📚#HistoricalFiction The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground RailroadThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Underground Railroad is historical fiction based on the many stories of enslaved African Americans in the early to mid-1800s.

This fictional story revolves around Cora, whose grandmother was taken from Africa; Cora and her mother were born on American soil to life on a plantation. It was brutal, made worse after Cora’s mother escaped. Cora was mis-treated and ostracised by many of the other slaves as well as the overseers and plantation owners.

Cora’s own dreams of ‘running’ are expedited after she tries to save another slave from a beating. Fellow slave Caesar invites her to escape with him; he has a friend who can get them away via the underground rail network.

This is Cora’s journey; the highs and the lows. The author gives the reader a window into the era, showing how group mentality and peer pressure make neighbour fear neighbour and rips families apart. This isn’t a light read, it is harrowing on so many levels.

I liked how the author used real trains as a metaphor for the brave souls who risked their own lives to help the runaways. Sadly, similar situations repeat themselves over and over in human history; I immediately thought of the world wars. This book has been on my ‘wish list’ for a while and I was glad when I was recently given a copy.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

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Book description

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood–where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned–Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor–engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey–hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

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📚’In short, this is a terrific read’. Noelle reviews #HistoricalFiction The Invincible Miss Cust by @PennyHaw for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Noelle.

Noelle blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

Orange rose and Rosie's Book Review Team
Rosie’s Book Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Invincible Miss Cust by Penny Haw.

The Invincible Miss Cust by Penny Haw

This is the heartwarming and remarkable story of Aleen Isabel Cust, England’s first female veterinary surgeon, and a book I thoroughly enjoyed. The author explains that while the main character is real and many of the events in her life are recorded, this is not a biography. But what she’s created is completely believable.

Aleen Cust’s first memories are of her life in Ireland with her aristocratic family. She loves their animals, especially the horses, and delights in racing and hunting on horseback with her brothers. She is also unusually educated for the time because she gets to share her brother’s tutor. But she also knows that many of the opportunities given to her brothers she can’t share because she is a girl. Nevertheless, when she first meets a veterinary surgeon, she is struck with the idea that this is what she wants to be.

When her father dies, the family has to leave Ireland for England because he had been an overseer of land owned by someone else. Leaving their beloved horses and dogs behind, Aleen vows to return once she achieves her dream.  When she tells her mother of her plans for her future, and the family, especially her mother, is appalled by the idea and emphatically forbids it, citing the shame it would bring on them.

When she meets and is drawn into a family that is friends with her own, she finds their daughter shares her same passion for her own life and career. This young woman is allowed to go hunting and will train as a nurse, and Aleen’s dream is reignited. But the only thing her overbearing mother will allow her to do is train as a nurse, which she soon finds is stultifying and stifling. Working in the city instead of the country and the patriarchal relationship between physicians and nurses makes her resentful. She quits.

After some years, the heavens align (I can’t reveal how!) and she finds a way to attend the New Veterinary College in Edinburgh, which sets her on the path to her dream but which alienates her from her family forever. The trials of school and her training thereafter make a wonderful read, but what she does with the rest of her life is nothing short of amazing.

Using available research, the author has crafted a wondrous story of Aleen’s ambition, determination against all odds, and battle for equality that is won with courage, passion and friendship. The storytelling is riveting and filled with tension. The reader is left wondering How could she have done this?  when reading about Aleen’s daily challenges and obstacles and the years it took her to accomplish her goal.

Each of the characters comes alive and the reader becomes invested in their lives as well, and one can’t help feeling the same about the dogs and horses that run through the Aleen’s life. The complexity of Aleen’s relations with various members of her family, especially her mother and older brother, is both frustrating and difficult to absorb, so different from the present day, and the reader can feel the conflict between Aleen’s loyalty and love for them and her absolute certainty that the family’s plans for her future are not something she can accept.

 The historical background of England and Ireland from the late 1800s through WWI is meticulously presented and I learned a great deal about the treatment of the horses that were central to the war. The author did considerable research on veterinary surgery of the time – I am very impressed.

