Review of ‘Queens of the Age of Chivalry’ by Alison Weir

‘Queens Of The Age Of Chivalry’ by Alison Weir is a masterpiece. I have read many of her fiction books on the lives of royal women, and those in the royal courts, but this is the first non-fiction account I have come across. Alison Weir, through meticulous research, brings us the lives of five Queens who lived through England’s Age of Chivalry. Covering the years 1299-1409, we meet five remarkable women, whose stories have never been told in such great detail and with such passion. She shows us that they were remarkable women in their own right, and not just mere appendages to the Kings, or pawns in political games. We meet Marguerite of France, Isabella of France, Phillipa of Hainault, Anne of Bohemia and Isabella of Valois. 

Alison weir is an excellent storyteller in her fiction books, and brings that flair to this non fiction account of the Queens. She gives us an insight into the daily lives of the queens. We learn how they spent their money, where that money came from and the strength they needed to live in turbulent times. 

Her descriptions of the the palaces made me feel as if I was there. I was astounded at that vast sums the women spent on clothes, food, trips and impressing foreign dignitaries. 

Most of all, I found it fascinating reading about queens I had previously heard little about.  There is so much detail about each one, and I take my hat off to Alison Weir at the work that goes into every book she writes. My interest was especially piqued at a theory she posits regarding Edward II. But you’ll have to read the book to find out what that was!

I was given this book to review.

Review of ‘The Automobile Assassination by MJ Porter

The Automobile Assassination’ by MJ Porter is set in England in 1944, when the war is in full swing and tensions run high. Chief Inspector Mason and Sergeant O’Rourke are called in when a body is found in the vicinity of the Castle Bromwich aerodrome. Unable to identify the man, the pair begin to question the members of the Air Force stationed there. Was he one of them? Could he have been a spy? Mason feels compelled to solve the case and find out who he was – and whether his death was linked to the war effort. 

This is the first book in this series I have read, but it won’t be the last. The story was compelling and opened my eyes to aspects of the war and the daily lives of those living through it. I liked finding out about the time period and the setting was interesting. The working relationship between Mason and O’Rourke was fascinating. The age gap worked well and I enjoyed seeing how they complemented each other. 

MJ Porter’s writing is well crafted and pulls the reader into the story. ‘The Automobile Assassination’ is a very good cosy mystery, with extremely likeable main characters. 

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Chaos At Carnegie Hall’ by Kelly Oliver

‘Chaos At Carnegie Hall’ by Kelly Oliver is a cosy mystery set in 1917 at the height of the First World War. Fiona Figg works for the War Office and is determined to prove herself, despite pushback from those who refuse to believe women can help the war effort. Frederick Fredericks has eluded capture so far, but the German spy is on Fiona’s radar. When he sends her an invitation to the opera at Carnegie Hall, New York, her bosses jump at the chance to nab him. Fiona is sent on the RMS Adriatic – but must babysit the flighty Eliza on the way. 

Fiona soon realises that her shipmates have much to hide, and her introduction to New York involves intrigue and political shenanigans galore. Will she capture Fredericks at last? Or is he not as guilty as he seems? It will take difficult decisions and superior sleuthing on Fiona’s part. 

I loved the time period as it captured the dangers of war and the perils for those working behind the scenes. Although the old world of privilege was still in full force on board ship and in New York, it was evident that everything was changing. Women’s suffrage was at the top of the agenda for some – and those opposed to it were willing to do anything to stop it. 

Fiona found it difficult to work out who to trust, as spies from all sides tried to influence the war. Who was a friend, and who could be a collaborator? I loved how the author brought in true events and real life characters and put a fictional spin on them. Thomas Edison, Dorothy Parker and J Edgar Hoover played their parts in the story and added to the historical interest. 

‘Chaos At Carnegie Hall’ is a delightful cosy mystery, with excellent historical detail. It is exactly the type of read to lighten the mood.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘The Maids of Biddenden’ by GD Harper

‘The Maids of Biddenden’ by GD Harper is the story of conjoined twins, Mary and Eliza, born around 1100 in Kent. Sent away to a priory when their mother died in childbirth, nuns bring them up for the first few years of life. Life seems limited for the maids, but as they grow into adulthood, their own individual talents become apparent. Power struggles in Kent society and local superstition could conspire to halt their progress. But the maids push back and inspire those around them. 

