Felicity At The Cross Hotel by @HelenaFairfax Contemporary #Romance #WeekendBlogShare

Felicity at the Cross HotelFelicity at the Cross Hotel by Helena Fairfax
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Felicity At The Cross Hotel is a contemporary romance set in the English Lake District. Fliss Everdene is taking time away from her job to help her mother’s friend. Jilly Cross has recently lost her husband and the family hotel is rundown; it has serious debts, few customers and unhappy staff. Jilly’s son Patrick has returned from the Caribbean, but doesn’t want to take on the business; this is breaking his mother’s heart.

The effervescent Fliss brings happiness and a new lease of life to Jilly’s world. Used to being Operations Manager for her father’s chain of hotels, she’s wary when asked to run the bar. However, she quickly settles in and has plenty of suggestions about how they can turn the ailing business around. But at the back of everyone’s mind hovers the question: is she working undercover with a plan for The Cross to be the next acquisition for the Everdene chain?

I enjoyed reading about the setting for this book, The Lake District is a place on my bucket list of travels. This book also reminded me of The Hotel Inspector, a TV reality show which I enjoy watching, so two big thumbs up from me. The author writes with a smooth, engaging style which is very comparable to other popular authors in the genre. The romance is predictable, but what readers want from this type of escapism read. What matters is the details of the story arc and how the characters interact to get to the conclusion. I must also mention some well-written secondary characters; I particularly liked Johnny.

I can recommend this book to those who have a softness to see a hotel transformed from rags to riches with the promise of romance, all in a delightful English setting.

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Book Description

A quaint hotel in a romantic location. The Lake District is the perfect getaway. Or is it?
Felicity Everdene needs a break from the family business. Driving through the Lake District to the Cross Hotel, past the shining lake and the mountains, everything seems perfect. But Felicity soon discovers all is not well at the Cross Hotel …
Patrick Cross left the village of Emmside years ago never intending to return, but his father has left him the family’s hotel in his will, and now he’s forced to come back. With a missing barmaid, a grumpy chef, and the hotel losing money, the arrival of Felicity Everdene from the notorious Everdene family only adds to Patrick’s troubles.
With so much to overcome, can Felicity and Patrick bring happiness to the Cross Hotel … and find happiness for themselves?

About the author

Helena Fairfax

Helena Fairfax writes engaging contemporary romances with sympathetic heroines and heroes she’s secretly in love with. Her novels have been shortlisted for several awards, including the Exeter Novel Prize, the Global eBook Awards, and the I Heart Indie Awards. Her first novel was a contender for the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme Award.
Helena is a British author who was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. She’s grown used to the cold now, and these days she lives in an old Victorian mill town in the north of England, right next door to the windswept Yorkshire moors. She walks this romantic landscape every day with her rescue dog, finding it the perfect place to dream up her heroes and her happy endings.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT The Buried Few by M.J Lau @YesTHATMattLau #SciFi #Dystopia

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs at http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The Buried Few by M.J. Lau

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THE BURIED FEW by M J Lau

3.5 out of 5 stars

The Buried Few is set in 2030, when wars have left many children in America without parents.  Adults can be ‘Creators’, ie, give birth to children, which means being watched at all times, or ‘Guardians’: adoptive parents.  There are many rules governing the status of the parent and their suitability.  Unclaimed children face an uncertain future, to be shipped off to other countries where they may be adopted, or drift from orphanage to orphanage until adulthood.  

Daniel, a computer security specialist, has a broken relationship with Renee, as there are stumbling blocks about their parental future.  He finds an abandoned baby he wants to keep as his own, which sets the couple down a difficult path as they come up against Gozzum, a government agent who has his own issues after a turbulent childhood.

There was much I liked about this book, but I think it needs the hand of an experienced editor.  The beginning was the weakest area and seemed disjointed; if I hadn’t been reading it for the purpose of reviewing, I’d have abandoned it, which would have been a shame, because I soon began to like it much more.  It starts with a long prologue told from the point of view of Raina, a small child, containing scenes from her imaginary world that had no bearing on the actual plot; to me, this was as pointless as detailed dream sequences, and not the stuff of which reader-hooking openings are made.  Then the novel proper begins: we meet Daniel.  We see him meeting Renee, then finding the abandoned baby.  I found the first 15% confusing, with little explanation, so I could only guess at what was going on, though I enjoyed some excellent character cameos (feedback for author: Selah and J!).

The ‘world-building’ continued to be sketchy, and it took until at least 30% before I was clear about the whole parent-child situation (and even then I wasn’t quite sure).  However, so much of the characterisation is extremely good, the dialogue is excellent, for the most part, and some passages I loved (feedback for author: the ‘typical tale of heartbreak.  Boy meets girl at flash mob’, etc, and the backstory about Gozzum’s father).  There are many beautifully descriptive sentences, but maybe too many.  Sometimes, they held up the plot.

