The Merest Loss – Steven Neil

Welcome back to another week and another book tour! This week’s book had me a little stumped as I thought there’d be more direct political espionage happening throughout the book. Yet it felt more like a biography of a political mistresses life.

At the start of parts 1 and 2 the book is written from Tom’s point of view about a young man named Martin coming to meet with him about solving an old family mystery. At this stage I was thinking we’d be reading about the espionage as Martin discovers more about his family mystery. However I was quickly proven wrong in the second chapter when we swapped to Harriet’s life when she was still a child. The biggest thing that annoyed me about this change was that it was then written in 3rd person. So even though we still find out what people are thinking, or feeling; it felt awkward to me swapping between these writing styles throughout the book.

Once I got a couple chapters in I adjusted to the 3rd person style and found it easy to read and quite enjoyable as we read about Harriet’s various adventures and exploits. We learnt about her acting career, the move into the political world, working to make herself independent financially. And I can only imagine how hard that would have been, especially as she needed to have a guardian in order to do so.

As I was reading about Harriet’s life I was trying to figure out the answer to Martin’s family mystery. I was also conscious of how Steven wrote Harriet’s story to leave the options open so it wasn’t easy to decide. But there were a few clues that I missed that would have given me the answer I was looking for if I had have been paying attention that were then explained in the 3rd part of the book.

When I did reach that critical part of the book I was left feeling a little bit silly for not having picked up on the clues because in hindsight there were kinda obvious. Once I got over feeling silly at myself I then started wondering what could be left to tell? Was the story turning into more of a biography than a mystery? Would Harriet finally find happiness that she’s been longing for all this time?

Right up until the end of the story Harriet fights for what she wants and needs from life and that is such a true reflection of real life. In real life we all (at least I THINK we all go through this…) struggle to balance work, family life, social life, sleep, hobbies and the gym. Personally, I know I really struggle with this and it often feels like I’m on one of those merry go round things at high speed just waiting to be thrown off. So for Harriet to mostly make it through everything she had pushing on her and everything she was trying to juggle is amazing. Kudos to her!

I hope you enjoyed this weeks review, and I look forward to seeing you next week for “Daisy” by Karen Botha on another Book Tour. Continue reading further down to find out about the author.

Author Bio

Steven Neil has a BSc in Economics from the London School of Economics, a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from the Open University and an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University. In his working life he has been a bookmaker’s clerk, management tutor, management consultant, bloodstock agent and racehorse breeder. He is married and lives in rural Northamptonshire.

Chasing Ghosts – Madalyn Morgan

Welcome back everyone, I hope you enjoyed having a bonus book review last week. It was a one day only affair and I really liked the sound of the book so wanted to participate even though it wasn’t on my normal posting day.

Ok, now that you know what interested me I’ll get into the book. We start off with Claire arriving home after being questioned by an RAF captain within hours of returning to England from Canada with her daughter. But without her husband. And the fact that she’s being questioned started to ring alarm bells for me. It’d been a while since I’d read the blurb so I had forgotten about the whole war treachery thing which meant I was obviously confused at this stage.

Then the next chapter we go back in time to when Claire, Mitch and their daughter Aimee are flying to Canada. From here the book continue in chronological order. No more skipping back in time. So we get to find out why Mitch never made his flight and was declared AWOL. Except after find out he stayed overnight in the hospital where he was getting treatment and Claire wasn’t told until like 24 hours later we don’t get any more details about why he missed his flight! So frustrating!

I could empathise with Claire when she went to pick up her husband coz that just didn’t feel right. Her not being told he’d freaked out during his session and so had to be sedated and stay overnight. And why is the doctor’s nurse calling Claire telling her she could pick him up but all the other nurse’s saying she shouldn’t have known he was there? It just felt super weird and I started to get a bad feeling about the doctor.

Once we get back to England and I find out all the shit Mitch’s commanding officer has done to Claire and Mitch’s grandmother I started to think maybe he was responsible for Mitch’s overnight stay in the hospital. I mean, why else would you immediately drag Claire to be questioned for hours on end, search her house while she’s away and can’t stop them or see what they are looking for. And they gave Mitch’s poor grandmother the same treatment. And at Christmas time no less! I can easily say I was righteously outraged right along with them.

The fact that Claire had to secretly sneak out of the country to try and find her husband and why he went “AWOL” is a bit ridiculous to me. But she managed it, along with the help of her old French Resistance friends. Through a number of connections and old school spy craft Claire makes it from Oxford all the way to Paris where she’s able to figure out her next steps. And these next steps come with the help of the Paris Resistance’s old leader who seems to be flirting with Claire yet not… Makes me wonder what those two got up to during the war time before she married Mitch.

Through good old fashioned detective work they manage to find the proof they needed to clear Mitch’s name. Not only did they manage to find someone who could tell them about how Mitch was injured escaping the prison, those same people potentially risked their lives to give Claire indisputable proof that Mitch isn’t a traitor. And not only that, but Claire is able to Now the only problem is getting that information from the backwards part of France they are in to the appropriate authorities without getting killed or arrested along the way.

