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The Last Hours, Minette Walters

The Last Hours, Minette Walters

The Last Hours by [Walters, Minette]

Genre: General fiction (adult), Historical fiction

I’ve read a few of Minette’s books, some I loved, some not so much, but i do love a Good historical novel and she writes settings and characters, that whether I enjoyed the story or not, feel so very real.
This one was just perfect, a real escape into the past, at times horribly sad, graphically real, and reminding me of just how unfair life was for the largest section of the population.

I’ve read a few books set in the Era of the Plague, the Black Death, a terrible time that decimated the population.
At that time disease was rife anyway, subject to poor nutrition people succumbed to what would be minor illnesses now, as they had so little resistance . Hygiene was poor too, making it easy for viruses and diseases to spread.

Lady Anne has turned around life on her husband’s estate, with measures such introducing dug out latrines rather than throwing excrement into the moat and urinating wherever they wanted. She introduced practices such as washing too, bodies and clothes, and slowly she introduced education. As they learned the villagers began to understand what she was practising, saw results in less sickness, better health.
Of course all her husband cared about was yields and taxes, and as the population became healthier those increased. Had he bothered to take note of her actions he would have fiercely disapproved and stopped them, but luckily he was typical in that he didn’t take not of how serfs lived, felt they were beneath his notice.

Sir Richard is a sorry reflection of how so many Lords were then (sadly how many would be now if they could get away with it!) Self important, cared for nothing and no-one beyond himself, and felt he was above reproach so long as his pet priest gave him absolution. He was paying him, the guy’s living depended on his goodwill so why wouldn’t he?
Its one of those things that’s always amazed me, that absolution wipes away all sins, leaving the perpetrator free to do them all over again, knowing the priest will remove them. That buying of “indulgences ” too is something that always made me cross.
People were so focused on God, and yet made his words fit the lives they wanted to live rather than vice versa. There have been some real atrocities perpetrated because of, and in the name of God.

Then along came the plague. Was it cast by God onto those who had sinned? For a largely ignorant populace its easier to believe that than to think they have nothing to fight it.

Lady Anne feels differently though, when it comes her husband is away, and she refused him entrance back to the place on his return. She had walled it off and brought the villagers inside the castle grounds to keep everyone safe.
He’s been to a demesne where the Plague is rife, many of the men who went with him are dead, and the few who have returned are ill. She knows if he’s allowed in the plague will spread fast. She asks tells him they have left stores for the men, and after a period without illness they can come in.
I’ve read real life accounts where villages closed themselves off like this, some because they wanted to keep the plague out, some because they wanted to keep the infection contained, knowing it was too late to save themselves, they either were going to get it or survive regardless.

There are some incredible characters here, from the courageous and intelligent Lady Anne, her horrible daughter Eleanor, the sly french steward Hugh, and some of the key characters among the villagers. Thaddeus is one of those, born a bastard, he has managed to stay free by way of some tacit advice from lady Anne. He’s wise enough to keep that quiet, and Sir Richard hasn’t yet noticed he has not sworn allegiance as the others all have to.

I enjoyed reading the day to day life, how they dealt with the threat from outside, managed the food, and later, how they had to decide what to do about the future, how long stores would last, whether it was safe to go outside and search for more, and of course what would happen to a country ravaged by plague, or whether it was just their corner of England that was infected.
Given only the top people ever traveled, with perhaps a steward and a few guards, most had no knowledge of the world outside their village. One five miles away could have easily been five hundred for most of them, they never left the estate of Devilish.

Its a story that shows characters in their true light, who is lazy, who is opportunist, who had the foresight to plan ahead. It also has some pretty graphic cruelty that was sadly so very real. The villagers were regarded as property, disposable to their Lords, they would be beaten and whipped at whim, the young girls subject to abuse and there was nothing they could do.

As the novel continues there are secrets to be revealed that put a different light on some things from the past, and of course affect the possible future.
Its a fabulous read, made me feel i was there with the characters. I liked too Lady Anne’s journal, her dilemma of just how much she could include, whether it would help others in the future if they did all die, or if it would put them in danger if they survived. After all with Sir Richard dead and no sons from their marriage, she was once more a Lady with no power, no say in her life, and likely to be married off elsewhere, with Devilish turned over to someone new.

