Living In The Shadows by @barrow_judith #FamilySaga #HistFic #Bookreview @honno #wwwblogs

Living in the ShadowsLiving in the Shadows by Judith Barrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Living in Shadows is the third book following the lives of a group of family and friends based mainly in Ashford near Manchester, England. Book one began in 1944 and this current book is 1969 involving many of the next generation.

In this book, we meet Linda Booth a young nurse on a maternity ward, dealing with new mother’s and fathers. Off duty she is a regular visitor to her Grandmother, whilst she questions her own relationship with her current boyfriend.

Victoria Schormann currently lives in Llamroth with her twin brother and her parents Mary and Peter. Mary was a nurse in a POW camp near where she lived in Ashford, after the war she moved to Wales. Peter had been a doctor and prisoner in the POW camp and after the war he came back and found Mary.

Victoria is bored and spoilt and decides to run away from home with a boy she met at a music concert. Seth is a hippie and runs a commune in the Manchester area, but Victoria finds the new lifestyle is more than she bargained for.

Mary’s sister and one of her brothers still live in the Ashford area with their respective families, and while Mary’s son Richard attends interviews at the University they all have their own challenges to face. Changes in what is socially accepted are harder for some to agree with, but they find themselves all drawn together when a dark figure from the past comes back and threatens the future.

This book can be read alone but I believe it would have more meaning to be read in sequence. I haven’t read the second book and I struggled to place names and family relationships. This meant I didn’t always follow the storyline as well as I expected. The book contained some good historical details and the themes were relevant to their day.

This review is based on a free copy of the book given to me by the author via Honno Press

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#RomancingSeptember Day 23 Two Times Twenty by @BethanDarwin #wwwblogs @honno

Welcome to Day 23 of #RomancingSeptember

2015 cover

Our guest today is Bethan Darwin and her book Two Times Twenty

2 X 20 Final Cover med

Where is your home town?

My home town is Tonypandy in the Rhondda Valleys, Wales.  I now live in Wenvoe a village in the Vale of Glamorgan, just outside Cardiff and close to Barry.

How long have you been writing romance?

Since 2004

What is your favourite sub-genre of romance?

I had to google that to understand what the sub-genres were! I like Inspirational romance, novels with a love story but also other non-romantic relationship stories, ideally with historical, political or modern day context so you learn something as well.

Where is your book set?

I’ve called it Stonebridge but it is set in Cowbridge, a market town in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Tell us about Anna

Everyone knows someone like Anna – a single working Mum, struggling to make ends meet, trying to keep her children happy and consequently with not much time for herself but who still manages to be fun with the help of her friends and family.

Do Anna’s birthday party plans change?

The party itself doesn’t change that much although her highflying City lawyer friend does add some extra sparkle to it by being generous. It’s the people attending that make the plans change most.

Tell us about Mack?  

Mack is a good-looking bloke who has always had his pick of women. Essentially he’s decent but a bit selfish and irresponsible.

What does Annie learn about herself from the whole party experience?  

That girlfriends are as important in life as romantic relationships and that romance is never dead.

Tell us what you are working on at the moment.

A book based partly in present day Penarth, a seaside Victorian town involving a couple of lawyers and their four children and an interweaving story about a young man from the Rhondda emigrating to Toronto in 1927, after the collapse of the General Strike.

Where can readers find out more about you?

Bethan Darwin

My Amazon author page, my law firm’s website and on Twitter @BethanDarwin

THICKER THAN WATER is the new novel from the author of Back Home and Two Times Twenty – a split time narrative set in contemporary Cardiff and 20th century Canada.

Gareth has a busy and fulfilling family life at home in Penarth and a challenging job as a lawyer in Cardiff Bay… Then a deal comes along which could be the biggest yet – the chance to act for a Canadian company wanting to begin production of their upmarket shirts in the Valleys. But closing the deal means working with the intriguing and forceful CEO Catherine Taylor – and reassessing how he lives his life and to what end… Decades before, the men of the Valleys crossed the Atlantic in the opposite direction to find work. One of these men was Gareth’s Uncle Idris and his story of love and loss stretches out across the decades to catch Gareth in its grasp just when he faces the most difficult decisions of his life.

Book Buying Links

Find out more about Bethan and her book from Stephanie in just a few hours here


#RomancingSeptember Day 22 Here Are Lovers by Hilda Vaughan @honno

Welcome to Day 22 of #RomancingSeptember

2015 cover

Today our guest is Diana Wallace who has re-published this book as a Classic Welsh Woman’s book in conjunction with HonnoPress

Here are Lovers final front only sm

Can you tell us where Hilda would have called her hometown?

Hilda Vaughan was born and brought up in Builth Wells in Breconshire in Wales. She moved to London in her early twenties and married Charles Morgan, a drama critic and novelist. He encouraged her writing but his job meant that they had to live in London. Vaughan used to go back to Wales to write when she could.

Did she always write romance?

