Anne Bonny #BookReview Her Kind by @NiamhBoyce #Ireland #Historical #WitchCraft @PenguinIEBooks

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Her Kind by Niamh Boyce
Review Copy

Synopsis ~

1324, Kilkennie

A woman seeks refuge for herself and her daughter in the household of a childhood friend.

The friend, Alice Kytler, gives her former companion a new name, Petronelle, a job as a servant, and warns her to hide their old connection.

Before long Petronelle comes to understand that in the city pride, greed and envy are as dangerous as the wolves that prowl the savage countryside. And she realizes that Alice’s household is no place of safety.

Once again, Petronelle decides to flee. But this time she confronts forces greater than she could ever have imagined and she finds herself fighting for more than her freedom …

Tense, moving and atmospheric, Her Kind is a vivid re-imagining of the events leading up to the Kilkenny Witch Trial.

My Review ~

‘Where was the maid of Dame Alice Kytler?’

The novel opens in 1324 Kilkenny, Ireland. There are a wealth of various characters from Bishop Ledrede to Dame Alice and the humble servants such as Petronelle De Midia. We become aware that Alice and Petronelle have a shared past which is shrouded in secrecy. A past they must never speak of…

‘If only it was as easy to stop dreaming as it was to stop speaking’ – Basilia

Basilia is Petronelle’s daughter whom must portray herself as a mute. Which becomes more and more difficult when accusations begin to unsettle all the women. The era is one of female oppression and silence. The women may know more than they can let on. But as women they are forbidden from speaking out…

‘Anyone who speaks against their Bishop is either a lunatic or a heretic’

I found the whole combination of medieval history, Irish history and suspicion very dark and mysterious. The accusations of witchcraft and religious conflict of the era add to the authenticity. History proves, women rarely escaped punishment for their perceived ‘infractions’ against the church and society’s idea of common decency.

While the dialogue may not be 100% historically accurate. The title is one of fiction, it is written to be a fictional re-telling of an historical event. Unfortunately we will never be able to understand the full emotions of the women accused in the various witch trials in Ireland and the UK.
I really enjoyed Basilia’s characterisation and the ending left me open mouthed! 4*

NB
Niamh Boyce
Twitter

Anne Bonny #BlogTour Q&A with @Carol4OliveFarm Carol Drinkwater #Author of The House On The Edge Of The Cliff #NewRelease #Historical #Thriller #Saga #France @PenguinUKBooks

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The House On The Edge Of The Cliff by Carol Drinkwater
Review To Follow

Synopsis ~

No one else knows what happened that summer. Or so she believes . . .

Grace first came to France a lifetime ago. Young and full of dreams of adventure, she met two very different men.

She fell under the spell of one. The other fell under hers.

Until one summer night shattered everything . . .

Now, Grace is living an idyllic life with her husband, sheltered from the world in a magnificent Provençal villa, perched atop a windswept cliff.

Every day she looks out over the sea – the only witness to that fateful night years ago.

Until a stranger arrives at the house. A stranger who knows everything, and won’t leave until he gets what he wants.

The past and present spectacularly collide in this gripping story of love and betrayal echoing across the decades.

Q&A ~

Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?

A) I am Irish though born in London. I come from a theatrical family. My father was a musician, agent, entertainer. The stage was in my blood. I wanted to be an actress from the age of four, almost as soon as I could visualise the concept of my future. I also dreamed of being a writer. I was writing from the age of eight and was fortunate to have my first little story/anecdote published when I was ten. At drama school I wrote reams of background stories for all the characters I played. Throughout my professional life as an actress I kept diaries, travel journals, and wrote for magazines.

THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE CLIFF is set in the South of France close to Marseille in an area known as Les Calanques or The Creeks. It is national parkland, stunning beautiful, rather wild and with very dramatic scenery.
The earlier sections of the novel are set in Paris in the spring of 1968. The historically famous May ’68, which was the year of the student uprisings. It was a fabulous period in modern history, full of optimism and idealism. It was the same time as the marches worldwide against the Vietnam War. The popular music was amazing: Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Mamas and Papas, Bob Marley … many others. My novel is full of this music, enriched, I hope, by the dreams of the young. Dreams, disappointments, first love, sexual awakening … the rites of passage journey from teenager to a young woman and then that same woman’s life at a later stage when the mistakes from her past come back to haunt her.

Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea, to writing and finally to publication?

A) I wanted to write a story that has a menacing thread to it. Life threatened. A past error that returns to haunt, Grace, my principal character. A secret carried for half a lifetime. And I wanted to locate the story somewhere dramatic, spectacular with high cliffs, commanding seas, long stretches of beach, boulders, boats. An environment where the weather rules and ‘accidents’ can happen. A strip of land and sea where tragedies can be buried, can lay undiscovered for decades.

I also wanted to set the earlier part of Grace’s story against a period of time, modern history, that was evocative and inspiring.

Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

A) I am a great fan of Isabel Allende, Grahame Greene, Marguerite Duras. Daphne Du Maurier, Somerset Maugham.

I would recommend almost everything each of them has written.

Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

A) I loved the Just William books and got into trouble at school for reading them because our English Lit teacher judged them ‘not sufficiently literary’ but read them again and you will find a wonderful window into a slice of English society and its time. And Richmal Crompton’s ability to create richly comic characters and situations is memorable.

The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley was another great favourite of mine. Macmillan have published a recent edition HERE.

All of Dickens, of course.

Q) What are you currently reading? 

A) I am currently RE-reading The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler.

Of all the books I have recently read, I can highly recommend: the new William Boyd, Love is Blind. Sally Rooney’s Normal People. David Nicholls’ Sweet Sorrow to be published in July, David Park’s Travelling in a Strange Land.

I am a great fan of top quality thriller and suspense writers such Le Carré, Ambler, Greene. These authors are so precise in their storytelling, disciplined. They are also very clever at weaving in social and modern history.

Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?

A) Seeing The Olive Farm, the first of my series of six Olive Farm books soar into the Sunday Times bestseller list. These books spent weeks there and I used to spend hours looking at the newspaper to convince myself it was all true.

Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?

A) This is never the job of one person. There have been several who have been an encouragement for me. My husband, Michel, comes first because from the beginning he encouraged me to believe I could go professional with my writing. Throughout my career I have had several editors. They changed according to the genre of books I was writing or whether they were for the Young Adult market or commercial fiction or memoirs (The Olive Farm series are memoirs). Alan Samson, who was my non-fiction editor and is now the chairman of W & N, taught me an immense amount about the art of storytelling and being in touch with one’s readers. Alf Wight, who is the real man behind the James Herriot books also helped me. I spent so long filming All Creatures Great and Small that I had plenty of time to ask myself what it was about the books and material that made the stories so successful. Alf Wight had such a gift for welcoming his readers into his world and never talking down to them.

Perhaps the most important inspiration of all are the writers I have read. Reading, reading, reading is the best method of learning to write.

CD
Carol Drinkwater
Website
Twitter

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Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract The Wartime Midwives by Daisy Styles #NewRelease #HistFic #Saga #WW2Fiction #ww2

coverThe Wartime Midwives by Daisy Styles
Review To Follow

Synopsis ~

In the dark days of war a new hope is born . . .
1939.

Mary Vale, a grand and imposing Mother & Baby Home, sits on the edge of the Lake District. Its doors are open to unmarried women who come to hide their condition and find sanctuary.

Women from all walks of life pass through Mary Vale, from beautiful waitress Emily, whose boyfriend has vanished without trace, to young Isla, cast out by her wealthy family after her first year at university goes horribly wrong.

Awaiting them is Nurse Ada and Sister Anne who work tirelessly to aid the mothers and safely deliver the babies. But the unforgiving Matron and Head of Governors, Captain Percival, have other, more sinister, ideas.

As war looms the women at Mary Vale must pull together for the sake of themselves and their babies and Ada and Anne must help protect their patients, no matter what the cost.

