Fair as a Star by Mimi Matthews (Victorian Romantics Book 1) #TuesdayBookBlog #NewRelease

fair as a star

A Secret Burden…

After a mysterious sojourn in Paris, Beryl Burnham has returned home to the village of Shepton Worthy ready to resume the life she left behind. Betrothed to the wealthy Sir Henry Rivenhall, she has no reason to be unhappy–or so people keep reminding her. But Beryl’s life isn’t as perfect as everyone believes.

A Longstanding Love…

As village curate, Mark Rivenhall is known for his compassionate understanding. When his older brother’s intended needs a shoulder to lean on, Mark’s more than willing to provide one. There’s no danger of losing his heart. He already lost that to Beryl a long time ago.

During an idyllic Victorian summer, friends and family gather in anticipation of Beryl and Sir Henry’s wedding. But in her darkest moment, it is Mark who comes to Beryl’s aid. Can he help her without revealing his feelings–or betraying his brother?

A violet by a mossy stone

Half hidden from the eye!

Fair as a star, when only one

Is shining in the sky.

My Review

Beryl Burnham is a more vulnerable heroine than Mimi Matthews’ previous main characters. She carries a burden which stops her from looking forward to her imminent marriage. Sir Henry Rivenhall is an eminently suitable fiancé whom she has known for some years, but will he be an understanding husband?  On the other hand, his brother Mark, the curate, is her best friend. He appreciates her subtle whitework embroidery, featuring the plants of the English countryside and she can talk to him about anything, well almost anything, but not her darkest secret. Mark Rivenhall has told his brother of his feelings for Beryl, but he knows he has no chance of gaining her heart. Perhaps it will be best if he leaves the parish of Shepton Worthy.

Meanwhile, Beryl’s spirited younger sister, Winnifred, is involved in a feud with Sir Henry, who intends to sell the magnificent steed she loves to ride. The ordinary people of the parish establish the surroundings and village problems for the reader and the stunning Paris wedding gown which arrives for Beryl emphasises the importance of her future life as a baronet’s wife.

I loved the sensitivity in which Beryl’s unhappiness is expressed and the hope that she finally achieves in this delightful first novel of a new romantic series.

 

The America Ground (The Forensic Genealogist Series Book 4) by Nathan Dylan Goodwin #BookReview

America Ground

Morton Farrier, the esteemed English forensic genealogist, had cleared a space in his busy schedule to track down his own elusive father finally. But he is then presented with a case that challenges his research skills in his quest to find the killer of a woman murdered more than one hundred and eighty years ago.

I always begin an investigation by Morton Farrier with great excitement as I can expect a fascinating historical mystery as well as an eventful, risky adventure in the present day. Personally, I find the research process very interesting too, with the added humour of Morton’s varied relationships with the staff at the History Centres.

Morton’s challenge in this book is to find out why Eliza Lovekin, an ordinary woman depicted in a painting 180 years earlier, was murdered in her bed. The circumstances of her early life in a workhouse and of the America Ground itself seem quite incredible and yet they are both based on known facts.  I had never heard of the America Ground before, part of Hastings and St Leonards claimed from the sea by a group of enterprising people to enable the building of their own houses, but as might be expected, the local authorities sought taxes and threatened the inhabitants with eviction.

The story moves back to 1827, introducing us Eliza’s daughter, Harriet, and an intriguing character, Richard, who may do her harm. Meanwhile as Morton attempts to discover his own real father, he is endangered by Eliza’s legacy reaching into the present day. Trying to protect his fiancé, Juliette, he underestimates the threat hanging over him. You won’t want to put this book down.

The America Ground is available on Amazon UK

Nathan’s Pinterest page shows the documents involved in Morton’s research

 

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

 

Miss Tavistock’s Mistake by Linore Rose Burkard #RegencyRomance #RBRT

Tavistock

Young Miss Tavistock is promised in marriage to Captain Rempeare by the wish of her dearly departed papa. But the captain’s been at sea for a decade. When she finally meets him, tempestuous sparks fly, and she impulsively adopts a daring false identity. Going by “Lady X,” she vows never to marry such an infuriating man.

