A Tainted Marriage, Regency Marriage Laws series, Julie Roberts
Genre: General Fiction (adult)
I like to dip into historical fiction every now and then, everything seems gentler, less fraught, though of course life was still a real struggle for so many folk. I really enjoyed this read, it took some turns that I didn’t foresee and which were very real. I do like my fiction to have a sense of reality – even if its fantasy I need to think that events could actually happen that way. The things in this book, especially when Grace visits Greensleeves, I could see things happening just as they played out.
I really liked Grace, wasn’t so keen on Alex. I sort of understood his fears, but it was really hard on Grace and I could see how upset by things she was, and how she reached the conclusions she did. Later in the book it was easy to see why Alex, jumped to conclusions and I guess most would see things the way he did given the constraints on women at the time, the conventions of society that she wasn’t adhering to. Earlier in the book when he was so ,,dogmatic, autocratic, I’m not quite sure how to describe it, I had to keep reminding myself his actions were the norm for the time, when ladies were considered property of their husbands, of fathers, and decisions made for them. I guess that shows just how far we’ve come with women’s rights.
I was expecting a simple historical romance, what I got was just that, plus an interesting side story, that lifted the novel from “just” a romance, to a story that really made me think about conventions, about women’s rights, and about how easily some of these events could have turned to disaster for Grace. I even came round to Alex, he redeemed himself by his love for Grace and his willingness to admit where he’d been wrong.
Stars: Five, An enticing story with romance, drama, some fabulous obnoxious characters and a real flavour of the time.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers
The Widow’s Secret, Katharine Swartz
Genre: General Fiction (adult), Historical fiction
A dual POV novel, in the present Rachel is researching the history of a wreck, a ship she believes to be a slave ship, and then we see the past, where Abigail Fenton is the wife of the ship’s owner.
Its an interesting story, Rachel isn’t just learning about the ship’s history but examining her own. She loves her husband, he loves her, but its a tense relationship, with Rachel not understanding her actions so how on earth can her husband?
I got the feeling this was a tipping point in their marriage, that Rachel had always been a prickly, closed off person, and we see from her relationship with her mother that she doesn’t exactly have a loving role model there. It seems to stem from when her adored father died when she was young, but its spilled over and now her marriage is in danger. She doesn’t want that but doesn’t know how to be the person she wants, open, friendly, loving.
Then back in the past we’ve Abigail, lovely young lady, adores her husband and he loves her. Typical of the time though they are restricted by society and what’s deemed correct. Abigail is unsure of the belief commonly held that slaves are more like animals, her own experiences make her doubt that, putting her in a hard position with her husband and contemporaries. Can she speak out? What about the effect on her family? If she doesn’t though what does that make her?
Its a good story, and Rachel is escaping to the past rather than face up to the issues in her present life. It hits back though, events make it so that she needs to take action or lose everything. In a strange parallel Abigail too has to pick a side, contemporaries, friendship, marriage and the accepted view of slaves, or can she voice her opinions, and maybe hope to bring about change in a small way, but risking her marriage and her position in society?
There’s a thread of Christianity running through the past, but not in an overbearing way – its something I avoid, but here it fits the story and isn’t dominating it. Its was interesting reading about the past, the slaves ( awful trade. One wonders how many really felt as Rachel did inside) and wondering what the future held for the characters involved.
I really felt for James, a good man, but carried along with accepted beliefs until confronted with the harsh truth. For anyone with a conscience that makes things tough, and I felt his struggle. Its easier to think everyone involved in that trade was awful, bigoted, a bully, but James was a gentle man, adored Abigail but initially really didn’t see wrong in what he did. Then as facts began to solidify in his mind he was struggling, what to do? Risk everything he had earned? Leave things as they were and live with his conscience? What about Abigail, he can see her actions in a different light now.
Its very complex, being horrified at his actions and then seeing them for his POV.
I loved Antony, Rachel’s husband, such an incredibly patient and understanding man and yet eventually he feels he’s tried and tried, and needs Rachel to make an effort too. I did feel that for such huge issues as they have, the ending was a little slick, very quickly all those issues were put behind them, when really I felt they would need a huge amount of work. Of course this is bookland, where problems can have quick situations leading to a HEA, but I would have liked a bit more time for them, a little more delving into the issues, and how they were going to get past them. Its simply not possible to have a blinding revelation and say all will be well……
Stars: Four, an interesting read, the abhorrent slave trade looked at through eyes of the time, and of course through Rachel’s current day view. I enjoyed the story, just felt the ending was a little too easily fixed and settled.
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The Dark Horizon, (Linford 1), Liz Harris
Genre: Historical romance
I like to dip back in time every now and then in my reading, and this proved to be an easy, fun read.
