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The Buried Crown by Ally Sherrick

With Britain on the brink of invasion, orphan George Penny is evacuated to the countryside while his brother, Charlie, fights the Nazis as part of the air force. Little does George know that his friendship with Jewish girl Kitty is about to bring the war much closer than he ever thought it would. Kitty’s grandfather, an archaeologist, knows that a priceless Anglo-Saxon crown is buried nearby, a crown that the Nazis believe will win them the war. It is up to George and Kitty to find the crown and protect the country before it is too late.

Award-winning The Buried Crown, although a young person’s book, is a fantastic read for anyone interested in the second world war or Anglo-Saxon history. The two eras are superbly linked together, with fact and fiction merging to create an exciting adventure story that will appeal to adults and children alike.

Through George, we experience the life of a young evacuee, a boy who has already been through a lot in his short life and who now longs for the safe return of his brother while living in an extremely unpleasant environment with a man who mistreats him. He finds a kindred spirit in Kitty who has arrived in Britain courtesy of the Kindertransport programme and is someone who, due to her religion, has already experienced tremendous loss. Both characters are extremely likeable and show tremendous determination and courage to prevent a catastrophe from occurring.

As well as the historical element, we have a wonderful adventure full of excitement, danger and even a touch of magic as the children try to outwit a group of Nazis who will stop at nothing to steal the crown. I really enjoyed The Buried Crown and have no hesitation in recommending it.

A Dark Steel Death by Chris Nickson

The First World War is in its third year and Deputy Chief Constable Tom Harper is called out in the middle of the night when a huge explosion rips through a Leeds munitions factory. When fire making material is found a month later in an army clothing depot, Harper realises that they have a saboteur in their midst, one who is not afraid to kill to achieve his aim. With life at home occupying his mind and pressure doubling at work, will Harper find the saboteur before he leaves too much destruction in his path?

I’ve followed this series from the beginning and have become very fond of the characters and the ways in which they have developed. Tom has now progressed to the upper echelons of the Leeds police force although his actions in A Dark Steel Death clearly show how he is still keen to do his share of regular policing. This has become even more essential now that many of the force have been called up to help with the war effort.

As always, the research is spot on, taking us back to wartime Leeds and introducing us to some of the real events of the time. Fact and fiction are merged really well, Chris Nickson, once again, delivering an engaging and tense plot where you really don’t know what is going to happen next.

Like all good series, eventually there is an end point and I have read that there is only one more to go after this book. There is definitely an air of building up to this as we see Harper contemplating the end of his career and, sadly, see the decline of his much-loved wife Annabelle. Her story arc has been one of my favourite parts of this series and I wait with bated breath (and trepidation) to see how it concludes.

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

The Mercy Killings by David Field

The year is 1896 and Detective Sergeant Jack Enright, now working in Essex, is dealing with a particularly gruesome case involving the discovery of three babies’ bodies. After consulting his uncle Percy, who works at Scotland Yard, it soon becomes apparent that these are not isolated cases as he is also investigating the discovery of the corpses of infants. Someone is clearly killing babies in the south of England but why and can they be stopped before more bodies are discovered?

It’s been a while since I read any of David Field’s books but the characters came flooding back straight away. Jack is no longer working in the capital but the cases have not got any easier as he is faced with investigating the murders of several young babies. He is once again paired with his uncle Percy, still working as a detective in London, when he realises that their cases cross paths. The case is a sad one and one that is very much of its time, showing the divide between the rich and poor in Victorian England.

One of the strengths of this series is the characterisation and the relationships between the main protagonist. Jack’s wife, Esther, is very much a forward-thinking woman and her husband and uncle-in-law are always keen to involve her in their investigations. It is Percy who is my favourite, however, and I love how he is highly regarded in his work life yet a downtrodden husband at home!

Despite the grim subject matter, The Mercy Killings also contains a fair amount of humour, not least when poor Jack encounters a lady of the night! This definitely lightened the mood!

This is a great series and while this can be read as a standalone, I would highly recommend reading all of the previous books as they are all engaging and cracking reads.

The Jane Seymour Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh

London 1527

A young Jane Seymour arrives to take her place in the court of Katherine of Aragon. With Henry VIII desperate for a son to continue his dynasty, he already has his eye on another woman, namely Jane’s cousin, Anne Boleyn. Jane soon realises that those at court are beginning to side with each of the women and when both fall out of favour with Henry, she fears he may begin to look in her direction.

Pembrokeshire 2020

When a document, The Pentagram Manuscript, is discovered, Perdita and Piper are once again thrown back into the world of Tudor England uncovering evidence that could completely change public perception of Jane Seymour. Trouble is also close at hand when their cousin, Xavier, once again is determined to ensure that Marquess House and everything else the sisters inherited from their grandmother, is passed down to his daughters. Knowing he will stop at nothing to achieve his goal, they find themselves in grave danger, fearing for their lives and the lives of those they love.

When I found out that what was originally The Marquess House trilogy was being extended, I was ecstatic and have waited patiently for this fourth instalment. Alexandra Walsh again takes us back to Tudor England, painting a vivid picture of life at the court of Henry VIII, introducing us to the many fascinating characters of the period. I love how fact and fiction are merged seamlessly, leaving us trying to work out what is historically accepted and what is straight out of the imagination of the author.

