A Modest Independence by Mimi Matthews (Parish Orphans of Devon) #RBRT

Modest

Book Description

He Needed Peace…

Solicitor Tom Finchley has spent his life using his devious intellect to solve the problems of others. As for his own problems, they’re nothing that a bit of calculated vengeance can’t remedy. But that’s all over now. He’s finally ready to put the past behind him and settle down to a quiet, uncomplicated life. If only he could find an equally uncomplicated woman.

She Wanted Adventure…

Former lady’s companion Jenny Holloway has just been given a modest independence. Now, all she wants is a bit of adventure. A chance to see the world and experience life far outside the restrictive limits of Victorian England. If she can discover the fate of the missing Earl of Castleton while she’s at it, so much the better.

From the gaslit streets of London to the lush tea gardens of colonial India, Jenny and Tom embark on an epic quest—and an equally epic romance. But even at the farthest edges of the British Empire, the past has a way of catching up with you…

My Review

This unusual Victorian romance tells the story of two people who do not plan marriage with anyone. At 28, Jenny Holloway is a spinster “past her prime” and after life as a drudge caring for her ungrateful father, her ambition is for independence and the opportunity to travel. Tom Finchley is a successful, London attorney whose lonely childhood has given him the drive to work long hours, with little time for pleasure.  But as Jenny sets out to travel to British India with her legacy and two trustworthy servants, Tom finds himself compelled to accompany her.  Soon, despite antagonism, they draw closer and begin an intimate friendship not normally possible for respectable single men and women.

Mimi Matthews has the ability to reveal her characters inner most thoughts even when they are deeply confused.  The frank conversations between Tom and Jenny show that although they are strongly attracted to one another they are equally determined to keep their independence.  The plot takes us on trains, ships and gharries to Egypt and on to India.  The intense heat and tense atmosphere following the Indian mutiny is clearly described and the unfortunate early lives of Jenny’s Indian servants tells us much of the unfairness of colonial rule. This accurate picture of society’s expectations helps the reader to feel Jenny’s frustration at the entrapment of women within marriage, paralleled by the tight rigidity of her corseted costume.   And the addition of passion and love, results in an irresistible tale I did not want to stop reading.

Read about A Modest Independence on GoodReads

or buy the book on Amazon UK

Advertisements

Theodore and Eliza by Susan Harvard #FridayReads #RBRT

Theodore

Book Description

Theodore & Eliza is the first and only account of the eight-year marriage 1812-20 of the mixed-race couple, from whom Princess Diana was directly descended.

The story is threaded through an extensively researched background of places and people in Yemen, Bombay and Scotland during the Napoleonic era. It is an unusually intimate account drawn from a rarely-accessed private archive of the couple’s personal correspondence.

Rapidly changing attitudes to biracial marriages mean that Theodore has to choose between his family and a lucrative career. Though he still loves her, he decides to leave his wife and their three children.

My Review

This true story of the marriage of Theodore Forbes, a rich Scottish merchant, and Eliza Kewark, an Armenian from the city of Surat shines a light on the complex relationships and social niceties of early 19th century British India.  Having fallen passionately in love, the 23-year-old Aberdonian had married his teenage bride rapidly so that he could take up his post as British Resident in Mocha, which at that time was the chief port of the Yemen.  For 3 years the couple lived a happy life there. Responsible for buying and shipping the East India company’s entire annual consignment of coffee, Theodore found his multi-lingual wife a great asset and they rejoiced in the birth of Kitty and her younger brother Aleck.  In 1815 they were ordered to return to Bombay.  While Theodore lodged with friends and attended society parties, Eliza and the children lived in a house in the country, a short ride away, but they were both glad to return to Surat.  Now Eliza lived in one of the grandest houses, a great improvement on her original status in the city. Sadly, when the family returned to Bombay in 1816, Theodore was to discover that society was less liberal than it had been in the past as “respectable” British wives disapproved of “mixed” marriages.  His “dear Betsey” was not accepted at balls or dinner parties.

Many will be fascinated to read that these are the ancestors of Princess Diana and the careful research and detailed descriptions in Susan Harvard’s book reveal the fascinating multi-racial life and the difficulty of balancing ambition against love and duty.  There are stunning pictures from those times included in the book.  The author has followed the history of many of Theodore’s friends, family and colleagues, but at times movement back and forth through time can be confusing.  This is a book for the keen historian, but it will also appeal to those who wonder about the life of those who sought their fortune in the East and left a legacy to the present generation.

Theodore and Eliza is available at Amazon UK

Susan Harvard

Susan Harvard

Susan Harvard was born in London and educated in Scotland and England. She has a BA in French, English and History of Art. After a career researching and restoring pictures, she now lives on a smallholding in rural Somerset where her focus is on writing and conservation.

She has always been interested in History and its relevance to the modern world. Research into the time that Theodore and Eliza lived in Yemen from 1812 – 1815, has thrown up many fascinating parallels with our own time.

Letters from the Dead (Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery Book 7)

Letters from the Dead

Several years ago, I read the first three books in Steve Robinson’s mystery series about American genealogist Jefferson Tayte.  Now I have taken up the seventh story in which Jefferson travels to Scotland to help client, Damian Sinclair, break through the brick wall concealing the identity of his four times great grandfather.  But this is not just about family history, there is a legend of a valuable ruby stolen in India which the whole family hope to discover.  At first Jefferson is greatly impressed by the magnificent stately home where Sinclair lives with his elderly retainer, Murray, but within the walls he finds shabby rooms and unsafe floorboards.

The parts I most enjoyed were the letters of Jane Hardwick which began in 1822 as she returned to India, a widow and companion to a friend joining her husband in Jaipur.  Jane is a warm, caring woman who tries to look after teenage Arabella and her unhappy mother as their story gradually unfolds.  While Jefferson explores Sinclair’s bloodline, new letters from Jane appear mentioning the legendary gemstone. But he becomes increasingly aware of danger, as one by one, members of Sinclair’s family are murdered.

This book easily stands alone as a thrilling story of love, greed and treachery.  There are many red-herrings and I did not guess the outcome either in the 1820s or in the present-day denouement.  Highly recommended for anyone, not just those who love genealogy.

Letters from the Dead can be purchased on Amazon UK

Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson drew upon his own family history for inspiration when he imagined the life and quest of his genealogist-hero, Jefferson Tayte. The talented London-based crime writer, who was first published at age 16, always wondered about his own maternal grandfather–“He was an American GI billeted in England during the Second World War,” Robinson says. “A few years after the war ended he went back to America, leaving a young family behind and, to my knowledge, no further contact was made. I traced him to Los Angeles through his 1943 enlistment record and discovered that he was born in Arkansas . . .” Robinson cites crime writing and genealogy as ardent hobbies–a passion that is readily apparent in his work. He can be contacted via his website www.steve-robinson.me or his blog at www.ancestryauthor.blogspot.com.

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 health 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