The Women at Hitler’s Table by Rosella Postorino

Review

This story is inspired by true events and the life of Margot Wolk. For whatever reason Margot chose to take her secrets and her story to her grave. I can imagine she perhaps felt guilt in some measure. She was the only one of the women to survive and they didn’t die of old age – her connections proved advantageous to her survival at the time. There was also possibly a feeling that she was one of the people keeping Hitler and his officers alive.

Rosa is picked by the SS to work in Hitlers Lair, as one of a group of women who taste the food before Hitler and his officers partake of the same meal. Make no mistake this wasn’t voluntary, and despite there being austerity and a lack of food due to the war, eating the food was no pleasure.

When a meal turns into a game of life or death each mouthful of food becomes a balancing act between culinary delight and painful death.

Postorino shows the eccentric and paranoid side of Hitler. The way he was consumed with fear, which in turn fuelled his hatred and anger. It has an element of Roman pomposity to it – taste my grapes peasant.

In a way I found it disappointing that the author didn’t actually speak to Wolk – this is actually the aspect of the story I felt was missing, because it lacks the authenticity of an eyewitness. There are moments that speak to the trauma, the ruthless methodology of the regime. Then there are others, which smack of gratuitous drama.

Don’t get me wrong, the read and the story that inspired the book, are absolutely compelling. Postorino gives life to one of the stories that vanish in the many folds of historical accounts.

Buy The Women at Hitler’s Table at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HarperCollins; pub date 14 Nov. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

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#BlogTour The Secret Letter by Kerry Barrett

It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Secret Letter by Kerry Barrett.

About the Author

Kerry has always loved books, words, writing and reading. She was a very bookish child and read all the time. She remembers challenging herself to read all the Famous Five books by her seventh birthday – but she doesn’t remember if she succeeded!

From growing up on a diet of Enid Blyton, Noel Streatfeild, and Sweet Valley High, she moved on to Jackie Collins and her all-time favourite Jilly Cooper. She studied English Literature and Language at the University of Birmingham, then after university, she trained as a journalist and worked on various newspapers and magazines as a writer and editor. In her spare time, she wrote and rewrote what would eventually become her first novel, Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, which was published in 2013.

Kerry now divides her time between writing her own novels and editing other people’s. She loves editing as much as writing and she thinks being an editor helps improve her writing, while being a writer makes her a better editor.

Kerry is from Edinburgh originally, but now she lives in South London with her husband and two sons.

Follow @kerrybean73 and @HQDigitalUK on Twitter,  on Goodreadson Amazon, Visit kerrybarrett.co.ukBuy The Secret Letter

About the book

I signed the letter with a flourish. I wouldn’t send it. There was no need. But I wanted to keep it somewhere safe, somewhere I could find it if I ever needed to remember why I’d done what I’d done. The fight goes on, I told myself. The fight goes on…

London, 1910. Twenty-one-year-old Esther Watkins would do anything for the Suffragette cause. Imprisoned, force-fed and beaten, she is determined to fight for what she believes is right – no matter what it costs her. With new love Joseph by her side, will she get the better future she dreams of?

Kent, 2019. With her marriage in tatters, school teacher Lizzie Armstrong moves to sleepy Elm Heath for a fresh start, and her pupils and the community soon steal her heart. So when the school is threatened with closure Lizzie knows she has to fight, and she looks to the school’s founder for inspiration.

What makes Esther, born and bred in London, a proud Suffragette, suddenly leave the city and escape to Elm Heath? And when Lizzie uncovers Esther’s heartbreaking secret, could it give her the strength she needs to save not just the school, but her new beginning too?

Review

Esther is brave and so are her fellow Suffragettes, but fighting to have a voice comes with a price. Prison, police brutality and being shunned by family, friends and colleagues are just a few things that come to mind. Having to find new homes and employment were no easy feat in 1910. Luckily Esther finds other like-minded women to support her.

When she falls in love she doesn’t expect that relationship to define the rest of her life and the choices she makes, but in a way it does. Those choices are also the beginning of the story Lizzie becomes wrapped up in.

In 2019 Lizzie is recovering from betrayal, heartbreak and adjustments in her career. A bit of a pariah in educational circles she finds her way to a school in Elm Heath, which is in as much need of assistance as indeed she is. There she discovers Esther and the will to fight for what is right.

It’s a double time-line contemporary read and simultaneously also historical fiction.

Barrett shows us women’s empowerment and what that looks like in our day and age, and for women in the past. In the 21st century it’s easy to forget the struggle of the women who came before us. The courageous women who had to endure pain, humiliation, violations and imprisonment for decades, so we can cast a vote just as easily as the opposite gender. The fact it isn’t part of our conscious thought process it perhaps why so many throw away their heavily fought for right to vote away at each given opportunity.

