Addition: E-book
Genre: Chick-lit, historical fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5
Synopsis:

Ashcombe was the most beautiful house Saskia had ever seen as a little girl. A rambling pink cottage on the edge of the Suffolk village of Melbury Green, its enchanting garden provided a fairy-tale playground of seclusion, a perfect sanctuary to hide from the tragedy which shattered her childhood.

Now an adult, Saskia is still living at Ashcombe and as a book restorer devotes her days tending to the broken, battered books that find their way to her, daydreaming about the people who had once turned their pages. When she discovers a notebook carefully concealed in an old Bible – and realising someone has gone to a great deal of trouble to hide a story of their own – Saskia finds herself drawn into a heart-rending tale of wartime love…

As you may know, I love Erica James novels! There are only a couple I haven’t read, and I am hoping to read them soon (as well as all the other books I own and haven’t read yet…!) I was excited to read this novel, and I of course enjoyed it!

This is one of my favourite types of novels – set in the present, and set in the past. It had a hint of Rachel Hore and Kate Morton in the writing style – two other authors I really like! I don’t want to give too much away as the synopsis is quite cryptic, but I liked how we jumped from the present day and Saskia’s story, into the diary and WW2. Again, I don’t want to give away too much, but the book felt very well-timed, considering the films which have recently been released.

This novel follows two love stories. I found the story in the diary more gripping than Saskia’s present day story. I struggled a little bit with Saskia. She suffered such a tragic event as a child, but now as an adult her life hasn’t moved on. In many ways, she reminded me of a moody teenager. Even right at the end of the novel, she was still stubborn and I found her hard work. I loved her family though. They had given everything up for her, to try and bring some normality and security into her lost childhood. I loved both her Grandad’s – they were funny and sweet. They made me miss my two Grandad’s, who are sadly not with us anymore.

Like I said, I preferred the story in the diary. I wanted to learn more about the characters and the lives they were leading during WW2. I really enjoyed the historical storyline. I was sucked in and desperate to learn more. It felt relevant and was really engaging. The story was tinged with sadness and the struggle for identity. There was an element of fear and I was hooked.

This isn’t my favourite Erica James book, but it was another novel I have enjoyed. I didn’t like this book as much as her last novel, Summer at the Lake, which is why I am only rating this book 3 out of 5. Erica James writes excellent novels, and there was a lot in this book to recommend it. There are two love stories, there is the search for identity and a study into our families and how as we strive to protect someone we can in fact trap them; and the highlight for me was the diary and the story set in WW2. This is another Erica James novel that I would recommend.

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Addition: Netgalley review e-book
Genre: Historical fiction
Published: 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis:

1961: Born on the day that WW2 broke out, 21-year-old Fay Knox cannot remember her early childhood in London, before she moved to a Norfolk village with her mother, Kitty. Though she has seen a photograph of her father, she does not recall him either. He died, she was told, in an air raid, and their house destroyed along with all their possessions. Why then, on a visit to Paris on tour with her orchestra, does a strange series of events suggest that she spent the war there instead? There is only one clue to follow, an address on the luggage label of an old canvas satchel. But will the truth hurt or heal?

1937: Eugene Knox, a young American doctor, catches sight of 19-year-old Kitty Travers on the day she arrives in Paris, and cannot get her out of his mind. She has come to study the piano at the famed Conservatoire, and lodges at a convent near Notre Dame. Eugene and Kitty will fall in love, marry and have a daughter, but France’s humiliating defeat by Germany is not far behind, and the little family must suffer life under Nazi occupation. Some Parisians keep their heads down and survive, others collaborate with the enemy while others resist. The different actions of Eugene, Kitty and their friends will have devastating consequences that echo down the generations.

I received this book from Netgalley to write an honest review – thank you so much for letting me read this novel, Rachel Hore is one of my favourite authors!

This book is set in Paris during two very different times – the Second World War, and the early 1960s. We discover the truth about Kitty, her time in Paris and the life she hid from her daughter Fay. Both women fall in love with the city, and both fall in love whilst they are visiting. Kitty makes her life there with Eugene and they have Fay there. However, war breaks out and Paris becomes occupied. It isn’t safe for long there and this story follows the hard decisions Kitty has to make to protect her family – and then the decision to keep the truth from Fay. Fay, visiting Paris as part of an orchestra is struck by how much of the city she remembers, even though she is sure she has never been there. This week-long visit will be extremely life changing for her.

