Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #WomensFiction The One That I Want by @LynneB1

Today’s team review is from Sandra.

#RBRT Review Team

Sandra has been reading The One That I Want by Lynne Shelby

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The One That I Want tells the story of Lucy Ashford who lands a dream job with a London theatrical agency after an unexpected reunion with her childhood friend. Cassie is now the star of a children’s television programme and introduces Lucy to the world of celebrity. Lucy is looking for a fresh start, having just emerged from a toxic relationship, and this is just what she needs. Through her work at the agency she gets involved with two very different men, but seems to enjoy the contrasting lifestyles of both – the glamourous life of a movie star with Daniel, and the ups and downs of a struggling young actor with Owen. Daniel is her boyfriend; Owen her first client who also becomes a friend. Lucy seems equally at home in the worlds of both of these men but which one does she really want? This is a believable insight into the world of movies and the theatre, with a cast of well-written characters and a likeable heroine. I particularly liked Lucy’s unconventional family, and the extreme behaviour of Cassie’s personal assistant, Nadia. With an eye-catching cover and a plot that would make a great movie, I would definitely recommend that you give this a try; I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. It is the first book by Lynne Shelby that I have read but it won’t be the last. Thanks to the author for a free copy in exchange for an independent review.

Book description

When Lucy Ashford lands a top job at a leading theatrical agency in London, work mixes with pleasure, as she literally falls into the arms of Hollywood heartthrob Daniel Miller. Handsome, charming and irresistible, Daniel is just what unlucky-in-love Lucy needs, and she is quickly drawn into his glittering celebrity lifestyle. But can she tame the A-list bad boy or is she just one more girl in Daniel s long line of conquests? And then there s up-and-coming actor Owen Somers, fiercely talented but as yet uncast in a starring role. After she takes him onto the agency s books, Owen and Lucy’s friendship slowly grows. If she looks closely, Lucy’s leading man might be right before her very eyes…

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistFic The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau @Tudorscribe @Endeavour_Media

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau

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This book is about porcelain, something I’ve never really thought much about, except for choosing my tableware pattern before I married. I never realized that in eighteenth century England, fortunes could be made or lost on it. In The Blue, historical fiction writer Nancy Bilyeau crafts a story as lovely and colorful as the porcelain about which the tale centers.

Genevieve Planché, London-born descendent of French Protestant Huguenots who fled the persecution of Kings Louis XIV and Louis X, views porcelain with disdain. She has talent and wants to be an artist, but her grandfather, with whom she lives in London, has arranged a career for her as a decorator of porcelain at the Derby Porcelain Works. The thought of it makes her want to scream. No male artist in London will take on a female apprentice, so in a last desperate attempt to avoid her fate, she crashes a party at the home of William Hogarth, the internationally famous painter. She pleads with him to accept her as a student but is rudely rebuffed. While there, she meets Sir Gabriel Courtney, a charming roué, from whom she escapes when she leaves the party.

Her unavoidable departure for Derby is complicated by two things – first, the reappearance of Denis Arsenault, journeyman silk weaver with whom Genevieve had been besotted. Arsenault is wanted by the law for leading a riot in the workshop where he worked. He’s returned to take Genevieve to New York with him. But before that can happen, the second complication occurs: Sir Gabriel reappears as a dinner guest at her home and offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse – learn for him the secrets of porcelain manufacture at the Derby Factory and in particular the formulation of a new, unknown color of blue. If she does, he will send her to Venice to study art.

She travels to Derby, takes up her apprenticeship, but in doing so learns more than she wants – not only about porcelain but also about industrial espionage.  Genevieve resolutely faces the obstacles to her dreams with no idea of the danger that lies in what she’s been asked to do.

The Blue is a rich romp into 18th century patriarchal society and the role of women. The author has crafted a tale with colorful, memorable characters against the teeming background of London and the midlands in the 1700s – all impeccably researched. Even the lesser characters have a three-dimensionality. The political animosity between England and France during that century (the colonial wars, the Carnatic wars) creates an unsettling daily environment in which the reader becomes immersed and feels much in the time.

Genevieve is a great leading lady: dogged, intelligent, and brave, but has compassion and understanding, even when she’s been wronged. Sir Gabriel is a worthy villain, debonair and desperate. The reader may find themselves almost liking him when his reasons for drawing Genevieve into his plots are revealed. Thomas Sturbridge, the chemist responsible for formulating the blue, is an aw-shucks sweet man with a backbone of kindness. In general, with the exception Thomas and Genevieve’s grandfather, the men in this book are unpleasant, rude and often crude; I suspect that in a competitive situation with the amount of money and fame at stake, this would be the case. In any event, the author is clearly invested in her characters.

