Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Shadow on the Highway by Deborah Swift

Shadow on the Highway (The Highway Trilogy, #1)

It was only at the very end of this read that I discovered that Lady Katharine Fanshawe's character was based on an actual Lady Katharine. Abigail her maid and general factotum is however fictional.

The story set in 17th century England depicts a very harsh life and with England set at war with itself. The King on one side and Parliament led by Cromwell on the other. The civil war was disastrous for England leading to large scale destruction of villages, property, churches and over two hundred thousand dead.  The ten years of fighting was a period of great hardship for villagers and it is this that is depicted in this story. The story also highlights the beginning of the Diggers Movement which though unsuccessful paved the way for future movements of the kind. More or less a commune lifestyle with a sharing of land and barter of goods.

Abigail is a girl who is deaf as a result of an attack of measles. She is the only person in her home who was afflicted and now she feels that she is a burden to her family because no one will employ her. When she is accepted at the Manor as a maid/helper she does not know that she is entering a house of tyranny. The Lady herself is very young, but extremely arrogant with orders to do everything. The cook expects Abigail to also provide water, firewood and cleaning in the kitchen and the arrival of the Lady's guardian Mr. Grice adds not only to the burden but to the fact that everything is not quite right. With Abigail's ability to read (unusual in her time) she is able to know that Mr. Grice is actually forging his Lord's signature on documents and has acquired for himself riches with the sale of all Lady Katharine's properties.  Lady Katharine herself is helpless in this and so is Abigail as they have been left alone with Mr. Grice and his henchmen who control the house.

Lady Katharine to add to Abigail's troubles dresses up as a maid and forces Abigail to take her out to the markets where she meets with Ralph Abigail's brother and falls in love with him. This does not bode well because Abigail knows when the truth comes out it will only be adverse for her own family and it does become so. Katharine's other exploits as a highwayman are also discovered by Abigail.

The story has a lot of stories within itself but what struck me most was the absolute power that the men in a family - whether father, husband or brother had over a woman and even a woman of Lady Katharine's stature was just a pawn in property or marriage stakes where everything evolved on the men and as in her case she was rendered penniless by those supposed to be protecting her. Her father in law's behaviour towards her, his physical abuse of her was appalling, specially in view of the fact that her husband was physically present and did nothing whatsoever to stop it and even participated in it. That this was factual I do not doubt as the trend of the time. 

The story was an educative one about England at a very brutal and primitive stage of civilization though of course the English may not think of it like that. Women were definitely cattle class and men were indifferent to what they thought or wanted. Quite a disturbing read.

This was a free download from Amazon. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Mailbox Monday/It's Monday! What are you reading?

The following came this week!


Both books came almost instantaneously after my request through Netgalley from Smith Publicity.


This came from Blogging for Books

Fiercombe Manor

This was from Edelweiss.

While We're Far Apart

This was a free Amazon download.


This meme conducted by Sheila at Book Journey.

I am reading The Fragrance Shed by a Violet - just about twenty five pages in and am riveted!

The weekend was spent travelling (as usual) out of Colombo. Got back on Sunday. Now to a hectic new week.

The long tube like vegetable is drumsticks (called Murunga here). This is one of the crops grown by us on this property.

France - The Soul of A Journey by R J ODonnell

Like travel memoirs - under the Tuscan Sun started it for me and now I just love them. This one too started out very well. Four friends doing an overland trip through France, slowly and casually - not rushing things and seeing small places, villages, meandering off the beaten track. It was not all highways for them but just sometimes going away from the itinerary. How many people long to do that but somehow for whatever reason it does not happen.

Four people of disparate temperaments, spending three weeks in one car can end up disastrously. The fact that it didn't meant that there was a lot of give and take, compromise call it what you will so that things were always amicable, even though at times one was biting one's tongue not to retort or let fly at a companion!

Towns covered were the major ones of interest on a tourist route - Chartres and Bayeaux, cathedrals and tapestries but there were hidden churches and cafes, fabulous food, open air markets, views of the countryside both forest and cultivated which were beautifully and detailed in their description. I felt I was there looking at the mazes and labyrinths, listening to the chanting of nuns (this I must research a bit more as it got my interest piqued), and looking at the great cathedrals with their architecture and stonework, stained glass and relics. 

I really enjoyed this book. This was a download from Netgalley courtesy of  Troubador Publishing Ltd.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

All Good Women by Valerie Miner

Four young women - all from varying cultural and ethnic backgrounds come together to start training at a secretarial school. Secretary is not their first choice of job but they think that this would be a stepping stone to whatever their dream job is. Whether it be the movies or journalism or teaching. Living together just four girls, is a taste of independence and not something that went down well with the families of the girls. For some of the girls it was an escape from the cloying effect of huge families, extended families, constant needling and just in some cases to get away.

