Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Best of the best books 2018

Beadyjans favourite books 2018 My top 10

We're all doing it - frantically compiling lists of our favourite reads in 2018. 

I don't know why we readers feel compelled to make lists of everything but its a common trait, and we love reading other peoples lists too. So while I should really be making a shopping list, a packing list for my festive break etc, here's a list of my very favourite reads over the past 12 months.

UPDATE: - Already I'm fretting that I missed a few books I adored and then I've just finished reading yet another which really blew me away. Do not view this as a definitive list!!

2018 has been a year of change for me, we bought a little holiday home in the sun which has proven to be rather a mixed blessing and I finally escaped the job I loathed and have landed firmly on my feet working for the most amazing and lovely small family business, who have all but adopted me, not just employed me. I only wish I'd started working for them donkeys years ago and could have made a lifelong career with them rather than working out my last few years until retirement.

It has also been the year before Brexit which is grieving me so sorely I can't bear to speak more of it, so here we go with something more cheerful: 

Books I've loved reading this year.

Some are titles I've been fortunate enough to read in advance of publication and a few may not be published until early 2019. As a Book-blogger I'm brought into contact with many authors and titles I may not otherwise have discovered and I'm in the privileged position of reading many new books as soon, or even before, they are published. For this, I thank all the publishers, authors and blog tour organisers for helping me find so many books which have made a great impact on me.

2018 for me, has been THE year of the historical novel. 

I just don’t seem to have been able to get enough of escaping the madness of 2018 by travelling back into the past and there have been some damn good offerings so that it’s come as no surprise that the majority of my top ten are from the historical genre:
My top 10 books are as follows:

1. The Corset by Laura Purcell 

The Corset is a very worthy successor to her extremely good previous book The Silent Companions. However for me The Corset is in a league of its own. The book I wish I’d written and will probably still be telling people to read in ten years time.

2. The Binding Bridget Collins

So good I want to cry just thinking about it.

3. Walls of silence - Ruth Wade 

Wonderful story telling with a killer twist that punched me in the gut.

4. Blackberry and Wild Rose – Sonia Velton

DO judge this book by it's cover - the words inside are as glorious as the image on the outside, a stunning debut novel built around the lives of Huguenot silk weavers.

5. The Story Keeper Anna Mazzola (review to follow as part of the blog tour in January)

Beautifully descriptive, set on the Isle of Skye following the Highland Clearances.

6. Salt Creek – Lucy Treloar

Stunning award-winning novel set in the far-flung Coorong Australia.

7. When Winter comes – VA Shannon

Truly wonderful gripping book about the tragedy surrounding the real pioneering Donner Party.

8. The lighthouse keepers daughter – Hazel Gaynor

Lovely romantic fiction based on the life of Grace Darling.

9. Ghost – Helen Grant

Delightful dual-time frame novel of the lives of two young women, past and present which become entwined.

10. The Perfect Friend – Barbara Copperthwaite

The only contemporary thriller in my top  this year and no surprise it’s by my go-to author when I want a shiver to run down my spine – the sublime Barbara Copperthwaite who nearly always manages to get into my top reads lists and if you haven’t read any of her books yet – start now.

That's my top ten and I really must add an honourable mention to The Glovemaker by Ann Weisgarber which really should be on my list too and a nod to 2019 and a note to watch out for this one ..... The Doll Factory by Elizabeth MacNeil and apologies to anyone else whose book I've loved, there were just too darned many this year!!

Friday, 14 December 2018

Blog Tour Once Upon a River Diane Setterfield

Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield

Today sees me taking part in the blog tour for a new book that I predict is going to be HUGE. It is the long-awaited new title from Diane Setterfield, noted author of the bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.

My thoughts:

Already being hailed as a masterpiece of storytelling Once upon a River is an otherworldly tale of myth and legend woven around the winding river Thames in times gone by.

It's a book-lovers book based on traditional storytelling, with a touch of magic, a hint of the supernatural and a lot of twisting and turning. As the river meanders so does the tale.

Although its a relaxing piece of escapism, don't get too comfortable, this is a book with depth and needs a good level of concentration to follow it, constructed as it is from lots of separate stories which weave together to become a book.

