All about Books, Book review

Book Review: The Maids of Biddenden Hall by GD Harper

As soon as I saw this book on social media I was intrigued. Like many people, I’ve always been interested in the relationship between twins – blame Sweet Valley High – but co-joined twins take this unique connection to a different level. My curiosity piqued when I discovered this was also based on a true story.

Scroll down to see my thoughts on this unusual book.

Book Review: The Maids of Biddenden Hall by GD Harper

Book cover for The Maids of Biddenden by GD Harper. A dark background with pale gold decorative pattern drawn on it similar to the designs you'd find in old manuscripts drawn by the Church. The typeface is a brighter gold. In the centre of the cover is a golden lyre. It has the tagline One shared body, two separate minds
The Maids of Biddenden by GD Harper

Title: The Maids of Biddenden Hall

Author: GD Harper

Publisher: Ginger Cat

Genre: Historical fiction

Release Date: 16th June 2022

Blurb

‘There is no I, there is no you. There is only us.’

Joined at the hip, Eliza and Mary Chulkhurst overcome fear and hostility to grow into gifted and much-loved women – one a talented musician and song-writer, the other a caring healer and grower of medicinal plants.

Entangled in the struggles for power and influence of the great Kent nobles of the time, they achieve much in their lifetimes and leave behind a legacy that survives to this day. This is the heart-warming inspirational story of two remarkable women leading one joint life, challenging adversity to become the best they can be.

My Thoughts

From the start, I was thrown into the life and thoughts of the time as I was introduced to the girls as young children. As a disabled person, I found the beginning chapters hard to read, as anything unusual was classed as evil and life was expendable. Throughout the novel, it highlighted the hate, suspicion and bigotry that plagued the girls but also showed love, acceptance and their ability to flourish in their community and beyond.

As someone who has little knowledge of the era, the politics and social norms outside their farm was as mind-boggling to me as them at the beginning, but they used their intelligence and determination to make their mark as something more than a curious exhibit. It was refreshing to read. They were distinct individuals with Eliza being an accomplished musician and Mary, a healer. The detailed descriptions of the daily life made it easy to slip into their world especially Mary’s physica gardens. I knew nothing about them but could see Mary’s ambition reflected in community gardening projects nowadays.

This is a well written, unforgettable and uplifting story of two formidable women whose legacy lives on.

Would I recommend?

Yes, the twin’s lives drew me into the 12th century to discover a political and social landscape I knew nothing about. This fascinating novel followed two unique women as they made a place in a world beyond anyone’s expectations against a backdrop of stigma and patriarchy. Their story is as relevant now as it was then. It’s an ideal read for fans of historical fiction and stories based on little known personalities from the past.

Author Biography

GD Harper

GD Harper became a full-time author in 2016, publishing three novels under the pen name GD Harper. I have been both a Wishing Shelf Book Award finalist and Red Ribbon winner, been shortlisted for the Lightship Prize, longlisted for the UK Novel Writing Award and longlisted for the Page Turner Writer Award. The Maids of Biddenden was a finalist in this year’s Page Turner Book Award for unpublished manuscripts, longlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize and the Flash 500 Novel Award, and shortlisted for the Impress Prize.

Twitter: @harper_author

Website: www.gdharper.com

 Facebook: @gdharperauthor

Thank you Random Thing Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Love

All about Books, Book review

Book Review: Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone

I’m excited today to review Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone for his blog tour. This was my first time reading about the Skelf women but I’d heard great things about the series so couldn’t wait to jump in.

Book Review: Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone

Book cover for Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone
Celtic cross gravestone with a magpie perched on it. Has tagline Death is just the beginning
Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone

Title: Black Hearts

Author: Doug Johnstone

Publisher: Orenda Books

Genre: Crime

Release Date:  29th September 2022

Blurb

The Skelf women live in the shadow of death every day, running the family funeral directors and private investigator business in Edinburgh. But now their own grief interwines with that of their clients, as they are left reeling by shocking past events.

A fist-fight by an open grave leads Dorothy to investigate the possibility of a faked death, while a young woman’s obsession with Hannah threatens her relationship with Indy and puts them both in mortal danger.

An elderly man claims he’s being abused by the ghost of his late wife, while ghosts of another kind come back to haunt Jenny from the grave … pushing her to breaking point.

As the Skelfs struggle with increasingly unnerving cases and chilling danger lurks close to home, it becomes clear that grief, in all its forms, can be deadly…

My Thoughts

Apart from the unusual set up where the novels and investigations are based in a funeral parlour, the thing that leapt from the page was the beauty and personality of the city, Edinburgh. I haven’t been since I was a child but has been on my wish list to return and this book intensified that longing. The descriptions brought it alive and if you do know the city, I imagine it would lead to a greater reading experience.

