Book Review and Blog Tour for Sue Lawrence’s “Down To The Sea” #LoveBooksGroupTours

Disclaimer:  Thanks to Love Books Group and the author for the copy of this book and the opportunity to take part in this tour in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Down-to-Sea

The year is 1981 and young couple Rona and Craig have spent an inheritance on a large Victorian house in Edinburgh.  Ex-lawyer Rona is excited to turn Wardie House into a luxury care home so sets about exploring and planning, and in the process she uncovers some history of the house and its inhabitants.  The cellar and attic give up secrets from dark corners and when the sea fog descends the new owners hear strange, disturbing sounds.

There is only one close neighbour – glamorous and sophisticated American Martha – and she immediately wants to make friends with the young couple,  sharing with them that the big house has been the centre of several unhappy scandals in the past. But when asked about her own life, she is secretive and reluctant to speak, giving up conflicting details of her life before coming to Scotland.

Return to the Newhaven district of Edinburgh in the late 19th century and 14 year old Jessie has found herself the centre of gossip and accusation, following the loss of a fishing boat in a storm.  Blamed for the death of the fisherman by superstitious villagers, Jessie is thrown out of her home and is sent to Wardie House, the poorhouse.  The home is run by the Governor and Matron, characters who rule with an iron fist and create a harsh, severe life for the many inmates of the poorhouse.  Jessie begins to suspect that all is not as it seems, particularly with one of the older women, and when Jessie’s only friend finds herself in trouble, Jessie plays detective and unpicks secrets.

These secrets directly link 1898 with 1981, but it will be down to Rona and Jessie to unravel them.

Book Review Down to the Sea pin

 

I was sent a paperback copy of this novel, and whilst I am always grateful to be sent an electronic copy, there was something special about holding a book in my hands.  The artwork on the cover is immediately striking and gives a hint of the haunting tale inside.  Ms Lawrence alternates the book chapters between 1981 and 1898, a concept which works well to build up and to link the two parts of the story.  As someone who has a tendency to flick back and forth between times, rereading sections and checking on memories, I was very pleased to be reading a paperback rather than my Kindle!

The book is well written and very easy to read.  The author uses some beautiful descriptions for the Scottish scenery and I was transported to a place where I could feel the sea on my face and the thick mists swirling around the house.  My favourite descriptive writing can be found using every sense in the scenes in the coal cellar and smugglers’ tunnels….no spoilers here!

The characters are all important within the storyline and in each of the two timelines there is a strong leading female character.  Personally I enjoyed Jessie’s timeline the most and was able to feel her emotions and character growth as she learnt the art of survival in the poorhouse.  She was used to hard work amongst the fisherfolk, but the poorhouse presented her with a very different set of challenges and I loved seeing her develop into a steely young woman, prepared to fight and protect those she loved.  This is also something that is mirrored by Rona in her storyline as she learns more about the mysterious Martha, her husband Craig, the residents of the nursing home and also herself.

This is a novel that manages to incorporate the historical with the psychological and weaves a tantalising tale around haunting secrets and painful truths.  The author manages to keep the suspense running throughout, whilst slowly but surely linking the timelines, until the actions of one are revealed to have dramatic consequences for the other.  A great tale which is both eerie and moving in equal measures.

I found this book gripping, became invested in the characters and thoroughly enjoyed it.

4 stars

Find the book:

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

WHSmith

Waterstones

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About the Author

(from The Scottish Book Trust website)

Sue Lawrence 2Cookery writer and novelist Sue Lawrence was born in Dundee and brought up in Edinburgh, where she now lives, having lived in many places including the French Pyrenees, Ost Friesland in Germany and northern Finland. She trained as a journalist with DCThomson after an Honours degree in French from Dundee University.

She has written 17 cookery books including Book of Baking and A Cooks Tour of Scotland. Her latest cookbook is A Cooks Tour of the Scottish Islands, due out in August 2019.

She specialises in traditional Scottish food and Baking and has written for various newspapers and magazines since winning BBC Masterchef in 1991.

She moved into writing Fiction recently: her second novel, The Night He Left, was published in April 2016. Her latest novel, Down to the Sea, will be published in 2019.

About the writer’s work

Having trained as a journalist, Sue Lawrence began writing cookbooks and newspaper and magazine columns. She now writes both Fiction and cookery books and attends many book festivals around the country, talking on both subjects, but mainly nowadays on fiction (though always happy to talk Cake too!).

Find Sue:

Goodreads

Agent website

Twitter

 

This is my Review of the Month for the review collection on LovelyAudiobooks.info

Review and Blog Tour : “It’s Getting Scot in Here” by Suzanne Enoch

Disclaimer: I was sent an ARC of this book by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Pin for later

It's getting Scot pin

 

Book Blurb (from the publisher)

The first in a wickedly seductive new Scottish historical romance series from New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Enoch!

