4 Stars, Book review, Historical fiction, Mystery, Nancy Campbell Allen, Romance

Bee Reviews: The Secret of the India Orchid by Nancy Campbell Allen

thesecretoftheindiaorchidFormat: Kindle edition

Published: 1st August 2017 by Shadow Mountain Publishing

Genres: Historical fiction, Romance, Mystery

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

Anthony Blake is in love with his best friend’s sister, Sophia Elliot. But his plans to court her are put on hold when he is forced to resume his role as an undercover spy for the Crown. A secret document listing the names of the entire network of British spies-including his own-has been stolen. To protect Sophia, Anthony cuts off all ties to her and exchanges his life as an honourable earl for the façade of a flirtatious playboy.

Heartbroken and confused, Sophia travels to India, hoping to find healing in one of the most exotic regions of the British Empire. But the exotic land isn’t as restful as she had hoped. Instead, she finds herself embroiled in a mystery of a missing sea captain, a possible murder, and a plot that could involve the prince of India. And when Anthony appears at the British Residency, asking questions and keeping his distance from her, she is stunned.

She still loves him, and, in her heart, she knows he loves her too. But how can she rebuild her relationship with him if he won’t confide in her? Does she dare offer her heart to him a second time, or will their love be lost under the India sun?


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

Somehow the fact that this novel is part romance completely missed me when I requested an ARC. Had I known it was a romance novel, I would have skipped it, because I’m human and we tend to stick with what we know. But I’m glad I picked it up because I ended up thoroughly enjoying it!

It’s so difficult writing characters who are complex and likeable, but, for me, the author nailed it perfectly. A book is always easier to read when you like the characters you’re supposed to.

She always insisted that if a man and woman have love and affection, a desire to put each other above all else, that life is liveable under any circumstances.

In terms of the plot, I enjoyed reading about the history between Sophia and Anthony, their funny encounters across the voyage to India, and about the mystery that was to unravel – a missing document containing information that could put all of their lives at risk.

The fact that this novel is set in India also sets it apart from other novels of this genre. It was interesting reading Sophia’s take on being in a completely new country. I managed to devour this book in mere hours and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a light read with a very satisfying ending.

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4 Stars, Alison Weir, Book review, Historical fiction

Bee Reviews: Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession (Six Tudor Queens, #2) by Alison Weir

ab1Format: Kindle edition

Published: 18th May 2017 by Headline

Genres: Historical fiction

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

A novel filled with new insights into the story of Henry VIII’s second—and most infamous—wife, Anne Boleyn. The second book in the epic Six Tudor Queens series, from the acclaimed historian and bestselling author of Katherine of Aragon.

It is the spring of 1527. Henry VIII has come to Hever Castle in Kent to pay court to Anne Boleyn. He is desperate to have her. For this mirror of female perfection he will set aside his Queen and all Cardinal Wolsey’s plans for a dynastic French marriage.

Anne Boleyn is not so sure. She loathes Wolsey for breaking her betrothal to the Earl of Northumberland’s son, Harry Percy, whom she had loved. She does not welcome the King’s advances; she knows that she can never give him her heart.

But hers is an opportunist family. And whether Anne is willing or not, they will risk it all to see their daughter on the throne…


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

Okay so I’ve never picked up Phillipa Gregory book in my life even though I have all twelve of her books on my shelves, but I think Alison Weir can give me my fix of Tudor historical fiction novels.

Where do I start with this book? It was enormously long, it took me several weeks to finish, but I enjoyed almost every minute of it. Weir’s writing had a way of magically transporting me 500 years back in time. My experience of reading this novel has implanted scenes in my mind as clear as memory – the views from Hever Castle, the hustle and bustle of Margaret of Austria’s court, every turn of the page was a new experience.

I thought I knew a lot about the Tudors prior to reading this book, but how I was wrong. There was so much to learn, and the facts made this novel all the more interesting. This is Weir, an acclaimed historian, weaving together the facts of Anne Boleyn’s life with a bit of imagination to deliver a novel that’s thrilling from start through until finish.

The only bit that was frustrating as a reader was the length of the novel allocated to Anne Boleyn’s wait for Catherine of Aragon’s and Henry’s marriage to be dissolved. But I think this is a great reflection on how frustrated Anne Boleyn probably felt. I also wasn’t sure about Henry’s characterisation at first, but it was interesting to see the renowned monarch in a different portrayal to that which I had initially imagined.

