The Resistance Girl by Jina Bacarr

About the Book:

Two women. One heartbreaking secret.

Paris, 1943. Sylvie Martone is the star of French cinema, and adored by fans. But as Nazi officers swarm the streets of Paris, she is spotted arm in arm with an SS Officer and her fellow Parisians begin to turn against her. However Sylvie has a secret – one she must protect with her life. Paris, 2020. Juliana Chastain doesn’t know anything about her family history. While her mother was alive she remained very secretive about her past. So when Juliana discovers a photograph of a glamorous French actress from World War Two amongst her mother’s possessions, she is in shock to find herself looking at her grandmother – especailly as she is arm in arm with a Nazi Officer… Desperate for answers, Juliana is determined to trace the journey of her grandmother. Surely there is more to the photograph than meets the eye? But as she delves into Sylvie’s past, nothing can prepare Juliane for the tales of secrets, betrayal and sacrifice which she will uncover. A heart-wrenching story of love and war, perfect for fans of Pam Jenoff and Suzanne Goldring.

BUY HERE

About the Author: 

Jina Bacarr is a US-based historical romance author of over 10 previous books. She has been a screenwriter, journalist and news reporter, but now writes full-time and lives in LA. Jina’s novels have been sold in 9 territories.

My Review:

I requested this out of curiosity. OK, I did not like the title or the cover because of the images and connotations. BUT, I believe in the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover.” 

I am, however, relieved that the cover and title were changed. 

I went into the novel not really knowing what it was going to be like. I did like the depth of emotion and way the struggles and injustices were played out. 

Jina Bacarr does create a very atmospheric novel which has the theme of love, but also family relationships. I loved being a witness to Sylvie’s life, and Paris was interestingly portrayed. 

Jina Bacarr does romance and atmosphere in historical novels very well.

I admit that the Nazis do make me uncomfortable, but I was able to appreciate the effort that went into penning this novel and the family relationships, feelings, struggles happiness and fears were what struck a chord with me and were more of a takehome for me than the fact that I got hung up about the fact that the book was about being with a Nazi officer. 

Sure, I was not comfortable with that, but that is part of the plot of the story and what happened. I believe everyone has their reasons for falling in love with the people they do and that that is also something that should not be judged. 

This was not my favourite novel by Jina Bacarr, because of how uncomfortable I felt about the Nazi love thing. But, it was curiosity that made me continue and the atmosphere in the book was good. 

I do believe in giving every book a chance and before I had my iPad read this out to me, I was thinking about the blog post Jina Bacarr wrote on Goodreads which is the inspiration for the novel and her experiences.

And it was harrowing, bittersweet and gripping. The same as this novel. Look past the Nazis (I am not saying they are good as they are not) and see the love, determination struggles and life issues in the book and I hope you come away satisfied. I did. 

I have loved some books dealing with sensitive issues, like Jodi Picoult’s The Storyteller, or The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and The Tattooist of Auschwitz was eye-opening. I believe in giving books with “difficult” issues a chance and not slating them outright. This novel deserves this approach. 

I was saddened to find many bad reviews on Goodreads that I think are completely unjustified. As someone who has drafts of books about sensitive issues, and who likes books that “dare” to deal with them, I congratulate Jina Bacarr for this novel. 

Pro tip: If you do not like the synopsis, do not request the book. I value the work that goes into producing any book and I appreciate Boldwood’s honesty and action in changing the title and cover. 

We all have choices in the books we read. Make those choices wisely and don’t judge. Or, read another title by Jina Bacarr. Then see what you think. 

Thanks to Jina Bacarr, Rachel’s Random Resources and Boldwood Books for my ARC in exchange for an honest and vountary review.

3.5 stars.

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The Lady of the Cliffs (Megge of Bury Down #2) by Rebecca Kightlinger. @RS_kightlinger @RowanMoon_Press @frolicblogtours

About The Lady of the Cliffs

~ Book Two of The Bury Down Chronicles ~

Long ago, before this cusp of land was known as Cornwall,

there dwelt in a cave at the foot of a cliff on Kernow’s rugged coast a healer.

“You know them, don’t you, Megge of Bury Down?” asks a voice that is silk over silk. 

“These cliffs of Kernow.”

Cornwall, 1285 CE

Now nearly seventeen, Megge and Brighida must endure another brutal loss. And as they perform the rites of transition that precede a burial, Megge accepts a daunting new charge that carries consequences not even her cousin the seer can predict. It brings visions. Dreams. And voices that come to her as she goes about her work.

A silken voice beckons her back to the cliffs of Kernow, which she has seen only in dreams. A commanding voice orders her back. And the menacing voice she’s heard since she was a girl is now ever at her ear, bringing new a haunting meaning to her grandmother’s words, “You’re never alone.”

But only when the tales of an old woman, a stranger to Bury Down, echo those voices and conjure those cliffs does Megge embark on a journey that leads to a secluded cove they call The Sorrows and a destiny none of the women of Bury Down could have foreseen.

Book Title: The Lady Of The Cliffs Series: The Bury Down Chronicles, Book 2 Author: Rebecca Kightlinger Publisher: Rowan Moon Publication Date: November 1, 2020 Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction

About the Author:

Rebecca Kightlinger holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. A fulltime writer and literary critic, she divides her workday between researching and writing the Bury Down Chronicles,  reviewing novels for the Historical Novel Society, and reading fiction submissions for New England Review. She travels to Cornwall to carry out on-site research for each book of the Bury Down series. 

