I just thought I would write to let you know that The Bobby Girls Secrets by Johanna Bell, that I reviewed awhile ago now, is published today. If you haven’t already tried this wonderful series about the first volunteer police women during World War 1, then do take a look, you may be pleasantly surprised; even if this isn’t your usual genre. This is a sequel to The Bobby Girls. I have provided links to both books, which include my usual bit about the author, the blurb and my review.
The Fall of the House of Byron By Katy Brand Rated:****
Newstead Abbey is a place I know well. I have played in its ground as a child in the school summer holidays, when visiting relatives. I have explored both the grounds and the abbey with more of a keen adult eye too, so this book was of interest to me. I am very grateful to publisher – Hachette UK for allowing me to review the book.
The book is quite unique in the perspective it takes as it talks about lives, loves, deaths and no matter where else the book takes you, it does have a focus on Newstead Abbey itself too, as a building, a home, an estate and how it is all part of the society. It is such a unique perspective on all of the Byron family. It is informative as well as emotional and yet matter of fact in Georgian England. There are a few good photos and a few poem excerpts as well, to tell their family story. So, take a look at the blurb and my review. I have inserted a photo of Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire, that I took on one of the visits there.
In the early eighteenth century, Newstead Abbey was among the most admired aristocratic homes in England. It was the abode of William, 4th Baron Byron – a popular amateur composer and artist – and his teenage wife Frances. But by the end of the century, the building had become a crumbling and ill-cared-for ruin. Surrounded by wreckage of his inheritance, the 4th Baron’s dissipated son and heir William, 5th Baron Byron – known to history as the ‘Wicked Lord’ – lay on his deathbed alongside a handful of remaining servants and amidst a thriving population of crickets.
This was the home that a small, pudgy boy of ten from Aberdeen – who the world would later come to know as Lord Byron, the Romantic poet, soldier, and adventurer – would inherit in 1798. His family, he would come to learn, had in recent decades become known for almost unfathomable levels of scandal and impropriety, from elopement, murder, and kidnapping to adultery, coercion, and thrilling near-death experiences at sea. Just as it had shocked the society of Georgian London, the outlandish and scandalous story of the Byrons – and the myths that began to rise around it – would his influence his life and poetry for posterity.
The Fall of the House of Byron follows the fates of Lord Byron’s ancestors over three generations in a drama that begins in rural Nottinghamshire and plays out in the gentlemen’s clubs of Georgian London, amid tempests on far-flung seas, and in the glamour of pre-revolutionary France. A compelling story of a prominent and controversial characters, it is a sumptuous family portrait and an electrifying work of social history.
Pic of Newstead Abbey – taken by Louise – writer of this blog
Pic of Newstead Abbey – taken by Louise – writer of this blog
The book starts in late summer, 1798 and takes readers on a grand tour. The writing is exquisite and the content is rich. I very much like that we meet Joe, a long time steward and readers will then be treated to a tour of Newstead Abbey and into its past and of its priory and monks. The grand tour is written so well, that even if you haven’t been there before, you get a real sense of the Abbey and its grounds and the history each room holds. It’s almost as though you are there on the tour itself. The Abbey is steeped in history, in George’s ancestry, love and scandal. It’s interesting to learn a bit more about the tragic Frances. In 1726 There was another baby born into the Byron family and such congratulations from Thorsebury Hall and Welbeck Abbey (which can still be visited too) and many more high-standing people such as the Duke of Newcastle at Clumber Park (it is a fine and lovely Nottinghamshire park. I played there as child and walked round with the tread of adult feet).
This book is about Newstead Abbey and the Byrons. It isn’t so much about the life and death of the poet Lord Byron, who we all know, but more how they came to have Newstead Abbey and about the generations of Byrons, perhaps the stories that are less familiar and less told. It is however no less interesting, scandalous and emotional. The author has also told of some of the politics of the time (thankfully not too much). As much as I may have liked to read a bit more about the Lord Byron we know more about and about Newstead Abbey, this is still a very good book. It’s perhaps more unique than that of what has been done before, because there is certainly no reason why all the Byrons shouldn’t be written about. Everything is also put into context very neatly as it also looks at a wide scope of social and political history too. It all adds interest to them and to Newstead Abbey, which is steeped in history, even from the angle Emily Brand has taken. I recommend it.