I really enjoy Hore’s novels. I am yet to find out I don’t like! And it is the same with this book. I found the first few chapters a bit slow, but once I was further into the story I was captivated. I read large chunks in one go. This isn’t a fast read, but it is really enjoyable. I love historical books, and ones that jump around generations – like this one does. We weren’t always reading about the war, we were regularly transported to the ’60s, were we watched life for Fay change during her short time in Paris. The story kept me hooked. I found I needed to know what happened – what was going to happen to Kitty and Fay?!

As I read, I kept changing my mind about Kitty – during the war I liked her, but I didn’t really like her in the ’60s! I didn’t like how she hid this story and her opinion on Sister Theresa. I did like Fay. She was forgiving and kind – she cared about what she saw around her and I liked that. I’m still undecided about my opinion of Eugene. He was a man consumed by work and then by his secret role in the war, it didn’t seem like he put his family first.

This is quite an emotional book. I have a toddler, who is the same age as Fay was during the war, and I kept thinking how awful and hard it must have been to keep family safe. I don’t want to give away the story, but I found my heart breaking in places at the thought of what went on.

There is a lot of historical content in this book. Paris’ role under German leadership is explained well. Eugene was American, and it was shown how for some of the war he was safe because America had yet to join in the fighting. The threat of death, the aerial bombings and the town of Vittel were all mentioned and explained. Hore seems to have taken the time to make this accurate and show the readers just what life was like in both the war and in the early ’60s.

I really enjoyed this book. I did find the beginning slow, and I thought the end was a bit rushed too. I do have some unanswered questions, however, this was a great read. I was drawn in, caught by the story, moved by the characters and events, and find myself still thinking about the book now. Rachel Hore has written another fabulous book. I cannot wait for her next novel! I rate this book 4 out of 5 – this is a must read book!

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Book 44 was a Netgalley review book – A Week in Paris by Rachel Hore. I love Hore, she is one of my favourite authors, so I was very excited to be reviewing this book!

I really enjoyed this book. I found the beginning of the book a little slow but once I got past the first few chapters I was hooked. I did not want to put this book down! We follow life in wartime Paris – the horrors everyone had to face and the bravery shown by many. This is such a good book!

Addition: Netgalley review e-book
Genre: Historical fiction
Published: 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Addition: Review e-book from Netgalley
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis:

Mattie was never truly mine. That knowledge must have filled me as quickly and surely as the milk from her breasts. Although my family ‘owned’ her, although she occupied the center of my universe, her deepest affections lay elsewhere. So along with the comfort of her came the fear that I would lose her some day. This is our story…

So begins Lisbeth Wainwright’s compelling tale of coming-of-age in antebellum Virginia. Born to white plantation owners but raised by her enslaved black wet nurse, Mattie, Lisbeth’s childhood unfolds on the line between two very different worlds.

Growing up under the tender care of Mattie, Lisbeth adopts her surrogate mother’s deep-seated faith in God, her love of music and black-eyed peas, and the tradition of hunting for yellow crocuses in the early days of spring. In time, Lisbeth realizes she has freedoms and opportunities that Mattie does not have, though she’s confined by the societal expectations placed on women born to privilege. As Lisbeth grows up, she struggles to reconcile her love for her caregiver with her parents’ expectations, a task made all the more difficult as she becomes increasingly aware of the ugly realities of the American slavery system. When Lisbeth bears witness to a shockingly brutal act, the final vestiges of her naiveté crumble around her. Lisbeth realizes she must make a choice, one that will require every ounce of the courage she learned from her beloved Mattie.

This compelling historical novel is a richly evocative tale of love, loss, and redemption set during one of the most sinister chapters of American history.

I received this book from Netgalley some time ago and am ashamed to say I have only just found time to read it. I picked this book because I wondered if it would be like The Help by Kathryn Stockett, a book I really enjoyed. If I am honest, there are some similarities between the two stories and I would recommend them both.

