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**BLOG TOUR** The Clockmaker’s Wife by Daisy Wood

London, 1940: After their house is destroyed in the Blitz, Nell Spelman flees to the countryside with her baby, Alice, leaving her husband, Arthur behind. Arthur has an important job to do – he is one of the men tasked with keeping the Great Clock at Westminster working and the famous Big Ben chiming.

New York, Present Day: When Ellie discovers a watch belonging to a grandmother she never met, she embarks on an investigation to find out more about her family’s past. When another discovery shocks her to the core, she begins to wonder whether she really wants to know the truth.

The first thing I would like to say about The Clockmaker’s Wife is how pleased I was that the blurb does not give away too much of the plot. Enough to grab my attention, I found myself instantly engrossed in the story, wondering where the author was going to take us. The World War Two setting opens up so many potential twists and turns and we definitely have many of them here!

Although this is told in two time frames, it was the chapters set during World War Two that were the strongest for me as this was where the core of the plot took place. All aspects of the war were covered from the Blitz to evacuation, rationing to the changing role of women. There is a huge element of mystery and intrigue making up the focus for both time frames which was exciting and at times, highly emotive.

The Clockmaker’s Wife is a well-written piece of historical fiction which kept me gripped right until the end and I will definitely be looking out for more books by this author.

With thanks to Ellie Pilcher for organising the blog tour and to Avon and Net Galley for my copy.

The Weeping Lady Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh

Perdita and Piper Rivers are now settled into their new life at Marquess House, but a violent storm threatens to uncover more secrets. In this short story, following on from the previous three books, what new mysteries are about to be revealed?

I really enjoyed reading the Marquess House trilogy and so, while I was pre-ordering Alexandra Walsh’s next book, The Wind Chime, I was thrilled to see that there was also a short story about Perdita and Piper that I hadn’t yet read. This does contain some spoilers, so if this sounds like your sort of book, it would definitely be worthwhile reading the others first.

Told in two time frames, we learn of a convent in 1486 where the bones of a suspected saint have been discovered. Before a sacred shrine can be erected, Mother Superior, Sister Non, knows she has to intervene to prevent her secret from being revealed. Just who do the bones belong to? This story is taken up in the present day by the Rivers sisters, as they aim to uncover the truth behind a centuries-old ghost story.

The Weeping Lady Conspiracy moves on at a good pace and is a perfect read for anyone who enjoys dual time frame novels. I am also pleased to see that the trilogy has now become a saga and I am eagerly awaiting the, as yet, unnamed fourth book in the series.

Take a look at my reviews of the rest of the series:

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy

The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy

The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy

**BLOG TOUR** The Lost Sister by Kathleen McGurl

In 1911, Emma leaves the family home to become a stewardess onboard the ocean liner Olympic. Leaving her two sisters, Lily and Ruby, behind, she promises to be back soon. Nothing ever goes according to plan, however, and soon the sisters’ lives are changed for ever. In the present day, Harriet finds her late grandmother’s travelling trunk in the attic. Finding a photo of her grandmother with her sisters, she is confused. She knew that her grandmother had a sister who died young but who is the other girl? She soon finds herself learning about the three sister ships Olympic, Britannic and Titanic and discovering what tore the sisters apart.

It is always a pleasure to feature on a blog tour for a Kathleen McGurl book and more so when the subject is something that I have a great interest in – RMS Titanic. The story of the Titanic has been well documented but the fate of her sister ships is less known and it was clear to see the research that has been undertaken by the author in order to tell their stories. Most fiction about the Titanic tends to focus on the passengers, so it was pleasing to read about a member of staff, giving a different perspective of life at sea.

The two time frames each have their own plot, linked neatly together by a family connection. We also see the common theme of complicated sibling relationships running throughout both eras. There were many parallels between the two sets of characters, Ruby and Davina being headstrong with no concerns about how they are perceived by the outside world and the more staid personalities of Emma and Sally.