 In her twenty years of medical practice as an obstetrician gynecologist, she had the privilege of caring for the women of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Guyana, South America. A lifetime Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and a member of the American Association for the History of Medicine, she also studies ancient medicine, medieval midwifery, the history of Cornwall, and the manuscripts and arts of the mystical healer.

She and her husband live in Pennsylvania.

My Review:

 chose The Lady of the Cliffs as book #2 for Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon 2020. 

I enjoyed Megge of Bury Down (the Bury Down Chronicles book 1 ) and I reviewed both the eARC and audiobook versions for that book. 

Cornwall is a place that I love as I went on family vacations there. It is, however, a county in the country I was born in that I don’t know much about because at least 4 hours from where I grew up. The scenery is stunning and the locals are friendly. It was very interesting to be witness to what it was like in the era the book is set. 

Now, in book 2, Megge is a teenager and The Lady of the Cliffs is just as fantastically detailled as book 1. Rebecca Kightlinger is truly talented in worldbuilding and creating characters. Her journey was interesting to be taken on. 

Thanks to Rebecca Kightlinger and publisher for my eARC in echange for an honest and voluntary review. 

4 stars

Contact Rebecca:

Bury Down Chronicles website

Rebecca’s author website

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Where to Buy:  Find the Megge of Bury Down audiobook HERE

Amazon

Excerpt: CHAPTER 1

August 1285

Bury Down, Cornwall

First light had yet to make its way through the dense alder canopy when I stepped into the copse to search for Brighida. I wanted to call out, but this dark little wood, now a place of death, felt sacred, so I whispered her name as I picked my way along its winding path.   

“Here, Megge.” My cousin’s voice came to me from just around the next turn. I found her sitting on the ground shivering in her thin summer tunic. Mud caked her hair, dotted her face, and appeared to have been splashed over her arm, her hand, her nails. The still form of her mother lay on the ground beside her covered by Brighida’s cloak. My cousin leaned over and tucked a loose edge of it under her mother’s hip.

“Brighida . . .” I dropped my stick and the bundle I carried, took off my cloak, and wrapped it around her. 

“What happened here?” I wrapped my arms around her to stop her trembling, then touched her cheek to brush away a speck of mud. I rubbed it between my finger and thumb. That wasn’t mud. I touched the hood that covered Claris’s face. Black and sticky, it felt as if someone had soaked it in tar.

“Brighida.” A chill crawled up my spine. “What happened here?”

A Widow’s Vow by Rachel Brimble

About the Author: 
 

Rachel Brimble lives in Wiltshire with her husband of twenty years, two teenage daughters and her beloved chocolate Labrador, Tyler. Multi-published in the US, she is thrilled to have a new beginning writing for Aria in the UK. When Rachel isn’t writing, she enjoys reading across the genres, knitting and walking the English countryside with her family…often stopping off at a country pub for lunch and a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

 

 

Follow Rachel:

Twitter: @RachelBrimble

Facebook: @RachelBrimble

 

About the Book:

 

From grieving widow…

 

1851. After her merchant husband saved her from a life of prostitution, Louisa Hill was briefly happy as a housewife in Bristol. But then a constable arrives at her door. Her husband has been found hanged in a Bath hotel room, a note and a key to a property in Bath the only things she has left of him. And now the debt collectors will come calling.
To a new life as a madam.

 

Forced to leave everything she knows behind, Louisa finds more painful betrayals waiting for her in the house in Bath. Left with no means of income, Louisa knows she has nothing to turn to but her old way of life. But this time, she’ll do it on her own terms – by turning her home into a brothel for upper class gentleman. And she’s determined to spare the girls she saves from the street the horrors she endured in the past.
Enlisting the help of Jacob Jackson, a quiet but feared boxer, to watch over the house, Louisa is about to embark on a life she never envisaged. Can she find the courage to forge this new path? 
A Widow’s Vow is the first in a gripping and gritty new Victorian saga series from Rachel Brimble. You won’t be able to put it down.

 

My Review: 

I was really pleased to be invited to the blog tour for Rachel Brimble’s latest novel, a Widow’s Vow.
 Rachel writes beautifully about Bath and Bristol in her books and I have already reviewed a number of them from her Pennington’s series as well as some other books. 
I felt for Louisa straight away and the scene with the constable left me wanting to know what was going to come next. I was glad she had her friend and Jacob. 
The novel has Rachel’s signature style and pacing but there’s something different in the subject matter in that this feels darker than her other novels. 
It was no less enjoyable though. 
Thanks to Rachel Brimble and Head of Zeus for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review. I also took part in the Cover Reveal for this novel. 
I am looking forward to the rest of the books in the series. 
4 stars

Excerpt: 

Louisa marched into the hallway, her gaze darting over the high-polished side tables, the sparkling mirror and porcelain trinkets lining a high shelf. Every painting was dusted, every square of the runner beaten and brushed until the pile was plush, every tile mopped and buffed until it shone.

But it didn’t matter how much she scrubbed and cleaned, or how often she argued with Nancy, Louisa never felt she could completely wash away her previous life as a whore. Yet, if Anthony had dismissed Louisa’s previous occupation, shouldn’t she, too? She and Nancy both deserved to shed the skin that had enveloped them through misfortune and circumstances beyond their control.