Yellow Crocus follows two characters: Lisbeth, the daughter of the plantation owner and Mattie, her wet nurse, a slave on the plantation. Mattie is brought into the house to feed Lisbeth but Lisbeth is so attached to her that Mattie basically raises Lisbeth. Mattie longs to be able to raise her own son – Samuel – instead and finds ways of entwining Samuel and Lisbeth’s lives. However, this can’t continue forever and Samuel is soon sold to a neighbouring plantation. It is around this time that Lisbeth starts to realise that the life she leads is very different to Mattie’s. She is quietly outraged by the treatment of the slaves but keeps that to herself until one afternoon, as she is looking for her fiancee she finds him mistreating a young black girl. This is the last straw for Lisbeth who sets off on a course that will only upset and embarrass her parents, but one she knows is right.

When I was looking at this book on Goodreads I noticed that the rating for this book is 4.1 out of 5, based on 2059 votes. I have to say, I’m not surprised that the novel has such a high rating. I really enjoyed this book. I read huge chunks of it at a time because I was drawn in and found I just wanted to know what was going to happen to both Mattie and Lisbeth.

This is historical fiction at its best. It looked back to a turbulent time in America’s history, when the South was playing host to a great number of black slaves. I felt the book was written with discretion – although this is a sensitive subject, it was dealt with in an elegant manner. I would love this to be a true story – I can’t confirm that it is – but I really hope there were white people during that time who did stand up for what is right.

I liked both Lisbeth and Mattie. I was rooting for both of them throughout the whole book. I felt for Mattie, who was taken away from her child when he was only 3 months old to look after someone else’s baby but I loved the relationship she formed with Lisbeth. Lisbeth idolised Mattie and I found that very sweet. I loved that for Lisbeth, even with all the teaching she received, the colour of their skin did not stop them forming a strong bond. Both women were incredibly brave in completely different ways and I just wanted to see them both win the battles they were facing.

I’m glad I chose to read this book. I really enjoyed it and would highly recommend it. If you liked The Help, then I think you will like this book. The two novels are different but both show that there were some people who had compassion towards those in slavery and I love the idea that there are people who stand up for the rights of others – even today. This book is well worth reading.

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I haven’t blogged or read as much this year because in September 2010 I started a full time job so I haven’t had as much time to read and spend on the blog. In 2010 I read 126 books and in 2009 I read 145. A list of my past reading can be found here. This year, I have only read 57 – not at all bad, but not nearly as many as past years! Here are some of my favourites:

The Woods by Harlon Coben

Paul Copeland’s sister went missing twenty years ago. Now raising a daughter alone, Cope balances family life with a career as a prosecutor. But when a homicide victim is found with evidence linking him to Cope, the well-buried secrets of the past are threatening everything. Is this body one of the campers who disappeared with his sister? Could his sister be alive…? Confronting his past, Cope must decide what is better left hidden in the dark and what truths can be brought to light…

I really enjoyed this thriller – was happy to give it 5 out of 5.

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton

A long lost letter arrives in the post and Edie Burchill finds herself on a journey to Milderhurst Castle, a great but moldering old house, where the Blythe spinsters live and where her mother was billeted 50 years before as a 13 year old child during WWII. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives looking after the third and youngest sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiance jilted her in 1941.

Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in ‘the distant hours’ of the past has been waiting a long time for someone to find it.

Morton once again enthralls readers with an atmospheric story featuring unforgettable characters beset by love and circumstance and haunted by memory, that reminds us of the rich power of storytelling

My review of this book is to come, but this was a gripping historical novel. It was long but very enjoyable. It was easy to give it 5/5.

The Summer House by Mary Nichols

A secret love that will haunt a family for ever England 1918. Lady Helen believes her parents when they say she will never find a better husband than Richard, but when he returns to the Front, she begins to wonder just who it is she has married. His letters home are cold and distant – and Helen realises that she has made a terrible mistake. Then Oliver Donovan enters her life and they begin an affair that leaves Helen pregnant and alone – she is forced to surrender her precious baby. Over twenty years pass and a second war is ravaging Europe, but that is not the only echo of the past to haunt the present. Laura Drummond is caught in a tragic love affair of her own and when she is forced to leave London during the Blitz, she turns to the mother she never knew.

This is another historical fiction novel that I really enjoyed! Set during both World Wars it follows two women who get caught in love affairs and fall pregnant, both outside of marriage. What they don’t realise is they are mother and daughter! I haven’t written this review yet but it will be rated 5/5 as I really enjoyed it!

