Review: Glass Roses by Britain Kalai Soderquist

To me, this book felt like a warm hug or a cosy blanket. It was comforting, uplifting and pure joy to read.

The premise is an interesting one: a retelling of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, set in the early Victorian period – a perfect combination of 19th century historical fiction and fairytale retellings, which are two of my favourite things to read! This isn’t any magic in this book; it’s a straight-up, clean historical romance, perfect for Austen fans.

What makes this novel extra unique is that it’s told in epistolary form. The characters of Eleanor and Isabella (Cinderella and Belle) are cousins through the remarriage of Eleanor’s father to Isabella’s aunt, and the story is told through the cousins’ regular correspondence. The epistolary format meant that this wasn’t a fast, action-packed novel, but I actually found that to be a merit as it made the letters feel very authentic.

Another point to note about the format is that the author set herself an additional challenge in writing the whole novel in keeping with period language and tone – a challenge which was met with impressive ease. Whilst completely immersed in the story, it was so easy to believe that these letters really had been written by two young ladies during the 1840s.

In terms of plot, I thought the fairytales were introduced in a very clever way. The elements of the original stories didn’t feel forced, but rather were subtle additions which made me smile. I particularly liked the way Cinderella’s role as servant to her stepsisters was brought in by having Eleanor forced to play the pianoforte at evening events so that her sisters could dance, whilst rarely being given the opportunity herself.

I can sometimes find that the characters of Cinderella and Belle a bit dull in retellings – but here I thought each character had a unique voice and personality. The dual storyline also gave an interesting structure to the plot, leading to ebbs and flows which kept me wanting to read on.

All in all, this was a truly lovely and unique historical fiction which completely swept me up in its romance. If you’re a fan of well-researched historical fiction with main characters to root for and love interests you wish could be real, then I think you will love it too!

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Review: Things A Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls

I was inspired to try out some YA Historical Fiction after the #ukyachat (run by @LucytheReader on Twitter) a few weeks ago focusing on this very topic. A period I’m particularly interested in reading more about is the fight for women’s suffrage – so when someone recommended Things A Bright Girl Can Do, I was keen to give it a read.

This is a multi-perspective feminist novel revolving around the lives of three young women in the UK, mainly covering the Suffragette movement and the impact of the First World War on women’s rights. Each of the three main characters come from a very different walk of life, which instantly makes the topic feel universal.

At various points throughout the novel, we are offered a detailed look into the life of a Suffragette – and the detail is sometimes very harrowing to read. The detailed description of a hunger strike, for example, really brought to life the hardships these women faced in their fight for the vote, as did the violence of some of the protests.

One of my favourite aspects of this novel was the f/f romance between two of the main characters. I think Sally Nicholls captured intensity of first love perfectly, with both the ups and downs feeling very realistic. It was so refreshing to read a book with teenagers who actually acted like teenagers – and though the setting is historical, I think teenagers today will find Evelyn, May and Nell’s drive and passion to fight for what they believe in relatable.

My main criticism of this novel is that it felt quite bitty. I kept waiting for Evelyn’s storyline to intersect with May and Nell’s – but I was disappointed to find this never happened. The story would have been more captivating, I think, if the author had decided to tell either Evelyn or May and Nell’s story, rather than bundling them together in a way that didn’t really add anything to the plot.

Another aspect of the book which let me down was the pacing. The beginning focused on the build-up to WWI, with lots of Suffragette protests and marches happening. When we reached the start of WWI, however, the story seemed to jump forwards through the War in a bit too much of a rush for me. It almost felt as if Sally Nicholls just wanted to get that part out of the way – and that’s unfortunately how felt when I was reading it.

Despite not loving the plot, I still think Sally Nicholls succeeded in making the Suffragette movement relatable for teenagers today, covering a number of important topics in a very accessible way. The story wasn’t for me, but the novel’s message is relevant for everyone.

Jane Austen’s London #3: Soho

To read the original post in this series, click here.

My third Jane Austen walk began on Oxford Street – which, even on a rather dreary Saturday morning, was packed with shoppers. It was popular in Jane Austen’s time, too – but for slightly different reasons. The site of Marks and Spencer, for example, was once a venue for famous balls held by high-class courtesans, along with masquerades and concerts.

A little way south from Oxford Street we came to Golden Square, which was home to Doctor James Stanier Clarke, the Royal Librarian during the Regency period. He seemed to take a liking to Jane Austen’s writing, and offered her the use of his personal library – a scandalous invitation to visit an unmarried man’s home which Jane, of course, declined.

In keeping with the royal theme, there stands a statue of George III in the centre of the square, surrounded by lots of lovely flowers.

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My mum is also a huge Jane Austen fan and was visiting me in London, so she joined my boyfriend and me on this walk 🙂

From Golden Square we passed along Beak Street, stopping a little while at a particular stretch of shopfronts which have all maintained their original early nineteenth century style. I adored this rare chance to see what the shops Jane Austen visited in London would have looked like; for me this really brought Regency London to life.

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I could definitely imagine the well-to-do ladies of Regency London purchasing their perfume here.

