea gardens of Assam. But beneath the surface a rebellion is simmering: India is on the brink of Independence, and the days of British rule are numbered. As the owner of a tea plantation, James embodies the hated colonial regime, and Libby finds herself questioning her idealised memories—particularly when she meets the dashing freedom fighter Ghulam Khan.
As Independence looms, life in India becomes precarious for Libby, James and even Ghulam. And when James reveals a shameful family secret, Libby is forced to question her past—and her future.
My Thoughts

“Libby watched the golden liquid being poured into the china cups which she helped hand around. She picked up hers and inhaled the steamy scent. The tea smelled of mango and papaya. Libby closed her eyes and sipped. Instantly, the heat and vivid colours of the tea garden were conjured up...”

I thoroughly enjoyed this sojourn to India - wonderful historical fiction. Although listed as part of a series, I have not previously read any and found it to be fine as a standalone read. Of course, some characters are carried over and many other reviewers enjoyed visiting ‘old’ friends, so it may be worth investigating. The series involves families who were either born in India or had roots back in England. This particular volume revolves around the partition of India in 1947.

In the dying days of colonial rule, this book portrays the vestiges of the British Empire in India with a small smattering of white opinions set against the new and revolutionary thoughts and actions for independence. This, I found, to be the strongest aspect of the book, the turbulent political situation, was well researched, being rich in historical detail.

The writing provides in depth accounts of place and people - sometimes a little too much detail. In my opinion, there are certain passages that went on for too long and became repetitive - there was definite room for more editing with regards to personal character plotlines and development. That being said, the larger overarching themes of Anglo-Indian relations was well done, particularly those of mixed heritage who found themselves not really belonging to either side. Even those ex-pats who had spent the majority of their life living and working in India - their struggles were likewise well portrayed.

The exotic settings were definitely well captured and presented, particularly Calcutta and the tea growing regions of Assam. Tied in with this is a study of the type of person who could adjust to such remote living. There is an array of characters that you will have to get your head around - who belongs to which family (this may be perhaps where reading previous books in the series would be an advantage). Overall, I enjoyed the historical background of this period, the time leading up to separation and independence.

‘What’s a real Indian, Ghulam?’ she demanded hotly. ‘Shouldn’t that include all the minorities here? Or don’t you want to think about the inconvenient ones –the Anglo-Indians like Flowers or my cousin Adela –or even the Indian-born Europeans like myself? Are we not pure enough for the new India?’
‘That’s not what I meant—’
‘’Cause if that’s your attitude then you are no better than the Hindu extremists who want to rid India of the Muslims and Sikhs. Because once you start excluding one group then where do you stop?’




This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Review: The Woman in the Green Dress

Title: The Woman in the Green Dress
Author: Tea Cooper
Publisher: 17th December 2018 by Harlequin Australia, HQ & Mira
Pages: 352 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 4.5 cups

Synopsis:
1853 Mogo Creek, NSW
Della Atterton, bereft at the loss of her parents, is holed up in the place she loves best: the beautiful Hawkesbury in New South Wales. Happiest following the trade her father taught her, taxidermy, Della has no wish to return to Sydney. But the unexpected arrival of Captain Stefan von Richter on a quest to retrieve what could be Australia's first opal, precipitates Della's return to Sydney and her Curio Shop of Wonders, where she discovers her enigmatic aunt, Cordelia, is selling more than curiosities to collectors. Strange things are afoot and Della, a fly in a spider's web, is caught up in events with unimaginable consequences...
1919 Sydney, NSW
When London tea shop waitress Fleur Richards inherits land and wealth in Australia from her husband, Hugh, killed in the war, she wants nothing to do with it. After all, accepting it will mean Hugh really is dead. But Hugh's lawyer is insistent, and so she finds herself ensconced in the Berkeley Hotel on Bent St, Sydney, the reluctant owner of a Hawkesbury property and an old curio shop, now desolate and boarded up.
As the real story of her inheritance unravels, Fleur finds herself in the company of a damaged returned soldier Kip, holding a thread that takes her deep into the past, a thread that could unravel a mystery surrounding an opal and a woman in a green dress; a green that is the colour of envy, the colour buried deep within an opal, the colour of poison...
My Thoughts

Tea Cooper has delivered once again! Just like in, ‘The Naturalist’s Daughter’ (HERE), where she presented  strong female historical figures, Tea’s latest tale not only provides a truly engaging story but also two fabulously strong women.  I thoroughly enjoyed both dual time narratives (an admirable accomplishment in itself) and couldn’t wait to see how Tea would provide the crucial and very cleverly linked storylines as she often does.