The real surprise is the descriptions of the production and decoration of porcelain, something fragile and unimportant in the historical scheme, but which fans the flames of fancy and avarice in people rich and poor and tests the limits to which the very rich and important will go to possess the finest. I was heretofore completely ignorant of this aspect of 18th century life, and the author demonstrates a fine touch of ingenuity in making this the centerpiece of the story.

The plot has many surprising twists and turns which take the reader one way and another. Spies, secret writings, robberies, chemical experiments, kidnappings and escapes – there are many things to entertain woven into the story. I also appreciated that the morality of industrial espionage, even in those times, was not ignored.

If you are looking for an increasing wild ride of well-informed historical fiction, this book is for you.

Book description

A novel of suspense that asks: What would you do for the most beautiful color in the world?

The year is 1758, and a headstrong woman artist, 24-year-old Genevieve Planche, is caught up in a high-stakes competition to discover the ultimate color that threatens to become as deadly as it is lucrative.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT The Swooping Magpie by @LizaPerrat set in 1970s #Australia

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading The Swooping Magpie by Liza Perrat

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This is the fifth of Liza Perrat’s novels I read, so you won’t be surprised to hear that I am a fan. I have read her historical novels in The Bone Angel Series, and also The Silent Kookaburra, set, like this novel, in the 1970s. It seems that the author intends to write a new series of independent novels, set in Australia in the 1970s, reflecting the everyday lives and realities of women in the period, and this is the second one. All of the author’s novels have female protagonists and closely explore their subjectivities and how they adapt to their social circumstances in the different historical periods. They might be fictional but the pay close attention to details and are the result of careful research.

Here, the main character is Lindsay Townsend, who narrates the story in the first person, in three different time periods, the early 1970s, the early 1990s, and the final fragment, set in 2013. The first part, and the longest shows us, Lindsay, when she is about to become 16. She is (at least on the surface), a very confident girl, clever, pretty, with plenty of money, from a good family, although not all is at it seems. She seems to lead a charmed life, but her home life is rather sad, with a violent father more interested in keeping up appearances than in looking after his wife and daughter, and a mother hooked on pills and spending as much time as possible out of the house on her charity work. Despite all that, Lindsay is not a particularly sympathetic character, and I know that might be a problem for readers who are not that keen on first-person narratives, as placing you in the skin of a character you don’t like might make for an uncomfortable reading experience, even if it is for a very good reason. She is a typical teenager, overconfident, and a bit of a bully, showing no sympathy for anybody’s circumstances at the beginning of the book. She dismisses her peers, feeling superior to all of them, and, as usual at that age, she believes she knows better than anybody and is invincible. That lands her in a lot of trouble, as she falls for one of the teachers, with consequences that readers might guess but that, at the time, don’t cross her mind. At a time when society was far less tolerant of alternative families, and women’s liberation had not taken hold, Lindsay is faced with an impossible decision and is suddenly confronted with a reality miles away from her everyday life. Her intelligence (unfortunately not accompanied by common sense) and her stubbornness don’t provide her with any answers when confronted with a teenage pregnancy. Faced with hard work, and thrown in the middle of a group of girls from different walks of life and social classes, she discovers what she is really made off and learns a very bitter lesson.

Although Lindsay herself is not likeable, especially at the beginning of the story, when she goes to St. Mary’s we learn about the varied experiences of other girls in her same circumstances and it is impossible not to feel touched and care for them. We have girls from the rural outback, abused by relatives, others who are the children of immigrant families who have no means to look after their babies, and with Downey, the little aboriginal girl whose story is, perhaps, the most heart-wrenching because she is a child herself, we get a representation of the scale of the problem (and a pointed reminder of the aboriginal experience in Australia). This was not something that only happened to girls of a certain social class or ethnic origin. It happened to everybody.  Through the different timelines, we get to follow the historic and social changes that took place, how laws affected adopted children and their biological parents, and we also get a picture of the ongoing effect those events had on those women, the children, and their families. We have women who never want to learn what happened to their babies, others who try but cannot get any information, others who get reunited with their children many years later, some who suffer ongoing negative consequences from their experiences, whilst others manage to create new lives for themselves. But the wound of the loss is always present.