The book tells of the successes in battle out at sea and of love, as well as the tragedies and ultimately their downfall. The book takes readers, of course to Newstead Abbey itself, but also to other places around Nottinghamshire in England and up to Scotland and abroad, in what is a book so well-written that it feels so remarkably easy to read. The facts are all there, but in such a form that flows even easier than the water mentioned throughout the book. The chapters are named after parts of Newstead Abbey itself, which not only ties in the abbey, although the book also talks about other places, it also feels like this writer is respectful in doing this.
The book then moves onto time spent in London, a far cry from leafy Sherwood Forest, and its new developments and re-builds after the Great Fire of London and the coronation of a new king. There is a well-written contrast between London and the beauty and the nature within Newstead Abbey.
The education of the children is also mentioned and you can feel some of the anguish around it. You learn a great deal about the Byrons and their early life and as their lives develop, sometimes also colliding with tragic times.
The Byron’s certainly were busy as they got involved in shipping on trade and business voyages. There’s also a tragic disappearance of a ship.
Slight political elements are mentioned and this, apart from being interesting as they formed the Byron’s lives, it also firmly, but informally, places useful timelines on what was happening in the wider world too as it goes into events on the fields of Flanders and Scottish clans, as well as skirmishes and worse, that was happening in Edinburgh, Scotland and further up to Culloden, Inverness and up to Aberdeen as this was Jacobean times, before turning attentions back onto Newstead Abbey and the renovations and additions, William introduced to the exterior and interior. I like that someone said the Byron’s were good landlords. There is however, much scandal, including murder. This book really does seem to cover it all, as well as certain ways Lord Byron voted. However, it seems to be Newstead Abbey that is a love and he seems drawn back to Nottinghamshire and his visions for it.
The Upper Lake takes readers back to sea, documenting the life and trials there and it’s certainly rough and nothing about it is romantic. I feel the author speaks of a truth and authenticity about the realities of being out at sea.
The Great Dining Hall is back on land with George Byron at Halanby Hall, on his honeymoon as he wed Annabelle Millbanke. He seems romantic, but prone to a temper. Readers can also learn how Byron’s sister became the Countess of Carlisle and her pregnancy and of the entertainment. The writing changes tone, from that of the sea. It has a more romantic air, but each draws you in nearer and yet there always seems to be heartbreak and troubled, tortured times, in amongst the better days.
Folly’s Castle takes readers to the time Lord Byron spent there with fellow poet companions, such as Shelley. The chapter also goes into more revolutionary times and was also happening in America as New York became under British control. Again, however all is not well back at Newstead as it tells of how things were auctioned off at a nearby Mansfield auction house and back at sea was treacherous. The detail put into this, is interesting. It also looks at what was happening in France at the time, with a new Princess being born into Versailles, all the while ensuring attentions are also focussed on Newstead and the Byrons and more scandal over love affairs, this time with Amelia and Jack and their child. I get the feeling times would not have been dull, working within the properties the Byrons used, as a footman was about to find out. This part also shows Daws in Lancashire and how his property is also somewhat failing .
The Great Gallery is fascinating about the changing fashions in music as Mozart bursts into the music scene and man is starting to conquer the skies, it alludes almost to the Byrons having to try to catch up due to them actually slowing down, which in earlier chapters seemed quite impossible to imagine and yet their reputation seemed to preceed them. There are also by now, new friends readers will meet and of course more highs and lows to encounter. It also takes readers to when Sophia is in Bath, the society and her troubles there. I love that the attention again goes back to the state of Newstead Abbey. It’s interesting to read what locals at the time, thought of the statues being installed there.
The Chapel not only looks at some financial and health issues, but also an incredible storm in 1787. The description, brief as it is, of what happened to part of Newstead Abbey is powerful. There is great sadness however over deaths and a dwindling generation, that is written with great sensitivity, whilst telling the facts.
The Epilogue – Cloisters is interesting and mentions Joe and his wish to be buried by Boatswain. I can tell you, because I have seen it, there is a memorial to Boatswain in the grounds, with the most beautiful poem on it. The Epilogue also provides a very well written conclusions about to those who made up the Byrons and their depth of character.
There is a beautiful, but somewhat emotional poem in the appendix.
As I finish the book, in some ways, I didn’t quite want to end it and in some ways there is an overriding sense of satisfaction and also a mysterious calm, when you do reach the end, that I had not expected. Perhaps because there is so much heartbreak and anguish within the book. It is so well researched and written that it is in many ways, lavish, yet not unrealisitically so. It feels like Emily Brand has done this justice. It isn’t dramatic or sensational in any way. What there is however, is a sense of satisfaction and of knowing more about the Byrons than you might have done previously to reading this book.