The only thing I didn’t like was the end, its very, very abrupt, and until I reached the end I hadn’t realised there was another book to come. And not til next autumn….oh, I so hate waiting when I’ve got so engrossed in these peoples lives.

Stars: five,  a very worthy five star read, but i so wish the next book was here now…

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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An Unsuitable Heir, KJ Charles

An Unsuitable Heir, KJ Charles

An Unsuitable Heir (Sins of the Cities) by [Charles, KJ]

Genre:LGBTQIA, Romance

KJ Charles is my favourite m/m author, and I love taking a dip back in time with her books.
This trilogy has been another fun read, and what amazes me is when in this final book little clues and things I recall from the previous two make sense now, plot lines that were secondary now fit in as major ones.

I love reading and am always in awe of just how cleverly authors wrap up a story, tie in lose ends, put everyone in the place I want them to end, when halfway through the final book I still can’t see how it can be done. This trilogy has been like that with each book.

It was good to catch up with Clem once more, I love him, so gentle and unassuming but so Right all the while. His character seems like he’d be background and yet he has an inner strength to him that others lean on. He’s a genuinely kind and caring man.
Julian from book two is here as well. Oh how I disliked him at the start of that but loved him by the finish, and here he’s the same slick character, incredibly clever, formed by his upbringing (or lack of it), but now with Nathaniel he can work at a living that doesn’t mean betraying the trust of others.
I love when that happens, he wasn’t happy at what he was doing, forced into it by circumstance and now with help he can find a way forward to be proud of. That past though, the skills he learned help him here, well, help him aid Mark, Pen and Greta anyway.
Pen and Greta, what a great pair, relied on each other for so long and have struggled so hard.
Life could be incredibly tough for people in the past, and in KJ’s books some of that comes over, making me look at why people do what they do, at the struggles they have, and for anyone like Pen who doesn’t fit the traditional roles society believes in, life gets really complicated. Greta understood him, few others did til Mark came along, and quiet, watchful Mark sees what Pen needs.
Mark, he’s been in earlier reads, and always seems the strong, silent type and slightly detached from issues. You get the feeling though that once his mind is set, once he decides to help he won’t stop till all avenues are exhausted. But for poor Pen the result Mark needs for his friends, what need to come out into the open to save them, is the one thing that will emotionally destroy Pen.
That tears Mark up, he can’t let more people die, and yet how can he condemn Pen to life in the public eye where his differences will be mocked, ridiculed and tear him apart?
I just couldn’t see how it could all work out, but luckily i’m just a reader and KJ has the perfect solution for everyone, wrapped up in a very neat way.

 

Stars:Five, a clever end to what seemed like an insurmountable problem and a trilogy that will join  the keepers.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Reunion, Sara Portman

The Reunion, Sara Portman

The Reunion (Brides of Beadwell) by [Portman, Sara]

Genre: Historical, Romance

I’ve read several contemporary and fantasy romances recently, so wanted something different to clear my mind. I’m not a huge historical reader but sometimes its nice to just dip back in time to a period with very different priorities not today’s ones.

This is Sara’s debut novel and its was a fun read. I look forward to the next one too, a snippet was at the end of this and its sounds another interesting read.

I like strong heroines, ones who have a mind of their own, and back then that wasn’t encouraged. Ladies were to sit prettily and be quiet, to take an interest in gentile pursuits like embroidery and afternoon teas…Emma isn’t like that and so far she’s avoided the need for a husband. She has a fiancee though, but after one disastrous meeting four years ago, following which he disappeared and was presumed dead, she’s content living with her aunt and uncle.
Then her fiancee turns up doing the rounds of the London Society circuit. Gossip has it he’s after a wife.
Emma is incensed, she doesn’t want to marry him anyway, doesn’t really want to marry anyone and after the scandal of him leaving their betrothal like that she’s been ignored by society anyway. Now after ruining her reputation he’s back, and ignoring the fact they are betrothed. Looks like he’s happy to heap more scandal n her head and she’s furious, she’s determined to meet him, give him a price of her mind and break the engagement.

