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.


148 Years Ago Today ...

Dust jacket 1965
A number of posts from various sources caught my eye this morning about the significance of this day 148 years ago. October 1st, 1868 was the date on which Louisa M. Alcott's classic novel Little Women was first published.

This revelation sent me off in search of my much-loved copy of this book, a Christmas present I received when I was eleven years old.

My edition was published in 1965, by Bancroft & Co. (Publishers) London, and except for the foxing around the edges of the pages is still in very good condition.

At some point in the last fifty years, the book and its dust jacket parted company, but I did find an image of it on the internet. Seeing it again brought back some wonderful memories and some sad ones of my last ever Christmas spent in England.

I've read all the sequels: Good Wives, Little Men and Jo's Boys, but Little Women will always be my favourite book about the March family.

Do you own a copy of Little Women? Have you read it and any of the sequels? Which is your favourite?

Frontispiece and title page