The Maiden – Kate Foster

This debut historical fiction novel has taken me back to a time I would not have necessarily chosen, but something drew me to this book especially when I learn that the main character Lady Christian Nimmo was in fact a real person.

It is 1679, Edinburgh. Lady Christian Nimmo is to be hanged for the murder of her lover Lord James Forrester. Not just her lover but her uncle.

We are taken from 1679 with Lady Christian Nimmo incarcerated awaiting her fate to the previous twelve months where her passion with Lord James Forrester begins, develops and how it ends with a death sentence. Amongst this tale of lovers is that of Violet.

Violet is far displaced form the society of Lady Christian Nimmo. She finds her safety in the pleasure houses of Edinburgh, Mrs Fiddes rules the roost and the girls within. AS men come and go, to find their pleasure however they desire. One of those men is Lord James Forrester and by a twist of fate, a transaction is made and Violet finds herself at the castle of this man. Secluded in a turret, with only a maid for company, Violet finds herself surplus to requirements when Lady Christian Nimmo appears on the scene.

As worlds collide, the women have to rally to summon strength to maintain their position with some unforeseen consequences.

This book takes the story of women from history, and fleshes it out and gives a voice to those in every walk of life. To those who are overlooked because they are women, or because of the life they are forced to lead to survive. I felt great passion for Lady Christian and whilst I condemned to begin with, as the novel moves on I find myself starting to question, to doubt when you have the full facts in front of you. Even Violet I wanted to champion wished her well on the life she wanted to create for herself out of nothing.

With equal distaste for Lord James, a man we only know through the eyes of the women who know him, including his wife. Manipulative, selfish, arrogant, egotistical and most of all controlling. This behaviour of his, this apparent plan had been growing for years and his victim chosen a long time before it all started. Perhapsi t was his arrognace that made he realise that it coudl all end very swiftly.

This book, is atmospheric from every page, whether it be the dank, dark and smells of the prison cell. To the gaudiness of the whore houses or the bedrooms of the whores, to the actions when an unwanted baby is discovered. Nothing is shied away from and you find yourself repulsed by such actions, but it adds so much tot he book I was drawn in and had to keep reading.

If this is the debut, then it can only get better for this author and I am intrigued as to what will come from the pen next. One of my books of the year.

Perfect for fans of historical fiction and championing the overlooked parts of history and the part women played, even if the outcome is less desirable.

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

The Maiden is out now.


Falling Hard for the Royal Guard – Megan Clawson

This is one of those books which you stumble across by accident or in my case, the Instagram account of the author. The fascination of living in an iconic British Landmark had me captivated and when I found out a book had been written too then I was even more pleased.

Although it is clear that Maggie our protagonist is not Megan, I think there might be some similarities throughout the book, exaggerated for comedic and effect. But you cannot but help love Maggie.

Maggie has ended it with her boyfriend, she swears off me for the foreseeable future that is until she stumbles into the path of another one. Freddie. Standing guard at The Tower of London. Not just Maggie’s workplace but her home as well.

A friendship forms between the two, with tales of ghosts of the tower and life in the guards but there is something more about Freddie that Maggie knows and it takes a while before we find out what he is hiding. The thing with Maggie though, is what you see is what you get and everyone knows what she is up to, even in the most secure buildings in the land!

This book whilst packed full of interesting facts about the Tower of London, the Beefeaters, the Guards, the Keys ceremony and even the Ravens is ultimately a modern romantic tale. A lot of current terminology which I was not familiar with (god I have got old!) but still a lovely diversion with a bit of history chucked in. Think Bridget Jones and Mr Darcy but with uniforms. I was wondering though, as the author has her own royal guard and does in fact live at the Tower, how much of this book is autobiographical? It will be interesting to see if more books follow.

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

Falling Hard for the Royal Guard is published on 27 April.


Fly Me to Moongate Manor – Kate Forster

For Amanda, life has changed completely, now alone in New York since her mother died, now with no job, dumped by her boyfriend and her flat about to be repossessed, it seems that life cannot get any lower.