John had reasons for leaving, is annoyed that he let his fury at his father blend over into rudeness to Emma, but remembers her as a mousy, quiet teen and assumes she’s married since he left. Now he wants someone with strength of character to marry, who can bring his sister into society and give her the kind of life she should have had if their father wasn’t such an a rse.
All he gets though are simpering, brainless misses, who want nothing more than to be his duchess and the prestige it will bring them. Then he meets someone who’s angry at him, answers him back, sparks off him and he’s intrigued. Even more so when he learns who she is. she’s perfect he thinks, but Emma has other ideas.

Its a fun read, typical Society gossip, where what you are seen to do is far more important than what you actually do. I loved Emma and John, although the man was blind with prejudice in his attempt to not be like his father…Gah, I wanted to smack him at times, shake him and say ” c’mon, what are you thinking Man!!”
I loved the other characters too, his friend Hugh, sharp wit on that man, and his sister Charlotte, who has such a massive transition in her life. She seems like an ungrateful, surly teen when we first meet her, but once we see things from her side – well, I had sympathy for her.
Then there’s Emma’s friend Lucy, vicars daughter who’d been Emma’s best friend since childhood. She’s the subject of the next book, and thats sounds another fun and spicy read. A great group, leading to a sweet fun romance with some surprising sensuality and erotic moments.
If you want a hot, sensual historical, with solid characters and a genuine period feeling you’ll enjoy this.

Stars: Five, its not a heart-stopping, pulse thumping romance, but a gentler period meander with some intensely sensual moments rarely found in the genre.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

All That Makes Life Bright, Josi S. Kilpack

All That Makes Life Bright, Josi S. Kilpack

All That Makes Life Bright: The Life and Love of Harriet Beecher Stowe [A Historical Proper Romance] (Proper Romance Historical) by [Kilpack, Josi S.]

Genre:  Romance,

When I saw this for review the names seemed familiar to me but I passed that off as being typical historical names. Then I started it and found that Harriet was the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a book many believed to be the force for change, pushing up the agenda for the abolition of slavery.
I haven’t ever actually read that book…but its free on kindle so I read a few chapters last night.

I loved the way Harriet was so convinced everything would work out just as she and Calvin planned. What’s that saying “man proposes God disposes”?
Well, she soon found the truth of that. It wasn’t long before she and Calvin were struggling, she with trying to cope with home and housework, Calvin’s and others expectations of her now, the change in finance and finding time to write.
It seemed to her all the things Catherine had said that she rubbished were coming true. Calvin still adored her and she him, but they simply didn’t understand the others views, issues, problems. Then The Trip occurs just as she finds she’s pregnant….

Its a wonderful read if you want to see the struggles women of the time had to remain themsleves, to keep their sense of worth, not just become wife, mother, daughter and lose themsleves in the unending drudge of home making. Its a balance of expectations on all parts, leveled with realistic practicalities. Calvin and Harriet are both very stubborn, both convinced they are right and its a real head to head theme at times. He supported her wring in theory, she was convinced she’d continue, its so easy when its all abstracts and theory but throw in Real Life and its very different.

It takes something huge to force them to make the change, to respect each others views, to find a way forward that allows them to still share their love and respect the other person.
Its a snippet of the times when slavery was just becoming seen as abhorrent by the enlightened few, but accepted as natural but many. It was hard sometimes reading this book of almost 200 years past, and knowing that there are people who still hold that same bigoted view 😦

I enjoyed reading this, it wasn’t a heart stopping romance, more a gentle view from the sidelines on two peoples struggle to make their romance work.
In a way the categorisation of romance is misleading, its a book with romance in, it’s a story of how life in that time was in practical terms for the duo.
It’s more a novel of two very strong willed, intelligent people falling in love and learning to live together without one subjugating the other.
Its not a book I’d reread but one I did enjoy very much.

 

Stars: Four, an interesting look at the early life of a very famous woman, how here writings became a catalyst for change.
It made me wonder what would have happened if Calvin stuck to his original stance and Harriet gave up her writing.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Lady Be Good, Heather Hiestand

Lady Be Good, Heather Hiestand

Lady Be Good (The Grand Russe Hotel) by [Hiestand, Heather]

Genre: Romance

I really wanted to like this book, its a fascinating time in history and the exiled Russians struggled with a complete lifestyle change.