This clever and mysterious book is set in various hostelries and Inns along the river in an indistinct past era, where storytellers gather and tales get passed on until nobody is sure which are fact and what is fiction.

We begin our journey in the Swan Inn nestled on the banks of the Thames. This is a waterman's Inn which has been there for years and where drinkers gather at the end of a long shift to chat and yarn and sup together. One particular evening a disturbance interrupts the cosy scene when a drenched, wounded man stumbles through the door carrying the body of a young child in his arms.

As patrons and workers rush to help, the man is bedded down in a spare room and following a careful examination which reveals the little girl is not breathing, her body is also laid to rest. But in the morning whilst the man remains part conscious, the girl suddenly draws a breath and wakes. Is it a miracle? Or something more sinister?

As folk try to work out who she is, the strangely silent child becomes the pivot around which stories unfold and one by one we learn about mysteries and tragedies, all of which, as they unfold make the reader realise that there is something of the folklore about each event and personage around which this story unwinds.

We have a couple awaiting the return of a missing child who was taken by the river who claim her as their own, a man who may be her grandfather, is she a daughter or sister or perhaps she is a creature of the river who never belonged to anyone human?

There's a great sense of mystery and loss and longing in this intriguing book and you are never quite sure whether what you are reading is a factual account, a richly embroidered rural legend or merely a fairytale told to while away the dark hours spent in an Inn by the River. The characters are rich and lively and a teeny bit larger than life, with foibles and quirks, many have mysteries and dark deeds hidden in their pasts.

If this hasn't whetted your appetite enough to rush out and buy this magical book here is the publishers blurb to tempt you further

The Blurb:


A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child. 

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. 

Is it a miracle? 

Is it magic? 

Or can it be explained by science? 

An exquisitely crafted multi-layered mystery brimming with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: DianeSetterfield’s bestselling novel, The Thirteenth Tale waspublished in 38 countries, sold more than three million copies, and was madeinto a television drama scripted by Christopher Hampton, starring Olivia Colmanand Vanessa Redgrave. Her second novel was Bellman & Black, and her new novel is Once Upon a River. Born in rural Berkshire, she now lives near Oxford, by the Thames.

Twitter : @DianeSetterfie1
Author Page on Facebook

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Rustic Recipes The Woodburner cookbook by Jennifer Lunenborg - Review and #Giveaway

And now for something completely different .... Today I am reviewing a recipe book and bringing news of a #giveaway of this book

It's called Rustic Recipes - the Woodburner Cookbook by Jennifer Lunenborg

My Review:

The author has drawn on her own experience of cooking without power to create this collection of recipes which, in addition to being cooked by the more usual oven methods, have been tried and tested for cooking on your woodburner stove. This would have been SO handy the Christmas we had a power cut in a holiday cottage with only a logburner to keep us warm, we could have cooked on it, but I didn't even try.

So, whether you're coping with a sudden power-cut, or are a complete eco-warrior living off-grid in a Yurt, you too can produce tasty hearty meals from your woodburner stove.

The first recipes are all for hearty soups perfect to come home to after a day outdoors, from hearty minestrone to delicious pumpkin soup and there's even a recipe for stinging nettle soup which sits alongside a host of recipes using foraging as the inspiration. My taste is more for the delicious leek and potato.

In the Savoury dishes collection there is something to suit every palate, whether you fancy Stilton and leek tartlets (yum), or pizza, curry or the enigmatic sounding Dutch Stamppot, which can also be made as a vegetarian dish. I will be trying several of these (but using my trusty electric oven).

Completed with a handful of accompaniments, basics and puddings (Jam roly poly included of course) there are even some festive recipes to impress your guests with.

I am quite intrigued by the idea of cooking on a wood stove, this is a nicely thought out collection of recipes which will appeal to anyone hankering after the Good life and would make an ideal gift for your friend who loves to gather sustainable wood for their stove and enjoys a quick forage whilst they're in the woods, even if it is between quick trips to Waitrose.

