Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Review: Becoming Mrs Mulberry

Title: Becoming Mrs Mulberry
Author: Jackie French

Publisher: 8th March 2023 by HQ Fiction Aus

Pages: 495 pages

Genre: historical fiction, mystery

Rating: 5 cups


The once impoverished medical student Agnes Glock is now the fabulously wealthy Mrs Mulberry. Her estate in the mountains is magnificent, a haven for those too ravaged by the Great War to cope with the society that first condemned them to battle and which now shuns them.

The War has, however, stolen Agnes's chance to graduate as a doctor, as well as the fiance she adored. Her husband, Douglas Mulberry, remains shellshocked and unable to speak. Their scandalous marriage is a farce, an act of kindness to keep Douglas's fortune from his uncle's grasp.

A chance visit to a circus brings about a mystery in the form of a fairylike child whose guardians claim was brought up by dingoes. The child cannot speak and seems deformed. But Agnes is inexplicably drawn to her and believes she can be cured.

The decision to save the child will bring Agnes's lost fiance into her life again, as well as awaken the love of her husband who finds his voice as the three try to solve the mystery of the 'dingo girl'.

Agnes has put aside her own life and the dreams she once had. But now she has choices, with the main question the hardest: Who is Mrs Agnes Mulberry?

My Thoughts

Australian author Jackie French has written a fantastic piece of historical fiction in her latest work, Becoming Mrs Mulberry. Set in the 1920s, it is a story that touches on many heart wrenching themes as a consequence of WWI. There are many entertaining characters and several plot lines that make for a highly engaging read. 

‘The whole four years of being Mrs Mulberry seemed to be rising in rebellion. She had never wanted anything of the Mrs Mulberry life …’

Firstly, Jackie presents the lasting repercussions of those who experienced WWI and their attempts to re-enter society. The physical and psychological impacts both men and women suffered from and how they struggled to cope not only in adjusting to society but also how society treated them in many ways like freaks. So sad. The community that was established in this book was wonderful with Douglas Mulberry’s tale is deeply moving.

‘Everyone here has learned to be kind, thought Agnes, an island of compassion to each other in a world that would, at best, turn its face away.’

Branching off from this is also the realistic portrayal of the life for a woman of intelligence. Jackie presents the real struggles faced by Agnes in everything from fashion, to her role in a marriage, to wishing for so much more such as becoming a doctor. I also found the love triangle between Agnes, Huw and Douglas to be portrayed as a sensitive, mature and truly moving depiction of the situation. Finally there is the tale of Diane/Dingo girl - rescued from a circus and suffers from physical and psychological problems. Who is this girl? Was she raised by dingos? Can she fill a void for Agnes and Douglas and help bring them together? 

“Agnes, I d-didn't realise ….”

“That I am totally unsuitable to be a Mrs Mulberry?”

Jackie French brings to life the Australian bush with this strong cast of characters who form such a supportive community. Exploring the impact of war from a personal, family and community level with the plight of many often seen as outcasts. Agnes is such a strong and endearing female lead who readers are sure to cheer for through all her doubts, dreams and final destiny. Lovers of historical fiction must not miss out on this truly encapsulating and inspiring tale. 

‘It was time to cast off the rags of her previous life and enjoy some of the privileges that came with being Mrs Mulberry.’

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.


Monday, March 27, 2023

Review: A Most Intriguing Lady

Title: A Most Intriguing Lady
Author: Sarah Ferguson - Duchess of York

Publisher: 30th March 2023 by HarperCollins Australia & Mills and Boon

Pages: 350 pages

Genre: historical fiction, romance, mystery

Rating: 4 cups


From Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, a sweeping, romantic compulsively readable historical saga about a Duke's daughter--the perfect Victorian lady--who secretly moonlights as an amateur sleuth for high society's inner circle. 

Victorian London was notorious for its pickpockets. But in the country houses of the elite, gentleman burglars, art thieves and con men preyed on the rich and titled. Wealthy victims--with their pride and reputation at stake--would never go to the police. What they needed was a society insider, one of their own, a person of discretion and finely tuned powers of observation.

That person was Lady Mary Montagu Douglas Scott, the youngest child of Queen Victoria's close friends the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch. Bookish, fiercely intelligent, and a keen observer, Mary has deliberately cultivated a mousey persona that allows her to remain overlooked and significantly underestimated by all. It's the perfect cover for a sleuth, a role she stumbles into when trying to assist a close friend during a house party hosted by her parents at their stately Scottish home, Drumlanrig Castle.