I am a fan of genealogical fiction and so I particularly enjoyed reading about Harriet’s desire to find out about her family and her use of DNA testing. This gave the story another superb layer, helping to contribute to the several twists and turns that the author has included, one of which, in particular, knocked me sideways!

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Kathleen McGurl’s dual timeline novels and this one is another wonderful read. An accurate portrayal of family relationships with a plot that is both heartwarming and heart wrenching, I thoroughly recommend reading The Lost Sister.

With thanks to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources, Net Galley, H Q Digital and Kathleen McGurl for my copy and for organising the blog tour.

Take a look at my reviews of some of Kathleen McGurl’s other books:

The Emerald Comb 
The Pearl Locket
The Daughters Of Red Hill Hall
The Girl from Ballymor 
The Drowned Village
The Forgotten Secret
The Stationmaster’s Daughter
The Secret of the Chateau

The Forgotten Gift

Henry VIII’s Secret Diary by Terry Deary

Henry VIII, arguably the most famous king of England, is a character that always piques the interest of children. His six wives and his love of all things lavish, makes him the perfect historical character to get younger people interested in history. Now he has been given the Horrible Histories treatment, with a fictional account of his diary, albeit a very accurate piece of fiction!

Henry VIII is the ideal candidate for a book such as this, as there are so many infamous events and controversies throughout his reign. Dealing with the likes of the Pilgrimage of Grace, the Field of the Cloth of Gold and the Dissolution of the Monasteries, it is written in a humorous, child-friendly way which gets across the meaning of these significant events without ever appearing too stuffy.

The theme I enjoyed the most was his relationship with the Pope. Knowing that the Break with Rome was a major part of his reign, I found Henry’s changing opinion of the Pope hilarious and the book clearly shows how Henry used religion as a way of achieving his own aims.

The traditional Horrible Histories books have always been a favourite of mine and this looks like it could be another great series.

**BLOG TOUR** The Lost Girls of Foxfield Hall by Jessica Thorne

Grief-stricken gardener Megan Taylor, tries to put thoughts of her missing in action brother out of her mind by taking a job at Foxfield Hall, restoring the maze in the overgrown gardens. She soon becomes interested in the mystery of the hall’s most famous resident, Lady Eleanor Fairfax, who disappeared in 1939 during the harvest festival. Although no body was ever found, Megan begins to wonder if she could have been murdered. There is also the possibility that she ran away in order to avoid a marriage to someone she didn’t love or could it even have something to do with her father’s war work? Megan finds the maze drawing her in, feeling that the truth could lie inside. Will she discover what happened to Eleanor or will she become the next woman to simply disappear without a trace?

If you had the opportunity to prevent a past tragedy from happening, not knowing how your actions would affect the future, would you do it? This is the dilemma faced by Megan when she is somehow transported back to 1939, days before the disappearance of Lady Eleanor Fairfax. Ellie, as she is known, is about to find her world turned upside down due to the outbreak of World War Two, her fiancé’s involvement in the armed services and her father’s secret war work meaning that she is left in the care of Ava Seaborne, her father’s new secretary. Ava was a mysterious character, this feeling of forebording becoming stronger when Megan encountered a Dr Faye Seaborne. A familial connection or something else entirely?

The Lost Girls of Foxfield Hall packs in an awful lot, switching genres effectively throughout. Part mystery, science-fiction, history and romance, it was the time travel element that fascinated me the most. The two lead characters, Megan and Ellie, were both strong women, Ellie in particular showing great tenacity when faced with her future. Knowing the fate that was about to befall her, yet not knowing exactly how it was to happen, I admired Ellie’s determination to get to the truth, not letting the aforementioned Ava Seaborne stop her in her tracks.

Jessica Thorne managed to blindside me numerous times, leaving me wondering which characters were on the side of Ellie and Megan and which ones were not. This definitely kept me on my toes throughout! In such a complex plot, I was pleased that there were no loose ends left at the end, the story reaching a satisfying conclusion.

