Connectedness by Sandra Danby #BookReview

Connectedness by Sandra Danby (002)

Justine Tree is a successful artist, about to be accepted into the Royal Academy.  But we meet her in her childhood home on the East Yorkshire coast, remembering her childhood, as she clears her mother’s home after her funeral. She remembers the encouragement of her parents and her early interest in the life of Picasso.  But she also realises that she is acting a part, concealing secrets from her past.

Justine’s home in London is shared with Darya, a much older woman who understands her art and has been a substitute mother for 27 years.  As Darya sinks into dementia, Justine decides to make more effort to find the baby she gave up all those years ago, a secret which fuels the pain in her art.  She seeks help from journalist, Rose Haldane, who has previously investigated her own adoption.  As we follow the story we also discover cracks in Rose’s “happy” life.

The story moves back to the early 1980s when Justine was a penniless student in Picasso’s birthplace of Malaga.  Bullied by her tutor, and struggling with the language, she meets Frederico, an architecture student who teaches her to embrace Spanish food, language and the way of life.  The sensual description of the succulent Spanish food shared with Frederico, defines their building passion and is vividly remembered by Justine.

There are many layers in this sensitive story.  The nurturing Justine received from her mother is only appreciated in retrospect,

“In the last year, Darya had aged like a film on fast forward.

I wasn’t there for Mum. I will not abandon Darya.”

Will Justine’s daughter forgive her?  Will they be reconciled and what of Frederico, the love of her life?

This is the second book of the “Identity Detective” series, all centred on Rose Haldane who wishes to reunite those who lost members of their family due to adoption.  I have not yet read the first book but will be seeking it out soon.  Sandra Danby is a thought provoking author whose sense of place enhances a fascinating mystery.

Connectedness is on sale at Amazon UK and Amazon US

 

The Identity Detective Series

Rose Haldane, journalist and identity detective, reunites the people lost through
adoption. The stories you don’t see on television shows. The difficult cases. The people who cannot be found, who are thought lost forever. And each new challenge makes Rose re-live her own adoption story, each birth mother and father, adopted child, and adoptive parent she talks to, reminds her of her own birth mother Kate. Each book in the ‘Identity Detective’ series considers the viewpoint of one person trapped in this horrible dilemma. In the first book of the series, Ignoring Gravity, it is Rose’s experience we follow as an adult discovering she was adopted as a baby. Connectedness is the story of a birth mother, her hopes and anxieties, her guilt and fear, and her longing to see her baby again. Sweet Joy, the third novel, will tell the story of a baby abandoned during The Blitz, and how the now elderly woman is desperate to know her story before it is too late.           Sandra Danby

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Island in the East by Jenny Ashcroft #FridayReads #BookReview

Island in the East

This is a book of two stories 44 years apart, both telling of romance and tragedy on the island of Singapore.  In 1941, Ivy Harcourt, a brave young servicewoman, arriving in Singapore a year before the Japanese invasion, meets Kit, the love of her life, but she discovers that her grandmother Mae has been keeping a secret.  She too had lived on the island as a young woman, with her twin sister, Harriet, but what has happened to her sister since then?

 

The stories are gradually revealed in parallel, Mae’s predicament intensifying as danger approaches Ivy and Kit.  This is a thrilling and intriguing book with authentic characters such as Alma, Ivy’s lively American friend and Alex, a warm elderly gentleman who knew her grandmother so many years earlier.  It is difficult to put down as there are so many questions to be answered, unscrupulous characters harming our heroines and the Japanese occupation to be endured.

 

Having lived in Singapore during the 1960s I am fascinated by its history, especially during the second world war, but I was also impressed by the familiar feeling of the heat, the lush vegetation and the colonial style buildings described in the text.  A perfect setting for a mystery, a story of wartime heroism and two enduring romances.

Island in the East is available at Amazon UK

Jenny Ashcroft

Jenny Ashcroft

Jenny Ashcroft is a British author of historical fiction. Having spent many years living, working and exploring in Australia and Asia – a time which gave her an enduring passion for stories set in exotic places – she is now based in Brighton where she lives with her family by the sea. She
has a degree in history, and has always been fascinated by the past – in particular the way that extraordinary events can transform the lives of normal people.

Her first book, Beneath a Burning Sky, was a 2017 kindle bestseller, and Island in the East is her second novel. She is currently working on her third, set in 1920s India.

That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel by Adrienne Vaughan #FridayReads

Seahorse

An old house in an estate on the beautiful east coast of Ireland is a perfect setting for romance and mystery.  Mia Flannagan is summoned to Galty House by the sad news of the imminent death of Archie Fitzgerald, a celebrated Hollywood actor who took the place of a father for most of her troubled childhood.  During a rather distant relationship with her mother, stunning actress Fenella Flannagan, Mia was nurtured by Archie’s family and friends, but even they would never reveal the identity of her father.

