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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Wardrobe Mistress by Meghan Masterson

Described as a book on Marie Antoinette, that is not quite right. The book is so much more. It details the life and times of a woman who worked for the Queen before the Revolution, her life during and finishes with the death of Marie Antoinette. As such, it is descriptive of the time of the Revolution and the life and time of Parisians particularly at the time.

It was a turbulent time and Marie Antoinette did not help herself at all by her behaviour. Her reserve was put down to arrogance, she was detested because she was foreign (Austrian) and whatever the King did or did not do, was put down to her influence (it was not). The King was indecisive and twisted every which way. Even after a decision was made, he could easily be swayed by any one of his Ministers who did not help his situation either.

Giselle is one young woman who works for the Queen particularly looking after her wardrobe. This is an area which has special interest to Giselle who hopes one day to design and make dresses for a living in her own shop. She is also a spy. This she does in a very unobtrusive manner in which no one, neither the Queen or her trusted woman Madam Campan is aware at any time of the double life which Giselle leads. Though she has been instructed to keep her ears and eyes open for any untoward happenings in the Royal Household, Giselle is sympathetic to the Queen and her plight because she realises very early on that the Queen is being held accountable for any wrong that goes on in the country. Unfortunately for Marie Antoinette, rising prices and the power of the nobility is so great , that nothing is done for the masses and the time for rebellion is ripe. Nothing is going to stop it now.

The end of the dynasty in France was pathetic, demeaning and aggressive. It did not bode well for France but people who were starving just wanted a change. They saw the opulence of the court and saw the poverty of their own lives in stark contrast. Giselle herself was not aristocratic but from a middle class background and she saw and understood life on both sides of the divide. She understood the hardships of the ordinary people very well but she also knew that the King and Queen were being guided by the wrong people and nothing could be done to save them.

Giselle herself was a self contained soul, she wanted what most young people want. A decent future, a husband and a happy home. She got out when she could because as she and her young husband knew a witch hunt would start to weed out any Royal sympathisers and having worked for the Queen loyally throughout, Giselle would be suspect.

The story of Marie Antoinette though in essence the story, the life of Giselle is for me the more focused part. The Revolution itself is the background.

The story was descriptive, and detailed.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley, for an unbiased review courtesy of St. Martin's Press.

The Swap by Nancy Boyarsky

It was going to be a simple swap of houses. Her condo in LA for a house in London. It was also an attempt to rekindle her marriage and she felt that by paying more attention to her husband and being with him full time, things may improve.

It proved to be an adventure of a different kind.  There were many strands in the story. People began following Nicole. Her husband did not find it strange even when a bomb exploded in the vehicle she was going to drive, just a few seconds before she got in. It killed a neighbour who was very kindly trying to show her how to start the car. Even then Brad felt that she was imagining things. This was when Nicole began to think that Brad's preoccupation may mean bigger things than just a flirtation with an office assistant.

Throw in thuggery, drug smuggling, money laundering, sleuths and the local police on a trail of everyone and you have a complicated plot which did not seem that it was going to have a happy ending for lots of people.

The book is fast paced but it is not quite a mystery or a thriller. Interesting reading though.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of Light Messages Publishing. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Way Back To Florence by Glen Waybittle

I never tire of reading about WWII and WWI war stories. This set in Florence detailing the lives of ordinary citizens in the face of fascist Italy is remarkable.

Freddie, Isabella and Oskar are friends at art school. That they are three different nationalities is of no consequence but it becomes very important when war breaks out. Oskar is Jewish, Freddie is English and only Isabella is Italian. It puts them all in very precarious positions and Isabella more than most. Freddie returns to England to fly for the RAF and Isabella is left alone to fend for herself in very trying and suspicious conditions. Oskar's life becomes a nightmare.

The day to day workings of life under a foreign invader, made much worse by the workings of your own neighbours and friends against you made life much harder. You never knew who was a spy, who was out to get you, sometimes just for spite nothing else.  They just did not like your attitude, or what you stood for before hostilities started. It could have been that you had more money, you were popular or that you were pretty. You could get arrested, thrown into prison and after that never seen again.

