An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy by June Kearns #Fridayread

Cowboy

This was a book I didn’t want to finish.  A romantic adventure set in the American wild west in 1867, in which the dignity and etiquette of an English lady is contrasted dramatically with the frank, masculine power of a half-breed cowboy.  But this is an oversimplification.  Annie Haddon is no simpering socialite.  Tolerated and put upon by her harsh Aunt Bea and treated abominably by her spoilt cousin Charlotte, she is the poor spinster expected to respond to all their whims, even when crammed into a stifling, hot stage-coach.

 

But everything changes when Annie finds herself trapped under the crashed coach, abandoned by her family.  Enter her saviour, Colt McCall, half Sioux, half Irish, who hates English women.  The dialogue-driven plot reveals much about Annie’s sad life and also her determination, but McCall keeps most of his secrets.  At times these two disparate characters argue bitterly, as Annie tries to keep her respectable clothes and behaviour, but they find they have more in common than they expected.

 

The witty conversation and obvious blossoming attraction between the two, take place against the prejudice and arrogance of cavalry officers, English visitors and land-grabbers.  Annie struggles to stand up for herself, unaware that she is being manipulated.  Can she trust Colt when another more attractive woman is close to him?  This is a recipe for misunderstanding and tragedy, but Annie has native magic on her side.

 

There is great humour in the story, each chapter beginning with a delightful quote from “The Gentlewoman’s Guide to Good Travel,” but there is also a moral to the tale which I found in a native American proverb.

“Listen to the wind, it talks.

Listen to the silence, it speaks.

Listen to your heart, it knows.”

I do urge you to read this unusual love story.

An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy can be purchased on Amazon UK

June Kearns

June Kearns lives in Leicestershire with her family, and writes in a warm corner next to the airing cupboard, a bit like a mouse’s nest.

When she left teaching, June won a national magazine competition for the first chapter of an historical novel. After many, many more hours watching cowboy heroes bring order west of the Pecos, this became her first novel, An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy.

Her next book The 20’s Girl, was inspired by the fabulous style and fashion of the 1920s, and that time in England after the Great War, of crumbling country houses and very few marriageable men.

June is now writing another period romantic comedy set in London in the 1960s.

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A Tincture of Secrets and Lies by William Savage #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

Tincture

 

The fourth book of investigations by Dr Adam Bascom begins dramatically when he falls from his horse one dark evening, near to the site of a young woman’s murder.  Finding himself incapacitated, Adam seeks the help of young Charles Scudamore, nephew of the entrancing Lady Alice Fouchard, to follow leads in this investigation as well as suspicions of a plot for rebellion.

 

It is a pleasure to meet again the incorrigible apothecary, Peter Lassimer as well as Adam’s reliable staff, housekeeper Mrs Brigstone, nervous Hannah, the parlour maid and faithful groom, William.  But new characters are also introduced, including the warm hearted young widow, Mrs Munnings and the strange Dr Panacea, who offers a cure-all medicine after a compelling speech to the crowd.

 

As in the previous books we learn much of Norfolk life in the years following the French Revolution, of the widespread hardship of the poor and the anxiety of those in power about the possibility of invasion or disorder.  Adam goes through a period of depression, trapped in his house and convinced that he will soon lose touch with Lady Alice, but he concentrates his mind on solving crimes and his bravery and moral conviction command loyalty from his friends.

 

Another enjoyable return to the past, written in the style of the time, with an intriguing storyline.

 

A Tincture of Secrets and Lies can be purchased at Amazon UK

To read more about William Savage and his books please look here

I reviewed this book as a member of Rosie Amber’s Bookreview Team.

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.

Who Killed Constable Cock?: A Victorian True Crime Murder Case by Angela Buckley #BookRelease

Who Killed

 The mystery of who killed Constable Cock is Angela Buckley’s second Victorian Supersleuth Investigation. It describes a murder which occurred on the night of August 1st 1876 in the Manchester suburb of Chorlton-cum-Hardy. While patrolling his beat, Constable Cock was suddenly shot in the chest and although there were witnesses close by no-one could tell where the bullet came from.