‘The Woman in the Green Dress’, is full of good locations, well rounded characters and an engaging plot. I just love these strong female leads and both Fleur and Della once more exemplify the feminine intuitive that runs across all Tea’s books. Venturing from Sydney to the Hawkesbury, there are many aspects to this tale that make it unique: taxidermy, opals,  villains, bequests, courage and love.

Both Della in 1853 and Fleur in 1919 have much to offer the reader with their courage and tenacity. Fleur’s story is courageous as she travels from England to uncover the truth behind her husband’s legacy; likewise Della, pursues the truth - admirable for both women in an age where they were viewed as secondary citizens. There are several interesting aspects here - taxidermy, plight of the first Australians, the opal industry and much more.  The way Tea interweaves fact and fiction is highly commendable - rich in intriguing historical facts.

This is a clever story that will have you working to organise all the plot puzzle pieces that have been masterfully crafted by Tea. I was captivated by not only the strength and determination of the two women, but also the cast of secondary characters. Congratulations Tea on once again producing a masterfully crafted tale of mystery and intrigue that will see the reader journeying side by side with Della and Fleur as they both respectively work to uncover the truth behind, ‘The Woman in the Green Dress’.





This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Title: Lost Without You.
Author: Rachael Johns
Publisher: Harlequin Australia, HQ (Fiction, Non-fiction, YA) & MIRA HQ, 29th October.
Pages: 440 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: Women’s Fiction
My Rating: 5 cups


Synopsis:
Four women, one dress, and the secret that binds them all...

On a special night that is supposed to be a celebration of new beginnings, Paige MacRitchie's joy quickly falls away when her mother collapses during the speeches at her book launch. In the aftermath, and terrified of losing her, Paige decides she wants to make the ultimate tribute to her parents' perfect marriage: she will wear her mother's wedding dress for her own big day.


There's just one problem - her mum, Rebecca, no longer has the dress.

As Paige tries to track down the elusive gown, she discovers that Rebecca has a long-hidden secret that, if revealed, could blow her whole family apart. Her new friend Josie is at a crossroads too. She met her husband Nik when she was singing in an eighties-themed bar, but now she's lonely, yearning for a family and wondering if Nik understands her at all.

And then there's nurse Clara. When she married Rob Jones, an up-and-coming rock star, she thought she was in it forever. But now Clara needs to make a new life for herself and Rob can't seem to understand that it's over.

When the fates of these four women intertwine in an unexpected and powerful way, none of their lives will ever be the same again.

A fresh and poignant novel of family, journeys, past decisions … and dresses … from the ABIA award-winning, bestselling author Rachael Johns.



My Thoughts


Lost Without You is a novel that will make you laugh, cry, wonder and reminisce. It would have to be the best book I have read this year! Having been lucky enough to meet Rachael, I am honoured to be reviewing her latest book!


I really enjoyed how each chapter started with a different character’s name and began with their story. Rebecca was the central character and all the other characters
somehow weaved into her story. This was done so well that I just had to keep turning the pages and I often read late into the night (sometimes even into early morning!)


There were many different controversial issues dealt with in the story and they were well researched. I laughed and I cried along with the characters and they became an everyday part of my life that I couldn’t wait to get back to!
I especially enjoyed reading about Josie. As an 80’s fan myself and a teacher, I identified with her the most.


“In reality she planned a night in bed with a bottle of wine and one of her favourite movies from the eighties playing on her laptop. Big bold hair, outrageous fashion, feel-good music and a little Molly Ringwald had been her medicine of choice for as long as she could remember.”  