I admired Olga, she was willing to work, to make her own way, not live off charity, though it doesn’t really look as if she had that option either. She did have connections with Russian ex-royals, but it doesn’t seem like they wanted her with them for long.
She was so loyal to her cousin, but I felt she was incredibly naive.
Douglas – double agent in the finest of the tradition, not for him the life of luxury, but a secret one behind it working in intelligence, something he’s got the sharp mind for.
I struggled though with the romance between him and Olga, I can see why she liked him, he paid her attention, flattered her, took her out and especially helped her with her art. He respected her and her need to earn her way, and that meant so much to her.
Its a struggle though knowing that at first he’s only staying close because of her connection to Konstatin, her shared name that makes him suspect she may be involved. I know things like this happen, are necessary even now, but I just find them particularly callous, and didn’t really feel that transition where he began to love her, to want her for herself, and that was sad, as she was so in love with him.

Still, that’s just me and my perceptions, others will feel very differently. Maybe its that fact of how he begins with her, how he’s using her that just puts me off him and makes me feel she deserves better.  I know he’s a good man, just didn’t feel that he really did love her.

Stars: 2.5/3, a decent read but which didn’t really work well for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Catching a Witch: Heidi Eljarbo, Touch of Night, Carin Rafferty

 

Catching a Witch: A Novel of Loyalty, Deception, and Superstition, Heidi Eljarbo

Catching a Witch: A Novel of Loyalty, Deception, and Superstition by [Eljarbo, Heidi]

Genre: Historical

I take a dip into historical novels every now and then and this one, covering the period when Witch-hunters were very active caught my eye. I’m very intrigued by the way the mass hysteria took hold so easily. seems weird to us now but I guess superstition abounded then when people had so little control over their lives, when animals sickened and died, crops failed, people were dogged by what seems like bad luck – and of course they wanted someone to blame. It was a way too of seeking vengeance for imagines or petty insults. Throw in the misogynistic men and its a recipe for disaster.
Disaster is just what happens when a student of the famed Matther Hopkin arrives in the sleepy little village where Clara lives. We see at first hand just how easy it is to whip up hatred, for innocent gestures to take on insidious meanings, for those who used herbs to heal others to be accuses of using witchcraft. Over it all is the witch-hunter and his self important acolytes in the village men. Not all of them, some stay fast but of course no-one dare speak out for fear of being the next accused. All except Clara, who does her best to stop the awful “trials” where in reality ladies stood no chance, once accused it was like a death sentence.
Its a scary thought but I could see people acting in a very similar way if this were to take place now. some people seem so full of bitterness, jealousy, a need to blame everyone but themselves and I’ve no doubt they would happily convince themsleves they were doing the right thing. we see so much hatred every day to anyone the slightest bit different from their peers and that would easily translate into a story like this today. 😦
I felt the historical aspect of the novel was well done, it was very realistic and genuine. I did feel the pacing was very slow for me though. some books need that but with this one I found it dragged in parts. I expected Clara’s friend to be accused sooner, but its almost halfway through before that happens. I didn’t feel “in” the story much of the time, but an observer, and found myself losing interest in sections. Overall I enjoyed it but it’s not a story I’d re-read.
Stars: three and a half. I enjoyed parts of it a lot, but other sections seemed very slow paced.

Touch of Night, The Sanctuary Series Book 1, Carin Rafferty

Touch of Night (The Sanctuary Series Book 1) by [Rafferty, Carin]

Genre: sci-fi and fantasy, Romance

Well, the description sounded interesting, but sadly this wasn’t one for me.

Lucien isn’t anyone to aspire to IMO, he cares about the coven, even though he’s been cast out, but his attitudes to mortals…well, he’s pretty scathing and rude.
Ariel wants to find her twin, the police won’t help and Lucien at first won’t either. Then he will…and that sets the tone for the book.

Both characters constantly change their minds, decide one thing and do another, don’t talk, focus on irrelevant issues, and disrespect the other. The same things are explained over and over, in case the reader just can’t quite grasp it.

