Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #CrimeFiction LISTED DEAD (Bunch Courtney Investigations #3) by @Jancoledwards

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

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading Listed Dead by Jan Edwards

54548989

You can tell from the title that this volume of investigations by Bunch Courtney and Chief Inspector Wright involves more than one fatality. Not only are people losing their lives in combat or in city air raids but now there is a murderer about, working through a list of rich young people whose supper club meets up at the Café de Paris in London.  When the first deaths occur close to Bunch’s home, she discovers she knows the victims so she will be indispensable, assisting William Wright with his investigations. He doesn’t seem keen for her to follow up leads but that is probably because she is putting herself in great danger.

Gif of pouring tea into tea cups

The lifestyle of these self-centred young people contrasts with the suffering of the military forces and also with the ordinary folk, but it reflects the social structure of the Sussex countryside before the war. Now in 1940 there is another dimension and people like Bunch put many hours of hard work into the war effort.  She juggles care for her Land Girls who run the estate, worry about her sick mother and determination to find the murderer.  Her relationship with William moves between close companionship and detachment reflecting the complex social rules and busy working life they have.

Gif of a women claiming she shot the victim and doesn't care. Picture in black and white.

This series gives an interesting picture of the home front during World War Two and the difficulties experienced when people’s homes and land were taken over by the military authorities. We feel the fear and danger of a London air raid and the attempt to continue country life as it had been pre-war.  In Listed Dead, Bunch finds herself in several frightening situations as she gradually works out the complex mystery. A most enjoyable read.

Book description

November 1940. The Battle of Britain has only just ended and the horror of the Blitz is reaching its height.

Two deaths in rapid succession on the Sussex Downs brings Bunch Courtney and Chief Inspector Wright together once more. What could possibly link a fatal auto accident with the corpse in a derelict shepherd’s hut? The only clue the pair have is a handwritten list of the members of a supper club that meets at London’s Café de Paris.

Two of those on that list are now dead and the race is on to solve the mystery before any more end up on the mortuary slab.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

54548989

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT A Western Style Novella BILLY (THE KID) by Peter Meech @backonthebeach

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Billy (The Kid) by Peter Meech

49514901

This is the first novel I read by the author (although I might have watched some of the productions based on his scripts), and I thoroughly enjoyed it. If Peter Meech carries on writing fiction, I intend to keep reading him.

The description below provides enough detail to allow possible readers to decide if they are interested or not. This novella is a Western, a late-day Western. We are at a point in history where there is little of the old West left, where there are cars, the cinematographer, inventions all around (this novella has some of the feel of steampunk, because there is a lot of attention paid to novelties and new technology, as it would have been the case, especially in a small town), and legends and myths about the good old times are rife, to the point where there are books, movies, and even auctions of items belonging to Western heroes, outlaws, and everything in between. This is emphasised by the story about two bootlegging operations that brings in an element of the gangster tradition as well (down to golden teeth, fancy cars, henchmen, offers one dare not refuse, and bloodbaths) and a reminder of the Prohibition and its business practices. At the heart of the book is the story of Billy the Kid, or at least, of a retired dentist who claims to be (or have been in a previous life) Billy the Kid. That means that much of the book revolves around: issues of identity, what makes us who we are (and what makes others accept or not who we are), growing old, popularity (particularly interesting in these times of social media and celebrities), living with a certain reputation, wanting to set the record straight, second chances (there is a budding romance as well), settling old debts, old and new friends, honour and morality. Times are a-changing and that is also evident in the book, which manages to conjure up a vivid and compelling image of that momentous time and place in the readers’ minds.

The story is narrated in the third person, most of the time from Billy’s (?) point of view, although at times there is an omniscient narrator that shares with readers an observer’s viewpoint, but whose style is very similar to that of Billy’s own reflections (and considering he is forever researching, compiling information, and taking notes to write his own story, a metafictional interpretation is also possible). Billy is an observer of people, places, the weather, and everything in between, and the author manages to combine language that feels historically appropriate, with a lyricism that makes for a beautiful reading experience. His experience writing, producing and directing scripts is quite evident, as the scenes are vividly rendered, not only visually, thanks to the detailed but not excessive descriptions, but also to the use of all the senses. We hear, smell, touch and even taste what happens. At times, we can see the main character zooming in on a sound, an image, or a little detail. And that is what makes it come alive. Oh, a word or pre-warning. Although I enjoyed the snippets of dialogue included (and some would not be out of place in the call-and-response tradition), I have to warn you that no dialogue quotations are used to mark the sentences spoken by the characters, although the dialogue tags used prevent any confusion.

There are numerous characters, although some don’t play big roles and are more a part of the background. Some are as expected in the genre (the corrupt sheriff, the waitress with a heart of gold, the baddy/gangster and his henchmen, Billy’s pals…) but some are better drawn (especially considering this is a short book), like Tommy, Billy’s young friend and protégé, and his love interest, Grace. Billy himself is an ambiguous but engaging character, and he has his (well-deserved) moment of glory towards the end of the book. If he is or not truly Billy the Kid… Let’s say you can read the book and reach your own conclusions.