HAPPILY-EVER-AFTER
London socialite Amelia-Rose Baxter is nobody’s fool. Her parents may want her to catch a title, but she will never change who she is for the promise of marriage. Her husband will be a man who can appreciate her sharp mind as well as her body. A sophisticated man who loves life in London. A man who considers her his equal—and won’t try to tame her wild heart…

IN THE HIGHLANDS
Rough, rugged Highlander Niall MacTaggert and his brothers know the rules: the eldest must marry or lose the ancestral estate, period. But Niall’s eldest brother just isn’t interested in the lady his mother selected. Is it because Amelia-Rose is just too. . . Free-spirited? Yes. Brazen? Aye. Surely Niall can find a way to soften up the whip-smart lass and make her the perfect match for his brother for the sake of the family.

JUST GOT A WHOLE LOT HOTTER.
Instead it’s Niall who tempts Amelia-Rose, despite her reservations about barbarian Highlanders. Niall finds the lass nigh irresistible as well, but he won’t make the mistake his father did in marrying an Englishwoman who doesn’t like the Highlands. Does he have what it takes to win her heart? There is only one way to find out…

It's Getting Scot in Here cover

Do you enjoy a historical romantic romp?  Then this is the book for you!  This is the first novel by Suzanne Enoch that I have read, and I must admit that as I found the cover a little “corny” I did wonder how I was going to find the book!  I needn’t have worried though as once I started reading I was hooked and wanted to follow the story of the MacTaggart brothers in London.

This is an easy to read story with everything that you want in a historic romance novel.  From the handsome, yet rugged hero to the misunderstood, headstrong heroine and the beautifully described period surroundings and clothes, the author has packed this book to bursting.  The action is fast paced and the characters will take you on an emotional rollercoaster.

The MacTaggart clan is dysfunctional at best, yet loving, loyal and supportive and very likeable.  The descriptions of some of the antics of the brothers had me laughing out loud and I loved Rory the deer (stuffed!) that they placed on their mother’s landing to rile her, yet the whole family ended up “dressing” him in finery.  Niall is the perfect romantic hero – tall and handsome, yet rugged, tough yet fiercely loyal and loving with a soft heart.  The older brothers Coll and Aden have started to show their characters in this book – but I have a feeling that their own stories might be in the pipeline.  Their mother is someone to be disliked at the beginning, yet as the story unfolds Lady Aldriss shows herself to be a tiger mother merely fighting for her children – no  matter that they are estranged from her and return as great, hulking young men from the Highlands “gracing” her London residence!

I love the main female character Amelia-Rose – better known as Amy to her friends.  She is a young lady who is underestimated by nearly everyone around her, and she is expected to conform to the social expectations of a young lady of a certain standing.  In other words she must not have own opinions, should definitely not speak out of turn and always do as her parents or husband see fit – a young woman of her time.  But Amy is a young lady with a strong character who struggles to comply with these social niceties and has earned herself a reputation for having a sharp tongue as she will speak out.  Although I know that it happened,  I still found myself a bit baffled by the way in which the aristocracy traded their near adult children in order to make better family alliances through arranged marriage – and parents would pay huge sums, as dowries, for more eligible suitors with titles.  It would be easy to feel sorry for Amy – indeed I felt for her having such a scheming mother – except she shows remarkable spunk throughout the novel.

This will not be seen as a great literary classic, but it is well written and most importantly thoroughly enjoyable.  It is a romance and it does have a couple of sexual scenes (I know that some readers like to be forewarned), but it also is fast paced and action packed so should not be underestimated.  I loved the fact that it was easy to read and provided some escapism – something that will appeal to my many spoonie pals out there.

This might not have been a book that would have jumped off the shelves at me, but I must admit that it became a guilty pleasure and I really look forward to a series with the other MacTaggart brothers tales!  Meanwhile I’m off to find some of Ms Enoch’s other Highland flings!

4 Stars

Publication Date: February 26, 2019
ISBN-13: 978-1-250-29637-5
St. Martin’s Paperbacks

The book is currently available here:

Amazon :

Barnes & Noble

Macmillan books

 

About the Author

A native and current resident of Southern California, Suzanne Enoch loves movies Suzanne Enochalmost as much as she loves books, with a special place in her heart for anything Star Wars. Given her love of food and comfy chairs, she may in fact be a Hobbit. She has written more than forty Regency novels and historical romances, which are regularly found on the New York Times bestseller list.
When she is not busily working on her next book, Suzanne likes to contemplate interesting phenomena, like how the three guppies in her aquarium became 161 guppies in five months. Suzanne is trying to learn to cook, and wishes she had an English accent.

She is the bestselling author of Scandalous Brides series, The Scandalous Highlanders series, and One Hot Scot.

Find Suzanne:

Twitter

Website

Facebook

Thanks to St Martin’s Press and the author for giving me the opportunity to be on this blog tour.

