Tag Archives: romantic suspense

#BookReview ‘Thornyhold’ by Mary Stewart #romance #mystery

Browsing at the library I came upon a Mary Stewart novel I hadn’t heard of. Thornyhold. Of course, I couldn’t resist picking it up and putting it on top of my To-Read pile. It’s a small novel, only 212 pages and I read it in two sittings. Published in 1988, Thornyhold is one of Stewart’s last – her first was Madam, Will You Talk? in 1955 – and this is very different from the romantic suspense stories for which she is known and loved. Mary Stewart Gilly Ramsey inherits Thornyhold, a remote cottage, from her mysterious godmother Geillis. Now alone after the recent death of her father, Gilly plans to start a new life at Thornyhold. As she explores the cottage – its mysterious attic which doubles as a pigeon loft, a still room for drying herbs and making herbal cures – she learns more about her benefactor. There are more questions than answers. As a child, Gilly had always found Geillis enigmatic; she appeared when Gilly seemed to need her, one time producing a crystal ball from her bag. Now, as she meets her new neighbours, Gilly learns the history of the house and her godmother’s reputation as a herbal healer. But was she more, a witch or wise woman? Although odd dreams, a barking dog and strange messages sent by carrier pigeon, unsettle her, Gilly has an inner belief that she belongs at Thornyhold. Nothing will make her leave.
Having recently a read a lot of contemporary novels with dense repetitive emotional description and complicated plots, reading Thornyhold felt like drinking a tall glass of water when desperately thirsty. Such a wonderful turn of phrase, clever and thoughtful, but accurate and never over-done. Gilly meets a neighbour who she describes as having smooth rosy cheeks and ‘the wrong red too thick on a small mouth,’ and I know exactly what she means.
Beautifully written, not a word out of place, not a character too many. Delightful. An instant favourite.

Click the title to read my reviews of other Mary Stewart novels:-

If you like this, try these:-
The Diabolical Bones’ by Bella Ellis
Ferney’ by James Long
The Good People’ by Hannah Kent

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THORNYHOLD by Mary Stewart #BookReview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5Rn via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘This Rough Magic’ by Mary Stewart #romance #suspense

Until re-visiting Mary Stewart again I’d forgotten the exoticism of her settings and so, inspired by The Gabriel Hounds which is set in Lebanon, I quickly moved onto This Rough Magic. I remember being enchanted by this book when I read it as a teenager. The magic of Corfu, the beating heat, the warm dust, the blue sky. My memories didn’t let me down. Mary StewartSet in Greece, this is another fantastic romantic suspense novel from Mary Stewart which to be honest is more adventure story than romance. Difficult to believe it was first published in 1964 [here’s the cover of the Hodder & Stoughton first edition]. More moody and atmospheric than the disappointingly generic front cover of the current edition.

Mary Stewart

The Hodder & Stoughton first edition of ‘This Rough Magic’ in 1960

When young actress Lucy Waring goes to stay with her sister Phyl in Corfu, she meets the neighbour living at the adjacent mysterious Castello dei Fiori. None other than Shakespearean master Sir Julian Gale. Although Sir Julian is flattering, sharing his theory that Shakespeare based The Tempest on Corfu and that Prospero’s cave is nearby, his son Max is cool and unwelcoming. So later, when Lucy is on the nearby beach where she meets a tame local dolphin, shots ring out that nearly hit her, she automatically suspects Max.
This is a story of passing encounters, mysterious deaths, enigmatic locals with classical Greek names, a somewhat naïve but plucky heroine and a Shakespearean ‘sir’ who in my mind I pictured as Sir Ralph Richardson.
Read it for the sultry heat, the mysterious Castello… and the dolphin. Re-reading it is like meeting an old friend.

Click the title to read my reviews of the other Stewart books I’ve re-read so far:-

If you like this, try these:-
The Forgotten Sister’ by Nicola Cornick
The Animals at Lockwood Manor’ by Jane Healey
The Seventh Miss Hatfield’ by Anna Caltabiano

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THIS ROUGH MAGIC by Mary Stewart #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5A2 via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘The House on the Shore’ by @VictoriaHoward_ #romance

The House on the Shore by Victoria Howard starts off seeming to be a conventional romance and turns into a satisfying suspense story set in a beautiful, remote Western Scottish loch. The remoteness is central to the plot. Victoria Howard