Captain Gabriel Rempeare is prepared to fulfill his duty and marry Miss Tavistock—if only he can clap eyes on her. One circumstance or another keeps them apart, though he cannot seem to avoid the beautiful, maddening, Lady X. When fate throws them together in London, Miss Tavistock discovers the real nature of the captain, and regrets her subterfuge. But can such a noble man forgive deceit? Or has her mistake already cost her everything?

My Review

Feodora Tavistock is an exuberant heroine, who despite living as a ward of the aging Duke of Trent on a remote estate, shows enthusiasm for whatever life offers. When Mrs Filbert arrives as companion to the 19-year-old girl, she embraces her as friend despite the fact that she is middle aged.  One day life for Feodora (or Margaret as she prefers to be called) will change, for she is betrothed to her cousin Gabriel who showed her great kindness when she was first orphaned ten years earlier. But Gabriel Rampeare has spent most of the intervening years in the navy and he has scarcely written to her at all.

With Mrs Filbert’s collusion Margaret persuades her guardian to allow her to join the London Season so that she can enjoy one summer of balls, parties and frivolous gowns before her marriage. In the meantime, Gabriel and Margaret meet under unfortunate circumstances, not recognising each other and his behaviour is so despicable she determines to refuse the marriage.  Unfortunately, they are thrown together in London although Captain Rempeare believes she is “Lady X” the Inamorata of his elderly uncle.  The secrets, lies and misunderstanding are a perfect basis for an amusing, exciting plot.

For me, Captain Gabriel Rempeare is the perfect hero. A career sailor he misses the sea, but intends to do his duty by his betrothed, yet he is hampered by the necessity to cover the debts and appalling behaviour of his brother. Miss Tavistock lacks experience of life so makes foolish mistakes and is prepared to give up her chance of happiness rather than confess her falsehoods to Gabriel.

The author knows the era very well. Her descriptions of the ballroom with its chalked floor, of the sumptuous dinners provided and the extravagant fete at Carlton House are filled with authentic detail and her account of naval battles in the early 19th century, ring true. My only complaint would be the rather sudden ending when I would have liked a little longer to enjoy the inevitable conclusion.

Miss Tavistock’s Mistake on Amazon UK

Linore

Linore Rose Burkard ( L.R.Burkard) is a serious watcher of period films, a Janeite, and hopeless romantic. An award winning author best known for Inspirational Regency Romance, her first novel (Before the Season Ends) opened the genre for the CBA. Besides historical romance, Linore writes contemporary suspense (The Pulse Effex Series, as L.R. Burkard), contemporary romance (Falling In), and romantic short stories (ie., “Three French Hens”). Linore has a magna cum laude English Lit. degree from CUNY which she earned while taking herself far too seriously. She now resides in Ohio with her husband and family, where she turns her youthful angst into character or humor-driven plots.

#BookReview: A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson

Ibbotson Song        Ibb Chant

When Ellen Carr abandons grey, dreary London to become housekeeper at an experimental school in Austria, she soon knows she has found her calling. She never expected the Hallendorf school to be quite so unusual. Her life back in England with her suffragette mother and liberated aunts certainly couldn’t be called normal, but buried deep in the beautiful Austrian countryside, Ellen discovers an eccentric world occupied by wild children and even wilder teachers and a tortoise on wheels. But it is the handsome, mysterious gardener, Marek, who intrigues her – Marek, who has a dangerous secret. As Hitler’s troops march across Europe, Ellen finds she has promises to keep, even if it means sacrificing her future happiness.

My Review

I discovered Eva Ibbotson through her amazing children’s book A Journey to the River Sea written in 1998, when she was 73. I then selected her adult romances, often promoted for Young Adults. The cover pictures for A Song for Summer pitch it as a romance, which it is, but it is so much more than that. As Ellen, an educated young woman from a suffragist household, travels to 1930s Austria, we see this idyllic country knowing that it will soon be plunged into turmoil. Spurning her chance for an academic life, she yearns to visit the country of her unofficial grandmother and to cook and care for a group of needy children in an extremely eccentric school. Never judgemental, she spreads happiness and sorts out problems and this school has many.

