Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Tudor #HistoricalFiction KATHERINE – TUDOR DUCHESS by @tonyriches

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Katherine – Tudor Duchess by Tony Riches

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I was first introduced to Tony Riches historical novels when I read the books in his Tudor Trilogy, about the founding and growth of the Tudor family. The history is compelling. For Mary – Tudor Princess, and this book, Katherine – Tudor Duchess, the reader experiences the Tudor family from a woman’s point of view. The author hasn’t lost a step in the transition.

Katherine Willoughby was born at Parham Hall in Suffolk in 1519, daughter of the 11th Baron of Willoughby and his second wife, Maria de Salina, who had come to England as a lady-in- waiting to Katherine of Aragon. With her father’s death, Katherine inherited the barony. Her wardship fell to King Henry VII, who sold it to Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk, his brother-in-law.

Her story begins as she is about to leave to join the Duke’s household. Her mother, who will continue in her service to Queen Katherine, sees her daughter as a good match for Henry Brandon, the Duke’s five-year-old son who is in the line of succession to the throne. Katherine is not so sure.

After traveling to the impressive Westhorpe Manor, Katherine becomes a part of the Brandon family, joining Henry and his two sisters, who are close in age to Katherine. She immediately is drawn to the beautiful, clever and elegant Lady Mary, wife of the Duke and sister to the King. (See Mary – Tudor Princess). When Katherine meets the Duke, she is immediately drawn to this rich and powerful man.

When Princess Mary dies after a lingering illness, Katherine mourns her deeply and is surprised when the Duke proposes to marry her. She is but fourteen and he is forty-nine. Beating the odds, theirs is a long and successful marriage, weathering the vicissitudes of the King’s many marriages and the reigns of Henry’s children. Katherine’s quick wit, devotion to learning and outspoken advocacy for the English reformation help her navigate the politics of the time. Through Katherine’s eyes, you meet the famous women of Henry’s court: Anne Boleyn, Katherine Seymour, Catherine Parr. You suffer with the deaths of her children and experience terror when Katherine’s faith puts her and her entire family in danger.

As impressed as I was by the story of Princess Mary, Katherine’s life left an even more indelible vision of an indomitable woman who not only survived a tumultuous time, but thrived. As always, the author’s attention to detail and depth of knowledge of the intrigue of the English court is superb.

I highly recommend yet another well-written and richly ornamented book by Tony Riches.

Book description

She stands up for what she believes in…
but such courage has consequences.

Attractive, wealthy and influential, Katherine Willoughby is one of the most unusual ladies of the Tudor court. A favourite of King Henry VIII, Katherine knows all his six wives, his daughters Mary and Elizabeth, and his son Edward, as well as being related by marriage to Lady Jane Grey.

When her father dies, Katherine becomes the ward of Tudor knight, Sir Charles Brandon. Her Spanish mother, Maria de Salinas, is Queen Catherine of Aragon’s lady in waiting, so it is a challenging time for them all when King Henry marries the enigmatic Anne Boleyn.

Following Anne’s dramatic downfall, Katherine marries Charles Brandon, and becomes Duchess of Suffolk at the age of fourteen. After the short reign of young Catherine Howard, and the tragic death of Jane Seymour, Katherine and Brandon are chosen to welcome Anna of Cleves as she arrives in England.

When the royal marriage is annulled, Katherine’s good friend, Catherine Parr becomes the king’s sixth wife, and they work to promote religious reform. Katherine’s young sons are tutored with the future king, Prince Edward, but when Edward dies his Catholic sister Mary is crowned queen. Katherine’s Protestant faith puts her family in great danger – from which there seems no escape.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Family Drama SEASON OF SECOND CHANCES by @aimeealexbooks @denisedeegan

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Season Of Second Chances by Aimiee Alexander

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This is another great find by Rosie and although I wasn’t familiar with the author (who also publishes under her real name, Denise Deegan), I’m convinced this won’t be the last time I read one of her books.

The description of the book does a good job of highlighting the main aspects of the plot: we have Grace, a woman escaping a difficult and dangerous marriage, with her teenage children, Jack and Holly, hopeful that returning back to the village where she grew up will offer them all a second chance. There awaits her father, Des, who is going through a major change in his life (he’s a recently retired family doctor suffering from early stages of Parkinson’s disease) and doesn’t know the ins and outs of Grace’s decision. Moving from Dublin to a small and sleepy village comes as a shock to Grace’s children, and she finds it difficult to confront the gossip and the expectations of having to step into her father’s shoes. But, this novel about second chances builds up slowly and we see that although not everything is ideal and there are misunderstandings and difficulties to be ironed out, Killrowan, the place and its community, is a place worth sticking with.