The Suffragettes would be appalled at the way many throw away the opportunity to have a political voice, but perhaps more so because of how hard they fought for it. Of course one could argue that choosing not to vote is also part of democracy.

This story is all about collaboration, even when it stretches over decades, and acknowledging that sometimes we fight not only for ourselves, but also future generations.

Buy The Secret Letter at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HQ – HQ Digital; pub date 6 Feb. 2020. Buy at Amazon com.

Read my review of The Hidden Women by Kerry Barrett.

#BlogTour Wartime for the Shop Girls by Joanna Toye

Today it’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Wartime for the Shop Girls by Joanna Toye.

About the Author

Joanna Toye joined the production team of The Archers after reading English at Cambridge University, and became a scriptwriter for the programme for over twenty years. She has written a number of spin-off books about the long-running radio drama. On television, she has written for Crossroads, Doctors and Eastenders.

Follow @JoannaToye on Twitter, on Instagramon Amazonon GoodreadsBuy Wartime for the Shop Girls

About the book

It’s 1942 and as shortages of staff – and goods – begin to bite, young Lily Collins is thrilled to step up to sales junior in her job at Marlow’s department store.

But bombs are still falling and Lily and fellow shop girls Gladys and Beryl need a stiff upper lip to wave boyfriends, husbands and brothers goodbye, especially with a baby on the way and grim news on the wireless. When Jim, who works with Lily at the store, seems restless, things are bad enough, but nothing can prepare Lily for the secrets that come tumbling out when her favourite brother comes home on leave…

Somehow, she must keep smiling trough. Community, family and friends rally round as her home town – and the whole country – is tested once again.

Review

This is the second book in a new series set in the fictional department store Marlow’s. Both books can absolutely also be read as standalone novels.

The charm of this series is the normality of it all, well as normal as it can be when you’re writing about World War II. Instead of delving into the horrors of that period in history Toye gives the readers the war at home. The changes, the coping and the new structures needed to sustain everyone on the homefront.

How everyone comes together to support Beryl while she is feeling vulnerable and Gladys becomes brave enough to speak her mind. The way Lily deals with a secret that brings grave consequences with it. All of them know that they are stronger together, as opposed to letting themselves be ripped apart by the tragic losses and fear they experience.

The focus is on a few characters, family and friends and the way they deal with the heartache and the fear. It gives it a warmer feel – emotions and situations the reader can relate to. It could be your family, which is exactly what the strength of the series is.

It’s historical fiction set in Britain during World War II. Toye uses the department store to show the changes and difficulties during that time on a small scale, which makes it easier to imagine and comprehend all of it on a national scale. Women stepping into the roles of men to ensure that the country, and the war machine kept running. Families having to deal with the uncertainty of their loved one being in the midst of dangerous conflicts. Hoping every day that a death or MIA message wouldnt be delivered to their door.

The author captures all of that in this heartfelt story, which is ultimately about family and friendships holding each person together in the most difficult time of their lives. It will be interesting to follow Lily, Beryl and Gladys as their stories continue in the third book of this series.

Buy Wartime for the Shop Girls at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HarperCollins pub date 23 Jan. 2020. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson

Today it’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson.About the Author

‘My baptismal name may be Giovanna but here in my mother’s adopted country I have become plain Joan; I am not pink-cheeked and golden-haired like the beauties they admire. I have olive skin and dark features – black brows over ebony eyes and hair the colour of a raven’s wing…’

When Joan Vaux is sent to live in the shadow of the Tower of London, she must learn to navigate the treacherous waters of this new England under the Tudors. Like the ravens, Joan must use her eyes and her senses, if Henry and his new dynasty are to prosper and thrive …

About the book

Joanna Hickson spent twenty-five years presenting and producing News and Arts programmes for the BBC. Her first published book was a children’s historical novel Rebellion at Orford Castle but more recently she has turned to adult fiction, concentrating on bringing fifteenth century English history and some of its fascinating principal characters to life. She is married with a large family and gets inspiration from her Wiltshire farmhouse home, which dates back to her chosen period.

Review

Where there are Plantagenets, Yorks, and eventually the Tudors – there will be suspicion, death, murder so wicked and mystery. British history is one big boiling pot of intrigue. When it comes to writing historical fiction within the setting of said history it’s important to get the balance between fact and fiction just right.

Hickson not only understands how to – she does it seamlessly as if she were inviting the reader to a front row seat. You have to understand the complexity of the system, structure, culture and people to be able to portray the ever-changing game of loyalty and thrones, which changed as easily as the direction of the wind.

Joan Vaux doesn’t fear the Tower or the ravens others openly despise and try to eradicate. Instead she faces her duties and the complicated hierarchy of lineage, loyalty and royalty head on. Make no mistake though, she does it with her own safety and that of her family in mind. Although the expectation of bending the knee and accepting decisions made by others without her consent isn’t something she swallows without complaint.

