Anne Bonny #BookReview The Spirit Photographer by Jon Michael Varese 5* Genius #Literary #NewRelease #HistoricalFiction @Duckbooks ‘Perfect for fans of The Underground Railroad’

cover
The Spirit Photographer by Jon Michael Varese
Review Copy
Synopsis:

With dramatic twists and reminiscent of Gothic novels, The Spirit Photographer is replete with fugitive hunters, voodoo healers, and dangers lurking in the swamp. Varese’s deftly plotted debut is an intense tale of death and betrayal that will thrill readers as they unravel the mystery behind the spirit in the photograph and what became of her.

Boston, 1870. Photographer Edward Moody runs a booming business capturing the images of the spirits of the departed in his portraits. He lures grieving widows and mourning mothers into his studio with promises of catching the ghosts of their deceased loved ones with his camera. Despite the whispers around town that Moody is a fraud of the basest kind, no one has been able to expose him, and word of his gift has spread, earning him money, fame, and a growing list of illustrious clients.

One day, while developing the negative from a sitting to capture the spirit of the departed son of a senator, Moody is shocked to see a different spectral figure develop before his eyes. Instead of the staged image of the boy he was expecting, the camera has seemingly captured the spirit of a young black woman.

When Moody recognizes the woman, he is compelled to travel from Boston to the Louisiana bayou to resolve their unfinished business. But more than one person is out to stop him…

My Review:

The Spirit Photographer is a Southern Gothic literary novel, which has outstanding detail and truly brings alive the era. The fact that it is a debut novel only makes it more astounding. As I would recommend this for fans of The Underground railroad by Colson Whitehead. It is that good! The novel details the confederate states, the difference between northern/southern states of the US in that era. The racial oppression and fight for civil rights is covered in resounding accuracy. Yet, it also has this huge hook, of having an occult theme within. Can ghosts be captured on camera film? And if so does this mean our loved ones are still with us? For one unlikely lady, it is too much of a question to bare and she dares to seek the answers.
Which leads her to uncover all her secrets and personal shame. . .

The novel opens with Mr Moody, taking a photo for Mrs Lovejoy. A lady that wishes to be reunited with her deceased cousin. There are several articles within the novel that detail Mr Moody’s reputation and success as a spiritual photographer.
Slowly but surely, he is acquiring fame and fortune.

The novel centres around a married couple, the Garrett’s. Their desire to be reunited with their beloved and only, perished son William Jeffrey. Who passed away 18yrs ago, at just 3yrs old. His last words haunt his mother Elizabeth and she has never been the same woman, since he passed.
Can Mr Moody help her overcome her grief?

‘It will be gone soon’ – William Jeffrey’s last words

But the Garrett’s aren’t just any couple, for they are the political elite. Senator James Garrett is quite the radical given the historical era and setting. He has won clear legal victories against the Klan and championed the election of Hiram Revels a black Mississippi minister. James has a desire to secure fundamental rights for all the country’s citizens. He is not afraid of who this may involve taking on. Even his closest friend and loyalist ally Benjamin P Dovehouse.

Elizabeth’s roots are in southern plantations, whilst some may call her a hypocrite she uses her privilege to speak out against the harsh and unjustifiable treatment that takes place on the plantation crop fields. Which only adds to James political power. Make no mistake James and Elizabeth Garrett have political power, but they also have secrets.

‘These women could talk, and pretend to understand federal policy all they liked. But they would never be able to perceive what they were incapable of seeing. Elizabeth had seen’

Mrs Lovejoy makes the necessary introductions between Mr Moody and the Garrett’s. Once the photo is taken, it reveals a spirit. But this is not the spirit anyone could have foreseen, least of all the Garrett’s. This is the spirit of a slave girl, named Isabelle. But who is Isabelle? Why is she in the photo of the Garrett’s?

‘It was Isabelle – His Isabelle. She had finally returned’

Mr Moody becomes acquainted with Joseph Winter. Winter hopes to expose Moody as a fraud, but until he can achieve such an act he must place himself in the position of Mr Moody’s assistant. This is made much easier via negotiation, after the discovery of Isabelle in the photo. For not only did Winter know Isabelle, he is a black man and therefore able to infiltrate the black community of the south.

‘She is a powerful spirit’ – Joseph Winter

Moody hasn’t heard from Isabelle in 18yrs, since she sent him a letter before heading for Boston. He was unaware she had even passed on.
Does this photo mean that Isabelle, his love, is dead?

Winter is quick to determine their must be a link between Isabelle and the Garrett’s for her spirit to show in their image. Whilst Moody and Winter, set about their investigation.
The Garrett’s are also making plans. . .