With thanks to Bookouture and Netgalley for my ARC and to Noelle Holten for orgainsing the blog tour.

Buy  Link:         

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The Christmas Carol by M J Lee

Genealogist Jayne Sinclair finds herself with an unusual request when an antiques dealer asks her to discover the provenance of a first edition of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens. With the only clues being a hand-written dedication, a name, a place and a date, she only has three days to complete her task before the book is due to be auctioned. With Christmas fast approaching and with the prospect of spending the festive season on her own, Jayne must try to unearth the truth of what happened in Christmas 1843.

This is the latest book in M J Lee’s Jayne Sinclair series and this time we see the genealogist taking on a different sort of mystery. Instead of being asked to trace the family tree of a client, she is tasked to prove that a copy of ‘A Christmas Carol’, dedicated to a local man in 1843, is indeed a first edition. The value of the book could increase dramatically if this could be ascertained although trying to find information about the man could prove impossible in the time frame she has been given to solve the mystery.

Like in all of the previous books in the series, I loved reading of the research that Jayne undertook and was particularly pleased to see her exploring the libraries of Manchester instead of just relying on online sources. I always like reading about places I have visited and the comments about the John Rylands library mirrored my own when I visited, albeit briefly, a few years ago. After being reminded of this wonderful place, I have made a mental note to revisit once the pandemic is well and truly behind us.

Crime fiction set in the Victorian era is a particular favourite of mine and I have been enjoying the Dickens and Jones series by J. C. Briggs. I was pleased, therefore, to see that this would also feature Dickens as a character in the chapters of the book set in 1843. M J Lee paints a vivid picture of Victorian Manchester, showing the sort of lives that the mill workers of the north had to endure. In most books of this type, it is the slums of London that we read about so it was good to read about somewhere different.

The Christmas Carol is a quick read, heartwarming and perfect for this time of year. I hope it won’t be too long before we get to read about Jayne’s latest adventure, possibly with a tie in to her forthcoming holiday with her step-parents?

People of Abandoned Character by Clare Whitfield

In London in 1888, former nurse Susannah thinks that she is about to start a new, secure life with her doctor husband Thomas. The honeymoon period is short, however, as Thomas begins to stay out late returning home covered in blood and with a temper that makes his new wife fear for her life. When a woman is murdered in Whitechapel, Susannah begins to take an interest in the newspaper reports, reading everything she can. When other women are killed in horrific circumstances, Susannah begins to realise that the deaths coincide with her husband being away from home. Could Thomas be the one they call Jack the Ripper?

I am always looking for a a different take on the Jack the Ripper story, whether it be fiction or non-fiction and so People of Abandoned Character piqued my interest immediately. What I found was that, although the premise of the book is that the protagonist suspects her husband of being the notorious killer, this is only the backdrop to what is a wonderful take on life for the poorer classes in London, in particular the plight of women who were unfortunate enough to find themselves in the slums of Whitechapel.

In People of Abandoned Character, we see Susannah, a product of Whitechapel, managing to secure herself a position as a nurse, providing her with a way out of the misfortune that befell her own mother. Despite this, the life of an unmarried woman in Victorian Britain was a precarious one and so it was easy to see why her head was turned by Thomas, a doctor several years her junior and why she felt compelled to marry him. The marriage was by no means a happy one and Clare Whitfield paints a terrifying picture of what Susannah had to endure at the hands of her husband and his housekeeper, Mrs Wiggs.

The descriptions of life in Whitechapel were incredibly clear and I could visualise the desperation of the people who lived there as they tried to survive. Although, as I wrote earlier, the murders are a backdrop to the rest of the plot, I was pleased to read about the victims when they were alive, the author giving them a voice instead of just portraying them as dead prostitutes.

As the book reached its exciting conclusion, I couldn’t wait to see if Susannah’s fears would be realised. The ending was full of shocks and was particularly macabre and gruesome. You will have to read the book to see if Thomas was Jack however…

People of Abandoned Character is a fantastic debut and I shall look forward to reading more of Clare Whitfield’s work.

