Today I’m reviewing Beloved Poison which I bought for my book group read in January.
Ramshackle and crumbling, St Saviour’s Infirmary awaits demolition. Within its stinking wards and cramped corridors the doctors bicker and fight. Ambition, jealousy and hatred seethe beneath the veneer of professional courtesy.
Always an outsider, and with a secret of her own to hide, apothecary Jem Flockhart observes everything, but says nothing.
And then six tiny coffins are uncovered, inside each a handful of dried flowers and a bundle of mouldering rags. When Jem comes across these strange relics hidden inside the infirmary’s old chapel, her quest to understand their meaning prises open a long-forgotten past – with fatal consequences . . .
My Review: Anyone who reads enough of my reviews will know I love historical crime fiction and this book is no exception. This was chosen for my book group at one of the meetings that I unfortunately couldn’t attend. However, when I discovered this was the read for January and that I could go to January’s meeting I was thrilled. I absolutely loved this book, it was rich with description and detail. Honestly you could feel the mud and mess under your feet while Jem and Will walked around London, never mind the smells that came from it. A great historical book, in my experience, is one which makes you feel as if you are right there with the main character(s) and are experiencing all of the sights, smells and sounds along with them. This book did that in bucketloads and I’m so thrilled to have discovered the start of a new series that I can dive in to. Book 4 in the series is out March 2019 so I have a few books to look forward to.
I really liked Jem and Will as main characters, the story is definitely Jem’s but Will is there almost from the beginning and they make a wonderful partnership so I see them both as main characters. They are wonderfully written and described. They come to life so well through their actions, reactions and emotions. I almost didn’t want the story to end and was thrilled when I found out there were more books.
This story is not for the faint-hearted, it does not shy away from the historical facts of surgery and teaching techniques of the time period. Much as I would love to explore the past the descriptions in this book made me glad I live in this time where we have anesthetic and doctors in clean white coats. The story covers every level of society from the influential medical staff to the street children who struggle to survive and who no one really cares about. The story behind the six little coffins is the backbone of the book and is just as hard hitting as the rest of it. I’m not doing spoilers but it is not something I want to imagine anyone capable of.
It’s clear the research that has gone into this story and although the book was initially written as a stand alone I’m really pleased the publishers wanted more. Like many book bloggers I have a teetering pile of books to read but this series is interspersed between them, as all my favourite series are. I can’t wait to catch up with Jem and Will again and be involved in another investigation with them. More books please!
Blurb: Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the folk and fairy tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857 and the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty, and a community riven by fear. The crofters are suspicious and hostile to a stranger, claiming they no longer know their fireside stories.
Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach and the crofters reveal that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the restless dead: spirits who take the form of birds.
Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but as events accumulate she begins to wonder if something else is at work. Something which may be linked to the death of her own mother, many years before.
My Review: I wasn’t sure how to review this book. I read it in two days, mostly snippets of 10 minutes or less in lulls at work and despite the very brief periods in which I could read I was completely transported in that time, so much so that when my attention was called back to work I was momentarily confused and had to remind myself where I was.
This is not going to be a story which appeals to everyone, not everyone will want to read, or will gel with a story about fairies and other tales of folklore. I would never have really said it was my thing either but this book appealed to me and I’m glad I took a chance on it. This is such a mystical and almost ethereal story which is ground in so much truth and history. I’ve visited Skye a few times myself, so was familiar with most of the places mentioned in the book and the descriptions were spot on.
I liked Audrey as a person, trying to find herself and her own way in a world that didn’t want to accommodate her doing something different from the norm. There were some scenes that had me shaking my head at the responses she got from some people, and other scenes which had me wanting to go there and tell some of the other characters that they were talking nonsense, clearly impossible because apart from anything else I can’t time-travel (unfortunately!). This was what made this book as good as it is, it weaves a spell around you and draws you in, like the fairies taking people away from the human world. Everything gets drawn up like a cyclone, all twisting and turning and who do you trust and what’s going to happen next and then, like the sun coming out after a storm, it starts to clear and everything starts to fall into place.
This is a new author for me but one that I will definitely read again and I will go so far as to say this is one of the few books that I am likely to re-read. I would honestly recommend this book if you’re tempted. Be open minded and see where it takes you, stories are meant to transport us, after all.
About the author:
Anna is a writer who, due to some fault of her parents, is drawn to peculiar and dark historical subjects. Her novels have been described as literary crime fiction or historical crime. Anna’s influences include Sarah Waters, Daphne Du Maurier, Shirley Jackson and Margaret Atwood.
