An Unconventional Officer by Lynn Bryant #BookReview

Unconventional

A story of love and war in Wellington’s army 

In 1802 Europe is going back to war, General Arthur Wellesley is commanding troops in India and the officers and men of the 110th infantry are about to get the shock of their lives as a new officer arrives in barracks.

Paul van Daan is young, wealthy, arrogant and ready to take on the Maratha, the French and whole of the British army. A talented and charismatic leader of men, he needs to learn to curb his temper and adjust to the rigid army hierarchy in order to rise in his chosen profession. On the way he makes enduring friendships forged on the battlefields of India and Europe and builds an unexpected bond with the difficult, unemotional commander of the Peninsular army, Sir Arthur Wellesley.

There are many women in Paul’s life but only two who touch his heart.

Rowena Summers, a shy young governess straight from a charity school. Serene and gentle, her love and companionship give Paul a stability he had not known he lacked.

Anne Howard the extraordinary daughter of a wealthy manufacturer who marries a fellow officer and changes everything Paul thought he knew about women.

Amidst the violence and tragedy of the war against Napoleon an unforgettable love story unfolds which affects the lives of everybody it touches and changes the 110th forever.

This is the first book in the Peninsular War series which tells the story of the men and women of the 110th infantry, a regiment like no other in Wellington’s army.

My Review

I have always been fascinated by the long years of battles and skirmishes in the Iberian Peninsular at the beginning of the 19th century. Here men from all backgrounds were thrown together to fight alongside Spanish and Portuguese soldiers against Napoleon’s army. The extra interest was the presence of many women, officers’ wives enjoying social interaction and soldiers’ wives surviving in camp in horrendous conditions by doing laundry and cooking.

But this book is no boring account of warfare, for the tension, jealousy, romance and passion of the main characters make it a real page turner. There’s a sprinkling of Bernard Cornwall’s Sharpe stories, the eroticism of an Outlander book and a totally original take on the role of women in this isolated community so distant from life at home in England.  In addition, there are terrifying incidents of danger and violence which keep you on the edge of your seat.

Paul Van Daan is an irresistible, irritating hero, who doesn’t obey the conventions or stick to military rules, but he has survived two and a half years in Nelson’s navy and his strict but fair way of treating the men of the 110th Light company keeps their loyalty and determination.  Though Paul finds it difficult to resist an attractive woman, he always treats them with respect and within this novel, he finds in his loyal wife, Rowena and in the forthright, stunning Anne, reason to live and to fight for justice.  The situation the trio find themselves in, is absurd and cannot have a happy outcome and yet they remain steadfast to each other.  It a very unusual plot but it works in a time when men lived by their wits and good and evil were more pronounced.

I loved this novel for its historical accuracy and its imaginative storyline. Highly recommended.

An Unconventional Officer can be purchased at Amazon UK

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Seaglass by Eloise Williams #BookReview #AmReading

Seaglass

She will come for you… Lark struggles when her family and their friends go on holiday in a lonely caravan site on the Welsh coast for the autumn half term. Her mother is ill, her little sister has stopped speaking and she has fallen out with her best friend. Is a girl in a green dress following her in the fog? Or is her sister playing tricks on her? When a local woman tells her the girl comes to take sisters, Lark finds herself the only one who can save her family. Perfect for fans of Emma Carroll and Lucy Strange, Seaglass is a chilling contemporary ghost story with a determined 13-year-old heroine defending her family and learning to handle her emotions.

My Review

Seaglass is a Middle Grade novel for anyone from 10 to 90, as long as you can remember what it’s like to be 13, anxious and angry. Set in a caravan park on the Welsh coast during the Autumn Half Term it was an ideal read over the nights of Halloween and bonfire night.

To help her mother, Lark tries to look after her little sister, but Snow’s muteness makes communication difficult. From the moment they arrive in the seaside town, strange things occur and she is warned about a ghostly danger to her sister.

Eloise Williams writes beautiful descriptive passages of the beach and coastline, full of poetic expression and she enables us to enter Lark’s mind, seeing her worries, her rage and fear.  Misunderstanding within Lark’s family have increased her stress and a secret from her grandmother’s childhood is now affecting Lark and Snow.  But there is comradeship and affection from their community of friends even if sometimes this leads them into dangerous predicaments. The book deals with racism, friendship, bullying and loss within the context of a mysterious, atmospheric tale.