A copy of this book is available as a prize giveaway I am helping organize on the Homecare supplies Facebook page (They also sell some amazing woodburners, multifuel stoves, Gas fires, range cookers and accessories for your stove so please visit it, have a browse and enter our competition to win this book)

Alternatively you can find it here

The Blurb:

More than just a recipe book, but a lifestyle change, encouraging time out from busy schedules to learn from a simpler time. This book not only contains 50 recipes, ranging from hearty soups to rustic French, Italian and Dutch dishes, to a section on foraging; but also gives snippets of information on each recipe, for example; how the chocolate truffle was invented, why carrots are orange? etc.

The book is intended as a rough guide, encouraging its readers to try cooking on their woodburner when they have time, but equally it can be used as a standard recipe book.
This book is a way of bringing that desire for ‘The Good Life’ into everyday living.   

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Review - The Taking of Annie Thorne - C.J. Tudor - terrifying.

The Taking of Annie Thorne - by C.J. Tudor.

My thoughts:

Here's one SCARY tale for you, horror at its creepy shivery best.

Wow, this is a fabulous, scary, menacing story, that had me gripped all the way through. It's every bit as good as C J Tudor's wonderful previous book the Chalk man and similar in style and type of setting, though both are very different, stand-alone novels. This is a superb horror story well worthy of comparisons to Stephen King.

Our protagonist is Joe Thorne, he's a teacher who returns to his childhood hometown, an old pit village called Arnhill, near Nottingham, to take up a position teaching at the local school he was once a pupil at. Joe is quite a complex character, though one I really liked. He obviously has a bit of a past, both back when he was a boy and in the intervening 25 years since he left school as he seems to know a few really dodgy characters and it isn't long until he starts bumping into folk from his childhood, this is a small town with that claustrophobic feel, where everyone knows everyone else and you just can't avoid anyone for long.

He doesn't want to avoid people though, he's come back to confront a terrible event which happened when he was 15 and discover once and for all what happened to his little sister Annie, whom he adored. At only 8 years old she went missing. He has had a cryptic anonymous message saying only, it's happening again and he is reluctantly drawn back to this gloomy place, shadowed by the traces of the old mine which created the town in it's heyday, then virtually destroyed it following it's closure. Now turned into a piece of parkland the Pit looms around every corner and it's influence remains in the very air of Arnhill.

Like the authors first book, it is told in dual time as Joe narrates it now and then takes us back to when he was a lad, when the story of what happened to little Annie is the stuff nightmares are made of.

This is one heck of a scary book, creepingly fearful it oozes with a malignant miasma that taints everything it touches. Even the house Joe rents has its secrets. There is a taint of a murder which was committed there, we are treated to chittering, skittering creepy crawlies, and the overwhelming sense that something, or someone is out to get Joe.

Several storylines intertwine and we are never quite sure who, of the many brilliant characters can be trusted and who is to be viewed as an enemy. If you like something to send shivers down your spine this is the perfect book to curl up with by a cozy fire this winter, but maybe not when you're completely alone in the house.

The Blurb.

One night, Annie went missing. Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. And then, miraculously, after forty-eight hours, she came back. But she couldn't, or wouldn't, say what had happened to her.

Something happened to my sister. I can't explain what. I just know that when she came back, she wasn't the same. She wasn't my Annie.

I didn't want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Blog Tour A Good Death - Michael Bagley

I am welcoming Micheal Bagley to Beadyjans Book Blog to celebrate the launch of his new book, A Good Death.

Here Michael reveals the main characteristics of his lead protagonist:

Five characteristics of my main protagonist.

Although one person begins as an antagonist, readers may think he becomes a protagonist later. 

The main protagonist:

He’s 26, middle class, with a ‘good’ job and he drives a new Audi Quattro. Outwardly, then, he’s in the prime of life.

But inwardly he’s stalled, frustrated with life and his job holds no satisfaction for him. The future seems boringly predictable. Like many people, he’s looking for a outlet and a new challenge.

His relationships with the opposite sex remain largely sexual. Meaningful relationships are what he reads in novels.

He does have two close friends, who he sees every Friday night and within this semi-drunken culture he finds solace.

He’s also very intelligent. As his father tells him, “You have an IQ of 144. You should be conquering the world” and, secretly, he knows it.

So If you love books with well planned complex characters A Good Death may well be the novel for you this Christmas.

Heres the blurb to whet your appetite a little more.

