#BlogTour Summer of Love by Caro Fraser #bookreview (@carofraser) @aria_fiction @HoZ_Books #SummerOfLove #NetGalley

cover139639-medium

The dark days of the war are over, but the family secrets they held are only just dawning.

In the hot summer of 1949, a group of family and friends gather at Harry Denholm’s country house in Kent. Meg and Dan Ranscombe, emerging from a scandal of their own making; Dan’s godmother, Sonia; and her two young girls, Laura and Avril, only one of whom is Sonia’s biological daughter. Amongst the heat, memories, and infatuations, a secret is revealed to Meg’s son, Max, and soon a terrible tragedy unfolds that will have consequences for them all.

Afterwards, Avril, Laura and Max must come of age in a society still reeling from the war, haunted by the choices of that fateful summer. Cold, entitled Avril will go to any lengths to take what is hers. Beautiful, naive Laura finds refuge and love in the London jazz clubs, but Max, with wealth and unrequited love, has the capacity to undo it all.”

I’m so delighted today to be taking part in the blog tour for the latest book by one of my favourite authors, Caro Fraser. Thank you to Melanie Price at Head of Zeus for inviting me to take part.

I have been a huge fan of Caro Fraser’s books for years, her Caper Court series being books I return to time after time for unbeatable plotting and characterisation so I was delighted to be offered the chance to review her latest novel Summer of Love. This is in a different vein from the contemporary Caper Court books being, as the title suggests, set in the post-war period from 1949 until the swinging sixties.

The book centres around the lives of Max, Avril and Laura from their childhood until their coming of ages. The tragic events of one sultry summer day in 1949 leave a mark on each of them and their relationship to each other that continues to affect them all in to adulthood.

This book is an affecting exploration of how the circumstances of our birth and childhood and how our parents choose to raise us and what they let us believe about ourselves can have unforeseen consequences that ripple out endlessly throughout our lives, affecting all of our future decisions and relationships. The ideas raised are absorbing and thought-provoking and I know it is a book I will continue to think about long after I have closed the pages and placed it to one side in favour of something new.

The characters in this book are multi-dimensional and complicated and quickly draw he reader into their world, making us eager to know and understand them. Not all of them are likeable – one of the main characters is largely downright unpleasant – but are written in such a way that we still want to try and work out what has made them that way, what makes them tick and realise that their behaviour is perhaps holding them back from making them as fulfilled and contented as they could be.

The main draw of this book for me is the time period in which it is set and the frenetic and complicated social change taking place in that era. The years from just after the war to he mid-sixties was a time of immense transfiguration in Britain as the country rebuilt itself after the war and decided where its future lay. The younger generation were sometimes at odds with their parents, shaking off the shackles of propriety and restraint and searching for freedom and expression but there were still boundaries that could not be crossed, certain types of behaviour that would not be tolerated. This book explores brilliantly the contrast between the freedom and experimentation the youth were indulging in by way of new art and ideas, drugs, music and casual sex and the stigma still attached to homosexuality, inter-racial relationships, unmarried mothers etc. In this novel, Caro adeptly demonstrates how confusing it was for the people trying to navigate this uncertain time period when all social boundaries were being tested and where rejecting guidance and discipline from the older generation lead not only to freedom but also a sense of being alone in any plight the exercise of those freedoms brought on themselves.

The setting of he novel, between the quietness and staidness of the post-war English countryside and the grittiness of urban London emphasised this contrast and the author brings both settings vividly to life through enticing and eloquent descriptions. There is also a demonstration of the beginnings of the blurring of class distinctions during this period, with modern art and music encroaching on the upper crust echelons of the art world and the upsurge in popularity of fashion and music paving the way for the lower classes, who were making their mark in these fields, to mix with the monied set. It was a time of huge opportunity and this book manages to embody all the excitement and potential, as well as uncertainty that people must have felt at that time. For those of us too young to have lived through it, it is an enticing peek in to a world long gone but one that has paved the way for so much of what we take for granted today.