I loved Lily right from the start, she’d had a tough beginning but every opportunity she has she works hard and turns it to her advantage. I did feel she could have tried a little harder with Roberts family, the MIL and SILs could have been won over. Possibly 😉
So Robert and Lily fall in love, and ever the optimist 18 yr old Robert is convinced his family will like her. TBH even today wealthy families still have that air that some folk just aren’t good enough, and back in the 1920s he was hoping for a miracle really. His father is the most die-hard snob, and wants spouses who not only have the right background but also have money to bring to the family business. And Lily doesn’t. Never the less, once she’s pregnant and Joseph knows Robert will marry her anyway when he’s 21 he gives in.
I so felt for poor Lily, she adores Robert, but she’s on her own in a family who see her as a gold digger, taking advantage of Robert. I did think Robert could have been a little more sympathetic, but these are different times and I guess his expectations were those of the day. You married into a family and made the best of it. Sucked up the nasty and moved forward anyway, hoping things would get better.
Joseph, is irredeemably awful, once of those patriarchs who are convinced they know best for everyone, he’s determined that Robert won’t ruin his life, and he does something irredeemably awful. I don’t want to spoil it but lets just say I was gutted, totally gutted, and though that action would be harder now with IDs, CCTV, phones etc back then its plausible things could happen that way.
I loved the American part, felt very true to time, and I enjoyed reading about everyday life there, and the people we met.
Where the book falls down for me is the end. I loved the drama of what happened, how it worked out, and was looking forward to the time when Joseph and the others were discovered. I enjoyed that the drama section lasted a good chunk of the book, that I could really feel for Lily, admire her determination. I liked that once back she wanted her just desserts, so to speak, in denouncing, those responsible but then tries to soften things because of Robert and James.
What I didn’t like was everything worked out a little too slickly, too easily, I wanted Joseph et al to suffer, but everyone seemed t take the view he meat well so that’s all that mattered. To me it wasn’t. His actions mattered, not just his intention.
I did feel too that Marian, who was innocent of everything, was the one who really paid the price. I hope somehow a future book has a happy ending for her.
Stars: Four, a great read, very real but the ending was that little bit too neat for me.
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Where the Lost Wander, Amy Harmon
Genre: Women’s fiction, General Fiction ( Adult)
Gah, I hate Women’s Fiction as a genre heading, so outdated. Men and women can read the same books….its 2019, not 1919.
Anyway, what a fabulous book. Fiction, but with real roots. I usually read books in one fell swoop, but with this kind of story I like to read over 4 or 5 sessions, savouring the words and events, and there is so much going on its really for me the best way to get the most out of it. I mull over whats been happening, over how events are going and really enjoyed living John and Naomi’s lives with them.
The descriptions of the scenery, the way the john and Naomi met, the others on the wagon train, the harshness of the journey. Amy doesn’t shy away from the hard side of this life, the way people could be alive one moment and then a short illness, and injury, an encounter with Indians and they’d be gone. Although it charts Naomi and Johns journey it encompasses so many more families, the mix of whites and their incursions onto the land, and the lifestyle of the Indian tribes who lived off the land and could see their way of life declining.
I was heartbroken when some events happened, sometimes the loss of life seemed so sudden, so tragic after all the hard work they’d done. I loved reading the events from the day to day minutiae, that always appeals to me and I felt there with the wagon train as they made their harsh journey, and with the Indians, seeing how they lived their transient lives. It was fascinating reading about not just the physical side of Indian life, but the spiritual side, how much emphasis that had on what they did, how they chose to run their lives.
Stars: Five, a wonderful read.
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Belgravia, Julian Fellowes,
Now a major TV series, from the creator of DOWNTON ABBEY
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
Well, I must be one of the few people who’ve not seen Downton. I haven’t had a TV for years – but my daughter and daughter in law love the series, and I recall reading another of Julian’s books many years ago. Throw in that I like historical reads and I wanted to try this.
To be honest I was underwhelmed. Its a reasonable story, intrigue, passion ( what passes for passion in the 19th century of course), some excellent characters and a real feeling of being there with them.
The historical setting was brilliant, I could visualise it and feel myself there with the characters watching scenes play out. What I didn’t like was the actual story, its very true to time in that circumstances and appearances are all, the innate snobbery of those at the top for any one a rung below, the desire to join their ilk by those who’ve made money but have no historical Name.
I just felt no excitement, no real mystery, everything was explained very fully as the story went on, so that by the end the only people who didn’t know the whole story were a very small group of those whom it concerned. I guess I like to try to work things out myself rather than be told them, told how the characters are feeling, reacting and whats going to happen next.
