Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Gilded fan by Christina Courtenay

The Gilded FanThe Gilded Fan by Christina Courtenay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the ultimate escapism novel, historic with well informed careful research, scenes delicately painted with beautiful words, romance and lovely well rounded characters who are a delight to spend time with.

The story begins in Japan with the orphaned heroine Midori, daughter of a Samurai warrior and an English woman, discovering her life is in imminent danger; her half brother helps secure her a passage on a merchant ship captained by Dutchman Nico Noordholt, and she sets sail for Amsterdam, intending to continue to England to throw herself on the mercy of her late mothers family in Plymouth. Although in many ways she has led a sheltered life and had a privileged upbringing, her training in sword fighting and self defense seem as though they may be put to good use when she finds herself the only female on board a ship with a crew of over 100 raucous seamen deprived of female company and Captain Nico begins to regret his decision to allow such an attractive young woman to disrupt his ship and finds she is on his mind far more than he imagined any woman would ever be.

The journey is fraught with danger and mishaps but Midori finds loyal friendship on board in unlikely places. Her arrival in England is no less eventful when she discovers secrets about her mothers family and struggles to adapt to their rigid Puritan way of life after the bountiful life filled with lavish colourful treasures and beauty which she has left behind. Civil war threatens to destroy her new found family and the fragile peace of mind in the new life she is trying to build.

Threaded through the story like a colourful thread running through a silk kimono is the attraction between Midori and Nico who seems destined to keep turning up.

A lovely, well written and charming historical romance of the consistently exceptionally high standard I have come to know and expect from Choc-Lit books. Very highly recommended if you like spirited heroines, mouth watering heroes, gritty historical descriptions and tender romance rolled into a page turning package to take you away from your humdrum life for a few hours.

Buy your paperback or Kindle copy at Amazon

Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Last Runaway - Tracy Chevalier

The Last RunawayThe Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tracy Chevalier has the gift of making her writing appear effortless and easy as her stories seem to flow naturally, the true genius of penmanship, yet her research and attention to detail demonstrates her expertise and dedication to her craft.

This story of a young English Quaker girl Honor Bright who sets off to America accompanying her sister who is engaged to be married. Following a broken relationship the quiet and unassuming Honor, nevertheless demonstrates bravery in taking, what in the 1850s must have been an immense leap of faith and a massive journey. Beset by tremendous sea sickness her only desire is to land in her new homeland but things don't go to plan and she finds herself alone and uncertain amongst strangers who in the main seem not to want her there.

She finds friendship in the unlikely guise of Brash Belle the Milliner, whose rough edged brother Donovan attracts and repels Honor. The story builds around her natural distaste for slavery and desire to help runaways and her need to help herself survive in the days when a woman alone had few choices and marriage was something not just desirable but almost essential.

I found the story with its background of Quakerism interesting, having recently moved to the Quaker town of Darlington where the Quaker history of the town is much in evidence today, I liked reading about the history of patchwork, Honors greatest hobby and how it differs in England and the USA and how important it was deemed. It's a gentle and easy read which nevertheless covers some gritty historical details mainly about the abolition of slavery and the so called underground railway - a network of sympathisers who helped runaway slaves

Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys historical fiction set in the early days of the USA and reading about women made strong by their circumstances.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Girl on the Mountain - Carol Ervin

The Girl on the MountainThe Girl on the Mountain by Carol Ervin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was very pleasantly surprised at the high quality of writing in this book which I grabbed when it was on offer free for the kindle. I was absorbed in the story of May Rose a young wife around the turn of the 19th century living in a remote mountain shack in West Virginia with her husband a logger at the nearby logging camp, who has become taciturn and distant and seems very different from the laughing young man she defied her family to marry.

Lonely and isolated in her cabin whilst he's away working she begins to wonder how on earth she can continue. I felt overwhelming pathos when she pens a letter to her distant cousins not wanting to admit her loneliness and desolation, she describes to them how she spends her days telling her friend Nellie about things she used to enjoy with her cousins, Nellie however is the pig she has raised.

Her life is about to change in many ways and not all for the better, when she has the opportunity to mix with folk again she finds that first opinions aren't always to be relied upon and the story unfolds as we are introduced to the many characters who shape her story as she adapts to life in a small logging town and fights to gain respect and independence despite limited options and unjustified prejudice against her.

It's a lovely story, written with great panache and lots of authority in the rich historical detail which never becomes teachy or preachy. Delightful throughout although I found the ending a little sudden and can only assume a sequel is planned by this new and talented autjor.

View all my reviews

Sunday, 10 February 2013

The light between oceans - M L Stedman

The Light Between OceansThe Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow - WOW and did I mention WOWWW, it's quite a while since a book blew me away quite as much as this emotional and stunningly beautiful book did it was gorgeous and I loved it

I finished it last night to floods of tears, I actually had to put it to one side when I began reading it on my recent holidays as tear reddened, puffed up eyes aren't really the look you want when you wake up on a morning and I found some of it emotionally harrowing -in parts I'd just suddenly hiccup and find I was blubbing like a baby

It is however the most beautifully written story about love and loss and the consequences of taking a wrong or right decision.

It tells the story of Tom, war veteran and lighthouse keeper, how he meets the love of his life Isabel and takes her to live in possibly the remotest and wildest location possible for a newly married couple to set up new home together. At first they enjoy their isolation but when Izzy's longing to give Tom the child which would complete their little family is denied her, their relationship is put under some strain.

Until one day a boat washes up carrying a dead body and a surviving baby and a decision is made which shapes lives and alters the course of events in unforeseen ways.

The setting in a lighthouse of the coast of Australia in the 1930s was unique and fascinating, the characters immaculately constructed and the prose evocative, poignant and delicious. So good I can't recommend it highly enough and would happily give it 6/5 were that possible.

View all my reviews