The year is 2028 and it’s a stunning spring day on the Lincolnshire Wolds, when Bess finally persuades her Uncle John to tell her the story of the family scandal that’s been merely whispered about at weddings and funerals. We’re then transported back fifteen years where, as a young man, John Stafford is forced to chase his father across the USA and Europe.

We discover, over three time-zones, that A Good Death is essentially about three characters: an embittered, former military father, a quiet, troubled son, suddenly thrust into the midst of a family crisis, and a bright, questioning young woman, who acts as conscience to both uncle and grandfather. The relationship between all three is constantly tested, as John discovers aspects of his father’s past, and is forced to remember disturbing elements of his own history, when he was just a small child.

The novel is about love and hate and betrayal and in parts it’s a dark story. But all three characters are on their own personal journeys – which each feels compelled to make – and they don’t end until back in 2028, where fate, at long last, waits.

Published by Clink Street Publishing the book is out now and can be ordered from your favourite seller. Find it here on Amazon and read more about it on Goodreads

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Blog Tour and review - The Blue - Nancy Bilyeau

Welcome to the Blog Tour for yet another fascinating historical fiction book The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau.

My thoughts on this book with its beautiful blue and white cover.

It was the cover which drew me in, as its so pretty and reminds me somewhat of another book I recently read and enjoyed – Midnight Blue by Simone Van Der Vlugt which is also historical fiction focussing on the life of a woman involved in decorating porcelain and pottery.

The heroine of Nancy Bilyeau's new book, The Blue is Genevieve Planche – of Huguenot descent, a young woman who desperately wants her ambition to be a famous painter to be taken seriously but in 18th century Spitalfields this is an almost impossible goal.

Parallels here, too as I also recently read BlackBerry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton, set in spitalfields amidst the Huguenot silk weavers. If you like this type of book here are 3 great reads to spend your Christmas book tokens on!

Back to The Blue ....

Trying to emulate her hero the renowned painter Hogarth Genevieve is determined to learn and develop her skills as an artist and feels this will be wasted in the job which she has been offered as a painter of flowers in a factory, little does she comprehend the deadly allure of the secrets of porcelain and in particular the production of the perfect Blue which people are dying to get hold of, literally.

Genevieve is a misfit, her family name marks her out as a Frenchwoman but living in an England at war with France this instantly makes her a bit of a pariah. She is also outspoken, a risk taker and somewhat reckless. Far from the perfect, biddable young lady her uncle tries to mould her into becoming she gatecrashes a party where she knows famous faces in the art world will be present convinced she will be able to persuade one of her idols to take her on as an apprentice. When she is brushed aside and scorned she comes into contact with a charming and rakish young man who promises to be her stepping stone into the society she longs to join, if she will only make a compromise which may prove to be her undoing. 

At this point I felt the book might dissolve into a regency romance a la Barbara Cartland but I needn’t have worried as what evolves is a complex and twisty tale of mystery, deceit and espionage set in an art-filled background. 

There is romance and passion but this is a well-researched and written novel with lots going on to keep the reader gripped. The locations of London, Derby and France are particularly atmospheric and the characters often flawed and complicated. 

With so much going on it gets quite complex at times but never boring and is a must for readers who enjoy historical fiction with enough historical fact and a few real historical characters thrown in to feel realistic as well as entertaining and lively.

Genevieve is charming and rather feckless, sometimes she annoyed me but I was rotting for her all the way, through her adventures and many misadventures. You know she's making bad decisions yet you can also see why she does and what she ends up involved in - well you'll have to read it to find out.

It can be ordered from the usual booksellers and here it is on Amazon.

The Blurb

In eighteenth century London, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities; fortunes are made and lost upon it. Kings do battle with knights and knaves for possession of the finest pieces and the secrets of their manufacture.

For Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of Huguenot refugees, porcelain holds far less allure; she wants to be an artist, a painter of international repute, but nobody takes the idea of a female artist seriously in London. If only she could reach Venice. 

When Genevieve meets the charming Sir Gabriel Courtenay, he offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse; if she learns the secrets of porcelein, he will send her to Venice. But in particular, she must learn the secrets of the colour blue… 

The ensuing events take Genevieve deep into England’s emerging industrial heartlands, where not only does she learn about porcelain, but also about the art of industrial espionage. 

