Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Terry Reviews #Thriller DARK OAKS by Charlie Vincent

Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Dark Oaks by Charlie Vincent

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When I started reading this book I was at once impressed by the writing style and enjoyed reading about wealthy doctor Charles Mason and his ritzy lifestyle in Monaco; there was a certain dry humour about his observations and the narrative flowed well.  There were a few minor proofreading errors which I could overlook, because I liked what I was reading.

Charles wakes up on the morning after his extravagant annual party to find that everything is not as it should be, in a big way.  The book then moves to Dark Oaks, his ancestral home in rural Hampshire.

It is clear that the author knows Monaco well, and I liked reading about the lifestyle of the rich and famous with whom Charles mingled, but there is a little too much detail that is not relevant to the rest of the book.  Throughout, there are long blocks of description, much of it superfluous, which is unbroken by dialogue and slows down the plot, not least of all a long paragraph describing the making of a sandwich, and a wince-making piece of exposition in which Charles has the phrase ‘chop shop’ explained to him, which is clearly only there to explain to the reader (I thought it unlikely that Charles would not have known what a chop shop was, and ditto most readers).

The book is basically well-written, and the plot is interesting, but the novel is not structured well.  The history of the family is told in backstory when Charles gets to Hampshire; an initial few chapters set in the past, at the beginning, would have set the scene much more effectively, and linked the Monaco and Hampshire sections together – once Charles got to Hampshire I felt as though I was reading a completely different story, with the sudden introduction of a number of new characters who had not been mentioned before.  To sum up, there is much to commend about this book, but I think it could use a bit more thinking through and the hand of a good content editor.

Book description

New Year’s Eve. The turn of the millennium. A tragic accident results in the death of Charles Mason’s parents, his sister-in-law, and her unborn child. His army officer brother, Robert, is the only survivor.

Unable to come to terms with the loss, Charles moves abroad and tries to forget the past.

Twenty-two years later, things start to go badly wrong for him. Two of his friends go missing, his boat is stolen, and his bank account is emptied. Scared and unsure of what to do, Charles returns to England to ask Robert for help.

As the two brothers begin investigating who is behind the crimes, they uncover evidence that somebody out there has been masterminding the death of their entire bloodline over the course of decades, and they are next in line.

Can Charles and Robert bring their nemesis out of the shadows and fight back, or are they doomed to follow the same fate as the rest of their family?

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Rosie’s #BookReview of 1970s #Mystery THE SHY AVENGER by Geoffrey Scardthomas

The Shy Avenger by Geoffrey Scardthomas

3 stars

The Shy Avenger is a mystery set in the Hampshire countryside during the 1970s. It surrounds a local myth about John The Red, a deadly snake. The first stories about John came from the 1940s, but the current inhabitants of Yewhurst are about to discover that John has returned and is back to his old habits.

What I liked about the story:

  • The 1970s setting was full of nostalgic detail of the era.
  • I quite like reading books that are local to me; I live in Hampshire so some of the place names were very familiar.
  • There’s a lovely dog called Fly who has an important role, and I also liked Fly’s owner; he’s a quiet man with a few secrets of his own.

What didn’t work for me:

  • The story is slow and drawn out; there is quite a lot of unnecessary bulk which could be removed with further editing.
  • I don’t know much about snakes, but I was unconvinced about some of the storyline threads.
  • There are a lot of characters and I wanted them to be a little more rounded to make them memorable.

Overall, I think the story has some potential as an historical mystery, but it fell short on creative writing techniques suitable for today’s reader.


#HistFic Rosie’s #Bookreview of A Woman’s Lot by Carolyn Hughes set in #Hampshire

A Woman's Lot (The Meonbridge Chronicles #2)A Woman’s Lot by Carolyn Hughes

3.5 stars

A Woman’s Lot is an historical fiction set in Hampshire during the 14th century. This is book two of the Meonbridge Chronicles. It features the lives of villagers in a period a few years after one of the plague epidemics. Continuing on with characters from the first book, this novel focuses on four particular women.

Eleanor Titheridge has inherited her father’s sheep flock, and continues to farm the animals, while Emma Ward is a skilled shepherdess who works for her. Agnes Sawyer is the carpenter’s wife, and she works alongside her husband in his workshop. Meanwhile, Susanna Miller’s husband prefers her to stay at home and tend to the children.

The plague caused labour shortages and workers have been demanding higher wages. The four women in this novel all have ideas about liberating themselves from the traditional roles of many women of their time. However many of the men of Meonbridge disapprove of women working and owning businesses. This causes trouble and disagreement in the village.

This is a slow and detailed novel, which is liberally spread with words from the era. I enjoyed the elements relating to the sheep, as they were something I understood well. There is a daunting cast of characters, but the author helpfully lists them at the beginning of the book . At other times the writing felt long-winded and over-explained. This was particularly felt when a second character repeated an incident which I had read about earlier.

It certainly is an interesting window into village life in a period when little was recorded about the everyday events. This is a book with a slower pace and would perhaps suit readers with an interest in how country folk worked and lived in the early middle ages.

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Book description

How can mere women resist the misogyny of men?

A resentful peasant rages against a woman’s efforts to build up her flock of sheep… A husband, grown melancholy and ill-tempered, succumbs to idle talk that his wife’s a scold… A priest, fearful of women’s “unnatural” power, determines to keep them in their place.

The devastation wrought two years ago by the Black Death changed the balance of society: more women saw their chance to build a business, learn a trade, to play a greater part. But many men still hold fast to the teachings of the Church and fear the havoc the daughters of Eve might wreak if they’re allowed to usurp men’s roles and gain control over their own lives.

Not all men resist women’s desire for change – indeed, they want it for themselves. Yet it takes only one or two to unleash the hounds of hostility and hatred…

About the author

Carolyn Hughes was born in London, but has lived most of her life in Hampshire. After a first degree in Classics and English, she started her working life as a computer programmer, in those days a very new profession. It was fun for a few years, but she left to become a school careers officer in Dorset.

But it was when she discovered technical authoring that she knew she had found her vocation. She spent the next few decades writing and editing all sorts of material, some fascinating, some dull, for a wide variety of clients, including an international hotel group, medical instrument manufacturers and the Government.

She has written creatively for most of her adult life, but it was not until her children grew up and flew the nest, several years ago, that creative writing and, especially, writing historical fiction, took centre stage in her life.

Carolyn Hughes

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