New characters are brought in at regular intervals, and there was a lot to keep in my head as it was not clear at first how they all linked up.  I loved the story of Ten, a Native American, and I particularly liked M J Lau’s ideas about the fate of her people.  There are some good observations later on about how the government uses the internet to collect data about the population, how/why the population give it up willingly, and that if they have enough opportunity to ‘vent’ on social media, they are less likely to actually do anything about social injustices; so, so right, and enough said.  Suffice to say that the author and I are singing from the same hymn sheet.

To sum up: there is no doubt that M J Lau can write, but I think he needs to learn when less can be more.  My opinion is that this is a good novel that could have been much better; it’s all there, it just needs restructuring.

Book Description

Work, home, repeat. Daniel Allingham, a computer security specialist, led a very routine life – until one evening, on his way home from work, he found a baby abandoned in a park.

But it gets worse. Daniel lives in a future America where a series of protracted wars have claimed the lives of a generation of parents. The result: a massive foster state, with most children being raised by relatives, friends of family, or in some cases complete strangers. At the behest of the public, the government has mandated that all children must be produced by certified Creators and adopted by registered Guardians. This means that children with no pedigree, like the one Daniel finds in the park, face deportation – or possibly destruction.

Pursued by a relentless government agent, Daniel and his friends fight to secure a better life for one child… risking their own welfare in the process.

About the author

M.J. Lau

M. J. Lau is an English teacher by day and an author by night… or rather, a teacher day and night, and an author whenever he gets a free minute in between. His first novel, The Buried Few, is a work of near-future speculative fiction influenced in equal parts by dystopian classics, fatherhood, and Wired Magazine.

Lau is currently working on the first installment of a fantasy series, with an anticipated release of March 2018.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Western Fringes by @ameranwar #Crime #Thriller

Today’s second team review is from Sandra

#RBRT Review Team

Sandra has been reading Western Fringes by Amer Anwar

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This award-winning debut novel from Amer Anwar had me hooked from the start. It tells the tale of Zaq’s search for his boss’s daughter who has run away to escape an arranged marriage. Not a trained investigator, Zaq seems an unlikely choice for this task. He is the only Muslim working for a family of Sikhs and not long out of prison, so Mr Brar threatens to frame him for theft and send him back to prison if he does not comply. Right from the start he is hampered by not having all the facts. It gradually emerges that this is about much more than a runaway daughter – drugs, kidnapping and armed robbery combine to put Zaq’s life in serious danger. Every time he thinks he is making progress in the investigation, a new twist sends him off in a completely different direction. Zaq is subjected to several brutal beatings but gives as good as he gets, having learned to take care of himself in prison. The violence never seems gratuitous but part of the world he is now involved in.   The relationship between Zaq and his friend Jags is a joy to behold, their support of each other and humorous banter provides light relief from the dark conspiracy they are being drawn into. By the time we find out why Zaq went to prison, we have already seen his true nature and are on his side. The characters are well written and the dialogue is convincingly realistic. The sense of place in the sights, sounds and smells of this area of South London is very vividly evoked. This would be great as a film or TV series, making a refreshing change from the many formulaic programmes currently on our screens. It is hard to believe that this is his first novel as it seems so assured.
Thanks to the author for providing a free copy of his book that I review as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Book Description

THE HARD-EDGED DEBUT THRILLER SET IN THE HEART OF WEST LONDON’S ASIAN COMMUNITY

A SIKH GIRL ON THE RUN. A MUSLIM EX-CON WHO HAS TO FIND HER. A WHOLE HEAP OF TROUBLE.
Southall, West London.
Recently released from prison, Zaq Khan is lucky to land a dead-end job at a builders’ yard. All he wants to do is keep his head down and put his past behind him.
But when he has to search for his boss’s runaway daughter it quickly becomes apparent he’s not simply dealing with family arguments and arranged marriages as he finds himself caught up in a deadly web of deception, murder and revenge.
With time running out and pressure mounting, can he find the missing girl before it’s too late? And if he does, can he keep her – and himself – alive long enough to deal with the people who want them both dead?

About the author

Amer Anwar

Amer Anwar grew up in West London. After leaving college he had a variety of jobs, including; warehouse assistant, comic book lettering artist, a driver for emergency doctors and chalet rep in the French Alps. He eventually landed a job as a creative artworker/graphic designer and spent a decade and a half producing artwork, mainly for the home entertainment industry. He holds an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London and is a winner of the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award. Western Fringes is his first novel.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #WomensFiction Walls of Silence by @helen_pryke #fridayreads

Today’s team review is from Judith, she blogs here http://judithbarrowblog.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Judith has been reading Walls Of Silence by Helen Pryke

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My Review:

First of all, I’d like to say how fascinating the Book Description is. Just enough to tempt the readers in without giving away the story, as so often happens.