Next we reached Gerrard Street, which during the Regency period was full of coffee houses, taverns and lodging-houses for artists and actors. Today it is part of Chinatown – and naturally we couldn’t resist stopping for some Dim Sum whilst there!

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There were several more period shopfronts to be seen as we headed back up through Soho. We continued up towards Tottenham Court Road, then along Bedford Avenue until eventually coming out in Bedford Square.

Now, in all honesty, I could have spent a long time in Bedford Square, because it has retained its period character so well. I genuinely felt as if I had stepped into a period drama (well, except for all the traffic snaking along the adjacent Bloomsbury Street, but it was very easy to imagine that the roar of the engines was in fact the clopping of hooves).

During the Regency period, Number 6 was home to the Lord Chancellor, who was convinced by the Prince Regent to appoint one of his cronies to the Chancery. Working for Prinny couldn’t have been easy – I would have loved to have been a fly on that wall!

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And that concluded my third Jane Austen walk around London. This one really offered a chance to imagine what the everyday lives of Londoners might have looked like during the Regency, which was so much fun.

 

Sources
[1] Allen, Louise – Walking Jane Austen’s London (Shire, 2017)

 

 

Review: In a Time Never Known by Kat Michels

I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I initially picked up this book because it’s set during the American Civil War – a period I’m interested in learning more about. From its blurb I learnt that it centred around a spy ring, which only furthered my interest.

This book is quite hard to compare to any historical fiction I’ve read recently – and I say this as a good thing, because I found it refreshingly unique. Kat Michels crafted a twisty plot full of suspense, and some quite shocking moments. I could never predict which way the story would go next, and the unpredictability kept me eagerly moving through each chapter.

Probably my favourite aspect of this novel was the complexity of the characters. Multiple perspectives were followed at various points, and every single one of those characters were morally grey. My opinion of each character leapt around repeatedly as Kat Michels explored the lengths people will go to in times of war.

Not knowing much about the period in question, I can’t comment too much on historical accuracy – but it did seem as though a lot of research had gone into this novel. I certainly felt the image of the war created by Kat Michels was believable, and multiple angles were presented, offering depth to the story. The author certainly didn’t back away from describing some of the more disturbing aspects of war – it’s worth noting that at points the book is rather graphic.

While I did really enjoy the story, what made this book a 4* rather than a 5* read was the writing. This was Kat Michels’ debut adult novel, and I felt that it could have done with undergoing another round of edits in order to make the writing really stand out. For me there were often too many chunks of very long paragraphs which halted momentum previously gained. I also feel there could have been more made of the dramatic twists, in order to have them really pack a punch.

All in all, this was a thoroughly enjoyable and intriguing debut, and I’ll be looking out with interest to see what Kat Michels writes next.

 

Blog Blitz: A Warriner to Seduce Her by Virginia Heath

Today I am bringing you my review of charming Regency romance A Warriner to Seduce Her as part of a blog blitz organised by Rachel’s Random Resources. This is Virginia Heath’s fourth novel in her Wild Warriners series, but can be read as a standalone – I hadn’t read any of the three previous books but had no issues diving straight into this story.

First up, here’s some information about the novel and author:

Synopsis

A Warriner to Seduce Her

A sensible schoolmistress… Awakened by the notorious rake!

In this The Wild Warriners story, schoolmistress Felicity Blunt feels old beyond her years―and desperately dull. Meeting confirmed rake Jacob Warriner brings her gloriously alive, and yet no matter his allure she must remain immune to his obvious charms and unashamed flirtation. But is Jacob merely a mischievous scoundrel? Or is there much more to this Warriner than meets the eye…?

Purchase – http://www.myBook.to/Warriner4

 

 

About the Author

A Warriner To Seduce Her - Virginia Heath

When Virginia Heath was a little girl it took her ages to fall asleep, so she made up stories in her head to help pass the time while she was staring at the ceiling. As she got older, the stories became more complicated, sometimes taking weeks to get to the happy ending. Then one day, she decided to embrace the insomnia and start writing them down. Fortunately, the lovely people at Harlequin Mills & Boon took pity on her and decided to publish her romances, but it still takes her forever to fall asleep.

Social Media Links:

https://www.facebook.com/virginiaheathauthor/

https://twitter.com/VirginiaHeath_

https://www.virginiaheathromance.com/

 

And now for my thoughts…

 

Review

Thank you to Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in this publication day event, and for providing me with an ARC of the book. All opinions are my own.

Trigger Warning: Suicide

When I first picked up this novel, I expected a fun, lighthearted Regency romance to devour – and I definitely wasn’t disappointed on that front. But what I actually got was this and so much more, because A Warriner to Seduce Her is definitely a London Season story with a difference.

Take our main protagonist, Jake Warriner. He is a self-proclaimed rake, which is not uncommon in a Regency romance – but what is different is that from the very beginning we are offered an insight into his past, from which we are able to piece together the nature of his character. This makes him so much more than your typical Regency rake, endearing him to me straight away.

Our female protagonist Fliss is also a breath of fresh air. An older and sterner character than your typical debutante, the sharp put-downs she delivers to Jake when they first meet had me snorting out loud with laughter. I really enjoyed reading about a female character with intelligence and strength, rather than one who is meek and submissive.

