Book Review: The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer

I'd forgotten how delightful a Georgette Heyer novel can be. Having read all her regency romances in my early teenage years, picking this one up again after so long had all the excitement of a first time read.

The Nonesuch is one of Heyer's later and less popular novels (my favourite will always be The Black Moth, her debut novel and my introduction to this author) but it is still full of the wit, charm and endearing characters one expects to find in her light-hearted romances.

Sir Waldo Hawkridge (The Nonesuch) travels to Yorkshire with his younger cousin, Lord Lindeth, to inspect the estate he has recently inherited. The arrival of these two eligible bachelors in the village of Oversett causes a stir among the local gentry: mothers of marriageable daughters vie with one another to entertain them and the young men wish to emulate Sir Waldo due to his
reputation as a sportsman.

Sir Waldo, being over thirty, believes he is past the age of falling in love. That is, until he meets Ancilla Trent, governess and companion to the spoilt, self-centred, seventeen year old heiress, Tiffany Wield.

Tiffany, feted for her beauty, believes no man can resist her charms, and while Sir Waldo is quite immune, it is Lord Lindeth who falls under her spell and joins the ranks of her admirers.

Initially, the young men are eager to gain Tiffany's favour, despite her  abominable treatment of them, but one by one her admirers fall away when she throws one tantrum too many and the lies she has told are revealed.

Apart from her appealing characters and entertaining plots, one of Georgette Heyer's trademarks is her witty dialogue and The Nonesuch has it in abundance, enhanced by lots of delightful Regency slang.

Unusually for a Heyer novel, the romance unfolds quietly in the background, while the behaviour of Miss Trent's charge, Tiffany, dominates the story from start to finish. Perhaps this is the reason The Nonesuch is not as popular with Heyer's fans as her other books, but I enjoyed it. Tiffany's tantrums were amusing and the romance between Ancilla and Sir Waldo does have its obligatory misunderstanding, but this too was amusing if not a little unbelievable given how sensible Ancilla was supposed to be.

I read this novel as part of the Reading Yorkshire 2016 Challenge and loved that it was set in a part of the county I am familiar with.

The fictional village of Oversett is " ... situated in the West Riding, rather closer to Leeds than to Harrogate, and not above twenty miles from York ...".

A shopping expedition to Leeds, a town in 1816, is the scene of one of Tiffany's tantrums.  The mention of the red brick buildings of Leeds brought back memories of childhood visits there. For me those red brick buildings will always be associated with Leeds.

The cause of another of Tiffany's tantrums, is a proposed visit to the Dripping Well or the Petrifying Well at Knaresborough, a popular tourist destination even today. Tiffany is thwarted in her plans to get there by the illness of one of the party. No matter what she proposes, her travelling companions are all in agreement that the outing should be abandoned. Poor Tiffany!

Have you read The Nonesuch? What did you think? Did you find Tiffany's tantrums amusing like I did, or tedious?

Book Review: Florence Grace by Tracy Rees

Fifteen year old Florrie Buckley likes nothing more than to run barefoot on the Cornish moors, enjoying nature and the freedom of the wild and open spaces. Her life is simple and while not always easy, she is content.

When tragedy strikes, she leaves behind her beloved Cornwall to live in London with the wealthy Graces, her mother's relatives.

The Grace household is ruled by her grandfather, the domineering and irascible Hawker Grace, who is determined to re-establish the family's reputation, no matter the sacrifices he calls upon his family to make.

To Florrie her new home becomes a prison. She is forbidden to mix in society until she learns how to behave like a lady and, above all else, like a Grace. The rules and regulations threaten to dominate her free spirit and she often suffers cruel and spiteful treatment at the hands of her aunt and female cousins. Her only support comes from the male members of her family, in particular her cousin and grandfather's heir, Turlington, who is often at odds with his grandfather because of his behaviour. But Turlington is a troubled soul, harbouring secrets.

Florrie soon realises that to survive in her new life she must conform though in her heart she will always be the girl from Cornwall. Losing her Cornish accent and way of speech, her outspokenness and stubbornness, and sadly her father's name, she transforms from Florrie Buckley to Florence Grace, with all the advantages and disadvantages of being part of a wealthy family.

When the Graces' lives are thrown into turmoil by a death in the family, Florrie becomes the one they rely on. Ultimately this event sets Florrie free.

Once again Tracy Rees brings to life Victorian society with its rigid class structure and strict views on morality as it affects the Grace family. Not only do they have to contend with these outside pressures, family dynamics causes friction within the home too. There is a lot of unhappiness in this family and it is interesting how each member deals with Hawker's dictates.

The ending was not what I expected. It leaves Florrie's future and, to some extent, that of the rest of the Grace family, to be interpreted by the reader. Some may be disappointed in the ending, but in my opinion it only reinforces the strength of Florrie's character. In particular, her resolve to be true to herself and happy, even if that means making some heartbreaking decisions.

Florence Grace was the highly anticipated second novel from Tracy Rees and like many I wondered if she could follow up the success she had with her debut novel Amy SnowI believe she has, but I was hard pressed to decide which book I liked best, though the more I contemplated this question, the more Florence Grace came out on top. It is a more thought provoking read.

Tracy Rees' third novel, The Hourglass, is due out in May, 2017. While I'm disappointed that it's not set in the Victorian era as her previous two are, I'm eager to see if she can work her magic in a different time frame.

Book Review: The Virgin of the Wind Rose by Glen Craney

While investigating the murder of an American missionary in Ethiopia, rookie State Department lawyer Jaqueline Quartermane becomes obsessed with a magical word square found inside an underground church guarding the tomb of the biblical Adam.