Nancy’s footsteps came behind her and Louisa turned, braced for another confrontation.

Her friend grimaced, her soft grey gaze filled with remorse. ‘I’m sorry. You know I’m only doing my best to look after you, right? I love the bones of you and always will. Fancy housewife, down in the dirt beggar or wh—’

‘Queen of Sheba.’

Nancy grinned. ‘Absolutely.’

Louisa pulled the only friend, the only person she truly trusted in the whole world, into her arms and squeezed Nancy tight. ‘Let us never fall out completely. I’d be lost without you.’

‘Never. Friends for life.’

A loud and determined knocking at the front door drew them apart and Louisa frowned. ‘That doesn’t sound good.’

As she approached the door, Louisa brushed her hands over her skirts before smoothing some of her fallen blonde curls into place. She pulled open the door and smiled. ‘Good afternoon, can I help…’

Further words stuck in Louisa’s throat.

The constable was in his mid-thirties, his moustache as bushy as the two furry caterpillar-brows above his bulbous eyes. His expression was far from happy. ‘Mrs Anthony Hill?’

Dread tip-toed up Louisa’s spine at the stern tone of his voice even as Nancy, stalwart as always, slipped her hand into Louisa’s. ‘Yes?’

‘Might I come in? I’d prefer that we not speak on the doorstep.’ The constable cleared his throat. ‘Under the circumstances.’

Louisa’s foreboding gathered strength as she and Nancy stood back to let the constable step inside. She studied his face as she spoke. ‘Nancy? Would you kindly bring some tea into the parlour?’ She lifted her hand and gestured along the hallway. ‘If you’d like to follow me, Constable.’

‘Sergeant, madam. Sergeant Robert Williams, at your service.’

Louisa dipped her head and led the way into the parlour. ‘Please, take a seat.’

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Blog Tour: A Reunion at Mulberry Lane (Mulberry Lane #6) by Rosie Clarke

A brand NEW festive read from Rosie Clarkes’ bestselling Mulberry Lane series.

About the Book: 

1949
Peggy and Able Ronoscki’s seaside cafe in Devon is thriving and their twins Fay and Freddie are growing up fast.

To pursue her daughter’s destiny, Fay must train in London and Peggy is faced with a dilemma of moving the family back to London once more.
Meanwhile, Peggy’s elder daughter Janet has her own troubles. She fears her husband is having an affair and Is desperately unhappy.
Peggy is torn two ways and can only hope that a reunion with her friends at Christmas can help resolve her problems.
Buy HERE
About the Author:

  Rosie Clarke is a #1 bestselling saga writer whose most recent books include The Mulberry Lane series. She has written over 100 novels under different pseudonyms and is a RNA Award winner. She lives in Cambridgeshire.

 

Contact Rosie: 

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My Review: 
In the last instalment of the series, A Reunion at Mulberry Lane, Rosie Clarke continues the story of the characters we have seen throughout the series.

The novel starts placing us right back into the story the residents of Mulberry Lane.
I have reviewed some books from the series and enjoyed them all.

 The characters and atmosphere are well created and although Rosie Clarke does have a lot of back story in her novels , it is all relevant to the plot and engaging informative shocking or heartbreaking depending on what’s going on within the novel.

I thought the twins were very well portrayed in this novel as well as their love of ice skating.

One thing about Mullberry Lane is that it is welcoming realistic and there are also a lot of caring people and housewives with mouthwatering traditional food who fight to feed their families and are also conscious of the terrible plight of those who have less than them.

As I have not received the whole series but have reviewed a few of the books.

 I think that each of the books is a good stand-alone but in order to really understand the ins and outs of every character it is a good idea to get hold of the entire series.

I am sad that the series has finished what a book to finish it on. I will remember the Mulberry Lane series for years to come. I am looking forward to going back through the series listening to the books that I have reviewed again and also listening to the books that I haven’t listened to from the series.

Rosie Clarke has a terrific talent for creating a believable historical saga with characters that will make you think feel and root  for then. Obviously there will be some characters that you like more than others but that’s very true to life as well and I can’t praise Rosie enough for the Mulberry Lane series.

Thanks to Rosie Clarke, Rachel’s Random Resources and  Boldwood books for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.

4 stars.

Chapter 1

November 1949
Peggy Ronoscki finished washing up the pile of dirty coffee cups, used plates and dishes, sighing as she glanced at the clock on the wall of the café kitchen. It was gone six-thirty at night and she’d been on her feet since six that morning. The work at the little seaside café, situated approximately midway on the coast between Lyme Bay and Torquay, which she ran with her husband, Able, was hard and relentless, especially when her hired help, Masie Bennett, didn’t turn up to wash the dishes and she had to do them as well as the clearing up after the café closed at a quarter to six in the evening.

‘Tired?’ Peggy turned at the sound of her husband’s voice and smiled. However, weary she felt, her spirits lifted when Able walked into the room. ‘I told you not to do it all, Peggy. I would have helped you when I finished wiping the tables and counter.’

‘You work hard enough as it is,’ Peggy said, her eyes caressing him with the deep love she felt for this man. Able had been a serviceman in the American forces during the last war and he’d lost his left arm just below the elbow. After several attempts to wear the prosthetic arm the hospital had fitted, which rubbed his flesh and gave him pain, Able had given up and managed very well with one arm and his stump. She was always amazed at what he could do but tried to avoid asking him to do things that were difficult for him. ‘It’s that girl, Able. I think I’m going to have to find someone else.’

