It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This weekly meme is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date and is a place to share what you've been reading over the past week, what you are currently reading and what you hope to read next.

I've not participated in this meme for a while, so the books I've finished cover a three week period.

The Ballad of Desmond Kale was a long read, but what

a great story. I never thought a novel about sheep would be so engaging. Margaret Mayhew's, A Foreign Field was a quick read, as was Muddy Boots and Silk Stockings, Dancing at the Victory Cafe, Death of a Radical and Where Lie the Dead.

Where Lie the Dead is the twelfth book in the Sebastisn St. Cyr Regency mystery series, which I'm avidly following. So when this book was in my latest haul from the library, it immediately went to the top of the pile. Now I'm eagerly awaiting the next book, as I am for the third in Rebecca Jenkin's Regency series.

Helen Dunmore's latest release, Birdcage Walk, didn't thrill me as I thought it would. The plot was good, but I didn't find it a tense drama as promised by the synopsis.

My final book,The Hourglass, Tracy Rees' third novel, is a lovely, uplifting story. Having enjoyed her two previous books, Amy Snow and Florence Grace, both set in the Victorian era, I was eager to see how her latest book compared to these. There is no doubt that Tracy Rees is a gifted story teller, but her first two books are still my favourites.

My current reads are all going well, though My Love Must Wait is progressing slower than my other books. I'm on track to complete the Shadow of the Moon Readalong by the end of today.

Jewel in the North is an ebook and once again I'm having difficulties with my tablet - it's taking forever to charge. After two days being on the charger with no result, I resisted the temptation to throw the thing in the dam and have ordered a hard copy of Jewel in the North from the library.

I'm still planning to read Troubadour and The Fatal Tree next, and whatever book pushes its way to the top of my TBR pile. As you've probably realised, I'm not a very organised reader though I try to be. My good intentions are often derailed on library day.

What I Read Last Week

The Ballad of Desmond Kale by Roger MacDonald

In the early 1800s, out of the prison society of governors, redcoats, English gaolers, Irish convicts, and the few free settlers of Botany Bay, no one had ventured much farther inland than a few dozen miles from Sydney. Or so it was believed until the escape of Desmond Kale and the vengeance of his rival, the wildly eccentric parson magistrate Matthew Stanton.
The Ballad of Desmond Kale is a broad-sweeping novel of the first days of British settlement in Australia. At the centre is Stanton's pursuit of Kale - an Irish political prisoner and a rebelliously brilliant breeder of sheep. The alchemy of wool fascinates, threatens, and transforms when it is discovered that fine wool thrives in New South Wales as nowhere else in in the world, producing veritable gold on sheep's backs.
The Ballad of Desmond Kale is both a love story of unusual interest and an epic novel of greed, ambition, conceit, and redemption. The novel is rich in its characterisations and the rawness of its settings, vigour of language, and vividness of personality. The action moves from the early Australian bush to the halls of Westminster, the mills of Yorkshire, the sierras of Spain, the wilds of the Southern Ocean, and returns at last into the far outback for its finale.
Once the ballad is sung, ordinary experience is heightened, the world can never be the same again. A brilliant and inspired recreation of the early days of white Australian settlement by one of Australia's finest writers working at the height of his powers.

A Foreign Field by Margaret Mayhew

1940's England. The Battle of Britain. And the present day
Once a hardened reporter on a Fleet Street newspaper, Frank Carter's battle with alcohol cost him his job, and his adored wife Jan. Now making a meagre living writing up weddings and local council meetings for the Milton Weekly Courier, and living a lonely bedsit existence, Carter needs to sniff out a newsworthy story if he is to keep his job.
His curiosity is aroused by rumours of a buried World War II Spitfire in a wood near the idyllic Sussex village of Fairfield. Despite bitter opposition from the local squire and sceptical villagers, Carter decides to investigate not least because he hopes this will enable him to see more of Sir Philip Dalrymple's lovely young wife. In this enthralling romance-cum-detective story, Carter's enquiries take him back into the recent, never-to-be-forgotten past, to 1940s England, when the Battle of Britain was raging in the skies . . .

Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore

It is 1792 and Europe is seized by political turmoil and violence.
Lizzie Fawkes has grown up in Radical circles where each step of the French Revolution is followed with eager idealism. But she has recently married John Diner Tredevant, a property developer who is heavily invested in Bristol's housing boom, and he has everything to lose from social upheaval and the prospect of war. Soon his plans for a magnificent terrace built above the two-hundred-foot drop of the Gorge come under threat. Diner believes that Lizzie's independent, questioning spirit must be coerced and subdued. She belongs to him- law and custom confirm it, and she must live as he wants.
In a tense drama of public and private violence, resistance and terror, Diner's passion for Lizzie darkens until she finds herself dangerously alone.

Muddy Boots and Silk Stockings by Julia Stoneham

England, 1943. The country is at war. With so many men away fighting, it is the women left behind who must keep the country going, and when Alice Todd is abandoned by her husband, she must find a means to provide for herself and her young son. She is offered the job of looking after the group of land girls at Lower Post Stone Farm and soon discovers they each have a story - and some have secrets they'd rather not reveal. The harsh times of war are tempered by the Saturday evening dances in the local hall, but as the hostilities continue, it is clear to Alice that there is more tragedy to follow closer to home.

Where Lie the Dead by C.S. Harris

London, 1813. Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is no stranger to the dark side of the city, but he's never seen anything like this: the brutalized body of a 15-year-old boy dumped into a makeshift grave on the grounds of an abandoned factory. One of London's many homeless children, Benji Thatcher was abducted and tortured before his murder—and his younger sister is still missing. Few in authority care about a street urchin's fate, but Sebastian refuses to let this killer go unpunished. Uncovering a disturbing pattern of missing children, Sebastian is drawn into a shadowy, sadistic world. As he follows a grim trail that leads from the writings of the debauched Marquis de Sade to the city's most notorious brothels, he comes to a horrifying realization: Someone from society's upper echelon is preying upon the city's most vulnerable. And though dark, powerful forces are moving against him, Sebastian will risk his reputation and his life to keep more innocents from harm.

Death of a Radical by Rebecca Jenkins

Raif Jarrett is settling into his role as the Duke of Penrith's agent in the town of Woolbridge in Durham. As the Easter fairs come to town, markets where everything from ribbons to cattle is traded, the town readies itself for upheaval. The local mills are bringing in machinery, which will increase production, but jobs will be lost. As a group of radicals protest the plight of the workers and one of the judges brings in the military as a precaution, it seems the town of Woolbridge is headed for trouble. When Raif's young cousin comes to stay and gets involved, Raif will be forced to act to keep his family safe and his town intact. Soon enough a salesman lies dead in his bed and a radical is brutally murdered out on the hillsides. All the while, the lovely Henrietta Lonsdale continues to capture Raif's imagination, but a visit from an old flame is sure to ruffle the lady's feathers.

Dancing at the Victory Cafe by Leah Family

When Isobel Morton takes over the café in Lichfield’s market square, she has big plans. Soon renamed The Victory Café, with a menu that delights despite rations, the girls who work at the Vic are swept away by Belle’s lust for life.
Among the regular customers is a trio of soldiers from the nearby American base and waitress Dorrie Goodman soon befriends them, learning about jazz and romance in the process. But the stifling morality of a Midlands town in the 40s cannot accommodate such a friendship; jealously, hatred and the weight of public disapproval combine to precipitate a tragedy. It is not until many years after the war that friendship and reconciliation can begin to heal the wounds of the past …

The Hourglass by Tracy Rees

2014. Sensible Nora has always taken success for granted, until suddenly her life begins to fall apart. Troubled by anxiety and nightmares, she finds herself drawn to the sweeping beaches of Tenby, a place she's only been once before. Together with a local girl she rents a beautiful townhouse and slowly begins to settle in to her new life. But Tenby hides a secret, and Nora will soon discover that this little town by the sea has the power to heal even the most painful memories.
1950. Teenager Chloe visits Tenby every summer. She stays with relatives, and spends the long, IDYLLIC days on the beach. Every year is the same, until she meets a glamorous older boy and is instantly smitten. But on the night of their first date, Chloe comes to a realisation, the aftermath of which could haunt her forever.