The novel touches on a variety of themes: abusive marriages and family relationships (and how difficult it is to walk out); starting over in a different place, picking up friendships and relationships, and rebuilding one’s life; the struggles of dealing with a chronic and debilitating illness; how much one’s self-identity can be enmeshed with our profession and our job; the differences between a big city and a small village; being a family doctor in a rural/village location; how teenagers feel when they have to move and be uprooted from school, friends…; the role animals play in helping us fit in a place and feel rooted; small community life, with hits highs and lows; and even a hint of possible romance(s). There are funny moments, plenty of heart-warming episodes, some scary and nasty shocks as well, some sad and touching stories, and even medical emergencies and action scenes thrown in. In her acknowledgements, the author highlights the process of her creation and her research and having read the novel, I can confirm that it has paid off. She manages to weave all the topics into a novel that brings the characters and the village to life, and I was delighted to read that she is thinking about a sequel. I’d love to go back to Killrowan and revisit the places and the characters that have also become my friends.

Alexander creates multi-dimensional characters easy to relate with. Grace doubts herself and is forever questioning her actions and doubting other people’s motive. Her self-confidence has suffered after years of being undermined and abused by her husband, and she feels guilty for uprooting her family, while at the same time experiencing the thrill of freedom. The novel is written in deep third person and allows us to see the action from different points of view. Grace’s point of view dominates the book, although we also see what her father, Des —another fantastic character who treads carefully and whose life suddenly regains a meaning when his daughter and grandchildren come to live with him— thinks and does, how both of Grace’s children, Jack and Holly, feel, faced with a completely different environment (Jack was the popular sporty type, while Holly had a hard time fitting in and had no friends other than her dog). We meet some fantastic characters in the community, like the scary (at least at first) receptionist at the doctor’s surgery; the butcher’s wife (a gossip with a big heart); Grace’s old pals, Alan (with some secrets of his own) and Ivonne; Benji, a wonderful dog that adopts the family; a handsome American writer; the wife of a local magnate (who reminds Grace of herself); Des’s old love; the local policeman; Grace’s partner at the doctor’s surgery and some of her patients, although not everybody is nice, don’t worry. We also get brief snippets of the events from some of the other character’s perspectives, not only the Sullivans, and that gives us access to privileged information at times. Although the different characters’ points of view aren’t separated by chapters, they are clearly differentiated, and I experienced no confusion while reading, quite the opposite. I enjoyed the opportunity to share in the bigger picture.

The writing style is fluid and flows well, without rushing us through the events, allowing us time to reflect upon events, enjoy the wonderful settings (the sea, the beach, the island, the pub…) and become acquainted with the location, the emotions, and the characters. The author knows well the area, and although Killrowan doesn’t exist (or, at least I couldn’t find it), it feels real (and some of the comments and attitudes Grace and her family experience reminded me of similar events I had witnessed in a small village I used to visit when I was younger) and it leaps from the pages. I confess to enjoying the style of the writing and feeling emotionally engaged with the story (I’d recommend having tissues handy). I’ve selected a couple of quotes to share, but as usual, readers might want to check a sample of the book to see if it suits their taste before purchasing it.

Here Grace is thinking about the family dog and how his death gave her the strength to finally leave her husband.

Benji was more than a dog. He was family. And her defender. Tiny little ball of fur rushing to the rescue. Or trying. Tiny little ball of fur that brought so much comfort to all three of them, Holly especially. Benji knew when they needed love and he gave it in spades.

Here Des is thinking about retirement.

What fool started the tradition of watches as retirement presents? Any thinking person would know that the last thing a man would want is to count all the time he now has on his hands.

Holly had just told her brother that their mother wanted to start over, and Grace realises her daughter is right.

Minutes ago, it had been to escape Simon, shake him off. But escaping Simon is still all about Simon. Grace sees that now. What she must do is start over. Because that is about Grace.

The ending is more than satisfying as well. Yes, not everything is settled and sorted in the end, but this is a book about new beginnings, and we leave the Sullivans and Killrowan to carry on merrily, getting to know each other and discovering what new changes and challenges life will bring. As I mentioned above, the author hints at a possible sequel, and I hope it comes to be.

This is a novel full of heart, friendship, a strong sense of community, and also heartache and personal growth. It is inspiring and comforting in these times when we have been obliged to live pretty enclosed lives. I agree with the TV series mentioned in the description (Call the Midwife one of my favourites), and I’m sure fans of any of those will enjoy this novel, which fits perfectly in the feel-good category, although that does not mean it hides from the most unsavoury aspects of life. There are menacing and dark moments, none too explicit, and I’d recommend it to anybody who enjoys stories with a heart, fond of Ireland and stories with an Irish background, and those who want a gentle read full of wonderful characters and a memorable community we’d all be happy to join.