Drawn into a web of esoteric intrigue, she and a roguish antiquities thief named Elymas must race an elusive and taunting mastermind to find the one relic needed to resurrect Solomon's Temple. A trail of cabalistic clues leads them to the catacombs of Rome, the crypt below Chartres Cathedral, a Masonic shaft in Nova Scotia, a Portuguese shipwreck off Sumatra, and the caverns under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Intertwined with this modern mystery-thriller, a parallel duel is waged: The year is 1452. One of the most secretive societies in history, Portugal's Order of Christ, is led by a reclusive visionary, Prince Henry the Navigator. He and his medieval version of NASA merged with the CIA scheme to foil their archenemies, the Inquisitor Torquemada and Queen Isabella of Castile, who plan to bring back Christ for the Last Judgment by ridding the world of Jews, heretics, and unbelievers.

Separated by half a millennium, two conspiracies to usher in the Tribulations promised by the Book of Revelation dovetail in this fast-paced thriller to expose the world's most explosive secret: The true identity of Christopher Columbus and the explorer's connection to those now trying to spark the End of Days


******************************

From the synopsis and opening chapters I realised that The Virgin of the Wind Rose was going to be a very different book than I was used to reading. It's not often I pick up a book with a religious focus and usually the mention of the CIA or other such organisation in the description would see me pass it over. This is not a book I would have chosen for myself.

So why did I agree to read and review it? There were a number of reasons: I was excited to be offered the book to review, I'd not read any of Glen Craney's books before, I'm a fan of dual time narratives, I like a good conspiracy theory and the most compelling was the historical aspect.

In the 15th century, three young boys (Pero, Dias and Zarco) share ambitions to become sea-faring explorers and pass various tests to be admitted into a secret society. This part of the novel follows their lives and how they become part of a conspiracy to thwart Queen Isabella of Castile's plans. Prince Henry the Navigator and Queen Isabella of Castile are familiar historical figures, but in The Virgin of the Wind Rose Glen Craney puts a very different connotation on the relationship between Portugal and Spain.

Alongside this narrative is one set in the modern-day and it was this part I had difficulty getting into, at first. I didn't warm to the main character, Jaq. This wasn't a good sign, though she did improve in my estimation as the story progressed. I had trouble reconciling her religious beliefs with her role in modern society and also found her relationship with her mentor, the fanatical Reverend Merry, whom she blindly trusts, a little disturbing.

As a result of my first impressions I had a couple of false starts. I began to feel that this novel was not for me, but at some point, and I'm not quite sure where in the modern-day story this happened, there was a shift in pace and I found myself eagerly awaiting Jaq's next move, caught up in the non-stop action as each clue was discovered, solved and followed.

My favourite character was Elymas, the antiquities thief. In the early chapters he flits in and out of the story, turning up when least expected like the proverbial bad penny. The scenes he featured in were always entertaining and he was the perfect foil for the more controlled Jaq.

On the whole Glen Craney's writing style appealed to me, as did his sense of humour which surfaced in the exchanges between Jaq and Elymas, raising a chuckle or two; there is also a memorable description of a barkeeper. I should quote them here, but I believe these gems should be savoured first hand. They provided a little comic relief before the story raced off again.

Glen Craney was also successful in separating the two time frames, giving each part the distinctive feel of the period in which they were set. Each one could have been a standalone novel, yet they complemented each other in such a way that no matter what time frame I was in, I was eager to get back to the other. This surprised me as I usually favour the historical setting in dual time narratives.

The attention to detail is phenomenal, as are the many twists and turns as each conspiracy unfolds. I admit to getting lost a few times and having to back track to make sense of what had happened. For me, the greatest twist was the dramatic conclusion and definitely not the outcome I expected.

I can understand why this book would appeal to fans of authors such as Dan Brown and despite my initial misgivings, I was pleasantly surprised how much I'd enjoyed it. While I may not read any of Glen Craney's other thrillers, his historical novel The Spider and the Stone is on my list of books to read.

Thank you to Glen Craney for providing a free copy of The Virgin of the Wind Rose for me to read and review.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This weekly meme is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

I had intended to just focus on my current read, Beyond the Orchard, last week, but slipped in two quick reads, Night in Eden and Tenant of Chesdene Manor.

Before C.S.Harris introduced Sebastian St. Cyr in her regency mysteries, she wrote historical romances under the pen name of Candice Proctor. Night in Eden was her debut novel, which won various awards on its release. This novel is still set in the regency era, but in colonial Australia. I enjoyed it and now I'm looking forward to reading more of her novels set in Australia.

Tenant of Chesdene Hall is a regency romance from Alice Chetwynd Ley. I've read a few of her regency romances now and liked them. They are a little more serious than those regencies written by Georgette Heyer, but still good entertainment.

My current read is still Beyond the Orchard by Anna Romer. It's taking me a lot longer to get through this book than I'd anticipated due to reading it on my laptop, but I'm hoping to finish it this week.

Up next is Karen Brooks' latest, The Locksmith's Daughter and my selection after that will be from various books I've requested from Net Galley, which include Mackenzie Crossing by Kaye Dobbie and Daughter of the Murray by Darry Fraser, both set in Australia. I also have a very long ebook of 1013 pages, White Spirit by Lance and James Morcan, also set in Australia and based on a true story, that I'm hoping to get to soon.

What I Read Last Week

Night in Eden by Candice Procter

Bryony Wentworth, once a wealthy, privileged English landowner, is convicted of murdering her husband. After being transported to a penal colony in New South Wales while pregnant, Bryony gives birth to her child, then loses it to fever. Captain Hayden St. John collects her from the prison so that she can become a wet nurse for his son. Grief stricken over the loss of his wife, Hayden is bitter and untrusting. Bryony, fearful and angry at her fate, finds much to resent in Hayden, but his child offers her a new will to live. Although Hayden and Bryony fight their attraction, their union is so deeply passionate that it seems nothing can threaten their happiness until Bryony's past comes to haunt her.

