#BookReview by Lou of A Beautiful Spy By Rachel Hore @Rachelhore @simonschusterUK @rararesources #SpyFiction #CrimeFiction #HistoricalFiction

A Beautiful Spy
By Rachel Hore

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It gives me pleasure to announce that I am closing the blog tour for A Beautiful Spy By Rachel Hore. It shows the perilous and dark corners of the world in a mysterious and intense fashion. Thanks to Simon and Schuster for providing a print copy of the book and for Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to the blog tour. Find out more about the author and her book, as well as the rest of my thoughts in the review…

A Beautiful Spy

About the Author

Rachel Hore author photoRachel Hore worked in London publishing for many years before moving with her family to Norwich, where she taught publishing and creative writing at the University of East Anglia until deciding to become a full-time writer. She is the Sunday Times (London) bestselling author of ten novels, including The Love Child. She is married to the writer D.J. Taylor and they have three sons. 

Blurb

A Beautiful SpyMinnie Gray is an ordinary young woman. She is also a spy for the British government.

It all began in the summer of 1928…

Minnie is supposed to find a nice man, get married and have children. The problem is it doesn’t appeal to her at all. She is working as a secretary, but longs to make a difference.

Then, one day, she gets her chance. She is recruited by the British government as a spy. Under strict instructions not to tell anyone, not even her family, she moves to London and begins her mission – to infiltrate the Communist movement.

Review

Minnie Gray is the main protagonist, with the book predominantely sweeping through the 1930’s, but also hitting on more modern times every so often. In 1928, Minnie wants more for her life and she certainly isn’t into meeting the Chamberlains, even though they were increasingly making their mark in the House of Commons. Life moves swiftly on from that time and readers learn about Minnie and her upbringing. What she hadn’t initially realised was that her connections then were to change the course of her life. Through her connections, she certainly becomes far removed from being a dutiful and stay at home wife. She has the opportunity to be a government spy, with the remit to spy on Communist Russia and to delve deeper into UK supporters of the regime.

There’s a bit of glamour that’s in the backdrop of a deeper, darker world and has her eyes opened wide to what the propaganda really means and where meetings take place in places where no one would normally suspect anything untoward could possibly happen.

The book shows how dangerous some politics are, especially by those with no alliegence to a country. It also sets out how people are taken in by clever propaganda. There are comparison’s that can be made into the book that can be made today and not only just with Russia, but with anywhere that has a more nationalist party. Although the book is set in the past and is about the dark, dangerous, yet exciting world for a fictional protagonist, there are some lines here and there that can be linked to certain aspects of today’s world and also the world of so-called unlikely leaders being voted into power. The book doesn’t delve too much into the roads of Communism, as Communism, as readers will know, doesn’t start there, there are other books that demonstrate this, this shows more when Communism has already got its grip.

The book is a slow suspense, but none-the-less gripping, especially for those readers who find the life of a spy and keeping identities hidden, fascinating. This book is a bit different from some spy fiction in that it doesn’t totally glamourise it and can show what an anxiety inducing life it can be and how challenging it can be, and yet change a person a bit, as demonstrated in the tastes of books Minnie used to like, compared to her tastes since becoming a spy as her worldly view has changed. The book isn’t all blazing guns and gadgets either. There is however, intelligence and a life of characters that seems plausible, and there is the wrangling of Minnie and a glimmer of desire to be set free by MI5 to lead a life outside spying, but she has proven herself well and to be valuable and stays, but things get ever more dangerous…. until a point when, finally, readers will be able to breath again, as can the woman, who led a double life.

Time moves forwards to the 1940’s and Minnie’s life has changed again, as does the pace and tone, but some histories in life can’t totally be erased and nor can the residue, certain parts of life leave behind…

This is, overall, a fascinating and intense book that leaves you wondering what next for this “Beautiful Spy”, at each turn…

Social Media Links

Visit her at RachelHore.co.uk and connect with her on Twitter @RachelHore.