Using newspaper reports and evidence presented in court, Angela has pieced together what happened. Although only 21, Nicholas Cock had already lived a varied life and was an extremely conscientious police officer. This had caused to him have enemies and Superintendent Brent of the Manchester Constabulary believed he knew the culprit. But proving guilt was not so easy. Reading this book gives us a window into Victorian life, meeting respectable people, burglars and the unfortunate. The availability of firearms made a policeman, bearing only a staff, vulnerable but provided clues as to whom the perpetrator might be.

The delight of Angela Buckley’s books are the aptly worded chapter titles, such as “A Murder of a Dastardly Character,” and each are followed by well-chosen quotes as in Chapter 4:

“Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.” from Great Expectations.

Every aspect of the investigation is described and once the case is complete using thorough, though mainly circumstantial evidence, it would seem there was nothing more to report but there is an incredible twist in the tale. In a revelation which would be difficult to believe in fiction, we meet the colourful character of Charlie Peace and the case is turned upon its head.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in social history but also those who enjoy a good detective story with a fascinating conclusion.

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley #BookReview

new JA

On the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen I feel beholden to return to her timeless stories, but in Lucy Worsley’s book I have been given additional insight into Jane’ character and sensitivity. “Jane Austen at Home” is assiduously well documented, showing a depth of research and most importantly, a grasp of Jane’s spirit.

At first sight, the thick book of small text seems daunting, but as you begin to read you are invited in to Steventon Rectory and soon come to know Jane’s family; her loving father, unsympathetic mother, the legion of brothers and dear sister Cassandra. From Jane’s letters and many accounts by family members, Lucy has built up a clear picture of her everyday life and the way in which her homes are reflected in her books.

It is a delight to read Lucy’s own voice as she reveals her discoveries about Jane Austen,
in her letters – “her personality is there, bold as brass, bursting with life, buoyant or recalcitrant as each day required.”
Jane’s letters were “double-voiced,” giving an entertaining account to be read aloud, but with a subtext that her nearest and dearest would understand. Lucy Worsley also parallels Jane’s letters to the tweets of J K Rowling!

It is the first time I had fully appreciated that the demands of the long Napoleonic War, raising prices and causing shortages, made middling families, such as Jane’s, experience hardship but they also brought the military officers in their dashing uniforms, both aspects being the meat for Jane’s plots.

The retirement of Reverend Austen and the family’s move to Bath are described in intricate detail, underlining the dreadful effect on Jane and Cassandra. We read of the sale of all the family’s books and of Jane’s piano and her music. Leaving her home of 25 years, they move from one rented house to another among the “pea-soup fogs in Bath.” Her father’s death causing a large drop in their income shows how much she understood the importance of money to her heroines.

The frustration of Jane Austen’s life story is how poorly she was acknowledged as an author, during her lifetime and what a pittance she received when they were published. Despite the help of her father and her brother in finding publishers, novels and women writers were not yet considered worthy of great praise.

Reaching the chapter where Jane, Cassandra and Mrs Austen move back to Hampshire and settle into Chawton Cottage, I also felt as if I was coming home. I could see her sitting by her table in the cottage window, trying to write, while others moved about the compact house. The last few years of her life show Jane as a calm, determined woman with the same purpose and energy as her heroines.
This is a book for lovers of Jane Austen’s books who wish to know more about this quiet, enigmatic person. Did she have romances, were there regrets that she remained single and had no children? Did she achieve what she wished to accomplish? I suggest you read “Jane Austen at Home” to look for those answers.

Jane Austen at Home will be published on May 18th 2017 and can be pre-ordered at Amazon UK or Amazon US

(A review copy of this book was kindly provided by the publishers, Hodder & Stoughton)

Lucy Worsley

worsley

Dr Lucy Worsley is Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the charity which looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace.

Her first paid employment after studying history at Oxford was at a minor stately home called Milton Manor, near Abingdon, where she fed the llamas. After that she became an Inspector of Ancient Monuments at English Heritage, doing historical research at Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire: this led to her first book, ‘Cavalier’, about a dissolute Royalist duke. Her work as a curator at Kensington Palace led to ‘Courtiers’, which was followed by ‘If Walls Could Talk’, ‘A Very British Murder’, and her first historical novel for young readers, ‘Eliza Rose’, which is set at the Tudor court.

