The Woman at the Light by Joanna Brady #FridayReads #BookReview

Woman at the light

One afternoon in 1839, Emily Lowry’s husband vanishes from Wreckers’ Cay, an isolated island off the coast of Key West where he tends to the lighthouse. As days stretch into months, Emily has no choice but take charge of Wrecker’s Cay and her husband’s duties tending the light to support her three children, and a fourth on the way. Unexpected help arrives when a runaway slave named Andrew washes up on their beach. At first, Emily is intensely wary of this strange, charming man, whose very presence there is highly illegal. But Andrew proves himself an enormous help and soon wins the hearts of the Lowry family. And, far from the outside world and society’s rules, his place in Emily’s life is as steadfast now as the light, and will forever change their futures. When Emily’s family is ripped apart once again, she faces untold hardships that test her love and determination and show how the passionate love of a defiant, determined woman can overcome any obstacle.

My Review

A lighthouse is of such significance both as a life-saver and a symbol. On dangerous coasts in the 19th century their importance could not be over-rated, so it is astonishing to learn that in some cases, the vital task of igniting the light each evening was undertaken by women.  This story is based on one of those women who had responsibility for part of the wrecking coast of the Florida Keys.

 

Emily is determined to take on this responsibility, in the hope that her husband Martin will reappear.  Living alone on the fictional island of Wreckers’ Cay, 23 miles from Key West, Emily’s family have in many ways found their life idyllic and she has no wish to become dependent on her Gran.  The arrival of Andrew, still shackled as a slave, is a shock but also a blessing.  He becomes an important part of the children’s lives and gradually Emily begins to feel desire for him.  Such a situation in that place and time can only lead to tragedy and the approach of a terrible storm changes their lives forever.

 

Emily is a survivor, but she is also a spirited woman who makes her own way in the world, fighting for the best life for her children.  Her sister Dorothy seems a more relaxed, easy-going woman for whom life is easier, but we learn that she is more complex and plays a major role in Emily’s future.  The second part of this story takes back to Key West and later to Cuba and New York.  I found the interaction between Emily and the men she encountered, depending on her social standing, particularly interesting.  We might find it very hard to adapt to a man such as Pedro Salas, who combines charm and sexual demands, but Emily is a woman of her time.

 

What begins as a story of love and hardship, becomes an unfolding mystery story and family saga.  I would recommend this novel to anyone interested in 19th century American history and also as a story of passion and courage.

You can find The Woman at the Light at Amazon UK

and at Amazon US

Joanna Brady

Joanna Brady

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My Sweet Friend by H A Leuschel #NewRelease #Book Review

Sweet Friend

Would you be suspicious of someone who described you as, “My sweet friend”?  This novella tells the story of the relationship between Alexa and Rosie.  When smart, charismatic Alexa joins the Parisian PR firm where Rosie is a trusted employee, she quickly makes her mark.  Her glowing reference and impressive CV are matched by her immaculate clothes and well organised manner and she quickly strikes up a friendship with Rosie.

Told in turn by Alexa and Rosie we learn what has happened, both by their admissions to the reader and by the dialogue between the two young women.  Rosie is saddled with the problem of providing care for her mother who had Alzheimer’s, while Alexa has no contact with family.  Also affected by the changing dynamics in the office is Jack, who is close to Rosie but develops a love/hate relationship with Alexa.

The most revealing passages are in Alexa’s voice.  We sympathise with her concern over the high expectations at work.  She is not coping but is determined to maintain her calm exterior and charm.  The detailed description of her immense pleasure in sitting in the sunshine drinking delicious coffee while her blonde hair lifted softly in the sea breeze, emphasise her need to put herself first.  There is evidence that she is deceiving others, but she is also deceiving herself.

We have all met needy people who take and never give.  Where do you draw the line?  Are we sometimes too gullible?  The questions posed by this story are, why is Alexa like this and what will happen next in her life.  An intriguing, thought-provoking tale.

You can purchase My Sweet Friend on Amazon UK

Helene

Helene Andrea Leuschel grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She now lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches Yoga.

