Book Review: Georgiana Darcy by Alice Isakova

With her temptingly large dowry, the beautiful and talented Georgiana Darcy catches the eye of numerous suitors, not all of whom wish to marry purely for love. As Georgiana navigates the treacherous waters of courtship, her story becomes intertwined with that of Anne de Bourgh, her wealthy but painfully awkward cousin, who stirs up trouble when she sets her sights on a young gentleman with a rank far below her own. In so doing, Anne encounters the opposition of her proud and domineering mother, the formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and sets in motion a chain of events that brings a damaging secret to light and threatens to destroy Georgiana’s dreams of happiness. Intrigues, gossip, and elopements further complicate Georgiana’s efforts to find love and avoid the snares of fortune-hunters.

What I Thought:

I’ve read a great many Pride & Prejudice follow ups over the years – so far they have focused on Lizzy and Darcy, Kitty Bennet, Mary Bennet and Mr & Mrs Bingley, but now it’s Georgiana Darcy‘s turn in this eponymous novel by debut author Alice Isakova.

This book – as one would assume – focuses on Georgiana, but ties her story in with that of her cousin, Anne de Bourgh and this is a nice touch as Anne’s character is not really otherwise fully explored. Lizzy impression of Anne as a sickly, stuck up creature is thoroughly turned on its head here, as she is written as a shy person whose own personal preferences are trampled on by her mother. It’s an interesting approach and Anne comes across very well. My only gripe would be that Anne’s story is resolved quite early in the book, and I would’ve liked to have seen more from Anne in the latter stages.

Georgiana herself appears to be very similar to Anne, in her shyness and humility, but seems to have put some of those feelings behind her with Lizzy’s help and support. It makes her a much more rounded character and she is able to carry the story well on her own.

Although all our old favourite characters from the original novel appear, they do not overwhelm the main subject of the book, and there are lots of new characters – both friend and foe – with which Miss Darcy needs to contend.

Ultimately, this is a love story as Georgiana tries to separate the unworthy fortune hunters from the men who could, potentially win her heart, but it is also a well-researched Regency novel, incorporating all the social customs we know of from that time and lots of detail of the settings, clothing and social pursuits.

For fans of Jane Austen’s original novel, this is an excellent companion piece and sheds new light on many of the supporting characters – it’s well worth adding to your reading lists…

Georgiana Darcy is independently published.

To find out more about Alice Isakova, you can check out her Goodreads page and find out what people thought of Georgiana Darcy.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: Sleep by C. L. Taylor

All Anna wants is to be able to sleep. But crushing insomnia, terrifying night terrors and memories of that terrible night are making it impossible. If only she didn’t feel so guilty…

To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.

Each of the guests have a secret, but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they’re on the island. There’s a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they’ve set their sights on Anna.

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.

What I Thought:

“If you’re reading this I am no longer alive. Someone has been stalking me for the last three months and, if I am dead, it wasn’t an accident.”

I mean if that isn’t enough to get you hooked into a thriller, then what is?? C. L. Taylor continues her excellent run of form to produce a claustrophic and tense story filled with secrets and revenge.

In Sleep, our main character Anna is left reeling from a car accident and retreats to a secluded Scottish island to try and get some peace and – finally – a respite from her continuing insomnia. Unfortunately for her, one of the guests at the hotel in which she works wants her to sleep…forever. As a storm cuts the hotel off from escape and help, Anna realises that her problems are just beginning.

C. L. Taylor’s writing is so atmospheric and she manages to build a really heightened sense of claustrophobia as Anna discovers the many secrets her guests are hiding and suspects each in their turn of wishing her harm. The suspicion of each guest is very cleverly done and any one of them could be the evildoer. I like to pride myself on being a step ahead of the game when it comes to suspects, but C. L. Taylor is several steps ahead of all of us all the time – very sneaky!

As the book is divided into narration from several viewpoints, it’s easy to make your way through several chapters very quickly, without really realising it, but each adds more layers to the mystery and secrets are revealed at an excellent pace, leading to many ‘just one more chapter’ moments.

This is only the second of C. L. Taylor’s books that I’ve read, but she is definitely an author I will be catching up with…

Sleep is published by Avon Books.

To find out more about C. L. Taylor, you can check out her website where, if you sign up to her newsletter, you can grab a free short story and enter one of her regular giveaways.

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the release of Sleep – why not check out some of the blogs below for more reviews and other exclusive content from the book?