Extract ~ 

In her college digs in Durham, Isla Ross took small sips of
water from the glass she clutched in her trembling hand.
‘God!’ she gasped. ‘If only I could stop being sick …’
She was trying to pack her belongings into a suitcase in
order to vacate her room, which her crabby landlady was
keen to repossess.
‘I’ll be off soon,’ Isla had promised.
Secretly, she’d been hanging on for longer than was
sensible for one purpose
only –
to talk to Professor Wiley
about her condition.
‘God!’ She gagged again, as her stomach seemed to rise
into her mouth.
For somebody who hadn’t eaten for what seemed like
days, how could she keep on vomiting like this? After the
bout had passed, Isla almost collapsed on her narrow single bed; staring up at the ceiling, she tried to stop the tears
welling up in her eyes. What a mess she’d made. What an
unbelievable bloody fool she’d been. Up until she’d been
twenty-one years old, she’d never even as much as kissed
a boy; then, at the beginning of her second year at Dur

ham, she’d fallen head over heels madly in love with her
middle-aged English professor, who’d literally seduced
her with the poetry of William Shakespeare.
All through her first year at college her friends had tried
to involve Isla in their social life, which centred around the local dancehall. To start with, just to show willing, she’d
gone along with their giggling plans, allowed herself to be
made up and dressed up in borrowed crêpe dresses. At the
dancehall she’d drunk only shandy, while her friends
downed gin and orange, and she’d actually hidden in the
ladies’ toilet when the dance band struck up.
All Isla had ever wanted to do was to read books and
study English literature: Shakespeare, Byron, Keats, Chaucer, the Brontës, Jane Austen, T. S. Eliot. A star pupil at
Benenden, she’d come to Durham to
study – not to dance and drink and find a boyfriend. She appreciated her friends’ joie devivre (the last thing she wanted was for them to think
she was an intellectual snob), but she really did detest those
Saturday nights at the dancehall, where she actively avoided
men rather than enticed them. When her friends finally
realized how shy and retiring Isla was in public, they stopped
asking her to join them, for which Isla was truly grateful.
And that’s how her student life had been: quiet, peaceful,
studious and
happy – until Professor Keith Wiley had laid
eyes on the cleverest student in his tutorial group. Isla Ross,
with her silver-blue, dreamy Highland eyes and luscious pink lips set in a sweet, heart shaped face framed by curling silver-blonde hair. She had a soft young body, with curves in all the right places, and distinctly strong, muscular legs
because of all the hockey matches she’d played at boarding
school. Though innocent Isla didn’t know it, Keith Wiley
was famous for his dalliances with clever, pretty girls, whom
he charmed with compliments and attention. Nobody could
have been more infatuated than Isla when Wiley critiqued
her essays or selected her to read passages from Shakespeare
and Marlowe in her lilting Scottish voice.

When the professor had asked Isla if she’d like to
accompany him to the theatre to see a local production of The Tempest, Isla had almost swooned in delight. They’d met on a snowy night and walked into the town centre, the Professor gallantly taking her arm in order to stop her from slipping on the icy roads.
The production was mediocre, but Isla thought it was sublime; she knew all the
great lines from the play and whispered them under her
breath as she watched the actors on stage. ‘We are such
stuff as dreams are made on,’ she murmured.
Taking her hand and softly kissing her fingertips, Keith
Wiley had concluded the line for her: ‘And our little life is rounded with a sleep.’
Hearing his deep Northern voice in her ear, Isla’s pulse
raced and her heart beat so fast she was sure
he would hear it. During the interval they drank sherry at the bar
and discussed the performance; Isla had never been so
happy, so alert and so in tune with another human being. He might be double her age and her tutor, but she was quite incapable of
resisting his kisses; in fact, she welcomed them with an intensity that surprised her. ‘Goodnight, dearest girl,’ he’d murmured as they parted, with
the snow still falling softly around them. ‘Come and see
me in my rooms tomorrow; we have so much to discuss.’
Weak at the knees, Isla had agreed and gone to bed in
a haze of romantic infatuation.‘And
look where that got me!’ she thought bitterly now.

