Tag Archives: Cornish novels

#BookReview ‘The Key in the Lock’ by @bethunderdown #historical

Two unrelated deaths, thirty years apart, set in motion a chain of cause and effect. Decades later, so many answers remain unspoken. The Key in the Lock by Beth Underdown is an unusual multiple timeline historical mystery set in Cornwall, rather like Mary Stewart mysteries but darker. Beth UnderdownIvy Boscowen has known two deaths in her life. In 1918 she is mourning the death in the Great War of her son, Tim. The exact circumstances of his death cannot be confirmed and this haunts her, she becomes afraid that her reluctance for him to enlist actually forced him to go and so feels responsible for his death. At night she dreams of Tim when he was a child, hiding beneath a bed. This dream morphs into the memory of another young death; when Ivy was nineteen, young William Tremain died in a house fire at the nearby Polneath. He was found asphyxiated beneath a bed. The two deaths are unconnected in terms of circumstances and cause, but are forever connected in Ivy’s mind because of decisions taken.
When she was a teenager, Ivy was sweet on Edward Tremain, son of ‘Old’ Tremain, owner of Polneath and the gunpowder works. Appropriately, at the heart of this novel are two fires plus explosive secrets hidden for decades. Ivy is a rambling, unreliable narrator who makes inconsistent statements, assumptions and rash decisions, and I found it difficult to warm to her.
The echo in the opening sentence of Daphne du Maurier’s first sentence of Rebecca felt unnecessary and heavy-handed. Yes, this novel is also set in Cornwall, but tone and style are different. This is more a character piece than a mystery and I didn’t find it particularly gothic. Some events are mentioned in advance so there is no mystery when they happen, others are simply disorientating rather than curious. The timeline switches between the two main timelines – 1888 and 1918 – plus flashbacks to Tim’s childhood and 1919, and it’s not always clear when things are happening.
I finished the book in two minds. I prefer the 1888 storyline but can’t help thinking there is a clearer, stronger story buried within, hidden by unnecessary plot complications and red herrings.

Read my review of THE WITCHFINDER’S SISTER, Beth Underdown’s debut novel.

If you like this, try:-
The Animals at Lockwood Manor’ by Jane Healey
Touch Not the Cat’ by Mary Stewart
The Vanishing of Audrey Wild’ by Eve Chase

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE KEY IN THE LOCK by @bethunderdown #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5×7 via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘Tea for Two at the Little Cornish Kitchen’ by @janelinfoot 

I’m not a great reader of novels described as ‘heartwarming’, particularly with cheerful pastel-coloured covers. But as an impulse read for a winter day when I was feeling under the weather and in need of comfort, Tea for Two at the Little Cornish Kitchen by Jane Linfoot proved to be a bit of a surprise. Jane LinfootSecond in the Little Cornish Kitchen series, I hesitate to call this a ‘cosy romance’ but it is fun, flirty and funny. Novels set in Cornwall are almost a genre of their own and the fictional seaside village of St Aidan with its pastel-coloured houses set on steep windy streets leading to the beach is ideal for a ‘community’ novel with a strong list of characters.
There are lots of alliterations, hashtags and cute names starting with Cressida Cupcake, the social media name for hit online baker Cressy Hobson. Dog and apartment-sitting for her brother Charlie [owner of the Little Cornish Kitchen Cafe and star of the first book in Linfoot’s series, one of a collection set in St Aidan] Cressy will be at Seaspray Cottage for six weeks. She’s glad to escape London and the embarrassing fallout after an online baking disaster. She’s trending on social media as #CrappyCupcake, her book deal has fallen through, her blog sponsors have disappeared and she is short of cash. But when confronted with her sister-in-law’s circle of best friends, she hides the truth and is determined to work things out on her own.
Inevitably she is soon pulled into the community and joins the fundraising plans for the financially-struggling Kittiwake Court community care home. Cressy’s private baking parties take off, as do her sales of bake boxes via the local Facebook group. Add in a meeting with her handsome teenage crush, assorted sheep to be fed and eggs to be collected, a collection of adorable cats and dogs, various cute children and babies, and the scene is set for Cressy to lurch from disaster to triumph to embarrassment and disaster again and again. There are serious themes too – miscarriage and infertility being the main two – but in general there’s a light hand when it comes to the reality of seaside living, seasonal unemployment, online hate, poverty and the struggles of an ageing population. This is romantic comedy, a getaway from the real world. In this pastel-coloured village, reality is pushed firmly to one side.
Not my normal reading but great for the time when a Bakewell tart blondie is preferable to a single digestive. Oh, and if you enjoy baking there are some great recipes at the end.