It is 1938 and the whole world is on the brink of change.  These four young women also know that life is going to change but they did not realize how radical the changes would be. In Wanda's case being of Oriental descent, despite having been born in America it became a nightmare. Classified as an alien, and a probably enemy of the American people, she and thousands of those of Japanese descent were overnight taken from their homes and put into barren camps where the treatment meted out to them was horrendous. It seems terrible that no journalist thought of highlighting the  unfair treatment meted out to them for no fault of theirs, other than their race of origin.

With Wanda's internment in the camp the girls grow up almost overnight each one thinking very clearly for themselves as to what they should or should not do. For Teddy a personal awareness of her sexuality and that the sooner it is acknowledged the better though how she is going to do this she does not know.

A coming of age of four young women - a delightful read with the background of WWII looming in the background and how it affected Americans so far away from the actual theatre of war.

The book was sent to me via Netgalley courtesy of Open Road Integrated Media.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna Van Praag

The Dress Shop of Dreams: A Novel

An element of magic and fantasy in this one. Normally not my genre at all but for fans of Sarah Addison Allen this would be great.

Cora is a scientist, her parents have been scientists who were tragically killed in a fire over twenty years ago. Her only relative is her grandmother the owner of the dress shop. Etta is no ordinary dress shop owner. She imbues a certain amount of magic into her creations and she will gently direct customers to dresses that will bring them happiness and joy. 

Etta's one wish is that Cora would be happy, that she would find a partner who would love her and for Cora to take her head out of her science lab and realize that there is a world around her. Etta feels that her magic is working for everyone but Cora who has an admirer in Walt but Walt again is a man who is shy and reserved and he too needs to be given a gentle nudge in the correct direction.

However the nudge goes in the wrong direction and Walt is thrown into the path of Milly, another shy and reserved young widow who is lonely and bereft and who sees in Walt a partner to replace her dead husband Hugh. Cora on the other hand gets involved with unraveling the secrets of her parents death and is totally unaware of the machinations around her!  

Ending happily ever after as it had to, this was a pleasant read.

A book which I obtained from Blogging for Books.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Mailbox Monday/It's Monday! What are you reading?

A Murder Is Announced (Miss Marple, #5)             21155902     

I love Agatha Christie. I think I read this about twenty years ago but it is just as delightful today. The second book was a recommendation from Fleur Fisher. I get absolutely amazing recommendations from this blogger. Both books are courtesy of Open Library.

Nothing  new from Netgalley. So many geographical restrictions put me completely out of the circuit!

Two wins from Simon from Stuck in a book. The books take a circuitous route via London to Sri Lanka via a friend of mine who does not mind picking up my wins. I only enter for the UK prize books when I really, really want to get my hands on a particular book. These two were 

Media of Mrs Harris MP          Mrs. Harris Goes To Moscow          


I am reading The Siege as well as A Wreath for the Enemy. 

Monday was a holiday - a full moon poya day and I was out of Colombo. Hence the post got so late. 
Its been all systems go from early this Tuesday morning!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladd

Cecily comes to Willowgrove Hall with plenty of secrets, most of which she would like to hide. She is literally abandoned by her father after he discovered her secret of eloping with Andrew Morton. She was thrust into the school for girls where she remained till she got this appointment at Willowgrove Hall. She would not like her employer to know her past history but circumstances and events are all out of Cecily's control.

Cecily's arrival at the Hall itself is dramatic. She comes when the place is flooded and access to the Hall is not possible. She is rescued by the steward who takes her to his own home till she is able to go to the Hall.  On arrival there she finds to her dismay that the owner's nephew is her errant lover and who is now engaged to another. Another secret that she does not want known. She had thought Andrew was out of her life completely and now he is there large as life and apparently also not wanting it known that his Aunt's companion was once his lover.

Despite the odds against her, Cecily wins the favour of her dying mistress as well as the faithful companion and creates a niche for herself in this house. Cecily knows her period in this house is limited to the length of her mistress's life and when this ends she herself will be without a home. What she did not take into account is that she will find a new love here which will be for her, her saving.

Nathaniel Stanton who is the steward for the estate has his own secrets, known to just a few people. He has got to know of them only recently and considers it a huge burden and one he wants to escape from. He too is tied to Willowgrove Hall and is waiting for his release which will also come with the death of the current mistress.

How it all ties together is the story created by this author. Regency romance it is, but it also brings in a nice touch of family drama and secrets which have to come out - at least in a way which brings not sadness but solace and a form of happiness at the end.

This book was also sent to me via Netgalley via Thomas Nelson publishers.