Her debut novel, The Unseeing, is based on the life of a real woman called Sarah Gale who was convicted of aiding a murder in London in 1837. Her second novel, The Story Keeper, follows a folklorist’s assistant as she searches out dark fairytales and stolen girls on the Isle of Skye in 1857.
She studied English at Pembroke College, Oxford, before becoming a human rights and criminal justice solicitor. She now tries to combine law with writing and child wrangling, to varying degrees of success.
Anna loves to hear from readers, so do say hello on social media or via her website.
I am thrilled today to be on the blog tour for The Angel’s Mark. Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Corvus books for having me on the tour.
Blurb: LONDON, 1590. Queen Elizabeth I’s control over her kingdom is wavering. Amidst a tumultuous backdrop of Spanish plotters, Catholic heretics and foreign wars threatening the country’s fragile stability, the body of a small boy is found in the City of London, with strange marks that no one can explain.
When idealistic physician Nicholas Shelby finds another body displaying the same marks only days later, he becomes convinced that a killer is at work, preying on the weak and destitute of London.
Determined to find out who is behind these terrible murders, Nicholas is joined in his investigations by Bianca, a spirited tavern keeper. But when their inquiries lead them to the fearsome attentions of the powerful Robert Cecil, Nicholas is forced into playing to Cecil’s agenda, and becoming a spy…
As more bodies are discovered, the pair find themselves caught in the middle of a sinister plot. With the killer still at large, and Bianca in terrible danger, Nicholas’s choice seems impossible – to save Bianca, or save himself…
My Review: I enjoy reading historical crime and have read books set in various time periods but, for me, the stand out books set prior to the 19th Century are those of Paul Doherty and his Brother Athelstan series. They are absolutely stunning in their detail and story-telling so anything else from pre 1800 is automatically compared to those and most books don’t match up. This one, however, came very, very close.
This is an excellent story of one man and his journey through Elizabethan London, dealing with his own personal challenges and also those of living in such an un-trusting time. The perils of being living in that time came across really clearly. Basically if someone didn’t like you they could make accusations and even though you were innocent you wouldn’t be believed, there was so much doubt and mistrust then.
The other thing that comes across really well, that some authors struggle with, is the descriptions. The author really brings the city to life and you can almost hear and smell the sounds of everyday living. This level of rich descriptiveness from what I believe is a debut author is amazing and I haven’t even mentioned the characters yet. I loved the characters, particularly Nicholas for whom I have a soft spot now. He deals with so much and his journey is so well written that it just makes you root for him the whole way through.
This is a brilliant read and I genuinely want to see more from this author. My only question is when??? About the author:
S. W. Perry was a journalist and broadcaster before retraining as an airline pilot. He lives in Worcestershire with his wife and two spaniels.
Today in this series I have posts from Jan Harvey who writes split time novels and Paula Martin who writes Irish romance novels. Perfect reading on what is currently a snowy day for many.
Jan Harvey – It’s Going To Be Busy
I have a very exciting year ahead of me with a variety of projects to look forward to.
My second book is written and will be published in September. It draws on the themes of the The Seven Letters in many ways however, instead of The French Resistance, I have explored the human stories behind the Special Operations Executive. I came across these when I was researching the social history aspects of World War 2, a subject that intrigues me. Once again it is a split time novel set in The Cotswolds and Liberated Paris in 1945 with the two stories linking together to culminate in a dramatic ending. I thought the ending was not as heartbreaking as the final outcome for poor Claudette in The Seven Letters, however, my first ‘test readers’ have reported that it is very moving and has left them deep in thought for days afterwards, so I may be wrong!
I was honoured to win prizes in short story competitions last year and this led to a new collaboration with theatre maker, Adrian Brooks. Our exciting project, ‘Allotment’ will see professional actors reading six of my short stories whilst the characters appear one-by-one in a diminutive, yet beautifully constructed theatre. Seeing the characters emerge from someone else’s viewpoint was quite a significant moment for me, but Adrian has worked his magic to perfection and I am really delighted with the results.
I am also a professional artist and I am taking part in two exhibitions in 2018. I am hosting one at my studio, as I usually do for Oxfordshire Artweeks, exploring the theme ‘New Horizons.’ The second exhibition is at The Earth Trust in Long Wittenham near Dorchester-on-Thames, where a trio of paintings of the nearby Sinoden Hills, will be on display. I paint in acrylics and watercolour, but my new medium is fused-glass and I am fortunate to be tutored by glass expert, Helen Slater.
