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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Girl in the Castle by Lizzie Lamb #BookReview #Scotland #Highlands

Castle

Having discovered when I read Scotch on the Rocks what a talented writer Lizzie Lamb is, I was happy to begin reading about Dr Henriette Bruar, the Girl in the Castle.  Leaving behind a disastrous event at St Guthlac’s University, which has ruined her academic reputation, Henri is travelling to a remote Highland castle to catalogue and value the Laird’s books and begin writing her thesis on the Highland clearances.

But Henri is not welcomed.  Almost abandoned by the side of the loch in the gathering Autumn dusk by Lachlan, a small old retainer who wants no “wee lassie going over” to the castle, it appears that even Alice Dougal, the housekeeper wants her to leave the next day.  But the Laird, Sir Malcolm MacKenzie is hoping she will find valuable books to restore his dwindling funds and Henri is determined to prove her worth.  Unfortunately, she makes a bad impression on Keir, the handsome son and heir, who believes she is one of his father’s lady-friends.

As Henriette becomes accepted as part of the unhappy household, she begins to bring light into their sad lives, never recovered from a tragedy during Keir’s childhood.  But when she meets Ciorstaidh, Keir’s cousin, she is told in no uncertain terms that Keir is already promised to her.

But like Lizzie’s other books this is a complex story of magic, mystery and fascinating history.  An exciting team game of shinty is described in detail and on October 31st, the Celtic customs of Samhain are re-enacted.  The social repercussions of arranged marriages and debt and the need for an heir and a spare make fascinating reading, contrasting with the beliefs of a 21st century woman.

This convincing romance, beginning in conflict and distrust, is set in stunning scenery which comes to life through Henri’s experiences and Keir’s enthusiasm for his birthright.   A great read!

You can find Girl in the Castle on Amazon UK

and on Amazon US

 

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

Offstage in Nuala by Harriet Smith #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

Offstage

In this third instalment of The Inspector de Silva Mysteries, we return to the island of Ceylon in the 1930s.

Book Blurb
There’s great excitement when a professional theatre company comes to Nuala. However matters take a dark turn when the company’s actor manager is murdered. Inspector de Silva has a new case to solve and he has to consider some very unpalatable motives for the crime. He will need all his persistence, coupled with his wife, Jane’s, invaluable help to unmask the villain of the piece.

My Revue
In this book the murder scene is the sumptuous Gaiety Theatre, where an Asian tour by a talented group of actors, commences with a production of Hamlet. The whole cast is suspect since no-one else was seen to enter the theatre during rehearsal time and it is soon evident to Inspector de Silva that there are many secrets to uncover. But he is also frustrated by the actions of his superior, Assistant Government Agent, Archie Clutterbuck, who keeps him away from the victim’s wife, Kathleen Darnforth, and from young Emerald Watson, who may have been Mr Darnforth’s mistress.

Shanti de Silva leaves no stone unturned as he explores every nook and cranny of the old theatre and sets his sergeant and constable on thorough investigations. However, their work is interrupted by an amusing interlude involving Mrs Clutterbuck’s pet Shih Tzu dog, Angel, and a large elephant. There are fascinating descriptions of the busy market and of Shanti’s cool fragrant garden where he walks at the end of the day.

“As he turned to go back to the bungalow, something drifted into his hair. He brushed it off and smelt again the sweet, intense fragrance of frangipani. The flower’s pale yellow gleamed against the dark lawn. He remembered his mother saying that if a frangipani flower fell on your head, you would have good luck. He hoped she was right.”

Inspector de Silva will need this good luck as he homes in on the culprit, putting himself in severe danger. In a thrilling conclusion, he discovers a surprising twist which he hadn’t expected.

Once again, the complex social structure of 1930s colonial life is effectively recreated in a story about well-rounded characters in a colourful, exotic location. The guide to the main characters provided at the beginning make it possible to enjoy this novel without needing to have read the first two.