 

Leaving the set of a disastrous film where she is in charge of the wardrobe, she is relieved to find Archie is in good form despite being weak and tiring easily.  He maintains a good relationship with his new neighbour, American hotel manager, Ross Power’ but Mia is more interested in a friendship with Pearl, the lonely, neglected niece.  Just as Mia was, she is an imaginative, talkative child and the two have adventures together visiting the mysterious island just off the coast.

 

As Archie declines, Mia’s life begins to fall apart. The film is abandoned and when she returns to London she finds her dastardly boyfriend/fiancé in the arms of another woman.  There is great humour in this scene and also in the way that the women of Galty House conspire to deal with the cad.  It seems inevitable that Mia will be drawn to Ross, but she discovers he too seems to be involved in sharp practice.  Thus, the revelation that the Fitzgerald family have kept a conspiracy of silence about her father can only make matters worse.

 

This is a tortuous tale of love, leading to passion and envy.  The characters have substance and strong personalities and there is a little bit of Irish magic in the conclusion.  Definitely a book that is difficult to put down.

That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel is available at Amazon UK or Amazon US

A Vaughan

Adrienne Vaughan

Adrienne Vaughan has been making up stories since she could speak; initially to entertain her sister Reta, who never allowed a plot or character to be repeated – tough audience. As soon as she could pick up a pen she started writing them down.

It was no surprise that Adrienne grew up to be a journalist, diving headfirst into her career after studying at the Dublin College of Journalism. These days she is recognised as a talented author and poet, having published The Heartfelt trilogy of acclaimed novels and an award-winning collection of short stories and poetry. Her fourth novel That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel was published in February 2018 by The Paris Press.

Adrienne lives in rural Leicestershire with her husband, two cocker spaniels and a rescue cat called Agatha Christie. She still harbours a burning ambition to be a ‘Bond girl’.

The Likeness by Bill Kirton #RBRT #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

Likeness

In this sequel to Bill Kirton’s “The Figurehead,” we meet wood carver, John Grant, once again, showing his strength and resolute character as he heads out of Aberdeen harbour with his fellow oarsmen in the Lifeboat.  Meanwhile, Helen Anderson, frequently in John’s thoughts, is trying to persuade her father to allow her active participation in his business.  Her parents know that she has grown close to John Grant, although he is not her social equal, but she does not follow the normal accepted behaviour of a young woman in 1841.  She is keen to travel on one of her father’s ships, on part of its journey to the colonies, to see how accommodation might be improved.

Imminent separation begins to drive John and Helen apart, as his new project to carve a figurehead for part of a ship on stage, brings him into frequent contact with an actress in the touring company.  The discovery of the original star of the play, dead behind the fishing sheds, has made him determined to solve the possible murder and there are several likely suspects.

The details of the shipping business and the life of a touring group of actors enrich this distinctive historical mystery and misunderstandings in the relationship between Helen and John are solved in an unusual manner, based on their love and respect for each other. A wonderful opportunity to discover the people and hardships of this thriving 19th century port.

The Likeness can be found on Amazon UK   and Amazon US

My review of The Figurehead.

Bill Kirton

Bill Kirton

Bill Kirton was a university lecturer in French before taking early retirement to become a full-time writer. He’s won two 2011 Forward National Literature Awards – ‘The Sparrow Conundrum’ was the overall winner of the Humor category and ‘The Darkness’ was runner up in the Mystery category. ‘The Sparrow Conundrum’ also won the Readers’ Choice Award for satire/humor on the Big Al’s Books and Pals website in 2012. His historical mystery, ‘The Figurehead’, was long-listed for the 2012 Rubery Book Awards.
He’s produced material in many different media. His radio plays have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4 and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. His stage plays have been performed in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and the USA and he’s been the visiting artist to the Theatre Department of the University of Rhode Island on four separate occasions. There, he directed stage plays, gave classes on creative writing and theatre, performed in revues and translated three plays by Molière for public performance, one of which won a BCLA prize. Material from his Edinburgh Festival revues was broadcast on the BBC, ITV and French television.
He’s also been a TV presenter and a voice-over artist and his scripts for corporate and educational DVDs and videos have won awards in the UK and USA. He’s been a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, and the universities of Dundee and St Andrews.
Most of his novels are set in the north east of Scotland. ‘Material Evidence’, ‘Rough Justice’, the award-winning ‘The Darkness’, ‘Shadow Selves’ and ‘Unsafe Acts’ all feature DCI Jack Carston. ‘The Figurehead’ is a historical novel set in Aberdeen in 1840. The award-winning ‘The Sparrow Conundrum’, is a spoof spy/crime novel also set in Scotland. His comic fantasy novella, ‘Alternative Dimension’ satirises online role-playing games.
His short stories have appeared in the Crime Writers’ Association annual anthology in 1999, 2005 and 2006. IN 2010, one was also chosen for the ‘Best British Crime Stories, Vol. 7’ anthology edited by Maxim Jacubowski.

 

 

An interview with Colt McCall from “An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy”

My heart is pounding with excitement at the chance to interview the irresistible Colt McCall from June Kearn’s book.

Cowboy

What were your first impressions of Miss Annie Haddon?