This year I would love to learn more about poetry. I have always been very moved by the war poets and it is something I would enjoy exploring further. I was lucky enough to hear Pat Winslow reading her work this year. I also attended a performance by Selena Godden at The Chipping Norton Literary Festival. Both are very inspiring ladies.
I have a full and busy twelve months ahead of me and that’s just how I like it, but my New Year’s resolution is most definitely to read more. I have just finished ‘Out Stealing Horses’ by Per Petterson, and I am still living inside the book because it was so captivating. The writing was perfect, the story steady and slow and the characters were absolutely convincing. That’s how I like my books so I am on the look out for more of the same for 2018.
When Claudette Bourvil is recruited to the French Resistance the last thing she expects is that she will be sent to work in the heart of Paris to spy on senior Nazi officers.
Claudette learns how to survive in a city ravaged by war, where the citizens are murdered on the whim of the occupying force. Constantly under threat of discovery, and in danger of losing her life, Claudette risks everything when she falls in love with the wrong man, the worst kind of man.
Over seventy years later, in rural Oxfordshire, Connie Webber discovers seven letters linked to a famous playwright, Freddy March. The letters will eventually lead her to Paris where she discovers the horrific reason behind Freddy’s life long depression. As his mother’s story unfolds Connie uncovers a dark past that the city has tried to erase from history.
Jan Harvey is an author and artist living in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds. After thirty years working as an editor and designer of business magazines, Jan became a full time writer in 2011. Her first novel, The Seven Letters, was published in February 2017.
Jan is working on her second novel due for publication in Autumn 2018.
When Jan is not writing or creating art she enjoys reading, watching old black and white movies and dog walking.
I’m hoping 2018 will be a more settled year for me, after the upheaval of 2017. Last April I received the devastating news that my publisher was closing due to ill-health. I’d been with her for over 5 years, and she and her team were the most supportive and friendly people any writer could ever wish to work with.
For several months, I felt as if I was floundering in quicksand as I wondered what to do with my nine published novels, but, as they say, ‘when one door closes, another opens’ – and in this case, the door was opened by Tirgearr Publishing, an independent publisher based in Ireland.
In November, I was thrilled when they re-published four of my novels – which just happen to be set in Ireland! These four books are stand-alone stories, with different heroes and heroines, but they are all linked in some way to ‘Mist Na Mara’, the Victorian house which featured in the first of the series.
My main priority at the start of 2018 is to finish the fifth book in my ‘Mist Na Mara’ series. I started writing this last January, but lost the motivation to continue it in the middle of the year. Now, after what seems a long time in a dark tunnel, I can at last see the light at the end, and am determined to finish it in January, 2018.
I’m also hoping that Tirgearr Publishing will be willing to re-publish some of my other novels this year. Since it’s several years since I wrote these, I’ll be spending some time editing them again before I submit them.
After that, I have another new novel simmering in my mind. I actually wrote a couple of chapters of this during my ‘floundering in quicksand’ period. After setting my last five books in the west of Ireland, I’m looking forward to a different location for this story, as my hero and heroine will be visiting some of the wonderful castles in Yorkshire and also trying to solve a medieval mystery. Author Bio:
Paula Martin had some early publishing success with four romance novels and several short stories, but then had a break from writing while she brought up a young family and also pursued her career as a history teacher for twenty-five years. She returned to writing fiction after retiring from teaching, and is thrilled to have found publishing success again with her contemporary romances. ‘Mist Na Mara’ series (all set in the west of Ireland):
Book 1 Irish Inheritance: Will their Irish inheritance bring Guy and Jenna together – or drive them apart?
Book 2 Irish Intrigue: Can Charley and Luke reconcile their differences and find love?
Book 3 Irish Secrets: Will Kara and Ryan find a way to heal the rifts created by all the secrets?
Book 4 Irish Deceptions: Can Ellie and Dan overcome the obstacles threatening their future together?
Today I am thrilled to welcome Richard Dee to my 2018 Plans and Resolutions series. I loved science fiction books in the past and am trying to rediscover them again so it’s no surprise that I am taking part in the blog tour for Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe next month. So, read on and see if science fiction is something you want to try out this year.
Hello everyone, and thank you for the opportunity to post here. I’m Richard Dee. I’m a retired Master Mariner and Thames River Pilot, living in Brixham, Devon.
I write Science Fiction and Steampunk adventures, which I choose to self-publish through my own imprint, 4Star Scifi.
I currently have seven novels and two collections of short stories available, plus a piece (that I’m rather proud of) in a collection of historical fiction called ‘1066 Turned Upside Down.’