In short, this is a terrific read about a woman in the trenches of the war against historical patriarchy and appallingly unequal societal norms. It is also colorful, personal and filled with warmth and passion.

I reviewed the author’s previous book, The Wilderness Between Us, and gave it five stars. The same for The Invincible Miss Cust.

Orange rose book description
Book description

Aleen Cust has big dreams and no one―not her family, society, or the law―will stop her.

Born in Ireland in 1868 to an aristocratic English family, Aleen knows she is destined to work with animals, even if her family is appalled by the idea of a woman pursuing a veterinary career. Going against their wishes but with the encouragement of the guardian assigned to her upon her father’s death, Aleen attends the New Veterinary College in Edinburgh, enrolling as A. I. Custance to spare her family the humiliation they fear. At last, she is on her way to becoming a veterinary surgeon! Little does she know her biggest obstacles lie ahead.

The Invincible Miss Cust is based on the real life of Aleen Isabel Cust, who defied her family and society to become Britain and Ireland’s first woman veterinary surgeon. Through Penny Haw’s meticulous research, riveting storytelling, and elegant prose, Aleen’s story of ambition, determination, family, friendship, and passion comes to life. It is a story that, even today, women will recognize, of battling patriarchy and an unequal society to realize one’s dreams and pave the way for other women in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

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📚’#HistoricalFiction set at the turn of the twentieth century’. Rosie’s #Bookreview of The Makings Of Violet Frogg by Patsy Trench.

The Makings of Violet FroggThe Makings of Violet Frogg by Patsy Trench

3.5 stars

The Makings Of Violet Frogg is historical fiction set at the turn of the twentieth century that details three eras during the adult life of Violet, as she reinvents herself to suit different roles. Underlying themes revolve around the suffragist movement, while there is also a touch of romance for Violet.

Of the three parts, Violet’s role in the London theatre scene is the largest element of the book and the author’s knowledge of theatre shines through; the ins and outs of an actor’s life and all those in background parts made it feel really genuine.

I did find that the writing style veered towards over-explanation, particularly when scene setting, as if this was first written for the stage. A more concise format may have kept the pace brisk without losing any of the important content. Overall, an okay story, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I hoped.

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Book description

‘All the world’s a stage’, and Violet Frogg plays many parts.

From straightjacketed vicar’s daughter to cossetted married woman, suffragist and working girl. But just as Violet is beginning to find her feet as assistant to the manager at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London’s West End, her past catches up with her and – off she goes again.

What’s going on? Why does Violet have to keep reinventing herself, with new names and new identities? What is she escaping from?

Or is she simply a young woman at the turn of the 20th century trying on different roles to see which fits best?

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🛩Set during the build up to the Second World War. Rosie’s #Bookreview of As Little As Nothing by Pamela Mulloy.

As Little As NothingAs Little As Nothing by Pamela Mulloy

3.5 stars

As Little As Nothing is historical fiction set during the build up to the Second World War. The story alternates between four main characters: Miriam, who dreams of flying aeroplanes, and Edmund, the village shopkeeper and Miriam’s garden-loving husband. Then there is Audrey, a women who lives in a caravan and is campaigning to legalise abortion, and her nephew Frank, an engineer.

The book opens with a plane crash; Frank and Miriam rush to the scene and help rescue Peter the pilot. Once he has recovered, Peter offers to take Miriam flying. Later Frank teaches her to fly a plane herself in the Gypsy Moth he has been rebuilding, and together they plan to take part in a race.

With chapters from four characters, there was a lot going on in this book and I found myself wishing that we could spend more time with fewer storylines. The drifting back and forth slowed the book down and I never had enough time to connect to any of the characters. I was really interested in the early aviator aspect, but that side of the story was overwhelmed with the abortion angle. This is a slow-paced story with plenty of lyrical lines, but I’m afraid that it didn’t capture my attention as much as I had hoped.