The author deals with the tragic topic skilfully. If at times some of the scenes seem to have come out of a horrific version of a fairy tale (there are characters who are like evil witches, and Lindsay and her friends confront tasks that would put Cinderella to shame), and the degree of corruption and conspiracy stretches the imagination, we only need to read the news and listen to personal accounts of women who have been in such situation to realise that, whatever the concessions to fiction, the writer has done her research and has managed to capture the thoughts and feelings of the many women affected by this issue.

The action is set in Australia, mostly in Wollongong, New South Wales, with some events taking place in Sidney and other areas of the country. I have always admired the author’s talent for recreating the locations of her stories and for making us experience them with all of our senses, submerging us in the smells, the sounds, the tastes (I don’t know some of the foods and labels included, but they do add to the feel of authenticity), the flora and fauna, the clothing, the music, and the language of the time. Although forced adoptions are a widespread problem and it has affected a number of other countries (we might not know its full scale yet), the realistic location (and the family connection and research the author refers to in the author’s note at the back of the book) makes it more immediate and real still.

The story is extremely well-written, with enough description, both of the place and of the period, to ground the action without making it drag, but although it manages to combine action and surprises with reflective passages, the strongest point of the novel is its exploration of the psychological effects of losing a child, especially in those circumstances. The author manages to capture the thoughts and feelings of the character and through her conversations; we also get some insight into the experiences of others. In the first part of the book we have a young girl, and we get to share her thought process, her hesitations, doubts, and we feel trapped with her by a situation she is not in control of, and even though we might not have much in common with her, we do empathise and get to see things from her point of view. We do suffer with her and her friends, and although we might not like everything she says or does, we appreciate her kindness and the way she gets to bond with the other girls at St. Mary’s. Lindsay lives through much heartache, and grows and changes as a result, but people reading this book need to be aware that there are disturbing scenes and the topic of adoptions and depression might hit close home for many.

This is another great novel and although it can be read simply as fiction, I would recommend it in particular to readers interested in adoptions, particularly forced adoptions, and the perspectives of the families involved. I think it would make for a great book club choice, as the subject is one that will interest many readers, and it will bring much discussion, and the author includes a detailed list of some of the resources she has used to research the topic, providing extra material for those interested. Personally, I felt more empathy for other characters than for Lindsay, but no matter how much or how little we like each individual who went through such experiences, this novel will give readers pause and make them reflect upon the horrors that have been enforced in the recent past in the name of morality and decency. A powerful and poignant novel, to add to the catalogue of an accomplished and talented writer.

Book description

The thunderclap of sexual revolution collides with the black cloud of illegitimacy.

Sixteen-year-old Lindsay Townsend is pretty and popular at school. At home, it’s a different story. Dad belts her and Mum’s either busy or battling a migraine. So when sexy school-teacher Jon Halliwell finds her irresistible, Lindsay believes life is about to change.

She’s not wrong.

Lindsay and Jon pursue their affair in secret, because if the school finds out, Jon will lose his job. If Lindsay’s dad finds out, there will be hell to pay. But when a dramatic accident turns her life upside down, Lindsay is separated from the man she loves.

Events spiral beyond her control, emotions conflicting with doubt, loneliness and fear, and Lindsay becomes enmeshed in a shocking true-life Australian scandal. The schoolyard beauty will discover the dangerous games of the adult world. Games that destroy lives.

Lindsay is forced into the toughest choice of her young life. The resulting trauma will forever burden her heart.

Reflecting the social changes of 1970s Australia, The Swooping Magpie is a chilling psychological tale of love, loss and grief, and, through collective memory, finding we are not alone.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Histfic The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau @Tudorscribe @Endeavour_Media

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau

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As soon as I read the description of this novel I was intrigued by the topic. I’ve read about the different fancies and frenzies that have taken societies (or at least the upper parts of them) by storm over history. Suddenly, something “new” becomes popular, and, especially if it is difficult to obtain, people will go to almost any extreme to get hold of it and then use it to their advantage. People have made fortunes (and got ruined) over the years by pursuing and purchasing items as diverse as tulips, silk, spices, exotic animals, dies, precious stones, gold, and indeed, porcelain. (I know some things don’t change much, and a few items that have replaced those in modern society easily come to mind). Some of them seem almost impossible to believe when looked at from the distance of time, especially when the object of desire is something with very little (if any) practical use, and it comes at a time of crisis and historical upheaval, where more important things are at stake. The morality of such matters is one of the more serious aspects of this novel, and it is compellingly explored.

