Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Review: The Only Child

Title: The Only Child
Author: Kayte Nunn

Publisher: 31st August 2022 by Hachette Australia

Pages: 353 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre:  historical fiction, suspense, crime thriller

My Rating: 4 cups


Synopsis:


A decades-old crime threatens to tear apart three generations of women in this unputdownable mystery that will keep you gripped until its last heart-wrenching page.

Almost every graduating class had a girl who disappeared.

1949 It is the coldest winter Orcades Island has ever known, when a pregnant sixteen-year-old arrives at Fairmile, a home for 'fallen women' run by the Catholic Church. She and her baby will disappear before the snow melts.

2013 Frankie Gray has come to the island for the summer, hoping for one last shot at reconnecting with her teenage daughter, Izzy, before starting a job as a deputy sheriff. They are staying with her mother, Diana, at The Fairmile Inn, soon to be a boutique hotel, but when an elderly nun is found dead in suspicious circumstances, and then a tiny skeleton is discovered in the grounds of the house, Frankie is desperate for answers.

At once an evocative, unsettling tale of past misdeeds and a crime thriller that will have you reading with your heart in your mouth, The Only Child is compulsively addictive storytelling from the international bestselling author of The Silk House.

My Thoughts


With her latest offering, The Only Child, Kayte delivers the perfect dual crime narrative. This style is an evolution from Kayte’s previous books and I enjoyed it. I am a fan of her work and was looking forward to this historical story with the promise of an engaging mystery. 


Kayte writes a tightly suspenseful tale about a crime from the past. Part historical fiction, part crime suspense, part family connections, Kayte gives her readers, at times, a horrific yet hopeful tale. From the shame of a pregnancy out of wedlock in the 1950s, to the current day parallel of single motherhood, all woven together with a mystery from the past that has returned to haunt the people from this small island. 


This book could not be more topical given the current fight for women’s reproductive rights especially in the USA. In her Acknowledgements, Kayte notes the number of adoptions in that country between the years 1945-1973 - 1.5 million. Whilst much has been written from the perspective of the adopted child, Kayte chose to focus on the women who had to heartbreakingly give away their babies. 


The Only Child moves between Frankie’s story in 2013, and the story of Brigid, a pregnant 16-year-old in 1949. It moves along at a solid pace and as connections may become apparent to readers, it is still a compelling journey to the conclusion. An intricate plotted tale that shines a light on how reproductive rights were handled seventy years ago. What a timely tale to remind us of what happens to women when they lose the right to decide what happens to their bodies. 


‘Perspective. That's what had brought Frankie to this place. ‘The island feels tiny. And we're nothing but dots on it. Like sugar sprinkles on a cupcake.' Izzy's voice returned Frankie to the present. 'It's not a bad thing to feel like that,' she replied with a smile. 'Sometimes it helps you work out what's important, and what can be let go of.'







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: Ten Years

Title: Ten Years
Author: Pernille Hughes

Publisher: 18th August 2022 by HarperCollins UK, One More Chapter

Pages: 400 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre:  General Fiction (Adult) | Romance | Women's Fiction

My Rating: 4 cups

Synopsis:


They’re perfect for each other

They just don’t know it yet

Becca and Charlie have known each other for years – ever since they met at university.

And for every one of those years, they've bickered, argued, offended, mocked and generally rubbed each other up the wrong way.

Until now. Until Ally’s bucket list. The death of their loved one should mean Becca and Charlie can go their separate ways and not look back. But completing the list is something neither Charlie nor Becca can walk away from.

And sometimes, those who bring out the worst in you, also bring out the very best…

Over the course of ten years, Becca and Charlie’s paths collide as they deal with grief, love and life after Ally.

My Thoughts


Ten Years by Pernille Hughes is described as a romance, yet I feel that its strengths lie elsewhere. If you go into this read looking for the classic enemies to lovers it may not ring true for you. However, if you choose to view this story as one that deals with grief you are in for a special tribute. 


‘Having had little experience of grief, Becca had assumed it was a short-term contained event, but no, apparently not. Loss was a much longer affair, sometimes a constant feeling of something being missing’


Losing a loved one is never easy and everyone most definitely deals with it in their own way and time, feeling in fact, that you might never move on. This is a story about how two people coped with grief, learned to live with it and in so doing, opened themselves up to love once more. 


The mode of these two coming together is clever and unique. The dying wish of their loved one was that each year they must come together to complete one of her bucket list items. Over this extended time period Pernille dives deep into their individual and collective highs and lows, their growth and stagnation and ultimately coming together as you always knew they would with this type of book. Readers will enjoy this book if they sign onto how life evolves through both success and setbacks and where advice and opportunities need to be taken. 