There were so many twists and turns in this book and Rachael did an amazing job of linking all the characters together. The secret that Rebecca was keeping from her family was the link with all the characters and by using a wedding dress Rachael brought all the characters together.


“...‘Dad-what happened to Mum’s wedding dress? Is it packed away at the house somewhere?’...’I think she gave it away to charity.’...Paige’s heart sank and she couldn’t hide the disappointment in her voice; the grand plan that had entered her head a few seconds earlier was gone as soon as it arrived.”


Every single character in this book is likeable and some are even lovable.Their stories are unique and written very well. While Paige is looking for her Mum’s wedding dress, there are other stories being developed along the way. You would think, this would make it difficult to follow, but the talented way Rachael writes and links them together makes it very easy to follow and an extremely enjoyable read.


“...’I do remember that dress...I put it up in the window and in less than an hour, it had sold’...’Do you know who bought it?’...’I remember it was a man. Pretty young. Tall, dark, handsome…”


I highly recommend this book. It was such an enjoyable read and I was very sad when I got to the end, I wanted more!



“...’Thankyou’..said in unison, before they turned to each other and enjoyed a celebratory group hug.”
As Paige tries to track down the elusive gown, she discovers that Rebecca has a long-hidden secret that, if revealed, could blow her whole family apart. Her new friend Josie is at a crossroads too. She met her husband Nik when she was singing in an eighties-themed bar, but now she's lonely, yearning for a family and wondering if Nik understands her at all.


And then there's nurse Clara. When she married Rob Jones, an up-and-coming rock star, she thought she was in it forever. But now Clara needs to make a new life for herself and Rob can't seem to understand that it's over.


When the fates of these four women intertwine in an unexpected and powerful way, none of their lives will ever be the same again.


A fresh and poignant novel of family, journeys, past decisions … and dresses … from the ABIA award-winning, bestselling author Rachael Johns.


My Thoughts


Lost Without You is a novel that will make you laugh, cry, wonder and reminisce. It would have to be the best book I have read this year! Having been lucky enough to meet Rachael, I am honoured to be reviewing her latest book!


I really enjoyed how each chapter started with a different character’s name and began with their story. Rebecca was the central character and all the other characters
somehow weaved into her story. This was done so well that I just had to keep turning the pages and I often read late into the night (sometimes even into early morning!)


There were many different controversial issues dealt with in the story and they were well researched. I laughed and I cried along with the characters and they became an everyday part of my life that I couldn’t wait to get back to!
I especially enjoyed reading about Josie. As an 80’s fan myself and a teacher, I identified with her the most.


“In reality she planned a night in bed with a bottle of wine and one of her favourite movies from the eighties playing on her laptop. Big bold hair, outrageous fashion, feel-good music and a little Molly Ringwald had been her medicine of choice for as long as she could remember.”  


There were so many twists and turns in this book and Rachael did an amazing job of linking all the characters together. The secret that Rebecca was keeping from her family was the link with all the characters and by using a wedding dress Rachael brought all the characters together.


“...‘Dad-what happened to Mum’s wedding dress? Is it packed away at the house somewhere?’...’I think she gave it away to charity.’...Paige’s heart sank and she couldn’t hide the disappointment in her voice; the grand plan that had entered her head a few seconds earlier was gone as soon as it arrived.”


Every single character in this book is likeable and some are even lovable.Their stories are unique and written very well. While Paige is looking for her Mum’s wedding dress, there are other stories being developed along the way. You would think, this would make it difficult to follow, but the talented way Rachael writes and links them together makes it very easy to follow and an extremely enjoyable read.


“...’I do remember that dress...I put it up in the window and in less than an hour, it had sold’...’Do you know who bought it?’...’I remember it was a man. Pretty young. Tall, dark, handsome…”


I highly recommend this book. It was such an enjoyable read and I was very sad when I got to the end, I wanted more!


“...’Thankyou’..said in unison, before they turned to each other and enjoyed a celebratory group hug.”




