‘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 delighted to be asked to be a part of the Blog Tour for ‘Mrs Morphett’s Macaroons’ by Patsy Trench. Having spent over twenty years working in the theatre and television as an actress, Patsy now spends her times writing, fiction, non-fiction and also scripts for The Children’s Musical Theatre of London. ‘Mrs Morphett’s Macaroons’ is the fourth in her ‘Modern Women:Entertaining Edwardians’ series, and is set in the world she knows and loves best.
‘Mrs Morphett’s Macaroons’ is a funny, light and gentle story set in Edwardian London. Violet Graham finds herself producing a new play by Robbie Robinson, the man who would give anything to be her beau. As the pair try to pull all the strings together, we are given an insight into exactly what it takes to stage a show. First of all they need backers to put the money up. Then there’s the problem of who to cast, and a theatre to hire. The subject matter of the suffragette movement isn’t to everyone’s taste either.
I found this story delightful. It was humorous, had engaging characters and managed to deal with a serious subject in a different way. I loved the historical truths mixed in with the story of how to get a message across in the play without alienating the audience. I enjoyed following Violet as she became more confident in her role. Society wasn’t quite ready for women in positions of power. Neither were they ready for women to get the vote – until they were. This book was just the tonic I needed.
‘Spring of Hope’ by Cora Harrison is the fourth in her Gaslight Mystery Series. Famous writers Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens are friends and often hold dinner parties for eminent Victorians, most recently for engineers. As London tries to recover from the ‘Great Stink’ of 1859, engineers such as Joseph Bazalgette try to find a solution to the malodorous sewage problem facing the city. When showcasing their ideas a gruesome death occurs. Was it an accident? Or is there more to it? Wilkie and Dickens take it upon themselves to investigate. Dickens needs a distraction from his complicated home life. Wilkie’s mind has been on his recently acquired young housekeeper and her delightful child. Her difficult past is making life in their household far from easy.
I liked that the author used real life characters in the story. Her fictionalised account of their lives made for a fascinating read. This is a very slow burn book and it takes until quite near the end of the book for an actual death to take place. There is a lot of build up, and much detail regarding sewage and the attempts to solve the problems with it.
The author cleverly takes the reader down one path, letting us think we have solved the crime, only to take a twist in the other direction. A good read for lovers of the Victorian era.
‘Miss Graham’s War’ is the story of the aftermath of WW2. As the world starts to recover and rebuild someone has to organise and make sure it happens. They also have to make sure those responsible for the atrocities of the Holocaust pay for what they have done. Edith wants to do her bit after spending the war teaching. She wants to escape from the drudgery and expectations of her life too. But as she soon discovers, reconstruction and retribution are complicated matters. And deciding who to trust won’t be easy.
Most books concentrate on the actual war, so I found this story unusual and refreshing. Although I had an inkling of what went on post-1945, I didn’t know the half of it. This well researched book took me into the heart of Europe as the Western Allies fought for control of their enclaves. The question of friends and enemies was not as clear cut as it once was. As the Cold War took hold it was interesting to see where loyalties lay. There were some disturbing elements obviously as the truth of what went on in the camps became clear, but it was the truth, and the truth must be faced. It packed a punch and shocked me – but there were also beautiful moments of humanity and love. I connected with the characters, especially Edith. There were some surprising twists and turns, making it an excellent read.
‘Lying With Lions’ is a historical family saga, starting in the Edwardian era. Agnes Ashford is an archivist for the Bryant family, an important and influential family, thanks in part to the money from Lady Helen’s dowry. Whilst combing through the family’s papers she uncovers a secret. With this information she becomes invaluable to Lady Helen and her life changes for the better. But in order to hold onto that life Agnes must make uncomfortable choices.
I enjoyed reading about Agnes and her life, in a time where single women without family had difficult choices to make to survive. We see how society changes during the Edwardian era and into the new era of George V. The family Agnes works for has to change too. Their lives have been pampered and regimented for centuries, but the new era begins to break down the barriers between the classes. And the Bryants and Davenports were not prepared for that. The romantic elements of the story were handed well, as they were written with subtlety and a gentle touch. There’s a gothic touch to the story too and this added an extra element.
