#Blogtour Dawnlands by Philippa Gregory

It’s a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour Dawnlands by Philippa Gregory. ‘Political intrigue, rebellion, and scandal in the royal court of the Stuarts, brought to life by one of the nation’s foremost historical novelists’

About the Author

Philippa Gregory is the author of many bestselling novels, including The Other Boleyn Girl, and is a recognised authority on women’s history. Her Cousins’ War novels, reaching their dramatic conclusion with The King’s Curse, were the basis for the highly successful BBC series, The White Queen. 

Philippa’s other great interest is the charity that she founded over twenty years ago: Gardens for the Gambia. She has raised funds and paid for over 200 wells in the primary schools of this poor African country. Philippa graduated from the University of Sussex and holds a PhD and Alumna of the Year 2009 at Edinburgh University. In 2016, she received the Harrogate Festival Award for Outstanding Contribution to Historical Fiction. Philippa lives with her family on a small farm in Yorkshire. Follow @PhilippaGBooks on Twitter

About the book

In a divided country, power and loyalty conquer all… It is 1685 and England is on the brink of a renewed civil war against the Stuart kings with many families bitterly divided. Alinor, now a successful businesswoman, has been coaxed by the manipulative Livia to save Queen Mary from the coming siege. The rewards are life-changing: the family could return to their beloved Tidelands, and Alinor could rule where she was once lower than a servant.

Inspired by news of a rebellion against the Stuart kings, Ned Ferryman returns from America with his Pokanoket servant to join the uprising against roman catholic King James. As Ned swears loyalty to the charismatic Duke of Monmouth, he discovers a new and unexpected love.

Meanwhile, Queen Mary summons her friend Livia to a terrified court. Her survival, and that of the Stuart kings, is in the balance, and only a clever and dangerous gamble can save them… 

A compelling and powerful story of political intrigue and personal ambition, from one end of the empire to another, set between the palaces of London, the tidelands of Fowlmire and the shores of Barbados. 

Review

This is the third book in the Fairmile series, all of them can be read as standalone, but I would recommend reading Tidelands and Dark Tides just because they are great reads. They are also for the majority based on a set of fictional characters entwined with certain historical facts – a tad different from previous series.

What remains the same is the way this author in particular puts historical women at the forefront of her stories. The women who tend to be written out of history, forgotten and are often falsely portrayed. Their subtle manipulations from the side-lines, their importance as political tools, and perhaps most underestimated their power to drive the agenda as mothers, daughters and wives.

Moving slightly away from the usual political intrigue and power plays at court, although the court of the Stuarts gives plenty of fodder for those who seek it. The story also moves into other areas that carry the stamp of colonial oppression – the slave trade and the sugar industry for instance. 

I’m not going to go through all the characters we know and love (or dislike) from the previous books – needless to say Livia is doing what Livia does best, Ned follows his heart and a keen sense of justice or rebellion, depending on where you stand. At the core of this is a family, how they are tied to each, their experiences and home.

The author always delivers a riveting historical read – story and reader come before all else.

Buy Dawnlands at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Simon & Schuster, pub date 8th November | Hardback – £20.00. Buy at Amazon comBuy via Simon and Schuster.

#Blogtour The Girl with the Emerald Flag by Kathleen McGurl

 It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Girl with the Emerald Flag by Kathleen McGurl.

About the Author

Kathleen McGurl lives near the coast in Christchurch, England. She writes dual timeline novels in which a historical mystery is uncovered and resolved in the present day. She is married to an Irishman and has two adult sons. She enjoys travelling, especially in her motorhome around Europe and has of course visited Ireland many times. Follow @KathMcGurl on Twitter, Visit kathleenmcgurl.com

About the book

A country rebelling – It’s 1916 and, as war rages in Europe, Gráinne leaves her job in a department store to join Countess Markiewicz’s revolutionary efforts. It is a decision which will change her life forever. A rebellion is brewing, and as Dublin’s streets become a battleground, Gráinne soon discovers the personal cost of fighting for what you believe in…

A forgotten sacrifice – Decades on, student Nicky is recovering from a break-up when a research project leads her to her great-grandmother’s experiences in revolutionary Ireland. When Nicky finds a long-forgotten handkerchief amongst her great-grandmother’s things, it leads to the revelation of a heartbreaking story of tragedy and courage, and those who sacrificed everything for their country.

