Books

Murder at St. Saviour’s – Merryn Allingham

For whom the bell tolls and it tolls unexpectedly in Abbymead and it draws Flora and Jack to church. Here they find the bell ringers, and the body of the curate, recently joined the church, fallen from the bell tower.

Surely it must be a tragic accident. But something seems off to Jack and Flora and with past experience of discovering bodies and solving mysteries it seems that there initial thoughts may be true.

It gets even more complicated when they discover the dead curate, isn’t really the dead curate and strange faces in the village start to make the duo question everyone and their motives. Then the lead suspect is found dead, is it one of these mysterious faces that is guilty or should they be looking closer to home.

Alongside the investigating the relationship between the two main characters is developing and the gentle courtship adds to the gentle pace of these novels, despite the dead bodies! Of course there is much we don’t know about Flora and her background and it seems as this series progresses we are going to find out more if the ending of the book is anything to go by.

Perfect series for those who want that Midsomer Murder vibe but set in in the past.

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

Murder at St. Saviour’s is out now.

Books

The Empire – Michael Ball

The Empire is the story of a theatre, of it’s productions, it’s history, it’s owners and it’s actors and actresses, stage hands, doorman, right down to the man who sells the tickets.

Jack Treadwell has spent the immediate years after the First World War in Paris. Now he returns home. He finds something at The Empire and he is drawn into the world of theatre both from the audience side and behind the stage. A world he never knew existed and could be part of.

Grace Hawkins is the managers assistant, but the manager is rather lacking and it seems a lot of the work falls to Grace. Even more so when she finds herself rewriting the most dreadful production of Macbeth.

Add in Stella the leading lady, Lance the heartthrob, Bill the washed up variety act, Ruby the musician, Evie the fading star and Lady Laisster a former showgirl herself and part owner of The Empire.

Whilst the show must go on, there is much else that is happening within the theatre and the book. The list of characters at the beginning is somewhat daunting (always completely useless I find when reading only kindle) and I waivered about carrying on as it seemed there was too many people and too much to fit in. I didn’t waiver and got consumed by life in the theatre and the romance of working on a production.

Of course it was never going to be easy. Rivalries both family and business do not seem to be resolved and there is an undercurrent of gangsters and the after affects of a war that are still being felt by everyone. With drama and romance comes humour and this is obviously an affectionate look at life in a theatre in age gone past. It was a great look at the past and anything which has a ‘behind the scenes’ element always will hold an interest for me. But too much was packed into this book, and at times it wasn’t clear where the focus was meant to be in terms of plot. That left me feeling a bit seen off when some of the more minor characters could have been fleshed out and added to the main plot line. Perhaps secondary lots could have been left for future books especially when the ending was as spectacular as it was.

This is Michael Ball’s debut novel and I understand we will get to know more about all these characters in a follow up. The cynic in me is never sure when famous (for something other than writing fiction) people start churning out novels. However, I could quite easily forget all that to be absorb in a good story to escape from the reality of everything around us – which is what going to theatre has always done. On that note, it is a job well done.

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

The Empire is out now.

Books

The Wartime Bookshop – Lesley Eames

I do love a wartime saga, and I didn’t realise this was to be one, until I had finished and discovered that there are going to be more. In the meantime, in this first book we get to find out about the three main female characters.

Alice along with her retired doctor father has moved to Churchwood. Alice has had an accident and use of her hand is challenging, but she knows she must make an effort and do something. She finds solace in sharing her love of books, stories and reading by visiting the local hospital full of injured servicemen and reading to them or exchanging books. If this is what she can do to help the war effort she will make her small difference.

Naomi is a prominent figure in Churchwood. She is on all the committees, has followers who will do her bidding and she is the one that even the local Vicar defers to. However, Naomi is not happy and her forthright opinions can hurt people and she suddenly finds she is very lonely. She envies Alice’s youth and ability to be friend everyone regardless of status or class. Perhaps Naomi can learn from Alice?