*Photos are taken by Louise, writer and owner of this blog, to illustrate, to those who perhaps don’t know what Newstead Abbey looks like today.
The Bobby Girls Secret By Johanna Bell Rated: 5 stars *****
This is a delightful sequel to The Bobby Girls. I’ve been looking forward to re-joining the volunteer policewomen and I am so pleased that I have the opportunity to and to review this excellently written and researched book that has wonderful characters and plot.
I thank Joahnna Bell for being in touch with her publishers to ask them to accept my request to review again and I thank her publisher Hodder and Stoughton for accepting my request to review this wonderful series of books.
About the Author
Johanna Bell cut her teeth on local newspapers in Essex, eventually branching ut into magazine journalism, with stints as a features editor and then commissioning editor at Full House magazine. She now has sixteen years’ experience in print media. Her freelance life has seen her working on juicy real-life stories for women’s weekly magazine market, as well as hard-hitting news stories for national newspapers and prepping her case studies for TV interviews. When she’s not writing, Johanna can be found walking her dog with her husband or playing peek-a-boo with her daughter.
As the Great War rages on, will the truth come out?
1915. Best friends Irene, Maggie and Annie are proud members of the newly renamed Women’s Police Service. While Britain’s men are away fighting in France, the girls are doing their bit by keeping the peace at home in London’s East End.
But out of the blue, Irene is given the opportunity to be stationed near an army barracks in Grantham, Lincolnshire. Having recently experienced some heartbreak and keen for the adventure, she decides to go. What could possibly go wrong?
It turns out, plenty. One of the other WPS girls takes an immediate dislike to her and makes her life a misery. On top of that, the man she thinks could be the answer to all her problems isn’t all he seems. And when she finds a psychologically disturbed deserter in hiding, she has a very difficult decision to make . . .
Can Irene overcome all these obstacles without Maggie and Annie by her side, and find true happiness at last?
As soon a I read The Bobby Girls, I wanted to read The Bobby Girl’s Secrets. I must say I was not disappointed. After the first one, I just knew that the second one would be worth the wait. This set of girls have captured me and this is turning out to be one enthralling series, with very likeable characters and highly believable plots. This is down to the research that Johanna Bell has put in, and clearly she has a love of this time period. I love too, that even though there’s a lot going on in the women’s personal and work lives, there are strong bonds of friendship, something perhaps people can carry through into their own lives during and after challenging times.
We re-join Irene, Maggie and Annie in 1915 on Bethnal Green. The three women, in their 20s, who made it to join the Women Police Service (WPS) are now firm friends, despite such different backgrounds and having little in common. There is a great camaraderie about them as they look out for each other. Johanna Bell, ensures you really get to know these likeable characters and their personal lives, as well as their working ones and she does it in a way that you want to be involved with them. There’s heartache and hard-hitting issues, and yet it’s a lovely relaxed pace. The book deals with prostitution (nothing explicit), the consequences that war is having on the men and life in-between, such as how hard it is to deal with losing someone you have feelings for and yet not necessarily reciprocated.
Readers will travel to Grantham to see what new challenges are posed and there are some new characters to meet, such as, Mary, Ruby, Helen and Chief Inspector Boldwood. The issues of status are nicely shown and the differences in attitudes and acceptance of policemen and those who are women on the volunteer team, not to mention some tensions between those in Grantham and a Londoner who had an easier time than them. There’s the trials of things being different in London and the countryside. There’s also tensions between stall holders and soldiers, with the merchants giving the men a hard time. There’s also challenges of getting used to the imposed curfews,due to prostitution. It is interesting to read about the different attitudes and opinions on it, from the volunteer women’s police service point of view. It isn’t all work however as romance is in the air, but all is not all as it seems.
The book is very well researched and is very interesting about different attitudes of the time. Although there is less of the characters (apart from Irene) in the first book, this is still a very good read as Irene carries the story forward and it is interesting meeting new characters in a new location. I feel it also gives a wider perspective of what was happening at that time.
Just like in The Bobby Girls, there is a really interesting part in the last pages of the book, after the story has finished and after the acknowledgements, there are some brilliant photos of Grantham and the people depicted within this book.
You can Pre-Order now from bookshops (lots are open for business online, including independent bookshops) and Amazon. The published date is May 2020.