Inspired by a heartbreaking true story, this emotional historical novel will sweep you away to the Emerald Isle. Perfect for fans of Jean Grainger, Sandy Taylor and Fiona Valpy.

Review

Nicky is searching for her identity and is very much in the process of discovering herself. It’s probably a little bit of a standard rebellion the way she talks about and feels about her mother. She feels judged, and under constant supervision and criticism. The two of them clash a lot. In the midst of this coming-of-age and acknowledgement of self, Nicky goes on a journey.

The kind of journey that changes your views of the world, the past and even your own loved ones. Nicky uses her grandmother as a font of knowledge to research a rebellion that unbeknownst to her has impacted the life of her grandmother, and also the history of her family.

Gráinne, a young woman also on the cusp of discovering what she wants in life and who she is, is living in the midst of World War I, and is also heavily involved in the plans to change the political status quo in Ireland. A part of the historical path that to this day still shapes the fragility of a relationship built on a history of death and oppression.

I really enjoy watching an author grow, both in skills and in exploration of genre. Although this is still trademark past and present connects, this story shows the growth as it tackles an enormous historical event in Irish history. It was told without the shadow of the usual political perspective or the fury on both sides, instead the author takes it down to the level of people and their personal experience and perspective.

I think, if this is any indication, that the author will take it up a notch, and I am looking forward to it.

Buy The Girl with the Emerald Flag at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour One Woman’s War by Christine Wells

 It’s my turn on the Blogtour One Woman’s War by Christine Wells.

About the Author

Christine Wells writes historical fiction featuring strong, fascinating women. From early childhood, she drank in her father’s tales about the real kings and queens behind popular nursery rhymes and she has been a keen student of history ever since. She began her first novel while working as a corporate lawyer and has gone on to write about periods ranging from Georgian England to post World War II France.

Christine is passionate about helping other writers learn the craft and business of writing fiction and enjoys mentoring and teaching workshops whenever her schedule permits. She loves dogs, running, the beach and fossicking for antiques and lives with her family in Brisbane, Australia. Follow @ChristineWells0 on Twitter

About the book

From the author of Sisters of the Resistance comes the story of WWII British Naval Intelligence officer Victoire Bennett, the real-life inspiration for the James Bond character Miss Moneypenny, whose international covert operation is put in jeopardy when a volatile socialite and Austrian double agent threatens to expose the mission to German High Command.

World War II London: When Victoire “Paddy” Bennett first walks into the Admiralty’s Room 39, home to the Intelligence Division, all the bright and lively young woman expects is a secretarial position to the charismatic Commander Ian Fleming. But soon her job is so much more, and when Fleming proposes a daring plot to deceive the Germans about Allied invasion plans, he requests the newlywed Paddy’s help. She jumps at the chance to work as an agent in the field, even after the operation begins to affect her marriage. But could doing her duty for King and country come at too great a cost?

Socialite Friedl Stöttinger is a beautiful Austrian double agent determined to survive in wartime England, which means working for MI-5, investigating fifth column activity among the British elite at parties and nightclubs. But Friedl has a secret—some years before, she agreed to work for German Intelligence and spy on the British.

When her handler at MI-5 proposes that she work with Serbian agent, Duško Popov, Friedl falls hopelessly in love with the dashing spy. And when her intelligence work becomes fraught with danger, she must choose whether to remain loyal to the British and risk torture and execution by the Nazis or betray thousands of men to their deaths.

Soon, the lives of these two extraordinarily brave women will collide, as each travel down a road of deception and danger leading to one of the greatest battles of World War II

Review

I often wonder, especially after reading stories like this one, regardless of whether they are fictional or not, how many people are still bound by the Official Secrets Act and the operations they took part in during the war. How many secrets have died with brave people who risked everything for their country or did things in the name of patriotism.

How many men and women who just melded back into society as if nothing had ever happened, knowing that their stories who probably go untold forever. I think abiding by the rules of stumm is possibly even more impressive, than having a secret past as a spy, operative or an invisible face who steered events in a certain direction.

Paddy is used to a life of privilege and perhaps luckily also gifted with the talent of being able to improvise on the spot, which comes in handy when she is stranded on the other side of the channel on the cusp of France surrendering to the Nazi regime. A path that leads her into the inner sanctum of secret operatives fighting to keep the country and its people safe.

