The Saracen’s Mark by S. W. Perry – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Betrayal has many guises…

London, 1593:
 Five years on from the Armada and England is taking its first faltering steps towards a future as a global power. Nicholas Shelby – reluctant spy and maverick physician – and his companion Bianca Merton are settling into a life on Bankside. But in London there is always a plot afoot… 

Robert Cecil, the Queen’s spymaster, once again recruits Nicholas to embark on a dangerous undercover mission that will take him to the back alleys of Marrakech in search of a missing informer. However, while Nicholas hunts for the truth across the seas, plague returns once more to London – ravaging the streets and threatening those dearest to him. 

Can Bianca and Nicholas’ budding relationship weather the threats of pestilence and conspiracy? And will Nicholas survive the dangers of his mission in a hostile city to return safely home?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Jackdaw Mystery series is one of my favourites. Not only because of the characters but also because it takes place in my favourite period in British history. There is something about the power, corruption and fear that enthrals me and all of it comes across in this series.

There are two threads throughout the novel. One concerns Nicholas’s time in Marrakech, the connection between there and the Tudor court was something I wasn’t aware of and the other concerns Bianca and her attempts to stay safe from the plague that is crossing London and her having to come to terms with her feeling of abandonment with Nicholas going to Marrakech. But these two threads are connected and both are in danger.

Whilst I enjoyed reading about Nicholas in Marrakech, learning about the customs and the medical knowledge, and seeing the danger he faced it was Bianca’s story I preferred. The plague that brought fear, empty streets and mounting death but also the threat from power. But the way Bianca dealt with all, knowing that either could end her life had me hooked. 

As usual I spent time on google researching the real life characters and events and enjoyed every minute. I hope that this series continues. 

The Lost Lights Of St Kilda by Elisabeth Gifford – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

1927: When Fred Lawson takes a summer job on St Kilda, little does he realise that he has joined the last community to ever live on that beautiful, isolated island. Only three years later, St Kilda will be evacuated, the islanders near-dead from starvation. But for Fred, that summer – and the island woman, Chrissie, whom he falls in love with – becomes the very thing that sustains him in the years ahead.

1940: Fred has been captured behind enemy lines in France and finds himself in a prisoner-of-war camp. Beaten and exhausted, his thoughts return to the island of his youth and the woman he loved and lost. When Fred makes his daring escape, prompting a desperate journey across occupied territory, he is sustained by one thought only: finding his way back to Chrissie.

The Lost Lights of St Kilda is a sweeping love story that will cross oceans and decades. It is a moving and deeply vivid portrait of two lovers, a desolate island, and the extraordinary power of hope in the face of darkness.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I am going to struggle to find the words to review this wonderful book but I will try. I hadn’t really known what to expect, I wasn’t familiar with the author and I never knew anything about St Kilda. Almost immediately after starting to read it I realised that the novel was based on actual events with regards to the island and I was reading about them on the internet at the same time as reading this novel. The very realistic account of what life must have been like on St Kilda was fascinating. And even though I loved the story of Fred and Chrissie it was the story around the island that will be on mind for some time.

I can’t even imagine a world where you have to scale a cliff to get food to survive. A world where for months every year you have no contact at all with the mainland, no news, no letters, no provisions. The characters were fascinating, brave, independent and proud. They didn’t let anybody portray them as someone to be ridiculed. I enjoyed reading about the ceilidh, the folk stories and the Gaelic traditions. All that was missing was a soundtrack. It’s hard to think that the events that concerned this island happened less than 100 years ago. 

I adored Chrissie, her blossoming friendship with Fred who had visited from the mainland along with Archie, her strength, loyalty, humour and devotion to St Kilda was astonishing. She had great spirit and had a determination to do the best for her daughter despite everything. Even though I liked both, I enjoyed reading her account more than Fred’s, it was from her that you learned more about their relationship and island life. Even though Fred’s experience in the war isn’t mentioned much there was enough for me to experience the danger that he was in. And like St Kilda, his war was something I knew nothing about.

A wonderful read that had me gazing into the distance on finishing. 

The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue – Ambassador Book Buzz.

About The Book

Power. Jealousy. Desire.

Twenty-five years ago, a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl and her charismatic teacher disappeared without trace…
When Louisa arrives at Temple House, an elite catholic boarding school, she quickly finds herself drawn to sophisticated fellow pupil Victoria and their young bohemian art teacher, Mr Lavelle. The three of them from a bond that seems to offer an escape from the repressive regime of the nuns who run the cloistered school. Until Louisa and Mr Lavelle suddenly disappear without trace.

Years later, a journalist with a childhood connection to Louisa determines to resolve the mystery. Her search for the truth will uncover a tragic, mercurial tale of suppressed desire and long-buried secrets. It will shatter lives and lay a lost soul to rest.

