The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing by Mary Paulson-Ellis

Review

This book should without a doubt be on some prestigious lists. It is a superbly told story and Paulson-Ellis is a spectacular storyteller. The way she weaves the individual threads through the timelines and the story, is done in such a subtle way you almost don’t realise she is doing it.

The story takes place in the present with the heir hunter Solomon Farthing and in the past with his grandfather in the First World War. Whilst the story bounces back and forth it also takes pit-stops in the years in between. Connections are drawn from the small group of soldiers to the same men in the future and their offspring. The result is a well-plotted narrative about guilt, brotherhood, loyalty and a question of conscience.

There is a parallel between the betting games the soldiers play to pass the time and to fight the fear and anxiety, and the veterans who connect with each other after the war, specifically the items they place as bets. Each one of them brings something, leaves an item and then takes another thing with them. A spool of thread, buttons, walnuts, fruit, cap badges and a pawn ticket. Anything can become one man’s treasure in a setting where every single item can become as precious as a cave full of gold.

At times I had tears in my eyes, it’s emotional and nostalgic, especially because the author brings realism and authenticity to the table. As a reader you can’t help but think about the young boys and men who died under appalling circumstances. Often following the orders that meant they knew they were nothing but bullet fodder for the enemy. Nothing but numbers for their own country.

Would you lead your brothers in arms into death – on a suicide mission? Would you risk death to ensure others cheat death? Of course disregarding an order meant death by firing squad. The crimes of cowardice, pacifism and just pure trauma took far too many victims in the war.

It’s historical war fiction, literary fiction and simultaneously a story filled with unanswered questions and mysteries. It is an excellent read. A book that belongs on best books lists.

Buy The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Mantle; pub date 5 Sept. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Follow @mspaulsonellis on Twitter, Visit marypaulsonellis.co.uk

The Girl at the Window by Rowan Coleman

I’ll admit it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. In fact I thought it was going to be an homage to Hitchcock, because of the title. Instead I was surprised to find an intricate story, actually a Russian doll like story. It was a story based on a classic story, which in turn had a story inside it. Very much a Faberge egg of literary surprises, and most certainly an homage to the legacy of Emily Brontë.

What flows throughout the book is the love, adoration and admiration Coleman has for the Brontë sisters, in particular Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, and of course Ponden Hall. Historical facts are woven into the fictional story seamlessly to the point where the reader is absolutely on board with the possibility that it could be true. And I also admit to googling pics of Ponden Hall, the bed and the window, after reading this.

One of points the author builds into the plot is the question about whether antique and first edition books should be kept secluded from the public in private collections or should the public be allowed to enjoy the magical pleasure of such precious items. There is something mystical about seeing (touching is not allowed) and being around antique books.

This is a ghost story, a thriller, and it’s historical fiction. It is also very much a love story – love for Emily Brontë. There are parallels between the story Emily finds and the one she writes. The destructive power of obsessive love, which readers often read with a romantic pair of spectacles on instead of seeing things in the cold light of day. It’s certainly a captivating read.

Buy The Girl at the Window at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Ebury Press – Paperback pub date 8 Aug. 2019. Ebury Digital pub date 27 Jun. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Follow on @rowancoleman on Twitter, on Goodreads, Visit rowancoleman.co.uk

The Last Letter from Juliet by Melanie Hudson

This is going back quite a few decades, but this reminded me of the television series A Man Called Intrepid. Romance, intrigue and the world of spydom set around WW2.  In this case it is also about women’s empowerment and their role in supporting their countries during the war.

Katherine is enticed or persuaded to go down to Cornwall for Christmas. She is invited to stay in a holiday cottage owned by Juliet. Whilst there she finds notes and letters written by Juliet to remind herself of her own past, memories and those she loves and loved the most.

Letters written as reminders to a woman who fears she will one day forget everything she has experienced and more importantly forget the heartache and the love she experienced. Katherine finds herself captivated by the stories Juliet has left behind.

The story wanders from Katherine in the present to the beautiful story of Juliet in the past. It’s the gripping heartfelt story of an incredibly brave and determined woman and the man she falls in love with. It’s also a glimpse at the women of the Air Transport Auxiliary service during the Second World War.

Hudson captures those stolen moments in dangerous and desperate times. It’s a love story and a story about loyalty, support and the love of flying. I enjoyed the way Hudson let Juliet’s story play out. It was beautiful, nostalgic and emotional.

It’s historical fiction with a charming love story at the core.

Buy The Last Letter from Juliet at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: One More Chapter; pub date 23 Aug. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Follow @Melanie_Hudson_ on Twitter

#BlogTour Children of Sinai by Shelley Clarke

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour Children of Sinai by Shelley Clarke. It’s an interesting combination of history, theology and biblical tales, genetics and magical realism.

About the Author

Shelley Clarke was born into a naval family in Kent in 1958, and consequently moved house a lot as a child. She had ambitions to follow in her father’s footsteps and join the Royal Navy, and to become a carpenter, but these were not female occupations at that time. So she learned to type… which has come in jolly handy for putting her stories first onto paper, and now onto screen.

Shelley is a keen painter, poet, and karaoke enthusiast; she loves mad family get-togethers, hates olives, ironing and gardening, and currently lives in Devon with her husband Kev, and their two Tibetan Terriers Nena and Pepi, who make them smile every day.

Shelley often forgets she is a grown-up.

Children of Sinai is Shelley’s debut novel. The story had been bouncing around her head for many years, and putting it down on paper has been the hardest thing she’s ever had to do. She certainly could not have got through this experience without a lot of cursing and chocolate!