This book is not only a beautifully written and complex story of family relationships and personal exploration but also an intelligent snapshot of an exciting period of social history. The writing makes you think and leaves you with a feeling that you have gained a huge amount from the time investing in reading it and maybe a slightly better understanding of a huge stepping stone on the way to the society we have today, together with some ideas about how much further we may have to go. I revelled in every word of it.

Summer of Love is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Thank you to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for my copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

If you would like to see what other great bloggers think of the book, you can follow the tour here:

Summer of Love Blog Tour banner (1)_preview

About the Author

Unknown-1

Caro Fraser is the author of the bestselling Caper Court novels, based on her own experiences as a lawyer. She is the daughter of Flashman author George MacDonald Fraser and lives in London.

Connect with Caro here:

Website: http://www.caro-fraser.co.uk

Facebook: Caro Fraser Author

Twitter: @carofraser

A Family Recipe by Veronica Henry #bookreview (@veronica_henry) @orionbooks #AFamilyRecipe #NetGalley

isbn9781409166610

What’s the secret ingredient to your happiness?

Laura Griffin is preparing for an empty nest. The thought of Number 11 Lark Hill falling silent – a home usually bustling with noise, people and the fragrant smells of something cooking on the Aga – seems impossible. Laura hopes it will mean more time for herself, and more time with her husband, Dom.

But when an exposed secret shakes their marriage, Laura suddenly feels as though her family is shrinking around her. Feeling lost, she turns to her greatest comfort: her grandmother’s recipe box, a treasured collection dating back to the Second World War. Everyone has always adored Laura’s jams and chutneys, piled their sandwiches high with her pickles . . . Inspired by a bit of the old Blitz spirit, Laura has an idea that gives her a fresh sense of purpose.

Full of fierce determination, Laura starts carving her own path. But even the bravest woman needs the people who love her. And now, they need her in return . . .”

I’ve noticed a trend in the books I’m picking up recently towards central female characters that are, shall we say, not in the first flush of youth. I’m not sure if this is because more books are being written and published with older women as the focal point or that my tastes are changing and I am drawn more to novels featuring characters I can relate to as my age increases, possibly it is a combination of the two. Either way, I think it is a positive change and something to be celebrated.

I spent yesterday, my forty-sixth birthday, indulging myself in a my favourite pastime (reading, of course!) and the the book I chose was Veronica Henry’s latest novel A Family Recipe. The main character of this book is Laura, a forty-something woman who is faced with finding herself again after her children flying the nest and a shocking family revelation combine to knock her life off the track it had been trundling along for twenty years. As a woman with rapidly maturing children, relationship upheaval and a major career change behind me, there was a huge amount in this book to which I could personally relate and, as a result, I was drawn into Laura’s story immediately.

I suspect any woman of a similar age reading this is going to find herself able to sympathise with a least one aspect of Laura’s life and this is the skill in Veronica’s writing. Her stories, in this and her previous novels, are built on the personal experiences and domestic dramas of ordinary people and, as a result, her characters and their travails are easy for her readers to relate to. We recognise them and, consequently, care about them – an essential ingredient for a really successful novel.

There are actually two timelines running through this book, and two main characters. We have Laura in the modern day, – trying to find her feet during a rocky time in her life and falling back on the comfort of her family’s traditional recipes to ground her – and Jilly, one of Laura’s ancestors – living at the time of the Blitz in Bath and using the same recipes to comfort herself through the fear and grief of that terrible time.

Veronica weaves the two threads together beautifully to demonstrate the influence of our family on us and the importance of those ties of blood and love to hold us together in times of need. Veronica was inspired to write the novel by her own box of family recipes and the personal connection to the story is palpable in the pages. This novel feels so authentic, so full of passion and love, it is impossible not to get drawn in. I was totally enmeshed in the lives of the characters to the point of tearfulness on more than one occasion and I have been left with a feeling of warmth and tenderness at the end. I love Veronica’s work, and I think this might be my favourite yet.

