Anne Bonny #BlogTour #BookReview The House Across The Street by Lesley Pearse 4* #NewRelease 1960s #Saga #HistoricalFiction @MichaelJBooks @ed_pr #LoveLesley25

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The House Across The Street by Lesley Pearse
Review Copy
Synopsis:

Twenty-three-year-old Katy Speed has always been fascinated by the house across the street . . .

The woman who lives there, Gloria, is the most glamorous neighbour on the avenue, owning a fashionable dress shop in Bexhill-on-Sea. But who is the woman who arrives in the black car most Saturdays while Gloria is at work? Sometimes she brings women to the house, and other times the women come with children.

Hilda, Katy’s mother, disapproves of Gloria. She wonders where these mysterious visitors have come from, and what they want. Does Gloria have sinister reasons for secretly bringing strangers into the heart of the community?

Then one night, the house burns down. In the wreckage, the bodies of Gloria and her daughter are found. Katy is sure the unexplained strangers must be responsible, until her father is arrested and charged with murder.

Surely the police have arrested the wrong person?

Is the rest of the street safe?

Can Katy find the truth before it’s too late?

My Review:

I am a huge fan of Lesley Pearse and her novel Remember Me, is one of my all-time favourites. I recently enjoyed The Woman In The Wood, but noticed the author had taken a much darker spin on her usual saga type novels. It was still a cracking read, but I was surprised at some of the tough/violent themes.
This time she has written a similar dark novel, set in the 1960’s. The era really sets the tone, as this was an era of fundamental change for women and the beginnings of the female sexual revolution.

The prologue opens in Bexhill-On-Sea, Essex 1964. Katy (22yrs) is busy spying on her neighbours, when she is interrupted by her brother Rob. He is currently home from university and appears to not feel too welcome in his own home.
It becomes quite clear why upon the introduction of Hilda. Katy and Rob’s mother, is far from ‘mothering’. She appears to enjoy belittling and making nasty remarks to others including her own daughter, son and husband. But no one is a bigger target for Hilda than the glamour neighbour Gloria.

Mrs Gloria Reynolds is a local business owner. She owns ‘Gloria’s Gowns’ and Katy is in complete awe of her. Something which sees to incense Hilda even further. Gloria is considered a ‘glamourous divorcee’ locally. With divorce still being considered a taboo subject. Katy is desperate to know more information about her, but aware of the social restrictions to simply ask…..
‘It was rude to ask personal things of someone you didn’t know’ – Katy

Gloria had often taken the time to give Katy advice and guidance, which led to a growth in her confidence and self-esteem. Which enrages Hilda as she feels the slip of her control over her daughter growing.
Especially when Gloria recommends a life in London for Katy.

Hilda is a battle-axe and all-round snob, but as her character develops, we uncover there is more going on inside her own head.
As the saying goes, damaged people, damage people.

In January 1965, there is a terrible fire in the middle of the night at Gloria’s. A fire that will take the lives of two souls, including Gloria. Albert (Katy’s long-suffering father) rushes to help. Whilst Hilda continues to make vicious snide comments and be opinionated beyond the realms of human decency.

When the fire is discovered to be arson and Katy’s father is arrested. Katy must turn amateur sleuth to separate fact from fiction. Albert denies any such affair or knowledge of a motive for the fire. Whilst Hilda turns on her own husband.
‘By consorting with that woman right under my nose, he deserves all he gets’ – Hilda

Katy seeks out Gloria’s friend Edna, is a desperate search for clues of who would want Gloria dead. What she uncovers is a world of domestic abuse, hidden and hushed up amongst middle-class society.

The plot is very moving, and protagonist centred around Katy. I struggled with the constant reminders of this being an issue impacting ‘middle-class’ people. Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, it certainly doesn’t discriminate due to wealth. 4*

Lesley Pearse Copyright Charlotte Murphy 2014
Lesley Pearse
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Anne Bonny #BookReview The Woman In The Wood by @LesleyPearse #TheWomanInTheWood #LoveLesley @ed_pr @MichaelJBooks ‘This saga novel is very dark in places, it deals with some heavy and emotive themes. But above all else it is a story of families, survival and hope!’

cover
The Woman In The Wood by Lesley Pearse
Review copy
Synopsis:

London, 1960

The lives of teenage twins Maisy and Duncan change forever the night their sick mother is taken to an asylum. Sent to live in the New Forest with their cold-hearted grandmother, Mrs Mitcham, they feel unloved and abandoned.

