Review of ‘Midnight Slain in Georgia’ by Anne Hagan

‘Midnight Slain in Georgia’ is a well crafted short story ideal for the upcoming Halloween season. Callie works for a travel company organising tours. One of them is a ghost tour of Savannah. Part of Callie’s job is to vet applicants to be included on the tour, and when one comes up with a link to history, she wants nothing to do with it. But along with her partner, Jo, she is required to check it out. Will an overnight stay change her mind about the property? And who is the ghost supposedly haunting the B&B?

The first thing that appealed to me about his story was the link to Anne Hagan’s ‘Loving Blue in Red States’ series. I’ve read all of them and was delighted to get a follow-up with two of the characters. There’s no need to have read the previous story, ‘Savannah Georgia’, but if you have you’ll bet an extra kick out of this story. The characters of Callie and Jo have a good humoured relationship which comes through here. They also have a hot and steamy time together and this is very evident in this story. The story was brilliantly executed and made me gasp. A clever and delightful tale.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘The Fiend In The Fog’ by Jess Faraday

‘The Fiend in the Fog’ is a wonderfully atmospheric story set in Victorian England. When a noxious fog envelops certain parts of the city there’s talk of demons. Abby and Gideon’s clinic begins to see patients affected by the mysterious goings-on. Meg and her brother Nat live privileged lives, but are drawn into the mystery, thought their own particular interests. What is going on in a nondescript building in the East End? What are they studying there – and will it have implications for the group of individuals, brought together by the fog and what lies beneath it?

The story was compelling from the very start, with a fascinating mystery and interesting characters. I loved the historical setting of 1885 London. The wonderfully descriptive writing pulled me right into the heart of the story, and I could just imagine the dirty buildings and awful stench of the city at that time. I won’t give anything away about what exactly they were looking into, or why they were all involved, but it was brilliantly done. I would love to see more from this group of characters, as their stories could lead off into so many directions.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘The Fair Botanists’ by Sara Sheridan

‘The Fair Botanists’ by Sara Sheridan is the standout novel of the year for me. It’s the wonderful story of two women and the connections they make in Edinburgh in the early 1800s. Elizabeth is a widow moving to Edinburgh to live with her husband’s family, and hoping for a better life. Her interest in botany and especially illustration, brings her into contact with those working at the new botanical gardens. The imminent flowering of a special tree has the city fascinated, as has the expected visit of the King. Belle has a secret identity and a plan for the future. She knows her present career will be short lived, so is using her interest in botany to ensure her comfort later. These two very different women find a common bond, forming a friendship that defies society’s expectations .

Elizabeth and Belle’s stories weave in and out with those of other prominent and not so prominent members of Edinburgh society. It is this that captured my attention and did not let go until the last page.  Sara Sheridan builds each layer, and connects each strand, with beautifully written descriptive pose. It’s  a story of life, of friendship and of love.  Highly recommended.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Death Goes on Skis’ by Nancy Spain

There  was nothing conventional about Nancy Spain, and there’s nothing conventional about ‘Death Goes On Skis’. It’s funny, observant, and unexpected. It’s a book of it’s time and there’s the odd thing that made me cringe, but the genius of Nancy Spain overcomes any of that. 

Yes, it’s a murder mystery, but it’s also a snapshot of a class of people, trying to hold on, to live as if a dreadful world war hadn’t just happened. The story meanders, but with a purpose. It reveals. It’s deliciously irreverent, with a very unusual group of characters. I’ve fallen in love with Nancy Spain’s writing and can’t wait to get started on the rest of her body of work. 

Review of ‘Murder at the Royal Botanic Gardens’ by Andrea Penrose

I really enjoyed ‘Murder At The Royal Botanic Gardens’ by Andrea Penrose. This is the first in the series I’ve read, but I had no problem following the various threads. Charlotte is a very unusual woman for her time. As well as becoming embroiled in murders and proving adept at solving them, she leads a secret life as an acerbic society illustrator. With the help of her fiancé Wrexford, her servants and her wards, she is once again in the middle of a mystery. The death of a renowned botanist is not all it seems. As she delves into the story it turns in a totally unexpected direction. 

Lady Charlotte intrigued me. I liked that she was so independent and had a secret life as an illustrator. She  could say things and hint at things without outing herself as such.  The time period was interesting too. The Regency period isn’t one I immediately think of for murder mysteries. But it works. There were twists and turns I didn’t see coming at all. It was a wonderful way to while away a few hours in a beautifully imagined London of the past.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Big London Dreams’ by Clare Lydon

I have read every book in Clare Lydon’s London Romance series and enjoyed every one. ‘Big London Dreams’ is the best so far. As well as love and romance, we are taken back to the 1950s, and to a time where girls were expected to find a nice young man and settle down. For Eunice Starling and Joan Hart that’s not so easy. Neither have been able to find a man that remotely interested them, and when they fall in love everything seems to click. But this was the late fifties and it took more than love to keep them together. Sixty years later they meet again and tell their story. Will it be happily ever after for them at last? You’ll have to read this wonderful book to find out.

‘Big London Dreams’ was the most heart-wrenching love story. A story of it’s time. But it was also joyful and heartwarming. Clare Lydon told the most amazing tale of true love, where time could not diminish the passion the women felt for each other. It was also beautifully written and the descriptions of London were so evocative. I could imagine it all so well. So much effort was put into making it just right. Although I knew there would be heartbreak, I could not stop reading. I knew that love would conquer all, and Ms Lydon did not disappoint. The fact that it tied in with my favourite romance series and the friends I had come to love, made it all the more special. Highly recommended.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Miss Graham’s War’ by Celia Rees

‘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. 

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Do You Know Dorothy?’ by Vanda

‘Do You Know Dorothy?’ is part of a series, following the lives and loves of gay people in New York City in the fifties. We follow Al Huffman as she builds on her career and tries to save the night club she helps run with her friend Max. She still pines for her soul mate Juliana, but here she learns more about the secret world of lesbians and gay men in that era. She also finds out things about herself and how she feels comfortable as a lesbian. Not that following the ‘rules’ comes easy. 

The story was interesting from a historical perspective, in that we find out how gay people lived, and how they were treated. The fight for equal rights was in its infancy, and in this novel Vanda explores the movement through her characters. Attitudes were different, even between one minority group and another. Although there is some romance in the story, I get the feeling this will be explored more fully in the next book in the series. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘A Woman To Treasure’ by Ali Vali

‘A Woman to Treasure’ is a cracker of a story. It’s an adventure, a mystery and a love story all rolled into one. Levi Montbard has loved history her whole life, and goes all over the world in search of antiquities. Her fascination with the Templars is particularly important, and when some writings come into her possession, the adventure really begins. Yasmine Hassani is a university professor, with a special interest in women’s studies. She’s an unusual woman in her culture, as she has so far resisted the expected marriage and children route. When she becomes aware of Levi’s quest she has to decide to take a leap, in more ways than one. 

Ali Vali has written a wonderful mystery, with well-researched historical detail and a heart-warming romance at its core. It has beautiful settings  in various parts of the world, with a fantastic group of characters. I particularly loved Louisiana and Morocco, and getting to know Levi and Yasmine’s families there. The story was brilliantly plotted, with stories and revelations that made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. The romance was sweet and endearing and gave me such feelings of joy when they as much as held hands. It was lovely to see the characters grow and change as they got to know each other, becoming who they were meant to be. An excellent book and one I can highly recommend. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Six Tudor Queens: Katharine Parr- The Sixth Wife’ by Alison Weir

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.