Tag Archives: historical

#Bookreview ‘Winter of the Heart’ by @EG_Parsons #historical #romance

EG ParsonsWinter of the Heart by EG Parsons is a good old-fashioned romance about bad choices and second chances involving a heroine who is afraid to love again, a widower grieving for what he has lost and a violent husband, set in post-Civil War South Carolina.

In 1876,Megan Connors starts a new life as a schoolteacher on a ranch at Willow Creek. Finding the children eager to learn, she hopes her dreams of a good life are coming true. Except for her boss, the rude ranch owner Charles Donavan, glamorous neighbour Alicia who expects to marry Charles, and a ghostly presence. When romance starts to blossom, Megan must admit she is not free to marry. When her former husband William arrives to claim her, Megan must leave with him and return to their home in Clearwater, Virginia.

The second half of the novel is a tale of survival. Megan plans her escape from William’s house but with winter approaching she gets lost and wanders into the mountains. Encounters with a bear, bandits and snow leave her almost dead. Meanwhile Charles realises his behaviour to Megan was harsh. He leaves his ranch and with the help of confidential investigator James Marshall, investigates Megan’s story. Marshall sends a man into the mountains to search for Megan but, growing impatient, Charles follows. Is Megan dead, or is she sheltering in one of the remote homesteads cut off by snow until spring comes.

I read this quickly on a plane and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Amazon UK

If you like this, try:-
‘Barkskins’ by Annie Proulx
The Knife with the Ivory Handle’ by Cynthia Bruchman
‘Summertime’ by Vanessa Lafaye

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
WINTER OF THE HEART by @EG_Parsons #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3yz via @Sandra Danby

#Bookreview ‘The Tea Planter’s Wife’ by @DinahJefferies #romance #historical

Dinah JefferiesIn Ceylon, between the First and Second World Wars, pre-Independence, a young wife arrives from England to join her new husband on his tea plantation. The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies is a portrayal of an island riven by racial differences, a marriage riven by an inability to be honest, concluding that in the end skin colour should not matter.

As her ship from England docks in Colombo, Gwen Hooper feels faint and is helped by a charming dark-skinned man. This is our introduction to Savi Ravasinghe, a pivotal character, a Sinhalese portrait painter who paints the rich in Ceylon, England and America. At this first meeting, Gwen demonstrates her naivety of racial tensions between Ceylon’s native Sinhalese population and the Tamil workers brought to the island by the British tea planters to work on the plantations. Soon after, trying to help an injured worker, she tramples over old sensitivities and the Raj way of doing things. I found Gwen both fascinating and a little irritating. The story is told totally from her viewpoint and, for me, her husband Laurence is rather remote. When Gwen gives birth to twins, the first, a boy, is christened Hugh. The second is a dark-skinned girl. In fear of accusations of infidelity with Savi, and rejection by her husband, Gwen panics. Her ayah Naveena takes the child to be cared for in a nearby village. Conveniently, the birth took place with only the ayah present so secrecy is assured. But Gwen lives on, haunted by her lies to her husband and her failings to her daughter.

This story hangs on the premise that Gwen feels unable to question her husband about the death of his first wife and child. When we finally get the answer in the last few pages, it seems obvious. Except of course the book is set in the late 1920s early 1930s so though obvious to a modern reader, it would not be widely known or understood at that time. To say more would give away the plot. This aside, I enjoyed this fragrant tale of the Hooper tea plantation, the difficulties faced after the Wall Street Crash, the changing times, the fashions and foods. There is a particularly unlikeable sister-in-law Verity, American vamp Christina, and bright and charming cousin-from-home Fran. The story felt alive in Ceylon. Jefferies cultivates a believable world from another time with the scents of cinnamon, sandalwood and jasmine combined with bullock dung, grease and rotting fish, servants dressed in white, and glamorous balls danced to the music of jazz. In contrast the short section in New York when Laurence and Gwen meet bankers and advertising men to launch the Hoopers Tea brand, seems remote and it was a relief to return to the lushness and complications of Ceylon.

Amazon UK

Read more about Dinah Jefferies’ other books at her website.

If you like this, try these:-
‘The Gift of Rain’ by Tan Twan Eng
‘A Mother’s Secret’ by Renita d’Silva
‘The Garden of Evening Mists’ by Tan Twan Eng

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Beneath the fragrance of Ceylon lies dung: THE TEA PLANTER’S WIFE by @DinahJefferies #bookreview http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2Rh via @SandraDanby

#Book review ‘The Distant Hours’ by Kate Morton #historical #romance #WW2

Kate MortonIf ever there was a novel in which a house plays the role of a character, this is it. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton is told in two strands, World War Two and the Nineties, involving the three Blythe sisters in Kent at Milderhurst Castle and a South London mother and daughter, Meredith and Edie. They all are connected by the war, the house, and the truth of what really happened when Juniper Blythe was abandoned by her lover in 1941.

This is a brick of a book [678 pages], like Morton’s other novels. A little too long for me, the story meanders at times through past and present until it works towards the final mystery. What a mystery, an ingenious storyline and an unpredictable final twist. The story starts when a letter arrives for Edie’s mother, a letter lost for decades, a letter dating from wartime when Meredith was a schoolgirl evacuated to Kent. Edie is fascinated by her mother’s history, but her mother does not talk of it. They are not close, and Edie feels unable to press for information. So she sets off to investigate on her own.

At the centre of the story is the house, and what a house it is: beautiful, crumbling, representative of a time past. When Edie visits the castle in 1992 for the first time, she thinks: ‘Have you ever wondered what the stretch of time smells like? I can’t say I had, not before I set foot inside Milderhurst Castle, but I certainly know now. Mould and ammonia, a pinch of lavender and a fair whack of dust, the mass disintegration of very old sheets of paper. And there’s something else, too, something underlying it all, something verging on rotten or stewed but not. It took me a while to work out what that smell was, but I think I know now. It’s the past.’ Living there, Edie finds the three Blythe sisters, alone after the death of their father.

Morton writes brilliantly about the war years, conjuring up life at this vast castle and in the village of the same name. Running throughout is a mysterious, ghostly, spooky thread based on Raymond Blythe’s best-selling book The True History of the Mud Man. ‘The moat has begun to breathe. Deep, deep, mired in the mud, the buried man’s heart kicks wetly.’ Is the book set at Milderhurst Castle? Is the Mud Man based on a true story? The book is yet another connection between Edie and the castle, she loved it as a child after being given a library copy when ill by her mother. And so the concentric circles tighten.

Amazon UK

For more about Kate Morton’s books, visit her website.

If you like this, try these books with atmospheric houses:-
‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier
Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte
‘A Sudden Light’ by Garth Stein

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE DISTANT HOURS by Kate Morton http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1YD #bookreview via @SandraDanby