With the heart and spirit of her Huguenot ancestors, Genevieve faces her challenges head on, but how much is she willing to suffer in pursuit and protection of the colour blue? 

About the author:

Nancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyleDuJourRolling StoneEntertainment Weekly, and Good Housekeeping. She is currently the deputy editor of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at City University of New York and a regular contributor to Town & CountryPurist, and The Vintage News.

A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel and an Oprah pick, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013. The third in the trilogy, THE TAPESTRY, was published by Touchstone in 2015. Her fourth novel, THE BLUE, will be publishing on 3rd December.

Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

Twitter: @tudorscribe

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

The Glovemaker by Ann Weisgarber - wonderful

The Glovemaker by Ann Weisgarber
My Review

Having read and loved the authors two previous books I have waited and anticipated a new title by her for quite some time. So I was eager to read this and very fortunate to receive an advance copy. 

I quite simply LOVED it. 

The author has the amazing skill of creating, convincing characters whose skin you can slip inside for the duration of the book. Strong, credible women who live a life so different to my own it would seem virtually impossible to relate to them. Yet the women she creates have left such an indelible mark on me it feels as though they have left a fine layer of themselves in my soul. 

She writes about well researched austere locations where I have never been yet by the time I finish reading I feel as though I once lived there. This time we visit the location of Rural Utah in a secluded valley amidst harsh yet dramatic landscapes in the late 1800s.

This book is leisurely and gradual, gentle and rather bleak and the narrative is precise and sometimes spare, which creates a real feel of the isolation and loneliness of living in a remote place with few people to talk to. It is set in the middle of a bleak snow-filled January and was the perfect winter read.

For the time I was in this story I WAS Deborah, the glovemaker.

She is one of a small breakaway group of Latterday Saints, Mormons who live apart from most of their faith as they hold themselves slightly apart in that they don't comply with or even condone the plural marriages practised by others of their religion.

Deborah lives with her husband, who is a travelling wheel repairer visiting equally remote villages and farms repairing and making wheels for the folk who need this service. His return home is overdue and as Deborah waits and longs for his arrival, she joins forces with her step brother in law, when a fugitive lands on her doorstep, bringing danger and a real threat to her which she couldn't anticipate.

Don't expect fast-paced, rip-roaring action, this book is deliberate, takes place mainly over a brief period and it is quite sombre and bleak. Yet I completely adored it. 

If you appreciate a well-told absorbing tale, great characters and unique locations you just can't miss this. I felt very bereft when I finished this piece of stunning historical fiction.

The Blurb
From the critically acclaimed author of The Personal History of Rachel DuPree comes The Glovemaker – a stunning historical novel for fans of Cold Mountain.
For almost four years, men came to my cabin carrying trouble on their backs, each one haunted and looking over their shoulders . . . They showed up during the spring, they appeared in the summer and early fall. But never now, never in January . . .
Winter, 1888. In the inhospitable lands of Utah Territory, glovemaker Deborah Tyler awaits her husband’s return home after months working across the state. But as his due date comes and goes without a word, Deborah starts to fear the worst. Facing a future alone, matters are only compounded when a desperate stranger arrives on her doorstep. And with him, trouble.
For although the man claims to just need a place to rest for the night, he wouldn’t be here in the bitter month of January if he wasn’t on the run. And where he goes, lawmen are sure to follow. Lawmen who wouldn’t think twice about burning Deborah’s home to the ground if they thought she’d helped their fugitive.
With her husband’s absence felt stronger by the minute, Deborah must make a decision. A decision that will change her life forever . . .

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Blog Tour - The Merest Loss Steven Neil

Today I am part of the Blog Tour for the New Historical novel from Steven Neil which sounds great, full of rich historical detail and a fast-paced fascinating story.

The Blurb:

A story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English
hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris.

When Harriet Howard becomes Louis Napoleon’s mistress and financial backer and appears at his side in Paris in 1848, it is as if she has emerged from nowhere. How did the English daughter of a Norfolk boot-maker meet the future Emperor? Who is the mysterious Nicholas Sly and what is his hold over Harriet?