And when one day Duncan doesn’t come home from exploring in the forest, no one – least of all his grandmother – appears to care about his disappearance. The police, who’ve found the bodies of other missing boys, offer little hope of finding Duncan alive.

Yet Maisy refuses to give up. Though she doesn’t know the woods well, she knows someone who does. The strange old woman who lives at their heart.

Dare Maisy enlist the help of the woman in the wood?

My Review:

I am a huge fan of Lesley Pearse. I still remember fondly the emotional rollercoaster that was, Remember me and it was 16yrs ago that I read it. She has such a wealth of novels in her back catalogue now, I wonder how she finds inspiration for new plot lines and characters. When I originally picked up The Woman In The wood, the cover and synopsis has an almost Hansel and Gretel feel to it.
I will say this, this is the darkest novel I have ever read by Lesley Pearse. I was quite taken aback in parts.

The novel opens in West London 1960, twins Maisy and Duncan witness their mother being taken from the house in the middle of the night. They are aware that she is destined for the asylum and are unsure of what their futures hold. Their mother Lily has been bed bound since a riding accident 12yrs ago. However, we the reader become aware Lily’s infirmity is not physical but more mental health.

The twins are eventually taken by their father Alastair to his mother’s home Nightingales, in the New Forest. Grandma Mitcham is what I would call a cantankerous battle axe. She is cold in her approach and demeanour towards the children and they find sanctuary in the arms of housekeeper Janice.
The twin’s father is also cold and distant; and it is clear to see that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

‘Even our parents don’t like us much’ – Maisy

Despite the upheaval and bleak future. The twins like most children are resilient. They learn to make the most of their new life at Nightingales. Duncan loves to explore the wilderness of their remote, isolated location. The begin to spy on local recluse Grace and have lessons with Mr Dove. Mr Dove is a wheelchair bound veteran of ww2, who despite the challenges he has faced in life, remains to hold a positive outlook on life. He even attempts to get them to understand their father better. By teaching them about parenting and learnt behaviour. Although at times this seems wasted on Maisy who remains angry at her parent’s behaviour.

‘Maybe her accident has always been just an excuse o stay away from everyone’ – Maisy

Mr Donald Grainger is a regular visitor to the estate. He is Grandma Mitcham’s solicitor. He advises her when she spitefully decides to disinherit Alastair, choosing Duncan to inherit, her wealth and land. My Grainger is the only person aside from Janice that we see, who appears to tolerate Grandma Mitcham. She is often spiteful and nasty in her character assassinations of others, especially the twin’s mother Lily.

Duncan eventually builds up the courage to conversate with Grace and a friendship of weekly visits blossoms.
When Duncan goes missing, she is Maisy’s first port of call. . .

‘Do you know, he’s the only person I’ve talked to properly in ten years or more. I frightened everyone else off’ – Grace

With Grandma Mitcham and her father refusing to take Duncan’s disappearance seriously. Maisy must strike out on her own and find clues. When her grandmother forbids her from anymore searches. Her father slaps her and blames her for Duncan’s disappearance. Maisy decides to leave Nightingales and take a role as nanny in Brighton.
It’ll be many years before she returns. . . .

‘It’s difficult to respect someone who shows no interest in you’ – Maisy

In the two years of Maisy’s absence there has been the discovery of several bodies of missing boys. Maisy decides once and for all, she needs closure. She returns to Nightingales, seeking to find her twins body, giving him the proper burial he deserves.

Maisy and Grace meet again; and we learn more of Grace’s background and why she lives so reclusively. They form an unlikely pair of investigators. But between the twin’s bond and their bond with Grace they set out to bring Duncan home.

This saga novel is very dark in places, it deals with some heavy and emotive themes. But above all else it is a story of families, survival and hope! 5*

LP
Lesley Pearse
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My review of, Dead To me