Tenant of Chesdene Manor by Alice Chetwynd Ley

Diana Chalfont and her mother were left nearly penniless when gambling-happy Sir Peter Chalfont died. So they resolved to find a tenant to share the neglected Chesdene Manor - and from nowhere came quiet, good-looking Mr. Richmond, about whom no one seemed to know very much at all. But when Diana went to stay in London with her cousins, she met him frequently at parties and balls - so who was he? The answers lay amongst the tombstones in Chesdene churchyard ...



What I'm Reading Today

Beyond the Orchard by Anna Romer

Lucy Briar has arrived home in turmoil after years overseas. She’s met her fiancé in London and has her life mapped out, but something is holding her back.
Hoping to ground herself and find answers, Lucy settles into once familiar routines. But old tortured feelings flood Lucy’s existence when her beloved father, Ron, is hospitalised and Morgan – the man who drove her away all those years ago – seeks her out.
Worse, Ron implores Lucy to visit Bitterwood Estate, the crumbling historic family guesthouse now left to him. He needs Lucy to find something– an old photograph album, the very thing that drove Ron and his father apart.
Lucy has her own painful memories of Bitterwood, darkness that has plagued her dreams since she was young. But as Lucy searches for the album, the house begins to give up its ghosts and she is driven to put them to rest.
And there, held tightly between the house, the orchard and the soaring cliffs, Lucy uncovers a long-hidden secret that shattered a family’s bond and kept a frightened young girl in its thrall ... and Lucy discovers just how fierce the lonely heart can be.


What I Hope To Read Next

The Locksmith's Daughter by Karen Brooks

In a world where no one can be trusted and secrets are currency, one woman stands without fear.
Mallory Bright is the only daughter of London’s master locksmith. For her there is no lock too elaborate, no secret too well kept. Sir Francis Walsingham, spymaster and protector of Queen Elizabeth – the last of the Tudor monarchs – and her realm, is quick to realise Mallory’s talent and draws her into his world of intrigue, danger and deception. With her by his side, no scheme in England or abroad is safe from discovery; no plot secure.
But Mallory’s loyalty wavers when she witnesses the execution of three Jesuit priests, a punishment that doesn’t fit their crime. When Mallory discovers the identity of a Catholic spy and a conspiracy that threatens the kingdom, she has to make a choice – between her country and her heart.
Mallory, however, carries her own dark secrets and is about to learn those being kept from her – secrets that could destroy those she loves.
Once Sir Francis’s greatest asset, Mallory is fast becoming his worst threat … and everyone knows there’s only one way Sir Francis deals with those.


Mackenzie Crossing by Kaye Dobbie

An old photograph holds the key to a missing man, a past love and a long-lost mountain village.
A passion for photography draws two stories together across time to Mackenzie Crossing.
Neville ‘Pom’ Darling, is on the hunt for the perfect photograph.
Skye Stewart, is searching for her long lost grandfather.
It’s 1939, and Neville, escaping an unhappy marriage and his memories of the Great War, finds himself in Mackenzie Crossing on the day of the terrible Black Friday bushfires. He meets the beautiful Georgie Mackenzie and in an instant knows that she is the subject he has been looking for. As the heat intensifies, Georgie and Pom begin to wonder if they have a future together; but first, they must survive the blaze.
Almost sixty years later, Sky Stewart returns to the area in search of her grandfather. Did he survive the Black Friday bushfires? Who is the exotic woman in the photograph she found? But when she arrives in Elysian, the closest town to where Mackenzie Crossing used to be, she finds more of her hidden past than she bargained for. A more recent past which she would prefer stayed forgotten…


Daughter of the Murray by Darry Fraser

1890s, River Murray, Northern Victoria
Georgina Calthorpe is unhappy living with her indifferent foster family the MacHenry’s in their crumbling house on the banks of the River Murray.
Unlike the rest of the family, she isn’t looking forward to the return of prodigal son Dane. With good reason. Dane MacHenry is furious when on his return he finds his homestead in grave decline. Unaware that his father has been drinking his way through his inheritance, he blames Georgina and Georgina decides she has no option but to leave. Unfortunately she chooses Dane’s horse to flee on, and when Dane learns she has stolen his prized stallion, he gives chase. From this point their fates become intertwined with that of a businessman with a dark secret, Conor Foley, who offers Georgina apparent security: a marriage with status in the emerging nouveau-riche echelons of Melbourne. But none of them could imagine the toll the changing political and social landscape would have on homes, hearts and families. Will Georgina’s path lead her into grave danger and unhappiness, or will she survive and fulfil her destiny?


White Spirit by Lance and James Morcan

Based on the remarkable true story of Irish convict John Graham, WHITE SPIRIT is an epic historical adventure set in 19th Century Australia. After escaping from the notorious Moreton Bay Penal Settlement, Graham finds refuge with the Kabi, a tribe of Aborigines who eventually accept him as one of their own.
Attempts to recapture Graham are orchestrated by a variety of contrasting characters working for the all-pervasive British Empire. They include Moreton Bay's tyrannical, opium-addicted commandant Lord Cheetham, the dashing yet warlike Lieutenant Hogan, native tracker Barega and the penal settlement's captain, Tom Marsden.
Marsden's young daughter Helen, a progressive lady ahead of her time who is both an egalitarian and a feminist, boldly inserts herself into the clash between the Irish convict, her father and Moreton Bay's other iron-fisted rulers. Helen complicates things further when she finds herself in a Pride and Prejudice-style love triangle with men on opposite sides of the conflict.
When Scottish woman Eliza Fraser is found shipwrecked and close to death in Kabi territory, Graham and his legion of pursuers, as well as the Irishman's adopted Aboriginal family, are all forced to navigate a multi-faceted rescue mission. The precarious rendezvous is made all the more dangerous by Helen Marsden's ethically-driven meddling that often outwits the men involved.
WHITE SPIRIT is not only based on arguably the great Australian (true) story, a sweeping tale that encapsulates all the nuances of the southern continent's unique history, it also provides readers with detailed insights into the tribal life of First Australian (Aboriginal) peoples.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This weekly meme is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

All the books I finished last week were historical mysteries. True to form, as soon as I had another Sebastian St. Cyr mystery in my hands it had to be read immediately. When Falcons Fall is the 11th in the series, with the 12th due for release in April, 2017.

