Books

Murder at the Wedding – Helena Dixon

Here we are with book seven from Helena Dixon and I have been with Kitty since the beginning and whilst you can always guarantee a dead body or two may well turn up wherever she is going, you really don’t think it will be at a wedding.

Kitty on her way to her cousin’s wedding as a bridesmaid with her faithful maid and friend, Alice in tow, they travel to Yorkshire. Captain Matt Bryant is to follow later, but is not quite sure of his strong feeling for Kitty as her previous exploits left him wondering whether he could cope with the trauma of losing her.

A society wedding seems a relatively safe place, you would think. However clearly when Kitty arrives, there is definitely an undercurrent by the guests already assembled. Lucy, Kitty’s cousin and her betrothed, Rupert having invited boyhood friends Sandy and Sinclair along with respective wives. Sandy is to be the best man but there seems to be much more going on with talk of threatening letters and political conflicts.

Then a shot rings out, the valet is dead, but it seems to have shook Sandy who is convinced someone is out to get him. But perhaps the valet has some secrets to share.

In the classic country house mystery, it has to have been committed by someone within the confines of the house. But who? The police find the culprit very quickly and it all seems to be wrapped up very quickly until someone else dies……

In steps Kitty and Matt, much the the chagrin of the local inspector. As they get closer to the truth, the feelings between them grow and when the answer is at the end of a corridor it seems that both Kitty and Matt have to overcome fears to get to the truth.

This is another great story in the series, I love the different characters and how that Kitty, Matt and Alice work well together out of their normally setting of Dartmouth and the hotel. I can see adventures further afield in the future but as the book comes to its conclusion it seems we are nearing the truth about the one main theme running through all the stories – what happened to Kitty’s mother.

Lovely cosy crime of the era of Agatha Christie and a must of fans of the Queen of Crime and historical fiction. This combines the both so well. Looking forward to the next.

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

Murder at the Wedding is out now.

Books · Jottings

October Roundup

October seems to have been a bumper month for reading and I have ploughed through a fair few books. A positive harvest of books for October and autumn and ironically mainly Christmas themed!

But not all, there was some murder to dilute all things festive. Janice Hallett – The Appeal is a book which has been around a while and I kept seeing the cover but when I got the chance to pick up a copy and look inside the cover, I was hooked. This is an excellent debut novel and written so differently it captured me immediately and I was hooked. It certainly has plenty of appeal!

Books about books and libraries are always a draw for any avid reader. This year it seems to have been a bit of a theme for some authors. This always makes me curious because surely not everyone can be writing the same themes by coincidence. Anyway enough of the cynic. Freya Sampson – The Last Library is the latest one I have read, and whilst not as good as previous ones, it was a lovely way to while away a few hours as we got to know the shy June and her passion for the library.

I ventured into my first book club read for a while, by joining in with an online one, through twitter. The book chosen was Melanie Hewitt – Looking for the Durrells, I admit I fell in love with cover. It was a very slow and meandering book which ended up being a journey around Corfu. I am not sure it was as romantic and passionate as it could have been, but it was certainly a love letter to this island and a great way to escape for some sun.

Travel of course is something many people have not been able to do for a while and if you want to do it vicariously it is always good to pick up Julie Caplin – The Cosy Cottage in Ireland. This one is a bit closer to home than some have been, but it is always nice to escape. Although I am not sure whether going to a cookery school would be my idea of fun! Combining travel and food is always a good way to escape into a book. Do check this author out if you fancy a trip or two.

Of course if you can afford it, then employ a chef and then you won’t have to worry about a thing – apart from perhaps falling in love with them. Kate Forster – Christmas Wishes at Pudding Hall shows you that can happen, but of course it is not all plain sailing and there might be a few deflated soufflés before the holiday period is over.