You can read my review of Helene’s short stories Manipulated Lives here

Girl in the Castle by Lizzie Lamb #BookReview #Scotland #Highlands

Castle

Having discovered when I read Scotch on the Rocks what a talented writer Lizzie Lamb is, I was happy to begin reading about Dr Henriette Bruar, the Girl in the Castle.  Leaving behind a disastrous event at St Guthlac’s University, which has ruined her academic reputation, Henri is travelling to a remote Highland castle to catalogue and value the Laird’s books and begin writing her thesis on the Highland clearances.

But Henri is not welcomed.  Almost abandoned by the side of the loch in the gathering Autumn dusk by Lachlan, a small old retainer who wants no “wee lassie going over” to the castle, it appears that even Alice Dougal, the housekeeper wants her to leave the next day.  But the Laird, Sir Malcolm MacKenzie is hoping she will find valuable books to restore his dwindling funds and Henri is determined to prove her worth.  Unfortunately, she makes a bad impression on Keir, the handsome son and heir, who believes she is one of his father’s lady-friends.

As Henriette becomes accepted as part of the unhappy household, she begins to bring light into their sad lives, never recovered from a tragedy during Keir’s childhood.  But when she meets Ciorstaidh, Keir’s cousin, she is told in no uncertain terms that Keir is already promised to her.

But like Lizzie’s other books this is a complex story of magic, mystery and fascinating history.  An exciting team game of shinty is described in detail and on October 31st, the Celtic customs of Samhain are re-enacted.  The social repercussions of arranged marriages and debt and the need for an heir and a spare make fascinating reading, contrasting with the beliefs of a 21st century woman.

This convincing romance, beginning in conflict and distrust, is set in stunning scenery which comes to life through Henri’s experiences and Keir’s enthusiasm for his birthright.   A great read!

You can find Girl in the Castle on Amazon UK

and on Amazon US

 

Jonah by Carl Rackman #fridayreads #bookreview

Jonah

When a U boat is spotted floating on the surface of the Atlantic in 1940 by a British destroyer, the remaining German crew accuse one of their shipmates of being a Jonah.  Why then, in the Pacific in 1945, do the same events seem to be recurring on US Navy destroyer Brownlee?

 

The protagonist of this novel, “Lucky” Mitch Kirkham is introduced to us as he and his crewmates are involved in a terrifying battle with a continuous attack by Japanese Kamikaze pilots.  For the second time in his naval career, Mitch survives while others are killed.  He finds himself an outcast, distrusted, disliked and mistreated by his immediate superior.  When his life is threatened he is befriended by Father McGready, who gives him some hope that he will return home safely, but soon many of the crew are showing symptoms of hysteria, seeing ghosts and talking of a sea-monster.  Mitch is a naturally curious individual, an interesting character to follow, but this leads him into more trouble.  He no longer knows whom he can trust or who will be acting strangely, next.

 

The author gradually reveals the back stories of Mitch and the other characters so that we understand their demons.  Battle scenes are vividly described and full of tension.  It is evident that Carl Rackman has thoroughly researched wartime life in the US navy and we can imagine ourselves on board the Brownlee.  As the plot develops, the reader feels an increasing fear of imminent disaster leading to an eventful, surprising conclusion.

Jonah is available at Amazon UK  and Amazon US

Offstage in Nuala by Harriet Smith #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

Offstage

In this third instalment of The Inspector de Silva Mysteries, we return to the island of Ceylon in the 1930s.

Book Blurb
There’s great excitement when a professional theatre company comes to Nuala. However matters take a dark turn when the company’s actor manager is murdered. Inspector de Silva has a new case to solve and he has to consider some very unpalatable motives for the crime. He will need all his persistence, coupled with his wife, Jane’s, invaluable help to unmask the villain of the piece.

My Revue
In this book the murder scene is the sumptuous Gaiety Theatre, where an Asian tour by a talented group of actors, commences with a production of Hamlet. The whole cast is suspect since no-one else was seen to enter the theatre during rehearsal time and it is soon evident to Inspector de Silva that there are many secrets to uncover. But he is also frustrated by the actions of his superior, Assistant Government Agent, Archie Clutterbuck, who keeps him away from the victim’s wife, Kathleen Darnforth, and from young Emerald Watson, who may have been Mr Darnforth’s mistress.

