It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This weekly meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Last week I finished The Castle Inn  by Stanley J. Weyman, first published in 1899. This is the second novel I've read by this classic author of historical romances. The Castle Inn is a swashbuckling 18th century adventure story, with duels, abductions, pursuits, missing heirs and lovers at cross purposes.


This week I'm still reading Kit by Marina Fiorato and The Tide Watchers  by Lisa Chaplin. Both are equally exciting. My classic pick for the week is Beau Brocade  by  Baroness Emmuska Orczy, who is famous for The Scarlet Pimpernel series of novels. I've also picked up a book of short stories by Elizabeth Gaskell entitled Curious, If True. This book is described as  a collection of  "five dark Victorian tales of suspense, horror, mood and mystery." Just right for bedtime reading.

Lady of the Butterflies  by Fiona Mountain is what I would like to read next. Whether this happens depends on what I bring home from the library tomorrow.


What I Read Last Week

The Castle Inn by Stanley J. Weyman

About a hundred and thirty years ago, when the third George, whom our grandfathers knew in his blind dotage, was a young and sturdy bridegroom; when old Q., whom 1810 found peering from his balcony in Piccadilly, deaf, toothless, and a skeleton, was that gay and lively spark, the Earl of March; when "bore" and "boreish" were words of "haut ton, " unknown to the vulgar, and the price of a borough was 5,000"l."; when gibbets still served for sign-posts, and railways were not and highwaymen were -- to be more exact, in the early spring of the year 1767, a traveling chariot-and-four drew up about five in the evening before the inn at Wheatley Bridge, a short stage from Oxford on the Oxford road. A gig and a couple of post-chaises, attended by the customary group of stablemen, topers, and gossips already stood before the house, but these were quickly deserted in favor of the more important equipage. The drawers in their aprons trooped out, but the landlord, foreseeing a rich harvest, was first at the door of the carriage, and opened it with a bow such as is rarely seen in these days. "Will your lordship please to alight?" he said. "No, rascal!" cried one of those within. "Shut the door!"

What I'm Reading Today

Kit by Marina Fiorato

Dublin 1702...and Irish beauty Kit Kavanagh has everything she could want in life. Newly married, she runs a successful alehouse with her beloved husband Richard. The wars that rage in Europe over the Spanish throne seem a world away. But everything changes on the night that Richard simply disappears. Finding the Queen's shilling at the bottom of Richard's tankard, Kit realizes that her husband has been taken for a soldier. Kit follows Richard's trail across the battlefields of Italy in the Duke of Marlborough's regiment. Living as a man, risking her life in battle, she forms a close bond with her wry and handsome commanding officer Captain Ross. When she is forced to flee the regiment following a duel, she evades capture by dressing once more as a woman. But the war is not over for Kit. Her beauty catches the eye of the scheming Duke of Ormonde, who recruits her to spy upon the French. In her finery she meets Captain Ross once again, who seems just as drawn to the woman as he was to the soldier. Torn between Captain Ross and her loyalty to her husband, and under the orders of the English Crown, Kit finds that her life is in more danger now than on the battlefield. Of all the dangers that she faced, the greatest was discovery...

The Tide Watchers by Lisa Chaplin

In the winter of 1803, one woman stands between Napoleon and the fall of Great Britain. The free-spirited daughter of an English baronet, Lisbeth defies convention by eloping to France. When her husband abandons her, she must find a way to survive and be reunited with her young son, who is in the care of her mother-in-law. A seasoned spy known as Tidewatcher, Duncan apprenticed under Lisbeth's father and pledged to keep his mentor's pretty daughter safe—a promise complicated by the wily Napoleon Bonaparte. The British believe he is planning an attack, and Duncan is sent to search for signs of invasion on the French coast—where he draws dangerously close to adventurous and unpredictable Lisbeth. A sensational new invention may shift the tide of a French victory. A brilliant and eccentric American inventor named Robert Fulton has devised a deadly weapon that can decimate an enemy's fleet. To protect English ships, Tidewatcher must gain control of Fulton's invention and cross enemy lines . . . but he cannot do it alone. Left with no other options, he enlists Lisbeth's help in outwitting the American inventor and uncovering Bonaparte's secret plans. Going undercover for the handsome and duty-bound spy, Lisbeth risks her freedom and her life as she navigates double agents and submarine warfare to outwit the greatest military tactician in history. The only question is . . . who can she trust?

Beau Brocade by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

Philip Gascoyne, Earl of Stretton, is falsly accused of being a rebel and siding with Bonnie Prince Charlie. He is condemned to death under a bill of attainder. However, letters in his possession will prove that he is innocent, but he needs his sister, Patricia, to take them to London and present them to the King.






Curious, If True by Elizabeth Gaskell


A collection of Victorian tales of suspense, horror, mood and mystery by Elizabeth Gaskell, published variously between 1852 and 1861. Includes "The Old Nurse's Story," "The Poor Clare," "Lois The Witch," "The Grey Woman," and "Curious, If True."






What I Hope to Read Next


Lady of the Butterflies by Fiona Mountain

Born into a world seething with treachery and suspicion, Eleanor Goodricke grows up on the Somerset Levels just after the English Civil Wars, heiress to her late mother's estates and daughter of a Puritan soldier who fears for his brilliant daughter with her dangerous passion for natural history - and for butterflies in particular. Her reckless courage will take her to places where no woman of her day ever dared to go. Her fearless ambition will give her a place in history for all time. But it is her passionate heart which will lead her into a consuming love - and mortal peril.



Book Review: On Track For Murder by Stephen Childs

On Track for Murder  is Stephen Childs' debut novel. It is set in 1889 and, as the title and elegant book cover suggest, is a mystery with a railway connection.