“I think it helped,” she said, turning her glass by its stem. “The tasks pushed us through the grieving process. 


Viewed in this capacity, Pernille has penned a powerful tale that deals with a very sobering topic. Be prepared to both laugh and cry as she tackles the difficult task of grieving and healing. Yes, it does move a bit slow at times, feels a little repetitive, main characters bickering wears thin leaving you questioning if they should even be together. Yet, it’s real and it’s raw and is sure to appeal to those searching for that little bit extra when it comes to a tale on the journey of life. 


‘Life could be long or short, but it was wide as the sky and there would always be some path around the obstacles.’




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.



Sunday, August 28, 2022

Review: The Manhattan Girls

Title: The Manhattan Girls
Author: Gill Paul

Publisher: 18th August 2022 by Avon Books UK

Pages: 416 pages

Genre: historical fiction, women’s fiction

My Rating: 3.5 cups


Synopsis:

It’s a 1920s version of Sex and the City, as Dorothy Parker—one of the wittiest women who ever wielded a pen—and her three friends navigate life, love, and careers in New York City. Perfect for fans of Fiona Davis, Beatriz Williams, and RenĂ©e Rosen.

New York City, 1921: The war is over, fashions are daring, and bootleg liquor is served wherever you go. It is here that four extraordinary women form a bridge group that grew into a firm friendship.

Dorothy Parker, renowned wit, member of the Algonquin Round Table, and more fragile than she seems. Jane Grant, first female reporter for The New York Times, who is determined to launch a new magazine. The Broadway actress Winifred Lenihan, beautiful, talented, and a casting-couch target. And Peggy Leech, magazine assistant by day, brilliant novelist by night.

Romances flourish and falter, while their goals sometimes seem impossible to reach, and their group friendship deepens against the backdrop of turbulent New York City, where new speakeasies open and close, jazz music flows through the air, and bathtub gin fills their glasses.

They gossip, they comfort each other, they offer support through the setbacks. But their biggest challenge is keeping their dear friend Dottie safe from herself. . .

In this brilliant new novel from the bestselling and acclaimed author of Jackie and Maria and The Secret Wife, readers will fall right into Jazz Age New York and into the inner lives of these groundbreaking, influential women.

My Thoughts

Be transported back to 1920s New York to meet four interesting women in The Manhattan Girls. In her latest book, Gill gives voice to women who have gone missing from the pages of history, or were perhaps misrepresented in the first place. Set against the backdrop of Prohibition, Gill traces the lives of four women and the challenges they faced in working to have a career and respectful relationships.

Writers, artists, journalists, actors, and theater people met up at the famed Round Table at the Algonquin Hotel (Google it!) Yet Gill focuses on four women who formed a Bridge club: : Dorothy Parker, author; Jane Grant, journalist; Margaret "Peggy" Leech, sales person and author; and Winifred Lenihan, actress. Gill tried to capture each woman individually and collectively in their aspirations and challenges in what was still very much a man’s world. 

“Women my age are on the cusp of social change, partly because of the war, partly because more of us are working. It means we’re inventing new rules as we go along, but sometimes it feels - forgive me - as if the men haven’t caught up.”

If this era appeals to you, with an obvious focus on women who were fighting for equality both at work and at home, you are sure to enjoy this book. The challenge of writing four different voices with much dialogue was met but still a lot to absorb. With friendship, camaraderie and the search for creative outlets in a very male orientated world these women were inspiring in this determinant decade. 

‘…. they were both young married women trying to forge a place in the world who didn’t think looking after their husbands was their sole purpose in life.’




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.



Thursday, August 25, 2022

Review: Keepers of the Lighthouse

Title: Keepers of the Lighthouse
Author: Kaye Dobbie

Publisher: 3rd August 2022 by Harlequin Australia, HQ & MIRA

Pages: 320 pages

Genre: historical fiction

My Rating: 5 cups


Synopsis:


A lonely windswept lighthouse island in Bass Strait hides a dangerous secret hundreds of years in the making ... Secrets and sabotage keep readers guessing in the new novel from Australian author Kaye Dobbie.


1882 

Laura Webster and her father are the stalwart keepers of Benevolence Island Lighthouse, a desolate place stranded in the turbulent Bass Strait. When a raging storm wrecks a schooner just offshore, the few survivors take shelter with the Websters, awaiting rescue from the mainland. But some of the passengers have secrets that lead to dreadful consequences, the ripples of which echo far into the future ...


2020 

Nina and her team of volunteers arrive on Benevolence to work on repairs, with plans to open up the island to tourists. Also on the expedition, for reason of his own, is Jude Rawlins, a man Nina once loved. A man who once destroyed her.