What are you hoping to find under your tree this year? The latest Heidi Swain would be a good start and even better with her latest title too – Heidi Swain – Underneath the Christmas Tree. Make sure you buy the best tree from the local tree farm and participate in its sustainability and the beauty of being outdoors. Once you become part of the community it is suddenly very difficult to let go.

Once you have the tree, then you need the prefect gift and what better way than perhaps getting involved with a giving tree. In Katie Ginger – The Perfect Christmas Gift, school teacher Bella decides to give back to the community to help heal her broken heart so close to Christmas. But will anyone leave a gift for her?

School teachers and Christmas makes you think of nativity and tinsel bedecked small people running around high on the excitement of the season. It is reflected in the previous book mentioned as well as Tracy Rees – The Little Christmas House, this time the teacher is aptly named Holly and becomes involved with the delightful little girl Eliza and her father Edward. What is their story?

Christmas is always a time of giving and seeking out the right gift, and so you might wish to pick up a piece of unique art at Helen Pollard – Christmas at Fox Farm. Daisy is the current resident artist and is finding her feet and putting down roots, until the owner of Fox Farm takes ill. It seems the future and Christmas is not going to be all that nice, yet again for Daisy.

Diluting it a bit more with some more murder saw me take a trip to Yorkshire with Kitty Underhay in her latest adventure Helena Dixon – Murder at the Wedding. It is not Kitty’s wedding, though I do hope that is soon, but we have a classic locked room type mystery and it seems the local detective is not really forward thinking in letting women help in investigating. Of course you know what is going to happen don’t you, but that still doesn’t detract from the delightful book.

I am partial to cosy crime, providing it doesn’t get ludicrous which is why I stopped reading Agatha Raisin. It was nice to see a new potential series to get into and one that had an interesting premise. Frances Brody – A Murder Inside, late 1960s, a female governor of the prison variety. An open prison for women in the Yorkshire dales. It already sounds like it is going to be a winner for me and it was rather fascinating and definitely has longevity.

As we go into November, I still have plenty of Christmas books to read. I think I might be fed up with them come December but of course that depends on the stories. With 93 books read so far as of this post, the big 100 is looming large and I start to wonder what will be my final total of 2021. Until then though…Happy Reading.

Books

Daughters of War – Dinah Jefferies

Occupied France in early 1944.

Three women, sisters, Helene, Elise and Florence living together at the edge of a village in the Dordogne.

Helene is a nurse for the local doctor and wants to keep everyone close to her safe.

Elise runs a little café which is at the centre of resistance work and she is determined to be defiant and help defeat the Germans.

Florence the youngest, tends to the home, the garden and dreams of the day that everything is okay again in the world.

As the book progresses, events occur which change the course of all these three women’s lives. A knock at the door brings the resistance far closer than Helene would like to their life. Sheltering someone on the run from the wrong side could lead to problems. Florence’s innocence is shattered and the behaviour of the girls’ mother has a lasting affect on them all, despite her being in England.

The book moves between the three sisters, as we see their perspective, their take on what is happening around them. There are some upsetting scenes, which the author doesn’t shy away from and the impact they had whilst I was reading made me recoil, but also knew that this went on and to have it brought to life off the page was quite disturbing but necessary to understand the impact of the actions of the few.

I have read and enjoyed many books set during the Second World War and this will be one that will stay with me for a while. It was interesting to take another aspect of the war; Occupied France and the French Resistance, and not use some of the well written about areas, to create a powerful and evocative storyline.

The skill Jefferies brings is the details into which she goes. From the descriptions, I knew the cottage that the three sisters lived in, the garden that Florence tended in all of it’s glory; the flowers, the food, the necessities that were needed to survive were rich in detail. Which when the horrors that were witnessed made them all that more impactful.

I am glad that there is more to learn about these three sisters, as there are many unanswered questions that I have and I cannot wait until I can be swept away again with such an impactful setting and story.

It is authors and books like this that remind me why I love historical fiction so much.

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

Daughters of War is out now.