The author, who has a background in history, does a great job of marrying the historical detail of the period (making us feel as if we were in the London of the late XVIII century first, then in Derby, and later in France) with a fairly large cast of characters and their adventures, weaving a mystery (or several) into a story that reminded me of some of my favourite novels by Alexandre Dumas.

Guinevere, the protagonist, is a young woman who does not seem to fit in anywhere. She is a Huguenot, and although born in England, she is the daughter of French-refugees (and that is a particularly interesting angle of the story, especially because the author is inspired by her own heritage), and is considered a French woman by her English neighbours, a particularly difficult state of affairs at a time when England and France are at war. Her people had to escape France due to religious persecution and she feels no love for France, and yet, she is not fully accepted in England either, being in a kind-of-limbo, although she lives amongst people of her faith at the beginning of the novel. Guinevere narrates her tale in the first-person, and she is insistent in writing her own story, at a time when that was all-but-impossible for a woman. I have recently read a book which mentioned Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and I could not avoid thinking about Wollstonecraft (who, like Guinevere, was born in Spitalfields and lived in the same era), and her own complex and controversial life as I read this. Guinevere is not a writer but an artist, and she feels constrained by the limitations imposed on her by the fact of being a woman. She wants to paint like Hogarth, not just produce pretty flowers to decorate silk. But that was considered impossible and improper for a woman at the time. She also wants to pursue knowledge and is attracted to revolutionary ideas and to dangerous men. She is eager to learn, intelligent, but also ruled by her desires and fears; she is stubborn and at times makes decisions that might seem selfish and unreasonable, but then, what other options did she have? Personally, I find Guinevere a fascinating character, a woman of strong convictions, but also able to look at things from a different perspective and acknowledge that she might have been wrong. She is a deep thinker but sometimes she cannot control her emotions and her impulses. She has a sense of morality but does things that could cost her not only her reputation but also her life and that of those she loves. And she ponders and hesitates, feels guilty and changes her mind, falls in love and in lust, and feels attracted and fascinated by driven and intellectually challenging men and by bad boys as well (a bit like the moth she masterfully paints, she gets too close to the flame sometimes).

Guinevere is not always sympathetic, but that is part of what makes her a strong character, and not the perfect heroine that would be unrealistic and impossible to imagine in such circumstances. There are a number of other characters, some that we learn more about than others, and I was particularly fond of Evelyn, who becomes her friend in Derby, and whose life shares some parallels with that of Guinevere, and although I liked her love interest, Thomas Sturbridge, a man who keeps us guessing and is also driven by his desire for knowledge, I was fascinated by Sir Gabriel Courtenay. He is far from the usual villain, and he has hidden motives and desires that keep protagonist and readers guessing. He entices and threatens, he offers the possibility of knowledge and protection one moment and is ruthless and violent the next. He is one of those characters that are not fully explained and one can’t help but keep thinking about and wondering what more adventures they might go on to experience once the book is over.

There are also real historical figures in the book. I have mentioned painters, and we also meet and hear about a fair number of other people, some that will be quite familiar to readers interested in that historical period. The author is well informed, her research shines through the novel, and I was particularly fascinated by the history of Derby porcelain (now Royal Crown Derby). Her descriptions of the workings of a porcelain factory of the period, the actual running of the business and the machinations behind it make for an enthralling read, even for people who might not be particularly interested in porcelain (I am). I have already mentioned the adventures, and there are plenty of those. Although I do not want to go into the plot in detail (and the description offers more than enough information about it), readers only need to know that there are mysteries (not only the famous Blue of the title), impersonations, spies, criminals, robberies, books with hidden compartments, false letters, murders, kidnappings, experiments, plenty of painting (watercolour, oils…), secret formulas, wars, surreptitious journeys, imprisonments, philosophical debates, and even a wonderful party. There is also romance and even sex, although the details are kept behind closed doors. In sum, there isn’t a dull moment.

Notwithstanding all that, the writing is smooth and flows well, and although there are occasional words or expressions of the period, these are seemingly incorporated into the text and do not cause the reader to stumble. There are moments of reflection, waiting, and contemplation, and others when the action moves fast, there is danger and the pace quickens. I think most readers will find the ending satisfying, and although I liked it (and would probably have cheered if it was a movie), it had something of the sleight of hand that did not totally convince me (or perhaps I should say of the Deus-ex-machina, that I am sure would be an expression the character in question would approve of. And no, I’m not going to reveal anything else).

