Thursday, November 16, 2017

Review: The Betrayal

Title: The Betrayal
Author: Kate Furnivall
Publisher: 1 November 2017 by Simon & Schuster
Pages: 400 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, war, WWII
My Rating: 5 cups


Could you kill someone? Someone you love?

Paris, 1938. This is the story of twin sisters divided by fierce loyalties and by a terrible secret. The drums of war are beating and France is poised, ready to fall. One sister is an aviatrix, the other is a socialite and they both have something to prove and something to hide. Discover a brilliant story of love, danger, courage ... and betrayal.

My Thoughts

When I saw a new Kate Furnivall book, the rush was on ... where do I sign up? This author is a certain ‘go to’ as she just never fails to deliver. In this particular story, Kate has created an entertaining, intriguing and gripping story that I enjoyed from beginning to end. Packed full of details about the time preceding World War 2 and the rise of fascism in Europe, made this a gripping and intelligent read.

We begin in 1930, Paris, where a traumatic incident occurs, involving the twins, which has tragic consequences. Fast forward to 1938 just before WWII when Adolf Hitler and his party are on the the road to war.  Here unfolds a time of tumultuous confusion as events from the past keep coming back to haunt the sisters. This book will keep you guessing until the very end - so much intrigue, romance and ,yes betrayal, will see you furiously racing through pages to see how it all unfolds.

Furnivall is a master story teller. This is a book full of action with just enough romantic suspense thrown into the mix. You will love the dual narrative between the sisters, particularly Romy and her attempts to make good over perceived actions from eight years ago that she cannot fully remember. Furnivall’s descriptions of pre war Paris were real and insightful. Her research into aircraft and assistance to Spain, flawless - it reads as if you were on a mission with Romy.

The characters here - both primary and secondary - are brilliant! The twin sisters demonstrate such strength and resilience. The array of secondary characters exhibit a real depth of realism from those you cheer for, to those you are afraid of. This is a book about secrets and their impact in the form of lies and treachery. Yet through it all, there is this sense of strength and love - for sibling, for partners, for cause.

“The strong black lines of truth stand out. The lines are the scaffolding of life. They are made up of love. And hate. Love of someone. Of a cause. Of justice. Of self. Hate of someone. Of a cause. Of justice. Of self.”

From the very beginning, Furnivall will hit you with the impact of a certain event, and until the very end you will be engaged. Unusual for the heart of the story to be revealed in a prologue, but oh so clever, as the story then gradually unfolds of how this event affects the sister’s - love, guilt, intrigue, loyalty, murder.....

“I am afraid. Afraid of myself. Afraid of what is inside me. I am alone in a closed room with my dead father and I know I have murdered him.”

I cannot praise this book highly enough - a brilliant read, detailing the uncertainty of what lay ahead with the onset of WWII. ‘The Betrayal’  had me turning the pages so eager to find out what lay in store, especially for these sisters who shared such secrets and such love. Here is escapism at it’s finest - riveting storyline with plenty of punch in the plots. Please do yourself a favour and spend some time in pre-war France with these unforgettable characters.

‘I know you are a pain in the arse, hell bent on destroying yourself. The best damn flier I know, with enough courage for a whole squadron of fliers. With a generous heart and a frantic determination to drown yourself in a bottle. I don’t know what the hell happened to you in the past, Romaine, or what makes you push people away to stop anyone getting close.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Friday, November 10, 2017

Review: The Austen Escape

Title: The Austen Escape
Author: Katherine Reay
Publisher: 7th November 2017 by Thomas Nelson
Pages: 336 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: women's fiction, romance, chick lit, contemporary
My Rating: 4 cups