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: No Way Out by Cara Hunter

It’s one of the most disturbing cases DI Fawley has ever worked.

The Christmas holidays, and two children have just been pulled from the wreckage of their burning home in North Oxford. The toddler is dead, and his brother is soon fighting for his life.

Why were they left in the house alone? Where is their mother, and why is their father not answering his phone?

Then new evidence is discovered, and DI Fawley’s worst nightmare comes true.

Because this fire wasn’t an accident. It was murder.

And the killer is still out there…

What I Thought:

With every volume of the Adam Fawley series, it becomes easier to recommend it as a must-read. Having read all of the books in the series, I’m happy to say that No Way Out is the best yet!

Adam Fawley returns with his team still suffering the fallout from events in book 2, In The Dark. Although there are tensions in the team from this earlier outing, you can easily read No Way Out on its own merits as it is only briefly referred to, and then backed up with a small amount of recapping.

There is an excellent mix of characters who have their own reasons for reacting the way they do to a fatal house fire involving the death of a young child. There are differing levels of professionalism and conflict within the team, but they are united in finding out what happened and who was responsible for the explosive start to the book (literally!).

I find Cara Hunter’s books excellent in their mix of straight up prose, and also clippings of interview transcripts, twitter postings and local news articles. It allows a lot of pertinent information to be summarised, without characters having to recap, or tell each other something in an unnatural way. It’s very cleverly done and can lead the reader up the garden path too…

In all three of the Adam Fawley books, the crimes have been very well set up, and all with a major twist. You have to applaud Cara Hunter for being able to write such a left-field twist, while all the evidence is really in plain view – there is nothing that you couldn’t have guessed at yourself if you go back over the book in detail, but so far I have failed to guess the true outcome of each title!

As I said, I definitely recommend the Adam Fawley series – I can’t wait to find out what the next novel has in store.

No Way Out is published by Penguin.

To find out more about Cara Hunter, you can connect with her on Twitter.

This post is part of a blog tour celebrating the paperback release of Now Way Out – why not check out some of the other terrific blogs below for more reviews and exclusive content?

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: A Clean Canvas by Elizabeth Mundy

Crime always leaves a stain…

Lena Szarka, a Hungarian cleaner, dusts off her detective skills when a masterpiece is stolen from a gallery she cleans with her cousin Sarika.  When Sarika goes missing too, accusations start to fly. 

Convinced her cousin is innocent, Lena sweeps her way through the secrets of the London art scene. But with the evidence against Sarika mounting and the police on her trail, Lena needs to track down the missing painting if she is to clear her cousin.  

Embroiling herself in the sketchy world of thwarted talents, unpaid debts and elegant fraudsters, Lena finds that there’s more to this gallery than meets the eye.

What I Thought:

I’ve been sat here for a while trying to pigeonhole Elizabeth Mundy’s amateur sleuth, Lena Szarka, and I have utterly failed! This is certainly no fault of A Clean Canvas, nor its main character and simply indicative of there being no similar titles – that I’m aware of – with which I can compare it.

A really good crime novel is just my thing, and this book is certainly that, with a engaging and methodical lead character who uses good, Hungarian common sense and her own formulation of cleaning products to get to the bottom of the mystery – even if it involves climbing onto roofs or trudging through red paint!

Lena Szarka first appears in In Stranger’s Houses and, although there is some reference to that book, this is an excellent read on its own. Having said that, I did pick up the first book too, as I’m eager to read it as well.

Lena’s path does NOT run smooth in this book, as a painting is stolen from the gallery where Lena is working and her young cousin goes missing along with it. Convinced that she is not to blame, Lena investigates against the advice of the police. Her only ally is a dashing police officer, and it may not be only his investigation skills that Lena is interested in!

This is a really charming book, with an intricate mystery that leads us all down several blind alleys, but resolves neatly in the end. I will definitely be reading more from Elizabeth Mundy and A Messy Affair, the third Lena Szarka, mystery, is due to be published in 2020.

A Clean Canvas is published by Constable.

To find out more about Elizabeth Mundy and her books, why not check out her website?

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate A Clean Canvas – why not check out some of the other fab blogs below for more reviews and exclusive content?

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: As Far As The Stars by Virginia Macgregor

Christopher is the sort of guy that no one notices, yet when Air catches sight of him making intricate paper birds in the airport, she can’t look away.

But their worlds are about to collide in ways they never expected. Someone they love is on Flight 0217 from London Heathrow. And it’s missing.

