#BookReview THE BLACK AND THE WHITE by ALIS HAWKINS

ABOUT THE BOOK

A thought-provoking Medieval mystery you don’t want to miss! Perfect for fans of S D Sykes, L C Tyler, Karen Maitland and S J Parris.

Not every corpse put in a pit has died of the plague…


England, 1349

The Black Death is tearing through the country and those not yet afflicted are living in fear.

Martin Collyer wakes up in his family’s charcoaling hut in the Forest of Dean to find his father dead on the bed beside him, half-sewn into his shroud. As Martin’s most recent memory is of being given the last rites, he cannot account for why he is alive and why his father – whose body bears not a trace of the plague – is dead.

With no home to go to and set free from the life of virtual servitude that his father had planned for him, Martin sets off on a journey across England to seek salvation for his father’s unconfessed soul.

He befriends another traveller on the way. But the man – Hob Cleve – seems to be harbouring dark secrets of his own.

As more suspicious deaths occur, Martin is left wondering whether Hob can be trusted.

What is Hob hiding? Is Martin travelling with a killer?

And what really led to Martin’s miraculous recovery?


THE BLACK AND THE WHITE is a chilling historical mystery set during the Medieval plague era.

PUBLISHED BY  SAPERE BOOKS

PUBLICATION DATE – 3OTH MARCH

PRE-ORDER LINKS

Amazon  99p

MY REVIEW

A timely read considering the world we find ourselves living in, and I was utterly absorbed by this historical tale, set during the Great Plague and following a man on a mission of discovery. Not easy when you are joined on your journey by a man who has completely different values and outlook on life.

Martin finds himself waking up alongside his dead father, while the plague ravages family and villages, and wonders why he’s been spared. He wakes up clutching a figure of Saint Cynryth, a figure his father idolised, and Martin sees this as a sign to seek salvation for his father and to spread the word of this Saint that may, or may not, have saved his own life.

Martin is a quirky character! He is utterly devoted to doing the right thing and playing by the rules, but is troubled by nightmares – during the day he’s lonely, by night he’s terrified by demons.  As he travels from village to village on his way to Salster, where the shrine to the Saint is said to be, he is joined by Hob, who appears from nowhere to save him from being attacked. 

Wary but glad of the company, they make an odd duo travelling along and I loved watching their different attitudes towards the ‘miracle’ – Hob is a cynical soul and is bemused by the hold that this Saint has over Martin!  The way they challenge each other and their way of thinking was a fascinating part of the journey for me, and wondering if either of them really trust one another.  There are also a number of strange goings on that happen along the way which were an added twist to try and unravel!  It’s a story that plays on the emotions of the characters – Martin especially as he’s trying to find meaning amongst grieving for the loss of his family and finding himself alone.

It’s a slow burner of a story but that allows you to immerse yourself more in the characters and get to understand their state of mind, and I thought the ending was particularly bittersweet and unexpected!  

★★★★

#CoverReveal THE WALLS WE BUILD by JULES HAYES @rararesources

Delighted to be joining in with the cover reveal today for THE WALLS WE BUILD by JULES HAYES.  My thanks to the author, publisher and Rachel of  Rachel’s Random Resources for letting me be part of it all! Looking forward to sharing my thoughts on the book too on the Blog Tour next month, so watch out for that!!

The Walls We Build

Three friends …

Growing up together around Winston Churchill’s estate in Westerham, Kent, Frank, Florence and Hilda are inseparable. But as WW2 casts its menacing shadow, friendships between the three grow complex, and Frank – now employed as Churchill’s bricklayer – makes choices that will haunt him beyond the grave, impacting his grandson’s life too.

Two Secrets …

Shortly after Frank’s death in 2002 Florence writes to Richard, Frank’s grandson, hinting at the darkness hidden within his family. On investigation, disturbing secrets come to light, including a pivotal encounter between Frank and Churchill during the war and the existence of a mysterious relative in a psychiatric hospital.

One Hidden Life …

How much more does Florence dare reveal about Frank – and herself – and is Richard ready to hear?

Set against the stunning backdrop of Chartwell, Churchill’s country home, comes a tragic story of misguided honour, thwarted love and redemption, reverberating through three generations and nine decades.

For readers of Kate Morton, Rachel Hore, Katherine Webb, Lucinda Riley and Juliet West.

“Passion, intrigue and family secrets drive this complex wartime relationship drama. A page turner. I loved it.” #1 bestselling author, Nicola May

Publication Date: 23rd March

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

.

Jules Hayes lives in Berkshire with her husband, daughter and a dog. She has a degree in modern history and holds a particular interest in events and characters from the early 20th century. As a former physiotherapist and trainer – old habits die hard – when not writing Jules likes to run. She also loves to watch films, read good novels and is a voracious consumer of non-fiction too, particularly biographies.

Jules is currently working on her second historical novel, another dual timeline story.

