Review of ‘The Sweetheart Locket’ by Jen Gilroy

‘The Sweetheart Locket’ by Jen Gilroy is the heartwarming story of a family of women, told between two time periods. In 1939, Maggie Wyndham is in wartime London, and has defied the wishes of her family who want her back home in Canada. Instead she signs up to help the war effort. Her love for an RAF officer goes against the class conventions of the time, but Maggie is determined and brave enough to decide for herself. When life throws her a few curveballs, she has to make some difficult decisions. Decisions that will impact her whole future and that of her descendants. 

In 2019 her granddaughter Willow has taken a DNA test and, along with her mother, has been given some very interesting and unexpected results. She has long treasured the sweetheart locket left to her by her English grandmother, but is now faced with the reality that her grandparents may not have been all they seemed. What is she to believe? Her quest to find the truth leads her to London and research that may uncover some uncomfortable truths. 

I liked that the story was told over two time periods. It alternated between wartime Europe and the present day, when Willow began her research into her grandmother’s past. I loved finding out about Maggie’s time in London, and how she helped the allied effort to beat the Nazis. She made lifelong friends, and it was these relationships that helped shape her future. Her love for two different men was a situation lived by many women at the time. And who knows how any of us would have reacted in the same situation. 

Willow’s story was one of discovery – not just about her grandmother, but about herself too. She realised that sometimes we have to take a chance. And her grandmother’s courage gave her the impetus to consider change. 

‘The Sweetheart locket’ was about love, friendship, secrets and sometimes lies. It was heartwarming and made me feel some powerful emotions. I laughed and cried with  Maggie, Willow, Millie and Vi. I felt invested in their stories and left them feeling happy and satisfied. I loved this book and heartily recommend it.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘It started With A Kiss’ by Clare Lydon

‘It started With A Kiss’ by Clare Lydon is a smile-inducing sapphic romance, with passion, sexual tension, and the author’s trademark British humour. Gemma and Skye meet in a bar in Cornwall and share the most amazing kiss either have ever experienced. But the strangers part, never expecting to see each other again. When they later end up working together, both agree that business and pleasure don’t mix well. But can they keep to their promise? With an attraction this strong it’s going to be a tall order.

I loved the connection between Skye and Gemma. It was intense, powerful and hot. Their chemistry was off the scale. But Gemma especially was determined that they could not let their feelings progress to the next level as long as they were working together. It caused tension between them – and not always of the sexual variety. 

As ever, Clare Lydon writes characters we can identify with. I could see where Gemma was coming from, but I so wanted her to change her mind. Skye was a woman dealing with hurt, but ready to find a way out of it. They were the right people at the right time for each other. They just had to get to the point that they could see that. This was a passionate, romantic, feel-good story. I loved it.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Death In A Blackout’ by Jessica Ellicott

‘Death In A Blackout’ by Jessica Ellicott is the story of Billie Harkness, a vicar’s daughter from the quiet and sleepy village of Barton St. Giles, who finds herself catapulted into the middle of a murder mystery during World War Two. When tragedy strikes in her own life, Billie flees north to Hull and the kind offer of hospitality from a distant cousin. But Hull is at the forefront of the bombings and before long Billie finds death all around her. When she enlists in the new Women’s Constabulary, she feels compiled to investigate a death that she is sure was murder. The local police do not agree. Billie must find a way to the truth, while keeping under the radar. Female police officers are not exactly popular with everyone and some will do anything to discredit them.

I love mystery novels set in the Second World War. Jessica Ellicott has managed to capture the flavour of the time and the historical detail is well done. Through Billie’s eyes we see the different lives lead by those in the countryside and the coastal cities. We also get to see the different lives led by those of little means, and the rich who think they can carry on as before. But it becomes apparent that life is changing for everyone.