After years of following her best friend’s lead, Mary Davies finds a whimsical trip back to Austen’s Regency England paves the way towards a new future.
Mary Davies lives and works in Austin, Texas, as an industrial engineer. She has an orderly and productive life, a job and colleagues that she enjoys—particularly a certain adorable, intelligent, and hilarious consultant. But something is missing for Mary. When her estranged and emotionally fragile childhood friend Isabel Dwyer offers Mary a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in Bath, Mary reluctantly agrees to come along, in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways. But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes that she lives in Regency England. Mary becomes dependent on a household of strangers to take care of Isabel until she wakes up.
With Mary in charge and surrounded by new friends, Isabel rests and enjoys the leisure of a Regency lady. But life gets even more complicated when Mary makes the discovery that her life and Isabel’s have intersected in more ways that she knew, and she finds herself caught between who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who stands between them. Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this triangle works out their lives and hearts among a company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation.
My Thoughts

I was excited to read this book, thinking it to be fun escapism. However, it proved to be so much more than that! Yes there was a romance and period dressing up, even the selection of characters revealed a subtle insight into their persona - but it is not just a simple retelling of a Jane Austen tale through modern eyes. The beauty and cleverness (if truth be told) of this story was placing someone from the present day into an Austen story and recounting it through their eyes and experiences. Combine that with homage paid to the great Jane Austen (‘Persuasion’ is here in all it’s glory with the misunderstandings and second chances) that one cannot help but be impressed.

“He twisted the book to see the spine. “Of course. Pride and Prejudice.” “I think they have one in every room.” “And why not? It’s a manual for life—setting right pride, prejudice, misconceptions, and self-illusions. Also some good fun.”

Oh! How I would love to go on such an ‘Austen Escape’ and lose myself in Regency England -  that alone would have been a fun tale. Yet that was a mere backdrop, in some ways, to the true message behind this tale. This is a book about friendships, forgiveness, growth and having the strength to be yourself. Each of the characters here have a checkered past, things they struggled to move on from and it’s good to take the journey into a fresh start with them.

“simply enjoy the costumes, the carriage rides, and the long walks, then sit here and check e-mail, work, or watch television.”

Then, of course, there is the insurmountable Jane Austen. You will relish the tributes to her books, the clever insights into the characters and plot with the inclusion of many a good quote. Fans of Austen will appreciate the many references, yet anyone would enjoy this character driven tale whether you were an Austen addict or not. Having read Katherine Reay's books before, I knew that she draws you into both place and person. This book demonstrates her ability to seamlessly switch between an escape to Regency England combined with the high tech of our modern world - ipads included! She will engage you with relatable characters and instill a sense of hope in you with a touch of realism.

“I mustered up a smile and looped my arm through hers. “We shall walk. When there are serious matters to discuss, Austen women walk.”

Take a break - though phones are allowed - and step inside an Austen character, not to discover who they are, but who you are! It’s witty, it’s fun and I highly recommend it to Austen fans for a sprinkling of all the famous and well loved characters she created, plus a whole lot more.

“She wrote with such precision that a single phrase evoked an emotional response. She elicited laughter, warmth, and even a sense of awe. Across two hundred years, I recognized her characters in the here and now. She wrote about people I knew.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in

Monday, November 6, 2017

Review: Snowdrift and Other Stories

Title: Snowdrift and Other Stories
Author: Georgette Heyer
Publisher: 3 October 2017 by Sourcebooks Casablanca (first published 1960)
Pages: 368 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, short stories, romance
My Rating: 4 cups


The Queen of Regency Romance, Georgette Heyer, shines in this sparkling collection of fourteen short stories brimming with romance, intrigue, villainy, gallant heroes, compelling heroines, and, of course, the dazzling world of the Regency period.

Additional content in this re-issue of the Pistols for Two collection includes three of Heyer's earliest short stories, rarely seen since their original publication in the 1930s, as well as a Foreword by Heyer's official biographer, Jennifer Kloester.

Revel in a Regency world so intricately researched and charmingly realized, you'll want to escape there again and again in Heyer stories new and old.

My Thoughts

“Heyer delighted in writing sparkling comedies of manners, clever mysteries and incomparable Regency romances.”

For some time now, Georgette Heyer has been on my reading radar - I know! How can a historical fiction connoisseur such as myself, never have read Heyer! So here I go, and I thought these short stories for lovers of traditional Regency romances would provide a wonderful introduction.