This book is a treat for any lover of historical fiction, especially those who like adventures reminiscent of times past, and who enjoy a well-researched novel which offers plenty to think about and more than a parallel with current events. A great combination of history, adventure, and topics to ponder upon. Although this is the first book by Bilyeau I’ve read, I’m sure it won’t be the last one.

Book description

A novel of suspense that asks: What would you do for the most beautiful color in the world?

The year is 1758, and a headstrong woman artist, 24-year-old Genevieve Planche, is caught up in a high-stakes competition to discover the ultimate color that threatens to become as deadly as it is lucrative.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Histfic #thriller Initiated To Kill by Sharlene Almond

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

#RBRT Review Team

E.L. has been reading Initiated To Kill by Sharlene Almond

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Initiated to Kill by Sharlene Almond is a thriller steeped in layer upon layer of conspiracies. It deals with the sinister power of the Freemasons and takes the reader on a journey through the ages.

The premise of the novel is that the Freemasons have cast a long shadow over history and still have a great deal of influence over current events. The tentacles of this sinister organisation reach into all major institutions making their position untouchable. Almond cleverly links the story of Jack the Ripper with present day crimes as they all fall under the activities of the Freemasons, whose prime goal is to cause as much chaos as possible in order to assert control in the ensuing vacuum.

Almond’s novel takes the reader to a range of settings from London, Russia and Seville. The contemporary sections of the novel are based in Seville and this is where Almond demonstrates her skill as she vividly depicts the Spanish city in all its glory. The description is very visual and it’s no coincidence that art is a thread running through the novel as the leading character is an art historian and Jack the Ripper is presented as a painter.

There are lots of characters in the story as Jack the Ripper’s story and the contemporary one run side by side. In the contemporary strand the protagonist is Annabella Cordova, a young Art History student at the Seville University. She has endured a difficult past, which is revealed to us in flashback, and her current life is thrown into turmoil when her friend disappears. As more and more girls begin to disappear Annabella’s path crosses with Detectives Valero and Rivero.

Essentially, the modern hunt for the missing girls mirrors the Victorian hunt for Jack the Ripper. The Ripper taunted the police with letters and the modern murderer does the same by sending human hearts to the investigators. Almond creates much tension in her novel and the reader is kept guessing right until the very end as the influence of the Freemasons means it’s never certain who is actually involved in the crimes.

Initiated to Kill is a novel with a lot to offer but the exciting plot is undermined by the constant switching of timelines and viewpoints. The main time frames for the story are London 1888 and 1996 and Seville 2010 but it also switches briefly to other times in order to contextualise some of the back stories. In the end there is simply too much going back and forth and it has a detrimental effect on the flow. The switching from 3rd person to 1st person also doesn’t help as it’s not always clear whose story we are following. In my opinion this is a novel that might have been better as two distinct novels; Jack the Ripper’s story and Annabella’s story.

I really liked the way Almond tried to depict Jack the Ripper as a rounded character. The flashbacks to his childhood and his early psychopathic behaviour made him interesting. However, any real characterisation is lost in the density of the novel and the sheer number of characters in it. I found myself having to jot down names just to keep up with them and the body count is so high it’s hard to feel invested in anybody.

I love a conspiracy theory and I think Almond has a great idea in fictionalising the Freemason’s history and potential legacy. I found myself completely believing the story that Almond creates. However, there are times when she writes at such length about the historical origins and background of the brotherhood that it pulls the reader out of the story and starts to feel like an essay. There is no doubt that Almond has done a lot of research for her book but in places a lighter touch would have been beneficial.

All in all, Initiated to Kill kept me intrigued and guessing until the end. If you enjoy a thriller with a conspiracy twist then give this one a try.

Book description

Two men, two different generations, both initiated into a powerful organisation that throughout history has sought control and use their power for destruction.
Two men leaving behind a wake of murder, revenge and vengeance. Two men that will stop at nothing, playing a game that only they know the rules.