 

Lou Presents an #Extract of The Seamstress of Warsaw By Rebecca Mascull @zooloo2008 @rebeccamascull @SpellBoundBks #HistoricalFiction #BlogTour

Today I am kicking off the blog tour with an extract/excerpt of The Seamstress of Warsaw By Rebecca Mascull to whet your appetite and draw you in….
This is the latest book from the author who has also brought you – The Ironbridge Daughter and many more… You can find out more about her below…
Thanks to the publisher company lSpellbound Books for providing the extract/excerpt of the book.The Seamstress of Warsaw

Extract/Excerpt

WINTER 1920

He said to wear her best dress, the one with the poppies. Whatever could it be for? Perhaps they were going for lunch. That would be a miracle in the midst of these dark days, when he came home from his long walks with empty pockets and the scent of hard drink, without a word or even a smile. But she hoped for the miracle all the same. He waited by the door, shifting from foot to foot.

“Come on! Come on!” he laughed and took her hand. It was the first time he’d laughed in weeks.

They walked arm in arm down their street. Slowly, on dense snow. They turned one corner, crossed the road and stopped. There was a shop, in the window photographs of a baby, a young couple, a soldier.

“Darling, I‘ve decided to enlist.”

“No,” she said. “No!”

“I’m going away tomorrow.”

“Don’t leave me,” she said.

“Here. I want a photograph of you to take with me.”

He opened the shop door to an anteroom. The owner came through and she watched as they made arrangements. Her lover turned back to her and kissed her cheek, his touch like paper. She was led through to a small studio, shrouded in heavy curtains, a chair centrally placed. The photographer had a kindly face. He asked her to sit down. Her lover stood behind the camera, grinning.

“My Helena is a beauty, isn’t she? I want a close-up, just her face. Those eyes. One day, I will write a sonnet about them.”

She might be able to stop the tears coming, if she pressed her nails hard into her palms. Harder.

The photographer said, “A little smile, my dear?”

She was thinking of their room, how tiny it was, cluttered and dirty. How vast it would be tomorrow, when he had gone. His stories, his dreams, his plans for them: only now could she see them clearly for what they were. A handful of thistledown.

She heard them talking of the photograph, ready next week. She was to pick it up and pay. With what? Where would she find the money for milk, for bread?

At the door, he hugged her roughly.

“When the Russians are gone, I’ll come home to you. And one day, I will write an epic poem about it.”

They stepped out and stood a moment in the cold.

He said, “You must send the photograph on to me.”

He kissed her. Warm against the icy air. A taste of vodka.

“Where will you be?”

“I don’t know yet. As soon as I’m settled, I’ll write to you.”

They walked on through the snow. The east wind wailed through Warsaw.

About The Author

Rebecca Mascull Author PhotoRebecca Mascull is an author of historical novels. She also writes saga fiction under the pen-name of Mollie Walton.

Rebecca’s latest book under the Mascull name is coming on September 18th 2021, THE SEAMSTRESS OF WARSAW, the powerful tale of two people unknowingly connected to each other, caught up in the whirlwind of World War II, whose perilous journeys we follow from the Blitz to the Warsaw Ghetto and beyond, published by SpellBound.

Mollie Walton’s The Ironbridge Saga series is set in the dangerous world of the iron industry: THE DAUGHTERS OF IRONBRIDGE (2019). The second book in the trilogy is THE SECRETS OF IRONBRIDGE (2020), set in the brickyards of the 1850s. The third book is set in the coalmines and servants’ quarters of the 1870s: THE ORPHAN OF IRONBRIDGE (2021). All three are published by Bonnier Zaffre. Mollie’s next trilogy will be set in WW2 North Yorkshire and the first book of this saga will be out in March 2022, published by Welbeck.

Her first novel as Rebecca Mascull, THE VISITORS (2014) tells the story of Adeliza Golding, a deaf-blind child living on her father’s hop farm in Victorian Kent. Her second novel SONG OF THE SEA MAID (2015) is set in the C18th and concerns an orphan girl who becomes a scientist and makes a remarkable discovery. Her third novel, THE WILD AIR (2017) is about a shy Edwardian girl who learns to fly and becomes a celebrated aviatrix but the shadow of war is looming. All are published by Hodder & Stoughton.

