The History of the Port of London by Peter Stone #FridayReads #SocialHistory

A Vast Emporium of All Nations

Port

The River Thames has been integral to the prosperity of London since Roman times. Explorers sailed away on voyages of discovery to distant lands. Colonies were established and a great empire grew. Funding their ships and cargoes helped make the City of London into the world’s leading financial center. In the 19th century a vast network of docks was created for ever-larger ships, behind high, prison-like walls that kept them secret from all those who did not toil within. Sail made way for steam as goods were dispatched to every corner of the world. In the 19th century London was the world’s greatest port city. In the Second World War the Port of London became Hitler’s prime target. It paid a heavy price but soon recovered. Yet by the end of the 20th century the docks had been transformed into Docklands, a new financial center.

The History of the Port of London: A Vast Emporium of Nations is the fascinating story of the rise and fall and revival of the commercial river. The only book to tell the whole story and bring it right up to date, it charts the foundation, growth and evolution of the port and explains why for centuries it has been so important to Britain’s prosperity. This book will appeal to those interested in London’s history, maritime and industrial heritage, the Docklands and East End of London, and the River Thames.

As a descendent of the families of Lightermen and Barge builders on the River Thames I am fascinated by the rise and fall of trade and shipping in London through the ages.  The 18th and 19th century river particularly fascinates me and Peter Stone’s meticulous research and vivid description of the changes from “a sea of masts” through the emergence of steam power, gave me a vivid picture of this crowded, industrious scene.  The author himself has generations of Thames watermen as his ancestors, giving him the authority and enthusiasm to bring this social history to life.  From the original Roman settlement, where tidal access made communication with Europe easy, to the modern day importance of Canary Wharf and the fast-moving clippers this easily read, true story is a “must have” for those interested in London or history.

The History of the Port of London at Amazon UK

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The Forgotten Village by Lorna Cook #DualTime #Romance #mystery

Forgotten

This dual time novel appealed to me because it is centred on the abandoned village of Tyneham on Warbarrow Bay in Dorset. In December 1943 all the villagers, including the lord of the manor, had to leave their houses and village to live elsewhere for the duration of the war so that troops could practice for D-day.  What they didn’t realise was that they could never return home.  Today the ruined village can sometimes be visited, and this is where our 21st century heroine, Melissa meets celebrated historian, Guy Cameron.

Melissa’s relationship with her uncaring boyfriend, Liam is breaking down, so helping Guy to investigate the disappearance of Lady Veronica after she left Tyneham in the 1940s is a welcome distraction.  The two learn that Anna, Guy’s grandmother was lady’s maid to Veronica, but she is reluctant to tell them very much of her past.  Alongside this thread we enter Lady Veronica’s unhappy life with her unpleasant husband Sir Albert.  Both stories include tension and misunderstanding, and you can’t help rooting for both Melissa and Veronica.  This first novel by Lorna Cook promises more intriguing books to follow.

Lorna cook

Lorna Cook

Lorna Cook writes dual-timeline stories that blend secrets of the past with the present.
She lives by the sea with her husband, two small daughters and a demanding dog called Socks.

The Forgotten Village can be found on Amazon UK

 

The Lost Empress by Steve Robinson (Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery 4) #FridayReads

Empress

On a foggy night in 1914, the ocean liner Empress of Ireland sank en route between Canada and England. The disaster saw a loss of life comparable to the Titanic and the Lusitania, and yet her tragedy has been forgotten.

When genealogist Jefferson Tayte is shown a locket belonging to one of the Empress’s victims, a British admiral’s daughter named Alice Stilwell, he must travel to England to understand the course of events that led to her death.

Tayte is expert in tracking killers across centuries. In The Lost Empress, his unique talents draw him to one of the greatest tragedies in maritime history as he unravels the truth behind Alice’s death amidst a backdrop of pre-WWI espionage.

This is the fourth book in the Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery series but can be enjoyed as a stand-alone story.

Once again I have returned to read about professional genealogist, Jefferson Tate or JT as he likes to be called. Hailing from the States he frequently finds his investigations take him to England, even though he hates flying.  He is a very human character, who loves chocolate, has few social skills but is prepared to put himself in danger, in order to solve the mysteries which his clients present him with.