The other adult trusted by the children is Czech handyman, Marek, who carries two secrets; one a dangerous mission to help people escape from the Nazis and the other a wonderful talent and fame. But he is a flawed hero, impulsive and easily roused to anger and circumstances are bound to separate him from those he cares for.

There are many amusing characters in this story, such as Tamara, the passionate Russian ballet dancer, who is actually Beryl from England, Hermine a pretentious eurythmics teacher with her baby Andromeda, tucked down the front of her smock and the dire, Kendrick Frobisher, who adores Ellen but is scared of his mother or any involvement in real life.  And yet, the awful consequences of the advancing fascists are also addressed within the plot so that we hope Ellen can survive but do not expect a happy ending.

For me this was a perfect read for the present time.

Eva Ibbotson

Eva_Ibbotson

Eva Ibbotson was born to Jewish parents in Vienna in 1925. When she was nine Eva moved to London to join her mother, a successful novelist and playwright, who had fled Vienna in 1933 after her work was banned by the Nazi authorities. Other members of Eva’s family also escaped Vienna and settled in England, and their shared experiences later influenced Eva’s writing, with the themes of home, refugees and immigration running through her books.  Eva studied Physiology at Cambridge University and later trained as a teacher. She started to write in her thirties and her first children’s book, The Great Ghost Rescue, was published in 1975 when she was fifty years old. Despite her late literary start, Eva went on to write more than twenty books for children and won the Smarties Prize for her novel Journey to the River Sea in 2001. She also wrote seven books for adults. She died at her home in Newcastle in 2010, aged eighty-five.

 

Somerville’s War by Andrew Duncan #RBRT #BookReview

Thrilling wartime adventure and a sensitive story of relationships

Somerville's War

The strange brigadier who hardly speaks… Leo, his feisty pilot daughter… Labrador, the vengeful Pole… Henry Dunning-Green, Leo’s boring suitor… Adrian Russell, the treacherous master spy… … All linked by SOE Somerville, the top secret Second World War finishing school for spies on England’s south coast, and its local community: A melting pot of intrigue and counter-intrigue. A fast-unfolding, untold tale of deception, betrayal and romance leading to a tense life-or-death climax in occupied France. Many of the events actually took place. This is the first fictional treatment of life at the famous Special Operations Executive ‘finishing school’ for spies, SOE Beaulieu in the New Forest (renamed SOE Somerville). It’s also the first fully realised fictional portrait of master spy and traitor Kim Philby (renamed Adrian Russell) who lectured at SOE Beaulieu.

My Review

As a child I was fascinated by the tales my parents told of their time in the services in Europe during the war and moreover, stories about the Resistance or SOE have always interested me, so I opened this book with excitement.  Beginning in August 1940, we witness the last race of Somer River Sailing Club.  Through the eyes of trainee Polish spy “Labrador” we watch Leonora win the race and receive a kiss from her father, Brig, who is Captain of the club.  Soon we are immersed in the upper-class life of Somerville with its established pecking order of aristocrats who have known each other for most of their lives. Yet close by, young men are training for undercover action in France and Leo cannot wait to join the ATA where she will pilot planes from one British aerodrome to another, so that male pilots can take them into action.

But unknown to the local community “Brig”, the Brigadier, plays a major role in coordinating the training of undercover agents at Woodland house, hidden in the woods at Somerville. Soon, Henry, long-time friend of Leo, and her potential suitor, will also be trained alongside Labrador. The action will move to Normandy and the young men will be in great danger.

This is a study of the changes in everyday life brought about by wartime, but it is also a thrilling tale of heroism and a slow-burning love story.  Leo’s spontaneous character is easy to identify with, but I also began to understand the taciturn Brig who did his duty for his country and dearly loved his family. A beautifully written novel, revealing many fascinating details about flying Spitfires, conducting undercover warfare and dealing with betrayal in the best possible way.

I was given a copy of this book as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team in return for an unbiased review.

