Thursday, March 31, 2022

Review: Long Meg and the Wicked Baron

Title: Long Meg and the Wicked Baron

Author: Pamela Hart

Publisher: 1st March 2022 by Escape Publishing

Pages: 130 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: women’s fiction, historical fiction, short story

My Rating: 4 cups


From award-winning author Pamela Hart, a warm and witty Regency tale of second chance love.

Little Foxbury, Norfolk, 1818

Meg is in her mid-twenties, grief-stricken and all but on the shelf after the death of her beloved fiancĂ©, John. The last thing she expects is an immediate attraction to Nicholas, Lord Ashham, newly arrived in their Norfolk area to take up the title of his departed father—who was, indeed, a wicked Baron. Artistic Nicholas is cut from a different cloth. Can Meg help him escape the stain of the past without damaging her own, spotless reputation, and become a bride at last?

My Thoughts

I am always up for a book by Pamela - I love her writing! Here she offers her readers such a sweet and fun Regency short story. I am not a fan overall of short stories as it's difficult to get invested in the characters, however, Pamela does a great job in Long Meg and the Wicked Baron.

‘Step by step he’d build a reputation here which would allow him to stand in the open with Margaret Deveny without destroying her reputation.’

Despite the obvious wishing it were longer and provided more detail, the story moves along at a good pace with highly engaging lead characters. Meg is thought to be a spinster and Nick finds himself judged because of the wickedness of his father (now deceased). Pam successfully captured an energy between the two which is commendable in such a short amount of writing. Of course there is the requisite small village gossip with all their prejudices and rumours to add highlights to this engaging tale. 

‘How wonderful it must be to want something so desperately! To know who you were meant to be, and strive for it daily.’

Long Meg and the Wicked Baron is a perfect afternoon read. A mutual attraction between the endearing heir, the forgotten maid with an artistic little sister providing the fun connection between the two. There is a lovely epilogue that rounds the story out nicely and makes for a satisfying if somewhat quick Regency fix. 

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Review: Her Time to Shine

Title: Her Time to Shine
Author: Fiona McCallum

Publisher: 30th March 2022 by Harlequin Australia & HQ Fiction

Pages: 419 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: contemporary, women’s fiction 

My Rating: 4 cups


Sometimes serendipity comes knocking, and life leads us to the most surprising places ...

It's never too late to find your true self.

While very pretty, the tiny town of Melrose isn't where Erica thought she'd be at almost fifty. And working in a funeral home and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, while navigating her grief as a recent widow, is not how she thought her life would look either. But she's committed to her lovely new boss, Walter, who gave her a chance when she so desperately needed it.

Erica's friends and daughters back in Adelaide cheer her on as she discovers a genuine love for her new job, forms friendships and immerses herself in the local community. But why is she being plagued with fresh bouts of anxiety and flashes of partial memories of her brother Mark who died when she was eleven? Why is there so much about him she doesn't know and can't remember? And why does it feel like it's more about her than him?

But she has to put it all aside when, despite being happy and settled, Erica is suddenly called upon to step up and face her deepest fear. If she can, what will she discover about herself and her past? And what will it mean for her future?

My Thoughts

‘..too many people took too much notice of what others thought they needed, including random strangers, rather than listening to themselves and chasing their own dreams.’

Another winning contemporary story by Aussie author Fiona McCallum. This is the story of Erica and the journey of self discovery she goes through after suffering from PTSD. Her life has not been the easiest, yet with the help of friends, she gains the confidence to face her fears, work through them in order to make a better future for herself. 

Her Time to Shine is a heartwarming read, I love it when characters overcome personal adversity and learn through their trials. I particularly appreciated how Fiona demonstrates that the journey can occur no matter what one’s age. Grief, trauma, anxiety or even starting anew can affect us all very differently and at varying times of our lives. Overcoming it takes courage. Fiona shows us that with the right support, anything is possible. 

Reflective, sincere, compassionate and insightful - this is a story that is sure to have something for everyone as it takes you on an emotional journey where you are sure to come out richer on the other side. 