‘Yes, you must, because I don’t want you doing the work of three people,’ Able said and moved towards her. His right arm went around her waist and he bent his head to kiss her on the lips. ‘You should have been home with the twins two hours ago…’

‘It’s all right,’ Peggy reassured him. ‘It’s their youth club night and Sandra took them there. I said I’d be back in time to fetch them and I’ll drive you home first. Then I’ll go around to the club and collect them. I’ve got nearly an hour before they’ll be ready to leave…’

Sandra Brooks was their nearest neighbour to the cottage and had turned out to be a good friend for Peggy and the children since their move to the cottage in Devon. She really didn’t know how she would have managed without her.

Peggy did her early-morning cooking at home, leaving her husband to transport it in tins to the café; Able opened up and she joined him after giving the twins their breakfast and dropping them at school. Sandra had quickly realised it was difficult for Peggy to fetch her children after school and had offered to fetch them with her own two if Peggy was delayed. The two women drank coffee in each other’s houses and exchanged recipes, inviting one another to lunch or dinner whenever they had time, which wasn’t often because they were all busy. Sandra worked a few hours as her husband’s secretary when not looking after her children or cleaning house, but she still had more free time than Peggy.

‘At least you don’t have to cook for us when we get back,’ Able said. ‘The twins love coming here for their tea even though they often eat the same things as you make them at home…’

‘That’s kids,’ Peggy said fondly, thinking of Fay and Freddie, two very different characters although born only minutes apart.

Now it was November 1949 and they were a few months away from their ninth birthdays, they were eagerly looking forward to Christmas, full of life and fun and often into mischief.

 

Blog Tour: The Orphan Twins by Lesley Eames

About the Author: 

 

Born in Manchester but currently living in Hertfordshire, Lesley’s career has included law and charity fundraising. She is now devoting her time to her own writing and to teaching creative writing to others. In addition to selling almost 90 short stories to the women’s magazine market, Lesley has won the Festival of Romance’s New Talent Award and the Romantic Novelists’ Associations Elizabeth Goudge Cup.

 

About the Book:

 

London, 1910. Lily is ten years old when she realises her grandmother, a washerwoman in the backstreets of London’s Bermondsey, is seriously ill. She’s determined to do what can she can to help and keep her grandmother’s illness a secret – even from her beloved twin, Artie. But Gran isn’t getting any better, and there’s only so much Lily can do…
When tragedy strikes and the twins are faced with the prospect of a workhouse or an orphanage, a benefactor offers to take Artie in and educate him. All Artie’s needs will be taken care of – but the gentleman has no use for a girl. The twins have lost everything they knew and loved, but they never thought they’d lose each other.
As the orphan twins grow up and take different paths, their new lives are beyond anything they could have imagined. Will they ever find a way to be together again?

Follow Lesley

 

Twitter: @LesleyEames

Facebook: @LesleyEamesWriter

 My Review: 

They only had each other . . . until they were torn apart. 
I also did the cover reveal for this novel. 
Bermondsey, London, 1910. Lily is just ten years old when she realises her grandmother is seriously ill. She’s determined to do what can she can to help, even if that means she has to not let on about how ill their Gran is— she knows her twin Artie will be devastated if he knew the truth. 
Further tragedy rips their life apart and a workhouse or an orphanage may be the only place for the twins. Artie is taken in and educated. But what will Lily’s fate be? 

Of the two twins, Lily was more mature but they were both likeable. There’s a lot of suffering and hardship in this book but I was so glad Lily had her friends Elsie and Phyllis and loved how their friendship was showed. 
Mr Bax was a good man as was Mr Alderton. 
Hard times, tough choices family and sibling love collide in this heart-wrenching historical saga.
Another excellent, grippingly written novel by Lesley Eames. 

Thanks to Lesley Eames and Aria for my ARC in exchange for an honest review. 
5 stars

 
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Blog Tour: The Dublin Girls by Cathy Mansell

About the Book: 

Dramatic, emotional and romantic, if you love Lorna Cook, Tracy Rees and Jenny Ashcroft, you’ll love this gripping and heartrending novel from Cathy Mansell, author of A Place to Belong.
‘Glorious – a cross between Maeve Binchy and Catherine Cookson’ 5* early reader review
‘Page-turning and compelling… Most highly recommended’ MARGARET KAINE
‘A warm-hearted, engaging story’ MARGARET JAMES, WRITING MAGAZINE
In 1950s Dublin, life is hard and jobs are like gold dust.
Nineteen-year-old Nell Flynn is training to be a nurse and planning to marry her boyfriend, Liam Connor, when her mother dies, leaving her younger sisters destitute. To save them from the workhouse, Nell returns to the family home – a mere two rooms at the top of a condemned tenement.
Nell finds work at a biscuit factory and, at first, they scrape through each week. But then eight-year-old Róisín, delicate from birth, is admitted to hospital with rheumatic fever and fifteen-year-old Kate, rebellious, headstrong and resentful of Nell taking her mother’s place, runs away.
When Liam finds work in London, Nell stays to struggle on alone – her unwavering devotion to her sisters stronger even than her love for him. She’s determined that one day the Dublin girls will be reunited and only then will she be free to follow her heart.
Look for more gripping, heartwrenching page-turners from Cathy Mansell – don’t miss A Place to Belong, out now