Jules also writes contemporary thriller and speculative fiction as JA Corrigan. Jules Hayes can be found at:

Website: jules-hayes.com

 Twitter @JulesHayes6 – http://www.twitter.com/JulesHayes6 

Facebook Author Page: JulesHayesAuthor – http://www.facebook.com/JulesHayesAuthor 

Instagram: JulesHayes6 – http://www.instagram.com/juleshayes6 

Writing as JA Corrigan, Jules can be found at: Website: http://www.jacorrigan.com 

Twitter: @juliannwriter – http://www.twitter.com/juliannwriter

And now for the big reveal………… ready………

😍😍😍

PRE-ORDER LINKS

UK -= https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0855YZ3GG/
US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0855YZ3GG/

#BlogTour THE LADY OF THE RAVENS by JOANNA HICKSON #BookReview #LadyOfTheRavens @HarperFiction @joannahickson

Hugely delighted to be the latest stop on the wonderful Blog Tour for THE LADY OF THE RAVENS by JOANNA HICKSON.  My thanks to the author, publisher and Anne of  Random Things Tours for allowing me to be part of it all and sharing my thoughts!

JOANNA HICKSON 

9th January 2020 | Hardback | Ebook | Audio | £14.99 

Praise for Joanna Hickson: 

‘A great tale… the golden thread that led to the crown of England’  

Conn Iggulden 

‘An intriguing tale, told with confidence’ The Times 

‘Rich and warm’ Sunday Express 

 ‘Bewitching…alive with historical detail’ Good Housekeeping 

My baptismal name may be Giovanna but here in my mother’s adopted country I have become plain Joan; I am not pink-cheeked and golden-haired like the beauties they admire. I have olive skin and dark features – black brows over ebony eyes and hair the colour of a raven’s wing… 

When Joan Vaux is sent to live in the shadow of the Tower of London, she must learn to navigate the treacherous waters of this new England under the Tudors. Like the ravens, Joan must use her eyes and her senses, if Henry and his new dynasty are to prosper and thrive … 

PURCHASE LINKS

AMAZON

hive.co.uk

Goldsboro Books – signed first edition

About the author: 

Joanna Hickson spent twenty-five years presenting and producing News and Arts programmes for the BBC. Her first published book was a children’s historical novel Rebellion at Orford Castle but more recently she has turned to adult fiction, concentrating on bringing fifteenth century English history and some of its fascinating principal characters to life. She is married with a large family and gets inspiration from her Wiltshire farmhouse home, which dates back to her chosen period.  

MY REVIEW

This is the first book I’ve read from this author and I’m already itching to read her other historical offerings, as I found this to be both absorbing and informative and loved finding out even more about the Tudor period and the characters surrounding the court of King Henry VII’s.   And with the story of Joan being so captivating and full of material, I was instantly transported back as this story takes us chronologically through the goings on at a very interesting period of history.

Joan becomes a lady in waiting to Elizabeth, Henry’s Queen, and seeing the world at that time through both their eyes was fascinating.  Joan is adamant she wants more from life than just to be a mother, where that is all that Elizabeth expects her role to be! Her King needs heirs.  Seeing the expectations placed on women at that time is really brought home in an easy and accessible way through this storyline, and with all the royal goings on in the news at the moment, it is still shocking to see that in the past it was all decided  politically and by others – where does love get you anyway?!

I loved how the characters around the royals related the story – the gossiping while they worked, the clothing they wore and how much work went into preparing the clothing for the big events such as the wedding.  

The expectations on Joan to marry were difficult for her and it seemed in the end that she married to stay close to the Tower and the ravens who she had such a fascination and respect for.  The way she dealt with being a stepmother means she’s thrown in at the deep end, but she seemed to be one of those women who were wise beyond her years and could cope with pretty much anything that was thrown her way. Her one big fear though was pregnancy and it was enlightening to see the ways she tried to avoid that event happening to her!

Another aspect of the story I loved was discovering different palaces that are now long gone – when they were mentioned by name I found myself researching them online and it opened up more interest for me on this time of history. Why was it never this fascinating to me when I was at school?!

Seeing the story from both Joan and Elizabeth’s point of view, made this for such an entertaining historical read and I’m glad to have found a new author to me who does a wonderful job of sharing her passion for history through relatable and fascinating characters. Highly recommended.

★★★★

#BookReview THE FOUNDLING by STACEY HALLS

ABOUT THE BOOK

London, 1754.

Six years after leaving her illegitimate daughter Clara at London’s Foundling Hospital, Bess Bright returns to reclaim the child she has never known. Dreading the worst – that Clara has died in care – the last thing she expects to hear is that her daughter has already been reclaimed – by her. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl – and why. Less than a mile from Bess’ lodgings in the city, in a quiet, gloomy townhouse on the edge of London, a young widow has not left the house in a decade. When her close friend – an ambitious young doctor at the Foundling Hospital – persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home and her life. But her past is threatening to catch up with her and tear her carefully constructed world apart.

