#BlogTour The StationMaster’s Daughter by Kathleen McGurl

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour The Stationmaster’s Daughter by Kathleen McGurl.

About the Author

Kathleen McGurl lives near the sea in Bournemouth, UK, with her husband. She has two sons who are now grown-up and have left home. She began her writing career creating short stories, and sold dozens to women’s magazines in the UK and Australia. Then she got side-tracked onto family history research – which led eventually to writing novels with genealogy themes. She has always been fascinated by the past, and the ways in which the past can influence the present, and enjoys exploring these links in her novels.

Follow @KathMcGurl on Twitter, on Facebookon Goodreadson Amazon, Visit kathleenmcgurl.comBuy The StationMaster’s Daughter

About the book

As the last train leaves, will life ever be the same?

Dorset 1935

Stationmaster Ted has never cared much for romance. Occupied with ensuring England’s most beautiful railway runs on time, love has always felt like a comparatively trivial matter. Yet when he meets Annie Galbraith on the 8.42 train to Lynford, he can’t help but instantly fall for her.

But soon the railway is forced to close and a terrible accident occurs within the station grounds, Ted finds his job and any hope of a relationship with Annie hanging in the balance…

Present day

Recovering from heartbreak after a disastrous marriage, Tilly decides to escape from the bustling capital and move to Dorset to stay with her dad, Ken. When Ken convinces Tilly to help with the restoration of the old railway, she discovers a diary hidden in the old ticket office. Tilly is soon swept up in Ted’s story, and the fateful accident that changed his life forever.

But an encounter with an enigmatic stranger takes Tilly by surprise, and she can’t help but feel a connection with Ted’s story in the past.

Review

The story has a nostalgic feel to it, perhaps because McGurl is very good at giving her readers the feeling as if they are right there experiencing everything with the characters. Tugging on the heartstrings is one of her talents, which is reflected in the way she builds the characters and their emotional turmoil.

The story moves from Tilly in the present to Ted and Annie in the past. At first glance the only connection between the two appears to be the railroad and the station. As we learn more about all of them the how becomes clearer.

Tilly is damaged and suffering, and has returned to her parent to gather herself and reboot her life. She carries immense trauma around with her, which has been magnified tenfold by the way she has been treated by her husband. Her path brings her to Dorset.

In the past we meet stationmaster Ted. His life is filled with trains, railways and schedules, at least until the day he meets Annie. What looks like obsession to one person is merely unrequited love to Ted. His fascination with Annie is the beginning of a heart-wrenching secret – a secret that leaves a trail of destruction all the way into the present.

McGurl likes to combine history and mystery to create captivating stories. In this case England’s railway gets in on the action, and I enjoyed learning more about that aspect of history.

It’s a mystery come historical fiction with a modern flair. Splitting the story into past and present gives it a two genre feel. It’s a story with an authentic feel to it.

Buy The Stationmaster’s Daughter at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HQ Digital; pub date 7 Aug. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Read my reviews of The Forgotten SecretThe Girl from Ballymor, The Emerald Comb, The Pearl Locket and The Daughters of Red Hill Hall by Kathleen McGurl.

#BlogTour A Tapestry of Treason by Anne O’Brien

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour A Tapestry of Treason by Anne O’Brien. Once again the author gives her readers an intense and captivating historical read

About the Author

Sunday Times bestselling author Anne O’Brien was born in West Yorkshire. After gaining a BA Honours degree in History at Manchester University and a Master’s in Education at Hull, she lived in East Yorkshire for many years as a teacher of history. Today she has sold over 250,000 copies of her books in the UK and lives with her husband in an eighteenth-century cottage in the depths of the Welsh Marches in Herefordshire. The area provides endless inspiration for her novels about the forgotten women of history.

Follow @anne_obrien on Twitter, on Amazonon Goodreadson Facebook,Visit anneobrien.co.ukBuy A Tapestry of Treason

About the book

Her actions could make history but at what price?