Ghost Variations by Jessica Duchen #Bookreview

ghost-variations

Set in 1930s Britain and strongly based on real events, Ghost Variations is resonant with attitudes and feelings relevant to us now. Jessica Ducheny tells the story of renowned violinist Jelly d’Aranyl towards the end of her career. At 42, she feels the need for a new purpose which is partly fulfilled by a series of free concerts, open to everyone, in the finest cathedrals in the land.

Jelly and her sister had been brought to England from Hungary, when she was in her teens and Jelly’s considerable talent had already been acknowledged. She had been the muse of Bartok and Ravel and was in great demand for concert venues. But while her sister, Adila chose marriage to a prominent diplomat, Jelly decided that the demands of her art meant total devotion, excluding marriage. But this decision may have been finalised by the tragic death of Sep Kelly, her one true, but unconsummated love, during the First World War.

One cannot help feeling empathy for Jelly, who shows great affection for her erstwhile assistant and companion, Anna and kindness to strangers such as a Jewish pianist who has fled from Germany. Her life is taken over by the desire to obtain and perform the long hidden violin concerto of Robert Schumann, a close friend of her great-uncle, violinist Joseph Joquem. The manuscript is traced to Berlin but Jelly’s partially Jewish ancestry makes it impossible for her to follow up, so against her inclinations she enlists the help of her sister’s close friend Erik Palmstierna, the Swedish ambassador to England.

The novel recreates the glamorous environment of the London cognoscenti, where Jelly and Adila socialise with pianist, Myra Hess, Sir Adrian Boult and all the fashionable people of culture. In contrast we glimpse through a window into Hitler’s pre-war Germany, seeing the manipulation of values made by Goebbels. The increasingly anti-foreign atmosphere in England and the corrosive effect of newspaper articles, build up the tension as the story moves towards 1938.

This novel provokes thought on so many topics; the problems for a female artist in her mature years, the sad waste of lives in both wars and in Hitler’s Germany and observations of the philosophies of spiritualism and eugenics. But it is also the story of the fascinating Jelly d’Aranyl, her friends and her passions, at perhaps one of the most interesting times in history.

j-duchen

Jessica Duchen

Ghost Variations can be found on Amazon UK or Amazon US

I read this book as a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Castles, Customs and Kings edited by Debra Brown #FridayBookShare~ @ShelleyWilson72

#FridayBookShare is a game created by Shelley Wilson to help search for an ideal read.

Anyone can have a go – all you need to do is answer the following questions based on the book you are currently reading/finished reading this week and use the hashtag #FridayBookShare

First line of the book.

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb

Introduce the main character using only three words.

Delightful design (add the cover image of the book).

Audience appeal (who would enjoy reading this book?)

Your favourite line/scene.

I have long enjoyed http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.co.uk/ where a talented group of authors of historical fiction share their research.  The book I would like to share with you today, is the first of two anthologies sharing a selection of its blog posts.

My choice of first line and favourite scene are from

The Power of a Red Dress by Anne O’Brien

First Line:  Red, the colour of festivity and enjoyment, the colour of youth and beauty.  Of seduction.  The colour of sin……

Recruit fans by adding the blurb

A compilation of essays from the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, this book provides a wealth of historical information from Roman Britain to early twentieth century England. Over fifty different authors share hundreds of real life stories and tantalizing tidbits discovered while doing research for their own historical novels.

From the first English word to Tudor ladies-in-waiting, from Regency dining and dress to Victorian crime and technology, immerse yourself in the lore of Great Britain. Read the history behind the fiction and discover the true tales surrounding England’s castles, customs, and kings.

Introduce the main character –The Wife of Bath was deceitful, entertaining and successful

Delightful Design

castles

Audience appeal: Those with a natural curiosity about history

Your Favourite Scene

When my fourth husband lay upon his bier,
I wept enough and made but sorry cheer,
As wives must always, for it’s custom’s grace,
And with my kerchief covered up my face,
But since I was provided with a mate
I really wept but little, I may state.

If you want to join in, then answer the F.R.I.D.A.Y questions and use the Friday Book Share meme. Tag Shelley (@ShelleyWilson72) in, so she can read what you have added, too.

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