Convinced that her brother was on a different flight, Air drives them hundreds of miles across the country, on a trip that will change their lives forever.

But how do you tell the person you’re falling for that you might just be the reason their life has fallen apart?

What I Thought:

I had the good fortune to meet Virginia Macgregor a couple of years ago, so when an email about her latest novel pinged into my inbox, I got very excited.

As Far as the Stars is a little gem of a book, which follows Air and Christopher as they travel from Washington DC to Nashville, after meeting by chance when a plane that potentially had people close to them on board goes missing. Shy, quiet Christopher and determined, organised Air connect on many levels as they undertake their roadtrip in a mustard-yellow Buick and yet the subject that connects them most immediately is set aside and carefully avoided.

I’m far too old now to be the target market for YA books, and yet I was so drawn to Christopher and Air as they drew the best parts of each other out, even when they were in conflict.

As a book, As Far as the Stars is an interesting examination of grief and how we as humans deal with things that are beyond our comprehension. It deals with misplaced guilt, loyalty and the pressure that we put on our young people to constantly excel and do big things and, at the heart of it, there are two very different teenagers with very different families who manage to forge a bond in the worst of circumstances.

Needless to say, I loved this book as it’s so beautifully and carefully written – it has such an emotional impact without ever seeming cloying or cliched, even though for most of the book, it’s just these two characters undertaking their physical and emotional journey. It’s highly recommended from me.

As Far as the Stars is published by HQ Young Adult.

To find out more about Virginia Macgregor and her work, why not check out her website?

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the publication of As Far as the Stars – why not check out some of the other fab blogs taking part?

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: The Forgotten Village by Lorna Cook

1943: The world is at war, and the villagers of Tyneham are being asked to make one more sacrifice: to give their homes over to the British army. But on the eve of their departure, a terrible act will cause three of them to disappear forever.

2018: Melissa had hoped a break on the coast of Dorset would rekindle her stagnant relationship, but despite the idyllic scenery, it’s pushing her and Liam to the brink. When Melissa discovers a strange photograph of a woman who once lived in the forgotten local village of Tyneham, she becomes determined to find out more about her story. But Tyneham hides a terrible secret, and Melissa’s search for the truth will change her life in ways she never imagined possible.

What I Thought:

The village of Tyneham in Dorset has long held a fascination for me as, living locally, I have visited it many times. The story of a village requisitioned by the MOD, and still being in Government hands long after the residents expected to be back there is naturally interesting and mysterious, and Lorna Cook has added extra layers of intrigue in her book The Forgotten Village.

As a timeslip novel, The Forgotten Village brilliantly weaves together the 1940s and today, with main character Melissa and hot historian Guy investigating a mystery surrounding the residents of Tyneham Hall and a chance meeting at the village leads to a decades-old secret finally coming to light.

Having read around Lorna Cook’s inspiration for writing the book, it seems that she is as intrigued by Tyneham as I have been and it’s great to see the village used in the novel – I’m generally excited to read books set in places I recognise, but this book brings the final days of the village vibrantly to life.

The mystery is expertly revealed and left me with a big ‘OF COURSE!’, and wondering why I hadn’t figured it out before. It’s paced very well and Lorna Cook uses some of the natural menace of a deserted village to set up the atmosphere for a shocking discovery – that’s your lot… Anything else will lead to spoilers, and we don’t want that!

As I said, I live local to Tyneham so I thought that over the Easter holidays, I would take my children to visit, which we did on a cold but sunny day. I also took the opportunity to take my copy of The Forgotten Village to the forgotten village and snapped a photo while we were there…

The Forgotten Village in Tyneham

This view is from inside the old Post Office, one of the cottages in The Row, the first row of houses that you come to after entering the village.

The Forgotten Village is published by Avon books.

To find out more about Lorna Cook and her current and future projects, you can check out her website, or why not connect with her on Twitter?

This post is part of the blog tour celebrating the publication of The Forgotten Village. Why not check out some of the blogs below for more reviews and exclusive content?

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: Island in the Sun by Janice Horton

When successful jewellery designer Isla Ashton unexpectedly inherits her eccentric Aunt Kate’s Caribbean island, she is obligated to return to the place she associates with heartache and regret. To where she grew up and fell in love with her childhood friend, Leo Fernandez. Fully intent on selling the island and finally putting the past behind her, Isla is soon compelled to put together the pieces of what really happened on a fateful night ten-years before. She begins to believe that in going to prison, Leo hadn’t only been shielding her from the same fate. She also starts to suspect that her late Aunt hadn’t been entirely honest in sending her away under the guise of recriminations. Who had they both been protecting and why?

