The Woman at the Light by Joanna Brady #FridayReads #BookReview

Woman at the light

One afternoon in 1839, Emily Lowry’s husband vanishes from Wreckers’ Cay, an isolated island off the coast of Key West where he tends to the lighthouse. As days stretch into months, Emily has no choice but take charge of Wrecker’s Cay and her husband’s duties tending the light to support her three children, and a fourth on the way. Unexpected help arrives when a runaway slave named Andrew washes up on their beach. At first, Emily is intensely wary of this strange, charming man, whose very presence there is highly illegal. But Andrew proves himself an enormous help and soon wins the hearts of the Lowry family. And, far from the outside world and society’s rules, his place in Emily’s life is as steadfast now as the light, and will forever change their futures. When Emily’s family is ripped apart once again, she faces untold hardships that test her love and determination and show how the passionate love of a defiant, determined woman can overcome any obstacle.

My Review

A lighthouse is of such significance both as a life-saver and a symbol. On dangerous coasts in the 19th century their importance could not be over-rated, so it is astonishing to learn that in some cases, the vital task of igniting the light each evening was undertaken by women.  This story is based on one of those women who had responsibility for part of the wrecking coast of the Florida Keys.

 

Emily is determined to take on this responsibility, in the hope that her husband Martin will reappear.  Living alone on the fictional island of Wreckers’ Cay, 23 miles from Key West, Emily’s family have in many ways found their life idyllic and she has no wish to become dependent on her Gran.  The arrival of Andrew, still shackled as a slave, is a shock but also a blessing.  He becomes an important part of the children’s lives and gradually Emily begins to feel desire for him.  Such a situation in that place and time can only lead to tragedy and the approach of a terrible storm changes their lives forever.

 

Emily is a survivor, but she is also a spirited woman who makes her own way in the world, fighting for the best life for her children.  Her sister Dorothy seems a more relaxed, easy-going woman for whom life is easier, but we learn that she is more complex and plays a major role in Emily’s future.  The second part of this story takes back to Key West and later to Cuba and New York.  I found the interaction between Emily and the men she encountered, depending on her social standing, particularly interesting.  We might find it very hard to adapt to a man such as Pedro Salas, who combines charm and sexual demands, but Emily is a woman of her time.

 

What begins as a story of love and hardship, becomes an unfolding mystery story and family saga.  I would recommend this novel to anyone interested in 19th century American history and also as a story of passion and courage.

You can find The Woman at the Light at Amazon UK

and at Amazon US

Joanna Brady

Joanna Brady

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Jonah by Carl Rackman #fridayreads #bookreview

Jonah

When a U boat is spotted floating on the surface of the Atlantic in 1940 by a British destroyer, the remaining German crew accuse one of their shipmates of being a Jonah.  Why then, in the Pacific in 1945, do the same events seem to be recurring on US Navy destroyer Brownlee?

 

The protagonist of this novel, “Lucky” Mitch Kirkham is introduced to us as he and his crewmates are involved in a terrifying battle with a continuous attack by Japanese Kamikaze pilots.  For the second time in his naval career, Mitch survives while others are killed.  He finds himself an outcast, distrusted, disliked and mistreated by his immediate superior.  When his life is threatened he is befriended by Father McGready, who gives him some hope that he will return home safely, but soon many of the crew are showing symptoms of hysteria, seeing ghosts and talking of a sea-monster.  Mitch is a naturally curious individual, an interesting character to follow, but this leads him into more trouble.  He no longer knows whom he can trust or who will be acting strangely, next.

 

The author gradually reveals the back stories of Mitch and the other characters so that we understand their demons.  Battle scenes are vividly described and full of tension.  It is evident that Carl Rackman has thoroughly researched wartime life in the US navy and we can imagine ourselves on board the Brownlee.  As the plot develops, the reader feels an increasing fear of imminent disaster leading to an eventful, surprising conclusion.

Jonah is available at Amazon UK  and Amazon US

The Betrayal by Anne Allen #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

Betrayal

The Betrayal is set mostly in Guernsey but in two eras. First, we find ourselves in 1940, where Teresa Bichard is distraught at leaving her husband, Leo, on the island while she flees to her family on the mainland with their baby daughter. The Germans are expected to invade imminently but Leo feels he must look after their home and antique business in Guernsey. Fast forward to 2011 and we meet Nigel and his twin sister Fiona, who have bought that antique shop, but from a different owner.

