The Orchid Tree by Siobhan Daiko #BookReview

Daiko

The Orchid Tree is a dramatic and moving account of wartime events in Hong Kong and the repercussions in 1949 for the three main characters, Kate, a British teenager, Charles, a young Eurasian and Sofia, whose home is on the neutral island of Macau.

 

Kate Wolseley tells us of her privileged life living on the Peak, in her own words.  Almost 16 when the Japanese bombs fall on the city, her days of horse riding, going to the yacht club and spending time with the son of their amah are changed to the hardship of Stanley Internment camp, where the family try to survive in one room, with very little food.  There she meets Charles Pearce, sharing the sadness and difficulties, as they fall in love.

 

Meanwhile in Macau, there is a semblance of normality despite the many Japanese soldiers, but Sofia Rodrigues, beloved daughter of the head of the successful Macau Consortium, has to bear the unpleasantness of her stepmother and her arrogant half-brother, because her mother was a Chinese concubine.  Seeking the company of Her Chinese uncle and her Russian governess she is growing up as a courageous, independent young woman.

 

When Kate reluctantly returns to Hong Kong, she is determined to help those who are less fortunate and she no longer expects happiness herself.  Lieutenant James Stevens, who has come to Hong Kong in search of a successful future hopes that Kate will become fond of him but she is evasive and uncommitting.   In dramatic circumstances, he encounters Sofia and suddenly his life takes another turn.

 

Knowing Hong Kong, I was impressed with the accuracy of the historical detail and the feel of the surroundings in this novel.  The complex strands of the plot work well and there are surprises to confound the reader.  A delightful mix of  adventure, romance and tragic modern  history.

Siobhan

Siobhan Daiko was born in and spent her childhood in colonial Hong Kong. She and her hubby moved to the UK shortly before it was handed back to China. She has worked in the City of London, once ran a post office/B&B in Herefordshire, and, more recently, taught Modern Foreign Languages in a Welsh high school. Siobhan now lives with her husband and two cats in the Veneto region of Northern Italy, where she spends her time writing, researching historical characters, and enjoying the dolce vita.

The Orchid Tree was inspired by her early life in Hong Kong. Her grandparents had been interned by the Japanese in the ex-colony from 1942 to 1945, and it was while she was researching their life in the internment camp that the idea for the novel came to her. She wanted to bring alive a time and place that no longer exist, but one that will forever be in her heart.

 

Garden of Stars by Rose Alexander #BookReview

Garden of stars

Garden of Stars is a beautifully written novel, set in London and Portugal. It tells the tale of Sarah Lacey, who returns to Portugal in 2010 wondering whether she will be able to discover the love she had lost 20 years earlier. She has been given a journal by her great aunt, Inês Bretão, who though born in the Alentejo, had married an Englishman in 1934. At first Sarah thinks that the life story of Inês is meant to guide her own actions but she begins to realise that there is a mystery to solve.

But Sarah’s story is also one of love and loss. There is passion and romance and also the quandary of modern family life, of too much work, not enough money and lack of communication. At home, her husband Hugo is looking after her beloved daughters Honor and Rose. In Portugal she has the chance of rediscovering Scott, her first love.

For me, the delight of this book is the description of places in Portugal, both in the 1930s and the 21st century. We visit a cork farm, a vineyard, Lisbon, Estoril and Porto. Both Inês and Sarah love the light, the beauty and the people of Portugal and when Sarah is reunited with Scott, he sums up his feelings in this way.

He had managed to get hold of tickets to see one of Portugal’s most famous fado singers, knowing that Sarah shared his love of this traditional music that sang of saudade, of nostalgia, loss and longing.
“Memories are what make us hurt – we all have our own saudade. My saudade is about you, what I shared with you and lost. When you left without telling me why, you stole my life and my soul.
This is fado. There are no happy endings.”

I found the journal of Inês rather strange. At first she writes in intimate detail, expressing feelings not written for an audience, she writes of things she would not want her husband to read but later she explains little of her life. Only towards the end of the book do we understand why she has given this book to Sarah. Sarah is an easier character to identify with, as she deals with everyday life we can recognise.  Scott said, “There are no happy endings.” I recommend that you read the book to discover whether he was right or wrong.

