‘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.
‘Janet Jackson’s Yorkshire B&B’ by Becky Papworth is set in Hebden bridge, and is the delightfully funny story of a woman who is put upon by everyone in her life. Whatever life throws at Janet, she manages, somehow, to find a way to survive. Hilariously. Running a B&B seemed like a great idea, but as Janet soon finds out, nothing is ever that easy.
Her outlook is insightful and oh so true to life. She gets it right in so many ways and drops in so much about life, the little things we all recognise.
It’s about families and friends and hangers-on. Janet Jackson is a one-woman whirlwind. I’ve no idea how she copes and fits everything in. But she does, and with humour, energy and love. I loved every minute of it and it left me chuckling well after I’d finished the last page.
‘Time After Time’ by Louise Pentland is a heartwarming, funny and delightfully insightful story.
Tabby’s life is suddenly upended when her dad makes a surprise announcement over Sunday lunch. She likes to stay well within her comfort zone, but the dominoes begin to fall and there’s nothing she can do to stop them. As she tries to cope with the changes, she wishes she could go back in time, where things were simpler. Meeting Bea begins a voyage of discovery. The only problem is, Bea is in the 1980s, and Tabby has been pushed into the past. So why does everything feel right in 1989? And will her travels in time be the answer to her present day problems?
I loved the time travel element of this novel. As someone who grew up in the 1980s, I revelled in the retro fashion details. I adored the mention of long lost shops. I couldn’t get enough of the tiny day to day differences. I felt I was with Tabby as she discovered the world of big hair, even bigger shoulder pads and mountains of Elnett hair spray.
It was about Tabby discovering what she wanted from life. Wouldn’t we all love the chance to see ourselves from another perspective?
It was a beautiful story of love, self-discovery and hope. I adored it.
‘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.
‘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.
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.
‘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 have a new story out in the world. A sweet, healing short story. I hope you will enjoy reading about Bridget. This is the start of her journey. Maybe we will find out even more about her in the future.
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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.