The Architect’s Apprentice by Colin Garrow (The Maps of Time Book 1) #BookReview

Old Books and time travel – what more could you want?

Architects Apprentice

 London, 1630. A boy searching for his father. A villain stealing books.

Forced to work for the dubious Savidge, eleven-year-old Tom Fennel is desperate to find his missing father. Distrustful of what he’s heard, he’s sure Savidge is involved. Meanwhile, books are vanishing from architect Martin Deacon’s library – books from the future. Enticed into the mysterious world of updrafts and secrets, Tom learns that finding his father is the least of his worries.

Tom is an intelligent, courageous hero, determined to find the truth even though that requires taking dangerous doors and updraughts into the near future.  Despite these time slips, the novel is grounded in the mire, deception and poverty of 17th century London. Aided by Emily, a confident young companion, and by his sister, Sarah, mute since the disappearance of their father, Tom must decide which adults can be trusted.

The plot is hectic and, at times, confusing but the reader is carried along by the amazing idea and the tension of Tom’s predicament. No-one is safe and some scenes are distressing but good can triumph.  A conclusion is reached but many threads remain to be followed into the next book in “The Maps of Time” series. A lively read for anyone aged 11 to 60 plus.

The Architect’s Apprentice is available at Amazon UK

Garrow

Colin Garrow

Colin Garrow grew up in a former mining town in Northumberland. He has worked in a plethora of professions including: taxi driver, antiques dealer, drama facilitator, theatre director and fish processor, and has occasionally masqueraded as a pirate. All Colin’s books are available as eBooks and most are also out in paperback, too.

His short stories have appeared in several literary mags, including: SN Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Word Bohemia, Every Day Fiction, The Grind, A3 Review, 1,000 Words, Inkapture and Scribble Magazine. He currently lives in a humble cottage in North East Scotland where he writes novels, stories, poems and the occasional song.

He also makes rather nice cakes.

Advertisements

A Modest Independence by Mimi Matthews (Parish Orphans of Devon) #RBRT

Modest

Book Description

He Needed Peace…

Solicitor Tom Finchley has spent his life using his devious intellect to solve the problems of others. As for his own problems, they’re nothing that a bit of calculated vengeance can’t remedy. But that’s all over now. He’s finally ready to put the past behind him and settle down to a quiet, uncomplicated life. If only he could find an equally uncomplicated woman.

She Wanted Adventure…

Former lady’s companion Jenny Holloway has just been given a modest independence. Now, all she wants is a bit of adventure. A chance to see the world and experience life far outside the restrictive limits of Victorian England. If she can discover the fate of the missing Earl of Castleton while she’s at it, so much the better.

From the gaslit streets of London to the lush tea gardens of colonial India, Jenny and Tom embark on an epic quest—and an equally epic romance. But even at the farthest edges of the British Empire, the past has a way of catching up with you…

My Review

This unusual Victorian romance tells the story of two people who do not plan marriage with anyone. At 28, Jenny Holloway is a spinster “past her prime” and after life as a drudge caring for her ungrateful father, her ambition is for independence and the opportunity to travel. Tom Finchley is a successful, London attorney whose lonely childhood has given him the drive to work long hours, with little time for pleasure.  But as Jenny sets out to travel to British India with her legacy and two trustworthy servants, Tom finds himself compelled to accompany her.  Soon, despite antagonism, they draw closer and begin an intimate friendship not normally possible for respectable single men and women.

Mimi Matthews has the ability to reveal her characters inner most thoughts even when they are deeply confused.  The frank conversations between Tom and Jenny show that although they are strongly attracted to one another they are equally determined to keep their independence.  The plot takes us on trains, ships and gharries to Egypt and on to India.  The intense heat and tense atmosphere following the Indian mutiny is clearly described and the unfortunate early lives of Jenny’s Indian servants tells us much of the unfairness of colonial rule. This accurate picture of society’s expectations helps the reader to feel Jenny’s frustration at the entrapment of women within marriage, paralleled by the tight rigidity of her corseted costume.   And the addition of passion and love, results in an irresistible tale I did not want to stop reading.

Read about A Modest Independence on GoodReads

The Silver Dark Sea by Susan Fletcher #amreading #bookreview

Silver Dark sea

“I heard that there is hope on a coastline, it was my own self, speaking – me, as my comfort, trying to keep myself afloat.”

“There were so many stories on that island that it felt like they came in on the tide.”

 “The Silver Dark Sea” is perhaps the most significant character in this novel. For the inhabitants of the island of Parla, the sea’s moods, sounds, harvest and destruction rule their lives. This is not an easy novel at first; written in the main as the stream of consciousness of the key protagonists, interspersed with folktales from Abigail’s book, it slips from third person to first person and only becomes comprehensible when the reader identifies that individual.