I always try not to give spoilers with my reviews but with Walls of Silence I found it difficult to write the following without giving any of the story away. I hope I’ve succeeded.

To say I enjoyed the whole of this book isn’t totally true; I enjoyed Helen Pryke’s writing style and the fact that all the way though she convinced me of the danger to the protagonist, Maria, if she revealed what was happening to her. There are deeply disturbing sections and the actions of some of the characters are distressing. It is a dark book.

I did have a few problems with pace of Walls of Silence. After being instantly drawn into the story through the Prologue, it then slowed, drastically. I love Prologues and this one was strong; I was intrigued by Pietro’s story. But then the abrupt change to Maria’s story; the flashback, left me a bit stranded. I kept wanting to know the reactions of both Pietro and  his and Maria’s daughter, Antonella, who, presumably , were learning about Maria’s life together. I have to be honest though; I’m not at all sure how else the author could have written it. I just wanted more of these two characters after such an interesting introduction to them

I felt the first half of the first chapter was too drawn out (although I realised later that it was to introduce some of the characters we, as readers, would meet again towards the end of the book). But  I did like the second half; Maria’s early family life in Sicily and the descriptions of the characters in her community, ruled so completely by the Catholic Church during the era of the 1950/60s.

This variation in the pace of the plot, some parts too drawn out, others too quickly passed over, was, I felt, a little awkward.

But I thought the characters that Maria met throughout her difficult life were well drawn and the dialogue was believable and rounded out most of them.

However I did have a problem with the relationship between the protagonist and Pietro; it did feel a little contrived and unsatisfactory. to me as a reader.

Still, as I’ve said I did like the author’s style of writing, I found the descriptions of the settings brilliantly evocative and the story very moving. And Walls of Silence is an excellent title; it gives the claustrophobic sense on enclosure, secrecy, despair that Maria and the other women experience.

And, I must say i do like the cover; to me it embodies the whole story.

After I wrote this review I read the book description. Part of the proceeds from this book will go to a women’s centre in the UK. This kind of statement always gives me a problem; I feel guilty if I don’t rate the book higher. But then I always try to give an honest review, so will leave the above as written.

What I can say yet again, is that Helen Pryke writes well and I look forward to reading more of her work.

Book Description

Living in the mountains of Sicily, Maria has the perfect childhood until the tragic accident that changes her life forever. The events that follow will take her away from her home town to the streets of Milan, in an ever-increasing spiral of abuse and deception. Will she ever be able to trust anyone ever again? Set in turbulent 1960s Italy, Walls of Silence is the story of a girl who must find the courage and strength to survive her family’s betrayal and the prejudices of her country.

About the author

Helen Pryke

I moved to the north of Italy 26 years ago, without knowing a word of Italian! I picked it up pretty quickly, mostly by watching cheesy American soaps dubbed in Italian with Italian subtitles… but was too shy to speak for about a year!
26 years later, I now work as a translator, from Italian to English. It’s a job I love, especially when I got the chance to translate a children’s book and screenplay written by an Italian author. The screenplay is now winning awards at American film festivals!
I have always written short stories and books from an early age – I still have a short story I wrote when I was 10 that was published in the school magazine!
I love reading – I’ll read almost anything! I tend to spend most of my free time relaxing with my husband and two sons, and eating delicious Italian food!
The only thing I don’t like about Italy is the climate – cold and damp in the winter, hot and humid in the summer. With infestations of mosquitoes in the summer and stink bugs in the autumn…
but all in all, it’s a great place to live.

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The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha-Land by Isabella Davidson @NHyummymummy @SilverWoodBooks

The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha-LandThe Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha-Land by Isabella Davidson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Beta Mum: Adventures In Alpha Land is contemporary women’s fiction about a set of competitive mothers from West London.

Sophie and Michael relocate to London with their young daughter Kaya. Using the services of a London nursery consultant, they secure a place for their daughter at Cherry Blossoms, one of the finest nurseries in the area. On the first day of term Sophie faces a high powered group of ‘yummy mummies’.

Attempts to make friends and fit in fall flat, and, with Michael working long hours, Sophie is very lonely. She turns to the internet and starts a blog, where she can vent her frustration about the ‘alpha mum’ clique. Calling herself a ‘beta mum’, Sophie’s blog gains a readership from around the world.

I enjoyed the drama the mums created, as they reminded me of my own experiences at the school gates; the extravagant birthday parties, the parents who had affairs and the over-aggressive class parent rep had me nodding along in recognition.

With the strong blogging theme in the book, the author uses a range of blog posts, blog comments and e-mails to move the story forward. This style, by definition, reports events rather than showing actual scenes, so can leave little room for the reader to get to know the characters and feel involved in their lives.

