Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract Juliet & Romeo by @david_hewson #Literary #Romance #Historical #NewRelease @DomePress #JulietAndRomeo

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Juliet & Romeo by David Hewson
Synopsis:

Two young people meet: Romeo, desperate for love before being sent away to study, and Juliet facing a forced marriage to a nobleman she doesn’t know. Fate and circumstance bring them together in a desperate attempt to thwart their parents with a secret marriage. But in a single fateful week, their intricate scheming falls terribly apart. Shakespeare’s most well-known and well-loved play has been turned in to a gripping romantic thriller with a modern twist. Rich with the sights and sounds of medieval Italy, peopled with a vibrant cast of characters who spring from the page, this is Shakespeare as you’ve never read it before.

Extract:

Part One: To Borrow Cupid’s Wings

The Marangona bell in the Torre dei Lamberti had just sounded the hour. Nine of a busy Monday morning in what was once Verona’s imperial Roman forum, now its marketplace, the Piazza Erbe. The square thronged with shoppers bargaining at stalls selling meat and fish, cheese and fruit and vegetables, cheap wine and cheaper beer. In the shadows of the colonnades two youths lurked, Samson and Gregory, both servants of the Capulets. The first a skinny seventeenyear-old kitchen boy, the second a priest’s bastard from Padua, a tall and hefty stable hand shuffling on his big feet as he caught the glint of metal in Samson’s grubby hand. They wore the clothes of their class – rough wool jerkins, baggy britches, sandals held together by thread and nails. This poverty extended to the weaponry they took with them on to the streets. The sons of fine families were in the habit of carrying daggers and rapiers forged in Florence and Milan. The lower orders snatched at anything they could lay their hands on, sharp or blunt. They fought with fists and boots and punches to the balls. Died that way, too. A crude swagger stick sat on a piece of rope round Gregory’s fat stomach, a mallet handle with a spiked iron ball on the end. The blade Samson owned was nothing more than a paring knife stolen from the

kitchen, the edge honed carefully until it gleamed. He held it now, low by his side so that only his companion might see. ‘There’s that fat Montague pig Abraham with his mate. Time to put that stick of yours to some use, Gregory. Go over and wallop him. He wants it.’ Across the piazza, just visible beyond the stalls, two figures moved through the market. Much the same age as the two Capulets. Much the same size: one short and lean, one tubby and daydreaming. Samson and Gregory wore a scarlet feather in their caps. The Montagues a blue one. Not that any of these were flesh and blood of the Montague or Capulet lines. Just servants, sharing the same borrowed hatred and never asking why. Gregory kicked a fish head and stuck his fists deep into the pockets of his britches. ‘I don’t know. We’re getting hard looks from those blokes on the stalls. They don’t like trouble when they’re trying to sell stuff.’ ‘I reckon it was them Montague lads who had that kitchen girl of ours last week.’ Lucia. An orphan who worked the ovens. She’d gone out for a walk by the river. Came back in tears and rags, telling tales the soldiers of Escalus, the city’s current military master, didn’t want to hear. ‘That hare-brained lass should have been in the kitchen stirring the pots, not hanging round down them dark alleys in Sottoriva. Could have been anyone had his way with her. Besides the watchmen reckoned she was up for it. Plenty been there with that daft cow. You for one.’ ‘Scared are you?’ ‘Just thinking it through.’ The Montague pair had spotted them but they hadn’t moved their way. ‘I don’t see you in a rush either.’

Fights were fine so long as the numbers were on your side. And you had the right comrades. Samson liked to whine. It was his principal pastime. Action always came last. ‘It’s only fair. They had one of ours. A bit of gravy on their chops and then we leg it.’ Gregory pulled a stick of dried sausage out of his pocket, bit off a chunk and waited. ‘Master sent us out to buy grub for his ball tonight. He won’t be happy if we come back empty-handed.’ ‘We whack them round the head a bit. Then go hunting round the back of their palazzo. First girl that comes out of the kitchen’s mine. Unless she’s hideous – then you can have her.’ Samson had a sly and cruel face and it was turned on Gregory. ‘With a bit of luck we might get a virgin if the Montagues have got any left. You all right with that?’ ‘I’m all right with the girls. Escalus ain’t so bothered about them. It’s the walloping bit–’ ‘They got to know who’s boss. You with me or not?’ Gregory patted his pocket. He had a stable knife with him as well as the swagger stick. Short, a bit blunt. But he was strong enough to hold a struggling stallion when he had to. The thing would do. ‘I hate the buggers, too, you know. But like I say. Escalus has got that one wicked eye on lads like us. Same way his bosses in Venice have got their eyes on him. The Marshal hates riots. They get him in trouble too. I don’t fancy jail or worse just for giving one of them scummy Montagues a few bruises and a sore head.’ ‘Then let’s get clever. Make them start the scrap. I’ll look at them funny. Get ’em going. That way we’re just… defending ourselves. Which is every man’s right, and Escalus is bound to uphold us in that.’ Samson grinned, displaying a remarkable absence of teeth. ‘As