With thanks to Head of Zeus and Net Galley for my copy.

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

*This review is of the picture book illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole*

Michael Morpurgo’s book about the friendship between a boy and his horse has become a modern classic and with this new illustrated version for younger readers, he is destined to get a whole new audience.

When Albert’s horse, Joey, is sold to the army at the start of World War One, Albert joins up as a private, determined to seek out his friend amongst the thousands of other horses on the battlefields of Europe. As the conflict progresses, both boy and horse witness the horrors of war, never giving up hope that one day they will be reunited.

This book has been adapted by Michael Morpurgo from his original novel, the key events from the story being given in a way that makes it very approachable for young readers. It is hard not to be moved by the story as you see the bond between Albert and Joey and Albert’s determination to find his friend once again. Heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measures, this is a powerful tale of friendship and determination that will appeal to all readers.

The illustrations by Tom Clohosy Cole are out of this world, helping to enhance the child’s understanding by providing clear images of life on the battlefront. One illustration in particular made the book for me, that is the depiction of no man’s land. There is so much detail, from the fearful expressions on the soldiers’ faces, the desolation of the battlefields and the distant explosions and fires.

This adaptation of War Horse is a fantastic introduction to Morpurgo’s work for younger readers but it also has so much to offer for all ages. It is worth purchasing for the illustrations alone.

**BLOG TOUR** The Forgotten Gift by Kathleen McGurl

1861

When George first sets eyes on Lucy, one of his household’s servants, he is smitten and is soon making plans for his future. After being rejected, however, his hopes are further thwarted when Lucy dies, seemingly the victim of a poisoning. Distraught, George knows that someone at home must have killed her, but who?


Present

Cassie is quite content with her life: a job she loves, friends she can rely on and doting parents who would do anything for her. All this is turned upside down, however, as research into her family history makes her question everything she thought she knew about her life.

I am a huge fan of Kathleen McGurl’s dual timeline novels, my favourite being The Daughters of Red Hill Hall. I was thrilled, therefore to see that the author has revisited my favourite era of historical fiction, the Victorian period, in her latest book, The Forgotten Gift.

As with her other books, we have two different plots set in two different time frames with a common theme running through them. The issue of family secrets is very much at the forefront here and the lengths some people will go to in order to stop these secrets from being revealed. I had great sympathy for George, who came across as a lovely young man, shunned by his family through no fault of his own. By starting the book with George’s will, I immediately became invested in his story, and was desperate to know what had happened in his life. This also provided a good link between the two time frames as Cassie tried to discover the same things.

As a fellow genealogist, I could relate a lot to the character of Cassie and loved how an enjoyable evening for her was one sat reading old documents, trying to make sense of the past. The discovery of scandal is an occupational hazard for a family historian, but Cassie manages to open up several cans of worms that have a profound effect on her life. I won’t give any spoilers, but I felt that this was sensitively handled, showing very real reactions from all involved parties.

I have, recently, been struggling to read books at my usual pace and I knew that a Kathleen McGurl book would help me out of my slump. I was so right as I raced through The Forgotten Gift, desperate to know what had happened in George’s life and how had overcome his problems. (Although I loved Cassie’s story, it was George who tugged at the heart strings for me!)

This is a wonderful read which, although fiction, gives a real insight into aspects of Victorian life. I have sung the praises of this author many times and I will continue to do so. If you haven’t read any of her work before, then please do – you won’t be disappointed!

With thanks to Rachel’s Random Resources, Kathleen McGurl, Net Galley ad HQ Digital for my copy of The Forgotten Gift.

Take a look at my reviews of other books by Kathleen McGurl:

   The Emerald Comb 
   The Pearl Locket
   The Daughters Of Red Hill Hall
   The Girl from Ballymor 
   The Drowned Village
   The Forgotten Secret
   The Stationmaster’s Daughter
   The Secret of the Chateau

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