The Glass Painters Daughter by Rachel Hore

A wonderful novel set in a hidden part of Westminster, steeped in the Victorian past, full of gothic churches and secret garden squares…

I was surprised I enjoyed this as much as I did. I really enjoy Rachel Hore novels but I’ve never rated any of them 5/5 until this one! The book is set in London, both in our time and in Victorian times, following the fortunes of one family and one shop. This is another historical novel and also a romance novel, and I loved it! Review is to come.

God Knows my Name by Beth Redman

In this powerful and deeply vulnerable book, Beth Redman writes to pass along a message that changed her life—that the God who made us also understands us intimately. He hears our cries and reaches out in love to help us and fight for us. He’s always at work shaping our character. And no matter what others do, He will never, ever leave or forget us. Drawing on Scripture and her own experience, Redman invites us to explore the revolutionary implications of being loved by a God who knows our name. And she invites us to call on His name as well—to respond to His heart and love Him as He has loved us from the beginning.

This book was given to me as a gift and I found it so helpful. I was facing something tough and this book was clear and helpful and let me see God and be comforted that He knows me and is looking out for me.I’m thankful for this present and can’t rate this book highly enough. The review is to come but I can easily rate this 5/5.

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

Ever dreamed of starting over?

Issy Randall can bake. No, more than that – Issy can create stunning, mouth-wateringly divine cakes. After a childhood spent in her beloved Grampa Joe’s bakery she has undoubtedly inherited his talent. So when she’s made redundant from her safe but dull City job, Issy decides to seize the moment and open up her own café. It should be a piece of cake, right?

Wrong. As her friends point out, she has trouble remembering where she left her house keys, let alone trying to run her own business. But Issy is determined. Armed with recipes posted to her from Grampa, and with her local bank manager fighting her corner, Issy attempts to prove everyone wrong. Following your dreams is never easy and this is no exception. Can Issy do it?

This is the first Jenny Colgan novel I have read and I loved it! I was drawn by the cover and the title and very glad I took this out the library. The book had a great storyline and it had recipes – bonus! The review is to come but it will be glowing – I really enjoyed this book. Another 5/5!

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THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!

Addition: Paperback from the library

Genre: Historal Fiction

Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis:

Photographer Lucy Cardwell has recently lost her troubled father, Tom. While sifting through his papers, she finds he’d been researching an uncle she never knew he’d had. Intrigued, she visits her father’s childhood home, the once beautiful Carlyon Manor. She meets an old woman named Beatrice who has an extraordinary story to tell …Growing up in the 1930s, Beatrice plays with the children of Carlyon Manor – especially pretty, blonde Angelina Wincanton, Lucy’s grandmother. Then, one summer at the age of fifteen, she falls in love with a young visitor to the town: Rafe Ashton, whom she rescues from a storm-tossed sea. But the dark clouds of war are gathering, and Beatrice, Rafe, and the Wincantons will all be swept up in the cataclysm of events that follow. Beatrice’s story is a powerful tale of courage and betrayal, spanning from Cornwall to London, and Occupied France, in which friendship and love are tested, and the ramifications reach down the generations. And, as Lucy listens to the tales of the past, she learns a secret that will change everything she has ever known…

Rachel Hore is one of my favourite authors and I was very excited to read this – and although I enjoyed it a lot, I don’t think this is her best work. The story is told from two viewpoints: Beatrice, an elderly lady with a surprising history, and Lucy, a twenty-something searching for answers. After Lucy’s grandmother died her Dad found some things about his past out and decided, without giving a reason, to divorce her Mum. After he dies, Lucy finds out he has discovered something about a man called Rafe. On a trip to Cornwall, she finds a lady who knows all about Rafe, and Lucy’s Dad Tom. Most of the book is told by Beatrice, who tells tales of her childhood spent with Lucy’s Grandmother, her adventures in the war, her history with Rafe, and ultimately about Tom.

I liked Beatrice. She is written as a warm girl, who suffers a far amount in her life. I wasn’t completely convinced by all of her story – mainly by her experiences in the war – how she happened to join the same spy group as Rafe and how she managed to escape. Lucy doesn’t feature too highly in this story, although again there were things she did I wasn’t convinced someone would do – such as going out on a boat with someone she has just met. But these things aside, this is a good read. I was gripped. I wanted to know who Rafe was, I wanted to know about Beatrice and what happened to her and I wanted to know about Angelina Wincanton – Lucy’s grandmother. By the end I had worked out who Rafe was, and who Tom was, but that didn’t spoil the story.