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Anne Bonny #BookReview Only Killers And Thieves by @paulhowarth_ 4* #NewRelease #Western #Australia #HistoricalFiction #HistFic @PushkinPress

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Only Killers And Thieves by Paul Howarth
Review Copy

Synopsis ~

A story of two brothers on a trail of revenge

Queensland, 1885. It is a scorching day in Australia’s deserted outback when Tommy McBride and his brother, Billy, return home to discover a devastating tragedy.

Distraught and eager for revenge, the young men set out in search of the perpetrators. They are soon forced to seek help from their ruthless neighbour John Sullivan, and the Queensland Native Police an armed militia infamous for hunting down Indigenous Australians. The retribution that follows will embroil the brothers in a heart-breaking injustice, uniting them in a battle for survival, and forever tearing them apart.

My Review ~

Only Killers And Thieves is set in 1885 Queensland, Australia. I will confess that I don’t read many westerns despite being a big fan of historical fiction. So, I most definitely found this title to be very unique in its themes and characters.
I never thought I’d enjoy a western!

The title opens with the McBride brother’s Tommy (14yrs) and Billy (16yrs) hunting in a drought. The boys trespass on John Sullivan’s land leading to a dressing down from the native mounted police, Inspector Edmund Noone. Where they also witness two mutilated and burned bodies Noone has hung from a tree. The two victims are black men and this causes tension when the boys relay the story to their father…

‘Using black to hunt other blacks. It’s disgraceful’

We become aware of the racial tensions that exist in the historical era. The brother’s entitlement to their land, despite being of Scottish/English/Irish descent.
Their father is disgusted at the crimes, which causes Joseph to leave his employment and seek to move on. However, he fears a war developing with John Sullivan. So, he is willing to over look the murders to keep the peace.
That is until he receives a note from Sullivan…

‘I’m waiting Ned’

The McBride brothers return one day, to find their father dead. Their mother assaulted and killed and their sister barely killing to life. The brothers instantly blame Joseph, who recently left their employment, as they rush to pin the blame on someone. The brother’s seek help from John Sullivan, with Billy embellishing their story stating he saw Joseph present at the scene. But can the boys trust John Sullivan?
Why are they so quick to turn their backs on Joseph?

‘Being a wage slave ain’t much better than being a black fella’

The racial prejudices of John Sullivan and the era in general may shock the reader. But they are historically accurate for the colonial history. Sometimes I think the harsh reality of this era, has almost been completely whitewashed from history.

With Billy swept up in the horrors of violent racism. Has he sold his soul to the devil?
The brother’s pick different sides, will this be their downfall?

Prejudice, anger, violence and revenge. 4*

PH
Paul Howarth
Website
Twitter

Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract Stasi 77 by @djy_writer #NewRelease #HistFic #ww2 #Stasi @ZaffreBooks #Historical #Thriller #Stasi77

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Stasi 77 by David Young
Currently Reading ~ Review To Follow Soon

Synopsis ~

A secret State. A dark conspiracy. A terrible crime.

Karin Müller of the German Democratic Republic’s People’s Police is called to a factory in the east of the country. A man has been murdered – bound and trapped as a fire burned nearby, slowly suffocating him. But who is he? Why was he targeted? Could his murderer simply be someone with a grudge against the factory’s nationalisation, as Müller’s Stasi colleagues insist? Why too is her deputy Werner Tilsner behaving so strangely?

As more victims surface, it becomes clear that there is a cold-blooded killer out there taking their revenge. Soon Müller begins to realise that in order to solve these terrible crimes, she will need to delve into the region’s dark past. But are the Stasi really working with her on this case? Or against her?

For those who really run this Republic have secrets they would rather remain uncovered. And they will stop at nothing to keep them that way . . .

A gripping and evocative crime thriller, moving between the devastating closing weeks of the Second World War and the Stasi-controlled 1970s, STASI 77 is David Young’s most compelling and powerful novel yet.