‘All the pieces that had come together over her lifetime to put her there were 

too mind-boggling to contemplate. But one thing she was sure in her soul was that now was absolutely the right time for this, with who she was and what she’d learnt.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Review: The Nurses' War

Title: The Nurses' War

Author: Victoria Purman

Publisher: 30th March 2022 by Harlequin Australia & HQ Fiction

Pages: 600 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: historical fiction, World War II

My Rating: 4.5 cups


There is more than one way to fight a war...An extraordinary story of grit, love and loss, based on the true history and real experiences of Australian nurses in World War 1. In 1915, as World War 1 rages in Europe and the numbers of dead and injured continue to grow, Australian nurse, Sister Cora Barker, leaves her home in Australia for England, determined to use her skills for King and country. When she arrives at Harefield House - donated to the Australian Army by its expatriate Australian owners - she helps transform it into a hospital that is also a little piece of home for recuperating Australian soldiers.

As the months pass, her mission to save diggers lives becomes more urgent as the darkest months of the war see injured soldiers from the battlefields of France and Belgium flood into Harefield in the thousands. When the hospital sends out a desperate call for help, a quiet young seamstress from the village, Jessie Chester, steps up as a volunteer. At the hospital she meets Private Bert Mott, a recuperating Australian soldier, but the looming threat of his return to the Front hangs over them. Could her first love be her first heartbreak?

Cora's and Jessie's futures, their hearts and their lives hang in the balance as the never-ending wave of injured and dying soldiers threatens to overwhelm the hospital and the hopes of a nation rest on a knife edge. The nurses war is a war against despair and death, fought with science and love rather than mustard gas and fear - but can they possibly win it? And what will be the cost?

My Thoughts

I am always eager to read Victoria’s books as I reliably come away so much richer for the experience. Her previous tales are testimony:  The Women’s Pages had me googling and reminiscing on my mother’s life stories; The Last of the Bonegilla Girls saw me actually paying a visit to Bonegilla! So it was with great anticipation that I started her latest, The Nurses’ War.

The story moves at a steady pace over an extended time period, thus allowing connections to form with the lead characters. Connections of empathy and understanding for all they would endure and experience. At first it was much like an adventure to arrive at a new hospice located in a beautiful English Manor. However, things soon change with the arrival of the first patients.

‘Sometimes it was a shock to wake in the morning with the realisation that 

another day had dawned and she would have to do it all again.’

The Nurses' War is a story based on real events and experiences of Australian nurses in WWI. Being based on fact always makes it hit home that much harder. Victoria’s writing certainly brings the human face to the horrors that were witnessed at Harefield House and beyond. Still, it is all dealt with compassionately but realistically, as Victoria does not shy away from the reality of the situation. These were people who demonstrated such bravery and courage with incredible strength of character that, at times, what you read is startling, sobering and heartbreaking. 

‘When she closed her eyes, she still saw destruction and waste and agonies. She saw her boys: the shattered ones. The limbless ones. The faceless ones … She saw wooden huts and duckboards and mud and rain and the beautiful English summer sunshine. 

All of it was still with her, and would forever be.’

I love learning about and from history and once more, Victoria has taken her readers on an incredible journey. I was unfamiliar with the story behind this hospital and in awe of not only the conditions they worked under but the sheer volume of what confronted these nurses on a daily basis. The research, once again Victoria, is astounding and presented in the most impactful way. This is a must read for all historical WWII historical fiction fans. 

‘Harefield is like a mansion of broken hearts ...' 

Letter from an Australian soldier, 7 September 1916   

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Review: The Last Dance of the Debutante

Title: The Last Dance of the Debutante

Author: Julia Kelly

Publisher: 31st March 2022 by Canelo

Pages: 320 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: women’s fiction, historical fiction

My Rating:  4.5 cups


A group of young women are swept up in a life-changing journey as they become three of the last debutantes to be presented to Queen Elizabeth II. 

When it’s announced that 1958 will be the last year debutantes are to be presented at court, thousands of eager mothers and hopeful daughters flood the palace with letters seeking the year’s most coveted invitation: a chance for their daughters to curtsy to the young Queen Elizabeth and officially come out into society.

