Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Rich Friends by Jacqueline Briskin

The setting is a rich one. The goal of girls is to marry well and woe betide you if you were from one of the richer, more elite families and you decided to marry down. There were no careers as such, or advancement for women in the professional field. In this setting we have the families of Van Vliet (the supermarket giants), the Linde's amongst others. Three girls Em, Caroline and Beverley's lives will be linked permanently by children and events which will leave them scarred like never before.

Em is the first to get married. When she produces twin boys she feels complete. Her entire life then becomes devoted to making "something" of them. Using her Van Vliet connections she is determined that they be someone big in life. Caroline is somewhat different. A bit of a radical. Then we have Beverley - artist extraordinary and not really living in the moment. It is the offspring though that create catastrophe,

The story unwinds slowly. It does not hit you from the first page. You begin to think this is a story of three friends, relations, family. When it does hit you, it is unexpected and huge. The damage done to not just the children, but to the lives of all the people around is stupendous. It continues in this vein till the end of the book and it holds you spellbound and enthralled right up to the end. You really are disappointed that it ends as you want to know a bit more.

Very well written the book was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Open Road Integrated Media.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay

Lucy lives in a world of books and antiques and it is very Jane Austen! I couldn't have asked for much more in a book. At the very beginning of a relationship which could possibly be the "one" her slightly unorthodox methods of handling business puts her future in jeopardy not just with James but with Sid her boss and mentor whom she adores.

An unexpected business trip to England with Helen who is James's grandmother brings the whole to crisis point. Helen has secrets of her own. Secrets which she has kept for sixty years and her choice of Lucy as a companion is no random choice.

As the story of both Helen and Lucy unravel, will they both find peace the way they each want and will James ever forgive her.

In a setting which crosses the pond, both American and English ways of business, life and history as well are detailed.

An exceptionally told tale. Sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Thomas Nelson - Fiction.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie

This book set in the magnificient court of Louis XV is a wonderfully detailed, descriptive story.
On the one side it deals with the actual happenings of the life and times of Louis XV in all its glory. This includes not just the history and happenings of the Court but the personality and character of Louis XV as a man. On the other side we have the saga of the Nesle family - starting with the children as infants and ending with them as women.

It is hard to imagine the story of the Nesle sisters being true but it is! that one man, could manage to inveigle four out of five sisters to his bed, keep them as mistresses for a very long period of time, managing two of them at one time and that the sisters themselves were agreeable with such an arrangement naturally led to a very unusual story.

The book deals with human nature in all its forms - avarice, pleasure, lust, envy and the necessary heartbreak that would follow. The manner in which each sister handles her emotions is different, Louise pretends to all and sundry that everything including her marriage is fine, Marie Anne wants to flaunt her power and obtain as much as possible in contrast to Louise, then there is Diane who is a wee bit simple one feels in some ways and very clever in others, and Pauline who was very ambitious and disliked even by the sisters for her over riding ways. Each brings their own story to the party so that the whole becomes an unbelievable work of historical fiction.

We also see how Louis XV as a King was someone who was influenced by the courtiers around him mainly Fleury and Richelieu. How decision making was never one of his strong points, a rather weak man who was led by the nose almost to do exactly what his advisors felt was best. Someone who was passionate about hunting above all else and was very indifferent to the needs of the common man. This was a striking feature of the time and the attitude of the aristocracy to the common peasant was unbelievable. That people could cocoon themselves so much into their own little world and not be aware of the needs and feelings of others was something that had to be read to be believed. That this would lead to a revolution was not unimaginable at all. That it happened later rather than sooner is the thing I found difficult to understand.

I understand that this is the first in a trilogy and if one likes history, this has to be one of those must reads.

The author has brought the court of Louis XV so much to life that reading this book was an absolute treat.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Atria Books.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

Set in a beautiful setting of St. Thomas in the 1800s Rachel is a different girl for her times. She is in her mother's opinion difficult, stubborn, spoilt by her father and always not wanting to conform. The family is Jewish and does not want to bring attention to themselves. Persecution is never far away and the stories reaching them are horrendous. The family are doing well and want it to continue like that. Adverse business forces Rachel's father to give her in marriage to a widower double her age with three children. The man is kind and Rachel accepts him as this is a business proposition.

