Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Girl Below Stairs by Jennie Felton

Edie Cooper has grown up at Fairley Terrace, surrounded by a loving family. Now she spends her days working as lady's maid to Christina, the adopted daughter of the powerful Fairley family, and her nights dreaming of a life with handsome local lad Charlie Oglethorpe. Although broken-hearted when Charlie leaves to make his fortune in London, Edie finds consolation in her friendship with Christina, who asks for her help in uncovering the mystery of her true parentage. But someone in the grand house will stop at nothing to keep the long-buried secrets hidden. Will Edie be able to protect Christina? And will she find her own path to happiness with Charlie? 

This is the third book in The Families of Fairley Terrace saga. Each book is the story of one family who live in the terrace but they are easily read as stand alone books.

The story begins in 1895 when a baby is found on the steps of the local Catholic Church on Christmas Eve in a little village in Somerset. 
Fifteen years later Edie Cooper who is in service at Fairley Hall as a maid is being promoted to a Lady's Maid to Christina, Lady Elizabeth's adopted fifteen year old daughter. 
The book is full of secrets and lies, mysteries and unrequited love. There are good people and bad within both the upper and the lower class. Money does not make you a nice person and neither does the lack of it. 

Trying to forget her lost love Edie throws herself into finding out who Christina's real mother is but in doing so she could also discover secrets belonging to someone else. Danger lurks when that person will stop at nothing to get want they want.
Edie is a character you take to straightaway. She's kind,hardworking and longing for someone who can never be hers.
Quilla, Lady Elizabeth's maid is the character you love to hate. She is a vile woman who makes life hard for those around her.
One of the characters Julia becomes involved in the suffragette movement and I thought that was an interesting part of the book. Goodness,women were so downtrodden back then and it seemed to be frowned upon to go anywhere or do anything without a man by your side.
I thought I had guessed some of the secrets,but I was wrong. There are a few surprises towards the end that made this book hard to put down and it did have a great ending.
I love reading a series of books as each time a new one is written it's like pulling over a familiar comfy blanket and curling up at the fireside for a cracking good read.

If you have enjoyed Josephine Cox or Catherine Cookston in the past you will enjoy this book. 
Jennie Felton's next book will be called The Widow's Promise and there's a preview of it at the end of The Girl below stairs that leaves me wanting more.

Amazon for kindle or hardback.

On sale in paperback at The Book Depository. Free shipping worldwide.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

One Last Wish by Ella Harper

Rosie and Nate had the perfect relationship. But they struggled to cope with the devastating news their daughter Emmie has incurable cancer. It feels like their world – and their relationship – has come crashing down. 
They must do everything to support their little girl, but can they stop their marriage falling apart? 
Unbeknownst to her parents, Emmie is on a mission. She is determined to make them see what brought them together in the first place – and make them fall in love all over again. 

Emmie was only five years old when her parents were told that all the chemotherapy and radiotherapy that their child had been through hadn't worked and she now had an inoperable brain tumour.
Emmie is now eleven years old and every minute of everyday her parents are expecting the phone call that says the brain tumour has grown enough to end their daughter's life. Emmie is worried too,she's worried that her parents will not stay together after she is gone. Emmie is going to do something about it.
Yes,this book is very sad and I cried at the end. This book probably mirrors what lots of parents are going through right now. 
The story is told  through the voices of Rosie,Nate and Emmie. Rosie feels she can't speak to Nate anymore and Nate feels the same about her. There are so many misunderstandings between them that make matters worse and I wanted to get them both together and bang their heads. 
Rosie has a lovely twin sister, Lily, who is everything a sister should be and it's a pleasant change to read about sisters who get on with each other. Nate is a policeman and he confides in his partner Gill who is so supportive to him.
Along the way we meet Dr Tom who is Emmie's new counsellor. She feels at ease with him from the beginning and he is able to help her in her quest.
I don't want to tell you anything more about this story apart from advising you to have a box of tissues at the ready. I can see this book being made into a film. Although it's a sad subject it has a feel good factor about it. The way Emmie dealt with her diagnosis and how lovely the other characters in the book were. They were all people you would welcome into your life.
Only £1.99 for kindle download.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Midnight Blue by Simone Van Der Vlugt

Amsterdam 1654: a dangerous secret threatens to destroy a young widow’s new life.
Following the sudden death of her husband, twenty-five year old Catrin leaves her small village and takes a job as housekeeper to the successful Van Nulandt merchant family. Amsterdam is a city at the peak of its powers: science and art are flourishing in the Golden Age and Dutch ships bring back exotic riches from the Far East.
When a figure from her past threatens her new life, Catrin flees to Delft. There, her painting talent earns her a chance as a pottery painter. Slowly, the workshop begins to develop a new type of pottery to rival the coveted Chinese porcelain – and Delft Blue is born. But when tragedy strikes, Catrin has a hard choice to make.