Extract ~

April 1977
Berlin

His heart started pounding, and his throat constricting, even before he reached the crossing point.
Checkpoint C.
C for Charlie.
A place where the glitz and decadence of West Berlin gave way to the colourless grey of the East. The contrast was always striking, no matter how often he crossed the border.
He’d done this journey countless times for work. Always driving – through France, Belgium, West Germany. And then the motorway corridor into West Berlin.
Each business trip was ostensibly about making money, making connections. Doing deals with the Deutsche Demo- kratische Republik, with its voracious appetite for foreign hard currency.
But his real reason for these trips was something quite different.
It was to investigate.
To collect information. To identify people. And now he knew enough. Now he was ready to begin.

As the guard checked his papers, a deep wracking cough started, and he couldn’t stop it. His body convulsed like a beached fish. The guard stared hard at him.
“Aussteigen!”
It was all going to go wrong now, he sensed it. He managed to control the cough – a permanent legacy of a day he wished he could forget, the day that this was all about – but beads of sweat formed on his brow, and his breathing was laboured and panicked. He climbed out of the Citroén, obeying the guard’s gestures and shouts.
The guard circled the vehicle, opened its gently sloping hatched back, and pulled out the businessman’s leather workbag.
‘Open it, please.’
He flipped the catch. There was nothing in the bag that didn’t match the stated purpose of his visit: all was as it should be, except for the one thing he wanted to be found. But the busi- nessman still felt his face begin to colour up, to feel the guilt, even though he was guilty of nothing. The tension felt like it was intensifying in every sinew in his body, each second causing another twist to course through him.
The guard pulled out a plastic bottle of colourless liquid. He unscrewed the top, and immediately pulled his head back as he smelt the fumes, almost as though he’d been given a small electric shock.
“What’s this?’ he asked, grimacing.
The businessman didn’t trust his voice to answer, and instead opened his papers, lightly running his finger over the entry which corresponded to the one litre of fire accelerant – approved for temporary import into the Republic as part of his business. The business of fire prevention. The Republic was developing fire resistant materials as an offshoot of its chemi- cals industry. His job was to test them so that they matched the standards of the West before sealing any import-export deal. In effect, he needed to be a fire-starter, in order to be an effective fire-preventer. It was a career he’d chosen for a reason. Part of that reason was this visit to East Germany via its capital, even though his destination lay hundreds of kilometres back towards the West. It was a circuitous route, designed to deflect attention. He didn’t want some twitchy East German border guard ruin- ing his plan.
‘The guard glanced over to his guardhouse, as though he was about to summon a superior. But then his attention turned back to the leather bag. He rummaged around again, and pulled out the multi pack of Gauloises cigarettes the businessman had deliberately left there – he knew it flouted customs regulations.
Waving the cigarette packets in one hand, and the bottle of liquid in the other, the guard shook his head, a theatrically severe look on his face. It was a young face, an inexperienced face —- even though the businessman knew most of these officers in border guard uniforms were actually agents of the Ministry for State Security.
The Stasi.
“These don’t mix well together; said the guard. “You might have permission for this…’ He waved the bottle around again with one hand. Then the cigarettes with the other, as though he was making secret semaphore signals to his colleagues. “But importing these…’
Tm sorry. I must have forgotten to take them out, said the businessman. He tried to give a calm, unflustered outward appearance. Inside he was churning up. He needed the guard to want to confiscate the cigarettes, and relish the thought of quietly smoking them, or sharing them with his fellow officers.
The guard’s semaphore-like waving paused mid-air. ‘This interaction had reached a critical point. The businessman held his breath – his heart tapping a steady drum beat. The guard placed both objects on top of the Citroén’s roof, then glanced at his watch. He shrugged, picked up the bottle and placed it back in the bag, along with the man’s passport and documents. ‘Then he waved the businessman back into the driver’s side, and picked up the cigarette multi pack.
If he knew the businessman had left them there deliberately – that it was an unofficial ‘trade’ – it didn’t show in his deadpan face. “We will be impounding these; he said. ‘Importing them is illegal. Do not do it again.’
He waved the Citroén past, while shouting through the open driver’s window.
‘Enjoy your stay in our Socialist Republic, Herr Verbier.’

DY
David Young
Website
Twitter

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