The modern sections of the book are equally readable and kept me on the edge of my seat as I waited to discover what secrets they would discover at Marquess House this time. I love the ‘race against time’ aspect of these books and am quite jealous of the archives the sisters have access to in order to carry out their research! In Xavier, we have an antagonist of the highest order and with his world crumbling around him, it was terrifying to see how he would do anything to remove Perdita and Piper from what is rightfully theirs.

The Jane Seymour Conspiracy is another excellent addition to the series and I hope that this isn’t the end for Perdita and Piper and their adventures at Marquess House,

With thanks to Sapere Books and Net Galley for my copy.

The Missing Father by M J Lee

Alice Taylor was adopted during World War Two and now she has asked her neighbour and genealogist, Jayne Sinclair, to help her find out the truth about her background. Who were her parents and what exactly happened to her father? Jayne’s research takes her back to Singapore and a particularly heartbreaking part of the war.

The plot for The Missing Father was like a story straight out of ITV’s Long Lost Family, and will definitely appeal to fans of this show. Alice’s story is an emotional one and I really felt for her as she weighed up whether she wanted to know everything about her parentage and the circumstances behind her adoption. As in previous books, the author includes great advice within the plot for anyone wanting to research their own ancestry and I am pleased that we are still seeing record offices used rather than just online sources!

World War Two is an era much used in genealogical fiction, but this is the first time I’ve read a book with the fall of Singapore as its backdrop. This is something I didn’t know a great deal about but M J Lee’s obvious research helps the reader to develop an understanding of the time and the atrocities that were taking place.

This is a great addition to the series and I look forward to seeing where Jayne’s research takes her next.

**BLOG TOUR** The Storm Girl by Kathleen McGurl

Present Day: After her divorce, Millie Galton has moved into an old house in Mudeford, determined to start afresh. Once work starts on the house, the fireplace reveals a secret that takes Millie back to the house’s original use and introduces her to the world of smuggling.

1784: When her father becomes unable to work, Esther Harris takes over his role of hiding smugglers’ contraband in the cellar of their pub. Knowing that she could be caught at any moment, secrecy is a must. When a battle occurs between the revenue men and the smugglers, people’s loyalties are tested to the limit and Esther has a decision to make: does she follow her heart or protect those she loves?

Kathleen McGurl’s dual timeline books are always a good read and this is no exception. I really got a feel for the geography and history of the locations used in The Storm Girl and could see the research that had been undertaken to make the plot as accurate as possible. The area was really brought to life in both time frames and I could easily visualise the pub and the activities that went on there.

I loved the character of Esther, a woman ahead of her time whose strength showed throughout the whole book. I admired her tenacity and loyalty and willed her to have a happy ending. Millie showed a different sort of strength in her willingness to leave everything behind and start a new life in a place she had no connection to.

The plot has a bit of everything: history, romance, murder… It moves on at a good pace and by switching the timeframes as you are reading, Kathleen McGurl leaves you wanting to know what is going to happen next all the time. The two stories, although set in different times, link together nicely and a mysterious event that happened in the past is solved in the present, providing yet another connection.

I always look forward to reading Kathleen McGurl’s latest book and she has certainly not disappointed with The Storm Girl.

With thanks to HQ Digital and Rachel’s Random Resources.

Take a look at my reviews of more of Kathleen McGurls 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

The Lost Sister

The Girl From Bletchley Park

The Music Makers by Alexandra Walsh

Pembrokeshire, 2020

Eleanor Wilder has been forced to return to her parents’ home in Wales after a devastating illness has made it difficult for her to carry on with the life she was used to. A set of old family photos has given her a new lease of life, however, especially a photo of someone called Esme Blood, a name Eleanor is already familiar with. She soon embarks on a research project to find out all she can about this intriguing woman.

London, 1875

Esme Blood lives with her adoptive parents, Cornelius and Rosie Hardy, spending her time performing as part of a theatrical troupe. When her close friend Aaron leaves, Esme feels that one day they will reunite and will be able to live as man and wife. Fate has the habit of dealing a cruel hand, however, and soon Esmefinds herself in a loveless marriage, one that threatens the safety of those around her.

I have really enjoyed Alexandra Walsh’s previous books and this one, The Music Makers, is the second in her Victorian timeshift series. Although it is the second book, it is very much a standalone as it features a brand new story and different characters from the previous book, The Wind Chime. I do like how the author weaves in characters from previous books in little cameo appearances however, a sort of Easter Egg for those of us who have read the previous book and also the Marquess House series.

Both time frames are very readable and, although I had great sympathy for Eleanor and willed her to get what she wanted by the end of the book, it was the story of Esme Blood that was the standout plot for me. Esme was a wonderful character and I loved how her strength carried her through some quite dangerous situations. Alexandra Walsh’s superb writing meant that I could visualise the various aspects of Esme’s life from her life on stage to her marriage and beyond. I enjoyed the connections made between the two time frames and could totally understand Eleanor’s need to find out more about this mysterious woman from her past.

Alexandra Walsh has become one of the authors whose books I look forward to reading and I am eagerly anticipating the next in the Marquess House series, The Jane Seymour Conspiracy.

With thanks to Sapere Books and Net Galley.

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.

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