Billie is a resilient and strong woman, but until she is faced with a dead body and a mystery she doesn’t realise it. I liked seeing her change. This was a good story and I am glad to see that the author plans more in this series. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Mystery At Lovelace Manor’ by Clare Chase

‘Mystery At Lovelace Manor’ by Clare Chase is the eighth in this particular series, but the first for me. It was easy to catch up with the main character Eve Mallow and the backstory of her life and the village. Eve has volunteered to help at Lovelace Sunday, a festival celebrating the romantic history of the the manor and its past inhabitants. But not everything goes to plan. When famous TV historian Cammie Harington is involved in a shocking ‘accident’ Eve feels compelled to investigate. Who could possibly have been involved? And why?

I liked the character of Eve. She played an integral part in her community and was determined and fearless. The mystery was fascinating and kept me interested. There were so many secrets being kept in the village and at the manor, that it was impossible for me to work out whodunnit. Clare Chase has an engaging writing style and has an affinity for her characters. She makes them come alive. I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more by this author. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘An English Garden Murder’ by Katie Gayle

‘An English Garden Murder’ by Katie Gayle is the story of Julia, a recent divorcee whose husband has left her for the gardener. Now living in the Cotswolds, Julia is trying to move on and start a new life. A quiet life. But when a body is found buried in her garden a quiet life is the last thing she is going to get. The local police force is spread extremely thin, so Julia finds herself investigating the murder – and becomes embroiled in more than she bargained for. As she gets to know her neighbours, and becomes mum to a wayward puppy, the ex-social worker finds her skills from a previous life in London very useful. Will she be able to catch the killer before anyone else gets hurt? 

Katie Gayle has a delightful touch, marrying the quaintness of village life with humour and kindness. Julia is a likeable character, with determination and grit. She wants to become a part of the community – just not in quite the way it turns out. She has seen everything in her life in London social work, so is not phased when death turns up on her doorstep. This charming and well-written cosy mystery has an ideal setting, believable characters and the potential for many more stories. I really enjoyed it and was delighted to find that there’s more Katie Gayle books in the offing. 

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Cause of Death’ by Anna Legat

‘Cause Of Death’ by Anna Legat is the third in the Shires Mysteries Series. I haven’t read the previous books, but had no problem jumping in at this point. It can certainly be read as a standalone or as part of the series. 

Maggie Kaye and Sam Dee are part of a group of villagers trying to save the local meadows from developers. When one of the protesters is killed, they take it upon themselves to investigate. Maggie has some very specific skills which I found a lovely surprise. Sam has a legal background and between the two of them they are a formidable duo. Maggie needs Sam to temper her more elaborate schemes to get information, and he needs her emotionally.

I really liked that they could go off and do their own investigations and then come  back together to collaborate. The author skilfully managed to weave various threads in this well written and plotted mystery. It was a corker of a story, with a believable setting and characters I enjoyed spending time with. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Elizabeth of York – The Last White Rose’ by Alison Weir

‘Elizabeth of York’ by Alison Weir is the story of Elizabeth, the last White Rose, as thereafter the houses of York and Lancaster joined to become the House of Tudor. Elizabeth has lived her entire life in fear of one political upheaval after another. Her young life is interrupted by the need to seek sanctuary as her father fights to hold onto his throne. On his death her future looks uncertain. Will she be forced into marriage with her uncle?  Or will she finally meet and marry the Lancaster rival to the throne, Henry Tudor? The difficult choices she must make will not only affect her own life, but those of her family and the entire country. 

Alison Weir fills in a lot of the backstory using conversations between the young Elizabeth and her mother. And this was certainly needed, as there are many players in this story and their relationships to each other are extremely important. There is a list of those involved and how they relate to each other at the beginning of the book and I found myself having to refer to that several times. 

We are reminded that very young children are but pawns in royal households at this time. They are married off at very young ages and sent away from their families. Power seems to trump close and loving familial relationships, especially in the eyes of Elizabeth’s parents. 

