blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: These Lost & Broken Things – Helen Fields*

How dangerous is a woman with nothing left to lose?
The year is 1905. London is a playground for the rich and a death trap for the poor. When Sofia Logan’s husband dies unexpectedly, leaving her penniless with two young children, she knows she will do anything to keep them from the workhouse. But can she bring herself to murder? Even if she has done it before…
Emmet Vinsant, wealthy industrialist, offers Sofia a job in one of his gaming houses. He knows more about Sofia’s past than he has revealed. Brought up as part of a travelling fair, she’s an expert at counting cards and spotting cheats, and Vinsant puts her talents to good use. His demands on her grow until she finds herself with blood on her hands.
Set against the backdrop of the Suffragette protests, with industry changing the face of the city but disease still rampant, and poverty the greatest threat of all, every decision you make is life or death. Either yours or someone else’s. Read best-selling crime writer Helen Fields’ first explosive historical thriller.

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An international and Amazon #1 best-selling author, Helen is a former criminal and family law barrister.

Every book in the Callanach series claimed an Amazon #1 bestseller flag. Her next book, the sixth in the series, ‘Perfect Kill’ is due out on 6 February 2020. Helen also writes as HS Chandler, and last year released legal thriller ‘Degrees of Guilt’.

Her previous audio book ‘Perfect Crime’ knocked Michelle Obama off the #1 spot. Translated into 15 languages, and also selling in the USA, Canada & Australasia, Helen’s books have won global recognition.

Her first historical thriller ‘These Lost & Broken Things’ comes out in May 2020. A further standalone thriller published by HarperColllins will come soon.

She currently commutes between Hampshire, Scotland and California, where she lives with her husband and three children.

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My thoughts:

It took me a while to get into this book, but once Sofia had stopped flapping about and started working for the less charming than he thinks Vinsant the story picked up and I enjoyed it more.

Told through a mixture of flashbacks to Sofia’s past and her present predicaments, the story of a woman with a taste for killing is interesting, a lot of crime (especially historic crime fiction) often embraces the idea that women aren’t ruthless enough to kill and those few that do won’t use violence or force.

Sofia kills for two reasons – to protect those she loves and for revenge. Her strength and weakness is this need to take lives.

A much more complex and rich story than it at first appears, These Lost & Broken Things is ultimately redemptive as Sofia comes into contact with the growing women’s rights movement.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Saracen’s Mark – S.W. Perry*

The third instalment of The Jackdaw Mysteries. A tale of conspiracy, murder and espionage in Elizabethan London and dazzling Marrakesh.

Betrayal has many guises…

London, 1593: Five years on from the Armada and England is taking its first faltering steps towards a future as a global power. Nicholas Shelby – reluctant spy and maverick physician – and his companion Bianca Merton are settling into a life on Bankside. But in London there is always a plot afoot…

Robert Cecil, the Queen’s spymaster, once again recruits Nicholas to embark on a dangerous undercover mission that will take him to the back alleys of Marrakech in search of a missing informer. However, while Nicholas hunts for the truth across the seas, plague returns once more to London – ravaging the streets and threatening those dearest to him.

Can Bianca and Nicholas’ budding relationship weather the threats of pestilence and conspiracy? And will Nicholas survive the dangers of his mission in a hostile city to return safely home?

S. W. Perry was a journalist and broadcaster before retraining as an airline pilot. His debut novel, The Angel’s Mark, was listed for the CWA Historical Dagger and was a Walter Scott Prize Academy Recommended Read 2019. He lives in Worcestershire with his wife.

My thoughts:

This series just gets better and better. This time Nick is off to Marrakech on the service of the Cecils but closer to home conspiracy threatens Bianca and the Jackdaw crew and plague looms.

It was fascinating to read, especially the Marrakech episodes which remind me yet again of how backward a lot of Western thinking has been – if only we’d spent more time studying the advances of the Arab world than the Greco-Roman ones, maybe it wouldn’t have taken so long for women to become doctors and for hygiene to be recognised as vital to recovery.

Sorry, rant over.

