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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. ūüė¶
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 ‚Äúfeel‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúpush‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs Blake and what a guy he is. The connection between them sizzles, steams and feels intense, but of course Addie knows he‚Äôs 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 ūüėČ
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 ūüė¶

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

A Most Unlikely Duke,  (Diamonds in the Rough 1), Sophie Barnes 

A Most Unlikely Duke,  (Diamonds in the Rough 1), Sophie Barnes 

A Most Unlikely Duke: Diamonds in the Rough by [Barnes, Sophie]

Genre: Historical  romance,

I don‚Äôt read much historical romance, but every now and then I have a hankering for that strange past world where lineage rules, and there‚Äôs a very defined line for who is acceptable and who isn‚Äôt…

It’s a kind of mentally relaxing read, when what hat to wear is a subject for serious decision, a sort of letting go of real issues and delving into a world where for many its a life filled with frivolities.
Of course I‚Äôd want to be born on the frivolous side, not the scullery maid getting up at 5am to light fires etc, though that probably would more likely be me ūüėČ

So we meet Raphe and his sisters, abandoned by their parents after debtors prison loomed, and he’s looked after them since. He was only 12 so its been hard, and he’s done some tough things.
The last few years he‚Äôs made a name from bare knuckle fighting, certainly not a gentleman‚Äôs sport….
Then suddenly in a swift change of fortune he‚Äôs the Duke of Huntley, and his sisters are Ladies….

So that was fun, seeing how they could assimilate into Society. They did have that childhood history which helped with the credulity. Rather than the Pygmalion aspect of completely learning from scratch it was more a reminding of what they had learned years ago.
They need to keep the last few years secret though, with a society that is horrified by any taint of scandal. throw in the Lady next door, about to become engaged to another but who Raphe becomes seriously attracted to, and we can see disaster looking.

I really liked Raphe and his sisters, and of course girl next door Gabriella.
She‚Äôs a real sweetheart, always been left to herself and her amusements ( insect collecting¬†‚Äď though she seems to keep them alive rather than pin them to a board as was more usual back then).
With her sister‚Äôs scandalous breaking of her engagement and marrying another Gabriella has to step up, make a good marriage and push the scandal of her sisters behaviour firmly in the past. There’s no room for her to be with the potentialy scandalous person next door…

There were some fun moments here, some great characters, including Raphe’s staff who were such a help to him.
In reality some of the staff in these houses were the worst of snobs, but he’s hit lucky and they take him under their wing!
I wasn‚Äôt totally convinced of Gabriella’s parents reactions towards the end given how they started but its reasonable.

Its a sweet story, very light and fluffy, nothing to get too mentally taxed by and sometimes that‚Äôs just what I’m looking for. After a few deep, dark reads, some fantasy dramas and murders I just want a pleasant easy read in a bygone world.
This book did all that. Its not one I’d reread, not would this genre be my mainstay by for a one off gentle escape from other books, into a gentile world its perfect.

Stars: 4. a fun, gentle escape into a bygone era.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Author and Publishers

Beneath the Apple Leaves, Harmony Verna

 

Beneath the Apple Leaves, Harmony Verna

Beneath the Apple Leaves by [Verna, Harmony]

Genre:  Romance, General fiction, Historical

I hadn’t read Daughter of Australia, but liked the sound of this.
Its a terrific read, very packed full of events, characters and incidents that feel so real, and some heartbreaking sorrow. It does have a HEA¬†for the main two characters though ūüôā
Its so intense, so heartbreaking at times, that I read this in three installments instead of my usual straight through. Though I desperately wanted to know what came next, some of the events really pulled at me, the story got so real, so emotional that I needed a break.
Its one I would happily reread too, one that will stay with me for a long time.

Its set in US at the beginning of WW1, a time when it seemed like every country was at each others throats, and as still happens the media whip up hatred, minorities get spurned at best, murdered at worst by righteous feeling so-called “patriots”. Yet these people are doing nothing except living their lives, struggling along with everyone else. They didn’t start the war, but they and their families reap the hatred engendered by it. Pretty much as immigrants and Muslims do today in so many countries. I’m ashamed to say the UK is one of them…fake stories, media exaggeration and lies, and people turn into mobs, lose their compassion, do things that many of them wouldn’t have dreamed of before.