I also finished The Best of Men, the first in a series by Claire Letemendia. At nearly 700 pages this is a lengthy read, with lots of characters and sub-plots. While I enjoyed the story, it did take me a while to get through, mainly because other novels grabbed my interest more than the exploits of Laurence Beaumont. I was hoping that I'd found a new series to follow and though I've added it to my TBR pile I'm not in a hurry to read the sequel.

Another mystery I picked up last week was Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson. I'd read many reviews about her series and grabbed the first book from the library. Now this series appeals to me. Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther are a very unusual crime solving duo, but work so well together. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

My final book for the week was In Pale Battalions by Robert Goddard. There are lots of characters, from downright evil to cheery, and many twists and turns. I thought I'd figured out the mystery half way through, so wasn't prepared for the final twist. I'm looking forward to reading more of Robert Goddard's historical mysteries.

My current read, Beyond the Orchard by Anna Romer, is a carry over from last week and is the only book I'm focusing on this week. Unlike her previous two books, the beginning is a little slow, but the pace is picking up now that the main character, Lucy, is unravelling the secrets of the Bitterwood Estate.

What I hope to read next is Karen Brooks' latest, The Locksmith's Daughter. It's been a while since I've read a book set in the Elizabethan era, so I'm looking forward to it.

What I Read Last Week

The Best of Men by Claire Letemendia

It is 1642, and Laurence Beaumont has just returned to England after six long years fighting -- and avoiding fighting -- in the European Wars. Having fled his home to escape the responsibilities of his noble birthright, he has been a lowly infantryman in Spain, a spy for the Germans, and a cardsharp in a Dutch brothel. He has seen horrors visited upon men, women, and children by enemy and ally alike, and he no longer has faith in God, in causes, or even in humankind itself.
As the clashes between King Charles I and his mutinous Parliament come to a crisis and England is thrown into civil war, a reluctant Beaumont is drawn back into the world of warfare and intrigue when he discovers coded letters outlining a plot to assassinate the king. Soon the conspirators -- one of whom is among the most powerful men in the kingdom -- are in hot pursuit, and Beaumont must find proof of their identities before they overtake him. Pressed into service by the secretary of state's ruthless spymaster, Beaumont finds himself threatened on all sides, facing imprisonment, torture, and worse if he makes a single wrong step. The ravishing Isabella Savage, a practiced seducer, wants to help, but may only lead him deeper into the conspiracies within the king's camp. And all the while Beaumont is haunted by a prophecy and by the memory of a devastating betrayal.


When Falcons Fall by C.S. Harris

Ayleswick-on-Teme, 1813. Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, has come to this seemingly peaceful Shropshire village to honor a slain friend and on a quest to learn more about his own ancestry. But when the body of a lovely widow is found on the banks of the River Teme, a bottle of laudanum at her side, the village’s inexperienced new magistrate turns to St. Cyr for help.
  Almost immediately, Sebastian realizes that Emma Chance did not, in truth, take her own life. Less easy to discern is exactly how she died, and why. For as Sebastian and Hero soon discover, Emma was hiding both her true identity and her real reasons for traveling to Ayleswick. Also troubling are the machinations of Lucien Bonaparte, the estranged brother of the megalomaniac French Emperor Napoleon. Held captive under the British government’s watchful eye, the younger Bonaparte is restless, ambitious, and treacherous.
  Sebastian’s investigation takes on new urgency when he discovers that Emma was not the first, or even the second, beautiful young woman in the village to die under suspicious circumstances. Home to the eerie ruins of an ancient monastery, Ayleswick reveals itself to be a dark and dangerous place of secrets that have festered among the villagers for decades—and a violent past that may be connected to Sebastian’s own unsettling origins. And as he faces his most diabolical opponent ever, he is forced to consider what malevolence he’s willing to embrace in order to destroy a killer.


Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson

Thornleigh Hall, seat of the Earl of Sussex, dominates its surroundings. Its heir is missing, and the once vigorous family is reduced to a cripple, his whore and his alcoholic second son, but its power endures.

Impulsive Harriet Westerman has felt the Hall's menace long before she happens upon a dead man bearing the Thornleigh arms. The grim discovery cries out for justice, and she persuades reclusive anatomist Gabriel Crowther to her cause, much against his better judgement; he knows a dark path lies before those who stray from society's expectations. That same day, Alexander Adams is killed in a London music shop, leaving his young children orphaned. His death will lead back to Sussex, and an explosive secret that has already destroyed one family and threatens many others.


In Pale Battalions by Robert Goddard

Six months after her husband's sudden death, Leonora Galloway sets off for a holiday in Paris with her daughter Penelope. At last the time has come when secrets can be shared and explanations begin...
Their journey starts with an unscheduled stop at the imposing Thiepval Memorial to the dead of the Battle of the Somme near Amiens. Amongst those commemorated is Leonora's father. The date of his death is recorded and 30th April, 1916. But Leonora wasn't born until 14th March 1917.
Penelope at once supposes a simple wartime illegitimacy as the clue to her mother's unhappy childhood and the family's sundered connections with her aristocratic heritage, about which she has always known so little.
But nothing could have prepared her, or the reader, for the extraordinary story that is about to unfold.


