#BlogTour THE LAST VILLAGE by AUDLA ENGLISH #BookReview #TheLastVillage @AudlaE #RandomThingsTours

Delighted you have joined me today for the latest stop on the Blog Tour for THE LAST VILLAGE by AUDLA ENGLISH. My thanks to the author, publisher and Anne of  Random Things Tours for putting this all together and letting me be part of it all.  It’s a real pleasure!

The Last Village by Audla English

· Paperback: 214 pages

· Publisher: Independently published (12 Oct. 2018)

· Language: English

· ISBN-10: 1723846171

· ISBN-13: 978-1723846175

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Village-Audla-English/dp/1723846171

ABOUT THE BOOK

CHILL WITH A BOOK AWARDS- PREMIER READERS’ AWARD WINNER

2019 AMERICAN FICTION AWARDS FINALIST- ROMANCE: HISTORICAL

The majestic Souter Lighthouse stands proudly at the edge of the cliff top surrounded by open grassy empty fields and overlooking a vast blue wilderness. Anna Charles knows nothing of the life that her grandmother once had here. It wasn’t until an unexpected engagement, that Anna discovered the past of her Gran and the truth behind an enduring love.

Seventy years earlier, Lillian Smith, had been part of the close-knit community that once thrived in the village that existed next to the lighthouse. A chance meeting with a sailor one day, would change the course of her life forever.

A moving novel set in the North East of England. The Last Village is an enduring love story which spans the 1940’s and modern day, binding the generations.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Audla English grew up in the North East of England. Born in Sunderland, a graduate of Newcastle University and living in South Tyneside, she is passionate about this wonderful region which acts as an inspiration to her writing. Her award-winning debut novel ‘The Last Village’ is a dual time-line historical fiction and is written as a dedication to the now sadly demolished Old Marsden Village which was built by the Whitburn Coal Company in the 1870’s. The Marsden Rock coastal setting is also used to weave a family saga style narrative around a beautiful part of north east England. The novel is a moving love story about the life of Lily, a young woman growing up with her friends in 1945 whereas the other side of the story, in 2017, is about Anna and her own discovery of her grandmother’s past life- it is a novel which spans and binds the generations through family and friendship.

Twitter @AudlaE   Website http://www.audlaenglish.co.uk/

MY REVIEW

I found this to be a charming and engaging story which combined the different timelines so well, and really gave you the different perspectives of how life had changed over the years for the characters.  It really captures the essence of a village that was demolished, but how important it was to the people who lived there and as Anna gets to hear the story from her grandmother Lily of her recollections, it opens up so much history and shows just how many stories go forgotten about as time moves on.

In the present, Anna is preparing for her own wedding, and is reminiscing about the lovely times she used to spend with her grandmother as she grew up but how she knows very little of the life her grandmother led whilst growing up, so it is lovely for both Anna and Lily to share time together and share stories that show that although time and expectations may have changed, at the heart is the need to surround yourself with good people and to be supportive of one another.

I loved looking back in time with the stories that Lily shared.  It tells of her experiences during the war and how the community all pulled together, but that childhood innocence they all had was taken by what they witnessed and lived through.  

Anna is dealing with her own issues as her wedding approaches, namely some bitchy comments from a so called friend, and really brings to light how circumstances can change people. Whilst Anna is all about finding ways to include those closest to her on her big day, others are more concerned about showing off and changing in personality.

It was a really lovely read and both timelines had so much to explore and enjoy.  With the historical aspect, alongside the human impact, it really gave you a sense of these characters and the dramas they had to face and there’s such a warmth about both Lily and Anna that you can’t help fall in love with the both!

★★★★

#BlogTour The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E.Harrow #BookReview #TenThousandDoors @Tr4cyF3nt0n @orbitbooks

Delighted to be the latest stop on the brilliant Blog Tour for the equally brilliant THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY by ALIX E.HARROW.  My thanks to the publisher, author and Tracy of Compulsive Readers for putting the tour together and letting me be part of it!

ABOUT THE BOOK

In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.

Published by Orbit

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK  £21.72

hive.co.uk  £10.69

whsmith  £9.35

MY REVIEW

I think we’ve all dreamed of finding doors that lead to different worlds – I still live in hope of finding Narnia at the back of my wardrobe – and in this book you get to enjoy the magical journey of following January as she discovers a special book that unlocks worlds of adventure, whilst she discovers more about her past and those around her.  It was  a beautifully written story and one you can totally lose yourself in as you switch between storylines, and there’s never a dull moment in either!