I liked the connection I felt as a mum at the school gate, and can see these events working well as blog posts, but I didn’t think they worked as well in a longer novel; I thought they should have been interspersed with actual narrative rather than forming the main part of the book. However if you want a fast paced book which dips its toe into the world of the ‘yummy mummies’ of West London, filled with gossip and designer labels, then this book is for you.

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Book Description

Here, it isn’t the battle of who has the Rolls-Royce of strollers…these children actually roll in Rolls-Royces!

When 33-year-old Sophie Bennett moves from a sleepy suburb of Toronto to glitzy West London, she doesn’t know where she has landed, Venus or Mars. By a stroke of good luck, her three-year-old daughter Kaya attends Cherry Blossoms Nursery, the most exclusive nursery in London – hence the world – where she meets a sea of Alpha mums: Super Successful, Super Skinny and Super Rich. There, not is all as it seems, and she has to fight against the lure of a cult, a two headed dragon and Mumsolini’s dictatorship.

When Sophie struggles to fit in and starts to feel deeply lonely, she starts an anonymous blog, The Beta Mum, dissecting the lives of the Alpha Mums, especially Kelly’s, the blonde, beautiful and bitchy class rep who constantly makes her feel like a second class citizen. When Sophie’s marriage starts to falter, she engages in an email relationship with one of her readers. But then, one of her blogs goes viral and her blog becomes more and more successful; how long will it be until they discover her true identity? Is her marriage strong enough to survive her reader’s advances? And will she ever fit in with the Alpha Mums?

About the author

Isabella Davidson is the author of the popular blog, Notting Hill Yummy Mummy, which chronicles the entertaining lives of west London residents. Through the blog she has written features for The Times, The Saturday Times Magazine, Corner Magazine, and has been interviewed by Financial Times, Harper’s Bazaar, The Spectator, The Times and many more.

She started The Beta Mum during the six-month Faber Academy writing course. Prior to starting to writing career, she worked for a Nobel Prize-winning humanitarian organisation and as a doctor for the National Health Service. She grew up on four continents before settling down in London fifteen years ago. She currently lives in west London with her husband and her two small children.

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Spirit Of Lost Angels by @LizaPerrat #HistFic #France

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs at http://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Spirit Of Lost Angels by Liza Perrat

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My review:

Thanks to Rosie Amber for organising Rosie’s Book Review Team and to the author for offering me a copy of the book that I freely chose to review.

I had recently read and reviewed Liza Perrat’s fabulous book The Silent Kookaburra (check the review here) and could not pass on the opportunity to read and review another of the author’s books. I had commented on my previous review that the author is well-known for her historical fiction novels and I felt The Silent Kookaburra, although set at a much closer point in time (the 1970s in Australia) also shared the detailed setting, the atmosphere and the background events that made it worthy of that category, together with a very disturbing and beautifully written story.

Spirit of Lost Angels falls neatly into the category of historical fiction. Set in France, a few years before the French revolution, it follows the life of Victoire Charpentier, a young girl born on a farm in a small village, whose mother is a wise woman, midwife and healer to all, and who experiences death and tragedy from a very early age. She is a direct victim of the unfairness of the society of the time (a nobleman’s coach runs her father over and doesn’t even stop) and it is not surprising she wants revenge. Tragedy and disaster pile up in her life and brief moments of happiness are cut short when something else happens. Her story fits also into the category of melodrama, as she always finds herself at the centre of everything, and survives against incredible odds. Her life demonstrates that a woman’s lot is (and was even more so at the time) hard. Losing your husband, children, being raped, accused of being a witch, and being denied a voice, are everyday affairs. One thing that helps Victoire above everything is her literacy. Her reading and writing skills help her keep in touch with loved ones, provide her later with a literary career and with the means to raise consciousness as to the plight of women and the poor, and allow her to meet people and make connections. Eventually, it also helps her fulfil her dream and have a happy ending. The focus on women’s issues and the importance of education are one of the strongest points of the novel for me.

The book is beautifully written, narrated in the first person by the protagonist, who presents as very articulate. As we learn later, she becomes very proficient at writing, although early on there are moments when the beauty of her writing jarred me a bit (when she writes a letter to her daughter Ruby, she’s trying to improve her writing, but her letter is not only deeply felt but also lyrically written in spite of that), although later events and the ending facilitate a different reading of the novel. The beautiful language and the detailed and, at times, poetic descriptions help readers feel transported to the France of the period and experience the smells (and stinks), the touch, the sensations of the different settings (including the horrifying experiences at La Salpêtrière). The historical figures and events of the time (Victoire meets Thomas Jefferson, corresponds with Mary Wollstonecraft and becomes friendly with Jeanne de Valois, who plays an important role in her life) add to the texture and background of the book, making the France of the late XVIIIc even more vivid. The author explains in an endnote that her main character is entirely fictional and all her interactions with historical figures are invented too, although inspired by the real characters.