She also completed the finishing chapters of her friend and fellow novelist Vanessa Lafaye’s final work, a novella called MISS MARLEY, a prequel to Dickens’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL. This novella is published by HarperCollins.

Rebecca has worked in education, has a Masters in Writing and lives by the sea in the east of England. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund, based at the University of Lincoln.

Follow her at:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RebeccaMascull/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/beccamascull/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/rebeccamascull

Buy on

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B099KWCPFS

Amazon UShttps://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B099KWCPFS

 

#BookReview by Lou of Frontline By Dr. Hilary Jones @DrHilaryJones @welbeckpublish #WorldWar1 #HistoricalFiction #SpanishFlu #Frontline #GeneralFiction

Frontline
By Dr. Hilary Jones

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Frontline takes those at war in the First World War and in the medical profession and creates an intensely emotional, knowledgeable book that expertly weaves fact and fiction together to create a tight-knit story, very apt for our times. From the cover to the end of the story, it is intensely poignant in many ways.
Discover more in the blurb and the rest of my review and where you can buy Frontline.
I thank Welbeck Books for gifting me a copy of the book, in exchange for an honest review.

Frontline cover

Blurb

The doctor hits the spot and deserves to be read’

JEFFREY ARCHER

A SWEEPING DRAMA SET ON THE BATTLEFIELDS OF EUROPE AS A GLOBAL INFLUENZA PANDEMIC LOOMS . . .

Frontline is the first book in a series charting the rise of a prominent British medical family in the twentieth century. From wars to a pandemic, the discovery of penicillin to the birth of the NHS, successive generations of the Burnett family are at the vanguard of life-saving developments in medicine.

Frontline is the story of an aristocrat’s daughter who joins the war effort as a nurse. In a field hospital in rural France she meets Will, a dockworker’s son serving as a stretcher-bearer. As rumours of an armistice begin to circulate, so too does a mysterious respiratory illness that soldiers are referring to as the ‘Spanish flu’.

Review

Frontline coverEvie is one of the characters who start off this book, which begins in 1910 and makes a shift to 1914. She has a baby and her story is sure to tug on many heartstrings, even the most hardened of hearts. It’s one of woe but also of courage of those around her.

Readers also follow Grace and other nurses as well as tells of how things were from a soldier, like Will’s story too and how they are linked and it becomes about them and their lives and needs to survive and what was happening in the world at the time, that they had to find ways of living in and doing their duties.

There’s a real rawness to one of the letters written, which gives further insight into what was going on and the fears that were there.

There’s the sense of life, distinct of the times and it feels like a lot of research went into this as well as passion for the subject matters. It may not be an easy read, but its authenticity and realism through fiction really shines through and develops into a great read. It takes readers to the heart of war, including The Somme, but also what it’s like to be home on leave, as Will is when he returns to Grace. There are also some lovely heartwarming moments too, that saves this book from being too bleak and in some instances, shows some humanity in the world too, especially when Christmas arrives.

Frontline is very apt for our times, as we try to survive Covid-19, this book also shows people trying to survive a pandemic too – Spanish Flu and the devastation to life between that and war. I think it could serve as something more thought-provoking about their own behaviours in present times.

The book is an intense but pertinent read. Dr. Hilary Jones has also left an “Author’s Note” at the back of the book that adds a little more about what is dubbed as “The Great War” and is poignant, as are the acknowledgements. I agree that there are some parallels that can be drawn from today between Spanish Flu times and Covid-19 times. It’s hard not to notice, if you know a bit about way back then too and thinking about it, even if you don’t, you’ll be able to find this by reading this book.

Clearly Dr. Hilary Jones is writing from what he knows from his medical background, but he’s intelligently combined this with war, of those fighting in it and of women who are not. There is a rich tapestry that runs through it and there is a sense that it’s a bit of a nod in a way to those who came before him and that sits very well with me, and I think it will with many other readers too.

