The Lover’s Portrait by Jennifer S. Alderson #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

Lover's Portrait

American Art History student Zelda Richardson loves her life in Amsterdam, but entrance into the Master’s course in Museum Studies depends on her performance as an intern at the Amsterdam Historical Museum. She is asked to work on an online project to restore 1500 paintings stolen by the Nazis during World War Two to their rightful owners or descendants but she is not welcomed onto the project by the stiff, unfriendly Huub Konijn, senior curator at the Jewish Historical Museum, who designed the website.

But not content with her editing role, Zelda uses her previous web design experience to brighten up the front page, with her own choice of paintings, in an animation. Despite Huub’s criticism, one of these paintings, Irises, triggers a claimant almost instantly. Rita Brouwer, a large, jolly American woman claims it was painted for her elderly sister, but as Zelda begins to warm to this lady, another claimant turns up. Karen O’Neil is an unpleasant socialite, accompanied by her German lawyer, Konrad Heider. She has paperwork listing the painting in the Gallery of her grandfather, Arjan van Heemsvliet.

In parallel with events in 2015, we read about how many valuable paintings belonging to Dutch Jews were hidden in 1942 by Arjan and his friend, picture framer, Philip Verbeet who was Rita’s father. But both men disappeared and the location of the paintings is still unknown. We know more than Zelda about whom she should trust but part of the mystery is concealed until the end and Zelda’s impetuous, proactive investigation leads her into danger and thrilling action.

The novel gives a detailed account of the large quantity of art that was stolen and how rightful ownership is carefully researched, which of necessity slows down the first part of the story, but there is also a compelling mystery which makes the rest of book a real page turner. Zelda is a determined young woman who stumbles into predicaments because of her desire to reveal the truth and the other characters also have convincing motives and characteristics. A great read.

I have since discovered that this is the second book about Zelda, so I am now looking forward to reading Down and Out in Kathmandu: A Backpacker Mystery, Book one in the series.

The Lover’s Portrait can be purchased at Amazon UK or Amazon US

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Strawberry Sky by Jan Ruth #newlypublished #bookreview

James & Laura

After the momentous events in Palomino Sky, the previous book of this heart-breaking trilogy, the opening paragraphs of Strawberry Sky promise contentment at last for Laura and James as they complete the improvements to their equestrian business and plan a happy life together. However, the continued disruption to their lives by Laura’s niece, Jess, and her erstwhile partner, Callum Armstrong, keeps them on an emotional roller coaster.

This time the story is told in turn from the point of view of Laura and her sister, Maggie. Maggie is in torment over Jess’s lack of affection for her daughter Kristle, and her anxiety over the success of the B & B she is running with her husband Pete, is causing her to neglect her younger daughter, Ellie. Meanwhile, Laura is anxiously hoping, each month, that she will become pregnant.

Rob, the local vet, has added a strawberry roan to the stable, a very young Carneddau colt whose mother has been killed on the mountain road and James selects a new young member of staff, who becomes increasingly important to Laura. The rest of their team remain cheerfully supportive and client, Carla, is a good friend when Laura most needs one.

Despite trying events, the relationship between James and Laura remains strong, as Jan Ruth shows in comments such as,
“James caught her eye. He shot her a smile, a real smile that crinkled the corners of his eyes.”
The healing effect of the horses is still a major part of the work James does and we see this especially in the reactions of a tough ex-soldier who comes regularly to help at the farm.

Effective descriptions of the countryside provide a vivid context without departing from the nail-biting events of the plot. The setting of the Carneddau and its wild horses provide both the heart and the pain of this novel and it is the response of those who come from this area which makes the conclusion perfect.

I have included Jan Ruth’s images of James and Laura at the top, as they fit my mental picture of the characters so well!

You can find Strawberry Sky on Amazon here

This is Jan Ruth’s account of the original idea behind the Midnight Sky Series

 Inspiration for the Midnight Sky Series began 37 years ago…

Day one, and we stopped in a vast forest throbbing with birdsong to gather mushrooms, easily filling one of the saddlebags with our cache. Hopefully, we’d picked a non-poisonous addition for breakfast the following morning. My horse for the day, Cinnamon, was the colour of, well, cinnamon. Standing at 16th I needed a handy rock to perch from in order to scramble back on as he wasn’t keen on standing still and I’m on the short side. We’d already passed some sort of horsemanship test together by hurtling down the steep grassy slopes of an ancient fort, galloping out through what would have been a drawbridge. An exercise our leader informed us, ‘Sorts out the wheat from the chaff,’ before we got onto the serious part of the ride, a four-day trail across The Cheviots.