The location of Parla is unclear but the intermingled fates of the Bright family from the lighthouse and the Bundy family from the farm “Wind Rising” provide the background to this tale of love and loss. The roles of women and men in this simple old-fashioned community are separate and clearly defined and after a tragedy 4 years earlier many have lost their stability and focus. Maybe if the story of The Fishman of Sye comes true, they will be redeemed.

I want to give this beautiful atmospheric novel five stars, but the slow laborious plot development makes me award it 4.5 stars. I was unsure how the story should end but for me the conclusion was just right. Susan Fletcher is an author to seek out.

The Silver Dark Sea can be found on Amazon UK

Susan Fletcher

Susan Fletcher

Susan Fletcher was born in 1979 in Birmingham. She is the author of the bestselling ‘Eve Green’ winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award, ‘Oystercatchers’ and ‘Witch Light’.

Theodore and Eliza by Susan Harvard #FridayReads #RBRT

Theodore

Book Description

Theodore & Eliza is the first and only account of the eight-year marriage 1812-20 of the mixed-race couple, from whom Princess Diana was directly descended.

The story is threaded through an extensively researched background of places and people in Yemen, Bombay and Scotland during the Napoleonic era. It is an unusually intimate account drawn from a rarely-accessed private archive of the couple’s personal correspondence.

Rapidly changing attitudes to biracial marriages mean that Theodore has to choose between his family and a lucrative career. Though he still loves her, he decides to leave his wife and their three children.

My Review

This true story of the marriage of Theodore Forbes, a rich Scottish merchant, and Eliza Kewark, an Armenian from the city of Surat shines a light on the complex relationships and social niceties of early 19th century British India.  Having fallen passionately in love, the 23-year-old Aberdonian had married his teenage bride rapidly so that he could take up his post as British Resident in Mocha, which at that time was the chief port of the Yemen.  For 3 years the couple lived a happy life there. Responsible for buying and shipping the East India company’s entire annual consignment of coffee, Theodore found his multi-lingual wife a great asset and they rejoiced in the birth of Kitty and her younger brother Aleck.  In 1815 they were ordered to return to Bombay.  While Theodore lodged with friends and attended society parties, Eliza and the children lived in a house in the country, a short ride away, but they were both glad to return to Surat.  Now Eliza lived in one of the grandest houses, a great improvement on her original status in the city. Sadly, when the family returned to Bombay in 1816, Theodore was to discover that society was less liberal than it had been in the past as “respectable” British wives disapproved of “mixed” marriages.  His “dear Betsey” was not accepted at balls or dinner parties.

Many will be fascinated to read that these are the ancestors of Princess Diana and the careful research and detailed descriptions in Susan Harvard’s book reveal the fascinating multi-racial life and the difficulty of balancing ambition against love and duty.  There are stunning pictures from those times included in the book.  The author has followed the history of many of Theodore’s friends, family and colleagues, but at times movement back and forth through time can be confusing.  This is a book for the keen historian, but it will also appeal to those who wonder about the life of those who sought their fortune in the East and left a legacy to the present generation.

Theodore and Eliza is available at Amazon UK

Susan Harvard

Susan Harvard

Susan Harvard was born in London and educated in Scotland and England. She has a BA in French, English and History of Art. After a career researching and restoring pictures, she now lives on a smallholding in rural Somerset where her focus is on writing and conservation.

She has always been interested in History and its relevance to the modern world. Research into the time that Theodore and Eliza lived in Yemen from 1812 – 1815, has thrown up many fascinating parallels with our own time.

Letters from the Dead (Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery Book 7)

Letters from the Dead

Several years ago, I read the first three books in Steve Robinson’s mystery series about American genealogist Jefferson Tayte.  Now I have taken up the seventh story in which Jefferson travels to Scotland to help client, Damian Sinclair, break through the brick wall concealing the identity of his four times great grandfather.  But this is not just about family history, there is a legend of a valuable ruby stolen in India which the whole family hope to discover.  At first Jefferson is greatly impressed by the magnificent stately home where Sinclair lives with his elderly retainer, Murray, but within the walls he finds shabby rooms and unsafe floorboards.

The parts I most enjoyed were the letters of Jane Hardwick which began in 1822 as she returned to India, a widow and companion to a friend joining her husband in Jaipur.  Jane is a warm, caring woman who tries to look after teenage Arabella and her unhappy mother as their story gradually unfolds.  While Jefferson explores Sinclair’s bloodline, new letters from Jane appear mentioning the legendary gemstone. But he becomes increasingly aware of danger, as one by one, members of Sinclair’s family are murdered.