Buy Links

Amazon                Waterstones

#BookReview by Lou Orphans of the Storm by Celia Imrie – rated 5 stars @CeliaImrie @BloomsburyBooks #HistoricalFiction #WomensFiction #GeneralFiction #OrphansOfTheStorm #Titanic

Orphans of the Storm
By Celia Imrie

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Orphans of the Storm is a refreshing and captivating historical read that show a different side to relationships in the 1900’s. This is gripping and so engaging, with a fascinating truth about the characters within the story at the end. This is a book I highly recommend!
Discover more in the blurb and then onto my full review.
*Thanks to Bloomsbury for gifting a copy of the book, in exchange of an honest review.

Orphans of the Storm cover

About the Author

Celia Imrie is an Olivier award-winning and Screen Actors Guild-nominated actress. She is known for her film roles in The Best Exotic Marigold HotelThe Second Best Exotic Marigold HotelCalendar Girls and Nanny McPhee. Celia Imrie has recently starred in the major films Bridget Jones’s BabyAbsolutely Fabulous: The MovieYear by the Sea and A Cure for Wellness. In 2016 she also appeared in FX’s new comedy series Better Things, and returned to the stage in King Lear at The Old Vic. 2017 so far has seen Celia Imrie appear in psychological horror A Cure For Wellness. Celia Imrie is the author of an autobiography, The Happy Hoofer, and two top ten Sunday Times bestselling novels, Not Quite Nice and Nice Work (If You Can Get It).

Website: http://www.celiaimrie.info   Twitter: @CeliaImrie

Blurb

‘Gripping … An epic adventure’ ROSIE GOODWIN

‘Smashing … I was hooked on page one and literally could not put it down. I loved all that she wrote about the true story behind this thrilling tale’ JOANNA LUMLEY

Orphans of the Storm coverNice, France, 1911: After three years of marriage, young seamstress Marcella Caretto has finally had enough. Her husband, Michael, an ambitious tailor, has become cruel and controlling and she determines to get a divorce.

But while awaiting the judges’ decision on the custody of their two small boys, Michael receives news that changes everything.

Meanwhile fun-loving New York socialite Margaret Hays is touring Europe with some friends. Restless, she resolves to head home aboard the most celebrated steamer in the world – RMS Titanic.

As the ship sets sail for America, carrying two infants bearing false names, the paths of Marcela, Michael and Margaret cross – and nothing will ever be the same again.

From the Sunday Times-bestselling author, Celia Imrie, Orphans of the Storm dives into the waters of the past to unearth a sweeping, epic tale of the sinking of the Titanic that radiates with humanity and hums with life.

Review

Orphans of the Storm whisks readers back in time to September 1911, Nice, France, where readers meet Marcella, who has children and is in the process of divorcing her husband. Celia Imrie really captures that sense of nerves as Marcella wonders if she should go through with it or not, even though she has already stepped foot into the solicitor’s office. Readers also see what happened in the lead up as time flips back to 1907.
It’s an interesting part of history with this slant of life, as not many women would have contemplated this at that time, but there were some that certainly did. It brings a bit of history that isn’t talked about much or shown very little at this time. It’s certainly attention grabbing and brings, perhaps, a fresher appeal, so even if it is isn’t a reader’s usual genre or time period for reading about, I think they’ll find something different in Orphan’s of the Storm.

Marcella works as a tailor and readers are treated to all sorts of fabrics, in words, but really she would rather be a singer. The romantic entanglement was one between Marcella and Michael, but all isn’t what it seems. It becomes one of controlling behaviours. Celia Imrie captures love and this darker side very well and shows how things start to turn in this relationship and the increasing jealousy of Michael. It’s written with disarming authenticity and readers can really be pulled in further by this.

There is also some humour to be found within the characters, which lifts it and brings something more jovial to the story.

The book also shows what was happening from Michael’s life from 1912 in Calais and the people he meets. It also shows his life in London. The attention to detail is inspired. Celia Imrie has a talent for creating an epic story that enthralls and holds you there in the world she creates. There’s the crowds of people at RMS Titanic and the atmosphere and the sense of the scale of the journey being embarked, that readers then join too.

