I’ve read quite a few books for the challenge already, but haven’t reviewed them, so here they are as mini reviews.😀
Mrs England by Stacey Halls
From Goodreads: “West Yorkshire, 1904. When newly graduated nurse Ruby May takes a position looking after the children of Charles and Lillian England, a wealthy couple from a powerful dynasty of mill owners, she hopes it will be the fresh start she needs. But as she adapts to life at the isolated Hardcastle House, it becomes clear there’s something not quite right about the beautiful, mysterious Mrs England. Ostracised by the servants and feeling increasingly uneasy, Ruby is forced to confront her own demons in order to prevent history from repeating itself. After all, there’s no such thing as the perfect family – and she should know. Simmering with slow-burning menace, Mrs England is a portrait of an Edwardian marriage, weaving an enthralling story of men and women, power and control, courage, truth and the very darkest deception. Set against the atmospheric landscape of West Yorkshire, Stacey Halls’ third novel proves her one of the most exciting and compelling new storytellers of our times.“
Stacey Halls is one of my favourite authors so I knew I wanted to read this as soon as I heard about it. I loved Ruby the Norland Nurse sent to Yorkshire to look after the three England children. she really was the perfect nanny to look after them and make sure their lives were in perfect order. I felt for her though as soon as she arrived at the house as it was obvious there was something very wrong. This is definitely a gothic tale as the secrecy and tension pulled the story along making me feel uncomfortable the whole time, never sure who I could trust or like. Just like in her previous books Stacey Halls writing was perfect, confirming that she really is one of my favourite authors.
The Queen’s Spy by Clare Marchant read Alex Hogg & Russell Bentley
From Goodreads: “1584: Elizabeth I rules England. But a dangerous plot is brewing in court, and Mary Queen of Scots will stop at nothing to take her cousin’s throne. There’s only one thing standing in her way: Tom, the queen’s trusted apothecary, who makes the perfect silent spy… 2021: Travelling the globe in her camper van, Mathilde has never belonged anywhere. So when she receives news of an inheritance, she is shocked to discover she has a family in England. Just like Mathilde, the medieval hall she inherits conceals secrets, and she quickly makes a haunting discovery. Can she unravel the truth about what happened there all those years ago? And will she finally find a place to call home“
I really enjoyed this audiobook it’s just the sort of dual timeline book that I love! I loved both the present day and Elizabethan timelines as Tom and Mathilde were very likeable characters. I loved listening to the descriptions of Tom as he made lotions and potions in his apothecary work, and worried for him as he became one of the Queen’s spies. I loved Mathilde straight away and hoped she would stay in Norfolk, instead of rushing away in her camper-van to her nomadic existence as a photo journalistic. Just like in The Secrets of Saffron Hall there’s a great mystery at the heart of this story and I loved how once again Clare Marchant weaved the two storylines together to reveal it all at the end. The narration by Alex Hogg and Russell Bentley was excellent, giving me two new narrators to add my to ever expanding list. Highly recommended if you love historical fiction.
Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson
From Goodreads: “June, 1781. An unidentified body hangs upon a hook at Deptford Dock – horribly tortured and branded with a slaver’s mark. Some days later, Captain Harry Corsham – a war hero embarking upon a promising parliamentary career – is visited by the sister of an old friend. Her brother, passionate abolitionist Tad Archer, had been about to expose a secret that he believed could cause irreparable damage to the British slaving industry. He’d said people were trying to kill him, and now he is missing . . . To discover what happened to Tad, Harry is forced to pick up the threads of his friend’s investigation, delving into the heart of the conspiracy Tad had unearthed. His investigation will threaten his political prospects, his family’s happiness, and force a reckoning with his past, risking the revelation of secrets that have the power to destroy him. And that is only if he can survive the mortal dangers awaiting him in Deptford…“
I loved Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s latest book Daughters of Night and knew I wanted to read or listen to her debut. I opted for the hardback from the library because I wasn’t too keen on the narrator for this book. The writing was superb and I felt transported back to the 1700s straight away as I followed Captain Harry Corsham on his adventure to Deptford. It was a dark and sometimes brutal story that had me gasping and horrified at the author’s descriptions of the British slaving industry and they way the slavers wanted to shut people up to keep their secrets hidden forever. I can’t say I enjoyed this story although I enjoyed the writing immensely, the subject matter was just too dark for me. I’m glad I read it and will definitely read or listen to whatever Laura Shepherd Robinson writes next.
The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie read by Emilia Fox
From Goodreads: “Gerry Wade had proved himself to be a champion sleeper, so the other house guests decided to play a practical joke on him. Eight alarm clocks were set to go off, one after the other, starting at 6:30 a.m. But when morning arrived, one clock was missing and the prank then backfired, with tragic consequences. For Jimmy Thesiger in particular, the words “Seven Dials” were to take on a new and chilling significance. . . .“
I loved this mystery, it was a lot of fun and very different to other Agatha Christie mysteries I’ve listened to. Yes there were the usual snobby upper class characters but there was also some fairly normal people who were nice, especially Bundle the main character who gets involved in the mystery. I remember watching a old film of this on TV years and years ago and remembered bits of it but definitely not the ending. Emilia Fox’s narration was superb and really brought this story alive for me as she portrayed all the different characters perfectly.
They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie read by Emilia Fox
From Goodreads: “A man is shot at in a juvenile reform home – but someone else dies… Miss Marple senses danger when she visits a friend living in a Victorian mansion which doubles as a rehabilitation centre for delinquents. Her fears are confirmed when a youth fires a revolver at the administrator, Lewis Serrocold. Neither is injured. But a mysterious visitor, Mr Gillibrand, is less fortunate – shot dead simultaneously in another part of the building. Pure coincidence? Miss Marple thinks not, and vows to discover the real reason for Mr Gillibrand’s visit.”
This wasn’t a particularly engaging story so I didn’t really enjoy it. I found all the names a bit strange and hard to follow who was who. This normally happens to me with Agatha Christie stories as she did like to have a lot of characters in her books. fortunately this was the abridged version so it was under 4 hours long so I stuck with it. I worked out what had happened just before Miss Marple explained it all to the detective. Emilia Fox definitely saved this book for me with her brilliant narration, otherwise I think I would have given up on it.
Under a Wartime Sky by Liz Trenow read by Sophie Roberts
From Goodreads: “1936: The dark clouds of war are gathering across Europe and the brightest minds in Britain have been brought together in a grand manor on the Suffolk coast. These select few have been tasked by Churchill to develop, in utmost secrecy, an invention that will help win the war and alter the course of history. In this tense atmosphere, an unlikely friendship develops between Vic, a brilliant but shy physicist, and Kathleen, a cheerful local girl helping her mother in the kitchens. Following the news that her brother intends to join the RAF, Kath yearns to do her bit for the war effort. So when Vic tells her they are recruiting women to operate his top secret system, she makes a choice that will change her life forever. As war is declared, the manor finds itself on the front line of a ferocious battle being fought in the skies as waves of German bombers set their sights on Britain. With the ever-present threat above them, Vic fights to solve problems that threaten to endanger the country, and Kath is forced to make a desperate, life-or-death decision . . .“
I can’t really put my finger on why this didn’t really work for me as I found the story of how RADAR came be absolutely fascinating. I loved both Vic and Kath, I thought they were lovely characters and I enjoyed how their friendship grew throughout the story. Unfortunately I wasn’t too keen on the narrator, Sophie Roberts, which is maybe why I didn’t enjoy this as much as I hoped I would. I’ved loved Liz Trenow’s books in the past so this definitely won’t stop me reading or listening to anything else she writes.