Garden of Stars is available on Amazon here

Return to the Little French Guest House (La Cour des roses #2) by Helen Pollard #FridayRead #bookreview

Blue skies, new love, and a glass of Bordeaux . . . what could possibly go wrong?

Return

In January, I decided to chase away the winter blues by reading Helen Pollard’s “Little French Guesthouse.”  Now on a sunny Spring break I have picked up “Return to the Little French Guest House.” It was a delight to join heroine Emmy as she began her new job as Rupert’s right hand woman.  Filled with enthusiasm and great ideas she relished the task of putting the Guest House on the map, starting her own online business and developing her budding relationship with charming Anglo-French solicitor, Alain.  But it is not all plain sailing.  A critical review by a vindictive travel blogger instigates cancellations, a major booking for a large family was never recorded by Rupert’s wife, Gloria, and both she and Emmy’s ex-partner Nathan are still causing trouble.

However Emmy does manage to spend time with new friend Sophie visiting chateaux and nearby towns and she becomes closer to Rupert’s friends, especially Jonathan, who is beginning to feel his advancing age.  It is a warm community, always willing to help each other out and most of the guests enjoy their holidays immensely.  Once Alain returns from Paris, he and Emmy grow closer but will their previous relationships cause them grief?

There are some very humorous scenes occurring in the guest house and delightful repartee around Rupert’s dinner table.  Combining these scenes with lovely descriptive passages and the romantic experiences of a likeable heroine, make this an entertaining follow-up not to be missed by those who read the first book.

You can find Return to the Little French Guest House at Amazon UK

My review of the original Little French Guest House is here

Helen Pollard

As a child, Helen had a vivid imagination fuelled by her love of reading, so she started to create her own stories in a notebook.

She still prefers fictional worlds to real life, believes characterisation is the key to a successful book, and enjoys infusing her writing with humour and heart.

Helen is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.

The Little French Guest House by Helen Pollard #TuesdayBookBlog

 

little-french

The Little French Guesthouse is recommended as a perfect feel good summer holiday read and I am sure it would be, but it is also a warming ray of sunshine to read on dull winter days. Starting dramatically when the heroine Emmy finds her partner, Nathan, in flagrante with the wife of the guest house owner, we are plunged into her dilemma as she deals with the fall out. As Nathan runs off with Gloria, Emmy decides to stay on at the guest house helping Rupert, the owner, to deal with new guests.

The hard work and beautiful sunshine help Emmy to come to terms with her predicament and she soon makes friends with locals and ex-pats in the area. Surprisingly, her love life also improves as she encounters muscular, handsome Ryan, the gardener and Alain, a slightly annoying but intriguing accountant. She dreads returning to England where she will have to sort out the mess of working and owning a flat with love-rat, Nathan.

In many ways, this is an ideal read in January as we share Emmy’s experience of deciding where her life should go now. She is 31, her relationship has broken down and she has been in a rut. But she can’t stay on holiday for ever. Decisions about her career and future must be made. Inevitably I will soon be dipping into the follow up book Return to the Little French Guesthouse.

The Little French Guest House is available at Amazon UK  and Amazon US

Broken Cups by Heather MacQuarrie #TuesdayBookBlog #bookreview

broken-cups

This is the story of two families who may have more in common than they realise. Early in the book, childhood friends Imogen and Jillian, move into a flat together. They meet their new neighbour, Bradley and both girls are instantly attracted, not only to his good looks, but also to his generous and kind nature. Bradley introduces them to his surrogate grandmother, Gertrude and her real grandchildren including Grant, but Imogen has the wrong impression of Grant, believing him to be a philanderer.

Like all successful romances, misunderstanding complicates their relationships but this book also tells a mystery story of three momentous events over 20 years earlier. Gradually the truth is revealed and there is a chance of forgiveness and compassion. The plot reaches a very satisfactory and pleasing denouement but there is a cliff-hanger, promising another novel to follow.

Heather MacQuarrie’s particular skill, is in showing us that many of the problems in present day families, can be solved by love and understanding. She is able to make connections between a network of people allowing us to know the characters in a variety of circumstances and to feel their pain and happiness.