And throughout this time Claire is fighting to keep calm because she doesn’t know if the woman that seems to have instigated all of this drama is someone he had an affair with (and if he did, she’s not sure when this happened), someone he met in the prison he was trapped in and so feels survivors guilt because she didn’t make it out; or, is it like what’s been suggested by the doctor in Canada, this woman is someone from the prison that was actually a German double agent who turned Mitch and that’s how he was shot escaping. Because he gave the Germans that info. But which is it? With all the subterfuge going on how can Claire unravel all the mess to discover the truth?

Throughout this time, the sexual tension between Claire and her Resistance friend Thomas is rising. They almost kiss a few times but always seem to be interrupted. Which does make you wonder what happened during the war that there is such a strong connection when she’s searching for her husband. Or is she feeling like this because she’s wondering if her husband’s heart belongs to someone else? I can understand how emotions can get confused when you’re with the same person and no one else for days at a time. And throw in there that you feel rejected by your husband who you thought loved you and it makes it that much harder to resist. So hat’s off to her for resisting! Even when it’s obvious he likes her.

After all the drama that’s happened I finally felt like everything had worked itself out. Claire had her husband back, the authorities were made aware of what had really happened and were hunting down the right person. And I felt like the story was winding down to a great finish. Only for it to ramp right up again!

And this time we get to see a deeper side to Claire’s spy skills. And boy was it amazing! Even while reading the last portion of this book while sick I was fighting falling asleep again (btw I had already had a full nights sleep at this time) I really wanted to finish it and see them make it home to their daughter. Because if they don’t then that would be a tragic ending. And I really didn’t want a tragic ending. And luckily I wasn’t left hanging for long! It turned out I was closer to the end of the book than I realised so I got a really good happy ending.

Writing up this post and reviewing the details of the blog tour I realised that this book is actually one in a series and isn’t the first book. So I’m hoping I can go back and read the rest of the series. Maybe I’ll get to read about some parts of this story that were mentioned but not gone into depth with. So keep an eye out those those in the future! But not sure when that will happen yet.

Author Bio

Madalyn Morgan has been an actress for more than thirty years working in Repertory theatre, the West End, film and television. She is a radio presenter and journalist, writing articles for newspapers and magazines.

Madalyn was brought up in Lutterworth, at the Fox Inn. The pub was a great place for an aspiring actress and writer to live, as there were so many different characters to study and accents to learn. At twenty-four Madalyn gave up a successful hairdressing salon and wig-hire business for a place at E15 Drama College, and a career as an actress.

In 2000, with fewer parts available for older actresses, Madalyn taught herself to touch type, completed a two-year correspondence course with The Writer’s Bureau, and started writing. After living in London for thirty-six years, she has returned to her home town of Lutterworth, swapping two window boxes and a mortgage, for a garden and the freedom to write.

Happy to be an Indie Author, Madalyn has successfully published six novels. Foxden Acres, Applause, China Blue and The 9:45 To Bletchley are set before and during WW2 and tell the wartime stories of Bess, Margot, Claire, and Ena Dudley. Foxden Hotel and Chasing Ghosts are both post war. Chasing Ghosts is a sequel to China Blue.

Madalyn’s books are available on Amazon – in paperback and all formats of eBook.

The Warrior’s Bride Prize – Jenni Fletcher

Welcome to a bonus review for you. Today is the day that Jenni Fletcher’s “The Warrior’s Bride Prize” is released and I gota say. I really enjoyed this one! I read this while holed up in bed exhausted and trying to recover so I’m really glad I got to do it with a good book.

Overall this book spans only a handful of days, but in quite a bit of detail which is different to most of the books I’ve read recently. We started off with Livia in a carriage to a fort near Hadrian’s Wall to meet her soon to be husband. Along the way when she’s fairly sure her, her daughter Julia and her main are getting close to their destination they are stopped. Eager to find out what the hold up was after hearing voices but no fighting Livia steps out and comes face to faces with the man she believes to be her future future.

I think we all wish we had that moment when we come face to face with a guy who looks so perfect you can’t help but fall in love straight away. Except I don’t believe that that really happens. I believe that attraction is possible at first sight. I know I had that with my partner when I first saw him. But surely they don’t have a full on attraction so quickly? Not enough to try and ruin their lives? Surely?

Then reading about how they struggled through fighting their attraction while she had to try not to kill her newest fiance was a struggle. For both of them. Which was actually quite amusing for me. This meant every time I laughed at their awkwardness I ended up in coughing fits that then hurt. But I’m hoping that tells you how funny I found those moments. There is obviously some emotional connections, but they had to fight their way through all their social awkwardness and mistakes they made with each other.

And of course right as they finally seemed to connect; Livia’s past comes in the way and makes it impossible for them to move forward. Only to have Livia ignore Marius’s wishes. But lucky she did, coz that made him realise how much he loved her. And in typical manly fashion he lies and pretends to hate her to get her to leave the dangerous frontier so that he can concentrate on fighting and surviving. I know if I was in her place I would be completely pissed and would struggle to accept him if he came grovelling back. So at this stage I was starting to wonder if this would be the first book in the series. Because surely it’d be one hell of a journey for Livia to forgive Marius?