Rachel however dreams of Paris and a way to go there seems to be just a dream. Having settled into family life with three children of her own, it may be that life just settles down. But, not for Rachel! the death of her husband and the appearance of the heir - a young man from France sets into motion Rachel's second life. One which is tumultuous, heart breaking and one which breaks all conventions and ostracizes not just Rachel but her entire family.

This was a family saga wonderfully told, beautifully descriptive not just of the location but also of the characters which formed the story. From Rachel's own mother and father to her husband, her friends from birth, the servants all form an integral part of the whole and all contributed to the success of this story.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Simon & Schuster. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Curricle and Chaise by Lizzie Church

Curricle & Chaise

I liked the very beginning of this book! When Mrs. Barrington decided to very inconsiderately decided to die..........., this was enough for me to decide this was a mix of Georgette Heyer, with a dash of Jane Austen.

I've finished Georgette Heyer's books and love the Regency period and the descriptions of domestic life and the characters that people her books. This was no different.

Lydia and Susan are left destitute on the death of their mother and unfortunately they both cannot be taken in by a single family. One aunt takes on Susan who is a quiet, shy child and Lydia goes to the Abdales where she is treated no less than a servant, not at all like a niece.

Lydia's time in the Abdale household is a tough one. She is always made to feel that even giving her the time of day is a luxury and she should look on it as being extremely lucky to have a place in this great house. Her cousin Julia is a pretty girl, whose interests are fixed on the second son of a neighbour whereas her ambitious mother wants her to aim higher for the eldest son. He is more interested in Lydia from the onset but this Mrs. Abdale doesn't figure! To make matters worse the obnoxious son of the household has his eye on Lydia and you know it is not going to end well the way things are going.

Like all Regency love stories you know this is going to end well and happily and it did.

This was a free download from Amazon.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Summer of Good Intentions by Wendy Francis

The Summer of Good Intentions

This was a family saga and one with a very beautiful setting.

Summertime on Cape Cod and three sisters return to their family home. The traditions of summertime are many in this family and the children and their parents all look forward to this period of getting together and just un-winding.

Maggie is the eldest who has taken on the mantle of "mother". Organising the whole month and making sure that everything and everyone blends in smoothly with the other is her job and one she takes seriously. Mac her husband leaves her to it, knowing she will do a good job but worried that she maybe taking on more than she can chew. Jess and Tim have marital problems and Jess does not know whether at the end of the month she will have a marriage and a home to return to. Virgie the youngest has just started a new relationship which she thinks is the "one" and is in two minds whether she should have asked or not asked Jackson to accompany her.

How life can throw a spanner in the works is the story! Arthur their father does not seem to be quite right though no one can pin it down. Their mother Gloria seems to be having a mid life crisis and after having left Arthur has found herself a boyfriend and turns up with Gio at the summer house, making all of them feel embarassed as to how to exactly cope with the threesome. Jess and Tim have to sort out the tensions of their marriage which are making others uncomfortable and Virgie is having a medical crisis which is going to affect them all very badly.

I loved the easy going style of writing of this author and the way the story is seamlessly blended one into the other. It is so descriptive not just of the physical background of this area but also of the lives, characters and personalities of this family that it brings it all very much alive in my mind.

The book was a download from Netgalley courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

As They Slept by Andy Leeks

This was good as a fun read in between the more serious stuff.

A London commuter on a train is exasperated by the fact that his fellow passengers all nod off on the trip to office and back. To offset this and to keep a challenge he starts making notes on his fellow passengers, on life in general and particular and subjects range from the trivial to the philosophical.

A very comfortable book and a download from Amazon.

On a non book note I am leaving tonight on a short tour of China! Beijing, Xian and Shanghai. Have been planning this for ages!