The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

tattooistTaking into consideration that this is an eyewitness narrative, which I find preferable when it comes to Holocaust themed books, and an important historical account, I do wonder if Lale Solokov subconsciously or inadvertently romanticized the more uplifting parts of his story.

Memory is a tricky thing at the best of times, recalling memories made under extreme duress and/or trauma can sometimes interfere with the way we interpret memories.

I believe he made life seem simpler and less traumatic than it was. His relationship and encounters with Gita read like a complicated romance novel, and because of that some of the scenarios seem improbable.

When he or rather the author, relates the more brutal and heinous events there seems to be a reluctance to be cruel and honest. There is no such thing as gratuitous when it comes to laying bare the crimes of the Holocaust.

Again I am not sure whether that was Lale or the author changing the narrative just slightly to make the romance pop more or if it was just easier to focus on a more pleasant scenario. To remember the positive of meeting her instead of the negative of fearing she would die.

Like many survivors, Lale sat on his story for many decades. It wasn’t until Gita died that he decided the world needed to know his story. I can imagine he felt terrible survivor’s guilt and guilt in general for perhaps feeling like he contributed to the demise of many victims. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to see the physical proof of his personal trauma on real people. Being responsible for marking his fellow humans like cattle.To him it would have been irrelevant that he had no choice. Survival is an instinct, and I am glad a lot of survivors lived to tell the world about the heinous crimes of the Holocaust.

As I said before, the stories of survivors need to be told, without them there is more chance we will repeat the past. Morris does that in a sensitive way, and she brings a little lightness to a very dark story.

Buy The Tattooist of Auschwitz at Amazon uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

beneathThere are events in history that tend to take second or third place in importance and narrative, mainly because there are so many atrocious events that tend to take precedence. Understandably so, however it doesn’t make the pain and suffering of others less worthy of retelling. In this case the bombing of Milan and the invasion of Italy by the Germans.

The story of Pino Lella is one of many, there are a lot of forgotten heroes around us. The men and women who have made their niche in history with acts of great bravery, and yet their voices are never heard. The author was inspired to bring this true story of Pino’s courageous actions to others, and I am glad he did.

Pino’s parents insist he join the German military forces in an attempt to keep him safe. As a parent I can understand the convoluted logic, however this choice places him in the awful position of being one of the enemy. At the time there was no way his parents could have known what this association might entail in the years after the war. Any hint of collaboration often meant the difference between life and death, and being shunned by his fellow countrymen. His choice creates a chasm between himself and his best friend, but at the same time Pino has the opportunity to help bring the enemy down.

The chapters on the escape route through the mountains create vivid imagery. I am sure Pino’s description of the climbs were almost blasé, despite the danger and the incredible skill he acquired to help Jewish people flee. This nonchalance is mirrored in the writing.

In a way Sullivan pays tribute to all the unknown Pino’s of the world, and to all the stories we will never get the opportunity to hear. Reminding us of parts of history that slide into obscurity.

Buy Beneath a Scarlet Sky at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin

the wicked comethThere is a lot of waxing lyrical, which leads to the assumption that the story is leading in a completely different direction to the one it actually takes.

The procrastination, albeit very beautiful procrastination, makes the first half of the book appear to be a lot slower and the second half of the book is faster paced, and the plot is focused in another direction.

Not that I think it was Carlin’s intention for the beginning of the book to sound like a ghoulish mystery with a Gothic vibe, which then turns into a Burke and Hare venture with an underlying romantic connection.

I think the intention was for the relationship between Hester and Rebekah to always be at the centre of the story, regardless of what happens around them. Their blossoming friendship, sisterhood and finally the twinkle of something more. The discovery of their feelings, the confusion and acknowledgement of said feelings, and the realisation that society will never accept it, would have been sufficient as a storyline. The second half of the book, which ventures more into the deep dark secrets of Rebekah’s family could have been an entirely new novel.