January is a wonderful character. She’s seen as an oddball, but tolerated by others because she is under the care of Mr Locke, a very wealthy man, as her father is seemingly always off working looking for treasures all over the globe. As the story progresses you find out how relevant her fathers’ travels are and this just adds more depth to the story.

The book January discovers tells the story of Ade, another fascinating character, who was born in 1866 and was raised by her aunts who took very little notice of her, allowing her to roam free and adventure. When she is 15 she sees a ‘ghost’ and what transpires is a totally enthralling story that involves lots of door hunting and a wonderful love story.

I found this to be one of those books that takes a little while for you to get your bearings with the way it’s told. but it soon has you under the spell and I really loved the different aspects of the story – the romance, the fantasy elements and the historical as they all blended so well and really just kept delivering surprise after surprise!!  Highly recommended!!

🚪 🚪 🚪 🚪

#BlogTour MEET ME IN MONACO by HAZEL GAYNOR and HEATHER WEBB #BookReview @Harper360UK @HazelGaynor @msheatherwebb #MeetMeInMonaco

Thrilled to be the latest stop on the Blog Tour for the fabulous MEET ME IN MONACO by HAZEL GAYNOR and HEATHER WEBB. My thanks to the publishers for the copy of the book and letting me be part of it all!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Set in the 1950s against the backdrop of Grace Kelly’s whirlwind romance and glamourous wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco, New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb take the reader on an evocative sun-drenched journey along the Côte d’Azur in this page-turning novel of passion, fate, and second-chances.

Movie stars and paparazzi flock to Cannes for the glamorous film festival, but Grace Kelly, the biggest star of all, wants only to escape from the flash-bulbs. When struggling perfumer Sophie Duval shelters Miss Kelly in her boutique, fending off a persistent British press photographer, James Henderson, a bond is forged between the two women and sets in motion a chain of events that stretches across thirty years of friendship, love, and tragedy.

James Henderson cannot forget his brief encounter with Sophie Duval. Despite his guilt at being away from his daughter, he takes an assignment to cover the wedding of the century, sailing with Grace Kelly’s wedding party on the SS Constitution from New York. In Monaco, as wedding fever soars and passions and tempers escalate, James and Sophie—like Princess Grace—must ultimately decide what they are prepared to give up for love.

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK  £8.96

hive.co.uk  £7.75

whsmith  £6.47

MY REVIEW

If you’re looking for a book to transport you back in time – to a time of glamour, glitz and wonderful settings, then look no further! This is the book  for you! And I found myself totally swept up in the romance and pining for the glamorous times and stars of  the past!

It’s the story of 2 women – one slightly more well known than the other! When a young actress finds herself pursued by a photographer at the Cannes Festival, she hides out in a perfume shop and gets talking to the owner and they strike up a wonderful friendship that carries them both through changing times!  

Sophie runs a perfume shop but times are tough.  She will do anything to save her beloved shop which means so much to her but she’s running out of options and time!  When the young actress, Grace Kelly, ends up in her shop she’s captivated by the scents created by this woman and the friendship that follows between the two is enchanting.  

The photographer chasing after Grace is James who is a London photographer and has been sent on assignment to capture the sights of the Cannes film festival. When he meets Sophie he is firmly put in his place by her but there’s just something about her that he can’t shake.  

Throughout the story we also get snippets of the news of the time concerning Grace Kelly and her rise to fame, and how the timeline went for her as she fell for a Prince.   I loved this little look back and how the media interest just grew and grew, and how their romance blossomed from a chance meeting.

The striking feature throughout the book is loyalty – Sophie was loyal to Grace and vice versa, and the loyalty shown by Sophie and James too was also clear to see.  He doted on his daughter despite having to spend so much time away from her, and his devotion for her  is something that really connects with Sophie even when it means it may come between them.

I found this book to be utterly spellbinding!  The historical element was perfectly played, as was the romances and the difficult choices that many characters had to make on their journeys.  I have since found myself looking back at old photos and video clips of Grace and Prince Rainier and just imagining Sophie and James being part of it all behind the scenes!!