to the kitchen girls… well… everyone knows what they’re like. I want first go though. This’ll do it.’ Samson winked, grinned and bit his thumb. The oldest, stupidest gesture any of them knew. Someone said the Romans used to do it when they fancied a brawl. ‘Go on then,’ said Gregory and didn’t move. Samson looked up at him. ‘You first.’ ‘When we get around to the girl, you mean?’ ‘No. The fight. You’re the big one. You lead. I’ll follow.’ Gregory slapped him hard on the shoulder. ‘Ow,’ Samson whined. ‘That hurt.’ ‘Oh sorry, friend. We’re supposed to be buying stuff for the evening ball. There’ll be trouble if that goes wrong. Capulet will do the walloping himself and we both know what he’s like with that whip of his.’ Samson went quiet. He’d had enough of Capulet’s beatings. ‘Tell you what,’ said Gregory. ‘We’ll skip the girl. Next week. When we’ve got more time. And…’ A shape they recognised was moving through the crowds, a tall youth around their own age. But he was an aristocrat; it showed in his clothes, his manner, the haughty way he held his head above the swarms of common folk around him as if he couldn’t stand the stink of them. ‘Well, well,’ Samson murmured, gleeful all of a sudden. ‘If it isn’t our master’s well-loved nephew. Just the chap you’d want at a time like this.’ ‘I suppose,’ Gregory agreed, though the sight of the young man across the Piazza Erbe gave him pause. ‘I heard the noble Tybalt crippled a clerk who’d done nothing more than bump into him in the street a month or so ago.’

‘Dead right he did. I was there and he paid me well to keep quiet. Back last winter he ran a cheeky cart boy right through down by the brothels in Sottoriva.’ Gregory didn’t like those dark and dangerous colonnades by the river. ‘Our Tybalt got caught hanging round the tarts down there?’ ‘The only kind of girl that one beds are the sort you pay for. Expensive business. The old man had to dig deep to keep him out of Escalus’s clutches after he murdered the poor little bugger.’ Tybalt was bloodthirsty, vicious and short tempered, always armed with the latest weapons, forever spoiling for a quarrel and a chance to use them. ‘Nothing stopping our Tybalt,’ Samson added. ‘’Specially when there are Montagues around.’ He clapped his grubby hands. ‘This will be fun.’

DH
Photo: Dingena Mol / Crimezone Magazine
David Hewson
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Anne Bonny #BookReview Bitter by Francesca Jakobi – @fjakobi #Literary #Psychological #Suspense @wnbooks Would you let her in?

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Bitter by Francesca Jakobi
Review Copy
Synopsis:

It’s 1969, and while the summer of love lingers in London, Gilda is consumed by the mistakes of her past. She walked out on her beloved son Reuben when he was just a boy and fears he’ll never forgive her.

When Reuben marries a petite blonde gentile, Gilda takes it as the ultimate rejection. Her cold, distant son seems transformed by love – a love she’s craved his entire adult life. What does his new wife have that she doesn’t? And how far will she go to find out? It’s an obsession that will bring shocking truths about the past to light . . .

Bitter is a beautiful and devastating novel about the decisions that define our lives, the fragility of love and the bond between mother and son.

My Review:

This literary novel takes you right into the heart of 1969 and the mind of Gilda, which is not always a nice place to be.
Gilda is such an unusual protagonist, at times I quite liked her. Yet at others I found her behaviour and obsession quite disturbing. Whatever you think of Gilda good or bad, she dominates your thoughts for the entirety of the read!

The novel opens at the wedding of Gilda’s son Reuben to his beloved Alice. Gilda is on edge at the wedding. I couldn’t quite fathom if Gilda is uncomfortable at this wedding, or in her own skin. I was soon to learn the answer is both!
I felt quite sorry for her at the wedding, having to put up with the sight of her ex-husband Frank and Rueben’s stepmother Berta. Especially when guests complimented Berta on what a fabulous son she has raised etc. There is something that told me, there was more to Gilda than meets the eye!
Yet it is at her own son’s speech at which her internal thoughts rage. . .