First off? As if a scruffy dog had suddenly appeared and attached itself to me. Yeah, someone’s stray, a pampered pet – one that wasn’t particularly biddable, either. For such a small fry though, she seemed to have a pretty big mouth. A talker, too – mite too fond of her own opinions to my mind, at the time. No idea what she’d landed herself into, either. Not … a … single, solitary clue.

Annie called you intimidating and you certainly don’t suffer fools readily.  Would your life be easier if you were more diplomatic?

Let’s face it, shall we? Annie was white, English, opinionated. Not a hope in hell of understanding someone like me. As for diplomacy! Well, the West belongs to the meat-eaters, always has, always will. The meek don’t inherit much west of Chicago. Anyway, a man needs to show he can defend himself. If people think he can’t, he’s in trouble.

You seem to have a very bad opinion of the English.  What have they ever done to you?

Ha, tried to wipe out all rotten traces of Indian for starters. At Mission School, I was taught by an Englishwoman. She thought I was barely house-trained and had the idea that a daily dose of British poets and Shakespeare was the best way to civilise little hell-raisers like me. Along with not letting me speak my mother’s language, of course – shaving my head and beating manners and the Bible into me.

Yeah, one thing I’ve learned about the English: You don’t tell them, they tell you.

You don’t seem to be a typical Texan and yet you seem to have some good friends.  What do these friends have in common?

I guess they’re all … outsiders? Yeah, every damn one, when I come to think about it. The displaced, the hunted, the ignored. Mostly fighters for their own rights, of course, their own land. For years, we’ve been killing off their food, stealing their hunting grounds, robbing them blind.

Are the divisions of the Civil War still causing problems in Texas?

Well, what do you think? Draw a line down the middle of any country – you’re asking for trouble. Somehow, it makes some folk feel more entitled to boss others around. Take Southerners, for example. Robert E. Lee still adorns many a parlour wall round here. Oh, yeah. Plenty haven’t been too keen on freeing their slaves, either.

You seem to find Miss Haddon just a little too talkative, but do you think she has changed her feelings about Texas since you first met her?

Well, I guess when we first met, Annie was just trying to make sense of everything – questions, questions, questions. Her main concern, first off – if you’d care to believe it – was about losing those bound copies of Dickens in her trunk! While I was just hell-bent on getting us as far away as possible from the Comanche.

Even from her first arrival though, she seemed to love the landscape. Nothing had prepared her, she once told me – for that vast open space, the wide, wide vista. Fluted rock on the horizon soaring to meet limitless blue sky. The throat-catching beauty, the loneliness.
You can’t just pass through this landscape, y’know. It reaches out and draws you in, every time.

And now? Guess Annie knows that she belongs here.

And have you changed your opinion of her?

Oh, yeah. My opinion probably started to shift when she teamed up with two outlaws, swallowed a quart and a half of whisky and started a bar-room brawl – after trying to stare down that Comanche brave, of course.

It was her first ever time away from the protection of her relatives. I’d expected fear, silence, trepidation. Instead, she showed intelligence and courage, plus a real delight at being able to truly be herself.

Thank you, Colt, it’s been a privilege to hear your view of Texas both from your own opinions and those of  “the Englishwoman.”

You can read my review of June Kearn’s book here

No Way Back by Kelly Florentia #bookreview #FridayReads

No Way Back

Audrey Fox’s Life has become a rollercoaster.  At 41, her long term boyfriend, Nick, has jilted her shortly before their wedding, but a holiday in Cyprus with her parents has not restored her confidence or taken away the pain.  Still haunted by dreams of Nick, she is certainly not ready for any new relationship.

But fate and her mother have other ideas and soon Audrey is falling for the charms of Daniel, a handsome, successful divorcee.  Still unable to cut herself off from Nick who has been involved in an accident, she begins to care for Daniel, but soon it is evident that both men have been keeping secrets from her.

Relying on her friends, Louise and Tina, while trying to help her sister-in-law, Vicky, with her post-natal depression, Audrey careers from one emotional scene to another.  It is refreshing to read a novel about a modern woman in her early forties dealing with relationship, job and health issues and Audrey is a charismatic, eccentric heroine.  This ingenious plot never ceases to surprise right up to the final page and I was delighted to read that there will be a sequel.

Book Link:  Amazon UK

Kelly

Kelly Florentia

Kelly Florentia was born and bred in north London, where she continues to live with her husband Joe. Her second novel NO WAY BACK was published on 21st September 2017.

Kelly has always enjoyed writing and was a bit of a poet when she was younger. Before penning her first novel, The Magic Touch (2016), she wrote short stories for women’s magazines. TO TELL A TALE OR TWO… is a collection of her short tales.

Kelly has a keen interest in health and fitness and has written many articles on this subject. Smooth Operator (published in January 2017) is a collection of twenty of her favourite smoothie recipes.

As well as writing, Kelly enjoys reading, running, drinking coffee and scoffing cakes. She is currently working on the sequel to NO WAY BACK.

Website: www.kellyflorentia.com

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