That is until she finds out her mother won a competition that she had entered not long before she died. The prize – a Manor House in the British countryside.

Amanda does not have anything to lose, and at least she will have a roof over her head and some purpose for a while. then she can start to heal and decide what she wants to do.

Simon had it all, successful job, money, large flat, car, best friends and fiancé. Then suddenly on his wedding day he has none of these things. He takes to the road, not keeping in touch with anyone and needs to find who he really is now. He ends up at this Manor House to help as a gardener, far from anything he has even known.

Diana, forthright and determined is the owner of the Manor House or Moongate Manor as it is called. She is the instigator of the competition that picks Amanda as the winner and the woman who takes pity on Simon and offers him a summer job. However it appears that Diana has a story of her own and takes us back to a time before when she was much younger.

Will these three people, from different backgrounds, walks of life and ages find a common path for them to be able to see a future for themselves and Moongate Manor.

What was lovely about this book was the healing qualities it had by simply reading it as well as learning with Amanda and Simon as they get to grips with the garden, the house and the local community. A book which crosses the generations and shows how life can take unexpected turns dependent on others actions. I will admit that I had worked out some of the connections within the book, but I did not feel that detracted in any way from the overall story and the feel of the book. For me it left it open for future returns to Moongate Manor.

A heart-warming dual time line read, for fans of big houses and gardens.

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

Fly Me to Moongate Manor is out now.


Hopeful Hearts for the Wrens – Vicki Beeby

Whilst I do like a saga to get involved in, this trilogy comes to end with this book for the Wrens, their work is almost done and they can perhaps get on with their lives.

We are back to Orkney with Iris, Mary and Sally. Sally is the main focus of this book but her friends still feature strongly as it is their friendship that has got them through some really tough times.

Sally is if nothing ad reamer, filled with stories of her parents relationship before her father died, She believes she will know when she meets the one. Adam is the one. A friend back from home is suddenly near to where Sally is posted. But something doesn’t seem right and when new Wren Tessa seems to have set her sights on Adam, Sally still believes all will be well in the end. Then Adam gets engaged to someone else.

Tessa and Sally are somewhat miffed. Tessa resorts to taking everything out on Sally.

Sally starts to think perhaps she will never find the one. Little does she know, she already as but his circumstances are much restricted.

Aldo is an Italian Prisoner of War on Orkney. However events in Europe, see Italy changing sides and the PoWs suddenly have some more freedom. For Aldo this means he can see the woman he has been dreaming about since he first met her. Sally.

Of course, nothing is going to be easy and when a fellow Italian Fascist from the camp threatens the woman that Aldo cares about, it seems that no one is safe on the island.

This is a great conclusion to the series and I would recommend this series to anyone who has an interest in the Home Front during the Second World War as well as the work that Women did during that time in our Armed Forces. I thought it was all thoroughly researched and d gave a real sense of time and place. Thank you to the author.

Hopeful Hearts for the Wrens is out now.

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

You can find all my reviews here for the previous two novels in the series.

A New Start for the Wrens – Vicki Beeby

A Wrens’ Wartime Christmas – Vicki Beeby


Thirty Days in Paris – Veronica Henry

It has taken thirty years for Juliet to take thirty days now in Paris.

For Juliet, Paris has always had a special place in her heart, when she was young and naïve she found Paris was the answer to all her dreams but when misunderstandings and secrets threaten everything Juliet heads back home to England.

Now thirty years older, separated from her husband and with children who have flown the nest and no real commitment to anything Juliet can now go back to the city of her dreams. Her aim is to spend thirtday days in Paris and find herself, find what she wants to do next, where she wants to put down roots and perhaps find the past?

Thrust back into the world of Paris, it’s bustling streets, the noises, the sights, the smells, the tastes of the food Juliet is immersed completely. She seeks out old friends, makes new ones and establishes herself and finds work along the way. But she must also address the elephant in the room – why she left Paris when she did and the heart she broke on the way.