Simultaneously Friedl is being forced to choose between keeping her loved ones safe or betraying a country she knows little about. The women cross paths and are drawn into a dark world of suspicion, secrets and double bluffs.

It’s an interesting venture into historical war fiction. Fictional, and yet believable.

Buy One Woman’s War at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: William Morrow – Harper360, pub date 4 Oct 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Warrior and Protector by Peter Gibbons

 It’s my turn on the Blogtour Warrior and Protector by Peter Gibbons.

About the Author

Peter Gibbons is a financial advisor and author of the highly acclaimed Viking Blood and Blade trilogy. He comes to Boldwood with his new Saxon Warrior series, set around the 900 AD Viking invasion during the reign of King Athelred the Unready. The first title of the new series, Warrior and Protector, will be published in October 2022. He originates from Liverpool and now lives with his family in County Kildare. Follow @AuthorGibbons on Twitter or @petermgibbons on Instagram

About the book

The start of a brand NEW series – an unputdownable fast paced adventure, filled with unforgettable characters.

989 AD. – Alfred the Great’s dream of a united England has been forged by his daughter Aethelfaed and grandson, King Aethelstan. The Vikings have been expelled from York following the death of Erik Bloodaxe, and for two generations there has been peace between Saxon and Dane.

A new Viking warlord Olaf Tryggvason seeks revenge for Bloodaxe’s death and the slaughter that followed and has set his sights on a fresh assault on England’s shores. With Skarde Wartooth they set sail for Saxon lands, hungry for glory, conquest and vengeance.

Beornoth, a brutal and battle-hardened Saxon Thegn, is called to arms to fight and protect the Saxon people from the savage Norse invaders. On a personal crusade, he joins the army of Byrthnoth, Lord of the east Saxons in a desperate fight against the bloodthirsty Vikings. Beornoth must lay his own demons to bed, survive vicious attacks and find redemption for his tragic past.

If you like Bernard Cornwell, Simon Scarrow, Conn Iggulden, and David Gemmell you will love this epic Saxon adventure packed with battles, Vikings, and adventure. 

Review

Beornoth is a conflicted man, and one who needs to regain his standing – not just for himself either. He needs to retrieve a certain level of respect from those around him. Perhaps facing his demons will awaken the part of his soul and the warrior inside him when he gets the opportunity to confront his enemy.

It’s an epic tale of battle-hardened men on both sides of the conflict. Some more battle hungry than others, because many are just forced to defend themselves against the invaders. Brutal, bloody battles fought – names are made and echo through the vast halls of history till this very day.

I enjoyed the way the author steers the story sharply away from misconceptions and tropes that are usually associated with the Vikings, Saxons and used frequently in fiction. It also gives an interesting insight into how the conflicts between them influenced history, and left a visible footprint ingrained even now in our daily lives.

Not sure why, but the title instantly brings Highland or Viking spice-rom to mind. Aside from that this is a vigorous and exciting start to a new series – Saxon Warrior.  It’s historical fiction or historical war and conquering fiction (is conquering fiction a thing – it should be a sub-genre). The author melds fact with fiction, but in a way that lets the read become both an enjoyable and learning experience – the best kind of historical fiction. Roll on the next book, which promises to be an exploration of a fierce and destructive period in time. 

Buy Warrior and Protector at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: ‎ Boldwood Books, pub date 31 Oct. 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

#Blogtour Island of Dreams by Harry Duffin

It’s my turn on the Blogtour Island of Dreams by Harry Duffin.

About the Author

I am an award-winning British screenwriter, who was on the first writing team of the BBC’s Eastenders and won the Writers’ Guild Award for Best TV serial for Coronation Street. I was Head of Development at Cloud 9 Screen Entertainment Group, producing seven major television series, including ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ starring Richard ‘John Boy’ Thomas, and ‘Twist in the Tale’, featuring William Shatner. I was co-creator of the UK Channel Five teen-cult drama series ‘The Tribe’, which ran for five series. Follow @duffin26 on Twitter or @duffinharry on Instagram, Visit harryduffin.co.uk

About the book

In May 1939, when Professor Carl Mueller, his wife, Esther, and their three children flee Nazi Germany, and find refuge on the paradise island of Cuba, they are all full of hopes and dreams for a safe and happy future.