‘If he publishes that picture, it could lead to our ruin’ – Elizabeth Garrett

The Garrett’s are extremely concerned for their reputations. They know their elitist society thrives upon rumour, speculation and assumptions. Elizabeth becomes irrational and anxious, urging James to take action. It is then that James summons Dovehouse to retrieve the image, at once.

Benjamin P Dovehouse is James best friend since their years at Harvard law school. However, Dovehouse holds rather different opinions about the negro community. He is a conservative republican and long-standing member of the American colonization society. Dovehouse believes the negroes should know their place in society.

‘A semi-barbarous race of men who worship fetishes and practice polygamy, intent on subjecting all white women to their hot unbridled lust’ 
‘The negroes are little more than children’ – Dovehouse

Moody and Winter quickly become aware that if they are going to uncover the truth, they must act quickly. They also know that they must head south, to where all Isabelle’s trouble began. . .

‘She had a power over them, as she has a power over then now. They will want this photograph destroyed’ – Joseph Winter

At this point I was fully engrossed. I was desperate to know the link between Isabelle and the Garrett’s. I also wanted to know what was so shameful, that they’ll go to such lengths to cover it up? As stated above the historical accuracy is second to none. But it isn’t just historical accuracy that makes a novel of this calibre succeed. It also requires outstanding characterisation, which you will find when you meet Moody, Winter and the Garrett’s and the people we meet along the journey.

The conversations between the characters often reference the racial bias of the generation. The ignorance however wilful, is laid bare for all to see.
“It’s a wonder to me that the women of the south can abide such barbarism”
“And just who do you think is sewing the hoods?”

As Moody and Winter make their journey to New Orleans, they both reflect upon their memories of Isabelle and what made her the woman she was. The kind, decent and honourable woman she once was.

‘Every year a hundred thousand newborn babies are brought upon the auction blocks of Richmod, Charleston, and New Orleans. Every year, tens of thousands of lives are sacrificed to the lash in the south’ – Isabelle

The answers Moody and Winter seek lay in BelleVoix, New Orleans. But they upon the journey Winter must dodge Wilcox, a notorious slave hunter. They come across a wide-range of characters, that just enhance the story in its entirety, such as Yellow Henry. What starts as a simple mystery evolves into a much bigger case, with its roots leading right to congress.

This is an outstanding novel, that I highly, highly recommend!
5* Genius

‘It was convenient – to blame the negroes. It was a trick that always worked’

MJV
Jon Michael Varese
Website
Facebook
Instagram
***The Spirit Photographer is released 3rd May***

Anne Bonny #BookReview Ike And Kay by James MacManus @jamesmac1x #HistoricalFiction #NewRelease #WW2Fiction @Duckbooks #Review

cover
Ike And Kay by James MacManus
Synopsis:

Highly acclaimed author and managing director of The Times Literary Supplement, James MacManus, creates a compelling historical novel that brings to life an unbelievable but true love story set during the Second World War.

In 1942, Cork-born Kay Summersby’s life is changed forever when she is tasked with driving General Eisenhower on his fact-finding visit to wartime London. Despite Eisenhower’s marriage to Mamie, the pair takes an immediate liking to one another and he gifts Kay a rare wartime luxury: a box of chocolates.

So begins a tumultuous relationship that against all military regulation sees Kay travelling with Eisenhower on missions to far flung places before the final assault on Nazi Germany. She becomes known as “Ike’s shadow” and in letters Mamie bemoans his new obsession with ‘Ireland’. That does not stop him from using his influence to grant Kay US citizenship and rank in the US army, drawing her closer when he returns to America. When the US authorities discover Eisenhower’s plans to divorce from his wife they threaten the fragile but passionate affair and Kay is forced to take desperate measures to hold onto the man she loves…

My review:

Ike And Kay is a fictionalised account of the love affair between General Eisenhower and his driver Kay Summersby. The novel is historically accurate and heavily based upon the authors in-depth research. I think the novel is fascinating on many levels. Eisenhower was a key figure in the allied victory over the Nazi’s. His personal life and that of his love life, is rarely discussed in modern fiction or historical articles, with the focus being solely on his military career. Who was Dwight Eisenhower? What drew him to Kay? What did a love affair within the ww2 era mean, once the war was over?

Rest assured the author has covered the timeline perfectly! Opening in May 1942, we are with Kay as she awaits her new General on the platform of Euston station. The scene is set with the smoke/fog of a wartime train station and right away, I knew this was going to be a fantastic read.