One man roams the dark London streets for his victims, preying on women of the night. While the other stalks his victims in Seville, Spain; knowing that only he could uncover the true motives of one of the world’s most infamous serial killers – Jack the Ripper.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Social #Histfic The Swooping Magpie by @LizaPerrat

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The Swooping Magpie by Liza Perrat

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4.5 out of 5 stars

This is a fictional story about the terrible injustices committed towards young, unmarried mothers in Australia until the 1980s, when they were forced into homes and made to sign papers to give their babies up for adoption, often without even seeing them.  It’s hard to imagine such a crime now, but in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when this book is set, a teenage, out-of-wedlock pregnancy was seen as a disgrace to a family, with the girls made to feel like the lowest of the low.  No consideration was given to their feelings, or the resulting trauma they would experience throughout the rest of their lives.  Liza Perrat lists her research material at the back of the book.

Headstrong, pretty and popular Lindsay Townsend has an unhappy childhood with a weak mother and a bully for a father, when she begins an affair with Jon Halliwell, a teacher at her school.  The first half of the book describes not only the passage of the affair and her belief that Jon truly loved her (I loved this part of the book!), but also her time at the home, during which she is finally beaten down.  On a happier note, though, it is there that she made lifelong friends with the other girls who shared her plight.

Jon’s treachery is worse than she knows, as the middle of the book shows us, with a truly shocking twist; I was gripped.  We then move to the immediate aftermath of Lindsay’s loss, and then to the early 1990s and finally to 2013, as she and her friends aim to right the wrongs done to them.

The books is dialogue-led, with much of the story told in conversation. The emotions are real, and well-portrayed, and there is no doubt that Liza Perrat has in no way exaggerated the effect on the women who were at the home with Lindsay; I admit to shedding a tear or two during the final ten per cent of the book. Most of all, though, for anyone who might think, ‘well, I wouldn’t let that happen to me’, Ms Perrat has depicted so well the hopelessness, the reality of being completely trapped and without options, that the girls experienced. It was, indeed, a different world. Well worth a read.

Book description

The thunderclap of sexual revolution collides with the black cloud of illegitimacy.

Sixteen-year-old Lindsay Townsend is pretty and popular at school. At home, it’s a different story. Dad belts her and Mum’s either busy or battling a migraine. So when sexy school-teacher Jon Halliwell finds her irresistible, Lindsay believes life is about to change.

She’s not wrong.

Lindsay and Jon pursue their affair in secret, because if the school finds out, Jon will lose his job. If Lindsay’s dad finds out, there will be hell to pay. But when a dramatic accident turns her life upside down, Lindsay is separated from the man she loves.

Events spiral beyond her control, emotions conflicting with doubt, loneliness and fear, and Lindsay becomes enmeshed in a shocking true-life Australian scandal. The schoolyard beauty will discover the dangerous games of the adult world. Games that destroy lives.

Lindsay is forced into the toughest choice of her young life. The resulting trauma will forever burden her heart.

Reflecting the social changes of 1970s Australia, The Swooping Magpie is a chilling psychological tale of love, loss and grief, and, through collective memory, finding we are not alone.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistFic The Lost Letters by @SarahM_writer @Bookouture

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

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading The Lost Letters by Sarah Mitchell

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The Lost Letters is a dual timeline story, with alternating sections switching between the present and the past just prior to, and during the Second World War. Martha Rodwell is on a quest to discover why her father, who had been writing his memoirs before his sudden death a month ago, had been about to take a trip to England. She and her sister Elizabeth discovered he had booked a hotel and rented a beach hut in Wells-next-the-Sea for the whole month of May.

Her father’s death hit Martha hard and she was having trouble dealing with the emotional fallout. He had been evacuated to Canada during WWII but never wanted to talk about it. So Martha is on a plane bound for England to try and find out why the first twenty years of her father’s life was missing from his notes, what was drawing him to a small coastal town in Norfolk….and who was Catkins? Apart from all that it’s also an opportunity for Martha to visit her daughter who is studying in London and hopefully repair a seemingly fractured relationship.

‘He was found on the porch, surrounded by sheets of writing paper skimming over the lawn and skewered to the rose bushes. Six months previously he had stepped down from the municipal council to write his memoirs. Elizabeth, her sister, had offered to proof read them but she had told Martha that he refused point-blank to let her see them.

’Not until they’re finished,’ he said, And then he mentioned, casually, as if it were of no import at all, that in order to finish them he would need to go back to England.’

