Sunday, 9 September 2018

Review: The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

Kate Morton is one of my favourite authors and The Forgotten Garden is one of my all-time favourite books, so I was thrilled to get my hands on an early copy of The Clockmaker's Daughter. I really enjoyed the story but wavered between giving it four stars or five stars. However, it was the ending that made me finally settle on four. It's hard to explain, without giving away spoilers, but I was hoping for a kind of Spielberg/Disney fantasy ending (with all the characters' talk of time and space). But as this is a historical and NOT a fantasy, I obviously didn't get one!

The story is in the main part is about a Victorian woman called Birdie, who overcomes her Oliver Twist style background (thieving and picking pockets) and falls in love with an upcoming artist named Edward Radcliffe, before tragedy strikes at a house party in 1862. A woman is murdered, Edward leaves England never to return, and the priceless Radcliffe diamond is lost forever. In the present day Elodie, who works in an archive, finds Edward's satchel and sketchbook, with drawings of a house she thought only existed in a children's fairy story, and is determined to solve the mystery.

I had thought The Clockmaker's Daughter would switch between Birdie and Elodie's viewpoints, like an Eve Chase or Lulu Taylor novel, but instead it told the story of everyone who had lived in Edward's Elizabethan manor house (Birchwood Manor) up until the present day. The only connection between each of these characters is the house and the fact that they have all lost someone - either through a tragic death or removal by distance. It reminded me of The Suffolk Trilogy by Norah Lofts. And this was another reason the rating dropped to a four: I'd rather have read about Birdie, who was a fabulous creation, and Elodie, who kind of disappeared beneath the weight of all these other characters - some of whom I didn't feel added anything to the story. Having said that, I did love how we discovered the ways all the characters were ultimately connected - Elodie's Great-Uncle Tip, for example.

I always love stories about old houses and I loved the mystery of what happened that night in 1862; to Edward and Birdie, the necklace and the painting. I loved the stories of Pale Joe and Ada - she was my favourite character! I think it could have done with being shorter (it's almost 600 pages) and have less characters. Having said that, I was completely gripped and read it very quickly! I really enjoyed the way the stories wrapped around each other and I'm happy to give it a solid four stars. If you're not hung up on ghosts deserving their happy ending along with everyone else, you might want to give it five!

The Clockmaker's Daughter is out in the UK on the 20th of September 2018.

Thank you to Kate Morton and Mantle (Pan Macmillan) for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Review: The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse

I've enjoyed Kate Mosse's books in the past, but the thing that made me pick this one up was the word 'gothic' on the cover. I do love gothic novels!

The Taxidermist's Daughter is a historical murder mystery, set in the tiny village of Fishbourne (West Sussex) in 1912. It is a tradition that on the Eve of St Mark's the ghosts of those destined to die in the coming year will be seen walking into the church at midnight. The villagers have gathered in the churchyard to wait and watch, despite the pouring rain. At the appointed time the doors open - and hundreds of tiny birds fly out. It is obviously a message - but for whom? - and while watching from the shadows a woman is murdered...

Connie Gifford lives with her father in the dilapidated Blackthorn House. Huge chunks of her memory are missing after a childhood accident. Once famous for his taxidermy museum, Crowley Gifford is now more interested in drinking himself into oblivion while Connie does most of the work. What secret is Gifford drinking to forget - and is it the same one Connie can't remember?

I loved this story! It is so atmospheric - downright creepy at times - with the sinister house, the constant rain, the encroaching flood waters, the increasing body count and the very creative murderer! It is a bit gory at times though. At the beginning of each chapter is an 'extract' from a history of taxidermy, there are detailed descriptions of Connie's work, and that's before we get to the murders! So, not one for the faint-hearted but definitely recommended! 

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Review: Born to be Wilde (The Wildes of Lindow Castle #3)

Eloisa James is one of my favourite authors. I love her warm-hearted, witty stories that usually have a group of friends or a family at their heart - in this case, the Wildes.

Parth has made his fortune, several times over, and is about to propose marriage to an Italian contessa. So when the beautiful but 'shallow' heiress Lavinia Gray asks him to marry her he turns her down flat, suspecting her motives. But perhaps things aren't all what they seem?

I think this is my favourite of the series so far. I loved Lavinia and the way she decides to turn her fortunes around by playing to her strengths - fashion - and not taking the easy way out: a wealthy husband, despite Parth's best efforts at trying to hook her up with a prince! The story is mostly told from her point of view and I would have liked a bit more from Parth, who I found a fascinating, if shadowy character. I'd have also liked a bit more of a hint about what he looked like from the start, as I'd somehow got it into my head he was red-haired - probably because of the heroine's comments that (with his beard) he was trying to look like Henry VIII!

I particularly liked the way laudanum addiction was handled - a nice change from those stories I've read where the characters seem to knock it back with no ill effect! And of course I loved all the lush descriptions of Georgian fashion!

Recommended for those who love the lighter, romantic comedy style of historical romance, and fans of authors such as Julia Quinn. And if you subscribe to Eloisa's newsletter, there is an opportunity to read a prequel novella, featuring Parth's adoptive father, the Duke of Lindow.