Book description

When leaving is just the beginning… A novel of family, love, and learning to be kind to yourself by award-winning, bestselling Irish author, Aimee Alexander.

Grace Sullivan flees Dublin with her two teenage children, Jack and Holly, returning to the sleepy West Cork village where she grew up. No one in Killrowan knows what Grace is running from – or that she’s even running. She’d like to keep it that way.

Taking over from her father, Des, as the village doctor offers a real chance for Grace to begin again. But will she and the family adapt to life in a small rural community? Will the villagers accept an outsider as their GP? Will Grace live up to the doctor that her father was? And will she find the inner strength to face the past when it comes calling?

Season of Second Chances is a heart-warming story of friendship, love and finding the inner strength to face a future that may bring back the past.

Perfect for fans of Call The Midwives, The Durrells, Doc Martin and All Creatures Great and Small. The villagers of Killrowan will steal into your heart and make you want to stay with them forever.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Mystery BEYOND THE YEW TREE by @RachelJwalkley #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Beyond The Yew Tree by Rachel J. Walkley

I loved the Women of Heachley Hall, so I jumped at the chance to read another mystery by Rachel Walkley. I enjoyed this one just as much, probably because I like books with women protagonists, and especially if they are a little flawed.

For Beyond the Yew Tree, the author has created Laura Naylor, who has been called for jury duty and who reluctantly shows up on the appointed day. Having been on juries, I immediately related to the descriptions of the process, the jurors, and Laura’s experience. In this case, the man on the stand is accused of defrauding a charity for the blind.

It all seems very mundane, as is Laura’s life, until she begins to hear a hissing sound in the courtroom, one that no one else hears. At the same time she begins to have recurring nightmares of a Victorian jail and a suffering woman somehow connected to it. Laura thinks it’s related to the fact the court is actually within the walls of an old castle, which also houses an ancient prison and an equally old cemetery, where people who had been executed or died in prison were buried.

The author cleverly compounds Laura’s growing misery with anxiety of another sort: her Italian, live-in boyfriend, Marco, left suddenly for Italy because of an unexplained family matter, and his communication with her has dried up.

When the hisses resolve into a child-like whisper, Laura is lead to the prison graveyard and a spot near an old yew tree and also to the site of a long-gone bakery, where she experiences the smell of freshly baked bread. Assistance comes in the form of Sean, the curator of the prison museum, who helps her discover that her dreams and the whisper are related to a woman hung for murder a century earlier.

I won’t say more other than the fate of the man and the child of the hanged woman converge. Will Marco ever come back? Is Sean a serious match for Laura? Who is the wretched woman and who is the child only Laura can hear? You will love following the twists and turns of this story to discover the answers!

The intertwining of history with the present is a skill of this author and one again she has made a place, in this case the castle, a character in her story. Her characters are interesting and believable, with good depth, and the descriptions of places are clear and crisp.

I recommend Beyond the Yew Tree as a satisfying and enjoyable read, especially as a diversion from world events.

Book description

In an old courtroom, a hissing voice distracts reluctant juror, Laura, and at night recurring nightmares transport her to a Victorian gaol and the company of a wretched woman. Although burdened by her own secret guilt, and struggling to form meaningful relationships, Laura isn’t one to give up easily when faced with an extraordinary situation.
The child-like whispers lead Laura to an old prison graveyard, where she teams up with enthusiastic museum curator, Sean. He believes a missing manuscript is the key to understanding her haunting dreams. But nobody knows if it actually exists.
Laura is confronted with the fate of two people – the man in the dock accused of defrauding a charity for the blind, and the restless spirit of a woman hanged over a century ago for murder.
If Sean is the companion she needs in her life, will he believe her when she realises that the two mysteries are converging around a long-forgotten child who only Laura can hear?

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #HistoricalFiction #Mystery INTO THE SUFFERING CITY by Bill LeFurgy

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Into The Suffering City by Bill LeFurgy

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3.5 stars

A most professionally presented book, which centres around the murder of a showgirl. Dr Sarah Kennecott is a doctor who happens to be on the autism spectrum, though of course this was not recognised in those days. She becomes fascinated with the case and can’t let it rest, despite much family and political opposition; she also has to contend with the attitude of the time towards professional, educated women. Through her passionate interest in Lizzie Sullivan’s murder, she becomes involved with Jack Harden, a down-on-his-luck private detective. This association is not looked upon kindly.
The author clearly has a great love for his subject, and I appreciated the pictures drawn of the development of this new city, with its excitement and opportunity, but also its dark side: corruption, narcotics, prejudices. It is most intelligently written (the author is a professional historian and archivist), and a most commendable debut.
The only problem for me with this book was that it lacked that spark that might have made it a real page-turner. I felt a lack of suspense, and didn’t become involved with the characters; they felt distant, and never became more than names on a page for me. This could be just personal taste, though, as I often struggle with third person characters written in the omniscient narrator style. I am sure that if the author works on his actual storytelling he could produce something marvellous in the future; the rest of it, I could not fault.