‘He says she taught him how to love; that she taught him what love could be. And I can’t look at him because he didn’t learn about love from me’ – Gilda

The bond between mother and son is infinitely complex and can be fundamental to the man, that will grow from the boy. Various psychologists have studied the bond between parent and child, including Freud etc. I have also seen the mother/son relationship extensively documented in true crime documentaries. Did the mother cause the man to develop into the killer? So, on and so forth. Yet this novel isn’t about the impact of the relationship on Rueben, but on Gilda.
Gilda’s fractured emotionally longing, for love from her son.

‘This is the son who never touches his mother, not even on the cheek when he kisses me hello. This is the son who never visits me unless he knows he has to’ – Gilda

The wedding and the speech leave quite the impression with Gilda. They cause her to challenge everything about her own childhood, upbringing and existence.
Gilda’s emotional pain at her son’s marriage, weighs on her like a bereavement. She lives alone and has little else in her life to focus on. So, what is born that day becomes an obsession. Gilda’s only (reluctant) friend is Margo, who has known Gilda from their school days together. I hoped through Margo we might get to the truth. But Gilda is content to paint an entirely different story whenever she speaks to her. Margo believes the two share a close bond. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. . . .

‘As if love were simply there for the taking’ – Gilda

The novel explores Gilda’s childhood, she had distant parents. Who were Hamberg socialites until ww2. Gilda was then sent to boarding to school in England to avoid the Nazi’s. She took this as the ultimate rejection, which caused a lack of confidence as a mother herself and last a lifetime.

“Don’t think any of us will miss you” – Lena

Gilda was constantly compared to her sister Lena. Her sister was the blonde bombshell, the beautiful clever daughter. Gilda was seen as the inconvenience or the embarrassment. This is cemented further when her father decides to marry her off to a work colleague. A marriage of convenience for an inconvenient young girl.

“You’ll like him very much. You’ve got no choice” – Gilda’s father

Her marriage to Frank Goodman, was far from a success. But yet produced the very much-loved Reuben. The secrets within Gilda and Frank’s marriage slowly unravel and you begin to see things not only from Gilda’s point of view. But from the truth of what took place years ago.

‘Our marriage went wrong but he wasn’t a bad man. He doesn’t deserve the things I’ve done’ – Gilda

In the present day of 1969, Gilda begins to meddle in the lives of Rueben and Alice. I could tell this would end badly for Gilda and that her continued interference would only push her son further away. I wanted to scream through the pages at her, that she was going to make this all so much worse than it need be.
Alice however, continues to make effort with Gilda to try and form a bond and a relationship with her new unapproving mother-in-law. In one sense Alice is quite the hero of the novel. It maybe through her kindness and tolerance that Gilda sees sense. Rueben on the other hand is not so forgiving. He blurts out a brash statement, that made me physically flinch. As I knew the impact this would have on Gilda’s emotional state.

“She looks after me better than you ever did” – Rueben

Rueben’s own childhood is then explored. We learn that like his mother he too, was sent away to boarding school. However, the circumstances were devastatingly different.
We also learn that through his entire childhood Gilda seemed to love and long for him from afar. Pursuing other interests as she felt so inadequate as a mother. To such an extent that Rueben’s first word was ‘nanny’.

Somehow in all of this, I felt that a lot could be solved if Gilda and Rueben just sat down and talked the past through. Then you remember that this is 1969 and within the era, parenting attitudes were much different to modern-day parenting.

I found this novel incredibly moving, for many reasons. Gilda’s past history makes such a fascinating read. I felt captivated by her. She is this book reading, whiskey drinking woman that loves to wallow in her own misery.
We can all be a Gilda, given Gilda’s personal history.
Essentially this novel is about coming to terms with our past mistakes and building a future. I found it interesting to read about women in a different era. The social norms and traditional roles they play. So much different from my own experiences.

Slow burning, literary and captivating. 4*

FJ
Francesca Jakobi
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Anne Bonny #BlogTour Q&A – Let Me Be Like Water by @_sarah_perry #Literary #NewRelease @melvillehouse #LetMeBeLikeWater #AuthorTalks

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Let Me Be Like Water S.K Perry
Synopsis:

Holly moved to Brighton to escape. But now she’s here, sitting on a bench, listening to the sea sway… what is she supposed to do next? How is she supposed to fill the void Sam left when he died? She had thought she’d want to be on her own. Wrecked. Stranded. But after she meets Frank, the tide begins to shift. Frank, a retired magician who has experienced his own loss but manages to be there for everyone else. Gradually, as he introduces Holly to a circle of new friends, young and old, all with their own stories of love and grief to share, she begins to learn to live again.