Talking about the ending, I enjoyed it and felt it suited the genre well (yes, the protagonist rides into the horizon), but things are left open to interpretation. My favourite kind of ending.

So, I thoroughly enjoy this book, and I recommend it to fans of Westerns, particularly modern takes on the genre, those interested in historical fiction especially set on the West or the prohibition era, anybody interested in Billy the Kid, and readers looking for a short novel wonderfully written. This is a book to be savoured and enjoyed, rather than to be read at speed, but due to its length, it won’t last you long anyway. I recommend you to read the interview with the author and to try a sample if you have any doubts, and if not, don’t hesitate. I will make sure I follow the author’s trajectory from now on.

Book description

Pueblo, Colorado,1932. Bootleggers thrive in a town where the sheriff is on the take and you can kill a man with impunity. In this thrilling narrative, a once-famous outlaw finds himself thrust into the middle of a bootleg war against his will. At stake is nothing less than the life of his best friend and his last chance at true love with the town beauty. But is the legendary gunman who he claims to be, or is he just a retired dentist with a vivid imagination? In this remarkable first novel, Peter Meech reimagines the figure of Billy the Kid in a story told with verve and humor. Visually magnificent, and brimming with small-town charm, Billy (the Kid) builds to a climax that is as powerful as it is unexpected.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

49514901

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Cosy #Mystery DEATH BY WINDMILL by Jennifer S. Alderson

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

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading Death by Windmill by Jennifer S. Alderson

50641060. sy475

Lana Hansen is scheduled to lead the Mother’s Day tour of the Netherlands despite her boss Dotty Thompson’s reservations. Lana and her estranged mother, Gillian, haven’t been close for the past ten years, since Lana was sacked from her job as an investigative reporter for the Seattle Chronicle. Dotty is determined to bring them closer together and has a plan.

Unbeknownst to Lana, Dotty and her friend are joining the cruise but she is less than pleased when she discovers Dotty has asked her mother to join them. Adding to Lana’s dismay and anger is the fact that one of the guests is the person responsible for destroying her career.

The passengers are a diverse group, a few appeared in previous books. Some are definitely more likeable than others who always find something or someone to complain about, even before they get on the boat.

[quote] “I don’t want to hear your excuses. The view from our room is substandard, and I want to know what you are going to do about it. We expected better from Wanderlust Tours. We are paying quite a bit to be here, you know.” [unquote]

While on the tour Lana discovers more about the incident that cost her job and anger prompts her to do something drastic and, I thought, out of character. When a death occurs it’s initially unclear whether it’s an accident or murder but the police have their eye on someone.

I enjoyed the well described armchair travel aspect of the story very much, imagining the sights and locations in Amsterdam—the Keukenhof Garden, the museum of bags and purses, the floating flower market and the windmills, to name but a few.

Book description

A Mother’s Day trip to the Netherlands turns deadly when a guest plummets from a windmill. Was it an accident or a murder? For Lana Hansen, the answer will mean freedom or imprisonment for someone close to her…

Wanderlust Tours guide Lana Hansen and her mother, Gillian, haven’t seen eye to eye in over a decade, ever since Lana was wrongly fired from her job as an investigative reporter. So when Lana’s boss invites Gillian to join her upcoming Mother’s Day tour to the Netherlands, Lana is less than pleased.

What could be worse than spending ten days with her estranged mother? Lana is about to find out…

The tour begins on a high note when the majority of guests bond during their visit to the Keukenhof flower gardens and a cruise around the picturesque canals of Amsterdam.

Despite her initial reservations, Lana thinks this might be the best group she had ever led. Until she discovers one of her guests—a recent retiree named Priscilla—is the person who destroyed her career in journalism.

All Lana can see is red. But circumstances dictate that she figure out a way to lead the tour, make peace with her mother, and not murder her guest. She doesn’t know whether she can handle the pressure.

Lana needn’t worry. Shortly after their fight, Priscilla falls off the balcony of a historic windmill at Zaanse Schans. Was she pushed or simply careless? The investigating officers suspect murder—and topping their suspect list is Lana’s mom!