‘Snowdrift and Other Stories’ anthology contains fourteen short stories, inclusive of three newer stories that have not been published, I am informed, for many years. What you have here is a taste test that provide lovely, entertaining escapist moments, filled with all that is good and fluffy - young women meeting (or thrown in the path) of wealthy men, in all sorts of variations; rich in period detail and filled with some of the wittiest dialogue I have come across.

“Only two things belied the air of primness she seemed so carefully to cultivate: the jaunty bow which tied her bonnet under one ear, and the twinkle in her eye, which was as sudden as it was refreshing.”

When you sign up for this, you know for certain what you are in for - and in this instance - that is a good thing. Almost every story revolves around travel or runaways, elopement, an Earl, Duke or some entitled male (always handsome of course) and a young innocent, trusting female. These are light-hearted and loads of fun, packed to the hilt with romance and intrigue. Allow yourself to get carried away with young heroines and dashing heroes. There is loads of humour, all providing for some great escapism.

On the whole, I am not a fan of short stories - with little time to develop plot or character affiliation. The few ‘insta-love’ tales may push your acceptance to the limits with their predictability; and, plot lines in some instances are quite similar and repetitive. Overall, however,  it really is an enjoyable collection on the whole.

These are tales that are best taken in bite sized pieces whilst sipping that therapeutic cup of tea. If this is to your taste, you will thoroughly enjoy Heyer’s early works - an expert storyteller who can succinctly entice you with a lavish plot and engaging characters in the minimal amount of pages. Truly, take the journey to Regency England with these charming and romantic tales.  

Author of over fifty books, Georgette Heyer is one of the best-known and best-loved of all historical novelists, making the Regency period her own.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Review: Kiss Carlo

Title: Kiss Carlo
Author: Adriana Trigiani
Publisher: 10 August 2017 by Simon & Schuster UK
Pages: 540 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, romance
My Rating: 3.5 cups

From the beloved bestselling author of The Shoemaker’s Wife comes an exhilarating novel of friendship, family, love and loyalty.
It’s 1949 and South Philadelphia is bursting with possibility. The arrival of an urgent telegram from Italy upends the life of Nicky Castone,a young man who, orphaned as a child, now lives with his Uncle Dom and his large and boisterous family in the city. Surely there is more to life than this, despite a steady job in the family business and a sweet-natured fiancee?
In secret, Nicky begins moonlighting at the local Shakespeare theatre company and is quickly drawn to the stage, its colourful players… and to feisty Calla Borelli, who runs the show. Before long he finds himself on the horns of a dilemma: can he return to the conventional life his family expects of him? Or does he have what it takes to chart a new course and risk losing everything he cherishes?
Told against the backdrop of some of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies, this epic novel brims with romance as long-buried secrets are revealed, mistaken identities are unmasked, scores are settled, broken hearts are mended and true love reigns. Kiss Carlo is a jubilee, resplendent with hope, love and the abiding power of la famiglia.
My Thoughts

I am such a fan of Adriana Trigiani’s writing, so it’s hard to turn down a new read from her. And whilst this read contained all her usual flair, it proved just a little too long to be truly compelling. At over 500 pages this is an epic family drama of Italian-American families in post war USA. Inspired by her own family experiences, Adriana details tales of love, loyalty, adventure and hope in this post war society.

“He leaned over the sink, looked in the mirror, and thought, Everything must change.

There are many tales to enjoy from this book from the feuding brothers to taxi dispatcher, Hortense, to the variety of comic daughter-in-laws.  However, the bulk of the story revolves around Nicky and Calla and their respective journeys: Nicky’s search for a life with meaning and Calla’s quest to save the family owned theatre. The problem is in fact, there are just too many stories all loosely based around family, and it’s difficult to keep track of.
“Nicky Castone decided he must not die until he had lived.”