It’s historical fiction – a mystery interwoven with myth and intrigue. I really loved the way Hickson wove the legend of the ravens of the Tower of London into this story – she pays tribute to the incredibly clever corvids – the silent symbols of the Crown.

Joan Vaux played a pivotal role in history when Henry VIII started on his path of the many merry wives, although one could argue that her words fell on empty ears at the time because it didn’t fit the agenda. Like many women in history who are relegated to stagehand positions in the retelling of history, her position gave her access and opportunity to influence. The author lets that aspect play out in this story, which may appear to be underwhelming, but is much more in keeping with the era, her position in the household and lack of power.

Buy The Lady of the Ravens at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher HQ – HarperCollins, pub date 9th January 2020 | Hardback | Ebook | Audio | £14.99. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Notes from the Lost by Cathie Hartigan

Today it is my turn on the BlogTour Notes from the Lost by Cathie Hartigan.About the Author

Cathie Hartigan lives in the beautiful, historic city of Exeter.

Although her professional training was in music, a decade ago she swapped one keyboard for another in order to take her life-long love of writing more seriously. Since then, she has won several prizes for her short stories and was a finalist in the annual Woman and Home short story competition three times.

Cathie lectured in creative writing for nine years at Exeter College before leaving to found CreativeWritingMatters.co.uk, which offers a range of writing services and administers four international literary competitions a year, including The Exeter Novel Prize and The Trisha Ashley Award.

When not writing, Cathie sings in a small vocal ensemble. The beautiful Devon coastline also provides plenty of distraction but on a rainy day if there’s an opera or theatre screening at the cinema, she’ll be there.

Follow @cathiehartigan on Twitter,  on Amazonon Goodreadson FacebookBuy Notes from the Lost

About the book

In October 1943, when prisoners of war Alfie and Frank escape from a train taking them to Germany, their lives depend on the family of shepherds who shelter them. In constant jeopardy, the young men wait out the winter in the Italian mountains. In 2000, Ros Goudy inherits her music teacher’s home in Exeter and there she finds letters that reveal the soldiers’ fate. Only one made it back, but it wasn’t to a warm welcome and happy ever after. What had happened that turned heads and hearts against him? The trail she follows begins with an charming comic song composed before the war. What she discovers is that everyone, including herself, has something to hide.

Review

This is a story with two timelines, it goes from past to present and eventually the two stories meld into one. In the present a young musician inherits the house of her old music teacher. Inside the house Ros finds letters that shed light on events during the escape of some Allied soldiers during World War 2.

In a way the two stories often feel as if they are a world apart, despite the reader knowing that somewhere along the line both will connect in some way.

What shines through about the story in the past is the way mere mortals caught in the midst of the brutality and unfairness of war are often capable of the most courageous acts. It’s those actions that define us during times of great turmoil. Not the majority who remained silent, but the minority who chose to do the right thing, despite the real danger to themselves.

In the present the story isn’t just about secrets it is also about finding your own truth and strength to follow your dreams. Perhaps in a way it is also about doing what is right in certain situations, as opposed to what is right in the eyes of society.

It’s historical fiction with a strong emphasis on camaraderie and support in the direst of times. A love for music shines through and  a reverence for history. Hartigan draws readers in with bare emotions and keeps them captivated as they wander through two timelines.

Buy Notes from the Lost at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Buy at Amazon com.

#PublicationDayPush Christmas at Ladywell by Nicola Slade

Today it’s the Publication Day Push for Christmas at Ladywell by Nicola Slade.

Enter the Giveaway below to Win a .mobi or PDF of The Convalescent Corpse by Nicola Slade (Open INT)About the Author

Nicola Slade is an award-winning, bestselling author of historical and contemporary mysteries and romantic fiction, all set in and around Winchester and Romsey in Hampshire – which is where she lives. The House at Ladywell – a contemporary romantic novel with historical echoes – won the Chatelaine Grand Prize for Romantic Fiction at the CIBA awards in April 2019.

She is the author of the mid-Victorian Charlotte Richmond mysteries and the contemporary Harriet Quigley mysteries and The Convalescent Corpse, published November 2018, is the first in a new series, The Fyttleton Mysteries, set in 1918.

Follow @nicolasladeuk on Twitter, on Facebookon Pintereston Goodreadson Amazonnicolaslade.comnicolaslade.wordpress.comBuy Christmas at LadywellAbout the book

A time for spilling secrets…

Having refurbished her inherited house and upcycled her whole life in the process, Freya – now happily married to Patrick, and with a small child –  has to transform her tiny stone barn into a romantic hideaway for a mystery guest who is also looking for change. With Christmas only a week away, things don’t go according to plan…

In the past old uncertainties are resolved when an elderly woman seeks the truth of a legend on Christmas Eve and confesses to a deception; a Tudor wife listens to a story that must never be repeated and is given a precious relic that must never be displayed; and in the early nineteenth century an old woman tells a younger one the story of the hares at Ladywell.