Books

September Roundup

Depending on how the month ends on what day during the week, depends on how quickly I can get these roundup posts done! Hence why I am a couple of days out from those that follow my blog and expect to see the previous months round on the first.

But better late than never and whilst autumn has clearly arrived in my part of the world, Christmas has too!

It is always nice to go back to something familiar with stories so I was more than happy to return to Jewel Island for this festive season with Holly Martin – Mistletoe at Moonstone Lake. And with a name like Holly what more would you expect Christmas wise!

Of course being a fan of authors and series of books makes reading sometimes easy but with that comes an absolute joy to be part of another world for a while and so I was thrilled to welcome back Sarah Bennett – Autumn Dreams at Mermaids Point and with a novella following close behind, I was delighted to keep the story going for that bit longer with Sarah Bennett – Christmas Surprises at Mermaids Point.

Whilst not my favourite Christmas book so far of 2021, Rachel Burton – A Bookshop Christmas did give me that cosy Christmas bookshop feel that you can get in certain bookshops.

Christmas is not the main theme of Helen Rolfe – The Kindness Club on Mapleberry Lane but it certainly played a part in bringing the kindness of a family together, whether they be true family or simply neighbours.

Of course nothing brings people together than the threat of the closure of a library. In Bella Osborne – The Library, two unlikely people strike up a friendship and find solace in books. There appears to be a number of books this year featuring similar tales and all of them have been thoroughly enjoyable and make me ever so guilty that I hardly visit the library!

I wonder how long the waiting list at the library is for Richard Osman – The Man Who Died Twice? His second novel and if I may say so, I think better than the first. I can see this series lasting quite a while with the quirky residents getting into some rather interesting mysteries. Retirement is not boring for them or us.

Looking back it seems that all the books read in September were on my kindle and were netgalley reads. I have to confess of having got a bit happy with requesting and find myself playing catch up which is how I had only just got round to reading Anthony Horowitz – A Line to Kill, the third novel in the Hawthorne series. Featuring the author himself this book works in such a wonderful way.

Quite a lot of Christmas, quite a bit of murder so I took myself back to some historical reading with Dinah Jefferies – Daughters of War, the first in a new trilogy from this author. Taken to France and the Nazi occupation and the French Resistance, I am interested to see where this series takes us next.

So that was September, October promises to be just as good. I have plenty lined up to read and currently engrossed in an actual book as well as the countless on my netgalley to read list. I hope to balance out the Christmas reads with some more interesting and quirky ones in between. Who knows where I will end up.

I hope your September reading has been what you wanted, anything I have missed?

Books

Orphans of the Storm – Celia Imrie

Marcella married young, swept away by Michael a man who has ambitions to be the best tailor in Nice, South of France. However the romance has gone and Marcella is left with a jealous husband who wishes to control and bully.

Marcella makes the momentous decision that she needs to leave this man for the sake of herself and her two young boys. Divorce is not going to be easy, it is 1911 and the French courts need to decide whether this will go ahead and what happens to the two young boys.

Margaret has been touring around Europe with friends, but she is bored and wishes to return to her home in America. When the chance to travel home in style on the RMS Titanic, Margaret makes the fatal choice.

How can these different lives cross? It is inevitable that they will, but perhaps not in the circumstances that everyone thinks. When you begin a book which clearly features one of the most famous ships in history, there is an inevitably about it – prior knowledge means you known what happens on that fateful night in April 1912. Interestingly the event doesn’t happen until well into the last third of the book – a sense of trepidation is built as the story of Michael and Marcella is built upon.

The introduction of Margaret, becomes clearer as the book goes on and as readers we are swept under the sea as everyone’s worlds change.

Whilst slow at points, I did wonder where and how this book was going to culminate and I was so intrigued by the characters that were created. I was completely surprised by the fact that whilst this story was fiction – every person and experience was based on real people and real events. The information and research given at the end of the book is fascinating and brought more to the story than if it had been pure fiction.

