The Dressmaker’s Secret – Lorna Cook

What do you know about Chanel? The iconic image, the perfume, the black dress pretty much sums up what I knew about her. This is not a book about that, this is a book about a nasty dark secret which impacts Adele, Chanel’s personal assistant.

In present day, Chole is working in France to help a friend in a boutique full of vintage items, whilst healing her heart from her divorce. She knows her grandmother Adele was French and that at one time had worked for Chanel and lived in The Ritz but she is reluctant to say much more. Chloe wants to know the truth.

Moving back to the past we are taken to the occupation of Paris by the Nazis in the Second World War. The Hotel Ritz, the living place of Chanel and Adele is full of Nazis, German Officers are everywhere and the resistance to this occupation is death. A nasty death.

Then of course there is those that don’t fit in, fuelled by whatever influences Chanel is quite clear of her views of these types of people. One day Adele witness the consequences of this hatred and watches as a women is taken away, a pleading look in her eyes to Adele. That one action leads Adele to risk her life by finding this woman’s child and getting her to safety.

Who do you trust? Who can you trust? The American Doctor? The French Secretary? The Concierge of the hotel? The Famous Fashion Designer? Adele finds herself mixed up in at all, can she really know what she knows and get out of the situation on the right side?

In present day, Chloe has no idea of the background of Chanel and is surprised by what she learns. When she encounters Etienne she finds that his knowledge of Chanel and how her behaviour during the war influenced his grandmother’s life, it seems that there were two very different outcomes depending on what side of the resistance and support you were on. It did not do to show your true colours. Chole and Etienne find themselves showing their true colours and perhaps everyone can move on now knowing the past.

Whilst Adele’s story is fictional, the rest is very much real and clearly the author has done her research as the passion for what she learnt jumped off the page. Some of the actions and descriptions in the book, make for uncomfortable reading and my heart was in my mouth sometimes as the story moved on. I learnt so much and it is a book which made me stop and think, made me question and made the odd tear run down my cheek as I realised what really happened to the many thousands of people at the hands of the Nazis, the collaborators and all the conspirators. It does not seem all that long ago.

If you are looking for a well written, thoroughly researched historical fiction book then this one to look out for in 2022. You will learn a lot, I promise you.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

The Dressmaker’s Secret is out now.

Do check out Lorna Cooks other novels as well – my reviews can be found below

The Forgotten Village

The Forbidden Promise

The Girl from the Island


The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures – Holly Hepburn

It has been a while since I picked up a Holly Hepburn and I do prefer them when they are the complete novel as opposed to the serial parts realised. It means you can completely immerse yourself as I did with this joyous book.

Hope has lost her husband and finds herself back in York, where she grew up and is now back near her family. She needs to move on and build a new life without her love.

Since a small child she has walked past and stared in the window of the Ever After Emporium and always wanted to step inside. When a sign in the window is looing from some part time staff, Holly sees this as a sign to building her new life. Within the shop there are antiques, curios and wonderful Knick-knacks that caters for probably everyone. The shop and all that it contains is brought to life from the pages of the book and I felt I was in the shop every time the plot took us back there. Every object has a story to tell but it is the puzzle box and emerald ring that set Hope out on a new adventure.

One that takes her to the jeweller and his niece further along the road, to the university and a professor and to the story of the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb and a forbidden love affair. So much is going on that I was completely invested in the book and whilst events took some twists and turns there was so much love, friendship and community in this book that it just simply glowed with a warm cosy book.

The perfect book as a pick me up when you are feeling blue and you want to spend some time all warm and cosy. A book like this is a balm to the reading soul and sometimes we just need to indulge.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures is out now.


A Fatal Crossing – Tom Hindle

As a fan of the Golden Age of Crime, this new murder mystery set on an ocean going liner seemed the perfect book to lose myself in.

In a play on the locked room mystery, The Endeavour sets sail from Southampton to New York. It is 1924. The social class system is in full swing and clearly evident and I think this novel shows it well.

When a man is found dead at the bottom of the staircase, the captain thinks it was a mere accident. Anything else would cause concern among the passengers. However step forward James Temple, an Inspector from Scotland Yard on his way to New York for what purpose we don’t know for a long time. Conveniently he is keen to solve this mysterious death – convinced it is murder. The captain agrees but only if he is accompanied by Tim Birch one of the ship’s officers.

