#BookReview Bone China by Laura Purcell @BloomsburyRaven #BoneChina

ABOUT THE BOOK

Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.

Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralysed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last. 

PUBLISHED by RAVEN BOOKS

Publication Date  – 19th September 2019

PRE-ORDER LINKS

Amazon UK  £10.53

hive.co.uk  £9.39

whsmith  £8.99

Goldsboro Books – signed first edition £12.99

MY REVIEW

Gloriously gothic and deliciously dark – it’s fair to say that I loved reading this and I will never look at a piece of willow patterned china the same way ever again!!

Bone China is a story set over 2 timelines and it’s a fascinating mix of history, folklore, obsession, madness and superstition.  There are many threads throughout that I found so absorbing and I loved how the story went backwards and forwards to give you different glimpses of the characters and to watch it all come together at the end was extremely satisfying!

We start with Hester Why as she travels to Cornwall to take up a position looking after Louise Pinecroft who is confined to her home and rarely speaks.  Hester is obviously trying to escape her past for whatever reason, but she soon finds that her present may be just as dangerous as what she left behind.

If she’s looking for isolation then the home of Louise Pinecroft might be just the place for her!  There’s chatter amongst the staff at Morvoren House and she has warning of who to avoid and also the folklore that outsiders may dismiss as nonsense but those living there are more wary.  With the almost mute Louise spending the majority of her time staring at the bone china colllection in her room, Hester finds the past playing more and more on her mind and her reliance of self medicating becomes the only way to get through each day.

The story then looks back on Louise in the past, living at the house with her father who was a Doctor, and he sets out on a revolutionary way of treating patients with consumption.  It’s a fascinating look at life of a different time, and using prisoners at his ‘guineapigs’ was the only way he could get permission to try his methods out.   Having lost his family to the disease he was driven to the point of obsession to try and eradicate it.

And with Hester we get to see her life before her move, and her devotion to her mistress Lady Rose, new wife of Sir Arthur Windrop, whose mother ruled the roost and Lady Rose found herself becoming more reliant on Hester as nothing she ever did was good enough for his mother.  Hester was smitten and found herself giving more advice to Lady Rose that others didn’t appreciate so much and wanted to find a way to ease her out of the picture – and Hester took to alcohol there too to numb the pain and sadness she felt when things didn’t go her way.

As Hester settles into life looking after Louise, a number of other stories open up not least the strange things that are happening around the room of Louise and the influence that certain staff have on the daily goings on at the house.  It all felt very unsettling and it was brilliantly played out with every new twist and turn.

It seemed to me that the author had so much fun with these characters and settings!  Her imagination ran wild with the folklore elements and it was equally exciting and terrifying as to where the story was going to go!  

This is a  book that chilled and thrilled me and I loved every single minute!  Fabulous!!

★★★★★

#BlogTour A TAPESTRY OF TREASON by ANNE O’BRIEN #bookreview @HQStories @anne_obrien

Hugely delighted to be the latest stop on the fabulous blog tour for A TAPESTRY OF TREASON by ANNE O’BRIEN.  My thanks to the author and publisher for letting me be part of it all!

ABOUT THE BOOK

‘Gripping’ The Times

Her actions could make history – but at what price? 

1399: Constance of York, Lady Despenser, proves herself more than a mere observer in the devious intrigues of her magnificently dysfunctional family, The House of York.

Surrounded by power-hungry men, including her aggressively self-centred husband Thomas and ruthless siblings Edward and Richard, Constance places herself at the heart of two treasonous plots against King Henry IV.  Will it be possible for this Plantagenet family to safeguard its own political power by restoring either King Richard II to the throne, or the precarious Mortimer claimant?

Although the execution of these conspiracies will place them all in jeopardy, Constance is not deterred, even when the cost of her ambition threatens to overwhelm her.  Even when it endangers her new-found happiness.

With treason, tragedy, heartbreak and betrayal, this is the story of a woman ahead of her time, fighting for herself and what she believes to be right in a world of men.