Isabella had to work with all the above and still try to survive. She had to survive because she knew that Freddie was not dead and that she must be around to be with him when he returns. She also knew that she must survive to try to help out whoever she could, in whatever way she could. That this would endanger her life and put her under torture and imprisonment was to be expected.

This was a sad but a very good story well told.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Cheyne Walk. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Deadly Treasures by Vivian Conroy

Deadly Treasures (Lady Alkmene #3)

I am reading books with unusual names for the ladies! In this one Lady Alkmene Callender is anyway an unusual lady for her times. Disinterested in marriage and deaf to the match making tricks of all her relations including her father, a visit to an archaeological site is one she cannot resist, in spite of a prospective groom being the bait!

Finding the groom to be a suspect in a murder case does not deter Alkmene who uses all her detective skills to find out who the real culprit is. The fact that she and journalist Jake are also under threat does not deter her at all.

Told in an easy going style, the characters all blend nicely together to tell a story in a very listenable manner.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of HQ Digital.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

This side of murder by Anna Lee Huber

This Side of Murder (Verity Kent, #1)

I am always looking for new mystery/thriller/suspense authors and this was a really lucky find. It combined my love for the WW era, a strong effective woman and a mystery death as well. The combination was irresistible. Now the difficulty would be to track down the next book in the series. This was the first one in the Verity Kent series.

Verity is a young woman who has worked in the Secret Service during WWI. She has lost her husband as well and is trying very hard to accept this and move on. It is just fifteen months after she received news of the death of her husband, but there was no body. Getting an invitation to visit the home of one of her husband's colleagues to celebrate and engagement was she felt one more step towards closure as she felt that meeting them would bring her peace of mind. That was the last thing she ever felt as circumstances and events took over from the moment she set out on this journey to a beautiful, scenic, isolated part of the British coast to an island where she and the rest of the party would be cocooned together and the entire drama would slowly unravel.

It was a beautiful piece of writing, building up in stages, never erupting but systematically going on to the next event and the next. Unexpected surprises at every turn, kept my interest going till the very end. Very descriptive as well this was such an enjoyable book to read I was sorry it had to end so soon.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of 

In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen

An idyllic setting of Farleigh Place. What anyone would envision the English countryside to be like. WWII has now come here and everyone is either working for the forces, or his house is occupied and taken over for a hospital or a convalescence center. Those who are not working directly in the Forces are working indirectly in the form of a land army or a women's center, All work towards a war effort.

At Fairleigh Place Lord Westerham and his five daughters are all also involved in one way or another in the war effort. A failed parachute landing raises suspicions that the man who died was a German spy in British army uniform and Ben Cresswell is assigned the task of unraveling the mystery. Engaging the services of many people Ben has to see who is the traitor in their midst in this small village where everyone knows everyone.

Could Lord Westerham's own family be involved in the treachery and betrayal and could Ben along with Pamela, Lord Westerham's daughter try to prevent an even bigger betrayal and tragedy that could effect the whole of Britain.

The war setting, the war effort and the patriotism and support which the average Englishman gave to both wars are told in numerous stories, each one more poignant and personal than the last. I never tire of reading individual stories, acts of heroism and the stoic support in the face of untold hardship that the average man and woman gave to their country.

This is another of those stories.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Lake Union Publishing.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Harriet Said by Beryl Bainbridge

This was an uncomfortable book to read. To accept that such young girls could be manipulative, obssessive and for me basically something very wrong mentally was not right.

A thirteen year old girl returns home from boarding school. Bored, bubbling with anticipation, frustration, feelings all of it but she does not have the courage to act on anything. Not until Harriet the slightly older teen appears on the scene. Egged on by her they decide to ensnare Peter Biggs, himself bored, middle aged but unaware of sinister plans on the part of the girls.

This is going to be their biggest dare, their biggest summer ever but what will be the end result, what they hope to gain from it, neither of them clearly knows. But it is wrong and in a way evil what they plan and hope to do. Their families and everyone around them are just unwitting partners.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Open Road Integrated Media.