Eighteen year old Abigail Sergeant and her younger brother, Bertrand, disembark from a steamship in Fremantle, Western Australia, looking forward to being reunited with their father and starting a new life.

Mr. Sergeant, a railway engineer, sent out from England years before, has overseen the connection of the railway between Perth and the port city of Albany, on the south-east coast.

While joyfully welcomed by their father, Abigail and Bertrand's  reunion with their step-mother, Frances, is not so happy. A mutual dislike between Abigail and Frances causes unrest in the home, but Abigail is determined to let nothing threaten her and Bertrand's pleasure at being with their father and the security of living as a family once more.
   
Abigail's hopes of a happy family life are shattered when her father is murdered and Bertrand is found holding the murder weapon. He is arrested, but Abigail knows Bertrand is  innocent. She just needs time to contact a witness. Granted five days by the Detective Inspector in charge of the case, Abigail sets off for Albany, accompanied by Constable Dunning, a policeman she met previously at the Fremantle docks.

Abigail is an unconventional eighteen year old. She finds steam engines and all things mechanical interesting. An interest encouraged by her father and frowned upon by her step-mother, who thinks such interests unnatural in a female. A well-bred young lady should be focusing on marriage and domestic affairs.

Abigail's mechanical knowledge plays a large part in the story and adds credibility to the way she extricates herself from a number of difficult situations. She is also very protective of her brother, who finds it hard to communicate and interact with people, and faced life in an institution had they remained in England. When the investigation threatens to overwhelm her and she is niggled by self-doubt, thoughts of Bertrand unjustly accused makes her more determined to bring the real culprit to justice.

Constable Dunning is also unusual for his time. He readily accepts Abigail's fascination with trains and steam engines and sees her as a capable partner in the task they have been assigned. A little awkward around Abigail at first, he is cool-headed and methodical in his approach to the investigation, his pencil stub and notebook never faraway. 

The relationship between Abigail and Constable Dunning is sweetly developed. Abigail's preconceived view that her ideal mate would be someone sharing her mechanical interests is completely overthrown when she realises that Constable Dunning also has an enquiring mind and is not the weakling she first thought. There are some lovely moments and humourous exchanges between the two as their feelings for each other grow.

Packed with drama from the first chapter, it is easy to be swept along with Abigail and Constable Dunning in their quest to prove Bertrand is innocent. Kidnapping, arson and attempted murder bring them into contact with a thuggish seaman, petty criminals and a religious fanatic before the case is solved. Though I had my suspicions who the murderer was, there are a number of suspects with equally strong motives just to complicate matters and add an element of doubt. A plot twist at the end is a clever distraction before the murderer is finally revealed.

On Track for Murder is a fast-paced, well-written historical mystery with a touch of romance. Victorian era views and prejudices, plausible plot lines, credible outcomes, believable protagonists, all combine to make this a very entertaining read.  I enjoyed this novel and look forward to more from Stephen Childs.

Note: I received a free copy of this novel from Authoright in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.

On Track for Murder  is published by Clink Street Publishing and is available September 1, 2015, from The Book Depository, Amazon US and other book sellers.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This weekly meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

My greatest accomplishment last week was that I finally finished The Dead Secret  by Wilkie Collins. I struggled with this book, but something happened around Chapter 3 where the story became very interesting and I found I couldn't put the book down.  

In the previous week I'd enjoyed The Highwayman's Footsteps  by Nicola Morgan so much that I wanted more of Bess and Will's story and so picked up the sequel, The Highwayman's Curse. This was another great read.

I set aside what I was currently reading last week to make way for a novel offered to me by Authoright. On Track For Murder by Stephen Childs, due out in September, is a historical crime novel set in late 19th century Western Australia. It has a railway connection and a very unusual heroine. My review will be posted shortly. 

This week I am back to reading Kit by Marina Fiorato and The Castle Inn by Stanley J. Weyman, and have started The Tide Watchers  by Lisa Chaplin, a spy story set during the Napoleonic Wars.

Once again I'm not sure what will take my fancy next, but in my reading pile are the first two books of Kate Tremayne's 18th century Cornish family saga which follows the fortunes of the Loveday family. There are eleven books in the series, said to be on a par with the Poldark novels by Winston Graham. I've been meaning to read these for a while. I'm just not sure I can commit to such a long series at this time.

What I Read Last Week

The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins

... Like much of Collins's work, "The Dead Secret" explores the consequences of a single, hidden act. The Cornish mansion Porthgenna harbors the secret of such an act, one that has ruined the life of the servant girl Sarah Leeson. This same secret lies hidden for fifteen years until the heiress to Porthgenna, Rosamund Treverton, returns and exposes it. Her detective work may reveal the truth, but her revelation of a long-forgotten crime could mean disaster for her and the entire estate ...



The Highwayman's Curse by Nicola Morgan

On the run from the redcoats, the two young highwaymen, Will and Bess, find themselves in Galloway, Scotland, blamed for a murder they did not commit. Here, they are captured by smugglers and become embroiled in a story of hatred and revenge that goes back for generations, to the days of the Killing Times. Whose side will they take? Can anything they do end the cycle of religious hatred? And will their own friendship survive?




