Double Cheque by Heather MacQuarrie #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

Double

Like all good dramas, “Double Cheque” is about secrets and lies.  As in “Broken Cups,” Heather MacQuarrie’s previous book, the story describes families and young couples with happy lives which can so easily be destroyed by unfaithfulness or anger.

This story centres on Jasmine, a young woman moving into her first flat and her parents, Patty and Kenneth.  Jasmine is devastated to discover that her mother has been conducting an affair, unknown to her father and she enlists the help of her brother Sam.  Patty still loves her husband but cannot resist the excitement of weekends with Dougie.

Jasmine is happy to make new friends, Jillian, Bradley and Alasdair and one of these young men may bring love into her life.  Meanwhile she decides to help mutual friend, Grant to a reconciliation with his father, Cameron Ferguson, who ironically is a good friend of Patty’s lover Dougie.

As a reader it takes a while to get your head around the relationships in this character packed novel but soon you begin to care about their feelings and the predicaments in which they find themselves.  The unpleasantness and difficulties experienced by Alasdair as a result of brain damage from a childhood accident are dealt with sensitively and it is heartening to read of the support he receives from his close circle of friends.

There is also a suspicious death to be dealt with.  We know the perpetrator, but does he deserve our sympathy or approbation?  Will he be caught or betrayed?  This has all the elements of an exciting soap opera.

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The Music of the Spheres by Elizabeth Redfern #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

Music of the Spheres

Book Blurb

London, the summer of 1795: a season of revolutionary fervour, scientific discovery and vicious murders. The British government is in disarray, unable to stem the flood of secrets to Paris; betrayals that doom her war efforts to failure. In rural Kensington a group of French emigr-s are pursuing a scientific dream, the discovery of a planet they call Selene. The group has fallen under the spell of a beautiful and amoral woman – Auguste de Montpellier who is at once their muse and dark angel. Meanwhile a killer lurks in the back streets of the capital: the victims are all prostitutes and have been paid in French Louis d’Or, the currency of France’s spies. Jonathan Absey is a Home Office clerk whose official task is to smash the French spy ring. Privately however, he has become obsessed with the murders. These interests intersect when he finds himself drawn into the Montpellier circle, yet his pursuit for truth remains obscured through coded letters, opium and conspiracy. Absey must uncover the mystery before the summer dies; an invasion fleet is being prepared to set sail across the channel and the lives of those on board now rest on his discoveries.

My Review

The end of the 18th century is a fascinating era, when French spies mixed with the aristocratic emigres in London, who had fled to save their heads. The city was a dangerous place for the underclass and Jonathan Absey becomes obsessed with solving the murders of several prostitutes because he believes his daughter was the first victim.

Suspicion falls upon the household of Auguste de Montpellier and her sick brother Guy. Aided by Doctor Raultier, Guy fights his illness to prove the existence of a new planet which he calls Selene, which he believes must exist after the discovery of Uranus by Herschel in 1781. Jonathan persuades his half-brother Alexander Wilmot, a gifted musician and amateur astronomer to make contact with the Montpelliers so that he can discover their secrets, but Alexander is unwilling to betray his new friends and walks into a perilous situation.

There is a gothic quality to this novel, several characters implying languorous evil and sexual deviance.  The historical content is sound, and the suspense increases with each new murder, but only Alexander earns our empathy and for this reason was the only character I could believe in.  Choose this novel for revelations about post-revolutionary Europe and an insight into scientific interests at that time but do not expect to become emotionally involved with people you meet within its pages.

The Music of the Spheres can be purchased on Amazon UK

E Redfern

Elizabeth Redfern

Elizabeth Redfern was born on October 29, 1950 in Cheshire, England and attended the University of Nottingham, where she earned a BA in English. She then earned a post graduate degree as a Chartered Librarian at Ealing College and a post-graduate certificate in teaching at the University of Derby.