Very different to previous novels and I noticed that the author has had some assistance in research which is fine, but made me doubt as to how much was really the author. That though is probably my fussiness and for fans of historical fiction this definitely a book that is worth a read.

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

Orphans of the Storm is out now.

Books

The Rose Garden – Tracy Rees

Wake up and smell the roses world, because women are no longer going to capitulate, they will branch out on their own. Making friendships and decisions that will shock the society of 1895 when this book is set, steeped in Victorian values. The author takes us to the past as much as the present.

1895, London, Hampstead. Olive’s life is full of privilege, she knows how lucky she is, but she craves to have a child. A difficulty when unmarried in 1895. However that does not stop head strong Olive and her sense of philanthropy leading her to an orphanage.

Mabs, has become the matriarch of the household after her mother dies, with younger siblings and a grieving father, she works on the canals, disguised as a young boy. It is some of the most dangerous work. An opportunity though takes to her to Hampstead, to be a companion of Mrs Finch.

Young Ottilie Finch, is only twelve and along with her family, they are newly arrived from Durham. For reasons we do not know but are of some intrigue. Ottillie wants to explore this new territory and finds herself meeting some very different people and cannot understand others abuse about the friendships she wants to build.

Women and girls, who are all on different paths in life, but through the magic of storytelling all come together and their worlds mix and collide. What you think of perhaps as modern day problems; racism; domestic abuse and sexism is played out in this historical context and was at times upsetting but also heartening to know that we have progressed from having to dress up as males to seek work.

This book wanted me to cheer out loud for these female characters who were facing society head on. It had me hooked as I knew it would from this author and I felt bereft when it ended as I wanted to know more about these wonderful women and what happens next in their story.

Simply engrossing and one of my favourite reads of 2021.

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

The Rose Garden is out now.

Books

The Bookshop Murder – Merryn Allingham

A quiet English Village in the 1950s, the South Downs the backdrop. You could almost be forgiven for expecting to see Miss Marple appear.

But let me introduce you to Miss Flora Steele, the young woman who owns the local bookshop in Abbeymead. Inherited from her aunt, she is determined to keep this legacy going.

When reclusive crime writer Jack Carrington enters the shop, he finds more than books – he finds a dead body. The police think it is nothing but a man breaking in and suffering an unfortunately timed heart attack. Nothing more to report. Everyone must get on with their lives

For Flora, she knows there is something not right about this and she wants to find the answers so at least she can help the shop to survive. She enlist Jack Carrington in her help to find out the truth, reluctantly he seems drawn to this spirited young woman. When another death occurs, it seems that Flora may well be onto something.

This is a lovely (not that murder is lovely) start to what is to be a series of books. Flora Steele lives up to her name and whilst she may be to some a flowery girl, she has a determined strength that makes me think that she might end up in some scrapes in the future! Let’s hope the mysterious crime author is always on hand.

For fans of all that is cosy about crime fiction, this book is for you.

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

The Bookshop Murder is out now.

Books

The Perfect Guests – Emma Rous

I said last year when I read this author’s debut novel that she was one to watch out for and I think that is the case.

This book has a lightness to it but still is a rather intriguing mystery. What seems like two independent stories, simply featuring the same setting, clearly have to link, but how and who are all these characters?

Raven Hall – Past

Beth turns up at this big house, out the way in the Fens on the east of the country. Her aunt who really does not want the responsibility of an orphaned niece, has brought her here to live with Markus, Leonora and daughter Nina. Nina is of the same age as Beth, and it is hoped that the girls will form a companionship, as Nina is rarely let out of the house. There is something odd about this family set up, when Nina falls ill it is left to Beth to fill a purpose, but the question is why?

Raven Hall – Present Day

The big mysterious house is the perfect setting for a murder mystery weekend. Sadie an actress waiting for her big break gets the opportunity to take part in the test event to presumably publicise these weekends. Needing the money and the purpose she jumps at the chance, to play Miss Lamb. She turns up and thinks this going to be easy money. One of the clues to the game is quite near the truth and it looks like that perhaps this might not be a game after all.