Can Lana save Gillian? Or will her mother end up spending the rest of her days in a Dutch prison?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

50641060. sy475

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Thriller DRACA by @GeoffreyGudgion @unbounders

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Draca by Geoffrey Gudgion

53251637

I didn’t know Geoffrey Gudgion before I read this novel, but the description and the cover called me (a bit worrying when I think about it after finishing the book), and my reward was a fantastic read that combines many elements likely to interest a large variety of readers. Draca, the vessel of the title, is a haunting presence throughout the book. Old Eddie, its owner, was fascinated by old Norse mythology and his Viking heritage, and there are fragments from the Saga of King Guthrum (c a AD 875) heading each new chapter and telling a fascinating story of the Vikings’ incursions into Britain and their battles with the Saxons. This mythological background and the story of King Guthrum and his son Jarl Harald moves apace with the adventures of Draca and Jack, Eddie’s grandson and new owner of the sailing cutter. There are adventures that will delight those who love sailing (but also those who don’t. I haven’t done any proper sailing but have a soft spot for books and movies set at sea, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Let me clarify that although there is ample evidence of knowledge and research on the topic of sailing, no expertise is required to enjoy the novel). The characters, and especially the relationship between the male members of the Ahlquist family, make for fascinating reading, as we have parents and sons of different generations with complex love-hate relationships, and they relive their conflicts on and off the ship.

Other themes are also explored and add to the overall interest of the novel: Jack, the main protagonist of the story, was a decorated Royal Marine who was severely wounded during the war, and now suffers from PTSD and is finding it difficult to adjust to civilian life. His flashbacks and his account of his experiences are realistic and compelling (not surprising when we take into account the author’s background), and it makes him a particularly sympathetic character. We also have romance (although the two characters seemed made for each other from the beginning, and I’m sure most readers will enjoy it, considering the background of both characters it seemed a bit too perfect for me, especially if readers are expecting a standard horror story); a woman with a gift for healing and for sensing things about people; and a paranormal element that I felt worked very well.

I think the description offers more than enough information about the plot, and I want to avoid spoilers.  I think this novel cuts across a few genres. There are very realistic elements, in particular those depicting the psychological state of the characters, PTSD and obsession; there are also mythological and fantastical elements; paranormal/horror elements; sailing adventures; family relationships (a family saga, to a point); and a romance (there is some sex, but it is pretty mild and not very explicit, and people who follow my review know I don’t like erotica, so…). If I had to choose, I enjoyed the mythological/fantastical aspects of the story, the sailing adventure, and the realistic aspects, especially the relationship between the men, the most.

I have mentioned some of the characters already. The story is narrated in the third person, each chapter usually following the point of view of one of the main characters (Harry, Old Eddie’s son and Jack’s father, not a particularly likeable character and not somebody who evolves much during the novel, but he is not all bad either; Jack; and George, the main female character, who runs the boatyard and seems to combine characteristics of the caring female who would do anything for her man, with an independent and wise woman who tries hard to keep trouble at bay), interspersed with the Saga of King Guthrum and also, especially at the beginning, with fragments of Eddie’s diary, which help us understand more about the man and about Draca. We also meet Charlotte (Charlie), Jack’s wife, who is a very intriguing character, but her story is not developed in a lot of detail (and we don’t see things from her point of view), not is that of Jack’s mother, who seems to be an old-fashioned housewife and hardly has a voice of her own. We don’t see enough of Tilly, Jack’s sister, for her to play a part in the story (other than being a hindrance at times).

The writing is excellent. There are beautiful descriptions of sailing, not only of the act of sailing but also of the emotions it creates, and as I’ve said already, the psychological experiences of the characters, particularly of Jack are rendered in such a way that we can’t help but feel as if we were there, sharing in his anguish and feelings. There are lyrical passages that made me reread them again, and this is a book that combines an absorbing story that makes you keep turning the pages with a style of writing that demands to be savoured an enjoyed. I’ve highlighted many fragments, but I thought I’d share a couple to give you some idea of what to expect:

When the tide was just on the ebb it sucked at the beach below the cottage, a soft susurration at the limit of hearing. In the pre-dawn darkness it sounded like whispering, so human that he strained to distinguish the words.

Draca was a bit like some men she’d met who were handsome on the outside and dangerous on the inside. In that way, Draca was the opposite of Jack. He was dangerous on the outside but probably dead gentle on the inside, like he was wearing a suit of armour, or a shell, like a crab.

The ending… I think the author has managed to pull quite a trick there, because all the different elements come to a satisfactory ending (no, I’m not saying happy), and I enjoyed it, for sure. And it does not leave us hanging, so people who don’t appreciate cliff-hangers don’t need to worry… much.

The author mentions his sources (people and books) in his acknowledgments, and I was particularly happy to learn about Unbound, the first crowdfunding publisher, which made the book possible. The book also includes a list of supporters and patrons, and I will try to keep track of their future projects.

In brief, a great read, that I’d recommend to people interested in male family relationships, PTSD, and who don’t mind a touch of the paranormal and romance. Fans of sailing stories and those who love Norse mythology and Old Saxon history will enjoy it even more. There are some chilling and eerie moments, but the horror, such as it is, is mostly psychological, so this should not put off people who usually avoid the genre. I won’t forget Draca in a long time, and I’m sure if you read it you won’t, either.