View all my reviews on Goodreads


Orange rose book description
Book description

On the eve of the Second World War outside a village in England, four people rush to an airplane crash and change their lives forever

In the tumultuous year before war breaks out, a plane crashes on a country lane and four people are brought together in the aftermath. Miriam is recovering from another miscarriage and learns to fly as an escape from the disappointments in her life. Audrey is a middle-aged, upper-class activist who has shunned her society, travels the UK lecturing on reproductive rights, lives in a Gypsy caravan, and whose daily ritual includes a swim in a nearby river.

It is Audrey’s nephew, Frank, who teaches Miriam to fly. A club foot and his suppressed homosexuality have made him reluctant to engage with anyone other than his aunt. But as he succumbs to his attraction to the crashed pilot and convinces Miriam to co-pilot an air race from London to Manchester, and as Audrey confronts her past, ghosts must be laid to rest.

With the war looming, As Little as Nothing beautifully explores resilience, the strength of new bonds, and the various ways we reinvent ourselves.

‘It’s clear that the author has a passion for this period of history’ @TerryTyler4 reviews #HistoricalFiction The Unveiling Of Polly Forrest by @CWhitneyAuthor @steffercat

Today’s team review is from Terry. She blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Terry has been reading The Unveiling Of Polly Forrest by Charlotte Whitney

4 out of 5 stars

A book about America’s Great Depression always piques my interest; this suspense-filled story of sisters Sarah and Polly, living in farming country in Michigan in 1934, certainly conjured up the atmosphere.  Elder sister and vicar’s wife Sarah is dutiful, industrious, a tad self-righteous and bitterly jealous of Polly;  Polly is stunningly pretty, stylish (with a penchant for glamorous hats), and newly married to the mysterious Sam.

It’s clear that the author has a passion for this period of history and really understands the hardship people lived through, with no knowledge of how or when it would end, and I so appreciated all the detail of the every day lives.  As for the characters, I found that at first I sympathised with Sarah and wasn’t so keen on Polly, but as more insight was given, I soon felt the other way round, and felt the claustrophobia of Polly’s life, while disliking Sarah’s attitude.  I very much liked how the truth about Sam and Polly emerged so gradually; a slow ‘unveiling’ indeed.

The book is told from the POVs of Sarah, Polly and Sarah’s husband Wes; I did feel that Sarah and Wes’s ‘voices’ were too alike, and I’d sometimes have to flick back to remind myself whose chapter I was reading.  

I didn’t realise straight away that I’d read another book by this author for the review team, a while back; I refreshed my memory about it, and think this is a much more interesting novel, with a more complex and intriguing plot.  Aside from the start being a little exposition heavy, to set the scene and give background information, I enjoyed the unfolding of the story and was completely taken by surprise when the ‘reveal’ came – that’s always a real bonus!  

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– Rural Michigan, 1934

When her new husband Sam perishes in a bizarre farm accident, would-be milliner Polly soon becomes the prime suspect in his murder. As she digs for evidence to clear her name, Polly falls into a sinister web implicating her in a nefarious crime ring being investigated by White House Police. Polly’s life and those of her family are at stake.

Narrated by Polly, her self-righteous older sister, Sarah, and Sarah’s well-meaning, but flawed husband Wesley, a Methodist minister, the story follows several twists through the landscape of the rural Midwest.

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‘Set during the tragedy that was the Great Potato Famine in early nineteenth century Ireland’. @SueBavey reviews #HistoricalFiction The Winds of Morning by @AuthorGMacShane

Today’s team review is from Sue. She blogs here https://suelbavey.wordpress.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Sue has been reading The Winds of Morning by Gifford MacShane


Set during the tragedy that was the Great Potato Famine in early nineteenth century Ireland, this short novella is gripping and difficult to put down and I read it over the course of one day. It follows the fortunes of Molly, a young woman who has lost her Da and her Ma to starvation and a broken heart respectively. Her two brothers are both very sick when we meet her and she has come to the conclusion that in order to feed them she will have to turn to prostitution since her job breaking rocks for a road to be built is not earning enough money for the three of them.

Luckily for her and her youngest brother, Johnny, she is spotted by the hero of the tale, John Patrick Donovan. A well-off businessman with a kindly heart, he decides there and then to marry her and save both her and Johnny’s lives in the process. Unfortunately it is too late for her other brother, William.
Johnny was my favourite character in the story with his wit and charming smile. John Patrick is certain his nieces will have their heads turned by Johnny when they all return to Wexford together.

