Monday, August 30, 2021

Mrs England by Stacey Halls


Hardback:    424 pages                                                                                                 

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Manilla Press

Source: Tywyn Public Library

First Sentences: The woods at night were far from silent. Nightjars and owls called their strange solos, and my boots crunched on the stones littered across the track.

Review Quote: Halls shows genuine skill in building the sense of menace within the England household and in the unfolding of its secrets. ― Sunday Times

My Opinion: I was originally introduced to the writing of Stacey Halls by my Book Club choosing her debut novel ‘The Familiars’ as one of our monthly choices in 2020. Since then, I also read ‘The Foundling ’ in March of this year. Thoroughly enjoying both her previous novels I had immediately requested ‘Mrs England’ from my local library as soon as it was published.

Although ‘Mrs England’ is a work of fiction, the author has very cleverly built the storyline around a real person and a dramatic event that occurred in a young girl’s life.  The protagonist Ruby May is based on this person, but I will say no more as I do not want to spoil the plot. You will be kept guessing as you become immersed in the intense journey that Ruby is on, along with the England family in their isolated Yorkshire home. 

Stacey Halls has in my opinion proved herself as a compelling storyteller for the 21C with this third novel. Historical novels but each one, so far, with such a different story to tell, highly recommended.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads: 

When newly graduated nurse Ruby May takes a position looking after the children of Charles and Lilian England, a wealthy couple from a powerful dynasty of mill owners, she hopes it will be the fresh start she needs. But as she adapts to life at the isolated Hardcastle House, it becomes clear there's something not quite right about the beautiful, mysterious Mrs England. Ostracised by the servants and feeling increasingly uneasy, Ruby is forced to confront her own demons in order to prevent history from repeating itself. After all, there's no such thing as the perfect family - and she should know.

Simmering with slow-burning menace, Mrs England is a portrait of an Edwardian marriage, weaving an enthralling story of men and women, power and control, courage, truth and the very darkest deception. Set against the atmospheric landscape of West Yorkshire, Stacey Halls' third novel proves her one of the most exciting and compelling new storytellers of our times.

Links to my reviews of her previous novels. 

The Familiars   The Foundling


Stacey Halls was born in 1989 and grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire. She studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and has written for publications including the Guardian, Stylist, Psychologies, The Independent, The Sun and Fabulous. 

Her first book The Familiars was the bestselling debut novel of 2019. The Foundling is her second novel.

Photographs and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites:

Goodreads Author Profile    Instagram Account    Twitter Profile   Author Website

Amazon Author Profile

Friday, August 20, 2021

An Act of Love by Carol Drinkwater


Paperback: 435 pages                                                                                                 

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Penguin 2021

Source: Tywyn Public Library

First Paragraph: The temperature is falling. Evening settling beyond the window. Darkness soon, a darkness that will enshroud me. I start to shiver. Not cold, but fear. Fear for what is to come. And yet ready. So ready.

Review Quote: 'A virtual hug of a tale' JOANNE HARRIS

My Opinion: I am a fan of Carol Drinkwater's writing about her life on The Olive Farm in the south of France and have also always admired her as an actress.  However, this is the first novel of hers that I have read, having only recently discovered just what a prolific fiction writer she is.

'An Act of Love' set in France during WWII contains wonderfully descriptive writing, so the reader gets a great sense of time and place throughout.  

A sensitively told story about illicit love, woven around the life of the young protagonist Sara, as she arrives in a small village in Alpes Maritime France in the spring of 1943. Fictional but as it is based on real events that occurred in the region, it feels even more realistic and emotional.

In my opinion a worthwhile read for anyone that enjoys a tenderly written novel set in this period.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

France, 1943.

Forced to flee war ravaged Poland, Sara and her parents are offered refuge in a beautiful but dilapidated house in the French Alps. It seems the perfect hideaway, despite haunting traces of the previous occupants who left in haste.

But shadows soon fall over Sara's blissful summer, and her blossoming romance with local villager Alain. As the Nazis close in, the family is forced to make a harrowing choice that could drive them apart forever, while Sara's own bid for freedom risks several lives . . .

Will her family make it through the summer together?

And can she hold onto the love she has found with Alain?

Video Trailer for 'An Act of Love ' Courtesy of YouTube

Author Profile

Photos and Text Courtesy of Carols Official Website. Visit to learn more about her.  

Actress Carol Drinkwater is probably best known for her role as Helen Herriot in the BBC series All Creatures Great and Small. Also an accomplished novelist, she has achieved bestselling status with her much-loved memoirs of life on an olive farm in Provence.

Carol has been invited to work with UNESCO to help found an Olive Heritage Trail around the Mediterranean Basin. The aim is to create peace within the region and honour the heritage of this sacred tree.

Photographs, Trailer and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

Goodreads Profile   Official Website - Carol Drinkwater  Twitter Profile  Amazon Book Page

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Two Women in Rome by Elizabeth Buchan


Hardback: 356pages                                                                                                 
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Mystery
Publisher: Corvus 2012
Source: Tywyn Public Library
First Sentence: He wrapped his arms around her and drew her even closer.
Review Quote: Buchan is a skilful writer ... captivating ― Sunday Times
My Opinion: As a confirmed Italophile and a fan of the writing of Elizabeth Buchan since the nineties, I was really looking forward to reading her latest novel.

It met my expectations, a mysterious story about ‘Two Women in Rome.’ Nina Laurence is the 1970’s protagonist. The other woman is Lottie Archer an archivist who has been given the task of archiving materials appertaining to Nina, her life in Rome and her murder.

Vivid descriptions and strong characterisation made it a very enjoyable read.

If you have a love of Italy and all things Italian plus romance and mystery in your reading, then I think you will be captivated by this novel.

Précis Courtesy of Goodreads:

In the Eternal City, no secret stays hidden forever...

Lottie Archer arrives in Rome excited to begin her new job as an archivist. When she discovers a valuable fifteenth-century painting, she is drawn to find out more about the woman who left it behind, Nina Lawrence.

Nina seems to have led a rewarding and useful life, restoring Italian gardens to their full glory following the destruction of World War Two. So why did no one attend her funeral in 1978?

In exploring Nina's past, Lottie unravels a tragic love story beset by the political turmoil of post-war Italy. And as she edges closer to understanding Nina, she begins to confront the losses in her own life.

Author Profile


   Elizabeth spent her childhood moving home every three years – including living for brief periods in Egypt and Nigeria before moving to Guildford, York and Edinburgh.

After graduating from the University of Kent at Canterbury with a double honours degree in English and History, she began her career as a blurb writer at Penguin Books.

Later, after having married and producing two children, she moved on to become a fiction editor at Random House before leaving to write full time which was something she had always planned to do since childhood

For a fuller biography please visit her website

Photograph and Biographical Information courtesy of the following sites.

Author's Official Website   Twitter Profile  Facebook Profile  Amazon Author Profile

Goodreads Author Profile