But those dreams are shattered when Carl and Esther are confronted by a ghost from their past, and old betrayals return to haunt them. The turbulent years of political corruption leading to Batista’s dictatorship, forces the older children to take very different paths to pursue their own dangerous dreams.

And – among the chaos and the conflict that finally leads to Castro’s revolution and victory in 1959, an unlikely love begins to grow – a love that threatens the whole family. Having escaped a war-torn Europe, their Island of Dreams is to tear them apart forever.

Review

Out of the fire and into the frying pan – I expect that’s what the Mueller family felt like when the path to freedom ends up landing them in a political inferno, one that threatens to swallow up dissenters whole.

The older children are already set on different paths by the time the family reaches their new destination. When it comes to ideals, politics and beliefs – even at such a young age core memories have left their mark. Those differences lead to further division as they settle into a life in a new country, which has its own powder keg waiting to implode.

Hans is what I would call a disenchanted idealist, brainwashed to believe he is superior and less inclined to believe he is what the Nazi’s would call tainted. He loses himself in the anger and disappointment he aims towards his own family. A typical teenage response to events that suspend belief and shapes the man he becomes. Anna has fire in her belly, her circumstances open her up to the rebellion of her new home.

The children live under the dysfunctional umbrella of a strained relationship – their parents having made the right choices to save them, but perhaps would have made other decisions about their relationship under less dangerous circumstances. Their problems cast long shadows on their children.

The author only touches slightly on the tenuous grasp on possible safety dangled like carrots before so many innocent victims of the Nazi regime. Imagine believing you have done everything possible to escape persecution, only to be confronted with closed doors and a lack of help from the world, and to be returned to certain death.

It’s an interesting premise, because the surrounding circumstances and trauma take a secondary position in regard to the story. In essence you get the life lived if you managed to escape by a mere fraction of time and a lot of luck, but it also means living with the guilt, whilst simultaneously having to hide the fact you are glad you escaped a destiny written for you by others. I also think it’s very much a story of how each life can leave an impact in a different way and perhaps create paths others will follow – imagine if they hadn’t.

War, trauma, fractured relationships and the way each family unit creates a tentacled system of connections and relationships. It would probably make a great mini tv series.

Buy links coming soon.

#Blogtour The Forgotten Promise by Paula Greenlees

 It’s a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour The Forgotten Promise by Paula Greenlees.

About the Author

Paula has lived in various places, including Singapore, where she was based for three years. It was while living in Singapore that the first seeds of her debut novel, Journey to Paradise, developed. The crumbling buildings and the modern high-rises popping up almost overnight seemed to be a metaphor for the social diversity and change in Singapore at that time. However, as a young mother living there, she wondered what it must have been like as a post-war colonial wife living miles away from the familiarity of home. Despite the gloss and glamour of colonial living, women were frequently stuck in unhappy marriages, often unable to follow careers or have the independence to divorce if things went wrong – which they inevitably did. 

Her writing, although set against exotic backgrounds, is set on the cusp of change – the shift from colonial dominance to independence. She likes to dig into a variety of issues and her main protagonist is, in many ways, a metaphor for the political and social events surrounding her at that time. It isn’t always an easy journey, but in the end, success comes her way. 

The Forgotten Promise tells the story of Ella, a young Eurasian woman, whose life is turned upside down by the Japanese occupation of Malaya, and it is through her lens and that of Noor, her cook, that the narrative is revealed.

As for Paula – she has always wanted to be a writer. As a little girl she used to spend hours writing stories and turning them into books, even using flour and water as paste to stick the pages together.  She spent hours writing poetry and plays as a teenager and has always written short stories in her spare time. It is this need to write and a love of reading that led her to take a degree in English and European Thought and Literature, and later a Masters Degree in Creative Writing.

Apart from her writing, Paula hosts a regular author interview on her website. You can find out more about new and existing historical fiction authors, such as Liz Trenow, Frances Quinn and Louise Fein, by hitting the ‘author interview tab.’ 

As a writer, she feels it is important to have a wide range of interests – not only does it adds flavour and layering to prose, but allows it allows time for ideas to mull and to percolate. People watching in cafés is one, long walks is another. And food! Good food is essential to her and she loves to cook using the best ingredients she can find.  As well as a love of travel, she is a keen amateur photographer and her next trip takes her to Cambodia where she is hoping to discover an exciting hook for a new book – you can find out more about her progress there by following her on Instagram.

