The Quiet Side of Paradise by Alexander Mccall Smith #FridayReads #BookReview

Quiet Side

I have read most, though not all, of the Isabel Dalhousie books by Alexander McCall Smith.  Isabel is a philosopher living in a beautiful Georgian house in Edinburgh she had inherited from her father.  She is Editor of the Review of Applied Ethics – which addresses such questions as ‘Truth telling in sexual relationships’ and is married to Jamie, a younger man who is “heart-meltingly decent” and “knee-weakeningly dishy” bassoonist.  Jamie was originally the boyfriend of her niece, Cat, which has caused problems, but that does not stop Cat frequently asking Isabel to help out at her delicatessen shop.  Jamie and Isabel have two young sons, toddler Magnus and Charlie who goes to nursery. Luckily, she has sensible, forthright, Grace as housekeeper to help her with her busy life, but she and Jamie decide to employ, Antonia, a vivacious Italian au pair. She is also able to hire Claire, a young Philosophy PhD student, to help her with the Review.

But Isabel seeks out problems to solve. Charlie’s nursery friend Basil has a rather abrasive mother Patricia who begins to take advantage of her, and she decides to investigate Basil’s paternity.  In the most eventful section of the story, Isabel follows a suspicious individual into a dangerous part of the city and narrowly avoids attack. Meanwhile Antonia’s night-time activities cause worry and Claire allows the despicable Professor Lettuce into Isabel’s house.  Through it all there is the close loving relationship between Isabel and Jamie and her innate goodness and willingness to help others. These stories describe a world unfamiliar to the average reader, but the relaxing charm and the philosophical questions considered make them very appealing, at least to me.

The Quiet Side of Passion on Amazon Uk

My Review of The Peppermint Tea Chronicles

McCall

Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith is one of the world’s most prolific and most popular authors. His career has been a varied one: for many years he was a professor of Medical Law and worked in universities in the United Kingdom and abroad. Then, after the publication of his highly successful ‘No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’ series, which has sold over twenty million copies, he devoted his time to the writing of fiction and has seen his various series of books translated into over forty-six languages and become bestsellers through the world. These include the Scotland Street novels, first published as a serial novel in The Scotsman, the Isabel Dalhousie novels, the Von Igelfeld series, and the Corduroy Mansions series, novels which started life as a delightful (but challenging to write) cross-media serial, written on the website of the Telegraph Media Group. This series won two major cross-media awards – Association of Online Publishers Digital Publishing Award 2009 for a Cross Media Project and the New Media Age award.

 

A Fatal Inheritance by Rachel Rhys #FridayReads #BookReview

A STUNNING, ATMOSPHERIC NOVEL SET IN 1940S SOUTH OF FRANCE. YOUR PERFECT ESCAPIST READ

Fatal inheritance

Fatal Inheritance is an intoxicating story of dysfunctional families and long-hidden secrets, set against the decadence of the Côte d’Azur.

My Review

An unusual choice of era for a recently written novel, 1948 was a grey, boring time with shortages and no excitement, but for Eve Forrester, a London housewife trapped in a loveless marriage, there is the promise of a short escape. She receives a solicitor’s letter from the south of France, telling her of an inheritance from an unknown stranger. For once, she stands up to her husband, Clifford and sets out alone for Cannes.  Meeting the Collets, a kindly couple, on the train, gives her confidence to face the animosity she meets on the Riviera, from the Lester family, who share her inheritance of Villa La Perle.

Enchanted by the villa, Eve is also unnerved by a feeling that she is under threat. She soon makes friends with American writer Stanley Sullivan and glamorous film star, Gloria Hayes, but the Lester family seem determined to undermine her. Who was Guy Lester and in what way was she connected to him? The beautiful scenery and the rich and famous people are a world away from her unhappy relationships with her husband and her mother.  Eve is reluctant to return to her old life, but Clifford has plans for the money she will receive when the Villa is sold.

As Eve is increasingly threatened by an unknown enemy in France, she must discover from her unresponsive mother what secret lies in their past.  An unusual plot with a brave, determined heroine and complex characters enriches the narrative of this compelling story.

A Fatal Inheritance on Amazon UK

 

The Sterling Affair (The Forensic Genealogist Book 8) by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

Sterling Affair

When an unannounced stranger comes calling at Morton Farrier’s front door, he finds himself faced with the most intriguing and confounding case of his career to-date as a forensic genealogist. He agrees to accept the contract to identify a man who had been secretly living under the name of his new client’s long-deceased brother. Morton must use his range of resources and research skills to help him deconstruct this mysterious man’s life, ultimately leading him back into the murky world of 1950s international affairs of state. Meanwhile, Morton is faced with his own alarmingly close DNA match which itself comes with far-reaching implications for the Farriers.