Can Harriet meet her obligations and return to her former life and the man she left behind? What is her involvement with British Government secret services? Can Harriet’s friend, jockey Tom Olliver, help her son Martin solve his own mystery: the identity of his father?

The central character is Harriet Howard and the action takes place between 1836 and 1873. The plot centres on Harriet’s relationships with Louis Napoleon and famous Grand National winning jockey, Jem Mason. 

The backdrop to the action includes significant characters from the age, including Lord Palmerston, Queen Victoria and the Duke of Grafton, as well as Emperor Napoleon III. The worlds of horse racing, hunting and government provide the scope for rural settings to contrast with the city scenes of London and Paris and for racing skulduggery to vie with political chicanery.

The Merest Loss is historical fiction with a twist. It’s pacy and exciting with captivating characters and a distinctive narrative voice.

Steven has prepared this blog tour post for Beadyjans's Books illustrating the depth of research he conducts when writing a historical work such as this which features real historical characters and events.

Steven Neil

From Steven Neil, the author of THE MEREST LOSS:

A story of love and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of the English hunting shires and the streets of Victorian London and post-revolutionary Paris.

Researching and writing the historical timeline:

I write a historical timeline for the whole novel before I start drafting. This gives me a clear picture of the political setting and the major events but also locates the development of music, theatre and art; invaluable elements for creating an authentic fictional world. The timeline for The Merest Loss spanned 1836-1873 but here is an excerpt.

The Merest Loss: TIMELINE excerpt 1836-1846

1836 King William IV, monarch. Viscount Melbourne, Prime Minister. Charles Darwin returns to Falmouth on HMS Beagle. Battle of the Alamo.  Charles Dickens publishes Pickwick Papers. Robert SchumannFantasie in C  Gaetano DonizettiBelisario Honoré de Balzac - Le Lys dans la vallée ("The Lily of the Valley")
Jean-Baptiste-Camille CorotDiana Surprised By Actaeon Tom Olliver meets Harriet Howard, then Elizabeth Ann Harryet.
1837 Queen Victoria becomes monarch. Euston Station opens. Fourth legislature of the July Monarchy in France. Hector BerliozGrande Messe des Morts
1838 Anti Corn Law league founded. London and Birmingham railway opens. Felix Mendelssohn – String Quartets Op. 44, No. 3 in D Major and No. 5 in E-Flat Major Hector BerliozBenvenuto Cellini Robert Smith Surtees - Jorrocks' Jaunts and Jollities Jem Mason and Harriet Howard meet.
1839 Chartists riot in Birmingham. Bradshaw’s first national railway timetable published. Felix MendelssohnPiano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 49 Frédéric ChopinPiano Sonata No. 2 "Funeral March" Giuseppe Verdi's first opera, Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio, opens at La Scala, Milan. Honoré de Balzac Béatrix Charles Dickens - Nicholas Nickleby Edgar Allan Poe -The Fall of the House of Usher Jem Mason wins the first Grand National on Lottery.
1840 Queen Victoria marries her cousin Prince Albert. Adolphe Thiers becomes French Prime Minister. Remains of Napoleon are brought back to France and buried at Les Invalides in Paris. February 11Gaetano Donizetti's opera La Fille du Regiment premieres in Paris. William Makepeace Thackeray - Catherine Victor Hugo - Les Rayons et les Ombres      Louis Napoleon imprisoned near Reims, France after failed coup attempt.
1841 Robert Peel becomes Prime Minister. Adolphe AdamGiselle (ballet) Gaetano DonizettiAdelia Edgar Allan Poe – "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" Dion BoucicaultLondon Assurance
Jem Mason and Harriet Howard living at 277 Oxford Street, London.
1842 Riots against the Corn Laws and in favour of the Chartists. Tom Olliver wins the Grand National on Gaylad. Frédéric ChopinPolonaise for Piano in A flat major, B 147/Op. 53 "Heroic" Felix MendelssohnSymphony No. 3 ("Scottish") Giuseppe VerdiNabucco, March 9 at La Scala, Milan  Honoré de BalzacThe Black Sheep  George SandUn hiver à Majorque ("A Winter in Majorca") Harriet Howard has a son Martin.
1843 SS Great Britain launched. Engels and Marx meet in France. Tom Olliver wins his second Grand National on Vanguard. Frédéric ChopinImpromptu No. 3 in G-flat major, opus 51; Ballade No. 4 in F minor, opus 52  November 13Gaetano Donizetti's final opera Dom Sébastien is premiered at the Paris Opera. Victor HugoLes Burgraves Robert Smith SurteesHandley Cross Harriet Howard comes under the guardianship of Capt. Francis Mountjoy Martin, Life Guards. She is provided with a trust fund and residence (Rockingham House, London) by Mountjoy Martin.
1844 Charles Dickens publishes Martin Chuzzlewit. Thackeray publishes The Luck of Barry Lyndon. Felix Mendelssohn A Midsummer Night's Dream incidental music (including the Wedding March) Alexandre Dumas The Count of Monte Cristo&The Three Musketeers
1845 Irish potato famine. Bizet writes Carmen. Robert SchumannPiano Concerto in A minor Robert Smith SurteesHillingdon Hall Tom Olliver and Jem Mason regular visitors to Paris to ride in French steeplechases 1845-55.
1846 Lord John Russell becomes Prime Minister. Seventh legislature of the July Monarchy in France. Hector BerliozLa damnation de Faust  Frederic Chopin - Polonaise-Fantaisie
Louis Napoleon escapes from prison and arrives in London. Harriet Howard meets Louis Napoleon in London. Harriet Howard moves to 9 Berkeley Square, London.