Giving voice to the forgotten women of history, this is the next brilliant historical novel from Sunday Times bestselling author Anne O’Brien.


Praise for A Tapestry of Treason

‘A wonderful novel . . . a rich, gripping, enchanting read. Anne’s vivid writing took me straight to the year 1400 and kept me wonderfully lost there throughout’ Joanna Courtney


Praise for Anne O’Brien

‘O’Brien cleverly intertwines the personal and political in this enjoyable, gripping tale’ The Times

‘O’Brien is a terrific storyteller’ Daily Telegraph

‘A gripping story of love, heartache and political intrigue’ Woman Home

‘Packed with drama, danger, romance and history … the perfect reading choice for the long winter nights’ The Press Association

‘A gripping historical drama’ Bella

published by HQ

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK  £10.75

hive.co.uk  £8.99

whsmith  £10.49

MY REVIEW

The Queen of getting me more interested in history is back with another fascinating and gripping historical story that gives flesh to those names of the past that we’ve all heard so much about, but brings their stories to the fore and gives them a voice.

In this book that character is Lady Constance Despenser, who is a daughter of the influential House of York.  Set in 1399 there are troubled times on the horizon surrounding the  battle over taking the throne. I have to admit to knowing very little about the ins and outs of this period of history, but this book was so brilliant in explaining the power struggles, the family disputes and the lengths people were going to to make sure they were on the ‘right side’.  There’s politics, plots and plenty of scandal to devour in this story and it all felt so relevant and relatable despite the complicated times they were living in!  You got the feeling that many of the players were only interested in self preservation so would allign themselves strategically just to take care of themselves!

Constance is an enthralling character to follow and focus on – she’s very pragmatic, a realist but she’s very clever and very loyal to her family and that comes across forcefully in this story.    In a time where women were not really heard from, she knew how to play the game, knew her role and was willing to make difficult decisions when needed.    But despite her family loyalty she doesn’t appear to be that maternal, and not very emotional when it comes to matters concerning members of her family.

What I love about these type of books is the journey that the story takes you on, and that you can then do your own research afterwards to find out more about the times and characters. I loved that there were afternotes in this book that allowed you to find out what happened to certain characters along with places to visit that had connections with the time and events in this period of history.

I found this to be an intelligent, feisty and captivating historical story and I can’t wait to see what period of history and what character Anne turns her attention to next!!

★★★★★

My thanks to the author and Lily Capewell at HQ Stories for the advance reader copy in return for a fair and honest review.

#BookReview The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan

ABOUT THE BOOK

The year is 1792 and Herbert Powyss is set on making his name as a scientist. He is determined to study the effects of prolonged solitude on another human being, though before now Powyss’s sole subjects have been the plants in his greenhouse. He fills three rooms beneath Moreham House with books, paintings and even a pianoforte, then puts out an advertisement, hoping for a gentleman recluse to claim the substantial reward.

The only man desperate enough to apply is John Warlow, a semi-literate farm labourer who needs to support his wife Hannah and their six children. Cut off from nature and the turning of the seasons, Warlow soon begins losing his grip on sanity. Above ground, Powyss finds yet another distraction from his greenhouse in the form of Hannah, with whom he rapidly becomes obsessed. Does she return his feelings, or is she just afraid of his power over her family’s lives?

Meanwhile, the servants are brewing up a rebellion inspired by recent news from across the Channel. Powyss may have set events in motion, but he is powerless to prevent their explosive and devastating conclusion.

Elegantly told and utterly transporting, The Warlow Experiment is an outstanding literary novel that announces a major new voice in British fiction

published by Serpent’s Tail

PURCHASE LINKS

hive.co.uk  £9.99

whsmith £9.35

foyles  – £12.99 signed first edition

MY REVIEW

A Reward of £50 a year for life is offered to any man who will undertake to live for 7 years underground without seeing a human face: to let his toe and fingernails grow during the whole of his confinement, together with his beard.  Commodious apartments are provided with cold bath, chamber organ, as many books as the occupier shall desire.  Provisions will be served from Mr Powyss’s table.  Every convenience desired will be provided.