For lots of readers clearly that isn’t a problem, I can see the book has many stanch followers. That just proves what I’m always saying – reading tastes vary so much and a low-mid star doesn’t mean a poor story, just one which that particular reader didn’t enjoy.
Stars: Three, good historical setting but a story that didn’t really resonate with me. .
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Lost and Found, Liv Rancourt
Genre: LGBTQIA, Romance
One of the reasons I love LGBTQIA reads is that the romance that always seems to have that extra edge of passion. Maybe it’s because of the barriers, historically it was illegal, punishable by prison, and even now in our supposed enlightened terms its still frowned on. People still carry that bigotry and make life difficult for those who want to love outside what they feel is *right*. Sad isn’t it that we can’t all just live and let live in real life. Still, it makes for some fabulous fiction.
When we meet Ben its clear to see the War ( WW1) has affected him mentally, but of course its an age when such things were not only largely unknown but unspoken too, and he’s kind of floundering along, single mindedly searching for his childhood friend Elias. He can’t explain why he needs to do this for a friend but he just has to.
Its clear to the reader than they had more than just friendship, but in times like those Ben seems to have shut off his mind to the possibility that they were more, that he is attracted to men. Who can blame him when any hint of liking your own sex carried the taint of Unnatural, the threat of prison, the ostracising in society and employment prospects. Awful isn’t it that we could send people off to war, to die for their country but not let them live as they chose.
Louis is also a tenant in the building where Ben has rented a room, and at first he seems so surly, dislikable, rude. Yet their landlady is one of those who gently interferes in folks lives, caring about them as friends, really looks after her tenants, and somehow she engages Louis to help Ben. Together more they start to understand each other, learn about the things that plague them both, and Ben discovers some surprises about himself that he’d locked in his mind.
Its a wonderful story, a beautiful romance, with all the period details that allowed me to feel there with them. Books like that work best for me, where I almost feel part of the story, and am happy or sad along with the characters. Its not just Ben and Elias but a host of others here that made the story so real, they became people I felt I knew as friends.
At the end Liv talks about the story and says a certain part was at the suggestion of her agent. I’m so glad she took that advice, without that section it would be a good read, with that addition it becomes a great read. That part really moved me, let me understand Ben more, made the feelings between Louis and Ben more concrete, made the problems they faced more real.
I love it when a book delivers a love story but makes the characters have real issues, face seemingly immovable barriers to their love, and lets those problems take over a complete section of the story, not just a couple of pages. Ben needed that, I needed it 😉 and it really made the ending more satisfying.
Stars: Five, a perfect historical read, full of tenderness and emotion.
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The Love Child, Rachel Hore
Moan: women’s fiction – why alienate potential readers? Men write books enjoyed by women and men alike, and they read the same.
Anyway, having enjoyed many of Rachel’s stories before I knew I’d love this. Its an intense read, very emotional at times, and shows just how much ladies struggled back in the early-mid twentieth century.
Alice is nursing in WW1, at time when no-one knew if they’d see tomorrow, and many seized the chances they had. She was nursing Jack, they fell in love and like many, intended to marry after the war. Sadly for Jack there was no After, and Alice was left pregnant and unmarried, a scandal in her – and most – family.
Shipped off by her stepmother she was made to have Stella adopted. After all, though ostensibly she had a choice, loved her baby, wanted to keep this small piece of Jack, at 19 with no parental support for that course of action, she wouldn’t have been able to make a life for the two of them. Hobson’s choice as they say.
Stella becomes Irene, adored by her dad but never quite feeling wanted in the family, when it was clear that her mum favored her biological child Clayton. Its a lonely childhood, kids can be cruel, and she finds respite with Tom and his mum, a village oddity too, as an artist and unmarried mother.
Fast forward to the future, Alice becomes a devoted doctor, married and has children, but all the while there’s the secret of Irene. Irene is grown, works in an art gallery, loves Tom but he’s oblivious, as men often are ;-). She finds things that make her question the story of her birth and starts to search for her mum, someone kept secret so far. As the stories of Alice and Irene begin to connect those secrets start to come to light.
Its a lovely story, ends well, though for a while I feared Alice was in for yet more heartbreak. Its ever the way, men are expected, encouraged even to “sow their oats” but women must remain chaste, and if caught, the blame lays unfairly on them.
Stars: Four, its a lovely story, very real feeling, had me emotional at times, feeling as if I was there back in time with the characters.
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The Jasmine Wife, A sweeping epic historical romance novel for women, by Jane Coverdale
Well, this one doesn’t feature my usual bete noire, the “women’s fiction” category, but that runner just after the title? “Novel for women” – it means much the same and just makes me think, Why? Why alienate a potential swath of readers? Men write romance, men read romance, its time we stopped categorising stories as men/women reads.
