Anne Bonny #BookReview A Mother’s Grace by @RosieGoodwin 4* #Victorian #saga #HistoricalFiction @BonnierZaffre

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A Mother’s Grace by Rosie Goodwin
Review Copy
Synopsis:

Tuesday’s child is full of grace . . .

Warwickshire, 1910.

Pious young Grace Kettle escapes the world of her unsavoury and bullying father to train to be a nun. But when she meets the dashing and devout Father Luke her world is turned upside down. Her faith is tested and she is driven to make a scandalous and life-changing choice – one she may well spend the rest of her days seeking forgiveness for . . .

My Review:

A Mother’s Grace opens in 1891, Nuneaton and tells the life story of Grace Kettle. A story of overcoming adversity against the odds. It was perfect weekend reading.
I love a lazy Sunday with a saga on the sofa!

December 1891, Madeline marries Judge Jacob Kettle it is the wedding night of nightmares! So early on, you get a real understanding of the vile atrocious man Jacob is. For Madeline it is a marriage of convenience to secure herself a future away from poverty. For Jacob it is a marriage of dominance and control.

By 1892 Jacob has inherited new property which also comes with new staff Mrs Batley, Mabel and Harry. The staff are the only friends Madeline will ever have. The also really brighten the novel, Mrs Batley pushes back against Jacob’s frugal and verbally abusive manner. But she can’t save Madeline who continues to be regularly verbally abused…..
“Speak when you are spoken to, woman” – Jacob

The novel constantly brings alive the era and even more so when baby Grace Victoria is finally born. With little or no help from physicians and Jacob away from home. Madeline is left weak from the birth and never fully recovers.
She is firmly told, that she must bare no more children.

June 1897, Grace is now a young girl and the apple of her father’s eye. Her mother remains weak from her birth, But Grace enjoys the time she gets to spend with her. Grace also has a nanny Betty Donovan, who enjoys teaching Grace about life outside the property. However, Grace’s father remains possessive and controlling of her time and attention. Which I began to worry would become an unhealthy fixation.

By July 1902 Grace is now 10yrs old and her father appears to resent her maturity and attempts to cajole her as if she were much younger. When Madeline notices this, she organises to send Grace to her Aunt Gertie’s in Wales on ‘holiday’.
It is merely a temporary fix.

But in Wales Grace thrives. Gone is the occasional spoiled little madam act. Grace enjoys the local nature, people and becomes fascinated by the local convent and Catholic faith.
It is ultimately this holiday that matures Grace well beyond her years. For which she will need, as from her 16th birthday, life for Grace changes rapidly. 4*

RG
Rosie Goodwin
Website
Twitter

Anne Bonny #BookReview The House On Half Moon Street by @storyjoy Alex Reeve 5* #HistoricalFiction #CrimeFiction #NewRelease @BloomsburyRaven #LeoStanhope #Series Everyone has a secret… Only some lead to murder

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The House On Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve
Review copy – netgalley
Synopsis:

Everyone has a secret… Only some lead to murder. Introducing Leo Stanhope: a Victorian transgender coroner’s assistant who must uncover a killer without risking his own future

Leo Stanhope. Avid chess player; assistant to a London coroner; in love with Maria; and hiding a very big secret.

For Leo was born Charlotte, the daughter of a respectable reverend. But knowing he was meant to be a man – despite the evidence of his body – and unable to cope with living a lie any longer, he fled his family home at just fifteen and has been living as Leo: his secret known to only a few trusted people. But then Maria is found dead and Leo is accused of her murder. Desperate to find her killer and under suspicion from all those around him, he stands to lose not just the woman he loves, but his freedom and, ultimately, his life.

A wonderfully atmospheric debut, rich in character and setting, in The House on Half Moon Street Alex Reeve has created a world that crime readers will want to return to again and again

My Review:

The House On Half Moon Street is a debut novel and #1 in the Leo Stanhope series. This series is set in Victorian London 1880. What makes this historical crime fiction novel so unique, is that Leo was born female. Now, this is not to be confused with Leo masquerading as a male in-order to pursue a career. As did occur within the historical era, due to the opportunities and privileges not afforded to women. Leo truly is transgender, he fully believes he was born in the wrong body. He made the decision to live as a man in his teens and fled his religious upbringing to pursue life, living as he truly believes he is. A man.