But the idyllic location soon turns into a nightmare as random acts of sabotage leave them with no communication to the mainland and the sense of someone on the island who shouldn't be there.


The fingers of those secrets from the passengers lost long ago are reaching into the present, and Nina will never be the same again ...


My Thoughts


I am such a fan of Kaye’s work having thoroughly enjoyed her previous historical fiction tales. Her latest, Keepers of the Lighthouse is no exception, in fact, I think it might be her best yet as it was such an intriguing mystery (twice over) that I found hard to put down!


‘…neither Laura nor her father could leave the lighthouse. There were lives at stake out there on the wild water. Lives that were in their hands.’


This dual time narrative just oozes with atmosphere in both the historic and contemporary tales. On a lonely isolated island stands a lighthouse where storms and secrets, dangers and revelations come to pass. Based on a real island in Bass Strait, you will be sure to feel the wind whipping through your hair and watch helplessly as ships become wrecked on the ragged rocks. Could there ever be a more perfect setting for mysteries, past and present, to arise and fill the occupants' lives with drama and danger? The two timelines: 1882 and 2020 (with occasional flashbacks to 2010) work so well together with the final connective revelations fantastic! You will be on the edge of your reading chair, furiously flipping the pages to see how all the pieces of this puzzle will fit together. And it does …. and I loved it!


Both timelines present tales of fortitude and dedication on the one hand with greed and jealousy on the other. There is romance (both past and present) but it fits in so well with the events unfolding. I loved Laura’s character with her love for the island and its way of life. Lonely? Bored? Never!


‘There is much to do here, but apart from tending the light, I make my own decisions. I value my freedom.' 'Is it freedom? You live on an island far away from the rest of the world. Many people would see that as effectively a prison. Aren't you lonely? Bored?' 

 

Keepers of the Lighthouse is a fabulous tale full of mystery and intrigue set against the wonderful backdrop of a lighthouse on an isolated island. With rich and vivid descriptions, characters to cheer and characters to curse, this is a tale that truly captivated me.





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, August 24, 2022

Review: The Jane Seymour Conspiracy

Title: The Jane Seymour Conspiracy
Author: Alexandra Walsh

Publisher: 20th July 2022 by Sapere Books

Pages: 400 pages

Genre: historical fiction, Tudor

My Rating: 4 cups


Synopsis:


Marquess House is under threat…


London, 1527


Nineteen-year-old Jane Seymour arrives at court to take her place with Queen Katherine of Aragon. Discovering a court already beginning to divide into factions between Katherine and Jane’s second cousin, Anne Boleyn, Jane finds herself caught between the old world and the new. Determined to have a son, the king appears to be prepared to take whatever steps he deems necessary to secure the Tudor dynasty.


When King Henry VIII finally succeeds in his pursuit of Anne, Jane witnesses the slow unravelling of his interest in the new queen as she, too, fails in her task to deliver a son. Having watched both Katherine and Anne fall from grace, Jane has no ambition for the throne, but when the king begins seeking her out, Jane realises the decision may be out of her hands…


Pembrokeshire, 2020


When a set of papers called The Pentagram Manuscript makes its way to Perdita and Piper at Marquess House, they find they have a new mystery to unravel. The manuscript is the tale of five women on a quest to find true love, written while Anne Boleyn was queen. As Perdita begins to unravel the text, she discovers a code that leads to a whole new outlook on Henry’s relationship with Jane Seymour.


But before they have a chance to reveal all, the twins find themselves under threat from a different source. Their second cousin, Xavier Connors, is determined to wrest Marquess House from them. As Marquess House must be passed down through the female line, and Perdita and Piper do not have children, Xavier sees his twin daughter as being next in line. And when Piper is nearly driven off the road, they realise he will stop at nothing to get what he wants…


What really happened to Henry VIII’s Tudor queens? Why was history rewritten?


Will Piper and Perdita be able to unravel all of the secrets before it’s too late…?


My Thoughts


I have read and enjoyed all the books in this series -The Marquess House - it was meant to be a trilogy, however, Alexandra states that Jane’s story kept arising and I am so glad she put pen to paper for this one. It was a breath of fresh air to see the demure Jane portrayed with strength and spunk! If you love English history, particularly the Tudor period, then this is most definitely the series for you. I believe it is essential that you read all the books in sequence for both the historical events and present day character development to make sense. Both narratives - past and present - in all books thus far are engaging and entertaining. 


As with Alexandra’s previous books, this instalment 'The Jane Seymour Conspiracy' is a massively researched undertaking that is structured and planned to perfection. The historical premise of an alternate narrative to this Tudor period is so well written that it appears entirely plausible. This is linked wonderfully well with the present day and the theory that there are movements to suppress undiscovered truths. As in dual time narratives, it requires a solid link between the two stories to work and I believe Alexandra weaves the two together well. If you love a good conspiracy theory then this series has them by the dozen.