Kay Summersby is originally from Ireland. She is part of the (MTC) Motor Transport Corps and becomes Eisenhower’s driver just five months after Pearl Harbour, after he arrives in Britain. Kay has had a colourful love life in the years before she meets Eisenhower. Divorced at just 33yrs old, she has more or less given up on the idea of a ‘happy ever after’. Prior to working for the MTC, she was an ambulance driver around the docklands of London. Kay is a strong woman both physically and emotionally. She is lonely in London, with only one close friend Charlotte. But through the class divide of Britain they are not as close as two friends should be.

Then into her life walks Major General Eisenhower. . .

Eisenhower has the weight of the world literally, upon his shoulders. He must devise military strategy under the fear of the Nazi’s. In Britain with the task of pulling together the allied forces by order of the US president. Eisenhower has no time for love affairs. . . Or so you’d think. . .

‘If Moscow fell before the winter snows it would be Britain next’

The novel expands on Kay’s background, her divorce and previous love affairs. The novel also goes into detail about Eisenhower’s marriage to Mamie who remains in the USA. You really get the feel of the ww2 era and that this was an entirely unique era. Given the war and the constant threat of death that was upon all citizens. You can easily see how it fuelled many a love affair.

Eisenhower is promoted to Commander of European theatre of operations. He forms a military family which has its own internal hierarchy, which Kay is firmly part of. Aside from his military manoeuvres and love life the novel does also show his feelings and opinions towards the British and life in Britain.

‘Trouble with you Brits is everything is about class. Even the working class seem happy to be just that – lower than everyone else. They lack ambition. It’s pathetic’ – Eisenhower

Eisenhower takes up a weekend retreat called Telegram cottage, where he entertains many military leaders including Churchill. Suddenly Kay find herself mixing with the powerful and elite of British intelligence society. Her proximity to Eisenhower fails to go unnoticed. Even as far away as America. . .

‘Jealousy feeds on rumour and the rumours had certainly taken wings across the Atlantic’

With Mamie Eisenhower becoming aware of Kay and her closeness to her husband. Mamie begins to fear for her own future after the war, that and the future of her two young sons.
She expected to lose her husband to the army, but not to another woman.

Kay and Eisenhower travel to various locations on military pursuits, even as far as North Africa. They become closer and closer with each passing day. Kay even purchases a puppy for Eisenhower’s birthday, it isn’t long until influential figures in the military and intelligence are aware of the love affair taking place right under their noses.
They fall under the spell of peace and contentment at the cottage. With Kay finding comfort in the words of denial ‘This man would never love or need anyone more than the wife who waited for him jealously in Washington’ I felt this maybe a lie, Kay would come to regret.

In Washington, Mamie begins drinking far too much, struggling with the rumour mill of the fellow military wives and she fears her husband’s mistress is getting too close. Mamie is a woman on the edge. When she is approached to be part of an article titled ‘life with Ike’. This is a husband Mamie has hardly seen in two years. But keeping up appearances is important in the war.

Kay and Ike’s love affair continues, with regular breeches of regulations and Ike even buying her a fancy gun. Kay meets President Roosevelt and is elevated to positions she could never imagine. She is even offered the chance to be part of an American unit, the Woman’s Army Coprs. Kay Summersby has arrived!!

As the war progresses, even Rommel becomes aware of who Kay is and her close relationship with Eisenhower. After a series of loss of lives in war, Ike is advised to drop Kay and this is when the politics seep over into Ike’s personal life. What was once tolerated, is now becoming an embarrassment to the military.

As the war comes to a close, and the liberation of Paris is underway. Ike and Kay are both planning for a life after the war, but will it include one another? Kay witnesses the brutality of victory, seeing the death of defeat on the streets.
Her feelings towards the affair begin to change.

‘So many young men, lying their like broken dolls – and what for? Nothing’

Faced with the harsh reality of war, Kay begins to feel foolish in her pursuit of Ike. Whilst, Ike is faced with the tough choice of Kay or country?
This novel is a fascinating glance into the lives of historical figures. It offers so much in the form of debate and would be ideal for book groups that have a focus on historical fiction. As stated above the accuracy and research is second to none.
Ike And Kay is a powerful story of love in war.

james_macmanus_sm
James MacManus
Website
Twitter

Author Bio:

James MacManus has worked in the newspaper business for 50 years and is currently the managing director of The Times Literary Supplement. James was a WW2 baby, educated at Westminster School, and graduated from St Andrews University in 1966 when he began his career at the Daily Express in Manchester. James joined The Guardian in 1972, first as a reporter in London and then as a foreign correspondent in France, Africa and the Middle East. In 1985, James joined the Diplomatic staff of the Daily Telegraph in London before a move to The Times in November 1992, first as Assistant Editor (Home) and then Managing Editor in September 1996.