Book description

Draca was a vintage sailing cutter, Old Eddie’s pride and joy. But now she’s beached, her varnish peeling. She’s dying, just like Eddie.
Eddie leaves Draca to his grandson Jack, a legacy that’s the final wedge between Jack and his father. Yet for Jack, the old boat is a lifeline. Medically discharged from the Marines, with his marriage on the rocks, the damaged veteran finds new purpose; Draca will sail again. Wonderful therapy for a wounded hero, people say.
Young Georgia ‘George’ Fenton, who runs the boatyard, has doubts. She saw changes in Old Eddie that were more sinister even than cancer. And by the time Draca tastes the sea again, the man she dares to love is going the same way. To George, Jack’s ‘purpose’ has become ‘possession’; the boat owns the man and her flawed hero is on a mission to self-destruct. As his controlling and disinherited father pushes him closer to the edge, she gives all she has to hold him back.
And between them all, there’s an old boat with dark secrets, and perhaps a mind of its own.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

53251637

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #Thriller THE STRANGE BOOK OF JACOB BOYCE by @tom_gillespie

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading The Strange Book Of Jacob Boyce by Tom Gillespie

53268451

I was sent an early paperback ARC copy, and I must say the cover is fantastic and the texture of the book is amazing as well. An experience in its own right.

This is the first novel by the author I’ve read, and I haven’t read any of his stories either, although I intend to check them out in the near future.

This is one of those books where the title truly suits the content. Yes, this is a strange book, a mighty strange book, and it is about Jacob Boyce. I don’t want to discuss the plot in detail (especially because I’m still trying to recover from its effect but also because I don’t want to spoil for everybody else), and I am not sure which genre it fits in. I started reading it and, at first, I thought it would be a book in the style of many recent novels, where there is a current mystery that somehow is linked to either an artwork, a book or another object that sends the main character traipsing along half the world chasing clues that in many cases are linked to the past (and History, in capital letters). The main character, the Jacob Boyce of the title, is a professor in Earth Sciences at Glasgow University who is researching his own theory, which he thinks will help predict earthquakes with more accuracy. So far, not so weird. But as we read, we discover that he has become obsessed by a painting, a baroque Spanish painting of uncertain origin (who the painter is, being the subject of some debate), which he somehow feels is connected to his theory. He becomes convinced that there is something peculiar about this painting, and it is to do with the application of a mathematical formula, which nowadays would be described as related to quantum physics. He becomes so obsessed by trying to find the links and the evidence to support his theory that he neglects everything else in his life: his job at the university, his marriage… And that results in his wife’s disappearance. He ends up in Spain, chasing both his wife and the painting, and there things get more and more bizarre. And I won’t say anything else about the plot. I’ve read some reviews that mention Vanilla Sky (I much rather the original Spanish movie, Abre los ojos [Open Your Eyes] by Alejandro  Amenábar), Sliding Doors, and Shutter Island. Yes, I quite agree, and, if I had to describe it, I’d say that some part of it felt almost surreal and hallucinatory, a bit like if I had found myself falling down the rabbit hole, while in some other parts, the sparse style and factual narrative made it seem perfectly grounded and realistic. An unsettling (even ‘uncanny’ at times) combination. Mindboggling.

If I had to talk about themes, I’d mention: obsession (I know many people who dedicate themselves to research can become sucked in, and suddenly everything starts looking or feeling as if it is related to the topic you are studying and you see connections everywhere), guilt, loss, grief, the permeable and tenuous frontier between sanity and madness, between dedication and obsession, between anxiety and paranoia… And also the tenuous separation between reality and imagination, between real life and our dreams and nightmares.

The main character, as mentioned, is Jacob. Although the book is narrated in the third person, we spend most of the novel inside of the protagonist’s head, we see things from his perspective, and he’s a fantastic example of the unreliable narrator. I tend to read mostly ebooks these days, and because this was a paper copy and I couldn’t read it as often as I would an ebook, it took me longer to read than would be the norm, and I confess I had forgotten the brief chapter (a kind of prologue) called ‘Inhale…’ which was from another character’s perspective. I later realised this was Sylvia, the mother of Jacob’s wife, Ella, and she comes back at the end as well (yes, the title of that chapter is ‘Exhale…’). Therefore, Sylvia’s point of view and story somehow frames the whole of the narrative, (a rather long and rarefied breath of air) but, as I said, most of the book is from Jacob’s point of view, and Jacob is the only character we get to know, although how well is subject to debate, but I won’t go into that either. He is not a dislikeable character, but like many protagonists who have become obsessed with a particular topic or search (think of Ahab in Moby Dick), their obsession can make them difficult to fully connect with. You either get entrapped in it and can’t help but follow them down that hole, or you wonder what the fuss is about. In this case, I found myself totally caught in it, and it’s one of those books where you end up having no idea what place is up or down, what is real or not, and don’t know if you can trust or believe in anything at all. There are other characters, but because we see them only (or mostly) through Jacob’s eyes, I didn’t feel as if I had a grasp of what they were like, and sometimes, due to the way the story is told, we get different versions of the same character, so, which one is (or might be) the real one, if any?