★★★★★

#BlogTour The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott #BookReview @SimonschusterUK @CScottBooks #RandomThingsTours #PhotographerOfTheLost

Truly delighted to be the latest stop on this Pre-Publication Blog Tour for this astonishing book and to give you a little taste of what you have to look forward to come publication day in October! 

My thanks to the author, publisher and Anne of Random Things Tours for the early copy of the book and putting this tour together and letting me be part of it all!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Until she knows her husband’s fate, she cannot decide her own… An epic novel of forbidden love, loss, and the shattered hearts left behind in the wake of World War I 1921. Families are desperately trying to piece together the fragments of their broken lives. While many survivors of the Great War have been reunited with their loved ones, Edie’s husband Francis has not come home. He is considered ‘missing in action’, but when Edie receives a mysterious photograph taken by Francis in the post, hope flares. And so she beings to search. Harry, Francis’s brother, fought alongside him. He too longs for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last things they ever said. Both brothers shared a love of photography and it is that which brings Harry back to the Western Front. 

Hired by grieving families to photograph gravesites, as he travels through battle-scarred France gathering news for British wives and mothers, Harry also searches for evidence of his brother. And as Harry and Edie’s paths converge, they get closer to a startling truth. An incredibly moving account of an often-forgotten moment in history, The Photographer of the Lost tells the story of the thousands of soldiers who were lost amid the chaos and ruins, and the even greater number of men and women desperate to find them again.

Published by  Simon & Schuster

Publication Date – 31st October 2019

PRE-ORDER LINKS

Amazon UK  £12.99

hive.co.uk  £10.69

WHSMITH  £9.35

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

photo thanks to Johnny Ring

Caroline Scott is a freelance writer and historian specializing in WWI and women’s history. The Photographer of the Lost is partially inspired by her family history.

Twitter @CScottBooks

MY REVIEW

I don’t even know where to begin with my thoughts on this book – other than that I adored every single blooming page!! I found it to be such a stunning read that really captured the atmosphere of the time, the grief shared by so many and the limbo that many families were left feeling after the First World War when their loved ones were missing in action.  At a time when many were celebrating the War being over, many were left with so many unanswered questions with no word on the missing soldiers and they were left clutching to the faint hope that these men were in a French hospital, unable to get in contact with those back home.

It’s the story of brotherhood and the bonds between loved ones with 3 brothers going off to fight in the Great War – Francis, Harry and Will – and the desperate search for Francis after the war by his brother Harry and Francis’s wife Edie who was desperate to know what happened to him – even more so when she receives an envelope containing a photograph of him, 4 years after he’d gone missing. When was it taken? Where was it taken? Who was it from? Was he still alive?

 Harry becomes a ‘photographer of the lost’ on his return, which means he goes back to France often to take photos of gravestones for those back home who want a picture of the final resting place for their loved ones and  the surrounding areas – while there he devotes much of his time to trying to track down the likely places his brother may have gone, and also meets others doing similar searches for their family members.

The story changes effortlessly from the time in France after the War, to the past when the brothers were setting off to war together – their experiences on the front line, their fears, the banter they used to lighten the mood – they were just young boys and you just can’t even begin to imagine the sights they were witness to.  

Edie too sets off to France to try her best to get some answers for herself, and her storyline also looks back on how she and Francis met and how close they all were – she can’t move on until she knows the truth about her husband.

This was often a very sombre and haunting read, but so beautifully descriptive and made you totally understand just how lost people were when they didn’t know what had happened to those who didn’t come back home – they felt restless until they knew and would cling on to the hope that they’d turn up on the doorstep one day.  It brilliantly showed the human aspect of war – on those who went to fight and on those who were left behind waiting for letters and contact.

An outstanding and memorable book. Easily one of my favourite reads of 2019!

★★★★★

#BookReview The Dragon Lady by Louisa Treger

ABOUT THE BOOK

‘A daring blend of romance, crime and history, and an intelligent  exposé of the inherent injustice and consequences of all forms of oppression’ Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions

Opening with the shooting of Lady Virginia ‘Ginie’ Courtauld in her tranquil garden in 1950s Rhodesia, The Dragon Lady tells Ginie’s extraordinary story, so called for the exotic tattoo snaking up her leg. From the glamorous Italian Riviera before the Great War to the Art Deco glory of Eltham Palace in the thirties, and from the secluded Scottish Highlands to segregated Rhodesia in the fifties, the narrative spans enormous cultural and social change. Lady Virginia Courtauld was a boundary-breaking, colourful and unconventional person who rejected the submissive role women were expected to play.