Kate, the only female in the disliked Fletcher family is one such person that Alice befriends and Naomi distrusts. Kate works hard and is not afraid of it, but she has to put up with wearing her brothers cast off clothes and the abuse she gets from her own father. Alice gives her an outlet, books and reading, the beginnings of a friendship form and perhaps Churchwood will come to accept Kate as one of their own.

Told from the three main character’s points of view, this shows the difficulties that all women face when starting friendships, no matter how old they are. It is the start of the Second World War and that is the common ground which brings these three women and the rest of Churchwood together. The idea of sharing the love of books, reading and stories to anyone who needs that comfort is wonderful and still so relevant today. Through all of this is friendship, community and a bit of romance and the supporting characters were just as delightful to, especially keeping Naomi in her place!

A great start to series and I look forward to being back there soon and seeing what has been happening at the bookshop.

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

The Wartime Bookshop is out now.

Books

Keeping a Christmas Promise – Jo Thomas

Iceland is on my bucket list and seeing the Northern Lights even more so, but until that day I can make do with the wonderful new book from Jo Thomas.

Laura, Freya, Meg, Joanne all created their own bucket list when they were much younger and now they are here in Iceland eventually to tick one off. Expect, they are all much older and Laura is no longer with them, her dying wish was for them to still carry on without her. And whilst they have, life it seems has got in the way. Getting them to Iceland was the first challenge.

And it seems there is more to face.

Poor food, weather warnings, no lights and then an avalanche mean this short sojourn is about to be a lot longer. Trapped in an Icelandic village, the three women have to embrace the weather, village life and their own shortcomings.

However this unexpected turn of events leaves them reflecting on what they have lost and what they have to look forward to. It seems the magic of the village, the community and the wonder and beauty of nature have healing properties for them all.

Starting to know Thomas writing, there is a wealth of descriptive food to make your mouth water, that I could have rushed out and ate copious amounts of smoked salmon! The landscape and the environment is very much a feature and the effect that progress can have on such a thing is also brought into sharp relief when the village nearly loses one of it’s own.

Whilst a festive read, this book tackles issues of grief, blending families, moving on and living your best life for yourself and no one else. As always so much packed into the pages, that the book is a wonderful escape and a great example of strong women’s fiction that is almost always overlooked.

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

Keeping a Christmas Promise is out now.

Books

Murder Most Royal – S.J.Bennett

This series of books for me are terribly British and celebrates everything about how unique we are as a nation and our ability to poke fun at ourselves as we all know the world around us is doing the same.

What can be more British than the Queen at Christmas? What can be more British than a murder mystery to while away the hours.

The book set within the last 8 years, clearly has much it can mention about Brexit, Prime Ministers and current girlfriends of royal princes. At Christmas it was well known that HM The Queen decamped to Sandringham, a house owned privately by her and where she spent over a month until her accession day. This year is no different, apart from the fact that her and Phillip are suffering from colds and flu, oh and a severed hand ends up on the beach next to the estate.

The severed hand has a signet ring on it and The Queen recognises it as belonging to Edward St Cyr, a neighbour and someone who used to play with Charles when he was a small boy. Not without his eccentricities, finding the rest of Edward and who actually committed the murder is going to keep the Queen and her APS Rozie, quite busy over the festive period.

Like any place, whether it be large or small, gossip and rumours abound even when you have Royalty as neighbours. With Rozie tasked to find out certain information, the Queen uses her unique position to question, influence and probe without anyone realising. The truth will always out. The Queen will help and no one will ever know. Or only those that need to know.

This book, this series, is just a delightful warm tribute to her late majesty and you can only but imagine that she would have found such a thing amusing. Of course we never know what really goes on, and if we did that would ruin the mystique and if this is as close as we can get with it then I am all for it and cannot wait for more.

For fans of cosy mysteries, historical fiction, royalty and everything British.


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

Murder Most Royal is out now.

Books

A Winter Wedding at Bletchley Park – Molly Green

Rosie thought her life was complete, but when she is jilted on her wedding day and then has a child it seems her life is over. However Rosie knows there is more to life, than drudging in the local factory and when conscription is about to come in for young unattached women, she knows she needs to do her bit. She chose the Navy.

