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 ‘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 ‘The Christmas Proposal’ by Lisa Moreau

I know Christmas was months ago, and it might seem strange to be reading a Christmas romance in March, but ‘The Christmas Proposal’ is a book I would recommend reading any time of the year. 

Grace Dawson might be over her ex, Christina, but the thought of planning her proposal to another women makes her want to run for the hills. She has found a way past the hurt of their break-up and is ready to find that special woman of her own. Working for ‘Tie the Knot’ brings her face to face with romance every day, but so far she has yet to find love for herself. 

Bridget Cartwright is Christina’s new PA, and has been tasked with organising a romantic proposal for her. But Bridget doesn’t have a romantic bone in her body and doesn’t have a clue where to start. When she hires Grace for the job, the pair become stranded on Mistletoe Mountain, and it is there, in the most Christmassy town imaginable, that they begin to realise change is possible. Will they each be able to escape the past and find true love?

‘The Christmas Proposal’ is like a lesbian Hallmark movie. I wallowed in the wonderful Christmas feeling and forgot about the outside world for a few hours . Mistletoe Mountain was a beautiful small town, with warmth from Grace’s family and the townsfolk. It made me smile. It made me happy. I don’t believe Christmas novels are just for Christmas. In this case I would read Grace and Bridget’s story year round. It was the tonic I needed. 

Lisa Moreau writes heart-warming stories of love and romance. She makes me love her characters and the wonderful settings she chooses for them. I have read all of her books and adore them all. They are like a giant hug and a comforting escape when we need it most. 

I was given this ARC for 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 ‘We Are All Liars’ by Carys Jones

The Fierce Five have been friends since early childhood. Once close, they have drifted apart as adult life takes hold. In an attempt to rekindle the feelings they all had for each other, Gail invites the women to her cabin in the Scottish Highlands for the weekend. Will they find that friendship again, or will they discover that the lies we all tell each other are too big and too serious?

‘We Are All Liars’ is exhilarating, terrifying and very, very, clever. Told from the point of view of Allie, we see the lives the women lead now and how that has affected their friendship group. But the past cannot and will not be forgotten. There are secrets and lies that have remained hidden for twenty years, but once the women are together it becomes increasingly difficult to keep them from surfacing. I was shocked and surprised and could never have guessed where it was all going. Carys Jones took me on a rollercoaster ride, one I could not get off until the brilliantly conceived twist was revealed. What an amazing story.

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 ‘The End Of Men’ by Christina Sweeney-Baird

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.

I was given an ARC by LoveReading to review.

Due out 29 April 2021.