I loved the intriguing concept of a private investigating business entwined with a funeral parlour. Both the investigations the Skelfs take on and the multi-generational family interactions kept me turning the page. Despite reading this as a standalone with no previous knowledge of the characters, I became immersed in their lives and felt their heartache, grief and fear as the story progressed. The emotions displayed were authentic. Grief was not washed over and sanitised, nor was the post trauma experienced by Jenny after the death of her ex-husband. Reading about the aftermath of a horrific event made me want to forget all the other books on my TBR pile and read the back catalogue to catch up.

The investigations required no previous knowledge of the family affairs. The case which stood out was Udo who is convinced he is being attacked by his late wife and hearing her through the wind phone. These phones give the ability to people to talk to lost loved ones which I’d never heard of before. This thread added emotional depth and a spiritual element to the book and these phones would be useful everywhere.

Would I recommend?

Oh yes. With the authentic writing, strong women and an immersive location this is a book to read. It can be read as a standalone, but it won’t be enough. You’ll want to read the rest of the series so be prepared to increase your TBR pile.

Author Biography

Photo of Doug Johnstone. White male with blond short hair, smiling wearing a black tropical shirt.
Doug Johnstone

Doug Johnstone is the author of twelve novels, most recently The Great Silence, described as ‘A novel [that] underlines just how accomplished Johnstone has become’ by the Daily Mail. He has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year three times, and the Capital Crime Best Independent Voice one; The Big Chill was longlisted for Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions, and has been an arts journalist for twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.

Thank you Random Thing Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Love

Signature of Kate in pink

All about Books, Guest post, Meet the Author, Writing journey, Writing process

Guest Post: Does It Get Easier The More Books You Write?! by Rachel Brimble

I’m excited to hand my blog over to historical fiction author, Rachel Brimble today for her views on whether writing gets easier the more you write. As an unpublished author with one novel written and another in progress, I can’t wait to find out the answer.

Does It Get Easier The More Books You Write?! by Rachel Brimble

I recently attended a local book fair where I was selling my books as well as advertising my First Chapter Critique service (https://rachelbrimble.com/first-chapter-critique-service/). There was a nice level of interest in my books, with many lovely historical readers complimenting my book covers or asking questions about my Edwardian and Victorian romance series. Yet, the most frequently asked questions asked were 1) “How did you start writing?” and 2) “Does writing get easier the more books you write?”

I love that so many readers dream of becoming writers as I was one of them for so many years and it seems the advent of phones, iPads and Netflix has not lessened peoples’ love of a good novel!

So, let me answer these questions…

I started writing because it was something that I had wanted to do ever since reading Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven series, around the age of eight or nine. On and off through the years, I would write articles or short stories and send them to magazines and online story websites. After some success, I was encouraged enough to write a novel. So, when my youngest daughter started school full-time, I got serious about publication!

After a few rejections from other publishers, the book was accepted by The Wild Rose Press in 2007. I have been lucky enough to have at least two books a year published ever since.

Question number 2…

Unfortunately no, writing does NOT get easier the more books you write – I wish I could say differently, but I would be lying!

Writing is hard work. It is something that takes discipline and commitment. It means walking around with the skin of a rhino and smiling through the disappointments and long, long, LONG waits for publishers and agents to get back to you. It is sitting your butt in the chair in front of a blank screen, finding the words to fill it and then repeating the process 360 plus times until you have a finished novel.

Writing is HARD!

BUT…it is also the most rewarding vocation in the world (notice I say vocation, not job – this has to be the pursuit of your heart’s calling, my loves!) and it is something that gives bucketloads of satisfaction whenever an author receives a book contract, a great review, their box of paperbacks in the mail or, of course, a royalty cheque…

If you are an aspiring writer with a burning desire to write a romance or women’s fiction novel but unsure where to start, then feel free to check out my First Chapter Critique service (https://rachelbrimble.com/first-chapter-critique-service/) or email me at rachelbrimble@gmail.com with any questions about you might have about the service. I am a multi-published, bestselling romance author on a mission to help other romance writers achieve their publishing dreams! So many other writers helped me when I started out, I love paying it forward.

If, on the other hand, you are a reader rather than a writer, why not check out my latest series? If you like the Edwardian era The Shop Girl series will be for you or, if you’re more of a Victorian lady, check out the Ladies of Carson Street trilogy.

Happy Reading!

