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Wednesday, 22 May 2019

My Review - Death and the Harlot by Georgina Clarke

My Review - Death and the Harlot by Georgina Clarke

I was completely absorbed into this book which I received through Netgalley, with its extremely likeable heroine Lizzie Hardwicke, Harlot of the title.



A high-class London prostitute working out of a mid 18th century Soho pleasure house. When one of her "customers" is found murdered she faces inevitable suspicion, so, keen to clear her name she joins forces with an investigator and becomes amateur sleuth.

Set in the back streets of London, among the seediest pubs, the coffee houses and bathhouses where no respectable girl would be seen, as a lady of the night Lizzie can pass through, if not completely unnoticed, at least accepted. She uses her keen skills of observation and an understanding of peoples motives gained from her questionable trade, to great advantage.

What emerges is a complicated tale of blackmail, and revenge, where everyone has either a hidden past or leads a double life, nobody can be taken at face value and murder takes in the stinking filth at the bottom of every dark alley. As a Notorious Highwayman awaits sentencing nearby everyday life carries on in its bustling noisiness and everyday struggles to make ends meet any way possible.

Lizzie, despite a hardened nature through the life she has been pushed into by circumstances, still has a tender heart. Deep down she longs for love and friendship. She takes pity on a couple of younger women one of whom she hopes to prevent being forced to make the same choices which led her where she now resides, on the wrong side of respectability, and the other who has already fallen far below this, yet still manages to touch Lizzies toughened heart. It is this caring nature which made me warm to Lizzie, the original tart with a heart.

The story fairly gallops along, it is exciting and well written and filled with great characters, none of whom you quite know whether to trust or run like hell from.

Following Lizzies adventures allows us to vicariously tread paths we'd never dream of setting foot on and I could see and smell the whiff of roasting chestnuts, vying with the odour from a greasy mutton pie vendor overlying the ordure of the sewage-laden River Thames and its surrounding courts and alleyways.

I loved it and can't wait for further adventures with Lizzie Hardwicke.

The Blurb

A gripping historical crime debut from an exciting new voice. ‘It’s strange, the way fortune deals her hand.’

The year is 1759 and London is shrouded in a cloak of fear. With the constables at the mercy of highwaymen, it’s a perilous time to work the already dangerous streets of Soho. Lizzie Hardwicke makes her living as a prostitute, somewhat protected from the fray as one of Mrs Farley’s girls. But then one of her wealthy customers is found brutally murdered… and Lizzie was the last person to see him alive.

Constable William Davenport has no hard evidence against Lizzie but his presence and questions make life increasingly difficult. Desperate to be rid of him and prove her innocence Lizzie turns amateur detective, determined to find the true killer, whatever the cost.

Yet as the body count rises Lizzie realises that, just like her, everyone has a secret they will do almost anything to keep buried…

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

The Den by Abi Maxwell - My Review and Blog Tour


Blog Tour The Den Abi Maxwell

Hello, readers, I have a treat for lovers of dual time/ contemporary/ Historical fiction, Women's fiction and coming of age stories as this versatile books fits all of those briefs.



My Review of The Den – Abi Maxwell

The Den is probably best described as a dual-time coming of age story, as it tells the stories of 2 pairs of sisters living about 150 years apart in the same farming area of New Hampshire. It gently bestows on the reader a sense of long hot summer days and the thrill of self-discovery and growing passions, it explores the need to be needed and what it’s like to grow apart from a much-loved sibling and touches on the different rules and restrictions placed on women.

The main portion of the story is that of 12-year-old Jane and her older sister teenage Henrietta. Often left to their own devices the two girls are very close as children, until Henrietta begins to develop an interest in boys and sex, as she begins to go off the rails somewhat it causes a rift between the two youngsters. They grow apart as Jane yearns to stay close to Henrietta but is viewed increasingly as a nuisance by her increasingly reckless sibling, who begins to change into a much less lovable girl than the childhood companion Jane has always looked up to. I felt Janes anguish and frustration at being unable to maintain the closeness with her elder sister, which causes her to make a bad decision which is to haunt her all her life.



The Den of the title is the ruined remains of an old homestead which lies on the farmland where the girls live, it is a place they are drawn to and which is to be pivotal in their lives.

150 years earlier the “Den” was occupied by a young couple, Elspeth the wife newly arrived from Scotland had to leave in a hurry to join her husband who had come out to seek new opportunites.
Pregnant and lonely, she is very homesick and misses her little sister Claire with whom she maintains contact through letters. She is very isolated and her husband never seems to quite make the most of the opportunities he planned to, he works long hours and she has few friends apart from an elderly neighbour who becomes a good friend and almost a surrogate father to her and encourages her to write stories, keeping her mind occupied. One such story become a local urban legend, a story about a family who may or may not have been eaten by, or even turned into, coyotes and it is this story which Jane and Henrietta discover over a century after it is written and which places the Den as a location of importance to both parts of the story.