I thought this book might be a bit hard going to read as it is set in Amsterdam in 1654 and translated into English. I needn't have worried as I found it quite an easy read. I was awful at History I school ,I found it very boring but books like this set around historical events always awaken my interest.
Poor Catrin, married to a brute of a man who beats her for no reason,it is no wonder when he dies she can only feel relief. Catrin has a secret and before anyone finds out she has to leave her home and family. Secrets have a way of catching up on you and Catrin flees further than she intends to and ends up in Amsterdam. Everything is settled for a while but once again Catrin has to move and this time to Delft. This is where Catrin finds her niche in life, painting China and we hear the story of how Delft Blue porcelain began. 
I loved the descriptions of old Amsterdam and Delft. The excitement of traveling through the waterways on any kind of craft which was usually carrying goods for trading. The horror of the plague as it spread through the towns and villages and the fear held by everyone.
Catrin experienced hardship along the way but her meeting of each of three brothers and their friends helped her to live,love and find peace with her past.
This was a good read and there was never a dull moment throught the story. I don't think you have to love historical books to enjoy this,it's not too heavy on the history.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown


The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six...'
1645. When Alice Hopkins' husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.
But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women's names.
To what lengths will Matthew's obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?
Based on the true story of the man known as the Witchfinder General, this exquisitely rendered novel transports you to a time and place almost unimaginable, where survival might mean betraying those closest to you, and danger lurks outside every door.

I'm delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour for the debut novel The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown.
It is with trepidation that Alice returns to her brother's house in Manningtree. She hasn't heard from him in years and they didn't part on the best of terms when she married a man her brother didn't approve of. Returning as a pregnant widow is not going to please her brother and Alice decides to hide her pregnancy from him for as long as possible.
I suspected that this might be a scary read and didn't want to read it before bedtime as I feared I might dream about it all night. It was actually worse than scary because I knew it to be based on truth.
What struck me the most was that good people did nothing. Once Matthew, the Witchfinder's General had started on his murderous road no one stood in his way. He was aided and abetted by rich men and by fear. Alice tried to make things slightly easier for the accused women but by doing so I feel she made herself complicit in his dealings.
I enjoy reading books that are based on true facts from history. We are told this story from the point of view of Alice who is the fictitious sister of Matthew. She has no idea what her brother is involved in and is horrified when she has to accompany him on his witch finding expeditions. 
The harsh life of living in the seventeenth century was shown through simple things like an old loaf of bread on a table as the only nourishment, riding a horse for miles on end being the only transport, and sharing a bed with a stranger in an inn.
This is a good first novel from Beth Underwood. I found the beginning a bit slow but it picked up pace and I was soon desperate to find out how Alice would survive her life with her brother.
There was also something really sad throughout the book. The fact that if misfortune fell on rich people they blamed it on being cursed or by some witchery by either poor or simple people. Babies dying young, horses being lame, crops failing. You name it and it was blamed on these so called witches.
I think the only truly evil person was Matthew himself and I wanted him to come to a sticky end.
Talking about the end.I loved the ending of this book,it also scared me and I think it calls for a sequel.
As I said at the start I was worried about reading this book mainly because I'm a scardey cat and easily spooked. There is no doubt that it's a thought provoking subject and although I wasn't scared I did jump at a shadow or two one day after reading it.
There are other people in the story who grab your attention. One is Rebecca and another is Grace, Alice's mother in law. I would like to have read more about the other women who were being held for trial I think it would have made me even more sympathetic towards them.
After finishing this book I've found myself googling witch trials and Matthew Hopkins as my curiosity about the subject matter has grown.
I hope to read more by Beth Underwood in the future.

About the author......

Beth Underdown was born in Rochdale in 1987. She studied at the University of York and then the University of Manchester, where she is now a Lecturer in Creative Writing. The Witchfinder’s Sister is her debut novel, and is based on the life of the 1640s witch finder Matthew Hopkins. She first came across him while reading a book about seventeenth-century midwifery. As you do.