Back in time to 1939, we meet Sylvie who is married to Howard with two children, Esther and Lewis. When her aunt dies, Sylvie is surprised to learn she has been left a beach hut in Wells where she was brought up and her parents still live. She meets Connie and her little brother, Charlie at the beach and they become firm friends. Their lives become entwined and the results of their lifelong friendship echoes down through the years.

I enjoyed the alternating storyline, although it’s a little slow to begin with. Martha’s story seemed to take a while to get going but once it did I became more invested in the unfolding tale, as secrets are uncovered and the mystery begins to unravel, not without several realistic twists. Britain during the war is described evocatively, the devastation and destruction, and the evacuation of children. What a terrible decision to have to make, I can’t even imagine.

Characters are believable and well crafted. I liked Martha, Sylvie and Connie very much, their determination and courage stood out. A poignant story of family secrets and the bond of friendship and love, with a surprising conclusion that tied everything up nicely. The Lost Letters is an accomplished debut.

Book description

What if keeping your loved ones safe meant never seeing them again? 

Norfolk, 1940: Sylvia’s husband Howard has gone off to war, and she is struggling to raise her two children alone. Her only solace is her beach hut in Wells-Next-The-Sea, and her friendship with Connie, a woman she meets on the beach. The two women form a bond that will last a lifetime, and Sylvia tells Connie something that no-one else knows: about a secret lover… and a child.

Canada, present day: When Martha’s beloved father dies, he leaves her two things: a mysterious stash of letters to an English woman called ‘Catkins’ and directions to a beach hut in the English seaside town of Wells. Martha is at a painful crossroads in her own life, and seizes this chance for a trip to England – to discover more about her family’s past, and the identity of her father’s secret correspondent.

The tragedy of war brought heartbreaking choices for Sylvia. And a promise made between her and Connie has echoed down the years. For Martha, if she uncovers the truth, it could change everything…

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #shortstory Christmas Once Again by @dk_deters

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

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Georgia has been reading Christmas Once Again by D.K. Deters

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I didn’t do any investigations so had no idea what this story was about, other than Christmas, until I read it. Actually it is not a particularly Christmassy story at all, although it does take place on Christmas Eve.

Madison Knight is broke and working for Once Again Antiques when she gets a call from a Zachary Murdock because his grandmother’s painting has been sold to the shop by mistake and he wants to buy it back.

That initially appears to be no problem until Madison discovers that the painting has already been sold on. The weather is atrocious with heavy snow but Madison goes above and beyond the call of duty to get the painting back.

This is a well-written story with a time travel twist, which I always struggle to get my head around, but it worked well and delivered a nice ending which is just what you want in a Christmas story.

Book description

She’s dead broke. And eviction looms. On Christmas Eve antique consultant Madison Knight takes a phone call from local rancher Zach Murdock. Through a mix-up at an estate sale, Madison’s company purchased his grandmother’s beloved painting. He offers double the money for its return.

Madison risks her job to track down the artwork, but success falls short when she’s stuck in a blizzard. Stranded, she seeks help from a frontier family. Are they living off the grid, or did she somehow travel through time?

Zach’s the only person who knows her plan. He also knows a secret about his gran’s painting. It’s up to him to rescue Madison, but maybe he’s not cut out to be a hero.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistFic Long Shadows by @ThorneMoore #TuesdayBookBlog

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

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Terry has been reading Long Shadows by Thorne Moore

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5 out of 5 stars

Three novellas, set in different historical eras, about the same place, Llys y Garn, a rambling Pembrokeshire mansion in which aspects of its former lives still remain ~ and not just within the building itself.

I loved every word of this book; I kept trying to read it slowly, so it wouldn’t end. The stories are haunting and sad, and say much about the sad lot of women in eras in which they are set.

The Good Servant takes place around the turn of the 20th century, and is about an old spinster maid, Eluned Skeel, who has no one and nothing to love but the unwanted nephew of the family she serves, taken in by them when he has no one else. As Cyril Lawson grows up he causes everyone around him pain – but he is Skeel’s reason for being, whatever he does.  

The Witch is the story of 17th century Elizabeth, daughter of a father who cares nothing for her aside from the fortune or social standing she can bring him through marriage. Elizabeth, though, cares only for Llys y Garn, and wonders if she might be a servant of the devil, as ill falls all who would seek to take it from her.

The Dragon Slayer tells of Angharad, in the 14th century, who longs to escape from the brutality, pain and death of her father’s house, and see the world.  