From the bestselling author of The Familiars, and set against the vibrant backdrop of Georgian London, The Foundling explores families, secrets, class, equality, power and the meaning of motherhood.

PUBLISHED BY MIRA

PUBLICATION DATE – 6TH FEBRUARY 2020

PRE-ORDER LINKS

Amazon  £6.47

hive.co.uk £9.95

Goldsboro Books – signed first edition £12.99

MY REVIEW

I read this via the Pigeonhole app.

Another exciting piece of historical fiction from Stacey Halls who seems to really capture the essence of the time and the issues that people faced and I found it fascinating to see the story told between the haves and the have nots, in the form of Bess and Alexandra.

Bess finds herself unmarried and pregnant and is forced to leave her baby daughter at The Foundling, a place where she is hoping that her daughter will be cared for while she gets her life together and then can go back and claim her. When she goes back 6 years later she finds out that Clara was taken from the hospital the day after she was left, by someone claiming to be Bess and so they mystery begins as to who that was and where her daughter is now.

And the story of Alexandra is just as captivating – she’s a widow who hasn’t left her home for 10 years. Which means a very closeted life for her daughter who only leaves the house to go to church. Alexandra is then persuaded to get a young nursemaid in to help with the care of her daughter. You wonder what this change in her lifestyle will mean for her as she’s been so careful over the years to protect her family, and she struggles to cope with a stranger in the house but her daughter seems to thrive.

I loved the little flashbacks in their lives as we got to find out about their pasts that affected their present situations. And their personalities were extremely intriguing – Bess had faced so many tough times but had never given up hope, whilst Alexandra had this privilege but that didn’t seem to stop her having so much anxiety about the world she was living in. At the heart of it is a young girl who just wanted people to care for her, while the women around her seemed to put their own feelings first instead of thinking of her wellbeing which they often lost sight of as they became so wrapped up in doing what felt right to them.

A story full of emotion and one I raced through desperate to find out how it was all going to play out!

★★★★

#BookReview THE SECRET MESSENGER by MANDY ROBOTHAM

ABOUT THE BOOK

Set between German-occupied 1940s Venice and modern-day London, this is a fascinating tale of the bravery of everyday women in the darkest corners of WWII, for readers of Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network and Pam Jenoff’s The Lost Girls of Paris.

Venice, 1943

The world is at war, and Stella Jilani is leading a double life. By day she works in the lion’s den as a typist for the Reich office; by night, she risks her life as a messenger for the Italian resistance. Against all odds, Stella must impart Nazi secrets, smuggle essential supplies across the city, and produce an underground newspaper on her beloved typewriter.

But when German commander, General Breugal, becomes suspicious, it seems he will stop at nothing to find the mole, and Stella knows she faces an uncertain future…

London, 2017

Years later, grieving Luisa Belmont finds a mysterious old typewriter in her attic. Determined to find out who it belonged to, Luisa delves into the past, and uncovers a story of fierce love, unimaginable sacrifice, and, ultimately, the worst kind of betrayal…

published by Avon

PURCHASE LINK

Amazon UK

MY REVIEW


An engrossing piece of historical fiction that really brings home the untold stories of those who lived during WWII and the brave and selfless acts that many went through to do all the could to ‘fight the good fight’ whilst putting themselves in danger, and the importance of sharing those stories so that future generations can understand what happened.

It’s a dual timeline story, so we see the story from the point of view of Luisa in London in 2017 as she is dealing with the grief of losing her mother, and sorting through all her personal possessions and finding out the significance of certain pieces she finds, especially a portable typewriter.

And we see the story of Stella, in Venice in 1943, and her remarkable story of how as a young woman she is helping the resistance, whilst living and working amongst the Nazi’s who have taken over Venice. She gets a role as a typist of the Reich during the day, but at night she delivers messages for the resistance and writes articles for a newspaper. Seeing her struggle with keeping her double life quiet from those around her was a real eye opener, and as a young woman her only aim is to do the right thing and keep those she loves safe. It was fascinating to see how the war affected those who lived and worked in Venice at the time – with soldiers patrolling the streets liable to ask you questions or search your belongings at everytime, so the importance of safe houses was paramount to those working to get messages out.

The storyline of Stella was obviously far stronger and the more captivating, but I did like the role Luisa played in bringing things together and how the research into her family history helped distract her mind from the grief she was suffering, and that she wished she’d known more whilst her relatives were still alive. I hadn’t given much thought to what it must have been like for those in Venice at the time living under Nazi rule, and there were some horrific acts that were committed on innocent people that really brought home how awful it must have been for everyone at the time. Not knowing who to trust and trying to get on normally with your day to day business, whilst fearing what was going to happen next must have taken its’ toll on everyone. But Stella was always determined to keep on putting herself in danger to keep doing what she could and is a really inspirational character.

An excellent historical story


★★★★

#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.