Book Covers for the Shop girl series
Book 1 – A Shop Girl In Bath

Book 2 – A Shop Girl Gets The Vote

Book 3 – A Shop Girl’s Christmas

Book 4 – A Shop Girl At Sea
The Shop Girl series

The Shop Girl Series

Book 1 – A Shop Girl In Bath

Book 2 – A Shop Girl Gets The Vote

Book 3 – A Shop Girl’s Christmas

Book 4 – A Shop Girl At Sea

Purchase: https://rachelbrimble.com/books/penningtons-department-store/

Book covers for The Ladies of Carson Street trilogy

Book 1 – A Widow’s Vow

Book 2 – Trouble For The Leading Lady

Book 3 – A Very Modern Marriage
The Ladies of Carson Street series

The Ladies of Carson Street trilogy

Book 1 – A Widow’s Vow

Book 2 – Trouble For The Leading Lady

Book 3 – A Very Modern Marriage

Purchase: https://rachelbrimble.com/books/victorian-sagas/

Author Biography

Photo of author Rachel Brimble.  Dark, curly haired woman with glasses, smiling. A bookcase is in the background.
Rachel Brimble

Rachel lives in a small town near Bath, England. She is the author of 29 novels including the Ladies of Carson Street trilogy, the Shop Girl series (Aria Fiction) and the Templeton Cove Stories (Harlequin). Her latest novel, Victoria & Violet is the first book in her new Royal Maids series with the Wild Rose Press and releases 17th October 2022.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association as well as the Historical Novel Society and has thousands of social media followers all over the world.

To sign up for her newsletter (a guaranteed giveaway every month!), click here: https://bit.ly/3zyH7dt

Website: https://bit.ly/3wH7HQs

Twitter: https://bit.ly/3AQvK0A

Facebook: https://bit.ly/3i49GZ3

Instagram: https://bit.ly/3lTQZbF

All about Books, Book review

Book Review: Little Dancer by Melanie Leschallas

I’ve always loved ballet and as many of you who’ve been following me a while know, I’ve been immersed in researching the art for my own writing project so when the book cover of Little Dancer by Melanie Leschallas popped in my email, with an intriguing tagline I couldn’t resist.

Book Review: Little Dancer by Melanie Leschallas

Book cover for Little Dancer by Melanie Leschallas.

Ballerina en pointe on a paved street wearing a military jacket with red arm band. Tagline reads: Anarchist, ballerina, revolutionary, muse
Little Dancer by Melanie Leschallas

Title: Little Dancer

Author: Melanie Leschallas

Publisher: Unbound

Genre: Historical fiction

Release Date: 21st July 2022

Blurb

Paris, 1878. Ballet dancer Marie van Goethem is chosen by the unknown artist Edgar Degas to model for his new sculpture: Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen Years.

But Marie is much more than she seems. By day she’s a ‘little rat’ of the opera, contorting her starving body to entertain the bourgeoisie. By night she’s plotting to overthrow the government and reinstate the Paris Commune, to keep a promise she made to her father, a leading communard who died in the street massacres of 1871.

As Marie watches the troubling sculpture of herself come to life in Degas’ hands, she falls further into the intoxicating world of bohemian, Impressionist Paris, a world at odds with the socialist principles she has vowed to uphold.

With the fifth Impressionist Exhibition looming, a devastating family secret is uncovered which changes everything for both Marie and Degas.

As Degas struggles to finish his sculpture and the police close in on Marie, she must decide where her loyalties lie and act to save herself, her family and the Little Dancer.

My Thoughts

This is one of these books that would have slipped under my radar if it hadn’t appeared in my inbox and I’m extremely grateful I was invited to read. I loved it. Little Dancer isn’t a light easy read and it doesn’t show the romanticised version of ballet that I believed in when I studied Degas’ ballerinas in art at school. Life at the time was hard, the career in dance seedier than I imagined and this novel doesn’t shy away from the reality of the time including executions, prostitution, alcoholism and theft.

Beautifully written, this emotional and powerful story is immersive and drew me into Marie’s world to the extent that I could smell  and visualise the streets of Paris, Degas’ studio and Amelie’s boudoir. Marie has a strength of character, I couldn’t help to admire despite her young age and I had to keep reading to see how she’d cope with the unfolding dangers around her.

The cast of characters all have depth and stories of their own adding to the novel’s sense of realism. I could easily imagine it as a tv series or film.

Would I recommend?

Oh yes, Little Dancer will be a treasured addition to my forever bookshelf and Marie and Edgar have lodged themselves in my thoughts. Beautifully written, this novel is an immersive, emotional and powerful look at a turbulent time in France that I knew little about. It’s a story of women, family and survival but also the ability to change the world bit by bit. With the overlap with the suffragette movement it is more relevant to our lives than you think.

Photo for the sculpture Little Dancer aged fourteen by Edgar Degas reflected in a mirror
Little Dancer by Edgar Degas

Author Biography

Melanie Leschallas holds MAs in Creative Writing from Sussex and in Drama and Movement Therapy from Central School in London as well as a BA(Hons) in Modern and contemporary fiction French and Italian from Bristol University.