Somerville’s War can be found on Amazon UK

Taken in Nuala (The Inspector de Silva Mysteries #8) By Harriet Steel #NewRelease #BookReview

Taken in Nuala

When an American millionaire and his glamorous daughter visit Nuala, the splendour they bring to the town’s high society is soon tragically tarnished by a vicious crime.

With many avenues of inquiry to follow, including the involvement of a mysterious fortune teller, Inspector de Silva will need all his resources to unravel the evidence and avert further disaster.

A gripping mystery with lots of twists and turns set in the colourful and fascinating world of 1930s Ceylon.

My Review

There is a slight air of menace in this volume of the investigations of Inspector Shanti de Silva in the delightful hill town of Nuala. There are still sophisticated gatherings at the sumptuous home of Assistant Governor Archie Clutterbuck and his wife Florence, but the talk is of a gathering storm in Britain, hoping for “Peace in our time.” However, people are excited to meet wealthy world travellers Walter and Grace Tankerton and their sullen daughter Phoebe. Even more interesting is the American millionaire, Hank O’Halloran and his vivacious daughter Marie. Such conspicuous wealth attracts unwelcome attention, so Tankerton has employed an ex-military man, Patterson to guard his daughter, Phoebe.

Soon an audacious kidnapping occurs and while Shanti and his men investigate, an unpopular local man is found dead. Is there a link to a clairvoyant visited by Phoebe and Marie?  The police spend long hours watching for the kidnappers and begin to suspect one of the staff employed by Tankerton or O’Halloran. Meanwhile there seems to be a mysterious animal skulking in Shanti’s garden.

The plot of this mystery is complex and puzzling, set against the happy married life of Shanti and his English wife, Jane in the idyllic pre-war setting of Ceylon under British Colonial rule. I always enjoy these detective stories, but this volume is particularly engaging.

Taken In Nuala on Amazon UK

My review of Trouble in Nuala the first book in this series

Beyond the Yew Tree by Rachel Walkley #NewRelease #RBRT

The Truth Lies Forgotten

beyond-the-yew-tree_kdp

Whispers in the courtroom.

Only one juror hears them.

Can Laura unravel the truth by the end of the trial?

In an old courtroom, a hissing voice distracts reluctant juror, Laura, and at night recurring nightmares transport her to a Victorian gaol and the company of a wretched woman. Although burdened by her own secret guilt, and struggling to form meaningful relationships, Laura isn’t one to give up easily when faced with an extraordinary situation.

The child-like whispers lead Laura to an old prison graveyard, where she teams up with enthusiastic museum curator, Sean. He believes a missing manuscript is the key to understanding her haunting dreams. But nobody knows if it actually exists.

Laura is confronted with the fate of two people – the man in the dock accused of defrauding a charity for the blind, and the restless spirit of a woman hanged over a century ago for murder. If Sean is the companion she needs in her life, will he believe her when she realises that the two mysteries are converging around a long-forgotten child who only Laura can hear?

My Review

Laura is a sensible, well organised young woman. Setting out for her first day of jury service she is well prepared with a flask full of coffee.

“Laura preferred a predictable, uneventful day to exciting unplanned crises or emotional meltdowns. No surprises, no sudden happenings.”

So, she hopes for structured, uncomplicated days at the law court next to Lincoln castle.  But listening to the barristers, she is aware of a hissing noise, of soft whispers disturbing her concentration. And then when she returns to her empty home at night, her sleep is disturbed by distressing dreams of a woman imprisoned in a Victorian gaol.  It can’t be the fraud case which is causing her dreams, but strolling through the castle she spots the gravestones of those who had been executed for murder. Needing answers, Laura seeks the help of the museum curator, Sean.

Laura is also distressed by the long absence of her lover, Marco, who has been visiting his family in Italy for some time while maintaining very little communication with her.  Determined to seek out the source of her nightmares and come to a fair judgement on the court case, Laura’s calm demeanour conceals deep guilt about an event in her past.

Having endured jury service personally, I found Laura’s experience locked in a room with 11 disparate people very familiar.  Keeping alert during a complex case can be difficult and barristers are often very persuasive.  Luckily Laura’s intelligence and financial background help her detect weaknesses in the evidence, but does she have the confidence to speak up?