Q&A:

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

A) Let Me Be Like Water tells the story of the narrator – Holly – who loses Sam, her partner of five years when she’s in her early twenties. The novel takes place in the first year after his death, as she begins to process her grief. She moves from their shared flat in London to Brighton and – sat by the sea one day – she meets Frank, a retired magician. He introduces her to a Book Club he runs, teaches her to bake, and helps her find her feet. She takes up running and spends her time navigating the chaos of loss as best she can, getting to know herself again and reimagining the rest of her life without Sam. It’s sad, but also (I hope) funny, and really it’s about what it is to heal.
In terms of my background, after graduating uni in 2012, I worked in a call centre for a bit, during which time I co-founded the Great Men project, an initiative working with men and boys to discuss and affirm healthy masculinities, challenging behaviours linked to violence, sexual violence and disproportionately high suicide, addiction, and imprisonment rates in men and boys, and promoting mental health awareness and gender equalities. I then studied for an MA in Creative Writing and Education, and spent a year working in school using creative writing to promote emotional literacy and wellbeing. I spent a year as the Global Campaign Manager at PEN International, and have acted in gender consultancy and training roles for businesses and NGOs. As a writer, I was longlisted for the inaugural London’s Young Poet Laureate and was Cityread Young Writer in Residence in Soho, from which my poetry book Curious Hands was commissioned.

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

A) In some ways the book was vey accidental, which I think maybe lots of first novels are. I was working in a call centre (meaning lots of time to write), and then a family death and a life-changing trauma left me feeling completely adrift. I have a grandad I never met, who’s also a bit of a family legend, and I guess he became the starting point for the character Frank. I find the sea therapeutic and if I sit by it, or swim in it, I often find my mental health bolstered, so it made sense for Brighton to be the setting of my story, the place where the narrator Holly struggles to heal as she grieves the loss of her partner. As a woman in my early twenties I was yearning for narratives of female friendship; accounts of sexual experiences located in the female body; depictions of womanhood just started. I wrote about running because I think trauma is often processed by our bodies, whether we push them too hard or neglect them entirely. I wrote about food because I love to read novels that make you hungry. I wrote about sadness because I wanted to find a way to hold what I was feeling, a story other people could be held in too. It was a jumble of thoughts and feelings that felt like the beginning of a book so to motivate myself to finish it, I entered it into the Mslexia Novel competition. When it was longlisted I had to finish it (fast! I wrote 30 000 words in a fortnight), and then when it was shortlisted, I had time to edit it before pitching to agents at an event run by the competition. My agent, Laura West at David Higham, edited it with me for around eighteen months before it was sent out to publishers, and then last year Nikki Griffiths at Melville House said they were going to buy it. I was working on a project in Tegucigalpa, Honduras when my contract first came through, sat on a rooftop and eating with my colleagues; it was really surreal!

Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

A) I’m so fickle; anything I have just read and loved becomes my favourite! I’m currently reading Sharlene Teo’s Ponti, which is great. Most recently I loved The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy. Some of my other favourites are: everything written by Zadie Smith; The First Bad Man by Miranda July; All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche; and All The Birds Singing by Evie Wylde. I love memoir and poetry too. When I Hit You: Or, a Portrait of the Artist as a Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy is phenomenal, as is Small White Monkeys by Sophie Collins. Poets I love include Belinda Zhawi, Mary Jean Chan, Miriam Nash, and Ella Frears. I also love and respect poets like Victoria Adukwei Bulley and Toni Stuart who are working across mediums, using film or documentary or dance for example, to do other interesting things in their work. Victoria produced the Mother Tongues films, which were some of my favourite pieces of literature I engaged with last year.

Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

A) As a child, I was wildly obsessed with Anne of Green Gables; my first true love was Gilbert who she ends up marrying and although I was happy for them, this really broke my heart. I think I was maybe a bit in love with Anne too, which made it even harder to swallow. Also I loved a book about a group of kids who founded a theatre: The Swish of the Curtain. I grew up in a wonderful time; we had the anticipation of each new Harry Potter book (I still fall asleep listening to those audiobooks again and again) and the Noughts and Crosses series, which were brilliant stories in themselves obviously, but also the first time the structures of whiteness were made visible to me as an eleven year old white girl. I wanted to be an actor, so as a teenager I read plays devoutly; I loved Shakespeare’s comedies, as well as Tennessee Williams. I was obsessed with Sylvia Plath for a while, and we read The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, and Saturday by Ian McEwan at school for A level English. I had great teaches and loved both these books so I think they were both quite foundational novels for me too.