1399: Constance of York, Lady Despenser, proves herself more than a mere observer in the devious intrigues of her magnificently dysfunctional family, the House of York.

Surrounded by power-hungry men, including her aggressively self-centred husband Thomas and ruthless siblings Edward and Richard, Constance places herself at the heart of two treasonous plots against King Henry IV. Will it be possible for this Plantagenet family to safeguard its own political power by restoring either King Richard II to the throne, or the precarious Mortimer claimant?

Although the execution of these conspiracies will place them all in jeopardy, Constance is not deterred, even when the cost of her ambition threatens to overwhelm her. Even when it endangers her new-found happiness.

With treason tragedy, heartbreak and betrayal, this is the story of a woman ahead of her time, fighting for herself and what she believes to be right in a world of men.

This is one woman’s quest to turn history on its head.

Review

This should go without saying when it comes to historical fiction – I both enjoy and admire the way O’Brien endeavours to stay as close to the known or presumed historical narrative as possible, whilst building the fictional story around the facts. It becomes a learning and not just a reading experience.

Also the way she gives us a more in-depth look, albeit it one gathered via research and presumption, and not necessarily based on written records or hearsay, of the women behind powerful men. The women who played pivotal roles in history, and yet usually end up being invisible figures.

The approach O’Brien takes differs from say Gregory, who wanders more into the fictional aspect of the genre, as opposed to the historical accuracy O’Brien strives for. It’s certainly a difference worth noting.

In events pre-dating the War of the Roses, in fact the ones that led to it, this story takes a closer look at Constance of York, Lady Despenser. The Plantagenet family is one of the most infamous when it comes to British history, scheming,  politics and ruthlessness. The majority of them appear to have had an innate affinity for survival in what can only be called tumultuous eras in history.

The women played their part in our very own game of thrones, as did Constance. A woman who at first glance comes off as cold, ambitious and willing to do anything to keep the family name and honour safe. As a man her actions would be considered the norm, as a woman the description tends to become more negative.

As a man her involvement in treasonous plots against King Henry IV would have probably been met with a harsher response than just a life in isolation and staying a great distance away from court and intrigue.

Once again the author gives her readers an intense and captivating historical read. One full of treachery, betrayal and staunch loyalty. A read I highly recommend.

Buy A Tapestry of Treason at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HQ; pub date 22nd August 2019. Hardback £14.99 – Available in ebook and Audio. Buy at Amazon com.

Read my review of Queen of the North by Anne O’Brien

Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron

kingdom of soulsBarron is an exquisite storyteller. This story should be enjoyed like a glass of fine wine, sip by sip and word by word, as the author weaves beautiful fictional magic. As she conjures up demons, shamans and the kind of magic that sucks people dry.

Arrah feels immense pressure to make her family, her people and her ancestors proud. As yet her ancestral powers have failed to make an appearance, which can be rather embarrassing at the annual ceremony where all the tribes and witch-doctors gather. Her father and grandmother have faith, but her mother doesn’t even try to hide her disappointment.

There is one thing she can try to evoke magic, however it comes with a price – the kind of price that is irreversible. When local children start going missing, including a dear friend, she finds she has no other choice. It’s the beginning of an intricate, vicious and ruthless power struggle. A struggle that will leave death and despair in its wake. It will make Arrah either crumble like a sandcastle or rise to the occasion.

It’s YA fantasy, however it has the intricate world-building and mature complexity of high fantasy. The blurb doesn’t do it the justice it deserves and neither does my inadequate attempt to give a brief idea of the plot. It’s an intense and captivating read. A fascinating exploration of myth, culture and fantasy.

Buy Kingdom of Souls at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HarperVoyager pub date ebook 3rd September 2019, Hardcover 24th September 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Follow @renathedreamer on Twitter, Rena Barron on Goodreads

#BlogTour What Happens Now? By Sophia Money-Coutts

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour What Happens Now? by Sophia Money-Coutts.