Please don’t ask how a sci-fi author ended up contributing a short story to that. I’m not really sure myself, but it seemed to fit and several people told me that they quite liked it. In 2017 I managed to write over 500,000 words, completing four novels and starting several more. As well as adding to my ongoing series, I have also introduced a new character, accident-prone amateur detective Andorra Pett. Think Agatha Raisin – in space!
I’ve decided that 2018 is the year when I’m going to start marketing my work a bit more actively and increase my online presence. To be honest, I’ve always been a bit nervous of marketing, I think that my books are great, the few reviews I’ve had are good but the idea of trying to persuade people to buy my books is difficult. Sometimes I think that I write to keep me too busy to attempt marketing. But of course, the books won’t sell themselves. I’m lucky to belong to the Exeter Authors Association and between us; we are raising each other’s profile by attending and hosting events. I post weekly on my website and I’m dipping my toes into the world of blog tours and reviewing.
Now before you say that you don’t like Sci-fi or Steampunk, there’s some good news. To enjoy my work, you don’t need to. I try not to make that a requirement. Naturally, the science is there, it’s as logical and realistic as I can make it but it’s not over intrusive, or the main reason for the story. It’s more of a vehicle for a tale that could be set anywhere, an extra character if you like.
And that’s not me saying that, here’s a review of ‘Ribbonworld,’ a conspiracy/chase story I set on an airless planet. “I’m not usually a fan of Science Fiction but Ribbonworld is a thriller that would work in any genre.”
To me, that means I’ve achieved what I set out to do, I’ve not put any readers off, but included enough detail for the aficionado.
Most of my stories are built around the main themes of love, loss and redemption, which are pretty constant; they will still exist in humanity when we are the masters of the Galaxy. The stories just happen to be set in space, or in the future.
Today I am reviewing A Pearl for My Mistress, a historical fiction novel set in 1930s England. Many thanks to the author for giving me a copy of the book to review.
Blurb: England, 1934. Hester Blake, an ambitious girl from an industrial Northern town, finds a job as a lady’s maid in a small aristocratic household.
Despite their impressive title and glorious past, the Fitzmartins are crumbling under the pressures of the new century. And in the cold isolation of these new surroundings, Hester ends up hopelessly besotted with her young mistress, Lady Lucy.
Accompanying Lucy on her London Season, Hester is plunged into a heady and decadent world. But hushed whispers of another war swirl beneath the capital… and soon, Hester finds herself the keeper of some of society’s most dangerous secrets…
My Rating: 4/5
Review: I love historical fiction, though I tend to read more historical crime than straight fiction stories. As I said to someone a few days ago the books I do read set in the past tend to be no more recent than around 1900 so this book was a bit of a departure for me.
This book centers around Lady Lucy Fitzmartin who, having recently been introduced into London society, feels out of place as she is unaware of what the other ladies around her are talking about. She determines to find out so the the following year (the London season lasts a few months each year) she can take part in the discussions and laugh at the jokes. However, in searching out the source of their discussions she stumbles upon information about event s that she knew nothing about. Being female and belonging to an aristocratic house goings on in the real world had been kept from her as was the way in those days. While Lucy is becoming involved in things that Lady’s should not be involved in, her family decide to hire her a lady’s maid to accompany her in town and generally take care of her.
This is where the story really begins. We see Lucy, having learnt about the lack of jobs in industrial areas, etc beginning to change and adapt to her new knowledge. The whispered suggestions of another war on the horizon also affect her and her position in the world. Added to that the relationship betwen herself and Hester, her lady’s maid and this makes for a story with lots of unconnected, but at the same time connected, threads running through it
The relationship between Lucy and Hester grows and develops through the course of the books does Lucy’s relationship with others and with the world around her. It was interesting reading her changed and develop into her own person rather than just a carbon copy of the other ladies who want to find good husbands and settle down. I know this is how it was for many at the time as women had little say in their futures, but it was nice to watch Lucy change things for herself realising as well that the aristocracy was not what it once was and perhaps her status didn’t mean as much as it used to.
The story moves between Lucy’s home in the country and London and does so quite well. The descriptions of the areas are good though I felt they could have been a bit richer in detail. However, this story is mainly about Lucy and Hester and the world around them and how the ongoing changes affect them. This was done very well. While both characters change and develop as the story progresses their development was shown in their speech and actions rather than spelled out to the reader which worked well as it gave the feeling of being there and observing these changes which added a nice layer of depth and realism to the story.
Being set relatively recently, historically speaking, it’s a good book to start with if you want to try historical fiction but aren’t sure you’ll like it although it will also appeal to those who already enjoy historical fiction.