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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! 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Square by Rosie Millard

Like the cover indicates this is a story about houses in a square and all the inhabitants who occupy these houses and their separate life styles. It also shows that however open we are, there are hidden facets that we do not want everyone to see and know!

There is one couple who have won a lottery and who have upgraded themselves to a higher lifestyle. This proves worrying in different ways. They have moved their children to private schools, they must remember that now being richer they should be more "polished" in their speech - all this can get stressful. They have also lived beyond their means and credit card debts are piling up. We have another couple - the wife is having a rip roaring affair with the next door gentleman, on both sides its just an affair but many people could get hurt. We have a music teacher who is an onlooker and an au pair who is treated as part of the furniture. We have a television personality who enters the scene and finally takes over the whole show and there are two famous artists in the Square who keep to themselves but who are the talking point for everyone in the Square (porn on the walls and porn in the toilets!).

A Talent Show is organised by the residents to raise funds to erect a railing around the Square. Everyone has to rally around and this forms the climax of the story.  It is the end of life in the Square as they know it. Hilarious and introspective at the same time, this was a very fun read.

Sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Legend Press.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The King's Sisters by Sarah Kennedy

This is a continuation of a previous story but it does very well as a stand alone. I like historical fiction very much so I would have loved to have read the previous book as well but needs must!

The story follows a group of former nuns during the reign of Henry VIII. Never an easy time for anyone who wanted to keep their head, our heroine Catherine is now a widow (albeit a rich one) with two young children. She is also in a relationship with Benjamin Davies a friend of her husband and to top it all she is now pregnant. Catherine lives in the house of Anne of Cleves who was Henry's fourth wife.

The situation in the country at large is very tense. Catherine Howard has just been executed. She was just a mere child and her death has put everyone on full alert. Henry is in search of a new wife and no one is considered safe. Inquisition like conditions exist everywhere and even Anne of Cleves  house is searched, two maids taken in for questioning and the searchlight has now turned on Catherine and her fellow sister Ann.

Catherine and Ann's imprisonment and questioning is the turning point in the life of Catherine. How is she to protect her two living children and the unborn one whose very existence will be called treason and cause for death. Her son is living under the Prince's guardianship and is influenced by the Court as to how his mother should behave and live.

This period of Tudor history is fascinating and however many times told uncovers a facet of life during the time hitherto unknown. The situation of nuns during this period was new to me and this was another aspect of history about which I would like to read more about.

Told in so much detail, one can understand how much research would have gone into the story. I particularly enjoyed the domestic details of the Cleves's household because Catherine was in charge of it and this was very good reading.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Knox Robinson Publishing.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Winter Wrong by Elizabeth Ann West

Product Details

When I really am stressed out and want something mild, a bit romantic and nothing with murder and mayhem, my mind always turns to a P&P variation. I try to keep one on my kindle at all times for instances like these.

Jane getting sick with the influenza at Netherfield is part of an epidemic sweeping Hertfordshire. She survives but many die including Mr. Bennet. The ramifications of his death are felt immediately with Mr. Collins arriving post haste to claim his inheritance. With the rejection of his crude proposal by Elizabeth, the whole Bennet family find themselves turned out of their ancestral home with just a few of their belongings as according to Collins everything belongs to him.

Darcy and Bingley who have been part of the theatrics watch in horror and Bingley still under the influence of his sister is wavering in his decision to make Jane his wife. In the meantime the sisters along with Mary depart for London to Mr. Gardiner's residence whilst Mrs. Bennet with the two other girls go to live with her sister in Longbourn itself.

How Darcy keeps fighting his attraction for Elizabeth and of course finally succumbs and similarly for Bingley who puts his sister's evil ways for the goodness and simplicity of Jane is the final outcome of this well loved story.

As usual I find it very good! A recommendation from a blogger on Facebook and which I downloaded free from Amazon.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

It Started With Paris by Cathy Kelly

An absolutely interesting family saga. We have it all here. Single mothers, married and divorced, live in partners, complicated teenagers, mixed up adults! it made for a very very interesting book.

The youngest couple are Michael and Katy partners and young love at its best. Faithful from the age of 16 the climax of the story is their marriage. The proposal took place at the Eiffel Tower duplicating Michael's parents own love story - though they are now divorced and Stephen is with Julia who is quite opposite to the pragmatic Grace. We have Katy's parents - the obnoxious Howard and Birdie his put upon wife who stolidly takes all the abuse thrown at her. We have Leila and Susie sisters who have now become estranged and stiff with each other and only the sudden ill health of their mother makes them realise how far apart they have become.

Every character in the story other than our young lovers has a personal, very personal issue to deal with. They all know that something has to be done about it and how they go about solving it to have some contentment and peace in their lives is the greater part of the book.

This is the story of most families - the twists and turns replicate so many of the everyday happenings in any extended family and this was what made it very good reading.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Grand Central Publishing.