A very unlikely pairing with secrets of their own, Temple and Birch find themselves investigating a missing painting, a scratch on a car and mysterious women all somehow connected to the dead man.

It becomes a race against time to find out the truth about what is happening on The Endeavour and the plot whilst complicated at times, throws in lots of twists, turns and a plentiful of red herrings that when you reach what you think of the dénouement, you are swept off your feet by the actions that happen next. Thrilling.

This debut novel has all the hallmarks of being a book everyone will be talking about. Taking the classic murder mystery and pretty much sticking to the genre, it does not pastiche any of those that have gone before. It is worthy of standing along amongst the greats and I for one am looking forward to the next book by this author.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

The Fatal Crossing is out now.


The Christie Affair – Nina de Gramont

If you know your literature, if you know your Agatha Christie then you know in the mid 1920s the famous author disappeared for 11 days. No one knows the truth, no one knows what happened and why, until this book.

The person that knows the truth isn’t even Agatha herself, it is Nan O’Dea.

Who is this woman?

She is the woman that Archibald Christie went on to marry after he divorced Agatha, that makes her the mistress at the time of the disappearance.

Told from Nan’s point of view we not just learn about her life and upbringing but also what really happened in those missing days and how both their lives crossed over. Nan is convinced that Agatha has something of hers and it is not Agatha’s husband, he merely seems to be a pawn into getting what Nan really wants.

As the book moves backwards and forward, it takes a while to the change in pace and we are almost being told by the narrator that actually what she is saying is what happened and we are not to question any of it. Once you accept this ‘voice’ of the book you are swept away on this mystery, the red herrings and the possible plot twists and the fact that this book is based on real life people becomes irrelevant.

Nan’s back story warranted a book all of its own, and jarred slightly with the mystery element of the book, but again I think you have to forgive these styles if you are to simply enjoy the book for what it was.

For fans of Christie, this book gives you an idea of what may have happened. But if you know your Christie well and you know the background of the real Nan O’Dea, Nancy Neele in reality then maybe this won’t work for you. For me it was fiction, fiction that took fact and manipulated it into an interesting story and that was the draw that kept me reading and why I would recommend.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

The Christie Affair is out now.


The House Beneath the Cliffs – Sharon Gosling

Anna is having to start again, and she ends up in Crovie a small fishing village in Scotland. Buying a property sight unseen might not be the wisest thing she has ever done, but there is something about the place that gets into Anna’s soul.

The property known as Fishergirl’s Luck is little more than a stone shed on the edge of a cliff. Perhaps the place to hide away and restart something, but not a home for forever. Anna finds this place the best to reset. Her neighbours and the majority of the locals are welcoming and warm. Embracing her into village life and friendship, apart from one who thinks his birth right has been taken away from him again.

As Anna stays longer, she starts to use the fresh ingredients to cook to help heal her soul and work out what she intends to do next. Through the cooking and the descriptions are mouth watering, she finds setting up a little lunch club is the prefects way to make some money until she can really decide what to do next.

However events take a different turn and there are many opportunities that Anna is presented with, not all of them to her liking and some that involve going backwards and not forwards. Surely the landscape and the community of Crovie will give her the answers.

Then on one fateful day, the elements decide to take the future and very much the present into its own hands. The community are effected, the future is now changing for a number of them and Anna really needs to decide where she wants to continue her life.

If you want a book full of descriptions of appealing food, wonderful scenery, epic weather events and a mix of wonderful quirky characters who all have their place it the community then this is the book for you. It has found a place in my heart as it was not wrapped up in providing the happy ever after that perhaps you think as the story progresses but focuses on the ups and downs of real life.

A beautiful read to be devoured just as the descriptive food within the pages, on a sofa as the elements batter your window but the heat of the fire and the heart of the story, warm you forever.

I look forward to reading more from Sharon Gosling and if this is the standard of work to except then I will not be disappointed.

The House Beneath the Cliffs is out now in all formats.

I requested this book via netgalley but missed the point of downloading it in time, however I went and bought the book. And I am so glad I did.