If you like this, try:-
Girl in Trouble’ by Rhoda Baxter
Butterfly Barn’ by Karen Power
59 Memory Lane’ by Celia Anderson

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
TEA FOR TWO AT THE LITTLE CORNISH KITCHEN by @janelinfoot #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5wE via @SandraDanby

My Porridge & Cream read… @SueJohnson9 #books #duMaurier

Today I’m delighted to welcome novelist, poet and short story writer Sue Johnson. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier.

“My Porridge & Cream read is Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier (first published in 1936). I can remember finding it in the school library one wet Friday afternoon when I was thirteen. (We’d made ginger cake in our cookery class that morning and I still associate the book with the smell and taste of ginger and spices.) Our English teacher liked us to read at least two books a month of our choice that were nothing to do with our school work. We also had to write book reviews saying what we liked – or didn’t like – about the books we’d read.

Sue Johnson

Sue’s copy of Jamaica Inn

From the first page of Jamaica Inn I was hooked. My friends had to prise it out of my hands when the bell went for the end of school. I then went on to devour everything else that Daphne du Maurier had written. My other favourites are Rebecca and Frenchman’s Creek.  We used to spend family holidays in Cornwall and I still love the county. I never tire of Jamaica Inn no matter how many times I re-read it. I’ve returned to it countless times – particularly when I was ill as a teenager, when I went through a traumatic divorce and when my Dad died. I’ve also enjoyed seeing the film versions – but none of them have been as good as the book.”

Sue Johnson is published as a poet, short story writer and novelist. She also creates books aimed at helping and encouraging other writers. Her work is inspired by fairytales, the natural world and eavesdropping in cafes. Sue runs her own brand of writing workshops and critique service. She is also a creative writing tutor on five of the courses offered by Writing Magazine.


Sue JohnsonWhen Gemma Lawrence inherits a share of her Great Aunt’s restaurant she is dismayed to find she has to share it with Stefano Andrea, a moody Italian chef. Gemma and Stefano have broken relationships behind them and dislike each other on sight as much as Stefano hates the cold English weather. Under the terms of the will, they have to work together for six months to turn the dilapidated building into a successful restaurant. If either of them leaves or a profit has not been made, then they will lose their inheritance. The challenge is on and neither of them are prepared to give up. As they work together they begin to unravel the story behind the inheritance and find out what links the English apple orchard to the Italian lemon grove. Apple Orchard, Lemon Grove is a fast-paced novel with intriguing characters, atmospheric locations and mouth-watering food.

What is a ‘Porridge & Cream’ book? It’s the book you turn to when you need a familiar read, when you are tired, ill, or out-of-sorts, where you know the story and love it. Where reading it is like slipping on your oldest, scruffiest slippers after walking for miles. Where does the name ‘Porridge & Cream’ come from? Cat Deerborn is a character in Susan Hill’s ‘Simon Serrailler’ detective series. Cat is a hard-worked GP, a widow with two children and she struggles from day-to-day. One night, after a particularly difficult day, she needs something familiar to read. From her bookshelf she selects ‘Love in A Cold Climate’ by Nancy Mitford. Do you have a favourite read which you return to again and again? If so, please send me a message.

Discover the ‘Porridge & Cream’ books of these authors:-
Julia Thum’s choice is ‘The Little White Horse’ by Elizabeth Goudge
Amanda Huggins chooses ‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer is chosen by Clare Rhoden

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Why does novelist, poet and short story writer @SueJohnson9 re-read JAMAICA INN by Daphne du Maurier? #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4IU via @SandraDanby