It felt a little like Holmes battling Moriarty, while Hetty Feather struggles to survive on the streets, with a modern twist on romance thrown in for good measure. I would really like to see Carlin follow through with the relaxed beautiful style of the first half of the book. Both styles have their merits, just not when fused together as one.

Leaving all that aside for a moment, I enjoyed the friendship and emerging romance between the two of them. Neither of them willing to admit the attraction is there and perhaps not even fully comprehending what it is they are feeling, because it goes against all the conventions they know. Carlin also describes the worlds between the classes well and the invisible wall keeping them apart. The stark reality of poverty and the rules of the streets the poor have to abide by to survive.

I certainly wouldn’t be averse to seeing Rebekah and Hester teaming up together again.

Buy The Wicked Cometh at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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#BlogTour A Pearl for my Mistress by Annabel Fielding

a pearl mistress

Today it is my pleasure to be part of the Blog-Tour for A Pearl for my Mistress by Annabel Fielding. It is step into a world where women have started to blossom and walk new paths. They are discovering their sexuality, breaching the walls of social boundaries and creating possibilities for future generations.

About the Author

Annabel Fielding is a novelist, a history geek and an international woman of mystery. She has long since pledged her allegiance to travel, tea and books. When he isn’t busy writing historical fiction she can be found on her blog historygeekintown.com. There, you will find travel posts, lesser-known facts, some photography and (mostly) historical fiction-related book reviews.

Follow @DearestAnnabel @HQDigitalUK

Visit historygeekintown.com

Buy A Pearl for my Mistress

About the book

A story of class, scandal and forbidden passions in the shadow of war. Perfect for fans of Iona Grey, Gill Paul and Downtown Abbey.

England, 1934. Hester Blake, an ambitious girl from an industrial Northern town, finds a job as a lady’s maid in a small aristocratic household.

Despite their impressive title and glorious past, the Fitzmartins are crumbling under the pressures of the new century. And in the cold isolation of these new surroundings, Hester ends up hopelessly besotted with her young mistress, Lady Lucy.

Accompanying Lucy on her London Season, Hester is plunged into a heady and decadent world. But hushed whispers of another war swirl beneath the capital… and soon, Hester finds herself the keeper of some of society’s most dangerous secrets…

Review

In a way Lucy and Hester are separated by worlds, and yet the common denominator between the two is their gender, which makes them equal in the basest of ways. Regardless of the difference in status, and believe you me the divide between upstairs and downstairs is a huge one, the two of them start to connect on a personal level.

At first there is the common love of books, reading and expanding their knowledge. Lucy crosses boundaries that have to be kept between the two of them, because the rest of society wouldn’t understand their relationship. When the two of them connect on an emotional and physical level it becomes a destructive secret.

Fielding incorporates quite a few hot topics in this story, and for me this wasn’t a love story per se, perhaps because it doesn’t evolve beyond the physical element. In fact I would go as far as to say that it is more about shedding a light on how women who love women were treated in that particular era. Locked away, disowned, treated like the mentally ill and put in asylums for the insane.

At the same time there is a focus on the gender inequality, which was an issue for women on every rung of the social ladder. Women and girls of a higher status were treated like birds in gilded cages with no voice or power. Any move towards independence was ridiculed and dismissed. Girls over 21 didn’t receive the vote until 1928, so the 1930s was still an era of advancement and discovery.

Although Lucy is part of this new-found age for women she still has to maintain the facade of the quiet well-behaved daughter of the household, whilst making her own choices in private. Of course while society is busy infantilizing their daughters and wives, they are also guilty of creating vulnerable women who crave new input, which in turn makes them the perfect target. In this case Lucy is more susceptible to the theories and voices of the far-right. She is drawn in by the shiny glow of the pseudo intellectual arguments and the belief that she is doing what is right for herself and her country.

Her involvement with Hester is a direct contradiction to her interest in Mosley. Hester’s possible heritage and exotic appearance would make her a non-entity in the eyes of the Blackshirts. It’s as if Lucy chooses to be oblivious to certain opinions the Mosley brigade shout out to the world. In the midst of her anger at her family and her lack of trust, she starts to become what she hates the most.

