The Foundling’s Daughter by Ann Bennett #New Release #TuesdayBookBlog

Foundling

This is the story of three distinctive women from different generations. In 2010, Sarah Jennings, a successful restauranteur, is fleeing her husband of 15 years who has betrayed her trust, while back in the 1930s, through the words of her diary entries, we meet Anna Foster, a naïve bride of convenience in British India. Bridging these two characters is Connie Burroughs, an old lady in a nursing home who is concealing a terrible secret.

A mysterious tragedy is gradually revealed as a result of Sarah’s wish to buy Cedar Lodge which was part of the orphanage where her father started his life. Here Rev. Ezra Burrows, Connie’s father, commanded great respect from the local community and awe from the children, but he had left his previous career as a missionary in India, in disgrace. As Sarah copes with the rapid deterioration of her father’s death and the disintegration of her marriage, she becomes determined to discover more about her father’s early life. Helping out in a local restaurant she finds new happiness, but she is determined to help Connie who seems unable to escape the influence of Ezra Burrows, long after his death.

As Connie reads Anna’s diary entries, I found myself identifying with her plight and the impossible situation in which she found herself. All three women are vividly described, making this a compelling story to read. The suffocating colonial environment in which Anna suffers a loveless marriage contrasts clearly with the colour and vibrance of India and the threads of the plot are gradually drawn together in a very satisfying, believable conclusion which is both sad and fulfilling.

The Foundling’s Daughter is now available at Amazon UK

My interview with Ann Bennett about her Bamboo trilogy

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The Christmas Ghosts by G. Lawrence #RBRT #BookReview

 

The Christmas Ghosts

“Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that’s what.” Salman Rushdie

“The muses are ghosts, and sometimes they come uninvited.”  Stephen King

 

This book of 5 short stories is a surprise. Yes, each story has a ghost, who appears at Christmas, but they are not horrifying. The protagonist may feel fear or confusion, but the reader feels curiosity.  Why is the ghost returning?

 

In the first story, Guardian, we meet the most traditional ghost-like figure, but this is also the story about relationships, good and bad. Occurring on Bodmin Moor late on Christmas Eve, there is a gradual build up of tension and we fear for Henry, just as his mother did.  Hot Toddy is a more reassuring story of enduring love, while Roger Reed and the Road Kill Rabbit is an amusing tale of an unpleasant man receiving his just reward.

 

My favourites are the last two stories. Old Man Symmonds echoes “A Christmas Carol”.  There are two unjust bosses in different eras, mistreating their employees, but the heroine, Hayley, regains her confidence, realising her worth as a consequence of her encounter with the ghost. In this story and also in the final tale the main character deals with relationships and gains maturity. Eloise in The Christmas Ghost is struggling to become an author, but she already knows that her occupation as a house-sitter suits her disposition and her aspiration. Failing in her attempt to become closer to her critical mother, whose glass is always half-full, she returns to the Victorian cottage she is minding, to find a ghost whose fate is far worse than hers. The house has inspired her writing, will it help her to heal her family too?

I highly recommend this delightful volume of unusual ghost stories and hope that there will be a second volume to follow next Christmas.

The Christmas Ghosts can be purchased on Amazon UK

Summer at the Little French Guesthouse (La Cour des Roses Book 3) by Helen Pollard #TuesdayBookBlog

Summer at

 Summer sun, chilled, white wine, and a gorgeous fiancé. Nothing could upset pure bliss … Right?

Emmy Jamieson loves her new life in the gentle hills and sunflowers of the lush French countryside, managing La Cour des Roses, a beautiful, white stone guesthouse. With marriage to caramel-eyed Alain just round the corner, things couldn’t be more perfect.

The odd glass (gallon) of wine dulls the sound of Emmy’s mum in full motherzilla-of-the-bride mode, and the faint tinkling of alarm bells coming from Alain’s ex are definitely nothing to worry about. Guesthouse owner Rupert and a whole host of old and new friends are there to make sure nothing gets in the way of Emmy’s happiness.

But as Emmy gets close to the big day, a secret from the past throws everything decidedly off track. Will her idyllic French wedding go ahead as planned, or will Emmy run back home to England with a broken heart?

It was lovely to catch up with Emmy still working hard at Rupert’s idyllic guest house in the Loire valley while developing her own business.  Her marriage to gorgeous accountant Alain is fast approaching, but Emmy’s mother is driving her mad, phoning from England at all hours, to nag her about wedding preparations.

There are amusing escapades amongst the guests and Emmy’s friends, Sophie and Ellie, also appear to have found love, but Alain’s family worries and Emmy’s frustration with her mother cause friction between them.  Then disaster strikes; will Emmy’s happy life in France fall apart?