If some of the plots could have been trimmed or even excluded, it would have made a world of difference, as this book seemed to stretch on for far too long. I struggled to appreciate the whole ambassador’s role and the mistaken identity seemed a little far fetched. And with SO many characters to keep track of, it took some of the enjoyment out of it - many storylines and dilemma’s to resolve, it detracted from getting deeper into the true search for meaning for the main characters.

“Why are you so determined? Who put you in charge of the happy ending of my life story?”

Adriana Trigiani could never really write a ‘bad’ book and this simple tale, with no great highs or lows,  has much to offer. You respect Nicky’s desire for more from life, you rally behind Calla’s efforts to save her livelihood and passion; but the book needed to be shorter and more interactive to score higher from me.

“What did you mean by that? If something doesn’t happen to you —”
“You heard right. If something doesn’t happen to me, this life is all for nothing.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Review: The Girl in the Picture

Title: The Girl in the Picture
Author: Kerry Barrett
Publisher: 20 September 2017 by HQ Digital
Pages: 384 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, mystery
My Rating: 4.5 cups


Two women. One house. Centuries of secrets

East Sussex Coast, 1855

Violet Hargreaves is the lonely daughter of a widowed industrialist, and an aspiring Pre-Raphaelite painter. One day, the naïve eighteen-year-old meets Edwin; a mysterious and handsome man on the beach, who promises her a world beyond the small coastal village she’s trapped in. But after ignoring warning about Edwin, a chain of terrible events begins to unfold for Violet…

East Sussex Coast, 2016

For thriller-writer Ella Daniels, the house on the cliff is the perfect place to overcome writer’s block, where she decides to move with her small family. But there’s a strange atmosphere that settles once they move in – and rumours of historical murders next door begin to emerge. One night, Ella uncovers a portrait of a beautiful young girl named Violet Hargreaves, who went missing at the same time as the horrific crimes, and Ella becomes determined to find out what happened there 160 years ago. And in trying to lay Violet’s ghost to rest, Ella must face ghosts of her own...

This haunting timeslip tale is perfect for fans of Kate Riordan, Tracy Rees, Kate Morton and Lucinda Riley.

My Thoughts

When a book is put in the same league as Kate Morton, it has quite a bit to live up too! ‘The Girl in the Picture’, is quite impressive in delivering the necessary plot twists and I would safely recommend it to all fans of this genre. This is the first Kerry Barrett book I have read and it will not be my last. Always a literary challenge to write a dual timeline narrative, Kerry masterfully alternates between Ella in the present, to Violet in 1885 in a seamless, easy to follow and intriguing tale.

Set on the coast of East Sussex and centring around the occurrences in the one house of these two women, separated only by the passage of time. What secrets does this house contain in relation to the murders and disappearance so many years ago? Kerry does a wonderful job of engaging the reader, providing little pieces of the puzzle to present day Ella, as she attempts to investigate what occurred back in 1885 to Violet. The intrigue heightens the further into the story you get, but it’s not until the end that you will confidently put all the pieces of this engaging puzzle together.

I enjoyed many aspects of this book - everything from: the well executed, dual timeline, the slow unfolding suspense and mystery combined with the substantial character development in both timelines. The story may start out a little slow for some and the modern day story lack that bit of lustre, but don’t let this deter you from a well written tale. The manipulation and violence may prove a little too close to home for some, but it certainly adds to the realism.

As Ella seeks to uncover the local mystery surrounding her newly purchased residence, the notorious tale of a murder mystery from 150 years ago will engross you. The balance between Ella’s present day discoveries coinciding with real time events for Violet is well done. This tale will prove a real treat for lovers of historical fiction with the added element of a well executed mystery.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Review: Secret Shores

Title: Secret Shores
Author: Ella Carey
Publisher: 5 September 2017 by Lake Union Publishing
Pages: 318 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, romance, mystery
My Rating: 4.5 cups