Paula has a grown up daughter and lives in Warwickshire with her husband and an extremely friendly Labrador. Follow @PGreenlees on Twitter, Visit paulagreenlees.com

About the book

Malaya, 1920: Two girls make a promise in the shadows of the jungle. A promise that life won’t let them easily keep.

Malaya, 1941: Ella is running her late father’s tin mine in the Kledang hills, while Noor works as her cook. When the war that felt so far away suddenly arrives on their doorstep, Ella is torn apart from her family. Her daughter Grace is left in Noor’s care as Japanese soldiers seize the mine.

Ella is forced to make an impossible choice that takes her to England, thousands of miles from home. She is desperate to be reunited with her loved ones. But will the life she returns to be anything like the life she left behind?

Review

We meet Ella as a child, when the first invisible boundaries between herself and her friend become visible to herself and others. Then later as she lives the life of a tin mine owner, her friend now the family cook. The two of them separated by social and class structures. As the story progresses we return to the two, who have had to make extremely difficult choices to ensure their survival as their home and country is invaded during WW2.

Although the title references the bond between two young girls and a promise they make in all innocence, it is also about the way we deal with curveballs in life. Adapt and survive. Making hard decisions, sometimes at the expense of others and often made in the moment.

Despite the fact Ella is Eurasian, she is very much a product of white colonisation and privilege. I think it is frequently evident in her reactions when she returns to Malaya – the lack of understanding of a place and people who have had to adjust to extreme conditions of an oppressed country.

The destruction, pain, torture and war crimes committed by the Japanese during WW2 often take a second place to the atrocities and warfare in Europe during the same period. This opens a small window to some of it, whilst maintaining the essence of the family saga and dynamics. It was a pleasure to read.

Buy The Forgotten Promise at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎ Penguin pub date 1 Sept. 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

#Blogtour The Secret of Elephants by Vasundra Tailor

It’s a pleasure to kick off this fantastic Blogtour The Secret of Elephants by Vasundra Tailor.

About the Author

Vasundra Tailor was born in India and was just a few weeks old when her parents brought her to Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia) in 1954. Though set against a backdrop British colonial rule and segregation in the area, Vasundra had a happy childhood, surrounded by a large extended family.

She qualified as a pharmacist in 1977, and was eager to leave Zimbabwe for the UK to escape the fighting between the minority white government and local freedom fighters. She arrived at Heathrow in the Spring of 1978, and moved to Strathclyde for her Masters in Pharmaceutical Microbiology, before settling in London a year later, where she is still based today.

Vasundra started writing in 2016, after enrolling onto an online Creative Writing course, joining book groups and local writing groups, which gave her the feedback and confidence to tackle her first book. Fascinated by human relationships, Vasundra’s writing is interested characters from diverse backgrounds and explores how people connect with those around them.

The Inspiration for The Secret of Elephants, Vasundra’s debut novel, came from the families currently living in a property in India which once belonged to her father. In November 2019, an extract of The Secret of Elephants won the second runner-up prize for the Mo Siewcharran Fiction Competition, to help discover unpublished fiction writers from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. Follow @vasundrajay on Twitter

About the book

Two sides of the same family – one living in luxury in a magnificent mansion, the other penniless in its shadow. Could a mysterious letter from the past help Nirmala and her young son take back what is rightfully theirs?

Navsari, India. Penniless and trapped in a loveless marriage, Nirmala spends her days anxiously caring for her sick young son, Varun. Looming over Nirmala’s impoverished home is an imposing mansion built by her grandfather, and from its balcony her cruel aunt scorns them, refusing to help in any way.

But when a mysterious letter addressed to her long-dead father arrives from Zimbabwe, it opens a door to a past Nirmala never knew existed and a future she never imagined possible. If the contents of the letter can be believed, not only does she have family in Africa, but they might also hold the answers to a family mystery that spans three generations.

While travelling to Zimbabwe might lead to a brighter future for Nirmala and her son, it could also reignite the bitter family feud that condemned her family to poverty. Nirmala is ready to risk it all to uncover the truth, but how will she cope when this journey changes her life forever?

Review

Nirmala has spent the majority of her life in the shadow of her family and their wealth. She is the poor relative, the one they look down upon, the one who lives in a little ramshackle place across the road from their impressive mansion.