Fielding combines historical fiction with important social issues of the 20th century. It isn’t a love story, it is a story about identity and  about discovering the power we yield.

Buy A Pearl for my Mistress at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

#BookTrailer Aphrodite’s Tears by Hannah Fielding

Aphrodite’s Tears will be published on the 25th of January 2018 by London Wall Publishing. The Blog-Tour takes place from the 15th Jan to 26th Jan 2018. On the 15th of January I will be featuring a fantastic Q&A with the author Hannah Fielding, and of course my review. It is an emotional and colourful extravaganza of mythology, history, culture and romance. Here is a wee taste of what it is all about:

About the Author

Following her huge success as one of the UK’s leading romance authors with total sales of over 130k, Aphrodite’s Tears follows the award winning success of Hannah Fielding’s previous novels Burning Embers, Echoes of Love, Masquerade, Legacy and Indiscretion. Echoes of Love won Romance Novel of the Year at the IPB Awards in 2012 and Burning Embers was Amazon’s book of the month in 2011, while Hannah’s novels have been translated into 13 languages. With its spectacular setting and deep emotional drama, Aphrodite’s Tears will appeal both to fans of her backlist, as well as lovers of atmospheric travel writing including Santa Montefiore, Penny Vincenzie, Victoria Hislop and Lucinda Riley.

Egyptian by birth Hannah is fluent in French, English and Arabic and has lived all over the world, she currently lives between her writing retreat in the South of France and her rambling family home in Ireland. Hannah’s grandmother, Esther Fanous, was the revolutionary feminist writer in Egypt during the early 1900s.

About the book

Summer 1977, Oriel Anderson finds herself on the charming Greek island of Helios hoping to fulfil a long held dream or joining an archaeological dive team. Brokenhearted after her university fiancé left her for her best friend, Oriel is determined to prove she can make it in a man’s world heading up an all-male team on her first underwater dig.

Spending her days excavating a Roman shipwreck, surrounded by turquoise waters and scorching sunshine, Oriel thinks that she has found paradise, until she meets her employer and the owner of the Island, Damian Lekkas.

A widower, with a scarred face, Damian is a brooding presence on the island who instantly takes a shine to Oriel, but Oriel resolves to maintain a professional relationship between them.  But the mercurial Damian has other ideas, and Oriel’s stay soon becomes a battle between her head and her heart.

When strange things start happening Oriel doesn’t know what to think. She learns that no other women who had come to work on the dive had lasted more than a few weeks, then a young boy almost drowns on one of the dives, and one morning Oriel finds a dead songbird in her room, its throat slit, and out exploring the beaches on her own Oriel becomes trapped in a cave. Could these things just be a coincidence or is someone trying to send her a warning?

A modern retelling of some of the most popular Greek myths, Aphrodite’s Tears evokes the Legends of the Gods, their power and passion, playfulness and cunning.

Follow @fieldinghannah @midaspr

Visit hannahfielding.net

Visit London Wall Publishing

Buy/Pre-order Aphrodite’s Tears at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Don’t forget to come back on the 15th of January 2018 for my review and the Q&A with Hannah Fielding, as part of this fantastic Blog-Tour!

Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

Fools-and-Mortals-200x307Kudos to Cornwell for giving the works of Shakespeare their dues, especially A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He dissects the piece, as if it were the hottest new reality-soap in town. Leaving the historical references and importance of Shakespeare’s work aside for a moment, what remains are emotional roller-coasters for the masses. Shakespeare gives us drama, laughter, tears,violence and death. His plays were live television.

Cornwell is an excellent storyteller. The reader becomes so transfixed by the unfolding drama, and drawn in by the strong characters, that you almost forget everything is taking place in the Elizabethan era.

The story is about William and Richard Shakespeare, and their sibling rivalry. At the same time it is also about the existing rivalries between the various playhouses. An original play or new script is worth its weight in gold. People will pay good money to watch a new play being performed. It’s quite interesting to note how many new scripts playwrights had to come up with in such a short period of time to entertain not only the masses, but also the upper echelon of society, including the queen.