‘I’d rather be dead than be Lottie Pritchard’ – Leo

The novel opens at the coroner’s officer of Mr Hurst, an ironic surname, I’ll give you that much! But Leo is assisting with the autopsy of a young man, named Jack flowers. His death is ruled an accident, likely alcohol induced.
This opening gives you an insight into the way Leo’s mind works and how he has an instinct similar to a detective. He is inquisitive and asks questions.

Leo lives above a pharmacy in Soho, with a widowed landlord Alfie and his young daughter Constance. Their lives are plagued by poverty and living on the fringes of the workhouse. I felt this additional information about background characters really added to the historical feel of the novel.
You can’t escape the Victorian London smog, poverty and whole feel to the novel.

It isn’t long until we are through the doors of Elizabeth Brafton’s Brothel, on Half Moon Street. Where Leo meets with Maria every week for a 2hr appointment. Only on this occasion he asks Maria on a date, to the opera, the coming Saturday at 2pm.

“I love you, my Leo” – Maria
‘It was me she loved’ – Leo

On Thursday Leo attends his usual chess club meeting with friend and confidant Jacob. Jacob is distrustful of Maria and warns Leo of the dangers of trusting or falling for a woman like her. Due to his inebriated state, his warnings fall upon deaf ears.
For Leo is a man in love.

On Saturday Leo arrives at the opera and Maria is a no-show. Leaving a very sad and deflated Leo to watch the opera alone. When he arrives the next morning at work, it is to the discovery of a burglary. But what is there to steal in a mortuary? When the body for autopsy is wheeled in, Leo passes out! For the body on the slab, is non other than his beloved Maria. . . .

Leo can’t face work and takes several days off sick. He is roused from his grief when two police officers arrive to take him to the station. Leo begins to fear his secret will be uncovered. Detective Sgt Ripley tries to prise some facts from Leo, but it becomes evident Leo actually knows very little about Maria. After an eventful night in the cells, with Leo on the verge of confessing his sexuality.
He is finally released. But that doesn’t solve the mystery of who killed Maria?

Leo attends Maria’s funeral where he has to face some harsh truths. It is revealed that Maria told many lies to Leo, even her real-name. Maria’s fellow working girl Audrey attempts to offer some words of condolence and faith in Leo. But it is the mysterious Madame Louisa Moreau that grabs his interest. She offers Leo her card and gives the impression she may have more information.

‘Takes a man to do something like that, and you’re a woman underneath’ – Audrey

Due to missing so many days at work, Leo is demoted. He cares very little about this, as Maria’s murder torments his mind over and over again. He decides it is time to meet the elusive Madame Moreau. Louisa is a back-street abortionist. she openly challenges Leo on his decision to live as a man, which makes for intriguing conversation. Up until now, no one has challenged Leo on how he chooses to live his life. Mostly due to him living in near complete secrecy. I found Louisa fascinating, but the only information she holds is Maria may/may not have had a soldier as a lover, possibly an officer.

‘Why should I seem other than what I am?’ – Leo Stanhope

With little to go and no real authority to investigate. Leo must think on his feet, using his access to hospital records and ability to impersonate a police officer.
Leo pursues his own case, he is determined to reveal Maria’s killer.

There are various themes within this novel. The theme of gender roles in Victorian society, being transgender and being forced to live in secrecy. Also, the role of sex work in Victorian London, which many women did as a means to survive. There is a great twist at the end, that completely fooled me!
I am thoroughly impressed with the authors skills to weave a clever tale and look forward to the next instalment in the Leo Stanhope series.

Leo Stanhope is a brilliant protagonist and I personally think the series will thrive
5*

AR
Alex Reeve
Twitter
The House On Half Moon Street was released yesterday!
Happy publication day Alex Reeve!

New Giveaway! A copy of Skin Like Silver by Chris Nickson

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Win a copy of Skin Like Silver by Chris Nickson.

This novel is set in Victorian Leeds and is a historical crime novel. For review see blog.