In 1946, artist Rebecca Swift’s dreams of love and a life free from convention are crashing like the waves of the Australian coast below her. And it’s into those roiling waters that she disappears.
Forty-one years later, Tess Miller’s dreams are crashing, too. The once-successful New York editor has lost her most prestigious author to the handsome new golden boy of publishing. Meanwhile, she’s stuck with Edward Russell, a washed-up Australian poet writing a novel about some obscure artist named Rebecca Swift. But Tess may have underestimated Russell. His book is not only true—it’s a searing, tragic romance and a tantalizing mystery set in a circle of postwar modernists. When Tess uncovers a long-hidden secret, she’s drawn even deeper into Rebecca’s enigmatic life and death.
As Rebecca’s past intertwines with the present, Tess finds herself falling for the last man she thought she’d ever be drawn to. On the way, she discovers the power of living an authentic life—and that transcendent love never really dies.
My Thoughts

“Take life one day at a time. It is the only way we can control our lives at times of indomitable grief.”

I have been looking forward to reading an Ella Carey book, and I was not disappointed - coming along at a time in my life when I really needed to read some of its contained wisdom. Being a huge fan of historical fiction and dual timelines, I was enthralled with this tale. ‘Secret Shores’ starts in Australian 1946 (just after WWII and all the ramifications of that) and then in 1987 with a clear link between the two timelines, only varying locations.

“The Heide circle were young moderns, trying to forge a new life out of the shatters of war. It was all-encompassing, you know, what they did, their rejection of the Establishment. From the way they lived, to the way they loved, freely, to the way they approached marriage, modernism went to the very core of themselves.”

This is a complex and intriguing tale of the modernist movement post WWII (you will be running to Google actual people) and how they attempt to break with traditions. You really get a feel for each of the characters especially the love story between Rebecca and Edward. The switch between timelines is smooth and meeting Edward in 1987 provides the opportunity for a retrospective reflection and a lesson in how to not only move on, but also, learn from lessons of the past.

“...perhaps it was equally important to look to the past, to not replicate the mistakes that people such as Edward’s family and their class had made, because the bubble would burst in the end.”

As is often the case, one story is slightly stronger, and although the link between the two is strong and well executed - the present love story between Tess and James feels at times a little contrived. Her paranoia and hostility begin to grate, but do not let that deter you from what is a well thought out story and plot evolution. When Tess discovers that the book she is editing is about the love Edward still harbours for Rebecca, thus begins a journey of self discovery for each of the characters.

Reading the novel along with Tess is a clever way to reveal facts from the past, whilst also securing new and personal insights through one-to-one discussions. It’s also interesting to see a small parallel between both relationships - past and present. The plot twist at the end of the book is well done and provides the perfect conclusion.

Overall this is a most interesting and worthwhile read - a moving tale, with complex characters and a compelling storyline that will keep you engaged until the very end.

“He had no desire to take himself back to those secret shores that he had sworn he would never revisit. That period of his life was too difficult, too frightening.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Friday, October 13, 2017

Review: A Secret Sisterhood

Title: A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf
Author: Emily Midorikawa, Emma Claire Sweeney
Publisher: 17 October 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pages: 336 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: biographies, memoir
My Rating: 4 cups


Male literary friendships are the stuff of legend; think Byron and Shelley, Fitzgerald and Hemingway. But the world’s best-loved female authors are usually mythologized as solitary eccentrics or isolated geniuses. Coauthors and real-life friends Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney prove this wrong, thanks to their discovery of a wealth of surprising collaborations: the friendship between Jane Austen and one of the family servants, playwright Anne Sharp; the daring feminist author Mary Taylor, who shaped the work of Charlotte Brontë; the transatlantic friendship of the seemingly aloof George Eliot and Harriet Beecher Stowe; and Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield, most often portrayed as bitter foes, but who, in fact, enjoyed a complex friendship fired by an underlying erotic charge.
Through letters and diaries that have never been published before, A Secret Sisterhood resurrects these forgotten stories of female friendships. They were sometimes scandalous and volatile, sometimes supportive and inspiring, but always—until now—tantalizingly consigned to the shadows.