To do this Juliet puts pen to paper and writes the story of the young au pair, thirty years previous. We as readers get to read this story and learn the truth. A dual timeline which fits seamlessly into the novel and adds to the picture of Paris that is painted as well as the romance of the past, the present and the future.

Veronica Henry has done it again, she has created a novel worthy of escaping into and where I was whisked away to Paris without leaving the comfort of my home. Beautiful escapist romance and proves that even if you think your life has reached a crossroads, the new path might be even more exciting!

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

Thirty Days in Paris is published on 13th April.


One Enchanted Evening – Katie Fforde

I first met Meg back a couple of books ago with Katie Fforde asn she started a new life and new friends with Lizzie and Alexandra after meeting at a cookery school. The stories of Lizzie and Alexandra have followed and now it is Meg’s turn.

Meg’s mother, Louise is running a small hotel in Dorset, it is in great need of improvement and cannot compete with the rival hotel nearby because horror of horrors there is still shared bathrooms and toilets, en-suite was a new concept in 1960s. That is the least of their worries, as the chef has walked out and a annual banquet is to be held and so Meg is drafted in to do what she does best – cook.

Trouble is she is a woman in very much a man’s world and when the son of the owner Justin appears, he shakes Meg’s confidence to be able to produce anything edible. Meg is determined to rpove her worth not just in the kitchen but across the whole hotel as well.

She will show Justin, just how good women can be.

As well as a love hate relationship between Meg and Justin, we see Louise blossoming relationship with Justin’s father Andrew. Then we have the wonderful eccentric permanent residence Ambrosine who has a past that could come in useful and Susan and all her relatives who seem to be working at the hotel in every role possible.

Although you could say this book is historical, the 1960s could be seen to be by some, for me it is more a reflection on how women’s roles were changing and that in some cases, women are still seen to be so far behind their male counterparts.

Packed full of everything you need to escape. Perfect.

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

One Enchanted Evening is out now.

Books · Jottings

March Roundup

Here we are again, another month gone and another round up post. A quarter of the way through 2023 which in terms of reading is way behind where I have been in previous years, but I have loved the books I have been reading, so do you know what – who cares!

What I am most pleased about is reading actual books and making a dent in the actual bookshelves instead of the virtual ones. Some of have been hanging around for a while but it was time for Liz Fenwick – A Cornish Affair to take it’s turn. This was a wonderful foray into Cornwall and I so wanted to be delving into the history of the house and the speculation of the jewels that were lost. I only have one of the back catalogue to read and can also look forward to her new one out this year as well. If you follow Liz n social media, she has been researching on the Orient Express for her next novel. That sounds really exciting.

A Cornish Affair featured a big house and so did Godmersham Park – Gill Hornby which is another delve into the world of Austen’s and the more secondary people that are not regularly featured when it comes to talking about Jane Austen. This book takes you back to another time, where life is so different for women. It is a good example of historical fiction and I really felt the language of the time which must be a very difficult thing to emulate.

Talking of big houses, M.H. Eccleston – The Trust is a delightful quirky cosy mystery book which pokes fun at the National Trust and English Heritage properties around the country. A body in an Ice House, poisonous mushrooms, fake paintings and an art conservator running away from a marriage makes a jolly good read. I am going to seek out the next.

Always waiting for the next book to be published (and also written) and so pleased when it is, Sarah Bennett – Where We Belong the beginning of a new series by this author. Again there is a big house in the novel too, but transformed into a hotel, with a distillery, camping, some ruins and romance packed within the pages it is a hit with me and certainly should be with anyone who picks it up. I get so invested in Sarah’s stories I want to transport myself to wherever they are set.