She was trained as a dancer and worked at the Moulin Rouge in Paris during her twenties. Mel is also a jazz singer and loves to sing Jacques Brel songs at the Savoy Hotel in London. She runs http://www.lunarlemonproductions.com with her husband, Craig, teaches yoga in Brighton and leads wellness and writing retreats at her home in the Malaga mountains.

Small image of the book cover as described above.

Thank you Random Thing Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Love

All about Books, The Enchanted Emporium's Bookshelf

Book Review: The Beekeeper of Elderflower Grove by Jaimie Admans

After a sweltering few days, I hope you are all well. I’m excited to share my review for The Beekeeper of Elderflower Grove by Jaimie Admans. My attraction to this book was two-fold, firstly I adore bees and if I had the space I’d love to learn beekeeping and secondly, I loved Jaimie Admans The Post box at the North Pole. If this book was half as enjoyable as that one, I knew I’d be in for a treat.

Scroll down to see if this bee filled romance met my high expectations.

Book Review: The Beekeeper of Elderflower Grove by Jaimie Admans

Book cover for  The Beekeeper of Elderflower Grove by Jaimie Admans. Title in yellow. 
Green meadow with bees in the foreground and a mansion in the background.  A woman in a red dress is walking towards two beehives.
The Beekeeper of Elderflower Grove by Jaimie Admans

Title: The Beekeeper of Elderflower Grove

Author: Jaimie Admans

Publisher: HQ Digital

Genre: Romance, Women’s fiction

Release Date: 15th July 2022

Purchase Links

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09Z757JFW

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B09Z757JFW

Blurb

Her new start is about to bee-gin!

Having moved into her mum’s spare room after a disastrous break-up, Kayleigh Harwood is desperate for a fresh start. When she sees an opening for a new beekeeper at the old manor house at Elderflower Grove she jumps at the chance – despite not knowing a thing about bees…

 The abandoned house holds a mystery of its own – the previous owner vanished years ago – and locals have been inventing stories about the manor ever since. Unable to resist the urge to look around, Kayleigh is shocked to find drop-dead-gorgeous gardener Carey living inside!

 Carey explains that the house and surrounding land is at risk of being demolished, endangering the bees, and he has been staying there to protect it.

 Convinced the secret of the house holds the key to saving Elderflower Grove’s bees, Kayleigh is prepared to do everything she can to help. But is she ready to find her own happy-ever-after too…?

My Thoughts

The Beekeeper in Elderflower Grove has the most original chuckle inducing openings I have read. The job interview conducted by a bee via zoom is one to remember and sets the tone of the book. It’s light-hearted, full of bee puns and offers the reader an escape from reality.

Kayleigh is down on her luck and needs a job at any cost even if she needs a dummy guide on beekeeping to do it. The location of Elderflower Grove is wonderful and has a fairy tale atmosphere about it which cast a spell on me just as much as the characters. Beautifully described, I could smell the flowers, taste the honey and hear the sound of nature, and I didn’t want to leave. The house has a huge personality of its own which made me long for it to be saved from developers.

Carey was someone I’d love to meet with his retro t-shirts which sent me down memory lane, and his humour and warmth despite a broken heart. Reading the developing friendship and chemistry between him and Kayleigh was like witnessing your best friends fall in love. It was a joy to watch.

The trials and twists to save the house and the bees made me keep turning the page so I read this in a day and night. Who needs sleep when a happy ever after is promised?

Would I recommend?

With more than a sprinkling of bee facts, this heart-warming novel is perfect for a summer’s read or when you need to escape from the world. This romance  is one for my forever shelf for a reread when I need some warmth and chuckles and with more than a few mentions of ghosts, it’ll be enjoyed by those visiting the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf too.

Author Biography

Photo of author Jaimie Admans, woman with dark long hair, glasses, smiling wearing a black top. The background is pink with white spots
Jaimie Admans

Jaimie is a 36-year-old English-sounding Welsh girl with an awkward-to-spell name. She lives in South Wales and enjoys writing, gardening, watching horror movies, and drinking tea, although she’s seriously considering marrying her coffee machine. She loves autumn and winter, and singing songs from musicals despite the fact she’s got the voice of a dying hyena. She hates spiders, hot weather, and cheese & onion crisps. She spends far too much time on Twitter and owns too many pairs of boots. She will never have time to read all the books she wants to read.

She is the author of several romantic comedies for HarperCollins – The Chateau of Happily Ever Afters, The Little Wedding Island, It’s a Wonderful Night, The Little Vintage Carousel by the Sea, Snowflakes at the Little Christmas Tree Farm, The Little Bookshop of Love Stories, The Wishing Tree Beside the Shore, The Little Christmas Shop on Nutcracker Lane, The Post Box at the North Pole, and The Beekeeper at Elderflower Grove.

Social Media Links –

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/be_the_spark

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jaimieadmansbooks

Thank you Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Love

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