James was appointed Managing Director of The Times Supplements in April 1997. Following heart surgery in 2009, James relinquished many of his duties to concentrate on speech writing and managing The Times Literary Supplement.

In 2006, James’ first screenplay about the life of George Hogg, The Children of the Silk Road, was made into a film starring Jonathan Rhys Meyer titled The Children of Huang Shi. James went on to write a book of the film, Ocean Devil (2008), followed by his debut novel, On the Broken Shore (Harper Collins, 2010) and historical fiction novels Black Venus (Duckworth, 2014), Sleep in Peace Tonight (Duckworth, 2015) and Midnight in Berlin (Duckworth, 2016). You can read more here about his new historical fiction novel Ike and Kay available from 8 March 2018 (Duckworth), a vivid reimagining of General Eisenhower and Kay Summersby’s infamous love affair in London after the second World War.

 

#BookReview 4.5* Rivals Of The Republic by @afreisenbruch @Duckbooks (UK)#TheBloodOfRome #Series @overlookpress (USA)

*I received a paperback copy via Duck books (UK) publishers in return for an honest review*

cover
Rivals Of The Republic by Annelise Freisenbruch
Synopsis:

Using her supreme knowledge of the period, author Annelise Freisenbruch presents the great new heroine of historical fiction, Hortensia, who must navigate the male-dominated courts of law in her quest to uncover a sinister plot to overthrow the Republic. Drawing from historical accounts of the daughter of famed Roman orator Quintus Hortensius Hortalus, Freisenbruch delivers an atmospheric, meticulously accurate and fast-paced story that will have readers craving more. Rome, 70BC. Roman high society hums with gossip about the suspicious suicide of a prominent Roman senator and the body of a Vestal Virgin is discovered in the river Tiber. As the authorities turn a blind eye, Hortensia is moved to investigate a trail of murders that appear to lead straight to the dark heart of the Eternal City.

My Review:

This novel has is it all, the atmosphere, crime, scandal, life and death of Ancient Roman era. The characters are well written and the plot incredibly appealing to me.
I am a huge fan of historical crime fiction.

Rome 70 BC

The novel opens with Hortensia and her brother Quintus at a gladiator arena. They are saved by a gladiator called Hannibal The Conqueror from a crocodile. When he later loses his fight Hortensia urges her father, a wealthy lawyer to buy him as a slave due to his earlier heroics.
Hannbel’s real name is Lucrio and he will, come to mean so much more to Horetensia than she can ever imagine……..

Hortensia’s father is a prominent wealthy lawyer, in Rome. She is his favoured child and for this reason he agrees to allow her to marry for love. Something unheard of for the era. Hortensia chooses to marry her second cousin, Caepio and they move into their own accommodation. Taking Lucrio with them, but Lucrio has secrets of his own and a deep seated need for vengeance…..

As the novel develops, Hortensia feels compelled to help Drusilla, at court with the case of stolen dowry and her children’s custody. This gives Hortensia a voice for the first time, something virtually unheard of in Roman society! Her father is furious with her, for creating a potential scandal. He forbids her from any future such endeavours.
But then Hortensia is summoned to the temple of vesta.

The chief vestal informs her that a body has recently been found and they believe that the vestal virgin was murdered. Documents have either been removed, or forged and this could have an impact on Roman society as a whole. The victim managed to write the words Pomey M at the scene before her death. We learn more about Lucrio’s background and why he is seeking revenge. But it isn’t until he is backed into a corner that he confesses to Hortensia. At this moment, they realise that despite their positions in society.
They must work together to solve the case of the murdered vestal virgin.
4.5*

***** This novel is perfect for fans of the BBC TV show Rome! I was a huge fan of this series and this novel is very reminiscent.*****

AF

Annelise Freisenbruch
Authors links:
Website: http://www.annelisefreisenbruch.co.uk/
Twitter: @afreisenbruch
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3412996.Annelise_Freisenbruch

*A huge thank you to the author & Duck books for my copy and I look forward to the next in the blood of Rome series!*

#Review 4.5* Midnight In Berlin by @jamesmac1x @Duckbooks #WW2Fiction #HistoricalFiction