After a love affair turns sour, Anna MacDonald leaves Edinburgh for her remote croft, once her grandmother’s, beside Loch Hourn in the Western Highlands. She longs for peace and quiet to write her book. Tigh na Cladach, a two bedroom cottage alone at the end of a twelve mile track, is her bolt hole where she hopes to nurse her injured pride and heart. When she arrives, an unknown yacht is anchored in the bay. On board is a rather handsome American sailor, stranded as he waits for a part to repair his engine. A combative relationship develops between the two; Anna resents the intrusion of Luke Tallantyre but is driven to help by the local community spirit; Luke bridles at the prickly, aggressive woman he must rely on for help. Meanwhile, Alistair Grant, heir to the Killilan Estate which borders Anna’s land, and who was a teenage friend of hers, returns from his life of luxury in the South of France to run the estate. But Grant’s plans for change upset the villagers. In echoes of the Highland Clearances of the 18th century, rents are raised, livelihoods threatened, sensitivities ignored. Anna inspired, begins to write a novel set during this troubled time, imagining her croft and what happened there.

The pace of the modern-day story changes when her tyres are slashed and someone takes a pot shot at her with a shotgun. Romance becomes romantic suspense. I confess during some romantic passages – eg. ‘his broad suntanned chest’ – I wished for less not more, but that is personal taste. The pace of the story was good alternating between Anna’s historical novel, the political dispute about the Estate’s future, the dark threats, and the growing romance.

This is modern day suspense story, mirroring the unique history of the region, with a touch of romance; rather than a page turning psychological thriller. An enjoyable read which I whizzed through on holiday, guessing the identity of the real villain but not working out the motivation.

If you like this, try:-
Love and Eskimo Snow’ by Sarah Holt
Please Release Me’ by Rhoda Baxter
The Lost Letters of William Woolf’ by Helen Cullen

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE HOUSE ON THE SHORE by @VictoriaHoward_ #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4uf via @SandraDanby

#Bookreview ‘The Shadow Sister’ by Lucinda Riley @lucindariley #romance

Lucinda Riley Star d’Aplièse, the third of the six adopted sisters in Lucinda Riley’s dual-timeline adoption mystery series is the subject of The Shadow Sister. Riley excels at combining a contemporary mystery with a related historical story and so far in the series Star has been something of an enigma. Almost twinned to CeCe, her nearest sister in age, she is the quiet unassuming one in this flamboyant family. In The Shadow Sister, she steps out of the shadows and discovers a past involving Beatrix Potter, Mrs Keppel and the King of England.

When their adopted father Pa Salt dies, he leaves each girl a letter and clue about their birth. Star’s journey takes her first to Kensington, London, to an eccentric rare bookseller where, Star, grieving and feeling adrift in life, takes a job as bookshop assistant. She soon proves herself irreplaceable to shop owner Orlando who invites her to his family home in Kent. There she meets his surly brother Mouse – who Star thinks of as ‘The Sewer Rat’ – and delightful nephew Rory. As Star becomes caught up in the turmoil of the Vaughan family, distance grows between herself and CeCe. Slowly Star recognises that in order to work out who she is, she must be separate from her sister.

This novel is not just the contemporary story of Star ‘finding herself’ it is also the story of her ancestry. The historical strand takes us back to 1909 to Flora MaNichol who lives at Esthwaite Hall in the Lake District, and is a neighbour to Beatrix Potter. Flora’s family life is enigmatic, although she is the older sister it is the younger Aurelia who is given a London season and engagement to Archie, destined to be Lord Vaughan, encouraged. Flora would rather run wild on the fells, drawing animals and plants, avoiding her censorious father. Her life takes a turn when she too must live in London, at the house of Mrs Keppel, notorious mistress to the King. Star’s clue hints at a wealthy inheritance, a small onyx animal figurine named ‘Panther’. How can this be connected to Flora; why is she feted as a guest by Mrs Keppel, and what are the connections to Star a century later?

One issue I have with the series is that rather than actually being about the sisters’ mysterious parentage and how Pa Salt came to adopt them, they tell a historical story set two or three generations earlier. So far I have enjoyed all three of the historical stories; I am reading the series in order. The historical strands are linked to each relevant sister, but I am left feeling slightly short-changed about the truth of their birth. I want to know more about the birth parents and how Pa Salt came to adopt them. However in this book, more than the first two, his shadow is more evident so perhaps his story will be unveiled in the seventh book of the series.

Next in the series is The Pearl Sister, the story of CeCe.

Read my reviews of the first two novels in the series:-
The Seven Sisters
The Storm Sister

… plus standalone novels by Lucinda Riley:-
The Love Letter
The Girl on the Cliff

If you like this, try:-
The Faerie Tree’ by Jane Cable
In Another Life’ by Julie Christine Johnson
Fair Exchange’ by Michèle Roberts

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE SHADOW SISTER by @lucindariley #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3XO via @SandraDanby