While decorating, the twins find a hidden trap door concealing some paintings which seem to include a Renoir. As an art historian, Fiona has the contacts to authenticate the painting, so she returns to London, but while she is away, events take a sinister turn. Nigel appears to have committed suicide but Fiona (and the reader) does not believe this so she employs a private detective. Is his death connected to the painting and to the betrayal of Leo Bichard, who was sent to a concentration camp in 1942?

This book is full of detailed descriptions of the beautiful beaches and stunning views on the island and delicious meals served in sumptuous surroundings. All Fiona’s friends are wealthy and live in amazing properties which is delightful to read about, but seems slightly like leafing through a glossy homes magazine.

In some ways a cosy mystery but with thrilling use of tension and a warm budding romance, it is a pleasure to read. The inclusion of events during the occupation made it particularly interesting to me. Although book 6 of Anne Allen’s Guernsey novels, it is a standalone story. I shall be seeking out earlier volumes in the series.

The Betrayal is available at Amazon UK

and at Amazon US

Anne Allen

Anne Allen

Anne was born in Rugby to a Welsh father and an English mother. As a result, she spent many summers with her Welsh grandparents in Anglesey and learnt to love the sea. Now she is based in Devon to be near her daughter and two small grandchildren. Her restless spirit has meant many moves, the longest stay being in Guernsey for nearly fourteen years after falling in love with the island and the people. She contrived to leave one son behind to ensure a valid reason for frequent returns. Her younger son is based in London – ideal for city break.

By profession Anne was a psychotherapist who long had a desire to write and Dangerous Waters, her first novel, was published in 2012. It was awarded Silver(Adult Fiction) in TheWishingShelfAwards 2012.

http://anneallen.co.uk/

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Dead Man’s Chest: A Phryne Fisher Mystery by Kerry Greenwood

Phryne

In this episode of Phryne Fisher’s mysteries, set in 1920s Australia, she has decided to take her assistant Dot and her two adopted daughters, Jane and Ruth, for a quiet seaside holiday in Queenscliff.  An acquaintance, Mr Thomas, has lent his substantial house to Miss Fisher, including his staff, Mr and Mrs Johnson, to take care of their domestic needs.  However, there is no sign of the couple, their furniture is missing and the back door is wide open.

 

Soon there are other mysteries to solve.  Who is the phantom pigtail stealer and why is Mrs Macmaster, who lives next door, with her son-in-law Dr Green, so nasty and so nosy?  As usual in these stories, there are many other characters participating in the plot.  Their other neighbour has two idle sons, with a particularly nasty friend, called Fraser, staying with them.  A film company is producing a silent movie on the beach and soon Phryne’s hopeless kitchen maid, Lily is starring in the film.

 

Kerry Greenwood spices her stories with rich description of the clothes worn by Phryne and Dot and of the delicious food they eat.  She also indulges herself with the pleasure of including aspects of 1920s life which she has researched.  On this occasion she describes a party at the house of Madame Sélary, where the local surrealist club act as one might expect or perhaps as you might not expect.

 

A delightful new addition to Phryne’s household is poor young lad, Tinker.   Hero worshipping Miss Fisher, he becomes a gem, assisted by stray dog, Gaston, in carrying out her orders and acting undercover to solve the mysteries in the style of Sexton Blake.

 

As always, this book is a pleasure to read and great escapism.

 

You can buy  Dead Man’s Chest on Amazon UK

My review of The Redoubtable Miss Fisher Mysteries is here

Pleasing Mr Pepys by Deborah Swift #TuesdayBookBlog

Pepys

In a spine-chilling first chapter of this Restoration drama, we encounter Abigail Williams, aging actress, spy and mistress to Lord Brunkner. But on this occasion, she has murderous intent. In contrast the following chapter introduces 17-year-old Deb Willet, setting out for London a year after the Great Fire, to be a Lady’s maid and companion to Elisabeth, wife of Mr. Samuel Pepys. Her Aunt Beth, glad to be rid of her, tells Deb that she must, “Please Mr Pepys,” but she soon finds this applies in more ways than one.

An educated girl, Deborah is determined to work hard to make a future for herself and to finance an education for her sister, Hester. However, Elisabeth Pepys doesn’t seem to warm to her and soon her thoughts wander to her mother who went missing many years ago and may well be in London too. She seeks help from Abigail Williams, who has sought her out, but she soon finds herself entangled in a web of lies and subterfuge from which there seems to be no escape.