How does it all come together? Who are all these people and how can a simple game reveal all the past as it all comes tumbling out as people go missing, start feeling ill and turning up unexpectedly.

A book with twists and turns, I thought I could see the path the author was intending us to go on, but on some occasions I was wrong. For thriller fans, they may want something a bit more darker and gruesome, but a lot was said about the setting and the characters without it being said at all. The art of suggestion enabled the red herrings and the twists and turns to work for me.

For the infamous ‘second novel’ this was very good and I stand by my original thoughts – this is an author to watch.

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

The Perfect Guests is out now.

Books

Yours Cheerfully – A.J.Pearce

Following on from the wonderful Dear Mrs Bird, we are back with Emmeline Lake as she tries to break into some more serious journalism from her role on the women’s magazine – Women’s Friend.

Taking a more front line role in responding to the letters to the readers and inspired by the Ministry of Information’s call to get more women to take on men’s work, Emmy finds herself drawn to the Munitions’ factories.

With her close friend and housemate, Bunty they both meet a young woman, balancing life as a war widow, two young children and doing her built not just for King and country but simply for her own families survival.

Emmy finds herself drawn into these factory workers lives and the fact that they are juggling so much, she sees what these women really have to face and suddenly finds herself fighting their corner.

Alongside Emmy’s crusade for these women, helped by her friend, she is thrilled to be seeing more of her beau Charles and when an opportunity for him to more than do his bit, it seems their romance is about to speed up down the aisle.

We are yet again drawn into Emmy’s world and life on the home front during the second world war, as romances blossom and beaus are mourned. As women survive however they can without sacrificing everything they believe in, Emmy has to decide what is most important and a critical point in her life.

Although this book is set very much in the past, it resonated with me and there was something of the present battles that women are still facing to this very day. A book full of strength of female bonds, friendship and a common goal that drives them all.

I hope we get to go back between the pages of Women’s Friend as there is much more that Emmy can report on.

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

Yours Cheerfully is out now.

Books

The River Between Us – Liz Fenwick

This is the latest from Liz Fenwick and is a must for fans of historical fiction, big houses and the complexity of family.

Theo recently divorced finds herself starting again in The Boatman’s Cottage which is on the river bank bordering both Devon and Cornwall. The cottage is run down and has many secrets to tell and whilst Theo wants to restore it to show of it’s best, the gardens hold just as much of an attraction as the cottage itself.

The cottage formerly part of an estate which is now an hotel, Theo finds herself welcomed by the locals and when she discovers a box of letters in the cottage, she finds herself drawn back to the past and with the help of these new friends, discovers the mysteries.

Lady Alice, is about to be presented at court, it is the Edwardian period, war is on the horizon and the obvious route for Alice is marriage. However she has much to say on the path her life is supposed to take, and does so at the most inopportune moment. Destined never to be married, she is shipped off to a house in Devon, right by the Tamar river. The river just does not divide two counties, it divides two worlds. Two worlds that destiny has decided will meet when class clearly says it cannot.

For those who adore dual timelines, this is the book for you and I enjoyed the contemporary side of the novel as much as the past. Themes are reflected through both time periods and it shows how there are still prejudices, that there are still class divides now as much as their was in the past. They might be hidden amongst other behaviours but they are there all the same.

But what makes this book stand out for some others? The evocative nature of the sweeping landscape, the flowers and trees that are both appreciated in the past and the present. How something so male dominated as fishing is shown to be achievable whatever your gender. I was swept away with this novel as if I was paddling in the waters of the Tamar and adoring the flowers that were bringing new life around me.

Full of emotion, full of life and full of everything you need to make a first class book – The River Between Us is one of the best books of the year I have read.

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

The River Between Us is out now.