Friday, April 12, 2024

The Hidden Years by Rachel Hore


Hardback:   496 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Simon and Schuster 2023

Source:  Tywyn Public Library

First Sentences: The clock above the porter's lodge of Darbyfield University was half an hour ahead of the time showing on Belle Johnson's wristwatch, but whichever was correct, she had been waiting ages for her life and the blazing noonday sun was doing nothing for her hangover.

Review Quote:  'GorgeousGOOD HOUSEKEEPING

My Opinion: I have now read, including this one, eight novels by Rachel Hore and looking back on those earlier reads it seems I enjoy her writing more nowadays. It was back in 2009 I first read one, so I guess we have both matured somewhat since then, both in writing style for her and taste for me. As with many of her novels, 'The Hidden Years’ is dual narrative and the author was originally inspired by a photograph of pupils from her father's old school , which was evacuated from Kent to Cornwall during the Second World War.

The novel is set during WWII and the sixties in Cornwall with Silverwood a fictional house being the link between the two eras. It is 1939 and Imogen has the task of escorting two young boys to their boarding school which has been evacuated to Cornwall.  Her life changes when she decides to accept a post there and not return home.  In the nineteen sixties part of the story the house has become a commune to which Belle has travelled with her boyfriend. As the two stories progress the connections become more and more fascinating and as the reader I wanted to know the outcome of this compelling novel.

Once again Rachel Hore has written a captivating story which I recommended to those readers that enjoy historical novels with plenty of secrets to be uncovered.

My reviews of other novels by Rachel Hore:  The Memory Garden   A Week in Paris

A Beautiful Spy  The Love Child.  One Moonlit Night

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

September 1939, troubled young Imogen Lockhart travels to Cornwall by train to deliver two small boys to their prep school, which has been evacuated to Penmartin House for the duration of the war.  When she’s asked to stay on at the school as temporary cover for the usual matron she readily agrees.  After all, it enables her to put off more serious decisions of what to do with her life.   But her time at the school turns out to be more complicated than she’d imagined.
In 1966, sensitive and musical Belle Patterson is restless. She’s finishing her first year at a Midlands university but not enjoying it and is troubled by secrets in her family life. When, after a chance meeting, she falls in love with talented and attractive folk musician Gray Tucker, he easily persuades her to abandon her studies and accompany him to Cornwall, a place that piques her interest because of a particular photograph she’s recently found of herself as a baby.
On a small commune at Penmartin House near the beautiful Helford estuary she finds life off-grid idyllic at first, the other people creative and interesting, but underlying tensions soon reveal themselves. 
When the conflicts in the commune come to a head, Belle is forced to face some difficult truths. She also comes to see how Imogen’s story entwines with her own and unravels the mysteries of her own family.

Author Profile:         

Courtesy of Amazon 

Rachel Hore is the author of thirteen bestselling novels, 

Full time writing only came after a career editing fiction at HarperCollins in London. She lives in Norfolk with her husband and they have three grown up sons.  

A full and interesting Profile can be found on the Amazon Author Page and even more on her Official Website

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Amazon Author Page   Goodreads - Author Profile  Twitter - Rachel Hore

 Official Author Website

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

A Letter From Italy by Rose Alexander


 Ebook:  428 pages      

Genre:  Historical Fiction                                           

Publisher:   25 March 2024 Bookouture

Source:  NetGalley - My Kindle

First Sentence: The nights were darkening earlier now that autumn was well and truly here, but the trees were still in leaf and provided cover for the woman slinking past, carrying something clasped close to her chest.

Review Quote: Had me riveted from start to finish… Had me reading deep into the night with only a few hours' sleep before I put the kettle on again to finish… I cried… I simply couldn’t put it down.’ Goodreads Reviewer.

Setting: Italy

My Opinion: 

A new to me author and a title that I decided to read because of my love of Italy. 

Written in the popular dual time-line style with in this case the prologue setting the scene. It is 1945 and in London a young mother abandons her baby although she had only intended it to be temporary.  The first story line is set in the 1970’s and the protagonist Sadie discovers that she is adopted. The second story line tells us of the wartime adventures of Betty a young Yorkshire lass. The vividly described Italian backdrop appears in both timelines as the two women’s stories gradually merge.