What I'm Reading Today

Jewel in the North by Tricia Stringer

1895. The Flinders Ranges are a beautiful but harsh landscape as Joseph Baker, a pastoralist in that unforgiving environment, knows all too well. For three generations his family have farmed the land, married and had children at their property at Wildu Creek, but now, struggling with hostility from the local community for his choice of wife, Joseph finds himself fighting to save not just his friends and family but his very existence.
His son William has his own battles to fight: not only the drought that takes over the land but his own despair, as he faces rejection from the woman he loves. Meanwhile, a ruthless enemy will stop at nothing to take from William what he considers to be his. Could the vicious and cunning Charles Wiltshire be his nemesis? Or does another man, in a quest for the Jewel of the North, hold the key to his destruction?
As the First World War looms on the horizon, two men struggle to survive both the elements and each other on a quest to find that they hold dear — but only one will have the courage to stand strong.

My Love Must Wait by Ernestine Hill

When Matthew Flinders, the first man to chart and circumnavigate Australia, set sail from England in July 1801, he left behind the intrigues of his homeland but also his young bride of only a few weeks, Ann Chappell. He didn′t see her again for more than nine years. During that time he carried out incredible feats of seamanship and navigation, made the first charts of much of the coastline of Australia, and was shipwrecked and later held prisoner by the French on Mauritius.

Shadow of the Moon by M.M. Kaye

Shadow of the Moon is the story of Winter de Ballesteros, a beautiful English heiress who has come to India to be married. It is also the tale of Captain Alex Randall, her escort and protector, who knows that Winter's husband to be has become a debauched wreck of a man. When India bursts into flaming hatreds and bitter bloodshed during the dark days of the Mutiny, Alex and Winter are thrown unwillingly together in the brutal and urgent struggle for survival.

What I Hope To Read Next

Troubadour by Isolde Martyn

Forced to flee the English court after the lecherous King John attacks her, Adela, the queen’s hairbraider, finds employment in the entourage of Lady Alys. Alys is on her way to marry the Lord of Mirascon, a fiefdom in southern France. However, the south is under threat from Pope Innocent III’s military crusade against the heretics.
After trying in vain to rally his fellow lords against invasion, Richart, Vicomte de Mirascon, makes an alliance with King John. A political marriage to the Lady Alys – the king’s discarded mistress – will allow Richart to safeguard his people from a merciless land grab and cruel slaughter.
When the bridal party is ambushed, Adela is mistaken for her dead mistress by the people of Mirascon. Adela knows she must tell Richart that she is not his betrothed, but as she is dragged deeper into the deception, she is also powerfully drawn to the beleaguered man trying to protect his people and his culture. Adela is recognised by the dwarf Derwent, Richart’s English jester, who seems willing to keep her secret for the time being. Yet as suspicion builds up against her, paying with her life seems inevitable.
As the savage army marches south, can Richart and Adela overcome a web of deceit and treachery and evade the bonfires of the crusaders, or will their land of troubadours and tolerance be destroyed forever?

The Fatal Tree by Jake Arnott

London, the 1720s. Welcome to 'Romeville', the underworld of that great city. The financial crash caused by the South Sea Bubble sees the rise of Jonathan Wild, self-styled 'Thief-taker General' who purports to keep the peace while brutally controlling organised crime. Only two people truly defy him: Jack Sheppard, apprentice turned house-breaker, and his lover, the notorious whore and pickpocket Edgworth Bess.
From the condemned cell at Newgate, Bess gives her account of how she and Jack formed the most famous criminal partnership of their age: a tale of lost innocence and harsh survival, passion and danger, bold exploits and spectacular gaol-breaks - and of the price they paid for rousing the mob of Romeville against its corrupt master.
Bess dictates her narrative to Billy Archer, a Grub Street hack and aspiring poet who has rubbed shoulders with Defoe and Swift. But he also inhabits that other underworld of 'molly-houses' and 'unnameable sin', and has his own story of subterfuge, treachery and doomed romance to deliver. As the gallows casts its grim shadow, who will live to escape the Fatal Tree?


  1. You've been reading some interesting books recently! I'm sorry to hear Birdcage Walk wasn't as good as you'd hoped - I've enjoyed some of Helen Dunmore's others but haven't read that one yet. I'm still reading Shadow of the Moon but should be finished by the weekend.

    1. I was disappointed that I didn't like Birdcage Walk as much as I thought I would. The plot was good and held my interest. I just wasn't emotionally invested in any of the characters. On the other hand, Shadow of the Moon I really enjoyed. Now I'm looking forward to reading The Far Pavilions.