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

A) Answering these questions the book isn’t actually out yet so I will have to wait and see! My favourite thing about writing is teaching though; I love working with other writers and creating ways they can tease out what they want to say and the best way of saying it for them. It makes me a better writer too, and it’s always a thrill to be present in someone else’s creativity.

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

A) I’m so blessed in this regard. I am surrounded by other writers and creatives who are very supportive, including my partner and some of my closest friends. My housemates are some of the best people in the world, and my family are really supportive and wonderful too. My agent is the person who has pushed me hardest and really nurtured me too; I’m so grateful for her support with this book. Being published by an independent is also very humbling; they take big risks on the books they put out because they’re smaller in terms of resources. I’ll be forever grateful to Nikki Griffiths at Melville House for taking the plunge with this book; putting it out there is a real show of support and I feel very lucky to have had that from her.

*Thank you for taking part in the Q&A on my blog, I wish you every success with your writing career.

SK Perry © Naomi Woddis copy
S.K. Perry
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Anne Bonny #BlogTour #GuestPost #Protagonist – Tale Of A Tooth by @Alliewhowrites #LiteraryFiction #NewRelease @Legend_Press

9781787198524
Tale Of A Tooth by Allie Rogers
Synopsis:

Four-year-old Danny lives with his mother, Natalie, in a small Sussex town. Life is a struggle and when they are threatened with a benefits sanction, salvation appears in the form of a Job Centre employee called Karen. But Karen’s impact is to reach far beyond this one generous gesture, as she and Natalie embark on an intense relationship.

Told in the voice of an intelligent, passionate and unusual child, Tale of a Tooth is an immersive and compelling look at the impact of domestic abuse on a vulnerable family unit.

Guest Post:

The protagonist of Tale of a Tooth is four year old Danny White. Danny lives in a studio flat with his mother, who he calls Meemaw.

From the beginning of the book, we realise that Danny is an unusual child. He sees Meemaw’s emotions as colours, he is a fluent reader, he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of dinosaurs, the ability to spend long stretches of time content in his own company and he is often overwhelmed by too much light and noise.

Danny’s intelligence, his perceptiveness, his particular ways of navigating the social world, along with the intensity of his bond with Meemaw, made him a gift of a character to narrate this story. As the author, I felt there was no need to do anything other than let Danny speak. He doesn’t miss what matters, even if sometimes he doesn’t understand the significance of what he’s observing.

At one point in the book, Meemaw talks to Danny about the future, when she thinks people might start ‘slapping on the labels.’ So, what labels is she talking about? Is Danny gifted? Does he have synesthesia? Does he have sensory processing disorder? Is he on the autistic spectrum?

This story happens in the part of Danny’s life when he lives alone with his mother and is not in touch with any services that might have given him any sort of diagnosis. If readers want to consider his possible future, if they feel any particular labels fit, then I’m sure they will apply them. But, as the author, all I knew for certain was that Danny had arrived in my head with this story to tell. I let him tell it as himself and challenged my readers to enter his way of experiencing the world without giving it any adult definitions.

One of the things I hope Danny manages to convey to the reader is the safety and warmth of his life with Meemaw, in spite of the many challenges they face as the story unfolds. Though they are living on the edge financially, Danny’s world is kept stable and manageable by Meemaw’s deep, almost instinctive, understanding of him.

Of course, that’s not to say that Meemaw doesn’t misunderstand at times, or lose patience, or occasionally get driven to desperation by his particular wants or needs. And that’s certainly not to say that she doesn’t crave adult company or the attention of someone who sees her as more than just Meemaw. But she and Danny share a powerful bond and I hope readers see that a great deal of Danny’s courage and resilience comes from having a mother who respects his essential self.

As a parent, aunt, and friend, I’ve been privileged to know a lot of four year olds. To be honest, I think they have all been far more sophisticated and complex little people than the adult world usually assumes them to be. If I say Danny is ‘unusual’ then I think it’s worth bearing in mind that there is no template child in the world against whom he is to be measured. All children, all people, are, of course, unique.

Tale of a Tooth is a dark story in many ways. There were scenes that were painful to write, as I realised the horror of what Danny was going to face. I became fiercely fond of him, his kindness, his focus and, more than anything, his honesty. But it was his honesty that meant there was no way he was going to flinch from telling the truth of what happened when his Meemaw met Karen. I hope readers will hear him.

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

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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
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***The Spirit Photographer is released 3rd May***