This third story of the little French guesthouse contains so many fascinating characters, French and English and an unexpected twist in the plot to keep you turning the pages. This is a feel-good novel which restores your faith in humanity and makes you wish you could book a holiday at this wonderful location.

Summer at the Little French Guesthouse can be purchased at Amazon UK

My review of the first book about La Cour des Roses

Telling Tales by Ann Cleeves #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

Telling Tales

Ten years after Jeanie Long was charged with the murder of fifteen-year-old Abigail Mantel, disturbing new evidence proving her innocence emerges in the East Yorkshire village of Elvet. Abigail’s killer is still at large.

For Emma Bennett, the revelation brings back haunting memories of her vibrant best friend – and of the fearful winter’s day when she had discovered her body lying cold in a ditch.

Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope makes fresh inquiries, and the villagers are hauled back to a time they would rather forget. Tensions begin to mount, but are people afraid of the killer, or of their own guilty pasts?

Telling Tales is one of the “Vera” series by Ann Cleeves which I know so well from the TV series. In this novel, Inspector Vera Stanhope has been called away from her home county of Northumberland to reopen a murder case in a small Yorkshire village by the sea, east of Hull. But first the author takes us into the mind of Emma Bennett, who was 15 years old when she found her best friend, Abigail, lying dead. Now Emma is a dissatisfied mother with a baby, apparently happily married to James. But James has a secret and we are able to read his point of view too.

Vera is, as she is on TV, slightly annoying, but easy to talk to. She is not welcomed by the local police even though the two officers in charge of the original murder investigation have since left the force. Vera is persistent; she discovers that both officers still live locally and are involved with members of Emma and Abigail’s family. Michael Long, father of Jeanie, who was wrongly imprisoned for the murder, is determined to seek out the real killer, while Emma’s father, Robert Winter, who was Jeanie’s probation officer earns our suspicions.

This is a fascinating study of village gossip and hidden secrets, of powerful men and unhappy families. The brooding atmosphere of suspicion and boredom is effectively conveyed, and descriptions of the countryside clearly paint the bleak landscape. The mystery is full of false leads and I didn’t guess who was responsible ahead of the denouement. The TV programmes didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this book and I will certainly seek out more books from this series.

Telling Tales can be purchased on Amazon UK

The Matrimonial Advertisement (Parish Orphans of Devon Book 1) by Mimi Matthews #NewRelease #RBRT #BookReview

 

The-Matrimonial-Advertisement-Web-Medium-with-Quote-e1530680720709

 

Helena Reynolds needs sanctuary and, even more than that, a protector. She has travelled to Greyfriar’s Abbey, a remote estate in Devon, to enter into a marriage contract with a stranger. Captain Justin Thornhill is a brave, attractive man, so why is he advertising for a bride? Tortured in India during the mutiny at Cawnpore, he bears scars, and a scarred personality. He needs a business arrangement which will provide contentment and household management, but why has this beautiful, refined lady offered to marry him? They both conceal secrets which may drive them apart. Helena has a vulnerability which makes Justin protective and soon the couple become close, despite fate dictating that they have no future together.

This is an irresistible romance with the added frisson of gothic fear. At a time in Victorian Britain when a woman belonged entirely to her father, guardian or husband, could Helena ever be free to love and live as she wishes? Mimi’s writing style is engaging, and we are plunged immediately into Helena’s predicament. Secrets are gradually revealed, adding depth to our understanding of the main characters. This is Miss Matthews’ best book so far and it is only the first in a new series!

To buy The Matrimonial Advertisement in the UK

To read my review of The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews

Mimi Matthews

Mimi

Mimi Matthews is the author of The Pug Who Bit Napoleon: Animal Tales of the 18th and 19th Centuries and A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty. She researches and writes on all aspects of nineteenth century history—from animals, art, and etiquette to fashion, beauty, feminism, and law. Her scrupulously cited articles have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture, and are also syndicated weekly at BUST Magazine.

Mimi’s writing and research have been referenced in such diverse web and print publications as Smithsonian MagazineThe Paris Review, The Journal of Civil War MedicineApartment Therapy, and USA Today’s Happy-Ever-After blog. Her work is frequently used in high school and college classrooms as part of an English or History curriculum.

When not writing historical non-fiction, Mimi authors exquisitely proper Victorian romance novels with dark, brooding heroes and intelligent, pragmatic heroines. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Romance Writers of America, and English Historical Fiction Authors. Her debut Victorian romance The Lost Letter was released in September 2017.