© Steven Neil

THE MEREST LOSS is available in paperback and eBook in the UK, US, France, Canada and Australia.

Follow Steven Neil on for information on how to purchase the paperback through an independent bookseller in the UK.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Beyond the Bay - Rebecca Burns - Review

Beyond the Bay - Rebecca Burns - my review

In a year which has for me, been the year of great historical reads I'm delighted to add this engaging and satisfying book to my blog and my lists of books I've loved.

What a wonderful discovery and welcome addition this book is! I devoured it from start to finish and longed to keep on reading more about the two sisters I met within its pages when it ended.

This is a beautifully written piece of historical fiction about two women who travel across the world to find new opportunities. Set in Auckland, New Zealand, at the very beginning of the 20th century as women begin to rise and demand the vote and throw off the shackles of total subservience to men which has previously been the norm.

Isobel has been living there for ten years already, she came here as a newlywed settler to escape her domineering Mother and defy her by choosing her own path in life and marry a man of her choosing and eschew a life in England which held little hope or promise.

What a brave choice, but how often decisions don't quite pan out how we imagined. 

Isobel remembers her little sister Esther with fondness, she was still a child when Isobel left. Now Esther is on her way to stay with Isobel, all the way across the ocean. Expecting to find her older sister living the genteel and prosperous life she has described in letters home, what she finds is a great culture shock. Auckland is not yet the grand city it promises to become, settlers still live in rather ramshackle conditions and Isobels home and lifestyle, even the handsome husband Esther remembers all seem lacking.

But change is coming, especially for women and the two sisters begin to pull together and rely on each other as they learn to seize opportunity and be brave in forging their futures in this new land whatever their circumstances.

I won't say any more about the story, as I don't want to be guilty of any spoilers but rest assured this is an extremely good read. The authors style is confident and competent and her ability to weave a story and create some great characters is superb.

If you love books about strong believable women making a stand and lots of well researched historical detail woven through a captivating page-turner then this one's for you. I hope my review helps some more discerning readers to discover and enjoy this lovely book.

Order it now from Amazon

The Blurb

“The night before Esther’s ship was due to dock, her sister dreamed of her.”

Auckland at the turn of the century. A city on the cusp of change. Isobel, a settler of ten years, waits for her sister to cross the ocean to join her. Separated by distance, disappointments and secrets, the women reunite in a land where the rules of home do not apply. Women push for the vote and the land offers opportunity and a future for those brave enough to take it. But some secrets run too deep, some changes too shocking to embrace. Against this backdrop of uncertainty and promise, Isobel and Esther have to determine what – and who – means most.

In this novel, Rebecca Burns returns to the colonial New Zealand explored in her short story collection, The Settling Earth. Beyond the Bay is a novel of hope, redemption, and the unbreakable bond of family.

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