The Lost Empress is a dual time novel, leading up to the tragic sinking of the ocean liner.  We join young mother and Admiral’s daughter Alice Sitwell who is driven to engaging in espionage against her country, to protect her husband and young children. The more she tries to extricate herself, the tighter the noose tightens and we wonder whether Jefferson will solve the mystery of her death or disappearance.

Both Alice and JT are at risk of losing their lives but both act bravely if rather foolishly.  This is a particularly thrilling episode of this series which I seem to be reading in random order but that has not spoilt my enjoyment due to the clear characterisation. A novel which will entertain those who enjoy family history, thrillers or historical novels.

The Lost Empress is available on Amazon UK

My review of Steve Robinson’s Letters from the Dead

A Bittersweet Garden by Caren J Werlinger #FridayReads #RBRT

Bittersweet

A Bittersweet Garden is a mystery story set in Ireland, which also describes a romance between American Librarian, Nora McNeil and Briana Devlin, a groom and horse trainer in the village of Cong in County Mayo.  After a failed relationship and the death of her long-loved cat, Nora has come to see the home village of her grandparents. Intending to stay for several weeks she has rented Sióg cottage, a run-down property in the woods, reputed to be haunted.  After a disastrous first meeting with Briana, Nora begins to come closer to this reserved young woman and she enjoys helping her cousin, Sheila in her garden nursery.  She is even able to start writing a novel, but the subject matter is dark. Frequent dreams of a tragic family, who once lived in the cottage, begin to obsess her and she sleep walks into the woods in search of Rowan, a young girl who disappeared mysteriously in the 1840s.

Nora needs to value her own worth and a relationship with Briana might give her happiness, but she must return to Virginia.  The sad story of Móirin and Donell, who once lived in the cottage, needs resolution but this may endanger Nora’s life. The warm community in this picturesque Irish village rally round but only Nora and Brianna can solve the past in order to give themselves a future.

Caren J Werlinger has created two complex characters with whom the reader can identify and I was intrigued to discover what had happened to the little girl in the yellow dress over 170 years earlier.

Caren

Caren J Werlinger

Caren was raised in Ohio, the oldest of four children. Much of her childhood was spent reading every book she could get her hands on, and crafting her own stories. She was influenced by a diverse array of authors, including Rumer Godden, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula Le Guin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Willa Cather, and the Brontë sisters. She has lived in Virginia for over twenty years where she practices physical therapy, teaches anatomy and lives with her partner and their canine fur-children. She began writing creatively again several years ago. Her first novel, Looking Through Windows, won a Debut Author award from the Golden Crown Literary Society in 2009. Since then, she has published several more novels, winning multiple Rainbow Awards and a 2014 GCLS Award for In This Small Spot. She recently published her first fantasy novel. Rising From the Ashes: The Chronicles of Caymin, is the first volume in The Dragonmage Saga.

A Bittersweet Garden is available on Amazon UK

Q is for Ramona Quimby #AtoZChallenge #FridayReads

Ramona pest    Ramona 8

Ramona Quimby is an ordinary little girl with normal parents and a well-behaved older sister.  Although set in America, this family could easily be a typical British middle-class family where times are sometimes hard. My favourite book is Ramona the Pest when she anxiously starts nursery school alongside her neighbour, Howie.  Her kind teacher, Miss Binney, tells her to, “sit there for the present,” so she patiently waits to be given the present.  She is fascinated by her classmates corkscrew curls so she pulls them to see them ping which, rather harshly I thought, causes her to be suspended from school. Her vivid imagination makes her a joy to encounter but constantly gets her into trouble. As the series continues we see Ramona longing to grow up quickly, dealing with school bullies and trying to help her family when her father loses his job.

“Come on, Mama!” urged Ramona, “We don’t want to be late for school.”

“Don’t pester, Ramona. I’ll get you there in time.”

“I’m not pestering,” protested Ramona who never meant to pester. She was not a slow-poke grown-up. She was a girl who could not wait. Life was so interesting she had to find out what happens next.

Perhaps you watched Ramona on the TV programme which was pretty true to the books.  I would be proud to have Ramona as a member of my family.

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.

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.