An Uncommon Beauty…
Hidden away in rural Devonshire, Phyllida Satterthwaite has always been considered more odd than beautiful. But in London, her oddity has made her a sensation. Far worse, it’s caught the eye of the sinister Duke of Moreland—a notorious art collector obsessed with acquiring one-of-a-kind treasures. To escape the duke’s clutches, she’s going to need a little help.
An Unlikely Hero…
Captain Arthur Heywood’s days of heroism are long past. Grievously injured in the Peninsular War, he can no longer walk unaided, let alone shoot a pistol. What use can he possibly be to a damsel in distress? He has nothing left to offer except his good name.
Can a marriage of convenience save Philly from the vengeful duke? Or will life with Arthur put her—and her heart—in more danger than ever?
Phyllida Satterthwaite is presented to us surrounded by a cacophony of misbehaving dogs, all of whom she owns and cares about. Insisting on bringing them to the London home of her uncle Edgar Townsend, she must soon find a husband to provide for her, now she is penniless. It is apparent that she puts animals before people and she seems unaware of her beauty, only thinking herself odd because of her mismatched eye colours. But for one person, the Duke of Moreland, she is a work of art, which he wishes to add to his collection.
It might have gone according to Townsend’s plan had it not been for the noble actions of Captain Arthur Heywood, but what use is he, so badly injured from the battle of Albuera that he can hardly walk. Yet Arthur and Philly are drawn together because they don’t fit into the artificial society of Regency London. Arthur fears a terrible fate will befall Philly and he is prepared to use his wealth, and power to keep her safe. But can there be a happy ending? Arthur is damaged, physically and mentally, while Philly is an innocent, gentle girl who longs for independence and a safe place to look after her animals.
As with all Miss Matthews’ novels, it is the conversations between hero and heroine which catch the imagination. As love grows, problems increase. Philly is still in danger and Arthur is not fit enough to protect her. There are credible misunderstandings and a complex plot but the intimacy of this delightful couple is such a pleasure to read.
The Work of Art can be pre-ordered on Amazon Uk for delivery on July 24th
You read my review of The Lost Letter, a Victorian romance by Mimi Matthews here
Hope takes us to an alternative UK in 2028. Just 5 years earlier, shiny new Prime Minister, Guy Morrisey, had been elected, part of Brand Morrissey, with his wife Mona, a fitness guru, and two clean living photogenic children. Now we meet Lila Stone, whose earnings come mainly from her social comment and review blog, content with the lifestyle she shares with her flatmates, Nick, a successful online journalist and Kendall, a sweet curvaceous girl. But slowly things begin to fall apart. Queues outside food banks become longer each day, Nutricorp, a company started by Mona’s father, is becoming increasingly powerful and Mona’s project to make ordinary folk #FitForWork attacks their confidence and even their livelihood.
Lila’s childhood as a foster child has made her independent, and she is determined to help those in need, but she is reluctant to seek help for herself. Gradually she, Nick and Kendall find their comfortable life moving to “Just Getting By” and then “Totally Fucked”. Will they end up entering one of the villages for those who fail to support themselves, called Hope?
The frightening thing about this novel is that it is not so different to the world we live in now. The toxic effect of social media on well-being and how easily powerful factions can distort facts is present in our society and with the slightest shift we could be in Lila’s place. Another really powerful dystopian novel by Terry Tyler which could so easily become our reality.
Hope can be found on Amazon UK
My review of Terry Tyler’s other haunting picture of Britain’s future Tipping Point
An adrenaline-fueled adventure set in the Netherlands, Croatia, Italy, and Turkey about stolen art, the mafia, and a father’s vengeance.
This is the third of Zelda Richardson’s adventures in the art world. While working on her Master’s thesis she had been an unpaid intern. Now in her first paid job as a museum researcher she is anxious to make her mark, but little does she realise that she will soon be a suspect in a daring multiple art theft. This thrilling tale also allows us to view the situation from the viewpoint of the thieves and observe a bitter feud between Luka, a Croatian gangster and Ivan an embittered ex-collaborator, determined to get revenge for the tragic death of his daughter.
While Zelda’s boyfriend, Jacob, is working in Cologne, she spends her free time in Amsterdam, socialising with colleagues at the Amstel Modern Museum and getting to know her neighbour, Gabriella, a talented artist. Shortly after three sketches by famous artists are stolen from the Amstel Museum, Zelda stumbles into trouble when she inadvertently sees a copy of one of the sketches in Gabriella’s studio. After Gabriella disappears, Zelda’s admission that she has seen a copied painting puts her under suspicion. Zelda is desperate to find Gabriella and clear her name, so she is relieved when noted art recovery investigator, Vincent de Graaf, takes on the case, allowing Zelda to assist him.