Heartcross Castle – Christie Barlow

Going back to Love Heart Lane and Heartcross is like picking up with old friends and making new ones. Of course the wonderful scenery, the landscape and the thought of staying in a castle adds to the wonder and enjoyment of it all.

Grace Power and her three sons make an escape when she is left Heartcross Castle by her grandfather. However she was never reconciled with him by the time of his death and she is left wondering what she is going to do with this pile of bricks.

However bad it maybe, coming back to Heartrcoss and being able top provide a roof over the heads of her three sons is the most important thing in the world to Grace. The greatest of pleasures and achievements can be found in the smallest of things.

That can’t be said for her new neighbour Andrew Glossop, a famous household name with money behind him and a reputation of being flamboyant as a television chef. His first encounter with Grace is less that positive.

Grace though shows Andrew something about how to live a life that he has never seen and it seems that perhaps everyone’s life is going to change.

I was immediately in awe of Grace and her boys, their strength of a family unit come what may made me eyes fill with tears. I was so worried that the past was going to come along at some point (it could if there was a need for a sequel – hint hint!) the castle was a balm to soothe the soul of those reading the book as well as the main characters, added into the mix the lovely gardener and the joy from dealing with nature.

I think what I enjoyed the most was not just the change in Grace and her sons but also the change in Andrew. It took me a while to warm to him, bit like Grace I suppose and I was quite amused at some of the scrapes he managed to get himself into, but when he saw what a difference actions and reactions can make, his eyes were opened!

Yet again, Christie Barlow has hit the spot with this wonderful novel and for me is one of the standout ones of the series so far. All the books can be read as standalone but why would you not want to indulge in them all – you will want to move to Heartcross immediately.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Heartcross Castle is out now.

Books · Jottings

January Roundup

For a reading month, this has been quite a slow one, getting back into routine after two weeks off work meant that reading took a little bit of a back seat as all I seemed to want to do is sleep! Even more so now that I end the month with a cold. However the books I have read have been excellent so without further ado……

In a push to beat the backlog that has been trending on Twitter I thought I would start with Stacy Halls – Mrs England sat on my shelf for a while and therefore crying out to be read. Why did I wait so long, it was a wonderful read and I have another on my shelf to read so I can go back to this wonderful writing.

#BeatingBeatTheBacklog will feature on many peoples blogs and twitter feeds no doubt and I have sorted made a headway in some more of my backlog on my netgalley list and picked Cathy Hayward – The Girl in the Maze which had been languishing for a bit longer than it should have been. This was an immensely powerful book which if you pick up you will need a strong stomach for. Still now it comes back to me.

But then I go and buy books which sort of defeats beating the backlog which is how I ended up reading Jo Bartlett – The Cornish Midwife. I would like to read more of this series and wanted to start with book one, though it seems it doesn’t matter. I wasn’t overly impressed with the ‘physical’ copy book version, seemed a bit too cheap. It was a delightful story full of humour and cheer and just what you need sometimes.

Delving into a book full of possibility as well as a shop of the same is how I felt about Holly Hepburn – The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures. Previously released in four parts, this is the whole story and the way I prefer to read. Full of promise, history and love it filled my soul like the perfect balm.

Amongst all the ‘nice’ books sometimes it is good to test yourself or delve into the murkier bits of the past or of life. What better way than combining it with some historical fiction and go back to 1926 with Nina de Gramont – The Christie Affair. A possible reason for why Agatha Christie went missing for those eleven days. Of course we will never know which I think is part of the added mystery to the whole thing.

Some more crime in Nita Prose – The Maid which is a book you will see a lot of in the coming weeks I am sure. It has been optioned for film as well. A book set in a hotel, no time, no place but a maid who becomes involved in some unpleasantness and then finds a dead body. Is she guilty of anything other than innocence? If you enjoyed The Rosie Project/Eleanor Oliphant you will certainly like this book.

Still with the crime, but this time on the high seas as the month comes to a end with Tom Hindle – A Fatal Crossing. What could be more of a locked room mystery than one on a liner in the middle of a ocean. Rare pieces of art and the class system at it’s best, it is a race to find out the truth before the ship docks.

Not a bad start to the year, some real excellent reads and there is plenty more to come. I need to beat that backlog somehow whether it be on my shelf or on my kindle.

Bring on February!