However, it seems her past is not easily forgotten and then Navy doesn’t choose her. But how did they find out about her past? However she has some language skills useful to some elements of the war and this is how she finds herself at Bletchley Park. Rubbing salt into the wound, she has to share with WRNS but as a civilian and feels desperately isolated.

When her skills are drawn into question, she is moved to another hut where she starts to make friends and the work seems more manageable. But her skills are good and they are noticed. But the person that notices them is someone she was least expecting to see. Could her past catch up with her again and ruin this job?

This is the second in Molly Green’s series, I look forward to there being more. I am as intrigued about Bletchley Park as I have always been and the research into this is clear. The characters are all well rounded and fascinating as much as they are annoying. It deals with the conflicts of not just war, but conflicts in workplaces, families and relationships. The drama is engaging and the plot held my attention that I simply had to fly through the book. Bereft when it ended as I felt I had been on a journey and learnt another little piece of history that happened at the park.

A must for all fans of sagas and historical fiction, especially the other parts of World Ward Two that are sometimes glossed over.

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

A Winter Wedding at Bletchley Park or Winter a Bletchley Park is out now.

Books

The Cornish Cream Tea Bookshop – Cressida McLaughlin

In the previous book in this series, we were introduced to the new bookshop that was going to open in Port Karadow, A New Chapter. This book is certainly a new chapter for Ollie who after suffering an injury leading to her having a long time off work in a bookshop in London, throws everything into starting a new life in Cornwall.

The job at A New Chapter is the perfect fit and she can use all her skills to help this new venture flourish. Ollie hops some of her ideas will not just get the customers in the shop spending money but add to the community spirit which seems strong. Ollie never experienced any of that in London.

Ollie certainly makes her mark in the area pretty quickly whether it be organising a ghostly Halloween walk or a cooking class in the bookshop with some interesting outcomes! Of course she is also helping her friend’s grandfather type up his memoirs, and here she discovers all the local myths and legends that seem to exist around Cornwall and especially Port Karadow. Some old out of print mystery novels spark Ollie’s interest and she seems keen to find out their true origin.

Ollie is like a whirlwind and amongst all of what she is doing she catches the eye of café owner Max. Watching their relationship stumble and blossom is a fairy tale all in itself and is the perfect antidote to the manic Christmas that Ollie is planning for the shop.

A perfect bit of escapism for fans of bookshops, Christmas and cosy nights in and can be read independently of any of the other books in the series. A great big hug in a book.

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

The Cornish Cream Tea Bookshop is out now.

Books

November Roundup

November is a funny month – neither one thing of the other I suppose. The weather in the UK has been positively balmy but it ends with the aim that we are going into winter and now is the time to hunker down.

Never has a month felt more like that than the one just gone. Stress levels are reaching peak burnout and I only have a few more days of work before the enforced break and I am jolly glad of it. Maybe I might be able to concentrate on reading. I did read in November and some great books, but my brain might have reached full capacity and as the month ended I couldn’t stick at one book.

But the books I did stick at are as follows and whilst festive some of them were not full on Christmas mode! Molly Green – A Winter Wedding at Bletchley Park, the next in this series concentrates more on the fact that war is progressing and the work being done at the park is vital. You cannot afford to have added distractions of the past looming up in front of you.

Sticking with the World War Two theme was Lesley Eames – The Wartime Bookshop, a lovely saga type piece of fiction which allowed you escape into the buttoned up society of a wartime village. Told from the point of view of three very different women in the village, we get to see what war can do to those left behind.

Coming back from war, this time the First World War is the opening interest of the debut novel; Michael Ball – The Empire. A booked that has so much packed into it, it could have filled two books. This would transfer so beautifully to the screen, but for now it was all played out in my imagination from the rich descriptions that Ball gave us, even if there were a lot of characters to find out about!

I don’t read many actual physical books, the kindle being the main place in part due to all the netgalley books but I was determined to pick one book of the shelf this month and that was Stacey Halls – The Foundling which was heart wrenching and a fascinating piece of historical fiction.