Past and present are only a whisper apart when Freya learns of an astonishing discovery that will make Ladywell famous, but meanwhile her house is full of unexpected visitors, she has a turkey to cook – and a very special secret of her own that must be told.

Review

This is a novella length read. If you want to find out how the main character in the present, Freya, found her way to Lady’s Well then I suggest reading The House at Ladywell by Slade. Both can absolutely be read as standalone books though.

Perhaps it is wrong to say Freya is the main character, because that isn’t really correct. The main character will always be Ladywell or the Lady’s Well. The stories take place here – just in different periods of time and history. They are told mainly by the women who are empowered by the strength and earthly magic of Lady’s Well.

Each one of them, and often also the men of the Wellman family, have a story to tell about survival and belief. How their resilience and determination to keep their family and Ladywell safe is the main factor throughout time.

It’s magical realism and historical fiction combined with the story in the present. What’s really intriguing is the way each snippet of the past constitutes its own story and all within the same setting. Then each tale and the characters are strengthened by the essence of faith or belief in the power of an almost ritualistic pagan magic. Be kind to the earth and creatures and that kindness will returned to you and yours tenfold. It’s an important message in our day and age.

Slade takes an interesting element of earth or natural magic and the power of women, which is cemented in the soul and base of Mother Earth. It gives the story an aura of magic, but without wandering into the realm of magic.

Buy Christmas at Ladywell at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Crooked Cat Books; pub date 4 Nov. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Enter the Giveaway to Win a .mobi or PDF of The Convalescent Corpse by Nicola Slade (Open INT)

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#HalloweenTakeover The Lost Ones by Anita Frank

Welcome to the #HalloweenTakeover for The Lost Ones by Anita Frank. You don’t want to miss this brilliant ghost story!

About the Author

Anita Frank was born in Shropshire and studied English and American History at the University of East Anglia. She lives in Berkshire with her husband and three children and is now a full-time carer for her disabled son. This is her first novel.

Follow @Ajes74 on Twitter, on Goodreadson AmazonBuy The Lost Ones

About the book

England 1917

Reeling from the death of her fiance, Stella Marcham welcomes the opportunity to stay with her pregnant sister, Madeleine, at her imposing country mansion Greyswick – but she arrives to discover a house of unease and her sister gripped by gear and suspicion.

Before long strange incidents begin to trouble Stella – sobbing in the night, little footsteps on the stairs – and as events escalate, she finds herself drawn to the tragic history of the house.

Aided by a wounded war veteran, Stella sets about uncovering Greyswick’s dark and terrible secrets – secrets the dead whisper from the other side…

Review

This is how you write a good ol’ ghost story.

Set in 1917 in England, during one of the most devastating periods the world has gone through – the era of the Lost Generation. Husbands, sons, brothers and fathers struck down, whilst protecting their country. In an era where PTSD, shellshock were not recognised as genuine health conditions and trauma considered a weak personality trait, it’s no surprise that grief is waved away as inconsiderate and inconsequential nonsense.

This is where the story starts with Stella. A brave young woman who has served her country and is drowning in grief since the loss of her childhood sweetheart. Grief that has driven her to attempt the last resort and in doing so has placed her firmly in the bracket of unstable.

To escape the prying eyes of her parents and the local head shrink she volunteers to keep her pregnant sister Madeleine company in Greyswick, the ancestral home of Madeleine’s husband. She brings a maid called Annie with her – a young woman who has her own secrets.

The two of them find a distraught Madeleine, who is convinced she is being taunted or haunted by someone, which her mother-in-law and her companion find ridiculous. Is the hysteria catching or is there really something wrong at Greyswick?

That’s as much information as I am willing to give, because readers should experience the read for themselves, both the creepy, the insidious and the moments that are guaranteed to make you angry at certain characters.

The story is set around the First World War, which plays a pivotal part in the characters lives and the storytelling, but for me it was also the only element of the book that was off-key in a way. Why, because it is written with the spellbinding magic of a slightly older era. The skirt-swishing Victorian era, the gothic atmosphere and sense of being taken back into time. I had to remind myself of the year it was actually set in.

It’s an absolutely captivating ghost story, it’s historical fiction, a plot written with a Christie crime vibe and executed with the same kind of precision. I very much hope this is the first of many stories by Frank – she is an excellent writer.

Buy The Lost Ones at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HQ; pub date  31 Oct. 2019. Hardback £12.99 – eBook £9.99 – Audio Download £12.99. Buy at Amazon comBuy at Waterstones.