Heather MacQuarrie‘s books can be purchased here and in the US

heather

Heather MacQuarrie lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland and also spends a good part of her time on the Algarve coast in Portugal. Having spent over thirty years working as a schoolteacher, she is now relishing the opportunity to channel her creativity in exciting new directions. Since 2013 she has written four novels of contemporary fiction,the first three being ‘A Voice from the Past’, ‘In the Greater Scheme of Things’ and ‘Blood is Thicker’. Whilst they can all be read separately as free-standing novels, the three books are linked, forming a trilogy. The same characters feature throughout in a story of romance, mystery and intrigue.  Broken Cups is her fourth book, introducing us to a new group of characters.

The Crown Spire by Catherine Curzon and Willow Winsham #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

crown-spire

Do you yearn for the world of dashing highwaymen and spirited women in glamorous 18th century dresses? Then be careful what you wish for. This is also a world in which only men have power and marriage can be a trap.

In The Crown Spire we become acquainted with Alice Ingram married for 20 years to an abusive, unpleasant man and her young niece, Beth, who is completely unaware of her aunt’s unhappiness. Fleeing along the Great North Road, they are suddenly in dire danger until two masked men save them and deliver them into the safe hands of the Bishop of Edinburgh. Both women find it difficult to forget their rescuers but once in Edinburgh they become entangled with two other men. Beth is quickly captivated by charming innkeeper Edward Hogan, even though he is well below her station but Alice maintains her dignity and has constant arguments with respectable doctor, James Dillingham.

Edinburgh of 1795 is, as you might expect, a city of charm and danger, but the lack of propriety shown by Beth is astonishing. Alice is a more empathetic character and the reader enjoys becoming closer to the reticent doctor. As in all good fiction, they have secrets, but love and passion will conquer all, until the dramatic events of the last section of the book threaten everyone’s happiness.

The description of the taverns give a sound historical authenticity to events but personally I would have liked to have read more about everyday life in the streets of Edinburgh. The fast-moving story is difficult to put down and I hope that there will be other romantic adventures, in this style, to follow.

The Crown Spire is available at Amazon UK and Amazon US

Catherine Curzon

Catherine Curzon is a royal historian, best known for her non-fiction books Life in the Georgian Court and Kings of Georgian Britain.  She also writes a fascinating 18th century history blog under the nom-de-plume of Madame Gilflurt.

Her work has been featured on the official website of BBC History magazine and in publications such as Explore History, All About History, History of Royals and Jane Austen’s Regency World.

She has provided additional research for An Evening with Jane Austen at the V&A, which she has also presented around the country.

Willow Winsham

Willow Winsham is the author of Accused: British Witches throughout History and she brings readers regular tales of witches and witchcraft on her blog The Witch, the Weird and the Wonderful

Combining a passion for research and history with a love of storytelling, she dedicates her time to investigating some of the most intriguing stories from the history of the British Isles.

When she isn’t digging out tantalizing historical tit bits or tracing elusive family members, she is busy home educating her two children.

Rosie's Book Review team 1

The Elizabeth Papers by Jenetta James #Bookreview #TuesdayBookBlog

 

elizabeth

The Elizabeth Papers is both a gentle romance set in modern day London and Derbyshire and an intriguing mystery that takes us back in time to the early 19th century. The name Mr Darcy instantly indicates that the Elizabeth of the title is Elizabeth Bennett of Pride and Prejudice, but don’t dismiss this novel as a parody or bandwagon follow up. The plot is original and the modern characters, private detective, Charlie Haywood and talented young artist Evie Pemberton, are distinctive and well developed. Their relationship has parallels with that of Elizabeth and Darcy but their adventure leads them into different avenues.

It took me a while to feel at home with the characters of Elizabeth and Darcy, but then time has passed and they have been married for several years, so of course their relationship would have changed somewhat. The issues raised in Pride and Prejudice still cause problems but with a very different outcome. Although you don’t need to have intimate knowledge of that book, it certainly enhances your enjoyment of this novel if you do.

Jenetta James

jjames

Jenetta James is a mother, lawyer, writer, and taker-on of too much. She grew up in Cambridge and read history at Oxford University where she was a scholar and president of the Oxford University History Society. After graduating, she took to the law and now practises full-time as a barrister. Over the years, she has lived in France, Hungary, and Trinidad as well as her native England. Jenetta currently lives in London with her husband and children where she enjoys reading, laughing and playing with Lego. She is the author of Suddenly Mrs. Darcy which was published by Meryton Press in April 2015. The Elizabeth Papers is her second novel.

Rosie's Book Review team 1