Ostracised by society for being a foreign divorcée at the time of Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson, Ginie and her second husband ,Stephen Courtauld, leave the confines of post-war Britain to forge a new life in Rhodesia, only to find that being progressive liberals during segregation proves mortally dangerous. Many people had reason to dislike Ginie, but who had reason enough to pull the trigger?

Deeply evocative of time and place, The Dragon Lady subtly blends fact and fiction to paint the portrait of an extraordinary woman in an era of great social and cultural change.

published by Bloomsbury Caravel

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK  £13.46

hive.co.uk  £12.99

whsmith  £11.89

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born in London, Louisa Treger began her career as a classical violinist. She studied at the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music, and worked as a freelance orchestral player and teacher.

Louisa subsequently turned to literature, gaining a First Class degree and a PhD in English at University College London, where she focused on early twentieth century women’s writing.

Married with three children, she lives in London.

Author Website

MY REVIEW

A sumptuous and scintillating story that has a wonderful mix of fiction and fact and allows you as a reader to get a fascinating glimpse at the lives of some extraordinary characters set over a number of years.

The Courtaulds did some amazing things in their lifetime so it was so interesting to get this part of their lives looked at more closely, especially the time they spent in Rhodesia and to see the turmoil that was around then – both socially and personally for them to deal with, just because they had a more liberal outlook on the world.

The story starts with Catherine in the 1990’s looking back at the time she first encountered the ‘Dragon Lady’ – a reference to Lady Virginia Courtauld who had become infamous for the rather outlandish tattoo on her leg. Very unbecoming for a lady of that time! But did she care?! Nope!

And with her husband Stephen, Lady Ginie had a life worth reading about! This story looks back at how they met, the standing they took in society, the royalty and famous people they became friends with, and what caused them to end up in Rhodesia in the first place. I loved the ever changing timelines which gave you insights into their lives at different points – so much history to look back on and changes in society for them to have witnessed.

Their time in London before moving abroad, meant time spent rebuilding Eltham Palace and the labour of love that became for them both and I’ve loved looking at things online since, seeing the impact they had on it and just imagining them living there along with their pet lemur!

But the story really comes alive when the author describes their time in Rhodesia – their exotic lifestyle in exquisite surroundings are vividly described and brought to life. How they tried to fit in with the other English families around at the time who stuffy, prejudiced views on the locals, and how the Courtaulds were just so different and were harrassed and threatened for trying to do the right thing and being inclusive. Many people would have crumbled under the provocation but they stayed true to their beliefs in very unpredictable times.

I raced through this book as I just became so wrapped up in the lives of these remarkable people and found the whole story beautifully written and a wonderful piece of historical fiction, mixed with romance and crime! A little bit of something for everyone!!

My thanks to the author for the copy in return for a fair and honest review.

★★★★★

#BookReview The Botanist’s Daughter by Kayte Nunn

ABOUT THE BOOK

Discovery. Desire. Deception. A wondrously imagined tale of two female botanists, separated by more than a century, in a race to discover a life-saving flower . . .

In Victorian England, headstrong adventuress Elizabeth takes up her late father’s quest for a rare, miraculous plant. She faces a perilous sea voyage, unforeseen dangers and treachery that threatens her entire family.

In present-day Australia, Anna finds a mysterious metal box containing a sketchbook of dazzling watercolours, a photograph inscribed ‘Spring 1886’ and a small bag of seeds. It sets her on a path far from her safe, carefully ordered life, and on a journey that will force her to face her own demons.

In this spellbinding botanical odyssey of discovery, desire and deception, Kayte Nunn has so exquisitely researched nineteenth-century Cornwall and Chile you can almost smell the fragrance of the flowers, the touch of the flora on your fingertips . . .

Published by Hachette

PURCHASE LINKS

hive.co.uk  £7.89

whsmith  £8.72

Bert’s Books  £8.99

MY REVIEW

An historical, dual time-line story about gardening and romance?! Yes please!! And I loved every minute of it and has made me want to set off on my own plant hunting adventures – but maybe with less danger involved!!

In the present timeline, Anna is a gardener who is currently overseeing the renovation of her beloved grandmothers’s house that she has been left, and when the builder start knocking walls down they uncover a box hidden in the walls. Anna and her family know nothing about this box and when she discovers what is inside she is intrigued to discover more.