If you find romance intrigue and Italy appealing in your choice of reading material then I feel you will find this an agreeable read.

Thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

1945. The tiny bundle in her arms barely stirs as she hurries out into the dark street. Remembering Villa Teresa, a thousand miles away in sun-soaked Italy, Betty thinks of the letter she had to write to stop the bombing and save Gianni. Instead it cost her everything… And she will never see her beloved again. Now, letting her little baby go will tear her apart, but she knows it is the only way to keep her child safe…

Naples, present day. With nothing but the name of crumbling palazzo Villa Teresa scribbled on the page, Sadie clutches the scrap of a letter she desperately hopes will help her find her birth mother. It’s her only clue to go on. But with the heady scent of fresh lemons carrying on the breeze, and handsome local guide Luca by her side, she knows in her bones this is the right place.

Then, lost in the local newspaper archives, the pair makes a shocking discovery about the woman Sadie believes is her mother… How she did something terrible during the war. Shattered, Sadie must ask herself if she should continue searching for a woman who did her best to disappear.

Deep down, Sadie knows she can’t give up. But what really happened in that beautiful palazzo all those years ago? What led a mother to give away her baby? And will uncovering this devastating secret destroy Sadie’s heart for good?

Author Profile:                

                                           Rose    Alexander                                                                            

                                                 Courtesy of Goodreads 

The following passage is from her official website

About Rose

Rose has had more careers than is probably strictly necessary, including TV producer / director making programmes for all the major broadcasters, freelance feature writer for publications including The Guardian and secondary school English teacher, not forgetting cocktail waitress, melon picker and interior designer. 

Writing a novel is, however predictable the line seems, the realisation of Rose’s childhood dream and the result of finally finding ‘a voice’.  The triumph is that the voice was heard above the racket created by her three children plus rescue cat (tabby white, since you ask). Rose likens the experience of penning Garden of Stars, a multi-layered love story, 

to another recent achievement of learning to ice-skate: progress is two-slides-forward-one-back; insecurity, self-doubt and despondence reign supreme; onlookers laugh, mock or even worse, smile indulgently.... But the finished manuscript, polished and pristine, is like the perfect pirouette performed on freshly raked ice. (Rose can’t do pirouettes yet, obviously, they just made the best simile.)

Rose is currently working on several new projects including a novel based on a relative’s true story of an epic journey as a ‘flüchtlinge’, fleeing the vengeance of the rampaging Red Army as Nazi Germany collapsed.

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Author Official Website   Goodreads Profile Page.  Rose Alexander - Facebook Profile

Twitter Profile

Thursday, March 28, 2024

The Playgroup by Leah Mercer


 Ebook:  283 pages      

Genre: Contemporary Psychological Thriller, Fiction                                           

Publisher:   21 March 2024 by Bookouture

Source:  NetGalley - My Kindle

First Sentence: The fire started slowly, shy tendrils of light lapping at the dark. 

Review Quote: GRIPPING… Quickly DEVOURED So many DELICIOUS secrets… My mind was OFFICIALLY BLOWN! @stamperlady50⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Setting: England

My Opinion: 

Leah Mercer, who also publishes as Talli Roland is an author I have been following since 2010 when she published her first novel.  In my opinion over the years her writing has gone from strength to strength. It took me less than two days to read this latest addictive psychological thriller. I just had to finish before going to sleep last night!

Four women that are connected by their workplace and the secrets they keep are the basis of the suspenseful storyline.  The protagonists, Lenore, Alice, Georgie and Beth alternately narrate this twisted web of secrets, that unravels at quite a pace. Depression, addiction, chronic illness and controlling partners all feature. Quite concerning when you consider that all theses women are working with young children!

Certainly kept me guessing, as every time I thought I had worked it all out there was another revelation. If you enjoy psychological thrillers this one is worth reading.

Thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Breath catches in my throat and terror grips me as my daughter’s favourite jumper slides into focus. Time slows. Helpless, I watch my precious little girl run into the road. Screeching tyres slice through the quiet afternoon. Days from now, my friends will say the worst day of my life was all my fault…

A bright and welcoming haven, the playgroup sits at the heart of the town, tucked away inside a red-brick building. The Nest should have been the safest place for my rosy-cheeked, pink-obsessed daughter, Florence. Run by mothers like me, I trusted my newfound friends – Alice, Beth and Georgie – to take care of my child. But now my choice has left Florence fighting for her life.

My heart pounds thinking about what I will tell my husband, James. He stayed with me through the darkest times, and I thought some space would bring us closer. But as I watch our little girl sleeping in a hospital bed, I know our relationship may never recover from this.

How can I tell James what really happened if I don’t know myself? I can’t shake the feeling the other mothers are lying to me; they know I’d never let Florence leave the nursery by herself. We’ve all got dangerous secrets we want to protect, but if they expose mine, will anyone, including my husband, believe me when I say I didn’t harm my daughter?

A completely gripping psychological suspense about the dark price of protecting your family, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty, Adele Parks and Sally Hepworth.

Author Profile:                

                                           Leah Mercer                                                                                         

                                           Courtesy of Goodreads

Leah, who was born in Halifax, Canada, can't remember a time when she didn't love writing. From creating fake newspapers to writing letters to the editor, scribbling something was always on the agenda. Even the rejections she received after completing her first novel at age 13 didn't dent her enthusiasm.

So it makes sense, then, that she pursued a career in anything but writing. Public relations, teaching, recruitment, editing medical journals -- even a stint painting houses -- until she finally succumbed once more to the lure of the blank page. 

When she's not being jumped on by her young son or burning supper while thinking of plot-lines, Leah can be found furiously tapping away on her laptop, trying not to check Twitter or Facebook. 

Leah also writes romantic comedies under the name Talli Roland. 

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Author -Official Website  Facebook Profile   Leah Mercer - Twitter Profile

Instagram Profile

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

The Garnett Girls by Georgina Moore


Ebook:  336 pages                                                                                                

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: February 2023 HQ

Source:  My Kindle

First Sentence: Margo slammed the heavy door shut behind her, letting her hand linger on the cold brass of the doorknob.

Review Quote: ‘Moore finds wry humour in her protagonists’ dilemmas, conjures a beguiling sense of place, and wrings emotional depth out of the women’s fractious relationships with each other’ The Times

My Opinion:  

As a debut novel that I had heard a lot about I was looking forward to reading.  ‘The Garnett Girls’. It certainly met my expectations.

The Garnett Girls are Rachel, Imogen and Sasha three very different sisters whose early years were overshadowed by their free spirited mother and an alcoholic father who deserted them. The girls and their mother Margo are all weighed down by secrets, which they need to share with each other.  An intriguing family drama that centres around the family home on the Isle of Wight.

Recommended as an absorbing read for any reader that enjoys a well written character driven family story.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

Forbidden, passionate and all-encompassing, Margo and Richard's love affair was the stuff of legend--but, ultimately, doomed. When Richard walked out, Margo locked herself away, leaving her three daughters, Rachel, Imogen, and Sasha, to run wild.

Years later, charismatic Margo entertains lovers and friends in her cottage on the Isle of Wight, refusing to ever speak of Richard and her painful past. But her silence is keeping each of the Garnett girls from finding true happiness.

Rachel is desperate to return to London but is held hostage by responsibility for Sandcove, their beloved but crumbling family home. Dreamy Imogen feels the pressure to marry her kind, considerate fiancé, even when life is taking an unexpected turn. Wild, passionate Sasha, trapped between her fractured family and controlling husband, is weighed down by a secret that could shake the family to its core.

The Garnett Girls, the captivating debut novel from Georgina Moore, asks whether children can ever be free of the mistakes of their parents.

Author Profile

                                            Georgina Moore

                                             Courtesy of Goodreads                                       

Georgina Moore grew up in London and lives on a houseboat on the River Thames with her partner, two children and Bomber, the Border Terrier. The Garnett Girls is her first novel and is set on the Isle of Wight, where Georgina and her family have a holiday houseboat called Sturdy.

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Goodreads Profile.    Amazon Profile.    Georgina Moore - Twitter

Facebook Profile