Of course in this atmosphere some¬†flourish, fan the flames of hatred, turn things to personal advantage and profit, and Frank Morton is one such man. A dangerous and powerful man to be on the wrong side of, and he’s got there by some evil methods. He’s married to Lily’s sister Claire, a lovely lady but¬†very scared, slightly childlike, simple minded, it seems and Lily does all she can to protect her. They have such a sad story, little good in their life until Andrew and his family come to live there.

Andrew is a solid character, full of strength, morality, fairness and compassion he’s a true Gentleman. I loved him all the way through, he was a wonderful man.
His father hates the mines and vows Andrew will have a different path. Sadly though his plans fail, an underground explosion kills him, and as happened back then the house came with the job, so it was Andrew to the mine or 30 days to move out.
Andrews mother arranges for him to apprentice with her sister’s husband on the railways and she goes back to Holland.

After all those things happening you’d think Andrew might have some luck, but he gets the reverse, is badly injured in an accident leaving him permanently disabled. Wilhelm feels guilty and can’t stand the shame, so he leaves the job he loved, and takes the family to the farm.
He was brought up on one but vowed never to go back, but Eveline has always wanted to raise their children in the country, rather than the smog ridden city. The farm though turns out to be a wreck and the only good thing to come out of the move is Lily.

Its a beautifully written, wonderful love story, but a very rocky road to get there. There’s¬†tragedies, harassment, deliberate vandalism, anti German sentiments when the US gets involved in the war. At times it feels like if it can go wrong it will.
In among that though are the gems, the elderly couple who deliver baked goods, of different races who understand mindless prejudice, the Muellers, another local family who’ve worked hard and now have a prospering farm, the friendship between Andrew and their son Pieter, and of course the very tender, emotional, gentle¬†romance between Lily and Andrew.
Its very much a romance of the time, nothing outward, nothing seen for a long while when they both hide their feelings thinking the other is too good. Even when they do finally let their feelings show its still a few careful glances, subtle touches, and very chaste kisses. Very much what would happen in those days.
Its a rocky path though, with lots of misunderstandings and some outright lies and evil manipulations by Frank, who doesn’t approve. Lily is his, he wants full control over her and uses her love for Claire to keep it. He really is a nasty, vicious ¬†piece of work. Sadly he’s the sort that do well in war-times.

Stars: five, an amazing read, tender and beautiful romance, and played out in a very realistic setting, characters and events that feel very genuine.
Reaching the finish I was sad to see these people go, though very happy at the final ending.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

An Unnatural Vice, KJ Charles

An Unnatural Vice, KJ Charles

An Unnatural Vice (Sins of the Cities) by [Charles, KJ]

Genre:  Romance,

I love KJC’s stories and this is another perfect read. She uses language that fits the time period, and which the kindle look up function proves useful for me when its words I haven’t met before!
I love the English language to be used to the fullest in novels, far too often its kind of dumbed down, almost as if authors feel readers won’t understand their writing. I don’t want a story that’s so literate the plots get lost in flowery overdone prose, but ones that like this give a richness of language to the story really lifts the work.

Its another gentle mystery, very real feeling of the time period, bringing in the feeling of spookiness and damp that the London fogs of the time had.
We meet characters from book one and that was enjoyable, i love it when we see those from earlier books moving on with their stories.
It’s a time when homosexuality was a crime punishable by prison, so these characters have to be very careful in their actions.

Nathaniel and Justin, fiercely on opposing sides, Nathaniel is determined to expose Justin as a fraud, and Justin sees in him all the things he hates, rich privileged upbringing, a person who’s quick to judge, condemn, look down on others less fortunate than themselves.
Neither are quite correct, but its such fun seeing how KJC is going to move them from that adversarial point to lovers. It creeps in carefully, sliding unseen into each others psyche almost the way the London Fog creeps into corners clouding vision.

