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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 https://twitter.com/stevenneil12 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.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Blackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton - beautiful book in a stunning cover

Blackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton - my Review

Anyone who knows me, even the tiniest bit, will know, as surely as I did the minute I saw the cover of this book, that it is exactly the kind of book I fall head over heels in love with.

And I did. For several reasons.

(1) I swooned when I saw the absolutely gorgeous cover art. I am loving the current trend for historical novels to have a rich tapestry of all-over design and this one is covered with a lavish illustration of the woven floral silks which wind their way through the story.



(2) it is highly recommended by one of my very favourite authors the sublimely talented Laura Purcell (If she told me I'd enjoy reading the labels on sauce bottles, you wouldn't be able to get in my kitchen for ketchup and pickles)

(3) It is set in England, Spitalfields, London to be precise, in the late 18th century - Mmmmm it's piqued my interest.

(4) it is peopled with strong, willful women, who are all utterly believable and their stories individually are compelling. When they begin to overlap and weave together, the chemistry ignites causing an explosive tale of betrayal, deceit, ambition and politics that had me reeling.

(5) It is a luscious, competent and exciting debut brimming with the promise of so much more to come, from this author, who is a wonderful discovery.

So, you will gather, I liked it! I hope you'll be intrigued enough to put this book on your 2019 wishlist, although it isn't due out until early in the New Year, it is most definitely one to wait with bated breath for. 

I am writing my review now as I was one of the VERY lucky few to receive a copy in advance of publication and I want to share the love whilst my feelings aout it are still quite fresh.

So let me tell you a bit about it to whet your appetites:

It is the 1760s and we are in the city of London where Spitalfields, an area filled with merchants houses occupied by Huguenot weavers, jostles side by side with less wholesome neighbours, including brothels and pubs and a bustling marketplace.

Into this area arrives innocent young woman Sara, fresh from the countryside, smarting from what she sees as rejection by her Mother, just wanting someone to care for, brimming with hope for a new life and ready to seize any opportunity which comes her way.

But before the dust even settles she is "helped" by a wily old madam and inveigled into living and working at a notorious brothel.

Esther's life is very different, a respectable married woman living in one of the tall merchants houses with her Huguenot silk weaver husband, although her marriage lacks in love she hopes her husband will understand her desire to be involved in his world and reveals her ambition to be a designer of silks by showing him the delicate floral designs she has drawn. When he scorns and belittles her aspirations, she resolves to make her way despite him not because of him.

A foray into philanthropy sees Esther trying to help their less fortunate neighbours, and whilst distributing Bibles in the poorer quarters of Spitalfields she comes across Sara being bullied by her Madam and takes a chance on offering the girl employment as a maid.

Sara finds attending to the mercurial merchants' wife little less tiresome than lying down for a living, but she manages to make the best of what she's offered and a tentative friendship of sorts, begins between the two women.

But men, as they always do, disrupt the womens lives as they become embroiled in sinister and dastardly doings in the world of silk weaving and still Esther harbours her passion to create her own designs. 

There is very much a sense of who is using whom and why. Everyone has ulterior motives, nobody is perfect and those with minor imperfections meet the deeply flawed head on as we are treated to a whirling and writhing tale of dishonesty, abandonment, determination and recklessness.

It follows therefore that I am urging you to read this book because I ADORED it and if you follow my blog and like similar books to those I enjoy you will love it. It is clever and cunning, literary without being preachy, lush and lavish and never prosaic and it lulls you into several senses of false security before leaving you reeling.

Marvellous.

The Blurb:

When Esther Thorel, the wife of a Huguenot silk-weaver, rescues Sara Kemp from a brothel she thinks she is doing God’s will. Sara is not convinced being a maid is better than being a whore, but the chance to escape her grasping ‘madam’ is too good to refuse.

Inside the Thorels’ tall house in Spitalfields, where the strange cadence of the looms fills the attic, the two women forge an uneasy relationship. The physical intimacies of washing and dressing belie the reality: Sara despises her mistress’s blindness to the hypocrisy of her household, while Esther is too wrapped up in her own secrets to see Sara as anything more than another charitable cause.

It is silk that has Esther so distracted. For years she has painted her own designs, dreaming that one day her husband will weave them into reality. When he laughs at her ambition, she strikes up a relationship with one of the journeyman weavers in her attic who teaches her to weave and unwittingly sets in motion events that will change the fate of the whole Thorel household.



Sunday, 11 November 2018

Review - The Familiars - Stacey Halls - a bewitching debut novel

The Familiars by Stacey Halls


My Review

I concur with all the great reviews I've seen for this title.

Firstly I adored the cover the minute I saw it appearing on social media, it's beautiful and very evocative of the story contained within, just perfect.

