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 ‘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 ‘Georgetown Glen: Queermunity Living At Its Finest’ by Annette Mori

‘Georgetown Glen: Queermunity Living At Its Finest’ by Annette Mori is a book you’ll want to devour. Lucy and Bea buy an old ghost town, with the hope of turning the ramshackle old buildings into a retirement village for sapphic ladies of a certain age. As they make plans, they hire Fi, an expert in architectural restoration, and Saville an electrician. With the help of Lucy’s niece they begin to knock the old town into shape – until the resident ghost objects. As the group are forced to deal with the spirit in their midst, they uncover secrets and start to investigate the history of Georgetown. And there might even be time for a love story in there too.

Mori has a winner on her hands here. Her trademark humour shines through, and she has managed to weave a fascinating tale encompassing love, friendship and sapphic history. I loved the multigenerational nature of the story and the historical aspects too. I think Saville was my favourite character. She tried to come across as confident and a player.  But she wasn’t. She was caring and sensitive underneath it all. I love the fact that there can be many more stories to tell with this group of characters and those who end up living there. 

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 ‘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.

Review of ‘Mrs Morphett’s Macaroons’ by Patsy Trench

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.

I was given this ARC for review.

Purchase Link: https://mybook.to/MrsMorphett

Review of ‘The Dark Queens’ by Shelley Puhak

As a history graduate I thought I was well versed in the history of Europe. But as I found out reading this book, the important roles played by women have been erased in some cases, and my knowledge was sorely lacking. Brunhild and Fredegund were strong, powerful women who started out as pawns in the games of others, but went on to influence early medieval Europe. Merovingian France was forever changed by them and as a result the whole of Europe. 

I found their stories fascinating – Fredegund a slave who ended up a Queen, and Brunhild, a Princess who found a strength and ability to outmanoeuvre the men around her. This book can be read by those with a general interest in history. It can also be read by those with an academic interest in history. The author gives a detailed bibliography and notes section at the back. So if the reader so wishes, they have the tools to find out even more and look deeper into the subject. But if a desire to find out more about forgotten women, whose influence on European history is the aim, then this book does that too.

This book has expanded my knowledge of an era and of characters forgotten over time. It is written in a very accessible style and I found myself taken back there, imagining a time and place, and the people living that reality. 

I was given this ARC by LoveReading to review.

Review of ‘The Cornish Captive’ by Nicola Pryce

‘The Cornish Captive’ by Nicola Pryce is the sixth novel in her historical series set in Cornwall.  The year is 1800 and Madeleine Pelligrew has been imprisoned for the past fourteen years. Falsely accused of being insane, she has been moved from one mad house to another, until one day a man appears with papers feeing her. But she has suffered so much at the hands of men and finds it impossible to trust any of them. Can this man be trusted? 

As she hides her true identity, she attempts to find out exactly what happened all those years ago. Who was really responsible for her incarceration? The friendship of a French prisoner on parole, Captain Pierre de la Croix gives her some hope for the future – but can she believe him? Against the background of the French Revolution and its aftermath the people of Cornwall are unwittingly drawn into the actions of the secret resistance, never really knowing what side their neighbours and friends are really on.

I have always loved historical fiction, so jumped at the chance to read ‘The Cornish Captive’. Although part of a well-established series, it can easily be read as a standalone. The Cornish setting is beautifully described, with the sweeping landscapes of Cornwall an integral part of the story. The historical background of the French Revolution and the years following it, make the story all the more fascinating. Reading about such an important event from the viewpoint of the ordinary people affected made it feel more relevant. It was about more than Mme. Guillotine.

Madeleine’s story is the story of one woman, but also the story of so many women, whose lives were controlled and ruined by powerful men. I wanted to know more about this woman who had been damaged by the treatment of others and by her past. She had strength and determination and this saw her through many trials. One could not help but sympathise with her plight and also fear for her future. Could she trust Pierre de la Croix? Was he the answer to her prayers? 

This thoroughly enjoyable epic story took me through a range of emotions. Not just fear and suspicion, but love, joy and hope too. The writing was immersive and kept me hooked until the end. It left me happy, and so glad to have spent some time in Cornwall with these characters.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Spring Of Hope’ by Cora Harrison

‘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.

I was given this ARC to review.