This is a well written book. It looks at life in the war, from two sides: the rich – Angelina going out dancing, messing with boys hearts, having coming-out parties and being spoilt; and the poor – Beatrice working hard for the war effort, falling in love and falling pregnant and the death of a fiancee. We spend time in occupied France, war-battered London and Cornwall. There were parts of the story that broke my heart and the whole thing kept me gripped.

I enjoy Rachel Hore’s books. I enjoyed this book. This is well worth reading! This is good quality historical fiction.

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REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

Addition: Library paperback

Genre: Historical mystery, female fiction

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

The night before it all begins, Jude has the dream again…

Can dreams be passed down through families? As a child Jude suffered a recurrent nightmare: running through a dark forest, crying for her mother. Now her six-year-old niece, Summer, is having the same dream, and Jude is frightened for her.

A successful auctioneer, Jude is struggling to come to terms with the death of her husband. When she’s asked to value a collection of scientific instruments and manuscripts belonging to Anthony Wickham, a lonely 18th-century astronomer, she leaps at the chance to escape London for the untamed beauty of Norfolk, where she grew up.

As Jude untangles Wickham’s tragic story, she discovers threatening links to the present. What have Summer’s nightmares to do with Starbrough folly, the eerie crumbling tower in the woods from which Wickham and his adopted daughter Esther once viewed the night sky? With the help of Euan, a local naturalist, Jude searches for answers in the wild, haunting splendour of the Norfolk forests. Dare she leave behind the sadness in her own life and learn to love again?

This is a historical mystery that haunts one family, that is laced with a love story. Jude works for a prestigious auctioneer company in London. Things are looking bad for the company since the recession hit – that is until she receives a call from the Starbrough residence in Norfolk. They have a library which has many first additions and some historic star gazing equipment. Jude doesn’t know what to expect when she arrives in Norfolk – her old home. What she finds is an old folly, a niece having the same nightmares she used to have a family mystery and a lovely man…

I really enjoyed this book. It was not a quick read, but it was well worth reading. This is a book that encompasses the past and the present, love, history, astrology, travellers and family. The main focus of the book is the mystery. Jude is at Starbrough to look through and catalogue Anthony Wickham’s library collection, however, very early on she comes across a diary, not kept by Anthony, but his adopted daughter Esther. There are no records of Esther in the family archives – who was she? Where did she come from and what happened to her? Are the suspicions right – is she a girl from a noble background? If so, how did she end up lost at the side of the road in Norfolk, aged three? There are so many questions for Jude to answer. She roams around the countryside, hunting for clues – is there another diary? I really enjoyed this story line. Hore includes sections from Esther’s diary in the story – taking us back to her life – adding another dimension to the story.

Alongside this, Jude is still trying to recover from the death of her husband, her Gran has given her a necklace that belonged to her traveller friend, and wants Jude to find the friend to return the necklace and Jude is struggling with her sister Claire and the fact Claire’s daughter Summer is having the same nightmares that Jude used to have. What is the connection? Why is Summer having those dreams too? The most exciting part of the book was the climax at the end – Summer goes missing. Her dream leads her to the old folly – the building where Anthony Wickham used to star gaze. It is unsafe, possibly haunted and scares Summer. Yet she sleep walks there. It turns out, she is going to try and save Esther – who was locked up there after her father died – even though Esther lived in the 1800s. What is the connection between Esther and Summer?

All is revealed at the end – loose ends tied up and questions answered. Maybe the connections were too predictable and unrealistic, but I liked it! The ending is very neat – the family line that runs down to Summer and the Lord who happened to be working with the Jude’s auctioneer company. However, all answers were satisfying, and I enjoyed the way Hore wrapped the book up.

This is a complex book with many story lines, all linked fascinating. There is a love story – we get to see Jude’s broken heart healed by Euan – even though there was confusion about which sister he was falling for. Again, this romance is fairly predictable, but it was lovely anyway, and didn’t take over the story. It was a nice story that completed the book.