The Temple House Vanishing is a stunning, intensely atmospheric novel of unrequited longing, dark obsession and unintended consequences.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher and Love Reading for the copy received. The Temple House Vanishing was an intriguing dual time frame novel that focused on the disappearance of a school girl and her teacher. It is narrated by Laura, the girl concerned, where you learn about her life up to her disappearance and the journalist who is writing about the circumstances twenty five years later and has the unfortunate task of interviewing the ones who knew her. Neither her friend Victoria or prefect Helen are likeable. Helen in particular made me angry every time she appeared.

I had expected the nuns who ran the school to feature more but they were very much in the background, oblivious to the students, the way they were bullied by the prefects and also the effect that the young good looking male teacher had on their pupils.

It was unusual reading Louisa’a story and not knowing what happened to her. Usually you are given clues but nothing was revealed until the end and it was far from straightforward. I had a lot of sympathy for her, she was completely out of her depth when coping with her feelings and the treatment she received at the hands of the prefects, in particular Helen.

Spooky, threatening and with a sense of loneliness this was a great debut by Rachel Donohue.

Rewind by Catherine Ryan Howard – Review.

About The Book

PLAY
Andrew, the manager of Shanamore Holiday Cottages, watches his only guest via a hidden camera in her room. One night the unthinkable happens: a shadowy figure emerges onscreen, kills her and destroys the camera. But who is the murderer? How did they know about the camera? And how will Andrew live with himself?

PAUSE
Natalie wishes she’d stayed at home as soon as she arrives in the wintry isolation of Shanamore. There’s something creepy about the manager. She wants to leave, but she can’t – not until she’s found what she’s looking for…

REWIND
This is an explosive story about a murder caught on camera. You’ve already missed the start. To get the full picture you must rewind the tape and play it through to the end, no matter how shocking…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received via Pigeonhole. Rewind was a novel that I found gripping and at times slightly intimidating. It was a novel where even though none of the characters were particularly likeable I wanted to know more about all of them.

It does jump backward and forward in time quite often and at first I found this a little confusing but once I got used to it and the characters I thought it worked well. Natalie’s career choice was one that baffled me. Internet stardom is something that I don’t really understand the attraction of, but it was more preferable than Audrey’s. Voyeuristic journalism is something I detest, and the author managed to make me dislike it even more. It amused me that Audrey felt the same way. she was one of the few characters I liked more than the others.

I found Rewind to be original, reading it serialised added to the intrigue and suspicion and has left me with the need to examine every inch of a hotel room from now on.

The Serpent’s Mark by S. W. Perry – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Treason sleeps for no man…

London, 1591. Nicholas Shelby, physician and reluctant spy, returns to his old haunts on London’s lawless Bankside. But, when spymaster Robert Cecil asks him to investigate the dubious practices of a mysterious doctor from Switzerland, Nicholas is soon embroiled in a conspiracy that threatens not just the life of an innocent young patient, but the overthrow of Queen Elizabeth herself.

With fellow healer and mistress of the Jackdaw tavern, Bianca Merton, again at his side, Nicholas is drawn into a sinister world of zealots, charlatans and dangerous fanatics…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Serpent’s Mark is the second book in this Tudor crime series. It can be read as a stand-alone novel quite easily.

It is a novel that combines real life characters as well as fictional. As always, some names I am familiar with, some I spend time on the internet trying to find out more information. Even though there are courtiers and titled people in the novel most of it concerns ‘normal’ people. 

Anybody who is familiar with Tudor history will be aware of the turmoil created by religious beliefs at the time. How, whoever was on the throne dictated whether you were Catholic or Protestant. When this novel takes place Elizabeth I was queen and her Faith  was Protestant. Anybody who practised Catholicism faced execution so did so discreetly. The author creates a terrifying insight into how this must have been, it was here that we get to know more about Bianca, her childhood and the betrayal she felt over the way her father was abandoned by the one she thought was a friend.

As well as the religious storyline, and like the previous book, he shows developing medical beliefs. I found it fascinating, reading about how knowledge and understanding regarding science has changed over the years.

All my favourite characters from the last book featured and I have to add another to my list, Rose. I loved her sense of humour, her loyalty and the way she handled the men in her life. Especially Ned.  Nicolas was also a character I appreciated more, how he was starting to move on and acknowledge his feelings towards Bianca without feeling guilt.

Arcampora, the doctor who Nicolas has been asked to investigate, is one of the most terrifying characters I have ever met in any novel. Everything about him had me unsettled. I cringed when he appeared but was also desperate to learn what he would do next. 

A great follow up from an author who is now a favourite.