The plight of Ireland during this time is well described by the author and easily imagined, as is the fate of Molly and her brother, had John Patrick not chanced upon her:

“The old men had died first, and only a half-dozen of the fathers were still alive. The boys who could were working on the road gang. The women were weak—so weak they were unable to bear more children. The younger among them were confined to the workhouse. The old women were gone, too, except for Mother O’Fagan, a white witch said to live on the air she breathed. The chickens and pigs had been eaten these past two years or more. Even the benches were gone, except for the one that ringed the tree in the square. Father Boylan had arranged for them to be sold this past spring, and had spent the proceeds on corn meal and salt cod to feed the most needy of his flock. The food had not gone far, and most of those who had partaken were gone now, too.”

The Winds of Morning was a most enjoyable read full of historical detail and engaging storytelling. I highly recommend it.

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1848: the third year the potato crop failed in Ireland. The Protestant landlords have absconded back to Britain, leaving the Catholic peasants to fend for themselves, while the English government allowed the export of tens of thousands of tons of Irish food daily.

With two younger brothers to feed, Molly O’Brien took her father’s place on the road gang, building a road that runs from her tiny village to the river and no farther. Yet sixteen hours of labor a day would not garner enough wages to buy food for her family.

She was beyond despair. Beyond prayer. And so far beyond the tenets of her childhood, she’d decided to offer her body to the first man with the price of a loaf of bread. At that moment, a voice behind her spoke…

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An #HistoricalFiction Boxset. @OlgaNM7 reviews No Woman Is An Island, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT @LizaPerrat, @LornaFergusson, @clarefly @helenahalme

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Olga has been reading No Woman Is An Island

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Blood Rose Angel by Liza Perrat.

The novel’s plot is fascinating and as good as any historical fiction I have read. History and fiction blend seamlessly to create a story that is gripping, emotionally satisfying, and informative. The life of the villagers is well observed, as is the relationship between the different classes, the politics of the era, the role of religion, the power held by nobles and the church, the hypocrisy, superstition, and prejudice, and the social mores and roles of the different genders. The descriptions of the houses, clothing, medical and midwifery procedures, and the everyday life are detailed enough to make us feel immersed in the era without slowing down the plot, that is a page turner in its own right. I particularly enjoyed the sense of community (strongly dominated by women) and the optimism that permeates the novel, showing the strength of the human spirit even in the hardest of circumstances. The author includes a glossary at the end and also provides background information on the Black Death and the historical figures that grace its pages. The research into the era is flawlessly weaved into the story and adds to the feeling of authenticity.

Hidden by Linda Gillard

This historical novel is a dual-time story, combining a contemporary chronological timeline (set in 2018) following Miranda Norton, a woman who inherits a beautiful building from a famous father she never knew, and decides to move in with her whole family (her mother, her adult pregnant daughter and son-in-law and her twin teenage sons) to make ends meet, and the story of a previous owner, Esme Howard, a painter whose family had lived in the house for generations, who after several losses during the Great War, makes a decision that will have drastic consequences for all involved. There are all kinds of links and connections between the two stories, and even a touch of the paranormal.

I loved it. Some of the high points for me were: the relationships in Miranda’s extended family, and how well the different generations get on; the way the author handles the experience of domestic abuse/violence, including fascinating comparisons and parallels between the circumstances of two women separated by 100 years; the descriptions of London and the UK during WWI and the experiences of the people in the home front; shell-shock and how it affected soldiers during the war; I loved the descriptions of Esme’s creative process, her inspiration, and her paintings (which I could see in my mind’s eye), and also the true story of  Baroque Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi (which I am fascinated by), a woman deserving of much more attention than she has been given so far. I also enjoyed the mystery side of things, and trying to piece the details of the story together, although for me, Esme’s story, the house, and Miranda’s family were the winners.