Clever writing, a real sense of time and space (Bankside really comes alive), engaging characters and sophisticated plotting make this the best yet.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Forgotten Sister – Nicola Cornick*

1560: Amy Robsart is trapped in a loveless marriage to Robert Dudley, a member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Surrounded by enemies and with nowhere left to turn, Amy hatches a desperate scheme to escape—one with devastating consequences that will echo through the centuries…
Present Day: When Lizzie Kingdom is forced to withdraw from the public eye in a blaze of scandal, it seems her life is over. But she’s about to encounter a young man, Johnny Robsart, whose fate will interlace with hers in the most unexpected of ways. For Johnny is certain that Lizzie is linked to a terrible secret dating back to Tudor times. If Lizzie is brave enough to go in search of the truth, then what she discovers will change the course of their lives forever.

My thoughts:

The past and present mirror each other in this fantasy tinged historical novel with a twist.

Lizzie is drawn into the secrets of the Robsart family’s history following the death of her best friend’s estranged wife. Coupled with her own strange gifts, she seeks the truth of Amelia’s tragic death and also that of noble woman Amy Robsart, wife of Elizabeth I’s favourite Lord Dudley.

Mixing historical fact with fiction, Nicola Cornick suggests Lady Dudley’s death was a bit more complicated that history suggests and reflects it down through the ages, until it comes into contact with Lizzie Kingdom.

A clever examination of fame, friendship and family ensues.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: A Theatre for Dreamers – Polly Samson*

A Theatre for Dreamers is a novel about a place and a circle that have transfixed the world for decades.

1960. The world is dancing on the edge of revolution, and nowhere more so than on the Greek island of Hydra, where a circle of poets, painters and musicians live tangled lives, ruled by the writers Charmian Clift and George Johnston, troubled king and queen of bohemia.

Forming within this circle is a triangle: its points the magnetic, destructive writer Axel Jensen, his dazzling wife Marianne Ihlen, and a young Canadian poet named Leonard Cohen.

Into their midst arrives teenage Erica, with little more than a bundle of blank notebooks and her grief for her mother. Settling on the periphery of this circle, she watches, entranced and disquieted, as a paradise unravels.

Burning with the heat and light of Greece, A Theatre for Dreamers is a spellbinding novel about utopian dreams and innocence lost – and the wars waged between men and women on the battlegrounds of genius.

Polly Samson is the author of two short story collections and two previous novels. Her work has been shortlisted for prizes, translated into several languages and has been dramatized on BBC Radio 4. She has written lyrics to four number one albums and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

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My thoughts:

A woozy summer haze of a book, A Theatre for Dreamers sets the scene for the tangled lives of the expat community on the Greek island of Hydra in 1960. Real life figures crowd the pages as Erica, mourning her mother, slips between the married, unfaithful couples amid the summer sun and disapproving locals.

There’s a dreamlike quality to the story, but like all good dreams it has to end, and end it does, with a lot of tragedy. Some of the former residents lives end bitterly and sadly, miles from the idyll Erica remembers.

Reading about the real figures Polly Samson fills her plot with is sobering – was Hydra a cursed place for these writers and poets? So many of them died much too young and so tragically, from suicide and drugs. The love stories that seem to be unfolding in the pages also seem doomed.

Samson recreates the febrile atmosphere that inspired several novels at the time from the residents, in such a way that you feel transported there with Erica, seventeen and not nearly as worldly as she thinks she is.

Beautifully written and moving, this is a fascinating read.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Arrowood and the Thames Corpses – Mick Finley*

South London, 1896.

William Arrowood, Victorian London’s less salubrious private detective, is paid a visit by Captain Moon, the owner of a pleasure steamer moored on the Thames. He complains that someone has been damaging his boat, putting his business in jeopardy.

Arrowood and his trusty sidekick Barnett suspect professional jealousy, but when a shocking discovery is pulled from the river, it seems like even fouler play is afoot.

It’s up to Arrowood and Barnett to solve the case, before any more corpses end up in the watery depths . . .

My thoughts:

This was a fun read, what with Arrowood railing against the better known Sherlock Holmes, and dealing with the women in his life, mostly by running away from them.