In an effort to appease her traditional mother, aspiring university student Lily Nichols agrees to become a debutante and do the Season, a glittering and grueling string of countless balls and cocktail parties. In doing so, she befriends two very different women: the cool and aloof Leana Hartford whose apparent perfection hides a darker side and the ambitious Katherine Norman who dreams of a career once she helps her parents find their place among the elite. But the glorious effervescence of the Season evaporates once Lily learns a devastating secret that threatens to destroy her entire family.

My Thoughts

“You’re going to be a debutante, Lillian,” said Grandmama. “One of the last.” “The Queen has decided that 1958 will be the final year of the court presentations,”

Julia Kelly’s, The Last Dance of the Debutante, sensationally brings to life the last official presentation of debutantes at court. Having read so much of how it was performed in Regency times for example, I was eager to read how this dying institution would play out in its final days. The story is everything I had hoped for and more. It is decadent yet also inclusive of a well written tale of a family mystery. 

“That for the better part of a year we’re expected to go to lots of parties all in the hope that we’ll meet a nice man? It’s positively Victorian,”

England was on the cusp of change, especially for women. Gone were the days of a woman’s only path being one of matrimony and childhood. Julia’s research takes the facts of this final debutante season and mixes in a well crafted tale. On the one hand there are the pressures of participation in the Season and so much classism; on the other, a family secret that would have dramatic repercussions for the lead character, Lilly. 

“I’m thinking about what my life would look like if no one expected me to become a deb,” she said.

I enjoyed The Last Dance of the Debutante. I thoroughly enjoyed diving into the final days of this English institution for girls being presented at court and seeking husbands. I mean, this was London 1958! Women were being seen to spread their wings and finding themselves caught between the old and emerging new ways. To have the lead character embroiled in a family secret just added that extra layer to the tale that brought the story to a whole new level. 

‘To them, there was safety in even a dying tradition. To Lily, there was suffocation.’

With lush descriptions of gowns and parties, The Last Dance of the Debutante, Julia  (author) brings to life this bygone era with women on the cusp of freedoms they had never dreamed possible. I found there to be the right amount of history and mystery with just a touch of romance. I felt, after all my Regency reads, that I had come full circle on this event that had been undertaken for so many years. 

‘Some debutantes are a success because they are beautiful, and some are a success because of their families and their wealth. But others are a success because they understand how to play the game that is the Season.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Review: A Solitary Walk on the Moon

Title: A Solitary Walk on the Moon

Author: Hilde Hinton

Publisher: 30th March 2022 by Hachette Australia

Pages: 283 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: contemporary

My Rating: 3.5 cups


Evelyn went to the third drawer down in her dresser. It was her drawer of things past ... she had an item from each of her previous lives. Evelyn was good at reinventing herself, becoming who she was going to be next, but she still kept one thing from each life. Never two.'

For Evelyn, mornings pass as mornings always do. She ticks off the jobs at the laundromat and gives welcoming smiles to those who come in. If they've earned one.

Evelyn knows what is going on in her community because she pays attention. She sees the weariness of the frazzled shop owners, the woman with the nasty boyfriend, the nice man with the curly-topped dog, the car parking war and the forgetful man. The community might not notice Evelyn, because it is easy to overlook the seemingly ordinary. But Evelyn is far from ordinary. She isn't afraid to put things right, and is always ready to find lost property or lost people - even if that means breaking the rules.

For a boy with a struggling mum, and a lonely man with a smile in his eyes, Evelyn is going to make a difference, whether they like it or not. She will teach them that you don't have to be blood to be family. And they will remind her of what comes from loving someone. It is up to Evelyn if she can pay the price.

My Thoughts

‘Things aren’t always as they seem, Evelyn,’ Phillip said kindly. She rankled when he suggested she listen rather than act; to let things take their own course because answers only bob up when there is space. 'Be open minded and try not to 

jump to conclusions.’

I was drawn to this book as the blurb just seemed so relatable - that smile when passing a stranger could truly make a difference. This book proves it - particularly if you happen to be Evelyn!