What I'm Reading Today

Beyond the Orchard by Anna Romer

Lucy Briar has arrived home in turmoil after years overseas. She’s met her fiancé in London and has her life mapped out, but something is holding her back.
Hoping to ground herself and find answers, Lucy settles into once familiar routines. But old tortured feelings flood Lucy’s existence when her beloved father, Ron, is hospitalised and Morgan – the man who drove her away all those years ago – seeks her out.
Worse, Ron implores Lucy to visit Bitterwood Estate, the crumbling historic family guesthouse now left to him. He needs Lucy to find something– an old photograph album, the very thing that drove Ron and his father apart.
Lucy has her own painful memories of Bitterwood, darkness that has plagued her dreams since she was young. But as Lucy searches for the album, the house begins to give up its ghosts and she is driven to put them to rest.
And there, held tightly between the house, the orchard and the soaring cliffs, Lucy uncovers a long-hidden secret that shattered a family’s bond and kept a frightened young girl in its thrall ... and Lucy discovers just how fierce the lonely heart can be.


What I Hope To Read Next

The Locksmith's Daughter by Karen Brooks

In a world where no one can be trusted and secrets are currency, one woman stands without fear.
Mallory Bright is the only daughter of London’s master locksmith. For her there is no lock too elaborate, no secret too well kept. Sir Francis Walsingham, spymaster and protector of Queen Elizabeth – the last of the Tudor monarchs – and her realm, is quick to realise Mallory’s talent and draws her into his world of intrigue, danger and deception. With her by his side, no scheme in England or abroad is safe from discovery; no plot secure.
But Mallory’s loyalty wavers when she witnesses the execution of three Jesuit priests, a punishment that doesn’t fit their crime. When Mallory discovers the identity of a Catholic spy and a conspiracy that threatens the kingdom, she has to make a choice – between her country and her heart.
Mallory, however, carries her own dark secrets and is about to learn those being kept from her – secrets that could destroy those she loves.
Once Sir Francis’s greatest asset, Mallory is fast becoming his worst threat … and everyone knows there’s only one way Sir Francis deals with those.

It's Monday! What Are you Reading?


This weekly meme is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

Bush fire season is drawing closer and with all the rain we've had this spring, the grass is very long and the weeds are running rampant.  So it has been a busy week for me outside: mowing, exterminating weeds and generally tidying up before summer hits. As a result, reading has not been a priority, but I managed to squeeze in an hour of  bedtime reading every night before nodding off.  

The Last Pearl I'd commenced weeks ago and only had the last two chapters to finish. This is the first book I've read by Leah Fleming. Great characters and an unsual story focusing on pearls made it an enjoyable read. Pearling is not an industry I associate with Scotland, so it was a surprise to learn that this was a lucrative business there in the 19th century.

I also read Andrew Taylor's The American Boy, another great read from this author with  plenty of twists and turns, right to the end. I've loved all the narrators in the Andrew Taylor novels I've read to-date and Thomas Shields is no exception.

This week I'm still reading The Best of Men and I've also read a few chapters of Anna Romer's latest, Beyond the Orchard.

What I hope to read next is the 11th book in the Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries by C.S. Harris. When Falcons Fall will be collected from the library tomorrow. This is the last of the books currently available in the series and I'll have to wait until April, 2017, for the next one.

What I Read Last Week

The Last Pearl by Leah Fleming

The Last Pearl: one magnificent gem; three lives bound together by fate ...
1879, York.Greta Costello must rely on her wits to survive. She finds refuge as a Saturday girl for an old jeweller, Saul Abrahams, and her eye for detail, her long fingers and appreciation of beauty persuade Saul to train her as a pearl stringer. This skill will lead her through hardship and pain towards a new life.
1879, Scotland.Jem Baillie knows the immense power of a perfect pearl. His father was a fisher on a tributary of the Tay river in Perthshire, Scotland, and together they found the rarest of pearls, a great white pearl they call Queenie. When this is stolen from them, Eben vows revenge.
Spanning generations and continents, tracing the rivers of Scotland and the Mississippi, The Last Pearl is a sweeping novel of desire and revenge, of family and freedom, and of one woman's journey to open the shell she has built around herself to reveal the true beauty within.


The American Boy by Andrew Taylor

England 1819: Thomas Shield, a new master at a school just outside London, is tutor to a young American boy and the boy's sensitive best friend, Charles Frant. Drawn to Frant's beautiful, unhappy mother, Thomas becomes caught up in her family's twisted intrigues. Then a brutal crime is committed, with consequences that threaten to destroy Thomas and all that he has come to hold dear. Despite his efforts, Shield is caught up in a deadly tangle of sex, money, murder and lies -- a tangle that grips him tighter even as he tries to escape from it. And what of the strange American child, at the heart of these macabre events, yet mysterious -- what is the secret of the boy named Edgar Allen Poe?

What I'm Reading Today

The Best of Men by Claire Letemendia

It is 1642, and Laurence Beaumont has just returned to England after six long years fighting -- and avoiding fighting -- in the European Wars. Having fled his home to escape the responsibilities of his noble birthright, he has been a lowly infantryman in Spain, a spy for the Germans, and a cardsharp in a Dutch brothel. He has seen horrors visited upon men, women, and children by enemy and ally alike, and he no longer has faith in God, in causes, or even in humankind itself.
As the clashes between King Charles I and his mutinous Parliament come to a crisis and England is thrown into civil war, a reluctant Beaumont is drawn back into the world of warfare and intrigue when he discovers coded letters outlining a plot to assassinate the king. Soon the conspirators -- one of whom is among the most powerful men in the kingdom -- are in hot pursuit, and Beaumont must find proof of their identities before they overtake him. Pressed into service by the secretary of state's ruthless spymaster, Beaumont finds himself threatened on all sides, facing imprisonment, torture, and worse if he makes a single wrong step. The ravishing Isabella Savage, a practiced seducer, wants to help, but may only lead him deeper into the conspiracies within the king's camp. And all the while Beaumont is haunted by a prophecy and by the memory of a devastating betrayal.