Redfern trained and worked as a chartered librarian, first in London and then in Nottingham. She moved to Derbyshire with her husband, a solicitor. And after her daughter was born, Redfern re-trained as a teacher and began work as an adult education lecturer – main subject, English – with the Derbyshire County Council.

Since then, she’s been involved in various projects in nearby towns, including working with the unemployed and skills training in the workplace. She lives with her husband and her daughter, who attends a local school, in a village in the Derbyshire Peak District. In her spare time Redfern plays the violin with a local orchestra, the Chesterfield Symphony Orchestra.

 

 

 

Just an Odd Job Girl by Sally Cronin #TuesdayBookBlog #Review

Odd Job Girl

Imogen has reached the milestone of 50, but her world has fallen apart.  After over 20 years of marriage to Peter, he has abandoned her for a younger model.  Thrown out of her lovely home, she has downsized and is hibernating.  After turning to comfort eating, she has gained several pounds so has decided to make a new start by looking for a job.  She hasn’t worked since marrying Peter, so she approaches an agency.  There she meets Andrew who listens to her; something Peter never did.

 

Talking to him about her work experiences unleashes a multitude of memories and we as readers are able to share in the variety of occupations of her youth.  This isn’t a depressing story about loss or wasted years, it is a lively, amusing account of work in a hotel, funeral directors and the catering world. It shows a woman’s worth, gained from all the challenges of life experiences.  By going back through her memories, Imogen rediscovers her confidence and is ready to face the world anew.

Sally Cronin

Sally G Cronin

Sally Cronin is a successful author, well known for Smorgasboarda blog magazine for lovers of health, food, books, music, humour and life in general.

Just an Odd Job Girl can be purchased on Amazon UK or Amazon US

 

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.

 

 

The American Boy by Andrew Taylor #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

American

 

Interweaving real and fictional elements, The American Boy is a literary historical crime novel in the tradition of Possession.

England 1819: Thomas Shield, a new master at a school just outside London, is tutor to a young American boy and the boy’s sensitive best friend, Charles Frant. Drawn to Frant’s beautiful, unhappy mother, Thomas becomes caught up in her family’s twisted intrigues. Then a brutal crime is committed, with consequences that threaten to destroy Thomas and all that he has come to hold dear. Despite his efforts, Shield is caught up in a deadly tangle of sex, money, murder and lies — a tangle that grips him tighter even as he tries to escape from it. And what of the strange American child, at the heart of these macabre events, yet mysterious — what is the secret of the boy named Edgar Allen Poe?

This historical murder mystery shows the extremes of poverty and wealth within a small area of 19th century London. “The American Boy” is well researched and, for me at least, a page-turner. It appears to be heavily influenced by Wilkie Collins writing. I enjoyed following the developing mystery although I found the final denouement a little disappointing.

The reticence Thomas Shield shows to reveal the details of his tête-à-tête with Sophia, do perhaps carry the assumption of 19th century good taste a little too far but the romance certainly kept my interest in the fate of both characters. His earlier confused attraction to two women was harder to believe but perhaps I don’t understand men well enough. It is certainly true that Miss Carswell is a tantalising, enigmatic character, while Sophia seems aloof & unapproachable.

I am not happy with the chosen title and although Andrew Taylor gives his interest in the youth of Edgar Allan Poe as the raison d’être for this book, the boy seems to me to be only an incidental character and if anything is a conceit of the author. Without great knowledge of Poe, I suspect I am missing nuances in the text.

The pictures painted of the three locations, London, Gloucester and Monkshill Park are clearly delineated and atmospheric and the machinations of the plot built up convincingly. Initially the novel adopts a leisurely pace, but this gradually heats up. In contrast to the interactions of the many characters involved in the story, there are also interludes of philosophical observation by Thomas Shield such as,

For the first time in my life, I was about to be a man of substance. The knowledge changed me. Wealth may not bring happiness, but at least it has the power to avert certain causes of sorrow. And it makes a man feel he has a place in the world,

which I particularly enjoyed.

