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**BLOG TOUR** The Stationmaster’s Daughter by Kathleen McGurl

The year is 1935 and stationmaster Ted loves working on the railway in Dorset to the point where he never takes any time off. All changes, however, when he meets one of the passengers, Annie Galbraith, and falls head over heels in love. Unfortunately, with the railway due to close and a terrible accident occurring at the station, his life is about to change forever.

In the present day, recovering from recent heartbreak, Tilly leaves London to stay with her railway volunteer father in Dorset. Finding a diary hidden in the old stationmaster’s house, she soon becomes engrossed in Ted’s story and makes it her mission to find out exactly what happened on the day the railway closed and why it had repercussions for so many people…

Kathleen McGurl is one of those authors where, as soon as I know there is a new book coming out, I have to have it! I was so pleased, therefore, to be one of the blogs opening the blog tour for her latest dual timeline novel. I love how the two stories in her books gradually come together, giving you a complete picture of what happened, and this was definitely the case in The Stationmaster’s Daughter.

If I had to choose, I would say that the part of the story set in the past was my favourite. Ted is one of those instantly likeable characters and I found myself rooting for him from the start even though you just know that things are not going to turn out well for him. I was transported back to a completely different time where circumstances prevented him from being with the woman he loved, even if I did feel that the woman of his dreams, Annie, didn’t help his cause a great deal! This part of the story was a direct contrast to what was happening in the present day with Tilly, who, although going through a tough time, was able to deal with her situation in a much more practical way.

The Stationmaster’s Daughter has a fantastic setting and Kathleen McGurl really takes you back to a time when life moved at a slower pace than what we are used to. A perfect summer read with an emotional backdrop, the author has, yet again, written another intriguing, entertaining story. I look forward to the next one!

With thanks to Net Galley and HQ Digital and also to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for organising the blog tour.

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

The Emerald Comb

The Pearl Locket

The Daughters of Red Hill Hall

The Girl From Ballymor

The Drowned Village

The Forgotten Secret

 

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

42075145Ireland, 1919: Ellen O’Brien is about to start a new job ‘up at the big house’ but the war in Ireland is getting closer to home. Soon, everyone around her is getting swept up in an increasingly violent situation with Ellen, herself, finding her loyalties torn.

Almost a hundred years later, after the death of a family member, Clare Farrell has inherited an old farmhouse in County Meath. Seeing this as the perfect opportunity to escape from an abusive marriage, she leaves her past behind and embarks on a new life in Ireland. The house, however, is in a poor state of repair and, whilst working on improving her living environment, Clare discovers a long-forgotten hiding place containing some mysterious artefacts. With only the renovations to occupy her time, she soon uncovers a secret that has remained buried for several decades.

Ever since reading The Daughters of Red Hill Hall, I have become a huge fan of Kathleen McGurl’s time lapse stories, and I was really looking forward to this one. I’ve always liked how the stories are told in two distinct time frames yet their plots gradually converge so we are seeing the same story told from two different perspectives.  In The Forgotten Secret we meet two main protagonists, separated by almost a century, but each embarking on a new life, not knowing what the outcome will be.

I found I had a lot of respect for Clare, a woman who seemingly had a happy home life. Looks can be deceiving, though, and when you scratched beneath the surface, we discovered how controlling her husband, Paul, actually was. Stopping her from working, isolating her from her friends, choosing her clothes… the list could go on. I was pleased when she finally took the plunge and left her husband, starting a new life in Ireland. The discovery of the artefacts and her subsequent investigation do not take a central role in her story, but do help to add some detail to the story of the other main character, Ellen.

The chapters featuring Ellen were my favourite, moreso as the book progressed. Set against the fighting in Ireland between the Volunteers and the ‘Black and Tans’, we see a young woman who is caught up in a war that she quickly needs to learn about. Although I have read other books on this subject, I did enjoy the way the author explained what was happening and was also grateful for the historical overview she provided. Ellen’s story is a fascinating, yet tragic, one and I admired her tenacity which saw her come out the other side.

Another part of Ireland’s history is also dealt with, and it is one that leaves a particularly nasty taste in the mouth – that of the Magdalene laundries. Although the descriptions are not overly graphic, Kathleen McGurl paints a bleak image of the conditions and made me feel so angry for the women who were incarcerated there.

The Forgotten Secret is not an action-packed but is much more a plot-driven book. One part did fox me, though, and provided a great twist that I was not expecting. This is another great book from Kathleen McGurl, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

With thanks to HQ Digital and Net Galley for my copy and to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for organising the blog tour.

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

The Drowned Village

The Girl from Ballymor

The Pearl Locket

The Emerald Comb

The Daughters of Red Hill Hall

The Silk Weaver’s Wife by Debbie Rix

517jii+ZhdLIn the year 1704, Anastasia is planning to marry her sweetheart in secret in an attempt to escape her violent father. After her attempt is thwarted, however, she is forced to marry an older silk weaver and begin a new life, against her wishes, in Venice. Not content with swapping one abusive life for another, she plots her escape.  In 2017, another woman, Millie, is also experiencing relationship problems. When her affair with married boss Max is abruptly ended, she is happy to travel to Italy to write an article for work, where she meets, and falls in love, with Lorenzo. She soon becomes fascinated by the silk making process and is determined to identify the mysterious woman in a portrait she has seen.

I admit that I did not know what to expect when I started to read this book as romantic fiction is a genre out of my comfort zone. I do enjoy dual time-frame books, however, and I was intrigued by the mystery concerning the subject of the painting. When I began to read, I started to have reservations as Millie’s story did not really grab me. A soon as Anastasia’s story kicked in, though, I found myself reading at a much quicker pace, desperate to know how she would escape from her husband. As the book progressed, and there began to be cross-overs between the two time-frames, I started to enjoy Millie’s story much more and was keen to know how their respective stories would end.

Of the two main characters, Anastasia was, by far, my favourite: a strong woman who overcame her fears and tragedies to achieve a fulfilling and rewarding life. Millie, on the other hand, I wanted to shake at times for allowing Max to railroad her into decisions that she did not really want to make. I found it interesting that the more independent woman was the one from the eighteenth century, a time when women had fewer rights than their twenty-first century counterparts.

It is obvious that the author has done a tremendous amount of research to merge fact with fiction, providing a fantastic historical account of the silk trade in eighteenth century Italy. Debbie Rix has painted an evocative picture of the book’s locations, whether it be Venice, Amsterdam or Spitalfields and truly transports you back to the eighteenth century.

For any fans of historical fiction or, indeed, any Italophiles, The Silk Weaver’s Wife is a great read.

With thanks to Bookouture and Net Galley for my copy.

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