The author managed to make Elizabeth very real to me. I could imagine her fears as well as the joyful moments in her life. Alison Weir gets into the heads of her main characters, giving her readers a way into the past. Elizabeth had a  lifetime of being a part of, and watching the machinations of, those intent on power at all costs. Her fortunes would rise and fall, depending on how the political situation changed.

I found her story fascinating. Weir pulled me into Elizabeth’s world, and transported me to a time and place vital to the future of the monarchy. Her knowledge on the subject is astounding and I learned so much about an amazing woman. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘A Body On The Beach’ by Dee MacDonald

‘A Body On The Beach’ by Dee MacDonald is book 5 in her Kate Palmer Mystery Series. This is the second one I’ve read and I’m quickly becoming a big fan. 

The whole village looks forward to the Tinworthy summer fete, but this year it turns out to be a lot more interesting and deadly. When a body is found on the beach, Kate is the first on the scene, and due to an earlier spat with the victim, becomes prime suspect. She’s not the only one in the frame though. Sienna Stone was a singularly unpleasant individual, and the list of those who could have killed her grows and grows. But Kate is determined to get her own name removed from that list, and with her new husband Woody, takes on the mantle of amateur detective once again.

Dee MacDonald writes delightful cosy mysteries, with wonderfully picturesque settings. This book is no exception. Her characters feel like people we all know, and the scenarios extremely believable. Kate is a caring and inquisitive person, with an understanding of how people tick. She can also be reckless and puts herself in some very dangerous situations. Her relationship with Woody is ideal, as he is the sensible and measured foil to her more elaborate plans. ‘Body On The Beach’ is a very good story, with plenty of twists and turns – and the odd red herring to spice things up. I really enjoyed it.

I was given this Arc to review.  

Review of ‘Two-Way Murder’ by E.C.R. Lorac

‘Two-Way Murder’ by E.C.R. Lorac was not published in the author’s lifetime, but thankfully the British Library has published it as part of the Crime Classics series. A mysterious disappearance the previous year is still being discussed as the local ball in Fording’s takes place. When a body is found on the road that very night, Waring of the C.I.D. is called in to investigate. It will take more than just a flair for investigation to unravel the mystery as the locals close ranks to keep their secrets. 

‘Two-Way Murder’ is a puzzling mystery and one that confounded my own detection skills no end. I enjoyed the careful and methodical way Waring sought his answers. The author’s skills lie in excellent storytelling, exquisite characterisation and misdirection. I loved wallowing in the Golden Age of Crime with E.C.R Lorac, a writer deserving of more recognition.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘In Place of Fear’ by Catriona McPherson

‘In Place of Fear’ by Catriona McPherson is set in Edinburgh in 1948, at the birth of the NHS. Helen begins a new job as Medical Almoner, which is a welfare role within the practice. Whatever the doctors can’t help with medically, will normally fall under her remit. Her family don’t seem happy that she’s even working, never mind with two male doctors. They are of the opinion that a married woman should be having babies and staying at home. There is also the inverted snobbery attitude that she is trying to rise above her station in life, and girls like her from the poor tenements should be working in factories, not a doctor’s office. When Helen stumbles across a dead body, she finds her herself investigating the murkier side of life. It seems people will stop at nothing to prevent scandal, and by poking her nose in, Helen is in grave danger. 

I have read Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Silver series set in the 1920s and enjoyed them immensely. This is very different, in that the heroine is a working class woman, dealing with the harsh realities of life just after the Second World War. The historical aspects of the new NHS fascinated me. Its inception made life bearable for so many people and continues to this day, despite the efforts of some politicians.

The descriptions of Edinburgh in the 1940s felt so real and so desperate. The poverty was appalling still. The use of local language and dialect gave it a gritty reality, and I hope that those reading out-with Scotland will appreciate its richness.

The mystery is well told, as Helen delves into the seedy underbelly of Edinburgh, and finds out some secrets that others will kill to keep hidden. It was tense and compelling. There was also love and loyalty and a desire to make things better. I loved it.

I was given this ARC to review.