 

Book description

Baltimore, 1909. The city is jumping with danger and excitement. New thrills are everywhere: cars, cocaine, ragtime music, moving pictures. Old troubles also thrive, including murder, corruption, and the painful divisions of gender, class, and race.

Dr. Sarah Kennecott is on the autism spectrum—a trait that is unidentified and unappreciated at the time. Her passion is justice for murder victims, and after getting fired for looking too closely into the killing of a showgirl, she refuses to back down from the investigation. Sarah forms an unlikely bond with Jack Harden, a tormented, down-on-his-luck private detective. Jack pushes the case into Baltimore’s seedy underworld, a vitally corrupt realm of saloons, brothels, and burlesque theaters.

When Sarah and Jack pull the pieces together, they discover a stunning pair of secrets, each of which is worth killing to keep.

“Into the Suffering City” is a fast-paced, emotionally immersive story that combines originality and historical detail to explore the lives of people living in Baltimore during the early 1900s.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Medieval #HistoricalFiction BONFIRE OF THE PERFECT by Susan Appleyard

Today’s team review is from Sean, he blogs here https://ebookwormssite.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Sean has been reading Bonfire Of The Perfect by Susan Appleyard

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Summary

A historical romance novel, set at the time of the Albigensian crusade. For those who may not know, this was a crusade in the Languedoc region of France, by northern Catholics against the perceived heresies of the Cathars, lasting from 1209 to 1229, with another series of repressions in the late 1240s.

The plot is essentially the love story between Braida, a young Catholic girl of Carcassone, and Jourdan, a soldier-of-fortune, who is also Catholic, but is fighting against what they perceive as an invasion of the lands by the North. The narrator of the story wants to set out her own view of the times she has lived through.

Set in feudal times, the local counts, lords etc. have almost absolute power over their subjects, and in turn owe fealty to their overlords. The French king suspects the loyalty of the Languedoc, over which the King of Aragon has some sway, and under cover of the crusade seeks to gain control of the land. As ever, the poor and voiceless are the meat in the sandwich.

Main Characters:

Braida: Young Catholic girl, very self-conscious due to a leg deformity, growing up in a peaceful, idyllic Carcassone. Friends with the Cather Beatrice, her father is a distant, cold man, who ignores or belittles her as needed.

Jourdan: Soldier of fortune, he is torn between his duty to his employer, and to Braida. Duty usually wins, and Braida is left behind.

Minor Characters:

Beatrice: A devoted Cather, studying to become a Perfect, she is Braida’s best (and probably only) real friend. Pious, she becomes more ethereal as the novel progresses.

Foulques: Braida’s physician father, he looms large over her life. Cold and unloving to her, as he grows older his life slowly falls to pieces, as personal tragedy takes its toll

Plot:

The Albigensian Crusade has just been launched by Pope Innocent III, and the Northern army is marching to Languedoc. Braida and her contemporaries do not fear it yet, thinking it is just another local war that will go away. She meets and falls for Jourdan, and their early days are idyllic. However, as time moves on and the army closer, they get swept up in events.

The Viscount of Carcassone rallies the troops, and takes up arms against the Northern invaders.

A series of battles, skirmishes and sieges now occur, over the next 20/30 years, with duplicity, betrayal and widespread bloodshed becoming the norm. The bonds of loyalty are strained, and sometimes break under the pressure. The tide of war ebbs and flows, and throughout Braida and Jourdan have their own travails, Jourdan heads off to war, leaving Braida behind to look after her father, mother, and her father’s mistress, while never knowing where or when the hammer of war falls next.

Along with the Crusade comes the Inquisition, less famous but just as brutal as its Spanish counterpart. Braida and Jourdan are nominally exempt from this, being Catholics, but such is the fear and terror, that neighbour is denouncing neighbour, simply to avoid the clutches of the Inquisitors.

What I Liked:

  • Easy to read
  • Well researched, and a great effort at keeping the various true-life characters from being confused
  • The flashback recounting style of the story

What I Didn’t like:

  • Other than Braida, I found the characters a little one-dimensional.
  • The love angle was hard to accept as the novel progresses, and less believable. There was none of the heat and passion you would expect.
  • We don’t really get a sense of the Cathars, who in reality were so mentally strong in how they resisted persecution.