On Track For Murder by Stephen Childs

Travelling from England to Australia in the late nineteenth century, Abigail Sergeant and her brother,Bertrand, are looking forward to their new life. Leaving behind the prejudices that would likely have seen Bertrand committed to an institution before he reached adulthood, Abigail hopes their new life will offer freedom and security.But what awaits them on the shores of the Swan River dashes any prospects of a blissful life. A murder is committed and Abigail's family is thrown into turmoil. The evidence is damning. Only the guilty would be found standing over the body clutching the bloodied murder weapon. But something is not right. Police are convinced they have their killer. Abigail is certain they are wrong. As their one potential witness is missing, Abigail persuades the detective to allow time for a search. But that time is limited. Chasing across Western Australia with a reluctant Constable Dunning as her chaperone, Abigail is determined to uncover the truth. If only she had an inkling of what that may be. Through deception, kidnap, sabotage and arson, Abigail finds a resolve she didn't know she possessed. Her understanding of mechanical principles surprises everyone, as does her tenacity. She turns out to be a capable young woman. But is that enough to save an innocent from injustice?

What I'm Reading Today

Kit by Marina Fiorato

Dublin 1702...and Irish beauty Kit Kavanagh has everything she could want in life. Newly married, she runs a successful alehouse with her beloved husband Richard. The wars that rage in Europe over the Spanish throne seem a world away. But everything changes on the night that Richard simply disappears. Finding the Queen's shilling at the bottom of Richard's tankard, Kit realizes that her husband has been taken for a soldier. Kit follows Richard's trail across the battlefields of Italy in the Duke of Marlborough's regiment. Living as a man, risking her life in battle, she forms a close bond with her wry and handsome commanding officer Captain Ross. When she is forced to flee the regiment following a duel, she evades capture by dressing once more as a woman. But the war is not over for Kit. Her beauty catches the eye of the scheming Duke of Ormonde, who recruits her to spy upon the French. In her finery she meets Captain Ross once again, who seems just as drawn to the woman as he was to the soldier. Torn between Captain Ross and her loyalty to her husband, and under the orders of the English Crown, Kit finds that her life is in more danger now than on the battlefield. Of all the dangers that she faced, the greatest was discovery...

The Castle Inn by Stanley J. Weyman

About a hundred and thirty years ago, when the third George, whom our grandfathers knew in his blind dotage, was a young and sturdy bridegroom; when old Q., whom 1810 found peering from his balcony in Piccadilly, deaf, toothless, and a skeleton, was that gay and lively spark, the Earl of March; when "bore" and "boreish" were words of "haut ton, " unknown to the vulgar, and the price of a borough was 5,000"l."; when gibbets still served for sign-posts, and railways were not and highwaymen were -- to be more exact, in the early spring of the year 1767, a traveling chariot-and-four drew up about five in the evening before the inn at Wheatley Bridge, a short stage from Oxford on the Oxford road. A gig and a couple of post-chaises, attended by the customary group of stablemen, topers, and gossips already stood before the house, but these were quickly deserted in favor of the more important equipage. The drawers in their aprons trooped out, but the landlord, foreseeing a rich harvest, was first at the door of the carriage, and opened it with a bow such as is rarely seen in these days. "Will your lordship please to alight?" he said. "No, rascal!" cried one of those within. "Shut the door!"

The Tide Watchers by Lisa Chaplin

In the winter of 1803, one woman stands between Napoleon and the fall of Great Britain. The free-spirited daughter of an English baronet, Lisbeth defies convention by eloping to France. When her husband abandons her, she must find a way to survive and be reunited with her young son, who is in the care of her mother-in-law. A seasoned spy known as Tidewatcher, Duncan apprenticed under Lisbeth's father and pledged to keep his mentor's pretty daughter safe—a promise complicated by the wily Napoleon Bonaparte. The British believe he is planning an attack, and Duncan is sent to search for signs of invasion on the French coast—where he draws dangerously close to adventurous and unpredictable Lisbeth. A sensational new invention may shift the tide of a French victory. A brilliant and eccentric American inventor named Robert Fulton has devised a deadly weapon that can decimate an enemy's fleet. To protect English ships, Tidewatcher must gain control of Fulton's invention and cross enemy lines . . . but he cannot do it alone. Left with no other options, he enlists Lisbeth's help in outwitting the American inventor and uncovering Bonaparte's secret plans. Going undercover for the handsome and duty-bound spy, Lisbeth risks her freedom and her life as she navigates double agents and submarine warfare to outwit the greatest military tactician in history. The only question is . . . who can she trust?

What I Hope to Read Next

Adam Loveday by Kate Tremayne

For all those who were entranced by Ross Poldark in Winston Graham's Poldark comes a dramatic series of novels that will sweep you away to 18th century Cornwall. Cornwall, 1786. Twenty years ago, fate denied Adam Loveday his birthright: the family estate, Trevowan, and the boatyard that his father is struggling to maintain. And the intense childhood rivalry between Adam and his elder twin St John continues to govern their fated passions and chequered fortunes. St John has become a dissolute wastrel but Adam, with a talent for ship design and a thirst for adventure, has fierce family pride in Trevowan and the yard. Aware of his father's increasing disapproval, St John fears that the Loveday yard will be given to Adam after all, and puts into motion a plan to ensure that Adam will never get what his heart desires: the boatyard - and Meriel Sawle, the seductive daughter of the local innkeeper, whose violent family are infamous in the smuggling trade...

The Loveday Fortunes by Kate Tremayne

Cornwall: 1791. As the civil unrest in France gathers force, ripples of conflict are also reaching across the Channel, for the Loveday family are fighting their own private battles. Charles Mercer - Edward Loveday's brother-in-law - has been found dead, the reputation of his eminent bank in tatters. Charles has left the Lovedays facing emotional trauma and financial ruin. But risk comes as second nature to the Lovedays. Adam Loveday finds refuge from the pressures of keeping the family boatyard solvent in the arms of gypsy-bred Senara - whom he is determined to marry despite his father's threats of disinheritance. And his twin, St John, angry at having to curb his spending, throws in his hand with the Sawle brothers - the notorious smugglers who rule Penruan by intimidation and violence. Each one of the Lovedays must sacrifice personal ambition in the face of adversity. But to some of them, sacrifice does not come easily...