My Review

Morton Farrier is a lucky man. His occupation as a forensic genealogist allows him to do what he loves best, research family history. His skills and experience make him very successful and like a terrier he doesn’t give up easily. I have enjoyed previous novels in this series, but this is the most compelling tale, of Morris Duggan, a man who had adopted a false identity.  Perhaps his reason for this was a link with MI6 but will the redacted files Morton seeks out, give any useful information. Alongside Morton’s investigation, we move back in time to Duggan’s life in the Middle East during the 1950s Suez crisis.

The thrilling tale of Duggan’s escapades in Beirut, Egypt and London are convincingly described while the careful examination of evidence in Family Record Offices and online, ring true.  I was also intrigued by Morton’s personal discovery of an extremely close DNA match on Ancestry which cause him to wish he had never embarked along this route.

Another delightful thread within the book is Morton’s family life with his wife Juliet, a police officer, and their daughter, little Grace, always into mischief but loving to play Peppa Pig with her daddy. A pleasant relief from some of the more dangerous escapades within the book. The final chapter, set in 1944, links the characters in a satisfying conclusion.

The Sterling Affair can be found on Amazon UK

My Review of  The Lost Ancestor Book 2 of this series

 

The Runaway by Linda Huber #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

Runaway

Bad things happen in threes – or so it seems to Nicola. The death of her mother-in-law coincides with husband Ed losing his job and daughter Kelly getting into trouble with the police. Time to abandon their London lifestyle and start again by the sea in far-away Cornwall.

 It should be the answer to everything – a new home, a new job for Ed and a smaller, more personal school for fifteen-year-old Kelly. But the teenager hates her new life, and it doesn’t take long before events spiral out of control and the second set of bad things starts for Nicola.

 Some secrets can’t be buried.

Or… can they?

At first they seem like any other family. Their contented life is disturbed by unemployment and teenage angst, but worse things can happen and do.  Nicola believes a new life in Cornwall, living in the old house on the cliff which husband Ed has inherited, will help them all, but Ed is not keen and teenage daughter, Kelly, rebels.

Although written in the third person we read the point of view of each of the three character in separate chapters.  Our empathy is with Nicola who will do anything for her daughter, but Kelly’s distress is understandable, and Ed is facing horrors from his childhood.  Soon life falls apart for all of them.  Meanwhile, next door, Dorothy, a grandmother to young Mia, is happy that her son Rob is making a new life with partner, Phoebe. Their life seems idyllic but soon they are filled with the same fear as Nicola.

This psychological thriller gradually builds up to a thrilling conclusion.  Will life ever be the same for the two families?  A thought provoking story questioning how much we know about other members of our family and how secrets cannot be hidden for ever.

The Runaway at Amazon UK

The London Property Boy by Patrick Brigham #FridayReads #BookReview

London property

 Michael Mostyne, a thirty-something developer and property dealer, has fallen foul of Great Britains 1970s economic recession. A property crash like no other, it foreshadows the end of a promising career, but it is also the end of his unhappy marriage to Lavender. The tale of his painful struggle to get back on his feet, whilst dealing with the past and an acrimonious divorce, Mike Mostyne leaves his provincial home, moves to London and gets a job running a West London real estate agency. Through hard work, success soon turns to success and his life begins to change for the better. By manoeuvring around his bosses, with their narrow self-interest, his own desire for big money and a wish to be financially independent, means he has to take huge risks.

London is not short of girls, and Mike Mostyne is rarely on his own. Christine, a West End PA and a good time girl, looks at him through a cloud of cannabis smoke. Sofie, a minor Dutch diplomat, disappears when Mike’s son Mark is mysteriously kidnapped by the IRA. And finally, there is Nadezhda Antova, who friends say is an Eastern European honey trap, but who he marries despite their warnings. From rags to riches, and with the next property crash waiting around the corner, will fate finally conspire to finish him off once again? Will, he also find personal happiness with Nadezhda Antova, and why is MI5 so interested?