You can purchase Offstage in Nuala on Amazon UK

or on Amazon US

Harriet

Harriet Steel

Harriet Steel grew up in London and Wiltshire but now lives in Surrey. Married with two daughters, she has worked in fields from law to libraries. Her interests are travel, history and art, all of which have inspired the four historical novels she wrote before turning to crime with The Inspector de Silva Mysteries. She reads widely, but in the mystery genre is particularly fond of vintage mysteries. She would love to go back in time for a day and have lunch with Hercule Poirot, tea with Miss Marple, and dinner at the Ritz with Lord Peter Wimsey.

She loves to hear from readers so do visit her blog where you’ll find interviews with other authors, articles on a variety of topics and more information about her writing. If you would like advance notice of new releases, offers and promotions, there’s a Follow by Email button.

http://harrietsteel.blogspot.co.uk/

 

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

The Malice of Angels by Wendy Percival

Malice

We meet Esme Quentin, at the beginning of this third mystery, packing up to move to the Devon coast where she has friends and fond memories. But first she is disturbed by the appearance of Max Rainsford, an investigative journalist and ex-colleague of her deceased husband, Tim. Max wants information from notes left by Tim and he believes that Esme’s genealogy skills will also be of assistance.

Esme is reluctant to become involved and she is soon researching the mysterious wartime disappearance of her friend Ruth’s aunt, a nurse called Vivienne. The frustrating lack of any record about Vivienne leads Esme to think about Max’s interest in the murder of old soldier, Gerald Gallimore, in 1981 and the possibility of a link to the death of her husband. Soon Esme is making connections which lead her into danger, but she is determined to discover the truth about Tim and Vivienne.

Like the earlier stories in this series, there is a complicated but logical plot and fascinating information about past times, in this case undercover work during the second world war. Esme’s bravery and calm approach, make for a thrilling story which appeal to all readers, not just those interested in family history. It is good to finally discover the traumatic event which caused Esme’s face to be scarred and reinforces the quality of this compulsive series of books.

Percival

Wendy Percival was born in the West Midlands and grew up in rural Worcestershire. She moved to North Devon in the 1980s to start her teaching career.

An impulse buy of Writing Magazine prompted her to start writing seriously and after winning a short story competition and having another story published she turned to full length fiction.

The time-honoured ‘box of old documents in the attic’ stirred her interest in genealogy and it was while researching her Shropshire roots that she was inspired to write the first Esme Quentin mystery, Blood-Tied.

Genealogy continues to intrigue her and its mysteries provide fodder for her family history blog (http://familyhistorysecrets.blogspot.com) as well as ideas for further novels.

Wendy’s website is http://www.wendypercival.co.uk

The Malice of Angels is available at Ancestry UK

Wonders and Wickedness (The Victorian Detectives Book 5) by Carol Hedges

Wickedness

Here, you will indeed find Wonders in alchemy, seances, and on stage, but there is also Wickedness; murder, blackmail and deceit. It is 1864 and the railways have already caused a fatal accident. A brand new department store has opened but the window display contains an extra body which shocks everyone. Thankfully Detective Inspector Strife and Sergeant Cully are on hand, but they are diverted by a mysterious package delivered to the arrogant Lord Hugh Wynward and his unhappy wife Lady Meriel.

In a complex, ingenious plot several crimes are gradually solved as we meet a delicious selection of fantastic characters, from Felix Lightowler, who fancies himself as a contemporary alchemist, to Boris Finister, a Dickensian fat boy and Rancid Cretney, who constantly mans a neighbourhood watch irritating the police force considerably. Every detail of the characters’ names, clothing and vocabulary fit their context perfectly.

Within the plotline there is humour, pathos and a picture of the dire social consequences of Victorian values. When Stride goes to interview a builder he finds,
“Serried ranks of terraces of two up two down houses. Absent landlords will subdivide them into as many short-term lets as possible adding them to that surprising feature: the brand new suburban slum.
Mr Bellis struts with the aggressive bantam-cock attitude of all small men who’d like to be big men only nature hasn’t permitted it.”

As a connoisseur of all the previous Victorian Detective Books, I knew that I would enjoy meeting up with old friends at Scotland Yard and independent business women such as Lilith Marks and Josephine King but this book would be equally rewarding as a one off read, although it is bound to tempt you to indulge in other gems from the series. When will a producer take up these books for TV or movie?

Wonders & Wickedness can be found on AmazonUK

My review of Rack and Ruin is here