Book Review: The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins by Antonia Hodgson

Thomas Hawkins is on his way to Tyburn to be hanged as a murderer. He is anticipating a royal pardon, so is not overly concerned - at first, though the experience is far from pleasant. As he travels from Newgate Prison through the streets of Georgian London, he narrates what has brought him to this sorry plight. 

Thomas and his love, Kitty Sparks, are happily running a book shop, selling legal and illegal publications, and dealing with weekly visits from the local magistrate. However, Thomas is growing bored with domesticity and craves excitement. He is slowly returning to his old ways. The same ones that saw him thrown into debtors' prison not so long ago.
 

He mentions to James Fleet, the notorious leader of one of London's street gangs and the father of Sam, who Thomas is teaching to be a gentleman, that he's looking for adventure. Subsequently, a summons from Queen Caroline brings him more excitement than he cares for as he becomes involved in the unhappy marriage of the King's mistress, Henrietta Howard, and her husband. To add to Thomas' woes, his next-door neighbour, Joseph Burden, is murdered and he becomes the prime suspect. Assisted by Kitty and Sam, Thomas tries to prove his innocence, but unfortunately his very public arguments with his neighbour, his way of life and a rumour circulating that he has killed before, work against him and he is eventually arrested for the crime.

I eagerly awaited the return of Thomas Hawkins after following his exploits in The Devil in the Marshalsea, Antonia Hodgson's debut novel and the first in the series. It was worth the wait. What's more reading the first book is not a prerequisite to enjoying and following this sequel as there is enough of Thomas' back story woven into the narrative to explain his present situation.


The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins commences a few months after Thomas' release from the Marshalsea and introduces a colourful mix of new characters and others we have met before. Unlike The Devil in the Marshalsea, where most of the action is confined to the one place, Thomas' investigations and his gentlemanly pursuits lead him all over London, from the violent Georgian underworld to the opulence of St. James' Palace.

Trouble dogs Thomas' every move as he tries to extricate himself from the mess he's in. Unfortunately his actions are often misconstrued. For all his worldly experiences, he is still quite naive, a trait that makes him such a lovable rogue.

There are a number of suspects for Burden's murder, but Thomas is unable to link any of them to the crime and, another of his traits, a sense of honour, stops him laying the blame on anyone without having  indisputable evidence. Like Thomas, I had no real idea who the culprit was, though I had my suspicions.

I enjoyed reading Thomas's trial transcript presented as an authentic 18th century publication. Kitty's evidence was particularly moving and amusing in equal amounts. Throughout the novel Kitty's defence of Thomas is fierce, which makes for some very entertaining moments and some poignant ones.


Thomas's narration is interspersed with scenes of his progress from Newgate to Tyburn. These are well done and the switch in perspective adds extra suspense. As the scenery changes en route, these sketches also show Thomas' range of emotions. He still hopes for a pardon, but the closer he gets to Tyburn, the less confident of receiving one he becomes.

I loved everything about this novel. It is fast paced with many plot twists, an assortment of characters, fictional and lesser known historical figures, and a  great setting for a protagonist such as Thomas Hawkins. Once again Antonia Hodgson succeeds in bringing the Georgian world he inhabits to life with her vivid descriptions and attention to detail. I can still hear the tolling of the church bell and the jeering of the crowds as Thomas makes his way to Tyburn. His speech from the gallows, though not what the crowd wants to hear, is theatrical and honest, with a touch of humour, which makes Thomas Hawkins such an endearing character. Does he get his pardon? Now that would be telling ...

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This weekly meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey

I finished the collection of short stories Beaux, Ballrooms and Battles: A Celebration of Waterloo in between the other books I read last week, one of which was a dual time frame novel by Christina Courtenay, The Silent Touch of Shadows. This is the first of her novels I've read. Also a first is Nicola Morgan's The Highwayman's Footsteps. I don't often read YA fiction, though if I hadn't seen this book described as such I would never have known. I enjoyed this tale of two young highwaymen set in the 1760s.

This week I am reading Kit by Marina Fiorato, another author I've not read before and The Castle Inn by Stanley J. Weyman, an author I've not read since my childhood. His book was first published in 1898. And I'm making every effort to finish The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins.

For my next read, I have The Highwayman's Curse by Nicola Morgan, the sequel to The Highwayman's Footsteps. I also have Harper Lee's latest Go Set A Watchman, but I'm still not sure if I want to read it, so it may sit in my reading pile for a while. Another book I've just added to my reading pile is Jam and Roses by Mary Gibson.


What I Read Last Week

Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles: A Celebration of Waterloo by Jillian Chantal et al (E-book)

For Readers who enjoy a bit of history with their Romance…
A historic confrontation
Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles is a celebration of the bicentenary of the showdown between Wellington’s “Infamous Army” and Napoleon’s Grande Armée. Wellington’s Allied Army consisted of a hastily organized mélange of inexperienced men from several countries who didn’t even speak the same language.
A backdrop of war
While life in Regency England continued much as it had been, the war with Napoleon was a constant source of preoccupation as young men who eagerly set off to become heroes in battle sometimes returned with life-changing injuries or worse, didn’t return at all.
Nine stories of love tested by the trials of war
A collection of sweet Regency stories of courage, hope, and the miracle of love surviving in uncertain times, brought to you by nine distinguished historical romance authors.