Overall:

For those who like historical romance novels, this fits the bill nicely. A good overview of the turbulent times, and how two ordinary people struggle through it. The reader gets a good flavour of how precarious life was. It is enjoyable, and may lead the more curious to investigate and read more into the genocide of the Cathars.

Prompted by the murder of his legate, in 1209 Pope Innocent III launches a crusade – not against the infidels of the East, but against fellow Christians living peaceably in the south of France. They are the Cathars, regarded as heretics by the Roman Church, and the sect is flourishing. Thousands of knights, landless younger sons, mercenaries and assorted riff-raff pour south with Christian zeal to exterminate men, women and children of the same country. A dilemma soon arises: How to tell a Cathar from an orthodox Catholic?
Lovers Bräida and Jourdan are torn apart when Carcassonne falls to the crusaders. Jourdan joins the resistance while Bräida flees with her family to the relative safety of the Pyrenees, neither knowing if they will see one another again. But Bräida is not safe in her mountain retreat, because the Church has found an answer to its dilemma – the creation of the Inquisition. No one can escape its diabolical clutches.
This is a story of faith, endurance and the love of liberty in a time of unimaginable cruelty.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Football #horror novella BURNTBRIDGE BOYS by @john_f_leonard

Today’s team review is from Robbie, she blogs here https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Robbie has been reading Burntbridge Boys by John. F. Leonard

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I enjoy the way John Leonard writes. He uses short, sharp sentence that perfectly suit the length of his novella’s and their dark and terse story lines. The introductory paragraphs into this author’s books have a way of immediately pulling the reader into the story and setting the scene very efficiently.
The opening lines to Burntbridge boys are as follows:
“He stamped at the brake and missed.
Swore vehemently. Cursed to himself and the world in general. At times, both seemed to conspire against him.”
After reading these few short sentences, I immediately knew I was dealing with a main character who feels he has been ill-treated by the world, has a bad temper and is generally looking for trouble. My expectation was also that the main character, Samuel Rafferty, did not see himself as the guilty party in the sorry story of his life, he rather as the victim.

My expectations with regards to Samuel proved to be correct and the author did a terrific job of creating a man who is selfish, self absorbed and greedy. Despite some horrible revelations about Samuel’s past and abusive father, and the fact that he successfully exploits his talent as a footballer to pull himself out of poverty, I was not able to feel anything but dislike for this character. As the story progresses and his womanizing ways and easily corruptible nature become more and more obvious, the author brought me to a point where I felt that the situation that Samuel ends up in is of his own making and the outcome almost seems like poetic justice.

I have read other books by this author and, by comparison, this one is not as obviously bloody or frightening. The supernatural elements creep up on you slowly and subtly and I found this to be disturbing and incredibly chilling. I will hazard a comparison and say that parts of this book were as harrowing for me as The Shining by Stephen King. Some things are far more scary than blood and guts.

I suppose I should point out that this book has an underlying theme about football, but this facilitated the story rather than became the point of it. I am not a soccer or sports fan and, while I appreciated that the author must know a bit about football, I did not feel bored or overwhelmed by sporty facts and information. There was just enough to feed the flow of the story and make it work. A great read for lovers of chilling supernatural fantasy.

Book description

It’s 1979 and Sammy Rafferty is on the run. From the past. From the police. And, perhaps more importantly, from some rather unfriendly criminal types.
He thinks his football dreams are over, but that might not be the case. He’s run to Burntbridge Lye. A place where dreams don’t always die.

Sammy “the butcher” Rafferty has long since kissed his playing days goodbye. Never kicking a competitive ball again was a hard pill to swallow and he’s not ready for his managerial career to come to an untimely end. The thought of forever being shut out of football makes his heart sink and feet itch.

There isn’t any choice. The cards have been dealt and you have to play the hand you’re given. Sammy grits his teeth and gets on with it. Life settles into monotony and offers only boredom and frustration …until he comes across an old football ground nestled in the back of beyond.

He can almost hear the roar of the crowd as he parks at the gates of the deserted Burntbridge Palmers, a decaying stadium on the outskirts of Bledbrooke Town.
The club that won’t die could be just the place for a man who still has a gleam in his eye. After all, they’re both ghosts that won’t go away.

Burntbridge Boys is about a lot of things.
Horror, for sure. No doubt there. Old school horror, with a twist. A ghost story where the ghosts aren’t really dead.
A fond reminiscence of football, back before football became completely commercialised? Yes, definitely, soccer plays its part. Although, it has to be said, the beautiful game is sometimes less than beautiful in Burntbridge Boys. It can be somewhat ugly and …disturbing. And often more than a game.
Deceit and double-dealing? Yeah, there’s a fair-sized chunk of that.