I have read that Taylor initially wrote this story in the third person, but sensibly realised that Thomas Shield was an essential narrator to ensure the reader’s involvement. I found him a very sympathetic character, in spite of his tendency to act like a Dr.Who heroine.

Mary Tudor – Princess by Tony Riches #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

MARY paperback (002)

From the author of the international best-selling Tudor Trilogy, the true story of the Tudor dynasty continues with the daughter of King Henry VII, sister to King Henry VIII. Mary Tudor watches her elder brother become King of England and wonders what the future holds for her.

Born into great privilege, Mary has beauty and intelligence beyond her years and is the most marriageable princess in Europe. Henry plans to use her marriage to build a powerful alliance against his enemies. Will she dare risk his anger by marrying for love?

Meticulously researched and based on actual events, this ‘sequel’ follows Mary’s story from book three of the Tudor Trilogy and is set during the reign of King Henry VIII.

My Revue

Unlike other readers I tend to avoid selecting Tudor history, perhaps because of a surfeit of them in earlier years, but Mary – Tudor Princess appealed because she was so little known to me; not Bloody Mary, Henry’s eldest surviving child, not Mary Queen of Scots but Henry’s sister Mary.  Though written in the third person, this Mary speaks to us of her life of duty and compromise and the happiness she found by guile and diplomacy in finally achieving the marriage she desired.

Wise beyond her years, 13-year-old Mary accepts her betrothal to 9 year old Charles, a future Emperor and prepares herself by keeping his picture at her bedside, but suddenly her capricious brother, King Henry VIII, sees more profit in marrying her to the much older King Louis of France.  Rather than being filled with horror, as a young woman of this century would be, she faces her new life bravely, realising that the King’s age and poor health open the possibility of another husband when she is widowed.  To this end she extracts a promise from her brother that her next marriage will be of her choice though she was to find this was not quite as straightforward as she hoped.

The story also deals with the purchase of wardships, where an astute gentleman, such as Charles Brandon, Mary’s second husband, acquired a young ward so that he could gain access to her fortune by arranging her marriage either to himself or to a useful ally. And here too, we see young girls happily agreeing to this state of affairs, just as Mary’s grand-daughter, Lady Jane Grey would, 40 years later. The complex life of a noble lady in 16th century Europe is both fascinating and disturbing.

Tony Riches has given us a likeable, clever Mary who becomes a good mother and step-mother, who eventually marries the love of her life but quickly learns that she and her friend Queen Catherine are tools in a man’s world.  I thoroughly enjoyed entering the French court, watching Henry’s tournaments and experiencing Mary’s joys and sorrows.

Mary Tudor Queen is available at Amazon UK and at Amazon US

Tony Riches Author (002)

About the Author
Tony Riches is a full-time author of best-selling historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the fifteenth century, with a particular interest in the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors.
For more information about Tony’s other books please visit his website tonyriches.com and his popular blog, The Writing Desk and find him on Goodreads as well as Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches.

Woman at the Front: Memoirs of an ATS Girl by Sylvia Wild #TuesdayBookBlog

 

ATS

I chose this autobiography because Sylvia’s experiences during the second world war mirrored those of my mother, but the story of those years in France, Belgium and Germany is fascinating for anyone interested in 20th century history.

 
Sylvia joined the ATS, as the women’s section of the British Army was called, in 1943. She decided to volunteer for overseas service and as a shorthand typist was sent over to France as one of the few women soon after D-day. Her time billeted with French families was a revelation to her, but despite their initial resistance, she made friends. In Brussels she was reunited with friends and found more luxury and entertainment. Returning to London on her very first flight was alarming, and she was shocked to discover that her family were still suffering from the effects of the wartime bombardment.

 
The women of the ATS were given little credit, being dismissed by Montgomery as nuisances but their role was essential in the establishment of the British Army Over the Rhine bringing peace to Europe. Anyone who enjoys reading the minutiae of social history of a time almost still in living memory would enjoy this book.

 

The paperback version, including illustrations is available at Amazon UK