I enjoyed, in particular, the reflections of the character about the role of women in the society of the time, her terrifying but enlightening period at La Salpêtrière, and her enterprising and determination. This is a novel full of action, where events follow each other quickly and the protagonist suffers more than anyone’s fair share of events, to the point where a degree of suspension of disbelief is required. Perhaps because we follow the character through a long period of time, and Victoire is very much a conduit to reflect historical events and the lot of women at that particular historical period, I did not feel her character was as consistent or psychologically well-drawn as was the case for Tanya in The Silent Kookaburra (where although we see the protagonist at two different ages, most of the story is told from the point of view of 11 y.o. Tanya). That notwithstanding, this is a great story, full of twist and turns, that will transport you to an extremely momentous time and place, and although it is the author’s first novel, it already shows her flair for language and for creating gripping stories.

Book Description

Her mother executed for witchcraft, her father dead at the hand of a noble, Victoire Charpentier vows to rise above her impoverished peasant roots.
Forced to leave her village of Lucie-sur-Vionne for domestic work in Paris, Victoire suffers gruesome abuse under the 18th century old regime.
Imprisoned in France’s most pitiless madhouse, La Salpêtrière asylum, the desperate Victoire begins a romance with fellow prisoner Jeanne de Valois, infamous conwoman of the diamond necklace affair. With the help of the ruthless and charismatic countess, Victoire carves out a new life for herself.
Enmeshed in the fever of pre-revolutionary France, Victoire must find the strength to join the revolutionary force storming the Bastille. Is she brave enough to help overthrow the diabolical aristocracy?
As this historical fiction adventure traces Victoire’s journey, it follows too, the journey of an angel talisman through generations of the Charpentier family.
Amidst the intrigue and drama of the French revolution, the women of Spirit of Lost Angels face tragedy and betrayal in a world where their gift can be their curse.

About the author

An image posted by the author.

Liza grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years.
When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her family for twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator, and as a novelist.
Since completing a creative writing course ten years ago, several of her short stories have won awards, notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine, France Today and The Good Life France.

Spirit of Lost Angels is the first in the French historical “The Bone Angel” series set against a backdrop of rural France during the French Revolution. The second in the series, Wolfsangel, set during the WWII Nazi Occupation of France, was published in October, 2013. The third, Blood Rose Angel, set during the 14th century Black Plague years was published in November, 2015.
Friends, Family and Other Strangers is a collection of humorous, horrific and entertaining short stories set in Australia.
Liza is a founding member of the Author Collective, Triskele Books and regularly reviews books for Bookmuse.

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A Warriner To Rescue Her by @VirginiaHeath_ Regency #Romance series @HarlequinBooks

A Warriner to Rescue Her (Wild Warriners #2)A Warriner to Rescue Her by Virginia Heath
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Warriner To Rescue Her is book #2 in the Wild Warriners Regency Romance series. This is the story of Captain James (Jamie) Warriner; injured in the Napoleonic war, James now lives on the family estate in Retford, Nottinghamshire.

When out riding one day he is forced to rescue a damsel stuck in an apple tree. Voluptuous Cassandra (Cassie) Reeves, daughter of the Rev Reeves, is new to the area. On a whim she had climbed the tree looking for apples for her horse.

Unaware of the reputation of the Warriners, Cassie visits them, next day, to apologise. She is warmly welcomed by Letty, Jamie’s sister-in-law, whilst Jamie hides his curiosity in harsh rebuffs. However, a subsequent visit with her “fire and brimstone” Reverend father is received much less favourably and Jamie finds himself hastily evicting the clergyman. Local gossip paints the Warriner family in a very bleak way, and the Reverend is quick to listen and judge Cassie’s new friends.

I really enjoyed this book. Jamie and Cassie both had secrets to overcome before their friendship could finally blossom. I’m glad the horses had star roles too; it added another layer to the budding romance. Another well written and enticing read in this winning series. Recommended to all those who enjoy romance with a Regency theme.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book Description

Tempted by the damsel in distress!

Captain James Warriner is startled to find a curvaceous beauty caught up a tree in his orchard! Despite his shattered leg, he rescues Miss Cassandra Reeves, then is determined to have nothing more to do with the enticing vicar’s daughter.

Except when Cassie seeks Jamie out to apologize, they find themselves persuaded to work together on her storybook. Secret liaisons with the dashing soldier make Cassie wish Jamie would rescue her once more…by making her his wife!