Living a life in fear of the displeasure of a man she never wanted, doesn’t love, and who treats her with disdain. A man who thinks her son – their son – is a weakling because he is unwell. When by pure chance a letter addressed to her deceased father  falls into her hands and reveals a secret she was unaware of, she starts to wonder whether life for herself and her son could be different.

The gift of being a natural storyteller isn’t one that all writers possess – they all tell stories, but there is a difference between telling a story and being a storyteller. The author leaves lines in the sand as she pulls her rake behind her, with an almost peaceful quality, and compels the reader to follow the patterns of the story being unfolded before them.

It’s a tangled web of emotional baggage and trauma. Decisions made in the blink of an eye with no regard for the majority of the people involved, they cast dark shadows over the generations of this family. They influence paths taken, chances missed and how connections are made between family members.

I think one of the most poignant relationships in the story is the one between Kanta and Suresh. The way her lack of emotional attachment creates this wave that devours everyone in their close vicinity. Does the damage inflicted become justifiable when weighed with the truth?

The author pulls in moments from history, surroundings, and politics to give context to the places the story is set in, but does so in a way that never overshadows the main plot and characters. It’s a nice wee slow burner of a read.

Buy The Secret of Elephants at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Lake Union pub date 1 Sept. 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

#Blogtour By Her Own Design by Piper Huguley

It’s an absolute pleasure to take part in the BlogTour By Her Own Design: A Novel of Ann Lowe, Fashion Designer to the Social Register written by Piper Huguley. I loved this book!

About the Author

Piper Huguley is the author of the Home to Milford College and the Migrations of the Heart series. She is a multiple-time Golden Heart finalist. Piper blogs about the history behind her novels on her website. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and son. Follow @piperhuguley on Twitter, Visit piperhuguley.com

About the book

The incredible untold story of how Ann Lowe, a Black woman and granddaughter of slaves, rose above personal struggles and racial prejudice to design and create one of America’s most famous wedding dresses of all time for Jackie Kennedy.

1953, New York City – Less than a week before the society wedding of the year where Jacqueline Bouvier will marry John F. Kennedy, a pipe bursts at Ann Lowe’s dress shop and ruins eleven dresses, including the expensive wedding dress, a dress that will be judged by thousands. A Black designer who has fought every step of the way, Ann knows this is only one struggle after a lifetime of them. She and her seamstresses will find the way to re-create the dresses. It may take all day and all night for the next week to accomplish the task, but they will do it.

1918, Tampa – Raised in Jim Crow Alabama, Ann learned the art of sewing from her mother and her grandmother, a former slave, who are the most talented seamstresses in the state. After Ann elopes at twelve with an older man who soon proves himself to be an abusive alcoholic, her dreams of becoming a celebrated designer seem to be put on hold. But then a wealthy Tampa socialite sees Ann’s talent and offers her an amazing opportunity—the chance to sew and design clothing for Florida’s society elite. Taking her young son in the middle of the night, Ann escapes her husband and embarks on the adventure of a lifetime.

Based on the true story of one of the most famous designers of the twenties through the sixties who has since been unjustly forgotten, By Her Own Design is an unforgettable novel of determination despite countless obstacles and a triumph celebrated by the world.

Review

Although the story of Ann begins at the end of her life, it perhaps does her more justice, because the battles she fought and the hills she had to climb to achieve her dreams and goals – the reader thinks they know how her journey will progress or at least they think they do. 

The reality of course is that the hardships endured, the racism faced, and the courageous and dangerous decisions made, are the norm for her because she is a black woman. The white privilege she is surrounded by is a pill to be taken daily with a portion of steadily controlled seething anger. And yet at the core is the child, the girl who is plucked from innocence and thrust into the stark reality of womanhood. The girl, who learns to covet and embrace the bonds of sisterhood, maternal strength and the protection of those who endured and survived the same before her.

This is the story of an artist, a woman with an incredible talent for design and fashion, who wrote history and yet has been forgotten by those who wrote it.

I absolutely loved this book and I really hope someone makes a screen version of it – Oscar material right here. The author has fixed an injustice by bringing the important story of Ann to the forefront of our minds, and in doing so ensures that she receives her rightful place in the history of design and fashion. Kudos to the author for the storytelling, the excellent writing and for sharing this story with us all.