Shanti de Silva leaves no stone unturned as he explores every nook and cranny of the old theatre and sets his sergeant and constable on thorough investigations. However, their work is interrupted by an amusing interlude involving Mrs Clutterbuck’s pet Shih Tzu dog, Angel, and a large elephant. There are fascinating descriptions of the busy market and of Shanti’s cool fragrant garden where he walks at the end of the day.

“As he turned to go back to the bungalow, something drifted into his hair. He brushed it off and smelt again the sweet, intense fragrance of frangipani. The flower’s pale yellow gleamed against the dark lawn. He remembered his mother saying that if a frangipani flower fell on your head, you would have good luck. He hoped she was right.”

Inspector de Silva will need this good luck as he homes in on the culprit, putting himself in severe danger. In a thrilling conclusion, he discovers a surprising twist which he hadn’t expected.

Once again, the complex social structure of 1930s colonial life is effectively recreated in a story about well-rounded characters in a colourful, exotic location. The guide to the main characters provided at the beginning make it possible to enjoy this novel without needing to have read the first two.

You can purchase Offstage in Nuala on Amazon UK

or on Amazon US

Harriet

Harriet Steel

Harriet Steel grew up in London and Wiltshire but now lives in Surrey. Married with two daughters, she has worked in fields from law to libraries. Her interests are travel, history and art, all of which have inspired the four historical novels she wrote before turning to crime with The Inspector de Silva Mysteries. She reads widely, but in the mystery genre is particularly fond of vintage mysteries. She would love to go back in time for a day and have lunch with Hercule Poirot, tea with Miss Marple, and dinner at the Ritz with Lord Peter Wimsey.

She loves to hear from readers so do visit her blog where you’ll find interviews with other authors, articles on a variety of topics and more information about her writing. If you would like advance notice of new releases, offers and promotions, there’s a Follow by Email button.

http://harrietsteel.blogspot.co.uk/

 

ANYTHING BUT BOOKS TAG

Anything

I’m pleased to take part in one of those random questions things, after being tagged by writer pal Terry Tyler ~ you can read her post HERE. She in turn was tagged by  Shelley Wilson 

Q1. Name a cartoon that you love.

I don’t really love cartoons.  I adored Popeye when I was a child but occasionally I will now watch Futurama.

Futurama_NextGen_Spotlight_NoLogo_1920x1080

Q2. What is your favourite song right now?

I usually only listen to music in the car.  I have always liked Fields of Gold especially the version by Sting, but at the moment I really like Katie Melua’s version for Children in Need.

Gold

Q3. What could you do for hours that isn’t reading?

I have always enjoyed walking by water; along a beach, a promenade or a clifftop path.

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Q4. What is something that you love to do that your followers would be surprised by?

A few months ago I started Tai Chi lessons.  I enjoy the stretches, the breathing and the mindfulness.  I hope it will improve my terrible balance.

Tai chi chuan.

Q5. What is your favourite, unnecessarily specific thing to learn about?

I like finding out about my ancestors who built Thames barges or worked as lightermen on the Thames. I also have researched the lives of my ancestors who were born in Gibraltar, Nova Scotia and Barbados as army brats because their father was a 19th century soldier.

Q6. What is something unusual you know how to do?

Not so much know how to do, but always remember.  I can tell you most of the main Dewey decimal numbers for topics in a Library, such as 821 for poetry or 595.7 for Insects.  I can also remember book authors, especially of children’s books even though I can’t remember the names of people I know.  It’s a symptom of a lifetime of working in school libraries.

Q7. Name something that you’ve made in the last year.

I made a blanket out of crocheted squares with a crochet along challenge on Facebook.

snowflake Sq

Q8. What is your most recent personal project?

I am researching and writing about what happened to children from the Workhouse who were sent to a sail training ship or into service as a maid.