Richard struggles with the fact his brother seems to see him either as a hindrance or a complete failure. He wants acknowledgement of his talent and perhaps even an apology for being handed to the wolves by his brother. At the moment he is  always automatically picked to play the role of the pretty woman, because he is known for his striking looks. The kind of appealing physical appearance that tends to be noticed by the wrong people.

I really enjoyed it. I was expecting a story filled with heavy historical references. Instead it is a witty light-hearted entertaining read, which still manages to portray the hardships, the danger, the paranoia and the fear in that particular era, and the way of life in London.

Cornwell combines his talent for historical fiction with his concise knowledge of Shakespeare, which of course makes this a double-treat for bookworms with a penchant for both history and the works of the bard.

Buy Fools and Mortals at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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Blog-Tour: An Almond for a Parrot by Wray Delaney

I have some wicked treats for you today! Included in my stop on the Blog-Tour for An Almond for a Parrot by Wray Delaney is a superb extract from An Almond for a Parrot, my review and a truly revealing and extraordinarily engrossing Q&A with Wray Delaney! Believe me you don’t want to miss her candid answers and intriguing insights.

About the Author

Wray Delaney is the pseudonym of the award winning novelist Sally Gardner. She has sold over 2 million books in the UK and her work has been translated in to more than 22 languages. She has won both the Costa Children’s Book Prize and the Carnegie Medal 2013 for Maggot Moon. She also won the 2005 Nestle Children’s Book Prize for her debut novel I, Coriander. She writes books for children aged seven and upwards.

An Almond for a Parrot is her debut adult fiction novel, and what a great debut it is. It is a fascinating combination of historical fiction with a cheeky touch of soft erotica. Writing as Delaney, Gardner has made her mark on the adult fiction genre with this captivating book.

Visit sallygardner.net Follow @TheSallyGardner @fictionpubteam @HQStories

Buy An Almond for a Parrot

Q&A

Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call ‘Breaking the Ice.’ (readers love to get to know all about their favourite and new authors)

The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms would like to know) The Tryst by Monique Roffe

Books or authors who have inspired you to put pen to paper? Angela Carter, F Scott Fitzgerald, Brothers Grimm, Charles Dickens, Raymond Carver

The last book you read, that left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet…you name it) Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch. I was blown away by that.

Are you more of a movie night or series-binger kind of person? (Combinations are possible) Series binger

Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet? Charles Dickens

All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let’s talk about An Almond for a Parrot!

I have to say I loved the overall feel of his book. It felt as if the universe had conspired to create a perfect book moment. The cover art (even on the review copies), the characters and the plot. It just felt as if all the jigsaw pieces had come together perfectly. Thank you so much for saying that. I had great fun in writing this book and it was something I wanted to do for a long time, and let’s hope the universe conspires to make it sell many copies. To put a bit more magic into sex, a bit more 18th-Century into the setting, a few recipes, cook it all up and see what happens. It was an idea I had for a long time and thought I should have a go, and thoroughly enjoyed writing it. I have been so lucky with my cover designs, both the paperback and hardback have been so outstandingly beautiful. I do think a cover has to be both immediate and grabbing and Almond has that ‘I want to own you’ quality.

I know there is a cheeky wink at your inspirations for the story in your book, and the whole essence of the book certainly reminded me of Hill and Flanders. How much inspiration did you take from Fanny Hill and Moll Flanders and if not where did the inspiration for An Almond for a Parrot come from? I can’t remember what age I was when I first read Fanny Hill. I think I read it after I had read Forever Amber. But I fell instantly in love with Fanny. It was so delicious to meet a character who thoroughly enjoyed sex and was intelligent about its consequences. It is a romance held together by some classly sexual pieces. John Cleveland wrote this book while in prison. And not unlike Daniel Defoe he took a lot of inspiration from his mistress and there’s even a suggestion part was written by her. I have to say I have a preference for Fanny Hill more than I do for Moll Flanders. I was also fascinated to discover the last time they tried to sue Fanny Hill for indecency was in 1963. The only problem being they could not find one rude word in it. Just a collection of images that made your mind do all the dancing.