It might also be about power passed into hands too fragile for the holding. The darkness hidden in human hearts which is best kept hidden and secrets that are better not revealed. Society and its cruel attitudes, before society became an equally dreadful click-driven social media experiment.
You’ll draw your conclusions – that’s one of the joys of reading.

On a more prosaic level, is there such a thing as a football horror story? Let alone one set in the past which wallows in a darkly imagined history of the game.
Who knows? When the Dead Boxes are involved, anything is possible. Such items have always been scary things.
Even in the swinging Sixties and glam-shock punk revolution of the Seventies, they contained a terrifying mix of horror and salvation. Throw the Scaeth Mythos into the mix and stuff gets decidedly multi-dimensional.

There are different realities and the walls which separate them can be paper thin. The tiniest tear can allow horror and madness to bleed through.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Burntbridge Boys: A Football Horror Story by [John F Leonard]

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #WW2 #HistoricalFiction SOMERVILLE’S WAR by Andrew Duncan @vinehousedist

Today’s team review is from Liz, she blogs here https://lizannelloyd.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading Somerville’s War by Andrew Duncan

As a child I was fascinated by the tales my parents told of their time in the services in Europe during the war and moreover, stories about the Resistance or SOE have always interested me, so I opened this book with excitement.  Beginning in August 1940, we witness the last race of Somer River Sailing Club.  Through the eyes of trainee Polish spy “Labrador” we watch Leonora win the race and receive a kiss from her father, Brig, who is Captain of the club.  Soon we are immersed in the upper-class life of Somerville with its established pecking order of aristocrats who have known each other for most of their lives. Yet close by young men are training for undercover action in France and Leo cannot wait to join the ATA where she will pilot planes from one British aerodrome to another, so that male pilots can take them into action.

But unknown to the local community “Brig”, the Brigadier, plays a major role in coordinating the training of undercover agents at Woodland house, hidden in the woods at Somerville. Soon, Henry, long-time friend of Leo, and her potential suitor, will also be trained alongside Labrador. The action will move to Normandy and the young men will be in great danger.

This is a study of the changes in everyday life brought about by wartime, but it is also a thrilling tale of heroism and a slow-burning love story.  Leo’s spontaneous character is easy to identify with, but I also began to understand the taciturn Brig who did his duty for his country and dearly loved his family. A beautifully written novel, revealing many fascinating details about flying Spitfires, conducting undercover warfare and dealing with betrayal in the best possible way.

Book description

The strange brigadier who hardly speaks… Leo, his feisty pilot daughter… Labrador, the vengeful Pole… Henry Dunning-Green, Leo’s boring suitor… Adrian Russell, the treacherous master spy… … All linked by SOE Somerville, the top secret Second World War finishing school for spies on England’s south coast, and its local community: A melting pot of intrigue and counter-intrigue. A fast-unfolding, untold tale of deception, betrayal and romance leading to a tense life-or-death climax in occupied France. Many of the events actually took place. This is the first fictional treatment of life at the famous Special Operations Executive ‘finishing school’ for spies, SOE Beaulieu in the New Forest (renamed SOE Somerville). It’s also the first fully realised fictional portrait of master spy and traitor Kim Philby (renamed Adrian Russell) who lectured at SOE Beaulieu.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Contemporary Rural Drama SEASON OF SECOND CHANCES by @aimeealexbooks @denisedeegan #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Liz, she blogs here https://lizannelloyd.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading Season Of Second Chances by Aimee Alexander

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This is a novel which captivates you from the first page. Grace and her two teenage children, Jack and Holly, have left Dublin to live in the quiet village on the coast of Cork where she grew up. Escaping an impossible life, she is taking over as a GP from her father, Des. She soon discovers her neighbours to be judgemental about “Young Doctor Sullivan” so she won’t be revealing the secret she has left in Dublin.  Prickly Jack knows they had to leave, but he doesn’t relish life in the middle of nowhere, while Holly has always lacked confidence. But things gradually improve. Grace impresses the locals with her skill as a doctor and her children begin to make friends.

This is both a heart-warming story and an edge of the seat drama as you wait for their past to catch up with them.  Adding a touch of romance in the form of an American author with a sad past and some amusing incidents with some of the local community make this a perfect lockdown escape. And I forgot to mention Benji the dog. I was so pleased to discover that there will be a sequel.

Book description

When leaving is just the beginning… A novel of family, love, and learning to be kind to yourself by award-winning, bestselling Irish author, Aimee Alexander.

Grace Sullivan flees Dublin with her two teenage children, Jack and Holly, returning to the sleepy West Cork village where she grew up. No one in Killrowan knows what Grace is running from – or that she’s even running. She’d like to keep it that way.