My Review: 

Nell Flynn is 19 years old, training to be a nurse and planning to marry her boyfriend, Liam Connor. The death of their mother hits Nell and her eight-year-old sister Róisín, hard. The little girl has had health problems since birth and when she is taken ill again Nell must do all she can to help. Kate is 15 and can’t bear the fact that Nell is forced to be a mother figure to them. 
Nell’s work in a biscuit factory is not much but it’s work at a time when the country is struggling because of the Depression. Liam is there for Nell— while he can be. How will she cope when he tales an opportunity not to be missed? 
I adore books set in Ireland having dual nationality myself. I was drawn in by the cover and synopsis. The characters were well portrayed as was the setting. I felt worry, concern happiness and sadness for them. Kate was definitely unfair towards Nell and Nell is a real fighter. Her determination shone through. Her dedication to Róisín’s wellbeing as well as her and Kate’s was humbling. 
I was glad she had Liam. The novel is rhe first I have reviewed by Cathy Mansell and I look forward to more. 
The Dublin Girls is heartbreaking, hopeful and a wonderful portrait of 1950s Dublin and Ireland.
Thanks to Cathy Mansell and Headline for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review. 
5 stars.

Buy the Book

Blog Tour: In The Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton

About the Book: 

A powerful story of love, identity, and the price of fitting in or speaking out.
“The story may be set in the past, but it couldn’t be a more timely reminder that true courage comes not from fitting in, but from purposefully standing out . . . and that to find out who you really are, you have to first figure out what you’re not.” —Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of A Spark of Light and Small Great Things
After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York City to Atlanta—the land of debutantes, sweet tea, and the Ku Klux Klan. In her new hometown, Ruth quickly figures out she can be Jewish or she can be popular, but she can’t be both. Eager to fit in with the blond girls in the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to hide her religion. Before she knows it, she is falling for the handsome and charming Davis and sipping Cokes with him and his friends at the all-white, all-Christian Club.

 

Does it matter that Ruth’s mother makes her attend services at the local synagogue every week? Not as long as nobody outside her family knows the truth. At temple Ruth meets Max, who is serious and intense about the fight for social justice, and now she is caught between two worlds, two religions, and two boys. But when a violent hate crime brings the different parts of Ruth’s life into sharp conflict, she will have to choose between all she’s come to love about her new life and standing up for what she believes.

About the Author: 

Susan Kaplan Carlton currently teaches writing at Boston University. She is the author of Love & Haight and Lobsterland; her writing has also appeared in Self, Elle, Mademoiselle, and Seventeen. She lived for a time with her family in Atlanta, where her daughters learned the finer points of etiquette from a little pink book and the power of social justice from their synagogue.

My Review: 

In The Neighborhood of True, after a personal tragedy, Ruth Robb and her family move from New York City to Atlanta. Ruth and her sister are Jewish. 
When she gets to Atlanta, Ruth finds sun, heat sweet tea and……the “Pastel Posse”- the “it” girls at school. The options are clear: Jewish or poular, not both. Ruth must decide what she wants if she she is to fit in in her new surroundings. 
Then, she meets Davis at an all-White Christian club. 
When she meets Max at their local Synagogue, her choices are even more complicated. With the eruption of a hate crime, Ruth must decide who she really is and what her beliefs are. 
In The Neighborhood of True is a deep and meaningful portrait of life in 1958 Atlanta and explores religious conflict, culture and lifestyle. It’s marketed as YA historical fiction but the themes are harsh realities even today. That’s why I would call it timely. 
I loved the cover and the writing style. This is my first novel by Susan Kaplan Carlton. If you want to dive into a novel that’s rich in 1950s US culture and issues, this is for you. 
I’m not from the US but I was drawn into this book and was hooked by it. I think this is fascinting wherever you’re from. Algonquin was right in their review information for this that that people who loved Jodi Picoult’s books (particularly similar in some subject matter to Small Great Things) will love this. It’s meaty yet easy to follow, honest absorbing and rich. 
The similarity with Jodi Picoult is something I didn’t mind at all- I love her books and I want to review more by Susan Kaplan Carlton. 
Thanks to Susan Kaplan Carlton and Algonquin Books for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review. 
5 stars.

Buy the Book HERE

Cover Reveal: The Orphan Twins by Lesley Eames

About the author

 

Born in Manchester but currently living in Hertfordshire, Lesley’s career has included law and charity fundraising. She is now devoting her time to her own writing and to teaching creative writing to others. In addition to selling almost 90 short stories to the women’s magazine market, Lesley has won the Festival of Romance’s New Talent Award and the Romantic Novelists’ Associations Elizabeth Goudge Cup.