Q9. Tell us something that you think of often.

I think about my grandchildren even though I see a lot of them and when I’m not there I think about our little house in Portugal.

IMG_0428

Q10. Tell us something that’s your favourite, but make it oddly specific.

My favourite activity is discovering new cousins through genealogy, and either meeting them or corresponding with them.  I have met several lovely people this way, from all over the world.

Mark

Meeting my American cousins in London

I’m not going to Tag anyone else as I’m not sure who would like to do it but if you are reading this and would like to accept the challenge. I would love to read your answers.

Imago by Celina Grace #FridayReads #BookReview

Imago

Imago is the third book of the Kate Redman Mystery series featuring a young, female detective, fighting crime and pursuing justice, in the fictional West Country town of Abbeyford.

Having read two other books in this series (though not in the right order!) I knew I would enjoy meeting this hard-working, compassionate policewoman again.  This time Kate, her friend Detective Sergeant Mark Olbeck and her boss, Detective Chief Inspector Anderton have to solve the murder of a young prostitute, stabbed with a steak knife, and soon they begin to wonder if the crime has been committed by a serial killer.

As Mark settles down in domestic harmony with his partner, Kate begins to realise how lonely she is, but she tries to keep to herself the growing feelings she has for her boss.  Meanwhile she is trying to build up her fitness to participate in a half marathon and at the same time, deal with the hostility of Jerry, an older police constable who resents her.

This book is filled with tension and thrilling episodes.  We read the murderer’s diary, looking for clues and motive.  The reason for the title of this novel is intriguing.  The plot builds up to an exciting climax, as Kate thinks she has identified the killer and there is an exciting final twist to the story which will keep you on the edge of your seat.

You can purchase Imago on Amazon UK

or on Amazon US

Celina Grace

Celina Grace

I tried to get traditionally published as a writer for a long time. A loooooooong time. I make it fifteen years and counting….

I’ve also been writing for as long as I can really remember. I wrote my first story, The Blue Ruby, when I was about seven. Throughout college and university, I experimented with screenplays and scripts (I was studying Film and English at the time at the University of East Anglia), as well as other more short stories. In my twenties, I started my first novel, finished it, then my second, then my third. In my thirties, I was slightly side-tracked by the birth of my son but, leaving aside that trifling distraction, managed to write my fourth..

I didn’t bother trying to get the first novel published as I saw it as more of a practise run at this business of being an author. With the second, I entered the 2004 Lit Idol competition and got to third place. That was my ticket to publication, I thought, surely? Hah! Just the first in a long line of disappointments, of which every writer must be familiar… hopes built up to then be smacked down again. I had an agent approach me after the competition and on their encouragement, I finished, edited and polished the manuscript, sent it off to them with happy hopes – to be told months later that they didn’t think it was quite right for them..

Gutted, but enthusiasm relatively undimmed, I started on a new novel, inspired in part by the dramatic events of 2005 – the London bombings. I also wrote a short story at the same time on the same subject – it was on my mind a lot that summer (unsurprisingly. Freedom Fighter is the story – available on Amazon as part of A Blessing From The Obeah Man short story collection). This novel The House on Fever Street was shortlisted for the 2006 Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award. Aha, I thought, a fairly prestigious and industry recognised award. This will get me published. Did it? Did it buggery!

The House on Fever Street was also longlisted in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award of that year, which garnered me some nice reviews and a much needed ego boost but didn’t advance my career as a published author much further..

So what next for our doughty heroine? She ups and writes her fourth novel, gains an agent and thinks now, now I have finally made it as a published author! And she waits. And waits. And waits some more. And then waits a bit more. And a bit more. Finally, for variety, she waits a bit more..

So, after two years of waiting, reading about self-publishing on Amazon and other platforms, I believe a phrase that ends in ‘…for a game of soldiers’ passed my lips and I decide to publish myself. So I did. I think I made about £10 in my first month of publishing. Fast forward three years and here I am, a full time indie author, a Top 100 UK Amazon bestseller, having reached half a million readers. Couldn’t be happier!

Celina Grace