Look out for the third book in this delightful series – Christmas With The Bobby Girls.
Happy World Book Day and I hope that everyone is having a fabulous day, however you are celebrating. There are many author events going on around the UK in public and community libraries as well as schools. There are also lots of other bookish events too that can be participated in as you read for pleasure. There are also other ways you can participate in World Book Day, if you cannot attend an event, such as, curling up with a good book and leaving an author a review on Waterstones and Amazon.
Today I am attending a World Book Day Event to hear a talk by rising star Alison Belsham, author of The Tattoo Thief and then it will be my turn to host an event up here in Scotland too on Monday with Liz Treacher – author of The Wrong Envelope and The Wrong Direction.
I also have some great books in my review pile for both adult and children that are being published between this month and summer.
In the pile I am currently reading are fiction and non-fiction books. In no particular order of publication or review dates, look out for book one of a new series by Ben Kane – Made in Battle, Forged in War; Us Three by Ruth Jones (yes, the actor/writer from Gavin and Stacey and author of Never Greener); Eileen – The Making of George Orwell, Eileen was his wife, but not much is known about her, until now…; Paper Sparrows; A Conspiracy of Bones – the latest book by Kathy Reichs; I return to reviewing again for Lesley Kelly for her book Murder at the Music Factory – the latest in the health of Strangers series (read as a series or stand alone); I return to The Bobby Girls series to review the latest book – The Bobby Girl’s Secrets to see what the police volunteers are up to in their second and newest book.
I return to Janey Louise Jones children’s books to see what else Princess Poppy has in store now she has worked out how to save the bees. This time she is tackling plastic. I also will be reviewing for a charity Helping Hands who have had the Duchess of York on board to craete books about how to tackle bullying, first days at school and strangers. There is a fantasy book to continue the series about Akra The Healing Stone, by Vacyn Taylor and a new book – Snow Child by a new author – Larraine Harrison.
This is just a few of the books sitting on my pile to date that you will start to see full reviews for soon. So, lots of books for you to look forward to exploring and to see what I think of. Coming up very soon are some children’s books and then an adult thriller that Lee Child and many other authors have a lot of praise for.
I of course thank all the authors, publishers and blog tour organisers for all these amazing opportunities to review and of course I thank just as equally, the readers of my blog as without everyone, my blog couldn’t exist.
I am excited to present the cover reveal for Gossip’s Choice. Read on to learn a bit about the author and what it’s all about.
About the Author
Dr Sara Read is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University. Her research is in the cultural representations of women, bodies and health in the early modern era.
She has published widely in this area with her first book Menstruation and the Female Body in Early Modern England being published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2013.
She is a member of the organising committee of the Women’s Studies Group, 1558-1837 and recently co-edited a special collection produced to celebrate the group’s 30th anniversary.
She is also the co-editor of the popular Early Modern Medicine blog. With founding editor Dr Jennifer Evans, Sara wrote a book about health and disease in this era Maladies and Medicine: Exploring Health and Healing, 1540-1740 (Pen and Sword 2017).
Sara regularly writes for history magazines such as Discover Your Ancestors and History Today. In 2017 she published an article ‘My Ancestor was a Midwife’ tracing the history of the midwifery profession for Who Do You Think You Are? magazine in 2017. She has appeared on BBC Radio 3’s Freethinking programme and is often to be heard on BBC Radio Leicester and BBC Radio WM.
Follow Sara on Twitter @saralread
“Call The Midwife for the 17th Century”
Lucie Smith is a respected midwife who is married to Jacob, the town apothecary. They live happily together at the shop with the sign of the Three Doves. But sixteen-sixty-five proves a troublesome year for the couple. Lucie is called to a birth at the local Manor House and Jacob objects to her involvement with their former opponents in the English Civil Wars. Their only-surviving son Simon flees plague-ridden London for his country hometown, only to argue with his father. Lucie also has to manage her husband’s fury at the news of their loyal housemaid’s unplanned pregnancy and its repercussions.
The year draws to a close with the first-ever accusation of malpractice against Lucie, which could see her lose her midwifery licence, or even face ex-communication.
The Year Without Summer By Guinevere Glasfurd Rated:****
I am delighted to be closing this wonderful blog tour of A Year Without Summer. One Year, an exploding volcano that has far reaching implications than just its vicinity. It is worth reading and also find out which characters from history, you recognise. The intertwining of people’s lives and a volcanic eruption makes for intriguing reading.