I’ve mentioned the third person point of view and the frame around the story as well. There are brief fragments in italics, which seem to be told from an omniscient point of view, between the main parts of the book, but these are short. The book is divided up into three parts. Part 1 and 3 take place in Glasgow, and part 2 in Spain, first in Barcelona and later in Madrid. The chronological order of events appears clear at first (although some of Jacob’s memories intrude into the narration), but… Well, I’ll let you read it to find out by yourselves. I’ve talked about the writer’s style before, and although I’ve marked a lot of the text, as I’m aware the book was due to go through more revisions and corrections before its release, I won’t share any specific quotes. There are parts of the text in Spanish, and I know some readers have wondered about that, worried that they might miss important aspects of the book, but let me tell you that, being Spanish, knowledge of Spanish is not required to understand the book. In my case, it kept sending me down wrong paths and making me question everything, so don’t worry. I’ve also seen people complaining about the use of mathematics and talks of formulae and proportions. Don’t worry about that either. I found the ideas challenging and fascinating, but it’s not necessary to be an expert on the subject to follow the book.

The ending manages to pull everything together, and it left me with the feeling (not uncommon with certain books and films, and I’m sure you know what I mean) that if I read it again, many things I found puzzling at the time would fit into the right place now, and I would be nodding my head all through the second read.

So, would I recommend it? If you enjoy being taken for a wild ride and falling into the depths of a complex mind trying to make sense of his life, then you should read it. This is not a standard mystery, and it has more in common with a psychological puzzle or even one of Freud’s case stories, where what is at stake is not what we might think at first. If you don’t mind experimenting and trying something new and are not looking for a straight and comforting read, I recommend you to dare to try this book. It won’t leave you indifferent.

Book description

A spiralling obsession. A missing wife. A terrifying secret. Will he find her before it’s too late?

When Dr Jacob Boyce’s wife goes missing, the police put it down to a simple marital dispute. Jacob, however, fears something darker. Following her trail to Spain, he becomes convinced that Ella’s disappearance is tied to a mysterious painting whose hidden geometric and numerical riddles he’s been obsessively trying to solve for months. Obscure, hallucinogenic clues, and bizarre, larger-than-life characters, guide an increasingly unhinged Jacob through a nightmarish Spanish landscape to an art forger’s studio in Madrid, where he comes face-to-face with a centuries-old horror, and the terrifying, mind-bending, truth about his wife.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

53268451

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Victorian #Romance FAIR AS A STAR by @MimiMatthewsEsq

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

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading Fair As A Star by Mimi Matthews

53342294. sy475

A violet by a mossy stone

Half hidden from the eye!

Fair as a star, when only one

Is shining in the sky.

Beryl Burnham is a more vulnerable heroine than Mimi Matthews’ previous main characters. She carries a burden which stops her from looking forward to her imminent marriage. Sir Henry Rivenhall is an eminently suitable fiancé whom she has known for some years, but will he be an understanding husband?  On the other hand, his brother Mark, the curate, is her best friend. He appreciates her subtle whitework embroidery, featuring the plants of the English countryside and she can talk to him about anything, well almost anything, but not her darkest secret. Mark Rivenhall has told his brother of his feelings for Beryl, but he knows he has no chance of gaining her heart. Perhaps it will be best if he leaves the parish of Shepton Worthy.

Meanwhile, Beryl’s spirited younger sister, Winnifred, is involved in a feud with Sir Henry, who intends to sell the magnificent steed she loves to ride. The ordinary people of the parish establish the surroundings and village problems for the reader and the stunning Paris wedding gown which arrives for Beryl emphasises the importance of her future life as a baronet’s wife.

I loved the sensitivity in which Beryl’s unhappiness is expressed and the hope that she finally achieves in this delightful first novel of a new romantic series.

Book description

A Secret Burden…

After a mysterious sojourn in Paris, Beryl Burnham has returned home to the village of Shepton Worthy ready to resume the life she left behind. Betrothed to the wealthy Sir Henry Rivenhall, she has no reason to be unhappy—or so people keep reminding her. But Beryl’s life isn’t as perfect as everyone believes.

A Longstanding Love…

As village curate, Mark Rivenhall is known for his compassionate understanding. When his older brother’s intended needs a shoulder to lean on, Mark’s more than willing to provide one. There’s no danger of losing his heart. He already lost that to Beryl a long time ago.