What stood out about their story was that they were so different and had to find a way to accommodate the other sister’s interests and needs. Mary’s skill as a healer was renowned, and Eliza became famous for her musical and song-writing talents. It was a wonderfully immersive tale, and I felt I was back there in the 1100s. The sights, smells and culture of the time were well described. 

That they are still remembered today tells us that their impact was great. 

I found their story fascinating, and I was glad that the author chose the uplifting route. I thoroughly enjoy it. 

I was given this ARC for review. 

Review of ‘The Empire’ by Michael Ball

It’s 1922 and Jack Treadwell Finds himself entranced by the glamorous world of the theatre. On the surface all is well, but tensions and secrets lie beneath the glitz of The Empire. Getting a job there is the dream he didn’t realise he had. Beautiful stars and behind the scenes rivalries draw him in and he finds himself with a chance of a great future – and the love of a wonderful woman. 

Michael Ball sets the scene well. His writing is cinematic and I can easily  imagine the story being filmed. I found the whole world of the theatre enthralling. I was interested in what went on in putting on a show. 

It was a good story with interesting characters, and had a very different setting – one that I hadn’t read before. I loved the characters, especially Jack, Grace, Lillian and Agnes . There was a charming camaraderie and ultimately a feel good factor. I loved it .

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Agatha Christie – A Very Elusive Woman’ by Lucy Worsley

As a huge admirer of the works of Agatha Christie, I have been eagerly awaiting the publication of ‘Agatha Christie- A Very Elusive Woman’ by Lucy Worsley. 

Telling the story of Agatha’s life, from her early years with an education-averse mother, to Dame Agatha, the most read female writer ever. 

Lucy Worsley has a very engaging style. Bringing together research from the Christie archives, as well as contemporary accounts and Agatha’s own words, she paints a picture of a fascinating woman. Whatever your preconceived ideas may be of Mrs Christie, this book gives a chance to reconsider. As expected the disappearance in 1926 is discussed fully, but unlike many commentators at the time and since, Lucy Worsley delves into the subject with an open mind. I found her conclusions convincing and thoughtful. 

I cannot recommend it highly enough. 

Review of ‘In The Mood’ by MW Arnold

‘In The Mood’ by MW Arnold is set in 1944 at the Air Transport Auxiliary service in Hamble, Hampshire. The female pilots are helping the war effort by delivering aeroplanes all over the country, at great risk. In this, the fourth in the series, they are again faced with mysteries to solve, and personal tragedies to face. Blackmail is the least of their problems, as peril mounts and they find themselves in grave danger.

They were an interesting group of women, and I found that I wanted to read more about them. The camaraderie between them was inspiring. MW Arnold captured the intense relationships and friendships that are part of war. His chatty style allows the reader to feel a part of the group, as they live day to day with war and the losses that entails. 

MW Arnold also managed to weave this group friendship with a mystery. I liked it and I liked them. They were a very diverse set of women, each with their own skills and challenges in life. An enjoyable read.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Letter From A Tea Garden’ by Abi Oliver

‘Letter From A Tea Garden’ by Abi Oliver is one of those stories that will stay with me. Eleanora Byngh is in a rut – and a bad one at that. Her life revolves around the next glass of whiskey, as she lives out her later years in England with her old friend Persi. When an unexpected invite from her nephew in India arrives, she begins to re-evaluate. Can one ever go back? Will she feel like a stranger in the land of her birth? Or is this the chance she has been waiting for to make a change? Going back to where it all began brings memories maybe best forgotten. But it may also be a new start for everyone. 

I must admit that I did not take to Eleanora at the start. She was crotchety and contrary and could not see past her next drink. She had settled into being a caricature of who she really was. Her friend and companion Persi knew there was more to her than the grumpy old woman everyone else saw, and nudged her in the right direction. Going back to the India of their youth and facing the truths they had been avoiding could be what they both needed. 

Abi Oliver described beautifully the sights and sounds of India. One could almost imagine being there. She brought to life the colour, the vibrancy and the excitement of a land on the cusp of something new. She also showed the poverty and despair of the majority of Indians. I was transported to pre-war India, when the Raj was still in full swing. And then to the horrors of war and famine. Eleanora’s story was interwoven with the historical realities of the time, skilfully and with attention to detail. 

“Letter From A Tea Garden’ made me laugh, and it made me cry. It was a story if secrets and lies, of love and loss. And ultimately of facing up to the past. I adored it.

I was given this ARC to review.

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 ‘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.