About the Author
Guinevere Glasfurd was born in Lancaster and lives near Cambridge with her husband and daughter. Her debut novel, The Words in My Hand, was shortlisted for the 2016 Costa First Novel Award and Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and was longlisted in France for the Prix du Roman FNAC. her writing has also appeared in the Scotsman, Mslexia and The National Galleries of Scotland.
1815, Sumbawa Island, Indonesia: Mount Tambora explodes in a cataclysmic eruption, killing thousands and causing famine, poverty and riots. Lives, both ordinary and privileged, are changed forever. Sent to investigate, ship surgeon Henry Hogg can barely believe his eyes. Once a paradise, the island is now solid ash, the surrounding sea turned to stone. But worse is yet to come: as the ash cloud rises and covers the sun, the seasons will fail.
1816: In Switzerland, Mary Shelley finds dark inspiration. Confined inside by the unseasonable weather, thousands of famine refugees stream past her door. In Vermont, preacher Charles Whitlock begs his followers to keep faith as drought dries their wells and their livestock starve. In Britain, the ambitious and lovesick painter John Constable struggles to reconcile the idyllic England he paints with the misery that surrounds him. In the Fens, farm labourer Sarah Hobbs has had enough of going hungry while the farmers flaunt their wealth. And Hope Peter, returned from Napoleonic war, finds his family home demolished and a fence gone up in its place. He flees to London, where he falls in with a group of revolutionaries who speak of a better life, whatever the cost. As desperation sets in, Britain becomes racked with riots – rebellion is in the air.
For fans of David Mitchell and Andrew Miller, The Year Without Summer tells the story of a fateful year when temperatures fell and the summer failed to arrive. It is a story of the books written, the art made; of the journeys taken, of the love longed for and the lives lost. Six separate lives, connected only by an event many thousands of miles away. Few had heard of Tambora – but none could escape its effects.
Firstly, I do enjoy a bit of creativity, so the layout of the title and sub-title captured my attention on such an otherwise, quite stark cover. It intrigues me, as does the hard-hitting blurb.
The book starts with a series of beautifully written letters between Emmalina and Henry in 1815, when Henry is a surgeon upon the Beneres – a ship out on the high seas. They practically set the scene of the times, a bit like looking at letters from ancestors.
The book then changes to 1816, where the chapters really begin, cleverly named after the main characters – John, Hope Peter, Charles, Henry, Mary, Roisin and Sarah. The book then transports readers to and fro from 1815 and 1816 in a succinct way.
This is a sumptuous period piece. I don’t mean big dresses and corsets. I mean that it is as richly character driven as it is setting driven as the story tells one of on land and at sea. There are all walks of life within these pages. There’s a romance, the returning from war, there’s a preacher trying to preach sermons wherever he could, there’s an author and artists too.
Then… an eruption! There is a volcano exploding that will change the course of life.
This was a period of time that I had heard of, but was still a bit unfamiliar with, not so much the people within the story, who did exist, but the actual Tambora volcanic explosion, so that was interesting.
There are writers, such as Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein and artists too that come into this story, one of the main reasons I was drawn to it. I was intrigued as to how they would fit into this story, plus I really like John Constable’s art. John, being John Constable, trying to show off his work of art at an exhibition at Somerset House. Those unfamiliar with Constable’s work, he was born in Suffolk and painted (in my opinion) beautiful landscapes, such as The Haywain, Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, Cornfield and many more… It is interesting reading his part of the story, you get a feeling of his mood as people study his paintings, but then also go onto Turner’s (whom I equally like) and when the subject of a volcano erupting would be right up Turner’s street, when it is reported in the newspaper. It is also all put into context with what was happening elsewhere, such as Byron leaving Britain for Switzerland and one would think, giving up Newstead Abbey (visit if you haven’t already). As for Mary Shelley, it is interesting reading how she is trying to write and finally comes up with a tale to tell.
There are also tales to tell around the mill and other interesting characters, each life different to the next.
The story goes at a reasonable pace as the words etch onto the page like the paper is a large canvas, now filled with well-known names and historical times all weaved together to create, what is a pretty good yarn. There’s all manner of life to be found in this book.
Do take time to acquaint yourself with the Afterword. It tells of the far-reaching consequences and the real-life devastation caused by the Tambora volcanic explosion. It also tells a little more about the people who are characterised within this book.