Any readers who love historical fiction set in the early XX century, particularly during WWI, in the UK, who are keen on mysterious houses, a good love story, and  prefer stories told (mostly) from a female perspective, should check this one. Oh, and the ending is… as close to perfect as anyone could wish.

The Chase by Lorna Fergusson

The action of the book alternates between chapters set in different historical periods (from prehistory until WWII), and those telling the chronological story of a couple of Brits expats who move to France (to the Dordogne, the Périgord) trying to leave their tragic past behind.

This is a novel where the historical aspect is less evident than in the previous two, and it might not appear evident at first, although, eventually, the historical fragments fall into place and readers discover what links them to the story. Secrets from the present and the past coalesce  and the influence of the region and its past inhabitants on the present come full circle.

The psychological portrayal of the main characters is powerful as well. These were not superheroes or insightful and virtuous individuals, perfect in every way, and although by the end of the story they’ve suffered heartbreak, disappointments, and have been forced to confront their worst fears, this is not a story where, as if by magic, they are totally enlightened and all their problems have disappeared. The ending is left quite open, and although some aspects of the story are resolved (in a brilliant way, in my opinion), others are left to our imagination.

This novel will be of particular interest to readers who love detailed descriptions of places, local culture, and food and drink, especially those who know or are thinking of visiting la Dordogne; readers who are interested in embroidery, mythology, and history of the region will also have a field day; its treatment of bereavement is interesting and compelling; and I think all those elements would make it ideal for book clubs, as there is plenty to discuss and think about.

The Chalky Sea by Clare Flynn

Clare Flynn is a favourite author of many readers, and based on this novel, she is a fine writer, who combines a strong sense of place and historical detail (WWII, especially the home front experience in the UK, particularly in Eastbourne, East Sussex, a seaside resort in the South of England that was heavily bombed during the war), with characters who undergo many trials and challenges, remain strongly anchored in the era, and whose innermost thoughts and motivations we get to understand (even when we might have very little in common with them or their opinions and feelings).

The story is narrated in the third person, from the points of view of the two main characters: Gwen, an upper-middle class British woman, well-educated, married, who enjoys volunteering and helping out, but whose life is far from fulfilled, and Jim, a young Canadian farmer, engaged to be married and happy with his lot when we meet him, whose life takes a sudden turn for the worse, and ends up enlisting and being sent to England., and the author writes beautifully about places and emotions, without getting lost in overdrawn descriptions or sidetracked by titbits of real information. The novel touches on many subjects beyond WWII: there are several love stories, legally sanctioned and not; the nature of family relationships; morality and what was considered ‘proper’ behaviour and the changes those concepts underwent due to the war; women’s work opportunities, their roles, and how they broadened during the war; prejudice and social class; the Canadian contribution to the UK war effort; miscarriages/abortions and their effects on women; childless marriages; the loss of a sibling; was destruction and loss of human lives… Some of them are dealt in more detail than others, but I am sure most readers will find plenty of food for thought in these pages.

Although this is the first novel in a series, I found the ending extremely fitting and satisfying, and it can be read independently.

Coffee And Vodka by Helena Halme

This is another story set in the recent past, but in contrast with many of the other texts in this volume, it is a pretty personal one. The story is told in the first person by Evva, and the timeline is split-up into two. One half of the story takes place in 1974, when Evva is only a teenager and her family migrates from Finland to Sweden; and the other half takes place thirty years later, in 2004, when she is in her early forties and has to go back to Finland (not having been there even for a visit in the meantime) because her beloved grandmother is dying. The chapters in the two timelines alternate (although sometimes we might read several chapters from the same era without interruption), building up to create a clear picture of what life was like before, and how things have moved on.

The author captures well the era and the teenager’s feelings and voice, and although I have never visited Finland or Sweden, I got a strong sense of how living there might be. She also manages to structure the novel in such a way that we get to know and understand Evva (young Evva is much easier to empathise with than older Evva, although I liked the way she develops and grows during the novel) whilst getting a strong suspicion that she is missing a lot of the facts, and the two timelines converge to provide us a reveal that is not surprising for this kind of stories, but it is well done and beautifully observed and written. I particularly appreciated the understated tone of the funeral and the conversations between the family members, and the fact that despite their emotions, they all behaved like the grown-ups they are.