– Herbert Powyss, Moreham House, Herefordshire…   January , 1793

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Wow! Yep, one of those books that I found to have lived up to the hype that I’d heard about it before buying my own copy! A stunning piece of historical fiction that just made me slow my whole reading speed down so I could savour every word! Think it’s fair to say I enjoyed this one!!

When an advert was placed in 1783 by Herbert Powyss looking for somebody to volunteer to live in solitary confinement for 7 years, but surrounded by food, books etc for the princely sum of £50 a year for life, John Warlow steps forward thinking of the financial rewards for his family – a wife and 6 children – and not giving any thought to the severity of the experiment facing him.

Herbert Powyss is a reclusive scientist looking to make a name for himself and thinks a study of human behaviour is one way to get himself noticed, and in John Warlow he has someone who can be genuinely studied.

You might think that reading about a man being stuck in a cellar – a well appointed cellar at that – wouldn’t be much fun to read about, but what the author has done with this book is focus on the human impact, not only on John Warlow living life without speaking to another soul, but how his abscence affects his wife and children, how the scientist himself deals with his justification of using another human being, and how the servants in the home of Powyss come to terms of this man living beneath them.

It was such a fascinating concept and staggering to hear that the actual advert was really placed in 1793, and you can’t help but put yourself in that position and wonder how you’d deal with things in similar circumstances. Powyss himself was very reclusive and probably saw it as no hardship to be cut off from the real world for so long.

As the years go by, the impact on all the characters is clear to see and it’s clear that it isn’t only John Warlow who is suffering because of this experiment.

It’s often shocking and brutal, but is a totally enthralling study of human nature and behaviour and I was totally entranced from the first page to last! Brilliant!

★★★★★

#BlogTour The Serpent’s Mark by S.W.Perry #bookreview #randomthingstours #TheSerpentsMark @CorvusBooks @swperry_history

Extremely delighted to be the latest stop on the fabulous blog tour for THE SERPENT’S MARK by S.W.PERRY – my thanks to the author, publisher and Anne of Random Things Tours for putting it all together and letting me be part of it all to share my thoughts!

ABOUT THE BOOK

A smart and gripping tale of conspiracy, murder and espionage in Elizabethan London, ideal for fans of CJ Sansom, Rory Clements and SG MacLean.

Treason sleeps for no man…

London, 1591. Nicholas Shelby, physician and reluctant spy, returns to his old haunts on London’s lawless Bankside. But, when the queen’s spymaster Robert Cecil asks him to investigate the dubious practices of a mysterious doctor from Switzerland, Nicholas is soon embroiled in a conspiracy that threatens not just the life of an innocent young patient, but the overthrow of Queen Elizabeth herself.

With fellow healer and mistress of the Jackdaw tavern, Bianca Merton, again at his side, Nicholas is drawn into a dangerous world of zealots, charlatans and fanatics. As their own lives become increasingly at risk, they find themselves confronting the greatest treason of all: the spectre of a bloody war between the faiths…

Published by Corvus Books

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK  £11.74

hive.co.uk  £11.69

Goldsboro Books – signed, first edition £14.99

Praise for The Serpent’s Mark

“No-one is better than S. W. Perry at leading us through the squalid streets of London in the sixteenth century.” – Andrew Swanston

“The writing is of such a quality, the characters so engaging and the setting so persuasive that, only two books in, S.W. Perry’s ingeniously plotted novels have become my favourite historical crime series.” – S G MacLean

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

S. W. Perry was a journalist and broadcaster before retraining as an airline pilot. He lives in Worcestershire with his wife.

MY REVIEW

Nicholas and Bianca are back and I adored spending time with them both again as they’re thrust into the world of espionage, conspiracy and murder once more!  Set in the 16th Century, the sights and sounds are brought thrillingly to life by the writing of S.W.Perry and I’m already eager to escape back into their world if this fabulous series continues!