Anyway, the story. I love books set in other countries, especially India/China/Japan, and especially set in a period of history where life was so very different not only between sexes but between races.
I loved this book, really made me feel there with Sara, feeling the heat, enjoying the rich aromatics, the colourful landscape, the busy markets and shops.
Its a good story too, what happens to Sara was what sadly happened so often then. Orphaned, brought up by relatives, and encouraged to marry rather than stay with the family. Didn’t really matter whether the match suited her, the fact that someone with a position in India chose her was enough. For those without connections there was the notorious “ fishing fleet” where desperate girls came on spec, hoping someone needed a wife.
Its hardly a romance a marriage like this, more a match of suitability. Perhaps, they don’t really know each other well after all. Sara thinks she loves Charles but barely knows him, and the man she meets in India, after a years absence is very different.
By her background, her childhood in India with very open minded, liberal parents though she sees the locals as people, while the British enclave here now are determined to treat them as lesser, as unfeeling, as beneath any decent treatment. What this books shows is just how it was in reality, and the sheer, breathtaking arrogance of people just because the are British is incredible. Its always amazed me how one tiny, little country became such a world power.
Of course Sara is lovely, way to good for Charles and the British Enclave in Madras. Charles is ambitious, and not above using Sara’s beauty to further his position, and insidiously bullies her into behaving with those who can influence his future. He sees her as a tool more than a wife, but then sadly he’s not alone. Women were regarded that way, possessions to be used, to be paraded out with, to show off, while they kept an Indian woman for what they saw as their baser needs. Wives weren’t allowed or expected to enjoy sex, but remain above such things, while men had “needs”…… Incredible how men who denigrate Indians in public still wanted them kept quietly somewhere for those needs. Sadly that was the norm, accepted even, and the poor ladies, Indian or British, had no say.
Sara gets a rapid eye opening about her husband, and of course the wonderful, attractive Ravi is a temptation she can’t resist. I loved the idea of their meeting being fated, that the signs, the gurus, Sara’s history, all meant it was inevitable according to Ravi. This idea of fate v personal choice always fascinates me, and there are times when things seem impossible but somehow work out, as if fate lent a helping hand.
Stars: Five. A gorgeous read, transporting me to India, desperate for things to work out for Sara, for her to be happy.
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A Guarded Heart, Heidi Kimball
Genre: Romance, Historical fiction.
This is a gentle read, veering from present to three years past, no great surprises, and the plot lines are a little cliched. The characters were OK, the way Society and the attitude to scandal works was spot on, but I wasn’t really invested in the couple enough.
I’d guessed pretty quickly what had happened, and as usual in stories instead of talking, Edmund goes off in a righteous huff. Stuff like this happens, but it makes me question just how strong feeling are if you believe someone could do that- and equally, how is it possible to just put it behind you once the truth is revealed.
I liked Eleanor and Edmund, hoped for a little more nastiness from the woman he’s currently courting, the claws came out occasionally but were pretty much sheathed. The story line involving Eleanor’s brother added a little extra to the last half of the story.
Overall though it was one I enjoyed but wouldn’t read again.
Stars: Three, a story that was a gentle read, but I wasn’t convinced of their True Passion, anyone that can drop someone that easily doesn’t deserve forgiveness so quickly.
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Enchantée, Gita Trelease
Genre: Teens & YA, Sci Fi & Fantasy
I really enjoyed this, its a fabulous debut read, with a very polished writing style. I was absorbed into the story very quickly and felt as if I was there with the characters.
The magic part of the story felt genuine, as if it could be real. I liked that magic has a cost, the user needs to pay. I was really sympathetic to Camille and Sophie, they found themselves without parents, without money, without employment and with a drunkard brother, through no fault of their own. In real life, things like that do happen, and Camille reluctantly employs her small magic skills to buy them food and pay the rent.
Its not enough though, and faced with losing their home Camille uses a darker magic to create a persona who can gamble ( and use her magic to win) in the court of Versailles.
There were some wonderfully descriptive scenes there, and characters who were sometimes more than they seemed. Along the way there’s the puzzle of Lazare. He too may be more than a simple balloonist. Camille has a scary, dangerous path to follow. Will they have a romance or won’t it happen?
Its all set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, making a perfect setting.
There are more books planned but this one ends well, no cliffhangers but a neat closure. I don’t know it he next book will be about Camille, Sophie or possibly some of the other characters we’ve met but I’ll be keen to read it.
Stars: Five, Romance, mystery, history and Magic, all in one cleverly written story.
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