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy a well-written family drama, especially those interested in new settings and Nordic literature, those who love stories set in the 1970s, and anybody who enjoys dual timelines, coming-of-age stories, and beautifully observed characters.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Of #HistoricalFiction Daisy Chains by @MallonRitchie

Daisy Chain: a novel of The Glasgow GirlsDaisy Chain: a novel of The Glasgow Girls by Maggie Ritchie

4 stars

Daisy Chain is the story of two girls who grow up to be life-long friends. Written for historical fiction fans, this book takes place between 1909 and 1929. The story opens in a country village in Scotland; Lily and Jeanie come from differing social classes, but they are firm friends. Lily loves to paint and Jeanie wants to be a dancer.

As they reach adulthood, Lily attends art school in Glasgow, while Jeanie finds her way onto the stage. Both girls work hard and excel in their chosen careers. After the war, Lily marries and moves to China with her husband, while Jeanie goes on tour with her dance company.

Both women are very likable characters, and there is just the right amount of scene-setting about Lily’s art world and Jeanie’s dance company to  compliment the characters and add interest. There are many well-written secondary characters; some I wanted to know much more about. I really enjoyed the parts of the book that took place in Shanghai; 1920s China is a time and place that I know very little about, and I was very interested to read that the author was awarded a grant from the Society Of Authors to travel to Shanghai to complete the research for this book.

This was an easy, compelling read set in a time of groundbreaking changes for women, and it certainly kept my attention throughout.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

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Lily Crawford and Jeanie Taylor, from very different backgrounds, are firm friends from their childhoods in Kirkcudbright. They share their ambitions for their futures, Lily to be an artist, Jeanie to be a dancer.

The two women’s eventful lives are intertwined. In the years before the First World War, the girls lose touch when Jeanie runs away from home and joins a dance company, while Lily attends The Mack, Glasgow’s famous school of art designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. A chance meeting reunites them and together they discover a Glasgow at the height of its wealth and power as the Second City of the Empire – and a city of poverty and overcrowding. Separated once again after the war, Lily and Jeanie find themselves on opposite sides of the world. Lily follows her husband to Shanghai while Jeanie’s dance career brings her international fame. But the glamour and dissolution of 1920s Shanghai finally lead Lily into peril. Her only hope of survival lies with her old friend Jeanie, as the two women turn to desperate measures to free Lily from danger.

Inspired by the eventful and colourful lives of the pioneering women artists The Glasgow Girls, particularly that of Eleanor Allen Moore, Daisy Chain is a story of independence, women’s art, resilience and female friendship, set against the turbulent background of the early years of the 20th century.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalFiction Fireflies And Chocolate by @AilishSinclair

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Terry has been reading Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair



I very much liked Ailish Sinclair’s debut novel, The Mermaid and the Bear, so was looking forward to this, and I was pleased to see it’s about the same family, a couple of generations on – this time the main character is Elizabeth Manteith, whose family is going through difficult times. Her father is caught up with the Jacobite rebellion, and Beth spends most of her time with the servants.

A ghastly accident of circumstance leads to her being imprisoned on an Aberdeen slave ship, taking children and young people to the tobacco plantations of North America. A round of applause to Ms Sinclair for using fiction to highlight little-known history – I knew nothing about this. Once in America Beth’s life remains hard, though not as hard as one might have feared for her. She longs for word from home, and strives to find out the location of Peter, a boy she became close to on the ship.

Beth is an engaging character, as is Michael, in whose house she works. I’m not a romance reader (not least of all because I always know exactly who is going to end up with whom, as soon as they meet!), but in this book the romance aspect is subtly threaded through the main story, an undercurrent rather than centre stage. I loved reading about life in the mid 18th century; it’s a very ‘easy read’, just flows along, while being quite a page-turner. I enjoyed the whole book; the pace is just right and there were no boring bits!