Beyond the Orchard by Anna Romer

Lucy Briar has arrived home in turmoil after years overseas. She’s met her fiancé in London and has her life mapped out, but something is holding her back.
Hoping to ground herself and find answers, Lucy settles into once familiar routines. But old tortured feelings flood Lucy’s existence when her beloved father, Ron, is hospitalised and Morgan – the man who drove her away all those years ago – seeks her out.
Worse, Ron implores Lucy to visit Bitterwood Estate, the crumbling historic family guesthouse now left to him. He needs Lucy to find something– an old photograph album, the very thing that drove Ron and his father apart.
Lucy has her own painful memories of Bitterwood, darkness that has plagued her dreams since she was young. But as Lucy searches for the album, the house begins to give up its ghosts and she is driven to put them to rest.
And there, held tightly between the house, the orchard and the soaring cliffs, Lucy uncovers a long-hidden secret that shattered a family’s bond and kept a frightened young girl in its thrall ... and Lucy discovers just how fierce the lonely heart can be.


What I Hope To Read Next

When Falcons Fall by C.S. Harris

Ayleswick-on-Teme, 1813. Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, has come to this seemingly peaceful Shropshire village to honor a slain friend and on a quest to learn more about his own ancestry. But when the body of a lovely widow is found on the banks of the River Teme, a bottle of laudanum at her side, the village’s inexperienced new magistrate turns to St. Cyr for help.
  Almost immediately, Sebastian realizes that Emma Chance did not, in truth, take her own life. Less easy to discern is exactly how she died, and why. For as Sebastian and Hero soon discover, Emma was hiding both her true identity and her real reasons for traveling to Ayleswick. Also troubling are the machinations of Lucien Bonaparte, the estranged brother of the megalomaniac French Emperor Napoleon. Held captive under the British government’s watchful eye, the younger Bonaparte is restless, ambitious, and treacherous.
  Sebastian’s investigation takes on new urgency when he discovers that Emma was not the first, or even the second, beautiful young woman in the village to die under suspicious circumstances. Home to the eerie ruins of an ancient monastery, Ayleswick reveals itself to be a dark and dangerous place of secrets that have festered among the villagers for decades—and a violent past that may be connected to Sebastian’s own unsettling origins. And as he faces his most diabolical opponent ever, he is forced to consider what malevolence he’s willing to embrace in order to destroy a killer.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This weekly meme is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

Last week  I collected A Death at Fountains Abbey from the library and immediately settled down to read it. While I enjoyed Thomas Hawkins' latest adventure, this book lacked the pulling power of the first two novels in the series. Thomas Hawkins is still a lovable rogue but in this book he is a little lack-lustre, possibly as a result of what happened to him in the previous book, The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins, and that he is far away from London and his usual amusements.

Another book I was eager to read was Mary O'Connor's latest, Worth Fighting For. Like her debut novel, Gallipoli Street this was excellent; a great look at Australia during World War II, with touches of Australian humour and at its core a lovely romance.

This week I've carried over two books from last week. These two are nearly fnished and will be followed by Anna Romer's latest release, another book I've been eagerly awaiting. I'm also looking forward to reading another of Andrew Taylor's historical mysteries.

What I Read Last Week

A Death at Fountains Abbey by Antonia Hodgson

Late spring, 1728 and Thomas Hawkins has left London for the wild beauty of Yorkshire - forced on a mission he can't refuse. John Aislabie, one of the wealthiest men in England, has been threatened with murder. Blackmailed into investigating, Tom must hunt down those responsible, or lose the woman he loves forever.
Since Aislabie is widely regarded as the architect of the greatest financial swindle ever seen, there is no shortage of suspects.
Far from the ragged comforts of home, Tom and his ward Sam Fleet enter a world of elegant surfaces and hidden danger. The great estate is haunted by family secrets and simmering unease. Someone is determined to punish John Aislabie - and anyone who stands in the way. As the violence escalates and shocking truths are revealed, Tom is dragged, inexorably, towards the darkest night of his life.


Worth Fighting For by Mary Anne O'connor

Eighteen-year-old Junie Wallace is a smart girl and, with her two brothers away at war and her third brother just killed in action, she knows there is only one way to save the family farm for her grieving parents. Unfortunately, that solution involves marrying the unscrupulous Ernest, and breaking the heart of the young drover she loves, Michael.
But the war is looming ever closer, and when Pearl Harbour brings the threat of Japanese aggression to Australian shores, the fates of many becomes inextricably interwoven.
From the explosive battles of the Pacific campaign to the desperate fighting in the Papuan New Guinea rainforest; the dancehall gaiety of Sydney’s Trocadero to the terror of the Darwin bombings, this epic family saga brings home the importance of mateship and of fighting for what you believe in, even when impossible odds seem stacked against you, even when all seems lost…


What I'm Reading Today

The Last Pearl by Leah Fleming

The Last Pearl: one magnificent gem; three lives bound together by fate ...
1879, York.Greta Costello must rely on her wits to survive. She finds refuge as a Saturday girl for an old jeweller, Saul Abrahams, and her eye for detail, her long fingers and appreciation of beauty persuade Saul to train her as a pearl stringer. This skill will lead her through hardship and pain towards a new life.
1879, Scotland.Jem Baillie knows the immense power of a perfect pearl. His father was a fisher on a tributary of the Tay river in Perthshire, Scotland, and together they found the rarest of pearls, a great white pearl they call Queenie. When this is stolen from them, Eben vows revenge.
Spanning generations and continents, tracing the rivers of Scotland and the Mississippi, The Last Pearl is a sweeping novel of desire and revenge, of family and freedom, and of one woman's journey to open the shell she has built around herself to reveal the true beauty within.