About the Author

Sophia Money-Coutts is a journalist and author who spent five years studying the British aristocracy while working as Features Director at Tatler. Prior to that she worked as a writer and an editor for the Evening Standard and the Daily Mail in London, and The National in Abu Dhabi.

She writes a column for the Sunday telegraph called Modern Manners and often appears on radio and television channels talking about important topics such as Prince Harry’s wedding and the etiquette of the threesome.

What happens Now? is her second novel, following her debut, The Plus One, published in August 2018.

Follow @sophiamcoutts on Twitter, on Instagramon Goodreadson Amazon, Visit sophiamoneycoutts.comBuy What happens Now?

About the book

After eight years together, Lil Bailey thought she’d already found ‘the one’ – that is, until he dumped her for a blonde twenty-something colleague.

So she does what any self-respecting singleton would do swipes right, puts on her best bra and finds herself on a first date with a handsome mountaineer called Max. What’s the worst that can happen?

Well it’s pretty bad actually. First Max ghosts her and then, after weeing on a stick (but mostly her hands), a few weeks later Lil discovers she’s pregnant. She’s single thirty-one and living in a thimble-sized flat in London, it’s hardly the happily-ever-after she was looking for.

Lil’s ready to do the baby-thing on her own – it can’t be that hard, right? But she should probably tell Max, if she can track him down. Surely he’s not that Max, the highly eligible, headline-grabbing son of Lord and Lady Rushbrooke, currently trekking up a mountain in South Asia? Oh, maybe he wasn’t ignoring Lil after all…

Review

I have to say that what I originally liked about the style and voice of The Plus One, the first novel by Money-Coutts, remains consistent with this book. The author has a way of mixing a brash, brutally honest voice with a dark sense of humour and a devil may care attitude. Imagine ‘Knocked Up’ meets ‘Friends’ with a dollop of British snark.

Lil ventures back into the shark infested pool of dating and meeting potential partners after she is discarded by the person she thought was the one. Instead she finds that she is his number two, something she was completely unaware of. So much for trust, happiness and loving relationships.

When she meets a handsome stranger it seems like the perfect opportunity to prove to herself that she is still desirable. One thing leads to another and in the heat of the moment two become three, which throws both Lil and Max off their game.

I enjoyed the way the author made this a conversation about pregnancy and choice without making it confrontational or veering into extreme views. It’s just a woman, her thoughts and her emotional response. Alternatives are brought to the table the way they would be between friends. Again, kudos to the author for keeping this lovely, fun read in its lane.

It’s a funny and at times emotional contemporary read. You can’t help but fall in love with the quirky characters and their places in this story. There aren’t many authors who can replicate an air of realism, as opposed to the fictional feel of a read, but Money-Coutts is one of them.

Buy What Happens Now? at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HQ; pub date 22 August 2019. Hardback £12.99 – ebook £5.99 – Audiobook £12.99. Buy at Amazon com.

Read my review of The Plus One by Sophia Money-Coutts.

#BlogTour The Deaths and Afterlife of Aleister Crowley by Ian Thornton

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour The Deaths and Afterlife of Aleister Crowley. It’s alternate history come historical and biographical fiction.

About the Author

Ian Thornton’s debut novel, The Great and Calamitous Tale of Johan Thoms (How One Man Scorched the Twentieth Century, but Didn’t Mean to) was published by Simon & Schuster Canada in September 2013. Harper Collins published worldwide on June 28th 2014 to coincide with the centenary of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the pivot of the novel. It was translated across Europe and taught at the Sorbonne.

Prior to becoming a novelist, Ian worked for Broadcast magazine in London and also for Variety. He is a co-founder of the global television industry publisher, C21 Media and http://www.c21media.net.