Taking over from her father, Des, as the village doctor offers a real chance for Grace to begin again. But will she and the family adapt to life in a small rural community? Will the villagers accept an outsider as their GP? Will Grace live up to the doctor that her father was? And will she find the inner strength to face the past when it comes calling?

Season of Second Chances is a heart-warming story of friendship, love and finding the inner strength to face a future that may bring back the past.

Perfect for fans of Call The Midwives, The Durrells, Doc Martin and All Creatures Great and Small. The villagers of Killrowan will steal into your heart and make you want to stay with them forever.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team#RBRT Friendship #Thriller ODD NUMBERS by @JJMarsh1

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Odd Numbers by J.J. Marsh

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JJ Marsh is an author I’ve read great reviews about and has been on my list for a while, so I took the chance when I saw an ARC for her next book had become available. I can’t compare it to the rest of her works, but based on this novel, which is a new genre for her, I wouldn’t hesitate recommending her books, and I look forward to catching up on some of her previous novels.

I think the description above provides plenty of hints as to the plot, and this is one of those novels where the way the story is told and the fine details are fundamental, so I’ll try to avoid over explaining things or giving too many hints (I want to avoid spoilers at all cost). This is a story built around six friends (three women and three men) who meet at university, while they are studying to become international translators, and grow to be quite close. They come from different countries (mostly Europe, although one comes from the US, and one is from Indian origin), have very different personalities and backgrounds, and it’s likely that their friendship would have fizzled and died if not for a tragic event that takes place while they are away celebrating New Year (and the new millennium) in December 1999. After that, they meet every two years, and the event that binds them together weighs heavily on them all, having a very different impact in each one of them. Things come to a head on the 20th anniversary of that fateful New Year’s celebration and readers are privileged witnesses of another night to remember. This novel reminded me of a book I read and reviewed recently, The Hunting Party, but also of films like The Celebration (Festen), where there is a build-up of tension, strained relationships, plenty of secrets and lies, and a surprise or two. Although I think many readers will smell a rat from early on in the novel, even if they get it right (and let’s say things are left open to interpretation), the beauty of this novel is in the way it is built, the variety of points of view, and the psychological insights it offers into a catalogue of characters that are not miles away from people most of us know. Considering this is the author’s first incursion into the psychological drama genre, I take my hat off to her.

There are a variety of themes that come up in the novel, some more important to the action than others, for instance the nature of friendship, the way different people experience grief, the guilt of the survivor, how we change and evolve over time and how our relationships change with us, love, death, careers, priorities, family, charity missions, and, of course, lies.

As for the characters, I won’t go into too much detail about them, because the author does a great job of building them up through the novel, and readers should discover them as they read. Marsh chooses one of the female characters, Gael, as the main narrator, and she starts the story ‘now’ (in 2020). The whole novel is written in the first person, but not all from the same point of view. Although I’ve said that Gael is the main narrator, and she has more chapters than the rest, we also get to hear the voices of the other characters, who take us back into some of the reunions the friends have had over the years, and that allows readers to compare and contrast Gael’s version of the rest of her friends with their own words and insights. Readers can compose a mental picture and fit in the pieces of the puzzle, making their own minds up and deciding if they agree or not with Gael’s perceptions. It also makes for a more rounded reading experience, as we get to know each character more intimately, and perhaps to empathise, if not sympathise, with all of them. I liked Gael from the start: she is articulate, a journalist, and a bit of a free spirit, but she always tries to understand and accommodate others as well, and she is more of the observer and the outsider in the story, for reasons that will become evident to the readers from early on. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the friends are like an ersatz family, with individual roles they always fall back on when they are together (the nurturing mother, the responsible and dependable father, the youngest and spoilt sister, the rushed and sporty brother, the sister whom everybody confides in [Gael]), and this reminded me of Eric Berne’s Games People Play. All the characters are articulate and savvy enough to be aware of this and play it for keeps as well.

The book flows well, and the language used is appropriate to each one of the individual characters, fitting with their personalities and quirks without calling too much attention to itself. It helps move the story along, and manages to build up the tension, even when there isn’t a lot of action in the usual sense. There are mysterious events taking place (some that will have readers wondering if the characters are imagining them or not), clues that sometimes don’t seem to amount to much, hints, and some memorable scenes. But all those elements are woven subtly into the narrative creating a spider web that traps the readers and the more they read, the more they become entangled in the strands of the story and the characters, until it becomes almost impossible to put the book down.

There is a closure of sorts, although the ending is ambiguous and most of the surprises and big reveals have come before then. I liked the fact that there is much left to the imagination of each reader, but I know such things are down to personal taste.