Of course being transported back in time is always a good way to get me interested in reading and in the last few books from Katie Fforde, that is what I have done. Her latest Katie Fforde – One Enchanted Evening is no exception. We are continuing to follow these young women in the 1920s as they find their feet with their lives and their loves. Added to this was big dollop of cooking and delicious sounding food at a hotel in the country which needs reinventing, and Meg and her mum knows just what to do. I don’t know how Katie keeps these novels so fresh but I am forever grateful for her writing.

From cooking to gardening with Lorna Cook – The Hidden Letters. War is being talked about across Europe and also in the big house in Cornwall. The occupants don’t think such things will affect them. But they do and for Cordelia the affects are most life changing. a book perfect for fans of historical fictions and Lorna Cook knows how to take a different aspect of war and use that as a basis for her plots.

How to plot a novel must be a complex thing and a murder plot even harder, throw in some cryptic crossword clues and you have a fine web to weave. None more so than Robert Thorogood – Death Comes to Marlow where we are back trying to work out how a man died in a locked room, with the key in the door and all key suspects with watertight alibis. One of my greatest wishes is to be able to do a cryptic crossword – I clearly need more practice!

That was March and by some sheer coincidence, ‘big houses’ were a feature in all of the books in some form or other! Just goes to show you want you can do with such a concept when it comes to fiction.

How was your March, how is your 2023 reading going? Do share any books which feature big houses that you think I might like.

I wonder what April’s theme will be ?


The Hidden Letters – Lorna Cook

Cordelia has a privileged life and she knows no different living on her families estate in Cornwall. The house is grand, the gardens are grand and even Cordelia is grand.

But upon meeting Isaac everything changes.

Isaac whilst having an education that Cordelia’s brothers have had, he is not in the same social circles and has found work as a landscape architect to develop the gardens. His passion for gardening and nature is paramount espically as the dark clouds of war are gathering in Europe.

Cordelia finds a passion for gardening, nurturing and Isaac. The feelings are reciprocated but the knowledge Isaac is trying to impart is vital to the keep the gardens growing after war is declared. From afar Isaac continues to share his knowledge so he can remain in contact with Cordelia,.

But the letters stop, nothing more comes from the front. Cordelia now must deal with what she doesn’t know and what she fears from letters from her own brother. That Isaac has gone.

From the wilds of Cornwall, to the landscape of the Lake District and through the East coast of Britain, this books takes us as we follow how Cordelia copes with her love and loss. More is to come and she needs strength and resilience to be able to deal with the path in front of her.

Little does she know that the first initial meeting with Isaac is going to swim back into focus and she has a choice to make.

This novel, initially keeps war in the background, something happening far away and for what relevance. However it abruptly sweeps everyone on Cordelia’s families estate and neighbouring village into the mud bath of the trenches and you learn more about the Pal’s battalions, which wiped out generations of families and left gaping holes in villages.

The letters between Cordelia and all her correspondents were heartfelt and moving as they were interesting and informative and it felt at time I was reading real letters from the front and not a fictionalised account. The books moves at a pace that you don’t realise and there are times where I was weeping with sadness and then at joy as Cordelia’s life changes so much. There were some surprises on the way which added to the depth of the overall plot.

This book is perfect for fans of historical fiction and was a pleasure to read and I felt quite bereft when I had finished the final page.

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

The Hidden Letters is out now.

Books · Jottings · Witterings

Parish Notices

It has been nearly a year since there has been some Parish Notices around this parish. Where has that year gone? In fact where is this year going? Reading has taken a slow start and everything seems to have taken a different pace at the moment, not just reading but work, blogging and crafting and everything really. Perhaps that is just the way it should be.

Anyway, I thought I would drop by with a few of the books I have read recently that might have passed you by.

The new series from Sarah Bennett is out with Where We Belong

 Full of family dynamics and friendship tests as well as broaching tough topics with alcoholism, class difference, overbearing fathers or non existent ones. So much is contained within the pages. With skill, Sarah Bennett has drawn me into a wonderful place full of rich and interesting people and I cannot wait to find out more about them, their secrets and their dreams.