The Silent Touch of Shadows by Christina Courtenay

Professional genealogist Melissa Grantham receives an invitation to visit her family’s ancestral home, Ashleigh Manor. From the moment she arrives, life-like dreams and visions haunt her. The spiritual connection to a medieval young woman and her forbidden lover have her questioning her sanity, but Melissa is determined to solve the mystery.
Jake Precy, owner of a nearby cottage, has disturbing dreams too, but it’s not until he meets Melissa that they begin to make sense. He hires her to research his family’s history, unaware their lives are already entwined. Is the mutual attraction real or the result of ghostly interference? A haunting love story set partly in the present and partly in fifteenth century Kent.

The Highwayman's Footsteps by Nicola Morgan

Young William de Lacey is high born, the son of a gentleman. But he's on the run, having stolen money and a horse, and has taken up with a highwayman. It's enough to hang him three times over. Despite struggling with his conscience, Will feels free for the first time in his life - and it's all down to the mysterious Bess. Now can they survive the risks of the eighteenth-century highwayman's harsh life?





What I'm Reading Today

The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins

... Like much of Collins's work, "The Dead Secret" explores the consequences of a single, hidden act. The Cornish mansion Porthgenna harbors the secret of such an act, one that has ruined the life of the servant girl Sarah Leeson. This same secret lies hidden for fifteen years until the heiress to Porthgenna, Rosamund Treverton, returns and exposes it. Her detective work may reveal the truth, but her revelation of a long-forgotten crime could mean disaster for her and the entire estate ...



Kit by Marina Fiorato

Dublin 1702...and Irish beauty Kit Kavanagh has everything she could want in life. Newly married, she runs a successful alehouse with her beloved husband Richard. The wars that rage in Europe over the Spanish throne seem a world away. But everything changes on the night that Richard simply disappears. Finding the Queen's shilling at the bottom of Richard's tankard, Kit realizes that her husband has been taken for a soldier. Kit follows Richard's trail across the battlefields of Italy in the Duke of Marlborough's regiment. Living as a man, risking her life in battle, she forms a close bond with her wry and handsome commanding officer Captain Ross. When she is forced to flee the regiment following a duel, she evades capture by dressing once more as a woman. But the war is not over for Kit. Her beauty catches the eye of the scheming Duke of Ormonde, who recruits her to spy upon the French. In her finery she meets Captain Ross once again, who seems just as drawn to the woman as he was to the soldier. Torn between Captain Ross and her loyalty to her husband, and under the orders of the English Crown, Kit finds that her life is in more danger now than on the battlefield. Of all the dangers that she faced, the greatest was discovery...

The Castle Inn by Stanley J. Weyman

About a hundred and thirty years ago, when the third George, whom our grandfathers knew in his blind dotage, was a young and sturdy bridegroom; when old Q., whom 1810 found peering from his balcony in Piccadilly, deaf, toothless, and a skeleton, was that gay and lively spark, the Earl of March; when "bore" and "boreish" were words of "haut ton, " unknown to the vulgar, and the price of a borough was 5,000"l."; when gibbets still served for sign-posts, and railways were not and highwaymen were -- to be more exact, in the early spring of the year 1767, a traveling chariot-and-four drew up about five in the evening before the inn at Wheatley Bridge, a short stage from Oxford on the Oxford road. A gig and a couple of post-chaises, attended by the customary group of stablemen, topers, and gossips already stood before the house, but these were quickly deserted in favor of the more important equipage. The drawers in their aprons trooped out, but the landlord, foreseeing a rich harvest, was first at the door of the carriage, and opened it with a bow such as is rarely seen in these days. "Will your lordship please to alight?" he said. "No, rascal!" cried one of those within. "Shut the door!"

What I Hope to Read Next

The Highwayman's Curse by Nicola Morgan

On the run from the redcoats, the two young highwaymen, Will and Bess, find themselves in Galloway, Scotland, blamed for a murder they did not commit. Here, they are captured by smugglers and become embroiled in a story of hatred and revenge that goes back for generations, to the days of the Killing Times. Whose side will they take? Can anything they do end the cycle of religious hatred? And will their own friendship survive?




Jam and Roses by Mary Gibson

Three sisters are growing up in 1920s Bermondsey - the larder of London - with its bustling docks, its spice mill, tannery and factories. Southwells jam factory is where many of the girls work. And Milly Colman knows she's lucky. At Southwells she can have a laugh with her mates. She's quick and strong and never misses a day's work. She needs to be. Because at homes things are very different. The Colman household is ruled by the tyrannical rages of the old man - her father. Often Milly feels she is the only thing protecting her mother and younger sisters from his murderous violence. At least autumn hop-picking in Kent gives all the Colman women a heavenly respite. But it is here, on one golden September night, that Milly makes the mistake of her life and finds her courage and strength tested as never before.

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

An historic literary event: the publication of a newly discovered novel, the earliest known work from Harper Lee, the beloved, bestselling author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. Originally written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman was the novel Harper Lee first submitted to her publishers before To Kill a Mockingbird. Assumed to have been lost, the manuscript was discovered in late 2014. Go Set a Watchman features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later. Returning home to Maycomb to visit her father, Jean Louise Finch—Scout—struggles with issues both personal and political, involving Atticus, society, and the small Alabama town that shaped her. Exploring how the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird are adjusting to the turbulent events transforming mid-1950s America, Go Set a Watchman casts a fascinating new light on Harper Lee’s enduring classic. Moving, funny and compelling, it stands as a magnificent novel in its own right.

It's Monday! What Are you Reading?


This weekly meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey

Last week I received a copy of The Governor's House by J.H. Fletcher, which I was very excited to have won through a First Reads giveaway from Goodreads. I set aside what I was currently reading to  read this one immediately and hope to have my review written in a day or two.