Synopsis:

Leeds, England. October, 1891. An unclaimed parcel at the Central Post Office is discovered to contain the decomposing body of a baby boy. It’s a gruesome case for DI Tom Harper. Then a fire during the night destroys half the railway station. The next day a woman’s body is found in the rubble. But Catherine Carr didn’t die in the blaze: she’d been stabbed to death – and Harper has to find her killer.
The estranged wife of a wealthy industrialist, Catherine had been involved with the Leeds Suffragist Society, demanding votes for women, the same organization for which Harper’s wife Annabelle has just become a speaker. Were Catherine’s politics the cause of her death? Or is the husband she abandoned behind it? But when her brother escapes from the asylum and steals a shotgun, Harper has to race to find the answers.

For a chance to win please like & share the FB/Twitter post!

Winner to be announced Friday the 17th March.

This competition is UK ONLY!

Q&A with the massively talented Chris Nickson.

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Chris Nickson is in my opinion a man of many talents. Every book he has written I have thoroughly enjoyed. From Tom Harper in Victorian Leeds to WPC Lottie Armstrong which depicts the first female police officers in the UK & Dan Markham of the Dark Briggate blues, which has a whole Jazz/noir feel to it!
See http://www.Chrisnickson.co.uk for further details.

I was very happy when he agreed to be part of a Q&A for my blog, as the novels throw up so many questions for me regarding their inspiration & creation. This Q&A is related to the Tm Harper mystery’s series. Hope you enjoy it!

Q&A

 Q) One of my Favourite Characters in the Tom Harper series, is Annabelle. She is very inspirational in her views, morals, opinions and her characterisation is brilliant! Please can you give a brief summary of the inspiration behind the characters in the series & Annabelle herself?

A) Actually, Annabelle was where it all began. I wrote a short story based on an Atkinson Grimshaw painting (Reflections on the Aire: On Strike, Leeds 1879), and the young woman in the picture was Annabelle. After that, she started pestering me to write more about her. When I sat down to research the 1890 Leeds Gas Strike, she told me ‘I was there, luv. Let me tell you all about it.’ From there, she just grew. There’s a family connection, too, as my great-grandfather ran the pub (the Victoria) that she’s supposed to have run. He had it from the 1920s-40s, and before that he had another place in Hunslet, which is mentioned in one of the books. Annabelle gave me Tom – no surprise, as he’s her husband – and everyone else followed.

 

Q) What made you set the Novels in Victorians Leeds as opposed to Victorian London? I personally feel this is brilliant for northern readers & also adding the northern dialogue adds authenticity. It just all feels as though this actually happened!

A) Most of my books are set in Leeds. I know Leeds, I was born and raised here and I moved back here. I know Leeds, I understand how it works, the sense of it, the streets, and above all, the people. I don’t know London, I could never convince people that I did, and I’d never get the rhythms of speech right.

 

Q) One of my favourite themes in the series is the ‘heroes of the north’. So many inspirational people that you rarely see in fictional novels or Tv series. It makes for refreshing reading. But what is the story behind its inclusion in the novels?

A) If by heroes you mean ordinary people, that’s the reason right there. The vast majority die without leaving many ripples on the pool, and they contribute as much as everyone else. These books are, I hope, little memorials to those who might not otherwise be remembered. Tom Maguire, for instance, was a towering figure in Leeds politics for a short while, and one of the people behind the Independent Labour Party. His headstone still stands and there’s a red plaque commemorating him (in Leeds bus station, close to where his house was). But very few people could now tell you about him or what he did. That’s a shame. When he was buried, the route was lined with people. He deserves to be remembered, which I try to do.

 

Q) The afterword provides pointers to the historical research and accuracy. But what is the most fascinating/interesting piece of history you have come across so far? Does the research drive the plot building or the other way around?

A) Probably the only time the research has really driven the plot is with Gods of Gold and the Gas Strike. Other books in that series do use historical incidents, but they become the jumping-off point, like the fire in Skin Like Silver, or the torpedo test in The Iron Water. The books are driven by the characters more than anything.

 

Q) What are your favourite reads, from childhood to teenage years to adulthood? Did any of them influence your desire to be a writer or your various series?