During an idyllic Victorian summer, friends and family gather in anticipation of Beryl and Sir Henry’s wedding. But in her darkest moment, it’s Mark who comes to Beryl’s aid. Can he help her without revealing his feelings—or betraying his brother?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

53342294. sy475

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Victorian #Romance FAIR AS A STAR by @MimiMatthewsEsq #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Amy, she blogs here https://authoramydeal.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Amy has been reading Fair As A Star by Mimi Matthews

53342294. sy475

Fair as a Star is the latest Victorian romance by Mimi Matthews.  It tells the story of Beryl Burnham and two brothers who both want Beryl but for very different reasons.  The book begins with Beryl returning from a year-long sojourn to Paris with her aunt.  She returns to pick up where her life left off.  That includes her engagement to Sir Henry Rivenhall.  Once she becomes Lady Rivenhall she and her family will want for nothing.  Money, title, position all come with the marriage.  It’s a perfect arrangement, or is it?  Beryl and Henry are marrying for all the wrong reasons.  Duty and family, while on paper look good, are not the makings of a happy marriage.  Especially when Beryl loves someone else.  Mark Rivenhall is Henry’s younger brother and the village curate, soon to be the vicar.  Mark is Beryl’s dearest friend and confidant who has loved her for years, but is unable to profess this because of her engagement to his brother.

Once settled, Beryl begins her social life once again.  She’s aware that the village is full of rumors about why she fled for Paris, but decides to not let them get to her.  She joins the women’s committee at church, planning a festival and visiting the sick.  On the outside, she appears to be happy and content, the excited bride.  Who wouldn’t be excited when your wedding gown was being made by THE Charles Fredrick Worth?  Beryl spends the rest of her time trying to keep her baby sister out of trouble with Henry. The two have a tumultuous relationship which comes to a heated disagreement over a prize horse.

Beryl’s trip to Paris was under mysterious circumstances that no one outside of her mother, aunt and doctor know about.  Or so she thinks.  When confronted with the knowledge of the secret by Henry, Beryl sees him and their upcoming marriage in a whole new light.  Especially after he confesses what his cure is for her condition once they are married.  However, when you’ve been raised to put your family’s financial security above all else, can you just walk away?

This is the second book by Mimi that I’ve read and I’ve not been disappointed. You can tell she’s done her homework and this results in believable characters, plots, locations and of course fashions.  If you love historical romance you’ll love this book.  It’s the first in a series and I’m hoping to read Winnifred’s story next.  I’m hoping I know who she ends up with and can’t wait to see if I’m right.

Book description

A Secret Burden…

After a mysterious sojourn in Paris, Beryl Burnham has returned home to the village of Shepton Worthy ready to resume the life she left behind. Betrothed to the wealthy Sir Henry Rivenhall, she has no reason to be unhappy—or so people keep reminding her. But Beryl’s life isn’t as perfect as everyone believes.

A Longstanding Love…

As village curate, Mark Rivenhall is known for his compassionate understanding. When his older brother’s intended needs a shoulder to lean on, Mark’s more than willing to provide one. There’s no danger of losing his heart. He already lost that to Beryl a long time ago.

During an idyllic Victorian summer, friends and family gather in anticipation of Beryl and Sir Henry’s wedding. But in her darkest moment, it’s Mark who comes to Beryl’s aid. Can he help her without revealing his feelings—or betraying his brother?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

53342294. sy475

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #LiteraryFiction MATT: More Than Words by Hans M Hirschi

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

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Matt: More Than Words by Hans M. Hirschi

52430227. sy475

I have read quite a few of Hirschi’s novels and have enjoyed them all, and some are among my favourites in recent years. He combines some of the characteristics that I most admire in authors: he writes strong and diverse characters, no matter what particular challenges they might be faced with; he carefully researches the topics he touches on (even when some of them might seem only incidental to the novel, he makes sure nothing is left to chance) and uses his research wisely (never banging readers on the head with it); and he does not shy away from the ugliest and harshest realities of life, while at the same time always dealing sensitively and constructively with those. His stories are not fairy tales, and they force us to look at aspects of society and of ourselves that perhaps we’re not proud about, but if we rise to the challenge we’ll be rewarded with an enlightening experience. And a great read.

This novel is no exception. We follow the life of Matt, a young man diagnosed with cerebral palsy due to birth complications, for a few rather momentous months. The book, narrated in third person, is told from three of the main characters’ perspectives. The novel is mostly Matt’s, or at least as good an approximation at what Matt’s experience might be as the author can achieve. It is a difficult task, and he expresses it better than I can in his acknowledgements at the end (‘How does one write about someone in whose situation you’ve never been? How do you give voice to someone who has none? And maybe, most importantly, how, without being insensitive, without objectifying, generalizing, stereotyping, in short without being a “dick”, do you tell a story that needs telling, about someone who could actually be out there, right now?’).  He also explains that he shared his early drafts with experts (people with cerebral palsy and their carers), and, in my non-expert opinion, he manages to depict what the daily life of the protagonist would be like. The other two main characters, Timmy, a professional carer who is Matt’s personal assistant at the beginning of the story but gets removed from his team due to a misunderstanding, and Martha, Matt’s mother, are also given a saying and some of the chapters are told from their perspective. Timmy is a lovely young man, a carer in the true sense of the word, and he has a real calling for the type of job he is doing. Martha is a devoted mother who found herself in a tough situation when she was very young and who has poured her heart and soul into looking after her son. Neither one of them are perfect (nor is Matt for that matter), and they make mistakes, lose heart and faith at times, and can feel overwhelmed or despondent, but they never give up and always have Matt’s best interests in mind.