What I Thought:

As I sit here on a very dreary day writing this review, it’s nice to be looking at a book with a bit of sunshine in it! Island in the Sun has a really welcoming, sun-filled location which is ripe for intrigue, romance and forgiveness and the story definitely delivers all of those and more.

I find these days I am reading more and more romantic fiction, as a bit of escapism and basically something where you be fairly sure there’ll be a happy ending, but I also found that Island in the Sun was quite complex in its use of the now-deceased Aunt Kate’s diary entries interwoven with Isla’s return to Pearl Island, and her own flashbacks to the days before she had to leave. Each of those elements cleverly built the story towards the final, dramatic moments and there was some echoing of the inital chapters at the end.

The real strength in this book though, is the author’s vivid description of the setting and I can only assume that this is enhanced by her own travels around the Caribbean (Janice is otherwise known as The Backpacking Housewife) as you really get a sense of the smells, sounds and cloying humidity as you you read – all of which somewhat made me wish that Pearl Island was real!

Aunt Kate was a really intriguing character and getting inside her head with her diary entries was a great way to let her speak from beyond the grave and also allow Isla to learn more about her Aunt and how she became the way she was.

The romantic elements of the story are built up very well, with lots of unexpected turns and Isla and Leo are a nice pair of people separated by circumstance. But will they work through it and find each other again?? Haha! Read and find out…

Island in the Sun is independently published.

To find out more about this book, and about Janice’s travels, you can check out her blog, The Backpacking Housewife, or you can connect with her on Twitter.

This review is part of the blog tour of Island in the Sun – why not check out some of the other brilliant blogs taking part below:

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: The Mum Who Got Her Life Back by Fiona Gibson

When her 18-year-old twins leave for university, single mum Nadia’s life changes in ways she never expected: her Glasgow flat feels suddenly huge, laundry doesn’t take up half her week, and she no longer has to buy ‘the Big Milk’. After almost two decades of putting everyone else first, Nadia is finally taking care of herself. And with a budding romance with new boyfriend Jack, She’s never felt more alive.

That is, until her son Alfie drops out of university, and Nadia finds her empty nest is empty no more. With a heartbroken teenager to contend with, Nadia has to ask herself: is it ever possible for a mother to get her own life back? And can Jack and Nadia’s relationship survive having a sulky teenager around?

What I Thought:

I was lucky enough to take part in a blog tour for The Mum Who Got Her Life Back, in which I shared an extract of the book. Although it does give you a flavour of the book, you definitely need to read it so see what a funny and full-of-heart book it is.

Fiona Gibson writes beautifully – I assume from experience – of a woman whose life of living with and looking after her children ends with a jolt, and then starts again with an even bigger jolt, almost shattering the tentative life the she has begun to build.

As a mum of youngish children, I can see this stage coming, but thankfully not for a while, as this book throws up a lot of questions about how we adapt our lives around others and how, as a mother, you’re suddenly not having to plan your daily life around that of your kids.

The beauty of the book and of Nadia is that she is so normal. Ok, she’s a talented illustrator and her ex-husband happens to be a famous film director, but she is so relatable that it’s not hard to wish the best for her and want to have a stern word with many of the people in her life.

Obviously, this wouldn’t be romantic fiction without Nadia and new partner Jack having ups, downs and various trials, but it’s not a spoiler to say it all comes good – which is exactly what you want on a crappy news day!

The Mum Who Got Her Life Back is published by Avon.

To find out more about Fiona Gibson and her books, why not check out her website? Alternatively, you can connect with her on Twitter.

Please note: I was sent this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

They say I must be put to death for what happened to Madame, and they want me to confess. But how can I confess what I don’t believe I’ve done?

1826, and all of London is in a frenzy. Crowds gather at the gates of the Old Bailey to watch as Frannie Langton, maid to Mr and Mrs Benham, goes on trial for their murder. The testimonies against her are damning – slave, whore, seductress. And they may be the truth. But they are not the whole truth.

For the first time Frannie must tell her story. It begins with a girl learning to read on a plantation in Jamaica, and it ends in a grand house in London, where a beautiful woman waits to be freed.

But through her fevered confessions, one burning question haunts Frannie Langton: could she have murdered the only person she ever loved?

What I Thought:

As someone who has dabbled in writing, thanks to NaNoWriMo, it’s always particularly galling when a debut novel comes to your attention, and you find that it is superbly written and generally excellent. And so it is with The Confessions of Frannie Langton.