I would definitely recommend this detail-packed novel to others interested in historical fiction, and I can’t wait to read the prequel Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen.

4 Stars, Book review, Colleen Hoover, Contemporary, Romance

Bee Reviews: It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

it ends with us

Format: Kindle edition, 367 pages

Published: 2nd August by Atria Books

Genres: Romance, contemporary

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up – she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, and maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily, but Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan – her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

With this bold and deeply personal novel, Colleen Hoover delivers a heart-wrenching story that breaks exciting new ground for her as a writer. It Ends With Us is an unforgettable tale of love that comes at the ultimate price.


Review

Warning: This review contains spoilers and also trigger-warnings for domestic violence.

Okay, so I have very mixed feelings with regards to this book. At first, I’ll be honest, I couldn’t stand it. I loved finding out about Atlas, but that was it. For the first half of the novel, I crawled through it. I hated Ryle, I hated who Lily was when she was with Ryle – but I hated all of this more in the second half of the novel, and this was a good thing.

Imagine all the people you meet in your life. There are so many. They come in like waves, trickling in and out with the tide. Some waves are much bigger and make more of an impact than others. Sometimes the waves bring with them things from deep in the bottom of the sea and they leave those things tossed onto the shore. Imprints against the grains of sand that prove the waves had once been there, long after the tide recedes.

Writing about domestic abuse isn’t easy. Hoover should be commended for writing this in a sensitve, hollistic way. The only thing I didn’t like was how everything worked out so easily. Lily had money, she wasn’t forced to go to work. But this would have been a whole different novel of its own.

I don’t think this is a romance novel. This isn’t about either of Lily’s two love interests. This is about Lily Blossom Bloom (yes, that is her real name) breaking the cycle of abuse, and I’ve never been more proud of a fictional character.

Cycles exist because they are excruciating to break. It takes an astronomical amount of pain and courage to disrupt a familiar pattern. Sometimes it seems easier to just keep running in the same familiar circles, rather than facing the fear of jumping and possibly not landing on your feet.

It’s easy to love someone, slightly less so after they’ve wronged you, but it’s harder still to love yourself enough to leave someone who has hurt you. Lily got there eventually, and it was no easy feat, but she demonstrates the devastating effects of abuse, both from the experience as a bystander, and as a survivor.

Just because someone hurts you doesn’t mean you can simply stop loving them. It’s not a person’s actions that hurt the most. It’s the love. If there was no love attached to the action, the pain would be a little easier to bear.

I’m not sure that this is a book I would read again, but it’s certainly one that everyone should read and take lessons from, which, as Hoover says, is the purpose of the book. It’s not so much for entertainment, but a journey of personal growth in itself.

4 Stars, Book review, Haley Harrigan, Mystery

Bee Reviews: Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan

ssgFormat: Kindle edition, 400 pages

Published: 6th June 2017 by Sourcebooks Landmark

Genres: Mystery, contemporary

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

Ten years ago, Julie Portland accidentally killed her best friend, Reba. What’s worse is she got away with it. Consumed by guilt, she left the small town of Lawrence Mill, Mississippi, and swore nothing would ever drag her back. Now, raising her daughter and struggling to make ends meet in Manhattan, Julie still can’t forget the ghost of a girl with golden hair and a dangerous secret.

When August, Reba’s first love, begs Julie to come home to find the diary that Reba kept all those years ago, Julie’s past comes creeping back to haunt her. That diary could expose the shameful memories Julie has been running from, but it could also unearth the hidden truths that Reba left buried…and reveal that Julie isn’t the only one who feels responsible for Reba’s death.


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

This book is quite an easy one to get into, filled with mysteries large and small that keep the reader enticed. Harrigan has a way of knowing what the reader wants and gives it to them.

The novel is set in two thrilling locations – the fast-paced New York City, and the much slower, sleepier small town of Lawrence Mill. Slow and sleepy, but also full of secrets, which is what the main character, Julie, is here to unravel.

Unfortunately, the novel is quite predictable at times. At least, I found that I could predict the bigger mysteries and things that would happen next. But perhaps that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in a world where people try too hard to produce something that will make a huge impact.

I would definitely recommend this novel for people who are looking for a comparatively light mystery to delve into.