A) I read widely from the time I could read, a real mix of things. I loved Henry Treece’s books, which might explain the love of historical fiction. But Tolkein, Ian Fleming, all the way to Hesse and Maugham. I read, that was it. My father was a writer, had a couple of TV plays produced in the late ‘60s, so that was a big factor. But from the age of 11, when I wrote a story in three paragraphs for a school assignment, something clicked. And if I couldn’t be a musician (I have, but not a very good one) I wanted to be a writer. It just took time to get there, and a wonderful detour through music journalism.

Leeds is at the core of what I write, and I try to make the place itself a character, so people feel they’ve walked on the streets, smelts the smells, been immersed in it. I started with the Richard Nottingham series, set in the 1730s (six books so far, a seventh coming this autumn), but there’s also the 1950s with Dan Markham and the 1920s with Lottie Armstrong, as well as Leeds, The Biography, which tells the history of the city in short stories. A city changes and evolves, and I try to capture that.

I lived in Seattle for 20 years, and was a music journalist there during the grunge years and after. I’ve tried to capture that in Emerald City and West Seattle Blues, which are set in the music scene. The place is wonderful, everything people claim. My little homage, although those are only available as ebooks and audiobooks, an experiment of sorts.

After moving back to the UK, I spent a bit over four years near Chesterfield, and grew to love the place. The plot for The Crooked Spire came in just a few seconds when I was driving through the town, and now there are two others – The Holywell Dead will be published in the summer, although that will be the end of the series.

*Huge thanks to Chris Nickson for taking part in the Q&A.

Review/New release: On Copper Street by Chris Nickson 5*

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On Copper Street by Chris Nickson

The blurb:

Detective Inspector Tom Harper finds answers hard to come by in his latest, most challenging, investigation to date.
Leeds, England. March, 1895. The day after his release from prison, petty criminal Henry White is found stabbed to death at his terraced home on Copper Street. Pursuing enquiries in a neighbourhood where people are suspicious of strangers and hostile to the police, DI Tom Harper and his team find the investigation hard going. If anyone knows anything about Henry White s murder or the robbery that landed him in gaol in the first place they are unable or unwilling to say.
At the same time, acid is thrown over a young boy in a local bakery in a seemingly unprovoked attack.
Praying for a breakthrough, Harper knows that he must uncover the motive in each case if he is to have any chance of catching the culprits. Of one thing he is certain: if he doesn’t find answers soon, more deaths will follow.

My review/thoughts:

On copper street is the fifth instalment in the Tom Harper series, set in 1895 Victorian London. This is in my opinion Tom’s most complex case to date.

The novel opens with Tom performing a routine check-up on Henry White’s residence. Henry having recently been realised from goal for robbery. Tom arrives to find Henry’s dead body; he appears to have been killed during his sleep. It isn’t long before Tom becomes distracted by the dead body of Tom Maguire and a recent acid attack on a young boy in a Bakery! With body’s stacking up it appears Tom is going to have to keep his wits about him!

The young victim of the acid attack Arthur Crabtree is blinded in the incident and a young bakery assistant (Annie Johnson) is also left disfigured. This attack happens in Tom’s old partner Billy Reed’s wife’s bakery. So we quickly see the return of Billy to the case in question. Billy is keen but doubts his skills at detective work, requiring some encouragement from Tom. Is the acid attack the work of a madman? Or something far more sinister?

Tom’s young daughter Mary is now 3 and wife Annabelle as independent as ever with her suffragist/political and union goals. Tom is called to speak with Superintendent Kendall & learns he is leaving his post due to ill health. Will Tom take over? Will he be approved to when his wife’s opinions are known far & wide over Leeds? Fear/poverty/inequality and secrets are rife in this novel and ultimately it is what makes it so gripping to read! The rich/poor divide rarely ever has no effect on the crimes in hand. I felt this is the first time we see changing times in Leeds. There is so much historical relevance, especially with the real life character portrayal of Tom Maguire. This got me really thinking about northern English Heroes and how they almost fade from history without authors like Chris Nickson to bring them back to life! Emmeline Pankhurst, William Tuke and Joseph Rowntree are 3 of the northern heroes I grew up being told all about as a young Lancashire lass. This series has fantastic characterisation, not only of the central characters but also of the wrong uns and misfits! The dialogue adds authenticity and the historical facts add up! If you have been reading historical fiction but haven’t discovered Chris Nickson, now is your chance J A huge 5* from me!

*I received an Ebook copy via netgalley in return for an honest review.