Seaglass can be found on Amazon UK

 

 

The Memory Shop by Ella Griffin #BookReview

Memory

The most important things in life . . . are not things at all.

Nora is fleeing London for her childhood home in Dublin after her heart is suddenly torn apart. Back home, she learns she has inherited all of her grandmother’s worldly belongings – a feather shrug, a Tiffany mirror, a gold locket, and many more precious things besides.

With no means of keeping them, and not able to bear auctioning everything off, Nora decides to open The Memory Shop so each object is matched to a perfect new owner.

Soon Nora begins transforming the lives of those around her through the items she pairs them with, helping them find new happiness in unexpected ways. Now if she can only let go of her own past, she might just surprise herself . . .

An uplifting novel set in a charming Irish community, about love, family and finding your way.

My Review

There is something about Irish authors; concerns of the heart are paramount and despite sadness and mistreatment, goodness will out.  I was drawn to this book by the concept of inherited treasures being sold to the most appropriate new owner.

At first the novel reads like a set of short stories about different characters, such as widower Will and his unhappy daughter, or Caroline whose marriage is disintegrating, but gradually they link back to Nora, the heroine, who is determined to put her boyfriend’s betrayal behind her while she earns money for her unhappy mother, Alann.  Finding notes from her grandmother hidden among the precious items, she hopes to discover more about the estrangement between her mother and grandmother.

There are several tales of faithless, promiscuous men and yet there are also feel-good solutions for some of the couples.  The local community in this part of Dublin are, in the spirit of a popular film, almost too good to be true, but that did not diminish my pleasure in reading the book. Finally, the tragic revelation about Nora’s grandmother rooted this charming tale in reality.

The Memory Shop on Amazon UK

Ella Griffin

E Griffin

Ella Griffin was born in Dublin. She was an award-winning advertising copywriter before she took the leap into fiction. She has written four novels since 2011. She loves making readers laugh and cry (sometimes on the same page.) Ella lives with her husband in County Wicklow in Ireland.

You can find Ella at www.ellagriffin.com, Facebook/EllaGriffinAuthor and @EllaGriffin1

 

Being a Beta Reader & receiving ARCs #FridayReads #AmReading

Jessie

I’m feeling like a real book reviewer this week as I’m a Beta reader for non-fiction author, Barbara J Starmans’ first fiction book. Barbara is responsible for the fascinating Social Historian website https://www.thesocialhistorian.com/ and she is now writing a novel based on the story of her great-grandmother.

Clockmaker

I’ve also received 2 ARC books.  The first, being delivered in instalments, is “The Clockmaker’s Daughter” by Australian author, Kate Morton, whose time-shift novels I always enjoy. It will be published on September 20th.  I am reading this on my iPad via The Pigeonhole which includes comments from current readers. I found this very distracting so have deleted that feature!

Gift Horse Cover MEDIUM WEB

The other ARC is by Jan Ruth, one of my favourite authors.   Called “Gift Horse,” it is about a real horse but also about the eponymous proverb and will be published in October. I am looking forward to reviewing both these books.

 

 

Finders, Not Keepers by D E Haggerty #RBRT #BookReview

Book 1 of the Not So Reluctant Detective series

Finders not Keepers

Finders, Not Keepers is a cosy mystery, with a romantic thread, humour and suspense.  Our heroine, Terri, is a 42-year-old school Librarian with a madcap friend, Melanie and a rather dishy younger neighbour, Ryder.  Recovering from the collapse of her marriage to Alan, Terri decides to clear the attic of the last of his belongings.  While there she discovers a valuable diamond pendant, so needs to contact the previous house owner.  She is astonished to find out that Jessica, who had lived there two years ago, had been murdered, so asks Ryder, a PI, to help her find Jessica’s next of kin.

Terri is a believable character, of substance. She has a successful career but is struggling to afford the mortgage on her much-loved house.  The breakup of her marriage has sapped her confidence, but she is a caring woman who spends her weekends helping charities.  The fact that Ryder is attracted to her, fills her with amazement and she is cautious about responding to someone who might want to control her, as Alan had.  Meanwhile, Terri constantly puts herself into dangerous situations, trying to find the right place for Jessica’s bequest as well as perhaps revealing her murderer.