 

About the book

 

London, 1910. Lily is ten years old when she realises her grandmother, a washerwoman in the backstreets of London’s Bermondsey, is seriously ill. She’s determined to do what can she can to help and keep her grandmother’s illness a secret – even from her beloved twin, Artie. But Gran isn’t getting any better, and there’s only so much Lily can do…
When tragedy strikes and the twins are faced with the prospect of a workhouse or an orphanage, a benefactor offers to take Artie in and educate him. All Artie’s needs will be taken care of – but the gentleman has no use for a girl. The twins have lost everything they knew and loved, but they never thought they’d lose each other.
As the orphan twins grow up and take different paths, their new lives are beyond anything they could have imagined. Will they ever find a way to be together again?
Follow Lesley

 

Twitter: @LesleyEames

Facebook: @LesleyEamesWriter

 

 

Buy now links:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2WKCkV0

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2AMPw39

Google Play: https://bit.ly/2Zml1LN
Follow Aria

 

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Blog Tour: A Shop Girl At Sea by Rachel Brimble

About the Author:
 
Rachel Brimble lives in Wiltshire with her husband of twenty years, two teenage daughters and her beloved chocolate Labrador, Tyler. Multi-published in the US, she is thrilled to have a new beginning writing for Aria in the UK. When Rachel isn’t writing, she enjoys reading across the genres, knitting and walking the English countryside with her family…often stopping off at a country pub for lunch and a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

 

 

Follow Rachel:

Twitter: @RachelBrimble

Facebook: @RachelBrimble

 

About the book

 

Bath, 1912.
Amelia Wakefield loves working at Pennington’s, Bath’s finest department store. An escape from her traumatic past, it saved her life. So when Miss Pennington sets her a task to set sail on the Titanic and study the department stores of New York, she couldn’t be more excited – or determined!
Frustrated with his life at home, Samuel Murphy longs for a few weeks of freedom and adventure. Meeting Amelia on board the Titanic, Samuel can’t help wonder what painful history has made the beauty so reserved. But he already has too many responsibilities for love.
Ruby Taylor has always kept her Pennington co-workers at a distance. Making sure her little brother is safe has always been her priority. But when that means accepting Victoria Lark’s offer of sanctuary, more than one of Ruby’s secrets is under threat of being revealed…
A riveting and uplifting saga, perfect for fans of Elaine Everest and Fiona Ford.

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My Review:

 A Shop Girl at Sea has Amelia traveling to the USA on a mission to bring back experience and ideas that may give Pennington’s Department Store in Bath where she works a new image and new challenges. 
Meanwhile, Samuel longs for freedom but has to take care of his family. 

I enjoyed the latest from Rachel Brimble and have reviewed others. Gripping plot and writing. 
Thanks to Rachel Brimble and Aria for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.
4 stars

 He fought the weakening in his heart. ‘You think so, do you?’

‘Your pa taught you all he knew. All he was happy with. But that’s not good enough for you, is it? You always want more. Well, I’m sorry, Sam. This is it. This is your lot.’

‘I’ve got plans, Ma. Plans to get out of Bath and see the world. Pa wouldn’t have expected me to stay here for the rest of my life. He’d have expected me to have a family and life of my own by now.’

Sadness clouded her eyes and she sighed, ‘Well, he’s six feet under so your dreams and plans are nothing but a puff of wind.’

She swept from the room.

Cursing, Samuel put the teapot and napkins back on the table and made for the door. His mother missed her husband more than anything; the desperate despair and sadness that had enveloped her when he died had barely lessened in the many years he’d been gone. How in God’s name was Samuel supposed to change the idle ways of his sisters? Make them feel the same responsibility and wish for more that he did?

He left the house and strode along the street towards town.

The evening was misty and damp, the March wind penetrating his thin jacket. He clenched his back teeth and fought his frustration. He’d missed his father as much as his mother until his memories faded, only to be replaced by responsibility. Samuel remembered a man who idolised his son, taking him under his wing the moment Samuel left school at thirteen. Together, they had travelled back and forth from Bath to Southampton, Samuel working as a docker then a seaman. He’d followed in his father’s footsteps, just as the old man had wanted.

When his father had been killed outright by a metal chain falling from such a height on the quayside that there had been no doubt in the witnesses’ eyes that Jack Murphy had died instantly, he’d left behind a son determined to do his father proud.

Samuel breathed deep as the recollections of the grief, horror and fear after that fateful day rushed into his heart and mind. The raw emotions had wound through the rooms of their small house, seeped deep into the bricks and mortar. His mother had made it clear that it was now up to Samuel to work and provide.

So, he’d returned once again to Southampton.

He’d sailed.

He’d pulled rope and harness.

He’d travelled back and forth from his home in Bath to long stretches lodging near the Southampton docks.

Reaching his favourite local tavern, Samuel sat on a bench outside.

Staring blindly ahead, he imagined the scene that would greet him tomorrow when he arrived in Southampton. Boats gently bobbing from side to side, the dank smell of the water, the shouting and laughter filtering through the Platform Tavern’s door as he and his fellow seamen toasted their upcoming voyage.

Samuel’s heart swelled with anticipation and excitement. The Titanic was due to sail into Southampton from Ireland on the 3rd of April, just three short days away. His captain would arrive not long afterwards, and the crew would begin to learn more about the ship the press lauded as the most luxurious ever built. A floating hotel. Such a feat of engineering she was virtually unsinkable.

It was rumoured that over fourteen thousand men had helped build her, and soon Samuel would have his first glimpse and tour before they set sail on the 10th of April.

He smiled.

The Titanic represented days, possibly weeks, of freedom. His chance to say goodbye to his responsibilities, to culpability, to expectation from his family and finally live his own life. For a while, at least. He would send money home and live the days he was away as though they were his last. Lord only knew when such an opportunity would present itself again.

‘Hey, Murphy. What are you doing sitting out here on your own?’