This is a great psychological drama, with engaging characters (some more likeable than others), fascinating relationship dynamics, and a mystery at its heart. It’s a gripping read, perfect to keep our minds engaged and to have us pondering the ins and outs of friendships, relationships, and which actions would push us beyond the limits of forgiveness. A gem.

The last 7% of the e-book contains the first-chapter of the author’s work-in-progress, in case you wonder about its length.

Book description

The Guilty Party meets The Secret History

Can you forgive a friend?

Strange things bring people together. Like a tragic death.

Over two decades, five friends reunite every other New Year. They celebrate, grieve and heal. Memories grow dusty and the nightmare starts to fade.

On the 20th anniversary, in a remote snowy chalet, old doubts surface.
Wounds reopen and morality comes into question.

Is friendship a safety net or a tie that hobbles to the past?

They thought they knew each other’s secrets.
Did they miss the biggest one of all?

When history is rewritten, they must act to preserve the future.
A fatal decision means this reunion will be their last.

A psychological drama with beautifully portrayed characters and an intricately woven plot. The suspense emerges between the lines, grabs you softly but never lets go.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT A #Football #Horror Novella BURNTBRIDGE BOYS by @john_f_leonard

Today’s team review is from Georgia, she blogs here https://www.georgiarosebooks.com

#RBRT Review Team

Georgia has been reading Burntbridge Boys by John F. Leonard

Burntbridge Boys: A Football Horror Story by [John F Leonard]

Sammy Rafferty is past his prime. Having gained notoriety for violence within football where his fearsome reputation came in handy as a player, and an afterlife in management slick with slippery schemes, he now found himself at a ground he’d never heard of. The home of Burntbridge Palmers.

The stadium is decaying, not unlike Bill Stroat, groundsman, and his dog, Auger. Bill assumes Sammy is there as the new gaffer and takes him on a tour.

Through this story there are flashbacks to Sammy’s life as a professional footballer and his time in management where he was taken under the wing of Ray McEvoy and entered a world of dirty dealings and criminal activity. All of which he was paying for now.

I have read several of Leonards books, this being another short one at around 80 pages, and this was just as well written with tight, engaging prose and a way with words I find appealing. It is probably not as fast-paced or filled with horror as some of his others and the focus is on the football but the ins and outs of that made for a great story. Recommended for all with a passion for the game, who like their reading on the darker side and who enjoy good writing.

Book description

It’s 1979 and Sammy Rafferty is on the run. From the past. From the police. And, perhaps more importantly, from some rather unfriendly criminal types.
He thinks his football dreams are over, but that might not be the case. He’s run to Burntbridge Lye. A place where dreams don’t always die.

Sammy “the butcher” Rafferty has long since kissed his playing days goodbye. Never kicking a competitive ball again was a hard pill to swallow and he’s not ready for his managerial career to come to an untimely end. The thought of forever being shut out of football makes his heart sink and feet itch.

There isn’t any choice. The cards have been dealt and you have to play the hand you’re given. Sammy grits his teeth and gets on with it. Life settles into monotony and offers only boredom and frustration …until he comes across an old football ground nestled in the back of beyond.

He can almost hear the roar of the crowd as he parks at the gates of the deserted Burntbridge Palmers, a decaying stadium on the outskirts of Bledbrooke Town.
The club that won’t die could be just the place for a man who still has a gleam in his eye. After all, they’re both ghosts that won’t go away.

Burntbridge Boys is about a lot of things.
Horror, for sure. No doubt there. Old school horror, with a twist. A ghost story where the ghosts aren’t really dead.
A fond reminiscence of football, back before football became completely commercialised? Yes, definitely, soccer plays its part. Although, it has to be said, the beautiful game is sometimes less than beautiful in Burntbridge Boys. It can be somewhat ugly and …disturbing. And often more than a game.
Deceit and double-dealing? Yeah, there’s a fair-sized chunk of that.

It might also be about power passed into hands too fragile for the holding. The darkness hidden in human hearts which is best kept hidden and secrets that are better not revealed. Society and its cruel attitudes, before society became an equally dreadful click-driven social media experiment.
You’ll draw your conclusions – that’s one of the joys of reading.

On a more prosaic level, is there such a thing as a football horror story? Let alone one set in the past which wallows in a darkly imagined history of the game.
Who knows? When the Dead Boxes are involved, anything is possible. Such items have always been scary things.
Even in the swinging Sixties and glam-shock punk revolution of the Seventies, they contained a terrifying mix of horror and salvation. Throw the Scaeth Mythos into the mix and stuff gets decidedly multi-dimensional.

There are different realities and the walls which separate them can be paper thin. The tiniest tear can allow horror and madness to bleed through.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Burntbridge Boys: A Football Horror Story by [John F Leonard]