The description of the seances and how Justin ran them was fascinating, and considering the time and limitations of things that could be used its really believable. I can see how he got the tag of Seer of London, he was very accomplished at what he did.
Its easy like Nathaniel to sneer at how he earned a living, but looking at what else he could do its much harder to judge him. He made many people happy, kept himself, Frankie, Emma and Sukey off the streets, warm, fed and clothed so was it really so bad, did he really deserve Nathaniel’s condemnation?
Its very easy to look down on others from the high road, not so easy if you spend time in their shoes, or even looking at their actions from their POV.

There’s some real danger for them here, the story from book one continues, the murders rack up once more, bringing Justin and Nathaniel into genuine peril, fearing for their lives. And by now they fear as much for each others lives as for their own. It leads them further into the romance, reveals parts of each other so far hidden, and its the perfect story for escape from real time issues for a while.

I loved this book, and like other series from KJC its going into my keeper files for rereading when series is complete. The Magpie/Jackdaw series of hers has been read again a couple of times, and I find things I missed first time round when I’m doing a back-to-back read of the novels.

 

Stars: five, a fabulous dive back into a time when men who liked men had to be incredibly careful, when the police were overstretched and murders abounded, and when Spiritualism was at a peak.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Aqua Follies, Liv Rancourt

Aqua Follies,  Liv Rancourt

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I loved this story, a great read, bringing in a very real feel of life in the fifties.
I was born at the very tail end of the fifties, but from my parents conversations about what they’d done this tale felt perfectly suited to the era.
Even in the sixties there was an emphasis on going out for entertainment. TV was limited, we didn’t have one like many families until i was maybe 9 or 10, and even then it was limited- no 24 hr TV, only two channels, definitely no daytime TV so we had to do things, not sit indoors. Carnivals, festivals etc all took place in the tiniest of villages even, with everyone turning out for what was a break from the usual work, home, sleep routine. As kids we were involved too so a festival like Aqua Follies which wouldn’t get off the ground now would have been high profile for many people. Liv does a terrific job or bringing that era to light.

Of course that makes it all sound like utopia, sunbeams and rainbows when it was anything but. Some of us lurked outside events, lacking the entry fee, trying to soak up a bit of atmosphere from the distance. There wasn’t parental leave, childcare etc in jobs so we were bundled off to others or left to roam when parents were working. It was work or starve, pay the rent or out, and Human Rights Act was a far off dream…
Life was tough if you were ordinary, toed the line, conformed, but if you dared to want a same sex relationship – woe is you….Still illegal back then. ( I’m not really sure when that changed, need to have a look at that) It was awful and guys like Russel didn’t even want to admit to themsleves they liked other men.
Its so sad, that pressure to conform, to stay safe and legal led to many marrying when there was no way they’d be fully happy. Russel certainly wouldn’t be and poor Susie, having a husband that doesn’t really love her. Sooner or later she’d realise that, and that’s what happened to so many couples, marrying to hide they really wanted a same sex relationship, but brought up to think it was perverted, against the Church, and risking prison if caught.
We’re a weird, judgmental group us humans.

I loved Russel and Skip. Skip’s sure in his desires for men, has found a group and places where he’s reasonably safe, but of course the police were given a pretty free rein then and he’s got one that keeps a close eye on him, never missing a chance to nip, berate, harass him.
Police brutality and harassment wasn’t recognised then so Skip had to just try to keep out of his way.
I loved Skip’s mum, in a sanitorium with TB, as happened to many then. The Fresh Air stance is very true, there was one near where I live and the huts were left open on one side all year round believing that it helped the lungs. Must have been pretty cold in winter!
When Skip is worried about being convicted, even if its a fine and caution he rightly says he’ll find it hard to get work. Who wants someone with a sex caution teaching music to their kids, joining their orchestra, working in their firm and of course without income he wouldn’t have anywhere to live, even if he could get a landlord to rent to someone with that on their record.
The world was a different place then, though some things seem good, there were things like this that made it a hard place for so many.