I thought all the characters were great to read about. I felt for Jude – finding it hard to relate to her sister, struggling with love and working hard to solve the Wickham mystery and get a great sale for her company. I really liked Chantel as well – the mother who lived at Starbrough Hall. She was caring, and loved the library – a great reason for me to like her!

This is a complex, exciting book. It has mystery, suspense and romance. This is the second book by Rachel Hore that I have read and I have really enjoyed both. She is fast becoming a favourite author and I highly recommend this book.

This book is the first novel I have read in the Mystery and Suspense Challenge. It classes as a historical mystery and well worth reading 🙂

 

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I saw these questions over at The Diary of a Domestic Goddess, and thought I would answer them too!

1. Who is your all-time favourite author, and why?

My favourite all time author is Roald Dahl. I love his books. They gave me hours of entertainment when I was small, and now keep me entertained as an adult. I’m currently re-reading James and the Giant Peach, and I’m laughing, and I’m gripped, and I love the illustrations by Quentin Blake. I don’t think it is possible to be too old to enjoy Roald Dahl, I love him.

2. Who was your first favourite author, and why?  Do you still consider him or her among your favourites?


Enid Blyton. I loved everything of hers that I read. I loved The Magic Faraway Tree, and remember my Mum reading that to me and my brother – and the Secret Seven, the Famous Five, Mallory Towers…the list goes on. I loved them all! I always found myself wanting to live in those books! I haven’t read any of these books in a long time, but I really want to – I’m sure I would still love them. I think I would still put Enid Elyton as a favourite author because of the memories I have of reading her books and really enjoying them.

3. Who’s the most recent addition to your list of favourite authors, and why?

Sarah Dessen. I discovered her when I was blogging about young adult books. Every one of her books that I have read I have loved. I found her gripping, entertaining, touching, realistic and just fantastic. I read Just Listen first and it blew me away. I haven’t found a bad book by her yet – thankfully!

4. If someone asked you who your favourite authors were right now, which authors would first pop out of your mouth?  Are there any you’d add on a moment of further reflection?


Terry Pratchett, CS Lewis, Sarah Dessen, Erica James, Wendy Virgo, Philippa Gregory, Roald Dahl. After some thought… Enid Blyton, Ben Elton, Dorothy Koomson, Beatrix Potter, A A Milne, Mark Driscoll, Debbie Macomber, Elizabeth Noble, Nicholas Sparks, Sophie Kinsella, Stephanie Meyer, JK Rowling, Andrew Wilson and Jane Austen I think.

5. Which “unknown” author do you recommend to people most often?

Probably Wendy Virgo. She writes theology books, mainly for women and I love her. I wrote a Recommended Author post about her. The books are easy to read, engaging and for me, life changing. I think everyone should read her books.

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Addition: Review e-book

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Louisa Cosgrove longs to break free from her respectable life as a Victorian doctor’s daughter. But her dreams become a nightmare when Louisa is sent to Wildthorn Hall: labelled a lunatic, deprived of her liberty and even her real name. As she unravels the betrayals that led to her incarceration, she realizes there are many kinds of prison. She must be honest with herself – and others – in order to be set free. And love may be the key…

This is a young adult, historical novel, and the first Jane Eagland novel I have read. I was fortunate to receive it to review from netGallery and I enjoyed it.

The protagonist is Louise Cosgrove, an intelligent girl who is more interested in science and medicine than she is to conforming to society and being seen as a “lady”. Her dream is to become to attend the London School of Medicine for Women and to become a doctor. She has the support of her father, but when he dies life  changes for her. Her mother loses herself in grief and has to be tended too and her brother Tom is angry at Louisa and has given in the freedom London provides. Louisa is also struggling with her feelings for her cousin. She has discovered she doesn’t love men, she likes women, something that is not allowed in Victorian society so she has to keep these feelings hidden. Soon Louisa finds herself being shipped off to a family far away, but she never makes it there. Instead she is dropped of at Wildthorn, a lunatic asylum. There she loses her identity and is subject to horrid treatment. The more she tries to explain who she really is, the more they think she is mad. Everyone, that is, except Eliza, the helper who doesn’t like how people are treated. Soon they form a friendship and with Eliza’s help Louisa is able to piece together what happened, who betrayed her and why she is trapped at Wildthorn.