This story isn’t just about the romance – the plot is set against the backdrop of the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars, featuring politically-charged alliances and an element of mystery. I found these aspects just as enjoyable as the romance, the historical context adding depth to the plot.

As someone who enjoys a traditional Regency romance in the vein of Georgette Heyer, at times I found the dialogue too modern and informal – but that’s more a personal preference of mine. This didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the novel, which was a fun, fast-paced read.

 

Giveaway! – Win 3 x E-copies of A Warriner to Seduce Her (Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Link to giveaway: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c6949479/

 

 

Children’s Historical Fiction: My childhood favourites

I was inspired to write this post whilst watching the lovely Ashleigh at A Frolic Through Fiction‘s video on her favourite childhood books. Filled with nostalgia, I began to think back over some of my own childhood favourites – and with this came the realisation that my interest in historical fiction developed at a very young age.

Today I’m going to share with you two of my all-time-favourite children’s historical fiction novels which helped ignite the passion for the genre I have today. Both are set during the Second World War; both contain unforgettable protagonists; and both introduced me as a child to some of the hardships of the period in a relatable and sensitive way.

Without further ado, let’s get in to the books…

Back Home by Michelle Magorian

Back Home

Most people will know Michelle Magorian as the author of Goodnight, Mister Tom – a novel I also loved – but my first taste of her writing was Back Home, the story of Rusty, who is returning to the UK in 1945 after being evacuated to America during the war.

This book was gifted to me for my ninth birthday, and I instantly fell in love with it. Rusty was a main character I could relate to so easily – at the time I was being bullied in school, so Rusty’s sense of being an outsider was something I was very familiar with. She’s such a strong and determined protagonist, and I remember finding her really inspiring.

In addition to offering young readers an insight into what life in Britain was like in the aftermath of the Second World War, Back Home also deals with issues relating to growing up. Rusty is twelve years old, just entering adolescence, so it’s also a great coming-of-age story for children to read. Basically, it’s an all-round great book!

The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo

The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips

Ah, Michael Morpurgo. From a very young age I discovered that his novels had the power to move me to tears. Private Peaceful, set during the First World War, is one such example – and another is this, a beautiful Second World War novel about one wilful girl and her wandering cat.

This story is set in the seaside village of Slapton in Devon, where twelve-year-old Lily and her neighbours are forced to evacuate from so that practice landings for D-Day can take place. Tips the cat is a central character – which instantly had me sold – as is Adie, the American soldier whose acquaintance Lily makes.

Both heartbreaking and uplifting, this story taught me a lot about the part Slapton citizens had to play in D-Day, whilst also featuring some very memorable characters and an adorable ending.

 

I hope you enjoyed this nostalgia-filled look at some of my very first historical fiction favourites! I’d love to know if you read historical fiction as a child, and if so, do share some of your own favourite books 🙂

 

Review: The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

This book is such a difficult one to review. The hype surrounding its release has been unreal – and after hearing the author discussing it on the radio, my expectations reached new heights.

But alas, this was unfortunately to be one of those horrible times where the book did not live up to the hype for me.

Although slow to get going, Imogen Hermes Gowar’s prose is absolutely stunning, drawing me instantly into late 18th century London. And this is not Georgian period as we know it from Jane Austen’s novels. It is as if the author has pulled back the curtain on that era of glittering glamour, unveiling its seedy underbelly. The author’s attention to historical accuracy is impressive; the extensive research put in really pays off, creating a piece of sumptuous period writing brimming with rich details of dress, food and decor.

Unfortunately, what the novel lacks for me is development, both in terms of plot and characters. The premise was promising: our main female protagonist, Angelica Neal, is a courtesan, instantly coming across as a morally grey and not entirely likeable character. On the flip side there’s Mr Jonah Hancock, a character made intriguing by the deep sense of loss in his life, and the question of what lengths he will go to in order to fill this void.

Neither of the characters, I felt, were really developed to their full potential. At a certain point in the latter half of the novel, one single thread of the plot took over and dominated the rest of the book, at the expense of any further character development. And I think it is worth mentioning that this plot point which ends up becoming dominant is one of magical realism.

I hadn’t expected magical realism upon beginning this book; perhaps foolishly, given the word “Mermaid” in the title, but I had thought this was pure historical fiction. Perhaps if I had been expecting magical realism, I would have enjoyed the end of the book more – but at the time of reading, I found it unnecessary, and felt it detracted from some of the novel’s strengths.

For me, the story meandered away to an unsatisfying conclusion, leaving many loose threads. Again, perhaps my expectations were misguided, but I had also hoped, based on Imogen Hermes Gowar’s radio discussion, to find a compelling look at how the life of a courtesan could give the opportunity for financial independence. Instead I read a story of women who were submissive and dependent on men, which was a shame.

All this being said, Imogen Hermes Gowar’s debut has been received very well by critics, so if a slower novel with mystical speculation and beautiful writing is something you enjoy, then do consider giving it a go. In terms of my preferences, it was too slow and lacking in character development for me to love it.