This series of daring art thefts are especially intriguing because at each location a card is left by “Robber Hood,” criticising the gallery for lack of fool proof security. I took great pleasure in the delightful chapter titles, such as, “Balkan Bandits Strike Again” and “The Audacity of Art Thieves,” The authors descriptions of action and adventure in Venice and Marmaris bring each site vividly to life and made me keep turning the pages long after I should have turned off the light.
For an illustrated account by Jennifer S Alderson of the locations in her book look here
My review of Zelda’s first escapade in the art world The Lover’s Portrait
Marked for Revenge on Amazon UK
This is the second Guernsey novel I have read so I was pleased to recognise some familiar places and people, but previous knowledge is not needed to read this stand-alone story. Heroine, Tessa is completing her training as a doctor in Exeter and hopes to move into general practice when she is surprised to hear that she has inherited a large house in Guernsey from her Great-Aunt Doris. Returning to the place where she grew up, fills Tess with pleasure but what she should she do with this crumbling old house? Looking up an old friend gives her a contact which could lead to a new job, so Tess considers returning to Guernsey.
In parallel to the contemporary story, we read the diary of Eugénie written in the 1860s. A recently widowed French woman, she is Tess’s ancestor. More tragedy follows when she loses her baby, but she is taken care of by Madame Drouet who is the long-term mistress of Victor Hugo and her life becomes closely linked to the famous couple.
As Tess works out what she wants from life, she meets Jack who supervises the restoration of the house where Eugénie once lived. Both women have to make decisions about their futures, but Tess has more freedom than her ancestor had in Victorian times. It is fascinating to read of Victor Hugo’s long sojourn in Guernsey and his magnetic personality. In contrast, the modern problems encountered by Tess, as a doctor and her growing awareness of her genealogy add great depth to this unusual novel.
The Inheritance is available at Amazon UK
My review of The Betrayal by Anne Allen
Inspector de Silva and Jane embark on a cruise to Egypt to visit the pyramids, excited at the prospect of two weeks of sun, sea and relaxation. With Nuala, and de Silva’s duties as a police officer, far behind them, what can possibly spoil their plans? Then a writer is found dead in his cabin, suffocated by newspaper thrust down his throat. Once again, de Silva must swing into action.
I always look forward to a new book about the investigations of Inspector de Silva and his English wife, Jane, but this time they have left their house and garden in Ceylon to take a holiday cruise to Egypt. Having made the same voyage through the Suez canal in reverse back in the 1960s I was intrigued to read of their experiences.
The captive population of a ship at sea is ideal for a crime mystery and there are plenty of potential candidates for the murderer in this novel. There are arrogant wealthy women, a mismatched pair recently engaged, an unhappily married couple, a flamboyant singer and a badly scarred vicar, all hiding secrets. Jane de Silva is a more active participant in this investigation, giving us a more intimate picture of her close relationship with her husband who is in great danger during the book’s thrilling conclusion. This 6th volume could easily be read as a standalone or an introduction to this delightful mystery series.
Passage from Nuala on Amazon UK
My review of the first book in the series, Trouble in Nuala
“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.”
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
Transcription opens in 1981 when Juliet Armstrong is involved in an accident. As she lies on the ground, injured, her mind goes back to 1940 when she started work in the offices of MI5 and then to 1950 when she was a BBC schools programmes producer. A witty but unemotional protagonist she seems to be recounting events as they happened, but there are omissions, and can we really trust her testimony?
I loved this book, much preferring it to Life After Life. The story of how MI5 monitored Nazi sympathisers and the account of the amoral social life of 1940 are fascinating. Juliet’s observations on a woman’s role, always making the tea but also sent out to risk her life on potentially dangerous missions without any training, reflect reality. At times, this novel made me laugh out loud, at others, it is tense and thrilling and always slightly puzzling. There are so many intriguing characters, from Peregrine Gibbons, so dapper but resisting her charms (Juliet’s naivety is believable) to Godfrey Talbot, the likeable double agent, via delightful Cyril, her hard-working companion in Dolphin Square and the tactless Daisy who is supposed to assist Juliet at the BBC.
As Juliet listens in to meetings between Godfrey and a group of fascist sympathisers her transcriptions are sketchy. Words are missing when the dog barks and we don’t have a complete picture of what is happening. This reflects Juliet’s story. She has the ability to lie easily, making her an effective spy and yet she cares deeply about the fate of a young maid who briefly helps her and who, like Juliet, is an orphan.
This is a deep novel with a light tone. It is interesting to read from the context of today’s politics and society. And if you are wondering, the flamingo on the cover is explained towards the end of the story. There has been criticism by some reviewers of the denouement in which we are told in a rapid summary how threads in the story linked and we learn more about Juliet’s motivation, but I am on the fence on this. It satisfied my queries but possibly could have been revealed more subtly. However, the texture and quality of the writing is so delightful I could happily read it all over again next week.
Transcription is available atAmazon UK