He covered the Royal wedding in London for CTV, Canada’s premier independent broadcaster, and has recently written for Wisden Cricketer, The Guardian, The Hindu and for the Soho House magazine, House. He also wrote on the football World Cup in South Africa for the Canadian sports channel, The Score, and has worked for Queen’s University in Ontario, where his project was presented at the White House as part of President Obama’s new media initiative.

Ian is the official biographer of the Compton cricket club in California and has been a judge on the largest Latin American film festival, Expresion en Corto. He is currently producing a feature documentary.

Originally from Leeds, Ian currently resides in Toronto with his wife Heather Gordon and their children, Laszlo and Clementine.

Buy The Deaths and Afterlife of Aleister Crowley

About the book

Aleister Crowley – otherwise known as the Great beast – is one of the most reviled men in history. Satanist, cult leader, debauched novelist and poet, his legacy has been hotly contested for decades.

But the truth is: Crowley is alive and well, in the elevated and life-preserving air of Shangri-la. they used to call him the wickedest man in the world, but the Great Beast only laughs at those fools. the British Secret Service, Churchill and Rasputin all knew the real Crowley, who was the greatest spy and the Scarlet Pimpernel of the twentieth century. this genuine English hero and unrivalled drug fiend used his pre-eminent knowledge of the Occult to run amok behind German lines in two world wars and to turn both Mussolini and Hitler into twitching and hollow wrecks.

And so now, the inspiration behind the music and sexual revolutions of the sixties is about to return for his curtain call, for there is a dark Orwellian dystopia coming. And Aleister Crowley is convinced that only he can save the world.

Review

‘There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt. Love is the law, love under will.’ The problem with people who believe their own myth is that they can be dangerous, and also very convincing. Crowley was like many charismatic people who like to shower themselves in the admiration of others. Creating his own set of rules, guidelines and morals in order to excuse his own lack of adherence to any the aforementioned dictated by society.

If you read between the lines I think Thornton allows a window into the relationships, events and experiences that could have shaped Aleister into the man he became. Although hidden behind the sarcastic meanderings and a seemingly nonchalant attitude Crowley has towards his childhood and experiences as a young man, the scared and vulnerable child shines through. Neglect, abuse and association with adults who would rather use than guide the child, all of those things define the young boy and meld him into the grown man he becomes.

The suggestion being that we only ever see the surface and can never know what a person has been defined by. It puts a different slant or perspective on the historical version of Crowley, albeit one based on a fictional narrative.

The concept is quite clever and allows for a multitude of scenarios and storylines. There seemed to be a slight fixation on the sexual side of the story. The way the abuse as a child was smoothed over and led straight into the manipulative sexual rituals of certain groups, was slightly disconcerting.

It’s an ambitious piece of work, there’s no doubt about that. I enjoyed the style and the writing. It’s alternate history come historical and biographical fiction.

Buy The Deaths and Afterlife of Aleister Crowley at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Unbound; pub date 22 Aug. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour The Unlikely Occultist: A Biographical Novel of Alice A. Bailey by Isobel Blackthorn

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour The Unlikely Occultist: A Biographical Novel of Alice A. Bailey by Isobel Blackthorn.About the Author

Isobel Blackthorn is a prolific novelist of unique and engaging fiction. She writes across a range of genres, including psychological thrillers, gripping mysteries, captivating travel fiction and hilarious dark satire.

Isobel holds a PhD in Western Esotericism for her ground-breaking study of the texts of Theosophist Alice A. Bailey. Her engagement with Alice Bailey’s life and works has culminated in the biographical novel, The Unlikely Occultist.

Follow @IBlackthorn on Twitter, on Facebookon Instagramon Goodreads, Visit isobelblackthorn.com, Buy The Unlikely Occultist

About the book

Librarian Heather Brown discovers the fascinating life of Alice Bailey – a long forgotten occultist.

Back in 1931, Alice is preparing to give a speech at a Swiss summer school. But how can she stave the tide of hatred and greed set to bring the world to its knees?