*I received an paperback copy in return for an honest review*

cover
Midnight In Berlin by James MacManus
Synopsis:
Berlin, 1938. Newly-appointed military attaché Noel Macrae and his extrovert wife Primrose arrive at the British Embassy. Prime Minister Chamberlain is intent on placating Nazi Germany, but Macrae is less so. Convinced that Hitler can be stopped by other means than appeasement, he soon finds that he is not the only dissenting voice in the Embassy, and discovers senior officers in the German military who are prepared to turn against the Führer.
Gathering vital intelligence, Macrae is drawn to Kitty Schmidt’s Salon (a Nazi bordello) and its enigmatic Jewish hostess Sara Sternschein—a favourite of sadistic Gestapo boss Reinhard Heydrich. Sara is a treasure-trove of knowledge about the Nazi hierarchy in a city of lies, spies and secrets. Does she hold the key to thwarting Hitler or is Macrae just being manipulated by her, while his wife romantically pursues his most important German military contact, Florian Koenig?
MacManus’s absorbing new novel evokes a time and place when the personal and political stakes could not be higher, and where the urge for peaceful compromise conflicts with higher ideals and a vicious regime bent on war. As loyalties are stretched to the limit and Europe slides towards another war, could just one act of great courage and sacrifice change everything?

My review:

This novel is ww2 fiction at its finest! It is rich in its content and character depth. I also think it would suit the reader who may lack the factual ww2 knowledge. As it is fully expanded upon. The factual and historical accuracy is superb! The central allied characters are likable and the Nazi characters are portrayed very much, on point with what we have come to know now, post ww2.

Colonel Noel Macrae and wife Primrose arrive at the British embassy in Berlin, to a new posting and new life. Only neither of them can predict how much, their time in Berlin will ultimately change who they are……

Macrae will begin work alongside Roger Halliday and David Buckland. They work for the ambassador Sir Nevile Henderson. The ambassador is a weak man, having spent far too long in Germany, cosying up to the Nazi elite. Nevile believes Germany and Hitler, do not want another war and that this is mere speculation. An evening meal is organised and they are warned to stay away from hotel Adlon. Where the journalist and racketeers thrive.
But what kind of diplomat, heeds every word of their bosses?

“There is always a price to pay for Peace” Nevile

The novel explores Macrae’s background and marriage. We learn that he is an experienced soldier in ww1 and is sniper trained. We also learn he has significant marital problems, with his wife stating they should each embark on affairs.
It isn’t long until Macrae is drawn to the Adlon.

At the Adlon, Macrae makes an acquaintance of Shirer an American journalist with CBS. He explores Berlin and the surrounding governmental buildings. I found that pre-war Berlin was brought alive on the page and that it felt very atmospheric, if not eerie to read. Through conversations with Halliday and Macrae’s old friend German Colonel Koening. We learn that Hitler is planning a military coup, to establish complete control of the military. Hitler is planning a purge.
But why would Hitler plan a purge, if he is not really to go to war?

Across town in Berlin, Joachim Bonner, Herdrich’s #2 is partly running the salon Kitty. A brothel disguised as a restaurant, where the sole attraction is Sara Sternschein. Sara was a university law student, until Hitler took power and ended her life as she knew it. She is now forced to be a prostitute at the salon. The Nazi’s coerced her into the role, with threats against her brother (Joseph being held at Buchenwald) and her mother. They use Sara, to literally turn ‘tricks’ on Nazi Elite. Enabling Heydrich to always stay one step ahead, of any competition. The chapters with her in, are sinister and eerie, the fact that she is so unemotional in her response to her plight, broke my heart!

“You know I always obey orders” Sara

When the military coup, becomes fact, Macrae is faced with informing the UK government. Nevile still persistent in his beliefs that this is not necessarily an act of war. I found Nevile very frustrating, but is this because I have the forth sight Nevile never could have had?

The history around this particular year, is fully detailed within the novel. We witness the effects of Hitler’s actions on all of the staff at the British embassy.
It isn’t long until Macrae, Halliday and Koening are plotting………

“I don’t want to be here. I can’t stand the place. It’s evil” Macrae

Bonner decides to have Sara turn her ‘trick’ on Macrae. But he hasn’t taken into account Sara’s own plotting. Life faced with ‘servicing’ the Nazi elite, must have been daily physical and emotional torture. Then Macrae and Sara finally meet………..

This novel really is an education on the ww2 era. The secrecy, lies and desperation for information, flows from the page.
This novel brings Berlin to life!
4.5*

JM
James MacManus
Authors links:
Website: http://www.jamesmacmanus.com/
Twitter: @jamesmac1x
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1250590.James_MacManus
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JamesMacManusAuthor/