The Best of Men by Claire Letemendia

It is 1642, and Laurence Beaumont has just returned to England after six long years fighting -- and avoiding fighting -- in the European Wars. Having fled his home to escape the responsibilities of his noble birthright, he has been a lowly infantryman in Spain, a spy for the Germans, and a cardsharp in a Dutch brothel. He has seen horrors visited upon men, women, and children by enemy and ally alike, and he no longer has faith in God, in causes, or even in humankind itself.
As the clashes between King Charles I and his mutinous Parliament come to a crisis and England is thrown into civil war, a reluctant Beaumont is drawn back into the world of warfare and intrigue when he discovers coded letters outlining a plot to assassinate the king. Soon the conspirators -- one of whom is among the most powerful men in the kingdom -- are in hot pursuit, and Beaumont must find proof of their identities before they overtake him. Pressed into service by the secretary of state's ruthless spymaster, Beaumont finds himself threatened on all sides, facing imprisonment, torture, and worse if he makes a single wrong step. The ravishing Isabella Savage, a practiced seducer, wants to help, but may only lead him deeper into the conspiracies within the king's camp. And all the while Beaumont is haunted by a prophecy and by the memory of a devastating betrayal.


What I Hope To Read Next

Beyond the Orchard by Anna Romer

Lucy Briar has arrived home in turmoil after years overseas. She’s met her fiancé in London and has her life mapped out, but something is holding her back.
Hoping to ground herself and find answers, Lucy settles into once familiar routines. But old tortured feelings flood Lucy’s existence when her beloved father, Ron, is hospitalised and Morgan – the man who drove her away all those years ago – seeks her out.
Worse, Ron implores Lucy to visit Bitterwood Estate, the crumbling historic family guesthouse now left to him. He needs Lucy to find something– an old photograph album, the very thing that drove Ron and his father apart.
Lucy has her own painful memories of Bitterwood, darkness that has plagued her dreams since she was young. But as Lucy searches for the album, the house begins to give up its ghosts and she is driven to put them to rest.
And there, held tightly between the house, the orchard and the soaring cliffs, Lucy uncovers a long-hidden secret that shattered a family’s bond and kept a frightened young girl in its thrall ... and Lucy discovers just how fierce the lonely heart can be.


The American Boy by Andrew Taylor

England 1819: Thomas Shield, a new master at a school just outside London, is tutor to a young American boy and the boy's sensitive best friend, Charles Frant. Drawn to Frant's beautiful, unhappy mother, Thomas becomes caught up in her family's twisted intrigues. Then a brutal crime is committed, with consequences that threaten to destroy Thomas and all that he has come to hold dear. Despite his efforts, Shield is caught up in a deadly tangle of sex, money, murder and lies -- a tangle that grips him tighter even as he tries to escape from it. And what of the strange American child, at the heart of these macabre events, yet mysterious -- what is the secret of the boy named Edgar Allen Poe?

Stacking the Shelves #6


Stacking The Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It is about sharing the books you are adding to your physical or virtual shelves. This means you can include books you buy in a physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks! You can learn more about this meme by visiting the official launch page.

With minimal storage available for books, most of my reading material comes from the library or the purchase/free downloads of ebooks and through NetGalley, which I have recently joined. Occasionally I purchase a print book for my very small bookshelf, but I tend to reserve space on this for "keepers".

Here is what came into my house during September (from various sources):

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This weekly meme is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

Since the start of spring it has rained every day here. It is bucketing down as I write this post. It is a lovely sound on the tin roof. The dam is now full and overflowing. Our house is on a sloping block so there is no danger of that being flooded, but the ground is so water-logged that it will take a long time to dry out. This area of Victoria is on flood watch and will remain so for quite a while. Wellington boots have become my new fashion accessory. I wear them everywhere. Hopefully, the sun will shine soon and stay for a few days.

You'd think that being forced to stay indoors I'd have reduced my TBR pile substantially, but I only finished three books over the last three weeks. Of the three completed, two books were set in the 18th century but in different parts of the world, one in Europe and the other in New York during the American Revolutionary War.

Sea Change was an excellent read and I learned quite a bit about the South Seas Company's collapse (the financial crisis of the 18th century) and the major players involved: businessmen, politicians and even royalty. While I thought the main character, William Spandrel, a little naive, I did like him. A basically honest man, he finds himself caught up in a deadly game and switches sides a number of times to save himself. He meets lots of interesting characters as he is pursued and pursues in turn around Europe. This is the first book by Robert Goddard I've read and I'm looking forward to reading more of his novels.

The Scent of Death was also excellent, taking me to British occupied New York. This too was a very interesting setting and I loved the opening lines of the novel: "This is the story of a woman and a city. I saw the city first ...". Edward Savill's first impression of both was one of disappointment, but this changes as the novel progresses. Andrew Taylor is fast becoming one of my favourite authors.

The third book I finished was a comfort re-read by Georgette Heyer. I'd forgotten how full of fun this novel was. The farcial ending had me laughing out loud.

I am enjoying my current reads, but as I'm collecting A Death at Fountains Abbey from the library today, I know I'll set them all aside to catch up on Thomas Hawkins' latest adventure.