 

4 Stars, A J Mackenzie, Book review, Crime, Historical fiction, Mystery

Bee Reviews: The Body in the Ice (Romney Marsh Mystery #2) by A J Mackenzie

the body in the ice coverFormat: Kindle edition

Published: 20th April 2017 by Bonnier Zaffre

Genres: Historical fiction, Mystery, Crime

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

Christmas Day, Kent, 1796

On the frozen fields of Romney Marsh stands New Hall; silent, lifeless, deserted. In its grounds lies an unexpected Christmas offering: a corpse, frozen into the ice of a horse pond.

It falls to the Reverend Hardcastle, justice of the peace in St Mary in the Marsh, to investigate. But with the victim’s identity unknown, no murder weapon and no known motive, it seems like an impossible task. Working along with his trusted friend, Amelia Chaytor, and new arrival Captain Edward Austen, Hardcastle soon discovers there is more to the mystery than there first appeared.

With the arrival of an American family torn apart by war and desperate to reclaim their ancestral home, a French spy returning to the scene of his crimes, ancient loyalties and new vengeance combine to make Hardcastle and Mrs Chaytor’s attempts to discover the secret of New Hall all the more dangerous.

The Body in the Ice, with its unique cast of characters, captivating amateur sleuths and a bitter family feud at its heart, is a twisting tale that vividly brings to life eighteenth-century Kent and draws readers into its pages.


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

I think I’ve found my new favourite crime series. Aside from the fact that the setting of this novel is local to me, which has an appeal in itself, everything about The Body in the Ice is perfect.

Widow Amelia Chaytor and Reverend Hardcastle are my favourite detective duo. They’re fun, witty and solving a mystery alongside them was a thrilling experience. The Mackenzie team have a way with magic that makes even the minor characters lovable and endearing, from Rodolpho the Cowardly Dog, to her endearing if a little mad mistress, Capurnia.

There’s an art to writing a crime novel and these authors possess it. Everything from the carefully crafted characters to their pasts and the particular roles they play in the novel. The Mackenzie team are meticulous authors and this quality goes a long way in their writing.

I can’t wait to dive into the prequel, The Body on the Doorstep, and the sequel, The Body on the Boat when it’s released!

4 Stars, Book review, Crime, Historical fiction, Horror, Lauren A Forry, Mystery

Bee Reviews: Abigale Hall by Lauren A Forry

abigale hall coverFormat: Kindle edition, 376 pages

Published: April 11th 2017 by Skyhorse Publishing

Genres: Historical fiction, Gothic, Crime, Mystery, Horror

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

Amidst the terror of the Second World War, seventeen-year-old Eliza and her troubled little sister Rebecca have had their share of tragedy, losing their mother to the Blitz and their father to suicide. But when they are forced to leave London to work for the mysterious Mr Brownawell at Abigale Hall, they find that the worst is yet to come…

There are tales that the ghost of Mr Brownawell’s bride-to-be haunts the desolate mansion, and in the village there are shocking rumours of maidservants meeting a terrible fate within its walls. But is it superstition that Eliza should be afraid of or is there something real and deadly lurking in the dark, dusty rooms of Abigale Hall? Yet vicious, cold-hearted housekeeper Mrs Pollard will stop at nothing to keep the mansion’s terrible secrets, and she exerts a twisted hold over Rebecca.

To save herself and her sister descending into madness, Eliza must wage a desperate battle to escape back to London and uncover the horrifying truth before Abigale Hall claims two more victims. Taut and suspenseful, Abigale Hall is a thrilling debut from Lauren A. Forry.


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

It’s difficult to believe that this is a debut novel because, really, it’s too good to be true. This novel was fast paced all the way through with the author giving away enough to keep you guessing – but never more than that.

Packed with horror among other things that will send chills running down your spine, Abigale Hall is everything it should be of its genre, plus a little more. There were times when I was clutching my Kindle close to me, screaming in anticipation, something that no novel has ever made me do before.

There are more mysteries for Eliza to unravel than that of Victoria’s ghost, Mr Brownawell’s wife-to-be before she met her untimely death. Rebecca, Eliza’s sister, is a mystery in herself, as well as the lingering question of what really brought Eliza and Rebecca to the haunted manor in the first place. And will Peter, Eliza’s sweetheart, ever make it to save the two girls?

Everything about Abigale Hall is well thought out, and if this is Forry’s debut novel, I can’t wait to see what else she churns out. Dripping with suspense right the way through, I would definitely recommend this to fans of horror/mystery stories.