My spot on the Blog Tour and my Book Review for Seven Deadly Swords by Peter Sutton #LoveBooksGroupTours

7-swords-cover-highres

The year is 1097 and 16 year old Reymond is the son of a French farmer, but he yearns to join the Christian Crusades to free Jerusalem from the Saracen enemy.  He runs away from home to join the troop of Charles as a young recruit and is soon embroiled in fighting, sieges and killing.  The troop gradually moves across Europe and Reymond bands together with a group who become his brothers-in-arms.

The Holy War takes some unexpected twists as the Tafurs – peasants dressed in sack cloth yet know to be barbarians – join their ranks and Reymond and his friends become entwined with one particular young man, Sebastien.  He appears to hold powers of sorcery and the men find themselves swearing an oath and taking part in Sebastien’s strange rituals during which he knights them (and himself) as the seven virtues – Patience, Kindness, Diligence, Chastity, Humility, Temperance and Charity – and bestows a specially made sword upon each of them.  Sebastien claims to have visions that show how the men will take the Holy land and defeat the Saracen, but Reymond begins to suspect that there is sorcery at play.

The men find their fortunes changed forever when they partake in one particular ritual that involves a curse to lead them down a dark and deadly path from which there may be no return.  Can the curse of their new personalities and their ever present swords be broken?

Seven Swords Pin

I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity by Love Books Group and the author to read this fantasy thriller and to be a part of this blog tour.

When I started this tale, I must admit to not knowing what to expect after reading the “blurb”.  This feeling only increased when the first few chapters jumped from the present day back to 1097 and then to 1982, yet the lead character seemed to be the same young man Reymond albeit with a series of other names (Patience and Wrath).  Time travel? Doctor Who? However as the tale moved on I started to put the pieces of the puzzle together and came up with my own conclusion, and will leave you to do the same – although all is revealed.

I most enjoyed the elements of the book set in the time of the Crusades and felt that I was learning some history.  The author has researched well the Crusaders, the battles and sieges and their practices in order to make the book historically accurate – I found this when my interest was piqued by Mr Sutton and I did a little extra reading myself!  I wasn’t sure if the Tafurs existed, but found that there was indeed a large element of peasants and poor lay people who joined with the crusaders to fight the Saracen and are known by academics as Tafurs.  There may have been embellishment over the years about their appearance – wearing only sack cloth and being bare footed – and their cannibalism, but there are also ancient texts that describe the Tafurs as being considered barbarians by both the Crusaders and the Arabs (Saracens).  This might have been used as a military tactic by the Crusaders and the author makes use of this as cities are raided and there is talk of burning the enemy at the stake and eating human flesh.  I also established that there was indeed one considered to be the King of the Tafurs…..but as to sorcery, rituals and fantasy this may be something for the reader to decide!

Young Reymond grows from a boy to a man throughout the course of the book and within each century that we find him in.  I liked him as a character and even when he found himself having to carry out hideous acts, I was still routing for him.  The other “six” brothers-in-arms all have a back story, some more fleshed out than others (I loved Andros!) and I enjoyed reading the subtle transformation in their characters as they slowly took on their new personalities : Wrath, Sloth, Gluttony, Lust, Greed, Pride and Envy.  There are also two important secondary characters in the more recent incarnations of Reymond’s life – Fisher and Mari, the only female character – who play a vital role in the search for the elusive “book” that will provide the answer to remove the “curse”.  These characters have a more detailed back story and it is through their presence that the reader learns more of Reymond’s story and why a young man carries a sword in the modern day.

The story is fast and the action is definitely furious.  It jumps from century to century, from continent to continent and will keep you on your toes – but if you don’t do blood and gore then it may not be for you.  I think that reading on a Kindle makes it harder to flick back and forth to check what happened in a different part of the book, which I personally needed to do in order to recall an event that related to a new one!  No spoilers, but I wasn’t entirely convinced by some elements of the ritual that changed the personalities…..but then I remind myself that this is fantasy!!

Overall a really enjoyable fantasy thriller with some fantastic historical components.  Well worth a read if you enjoy something a little bit different.  I am definitely going to look out some of Pete Sutton’s other novels.

3.5 stars

Available from:

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About the Author

Peter SuttonPete Sutton is the author of three books: A Tiding of Magpies, a collection of ‘deliciously dark tales,’ Sick City Syndrome, an urban fantasy set in Bristol where he lives and Seven Deadly Swords – a historical fantasy thriller partly set in the crusades, partly set in the modern day.

 

Pete  has a not so secret lair in the wilds of Fishponds, Bristol and dreams up stories, many of which are about magpies. He’s had stuff published, online and in book form, including a short story collection called A Tiding of Magpies (Shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award 2017) and the novel Sick City Syndrome. He wrote all about Fishponds for the Naked Guide to Bristol and has made more money from non-fiction than he has from fiction and wonders if that means the gods of publishing are trying to tell him something. Pete is a member of the North Bristol Writers. (from website)

 

Find him:

On Twitter

Website  http://petewsutton.com/ .

Kensington Gore Publishing