I went back to TimeStorm by Steve Harrison, which proved to be a very unusual and gripping read.This was followed by The Belton Estate by Anthony Trollope, a book I intended to read for the Reading England Challenge. As my interest in The Dead Secret was waning, I hoped this classic would be the better read. It was and a quick one too.

This week I'm reading The Silence of Shadows by Christina Courtenay, a dual time frame narrative, and have started The Highwayman's Footsteps, a Young Adult novel by Nicola Morgan, inspired by Alfred Noyes' poem about an 18th century highwayman.

In between the novels, I've been dipping into Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles: A Celebration of Waterloo. This is a collection of nine sweet romance stories, written by various authors, set at the time of the Battle of Waterloo. I've enjoyed the ones I've read so far.

As always, I'm not sure what I'll read next. I've added a 19th century seafaring tale and a post World War II story to my reading pile. Rough Passage to London by Robin Lloyd is the story of Captain Elisha Morgan, a direct ancestor of the author. The Throwaway Children by Diney Costeloe is the story of two English sisters, not orphans, who are sent to an Australian orphanage.

What I Read Last Week

TimeStorm by Steve Harrison (E-book)


In 1795 a convict ship leaves England for New South Wales in Australia. Nearing its destination, the vessel miraculously survives a savage storm and limps into Sydney Harbour, where the convicts rebel and escape.

But the year is now 2017...




The Governor's House by J.H.Fletcher

Born in poverty, transported for theft, and in love with a charismatic but dangerous man – for Cat Haggard the Tasmanian Governor’s House is not merely a beautiful building but a symbol of all she hopes to obtain in life. From convict, bushranger and accused pirate, Cat transforms herself into an entrepreneur and pillar of colonial Tasmanian society. But how is she connected to a missing ship? And could she be involved in the disappearance of a priceless treasure that, one hundred and three years after her death, will be claimed not only by a foreign government but by unscrupulous men determined to use it for their own ends?
Joanne, dean of history at the university and Cat’s descendant, is assigned the task of locating the missing artefact. Joanne believes the key may lie in a coded notebook she has inherited along with Cat’s other mysteries. But will she be able to decipher the message and put a century-old secret to rest? And will she survive to join her true love in the Governor’s House – a house that has come to mean as much to her as it did to her long-dead ancestor?

The Belton Estate by Anthony Trollope

THE BELTON ESTATE (1865) by Anthony Trollope is a fine example of the author's favorite subjects: social and family relationships, inheritance, a young woman faced with the delicate choice of worthy husbands, and a sophisticated portrayal of British Victorian life. Clara Amedroz, the lady in question, must find her place, after deaths in the family leave her vulnerable and without a fortune. Her home, the Belton Estate, has been entailed. And before happiness can be had, Clara must be sensible, patient, and above all tactful in the face of difficulty, not to mention an unspeakable mother-in-law.

What I'm Reading Today

The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins

... Like much of Collins's work, "The Dead Secret" explores the consequences of a single, hidden act. The Cornish mansion Porthgenna harbors the secret of such an act, one that has ruined the life of the servant girl Sarah Leeson. This same secret lies hidden for fifteen years until the heiress to Porthgenna, Rosamund Treverton, returns and exposes it. Her detective work may reveal the truth, but her revelation of a long-forgotten crime could mean disaster for her and the entire estate ...



Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles: A Celebration of Waterloo by Jillian Chantal et al (E-book)

For Readers who enjoy a bit of history with their Romance…
A historic confrontation
Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles is a celebration of the bicentenary of the showdown between Wellington’s “Infamous Army” and Napoleon’s Grande Armée. Wellington’s Allied Army consisted of a hastily organized mélange of inexperienced men from several countries who didn’t even speak the same language.
A backdrop of war
While life in Regency England continued much as it had been, the war with Napoleon was a constant source of preoccupation as young men who eagerly set off to become heroes in battle sometimes returned with life-changing injuries or worse, didn’t return at all.
Nine stories of love tested by the trials of war
A collection of sweet Regency stories of courage, hope, and the miracle of love surviving in uncertain times, brought to you by nine distinguished historical romance authors.

The Silent Touch of Shadows by Christina Courtenay

Professional genealogist Melissa Grantham receives an invitation to visit her family’s ancestral home, Ashleigh Manor. From the moment she arrives, life-like dreams and visions haunt her. The spiritual connection to a medieval young woman and her forbidden lover have her questioning her sanity, but Melissa is determined to solve the mystery.
Jake Precy, owner of a nearby cottage, has disturbing dreams too, but it’s not until he meets Melissa that they begin to make sense. He hires her to research his family’s history, unaware their lives are already entwined. Is the mutual attraction real or the result of ghostly interference?
A haunting love story set partly in the present and partly in fifteenth century Kent.

The Highwayman's Footsteps by Nicola Morgan

Young William de Lacey is high born, the son of a gentleman. But he's on the run, having stolen money and a horse, and has taken up with a highwayman. It's enough to hang him three times over. Despite struggling with his conscience, Will feels free for the first time in his life - and it's all down to the mysterious Bess. Now can they survive the risks of the eighteenth-century highwayman's harsh life?