There are twists and turns that ensue, involving Marcella, Michael and the children in reaction to what happened in previous years.
There is also the fact of being on the Titanic. Although everyone knows what happens, there is still drama injected from involving the family and of course the iceberg. Tension, action and emotions are written very well, in a believable manner. The book also takes readers beyond that fateful day of the Titanic and illustrates what happened next most excellently. Moving onwards from that is a bit about the characters you’ve just read about. This book is based on some real people. A great deal of research has clearly gone into this to create not only a compelling story, but one that goes onto say a bit more about the people behind the fictional story beforehand, which is as fascinating as fiction.

The Orphans of the Storm is even better than I thought it would be and the writing really is exquisite and captivating. This is a book I highly recommend.

#BookReview by Lou – Love and Miss Harris by Peter Maughan @PeterMaughan5 @farragobooks @RandomTTours #ContemporaryFiction #Theatre #HistoricalFiction #Humour

Love And Miss Harris
By Peter Maughan

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Love and Miss Harris is perfect for theatre-goers and everyone working in theatre productions. It is also perfect for people who enjoy Ealing Comedies and authors such as P.G. Wodehouse and Jerome K. Jerome and people who enjoy a good bit of capers and humour as the book captures a certain era so divinely. It’s a lot of theatrical fun! This is book 1 of what is becoming a series and I am looking forward to the second already. It’s a feel-good funny book.

Find out more in the blurb and review below. Thanks to Random Things Tours for inviting me to review and for Farrago Books for gifting me a copy of the book.

About the Author

Love And Miss Harris Peter Maughan Author picPeter Maughan’s early career covered many trades, working on building sites, in wholesale markets, on fairground rides and in a circus. He studied at the Actor’s Workshop in London, and worked as an actor in the UK and Ireland, subsequently founding a fringe theatre in Barnes, London.
He is married and lives currently in Wales.

 

Love and Miss Harris Cover

Blurb

Titus Llewellyn-Gwlynne, actor/manager of the Red Lion Theatre, has lost a backer who was going to fund a theatrical tour – when unexpected salvation appears.
Their home theatre in the East End of London having been bombed during the war, The Red Lion Touring Company embarks on a tour of Britain to take a play written by their new benefactress into the provinces.

This charming series transports the reader to a lost post-war world of touring rep theatre and once-grand people who have fallen on harder times, smoggy streets, and shared bonhomie over a steaming kettle.
The mood is whimsical, wistful, nostalgic, yet with danger and farce along the way.

Review

I love theatre and everything about it, ever since my mum introduced me to the theatre when I was a teenager, I’ve had a passion for them, so much so, that I even volunteered for just over a decade for a local theatre company, mostly doing front of house duties and occasionally backstage. So, when I was invited to review this book, I jumped at the chance and I think the timing is most apt as theatres and everyone has struggled to get by at this time and now they are starting, slowly but surely, and safely to re-open. This book instantly brings back the joy of theatre and also comedy. The fact it is The Company of Fools series, is in itself theatrical and Shakespearean in that subtitle, although the book itself is not Shakespearean, it’s thoughtful and adds fun and history right there and also cleverly alludes to the fun readers will have, as does that cover. This is worthwhile hopping onto that bus on the cover and enjoying the ride the book takes you on…

Titus, Reuben, Dolly, Jack are prominant characters within this theatrical cast, that instantly transports readers to rep theatre and with wonderful characterisation and observations are divine and everything comes to life. It is also nice that The Windmill Theatre gets a mention as it is pretty famous for rep theatre at this time. 

The title of the book is more clever than you’d think. Love and Miss Harris is the title of a play that Lady Devonaire has written, or rather George, with this as his pseudonymn. The style of writing is quite theatrical in places, which is wonderful and it has a lot of charm. It’s easy to depict in your minds eye – The Red Lion Touring Company losing their theatre due to it being bombed and how they overcome it by jumping on a tour bus and travelling. It shows a certain ingenuity and resillience and admiration how theatre has had to overcome hard times to survive, a bit like today in a way…. So hop on the bus with them and enjoy the ride that is full of humour and get to know a little about the places they go to. That isn’t to say that things are all plain sailing, the company are suspicious of Jack and there’s financial issues to try to overcome. There are also interesting bits about war times too, in memories, that isn’t to say this is a book that jumps from one time frame to another, it isn’t as that wouldn’t have enhanced what is a perfectly good read as it is.