About the author

Virginia Heath

I live on the outskirts of London with my understanding husband and two, less understanding, teenagers.
After spending years teaching history, I decided to follow my dream of writing for Harlequin.
Now I spend my days happily writing regency romances, creating heroes that I fall in love with and heroines who inspire me.
When I’m not doing that, I like to travel to far off places, shop for things that I do not need or read romances written by other people.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT The Mistress Of Blackstairs by Catherine Curzon @MadameGilflurt #HistFic

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The Mistress Of Blackstairs by Catherine Curzon

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The Mistress of Blackstairs by Catherine Curzon

3.5 out of 5 stars

The Mistress of Blackstairs is set in Covent Garden in the late 18th century, where the mysterious, veiled Madame Moineau runs an establishment in which she provides entertainment for some of the moneyed men of London.  In reality she is former courtesan Georgie Radcliffe.  In the winter of 1785, two men appear in her life.  The first is portrait artist Anthony Lake, looking for the daughter he has never met, and the second is someone she would rather not remember, Viscount Polmear.  Georgie and Anthony’s lives become entwined as they face a mutual foe.

There is no doubt that the author knows her subject very well, and she portrays the period in intricate detail, creating a lovely atmosphere of the time and showing the pretensions of the well-to-do against the seamier side of life, with the whores and gambling.  It’s a jolly good story, with some evocative description that I enjoyed very much; the dialogue is interesting and adds to the characterisation in each case, from the snooty Viscount Polmear to the dialect of the kitchen staff, young Molly (Georgie’s ward), and the ladies of the night.

I didn’t enjoy the book quite as much as I’d expected to, alas, because I felt it could have benefitted from some redrafting/editing to tighten it up and make the actual prose read more smoothly.  The punctuation bothered me; there are blocks with no commas where I thought there should have been some, which meant I had to read passages twice to get their meaning.  There was too much use of the words ‘and then’, where a semicolon, instead, would have made the whole paragraph read so much better.  I’d sum it up as a very good book, let down by less than satisfactory editing and proofreading. I have read two of the author’s other books and enjoyed them, most recently The Crown Spire.

Book Description

Everyone thought she was dead…
In 18th century Covent Garden, Madam Moineau, is the mistress of Blackstairs, an establishment catering to the finest clients in London.
The mysterious, veiled lady of Paris was better known in the past as a former courtesan and went by the considerably less exotic moniker of Georgina Radcliffe, or Georgie to her friends. 
In the winter of 1785 two men appear in Madam Moineau’s life.
Rogue artist Anthony Lake has recently returned from Europe. Lake is on his own assignment, searching the streets of London for the daughter he only recently discovered he had fathered.
He learns that the child’s mother is dead, brutally killed and Anthony finds himself on an unexpected mission to avenge his ex-lovers’ murder.
Nearly ten years after he left Madam Moineau, then known as Georgina, for dead, Viscount Edmund Polmear returns to London.
He has a new fiancé in tow and is soon to be found around Blackstairs, seeking a further mistress for his own pleasure.
His sudden appearance is a shock for the victim that he believed he left for dead, forcing Madam Moineau to face the horrors of her own past head on.
Anthony Lake and Madam Moineau’s lives become inevitably and inextricably entwined as they find themselves up against the fearsome and unforgiving Viscount Polmear.
 

About the author

Catherine Curzon

Catherine Curzon is a royal historian better known as Madame Gilflurt, the author of A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life (www.madamegilflurt.com), where she blogs on all matters 18th century. 
She has been published on matters as diverse as Marie Antoinette’s teeth and Grace Kelly’s love life. Her work has been featured by BBC History Extra, All About History, History of Royals, Explore History and Jane Austen’s Regency World, the official magazine of the Jane Austen Centre. She is thrilled to provide an online home for An Evening with Jane Austen, and her additional material for the show was performed at the V&A. 
Catherine has performed the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, as part of An Evening with Jane Austen, and spoken at Dr Johnson’s House and Lichfield Guildhall. 
Catherine holds a Master’s in Film Studies from the University of Nottingham. When not dodging the furies of the guillotine, she writes fiction set deep in the underbelly of Georgian London. 
She resides atop a steep hill in Brontë country with a rakish colonial gentleman, a hound, and a feline.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #Thriller Behind Closed Doors by @JJMarsh1 #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from E.L. Lindley, she blogs here http://lindleyreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

E.L has been reading Behind Closed Doors by J.J. Marsh

Behind Closed Doors by JJ Marsh is an international thriller that revolves around the deaths of unscrupulous businessmen. It’s a well written novel that engages the reader from the offset and keeps us guessing right until the very last page.

The bulk of the novel is set in 2012 when Scotland Yard Detective Beatrice Stubbs is despatched to Switzerland to head up a team of multi-agency staff investigating a spate of seeming suicides amongst the echelons of power and money. It’s a high profile case with the potential to ruffle lots of important feathers. However, Detective Stubbs is nothing if not tenacious and thorough, refusing to take the easy route of accepting the deaths as suicide.