As soon as I opened my copy and began to read, it held me firmly in its grip from start to finish and never let go.

It is a quite terrifying indictment of how powerless women were, and were expected to be, in an age when men held all the power and quite literally had the power of life and death over women with the capacity to dominate women and decide their fate, just because they were male and could get away with anything.

I found the story all the more shocking as the heroine, with the unusual first name of Fleetwood, is just 17 years old yet is in the midst of her fourth pregnancy. She is an innocent yet proves to have an inbuilt strength she needs to survive. She has a charming but perfidious husband, a mother she despises, no friends and only her faithful rescued hound Puck as a loyal companion.

Fearing she won't survive this pregnancy, it's little surprise that she is delighted when she meets another young woman, Alice who claims skills in midwifery which she promises will help Fleetwood deliver a healthy baby safely.

She soon comes to rely on Alice and the two young women from very different backgrounds become friends. But Fleetwood is soon to discover a shocking betrayal, and Alice is to stand accused of witchcraft whilst Fleetwoods struggle for a healthy pregnancy becomes a death-defying nightmarish journey.

Based on the real and notorious Pendle witchcraft trials this books weaves clever and compelling fiction around authentic characters and sweeps us through the 15th century at a gallop. Already receiving much media attention its due out in early 2019. An outstandingly captivating book which weaves its magic around the reader throughout.

My review copy was from Netgalley.
It can be pre-ordered now

The Blurb
In a time of suspicion and accusation, to be a woman is the greatest risk of all . . .

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn't supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.

Then she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong.

As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the North-West, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye?

Soon the two women's lives will become inextricably bound together as the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood's stomach continues to grow.

Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake. Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.


Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The Word for Freedom - from Retreat West Books - Blog Tour and Review

Blog Tour The Word For Freedom

I'm thrilled to be helping round up the blog tour for the brand new collection of 24 fabulous short stories celebrating 100 years of women's suffrage; The Word for Freedom.

Compiled for Retreat West Books which is an independent press publishing paperback books and ebooks, by the founder, Amanda Saint, who is a novelist and short story writer, novelist Angela Clarke and a foreword by Rose McGinty this is a work of collaboration and team work from all the authors who have contributed. 

The book contains short stories contributed by a diverse collection of established and emerging authors, all of whom have been inspired by the suffragettes and whose stories focus on the same freedoms that those women fought for so courageously.


My Thoughts

Although I don't often read short stories, this compilation compelled me to read it, with its subject matter linked so closely to the strength of women in differing situations.

With stories set in the past and modern day, each features women in relatable situations from the everyday to the awesome, dealing with life with their own unique fortitude and tenacity.



Each tale is a quick but satisfying complete bite of the cake which embraces women standing up for themselves.

Don't be misled into thinking that every story is about suffragettes chaining themselves to railings and going on hunger strike, although these original suffragettes do feature in this compilation, the fight against injustices against women continue to the present day and even flow into folklore and myth.

The stories within the pages are so concise and complete I think it would be wrong of me to single any out individually. Each one is a quick sharp jolt, which may make you smile or gasp or cheer and every single one provides food for thought, there will be at least one which will relate to any readers own experiences.

The line up of contributors is top rate, featuring some of my favourite authors including: Anna Mazzola, Angela Clarke, Sophie Duffy and introduces some talented new names.

Overall it is a wonderful collection of stories by women for women and there are some wonderfully quirky tales. For quick reads to keep your brain ticking over this is a must read for all  women, of every age and I can't recommend it highly enough.

The book supports Hestia and the UK Says No More campaign against domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Order your own copy now

My thanks go to Random Things Tours for my copy and for organizing such great blog tours which I am proud to take part in.

The Blurb

A collection of 24 short stories celebrating a hundred years of women’ suffrage, from both established and emerging authors, all of whom have been inspired by the suffragettes and whose stories, whether set in 1918, the current day or the future, focus on the same freedoms that those women fought for so courageously.

A clerk of works at the Palace of Westminster encounters Emily Davison in a broom cupboard; a mermaid dares to tread on land to please the man she loves; a school girl friendship makes the suffragette protests relevant to the modern day; a mother leaves her child for a tree; an online troll has to face his target; and a woman caught in modern day slavery discovers a chance for freedom in a newspaper cutting.

These stories and many more come together in a collection that doesn’t shy away from the reality of a woman’s world, which has injustices and inequalities alongside opportunities and hard-won freedoms, but always finds strength, bravery and hope.

Blog tour The Museum of Lost Love by Gary Barker a #Randomthings #BlogTour

Blog tour The Museum of Lost Love by Gary Barker a #Randomthings #BlogTour Hello blog readers and book lovers. Today I am joining in t...