Russel, he sort of thinks he’s happy with Susie, there’s no grand passion but he has nothing to contrast with how he feels so he think that’s normal.
He knows his mum has been withdrawn after his brother died in Service, and he¬†thinks it will make her¬†happy if he gets married,so he’s planning to ask¬†Susie¬†to marry him – til he sees Skip. One look and he’s hooked, one word and he knows what he has with Susie isn’t Love.

What happens now though? What will they do, can they do living so far apart, when men cannot live openly with, be in a relationship with other men.
Is there a way through or are they a doomed, never to be together couple. And can he settle for Susie if that’s so?

Reading through the blurb I saw this was edited by KJ Charles, one of my favourite M/M authors – actually The favourite, she’s my number one for that genre, and it made me wonder if she had much influence over this book.
At the end reading through Liv’s explanations of how this book came to be she’s had the input of many people and it reminded me of the “it takes a village to raise a child” phrase. Maybe it takes a Team to raise a successful book.
Certainly its worked well this time, and its a great author who listens to critics, and shapes the story while still keeping it essentially the one they had in mind. You can please some readers some of the time and all that….

Stars: five, an enjoyable read, taking me back to a time when homosexuality was still illegal, still seen as perverted.

ARC supplied for review purposes by author

The Shadow Queen, Anne O’Brien

The Shadow Queen,¬†¬†Anne O’Brien

The Shadow Queen by [O'Brien, Anne]

Genre:  Historical fiction,

What a fabulous read, transported me back to the past.
Its a while since I’ve read any historical fiction, I used to read more, with Elizabeth Chadwick, Phillipa Gregory, Sharon Penryn and Alison Weir being my favourite authors for this type of novel.

Its told from the POV of Joan, and she’s just 12 when we meet her. Looking at many historical novels from today’s POV its horrifying that children were betrothed as babies, went into marriage ceremonies when very young, though often remained with their families until in their mid/late teens. They grew up quickly in those days though, especially in royal households where children were routinely sent off to others, in the pursuit of power for the Family.
When we meet Joan she’s about to be married to Will, another boy her age, from a close family to the royals. Its a match made by the families, and Joan likes Will, but there are reasons she can’t marry, reasons she hasn’t told anyone. When she does, well, both families ensure its swept under the carpet, assuming wrongly that they’ve put an end to any scandal.
Of course things don’t work that way, and it starts a chain of events that dog poor Joan’s life. She’s clever though, ambitious, and ensures she does her best to make things work out how she wants them.

It sounds like she’s an unpleasant manipulative girl, but she’s not, not to me. She’s in love even though Thomas is so much older, she does her best to be a good wife to her husbands, to ensure she does what she can to help them, to make them happy, to get the recognition due to them. She¬†adores her children and is a fierce, protective mother for their futures.
In a time when men ruled all, and women were simply chattels, to be moved around to forge alliances regardless of what they wanted, where they could be cast out easily, where the Royal Family and Parliament were in an uneasy power struggle, she did what she could for her family. I so felt for her,¬†events had me really tearful at times. I didn’t see how blame could attach to her for what she did, but as always women seem to catch more than their fair share.

She was lucky in her friends from childhood, Will, her long time friend, sometime husband, and of course Ned, heir to the throne who’s another childhood friend, Isabella, a cousin I think or maybe second cousin…. Edward, the young king, is her cousin, and his wife Phillipa is a strong but gentle lady, and has brought up Joan since very young as part of the family, as was common in those days. The love between her and Edward has a great impact on Joan’s life.

Its a story of political machinations, the vicious scramble for power, backbiting, double dealing.
No-one could ever be quite certain the bargains they made, the allies they forged would really hold out when needed.
For Joan to have forged a path through that, a woman up against powerful men, at a time when they scarcely had a voice she was a remarkable person.

Its a story I really enjoyed, an author new to me but whose books I’ll certainly look out for in future.

Stars: five, a fabulous dive back into a time when women were almost voiceless so had to use clever ways of getting what they needed.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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