Samuel turned and greeted his friend and fellow seaman, Archie More. ‘Just thinking about what the next few weeks hold for us.’

 

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Harlequin Trade Publishing Spring Reads Blog Tour: The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

THE HENNA ARTIST

Author: Alka Joshi

ISBN: 9780778309451

Publication Date: March 3, 2020

Publisher: MIRA Books

 About the Author:


Alka Joshi is a graduate of Stanford University and received her M.F.A. from the California College of the Arts. She has worked as an advertising copywriter, a marketing consultant, and an illustrator. Alka was born in India, in the state of Rajasthan. Her family came to the United States when she was nine, and she now lives on California’s Monterey Peninsula with her husband and two misbehaving pups. The Henna Artist is her first novel. Visit her website and blog at thehennaartist.com

 About the Book:

After fleeing an arranged marriage as a fifteen year old to an abusive older man, Lakshmi Shastri steals away alone from her rural village to Jaipur. Here, against odds, she carves out a living for herself as a henna artist, and friend and confidante to wealthy, upper caste women. Surviving by her wits and talents, she shares her knowledge and keeps their secrets in a delicate balancing act amid the changing 1950s social mores brought about by Indian Independence. Vulnerable to opinion and innuedo, at any point her intentions might be misunderstood, and she could fall prey to a damaged reputation or worse. Still Lakshmi manages to save to build a house with the dream of bringing her aging parents here to live with her and redeem herself in their eyes. Then one day her ex-husband arrives in town seeking her out with a girl in tow, a sister she did not know she had. Her sister is both passionate and reckless by nature, and all of a sudden the caution that Lakshmi has carefully cultivated is threatened, along with her livelihood. But she preseveres, and in doing so manages to lift up the others around her with her success.

 

Lakshmi’s tenacity and spirit see her join the ranks of other brave women of historical fiction, such as Farough Farrokhzad in Jasmin Darznik’s Song of a Captive Bird.With gorgeous prose and urgent themes, the novel will captivate readers of Shobha Rao’s Girls Burn Brighter, and those who seek a narrative both compelling and necessary.

About the Book: 

Lakshmi finds her life uprooted when she has to save it. She’s in an abusive marriage and her only option for a new life is to flee her small village. 
 In Jaipur, she tries to rebuild her shattered life. She is a henna artist, healer, and businesswoman. Clients are hard to find at first despite her skills in these areas of work and the city’s prostitutes are her first clients. 
 When things start to look up and she becomes more settled and successful in her job and work for wealthier clients, she sees a person she never would again- her husband and what is the connection between her and a young girl? 
The novel takes place after India’s independence from Britain. It’s such a colourful, rich novel and I felt I was into 1950’s India. 
Every single character, be it prostitutes, or Maharanis or even Lakshmi’s young assistant, Malik were so well created. And don’t forget Madho Singh, a talking parrot. 
In The Henna Artist, Joshi has created an enthralling, immersive novel and her huge wealth of knowledge and understanding of the places and period in history as well as the amazing descriptions make this an unputdownable novel. 
She usefully includes a character list and also a glossary (everything included there is helpfully italicised in the text, but as VoiceOver read the book out I was able to identify the words). 
The pacing of the novel was fast and busy, just like what I imagine the city of Jaipur to be, but I was swept up in the book so it was enjoyable. 
The Henna Artist is a colourful, richly layered novel about shattered lives and how woman pieces hers back together against the hustle and bustle of Jaipur. The difference between her village and the city are marked as one would expect but Lakshmi fights on, through good times and bad, to find new roots and stability again. 
Be prepared for a novel so rich in Indian history and culture that it’s a delight for the senses. Join Lakshmi on a journey of a lifetime. 
The Henna Artist is a deliciously different historical novel. 
Yes, the time period is important to orientate the reader, but what leaps off the page are the characters as well as the sights, sounds and smells of India: brightly coloured buildings and clothing as well as highly fragrant cooking and customs specific to the country at the time. 
The novel is one of adventure, or finding opportunities in the most unexpected of places, of risk taking to save your life and of forging new bonds and meeting new people. 
Lakshmi is brave and strong and is really someone I liked and rooted for all the way through the novel. 
5 stars- as rich and colourful as it is unsettling and beautiful, The Henna Artist is the best historical novel I have come across in a long time. 

An excellent debut.

Thanks to Alka Joshi and MIRA books for my ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

 

Follow Alka:

Author Website: https://thehennaartist.com/

TWITTER:

FB: @alkajoshi2019

Insta: @thealkajoshi

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18257842.Alka_Joshi

 Where to Buy:

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 Prologue

September 1955

Ajar, State of Uttar Pradesh, India

 

Her feet step lightly on the hard earth, calloused soles insensible to the tiny pebbles and caked mud along the riverbank. On her head she balances a mutki, the same earthenware jug she uses to carry water from the well every day. Today, instead of water, the girl is carrying everything she owns: a second petticoat and blouse, her mother’s wedding sari, The Tales of Krishna her father used to read to her—the pages fabric-soft from years of handling—and the letter that arrived from Jaipur earlier this morning.

When she hears the voices of the village women in the distance, the girl hesitates. The gossip-eaters are chatting, telling stories, laughing, as they wash saris, vests, petticoats and dhotis. But when they spot her, she knows they will stop to stare or spit at the ground, imploring God to protect them from the Bad Luck Girl. She reminds herself of the letter, safe inside the mutki, and thinks: Let them. It will be the last time.

