Murder Under the Tuscan Sun – Rachel Rhys

Tuscany, late Nineteen Twenties Mussolini’s power and dominance is on the rise. In this castle high above Tuscany, the people who love there are English.

William the ailing art dealer, nursing a broken heart.

Evelyn, William’s niece. Vacuous and false.

Roberto, Evelyn’s husband fascinated with Fascism.

Nora, neglected daughter of Evelyn and her first husband.

And Constance, widowed and grieving for a daughter also lost. The companion to William.

But all is not as it seems, there is something about this castle, deep in the Tuscan Hills.

There is something about the behaviour of Evelyn.

The behaviour of Roberto. Aligning himself to those who are to be noticed.

The treatment of Nora, which made me weep with frustration at such a barbaric act.

The noises that Constance can hear at night, during the day. Where are they coming from?

And the failing health of William, seemingly sometimes so fit and alert.

This book whilst filled with rich descriptions of the Tuscan landscape, is filled with twists and turns of the characters and plot. What is really going on in this novel? What is the aim of the author? A book which kept me turning the pages, because I was caught up with what was happening, that I had to find out. I had no clue as to what was happening, I was completely entranced but them all. I was wrong, as was Constance. What I learned was heart breaking, but the denouement was right and the outcome even more so. What a journey, what a book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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

Murder Under the Tuscan Sun is out now.


Mrs Porter Calling – A.J.Pearce

Emmy Lake is not just popular with her friends and her new husband but also with the readers of Woman’s Friend magazine. Whilst her marriage is new and her husband is far away fighting the war, her love of the magazine is keeping Emmy and all her friends going.

But everything is about to change when Mrs Porter comes calling.

Mrs Porter is the new publisher, niece of the former one and is a well known socialite and purveyor of all things glamorous and shiny, the war it seems has not inconvenienced Mrs Porter in anyway at all.

Now with what she sees as a chance to do her bit, Mrs Porter decides to refresh Woman’s Friend magazine.

Gone are the tips on making meals, gardening, making do and mending and the advice column of Yours Cheerfully, which Emmy is now fully in charge. Now we have glamour and an abundance of it filling the pages. The magazine is no longer the friends it used to be but Emmy and her colleagues try their hardest to remind all their readers that they are thinking of them in such difficult times.

Whilst all of this is going on Emmy still continues her volunteer shifts at the Fire Service and finds that filling the house she shares with Bunty is going to be fuller when Thelma and her three children move in and they pool all their resources to create a home.

It might be 1943, but war is still very much in the minds of all the characters and the author weaves together the domestic home front, with the war far away from British shores and the impact it has in between to everyone, whether they be young or old. This book I think is the best in the series so far, and the first two were pretty awesome. I laughed with the antics of the children, the bull dozer approach that Mrs Porter had as well as cried at the tragedy of something unravelling and everything you knew and love suddenly changing.

I hope that I can pick up with Emmy again as I so dearly want to come back and see my friends.

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

Mrs Porter Calling is published on 25 May 2023


Code Name Elodie – Anna Stuart

I am back with the girls at Bletchley Park. It is now 1943 and war is progressing and plans are being made for an advance in 1944. But there is so much to do before then and all of the three women, Ailsa, Steffie and Fran have their part to play, at Bletchley but much further afield.

Fran is still coming to terms with her choice of love, Valerie Rousseau is French, passionate and desperate to help at home on the front line, not from behind some cryptic messages in an old country house in England. Through all her passions, Valerie leaves Fran with the unknown – what she is really doing in Occupied France.

Alisa, now married to Ned is separated from him. But when a chance to go and work where he is, in Ceylon she jumps at the chance. Trouble is she might have to keep her extra passanger quiet as she knows the rules even if she is one of the best when it comes to wireless sets and finding frueqwncuies. Some things the Ministry will not overlook. But that still does not stop strong wlled Alisa from taking part in as much of the last days of war as she can.

Steffie, is in a different place in her life to other women. Her skills at languages and the influence of her father leads her to become involved in operative planning to confuse the enemy. She suddenly realises that she has quite a lot to give. So does the American solider who has been detailed off to accompany her, but she seems to spend most of time laughing at his use of the English language and not picking up on what is really going on.

All of this weaved to together as we see the planning for D-Day, Operation Mincemeat and the end of the War. The research is so detailed and thorough, that Anna Stuart brings it to life from the page and just like her first, this was a book I could not put down. In fact I was bereft when it ended, but the three women needed to go on and live their lives knowing that they had played a vital part in history.

Thoroughly fascinating, engaging and a must for all fans of historical fiction.

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

Code Name Elodie is out now.


Murder at the Beauty Pageant – Helena Dixon

If like me you have been with Kitty since the beginning then it is a delight to see that she is embracing married life with Matt Bryant and getting more involved in the private investigations.

However that doesn’t stop her being involved with The Dolphin hotel now being run by a manager. To celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the King, it is up to the hotel to stage a Beauty Pageant, what could possibly go wrong?

Well poison pen letters, some strange looking characters and then a couple of dead bodies, it seems this is going to be a beauty pageant that Dartmouth will not forget for a while. But the new inspector, who Kitty and Matt have encountered from previous cases thinks there is nothing amiss and it is all straightforward and the culprit will be easy to catch. Especially if the amateurs do not assist.

But that is okay because Matt and Kitty have been hired to look into Victoria, stepdaughter of Sir Vivian, a well known Egyptologist. He thinks she has fallen in with a bad lot and there is mention of drugs which doesn’t seem to bode well for Victoria. Trouble is Victoria is down to be in the beauty pageant and it seems this private case and the one the police are working on are connected and they are going to have work together.

Although we are on book twelve of this series, as our main characters have now got married there is a shift in the tone of the book, as they enter the next part of their life. Plenty of familiar characters are still present and I hope we get to spend more time with the delightful Alice and members of her family whoa re we getting to know more about. Then of course there is Kitty’s grandmothers close friend; the formidable Mrs Craven who seems to remain Kitty’s thorn in her side and got her into this beauty pageant in the first place!

I look forward to seeing where Matt and Kitty end up next, and whether they can possibly solve a case without putting either of their lives at risk!

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

Murder at the Beauty Pageant is out now.


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.


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


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.