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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The Artist’s Apprentice by Clare Flynn Book 1

I read the two books almost one after the other because they were good.

1908 and rich English-girls are still expected to do the right thing. Follow their parents instructions, I wouldn’t call it guidance here, and marry into the correct family. Alice seems pliant but she rebelled. The story continues with Edmund the spurred suitor marrying someone else,  Edmund’s father taking on a protege, and cutting Edmund off. At the same time Alice finds employment in. Stained glass business with the spurned Edmund of all people.

Working and living with a married man is beyond the understanding or acceptance of most people at the time, and Alice seems to be isolated not just from her family but also from friends. Alice and Edmund have also got to face the prospect of a looming war.

History especially the social mores of the time, along with a typical rich family saga where what everyone thinks and says is very important, this was indeed a good illustration of the times.

Sent by Storm Publishing for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

The Artist’s Wife by Clare Flynn


Alice Dalton and Edmund Culter are a partnership both professionally and personally. It has come at grave cost though. The year 1914 brings upheaval in England with the onset of war and Edmunds father Herbert has taken his hatred of his son further by promoting a marriage of Edmunds wife Dora with Alice brother who is now Herbert’s protégée in business and his heir.

The story although mainly of Alice and Edmund their deep love for each other, despite many obstacles is only a part of the story. Herbert Cutler is Machiavellian in his dealings - he wants to cut Edmund from his inheritance, then to get his grand daughter adopted legally by Victor Dalton and then get a seat in Parliament.

He never took into account the vagaries of the heart because he did not have an iota of empathy for people. Herbert got thwarted at every turn. He never dreamt that being the industrialist he was that he will not get nominated to any constituency. He never thought Victor will throw away a massive inheritance and enlist, and he did not realise that his son was not bothered by money or inheritance. He did not take into account personalities and feelings of the heart.

His downfall, leading to stability for Alice and Edmund and the beginning of a new life for all involved after many tragic events is this story. 

The setting, the period in which the story is set and the classes in English society, so rigid at the time very descriptively detailed. There are details of the suffragette struggles, the beginning of the white feather movement adding further dimensions to the story.

Sent by Storm Publishing for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Monday, February 19, 2024

The Girl on the Boat by Kate Hewitt


The persecution of the Jews in Germany was bad enough but even on the boat taking them away from Germany, Sophie and her friends faced taunts. Hoping to reach the safe haven of Cuba, with visas in hand, their hopes were dashed. It was only Sophie who managed to escape with a group of six and go to Washington and make a life for herself there.

The other three girls got dispersed through Belgium, France and England in their search for a permanent home. The promise they made to each other to meet on a particular day was one they all intended to keep, despite whatever was thrown at them.

In this story (I presume sequels will follow) we see Sophie’s life from the time she landed at the Tyler’s mansion to her unceremoniously being kicked out, to the life she found for herself, her love and then the tragic loss followed by a surprising change in career.

Like all WWII stories, each story is unique, heart breaking and precious. This was no exception.

Sent by Bookouture for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Death at St Jude’s by Mary Grand


Set on the Isle of Wight the setting alone is atmospheric. It wasn’t remote or inaccessible but it had its charm. Susan has just moved there. After a divorce and three years down the line, she is trying very hard to get back to a single life. With her two dogs by her side, good neighbours and interacting with local church activities draws her into a good social circle.

When Lawrence is found dead, fallen from a tower suspicions mount especially as it followed an acrimonious committee meeting in the church. So much does not seem right to Susan, but the local police and the village want to go with the accidental death verdict. Susan follows her own detection, she knows she is ruffling feathers when her house is egged and then had graffiti written on it. Those who were her friends are annoyed that she is investigating, when the Police have stopped.

The entire cast of characters had stuff to hide and not wanting it to be aired in public, and they’d go to extreme measures to keep them secret. One by one from the Deputy Head of the school, to the vicar and his wife, junior teachers and the music director have secrets unveiled. The final outcome was a surprise though.

Good, classic detection skills.

Sent by Boldwood Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Where Butterflies Wander by Suzanne Redfearn


This was excellent reading but a difficult book to review.

It had the human elements of sorrow, joy, anger, love and grief all represented throughout the story. There was remorse in plenty, forgiveness too and it ended neatly.

Starting with a child’s tragic death, a family without cleaving together seems to drift apart in their own little worlds of sorrows and what ifs. Coming in summer to a vast property they owned should have been good to rest and recuperate. It turned into a maelstrom of division. A resident Davina living on the edge of the property, a herbalist and a healer was the catalyst for Mum Marie and son Brendon. For the father and the two girls she spelt peace and understanding of their sorrows. Father Leo was actually torn between several worlds - his wife, very importantly his son whom he did not understand or respect and his daughters whom he adored.

The story of this torn family, the way the wife and son witch hunted Davina the herbalist and their remorse at the end, the reconciliation of the whole family and the beginning of their healing after Bee’s death was the crux of the story.

Very down to earth writing, emotional and heart wrenching in turn.

Sent by Lake Union Publishing for an unbiased review. Courtesy of Netgalley.

The Body on the Beach by Laura Martin


This was a mystery murder which portrayed Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra as the sleuths in this beautiful setting of Lyme Regis. The Austens are on holiday and Jane discovers the body of a young woman on the beach. The girl has been strangled and the signs including bruising are very apparent. What becomes surprising is that the coroner and magistrate almost immediately give a verdict of accidental death and send the body home in a sealed coffin.

Jane is furious at this careless attitude and realises that they are covering up. It especially becomes important because over the last two years two other young girls have been discovered dead under shady circumstances. Further enquiry going back years uncovers another two unaccounted deaths.

Trying as outsiders and as women to uncover the truth is no easy task. They are blocked at every turn especially as the enquiry turns on the local aristocrats. However, the final outcome is very surprising and added to the tension in the story.

Despite it being a murder mystery the entire tone of writing was soothing. Talk about being contradictory.

Sent by Sapere books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley 

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Lady at the Lodge by Graham Ley


Set during the time of the French Revolution with the threat of the French invading Britain, the story on the British side set in a regency era shows the struggles of the abolitionist movement on the one side, and the personal danger two young women put themselves into unwittingly.

With all the unrest, the Wentworth family get on with their lives . Like everyone else life goes on. Sempronie part of an aristocratic Breton English family tries to settle past wrongs. She cannot envisage how the family can react. Having to face many challenges all the characters in this story try to move forward, despite outside events forcing them out of their comfort zones. Whilst Amelia is getting involved with the abolitionist movement and is supportive, we have Arabella abducted and being put in a perilous and compromising situation.

Sent by Sapere Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

I found the story a bit complicated to follow, with complicated beginnings and ends.