I think the biggest issue for me though was the sex.
No matter what the problem sex in some form was the answer, even though Ariel says she doesn’t like Lucien, doesn’t trust him, just wants to find her brother. Lucien would never take a mortal for a mate, doesn’t like her, doesn’t find her attractive yet wants/has to have sex with her all the while. Reading minds, yep he needs to read her mind but they have to connect with sex, connecting with Armand, more sex, finding out who the strange warlock is, yep sex again….you’ve got it, sex is the answer to everything.

I like sex in a story, but it needs to fit, the story and reasons need to be strong enough and for me this just didn’t feel right.
Even the end I still felt they didn’t like each other and suddenly – bam- everything is perfect.

I won’t be continuing with the series, but as ever this is just my opinion, you may feel very differently. Others have 5 star loved it, so you chose.

Stars: Two, a miss for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Fine Art of Deception Series, Boxed Set

The Fine Art of Deception Series, Boxed Set- A Time Travel Romance Book Series,
Alyssa Richards

The Fine Art of Deception Series, Boxed Set: A Time Travel Romance Book Series by [Richards, Alyssa]

I loved this trilogy, have reviewed the three books individually, and now there’s the chance for readers to get all three at once. That’s always my preferred way of reading trilogies and series, where I can indulge in a reading fest, immerse myself in another world for ages, and really “feel” the story, be there with the characters. Sometimes its a shame to come back to the real world!
I love romance that has something extra, and though the genre selection didn’t suggest anything other than straight romance, it’s far more IMO, a beautiful romance with elements of paranormal and suspense.

Adeline comes from a family with extra talents, her sister can mentally “push” people to do what she wants, and Adeline has an ability to see the history from touching an object, and find out more about the people connected with it. Its not a gift that’s brought her family happiness though,family, friends and her job have all been affected and not in a good way.
She’s decided that she’s going to ignore her gift, and look for something normal, a straightforward job, and try to live as everyone else does.

I loved Addie, felt for her when the job she enjoys turns out to bring her into real danger. Then there’s Blake and what a guy he is. The connection between them sizzles, steams and feels intense, but of course Addie knows he’s hiding things, not least because she suspects he has abilities similar to her sister, and the things of his she touches are blank. That just doesn’t happen, has been done deliberately to hide things….so she tries to avoid him but he keeps on asking, and somehow she finds herself wrapped up in a relationship with him.

Though they’re the main two characters there are many others, each with their own important place in the story, and adding to the cohesivness and reality of the novels.

It’s a fabulous read, something so very different in the Fantasy/Paranormal genre which is dominated by stories that are just a couple of hundred pages or less, too often of a Vampire or Were hundreds of years old finding his Mate, in a simplistic, sickly thin story * roll eyes * so its a real treat to get a book I can really get stuck into, lost in the magic (!) of the story.

For the Winner, Emily Hauser

For the Winner, Emily Hauser

For the Winner by [Hauser, Emily]

 

Genre:  Historical Fiction

As a child I adored fairy-tales, but mum frowned on me reading them as I approached high school, telling me I should have outgrown them.
Then joy, high school and a library full of myths and legends from all over the world to replace my beloved fairies.
Those from Rome and Greece were my favourite and I noticed many parallels in the stories.

So when I saw this it took me mentally back those happy days getting lost in stories of times past, different cultures and the vagaries of the different Gods and Goddesses.
Then came children, a film addict husband and my stories took form once more with fabulous Classic films for the kids, and Jason and the Argonauts was one of their favourites.

This book doesn’t really dwell on the Argonauts perilous journey so much as Atalanta’s part in it. We do go with them for long stretches but its more the interaction of the characters than the perils of the journey.
Atalanta was abandoned as a baby even though she was the first born and a princess, and she’s brought up by loving foster parents. When she hears the tale, when her parents feel she’s old enough for the story of how she came to them, found in a torrential storm, she sets off to find her family, and then finding out the truth she sets out to prove her worth to the king.
She’s a fearsome warrior, the equal and better of many men, and in disguise as a Lord she gets her place on the Argonaut, intending to steal the fleece and prove herself to the king, and thwart Jason’s cruel plans for the places he wants to rule.