No, her novels are very varied. But they are very often about the problems of marriage and love between men and women. Iron and Gold, published in 1942, is a retelling of the old Welsh legend of the fairy bride of Llyn y Fan Fach who marries a mortal man for love. She tells him that she can stay with him only so long as he never strikes her three times with iron but, of course, being mortal he fails the test.

When did this book become a Welsh Women’s classic?

It was first published in 1926 but fell out of print. It was re-published in Honno’s Welsh Women’s Classics series in 2012, Honno’s 25th anniversary year. Here Are Lovers was the twentieth publication in the Welsh Women’s Classics that brings out-of-print books in English by women writers from Wales to a new generation of readers.


Where and when is the book set?

The book is set in Llangantyn, which is the name Vaughan uses for her fictionalised version of Builth Wells. But it’s set in the Victorian period in 1866, the very turbulent year of the Second Reform Act which extended the franchise to working men. One of the climaxes of the novel is the local election where there’s a riot.

Introduce us to Laetitia.

Laetitia Wingfield is the beautiful and bookish daughter of the local squire. Her mother is dead and she’s been partly brought up by her aunt in Italy so she has a head full of poetry and romantic ideals. Then she comes back to Llangantyn where she’s expected to live the life of a decorous Victorian young lady and she finds it terribly boring and frustrating.

Tell us about her romance.

On a mad-cap late-night ride Laetitia gets lost on the mountain in the mist and is rescued by Gronwy Griffith. The impoverished son of one of her father’s tenants, he’s a would-be scholar who dreams of a life of literature and poetry so he idealises her as a kind of Helen of Troy figure. Laetitia wants to be his patron so she lends him her father’s books and tries to encourage him.

What restrictions were there on romance in this period?

The class gulf between Laetitia and Gronwy makes any relationship between them impossible in their society. Her family in particular are horrified by her contact with him. But their story is paralleled by the love-story of Gronwy’s brother Peter and a local farmer’s daughter Elizabeth. Through them, Vaughan gives us a really interesting picture of the Welsh custom of ‘bundling’ or ‘night-courting’ where the young couple court in bed but fully clothed to satisfy the proprieties.

What else influenced the behaviour of these characters?

Vaughan’s actually fascinated by the ways in which people can be both educated and led astray by their reading. Both Laetitia and Gronwy have internalised over-idealised dreams from books which make them dangerously susceptible to romance and to each other. Like Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, Here are Lovers is a kind of ironised anti-romance but with a different ending.

Tell us about other books written by Hilda.

One of her best books is undoubtedly The Soldier and the Gentlewoman (1932) which is a brilliantly bleak and Gothic examination of a marriage which goes wrong. When the soldier, Dick Einon-Thomas, returns from the first world war he inherits an estate in Wales belonging to a cousin who has been killed. Gwenllian Einon-Thomas is the cousin’s unmarried daughter who has been running the estate but can’t inherit it because she’s a woman. She and Dick marry and things unravel from there…

Where can readers find out more about Welsh Women’s classic books?

Diana Wallace - Editor of Here Are Lovers

Diana Wallace – Editor of Here Are Lovers


On the Honno website:

Buying links


Check out part two of today’s tour over with Stephanie in just a few hours where you can also catch up with posts from all our guests.


The War Before Mine by Caroline Ross @honno #WW2 orphan dedication

The War Before MineThe War Before Mine by Caroline Ross

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The War Before Mine has two settings. 2006 in Australia and the years around WW2 in the UK. This is a very emotional tale dedicated to the 7000 children shipped to Australia between the years of 1947 and 1970 as orphans. Children often treated as “nobodies” who had love and parentage withdrawn from their precious lives.

In 2006 Alex Mullen attends a reunion for migrant children. Shipped out to Australia at the tender age of 4 with a false birth certificate stating he was 5, Alex bumps into Frankie at the reunion. 5 years older than Alex, Frankie had taken the young boy under his wing and protected him. They were together in the Naz orphanage, the boat to Australia and the Dundrum orphanage until Frankie was sent away. Now they meet again.

We meet Rosie and her family living in Gateshead at the start of the war, the oldest child in a large family, she helps her Mam as she gets the family evacuated. But it doesn’t last long before their Da fetches them back. A proud man and a Romany he wants his family with him. When Rosie’s Mam dies soon after the birth of the next baby, Rosie is left struggling to step into her mother’s footsteps. She’s thrown a life-line when her Uncle offers her a job in his boarding house in Falmouth, she can get away from Gateshead but still send money home.

It’s in Falmouth she meets Philip Seymour, trainee commando, he’s billeted in her Uncle’s house. In a few precious hours grasped before Philip leaves for war, they fall in love and unite their passion. Philip then goes on a dangerous mission and the only news is that he’s missing in action. A desperate Rosie decides to join-up too, finding her feet in the ATS.

When a bomb kills her Uncle she’s left with no bolt hole when she most needs it and she must do the best she can in extreme circumstances.

There were several stories within this one book, the orphans sent to Australia, the dangerous mission the commandos went on and the plight of those left at home during the war years. Chapters go back and forth between the two settings as the story builds, some give extra background to the characters as Alex’s story unfolds. I really wasn’t sure how the story would end and it left me quite emotional at the end, still wanting to know more about Alex and the years up to 2006. A very good layered story.