It is a travesty that the voices, the achievements, designs, inventions, and their pivotal input and influence on our developments and history in general, of women – especially women who belong to marginalised and oppressed groups – have been erased from historical narratives. Whitewashed from history. This is a perfect example of every detail being known to the world, except the part where a black woman designed the wedding dress of one of the most well-known historical figures of the 20th century, and yet somehow it has become the one detail that is never mentioned. I highly recommend this book – it’s an excellent read.

Buy By Her Own Design at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher : William Morrow PB, pub date 21 July 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

#Review Operation Moonlight by Louise Morrish

 A great story based on real events during WW2 – Operation Moonlight by Louise Morrish. ‘Wartime France. A newly trained agent. A deadly mission.’

About the Author

Louise Morrish is a Librarian whose debut novel won the 2019 Penguin Random House First Novel Competition – chosen from over 4000 entries – in partnership with the Daily Mail. She finds inspiration for her stories in the real-life adventures of women in the past, whom history has forgotten. She lives in Hampshire with her family. Follow @LouiseMorrish1 on Twitter, Find out more about Louise at linktr.ee/louisemorrish

About the book

1944: newly recruited SOE agent Elisabeth Shepherd is faced with an impossible mission: to parachute behind enemy lines into Nazi-occupied France and monitor the new long-range missiles the Germans are working on. Her only advice? Trust absolutely no one. With danger lurking at every turn, one wrong move for Elisabeth could spell instant death.

2018: Betty is about to celebrate her 100th birthday. With her carer Tali at her side, she receives an invite from the Century Society to reminisce on the past.

Remembering a life shrouded in secrecy and danger, Betty remains tight-lipped. But when Tali finds a box filled with maps, letters and a gun hidden in Betty’s cellar, it becomes clear that Betty’s secrets are about to be uncovered . . .

Nostalgic, heart-pumping and truly page-turning, Operation Moonlight is both a gripping read and a novel that makes you think about a generation of women and men who truly knew what it meant to survive.

The inspiration for Operation Moonlight – The real-life SOE heroines of WW2

The Special Operations Executive (SOE) was a clandestine government organisation, authorized by Winston Churchill in 1940 to ‘set Europe ablaze’, which recruited and trained over 400 secret agents, 39 of them women. Only a handful of these female secret agents have been remembered for their brave achievements.

In 1942, in an unprecedented move, women were recruited into the organisation. The decision shocked and angered some people, not least because if women were given the right to bear arms they would no longer be protected by the Geneva Convention. This meant that if they were caught by the enemy, they could not expect to be treated as prisoners of war.

Nevertheless, 39 French speaking women, some of them wives and mothers, their ages ranging from 19 to 51, from a variety of backgrounds, were recruited. Once recruited, the women embarked on a 4-stage course, training alongside their male counterparts.

If the agents passed the stringent criteria, they were then sent to paramilitary training in Arisaig, Scotland. Here, they learned to survive in the beautiful, yet wild and unforgiving Scottish landscape. On the remote beaches and secluded moors, they were taught the rudiments of demolition and sabotage.

The second stage of the agents’ course was parachute training, which took place at Ringway Aerodrome in Manchester. Up until now, the women had endured everything the male agents experienced. But when it came to jumping from a plane, the women were only expected to make three practise jumps, their fourth being into France. The men, however, performed an additional night jump, and thus were awarded their ‘wings’.

The final stage of training was known as Finishing School, and took place at various Stately Homes such as Beaulieu in Hampshire. Here, the agents honed their skills in espionage, and undertook pseudo-schemes, evading capture by the Southampton police force, in readiness for their real missions in France.

Of the 39 women who risked their lives as agents, 12 were executed following their capture by the Germans, while one died of meningitis during her mission. The remainder survived the war.

Writing Operation Moonlight, Louise Morrish took inspiration from all the female agents of the SOE, but three women – in addition to Louise’s grandmother Betty – in particular: Noor Inayat Khan, Violette Szabo, and Odette Sansom Hallowes, whom Morrish researched in detail at The National Archives, at Kew.

Review

This is a dual timeline read – the reader is taken back and forth from 2018 and to the 1940s, as the secrets of an old lady who is about to celebrate a milestone birthday start to emerge. Betty still finds it hard to change old habits, which is to let sleeping dogs lie because you’ve been taught to never say a word, ergo periods of her life have been hidden from everyone around her. It also means there has never been any recognition for the her bravery.