Follow @Shelley62628484 on Twitter, on Facebookon GoodreadsBuy Children of Sinai

About the book

How would you feel if you got caught up in a secret so vast it threatened everything the world had come to believe?

That’s what happened to John Milburn, computer science lecturer, orphan, husband and father, who lived an ordinary life in Haverhill, Suffolk, England.

That is, until the dreams started…

From the idyllic calm of Cambridge, John Milburn is drawn to the dust and the heat of Jericho. Thrown into danger and intrigue, he discovers more than he’d bargained for.

‘A wowser of a tale that is exciting and thought-provoking with a cast of characters you’ll fall in love with. Inspired by Biblical events, historical finds, theories and the author’s own strange imagination.’Review

John is plagued by recurrent nightmares. In the dream he is climbing a mountain towards a cave. He sees no connection between his life and the dreams. No Freudian connection or repressed desires or fears. There is simply no reason he can think of to explain the dreams. Then something happens to make him realise that the dream is something powerful enough to change life as he knows it.

He is reluctant to admit fate is holding the winning hand in his game of cards, despite the fact the events that unfold suggest exactly the opposite. Was it always meant to be? Written in the stars, the sand and in the dreams of many?

Clarke lets each element meld perfectly into one story, and by not letting one overshadow the other, it becomes a read you can enjoy regardless of which genre you prefer as a reader. The biblical elements don’t veer off into a question of religion or faith, they are merely used as historical references in relation to the storyline.

I liked the way Clarke drew parallels to biblical figures and stories without pointing a big arrow at them. They are self-explanatory and well-known enough for readers to get the reference even if you only have basic knowledge and aren’t a bible-thumping zealot.

It’s an interesting combination of history, theology and biblical tales, genetics and magical realism. It has a wee bit of a Dan Brown meets genetics and encounters the fantastical vibe. To counter the parts that stretch the imagination the author gives us scenarios that are and could be a reality. The balancing act really sets the tone of the piece.

Buy Children of Sinai at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour A Tapestry of Treason by Anne O’Brien

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

About the Author

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

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

About the book

Her actions could make history but at what price?

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

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

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

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

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

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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

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

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

Buy The Deaths and Afterlife of Aleister Crowley

About the book

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

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

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

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

#BlogTour A Right Royal Face-Off by Simon Edge

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour A Right Royal Face-Off by Simon Edge. It’s historical fiction infused with the critical and disillusioned voice of the present.

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About the Author

Simon Edge was born in Chester and read philosophy at Cambridge University.

He was editor of the pioneering London paper Capital Gay before becoming a gossip columnist on the Evening Standard and then a feature writer on the Daily Express, where he was also a theatre critic for many years.

He has an MA in Creative Writing from City University, London. His first novel, The Hopkins Conundrum, was longlisted for the Waverton Good Read Award. He lives in Suffolk.

Read more about Simon and his work at www.simon-edge.com. Follow @simonjedge on Twitter, on Instagram, on GoodreadsBuy A Right Royal Face-Off 

About the book

It is 1777, and England’s second-greatest portrait artist, Thomas Gainsborough, has a thriving practice a stone’s thrown from London’s royal palaces, while the press talks up his rivalry with Sir Joshua Reynolds, the pedantic theoretician who is the top dog of British portraiture.

Fonder of the low life than high society, Gainsborough loathes pandering to grand sitters, but he changes his tune when he is commissioned to paint King George III and his large family. In their final, most bitter competition, who will be chosen as court painter, Tom or Sir Joshua?

Meanwhile, two and a half centuries later, a badly damaged painting turns up on a downmarket antiques TV show being filmed in Suffolk. Could the monstrosity really be, as its eccentric owner claims, a Gainsborough? If so, who is the sitter? And why does he have donkey’s ears?

Mixing ancient and modern as he did in his acclaimed debut The Hopkins Conundrum, Simon Edge takes aim at fakery and pretension in this highly original celebration of one of our greatest artists.Review

The story alternates between the past and the present, with both being linked via the medium of art. In 1777 we are introduced to the petty and competitive world of portrait painting. During a time when it wasn’t possible to capture an image in the blink of an eye and messages weren’t passed from person to person within a matter of seconds. A time when the image of self on a canvas was considered an immense talent.

The story is told through three characters, who give the tale an air of a global stage with each of them vying for a moment in the spotlight. David, the young footman, gives us the perspective of the lower class. He writes regularly to his mother and tells her of his life and that of his master. It gives the other stories a little more perspective, especially that of Gainsborough.

Gainsborough invests a lot of time in a feud with a fellow painter and equally as much showing his disdain for the more popular element of his profession. It’s commercialism 101. Some things never change – no matter how many centuries pass by. It’s interesting how certain moral quandaries can be laid aside when recognition, fame and fortune are involved.

One of the most memorable moments was piglets do still-life, as only lively little piglets can do, with a lot of spunk and little concern for the artist. I think it’s fair to say Gainsborough has his work cut out for him.

Edge writes with charm and a cheeky sense of humour. It’s historical fiction infused with the critical and disillusioned voice of the present. It’s an intriguing mixture of fact and fiction, never too much history to drown out the fictional story, but also enough to keep readers hooked.

Buy A Right Royal Face-Off at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Lightning Books; pub date 25 July 2019. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Lightning Books.

Enter the Giveaway to Win 5 x PB copies of A Right Royal Face-Off (UK Only)

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