The parallel stories run alongside each other, with many similarities, both address sisterhood relationships, loneliness and isolation, puberty and the dawning of sexual awareness and forbidden relationships.

It’s quite a laconic tale and plays out gradually with the growing maturity and sexual dawning of the 4 girls at its centre.

I must confess, being a historic fiction aficionado, I would have favoured the historical timeline being introduced into the story much earlier and to have been given more emphasis on the lives of the two sisters rather than concentrating a lot on the Coyote tale written by the historical character, which I found somewhat mystifying. Though overall the book is an extremely satisfying read which draws the reader in beautifully and keeps you wanting to know what happens, or happened next.

The Blurb

A hypnotic story of YOUTH, SEX and POWER


A story of two women cast out by the same community though separated by a hundred years
A story of two extraordinary, magnetic women and their disappearances - a hundred years apart - from the small New England town they call home.

Henrietta and Jane are growing up in a farmhouse on the outskirts of town, their mother a remote artist, their father in thrall to the folklore and legend of their corner of New England. When Henrietta falls under the spell of Kaus, an outsider and petty criminal, Jane takes to trailing the couple, spying on their trysts, until one night, Henrietta vanishes into the woods.

Elspeth and Claire are sisters separated by an ocean. Elspeth’s pregnancy at seventeen meant she was quickly married and sent away from her Scottish village to make a new life in America. When she comes to the attention of the local mill owner, a series of wrenching and violent events unfolds, culminating in her disappearance.

As Jane and Claire search in their own times for their missing sisters, each uncovers the strange legend of Cold Thursday, and of a family apparently transformed into coyotes. But what does his myth really mean? Are their sisters dead, destroyed by the men who desired them? Or have they made new lives, elsewhere, beyond the watchful eyes of the community they longed to escape?


You can find the book now on Amazon and other good bookstores.

The Author




Abi Maxwell is the author of an acclaimed story collection, LAKE PEOPLE, and her fiction has also appeared in McSweeney’s. She studied writing at the University of Montana and now lives in New Hampshire, where she grew up, with her husband and son.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

The Daughters of Ironbridge - Mollie Walton - My Review

The Daughters of Ironbridge - Mollie Walton - My Review



My thoughts:

The Daughters of Ironbridge is an already well-known authors diversification into historical saga's under a new pseudonym and as expected she adapts to this style of writing extremely well. 

This is women's fiction which will appeal to fans of authors such as Diney Costelloe and Katie Flynn, which explores aspects of friendship and life on both sides of the class division of the early 19th century The story begins when an uncommon friendship springs up between two young women from very different backgrounds. Working class Anny, daughter of an ironworker is thrown in the path of wealthy Margaret and surprisingly, against all odds the girls soon become staunch allies. 

Despite their huge lifestyle differences the girls find a lot in common and soon decide to band together as a force to be reckoned with. Strong feisty women, a great historical setting in an inimitable location in Shropshire combine to make this book a sure-fire winner. It is easy to relate to the women within these pages, enough historical detail so you know it's been very well researched but don't feel as though you're being educated and above all a lovely warmth which makes it a feel-good read.

Secrets and lies are uncovered in the kind of novel often described as gritty and definitely authentic to the period it is set in and there are plenty of twists and heart-wrenching scenes to keep the reader enthralled.

This is the first in a planned trilogy which I am sure will be a great success with wide subject appeal for many women readers.

You can find The Daughters of Ironbridge on Amazon or in your favourite bookshop.

The Blurb:

1830s Shropshire.

Anny Woodvine's family has worked at the ironworks for as long as she can remember. The brightest child in her road and the first in her family to learn to read, Anny has big dreams. So, when she is asked to run messages for the King family, she grabs the opportunity with both hands.

Margaret King is surrounded by privilege and wealth. But behind closed doors, nothing is what it seems. When Anny arrives, Margaret finds her first ally and friend. Together they plan to change their lives.

But as disaster looms over the ironworks, Margaret and Anny find themselves surrounded by secrets and betrayal. Can they hold true to each other and overcome their fate? Or are they destined to repeat the mistakes of the past?

Monday, 13 May 2019

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh Blog Tour extract

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh Blog Tour & extract

Please join me today on the Blog Tour for The Catherine Howard Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh. Published by Sapere Books it is an exciting historical novel which is inspired by the Women of the Tudor Court and is part one of The Marquess House trilogy which sounds amazing and fab for anyone enthralled by Tudor history.