This is an era, of which I know little, but Deborah Swift’s knowledge and research have brought the murky streets of London, struggling to recover from the destruction of the fire, to life again. The suffering of the sailors, unpaid by the crown and their inevitable decision to rebel, is realistically described and I could not help liking Jeremiah Wells, the young curate, who wanted the best for everyone while struggling with his conscience. All this against the background of a Dutch spy ring and the incorrigible Samuel Pepys, who cannot resist a pretty face or an attractive ankle.

Although instantly appealing to anyone interested in English history, it is also a book for those who enjoy tension and thrilling scenes, especially as the main characters are women of courage. Highly recommended.

Pleasing Mr Pepys at Amazon UK  or at Amazon US

Michel and Henry Go to War by Avan Judd Stallard #bookreview #RBRT

Michel

Book Description

A Frenchman in the British Army fighting Germans on the Western Front? That’d be a bastard—the illegitimate son of the French President, forbidden by father to join the fray. Under an assumed name, Michel joins anyway. Except now he cannot escape the war that follows every step of the way as he and Henry—his comrade in arms—seek rest and recuperation in the mountains. Instead of wine and women, they find Germans and a secret plot to destroy France’s hub of munitions production. Cut off and outnumbered, they recruit a motley army comprising a women’s auxiliary and an old farmer with a big rifle and bad attitude. There’ll be no rest for these soldiers, not until Michel and Henry go to war. A cracking action–adventure story for fans of Flashman and The Guns of Navarone.

My Review

This first book of The French Bastard Series is set in France during the First World War.  We are plunged straight into the horror and detritus of trench warfare where Michel and Henry drop into, “a trench filled with a mix of blood, shit and dead men.”  Not content to die needlessly in no man’s land, Michel leads Henry into a dangerous attack on the German gunners.  As a result of their success they are granted R & R, which they choose to take in the mountains Michel knew from his youth.

Along the way we encounter other characters including Emile, a French soldier bound for the hell-hole of Verdun, Ernie a tall Australian truck driver whom everyone likes and Kranz, a German killing machine with a mission, who treats enemy warriors with respect.  Initially Michel and Henry spend their time drinking, fornicating and using foul language, but soon they are embroiled in more perilous adventures after a breakout by German prisoners of war.  Michel is always bold and courageous, Henry, a reluctant soldier but a faithful friend.  They move from one battle to another and the book is littered with carnage including intricate detail of the anatomical damage caused to bodies by each bullet or weapon.

Their final escapade runs in parallel to the completion of Franz’s mission and it is at this stage that the plot gains pace and excitement.  There is a satisfactory denouement to a tragic story.  If you want to read about the terror and inhumanity of World War One, described vividly and realistically then this is the book for you.  If you prefer your adventures to be more sanitised then look elsewhere.

Rosie's Book Review team 1

A Divided Inheritance by Deborah Swift #TuesdayBookBlog #amreading

Divided

This is the story of two people, Elspet Leviston, responsible daughter of a lace dealer in Jacobean London and Zachary Deane, the illegitimate son of a poor Spanish woman whose bullying brothers have taught him to lie and steal.  When Elspet’s father suddenly brings Zachary into their household, usurping her position in the family business, she is horrified and as a dutiful daughter considers marriage to an apparently pleasant suitor.  Her relief when Zachary sets off on a grand tour is swiftly removed on her father’s sudden death and her world turns upside down when she hears the conditions of his will.

 

From the calm everyday life in London, where only the need to conceal their Catholic faith disturbs them, Elspet sets out across Europe to find Zachary and sort out her future.  Meanwhile, Zachary is discovering his true purpose in life, studying with Senor Alvarez, a Master of Fencing.  It is difficult to like Zachary at first but easy to understand him and as the plot develops so does his character.  Elspet also changes when she reaches Spain.  Her circumstances deteriorate and her way of life is completely different but the charismatic Senor Alvarez also guides her future.  And then she and Zachary find themselves caught up in the terrible expulsion of the Moriscos, the Moors who had settled in Seville.

 

Deborah Swift’s historical research is impeccable, grounding this unusual story in the troubled world of early 17th century Spain and questioning the role of women and the place of religion in society but this is not a learned tome.  It is an exciting, passionate story, full of vibrant, realistic characters and thrilling events.  I could not put this book down!

You can find A Divided Inheritance on AmazonUK

Swift

Deborah Swift

I live in North Lancashire on the edge of the Lake District, an area made famous by the Romantic Poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge. I’m a bookaholic and I read widely – contemporary and classic fiction as well as historical novels.

In the past I used to work as a set and costume designer for theatre and TV, so I enjoy the research aspect of creating historical fiction, something I loved doing as a scenographer. Each book takes about six months of research before I am ready to begin writing.