It is at this party where Lady Mary also meets Colonel Walter Trefusis, a distinguished and extremely handsome war veteran. Tortured by memories of combat, Walter, like Mary, lives a double life, with a desk job in Whitehall providing a front for his role in the British Intelligence Service. The two form an unlikely alliance to solve a series of audacious crimes--and indulge in a highly charged on-off romance.

Pacy, romantic, and fun, A Most Intriguing Lady documents one remarkable woman's ability to be both the perfect lady, and a perfectly talented detective...and, of course, to find love too.

My Thoughts

Having previously read and enjoyed Sarah Ferguson’s first book, Her Heart for a Compass, I was eager to see how she would follow up from that success. In the first book we read the story of Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott, daughter of the Duke Of Buccleuch, who lived during the Victorian era. She is an ancestor of the current Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson. This new book tells the story of her sister Lady Mary who, in contrast to her sister, is a quiet yet a keen observer - someone who would make an excellent sleuth and uses her detective skills to uncover some cases.

‘Her life hadn't changed, but she had. Louisa had taught her the value of cherishing her own time, and of spending it wisely. Such a cliche, that little phrase, though it was surprisingly difficult not to allow other people to drain her of every spare moment, to take arbitrary possession of her days.’

Lady Mary, like her sister, searches for her place in the world, coming up against the customs and conventions of the day. Sarah Ferguson - in liaison with Marguerite Kaye, a Mills & Boon historical author - have once again come together to produce an engaging fictional account of events based on real people from the period. Mary makes for a wonderful heroine with drive and determination, demonstrating a resilience to pursue her purpose in the face of resistance. 

‘She had wasted another year of her life, and if she didn't do something, take some sort of action, then she would waste another, and another. Inertia didn't suit her. There was far too much time, living this sedentary life, to reflect. It was bad for her…’

This is another worthy entry into historical romance and drama with both atmosphere and plot providing the reader with compassion and empathy for Mary’s plight. I recommend reading the tale of Lady Mary as it follows a solid and satisfying journey for women of the day. An all up excellent second book in the series, by Sarah Ferguson and Marguerite Kaye and can definitely be read as a standalone.

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 22, 2023

Review: Without Further Ado

Title: Without Further Ado
Author: Jessica Dettmann

Publisher: 8th March 2023 by HarperCollins Publishers Australia

Pages: 368 pages

Genre:  contemporary, romance 

My Rating: 4.5 cups


Can a modern woman take lessons in love from Shakespeare? Beth O'Leary meets 10 Things I Hate About You in this sparkling romantic comedy from beloved Aussie author Jessica Dettmann.

'Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more. Men were deceivers ever ...'

Since she was sixteen, Willa's curious touchstone in life and work has been the 1993 film Much Ado About Nothing. She's always looking for The Feeling, the stirring in her heart - and loins - that she gets when watching the opening scenes. Now she's navigating her mid-thirties, her career as a romance publisher in an unusual family business, and her determination to remain child-free, while quietly holding out for a love as big as Beatrice and Benedick's.

But when relationships start to get complicated between Willa, her cousin Imogen and the four sons of the family she works for, and the events of her own life begin to mirror the plot of her beloved comedy, Willa must consider whether there is such a thing as too much ado.

A delightfully Shakespearean romantic comedy about modern love, women's roles and how the films and stories we grow up with shape us.

My Thoughts

Without Further Ado was not what I expected but a whole lot more fun. With not so much Shakespeare but rather much more quirky, laugh out loud moments,  Jessica has delivered an engaging read that I would definitely recommend. 

‘For a moment Willa felt her heart race with excitement, and she put her hand to her chest. It was The Feeling: the Much Ado feeling. She let it wash over her, this wave of hope and elation and joy.’

Watching Willa’s realisation and growth throughout the story was a highlight. Her quick comebacks and one liners were hilarious! I was most definitely laughing out loud! Willa is surrounded by a cast of characters that likewise bring much to this tale of friends, life, family and futures. 

‘You live too much up here - ’ Kat tapped the side of her friend’s head ‘ - and not enough in here  - ’ she patted the left side of Willa’s chest.’

Don’t be mistaken - this is not all fun, romance and laughter. Sometimes subtle but more often right in your face, Jessica delivers her take on many contemporary issues surrounding life and relationships. 

‘…regret’s not the end of the world. You’ll regret things you do, and things you don’t do. It’s part of the marvelous insanity called the human condition.’