The threads of guilt and justice entwine between the present day and the past and as the trial comes to an end, Laura must also decide the path her life should take. A very rewarding read.

Beyond the Yew Tree is a #NewRelease on Amazon UK

Foxden Acres (The Dudley Sisters’ Saga Book 1) by Madalyn Morgan #BookReview

Foxden Acres

It is 1939 and Bess is looking forward to completing her teacher training in London.  Then she must decide whether to look for a post in the city or return home to the countryside near Rugby.  Her happy childhood was spent playing and riding on Foxden Acres estate where her father works but her affection for James, son of Lord and Lady Foxden is unlikely to be returned since she is not of his class.  Returning to London, her handbag is stolen, but she is rescued by Natalie Goldman and her husband Anton. They talk to her about the increasingly dangerous situation in Germany for Jewish families and they become good friends.

On the outbreak of war, life is turned upside down for Bess, her family and her friends. When the school where Bess teaches is evacuated out of London, she is asked by James to return to Foxden Acres to help organise the conversion of the estate into arable land with the assistance of a team of Land Army girls. James has joined the RAF as a pilot while her brother Tom has signed up as a soldier.

This novel gives a wonderful picture of wartime life for families and those who served on the Home front.  Long hours of hard work are interspersed with the tragedy of air raids and the loss of dear friends.  The best and the worst of humanity is revealed in the events of the plot.  It is both inspiring and upsetting but is also a tribute to love and friendship.  I can’t wait to read about the other Dudley sisters.

Foxden Acres on Amazon UK

The Winter Companion (Parish Orphans of Devon Book 4) by Mimi Matthews #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog #NewRelease

Winter Companion

A winter reunion for the orphans brings romance for Neville Cross in Book 4 of Mimi Matthews’ USA Today bestselling Parish Orphans of Devon series.

She Needed to be Seen…

As a lady’s companion, Clara Hartwright never receives much attention from anyone. And that’s precisely how she likes it. With a stormy past, and an unconventional plan for her future, it’s far safer to remain invisible. But when her new employer is invited to a month-long holiday at a remote coastal abbey, Clara discovers that she may not be as invisible as she’d hoped. At least, not as far as one gentleman is concerned.

He Wanted to be Heard…

Neville Cross has always been more comfortable with animals than people. An accident in his youth has left him with a brain injury that affects his speech. Forming the words to speak to his childhood friends is difficult enough. Finding the right things to say to a lovely young lady’s companion seems downright impossible. But Miss Hartwright is no ordinary companion. In fact, there may not be anything ordinary about her at all.

During a bleak Devon winter, two sensitive souls forge an unexpected friendship. But when Clara needs him most, will Neville find the courage to face his fears? Or is saying goodbye to her the most heroic thing he can do?

My Review

Mimi Matthews is, in my opinion, quite the best author of historical romance writing today. The stories in the Parish Orphans of Devon, complement each other in the way that the friendship of the four young men also does. Each has noble qualities and failings, with which their new partners will support them. At first Neville Cross might seem a less dynamic hero than his former friends but his strong physique and gentle relationship with horses make him very attractive. In contrast our heroine, Clara, seems confident and highly intelligent. But each have problems to deal with. After a traumatic accident, Neville struggles with communication while Clara must earn a living to support her brother at university.

This novel unites all the Parish Orphans of the previous books at Greyfriar’s Abbey, the home of Justin Thornhill, for a Christmas celebration together. As Clara is a lady’s companion and Neville, a groom they are slightly distanced from the other three orphans and their wives. Despite incredible chemistry between them, it seems unlikely that Clara and Neville could have a future together. Neville believes he cannot strike out on his own, while Clara feels duty bound to her brother because of a previous indiscretion. While Neville does his best to care for a Dartmoor pony in foal, Clara becomes aware that her brother is in trouble but soon it appears that they will be cut off by bad weather.

This is an excellent conclusion to the series, showing us love overcoming personal difficulties and a new future which might not have been possible without their mutual commitment.

The Winter Companion can be pre-ordered at Amazon UK

I highly recommend Mimi Matthews’ informative and beautiful website