What I Hope to Read Next

Rough Passage to London

Lyme, Connecticut, early nineteenth century. Elisha Ely Morgan is a young farm boy who has witnessed firsthand the terror of the War of 1812. Troubled by a tumultuous home life ruled by the fists of their tempestuous father, Ely's two older brothers have both left their pastoral boyhoods to seek manhood through sailing. One afternoon, the Morgan family receives a letter with the news that one brother is lost at sea; the other is believed to be dead. Scrimping as much savings as a farm boy can muster, Ely spends nearly every penny he has to become a sailor on a square-rigged ship, on a route from New York to London a route he hopes will lead to his vanished brother, Abraham. Learning the brutal trade of a sailor, Ely takes quickly to sea-life, but his focus lies with finding Abraham. Following a series of cryptic clues regarding his brother's fate, Ely becomes entrenched in a mystery deeper than he can imagine. As he feels himself drawing closer to an answer, Ely climbs the ranks to become a captain, experiences romance, faces a mutiny, meets Queen Victoria, and befriends historical legends such as Charles Dickens in his raucous quest.

The Throwaway Children by Diney Costeloe

Gritty, heartrending and unputdownable - the story of two sisters sent first to an English, then an Australian orphanage in the aftermath of World War 2. Rita and Rosie Stevens are only nine and five years old when their widowed mother marries a violent bully called Jimmy Randall and has a baby boy by him. Under pressure from her new husband, she is persuaded to send the girls to an orphanage - not knowing that the papers she has signed will entitle them to do what they like with the children. And it is not long before the powers that be decide to send a consignment of orphans to their sister institution in Australia. Among them - without their family's consent or knowledge - are Rita and Rosie, the throwaway children.

Book Review: Salamanca Cottage by Mary Fitzgerald

Salamanca Cottage is set during World War II, in the fictional village of Lower Marchland. Aurelia Smith, a recently widowed nurse, rents the cottage and goes to work at the village hospital. She finds the atmosphere of the cottage peaceful and comforting. The perfect place to help mend her broken heart. The villagers' cryptic comments about the cottage leave her puzzled until one night she sees a man standing to one side of her inglenook fireplace.

"The man was in uniform, not a modern uniform and the colours were hard to make out, for the whole form of the spectre had a sepia tint like an old photograph. He was tall, taller than her and had light hair and an amused clean shaven face. Looking carefully, Aurelia thought that his jacket might be green with rows of silver buttons down the front and a bright scarlet sash. Dark narrow trousers and riding boots finished off the ensemble, except for his sword, which hung from a leather belt partially covered by the sash. Hanging from the hilt of the sword, on a braided cord, was a little metal figurine. When the apparition turned to face her the figurine knocked against the sword hilt making a small clinking sound. "

This is Aurelia's first meeting with Major Henry Kennerton of the 95th Rifles, who fell at the Battle of Waterloo. Yes, Salamanca Cottage is a ghost story, but it is also a heart-warming romance.

Mary Fitzgerald does an excellent job of depicting life in a small village during World War II. Her characters are believable and ones I expected to populate an English village of that time. From the local inhabitants, linked through past generations, to the newcomers such as the German POWs and American servicemen, none were superfluous to the story. However, my favourite was the ghostly Major Kennerton, still suffering his own personal sorrow after 130 years. His sense of humour and 19th century speech makes for witty and entertaining dialogue with Aurelia.

Salamanca Cottage is a quick read. Mary Fitzgerald has an easy writing style that doesn't allow you to stop and catch your breath until the last page. This is a charming story dealing with grief and love in a war time context. The unexpected twist at the end left me smiling and that's a good way to end a novel.

Salamanca Cottage is a great introduction to an author I hadn't read before and I'm looking forward to reading more books by Mary Fitzgerald.

Currently, Salamanca Cottage is only available as an e-book.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This weekly meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey

E-books dominated my reading last week. This was a momentous occasion for me, as I very rarely read in this format.

The first of the three e-books I read was Salamanca Cottage by Mary Fitzgerald. The reason I chose this book was the title. Salamanca hinted at a connection to the Napoleonic Wars, although the actual setting is World War II. This was a great introduction to an author I hadn't read before and I will certainly read more books by Mary Fitzgerald.

I continued with the next two books in Ashley Gardner's Regency mysteries featuring Captain Lacey, A Regimental Affair and The Glass House. Ten books, plus some novellas and short stories, make up this series and will keep me entertained for a while.

Homeland by Clare Francis proved a very interesting read, dealing with a subject not often used as the basis of a novel.

This week I'm still reading The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins, but so far it has not grabbed my interest as I hoped it would. However, the first few chapters have introduced the main characters and I'm anticipating that now this has been done the pace will pick up.

I'm also reading another e-book, TimeStorm by Steve Harrison. This is an unusual time slip/time travel story: an 18th century convict ship sails into Sydney Harbour in 2017. I've read two-thirds so far and can't read fast enough to find out what happens to the crew and the convicts, and if they make it back to their own time.

I'm not sure what my next read will be. My library borrowings this week include two novels by Fiona Mountain, Lady of the Butterflies/Rebel Heiress and Pale as the Dead, Christina Courtney's The Silent Touch of Shadows and Judith Cutler's The Keeper of Secrets, the first book of her Tobias Campion mysteries. All look like great reads.

What I Read Last Week

Homeland by Clare Francis

It is 1946, and the eve of the harshest winter for a hundred years. Servicemen are pouring home from the war to a Britain beset by stringent shortages and a desperate housing crisis. Anxieties are heightened by the unexpected arrival of the soldiers of the Second Polish Corps, whose refusal to go back to Poland is regarded with impatience and suspicion. As anti-Polish propaganda reaches its height, newly demobbed Billy Greer reluctantly agrees to take on a young Polish veteran named Wladyslaw Malinowski as a labourer on his uncle's withy farm in the heart of the Somerset wetlands. Stella, the local schoolteacher, has been waiting for the return of Lyndon Hanley, a hero of the Burma Campaign, but increasingly finds herself drawn to the beguiling Wladyslaw. As the country is brought to its knees by blizzards and hardships, the tensions of post-war life lead to mistrust, accusation and ultimately death. 