You already low-key know you’re going to enjoy a book when you start casting the characters for the screen version shortly after starting the book. It has the emotional bonding of Home Fire with Bletchley House suspense, and I would very much like to throw in a pop culture reference  – it absolutely gave me Fall From Grace vibes.

It’s both tragically sad and disappointing that although we remember the casualties of war every year, we seem to forget the service and sacrifice of the living, during the same periods of time in history. It’s a strange phenomenon that those who returned were revered less than those who didn’t, to live forever in the shadow of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, and yet is or was theirs not equally as great.

It’s a riveting historical fiction read, which is even more fascinating given the true events it is based on, and the author absolutely does her personal connection to the story justice. These women were incredibly brave, especially considering the lack of support they knew to expect if they were caught. It’s an incredible part of history that has taken a secondary place in comparison to the actions and deaths of others.

Buy Operation Moonlight at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Century, pub date 21 July 2022. Buy at Amazon comBuy via Penguin Uk.

#BlogTour Burning Secret by R.J. Lloyd

It’s my turn on the Blogtour Burning Secret by R.J. Lloyd – ‘An ancestor found, a name change, criminal activity and more in Harry Mason’s great great grandson’s fictionalised retelling of his life.’

About the Author

Tracing your ancestors has never been more popular, but what if your ancestor was far more intriguing than you ever thought? 

In R J Lloyd’s fictionalised reconstruction of his lost ancestor, Burning Secret, he explores the rich past of his great great grandfather and what might have been. Follow @rjlwriteruk on Twitter

About the book

As in life, the book begins in 1844, when Enoch Price was born into poverty. An ambitious youth, he becomes a bare-knuckle fighter in London’s underworld. In debt to a violent and unscrupulous moneylender and facing ruin and imprisonment, he escapes to Jacksonville, Florida, abandoning his wife and three young daughters, a decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life. By the time he arrives in Florida, Enoch Price has become Harry Mason.

Through a series of thrilling and risky escapades, he plays an important role in the development and history of Jacksonville, building an extraordinary new life of political and financial notoriety, shooting a rival, and concealment of a murder. Despite imploring his wife to join him, she declines, exhausted by his lies. 

Tormented by loneliness and guilt, Harry seeks solace through a bigamous marriage, leading him into a web of deceit as he tries to conceal his true identity. Meanwhile, lauded and enjoying popular success, Harry is elected in 1903 to the Florida State House of Representatives with the prospect of becoming State Governor. He advances his business interests through a series of corrupt practices, becoming a wealthy and  successful politician. 

However, success brings neither happiness nor contentment, and, seeking redemption, Harry plans to return home – but life is never that simple as the First World War breaks out, the Spanish flu takes its toll, and the American government introduces prohibition. Will there be a good end for Harry, or will his secrets prove to be the death of him?

Review

Enoch is hanging on to life outside of prison by the skin of his teeth – it’s only a question of time until his troubles catch up with him. He has a wife and three daughters to think of, and he decides to go on the run. With a purpose, with the promise of new beginnings for all of them.

Except it doesn’t work out that way, well for him it does, as he reinvents himself and makes his mark on and in a new country, whilst always thinking about his loved ones. His wife no longer trusts him, and in the end Enoch, now Harry, leaves all aspects of the old life in the past and turns to pastures greener.

In the afterword, there is a lot of information about familial connections and their fate, historical and relevant figures to the story. What I would like to know was just how much of the story is based on fact or fiction. Given the extra information I would say the author has merely filled in the blanks and created likely scenarios, regardless of whether they are often seen from a more positive and/or negative perspective given the the main character is family, and there is no way to reproduce how the first family and wife really felt about the way he abandoned them. 

If he was truly tormented then surely he would have done something about it, but then the house of cards would have collapsed, right? It’s easier to imagine that life goes on, regardless of his presence, but the real question is whether his presence and/or the status he acquired would have made a difference to their lives. The reality of a woman and three small children being left behind in those circumstances – it would have been tough.

It’s a fascinating story that can be interpreted in different ways. You can see the deception and the fact this man led a lifetime of lies or see the man who navigated another path for himself, and made a more positive impact in the second part of his story. Either way it is one heck of a story, and life.

Buy Burning Secret at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Matador, pub date 28 June 2022 | ISBN: 9781803131498 | Price: £10.99. Buy at Amazon comBuy via Troubador – Matador.