Soon after, Alice is put on Hitler’s blacklist. What she doesn’t realize is the enormity of her influence to the world, and the real enemies who are much closer than she thinks.

A dynamic and complex figure, Alice Bailey’s reach was huge. She was influential among people and organizations of global power, especially the United Nations, and is widely regarded as the Mother of the New Age.

Yet today she is maligned by fundamentalist Christians, Theosophists, Jews, academics and above all, by conspiracy theorists. Are any of these groups justified in rejecting the unlikely occultist?

Review

It won’t come as a much of a surprise that there are plenty of invisible women in history who have influenced life the way we know it, and yet we are completely unaware of them. When I say we I mean the majority of society or the world even, depending on which domain the person has influenced.

Alice A. Bailey is one of those women. She made her mark on the world in her field of interest and expertise, and in many other areas. Creating a ripple in a large body of water, and yet she was ridiculed for it and scorned into obscurity. Blackthorn puts forth some interesting theories for the reasons why Bailey was discredited. In the end competition and the fight for recognition in areas that were deemed non-scientific (pseudoscience) and based on theory rather than fact, was fierce. Perhaps more so between women trying to assert themselves in a male dominated world and those who thought nothing of borrowing ideas.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the reasons that are more frequently mentioned in regards to Bailey and her fall from grace. Some of her work has a very clear anti-Jewish slant. Sentences such as: ‘Today the law (karma) is working and the Jews are paying the price, factually and symbolically, for all they have done in the past’. For someone who had such concise thoughts on how to help those in need, her thoughts and New World Order ideology was often a stark contrast.

I think it’s fair to say that Blackthorn definitely gives readers the opportunity to learn about an influential writer, who has a body of work with not enough recognition. The attempt to dissect and study her life, relationships and work comes together in a way that sheds a favourable and fair light on Bailey. The combination of fact and fiction brings her name and influence to the table and perhaps even a 21st century view on the woman and her legacy.

Buy The Unlikely Occultist: A Biographical Novel of Alice A. Bailey at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Creativia; ecopy pub date 4 Dec. 2018.   Buy at Amazon com.

Read my reviews of A Matter of Latitude and A Perfect Square by Isobel Blackthorn.

The Other Half of Augusta Hope by Joanna Glen

augusta hopeFor me the story is about all of us being connected at some level, regardless of where we are in the world. Six degrees of separation. It’s also about fate and small pieces of a large puzzle fitting together to create a bigger picture. One could say it’s coincidence, one could also say there is no such thing as coincidence.

Augusta  and Julia are twins, but they couldn’t be more different. Julia is everything her parents expect her to be and more, and Augusta dances to her very own music. She loves words. Words are life, discovery, mystery and knowledge. Words lead to people, things and places. They are doors to other worlds.

Simultaneously the reader is introduced to Parfait on the other side of the world. His life is a complete contrast to that of Augusta, and there is no connection between the two, barring a wish and a dream of places far away.

The juxtaposition of the two lives of these two young people is relevant to our day and age, especially that of Parfait. His fate as a refugee and that of his brother is tragic. Glen wants us to see the way we live our day-to-day lives, whilst men, women and children risk their lives to reach a safer country in an attempt to escape their war-torn countries and the violence.

In a way Julia becomes the guilty conscience the author hopes our society will develop. We need to stop acting as if we see nothing, hear nothing and then speak nothing. A visceral connection needs to be strung from us to them.

Both Parfait and Augusta experience and have to deal with incredible grief and guilt. It is one of the bridges that connects and leads them to each other. In fact they become the hypothetical bridge of connection.

It’s a profound and emotional piece of literary fiction. The main character has shades of Eleanor Oliphant, and the story is introspective with politics and family dynamics woven into this beautiful contemporary read.

Buy The Other Half of Augusta Hope at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: The Borough Press; pub date 13 Jun. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Follow @JoannaGlenBooks on Twitter