There is a wonderful story about a musical singer Marie Lloyd. She was brought to trial for indecency for singing a song that went,

Do you think my skirt is a little bit
Well not too much of it
Just a little bit
It’s the little bit the boys admire 

She was referring to her pussy and made that perfectly clear in her performance. Quite a crowd followed this beloved star to court. When asked by the judge what the song referred to Marie Lloyd replied ‘My skirt! I don’t know what was in your dirty little mind.’ The case was thrown out of court. That is the genius of suggestion without being explicit. I also thought I would embrace 18th century language of erotica which was full of vegetables, Maypoles and purses.

I really enjoyed the way you mixed your genres, although admittedly it was done in such subtle and flawless way it seems as if it wasn’t the case at all. Was intentional or did the idea of magic just flow with the characters? Magic realism fascinates me. I think if I’m honest I’m basically a fairytale writer. That is the pot from which I get my best dishes. Magic if used, has to be grounded, earthed like electricity. By that I mean it has to be believable, an essential part of the character not just added on for good measure. I few of the characters in my book have magical or supernatural abilities. But I didn’t want to make it the main feature of the story. And the rest of the characters don’t. I’m not keen on using it just to make everything all right. I’m always very careful when I use magic to make it as believable as possible. I’m not a girl with a magic wand, and no magic can’t make everything better also it often comes at quite a high price.

At the beginning of some of the chapters there are 18th century recipes, such as Hasty Pudding, Hodgepodge or Sheep’s Tongue in Paper. Personally I found them fascinating, although it’s fair to say I won’t be trying tongue in the near future. Are they a subconscious or even a conscious nod to the surrogate mother figure in Tully’s life, the cook? I love the character of Cook she is a drunk, never had children and can’t read, and still hopes there might be a recipe for the bringing up of children . I found a wonderful book from the 18th century with a lot of these recipes in it. They just made me giggle. I definitely didn’t mean them to be tried, I think nearly all of them sound pretty revolting. But their names were just to delicious words ‘Pike in the shape of a Dolphin’ ‘Virgin Eggs’, ‘Tarts, the common or country fashion’- they always refer to something that has happened to Tully. I’m not sure how many people will actually read them I bet they get skipped most of the time. Hopefully they make you laugh. 

An Almond for a Parrot is often a wee bit risqué, but it is also witty and light-hearted, despite that you have also included more serious topics in the tale. Was it important to you to show the lack of power women had in that era, and how vulnerable they were to being exploited and abused because of that imbalance of power? What history teaches us if we bother to look at it is how far women have come and the battle it has taken to get here. Still I believe too many women are imprisoned by the lack of finances by abusive partners and by poverty, By the lack of education. In many parts of the world women are still subjected to the tyranny of their fathers’ and husbands’ rule. I believe we in the West musn’t become complacent about the role of women. There is still a long way to go before women and men play an equal role. 

So it’s quite useful to look back and see what life was like for women of a different time. It was not all gorgeous clothes and handsome men. In the 18th century the hope of a woman earning her own money, being independent from a man was near impossible. Even if she was born with wealth the minute she married it vanished into her spouse’s account. Women were totally subjected to their fathers’ and then to their husbands’ rule . Domestic violence was considered acceptable. Women were bargaining tools in marriage. Marriage at the age 12 was not unheard of. One means of escaping poverty was prostitution.

I wanted to illustrate this with hopefully a cracking good story. We had in London at that time the highest population of prostitutes in the whole of Europe. Those who have watched the series Harlots will know the Harris list became vitally important for anyone wishing to visit a brothel. Most brothels specialised in various things from Molly houses onwards. Every sexual delight was catered for. For a lot of women prostitution was the only way to achieve any independence.

Yes many tragic and awful stories have emerged and we know about the abuse et cetera. But at least the tragedy of the abuse so many young women and children suffered is out in the open. Which is more than can be said for many brutal marriages that took place behind 18th Century closed doors. Things have changed but I still believe there is a long way to go to make that equal for all women around the world. 