This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Title: The Little Book Cafe: Tash’s Story
Author: Georgia Hill
Publisher: Harper Impulse and Killer Reads, August 17th
Pages: 141 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
My Rating: 4.5 cups


Synopsis:
Escape to the seaside for a new three-part series for fans of The Canal Boat Cafe and Willow Cottage
Local estate agent Tash isn’t convinced about joining the new book club at Berecombe’s beautiful new bookshop and cafĂ©. Dragged there by her friend Emma, she knows she needs a night out. Her boyfriend Adrian is wonderful, and adores her, but has become a bit clingy of late. So when she is introduced to new local farmer Kit, with his scruffy beard and low-key look, it’s a breath of fresh air to chat to someone so un-Adrian. Maybe this book club idea could be fun after all!
But when Tash starts forgetting things and behaving oddly, over-protective Adrian is determined to keep her from her new interest. But if book club has taught Tash anything, she should know not to judge a book by its cover…


My Thoughts


After reading my first Georgia Hill novel, I went on the hunt for more from this series and I found this gem! It is the first in the three part series.  I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the series and it was a very interesting read. It dealt with a serious issue, which Georgia Hill portrayed extremely well.


“Everyone told her she had the perfect life. How could she admit it was anything but?”


I loved meeting all the characters again and it answered some of my questions about them. The protagonist, Tash, had a difficult childhood which gave her a low self-esteem, which led her to Adrian.


“Adrian Williams was older than her, an established property developer, obviously monied and the most sophisticated man who had ever taken an interest.”

Tash didn’t have many close friends and she was a workaholic so her only socialising was with Adrian, who even pulled her away from her family with his domineering ways. When she joined the book club she realised how unhappy she really was. With the encouragement and support of her new friends, she was able to break away and start to  focus on herself.


“She missed the simpler pleasures she’d enjoyed before him...she used to love walking her parents’ dog. She hadn’t seen them for ages...so she decided - once Adrian left for work, she’d go and have a coffee with her mother and borrow the dog for a few hours.”


This book was a very enjoyable one and I recommend this to anyone who enjoys a short, light hearted read, but still has substance with a happy ending.


“She was so tired and dreamy from the champagne that she felt she was floating. Or maybe it was the beginnings of happiness?”




This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.


Sunday, December 16, 2018

Review: Home to Turtle Bay

Title:  Home to Turtle Bay
Author: Marion Lennox
Publisher: 19th November 2018 by Harlequin Australia, HQ & MIRA
Pages: 416 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: contemporary romance, womens fiction
My Rating: 5 cups

Synopsis:
A warm and witty multi-generational romantic comedy, set in a coastal Australian farming community, from international bestselling romance author Marion Lennox. Dr Jennifer Kelly has reached the pinnacle of her career as a successful Manhattan obstetrician, complete with ambitious, blue-blooded fiance. After a desolate childhood with a distant grandmother, life seems everything she's ever wanted.
When a grandfather she's never heard of leaves her a dairy farm on an isolated Australian island - plus one depressed dog, thirty geriatric cows and a bunch of ancient surfboards - she plans a quick trip to put the farm up for sale. Her aloof, socialite grandmother Muriel is appalled, yet insists on accompanying her.
Once there, Jenny finds herself caught, by cows, by turtles - and by Jack McLachlan, the overworked island doctor who desperately needs her help. Muriel's caught too, with ghosts of her wartime past threatening to crack the shell she's built with such dedication and care.
But isn't Manhattan their home? How can two women give up the perfect world they've worked so hard for by taking a chance on...life?

My Thoughts

‘Joy was a strange concept—something I’d barely considered. Life until now had been about survival and ambition. Joy came somewhere far down the list.’

I cannot begin to tell you how much I loved this book - such a great read. Everything just came together - the writing, the characters, the plot - every opportunity I could, I sat down to escape to Turtle Bay.

Firstly, the characters were fabulous and such a range of stories to tell. Jenny and Jack were, of course, front and centre. However, there were other, just as pertinent stories to be regaled - from Muriel, to Bridget, right down to Drifter the dog. Then there is the island, almost a character in itself, from the aptly named cows to the glorious surf and undulating hills.

