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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Last Child by Terry Tyler

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After the tremendous success of Terry Tyler’s, “Kings and Queens,” set in recent times but based on the Tudor court of Henry VIII, its follow up, “Last Child,” was a treat I was looking forward to. And it doesn’t disappoint.

At the beginning of the novel we find orphaned Isabella, Erin and Jasper, the modern representations of Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and Edward VI living in Lanchester Hall with their stepmother Kate and her new young husband Aiden Seymour. Soon 16 year old Erin’s flirtatious relationship with 32 year old Aiden gets out of hand and Kate leaves. Luckily ex- nanny Hannah Cleveley is on hand to provide some security and stability for the mixed-up half-brother and sisters.

The story is told in the words of several key characters giving the reader a variety of perspectives and making you care about their lives. Hannah is a loving observer of the family who steps in whenever there is a crisis, “mentally loosening” her stays!

Jaz is a typical teenage boy who despite losing his parents so young has the potential to lead the family company successfully once he has grown up. In the meantime he’s rather naughty and delightfully describes his family in terms of Harry Potter characters. He is so vibrant that when disaster strikes it is still a shock.

Isabella is, as expected, a crazy mixed up young lady, full of resentment and jealousy. As she aptly comments, “My life is more Greek tragedy than Hugh Grant film.” Her relationship with Philip Castillo is doomed from the start and it is hardly surprising that employees in the company call her “the Mad Axe woman.”

Erin can charm the birds from the trees. People warm to her and men find her very attractive. Her on/off relationship with Robert Dudley is a major part of the plot and he is also a charismatic and likeable character. They are good friends but there is also, “an explosive chemistry,” between them. She is astute in business and determined not to give up the reins by burying herself in marriage.

Alongside these events there are many other sub plots. We see the self-destruction of psychosis and schizophrenia and the slow deterioration of the mind caused by Alzheimer’s. But the overall theme of the book is love, much of it unrequited, and its consequences. Perhaps the most touching story is that of Raine Grey and Jim Dudley which departs from the Tudor events into a warm but sad relationship.

The final part of the book is doom-laden. You feel as if everything is going to go wrong but will it? But there is a wonderful epilogue promising exciting events in the future. Terry’s excellent plotting and witty turn of phrase make Lost Child a delight to read and I feel as if I know all the characters almost as well as my own family.

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Kings and Queens by Terry Tyler

K & Q

Despite having already discovered that Terry Tyler is an excellent novelist I had a slight resistance to reading “Kings and Queens.” The idea of a contemporary parallel to the life of Tudor King Henry VIII was superb, but could it be achieved without too much awkwardly contrived plotting? Yes!

All the significant players in the life of Henry VIII feature in Terry’s story but she adapts the circumstances of each marriage to the context of its late 20th century era. Children are born, there are divorces but nobody has their head chopped off!

“Kings and Queens,” can be read from two viewpoints. With no knowledge of Tudor history you can enjoy this family saga as it is revealed, meeting male chauvinism, passion, addiction, power politics etc., just as you might watching a compulsive TV series such as “Howard’s Way” or “Dallas.” If you expect Harry Lanchester to behave like his alter ego Henry VIII you can thoroughly enjoy the twists and nuances in which his story differs from that of the King.

Inevitably you will identify with one or more of Harry’s partners and you will have encountered someone like his other wives. Each of the six women is a narrator and their biased viewpoint is counterpointed by the testimony of Will, Harry’s best friend and employee. There is tragedy, a dysfunctional family, love and dishonesty. A recipe for a rollicking good read.

If, like me, you are “of a certain age,” you will particularly enjoy the period details of fashion and social mores especially during the 1980s and the accurate reflection of the ups and downs of the housing market add credibility to events that are described.

I can thoroughly recommend this fascinating book and I am anxious to know more about the continuation of Harry’s dynasty.

Rosie's Book Review team 1