My Thoughts

“... misleading myths of isolation have long attached themselves to women who write: a
cottage-dwelling spinster; an impassioned roamer of the moors; a fallen woman, shunned; a melancholic genius. Over the years, a conspiracy of silence has obscured the friendships of female authors, past and present. But now it is time to break the silence and celebrate this literary sisterhood - a glimmering web of interwoven threads that still has the power to unsettle, to challenge, to inspire.”

‘A Secret Sisterhood’ is an interesting book packed with loads of information, new insights and wonderful descriptions of friendship from times long gone. Reading more like a biography, it allows the reader to look at female literary friendships within the context of their writing.

Being a big Austen and Bronte fan, I was eager to see what new snippets would be brought to life. Thinking of these famous female authors (and understanding that writing is very much a solitary pursuit), one often sees them in isolation. This book reveals how much they were actively involved with others, sharing at times, revealing insights into their thinking. Either meeting in person or through their correspondence, one can learn a great deal more about the individual.

You do not have to be well versed on these writers, as a satisfactory amount of detail is provided by these authors. What they succeed in doing is portraying another aspect to these famous lives and how these friendships contributed to the writer’s lives. I learnt more about those I knew well eg. Jane Austen and was introduced to those I was unfamiliar with eg. George Eliot.

This is an extremely well researched book, impressively so. Dedicating three chapters to each of the writer’s, the authors shine a light on the importance of friendship to these famous women, through diaries, letters and other documents. The authors really do a fabulous job of inviting you into a ‘secret sisterhood’ and sharing details I knew little of.

If you are in any way intrigued by any of these literary heroines, or you are interested in literary history, then I highly recommend you take some time to discover this ‘Secret Sisterhood’.

“In piecing together the lost stories of these four trailblazing pairs, we have found alliances that were sometimes illicit, scandalous, and volatile; sometimes supportive, radical, or inspiring but, until now, tantalizingly consigned to the shadows.”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Review: Another Woman's Husband

Title: Another Woman’s Husband
Author: Gill Paul
Publisher: 29 August 2017 by Hachette Australia
Pages: 464 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction, romance
My Rating: 4 cups

Two women, divided by time, bound by a secret...
1911. Aged just fifteen, Mary Kirk and Wallis Warfield meet at summer camp. Their friendship will survive heartbreaks, continents, and the demands of the English crown, until it is shattered by one unforgivable betrayal...
1997. Kendall's romantic break in Paris with her fiance is interrupted when the taxi in front crashes suddenly. The news soon follows: Princess Diana is dead. Trying to forget what she has witnessed, Kendall returns home, where the discovery of a long-forgotten link to Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, will lead her to the truth of a scandal which shook the world...
My Thoughts

‘Another Woman's Husband’  is an intriguing tale of relationships, secrets, betrayals and forgiveness. It is a fabulous work of historical fiction - involved and well thought out, bringing characters and stories we all ‘know’ about  to life. Supported by factual information concerning Princess Diana and Wallis Simpson (as well as other historical figures of the time) you will be running to consult Google. Gill Paul does pretty much a flawless job at combining timelines, viewpoints and non/fiction.

Told from two perspectives, that of fictional character Rachel in 1997 and Mary Kirk (who you will be ‘Googling’!) from 1912 onwards. Mary Kirk was the close friend of Wallis Simpson, meeting as teenagers and remaining friends for many years to come. Most of us have heard of Wallis Simpson and her role in British history but this unique perspective is a real eye opener. Told through Mary Kirk’s eyes it’s just fascinating to read from the time they were teenagers through to the abdication and her marriage to a king. Being able to read the story, watching the drama unfold as if you were there, is mind blowing. Being predominantly a work of fiction, it’s difficult to differentiate between the non/fictional viewpoints, however, the author includes which parts were facts  at the end of the book.

This leads onto the skilled storytelling of Gill Paul. With a book focused on two such famous people from recent history - Diana and Wallis - it could easily become sensationalised. However, Paul deals with it in the most respectful and sensible fashion, shedding light on not one, but two scandals with good depth and honesty, thus providing real insight into what it may have been like at that time in history. You will find yourself transported to such a fascinating time and place with vivid descriptions of everything from fashion (lots of fascinating details), to cocktail parties - inclusive of extracts and paraphrased from letters shared between Wallis and Mary. Reading actual accounts at the end makes you appreciate not only Paul’s efforts at research but also how she bought possible events to life.