Warning: if you’re going to delve into this novel, just remember, fairytale endings don’t exist.

4 Stars, Book review, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, William Horwood

Bee Reviews: Hyddenworld (Spring) by William Horwood

hyddenworld william horwoodFormat: Paperback, 505 pages

Published: January 1st 2011 by Pan Publishing (first published January 1st 2009)

Genre(s): Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

It has lain lost and forgotten for fifteen hundred years in the ancient heartland of England – a scrap of glass and metal melded by fierce fire. It is the lost core of a flawless Sphere made by the greatest of the Anglo-Saxon CraeftLords in memory of the one he loved. Her name was Spring and contained in the very heart of this work is a spark from the Fires of Creation.

But while humans have lost their belief in such things, the Hydden – little people existing on the borders of our world – have not. Breaking the silence of centuries they send one of their own, a young boy, Jack, to live among humans in the hope that he may one day find what has been lost for so long. His journey leads him to Katherine, a girl he rescues from a tragic accident – it’s a meeting that will change everything. It is only through their voyage into the dangerous Hyddenworld that they will realize their destiny, find love and complete the great quest that will save both their worlds from destruction.

Their journey begins with Spring…


Review

This book had me feeling mixed emotions initially. It’s very confusing, so, readers, sit tight! This is by no means a light read, but a very rewarding one. Horwood has an exceptional imagination, and his style of writing is otherworldly. This is a comment recycled over and over again by critics, but there truly is something Tolkienish about Horwood’s writing.

The things I didn’t like about this book include that it was confusing, long-winded, said something in several chapters that could have been written in one. Again – very Tolkienish. There was also something magical, enchanting, bewitching about this novel, and I can’t wait to continue the adventure in the sequels! I hope they’re just as spectacular, and the reading experience is just as enthralling as it has been for this one.

4 Stars, Book review, Romance, Women's Fiction

Bee Reviews: Love in an English Garden by Victoria Connelly

love in an english garden victoria connellyFormat: Kindle, 320 pages

Published: 14th March 2017 by Lake Union Publishing

Genre(s): Women’s Fiction, Romance

Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

The Jacobs family has lived at Orley Court for generations. But when Vanessa Jacobs’s husband dies and leaves the property to her, she finds costs spiralling out of control. In order to stay in their beloved home, she and her daughters will have to sell part of it off—a decision that drives a wedge between Vanessa and her live-in mother-in-law.

The new owners of the north wing are Laurence Sturridge and his father, Marcus. Laurence wants to escape the constant pressure of his corporate job in London, while Marcus longs to heal from the grief of losing his wife. Could the beauty of Orley Court offer them a fresh outlook on life?

As the two families embark on a challenging new chapter over the course of a glorious English summer, secrets are revealed and relationships tested. But as Orley Court begins to weave its magic over them, will it be love, above all, that brings the two families together?


Review

A copy of this book was given in exchange for an honest review.

Connelly only had to whisper the words “Orley Court” to have me hooked. Anything to do with old English manor houses, courts, castles, is already a must-read on my list. This novel is every bit promising as the synopsis sounds. Connelly is an exceptional writer who has a power with words that very few authors seem to possess these days.

It was hard to comprehend that he’d never see her again, never hear that warm voice on the end of the phone, never sit at the kitchen table whilst she buzzed about making tea. When a person died, they took away so many little everyday things that could never be replaced.

This is the first book I’ve read by this author so I can’t compare it to her previous works. However, Connelley’s sensational ability to intertwine characters and plots to deliver what stories are really about is rare and astounding. The characters’ backgrounds were so varied which made the novel so much more interesting, displaying the power of the author’s imagination.

He liked the way the old house seemed to talk to him in a succession of squeaky doors and floorboards. He’d heard that old houses breathed and moved,but he hadn’t really paid that any attention until he’d experienced it for himself.

The only thing about this novel was in the middle and towards the end when some of the writing seemed rushed. Dialogue was sometimes emotionless bar the odd bit of punctuation, and there were passages with detail so little that I, as a reader, couldn’t quite envisage what the author wanted me to. But the worst of the poorly-written parts are still better than many of the better-written parts in other novels, and this is what really stood out in the book for me.

I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone who’s interested in the mysterious workings of the world and how sometimes stars align, people meet in all the right places, and the world could be ending but everything just works out.