A Solitary Walk on the Moon is a unique and lovely book where some things, many of them so seemingly simple, can be the instigator for something much greater. Hilde cleverly captures and presents an unfolding tale of life’s complex emotions and interactions with one another. 

That being said, it took quite a bit of reading between the lines. Few things are made explicit, especially when it comes to Evelyn; her history shrouded in innuendo. There are also questions left unanswered by the end, that I found a little frustrating given the inferential nature of much of the story. Just a few more understandings would have fulfilled the potential and made this tale a true revelation. 

‘Evelyn had always prided herself on doing just that when she went from one life to the next. Although, she suddenly realised, perhaps she carried everything forward. Perhaps she ran and ran with an ever-growing weight, becoming less and less able to love the further she went.’

The writing is lyrical, the sentiment filled with compassion. Perhaps it is life’s secrets - things best left unanswered - that demonstrate how sometimes in life, people come into your life for an untold reason or a season. Bottom line, being kind, lending a helping hand and that random smile can make a world of difference. 

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Review: Sister Stardust

Title: Sister Stardust

Author: Jane Green

Publisher: 30th March 2022 by Harlequin Australian, HQ & MIRA

Pages: 304 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: romance, historical adult fiction

My Rating: 4 cups


In her first novel inspired by a true story, Jane Green re-imagines the life of troubled icon Talitha Getty in this transporting story from a forgotten chapter of the Swinging '60s


From afar Talitha's life seemed perfect. In her twenties, and already a famous model and actress, she moved from London to a palace in Marrakesh, with her husband Paul Getty, the famous oil heir. There she presided over a swirling ex-pat scene filled with music, art, free love and a counterculture taking root across the world.


When Claire arrives in London from her small town, she never expects to cross paths with a woman as magnetic as Talitha Getty. Yearning for the adventure and independence, she's swept off to Marrakesh, where the two become kindred spirits. But beneath Talitha's glamourous facade lurks a darkness few can understand. As their friendship blossoms and the two grow closer, the realities of Talitha's precarious existence set off a chain of dangerous events that could alter Claire's life forever.

My Thoughts

Sister Stardust by Jane Green is a novel that certainly captures all the groovy vibes of the 1960s. It felt like being transported back in time with the gorgeous cover truly capturing all the hippy feels. Jane vividly recreates the classic ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’ in this engaging novel. 

‘I felt that my life would only begin if I transformed myself into the look of the moment. If only I had known how dangerous it would be.’

This is a biographical fiction story of the infamous Talitha Getty - someone I had not heard of until reading this book. Jane makes her sound so charming, exotic and glamourous, I was furiously googling and finding photos to learn more. Always a positive sign. The fictional character of Claire is your eyes and ears for all that happens in this remarkable time period. What Jane also does, is offer Claire’s journey - literally and figuratively - of what living at this time was like as she thought this to be a world she wanted to belong to and be a part of. It is, in fact, her personal growth through everything she experiences that proves the most engaging - perhaps to come full circle to find the life truly suited to you. 

“She is gorgeous, just a spectacular woman. She’s got more life and fire in her than anyone I’ve met.”

Another key aspect is the locations. London and especially Morocco of the 1960s are vibrant places that literally jump off the page. The ambiance of Marrakech is wonderfully captured in all its exotic richness, as are the taxi rides and extreme partying in London in the 1960s. It did, at times, become somewhat exhausting and tiring with names being dropped left, right and centre and all the parties seeming to merge into one drunken stupor. 

“Lucky us, getting to spend time in this beautiful city, welcomed by the Moroccans. I adore them, the most welcoming, wonderful people. They’ve made us so at home.”

If you are someone who is obsessed or desires a window into the swinging 60s, then this is most certainly the book for you. There is an overload of celebrities, partying, fashion, drugs and sex in this wealthy madness. Yet at its heart is a coming of age story of a girl from the English countryside who, for a time, travels to Morocco and lives the high life (pardon the pun).

‘Will she understand that those were different times? Is she able to hear the story without judgment? Will she understand what it was like to emerge from the repression of the fifties’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.