Libby Page’s The Vintage Shop of Second Chances made me wish I was good at dressmaking!

This wonderful gentle novel from Libby Page shows emotions and depth to the characters as well as the plot. It is great to see friendships across generations, something that I myself wholeheartedly embrace. There is much to learn from all your friends whether they be old or new and this book reflects that in abundance. Added in is the wonder and joy that clothing can bring people, how colour can bring much into your life and cheer even the most greyest of situations.

Georgina Moore’s debut novel was fantastic, clearly her experience in publishing stood her in good stead. The Garnett Girls is an excellent book and one of my favourites for the year.

Who exactly are The Garnett Girls, do they know themselves and will we ever find out by the end of this mesmerising debut novel from Georgina Moore.……A fantastic debut novel which was something a step above being simply women’s fiction it is on a much deeper level than that. For anyone who wants to peep into family life and be completely absorbed.

And I am going to go back a few months to The Bletchley Girls by Anna Stuart as I have the next novel to read on my kindle taking me back to Bletchley and I cannot wait.

Three unlikely women meet at train station, Stefania, Ailsa and Fran. They only currently have one thing in common, they have signed the Official Secrets Act and they are heading for the same place Bletchley Park……..Historical fiction at it’s best when you learn so much about the past from an author that has thoroughly researched and used real stories to bring a narrative to life.

Hopefully that has piqued your interest and that you are reading some cracking good reads and looking forward to even more in 2023.

It may well be another year before there is a Parish Notices who knows, perhaps next time I might feature some crafting?

Hope things are blossoming well in your parish?


Death Comes to Marlow – RobertThorogood

Following the success of the Marlow Murder Club, Judith, Susie and Becks and unlikely trio are back and this time they are right in the thick of the action.

Judith receives a phone call to attend a party to celebrate the forthcoming wedding of Sir Peter Bailey to his nurse Jenny Page. A marriage that has upset many. Judith cannot understand why she has been invited, but can only assume it is her notoriety. Perhaps something is going to happen, Judith with Susie and Becks all attend, if anything to just be nosy.

A loud crash is heard from inside the house and the three women all rushing to find the prospective groom, crushed to death under a large cabinet.

There cannot be anything suspicious about this death, as the room was locked and the key was in the pocket of the deceased. The only key.

But for Judith she knows something is not quite right, there is too many mysteries. All the potential killers have strong alibis, in fact the three women were alibis for the most obvious of the killer – Peter’s son, Tristan who had been arguing with his father and step mother to be on more than one occasion.

Add to this; daughters hidden in wardrobes, gardeners with a long family feud, a bitter ex wife, a glass jar not smashed and the plot thickens.

Of course amongst all of this intrigue, Judith is busy trying to work out the mystery clues she has picked up in the cryptic crossword. She discovers something that she wasn’t really meant to but at the same time, the author uses this as a vehicle to explain the structure and logic of all things cryptic. It is one of my greatest wishes that I could solve cryptic crosswords. I have yet to reach one clue correct.

Susie, the local dog walker is now hiring dog walkers to look after her own clients as she has found fame on the local radio station. In fact it proves a useful tool in solving some questions for the murder club. However fame comes at a price for Susie and it seems she will need to go back to what she is good at if she wants any chance of solving her financial woes.

Becks, the devoted wife of Colin the local priest seems to be up to something which is intriguing both Susie and Judith. Surely they can’t think someone like Becks would commit that sin. Sometimes all the detecting in the world and you can jump to the wrong conclusions.

But when it comes to the death of Sir Peter and catching the killer the Marlow Murder Club will not be fooled.

The book builds on the characters and setting of the first book and is fast paced and plotted, with plenty of clues and red herrings. Smugly I want to say I had worked out the perpetrator but actually it was a guess and I certainly could not work out how they did it. A great example of crime fiction in a bucolic setting with some characters who you can adore. Perfect for all fans of that cosy crime fiction that has boomed in recent years.

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

Death Comes to Marlow is out now.