In her other life, Mimi is an attorney with both a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. She resides in California with her family—which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, two Shelties, and two Siamese cats.

https://www.mimimatthews.com/

A Lake in Switzerland by Melinda Huber #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

Lake in Switzerland

A Lake in Switzerland is a feel-good novella, just perfect for reading while on holiday. We accompany Stacy and Emily on a relaxing vacation by Lake Constance, as Emily recovers from a long-term knee injury. Stacy is kind and considerate, though missing her fiancé, medical student David, while Emily has forsworn men since being abandoned by her boyfriend after the accident he caused. Though the food is unexciting, the hotel is in a beautiful setting and the British barman, Alan, treats them like star guests. However, Rico, the son of the hotel owner, is quiet and distracted as he worries about his father’s threat to sell the hotel.

Melinda Huber’s intimate knowledge of the area brings to life the wonderful experiences of the two young women and we soon believe that Emily’s life will improve, but Stacy is worried at the lack of communication from her fiancé and whether she should return to her nursing career in the near future. At times she and Rico strike up a rapport, but she has no need for more complications and he seems to be severely depressed at what has happened since his mother’s recent death.

As the girls return home it is evident that this is no simple romance. The difficulties of finding a vocation and running a successful business are as relevant as maintaining relationships and then another element is introduced in the form of betrayal. Gradually the plot unfurls to a pleasing conclusion but by no means the end of the story for Stacy. Thank goodness there is a sequel; A Spa in Switzerland.

A Lake in Switzerland is on sale at Amazon UK

Melinda Huber

Huber

Melinda Huber is the feel-good pen name of psychological suspense writer Linda Huber – she’s hiding in plain sight!

Linda grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, but went to work in Switzerland for a year aged twenty-two, and has lived there ever since. Her day jobs have included working as a physiotherapist in hospitals and schools for handicapped children, and teaching English in a medieval castle.

Her writing career began in the nineties, and since then she’s had seven psychological suspense novels published, plus a collection of feel-good short stories.

Her latest project is the series of Lakeside Hotel novellas, set on the banks of Lake Constance and just minutes from her home in north-east Switzerland. She really appreciates having the views enjoyed by her characters right on her own doorstep!

Visit her blog at: www.lindahuber.net

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls #TuesdayBookBlog

Glass Castle

“I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening (party), when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster … She had tied rags around her shoulders to keep out the spring chill … To the people walking by, she probably looked like any of the thousands of homeless people in New York City … I was embarrassed by them, too, and ashamed of myself for wearing pearls and living on Park Avenue while my parents were busy keeping warm and finding something to eat.”

This is a startling memoir of a successful journalist’s journey from the deserted and dusty mining towns of the American Southwest, to an antique filled apartment on Park Avenue. Jeanette Walls narrates her nomadic and adventurous childhood with her dreaming, ‘brilliant’ but alcoholic parents.

At the age of seventeen she escapes on a Greyhound bus to New York with her older sister; her younger siblings follow later. After pursuing the education and civilisation her parents sought to escape, Jeanette eventually succeeds in her quest for the ‘mundane, middle class existence’ she had always craved. In her apartment, overlooked by ‘a portrait of someone else’s ancestor’ she recounts poignant remembered images of star watching with her father, juxtaposed with recollections of irregular meals, accidents and police-car chases and reveals her complex feelings of shame, guilt, pity and pride toward her parents.

I expect those of us reading Jeanette Walls’ book, who do not live in the US, see this story from a different perspective to those who know her as a journalist.  “The Glass Castle” instantly reminded me of Helen Forrester’s “Twopence to Cross the Mersey”; a different place, a different time but both autobiographies about poverty and parental neglect.

The world in which Jeanette grew up, was not such a shock after reading Bill Bryson’s accounts of life in some parts of the States, but it does seem amazing that the children managed to escape being taken into care.  What is surprising is her ability to describe her upbringing in such a lucid, unemotional way.  It is clear that her dysfunctional parents were imaginative and talented and that her father, at least, cared deeply for her except when his alcoholism caused him to act despicably.  It is difficult to imagine how she could forgive him when he stole their savings and he certainly never built the glass castle, but at least he taught her how to dream.

Jeanette’s mother was much more difficult to empathise with.  A self-confessed “excitement addict”, she seemed to have no maternal instinct at all.  What she did have was a close bond with her husband even when he let them down, probably because of her inclination for self-destruction whenever things seemed to be going well.

The stories of life in the desert were fascinating but the events in cold Virginia were much more depressing.  And yet, even when being bullied, Jeanette remained positive.  The optimistic tone of the book is incredible.

On the back cover of my copy, a reviewer has written, “Jeannette Walls has the talent of knowing exactly how to let a story tell itself.”  How true.  You feel as if you are part of the story not just seeing it through her eyes.  A fascinating read.

The Glass Castle on Amazon UK