 My Review

I came to this book having previously enjoyed Patrick Brigham’s “Goddess of the Rainbow,” interlinked short stories set in Northern Greece, but this time we are presented with the biography of Michael Mostyne, a London property dealer, for over 10 years from the 1970s until the early days of John Major’s premiership. Having lived through those years in a very different environment I was fascinated to see the human face behind the booms and dips of this business. At first Michael gained my sympathy after the deceit of both his business partner and his wife Lavender. His devotion to his mother as she began to succumb to dementia showed his underlying humanity as did his love for his son but as you might expect he is driven by the need to make money and is not afraid to bend the rules. I found the scenes involving his family the most rewarding to read. The eventful story held my interest but sadly there was no detailed description of his relationship with his son, Mark, although he appeared to be so important to Michael.

As Mostyn becomes entangled with MI5 and his son is kidnapped by the IRA the plot becomes more complex. His search for new female company results in a relationship with Bulgarian academic, Nadezhda Antova and once again MI5 need his services. As the book reaches its last chapters there is still much more to happen in the crazy life of this interesting man.

The London Property Boy is available on Amazon UK

My review of Goddess of the Rainbow

Patrick Brigham

Brigham

Patrick Brigham has lived in the Balkans for many years. Originally from London, where he was in the property business, he lived in the City until 1993 and then moved to Sofia. As Chief Editor of a magazine called the Sofia Western News, and the first English language magazine in ex-Communist Bulgaria, it introduced him to the intrigues of Eastern Europe, and a firm understanding of the people living there.

Now living in Northern Greece, Patrick has published many murder mystery novels as well as stand-alone literary fiction and a humorous play. Writing for the more thoughtful reader, Patrick Brigham says –

“I have lived quite an eventful life, so much of what I write is based on fact. Most of my books concentrate on a particular subject, and The London Property Boy does just that and has quite a lot of me in it. We should never simply dwell on the past, but a colourful past is where much of our inspiration comes from.”

Loving Vengeance (The Ross Duology Book 2) by Georgia Rose #NewRelease #FridayReads

Loving Vengeance

Book Blurb

A woman with a troubled past. A new love hanging in the balance. Will an unexpected visitor strengthen her resolve or destroy the life she’s trying to build?

Madeleine’s world, once so organised, is a mess. Suffering the fallout from the mistakes she made with Tag, she has no idea where she stands with Daniel. Are they only friends or is there still a chance for something more?

Enter James – cool, calm and calculated. A stranger, she thinks. But he knows her, and he comes with an opportunity she can’t refuse, involving an enemy she’d tried to forget. At first keen to return to her past, Madeleine soon realises it’s not only the gang that’s changed, and battles her own demons as well as an unpredictable villain.

Can Daniel step up when he’s needed? Or will it be James who rides in to the rescue? Because when things go badly for Madeleine, and all hope seems lost, there is only one who can save the day. And only one who can bring more to the task than merely himself.

Loving Vengeance is the second book in this fast-paced duology. If you like strong heroines, character-driven action and powerful emotions, then you’ll love Georgia Rose’s exciting novel.

My Review

Loving Vengeance is the long awaited follow up to Parallel Lines where we left Maddy (or Scarlet in her former life) injured in body and reputation.  It is a great relief to find that Dan, with whom she had only recently started a relationship has not given up on Maddy, but can they overcome the secrets they kept and rekindle their feelings for each other?

The great thing about Maddy is her independent spirit and bravery. In this book she has antagonised Mayoral candidate, Ben Pritchard, by supporting his materialistic wife, Letitia and in turn he threatens Maddy’s friends, Kourtney and Diane. In a complex plot this situation becomes entangled in Maddy’s former life of crime.  A handsome policeman, James, has turned up, saying he knows her, and she must help him, back in her rough London neighbourhood, to catch one of her old contacts.

What makes the books of Georgia Rose so different is the way she takes us into the mind of her heroines.  Speaking in the first person, Maddy tells us all her feelings, her strengths and her weaknesses. Few of us would walk into such dangerous situations or be so pro-active in helping others but this makes for a thrilling, eventful story.  Dan, who occasionally speaks to us, in the second person, is an active participant, striving to keep Maddy safe, without compromising her plan.

Parallel Lines is still my favourite book of the two but in Loving Vengeance it is good to see how Maddy’s life continues and the positive effect she has on the village community.  There is definitely an opening for her to continue crime fighting and problem solving in further novels!

Loving Vengeance on Amazon UK

My review of Parallel Lines

To celebrate the launch of Loving Vengeance Georgia Rose is running a mega give away here

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

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