What I Read Last Week

Sea Change by Robert Goddard

It is January 1721. London is reeling from the effects of the greatest financial scandal of the age, the collapse of the South Sea Bubble. William Spandrel, a penniless mapmaker, is offered a discharge of his debts by his principal creditor, Sir Theodore Janssen, a director of the South Sea Company, on one condition: he must secretly convey an important package to a friend of Janssen's, Ysbrand de Vries, in Amsterdam.
The package safely delivered, Spandrel barely survives an attempt on his life, only to be blamed for the murder of de Vries himself. When de Vries's secretary, his English wife and the package itself go missing shortly afterwards, Spandrel realizes that he has become a pawn in several people's games. British Government agents, and others, are on his trail, believing that the mysterious package contained secret details of the great South Sea scandal - secrets so explosive that their publication could spark a revolution in England.
Spandrel's only chance of survival is to recover the package and place its contents in the right hands. But whose are the right hands? And what exactly are the contents?


The Scent of Death by Andrew Taylor

American War of Independence. Manhattan, 1778. A city of secrets, profiteers, loyalists and double agents. As the last part of America under British rule, New York is home to a swelling tide of refugees seeking justice from the British crown. Edward Savill is sent from London to investigate the claims of dispossessed loyalists. No sooner does he land than he becomes embroiled in the case of a gentleman murdered in the city's notorious Canvas Town. An escaped slave hangs for the crime, but Savill is convinced they have executed the wrong man. Lodging with the respected Wintour family, Savill senses the mystery deepening. Judge Wintour's beautiful daughter-in-law, Arabella, hides a tragedy in her past, while his son plans a dangerous mission into enemy territory. And what of Mr Noak, the enigmatic clerk seemingly bent on a dubious course of his own? One thing is clear - the killing in Canvas Town was just the start of a trail of murder, and it's leading directly to Savill...

The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer

Over the years, the truculent Lord Darracott has ruled his barony with a firm hand and a fierce tongue. But when a tragic accident kills his eldest son, Lord Darracott must summon the next heir apparent his derelict son's only child, whose name no one has dared utter for the past twenty-seven years .
Raised in Yorkshire with a thick accent to match, Hugo finds himself in the broad expanse of the Kent marshlands, where his future estate lies and which is home also to the Darracotts, who instantly distrust this coarse and unrefined interloper.
But Lord Darracott has the solution provided he can convince his sharp-tongued granddaughter to marry a perfect stranger.


What I'm Reading Today

The Last Pearl by Leah Fleming

The Last Pearl: one magnificent gem; three lives bound together by fate ...
1879, York.Greta Costello must rely on her wits to survive. She finds refuge as a Saturday girl for an old jeweller, Saul Abrahams, and her eye for detail, her long fingers and appreciation of beauty persuade Saul to train her as a pearl stringer. This skill will lead her through hardship and pain towards a new life.
1879, Scotland.Jem Baillie knows the immense power of a perfect pearl. His father was a fisher on a tributary of the Tay river in Perthshire, Scotland, and together they found the rarest of pearls, a great white pearl they call Queenie. When this is stolen from them, Eben vows revenge.
Spanning generations and continents, tracing the rivers of Scotland and the Mississippi, The Last Pearl is a sweeping novel of desire and revenge, of family and freedom, and of one woman's journey to open the shell she has built around herself to reveal the true beauty within.


The Best of Men by Claire Letemendia

It is 1642, and Laurence Beaumont has just returned to England after six long years fighting -- and avoiding fighting -- in the European Wars. Having fled his home to escape the responsibilities of his noble birthright, he has been a lowly infantryman in Spain, a spy for the Germans, and a cardsharp in a Dutch brothel. He has seen horrors visited upon men, women, and children by enemy and ally alike, and he no longer has faith in God, in causes, or even in humankind itself.
As the clashes between King Charles I and his mutinous Parliament come to a crisis and England is thrown into civil war, a reluctant Beaumont is drawn back into the world of warfare and intrigue when he discovers coded letters outlining a plot to assassinate the king. Soon the conspirators -- one of whom is among the most powerful men in the kingdom -- are in hot pursuit, and Beaumont must find proof of their identities before they overtake him. Pressed into service by the secretary of state's ruthless spymaster, Beaumont finds himself threatened on all sides, facing imprisonment, torture, and worse if he makes a single wrong step. The ravishing Isabella Savage, a practiced seducer, wants to help, but may only lead him deeper into the conspiracies within the king's camp. And all the while Beaumont is haunted by a prophecy and by the memory of a devastating betrayal.


Worth Fighting For by Mary Anne O'connor

Eighteen-year-old Junie Wallace is a smart girl and, with her two brothers away at war and her third brother just killed in action, she knows there is only one way to save the family farm for her grieving parents. Unfortunately, that solution involves marrying the unscrupulous Ernest, and breaking the heart of the young drover she loves, Michael.
But the war is looming ever closer, and when Pearl Harbour brings the threat of Japanese aggression to Australian shores, the fates of many becomes inextricably interwoven.
From the explosive battles of the Pacific campaign to the desperate fighting in the Papuan New Guinea rainforest; the dancehall gaiety of Sydney’s Trocadero to the terror of the Darwin bombings, this epic family saga brings home the importance of mateship and of fighting for what you believe in, even when impossible odds seem stacked against you, even when all seems lost…


What I Hope To Read Next

A Death at Fountains Abbey by Antonia Hodgson

Late spring, 1728 and Thomas Hawkins has left London for the wild beauty of Yorkshire - forced on a mission he can't refuse. John Aislabie, one of the wealthiest men in England, has been threatened with murder. Blackmailed into investigating, Tom must hunt down those responsible, or lose the woman he loves forever.
Since Aislabie is widely regarded as the architect of the greatest financial swindle ever seen, there is no shortage of suspects.
Far from the ragged comforts of home, Tom and his ward Sam Fleet enter a world of elegant surfaces and hidden danger. The great estate is haunted by family secrets and simmering unease. Someone is determined to punish John Aislabie - and anyone who stands in the way. As the violence escalates and shocking truths are revealed, Tom is dragged, inexorably, towards the darkest night of his life.