Back in 1886, Elizabeth Trebithick is living at Trebithick Hall with her beloved father and sister. She has inherited her fathers’ need for exploring – he’s a plant hunter and is often away -and she wishes she could escape too. He shares his dreams with her of plants he aims to find and makes her promise him that she’ll carry on his work for him. She’s not one to be stopped and kept at home, as was expected of women back then, so she soon sets off with her maid to the other side of the world to hunt out a very rare and dangerous plant. Being seasick isn’t the best start for her journey though!

The 2 timelines work brilliantly with one another – as Anna delves further into the origin of the paintings she finds, along with reading the diary that was also hidden away she is drawn into the need to explore and finds herself travelling to Cornwall to see what more she can find out about this family she knows little about. 

And as Elizabeth settles into her new life, her head is soon turned by a local guide who seems to share her interest and passion for plants, but with a rival plant hunter also on the scene, she is unsure whether she can trust her guide with the real reason she is out there, other than painting the different plants she sees.

I loved the characters in both timelines of this book – both women weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and do whatever became necessary to achieve their tasks! Be it uncovering a rare plant, or putting the pieces together in a mystery puzzle and discovering who hid the box in a wall and why. It really gave a great insight into just how precarious plant hunting was, but so rewarding when a new plant was found, or local knowledge helped you learn something new about a plant.

Really enjoyable and easy to read and I’ll definitely be reading more from this author in the future!

💮💮💮💮

#BookReview #20BooksOfSummer The Murder of Harriet Monckton by Elizabeth Haynes

And she’s back on track again with a book finished from her original list! Well done me!! This was one of the #large books I had on the list – nearly 500 pages – and now means that Book 6 has now been ticked off from the 20 Books of Summer list!! Wahoo!!

ABOUT THE BOOK

The Murder of Harriet Monckton is based on a true story that shocked and fascinated the nation. 

On 7th November 1843, Harriet Monckton, 23 years old and a woman of respectable parentage and religious habits, was found murdered in the privy behind the dissenting chapel she had regularly attended in Bromley, Kent. The community was appalled by her death, apparently as a result of swallowing a fatal dose of prussic acid, and even more so when the autopsy revealed that Harriet was six months pregnant. 

Drawing on the coroner’s reports and witness testimonies, the novel unfolds from the viewpoints of each of the main characters, each of whom have a reason to want her dead. Harriet Monckton had at least three lovers and several people were suspected of her murder, including her close companion and fellow teacher, Miss Frances Williams. The scandal ripped through the community, the murderer was never found and for years the inhabitants of Bromley slept less soundly. 

This rich, robust novel is full of suggestion and suspicion, with the innocent looking guilty and the guilty hiding behind their piety. It is also a novel that exposes the perilous position of unmarried women, the scandal of sex out of wedlock and the hypocrisy of upstanding, church-going folk.

published by Myriad Editions

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK  £10.91

hive.co.uk £11.45

whsmith  £10.49

paperback edition due out 18th July 2019

MY REVIEW

Wow! One of those books that just seems to consume you from the first page to the last, and I am just so glad to have spent time getting to know of Harriet Monckton and hearing what might have been.

It’s a story based on a true story – the horrific murder of Harriet shocked those in Bromley at the time – and having it brought to life through this book allows the reader to be horrified too. I loved the inventive way the story was told – through the eyes of the main 4 suspects – and their insight into their relationships with Harriet, their backgrounds and it really gives you different perspectives and I often found myself changing my view on who I thought was more likely to have been involved. 

It builds up slowly from the moment when Harriet goes missing to when her body is found and the reactions of those suspected and closest to her to the terrible news. Their backstories are enthralling in their own right as you really get a grip of what they’ve faced in life and how that reflects in their behaviour now. But the water gets muddier the longer the investigation and inquest goes on as masks begin to slip and I had my suspicions about them all! The inclusion of the ‘ diary’ of Harriet takes the story then to another level as her views on the world she sees around her seemed to be quite different from those we’d already heard from

The voices of the past really do come to life in this book and I just found myself totally caught up in the time in history and the drama. The story is never rushed so the attention to detail was exquisite and it’s one of those books that is going to stay with me for quite a while. 

A tragic story brilliantly told.

★★★★★