It is Beatrice Stubbs who is the heart of the novel and she makes a compelling protagonist. Middle-aged and frumpy, Beatrice is a refreshing champion for ordinary working women. She is the perfect mix of hard working, courageous and neurotic. I applaud the way that Marsh examines mental health issues through Beatrice who has Bipolar and has regular telephone counselling sessions to keep her afloat.

Beatrice’s Swiss counterpart is the middle-aged, grumpy Karl Kalin who, in his own way, is just as dysfunctional as she is. Their initial encounters are hilariously brusque and prickly but over time a mutual respect develops and by the end a tentative friendship emerges. The rest of the team are made up of experts from throughout Europe. Chris Keese is from Europol, Sabine Tikkenson is an Estonian crime analyst, Conceicao Pereira da Silva is a DNA advisor and Xavier Racine, a young Swiss detective. All of the team are likeable and the procedural police work is offset by hints of the team’s personal lives.

Although the novel is in parts quite dark, there are flashes of humour which prevent it from becoming too heavy. Beatrice for example is a creature of habit whose main concern at taking a job overseas is that she will miss her daily fix of The Archers. Chris Kees is a hapless womaniser whom the reader realises is barking up the wrong tree long before he does.

Marsh makes the most of the setting and her descriptive language is very visual and filmic which is particularly effective. As the team travel around Switzerland and further afield to visit murder scenes, the landscape plays a huge part. Also as the plot involves the world of big business and wealth, the sense of opulence and extravagance is never far away.

There is no doubt at all that Marsh is an accomplished writer and she skilfully navigates the different threads of the story before bringing them together in a successful denouement. A technique that she uses to give background to the murders is to intersperse the ongoing narrative with flashback chapters. In doing this she allows us to get to know the victims and see the murders take place. This adds to the mystery but also slowed the story down somewhat and for me felt a bit intrusive each time my attention was diverted away from the primary story.

I really enjoyed that Marsh uses her story to ask questions about morality and retribution. The victims of the crimes are all despicable people who have caused much harm to others, people who we might say deserve what they get. Marsh explores the corrosive nature of vigilantism however and the fine line between wrongdoer and executioner – does setting ourselves up as judge and jury not lead us into becoming the very people we are trying to punish?

The novel on the whole is a reflection of Beatrice who stresses to her team that it’s the “daily slog of solid police work” that solves cases. The plot builds slowly and with each layer our tense anticipation mounts until by the end we are desperate for answers which Marsh provides in a very satisfactory manner.

I really enjoyed Behind Closed Doors and warmed to Beatrice Stubbs who also features in other JJ Marsh novels. If you like an intelligent police procedural thriller with realistic, down to earth characters then you’ll love this one.

Book Description

An unethical banker suffocates. A diamond dealer slits his wrists. A media magnate freezes in the snow. A disgraced CEO inhales exhaust fumes. Four unpopular businessmen, four apparent suicides. Until Interpol find the same DNA at each death.

Beatrice Stubbs, on her first real case since ‘the incident’, arrives in Switzerland to lead the investigation. But there’s more to Zurich than chocolate and charm. Potential suspects are everywhere, her Swiss counterpart is hostile and the secretive world of international finance seems beyond the law. Battling impossible odds by day and her own demons at night, Beatrice has never felt so alone.

She isn’t. Someone’s watching.
Someone else who believes in justice.
The poetic kind.

About the author

J.J. Marsh

As a child, Jill read so obsessively she got kicked out of the school library. But her passion for words continued. She graduated in English Literature and Theatre Studies from the University of Wales and set up a theatre company. Since then, as an actor, director, teacher, writer and journalist, she’s worked in fifteen countries. She learnt something from each one.
Now, with her husband and three dogs, Jill lives in Switzerland, a country with four languages and mountains of new words.
She works as a language trainer all over Europe, collaborates with Nuance Words and Triskele Books, and contributes regularly to Words with JAM magazine. But most of the time, she writes. And reads.

Behind Closed Doors is the first Beatrice Stubbs novel, a European crime series set in compelling locations all over the Continent.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Walls of Silence by @helen_pryke #WomensFiction #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Walls Of Silence by Helen Pryke

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WALLS OF SILENCE by Helen Pryke

3.5 out of 5 stars

I was not sure how to review this book at first, because it’s a strange one; my opinion of it varied so much, all the way through.  It’s a long novella (or a very short novel – I am sure it is no longer than 50K words, maximum).

Warning: this review includes plot spoilers.