The Cheviot Trail – a loop reaching from Jedburgh in Northumberland all the way to Kirk Yetholm, just inside the English border – was no pony trek. Our horses were thoroughbred-cross, corn-fed and super-fit. To the uninitiated, this meant it wasn’t for novice riders. John Tough (pronounced Tooch, although tough suited him just as well), was no ordinary leader. If I had to make a short list of people who’d made an impression on me in my life then this guy would be close to the top. Not one to pander to any British Horse Society regulations, Tough set his own high standards and had little regard for officialdom, preferring to trust his own instincts about people, as well as horses. Hosting riding holidays for total strangers, some of whom spoke no English was clearly not for the faint-hearted, but if Tough decided after day one he didn’t like the way you handled his horse then your holiday ended right there with a full refund and a lift to the train station. There’s nothing like the burr of a Scottish accent in full flow to overcome any language barriers. No one, argued with him.

Once upon a time, John Tough bought a rundown mill on the River Jed and restored it. Then he bought horses, some of them with problems, both physical and otherwise, and nurtured them to full health. His reputation for riding the Cheviots, grew. In 1980 he built a lodge on his land, for rider accommodation. I returned – of course I did – from 1979 to 1986, riding in many different seasons, including colourful autumn trails and once, during the heavy snow of early spring. Tough retired at the end of the eighties due to ill health. Did I set out to write a book about John Tough, and Beryl, the young interior designer from London who never went home after her riding holiday? Surely, this was the stuff of fiction! Not that I was aware of, but I guess it’s an example of how more than 30 years later, the subconscious finds a story somehow, pulling together characters, historical facts, impressions and experiences… one I’ll never forget.

You can follow Jan on her website: http://janruth.com/

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JanRuthAuthor/

And on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JanRuthAuthor

Grey Horse

#FridayReads ~Reviewing my favourite books from 2016

According to Goodreads, of the 65 books I have read this year, 21 are contemporary stories, 18 historical fiction, 7 crime novels and 5 mysteries. In addition, I chose to read 5 non-fiction history books, 3 steampunk novels, 2 travel books, one young child’s book, one dystopian novel and one of literary fiction. Only one is specifically a romantic novel, but of course romance often turns up in historical novels or mysteries too and definitely in most contemporary stories. There is a lot of blurring at the edges.
The number of books in each category does not surprise me, but perhaps next year I should try self-help, vampire books or maybe return to fantasy or science fiction. I’m not promising!
These are my highlights of the year.

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Midnight Sky Cover LARGE EBOOK

devil-you-know

Rusty

AB Bamboo Island

Lake House

I could list more, but I will stop with these chosen few from my favourite genres; historical, contemporary and mystery.  If you click on a book cover it will link you to my review of that book.

Broken Cups by Heather MacQuarrie #TuesdayBookBlog #bookreview

broken-cups

This is the story of two families who may have more in common than they realise. Early in the book, childhood friends Imogen and Jillian, move into a flat together. They meet their new neighbour, Bradley and both girls are instantly attracted, not only to his good looks, but also to his generous and kind nature. Bradley introduces them to his surrogate grandmother, Gertrude and her real grandchildren including Grant, but Imogen has the wrong impression of Grant, believing him to be a philanderer.

Like all successful romances, misunderstanding complicates their relationships but this book also tells a mystery story of three momentous events over 20 years earlier. Gradually the truth is revealed and there is a chance of forgiveness and compassion. The plot reaches a very satisfactory and pleasing denouement but there is a cliff-hanger, promising another novel to follow.

Heather MacQuarrie’s particular skill, is in showing us that many of the problems in present day families, can be solved by love and understanding. She is able to make connections between a network of people allowing us to know the characters in a variety of circumstances and to feel their pain and happiness.

Heather MacQuarrie‘s books can be purchased here and in the US

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Heather MacQuarrie lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland and also spends a good part of her time on the Algarve coast in Portugal. Having spent over thirty years working as a schoolteacher, she is now relishing the opportunity to channel her creativity in exciting new directions. Since 2013 she has written four novels of contemporary fiction,the first three being ‘A Voice from the Past’, ‘In the Greater Scheme of Things’ and ‘Blood is Thicker’. Whilst they can all be read separately as free-standing novels, the three books are linked, forming a trilogy. The same characters feature throughout in a story of romance, mystery and intrigue.  Broken Cups is her fourth book, introducing us to a new group of characters.

Lost in Static by Christina Philippou #TuesdayBookBlog

static

I was not at all sure that I would be able to identify with this novel, since it is over 40 years since I walked into the hall of residence of my university campus, but in fact things haven’t really changed all that much and I found the story compulsive reading.