Of course, I’ve already said that this is not a fairy tale. Far from it. We all know and have heard about some of the terrible things that happen: abuse, neglect, lack of resources, and although in this case there is no political and/or social oversight (Matt has access to a package of care and the family is reasonably well supported, something that unfortunately is not the case everywhere), somehow things still go wrong, and we get to see what it must be like to be the victim of such abuse when you are totally unable not only of physically defending yourself, but also of even talking about it. Terrifying. Not everybody is suited for this kind of work, and it is sad to think that those in the most vulnerable circumstances can be exposed to such abuse. And yes, because of the level of need and the limited resources, sometimes the vetting procedures are not as stringent as they should be. (The current health crisis has highlighted how much we expect of some workers and how little a compensation they receive for their efforts).

Communication and how important it is to try and make sure everybody can communicate and become as independent as possible is one of the main themes of the book. The experience of living locked up inside your own body, with other people not even aware that you know what is going on around you and always making decisions for you comes through very strongly in the book. Matt knows and worries about how he is perceived by others, has internalised many of the attitudes he’s seen and the comments he’s overheard, and many aspect of life we take for granted are like an impossible dream to him. Speaking, going for a walk, even deciding what to watch on television, are tasks beyond his scope. The research into ways to facilitate communication and to increase independence is highlighted in the novel, and the role new technologies (including AI) can play is explored. With appropriate investment, there’s little doubt that this could make a big difference to the lives of many people.

Martha’s difficult situation (she wishes her son to fulfil his potential and be able to do what any other 23 year old normally does, but she’s also fiercely protective of him and does not want to get her hopes up for them to only be crushed again), the personal price she has to pay, the way she has to sacrifice any semblance of a normal life to keep looking after Matt, her worry about the future… are also convincingly depicted. And Timmy’s own feelings and his acknowledgment of his own limitations ring true as well. Family relationships feature strongly not only in the case of Matt, but also of Timmy, originally from Africa and adopted by Caucasian parents, a loving couple who accept him as he is, and Chen, Timmy’s friend and ex-boyfriend, whose parents are more understanding than he thought they’d be.

The writing style is compelling and descriptive, although the descriptions are focused on the emotions and feelings rather than on the outward appearance of people and things. I found the story moving, and although it is not a page turner in the common sense of the word, I was totally engulfed in it and couldn’t put it down, even when some of the events were horrifying at times and made me want to look away.

The novel ends in a positive note, and I hope that in real life everybody in Matt’s situation will have access to a fulfilling life, if not now, in the very near future. As a society we can do much to help, and we should.

This novel reminded me of Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (yes, the famous screenwriter who ended up in the blacklist, one of Hollywood’s Ten), whose movie version I saw as a teenager (also directed by Trumbo), and I’ve never forgotten. The main character there is a WWI soldier who is so severely injured during the war that he ends up unable to move and to communicate, or so those around him think. Although the circumstances are very different (the main character there had led a normal life before and has many memories, although if that makes his life better is a matter of opinion), and I’m sure this novel will appeal to people looking for a book focusing on diverse characters and exploring the world beyond our everyday experiences. As I’ve explained, it is not a comfortable and easy read, but one that will challenge us and make us look at life with new eyes. If you are up for the challenge, the rewards are immense.

Book description

Imagine…

…being locked inside your own body, unable to move at will, unable to speak your mind.

Born prematurely and with complications at birth, twenty-three-year-old Matthew Walker is neurologically injured and diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy. Unable to speak or voluntarily move his limbs, Matt depends on around-the-clock care and has never said a word—most people, including his mother, assume he never will. Then one day, Timmy, a new assistant to Matt’s care team, is sitting at the breakfast table with Matt when he notices a couple of regular taps from Matt’s right big toe. Has Matt finally found a way to break out of his involuntary prison?

Matt–More Than Words is the story of a life without that which most of us take for granted: the ability to communicate. It is a story of suffering, abuse, loneliness, family, friendship, love, hope, and—finally—a green light, a future.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

52430227. sy475

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #RomCom KNEE DEEP (Love In The Suburbs #4) by @dehaggerty

Today’s team review is from Sandra, she blogs here https://www.firthproof.co.uk/index.php/book-reviews

#RBRT Review Team

Sandra has been reading Knee Deep by D.E. Haggerty

52209895. sy475

Knee Deep is the fourth and final book in the ‘Love in the Suburbs’ series, and tells the story of Violet and Luke, former high-school sweethearts, brought into each other’s orbit again by mutual friends. They definitely have unfinished business!

DE Haggerty has been hinting at their secret since Grandma unsuccessfully tried to pair Luke off with Shelby in the second book, though they did remain friends. Violet started working for Frankie and Jackson at F&J’s Events in the third book, and sparks flew whenever she and Luke came into contact with each other.