With a rare day off, I found myself in my local Waterstones, (I need to visit a much bigger one soon) and spent some vouchers I had received on Adam Kay – Undoctored. Whilst funny in parts, it is very graphic and perhaps not for the squeamish and certainly shows the failings in our health system. Other books were bought and I will get to them soon.

Still with a festive theme as well as a murderous one is S.J. Bennett – Murder Most Royal we are back with the detecting Queen. It’s Christmas they are all gathered at Sandringham and there is a hand washed up on a beach near the estate. This book is such a silly bit of joyous fun and perfect for any royal or cosy mystery fan.

In change from what I was expecting from this author I picked up Emma Burstall – The House on Rockaway Beach we are taken to America where two warring sisters, are packing up their deceased grandmothers house. It did not have that overtly American tone about it that some American authors have when they write similar stories which is why I think I enjoyed it.

So that was November, it is looking highly likely that I will not reach the target of 100 books, but let us see how far I can get.

How was your November?

Books

The House on Rockaway Beach – Emma Burstall

Two warring sisters are left Piping Plover House at Rockaway Beach by their maternal grandmother. Whilst the house, the area and their grandmother was very much part of their childhood, suddenly the visits stopped and it is many many years since they have been at the house or even visited their grandmother before she dies. Why would they be left the house now?

Flying out, Sophie and Celia turn up to clear everything out and put the house on the market to sell, splitting the money and going their separate ways. Celia wants the money to set her sons up in homes. Sophie is just looking for that something to help her settle. Celia it seems has the perfect life.

Nothing is as it seems between the two sisters, the house they are emptying or even the local residents of Rockaway Beach who welcome them albeit temporarily. When Sophie discovers a letter and then Celia drops her own bombshell and then promptly returns to the UK. Sophie is left stranded not knowing where to turn to find out the truth or if she even wants to know it.

Each sister seems to have different memories of their childhood and the events that took place, and it has perhaps formed their actions in their adult lives. Interactions between siblings are always a fascinating read when you are an only child, this book was no different. I did not warm at the beginning to either sister, one seemed to highly string, the other too wishy washy to stick at anything. However as the book progresses, along with the reader the main characters see their failings and also their strengths and how they can all perhaps start again.

Having read all of this authors books and delight at how they are all so different, the focus o the turbulence of friendships and relationships whether that be with family or not is at the centre of all her writing. She is not afraid to show the reality of such relationships and that not all of life can be wrapped up in a happy ending.

A great book to be swept away with.

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

The House on Rockaway Beach is out now.

Books

Celebrations at the Chateau – Jo Thomas

Three sisters arrive in France, to look at a Chateau they have just inherited from their grandfather. Not once during his life has he mentioned this asset and they only learn of it upon his death.

Expecting to just look and then put the place up for sale, the three sisters discover there is a few added complications to what should be a simple act of selling the property and dividing the money three ways. Of the three sisters, Fliss is the one who was closest to her grandfather and the one whose life will not be disrupted if she stays in France.

Unable to sell immediately and with a large bill looming, Fliss decides that she could perhaps spruce up some of the more habitable rooms and make it a B & B. It is going to take a lot of hard work and opposition from some of the locals, including her immediate neighbour who also happens to be the local mayor.

There is something special about the place that makes Fliss see what a life she has been living and when her nephew is sent to stay with her to escape some troubles at school, she has some added help to make her dreams come true. Perhaps staying and discovering just what it was that her grandfther was up to all those years ago that he bought a Chatuea might be the answer to her and her sisters problems.

As Christmas and the New Year looms, it seems that perhaps the future will look a lot better for them all but there is still some hurdles to overcome.

As I am fast learning reading new and old Jo Thomas books, whilst the settings are as important as the characters there is also the mention of a foodstuff. This time it was apples, cider, crepes and wonderful local customs of apple harvesting and gathering the community together. That coupled with renovating the chateau and a big dollop of romance with a moody Frenchman you have the perfect book to escape into.

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

Celebrations at the Chateau is out now and was Jo Thomas’ 2021 Festive release.