The novel is told through the voices of the four main characters; Juliette, who is trying to escape her rigidly Christian upbringing, Callum, a rich, good-looking young man with a family secret, Yasmin, an annoyingly superficial girl with her own agenda and Ruby, a football loving tomboy with low self-esteem. Opening with a tragic accident at the end of the summer term, the story moves back to the first day of the Autumn term when the four characters first meet. They are all trying to make a good impression but they are also attempting to have a new persona, concealing the aspects of their past lives which they do not wish to share.

It is easiest to identify with Ruby, although I wish she would stop calling everyone “mate”, including herself. From a shy mousy girl, lacking confidence she blossoms into a popular, sociable student, but we realise from her internal dialogue that she still feels inadequate. Juliette is complex and interesting and you can’t help liking her. Callum is like so many privileged, handsome young men; good-hearted, lazy and easily manipulated. Yasmine is an enigma. Although reasons are given, just why she is so poisonous in her attitude to the other girls, isn’t clear.

Other reviewers have commented on the drugs and alcohol involved in the story but it is the constant chain-smoking which shocked me. Set in the era just before it was banned in public places, there are interesting clashes between the smokers and those like Callum who disapprove.

As is usually the case, misunderstanding provokes much of the storyline but secrets and lies enhance the drama of the situation. I found the setting, writing style and denouement very refreshing.

cphilippou

Christina Philippou’s writing career has been a varied one, from populating the short-story notebook that lived under her desk at school to penning reports on corruption and terrorist finance. When not reading or writing, she can be found engaging in sport or undertaking some form of nature appreciation. Christina has three passports to go with her three children, but is not a spy. Lost in Static  is her first novel.

Christina is also the founder of the contemporary fiction author initiative, Britfic.

Blood is Thicker by Heather MacQuarrie #TuesdayBookBlog

Blood thicker

This is the third book in Heather MacQuarrie’s trilogy of love and deception in a modern, extended family. In Blood Is Thicker we return to the lives of Matthew and his estranged wife, Suzy and to the on/off relationship of Neal and Charlotte. There are still repercussions from the complicated parentage of their families. We meet a new character, Georgia, who brings love and happiness back into Matthew’s life, although she also proves to be a catalyst for dramatic changes in the lives of several others.

The story is told, partly in the form of emails, giving us the perspective of several different protagonists as well as clarifying events for the reader. All the threads of the lives of other characters from the previous book are drawn together as they face up to their mistakes and find love and friendship.

In this novel, Matthew, Neal and Ralph face a dangerous situation together, which helps to unite them, until a secret is revealed which could ruin everything. If you like reading about the many difficulties that can face men and women in contemporary society but which can be worked out with understanding and consideration then you will enjoy this feel-good trilogy.

Blood is Thicker can be found at Amazon here

You Wish By Terry Tyler #Bookreview

You Wish

You Wish begins with an alarming prologue where a dramatic drugs raid takes place, but immediately afterwards in Chapter One we find ourselves in the warm relaxing surroundings of a Mind, Body and Spirit Fair in Norfolk. It is a book of contrasts between the hopes and yearnings of several young women and what might happen if their wishes come true.

As usual with novels by Terry Tyler, the characters are captivating. We share their feelings, their mistakes and in some cases their gradual self-understanding. All facets of relationships; friendship, passion, dependency and selfishness are shown in the interconnecting tales. In Sarah’s case, obsession causes addiction, while Petra’s experience of rejection leads her to stalking. There is a sweet, almost mystical account of happiness after years of longing, by young teacher, Kate.

But it is Ruth and her friendships with Fleur, and later Jessica, whose story is the most complex and rewarding. The description of young love certainly took me back to that age, while her frustration with her idle but loving husband will strike a chord with many women. As light relief her experience of making contact with an old friend via Facebook is hilarious.

I have always found Terry Tyler’s books quite different to those of any other author. She is completely in touch with all the concerns of today’s women but she also remembers so well what it was like living in the 1980s. This novel would be great to discuss in a book group but it is also compulsive reading.

TT

Terry Tyler’s first Amazon publication, ‘You Wish’, won ‘Best Women’s Fiction’ in the eFestival of Words 2013, while short story collection ‘Nine Lives’ and family drama ‘Last Child’ have won other small online awards. She’s fascinated by the psychology behind relationships, which forms the background of her character-driven contemporary dramas; from the rock star aspirations of the lighthearted ‘Dream On’ and ‘Full Circle’, to the dark and complex psychological web of ‘The House of York’, it’s all about the characters. And the plot twists…

Her novella, Best Seller was released earlier this year~ it’s a quirky tale of three writers trying to succeed in the modern, hugely competitive publishing world.

You can read my review of Best Seller here.