‘Throughout her life, Jane had been schooled to understand her destiny was not her own to choose, that her husband would be selected for her and she would live a life decreed by the men around her. Yet, here was a group of women asking her to become involved in political intrigue. It was a heady feeling and the idea tingled with danger.’


The last book went a little off track for me, so I am happy to report that this instalment was right up there with the original book one. These are long reads and the amount of information can become overwhelming at times. I loved reading about Catherine Howard (book 1) and Elizabeth Tudor (book 2) . I did not warm to Arbella Stuart (book 3) but Jane Seymour’s story (book 4) is wonderful. You simply must suspend your rational thinking and just enjoy the ‘what ifs’ proposed - it’s fun pursuing a mystery. The current day story still offers its own mystery, overlooking the information dumps by the lead characters and their interacting dialogue often basic and robotic at times.


“… check the manuscript and discover what really happened to Jane Seymour. There is something strange here and my heart tells me there was no happy ending for anyone this time.”


Jane Seymour (third wife of Henry VIII) is such an interesting character to study. As Alexandra herself writes: “Often passed over for the more dramatic queens of Henry VIII, to me her depiction as the demure, shy wife has never tallied with the description of her behaviour - flirting with the king, accepting gifts, preparing her marriage chest while Anne was in the Tower of London, attempting to persuade Henry to return to Catholicism and trying to bring his two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, back into Henry’s lives. These are the actions of a woman who knows how to survive and has a strong streak of determination, not an inexperienced wallflower.”


“Jane is there,” Perdita had said, “but she’s in the shadows and we need to bring her forward into the light.”


Overall, I really enjoyed this series. It proved fascinating reading but be warned it is an intriguing yet complex read. For those who love a good conspiracy theory related to the Tudors you simply must read the books of the The Marquess House series. This book will truly make you reconsider the current accepted historical facts and warm your heart that in this male dominated world, female solidarity likely existed. 






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, August 23, 2022

Review: The Librarian Spy

Title: The Librarian Spy
Author: Madeline Martin

Publisher: 3rd August 2022 by Harlequin Australia, HQ & MIRA

Pages: 400 pages

Genre: historical fiction, World War II 

My Rating: 5 cups


Synopsis:


From the New York Times bestselling author of The Last Bookshop in London comes a moving new novel inspired by the true history of America’s library spies of World War II.


Ava thought her job as a librarian at the Library of Congress would mean a quiet, routine existence. But an unexpected offer from the US military has brought her to Lisbon with a new mission: posing as a librarian while working undercover as a spy gathering intelligence.


Meanwhile, in occupied France, Elaine has begun an apprenticeship at a printing press run by members of the Resistance. It’s a job usually reserved for men, but in the war, those rules have been forgotten. Yet she knows that the Nazis are searching for the press and its printer in order to silence them.


As the battle in Europe rages, Ava and Elaine find themselves connecting through coded messages and discovering hope in the face of war.


My Thoughts


The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin is an emotional World War II historical fiction story featuring two young women, one American and one French. These two women come to understand the power of the written word especially during a period of world history where life seemed intrinsically out of control. 


‘The written word held such importance to her through the years. Books had been her solace in a world turned upside down, a connection to characters when she was utterly alone …. In the war, they had given her insight, understanding, and appreciation.’


Madeline was inspired by, firstly, the history of America’s library of spies in neutral Lisbon. The reader is introduced to Ava, who worked at the Library of Congress but was transferred to Lisbon because of her language skills and where she was to serve as a spy. Secondly, we meet Elaine in Lyon, who is helping the French Resistance by working with the printing press and distributing factual accounts of the war through an underground newspaper. These women connect through a coded message sent out through the printed pamphlets.


The Author’s Note at the end of the book is very informative and shows the amount of research undertaken. It’s so rewarding to delve into the history behind the fiction. This is the first time I have read about Lisbon during WWII and the role librarians played in gathering information. I had never read anything about Portugal during the war and I was fascinated by this perspective.


For readers who love historical fiction set during this period, The Librarian Spy is a great addition. A tale full of drama, secrets and suspense, intrigue and history that proved riveting reading. This is a story where the reader will experience the full range of emotions, with some events requiring a tissue box to be close at hand. A truly profound story.


‘There was nothing Ava Harper loved more than the smell of old books. The musty scent of aging paper and stale ink took one on a journey … These were tomes once cradled in the spread palms of forefathers, pored over by scholars … In those fragrant, yellowed pages were stories of the past and eternal knowledge.’




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.