I found this a fairly quick read and certainly enjoyable. I sometimes think Eagland forgot she was writing about Victorian times, but other than that I thought the book was alright. The ending didn’t come as a huge shock. I was surprised by who orchestrated the betrayal but the reasons why and how the book then ended did not come as a surprise. This was a good read, I enjoyed it. I think Eagland described the asylum well, and it was certainly horrid! She writes the thoughts and preconceptions that the Victorian’s had well – that ladies should stay at home and only men could work.

I liked Louisa. I felt myself feeling sorry for her as the effects of Wildthorn started to take their toll and I liked that she was clever and ambitious. I found Eliza a nice read too – although their friendship did not come as a surprise. I liked Eliza’s family too. They were welcoming and caring and a lovely bunch of people to read about. I think Eagland wrote realistic characters for the majority. I’m not convinced Louisa’s Papa would have encouraged her pursuit of medicine quite so much, but the rest of the cast were believable. The women saw their role as at home being the wife and men saw themselves as better than women and the breadwinner.

This is not the best book I have read recently but I did enjoy it. This is a good young adult book, and it is nice to see that genre leaving vampires and werewolves alone and heading into history.

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Synopsis:

Magical Cornwall, a lost garden, a love story from long ago…
Lamorna Cove – a tiny bay in Cornwall, picturesque, unspoilt. A hundred years ago it was the haunt of a colony of artists. Today, Mel Pentreath hopes it is a place where she can escape the pain of her mother’s death and a broken love affair, and gradually put her life back together.

Renting a cottage in the enchanting but overgrown grounds of Merryn Hall, Mel embraces her new surroundings and offers to help her landlord, Patrick Winterton, restore the garden. Soon she is daring to believe her life can be rebuilt. Then Patrick finds some old paintings in an attic, and as he and Mel investigate the identity of the artist, they are drawn into an extraordinary tale of illicit passion and thwarted ambition from a century ago, a tale that resonates in their own lives. But how long can Mel’s idyll last before reality breaks in and everything is threatened?

Shifting imperceptibly from one generation to another, The Memory Garden vividly evokes the lives of two women, born a century apart, but who face the same challenges to their happiness and survival.

I loved this novel ♥ This is the first Rachel Hore novel that I have read, and I am so glad I bought this book. I have already leant it out to others and reserved another book at the library by Hore. This is a beautiful novel set in rural Cornwall, full of history, love, secrets and flowers. The book follows Mel as she hides away in a secluded cottage under the pretence of writing a book about local artists, but really mending her broken heart. The man she has rented the cottage from, Patrick, is also suffering from a break-up, once where she won’t go away. They strike up a friendship over the garden, pulling it up and discovering new secrets of the old house Patrick lives in. Mel investigates the life of this mysterious artist, and in the process re-builds her own life.

This is just a stunning book that I can’t rate highly enough. While reading this I was reminded of both The Forgotten Garden and The Secret Garden. This book is a cross between the two, and as I loved both of them, this did not let me down. It is a simple story line: girl moves to Cornwall, discovers an old secret about a love affair, and falls in love herself, but I think the simplicity of the book is one of the things that makes it special. Along with the descriptions of both the bay where artists painted and the grounds and gardens of Merryn Hall, this was just beautiful.

This book did jump back to the past so we could learn about this secret artist – Polly, a maid, and her love affair. I enjoyed these sections – seeing how life can change for one girl, and what love can do to you. The history seemed accurate enough and I liked how the reader was given a glimpse into the time when the house was at its most majestic and that the reader was allowed to get to know Polly and the events surrounding her life.

There were some fantastic characters in the book, to go along with the great storyline and wonderful descriptions. I liked both Mel and Polly. I found myself empathising with them and wanting to know what was going to happen. I loved the people in the quiet town of Lamorna Cove that Mel meets. They were believable characters and people I would like to know! My favourite character was probably John the head gardener when Polly was at Merryn Hall though. Although we didn’t see a lot of him, he was strong and silent and as the novel unfolds his good nature comes through and he plays a very important role in what happens to Merryn Hall and its residents.

This was not a fast read, but very enjoyable. Like I said, I have been recommending this novel and lending my copy out because I really enjoyed it. It was a great read and for those who like woman’s books and historical novels, this is well worth reading. Top marks from me, I can’t recommend it enough.

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