I can imagine writing under a pseudonym has been quite an experience for you. Writing as Wray Delaney, has it given you any insights you think you can and will use when writing as Sally Gardner? I very much love my children’s audience and for them I am a gate keeper. By that I mean I am careful of what I give them and how much information. I never patronise, I always think my audience are far smarter than I am. In fact, I’d say the YA audience can accept some very complicated ideas that wouldn’t on the whole appeal to an adult audience as much. The great thing about a book is you can always close it if you do not like it. You do not need to carry on reading it. When I write for adults, there is a freedom because whether you like it or not, the PC police are very much out in children’s literature, and have been for a number of years.

Writing for adults, there’s nothing you have to hold back on, though it’s interesting to see people’s reactions to Tully, who didn’t realise there was going to be so much explicit sex in it.

I was asked by a Sun journalist, wasn’t I a bit naughty to be writing an erotic book for adults now? And I said to him, ‘Where do you think children come from’ Hopefully, joyous and good sex.

I know the book has a pretty tight and well-packed ending, but will we be hearing from Tully Truegood again or perhaps one of the other memorable characters? Perhaps the early life of Mr Crease? I don’t think so. I’d never say never but on the whole I like stand-alones and I really love to idea that maybe you might dream on the characters a bit, and take them further in our head I did a book years ago called I, Coriander which was very successful and I am asked all the time would I write another one. The answer to that is definitely no. I think it’s great if a story inspires someone to tell themselves their own stories. That’s fantastic. Thank you so much for asking me a lovely bunch of intelligent questions. I’m really enjoying my blog tour.

Thank you for answering all of my questions, even some of the odder ones!

Extract

Fleet Marriages

One of the most disgraceful customs observed in the Fleet Prison in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was the performance of the marriage ceremony by disreputable and dissolute clergymen. These functionaries, mostly prisoners for debt, insulted the dignity of their holy profession by marrying in the precincts of the Fleet Prison at a minute’s notice, any persons who might present themselves for that purpose. No questions were asked, no stipulations made, except as to the amount of the fee for the service, or the quantity of liquor to be drunk on the occasion. It not unfrequently happened, indeed, that the clergyman, the clerk, the bridegroom and the bride were drunk at the very time the ceremony was performed.

Chapter One

Newgate Prison, London

I lie on this hard bed counting the bricks in the ceiling of this miserable cell. I have been sick every morning for a week and thought I might have jail fever. If it had killed me it would at

least have saved me the inconvenience of a trial and a public hanging. Already the best seats at Newgate Prison have been sold in anticipation of my being found guilty – and I have yet to be sent to trial. Murder, attempted murder – either way the great metropolis seems to know the verdict before the judge has placed the black square on his grey wig. This whore is gallows-bound. 

‘Is he dead?’ I asked. 

My jailer wouldn’t say.

 I pass my days remembering recipes and reciting them to the damp walls. They don’t remind me of food; they are bookmarks from this short life of mine. They remain tasteless. I prefer them that way. 

A doctor was called for. Who sent for or paid for him I don’t know, and uncharacteristically I do not care. He was very matter of fact and said the reason for my malady was simple: I was with child. I haven’t laughed for a long time but forgive me,

the thought struck me as ridiculous. In all that has happened I have never once found myself in this predicament. I can hardly believe it is true. The doctor looked relieved – he had at least found a reason for my life to be extended – pregnant women are not hanged. Even if I’m found guilty of murder, the gallows will wait until the child is born. What a comforting thought.

Hope came shortly afterwards. Dear Hope. She looked worried, thinner.

‘How is Mercy?’ I asked. 

She avoided answering me and busied herself about my cell. 

‘What does this mean?’ she asked, running her fingers over the words scratched on a small table, the only piece of furniture this stinking cell has to offer. I had spent some time etching them into its worm-eaten surface. An Almond for a Parrot.