Salamanca Cottage by Mary Fitzgerald (E-book)

Grief can overwhelm and Aurelia Smith, a young, newly widowed, nurse, retreats to a country cottage in order to find peace and hug to herself the memory of her soldier husband. 

But Salamanca Cottage is not all that it seems and soon she finds that she is not alone. Then she has decide if the being she talks to and finds herself becoming fond of is real or merely a manifestation of her grief and longing.



A Regimental Murder by Ashley Gardner (#2 Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries)(E-book)

Returning home through a sticky London night in July 1816, Captain Gabriel Lacey is surprised to see a well-dressed, elegant woman stride to the middle of an unfinished bridge. Following her in curiosity, Lacey is on hand to rescue her from an attack by a footpad. As grateful as she is for the help, the lady refuses to give her name and direction, and so Lacey takes her to his own rooms in a street off Covent Garden to rest. He discovers that she is one Lydia Westin, wife of Colonel Roehampton Westin, who has recently been accused of murdering an English officer in Portugal during the Peninsular War. Before he could come to trial, however, Colonel Westin was found dead at the foot of the staircase in his own house. Lydia Westin, to Lacey's surprise, declares he was murdered and that she knows the culprits' identities. Intrigued, Lacey begins to investigate, and soon finds himself mired in scandals past and present, with a journalist dogging his footsteps, eager to print Lacey's latest adventure ...

The Glass House by Ashley Gardner (#3 Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries)(E-book)

On a cold January night in 1817, former cavalry officer Captain Gabriel Lacey is summoned to the banks of the Thames to identify the body of a young woman. When Lacey looks at the pretty, dead young woman, cut down too soon, he vows to find her murderer.
Lacey's search takes him to the Glass House, a sordid gaming hell that played a large part in the victim's past, as well as to gatherings of the haut ton and the chambers of respectable Middle Temple barristers. Lacey uncovers secrets from the highborn and the low, finds himself drawn deeper into the schemes of a crime lord, and explores his tentative new friendship with Lady Breckenridge.


What I'm Reading Today

The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins

... Like much of Collins's work, "The Dead Secret" explores the consequences of a single, hidden act. The Cornish mansion Porthgenna harbors the secret of such an act, one that has ruined the life of the servant girl Sarah Leeson. This same secret lies hidden for fifteen years until the heiress to Porthgenna, Rosamund Treverton, returns and exposes it. Her detective work may reveal the truth, but her revelation of a long-forgotten crime could mean disaster for her and the entire estate ...


TimeStorm by Steve Harrison (E-book)

In 1795 a convict ship leaves England for New South Wales in Australia. Nearing its destination, the vessel miraculously survives a savage storm and limps into Sydney Harbour, where the convicts rebel and escape.

But the year is now 2017...






What I Hope to Read Next

Lady of the Butterflies by Fiona Mountain

Born into a world seething with treachery and suspicion, Eleanor Goodricke grows up on the Somerset Levels just after the English Civil Wars, heiress to her late mother's estates and daughter of a Puritan soldier who fears for his brilliant daughter with her dangerous passion for natural history - and for butterflies in particular. Her reckless courage will take her to places where no woman of her day ever dared to go. Her fearless ambition will give her a place in history for all time. But it is her passionate heart which will lead her into a consuming love - and mortal peril.

Pale as the Dead by Fiona Mountain

Natasha Blake is a detective with a difference. She's an ancestor detective, an ambitious young genealogist with a passion for history, whose choice of career is partly driven by the mystery of her own roots. Natasha's investigations are a matter of life and death, involving secrets, scandals and supernatural happenings; forgotten tragedies and buried crimes. The trails she must follow lead her from her Cotswold home to ancient houses, deserted chapels, overgrown graveyards and into cyberspace. Her clients could be anyone for whom the past affects the present - the haunted, the hopeful, or the just plain curious. The disappearance of a young girl, Bethany, appears to be linked in some way to Lizzie Siddall, the haunting, ethereal Pre-Raphaelite model and artist, wife of painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Lizzie's tragic life was cut short by an overdose of laudanum. Was it accident or suicide? Why is Bethany so obsessed with her, and at the same time so determined to put herself beyond the reach of her lover, Adam?

The Silent Touch of Shadows by Christina Courtenay

Professional genealogist Melissa Grantham receives an invitation to visit her family’s ancestral home, Ashleigh Manor. From the moment she arrives, life-like dreams and visions haunt her. The spiritual connection to a medieval young woman and her forbidden lover have her questioning her sanity, but Melissa is determined to solve the mystery.
Jake Precy, owner of a nearby cottage, has disturbing dreams too, but it’s not until he meets Melissa that they begin to make sense. He hires her to research his family’s history, unaware their lives are already entwined. Is the mutual attraction real or the result of ghostly interference?
A haunting love story set partly in the present and partly in fifteenth century Kent.


 The Keeper of Secrets by Judith Cutler

England, 1810: Young Parson Tobias Campion is excited and nervous to be starting at the small parish of Moreton Priory. But his first night in the village brings excitement of the wrong kind when he has to intervene in the attempted rape of housemaid Lizzie Woodman. Even in the normal course of events life in the village is far from quiet, as soon Tobias has to deal with both violent and suspicious deaths which put his character and ministry to the test. But matters come to a head when Lizzie disappears from her employers. What has become of the girl and who is responsible? As Tobias searches for answers they find themselves delving into the dark secrets that haunt Lizzie's past. A perfect blend of historical novel and sophisticated thriller, "The Keeper of Secrets" is a treat for crime lovers everywhere.