Obviously, there was no way they could keep their past a secret for very long with Grandma and the rest of the gang nagging away at them. Lack of communication and jumping to conclusions are behind the bad feeling that exists between Luke and Violet. Thrown together at various parties and weddings, they have to learn to trust one another again, as the attraction between them is as strong as ever.

Right from About Face (the first book in the series), Grandma has stolen the show. I’ve said it before, but she is hilarious on the page, but would be a nightmare in real life as she does not respect anyone’s boundaries. She means well, but just can’t keep her nose out of everyone’s business as she goes about her matchmaking.

Told alternately from the points of view of Violet and Luke, we get both sides of the story. There is not much in the way of plot, but with the weddings of both Shelby and Jackson, and Bailey and Roman, and the associated fuss of the hen (bachelorette) parties, the story moves towards a satisfying conclusion.

As you would expect with a group of young people who spend a lot of time together, there is a lot of banter; the slang is very American and I didn’t always ‘get’ it, but it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the story. This series has definitely run its course. It is quite difficult to sustain the reader’s interest, as there tends to be a lot of repetition, but well-drawn, likeable characters go a long way to making up for that.

Book description

Just when I think I’ve got it all figured out – BOOM! – in walks trouble.

It’s taken me years, but my life is finally back on track – new job, new friends, a complete new Violet! I don’t even cry myself to sleep every night anymore. But then he walks through the front door of my new workplace. How dare he come in here and ruin everything for me – again!

Luke Freaking Bauer. Not the boy who got away. Nuh-uh. Not even close. The boy who tossed me aside when I needed him the most.

But when I look deep into those hurt eyes, I forget I’m the one who was wronged. Oh boy. I’m knee-deep in trouble and sinking fast.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

52209895. sy475

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Contemporary #Romance ART & SOUL by Claire Huston @ClaraVal

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

#RBRT Review Team

Robbie has been reading Art & Soul by Claire Huston

50315513. sy475

Art and Soul is a lovely romance by author, Claire Huston. Becky Watson has recently returned to work following a long maternity leave and is finding it isn’t that easy to re-establish her connections as a life coach. She has taken some jobs as an assistant at various upmarket weddings where she helps ensure that any potential people created problems are prevented or smoothed over. These jobs don’t pay particularly well and her finances are not in a good state.

Charlie is a well-known painter whose life unraveled badly after his wife left him and their young daughter several years before. His daughter and his sister are worried about his behaviour which has become more and more reclusive. He is also drinking more and is unable to paint at all. His recent painting have been harshly criticized by the art world who believe he has lost his inspiration.

Charlie’s sister contacts Claire and asks her to speak to her brother with a view to her helping him rekindle his enthusiasm for life and painting. Claire desperately needs the money so she agrees to try and help him, but knows it will be difficult due to Charlie’s uncooperative attitude. After a difficult start to their relationship, Charlie eventually agrees to try out Becky’s proposal and to re-launch himself and his work at an exhibition in only six months time. She also plans to help him rekindle a romance with a woman he fancied a while back.

I really liked Claire who was straightforward and forthright most of the time. Her only area of failure was in expressing her own emotions and feelings but that was understandable given that the father of her child had lied to her and devastated her trust. Claire has Charlie’s best interests at heart and will put her own welfare aside to help him move forward with his goals.

I like Charlie on the whole although he demonstrated a few spiteful and selfish characteristics that spoiled him a bit for me. I felt that he was a bit unpredictable and would have like Becky to have been interested in a more understanding man who didn’t lash out at her from time to time. Charlie also didn’t always come across as sufficiently supportive of his teenage daughter who really needed him.

The art aspects of this book were really interesting and I enjoyed reading about Charlie’s style of artwork compared to some of the very famous names. I also liked reading about Becky’s friend, a baker of the most delectable sounding cakes and who owned a cake shop. I am a big baker myself and I enjoyed the appearance of the odd amazing cake or two.

This was a sweet and uplifting romance baring a few occasions when Charlie fell from grace in my opinion. It will leave you routing for a good outcome for Claire and her cute son and even grumpy Charlie who has a lot of goodness about him.

Book description

There’s no problem Becky Watson can’t fix. Except her own love life…

Struggling single mother Becky Watson longs to revive her career as a life-fixer, working miracles to solve her clients’ problems, no matter how big or small. Since the birth of her two-year-old son she has been stuck preventing wedding fiascos for the richest and rudest residents of the Comptons, a charming, leafy area of southern England known for its artistic heritage.

So when semi-reclusive local artist Charlie Handren reluctantly hires Becky to fix his six-year creative slump, she’s delighted to set him up with a come-back exhibition and Rachel Stone, the woman of his dreams.

Though they get off to a rocky start, Becky and Charlie soon become close. But as the beautiful Rachel becomes Charlie’s muse, Becky is forced to wonder: will giving Charlie everything he wants mean giving up her own happily ever after?

A heart-warming, uplifting romance served with a generous slice of cake.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

50315513. sy475