A clever, knowing Victorian murder mystery, replete with street urchins, Cockney thugs, rat catchers and hopeless coppers. Add a twisted plot involving revenge and a rather vile use of human remains and you have a gritty little thriller on your hands.

Considering how much Arthur Conan Doyle came to hate his creation, he might have been glad to hand the torch on and let another consulting detective take the limelight.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Girl with the Amber Comb – Linda Finley*

Orphaned at birth, Eliza lives with her beloved Grandparents in a waterlogged Somerset cottage surrounded by willow beds where she ekes out a living making laundry baskets and eel traps. Although poor she is content, until childhood friend Clem, regales her with tales of his adventures along the river and she begins to wonder what life is like beyond the Droves.

When fate brings handsome, wealthy Theo to her workshop she is instantly attracted and a rosy future beyond the Droves beckons. Only things don’t go to plan and naive Eliza finds herself in Lavender House where she is expected to care for gentlemen in a way she never imagined. Forced to flee for her life, she ends up in a woollen mill run by a corrupt foreman, working for crumbs and pennies with only her grandmother’s comb in her pocket.

Now she knows what matters in life – but is it too late? And will she ever be able to return home to those who love her?

My thoughts:

This was a different sort of read for me, I don’t generally go for books with covers like these, but I’m glad I took a punt on this.

My grandmother was born in Devon, and so I feel a connection to the West Country of this novel, a place where people work hard and live in beautiful, but sometimes remote landscapes.

Eliza’s life is not easy, and as the book opens she has just lost her grandmother and must take on the role of running the household as well as weaving the willow baskets her family earn their living from.

In a way I quite understood her reasons for running away; a revelation rips her world apart, she finds herself alone and she feels uncertain about her future.

But her experiences in the larger towns she visits all remind of her of how much she misses her small home and the safety of the Droves.

As a love story, it’s more one of Eliza’s love for her home than of any man. Which was somewhat refreshing, no man rescues Eliza from any of her predicaments, she rescues herself.

The title is a bit long and unwieldy and certainly obscures any hint at the plot – Eliza saves herself in this one!

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Unreliable Death of Lady Grange – Sue Lawrence*

Edinburgh, January 1732: It’s Lady Grange’s funeral. Her death is a shock: still young, she’d shown no signs of ill health.

But Rachel is, in fact, alive. She’s been brutally kidnapped by the man who has falsified her death – her husband of 25 years, a pillar of society with whom she has raised a family.

Her punishment, perhaps, for railing against his infidelity – or for uncovering evidence of his treasonable plottings against the government.

Whether to conceal his Jacobite leanings, or simply to `replace’ a wife with a long-time mistress, Lord Grange banishes Rachel to the remote Hebridean Monach Isles, until she’s removed again to distant St Kilda, far into the Atlantic – to an isolated life of primitive conditions, with no shared language – somewhere she can never be found.

This is the incredible and gripping story of a woman who has until now been remembered mostly by her husband’s unflattering account. Sue Lawrence reconstructs a remarkable tale of how the real Lady Grange may have coped with such a dramatic fate, with courage and grace.

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As well as writing popular historical thrillers, including Down to the Sea, Sue Lawrence is a leading cookery writer. After winning BBC’s MasterChef in 1991, she became a regular contributor to the Sunday Times, Scotland on Sunday and other leading magazines. Raised in Dundee, she now lives in Edinburgh. She has won two Guild of Food Writers Awards.

My thoughts:

This was a really fascinating read. Having read books like The Scandalous Lady W and Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, I knew 18th Century women were treated appalling in their unhappy marriages as they had no rights and not even custody of their own children.

But to have your wife kidnapped, not once, not twice, but three times (the third isn’t covered in the book but is mentioned in the author’s afterword) is a new extreme.

Rachel, Lady Grange, may not have always been easy to live with; her fierce temper and fondness for claret saw to that, but she didn’t deserve the punishment her husband and his Jacobite pal Lord Lovet dreamed up for her.

Fleshing out the limited details available about Lady Grange’s life, Sue Lawrence has created a fascinating, enjoyable and eminently readable piece of historical fiction.