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The Girl From Bletchley Park by Kathleen McGurl

The Present

The Past

In 1942, Pam decides to defer her place at Oxford University to help with the war effort, joining a team of codebreakers in Bletchley Park. Finding herself the subject of the affection of two young men, she makes her choice, setting in motion a series of events that could change her life forever.

The Girl From Bletchley Park is another superb dual timeframe book from Kathleen McGurl. Kathleen seems to have the knack of choosing the perfect eras for these books and she has done it again here, the Buckinghamshire estate being the perfect setting for a book about mystery and betrayal. I visited Bletchley Park several years ago and would thoroughly recommend it as it really brings home how brave and intelligent women like Pam were.

The theme of betrayal runs through both timeframes, albeit betrayal in very different ways. I admired the strength of both women, Pam and Julia, and enjoyed reading a book with such strong female characters who were not afraid to take matters into their own hands when faced with an earth-shattering situation.

I always look forward to Kathleen McGurl’s books and am eagerly waiting to see which historical era she takes us to next.

With thanks to Net Galley and HQ Digital for my copy.

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

The Forgotten Gift

The Lost Sister

The Foundlings by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

In his latest case, forensic genealogist Morton Farrier aims to uncover the truth about three babies who were found abandoned in shop doorways in the 1970s. DNA evidence has connected these three babies but who, exactly, was the mother? The case also has a personal element for Morton as one of the foundlings is his recently-discovered half-aunt and there are potential revelations about his own grandfather. With time against him, what will Morton discover and will he want to share his shocking findings with those involved?

In recent years, popular television programmes such as Long Lost Family have used DNA testing to reunite family members and in The Foundlings, Nathan Dylan Goodwin uses this scientific advancement along with the more traditional methods of genealogy to piece together family histories that would otherwise stay hidden. The research is explained well and plays its part in an engrossing, highly readable plot.

The story is told in two time frames: the present day research of Morton and the actual events that the genealogist is researching. For the first time, we see Morton uncomfortable about his research, not sure whether he should share it with the foundlings due to the explosive nature of the information he finds out. The story is compelling and keeps you hooked right until the end and I enjoyed the humorous moments that provided some light relief.

One word of warning is that there are some references to events in previous books. While this will not spoil your enjoyment of The Foundlings, it will take away the element of surprise should you choose to go back and read the earlier stories. This is a series that is going from strength to strength and I thoroughly recommend each and every one of them.

The Wind Chime by Alexandra Walsh

After the death of her mother, Amelia Prentice is clearing out her attic when she finds a box of Victorian photographs. Depicting the Attwater family who resided at a Pembrokeshire estate called Cliffside, Amelia sets out to discover who they were. When she finds the diaries of Osyth Attwater, she finds her interest piqued even more.

Back in 1883, young Osyth overhears a conversation which shatters her world and leaves her wondering what other secrets her family has kept from her. What exactly did happen to Osyth’s mother and is there any link in the present day to Amelia?

I am a huge fan of the Marquess House series by Alexandra Walsh and was pleased to see that she had written another timeshift book, this time set in my favoured period of historical fiction, the Victorian age. The author captures the era perfectly and I particularly liked how it deals with some of the subjects that would have been taboo in that age such as mental illness and relationships outside of marriage.

Initially, I found myself favouring the sections written in the present day due to my love of all things genealogical but as the book progressed and I found myself understanding the complex family relationships of the family in 1883, I began to enjoy both eras equally. Osyth soon became a firm favourite and I admired her tenacity despite her reputation for being a bit of a dreamer.

The Wind Chime is a beautiful, poignant book written with sensitivity. I have already downloaded the next in the series, The Music Makers.

Take a look at my reviews of the Marquess House series by the same author:

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy

The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy

The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy

The Weeping Lady Conspiracy

**BLOG TOUR** The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas

In 1903, a woman is found by some fisherman, badly beaten, accompanied by her young daughter. They are taken to All Hallows, an asylum on Dartmoor where the woman falls into a coma, but her young daughter, Harriet, is taken to an attic room in the care of Nurse Emma Everdeen.

Ninety years later, in 1993, after the death of his mother, young Lewis Tyler is sent to All Hallows, which is now a boarding school. Finding a kindred spirit in Isak, they find out about Nurse Everdeen and her charge and soon they are determined to find out what happened back in 1903.

The introduction to the book grabbed me instantly as we see Lewis Tyler, in the present day, visiting All Hallows as part of his work. It is clear to see that he has a past with this building and we are left with a hint as to what it may be. This took us nicely to the two timeframes that form the majority of the book, Lewis featuring in the events of 1993.

I liked the character of Lewis immediately and had great sympathy towards his plight. An outsider, it was good to see him find a friend in Isak, another boy with a troubled life. I enjoyed the scenes they shared as they tried to discover the mystery behind the strange noises coming from the room above theirs – was it their imagination or something a bit more ghostly?

The part of the story set in 1903 had a huge sense of foreboding. Nurse Everdeen was a character who grew on me as the book progressed, her story tugging at the heartstrings on more than one occasion. Louise Douglas paints a very damning picture of life at the asylum and I almost felt relieved that Nurse Everdeen was in her claustrophobic room in the attic.

There were numerous shocks along the way, the denouement being a very pleasant surprise. I like it when a book suddenly takes you somewhere you were not expecting and The Room in the Attic definitely does this! This is an engrossing multi-genre read that kept me gripped right until the end.

With thanks to Boldwood Books and Rachel’s Random Resources.


Brass Lives by Chris Nickson

The year is 1913 and Deputy Chief Constable Tom Harper has an interesting case on his hands. After receiving information that an American gangster has arrived in Leeds, he soon finds himself acquainted with the man himself. Death seems to follow Davey Mullen around but is he responsible for the catalogue of crime that seems to have his name written all over it? With the campaign for women to gain the right to vote gathering pace, Harper is also overseeing a national suffragist pilgrimage that is due to arrive in Leeds, his wife, Annabelle, intending to take part. With worrying incidents affecting his family, this promises to be a difficult time for Tom as he begins to realise that things may never be the same again.

I love how we are moving through time in the Tom Harper series, having started back in the first book in 1890. In this time, we have seen Tom climb up the career ladder where he has now reached the position of Deputy Chief Constable. Not content with sitting behind a desk, Tom is pleased to be given the opportunity to join his detectives in trying to put an end to the crime spree that seems to have been precipitated by the arrival of Davey Mullen.

At a time before modern forensics, it is enjoyable to see the methods employed by the police in order to get the information they need, the emphasis being on getting out there and talking to people. There was one line, in particular, that really brought home for me the time setting, when someone is asked how they knew someone’s accent was American. Nowadays, this would seem like a silly question, but in an era before the advent of the talking film, people would not know what the American accent sounded like!

The plot is a complex one, with several threads that Chris Nickson manages to weave together perfectly. Murder, arson and gun theft are just some of the crimes that we see Harper investigating in what is a very enjoyable book and one of the best in the series. I am looking forward to seeing what happens next in Tom Harper’s life as Brass Lives has introduced a plot that I am sure will be revisited in the next book.

With thanks to Severn House and Net Galley for my ARC.

**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.

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