‘It’s a title for a memoir, the unanswered love song of a soon to- be dead bird. Except I have no paper, no pen and without ink the thing won’t write at all.’

‘ Just as well, Tully.’

‘I want to tell the truth of my life.’

‘Better to leave it,’ she said.

‘It’s for Avery – not that he will ever read it.’ I felt myself on the brink of tears but I refused to give in to them. ‘I will write it for myself. Afterwards, it can be your bedtime entertainment, the novelty of my days in recipes and tittle-tattle.’

‘Oh, my sweet ninny-not. You must be brave, Tully. This is a dreadful place and…’

‘And it is not my first prison. My life has come full circle. You haven’t answered my question.’

‘Mercy is still very ill. Mofty is with her.’

‘Will she live?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘And is he alive?’

 ‘Tully, he is dead. You are to be tried for murder.’

‘My, oh my. At least my aim was true.’

I sank back on the bed, too tired to ask more. Even if Hope was in the mood for answering questions, I didn’t think I would want to know the answers.

‘You are a celebrity in London. Everyone wants to know what you do, what you wear. The papers are full of it.’

There seemed nothing to say to that. Hope sat quietly on the edge of the bed, holding my hand.

Finally, I found the courage to ask the question I’d wanted to ask since Hope arrived.

‘Is there any news of Avery?’

‘No, Tully, there’s not.’

I shook my head. Regret. I am full of it. A stone to worry one’s soul with.

‘You have done nothing wrong, Tully.’

‘Forgive me for laughing.’

‘You will have the very best solicitor.’

‘Who will pay for him?’

‘Queenie.’

‘No, no. I don’t want her to. I have some jewels…’

I felt sick.

‘Concentrate on staying well,’ said Hope.

If this life was a dress rehearsal, I would now have a chance to play my part again but with a more favourable outcome. Alas, we players are unaware that the curtain goes up the minute we take our first gulps of air; the screams of rage our only hopeless comments on being born onto such a barren stage. 

So here I am with ink, pen and a box of writing paper, courtesy of a well-wisher. Still I wait to know the date of my trial. What to do until then? Write, Tully, write.

With a hey ho the wind and the rain. And words are my only escape. For the rain it raineth every day.

Appendix VI, The Newgate Calendar

Review

I adored the way Delaney mixed an aura of Victorian era with a hint of modern. For me it definitely had shades of Fanny Hill and Moll Flanders, and to be fair the author does give her inspiration a nudge, wink and its dues.

How to give you an idea of what this book is like? Imagine the aura and setting of an old book mixed with themes of urban fantasy, magic, ghosts and necromancy in an 19th century setting. It is a fascinating combination of historical fiction with a cheeky touch of soft erotica. It’s what I would call a bit of naughty wickedness.

The story starts with our main character sat in jail reflecting upon the past and the choices that have led to her facing the noose. The reader is then invited to follow Tully Truegood, as she is taught to control the passion within her.

She is taught the art of pleasure and how to pleasure others, which unfortunately also means heartbreak and disappointment. In her profession it can also mean violence and having to endure or watch violations and intimate betrayals.

Subtly interwoven into the story is a fascinating element of necromancy and ghostly magic. Tully can see the sins of the past, the horrors that haunt us and the mistakes everyone keeps very well hidden. It’s a talent and also a curse. At the beginning of some of the chapters there are 18th century recipes, such as Hasty Pudding, Hodgepodge or Sheep’s Tongue in Paper. Personally I found them fascinating, although it’s fair to say I won’t be trying tongue in the near future.

Delaney also writes with the eloquence of a writer of the 19th century. Her writing goes down like hot chocolate on a cold day. It’s simply a pleasure to read. I have to say I loved the overall feel of his book. It felt as if the universe had conspired to create a perfect book moment. The cover art (even on the review copies), the characters and the plot. It just felt as if all the jigsaw pieces had come together perfectly.

Hopefully this was the first of many for Delaney. I know I will be both recommending this book and looking forward to the next.

Buy An Almond For a Parrot at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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