Sara Collins has produced a highly researched and beautifully evocative novel of the early 19th Century, with all the good and bad things that that implies. While the slave trade has been stopped, Frannie herself is still a slave in Jamaica as the British continue to argue about whether the practice should be outlawed altogether – but how terrible to remove a man’s property without compensating him! Don’t you just love how people justify bad things to each other?

This book, however, adds extra wrinkles to Frannie’s character in that she is taught to read by her mistress and then instructed to assist John Langton with his experiments to prove that Whites and Blacks are not related, and that Blacks are inferior in every way – as you can imagine, this is enraging to read framed in modern times but, I am assured, was a common enough practice at that time.

We don’t find out exactly what has gone on until the end of the book but, based on Frannie’s character and subsequent behaviour, we can assume that it was horrific to witness and take part in.

I can’t explain much more of the plot without straying into spoilers, but Frannie’s relationship with ‘Madame’ is compelling and, again, beautifully researched and written.

Loving historical fiction as I do, this book is an excellent example of the genre and definitely one to add to your reading list. Not only is is a good read, it is a prime example of books as art, as it has been beautifully designed, with an embroidered design on the cover which is embossed and overlaid with gold foil, and gorgeous endpapers of a contemporary William Morris design – I honestly could not stop running my fingers over the cover as I was reading!

To find out more about this book and Sara Collins, you can connect with her on Twitter.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton is published in the UK by Viking Books.

This post is part of the blog tour celebrating the publication of The Confessions of Frannie Langton. For more reviews and exclusive content, why not check out some of the brilliant blogs below?

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: The Missing Sister by Dinah Jefferies

Belle Hatton has embarked upon an exciting new life far from home: a glamorous job as a nightclub singer in 1930s Burma, with a host of sophisticated new friends and admirers. But Belle is haunted by a mystery from the past – a 25 year old newspaper clipping found in her parents’ belongings after their death, saying that the Hattons were leaving Rangoon after the disappearance of their baby daughter, Elvira. 

Belle is desperate to find out what happened to the sister she never knew she had – but when she starts asking questions, she is confronted with unsettling rumours, malicious gossip, and outright threats. Oliver, an attractive, easy-going American journalist, promises to help her, but an anonymous note tells her not to trust those closest to her. . . 

Belle survives riots, intruders, and bomb attacks – but nothing will stop her in her mission to uncover the truth. Can she trust her growing feelings for Oliver? Is her sister really dead? And could there be a chance Belle might find her?

What I Thought:

I’ve been lucky enough to take part in blog tours celebrating the last two of Dinah Jefferies’ historical novels. Each is set in Asia, as is The Missing Sister, another charming story but this time with more of a touch of mystery thrown in.

The main character, Belle is young and impressionable, but has recently learned that her older sister disappeared, aged only 3 weeks, in Rangoon, Burma. Her mother, who has since passed away, was accused of harming the baby, but Belle can’t bring herself to believe this. As she struggles in find out more information it isn’t clear who she should trust but someone will stop at nothing to make sure she never learns the truth.

As with Dinah Jefferies’ other novels, The Missing Sister is an impeccably researched period piece showing the height of British colonialism and all the things that that has come to stand for. It shows a long-passed period of time which I think we can agree is all for the better.

The scenic descriptions within the book are excellent and when you read about the research trips that Dinah Jefferies has made, they become all the more authentic – in particular the section with a hot air balloon ride over the ruins at Bagan.

There is a solid mystery plot running through this novel, as Belle tries to work around the bureaucrats in charge of Burma to find out about her sister, helped by a handsome American reporter, and it resolves in a very unexpected way, which was very well done.

Throughout the book, interwoven chapters are written by Belle’s mother Diana as she explores her own failing memory and poor mental health to discover whether it was in fact her who hurt her baby which adds an interesting aspect to the book, and shines a light on how far we have come in the acceptance and treatment of poor mental health.

As I’m sure I have said in my previous reviews of her books, Dinah Jefferies’ books are excellent and well worth catching up with – I think I have only two that I’ve not yet read and they are definitely on my list for the near future.

For more information on The Missing Sister and Dinah Jefferies’ other books, you can check out her website. Alternatively, why not connect with her on Twitter?

This post is part of a blog tour celebrating the publication of The Missing Sister. Why not check out some of the other fantastic blogs below for exclusive content and more reviews?

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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