Ms Sinclair has chosen to write Beth’s first-person narrative in Scottish dialect. Normally this would drive me nuts, but the way she has executed this is perfect for the book, absolutely right. She concentrates on the Scottish words Beth would use (‘dinna’ rather than ‘didn’t’, ‘fit’ rather than ‘what’, for instance) rather than trying to write dialogue in a Scottish accent, which would have been tedious in extreme – from the beginning, I found myself reading it in Beth’s voice. 

I was most interested to read, in the Author’s Notes at the back, that not only was it based on a true occurrence, but some of the characters are based on real people. This always adds a pleasing dimension to a story. 

It’s a well-researched and delightful book, as was the last one. The only reason I’ve given it 4.5 rather than 5* is that I tend to like books that are a bit darker than this, but that’s only personal preference, not a criticism. It’s a story to curl up and escape with. A definite recommendation, and I look forward to the next.

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Elizabeth craves adventure… excitement… love…

For now though, she has to settle for a trip from her family’s castle, to the port in Aberdeen, where her father has promised she’ll be permitted to buy a horse… all of her own.

Little does she suspect this simple journey will change her life, forever. And as she dreams of riding her new mount through the forests and glens of the Manteith estate, she can have no idea that she might never see them again.

For what lies ahead is danger, unimagined… and the fearful realities of kidnap and slavery.

But even when everything seems lost, most especially the chance of ever getting home again, Elizabeth finds friendship, comfort… and that much prized love, just where she least expected it.

Set in the mid eighteenth century, Fireflies and Chocolate is a story of strength, courage and tolerance, in a time filled with far too many prejudices.

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APPLAUSE by Madalyn Morgan @ActScribblerDJ #WW2 #HistFic Dudley Sisters series book #2

Applause (Dudley Sisters Saga #2)Applause by Madalyn Morgan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Applause is book #2 of the Dudley Sisters series of family saga books set in second world war torn Britain. This can be read as a stand alone book.

Margaret is the only Dudley sister to be currently married. Her husband transports MOD documents around by day and is an ambulance driver by night. But it is the theatre which has always interested Margaret.

The book opens with her almost injured by a partially falling building as she intently hurries for a job interview. The job is only an usherette but it is a start. Margaret’s dream is to become an actress and nothing will stop her passion. She rises through the theatre taking on work in the wardrobe section and grabbing a chance to step in when an actress is ill.

Introduced to the nightclub scene by her acting friends Margaret is offered a chance to sing and it sets off her career as Margo Dudley. At first she tries to hold down several jobs and keeps too many secrets, until she’s found out.

An injury to her ankle puts her out of action for a while and when the theatre is also closed down due to a bomb Margo finds alternative ways to continue performing. With friends she becomes part of the Albert Sisters a group who go around entertaining the troops. But life isn’t all good. Margo drinks and becomes reliant of pain relievers and sleeping tablets which she becomes addicted to.

Her passion for the theatre puts a strain on her marriage on more than one occasion and we see Margot as quite a selfish women, perhaps portraying many a celebrity.

This book is packed with well researched nostalgia from the era, scattered between the pages, however I didn’t enjoy it as much as book #1 Foxden Acres, purely for personal reasons, I’m not a big theatre fan, however for those who know the London theatre world well, I’m sure they would enjoy this book.

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Book Description

In the early years of World War 2, Margot Dudley works her way up from usherette to leading lady in a West End show. Driven by blind ambition Margot becomes immersed in the heady world of nightclubs, drink, drugs and fascist thugs – all set against a background of the London Blitz. To achieve her dream, Margot risks losing everything she holds dear.

APPLAUSE is the second book in the DUDLEY SISTERS QUARTET.

About the author

Madalyn Morgan

Madalyn Morgan has been an actress for more than thirty years working in repertory theatre, the West End, film and television. She is a radio presenter and journalist, writing articles for newspapers and magazines.

Madalyn was brought up in a busy working class pub in the market town of Lutterworth in Leicestershire. The pub was a great place for an aspiring actress and writer to live. There were so many wonderful characters to study and accents learn. At twenty-four Madalyn gave up a successful hairdressing salon and wig-hire business for a place at E15 Drama College, and a career as an actress.

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