All in all, it is a thoroughly enjoyable book.

I have read the preview for the second in the series and I must say, it is sounding good. 

Love and Miss Harris bt Poster

 

#Review by Lou – The Post Office Girls by Poppy Cooper @Kirsten_Hesketh @hodderbooks #HistoricalFiction #WW1

The Post Office Girls
By Poppy Cooper

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Post Office Girls is full of characters you will want to get to know in a fascinating story that feels full of authenticity, with a Sunday period drama feel. Thanks to Hodder and Staughton for inviting me to review and for gifting the book.
Please follow through with the post to the blurb and my review.

Blurb

With the Great War raging, can they keep Britain going?

The Postoffice Girls cover1915. On Beth Healey’s eighteenth birthday, she hopes that she will be able to forget the ghastly war and celebrate. But that evening, her twin brother Ned announces that he has signed up to fight.

No longer able to stand working in her parents’ village shop while others are doing their bit, Beth applies to join the Army Post Office’s new Home Depot on the Regent’s Park, and is astounded to be accepted. She will be responsible for making sure that letters and parcels get through to the troops on the front line.

Beth is thrilled to be a crucial part of the war effort and soon makes friends with fellow post girls Milly and Nora, and meets the handsome James. But just as she begins to feel that her life has finally begun, everything starts falling apart, with devastating consequences for Beth and perhaps even the outcome of the war itself. Can Beth and her new friends keep it all together and find happiness at last?

The Post Office Girls is perfect for fans of Johanna Bell, Daisy Styles and Nancy Revell.

Review

The history that gave the inspiration behind this fictional story, which is the first in a brand new series, is truly fascinating. It’s worth reading the note by the author at the beginning of the book for this.

It’s Beth’s 18th birthday and its 1915 and has the formidable sounding Mrs McBride at the shop, where both of them work, on her case over butter. The scene with the tones of voices opens up magnificently.

It has the nostalgic air that you’d perhaps expect, but just manages not to be saccharine sweet. It does have a Sunday night, gentl-paced period drama feel about it, but doesn’t shy away from certain hard-hitting, home-truths about war here and there. It can be bit slow in places, but stay with it as a whole world opens up and it does become quite hard to put down.

The war is captured well, from those staying at home, in the rationing at the shop, a clever hint of people trying to, not quite bulk buy, but certainly buy a bit more than they need and not thinking of others and leaving enough of even flour to go around and the emotion of Beth from this, it’s like a subtle thought to people today, which I approve of; and Florence who had stepped out with Ralph, a footman from Maitland Hall who went out to fight and the worry about hearing from him and the excitement of letters when she does. It has a feel of authenticity and the scenes are picture perfect in Woodhampstead.

Beth later, travels to London as recruitment in Regent’s Park, where a mailing depot is set- up for army post, and encounters Sergeant Major Cunningham. The reactions of an 18 year old is captured well to the  Major, who had a very different life, as a postal worker before and all is new to Beth, who was a shopworker, now to work in the Home Depot, sorting through the mail coming in from soldiers.
You can feel her coil up a little and then ping into anger as she attempts to stand-up for herself. The empathy of soldiers at war and the letters that show signs of where they are and perhaps been whilst writing, further hits home to her. The details from an envelope and codes add interest and the interesting markings as each new chapter starts is too as are the letters between her brother Ned and her. She does however come across a gentler mannered man – Mr Blackford. Her achievement of getting an interview for the post hasn’t got the reaction she would have liked from her parents, different from today’s times, but very true of the times of the setting. 

There are a few twists that grab you further in, here and there and no more so than near the end, within the characters lives you will want to continue to get to know.

Readers of the book would do well to read the acknowledgements. It gives a fascinating insight into the research that was done for the book and some real-life photos of the women working in the Home-Depot.