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.

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 ‘Marion Lane And The Deadly Rose’ by T.A. Willberg

‘Marion Lane And The Deadly Rose’ is the second in this series by T.A. Willberg. The year is 1959, and as the Cold War heats up, Scotland Yard is baffled by the discovery of murder victims with roses branded on their bodies. They turn to Miss Brickett’s agency for help. Marion is once again tasked with helping solve to solve the mystery, and working on one of her own. One of the new first year recruits should not be trusted. But which of them is up to no good? 

I enjoyed being back with Marion and her fellow Inquirers, working within the tunnels and underground passageways beneath London. This is a well-imagined series, full of intrigue and mystery. There is danger and darkness, but also camaraderie and hope. Marion had more confidence and a sense of purpose. She could see that her talents were appreciated and this made her push on in pursuit of justice. 

I enjoyed the group dynamic, as her friends and colleagues played a part in the case. The interactions between them were important and bode well for the future of the series. An enjoyable story.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Front Page Murder’ by Joyce St. Anthony

Irene Ingram is now editor in chief of the Progress Herald. Her father has left to report on the war in the pacific, and her fiancé is in training somewhere, preparing to join the battles in Europe. She may be a great reporter and ready to take on the role, but it’s the early 1940s. Many of the residents in her small town don’t agree. A woman in a position of power is extremely unusual and not always welcomed. Irene is determined to prove them wrong and gets the chance to show her skills, when a sudden and unexplained death hits close to her. With anti-Semitic attacks springing up in the previously quiet and welcoming town, Irene and her friend Peggy begin to investigate. 

I liked the historical World War 2 time-frame. It was very well described and it felt so contemporary even though it was set in the 1940s. These characters felt real.  She managed to make the reader feel a part of the time too. It was a fantastic story and so believable. I really liked Irene . She was strong, daring and clever, and I want to read more of her stories.

This book gave a very different perspective. We found out about the women who stepped up and took on responsibilities outside the home. Through Irene’s eyes we saw the barriers they came up against. 

The mystery was well told and kept me gripped throughout. I loved it.

I was given this ARC to 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 ‘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 ‘Marion Lane And The Midnight Murder

‘Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder’ is a wonderful story, with the most fantastic, strange and  imaginative elements. Marion Lane works in a run-down bookshop after a family friend secured her a post there. Or does she? In reality she works for a mysterious investigate organisation, hidden under the streets of London. She must tell no-one and even her own grandmother is oblivious to the reality of Marion’s life. When a co-worker is murdered, Marion must find out the identity of the murderer, to save someone dear and to save the existence of the secret world she has grown to love. 

The premise of a secret world underground is fascinating, and T.A. Willberg uses the most beautiful language and descriptions to pull the reader into the fantasy. I wanted to know what lay in every nook and cranny, and around every corner. It was mysterious and scary. It was exceptionally well-written and left me wanting much, much more of Marion Lane and her life below the streets of London.

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.