This book easily stands alone as a thrilling story of love, greed and treachery.  There are many red-herrings and I did not guess the outcome either in the 1820s or in the present-day denouement.  Highly recommended for anyone, not just those who love genealogy.

Letters from the Dead can be purchased on Amazon UK

Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson drew upon his own family history for inspiration when he imagined the life and quest of his genealogist-hero, Jefferson Tayte. The talented London-based crime writer, who was first published at age 16, always wondered about his own maternal grandfather–“He was an American GI billeted in England during the Second World War,” Robinson says. “A few years after the war ended he went back to America, leaving a young family behind and, to my knowledge, no further contact was made. I traced him to Los Angeles through his 1943 enlistment record and discovered that he was born in Arkansas . . .” Robinson cites crime writing and genealogy as ardent hobbies–a passion that is readily apparent in his work. He can be contacted via his website www.steve-robinson.me or his blog at www.ancestryauthor.blogspot.com.

The Chess Men (Lewis Chronicle 3) by Peter May #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

“The shadow of a massive rock rose up ahead of him, and he felt his way around it to the leeward side where he was briefly out of the wind. He pressed himself back against the sheer face of this giant slab and stood there gasping for breath. He had never in his life felt so small, or so vulnerable. The scale and scope of the land and the power of the elements, dwarfed him into insignificance.

He found himself shivering now with the cold, teeth chattering. To stop would be fatal. He had to find shelter. As he turned again to face the black uncertainty that lay ahead of him, the sky lit up in a series of lightning flashes that cast their ghostly effulgence across the valley that fell away beneath him. It was startling and bleak in this unforgiving light, a landscape so alien and primordial that it would not have been out of place on the moon.”

Chess Men

This final book of the Lewis Trilogy finds ex policeman, Finn MacLeod starting work as a security officer on a large estate on the Isle of Lewis.  Looking out for poachers seems an odd choice for him, especially as one of the poachers is his old friend, Whistler.  When he and Whistler discover a plane at the bottom of a drained loch the author takes us back to the disappearance of Roddy, star of a Celtic pop group, 17 years earlier.  Both Fin and Whistler were teenage friends of Roddy and the other members of the group and that time is returning to haunt them.

After reading the earlier books in the trilogy I thought I knew everything about Fin’s youth but suddenly we meet several more old friends and many life-changing experiences not mentioned before.  The technique of moving from present to past and back again seems overworked and slightly annoying in this book and revealing the lies and secrets is a very slow process.  There is however far more action especially in the last few chapters but I wished Fin and Marsaili would sit down to talk about their future.

As I have begun to expect from Peter May the descriptive passages are spell-binding and the characterisation of young Anna Bhaeg, Whistler’s estranged daughter, is superb. Crime and coming of age are intermingled in this story but like Inspector Gunn I feel frustrated by Fin.  There could be 4th book one day!

The Chess Men on Amazon UK

My Reviews of The Black House and The Lewis Man

One by Jennifer L Cahill #FridayReads #RBRT

One

 

One” is a light hearted, easy read, set in 2005. The first of a trilogy, this retro contemporary novel will remind you of the simpler life of work, friends and relationships in the “noughties.” Focused on Penelope, a 28-year-old investment banker, we share her search for a significant relationship while maintaining a high-powered job and enjoying time with her friends. In parallel we meet Zara, her young house-mate, newly arrived from the country and struggling with London life.

 

We also encounter Charlie, a musician, who was at University with Penelope and also shares their house; Richard, an annoying ex-Uni friend of conspicuous wealth and Alyx, an irresistible, handsome young lawyer, who travels widely with a successful pop group.  The fact that both Alyx and Richard own castles in Scotland is hard to believe and it is no wonder that Zara feels out of her depth amongst such an affluent group.

 

Each of these young people are looking for good relationships and successful careers but juggling these is not easy and we see the possibility of Penelope being dragged into the life of a stay-at-home wife and mother. It is clear that in the last 14 years women’s roles have moved on.  It is easier to identify with Zara and encouraging to see her increased confidence as she learns to navigate the underground, finds a new job and gains friends.  The books conclusion is dramatic, leaving the reader longing to know how the next few years will pan out for this colourful group.

One is available on Amazon UK

JC

Jennifer Cahill was born in Dublin in Ireland and was educated at University College Dublin. She honed both her ability to write, and her love of writing, in UCD while studying Spanish, which was one half of her International Commerce degree. She went on to Business School in Dublin and moved to London after graduating, and life has never been quite the same for her since. When she is not writing she works with individuals and blue-chip clients to help them navigate and master change. She spent ten lovely years living in Clapham and now lives in Notting Hill in West London.