That’s the plan but of course its never that simple, and Atlanta has to constantly revise her plans according to circumstances.
Its not hard enough being a woman in a time when they were definitely subservient to men, being a princess in disguise, having to fight every step of her way against her peers, but the Gods and Goddesses have their own plans and are constantly interfering in mortal affairs.
Luckily there’s Iris, ostensibly a messenger for Hera, but in reality a Goddess in her own right, using her messenger persona as a way to keep things as she feels they should be.

Its a fabulous read, transporting me back in time, waiting to see what would happen to Atalanta and her plans with each new chapter, inwardly ranting at the bigoted and short sighted men, railing at the Gods and Goddesses for their careless interference, their disregard for human life.
I kept telling myself “just one more chapter” and then “well, just til I see if/til I find out what…” until I was so tired i wasn’t appreciating the story as it deserves.

Its a fabulous read, feeling very real, letting me rail at the unfairness of how women were treated, and then thinking, how come we still don’t get equal treatment thousands of years later.
I loved the characters we met, loved the scenes of everyday life, loved seeing a different side to Jason than the usual one, and his cruelty was all too believable.
And the ending, just so right, took the story to the perfect finale.

Stars: A very worthy Five, a wonderful tale to escape from everyday life into another time and place.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Leopard at the Door, Jennifer McVeigh, Summer’s Lease, Carrie Elks

Leopard at the Door, Jennifer McVeigh

Leopard at the Door by [McVeigh, Jennifer]

Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction

I really really wanted to love this book, I adore books set back in time that involve characters from other countries, other cultures. I like to feel I’m there with them, sharing their experiences and to begin I thought this book would do it.

Sadly, though it started well I just don’t really like any of the characters, and the story is so slow moving it almost comes to a stop. I wasn’t expecting breakneck speed, the beauty of books like this for me is in the gentle pace that allows me to see and feel all the day to day minutiae, but even for me this was just too meandering.
As the story moved on it got more graphic, more murders, abuse, tortures of humans and animals. I just don’t want to read that, I know it happens, that its an important part of the story but I don’t want the gritty, horrific details.

Rachel – I felt sorry for her at first, she had an idyllic upbringing til her mum died and she was shipped off to England to grandparents who didn’t really want her, even though she was away at boarding school most of the time.
When she returns to Kenya, against her fathers wishes, she finds he’s a very different man, and is living with a lady, Sara, who is the antithesis of her beloved mother.
Her father comes over as spineless to me, maybe he’s just given up? I don’t know but the man we met when Rachel was a child was so different to who he is now.
Then there’s Sara, who is very clear – whites and natives do not mix, there is no place for being friendly with them, and any hint of them wanting to better themselves needs stamping down on, hard. She genuinely believes they are an inferior race, and need keeping in their place.
She clearly thinks Rachel lacks discipline and is not happy at the way she has freedom of the farm, freedom to talk to and help the native people. Gah, that makes me so angry, but there were, and still are, so many like Sara, who believe a white skin makes one superior. I’ll stop my rant there 😉
It does make for an interesting read, I do like characters I can dislike but once more the story was just so slow moving. Sara would complain to Rachel’s father, he in turn would gently suggest Rachel modify her behaviour, then Sara wouldn’t feel he’d done enough, would get impatient with him, and would take steps to get what she wanted to happen. Complaining all the time if you want something done, do it yourself.

I didn’t like the ending, felt very hurried and ambiguous and that’s not how I like books to finish. Between that, the characters I didn’t really feel for, the slow pace and the graphic cruelty I just couldn’t get to like this story.
I can see others loved it though so you choose, you may have a stronger stomach and more patience when reading than me…It is very beautifully written, and there were scenic parts I loved, but overall it was one I was glad to put behind me.

Stars: Three, a wondefully descriptive novel in parts, but the story and the cruelty in it just weren’t for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Summer’s Lease, Carrie Elks

Summer's Lease: Escape to paradise with this swoony summer romance: (Shakespeare Sisters) by [Elks, Carrie]

Genre: Romance.

I love Carrie Elk’s novels, found the first one ages back in the kindle free books list and was hooked.
I’ve found lots of authors that way – authors if you ever wonder if its worth it, well, as a reader I can say its a great way to find out if I enjoy an author’s style of writing. I’ve had many free books then gone on to buy lots more from those I do.