Interwoven throughout is a range of engaging tales from both past and present. You will second guess Muriel’s frostiness, your heart will break for Bridget and Jack, with Jenny you will be cheering her right along to be brave and true to herself. There will be everything from babies born, to cows queuing, to yachts cruising to medical dramas that will have you on the edge of your seat.

All of this comes together so seamlessly because of the captivating writing Marion delivers. You too will be wishing for a sea change to Nautilus island, to be part of an amazing community and experience a different kind of life.

‘For part of me was being abandoned right there. It was my disciplined self. It was the part of me that had held me in control for all these years, and it was dissolving into the night air as if it had never existed.’



This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Monday, December 10, 2018

Review: The Widow of Ballarat

Title: The Widow of Ballarat
Author: Darry Fraser
Publisher: 19th November 2018 by Harlequin Australia, HQ
Pages: 318 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 4.5 cups

Synopsis:
A compulsively readable story of passion, adventure and a woman's quest for independence set against the colorful backdrop of 19th century Bendigo and the goldfields of Ballarat.
1854, Ballarat, Victoria When Nell Amberton's husband is shot dead by a bushranger, there are few who grieve his passing, and Nell least of all. How could she miss the monster who had abused her from the day they wed - the man who had already killed his innocent first wife? But his death triggers a chain of events that seem to revolve around the handsome bushranger who murdered him - a man to whom Nell, against her better judgment, is drawn.
But Nell has far more than a mysterious stranger to worry about. With a mess of complications around her late husband's will, a vicious scoundrel of a father trying to sell her off in matrimony, and angry relatives pursuing her for her husband's gold, she is more concerned with trying to ensure her safety and that of her friend, goldfields laundry woman Flora, than dealing with the kind of feelings that led her astray so catastrophically before.
After the violence on the goldfields, Nell's fate also hangs in the balance. It seems that, after all, she might need to do the one thing she has avoided at all costs...ask for the help of a man.
My Thoughts

‘She would venture onto the digging fields for one last time, to take a walk over the damaged, sad hills filled with empty holes and dashed dreams.’

Set in the goldfields of Ballarat in the aftermath of the Eureka Stockade, Darry Fraser takes you on a fabulous journey of what it would have been like for women during this transitional phase in history. Whilst certainly interesting to read key events from this period, this is not the main focus of the book. The main focus is in fact the role of women and one in particular, Nell Amberton.  Here is a women (in a time when marriage was the only accepted form of legitimacy) who endures an abusive relationship, tries to realise life as a widow, attempts to become independent and build a new life for herself, all whilst dealing with some shady characters. Nell and her friend Flora, provide a fabulous insight into the life for a woman in extreme circumstances of living on the goldfields.

Darry provides you with a strong historical setting of the day to day living and often tenuous prospects of life on the Ballarat goldfields in Australia of the 1850s. Seeing it through their eyes, you will feel yourself transported back trying valiantly to eke out an existence. How wonderful to view it from a female perspective, the silent partners in this often futile escapade to make a fortune.

The characters are rich and engaging. Nell and Flora representative of female tenacity, the father and nephew the ugly domineering male, that was thankfully, balanced against the gallant Finn - what a fabulous ‘bushranger’ he made! Fear not the obvious cliches, as issues of independence after marriage and the wearing of pants give a little taste of the momentous changes that would ultimately unfold for women. In a time when Aussie authors are making their mark in rich historical fiction, Darry has done a fabulous job with some wonderful storytelling and puts herself right up there with the best.

So if you like a good story, women attempting to exert independence, throw in a dashing hero to assist, then this will be the book for you. Life was hard, especially so for women who were often regarded as male property; this tale saw me eagerly awaiting what would unfold next for the harsh circumstances of being, ‘The Widow of Ballarat’.

‘Nell looked about her, at the rough and tumble of the camp, at the dust and the dirt, the hard, worn-down faces of men and women alike. The white people, the black people, the yellow people, myriad languages, the bellowing, the brawling, the children of all races on the diggings, scampering about, their dirty faces and patched clothes evidence of the fickle luck on the fields.’




This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.