This review is based on a free copy of the book given to me by Honno Press.

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Pattern Of Shadows by Judith Barrow

Pattern of ShadowsPattern of Shadows by Judith Barrow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pattern of Shadows is a WW2 historical fiction. Mary Howarth is a nurse in a hospital attached to the Granville German prisoner of war camp, which is near Manchester, Uk.

The story begins in 1944. Mary’s brother Tom is a conscientious objector and in prison for his refusal to take part in the war. Her second brother Patrick, is a Bevin Boy, young men conscripted to work in the coal mines during the war to support the country. He’s angry at having his choice to fight in Europe taken from him and we meet him when he’s part of a striking work force.

Mary’s Dad is also a man with a temper, he’s embarrassed by his son Tom and angry with Patrick for striking. He remembers the first World War and his role which left him suffering from the effects of gas. He’s playing his part with the local home guard, but often takes his anger out on Mary’s Mum in violent ways.

Mary feels she holds the family together. Her younger sister, Ellen works in a munitions factory, but hates it, wanting to be young and carefree, she’s reckless with the local American GIs.

Mary meets Frank, a friend of Patrick’s and they start going out, but Mary isn’t sure about him. He’s a guard at the prison camp having been invalided out of the army with a knee injury.

At the hospital, German doctors help look after the patients and when two new doctors arrive, Mary feels a spark between herself and doctor Peter Schormann. But any romance would be extremely dangerous for them both, however they can’t hide their feelings.

Confiding in best friend Jean, Mary’s troubles begin to escalate. Heavy handed jealous Frank has a brawl and Mary doesn’t like this violent side to him, but he won’t take her rejection lightly. He begins to stalk her and notices her friendship with the German Doctor which he threatens to put an end to.

This book shows the hardships that families in England went through during the war, their suffering, lack of food and how they coped on a day to day basis. It was an interesting mix to have the “enemy” living along side them and the reactions that the locals had, their fears and loyalties tested to extremes. I really enjoyed the story and the ending had an unexpected revelation which was a delight.

This review is based on a free copy of the book given to me by Honno Press

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Someone Else’s Conflict by Alison Layland

Someone Else's ConflictSomeone Else’s Conflict by Alison Layland

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Someone Else’s Conflict is contemporary read set in the English Dales. Jay Spinney is a street entertainer, a man whose past means he’s unable to settle in one place, he’s constantly on the move.

Marilyn stops in the market place to listen to the entertainer and has her purse stolen by a desperate young man. Vinko is an illegal immigrant who yearns for a place to belong. He knows his Grandparents live in the area, but will they ever accept him if he can pluck up the courage to visit them?

A huge storm blows through and causes a landslide up in the Dales where Marilyn lives alone, the electric and telephones are cut off for several days. Jay has camped in a field near by and offers to help Marilyn clear away the debris. She’s unsure of him, shouldn’t trust him, but she needs the help. They form a shaky friendship. Jay has nightmares, he shouts out in a foreign language and his past haunts him daily.

Horrors of war torn Yugoslavia stay with Jay and even though the war is over the fighting is not yet past.

This book grabbed me from the start and sucked me in, I knew very little about what happened to all the innocent people who were caught up in the war between the Croatians and Serbians. Like so many wars is pulled in people with their ideals, their beliefs, but things change, power takes over, anger and madness become the leaders and soldiers make decisions they later regret.

The reader is cleverly drip fed the storyline as it mixes with the lives of those who live today in the Dales, it worked really well. There are so many layers to Jay that get peeled away right up until the very end. Loved it.

This review is based on a free copy of the book give to me by Honno Press

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Motherlove by Thorne Moore

MotherloveMotherlove by Thorne Moore

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Motherlove is contemporary fiction and a heart-wrenching tale of three mothers and their love for their children. Mrs Parish haunts a local park everyday searching for any clues which would lead her to find her baby who was snatched twenty-two years ago. She is a shell barely surviving, constantly facing those who accuse her of murdering her baby, even after so many years.

Kelly Sheldon arrives home to find her Mum seriously ill. Roz has always shied away from doctors and authority but now she needs help, diagnosed with Diabetes, she’s damaged her kidneys. The vegetarian diet they eat will help her recovery and Roz still insists on her herbal remedies, but Kelly goes behind her back to have tests to see if she can donate a kidney for a Mother’s survival.

Gillain walks on eggshells around her angry daughter never knowing the right way to deal with her and always feeling guilty about never finding the right time to tell her she is adopted. That is until the evil Joan blabs in yet another bought of hatred towards her family. Grasping for details Vicky digs up news reports from twenty-two years ago which fuel her anger at the world.

As the story unfolds we read of women who were victims of strong emotions surrounding their babies and life experiences which shaped their futures. There’s no right or wrong definition of a mother’s love in the constant flux of life but it still exists.

A very good tale which kept me enthralled until the end.

This review is based on a free copy of the book given to me by the author via Honno Press

Launched today February 19th, find a copy here from or

View all my reviews on Goodreads