Given the way the book ended I don’t think there’d be a second book. But I did finish it wishing there was more. Even if it didn’t follow Marius and Livia it could follow Scaevola. Or maybe Julia some time in the future? I dunno, but I really want to read more about these two. I loved the way Jenni wrote this story and it totally hooked me in throughout the whole time. The major thing that sucked was that I kept almost falling asleep while I wanted to read. Now that I’ve had a chance to read her writing style I look forward to reading more of her books in the future.

Now if you haven’t picked this up already, I think you should go and buy this book, take a couple of sick days (ok maybe don’t fake it…) and buy this one to read immediately! Worst comes to worst, put this on your Christmas wish list for someone to buy for you.

If you’re interested in buying this one, you can get it via the Amazon and Barnes and Noble links below as well as iBooks and WHSmith.

Author Bio

Jenni Fletcher was born on the north coast of Scotland and now lives in Yorkshire, where she writes Medieval, Roman and Victorian romance novels.

She studied English at Cambridge University before doing an MA on Women and Literature in English and a PhD on Victorian & Edwardian literature at Hull. After realising that she was better at writing than teaching, she worked in a number of administrative jobs whilst trying to finish her first book, which was rejected. Thinking there must have been some mistake, she then wrote another, which was fortunately accepted by Harlequin Mills & Boon.

Her favourite Jane Austen novel is Persuasion and her favourite Brontë is Anne. If she had to choose a romantic hero it would be John Thornton, but maybe that’s just because she’s Northern.

The Sheik’s Son – Nicola Italia

Welcome back, I’ve been looking forward to writing this review pretty much since I first started reading this book because it combines two things that I really love. History and books. Not only is it a book steeped with history, but it’s also filled with iconic individuals from history writing about their thoughts and experiences and then discussing these in salons.

This book is set in Paris in 1788, less than a year before the French Revolution began in earnest. As soon as I saw the date I started scrambling back through my memories of high school history when I studied the French Revolution to remember when it began, how it broke out and how quickly it impacted the French high classes. Thinking back on these memories I found myself eager to jump in and find out what exactly this book could be about, especially since the title suggests there’s an Arabian prince involved.

I quickly discovered that this book was going to be a typical romance novel, however it would be set in a specific time in history which would also impact what would happen throughout the book. Sophie, our main character, is a young Parisian woman who is educated more than most women in that time who’s grandmother has been trying to marry off for the past few years. However Sophie doesn’t want another Parisian dandy man. She wants an intelligent man who isn’t afraid of the fact that she is educated and he needs to be able to challenge her intellectually. Which in that time is difficult to find.

While Sophie is resisting marriage due to the difficulty of finding someone that will complement and challenge her, she is introduced to Madame Necker and her salon. Madame Necker is a well known French woman who ran one of the most celebrated salon’s in French history; if you Google her you can find her fairly easily. By taking part in this salon Sophie is constantly thrust into the same space as Sebastian, our other main character who we also hear from throughout the book. While pushing Sebastian away Sophie is also trying to educate herself about any topic that comes up in the salon’s that she doesn’t know much about.

Sophie’s drive to educate herself further really struck a chord with me as I tend to do the same thing. Maybe not to the same degree as Sophie does, however I also found that just like in Sophie’s case there are many people today that will criticise and judge those that seek to further educate themselves. I don’t know if people do this out of fear of being left behind or being made redundant by someone who likes to educate themselves. And I certainly hope people can rise above these thoughts, because in France’s case it ended in a Revolution that changed the country forever and I’d hate to think that it could take similar radical changes to allow people to grow and develop.

Due to Sophie educating herself she goes from writing radical pamphlets about women’s rights to revolutionary pieces that criticise the French monarchy and it’s upper classes. This results in a power hungry inspector going after Sophie to gain confidential information to blackmail other people. Later in the book we discover that not only is he blackmailing his way into a position of power, but he also murdered his wife and last lover due to her cheating on him. I don’t know about you but I can’t believe he managed to murder 2 people and dispose of their bodies alone without being discovered. Especially because he works for the French law enforcement!

While the inspector is going after Sophie she pretty much forces Sebastian to marry her to give herself more protection against the inspector. Sophie thought just because he worked for the English Ambassador that it’d give her more safety from him. What I don’t understand is that Sebastian knew how much danger Sophie was in and so married her to protect her. Yet waited until the inspector tried to kill them both to suggest moving to Arabia? And for all their friends and family to leave France? Like really, if you think a country is about to break out into an all out Revolution wouldn’t you want to get the hell out of these ASAP to avoid the bloodbath and ensure you don’t accidentally get caught up in it? That really irked me and took a little bit of joy out of the overall story because I spent so much time fixating on why they didn’t just move to Arabia. But it certainly didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying the read.

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you again next week when I review “Conduct Unbecoming of a Gentleman” by Wareeze Woodson. I will come back to the next book in the series in the future, so keep an eye out for that one!

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