There is a slow start to this book as the scene is being set of the changing times of Elizabethan England – the history, the politics, the religion – and all this against the backdrop of Dr Nicholas dealing with the grief that has consumed him after losing his family.  When he is summoned back to London he has to explain his conduct to Robert Cecil , who sets him out to ‘investigate’ an overseas physician and with the distrust of foreigners that was gripping the country at the time, this request doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary for Nicholas, although he is well aware of Cecil and his dodgy background.

Bianca has been continuing to live and work in London while Nicholas had gone to ground, and she’s now a licensed apothecary but the appearance of a cousin from overseas, and a brutal attack on him brings her back into trying to figure out what he might have been involved in and has her in the thick of the action.

The strength of these  characters is that they can conduct their own investigations independent to one another, but still combine their inquisitiveness when needed! They trust one another implicitly and that clearly comes through when they’re facing tough and bleak times.

I loved the attention to detail throughout, the look behind the politics of the time and the lengths people would go to get their own way for what they saw as the greater good.  It was rather graphic at times too which just added to the reality of the brutal treatments used at the time by those with rather unpleasant intentions.

An intoxicating, gripping,  and thrilling piece of historical fiction – more please!!!

★★★★★

#BookReview The Poison Bed by E.C.Fremantle #LibraryLoveChallenge #audiobook

About the book

Elizabeth Fremantle’s THE POISON BED is a chilling, noirish thriller ripped straight from the headlines.

A king, his lover and his lover’s wife. One is a killer.

In the autumn of 1615 scandal rocks the Jacobean court when a celebrated couple are imprisoned on suspicion of murder. She is young, captivating and from a notorious family. He is one of the richest and most powerful men in the kingdom.

Some believe she is innocent; others think her wicked or insane. He claims no knowledge of the murder. The king suspects them both, though it is his secret at stake.


Who is telling the truth? Who has the most to lose? And who is willing to commit murder?

Published by Michael Joseph

MY REVIEW

I listened to the audio version of this and have to give thanks to the wonderful narrators – Ross Anderson and Perdita Weeks – for bringing this dramatic story to life and giving an extra depth to the story with the way they portray ‘him’ and ‘her’.

The him and her are Robert Carr and Frances Howard, both pivotal characters at the heart of the court of James I and this story brilliantly captures a troubling and scandalous time in British history. They are accused of poisoning Lord Thomas Overbury and the story plays out as to the motives, means and subterfuge behind the plot and makes for fascinating listening, especially as I knew very little about this period of history and it has peaked my interest to investigate more!

Frances and Robert are both extremely fascinating characters – Robert is very close to the King, but is betrayed by his own lustful thoughts towards Frances which becomes obsessive with his pursuit of her. Frances is no stranger to getting what she wants from life and a disastrous marriage to Lord Essex gets her notoriety but not happiness.

Behind the scenes there are many plots to gain power over the King, and the manipulative behaviour displayed is quite staggering at times – there is no ‘playing fair’ in these high stake games that are being played and it’s all about getting what you want, no matter who you damage in the long run and I loved how devious some of the characters were in their quest for power.

The way the story is told from both perspectives also really worked well – you get to see their lives before, during and after the court case and allows you to get to know both characters even better. 

This is a gripping piece of historical fiction and gives a real insight into just how underhanded life could really be in the Jacobean court!

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#BookReview #BlogBlitz Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

About the book

June, 1781. An unidentified body hangs upon a hook at Deptford Dock – horribly tortured and branded with a slaver’s mark.

Some days later, Captain Harry Corsham – a war hero embarking upon a promising parliamentary career – is visited by the sister of an old friend. Her brother, passionate abolitionist Tad Archer, had been about to expose a secret that he believed could cause irreparable damage to the British slaving industry. He’d said people were trying to kill him, and now he is missing . . .

To discover what happened to Tad, Harry is forced to pick up the threads of his friend’s investigation, delving into the heart of the conspiracy Tad had unearthed. His investigation will threaten his political prospects, his family’s happiness, and force a reckoning with his past, risking the revelation of secrets that have the power to destroy him.