What I particularly enjoyed in this book is the humour. As a former school librarian myself, I loved the quotes at the beginning of each chapter, especially, “A cardigan is a librarian’s lab coat.”  Melanie’s predilection of calling Ryder, “hot neighbour guy,” is irritating but sums up her character so well.  I shall certainly be seeking out more entertaining cosy mysteries by D E Haggerty.

Finders, Not Keepers is available on Amazon UK

Haggerty

D E Haggerty

D.E. Haggerty was born and raised in Wisconsin but thinks she’s a European. While spending her senior year of high school in Germany, she developed a wicked case of wanderlust that is yet to be cured. After high school, she returned to the U.S. to attend college – ending up with a bachelor’s degree in History at the tender age of twenty while still managing to spend time bouncing back and forth to Europe during her vacations. Unable to find a job after college and still suffering from wanderlust, she joined the U.S. Army as a Military Policewoman for five years. While stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, she met her future husband, a flying Dutchman. After earning her freedom from the Army, she went off to law school. She finished the required curriculum but jumped ship and joined her flying Dutchman in the Netherlands before the graduation ceremony could even begin. In Holland, she became a commercial lawyer specialized in IT for over a decade. During a six-month break from the law, she wrote her first book, Unforeseen Consequences. Although she finished the novel, she hid the manuscript in the attic and went back to the law. When she could no longer live in the lawyering world, she upped stakes and moved to Germany to start a B&B. Three years after starting the B&B, she got the itch to try something new yet again and pulled the manuscript for Unforeseen Consequences out of the attic. After publishing the book, she figured she may have finally found what she wanted to do with her life and went on to write Buried Appearances. When her husband found a job opportunity in Istanbul, she couldn’t pack fast enough. She spent more than two years in Istanbul furiously writing and learning everything she could about the publishing world. When the pull to return to her adopted home became too much, she upped stakes and moved to The Hague where she’s currently working on her next book. Finders, Not Keepers is her thirteenth book.

The Story Collector by Evie Gaughan #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

story collector

The Story Collector is set in an Irish village in two time zones, a hundred years apart.  On a last-minute whim, Sarah Harper has boarded a plane from America to Ireland rather than face her family after the break up of her marriage.  Arriving with no place to stay she soon finds the kindness of strangers providing her with accommodation and companionship. And then she finds a diary written by Anna in 1910.  Between sketching and drowning her sorrows in drink, Sarah follows the young woman’s life story page by page.

 

Anna works hard helping her parents on their small farm while admiring from afar the wealthy Anglo-Irish twins in Thornwood House.  Her everyday life becomes more interesting when Harold Griffin-Krauss, an American academic, arrives in the district. Investigating Irish folklore for his book.  Anna is employed to translate the tales told to him, from Irish into English.  They soon become good companions, but she is unsure whether to admit her deepest secret to him.

 

Sarah is also intrigued by the stories of fairies and the beautiful setting. As an artist she appreciates the countryside, so well described by Evie Gaughan.  There is a touch of magic but also a feeling of sadness and menace.  Both Sarah and Anna have suffered loss, but both will finally have to make new beginnings.  This lovely novel is a great pleasure to read and definitely a page-turner.

The Story Collector is available on Amazon UK

Lost Voices of the Edwardians by Max Arthur #amreading #bookreview

Edwardians

I am a sucker for any book about the Victorians or Edwardians so when I spotted Max Arthur’s book in a charity shop I immediately bought it.  It is a compilation of testimony from people who grew up or lived during the Edwardian era, 1901-1910.  The memories of mostly ordinary people have been transcribed as small snippets in chapter themes such as childhood, work, suffragettes and military.  There is an index at the back if you wish to look up subjects such as The House of Commons or chicken pox.

One young lady describes how she was approached by a pleasant lady asking for guidance in reaching Waterloo station. She was then persuaded to accompany the woman to her home in Gray’s Inn Road.  Being joined along the road by two men, the younger one took the young lady aside to say, “Little girl, she’s no fit companion for you, come along, here’s your bus,” and he hailed one.  She never forgot her saviour!

I was also intrigued by the school stories, of shoeless children being caned and other children proud of the thorough education they had been given by strict but fair teachers.  A good book to keep by the bedside for reading at odd moments.  And there are others; Lost Voices of the Royal Air Force and Forgotten Voices of the Great War.

You can find the books of Max Arthur at Amazon