This is a romantic comedy you will not want to miss. Light, quick and easy to read this is the epitome of perfect escapism but with an underlying message that many of us can relate to.

‘… you might learn to just live your life and stop thinking about where everything fits into your story. You don’t get to decide that. Life just goes where it goes. Always seeking some sort of ultimate happy ending can stop you from enjoying the life you’re living right now.’

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.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Review: Return to Lilacwell

Title: Return to Lilacwell
Author: Sasha Morgan

Publisher: 23rd February 2022 by Canelo

Pages: 300 pages

Genre: romance, contemporary

My Rating: 4 cups


Will Lilacwell work its magic once more?

Times are changing in Lilacwell. Not only have Jasper and Adira settled into The Laurels manor, newly engaged and firmly casting off the shackles of their respective city lives, but Adira’s friend and ex-colleague, Rory, is now also looking to leave London for the quiet beauty of the Forest of Bowland.

Sparks flew when he and Lilacwell’s innkeeper, Cassie, met at the summer party a few months ago, but Cassie has been loved and left before and is reluctant to put all her trust in Rory, who might return to his promising law career for the right offer.

With Jasper and Adira’s wedding just around the corner, love is in the air for Lilacwell, and some big changes are coming to the sleepy village…

My Thoughts

‘… without any hesitation proceeded to book himself a room. Sorted. He was returning to Lilacwell.’

In this second book in the Lilacwell series Sasha once more provides her readers with delightful escapism. Having read the first book I was excited to return to the village of Lilacwell to familiar friends with all the banter and camaraderie. Similar to Adira from book one, on this occasion, it is Rory who has had enough of city living, corporate pressures and makes the bold move to leave. 

It might be read as a standalone, however, the understanding and satisfaction is definitely enhanced from having read Adira and Jasper’s story in book one. They are very much present with Fletcher but this is Rory and Cassie’s story. Once more Sasha has provided a multidimensional story - this is not just a romantic chick lit - far from it. Sasha’s inclusion of topics such as the cost of maintaining an English manor, setting up a new business, the problems of aging and caring for the aged, workplace issues - truly, it is an impressively written book that touches on some highly relevant issues. I love it when a book such as this offers the reader that little bit extra.

Additionally, this time around Sasha shines the spotlight on the topic of sustainability and explains such in her Authors Note at the conclusion. Taking a strong stance on climate issues through Rory’s character of the ‘Eco Warrior’ and his desire to live off grid was most inspiring. This book was an excellent follow up to reunite with the charming characters and quaint village of Lilacwell. 

‘When Adira had tried to explain how she desired time, space and freedom, they’d just looked blankly at her. Yet, for Adira, it had been the best decision of her life and she didn’t regret it.’

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, March 16, 2023

Review: The Paris Notebook

Title: The Paris Notebook
Author: Tessa Harris

Publisher: 15th February 2023 by HQ

Pages: 352 pages

Genre:  historical fiction, WWII

My Rating: 4.5 cups


When Katja Heinz secures a job as a typist at Doctor Viktor’s clinic, she doesn’t expect to be copying top secret medical records from a notebook.

At the end of the first world war, Doctor Viktor treated soldiers for psychological disorders. One of the patients was none other than Adolf Hitler. . .

The notes in his possession declare Hitler unfit for office – a secret that could destroy the F├╝hrer’s reputation, and change the course of the war if exposed. . .

With the notebook hidden in her hat box, Katja and Doctor Viktor travel to Paris. Seeking refuge in the Shakespeare and Company bookshop, they hope to find a publisher brave enough to print the controversial script.

But Katja is being watched. Nazi spies in Paris have discovered her plan. They will stop at nothing to destroy the notebook and silence those who know of the secret hidden inside. . .

My Thoughts

With a wide range of WWII books on offer, readers are becoming more selective about their choices. Tessa Harris' latest offering is one I would certainly recommend. The Paris Notebook is well written with Tessa taking a small, often unknown aspect of truth, and building a thrilling piece of fiction around it - a race to reveal details about Adolf Hitler to the Allies.

‘I am Dr Frankenstein,’ he told her flatly. ‘I created the monster and now I must destroy it.’