Obviously Wallis and Mary’s story is the more engaging one and I found some issues with the Diana link, particularly the relationship between Rachel and Alex. You do wonder how the threads of the two stories will be drawn together, and towards the end, the connections becomes clear and satisfying. I found this a most engaging read and loved immersing myself in the story of Wallis to appreciate the type of person who almost brought down a monarchy.  

‘She always had the air of a person who was searching for something more and would not be satisfied with an ordinary life.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Review: Willow Tree Bend

Title: Willow Tree Bend
Author: Kaye Dobbie
Publisher: 18 September 2017 by Harlequin (Australia), TEEN / MIRA
Pages: 352 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: women’s fiction, contemporary, cultural Australia, mystery
My Rating: 4 cups


An interrupted phone call and a mysterious disappearance brings a family’s secret past crashing into the present…

It’s 1969 and small-town girl Faith Taylor longs for the excitement of the city. Leaving her family home in Willow Tree Bend, Faith lands a job at The Angel — Melbourne’s most infamous nightclub. While Faith relishes her new-found freedom, she can’t help but notice that there are some things about the club that don’t add up. So when a policeman shows her a shocking photograph, and reveals that a former waitress was murdered, Faith realises she must help to bring down the shadowy owner behind the club’s activities.

More than thirty years later, what happened at The Angel remains a closely held secret, never spoken about. When Faith disappears, her sister Hope — now a famous movie star — is left with an intriguing, though frustrating, piece of the puzzle. But with a tell-all documentary film crew constantly by her side, how can she find where Faith is — and what she’s hiding — while making sure her own secrets stay hidden?

Faith’s daughter, Sam, is also concerned by her mother’s uncharacteristic behaviour. When she overhears a clue to Faith’s past, she’s determined to unearth the truth. What is the connection between The Angel and Willow Tree Bend? What does Faith's disappearance mean? And what will happen when the final secret is revealed?

My Thoughts

The previous work of Kaye’s, Mackenzie Crossing, was a superb five star read for me. So I was excited to read her latest tale. Whilst not as captivating, ‘Willow Tree Bend’ was still an engaging read.

“There were things going on here that I didn’t understand, like a dangerous undertow beneath a calm surface.”

Here is another dual timeline story, however on this occasion, it was only a thirty year gap - late 1960s and the year 2000. Dobbie does a great job at moulding and interweaving all the pieces of the puzzle to build suspense and present a good mystery - providing an even blend between both the contemporary and historical tale. This is a story about family secrets and how their revelation will have a major impact on the present.

This narrative is presented through three voices - Faith in the 1960s and Hope (her sister) and Sam (her daughter) in the present. We see Faith as a young girl from the country who finds work in the city and the troubles she encounters. Her sister, Hope (by the year 2000) is a famous Hollywood actress who has returned to her country home and learns herself, about what had unfolded back in the late 60s. Then there is Sam, and her story is all about reaching understandings in her relationships with family members and a prospective partner. Sam is struggling with all these well kept secrets and is trying to ascertain the truth.

“I was becoming more and more convinced that there was a dark underlying thread to this tale that I either wasn’t seeing or no one was telling me about.”

I have to admit to struggling a bit with the slowness of the tale; at times, not a great deal was happening and I found myself becoming disengaged from the story. Nothing really happened by a third way through and the pace only increased in the last twenty percent. I appreciate that Kaye was leaving little clues sprinkled throughout her narrative, but there was just not enough for it to be compelling.

Willow Tree Bend is a solid story with Kaye doing a good job of blending all three stories together very smoothly. Take some time to go back in time with the Taylor girls to unravel well kept family secrets.

‘The pain never goes away, does it? It fades, but when you dig a little, there it is, still hurting.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release