I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to be part of this blog tour by Kelly at LoveBooksGroup. This is a fair and honest review, and all opinions are my own.
Agnes McLeod is the bright, only daughter of a farmer living in the harsh wilds of Ayrshire. When her pregnant cousin Mary comes to stay, she is fascinated by this young woman’s view of the world and her survival instinct. Mary takes Agnes with her to Edinburgh and introduces her to a lifestyle far removed from the farm, rubbing shoulders with gangsters, prostitutes and police alike. Agnes becomes Stella and the young women learn how to join the elite of “the oldest profession” amongst the hotels of the city. When an “accident” befalls Mary involving the infamous Williams brothers, Stella finds an unlikely ally in the city’s top barrister.
At this point Stella Gold, with the backing of the barrister, set out to turn a property in the Georgian terrace of Danube Street into Edinburgh’s most exclusive brothel. Stella quickly becomes the city’s most respected Madame, entertaining clients ranging from sailors to councillors to clergy to police. Surrounded by loyal friends, like young Jack and former prostitute Kitty who both work for her, and enemies, like the Williams brothers and working girls with grudges, Stella must remain astute and streetwise.
Into the picture comes fourteen-year-old runaway Rosie, picked up at the bus station by an infatuated Jack. Rosie, the youngest of 3 daughters, is pregnant by an American GI and disowned by her father but the youngster has a survival instinct not unlike Stella’s and looks to match. The older woman allows the youngster to stay at Danube Street until her baby is born, but Rosie soon finds herself at the receiving end of jealousy from some of the other working girls. This is to have life changing outcomes for her.
Meanwhile Stella is finding herself the object of a vendetta by not only the criminal factions of the city, but also a corrupt Chief of Police, with several secrets of his own. Stella is the ultimate survivor, but is time running out for her? Who can she look to in order to ensure the future of Danube Street?
I have had to be so careful not to give away any spoilers as I get carried away in my description! This novel had me interested from the moment that I realised that the premise is taken from the true story of 17 Danube Street – once an infamous exclusive brothel run by Madame Dora Noyce from soon after the end of World War 2 until her death aged 77 in the 10970s. Links to articles of interest can be found at the end of my review. The characters and storylines in this novel are fiction.
This was for me an easy read as I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline, the characters and the style of writing. The plots are hard hitting, and the use of strong language, descriptive violence, drugs and abuse will mean that this is not for everyone. But if you enjoy a fast moving, gritty drama that has a cast of characters that are human, flawed and believable, then this is a novel for you!
The depiction of the young women and their back stories that led them into a life of prostitution is enlightening, and I think probably still rings true for today. Whilst one could be led to believe that the life of a working girl in a smart hotel or in an “exclusive brothel” is glamorous, the writers also show the other side of the coin. Jack’s mother Jeanie works the streets and is at the receiving end of vicious abuse, both physical and verbal, with “punters” rarely seeing her as a human being. Yet when the writers take us back to her early years and the loss of her husband in the war, it becomes apparent that this story that could and should have been so different. It is just one of many of a young woman doing anything and everything to support her family. The girls who work for Stella definitely have a better life than the street girls – they are fed well and work in beautiful surroundings, but they are still very much at the mercy of the clients. The writers also weave in the issue of sexual abuse from a young age and the fact that for some young people because this has been a “normal” for them, it continues to be the norm into adult life (no spoilers, but on reading the book I think you will understand).
I love the strong female lead characters in this book – Stella, obviously, for making her way and then holding her own as a respected business woman in a male dominated society; young Rosie who undoubtedly grows the most in this story, from spirited teen to a street wise young woman with a great head for business; Kitty, the older ex prostitute, whose wisdom, life experiences and loyalty are priceless for both Stella and Rosie. Jack is the youngest of the male characters and understanding his back story, his mother’s decline into alcoholism and street prostitution, the obvious course for the writers to take him down (gangsters, drugs, alcohol) is not quite the route he follows. Certainly, his life is still set amidst this background, but he makes his life choices with a mature head following his own moral compass.
There are many truly unlikeable characters in this novel – psychopathic, vicious and violent Freddie Williams, Mags the aggrieved working girl – but for me the vilest is probably DCI Ross. Whilst I detested the man, the writers were very clever to give us his childhood story – harsh conditions with equally harsh parenting – allowing the reader to have an understanding of why the man behaves as he does and almost feeling empathy for him.
The story is fast, packed with action and wonderfully rich characters – I might unpick them all, but you really can enjoy this without doing so! I applaud the wonderful descriptions of both Edinburgh and the isolated areas of Scotland. This was a novel that I found difficult to put down as I became invested in the characters and genuinely wanted to know what happens to them. Strange as it may seem, there are some very tender relationships and genuine feelings – the joys and despairs of parenthood, loss, grief and love. Many ends are tied up, but there are also many loose ends and new lives…. a sequel please, Ms Tweedie & Ms McGregor!! Meanwhile I plan to look out your other works.
I can’t help feeling that the original Madame, Dora Noyce, would approve of this version of Danube Street. She always objected to the word brothel and wanted her house to be known as one of “leisure and pleasure”, where she gave glasses of wine to gentleman arriving and then tea and sandwiches for “afters”. The opulent house of the book and the rich characters within its walls would get a nod of approval from the real Madame of Danube Street.
I loved it too! 4 stars
Articles of interest:
Find Danube Street on
Currently available on Kindle at Amazon here:
Publisher: Fledgling Press
Publication Date: 01/08/2018
About the Authors
LINDA TWEEDIE lives in a small coastal town on the east coast of Scotland and has been a market trader, encyclopaedia salesperson and a drug rep (rep, not dealer) but for over 20 years, until her retirement, (early of course!) she spent most of her time behind a bar barring toilet breaks as landlady of numerous watering holes. Her first three novels came about through customers and friends telling her on almost a daily basis that she should write a book. Well, she did not just one but three The Life series, in collaboration with her best friend and cohort Kate McGregor. The Silence is their début crime novel set mainly in the dark and mean streets of Glasgow at the time of the infamous Ice Cream Wars. A fast-paced, gritty story which will keep you enthralled. KATE McGREGOR co-author was born in Paisley, once labelled the most dangerous town in the UK. But, it quietened down considerably once she left and went to work in London. Kate has been a beautician, logistics manager, advertising guru and sexy party planner who, after being made redundant twice in one year, decided it was time to be mistress of her own destiny and with the hindrance and interference of her best friend Linda, embarked on a seven year career in booze! Together they wrote The Life series, the first of which, Life Behind Bars, was a finalist in The People s Book Prize. The Silence is their début crime novel and if you like Martina Cole or Jessie Keane, you’ll love this.