Set in northern Italy, the story opens with Pietro, heartbroken over the loss of his wife, Maria, who has just died from cancer.  It then goes back to Maria’s childhood in Sicily, in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Maria lived in a small village, where life rolled by at the slow pace of fifty years before, and the Roman Catholic church and the family were the main focus.  I adored every word of this part; it’s beautifully written, and I felt so sad when Maria’s mother died, even though I’d met her only briefly.  Yes, the characterisation is that good.  The atmosphere of the time is simply yet vividly portrayed, and I was completely engrossed in the story.

Maria’s childhood takes a darker turn when her father remarries, and her ‘uncle’ Salvo comes to live with them.  Her account of the abuse she suffered is raw, poignant and utterly believable, and I loved that this part of the book showed not only the reasons for her silence, but also the way in which the simple, ill-educated population were manipulated by the rigours of formal Catholicism.  Stunningly good.  At this point I was going to give the book 5*, which is not a rating I give often.

Skipping forward, a marriage is arranged between Maria and Vincenzo, when she is sixteen and he is in his late twenties.  They go to live in Milan, and the marriage is difficult, interspersed with brief moments of happiness.  They live in a squalid apartment, Vinny struggles with the prejudices of the northern Italians, he gambles, drinks, and eventually abuses her physically.  I felt this part was a little rushed, and I was sometimes a bit ‘hmm’ about Maria’s reactions, but I was still enjoying it.  Eventually, Vinny’s gambling spirals out of control, and he offers Maria up as a final wager in desperation to recoup his losses.  He loses, and Maria has to leave the house with her new protector, Matteo.

It’s now that the book trails off.  Maria is forced into prostitution.  Another street girl gives her a tablet ‘to take the edge off’, which turns out to be LSD.  Girls in that situation are usually given (or choose to take) heroin or cocaine (or possibly dexedrine, in the 1960s), which give the illusion of wellbeing, not LSD, which is a powerful hallucinogenic and produces a ‘trip’, not the sort of drug that would be offered to ‘take the edge’ off anything; I suspected that Ms Pryke knew little about her subject at this point.  After a terrible few months, Maria meets Pietro, a young, professional man who falls instantly in love with her during their brief afternoon/early evening meetings.  Despite the danger involved with going up against Italian gangsters and the fact that he hardly knows her, Pietro hatches a plan to aid her escape, which involves them faking their own deaths and changing their identities.  For some reason I couldn’t fathom, his parents (who, in the staid Italian 1960s, are perfectly okay with him potentially ruining his life for the sake of a prostitute he hardly knows) agree to orchestrate this preposterous plan.  I am afraid I could no longer suspend my disbelief at this point; I thought of at least three more convincing ways to end the Matteo section even as I was reading it.

The book is wrapped up quickly, with details about Pietro and Maria’s happy new life, her return to Sicily and reunion with her family.  Again, it was over too soon.  The reunion with Guisy should have been hugely emotional, but it felt raced through, with all information given about the people of Maria’s childhood like a quick report.

I am giving this book 3.5* but rounding it up to 4* on Amazon because the beginning was so very, very good, and because Ms Pryke can certainly write; I read it in one day and looked forward to getting back to it each time.  The main problem is that for the depth of plot, it needs to be a novel the reader can become immersed in emotionally, not a short catalogue of disastrous events.  Had the second part, with Vinny, been extended, and the prostitution plot been less outlandish, it could have been a terrific book.  Sometimes, less is more; this author is talented enough not to need car chases and faked deaths.  The atmosphere of Sicily, the stark contrast between the 1960s and the 21st century, the characterisation and her simple knack of writing good sentences that keep the reader wanting to turn the pages, are enough.  And I’d definitely read something else by her.

Book Description

Living in the mountains of Sicily, Maria has the perfect childhood until the tragic accident that changes her life forever. The events that follow will take her away from her home town to the streets of Milan, in an ever-increasing spiral of abuse and deception. Will she ever be able to trust anyone ever again? Set in turbulent 1960s Italy, Walls of Silence is the story of a girl who must find the courage and strength to survive her family’s betrayal and the prejudices of her country.
Part of the proceeds from this book will go to a women’s centre in the UK.

About the author

Helen Pryke

I moved to the north of Italy 26 years ago, without knowing a word of Italian! I picked it up pretty quickly, mostly by watching cheesy American soaps dubbed in Italian with Italian subtitles… but was too shy to speak for about a year!
26 years later, I now work as a translator, from Italian to English. It’s a job I love, especially when I got the chance to translate a children’s book and screenplay written by an Italian author. The screenplay is now winning awards at American film festivals!
I have always written short stories and books from an early age – I still have a short story I wrote when I was 10 that was published in the school magazine!
I love reading – I’ll read almost anything! I tend to spend most of my free time relaxing with my husband and two sons, and eating delicious Italian food!
The only thing I don’t like about Italy is the climate – cold and damp in the winter, hot and humid in the summer. With infestations of mosquitoes in the summer and stink bugs in the autumn…
but all in all, it’s a great place to live.

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