Suspense and tension builds throughout this narrative with Doctor Victor and Katja working together in their efforts to record, copy and reveal critical details about Hitler. Along the way, with so many secrets to hide and unsure of who to trust, Tessa builds palpable tension throughout the entire timeline. The Nazis are onto them as the reign of terror begins. Traveling from Hamburg to Paris in an effort to secure publication, Katja comes across the Shakespeare & Co bookstore with owner Sylvia Beach. Having read Kerry Maher’s, The Paris Bookseller, I was happy to revisit this future iconic institution with my understanding of what it meant during WWII and beyond. It is here that Katja meets an Irish journalist and their romantic journey adds another layer to this tale. 

‘The finished transcript sat in all its terrifying glory with the front cover proclaiming in bold capitals: Notes & Observations on the Serious Mental Disorders of Adolf Hitler.’

Tessa builds both place and time with some passages being confronting yet realistic. The ride is filled with hope and heartache, strength and buckets of determination as Katja is determined to get this transcript into the right hands. The research is thorough with facts woven throughout this fantastical tale. If this is a genre that appeals to you then rest assured that there is something extra special in this wartime tale - history, romance and a thrilling mystery. 

‘Lying there, untouched, was the notebook. She’d already risked her life for these pages, and she would again.’

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 7, 2023

Review: Nobody Puts Romcoms In The Corner

Title: Nobody Puts Romcoms In The Corner
Author: Kathryn Freeman

Publisher: 26th February 2023 by HarperCollins UK, One More Chapter

Pages: 384 pages

Genre: romance, contemporary, chick lit

My Rating: 4 cups


The perfect pick me up romcom for fans of Beth O’Leary, Sophie Kinsella and Sophie Ranald!

Sally is a classic romantic and Harry is a classic cynic, but when a drunken bet leads the new flatmates to (badly) recreate ‘the lift’ from Dirty Dancing, and the video goes viral (#EpicRomcomReenactmentFailure), they both realise there’s potential financial benefit in blundering their way through the romcom lexicon for their suddenly vast social media following.

Now, as Harry and Sally bring major romcom moments to new life – including recreating that classic diner scene – their faking it turns to making…out and suddenly they’re living a real life romcom of their own! But like all the greatest love stories, the road to happily ever after is paved with unexpected challenges for this hero and heroine…

My Thoughts

Kathryn Freeman has slowly been sneaking up as one of my favourite ‘go to’ authors for a solid romcom escape. Her current offering was no exception, in fact, the content material was such fun that it was like sitting with a friend as you reel off all the iconic moments from romcom films. If this sounds like you, then pull up a seat and settle in.

‘What is the lift?’ Kitty let out an exasperated breath. ‘Only one of the most iconic film moments. Ever.’ …. ‘That’s just a guy catching a girl.’ ‘Just?’ She stared at him like he’d just spoken a totally different language to her. ‘The shared trust in that moment, the way they communicate without words. It’s a symbol of love, of belief in each other. It’s beautiful.’

Nobody Puts Romcoms In The Corner is filled with nostalgic movie scene reenactments from Dirty Dancing, Pretty Woman, Ghost, Love Actually - just to name a few - and it is just so much fun! Stereotypical Sally loves all things romance yet her new flat mate Harry does not (and yes! They do the scene from When Harry Met Sally!) What starts off as a dare, quickly becomes a TikTok sensation with requests from followers to reenact more iconic movie scenes. Of course, acting them out slowly seeps into real life and then follows the usual narrative path with bumps along the way until the happy ever after.

‘When she said the next words from the film, it didn’t feel like acting. It felt like the truest words she’d ever spoken. ‘If I forget to tell you later, thank you. I had a really amazing time tonight.’

Apart from all the fun movie references, I truly appreciated Kathryn’s efforts to capture true to life feelings that are often associated with the genders. Sally with her head in the clouds and Harry the not so romantic male. The light and fun moments are interspersed with serious themes of loss and grief, family drama and much more. Kathryn does such a wonderful job of providing two stereotypical characters who go both individually and together on a journey of real growth and understanding. 

‘You know, in a way your love of romcoms isn’t helping. The films make us want the words, because that’s what steals your breath, what touches your heart when you watch them. But all the words, they’re no guarantee. Plenty have said them, and it’s meant nothing. Equally, just because the words aren’t there, it doesn’t mean love isn’t there. It means you have to look for other signs.’

If you love romcoms, then this is without doubt the book for you. It is fun, charming with great chemistry and vibes between the two romantic leads. Readers of this genre are sure to fall in love with Nobody Puts Romcoms In The Corner .

‘Isn’t that what life is about? Not how it ends, but the experiences enjoyed on the way?’

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.