So, back to this book.
Well its a light, fun read, a perfect summer escape, with some wonderful characters. Its mostly Cesca and Sam, with others dipping in at intervals.
I loved the way Cesca reached the bottom. I know, cruel…but it meant I so felt for her, so wanted things to go right. She had tried, worked so hard and yet somehow nothing seemed to fall in place.
Then her godfather arranges the caretakers job at the Villa in Italy, which means she’ll have time to focus on writing again, and maybe find that core inside that’s escaped her since the disaster of her first play. Poised for sucess at just 18 it all collapsed with a bang when the leading man pulled out at the last minute. She’s spent the last six years just marking time, going through life and hiding how she really feels from her family.
So there she is at the villa when who comes to stay unexpectedly but her arch-nemesis, Sam Carlton.
His parents own the villa, and he’s escaping from some bad press, things that as usual the media fixate on, that portray him in a bad light but which aren’t true. Gah – I hate the press and TV etc when they do that but it seems there’s no stopping them from peddling constant lies and speculation 😦

I love the way authors bring together characters like Cesca and Sam, who start off hating each other and then things change til…and all’s going well, until its not!
Poor Cesca, let down once more. Can Sam redeem himself this time, can he win the girl or are they fated to be apart. Well, its a romance read so you know they will end up together, but its the how, and the emotions that get shredded along the way that makes it such a beautiful read.

Its a story I loved, will join my keepers file for rereading – I’ve just been doing that with a couple of the early books, and it makes a perfect summer escape.

Stars: Five, a beautiful story, perfect for rereading.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Bedlam Stacks, Natasha Pulley

The Bedlam Stacks, Natasha Pulley

The Bedlam Stacks by [Pulley, Natasha]

Genre:  General fiction (adult)

I’m finding this a really hard book to review. Its so very different, very slow paced, very packed with detail, right down to minutiae of some things and yet bigger ones just glossed over. Parts I felt just kept the slow pacing and irritated me, and then I’d read something and want to know more.

I loved the historical feel, felt very real. I was There with Merrick and Co, back in the 1800’s, deep in the magical forests, filled with pollen lamps powered by clocks, pollen forests, whitewood that exploded, was light, filled with honeycomb holes and yet strong enough for the amazing homes they constructed, stories high. And of course later in the novel the fabulous place where the monks live which used so much of it. That was perfect.
There’s the phoenix ducks, the glass formed from ancient eruptions on the mountain, and they way it created a kind of huge greenhouse. Oh there was so much almost whimsical magic here, not spells and sorcery but magic of a different kind.
Then of course the big ones, the Markayuq….such incredible, unusual, fantastical ideas everywhere in this book, which gave it a kind of steampunk whimsy married with very real time in UK/South American history.

I liked Merrick, hated his awful brother, felt so sad that Merrick’s future was dire when he worked so hard, and becameinjured in the course of his work.
I didn’t like Clem, just found him arrogant posing as a friend to use Merrick. I didn’t really know Minna, but she seemed a pleasant lady, and then there’s Raphael….
I kind of wanted there to be more between him and Merrick, could feel something but it was vague and tenuous, slippery as silk, and nothing except a few minute strands at a possible connection slid through the story.
I guess its the romance lover in me, I do so love to find that in a story and missed it.

I enjoyed meeting and knowing the other characters in the village, liked the accepting way they took in Merrick, their confidence in Raphael, their respect for the Markayuqs, the way some recalled his father and grandfather from so long before.

I put it aside a few times, found it too intense one moment and then too slow to continue the next. I know, I know, that’s a real oxymoron, but its how I felt, and how I feel now looking back. I loved it – and then again I didn’t. I felt vaguely unsatisfied at the ending, though it does bring things into a kind of closure I just kept wondering “what happens now?”  I can’t see how it could have ended any other way though that would have made me happy.

Its one of those stories I’m glad I read, where parts will stay with me for ages, engraved into my memory and yet I know its not a story I’d reread.

Stars: Five, a story I’m glad I read, full of fantastical themes but one which I won’t re-read.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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