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Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Review: The Governess Game (Girl Meets Duke #2) by Tessa Dare

Tessa Dare is one of my favourite authors, so I was thrilled to get my hands on an early copy of The Governess Game. It's a historical romance, but written in the style of a modern romantic comedy, and is the second in the Girl Meets Duke series. Each book is effectively a stand alone, so you don't need to read them in order. The link between the stories is a group of female friends.

Chase Reynaud is in denial. He doesn't want to be the heir to a dukedom and he certainly doesn't want to be the guardian to two little orphaned girls, Rosamund and Daisy. The girls aren't thrilled to be dumped on him either and delight in making his life difficult. Their best time for frightening off a new governess currently stands at seventeen and a quarter hours. Which is why Chase offers Alexandra a fortune to take on the job - and is why she takes it!

Alexandra Mountbatten earns her living ensuring the clocks of the wealthy keep perfect time. How she ends up as the governess to the two young wards of Chase Reynaud is a little convoluted but didn't spoil my enjoyment of the story. Purists won't like the historical inaccuracies; although some of these, like the quote from The Titanic movie, are deliberate and add to the fun. But that's The Governess Game in a nutshell - a lighthearted romcom that's a whole lot of fun.

I loved the characters, their rapid-fire banter and all the one liners. Chase tries so hard to duck out of his responsibilities - there is a running joke throughout the story about his attempt to build himself a 'gentleman's retreat'. But the best part of the story is definitely the antics of the children - Daisy's doll 'funerals' had me in stitches and she reminded me of Tootie in Meet Me in St Louis.

Recommended, especially if you love light-hearted, funny historical romance, and authors such as Julia Quinn and Eloisa James.

The Governess Game is out in the UK on the 28th of August 2018.

Thank you to Tessa Dare and Mills & Boon for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Saturday, 14 July 2018

Review: Reckless by Amanda Quick

Reckless is another book that has been lurking on my Kindle completely forgotten about - something I'm trying to rectify!

In this story Phoebe Layton is obsessed by ancient illuminated manuscripts, particularly ones about knights and chivalry. She is desperate to find a particular manuscript, which she gave to a childhood sweetheart when he left the country to seek his fortune so that he might marry her. The book went missing about the same time he was murdered. Phoebe thinks that when she finds the book, she'll find the murderer. She enlists the help of Gabriel Banner, the only other person she knows who is as obsessed by old manuscripts and tales of knights of old as she is. 

Gabriel, however, has become a lot more bitter and twisted since Phoebe knew him as a child. After trying to elope with Phoebe's older sister some years ago, their father ruined him financially and he still bears a grudge. Maybe 'ruining' Phoebe will be the perfect revenge?

I've never been very keen on the 'using the heroine to get revenge' romance trope and while I liked Gabriel I found all the Knights of the Round Table stuff palled very quickly. I also didn't really warm to the the heroine, although I loved her eccentric family, so this is just a four-star read for me.

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Thursday, 12 July 2018

Review: Ravished by Amanda Quick

I have a bad habit of buying books and then forgetting about them. I probably downloaded this one to 'try' when it was a 99p deal on Kindle (the Kindle version no longer seems available) but I rediscovered it recently after reading a stack of Amanda Quick books I brought home from the charity shop. 

Ravished is a slightly tongue-in-cheek historical romance; I do prefer this genre when there is humour! Harriet Pomeroy, daughter of a recently deceased Vicar, is obsessed with fossils, particularly the ones she has discovered in the caves owned by Gideon Westbrook. When she discovers thieves have been using 'her' caves to store their ill-gotten gains, she is furious and demands that Gideon gets rid of them. Gideon, meanwhile, has been nicknamed The Beast of Blackthorne due to his scarred face and dubious past. He's not happy at being drawn out of seclusion to capture these thieves but decides he might as well go along with it - anything for a quiet life. Except once he becomes involved with Harriet and her plans, a quiet life is the last thing he has.

Harriet and Gideon are very likeable characters and it was easy to become engaged with their story. I loved the way the author pokes fun at the Beauty and the Beast trope, and also the running joke about heroines being 'ravished' in the kind of gothic romances that were popular at this time. I do sometimes find Amanda Quick's stories a bit over-the-top, but Ravished was not one of them and I really enjoyed it. Recommended - provided you like this kind of thing!

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Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Review: Beyond Scandal and Desire (Sins for All Seasons #1) by Lorraine Heath

I downloaded this one because it was on offer at 99p and I've enjoyed some of Lorraine Heath's novels in the past. Unfortunately, I read it too soon after Sarah MacLean's Wicked and the Wallflower, which has the same revenge trope, and I couldn't help comparing the two.

Mick Trewlove is now a successful businessmen but was abandoned at birth by his aristocratic father. In revenge, he targets his father's legitimate son, intending to bankrupt him and seduce his betrothed.

The characters were likeable enough but there wasn't enough of an original twist on the trope for me.