Yesterday, the women were haranguing the Headman: why is the Bad Luck Girl still living in the schoolteacher’s hut when we need it for the new schoolmaster? Afraid to make a sound for fear they would come inside and pull her out by her hair, the girl had remained perfectly still within the four mud walls. There was no one to protect her now. Last week, her mother’s body had been burned along with the bones of other dead animals, the funeral pyre of the poor. Her father, the former schoolteacher, had abandoned them six months ago, and, shortly after, he drowned in a shallow pool of water along the riverbank, so drunk he likely hadn’t felt the sting of death.

Every day for the past week, the girl had lay in wait on the outskirts of the village for the postman, who cycled in sporadically from the neighboring village. This morning, as soon as she spotted him, she darted out from her hiding place, startling him, and asked if there were any letters for her family. He had frowned and bit his cheek, his rheumy eyes considering her through his thick glasses. She could tell he felt sorry for her, but he was also peeved—she was asking for something only the Headman should receive. But she held his gaze without blinking. When he finally handed over the thick onionskin envelope addressed to her parents, he did so hastily, avoiding her eyes and pedaling away as quickly as he could.

Now, standing tall, her shoulders back, she strolls past the women at the riverbank. They glare at her. She can feel her heart flutter wildly in her breast, but she passes, straight as sugar cane, mutki on her head, as if she is going to the farmers well, two miles farther from the village, the only well she is allowed to use.

The gossip-eaters no longer whisper but shout to one another: There goes the Bad Luck Girl! The year she was born, locusts ate the wheat! Her older sister deserted her husband, never to be seen again! Shameless! That same year her mother went blind! And her father turned to drink! Disgraceful! Even the girl’s coloring is suspect. Only Angreji-walli have blue eyes. Does she even belong to us? To this village?

The girl has often wondered about this older sister they talk about. The one whose face she sees only as a shadow in her dreams, whose existence her parents have never acknowledged. The gossip-eaters say she left the village thirteen years ago. Why? Where did she go? How did she escape a place where the gossip-eaters watch your every move? Did she leave in the dead of night when the cows and goats were asleep? They say she stole money, but no one in the village has any money. How did she feed herself? Some say she dressed as a man so she wouldn’t be stopped on the road. Others say she ran off with a circus boy and was living as a nautch girl, dancing in the Pleasure District miles away in Agra.

Three days ago, old man Munchi with the game leg—her only friend in the village—warned her that if she didn’t vacate her hut, the Headman would insist she marry a widowed farmer or demand she leave the village.

“There is nothing here for you now,” Munchiji had said. But how could she leave—a thirteen-year-old orphan girl with no family or money?

Munchiji said, “Have courage, bheti.” He told her where to find her brother-in-law, the husband her older sister had abandoned all those years ago, in a nearby village. Perhaps he could help her find her sister.

“Why can’t I stay with you?” she had asked.

“It would not be proper,” the old man replied gently. He made his living painting images on the skeletons of peepal leaves. To console her, he’d given her a painting. Angry, she’d almost thrown it back at him until she saw that the image was of Lord Krishna, feeding a mango to his consort Radha, her namesake. It was the most beautiful gift she had ever received.

Radha slows as she approaches the village threshing ground. Four yoked bulls walk in circles around a large flat stone, grinding wheat. Prem, who cares for the bulls, is sitting with his back against the hut, asleep. Quietly, she hurries past him to the narrow path that leads to Ganesh-ji’s temple. The shrine has a slender opening and, inside, a statue of Lord Ganesh. Gifts are arranged around the Elephant God’s feet: a young coconut, marigolds, a small pot of ghee, slices of mango. A cone of sandalwood incense releases a languid curl of smoke.

The girl lays Munchiji’s painting of Krishna in front of Ganesh-ji, the Remover of All Obstacles, and begs him to remove the curse of The Bad Luck Girl.

By the time she reaches her brother-in-law’s village ten miles to the West, it is late afternoon and the sun has moved closer to the horizon. She is sweating through her cotton blouse. Her feet and ankles are dusty; her mouth dry.

She is cautious, entering the village. She crouches in shrubs and hides behind trees. She knows an alone girl will not be treated kindly. She searches for a man who looks like the one Munchiji described.

She sees him. There. Squatting under the banyan tree, facing her. Her brother-in-law.

He has thick, oily, coal-black hair. A long, bumpy scar snakes from his bottom lip to his chin. He is not young but neither is he old. His bush-shirt is spotted with curry and his dhoti is stained with dust.

Then she notices the woman squatting in the dirt in front of the man. She is supporting her elbow with one hand, her forearm dangling at an unnatural angle. Her head is completely covered with her pallu, and she is talking to the man in a quiet whisper. Radha watches, wondering if her brother-in-law has taken another wife.

She picks up a small stone and throws it at him. She misses. The second time, she hits him in the thigh, but he merely flicks his hand, as if swatting away an insect. He is listening intently to the woman. Radha throws more pebbles, managing to hit him several times. At last, he lifts his head and looks around him.

Radha steps into the clearing so he can see her.

His eyes widen, as if he is looking at a ghost. He says, “Lakshmi?”

 

Excerpted from The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi, Copyright © 2020 by Alka Joshi. Published by MIRA Books.