The beauty of this book is helped along by setting it in the gorgeous city of Bath and Veronica manages to bring that gracious city to life with her deft descriptions. I know this is another aspect of the book that is very personal to the author and her love of the city shines throughout.

All in all, this is a perfectly crafted book, one to treasure and return to whenever you are looking for an uplifting story of family, friendship and food.

A Family Recipe is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Thank you to NetGalley and Orion Publishing for my advance copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

Veronica Henry-detail

Veronica Henry has worked as a scriptwriter for THE ARCHERS, HEARTBEAT and HOLBY CITY amongst many others, before turning to fiction. She won the 2014 RNA NOVEL OF THE YEAR AWARD for A NIGHT ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. Veronica lives with her family in a village in north Devon.

Connect with Veronica:

Website: www.veronicahenry.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/veronicahenryauthor/

Twitter: @veronica_henry

Instagram: @veronicahenryauthor

#BlogTour The Ghost of Glendale by Natalie Kleinman #bookreview (@NatKleinman) @rareresources

The Ghost of Glendale

At last! Today is my stop on the blog tour for Natalie Kleinman’s self-published Regency novel The Ghost of Glendale and I am very excited to talk to you about this book. Huge thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part. Let’s have a look at the details of the book.

Ghost-EBOOK-cvr TGoG (3 MB)

“At twenty-four years old, Phoebe Marcham is resigned to spinsterhood, unwilling to settle for anything less than the deep love her parents had shared. That is, until adventurer Duncan Armstrong rides into her home wood, larger than life and with laughter in his eyes and more charm in his little finger than anyone she’s ever met before.

Far from ridiculing her family ghost, Duncan resolves to help solve the mystery which has left Simon Marcham a spirit in torment for two hundred years.”

I have to admit, Regency romance novels are not a genre that I read. I have heard other people raving about Georgette Heyer and others of that ilk but have never been drawn to Regency as a genre. However, something about this book piqued my curiosity when I was offered the chance to read it and, now I have, I am wondering why it has taken me so long to discover it.

This is a rip-roaring tale of family feuds, restless spirits, rugged Scotsman and feisty heroines, wrapped up in the restrained and genteel conventions of Regency England which is an interesting juxtaposition. The heroine of this book, Phoebe Marcham, is forged in the best traditions of the tempestuous renegade, baulking against the confines that society placed on women at this time, in the vein of an Elizabeth Bennett or a Jo March. Considered to be an ‘elderly spinster’, unmarried in her late twenties, she is not unduly worried by her situation until the equally unconventional Duncan Armstrong storms into her life.

At the same time, an unsettled family spirit is demanding that Phoebe explore her family history and clear his blackened name so his soul can rest and she can bring a two hundred-year-old feud to an end. Along the way there are cousins to be married off, cantankerous aunts to mollify, nefarious suitors to weed out and the social whirl of Regency England to navigate. Never a dull moment.

This book was easy to read and tremendous fun. The author has done a wonderful job of reflecting the language and mores of the time period and developing some rounded and likeable characters, as well as keeping you hooked on the mystery of the family ghost. I am sure any of you picking up this book will be as carried along by the story as I was.

Thank you, Natalie, for introducing me to a whole new genre, I look forward to reading more of your work.

The Ghost of Glendale is out now and you can buy a copy here.

If you would like to follow the blog tour, you can find the details below.

The Ghost of Glendale Full Banner

About the Author

Natale Kleinman - Author Photo

Natalie is a published novelist and short story writer whose addiction to the books of Georgette Heyer and love of The Regency have been the inspiration for her latest book, The Ghost of Glendale. 

Working on the premise that you never stop learning, she goes to any and every writing event and workshop she can. In addition she attends The Write Place Creative Writing School in Hextable in Kent, one of the rewards for which is an abundant supply of cream cakes to celebrate the frequent successes of its students. 

Natalie is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, The Society of Authors and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists. She lives with her husband in southeast London.

Follow Natalie on:

Blog: https://nataliekleinman.blogspot.co.uk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NatalieKleinmanAuthor/
Twitter: @NatKleinman