I have a free extract for you to read and enjoy before you rush out and buy the book. I'm not kidding it makes me want to read on and I just long to lounge around on a sunny beach reading this.



Extract

Chapter One

Catherine shivered as she waited. The corridor in Whitehall Palace was a thoroughfare bustling with people, but it was draughty and the icy wind cut across it like a shining blade. She hugged her new shawl more tightly around her, glad of its warmth. As she did, she admired the soft leather gloves her uncle had given her as a gift before she left home.

“Soft gloves to protect your soft hands,” he had murmured. He had always singled her out for attention, been kinder to her than any of the other Howard girls, and he had arranged for her to be a maid to the new queen, the Lady Anne of Cleves. It was an honour but now she was here, her excitement was turning to nervousness.

She had grown up in her step-grandmother’s house a few miles away in Lambeth. A ramshackle home full of orphans like her and other members of the hugely extended Howard clan. She had innocently thought that the court of King Henry VIII would be like that, only with more jewels. Now as she watched the parade of courtiers, she realised she could not have been more wrong. People hurried busily to and fro. Yeoman guards marched past in their daunting green and white Tudor uniforms, pikes aloft, metal-heeled boots ringing with a chilling authority. The women in their elaborate dresses, the men equally as ornate: it was an endless visual feast.

Court was more intense, more splendid and more glamorous than anything she had ever imagined and she was only on the edges; a mere nobody waiting with her trunk for her elder half-sister, Lady Isabel Baynton, to collect her. As she glanced up the corridor searching for a familiar face, a tall, good-looking man dressed in a sumptuous velvet cloak caught her eye and winked. Glancing over her shoulder to see if the true recipient of his intended favour was behind her, she heard the man laugh and blushed furiously as he walked by, still chuckling.
“Kitty!”

To her relief, she saw Isabel hurrying through the courtiers. Torches guttered casting shadowy light on her as she approached. It was early afternoon but the weather was cold and stormy and the sky had barely lightened all day. Taller than Catherine, with dark hair and dark eyes, Isabel was married to Sir Edward Baynton, who was to be vice-chamberlain to the new queen.

He was an important man, having worked for each of the king’s wives — including Catherine’s cousin, Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second bride. Now Edward was once again to hold this important role in the new queen’s household and his stature was reflected in Isabel’s dress, demeanour and, to Catherine’s surprise, her spectacular jewels.

“Isabel!” exclaimed Catherine, curtseying to her half-sister as etiquette required, before being swept into a warm embrace. “Your diamonds! Did Edward give them to you?”
Isabel laughed and turned her head so the magnificent diamond drops in her ears shimmered with cold fire in the winter light.
“An early Christmas gift,” she smiled. “We have a present for you to welcome you to court but we’ll give it to you when you’re settled. Is that yours?” She pointed to the trunk.
Catherine nodded. “Although, there isn’t much in it,” she admitted.
“Never mind,” said Isabel. “We’ll organise a new wardrobe for you. We must maintain the Howard family name. Cox, take my sister’s trunk to the maids’ rooms,” she said to the servant standing respectfully behind her. Then, tucking her hand under Catherine’s arm, she led her along the busy corridor. “What do you think of court?”
“I’ve been here barely half an hour but it seems, well…”
“Daunting?”
“Yes,” agreed Catherine.
“Don’t worry, my dear, we’re all here to help you; myself and Edward, your Uncle Norfolk and, of course, our brother Charles. Although, he seems rather preoccupied at the moment.”
“Is he in love again?” asked Catherine, grinning.
“Yes, but this is a little different from his usual infatuations.”
“You mean the object of his affection isn’t married?”
“She isn’t but, well, there are other complications. However, it’s never wise to discuss such things in the open court, even in jest, remember that, Kitten,” said Isabel. “The court has ears everywhere and like the smiling serpent who was the undoing of Eve, there are endless charlatans lurking in unexpected places in this merry Eden.”

Catherine nodded, but she was disappointed. She always enjoyed hearing about her brother’s latest romantic escapades. The true chivalric and charmingly penniless knight, Charles Howard was always infatuated with someone, and Catherine suspected he was more in love with the idea of romance than the most recent recipient of his amour.

As they walked, she tried to memorise the winding route, wondering if this sprawling building would ever feel familiar. Eventually, they arrived in a quieter, but even more beautifully decorated section of the palace.

“These are the queen’s new rooms,” explained Isabel. “And along here are the maids’ rooms. I’ve arranged for you to share with our cousin, Kathryn Carey. She’s an old hand and will look out for you if neither Edward nor I are available to help.”
“And Uncle Norfolk?” Catherine asked.
“He’s a very busy man but I’m sure once he knows you’re here, he’ll invite you to his rooms to keep you up-to-date with family business.”
Catherine laughed but she was secretly delighted.
“Hardly, Issy,” she said. “I’m far too lowly for such important conversations.”
“Don’t underestimate your new status, Mistress Howard,” said Isabel. “The position of maid of honour is not one given lightly and there were many noblemen fighting for places for their daughters. Enjoy your rise in status and use it wisely. You’ll need a husband soon and being at court will improve your prospects of a lucrative match.”