And that is only if he can survive the mortal dangers awaiting him in Deptford…

Published by  Mantle

Purchase Links

Goldsboro Books – signed first edition  £24.99

hive.co.uk  £11.39

waterstones  £14.99

MY REVIEW

A brutal but engaging historical debut  that I found enlightening and shocking and was completely gripped by!

Set in 18th century London, this story brings alive the story of the slave trade in Deptford when the discovery of the body of a leading abolitionist  is found branded with a slave mark, and the family turn to Captain Harry to help them discover just why Tad had met such an untimely and shocking end.

The more he delves into the goings on of the slave trade that was thriving at that time, the more he is plunged into a darker world where those making money close ranks and will do anything to protect themselves and their way of life.

I think the most striking thing about this story was how the author had really captured the callous ways of life back then – from the language used, the attitudes to those used in the slave trade and the general unpleasantness of life for many on the streets of London.  The lack of welfare or concern for many would shock us now, but back then it was par for the course.  And those questioned by Tad were often too scared to say anything in fear of upsetting those in charge who didn’t care who got in their way and would be dealt with in vicious ways.

It isn’t an easy read at times with the levels of cruelty and lack of humanity shown, but the author does an amazing job of keeping the reader hooked with new revelations and twists. 

✯✯✯✯✯

My thanks to the author, publisher and Tracy Fenton for the advanced reader copy in return for a fair and honest review.

#BookReview Little by Edward Carey @BelgraviaB

About the book

‘Don’t miss this eccentric charmer!’ — @MargaretAtwood

‘Edward Carey’s Little is one of the most original historical novels of the year.’ — The Sunday Times


“There is a space between life and death: it’s called waxworks”

The wry, macabre, unforgettable tale of an ambitious orphan in Revolutionary Paris, befriended by royalty and radicals alike, who transforms herself into the legendary Madame Tussaud.

In 1761, a tiny, odd-looking girl named Marie is born in a village in Alsace. After the death of her parents, she is apprenticed to an eccentric wax sculptor and whisked off to the seamy streets of Paris, where they meet a domineering widow and her quiet, pale son. Together, they convert an abandoned monkey house into an exhibition hall for wax heads, and the spectacle becomes a sensation. As word of her artistic talent spreads, Marie is called to Versailles, where she tutors a princess and saves Marie Antoinette in childbirth. But outside the palace walls, Paris is roiling: The revolutionary mob is demanding heads, and . . . at the wax museum, heads are what they do.

Edward Carey’s Little is a wonder – the incredible story of a ‘blood-stained crumb of a girl’ who went on to shape the world

Published by Aardvark Bureau

Purchase Links

Belgravia Books – with signed print £14.99

hive.co.uk

waterstones

MY REVIEW

What a way to start off my reading year in 2019! This was an astonishing piece of historical fiction and I cannot recommend this highly enough as I’m sure you’ll fall in love with ‘Little’ Marie as she comes from very humble beginnings to being part of the world of wax that still lives on now!

When Marie loses both parents before she turns 6, she finds herself taken under the wing of Doctor Curtius, a peculiar and quirky man who creates body parts from wax, and their bond is particularly touching.

When they move to Paris their relationship changes, the Doctor has his head turned by the ‘widow’ and Marie soon finds herself in a particularly sad and lonely space. The treatment she suffers is heartbreaking but she refuses to crack under the pressure and just hows how spirited she is and how determined she is to make something of her life.

The connection between various characters is what makes this book I think, along with the wonderful settings and situations that Marie finds herself in. From being beaten, to living amongst the splendour of the palace of Versailles – I just couldn’t put this book down at times as it was just so beautifully written and staged.

The addition of beautiful illustrations scattered throughout the book really added to the reading experience and I’m just itching to pick this back up and enjoy it all over again! It was a wonderful story that really connected the historic moments in the life of Marie with humour, sadness, creativity and tenderness.

Already guaranteed to be on my best books of 2019 list and we’re only a few days into January! Need I say anymore!!

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