I didn’t have a favourite; they’re all as good as each other.  Beautifully written, marvellous stories.This book reminded me, in subject matter and writing style, of Norah Lofts’ books The House at Old Vine and A Wayside Tavern. Can’t recommend too highly.

Book description

Llys y Garn is a rambling Victorian-Gothic mansion with vestiges of older glories.

It lies in the isolated parish of Rhyd y Groes in North Pembrokeshire. It is the house of the parish, even in its decline, deeply conscious of its importance, its pedigree and its permanence. It stubbornly remains though the lives of former inhabitants have long since passed away. Only the rooks are left to bear witness to the often desperate march of history.

Throne Moore’s Long Shadows: Tales of Llys y Garn comprises a trio of historical novellas that let us into secrets known only to these melancholy birds.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Steampunk The Procurement Of Souls by Benjamin Hope

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

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E.L. has been reading The Procurement Of Souls by Benjamin Hope

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The Procurement of Souls by Benjamin Hope is a steampunk novel set in Victorian England. It is essentially a battle between the positive and negative forces of science.

I have to confess this is a genre that I haven’t read before and consequently it took me a while to get into the rhythm of the story. Basically it suspends any notion of reality as an evil scientist is able to remove the souls of humans and then control them like puppets. There is no grey area in this story and the villains really are villains.

The said mad scientist is a bitter and twisted individual named Thomas Weimer. Perhaps of more interest to me is his assistant, Marina, a tough, powerful, cigarillo smoking woman, who can physically get the better of most men. The dynamic between her and Weimer has the potential to create lots of tension as she is treated like a lackey by him and clearly resents his power. However, I felt that Hope missed an opportunity to create a really interesting character in Marina and in the end she remains a mystery with no real insight into who she is.

Weimer and Marina are offset by the renowned scientist, Magnus Drinkwater and his seventeen year old daughter, Clementine. It is Clementine who first involves herself in the disappearance of vulnerable young women, eventually forcing her reluctant father to help investigate the situation. Magnus has invented a machine called the viroscope that can potentially stop time but he is reluctant to use it due to the mysterious death of his wife whilst experimenting with the machine. The death of his wife in fact casts a shadow over the whole novel and plays a role in bringing the plot together.

The plot is very busy and there are lots of characters as Weimer takes up residence in a monastery and the army is called upon to try and thwart him. I love character driven novels and so personally felt a little bit cheated that we never really have time to get to know the characters. Perhaps the most rounded one is Novice Goode, a member of the monastery who is struggling with his calling but again because the novel is so plot driven and didn’t feel that I fully knew him.

I really liked how Hope uses his novel to pit science against religion. Weimer is clearly playing God by removing people’s souls and using them for his own ends and this is referred to several times. By setting the bulk of the novel in a monastery, Hope highlights the dichotomy between blind faith and reason. Novice Goode and Clementine plainly represent the heart of the novel and both of them are young and idealistic with compassion for others. The fact that the two of them survive maybe suggests that Hope wants to show the triumph of humanity.

Hope is a good writer and despite the fanciful nature of the story, it makes complete sense within the realms of the plot. The description of Victorian London and the crime-ridden docks is very effective and creates a good backdrop to the story. My own personal disappointment is that characterisation is lost in favour of the plot but maybe this is the nature of steampunk fiction.

If you are a fan of steampunk then I have no doubt that this will be one for you to enjoy. It’s exciting and well written and keeps you guessing until the very end.

Book description

Magnus Drinkwater is close. Close to harnessing enough power to fuel his modified pocket-watch and stop time. But the answer continues to lie out of reach and when his daughter discovers a young woman no longer in possession of her soul, it quickly becomes clear that his own frustrations are the least of his worries. Someone with altogether darker machinations is busy working to their own design.
Dr Weimer is manoeuvring in the shadows, harvesting the souls from small-time criminals and turning their empty bodies into his mind-dead minions. But he too needs more power. Greater soul potency to reach his vision. And he’ll do whatever it takes. No matter the cost.
As the body count rises and Magnus follows a bloody and violent path through decaying city slums and dockyards; city ministerial buildings; and St Villicus’ monastery with its subterranean catacombs, he unearths more questions than answers. What is the link to the violent death of his wife two years before? What secrets are his colleagues hiding? Is there anyone he can truly trust? He must forge alliances he never thought possible and ultimately decide: just how far is he willing to push his own principles of science to power his device and keep the city safe?
Two scientists. Two ambitions. One bloody adventure…

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