Are you tempted? You can order this historical thriller now from Amazon



The Author



From tales spun for her teddies when she was a child (usually about mermaids) to film scripts, plays and novels, Alexandra Walsh has always been a storyteller. Words are her world. For over 25 years, she has been a journalist writing for a wide range of publications including national newspapers and glossy magazines. She spent some years working in the British film industry, as well as in television and radio: researching, advising, occasionally presenting and always writing.
Books dominate Alexandra’s life. She reads endlessly and tends to become a bit panicky if her next three books are not lined up and waiting. Characters, places, imagery all stay with her and even now she finds it difficult to pass an old wardrobe without checking it for a door to Narnia. As for her magical letter when she was 11, she can only assume her cat caught the owl!

Alexandra’s other passion is history, particularly the untold tales of women. Whether they were queens or paupers, their voices resonate with their stories, not only about their own lives but about ours, too. The women of the Tudor court have inspired her novels. Researching and writing The Marquess House Trilogy (Book One: The Catherine Howard Conspiracy) has brought together her love of history, mysteries and storytelling.

Find out more about the Author on her website  or find her on Twitter 


Saturday, 11 May 2019

Blog Tour Son of The Moon by Jennifer MacAire extract @rararesources

Blog Tour Son of The Moon by Jennifer MacAire




Today I am welcoming author Jennifer MacAire to Beadyjans Books for the BlogBlitz Tour of her latest historical novel Son of the Moon.

I have an Excerpt from Son of the Moon by Jennifer Macaire

Can you face the consequences of cheating the Fates?

Alexander the Great journeys to India, where he and Ashley are welcomed with feasts and treachery.

With their son, Paul, being worshipped as the Son of the Moon, and Alexander’s looming death, Ashley considers the unthinkable: how to save them and whether she dares to cheat Fate?



Excerpt: 

Alexander found many men willing to marry and stay in Taxila with the king. The city would become the biggest center of Hellenic culture in India. Greek would be spoken there for centuries. It would become one of the greatest exchanges between east and west. Taxile didn’t know this, of course, but he seemed thrilled to meet Alexander. He wouldn’t stop rubbing his hands together and beaming. 

He was also very impressed with the army. He saw Alexander as the chance he’d been waiting for. To the south was his greatest enemy, the rajah Porus, whom he had been fighting against on and off for decades. Alexander had sent ambassadors to Porus asking for right of passage through his lands. The second night we stayed in Taxila, news came that the demands had been rejected, and Porus was massing his army on the banks of the river Jhelum.

Alexander grew very still when the news came. I think he was bitterly disappointed. He had been looking forward to coming to India and being received everywhere. The idea of fighting his way through India displeased him enormously. Nonetheless his military mind was already busy making plans. We left five days after we arrived.

I used those five days to go shopping. I’d been in the mountains, away from civilization for so long. I’d forgotten what it was like to go to the market, to buy food and clothes, to go to the theater, or eat at a restaurant. 

I insisted Alexander accompany me and do all those things, except the restaurant. There weren’t really any restaurants in those times; just food stands in the market place. We strolled through the city. The people acclaimed us, and everyone tossed flowers at us; flowers and colored rice. I loved it. I felt like a bride the entire time. 

Alexander covered me in beautiful, bright silks and cottons, and we ate curried lamb and peacocks. Alexander loved Indian food and Taxile adored Greek art. Alexander’s men put on sports exhibitions in the plains, and the people of the city swarmed out to see them every evening. 

Lanterns made of colored silk, and ribbons of bright cotton decorated everything. All the hues were bright and vibrant. Gold! Red! Pink! Violet! they screamed. The Greeks were entranced. It was a mutual love affair between the pure, classical Greek style and the colorful, elaborate Indian manner. It was sparkling white marble meeting bright fuchsia silk. It was like cold vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce. It was calm restraint meeting wild abandon. Everyone exclaimed at everything. There wasn’t a single thing that the Indians didn’t adore about the Greeks, and the Greeks thought that everything in Taxila was fabulous.

The Author - Jennifer Macaire


Find her at 
twitter @jennifermacaire

#AnEchoOfScandal - @LauraMadeleine - Blog Tour - Excerpt via Random Things Tours

An Echo of Scandal - Laura Madelaine - Blog Tour and a free Extract. The first thing which struck me about an Echo of Scandal is the S...