This is the second of this series that I have read, and it is just as good, if not better than book 5, which told the story of Katheryn Howard. This time we find out about the life of Katharine Parr, the last of Henry VIII’s six wives. Katharine Parr survived the King, and did not suffer the fates of her predecessors, who were either divorced, died or were executed. It’s a fascinating story, of a very strong woman. It’s written in an accessible way, explaining the historical background and characters involved. It’s a fictionalised account, but with an amazing depth of historical knowledge behind it. Katharine was loving and caring, with a sharp intelligence and a backbone. She stood up for her family and friends, in a time where being true to oneself could lead to the Tower. Alison Weir always takes us from the early childhood of each of the Queens and lets us see what life was like for girls and women in Tudor England. And we see that no matter their rank in life, they were ultimately breeding stock. She shows us the fascinating, witty, clever and accomplished women who had to fight to be anything more brood mares. We see the manipulations of their families and the political intrigue to get them married off to suitable, highly-ranked men. This was a beautifully told story, showing that the women behind the throne were the true heroes of the Tudor era.
Shivers ran down my spine reading this book. The author, Christina Sweeney-Baird, could never have known just how prophetic she was being when she wrote it, but it is astounding how much she has predicted. The world is in the grip of a viral pandemic that only affects men. Dr Amanda MacLean tried to warn the authorities, but no-one was willing to listen. Men soon realise the folly of ignoring her warnings as they begin to die. What follows are first-person accounts by women from all over the world, documenting the fall of the male-dominated patriarchal society we knew, and the rise of a female-led one. The storytelling is wonderful – perfectly paced, with an immediacy and emotional intensity that made me gasp. She amps up the tension, opening out the story as the virus spreads, and lets us see how society could be if women were in charge. If I had read this last year, before the pandemic, it would still have been a great story, but this year makes it even more so. I could not put it down. ‘The End Of Men’ deserves to be the hit book of the year.
‘Katheryn Howard – The Tainted Queen’ is the story of the fifth wife of Henry the Eighth. If you know the rhyme “Divorced, Beheaded, Died…..” you’ll know what ultimately happened to her, but finding out how she got there is fascinating. Alison Weir uses her extensive knowledge and research and weaves the life of Katheryn Howard into a novel that cannot fail to engage. We get to know the real Katheryn and it becomes clear why she ended up living the life she did. It’s a story of love, lust, family and political machinations. I loved the historical details of day-to-day life for the nobility in Tudor times, and the glimpses of life at court. Katheryn was a guileless girl, led by her heart. She was naive to the extreme. Being the wife of Henry the Eighth should have come with a set of warnings. After all, his previous spouses didn’t fare too well. By the end I just wanted to scream at her to stop being so utterly stupid. Didn’t she realise her husband was a murderous tyrant, not prone to forgiveness? I couldn’t put this book down. It was wonderful.
‘Breathe’ by Cari Hunter is the story of asthmatic paramedic, Jemima Pardon (Jem), the unluckiest woman in England. Or so she thinks. Meeting cherry, fun police officer Rosie Jones might be the start of something different in her life. They keep bumping into each other on call-outs and it’s full-on excitement from the beginning.
Cari Hunter’s sense of humour is a mixture of leg-pulling, sarcasm and the gallows humour that anyone working in the emergency services has to adopt to survive. The banter between the main characters is brilliant. It is so real and natural . The language and local lingo and dialect pulls the reader into the world of her characters in a way I’ve never seen with other authors. It’s hilarious. Also Cari Hunter- you make me starving every time I read one of your books! From dunking biscuits to roast dinners and hot buttered toast, I need to eat after every chapter.
The story itself is tightly plotted and full of action and excitement. The two women find themselves in danger more than once and Ms Hunter had me on the edge of my seat. I’m totally in awe of Cari Hunter. Her skill as a storyteller is unparalleled. I loved this book and highly recommend it.
Kamal Ahmed has a wonderfully engaging and easy-going writing style and it is shown to great effect in ‘The Life and Times of a Very British Man. He weaves the story of his family and his upbringing with the story of post World War 2 changes to British society . He is the mixed-race son of an African father and British mother and his experience of Britain from the 1970s onwards was fascinating to me as I grew up at the same time with many of the same cultural highs and lows – but from a different background. As immigration begins to expand and people come from all over the world to settle in Britain he shows how it affected him as an individual and the wider community. I enjoyed reading about his family and how he saw himself fitting in or not with those around him. His perspective was enlightening and really made me think. Seeing events of the recent past from his point of view was an eye opener. An excellent account that kept me enthralled..
I was given this ARC to review.